It’s Not All Mary Poppins

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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

Easter crafts for Nail-Polish Excess

I own far more nail polish than I can reasonably use. I own nail polish colours I have worn once then forgotten about. I own nail polish that’s gone goopy in the jar (and yes, I know how to remedy that, but for now? goopy).

There does come a point when even the most acquisitive nail-polish lover realizes she really does need to let some go. So when I stumbled across an Easter craft involving eggs and nail polish, I was ready. We’d been blowing eggs for three weeks or so — every time I needed an egg or two for a recipe, it was blown rather than cracked, so we had a goodly stash of eggs. And goodness knows I have a goodly stash of nail polish.

I asked the children their favourite colours. Pink, purple, and blue, it turns out. I brought down an array in various hues.

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This is not a tutorial post, so I didn’t take pictures as we went, but the method is simple: put a centimetre or two of water in the bottom of a small dish. Drop, drip, or spatter the nail polish onto the surface of the water. (Some beaded into balls and sank. I lifted them to the surface with a pin.) The polish spreads over the surface, forming a skin. Roll your eggs, one at a time, on the surface of the water. Ours, being blown, floated. I would think that if you’re using hard-boiled, you’d need to hold them at the ends and roll it on the surface, but who knows? Maybe if they sank, the polish would still adhere all over. I dunno.

Then let them dry.

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Aren’t they pretty?

These are 100% fresh: you can see the beads of water still on them. After they’d had a few minutes for the polish to dry a bit, I patted them carefully to remove the water. No rubbing! The polish was not set, and would have smeared.

In an hour or so, when everything is well dried, we’re going to hot-glue ribbons to them, and then tie them to the pretty branches we painted yesterday.

Easter trees!

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April 16, 2014 Posted by | crafts, holidays | , , , | 2 Comments

Ah, holidays

That title? Is a happy sigh. Not, of course, that I’m on holiday any more. I’ve been back for a couple of weeks.

The reason for that happy sigh is not my current state of employment, but my current state of mind. I am ready to go back to work! Not just ready, enthused. It’s a good feeling.

There’s an ebb and flow to these things:

1. I have some time off. Needs to be at least a week. By the end of that time, I’m recharged and ready for the tots. We are going to have FUN! We are going to LEARN LOTS!! We are going to be KIND and PATIENT and CONSIDERATE! (All of us. Including me!)

2. I work for a while. Weeks go by. The enthusiasm gradually fades as the fatigue steadily rises. I am no longer up to BLOCK CAPITALS OF ENTHUSIASM!!! We are going to … get through our days. We are going to … not squabble or be contentious. We are going to … keep ourselves occupied. We are going to … keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I go from aiming for the positives to simply attempting to avoid the negatives. It’s a short and slippery slope from that state of mind to being overwhelmed by the negatives, battling the irritability, annoyed by this or that behaviour’s intractability. To, if I’m to be completely honest here, to being annoyed by that particular child. Their good points fade behind the glare of their prickly bits.

(Yes, it’s true. A daycare provider can find your child annoying. We don’t tell you the parent that, not if we’re kind, and we do our damndest not to show it to the child, not if we’re professionals, but we feel it! It’s generally a passing thing, as the child passes through a particularly obnoxious phase.)

But! Just about the time I hit that phase — “Oh, my GOD, you’re annoying!!!” — another holiday comes round. I get a break to refresh, to renew.

Thank goodness. For all of us.

Sometimes it’s just a long weekend, which tops up the energy and enthusiasm tanks for a month or so. And sometimes it’s a whole, luscious, lovely week off, as I just had, and then I’m good to go for … well, I’m not quite sure. Two months? Three? Before the slide starts?

Right now, I am filled with enthusiasm. Happy to be back. Fully of ideas, creativity, strategies, hope, willingness, and energy. Wheeee!

Moral of this story: I need a week off every quarter. No, really? Ten days.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA…

January 13, 2014 Posted by | daycare, holidays | 2 Comments

Oh, honestly…

Today is my last day of work until the New Year!! (Can you hear the whoops of celebration from there?)

Today is my last day of work, and two of my three families are already gone on holiday!!
(More cheers!!!)

Today is my last day of work … and on Friday, when Daniel’s dad found out his were the only kids coming, he apologized. With energy and remorse. Of course, I was all professional and “No, no! I’m open for business, and you have to work! Don’t worry about it.” And then he was all, “Oh, but no, you almost have a day off! I feel bad!” We chatted a bit more about the kids’ day, and then he was off. “We’ll have to see what we can do about Monday!” were his parting words.

Because most families wouldn’t be back on Monday, I give the parents their children’s gifts from me at home time. I send them home so the parents get the pleasure of seeing their children open the gifts Christmas morning. In so doing, I am depriving myself of seeing them open my gifts, true, but I’m being considerate here. The family Christmas is the most important thing.

Friday after work, 15 minutes after Rosie’s departure, Wonderful Husband and I walk to the pharmacy on the corner, passing Rosie’s dad, out playing in his drive with Rosie and Rory. (I’d sent a gift home for Rory, too, even though he’s no longer in my care. Rory comes bombing over to see me.)

“Thanks for the flashlight!!” he says. “I can make it go really bright!”

He’d opened it already? “Oh, yes,” says dad. “We like to spread the gifts out a bit. They can get overwhelmed on Christmas morning.”

Blink, blink. Fifteen minutes? They’d opened their gifts within 15 minutes of leaving my house.

You know, he’s quite right. Little kids can be overwhelmed by the enormity of Christmas. Opening the odds-and-ends gifts from neighbours and friends — and caregivers! — when they arrive makes good sense.

If that’s the case, don’t you think it would have made even more good sense to let her open it RIGHT THERE IN MY HOME so I could see her???

Oh, honestly.

The weekend proceeds. I do some last-minute dashing about, go to a Christmas party, decorate our tree. (Very late for us.) The weekend proceeds … without a phone call from Daniel’s parents about Monday morning. So I assume I’m working today.

Opening time… no Daniel.
8:00… no Daniel.
8:30… no Daniel.
No phone call, either.
9:00… I check my answering machine. Did I miss a message? No.
9:15… Okay, they’re toying with me. This is just cruel. (My rule is, if you’re going to arrive after 9, give me a call so I can accommodate it, since we generally head out at nine for our outing.)
9:27… Can it be true? Am I getting a freebie, unexpected, extra Christmas gift of a day off? I won’t believe it, I tell myself, beating down the hope, until after 9:30.
9:30… no Daniel… I’m still hesitant to believe it, but hope is rising!

9:32
They arrive.

Oh, honestly…

December 23, 2013 Posted by | Christmas, daycare, holidays, parents, Peeve me | 8 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

Refreshed. Aaaah.

How rude! Mary vanishes for a week with nary a word of warning. Sadly, I have no excuse. Nothing dire happened, except plain old bad manners: I had a week off!! I also, without any advance planning, too my week off immediately before two short weeks, given that I also take Good Friday and Easter Monday.

And now I am all refreshed and ready for action, and I have a gentle return to regular-type work. Love it when holidays work that way.

I knew I was ready for work on Sunday because I was able to sit down that night and come up with a list of activities and crafts for the week in about ten minutes. The previous week took an hour, and my list was mediocre. So sad.

I knew I was ready for work on Monday, because the kids were just so CUTE, and FUNNY, and SWEET!!! … all day long! A week ago Monday, they were cute, yeah, but they were also WHINY and SQUABBLY and just a bit EXHAUSTING, frankly. All day long.

Part of that is perception, of course. When I’m happy and energized, the bad stuff doesn’t grate, and I can see the good stuff. When I’m tired and irritable, I feel the bad stuff, and it’s the good stuff I gloss over. It’s not that they’re doing anything different, it’s just what resonates most with me.

There’s a lot more to it than that, though. I noticed this when my kids were little, I notice this in the daycare: So much comes down to me. The truth of the matter is that the adult in the room, to a very large degree, sets the emotional tone of the daycare. If I’m happy! and friendly! and funny! … so are the children. If I’m gloomy and cranky and thin-skinned … so are the children.

It’s not a 100% correlation, of course. They are human beings, not programmable robots (darn it), human beings who come with their own moods. Sometimes a kid is stuck in “funk” and no amount of jollification in my soul is going to shift them out of that. (In that case, I put them in bed. A kid stuck in funk is almost always tired.) But it’s the rare child whose chipper happiness can survive in the face of adult surliness, and that’s a sad, sad thing.

Generally, though, children want to have happy interactions. They thrive in emotional sunshine. Have you ever seen a bunch of toddlers fake-laugh with each other, just because they love to laugh? They want to be happy. (This week, that’s ADORABLE! Last week? It was just LOUD.) If I’m upbeat and positive, the whole tenor of the room changes.

And when I don’t feel all sunny? Then I do my damndest to fake it till I make it. Did you know that studies show that when you put a smile on your face, no matter how cranky you feel, your mood improves? I noticed that for myself years before I read those studies. So, to the very best of my ability I smile, and I am gentle, and I am kind. A lot of the time, it works (remember my Happiness Project?). It works to the point that my mood genuinely turns around, and the smiles and laughter and play are not fake at all.

Sometimes it doesn’t, and the smiles and laughter and play are borne of effort. Effort that must be maintain All.Day.Long. In the face of the constant demands and emotional volatility of the average toddler — times FIVE. That’s exhausting. I had reached that point the week before last. But!! A week off, with a little travel, a lot of friends, a little shopping, a bit of sewing … and I am happy once more! Genuinely. No fatigue.

And the kids?

TOO DAMNED ADORABLE FOR WORDS.

Love my job.

Now I just need to arrange to have a week off, oh, every other month. That’d be perfect!

March 26, 2013 Posted by | daycare, holidays, socializing, the dark side | 4 Comments

Monster Rings

I have a large stash of toilet paper tubes.

Now it’s a little bit smaller!

I’ll leave you to figure out how these were made; it isn’t difficult. And what are they, besides the obvious?

Why, napkin rings, of course!

October 25, 2012 Posted by | crafts, holidays | , , | Leave a comment

Happy Valentine’s Day

My clients love me a little bit more today. Some of them love me a lot more, maybe.

Yesterday, you see, was Valentine’s Day. (In case any of you missed the past three weeks of PINK! RED! HEARTS! FLOWERS! LOVE! CANDY! CARDS!)

And, because I am a gem among caregivers, on Valentine’s Day I offer extended hours. I stay open an extra three hours, so that the parents can have an actual, kid-free evening, during which they may, if they so choose, have an actual DATE.

And if they didn’t so choose, let me tell you, I’ll be pissed. I worked 12 hours yesterday, so they could have a FABULOUS, STRESS-FREE, WORRY-FREE, KID-FREE ROMANTIC EVENING. I also woke at 4:15 yesterday morning. (No, that wasn’t their fault, but I’ll include that in my grievance against them if they didn’t spend every second of their extra hours blissed out by the wonderfulness that is their spouse and their marriage.)

But, hey. No pressure, guys…

In truth, when they came to collect their small wonders, they all showed up as couples, and they all appeared to be happy. That’ll do. They were pretty cute. One couple had gone out for gelato; another had gone skiing; one had managed a dinner out, and one couple didn’t say what they’d done, but I’ll just say they looked very… mellow and relaxed. 🙂

I think my Valentine Gift was a success.

February 15, 2012 Posted by | holidays, Mischief | | 9 Comments

Halloween Candy

What a lot of good ideas you all had! Turns out most of you are Rationers to one degree or another. Rationers with a side of Hoarders, Rationers who Hide some but not all.

I rather like the new option you provided me, which I’m calling the Traders. I see Anastasia and Bethany’s objection to the “Halloween Fairy” — do we really need another layer of cutesy pretense and complication? — but I do like the idea of giving kids the option of trading in all or part of their candy for a gift. Maybe your child would honestly prefer a new Lego accessory or a couple of books instead of the extra eight pounds of candy. What a good option!

Another terrific idea: Turning the chocolate into a fondu! An idea the whole family can enjoy. Heck, you could throw a party. That way, the chocolate gets shared among many, instead of consumed by one or two, it is eaten with healthy fruit, and becomes a social event for the whole family. A really good option. I suspect gummi worms would not work for this project.

Like Kristy, I’m bemused by all the children who get bored by candy. In my years of daycare and parenting, I’ve only known one child who didn’t have a sweet tooth. Every other kid I’ve known? Would happily devour the entire Halloween bag in a couple of days to a week, given the opportunity.

There’s only one true Glutton in the list, the person who lets the child eat the entire bag, at the pace of their choosing.

And me? I was of the Glutton camp. I understand — and approve of! — the value of teaching a child the skills of impulse control and moderation. However, if the result of that is candy every day? For months on end? That’s not a lesson I wanted to teach my kids, either. Candy is not something you get every day. It’s an occasional treat.

Now, I could have controlled that, too. I could have put the candy aside and let them have some a day or two a week. But that would have been our treats for the entire year. I’d rather some of our treats be a trip to the ice cream store, or dessert after dinner. (We have dessert in our home maybe once a month. Maybe. Sweets are occasional treats.) I didn’t want to be monitoring that damned bag for the entire year.

So, the combined result of principle and laziness … a total Halloween glut. My kids (as I did as a child) came home, dumped their bags out on the living room floor, and together, the three of them, sorted, traded, bartered. And yes, tossed. There were some things that all three of them agreed were gross.

Mum got her share, too, of course. (Chips! Doritos!) Some were set aside for Christmas stockings. And the rest? They took their bags to their rooms, and I ignored them. About a week later, I’d go into their rooms and clean up the wrappers, etc. And yes, for that week, we were especially diligent about pre-bed tooth-brushing!

And so, within a week, it was done. Over. Until next year.

It’s not a solution that everyone would choose, and that’s fine, of course. I’m not telling anyone how they should do it, just telling you how I did it. The result for my kids is young adults who are at a good weight for their height and build, and who eat well and healthfully… and who indulge in treats on occasion. Could you get that result with another approach? Of course! One abberant night in a year does not make a pattern. It’s the consistent lessons and patterns of the other, normal 364 days that teach and train!

November 1, 2011 Posted by | food, health and safety, holidays | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How do you Handle the Candy?

The daycare Halloween Party was all it should be: small children in ADORABLE COSTUMES!!!, lots of good food, conversation which got steadily louder and more animated, only one whining child (bonus!), a few adult costumes, too, a bonus grandmother, and a happy mess when everyone left.

(Mental note: next potluck party, I ask everyone to bring their own dishes and cutlery. Much quicker clean-up when they take their dirty dishes home!!)

They talked about Halloween, of course. And with Halloween came the Big Question: What do you Do with the Candy?

There are two main schools of dealing with candy:

1. The Gluttons. Let the kids go wild. Let them chomp their way unsupervised through the entire bag as quickly as they want. And then we brush and brush and brush our teeth.

2. The Rationers. Parents take ownership of the bag, and dole out candies, one or two a day, until they’re gone.

There are some variants:

The Hoarders: parents who take some candies and set them aside for Christmas stockings or upcoming events. (November birthday party? PERFECT!)

The Hiders: parents who take a portion of the candies and set them aside FOR THEMSELVES!!!

The Eliminators: parents who take candies and THROW.THEM.OUT.

(It is far, far better that these three be done in secret. Do not let your children know, if these are in your candy-dealing arsenal. Well, except the Eliminator. That one is hard to hide…)

One approach discussed at the party which was totally new to me:

The Scientists: You eliminate the candies by performing science experiments on them. How do they handle water? (Some will dissolve right away!) What’s their boiling point? I don’t know what all else you could do, but apparently there are all sorts of ways to scientifically eliminate candy without ingesting them.

Another approach was discussed: take the candy away.

“She doesn’t know what’s going on,” one mother said of her daughter. “So I’m just going to take the bag when we get home, and it’ll vanish.”

Inside my head, I rolled my eyes. (You’ve never done that? It’s a useful trick, if a bit painful… You’ll use it a lot when your kids are teens.) You think? She might not know now, but as soon as that first handful gets dropped in the bag, SHE’LL KNOW. You can trust me on that. I didn’t feel the need to say any of that. Experience will prove me right. (Or wrong, but I doubt it.) Natural consequences: Not just for toddlers!

Emma, however, was horrified: “What? Let them go out, but don’t let them have their candy?!?!?” She shook her head, disgusted. “That’s totally unfair. These are toddlers. If you don’t want them getting more than a couple of handfuls of candy, you only take them to three houses. Pfft.” (Obviously, this occurred in a conversation with me after the party. My polite Emma did not say this to the mother.)

Now, I have my preferred method. Not that I need it any more, with my three giant, grown-up children. But I’m not going to tell you what it is yet. (Okay, so I did pretty much tell you I think the “take them away” option is not highly favoured.)

I want to know from you: What do you do with the candy? Dole it out? Let them gorge? Something else?

October 31, 2011 Posted by | holidays, parenting | , , | 22 Comments