It’s Not All Mary Poppins


My calendar informs me that today is No Hitting Day. But of course! At Mary’s house, EVERY day is No Hitting Day. Because at Mary’s house, we Use Our Words.

For that matter, every day at Mary’s house is also No Whining Day, and No Biting Day, No Stealing Toys day, and No Sticking Your Finger Up Your Friend’s Nose day.

April 30, 2010 Posted by | aggression | 9 Comments

My stroller

Gillian asks, “What kind of a stroller do you have?”, and you know, I love my stroller so much, I thought I’d do a little commercial rave. NOT because I’m being paid in any way for this, but just because I’ve had one of these beauties for ten years now, and I love it.

This is my stroller:

I also have the sun canopy and premium rain shield, and of course (I am North American), the cup-holder. In my case, a water-bottle holder.

I don’t buy retail, but order straight from the manufacturer, Berg Design. Even with shipping (from Oregon to Ottawa, about $180), and customs fees (another $78), AND the exchange on the dollar (not so much right now), it still ends up being several hundred dollars less expensive than buying them locally.

And besides, Roger Berg is such a nice man! I’ve spoken to him twice, and he is ever friendly and helpful. Chatty, too. (I wonder if that phone call is a tax deduction?)

These things are light-weight (okay, not so much loaded with four children, but you can’t blame the vehicle for the payload!). They are manoeuverable. I can turn this thing with one hand. They are slim: I can fit it through any door I’ve yet come across. I won’t go slamming the competition, but I’ve had several other makes and the Runabout is by far the lightest, easiest-to-handle machine I’ve ever run. I currently have a two-seater other brand, and it’s not as easy to steer as my four-seater Runabout.

And durable. As I said, I’ve had one for ten years. This one is brand new, so my last one lasted… TEN YEARS. Ten years of 75-pound (plus) haulage. Ten Ottawa winters. Hundreds and hundreds of kilometres.

(No, I don’t store it inside. Nor do I have a garage. That baby winters under a tarp. Though this winter will be different: my old, rusted Runabout will be brought out, all greased up and ready for winter’s rough handling. My shiny new baby will come inside, and stay shiny and new. I fully expect my old Runabout, once equipped with a shiny new set of wheels, to handle another ten winters.)

There are downsides, of course. The seats are a little close together, particularly in winter when heavily-padded Canadian children are 30% thicker! Changing the angle on the seats helps a bit, but doesn’t eliminate this problem. It can be a little awkward, but there’s a knack, and it’s not that difficult… though the occasional boot does end up being removed in the extrication process!

Downsides… I did put an ‘s’ on that word… um…

No, that’s really about it. Just that one little thing.

Oh, unless you’re kind of introverted (like me), and you find the laughter and the pointing and the stares a bit much. That’s a downside — but more of my job than the vehicle! (And on other days, my extroverted days, I love it, and join in the smiles and the laughter.)

There you go, Gillian. More than you ever cared to know about Mary’s stroller!

April 29, 2010 Posted by | Canada, daycare, Ottawa, our adoring public, outings | , , , , | 5 Comments

In which Mary kicks temporal ass

You know, I will never understand people who say they can’t go grocery shopping with a toddler.

One toddler? One??

Pshaw. That’s practically ALONE.

We bombed out of the house this morning, Tyler (2.5), Noah (2.75), Nissa (2), and Lily (16 months), all four in the stroller, because Mary was in a HURRY. We left at 8:45 and had to be back by 10:30 for Emily’s arrival off the Junior Kindergarten bus at 10:45.

Fifteen minutes’ grace is what I call “cutting it close”, because with toddlers, even toddlers all safely strapped into five-point harnesses… you just never know.

The mall is a 15-minute walk away when I’m on my own. Pushing 35 or 40 kg, I’m not sure how long it will take. I’m pretty sure two hours will do it (there and back, I mean) but today we are not strolling. We are motoring.

(I wish this thing did come with a motor, come to that. You should SEE me powering that thing, fully loaded with four, up a hill. I don’t maintain my girlish figure sitting on the couch eating bon-bons. But some days I do dream about a little motor that would give me a boost. Just for the hills…)

The toddlers love it when I power up a hill, because to make it up a good hill? It helps to get a running start. Speed up on the flat. Dig your toes in and take short, fast steps as the hill steepens. With any luck, you don’t grind to a halt a metre before the top.

I have that dark fear in a back corner of my mind. Slowing, slowing, sloooowing, STOP, inches from the top, and then the inexorable slide backward.

It’s never happened, but you worry about these things when you’re behind 75 pounds of toddler. There are also some hills around here I just don’t tackle. There are some hills I make one or two get out and walk.

But not today! Because I’m in a HURRY! So we POWER up the hill, we run, we speed, we DIG IN … and the children squeal with excitement! The THRILL OF IT ALL. (Toddlers are speed demons, one and all.)

“That was FUN!”
“That was FUNNY!”
“FUN, funny,
fun, FUNNY,

Oh! The adrenaline rush!!!

They play call-and-response with “FUN!” for the next five minutes, eliciting outright laughter from passers-by. Who can’t at least grin at the sight of four smiling babies, three of whom are carolling “FUN, FUN, FUN!”??

We arrive at the mall. EIGHTEEN MINUTES. Three extra minutes because of the 35 or so kilograms I’m propelling.


I’m also sweating a bit. Heh. The walk has moved from ‘light’ exercise to ‘moderate’. I’m calculating points in my head. I think I’m earning myself a Mike’s on the porch after work. Mwah-ha.

Into the mall.

“Are they all yours??”
“No, it’s a daycare.”

In the grocery store, we collect our craft supplies. (But of course. What else could possibly make a daytime trip to the mall, not my all-time favourite destination, a necessity?)

“Are they all yours??”
“No, it’s a daycare.”

We have rainbow-coloured muffin cups. Tyler, in front, hold those. (THOSE will, with the addition of some pipecleaners and tape, become pretty spring flowers.)

“They can’t all be yours!”
“No, it’s a daycare.”

We have large Zip-loc storage bags. Noah, second, carries those. (Put a dollop of chocolate pudding in those, squeeze out all excess air and seal tightly shut, and you have reusable finger paint medium.)

“Are they all yours??”
“No, it’s a daycare.”

Lily, in back, is asleep now, so nothing for her.

Nissa, third, carries a tin of tuna. Bet you can’t figure out what craft that’s for!

“Don’t tell me they’re all yours!”
“No, it’s a daycare.”

And I pop 4 litres of skim milk in the basket at the bag. (That’s for me and my girlish figure. And my not-so-girlish bones.)

“Are they all yours??”
“No, it’s a daycare.”

I stop at the bank to deposit some cheques, and we leave the mall.

“Are they all yours??”
“No, it’s a daycare.”

It took… 26 minutes. Not bad!

And off we power home. Three blocks from home, I take the toddlers out. Lily slumbers blissfully on. They can walk because we’re 45 minutes ahead of the bus (can I stick to a schedule OR WHAT?)…

and there’s a freakin’ enormous hill between me and my home. Well, enormous if you’re pushing 35 kg of toddler. Perfectly reasonable if they’re propelling their own selves.

We arrive home with 35 minutes to spare.


April 28, 2010 Posted by | crafts, Ottawa, our adoring public, outings | 8 Comments

Spring has sprung. Whitely.

All better now!

Of course, since I spent large portions of yesterday asleep on the couch before retiring to bed at about, oh, seven p.m., I have now been AWAKE!! since 2:30…

It may be a loooong day.

Made even longer because it’s SNOWING out there. Yes, indeed. Ottawa managed the unparalleled feat of not getting any snow at all in March — absolutely unheard of — only to top it by snow on April 27th. Now, it’s pretty wet snow, and it won’t hang around more than a few hours, but when I walked the dog (at 6 am, because, hell, I’d been up for THREE AND A HALF HOURS), there was a lot of snow in the air and even teeny smudges of it on the grass.

Which means I will not be going out with the tots today. Not because of snow. We’re Canadians! But because it’s raw out there. Damp and chilly, the sort that goes right into your bones.


I am not taking my newly-recovered self out in that.

Well, apart from walking the dog, of course, but she’s fast on her feet. If I decide, Okay, I want to be INSIDE now, we can accomplish that in short order. If I am three blocks from home with four toddlers, it will take us 15 minutes.


So. Inside today, and I think we will talk about mud. Because there is mucho mud out there today, and when the snow turns to rain in a few hours, there will be even more, and MUD is a SIGN OF SPRING.

So we are making chocolate pudding! And sprinkling it with Oreo crumbs! And decorating it with gummi worms!

Because I am NOTHING if not health-conscious…

And we will talk about mud, and then we will EAT our mud.


April 27, 2010 Posted by | Canada, crafts, food, Ottawa | , | 6 Comments


There will be no post today. All right, so this is a post, but it won’t be much of one, because I am sick. I won’t go into details, because they’re gross.

I should be back tomorrow. I have a pretty robust immune system.


April 26, 2010 Posted by | eeewww, health and safety | 2 Comments

Two-million baby man

No, he didn’t father them. He saved their lives.

Amazing story.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | health and safety, random and odd | , , , | 9 Comments

Why, why, why

Nope, not Noah. Though he is in the fullest of full throes of the Why Stage. (Tyler, thank heavens, appears to be skipping it.)

What got me thinking of this is Liz’s comment on my previous post, about the grandmother who thinks that it’s beyond a three-year-old child’s capabilities to say ‘please’… because he doesn’t understand it, you see.

Now, I think we can all agree that grandma is a few bricks short of a load here, but that’s not what really caught my attention. What really struck me was that notion of understanding why.

We waste a lot of time, cause ourselves no end of angst, and respond in some very ineffectual ways to parenting challenges, all because of that need to know why.

Why is she refusing to eat her beans?
Why won’t he say please?
Why is he hitting the other children?
Why is she throwing so many tantrums this week?
Why won’t she sleep through the night?

Let me be clear here: Sometimes knowing why is useful. Sometimes it’s essential. But you know what? Most of the time, it’s just not. For most of the every-day, run-of-the-mill, here-we-go-again parenting challenges?

The “why” doesn’t matter.

Because most of the time, knowing why is not going to change the expectation. You think the sudden aggression is caused by the new baby at home? The aggression still has to stop. His refusal to wear boots in the snow is because he doesn’t like his feet to be constrained? You’re not going to let him go barefoot in the snow.

And a lot of the time, not only does the ‘why’ not matter, it doesn’t even help. Her frequent night wakings are caused by the new developmental skill she’s learning? Um, so? (This is one I’m quite dubious about, btw. They’re always learning something, so it’s an easy catch-all for any mysterious sleep disruption. And in the end… um, so?)

We expend so much time, we waste so much parental energy agonizing over and hunting for the ‘why’ of our child’s quirks and misbehaviours. It would be nice to tie up loose ends with a full and complete understanding… but most of the time, it just isn’t necessary. If you could give up your need to know why, and just respond to the behaviours at face value, you’d save yourself no end of anxiety.

And to take it the next step, and apply our adult need to know to our child, and conclude that until a child understands WHY something must happen, they can’t be expected to DO it?

That’s just stupid.

April 22, 2010 Posted by | parenting | 13 Comments

Impossibly rude

“Wash! My! Hands!”

She turns to face me, her sticky hands extended.

I! Am! Appalled!

And NOT by the sticky hands.

The other toddlers have not caught this strident demand, but 4-year-old Emily’s eyes are round, her face frozen in shock. She can’t believe what she’s hearing, either, and knows that something Major is about to happen.

“I beg your pardon?” Each word carefully enunciated, my voice thick with warning. If this child has any sense, she will ease up and apply some thin veneer of civility. Immediately.


Emily gasps. I feel the same response, but give the child One More Chance.

“You know better than that. How do you ask?”


Holy Hannah. What’s gotten into this one? Tired? Her cold getting worse? Were her parents fighting on the way over? Some other random thing? Doesn’t matter. This is INEXCUSABLY RUDE, and I will not be treated like this.

We are marching to the Quiet Stair as I speak. “You do NOT speak to me llke that, young lady. That was very, VERY rude.”

I plop her small butt on the step.

“When you can ask nicely, I will help you.”

Yes, her hands are still sticky, and yes, I will have to clean the wall by the bottom step, but I don’t care. Basic respect is waaaaaay more important than clean furnishings.

It only takes a minute or so.

“Mary, may you wash my hands?”

“May I wash your hands, what?”

“May you wash my hands, Please?”

And my face warms into a brilliant, welcoming smile. “Of COURSE I can, lovie! Come into the kitchen and let’s get you cleaned up.”


But really: What the hell was that all about?

April 21, 2010 Posted by | manners, power struggle | | 13 Comments

Battery boy

Remember William and his little brother, Gronk?

Gronk of the hale and hearty, happy and healthy primordial good cheer? The friendly cave man? I forgot to tell you a story about Gronk, and I’m really not sure how I could have let this one slip for so long.

One morning, William and his daddy showed up without Gronk. Just the two of them. Where was little brother? HE was with his 8-months-pregnant mommy, on his way to emergency. Not life-and-death, exactly, but Gronk was strongly suspected of having ingested a battery.

I lie. Not just one battery. THREE. If there’s a kid who’d do that, he’s it. Gronk does love his food! But how, I wondered, how do you even get a battery down? You can’t chew them.

Not to worry! They were button batteries! No chewing required. Those things slip right down… just like all those enticing pills in the medicine cabinet which no one will ever let him near. But these? They weren’t in a locked cabinet far above his head! They were right there in the dining room!!

Okay, they on the table, so he had to push a chair out and climb onto the table. And yeah, they were also inside the little lava lamp belonging to his older brother. But hey, it was the matter of a minute or two to clamber onto the table, give that lamp a solid whack or two, and then chow down on the weeny little pills that fell out when the bottom fell off! Silver pills. Shiny silver pills!

And then it was but the work of a moment after that to scramble back off the table, leaving the dismantled lava lamp behind, for mummy to find when she went to put breakfast on the table.

When you are the parent of a child like Gronk, it is NO stretch at all to look at askew chair + dismantled lava lamp – three of four button batteries and immediately assume that = ingested batteries. They did a thorough search of the room, of course, just to be sure.

And then, just to be SUPER sure, off they went to emergency for x-rays. Because that’s just what you do, isn’t it?

Three hours later, mom deposits Gronk. The x-rays showed… nothing. No tell-tale spots in the boy’s innards. This does not mean, however, that they’re not IN there. It could mean that they’re not in there, yes. It could also mean that he ate them the previous evening, not that morning, and they’ve travelled far enough down the tract that the x-ray didn’t catch them. No to worry, mom, says the tech: if they’re that far down, they’ll be out of too soon to do any damage.

THIS is absolutely NOT good enough! Mom NEEDS TO KNOW her baby is not going to die of corroded innards when one of those batteries gets digested enough to leak battery acid into her baby’s gut. She NEEDS to know this. Of course she does.

Which is why, in addition to her battery boy, she hands me three pairs of surgical gloves.

Of course she does.

“Could you…?”

Of course I could.

It wasn’t hard. I found the best technique was to press the … output… between my carefully-gloved fingers, seeking that tell-tale hard spot. At the end of the day, I am pleased to inform dad that I have unshittedearthed one of the missing batteries.

“Oh, that’s great! His mom will be so relieved. One down, two to go!”

And mom was relieved. Only…

She really needed to KNOW.

So picture Mary, kneeling on the kitchen floor by the garbage can, wearing another pair of those surgical gloves, looking for the particular diaper with its particularly toxic cargo. There had been more than one poopy diaper that day.

Oh, yes, there had.

I only had to open three stench-filled packages before I found The One. And then dredge out the battery, clean it off with a baby wipe, and put it in a zipper bag.

I hand it over to dad the next morning.

“I can’t believe she asked you to do that.” He gives the teeny still-silver, entirely poop-free button a wary glance through its hygenic packaging.

And while I’m quite happy for dad to think I’ve earned my Super Caregiver Gold Star for having fondled shit and excavated garbage cans gone the extra mile…

I get mom. Of course I do. She needed to KNOW.

But I am glad this was all on a Thursday/Friday. The other two batteries emerged on HER watch.

And yeah, I sort of miss Gronk.

Sort of.

April 19, 2010 Posted by | health and safety, parents | | 5 Comments

More candid that I planned

It has been years since I have had the luxury of a private daytime pee. Years. Many years. Years which, if I’m totally honest, can be measured in decades.

(No, I don’t feel old. I doubt I will when I get into my fifties, not far off now. And those of you twenty- and thirty-somethings who grouse about feeling OOOOLD just because some ephemeral fashion fad you loved is now twenty minutes in the past? You just make yourself look silly. And young. Very young.)

But still. It has been a couple of decades since I have been able to shut the door during working hours and concentrate on the task at hand. Nope. I pee with the door ajar, an ear cocked for mayhem, I race down the stairs zipping my fly, and I wash hands at the kitchen sink. Because GOD ONLY KNOWS what could break out in the 86 seconds I’m up there.

I’m sure this sounds familiar to all parents of toddlers. Now imagine doing that every working day for OVER TWENTY YEARS.

It becomes so ingrained that, even though I do shut the door in the evenings (something which causes my teenagers great joy), I still zip and tuck on my way down the stairs, and I still wash my hands in the kitchen. Habits die hard.

We are just back from an outing. The children have been charged with taking off their shoes, getting their slippers out of the basket where they are stored, and sitting on the couch. That should give me the requisite 86 seconds.

“Mary? Mary, I can’t find my nuther slipper!” Noah’s voice rockets skyward.

“I can’t help you right now. Did you look in the basket?”

“Yes, and I can’t find it!”

“Well, hang on a sec. I’ll help you as soon as I can.”

“It’s okay, Mary, I found it!” Emily’s voice is triumphant.

“Oh, good for you! Noah, did you say thank you to Emily?”


Noah, you need to say thank you to Emily.”

The voice that answers is neither Emily’s nor Noah’s. It is not a toddler’s voice at all.

“Thank yoooou, Em-i-leeee!” An adult voice sing-songs up the stairs. An adult voice parodying an obedient child. An adult, male voice. Not my husband, home early from work, nor my son, dropping by unexpectedly. Nope. A neighbour, one of the select few who isn’t required to knock before entering.

I zip and tuck before leaving the bathroom, and as I come downstairs to see why he’s here, I am wondering…

did I have an auditory audience for every little thing during my 86 seconds?


April 16, 2010 Posted by | eeewww, health and safety, potty tales | 10 Comments