It’s Not All Mary Poppins

I love to organize

Once upon a time, I taught kindergarten. It’s not surprising, then, that when I get an interested four- (or sometimes three-) year-old in the ranks, I start with the Educational Activities. Wait, now. I can’t think of anything that isn’t educational at this age … no what I like to indulge in are Overtly Pedagogical Activities.

Like this:

Here’s the whole thing. We have calendar pages (which you can find here), so that we can cross off the days as they happen, and see a day, a week, a month, in chart form.

Insofar as this is a chart that the children are reading, and insofar as we count the days each day, it’s math activity, but primarily, of course, it’s Reading.

Emily (just turned five) looooooves this activity. Love, love, loves it. She’s becoming a reader these days. In less than six months, she’ll be reading. (It could be less than six weeks. I’ve seen that happen before. My eldest went from reading picture books with one line of text per page to reading Little House on the Prairie books in one year. Once they’re ready to go, they can go like the wind!) Little brother Tyler will probably read at a younger age than Emily, because he copies her every move practices with her, every day. It’s adorable.

This activity, though, has lots of little pieces. Twelve months, five days, thirty-one numbers, plus the weather and activity vocabulary words, which are increasing daily. I did have a couple of envelopes taped to the wall, but they soon became so jumbled you could never find anything. They also kept falling off the wall. More jumbledness.

I needed a SYSTEM. And then I found this book, part of the smorgasbord of wonderful craft supplies I got from my designer friend. Originally, it stored wallpaper samples. Now, it will store WORDS!!!

Each page has three pockets on it. The pockets are cut from clear plastic (in my case, page-protectors, because that’s what I had), and held in place with electrician’s tape on the sides and along the bottom.

You can see better with the number page. The tape down the sides and across the bottom of each pocket. If you look carefully you can see the faint line where the plastic ends at the top of each pocket.

You still have to be a bit careful –the book has to stand upright when you open it, or words will slide out — but it’s a whole lot better than two messy, overstuffed envelopes on my dining room wall (or worse, scattered over the floor with the dog-furballs (dogfur balls?)!

This makes me happy.

December 10, 2010 Posted by | crafts, Developmental stuff | , , , , | 3 Comments

Happy Christmukah!


what we did


And we hardly ate any at all!

Really. 😀

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Christmas, crafts, food | , , , , | 1 Comment

Be still, my heart


It’s hard to write the sound of a child gasping for air and not getting it, the sound of a child struggling to breathe, unsuccessfully.

It’s probably not hard for you to imagine the cold jolt of terror that shoots down my spine and bursts open in my gut when I hear it. How my heart stops for a second, and I freeze in my tracks. How my eyes widen as I — quick, quick, quick — scan one face after another!

One happy, healthy, pink-cheeked face. After another.


Rory smiles at me. Little Rory who has a vocabulary of about 12 words right now. Little Rory, previously the Silent One, is just emerging into the wonderful word of words … and sounds. And hey! Isn’t that just the COOLEST sound, Mary? That I just learned to make? And that I will spend the rest of the day practicing? Over and over again?????

And every time I hear it, EVERY TIME, I get the same cold jolt of terror. And I always check. Of course. Only now I start with Rory.


Oh, lordy. I’m not sure my heart will survive this phase…

December 8, 2010 Posted by | Mischief, Rory, the things they say! | , , , , | 7 Comments

“Average” is not an insult

Lily is a chatterbox. A sponge for language. She absorbs new words — and spews them back out again — at a tremendous rate. Today’s new one? “Catapult.” “Cah-pull.” She doesn’t know what it means, but she sure does like the way it rolls around in her mouth.

“Rory. Those chick peas are for eating, and you’re not a catapult.” (In case you were wondering.)

“Cah-pull, cah-pull!”

It’s very cute. A friend comments, “She’s very good with language! I believe every child has their area of excellence.”


Know what? I don’t.

Lily is a chatterbox, and she certainly has an affinity for language. Her vocabulary is about 50 times greater than Rory’s (a pretty standard boy-girl variation at this age), but also than Grace’s (but then, Grace is processing two languages simultaneously). But is this ‘excellence’?

Nope. She’s good with words, but not extraordinarily so. Lily falls solidly within the parameters of ‘normal’. As do Rory and Grace. ‘Normal’ is a pretty broad field. Most of us fall into it. (Which is, after all, what makes it ‘normal’.)

Think about it. If we were all “above average”, then that would be, by definition, “average”. You can’t escape the laws of statistics.

A child who has been told since birth that they’re exceptional for their perfectly standard accomplishments will have very little motivation to strive hard to excel. Why would they, when just chattering up a storm, stacking four blocks, tying your shoes, singing the alphabet, is sufficient to have people marvelling at your ‘excellence’?

Take pleasure in your child’s accomplishments. Expect them to work hard to excel within their capabilities. But to expect exceptionality? Totally unfair. I think it’s arguable that everyone has areas of particular competence, but true ‘excellence’? I doubt it.

“I think mummy… at work.” Lily declares.

Wait, now. A five-word sentence… at 21 (22?) months old…


I guess, by that same law of averages, some kids really are exceptional, right?

December 7, 2010 Posted by | Developmental stuff, Lily | , , , | 7 Comments


If you arrange to come visit a prospective daycare, and discover you won’t be able to make it after all, it would be polite to phone and let the provider know that.

‘Course, my house is now cleaner than it’s been in a week…

December 7, 2010 Posted by | daycare, parents, Peeve me, the dark side | 1 Comment

A bit of a mystery…

Lily comes in wailing. She’s been doing that for the last little while. The sudden reversal, however, is not the mystery. It’s not unusual for a previously chipper child to suddenly evidence reluctance, even outright distress, at drop-offs. Parents love to speculate why this happens — a visiting gramma, a cold, some disruption of the routine — and sometimes they’re right. Very often, however, it’s just another of those inexplicable vagaries of young children. Something set them off, obviously, but we will likely never know what it is. This particular one usually goes away by itself in fairly short order, so long as all the adults stay calm and upbeat in the child’s presence. Don’t make a big deal of it, and it won’t be one. It will pass. As so many things do.

The more I work with young children, the less I worry about the ‘why’ of things. Sometimes it’s obvious, and I’m happy when it is, but mostly we have to respond to things without knowing the ‘why’. And you know what? It works. You hardly ever really need to know why.

Why do we want to know why? Because it gives we adults a feeling of control, or, in this case, competence. If we know why something is happening, we’re three-quarters of the way to solving it, right? Weeellllll… maybe… Thing is, you’re never going to be totally in control (which is not an excuse for out-of-control children, ahem) and, more importantly, knowing why has essentially NO correlation to competence. You can be 100% in the dark about why something is happening, and still be a very competent parent.

I am a competent caregiver, and sometimes I have only the foggiest inklings of why something is happening. But I am also a very experienced caregiver, which means I don’t sweat it. My own curiosity would looooove to know what on earth is going on in that wee mind, but if I never find out, it doesn’t mean I’m one whit less effective and competent as a caregiver.

Kids are weird, is all.

Just like the rest of us…

So. Lily. Coming in wailing. In fact, I do have a theory: she’s tired. She comes in wailing, and stays whiny as long as she’s awake. She needs 100% of my attention. I must hold her at all times. If I so much as look at another child, the low-level whine ratchets up a notch. If I set her down, she moves up to full-bore wailing. If another child inadvertently bumps into her, in the bumper-car way of a semi-coordinated, oblivious toddler, she wails louder. If I serve apples for snack and she wanted Cheerios, she wails. (She ALWAYS wants Cheerios, and, sadly for her, I serve them only intermittently.)

In short, she is one miserable little camper. Miserable in herself, miserable to be around.

But put her down for a nap, and, after some initial wailing, she settles in for a substantial snooze. And when she wakes? Lily’s Evil Twin has left us (praise be) and Delightful Lily is back. Delightful Lily, let it hereby be related, is the cutest, funnest, nicest, just the most damned engaging child you’d ever want to meet. I adore Delightful Lily. The Evil Twin… not so adorable. At all.

The contrast between Tired Lily and Rested Lily is dramatic. Doctor Jekyll had nothing on this kid.

So I’m pretty sure I know the root cause of this particular behaviour. Even better, Lily sort of gets it, too. For the last week or so, when she arrives, wailing, she will lie her head on my shoulder and say (in a long, drawn-out, truly annoying whine), “Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaap!”

Well, okay then. Good to know we’re on the same page, sister.

Here’s where it gets weird. So I put her down, for the nap she asked for. I give her her soother, tuck her in and say, “Have a nice nap. When you wake up, you will feel SO MUCH BETTER!!” Because she will.

And Lily? Now that she’s all settled in for the nap she demanded?

She cries.



So I go into her room. “Lily, do you want to have a nap?”


This seems clear enough, but I’m canny enough to know that it often pays to ask the opposite question. If I get a “yes” to it… well, it’s just not so clear anymore, darnit.

“Do you want to come upstairs?”


That seems clear enough. Let’s double-check.

“Do you want to play blocks with Rory?”

“No! Nap!”

Okay, then. She doesn’t want to come upstairs, she doesn’t want to play, she wants to nap. All-righty, then. Napping is good. We can do that. So I leave the room, and…

she wails.

Is that not so weird?

Toddlers are weird.

And this one is also tired, so… I walk away. We both know what she needs, but I can’t do it for her. And in a few minutes (5? 10? 15?) all is quiet.

Ninety minutes or so later, she wakes, cheerful, happy and ready for her day.

But what a noodle. She’s tired, she knows it. She doesn’t want to be up and playing, she wants a nap. So I give her the time and space and comfy spot to have that nap, and she OBJECTS!


December 6, 2010 Posted by | Lily, sleep | , , | 6 Comments


Hang on while I dry my hands, okay?

There’s a cold going around. It’s just a cold. In the interests of all of our continued employment, I don’t make parents keep their children home for colds. If there’s a fever with it, yes, they stay home. If there’s a mystery rash with it, they stay home. But if it’s a garden-variety cold, just a cough and a snotty nose? Unless the child is so under the weather that they are miserable, they can come. Odds are they got the cold here, anyway.

I think I’ll just go wash my hands now. One of the kids just walked by the keyboard. You never know.

Lest your delicate blood pressures be pounding in your ears at the very thought of a sniffly, snotty child at daycare, remember that maternity leaves in Canada are a full year long. Thus there are very rarely any children less than a year or so old in my care. If I had a babe in arms in the mix, a solely breast-feeding child, I might be more protective/restrictive. But year old children? All of them walking, almost-talking, sturdy little bodies?

They can handle a cold.

I think I’ll just give my hands a quick scrub. Back in a sec.

So can I. Snotty noses don’t gross me out much, no matter how smeary. Coughs are worse, because — Agh! COVER! Cover your mouth!! — and sneezes? Sneezes can be deadly, wet and (ugh) loaded. Blergh.

I think I need more soap. This bar’s getting a bit thin.

Until this month, a snotty cold with a lot of sneezing was top of my “grossness of colds” list. But this month, with this virus, we have a new variant. And boy, it is making the rounds. One of the parents told me that 40 of the last 60 children her pediatrician had seen were sporting this symptom.

Not a cough. Not a particularly runny nose. Not even much in the way of sneezing. No fever, either.

No, with this cold, it’s the eyes. Gloppy, glorpy eyes.

Not as bad as sneezing, really, because they don’t spray the glop. Not even as bad as coughing, because again, no spray. And two of the families’ pediatricians say the same thing: just a virus, a weird cold variant, no cause for concern.

No cause for concern, as in, it’s not damaging them. But… blergh! Their red eyes! The goop in the corners! Great globs of whitish sludge clogging their eyelids and lashes. Poor babies. And poor me: bathing those eyes once or twice an hour. With a clean cloth. Every time.

And then washing my hands.

And washing some more.

And then I catch myself pushing my hair out of my eyes. And AGH! Did I touch my eye? Did I wash my hands? Maybe I should wash them again… I think I’ll wash them again. And wash them a second time, just to be sure.

I’m pretty sure the Creeping Eye Ick is not uncomfortable. The children with the goopy eyes are not rubbing them, or poking them, or evidencing any discomfort at all. In fact, they appear to be blissfully unaware that their eyeballs are rotting out of their wee sockets.

Which means that if I get it… I won’t know. Until I’m as gross as they are.

It’s a good thing I work from home.

For now, I rely on my much-vaunted cast iron immune system.

And a whole lot of hand washing.

Excuse me.

December 1, 2010 Posted by | eeewww, health and safety | 11 Comments