It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Valentine’s Play

We set out to make some of these. Is that not a fun, fun idea? For some reason, ours did not turn out so beautifully pastel. I don’t know why. But it was still a great craft! Simple and effective, and something they absolutely could do with minimal adult intervention. Perfect!

We made a whole raft of hearts, but do you know what? Printing paper with shaving cream was interesting … but short-lived. But! When we were done, there was an ENTIRE COOKIE SHEET OF SHAVING CREAM on my dining room table.

valentine goopiness

I wish I could show you all the pictures! Oh my, oh my. Terrific sensory play: the colour! the smell! (lordy, the smell, phew) the TEXTURE!!!

They tapped, they touched, they smeared, they oozed, they squeezed. They talked softly, when they talked at all, so mesmerized were they by the amazing feel.

Whee, fun! The had so much fun, completely absorbed. I was able to do an entire sink full of dishes while they were completely consumed by this activity. We are definitely going to do this again!

Yes, we will.

In the summer.
Probably naked.
And in a pool.
With ready access to a hose.

The colour! The smell! The texture!


But fun???

Oh, yeah.

February 13, 2013 Posted by | crafts | , , , , | 1 Comment

No-Snacking Check-in

A few of you have asked how it’s going since we quit morning snacking in the daycare.

In a word: Terrific!

There was an adjustment period for Rosie, at 17 months the smallest both in age and physically. Promptly at 10, our former snack-time, she would run to her high chair and bang on it. When that got no response, she’d wallop the fridge. (Not a lot of words for our Rosie just yet, but she communicates just fine, thanks!)

Was this genuine hunger, though, or just habit? Even if it was hunger, was it mild, so she could wait till lunch, or severe enough that I should feed her? I wasn’t sure how the non-snacking would go with the under-twos, after all. I was willing to bend on this one for them.

Yes, this would mean different expectations for different groups of toddlers, but we already have that, don’t we? The Big Kids use the toilet upstairs. The Middles use the potty in the living room. The Babies are in diapers. Big Kids don’t have to hold on to the stroller when we walk, Middles do, and Babies ride. Big Kids put on their own snowsuits; Middles need more help, and I put the Babies snowsuits on them. There are lots and lots of these types of distinctions in a day. I wasn’t worried about perceived injustice. Which is not to say a three-year-old might not see injustice, of course, but I was quite prepared to defend the difference in just those terms: “She’s a baby. You’re big.” And, secure in my role at The Boss At Mary’s House, I didn’t worry about a whole lot of back talk, and tantrums? Don’t happen here. (Well, with very, very rare exceptions.)

Still, I wanted to know if this was just habit. My compromise was to give her one of her sippy cups of milk at the prior snack-time. Rosie is quite the milk baby. Left to her own devices, I’m sure that her diet would still be 90% milk. (The remainder being comprised of crackers and pasta, natch.) Her parents and I have talked about her minimal ingestion of solid foods, but they were not quite ready yet to reduce her milk intake. So. Milk at 10:00, and water with lunch at 11:30.

It worked like a charm. She’d suck that milk back in two minutes, and then be on to the next thing. The added bonus? With milk separated from meal by an hour and a half, and only water in her sippy cup, she was eating more.

On the second week, she had stopped asking for milk. (How does mostly non-verbal Rosie ‘ask’ for milk? She runs over to her backpack, hanging from its hook in my front hall, and pounds the wall beneath it, yelling “MUH! MUH!” Crude, but effective.) No more running and pounding and yelling. Just play.

What to do about that milk? I now give it to her after lunch, during the snuggle-and-story time that precedes nap. Perfect! Added bonus: she doesn’t always finish her milk. This has been the nudge she’s needed to make the mental transition to viewing solids are her ‘real’ food.

Grace, who has been going through a major growth spurt (2 cm between Christmas and Jan 25), was also asking with more than normal intensity after snacks. She, however, being three and a half, could understand my explanation. She’d have a drink (of water) at ten, and then a good, solid lunch. Either she’s accustomed to the new pattern, or the growth spurt has tapered off — likely both — but after three weeks she was no longer mooching for food mid-morning, either.

I know I had parental buy-in from her parents, even with the growth spurt factored in, because when I explained it, mom’s response was, “Great! She’ll be nice and hungry for dinner!” Which got me thinking: “nice and hungry” is an expression I heard routinely from my parents, and from the parents of my friends, when I was a child. But it seems to me that these days, you don’t hear that very much at all. Instead, you see parents scrambling for the crackers. Hmmm…

Another bit of parental feed-back came in last week. I thought I’d told all the parents of the change in eating patterns, but it seemed one had missed it. (Probably I told dad in the morning, and he forgot to relay it to mom.)

Mom asks me at the door: “How’s Jazz’s eating here? Because she’s eating WAY more at home, and with WAY less fuss.”

HA! An unaware subject validates the experiment! Or at least, confirms that the results extend beyond my home. Woo!

So I explain the new no-morning-snack regime, and mom is very impressed. “Excellent! We are absolutely going to do that at home!”

It’s been four weeks now, and I declare the experiment a success. It is no longer an experiment, it is simply How It Is. Children in my home will get a three-course lunch, and then a light, healthy, sit-down late-afternoon snack. That’s it, that’s all.

Love it.

February 12, 2013 Posted by | food, Grace, Rosie | , , | 8 Comments

Menu Monday

Vegetable: Cucumber-mint salad
Main: Southwest bean stew*, baking powder biscuits
Dessert: butterscotch-bran muffins

(Updated to add: Today is going to be a gross day out there — freezing rain, ice pellets, snow — so I think that we will spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen. They’ll help me make the muffins, OF COURSE! It is Muffin Monday, thanks to Hannah, but they’ll also help me make the salad and the biscuits. We love to cook! As we cook, we talk about the food — the colours, the scents, the textures. We maybe even have little nibbles, because, for some strange reason, a cucumber or a sprig of mint is more appealing when it’s mildly illicit…) Like so many other things in life, come to that… 😉

Tuesday — Pancake Tuesday!:
Vegetable: French onion soup (with veggie stock instead of chicken because of the vegetarian toddler, of course!)
Main: Spiced lentils with rice
Dessert: Cranberry-studded dollar pancakes

Vegetable: Garden salad
Main: Salmon Cakes, Cheesy potato cakes, cooked carrots
Dessert: Bananas dipped in powdered walnuts

Vegetable: Carrot soup
Main: Rice and dahl, roasted root vegetables with choice of balsamic vinegar or horseradish dressing (or nothing on top, of course!)
Dessert: Muffins

Vegetable: Veggie Fritters
Main: Fusilli and finely diced veggies with tomato-bacon sauce**.
Dessert: Pineapple chunks

You’ll note that a the links are mostly to Chef Michael. Yup! They’re all from his cookbook, The Best of Chef At Home, which I own and love. However, I also loooove that website. Check out the recipe list. His stuff is generally simple to make, and always flavourful. So good!

*The link is to a beef stew, which is supremely good (if you take the time to brown the meat slowly!), but obviously I can’t serve beef to a crew including one vegetarian, so it’s now a bean stew (probably black bean and pinto, I’ll have to check the freezer). In this case, switching out to vegetarian is indeed a loss, but still quite yummy!

**In this case, I just made a small separate batch for the veggie tot’s pasta. Everyone else gets bacon. NOM.

February 11, 2013 Posted by | food, health and safety | , , | 2 Comments

Kale Cups

This one comes from Muffin Tin Mania. The originating recipe is here. I skipped the miso, as I rarely have it on hand, the sesame, as one of the tots is extremely allergic, and the nutmeg, because I reeeeally don’t like nutmeg.

1 bunch kale, stems removed, roughly chopped (8 – 10 cups)
1/2 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried (or 1 Tablespoon fresh) thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne


Preheat oven to 400F.

Pulse kale in food processor till finely chopped.
Put in large bowl. Add other ingredients. Stir to combine.

Divide amongst a dozen greased medium-sized muffin cups.

Bake for 20 minutes.

They will fall apart when hot, so let them cool several minutes before removing. These can be eaten warm or cold. Great as finger food.

February 8, 2013 Posted by | food | , , | 4 Comments

Menu Monday

You’ll recall that I’ve tweaked our eating patterns at Mary’s house. No more morning snack! Instead, snack is tacked on to the end of lunch, and called ‘dessert’. Our lunches now have three courses: vegetable, main, and dessert.

Vegetable: garden salad
Main: black bean soup and cornbread
Dessert: carrot-pineapple muffins

Vegetable: Kale cups
Main: Pasta with veggie meatballs and tomato sauce
Dessert: home-made applesauce

Vegetable: cucumber raita
Main: Falafels (in pita with vegetables and yogurt sauce)
Dessert: apple and pear slices

Vegetable: Lentil-beet salad
Main: Black bean enchilada bake
Dessert: banana with dark chocolate chips

Vegetable: carrot salad
Main: butter chicken, ginger-baked tofu, rice
Dessert: almond-chocolate macaroons

As always, if you want any recipe, just ask!

February 4, 2013 Posted by | food | , , | 3 Comments

It is Friday, after all

A wail from the kitchen. A very dramatic, full of pathos wail. A wail of utmost tragedy.

It’s Jazz, of course.

“Grace ate my cake, and it was for AZERT!!!”

I look at the toddler table. On it I see a drift of cotton balls and a sparkly plastic star.

“Where is the cake, Jazz? I don’t see a cake.” (Before you all hurt yourselves rolling your eyeballs at me, I know it’s a pretend cake. I have a plan.)

“It’s right here!” Jazz lovingly taps a piece of empty air about a centimetre above the table top.

“It is? I don’t see it!” I affect great puzzlement. I get down on my knees, tip my head at a dramatic angle and peer intently into the space. “Where is the caaaaake?”

Jazz giggles. “You’re silly, Mary. It’s a pretend cake!”

AHA!!! My plot is working!!! a) She’s slipped off her high dudgeon, and b) she’s admitted it’s imaginary. I let the puzzlement leave my face, and burst into a beaming smile of comprehension.

“Oh! It’s a pretend cake! Well, if it’s a pretend cake, it can be anything you want! So you can pretend it’s still there, for dessert, and Grace can pretend she’s eating it, and IT DOESN’T MATTER!” Because, while yes, it would be nice if they were playing a cooperative game, and I could guide Grace into playing along with Jazz’s game, this little dynamic happens far too often. Jazz, you see, is Queen of Making Rules, but not so good at following them. She’ll set up a game for other people to play, but go with the flow? follow someone else’s play thread?

She! Thinks! NOT!

So I’m playing with her world view, just a bit. Indirectly, in a way deliberately intended to bemuse. Because it’s Friday, and I feel like being a little radical. Mwah-ha.

Jazz’s face grows cloudy again. Grace can have a different idea about the game??? Clearly, I am not with the program.

Ignoring the threatened return of High Dudgeon, I proceed, cheerfully oblivious. “Grace can eat it, and you can still have it! In pretend you really can have your cake and eat it, too, Jazz!” (Yes, way over her head. I am entertaining myself here.) I grin at her. “Grace can pretend it’s green, and you can pretend it’s red, and you’ll BOTH BE RIGHT! Isn’t that cool? Grace can have one pretend, and you can have another pretend, and they’re both right! That’s the fun thing about pretend!”

Jazz is slowly coming around. She’s not convinced, but she’s not complaining any more. I proceed, like the kid on Mulberry Street, snowballing this thing for my own (and, increasingly, Jazz’s) amusement.

“Grace could pretend a chocolate cake, and you could pretend a strawberry cake! And you’d BOTH BE RIGHT!”

“Grace could pretend to have cake for dinner, and you can pretend to have cake for dessert and … ” I pause.

“We’d BOTH BE RIGHT!!!” Grace gets it, at any rate.

“Grace could pretend take her cake right away, and your pretend cake would still be there!”

Jazz is reluctant to give up her dudgeon, but I don’t really care. I’m not coaxing her, I’m playing with the idea.

“Grace could set that silly cake on fire and PEE on it, and it would still be a good pretend cake for YOU!”

Well, now. Fast forward ten minutes. Four toddlers, Grace, Jazz, Daniel and Poppy, thunder from one end of the house to the other, all joined in THE VERY SAME PRETEND!

It goes like this:


“Fire! Fire! Fire!”


“Pee! Pee! Pee!”

Shrieks of hyterical laughter pound their way into the kitchen.


“Fire! Fire! Fire!”


“Pee! Pee! Pee!”

Shrieks of hyterical laughter pound their way into the living room.

“Fire! Fire! FIRE!”

“Fire! Fire! FIRE!”

SHRIEK! Gigglegigglegigglegigglegiggle!!!
“Fire! Fire! FIRE!”


And me?

I laugh. Because, hell, I started it.
And they? Are too damned cute.

February 1, 2013 Posted by | Grace, Jazz, Mischief, power struggle, socializing | , , , | 4 Comments