It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Baking, baking

If you’re upset there’s no post today, you may all blame Hannah, but before you get upset, pop over and check out her new venture.

We were all excited to try out this week’s recipe, but first we had to go to the grocery store for bananas. Then we had to come home and bake, them! Now we are all feeling too fat’n’satisfied to do much of anything except smile at each other and burp gently.

Check it out!

Nom.

Urp.

October 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

Menu Monday

Monday: Meatloaf, Greek potatoes, salad (ginger-baked tofu for Jazz)

Tuesday: Stuffed green peppers, roasted root vegetables

Wednesday: Veggie pancakes, green beans and bacon

Thursday: Quiche, rice, miso squash

Friday: Vegetables with peanut sauce on rice noodles

October 15, 2012 Posted by | food | , | Leave a comment

Poppy and the Roars

A couple of you have asked, and more are probably curious: How is Poppy doing with Josh the Roarer?

First, let it be underlined that Josh does not roar often. Generally he is a happy little dude, busily exploring my home and everyone and everything in it. His moments of OUTRAGE are pretty few and far between for a 12-month-old … but gracious, they’re LOUD.

Poor Poppy, she does not much like tears of any description, and LOUD tears are orders of magnitude worse.

So, how is she doing?

Pretty well, all in all. She doesn’t like the noise, but she doesn’t fall into weeping when it happens, she has not asked for a ‘nap’. She retreats far, far away from him and looks worried, but, fair enough, sez I. I’d do the same if I could! I deal with Josh, then attend to Poppy, giving her a calm, assuring hug, praising her for staying calm, and commiserating with her about how LOUD that baby is. She usually can rummage up a rueful grin, and we move on to happier activities.

She’s doing well!

October 12, 2012 Posted by | daycare, Poppy | , | 1 Comment

Off to a Roaring Start

New Baby Boy (hereafter called Joshua) has now been in my care two days. (He’s part-time, three days a week. Daniel has the other two, and this week started with a holiday Monday. So.)

Day One, the day on which I had braced for reality the worst reality, turned out to be …

spectacularly wonderful.

Really. What are the odds, I had asked — rhetorically, sarcasm dripping from my fingertips — that I would get a second easy transition, immediately after Rosie’s supremely trauma-free induction to the mob? Very good question. The more pertinent question turns out to be: What are the odds that after Rosie’s super-easy transition to daycare, the next baby in would have, not just an easy, but a TOTALLY PAINLESS transition?

Indeed.

Generally, when a parent comes with a child, a new child who has never been in my home before, the child stays in the security of the parent’s arms until parent has to leave. Not Josh. When it became clear that his mother and I were going to talk interminably (like, oh, 3 or 4 minutes), he wriggled down out of her arms. Wriggled down and scooted away, using that half-hitch scootch that’s about the third most popular way of pre-walking locomotion. Wriggled down, scootched away, and went clear out of sight. (Around a corner less than a metre away. I could see him, but his mother couldn’t. More to the point, nor could he see his mother. Let me repeat that: he’d never been in my home before, he couldn’t see his mother, and THIS DID NOT ALARM HIM FOR A SECOND.

Wow.

Mum and I came to the end of our conversation.

“I’ll just sneak out now, while he’s occupied,” she said, peeking around the corner to take a quick look and ducking back before he caught sight of her.

An aside: To sneak out, or not sneak out? This is a Raging Debate in some quarters, and of course there are Schools of Thought on either side, each firmly convinced of the soundness of their reasoning — and of the inferiority — nay, the child-damaging, psyche-crushing cruelty — of other perspective.

To which I say … Meh.

Firstly, children are JUST NOT THAT FRAGILE. You are not going to destroy your child psychologically because you called attention to your departure. You are not going to destroy your child psychologically because you vanished like the mist while he was otherwise occupied. You have to work a whole helluva lot harder than either of those to destroy your child psychologically.

Secondly, different children respond differently. One child might genuinely need to wave bye-bye to feel safe and secure. A parent who sneaks off causes more anxiety, not less; the child, concerned that the parent will vanish, clings and refuses to enter into his day. Another child, however, might find your carefully announced departure disruptive to his transition and needlessly anxiety-provoking. He was playing just fine, thanks, until you make a big deal over going!

How do you know which is right for your child? You can’t, because you’re not there after you leave. You can’t evaluate the effects of each style of departure, because you don’t see them. The only people who see the results are the ones who are there after you leave.

If your caregiver observes that your child is happier when they see you go, then make a point of waving bye-bye with a cheery smile. If your caregiver observes that your child is happier if you just slip out, then that’s what you do.

Easy.

What you don’t do is decide what is the Right and Proper and Emotionally-Psychologically Superior Thing and then do it, no matter how it distresses your child.

That’s just dumb.

Aside over.

Josh turns out to be in the “don’t need to see mama leave” camp. Did he ever notice that she wasn’t there any more? Well, if he did, it didn’t alarm him one teeny little iota. Not a speck of anxiety. In fact, within the first half-hour of his first day in this TOTALLY STRANGE environment, he had bestowed an ear-to-ear grin on every person in range.

And so it continued. Cheerful exploration, friendly interactions, beaming smiles. He ate his food with gusto, he slept like a log at naptime, he ate dirt at the playground, he pulled books off shelves, clothes out of bins, papers off tables. A busy boy. A busy, happy boy.

Did he cry at all, on his first day? Yes, he did. He cried because I wouldn’t let him pull the dog’s ear. HOW DARE I?!?!! He cried because the food did not get to the table fast enough. And he cried because Jazz moved away when he (weighing in at a hulking 33 pounds) was pulling himself to stand using 27-pound Jazz as his prop.

All those are perfectly unexceptional reasons for a 12-month-old to cry. What was exceptional was that not once did he cry from disorientation, anxiety, uncertainty, separation. What was exceptional was that when he did cry, all it took to soothe him was a hug and a cuddle from me. Me, who he’s met all of twice in his little life. What was also exceptional was HOW LOUD HE CRIES. Lordy. The boy does not weep and wail, he ROARS.

I am thus very grateful, very, very grateful, that he cries so little and soothes so readily. Because hours of that ROARING would have me clawing my ears off to escape. If a few minutes of ROARING per day is the only downside to sunny little Joshua, though, I have NOTHING to complain about. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

Also, I know. Anything could happen yet. It’s only one day. The very first day. But WHAT A DAY!!!

So far, so good?

You betcha!

October 11, 2012 Posted by | daycare, Joshua, parenting | , , | 11 Comments

Personal space? What is this thing?

Poppy fondles my right breast.

Of course she does. Are there any mother-type people out there who have not been fondled by their little one? Or someone else’s? It’s happened to all of you. I’m quite sure of it.

Put a baby or toddler on your left hip, and sooner or later their little hand just creeps across your body, reaches the slope, rests there and … enjoys the softness. Cups it, caresses, fondles, whatever. I’ve been groped by more small hands in my life than I can possibly recall. I don’t even have to think as I grip their wrist and place their hand gently-but-firmly down at their side. The fending-them-off motion is almost entirely reflexive.

Could I be so very inured to it that I let it continue without noticing it’s happening? Well, given that I notice and stop it in one half-conscious action, with my brain only ever half-engaged… Could there have been times when I simply haven’t noticed at all, when my brain never did engage, not one little bit? Entirely likely.

Has it happened in public? It happens all the time, after all, and I scarcely notice when it does. Happened in public? It is, I am darkly afraid, pretty near a sure thing that I’ve stood in line at a coffee shop while some teenage barrista tried not to notice my breast being stroked and squeezed right before his pimpled face. It’s a wonder my husband’s indulging in pretty much the same activity has any impact on me at all any more, poor man.

But today I noticed. Because today Poppy started with the generic fondle but quickly moved to a precise and painful pinch. Of the nipple. I yelped.

“Ouch! Poppy! Don’t pinch me there! That hurts!” Yes, I said she’d pinched a nipple. She bloody well had, and hard. There is no way, however, I’m giving her that word in context of my body. She knows she has nipples, of course. She knows her mummy and daddy and the other children have nipples, too. But you know, I just don’t want to be there at the end of the day when she tells her daddy, “I pinched at Mary’s nipple!!” as if it’s some sort of Terrific Accomplishment.

Because Poppy? That’s exactly what she’d do. With an “aren’t-I-just-so-smart?!” look on her round face. Poppy’s poor dad, unlike his chattering, decisively enthusiastic daughter, is a very quiet fellow. You could assume he’s unfriendly, but that would be unfair. The man is shy. Shy, shy, shy. Presented with a) his daughter, declaiming about Mary’s nipple and b) Mary, complete with nipples … he just wouldn’t know where to look. Not in my face — the eye contact just then would be excruciating, but — NOT DOWN! DON’T LOOK DOWN! AVERT EYES FROM NIPPLE AREA!!! Must look, um, UP! Yes, UP!

Poor man would try to exit while staring unblinkingly at the ceiling. He’d probably end breaking an ankle, tripping over the door sill. So, no use of the n-word in front of Poppy.

“Ouch! Poppy! That hurt! Don’t pinch me there!”

If I can be fondled and only be half-aware of it, so can toddlers half-consciously fondle. Poppy startles a bit and stares at her hand on my breast. “Oh. I sorry, Mary.”

And then, in a burst of sweet empathy and compassion, the wee toddler on my left hip cups my breast in both pudgy hands, leans forward,

and plants a kiss,

right on the nipple.

“There! All better!”

YOU try telling her that was inappropriate. I dare you. 😀

October 10, 2012 Posted by | manners, Mischief, Poppy, quirks and quirkiness, socializing | , | 6 Comments

Fingers Crossed

This week, having just regained her equilibrium after the introduction of Rosie (former NBG) Poppy meets her next big challenge: New Baby Boy (NBB) starts today.

I’ve arranged with the parents that Poppy will arrive about half an hour before NBB, so as to be established before …

well, before the crying starts. Because, unless NBB is the paragon that Rosie was, there will be tears and wailing.

Poor Poppy. Poor empathetic, anxiety-prone Poppy.

Am I nervous?

Yes.

In fact, I am writing this Monday evening (Thanksgiving holiday Monday here in Canada) and setting it to publish Tuesday morning, because I am quite sure I will have little time to fritter on the computer once NBB arrives. I fear I will be up to my neck in wailing and/or clinging and anxious children for much of the day, if not NBB, then Poppy. I am hoping against hope that Rosie does not join in the storm of tears, neediness and worry…

I have some small hope that the lessons she’s learned so far will help Poppy weather this new source of stress more smoothly than the last, but that hope is minimized by the undeniable fact that Rosie’s was a supremely easy transition. If Poppy found that difficult, then a normal transition — and really, what are the odds of two supremely easy transitions in a row? HA! — will be orders of magnitude more challenging for her. For me. For all of us.

So, tomorrow morning (Tuesday, when you read this), I will be far, far, faaaar too busy to tell you how it’s going.

Keep your fingers crossed for us!

(Re: that picture. Fear not! Confidentiality is being respected. Most pictures of toddlers I use come, as did this, from stock.xchng. It’s being used legitimately, and is not of any child in my daycare.)

October 9, 2012 Posted by | Poppy, Rosie, socializing, the dark side | , , , | 5 Comments

And the winner is …

Thanks to all of you who scrambled to comment on the Give-Away post. This is a great book, and I’m really pleased that so many of you are interested — and delighted that I can assist in getting it to three of you.

I wrote all your names on pretty yellow paper,

Yellow paper, all the names.

and dropped them into a hat. (And if you’re going to pull names from a hat, it should be a great hat.

Is this not a great hat? The sort of hat you buy because it’s just SO FUN!!!

Daisy thinks it’s worth a sniff.

And then you never have any place to wear it.

Of course.

Because, really, where would you wear a hat like that? But it’s still SO FUN!!!

Drop the names in, swish them around a bit, and have your daughter pull them out.

And the winners are:

So, the three of you? (Wallingjen1, Janis, and mamadragon!) You need to send me an email at notmaryp at gmail dot com with your address, so I can forward the three addresses to the publisher, who will send you your book!

Congratulations to the lucky winners, and thanks to everyone who participated.

October 8, 2012 Posted by | books | , | 3 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving, and Give-Away Info

Hello! The give-away is now closed. No more entries will be accepted. I’m off now to spend time with the in-laws three hours away, and will not be back until Sunday.

I’ll put the names in the hat then, and post the winner on Monday, October 8, our Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

October 5, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Neighbourliness

I know I’ve talked before about how much I appreciate my neighbourhood, and how nice my neighbours are. People are happy to interact with the children, very complimentary about my skills (and patience, ha!), the chidren’s behaviour and all-round adorability. I have a teacher neighbour who’s been known to give me entire BAGS of stuff when she changes grades and won’t be needing things. (Though these things have included a heap of glue-sticks, boxes of crayons, a stack of construction paper. When don’t you need those in elementary school?? Not that I object! I am very grateful!)

I’ve had neighbours I don’t really know at all wander up the street. “Do you run a daycare? I see a lot of children here, and then there’s that stroller…” When I confess that I do indeed, this has been followed up with a donation, and not just little things: a ride-on car, a storage unit, a double stroller.

Once, I walked out onto my porch to discover a bag of stuff there. Nice, fun craft stuff and small toys. Never did find out who gave me that!

A day or two ago, a neighbour headed out her door lugging what I took to be an end table, all set to put it in the back of her truck. It looked nice, so I called across the street and said so.

“I’m taking it to the consignment shop!”

I laughed. “Not nice enough, then!” Well, no, it turned out that it wasn’t an end table, it was a toddler table with two little chairs. Her boys had outgrown it, and they were clearing out space in the basement. She pauses.

“Would you like it?”

Ha! I already knew I thought it was pretty. The chairs were adorable. The only challenge is figuring out where to put it in my small home, but for this? We’ll make it work! I said heartfelt thanks. I offered to pay for it. She declined. I offered again. Nope, no, she wouldn’t hear of it.

The kids loooove it. It’s had hours of use already.

The next day, the kids and I made a batch of cookies, decorated a paper bag, and took it over as our thank-you gift. I coached the children in their thank-yous, and Grace actually managed to speak the words, speak them audibly, AND make eye contact while doing so. I was very proud. My neighbour — how could she not?? — melted with all the cuteness. I’d call it a satisfactory transaction.

I really like this neighbourhood.

October 5, 2012 Posted by | Ottawa, our adoring public | | 2 Comments

Not too little!

It’s a long, long, sloping sidewalk that challenges us as we make our way over the bridge on our way home from a lovely long outing on this beautiful fall day. A sidewalk with clear boundaries: on one side, the decorative concrete wall preventing us from plunging into the water below, and on the other side a 20-cm drop to busy street beside us. (As in, the sidewalk is raised, not broken.)

I am pushing a single stroller with New Baby Girl — now with the new, improved blog name of Rosie! — while the other three hold on: Grace and Poppy hold on to the stroller itself and Jazz holds on to Grace’s hand.

(All this finely calculated: Poppy is the second-youngest, and so must hold on. Grace is a terrible dawdler and would end up a km behind in about three minutes. It’s astonishing how far back she gets. Oh, the irony: dawdling is the one thing Grace does quickly. Jazz does not normally have to hold on at all, as she keeps up and stays close, but when on a busy street or a crowded sidewalk, she’s required to.)

All this careful arrangement does mean that, small as we are, we string out across the entire width of the sidewalk.

Now, one thing that truly annoys me is oblivious sidewalk-hoggers. These are generally groups of children and teens, though adults do it on occasion too. Once a child is 9 or so, I start to expect some sidewalk awareness. Three six-year-olds are strung across the sidewalk, meaning that me, walking on my own, am going to have to slide sideways around them or walk on the street? I cheerfully call out “beep, beep, guys!” Three fifteen-year-olds do it? I square my shoulders and refuse to budge an inch. This usually means that the one closest to me — who fully expects this mild-looking middle-aged lady to MAKE ROOM for his/her stupendousness, the only real, significant person in the universe, after all — this usually means that the one on my end careens off my shoulder. Only, I was expecting it, see, so I am unfussed, whereas little Lady (or Master) Self-Absorbed often actually staggers a pace.

“Oh, gracious!” I’ll say, as if I hadn’t been expecting it at all. “Sorry!” Which is a bald-faced lie. I’m not. At all. I hope that this has taught them a lesson, if not in manners and consideration, at least in self-preservation, which will result in the same behaviour: pay attention to oncoming traffic, and make room.

So, since this inconsiderate behaviour annoys me so very much, I’m not about to tolerate it in my kids. Yes, they’re only toddlers and cannot reasonably be expected to figure this out themselves. Not the point! Pro-social behaviour training starts NOW!

So as we climb this long, long sloped sidewalk, I keep an eye out for oncoming pedestrians, in both directions. When someone comes up from behind, I simply stop and gently pull the child-obstacle out of the way. (We are slow-moving traffic, after all, and it’s a long section of sidewalk where no one could feasibly pass by stepping into what is usually a busy street.) When someone is coming from in front, however, the training begins.

“Jazz, honey. There’s a lady coming. See her? When she gets close, you’re going to have to squish into Grace a bit, so she can get by.” This said, you note, when said woman is well ahead. All this talking takes some time, and toddlers? They do not have lightning-quick reflexes.

As the woman gets closer, I remind Jazz. “Okay, Jazz, time to move over. Come this way a bit.”

And the woman, she smiles down at the four little faces, says, “Oh, that’s okay! They’re fine! Don’t worry!”

People do that. They think they’re being nice. They are being nice, but I sigh a little sigh each time it happens. ‘I don’t have to move because I’m little and cute’ is not the lesson I want these children learning. I usually just smile back, but today Jazz notices.

“Why did her say ‘don’t worry’?”

And I pause to consider. Why did she say that? It’s not too hard to figure: She’s probably seeing a woman with a lot on her plate, and is trying not to add more to it. She’s being considerate, is what she’s doing. Besides, there’s another explanation which is likely also part of it, that these children are too little to be aware of traffic, too young to be held culpable for their oblivion. Which is true, but…

But not forever! They get a free pass for now, but when do we expect these things to magically kick in, if we don’t actively teach them? Judging by the number of adolescent shoulders I knock into in a month, this is not something that just happens.

So I have to think of an explanation that will, well, explain what she just said, but without undermining my long-term agenda.

“You know what? I think she might have said that because she thinks you’re too little for good manners.” And you know what? Sometimes that is what it is. The follow-up comments tend to give it away. “Plenty of time for that!” or “Oh, it’s okay. They’re just little!” Well-meant, but unhelpful. And false.

I had chosen my words carefully, and I hit the mark. Jazz rears back in indignation. (Jazz is a champion indignation-rearer.)

“I am not too little! I am a big girl!”

“Yes, you are, and you have good manners. You have good manners, and you are learning more every day.”

“I have my good manners! I can say ‘please’!”

Grace is catching the drift now. “I can say ‘please’, too!”

“Yes, you can. You say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ and ‘I’m sorry’. All those good manner words. You’re learning to say “would you, please’ when you ask for help, and today? Today, what are we practicing?”

Blink. Blink. Blink. Mary and the trick questions. Geez. A hint is required.

“Just now, when that lady came, what did you do, Jazz?”

Oh, now that she knows. “I squished into Grace!”
Grace echoes: “She squished into me!”

“Yes. Why did you do that?”

A few more exchanges, in which it is determined — because this is in no way obvious to a toddler — that had Jazz not ceded a sliver of sidewalk the woman would have had to leap either into oncoming traffic or the canal. On or the other. But she would not have been able to walk on the sidewalk.

This is subtle, people, subtle. For toddlers (and, it seems, for many teens).

And so, when the next woman approaches, and we are in this process again, I call out to her: “We’re just learning our Sidewalk Manners!”

To which Jazz adds, “Because I am a BIG GIRL!”

And we are all very proud.

October 4, 2012 Posted by | manners, our adoring public, outings | | 9 Comments