It’s Not All Mary Poppins

How do you Handle the Candy?

The daycare Halloween Party was all it should be: small children in ADORABLE COSTUMES!!!, lots of good food, conversation which got steadily louder and more animated, only one whining child (bonus!), a few adult costumes, too, a bonus grandmother, and a happy mess when everyone left.

(Mental note: next potluck party, I ask everyone to bring their own dishes and cutlery. Much quicker clean-up when they take their dirty dishes home!!)

They talked about Halloween, of course. And with Halloween came the Big Question: What do you Do with the Candy?

There are two main schools of dealing with candy:

1. The Gluttons. Let the kids go wild. Let them chomp their way unsupervised through the entire bag as quickly as they want. And then we brush and brush and brush our teeth.

2. The Rationers. Parents take ownership of the bag, and dole out candies, one or two a day, until they’re gone.

There are some variants:

The Hoarders: parents who take some candies and set them aside for Christmas stockings or upcoming events. (November birthday party? PERFECT!)

The Hiders: parents who take a portion of the candies and set them aside FOR THEMSELVES!!!

The Eliminators: parents who take candies and THROW.THEM.OUT.

(It is far, far better that these three be done in secret. Do not let your children know, if these are in your candy-dealing arsenal. Well, except the Eliminator. That one is hard to hide…)

One approach discussed at the party which was totally new to me:

The Scientists: You eliminate the candies by performing science experiments on them. How do they handle water? (Some will dissolve right away!) What’s their boiling point? I don’t know what all else you could do, but apparently there are all sorts of ways to scientifically eliminate candy without ingesting them.

Another approach was discussed: take the candy away.

“She doesn’t know what’s going on,” one mother said of her daughter. “So I’m just going to take the bag when we get home, and it’ll vanish.”

Inside my head, I rolled my eyes. (You’ve never done that? It’s a useful trick, if a bit painful… You’ll use it a lot when your kids are teens.) You think? She might not know now, but as soon as that first handful gets dropped in the bag, SHE’LL KNOW. You can trust me on that. I didn’t feel the need to say any of that. Experience will prove me right. (Or wrong, but I doubt it.) Natural consequences: Not just for toddlers!

Emma, however, was horrified: “What? Let them go out, but don’t let them have their candy?!?!?” She shook her head, disgusted. “That’s totally unfair. These are toddlers. If you don’t want them getting more than a couple of handfuls of candy, you only take them to three houses. Pfft.” (Obviously, this occurred in a conversation with me after the party. My polite Emma did not say this to the mother.)

Now, I have my preferred method. Not that I need it any more, with my three giant, grown-up children. But I’m not going to tell you what it is yet. (Okay, so I did pretty much tell you I think the “take them away” option is not highly favoured.)

I want to know from you: What do you do with the candy? Dole it out? Let them gorge? Something else?

October 31, 2011 Posted by | holidays, parenting | , , | 22 Comments

Halloween Party

October 28, 2011 Posted by | commemoration, daycare | , , | 4 Comments

Halloween Craft: Jack o’lantern suncatchers

Super-easy toddler (and up) craft.

Clear Contac paper (Contac paper – a brand of shelf paper)
Black permanent marker
Orange tissue paper

1. With the backing still on the Contac paper, draw a pumpkin face on the clear side. (The kids can do this, too, of course. That’s Jazz’s tummy. She didn’t want to draw her own.)
2. Peel off the backing, and tape the Contac, sticky side up, onto your work surface. (So it doesn’t slither all over.)
3. Tear tissue paper into smallish pieces. Older kids can do this themselves. My kids only crunched the paper into completely unusable smoodged-up blobs of paper when they tried this…
4. Completely cover the pumpkin face with tissue, going past the edge of the picture.

5. Cut out the pumpkin face. Cute, fun, and easy!

October 26, 2011 Posted by | crafts, holidays | , , , , | 3 Comments

Willing, but clueless…

Daniel is a tank. We know that. We know that he’s cheerful and happy and well-intentioned, but that he’s also a big, unempathetic doofus when it comes to the other children. Other children are fun! He loves them! He loves to smile at them. He loves to watch them. He loves to run with them. Sometimes when he lumbers along runs with them, he bumps into them and the fall right over! He loves that, too, because it’s very interesting when that happens.

Yesterday, Daniel was loving the thick, chunky sweaters that everyone is suddenly sporting. He loves their colours, he loves their texture. He was particularly loving Grace’s sweater, because it had big bright wooly buttons on it. Buttons just begging to be clutched in giant meaty fists. Begging, I tell you! And Daniel? He is not the man to deny something that so obviously NEEDS TO BE DONE.

Daniel clutched Grace’s sweater-buttons. Anchored by the substantial bulk of Daniel, Grace can go nowhere. Being the passive little thing she is, she just stands there, eyes wide and alarmed, hoping that somehow, if she just stands very still and quiet and does absolutely nothing, she will magically be freed. (And yes, sometimes I just watch and refuse to bail her out, to see if I can force her to take action.) Just as she’s beginning to panic, another child — in another chunky sweater!!! — toddles by. Grace is saved. Rory, however, is now anchored. Rory, being a different sort than our Grace, does not take this passively.

“Daniel, yet go of my sweater!!!” Good for him, using his words!! Of course, his words are completely useless. (I often consider how apparently unfair it is that we insist they “use their words” when really? With young toddlers? Words don’t work. We all know that. I do it, of course, because you have to start somewhere! And if you don’t begin the expectation young, when will they learn it? Still, the irony of praising Rory for using his words when WE ALL KNOW they won’t work, never escapes me…)

So. He used his words, and his words didn’t work. Surprise, surprise. Rory grabs Daniel’s wrists and attempted to wrench himself free. A perfectly reasonable use of physical force, I figured, and a reasonable second step when the words didn’t work. Daniel holds firm, though, a wide grin stretching over his face. Rory is holding his hands! This is interaction! This is fun!!!

Rory has tried his words and has taken reasonable action. His next step will undoubtedly be equally reasonable, given the circumstances, but less acceptable. Time to intervene. I kneel down in front of them.

“Daniel. Rory said ‘Let go.’ You need to let go of Rory’s sweater.” As I say the second “let go”, I am peeling Daniel’s hands from the sweater. “Let go. Thank you.” Daniel’s hands lunge for the sweater again. I block and re-grab his wrists. Time for a redirection.

“Daniel. Daniel, hands are not for grabbing. Hands are for hugging. Can you give Rory a hug?”

Well, now! THAT is one of THE BEST IDEAS Daniel has EVER HEARD! His face lights up like someone flipped a switch. His eyes sparkle, his beaming grin widens even further. (Who knew it was possible to grin that big?)

“Huh! HuH!” He flings his arms wide and latches them onto a rather stiff and uncertain Rory.

“Isn’t that nice, Rory? Daniel is giving you a hug! That is so nice! That’s right, Daniel. Hug. Hands are for hugging.”

Rory is reassured. Somewhat. And permits the onslaught of affection.

“Huh! Huh!” Daniel is loving this. This is SO! MUCH! FUN!!!

“Hug. That’s right. You’re giving Rory a nice hug!”

Grace toodles by.

“Huh! Huh!” Daniel releases Rory and barrels toward Grace, arms wide. Happily, Grace is right in front of a chair, so she’s only knocked back into the padded cushion rather than flattened to the floor when The Hug makes impact. More soothing, reassuring noises from me, helping Grace to understand that no, this is not an attack, this is love. She smiles, more warmly than Rory managed, and gives Daniel an enthusiastic hug back. Then she pats his head and kisses his cheek.

(Oh, I could just melt from the cuteness some days.)

“Good boy, Daniel. Now you’re hugging Grace! That’s right. Hands are for hugging. Good for you!”

Well, now. Hugs, pats, AND kisses? And noises of encouragement and praise from Mary? Daniel is all over that! Who else can he hug?

Round the room Daniel goes, hugging one child after another. Now that they understand what’s going on — it’s love, not attack… well, it’s an attack of love, not aggression — the others are all into the game. Rory gets hugged again, then Jazz. Grace, then Jazz. Rory, then Grace, then Jazz.

“Oh, isn’t that nice? All those hugs! Hands are for hugging!”

And then Daniel spots Poppy, who has been playing quietly with a toy in the next room, oblivious to the hands-are-for-hugging love-fest going on in the living room.

“Huh! Huh!” He moves toward her. Except he’s surrounded by the other three huggees. “Huh! Huh!” He has Poppy in his sites, and love in his heart… but the way is blocked. What to do?

If you’re Daniel, the solution is clear.

“Huh! Huh!” Jazz staggers one direction, Grace another as Daniel bulldozes his way through. Grace plops down on her butt, Jazz grabs Rory and manages to stay upright.

“Huh! Huh!” I’m not quite quick enough. Poppy lies on the floor under Daniel, crushed by the hug.

Of five children, three are on the floor, one is staggering, and one upright but shaken.

Because hands? Are for hugging.

October 25, 2011 Posted by | aggression, behavioural stuff, Daniel, Developmental stuff | , , , | 6 Comments

A new one for Mary

A new experience for Mary! Doesn’t happen all that often any more. But this week? I have had a Brand New Work Experience.

As you recall, at the end of our Great Potty Adventure Week, we had one trained, one not trained, and one half-baked trained.

The parents’ response is predictable. Well, almost.

Grace’s parents continue with the potty training and home, and are eagerly awaiting my willingness to begin round two here. That’s predictable. Rory’s parents, sweet, deluded people that they are, went out and bought some Smarties, thinking that might magically tip the scales in a pro-potty direction at home. That’s also pretty predictable.

And Jazz’s parents? Parents of the ONE CHILD who is totally and completely potty trained? The child who takes herself to the potty, needs no reminders, who stays clean and dry ALL DAY LONG, EVERY DAY. (And who, as of the end of last week, had woken from her naps dry?)

This morning, Jazz comes to me. “I needa pee.”

I look at her, a bit blankly. “Well, away you go, sweetie. You don’t have to ask me.” She doesn’t have to because she doesn’t need to. All day, every day, for two weeks now, she has taken herself to the potty. She goes, she sits, she produces, she calls me while she’s there so I can help clean up. But she doesn’t ask to pee. What’s with that?

She trots over to the potty, and struggles to remove her jeans. It’s taking quite a bit more struggle than usual, I note, and when I come over to investigate, I discover…

she’s wearing a diaper.

I should have known, because, even though their child is 100% reliably toilet trained, totally independent and hasn’t had a single accident in two weeks, they keep sending her in diapers.

“You don’t need to send her in diapers,” I tell them. “Oh, no?” they say. No, really, I assure them. “She’s TOTALLY trained. Well and truly DONE with diapers!” “Well, isn’t that terrific!” they say.

And then she comes wearing diapers.

Day after day.

Do you know, in all the years I’ve been doing this, I have never before had parents who weren’t TOTALLY THRILLED to be done with diapers. I’ve had lots and lots and lots of parents who wanted potty training to begin before I felt there was much point. I’ve had lots who continued with it at home after our week trial convinced me a child wasn’t ready. I’ve had a few parents get outright annoyed with me for not continuing with pointless pottying at my home, too. In short, I’m not unused to being pushed by over-eager parents.

But I’ve never, not once, ever had a parent who needed pushing.

However, having told them a couple of times, making sure I spoke directly to each parent… I’m leaving it. Really. Does it matter to me that they’re keeping her in diapers at home?

Nope. Not at all. Given that I resent it when parents try to strong-arm me into doing things in my home that I don’t feel necessary or appropriate, I’m not about to go doing it to parents. The only environment I control is my own, and that’s fine. I just have to remember that she’s going to be wearing a diaper when she arrives, and peel it off first thing.

But people?

This is weird.

Just weird.

October 24, 2011 Posted by | Grace, Jazz, parents, potty tales, Rory | 8 Comments

Halloween Craft

Here’s what we did yesterday. You could use popsicle sticks, but these are tongue depressors. (Well, the label on the package says they’re “craft sticks”, but they sure look like tongue depressors.) First you paint them orange… which for us meant that we had to mix our own paint. Turns out it takes about 8 parts yellow to one part red (or thereabouts — I was NOT measuring) to make this shade of orange.

Let the paint dry, tape the sticks together. (I used an X of masking tape.) Draw the pumpkin face using a black permanent marker. Ta-dah!! Pumpkin Puzzle!

It could be just me, but I found that the horizonal (side-to-side) sticks were easier to draw on than the vertical (up and down).

Oh, and the idea? Mix the sticks up and see if you can arrange them back into the pumpkin face!

October 21, 2011 Posted by | crafts, holidays | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Our New Favourite Book

I have a neighbour, other side of the street, one door east, who is a teacher. Elementary school. Every so often she changes classrooms or changes grades (or, less often, changes schools), requiring a significant purge-and-declutter of stuff. Does any profession accumulate “stuff” like an elementary school teacher? Oh, probably, bit it’s one I’m more familiar with.

And in this case, benefit from, for whenever the lovely Marianne does a purge, a box and a bag and a bucket of stuff come my way. And Marianne’s cast-offs are worth having!!! I have gotten the most amazing stuff from her.

And then there’s this. I’m not sure how it slipped through her filters, but this book is a pedagogical fail.

It is also OUR VERY MOST FAVOURITE BOOK!!!! Why? Let me explain…

It starts out blandly enough. (Oh, and in M’s defense, I should add that it started out in good condition. Those roughed-up corners? Daisy. I’m telling you now (because if I didn’t, how would you ever guess?) puppies are MURDER on board books.) So, a book, a little kitschy in that it’s a licensed product, but Beatrix Potter is pretty benign as far as licensing goes. Way better than, say, Dora the Explorer or (gag me) Sponge Bob…

Great literature it’s not, but the point of the book is clear and simple. (The text of this picture less so. My new camera is cheap and focus-challenged. Sorry about that. Now all you twenty- and thirty-something young’uns can get a teaser of what you’ll be seeing when you’re a fifty-something without your reading glasses… Just squint a bit. It’ll come right into focus!!)

On ensuing pages, we learn that Benjamin Bunny’s jacket is brown, and Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit has a purple dress. And then we come to this:

Peter Rabbit eats red radishes. Red… radishes… Let’s have a closer look shall we?

Now, it may very well be true that Peter Rabbit does indeed eat red radishes. Lord only knows he’s a bunny, and they do love their veggies!

But unless Peter has in his thieving hands a bunch of mutant radishes, I’d say those are carrots.

Orange carrots.

The kids? Do they have a problem with this? Does it offend and bemuse them? Are their little minds a-twist with confusion? No. Not at all. Not for a second.

No, they think this is hysterical. This is not “Benjamin Bunny’s colours” to them, this is “The Silly Carrot Book.” We read it a LOT for the sheer joy of falling all over ourselves laughing at this very page. I pick up this book, and you can see the two-year-olds priming themselves for hysteria.

“AAAHHH! Mary’s going to read the book with the page with the WRONG COLOUR!!! And the WRONG VEGETABLE!!!”

Cue mad display of feverish laughter. IT IS SO FUN!!!! A grown-up has somehow made a mistake, and they know it’s wrong!!!! Does it get any better?


This, my friends, is Toddler Humour at its peak.

October 21, 2011 Posted by | books | , , , , , | 8 Comments

Potty Update

How did the Great Potty Adventure go, someone asked? A reasonable question. It’s All Potty, All The Time for a solid week, and then I drift off and leave you all hanging. Hardly nice, Mary. Tsk, tsk. I’m sure the suspense is keeping you up at nights.

So, the results:

One total potty success!!! Jazz is trained. Totally out of wake-time diapers!!! She knows when she needs to go, she takes herself to the potty, she sits herself down, she does her business, she pulls herself back together. She needs help only with the hygiene aspects.

THAT is trained.

One total potty not-yet!!! Rory is not trained. In fact, Rory finds the whole thing so anxiety-raising that we are dropping the whole subject for a few weeks again. He never really did understand what we were after, so his days were one accident after another… which, despite my calm and upbeat reassurances, he found distressing. It was the day he approached me, awash in weariness, his big brown eyes wide and his voice quivering, “Can I has my diaper back, please?” I decided that was it for Rory. Poor little guy. And really, a baby sister at home is probably enough stress and change for one small boy.

And Grace? Grace is a half-baked pottier. If you recall, I wondered if her extreme passivity would be a problem. And yes, yes it was. (I also thought she was the most likely to be trained. Ha! Called that wrong.) If she’s reminded every 20 minutes, she can stay dry all day. If she’s not reminded, or if reminders are spaced 30 minutes or more… she wets. Every time. She’s had at least two accidents a day since I dispensed with the timer last week.

So Grace is back in diapers, at least at my home. Her parents are keeping up with the pottying at home. Me, I don’t have that kind of patience. Besides, my day can be fragmented enough, what with the five toddlers charging around, I don’t need another every-20-minute disruption.

Okay, I admit: If I really wanted to, I could put up with every 20 minutes for… well, that’s just it. For how long? She’ll get trained, in the end. But there is no law that says I have to be ON HER, every twenty minutes, for weeks on end until she does get it. That’s nuts. Why not just relax through those weeks, and try again later?

In the end, see, you do a cost-benefit analysis — well, I sure do — and you determine — well, I sure did — that the effort and CONSTANT DILIGENCE required to keep her dry is far, far greater than the effort of changing two diapers a day. I mean, seriously? Every twenty minutes vs two diapers?

There is no contest, people. None.

In another month or six weeks, we’ll try again with both Rory and Grace. In the meantime?


Thanks to you, I only have FOUR children in diapers. (Yes, “only”. It’s all in your perspective.)


October 20, 2011 Posted by | Grace, Jazz, potty tales, Rory | 5 Comments

New Shoes

I live in an old house. Well, old by North American standards. Any Europeans reading this — I know there are one or two — will be amused to know that a house that is just barely coming up on its one hundredth birthday could be considered old, but in this country? It’s ancient.

(For you history buffs: The city where I live was founded in 1826 and re-named “Ottawa” in 1855. So, my house, built somewhere between 1912 and 1920, so the experts estimate, goes back to early days.) It’s not a gorgeous house, but the ceilings are high-ish and the moldings wide-ish. It’s a nice, small house. It’s also, in the winter, drafty. Brrr.

So you wear sweaters, and put that plastic stuff up on the windows and put draft stops along the bottoms of the doors, and you wear warm, wooly socks and slippers.

Except. Slippers. I go through slippers like popcorn. I wear them all day, every day, six months of the year. And every year, within a couple of months, they’re loose and sloppy, and when I run up the stairs (and I always run), they flip off my feet.

That’s annoying.

Even the really expensive, very cozy pair of shearling-leather-suede-whatever ones I bought a couple of years ago. A few months, and they fly off my feet. Even though they started out almost uncomfortably snug. They fly off my feet when I run up the stairs, and when I walk through rooms they slide off my heels a bit, making a shuffling sound. I’ll shuffle when I’m 90, thanks. I don’t want to be doing it now.

So that was annoying, as well.

So, if it can’t be slippers, then it’ll have to be shoes. Now, I don’t like wearing shoes in the house. Not just because we live in a semi, and my poor neighbour is now going to hear my feet running up the stairs, every time. (Sorry, nice neighbour! Hope you still like me in two months…) No, it’s more than that.

In some places, I know, you leave your shoes on when you come inside, but here you TAKE THEM OFF. Because outdoor shoes track stuff in. Mud, grit, damp. You’re reasonable about it, of course. When we had workmen here, the poor fellows spend the better part of one morning carrying bags and bags of debris from the basement, through the main floor, and out the front door. Over and over again. They were all set, well-brought-up young men that they are, to take their boots off every time they entered, and put them back on every time the left that front door. All 153 times.

Of course, I told them they could keep their boots on.

But mostly? The expectation is the footwear comes off. It’s RUDE to leave your shoes on when you visit another home, and you always take them off in your own. Period. That’s ingrained in me. Wearing shoes in the house just feels wrong. So if I am to wear shoes in the house, they’ll have to be a dedicated pair, worn only in the house. Then I can call them “house shoes”, see, and they can be in the same mental category as “slippers”, and all that social training can leave my subconscious alone.

A couple of years ago, I discovered — wait. I lie. A couple of years ago Emma discovered that you can design your own Converse shoes, right there on their website. How cool is that?? She went to the website, she designed her shoe, she got to the checkout… and the things were expensive. Really, really expensive.

Sorry, love. We can’t do that.

But I remembered that idea, and I went back. Oddly enough, given how much walking I do, I’m easy on my shoes. Shoes last me a long time. If I’m to wear these things only indoors, I bet I could get ten years out of them. And if that’s the case, maybe I can justify paying a boatload of money on a pair of runners…

So I went onto the website and did a little poking around. And THAT’S when we discovered that if you’re ordering from a Canadian address, it costs a boatload of money. But if you’re ordering from an American address, it costs only a rowboat of money.

Guess what? I have a daughter living in the states!! And it only costs about $10 to mail a shoebox north of the border… mwah-ha. So I called my daughter up, we both logged into the site, and together we clicked boxes and chose options. And then she made the purchase on her Visa. And then I dropped the money into her account, right there, right then. (Isn’t the internet WONDERFUL???)

She emailed me when they’d arrived. “They’re pretty wild, mum.” And then she stuck them in the mail. When they arrived, my youngest daughter looked at them and said, dubiously, “They’re awfully loud.”

Mwah-ha. Good thing they’re both too old to be embarrassed by their mother… Yes, they are! I know this because only last week, Emma informed us, after the Wonderful Husband had said something goofy (or exceptionally affectionate or maybe affectionately goofy), “As I’ve matured, you two have moved from being embarrassing to just being funny.”

So. My girls may laugh at my shoes, but at least they’re not cringing. (And tough if they were, says I. My feet, my shoes. Neener, neener.)

Introducing Mary’s wild shoes:

Because, really. I’m a daycare lady! Daycare ladies should get to wear wild shoes.

Aren’t they great? Miss Frizzle would be proud.

October 19, 2011 Posted by | individuality, my kids, random and odd | , , , , , | 15 Comments


…as I survey the kitchen floor, which looks rather grubby.

Because it is. More than ‘rather’. ‘Exceedingly’ would be a better choice. Or ‘extremely’. Or how about ‘outright disgusting’?

On the floor you can see the history of our kitchen adventures yesterday. Those red splots in front of the bar fridge? That’s the double batch of gazpatcho I made before the kids arrived. When I snapped the lid on, it must’ve overflowed and dripped a bit as I put it in the fridge. I didn’t notice until now.

Those brown smudges over by the counter? The molasses crinkle cookies we made together. Thought I’d swept up the bits, but some must’ve been tromped under a small foot.

The longish smear, now encrusted with grit and dog-hair? Orange juice for the glazed carrots. I let Grace, who didn’t nap yesterday and so helped me with my family-dinner prep, pour it into the blender. I knew she’d missed a bit, but I thought we got it all. Oops.

Crunchy bits of dog-kibble by their bowls? Check.

Teeny smidges of carrot peel under the edge of the counter, again from the “Grace helping” scenario? Check.

A random used teabag by the stove? Check. (Good heavens, but yes. I know how it got there, mind you. Rory was supposed to have put it in the compost bin. Guess I didn’t monitor him through completion of his (self-appointed!!) task. How on earth did that escape notice till this morning? Probably camouflaged by all the other stuff already on the floor. Sigh.)

So I survey my kitchen, and I think…

Do you know what would be a most super-awesome-wonderful gift to give your devoted childcare provider? One which would ensure her heartfelt adoration? One which would ensure — ENSURE! — that she be disposed to cut you all sorts of slack for all sorts of things for years to come? And that your kid would, immediately and henceforth, be THE FAVOURITE? (Even though we never, ever have favourites. Nuh-uh.) But for this, it could happen!

The gift, which you could (if you can) purchase solo, or club together with all the other parents, the gift of the millennium…

a cleaning service. One a week, once every couple of weeks. Once a month, even. (Though every week would be better! Because hey, if you’re dreaming, dream big!)

Wouldn’t that just be too, too, too, toooooo wonderful?

Yes. Yes, it would. So wonderful.

It’s a happy place, this daydream…

October 18, 2011 Posted by | daycare, health and safety | , , , , , | 4 Comments