It’s Not All Mary Poppins

October 31

No post today. Too many EXCITED TODDLERS surround me. Excuse me: a kittycat, a ghost, a mermaid, a cow, and a farmer. And they’re all VERY VERY EXCITED!!! All this without one speck of sugar. Lord only knows what they’ll be like tomorrow…


October 31, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments

Everything I needed to know I learned in…

Two mothers stand in my front hall.

“So glad you can come!”
“Oh, yeah! Wouldn’t miss it!”

They chat for a minute or two longer. Discussing the party they’re both attending. To which I am not invited.

This has happened from time to time down through the years, and every time, it just floors me.

It’s just so damned rude. It’s the kind of rude you should have learned to avoid in Kindergarten. Clearly these two missed that lesson.

It’s two kinds of rude, in fact. First, it’s bad manners to talk about a party in the presence of someone not invited. But there are parties and parties. There’s the party thrown by a co-worker, say, a party that I would not have the remotest expectation of being invited to. Then they’re being rude by talking about something that excludes the third person. Same as it would be rude for them to stand in my front hall and talk about their workplace politics, discussing people and events I have no connection to, in a way that precludes my participation. (Which, come to that, they have also done!) It’s rude primarily because this kind of conversation excludes others, treats them as if they were wallpaper.

It’s additionally rude in this particular situation because it’s the end of my work day. If you want to have a private social conversation, ladies, take it outside and off my clock!

It’s rude to talk about something that excludes someone in the room. But it gets worse. This party is a Halloween party, being thrown by the first parent. So, not only are they talking about a party to which I was not invited, in my presence, but they are talking about a party to which I might reasonably expect to have been invited!

That, my friends, is mind-boggling.

Now, I’m not particularly insulted. I’m not a hugely social person, and would not want to be invited to every party thrown by every daycare parent. Truth be known, over the years I’ve thrown parties myself to which some, but not all, daycare parents were invited. I’m not so hypocritical that I can deny them the right to determine their guest list, when I’ve done exactly the same thing.

But here’s the difference: I didn’t talk about it in front of the uninvited. In fact, I gave the invited parents the heads-up that not all the daycare parents had been invited, to avoid awkward moments.

Like the moment I’m currently experiencing.


I opted to ignore them. Ignored them and took their children out to the front porch. Then came inside after a minute, pretty much forcing them to go outside before their tots made a break for the street.

In my darker imaginings, I didn’t respond quietly. Nope! In my fantasy, I smiled perkily.

“Oh! You’re having a party? When is it?” And in my fantasy, they’re stunned into mortified silence, suddenly aware of how selfish their behaviour has been.

Of course, this assumes that people so oblivious could be embarrassed by anything short of a two-by-four upside the head. Unlikely, I know.

Telling them they’re being rude is itself rude, so I’m not going to do that. I certainly don’t want to provoke the guilt-invitation, which is a mortification all round, and which I’d not accept anyway. Besides, that’s not the point. I’m not annoyed I wasn’t invited, I’m annoyed they’re taking my time and treating me like a non-entity by discussing it as if I weren’t there.

(And let it be noted, they’re great clients. They really appreciate what I do. They speak very highly of me to their friends. It’s just clear that in their minds I’m “My Daycare Lady”, not, you know, a regular human being.)

Is there a polite response to such rude behaviour?

What would Miss Manners say?

What do you say?

October 30, 2012 Posted by | parents, Peeve me, socializing, the dark side | | 5 Comments

Vegetable Muffins

Preheat oven to 375F.

3 – 4 cups of medium diced vegetables
(May include mushroom, zucchini, onion, peppers, eggplant, sundried tomatoes, corn, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli … If using onions and/or mushrooms, sautee till soft first. If using hard vegetables like carrot, either grate, or use cooked leftovers.)

1 clove garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated cheese

6 eggs
1/2 cup milk

1. Prep vegetables as needed, then mix all together in bowl.

2. Fill regular sized, greased muffin tin 2/3 full of vegetable mix.

3. Whisk eggs and milk together in small bowl or large measuring cup. Pour over vegetables.

4. Top with grated cheese.

Bake for ~25 minutes, till brown at edges. Will firm up as they cool, so best not eaten straight from the oven.

October 29, 2012 Posted by | food | , , , , | 6 Comments

Menu Monday

Monday: Vegetable chili, baking-powder biscuits

Tuesday: Vegetable muffins

Wednesday: Lentil soup over rice

Thursday: Spaghetti and meatballs (meat-free meatballs)

Friday: Chickpea-spinach soup

As ever, if you’d like a recipe, just ask!

October 29, 2012 Posted by | food | , , , | 2 Comments

Monster Rings

I have a large stash of toilet paper tubes.

Now it’s a little bit smaller!

I’ll leave you to figure out how these were made; it isn’t difficult. And what are they, besides the obvious?

Why, napkin rings, of course!

October 25, 2012 Posted by | crafts, holidays | , , | Leave a comment

Solomon’s Choice

Jazz and Grace are painting toilet roll tubes. Each of them securely bibbed, their brushes seeped in green paint. They are making Frankenstein’s monster heads, which will become napkin rings for our Halloween party later this week. Each of them has several tubes in front of her, but it is not until we reach the last tube that I realize I have provided them with an odd number of tubes.

Oops. Nine tubes for two girls, means that one girl will get to do ONE MORE tube than the other! This, as you all know, is a toddler catastrophe.

In this case, though, it has an easy fix. We’re going to be cutting the tubes in half anyway, so I’ll just cut the last one in half. Then they can each have one!

“I don’t want you to cut it in half.” Jazz, who finished her last tube before Grace, eyes the now-intact tube. Obviously, she’s working on the “first come, first served” principle, so close in mindset to the other toddler favourite, “finders, keepers”. Neener, neener to you, Grace. That’ll learn you to be so contemplative and careful, immersing yourself in the experience. Serves you right for putting quality above SPEED!

I set a long, level stare on Jazz. “Okay. I won’t cut it in half. I’ll give it to Grace. I’ll give it to Grace, and you won’t get anything. Is that okay with you, or shall I cut it in half?” My tone isn’t hostile, pushing, or sarcastic. Nor am I trying to coax or wheedle. I’m just stating facts. This is What Will Happen, missy.

Jazz recognizes Implacable when she sees it. Her eyes widen, she smiles and nods. “You can cut it in half, Mary!!”

Good on you, kid.

October 24, 2012 Posted by | crafts, Jazz, power struggle | , | 3 Comments

Super Easy Pasta Sauce… Or … In Which Laziness Becomes Virtue

Back from the park with just enough time to poke some lunch into them before nap time. I open the fridge … and discover that someone in my family has eaten the lunch I had set aside. “Someone” almost certainly being my 23-year-old son, known to descend upon the kitchen in the small hours, looking for a second dinner before-bed snack.

This happens often enough that we do have a communication strategy designed to prevent such mishaps: a wide piece of green painter’s tape on the lid of the container, upon which is written in large block caps “DO NOT EAT!!!”

Except, I forgot. The boy young man can’t be expected to know. After all, he knows I’m usually after people to finish up the leftovers. We even have one night where there is no planned meal, called in the family the “fend for yourself” night, during which one has the opportunity — nay, the expectation — of clearing the fridge of leftovers. So, short of reading my mind, if there’s no DO NOT EAT sign on a container of food, he can hardly be blamed for assuming it was safe to eat.


Which leaves me back from the park with five hungry toddlers and no meal in sight. Damn. Blood sugars dropping even as I speak, and nap time less than half an hour away. Must find food!

Pasta! Pasta’s easy, and they love it. And on the pasta? Ummm… cheese sauce. We always have cheese, milk, butter, flour. Whip up a white sauce, grate in the cheese. Easy enough. But when I open the fridge, there, front and centre, is a jar of leftover butternut squash, baked a couple of days ago. I really should use that up. Maybe I’ll add the squash to the cheese sauce, thicken it up, add some vegetable virtue. Or maybe …

Or maybe I’ll just throw some milk on top of that squash and puree it with the immersion blender right there in the jar, and call it pasta sauce!! Even easier than cheese sauce.

It took seconds. In ten more minutes, the kids were eating — no, devouring — their lunch, which included a good quarter cup of squash, each.

I will be remembering this!

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

Menu Monday

Monday: Southwest bean salad

Tuesday: Spinach pie, carrot salad

Wednesday: Jambalaya, flatbread

Thursday: Ginger-baked tofu, red pepper strips

Friday: Grilled cheese sandwiches, carrot salad

October 22, 2012 Posted by | food, health and safety | , | Leave a comment

Poor Me

We are walking to the park.

“I have polka-dot boots!” Poppy speaks mostly in highly-enthused declaratives. “I have polka-dot boots, and polka-dots on my pants! And Jazz has polka-dots on her coat!”

Jazz and Poppy are equally delighted by this revelation. Which is true. Poppy has the World’s Cutest Boots, black with large white dots, and trimmed with a bright pink bow. Truly adorable. Her pants are white, with multiple pastel-coloured dots in varying sizes. Cute, too. Jazz’s coat is more muted: pale pink with smallish polka-dots in tones of white through grey.

“Oh! ROSIE has polka-dots!” Poppy has had to look a bit harder for Rosie’s dots, but there they are, on her socks, visible in a thin band between pants and shoes as her feet peep out from the stroller. (Rosie does not care one bit about dots, nor does she notice the careful examination of the other children. Rosie has a fallen leaf. Rosie is happy.)

Daniel cares about dots. “I has dots!” he declares, excited to be joining in. We all look at him, a little blank. Plain blue knit hat, dark red jacket with white stripes along the pockets, jeans, orange shoes. But even as Jazz inhales for her hearty denunciation of his delusion, Daniel proudly points to his new runners. Runners which, unlike every pair of shoes he was worn in his short life, do not have velcro. Today, for the first time, LACES! With holes in the shoes to thread the laces through! And those holes? Are ROUND! Round like POLKA-DOTS!!!

To their credit, the girls let this pass. Daniel has polka-dots on his new shoes. COOL!

All eyes are now on Grace. Oh, dear. Poor Grace does not have polka-dots. From the top of her head to the tip of her toe, there is not a polka-dot, nor even a polka-dot approximation. We all pause to take in the pathos of this lack. Then Jazz’s face brightens. “But you have doggies, Grace!” It’s true. Her coat is a visual cacophany of largish dog silhouettes — Scotties, I’d say — in tones of white, grey and blue on a pink background.

We are all very pleased for Grace.

Now, it seems, it’s my turn. Jazz looks me up and down. Red cable-knit sweater hangs loosely down around jean-clad hips, pink runners enclose black socks. No polka-dots. (Apparently the grommets in my shoes do not count.) No doggies. No patterns at all. (Cable knit, it seems, does not count, either.)

Jazz looks me up and down, then makes her declaration, her face matter-of-fact:

“Your clothes are boring, Mary!”

Her tone is mildly pitying. Poor, poor Mary, so sartorially impoverished.

I think I need to get me some polka-dots.

October 18, 2012 Posted by | Daniel, Jazz, Poppy, the things they say! | | 3 Comments

You want to make Mary twitch?

A mother stands in my front hall at the end of the day.

Her daughter reaches for the latch of the front door. Now, this is Not Allowed at Mary’s house. Children are never, ever to open the front door. Never, ever, ever. I shudder to think of the chaos and potential tragedy that could result from children wandering out the door. Most of the time, the screen door is kept locked to prevent escapes, but this is the end of the day, parents are coming and going. The door is unlocked.

Nonetheless, locked or not, the door is Off Limits to the children, and SuzieQ knows this. However, she has obviously weighed our respective authorities (who’s the boss? mummy or Mary?) and our potential to act (who’s standing closer to me?), and figures it’s a risk worth taking. Mother notices.

“Suzie. Leave the door, please.”

Suzie looks at mum, and puts her hand on the door knob. Without breaking eye contact, her jaw set, she carefully places her hand on that knob. OOoooh, the defiance! I’m itching to take action, and I would, I would, were mother not standing between us. But of course, mum won’t let her get away with that, right?

“Suzie. Leave the door and come here, please.” (And I sigh, inwardly. Here we go!)

Suzie unlatches the door.

Now, her mother is within arm’s reach. There is absolutely nothing to prevent mother from stretching out her arm — she wouldn’t even have to lean! — and pulling the door firmly shut. Instead, she merely tosses more words, more pointless words, into the air. Tosses them into the air, where they dissipate into nothingness. Ineffectual, meaningless nothing.

“Suzie. Leave the door.”

Suzie opens the door.

(Gee. I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming, huh?)

“Suzie. I said leave the door.”

Suzie steps out onto the porch.

“Suzie. I said … oh, okay. Okay, you can go out, but stay on the porch!”

We’ll stop here, shall we? You can see the trajectory. I think none of you will be surprised to know Mum and I didn’t get to finish that conversation.

Suzie’s mother is impressed (and truth be known, I think also a little pissed off, some days) at how readily, and without any fuss, her daughter does as I ask. Had I been standing between Suzie and the door, there is absolutely no way at all that she would have touched the latch.

What’s the difference? Is it that “children always behave better for others than their parents”? Suzie’s mother’s been known to cite the truism.

Oh, puh-lease. No. It’s because Suzie’s mother does not consistently monitor and maintain the boundaries she attempts to set. I do. I do, not just with Suzie of course, but with all the children. I do, because I’ve been doing this for years, because I know the enormous difference it will make and because, as Hannah expressed it so well not too long ago


I do it because I’m in the business of raising adults. I do it because I want these children to become all they can be.

But I also do it because if I didn’t, I would have FIVE children all ignoring me and dashing every which way, doing exactly what they wanted in every moment, all day long. Can you imagine? The chaos, the noise, the screaming, the violence, the mess?

That? Is my idea of hell on earth. Lordy.

If I had issued the directive, Suzie would have dropped her hand. Period. I might, because her mother was there, have gotten a considering look as she weighed the possibility that Mummy might trump Mary, even in Mary’s home, but even so, I am reasonably confident she wouldn’t have. Had mum not been there, there wouldn’t have been a second’s hesitation. The hand would have come down.

Suzie, however, is three and a half, and well schooled. Cast back a year and a half, though. A year and a half or two years. Cast back that far and re-run the tape with an un-trained Suzie.

Suzie stands in the front hall as we all get out coats on to go out. She’s ready first, and reaches for the door.

“Suzie. You don’t touch the door knob, remember? Only grown-ups open that door.”

Suzie, being the feisty little thing she is, gives me a considering look and grabs the door knob.

“Suzie. I said no. Only grown-ups open the door.” And as I speak, I move close, lift her hand off the knob, and, if she seems inclined to reach for it again, lift her to a different area of the floor.

Suzie, being the feisty little thing she is, would probably kick up a bit of a stink at this point. I suspect it was all the stink-kicking a year or two ago that now prevents her mother from taking firm, decisive action. Mum doesn’t want to provoke a fit. (A wry comment about letting the terrorists win flits through my brain…)

Which is why, when I take that essential firm, decisive action, I reward her with a very warm and sunny “Thank you!” and a distracting task.

“Thank you!” because it’s good manners to thank someone when they help you out. The fact that the help wasn’t voluntary is completely irrelevant. The point here is not to punish her for her attempted disobedience, the point is to teach her a Better Way. So, a warm and sunny thanks. Which very often throws them off their disgruntled emotional trajectory, and they’ll smile right back at you.

And then, quickly, give her a task. “Here, sweetie. Would you give Sam her hat, please? Sam needs her hat so she won’t be cold!”

That usually does it. Usually, but not always. If Suzie were determined to throw her fit, if she refused to be distracted from the joy of rage, then I would move into my standard tantrum response. (If you are interested, check out the Tantrum Series tab at the top right.)

So. Issue an instruction, make sure it’s been heard, then FOLLOW THROUGH. Calmly, firmly, politely, implacably.

Every time.

That’s it, that’s all. The caregiver’s “secret” to co-operative children.

Follow through, physically if necessary, and it often is at first. (By ‘physically’, I mean hand-over-hand helping or preventing whatever it was, of course. I do not mean spanking. If you can produce considerate, obedient, kind children without it — and you can — why would you?) Follow through despite the protests, despite the tantrum. Follow through, every time, and it will not be long before there are no tantrums because they just don’t work.

I’m sure a lot of the time when I see lack of follow-through, it’s happening because the parent doesn’t want to subject the caregiver (and themselves) to the struggle that might ensue. But please! Don’t fret! Don’t worry! She won’t criticize, she will applaud! Go for it, because I promise you: When you tell your child to do something and then don’t follow through? You are making your caregiver twitch.

October 17, 2012 Posted by | manners, parenting, Peeve me, power struggle | , | 7 Comments