Listmaker, Listmaker, Make Me a List

My mother is a list-maker. When I was growing up, there was always a list on the kitchen counter: lists of things for her to do and lists of things for the rest of us to do. My mother took great satisfaction in crossing things off her list, so much satisfaction, in fact, that most new lists included several things she had already done so she could cross them off immediately. My intense, uptight adolescent self used to get annoyed at her for this. It seemed dishonest – though my mother always maintained that it gave her a feeling of accomplishment – and with 4 children and a full-time job there was a lot to accomplish.

Now (since the apple sometimes falls close to the tree) I am a listmaker. I make lists because if I don’t write stuff down, I forget, and also because lists prevent me from procrastinating as much. If it’s still on the list waiting to be done, it bothers me until I can check it off. My intense, uptight adult self prefers to draw little boxes and to place check marks in them when a task has been completed. It looks tidier. Weird, no?

This listmaking obsession of mine and of my mother’s is also reflected in one of my favourite story books from childhood: Frog and Toad (and their volumes of adventures). In one particular story, Frog makes a list of things he wants to do that day and proceeds to cross them off as he does them. He (like my mother) likes to write things on his list that he’s already done, in this case “Wake up.” Unfortunately, just after he has crossed off “Meet Toad” and “Take a walk with Toad,” an errant gust of wind blows the list out of Frog’s grasp. Paralyzed without his list, Frog and Toad wait around listlessly (hee!) because they cannot remember what they were supposed to do next. Finally, Frog remembers that the last thing on his list was “Go to sleep.” They write it in the sand, cross it out, and fall into peaceful slumbers.

All this to say that my energetic (listful?) motherĀ  remembered my childhood love of this story and created one of her marvellous toys for Owen’s birthday present. And, of course, Frog has a list in his pocket, partially crossed out.

I imagine that my mother had a list somewhere in her house last week that read somewhere on it “Make Frog and Toad Puppets for Owen” and then crossed it off.

My mother makes all kinds of wonderful and magical toys. You can find them here.

My most recent list was a list of things to do before I leave for Germany, with Owen, to visit my sister. And now, with tidy boxes ticked off and a less tidy suitcase packed, I am off for about a week.

NOTE: About an hour after writing this, I added “update blog” to my list and ticked it off. My adolescent self would not be pleased.

Watching the Wor(l)d Go By

Here’s a little baby

One, two, three

Stands in his cot

What does he see?


So begins PEEPO! by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, a board book that gave me more hope and perspective on parenting than all the parenting books I read combined. The lesson? Your baby doesn’t have to be entertained every minute. It will get to a point where you will be able to put your baby down and he will watch you as you go about your daily business!

The book is rich with detail. In the first scene, you can just glimpse the dress that the mother will wear throughout the day, and spot the rubber ducky that will appear in the evening bath scene. The clutter is encouraging (other people have messy houses too!) but also really fun to look at. It’s interesting historically, too, since it’s set in 1940s England (there’s a barrage balloon!).

PEEPO! was a gift from my brother Luke, who arrived at our house within a few days of Owen’s birth with four books that he had selected because he thought they might make Owen smarter. Each was wonderful in its way, but PEEPO! was the one that gave me some perspective. When Owen was very little, he would very infrequently lie calmly. He wanted always to be breastfeeding or asleep (or very entertained). But when I read PEEPO! I saw a little baby (older than Owen was then, of course), who could watch his mother iron shirts, his grandma hang laundry, his sisters fish in the pond…

And then once Owen could finally sit on his own, oh my goodness! it happened! He could play by himself! And then he learned to crawl and stand and it was all over. Well, not entirely – outside is still OK. Inside seems like a minefield, though. Today he fell and hit the side of his head on the coffee table (we padded the corners, but not the sides – gah).

But it’s coming, and I do have a little boy who stands in his cot and waits for me to come and get him in the morning, and when I peek around the side of the door (PEEPO!) I see the biggest grin every single day.