It’s Not All Mary Poppins

How not to find childcare

A former client is looking for care for her second child.

This was never a favourite client. This was a client who I was happy pleased delirious with relief to have placed, once and for all, into the “former” category. We got through our tenure together without direct conflict, though there was, at least from my perspective, fairly constant abrasion. The kind of client you are very happy to see the last of.

Yes, I do have that kind of client, though not often any more. After all these years, my “probable pain in the ass” filters are finely-honed. Still, every so often, one gets through, and this family was one of them. Well, not the child. But the parents? Annoyed the ever-living daylights right out of me.

So. Former client. Yay!!

I have bumped into Former Client Mom (FCM from now on) a couple of times. She’s never come out and asked me directly if I’d take on her second child, but her hints are not subtle. She probably thinks she’s being subtle, but, um, not so much. “Subtle” is not in her vocabulary.

I have told her that I’m full. — “But that could change, right? You don’t always know. Things can change.” — And that though, yes, things can change, at the moment I don’t have any spaces for the spring. I’ve told her that for her situation, I think a nanny would be the better option, anyway. (And I do. Sincerely. This would be a win-win situation. She gets the care best suited to her work/family situation, and I don’t have to put up with her for a second three-year stint!! Yay!) I told her I would talk to a couple of nanny friends I would highly recommend, and see if any of them are looking for work.

I did talk to the nanny friends. They know the family I’m talking about, so I didn’t need to explain my difficulties with them — which wouldn’t necessarily be difficulties for someone else — but I did say that they’re good clients insofar as they never quibble about pay or sick days, they pay promptly, they were always on time for pick-up. In all fairness, they are not clients from hell. I just don’t like ’em.

Before I tell you what my nanny friends said, I need to tell you another story.

The other day, one of my current clients told me that the FCM had approached her. Now, my current client has let me know that sometime in the next few months, her work situation might be changing such that she won’t need childcare any more. She’s not quite sure when this will happen, but has given me a loose time frame, which is the best she can do right now. (Isn’t that nice?? I will work very hard to accommodate a client who gives me this kind of honest, clear communication.) Anyway, FCM has somehow gotten wind of this and approached current client about it.

“I hear you’re probably leaving care before June or so.” Current client acknowledged this. “Do you think you could be done by April? I really need care for April. If you’re done by April, maybe I could have two part-time spaces.”

Current client’s sweet face crinkled in consternation as she told me this. “I, I just didn’t know what to say! First, I thought this should be a conversation she should be having with you, not me, and then, when she just went on and on, I just began to feel really… well, pressured! I’m sure she didn’t mean it that way, but…”

Ha. I’m quite sure she did.

“And another thing that struck me odd about it was that the last time I talked to her, two or three months ago, she asked me whether my son was toilet-trained yet, and when I explained where we were in the process, she talked and talked and talked about how the two of you had totally different philosophies about toilet-training, and she didn’t know why you wouldn’t just listen to the mother, who knew when her child was ready for training, and you just wouldn’t cooperate with her. She said all that, she was quite vehement, very negative. It made me uncomfortable.”

I’m sure it did, you kind, sweet woman, you, who never bad-mouths anyone. And oh, the history of that short paragraph! FCM was quite, quite sure her child was ready at 14 months. When I explained that the child almost certainly didn’t have control over the muscles involved so early, she persisted. So, to humour her (and because, hey, you never know!), I did what I always do: I focussed on the task, gave it my full-on, vigilant attention for a week. For a week, we stay in the house, we hover round the potty, we sit, we praise, we clap, we sing, we drink lots and lots and LOTS, we eat, breathe, and sleep potty. At the end of a week, I know whether there’s any point in continuing.

There was NO point.

This child was not in any way, shape, or form, anything like ready to be toilet trained. I explained this to mom. She said “Well, would it hurt to keep trying at home?” I said, no, so long as the child wasn’t balking. You don’t want to create long-standing power struggles. But as long as it’s a fun game, there’s no harm in it. Pointless, but harmless. As my friend Cindy would say, “Fill yer boots.”

Me, I would call that cooperating. I gave it a sincere attempt, observed the results, gave her my considered (and highly experienced, ahem) feedback. My conclusions were not the same as hers, is all. But FCM, she’s the type who, if you disagree with her, you’re just “not listening“. Because if you WERE listening to her, you’d HAVE to agree, right, because there’s only one perspective, you see. Hers.

Oh, yes, soooooo glad she’s a former client.

Current client continued. “I’m not one to talk about people, so I didn’t mention the whole potty-training conversation before, but I thought you might like to know what’s coming your way. If she does approach you for care, well…” She shakes her head, clearly feeling awkward with the whole situation. “Well, I just thought you should know how she’s been talking about you, just so you can take that into account if she talks to you directly.”

Okay. Back to the nannies. I approached a couple of nannies, nice women, caring women, supremely skilled caregivers. I said what positive things I could about the clients — and, logistically, practically, they are not bad clients. I said positive things about the older child. Obviously, I don’t know the baby.

And the nannies? Wouldn’t touch the family with a ten-foot pole.

“Her? Not on your life! That woman has sat on this bench, surrounded by caregivers, and bad-mouthed other caregivers. She said [name of caregiver] only ever sits the kids down in front of a television all day.”

(This, I might interject, is the most outrageous libel. I see this caregiver out and about all the time. She puts the television on for 20 minutes a day while she prepares lunch. That’s it, that’s all. Odd how she can manage to have them in front of the television and out at the park, at playgroup, at the museum, at the farmer’s market, all at the same time. I don’t know how she does it!)

“She’s bad-mouthed, you, too, you know. Said stupid stuff, stuff nobody would believe, talked about you being unsupportive of parents. [Unsupportive, huh? I’m betting it’s that whole potty thing again…] So, work for her? I don’t think so. Who needs that?”

Well, then. You sit on a park bench, surrounded by nannies and other caregivers and loudly bad-mouth a couple of caregivers… all while you’re looking for a caregiver?

This would be called “Shooting Yourself in the Foot”. And now nobody wants you as a client. That would be “karma biting you on the ass”.

You know, I’m kind of looking forward to telling her that…

September 28, 2010 Posted by | daycare, parents, the dark side | , | 14 Comments

DIY Weather Calendar

A few weeks ago, our neighbourhood had its annual Yard Sale. Dozens, possibly hundreds of homes take part. Not mine, mind you, because I somehow managed to miss the announcement (dammit!). I woke on Saturday morning wondering why there was so much conversation in the street…

My husband took a stroll around, and came home with a goodish sized piece of… um… I’m not quite sure what this stuff is, really. It’s plastic, I’d say, quite flexible but not at all stretchy, about 2 mm thick and 80 cm square, dark blue on one side, white on the other.

Best of all, it was FREE!

“I have no idea what it is,” he said, “but I’m sure that, what with the new craft room and all, you’ll find something to do with it!”

He really is a great husband, and a smart one, too, because he was right! I’d bought a weather calendar a couple of years back, but had never been struck on the design. With THIS baby, I could make something that really suited my purposes.

Here is it! (Sorry about the glare…)

Ta-dah!!! This was my first version. I subsequently added ribbons to delineate the columns, and I like it much better that way.

I had a scrap piece of yellow bristol board that was almost the exact perfect size to hold the cards. “Almost” meaning that it was just a smidge too short, so I had to leave out one category of weather. You’ll note there is no “snowy” in this list. I wish I could do without it, but it’s sadly essential here in Ottawa. That’s okay. When we get to “snowy”, I’m pretty confident I can safely remove “hot”!

The weather pictures are glossy, but unlaminated, so I covered them all with transparent shelf paper. (Aka “Con-tact paper“.) The red embroidery floss is a simple loop — in at the front, through both layers, and back again — with the dangling ends tied in a bow at the front. The threads, see, make dividers between the stacks, keeping the cards neatly piled instead of all sliding into an untidy heap.

Now a small tangent. Once the calendar was on the wall, I decided it would be nice to give it some seasonal decorations. Not only do we learn about the weather, but the calendar can also help teach the children the days of the week (we talk about the weekends, even though they’re not shown), the passage of time, the idea of reading from left to right, the idea of charting information in row and columns, AND the passage of the seasons.

Wow. That’s a lot from a freebie piece of plastic from a yard sale!

Anyway. I decided we needed some seasonal decoration. I happened to have a nice glossy brochure from the NAC, which just happened to have nice, stencil-weight covers. I cut out a maple leaf and a generic oval leaf. Emily was more than pleased to do a bit of sponge-painting with a dab of red and yellow paint, and a tissue or two!

Let them dry, cut them out, and ta-dah! Lovely, simple, seasonal decor. The oval leaves I cut out with pinking shears, just for fun. (I sure hope my gran was wrong, and using good scissors on paper does NOT dull them…) But it’s a cute effect, nonetheless!

A closer look…

There! I am very pleased! The kids love to “do the calendar”. Emily, at 4.5, probably gets the most out of it, but 2.5 year-old Tyler enjoys it a lot. Baby Lily hollers “SUNNY! SUNNY! SUNNY!” whenever she sees the sunshine picture, which is something. I’m not convinced she makes the connection between the sun in the sky, the sun icon on the card, and the calendar on the wall, but hey, it’s vocabulary, right?

Oh, and yes, there is a garbage truck at the top of Wednesday’s column. Garbage Day is an IMPORTANT weekly event. Tyler in particular needs to know when Garbage Day is happening. He needs to know so that he can keep watch out the living room window, so as to see those WONDERFUL NOISY MACHINES going by. He needs to know so that if we’re out walking, he can hang on to the stroller on the side farthest from the street, in case one of those TERRIFYING NOISE MACHINES should have a sudden urge to leap onto the sidewalk and stomp on a small boy.

You never know.

Check out the “HOT” at the bottom of Friday. I put that on myself, after the kids had gone home. Friday was a weird day: at 2 in the afternoon, when, at this time of year, we’d be as warm as we’re going to get, it was 18 or 19C. That evening, after dinner, I stepped out onto the porch — and someone had cranked the thermostat out there! Holy Hannah! It got up to 27C, which, here in Ottawa in late September (and particularly at 7 in the evening) is nothing short of hot.


And captured, on the calendar, for posterity.

Fun times.

September 27, 2010 Posted by | Canada, crafts | , , , , , | 4 Comments

It’s all quality time

I am expecting an electrician to pop by later today. When I was a young mother with my own pre-school brood, I found that I generally didn’t take a truly analytical look at them until I was out in public. Faced with the awareness of others’ inspection, I suddenly noticed the smudged faces, the rumpled hair, the mis-matched socks.

Not that I cared. Apart from the normal grubbiness of kid-friendly wear-and-tear, my children were essentially clean and (far more importantly, in my books) they were comfortingly reliably well-behaved. I didn’t care … but I did notice. Ruefully.

I am the same way, I discover, with my home. It’s good enough for me, until I’m expecting an objective set of eyes wandering about. Then I notice stuff. In this case, given that he’ll be in the bathroom, I notice the toothpaste smears in the sink. (Wiping the sink post-spit being beyond the capabilities of… someone, I know not who, in my household. Also just plain aiming for the drain. There is spit on the backsplash, for heaven’s sake. Who spits forward rather than down? Should I have checked the window above the sink, in case, in a fit of energy and enthusiasm, they’d decided to spit UP?)

I notice the watermarks on the faucet, and the dog-hair along the wall. The dog-hair down the hall. The dog-hair on the stairs.

How on earth does one dog produce so much hair? The upper level floors are swept daily, the main level floors more often, and yet always, always, there is more hair. It’s surreal.

Tyler is fascinating by my household efforts. He watches me sweep the stairs. Yes, sweep. I used to have a hand-held vacuum for this task. Then my son borrowed it. That was… eight months ago? Borrowed it for use in his town-house shared with four or five other college boys. I suspect the poor thing blew up from over-exertion.

Nowadays I’m using Flylady‘s ‘rubba scrubba‘. (Yes, I know. I cringe at the cutesy-poo, too, but the thing works. I love it!)

“Is that a grome-up brush?”
“Well, if you mean ‘Can you play with it?’, then yes, it’s a grown-up brush.”
“Oh. It is for grome-up working?”
“Yes. I use it to clean the dog-fur off the stairs.”
“And then you will throw it in the garbage?”
“Then I will throw it in the compost.”
“Can I do that?”
“Sure. I will carry it to the kitchen, and then you can open the compost bin and put the dirt in the bin.”
(Yay! Using the compost bin makes my heart lift with joy, too. Almost as much as sweeping the dog-hair off the stairs…)

That mission accomplished, I now notice the dog-fur edging the hall… and as I sweep that away, edging the dining room, the living room, the kitchen. Eesh.

“You gots a messy house, Mary.”
“Thanks, Tyler. I have a hairy dog, I think. And the rest of this…” I eye the grit in the dustpan. “I think the rest of it, you guys bring that in on your shoes. Yup. Most of this dirt comes down to you and the dog, sweetness.”

“But I am not fluffy.”

“No, lovie, you’re not. The fluff is the dog’s fault.”

“And I am the dirt’s fault.”

“Something like that.”

“Is your house all clean now?”

I gaze around the decently uncluttered, and now (momentarily) dog-hair-free rooms.

“Yes. I think so.”

“We did a good job, Mary!”

“Yes, we did.”

“Because we are a teamwork guys.”

Yes, we are. Teamwork, companionship, moral support and encouragement. Who says two-year-olds are hard to get along with?

September 23, 2010 Posted by | health and safety, Tyler | , , , , | 4 Comments

You know you’re getting older when…

“Hey, lookit what I can do! Gramma, lookit — ” Emily stops, and her face crinkles into a delighted grin. “Hey, Mary, I called you Gramma!!”

Yeah. I heard that. Guess it’s time to touch up my roots…

September 14, 2010 Posted by | Emily, the things they say! | , , , | 6 Comments

Older, but not

“Can you help me with this? Daddy, I need –” Tyler looks up, startled, and gives me the full voltage of his oh-so-engaging grin. “Hey, Mary, I called you DADDY!!!”

Okay. I can admit I’m getting older. It’s the normal course of thing…. normal, necessary, appropriate — it’s just nature. Besides, I’m older AND I’m wiser, too. So, nyah. (Older, wiser AND mature. Can you tell?)

But male?

I. Think. Not.

September 14, 2010 Posted by | the things they say!, Tyler | 1 Comment

Thiiiiiiiis much!

“I love my mummy … to the end of the universe! And back!”

September 13, 2010 Posted by | Emily, the cuteness!, the things they say! | Leave a comment

Hawaii Day Lei

A couple of weeks ago, our local park had a “Hawaii Day”. In preparation for that, we decided to make our own leis. I suspected there would be dollar store leis provided, but, hey! Any excuse for a craft is good by me! I’d seen pretty coloured coffee filters in several places on the internet, and decided that would be the perfect medium to make beautifully coloured, light and pretty flowers.

So. Take a coffee filter. Take a whole bunch of coffee filters! Colour them with water-soluble markers.

Any way you like. The one on the left is Tyler’s, the middle is mine, the right is Emily’s.

Take a squirt bottle of water set to “mist” (or the most diffuse setting) and spray your coloured filters. Warning: although these are technically water soluble colours, they managed to sink into the white top of my table and become permanent additions to the paint. Good thing that table was on its way out, anyway! For those of you who desire a more long-term relationship with your furniture, I suggest a plastic cloth.

The colours don’t blur instantly. Spray a bit, wait a bit and see what happens, spray a bit more. I also found that lifting it and turning it a bit, then setting it down in much the same spot on the table (or, in your case, your plastic cloth!), helped the colours to blur even more. This one is mid-blur.

Various degrees of blurring:

When you have a bunch, let them dry. I think we made about 45, all told, but we were making several necklaces. I’d say you need at least 4, and the more you make, the longer your lei can be!

Fold the coffee filter into quarters. Cut all layers into as large a circle as you can get from the quarter.

Now, take one circle, fold it in half, and cut petals from it by removing curvy V’s. (Does that make sense? I find it’s easier to visualize the shape I’m removing than the shape I’m aiming for… If that doesn’t work for you, do it your own way.)

Ignore those green things in the background. Originally we were going to put leaves in our leis, but they just looked stupid. Well, those ones did. A different kind would have fit in better, but by then we had MOVED ON from that idea, and were all about the FLOWERS!

When you’ve found your cutting groove and like the look of the flowers you’re producing, you can cut several at a time. I think I found four was about as many as my scissors would handle — eight layers, of course, since you’re folding them in half.

Flowers! Lots and lots and lots of pretty flowers!

Next, the threading. I used green plastic ribbon, cut to the right length for each child. We cut a bunch of green Starbucks straws into 2-cm segments (1 inch). (You don’t save your green Starbucks straws? Whyever not?) Tie one straw segment at what will be one end of the necklace. This is to stop the children from pushing the flowers right off the end.

Now you have, not only a craft, but a pattering activity! Patterning is a pre-math skill! One flower, one straw, one flower, one straw, until you get the length you want.

This little guy, a very active dude, got bored, and so this rather short necklace was as long as he wanted, thankyousomuch. I don’t have a picture of Emily’s, because she wasn’t DONE yet! Hers will be much, much longer…

September 6, 2010 Posted by | crafts | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Craftiness, again

Having made five identical bags, I needed some way to tell one from another. This is the problem with uniformity: tidy as it undeniably is, it’s also somewhat lacking in individuality. This, however, is a small hurdle for a creative person!

I have long admired the bright and funky initials sold in our local toy store. I do not, however, admire their price. Seven or eight dollars per letter? Please! I could make them for basically nothing! Ha. Famous last words. Five, six, ten years later, I’ve still never made a single one…

Until now!

So here’s how: cut your initial from cardboard. This was just the side of a box.

I decided I needed them a little thicker, so taped two layers together. It doesn’t have to look pretty yet: they’re going to be covered up!

I wrangled for a minute or two with the centre of the ‘D’. Getting the scissor point into the middle was awkward, and cutting it out next to impossible… and then I realized that I could just cut it in two pieces, like a stencil, and tape it back together. (Duh.)

The base coat is papier mache. Smallish strips of newspaper, like this:

Glued in place with a flour-water paste. I have no recipe for the paste. I just put a handful of flour into the bottom of a bowl, then, holding it under the tap, run a slow stream of water into the flour as I stir, stir, stir with one hand. When it looks and feels like cream, stop. (Cream like you put in your coffee, not like you put on your shortcake.)

Smear the paste on the cardboard letter and plaster the paper to it. Smear more paste on top of the paper. Put the paper in different directions for strength. Make sure to wrap it around the edges.

Let it dry overnight.

Next, I painted the letters with some glossy white latex kitchen paint I had in the basement.

Here’s where I got involved in my creating and forgot to take pictures… Oops. So the next step (which was the fun one), I took small pictures from a seed catalogue, trimmed them, and sorted them by colour. Emily, who loves yellow, got yellow. Obviously. The other colours are either the child’s stated favourite(s), or the colour their parents tend to dress them in most. (Really. People do that more than you’d realize!)

Then I used Mod Podge to glue the pictures to the initials. Each letter has at least five coats, all told. Quite possibly more.

The side view:

I got my husband to drill a hole in the upper left corner of each. Then it was just a matter of threading a ribbon through, and tying each to a bag. Ta-dah!

Love it!

September 2, 2010 Posted by | crafts, daycare | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Craftiness, Day 3

I now have my storage bags. Another thing I’ve wanted for some time is bibs. I had a set for a while — freebies from Huggies — that I loved, but eventually they were just plain used to death. Since then I’ve found it remarkably difficult to find a set of bibs that do the job as well.

I bought half-a-dozen from IKEA a year or so ago. I checked the website so I could show them to you… and they don’t seem to be selling them any more. Good marketing decision, IKEA! They’re some form of plastic (good! wipe clean and saturation-proof!). They attach with velcro at the neck … weak, insipid velcro that FALLS off, people. Just … falls right open. Doesn’t even require a child to tug at it. Moreover, they’re too big round the neck. Even when the bib stays put, which is not often, the children still stain the necks of their shirts.

Pointless, really. An anti-bib.

Next I tried some of those molded plastic ones with the trough at the bottom. Equally wipe-clean-able, and saturation-proof. The closure at the neck was better (though still not flawless – a child could tug it off, but at least they didn’t FALL off), and they fit properly at the neck. Problem is, those plastic troughs don’t fit in behind a high chair tray. They’d work in a booster seat at the table, but in my high chairs the child ends up squashed at the belly and/or has the top edge of the bib digging into her pudgy little neck.


So. Bibs have been a problem for a while. But, hey! I have time — I’m on holiday! I have space — my very own Craft Room!!! AND, I have fabric! Lots of that Value Village denim still left over.

But of course, these are fabric bibs. Fabric doesn’t just wipe clean, and it will saturate. Thus, I’ll need to line them: two layers are better than one. Something with a nap, something absorptive. I thought of towelling, but I didn’t have enough. Once again, I trawl my fabric stash, and… oh, isn’t that so cute?

The kitty-cat lining is flannel. Perfect. Not quite as good as terry-cloth, perhaps, but decently absorptive. Once upon a time, that fabric was a set of sheets. Then they became a duvet cover, and THEN they were curtains. Now they are bibs. Really cute bibs.

I am the queen of fabric recycling.

And, because I won’t be able to wipe them clean, and will probably never be able to use them twice in a row, I’ll need to make enough so that I can have a set in the laundry while I have a set in use. They attach with a press-fastener (aka ‘snaps’). If these prove to be inadequate to the tugs of a toddler, I will attach ribbons for tying.

Oh, they’re just so gosh-darn CUTE! I can hardly wait to see the tots in them!

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