It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Pint-size Political Pundits

George and Darcy are chatting in the kitchen. Then George’s voice changes, his eyes twinkle. “Stephen Harper,” he intones, his voice rich with portent and mischief.

Darcy picks up on the tone of naughtiness, and joins in. “Steeephen Haaarperrr.”

Back and forth they go, each imitating the other.

“Stephen Harper.” Giggle, giggle.

“Stephen Harper!” Giggle, snort, chortle.

I have to ask, but I don’t want to lead with my questions. We’ll make it open-ended. “So who’s Stephen Harper?” I ask, light and casual.

They look up at me. “I dunno,” says Darcy.

“He’s the man in the song,” explains George.

“A song on television?” I haven’t heard any jingles about our man Steve, but I don’t watch a lot of television.

“No.”

I know they’ve just heard the name. It’s been everywhere these last few weeks, along with Paul Martin’s (his picture’s on the right) and Jack Layton’s (he’s the one on the left). But what does it mean to these two? I want to know, so I set them up.

“Is Stephen Harper a good guy or a bad guy?” (Which would be the question of the hour for Canadians.)

George and Darcy have none of the doubts or hesistation of many Canadians. Their answers ring clear, firm, and confident.

“Bad guy!” affirms George.
“Good guy!” declares Darcy.
“Bad guy!” bellows the loose-canon voter, Arthur, who until this moment had paid not a moment’s attention to the debate.

I think they’re representative of the general populace.

January 25, 2006 Posted by | Arthur, Canada, Darcy, George, the things they say! | 11 Comments

Say what you mean or it’s cucumbers all the way

Arthur happens on me sneaking a private cookie. The tots have just had their (nutritious) snack in the next room. I was hoping to enjoy my less virtuous one in private.

“What are you eating, Mary?”

I hate this question. Kids do it all the time. He does not mean “what are you eating?” He knows what I’m eating. What he means is, “Can I have one, too?” Annoys the crap out of me, truly it does. You want something? Be direct!

(Plus, he just had a snack and I don’t want to share mine. What?!? I can’t hoard my cookies? I have to be noble every minute of my day? Did he share his grapes with me? No, he did not.)

Anyway… since it’s a non-sensical question, I figure I can give it a non-sensical answer. I’m not playing your game, kiddo, you’re playing mine.

I consider the cookie in my hand. “It’s a cucumber.”

“A cucumber?”

“Yup.”

Any other child would have given me a blank or perhaps an accusing stare, and wandered off in disgust. Arthur, however, has never yet let an opportunity to talk pass him by. I want to pretend that cookie’s a cucumber, he’ll go right there with me. Talk is talk, after all!

“What colour is it?”

More consideration of the Lemon Temptation I’m rapidly eliminating. “It’s yellow.”

“Some cucumbers can be yellow. After they’re ripe, they get yellow.” Arthur nods, an encouraging, we’re-in-this-together nod.

“So they do. You’re quite right.” I answer, brushing cucumber crumbs from my hands. Arthur pauses, then cheerfully trots off, his interest in conversation lasting only as long as the cucumber.

You know, some people have to hide a drinking habit, sip their martinis from cracked old coffee mugs. Some people have a lover, risk and reward, slip him out the back door as hubby comes in the front. Exotic and daring. Me, I’m hiding in the kitchen, trying to hide my cookie habit from three-year-olds.

…Sigh…

December 23, 2005 Posted by | Arthur, food, manners, the dark side | 7 Comments

Good Call

Arthur sits on the bottom step. I see him there as I happen by. This step is the “Quiet Stair”, the time-out spot, the place children go to calm down, to think about their misdemeanors, or to keep them out of Mary’s way long enough for her to overcome dark, vengeful urges. Except I have no recollection of sending him to the stair, none at all.

“Arthur, are you sitting there for fun, or are you on the Quiet Stair?”

“I’m on the Quiet Stair.”

“Do you know why?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Okay. Why are you on the Quiet Stair, Arthur?”

“Because… I, uh… it was… maybe I…”

He hasn’t got a clue. And neither do I. Let’s see. This is Arthur. There have been a number of stair-able offenses this morning, but I hadn’t thought I’d used the stair as a consequence for any of them.

“Was it for shoving the furniture around after I said not to?”

“No.”

“Was it for hitting the tree ornaments with your wooden hammer?”

“No.”

“For tearing the cushion open with your teeth?”

“No.”

“Poking the budgie with a paintbrush? Sitting on little Alice? Throwing blocks? Licking Darcy’s face after he said ‘No’?”

“No. No. No. No.”

Hmmm. The mystery will have to remain unsolved, I guess. Don’t suppose it really matters.

“Okay, kiddo. You’ve been pretty quiet here, so you can get up now if you like.”

“No fanks. I think I’ll just sit here for a while.”

You know, I think it’s probably better that way.

December 21, 2005 Posted by | Arthur, manners, random and odd | 13 Comments

Christmas Crafts, 2

Advent Calendars! This one was a lot more work for me than the tots, but their parents will be impressed. They’d better be.

Take bristol board, construction paper, ribbon, stickers, tape, scissors, and 144 teeny prizes.

It wasn’t cutting the calendars, nor even cutting out all one hundred forty-four little pockets, because you can cut a bunch at a time. Folding them was a bit more fiddly, because that has to be done one at a time, five foldes per pocket. My fingers are still sore from all that pressing. Punching holes in the wee doors that will cover the pockets was all right, because again, you can do a bunch per punch.

It was putting them on the calendars. I measure, so they’d be placed evenly. Built a grid for each calendar. Then you stick them to the calendars. All one hundred forty-four of them.

Sticking each and every one of them requires four pieces of tape, two to make the pockets, two to affix to the board. For each of every one hundred and forty-four pickets. 4 x 144 = 576 pieces of tape. Five hundred seventy-six. That’s a LOT of tape. That happened the night before.

And then they all got numbered.

The next morning, the kids got involved, decorating their calendar with stickers.

We love stickers!!

(And before anyone asks, the cage on the table is not for a child, but for the budgie, Java, who has been suffering from the cold in his usual spot nestled against two exterior walls. He’s on the table temporarily.)

Arthur shows Stephen, who was home sick that day, his handiwork. “See? See my calendar?”

(Because since Arthur can see it, Stephen can, too, right? That’s how it works when you’re three – very Piagetian.)

And even yet, we’re not done. That evening, Emma and I put 144 teeny prizes into 144 teeny pockets, and then tied each of the pockets’ little doors shut with – you guessed it! – 144 pieces of ribbon. Two knots each. My fingers are now knotted, too.

I have SO earned me some decent Christmas presents, let me tell you…

November 30, 2005 Posted by | Arthur, Christmas, crafts | 3 Comments

The Medium is the Message

Arthur beams up at an elderly lady who’s beaming down at him.

“Aren’t you the fine young man?”

“I’m a very loud boy, but I’m learnin’ to be quiet,” he informs her.

“Oh, isn’t that nice, dear?” says she, turning down her hearing aid.

November 21, 2005 Posted by | Arthur, manners, our adoring public, outings, the things they say! | 4 Comments

Book Review: The Passions of “Are You My Mother?”

This is one of our very favourite books. We read it every day. It never, ever gets stale. Ever.

Thankfully, Mary, having had lots and lots of practice with it over the past twenty years (it’s a Classic), reads it with great poignancy, for this book has lots and lots of poignant moments. She reads it with much expression, too, because there are lots of expressive moments: of hope and then bitter disappointment; of bravery and staunch determination; a moment of laughter; even a moment of despair.

Here’s the moment of determination. I just love this page:

Can’t you just see the fortitude and decision radiating from this wee bird’s scrawny body? Every feather on his stick-like frame quivers with resolute vigour. You can do it, baby bird! You get out there and you FIND that momma!!

So, lots of expression. Too much expression for Arthur. As we approach the page of despair, Arthur instructs me, “Don’t use that very sad voice, Mary.”

“But I have to, lovie; the baby bird is very sad.”

“Then I will cover my ears.”

“You do that.”

Here is the moment of despair:

Pathetic, isn’t it? It culminates in him/her wailing “I want my mother!”, and when I wail it, let me tell you, it’s pathetic. I do baby bird pathos with tear-jerking poignancy.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I can tell you that Arthur is happy with how it turns out.

October 26, 2005 Posted by | Arthur, books, socializing | 10 Comments

Yes, Yes. Sometimes I DO laugh AT the children.

My sweetie sits crossed-legged on the floor, organizing a playlist, playing with various dials and buttons, happily mucking about as he prepares to listen to some music. Arthur has been bombarding him with a steady stream of questions and comments about his activities, to which he has responded with his usual gentle grace. (He’s definitely the patient one in this partnership!)

“Are you going to listen to music now? You have a lot of CD’s. I don’t gots so many at my house. Is that your music? Why are your CD’s onna wall like that? Why are you putting that there? Why are you pushing that button? There are lights on that box. Why are some lights green but those lights are red? There’s a hole there. What do you put in that hole? Will you be turning it up? Will it be loud? Do you need to wear your headphones? ”

Now, however, my Patient Half is reaching for the headphones, and I decide to rescue him from further verbiage.

“Well, Arthur, he’s putting his headphones on now, so he won’t be able to hear you. Come over here and read a book with me.”

Arthur is amenable, but he has a concern. “Is he going to keep his headphones on?”

“Well, yes he is,” I say, and then address his concern, “So he can’t hear you right now.” I have, however, misunderstood his focus.

“He needs to keep the headphones on because that is quiet. I don’t like loud.”

At which point my sweetie puts the lie to my claims of his deafness, and snorts.

“Yes,” I say warmly for his benefit, while beaming at Arthur, “a little pool of silence is our Arthur.”

Another snort. “A veritable sea of tranquility,” adds the snorting one.

“The king of quiet.”

Arthur beams while the adults convulse into guffaws. It’s nice when grown-ups get it, after all.

September 23, 2005 Posted by | Arthur, individuality, Mischief, quirks and quirkiness, the things they say! | 2 Comments

Craft Time


An architect friend recently gave me a box of scrap paper and cardstock in varying weights, from flimsy right up to foamcore. Another friend gave me a pile of neatly folded, used wrapping papers. I am, as ever, the grateful recipient of the effluvia of my friends’ cleaning efforts.

Today looked to be rainy and chill, so out came these donations, along with a pair of scissors for me, a box of markers, and a few glue-sticks, all arranged enticingly on the table.

“Hey, guys! It’s craft time! We’re going to make something today!”

With a whoop of approval, the children converge on the dining room table, now a cornucopia of colours and textures. Zach, Darcy, Arthur, and Katie sit at the table. Alice, who hasn’t yet gotten the hang of benches – they have no backs, dammit! – sits in her high chair, drawn up to the table.

The children watch with interest as I take a piece of sturdy white cardboard.

“I’m going to cut it out like this,” I say, scissors slicing decisively through. “It will be flat at the top,” I run my finger along the flat edge, “and curved on the sides, see?, with a point at the bottom. There! Anyone know what this is?”

We’ve been reading books and looking at lots of pictures about knights and castles lately, so the concept is familiar. Arthur recognizes it. “A shield!”

Yes, indeed! So what we’re going to do, see, is decorate our shield with the wrapping paper. Not authentic heraldry, true, but attainable individuality. And good fine-motor activity. Plus lots ot sticky glue. The children will tear off bits of paper, rub them with the glue-sticks, and apply them to their shields. They’ve used glue-sticks before, so only a few reminders are needed: apply the glue to the back side of the paper, hold the paper steady with your other hand while you rub, gently and in the same direction, and turn it over to stick it on. The basics. (More complicated than you realized, huh??)

I hand each child a shield. Katie and Alice, too young to do the next bit, are handed a marker apiece. Alice looks at the shield on her tray and the uncapped marker I’m holding out in shocked disbelief. Am I kidding her? She’s in a high chair! High chairs are for eating. What’s with the inedibles? She draws a deep breath, preparatory to full expression of her outrage. A quick scattering of goldfish (now trans-fat free!) on her tray amidst the craft supplies mollifies her. Chewing, she picks up a marker and happily scribbles away.

Tearing the paper bits is the new and tricky bit. I demonstrate the technique. “Just use your thumb and finger from each hand. Put them close together, and make a little rip, like this. That’s the hardest part.” I repeat this four more times, giving each one a paper with a tiny rip on one edge. “After that, it tears really easily. You try it.” Much gleeful tearing among the older four. Alice prefers her food-and-marker combo.

Bet you never realized that tearing had to be taught. Bet, in fact, you’re reeling in shocked disbelief that I’d do this deliberately! Rare indeed (or obsessively monitored) is the child hasn’t torn a few pages from a book or three by the time they’re two and three years old. No one had to teach them to do that! True. The brute force clutch, crumple and yank they have down pat. But a controlled tear, to actually create a wee shape in a piece of still-smooth paper? No.

And in fact, Arthur is the only one who can yet manage the starter tear, and even he prefers that I do the tearing.

They work away at this for much longer than I’d expected, a full 40 or more minutes. At the end, we have five wee shields, each a cheerful blaze of seasonal colours: birthday red, Christmas green, baby shower pink and blue, anniversary silver. Shields for every occasion!

As the tots sleep, the shields are lined up before me, each labelled with their owner’s name and honorific. We have:

Sir Arthur the Inquisitive
Sir Katie (equal-opportunity knighthood in this realm) the Vocal
Sir Alice the Radiant
Sir Zach the Joyous
and
Sir Darcy the Unyielding. (He may be quiet, but he’s adamant.)

September 23, 2005 Posted by | Alice, Arthur, crafts, Darcy, George, individuality | 9 Comments

Beer Tales

The three-year-olds are chatting. George has a new, bright red hat, which starts this conversation:

“I don’t have my red hat anymore,” says Darcy, a little forlorn. “I lost it with my daddy in the beer store.” (Beer stores in Ontario are actually called this: The Beer Store. No point in being subtle.) Darcy did not lose daddy in the beer store. I saw daddy this morning. Just the hat.

Arthur chimes in. “Hey! I go to the beer store, too! With my daddy, too!”

George, it seems, is also familiar with the local purveyor of potables. “I go to the beer store with my daddy. We get the beer for mommy.”

“Yeah,” Artur notes. “My mommy likes beer, too.”

Mary can’t resist this one. “Gee. George’s mummy likes beer, and Arthur’s mummy, too. Does your mummy like beer, Darcy?”

“No, she only drinks Corona.”

(So all the mommies are belting back the brews. *hic* Wonder why?)

September 21, 2005 Posted by | Arthur, Darcy, George, Mischief, parents, the things they say! | 16 Comments

Awwww!

Zach’s natural state is happy. He leans into life with a smile – and with one of his ever-present airplanes clutched tight in one dimpled fist. He seems always to be on the verge of a bubble of laughter. He’s just that kind of kid.

However, he is only human, and he is only just two. Today he arrived wailing. Even through the closed front door I could hear it, and I recognized his, er, voice. Some mornings are like that! Respecting his distress, mom and I keep the transition very brief. In less than two minutes mom is driving off and I am holding the boy, who is holding his precious airplane.

We snuggle on the couch for a bit as he calms. Arthur, though not generally well attuned to emotional subtleties, has in fact noticed Zach’s distress. He leans close and hands Zach a truck. (Not just any truck, either; this is the truck he sought out the minute he arrived, and has been clutching ever since. What a kind little fellow!)

Zach reaches out to receive the truck, and gazes solemnly at Arthur. Arthur smiles encouragingly back. They hold his pose for a beat, and then Zach, with the teardrops still glistening on his cheek, breaks into a beaming smile. And offers Arthur his airplane.

July 28, 2005 Posted by | Arthur, Developmental stuff, individuality, manners, socializing, the cuteness!, Zach | 9 Comments