It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Of dogs and cats and justice served

There is a cat in our neighbourhood.

Oh, I know. You assume that in a residential city neighbourhood, there are likely dozens of cats. There are. Dozens of them.

And then there is Maurice.

Maurice, a sleek black short-haired cat. Maurice, who will sit in the very centre of the street and stare down the car as it approaches. I’ve seen a cabbie blasting his horn — to no effect, I might add — at the contemptuous feline before him. Maurice does not have a death wish, though with this behaviour in his repertoire, it is indeed surprising that he’s survived to see his seventh years. He does not have a death wish, because, in Maurice’s mind, he OWNS that cab. And its driver. And the horse he rode in on.

Maurce will wander into your home when opportunity presents. Maurice will then stare down any resident animals — there’s a cat or a dog wrathfully indignant with this interloper? Maurice will take them on.

Maurice also taunts dogs. Comes to a foot past the end of the leash, and just sits there, blinking at the lunging, frothing, barking apparition inches from his whiskers.

Maurice is a bit of a legend on the street.

Mary heads out with the tots, and the dog on the leash. (Note the careful placement of the comma: only the dog is leashed. See? Punctuation matters.) It is a brooding, oppressive day, immanent rain in the damp on the rising breeze, the darkening clouds overhead. We are not going far, just to the green space by the river at the base of the street. The tots can race around for a bit, the dog can find a stick and probably have a pee or four. If it does start to rain, we’re only three minutes from home. It’s all good.

What’s not good is that the tarp has blown off the stroller in last night’s blustery rain, and the stroller’s padded seats are soaked. You’d think a child in a raincoat would be protected, but no matter how carefully I line a soaked seat with plastic, the child always ends up with a soaked seat. Bah. Well, it’s a very short walk. I’ll bet Baby Noah is up to the walk. Anna and Timmy are good enough walkers, and responsive to my instructions. And it’s a very, VERY quiet street.

We’ll just walk.

Off we go. Noah on one hand, Indie on the other, Timmy and Anna walking hand-in-hand (which is so CUUUUTE) ahead of me. They’re just following instructions, but toddlers holding hands will always be one of the most endearing sights I get to see in my daily work. Always makes me go all smooshy.

We are doing just fine. Noah toodles to my left, Indie prances on a short leash to my right, Timmy and Anna trot ahead. And then Maurice appears. Sees the dog. Positions himself so the dog sees him.

And sit there, blinking.

Now I have Noah on my left, Timmy and Anna a few steps ahead, and a leaping, plunging dog on my right.

“Indie, SIT! Maurice, you stupid cat! GO AWAY!!”

He blinks. A whisker twitches, perhaps.

Oooh! Mary said “Stupid!” The children are delighted, and take this as permission to dabble in the forbidden.

“Stoopid cat!”
“Moe-riss, you stoopid cat!”
“Morris is a stoopud!”

Maurice, the stupid cat, is unmoved. And unmoving.

I’m really rather pleased by what I feel I must do. I mean, what choice do I have?

I let the leash out.

You know, it was really, really gratifying to see that smug feline leap directly up and do a 180 mid-air. Really, really gratifying.

(For all you cat-lovers out there, be assured that I did a mental calculation and reckoned that Maurice could easily make it under a parked car or up a tree before Indie came to the end of her 8-foot leash. And he did.)

With that out of our systems, and the cat out of sight, we proceed down the street.

Within two houses, that damned cat is stalking us. Happily, Indie has not seen him. I don’t know what the cat’s range is, but I’ve never seen him at the river, so I figure we’ll lose him within a few more houses. We just have to get to the bottom of the street… One house, two houses… With Noah on foot instead of in the stroller, our three-minute walk is now six, but we’re within four or so houses of being into a Maurice-free zone.

“Oh, look! The cat is back there!”

You know, I’ll swear the dog understood Timmy, the big blabbermouth. She spins around and spots that wretched animal. Who sits down and stares at the straining dog a front-yard-length ahead. (He’s out of range of the leash; he’s learned at least that much. Unfortunately.)

We continue. Noah on my left, Timmy and Anna walking ahead, and Indie on such a short leash that her efforts to are slowly throttling herself, resulting in copious “gak”-ing. Me, I’d like to gak the cat.

At each driveway, Maurice slouches in behind car or hedge or retaining wall. With the cat out of sight, Indie calms, but at the end of car or hedge or wall, the cat reappears and Indie’s efforts resume. We are walking in a straight line, the children haven’t really noticed, but I am certainly weary of the struggle.

We have reached the corner and are about to head into the green space by the river. I have now decided that, although he’s never been that far before, the sheer joy of dog-tormenting will ensure that today be the day that Maurice cross the road and join us by the river. If he does that, we’re all going home. After I perform a double-pet homicide.

And then… a wonderful, wonderful sound reaches my ears. Truly wonderful.

So intent was he on the dog in his sights that Maurice had not noticed the other cat. The other, angry cat. The cat who wanted Maurice out of his territory, NOW. The cat who… oh, happy day!… launched himself atop Maurice. Direct hit!

Their squawls and yowls are music to my ears. They roll out of sight down the drive, a furry blur of feline fury. The tots, the dog and I cross the street in decorous peace.

Justice can be so very sweet.

September 16, 2008 Posted by | outings, power struggle | , , , , , | 3 Comments

A story to lift your Monday spirits

A True Story.

A family has all come down with some sort of stomach bug. They’re losing stuff from the top, they’re losing stuff from the bottom, they’re just plain old losing it. Everyone: mom, dad, the 7-year-old, the 4-year-old, the 3-year-old.

Dad is the unfortunate focus of today’s little story. Dad, as he sits yet again in the highly-trafficked bathroom, letting his unhappy innards do their revolting thing.

His three-year-old bombs into the bathroom. Stops. Stares at dad for a shocked, disoriented second, and then…

you know what’s coming, don’t you?

…puked into dad’s lap.

Aren’t you glad it wasn’t you?

September 15, 2008 Posted by | eeewww, health and safety | , , , , | 14 Comments

Fabulous Five, week 2

I’m cheating. Super Seven is only going to be five. Five things that brought me joy this week.

This was the second week back after my holidays. The first full, five-day week. With a new baby. I think I’m too tired for joy, exactly, but it was a good week. There were things that made my heart rise a little. I can conjure up a weary smile, but joy? Takes too much energy, thanks. Mostly I just want to go to bed.

Going to bed would bring me joy.

Monday: First Monday with the new baby, Noah. Some tears, no screams. No screams is good. This made me smile.

Tuesday: The dog’s innards have settled. I can’t say that I enjoy cooking her ground-turkey-and-rice meals, but it’s better than the alternative.

Wednesday: Anna wore a tutu. Is there anything cuter than a three-year-old in a tutu? (I got that picture from The Tutu Boutique. Interested in a tutu? Check it out!)

Thursday: Yes, there is. A three-year-old in a tutu, rolling down a sunny hillside.

Friday: Or a three-year-old in a tutu, screaming with laughter as she chases a dog across a sunny field.

The highlight of my week? Anna’s tutu. Hee.

September 12, 2008 Posted by | Anna, individuality, Noah | , , , | 4 Comments

At least he’s consistent

Noah’s little personality is getting clearer. I’m getting a window into his little world, understanding how he ticks.

My diagnosis?

Paranoid schizophrenic.

He laughs, laughs, laughs at the dog, at the other kids. He laughs when a tower of blocks falls over, when a car crashes into a wall, when someone spills a tray of marbles. (Don’t ask.) He laughs at the food falling off his tray. Which the DOG THEN EATS!!!


The children laugh and he laughs with them. The children clap, and he squeals for joy. The children run in mad circles around the house, and he bounces and flaps his arms.


Sounds good so far, I know. Hang in there.

The children laugh, he laughs. I laugh… he stares. Long, steady, Who-The-Heck-Are-YOU (And What Did You Do With My Mother?) stare.

The children clap, he squeals. I clap, I get the WTHAY(AWDYDWMM) stare. The children run in mad circles around the house… well, I don’t do that. (Racing to the kitchen to run on the spot (HARD) while letting loose a long, silent, “AAAAAAAAAAA” does not count. Besides, I don’t let them see that. It does not do to traumatize your livelihood.)

(No, it’s NOT a tantrum. Not either. It’s “stress release”.)

When he’s sad, he reaches short round arms up for me to pick him up. (Awwww. That’s so sweet.)
I scoop him into my arms.
He leans out and away and gives me the WTHAY(AWDYDWMM) stare.
I put him down, he puts up his arms and cries.
I pick him up.

Something makes him happy. I comment and smile.


He reaches for a cracker. I hand it to him with a smile. He takes it.


He cries to look out the window. I lift him so he can see.


I put him on my lap for a story.


Mostly, he prefers to be left alone. He’s perfectly content. So long as he can pretend I’m not here, life is good. So long as he doesn’t have to acknowledge my presence, he toodles about, he plays with toys, he eats, he drinks, he sleeps, he watches the other children, he follows the dog around. Mostly, he ignores me.

I am the woman who lifts him into the high chair. I am the woman who provides the food. After that, I can just pis… er, tend to my own affairs.

Paranoid schizophrenic. Well, it’s got to be that. If not, he just plain doesn’t like me! I’ve been weighed in the balance and found wanting. The place is nice, the toys are good, the other kids are great, and the dog is terrific… but that Mary-woman? Dubious, at best.

But I have hope. Because there’s a crack in his WTHAY(AWDYDWMM) armor, and I get to see it 10, 14, 20 times a day. The bathroom is upstairs, and I drink my 8 – 10 glasses every day. Some days more. (WATER, people. Stoppit.) And between three recently-trained tots, the potty gets filled umpteen times a day. I race it upstairs to dump it Every.Single.Time. So I go upstairs A LOT.

And every time I do, he stands at the base of the stairs, bereft. Utterly bereft. “DOOOOON’T LEEEEEAVE MEEEEEE ALL ALOOOOONE!!! I NEEEEEEEED YOOOOOU!!!” (No, he doesn’t say that in so many words — in any words at all — but I can read between the howls.)

See? He does love me. I scoop him to comfort him, and, once again the long, steady, solemn…


We’ll call it progress.

September 11, 2008 Posted by | Noah, socializing | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

No sexism, please, we’re toddlers

“No, Timmy! This is only for girls!”

It’s a shape puzzle, but I don’t need to know that to respond.

“Anna. There are no ‘only for girls’ toys in my house. There are no ‘only for boys’ toys, either. All the toys are for any children.”

Timmy encroaches further. Anna pulls the puzzle toward her.

I understand Anna’s protectiveness. Timmy’s favourite toy is almost always the one the other guy is holding. It doesn’t matter if he has an armful of something completely engrossing. Someone else can walk by with one tiny thing, and suddenly that’s the ONE THING he wants to play with — has to play with.

It’s not greediness or possessiveness in Timmy’s case. The other person’s attention to their thing draws his. I think his mind goes something like this: “I have this toy, this toy is fun, I like thi — OOOO! SOMETHING SHINY!” So no, it’s not greed or anything malicious. It is, however, a royal pain. It is also not surprising the others get a little tired of Timmy’s interest in their toys.

However, there are at least a hundred shapes in the bin, red, yellow, purple, blue, green, triangles, squares, diamonds, trapezoids, hexagons… with a dozen wooden picture plates to put them on. Plenty to share. Dozens and dozens to share.

“No, Timmy, this is only for…” Anna glances up. Probably felt the heat of my Evil Eye burning through the top of her head. She hesitates, a look of consternation on her face.

Then breaks into a beaming smile.

“… only for girls and boys!”

I smile, too. Anna smiles back, more so.

Anna gives Timmy one. red. hexagon. He smiles, too.

It’ll do.

September 10, 2008 Posted by | Anna, manners, socializing, Timmy | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Without a tree to pee on

Earlier this summer, Emma took the tots on an outing. (So mum could have a morning off!! SUCH a lovely girl. I’m sure the ten dollars an hour had nothing to do with her enthusiasm. Well, not so very much.)

They were in a downtown park when Nigel announced an urgent need to pee. Of course. Because that is what toddlers do. That is particularly what little toddler boys will do when confronted with a whole bunch of trees.

I can understand. I cross the threshhold of the kitchen door, I’m hungry. Immediately and without any warning. I’ve learned not to go in there without a focussed purpose — a quick dart in, do the job, and get out — otherwise I find myself, vacantly, automatically, how-did-this-happen-anyway, staring into the fridge. It’s programmed into me, and it gets worse the older I get.

I know some women who are like that with shoe stores. Go into a mall, intending to make a quick trip into the drug store for a few stamps — JUST STAMPS! $5.00, tops! — pass a shoe store … and it’s all over.

Toddler males are like that with trees.

It’s a nice, largish downtown park: groomed grass, shrubbery amongst a rock garden on one side, a fountain surrounded by benches at one end, and, dotted all over the lawn, trees.

“Emma, I need to PEE!”

Of course, Emma tried to suggest that he didn’t need to pee right now, that there would be a perfectly good toilet available when they got to the museum, a whole three minutes away. Maybe five. But no. He had to pee RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!!

And he is only three. It’s entirely possible. Even if the idea only came onto him through the power of subliminal tree suggestion, maybe the power of subliminal tree suggestion is strong enough to make him pee in another 90 seconds.

Emma balances the possible ramifications of an accident with no dry clothes on hand (what were we thinking??) and the subsequent bus trip home with a soggy, pee-stinking toddler vs the possible humiliation of a toddler taking a quick pee in a public park. Well, okay. So long as he’s discreet.

“Oh, all right. But be quick.”

It’s nearing lunch time. There are office workers with their coffee, some with their illicit cigarettes, there are elderly people sunning themselves on benches, there are joggers, there are a pile of construction workers preparing to eat. There are a lot of people. So of course, a little discretion would go a long way for poor Emma’s adolescent comfort levels.

Nigel races from one tree to another. “I’m going to pee on THIS one!”

Emma suggests that rather than a tree smack in the middle of the wide-open lawn, he choose one closer to the shrubbery at the side. Where the rummies hang out after dark. A little toddler-pee will probably improve the ambience over there…

But there is so much choice! Trees everywhere! How can a boy possibly choose?

“I’m going to pee on THIS one!”

Zip, dart, race.

“I’m going to pee on THIS one!”

Nigel’s hearty declarations have now caught the attention of the construction workers, all decked out in their grubby workin’-mens blue jeans and the yellow and orange vests with the reflective tape. They’re having lunch, coffee mugs and sandwiches set on a couple of benches. They chortle amongst themselves at the little guy, males sharing the pride of their shared manly-bits.

I have no doubt they’re checking out my daughter, too. A male bonding experience Nigel hasn’t yet attained.

Nigel races past them. “I’m going to pee on THIS one!”

“Nigel, will you just pick a stupid tree and get it over with, please?”

The chortles turn to outright laughter. The hottie is feisty, too. Better and better.

Perhaps drawn by all that fellow-manliness, or just the possibility of the attention of amiable adults, Nigel darts over to the guffawing group, and points to the tree nearest their food-bench.

“Okay, Emma. I’m going to pee on THIS one!”

Now the guys are killing themselves. This kid is a scream, he with his mini-manlybits and ready hosepipe. But hey, pee is pee. The worker-dude nearest Nigel looks down at his wee blond head.

“Not there you don’t, son.”

So he ran two metres over
dropped his drawers,
and peed.

In the very middle of the lawn,
on the grass,
not a tree in miles.

Emma thinks one of the guys may have snorted his pastrami-on-rye right out his nose.

September 9, 2008 Posted by | manners, Nigel, our adoring public, outings, potty tales | , , | 7 Comments

Lateral thinking

Anna has taken a fancy to our nesting/stacking cups these days. They have been out every day, hours at a stretch. Who says toddlers have short attention spans?

Oh, sure. When you want them to sit at the table for an entire meal, attention span is a problem. Try putting on socks or have that diaper changed, and there are forty-seven other things that must be done NOW!

But. Give them something riveting to do, something like putting the dog’s food, kibble by kibble, into the dog’s water, or stuffing 500 pieces of lego under the couch cushions? Anyone notice a whole lot of inability to focus when they’re trying to get your attention when you’re on the phone?

So… the stacking cups are big this week.

So far, they have been beds for her babies.
You think those are cookie cutters in there, I know.
You’d be wrong.
They are babies.
“Baby Mika, and Baby Boo-boo.”
I have no idea which is which.
I’m not sure Anna does, either.

They have been cups for lemonade.
Lemonade which needs much vigorous stirring with those spoons you see jutting out of the cups.
Spoons which miraculously morph into straws when the time comes to drink said lemonade.
You thought they were train tracks, I know.
You’d be wrong.

They have been sorting cups.
Red pigs in the red cup,
blue pigs in the blue cup,
green pigs in the green cup?
(I taught her how to sort.
I am so proud.)
I know, you thought those were bears.
You’d be wrong.

They have been stuffed full of playdough, and have been cakes and cookies and toads.
Cakes, cookies and toads all look like lumps of playdough stuffed into a cup to me.
I’d be wrong.
She ‘eats’ the cakes and cookies.
She shares them with her friends.
She does not eat the toads.
Nor does she share them.
She just pokes them full of holes with a pudgy finger.
“There, toad! And THERE!”

She lines them up on a stair,
and plonks herself down in front of them
(Yes, those are her jammies.
Some mornings are like that.)

And plays the drums.
You might think that’s a drumstick in her hand.
You’d be wrong.
It’s a rattle.
I might think she’s pretending the rattle is a drumstick.
I’d be wrong.
“I’m hitting the drums with a rattle,
because I don’t have a good drumstick.”

September 8, 2008 Posted by | Anna, quirks and quirkiness, random and odd | , , , , | 7 Comments

You say to-MAH-to…

Anna arrived in pajamas and carrying a sandwich, her breakfast.

Seems Anna was not with the out-the-door program this morning. She has her moments here, too, the times she stomps her foot and attempts to claim the place at the top of the daycare food chain. With Anna, though, all I usually have to do is laugh — not hard, she’s so cute when she’s attempting to usurp my spot — and she joins right in, chortling her husky chuckle. And then we move on. With each of us in our rightful spots.

And at home? Dad has the laughter technique pretty well nailed; it’s clear Anna got her well-developed sense of humour from him. Mom is not humour-impaired, but she worries more, she often carries an air of anxiety. Anna and dad? They just go with the flow.

Well, except when Anna decides to be the rock in that flow… I’m thinking pajama mornings are rock mornings.

Having kissed and dismissed daddy, Anna plonks her pajama’d butt on the bench, unwraps her sandwich, and commences to make cheerful conversation with Timmy.

“I have a peanut-butter sandwich.”

Timmy is poking holes in playdough with a straw. He nods and echoes. He is a great echo-er, is Timmy. Frequent, and often mindlessly reflexive echoes. “You have a penis-butter sandwich.” He peers down the straw, then shakes it, trying to dislodge the dot of dough in the end. It’s stuck, darnit.

“I have a peanut-butter sandwich.”

“A penis-butter sandwich.” Maybe if he whacks the straw against the edge of the table?

“No, I have a pea…” You can see the moment when she suddenly hears the words. The gleam in her eye brightens. Mischief crackles about her.

“I have a penis-butter sandwich!!”

This is the funniest thing that’s happened to Anna in days! Weeks! Years! Possibly her ENTIRE LIFE! She’s shaking, shrieking, squealing with laughter. Timmy lifts his eyes from the still-plugged straw, his attention finally caught by the waves of hilarity washing through the dining room.

“Hey, Timmy! I have a penis-butter sandwich!”



Breakfast will never be the same again…

September 5, 2008 Posted by | Anna, food, Mischief, the things they say!, Timmy | , , , | 10 Comments

Mary walks the wildlife

Puppies need a lot of exercise. Possibly more than a toddler. Certainly faster than a toddler…

However, we do the best we can, here at Casa Mary. She goes for an early-morning off-the-leash run with Stephen in a nearby dog park first thing, and another in the evening. She loves to run, and is so beautiful to watch, racing full out. But a puppy can’t go ten hours between gallops (never mind pees) so we need to manage a daytime outing or two.

And we do! With four toddlers (at the moment; number five starts next month), certain parties were wondering how it was possible. Perhaps you were wondering, too.


Though I may look relaxed, my left hand is exercising a death grip on the leash. She’s not a bad walker… until, that is, she sees a squirrel. Then all bets are off. She’s much, much better than a month ago. We no longer perform the Two-footed Squirrel Dance, but there is still rather an exuberance of prancing…

Which is why the toddlers are on the other side of the stroller…

September 4, 2008 Posted by | outings | , , , | 5 Comments

Firetruck or ladybug? Only your three-year-old knows for sure.

Timmy holds up a bright red stacking up. He points to the picture on its side.

“Look! That is a firetruck! That is the firetruck on my birthday cake!”

I glance at the picture. And laugh.

“Firetruck? Timmy, love, that is a ladybug. Not even close, buddie.”

He lowers the cup and peers once again at the picture. Then he turns to Anna, who sits beside him on the bottom stair. He whispers to her.

“Look! That is the firetruck on my birthday cake!”

He knows what he knows. Either that, or the bakery has an artistically-challenged decorator…

September 3, 2008 Posted by | the things they say! | , , , | 2 Comments