It’s Not All Mary Poppins

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.


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.


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.


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

The REALLY worst shit story ever

Worse even than this. Really.

It was the end of my work day. Three of the four children had left, the last one just stepping off my porch. I walk into the kitchen, where the last child, Poppy, is looking at a book. I say something to her, then turn to walk out to the living room …

and something’s spilled on the floor by the dining table. Huh. Odd that I didn’t notice it when I walked through from the front door. Is it tea? It looks sort of like tea, but I haven’t had any tea for a few hours, and my mug is in the sink, empty. I take another step to have a look, and then I see there are more spots a foot or so away, and more, and more … all over the dining room, all over the living room all in the front hall…

And as I step carefully between the spots and puddles, I note the stink, and comprehension dawns.

It’s shit.

Worse. Diarrhea. Liquid diarrhea.


It wasn’t there when I walked through the living room and dining room a mere two minutes ago. Two minutes ago I had a normal home. A reasonably tidy one, in fact, the tots and I having done the end-of-day pick-up only a few minutes prior.

Aren’t I HAPPY I’m so methodical about this? Making them tidy with me, instead of waiting till they’re gone? Otherwise the puzzle and trucks and cloth dolls that were strewn all over the floor only minutes ago would now be speckled with poo. Oh, no. “Poo” is much too ladylike and delicate a word.

This is shit, folks. Cups of it. Tossed with reckless abandon all over my home.

It’s got to be a dog. Indie walks up, looking very worried. Emma told me later that it was my horrified, “Was that YOU?!?!?” that brought her up from her bedroom in the basement. Indie looks worried, but that’s kind of a default look for Indie. Indie also looks guilty, but Indie is one of those guilt-ridden dogs. We scold Daisy for something, Daisy says “But I’m so CUTE, mom!!!” (or, in a surly mood, it’s more “What’s YOUR fking problem??”). Indie hears us scold Daisy, and says, “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! Please don’t hate me!”

A quick glace at her butt end confirms it. It wasn’t Indie.

Of course it wasn’t Indie. If Indie had diarrhea, she would try frantically to get out and then, if no one heard her pitiful cries, she’d let fly in the front hall on the tiles, as close to the outside as she could get, desperate with the aforementioned guilt. That is what Indie would do.

What Indie would NOT do is run through the house in a blind panic, trying to escape her asshole. Because that, I gradually realize, is what has happened. Daisy has had explosive diarrhea, and frightened by the violence, has raced around my home, propelled by her butt end like a deflating balloon, spewing not air, but shit.


Poor scared puppy.

Stupid rotten dog.

So it’s Daisy. But where is she? Oh, lord. There are footprints going upstairs. Wet ones. Wet-with-shit footprints. Upstairs where [cue foreboding music] the bedrooms are.

She didn’t go into my dressing room — THANK GOD!!! (My recently renovated, I’m-so-proud-of-it dressing room.) The door of my son’s room is shut, has been all day. No mess in the bathroom. Of course. Even a panicked dog wouldn’t go into the “Room Where Baths Happen” voluntarily.

I follow the footprints. Daisy comes dancing toward me, feathery tail wagging, so happy to see me!!! Well, feathery except for the bit closest to her butt, which is hanging in wet, poop-bedraggled strands from her tail. Gah! Don’t wag that thing! She comes toward me from my bedroom. Where she had been on the bed. Dispensing largesse. Liberally.

Oh, my duvet cover! You poor thing!

(Also? Thank GOD we hadn’t yet put the down-filled duvet into it. Really. I’ll take what small mercies I can find at this point.)

I’m not grossed out, exactly. I think ‘shocked wonderment’ describes it best. Two floors, three rooms, two hallways, a set of stairs, all of them speckled with shit. In less than two minutes. I mean that literally. In less than 120 seconds, this idiot dog has anointed my entire home with dots, dollops, speckles and puddles of watery pale brown excrement.

IN LESS THAN TWO MINUTES!!! Far less. Probably more like 25 or 30 seconds. I am not kidding. It’s … astounding.

Daisy bounds toward me. Now that her explosive diarrhea is over, now that her bum has stopped exploding, she feels SO! MUCH! BETTER!

“Phew! Thank goodness that’s over, huh, mummy??” is clearly her thought. “I feel so much better now!!” And I scratch her fuzzy head. Because, you know, she’s cute. And she was scared. And I love her.

But OH MY GOD!!!!

The PooP BomB was tied up out front, her sodden hind end on display for the neighbours to see. I didn’t care. I had more urgent concerns than my neighbour’s squeamishness.

First thing I did was cancel my 6:30 interview. Yes. To make things absolutely perfect, I had an interview scheduled for an hour hence. We’d get it clean by then — maybe? — but would we clear out the stench? HA! And when would I make dinner?

Besides, after facing down this horror, I was pretty sure I’d just want to recline delicately on my chaise lounge with a chilled glass of white wine. Or, better? My fainting couch. First time in my life I’ve ever considered owning a fainting couch, but if there was a time for one, this would be it, no?

And then I get to work. Emma pitches right in. I don’t even have to ask. (Remember Emma? My youngest, now 20? She hasn’t shown up so much lately because she’s in university now, 3rd year nursing. A busy girl!)

“Thank you for helping out!” I say to her, as we each don surgical gloves and grab a roll of paper towels. (Yes, I have a large box of surgical gloves in my home. A necessary piece of equipment when one has longish fingernails and changes poopy diapers for a living.)

“No problem. I’ve seen much worse than this!!” she says. “From humans. Patients with C-diff? Their stuff is just this consistency, and stinks 10 times worse.”

Wow. My kid pitches in — voluntarily!! — to clean up an entire shit-spattered house. Voluntarily, and cheerfully!! Seriously. We didn’t quite manage to whistle while we worked, but we did laugh. Quite a lot. Horrified laughter, dark laughter, but laughter. I tell you: Nursing school is really paying off!

It took us half an hour. Way better than I’d feared.

I started the washing machine and threw in the first load of my bedding. If it can’t handle hot water, bleach, and the heavy-duty cycle, TOO BAD!

We wiped up all the shit with paper towels — some had spattered onto the baseboards, people, the baseboards! We swept the entire house. And then, while I bathed the rotten shitty so-happy-to-see-me dog — OUTSIDE, thankssomuch, that animal is not coming anywhere near my bathroom! — Emma mopped every single floor with a bleach solution.

On the bright side? My floors are probably cleaner, and certainly less germy, than they’ve been in a long time. Possibly ever. Though all the windows have been thrown open, the house still smells of bleach. Which is far, far better than what it smelled of an hour ago!

My interview will be tomorrow at 6:15. Daisy, clean and dry, is in her crate, where she will stay, apart from walks, until she produces a normal poo. She had water for dinner. Tomorrow she will eat white rice. She will not like it. Not the crate, not the rice. TOO BAD.

We humans will have pizza for dinner. I’m not up to food prep right now.

Phew. We did it!

Hand me that wine, will you?

October 17, 2013 Posted by | eeewww, my kids | , , | 10 Comments

Caillou: New Baby, or, The Weirdness

So. About that Caillou book.

Where were we? Let’s see…

Page 1: Caillou is happily anticipating the arrival of his baby sister.
Page 2: Mommy and Daddy go to the hospital. Is he excited that his sister is on her way? Is he happy to spend the night with gramma? Noooo… Drippy little Caillou plops his thumb in his mouth and is “lonely”.
Page 3: The baby appears and disillusionment sets in. The baby can’t do anything! (Drippy little Caillou’s parents obviously did a poor job of preparation.)
Pages 4 – 7: Caillou’s behaviour deteriorates, from pouting through passive aggression and non-compliance, through regression right onto to active aggression, culminating when he bites his baby sister.

Caillou’s parents are galvanized into action! Daddy comforts the baby, while Mommy tackles Caillou. And here’s where it gets weird. Just you watch.

Mommy: “You think your sister is sweet enough to eat. But if you do, you will no longer have her to love. You can bite an apple, but not your baby sister.”

He thinks she’s sweet enough to eat?? Does this delusion nitwit honestly think her toddler bit the baby because he thinks she’s edible? Seriously?

I think Caillou’s mommy is one of those “Good Mommies”. Bad feelings don’t exist in her universe. I bet when Caillou manages to get under her skin by repeated whiny, manipulative, aggressive behaviour, she isn’t ever, ever angry, she’s only “sad”. So very sad. And Caillou is never angry, hostile, or jealous. Oh, no! He is just tired, or over-stimulated. Or, in this case, hungry.

Okay, Mommy. Time for a reality check. Caillou is thinking a whole big bunch of things about his sister, you bet. However, I would bet lots and lots of good money “my baby sister is sooooo sweet” is not one of them.

He may only be 21 months old, but Mommy? He knows the difference between a human being and an apple. That’s why, when he wanted to express his anger and aggression, he threw a doll around his room. A baby doll. Not, you will note, an apple.

“But if you do, you will no longer have her to love.”

Wait. Just wait now. You’re suggesting that Caillou is trying to ingest his sister, in her entirety?? That he wants to completely consume her? You think that bite wasn’t a simple act of aggression, but only the first morsel of lunch??

She’d rather believe her son was aiming for cannibalism than aggression?? A little bog-standard toddler aggression arising out of jealousy and anxiety?? So her thought processes were, what? “My baby would never act aggressively! Nooo. He must just have been trying to eat her. Like an apple. Yes, that’s much better.”

You know what? That’s WAY, WAY CREEPIER, Mommy. Waaaay creepier. Caillou the Cannibal. Ew.

Wonderful husband listened to me read that page and snorted. “Now, now, Caillou,” he chirped in a blissed-out Nice Mommy voice. “You can’t have your sister and eat her, too!” (Yes, I know I’ve just put down the red carpet for some seriously creepy Google-searchers. Won’t they be disappointed that it’s just whiny little Caillou and his delusional parents?)

“You can bite an apple, but not your baby sister.”

Okay. We’ll let that one alone. It’s a reasonable enough thing to say to a young toddler. Also “You are a person, not a wild animal. People don’t bite.” Or, “You may be angry, but you may not bite.” Or, “Caillou! You just hurt the baby! See how she’s crying? Poor baby Rosie! I need to go spend time with her and help her feel better. You can sit over there alone.” Or, after the above, “You can come help me make her feel better. Poor, poor Rosie!”

It’s odd how most of the book is devoted to describing Caillou’s growing unhappiness and eventual aggression, but the parents’ response does not address the issue of his feelings at.all.

In fact, and I just realized this, there is never any discussion of Caillou’s feelings. It is simply a list of actions. Caillou does this, that, and that other thing. Every one of them negative, until the very last page. Nor is there any discussion of the results of those actions on other people. (Empathy for poor crying Rosie? Noooo.)

Good lord. What an enormous gap in the narrative of this book! Caillou is a little guy. He looks to be less than two. So…
– He doesn’t know what that turmoil of feeling inside him is. He needs someone to label them for him. He needs someone to show him how to control and channel them. In simple and concrete ways. (Not someone to deny that they even exist!)
– He quite likely genuinely doesn’t know that other people have feelings, too. Not like he does, at any rate. Rosie’s tears were a prime opportunity to introduce him to the notion, and to plant some seeds of empathy.

So, in a book that’s all about a toddler’s negative emotional reaction to the advent of the attention-sucking interloper of a new baby in his perfect world, there is not one single reference to the feelings that precipitate all the actions. Only the idea that it’s understandable if you might want cannibalize your sibling because she’s so sweet.

What a weird book.

February 26, 2013 Posted by | books, eeewww, parenting, socializing | , , , | 12 Comments

It was a moist day at Mary’s

Baby Josh reels by. He’s still not walking anything like steadily, that boy. The girls knock him over just by passing too quickly. They don’t even have to pass close, just whip by fast on the other side of the room. Maybe it has more to do with him looking one way — at the racing children — while attempting to continue in a different direction. Or maybe it’s just vagrant thoughts, neurons colliding in his wee head, which are knocking him over. The boy is unsteady, I’m saying.

He’s also, at this moment, foul. There’s a thick green cloud of toxic sludge wafting from his butt end, I’m sure. So nasty in the air you can practically taste it. Gah.

When I lay him down on the floor — all diaper changes happen on my hardwood floor, easy to access, easy to clean — I discover the foulness has escaped the confines of the diaper. Out the legs, up the back pretty much to his armpits. It’s gross, and it’s everywhere. Really, he needs a bath, but that’s very hard to do with four other children toodling around.

(And if you think I could just bring us all up to the bathroom, you have not been around long enough to have heard me note how very small my home is. There is not room, and I do mean that quite literally — there is not sufficient floor space in my bathroom — for four toddlers and an adult.)

So, no bath for Josh. Just diaper wipes. Lots and lots and lots of diaper wipes. Well over a dozen. Five for the butt. Three for the stomach. Six for the back. Oh! One for his left armpit. So charming. They just keep piling up on top of the diaper that lies on the floor beside me, off-gassing toxic fumes into my home.

If you’ve been around for long enough, you also know that Grace and Jazz are poo-vultures. The are drawn to the stuff, in an utterly morbid (and revolting) way. Usually I shoo them away before I begin with a poopy diaper, but for some reason, this time I didn’t. So there they are, peering in and chatting about it between themselves.

“Josh has a big poo!”
“Does Josh have a big poo, Mary?” (This, I ignore.)
“Look! He has poo in his bellybutton!”
“Oh, no! He stuck his foot in the poo, and now his sock gots poo on it!”

Yes, indeed. Rivetting stuff, poo. The fascination never ends. In fact, the fascination of Josh’s shit-smeared body became so engrossing for Grace that she managed to sit in the growing pile of excremented diaper wipes on top of the poo-filled diaper.

“GRACE! Don’t move!” Because there’s nothing I can do about it right now, is there? I have Toxic Boy in front of me, and if I let go, he will immediately make his speedy and shit-strewing way across my home. Immediately.

Grace, however, is capable of sitting stock-still for a couple of minutes. Bless her heart. Not so blessed is the smear of poo on the side of her tights. Urgh.

Josh de-toxified, I turn my attention to Grace. We peel the tights off, thankfully the only item of clothing befouled, and as I lift them away, she pauses, her face twitches, and she sneezes. Directly onto my shirt. A fully loaded sneeze. Yellow snot adorns the black wool.


And if I’d had time to write this post yesterday, that would be where it ended. You’d think that was enough, no? Poo in glorious abundance, with a chaser of snot? I’d say that was enough.

The Fates disagreed.

Later that same day:

Baby Josh discovers the potty. (Poppy is being potty-trained; more on that another day.) There is not much in the potty. With two dogs, three toddlers and couple of 14-month-old babies in the house, I’m careful about these things. But the last pee has not been dispensed with yet.

The last pee was, thank GOODNESS, a small one. (Most of them are. Poppy very quickly registered that if you dispense your pee in many small increments, you get MORE SMARTIES!!!) THANK GOODNESS, I say, because Josh has not only discovered the potty, which he has never really noticed before, but he discovered that “HEY! This inside part LIFTS RIGHT OUT!” Whee!

So he whips out the pee-laced bowl and waves it about a bit. With predictable results. Waves it and, because he’s sitting right there, his kicking feet smear the small puddle around a bit. It is my sudden dart across the room that catches Jazz’s attention, and I’m sure that’s why she had to run in the same direction. Only, starting from a different angle, and a little closer, she got there first.

And soaked one foot of her tights. Happily, Jazz does not have a cold. So I managed to change her without getting further besmirched.

Pee, poo, and snot. All over bodies, all over clothing, all over my living room floor. Guess I should be grateful no one added vomit to the day, huh?

December 4, 2012 Posted by | eeewww, Grace, Jazz, Joshua, potty tales, the dark side | , , | 9 Comments

Kids Are Gross

The first Big Bad Cold of the winter is storming the daycare. Now, colds are colds are colds. Though I have a sick policy, it doesn’t include colds. If a parent stayed home with their child for every cold of those first few years, they’d be out of a job, fast. So. Sniffly, snotty, sneezy, coughy kids can come. (Huh. Three more and I’d have the Seven Dwarves. Hacky, Wheezy, and Whiny, perhaps?)

I have some discretion with this, of course. If there’s a fever of more than a degree or so, they stay home. If the child just isn’t capable of coping with daycare, they stay home. Those, however, are the exceptions. For the most part, they come. Coughing, sniffling and sneezing, they come.

Of the six children who attend throughout the week, let’s see … Rosie, Josh, and Jazz have it, in spades. Grace is snotty, but Grace is so often snotty, poor mite, it’s hard to know if this is the cold, or just the allergies I suspect she must have. (Not so “poor” from Grace’s perspective, mind you: the snottiness doesn’t bother her at all. Though she does routinely — and increasingly — ask to have her nose wiped, Grace, as I was saying to Hannah only yesterday, also views snot as the sixth food group. Mmmmm, salty goodness.) Daniel has it, mildly. And Poppy, bless her hardly immune system, has not succumbed.


But oh, the snot. SNOT. Snot. Snot abounds. This is a cold which inflicts inordinate, extraordinary amounts of snot on its victims. There is a cough, a dry one, but it’s intermittent, and (hallelujah!) is not interfering with their ability to sleep. There’s no sneezing. But the snot?

Good lord.

Gallons of the stuff. Thick, yellow, and copious. How one tiny nose, attached to, one assumes, a set of equally scaled-down sinuses, can produce that much mucous is one of nature’s little mysteries.

Yesterday poor Rosie was the hardest hit. Poor petit, 14-month-old, red-headed Rosie. She took a morning nap yesterday. Rosie does not normally nap in the morning these days, but her fatigue was profound. This thing has, in the words of my grandfather, “really knocked the stuffing right out of her.” She slept for a solid 90 minutes, and when I retrieved her?

Good lord.

Her nose was trailing butter yellow ribbons, viscous and glistening. Her cheeks were shiny with the snot which had dried after she’d smeared it there. Shiny, and, if you pressed into a shiny spot, it actually crackled. I swear. Her eyes were seeping equally yellow goop, and thus her eyelashes were well-crusted. (The eye goop likely the result of irritation caused by the snot she’d rubbed into them.) Her hair! Her delicate wisps of cinnamon-red hair … were stiff and prickly with dried snot. The backs of her hands slimy with the stuff. Ew.

I felt like the Grinch, contemplating Christmas in Whoville: “Oh, the snot! Oh the snot, snot, snot, snot!”

This was going to require a Major Cleaning Operation. Whoop-de-doo.

We all know how year-old(ish) babies love Major Cleaning Operations, particularly of their face. Gah. However, I have a system, and it’s pretty effective. It doesn’t stop the struggling, but it minimizes its effectiveness. Want to know?

Mary’s Method for Cleaning Snotty and Unco-operative Faces

1. Gather supplies. (Warm, wet facecloth and crusted, disgusting child.)
2. Sit down. A nice deep armchair is good, but for particularly writhesome children, you might opt to sit on the floor.
3. Place child on your lap, facing out. Their back is against your tummy. No, you cannot see their whole face, but you know where it is, right? And you know that it is covered, IN ITS ENTIRETY, with snot. So how precise do you need to be, here? You can certainly find the nose by feel.
4. This is the important step. With one hand, grab both the child’s wrists, bend his/her arms up at the elbow, and pin their wrists to their chest. Pull the child tight to your chest.

See? You’ve effectively immobilized them. Their hands are out of action, and they can’t run away, they can’t kick, their torso is trapped. Yes, they can still thrash their head around — and they will!! — but when you are holding the washcloth over their face, that suddenly becomes helpful. They are scrubbing their own face.

Stay calm and get ‘er done. Despite the noise, the child can’t escape, so if you need to hold the cloth to a particularly stubborn spot to soften it up, you can do that.

Now, I don’t torture the kids. I can have that child in my lap, scrubbed over, and down again in less than twenty seconds. I’m after improvement, not perfection. But if you need more time, you’re in a position to take it.


Once in a while, the unexpected does happen. If the child is tall and you are short, BE CAREFUL! I had a client whose son (while sitting on her lap for a story) actually broke her nose when he flung his little self back in a fit of enthusiasm for the excitement of Bob the Builder Digs a Hole. The back of his head made bone-breaking contact with the bridge of her nose. Broken nose and two black eyes, poor woman, inflicted on her by her happy (and solid) toddler.

I am not short. (I am not tall, either, just not short.) Rosie is teeeeny. I was in no danger of that.


Rosie is teeny. Her head is teeny, her torso is teeny.

Her wrists are teeny.

They were also, at the time, snot-smeared and slippery.

You can see where this is leading, can’t you? One teeny, slippery, snot-smeared fist eluded my grasp and flew up. That’s not so bad. So the hand, greased up by snot, slipped out of my grasp. I only needed to grab it again and proceed, right?

Bear with me, my darlings, while I describe the events of the next .0097 seconds. Her hand flew up, as I said. Up and backward over her head. Up and backward over her head and


I felt the cool dampness on my lips. I tasted the salt on my tongue.


Ack. Blerg. Gah. Gross. Ick. Bleah.

Now, we all eat that stuff when we are tiny. I see the bottom side of Grace’s tongue a decent percentage of each day, as her tongue delves into a nostril. Children pick their nose and eat it all. the. time. Because kids are gross. I assume that once upon a time, I too was equally gross. But it has been many, many, many years since I passed that stage. I no longer have the slightest desire to be ingesting my nasal production. In fact, I would be safe to say I have a STRONG AVERSION to it.

And to be ingesting someone’s else’s???

There are not words. For the Grossness. For the Revulsion.

And what does one do, post snot-injection? Gargle with bleach? Or, as one funny friend suggested, “Take off your whole head and boil it”??

Nope. Though the urge is there, and both those options have their appeal, they are, so sadly, untenable. What you do is drop the child, race to the kitchen where you spit madly in your sink, then wipe your tongue with a cloth. If I’d been thinking just a little more clearly, I’d have headed to the bathroom for the Listerine.

And then what you do…

is wait.

What else can you do?


Because I know it’s in me now. Simmering. Percolating. Fighting it out with my T-cells. (Go, T-cells, Go!!!)

And you second-guess yourself. Is my nose runny this morning? Or was that just because of the cold outside when I walked the dogs? Are my eyes itchy? Is that a tickle in my throat?

And you wait.



November 21, 2012 Posted by | eeewww, health and safety, Rosie | , , , , | 8 Comments

My Little Optimist

Grace asked for a nap today.

She doesn’t nap any more, but she did look tired, so when she said she was and asked for a nap, well, she took a nap. Because she looked genuinely tired, I opted to put her in a room, on a bed, with real curtains that could be drawn. So she could have a nap in a quiet, dim environment.

She peed in the potty right before she went up.
I woke her after 45 minutes. She may be tired, but I don’t want to mess up her bedtime, if possible.

And in 45 minutes, starting with an empty bladder …

she managed to pee the bed.

My son’s bed.

Thank goodness I’d pulled his upper sheet, blanket and comforter aside so as to cover Grace with a daycare flannelette sheet.

But the lower sheet and the mattress? Big soggy spot. Ick.

I admit I emitted a dismayed, “Oh, Gra-aace!” when I realized the damage. I may also have muttered rather darkly to myself as I stripped the sheet off, pressed a towel into the wet spot on the mattress, and sprinkled it with baking powder. (When it dries, I’ll vacuum it off. Then the Febreeze.)

Grace stood to one side, watching the sopping-up and the sprinkling-on.


“Yes, love?” I glance up. Grace is smiling, and, very obviously trying to comfort and reassure, she presents me with my silver lining:

“Mary, I didn’t pee on the pillow!”

It made me laugh. I wonder if it’ll work on my son, who has to sleep in that bed tonight?

September 21, 2012 Posted by | eeewww, Grace, potty tales, sleep | 3 Comments

Would you, could you, please?

“I have a runny nose.”

She does indeed. Two thick yellow streams descend from Grace’s nose toward her upper lip. As they have done all day long for the past three days. Ick.

“You certainly do.” I turn my attention back to the book I’m reading to NBG and Poppy. (Poppy will now sit right beside NBG!! Only if she’s in my lap, but it’s all progress!)

“But Mary, I have a runny nose.”

I look up again. “Uh-huh. It’s pretty gross.” Back to the book. Grace stands in front of me, looking at bit at a loss. What to do when the adult is being inexplicable?

Why, repeat yourself, of course. Endlessly, if need be.

“I have a runny nose.”

Now, I shouldn’t have to give her a clue. We’ve been through this endless times over the past two or three days. Each time it goes the exact. same. way. I shouldn’t have to give her a clue, but I do.

“You have a runny nose.”

She nods, expectant.

“Is there something you want me to do about that?”

She nods. I wait. She waits. I wait some more. And then…


I wait some more, an encouraging smile on my face. A smile which masks the moan of boredom in my brain. How many times? How many, many times?

“Mary … would you wipe my nose, please?”

And then, as if I hadn’t had to pry the phrase from her reluctant lips with a crowbar, I reward her with a warm and delighted smile. NOTHING could please me MORE than to get my fingers oh-so-slightly damp with the gallons of yellow snot pouring from her nasal cavities.

“Sure I can! Bring that little nose here!”

I object, I really, really object to a child imparting what is in fact information, and expecting me to leap into action.

“I have a runny nose.”
I’m thirsty.”
“I did a poo.”
“I’m hungry.”
“I can’t get my shoe on.”

It’s the sort of thing you often step in to solve without even thinking about. Maybe I’m persnickety. Maybe it’s because, with four or five of them doing this to me all day long, it’s harder to be oblivious. But, really? To me they feel like orders, orders which display a fundamental lack of respect, that the orderer can’t even be bothered to ask politely.

Of course, that’s not it. I know that. These little ones intend no disrespect, they just don’t know the polite forms. Nonetheless, it’s a bad habit. If they don’t learn manners now, they may never learn them, or at least, they may not become second nature, which is the goal. It may not be disrespectful now, but it will be when they’re 12 or 22 or 42, and people will be less and less likely to cut them any slack for it. They’ll just be that obnoxious person who expects everyone to serve them. The person people avoid or, if avoidance is impossible, they’ll resent.

Good manners start NOW.

It’s like driving a car. At first, you have to consciously think of every single action. In time and with practice, many of the tiny decisions involved become second nature, and your driving becomes smooth. Beginner drivers get into more accidents not just because they make poorer decisions, but because their reflexes are unpracticed, slowed by the split-second of hesitation. I’m striving to produce smooth social drivers, who can manoeuvre the trickiest situations aided by their second-nature reflexes. (Kids who, if I’m entirely honest here, are more skilled than me. Sigh.)

So the rule is, “If you want me to do something for you, you start, ‘Would you’ and you finish with ‘please’.”

“Okay. Would you wipe my nose, please?”

“Sure I will! Here you go! There, feel better?”

“Yes! Mary? I’m thirsty.”

One step at a time. One step…

September 19, 2012 Posted by | eeewww, Grace, manners | 12 Comments

Poppy’s Poonami


We have the ick. Rory went home early yesterday, complaining of a sore tummy. A sore tummy which eventually, and energetically, emptied itself. Repeatedly. All night long. Poor Rory. (Poor Rory’s poor parents…)

Today was Poppy’s turn.

No vomitting for Poppy, though. No, in Poppy the bug manifest itself a little lower down the digestive tract. Now, bear in mind that I have years and years of dealing with poopy diapers. If you start with my own children, I have over a quarter-century of dealing with shit. (And as I type that I wonder: should I be proud of my staying power, or just depressed?) In 25+ years, I’ve seen some doozies.

But today? A record. Today Poppy produced the vilest poo I have ever seen.

Not that I had any idea there was anything wrong. She was cheery, she was energetic, she was pink-cheeked (her face, I mean), she had a good appetite. There was absolutely nothing external to warn me of the tsunami within. Until it happened. Until Poppy, standing by a bench in the living room, filled her diaper.

Audibly. Audibly from across the room. And by the sound, I knew that sucker wasn’t normal. Normal poos don’t … gurgle. But I had no idea how very not normal it was until I lay the girl down on the floor in front of the diaper shelves, and opened her diaper.


It was not a matter of stench nor of quantity. The stench was vile, yes, but no worse than many I’ve suffered in my years in this job. The quantity was indeed vast, but again, no more bountiful than many I’ve scraped off a tiny butt in my time. Anyway, sheer quantity, in and of itself, does not qualify a poop as “vile”. (Though I always wonder, when faced with a truckload of poo under a tiny pink bottom, just how something so small could produce so very, very much. It’s a Wonder of Science, I tell you.)

(Warning for the squeamish: If you’re not already gagging, you may want to avert your eyes from the following paragraph.)

Nope. Neither stench nor abundance made it vile, though lord only knows it excelled at both. No, what put it into the category of “Diaper things Mary has never seen before” — a very small category — was the consistency. This stuff was the consistency of cream. The cream you’d put in your coffee, I mean, not the stuff you’d put on your skin. There was a splooshing, sloshing cup or two of very, very pale beige cream in that diaper. The colour you’d get if you put a tablespoon of coffee in a cup of cream.

Only it smelled much, much, much worse.

And the question was, how to get this liquid — there was not a speck of solid in it — from the child to the garbage without sloshing it all over me, all over her, all over my house? I peered in astonishment for a second, considering my options. Diaper wipes were not going to cut it. The diaper could clearly not absorb this amount with anything like the necessary speed.

I closed the diaper back on the child. “Poppy? Don’t move. Understand? DON’T. MOVE. I’ll be right back.”

She gazes at me solemnly, but doesn’t shift an inch. Good girl! I race into the back porch and grab one of the shabby, ragged towels we use to dry the dogs after their wet and muddy walks by the river. Grab the towel and rip it in half. Race back to the living room, where Poppy, bless her noisome self, is still lying right where I put her.

I lift her butt, put the towel on the floor under both girl and diaper. Open the diaper. Lift her butt by the ankles, give it a quick wipe. (Quick, because really? NOTHING is stuck there. NOTHING. Because it’s LIQUID, people, pure liquid. Her butt only glistens a bit with the wet.) I drop the wipe into the pool inside her diaper and pivot Poppy so that her bare bottom now lies on the hardwood floor. I’ll finish with her when I’ve finished with this ghastly diaper.

Then close the diaper. But not too tight! Heaven knows I don’t want to squeeze it and have it squirt liquid manure around my living room. Close it up, wrap the towel around it all.

“Poppy? Don’t move again. Understand, lovie? DON’T.MOVE.” Because the child who just produced liquid manure is now lying bare and totally diaper-free on my living room floor. Is there more where that came from? Is there?

I run to the kitchen. Drop towel, diaper, and poo-cream in the garbage, and immediately lift out the garbage bag, tie it securely, and toss it into the back porch.

I really, really, reeeeallllly want to wash my hands now, but butt-naked Poppy’s naked butt still needs my attention. We clean her up, tuck her securely into a fresh diaper, and then I scrub my hands. For the full 30 seconds. Rinse. And do it again. Because, bleah.

Poppy’s mother came to collect her shortly after. Because, bleah. (And also, because it’s in my contract: can’t come to daycare for 24 hours following vomitting or diarrhea.)

It was not the worst shit story ever. But it was close.

First Rory, then Poppy. Who’s next?

Tick, tick, tick…

April 24, 2012 Posted by | eeewww, health and safety, Poppy, potty tales | , , | 9 Comments

Poppy and the Poo

Poppy lies on the floor, ready for her diaper change.

“She gots a poo?” Jazz enquires, peering butt-ward. If she does, she’ll circle closer, to stare and comment. Rory and Grace arrive as soon as they know what’s up. The gather close, the crowd my elbows, the talk, talk, talk about the poo.

“She gots a poo!”
“Yeah, a poo!”
“She has a stinky poo on her bum!”
“A stinky poo-poo bum in her diaper!”
“Poppy has a poo, Rory?”
etc., etc.

The fascination never ends. (The conversation never gets any more interesting than that.)

What is the attraction? While I am rarely grossed out by a soiled diaper — goodness knows I’ve had years of de-sensitisation — I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have to be. But they gather round, forming a claustrophobic wall of prurient interest in the output of their friend.


These days, when I know I have a poo to deal with, before I’ve even lain the kid down on the floor, I send them to another room. “Okay, you poo-vultures. Go play in the kitchen.”

“Poppy gots a poo?” Jazz glances longingly at Poppy’s diapered butt.

“Yes, she does. Away you go. I’ll call you when I’m done.”

Seriously. I do this. You may find it silly. I would understand that. For years the poo-vulture habits of two-year-olds amused rather than disgruntled me. For years, I let the older kids hang around and chat about the poo before them, and I chortled at the weirdness. But these days, though I still find it quirkily funny, I can do without both the audience and the commentary, thankyousomuch. Maybe it’s my claustrophobia?

Anyway. I am used to toddlers being morbidly interested in shit. It’s weird, but it appears to be pretty much normal.

Poppy likes poo. Not anyone else’s, thank goodness. She is not the poo vulture that the older children are. No, Poppy likes her own. Normally this is not an issue. When I change her, I have to keep a sharp eye on her hands, knowing that, unfended-off, they might well dive in there and fondle the findings. (Urgh.) But that I can handle.

No, the real problem is nap-time. Two hours or more of quiet time, alone in a room. Should there be poo at some time during those two or more hours…

She does this at home, too. Her parents are revolted. Can’t imagine why. You open the door to your sweet snookums’ little bedroom, and are hit by a wall of stench. The pudgy fingers clutching the crib rail are smeared and brown. The diaper lies in a crumpled heap on the sheets, small brown footprints making a trail on the pink flannelette sheet. Urgh. There is not much to recommend it as A Parenting Experience.

Though she’s also shown remarkable dexterity here. I’ve walked into the room, hit the wall of stench … and seen clean, pink hands, clean, pink legs, a clean, pink sheet … and a diaper with its dollop of poo sitting neatly discarded in a corner. (No, she’s not ready for toilet-training. We’ve tried. Not.A.Clue. Dammit.)

I’ve seen any number of children with a revolting interest in finger-painting with feces, but never one as long-term as Poppy. Usually it’s something they get over reasonably quickly. Poppy’s been at it for six weeks now, and the interest shows no sign of fading.

She’s coordinated and strong, too, dammit. At first, our solution was to put her in overalls. She ripped them open.

Then we tried a onesie.

She can unsnap a onesie.

A onesie under snug tights.

She call pull the tights off.

Frankly, I think she was enjoying the challenge…

But! I have the solution! Well, not the solution-solution. Poppy just has to outgrow this one. But I have the solution to the shit-on-the-sheets problem. To the Poppy-Houdini problem. I’ve used it before, in fact. (Though not, I promise, like this.)

Duct tape.

Yup. Slap a strip of duct tape across the front of the diapers, covering both tabs, and that kid is in there for the duration. With a strong and coordinated Houdini like Poppy, the duct tape extends well around the sides.

(And see? It comes in lots of designer colours and patterns these days! The red plaid was courtesy of Poppy’s parents. My roll here is bright blue.)

Yes, it does require scissors to get her out of there, so it’s a little inconvenient. But SO WORTH IT! Three weeks, and the little monkey has yet to defeat the duct tape. Take THAT! Mary and Duct Tape for the win!


March 7, 2012 Posted by | eeewww, Mischief, Poppy | , , | 9 Comments

Toddlers and toilets

Hannah‘s tale of toilet woe reminded me of this very old family story. Which I will share with you for your amusement.

Years ago, my aunt was working downstairs in her kitchen when she realized two things:

1. She hadn’t seen her two-year-old son in a while and
2. She could hear water running.

Whee! Aren’t toddlers exciting??? What a rush! Pure adrenaline.

She sprinted upstairs. As you do when your two-year-old is AWOL and there’s water running.

And she found him,

in the bathroom…


and sitting…


the toilet bowl.


The running water? He was reaching up to flush the toilet, repeatedly.

Yup. The boy was flushing himself.

What was he doing??? you might reasonably wonder. Certainly his mother did. He was happy to answer! Gleeful, proud of his wee self for thinking this one up.

“I’m having a shower in the toilet, mummy!!”


I suspect he shortly thereafter had a bath in the tub.

But really? This is a tale of encouragement and support. Really! Because this two-year-old is now thirty-something. A thirty-something who, I am quite sure, takes his own showers — in an actual shower!!! So hang in there, you frazzled parents. It does get better!


December 23, 2011 Posted by | eeewww, health and safety, Mischief | , , | 1 Comment