It’s Not All Mary Poppins

From Dawn till Dusk

Now that the solstice has passed, we’re onto the sunny side of the calendar. Well, getting there, at any rate. Wouldn’t you just love to know how fast?

Check out this tres cool site! Choose your part of the globe, then your country, and finally your city (or the one nearest you), and, voila!

Your very own dawn, sunrise, sunset, dusk calculator! Here in Ottawa, we’re gaining a little more than a minute of sunlight EVERY SINGLE DAY! In two weeks, my shot of daylight will be 19 minutes longer. In a month, I will be gettin close to a WHOLE HOUR more, EVERY SINGLE DAY!


This makes me very, very happy.

December 31, 2008 Posted by | Ottawa, random and odd | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Oh, the Carnage

We’ve been away for a few days, the husband and me. We left the dog at home in the care of my younger two kids (19 and 15). Yes, I do leave my teenagers alone in the house.

It is still standing, there is no line of irate neighbours awaiting our return, nor is there any evidence of riotous partying. You thought when I said “carnage”, I was going to tell tales of riotous bad behaviour on the part of my adolescent offspring, didn’t you? Nope.

Remember all my wittering on about “we’re not raising children, we’re raising adults“? And my further witterings about “risk, risk-taking, teaching them to manage risk“? I live by all that stuff with my own kids.

Any signs of riotousness?

Well, there were three clean wine glasses in the drying rack. There was, however, only one empty wine bottle in the recycle bin. (Yes, I looked. I was curious. Moreover, I am willing to take risks and give my children ever-growing freedoms, but I’m not stupid.)

Adam is of age (19 is of age in this province). Even if Emma joined him and a friend in a single bottle of wine, that’s not adequate to get anyone drunk. But I doubt she did. She doesn’t care for red wine. So two of-age young adults shared one bottle of wine. In two and a half days.

Would anyone even blink if two thirty-somethings did that? It looks like unexceptional adult behaviour from where I stand.

They did the dishes before I returned. And tidied the living room, put out the trash, wiped down the dining room table, and, I’m guessing by the contents of the fridge, prepared healthy meals, and further judging by the lack of crumbs, swept the kitchen floor. The did not wipe down the stove top or the counters. (Sticky, much?) Adam also did a load of his own laundry.

So, yes. Teens alone in a house for three days. And it was fine. Well, the kids did just fine, anyway.

The dog, however, she did… um… a little less well. The husband and I, you see, we are her pack. He does the morning walk, I do the evening. I feed her, he gives her his breakfast toast crusts. She sleeps on the floor at the foot of our bed. Now, husband travels routinely, so, though the dog spends a part of each day gazing longingly out the window and sniffing at his shoes, she’s used to his vanishment and reappearances. The kids and the dog get on just fine, they play with her, they routinely take her on her short before-bed “pee walk”, but it’s we adults who anchor her doggy world.

So when the both of us leave? When the routines are upset by a teen who, finding himself hauled out of bed at the ungodly hour of SEVEN A.M., and wanting to return to it as quickly as possible, makes the customarily hour-long walk a mere 15-minute farcical shadow of its stress-relieving self? When a night passes, and we’re NOT THERE? (Even though Emma did sleep in our bed so as to keep Indie company.) When, moreover, she* managed to ingest some Christmas candy and had the inevitable barfing/farting/squits? And we were still NOT THERE???

(*Indie the dog, not Emma the 15-year-old human.)

It was just too much for a dog to stand. And how does our beloved canine deal with stress? Well, optimally, walking, but I doubt the kids (particularly Mr. Morning Slug who Didn’t Really Try, ahem) could have kept up to her need. Even though the compassionate Emma, seeing her anxiety, gave her an extra hour-long midday walk on Saturday. NOT ENOUGH!

Failing the healthful stress-release of hours and hours and hours of running?

She chews stuff.

Now, she wasn’t left alone much. There was usually someone (generally Emma) in the house. But Emma had a couple of obligations…

And the sock-monkey suffered.


Remember my Christmas sock-monkey, made for me by my beloved eldest?

Well, now she looks like this:


Severed limbs,

oozing stuffing,

eyeless faces…

It’s a sad and sorry sight.

One which will shortly be remedied. Haley learned to sew from me, after all.

And this morning? The dog got a two-hour run.

December 29, 2008 Posted by | health and safety, my kids, parenting, the dog | , , , , , | 7 Comments

My Christmas gift to you

Are you laughing? Good! That’s your present!
Merry Christmas!

via: Andrew Sullivan

December 25, 2008 Posted by | Christmas, random and odd | , , | 3 Comments

They call this “busy”

1084925_abstract_tree_2I sit at the dining table, chatting with Timmy. Across from me, suddenly, the lights on the Christmas tree go out.

How odd! Oh, but that’s okay. They just came back on.

They go out.
They come back on.
They go out.
They come back on.

I duck my head under the table. Baby Tyler sits on the floor, pressing the pretty red light on the power bar. On! Off! On! Off!

He catches my eye and gives me his full-voltage “I’m-a-charmer” smile. Isn’t that COOL, Mary???

I have a low, handmade babygate across the door to the kitchen. It is low enough that the three-year-olds can step over, but high enough to keep under-threes out. (Homemade, and very sturdy. I once tripped over it, carrying a basket of laundry. My back blew up. The gate held firm.)

I set the gate in place when the three-year-olds need a place to play with their non-baby-friendly toys. The one-year-olds sometimes stand at the gate and talk to their friends on the other side, but they do not cross the gate.

Until Tyler. Who made it across the gate, and into the kitchen. On his face. Ouch.

My iPod is snapped into its spot in the top of the amplifying unit, wafting Christmas music throughout. It only lasts a couple of hours, though. I need to put more music on there.

Except when I go to do that? It’s gone. Gone, gone, gone.

I know who I’m blaming, and I check in all the likely spots. “If I were a busy year-old boy, where would I drop an iPod?” Some of the possibilities are not heartening: down a heat vent, down the back of the couch. Maybe if I follow him around for a day?

The dog has a collar that lights up. (No, really. It has little LED lights on it, so that when we take her to the off-leash park after dark, we can find her. Little LED lights in red, white, yellow, and blue. Lights that blink. Blink in turn, round and round her collar. Red, white, yellow, blue, red, white, yellow, blue. The other dog owners are calling her “Disco Indie”. My husband bought it. Ahem.) It stays turned off in the house, obviously.

Only not these days. Every time I turn around, there is a blinking dog wandering about.

He obviously likes the dog. (A little background for you non-winter types, so I can finish this story: Tiny tot winter boots often have an elastic drawstring at the top, secured with a toggle, which enables a parent to snug the boot up to the child’s leg and prevent snow from getting in and soaking a small foot.)

He obviously likes the dog, I say — emulates her, in fact. Like the dog, Tyler is fascinated by the toggles on the boots. Like the dog, Tyler crawls around with the toggle clenched firmly between his teeth, the boot dangling below his chin, dragging on the floor as he goes.

Tyler’s Boot Relocation Service, I call it. I like it better than his iPod relocation service.

Despite my best efforts (and occasionally due to my lackadaisical ones), our small front hall, over-crowded as it is with winter footwear, is often awash in salty, gritty puddles.

Despite my best efforts (these efforts are never lackadaisical), Tyler will insist on exploring the front hall. Tyler crawls. At least once a week, I have to change him mid-morning because he has soaked up a puddle or three with the knees/shins of his pants. And his slippers. And sometimes, heaven help us, even his socks.

I work until 1:00 today, when I will feed the parents a civilized glass of mulled wine, prior to sending them off to their own festivities. And then, oh, the bliss! I will have a week and a half off. A week to decompress, to clean the house. (Really. It’s a treat to do that with no toddlers underfoot, undoing your work as you go.) A week to let down my guard, to relax the eternal vigilance that caring for Tyler requires.

And when I begin in the New Year, refreshed and invigorated, ready for the next few months of toddler delight and mayhem?

Tyler will be (I would bet good money on this)…

Tyler will be (it’s virtually assured)…

Tyler will be…


Heaven help me.

December 24, 2008 Posted by | Canada, Christmas, health and safety, individuality, Mischief, the dog, Tyler | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Feeling better…

Emily arrived with a largish gift bag today. A gift bag into which she immediately plunged her little arms. Mummy deferred Emily — “Not now, honey. That’s for Christmas.” –then explained to me, “She wants to give you her contribution right now!

For the next half hour, Emily participated in all our activities, but it was clear her wee heart wasn’t in it. Longing glances at the gift bag while we sang our circle songs; a careful fluffing of the tissue paper every time she passed the tree; many mentions that “It’s not quite Christmas yet!”…

and Mary caved. What harm in giving the kid the joy of giving, when she so clearly wants to?

She opens the bag and pulls out…


Do I believe that she put on every single one of those 500 stickers?

This is Emily of the Christmas ball.

Yes, I do.

Isn’t it great?

December 23, 2008 Posted by | Christmas, crafts, Emily | , , , , , | 8 Comments

Just do it! Or not.

dripdrop2Timmy climbs up on the bench beside me, where I am diligently blog-surfing playing Facebook Scramble tidying up after crafts.

“Maaaarryyyy….” his voice is a tremulous quaver. “Emily did something to meeee…”

This is not an example of Information Sharing. This is just plain old tattling. And it’s whiny tattling, at that. The kind that makes you want to poke your eardrums out, because that would be less painful than listening to it.

I have had three nights of insufficient sleep. The children are VERY LOUD today, due to my decision (borne of insufficient sleep, obviously), that I am TOO TIRED to take them outside. So now I am trapped in the house with five children under four DESPERATELY IN NEED OF EXERCISE. Kill me now.

No, never mind. I’m obviously doing a fine job of that all by myself.

“Timmy, I’ll do something to you if you don’t go talk to Emily about it. Go on, now.” (What? We’ve been working on this “don’t tell me, tell the one who’s involved” for weeks now. And I’m tired.)

He wanders over to the kitchen door, and calls into the kitchen.

“Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily?”

She must’ve looked up eventually, probably with the feeling that she’s undergoing some kind of personalized Chinese water torture (can I say that? that’s not way non-PC?), because lord only knows that’s how I’M feeling about it right now. Death by a thousand mosquito bites. No! Insanity by a solitary mosquito whining in your ear that just. will. not. die.

She must’ve looked up, I say, because he stopped with the water torture, and continued.

“Emilyyyyyy, don’t do iiiiiiit.”

I am quite sure that Emily has no more idea than I what “it” might be, and evidently she decided not to sweat it. There was no discernable change in the activity level in the kitchen. Timmy paused a moment… then went, humming a slightly mangled version of “Rudolph”, to the living room to pull stuff out from under the couch cushions.

For today, that’s good enough for me.

December 23, 2008 Posted by | Peeve me, the dark side, Timmy, whining | , , , | 1 Comment

Because Mary is a devious, devious woman

The older children have been making something for their parents for the last week and a half. We’ve spent a little time each day adding another layer, building up the tissue and glue. Yesterday we added the sparkles on the outside, and we’re done!


Beautiful tissue-paper bowls! (From my latest blog crush, Kids Craft Weekly.) Then we made a trip to the dollar store for things to put in the bowls, with the stipulation that they be light. Sturdy these things are not, though they’re not quite as delicate as you might think, given the materials.

And through all this the parents have not discovered what it is we are making. The children have not spilled the beans, they have not once uttered the word “bowl” in their parents’ presence.

I know this with utter conviction.

Know why?

It’s not because I’ve told them “Shh! Don’t tell! It’s a secret!” Ha! It is to laugh. Anyone with toddlers knows how utterly pointless that is. To anyone under the age of six, near as I can make out, a “secret” is something that, when you tell everyone about it? You WHISPER.

It can be a stage whisper, audible to THE ENDS OF THE EARTH, but if you whisper while you’re telling it, it’s still a SECRET.

So. I have not attempted to get them to keep a secret. Though the very thought of someone attempting to do so does bring tears of Christmas mirth to my eyes. Ho, ho, ho!

No. What I have done, see, is to mislead and divert.

We are not making bowls. Nope. Not at all. See that first pictures? Do those look like bowls? Of course not! Bowls are not bumps! Bowls are dents. We are not making bowls.

No, no, no! We are making igloos. Lovely igloos made from purple, pink, and yellow tissue paper, respectively. Igloos decorated with sparkles, then turned ‘upside-down’ and filled with (variously) Christmas crackers, shiny ornaments, star-studded garlands and/or popcorn. Mary has never, ever called these things anything other than “igloos”. And neither have the tots.


We have looked at pictures of igloos. We have tried to build some out of snow. We have talked about the Inuit, and how they mostly live in regular old houses now.

And the children, they have told their parents ALL ABOUT IT. Of course. Their parents know EVERYTHING about IGLOOS.

And nothing, nothing at all, about bowls.



December 22, 2008 Posted by | Christmas, crafts, parents | , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Sunday Stealing Meme

Found at Sunday Stealing, taken from Carmen.

1. What is a nickname a former (or present) lover gave you?
Um, nope. Not family-friendly. 🙂

2. How do you style your hair? If you just would say “cut” what style is it?
Wash, anti-frizz serum, bend over from the waist and shake it, stand up fast and flip it back up over my shoulders. Done.

3. What’s your least favorite Christmas song?
Silver Bells, maybe? Rudolph? I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus? Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer?

4. How many colors are you wearing now?
Three. (gray socks, blue jeans, tan sweater) Four if you include underwear (teal blue).

5. Are you an introvert or extrovert?
Introvert. (Who will tell you the colour of her underwear… I’m introverted, not shy.)

6. What was the last book you read?
Joy School by Elizabeth Berg. Lovely!

7. What’s one piece of fiction that changed your life?
Ummm… I think fiction, cumulatively, has enriched my life in many ways. There is not one particular book that has changed it.

8. If you are attracted to someone who is already in a relationship (or married), what might do you do?
Fantasize. 😉

9. Is there anything that has made you unhappy recently?
My daughter being bullied at school. Resolved now, thank goodness.

10. What’s your favorite dessert?
Chocolate fondue with fruit. Especially berries. Or something with nuts. Love nuts.

11. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
Ten minutes.

12. Name one website that you visit daily. Why do you read it?
Woulda Coulda Shoulda. Mir is honest, real, compassionate. Has a boatload of integrity, is funny, is a terrific mother, and writes like I wish I did.

13. What was your last job before either you are at home or at another job??
This is a mildly incoherent question. My last job before this was working in a group home for developmentally and behaviourally challenged adults. (One might note many similarities between that job and this…) Before that, teaching elementary school.

14. Do you like to clean?
If I’m in the mood. If not, my motivation is order. I like order. In order to have order, one must clean. *sigh*

15. What was the last song to get stuck in your head?
Heart of Glass (Blondie), or maybe Charmed Life (Diana Krall).

16. What’s the last movie you saw?
In the theatre? Ummmm… Can’t remember. On DVD? Love, Actually.

17. Pirates or Ninjas?

18. What is your least favorite thing to do that you have to do everyday?

19. Best time of your life?
SAHM years

20. What are you most looking forward to in the coming year?
Oh, I don’t know. Getting the roof reshingled and repaired so I can stop worrying about leaks, maybe. I know, not exciting. Having the attic ceiling fall in? That would be exciting. I can live without ‘exciting’.

December 21, 2008 Posted by | memes and quizzes | 5 Comments

Christmas is coming

882762_disco_overdose…you can tell by the conversation around here.

Timmy, on looking at the creche on the mantlepiece:
“God lives at Mary’s house!”

Anna to Emily:
“I’m going to be an angel for Christmas!”

Emily beams and points to a (deliberately unbreakable) ball on the tree:
“Indie was eating this, and I put it back on the tree.” Her face breaks out into joy and she does a small skip of purest delight. “I’m a helpful girl!”

Anna, exuding joy, races toward her dad as he’s about to leave after morning drop-off. She has something pink and sparkly in her hand. “Oh, wait, daddy! You forgot THIS!”

Mary spins on her heel, whisks the thing out of Anna’s hand, and hides it. Fast.

“Yes, but not now, Anna!”

Daddy chortles and leaves. I pick the pieces of Anna from off the floor, put her back together with a snuggle, an explanation, and a distraction: “We have to WRAP it, honey!” She resumes her natural state: chirpy delightfulness.

Joy, anticipation, tears, confusion, and general mayhem. Christmas with toddlers: Such fun!

December 19, 2008 Posted by | Anna, Christmas, individuality, the cuteness!, the things they say! | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s all in your head. Sometimes.

1119963_meditation___“Mary, Anna took my paper!”
“Mary, Tyler is playing with the boots!”
“Mary, Emily bumped me!”
“Mary, Noah is trying to eat my plum!”

It’s a gentle whine, not a cry of outrage. Whatever the tone of voice, however, the content bears witness to the unfortunate fact:

Timmy has entered The Tattling Time. One of my all-time least favourite toddler passages.


It is inexpressibly tedious to be dragged into each and every teeny conflict, to be expected to mediate and chastise, my role to stand behind the tattler and put the other guy in her place.


I am no one’s hired bully-boy, little man.

My response is well-practiced, and in fact these three deal with their squabbles pretty well. In the case of the purloined paper, given that Timmy’s picture was directly in front of Timmy, and Anna’s in front of her, it seems this one had been resolved, too. Before he even spoke to me.

So, really, there was no need for my input at all. This is possibly the most exasperating manifestation of The Tattling Time: The Totally Pointless Tattle.

Bleah, bleah, bleah.

“Anna took your paper?”
“And you told her to give it back?”
“And then Anna gave it back?”
“Did you say ‘sorry’ when you gave it back, Anna?”
“So, there you go! You used your words, and Anna listened, and it’s all fixed now. You fixed the problem all by yourselves! Good job!” We all three beam at each other, we maybe even clap our hands and do a small happy dance, so pleased are we with ‘our’ handling of this small crisis.

There. We’ve rehearsed the protocol, we’ve reinforced their appropriate behaviour, we’ve arrived at an emotionally satisfactory ending, all without me being drawn into the Enforcer role. It’s what I do, every time. It’s an effective response, and will, in time, help to reduce the incidence of tattling.

I have tried also adding, “…so you don’t need to tell me at all!” Picture my hopeful smile, eyebrows raised, head nodding. “You can do it, kid! Have the problem, address the problem, and solve the problem, all without dragging Mary in as your Enforcer.

That has been less effective. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was 100% ineffective.

I am sooooo tired of the Totally Pointless Tattle. So very, very tired. But Timmy is driven to tell me these things. Driven, I tell you.

And therein lay the solution to my problem. Entirely within my control, too.

This morning? This morning I made a decision. I would perform a conscious and deliberate attitude shift. No longer will these exchanges be examples of the Totally Pointless Tattle. Now they are simply “Information Sharing.”

To-dah! With a simple switch of mental gears, Timmy is not begging for my punitive intervention. He is not expecting me to don the brass knuckles. No, he is merely telling me what just happened, keeping me apprised of their little exchanges.

And me, I am rehearsing and reinforcing good behaviour and appropriate responses.

He’s saying what he was saying before. I’m saying what I was saying before. It’s all exactly the same as before, and yet, amazingly, about 84% less irritating.

Mind over attitude, baybeee! Mind over attitude. Ohmmmmm…

December 18, 2008 Posted by | behavioural stuff, socializing, whining | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments