It’s Not All Mary Poppins

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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October 13, 2014 Posted by | holidays | Leave a comment

Keep your distance! Really, *really* distance!

Liam sneezed on the floor today.

“Meh,” I hear you say. “He’s a toddler. They get colds. They don’t cover. So he sneezed on the floor.”

And you know? Normally that would be my reaction, too. I’d wipe it up with a tissue or a baby wipe and think nothing more of it. But this month? Oh my, oh my. This month…

As you know, we have two newbies here at Mary’s house. When I interviewed with the parents, I warned them, as I usually do: “When a child starts group care, whether that’s daycare at a year old, or grade 1 at six years old, they will get, on average, about one cold a month for the first year.” I think it was my aunt the chemist who gave me that figure, years ago, and it’s proven over the years to be about right. Certainly for the first six months.

It’s a nuisance, but nothing more. Since maternity leaves in Canada are a year long, you’re not looking at poor wee, 6-week-old babies with stuffed noses. These guys can manage sippy cups, they don’t suffocate in snot while trying to suck a bottle (or a breast). I certainly don’t make parents keep a child with a cold home, unless there’s a fever along with it, which would indicate something worse than a garden-variety snotfest, anyway.

But this month.

First there was a cold. Of course there was. One cold  a month, no biggie. Entirely to be expected. Except … except this was The Cold that Ate Ottawa. This thing was virulent. There are 4 children in my daycare now, each with two parents, two with siblings. Every single child got this cold. Every single mother got this cold. All but two dads got this cold, and those who escaped were travelling for work at the time it swept through.

I got this cold.

I hardly ever catch anything from the tots any more. When you work 19 years with these small, adorable, cuddly little vermin-ridden petri dishes, you develop a killer immune system. If the children experienced the same symptoms I did, it went as follows: 2 or 3 days of a sniffly nose, but otherwise feeling fine. Day four: not feeling so fine. Tired. Lethargic. Energy bursts followed by absolutely none.

Day five: you think you were snuffly in day three? HA! I was blowing my nose, I am sure and without exaggeration, 4 times a minute for two days.  Also: cough. Particularly bad in the evening, but pretty much a 24-hour a day thing.

Day six: add to snotzapalooza, a headache.

Day 8 – 10: lose your voice. Now, this wasn’t so bad, since there was no sore throat accompanying it. But no volume, either. Lose your voice, headaches recede, nose-blowing only once every two minutes. Oh, and that cough? Every single inhalation in the evening of day 8 makes you want to cough. Gadz. (But given the nadir of the whole thing, at about day 7, we’ll call this an improvement.)

It was a solid two weeks before I felt well again. It was almost three before I could sing again. (I sing a lot. Really a lot. I honestly hadn’t realized how much I sing in a day until those days when I’d open my mouth and have nothing but air emerge. Or a frog’s croak. Or a witch’s cackle. Or all of the above. If I ever mocked a 12-year-old boy for the crackling voice, I hereby apologize. Lord, what a damnable NUISANCE it is. And also, I couldn’t sing, dammit!)

So. There was this cold. Which I worked through, of course. I’d caught it from the kids, and they ALL had it. I didn’t need to worry about infecting them now, did I?

And then there was the bowel excitement. Two of them got that. Lots and lots of loose, watery not-really-poop-but-should-be.

Ew.

And then?

THEN we got hand, foot and mouth virus. (Which is not, I reminded my husband multiple times, hoof-and-mouth disease. Different virus, but mostly? Toddlers don’t have hooves, dear, remember? It only sounds like they do, some days…) One of them got a case so mild we only realized after the fact she’d been stricken (and now we know how it got in to the daycare!), to poor little Gwen, who had a high fewer, who slept about 4 hours a night for four night, and who had the blisters everywhere, including not just her hands, feet, and inside of her mouth, but the back of her throat, so badly she was afraid to swallow water. For a week the poor child subsisted on nothing but Jumbo Freezies.

By now, I was about ready to hang out the PLAGUE sign on my door.

I upped my sanitary precautions. Now, instead of disinfecting the toys on a casual, one-category-of-toys per week schedule, I was disinfecting them ALL. Every.Single.Day.

ALL OF THE TOYS. EVERY DAY.

Think about that, for a moment.

It’s not really difficult, really, but it’s a damned nuisance. Every day. Several times a day, really, because ALL THE TOYS can’t be disinfected all at once. They are done in shifts. Eesh.

The ones that weren’t readily disinfectable, I put in bags in the back porch. I don’t know when they’ll be allowed back in. In April, after 6 months of an Ottawa deep-freeze to kill the rotten little fuc– er, bugs? (Probably. And I hope they SUFFER as they die.)

I am now wearing surgical gloves for all diaper changes, not just the poopy ones.

I have a spray bottle with 2 tablespoons bleach in a half-litre of water, with which I spritz down the table before we eat, the floor after I do a diaper change, and anything else that moves or threatens to move. (Not the children, though lord only knows they could probably use a good spritz right on their snotty wee faces.)

I am washing my hands a gajillion times a day.

So. Liam sneezes on the floor. After he’s done, I see a sparkling array of large (LARGE) droplet circles of sputum/mucous/saliva/gawdknowswhat glistening on the hardwood. I make an exclamation of disgust, drawing my son’s attention. My son, who is on his way to his studies at university. His bio-pharmacology studies.

The son starts describing “Spill Containment Protocols”, as practiced in a Level One Bio-Safety lab. (I am beginning to wonder if we’re not up to Level Two, at least, but I defer to his lab expertise, of which he has a few years.)

And you know what?

I don’t laugh. I don’t take it as teasing.

At the end of this Month of Ick?

I listen.

Want to know what it is? Here. Just slip on these surgical gloves, grab this bottle of spray bleach-and-water, and take this roll of paper towels. I’l show you.

Urgh.

October 9, 2014 Posted by | eeewww, health and safety | , , , , | 4 Comments

The new crew

There’s been a big turnover here. Poppy, Daniel and Rosie are off to other adventures — JK for Poppy and Daniel, preschool for Rosie.

(An aside: Preschool, to “get her ready” for Junior Kindergarten, don’t you know. Silliest thing ever. As I recall, JK was intended to ‘get them ready’ for SK, which, at its inception, was intended to ‘get them ready’ for Grade 1. Honestly. What’s next? Intercom to the womb, so we can ‘get them ready’ for life outside?)

But, a secret here? The only one I truly, truly miss is Poppy. Daniel, though a charmer, was also more than a handful. I could manage him, him with his aggression and defiance. Over the course of the three years he was with me, he improved tremendously, but even so, he was a lot of work. And Rosie? Sweet little Rosie came with parents who were, increasingly, a lot of work. So, while I do miss Rosie, I’m pleased to have mom and dad gone.

And in their place?

I still have Daniel’s little sister, Gwen, who is now two. She’s dawning into an absolutely lovely child. You know how some people are just naturally positive? Gwen is one of those. Now, like her brother, she is very strong-willed, but unlike her brother, she is not self-destructively, reflexively defiant. It’s probably an exaggeration to say she can be ‘reasoned with’ very much just yet, but it is fair to say she is amenable to reason. She’s two, and perfectly capable of unreasoning contrariness, but negativity is not her default. She’s sunshine, mostly. Thunderstorms are occasional, and fleeting.

I still have … Oh, gracious. Did I ever give Poppy’s baby sister a blog name? I think not. Hmmm… I think I’ll keep the flower theme in the family, and go with ‘Daisy’. Bright and sunny, but also a bit of a weed. Yeah. Daisy. Good name for this one. (And yes, I’ve given her the same name as my dog. They share a goodly number of character traits…)

Daisy is now 16 months old. She’s got a killer sense of humour for such a wee one, is bouncy and resilient — cheerfully feisty, too. She’s tiny for her age, often taken for 10 or 11 months old, but make no mistake, she’s a powerhouse, this one.

And we have two new tots, Liam (18 months) and Zoe (14 months).

Liam is a hoot. He’s got the most beautiful, engaging smile. When Liam beams at you, it’s because he’s seen something wonderful and he just knows you’ll share the joy. From time to time, he recalls the evil, parent-eating door, and has a moment of sadness, but he’s quickly distracted. He’s a big, solid boy, but gentle with it, gentle in spirit and in actions. He does charge around like a tiny moose, yes, but manages, for the most part, to avoid knocking the others over like ninepins. He’s not a blunderer. And I have yet to see him use his size to push the other children around, which he manifestly could.

Zoe is a cautious one. Though she’s capable of some lovely smiles and has bouts of good cheer,  those are not her default. Zoe, sadly, is a whiner. Zoe’s response to life’s little setbacks is to cry. And Zoe’s definition of ‘setback’ is both exceedingly broad and endlessly specific.

Did you know that toddlers fall an average of 17 times an hour? True fact. That’s an average, too, meaning a bunch of tots fall more often than that! And did you also know that in Zoe’s world, an unexpected sit-down on her well-padded butt constitutes a ‘setback’ of scream-worthy proportions? Followed by long minutes of low-intensity grizzling? The girl seems to have no other response to a setback, no matter how insignificant, but to wail. No resilience whatsoever.

She’s cautious, so she probably falls less frequently than average. We’ll say a mere 10 times an hour. Oy. And that’s only the start. She will cry for … gracious. What won’t she cry for? I say again, Oy. Someone walks by too close. I put her in the high chair. I lift her down from the high chair. Another child laughs. Another child looks at her. Or at her toys. Or doesn’t look at her. She’s offered food. She’s not offered food. I put her in the stroller.

And let us not speak of diaper changes, which she greets with screams that would have the neighbours thinking (had I not pre-emptively shut the windows) that I was removing her toenails with pliers. Rusty pliers. Lord only know what will happen should she ever get a diaper rash!

Now that I am sure she’s adjusted to the new environment,  and equally sure that the grizzling is more bad habit than genuine unhappiness, I am beginning some basic behavioural training. If I am playing with her, helping her stack blocks on the floor, say, and she begins to grizzle (because someone walked too close? because a dog scratched itself across the room? a dust mote settled on the top block?), I spin on my butt so I have my back to her. Then I ignore the wails. She is passive. She won’t crawl around to the front of me. She sits and wails at my back. *sigh*

But, after a little while, there will be a pause.  Now, I doubt she’s tired. This girl is a marathon-calibre grizzler. No, not tired of whining, but puzzled. This is not what grizzling is supposed to do. So there’s a pause, and in that pause, I promptly turn back, smile, and continue with our game as if there hadn’t been a two-minute Grizzle Hiatus. I play with her until the next dust mote offends Her Delicacy and the grizzling starts again. Without saying anything at all, I once again turn my back.

And so we go, in sessions lasting 5 or so minutes, two or three times a day. I’ll use the quick-turnaround strategy at other times when the grizzle is being used instead of communication — this happens many times in a day — but I’m making a point of squeezing in these more prolonged, specifically training sessions.

It’s only been three days, but I can see improvement. On this, the third day, I will first sit back to increase the distance between us, and then pause a moment before I turn my back on her. About a third of the time, that pause is sufficient to make the whining stop, and then we resume our play.

If she can make that much progress in three days, I’m confident that we’ll train the Default Whine out of her. She’ll probably always be the first to whine when she’s tired or hungry. That’s okay. She may never be Miss Suzy Sunshine, but, give me a couple more months and we’ll get her to Polly Peaceable, at least.

It’s a largely pre-verbal group. Gwen chatters up a storm, but she’s only here three days a week, and she’s the only truly verbal one in the bunch. Daisy has some words, her absolute favourite being “Do-GGY!”, said at least 400 times a day, always with the accent solidly on the last syllable. Liam doesn’t offer words, but will occasionally echo, or give one up if prompted. And Zoe? Zoe goes in for vowels, in a big way. A serious dearth of consonants in Zoe’s ‘vocabulary’ just yet, though I have heard an enthusiastic “BA!” when she sees her bottle.

And now Daisy has woken from her nap, and I need to bring her downstairs for a diaper change and a story.

It’s nice to be back. Even if there isn’t anyone out there any more!

🙂

October 8, 2014 Posted by | individuality, socializing, whining | | 21 Comments