It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Potty woes

Not the kids. Parents. Over-enthusiastic parents.

“Nissa’s so excited about using the potty!” exclaims her mother, very excitedly. “She sits on it even when she’s fully clothed, and she says ‘poo! poo!'”

Much as I hate to quash this enthusiasm, I know a few well-placed questions likely will. Nissa is 17 months old, and while it’s not impossible, it’s exceedingly unlikely she is anywhere near ready for potty training. It’s not impossible, and I know it, because I’ve seen a child fully trained at 19 months. Wet and dry, night and day, able to get himself to the potty without prompting, without adult intervention at all, except for help with hand-washing afterward. I’ve seen it. Once in 14 years.

She likes to sit on the potty. She also liked to stand in it and drop toys in it. Does that mean she’s ready to use it? Your three-month-old delights in kicking out against things held to the soles of his feet. Does that mean he’s ready to walk?

She’s on the way. She’s not there. Or, almost certainly not. I tell these eager parents that most children this age don’t have control over the sphincter muscles. They may be aware of the goings-on in the diaper, but they can’t control them.

“Does she know in advance that something is coming?”

“Well, sort of. She’ll say ‘poo! poo!’, but you have to get her there RIGHT THEN, because once she tells you, it’s pretty much happening.”

Dad laughs as he describes how, the previous evening, Nissa had been playing at his feet in his study. “She’d just finished her bath and was naked. I hadn’t dressed her yet because this email, it would just take a couple of minutes, right? So then she starts staying ‘poo! poo!’, and I grab her by the armpits and race to the bathroom, but the poo is falling onto the stairs as I run. Plop, plop, plop!”

Mom and Dad laugh together, beaming with affection.

Yes, well. They’re describing the problem, all right. She knows what’s happening when it’s happening. She doesn’t know in advance that it’s coming, and she can’t stop it once begun. She just recognizes the sensation.

Which is good! That is one of the intial steps: to know what’s happening and be able to label it. She feels pee and she correctly identifies what’s happening. She feels poo and can tell you about that, too.

But until she can actually predict its arrival and hold it in long enough to make it to a potty? Wasted effort. Any and all parental efforts that result in the stuff being deposited in a potty are evidences of the parents being trained, not the child. (And me? I do not need to be potty trained.)

I say all this (about the muscles and the necessity of being able to predict and hold). Respectfully, kindly. Mom’s jaw firms a bit. Dad scowls. This is not what they want to hear. Mom carries on, enthusiastic.

“Well, we won’t push it, but we’ll keep on with the potty. At least we’re getting her used to it, right?”

To my mind, plopping a child without muscle control onto a potty is pushing it, but so long as Nissa’s not being stressed out, so long as it’s an entertaining game for her, there’s no harm in it. But really? At this point it’s a pointless exercise. I certainly don’t have the patience for it.

“So long as she’s enjoying it, sure.”

“And she can use the potty here?”

(Won’t be pushing it, they say, as they push…)

“Sure. Any time she wants.”

Which is what we’ve done all along. What she does with it is play. She’ll be using it when she’s got control over those muscles and is developing some personal interest in the thing, rather than playing a fun new game with mommy and daddy.

In, oh, 10 or 12 or 15 months or so…

October 14, 2009 Posted by | Nissa, parents, potty tales, power struggle | | 12 Comments


Is it morning?

It is?

It’s not mid-afternoon? Nor even bedtime?

It’s not?

Why is it not bedtime yet?

Insomnia last night. Up at 2:17. For the day. Gah. Today could be a looooooooong one.

October 13, 2009 Posted by | sleep | | 3 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m not here.

I’m in the kitchen,
basting the turkey
roasting the potatoes
marinating the vegetables for salad
pureeing the sweet potato and rutabaga
stuffing the squash
(with quinoa, sunflower seeds and parmesan)
toasting the bread cubes and walnut
(to put in the stuffing)
mulling the wine
chopping cranberries for the cranberry relish
heating the apple cider
putting the cut flowers in the vase
strewing the table with pretty leaves
whipping the cream
to go on the (store-bought)
pumpkin and
apple pies.

And I’m loving it. All so that I can sit round the table with some of the people I love the best.

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow Canadians!

October 12, 2009 Posted by | Canada, holidays | , | 6 Comments

Autumn Craft

Today’s craft comes to you courtesy of Kids Craft Weekly. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you might want to. So many quick and easy craft ideas, geared right at the six-and-under set!

I didn’t quite follow her instructions, though, because I read the newsletter, thought “Oh! Good idea!” and then promptly forgot the exact instructions. Not that it matters. It’s a great craft, absorbed the kids for quite a while, and gave them something quite striking to take home.

Here’s how we did it. Supplies: leaves, gathered on a walk the previous day. Clear shelf paper. Scissors (for me), and cardstock for frames.
Oops. Forgot to show the cardstock. Oh, well. Here are the frames, instead:
Each of the frames is backed with a piece of clear shelf paper, sticky side up:
To place the frame, cut the shelf paper to the same size as your card stock. Cut out the centre of the card stock (and save it for another craft!), and you have a frame. Peel the backing off the shelf paper — this was by far THE HARDEST part of the craft — and place your frame on the sticky side. Easy-peasy. Except for the damned peeling part…

And then you just plonk your leaves (and flower and seeds, or whatever you gathered) onto the sticky film:
And plonk some more:
(In those pictures you see Nissa, Tyler and Emily, ages 1.5, 2.5, and 3.75 respectively, proving this craft is good for a range of ages. Gronk was napping during this craft. Deliberate? You tell me…)

And the finished product, modelled by William, 4. Ta-dah!!!
Updated to respond to Rosie Kate‘s comment, which info I had intended to include in this post and forgot: Yes, you should put another piece of contact film on top, to seal in the leaves and all that stickyness, but, given that I was already frustrated/bored witless by having had to perform that persnickety task five times already, I was NOT about to do it five more times. (I’ve told you before I’m not patient, right? There you go.)

October 9, 2009 Posted by | Canada, crafts | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bread and water

The children at MaryP’s can credit Stephanie, the Crockpot Lady, for their interesting and nutritious meals. Really. A couple of years ago, and for many years prior to that, I’d have told anyone who asked that I didn’t like cooking. It was tedious, it was boring. Necessary, but boring.

And then I stumbled across this blog. No, wait! She came to me! The lovely Mir had shared with Stephanie a recipe I had shared with her, and Stephanie adapted and used it. (And I got 400 extra hits that day!!!)

Crockpotting (is that a verb?) suited me to a tee. I am a morning person. Being able to have dinner prepared before the first child arrived was PERFECT for me, just perfect! I was combing her site every day, trying out new crockpot recipes several times a week. (Because, even though I know Stephanie did it, you really can’t eat crockpot every night of the week.)

But then I needed other things to fill in the non-crockpot nights, too, so I started hunting other recipe sites, dusting off my recipe books. We were trying out a new recipe every night of the week! And I was having fun!

The upshot is that the daycare tots (and my own lovely family) are now eating better than they ever have: quinoa-stuffed squash, chicken jamabalaya, butter chicken, lentil curry… When we have mac and cheese, it’s home-made.

But of course, reality doesn’t always cooperate, and sometimes even the most enthusiastic cook…

We had a busy morning yesterday: a trip to the park followed by a craft which turned out to be more time-consuming than I expected. Then, when I went to the fridge for our lunch — (planned) leftover black bean felafels from my family’s dinner the night before — I discovered that someone had raided the fridge sometime after dinner. No felafels!

What to do? The kids were already sitting at the table and they were HUNGRY! I need something quick and easy to feed the starving hordes. I scan the shelves, see the solution. And wince. I don’t even know why that stuff is in our fridge. I make a compromise with reality.

“Here, guys. Baloney sandwiches. It’s not fancy, but it’s fast!”

Of course, everyone is wildly enthused by such a rare and exotic treat (my word would be ‘toxic’, but oh, well).

“That’s okay, Mary,” Emily assures me. “I like sandwiches! Last night I had butter sandwiches for dinner!”

This interests William. “You ate butter for dinner? Yummy!”

“Uh-huh, and the day before, I had hamburger salami!”

“Oh, I LOVE hamburger salami!!!”

Hamburger salami? No idea what that might be — which puts me in good company: Emily’s mummy had no idea either.

Maybe I’ve found another recipe to search out??

October 7, 2009 Posted by | Emily, food | , , | 4 Comments


1193457_cloudGronk sits in his high chair. He’s close enough to the table where the rest of the children sit so that he can feel part of things, and far enough away that he can’t steal their toys, eat the playdough remnants, or pull the twinkly barrettes out of Emily’s hair, along with a goodly portion of the chunk of hair it was holding.

(“Oh, Emily! It’s okay to cry, sweetie. That must’ve hurt!”)

Give the size of my dining room, however, there is no way to keep him removed from the dog’s crate. The dog’s crate, which houses the dog whenever she decides to wander in there for a snooze, a gnaw of a bone, or just a little peace.

So. Toddlers at table with the playdough, Gronk in high chair, dog in crate.

Gronk has his bottle and a few toys on his tray. His bottle holds his attention for the first few minutes, but he’s done long before the toddlers are finished with playdough. I’m not about to set him loose: the benches are pulled out from the table. For Gronk, that’s a clear invitation to indulge in some table-dancing. (Followed, inevitably, by some table-falling-off-of, some lumping-on-the-heading, and some roaring-with-outrage. But he never thinks of any of that…)

Not to worry. Gronk being the eager little Cave Man he is, after a mere half-dozen shrieks of boredom finds a new game: dropping things off his tray. A very old game, really, as any parent of a 6 – 16 26-month-old child still in a high chair can testify. (It may be old, but it never gets old!!!)

Only this game has a New and Exciting Twist! Gronk is not dropping things to the floor, oh, no! Gronk is dropping things onto the dog, relaxing in her crate beside him. Thankfully, anything Gronk gets while in a high chair is vetted for its projectile capabilities: that is, all items are soft and lightweight. The dog is not being injured. Just the reverse: Small chewable object raining down from above? Manna from heaven! WONDERFUL!

And Gronk? Watching the dog grab the toys and rip them to bits? WONDERFUL! This is a symbiotic relationship. These two are kindred spirits. It’s not so wonderful for those little soft toys, though, quickly becoming a soggy mass of multi-coloured fluff in the bottom of her crate.

I, however, am nothing if not creative. This game works in so many ways: keeps the caveman away from the playdough, allows the toddlers to continue an absorbing game, and entertains the gronkster. Only the fate of the poor stuffed toys prevents it from being perfect. Oh, that and the fact that sooner or later I will have to crawl in the dog’s crate and haul all that stuff out.

But still. Except for that one flaw, this game is not a problem, it’s a solution! How to make it a total solution?

It’s all in the choice of toy, folks. Instead of smallish toys that can fit between the wires of her crate… larger toys that won’t. True, he doesn’t get to watch the dog tear them up, but! Once dropped, he can reach over the side of his chair and PICK THEM UP AGAIN!!! So he can throw them over and over and over and ooooover again! Baby nirvana! (And I don’t have to pick them up for him! Mary nirvana!)

And sometimes???? Sometimes the dog reaches up and tries to pull them down through the bars into her crate!!!!!! This is ABSOLUTE WONDERFULNESS!!!

Twenty-four minutes, people. This game kept the boy busy for TWENTY-FOUR MINUTES.

Nirvana, indeed.

October 6, 2009 Posted by | Mischief | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tweet, tweet

Yes, I’m on Twitter.

No guarantees how long it’ll last, but you’re welcome to follow me…

October 5, 2009 Posted by | random and odd | | 5 Comments


“I wanna see Mary!”

1210286_exploding-heartsI’m in the kitchen, preparing dinner. On a Sunday afternoon. The clear small trail of a toddler voice is not something I typically hear on weekends. Nor, since my youngest is a teen, any children’s voices, come to that. Unless we’re talking the rude pair of brothers from up the street, or the 6-year-old shrieker a little closer, at any rate. (The shrieker’s a nice kid, but lordy! that voice… which should NOT be out on the street at 9:30 p.m. Ahem.)

In that case, I just shut the window. And grumble a bit. Razzn fratzn kids… should be in bed… running with scissors… shouting…

You know, I’m curious what kind of old lady I’ll end up being. Will I be the smiling, apple-cheeked granny type who coos over babies and praises young mothers, radiating caring and support? Because I do that now, you know. Or will I be the cantankerous sort, grousing about the lack of manners and respect in children and the lack of gracious authority in parents? Mutter, mutter, mutter. Because I do that, too.

“I wanna see Mary!”

This small voice is in my home and, it turns out, attached to Timmy, who lives a couple blocks down my street. He’d been at the park, and, passing my house, had asked his mother if he could stop in and say hi.

Emma answered the door, and is greeted with,

“I wanna see Mary!” (You understand that he is not being angry or rude. His tone of voice is cheerful. He’s just letting her know that… he wants to see Mary, you see!)

“Timmy,” mummy remonstrates. “Say hello to Emma first.”

“Hello. I want to see Mary.”

And when Mary, having put the pot of boiling water on a different burner to simmer, finally appears, does he launch himself at her?

Nope. All that anticipation, a whole 40 seconds of build-up, has served to render the boy speechless. (Timmy, speechless. Hard to fathom, I know.)

I kneel down and give him a hug, while his mother, filling in for her mute son, tells me of his happy transition to kindergarten. Timmy rests on my knee while she recounts the story told her by one of his teachers.

Between activities, Timmy raced to give Shannon, one of the assistants at the school’s daycare, a hug. “I love you, Shannon!” he declared. Shannon was delighted, of course, but curious to know what had triggered this outburst of affection.

“Why, thank you, Timmy. What makes you say that?”

And Timmy, wide-eyed with sincerity, replies, “Because I just love everybody!”

Timmy’s mother and I share a proud laugh. He really is that generous with his love. Timmy is still silent on my porch, but when I kiss the top of his head, he snuggles in closer, and we bask a bit, all three of us, in the wonder of pure and innocent love.

Meh. I think I’ll be a nice old lady, all in all.

October 5, 2009 Posted by | the cuteness!, Timmy | 1 Comment

Re-naming baby

CAPTAIN CAVEMANYou know how you all helped me name the two new boys? How we picked “William” for the older, and his cheerful, stolid younger brother was declared to be “Tank”? And I said Tank was the perfect name?

It was! Well, I thought it was.

It’s a very good name. I really, really appreciate the time you took to come up with that very good name. And I hope you all won’t be upset, disappointed, or offended when I say that now I know the little guy a bit better, now that I’ve spent more time in his company, I have discovered that “Tank” — very good though it is!!! — misses part of his character…the more basic part. The really basic part. Primitive. Primeval, even.

Tank goes through his days with a bellow and a shriek. His only word is “MUA!!!”, which, when bellowed from the highchair (and it is always bellowed) means, “MORE!!!”

Of course.

He is amiable enough to the others. He watches what they play, making enthusiastic shrieks at frequent intervals. Very frequent intervals. Very, very frequent intervals. Because he has no words, you see. If what they’re doing is interesting enough, he steals the toy. (Cheerfully, with no concept of offense. That’s just what 12-month-olds do, the little sociopaths.) He trundles around the house, bouncing off walls and over the other children.

He is happy, he is hearty. He is a Very Basic Dude. His motivation? Food. His speech? Essentially nil. His interests? Bright colours, loud noises, and the crud he finds in his nose. And scratching. He’s a fan of scratching. (Himself, not the other children.)

The boy is a Cave Man. Which is why, and I apologize to all of you who came up with “Tank”, I’ve had to rename him.

From here on, our healthy, hearty, happy little cave man is…


I think it fits.

October 1, 2009 Posted by | individuality, manners, Mischief | , , , , | 8 Comments