It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Book Binge Starts on Wednesday

Just a reminder. Our annual Book Binge starts April 1. Here are the “rules”, such as they are:

1. For the month of April, keep track of the books you read.

2. On May 1, post your list on your blog.

Easy, no? You can write a review or reader response if you wish, but a list of titles and authors is also perfectly acceptable.

Three other points:

1. You may include books you re-read, so long as you re-read them in between April 1 and 30.

2. You may also include books you start but don’t finish, just note the page at which you gave it up. Something like, “Quit, page 47 of 322″.

3. Children’s books must be at least 125 pages long to be counted. (Books you read to your children, if they are at least 125 pages, would also count.)

If you wish to participate, leave a comment with link. If you want one of those book binge buttons, here is the code:

There’s a small and a medium version. All you have to do is copy and paste the the following code into your sidebar or post.

For SMALL (125 pixels wide, suitable for a sidebar),


Copy and paste this code:

<a href=""&gt; <img src="; alt="book binge"/></a>

For MEDIUM (240 pixels wide),

book binge

Copy and paste this code:
<a href=""&gt; <img src="; style="margin: 0 10px 10px 0; float:left" alt="book binge" border="0" /></a>

(And if you, like me, are in awe at the way I have CODE on the blog, without it turning into the button and ‘vanishing’ the code, I can’t take the credit. This bit of playing with the browser’s head was devised by my devious husband. Isn’t he just so smart???)

March 30, 2009 Posted by | books | , | 42 Comments

Themeless meme

1. What is your occupation right now?
If you nonestly don’t know, click that “ABOUT” link over there on the upper right.

2. What is on your feet right now?
Socks. Green.

3. What are you listening to right now?
The neighbourhood children playing street hockey. (The dog just gave a giant sigh, too.)

4. What was the last thing that you ate?
Super-spicy Hungarian salami. Yum.

5. Can you drive a stick shift?

6. Last person you spoke to on the phone?

7. Do you like the person who sent this to you?
I stole it. I like the person I stole it from!

8. How old are you today?

9. What is your favorite sport to watch on TV?
None of the above.

10. What is your favorite drink?
In order of amount consumed: Water, by a mile, then tea. A distant third is coffee, with various alcoholic beverages, depending on my mood and the season, coming in last. I never drink soft drinks and very rarely drink juice.

11. Have you ever dyed your hair?
More to the point to ask me what is my natural hair colour. Answer: I’m not sure… though the label on the box is close to what I remember it being.

12. Favorite food?
Varies like crazy. Love, love, love spicy food, though: Thai, Mexican, Szchechan…

13. What is the last movie you watched?
Sex and Lucia

14. Favorite day of the year?
No idea. Used to be Christmas. Now, not sure.

15. How do you vent anger?
Depending on the circumstances, any or all of:
– Go for a long, fast walk.
– Housework.
– Fix the problem on my own.
– Talking, talking, talking it out. (Talking. Not shouting, not pouting, not fighting. Talking. And I expect the same in return, thankyouverymuch.)

16. What was your favorite toy as a child?
A small brown doll (now called “First Nations”, then called “Indian”), complete with fringed dress, headband and feather. I called her ‘Minehaha’. My grandfather recited the poem while my grandmother made her a nightie and (later, when grandad was done reciting) a few other outfits. I was four or five, maybe six years old.

17. What is your favorite season?

18. Cherries or Blueberries?
Cherries. No, blueberries. No, no, cherries. Or…
Cherries. Yes, I’m sure.
I think.

19. Do you want your friends to complete their own getting to know you post?
I’m always curious to see what people think! (If you’re going to, please let me know in the comments.)

20. Living arrangements?
My two youngest and my husband (my kids’ stepdad) and Indie, our dog, in a lovely, small semi-detached with a great neighbour on the other side of that wall, on a near-dead-end street half a block up from a river in a gorgeous neighbourhood in Ottawa, a truly beauteous city. I love it.

21. When was the last time you cried?
I probably cry once or twice a month, but I can’t remember when or why I last cried.

22. What is on the floor of your closet?
Nothing. Not even dustballs. (See my nice, shiny halo?) Oh, wait. I lied. My husband’s dress shoes. One pair.

23. What did you do last night?
Out for dinner with my sweetie and two friends, then one friend and I headed out, just the two of us, so she could unburden some heartache.

24. What/who are you most afraid of?
Being frail and dependent in my old age.

25. Plain, cheese, or spicy hamburgers?
I loathe hamburgers. Please don’t make me eat one.

26. Favorite dog breed?
Oh, that’s a tough one. Labrador retriever? Burnese Mountain Dog? Golden retriever? I like them big, friendly and smart.

27. Favorite Day of the week?
Thursday or Saturday. Saturday.

28. How many states (or provinces or countries) have you lived in?
One state: New York. One province: Ontario. Two countries: Canada and the US.

29. Diamonds or pearls?
Pearls. Black pearls.

30. What is your favorite flower?
Oh, gee… marigolds, maybe? or miniature phlox? black-eyed Susans, snowdrops, peering through the snow? purple crocuses? purple lilacs? hyacinths? I tend to like small flowers, and I’m particularly fond of spring ones, but I don’t think I have a favourite.

31. Are you married? divorced?
Married, then divorced, then common-law, and now married. And this one’s for keeps. 🙂

32. Do you have any kids? if so how many? what ages?
Oh, you all know this. Three: 23, almost-20, and 15.

33. Where did you go on your last vacation?
REAL vacation? France, eight years ago. Since then, there have been weekends away. Oh, and we honeymooned in Quebec City two years ago, which was lovely.

34. Where would you like go on your next vacation?
Pfft. I’d like to go any number of places (mostly European). I will spend it at home, almost certainly. Que sera, sera… I am, however, sending my youngest to France for three weeks early this summer. Because I am a Good Mother, and she is Spoiled but Delightful. 🙂

March 28, 2009 Posted by | memes and quizzes | 3 Comments

Hippocratic what?

Teddy lies on the floor. She is stumbled upon, quite literally, by two 3-year-olds, whom we will call Timmy and Anna.

fixers“There is the teddy, Timmy, and you stepped on her!”
“You did, too, and now she is hurt!”
“We need to fix her.”
“We need tools, don’t we?”
“Oh, I know! There are tools in the kitchen!”
“Mine teddy not doing well, Anna. She’s sick.”
“Poor teddy! That’s not fair. That is dumb.”
“We will get the tools and fix her.”
“Yes. A hammer and the pliers.”
“And a saw. And we will fix her.”
[Ugh. Poor teddy, indeed.]

From the kitchen:
“Here are the tools.”
“Yes, but Timmy, I found the doctor kit! We can use that!”
“You put that on her tummy and listen to her heart.”
“And you can scrape her with that.” (thermometer)
“Yes, I will put this on her nose, and scrape like this!”
“Oh, and I will put the stuffascope on her nose, too!”
“You will listen to her heart in her NOSE?”
“Yes, and she won’t be able to breathe!
(Gales of laughter.)
Timmy hauls out the reflex hammer.
“She needs a shot with this.”
Expressing an unexpected burst of human kindness, Anna demurs. “She doesn’t like shots. You have to hit her in the knee with it.”
“I will hit her in the nose.”
“In the NOSE?”
(Gales of laughter.)
“Oh, we have to stop fixing her now.”
“Why, Timmy?”
“Because she’s dead.”
“Oh, poor teddy.”
“Yeah, poor teddy.”
“We didn’t fix her and now she’s all dead.”
“Hey, I know! Let’s go fix the DOG!”

They were not allowed to fix the dog.

March 27, 2009 Posted by | the things they say! | | 6 Comments

I’m back!

(Did you notice I was gone?)

I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. I knew I was taking a week off, see, but I thought I’d be blogging through it, so I didn’t mention here. (A week from Thursday to Wednesday. Unusual, yes. I had my reasons.) And then, when I was luxuriating in the oh-so-quiet house, I just… didn’t feel like blogging.

So I didn’t.

Because I was on holiday. And I loved every minute of it. I spent a couple of fun days with Emma, putting the finishing touches on her room reno. I had the weekend with my sweetie.

And then, for the first three days of this week? I had days to myself. Long, blissful days where the only person I had to tend to was ME, where the only demand on my time that was inarguable was walking the dog — and that’s pure pleasure, anyway.

I did housework. I ran errands. I organized. But all on my own time and for the pleasure of seeing a clean and tidy home emerge, and (oh, the thrill) STAY THAT WAY.

At least until the teens got home.

But I will tell you, though they do strew their stuff a bit, they have nothing on five industrious toddlers.

I listened to music (and maybe danced and sang a bit with it). I went for walks. (Without the dog, too.) I chatted on IM a lot more than normal.

And I read. Read, read, read, read, read…

Which reminds me. I guess it’s about time to gear up for the Book Binge again. I’ll post about that on Monday, but those of you who are interested can make a mental note.

Okay. Must finish my nice, quiet cuppa tea, and then set out the activities for the onslaught.

How was YOUR week?

March 26, 2009 Posted by | books, holidays | 6 Comments

Definition: Non Sequitur

“Come on in, guys, it’s time for lunch.”
“Yeah, because you don’t have a television.”

“What a nice tower you built, Emily!”
“Yeah, because I am building a fire truck.”

“I think maybe we will go to the library today.”
“Yeah, because my cousin has a new blue hockey stick.”

“Have you noticed how your child is using ‘because’ as a sort of introductory conjuntion to whatever happens to be running through that little head at that moment?”

“That’s happening here, too, huh?”

“Yup. I have to confess, I’m finding it a little disorienting. Even though I know better, the first split-second I’m looking for the connection that isn’t there. It throws me, every time.”

“Yes, but it’s endearing, isn’t it?”

“Oh, yes. Such a funny little monkey.”

(I am so kind. And I’m trying to see it as endearing. Really.)

“Who wants more snack?”
“Yeah, because there’s an airplane out there.”

ohfortheloveofallthatsholy what does an airplane have to do with your freakin’ SNACK???

deep breath
deep breath
deep breath

Endearing. Yeah. That’s it.

March 17, 2009 Posted by | parents, Peeve me, the dark side | | 6 Comments

She’s so wise

Emma has taken three tots to the library. As they check out their books, Timmy wants to know,

“Are we going to the coffee shop, Emma?”

They know the patterns so well. First the library, then the coffee shop. Every time. But it never hurts to double-check!

“I don’t know. Do you guys want to go to the coffee shop?” Just for the fun of…

Timmy and Anna commence to bounce. “YEEEAH! YEEEEAH! YEEEAH!”


It’s not a big voice, it’s not angry or demanding, yet somehow it cuts through the clamour.


Timmy stops bouncing, near-panic in his eyes.

“Emma! Noah says he doesn’t want to go to the coffee shop!”

“It’s okay, Timmy. Noah is saying ‘no’ because he’s almost two years old. You can ignore him.”

Timmy wilts with relief. Mother-of-toddler in line behind them asks Emma if she needs any more babysitting clients.


March 16, 2009 Posted by | my kids, Noah, our adoring public, outings, power struggle, Timmy | 3 Comments


Would you rather be serious or be funny?
Funny. But not fatuous. There is a time to be serious, but humour is the great leavener of life.

Whole or skim milk?
2% (I use whole to make yoghurt; I put 2% in my tea. I don’t drink much milk.)

Are you simple or complicated?

A friend recently asked me to do some door-to-door canvassing for a Worthy Cause. I turned him down, saying “I hate doing that stuff. I’m shy.” He just about dropped the phone. “YOU? Shy??” My husband’s comment: “He’s just discovered one of the paradoxes that is Mary.” 🙂

Grey or gray?
Grey. I’m Canadian.

Color or black & white photos?
Doesn’t matter, but if I had to choose… Um…
I’ll get back to you on this, ‘k?

Lust or love?
Love. Lust is fun, but loves carries you.

Sunrise or sunset?

M&Ms or Skittles?
Smarties, no contest.

(For you Americans, your ‘Smarties’ are our ‘Rockets’. Our Smarties are much like M&Ms, a bit smaller, but with way better chocolate inside. Mmmmmm…. Now, the husband? He loves peanut M&M’s. Me, I’m a Smartie girl.)

Rap or rock?

Staying up late or waking up early?
Waking up early. In the winter, it’s 5 or 5:30. In the summer, 6:00ish. Seven-thirty is ‘sleeping in’ for me.

TV or radio?
Radio. No hesitation. Loves me my CBC.

Eating apples or oranges?
I would have answered oranges until this last year, but I’m increasingly hating the chore of peeling an orange, while enjoying discovering the huge varieties of apples. (I loathe ‘delicious’ apples, singularly badly named, but I’ve enjoyed all the others I’ve tried.)

Being hot or cold?
I think I’ve whined before about how I hate extremes of temperatures. (Pointless griping given where I live, I know.) But, if I must choose, I’d have to say cold. (I KNOW. I hate cold. HATE it.) But, if it’s cold, you can layer up. If it’s too hot? You can get to naked, and then you’re stuck.

Sun or moon?
The moon is pretty but I need sunshine or I get depressed.

Emeralds or rubies?
Emeralds. Green is my favourite colour. But if anyone wanted to shower me with rubies, I would not be fighting them off.

Having 10 acquaintances or 1 best friend?
Oh, tough one. I’ve always been the “best friend” kind of person, but there’s been a dearth of best friends in my life for the last couple of years and, I confess, I grow lonely. So maybe acquaintances is the solution?

Nah. I don’t think so. I have acquaintances, and I’m still missing the best friend in my life. (For those of you thinking the obvious: Yes, my husband is my best friend, and not in the goopy pink-puffy-heart way a lot of women do, claiming he’s their best friend because they think he should be, but not sharing everything with him/being disappointed by his reaction to emotional stuff/telling their girlfriends far more/making excuses for his BFF short-comings. He really is. But I miss a best female friend.)

Sun or rain?
Sun. Without sun, I get depressed. I think I said that.

Vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream?

Green beans or carrots?
Green beans

Low fat or fat free?
Low fat.

What is your biggest fear in the world?
Something tragic happening to one of my kids.

Kids or no kids?
Kids. Obviously.

Cat or dog?

Mustard or ketchup?
Mustard. In my family, ketchup was for children, to be outgrown, like you outgrow the taste for sticky-sweetness. I’ll still use it on fries, the rare occasions I have them, but mustard is for grown-ups. Yum.

Hard cover books or soft cover books?
I love hard, but they’re expensive and take up more valuable shelf space. I own far more soft-covers.

Newspaper or magazine?

Sandals or sneakers?
Sandals! I wear nothing but from June (May, if it’s warm enough) through August (and into September, if I can). Comes of having spent every single childhood summer barefoot all summer long.

Red car or white car?
Red. White is bland. (Not, as you know, that I own a car. Our last one was green. Dark, dark green.)

Happy & poor or sad & rich?
Sad and rich. I suspect the person who’d ask this question has never been really poor. Poor grinds you down. It’s hard to be ‘happy and poor’. That’s a romantic notion without much connection to reality. If I’m rich, I have options and choices that I simply don’t have if I’m poor. That would do a lot to ameliorate any sadness. Besides, who isn’t sad, some of the time? Why not have lots of money to cushion the blow?

Singing or dancing?
Oh, hard one. When I dance, I usually sing along. When I sing, I often dance. But overall, I sing more than I dance. So, sing.

Hugging or kissing?
Hugging. So cozy.

Happy or sad?
Happy. (But sad and rich.)

Number of candles that appeared on your last birthday cake?
Who has candles after 21 at the latest?

I want to live …
a life free of financial anxiety. (See “sad and rich”, above.)

2 doors or 4 (on a car)?
I absolutely don’t care.

Coffee or ice cream?
Coffee. Ice cream is too sweet. When I do eat something sweet, a nice cup of coffee is the best thing to balance the sweetness. (Mostly, I drink tea.)

Bridges or tunnels?
Bridges. I’m claustrophobic.

One pillow or two?
One. I got a lovely goosedown pillow for Christmas. I looooove it.

Favorite toothpaste?
Tom’s of Maine, peppermint. (Spearmint? The one with the turquoise edging, not the green.)

Favorite style of food?
Currently? Thai. But I love anything spicy.

Favorite alcoholic drink?
I don’t drink a lot, and my tastes vary depending on my mood.

Favorite non-alcoholic drink?
Plain old orange pekoe tea. Milk, no sugar.

What I did last night:
Had friends over for dinner. (Black bean soup and cornbread to start; mole beef; roasted winter vegetables, and the guests brought a pecan pie for dessert.)

I love:
Oh, where to start? My husband, my kids, assorted family, my dog. Then there’s the second-rank of ‘love’, and I could put endless things into that: sunrises, baby laughter, marzipan, long slow foreplay, walks by the river, the sound of leaves under my feet in the fall, the smell of coffee, peacefulness…

I hate:
Knee-jerk cynicism pretending to be wisdom. That’s just lazy thinking.

Current clothes:
Jeans, brown ribbed turtleneck, my down-filled slippers and a blue zipped cardigan, unzipped.

Current mood:

Current music playing:
None. It’s early in the morning.

Current Hair:
In need of a trim. Shoulder length, bangs, but getting scruffy.

Current annoyance:
Nothing springs immediately to mind, and why would I want to work hard to think about something to be annoyed about? (See “peaceful”, above.)

Current smell:
“Pear and Peony” hand cream from Fruits and Passion. It was a birthday present from my youngest.

Current thing I should be doing:
Hanging the laundry.

Current desktop picture:
Me and my sweetie on our honeymoon.

Current favorite music:
Listening to Mozart these days. Piano concertos.

Current book:
Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear, by Dan Gardner.

Current movie in or near the DVD player:
No idea.

Current refreshment:
I am about to make myself my first cup of tea of the day. Ahhhhh…

March 15, 2009 Posted by | memes and quizzes | 6 Comments

I just work here

caution“FAAAAATTY-CAT!!” Timmy aims a two-handed shove at the substantially larger Nigel, and manages to set him back a pace. They grin gleefully at each other.

“FAAAAATTY-CAT” Nigel charges at Timmy, back arched, and they slam into each other, belly to belly. They both shriek with delight upon impact, staggering like a pair of miniature drunks around the living room.

“FAAAAATTY-CAT!!!” Nigel waits, tense with thrilled anticipation, for Timmy to take another almighty shove at him. They careen into a couch.

“Mary, we’re playing ‘fatty-cat’!!!” Timmy hollers at me.

Evidently. I have no idea what “fatty-cat!” means. Neither do they. (“Wherever did that come from?”, asked a bemused parent later that day. Only the depths of their imaginations, I’m sure, and the fact that “fatty-cat” is a collection of sounds that bounce nicely off the tongue, perfectly suited to a game where you bounce off your friend. Things don’t have to “come” from anywhere. A three- and a four-year-old are perfectly capable of making stuff up!)

(And who but a three or four-year-old could make this one up?)

I scan the room, assessing risk. The only sharp edges accessible to the kids are those of the brick fireplace. I shove a (soft, upholstered) chair in front of it. The worst that’s going to happen now is that they’ll fall over. I let them have at it.


Attracted by the uproar, the girls join in. Within 90 seconds, Anna is in tears.

“He pushed me, Mary! He pushed me and I fell dooooown!”

“Well, that’s the game, lovie. If you don’t want him to push you, don’t play the game. You don’t have to if you don’t want to. But if you decide to play, you’re going to get shoved.”

Well, that settles that. Anna trots off to the kitchen.


Twenty-three more seconds, and Emily approaches, wailing.

“I fell down and hurted myself!”

“I see that. You landed with a bump on your bum. But you know what? That’s what kind of game it is. If you want to play that game, you’re probably going to get bumped. If you don’t want to get bumped, you don’t have to play. But if you want to play, you can’t complain about a bump.”

“I want to play.”

“Okay, then, but no complaining about a little bump.”


“FAAATTY-CAT!” Emily belly-bumps Timmy right onto his butt.
“FAAATTY-CAT!” Timmy hip-checks Nigel.
“FAAATTY-CAT!” Nigel shoves Emily who dominoes into Timmy. They cling to each other, teetering, and land in a heap.

And Emily laughs into Timmy’s gleeful face.

It’s a seriously weird game, but they’re having fun. And learning to assess a small risk while they’re at it. (In case you’re wondering, Babies Noah and Tyler stayed with me. Gravity alone is enough of a challenge to their powers to remain upright just yet.)

I figure the Big Kids can play fatty-cat for another 4.3 minutes until I just can’t stand it any longer. Not the risk. Not the falling down. Not the crashing to the floor. Goodness, it’s only a bump or two at issue. No, no, it’s the NOISE. My LORD, the NOISE!


Because, worthy as it is to let them evaluate and experience risk, the risk to my sanity is even more real and immediate.


Four point two minutes…

March 13, 2009 Posted by | Anna, Emily, health and safety, Nigel, Timmy | , , , , , , | 4 Comments


Ooof. Tired. Soooo tired.

I had a new child here this morning, visiting with her mother. WHAT a ball of (positive) energy! Laughing! Shouting! Laughing! Clapping with glee! Bouncing! Moving from one activity to the next! Talking! with exclamation points!! Laughing! Getting everyone all revved up!!

The daughter is real cute, too.

“Won’t that be a problem?” my sweetie asks, as I recount the morning’s adventures during our mid-day phone call.

“How so?”

“Well, won’t she expect that you’ll interact the same way with her child?”

“Oh, probably. But why would that be a problem?” (I’m teasing. I know exactly what he’s thinking.)

“Because… that’s not exactly your style, is it?”

“You know what? It doesn’t matter at all. Almost all the parents make the same assumption, and it doesn’t matter. They know how they are with their children, and know their child is thriving. They can see their child is thriving with me, too, and so they all assume I’m doing it pretty much the way they do. The only trick is making sure the child thrives.”

“Oh, then you’re fine!” (Isn’t he such a lovely supportive spouse?)

I’m looking forward to this new one. (I haven’t given her a name yet.) But oh my, she’s a bright and lively little cutie! (Just like her mom.) 🙂

March 12, 2009 Posted by | daycare, parents | 3 Comments

I’m so proud

blocksNigel is visiting this week. Nigel, Timmy, Anna and Emily are building with blocks in the kitchen. A howl of protest from Timmy surges into the dining room, where I am setting up a craft.

“Nigel! Don’t knock down my tower!”

“Oh, sorry Timmy. I didn’t mean to!”

“Nigel, you shouldn’t knock his tower down.” Emily is concerned with The Rules.

“Yes, but I said I was sorry.”

“Okay.” So long as protocol has been observed, Emily is satisfied. Timmy, however, is NOT.

“Nigel! Don’t knock down my tower!”

“He SAID he was sorry, TImmy!” Anna is concerned with the social facts.

“I said I was sorry!” Nigel is concerned with justice. And freedom from the indignation. Mostly, he’d like to get back to building, thanks.

“Nigel! Don’t knock my tower down!”

“I SAID I was sorry!”

“Nigel! Don’t knock my tower down.” Timmy is not letting go.

Anna has had enough. She lays an authoritative hand on Timmy’s shoulder.

“Timmy. It was a accident. He didn’t mean to knock it down, and he said sorry already. That’s all he can do. This conversation is over.”

(Heh. ‘This conversation is over’ is not something I say. I hear her father in that sentence. I’m sure it’s a sentence she’s had cause to hear a great deal. As measured as our Anna is being here, she’s more than capable of great heights of righteous indignation and equally vast depths of hard-headed self-pity.)

“But he –”

“Timmy?” Her tone is full of warning. “This conversation is O-VER.”

“Oh, all right.” He picks up a block.

Play continues, towers are (re-)built, there is the hum of happy conversation. All without a single interjection from me. They didn’t even know I was listening.


March 11, 2009 Posted by | Anna, Emily, Nigel, socializing, Timmy | , , | 6 Comments