It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Babies of various sorts


We’ve been talking a lot about poop in the MaryP house these days. Frequency, consistency, appearance.

We’ve been discussing sleep patterns, and brainstorming solutions to potentially problematic social developments. We’ve been ensuring adequate exercise and play time. We’ve been working out some discipline issues. We’ve been reading books on psychology and behavioural conditioning.

All this while I’m having my two weeks off. There is not a toddler in sight.

We have a puppy, and I tell you, it’s just like having a baby.


It is NOT.

I have had a baby. Three of ’em, in fact. There are a lot of parallels, and parents can learn a LOT about toddler-wrangling from the principles of puppy-training…

but it is NOT the same.

Any non-kid-owning dog-owners reading this? It does not matter how much your puppy whined in the night at first. It does not matter how delicate his digestion, nor how socially needy she is…

Human babies leave puppies MILES in the shade.

You have a puppy and you need to go out for a couple of hours? You put her in her crate with a chewy bone, and you leave.

Try doing that with a baby.

The puppy is whining in the night? You put her in her crate with a hot water bottle and a ticking clock, and you close the door.

Try doing that with a baby.

The puppy needs to play, but you don’t feel like going to the dog park? Toss the puppy in the back yard with a tennis ball.

Try doing that…

you get my point.

Still! If you are a dog-lover who has never had children? And if (this is important!) your dog is well-trained and well-behaved, you are getting some valuable pre-parent training.

We are NOT talking neurotic little mama’s-baby pooches, the type who need to be carried in bad weather, the fat little waddlers who won’t run in the park, the whiners and the nippers and the tearers-up of library books. But if your dog is cheerful, healthy, active and essentially well-behaved…

It’ll help. More than you might realize.

But please, don’t be calling the dog “my baby” in front of the parents of a human baby. Who might smile weakly to your face, but will mock you eternally behind your back. Who will be fighting the urge to beat you senseless with a sippy cup, and, on particularly bad days, switch the baby for the pup.

And me? I’m just love, love, loving our new puppy. Who I would never trade for a baby, thanks.

August 29, 2008 Posted by | my kids, parents | , , , | 13 Comments

And I’ll bet you have, too

No, I’ve never done it. Even though you know I am a fan of the stuff. But thought about it? Oh, yeah.

August 28, 2008 Posted by | Mischief, parenting, the dark side | , | 10 Comments

Super Seven, week one

A great idea, stolen from Martinis for Milk. Seven things that brought me joy this week.

Like the originator, I will make a half-assed attempt to make this a weekly event. No! I will make a Sincere and True attempt … but it likely will end up half-assed. It will not be lack of desire that prevents me. It will not even be lack of happy events. It will be lack of memory.

“Maternal amnesia”, a common effect of pregnancy, is, so I was assured by authorities who could be presumed to know this stuff, a temporary thing. It lasts for pregnancy, and maybe a few weeks beyond, as the hormones settle.

When mine didn’t go away immediately, I attributed that to sleep-deprivation. When the child was sleeping through a few months later, it was still happening … but by then I’d forgotten it was supposed to go away.

My first baby is 22 years old now.

Pre-publication update: I just found this in my draft file, whipped it out and finished it off, even though it’s really supposed to be published on a Friday. I’d, ahem, forgotten about it…

Monday: I woke to the sound of rain, rain, rain, rain. I would not ordinarily be woken by mere raindrops, but it’s clear that there’s a tin can RIGHT UNDER a rather large drip. So it’s not a sweet pitter-patter of rain, but a sleep-vanishing CLANG! CLANG! CLANGCLANGCLANG! THWAK!!!

This does not make me smile. What makes me smile is that a) I was woken when I should be getting up anyway, so no sleep lost and b) last night before going to bed, the air smelled damp, so despite the cloudless and sunny skies we’d had ALL DAY LONG, I pulled in my daughter’s laundry off the line in the back yard. Ah, the satisfaction of a crisis averted. Joy 1.

My daughter was delighted. She came downstairs this morning with an anxious scowl, saw her laundry basket sitting on the dining table, and thanked me very prettily. Unsolicited gratitude, from a fifteen-year-old. Lovely child. She’s very gratifying that way. Joy 2.

Tuesday: My kitchen has moved from a drab pinkish-beige to a lovely crisp pale blue, with bright-white trim. I smile every time I see it.

Wednesday: The bathroom wall also makes me smile every time I see it. It’s too much colour for such a small room, particularly a small room that is overbearingly ROBIN’S EGG BLUE (hellooooo, 1960’s), but the wall treatment itself? I smell wafts of salt air from the breezes off the Mediterranean every time I see it. (Makes peeing a veritable virtual holiday. Six, eight, ten times a day!) Joy, joy, joy.

Thursday: A lively table of teens and twenty-somethings. My son (in college, living at home), his girlfriend (same college, living in residence), another friend (university, in his own apartment), my youngest (high school), all sitting in the dining room, scarfing down chicken pot pie, beans, and salad, and talking, teasing, laughing — joyful. I loved it. Maybe I’ll make this a weekly event. “Feed a starving student.”

Friday: The advice given by the nice fellow in the pet food store is working! 24 hours into a white-rice-and-turkey diet, the dog’s diarrhea is gone. Yes, this DOES bring me joy, and anyone who lives in a poop-and-scoop city can understand the bliss.

Saturday, Sunday: Long, long walks with my sweetie. (And the dog, also a sweetie.) Chiller on the patio of the coffee shop one day, while sitting on the monument commemorating the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (drafted by a Canadian) the next. Enobling sentiments. Long, gentle, summer days. Lots of sun. Blissful blue sky. Footpaths by the canal. Congenial people. Conversation. Lifts my spirits. Joy.

August 27, 2008 Posted by | commemoration, holidays, memes and quizzes, my kids, Ottawa | , , , | 4 Comments

September vertigo…

Why is Mary feeling dizzy?

Find out by reading my back-to-school post

at Mid-Century Modern Moms.

August 22, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Never in my wildest dreams…

– When the happy couple looked at the ultrasound pictures, it was very clear: they had a garden gnome in there.

– After a long and arduous labour, the woman who thought she had one baby in there gave birth to … triplets.

– Walking through Wal-Mart, the happy couple heard an odd sound behind them, and when they turned around, they realized the baby had fallen out of the mother’s body, and was lying in the aisle in the Automotive Department.

– Watching the unusual mobility of her newborn infant, the mother realized that she had given birth to a very cute and appealing … rabbit.

– Six months into the pregnancy, the mother discovered she wasn’t pregnant after all. It was just a case of really, really, really bad gas.


If you’ve been (or are) pregnant, you probably have an inkling of what’s going on. It’s not the paint fumes getting to Mary’s head. Those are pregnancy dreams. The dreams that happen when the hormones and the anxiety get to your head, and come out when your defenses are down and your subconscious strong. They are uniformly weird, and often very funny, and I think the world needs to hear more about them!

Here’s one of mine:

I was pregnant with my first. (Being the sort to eschew ultrasounds, I did not know her sex at that time, but we’ll call her “her” for convenience — and because that’s what she turned out to be!)

I was in the hospital. I had just pushed the baby out. Filled with joy and expectation, I looked down at my newborn baby, and there was her little self. My baby. My beautiful baby, but … Her head was a normal baby head, perfect in every way, fat cheeks, nubbin nose, long lashes framing big dark eyes … but her body! What was WRONG with her BODY?

It was purple and limp and flat! It had no substance! Hanging from her normal baby head was the shape of a baby, a sort of baby template, but it was as thick as a piece of paper, as formless as a baby-shaped blanket!

I expressed my alarm to the nurse. She simply smiled in that knowing way maternity nurses have, and patted the nervous young mother on the head.

“It’s all right, dear.” she soothed. “You just have to blow her up.”

And with that she leaned over the flaccid form of my infant, took the stub of the umbilical cord between finger and thumb, applied her lips to it, and proceeded to inflate the baby. It took only a few breaths, then she tied a knot in the cord, and handed my now perfectly pink, perfectly normal baby to me.

“See? Good as new!”

And it was all better. We young mothers, we worry about the silliest things!

Okay, your turn. I’d love to hear YOUR pregnancy dreams! Tell me in the comments, or write a post on your own blog. (If you’d link back to this post, that would be marvy; I’ll link to yours, too, of course!)

Let the weirdness begin!

UPDATED TO ADD: Alexandra posted her my-baby-is-an-alien dream on her blog, Galexy Girl’s World.

August 21, 2008 Posted by | pregnancy and delivery, random and odd | , , , | 17 Comments

Feeling a bit wistful

You know, some days I really miss being a SAHM.

Being on holiday while at home causes flashbacks to those days, days when I didn’t have five extra tots in the house, only my own three. Days that opened before us with only our own desires to fill the hours. Nothing critical, nothing pending, just the decision of park or library, crafts or cooking.

Because I practiced benign neglect, my kids could readily cope with “Mummy’s busy now. You play on your own for a bit, and we’ll do X later.” They were fine at playing around my feet, or in the adjacent room while I did housework … and even, while I read a book! Which, as you know by now, I do a lot.

I also homeschooled them, so they were home with me till they were ten or so. Homeschooling, contrary to popular opinion, does not take hours every day. As many families do, we started out with a few textbooks and worksheets; after a year or two, we’d dispensed with pretty nearly all that, and just followed our educational noses — to the library, to the museum, to the gallery, to the weather station. We read a lot, we looked at a lot of pictures. We played. A lot.

There were times of conflict, of course. Times when I was exasperated beyond measure. You can’t parent without those moments. But you’ll have the bulk of those moments in the first couple of years… well, really, in that second year, from about 15 or 18 months through two to two-and-a-half. During that time, the critical piece of information you need to establish is that you, the adult, are the boss. Not this short, demanding person who’s content to carry his excrement around in his pants. Establishing your place in the hierarchy is not going to be accomplished without some highly charged moments with that child.

But having done that? The sun comes up on your parenting life. By the time your child is three, if you’ve nailed the discipline thing, tantrums are a thing of the past, knee-jerk negativity is, too. Whining is rare. Your kids will be well-rested and well-nourished, because they go to bed at a good hour, sleep all night, and eat what they’re fed. They’ll sit in coffee shops, they can be taken just about anywhere (so long as it’s not during sleeptimes).

Now, SAH doesn’t suit everyone. You may have kids who are delightful to be around, but, much as you enjoy their company, you feel restless. You miss your work, perhaps, the stimulation of challenges other than potty-training and winning the battle of bedtime. If that’s you, then off you go to work, at least part-time. There is no shame in that.

Just as for me, there was no shame in putting the university education aside, no shame in not pursuing the professional career for which I’d trained, studied, and invested a lot of money. Staying home was just so supremely right for me.

So when I look back on my SAH days, while I can certainly recall those intense moments, moments spent speaking with great firmness (some days, even some ferocity) to a child on the quiet stair, and then walking away, shaking from the aftermath. But those events happened so that the rest of it could come to be: the vast majority of the time, when I was simply enjoying being around these very nice little people.

Who have grown into very nice teens/young adults. People whose company I enjoy. People who treat me well.

Why are my SAH days different than what I do now? Aren’t I just a SAHM for hire, really? Yes and no. I do the same domestic things, but three children between the ages of 1 and 7 are much less restrictive than five 2 and 3-year-olds. And I don’t have total control. Very often the children are not well-rested, because they don’t have sensible bedtimes at home. When their parents show up, the behaviours I never see — whining, petulance, rudeness, disrespect — that suddenly emerge make my pysche twitch. Drives me mental. Working with the tots is a very satisfying job, but it’s not as satisfying overall as parenting my own … because I am not their parent.

(This is not because you love your own children more … though you do … but because, though I’m helping to shape these kids, the parents are the ones who have the last word. Since what I do with these children is ‘parenting’, it means there was more satisfaction in parenting my own toddlers, when I got to parent every minute of their lives, than with the daycare tots, for whom I am several rungs down on the parenting ladder. Which is only as it should be, of course!)

So as I spend my holidays having some quality time with my teens, and a lot of quality time with myself, as I do the domestic stuff, cleaning, painting, running errands, as I sit on the couch and read, and arrange lunches with friends, I am brought back to those days when my days revolved around such comforting domestic stuff, and I miss it.

August 20, 2008 Posted by | my kids, parenting | | 2 Comments

Doggy tales

We have a puppy. Indie. The breed is anyone’s guess. Lab-husky mix, we’re told. But I’m thinking the experts have missed a breed. Lab, maybe (which would explain the gentle nature); husky, maybe (that would explain the curly tail); but squirrel-hound? ABSOLUTELY.

She’s decent on a leash (not great; obedience lessons are being scoped out even as we speak), but decent … until she sees a squirrel. (The human body is well-designed, you know. Those arms of ours? They’re really firmly attached.) Pull back on the lead (with both hands) and she does the Squirrel Dance, hopping along on her hind legs. Get to the tree, and she does the Squirrel Launch: she’ll leap straight up that tree a good six feet. Because one day, she is going to CATCH one of those things.

(She’s maybe part whippet, too? Or cat? Or kangaroo?) Squirrels make Indie’s little heart go pitter-pat. Squirrels are her drug: the Adrenaline Rush of the century.

And today? Today she discovered a new kind of squirrel. A heavy-set squirrel. A squirrel with a squarish body, stumpy legs, sleepy eyes. It was black, not the usual grey, and while it had the usual puffy tail, this one had a broad white stripe down the middle. Cool! Better yet, it was the slowest damned squirrel Indie had ever seen!

Thankfully, the man at the other end of the leash also saw the new squirrel, just about the time the squirrel saw them. UP went the tail like a flag. BACK went the man with the leash. Indie was MOST disappointed to be hauled bodily back down the sidewalk. In the COMPLETE OPPOSITE DIRECTION TO THE SQUIRREL! A squirrel that DIDN’T RUN AWAY! Man and dog struggled with their competing agendas. “But it’s JUST STANDING THERE! I could CATCH that one!”

Man prevailed. Man and dog returned home, odour-free. Thank God. That little jaunt into dog-ownership I can live without…

Despite his arbitrary refusal to let her catch the Slowest Squirrel on the Planet, Indie has bonded with the man at the end of the leash, aka THE MOST IMPORTANT HUMAN IN THE UNIVERSE. While I tend to agree with her choice, she has achieved levels of devotion to my husband that he’ll never see in me. For which he is probably grateful, all in all, but from a dog, it’s kind of appealing.

I work from home. Indie is not left alone. Given that I work with a passel of tots and there are also a couple of teens in residence, she’s far from alone. But when that man goes out the door in the morning, she stands at the door, whimpering softly. Then she hops onto the couch to peer out the front window, and whines a little more.

A little lovin’ brings her back to her happy self, but when, at the end of the day the man appears again, there is nowhere else she’d rather be.

Now THAT’S devotion.

August 19, 2008 Posted by | my kids | , , , , | 14 Comments

What I’m doing on my Summer Vacation

It is eight in the morning. The only sound in the house is the hissing of the shower upstairs. The dog sits curled on the couch beside me, the curve of her back nestled against my hip. (Yes, she’s allowed on the couch. She is not allowed on our bed. She knows the difference.) Birds in the trees outside.

I do not hear the trundle of small feet, the chatter of small voices, the bellow of not-so-small outrage.

I am, you see, on holiday. (And before any of you start with the well-meaning questions re: travel that all my clients have asked of me, let me answer them pre-emptively: I am not going anywhere. I am not going anywhere because there are no funds to take me, and certainly not me and assorted family members, anywhere. There never are, and that’s all we need to talk about that, okay?)

But don’t worry, I have plans!

I have already put the first coat of paint on the bathroom!!!

And… it looks like shit. Not because of the colour (yellow), but because this is an old house. As soon as the wall was painted a smooth uniform colour (as opposed to the textured effect given by its previous mottled white coat of dust-and-flaking-paint) turns out to be not so smooth. It has bumps and divots, cracks and crannies. And the fresh, pretty paint highlights each and every one.

So today, instead of painting the trim the shiny white as planned, I will be mixing up a paler shade of yellow and ragging it over the first coat. Then I’ll probably do a third coat of white. The idea being to create texture — pretty, painted texture, far better than dust-and-flakes texture — which will camoflage the bumps-and-divots texture. That’s the theory, anyway.

THEN I will put on the shiny white trim.

And then there was yesterday’s task: a mattress for my daughter’s bed. But not just any mattress, you understand. This bed is not a simple rectangle, like every other bed in the world. This one has “five sides and not one right angle”, to quote our carpenter friend who built it for the cost of the materials — and the fun of working on such a weird project.

So, Mary has two pieces of foam appropriate for a mattress, between them amply big enough to fit in the frame. But nothing like the necessary shape. That’s okay, because Mary also has ingenuity, courage, chalk, and a bread knife!

It didn’t take that long, either. Dump the foam in the frame, mark the edges, cut with knife. Just like cutting slices from a loaf of bread! It’s all in there. Now we will glue the edges of the pieces together with spray adhesive, cover all with a foam topper, and encase in custom-made* mattress cover… with five sides and no right angles…

*Custom-made by me, of course. Out of old sheets. That, however, is tomorrow’s task.

Today I am ragging the bathroom.

August 18, 2008 Posted by | holidays | , , | 8 Comments

Choices, choices

I’m not here today. I’m over here instead.

August 14, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Weight loss for the Self-employed

I JUST filed my income tax. Because I’m self-employed, I can file as late as June 10 (so long as I continue with my quarterly payments), but August 12? That’s a little silly.

I used to be SUCH an organized daycarista. Receipts handed out last day before Christmas holiday, taxes filed mid-January. I AM an organized daycarista. This year was … well …

What happened this year? I didn’t do it in January, because — oh, I know! Because we were waiting on the husband’s T4, which doesn’t come out till the end of February. TOTALLY blameless for January, after all! (Ha!) And really, when it comes out the end of Feb, well, that means can’t get it done then, either, right?

This does not, however, explain March, April, May, June, or July… BAD, bad, bad, bad, bad…

And you know how it goes, the longer you put it off, the harder it is to start. Even opening the drawer is hard. Those files of receipts take on a malevolent presence, oozing hostility and guilt. But now! NOW the cabinet is all up-to-date!! Last year’s files are in the correct storage box in the basement, the upstairs file drawer contains only this year’s data!

YAY! I feel about ten pounds lighter! It isn’t even bugging me too much that I owe about half again as much as I was expecting. Because I’m a smart (if tardy) daycarista. I had the money set aside, just in case. I had a sort of feeling about this year’s taxes… So that extra HUGE WHACK OF MONEY? NOT bothering me. NOPE. Nuh-UH.

I still have some good habits, it seems. My accountant gave me a reduction in her fees because my forms were so neatly filled out, the information so well organized. (She provides me a fill-in-the-blanks worksheet. How difficult could it be to be organized? “You’d be surprised,” she intones, eyes somber with dark memories of shoe boxes stuffed with crumpled bits of paper. “And your handwriting is so NEAT.”)

I hereby promise myself to be a good little citizen and get the damned things filed the week after T4 time. March 1 at the latest.

Will that make me feel TWENTY pounds lighter, I wonder?

August 13, 2008 Posted by | daycare, the dark side | , , | 2 Comments