It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Canada Day Craft

It’s Canada Day on Thursday! A day off for me, a day spent meandering downtown for my teenager. (Teenager. Singular. I’m down to ONE teenager these days.) She is very much looking forward to taking her boyfriend, who has never “done” Canada Day in Ottawa, to all the sights — the Market, Major’s Hill Park, the sights, the sounds, the buskers, the fun, and of course, ending it all up with the fireworks on Parliament Hill. This is the capital city of the country, after all! Where would any good Canadian rather be?

In bed, frankly. By the time the fireworks light up Parliament Hill, this Canadian will be asleep. I may stir to hear the thunder of the explosions, but ten pm is past my bedtime. I am truly grateful that my youngest is now old enough to manage the festivities on her own!

I will, however, get downtown at some point during the day. The happy crowds, resplendent in their red and white (I am planning a white skirt with a red tank top), many of the kids wearing flags (Emma has a 5-foot flag all ready for her BF to wear as a cape – his first time!)… it’s fun.

And of course, Events and Celebrations mean CRAFTS at Mary’s house. Every year for ages we have made Canadian flags this way, with their little handprints in place of the Canada Leaf. I fully intended to do those for this year, too, until I saw some Canada Day bunting in the most recent Canadian Living magazine.

It didn’t take a craft genius to see the connection. Ladies and gentlemen, I show you:

Canada Day bunting, Toddler-style!

Each triangle is a sheet of 8×11 paper. Fold it in half along the 11″ side, put your scissors at the fold and aim for the far corner. Ta-dah! Perfect triangle.

A strip of red paint down each side. Paint the small palm, press it to the paper (a bit of a trick with 12-month-olds, who tend to curl their surprised fingers into a paint-smeary fist, but it can be done!)

Tape the triangles to a piece of ribbon. (Tip: Wrap the tape right around the back of the triangle, and lap the ends of the tape over each other in behind, otherwise the tape will pull off the paint.)


Happy Canada Day!

And, for the child who is Canadian by birth but with American parents, we tweaked the design:

With Canada Day on Thursday and the Fourth on Sunday, they can have a whole weekend of celebrating! Cute, huh?

June 29, 2010 Posted by | Canada, commemoration, crafts, my kids | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In which Mary callously shatters illusions

… but I didn’t know I was doing it. Honest!

“I can go outside and play on the cars?”

I am looking after a new child, just for the day. A friend of a neighbour’s child, someone I don’t know at all. He is three. Three, and, so he’s corrected me, “NOT a big boy. I am only three.” Odd, that. Usually by three, they’re eager to claim their Big status. Not that it matters. He certainly behaves like a Big Boy.

He has been eager to play with the cars since he saw them lined up in my drive. Four ride-on cars, one of those Flintstone-type deals, a Red Rocket tricycle, and a Skuut bike. What normal little boy — or girl, for that matter — could pass by all that and not want to try it out?

“Riding those bikes will be fun, but we can’t go right now.”


“Well, because Baby Lily is sleeping. We can’t go outside and leave her all by herself.”

“That’s okay, I can take care of myself!”

I suppose it’s rude to laugh out loud and directly contradict. Sadly, I can’t seem to shake the habit. He looks more puzzled than offended, however.

“Yes, I CAN!”

“Do you play outside by yourself at your house, sweetie?”

“YES.” He’s firm. He wants me to be Totally Clear on this point, and desist with my ridiculous constraints on his perfectly reasonable request. I’m quite willing to believe he does play in his own back yard sometimes. He’s three, he seems decently sensible, this is a quiet neighbourhood, and he has a baby sister. I’m betting there are times when mummy is quite willing to let Big Brother play outside for a few minutes. However, there are almost certainly a few differences which Big Brother has not taken into consideration.

“I bet your house has a back yard with a fence all around it, right?”

“Yes.” He sees where I’m going with this. “YOU have a fence.” So I do, but the the sandy surface of my back yard is unsuited to ride-on toys. The long drive where they ride leads directly onto out street. A quiet, pretty-much dead-end of a street, but a street nonetheless. And besides…

“And probably, there’s a big window so that mummy can see you when you play outside.”


“I don’t have a window. I can’t see you.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“You can for some things. But for going outside, a grown-up need to at least be able to see you. I can’t see you.”

He takes that in for a minute.

“When I play outside, my mummy is WATCHING me?”

“Yes. I’m sure she is.”

“But I can take care of MYSELF!” He’s not outraged, he’s not even indignant, he’s incredulous. All this time, when he was being so independent, he was UNDER SURVEILLANCE?

He wanders over to the window, stares out down the street.

“I can. I can take care of myself.”

His voice is wistful.

June 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 8 Comments

It’s only because we’re CONSPICUOUS

It always feels a bit illicit.

I’ve taken the tots to the local mall. It’s about a two km walk each way, easily manageable for Noah and Tyler on foot, the babies all neatly tucked into my four-seater stroller. I have a few errands to run, an item or two to pick up. I’ll hit the drug store, the post office, the grocery store.

And, oh! I’m out of wine. Why don’t I pick up a bottle while I’m here?

Well, no reason why not at all, except that I feel hugely conspicuous with my enormous stroller and my five-kids-under-three. You can imagine the thoughts in the heads around you.

“My GOD, look at all those kids! Sure can see why she’d be needing that!”
“I hope she’s not going to go straight home and slug that back.”

I don’t drink during work hours, of course, but now that the nice weather’s arrived, I do enjoy a glass on the front porch after work. I mean that quite literally, too: a glass. One bottle lasts me a week, usually. But somehow you feel, in this situation, like you’re a certain kind of mental image: the middle-aged lush-lady, the slatternly caregiver on that slippery slope down to greeting the parents with a crooked grin, bra-straps showing, reeking of gin.

Like I said, I feel a tad illicit.

But hey. A bottle a week, tops. It’s not like I’m in and out of that place four times a week. And it is Friday, after all. Conspicuous yes — I’m conspicuous at work no matter where I go — but not out of control.

We approach the cashier, who takes the bottle and greets the the tots with a broad smile.

“Hey, guys! Nice to see you all again!”

Next time, my husband can pick up the damned wine.

June 18, 2010 Posted by | our adoring public, outings | , , , , | 11 Comments

Emily wins

…the Sweetness Stakes today.

“May I have the markers?” Our bin of 50 or so markers is Emily’s current Favourite Thing at Mary’s. Today she requests the addition of some scissors and some tape, please. After twenty minutes or so of concentrated effort, she produces…

“It’s for Noah, and Noah’s mummy and daddy.”

“Who have you drawn?”

Emily is used to my obtuseness in matters artful, and doesn’t even sigh a little sigh. Perhaps it helped that I recognized it was a person.

“It’s Noah’s mummy, and that is the baby in her tummy. Noah and his mummy and daddy might like a picture of their new baby, I think.”

I think so, too. It’s every bit as clear as any ultrasound snap I’ve ever seen. And this one? Is hand-crafted with love.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | crafts, Emily, the cuteness! | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Bye, sweetie

Noah is leaving at the end of next month.


I’ll miss that little guy, and his wonderful parents, too.

I have, however, found a really cute idea for a going-away present. A sweet t-shirt from “Thumb” of his Friends. Adorable!

And yes, you’ll see picture when we do it, because ours won’t look quite like that.


June 16, 2010 Posted by | crafts, Noah | , , , , | 2 Comments

Noah’s train of thought

…is more like a roller coaster.

“We had POPCORN last night! My daddy made it, and I ate popcorn, and Emily, too.”

The children are playing in the drive as I weed my front garden. Tyler has popped over to share this Important News. I don’t even blink at the implication that Emily was consumed along with the popcorn. Grammar comes slowly.

“That was nice of daddy,” I note with appropriate levels of enthusiasm, dumping an armful of weeds into my green bin. I think they’re weeds, anyway. I’m not the world’s most competent gardener, and I am handicapped by the world’s worst memory. So those plants suddenly appearing all over the rear half of the garden: Were they the ones I planted, or are they interlopers? I’m not sure. Not wanting to pull intentional flowers (I have still not quite gotten over the trauma of realizing all those vines I trashed the first year were lovely, lush, purple clematis), I gave them the benefit of the doubt, and some time.

Two months later, they’re a full metre tall, they’re ALL OVER the yard, and they have yet to flower. Tall, shaggy leaves, dozens of plants, and no flowers. My poor hostas are being strangled, and the little stone path is vanished. I strongly suspect them to be weeds. Weeds of the particularly invasive variety. I’m not going to remove all of them, just in case, but they are being thinned out. Severely.

Even if they were intentional, I don’t like their character. Pushy things, brash, un-subtle and aggressive. They have another month or so to prove themselves to be things of beauty, but in truth I am not optimistic. For now, I’m content to give the hostas some air and find my flagstones again.

“We were going to have popcorn,” Noah comments at Tyler, “but we didn’t have any milk.”


“You don’t need milk to make popcorn, sweetie.”

“Yes, you do.” He’s not argumentative. He’s just stating a fact. “It is garbage day today.” Another fact. Equally misguided.

“No, that’s tomorrow. Tomorrow is garbage day.”

“Tomorrow,” he agrees, seemingly oblivious to his 180. “You are putting weeds in your green bin. And tomorrow we will put out our white box.”


Here in Ottawa, we have a terrific and comprehensive recycling program: weekly garbage collection, of course, but also a black box (for paper and paper products), a blue box (plastics, some glass, tin foil), and a green bin (organics).

That’s black, blue, and green, mark you. No white. Unless he means his garbage can? Is it white? He gives me The Look.

“Our garbage can is BROWN, Mary.”

Okay, then. “What do you put in your white bin?”

The Look, redux. “The white bin stuff.”

I don’t think I’ll ever get to the bottom of this. And I’m feeling a tad disoriented.

“Are you throwing out those plants, Mary?”

Another wild change of direction, but this one I’ll take with thanks. At least it makes sense.

“Yes, I am. At first I thought they might be pretty plants, but now I think they are ugly.”

He nods in agreement.

“I think they are ugly, too.”

Thanks for the support, little bro.

“And my mummy thinks they are ugly.”

She does?

“And my daddy thinks they are ugly.”

Somehow I just can’t picture Noah’s super-sweet parents standing in my driveway, sneering at the horticultural blight I am passing off as a garden.

“And my baby sister is going to be coming next month.”

I’m dizzy. Roller coasters have that effect on me.

June 15, 2010 Posted by | Noah, Ottawa | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Look what I did!

I first found the idea of Pillowcase Dresses on One Pretty Thing quite a while back. One day, I promised myself, one day I would do that, because — SO CUTE! Then my eldest, who is scaling down prior to a move, gave me some pillowcases her grandmother had given her. VINTAGE pillowcases, these would be, with the adorable embroidery, tiny bit of lace trim, and everything. Two weeks ago, I finally got to the fabric store for the ribbon. I had the pillowcases, I had the fixings. One day I’d put it all together.

Today was that day. It’s rainy, it’s Baby Monday, and it’s naptime. What better time?

(Click on the picture for a larger view.)

It took less than an hour to make two. The second took about 22 minutes. If you can sew at all, these things are EEEEEEEEasy! And are they not the sweetest things? I can hardly wait for the girls to wake up and try them on!

Emma watches me delight in these things. “Are you going to be the kind of grandmother who makes things for her grandchildren?” she asks. Then she brightens. “SURE you will! These kids aren’t even related, and look what they’re getting!”

She could be onto something.


June 14, 2010 Posted by | crafts | , , , , | 7 Comments

Versatility Award

Average Mom has given me the Versatility Award! How cool! (But where is my prize? Ribbon? Blog button? Bucketloads of cash?) Like AM, I’m not sure what I’ve done to earn it, but I’m accepting with gracious thanks, and abiding by the rules of the gig, which are:

1) thank the person who gave you the award
2) tell seven thing about yourself and
3) pass the award on to other bloggers whom you love, and, I suppose, find to be versatile.

So, thank you, Average Mom, for you kindly compliment. I do appreciate it.

Seven things about me:

1. I have two university degrees yet spend my days with people who rarely use words of more than two syllables. I see no incongruency here.

2. I am left-handed.

3. I am reasonably musical. I play the piano enough to tackle Beethoven, etc., (though it’s been a couple of years since I’ve laid fingers on ivory), have an okay singing voice, and can make musical sounds with a couple other instruments.

4. My favourite colour is green. I tend to prefer darker shades, and I loathe chartreuse. I don’t much like orange on anything but pumpkins, oranges, and fall leaves.

5. Though I manage conflict well, I hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Outside I’m calm, inside I’m shaking — with rage, fear, or just plain stress.

6. I have lost over 30 pounds in the last two years, in two stages. (And I’m done now. Very happy where I am.) I love Weight Watchers.

7. I love to travel, but rarely do. Oh, money…

Who would I like to hear from?

Let’s see…

and whoever else would like to play.

June 12, 2010 Posted by | memes and quizzes | 6 Comments

You can bring you child just about anywhere

… as long as they’re this well-behaved.

Isn’t that the cutest?

June 11, 2010 Posted by | manners, my kids | , | Leave a comment

Fartlek. Who knew?

“Can we climb on the rocks?”

On one side of the quiet, dead-end street that ends at the park, there are several modest homes with lovely gardens. On the other side of the street there are no homes, just a grassy verge which, after a metre or so, slopes down to the reeds which edge the river. On the grassy side of the road, some cranky, anal-retentive civic-minded soul has placed a line of large rocks. I’m sure they are there to prevent cars from parking on the grassy verge, but when the tots see them, they are not thinking “damned cars, churning up the grass and obstructing my view of the river”, but “Hoo-boy! Rocks to jump on!!”

And because it is a quiet, dead-end street, I say “yes”. All along that short stretch of road, they trot, step up, stand, and jump off. They step up, using JUST YOUR FEET AND NO HANDS, because we are entering an off-leash dog park, and a LOT of dogs traverse this stretch of road. A lot of those dogs are male dogs, and the thing about male dogs is that if it’s not moving, THEY HAVE TO PEE ON IT.

And if ONE dog has peed on something, then you know that every other male dog (and even some determined females) which passes this way is obliged to PEE ON IT, TOO. This is written in the Doggie Rules for Living somewhere. It is Inviolable.

So those rocks? They have been peed on many, many, many times. And yes, I know that urine is pretty much sterile. (At least, people pee is. I assume canine pee is similarly germless.) That is why they are allowed to climb on the rocks at all. But, if dogs are OBLIGED to pee on anything that doesn’t move, toddlers are similarly OBLIGED to put their hands in their mouths. And their noses. And their friends’ mouths. And sometimes, yes, their friends’ noses.

So. We don’t touch the pee-rocks.

But we do step on them! And jump off! All the way to the park! (About, oh, 30 metres.)

“Can we run to the bench?”

There is a bench along the path about 20 metres inside the park entry. If there are no cyclists approaching, the answer is always ‘yes’. It’s a big treat to be able to let go of the stroller and run ahead, even in carefully controlled segments, 10, 20, 30 metres at a stretch. And off they go, Noah and Tyler and sometimes Emily, running in the jerky, bouncy, up-and-down-y way of toddlers, clumsily constructed wind-up toys wound a bit too tight. They reach the bench, climb up on it, then clamber down and trot back toward me.

“Can we run to the next bench?”

And away they go again, running hard to the next bench. Then they trot back to me. Or trot over to the tree in the field. Or clamber over the bench.

“Can we run to the sign?” Run hard, trot back.
“Can we run to the tennis court?” Run hard, trot.
“Can we run to the bridge?” Run hard, trot.

This is our pattern, three or more days a week, all summer long. It’s about a kilometre from my home to the park, so these kids are running/trotting about half that distance. Not bad for little critters with foot-long legs. (Yes, I do mix my measuring systems. Comes of having been in school when metric was introduced here. Spent a few years learning Imperial, the remainder learning metric, so now I have both. Except for temperature, which is always, only, Celcius. And my weight, which is always, only, pounds. Call it a true Canadian mish-mash compromise.)

So. A decent run/trot for such short little legs. The other day Noah did the run/trot through the entire length of the park, about a km, and then walked the remaining 1.5 km to the mall beyond the park. AND did the same on the way back.

You know, his endurance really is increasing. I’d noticed it, but hadn’t given it much thought. He’s an active, healthy child, he’s growing, he’s getting stronger. That’s what kids do, right? They get stronger.

Well, yes they do, particularly if they’ve been FARTLEK TRAINING.

No, I did not make that up.

But I had not heard of it until this week, when Kristen mentioned “doing fartleks”. (“Fartlek.” Snort. Yes, it makes me snicker, too. Comes of spending too much time with toddlers, I’m sure. Anything that would generally be contained in a diaper is screamingly funny.)

She mentioned it, I googled it, and now I know. That ‘gogoFASTFASTFAST … go slow… GOLIKEACRAZYPERSON … go slooooooow … goGOgoGOGOGOgogogo … sloooow’ thing that toddlers do? They are not trying to drive you crazy. They are not even being inconsistent.

They are fartlek training.

And now we all know.

June 10, 2010 Posted by | Canada, eeewww, health and safety, Noah | , , , , , | 8 Comments