It’s Not All Mary Poppins

My favourite season

Fall. I love the quality of the light. I love the colours on the trees. I love the crunchy drifts of leaves on the ground.

I love sweaters. I love weather cool enough to require sweaters… but nothing heavier. Perfect! I love the honking of the geese as the rise off the river. I love the rich, earthy smell of damp soil.

And I love my puppy. (Totally gratuitous, I know, but ISN’T SHE CUTE??)

October 18, 2011 Posted by | Canada, outings | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The leaves? Are thumbprints

(Almost) wordless see-what-we-made post…

October 17, 2011 Posted by | crafts | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Let’s all sychronize our watches…

Grace’s explosive ick rocketing through the daycare. Poor Grace spent last night puking at 15-minute intervals. Daniel has been stricken with a much milder version — a couple of episodes in four hours, then no more. Jazz revisited her lunch rather spectacularly today… though, happily, not ON me.

Given all that, I gave Rory’s folks a call last night to warn them. Now that the first month of mom’s mat. leave is done, Rory is now coming only part-time. He hadn’t been here since Wednesday, and I wanted to give them a heads-up. If he stayed home on Friday, maybe he could avoid this thing, and, more to the point, try to avoid bringing it home to a month-old baby.

I just got the call: even though they opted to keep him home today, he just started with the up-chucking.


That just leaves Poppy.

And… perhaps me?

We estimate the incubation period is in the order of 48 hours.

Tick, tick, tick…

October 14, 2011 Posted by | eeewww, health and safety | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Well, that was dramatic

Yesterday was a pretty normal day. Daniel bumbled around with his big, friendly grin, knocking into things and experimenting with cause-and-effect. Jazz skittered around, bouncing between glee and whinging, with frequent pitstops in officious. (Normal.) Poppy watched the goings-on with a smile, occasionally bursting into utterly contagious chortles. And Grace was quiet.

Of course, Grace is often quiet. She can charge around, thundering up and down the house. She can giggle, shriek and shout. But very often, she is quiet. Watching the others, playing alone, just sitting. Grace does that.

So I didn’t think anything at all of Grace having a quiet morning. Her energy levels were normal, and her mood was fine. She was just… quiet. Grace does that.

Grace didn’t want lunch. Hm. Grace doesn’t do that. Grace normally approaches her food quietly and methodically. She rarely displays overt enthusiasm, mind you. No cheers, no clapping, no beaming smiles. She doesn’t freak, flail and complain about anything, either. She simply sits at the table, picks up her fork, and commences to chomping. And keeps chomping through two, three, four bowlsful. Every day.

So, Grace not wanting lunch is unusual… but with everything else so absolutely normal, I still didn’t think much of it. We put on the naptime diapers, read our stories, and went to bed.

She went to sleep quickly, which, had I been thinking about it, is also unusual. Normally Grace sings and talks for a good 20 minutes before settling down. Not today. But I didn’t think about it because I never pay attention to the chatter anyway. I’m aware it’s going on, but it requires nothing from me, so I just do the stuff I do during naptime. Today it didn’t happen, but I was just doing the stuff I do during naptime, and the prompt silence didn’t really register.

She slept for quite a bit longer than usual. I noticed that.

She was standing when I entered the room, obviously just woken, a bit shaky, a bit pale, which sounds pretty obvious now, I know. But Grace has a porcelain complexion. She’s usually pale. Kids who’ve woken only as you’ve entered the room and pole-vaulted themselves to their feet while still two-thirds asleep are usually a bit shaky. Nothing of note there.

I carry her downstairs, set her on her feet by the diaper table, and kneel in front of her. I’m about to remove her diaper and put her on the potty — dry all morning! Not one single accident! — and she makes a funny hiccuping sound. She looks a little confused, but not upset. It’s as if she’s puzzled about something.

I turn to face her. “Are you o –”

And her mouth opens and… she explodes. The turkey stew she’d been only moderately interested in at lunch makes a reappearance, along with sundry other unidentifiable chunks and and cheese and a whole lotta slime. And it lands… on her shirt, on her pants, on the floor… but also? But MOSTLY?? On my shirt. Secondarily, on my jeans.

My question is answered. She is not okay. Not at all. The other children, vultures all, gather round. Goodness! This is weird and interesting! Maybe even exciting!!

“Oh, poor Grace!” I slip my arm around her shoulder — no pulling her onto my slime-filled lap — and I croon, mostly for the audience. “You just threw up! You feel sick!” I look at the others. “Poor Grace feels sick!” (C’mon, you little blighters. Some empathy is in order here.)

“Poor Grace feels sick!” Jazz echoes.

“Yes. She just threw up. She is sick.”

“She threw up. She is sick.” Jazz is the queen of repetition, but I often wonder if she grasps much of the content of her parroting. Does she feel the empathy she’s mimicking in my voice? No idea, but it’s a start.

And shall we just pause for a second to consider the scenario?

Grace has just hurled. And what am I doing? Giving Grace some physical and emotional comfort while working on empathy with the three other toddlers. I am soothing Grace, and consciously, deliberately modelling empathy.

All while I’m covered in puke, y’all. Because I am a KICK-ASS CAREGIVER.

And then I clean Grace up. (I am still covered in puke.)

And then I put the babies in their high chair with a handful of Cheerios. (I am still covered in puke.)

And then I settle Grace and Jazz on the couch with some books. (I AM STILL COVERED IN PUKE.)

And then — and only then — do I zip upstairs. I couldn’t do it before, could I? I’d have had four uncontained, unmonitored babies doing gawdknowswhat in my home. So I zip upstairs. NOT to immerse my body in a soothing disinfectant bath. NOT to shower. NOT EVEN to complete a thorough scrub at the sink.

No. I get to rip the sodden, stinking clothes off my body, and throw some clean ones on. That’s it, that’s all. I manage a hand-washing at the kitchen sink when I return downstairs.

Because the life of a caregiver? Is about SELF-SACRIFICE! It doesn’t matter if I feel like a reeking, sticky, slime-covered pillar of puke. I have babies to care for! (Much like a mother, I know, but if those were MY kids, they’d have come with me into the bathroom and played on the floor while I had a bath. All four of them.)

Grace puked twice more before her mother arrived. And during those episodes, I discovered that Grace does not LIKE to puke into a bowl. You see the heaves begin and the nasty acidic pre-vomit drool start to drizzle from her lower lip, so you grab a bowl and hold it in front of the child. She stares into the bowl for a second as the heaves build, and then, when the substance makes its arrival, she TURNS HER HEAD!!! So she can PUKE ON THE FLOOR!!!

(WTF? Why fight the bowl? Bizarre.) However, at least she missed me this time…

The second time she puked, I was ready. I knelt on the floor, hauled the kid in my lap, and rammed that bowl against her collarbone. There was no avoiding it. Though goodness knows she tried.

(And again, WTF?)

When Grace’s mummy arrived, Grace was in the post-puking bounce-back, and although still pale she was her normal placidly cheerful self. So much so that Grace’s mother actually asked if she could come back tomorrow, if there were no further incidents that evening.

No. The rule is 24 hours at home following vomitting or diarrhea. (I’ve been known to make some exceptions for events that were very obviously a non-contagious one-off caused by something they ate, but Grace? Is SICK.)

I’m sure mummy agreed with me six minutes later, when she came bombing back into the house to grab a pile of kleenex. Grace was busy puking in her bike trailer.

Poor Grace.

And now we watch the others, and wait…

October 13, 2011 Posted by | eeewww, Grace, health and safety | , , , , | 6 Comments

Empathy takes time, don’t you know

Daniel is an explorer. Daniel is a cause-and-effect guy. He’s fascinated by what happens when you do stuff. “Can I find out what happens when…” is a prime motivator in his little life. I predict a fine career as an engineer one day.

Some of his discoveries are happy, some are scary, but all are interesting. The alarming discoveries do not put him off. Not in the slightest. This is a compulsion people. He.Must.Explore. Must.

“If I throw my Cheerios off my high chair, the puppy will eat them!” (Happy!! Until we were out of Cheerios, and he’d only eaten, oh, four. The it was Very Sad.)
“If I pull on this lever, that thing there will move!” (Happy! He did that one at least eleventy-gazillion times.)
“If I blow into my water, I can make bubbles!” (Sooooo happy! And since it’s contained in a plastic drinking box, no mess, so I’m happy, too.)
“If I push that button, the music gets WAY LOUDER!!!” (Which was a little alarming, true, but SO INTERESTING!)

Sadly for the other children, Daniel’s explorations don’t stop there. He has no malice in his happy, bubbly little soul that I can see, but he’s an explorer. Cause-and-effect fascinate him. You can make things happen with things, and you can make things happen with PEOPLE! Yes, you can!

“If I pull Jazz’s hair, she makes that great noise!!!”
“If I shove Poppy, she sits down on her bum, fast!!”
“If I shove the enormous tower of blocks Rory’s been working on for the past twenty minutes, they scatter all over the kitchen!!!”

Yes. No malice, none at all. No discernable empathy yet, either. Boo.

You’ve all seen my stroller. You have not seen this view, however. Let us stand behind the stroller with Mary, and peep under the sun canopy to see the array of little heads, shall we?

Isn’t that cute?? That’s Daniel’s head in the rearmost seat. Then an empty seat, then Grace with a wee top-knot. You can’t see Poppy in the very front, but she’s there.

Because the rear seat has the narrowest spacing, I put the smallest child in there. The smallest child is not Daniel the Tank. It’s not even Poppy the Dumpling. No, the smallest child is skinny-minny Jazz. The order of children in the stroller used to be, from front to back: Rory or Grace; Poppy; Daniel; Jazz.

You will note the hole in the back of Daniel’s seat? The one through which you’re seeing his blond-blond mop? Yes. That hole, Daniel has taught me, is a distinct design flaw.

Rory/Grace, Poppy, Daniel, then Jazz used to be the order of the children in the stroller, I say, until Daniel realized that he could stick his hand through the hole in front of his face! And really, what baby worth his salt wouldn’t be doing that? You can stick your hand through that hole, you can reach around, and you can feel stuff! Too fun! And really, tots have been doing that since I bought the stroller. A firm word, a few firm grips-of-a-wrist and an equally firm plopping it back in a lap has been all that’s required to put a stop to that.

(Brief parenthetical tangent: Now that I’m thinking about it, there was that child a few years back who was so compulsively determined to remove the hat in front of him that I ended up tucking his snowsuited arms under his seatbelt and reefing that sucker in tight. And then I covered it all with a blanket so any squeamish Earnest Mommies we passed wouldn’t see that I had TIED THAT BABY DOWN!!!

I’d forgotten about that until this very moment. Hmmm…)

Back to story: So, if you’re Daniel of the massive hands, you can GRAB stuff! Grab and pull! You can pull hats through that hole, which is SO COOL. And then? Where most kids are content to wave the hat around and maybe throw it out of the stroller, Daniel, Mr. Explorer, he has to go back again. You can pull hats through the hole! Is there anything else you can pull through?

Hair. Hair!!! When you pull a hat through the hole, you get a hat. That’s interesting. But when you pull hair through the hole, you get hair (though, for some reason, not all of it, hm), you get resistance (because it seems to be stuck on something, hm), and you get NOISE. That’s really interesting!

Yeah. And with the old seating, Daniel was two seats ahead of where I stand. I couldn’t reach him in time to save poor Poppy’s head.

So now, Daniel is in the back, where I can grab him restrain him monitor him. When possible, there is an empty seat in front of Daniel. When it’s not possible, though Daniel will certainly protest the curtailment of exploratory possibilities, I think I may resort to plugging that hole with duct tape. (Duct tape, the caregiver’s friend.)

And Poppy?

She is very grateful that Daniel no longer sits right behind her.


October 12, 2011 Posted by | behavioural stuff, Daniel, health and safety, Mischief, Poppy | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tag Blanket

Rory has a new baby sister. She was born at the end of August, and ever since I’ve been intending to make her… something. What, I wasn’t sure, until I saw a picture of a tag blanket. So cute! So effective! So eeeeasy!

There are instructions all over the place, but I used the one from Craftzine. Mine, however, is quite a bit smaller than theirs, about 30 cm (12 inches) square.

Isn’t it pretty?

The bonus? Apart from the blue flannelette, everything you see I had on hand.

A lot of that ribbon I didn’t even purchase, at least not directly. Some of it came wrapped around boxes of truffles, and they were SO PRETTY I couldn’t imagine throwing them out! Some of it was the waist drawstring of a pair of pajama bottoms I bought on sale, only to bring them home and discover I’d bought the version designed for entirely bum-free women. But the fabric was so cute that I kept them anyway, figuring that what I’d paid for the useless jammies was less than I’d pay for that cute fabric — and the great ribbon!

I’m very pleased.

October 11, 2011 Posted by | crafts | , , , , | 8 Comments

Weirdest thing I heard today

Subtitle: I think Rory’s reached the end of his potty-training tolerance.

“I saw pee come down out of the sky.”
Rory’s brown eyes are wide and quite sincere. I must’ve heard him wrong.
“You saw pee come down out of the sky?”
“Yup!” Guess I did hear him right. He’s very sure.
“You did?” I let my incredulity show, just a little.
“Yup. It falled down from an airplane.”

So there. YOU tell him he didn’t. Me, I just let it go…

October 7, 2011 Posted by | Rory, the things they say! | , , , | 5 Comments

Thanksgiving Craft

No more tales from the potty front today. I’m bored of potty talk. Today we are going to talk about Thanksgiving, which for me and those I love, is this weekend.

To that end, late last week the toddlers and I went out and collected leaves. And then, a few days later, I went out, after hours, and collected more leaves. Why the second trip? Is Mary so controlling that she has determined they have to DO IT RIGHT? Is it possibly she stands in judgment over their efforts, and sometimes deems them NOT GOOD ENOUGH?

Damn straight I do.

Most days our crafts are open-ended and toddler-directed. I don’t care what they produce, so long as they are having fun. But sometimes I have a particular project in mind. I have a particular project, which I want to look a certain way. I’m not so anal that it has to look perfect. It can look adult-assisted, sure, but it has to look as if the kids at least got one small kick at the can.

This time, I needed leaves of a certain shape. I needed leaves in a certain size range. And that should not be too difficult, you might think. Just take them to the base of that particular tree, and set them to collecting, right?

Wrong. Toddlers have NO DISCRIMINATION WHATSOEVER. You ask them to pick “pretty leaves”. You show them a few samples of what you’re after. You suggest that they choose the “Yellow Leaves”, and you even spend a few Educational Minutes picking up leaves and categorizing them as “yellow” and “not yellow”. And then you set them loose.

Want to see a sample of the leaves they so lovingly collected?

Yes. Indeed. You see the problem. Unless I wanted to be haranguing them the whole damned time we were out — “No, Jazz, that one’s not yellow”, “Rory, that one’s all brown and falling apart”, “Yellow, Grace. We want yellow leaves” — unless I wanted to be ON them, ceaselessly… it was simplest and kindest just to let them collect their leaves, put them in a bag, bring them home… and then dump them in the compost bin during nap time.

Because, really. Those are not leaves. Those are small shards of immanent leaf-dust. The leaves they collected that were not on the verge of disintegration were usually clutched with such passionate fervor that they were a crumpled, sweaty shadow of their former selves by the time they made it into the bag.

So I took myself to the local park, collected a pile of leaves, brought them home and pressed them for a couple of days. Nested them in the pages of a few sections of newspaper, and stuck a pile of books on top.

Then we brought them out, and stuck them to a quarter-section of Bristol board. Stuck a few bits of construction paper on top, draw on some eyes, podge over top to seal it, and…

A turkey!!

It’s not done in this picture. Before we were finished, we put another coat of Mod Podge to the edges of the green backing, then covered the whole shebang with clear Contac paper.

What had we made?

A placemat for their Thanksgiving Dinner, of course. Cute, huh?

That’s what the three Big Kids (Rory, Grace, Jazz) made. The Littles (Poppy and Daniel) also made a Thanksgiving placemat, only theirs was the traditional “turkey-from-handprint”. Hodgepodge did this with her kids earlier this week, and I was inspired! Particularly when I realized the turkey with leaf-feathers was going to be faaar too hard for the Littles, and I didn’t really feel like making them entirely on my own. Simply tracing their hands and letting them poke at it with crayons was SO.MUCH.EASIER.

No, I didn’t take pictures of those. Sorry.

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow-Canadians! I’ll be back on Tuesday!

October 7, 2011 Posted by | Canada, commemoration, crafts, holidays | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Potty Training, Day 3

Okay, so maybe Grace isn’t so much with the program as I thought…

Two accident-free days for Grace encouraged me to raise the bar a bit. We’d go a full half-hour between mandatory pee breaks. Since that might be just a smidge longer than she can actually go, it will give her an opportunity to take herself to the potty. (Because, as you recall, one of my concerns is that Grace’s extreme passivity will have her relying too much on reminders. AUTONOMY is what we’re after here!)

AND, as a reward for being such a BIG GIRL, she would wear the panties her mother had sent.

Because we all know how HIGHLY MOTIVATING Big Girls Panties are!!!

Well, maybe. They love to wear them. Does that prevent them from letting fly while wearing them? Do they hesitate in the slightest to gross them up? Um, no. Not so’s I’ve noticed. Still! Big girl panties are an important part of the process. And Grace’s mother sent a whole whack of big girl panties.

Day three was the day.

We make much of them. She shows them off to all her friends. (Side note: Is there anything cuter than a toddler hauling up on dress or shirt, rounded belly bulging, so that their friends can gather round and admire the underwear? Not much, I say. Hee.) She skips around the house, pausing at intervals to pull the hem of her skirt to her chin so she can take in the wonders of the panties.

And then she pees in them. Standing in the middle of the living room, not two feet from the potty. The potty which she does not even glance at as the pee splashes around her feet.

First accident in two days.

Well, boo.

But that’s okay! She has LOTS more big girl panties! And the next pair? It has BUTTERFLIES on it. That is even MORE EXCITING than the FLOWERS on the last pair. Whee!!!

And twenty minutes later, she poos on the butterflies.

Well, damn.

A third pair (teddybears) get soaked, not that I found that out right away. Jazz had just done a pee. We were all celebrating her accomplishment, and Jazz had been given her Smartie. Grace trots up, hand out for her Smartie.

“Well, no, lovie. Jazz gets a Smartie because she did a pee. You didn’t do a pee.”

“Yes, I did!”

“No, love, you didn’t. Jazz did.” I indicate the potty with its centimetre of pale yellow liquid. “Jazz had a pee, so Jazz gets a Smartie. When you do a pee, you will get one, too.”

“I did a pee!” She smiles and turns, pointing. “I did a pee onna couch!!!”

The couch? Yes, indeed. There on the couch is a dismayingly large dark splotch. She has indeed peed on the couch. Moreover, she is very proud. She peed on the couch, and she is proud. Seems Grace has decided that as long as the pee was conscious and volitional, THAT COUNTS FOR A SMARTIE! And her teddybear panties? Soaked. SOAKED.

Well, damn again. (In fact, “damn” isn’t nearly strong enough for this creative new twist in the proceedings, but that’s as strong as I get on this blog.) The hell with the Big Girl Panties. They are not helping us in our endeavor, that’s clear. Back to bare. And…

for the next two hours, Grace performs flawlessly. In the potty, every time.

Huh. So I put the panties back on, and…

she soaks ’em.

Yup. In Grace’s mind, panties = diapers. Nuts. That’s an annoying hiccup.

On the bright side, so long as she’s bare, she’s very reliable. Though I normally have them back in pants by the end of the first week, we’ll try another few days to consolidate things for Grace, see if that does the trick.

But… Smarties for peeing on the couch? Yeesh…

October 6, 2011 Posted by | Grace, potty tales | , , , , | 11 Comments

Potty Adventures, Day Two

I have two potties, but thus far have only used one. On Monday, Jazz spent most of her day sleeping; on Tuesday, Rory wasn’t here. Two kids can share one potty.

This is not laziness on my part. I can carry two pots up the stairs as easily as one. No, the thing is, I have a puppy. A seven-month-old puppy, who is VERY INTERESTED in this whole potty-training endeavor.

Very interested in bare butts. (Oh, ugh.)
Very interested in pee on the floor. (Whee!)
And very, very interested in potties. Even nicely rinsed potties still smell heavenly-divine to a seven-month-old puppy. A seven-month-old irrepressible puppy. (Actually I think that phrase is a redundancy. All seven-month-old puppies are irrepressible.)

Daisy! Away from the potty! Away!

Daisy! No!

Daisy! Leave that thing alone!

Daisy! Get your nose out of there!

“Daisy!” [Calling over my shoulder to my own two kids, chatting in the kitchen, as I fend Daisy off with one hand while trying to help Grace sit properly] “Will someone please crate this animal?”

ONE of my potties, see, has a lid. The other does not. So one potty is Daisy resistant, while the other is a veritable smorgasbord of all manner of YUMMY, YUMMY scents and savories.


We are using the potty with the lid. Ahem.

And yesterday, on day two, Jazz was rested and ready to potty. She was interested in the potty, but she was INTO the Smarties. Fervently. Rory and Grace hadn’t thought of it, but Jazz instantly realized that if she gets a Smartie every time she plops her butt on the potty… well, she’ll just do that, won’t she? All. Day. Long!!!

I’ve been using a timer so I don’t lose track of how long those little pee-bombs have been darting around my home. Originally it was set to 20 minutes, but the girls were doing so very well, I moved it to 25 minutes mid-morning. After a three-minute stretch in which Jazz “earned” herself four Smarties, I decided she could ONLY go when the timer beeped.

Because, yeah, I bought the big bag, but she’d have consumed the thing single-handedly before lunch at that rate… Moreover, she’d managed to squeeze out a driplet of pee each time, so I figure the girl has plenty of control. If she can force it out, she can hold it in.

That’s the theory, anyway.

“When the timer beeps, you can try. You wait for the timer now.” Well, poo. You know how historical novels often have their young heroines “flounce” when unhappy about something? I had a mental picture of what that must be, but I’d never seen anyone really flounce before.

Jazz flounces.

Upon being told she would have to WAIT for the next Smartie Opportunity, Jazz flounced off to the craft set out on the dining table. And when that timer beeped?

As it happend, Grace was closer to the potty, so Grace was setting herself down when Jazz came roaring up, SMARTIES on the brain. Grace is a slow-mover. She eats slowly, she dawdles when she walks, she talks slowly. Grace does nothing quickly. So in the time it takes Jazz to slip down from the chair in the dining room and bomb across to the potty in the living room, Grace has almost, but not quite, settled her butt on the potty.

Jazz flies into the room, and performs a very creditable body check, causing Grace to sit, not on the potty, but on the floor beside the potty.

Nice try, little Ms. Enthusiasm. But you can wait.

We resettle Grace on the potty. Grace pees. Jazz claps and cheers. Jazz sits. And produces a sizeable poo. Grace looks stunned. I think it honestly hadn’t occurred to her THAT was a possibility.

Lessons learned all round then. And we do the potty dance again, cheering and clapping for the steaming pile.

And then, before Daisy succeeds in her efforts to get up close and very personal with the S.P., I whisk the potty upstairs for a thorough cleaning.

At the end of today:

There were no accidents at all.
Grace is still on track for training.
Jazz is probably going to get there even sooner.
Daisy has not ONCE managed to get her nose in a pile of… anything.

I’d call that a success.

October 5, 2011 Posted by | Grace, Jazz, potty tales | , , , | 9 Comments