It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Blundersome Boys


It’s a whine I hear a dozen times a day from both Grace and Jazz.


A whine of indignation, dismay and resignation.


Each time, it’s because Daniel, in his happy, blundersome way, has bumped, knocked, toppled, tumbled, banged, dinged, crumpled or otherwise discommoded their ladyships. Now, this is not to say that their protests are unwarranted. Well, some of them.

Fact of the matter is, Daniel can be a blundering nuisance. Fact of the matter also is, the girls complain far more readily than needful. And always in the same, pointless, ineffective way.


Time and again, I explain to them. “You have to talk to Daniel. When you just say his name, he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know what he’s done. Tell him what you want him to do.”

“I want him to not push me.”

“Then tell him, ‘Daniel, no pushing me. Daniel, hands are for hugging.’ You know he loves to hug.”



Most often, Daniel’s actions are not deliberate or willful. The boy is just very active, built (as my grandfather would have said) like a brick shithouse, and clumsy. He moves far too fast for his not-quite-two years of coordination. He hasn’t pushed, he’s only bumped, jostled, careened off of.

Which is why, when Rory walks through that door, Daniel’s wee face lights right up. Well, in truth, it lights up for Grace and Jazz, too, but I think I see a particular aura of relief in the beaming face when he sees Rory. Because, though he is a sensitive and very verbal little dude, a boy who can play quietly, who ‘reads’ books for long stretches, and also talk up a storm, a boy who can play with the girls without eliciting wails of protest, Rory is also a boy. A loud and physical boy.

(I only wish, come to that, that Grace and Jazz were as versatile.)

Rory arrives, and within seconds the two little boys are in a tumbling and writhing heap on the living room floor, playing a ‘game’ Rory has labelled “Monster Chairs”.

A few minutes later, they are thundering from one end of the house to the other. They bounce off each other, they bounce off the walls, they careen around corners. Both of their faces alight with the sheer thrill of the physicality, the joy of the speed rush, the exhilaration of the noise. (Because, when you are almost-two and just-turned-three, it is not enough to BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM around the house, you must also YELL AND BELLOW while you BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM. Girl or boy, this is required.)

Daniel loves Rory. They play alike. It must be a relief for the poor little guy, to play, to just play to your heart’s content, and not have someone inexplicably become fraught and indignant, over and over again. There are very rarely any shrieks of “Daaaaanieeellll!” when Rory and Dan play together.

They thunder into the kitchen, wheel around me and thunder down the length of the house, to the tiny front hall.



Oh. Ouch. That sounded like a head. A head against the wooden front door. A head against the wooden front door at speed.

I wait for the wails.

They don’t happen.



and they are in the kitchen with me. Rory looks up at me, dancing from one excited foot to the next, his face shining with fun … and is that a smallish red bump I see on his forehead? I glance at Daniel’s face, equally happy, equally fun-filled … and with a matching red bump rising on his forehead.

“Mary!” Rory stops dancing, but isn’t precisely ‘still’. He vibrates in place, quivering with glee. “Mary! Mary, we runned into the front door! We bonked our COCONUTS!!!”

“Yeah!” Daniel taps his head. “Bonk HEAD!!”

“You guys want some ice?”

“No fanks!” And they thunder away again.

I am truly glad, for the sake of Daniel’s psyche, that he has Rory to thunder with. I do, however, entertain modest fears for their life and limb…

Heh. Not really. I’m loving it.

June 12, 2012 Posted by | Daniel, health and safety, individuality, Rory | , | 1 Comment

He’s being groomed

I had to share this with you. Little Rory, whose dad is a very sweet and charming and totally geeky genius. (Really. The man is smart beyond smart.) Little Rory, who is destined for genius geekiness himself, I’m sure. May as well start them young!


March 19, 2012 Posted by | Rory | , , | 2 Comments

The new model’s detachable

“Hey, Grace! Hey, Jazz! Wanna see my uh-yer-wears?” Rory, our last hold-out, is potty trained!

“Wanna see?”

“Okay!” The girls are loud in their enthusiasm. Big Boy (and Girl) Underwear is THE topic of conversation these days. Well, THE topic, challenged only by pee, and, perhaps even more fascinating, poo. Potties and their contents. Good times.

We are all very, very proud of our underwear around here. Generally, we show it to each other, unworn, folded neatly in their backpacks or their storage bin, but it’s not at all uncommon, however, for one child to flash their panties to the group.

It is, however, much, much easier to flash your panties if you are wearing a dress. When one is wearing elastic-waisted jeans, it is much more likely that —

“Rory! Dat is not your panties!” Jazz is indignant. “Dat is your penis!” Indignant and disparaging. Who wants to see that stupid thing when there are underwear in the offing?

Oops. As Rory struggles to disentangle underwear from jeans (no, I’m not helping; this is way too entertaining), the girls continue to chat.

“My daddy has a peanuts,” Grace informs Jazz.

“Hey! My daddy has one, too!” Jazz is delighted by this remarkable coincidence.

“My daddy has one,” Grace expands, and then, giving Rory a meaningful look, “but he keeps his at home.”

February 6, 2012 Posted by | Grace, Jazz, potty tales, Rory, the things they say! | , | 5 Comments

Just doing my job

It’s a half-hour to lunch time. The meal is ready, prepared yesterday evening and needing only to be re-heated before being served. The children are playing quietly (really!) in the kitchen, Duplo scattered from one end of the room to the other. Rory, Grace and Jazz build towers. Poppy gnaws on a block, meditatively. Daniel fills a large coffee tin with blocks, then dumps it out. Over and over. The children are happily occupied, all in the same room, and I … am at loose ends.

What to do?

Well, according to Flylady, I need to clean my fridge today. Though a full half-hour is more than enough time for the task, I doubt the peace will last long enough to allow me the whole fridge. However, I’ll bet I can manage one of the shelves in the door before all hell breaks loose they require more active supervision.

An open fridge, however, means FOOD, so I am soon surrounded by “help”. Poppy and Daniel remain oblivious, but Rory decides he will hold the door open for me. Grace, the original Echo Girl, thinks that’s a great idea, so she holds it too!!! That door? It’s not going ANYWHERE.

(Jazz? Jazz is NOT a food girl. She is still building the World’s Longest Duplo Snake, a project far, far more interesting than the possibility of (ugh, boring, you’re not going to make me eat that are you???) food.)

Within a minute, a miscellany of pots, jars and bottles sits on the floor as I wipe the shelf with a damp cloth. Less than a minute after that, I’m putting stuff back. (See? NO TIME AT ALL.) The children comment on each item as it’s returned. Jam — “I yike booberry jam!”– marmalade — “Dat is yukky, but my daddy yikes it.” — salad dressing — oops, that’s expired! “Can you throw this bottle in the blue box, please, Grace?”

While Grace toddles across the kitchen, Rory peruses the contents of the next shelf up.

“I have that at my fridge!” he says, tapping a can. A can of Bud Light. A can which has sat on that same shelf since Halloween. Since the daycare Halloween party, to be accurate, when it was brought to my house by … Rory’s father. Brought, and sat, unloved, unwanted, ignored. For over two months. (By all members of our household, even the 18-year-old, an age at which one is more driven by opportunism than taste, at least in matters alcoholic.)

“You have that at your house?”
“Yes. That is my daddy’s beer. He yikes a drink it.”

I grin. “Your daddy is a lightweight. You can tell him I said that.” (I know this is safe, because I already did tell him that. At the Halloween party. This, I must make clear, is totally, absolutely, completely, unequivocally the pot calling the kettle black. I enjoy my single glass of wine at the end of a day because, to all intents and purposes, that is my limit. Sad, I know.)




“That’s right!”

Because what’s a good caregiver for, if not to expand their wee vocabularies?

January 11, 2012 Posted by | food, Mischief, parents, Rory | , , , | 6 Comments


Here we have a sturdy pair of hiking boots, belonging to my son. Size Ginormous.

Not pretty, but durable. The boy is hard on his footwear, and this pair is going on year five now. We are happy about this.

The daycare children like boots. The puppy likes boots. We have to monitor boots carefully in this house. Perhaps, however, we did not monitor this pair quite closely enough. Was that a flash of colour as I passed? Something shiny in my peripheral vision? What could it be?

Let’s see…

Well. Lookit that.

Goodness. What all is in there, anyway? Let’s have a closer look. You know, I saw all those objects being transported into the living room, by a diligent trio of Rory-Grace-Jazz, but I thought they were part of the play-fort behind the couch. (The couch being less than a metre to the right of where the boots sit.) Huh.

Busy, busy, busy little people I have around here. And such cooperative play it was, too. Also quiet. Very quiet. That in itself should have made me suspicious…

I count 12 items, plus the little red dog that was sitting between, but not in, them.

Told you those boots were ginormous.

December 15, 2011 Posted by | Grace, Jazz, Mischief, my kids, Rory | , | 6 Comments

Elephants for lunch

“Mary, is that pasta?”

“Yes, it is. Pasta for lunch.” In fact, it’s meatballs on egg noodles with a sour cream sauce. Nom. (The ‘meat’balls are in fact a meat-free veggie version, in deference to vegetarian Jazz.)

“Mary, is that pasta?” Grace echoes Jazz’s question. Grace is an echo-er. Sometimes it’s cute, sometimes it’s just annoying, and on the worst days, you wonder if the girl ever has an original thought in that pretty little head of hers. (On those days, the bad ones? The answer is a firm ‘no’. No, never, not a one.) Jazz is an echo-er, too, come to that, but it manifests a little differently. One day maybe I’ll remember to tell you all about that.

I hate answering mindless questions. I’ll answer obvious ones. Once. And I just did.

“I already answered that question. If you heard Jazz ask, you heard me answer. You tell me: Is that pasta?”

“Yes. Pasta.”

“Right. Now we all know.”

Now, I know these questions are simply a toddler’s way of making conversation. They talk in concrete terms about what is in their environment. They don’t really wonder if that stuff actually is pasta. They’re just making small talk.

“Mary, is that pasta?” (Jazz)
“Mary, is that pasta?” (Grace)
“We are having pasta for lunch? (Rory)

But I will tell you now that the endless repetition of the same BLOODY OBVIOUS question can drive me insane, some days. I usually answer it once. That seems only polite. Thereafter I’ll deflect, as I did with Grace, above. But when it just. won’t. stop???

“Mary, we are having pasta?” (Grace)

“Mary, that is pasta for lunch?” (Rory)

“No, Rory. No, it’s not. It’s a bowl full of elephants.”


“Yes, we’re having elephants for lunch.”


And I don’t know if the universe knows I’ve been pushed about as far as I can go without cracking up entirely. Maybe I’ve puzzled the children enough so they don’t know what to say next. Or they’ve decided I’m crazy, and it’s best not to provoke the crazy lady. Maybe they’re just finally hungry enough to eat those damned elephants… But, for whatever reason…

no one argues.

No one even asks,

“We are eating elephants for lunch?”

They just eat.


It is enough.

December 9, 2011 Posted by | food, Grace, Jazz, Peeve me, Rory | , , , | 11 Comments

A new one for Mary

A new experience for Mary! Doesn’t happen all that often any more. But this week? I have had a Brand New Work Experience.

As you recall, at the end of our Great Potty Adventure Week, we had one trained, one not trained, and one half-baked trained.

The parents’ response is predictable. Well, almost.

Grace’s parents continue with the potty training and home, and are eagerly awaiting my willingness to begin round two here. That’s predictable. Rory’s parents, sweet, deluded people that they are, went out and bought some Smarties, thinking that might magically tip the scales in a pro-potty direction at home. That’s also pretty predictable.

And Jazz’s parents? Parents of the ONE CHILD who is totally and completely potty trained? The child who takes herself to the potty, needs no reminders, who stays clean and dry ALL DAY LONG, EVERY DAY. (And who, as of the end of last week, had woken from her naps dry?)

This morning, Jazz comes to me. “I needa pee.”

I look at her, a bit blankly. “Well, away you go, sweetie. You don’t have to ask me.” She doesn’t have to because she doesn’t need to. All day, every day, for two weeks now, she has taken herself to the potty. She goes, she sits, she produces, she calls me while she’s there so I can help clean up. But she doesn’t ask to pee. What’s with that?

She trots over to the potty, and struggles to remove her jeans. It’s taking quite a bit more struggle than usual, I note, and when I come over to investigate, I discover…

she’s wearing a diaper.

I should have known, because, even though their child is 100% reliably toilet trained, totally independent and hasn’t had a single accident in two weeks, they keep sending her in diapers.

“You don’t need to send her in diapers,” I tell them. “Oh, no?” they say. No, really, I assure them. “She’s TOTALLY trained. Well and truly DONE with diapers!” “Well, isn’t that terrific!” they say.

And then she comes wearing diapers.

Day after day.

Do you know, in all the years I’ve been doing this, I have never before had parents who weren’t TOTALLY THRILLED to be done with diapers. I’ve had lots and lots and lots of parents who wanted potty training to begin before I felt there was much point. I’ve had lots who continued with it at home after our week trial convinced me a child wasn’t ready. I’ve had a few parents get outright annoyed with me for not continuing with pointless pottying at my home, too. In short, I’m not unused to being pushed by over-eager parents.

But I’ve never, not once, ever had a parent who needed pushing.

However, having told them a couple of times, making sure I spoke directly to each parent… I’m leaving it. Really. Does it matter to me that they’re keeping her in diapers at home?

Nope. Not at all. Given that I resent it when parents try to strong-arm me into doing things in my home that I don’t feel necessary or appropriate, I’m not about to go doing it to parents. The only environment I control is my own, and that’s fine. I just have to remember that she’s going to be wearing a diaper when she arrives, and peel it off first thing.

But people?

This is weird.

Just weird.

October 24, 2011 Posted by | Grace, Jazz, parents, potty tales, Rory | 8 Comments

Potty Update

How did the Great Potty Adventure go, someone asked? A reasonable question. It’s All Potty, All The Time for a solid week, and then I drift off and leave you all hanging. Hardly nice, Mary. Tsk, tsk. I’m sure the suspense is keeping you up at nights.

So, the results:

One total potty success!!! Jazz is trained. Totally out of wake-time diapers!!! She knows when she needs to go, she takes herself to the potty, she sits herself down, she does her business, she pulls herself back together. She needs help only with the hygiene aspects.

THAT is trained.

One total potty not-yet!!! Rory is not trained. In fact, Rory finds the whole thing so anxiety-raising that we are dropping the whole subject for a few weeks again. He never really did understand what we were after, so his days were one accident after another… which, despite my calm and upbeat reassurances, he found distressing. It was the day he approached me, awash in weariness, his big brown eyes wide and his voice quivering, “Can I has my diaper back, please?” I decided that was it for Rory. Poor little guy. And really, a baby sister at home is probably enough stress and change for one small boy.

And Grace? Grace is a half-baked pottier. If you recall, I wondered if her extreme passivity would be a problem. And yes, yes it was. (I also thought she was the most likely to be trained. Ha! Called that wrong.) If she’s reminded every 20 minutes, she can stay dry all day. If she’s not reminded, or if reminders are spaced 30 minutes or more… she wets. Every time. She’s had at least two accidents a day since I dispensed with the timer last week.

So Grace is back in diapers, at least at my home. Her parents are keeping up with the pottying at home. Me, I don’t have that kind of patience. Besides, my day can be fragmented enough, what with the five toddlers charging around, I don’t need another every-20-minute disruption.

Okay, I admit: If I really wanted to, I could put up with every 20 minutes for… well, that’s just it. For how long? She’ll get trained, in the end. But there is no law that says I have to be ON HER, every twenty minutes, for weeks on end until she does get it. That’s nuts. Why not just relax through those weeks, and try again later?

In the end, see, you do a cost-benefit analysis — well, I sure do — and you determine — well, I sure did — that the effort and CONSTANT DILIGENCE required to keep her dry is far, far greater than the effort of changing two diapers a day. I mean, seriously? Every twenty minutes vs two diapers?

There is no contest, people. None.

In another month or six weeks, we’ll try again with both Rory and Grace. In the meantime?


Thanks to you, I only have FOUR children in diapers. (Yes, “only”. It’s all in your perspective.)


October 20, 2011 Posted by | Grace, Jazz, potty tales, Rory | 5 Comments

Weirdest thing I heard today

Subtitle: I think Rory’s reached the end of his potty-training tolerance.

“I saw pee come down out of the sky.”
Rory’s brown eyes are wide and quite sincere. I must’ve heard him wrong.
“You saw pee come down out of the sky?”
“Yup!” Guess I did hear him right. He’s very sure.
“You did?” I let my incredulity show, just a little.
“Yup. It falled down from an airplane.”

So there. YOU tell him he didn’t. Me, I just let it go…

October 7, 2011 Posted by | Rory, the things they say! | , , , | 5 Comments

Potty Adventures, Day One

Materials: three toddlers, one potty, a timer, a big-ass bag o’Smarties, and a jug of apple juice.

Method: Sit bare-bottomed toddlers on potty, reward with Smarties, then refill toddlers with watered-down apple juice. Repeat every 20 minutes.


At the end of day one, my evaluation would be that:

— Grace is most likely to be trained — fully trained, able to get herself to the potty on her own without any adult intervention or encouragement — within a week or two.
— Rory appears not to have one single clue about what we’re after
— Jazz arrived so seriously sleep-deprived after two weeks’ holiday that she mostly slept, so I have no assessment of her to offer


It’s early days.

Grace is a very passive little mite. She might continue to need reminders for … months, frankly, though I’d certainly rather not. But it’s well within her character.

Rory might yet get it. That Big Dramatic Pee he had while seated at the dining table yesterday, pee rolling across his chair, soaking his thighs and splashing to the floor might be the event that puts it together for him.

“Oh, THAT’s what it means when I feel this…”

I’m hoping. I might be woefully naive, but that’s the theory, anyway. We’ll see if the penny drops today.

And Jazz. Well, she slept FOUR AND A HALF HOURS yesterday, so perhaps she will be more awake and able to participate today. (Two and a half in the morning, two in the afternoon. This from a child who hasn’t napped in the morning for over a year. When I said “seriously sleep-deprived”, I wasn’t exaggerating. But she looked a whole lot less paler and trembly when she went home than when she arrived, so that’s good.)

Rory and Grace were very interested in the potty. And they were VERY interested in the Smarties. Rory was a little uncertain about the bare-bottom-edness, but made the adjustment without fuss, and then appeared to forget about it… except for his happy discovery that going pants-free makes it REALLY CONVENIENT to play with his bits.


“Rory. You’re not going bottom-less so you can play with yourself all day. Let that thing go.” (Wholly predictable, of course. Boys and their toys. What can you do?)

They had three hours in the morning between arrival and lunch. Three hours (180 minutes)/20 minutes = 9 potty opportunities. (Equals nine Smarties!!! Times (mostly) two children = 18. Plus the one I took each time, bringing it up to 27. Hey, I need fortification, too!)

Good thing I bought the big bag…

At the end of all that, Rory had peed in the potty precisely … not one time. Though when I asked, “So, did you pee?” He would cheerfully say, “Yes!” And then we would all peer into the EMPTY potty.

“Um, no, sweetie, you didn’t. There’s no pee in there.”


Rory’s capacity is prodigious, and his ability to hold it admirable. He sat on that potty three times an hour all morning, and it was not until we sat at the table for lunch that the floodgates opened. It was the noise that alerted me. The Niagara Falls of pee rolling off his chair and onto the floor.


As I swing him by his armpits from the dining chair to the potty, I chirp out cheerfully, “Pee goes in the POTTY, Rory. When you need to pee, you run sit on the potty!!” And he sits, and of course nothing happens, because it’s all splashed over the chair and the floor. (Yes, still. You didn’t think I stopped to clean it up before putting him on the potty? Ha. The point is the POTTY. The pee will be there in two more minutes. Unless, of course, Daisy gets at it first. In which case, NOT MY PROBLEM. Ha!)

And Grace?

“Did you do a pee, Grace?”
“No. I dih-yunt.”

And she knew this WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING!!! Rory could look into the EMPTY potty, and be sure — SURE! — that he had indeed peed. So, one point for Grace.

Two or three times later.

“I did a pee!”
And she did! And not just a whisper, a drizzle, a driplet of liquid, but a real, decent, full-bladdered pee. Which means she can hold it. Yay!

Grace produced two good-sized pees yesterday morning. No accidents. No false claims of production. Grace, it would seem, knows what it feels like to have a full bladder, knows how to hold it till she gets that far, knows to release it into the potty, and knows when she has or hasn’t done so.


But Rory is not out of the game yet. He’s still interested, he’s still game to try. So game that, unlike Grace, he will sit on the potty without being told. Which I guess means that he sat MORE than 18 times… and still didn’t manage a single pee in the confines of the pot. Initiative, 1; Efficacy, 0. You win some, you lose some.

I first discovered his initiative on my way downstairs from having tipped Grace’s pee into the toilet. Tipped the pee, rinsed the pot, trip lightly down the stairs, round the corner into the livingroom, and there is Rory, SITTING ON THE POT-FREE POTTY.

We have all experience the Universe’s wry sense of humour. What are the odds that THIS would be the time Rory managed to actually PEE IN THE POTTY? Pretty great, I figured. If it’s going to happen, NOW would be the time. Just so the universe can snigger at me.

“AGH! Rory! Off the potty!”

Sober second thought suggested that I shouldn’t have reacted with quite so much fervor. Way to go, Mary. Make the boy REALLY TENSE when he sits on that thing… if he’ll sit at all. Bah.

“It’s okay, Rory, you were just trying to pee! I’m sorry I shouted. I was just surprised. It’s good to pee! Only we need to make sure this bowl is in there, so the pee doesn’t spill on the floor. See?”

I smile winningly. Please don’t be traumatized. Please, please, please…

He stands, somberly staring. Rory has a very practiced sombre stare. He stands, watches me slide the pot into the chair

please, please, please

watches me slide the pot into the chair, and sits back down again.

I think I heard some angels sing. Or at least hum a little.

“I can have a Smartie now, Mary?”

Ah. Smarties. No matter what trauma the day may bring, Smarties make it all better.

Pass that bag, would you?

October 4, 2011 Posted by | Grace, Jazz, potty tales, Rory | , , , | 5 Comments