It’s Not All Mary Poppins

About that dog, daddy…

From an interview on ABC, which generally covered more politically significant territory, this little nugget:

STEPHANOPOULOS: [Your daughters] are out touring the museum right now, I heard they were taken straight to the first dog exhibit and while you were getting made up, they went into the control room and played director and producer. And they actually gave me a question they want me to ask you. You know exactly what it’s going to be.

portuguese_pupOBAMA: Uh-oh. Go ahead.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What kind of a dog are we getting and when are we getting it?

OBAMA: The — they seem to have narrowed it down to a labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound.

STEPHANOPOULOS: A medium sized.

OBAMA: Medium sized dog. And so, we’re now going to start looking at shelters to see when one of those dogs might come up.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you’re closing in on it?

OBAMA: We’re closing in on it. This has been tougher than finding a commerce secretary.

I approve of how they’re proceeding. After all, choosing a dog is something that should be undertaken with due respect for the needs of the dog as well as of the family. It shouldn’t be done on impulse, but only upon careful consideration. (Much like choosing a commerce secretary?)

January 13, 2009 Posted by | parenting | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

One of the first parenting challenges

troubletagNaming the baby.

A reader is panicking because everyone hates the name they’ve chosen for their still-gestating baby. Perhaps because family and friends loathe it so, they don’t share it with us. The columnist weighs in with a measured — and entertaining — response, just full of quotable lines.

I rather liked this: “If five people tell you you’re drunk, maybe you should lie down.”

My friend Cindy was partial to this: “When it comes to parenting, opinions are like stinking, steaming, full diapers: There’s no shortage of them, and no one wants to change them.”

Go, read the article. Which line made you give an appreciative snort?

And what do you think about the wisdom of giving your baby “a challenging and unusual” name? Is your creativity empowering your child with a name that will never be forgotten, or dooming him/her to a lifetime of humiliation and inconvenience?

January 12, 2009 Posted by | controversy, individuality, parenting, peer pressure, pregnancy and delivery | , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

I did my best, really

Even the most confident of parents, with the very nicest of kids, ends up, every so often, looking at their offspring and wondering, truly, truly wondering…

Who the hell raised you?

January 10, 2009 Posted by | eeewww, health and safety, Mid-Century Modern Moms, my kids | , , | 5 Comments

Experiencing tantrums

This post isn’t about what to do when experiencing a tantrum. I’ve discussed tantrums in some detail in a three-part series, which you can find here (part 1), here (part 2) and here (part 3). If you check under the “tantrum” category down there in the sidebar on the right, you’ll find lots more anecdotal stuff, too.

92296_the_stress_No, this post is for you, the parent who has a thrashing, screaming child on the floor in front of you. Or, if you’ve taken my advice and left them in a safe place and walked away, a thrashing, screamin child in the next room. Because lord only knows you’ll still be able to hear them! How are YOU feeling?

When people comment, and even more when I correspond with commenters, it is clear to me that many of you imagine that I float serenely above the chaos, the very picture of calm, cool, collected confidence.

Well, I am confident. Mentally, I’m calm. And externally, I’m cool — or, more accurately, controlled, because I will let the child see that Mary Is NOT Pleased With This Nonsense. (When necessary: with some children I use a soothing voice. NOT a coaxing one. Never, ever coax a tantrumming child. But I will use a soothing voice. Unless a stern one proves more efficient. This is what I mean by controlled: I consciously do what works, matching my response to the character of the child.)

Okay. So I am confident, and I look calm and controlled.

But inside?

After twenty years of dealing with toddlers and tantrums,
after twenty years of creating tantrum-free two-to-three years olds,
after twenty years of knowing that very soon this will all be in our past,
after twenty years of honing a practiced and effective response…

Tantrums still leave me shaky.

They really do. It’s not because I don’t know what to do next. It’s not because they alarm me. It’s not because I feel such compassion for their feelings. I’m not that I’m feeling fearful or anxious or helpless or even angry. (Though that last one comes closest to any emotional response I might be having. After all these years, exasperated is more like it.)

And yet, tantrums leave me shaky.

It’s because those wee ones are so PASSIONATE. They are FURIOUS. They are ENRAGED. The are positively FEROCIOUS. They are just radiating negativity, in extreme voltage. You cannot help — well, I can’t, at any rate — but be affected by that sort of emotional intensity.

After all these years, I am not affected emotionally so much as physically. The heart rate goes up, I’m sure of it. My response is clear, consistent, controlled, and practiced. I do not (externally, visibly) evidence the shakiness. But it’s there.

Thing is, I know, after all these years, that it’s not a sign of uncertainty. I am not second-guessing myself. It’s not a sign that I can’t handle this. I can, I am, and I will. It’s just, I believe, a normal human reaction of someone in the presence of a super-charged intensity of emotional/physical outburst.

So… you’ve walked away from the screaming, and your hands are trembling? You can feel your heart pounding? You’re maybe even sweating a bit?

Normal. Every bit of it. It’s an adrenaline rush, nothing more, nothing less. You’re not a Bad Mother (or Bad Father!). You’re not a wimp. It’s just a physiological response to intense stress. And it will pass.

Take a deep breath. Swing your arms. Put on some music and dance like a dervish. Run on the spot. Wrap your trembling hands around a hot cup of soothing mint tea. Take another deep breath and another, let them out long and slow. Drop your shoulders down from your ears.

You’re doing fiiiiiine.



January 9, 2009 Posted by | parents, power struggle, tantrums | , , | 15 Comments

Vomit 2, Bruising 0

pukesmileyEmily is wearing a straw-and-fabric-blossom lei around her neck.

“Come here, Timmy, and you can wear it, too!” She offers him the other end. He tips his head forward. She tips hers, too, and lifts the other end of the necklace. The sharing is laudable, but that loop just isn’t that long. I foresee disaster.

“Emily, Timmy. I don’t think that’s a very good idea. If you both wear it at the same time, you will bonk heads and fall down.”

They stare up at me. Expressions blank. Either they don’t get it, or…

“Maybe that’s what they want,” the Husband pipes up. (He’s working from home quite a bit these days. I’m not minding the continuing bus strike so much, I confess.) “Maybe that sounds like a good time to them.”

“Yeah!” Timmy has no idea what was just said, but he recognizes important words when he hears them. “It’s a good time!”


And really, who knows? You’ll recall the topics of rivetting attention yesterday were vomit and death, with a side of poverty. Vomit was the focus of most of their attention, undivert-able. Vomitting in the night, vomitting in the toilet, vomitting in a bowl, on sheets, on the carpet, on DADDY! (Emily’s house apparently saw some GOOD TIMES over the Christmas break.) The colour of vomit, the smell of vomit. Your teeth hurt just before it comes up, did you know that?

And it really, really hurts when it comes out your nose. Especially when there are carrots in it.

(Yeah, well, I didn’t really need to think about that either, and what choice did I have?)

In fact, it wasn’t me so much as my husband who bore the brunt of it. He and his laptop, sitting at the dining table, diligently creating a comparison chart for a negotiation he’s conducting. (Yes, he really does WORK from home when he works from home.) And all around him, the chatter swirled. Vomit and death, death and vomit. And more vomit. (He says he gets much more work done at home than in the office. His powers of focus and concentration are really impressive.)

This morning, fresh start, fresh conversation. The children chatter about snow and breakfast and dryers and boots. Grandmas and grandpas, Cinderella and the colour pink and noodles with cheese. All sorts of cheerful, everyday stuff.

Until, that is, Husband enters the kitchen to prepare his morning capuccino. The hissing and humming draw the tots like moths to a flame. All other activities and conversations cease. They pull close and peer up, eyes round.

And the conversation starts. Two room away, sitting on the couch, I can hear Emily’s voice: “… bowl… baffroom…bowl… sheets…”, and I call down the length of the house.

“Is that child talking about vomit again?”

The husbands voice is rueful. “Yes.”

“You sure do bring that out in them, don’t you?”

We hit it together. “So to speak.”

So really: If vomit is so utterly fascinating, then maybe head-bonking is even better: Vomit is explosive and goopy and all, but big black-and-blue goose-eggs? The Epitomy of Cool.

They’re three and a half. Who knows?

January 8, 2009 Posted by | eeewww, Emily, health and safety, the things they say! | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Barf and death and baby brothers: the world according to Emily

Emily chatters. Chatters and talks and babbles and discourses. Explains and complains and explicates and expounds. Ceaselessly. Well, except when she sleeps, thumb planted firmly in her mouth.

But apart from that? Oh, how the words flow.

For richer:
“Did you have a Christmas at your house, Anna? You did? That’s good. So did I. That’s because we are rich, and we have lots of money for special Christmas things.”

For poorer:
“Some people doesn’t has lots of money for Christmas. Like the little piggies. One little piggie was going to build a house out of straw, but that was a dangerous house for the Big Bad Wolf to blow down, and he bought it because he was poor and didn’t have no money for a strong house.”

In sickness:
“And when I frow up inna night, my mummy brings a bowl so I can get it all inna bowl and not inna bed. And she takes the frow-up and frows it inna toy-yet.”

And in health:
“My baby bruzza didn’t frow up yet. My mummy has a bowl in his room, just in case, but he isn’t frowing up in it yet.”

To love and to cherish:
“And that is good, because I don’t want my poor baby bruzza to have to frow up like I did because he is just a baby.”

Till death do us part:
“When you gets very old and you gets sick and you will die and be gone forever. And then sometimes that makes the other people sad, because they will miss you lots and lots and lots and it’s okay to cry if you’re missing someone, but they are not sad and hurting any more.”

I wasn’t even at a wedding today, but I got all teary anyway.

January 7, 2009 Posted by | Emily, health and safety, the things they say! | , , , , | 10 Comments

The navel knows

You Are Puzzled Over

You are quirky, complicated, and brilliant. You tend to feel a bit misunderstood by everyone, and that troubles you.

It’s likely that you will have two or three children. You can conceive pretty easily.

You are not easily moved. You are very stoic and not though of as an emotional person.

You are a bit lazy. You sometimes don’t shower or brush your teeth all day.

You are quite conservative. You are neither a flirter or a flaunter.

What Does Your Belly Button Say About You?

Apparently, my belly button doesn’t know much…

January 6, 2009 Posted by | random and odd | 1 Comment

I hereby resolve…

I have not made a New Year’s Resolution since I was a teenager. (Longer ago than some of you, my sweet readers, have been alive…)


This year, however, I’ve been doing a lot of very interesting reading, most recently The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food, both by Michael Pollan. They are fabulous, and I strongly recommend you all read them. (I hereby need to give copious and public accolades to my long-suffering, ever-supportive husband, who almost never sighs in exasperation at having his own reading interrupted by yet another “Hey, love! Listen to THIS!”)

Both books highlight, in a most tangible way, the fundamental interconnected-ness of life on this planet we inhabit. What, after all, is more basic than sunlight, soil, water and food?

And with that notion of interconnectedness, I decided to make this my year to consciously and systematically work to tread a little more lightly on the planet.

By North American standards, my family does pretty well already. We don’t own a car. We don’t own a dryer. We live in a significantly smaller-than-average (North American) sized house. We bought locally-grown, organic vegetables last summer, and will certainly do so next year. We eat meat only once or twice a week. We recycle, we regift, we re-purpose. We carry our own shopping bags for errands, our own mugs for coffee, we use re-usable bins, not bags, for our groceries. We have a single room air-conditioner, which gets used a handful of nights in the heat of summer.

There are more I could list, but you get the idea. None of these things have reduced our quality of life one bit; many have increased it. (Those organic veggies? Oh, MY, they were good! And what better way to escape the unending grind of being the household chauffeur than by simply not having a vehicle? It’s the inarguable ‘out’ in transport negotiations with lazy demanding active teens.)

(Before people launch into reasons why they couldn’t possibly do a, b, or c? I’m not suggesting you should. There are probably things you do that I don’t. That’s fine. Just so long as we’re all doing something.)

And me, I’m seeking to do more.

So my New Year’s Resolution, my first in decades…

In order to tread a little more lightly on the planet, I resolve to make one permanent, planet-healthy change each month.

Anyone care to join me? If so, please leave a link in the comments. I’d love to have company! On the first Monday of each month, we can all post about our change for that month. Won’t that be interesting? (And, potentially inspiring: we can steal each other’s good ideas!)

This month?


I am beginning a herb garden in my kitchen. I’ve ordered a few packages of seeds, which I’ll set up in pots under the nice, west-facing window. Fresh herbs, all year round! And by so doing, I reduce the number of little glass (or plastic) jars in my cupboard, I improve the quality of food my family eats, I need that teeny bit less truck-shipped produce (and all its associated carbon costs). And I’m sure the tots will be interested in this one.

The seeds should arrive within ten days. I can hardly wait!

January 5, 2009 Posted by | commemoration, food, health and safety | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Spoiling your New Year’s Resolution, already

Cup o’cake! Really!

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well.
Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.

Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again.


Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts.


The cake may rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed. (Mine didn’t. Depends on how large your large mug is, I guess.)

Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired. EAT!

Emma and I shared. It was very yummy.

January 2, 2009 Posted by | food, random and odd | , , , , , , | 4 Comments



(You can have my champagne. Really.)

January 1, 2009 Posted by | commemoration, holidays | , , | 4 Comments