It’s Not All Mary Poppins

It *should* be shocking

“Do you want to go to the park?”

A grandmotherly sort walks toward me on the path by the river, pushing a largish child, four or five years old, in a stroller.

“NO!” The response is loud, abrupt and petulant.

The grandmother stops the stroller, goes to the front so that the can give her granddaughter a stern glare and says, “You do not talk to me like that, young lady. You say, ‘No, thank you, grandma,’ in a friendly voice. Do you understand?”

HA! I wish.

She does nothing of the sort. She is neither shocked nor offended. Being shouted at and disrespected by a five-year-old is an everday, non-exceptional thing, so it seems. In the same mild tone, she offers,

“Would you like to go play at Katie’s house?”

“Naa-oooh.” This time, it’s a sneer. Oh, Grandma is soooo stupid. Such a drag to be ferried about by incompetent help. Poor princess’s life is such a trial.

“Would you like to…” Grandma’s voice fades into the distance, but the child’s response, a loud, indignant “NOOO!” is clearly audible as they move away.

What is wrong with this scenario? Let me count the ways.

It’s a mild annoyance to me that the child is in a stroller. And while yes, I understand that there are five-year-olds who genuinely need a stroller, they are not the norm. Moreover, I have seen this child before, charging around full-tilt for hours in the park. There is no hidden disability here.

More significantly is the litany of choices grandma proffers for the child’s dismissal. This arises from the misapprehension that it’s the adult’s job to entertain, that it’s the adult’s responsibility to prevent the child’s boredom.

Wrong. The only person who can prevent me from being bored is me. Same for the child. I’ll offer a suggestion or two to a bored young child, to help shake them from their rut. One or two. If the child (politely!) refuses one or two helpful suggestions? They are on.their.own.

So that irked me. You are creating a dependent monster here, grandma, the kind who’ll come up whining “I’m boooooored” and then exasperate the snot out of you by refusing to engage in any activity while simultaneously demanding that you DO SOMETHING to alleviate their ennui. It’s a vicious circle, an endless loop. You just don’t want to be there.

So not happening in my house. (You know why? Because it bores me.) Strangely, my children hardly ever suffer from boredom. Imagine.

But the biggest thing that irked me was that this woman didn’t react to the rudeness. She wasn’t shocked. She wasn’t offended. She just took the disrespectful treatment as if it were acceptable. I see this all the time, and every time it shocks me. What are these people thinking? Why would you let someone — anyone — treat you that way? And what are you teaching that child? If you act like it’s acceptable, can the child be blamed for thinking that it is?

You never, ever accept disrespectful treatment from your children. Just, never. They’re tired? They’re hungry? They’re a little under the weather? Then you say, “I know you’re tired/hungry/feeling sick, but you may not be rude. Use a friendly voice, please, and your good manners.” And then you put them to bed/feed them/tend to their ills. But you do not, under any circumstances, let them treat you like sh*t.

How would that grandmother feel if, years into the future, her granddaughter’s husband shouted at her like that?


If it’s wrong, it’s wrong, and we need to deal with it right from the very start.

February 29, 2012 Posted by | aggression, manners, parenting | | 8 Comments

Here be sharks

Remember Daniel? My darling little barbarian? We’ve been working hard on his blundersome tendencies with notable success. After all, he’s a loving, willing, cheerful little guy. Good cheer? Daniel owns the patent. The rest of us have pale imitations.

So, though he remains a sturdy and active little fellow, he really is easing off on the maiming and bludgeoning. Really.

Yesterday, though, was a difficult, physical day. We had commando hugs and hair-pulling. We had inadvertent flattenings and absolutely vertent shoves.

And while I use all these events to train Daniel into better patterns, and to teach the others how to deal with unpleasant events (and manage Daniel a bit), it does get a smidge … repetitive.

1. “MARY!!! Daniel hitted me!”

2. “Did you talk to Daniel about it?”

3. Blink. Blink.

4. “Well, I didn’t hit you. You need to talk to Daniel. Go tell Daniel you don’t like hitting.”

5. “Daniel! You not hit me! I don’t like that!”

6. “Good. Now tell him what hands are for.”

7. “Daniel, hands are for hugging!”

And the sun bursts forth from Daniel’s charming round face, the arms spread wide, and we have much love all round.

Until the next time.

“MARY!!!! Daniel pushed me!”

“Did you talk to Daniel about it?”

Repeat steps 3 – 7. Over and over again. With every child. We’re all learning here. Except Daniel, you might reasonably conclude, but no, over the weeks there’s been definite improvement. Yesterday was a relapse, is all. These things happen.

Things had, in fact, improved by late afternoon, after naptime. (Either that or my reflexes had improved and my deflections were more timely. Could be either, but I prefer to believe it was Daniel.)

Until, fifteen minutes to home time …

Grace, running around the corner from living room to front hall, caught her arm on the doorframe. Quite the whack. I heard it from the other end of the dining room. I heard it and looked up in time to see her approach Daniel, who was sitting on the bottom step. (Also known as the Quiet Stair, but he hadn’t been sent there. He was just sitting there.)

Approach him with her arm extended. “Daniel, I got a bo-bo. You wanna kiss it better?” And …
she places…
her arm …
against …
his mouth.

Yeah, I was wincing, too.

You know how when a very bad thing is about to happen in a movie, it suddenly goes all slow motion? I knew what was about to happen. I started up and across the room, but there was no way I was going to get there in time. A sudden, startling yell would probably only hasten us to our unfortunate end. I hurried, but I may as well have been in slow motion. “Nooooooooooooo...”

Poor Grace. Her yell was entirely predictable. Her poor, unsuspecting arm. Bloody meat dropped into the shark’s tank, really.

“MARY!!!! Daniel bitted me!!!”

Oh, dear. And, yeah, surprise, surprise…

It wasn’t a bad bite. Barely dented the skin, and left nary a mark. But a bite, for sure. We put ice on it, of course. We always put ice on things. Ice is the Miracle Cure at Mary’s house. It was almost a non-event, but it was quite definitely not a kiss.

Poor innocent Grace.
Poor impulsive Daniel.

So what catchphrase now? Lips are for kissing? Teeth are for eating (but not your friends)?

I guess I shouldn’t find this quite so amusing, huh?

February 28, 2012 Posted by | aggression, Daniel, Grace, socializing | , , , , , | 12 Comments

Menu Monday

Monday: Presidential chili, baking-powder biscuits

Tuesday: Golden pot stickers, vegetables with peanut sauce

Wednesday: Lentil-beet salad

Thursday: Jambalaya

Friday: Quinoa Patties, frozen corn niblets

February 27, 2012 Posted by | daycare, food | , , , | 5 Comments

Southwestern Bean Salad

This is taken from Michael Smith’sThe Best of Chef at Home: Essential Recipes for Today’s Kitchen“. I loooove this book. Love it, love it. There aren’t a lot of recipes in the book (about 120) … which means over the two or three years I’ve owned it, I’ve made just about everything in there, and have loved nearly all of them.

This one is a great favourite, and shows up at least once a month in our home.

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon (or more, to taste) hot sauce
one can (398 mL, 14 oz) mixed beans, rinsed well
1 cup corn niblets
1 red bell pepper, diced small
1 basket of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, thinly sliced
handful of green beans, steamed and cut into bite-sized pieces
a bunch of fresh cilantro, rinsed
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard and hot sauce. Add everything else, toss to combine. Serve immediately or let sit a few hours. I prefer it at room temperature, but you can refrigerate it if you like. (Ours rarely lasts for left-overs!)

A few notes:
the original recipe calls for half a cup of oil. In the interests of reducing calories and being heart-smart, I reduced it to a quarter cup and it tastes just fine to me! Any less than that, and while the flavour is still good, the gorgeous creamy texture of the oil-with-canned-beans is compromised. Texture is hugely important to me with my food; if it’s not so important to you, you might try reducing it further.

Cherry tomatoes are quite expensive here in February. I use four or five of the less expensive plum tomatoes, chopped. (In the winter, regular tomatoes, shipped up from California or Mexico, taste and feel like paste in the mouth. They’re just gross. Plum tomatoes retain more texture and flavour, though they’re still not great. Let’s face it: tomatoes are really best eaten seasonally, and local! The toddlers don’t tend to like tomatoes at the best of times (AUGUST!!), so when I’m making it for them, I reduce the number of tomatoes and up the amount of corn, which they love.)

The original recipe also calls for yellow wax beans, but I hate them (a texture thing), so I skip them. (Yes, I make them eat tomatoes, but don’t make myself eat yellow beans. When the toddlers get to the point that they’ll eat everything I serve without complaint (three, usually) they’re allowed the occasional opt-outs, too.)

Red onions come in an enormous range of sizes. Obviously, you put in as much as you want and no more.

February 21, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Menu Monday

Today is a holiday here — hurrah, Family Day! — and I’m not working, but here’s the menu, anyway!

Tuesday: Broccoli-Basil Mac and Cheese, cooked carrot sticks

Wednesday: Chicken pot pie, steamed lemon kale

Thursday: Southwestern bean salad, veggie burgers

Friday: Sesame-yogurt pasta salad

February 20, 2012 Posted by | daycare, food | 1 Comment

Happy Valentine’s Day

My clients love me a little bit more today. Some of them love me a lot more, maybe.

Yesterday, you see, was Valentine’s Day. (In case any of you missed the past three weeks of PINK! RED! HEARTS! FLOWERS! LOVE! CANDY! CARDS!)

And, because I am a gem among caregivers, on Valentine’s Day I offer extended hours. I stay open an extra three hours, so that the parents can have an actual, kid-free evening, during which they may, if they so choose, have an actual DATE.

And if they didn’t so choose, let me tell you, I’ll be pissed. I worked 12 hours yesterday, so they could have a FABULOUS, STRESS-FREE, WORRY-FREE, KID-FREE ROMANTIC EVENING. I also woke at 4:15 yesterday morning. (No, that wasn’t their fault, but I’ll include that in my grievance against them if they didn’t spend every second of their extra hours blissed out by the wonderfulness that is their spouse and their marriage.)

But, hey. No pressure, guys…

In truth, when they came to collect their small wonders, they all showed up as couples, and they all appeared to be happy. That’ll do. They were pretty cute. One couple had gone out for gelato; another had gone skiing; one had managed a dinner out, and one couple didn’t say what they’d done, but I’ll just say they looked very… mellow and relaxed. 🙂

I think my Valentine Gift was a success.

February 15, 2012 Posted by | holidays, Mischief | | 9 Comments


Two little girls,

two big chairs,

one great game!

Peek, Jazz!
Peek, Grace!
I see you!

February 14, 2012 Posted by | Grace, Jazz, the cuteness! | , | 1 Comment

Chickpea-Spinach Soup

This is a fairly new recipe to me, but I cannot for the life of me remember where I found it. Cook’s Illustrated, I’m thinking, except I’m not seeing it in my more recent issues as I skim them quickly. Anyway, here it is!


2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon (5g) cumin
1/2 teaspoon (3g) hot pepper flakes

2 cups (500mL) cooked chickpeas (that’d be a 190z/540 mL can; I soak/cook them from dried)
4 cups stock (recipe calls for chicken; use vegetable for vegetarian)

1 pkg (10 oz) frozen spinach, thawed and chopped (no need to squeeze out excess water)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
1 t lemon juice

1. In large pot, cook onion, garlic, cumin and pepper flakes gently till soft.

2. Puree chickpeas with stock in food processor or blender*. Add to onion mix. Bring to boil.

3. Add remainder of ingredients. Simmer till hot through.

*This, of course, is my adaptation, to the tastes of my family. You may opt to put the chickpeas in whole, in which case, once you’ve cooked the onions and spices, you simply plop everything else in and let it simmer. I think it may be because I puree the chickpeas rather than put them in whole, but I tend to find it needs more lemon juice. Thick and rich and nourishing.

February 13, 2012 Posted by | food | 3 Comments

Baking Powder Biscuits

Ask, and you shall receive. Cate wanted the recipe for baking powder biscuits, so here it is. I make these all the time — so often that I don’t use the recipe any more, just toss things in a bowl until it looks right, so I had to go look it up for the proportions. My version is from the More With Less cookbook (where it’s called simply “Basic Biscuits”). I got the recipe from a cookbook, I got the name from my grandmother, who made them without a recipe for decades, but I never got her to show me how! Silly.

Anyway. Baking Powder Biscuits

Preheat oven to 400F

Sift together:
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder

Cut in:
1/4 cup shortening

Add all at once, stirring till a soft ball is formed:
3/4 cup milk.

Plop dough out onto floured counter, knead lightly 20 – 25 times.

Now the recipe tells you to “roll or pat to 1/2″ (1 cm) thick and cut with floured glass or cookie cutter“. Sometimes I do that, particularly if there’s some reason we want shapes — hearts for Valentine’s Day, that sort of thing. But usually what I do is make a double batch and then rip off golf-ball sized chunks, and plop them into an ungreased 8×8 or 9×9” pan. I love the texture of the golden-brown rough surface, and the contrast of the soft and white insides. (It’s also a personal quirk: To me, if you roll it, it’s a cookie, not a biscuit. Cookies are flat(ish); biscuits are round.)

However you form them, put your biscuits on an ungreased pan and bake: 10 – 12 minutes for the rolled biscuits; 18 – 20 for the balls.

Good with butter, good with jam, good with gravy. Fancy them up by adding a half-cup of shredded cheese, and then they’re cheese biscuits. Easy!

February 13, 2012 Posted by | food | , , | 10 Comments

Menu Monday

A new tradition! Menu Monday. Enough of you have asked me what I feed the kids that I figure there will be some interest in a weekly Menu post. If there’s something that interests you enough to want to try it, let me know and I’ll post the recipe.

You’ll note about half of them are vegetarian. That’s how I like to eat, so that’s how the children eat. My family, too, for that matter, since what the children eat for lunch is generally what my family had for dinner the night before. (Neener, neener, I’m the chef. My kitchen, my rules.) It’s simpler to make extra than to cook twice.

I usually prepare my family’s dinner during nap-time. These days, there is usually at least one child awake during nap-time, but if I didn’t know how to get things done with children around, I’d be a pretty poor excuse for a caregiver, I figure. The child either amuses themselves, or ‘helps’ me.

So. This week, the children will be dining on:

Monday: Meatball soup and rutabaga-beet slaw

Tuesday: Squash-chickpea-apricot stew on rice
(When I serve chickpeas to toddlers, I mash them slightly. I figure they’re just large enough to be a choking hazard, so I err on the side of caution.)

Wednesday: Vegetarian shepherd’s pie, kale salad

Thursday: Roasted chicken salad, Greek potatoes
(Greek potatoes are unpeeled potatoes cut into bite-sized chunks, spiced with mint and dills, and roasted in water and lemon until the water evaporates entirely. Nom.)

Friday: Spinach-chickpea soup, baking powder biscuits
(The original recipe calls for whole chickpeas and my son doesn’t like their texture, so I puree them into the broth, making this a nice, thick soup.)

February 13, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments