It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Introverted Me

Introversion is the Next Big Social Thing. Everyone’s talking about it these days. It rather bemuses me, all this sudden flurry attention. Hello? We’ve been here all along! Oh, I guess you extroverted types didn’t notice, huh, introverts being so quiet an all.

I am an introvert, but I’m a confident one who’s never felt inadequate or lacking, so the “it’s okay to be an introvert! there’s nothing wrong with you!!” emphasis of some of the writers is frankly annoying. This book? Totally mis-titled. “How to Thrive in an Extrovert World”? Nah. Merest survival. And advantages? Didn’t find a one. But this one? Is terrific. I really enjoyed it, and found myself nodding along … and learning lots.

Most recently I happened onto a Huffinton Post article, 23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert. Having no toddlers to write about this week, I decided to respond to its points, see how I, a not-so-secret introvert, tally according to this particular list.

1. You find small talk incredibly cumbersome.

Oh, I used to! Right into my late thirties. I’m not sure when the shift happened, but now I can actively enjoy it. Introverts, as the article notes, tend to see small talk as a barrier between people. Introverts like conversation to go deep. Chit-chat is anything but, and so for many years, I avoided it. It was tedious, it was annoying, and I just wasn’t any damned good at it.

Some people only small talk. For them conversation never develops beyond friendly chit-chat. That’s fine, if that’s what they enjoy … but I won’t be spending long hours of time in conversation with them. But! At some point in my thirties, I began to see that small talk is a terrific springboard to real conversation. Small talk is a way to get comfortable with someone, to determine their conversational style, their attitudes and interests, to evaluate whether they’re someone who’s capable of and interested in, conversation with more depth.

So now I enjoy small talk. Not as an end in itself, generally, but as a means to an end.

2. You go to parties -– but not to meet people.
True. I go to be with people I know, for conversation. I go for the food and drink, to dance if there’s dancing. I go to flirt. “Meeting new people” is not an enticement. It may be a fringe benefit, but it’s never the goal.

3. You often feel alone in a crowd.
Yup. This one surprised me. Doesn’t everyone? Guess not!

4. Networking makes you feel like a phony.
It used to. And goodness, networking certainly offers huge opportunities for phoniness which some people exploit shamelessly. But, as I’ve come to realize, it doesn’t have to be phony. Introverts just have to learn to network in a style that suits their nature. Also, I will not — not even sure I could — approach someone for some sort of job-related favour if I’ve never done anything for them. It doesn’t have to be huge: maybe I’ve sent them a few links to articles that I think they’d find interesting, with a personal note attached. (A perfect introvert technique!) It’s the relationship bank account idea: don’t be making withdrawals if you never make a deposit.

5. You’ve been called “too intense.”
Yup! Also been accused of ‘over-thinking’ when I thought we’d barely begun to explore the topic.

6. You’re easily distracted.
When I read this I disagreed. I have terrific focus, once I get my teeth into an idea. (See “too intense/over-thinking”, above.) The article isn’t talking about mental focus and distraction, though, it’s talking about physical. In that case, yes, absolutely. If I’m in a busy coffee shop, trying to have a significant conversation (as opposed to small talk!), I will place myself with my back to the room. It’s too stimulating; I can’t focus; I keep getting distracted. So it turns out this is a yes.

7. Downtime doesn’t feel unproductive to you.
ABSOLUTELY! I looooove my downtime. Not so that I can ‘do nothing’, but because it refreshes and restores me. Without the downtime, I am less productive, and I know it. When I have downtime, lots of healthy, nourishing, internal things are going on. I love it. I need it.

8. Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.
Yes and no. I’ve done a reasonable amount of public speaking, though I think the largest audience I had was 100 or so. As long as I am well-prepared, I actively enjoy public speaking. The conversation afterward? Depends on how it’s structured. If we’re having a meet-and-greet with coffee or drinks, where people mill around and talk about whatever, that’s tiring and I’d rather not. I can, and I’m charming … but it’s tiring. If it’s simply a line of people asking a question about my presentation, and maybe moving into their own experience, that I’m absolutely comfortable with, and enjoy.

9. When you get on the subway, you sit at the end of the bench -– not in the middle.
Yes, though I see this as more good manners. When you take the middle seat, you’re hogging the whole bench, tacitly discouraging people from sitting there. (But maybe I only feel that way because I’m introverted, and would choose to sit alone if I had the chance?)

10. You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long.
Absolutely. Yes.

11. You’re in a relationship with an extrovert.
Nope! My wonderful husband is far more introverted than me.

12. You’d rather be an expert at one thing than try to do everything.

13. You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation.
I would suspect it would depend on the show, but likely the answer for me is ‘true’. If the audience participation is stupid or potentially humiliating or conflictual, ugh. If participation means playing with fun ideas, then I could do that. I suspect the shows I’d feel comfortable being on are few and far between.

14. You screen all your calls — even from friends.
Yup. Loves me my call display!

15. You notice details that others don’t.
I don’t know. Do I? I’ve never thought about it.

16. You have a constantly running inner monologue
Oh, heck yeah.

17. You have low blood pressure
I do!

18. You’ve been called an “old soul” -– since your 20s.
I think my grandmother called me that for the first time when I was four.

19. You don’t feel “high” from your surroundings

False. In the right situation, I absolutely can. Now, I think my tolerance is lower than an extrovert’s. After a while the buzz wears off and I get tired/overwhelmed, but I can and do get high on busy, loud, positive surroundings, and I do enjoy it.

20. You look at the big picture.
Absolutely. I think it’s one of the things that makes me good at my job.

21. You’ve been told to “come out of your shell.”
Uh-huh. Lordy, I got tired of hearing that when I was in grade school. My response, had I been rude enough to say it out loud, was “Well, if the rest of you would SHUT UP for long enough, I might have a chance.”

22. You’re a writer.

Guess so! I also far prefer email to phone conversations.

23. You alternate between phases of work and solitude, and periods of social activity.
Yes! One of the things I’ve loved about my two weeks off is the opportunity to structure my time so that I can do exactly that. I have far more energy, get a lot more done, when I can pace myself, balance the demands. I’ve gotten SO MUCH DONE, visited a bunch of people, and don’t feel tired AT ALL. It’s been wonderful!

Too bad I can’t be on holiday all the time…

August 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 11 Comments

Friday, Friday

Happy Friday to you all, and particularly to me, because this evening I start my holiday, my two weeks off, and I’ll be celebrating by hopping a plane or two to visit my eldest daughter! Whee.

She has a week of fun planned for us — dinners out, meeting her friends, a craft class. She’s an excellent hostess, my daughter… far better, I’m beginning to realize, than her mother. When she visited us last, I did little more than feed and house her. What? The pleasure of our company isn’t sufficient? What more could a person want???

Hm. I feel the bar being raised…

She’s also really good at gift-giving. (Not that I expect gifts while I’m visiting! But it’s sort of related, if you see what I mean.) Her gifts are charming, thoughtful, almost always just that little bit more special than the norm. She’s that kind of woman.

I haven’t yet decided, but it’s possible I won’t be taking my computer, which means that this could be the last post from me for a week. (Mary hits a new blogging peak: She remembers to forewarn readers of her approaching vanishment! Assuming, that is, that after my previous two-month hiatus, there are any readers left…)

August 16, 2013 Posted by | holidays, my kids | 7 Comments

Swedish Meatballs

1 small onion, grated
1 egg
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon allspice
500g ground beef
6 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup sour cream

Whisk together onion, egg, bread crumbs, mustard and allspice. Mix in beef. (It’s best to use your hands when you add the beef.)

Form the beef mixture into 1-Tablespoon balls. Bake at 375F for 15 minutes. (Makes about 30 meatballs.)

Meantime, in a pot big enough for the amount of pasta you’ll need, heat water to boiling.

While meatballs cook and water comes to a boil, cook mushrooms, thyme and pepper over med-high heat until just brown, about 10 minutes.

By now your water should be boiling. Drop in the noodles. Give them a quick stir, turn the heat to medium-high then return to the mushrooms.

Sprinkle mushrooms with flour. Stir till absorbed. Add broth and sour cream, and stir a minute. Add cooked meatballs. Cook till sauce thickens a bit, about two minutes.

Serve over hot egg noodles.

August 15, 2013 Posted by | food | , | 1 Comment

Intimations of Maturity

Grace to Jazz: I know you want very much to do that, but it will make Poppy sad, so you just can’t, understand?”

Her tone of voice is gently encouraging, but firm. I hear her mother — and myself — in her small voice.

But really? Is that not SO IMPRESSIVE?? I’m impressed. (Also, aaawwww, the sweetness.)

Honesty compels me to note, mind you, that she is less adept at making this distinction when the sad-making thing is something she wants to do…

But it’s progress, and I am proud.


August 14, 2013 Posted by | Grace, socializing, the cuteness! | , | 1 Comment

The moral of the story

Grace springs through the front door.

“I have Princess Shoes!!!”

We look down. Bright silver, covered with sequins. Those are some fancy shoes, all right. Wooo-eee. The other children make all appropriate noises of wonderment. Grace prances about, delighted.

Emma and I are less so. We had a long-ish walk planned for the tots. Emma checked Grace’s bag for the sports sandals that her sensible parents usually send along on the days Grace demands frivolous footwear. None. Not a sensible shoe in sight. Hm.

“They are my Princess Shoes!” Grace declares again, so very proud. We agree that yes, those sure do look like princess shoes! And wow, are they pretty! And sparkly!!

“The problem is,” I say, easing her off her peak as gently as possible, “that princess shoes are not always very comfortable to walk in, not for a long walk.”

We consider her feet.


“I can walk!!!” Grace, supremely confident. Grace, of course, has no idea. In her four-year-old mind, her Princess Shoes make her happy, so her shoes will be fine, just FINE! Mind over matter!

The question is, will those shoes still be making her happy after 3 km? Pfft. Showing appalling lack of faith, I, unlike Grace, am quite confident those shoes will be contributing to acute misery within a kilometre and a half. I note to Emma that we can always take them off and let her go barefoot if they start creating problems. Grace resists this notion.

“No, I can wear these! They are my Princess Shoes!!” Her lip starts to quiver.

Emma kneels down in front of Grace. “They sure are. That’s sort of the problem. Princess Shoes don’t act like real shoes, you know. Remember Cinderella? As soon as she started running away from the ball, what happened?”

Grace pauses, then her eyes widen.

“One falled off!”

“Exactly! Princess Shoes are like that. They’re very good at looking pretty, but not so good at acting like real shoes. So. As long as your Princess Shoes act like real shoes, you can wear them. But if they start acting like Princess Shoes, we’ll just put them in your bag and you can go barefoot.”

Grace nods.


Emma? Is a genius.

And Grace? Walked home barefoot.


August 13, 2013 Posted by | Grace, my kids, outings | , , | 3 Comments

Menu Monday

First Course: salad
Main Course: Swedish meatballs on egg noodles
Dessert: muffins

First Course: carrot-peanut salad
Main Course: lentil-rice patties
Dessert: fruit

First Course: raw veggies and dip
Main Course: Southwest bean salad
Dessert: fruit

First Course: pesto on naan
Main Course: tofu in peanut sauce
Dessert: fruit

First Course: salad
Main Course: peanut-butter sandwiches
Dessert: muffins

August 12, 2013 Posted by | food | , , | 2 Comments

Vanity, Self-esteem, Tactlessness and more Self-esteem

I hear a roar of Righteous Indignation from Jazz.

“Grace! That is not a very nice word to say!!!”

Then pounding footsteps. Jazz thunders into the dining room, where Poppy and I are colouring. Jazz has been into the dress-up basket. She’s draped in two deep purple satin capes, tied at the middle to make a ‘dress’, with a shiny gold scarf wrapped around her above that, a bodice. It is her Princess Dress, of course.

Obviously, she did not get into this rig by herself. I’d helped tie the capes and wrap the scarf some while earlier, at her careful direction. Since then she has been alternatively gazing at herself in the mirror rapturously and wandering about the house rhapsodizing, “I am such a beautiful, beautiful girl!!”

Me, I am of two minds about this sort of thing. A basic part of me wants to repeat my grandmother’s words at her: “Beauty is only skin-deep, kiddo”, and expound upon the more important inner beauties to which we should aspire. But at the same time, I am aware that this is simply an unsophisticated version of self-esteem. It’s crude, it focusses on the wrong thing, perhaps — certainly the lesser thing — but she’s only four. She’s not denigrating anyone else, she’s not being rude or superior. She’s just feeling beautiful.

And really. Wrapped in a purple-and-gold Princess Dress who wouldn’t feel beautiful??

Which is why, even though I’m finding it pretty over-the-top, I let her keep on with it. Little ones are unsophisticated. This isn’t conceitedness, quite. I’m not entirely comfortable with it, though. A half-step in that direction, and she’ll be way over the line. Still, I’ve let her admire herself senseless for the past 20 minutes.

Apparently her own adulation was insufficient, because after a time of happy self-admiration, she sought some from her peers. She presents herself to them, whirling in her princess glory.

“Don’t you love my princess dress?”

They look up from the puzzle they’re doing on the floor.

I confess to a certain amount of wry gratification when, obviously far more interested in whether the piece with the blue bit goes with the piece with the yellow bit, they look up briefly. Grace is the one who speaks. Glancing quickly at Jazz, she says with minimal interest, “No, I don’t.” Then returns to her puzzle.


The score so far:
Tact: 0
Honesty: 1
Vanity: swift kick in the butt

Hence the Roar of Indignation, and the thundering to Mary for Justice! and Retribution!

“Mary, Grace said she didn’t like my dress!!!”

My tone of voice is emotionally neutral. Calm and matter-of-fact. “Well, maybe she didn’t. She’s allowed to say so, if she doesn’t.” (Because, my precious princess, you did ask.)

Jazz huffs in still more indignation.

“My mommy and daddy say you can’t say ‘no’!!”

Now, I don’t believe that for a minute, certainly not in the sense Jazz is using it. Jazz is simply using the age-old strategy of citing other authority figures in her life to try to get the world to cooperate with their whims and desires. (Of course Jazz cites me similarly when she’s at home. You would be astonished at what Mary thinks is A-OKAY!!!) It’s a red herring, and I know it.

“You know, sweetie, it really depends on why you’re saying ‘no’. If Grace said no because she’s feeling grumpy and just wants to be mean, that’s not okay. But if she really just doesn’t like that dress, she’s allowed to tell you so, especially if you ask.”

Jazz is not pleased with this dictum. “She was being mean! She said no!”

“No, I don’t think so. I was watching. Grace wasn’t making a mean face or using an angry voice. She just doesn’t like your dress, sweetie. Different people like different things. That’s okay.” Now, I may choose to address the whole concept of ‘tact’ with Grace later. Or I may not. For now, that’s not of great concern, and I’m certainly not going to reinforce Jazz’s idea that people MUST say what she prefers to hear.

“I want her to like my dress!”

“I understand that. However, it seems she doesn’t like it. That’s just what it is. Different people like different things. That’s okay. The important thing is, Do YOU like the dress?”

“Yes! It is beautiful!”

“Well, that’s what matters then. Grace doesn’t have to like it, so long as you do. So you can say to Grace, ‘You don’t like my dress? That’s okay! I do!’ ”

Heavy stuff, for four years old. Complicated, and Jazz is obviously dissatisfied with my pronouncement, my refusal to DEMAND that Grace stroke her ego.

It’s pretty tough for some adults, come to that. You know what it is, don’t you? It’s self-esteem. Real self-esteem, the type based on what’s on your inside, not your outside. Self-esteem grounded in your confidence in yourself, your worth, your decisions, not based on other people’s opinions and reactions.

I’m raising the bar for Jazz. She doesn’t get it yet, but hopefully, if everyone works at this for the next ten years, she’ll have it when she’s a teen.

When she’ll really, really need it.

August 9, 2013 Posted by | Grace, individuality, Jazz, manners, socializing | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fabulous Fake Tie-Dye for Tots

I found this craft online — the Internet Knows All — and knew I had to try it with the kids. Witness the creation of one of Jazz’s going-away gifts! The children all helped make this (including Jazz, who had no idea it was to be hers). I’m so devious…

Materials required:
a clean, pale t-shirt, washed and dried
permanent markers (doesn’t have to be Sharpies; I used Tul and they worked just fine)
rubbing alcohol (mine was 99%)
cup or cookie cutters
small bowl or cup for the alcohol

The original blogger slipped a cup under the t-shirt and held it in place with an elastic as she made the dots. The tots didn’t really have the coordination to dot on something so flexible, so I used cookie cutters to delineate the space. The firmness of the table under the fabric made it much easier for them. If you wanted, you could put a piece of cardboard inside the shirt to prevent the ink from bleeding through to the back. We didn’t, and the effect was actually rather pretty!


To ensure pretty circles instead of Circle of Mud, I had the children choose one colour, and then I chose one or two more that would work with that colour.

Then I slipped the cookie cutter underneath the dots, aligning it as best I could with its original position, and secured it with the elastic.


Then the magic starts! Fill the eye-dropped with rubbing alcohol, and drop into the centre of the circle. Watch it spread!

The more alcohol you add, the further and more quickly it spreads. It also gets fainter, but you’d have to pour a lot of alcohol on to erase the colour altogether. Certainly, we never managed that!


(How much input did the kids have at this point? Mostly just watching and “ooo-ing”, but I did go hand-over-hand with the older children a couple of times.)

A finished circle!

A shirt of circles!

And then, because Mary is a curious and experimental sort, she began to wonder what would happen if you didn’t use the circle templates. What if you just went free-form?

I made vertical lines in several shades of green, yellow, and blue in a very haphazard way along the bottom of the shirt. Some long, some short, just to give the overall impression of grass, I guess. Then I dropped alcohol on it.

I love the effect!

Isn’t it adorable?
And so eeeeeasy!


Apparently, you heat-set the colours by tossing it in a dryer for 30 minutes. Now, I’ve done that to this shirt, but then I gave it away and have yet to hear how effective that was. My own tendency would be to wash it with dark colours, on cold, at least once, to see how secure the colours are.

But CUTE! I love this craft!

August 8, 2013 Posted by | crafts, daycare | , , , | 3 Comments

Sunshine Girls

Some yellow and red tempera paint, a couple of potatoes cut into odd shapes, circles of cream construction paper and a heap of triangles of orange, yellow, and red card stock. Et voila!


Sunshine Jazz:
Sunshine Girl
Sunshine Poppy:
Sunshine Grace:
Wall of sunshine!
sunshine craft

August 7, 2013 Posted by | crafts | , , , | 1 Comment

Changing Dynamic: the prequel

Today will be the first day without Jazz.

Jazz is having her family summer vacation now, and from there will be heading off to Big Girl School. Jazz has graduated Mary’s. No, I do not do a cap-and-gown ‘graduation’. You get one of those when you graduate university. As in “have done something to merit the ceremony”. A ‘graduation’ that requires nothing more than reaching legal school age? Not even to have stopped picking your nose and eating it? Pfft.

Now, she got a trip to the local gelato store, and had an ENTIRE small serving of chocolate ALL TO HERSELF. (The small servings are quite large enough that two kids can share, and so they do. Always.) An ENTIRE cup of gelato, and to NOT SHARE?!? Is a Big Deal. Specially when the other kids still did have to share. “This is Jazz’s last day, so she gets a very special treat.” (Which was accepted with nary a blink. They’re such good well-socialized sweet well-trained all of the above little kids.)

So there was that.

And she got a big card that all the children had decorated. And t-shirt that we all made together. And, best of all!!!! (at least as far as Jazz was concerned) a mermaid doll. OMG!OMG!OMG!OMG! MERMAID! DOLL!!!! (To say it was ‘a hit’ rather understates the case. Hee. Go, Mary!)

So, it’s not as if her departure had gone un-feted. But cap and gown? Puh-heeze. No.

Off she goes, then. Some quality family time ahead, and then the big, broader world of Junior Kindergarten. Where I have no doubt she will thrive. A fish to water. All that.

And meantime, back here?

Well, though I will miss her endearing giggle and impish sense of humour, her funny turns of phrases and her mothering of wee Rosie …

I will not miss the petulance. The tattling. The constant jockeying for top dog position. The whining. The insta-tears. The flouncing. The righteous indignation. Many of those are pretty common to four-year-olds, of course, but all of hers were exacerbated by her state of near-constant sleep deprivation. She’s four on steroids, that one.

Grace is with me for another couple of weeks, before she heads off to her own Big Girl School. Without another four-year-old to bounce off and react to, and, in particular, a four-year-old dedicated to the pursuit of being the first, the best, the strongest, the prettiest … I predict Grace drift away from certain contentious patterns and will happily settle into her more-natural state of easy-going placidity. I predict this will happen pretty much instantaneously.

Except for the whining, mind you. Grace does have a tendency to whinge. But she does not have a tendency to push to the forefront, to trample others to achieve superior status. Not at all. So I predict a lovely, lovely summer wherein I do not hear “Why does SHE get to…”, not even once.


What of the others? Poppy and Grace will continue to mother Rosie. Rosie will, for a short while at least, continue to allow it. Soon enough her two-ness will have reached the point where she will resist such importunity, but for now, it’s all good. Poppy and Grace will play as they do when alone together: calmly, cooperative, and with a constant, never-ending, ceaseless stream of happy chatter (90% Poppy’s).

Daniel? A bit of a wild card. He hasn’t been around much this summer, it being the final couple of months of mom’s maternity leave. The two 4-year-olds tended to resist and exclude him. With a certain amount of just cause, mind you: the boy is loud, very physical, and blundersome, but there was an edge of social cruelty to it I didn’t like to it. They weren’t objecting to just his behaviour: “Don’t push me!!”, but his person, “You go away. We’re not playing with YOU.”


Without the four-year-olds, will Poppy pick up that torch? I’m hoping not. She’s more physical, for one, and finds Daniel’s physicality less troublesome. She’s also more cheerfully social. She’s also not four. Without the fours to lead the way, and in particular, Jazz, I’m hoping she will — or can at least be taught — to engage with Daniel in a way that’s satisfactory to both of them. And of course we’ll be steadily teaching Daniel to not bang, bump, blunder into, blunder through and otherwise manhandle his peers.

(Good luck with that, I sez to myself. Nonethess, ‘gently, gently’ is going to be a prime interaction with that boy for the foreseeable future, I’m quite sure.)


Those are some predictions and some concerns. Some will manifest immediately, some over time. I’m sure there’ll be surprises.

I’m looking forward to it!

August 6, 2013 Posted by | Daniel, Grace, individuality, Jazz, Poppy, Rosie, socializing, the dark side | , | 1 Comment