It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Father’s Day Craft

I had a brilliant idea for a father’s day gift two or three weeks ago. Simply brilliant. No ties, nothing to do with golf or sports or barbecuing. Have you ever noticed how LIMITED gifts for dads are? And how many of them are totally and completely useless? Clutter, by any other name, something that will sit on a shelf and collect dust until the child has forgotten about it and can be safely tossed. This is how we thank dad for his efforts? Given my life-long campaign accruing clutter in my own life, I just can’t do that to someone else. You’ll recall that my mother’s day gifts this were year nicely consumable. Two or three baths, and it’s GONE.

Useful. The mark of a Good Gift.

So… what to do for the dads? I mulled and thought and contemplated… and then my Moment of Brilliance struck. They ALL RIDE BIKES. More times than not, the children are ferried to and from my home in baby-cabanas, towed behind daddy (or mommy’s) bike. Bikes, bikes, bikes… what can we make for a bike?

Bicycle License Plates!

Then the hunt for materials. “Make them of tin foil pie plates!” a neighbour suggested. “They can press designs into them with a pencil. It’ll be so CUTE!”

Tin foil? Even the sturdier pie plates are awfully flimsy. If they’re malleable enough for the tots to draw on them, we’re not looking at particularly sturdy. I pictured dented and wrinkled bits of aluminum fluttering off the daddy’s bicycle. Cute for about a week, perhaps, and after that — CLUTTER.

Nope. No tin foil.

So… picture frames, maybe? So they could draw a picture and then have it enclosed? Because these things not only have to be sturdy, but weather-proof. But though I hunted, I couldn’t find anything the right size and sturdiness — and in my price range. Which is to say, CHEAP. I have five of these to purchase. I can’t be spending $35 on each one!

Picture frames were out. But then, what? Time was flying by. If I didn’t hurry, the dads would be getting some dorky piece of clutter out of desperation. So I decided to take a meander through a hardware store. I love hardware stores in the same way and to the same degree that I love fabric and craft stores, so this was no trial. Even better, since I don’t know what to DO with 90% of the stuff I see, a trip to the hardware store is much, much less expensive than craft or fabric stores…

And there, in the hardware store, I found these:

We have five solid steel disk-thingies and a can of glossy white metal paint. My lovely husband, who doesn’t consider himself ‘handy’ at all, recognized the disk-thingies immediately. I had gathered, given their placement in the store, that they had to do with lighting and wiring, but to identify them? Ha.

But it doesn’t matter what they’re really for! Because for us, they are now license plates! They’re steel, so they’re sturdy. They even have a little hole at the top to hang them from daddy’s bike! Covered with metal paint, they’ll be protected against rust. And they cost $1.16 each. (Take THAT, perfect-but-outrageous $35 picture frame!)

Total expenditure for five gifts: less than ten dollars. 🙂

Now, this craft is largely adult-made. The children watched and had some input, but just this once, it’s not free-form totwork.

After I painted the disks — given the toxicity of metal paint, I did this on the weekend when the kids weren’t even here — my idea was to use acrylic paint to paint the children’s palms, and press a hand-print onto the disk. Their hands are small enough that they still fit in that circle. (Small enough to fit. Isn’t that just so damned cute?) Except that the acrylic paint didn’t make a nice, clean imprint on the glossy metal paint. More of an indistinct smoodge. Tried several times, and got nothing but smoodges.


Back to the drawing board. My next thought was shelf paper. Something bright! I could trace their hands on some bright red or blue shelf paper, and just peel and stick it to the disk.

Except it seems that people in this city like their shelf paper in muted tones of cream and grey. A pale pastel at best. A white disk with a pale grey handprint was NOT what I had in mind…


Not sure what I’d find, I meandered through Grand and Toy… and found it!! “Poly Index Dividers“, they’re called, and you may call them that, too, if you like. To my craft-centric mind, they are bright, durable sheets of plastic.

Trace the tots’ hands on this, cut it out and glue it to the disk. I traced — which they found interesting — I cut, they spread the glue. After the glue had dried, I added the words, we covered it all, front and back, with packing tape (for water-resistance) and…


And here’s one on my husband’s bike. Yes, this one is hanging sideways rather than across the back. BOOOOO. But I have a fix for that! Hose clamps! Two hose clamps, in fact. One will make a large loop through supports on the rear underside of the bike seat. The other will make a small loop through the hole at the top of the disk, then grab onto the large loop attached to the bike seat. I will post a picture when I’ve found the clamps. I know we have some. We have a whole big package of them in the basement. Somewhere.

Cute, no?

June 9, 2010 Posted by | commemoration, crafts | , , | 7 Comments

Oh, THAT kind of fish…

“Why is there a dog in that window, Mary?”

I hadn’t been aware of any dogs in windows in my kitchen, so I am unable to answer until I turn to see what Noah’s looking at. What he’s looking at is the 15-kg bag of dog food in the corner by the fridge. I’ve never noticed before, but the smiling Irish setter on the side of the large bag is indeed framed in a rustic wooden window.

“I wonder if you could figure that out, Noah? Whose food is in that bag?”

“The doggie’s.”

“Right! And so there’s a picture of a…”

“Doggie! On the bag!”

Got it in one. Bright boy.

“We have a fish, Mary.”

“You do?” I am used to these sudden segues. Besides, I think I see the link here. After months of diligent campaigning for a DOG, Noah’s super-sweet, super-lovely, super-neat-and-tidy parents have probably caved. To the extent of a fish. In a bowl.

“Where did you get your fish?”

“From the fish store.”

Well, that makes a certain amount of sense.

“And did you get a bowl there, too?”

“No. We didn’t use a bowl.”

“So are you putting it in an aquarium, a big, square glass box?” Noah gives me The Look. You know, the blank stare toddlers have perfected for those moments when adults are being completely, totally, inexplicably STOOOO-PID.

“No, we put in on a plate.”

June 8, 2010 Posted by | Noah | , | 1 Comment

And then there’s Tyler

Emily, as you know, is little miss sweet and biddable. She takes her mistakes and misbehaviours to heart, rarely requiring anything more significant than a firm look and a sentence of correction. She does have a tendency to correct in an annoyingly nit-picky way, mind you, but apart from that, she’s pretty much perfect.


And then there’s Tyler. Emily’s younger brother. Tyler is coming up on three now, blond and blue-eyed to Emily’s chocolate eyes and hair. While Emily does have a sense of humour, she leans to the earnest. Tyler is … irreverent. Though hindered by his innate reserve, if he can overcome his shyness, Tyler has tremendous potential to be a very successful class clown. Not the annoying kind a teacher would happily drop-kick out a second-floor window, but the one who gets his classmates giggling … and gets away with it, because he keeps respect, cleverness, and naughtiness in such charming balance.

Earlier in the day, Tyler had asked to play with a certain assortment of toys. I had given him the go-ahead, but had warned him that taking several toys from each of half-a-dozen different spots would be troublesome to put away when the time came to tidy. He understood that; it was okay; he would put them ALL away. We went over this a couple of times. I was confident he understood.

And now it’s the end of a day, time to tidy the house before we go outside to play for the final hour before parents arrive. I delegate the tasks.

“Emily, which toys will you put away?”
“I’ll do the books.”
“Great. Thank you. Noah, you can put the cars into the green bin.”
“And Tyler, you will have to take the toys you put into the blue bin, and put them back where they belong.”

“Tyler. You remember when you asked to play with all those toys, I said it was fine so long as you put them all away. Well, it’s time now. Take this bin and put the toys back where they belong, please.”
“Okay.” He’s less than thrilled, but he heads to the toy shelves.
The babies and I put a few oddments away, and then I give the table a wipe. As I round the corner, my toe hits an obstruction. It is Tyler’s blue bin, with about 3/4 of the toys still in it. And Tyler is… sitting on the floor by the front door.
“Tyler. You are not finished. Come here and put these toys away, please.” Now, as we have learned, this would be sufficient to have Emily wilting in horror and chagrin. However, this is Tyler, not Emily. He has been caught, but horror? Chagrin? Not so much. He gazes at the box on the floor.
“THAT is not where they go!” He grins. “Silly me!”
“Indeed. Put them away, silly boy.”
He takes the bin, and once again heads to the toy shelves. I watch while he puts a few items in their proper spots. Tyler looks up at me and smiles as he continues with his task. Seems I can safely go help the others with their shoes. I hear a few more toys clatter into their bins, and after another couple of minutes, Tyler joins us.

Shoes and hats on, sunscreen re-applied, I sit the children down in the front hall and take a quick walk-through of the house. I’m looking for stray bottles, artwork, articles of clothing — thinks that need to go home and so should be outside with us. I am not checking up on their tidying. I know they all finished their tasks, even (eventually) Tyler.

Which is why I didn’t notice this the first time I peeked into the kitchen:

“Tyler! Tyler, you come here right now.”
He walks over, a little reluctant, but not unduly worried. (Emily? Emily would be… oh, what am I saying? Emily would never, not in a million, gazillion years, even think of pulling this one. Wouldn’t even cross her mind. But this, as I’ve said once or thrice before, THIS is Tyler…)
“Tyler, I told you two times to put those away. That is not ‘away’.”
He looks and nods in solemn agreement. “No. They not away.”
“I think you need to put them away right now, and I am going to watch you until you are done.”
He nods again. “Yes. I am not bad boy, but today I am lazy boy.” He gives me his classic, full-voltage big-dimple smile, thick blond bangs falling into enormous twinkling blue eyes. Modesty, self-deprecation, and charm. Oh, he’s good, this boy. But I’m better. I do not smile back, but reply calmly.

“Today, you were lazy. You were also sneaky. You tried to hide them and trick me. Now the other children all have to wait two minutes for you to finish. They would rather be outside playing. When we go outside, the other children will go and play, but you will sit on the step for two minutes.”
“And then I not be lazy any more.”
“I hope not. Or sneaky any more.”
“I try not, Mary.” And as we go outside, he holds my hand and beams.

Nope, he’s not his sister…

June 7, 2010 Posted by | individuality, Mischief, Tyler | 3 Comments

Emily does ‘naughty’. Kinda.

Emily, at four, doesn’t nap every day. She’s a child who needs a fair amount of sleep, so she often does, but not every day. After the others have been settled down for their naps, Emily has a “quiet time” on the couch. She’s to lie there for 20 minutes, quietly. If she doesn’t fall asleep within that time, she can get up. (She has to lie quietly, mind you. If she spends the entire time twitching and flopping and fidgeting, she gets another 20 minutes (and another, and another…) She’s a quick study, Emily. It didn’t take her long to realize it was best just to lie still.)

Yesterday was a no-nap day. That’s fine. Emily understands that nap time is Mary’s work time. If I’m working at house-keeping, she can keep me company, and we chat together, but when I sit at my computer, she is not to talk at me. She’s very good about that.

Pretty much a model child, is our Emily.

Emily generally opts to do crafts during this time. These are not adult-organized crafts. These are let-the-kid-loose-with-the-supplies, free-form crafts. She chooses the bits and pieces she wants to work with, I get her whatever she can’t reach, and she can spend an hour, easily, creating at the dining room table.

(I did say she was a model child, correct?)

After we had been busy at our respective tasks for a good half-hour, I popped upstairs, and when I returned a moment or three later, Emily was veeeeeeery surreptitiously returning something to my sewing box. Her head twisted toward me, her eyes wide, frozen in alarm. Very suspicious. The model child has been Up To No Good.

In her hand is a ball of glossy red ribbon. On the table are several snippets of ribbon. Emily’s stare grows ever more alarmed, her eyes wider by the second.

“Emily. Did you go into my sewing box?” My voice is slow, low, and very serious. Not angry, just serious. My sewing box is, of course, strictly forbidden territory. Normally is it kept far from the children; it was accessible right now only because the less-trustworthy, orally-fixated children were safely tucked away in bed.
“Yes.” Her voice is very, very small.
“You knew you shouldn’t do that.”
“Yeees.” Now there’s a quaver in the voice.
“And now you are trying to sneak that ribbon back in there, so I wouldn’t notice.”
“Yeeeeeees.” The enormous eyes begin to glimmer.
I pause a bit, letting the tension grow. (No, you don’t leap in to save them from the discomfort of the moment. You let them experience it. This is a learning opportunity.)

Now, if this were a different, more impervious child, there would now be a Consequence. Time on the Quiet Stair, or removal of craft time, or some such. Emily is waiting, tearful and fearful, for the consequence of her naughtiness. Only this child is REMORSEFUL. She’s not just sad because she’s about to get in trouble. If that were all it was, the consequence would still be necessary. Emily is also sad because she was “bad” (her word, not mine) and she knows it. She’s absolutely radiating chagrin, shame, remorse. (Way out of proportion to the offense, really — but I’m not telling her that! A conscience is a Good Thing.) But in this instance, with a child who understands the offense and is truly remorseful? I think we’ve done enough.

“I’m not going to punish you, Emily, because I can see you know it was the wrong thing to do.” She nods, somber. “It was wrong to take it without asking, and it was really wrong to be sneaky about it. I think you understand that.” More nodding, more enormous eyes. “You understand it was wrong, and” — here my voice warms considerably — “I’m sure you won’t take my things without asking again.”

“I won’t.”

“Okay, then. Now, you need to say ‘Sorry’ for stealing my ribbon and being sneaky about it.”

“I’m sorry I took the ribbon and was suh-suh-suh-snea-uh-ky.” She’s keeping it together, barely.

“Thank you. It’s okay. Come here, sweetie. I think you need a hug.”

And we do. And we’re done. And THAT is how a model child does “bad”. Heh.

June 4, 2010 Posted by | Emily, individuality, Mischief, socializing | , | 11 Comments

Like the adults on Charlie Brown

I pour Emily a glass of milk, and as I hand it to her across the table, Noah opens his mouth. Anticipating what’s about to come next, I interject into his inhalation.

“Emily is having milk because she was not here earlier. You’ve already had your milk. If you’re thirsty, you may have some water.”

He hears me out politely, then opens his mouth once more.

“Mary, can I have some milk, please?”


Except they appear to understand her.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Noah | , , , , | 1 Comment

This makes me go all squooshety

There is nothing cuter than toddlers holding hands.

June 2, 2010 Posted by | Noah, Tyler | , , , | 4 Comments

Beach Party!

A rainy day requires a craft. This, part of a wonderful craft supplies package put together AND MAILED TO ME by my thoughtful eldest, was our inspiration:

What do they look like? Why, beach umbrellas, of course. And if you have a beach umbrella, you’ll need a beach…

You’ll also need to reinforce your beach, so you’d better tape some cardboard to the back of it.

You’ll need a heap of sand to stick your umbrella into… (Yes, that is playdough. Yes, a truly unfortunate colour. That’s what happens when you let toddlers tell you which bottles of food colouring to put in, and how many drops. You get murk. Could be worse, though. Could be poo-coloured. Or, worse yet, mold-coloured… because it had genuine mold in it. Mmm-hmm. I’ll take a little harmless murk any day.)

Now you need sand, and what could be sandier-looking than yellow cornmeal?? (Well, yes, real sand would work, too, but recall that today was rainy. The only sand out there today is mud.)

Sprinkle some onto the mound, and gently pat in on…

TA-DAH!!! Beach umbrella in heap of sand!!

Now for the rest of the picture. Swish some podgey all over the “sand” part of your picture. (My podgey is homemade: one part white school glue with one part water, or maybe two parts glue to one part water, I can’t remember. It’s been a while. It doesn’t matter: if you want to make your own start with two parts glue to one part water, and then slowly add more water till it looks right to you. Oh, and there was some glitter in there, too. Did I put that in, or did it just find its own way in? Again, I can’t remember — but glitter is never a bad thing!!!)

Sprinkle cornmeal into the wet podgy. More is better. If you get too much, tip the paper and gently tap one edge to shake off the loose stuff. This is a good idea in any case, because there is ALWAYS loose stuff.

Next (and I forgot to take a picture of this, but I’m sure you can figure it out) you paint the water with podgy and sprinkle glitter on it — so it sparkles like water in the sun!

Every trip to the beach needs a beach towel. I let Emily browse my stash of used wrapping paper and old magazines to find the PERFECT beach towel. Then you cut it out. (Don’t you just adore the cuddly awkwardness of those dimpled fingers in the scissors??)

Stick the blanket on the beach — we used glue, but a staple would’ve held better, if I’d had one available, instead of in a bedroom with a sleeping baby — and TA-DAH!!! —

A beautiful beach. And a very proud little girl! A very proud little girl who was even happier to help Noah and Tyler make theirs, when they woke from their naps.

June 1, 2010 Posted by | crafts | , , , , , | 3 Comments