It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Spring is

Coming! Really! (Even though today it’s -11C with a windchill of -24. Blurgh.) But I have hard evidence! Look!

Two weeks ago:

This week:

See the difference? Two-metre snowbanks of clean, puffy snow, vs less than one metre of gritty snowbanks … and clear sidewalks!!

It’s coming, it’s coming!

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Canada, Ottawa, outings | , | Leave a comment

Spring is coming…


In the interests of full disclosure, though

Feb22.13 038

these pictures

Feb22.13 050

were taken

Feb22.13 051

two weeks ago.

Feb22.13 052

We’re getting there!

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Canada, Ottawa, outings | , , | 5 Comments

Cold. Cold, cold, cold

thermometerIt’s cold here this week. Nothing like you readers in the north experience, I know, but cold enough! (For you readers in the south who think I’m north? Noooooo. There’s whole lot of Canada north of Ottawa. Days like today I am very, very glad I don’t live there.)

I woke this morning, checked my handy little Weather Network icon in my toolbar, and saw -29. Ick. Clicked on the icon to get the fuller story, and discovered that with a brisk wind out of the NW, it’s going to feel like -37. (That is -20F and -35F for you 19th-century holdouts to my south.)

Oh. My. Lord.

I’m wearing jeans, a tank top, a turtleneck and a big sweater. That’s fine for in the house. But now? I have to walk the dogs.

I have to go outside.

So the regular old jeans are switched out for the distinctly un-glam and boxy flannel-lined jeans. Under which go long johns. I have a down-filled jacket, but it stops at the hips. For today, I am snitching my daughter’s down-filled parka, which comes to the knees AND has a fur-lined hood. The scarf, wrapped as close to my nose as my damned glasses will allow. A hat for inside the hood. Leather mittens. Not gloves. Gloves are for spring and fall, and mild, mild winter days. Gloves are not for -29, -37 with windchill.

‘Damned’ glasses because the scarf can channel your exhalations upward, where all that hot, moist air immediately condenses on the glass, and, in these temperatures, just as immediately freezes. So you don’t just have a moment’s fog on your glasses, you have FROST. Which you have to scrape off. Scraping off means taking off your mittens, and you really, really don’t want to do that.

Whee. fun.

The dogs get walked. Indie, being part husky, doesn’t even feel the cold. She looooves the snow! She romps, she frolics, she rolls in the stuff. Daisy proffers me a dainty paw to de-ice at intervals, but she has no complaints, either. But this is a strictly business walk, girls. Once they’ve pooped, we head home. No 45 minute romp in the dog park this morning, my sweets. We were home in twenty. Boom, done.

And will the daycare children be going out, today?

I think not.

Instead, we will bake something. Stinking cold weather demands baking, I always figure.
We will read, we will do puzzles, we will colour, we will play dollies and trucks and blocks.

But these are toddlers, and toddlers need to burn off steam. So we will play popcorn and sleeping bunnies. We will build an obstacle course and let them climb and clamber and squirm over and under furniture. We will turn on the music and dance, dance, dance. I will put each of them on my knee for one bouncy game after another.

And … I take a deep, deep breath … Mary will relieve them of the “We WALK in the house. WALK!” for at least an hour today.

An hour of running. With five house-bound toddlers.

Hold me.

January 23, 2013 Posted by | Canada, Ottawa | , , , | 7 Comments


I know I’ve talked before about how much I appreciate my neighbourhood, and how nice my neighbours are. People are happy to interact with the children, very complimentary about my skills (and patience, ha!), the chidren’s behaviour and all-round adorability. I have a teacher neighbour who’s been known to give me entire BAGS of stuff when she changes grades and won’t be needing things. (Though these things have included a heap of glue-sticks, boxes of crayons, a stack of construction paper. When don’t you need those in elementary school?? Not that I object! I am very grateful!)

I’ve had neighbours I don’t really know at all wander up the street. “Do you run a daycare? I see a lot of children here, and then there’s that stroller…” When I confess that I do indeed, this has been followed up with a donation, and not just little things: a ride-on car, a storage unit, a double stroller.

Once, I walked out onto my porch to discover a bag of stuff there. Nice, fun craft stuff and small toys. Never did find out who gave me that!

A day or two ago, a neighbour headed out her door lugging what I took to be an end table, all set to put it in the back of her truck. It looked nice, so I called across the street and said so.

“I’m taking it to the consignment shop!”

I laughed. “Not nice enough, then!” Well, no, it turned out that it wasn’t an end table, it was a toddler table with two little chairs. Her boys had outgrown it, and they were clearing out space in the basement. She pauses.

“Would you like it?”

Ha! I already knew I thought it was pretty. The chairs were adorable. The only challenge is figuring out where to put it in my small home, but for this? We’ll make it work! I said heartfelt thanks. I offered to pay for it. She declined. I offered again. Nope, no, she wouldn’t hear of it.

The kids loooove it. It’s had hours of use already.

The next day, the kids and I made a batch of cookies, decorated a paper bag, and took it over as our thank-you gift. I coached the children in their thank-yous, and Grace actually managed to speak the words, speak them audibly, AND make eye contact while doing so. I was very proud. My neighbour — how could she not?? — melted with all the cuteness. I’d call it a satisfactory transaction.

I really like this neighbourhood.

October 5, 2012 Posted by | Ottawa, our adoring public | | 2 Comments

The Funky Goose?

I live near a river, one of two that run through or by Ottawa. (There is also a canal and a small lake. We don’t lack for pretty water in this city.) You can’t live that close to such natural beauty and not take daily advantage. I have to be pretty ill to not wander down to the river at least once in a day.

The river is beautiful, of course. In the summer, the sun dances diamonds on the surface. The reeds and trees frame it in lush shades of green. Birdsong, chirrups, cheeps, twitters and the croak of frogs. It’s also the home of all manner of wildlife. We’ve seen frogs and herons. (When the heron’s been effective, we’ve seen ex-frogs. Nature, red in tooth and claw.) Red-winged blackbirds, musk rats, carp, snapping turtles, sparrows, loons, mallards and little merganser ducks, white swans and black Australian swans, the occasional beaver, raccoons, a fox…

And, today, Canada Geese. Several families of them. Adults and goslings. Wild enough to be wary, tame enough to approach for the possibility of treats tossed their way.

The children are as drawn to the geese as the geese are drawn to them.

And then, starting with Poppy (in the middle), the children respond to this visitation of nature

with a … dance?

Toddlers are weird little critters. 😀

July 4, 2012 Posted by | Canada, Ottawa, outings | , | 3 Comments

Every morning

Every sunny morning when we walk by the river on our way to the park, or maybe just to go frolic in the field by the river, Poppy will do this.

Stop, point.

If you were here with us, with that lovely scene in front of you, you might think that she’d noticed a fish (carp, probably) breaking the water and splashing back, causing a cascade of circular ripples. Or maybe she spotted one or two of the royal swans. A red-wing blackbird? A heron? A frog?

But if you were here with us, you’d be able to hear her little voice, high with delight. Every sunny morning that we walk along the river, Poppy will stop, point and call out,


And every sunny morning, I love the sparkles. Almost as much as I love Poppy.

June 14, 2012 Posted by | Ottawa, Poppy, the things they say! | , , | 1 Comment

Mother-Daughter Bonding

Over cars!


I am not a car girl. I appreciate a comfortable car. I will notice a pretty one on the street. But makes, models and specs? No idea, and no inclination to become more informed. Cars just don’t feature much in my world. I don’t even own one.

Both my girls, though, have gone through a phase in which they were quite taken by Volkswagon Beetles. Don’t ask me why. When she was sixteen or seventeen, Haley was very determined to have a whole fleet of them one day, in a rainbow of colours. Me, the non-car girl, could not see the point of that. I don’t even do that with teeny accessories, never mind something that would require extra acreage around my home. But, mostly, I just laughed fondly. It was never going to happen, and it made her happy to imagine it. No harm there. (These days, she owns one car. Not new. Not a Beetle.)

And now Emma is interested in Beetles. She likes Fiats, too, but Beetles, she declared yesterday, look much nicer than they used to. Have I seen them?

“Um… aren’t they sort of flatter than they used to be? The roof isn’t as rounded? Or is that the Bug?” And even as I spoke, I wondered if the Bug is really the same thing as the Beetle, just a different name? (Because I am Informed and Aware about cars. I know this stuff.)

She taps away at her iPhone, then shows me a few pictures. Oh, yeah. Much sleeker than the bulbous little fellas I remember.

And a decent amount of storage space, too! Ah, that German design.

Suddenly, Emma snorts and taps her screen again. “Hey, look at THIS!”

My snort is probably louder than hers. “Holy Hannah!” With advertising like that, no wonder my girls are Beetle fans. Going after the women’s market, are we, Volkswagon?

I put on cheesy car-salesman voice. “Just slide yerself onto that, little lady.”

“And then,” Emma adds, a wicked glint in her eyes, “shift it into drive!” Our laughter is distinctly un-ladylike.

My attention moves past the phallic-ly obvious to the hand brake.

“Oh my! And look at that! Ha! It just gets better and better.”

Emma looks at me, blankly.


Well, now. Her loving mother has sussed out a gap in her knowledge of Important Girl Stuff. I think we need to make a trip to Venus Envy, or at least visit the website. She’ll be thrilled, I know. That Mother-Daughter bonding? It just never ends.

May 30, 2012 Posted by | Mischief, my kids, Ottawa, sex | , , , , | 2 Comments

Mary vs The Birds (The birds are winning)

Ah spring. Or maybe it’s early summer now. We’ve certainly had summer-hot days already, though yesterday was a gentle 23 degrees with lots of cloud. Definitely more spring than summer.

(PERFECT weather, I was informed that morning, just PERFECT! Perfect for running a half-marathon, that is. If one cares to do such thing. This was Ottawa’s Race Weekend. Ten thousand runners in the 5k, another ten thousand in the 10k. Those races were on Saturday. The half and full marathon were on Sunday. I’m assuming another ten thousand for each of them.

Good thing we never drive downtown. I’m sure the traffic was a MESS.)

And with the rising temperatures, and oh! the bliss! the lengthening days, come green grass, flowers, and birds. The swans are back on the river! (Possibly for the last year, unless some generous person will donate the $350,000 it takes to keep them each year. I will miss them, particularly the delicate black ones. Any of you know anyone with a spare $350k kicking around?)

The birds. Songbirds, chirping away. Delicate twitterings, liquid warblings, cheerful chirps. I’m a morning person, pretty much up with the birds, and to be woken to the dawn chorus flowing through my bedroom window is quite the treat.

Well, was. Last week, I noticed that it’s crept earlier. I routinely wake at five or five-thirty, no alarm necessary. To be rising to consciousness with the rising tide of birdsong? Lovely.

But last week, I was woken every morning at 4:30. Even by my early-riser standards, that’s extreme. I’m up with the birds. I’m not down with 4:30. There are limits. Later in the summer, when the nights get hot, we’ll put in our window AC unit, and over the steady roar of that cool-delivering wonder, I won’t hear anything. Truly, I hold off on the AC, not just for energy-conserving concerns, but because I prefer fresh air to circulated-through-humming-machine air.

So until it gets really stinking hot at night, the window is open all night. And all dawn.

The birds? This morning?



Actually, not really “birds”. Just one early-early bird, the little keener, right outside my bedroom window, with a lovely warbling — and extremely piercing — CHIRP-A-WARBLE-WARBLE-CHIRP! CHIRP!

I stared at the clock. I cannot get up now. I was up late last night. (Hey, 10:18 is too late when you’re up at 4-fking-30.) I will be utterly non-functional. Good lord. Must shut the window.

Easier said than done. Damn thing’s wedged shut in the humidity. Shaking it, wiggling it, hanging off it, nothing is shifting that thing. And meantime, our little keener bird warbles on. Loudly.

Matthew, hoping no doubt that his wife would stop assaulting the window and waking him up, suggested that I turn on the fan for white noise. Recognizing a good idea when I hear it — and the futility of further assaults on the window — I did just that.

That damned bird is louder than our fan.

So I pulled the pillow over my head.

I woke at 5:30.

MUCH more civilized.

May 24, 2012 Posted by | Ottawa | , , , | 1 Comment

Toddler Bliss

The neighbourhood next to mine is torn up these days. A bit of an ordeal to get there, mind you, one which changes day by day. One day there’s a sidewalk between two blocks; the next, you’re trudging over gravel. One day the ‘sidewalk’ is wide enough for two to pass, the next it’s single file all the way. Some days protective fencing blocks part of the path… but in those cases, I’ve always found the construction dudes more than happy to shift it to one side with their manly arms. (Construction dudes generally like babies, I’ve noticed.)

So. A bit of an ordeal to get there. But, when we do, there are GAKKERS!!! (And, yes, ‘dumb f*cks‘.) Gakkers and Loaders! Cranes! Bobcats and excavators! It is VERY EXCITING!!!

(Which is to say, I belatedly realize, that it is an ordeal for me, the engine behind the stroller. It is nothing but excitement and FUN TIMES for those who get to ride, powered by my sweating self…)

And even MORE exciting than all that heavy machinery, there is a Toy Store.

A kickass toy store.

Totally worth the trip, wouldn’t you say???

August 18, 2011 Posted by | Ottawa, outings | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Misplaced children

There was an incident here in Ottawa last month. Parents dropped kids off with a caregiver and headed out for their adults-only date day — at Home Depot.

Oooooo, romantic, huh? A “date” spent choosing ceiling tiles and switchplates at Home Depot. Or maybe it was insulation and plumbing fixtures. It doesn’t much matter.

Can we relate? We can relate.

At this point, I’ve heard a couple of different versions. Either they heard their license plate called over the store’s intercom, or they had actually left the store to see the window of their car being smashed in by police. Why? They had left their baby in the car.

Their three-week-old baby. In a car in a sunny parking lot when the temperatures were about 30 degrees.

What kind of parents would do a thing like that?

Well… In this case, regular, normal, loving parents. Who had made a mistake.

Each thought the other had handed him over to the caregiver, you see. For her part, I’m guessing the caregiver figured that since the baby was asleep, they’d decided not to disturb him. Baby was in the seat behind, in a rear-facing car seat, sound asleep. Easy to miss, particularly if you honestly believed the seat was empty? I’d say so.

They went out to find that police had smashed in the window of their car, the Children’s Aid had been alerted, and they were the centre of a whole lot of nasty attention. (Lest any of you faint before the end of this post, I’ll tell you now that the baby was fine! He was taken to hospital to be checked over, of course, but he was fine.)

Attention which only got worse when, after appropriate investigation, Ottawa Police Services decided that it wasn’t a criminal matter. Suddenly the righteous everywhere were outraged. Outraged and leaping to judgment — because that’s what the righteous do best.

“Those people deserve to have that child taken away!!!”

Wait. They did not knowingly leave the child in the car. They didn’t decide, “Oh, it’s too much trouble to wake him up. We won’t be long, let’s leave him there.” No. They had made arrangements for their children to be cared for by a loving relative. Each thought that’s where the child was.

This wasn’t a bad decision, this was an accident. A miscommunication at worst. An accident which could have had tragic consequences, of course, and had that happened, who would have suffered most? Not the righteous, with all their frothing and fulminating, but those poor parents, blaming themselves for the rest of their lives.

I was talking about this with another couple over the weekend, a couple whose children are all adults, some with families of their own. They shared how they’d been part of a social group not too long ago where the conversation had moved on to just this topic: Forgetting/misplacing your child.

It seems bizarre, just writing that down. Misplacing a child???

And yet, in the rather large group of parents-of-adults, there were quite a few stories of forgetting a child and/or misplacing one for a few terrifying seconds/moments/hours. At gas stations on long car trips, at gramma’s house, at school, and, most bizarrely by me, a baby in a car seat left behind in a cab.

All these stories had happy endings. Parents and children were reunited, nobody hurt (except a few ulcers born, perhaps).

How often, we wondered, does this happen to young parents, and you’re just too scared to tell anyone? Because who loses their baby??? Only loser parents do that, parents who just don’t deserve to have kids, right?


People get distracted. People lose count. People assume the other parent has the child. Parents of young children are often distracted and sleep-deprived.

It happens. Not too often, and not to all of us, but it does happen.

I had a friend whose wife left him with their then 6-week-old daughter so she could go out with a friend. First time since the child’s birth. Dad was in his workshop in the basement, baby was sleeping in her room. Partway through his project, dad realized he needed something from the Hardware Store a couple of blocks away, so off he went.

It was only when he was in line at the checkout that it hit him like a ton of bricks — the baby!!! The baby he was in charge of! The baby he had totally forgotten he even had.

The baby was fine. He got home and she was still sleeping. The marriage survived, too, helped in part by his decision not to tell his wife. (Oh, he did eventually, but I think he waited a good three years…)

But I wonder if more of this happens than we realize. I wonder if we only feel safe to talk about it when years have gone by, when, by virtue of producing healthy, happy adults, we have earned sufficient parenting cred to feel safe to admit to the “time we almost lost one”.

Soooo… How about you? Any ‘baby left behind’ stories in your lives?

August 16, 2011 Posted by | controversy, health and safety, Ottawa, parenting | , , , | 29 Comments