It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Whoever said “Many hands make light work”

… had never met my crew.

Unless by “light” you’re referring to “glitter”. Because, boy howdy, can we do glitter!
But we had a LOT of fun (can’t you tell?),
and the results are GORGEOUS, don’t you think?
If you want full instructions, check out the Christmas Card edition of Kids Craft Weekly. For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, as long as you have the cookie cutters, you can make glittery greeting cards for any celebration!

December 16, 2008 Posted by | Christmas, crafts, holidays | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments


is very much fun…
though there’s no arguing
that’s it’s pretty awkward to maneouvre through the stuff
when the snowbanks are three times taller than you.

December 15, 2008 Posted by | Canada, Ottawa, outings | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Christmas meme

Lifted from Creative Gene.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Once upon a time, I made reusable drawstring fabric gift bags, and it’s always been in my mind to create more, so that I needn’t use disposable wrapping of any kind. I don’t think it’s going to happen this year…

2. Real tree or Artificial?
Artificial. It’s always seemed wrong to me to kill a tree every year for a few weeks’ decoration. Besides, yeah, it smells nice, but the needles and the mess. We had a real tree one year, and I kept getting stabbed in the feet. (If there’s a way around it, I smell ‘maintenance’, as in ‘more work’.) Mine looks real enough, requires zero maintenance, and we’ve used the same one for ten years now.

3. When do you put up the tree?
December 8, the day after my eldest’s birthday. FIRST she gets a birthday, THEN we look to Christmas. I promised her that when I was pregnant with her. Even though she’s grown up and living on her own, I still wait.

4. When do you take the tree down?
January 1.

5. Do you like eggnog?
Nope. Too sweet.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
I recall going mental at the age of eight when I received a suitcase from my grandparents. Squeals and whoops and dancing around. I’m still not quite sure why that was so very exciting…

7. Hardest person to buy for?
Normally my son, but this year he supplied a KICK-ASS list.

8. Easiest person to buy for?
No one. My eldest, she has a real gift for choosing great gifts for people. Me, I need lists. Lots and lots of lists.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes, though I call it a creche.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
I was going to cite the six broken cookies in a crumpled piece of wax paper (from an adult, not a child), but then I remembered the year I got Nothing.

I mean that. Quite literally nothing. The last Christmas with my ex. (We hadn’t even decided to separate then, though things weren’t good obviously! We didn’t make the break until the following November, almost a full year later.) Not only did he not get me anything, but he didn’t organize the kids, who were at that point young enough to need adult help. So, at Christmas, there were presents for the kids from both of us; there were presents for him, from me and the kids, and, when all the unwrapping was done, there was
for me.

It was bizarre. I’m not even sure I was upset. It was just so weird.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
January. Really. I like Christmas shopping. I hate feeling rushed. (REALLY hate it… :-))

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Often. Regifting is practical, economical, and thoughtful. Just because a gift isn’t to my taste doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be the perfect gift for someone else. Why let it sit in the back of a closet, or, worse, be thrown out, when someone else can enjoy it?

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Mashed potatoes and gravy. Or stuffing and gravy.

16. Lights on the tree?
Yes. Multi-coloured.

17. Favorite Christmas song?
“Oh, Holy Night”. Or perhaps “Go tell it on the Mountain”.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Home. Unless I could travel somewhere tropical…

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
Yup! I can also recite the entire of “The Night Before Christmas”, and large chunks of the Christmas story from the Bible.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
Angel. She looks a bit faerie, though.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Morning. When I was a child, we opened one gift on Christmas Eve. Officially this was out of deference to my German grandparents, but really, it was a scam so we kids could get a present early. At least, that’s what I always figured…

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
Crowded malls. Which is why I get my shopping done before December. (See #13, above.) When I’m not desperately seeking a gift, though, I can enjoy the bustle and the lights and the music.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
I collect angels for the tree.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?
The traditional one: turkey with stuffing and gravy; mashed potatoes, three or four vegetables; cranberry sauce.

25. What is your favorite thing about the holidays?
Time off! Time with family.

December 13, 2008 Posted by | Christmas, daycare, memes and quizzes | , , , | 6 Comments


christmas47angelHark the hair-wuld angels sing,
Glory to the new-born king!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful all ye nice ones eyes
Joy all triumph of the skies,
WIIIITH thangelic horse proclaim
Cry is born a beth-lay-hame.

“Isn’t that a beautiful song, Timmy? It’s a baby Jesus song.”

“It’s a very beautiful song, Anna.”

“I know.”

December 12, 2008 Posted by | Anna, Christmas, music | , , , | 6 Comments

Easy as pi… er, cookie!

If a child came through your door with this on her back…


well, that would be your activity for the morning right there, wouldn’t it?


They were pretty good!

December 11, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Christmas crafts, again

At Mary’s house, there is always the craft table (aka the dining table), set out with scrap paper, crayons, scissors, glue, and assorted other stuff — cotton balls, tin foil, popsicle sticks, stickers… They can play with these things however they see fit, as often and as long as they wish. I offer only such assistance as is directly requested, and even then I may opt to assist by asking questions rather than by doing anything to their creation. And I never, ever “improve” something they create in this way.

These days I have three three-year-olds in the house. Fun! Three-year-olds are usually fascinated by crafts. They will respond according to their personalities, of course: The social ones expect you to stay and chatter with them as they create; self-motivated tots are happy to work for long stretches on their own; really active munchkins will zip to and from the table, adding a sparkle here and a scribble there between bouts of wild cavorting in the living room.

But by and large, they love the colours and the stickyness and the poking and twisting and gooping.

At three, they are only just moving past the absorption in the process that consumed them at two. Two-year-olds have no interest in “making” something recognizable. They are interested in the scratch of pencil on paper, the crunch of tin foil, the slop of paint, the scent of glue, the unfolding of colour, sound, texture, smell. It’s all about the ‘doing’ for a two. And as they “do”, they learn how all these things work, and they develop confidence in their creative process.

At three, while still fascinated by the doing, they are developing an interest in the outcome. Which is why the best three-year-old crafts have a little of both. The best crafts for this age do not need a lot of adult intervention. (The best crafts for 2-year-olds need essentially none, beyond providing the materials and maybe some instruction in how to use them.)


This ball is a good craft for this age. They peel the stickers off (fine motor), they stick them to a ball (more fine motor), and they create something to hang on the tree — or simply grace their bedside table. This is Emily’s ball. She worked on this thing for a good hour, in several sittings. It required no adult assistance whatsoever.

And this is a not-so-developmentally-perfect craft:


They got to draw the faces on these angels, and they made the halos by twisting the metallic twist-ties, but all the assembly was done by me. They helped by putting tape in the appropriate spots, but this is clearly an adult-essential craft.

That’s okay. They learn different skills, skills they perhaps can’t yet manage, but will in time. They see something being created in a step-by-step manner, with an eye to a goal. They also learn to follow instructions. All of these are Useful Life Skills. You don’t want all crafts to be adult-essential, of course. Non-directed crafts allow for exploration and experimentation. In a week of daily crafts, one or two adult-essential, directed crafts still allows for three or four days of free exploration crafts. A reasonable balance, I think.

And the parents get recognizable angels for the Christmas tree! So everyone’s happy.

December 10, 2008 Posted by | crafts, Developmental stuff, holidays | , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Applause, applause

clappingbabyA baby cries, a little earlier than usual. My afternoon quiet time is being shortened today.

The cries lead me to the room at the end of the hall, where Noah stands in his crib, facing the door in the dimly-lit room. His face glimmers with a sheen of dried and fresh snot. I can hear his gasps as he tries to draw breath through his plugged-up passages, poor mite. That’s probably why he woke up early.

You know how it really, really bugs me when they cry louder when you appear? Well, if anyone has a right to, it’s this poor little man.

But he didn’t do that.

No, he turned to face the door, his cheeks teething-red, his breathing congested, his hair a tousled mess, and…

he begins to clap.


December 9, 2008 Posted by | manners, Noah, the cuteness! | 4 Comments

Figure Drawing

“Can I colour?”

It is Anna’s first utterance upon walking through the door. No, “Hello, Mary!”, nor “It’s very snowy out there!”, or even “Get your nose out of my face, Indie!”

“Can I colour?”

These days I keep a pile of paper and a basket of crayons on the table at all times, so Anna can satisfy her obsession. At three and… two months (?), three (?), Anna has moved past random scribbles. She is now drawing with an intention to produce an image.

In her case, faces. Faces and faces and faces. Faces with eyes, nose, mouth, and hair. No ears, yet. As the weeks went by, the faces sprouted arms and legs, and then, in a final burst of anatomical finesse, hands and feet. No fingers or toes yet, and it will be a little while before an actual body shows up. In the toddler world, arms and legs always spring direct from the head.

The steady deluge of a month of faces and people has made an impact on at least one other child. Last week, Emily decided that she, too, would produce a person. A person, mind you, not just a face.

I had an idea. I gave them card stock instead of the usual scrap paper. I sketched out for Emily in general terms what would be required. “First you’ll need a head.” I swirl my fingertip in a circle over the card stock. “A head with eyes and nose and mouth. And then you’ll probably want arms and legs,” stroking, linear motions, “and maybe even hands and feet.” I touch the card at four spots. Then I left them to it.

And here’s what they did:


Anna’s is on the right, Emily’s on the left. Anna’s has eyes and hair, Emily’s is blind and bald. Anna’s is just “a girl, like me.” Emily’s is “a boy named George.” So there.

Why are they cut out? Because these are not just (yet another) drawing. These are paper dolls!

George is a boy, so he, so I was told, needed overalls. I produced them. Anna’s is a girl, and she needed a “long, long dress with buttons and ruffles.”

After all that hard work drawing, they were not interested in colouring in their clothes, so I did that, too, again under direction as to colours.



December 8, 2008 Posted by | Anna, crafts, Developmental stuff, Emily | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

the good, the bad, and the embattled

hopeIf you’ve noticed I’m a bit distracted these days (and how could you possibly have missed my frequent whinging about how tiiiired I am??) it’s all because of this.

Update: Her big brother realized that what a beleaguered girl might welcome in the middle of a long day would be a break, so he popped down to the school at lunch today to take her out. (Isn’t he great?) Lunch went well, and, so he reports, did her morning. Relatively speaking, at any rate, but at this point, we’ll take what we can get.

It’s not perfect yet, but things seem to be looking up. Thank goodness. Because those prehistoric ostriches? They were seriously eerie.

December 5, 2008 Posted by | aggression, my kids, peer pressure, the dark side | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

If Mohammed can’t come to the mountain…

crawler…you move the damned mountain…

Awwww. Lookit the baby! I mean, really. Just look at that little fella. Isn’t he cute, crawling off on some little baby adventure? You wouldn’t think something so small could be capable of mass destruction. (All that debris in the hallway? All his. Every crumb.)

And today was a Big Day in Baby Tyler’s life at Mary’s. Today, baby Tyler learned to climb onto the dining table benches!!! (Can you hear the excitement in my voice? Because it sure was exciting, oh gracious me, yes!)

Baby Noah, three months older and walking, has not once even contemplated this feat. Baby Noah can climb onto the couch, mind you, but he scrambles cautiously (and competantly) up and down on his tummy. No real danger there.

Tyler? No soft, cushy couch for this boy! He yearns for more challenging terrain. The dining table is good: wooden table, wooden benches, wooden floor beneath. No sensible belly-scrambling for him, either. Once he’s breached the bench, he kneels up there, bouncing his triumph.

So, the dining furniture. Not only is the terrain suitably hard and bruise-inducing, with the bouncing ritual providing the right level of death-defiance, the table is also the motherload of non-baby-friendliness: a bowl of polished rocks, just the right size to fill a breathing passage; a small pile of pom-poms; a camera; a box of beads; a cup of hot tea; and, oh glory be, a butter knife!

A butter knife just right for bashing into the table, ‘bam! bam! bam!’, such a lovely noise, the end of the knife (round and non-serrated, thank heavens), waving about in the air next to his ear. (And to think I honestly thought I couldn’t fly.)

My dining set now looks like this:


(Table at top. The wooden plank facing you at the bottom is the bench, on its side.)

And it will stay that way until he’s overcome his will to self-destruct. Or develops some common sense.

Which could be a while…

December 4, 2008 Posted by | health and safety, individuality, Tyler | , , , , , | 4 Comments