It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Your Monday smile

What is Anna doing?


Moments before this picture was taken, I had pulled the sheers open so the (VERY WELCOME) November sunlight could pour into the room.

Anna ran into the living room, stared at the window, and slapped her palms over her eyes. Too accustomed to November gloom, is she blinded by the light?

Two seconds later, she flung her arms out to the sides, her cry a warble of happiness.



November 17, 2008 Posted by | Anna, the cuteness! | , , | 7 Comments

Birthday Strike-out meme

Go here. Find your birth month. Copy the text. Strike out any items that do not apply to you.


My month is…



Abstract thoughts. And this means, exactly….?

Loves reality and abstract. “Reality and abstract” what? Paintings? This almost makes sense. Only not really.

Intelligent and clever. Yup. Me smart woomun.

Changing personality.


Sexy. And modest, too!


Quiet, shy and humble. I’m shy in fits and starts, depending entirely on the circumstances, how much I’ve been drinking, and um, the phase of the moon?

Honest and loyal. I have real issues with honesty of the “tell-the-facts, all-the-facts” variety. I am not at all convinced of its universal virtue, and I do not necessarily practice it.

Determined to reach goals. I could be better at this, though it does depend on the type of goal.

Loves freedom.

Rebellious when restricted. In a quiet, understated, quite possibly passive-aggressive way…

Loves aggressiveness. Can you strike something out more than once? I LOATHE aggressiveness. Possibly pathologically.

Too sensitive and easily hurt. Used to be. I’ve outgrown it.

Gets angry really easily but does not show it. It’s not that I don’t get angry, but I do have a decently long fuse, and I’m not dramatic about it. Not everyone can tell when I’m angry. And then sometimes, it’s pretty damned obvious…

Dislike unnecessary things. Hate clutter! Looove the high that comes with throwing stuff out. (By rights my house should be MUCH less cluttered than it is… I cannot explain this.)

Loves making friends but rarely shows it. I value my friends; I like having friends. I find
making friends a chore.

Daring and stubborn.


Realizing dreams and hopes. Wish I were better at this. I’m way better at realizing intangible things (emotions and character goals, say) than tangible (career and finances).

Sharp. I have no idea what this means.

Loves entertainment and leisure. Of a low-key sort. Long walks, good food, an outdoor concert, a good book. A trip to Tahiti.

Romantic on the inside not outside. Romantic, mind you, not sentimental.

Superstitious and ludicrous. “Ludicrous”? Do you get the feeling this meme was designed by a non-English-speaker?


Tries to learn to show emotions. More with the not quite speaking the English… I’m very much in touch with my emotions, and generally express them respectfully. (I really hate that so many people think that feeling anger is justification for behaving hatefully. It just ain’t so.)

November 15, 2008 Posted by | memes and quizzes | , | 4 Comments

“I HATE you, mommy!”

angry childI remember saying that to my mother. I have no idea what the offense was, but I blurted out those words in a fit of childish frothing-at-the-mouth, I’m sure. If I was old enough to remember it as clearly as I do, I was probably at least 7; I don’t think I was in my teens yet.

I still remember her response. She did not “validate my feelings”. She did not soothe or comfort. Though corporal punishment was part of the family parenting repertoire, there was no spanking for that level of insubordination, either. (None of us were spanked after the age of three or so, anyway.) Nor did she respond with outrage, though she was clearly offended.

Nope. My normally cheerful, easy-going mother directed a gaze laced with ferocity at me as she put me in my place. “You don’t hate me. You are far too young to know what ‘hate’ is, and I hope you never have to find out. And do not say that to me, ever again.”

There was further discussion about what I could say. I could say I was angry; I could say I didn’t like something; I could say any number of negative things, so long as they were said respectfully. But “hate”? Not allowed.

I don’t recall if there was follow-up. I don’t know if she had to battle this into the ground, or if that one pronouncement was enough to kill that nasty behaviour on the spot.

I do know that I agree with her.

Children raised in a loving home have no idea what hate is, nor should they. “Hate” is not a variant of “dislike”, and shouldn’t be treated as such. In the same way that we don’t allow our small children to use the “bad words” adults might occasionally let fly in their presence, we needn’t allow this one, either.

We’ve been raised as parents to respect our children’s emotions. That is as it should be. But we needn’t revere them. Nor should we buy into the notion that respecting an emotion means that we allow its full expression without reservation. Nor is “he’s too little to understand what [emotion] means” stop you from the task of guiding the expression of that emotion.

“Emotions are neither right nor wrong. It’s what you do with them that matters.” I have a vague notion that I’m quoting someone here, but it’s mine now. I’ve said it so often in our home that my teens can chant it along with me.


We can start teaching that at toddlerhood, when a child is told “You may be angry, but you may not scream (hit, bite, kick, spit, whatever).” Or, “I know taking a nap makes you sad, but your body needs the rest. You will feel better when you wake up.” Or. “You want that toy, but it’s Suzie’s turn now.”

I often am heard to say, “If you need to cry, cry quietly.”

Unreasonable? No, since they can pretty well uniformly manage it, from about two and a half, and even earlier, depending on the child. Disrespectful? No, because I’m not saying they may not feel the emotion, or that the emotion is wrong or bad, only that they must moderate its expression.

So, Ms/Mr. Enraged Toddler. You can be angry, very, very angry! You can stomp your feet. You can scowl and pout. You can not like me right now. You can tell me to go away. (And I will, assuming it’s safe for me to do so.)

But “hate”?

Nope. You don’t know what the word means, and I hope you never do. I can safely bet that those of us who do know what it means rather wish we hadn’t had to live through the experience that engendered it.

Don’t be afraid to put limits on the expression of your child’s emotions. Not the feeling of them, but their expression. Feeling an emotion is always acceptable. Emotions are morally neutral. How you act on them is not. Learning to respond constructively to your emotions is merely part of learning to exist in a world shared by millions of other people, all with their own emotional centres, all worthy of their piece of the planet.

Instead of a blanket tolerance of any and all emotional expression, try this:

“You can be [insert emotion here], but you may not [insert behaviour here], but you can [insert alternate expression here].”

And the carrot at the end of this stick? If you start when they’re two, you’ll have a way easier time of it when they’re twelve…

November 14, 2008 Posted by | aggression, parenting, tantrums, the dark side | , , , , | 13 Comments

I think she loves me…

Here we have gifts from Anna: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Each thrust at me the moment she walked in the door.

“This is for YOU!”


November 13, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Pet Peeve: Ease up, already!

I am a positive person. A pragmatic optimist. I don’t expect perfection of myself or those around me; I can roll with the punches, I can go with the flow, and I can draw that line in the sand and stop that buck right here. (I can mix my metaphors like all get-out, too.)

In short, I tend to see the bright side of things. I’m sure it shows here. I’m sure you wonder about that.

“Yeah, she talks sunshine and light, but come on. She HAS to get aggravated at times. She HAS to lose her patience now and then. She HAS to get pissed off once in a while.”

And of course, you’re right. So, in the interests of fair and accurate reportage, I will start a new feature. I have no idea how often it will feature, but, starting today, there’s going to be a new category: Peeve Me.

And the first one?

cryingbabyA baby signals the end of naptime by crying for me. This is okay. Babies do not talk. They cannot call me to them with a lilting “MA-REEE!”

I hasten to them. I enter the room, calling out soft, soothing words to announce my presence. I scoop the soft, warm bundle into my loving arms.

And the little bugger cries louder. WAY louder.

Some kids do this. Maybe takes them a minute or two to realize their incarceration is over, maybe they’re just burning off steam, maybe they’re giving me what-for for this whole “nap” business, I don’t know.

But it irritates the ever-loving sh poop right out of me. “Hey! I’m here! I came when you rang! I got here as quick as I could, and I’m doing exactly what you want me to do. So QUIT SCREAMING IN MY EAR, ALREADY!”


November 12, 2008 Posted by | Peeve me, the dark side | , | 9 Comments

A daddy by any other name…

batik“That’s a nice picture, Mary!”

Sometimes — mostly — the tots are oblivious to the things around them. I know, I know. “Children are so observant!” is the cooing truism, but it’s not true. Anyone who spends a lot of time around children knows that they can miss the most obvious things. Like the doorstep they trip over every. single. morning. Like the mitten they can’t find right there on the floor in front of them.

How about this one. Mother is changing baby, reaches under the table and realized there are no diapers on the shelf. She calls to her three-year-old. “I need a clean diaper for the baby, sweetie. Can you get one for me? They’re in the closet.”

She can see her child. She can see him trot to the closet, see him open the door, and see there, on two full shelves RIGHT in front of him, FIVE DOZEN diapers. From across the room, where she holds the naked, squirming baby with one hand, she can see all this.

“Where? I can’t see any diapers!”

“Observant.” Pfui.

What kids do notice are the quirky things, things the adults around them miss — thus causing them to say, “What an observant kid!!” Well, yeah, if noticing that there is a “RED ANT ONNA SIDEWALK!” somehow makes up for the fact that they couldn’t find their milk glass because it was on the right side of their plate instead of the left at lunch today…

For whatever reason, the tots have noticed the picture.

“Yes, it is. Some friends gave it to me. It’s from South Africa.” (Or was it Namibia? South Africa, I think. And, as you may be able to tell from the photo — or perhaps not — it is batik.)

“It is a lovely picture. And my daddy framed it.” Anna is proud.

“Yes, he did. Your daddy chose that frame and put my picture in it. He made it look even more lovely.” Showing how much I trust Anna’s daddy’s professional judgment, I simply handed over the batik. No guidance at all. What I got back was a total — and happy — surprise. It is, in fact, an olive-wood veneer. I love the way the wrinkles in the wood echo the creases in the batik. It’s perfect.

“Your daddy fixed Mary’s picture?”

“No, it wasn’t broken. He framed it.” Anna knows this because her dad runs a framing shop. It is clear that to the other children, “framed” means as much as, oh, bowdlerize means to pretty much anyone but English majors.

Brief vocabulary lesson while Mary takes the “picture” down from the wall and explains what a ‘frame’ is.

“It was lovely before Anna’s daddy framed it, but now that it has a frame on it, it will look pretty for a long, long time.”

My daddy didn’t do that.”

“No, Emily. Your daddy is a lawyer. Anna’s daddy frames pictures.”

“My daddy is not a lawyer!”

He isn’t? Gee. I thought he was. I was pretty sure he’d just landed his first job a year or so back, but, my memory being what it is, it’s entirely possible I haven’t got it quite right. Emily is a very observant and bright little girl. I’m quite ready to be corrected by this not-quite-three-year-old.

“He isn’t? What is your daddy, then?”

“My daddy is… just, well… he’s a daddy!”

November 11, 2008 Posted by | Anna, crafts, Emily, parents | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Helping out

We have a new baby!

Baby Tyler joined the ranks last week, and did very, very well. He crawls almost as fast as Noah walks, and will, when he’s solidly upright, be very … solid. I foresee many collisions, with Noah on the bottom.

In the meantime, Baby Noah (on the right) is enjoying having another kid who likes to do the same things he does. Like throw things off high chair trays for the dog, and spin the wheels on the cars and trucks, and make really slurpy spit noises. Like watch the garbage truck.

And the BEST place to watch the garbage truck when you’re under three feet tall, as Noah has long since discovered, is here at the front door.

“See, little buddy? The garbage truck is RIGHT THERE!”

Some days it’s nice to be the “big kid”.


November 10, 2008 Posted by | daycare, peer pressure, socializing, the cuteness! | , , | 6 Comments

Unconscious Mutterings: Free association meme

freudScooped from LunaNina. It’s super simple. Luna Nina posts a list each Saturday, and you respond with the first thing that pops into your head. Free association has been used for ages by some psychoanalysts, so if any of you fancy yourself an amateur analyst, feel free to make of my psyche what you will…

  1. In love: Stephen
  2. Be my guest: Mrs. Potts
  3. Number one: I’m
  4. Swallowed whole: whale
  5. 50 percent: half
  6. Made in: China
  7. Supplement: vitamins
  8. Right for: all time
  9. Endless: love
  10. Ceramic: tiles

Huh. My analysis of my psyche says that it’s … predictable!

November 8, 2008 Posted by | memes and quizzes | , , , | Leave a comment

Judging Parents

Here we have a video clip. Title: Parenting FAIL. Which kind of says it all right there.

(The clip is from YouTube; the commenters I mention are on the Failblog site.)

Updated to add: The event in the video is sudden, unexpected, and, though inadvertant, shockingly violent. If you have a tender heart, you may opt to skip it.

Most of the commenters (who appear to have a mental age of 14 or 15 — with apologies to my very sensible and decently sensitive 15-year-old), are completely oblivious to the fact that this involved Real Human Beings, one of them a baby, and are either titillated (nasty children that they are) or just exchanging irrelevant nonsense amongst themselves (inane but harmless). A few of them, however, come out with the Judgements:

She should have been hanging on. (She probably was, dipshit; you’ve obviously never tried to hold the hand of a squirmy, sweaty two-year-old determined to be somewhere else.)

She should have been hanging on; I’m INSANE about hanging on to my child in public. (And she’s never, not once, slipped your grip? Come on, now.)

She should have the kid on a leash. (Oh, yes, so you could then slam her for treating her child like an animal; can’t win for losing on this one.)

If more parents and fewer 14-year-olds read that blog, you can be sure there’d have been more condemnation. Why do we parents do that?

Well, sometimes it’s appropriate to note where someone’s doing it ‘wrong’. That’s a politically incorrect thing to say these days, but nonetheless true. Some parenting actions you see can serve as useful object lessons in how not to do it. But let’s stop at thinking, “Hm. That doesn’t seem to be effective because of a, b, c; this other approach would be better.” We do not need to move from a thoughtful analysis to judgment, “And what a CRAP parent he/she is for doing that.”

Or, if you do go that extra step (and who among us doesn’t, at least once in a while?), keep it to yourself. Given what I do for a living, I find myself analysing parents all the time — and not always kindly. Just like a financial planner might take a look at the general public’s retirement “plans”, and shudder. Or a nutritionist watch how families eat and want to get in there and MAKE THEM EAT SOME VEGETABLES, DAMMIT! (Oh, wait. That’s me, too…)

Everyone knows the savage pleasure of a catty conversation. It’s not the most honourable of human impulses, but many of us have it, and I confess I am in this group at least once in a while. So enjoy your internal slice-and-dice, but keep it to yourself. You’re doing it for fun; this hardly makes you morally superior.

We can savage for personal entertainment; we can observe, analyse, and learn. We do not need to judge, but often we do. Why?

Mostly because it’s comforting, I think.

– Nothing like that could ever happen to MY child, because I would never make that mistake. No, I would never lose my grip (physically or mentally), never have that split-second of inattention, never make the wrong judgment call. Nuh-uh. So my baby will always and ever be 100% safe.

– Nothing like that ever HAS happened to my baby, so I must be a Good Parent. Phew.

– I may not be a perfect parent, but I’m better than THAT loser. Phew.

All those assume that it is reasonable to think that a child will always and ever be 100% safe. It just ain’t so. The sooner we give up that idea, the sooner we can lift a weight of unnecessary guilt off our shoulders.

My thoughts were:

Well, my first reaction wasn’t a thought, just a jolt of startlement — which, in some people might come out as a shout of laughter, but that doesn’t mean you found it funny.

Then concern for the child:
Oh, my GOD! Is she alive? Did she break her neck? Is she just bumped and bruised?

Followed by:
Oh, that poor woman.

Because, if you’ve ever held the sweaty hand of a struggling toddler, you know those little hands are hard to hold; you know they can slip out of your grip; you know they can make a sudden, unexpected dash. You know, because it’s happened, and most of the time, it doesn’t matter. Most of the time, you lurch forward and grab the little bugger darling by the scruff of her neck and haul her back, no harm done.

But once in a long while, once in ten thousand impulsive toddler dashes, something potentially tragic can happen. And it’s nobody’s fault. Nobody’s fault at all.

Just try telling the mother that, though.

That poor, poor woman.

November 7, 2008 Posted by | parenting, peer pressure | , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Motivational Mary

water“Drink up, guys!”

I am a Water Hardass. By the time a child is two, I am expecting them to drink an appropriate amount of water. No juice at Mary’s. Water. Even milk takes second place, because I serve other dairy products routinely and I know they all get all the milk they need at home.

Water is important, but because it’s essentially flavourless, kids raised on the too-sweet North American diet tend to turn their little button noses up at it.

Not here, they don’t. They have to drink half their daily allotment before they get morning and afternoon snack. (At lunch, they have the option of water or milk, in whatever amount they like — including none at all.) With this as the expectation, motivation has to be provided.

“When your water’s all gone, you can have your apple slices. Good job, Timmy! You can have one, two, three apple slices!”

(Appropriate amount of water? Take the child’s body weight in pounds, divide that by two. They should consume that many ounces of water in a day. Of course, there is water in milk and in soups, etc., but I’m trying to engender the healthy habit of drinking water.)

“I’m the fastest drinker!” Timmy is Very Proud.

“You are a fast drinker, but you know what? I know someone who’s even faster!” (Motivation!)

Anna and Emily slurp diligently at their bottles, each assuming I’m talking about them. Timmy is finished. They are not. I know. But hope springs eternal in the toddler breast. Not a whole lot of rationality, but lots and lots of hope.

“You know who?”

No, they don’t. Slurp, slurp, slurp.

“ME! Watch this!”

I fill my pint glass (yes, I drink water from a beer glass; Boddington’s, today). “See how BIG it is?” (A draft pint is 20 ounces. You all know that, right? Sure puts the average water glass in the shade. This is a glass for SERIOUS (water) drinkers.)

The girls giggle and slurp.

I lift it, I take a dramatic deeeeeeep breath, and …

… finish that sucker off in about eight large gulps.

The children are suitably impressed. Slurpslurpslurp.

I open my mouth, and let forth the Mother of all Belches. Long, loud and deep.

The children are REALLY impressed. All slurping stops for an astonished moment.

“And when YOU can drink a REALLY BIG glass of water THAT fast, YOU’LL be able to do that, too!”

The girls slurp as if their little lives depend upon it. Timmy tugs my sleeve.

“Can I has some more water, Mary?”

Their parents will be so proud, I’m sure…

November 6, 2008 Posted by | food, health and safety, manners, Mischief | , , , , , , | 15 Comments