It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Menu Monday

Monday: Toad in the hole, cucumber raita

Tuesday: Stuffed green peppers (vegetarian version)

Wednesday: Spinach pie

Thursday: Aloo gobi, sloppy joes on kaiser rolls

Friday: Southwest Bean Salad

As always, if there’s a recipe you’re interested in seeing, just ask!

November 12, 2012 Posted by | food | , , , | 1 Comment

And an ‘Amen’, too

Josh, as you know, is a heavy little bruiser. Solid as a rock. Weighs a ton, and lifts like a ton.

Which is heavier, a pound of lead or a pound of feathers?

Neither, obviously. They’re both the same: One Pound. A pound is a pound is a pound. Physics, and your kitchen scale, are clear on that.

Except… There’s physics, there’s fact, then there’s experienced reality. There are kids who just lift easier than others, you know? Of course you do. It’s the weirdest thing. The number on the scale might say the same thing. They’re both 25 pounds, yet Child A surges up into your arms, whereas Child B drags on your lower back like a bucket of sludge. We’ve all experienced that.

What’s with that?

Josh is a charmer. Largely cheerful, with a wide, square face most often wreathed with a big, wide smile. Josh weighs over 30 pounds. And Josh?

Lifts like a bucket of sludge. Every time I pick up that kid, I feel that “Ooof!” of effort. My back feels the strain. My arms start to quiver. Josh is 13 months old, he weighs 33 pounds and he


Reasonable enough. Thirteen months is not too late to be still crawling. He is not delayed in any way.

But he is heavy. Damned heavy. Crushingly heavy. Thank GOD he’s not a needy little clinger who wants to be carried all the time. I’d be in hospital in traction if I’d had to carry that lump for more than a few minutes each day over the past month. Lordy.

Still, a non-walker needs to be carried a certain percentage of each day. It’s unavoidable. And every time I pick that child up, “oof!” goes my lower back. (I know how to lift, too. No bent-at-the-middle swoops into the air for poor, deprived, bucket-of-sludge Josh. This kid gets the proper, back-straight, lift-from-the-thighs hoist, most often accomplished by a pretty neat arm curl. My back is going “oof”, but I’m developing great biceps.)

So you will understand my reaction when Emma, who was in the kitchen, called out to me in the front hall, getting kids ready to go out. I looked down the hall and saw Josh’s shadow in the kitchen door, though I couldn’t see him.

“Hey, mum! Look at this!”

And Josh rounds the corner.


The boy has achieved bipedal!!!

He was WALKING!!!

I looked, I laughed, I punched the air with both fists, and I shouted out an exuberant and utterly grateful,


Have you ever wondered why your kids always pick up swear words, far quicker than they pick up PG vocabulary? It’s because anything said with sufficient emotional fervor, something shoots out of mummy or daddy’s mouth with some force, that catches their attention. It makes an impact.

I just did that. (And I wasn’t even swearing! Which I never, ever do in front of the daycare, nuh-uh.)

I don’t think any of the daycare tots had heard that word before.

Poppy grabbed it first.


And I laugh. Of course. So then everyone else grabs it, too. “Halleljah!” “Hah-la-loo-lie!” “Hoe-la-loo-lah!”

It was a revival meeting, right there in my front hall.

Thing is, the kids know what provoked it. So every time Josh staggers by upright, he leaves a trail of “HALLELUJAH!”s in his wake.


At the end of the day, Poppy was the last to be collected. I was chatting with her mother (a favourite of mine amongst the daycare parents) about the day, and happened to mention Josh’s new skill. As I described seeing him lurch through the kitchen door, Poppy, who had been industriously snarling my shoelaces into a rich tangle of mayhem, stood up, threw both hands into the air, and shouted



Josh is upright, and the whole house celebrates, world without end.

Hallelujah and Amen

November 8, 2012 Posted by | Developmental stuff, Joshua, Poppy | , , | 7 Comments

Patterns of Joy

Off we go to the park. There are several parks we can walk to, spoiled city kids that we are. There is one we go to several times a week through the summer, and because we seit so often, a pattern has emerged.

Of course it has.
Toddlers love patterns.
Toddlers need patterns.

Patterns around bedtimes and meals are called “Consistency”, and parents should manipulatively maintain, cannily create, and certainly MILK those patterns for all their behaviour-shaping potential.

Patterns around favourite activities are called, variously, “cute”, “methodical”, “a pain in the arse”, or “OhmyGOD, my kid is so damned OCD!!!”, depending on the time, need for speed, agenda, and patience level of the parent in question.

You all know what I mean. Something like this:

“I KNOW you like me to make all the noises of all the animal on this page in this book — this book which we must read every morning after breakfast — but you had TWO ginormous poops today, the second requiring a mini-bath, we’re way behind schedule and have to be at daycare in ten minutes and THERE IS NO TIME!” [Cue screaming meltdown, so you can bring tear-sodden tot to daycare and feel like a total parental loser.]

Not so fun, that one.

I use the patterns that work for me, ignore the ones that don’t, eliminate the ones that are simply bad behaviour (ignoring often eliminates them, come to that), and bask in the ones that amuse me.

Today’s post is about the basking kind.

So, we’ve been at the park. Going to the park, there are not many rituals, because we are focussed on getting to the park. Coming home, though? I have learned that, done right, coming home requires a solid half-hour.

Now, I did have to learn this. At first, I fought it. I’d allow 15 minutes for the walk home (on my own, as an adult, it takes a little less than ten), and then they zigged and zagged and raced off down tangents from that agenda. I pulled them back, and redirected, called them over, called them back, hurried them up … and got pretty damned exasperated, truth be known. Because when we got home, we still had to eat, change diapers, tidy up and read stories before they could start their naps. At Mary’s house, naps are sacrosanct. We are very, VERY consistent about naps.

So. I had it all mapped out in my head. Park, walk home, lunch, pre-nap activities, nap. This was the Agenda, the goal was (and is!) NAP ON TIME, and I did not want to be distracted, deterred, held up. AT ALL.

However. The point is Naptime to start On Time. It took me a week or two of impatient prodding before I realized (duh) the trip there and back is part of the outing. It’s not simply transit time. With that wee mental shift, we could leave the park half an hour sooner, because I belatedly noticed what the toddlers knew all along: leaving early doesn’t cut down on playtime, it just shifts the venue. Duh, again.

Here is how our walk home goes, now.

We leave the playground. There is a row of trees on the path that leads from the playground to join with the path along the river. This row of trees starts maybe four metres from the park. Poppy, Grace, Daniel and Jazz must run to a tree, cup their hands around the sides of their faces, and press their noses into the bark. They stand there, tense and giggling, waiting for me to call out, “WHEEEEERE’s JAZZ?? WHEEEERE’S POPPY? WHEEEEERE’S GRACE??? WHEEEERE’s DANIEL???” And then they POP! their faces back off the tree, fling their hands out wide and giggle at me as I say, in TOTAL SURPRISED DELIGHT, “THERE you are!!!”

We have to do this on Every.Single.Tree. There are four of them. I have to call it for each child, separately, for each tree. Traversing this path to the river can take, oh, five to eight minutes. (It’s a one-minute walk for an adult; two with a walking toddler.)

But it is SO!MUCH!FUN!!!! (Yes, some days I do this on auto-pilot, my mind on other things, because (I know you will find this hard to believe) I do not find this as RIVETTING and full of UNIMAGINABLE DELIGHT as the toddlers. But I do it because there is great reward in their joy-filled faces. Even when I’m a teensy bit bored.)

We get to the junction of the two paths. There is a sign here (“Dogs must be leashed past this point on pain of $150 fine”, I think). There is a medium-sized bowl-shaped depression beside the sign. We must race into the bowl, lie down, and yell out about how “I’m swimming! Mary, I’m swimming inna pool!” Another 2 – 5 minutes spent here.

And then we are at the path along the river. There are benches at intervals on this path. And here is what happens next.

“Mary, may we run ahead?”
“Yes, you may. You may run to the next bench, and then wait for me.”

Because that is what The Script requires. Off they go, charging ahead to the bench. Then they must (the MUST, I tell you! It is TRADITION!) climb up on the bench, and then sit on it so that they face backward. They are in a train. Every bench is a train, and they must needs ride ALL THE TRAINS!

They scramble up on the benches, the arrange themselves, they sit with their feet swinging as I approach. And then they swarm down, and ask again,

“Mary, may we run ahead?”

And so on, until …

We reach the CLIMBING TREE. Scrambling around on the Climbing Tree takes, oh, a good ten minutes, often more. I watch the children, I text friends (yes! I am THAT caregiver! the one who SHAMELESSLY IGNORES the children in her care), I watch the geese on the river, I plan the afternoon’s craft. And they scramble up and down the gentle slop of the giant trunk, sit on one stump, deke around behind, pop up, ride the bus. See, while the benches are trains, this tree? Is a bus. A school bus.

You know? I do not need to give you details about ALL the homeward-bound activities. But be assured: there are rocks to inspect for pee and then jump on, there are fields to fall in, there are saplings to race around, there is one particular spot where we MUST all lie down like cordwood, so that when Mary approaches, she MUST call out “Wakey-wakey, rise and shine!!”

Every day.

I could fight this. I could insist that we walk in focussed attention to get home promptly and efficiently. I did do that, for a week or two. We got home sooner, sure, but I was motivated by impatience and thus mildly exasperated the whole time.

Now, though? Once I decided to allow them their patterns? Okay, so I do sometimes feel a fleeting boredom, but mostly I revel in the JOY.

Walking home from the park … brings not just happiness, but JOY to these children.

Toddlers are wonderful for joy. (Yes, they’re wonderful for rage, too, unfiltered little primitives that they are. It’s the flip side of the same coin.) But when they do joy, they’re wonderful.

November 7, 2012 Posted by | outings, the cuteness! | , , , , | 5 Comments

Sunshine Poppy

Since re-discovering her brave, Poppy has blossomed right back into the pre-anxiety girl I’d loved so well.

She’s enthusiastic.
She’s happy.
She’s cuddly.
She’s adorable.
She’s friendly.
She’s brave.
And she makes me laugh at least four times an hour.

This morning, Poppy kneels on a chair at my dining table, a tray puzzle of jungle animals in front of her. She is the only child here yet, so I am finishing the breakfast dishes before the others arrive. Poppy sings to herself as the fits pieces into the puzzle, removes them, puts them back. Only after a few minutes do I realize that she is singing “Old MacDonald”, and fitting the words to the puzzle. This Old MacDonald has a zebra, a hippo, a giraffe, a monkey, an elephant, a parrot, and a rhino on his farm. Animals which make a fairly impressive range of growls, snorts, and squawks.

Our theme for this month is Rainbows. November is a dismal, grey, drab, altogether tedious and disheartening month. How better to resist the slide into the drab by having a Rainbow theme? I went out looking for a prism to make rainbows, and came back with one of these. It makes rainbows. Really. It adheres to my living room window with a suction cup. A teeny solar panel at the top powers the motor, which spins the crystal at the bottom, sending rainbow-hued blobs swirling around the room, on the walls, floor, ceiling. Through some wonder of faceted crystals, they move in many directions. Some go left, some go right, some surge upward, some down. It’s lovely.

It takes direct sunlight on the solar panel, though, something in which November is sorely lacking. No sunshine = no rainbows. This morning, though, the sun broke through and within a few minutes, the crystal had begun to turn. It was Poppy who noticed first.

She stands in the middle of the room, her face alight. “RAINBOWS! There are RAINBOWS!!” Her arms extend above her head, her eyes wide in delighted wonder, she twirls with the rainbows. Then she chases them, laughing, before deciding that THE VERY BEST thing to do is to jump on the ones racing across the floor. Laughing, laughing the whole while. The other children, who had been oblivious to the rainbows, are drawn to her joy, and soon the room is filled with laughing, reaching, dancing toddlers.

Though I had put away the dogs’ leashes and other dog-walk accessories (poop bags, treat bag, Daisy’s harness), I had left the small flashlight on the shelf in the front hall. This is not where it belongs. Poppy noticed. She carries it to me, and declares in her usual enthusiastic, decisive tones, “This is your flashlight for looking at poo!”

Not quite how I’d have phrased it, perhaps, but the child is absolutely correct. Hard to distinguish poo from leaves from sticks from grass in the PITCH DARK of our early morning walks. (Though less so this week, now that we’ve FINALLY switched to daylight savings. Two weeks late. Ahem.) All responsible dog-owners find themselves at some point peering into the beam of their handy flashlight for the shit they KNOW is RIGHT THERE, if they could only find it.

My “flashlight for looking at poo”, indeed.

Poppy. My little laugh machine. Love that girl.

November 6, 2012 Posted by | Poppy, the cuteness!, the things they say! | , , , | 3 Comments

Menu Monday

Monday: Pasta, tomato sauce, polpette (meat-free ‘meatballs’). (My tomato sauce is full of veggies: grated, pureed, chunked, so the kids get lots of produce with this apparently heavy-carb meal.) Butternut squash.

Tuesday: Farmer’s frittata, carrot salad (Frittata is based on the farmer’s omelette, but with a generous addition of fine-diced assorted vegetables, whatever I have in the fridge. This week it will be cauliflower, zucchini, eggplant and corn niblets, probably.)

Wednesday: Chicken pot pie, (a no-meat version for Jazz), lemon-braised kale

Thursday: Very mild Singapore noodles

Friday: Felafels in pita with cucumber raita for sauce, and assorted thin-sliced veggies to tuck into the pita. Messy, but fun!

November 5, 2012 Posted by | food, health and safety | , , | 1 Comment