It’s Not All Mary Poppins

The Social Disconnect

George: Mummy, I made a new friend at school today!

Mummy: That’s wonderful! Wow, you made a new friend on the first day of school! A boy or a girl?

George: (incredulous) A boy, of course!!!

Mummy: What’s his name?

George: I don’t know.

Mummy: You didn’t ask him? Well, maybe you could find out tomorrow.

George: (puzzled) Why?

November 12, 2007 Posted by | George, socializing, the cuteness! | 5 Comments

Idle Chatter

From last month:

“I’m painting a very hot day.” George’s page is steadily turning solid red under his brush. “It’s so, so hot that the sun turned everything to fire.”

“Kind of like today?”

“Yeah. Mary, why don’t you have an air conditioner like at my house?”

“Some days it would be nice, wouldn’t it?”


“Did you know that when you paint things fast, they dry fast?”

“No, I didn’t know that.”

Still don’t, but it would be unkind to say so.

From last week:

Anna: “I’m doing sumpeeng my daddy. He doeen sumpeeng his daddy, too.”

Nigel: “It’s not for my daddy. It’s just to put on my wall. I’ll ask my mom if I can put these on my wall.”

Anna: “My daddy put the wall. My daddy might…so happy!”

Nigel: “You daddy will be happy because you made him a picture. He will put it on the wall.”

From yesterday:

George (who started SK last week and has dropped by after school to collect little brother Nigel): I made a new friend at school today!

Mary: Good for you! A new friend on the first day of school! A boy or a girl?

George: (incredulous) A boy, of course!!!

Mary: What’s his name?

George: I don’t know.

Mary: You didn’t ask him? Well, maybe you could find out tomorrow.

George: Why?

September 11, 2007 Posted by | Anna, George, Nigel, the things they say! | 7 Comments

Anatomy of a Successful Party

Here you see George helping Mary make sangria. When it was all done, George informs me:
“My mummy and daddy don’t drink alcohol.”

I am surprised. “They don’t?” And I’m thinking back through previous parties, trying to recall whether they’d imbibed. I thought they had…

“No, they don’t.” But the boy is bright, and very calmly, 110% convinced, and his parents are NOT the type to hide it if they did. So. Maybe they don’t.

“What about when you go to Patty’s?” (The neighbourhood pub, where they frequently have dinner.) “Doesn’t daddy have a pint?”

“No, he has a Creemore.”

“Creemore is alcohol, love.”

He looks at me. Shame I’m so stupid, really. “No it’s not. It’s beer.”

“Beer is alcohol, George.”

He takes this well. “Oh. Then my mummy and daddy drink alcohol, because they both drink a lot of beer.”

Bwah-ha. I can hardly wait to tell his (moderate, cautious, very quiet) mother this one!


I scampered through the post-lunch tidy-up; I raced out during naps to buy fruit for the sangria (Emma was home; I have parental permission to do this); I tidied like a madwoman; I showered, changed, made dip for the veggie platter, cut up vegetables and arranged them artistically (on a plug-UGLY orange tray – who GAVE us that thing???), and, as per the above, made sangria with George. By the time the children had woken from their naps, I was ready to put on make-up.

Yes. At three-thirty in the afternoon. You think I bother with make-up routinely? When my daytime audience is all under three feet tall?

But all five tots are all awake, and I want to put on make-up before the parents arrive. It is possible! I have all the basics – eye-liner, mascara, lip-liner, lipstick, and eye shadow – in my purse. WITH a mirror. I don’t need to vanish into the bathroom, I can do it right here in the living room, if I can keep the kids busy. While not looking at them. Or touching them. Hmmm…

Mary is a Multi-Tasker Extraordinaire. We shall play a game of Sleeping Bunnies! Because you can SING and APPLY EYE-LINER at the SAME TIME. Yes, you can. You should try it some time.

“Sleeping bunnies, ’till it’s nearly noon.” The children lie on the floor, faces hidden in their arms. I line my left eye.
“Come let us wake them with a merry tune.” Right eye.
“Oh. So. Still.” Pause. The tots twitch in anticipation. I spread out that line while I put the liner away, whip out the mascara. Right upper lashes.
“Are they i-i-i-i-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-lll?” Right lower lashes.
Drop wand into my lap and clap.
“WAKE UP, LITTLE BUNNIES!!! Hop, little bunnies, hop, hop, hop! (x2) Hop, little bunnies, hop little bunnies, Hop…and…. STOP.”

And they all lie down again. It takes a couple more verses to get both eyes done, and then I haul out the lip stuff. This is trickier – but you CAN sing while colouring your lips. Your enunciation is a little off, but heck, their enunciation is a little less than crisp and clear. We are halfway through the fourth verse, and Mary’s lips are just about perfect, when the first parent – the one who never wears make-up – walks through the door.

I wonder what it looks like to her, Mary peering into small compact mirror while applying lipstick to (perfectly!) lined lips, while her child hops like a bunny around the living room. I wonder, but I don’t ask. I merely rescue the curried chicken mango salad she’s brought. (Um, yum. You didn’t think I was bad-mouthing this wonderful woman, did you? So what, she never wears make-up and is possibly questioning my qualifications to care for her child at this very moment? She brings curried chicken mango salad to my parties!)

I have a great bunch of parents this year. Sangria at Mary’s, originally intended to be a quiet, hour-long event before dinner, expanded to three hours, and eventually included the aforesaid curried chicken mango salad (I now have the recipe!!), nachos, a vegetable platter (I did that), lovely teeny whole-wheat oatmeal dinner rolls, a huge bag of kettle chips, and a tray of samosas and hot sauce. Yummm…

Oh, and biiig pitcher of sangria. Topped up twice. Not much left now but the wine-marinated fruit, which Emma has discovered she loves. (Emma was allowed to have a glass of sangria. The girl is taller and heavier than me. One won’t send her tumbling into a drunken future begging for booze on the streets. When Emma went for a second glass, though, I caught her at it. Moderation, my dear! And then I had to drink it. So sad.)


We also had a kiddie version of sangria for the tots and the woman percolating a tot. (See the little juice boxes?) It was yummy, too: pomegranate juice, club soda, and as much fruit as was in the sangria. (Lemon and orange, sliced very thin, raspberries, and cherries.) It didn’t have the three tablespoons added sugar nor the litre of Spanish red, but it was tart and tasty, as a good sangria should be. (Because if you’re making sangria, the wine should be Spanish, no? Seems only reasonable.)

Turns out that carbonated stuff should be kept OUT of juice boxes. Those things leaked everywhere, all the time. They could just be sitting on the table, then they’d quietly burp a few drops up through the straw. Very weird. (I think it speaks well of my nutritional standards that it took eleven or twelve years of daycare to find this out…)

Heard at the party:

“So when you said to me, ‘When someone aggresses against you, it’s appropriate to be angry, to have your self-esteem say ‘I don’t deserve that’.’ I listened, and I thought to myself, ‘You know? She’s absolutely right!’ ”

Mmmm… strokes for Mary!

Said at the party (by me):

“You dealt with that absolutely perfectly, Jenna. Good for you!”

[“That” being her child’s attempt to bite her.]

Another couple exchanges meaningful glances and points at each other. “Hey, hon. Are you taking notes?”

Jenna preens a bit.

Heard at the party:

“So my grandmother was just a teeny little thing, but she was a spitfire. She met a friend when she, granny, was out shopping with her either-year-old son, my father, in Suva, Fiji, where they lived. The friend’s four-year-old was having a lay-on-the-floor and kick-and-scream tantrum.

‘Oh, Mavis!’ cried the friend. ‘I don’t know what to dooooo!’

So my grandmother reached down and grabbed the child by his ear, and marched him right out of the store. The friend was clucking along behind her, ‘Oh, Mave! Don’t hurt him! You’re hurting him! Oh, Mave!’

My gran deposited him on the street outside the store, and turned to her friend. ‘There!’ she said. ‘THAT’S what you do! YOU’RE bigger than him!’ ”

Heh. I’ve heard it before, but I do love this story. And it led to a lovely conversation about the parent’s right to be angry, about how parental authority is held in suspicion in our culture, about how it can be abused, but that to exercise it appropriately is part of the job description of parenthood. Great stuff.

The kinda wimpy parents left first (because their child was behaving horribly – whining and trying to bite and throwing things and screeching “MINE!!!” whenever another child played with a toy, any toy, ugh) (evidencing what happens in the absence of parental authority); the pregnant family left next, because mummy, bless her 7-month belly, was tired. And then I was left with my two favourite families, who I will invite back – SOON – for a social evening, just for fun. As in, to make friends, not just be nice to clients. And we will talk about jobs and the weather and travel and friendship and relationships and words and aspirations and histories and our homes and our future plans and what we love and what we loathe, and our gardens and our hobbies, and…

And NOT our children.

Yes, it was a Good Evening.

August 17, 2007 Posted by | commemoration, daycare, George, parenting, parents, power struggle | 11 Comments

Hump Day

(Am I the only one who finds that term kinda borderline? First time I heard it, I had mental flashes that had nothing to do with Wednesday’s place in the week…)

Wednesday? Why is it only WEDNESDAY? I woke up this morning convinced that it was Thursday. Thursday! One more day! And then it’s the weekend – and, more importantly, the BEGINNING OF MY HOLIDAY.

But it’s not Thursday.

It’s Wednesday.


And I have a cold. For three days I thought it was hayfever producing the endless stream from my nose. I had a harder time explaining the cough. And this morning? I woke with what can only be a sinus headache. My eye teeth ache. Ugh.

“I’ll take them to the library,” I said to myself. “That’s easy, calm, the entertainment is built in. No creative effort on my part. Just what I’m up to today: calm and undemanding.”

Yeah, I know. I want calm and undemanding when surrounded by two-year-olds. All the gunk in my head must be backing up into my brain.

George and Nigel arrive first. They have a CD with them. Dad says, “Thought you might like a break from that pink disk. This one’s a favourite at home.”

It’s a home-burned disk, labelled “Toddler Nigel. Mi yoil.” ‘Mi yoil’?

“Midnight Oil.”

?? The explanation tells me nothing. Clearly my cultural awareness has its holes. So we put it in the player, and… Lead singer has all the auditory grace of that guy from The Clash (NOT Mr. Mellifluous); and the beat – a driving, relentless bambambambambambambam – kinda reminds me of Rock Lobster. So, a combination of The Clash and the B-52’s. JUST what I’m craving to start this “calm and undemanding” day.

The kids, of course, love it.

After the first adrenalie-revving bar, they are wild. Bouncing off the walls. Off each other. Shrieking. Screaming. Racing in circles. Bopping in the groove. A mini mosh-pit in my living room.


Mi yoil lasts about 12 bars. “Okay, guys! We’re going to the library!!” Libraries are peaceful places. Let’s burn off some of that energy making them walk the kilometre there, then sedate them with some books.

That’s the Plan.

We arrive. We are the first to arrive. The children’s section is calm and undemanding. Lots of pretty books in neat rows. Creative displays of books organized around various themes. A bright and welcoming rug for snuggling and reading. Perfect.

We commence to snuggle-and-reading. Aaaahhhh…

The door swings open. A father and his 4-year-old daughter come in. A mother and two little boys arrive. It’s a little less calm now, but reasonable. But it doesn’t stop. Seems I’m unreasonable to want reasonable… The door opens and closes a dozen more times in ten minutes, and the place is filled to the rafters with kindergarten-aged kids. No so calm anymore. At all.

Miss Sandy, the librarian, stands in the hub-bub. Claps her hands. “All right, everyone! Story-time is starting!” (Story-time? I thought that was on Tuesday. Oh, it is? And they’ve added a second, because it was so popular? Oh, how… nice.) And she commences to sing as the children stampede from every corner of the room to the story nook. One of the goldfish in the aquarium floats to the surface, victim of the depth-charge shock of all those pounding feet. Twenty-six four- and five-year-olds jockey for position, and commence to shriek along with her. Their enthusiasm is touching. And gratifying for Miss Sandy, I’m sure. It’s also very, very LOUD. Mary gathers her books and hustles her charges past the mayhem.

Several Earnest Mommy types give the deadbeat caregiver a scornful look. Clearly I don’t care like they do. Clearly I don’t love my little ones enough to want to take Every Opportunity to Enrich their little lives.

I don’t flip the Earnest Mommies the bird. I am a Professional. I smile kindly upon their Earnestnesses, and quietly meditate on the crash landing that awaits them. Sooner or later. Mwah-ha.

The air outside is cool, the breeze refreshing. We have ten pounds of books to peruse at our leisure.

And there are those lovely rocks in the lawn outside the library.

The children clamber, and Mary sits on the grass, perusing some of the books we chose. It’s calm, it’s undemanding. It’s soothing, even.

And then the mommy-baby exercise group converges, all the Bugaboos and the MacLarens and the lean and wannabe lean mommies, ready to do their warm-up and stretch before their run along the canal.

I don’t swear as we leave. I don’t even snarl.

I am doing more visualization, though. A three-hour naptime (please, please, please), a soothing cup of peppermint tea, and a book. Not “Are You My Mother?” or “Dog Breath” or “Trucks” or “The Bellybutton Book”, but a grownup book. Just.For.Me.

Either that, or a nap just for me…

Keep your fingers crossed.

August 15, 2007 Posted by | books, George, music, Nigel, outings, quirks and quirkiness | 9 Comments

Black Days in July

Once again, for your entertainments and mine, we shall eavesdrop on the tots. What’s going on in their funny little minds innocent little worlds today?

George (he’s five now, remember): “It was a black day in July, Nigel.”
Nigel (two and a half): A black day!
George: Yes, and the people were afraid and they all stayed inside.
Nigel: Evee-buddy was afraid. Inside the house.
George: A black day in July.

Isn’t it fascinating when they do this? He’s got a piece of something, for sure, but only a tantalizing bit of it. Not enough to give a curious adult the necessary context. But “black day in July”? Has to be a line from a song or a poem. George may not be able to give me the context, but I”ll bet Mr. Google can. Clickety-tappity-tap. I commune with my laptop on the dining table.

George, meantime, has moved across the kitchen to the Sandra Boynton calendar hanging on the fridge.

(Ooo, got it! It is a song, a song which commemorates a particular historical event.)

“The first Black Day in July was on a Tuesday,” says George, “and the second was on another Tuesday, and then on a Sunday. Then there is one on a Friday and another Sunday.” Well done, George! He knows this is July, and clearly he can read the days on the calendar.

Nigel: How do you know?
George: The calendar says so.

My Sandra Boynton calendar? Sandra Boynton, reknowned for cute hippos and fuzzy kitties, has created a month littered with Black Days?

“And Nigel, you better be careful on the Black Days in July, because there was a riot. There was a riot and people were afraid to go out.”

“A riot.”

“Yes. Lots of fighting and throwing things and being bad and scared.”

George’s face lights up. He has inspired himself. He picks up a block from the bin in the kitchen. (The calendar is littered with Black Days; my home is littered with toys. Are we surprised?)

“Hey, Nigel!! Want to play riot?!?!??”

Eek. Let’s just nip that Very Bad Idea in the bud, shall we? I stroll into the kitchen. Oh, so casually. George leaps away from Nigel, drops the block and takes a car from the parking garage. (Which is also in the kitchen. On the other side as the blocks, beside the craft cabinet.)

“Want to play cars, Nigel?” The very picture of innocence. (Didn’t I tell you he was smart?)

Mary, meantime, is perusing the calendar – and what do you know! There are “black days” in July. Seven of them, in fact!

Wanna see???
Just like he said: Sunday, Friday, and Sunday.

July 27, 2007 Posted by | commemoration, George, socializing, the things they say! | 3 Comments

Just an Everyday Outing

What a lovely day!! After yesterday’s ferocious 31-degree temperatures plus melt-you-in-your-sandals humidity, which was followed by a mid-afternoon thunderstorm of such ferocity that poor Ki-woon woke shrieking in his bed, today’s 21 degrees with no humidity at all is nothing short of bliss.

Bliss, I tell you. And, since today is Emma’s birthday (FOURTEEN! My baby is fourteen. Though at 5’7 1/2 – and still growing – and as shapely as I didn’t achieve till I was seventeen, ‘baby’ is not the word. Unless, I suppose, it’s being uttered by a 15-year-old boy, but she knows enough to steer clear of males who call females ‘baby’. I hope.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Emma’s birthday necessitates a trip to the local greengrocer because Emma has requested a “fancy salad” with her birthday dinner. “Fancy” salad requires the addition of “raisins, sunflower seeds, crumbled feta cheese and that pretty curly red lettuce.” (Am I proud to have a child who sees salad as a potential birthday treat? Ooooh, yeah.)

(Of course, she’s taking it as a given that there will be cake. But still!)

So off to the Fresh Fruit Company which has the dual virtues of being close, about a km or km and a half, and having a good selection of organic produce.

I have four children with me: five-year-old George, 2.5-year-old Nigel, and two clocking in at 23ish months, Timmy and Emily. I have a four-seater stroller, a two-seater, and a small umbrella stroller. The four-seater is convenient, but it doesn’t fit through the store’s awkward front entry. The two-seater got soaked in yesterday’s rain because the tarp slipped its moorings and took off for parts unknown. So it’s down to the umbrella stroller. Four children, three of them under three, and one seat? Today will be an experiment, a walk on the wild side. Nigel, Timmy and Emily can take turns riding, their two buddies as outriggers.

They all do really well, and it’s such a grin to see them trotting along on their chubby little legs. Timmy, it turns out, loves walking. He loves to hang on, he loves to trot beside the stroller, and he especially loves waving his free hand in the wind, his fingers spread, soaking up sensation.

We toodle to the store. (“Timmy, please don’t touch that car. It’s not ours. If something isn’t ours, we don’t touch it.”) We toodle through the store. (“Timmy, those bananas aren’t ours. If it’s not ours, we don’t touch it.”) We buy our produce, plus some Swiss Cheese, and some yoghurt-covered raisins as further birthday treats. (“Timmy, put your hand down, please! The magazines are for other people. If it’s not ours, we don’t. touch. it.”) We toodle up Bank Street towards home. (“Ugh, Timmy. Don’t touch the fire hydrant.” George, with relish, “Yeah, Timmy, don’t touch tha-aat! Dogs do pee-pee all over fire hydrants!” True, but a little less glee would be in order.)

We pass the Tim Hortons on the corner. No True Canadian passes a Timmy’s without pausing…

Oh, why not? A little rest for their short and well-walked legs, and if they split a small box of Timbits, a little sugar kick for the walk home. No Timbits for Mary, who is watching the waistline. No caffeine kick for Mary, either: large decaf, two cream, no sugar. Can you stand the virtue?

People melt all over when Mary and the Mob toodle anywhere. The matching hats, the little faces, the chirpy voices, the toodling… People hold doors, people pull chairs aside, people smile and coo. Today, people also jump as we pass. A visible start, then a quick glance downward. First a grandfatherly type, who starts, then grins. Then a teenage boy, who jumps -“what the fu…?” – (quietly), then snorts. Finally a woman, who gives a gasp as she jumps, then giggles when she glances down.

Timmy the Hand is summarily strapped into the stroller.

George is gleeful once more. “Yeah, Timmy. If it’s not yours, you don’t touch it. Those were not your bums!” His titillated sniggering prurient snorting merry peal of innocent laughter carries us out the door.

July 12, 2007 Posted by | George, Mischief, my kids, Ottawa, our adoring public, outings, Timmy | 11 Comments

Well, that’s a relief!

George and Darcy play hockey. George swings the puck towards Darcy. “We are very old, but we’re not in heaven yet, so we can play hockey.”

Darcy likes this idea. “Yeah, we’re old.”

“Does that mean you can’t play hockey in heaven?” I ask, casually. Yes, I am playing with their heads, shit-disturber that I am. Shut it.

The boys stop playing, stand upright in consternation. It’s a Radical Thought. Heaven without hockey? Impossible! A place without hockey is, by definition, That Other Place. What a conundrum. Is there a solution?

Yes! and George knows it. “Oh, yes you can! There’s ice on the clouds!”


© 2006, Mary P

August 24, 2006 Posted by | Darcy, George, random and odd | 11 Comments

Face Value

Z: May I read me a story? (Meaning, in Zach’s pronoun-challenged world, Will YOU read ME a story?)

G: (busy playing with Emma) Yes, you may. Go away.

© 2006, Mary P

August 9, 2006 Posted by | George, the things they say!, Zach | 6 Comments

And you think I’m Patient!!

George’s mother emailed me this transcript of an exchange she had with her son last week. Yes, she really does speak like that – clear and methodical. And the patience! Lordy, the patience!

George: Mummy, how did you feel when you were four?

George’s mummy: Well, I was sick quite a bit when I was four.

G: No, I mean, how did you feel?

Mummy: Do you mean, did I feel happy or sad?

G: (annoyed) No. I mean how did you FEEL?

Mummy: Are you asking me what did I feel like doing when I was four?

G: (impatient). NO. I mean How Did You FEEL?

M: (perplexed) OK, George, I don’t understand. Usually when people talk about how they feel, they mean one of three things. The first is whether they feel sick or well. The second is whether they feel happy or sad. The third is what they feel like doing, what they want to do. I asked you if you meant any of those three things, and you said no. So you’ll have to explain to me more what you are asking when you say “how do you feel.”

G: I mean, how. did. you. feel. when. you. were. four!?

M: George, I need you to explain a bit more. I don’t understand. Can you tell me another way?

G: (totally exasperated at having to explain something so obvious). I mean, when you were four, did you feel grown-up!!!

M: That’s a very good question. I felt grown up compared to my younger sister, but I still felt like a child.

G: Well, I’m all grown up!

© 2006, Mary P

July 17, 2006 Posted by | George, parents, the things they say! | 15 Comments

Mary Drops the Ball. Or Maybe the Sock.

In the summer, my fridge pees on the floor.

Why not? Everyone else around here has probably done it at least once. Well, everyone under three feet tall, which does not include the fridge.

Generally I take the proactive step of placing a cleaning rag on the floor in the usual spot before I go to bed at night. In the morning, the cloth reminds me not to step there, and has absorbed the puddle, which usually occurs overnight. No idea why.

(Yes, I could take the even more proactive step of having the fridge FIXED, or even of BUYING A NEW ONE!! I know that. But those would cost, like, MONEY, people. (Urgh. Had a house of teens here yesterday. Like, can you tell?) With kids dropping out of the daycare left, right, and centre and two spaces unfilled for September, I am not spending money unless it’s essential. Despite its piddling propensities, the fridge keeps things cold just fine. Thus, money spent here is non-essential.)

Course, it’s been dousing the floor annually for a couple of years now…


The fridge has once more baptized the floor, but this day I have forgotten the cloth. Of course, George steps in the puddle.

We take him to the front hall in which are nested their little storage bins, and pull him out a fresh pair of socks. Off with the wet, on with the dry. As I pull the second sock up, Darcy trots over, a trail of wet footprints behind him.

“Mary, I stepped in a puddle.” Of course he did.

The boys, all three of them, were playing together in the kitchen. Darcy saw George step in the puddle. You’d think someone would have learned a lesson here. Vicarious learning, she ain’t happening this morning. Of course, I’ve been doing this for years. You think I’d have seen this coming – learned my own lesson, in fact! But no. Two boys have wet socks.

It gets worse. Darcy is here with his wet socks, and — I GET HIM DRY SOCKS! WHAT am I THINKING?

Peel off the wet socks, and find new socks for Darcy. Am just pulling on the second dry sock, when… you know this is coming, don’t you?

Arthur appears, a trail of wet footprints behind him.

“Mary? Mary…”

June 30, 2006 Posted by | Arthur, Darcy, George, Mischief | 7 Comments