October 2007

A daycare cautionary tale

by DaniGirl on October 31, 2007 · 12 comments

in Working and mothering

I’ve been following a story in the media here about an unlicensed child care provider who has been arrested and charged with forcible confinement and obstructing police. The story was first published yesterday, with details of how the parents of 11 children, ages one to four, were called to come and pick up their children at the care provider’s home after police and paramedics raided the home following complaints by two sets of parents. I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like for those parents to get that call out of the blue in the middle of the day… “Come and pick up your kids, the police and paramedics have shut down your daycare.”

Today, the follow-up story said that four of the youngest children, all under the age of two, were “forcibly confined” in a playpen in the furnace room of the home during the day.

I’m chilled by this story because it could have so easily been me, been my kids. The article quoted one parent as saying “he had not seen the place where the children stayed during the day, and never thought to ask because he had known [the daycare provider] for the past 10 years and trusted her.” A part of me wants to rail against the parents for not being more diligent, but who am I kidding? I had only the vaguest idea of what was going on with the kids during the day when they were in home care, and almost all of that came from what they told me. Sure, when we first signed up with a care provided, I asked to see the places where the kids would eat and sleep and play, but after those first couple of meetings, the furthest I usually went into the house was the front hallway to help put on or take off boots and coats. When I think about the amount of trust that is built into a daycare relationship, and the very few checks and balances we put into the system, it makes me a little bit queasy.

Even though I’ve been researching (and ranting on) daycare issues for a while now, there were issues that these articles have clarified for me. In Ontario, an unlicensed care provider can provide care to a maximum of five children under 10 years of age and unrelated to her, regardless of how many caregivers are present. I always thought that if there was another adult present, the caregiver was allowed to take on more kids, but apparently that’s not the case. The fines are significant, too, topping out at $2000 per day. I can think of two or three caregivers I know personally in the neighbourhood who might want to take note of this… although it would take an unsatisfied parent or disgruntled neighbour reporting them to the authorities to set any kind of fine in motion, because there doesn’t seem to be any kind of infrastructure for the review of unlicenced care in Ontario.

A related article in today’s Citizen also noted that “according to the City of Ottawa, there are 17,247 spots available at licensed child care facilities within the city — but there are 12,000 children on the waiting list.” Another stat extrapolates to the province as a whole: “For the 1.919 million Ontario children under the age of 12, there were only 229,875 licensed child care spots.”

What this means to me as a parent is that I’m over the barrel when it comes to child care. It’s a sellers’ market for child care, and now that I’m lucky enough to have someone I trust with the boys, I’m terrified to do anything to jeopardize that relationship. I’m honouring our initial contract with our nanny through May, even though I’ll be home with the boys starting in January. No doubt, it will be great to have an extra set of hands to help with the new baby for those first bleary couple of weeks, but I’m thinking it’s going to get pretty redundant after a month or so when the extra $350 a week would come in really handy. But, I don’t want to rock the childcare boat lest I find myself scrambling – again. And that’s a slippery slope indeed, and exactly how parents develop the kind of willful obliviousness that lets an extreme situation like the one in those articles happen.

Back in the day, when I first started looking into child care for Tristan, I actually had a preference for unlicensed care because of the flexibility it offered. Now, my first preference is for licensed care, and when The Player to be Named Later is born, I’ll put all three boys back into the system on waiting lists for licensed, in-home care. It didn’t work out for us last time, but maybe with a year’s lead time, we’ll get lucky. In an ideal world, our sweet nanny will still be available… but I can’t afford to bet on it. In the end, it’s not like my preferences matter anyway, because in a market like this, sometimes you just have to take whatever you can get… and that’s a sad and scary thought.


Sigh. I guess there’s no avoiding it. We’re capitulating to the dark side. Not only are we in the market for a second car, but we’re officially shopping for a minivan now.

At first, I thought maybe we could get by with the Mazda 5 or the Kia Rondo, the new station wagons with the third row of seating. (I love our Ford Focus wagon. We’re on our second one, and I think it’s the perfect family car — if you have two kids or less.) But, I’ve been doing some reading and there isn’t even enough storage space in the back of the Mazda 5 for a stroller, let alone some of the gear you’d have to bring along for an excursion of any length. So, we’re looking at minivans.

Aside from the stigma of being a minivan mom, and the horrendous fuel consumption, I have other concerns about the minivan. I hate the idea that one of the kids will be in the very back row – and very far out of my reach. If I put Tristan’s booster seat in the back row, Simon will want to be back there, too, and that seems a long way from me up in the driver’s seat. And of course I can’t put the baby’s seat way back there. For families with more than two kids, how do you arrange the seating in your car?

And then there’s the whole rigamarole of actually choosing and buying a van — makes me tired just thinking about it. I ordinarily love car shopping, but I’m feeling no joy in this one. I don’t know from minivans, and I don’t know what to look for in selecting one. They all look the same to me, and even after a few weeks of comparison shopping by scoping out other peoples’ vans in the grocery store parking lot (a bonus of living in the child-rich suburbs) I still can’t tell what distinguishes one van from another.

Our final dilemma is the new-vs-used debate. The monthly payments to lease a 2008 are actually less than what it would cost to buy a used 2004 or 2005, so that will probably be the route we go. Given the time of year, we might be able to find a good deal on a 2007, I’m thinking. Did you know that Ford and Saturn are no longer even offering minivans for 2008? So the main contenders right now seem to be the Kia Sedona, the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Hyundai Entourage. (I’d love a Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey, but both are a little out of our price range for now… it’s going to be painful enough doubling our existing car and insurance payments!!) I was playing around on the “build and price” part of the Dodge Caravan web site, but gave up because there are just too many options and I frankly am not sure whether I care about more than half of them. Even stuff like A/C and power windows is not overly important to me… although I do love the the heated seats on our Focus. Nothing like a warm toushie on a cold February morning!!

So, minivan owners, educate me. What features do you absolutely love about your van? What do you hate? What can’t you do without? Which features would you pay extra for? Wax poetic or rant righteously, but tell me what I need to know when I’m shopping for a minivan please!


It’s just before 6 am on Saturday morning, and somebody’s car alarm goes off nearby. It squalls for two or three seconds, just enough to wake me up, then stops. I lie in bed, considering whether to get up or not, when it squalls again. Cursing the irresponsiblity of people who let their alarms ring unchecked at 6 o’clock on a Saturday morning, I roll over and pull the covers up over my head, just in time to hear the phone ring. It rings twice, and stops before I can pick it up.

“Mommy!” calls Tristan from downstairs. “What’s that noise?”

I go downstairs, and the alarm is louder. I follow the sound to the living room and pull the couch away from the wall, and the squalling becomes deafening. It’s not a car alarm, it’s our house alarm.

There are three problems with it being our house alarm:

  1. I’ve by now figured out that it’s being set off by the motion detectors, and every time we move through the main floor of the house, we trip off the wailing siren.
  2. I didn’t set the alarm. We don’t use the alarm. We haven’t used the alarm in three or four years, and I have no idea what the codes are anymore.
  3. It started acting oddly a few months ago, so Beloved went downstairs and took the battery out of the control panel, supposedly disabling it entirely.

In other words, it’s become a rogue alarm working on its own agenda – and power source – and we have no idea how to turn it off. (Maybe it was an act of vengeance for my laundered-to-death iPod?)

So with the now nearly-hysterical kids and dog running in circles around the main floor to the splitting wail of the siren, I go to call the alarm company to get them to shut the infernal thing off. Which is when I discover a previously unknown feature of our alarm system: apparently, when the burlar alarm gets tripped, it cuts off your telephone.

Let’s think about this for a minute. The alarm system. Cuts off. The phone.

Does anyone else see a flaw or two in this system?

So now it’s 6:05 am and the siren is wailing and the kids (and dog) are hysterical and I’m standing in the driveway in a T-shirt and underwear and nothing else, rooting around in the centre console of the car for my cell phone and praying with every fibre of my being that it has at least enough of a charge left in it that I can call the alarm company.

And I am Not Happy.

At least by this point I’ve had the brainwave to throw a towel over the motion detector so it stops whooping every time somebody moves. However, there is nothing I can do about the sensors on the doors, as I find out when Tristan goes to let the dog out into the yard and once again triggers the siren.

Since we haven’t used the alarm in who knows how long, I have no reason to keep their telephone number handy, and by the way, did you know that the phone company stopped issuing the white pages this year, so you can only use the yellow pages to find things and when an alarm is sounding and you’re frozen half to death with wet leaves stuck to your bare feet and the kids and the dog are hysterical, it’s not exactly easy to find things in the yellow pages because when you look up “TURN OFF THE GODDAMN ALARM” there aren’t any listings?

So I call information and the robotic voice gives me a toll-free number which I write down and dial, and another robotic voice tells me “The number you have dialed cannot be reached from your calling area.” While I gnash my teeth and plan a new QuakerLuddite lifestyle free of any electronic devices, Beloved starts flipping madly through various phone directories and finally gets a local number. I am so overwhelmed with joy when an actual person answers with a surprisingly chipper, “Oui, bonjour!” that I completely don’t bother to wonder why he has answered in French. It’s only after he spends the best part of 10 minutes looking for my file that we realize he is in Montreal and I am… not. Don’t even ask me how or why a locally-dialled number gets re-routed to Montreal. It’s the least of my worries at this point. So he gives me yet another number and tells me to follow the instructions to have an emergency page sent, and oh, sorry, but he can’t help me turn the alarm off. And I’d better call soon to let them know it’s a false alarm because the police are likely on the way.

Finally, fifteen minutes later a technician returns my page and walks Beloved through the process of disarming the system entirely by removing a wire or two. By now I’ve noticed that while all the other electronics in the house seem fine, the stove and coffee maker digital clocks are showing a power surge or interruption that happened, go figure, a few minutes before 6 am. The technician explains that since the battery had been removed, the power surge probably caused the alarm system to override whatever we programmed into it and default to its factory settings.

We finally get the kids and dog calmed down and Beloved trundles grumpily back to bed while I put on a pot of coffee and try to get our morning back on track. It’s been nearly 30 minutes and we never did hear from the police, which is mildly disheartening from one perspective, but a bit of a relief overall.

Just after 8 am after I’ve consumed the Saturday paper in its entirety, the doorbell rings, and with resignation I get up to answer it, wondering what fresh hell could be awaiting us on this already endless Saturday morning. It’s my friend Yvonne, on her way back from shuttling one of her boys from hockey practice and asking me how my morning has been so far with a bit of a knowing twinkle in her eye. Turns out she’s still on the alam company contract, signed somewhere back around 2001 or so, as our emergency contact. When the alarm went off, they called her to see if everything was okay, and since we hadn’t happened to be in touch in the last, oh, couple weeks or so, she truly had no idea.

So we had an impromptu playdate and coffee, and I am eternally grateful to have the kind of friends who don’t disown you after a 6 am false alarm and are concerned enough to drop by and make sure that everything is okay but know you well enough to figure it can wait until after hockey practice.

But I’m still considering that Quaker Luddite lifestyle. I just have to figure out a way to blog with a quill and ink, and we’re all set.


This week, my iPod died. Well, it didn’t so much die as drown. Or maybe it was the laundry soap that killed it. Might have, now that I think about it, been the spin cycle that finally sent it back to the big Apple in the sky.

Yes, it’s true. I feel great shame. I laundered my iPod. And now it’s dead.

Well, that’s not exactly true. It wasn’t me who laundered the iPod, it was Beloved. It was, however, me who put said iPod in the bib pocket of my overalls, and me who forgot it was there, and me who dumped said overalls into the laundry hamper, and then transferred them into a laundry basket. But it was Beloved who ultimately laundered the iPod. Somehow that matters.

Beloved found the sparkling clean iPod resting in the bottom of the washing machine, so at least it was spared the circuit-melting indignity of the dryer. With comingling shame and trepidation, I scoured the Interwebs for information about recently laundered iPods. After all, there has been no shortage of information about the other things I’ve unbeknowingly laundered, like lipstick. And chapstick. And a small fortune in coins and bills, which seem to be a lot hardier than lipstick, or chapsticks. Or iPods.

However, not unsurprisingly, I’m far from the first to commit this sin, and following the example of those who laundered before me, for five days I left the hapless iPod untouched on a shelf to thoroughly dry out and recover from its adventure in washing machine land.

Yesterday, it was time to face the music – or lack thereof. With great hope and fingers crossed, I pressed the clickwheel — and nothing happened. I pressed it once or twice more for good measure, and nothing continued to happen. So I plugged it into the USB port and hoped the laptop might resuscitate the poor thing, remembering something someone said about their iPod surviving a laundry cycle but losing its battery charge.


In the words of Apple, my iPod failed to mount. (It sounds kind of salacious, doesn’t it? Poor flaccid thing.)

What we have here is an ex-iPod. It’s not resting, not tired and shagged out after a long squawk, not pining for the fjords. This iPod is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker. It’s rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. It’s bleeding demised. (If you don’t get the implied references in this paragraph, forget about my dead iPod and get yerself over here for a proper education.)

So what do you do with a dead iPod? Or shall I say, yet another dead iPod? Well, first you read the fine print on your product replacement warranty veeeeery carefully, looking for references to the warranty being invalidated by random acts of laundering. And when you call the product replacement info line, and they neglect to ask the cause of the demise of your iPod, you neglect to tell. And when you pack up said iPod to go back to the big Apple in the sky and wait patiently for a replacement to arrive, you swear on all that is holy that you will, by god, learn to check your pockets before you do any more laundry.

Or maybe just give up laundry altogether instead. It’s probably better for everyone that way.


I once had a friend who was a self-confessed mean drunk. “I just don’t get it,” he said to me one day. “Whenever I drink, everybody else turns into an asshole.”

I can relate to this right now. I simply don’t understand why, every time I hit the third trimester of pregnancy, everybody and everything is suddenly so bloody irritating.

You certainly wouldn’t be thinking that it might just possibly be me, are you? ARE YOU?

Okay, so I admit it, it is me. I’m well aware of the fact, in some logical corner of my brain, that I seem to be lacking any sort of reserve of patience right now. Unfortunately, that small, lonely voice of intellectual acknowledgement gets drowned out when screaming banshee woman takes over and throws a temper tantrum because we’ve run out of mustard and nobody bothered to tell me.

The worst part is that if you were drawing a graph that delineates my relative irritability throughout the day, you’d see that it peaks in the same two places each day, which, coincidentally or not, usually match the times of greatest contact with my family: the hour between after-work and dinnertime, and the boys’ bedtime.

I try, I really do try, not to snap at the boys. I don’t want to be crazy-ranting-mother who goes off the deep end just because the kids have been asked to brush their teeth eleventy-hundred million times and instead are chasing the cat around the house. It’s not their fault I’m pregnant, and unlike their darling father who has learned to either do his best to placate me or get the hell out of the way when I’m in a mood, they don’t get why I’ve gone ’round the bend or that it’s (oh please, let it be) only temporary.

We were in the grocery store the other day, itself the font of much irritability, and I found myself being that woman, the one who speaks to her children in a barely controlled growl easily overheard by people standing nearby, who says incredibly helpful things like, “I brought you out here to get you a nice treat of cheese strings and you repay my kindness by goofing around and not listening to me and why can’t you just stand there and be good for two minutes because I JUST CAN’T TAKE IT ANY MORE!” What was actually pissing me off was the slow-moving self-scan line and the people who cut in front of me and the fact that I was tired at the end of a long day; the beneficiaries of this build-up and overflow of crankiness was, unforgivably, the boys.

I’ve apologized to both Beloved and the boys after particularly heinous displays of crank, and explained to the boys that everybody has bad days sometimes, but I want to work harder at preventing flare-ups of temper. What is it about this stage of pregnancy that makes my fuse so short anyway? You can only blame the hormones and the sleep-deprivation for so much, ya know? The good side, I suppose, is that while the periods of pique are sometimes intense and rather unpredictable, they are usually short-lived, rather like a summer storm.

I’d welcome your thoughts. Is this something common to all pregnant women, or just an amplification of my own occasional temper issues? What can I do to either amplify the tiny voice of reason that says, “Um, excuse me, you’ve just teetered off the edge of testy and into the abyss of ranting lunatic” or learn to step back from the cliff in the first place?


When I look back on the past eight years, eight incredible years that that have seen infertility, conception, miscarriage, childbirth and the parenting of two – soon to be three – small boys, you know what will be inextricably linked with this period in my life? I mean aside from the joy and the tears and the hope and the anxiety and the bliss and the misery and the diapers and the sippy cups and the rest of it? You know what will be the wallpaper on the background of these years?

Survivor, the reality show on CBS.

True confession time: I have never missed an episode of Survivor. Nota bene: not that I’ve never missed a season; no, I’ve never missed a single episode.

Survivor debuted on May 31, 2000. Beloved was teaching evenings at the time, and I watched the first episode out of sheer boredom. There was some other reality show about a ship or something; this one seemed like a better choice, but only marginally. Three weeks later, I found out I was pregnant for the first time after more than a year of trying and despite the fact that we had just been told by a team of reproductive endocrinologists that we might as well turn directly to in vitro fertilization to start our family, so meagre was our fertility.

For the entire summer, I floated in a state of dreamy, early-pregnancy bliss – and became seriously addicted to Survivor. Then, on August 21 of that year, I started to bleed and the next day, I miscarried the baby at 13 weeks. It seemed somehow brutally cruel to me that the pregnancy hadn’t even lasted as long as the summer fill-in show that had its finale on August 23.

Survivor soldiered on, and so did we. I remember walking the dog in the frozen crispness of a dark February night, getting her business out of the way before the start of an episode from the second Survivor season (“Australia – The Outback!”) and my how ovaries ached from the stimulating hormones I was taking for our second IUI. That IUI, like the one before it in December, failed.

A little over a year later, and we had Tristan in our lives. He was born two weeks into Survivor Marquesas, featuring the first appearance of the soon-to-be ubiquitous Rob Mariano. I remember feeling cut completely adrift from my own life in those early weeks of Tristan’s life, where sleep deprivation, hormones and abject terror turned our lives absolutely inside out, and I truly thought my life would never be the same. I also remember going to bed at 6 pm (ha! what a newbie I was in dealing with sleep deprivatin back then!) but setting the alarm for two hours later, not to feed the baby but to watch Survivor. Everything else in our lives had gone sideways with Tristan’s arrival in our midst, but I clung to the established ritual of watching Survivor like a life-preserver.

Two years later, Simon was born 11 days late and more than 24 hours after they began to induce labour, on the morning of the debut of Survivor All-Stars. That was the one that debuted not in the usual attainable 8 pm time slot, but late on a Sunday night after the SuperBowl, of all things. I had been up for nearly 40 hours, since 6 am the morning before, and I clearly remember dozing in my hospital bed with 16 hour old Simon in my arms, exhausted beyond reason but still determined to stay awake long enough to watch the first episode.

That, my friends, is dedication. Or ridiculous. Take your pick.

While Survivor shows no signs of relenting any time soon, I think it’s safe to say we’re done with this whole childbearing thing. And when in the future I look back to this period in our lives, I’ll remember our Thursday-night ritual as it evolved through the years, first just Beloved and I full of unchecked optimism, then through a darker period, and out the other side. I’ll remember a succession of baby boys propped on a nursing pillow while my eyes were glued to the screen, and then little voices calling from upstairs for another glass of water, a final snuggle, one last book, just as that familiar caterwauling theme kicked in.

Some people find certain smells evocative of years past, like the scent of a favourite Christmas candle. Or maybe it’s the sight, year after year, of a sea of red and yellow leaves that connects you to your past. Or maybe it’s the taste of a favourite family recipe, a comfort food ritual. For me, though, silly as it may seem, when I think back to these years there will always be Jeff Probst, unchanging in his slicked-back hair and khaki shirt, that will evoke these wonderful – and occasionally tumultous – earliest years of parenting.


10-pages-in book review: The Reincarnationist

23 October 2007 10-pages-in

I don’t usually do sponsored book reviews as 10-pages-in reviews. I try to keep them distinct, partly so you’ll know books I’ve stumbled upon serendipitously versus books I’ve been offered to review, and partly because if someone is going to the trouble of sponsoring a review (in this case, MotherTalk provides a copy of the […]

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Babies, brownies and boys

22 October 2007 Ah, me boys

The brownie mixes have been calling to me. Every time I go grocery shopping, even though I’m not a huge dessert fan, the brownie mixes have been singing their chocolately siren song, and I finally gave in and bought a box. We were heading over to my folk’s place for dinner, and knowing that Papa […]

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Dumbledore comes out of the closet

21 October 2007 Books

I can’t say I ever overtly suspected it, as that would insinuate that I had speculated about it. But somehow it comes as no surprise whatsover that JK Rowling confirmed on Friday night to a group of American fans at Carnegie Hall that yes, Dumbledore, the late, great headmaster of Hogwarts, was gay. Asked by […]

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Social bookmarks

20 October 2007 Editorial asides

I’ve been meaning to get around to installing some social bookmarking widgets for a while now, and finally got around to it. They’re the little boxes at the bottom of each post. If you don’t know what they are, you can safely ignore them – but I highly recommend del.icio.us as a social bookmarking tool […]

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