It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Stomping on imagination

Emily and Tyler sit on the dining room windowsill. Emily is making a bizarre, very fake, very falsetto giggle, repeated frenetically.


I cannot imagine the game that requires that as its sound track, and I don’t much care.

“Gah. Emily, please stop making that noise. It’s awful.”

“We are being pirates,” Tyler explains, matter-of-fact, “and window this is our boat.”

Under what circumstances, my adult mind wonders, would a pirate make that noise? Post-castration springs to mind, but he’d hardly be giggling about that. Pirate ships not being the most egalitarian of places, it’s unlikely they’ve hired a vacuous Valley Girl as one of the boys. Okay, so they’d undoubtedly have other uses for her, but she’d hardly be giggling about that, either…

Not that either of these things would occur to Emily and Tyler, of course. Not that it really matters, because “Eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-EH-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-EH-EH-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-EH-eh-eh-Eh-EH-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh…” can’t continue.

“That’s fine, you can be pirates. But guys, I can guarantee you, pirates do NOT make that noise.”


There are just some things you don’t have to put up with, you know?

August 11, 2011 Posted by | Emily, Tyler | , , , , | 5 Comments

Scapegoat, er, doll

dolly“Okay, sweetie. You can get up now.”

At four, Emily does not need a nap every day, but she’s not quite ready to give them up entirely. Our system, then, is a required 20 minutes of lying quietly. And I do mean quiet: no tossing and turning and kicking and singing and whispering and playing with her fingers. Twenty minutes of stillness.

Twenty minutes of utter boredom, too, poor kid, but without the stillness, a child can easily keep themselves awake for 20 minutes, even if genuinely tired.

However, today’s quite obviously an awake day.

“You’ve been nice and quiet, but today you don’t need a nap.”

“No, I couldn’t sleep. Lucy was just being so noisy.”

Lucy? Noisy? Now, call me crazy, but Emily had been lying on the other end of the very couch where I’d just been reading for 20 minutes. Reading and blissing out on the silence. Either she’s been sleeping or I’ve been hallucinating silence. Or something.

“Who’s Lucy?”

“My doll.”

Doll? I don’t recall any dolls.

“Where is she?”

“At my house. But she’s so noisy, I can’t sleep.”

“You can hear her all the way from here?”

“Yes, and at night she’s so noisy she wakes me up, and I have to go sleep in mummy and daddy’s bed for a while to until she behaves herself again.”


“Yes, she’s a bad doll, but I love her anyway.”

Well, of course. Bad Lucy gets Emily out of naps and into mummy and daddy’s bed — blamelessly!! What’s not to love?

I love four-year-olds.


October 15, 2009 Posted by | Emily, sleep, the cuteness! | , , , , | 2 Comments

Persistence pays off

goulash“Would you like some goulash?” Anna tips the ‘pot’ (aka cowboy hat) which she has been stirring with a ‘spoon’ (aka rhythm stick) so that Timmy can see the ‘goulash’ (aka wooden puzzle pieces). Timmy loks up from the puzzle he’s completing, peeks into the pot and makes his decision.

“No, thank you.”

“Would you like some goulash?”

“No, thank you.”

“Would you like some goulash?”

“No, thank you.”

She’s hearing him just fine. Nor is there any misunderstanding. He’s answering cheerfully and very clearly, each and every time. But he is also giving the Wrong Answer. Anna tries yet again.

“Would you like some goulash?”

“No, thank you.”

Repetition is not working.

“Okay, I’ll make you some goulash!!!”

Because, come hell or high water, this boy is going to get some GOULASH, dammit! Timmy’s head come up from his puzzle yet again.

“Oh, you’re going to make me some goulash?”



Toddlers are just plain weird.

June 26, 2009 Posted by | Anna, Timmy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lyrical only goes so far

912snowflakes1“Look, Mary! The moon is out!”

It is in fact the sun, so heavily shrouded by clouds and falling snow that its brilliance is muted to a mellow white glow. It could well be the moon. I start to say as much, but Anna is still talking.

“The moon is my friend. The moon likes me, because I was born on a full moon.”

Anna has obviously heard the story of her birth night many times. It is part of her personal mythology. “I like the moon, and the moon likes me, because I am a moon-girl.”

She is. Pale and fair, though her beauty radiates life; none of the moon’s delicacy. She’s also sun and storm, blustery gale and spring zephyr. All seasons is our lyrical Anna.

“When the moon sees me, it is happy because I am his moon-girl.” And then, in quicksilver Anna style, she tips her face skyward, chin up, rosy cheeks a platform for the falling snow. Until she opens her mouth.

“I’m catching snowflakes with my mouth! I’m eating the snowflakes!”

“What do they taste like?” I ask, curious. What do snowflakes taste like, to this child of moods and passions, romance and myth?

She crinkles her face and grins at me. Grin grows into a smoky-deep chortle, then a full-fledged belly laugh, rising from her very boots.

“They taste like snowflakes, of course!”

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Anna, individuality, the cuteness! | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Who are you calling ‘baby’?

“Night-time, baby!”
“I’m not a baby any more. Last time I was a baby, before when I was born, but I’m bigger now. Mary, Timmy says I’m a baby.”
(Mary ignores this.)
“It’s time for sleeping. Let’s go sleeping, baby.”
“I’m not a baby!”
“Just in the GAME, Anna. We can be babies inna game.”
“I’m not a baby!”
“It’s just for sleeping. It’s time for sleeping.”
“I will be sleeping with you, but I’m not a baby.”

(Hold that thought, Anna, for another fifteen years or so…)

October 30, 2008 Posted by | Anna, the things they say!, Timmy | , , | 2 Comments

Non-toy playthings

When my eldest was three, she had a “doctor box”. I’m not quite sure how it earned that name, but that’s what it was.

The doctor box was in fact a shoe box, filled with … oh, this and that. A lot of it came from the kitchen: plastic measuring cups and spoons, a funnel or two, a mesh strainer. There was often a (carefully washed) pill-bottle or two in there. (Maybe that’s where the name came from?) Fabric scraps, a belt buckle, a handful of jigsaw puzzle pieces, a couple of polished rocks, a feather. You get the idea. It was just a collection of interesting stuff. Interesting to a three-year-old, at any rate.

The contents of the box were not static. Some things were returned to their orginal spots, or used in crafts, or just lost somewhere. Other things were put in.

Whatever its contents, the doctor box was the favourite plaything for months and months. I could take it on car trips or trips to the doctor (maybe that explains the name?) or anywhere there’d be an otherwise boring downtime, knowing that the wonders of the doctor box would keep her happily occupied for as long as necessary.

Sometimes she was a doctor (name?), sometimes she was a chef, sometimes she was a fireman. (Not “fighter”. She was a fireman.) Sometimes the items in the box had personas and characters: they tended to squabble amongst themselves a lot, the strainers and the feather and the rocks. A lot of chatter, a lot of imagination, a lot of very happy hours were passed with the doctor box.

It was the best money I never spent.

I take a similar approach to the daycare. People often assume that, as a daycare home, I must be overrun with toys. It’s true, I have more toys stored in my dining room than the average mother of teens and a twenty-something! But I’m quite, quite sure I have far fewer toys kicking around than many (most?) homes with only one toddler. In part, that’s simply practicality: I have a small house. I do not want piles of multi-coloured clutter toys littering my home. I do not want them, but, even more to the point, children do not need them.

Children do not need great mounds of toys. I am convinced that children with shelves and closets and cupboards full of toys are poorer at amusing themselves, and more in need of distraction, than children accustomed to fewer toys. Just because they have fewer toys does not mean they play less! They just play differently. One might argue, more creatively, using more imagination.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s discovered the glories of the non-toy. I know I’m not because the writers and commenters over at Unclutterer have come up with a lovely long list of toy alternatives. Don’t stop with the post. The commenters have a ton of good ideas!

One might note that a significant number of these non-toy playthings look to the adult eyes like work: sorting socks, making cookies, straightening the fringe on the carpet. Not to the child! With these kinds of activities, the children’s play is not something remote and unconnected with the Real Life of the household, but is, instead, part of it. This sort of children’s play models adult behaviour, helps children feel part of the family, gives them real, productive tasks in which to take pride. It builds self-esteem.

It is we adults who have decided that “play” is by definition frivolous, with no agenda but the activity itself. For children, play is how they make sense of the world around them. Everything and anything is play fodder: colouring, singing, sorting socks, putting dirty dishes in the sink (non-breakable, at this age!), blocks, puzzles, washing the car, counting to ten, sweeping up the dried leaves that fell off their leaf belts. Play is not frivolous, it is practicing life.

Life. Work, recreation, even conflict. It’s all fodder for play.

My, I’ve wandered from my original idea… All right, given that we needn’t feel guilty for “only” baking with our kids and “only” letting them help with chores, rather than playing with them; given that you can choose not to spend a heap of money on a mound of toys… Given all that, how does this manifest in your home? What are some non-toy playthings or activities that your child particularly enjoys?

October 9, 2008 Posted by | crafts, daycare, Developmental stuff, socializing | , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Lateral thinking

Anna has taken a fancy to our nesting/stacking cups these days. They have been out every day, hours at a stretch. Who says toddlers have short attention spans?

Oh, sure. When you want them to sit at the table for an entire meal, attention span is a problem. Try putting on socks or have that diaper changed, and there are forty-seven other things that must be done NOW!

But. Give them something riveting to do, something like putting the dog’s food, kibble by kibble, into the dog’s water, or stuffing 500 pieces of lego under the couch cushions? Anyone notice a whole lot of inability to focus when they’re trying to get your attention when you’re on the phone?

So… the stacking cups are big this week.

So far, they have been beds for her babies.
You think those are cookie cutters in there, I know.
You’d be wrong.
They are babies.
“Baby Mika, and Baby Boo-boo.”
I have no idea which is which.
I’m not sure Anna does, either.

They have been cups for lemonade.
Lemonade which needs much vigorous stirring with those spoons you see jutting out of the cups.
Spoons which miraculously morph into straws when the time comes to drink said lemonade.
You thought they were train tracks, I know.
You’d be wrong.

They have been sorting cups.
Red pigs in the red cup,
blue pigs in the blue cup,
green pigs in the green cup?
(I taught her how to sort.
I am so proud.)
I know, you thought those were bears.
You’d be wrong.

They have been stuffed full of playdough, and have been cakes and cookies and toads.
Cakes, cookies and toads all look like lumps of playdough stuffed into a cup to me.
I’d be wrong.
She ‘eats’ the cakes and cookies.
She shares them with her friends.
She does not eat the toads.
Nor does she share them.
She just pokes them full of holes with a pudgy finger.
“There, toad! And THERE!”

She lines them up on a stair,
and plonks herself down in front of them
(Yes, those are her jammies.
Some mornings are like that.)

And plays the drums.
You might think that’s a drumstick in her hand.
You’d be wrong.
It’s a rattle.
I might think she’s pretending the rattle is a drumstick.
I’d be wrong.
“I’m hitting the drums with a rattle,
because I don’t have a good drumstick.”

September 8, 2008 Posted by | Anna, quirks and quirkiness, random and odd | , , , , | 7 Comments

Live-blogging at Mary’s: Skunks, sleeping and saving

Live-blogging can be intense, so I thought I’d be easy with myself the first time and start with two children only. What follows is a few minutes of Emily and Nigel, before the other children arrived:

“I’m not a dinosaur, I’m your mama.”
“But you are a mama dinosaur.”

“I am a skunk.”
“I’ll be the baby skunk and you be the mommy skunk.”
“Okay. Hello, baby!” (FYI: Nigel is the mommy skunk.)
“Where are we going?”
“To our home. We live in a box in a hole.”
“Something is in our box!”
“Let’s crawl, let’s go, we have… we have… We walk like this, baby skunk!” And Nigel ‘crawls’ away, on hands and feet, butt in the air.
“I’m gon sleep on this couch.”
“And I’m gon sweep on this couch.”
“Ouch. This couch is hurtin’ me.”
“That couch doesn’t hurt you.”

“It’s sunny outside today.”
“We won’t have breakfast today.”
“Let’s go home again.”
“Okay, it’s this way!”
“I’ll be the baby skunk, and you be the mommy skunk.” (Now Emily is the mommy skunk.)
“Where are we going, baby skunk?”
“We are going to our home.”
“That’s where we stink, in our home.”
“I need a mattress.”
“And food. This is food in the mattress.”
“In my tummy.”
“Is that breakfast in your tummy?”

“I’m making mattresses so I can sleep.”
“This is my mattress.”
“This is mine.”
“Goodnight, baby skunk!”
“Goodnight, mummy skunk!”

“I need a blanket. Do you need a blanket?”
“We can both sleep with it, if we want to.”
“Nope. It is just time for you to stop talkin’ and go a sleep.”

“I can be the princess and you can come save me.”
“I’ll come save you.”
“I live in a castle.”
“I live in a biiiig castle.”
“Yes, and we will SLEEP in it, okay?”
“But there’s no doors and steps in it.”
“Yes, there is a door and a step, see? You go in the castle, okay?”
“I can’t do it.”
“But you can sleep in it, right?”
“You can go somewhere else, and I’ll sleep in this castle. Go. Go to your castle.”
“Okay, I’ll sleep here.”
“Come save me now.”
“Okay, okay, I’m coming. There. Now I will sleep.”

“Oh, the princess is a skunk. The princess is a baby skunk.”
“And a mommy skunk?”
“No, I am sleeping over there. I always sleep over there.”
“I’m really tired.”
“And I am a skunk.”
“Me, too. A tired skunk.”
“Yes, and now I can go to sleep! That feels better, that feels better.”

“Can you turn off the light, please, mama?”

“Mary, I have to go pee.”
“Okay, you go pee, then.”
“I’m goin’ pee, Emily.”
“Okay. See you soon!”

The end. My fingers are tired.

June 25, 2008 Posted by | the things they say! | , , , , | 7 Comments