It’s Not All Mary Poppins


Who needs it?

Tyler and I have just mixed a batch of double chocolate brandy balls, my traditional Christmas treat. As I transfer the bowls, spoons, measuring cup and food processor bits across the kitchen to the waiting sink of soapy water, Tyler surveys the counter, still littered with chocolate crumbs, melted chocolate chips blops, droplets of corn syrup, a small drift of icing sugar … the counter and, to a lesser degree, the floor. All this detritus, of course, a direct result of baking with a toddler.

Tyler surveys and counter and makes his judgment:

“You have a dirty, messy house, Mary.”

He looks surprised when I drop the damp washcloth on top of his head…

November 30, 2010 Posted by | Christmas | , , | 3 Comments

Cookie-Sheet Advent Calendars

You recall that a while ago, Emma and I stumbled across some very useful freebies being tossed by a local business. Freebies which have (so far) turned into an autumn wreath.

Well. CHRISTMAS is coming, and with it a gazillion and four Craft Opportunities. Craft Opportunities which require copious supplies. I could always pop down to Michael’s, but trips to Michael’s are never cheap. Too bad that business hadn’t put out any more freebies… And then the brainwave hit. Why I didn’t think of it years ago, I don’t know, but I have a friend, see, a Friend Who Owns a Design Firm. She doesn’t even just work there. She’s the Boss.

Really. I probably have direct access to samples galore, and prior to right this minute, it hadn’t even occurred to me to ask. What was I THINKING???

So I asked. And Marianne was thrilled. They were just in the process of CLEANING OUT THEIR LIBRARY! Really! And if I could wait till the end of the week, she was sure she’d have something for me.


“Something” turned out to be four boxes of stuff. Four good-sized boxes, each weighing about 25 kg. Urgh. But the stuff in there! I have wallpaper books, fabric books, upholstery samples, paint chips, and even samples of wood in various veneers. Bright, muted, bold, conservative, abstract, florals, geometrics, metallic, glittery, burnished, woven, glossy, matte, smooth, textured… you name it, I’ve got it.


Here is my first project: Advent Calendars, which will be early Christmas presents to the families. (Click on that first picture, and it will pop up much larger.)

Each square is a piece of wallpaper mounted on card. Some of the card came from the Giant Boxes of Stuff. When I ran out of that, I used a cereal box. Each square is backed with a piece of magnetic tape which I discovered at the hardware store. It comes on a reel, just like regular tape. Very cool. It doesn’t stick quite as well as one would like: I’ve had to re-glue several squares, and should probably go through and glue them all… but 24 times 4 is 96 squares, and you know what? That’s a lot of squares. A lot of squares, most of which have not yet come unstuck, not even once. I think I shall leave well enough alone.

I chose three sheets for each calendar, one green(ish), one red(ish), and one in a sparkly metallic.

The numbers are cut from a set of glittery metallic samples. (I don’t know what they’re intended for: wall covering? veneer? countertops? No idea. The book gives no indication.) After I cut them out, I stuck them onto the squares with hot-melt glue.

The lettering is done with a metallic silver Sharpie. Rather than put numbers on the trays, I opted for dots to indicate the general placement of each square. That way, families can decide whether they will start with all the number on, and remove one each day, or the reverse. They can have them out of order, or put them in order, whatever suits them.

There! Those will go home this evening.

Next up: the Hanukkah menorah for Lily.



November 26, 2010 Posted by | Christmas, crafts | , , , | 2 Comments

Calling all Nannies


So, if I have an almost-18-year-old daughter who is a superb babysitter, and who is thinking of working as a nanny through university…

We’ve contacted some local nannies re: local rates of pay, and now we’re considering contracts. I have a contract, of course, but nannying will have different issues and concerns than home daycare, so we want to be sure we’ve thought through the relevant bits.

I’m thinking it would be useful to see a variety of contracts. Would any of you be willing to share your contract with us? My email is over there in the “About” section.

November 25, 2010 Posted by | my kids | , , | 2 Comments

And it’s not even Thanksgiving here

“My tummy hurts!”

“You’re saying that way too cheerfully for me to worry very much, Tyler.”

“Yeah, my tummy hurts because we did way too much eating at my house.”

November 24, 2010 Posted by | the things they say!, Tyler | 1 Comment

as a 4-year-old sees it…

“There is a boy in my class who’s allergic to peanut butter.”

“That means he’s allergic to peanuts. Anything with peanuts in it could make him sick.”

“Yeah. So he’s only allergic to peanut butter if there are peanuts in it.”

November 23, 2010 Posted by | Emily | 5 Comments

Out of sight, out of mind

New Baby Girl toodles about, busy and quiet. She’s keeping her soother firmly plugged in, but she’s calm, even cheerful, actively engaged with the other kids, with the various toys. Not bad. She’s only coming a day a week until after the holidays, when she’ll start full time.

Now, between you and me? A day a week is usually not a good idea. If a parent only wants/needs to work a day or two a week, I usually suggest they send their child to daycare full-time for three or four weeks first, which is how long most children take to make the adjustment fully. Once the child has acclimatized, THEN we can reduce the days.

Because a day a week? From a baby’s perspective? They have to be away from mummy and daddy for a day. That’s unsettling. They have to be with this stranger, and, no matter how nice she is, she is NOT mummy or daddy. They have to be with these other children, and, no matter how interesting they all are, they’re not mummy or daddy, either. No matter how fascinating the toys and the house, they’re not home. But for a day, they deal. And then… hey! They’re back at home! The way it should be! With mummy and daddy and all their toys! They’re back at home for a long, long time, so long that That Other Place is but a distant memory… and then — BAM! They’re back in that weird place again.

At a day or two a week, it takes a lot longer to make the transition to comfort at daycare, because every day at daycare is The First Day, all over again. There is no rhythm, no momentum, just random Not With Mummy/Daddy (aka WTF) days.

But this new baby? She’s doing remarkably well. Yes, she fusses at drop-off, but it’s mild and she’s readily distracted. She accepts cuddling in a sweetly limp and cuddly way, then wriggles down to get on to the next thing.

But at random intervals, she will suddenly start to wail. In mid-stride, she stops, bites hard on the soother, and cries. Walking from one room to the next, in pursuit of the next item on her very full agenda, she stops dead and squawks.

I know what’s up. I see this a lot with newbies. That sudden, seemingly inexplicable outburst of distress? Each and every time it happens, Newbie Girl has passed through the front hall or faced the south of the house. Each and every time, she has caught sight of The Door That Eats Parents.

Exhibit One: Evil Parent-Eating Door, complete with Sad Baby.

Isn’t that just so pathetic? Don’t you just want to scoop that little mite up and make it all better? But here’s the good news! You CAN make it all better!

It’s very simple: Don’t let her see the door. If she sees the door, she remembers that Daddy left through that door two hours ago, and she is distressed. If she doesn’t see the door, she is perfectly content to toodle around, to sort shapes, to make duplo towers, to lie on Grace. (Who is perfectly content to let her.)

How do you stop her from seeing the door, which is, after all, dead centre in the front hall? The front hall, which is clearly visible from the kitchen, which is one way to get from living room to dining room, which has the stair in it, on which one MUST sit every time Mary goes upstairs to pee. (I don’t make her. She just does that (on those occasions when I don’t take her with me to pee a deux.) It’s rather sweet.)

How do you prevent her from seeing the front door, in short, when it’s pretty much unavoidable?


It’s been two hours since that went up, and we haven’t had one outburst of distress since. The dog is bewildered, mind you. She likes to snooze up against the front door, and so I am doing without my canine draft-stopper for now. But it is worth it, people.

One sheet + a staple-gun = Peace on Earth. Or in my living room, at any rate.


November 22, 2010 Posted by | daycare, Mischief, random and odd | 12 Comments

Leaf Crafting

I found a cute fall craft here at Lovely Nest. If you want complete instructions, follow that link. Here I’ll just describe the few tweaks I added to make the craft a little more toddler-friendly.

I gathered paper plates, each marked with a scribble of a fall colour to help with the colour-sorting.

Not all toddlers can tear. I know, I know, it’s weird. They’ve been ripping pages out of library books since the day they figured out they had hands, and yet making a deliberate tear can be a challenge. A largish piece of paper with little ‘starter tears’ at intervals makes it a whole lot easier.

Just-turned-three Tyler needed instruction from there. “Pull one hand forward, and the other backward.” He was slow and careful on the first few, but soon became an old pro. He never did learn to make the tear without the starter tear, though. Perhaps this is a good thing?

Glue the sorted colours onto squares of paper, cut out your leaf shape, and make the veins. We used glitter glue for ours. The two brown leaves’ veins were made by the just-three, with some hand-over-hand help from me. The yellow and orange were made by the 4.5-year-old, All By Herself.


November 19, 2010 Posted by | crafts | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Your Daily Smile

“Mary…” Tyler hands me a fistful of glitter glue tubes, mercifully capped. “Mary, Rory fell this down.”

November 18, 2010 Posted by | the things they say!, Tyler | 1 Comment

The best medicine

Have you all heard of “Damn You, Auto Correct!” ?

I hadn’t, not before yesterday morning. Oh, my lord, that site is FUNNY.

Laugh-out-loud funny.

Pee-yourself-laughing funny.

Laugh till you cry funny.

Note that last item. If you’ve had a seriously awful time of it lately, if you’ve been putting on a good face and just plodding through it, one foot ahead of the other, if you’ve been feeling life is pretty damned unfair, all in all, and the world shockingly lacking in compassion …

If any of that is true, you might just find yourself laughing, and then laughing till the tears run down your face, and then you might suddenly notice the tears have turned to sobs which shudder through your whole body. Could be you’ll sob until there are no more tears, just the silent, heaving shudders. (Because, you know, you don’t want to be waking people at five in the morning just because that’s when you wake.)

And you might, at the end of all that…

You might feel a whole helluva lot better. You’ll look like hell, mind you, blotchy and swollen and red-rimmed and snotty, but you’ll feel fifty pounds lighter, and you just might feel like you can breathe for the first time in weeks.

It’s not always easy medicine, but it sure is effective.

And is that not the funniest damned site you’ve ever encountered?


November 18, 2010 Posted by | the dark side | , | 15 Comments

Mary’s Little Helper

Ottawa has an organic collection program — aka the compost collection, or The Green Bin. Here is our Green Bin, being filled with fall leaves.






She kept this up for a solid 25 minutes. She’s not fast, but she’s got FOCUS.

November 17, 2010 Posted by | Lily, Ottawa, socializing | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments