It’s Not All Mary Poppins

I have the best husband

in the world. Just sayin’.

Why? Just a ‘thank you for everything’.

February 1, 2012 Posted by | commemoration | 1 Comment

Halloween Party

October 28, 2011 Posted by | commemoration, daycare | , , | 4 Comments

Thanksgiving Craft

No more tales from the potty front today. I’m bored of potty talk. Today we are going to talk about Thanksgiving, which for me and those I love, is this weekend.

To that end, late last week the toddlers and I went out and collected leaves. And then, a few days later, I went out, after hours, and collected more leaves. Why the second trip? Is Mary so controlling that she has determined they have to DO IT RIGHT? Is it possibly she stands in judgment over their efforts, and sometimes deems them NOT GOOD ENOUGH?

Damn straight I do.

Most days our crafts are open-ended and toddler-directed. I don’t care what they produce, so long as they are having fun. But sometimes I have a particular project in mind. I have a particular project, which I want to look a certain way. I’m not so anal that it has to look perfect. It can look adult-assisted, sure, but it has to look as if the kids at least got one small kick at the can.

This time, I needed leaves of a certain shape. I needed leaves in a certain size range. And that should not be too difficult, you might think. Just take them to the base of that particular tree, and set them to collecting, right?

Wrong. Toddlers have NO DISCRIMINATION WHATSOEVER. You ask them to pick “pretty leaves”. You show them a few samples of what you’re after. You suggest that they choose the “Yellow Leaves”, and you even spend a few Educational Minutes picking up leaves and categorizing them as “yellow” and “not yellow”. And then you set them loose.

Want to see a sample of the leaves they so lovingly collected?

Yes. Indeed. You see the problem. Unless I wanted to be haranguing them the whole damned time we were out — “No, Jazz, that one’s not yellow”, “Rory, that one’s all brown and falling apart”, “Yellow, Grace. We want yellow leaves” — unless I wanted to be ON them, ceaselessly… it was simplest and kindest just to let them collect their leaves, put them in a bag, bring them home… and then dump them in the compost bin during nap time.

Because, really. Those are not leaves. Those are small shards of immanent leaf-dust. The leaves they collected that were not on the verge of disintegration were usually clutched with such passionate fervor that they were a crumpled, sweaty shadow of their former selves by the time they made it into the bag.

So I took myself to the local park, collected a pile of leaves, brought them home and pressed them for a couple of days. Nested them in the pages of a few sections of newspaper, and stuck a pile of books on top.

Then we brought them out, and stuck them to a quarter-section of Bristol board. Stuck a few bits of construction paper on top, draw on some eyes, podge over top to seal it, and…

A turkey!!

It’s not done in this picture. Before we were finished, we put another coat of Mod Podge to the edges of the green backing, then covered the whole shebang with clear Contac paper.

What had we made?

A placemat for their Thanksgiving Dinner, of course. Cute, huh?

That’s what the three Big Kids (Rory, Grace, Jazz) made. The Littles (Poppy and Daniel) also made a Thanksgiving placemat, only theirs was the traditional “turkey-from-handprint”. Hodgepodge did this with her kids earlier this week, and I was inspired! Particularly when I realized the turkey with leaf-feathers was going to be faaar too hard for the Littles, and I didn’t really feel like making them entirely on my own. Simply tracing their hands and letting them poke at it with crayons was SO.MUCH.EASIER.

No, I didn’t take pictures of those. Sorry.

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow-Canadians! I’ll be back on Tuesday!

October 7, 2011 Posted by | Canada, commemoration, crafts, holidays | , , , , , | 4 Comments

… and Arrival (Updated with Picture!)

The baby was born, a little girl, seven pounds even.
Everyone is happy.
The Wonderful Husband is there right now, being a Doting Grampa. Awwww…

Some of you asked, so here you go:

(Yup, that’s a newborn, all right… Complete with the squinched-up “Goodness, but it’s BRIGHT out here” eyes. Isn’t she beeeyoutifull?)

September 14, 2011 Posted by | commemoration, my kids | 11 Comments

Happy Canada Day!

I’m not working today. It’s a holiday!!! And one for which I really, really, reeeally appreciate living in Ottawa. Where better to celebrate the country’s birthday than the capital?

The Snowbirds perform over Parliament Hill. (And when they do, they’ll almost certainly fly over my street, too. Takes a while to turn one — eight! — of those things!) Very cool.

Guess who’s in town?

I just happened to be walking home from downtown yesterday as the cavalcade went by, coming in from the airport. And guess what? Kate waved at me. (Yes, she did. I was the only person on that stretch of the canal. It must have been me!) Either that or she was just stuck in auto-wave, poor girl. Entirely possible.

Later, there will be fireworks over the Hill, and if I feel like it, I can walk a few blocks over and spot them from the grassy verge of the canal.

From the canal, where I won’t get quite that view… but I also won’t have to contend with these crowds:

(Been there, done that, loved it then, not so much now. 🙂 )

Happy Birthday, Canada!

July 1, 2011 Posted by | Canada, commemoration, holidays | , , , | 2 Comments

Everyone can use some sometimes

I had a birthday recently. A birthday ending in a zero, and thus a Significant Occasion. An occasion which we commemorated with a celebration in our favourite local pub, to which a few (dozen) people were invited, including my clients.

Now, my day-to-day persona is casual. Which is only sensible, given what I do. I wear the same pair of jeans all week. Well, barring truly revolting messes, that is. I suspect, mind you, that what I would term “truly revolting” is probably several orders of magnitude beyond what would preclude anyone else from wearing it. (Yes, indeedy. And people leave their children with me. I know!)

Yesterday afternoon I had the children outside, festooning my sidewalk with chalk. Which meant, of course, that they festooned their small hands and knees with the stuff also, with generous drifts of it scattered about their clothing as well. As each parent arrived, mindful of parental work garb, I dusted the child down before handing them over. Most of the kids go home in strollers or on bike trailers, but Tyler and Emily were collected by car.

We dusted them down, but Tyler’s hands were inches thick in chalk, enough to coat the entire back seat of the car, I’m sure.

“Here, sweetie. Use my jeans.”

Dad’s eyes widen. “Oh, no! You don’t need–” But it’s done. His face is a study of chagrin, which I hasten to assuage. “Oh, it’s no problem. I know, I know: normal people shower at the beginning of their day, but, for me? Well, what would be the point?”

We chortle at that. Yes, indeed. Chalk dust is the least of it,

So, yes. Casual. Jeans, turtlenecks and sweaters in the winter. Skirts (nice long, flowy ones for practicality and a modicum of modesty) and t-shirts in the summer. Make-up? Hardly ever. Jewelry? Equally rarely.

So, my birthday party. A casual venue, but still, an evening affair. For which I went to a certain amount of effort with my appearance.

A mother commented today. “So the husband and I dropped in and looked around for you, and we saw your husband, and he’s with this woman! And she’s wearing make-up, and her hair is all done nicely, and she’s wearing nice clothes, and we said to each other ‘Who is that sexy woman with Mary’s husband??'”

Hee. It seems I still clean up pretty well. (Even at my advanced age!!)


March 31, 2011 Posted by | commemoration | , , | 6 Comments

Autumn Colour Leaf Books

Lookit all the fall leaves!! Aren’t they pretty???

This is a craft I’ve meant to do every fall for the last five years at least. I’ve even gotten so far as to press the leaves once or twice, but never seemed to manage to follow through… This year was going to be different!!!

We gathered the leaves:

We spent a lot of time talking about the colours we would find, and tracking the colours we did find. We brought them home and counted and sorted. Fun, fun, fun! (This counts not only as science and art, but math, too!)

Then we prepared to press them.

First you lay them out on a few layers of newspaper…

and cover them with a few more.

(I lay my newspapers on a sturdy piece of board, because I knew I would need to move the stack of leaves before they were finished drying.) Because I was drying so very many leaves — enough for six of these books — I ended up with a layered tower: a board, a pad of newspapers/leaves, another board, more newspaper…

And when my tower was done, on went the pile of Weighty Tomes. (I am a dog-loving English major. Does it show?)

And that was that, for a couple of days. The stack of leaves/newspaper/boards was ferried about a bit as we needed the table for eating, or the kitchen counter for cooking, or the floor for playing. A bit cumbersome, but this is, as I have said many times in the past, a small house.

While the leaves are drying, you gather your other supplies, notably the cardboard for the pages. All my wonderful, helpful parents came through with a goodly stock of boxes of one sort or another.

Here are the supplies: cardboard, scissors, hole punch, loose leaf rings, cup of tea … wait, that’s not all of them.

Cardboard (now trimmed to tidy rectangles), scissors, hole punch, loose leaf rings, glue stick, duct tape, white scrap paper, cup of tea. And, damnit, I forgot the Con-tact paper. Yeesh. We also used clear Con-tact paper.

I used a quick and easy swiped ‘X’ on the white paper to stick it to the cardboard, both sides. No, the paper doesn’t match the cardboard exactly. It doesn’t matter. As long as the gap isn’t enormous, the edges will be covered with duct tape before you’re done, anyway.

Take a few leaves of each colour, and place them on the pages. The leaves do fade a bit as they dry, but the colours are more vibrant in the books than they’re appearing on my monitor right now. If you’re about ready to decide that Mary is clearly colour-blind, it’s probably just your monitor. (It could be that my poor middle-aged eyes are losing their grip… but I think it’s your monitor. Yup.)

Lightly secure the leaves in place with a dab of gluestick, then cover each page with Con-tact paper. Again, it doesn’t matter if the Con-tact paper matches your page exactly. The duct tape binding will hold it all together.

(Why the binding? I have made these sorts of books before, and Con-tact paper by itself does not grip well enough. (That’s not what it’s designed to do: as shelf paper, you want to be able to peel it up later. For a page laminate, however, peel-ability is not so much of a virtue.))

This page is pre-rub. After you’ve put on the shelf paper, you’ll need to rub it thoroughly to squoosh out the air bubbles.

Now for the cover. I sketched a very basic tree shape, then dotted a teeny bit of red and yellow finger paint across the top of it. The kids smeared it around to get the nebulous autumnal form, but I confess that they were hovered over guided a great deal more than normal, because I wanted the finished product to, you know, actually look like a tree. This level of concern with the product (rather than our normal focus on the process) meant that I also WHIPPED those suckers away when they were “done”.

Artus interruptus. I know, I know. I don’t often do that, but sometimes… sometimes a caregiver does what a caregiver’s got to do.

While the covers were drying, we finished the rest of the pages. I was going to give each book two binder rings, but I soon discovered that my new hole punch really, really, REALLY didn’t like going through cardboard.

Not even lightweight cereal-box cardboard. Yeesh.

I managed to manhandle the wimpy thing through the requisite pages once, at the end of which process the dents in my hands were almost as marked as the dents in the cardboard. I decided one hole would be quite sufficient.

See how wobbly and undisciplined the “yellow”s are? That’s the result of my my poor hands suffering from PHPTS. (Post hole punch trauma syndrome.) Mary of the shaky hands, that’s me.

And then, if you are an impatient person like me, you put the Con-tact on the front cover before the paint has completely dried, because you have spent quite enough time on this already, and you JUST WANT THIS THING DONE NOW, DAMMIT!

And then you stand back and feel very, very proud, because after five years, you finally got those things MADE! 🙂

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Canada, commemoration, crafts | , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Canada Day Craft

It’s Canada Day on Thursday! A day off for me, a day spent meandering downtown for my teenager. (Teenager. Singular. I’m down to ONE teenager these days.) She is very much looking forward to taking her boyfriend, who has never “done” Canada Day in Ottawa, to all the sights — the Market, Major’s Hill Park, the sights, the sounds, the buskers, the fun, and of course, ending it all up with the fireworks on Parliament Hill. This is the capital city of the country, after all! Where would any good Canadian rather be?

In bed, frankly. By the time the fireworks light up Parliament Hill, this Canadian will be asleep. I may stir to hear the thunder of the explosions, but ten pm is past my bedtime. I am truly grateful that my youngest is now old enough to manage the festivities on her own!

I will, however, get downtown at some point during the day. The happy crowds, resplendent in their red and white (I am planning a white skirt with a red tank top), many of the kids wearing flags (Emma has a 5-foot flag all ready for her BF to wear as a cape – his first time!)… it’s fun.

And of course, Events and Celebrations mean CRAFTS at Mary’s house. Every year for ages we have made Canadian flags this way, with their little handprints in place of the Canada Leaf. I fully intended to do those for this year, too, until I saw some Canada Day bunting in the most recent Canadian Living magazine.

It didn’t take a craft genius to see the connection. Ladies and gentlemen, I show you:

Canada Day bunting, Toddler-style!

Each triangle is a sheet of 8×11 paper. Fold it in half along the 11″ side, put your scissors at the fold and aim for the far corner. Ta-dah! Perfect triangle.

A strip of red paint down each side. Paint the small palm, press it to the paper (a bit of a trick with 12-month-olds, who tend to curl their surprised fingers into a paint-smeary fist, but it can be done!)

Tape the triangles to a piece of ribbon. (Tip: Wrap the tape right around the back of the triangle, and lap the ends of the tape over each other in behind, otherwise the tape will pull off the paint.)


Happy Canada Day!

And, for the child who is Canadian by birth but with American parents, we tweaked the design:

With Canada Day on Thursday and the Fourth on Sunday, they can have a whole weekend of celebrating! Cute, huh?

June 29, 2010 Posted by | Canada, commemoration, crafts, my kids | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Father’s Day Craft

I had a brilliant idea for a father’s day gift two or three weeks ago. Simply brilliant. No ties, nothing to do with golf or sports or barbecuing. Have you ever noticed how LIMITED gifts for dads are? And how many of them are totally and completely useless? Clutter, by any other name, something that will sit on a shelf and collect dust until the child has forgotten about it and can be safely tossed. This is how we thank dad for his efforts? Given my life-long campaign accruing clutter in my own life, I just can’t do that to someone else. You’ll recall that my mother’s day gifts this were year nicely consumable. Two or three baths, and it’s GONE.

Useful. The mark of a Good Gift.

So… what to do for the dads? I mulled and thought and contemplated… and then my Moment of Brilliance struck. They ALL RIDE BIKES. More times than not, the children are ferried to and from my home in baby-cabanas, towed behind daddy (or mommy’s) bike. Bikes, bikes, bikes… what can we make for a bike?

Bicycle License Plates!

Then the hunt for materials. “Make them of tin foil pie plates!” a neighbour suggested. “They can press designs into them with a pencil. It’ll be so CUTE!”

Tin foil? Even the sturdier pie plates are awfully flimsy. If they’re malleable enough for the tots to draw on them, we’re not looking at particularly sturdy. I pictured dented and wrinkled bits of aluminum fluttering off the daddy’s bicycle. Cute for about a week, perhaps, and after that — CLUTTER.

Nope. No tin foil.

So… picture frames, maybe? So they could draw a picture and then have it enclosed? Because these things not only have to be sturdy, but weather-proof. But though I hunted, I couldn’t find anything the right size and sturdiness — and in my price range. Which is to say, CHEAP. I have five of these to purchase. I can’t be spending $35 on each one!

Picture frames were out. But then, what? Time was flying by. If I didn’t hurry, the dads would be getting some dorky piece of clutter out of desperation. So I decided to take a meander through a hardware store. I love hardware stores in the same way and to the same degree that I love fabric and craft stores, so this was no trial. Even better, since I don’t know what to DO with 90% of the stuff I see, a trip to the hardware store is much, much less expensive than craft or fabric stores…

And there, in the hardware store, I found these:

We have five solid steel disk-thingies and a can of glossy white metal paint. My lovely husband, who doesn’t consider himself ‘handy’ at all, recognized the disk-thingies immediately. I had gathered, given their placement in the store, that they had to do with lighting and wiring, but to identify them? Ha.

But it doesn’t matter what they’re really for! Because for us, they are now license plates! They’re steel, so they’re sturdy. They even have a little hole at the top to hang them from daddy’s bike! Covered with metal paint, they’ll be protected against rust. And they cost $1.16 each. (Take THAT, perfect-but-outrageous $35 picture frame!)

Total expenditure for five gifts: less than ten dollars. 🙂

Now, this craft is largely adult-made. The children watched and had some input, but just this once, it’s not free-form totwork.

After I painted the disks — given the toxicity of metal paint, I did this on the weekend when the kids weren’t even here — my idea was to use acrylic paint to paint the children’s palms, and press a hand-print onto the disk. Their hands are small enough that they still fit in that circle. (Small enough to fit. Isn’t that just so damned cute?) Except that the acrylic paint didn’t make a nice, clean imprint on the glossy metal paint. More of an indistinct smoodge. Tried several times, and got nothing but smoodges.


Back to the drawing board. My next thought was shelf paper. Something bright! I could trace their hands on some bright red or blue shelf paper, and just peel and stick it to the disk.

Except it seems that people in this city like their shelf paper in muted tones of cream and grey. A pale pastel at best. A white disk with a pale grey handprint was NOT what I had in mind…


Not sure what I’d find, I meandered through Grand and Toy… and found it!! “Poly Index Dividers“, they’re called, and you may call them that, too, if you like. To my craft-centric mind, they are bright, durable sheets of plastic.

Trace the tots’ hands on this, cut it out and glue it to the disk. I traced — which they found interesting — I cut, they spread the glue. After the glue had dried, I added the words, we covered it all, front and back, with packing tape (for water-resistance) and…


And here’s one on my husband’s bike. Yes, this one is hanging sideways rather than across the back. BOOOOO. But I have a fix for that! Hose clamps! Two hose clamps, in fact. One will make a large loop through supports on the rear underside of the bike seat. The other will make a small loop through the hole at the top of the disk, then grab onto the large loop attached to the bike seat. I will post a picture when I’ve found the clamps. I know we have some. We have a whole big package of them in the basement. Somewhere.

Cute, no?

June 9, 2010 Posted by | commemoration, crafts | , , | 7 Comments

Six more weeks?

So it seems the rodent crew are all agreed. Wiarton Willie, Schubenacadie Sam and Punxsutawney Phil all saw their fuzzy shadows this morning, meaning that there will be six more weeks of winter. Had they NOT seen their shadows, spring would have come early.

To which I say, “???????” Is there a more pointless event for Canadians than Groundhog Day? Why on earth do we bother?

Six weeks from today is March 16. March sixteenth! If spring were to show its delicate face in these parts on March 16?

That would be early. And March 16 is the later option?

Jeez. I hope the hairy little wretch is right.

But I has ma doots…

February 2, 2010 Posted by | Canada, commemoration, random and odd | , | 12 Comments