It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Menu Monday

Monday: Potato quiche (we didn’t get to it last week, but it’s in the fridge now!)

Tuesday: Black bean soup, cornbread, salad

Wednesday: Tacos

Thursday: Very Veggie Cheese Omelette

Friday: Vegetable stir-fry

This week is a “use-up-the-produce” week. We have a ton of veggies left over from last week. Not surprising. Normally we all sit down to dinner together, most night of the week, but last week there were three nights where the kids didn’t show up (my kids, that is, who are old enough to text home and say ‘Going to Daniel’s to play board games. Won’t be home for dinner’ and come home long after I’m in bed). No kids at dinner means I made only half the planned amount — and used only half the expected amount of vegetables.

One of those nights I just didn’t feel like cooking (my vacation cannot come soon enough!!!) and let Wonderful Husband fend for himself. (There are always leftovers against such occasions. I had mint-yogurt soup, and he had frozen meat-stuffed tortellini.) Three nights of seven, when one is a regularly schedule eat-leftovers night anyway, is half the planned meals.

Makes for a lot of excess vegetables.

So this week, I didn’t sit down at the dining room table with my recipe file, the cookbook of the week, and my computer to work out the week’s menu. Instead, I opened the fridge door and sat down on the kitchen floor with a piece of paper and a pen, and plotted out veggie-consuming meals. Every meal up there can absorb a bucket full of vegetables (except perhaps the black bean soup, and even it’s going to get some pureed roasted eggplant, just for fun!) and it doesn’t matter at all which vegetables. Parboil them or sautee them or just chop them up and throw them in raw, those meals will take a lot.

I have some preferences. The omelette will use most of the mushrooms, for sure. The tacos can take the bulk of the green peppers and tomatoes, and the celery (among other treats) will go in the stir-fry. But really, this week’s menu is a vegetable free-for-all.


July 30, 2012 Posted by | food | | 1 Comment

Keeping ourselves busy

A craft featured a while back on One Pretty Thing, and a tremendous hit with the daycare! Pretty, aren’t they?

Jazz and Grace can manage to match colours. Poppy and Daniel find the mere squeezing of the clothes pegs a sufficient challenge. (First you have to squeeze the right end, then open over the card, then let go at the right moment. It’s trickier than you might think!)

This is Jazz. She’s a pro.


July 26, 2012 Posted by | crafts | 3 Comments

It’s a clue…

Daniel is a happy, cheerful, bumbling little tank of goodwill. Emphasis on ‘tank’. He means well, but he does steamroll.

I try to get the girls to come down off their injured-princess horses and cut him some slack.

“Daniel didn’t mean to hurt you, love. He’s just little, and he’s c lumsy.”
“Daniel is not hurting you, he’s hugging you. You can let him hug you. You just” I begin to prise “need to tell him” Daniel’s too-enthusiastic arms “when you’re” from her neck “done hugging. It was a c lumsy hug, but it was just a hug.”
“That was not a bite, that was a kiss. He just missed a bit. He’s little, and he’s c lumsy.”

I work equally hard at getting Daniel to develop some awareness and to TONE IT DOWN A BIT.

“When you’re standing right beside someone, you cannot swing your arms like that. See? Poor Poppy is crying!”
“Slow down, Daniel.”
“When you hug someone, you must stand still, and then let go. Let GO, Daniel. She’s done being hugged.”
“Daniel, lovie, you need to walk. WALK in the house.”
“I think you need to stop kissing people for a while, Daniel, until you can stop banging them with your teeth. No more kisses today, love, I’m sorry.”
“Daniel! Slow down!”

Most of the injuries Daniel does others are inadvertent. He doesn’t mean to bump, collide, careen, knock flying, run over, trample upon… that stuff just happens. Inexplicably. He moves from one room to another, and someone is, mysteriously, on the floor and/or crying in his wake.

Well, it’s not really even inexplicable to Daniel, because to be inexplicable, he’d have to be aware of, and confused by, it. Mostly, he’s completely unaware. Blithely oblivious. Grace may be crying, but what’s that got to do with him? Nothing he knows about.

But, sweet and amiable as he is, he’s not perfect. Some of the injuries that happen are indeed deliberate. He acts on an impulse, and BAM!, tears.

Only, when tears follow Daniel like a wake follows a duck, how do you know which is deliberate and which accidental?

Easy. If it’s an accident, Daniel is blithely unaware. Jazz may be seething in righteous indignation, but Daniel is happy, happy, happy. Happy, smiling, cheery, positively exuding bonhomie. Default Daniel.

If, however, he’s done a Bad, Bad Thing, and he knows it? When I look for him to come and deal with the flotsam and jetsam of his passage, this is what I find:

Which has got to be just about the most damned adorable picture of little-boy contrition I’ve ever seen.

Okay, so there’s a lot more “I’m in so much trouble!” worry there than there is “I shouldn’t have done that” contrition. He’s not feeling remorse for his actions so much as he knows his actions have earned him a correction, maybe even a scolding. But cute? Is that not cute, cute, CUTE?

I mean, just look at all that hair! Just look at those pudgy arms. The one hand with its fat little drooping fingers, the other in an awkward toddler fist, grinding into his eye. And see the sad, sad little lip peeking out at the bottom? Is that not too freakin’ adorable for words???

Even when he’s bad, he’s good.

I love this boy.


July 25, 2012 Posted by | aggression, behavioural stuff, Daniel, individuality, the cuteness! | 7 Comments

That damned stick has two ends

…and Grace, she has such an affinity for the wrong end of it.

Grace. My sweet, gentle, dippy Grace. What is happening to you?

If I had one word to describe Grace, it would be ‘gentle’. She has spent much of her small life so far ‘in the world but not of it’, her big blue eyes not quite focussed on the activity around her, staring off into the middle distance. When she does enter the play or the conversation, she’s most often three beats behind. She has a beautiful, ready smile.

Mostly, Grace is a joy. She’s quiet, peaceable, content to play on her own, content to play with the others. She’s gentle with the other children, she’s affectionate, she’s happy. Grace Plays Well With Others. Three beats behind, perhaps, but well!

Until this week.

There are two armchairs in my living room. One easily fits two toddlers, the other can only fit one. Typically, when the tots pay them any attention at all, Grace and Jazz sit in the big chair, Poppy sits in the other, and Daniel runs back and forth between the two. Up onto Poppy he blunders. Poppy shrieks and shoves him off. Okay, then. Over to Grace and Jazz he goes, attempts to scale the wall of flailing arms and legs and shrieks.

Once in a while Grace or Jazz will feel particularly gracious, however, and one will slide down and let Daniel clamber up. Where he will wriggle and twist and flail and twitch for all of twenty seconds … before sliding down to find something more interesting to do. Because just sitting? In a chair? Is BORING!!! Chairs, Daniel very shortly discovers, are no fun at all.

(He discovers this umpteen times a week, yet it comes as a surprise every time.)

Our story begins at one such moment of generosity. Jazz and Daniel are in the one chair, Poppy in the other. The requisite three beats have passed, though, and Grace, who had been contentedly colouring, notices. Normally, that would mean that Grace would go over and stand by the chair. She would watch and stare. She might whine in my direction, hoping I’ll come and rectify things for her. (The less-attractive extension of Grace’s gentleness is passivity, a tendency to whine about problems without making any effort to resolve them herself.)

Normally she would not charge up to Daniel and say, in a loud and strident voice, “I want to sit inna chair, Daniel. You get down!”

This week has not been normal.

“I want to sit inna chair, Daniel! You get down! Get down, Daniel!”

Of course, in that instant, the chair, the boring chair, becomes the only place in the world Daniel wants to be. Forever! Of course it does. Because Daniel is two. Because Daniel is two and Grace is being rude, rude, rude. His little chin comes up.

“No. I no get down. I stay here.”

Grace leans into his feet, which just clear the edge of the cushion. Leans and thrusts into his face.

“SHARE! You have to SHARE, Daniel!”

I sigh at the cosmic unfairness of it all. Grace’s passivity has been a thorn in my flesh for two years. For two years I’ve been working with her to get her to “use your words”. “If you have a problem, talk to the person, don’t just stand there and cry.” Over and over I’ve encouraged her to take action, to think of solutions, to try alternate approaches. To just stop being so damned passive!!!

“SHARE! You have to SHARE, Daniel!”

No passivity there, no, no, no. Also no manner, consideration, politeness, constructive options, alternative approaches…


I see his legs start to twitch. Purposefully this time. Grace is about to get an almighty kick in the chops if she doesn’t back off. Which she’s not about to do. Though one might argue Grace is currently earning an almighty kick in the chops, it would be unprofessional of me to allow it.

I put one hand on Daniel’s shins, the other on Grace’s shoulder.

“Grace. Daniel does not have to share. It is nice to share, but he doesn’t have to. If you want Daniel to share, you must ask nicely, then wait.” And I walk them through the script. Ask, wait, respond, resolve.

Now, take that event and multiply by eleventy-gazillion. All week, she has been doing this. All week she’d charge up to another child, rip a toy from them, burst into their activity, crowd their space, and otherwise be intrusively obnoxious, and every time they objected, she’d go all, “SHARE! You have to SHARE!!!”

And every time, I’d say that no, while sharing is nice and good, they don’t have to, but what Grace HAS TO DO is ASK NICELY AND WAIT.


Every time. How much of that did Grace absorb? How much made it into that pretty little head?

Grace is sitting in the big chair. Jazz approaches and asks nicely to sit with Grace. And then she waits for Grace to speak before climbing into the chair! Jazz has this “ask nicely and wait” thing pretty much nailed. (Well, right now, in this one perfect moment of time she does. Right now, in this one perfect moment of time, I am pleased.) Ask nicely and wait. Well done, Jazz!

Grace says, calmly and with absolute confidence, because hasn’t Mary said it over and over again all week …

“No, Jazz, I don’t have to share.”

July 24, 2012 Posted by | aggression, Daniel, Grace, Jazz, manners, power struggle | , , | 5 Comments

Menu Monday

Monday: Kale cups, cucumber sticks and yogurt dip

Tuesday: Veggie balls, spaghetti sauce on pasta

Wednesday: Singapore noodles

Thursday: Half-pita stuffed with lentil-rice balls and shredded veggies of their choice; cucumber raita

Friday: Potato-crust quiche. Loosely based on Alanna’s recipe, though I just can’t see myself de-kerneling a cob of corn, and certainly not ‘milking’ it. (This from a woman who happily minces kale stems to use in salads, makes her own bread crumbs, and whose favourite pizza takes about two hours to make. Funny what crosses the “much too fiddly for me!” line…)

Jazz likes kiwi!

She didn’t before. She didn’t, oh, a month ago. This wasn’t one of those on-again, off-again dislikes, either. This was a long-term, 100% consistent dislike.

Our morning snack is nearly always fruit. Sometimes it’s one piece of fruit: half an apple, a banana. Most often, it’s several kinds, chopped into bite-sized pieces and tossed into a small container (one for each child) which we tote along with us on our outings. Kiwi often features.

When the other children would have six or eight little pieces of kiwi in their snack box, Jazz would have one. Just one. And with that one piece would come, not ever day, but often enough, the little pep talk:

“You didn’t like kiwi last time, but you eat it anyway. Right now your tongue and tummy don’t like kiwi very much. If you keep trying, one day your tummy and your tongue will say ‘Yum!! Kiwi! We LOVE kiwi!’ They will, and won’t that be nice? That will be one more thing to make you happy!”

Not every day because really, she knows she’s expected to at least attempt everything in there, and I don’t want to make a huge big deal over it. But often enough that the message is heard, reinforced, and remembered.

About a month ago, I noticed that she was eating that one piece of kiwi without any comment at all. Without any dire faces, any grimaces. Without, it seemed, even noticing it was there. So about a month ago, I started putting two or three pieces in her box.

They all got eaten. They were perhaps, left for last, but they got eaten. And then one day, they weren’t left for last. So the next time, I gave her the same size helping as everyone else.

She ate them all.

“Hey, Jazz! Look at that! You ate your whole snack!”

She looks into her empty container. “Yeah, I ate all my snack!”

“You ate all the bananas, and all the nectarines, and all the kiwi!” I beam at her.

She hasn’t quite seen where we’re going with this, but she’s happy with the attention and beams back. “I ate it all!”

“You did! Even the kiwi! You know what? I think your tummy and your tongue like kiwi now! I think they saw that kiwi coming, and they said ‘YUMMY! We love kiwi!'”

She looks into her empty container, eyebrows raised in surprised. You can see the thought bubble: “Well, damn! Mary’s right! I did like that kiwi!” She looks back up at me, and her face breaks into an ever bigger grin. “My tummy likes kiwi! I think it’s yummy!”

“Yes, you do. Isn’t that great?”

“I like kiwi!” She’s still a little wonderstruck, but she also knows it’s true.

I love it when this happens.

July 23, 2012 Posted by | food | | 2 Comments

Tahini Dressing

I use this to dress a salad made of equal parts raw, grated beets and carrots, and shredded fresh spinach. I toss in some cubes of fried tofu and a couple handfuls of slivered almonds and dried cranberries. Sooooo good.

I’ve tweaked the original recipe quite a bit, so I’ll give you both versions, and you can pick the one you like!


1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups vegetable oil

Puree all ingredients except oil in a blender. Add oil in slow, steady stream.

My version:

First, I found it made a LOT of dressing. I never used that much, so I divided it in half. It’s very tasty, though, so if you use be before it goes bad (or, like me, you forget it in the back of the fridge), make the full batch!

1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes (optional. If I don’t have them, I don’t use them. It effects the nutritional value, but not the taste, at least not to my tastebuds’ awareness!)
1/6 cup soy sauce (I’ll use tamari if I have it, but I often don’t.)
1/6 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup water (I played with oil, oil and water, and finally landed on plain water. It doesn’t affect the taste, and you get a creamy texture by keeping the tahini at 2 tablespoons. And NO CALORIES IN WATER! Also, much more heart-friendly for my wonderful husband, who has to watch that stuff.)

Plop it all in a blender, and whirl till smooth.

July 16, 2012 Posted by | food | , , | 3 Comments

Menu Monday

Monday: Eggplant-tomato sauce on pasta (Rotini; spaghetti is way too hard to manipulate!)

Tuesday: Toad in the hole. (Jazz’s will have cheese  instead of sausage.) Salad.

Wednesday: Beet-carrot-tofu salad with tahini dressing

Thursday: Southwest bean salad

Friday: Tortilla soup

As always, if you want any of the recipes, just ask!


July 16, 2012 Posted by | food | , , | 1 Comment

Looking ahead

Happy Birthday, Emma! My baby turns 19 today, and in Ontario, that makes her legal on every front: she’s been legally able to vote, go to war, get married, drive a car for varying amounts of time. Now she’s nineteen, she can drink, too. (Mind you, we live less than 5 km from Quebec, where the drinking age is 18, so it’s not like she hasn’t gone across the river now and then.) Still! Legal everywhere! She’s happy about that!

Another milestone has also been reached. After many much-appreciated years of helping out in the daycare, Emma has given her notice. I booked her months ago to take over, pretty much completely, for the last two weeks of August (thus extending my holiday for a further two weeks!) but after that, she’s done. No more Emma as my regular backup.

I sort of panicked when she told me. I like my outings! I need my time out!

I can hardly blame her. She’s grown up in a daycare. When I started, she was a toddler herself. She’s had toddlers in her life, at her table, sleeping in her room, her entire life. The toddlers who allowed mum to stay home and homeschool her were also the toddlers who prevented mum from attending any school functions when she did finally arrive there. I don’t have an office job I can slip away from for a few hours.

She’s always been great about them. She’s done crafts, accompanied us on outings, read stories, given hugs, dished out discipline, mentored manners… all voluntarily, just because she likes them and is in the same space with them. She has done the occasional babysitting evening for many of them in their homes.

But now? After a lifetime of toddler-wrangling? She’s done. You can understand that. You can also understand my tiny sigh (did trees bend down your way just now?) at the thought of losing the very best, long-term, perfectly-trained, absolutely reliable assistant I have ever had.

So I panicked at first. And then I started networking. She’s not the only sensible, reliable, cheerful, flexible, experienced, warm, personable, loving, quick-thinking nineteen-year-old out there … well. Okay. They’re probably thin on the ground. But she can’t be the only one!!

My brainwave? We have a college in town. A college with an ECE program. A little exploration, and I discover that the college has a blackboard for posting job opportunities for college students. HA!

Three weeks, several applicants, a couple of interviews later, I have a wonderful young woman lined up. She’s worked a bit before starting college, so she’s in her early 20s. She’s starting the ECE program in the fall. Whee!

I am so relieved.

I’m also excited. An ECE student will be brimming with enthusiasm for the job, and will also be getting fed a steady diet of ideas, approaches, games, activities. I’m really looking forward to that influx of new ideas. It will be an invigorating breath of fresh, new air. And for her part? She’s going to get exposed to someone with years of experience, and a lot of accumulated wisdom on the principles of childcare, the long-term goals, and the minute-by-minute challenges. Discipline, management,  emotional development, crowd control. I have Civilization 101 pretty much nailed.  (Before you roll your eyes at the hubris, remember I’ve been doing this for 16 years. If I didn’t have those skills by now, I’m in the wrong profession.) Yup, I see this as a clear win-win.

She’s spent a couple of mornings with us so far. She has a lovely, warm, quiet way with the kids. They respond really well to her.  Next week when she comes, I’m going to go off for an hour or two, and leave her with the children. By the fall, I’m hoping for a day a week.

She doesn’t have her schedule yet, but thinks that will be do-able. A day a week! Oh, I’m dizzy with the wonder of it. Keep your fingers crossed for us!!

July 12, 2012 Posted by | daycare, my kids | 5 Comments

I’m a fixture

Remember that Sesame Street song? “Who are the people in your neighbourhood?” (Just watched that clip. Goodness, that’s cheesy. Sweet, but cheesy. Is it still part of the show?)

I was walking through our neighbourhood the other day with a woman who doesn’t feel very connected here. She’s lived here a couple of years, but has no friends, she says. She’s quiet, but she has two young children, and that in itself is usually enough to bridge the gap. I’m not sure why this would be the case, but we’re going out for coffee.

I wouldn’t say I’m a friend yet, but I’m open to the idea. I understand what it is to feel disconnected. I have friends, but I’m more introvert than extrovert, so I don’t have an enormous drive to collect friends in great bunches, and, though I’ve broadened the definition over the years, I’m still fairly slow to label a relationship as a friendship. Could this woman ever be a “real” friend, by my admittedly stringent standards? I suspect not, but I like her, she’s lonely, and an hour or two chatting in a coffee shop is a simple, easy way to do a kindness. And who knows? It could end up being a real friendship! So I walk to her house, and from there we walk the few blocks to one of the several coffee shops in range.

Half-block up from her home, a former client stops to chat for a moment. Introductions all round.
A block further on, a fellow from the dog park waves. Introductions all round.
At the next corner, someone stops to ask if I’m the woman who looked after Emily, and then asks if I have spaces, which I don’t. I give her contact info for a different caregiver.
Further down the block, Grace calls from her front porch. Grace’s mother waves. Introductions all round.
A former client is leaving the coffee shop as we enter. Introductions all round.

As we settle into our chairs, my lonely neighbour’s eyes are wide. “You know everyone!”

A funny idea, for me, the friendly enough but not particularly socially inclined ambivert. (Thanks for that term, Carol, for I suspect that’s what I am.) Though in recent years I’ve consciously decided to cultivate more friendships, I don’t need a lot of socializing in my life. I almost never get lonely. I prefer a night at home to a night out.

But, what do you know? I do know people in my neighbourhood. Lots of them. None of the people we met were friends, but I know lots. Even more know me.

They know me because I am one of   ♫♫”the people that you meet, ♫ when you’re walking down the street, ♫ the people that you meet each day.”♫♫♫

I am The Daycare Lady.

You know what?

I kind of like it.

July 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

Way to go, dad!

Great moments in parenting, as reported by Emma, who is working at the local gelato store.

Dad and 6-ish-year-old son enter the store. Son begins to choose the flavours he wants. When cashier asks what size, dad says “medium”, for both gelatos, his and his son’s.

Son commences to throw a fit. He wants LARGE, not medium. Large, large, LARGE!

Dad pauses, looks at son, and says slowly, in a low, measured, wondering voice, “Are you complaining about gelato??”

Son sits down and shuts up.

And eats his medium gelato.

July 10, 2012 Posted by | food, manners, parenting | 2 Comments