It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Unconvinced

She sits on the end of a bench at the park, watching the children in her care. Her face is set in a frown, as it generally is. There is a quote, attributed variously to Coco Chanel, George Orwell and Mark Twain, which goes “Nature gives you the face you have at twenty. But at fifty, you have the face you deserve.” Very true.

I’m in my fifties. I hope — I believe — my face shows years of warmth, intelligence, and love. I don’t have a lot of lines and wrinkles yet, and those I have are light, not deep. (Thank you, mum, for those good genes!) There are frown lines there, sure. No one gets to be fifty without times of unhappiness and struggle, but there are others, too. I truly love the laugh lines at the corners of my eyes, and I hope they just get deeper and deeper as the years go by. You can read a person’s attitudes in their face in their sixties and up. I hope, when I get there, that mine shows peace, happiness, warmth, and kindness.

I look at my same-age friends, and see the same sorts of stories on their faces: kindness, warmth, intelligence, humour.

The wrinkles on this woman’s face tell the tale of years and years of negativity. Habitual frowning. Sneers. Contempt.

How she continues to get clients is a mystery to me. Surely one look at that scowl-draped face, at the permanently etched frown lines scoured into her skin, would send any loving parent looking elsewhere? I’ve often wondered: “Who’d leave their child with a face like that?”

She doesn’t often join in conversation, but when she does, it is one long litany of complaints. Complaints about the children in her care. Complaints about their parents. Complaints about life in general. Sometimes, for variety, she moves from complaints to sneering and sarcasm.

She is abrupt, sometimes harsh, with the children in her care. She tosses out orders — part of the job — but never pulls a child in for a snuggle. Although we all encourage our children to run around and play at the park, at points over the morning, we’ll all have a child in our laps, a child who has run over for a quick cuddle before racing off again. There may be a child who’s a little under the weather that day, and needs a warm, reassuring lap for the duration of our visit. That’s okay.

Not this woman. Her small charges never come over for gratuitous cuddling.

So. Not my favourite person. I avoid chronically negative people, and goodness, she exudes negativity.

But today? Today she’s had a personality transplant. She’s not sitting on the bench, scowling and immoveable. She’s getting up! And walking around! And she’s … I’ve never seen this before! She’s smiling!

(Of course, she’s one of those people whose smile turns down at the corners. Of course she is. But it’s a smile.)

She’s smiling, and calling out words of encouragement to her kids. Friendly, conversational words instead of barked orders. Wow.

And she’s chatting with people. With the other caregivers, with the parents. Chatting, and, moreover, listening ,instead of dousing you with a deluge of complaints and sneering.

It’s startling, it really is. I’ve seen this woman in the park for a good ten years, and I’ve never seen her so friendly, animated, engaged.

What gives?

She’s looking for kids, is what. Over the conversation, it emerges that her enrollment is down. She needs to fill some spaces, asap. Now, it’s a wonder to me that this isn’t her chronic situation. That this woman is able to fill spaces, and keep them filled, has always puzzled me.

But for whatever reason, two of her clients have decamped with little warning, a third will be graduating shortly, and she’ll be down to two children. The wolf is at her door, she feels its hot breath on her heels, and so …

And so she’s out there. Networking. Smiling. Being friendly to the other caregivers, being warm with her children.

Does this warm her to me? Do I feel the shields of my frosty reserve melting away in the sunshine of this new, friendly face?

Not so much. Instead, I think to myself: So this means that you know. You know you’re unfriendly. You know it doesn’t look best when you sit, arms folded, scowling on a bench. You know you should be smiling, engaging, warm, supportive.

You know all that, and you can do it. You know how. Even if it’s just an act, even if it’s entirely faked, you know how to go through the motions. (You could try to fake it till you make it. Put on a happy face, and it will improve your mood a bit, may even become how you truly feel. Do it habitually, and it becomes natural. Really.)

You know, and you can … but unless you must do it, unless you’re forced, you don’t. Instead, you choose to be hard, frowning, cold, and negative. All.The.Time.

Nope. Still don’t like this woman. And I hope those spaces stay unfilled.

November 27, 2012 Posted by | individuality, manners, outings | , | 5 Comments

Menu Monday

Monday: Black bean soup, cooked carrots, cornmeal muffin

Tuesday: Lentil curry

Wednesday: Macaroni and Cheese (homemade! no KD in this house) green beans

Thursday: Soy loaf, apple relish, zucchini skillet

Friday: Black bean enchilada bake

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

November 26, 2012 Posted by | food | , , | 3 Comments

Rainbow of Activities

Rainbow month turned out to be a lot of fun. What did we do?

Rainbow wands (shown in the slideshow yesterday), which the girls promptly began using as brooms, to sweep the floor. I am reminded of the old Nancy White song, “Daughters of Feminists”.

The first lines are:
“Daughter of feminists love to wear
Pink and white, short frilly dresses
That speak of successes
with boys.
This annoys
Their moms.”

Further into the song, we get this:
“They say, ‘Please mommy, can I do the dishes?’
or ‘Let’s bake a pie for my brother!’
Are they sincere? Are they crazy?
Or are they just trying to stick it to mother?”

(The CD is no longer being made, which is a shame. Happily, I have the entire thing on my iPod!!)

We had rainbow rice in the Sensory Bin one week, and primary-coloured homemade playdough on the same table the alternating weeks. (This week is playdough week, and I am very happy to be stepping in squishy playdough bloblets rather than crunching in rice. Playdough falls and stays where it falls. Rice gets everywhere, and no dropsheet in the world stops it.) But it’s so pretty, and so fun! We do it anyway!

We brought out the Rainbow Clothespegs again. Though Grace and Jazz can manage the activity with an appropriate level of challenge, it turns out to be a bit too complicated for the two-year-olds. Today I will be making a simpler version for them. Pictures may follow.

Rainbow manicures were a big hit with Jazz and Grace. Daniel and Poppy declined, and they weren’t offered to Rosie or Josh!

Froot Loop rainbows were enjoyed by all. (No, they didn’t eat them. None of them have seen them at home, evidently, and I didn’t let on they were edible. Besides, have you ever smelled those things? It’s gross. Who’d be tempted to eat them?? Blick.) It turns out there are no blue Froot Loops. Who knew?

Actually, I know who: both Emma (19) and Adam (23) reacted with delight when they saw the box in the grocery bin. I had to warn them off: “That isn’t food. That’s a craft supply. Don’t touch it!” Now the crafting is over, they wouldn’t let me tip the rest of the box into the compost bin — with me wondering if that stuff were really organic enough to rot — but pounced on it for multi-coloured, super-sugared evening carbfests. I cringe, but they’re adults now. Bleah…

(I’m playing it up a bit, here. When the children were small, ten and under, once a week we’d buy a box of “junk cereal” to be eaten as snacks. I figured they were healthier than candy, but if we identified them as “junk”, they wouldn’t be misled into believing that those things — Froot Loops, Captain Crunch, Count Chocula, you know the type — were actually food. They got one box between the three of them, so there was careful pre-planning for the junk cereal week, pre-planning and negotiations … and Froot Loops were probably the most frequently chosen. Seeing the box after all these years probably brought back warm, fuzzy memories of their Happy Childhood. :-D )

We painted rainbow raindrops.

We enjoyed our rainbow-maker. Chasing the rainbows as they skittered around the house was a favourite activity.

I dangled streamers in rainbow colours from my ceiling. They loved streeeetching up to touch them. We played a game in which I would call out a colour and they would race to find the nearest streamer in that colour.

We painted rainbows, fingerpainted in primary colours, and made them from construction paper.

Failing to find any in the sky, we looked up rainbows on YouTube. (Including, for my entertainment, the stoner guy, though we didn’t manage to stick with that one for the entire three minutes… Did you know there are stoner guy knock-offs on there, too? And that the stoner guy appeared on a talk show??)

There was more. I’m sure of it, but it’s not coming to me just now…

Next Friday, the last Friday of the month, we will be having a Rainbow Party. I’ve asked the parents to send their children dressed either entirely in one colour of the rainbow, or all of them! That’ll be cute. We’ll do rainbow manicures again that day, and I have face paint for those who’ll allow it. There are games planned, and for food? Well, a fruit salad, of course! In all the colours of the rainbow. We’ll shop for it the day before.

Fun, fun. This has been one of the best Novembers I’ve enjoyed in years.

November 23, 2012 Posted by | crafts | , , , | 1 Comment

Rainbow Month!

November. Oh, how I hate November. My second least favourite month is March, and I dislike them for essentially the same reason: They are Eeyore months, grey, gloomy and sloooow to pass. Add damp and chilly. There may or may not be snow in November in Ottawa, but there’s certainly chilling, icy-cold rain, and endless grey, grey, grey, grey, grey.

I truly loathe November weather.

So! What does a sunny little optimist like me do when such a bleak month looms over her? She defies reality, that’s what!!

Well, now. Denial? Not really. I know it’s a stinky month. Didn’t I just say that? No, what a sunny little optimist does is create an alternative focus. Why fixate on the gloom — the gloom which is undeniably there, I know, but you don’t have to fixate on it! Why fixate on the gloom, I say again, when you can give yourself something else, something nicer, something FUN and PRETTY and COLOURFUL and FULL OF LIGHT to focus on?

November is a rotten, bleak month. Sooooo… in the daycare, we are having RAINBOW MONTH!

Four weeks of colour! Four weeks of all the colours! Four weeks of pretty! Fun! Light!

(And then doesn’t this turn out to be the sunniest November I can recall, ever. I will be astonished if we don’t break records for the hours of brilliant sunshine this month. It’s been SPECTACULAR!!! I attribute this, of course, to all the positive vibes coming from my little House of Rainbows. Of course.) :-D

Here’s a peek at some of the activities we’ve enjoyed this month:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ll tell you about them in more detail, and add a couple that didn’t make it to the slide show, tomorrow.

Fun, fun.

November 22, 2012 Posted by | crafts | , , , , | 1 Comment

Kids Are Gross

The first Big Bad Cold of the winter is storming the daycare. Now, colds are colds are colds. Though I have a sick policy, it doesn’t include colds. If a parent stayed home with their child for every cold of those first few years, they’d be out of a job, fast. So. Sniffly, snotty, sneezy, coughy kids can come. (Huh. Three more and I’d have the Seven Dwarves. Hacky, Wheezy, and Whiny, perhaps?)

I have some discretion with this, of course. If there’s a fever of more than a degree or so, they stay home. If the child just isn’t capable of coping with daycare, they stay home. Those, however, are the exceptions. For the most part, they come. Coughing, sniffling and sneezing, they come.

Of the six children who attend throughout the week, let’s see … Rosie, Josh, and Jazz have it, in spades. Grace is snotty, but Grace is so often snotty, poor mite, it’s hard to know if this is the cold, or just the allergies I suspect she must have. (Not so “poor” from Grace’s perspective, mind you: the snottiness doesn’t bother her at all. Though she does routinely — and increasingly — ask to have her nose wiped, Grace, as I was saying to Hannah only yesterday, also views snot as the sixth food group. Mmmmm, salty goodness.) Daniel has it, mildly. And Poppy, bless her hardly immune system, has not succumbed.

Yet.

But oh, the snot. SNOT. Snot. Snot abounds. This is a cold which inflicts inordinate, extraordinary amounts of snot on its victims. There is a cough, a dry one, but it’s intermittent, and (hallelujah!) is not interfering with their ability to sleep. There’s no sneezing. But the snot?

Good lord.

Gallons of the stuff. Thick, yellow, and copious. How one tiny nose, attached to, one assumes, a set of equally scaled-down sinuses, can produce that much mucous is one of nature’s little mysteries.

Yesterday poor Rosie was the hardest hit. Poor petit, 14-month-old, red-headed Rosie. She took a morning nap yesterday. Rosie does not normally nap in the morning these days, but her fatigue was profound. This thing has, in the words of my grandfather, “really knocked the stuffing right out of her.” She slept for a solid 90 minutes, and when I retrieved her?

Good lord.

Her nose was trailing butter yellow ribbons, viscous and glistening. Her cheeks were shiny with the snot which had dried after she’d smeared it there. Shiny, and, if you pressed into a shiny spot, it actually crackled. I swear. Her eyes were seeping equally yellow goop, and thus her eyelashes were well-crusted. (The eye goop likely the result of irritation caused by the snot she’d rubbed into them.) Her hair! Her delicate wisps of cinnamon-red hair … were stiff and prickly with dried snot. The backs of her hands slimy with the stuff. Ew.

I felt like the Grinch, contemplating Christmas in Whoville: “Oh, the snot! Oh the snot, snot, snot, snot!”

This was going to require a Major Cleaning Operation. Whoop-de-doo.

We all know how year-old(ish) babies love Major Cleaning Operations, particularly of their face. Gah. However, I have a system, and it’s pretty effective. It doesn’t stop the struggling, but it minimizes its effectiveness. Want to know?

Mary’s Method for Cleaning Snotty and Unco-operative Faces

1. Gather supplies. (Warm, wet facecloth and crusted, disgusting child.)
2. Sit down. A nice deep armchair is good, but for particularly writhesome children, you might opt to sit on the floor.
3. Place child on your lap, facing out. Their back is against your tummy. No, you cannot see their whole face, but you know where it is, right? And you know that it is covered, IN ITS ENTIRETY, with snot. So how precise do you need to be, here? You can certainly find the nose by feel.
4. This is the important step. With one hand, grab both the child’s wrists, bend his/her arms up at the elbow, and pin their wrists to their chest. Pull the child tight to your chest.

See? You’ve effectively immobilized them. Their hands are out of action, and they can’t run away, they can’t kick, their torso is trapped. Yes, they can still thrash their head around — and they will!! — but when you are holding the washcloth over their face, that suddenly becomes helpful. They are scrubbing their own face.

Stay calm and get ‘er done. Despite the noise, the child can’t escape, so if you need to hold the cloth to a particularly stubborn spot to soften it up, you can do that.

Now, I don’t torture the kids. I can have that child in my lap, scrubbed over, and down again in less than twenty seconds. I’m after improvement, not perfection. But if you need more time, you’re in a position to take it.

Unless.

Once in a while, the unexpected does happen. If the child is tall and you are short, BE CAREFUL! I had a client whose son (while sitting on her lap for a story) actually broke her nose when he flung his little self back in a fit of enthusiasm for the excitement of Bob the Builder Digs a Hole. The back of his head made bone-breaking contact with the bridge of her nose. Broken nose and two black eyes, poor woman, inflicted on her by her happy (and solid) toddler.

I am not short. (I am not tall, either, just not short.) Rosie is teeeeny. I was in no danger of that.

BUT!

Rosie is teeny. Her head is teeny, her torso is teeny.

Her wrists are teeny.

They were also, at the time, snot-smeared and slippery.

You can see where this is leading, can’t you? One teeny, slippery, snot-smeared fist eluded my grasp and flew up. That’s not so bad. So the hand, greased up by snot, slipped out of my grasp. I only needed to grab it again and proceed, right?

Bear with me, my darlings, while I describe the events of the next .0097 seconds. Her hand flew up, as I said. Up and backward over her head. Up and backward over her head and

STRAIGHT INTO MY MOUTH.

I felt the cool dampness on my lips. I tasted the salt on my tongue.

I HAD BEEN INJECTED WITH SLIMY, GERM-RIDDEN, SLITHERY, COLD-FROM-HELL-CARRYING SNOT.

Ack. Blerg. Gah. Gross. Ick. Bleah.

Now, we all eat that stuff when we are tiny. I see the bottom side of Grace’s tongue a decent percentage of each day, as her tongue delves into a nostril. Children pick their nose and eat it all. the. time. Because kids are gross. I assume that once upon a time, I too was equally gross. But it has been many, many, many years since I passed that stage. I no longer have the slightest desire to be ingesting my nasal production. In fact, I would be safe to say I have a STRONG AVERSION to it.

And to be ingesting someone’s else’s???

There are not words. For the Grossness. For the Revulsion.

And what does one do, post snot-injection? Gargle with bleach? Or, as one funny friend suggested, “Take off your whole head and boil it”??

Nope. Though the urge is there, and both those options have their appeal, they are, so sadly, untenable. What you do is drop the child, race to the kitchen where you spit madly in your sink, then wipe your tongue with a cloth. If I’d been thinking just a little more clearly, I’d have headed to the bathroom for the Listerine.

And then what you do…

is wait.

What else can you do?

You
just
wait.

Because I know it’s in me now. Simmering. Percolating. Fighting it out with my T-cells. (Go, T-cells, Go!!!)

And you second-guess yourself. Is my nose runny this morning? Or was that just because of the cold outside when I walked the dogs? Are my eyes itchy? Is that a tickle in my throat?

And you wait.

Tick
tick
tick
tick

eeeeeeeeeewwwwwww….

November 21, 2012 Posted by | eeewww, health and safety, Rosie | , , , , | 8 Comments

Cabbage-beet salad

Ingredients:
3 beets
4 cups shredded cabbage
3 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons oil
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala

Method:

1. Peel, then boil beets for 5 minutes. Cool, then shred. Toss in large bowl with the cabbage.

2. Mix spices and oil in a small bowl.

3. Pour dressing over top and mix thoroughly. I often end up using my hands for this: there’s a lot of vegetables and the dressing is thick.

When I made it this week, I had some rutabaga I wanted to use up, so I shredded a cup of that into the mix. This makes a lot, but if you put it in a covered container in the fridge, it keeps well for a good week. I made it up on Sunday, and we’ll have it a couple of times, the daycare and my family, over the week.

November 20, 2012 Posted by | food | , , , | 1 Comment

Menu Monday

Monday: Ginger-baked tofu, bean salad

Tuesday: Swedish meatballs on egg noodles, cabbage-beet salad

Wednesday: Singapore noodles (made with tofu)

Thursday: Black bean couscous salad

Friday: Veggie burgers, cabbage-beet salad

As ever, if you see an item you’d like the recipe for, just ask!

November 19, 2012 Posted by | food | , , | 1 Comment

There are no secrets

Three-year-olds are fascinated by genitalia.

What they have, what the other guy has. It comes up in conversation, casual conversation, all the time. I don’t get flustered, I just deal in facts. Well, facts and appropriate social boundaries. Truth be known, I actively enjoy these conversations. They’re funny and sweet, charming and utterly innocent.

The cutesy-prudery that is endemic in our society irritates the ever-loving crap out of me. We cringe at the thought of having “The Talk” with our kids. We wince when they mention their genitalia. We moan together about how embarrassed we are about our children’s perfectly normal (and perfectly innocent) curiosity about their own bodies.

“Oooooo!” some mommy-blogger writes, “My little boy asked how long it takes to make a baby!” (The child, elementary school age, I gather, had enough of the facts that he wasn’t asking about gestation, you understand. He wanted to know how long The Act took.) This mother dedicated a thousand words (some of them, I admit, kind of funny) to describing how she didn’t answer her son’s honest question, but did manage to convey a whole lot of embarrassment, unease, and shame.

Oooooh, lovely.

Or the daddy-blogger who waxed lyrical (and, yes, he was funny, too) about how HIS precious angel is not going to be allowed to have a boyfriend until she’s 30, and that all prospective suitors will have to run the gauntlet of his protective manliness to achieve their virgin princess in a tower.

Irritates the SHIT out of me, people.

Because God forbid we produce children who grow up into ADULTS. Adults who have the information, attitudes and resources to have, among other things, a healthy adult sex life. They don’t get there because we had one squirming, cringing, stilted conversation, aka “The Talk”, or, worse, just had a leaflet thrown at them when they were thirteen or so.

Do we want kids who have confidence and self-respect? Teens who will see us as trustworthy resources, and come to us with questions and concerns? Adults who choose loving and nurturing partners? Then get over yourself and talk. to. your. kids. Talk sanely, calmly, sensibly, respectfully. Your children is much more likely to achieve healthy sexuality when their parents answer straight questions with age-appropriate information. When their parents are relaxed and matter-of-fact about this topic.

Our children stand a far better chance of getting to be healthy adults with healthy sexuality if we act like adults ourselves, instead of sniggering 9-year-old boys or simpering 9-year-old girls. Grow up, people!

So when the topic of genitalia comes up here, and it does, routinely, we use medically accurate terms. No “pee-pees” in this house. “Down there” means “on the floor”, not a body part.

Boys have a penis and testicles. Girls have a vulva and a vagina. Those are the words we use. We use them quite a bit these days, because there are two three-year-olds in the house.

Jazz and Grace stand over Josh, who is being changed.
“He has a penis,” Grace observes.
“Yes, and tessacles,” Jazz adds. They nod, sagely pleased with their observations.

When Poppy is being changed,
“Her vulva gots poo on it.”
“Yes, Jazz, it does. I’m cleaning it now.”
“And you gots to be careful and not get poo in her vagina,” Grace adds.
“Smart girl! You’re absolutely right. I have to make sure her vagina stays clean.”

See how easy it is?

I have done my best to put this exciting vocabulary in the appropriate social context. These are private areas of the body, and so we don’t talk about them just anywhere. I’ve explained that it’s okay to talk about these things with me and with mummy and daddy, but not just anyone.

This morning I had some wiring replaced in my basement. The electrician is also a friend, so he stopped to chat with the tots. Being a sensible man, he admired Grace’s dress.

“Yes, I have a pretty dress, and Mary has a skirt!”

“So she does,” he nods.

“Mary has a skirt and she has a shirt and she has a sweater and she has tights and she has unnerwears, and”

Uh-oh. “Unnerwears” was already too much information, and my electrician friend is snorting into his beard. He thinks that’s the punch line. He thinks the joke is over, but I know better. I can see the trajectory here, and it’s not heading in a G-rated direction. I don’t interject quickly enough, however.

“… unnerwears and she has a VULVA!” Grace stops, pleased to have gotten the Topic of the Month into conversation.

Yeah. Oh, yeah. Only a three-year-old could put you in the position of encouraging your electrician to consider your nether regions. (Is it better or worse that he’s a friend, I wonder?) So much for “private things talked about in private”, huh? Except, from the perspective of a three-year-old, we’re IN THE HOUSE, and he IS A FRIEND, so we’re discussing private things in private, amongst friends. What could possibly be wrong with that??

What’s a little genital consideration amongst friends, anyway? We do it ALL THE TIME around here!! Hee.

Thankfully, my friend the electrician is, like me, a grown-up about these matters. He also has children of his own (children old enough to be producing grandchildren, but still, children). He’s been here. He barely blinks. Well, unless you count the wink he threw my way.

“Medically accurate, huh? Good job!” He raises two thumbs as he heads out the front door.

Me and my vulva, we go make lunch for the children.

November 15, 2012 Posted by | Grace, Mischief, parenting, Peeve me, sex, the things they say! | 12 Comments

Spinach Pie recipe

This is a Greek dish. If you opt to form it in rectangles (or triangles) of phyllo pastry, it’s spanakopita. Mind you, phyllo is high-fat, and high-calorie (all that yummy, yummy butter). Phyllo is also exceedingly (delectably, wonderfully) flakey. And fiddly. Still, I looooove spanakopita. Love it. Were I making it just for me, I’d forgo any concerns about fat and calories once in a while, just for the decadent pleasure of phyllo.

However. Phyllo in the hands of five toddlers, people, is messy beyond belief. You think glitter is hard to eradicate? Phyllo crumbs distributed by the enthusiastic eating of five toddlers gives glitter a solid run for its money. Glitter, it might be noted, does not attract ants. Nor does it rot. Or leave grease smears.

So we skip the phyllo, we use a pre-made pie shell, (because Mary, despite a respectable amount of culinary talent, doesn’t much like making pastry), and it is EEEEEEEEEEASY!

Truly easy.

(Though to date the prepared pie shells I’ve seen in our grocery store contain lard. So much for this being a vegetarian-friendly entree for Jazz. Either I serve it on days she’s not here, or I buckle down and make the damned pastry.)

Jazz doesn’t get spinach pie too often…

Ingredients:
one frozen pie shell, prepared according to package directions
1 onion, chopped fine
1 pkg frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
3 large eggs
1 cup cottage cheese (or a combination of cottage cheese and crumbled feta)
1 tablespoon dried dill

Method:
Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix everything together in a bowl.
Dump it into pie shell.
Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.
Let sit for 5 minutes before eating.

YUM!!!

The kids like it room temperature. I cut it into thin slivers, and they eat it with their fingers, like pizza. Slice after slice.

November 14, 2012 Posted by | food | , , | 1 Comment

Mary and the Tots Go to The Mall

Four toddlers and a baby. The baby is snoozing in the stroller, the four toddlers walking. The mall was pretty quiet, so I let the big kids let go of the stroller, with instructions to walk behind and stay close. Whenever they toodle along behind me, I am tempted to quack. Momma duck and the ducklings trailing in my wake.

It works pretty well, but for Grace the Vague, who tends to wander to the side, her gaze caught by passing dust motes, or lag far, far, faaaaar behind, her footsteps slowed by a passing thought. Or something. She ended up hanging on to the stroller again. She wasn’t offended. There are dust motes close to the stroller, too.

We are going to the bank, then to Grand and Toy for a binder and more of my favourite pens. Two items. Two items, and an ENTIRE MORNING outing. Really. We walk to the mall (50 minutes). We go to the bank (5). We coo over the adorable kittens in the window of the pet store right beside the bank (15 minutes). We meander down the length of the mall to Grand and Toy (5 minutes).

Before entry to the store, I gather the children around the stroller to review the Rules for Stores. First I must catch their attention, all at the same time. Not an easy feat.

“Guys, look at me. Look here.” I point to my eyes. “I want to see all your eyes. Jazz? Daniel? Eyes, please. Grace. Grace, my eyes. Look at my eyes. Okay. So we’re going into a store. When we go in, you must hang on to the stroller.”

We arrange them so that they’re each hanging on to their hanging-on spot. Then I continue.

“Okay. Look at me again. Eyes. Eyes, guys.” Three sets of eyes meet mine. One set is gazing still communing with dust motes. “Grace?” I cup my hand under her chin. “Look at my eyes, lovie. Everybody looking at me? Good. There are lots of interesting things in the store. Will you touch any of them?”

“Nooooo.” They all chime in unison, a long, serious, lowing. A couple of passers-by grin.

“That’s right. Nooo touching. But what can you do?”

“We can YOOK!” Daniel is very pleased to know the right answer.

“That’s right. Good job, Daniel! You can look, but you caaaan’t touch.”

Having established the Rules for Engagement with Stores, we proceed. It takes a few seconds to locate my pens.

“May I hold the pens for you, Mary?” Jazz asks. This is something they do. It’s a treat for them, but serves a secondary purpose. Hands that are holding things for me are less able to touch stuff on shelves.

“Sure, sweetie. Here you go. Thank you!”

And then to the rear of the store, where, after some discussion, we decide to get a pretty pink folder with pockets rather than a binder.

“May I, may I, may I hold that, Mary?”

“Sure, Grace. Here you go. And that’s it, guys. We can go home, now.” The aisle is narrow, and I’ve instructed the children to stand together in one spot so I can manoeuvre the stroller around the corner. When I turn to call them to me, Poppy’s head hangs low, her shoulders slump, her lower lip out in the absolutely perfect Gerber-baby pout. She is the very picture of dejection, and it’s freakin’ adorable.

“Poppy! What’s wrong, little missy?”

“We are all done shopping!”

“Yes, we are. Now we can go home and have lunch.” (Lunch is usually a big draw for Poppy.)

“We are all done shopping, and I didn’t get to CARRY ANYTHIIIIING!”

Poppy’s lip quivers. Perfect round tears tremble on her curly lashes. Her eyes meet mine, glimmering with the unshed tears which will soon trickle prettily down her downy pink cheeks.

Oh, honestly. Why is it that some people (Poppy, Daniel) can look unbelievably adorable, scoop-me-up-and-comfort-me, when they cry, when others of us (Grace, Jazz, me) turn into blotchy, snotty, red-nosed, red-rimmed disgusting messes of revolting misery? Why wasn’t I blessed with the Cute Cryer gene? The rest of us, we are revolting cry-ers. It’s not that our sadness is any less real. It’s just blotchy and … slimier. Instead of yearning to scoop us up and cuddle us, people take one look us, throw us a thick towel, and hope we keep our distance. NOT FAIR.

However, even the cute cryers feel true misery, and Poppy is feeling it now. If the shopping is all done, she won’t get to Hold Something for Mary. She won’t get to carry it through the store. Most heart-breaking, she won’t get to put it on the counter for the cashier.

Because putting things on the counter, that is THE BEST THING EVER!!! Poppy looks at me, quivering in utterly adorable misery. Daniel gazes at me hopefully, his eyes threatening a similar glimmer.

Which is why, three minutes later, I slipped FOUR purchases into my bag: pens, a pretty pink plastic folder, and two rolls of scotch tape. Yes, I’m perfectly capable of saying no. I can tell a sorrowful two-year-old that she can carry something next time. (I can do this and know that she will NOT throw a screaming, flailing tantrum in response.) I can do any number of things that don’t involve buying more stuff … but, meh. This time, I wanted to.

Besides.

Christmas is coming. We’re going to need tape.

November 13, 2012 Posted by | outings, Poppy | , , | 1 Comment

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