“You know,” the middle-aged woman huffing past me on the sidewalk scolds, “you really shouldn’t have small children so close to the street.”
I look down at Timmy and William, the two sweet four-year-olds with me, each holding on to one hand as we walk on the sidewalk on the the (admittedly busy) bridge.
They are holding my hands. Which, yes, puts one of them on the outside, closer to the traffic. Which, yes, effectively blocks the sidewalk (which is why I was casting glances over my shoulder, and which enabled us to stand to one side to allow you to pass, grumpy woman).
But in order not to block the sidewalk, in order not to have one close to the traffic, I would have to have one in front and one behind me. In other words, I would have to let go their hands.
And this is better… why?
Piss off, grumpy lady.
(Did I say that to her? I did not. I said a cheery, “Thaaank you!”
Strangely, she didn’t answer.)
I have great instructions, capes are simple things, and I am a competant seamstress. I foresee no problems.
Fold in half (times 5)
Cut curve at lower end (times 5)
Hem all raw edges (three edges times 5)
Attach bias tape to neck (times 5)
Iron all (times 5)
(I am a model of efficiency, I tell you!)
Iron on initial and lightning bolts…
I have SIX initials.
..I have SIX children.
And since I planned it sooooo well, there is NO red satin left over.
Happily, I have brilliant readers, extra interfacing and leftover lightning-bolt material, so I can make a wee superhero shirt for the littlest one.
And now I am making clothes-peg wreaths with the four-year olds. I prepared for two wreaths, because I have two four-year-olds. I counted.
Only, this week, because school’s out, I suddenly have FOUR four-year-olds. All of whom looooove to do crafts.
But that’s okay! I pulled rank and forced Emma off the couch and into the cold (-19C, feels like -28C) to the hardware store for two more packs of clothespegs, which, bless their hearts, they are still selling. In -19C weather.
And all day yesterday we painted and painted and painted dozens and dozens of clothes pegs. With a night to dry, we’d be all ready to assemble our wreaths today. All I needed was some duct tape, the ribbon to decorate the top, and a pair of wire-cutters. Got all those!! Oh, and a couple more wire coat-hangers. No problem. We have dozens of those things. I foresee no problems.
Only, when I’d dissassembled the first clothes-hanger, I discovered it was TOO FAT to go through the spring of the clothespeg. So I have 172 painted clothespegs, 200 metallic pony beads, a few metres of Christmas ribbon, four eager and expectant four-year-olds… and no craft.
My wonderful husband had a suggestion. “Don’t use those sturdy hangers. Find some of the flimsy ones from the drycleaner.” Brilliant!!
Except we have only ONE in the entire house. I have a vague memory of tossing a bunch into the recycle bin some months back. These things breed in the corners, I reasoned. Why don’t I just toss the flimsier ones???
But we did have one! If I cut it in half, we could make TWO smaller wreaths. There are, of course, four 4-year-olds. Time for the tough decision. Emily and Willliam, who come here daily, get to make a wreath.
And Timmy and Nigel, whose small faces are quivering… Nigel and Timmy get to… um… get to…
Nigel! And Timmy! You get to take the clothespegs home! 42 each! And 21 beads — you even get to pick which colours!! And a length of ribbon! And we’ll put them all in zipper bags, neatly labelled, and this is a KIT, you see. A KIT, so you can make your own wreath at home!!!
(Assuming your mothers haven’t tossed all the flimsy coathanger in your houses…)
This afternoon, while the middlers are napping, I plan to assemble the picture frames they’ve created. All I need are the painted and dried jigsaw puzzle pieces, the plastic frames, and the hot-melt glue gun.
I foresee no problems…
Today is the first day of the week before Christmas. I am working until noon on Christmas Eve. Today is also the first day of the school Christmas break.
That means I will also have Timmy and Nigel here this week. It means that Emily and Tyler, who normally come Tuesday-Thursday, will be here Monday – Wednesday this week, so they can travel on Thursday. It means that today, I will have…
– three four-year-olds (Emily, Timmy, and Nigel)
– two two-year-olds (Tyler and Noah)
– a 20-month-old (Nissa)
– an 11-month-old (nameless new baby).
And tomorrow? TOMORROW I will have the same as the above, plus
– yet another four-year-old (William)
and, saints preserve me,
THANK GOD the school break also means that Emma will be here, and, bless his generous heart, my youngest step-son (he’s 14) has stepped up to the plate. Voluntarily. Emma, at 16, has more baby experience than most of us, and far more (deserved) confidence than I did when I started having my own.
“Congratuations, Mrs P, here’s your beautiful baby girl!”
And I popped her onto the breast, just like we learned in prenatal classes, and she started sucking lustily… and I smiled in maternal delight. It was working! I was A Mother!! And then we realized she was latched on and sucking on the side of my breast, nowhere near the site of the action, and she was getting nothing and I was getting an enormous hickey… and it took me a solid minute to figure this out. Because, what did I know? NOTHING, that’s what.
And the first time she cried? I froze. Deer in the headlights, that was me. Then the dread reality sunk in, trickling like icy water down my spine. I was A Mother. From here on in, it was up to me to do whatever needed to be done… and I hadn’t a fucking clue.
Ah, happy memories…
Obviously, I figured it out! We all do, right? But lucky Emma, with a wealth of experience to bolster her through those unnerving first few days and weeks. When the time comes. Which is not yet.
So the next couple of days will be INSANE!!! Just insane.
I am totally looking forward to it.
Today we will divide and conquer, with Emma staying home with Noah, Tyler and Nissa, and me taking Emily, Timmy and Nigel to the craft store for some necessary supplies. The baby will come with me if she’s awake, and stay with Emma if she’s sleeping.
While the small ones sleep, the big ones will make their Christmas crafts. Tomorrow, the reverse: Emma and Step-son (he’s going to need a name for this site if he keeps appearing; I will ask him) will take the olders to the park while I give the youngers a flounder in the drive and do their Christmas craft with them.
The oldest children are making wreaths from clothespegs, to hold Christmas cards. The middlers are making picture frames, and the youngest aren’t making anything. I am making a wreath for each of them, made with their very own little handprints. I’ve done this in previous years; it’s a popular craft with the parents. (Good, because it’s a bit tedious on my end… See what a nice provider I am?)
So by the end of this week, everyone will have a present to take home.
Toddlers, preschoolers and a baby. Outings and snacktimes and craft-times. Diapers and potties and paint and singing and snotty noises and laughter and Christmas lights and popcorn — DON’T EAT THAT — strands.
Fun times. Doesn’t it sound like fun?
I think so.
“I got a Kwissmass twee!” Noah looks up at Emma, his blue eyes wide and sincere. (Noah is king of Sweetly Sincere.)
“You’ve got a Kwissmass twee?” Emma echoes. Noah frowns.
“No. I got a Kuh-WWWWWWIssmass tuh-WWWWWWWee.”
“Oooooh.” Emma has too much fun with this. She’s going to make a kick-ass mother some day. (Or maybe that’s not a good adjective, in the context?) “You’ve got a Chrrrrrristmas trrrrrree.”
Noah, Gronk, Nissa and Emily love, love, love lentils. Tyler eats them stoically, but it’s plain they’re not a huge hit.
Emily, Gronk and Tyler are great with spicy things. The others, not so much.
Nissa, Tyler, Gronk and Emily adore green beans. Noah chews and chews and chews and chews and chews, hoping, I figure, that they will eventually magically dissolve without his actually having to swallow them. My suggestion that if he doesn’t like the taste of something, the trick is to swallow it quickly and get rid of it falls on deaf ears. Eventually he builds up enough saliva in there that it’s swallow or drown — spitting it out is NOT an option at Mary’s table — and it goes down.
I don’t often feed him beans…
William? He’s like Mikey on that old commercial. He hates everything. William has a weird relationship with food, though it is, in fact, making significant improvements lately.
Today, I’ve hit the jackpot. Four tots around the table, and they ALL (even William!!!) love the asparagus-feta canneloni they’ve been served. The helpings are going down with unfettered enthusiasm, and seconds have been requested all round the table — even by William! (Seconds for William is by way of a breakthrough. I take huge satisfaction in this, and, increasing my professional pleasure, so does William. He is beginning to see himself as a “good eater”. As I say, a breakthrough.)
They’re eating and chattering — and then, suddenly, they’re not. Each child is frozen in place.
“Do you hear that??” William demands, his posture alert, his eyes wide. Of course, this being William, it sounds more like “Goo you ee-yah gak?”, but, as I’ve said before, I’m getting better at interpreting William-speak.
“Oh! Oh! It’s the garbage truck!!” Noah practically vibrates in excitement.
“Wanna see! Wan’see gahbidge fuk!” Showing remarkable self-restraint, Nissa does NOT launch herself from the table. Instead, all eyes turn to me.
“Can we? Can we go?” Three sets of pleading eyes rivet themselves on me. (The fourth set, Gronk’s, are steadfastly focussed on his food. Garbage truck? Doesn’t even register when there’s food in view. A study in dietary contrasts are William and his brother.)
You know, lately I’ve been a little crochety. “No” has come to my lips far more readily than “yes”. I’ve been all about order and predictability and rules and standards and, here I confess my failings, “don’t bug me”. Maybe it’s not crochety so much as inert, but still… it results ina lot of ‘no’s’. It would be easy to say “No, we’re eating,” because The Rule is that you don’t leave the table as long as you want more. It would be easy to say ‘no’ because their request is an impulsive thing, and I’ve been sort of stuck-in-the-muddish lately, woefully anti-spontaneity. It would be easy to say ‘no’ because … that’s what I’ve been doing lately.
But suddenly — hooray for the return of the normal me — I thought, “but why not”? And really. Whyever not? So they go to the window for a minute or two before finishing their meal. This is a bad thing?
Do you not sometimes just look at yourself and wonder why you do what you do? Why have I been full of ‘no, no, no’ lately? Why resist the happy impulse to celebrate? What gain is there to me in refusing such an easy request? I give myself a mental shake and grin at their hopeful wee faces.
“There’s the garbage truck!”
“No, it’s the blue-box truck!”
“Oh, blue-box! YAY!”
The guys in the blue-box truck see their bouncing audience and give a cheery wave.
“The garbage guys WAVED at us!!!!!” William is in four-year-old boy heaven. Who needs celebrities when you have garbage guys? Heck, in the four-year-old universe, garbage guys ARE celebrities. And they WAVED at him!!!! Awash in wonder, he can scarcely take it in.
“Well, wave back, then!” I nod encouragement.
Six little hands (two each) flail in the air. “Hi, gargage mens! Hi, garbage guys! Hi, hi, hi!!!”
It’s less than a minute later before the truck roars off to the next house. Peace descends.
I grin, again. That was fun. Really. They’re just so cute, and they’re so enthusiastic, and now, they’re just so happy. And all I had to do was say ‘yes’ to allow for two solid minutes of purest joy.
“Okay, guys. You ready to finish your lunch now?”
Satiated with excitement, a much calmer group trots back to the table to readdress the canneloni and corn.
“Hey, Mary. Can we go see when the garbage truck comes, too?”
My response is immediate. “Sure. Why not?”
“Ah gah-gah go ee gay.”
I’m getting better at deciphering William’s poorly-articulated speech. (He has started speech therapy, so we’re hoping for steady improvement.) I’m getting better — I’m smart, I’m intuitive, I’m creative — but I am not psychic, and sometimes nothing short of mind-reading is going to break the code. This one?
“Ah gah-gah go ee gay.”
A mystery. Neither the context, nor questions, nor observation enabled me to understand that one. (Guess away, if you must; you’ll be wrong.)
‘I’ve got a goat. He’s gay.’ ”
Those are all the times I saw displayed on my beside table clock last night. I may have missed a few…
At 4, I was awake, but I refused on principle to leave my warm bed before 5:00. (Which is my normal wake-time in the winter.)
I am tired.
I am also not well. I’m a bit warm, I’m congested, I have a sore throat. (No, it’s not H1N1, and even if it were, all the tots have been innoculated.)
And I’m working.
This is my dilemma, always has been. I do get sick/discretionary days in my contract, one a month, which is excellent for a self-employed person. I don’t use them all, but they’re there, should I need them.
So why am I not using one today?
It comes down to tolerances. Not knowing I was about to come down with something, I took a discretionary day only last week. (Did you know you can squeeze four appointments at four different venues into one day? And get to them all by bus? It’s possible. Not easy, but possible.) Not only did I take a discretionary day on one day, but on a different day I headed out early to yet ANOTHER appointment, leaving Emma in charge for the last 45 minutes or so. Even though the second appointment didn’t inconvenience the parents at all, I still changed the usual routines twice in one week. I feel like I’ve taken as much time as I reasonably can this month.
To compound matters, I have TWO more appointments next month.
That’s a lot, in a short span of time. It just feels like pushing it, you know? They’re all necessary, of course. Mary is not taking time off for multiple facials and pedicures, a mid-day rendevous with an illicit lover, nor even Christmas shopping.
But with all this sudden flurry of appointments and days or half-days off… Whenever I take a day off, I’m acutely aware that I am inconveniencing five families. I am not a martyr. I do take days when I must, but being sick right now? It’s such bad timing!
I don’t want to take yet another day. And hey, when I was a SAHM, I never got sick days. “Mummy’s just puking, sweetie. I’ll feel better in a minute.” I’m perfectly capable of caring for children while I’m under the weather.
Except these aren’t my kids, and whereas I’m generally sure I caught whatever I’m suffering from the tots, this one seems to originate with me. So I could be passing it on to them. That stops me in my tracks.
It’s a quandrary, and I juggle competing interests. Inconvenience the parents? Infect the children? It’s a damned-if-I-do, damned-if-I-don’t choice. I hate it.
as I sit here writing…
I’ve seen my way to the solution! (Writing is like that, don’t you find? As you write, the ideas come, your thoughts organize themselves. Positively therapeutic.)
Here’s my insight of brilliance: I should let the parents know that I’ll be open for business, but also let them know I’m not entirely well. They can decide whether or not to expose their children to me.
Gah. Why didn’t I think of this years ago?
I’ll call them all this evening, and give them the choice. Brilliant!
I’m betting they all come tomorrow…
which is good, right? Because then I can stop feeling guilty for polluting their wee bodies with my noxiousness.
Though a day off would be even better.
“Hello, mama! You fine? You at work?”
“Hallo, daddy! We go to the store?”
“Daddy, you gots gamma av you? You gots gamma atta airport?”
“Hi, mommy! Where you?”
it was only
“Mama? Mama, you b’ing me canny anite?”
“Dada! Dada, I wanna go onna horsie. You take me onna horsie?”
that the children
“Hello, mommy!… yes, I fine… yes, uh-huh… yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, bye!”
“Daddy, where you? At work? In a plane? In a airport? You commin home soon?”
the toy phone.
“Daddy, I gots a booger!”
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. If it’s inexpensive, even better!
For about two years, my children’s favourite toy was the “Doctor Box”. I know I’ve talked about this before. No, I don’t know why it was called that. It was just a shoe box, filled with a dozen or so small non-toy items: clean pill bottles, measuring spoons, a funnel, small scraps of shiny fabric, some oddments of wee bits of hardware… The games this odd assortment of stuff engendered were wide-ranging and never-ending. Every so often I’d top it up with a new item or two, as items were lost, broken, or worn out. Two years this thing lasted. A shoebox of stuff that most people would call “junk”.
Here’s another application of the same principle: A couple of years ago, my friend Cindy (aka Darcy’s mom), was giving her sister gift suggestions for Cindy’s two (lovely, LOVELY) children.
“Don’t spend a pile of money,” Cindy told her. Just go to Value Village and buy a heap of dress-up clothes. Throw them in some sort of container — a toy chest, a plastic storage bin — and boom! Done!” Cindy, a busy woman, likes to keep it simple. “Boom! Done!” gifts are totally her style.
Apparently the sister did just that, and on Christmas day, Darcy and his little sister were thrilled to receive capes, skirts and shirts, beads and gloves, aprons and hats, scarves, and necklaces. That was two or three years ago, and the kids still enjoy playing with it.
Years of play, for less than $40, probably. (Forty dollars buys a LOT of stuff at Value Village.)
Is that not brilliant? I think it’s brilliant.
How about you? Any super-simple, super-inexpensive, super-long-lasting gift ideas out there? What’s a fabulous gift you’ve received, or given?