It’s Not All Mary Poppins

New Arrival at Mary’s!

Isn’t he sweeeeeeet?

He’s not mine. He’s Emma’s. Emma has been lobbying for a dog of her own, a small dog, for quite some while. She wore me down won me over, and I conceded. Small dog.

He’s small, all right… At 1.9 kg (4 pounds) he’s a smidge overweight, though at only ten weeks, he has a fair bit of growing ahead of him. He’s a miniature poodle/Shih Tzu cross, which makes him, officially, a “Shih Poo”. Emma, however, is seventeen. Is she calling him a “Shih Poo”? She is not.

She is calling him a “Shit Poo”. Of course.

He’s a laptop dog.

His name… is Romeo.

And what does Indie, our resident dog, think of him?

Well, after careful inspection… “It smells like a dog”…

“Though I dunno… do dogs come that small?…”

They discovered that they have at least a few doggie interests in common…

Hey, you guys! Don’t be chewing the shoes!!

December 29, 2010 Posted by | my kids, the dog | , , , , | 15 Comments

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2010 Posted by | Christmas | 4 Comments

Christmas is coming…

…And I have dishpan hands…

So far this morning, we have:
-baked banana bread
-cleaned up after baking
-decorated the cookies we made yesterday
-cleaned up after decorating
-finished the gifts for the parents
-cleaned up after the gift-making
-made wrapping paper for the gifts for the parents
-cleaned up after the wrapping paper making

It’s only 10:15.

One of us needs a nap.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Christmas, crafts | | 1 Comment

Cookies and tape and glue, oh my!

“We drew you pictures, Mary!” Tyler and Emily have been working diligently at the dining table for a good fifteen minutes. Diligently working on A Secret Thing. I knew it was Secret, because each time I walked past, Emily would THROW herself over her paper, and then paste an expression of studious casual-ness on her round face.

“Me? I’M not doing anything special. I’m just… resting… on my paper here. Yup, yup, yup.” She didn’t SAY any of that, of course. She’s FIVE now, and has mastered the art of subtlety.

Uh-huh.

Tyler, age three and one month, is less adroit with the subtlety. He does understand A Secret, though. Each time I walk past, while Emily lunges over her page with so-casual panic, Tyler starts to WHISPER.

“I’m just making you a…”

Happily, his whisper is so very muted that I honestly can’t hear a thing, so the Secret remains (amazingly) Secret.

When they are finished, they come find me in the kitchen, where I am helping Rory in his never-ending duplo-block-and-car play. Rory loves Duplo blocks, cars, playdough and shape-sorting above all things. That’s pretty much all he plays at Mary’s house, and he’s a master at… well, shape-sorting. He totally rocks the shape sorter. The other things? He mostly just strews playdough toys around, and though he’s pretty good at building towers, what he really loves to do with the blocks is scatter them around the kitchen floor.

So, out in the kitchen, I am helping Rory build garages for the cars when Emily and Tyler bring me their Secret pictures.

“It’s a cookie,” Emily points to one brown blot splotched with various smaller vari-coloured splotches. “It’s a cookie with sprinkles on it. And this,” she indicates what looks to be a star comprised of blueberries, “is a snowflake.”

“I mades a cookie.” Tyler explains the brown scribble topped with blue scribbles. (There are about forty markers in the bin they were using. I don’t know why they restricted themselves to brown and blue.) “And I hid the chocolate chips so they would be a surprise!” A closer inspection does reveal that there are indeed brown spots under the blue scribbles.

And now, having admired their artwork sufficiently, we need to find a place to display them. Emily races to the fridge, and then stands bemused before it. It’s Christmas, don’t you know. Christmas and the end of the year. Combine school notices, party invitations, shopping lists and to-do lists with the piles of things that need to go on next year’s calendar — next year’s calendar which can’t be hung until this year’s calendar is done — and you have one overcrowded fridge. There is not a spare square inch on there. There is not a single magnet which is not holding three times its weight limit, hanging on to the fridge through sheerest magnetic willpower.

Not the fridge, then. “We’ll use the wall by the calendar.” I send Emily to get the masking tape when little Grace arrives. When I return to the task, Emily is tearing off a piece of tape so as to hang her artwork, and Tyler’s is already stuck to the wall.

Stuck, with no visible means of support. Not a sign of tape anywhere. For all her many clevernesses, Emily does not know how to roll the tape so as to hide it. Nor are there any give-away bumps in the page.

“Did you stick this on the wall, Emily?”

“No, Tyler did.”

“You did? How did you stick it there, Tyler?”

“Glue!”

Glue? I peel away a corner. Glue. Lots and lots and looooots of glue. Oh, my.

“Tyler, lovie. We don’t stick things to the wall with glue, only with masking tape, okay?”

He takes it well as I remove his drawing from the wall, probably because I’m laughing, and Tyler loves, loves, loves to make jokes. Even ones he’s the butt of. Even ones he doesn’t get. I’m laughing, that’s good enough for Tyler. Well, not quite: He can tell if the laughter is sarcastic or mocking, but he understands that mine isn’t.

He even helps me wash the glue off the wall.

And now, you’ll have to excuse us. We’re about to make Christmas cookies. REAL ones!!!

December 21, 2010 Posted by | Christmas, crafts, Emily, food, Tyler | , , , | 3 Comments

Little kids have so much ENERGY!!!

I wish.

“Happy birss-day to you!
Happy birss-day to you!”

Tyler and Emily are making birthday cakes from playdough. When a birthday cake is completed, one must present it to the birthday boy or girl in song. Of course.

“Happy boouth-day, to you!”

It’s a catchy little ditty. The sort that very quickly becomes an ear worm.

“Happy boouth-day, dear Tyler!”

Well, it would be a catchy little ditty if it were sung the way you’re probably hearing it in your head. The version I’m hearing…

“Haaaaappyyyyy biiiiiirrrsssss-daaaaaay, deeeeeear Eeeemilllllly”

…the version I’m hearing has all the vitality of the Song of the Volga Boatmen.

“Haaaappyyyy biirrrirsssss-daaaaay toooo yooooooou!”

Happy Birthday as a funeral march.

“Haaaa-peeee biiiiirssss-daaaaaay toooooo yoooooou…”

Lugubrious to the max.

“Aaaaand maaaaannyyyyyy mooooore.”

Oh, please, no. I’m getting more depressed by the minute.

December 20, 2010 Posted by | Emily, Tyler | , , , | 2 Comments

But why?

Four times in the past ten days, I’ve received an email asking if I would allow someone or other to write a “guest blog” on “Day Care Daze”.

I learn two things from the request:

1. Whoever they are, they don’t know much about blogging. The entire thing is the “blog”. One article is a “post”. What they want to provide is called a “guest post”. Not a big deal, perhaps, but why would I surrender my blog to someone who doesn’t even have the terminology?

2. They don’t read the blog. “Day Care Daze” is the URL, not the name of my blog.

Moreover, they’ve told me very little about themselves, given only the most general indication of their topic, and none of them provided links to samples their writing. (Indicating either they’re not very savvy, or, more likely, they haven’t written elsewhere.) So, I’m supposed to hand the blog over to an inexperienced someone to say… something… without even knowing if they can say it well? Without their even having attempted to explain why I might want to do this? If you don’t have a blog, you don’t have a readership; you’re not going to bring readers my way. In other words: what’s in it for me? Why would I do this? Why would you think I’d be interested? This is just so weird.

“Hi there! I’m a total stranger, I’ve probably never read your blog (certainly I’ve never once commented), and I don’t have a blog of my own, but I want you to let me post on your blog!!!” (And, said one particularly confident young man, I will do this FREE OF CHARGE!!) Whee!

Is there something I’m missing? Is this somehow not as presumptuous as I think it is?

December 17, 2010 Posted by | Peeve me, random and odd | 12 Comments

12 Days of Christmas… with a porcupine

I was strolling through the Glebe, a nice little residential area here in Ottawa which surrounds a short but lively stretch of street, home to all sorts of interesting shops. Small stores. Apart from the honkin’ big Shoppers Drug Mart at the north end, and the requisite coffee shops, not one of them is a cookie-cutter store. There are some small chain stores, but many are owner-operated. They’re all interesting, they’re all fun to poke around in.

And there, in the window of Miss Tiggywinkle’s, was this book. I don’t often shop at Tiggywinkle’s. It’s lovely, but a bit pricey. Correction: I often shop at Tiggywinkle’s. I don’t often purchase there. When it comes to toys, I am the Queen of Garage sales and outlets. :)

But! A book! And so cute!

A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas. I bought not one, but two, copies. One for my own entertainment/amusement, and one for Rory for Christmas. Rory is very musical, and his parents will appreciate the quirky humour of the book. It’ll be a hit all round, I’m quite sure.

As it should be. This book is adorable. The text is fun and pleasingly silly. The illustrations capture the sense of fun and silliness and magnify it ten times. There is no way not to read sing this book without laughing.

I’m not going to scoop copyrighted pictures, but what I can do is send you to the illustrator’s website. Because yes! He has a blog! I love the behind-the-scenes information about how the pictures were conceived and brought to life. Fascinating.

I enjoyed the sweetly bemused porcupine. (Though, really, it looks entirely too cuddly.) I love the calling moose and the stunned beavers. But about those three beaver tails? Beaver Tails? Living in Ottawa as I do, Beaver Tails does not mean the scaly tail of a real-life beaver. It means a pastry, sold in one of these:

(A pastry which, in the interests of the svelte-ness of my butt, I do not ingest too frequently. (But, if anyone’s interested? Killaloe (pronounced Kill-a-loo) Sunrise is THE BEST. Sugar and lemon on a hot, flat, deep-fried pastry the size of your two hands put together. Nommmmmmm…))

The Mounties munching are fun — though really, those should be Tim Hortons doughnuts. This being a Canadian 12 Days and all.

Updated to add: Oh, wait! Just sang it through again, and noted that on day nine, when the sled dogs are absconding with the Mounties’ box of doughnuts, the box is emblazoned with something that looks suspiciously like the Tim Horton stripes…

My first laugh of the book was day five. You know how in the original version, “five golden rings” is the dramatic pause in the song, those notes that you spread out and wallow in? “Five gooool-dennnn rinnnnngs”, a long, slow, dramatic yodel, before picking up the pace and skipping through the next four items. As long and dramatic as you care to make it — and around here, we err on the side of ham.

Well in this one, this Canadian version, it’s Five Stanley Cups.

What else could it possibly be?

Five Stannnnn-ley Cuuuuuuuuups. Declaimed with the full fervency of a true and passionate hockey fan. But of course. (Not that I am one, mind you, but good reading demands Drama at the right moments. And I can deliver the Drama!)

Five Stannnnnn-ley Cuuuuuuuups!!!!! (Complete with outflung orchestra-conductor arm.)

My second laugh was day seven: Seven sled dogs sledding, in which the sled dogs zip by from right to left, three of them with their paws held aloft, in the stereotypical daredevil roller-coaster-rider pose. In every page thereafter, they zip from left to right, then right to left, always in process of stealing the Mounties’ doughnuts, always with their paws up. Wheeeee! Love those dogs.

My all-time favourite page? Day Ten. The Leafs a-leaping. For you non-Canadians, The Toronto Maple Leafs is a hockey team. (My youngest, born and bred Ottawan that she is, snorted at that. “The Leafs? They’re a loser team.” Unlike our Ottawa Senators?? Um, yeah… (I think that’s an ironical-type joke, but I could be wrong.) Me, I know NOTHING about hockey. Well, as ‘nothing’ as it’s possible for a Canadian woman married to a hockey fan to know.)

So we have Stanley Cups — the ultimate hockey prize — FIVE of them. And we have TEN hockey players. And, through all the pages in which the Leafs appear, they try and try and trrrrrryyyy to get their hands on the Cup… and they can’t.quite.do it.

Much like real life, where it has been (take a deep breath) FORTY-THREE YEARS since they’ve won one. 1967, our Centennial Year, was the last time the Stanley Cup ever graced the Leafs.

So it amuses me, every time I read sing this book to the tots, to see the Leafs straining to reach the prize that remains forever out of their grasp. Mwah-ha. And I simply don’t believe Mr. Zimmermann didn’t do that on purpose. Which makes me like him even more.

(Oh, and if you’re trying to sing it and having trouble fitting the lyrics to the tune? The new words fit with the old ones like this:

And a porcu pi-ine in a pine tree
And a par…. tri-idge in a pear tree)

This is a great book. Absolutely worth the fifteen or so dollars it cost me. We’ve been singing it two or three times a day for a week, and I’m nowhere near sick of it.

A very good sign!

December 16, 2010 Posted by | books, Canada, Christmas, holidays, Ottawa | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

So there

Tyler (just turned three) is playing hide and seek with Emily (just turned five).

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, TEN!!! Ready or not, here I come!!!” Tyler runs immediately to Emily, who looks a bit bemused.

“Tyler, what are you doing?”

“Playing hide and seek!”

“But Tyler, you were hiding. You don’t count when you’re hiding!”

“I am playing hide and seek!”

“Well, if you’re going to do all the parts by yourself, I am going to do a puzzle.”

Big sisters are such hard-asses.

December 15, 2010 Posted by | Emily, Tyler | 2 Comments

When the traditions aren’t your values: Re-working traditions

(I first posted this in 2006. It seemed worth re-visiting.)

When my oldest was very little, I noticed something. It happened in the weeks coming up to Christmas. It happened All.The.Time. It seemed delightful the first time, innocuous the tenth time, even the twentieth time, but by the hundredth time, I was beginning to have serious concerns.

I am out in a mall, first week of December. A neighbour, a friend, a little old lady approaches, smile at my adorable tot with her nimbus of blond curls and the grey eyes big enough to swim in, and said…

“And what’s Santa bringing you this year?”

You know what? Even at less than two, I wanted my child to know that Christmas is about giving, not getting. And she was understanding this! We were making presents for family. We were baking treats to give to neighbours and unexpected friends dropping by. The whole while we did this, we chatted about how happy gramma would be, or Mrs. Goodman across the street would be, to receive our gift. How much fun it was going to be to see her smile and be excited.

This was what Christmas was about, for my child. And then every single time we went out in public, ten times an outing, people would loom into her space and ask, “What are you GETTING? What do you WANT?”

This was NOT on my agenda for my child. This was counter to my values, counter to what I wanted for her.

At that time in my life, I was also a more conventionally devout Christian than I am now. I didn’t like the way that Santa had totally upstaged the Baby Jesus. How could he not? Jesus was an unassuming presence, a baby wrapped in strips of worn cloth in a dingy cowshed. The angels offered a bit of glitz and glitter, but nothing like Santa, with his promise of unleashed, unrepentant acquisitiveness, greed and ME,ME,ME, GET,GET,GET.

My solution?

We would not “do” Santa.

Not in the North American sense, anyway. Instead, we talked about St. Nicholas, “a bishop from Myra in Asia Minor (the greater part of modern-day Turkey), who used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering”. We looked at different ways Santa (St.Nick, Father Christmas, Sinterklaas) was portrayed in other cultures.

When we saw him in the malls, they could, if they wished, go sit on his lap, even though they knew The Truth. They knew these men were just nice people being kind to little children. (Not such a bad thing to know, hmm?) I even paid for the odd picture.

Not believing gave us freedom to play with the norms. Haley decided, when she was seven or so, that it made much more sense in our snow-bound country were Santa’s sleigh to be pulled by fire-breathing dragons. Her Christmas artwork that year included a few renditions of this idea. Lyrical, creative, imaginative – and shockingly untraditional!

The kids were carefully coached in not spilling the beans to friends – nor even to those well-meaning adults. It would be unkind. We don’t want to make people sad at Christmas!

So, when those well-meaning people approached with their “And what is Santa bringing YOU?” questions, the conversation would go as follows.
Child: I don’t know what I’m getting. It’s a surprise!
Me: Why don’t you tell Mrs. Sweet about the present you’re making for gramma?
Child, face lighting up in a most gratifying way, launches into enthusiastic description.

Time and again, people would respond with a wave of warmth and admiration for these kids who really did enjoy the giving. (Ironic, when you consider it was these same people who had highlighted the problem of teaching greed so clearly to me, but of course, that was not their intention.)

Now, when I greet a child before Christmas, I ask if they’re excited about it. I ask what they’re looking forward to most. (Happily, it isn’t always the gifts they anticipate!) I ask if they are doing anything special with mommy and daddy, if they will see gramma and grampa, if they have their tree up. I ask about their school Holiday Concert and/or their church Christmas concert. In short, I ask about anything and everything but presents – because Christmas is about much more than presents!

Although I’m not intending to suggest that anyone else follow my example re: Santa, I do think it’s good practice to step outside cultural norms once in a while. Think them through. Determine whether they apply to you and your family, and act accordingly. Sometimes “It’s traditional!!” isn’t justification enough.

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Christmas | , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Toddler Christmas Craft

Super simple, and I’m sure you’ve come across it before. We do it every year, in one form or another. Today I have only Rory and Lily, and right now, Lily is sleeping. So Rory and I got out the supplies — paint, cookie cutters, paper. (The paper is from an enormous roll of tracing paper I got in the Great Design Firm Cast-off Haul. The goodness, it just keeps on coming!)

If you want a product that will actually be attractive enough to use, keep the colour choice simple, and give the child only one colour at a time. If you’re only in this for the fun of creating, let the kid go wild. We did a little of both. (That’s Rory’s pudgy hand. Can you tell how much FUN he’s having? Because he totally was.)

Fun, fun, fun…

soooooo much fun!

And when Lily, who celebrated Hanukkah last week, but will not celebrate Christmas, when she wakes up, she, too, will make wrapping paper, only we’ll use the butterfly and heart shapes (her favourites), in yellow and red (which she seems to particularly like) and it can be all-purpose wrap.

Fun!

December 13, 2010 Posted by | Christmas, crafts | , , , | 1 Comment

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