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By Daphne Biener

The village stopped by on Friday night with a long overdue reminder: Slow The Heck Down. Hard to believe it’s been four years since the last kick-in-the-pants was delivered by Kira, who stopped her stroller with dragging feet to crack through my busy-mama ice-facade with this earnest plea:

“Mommy, please? Please can’t we stop and smell the flowers?” Ouch.

The more recent message came to me by way of Mary Poppins, aka the elementary school librarian, who blew down our chimney and sprinkled a teaspoon of sugar on our bed time ritual. Amazing what a little magic can do.

Let me backtrack a minute: Last week was disco night at school. We boogie-oogie-oogied ‘til we just couldn’t boogie no more, which as it turns out was about 8pm. The raffle included a chance to win an intimate night for 43 screaming kids at Chuck E Cheese. I am thrilled to report that Kira’s winning ticket earned us instead a night of bedtime stories with Mrs. Scott, the iridescent-winged, fairy-dust sprinkling school librarian. Sometimes luck smiles down.

Nobody loves books like I love books. It’s all I can do to contain myself when Kira disappears upstairs like cookie monster en route to devour a chocolate-dipped chapter of Nancy Drew. Naturally, bedtime stories should be my forte. But, no.

I’m a bit of a freak about bedtime. I calculate how many hours my babies need to turn them from screaming kids into smiling children, and then I click the stopwatch. Go! Go! Go! I urge them to eat faster and brush quicker. I skim their stories of extra adjectives and present them with butchered cliff notes. I am an awful, awful person. Smell flowers? I’m lucky if I haven’t trampled them all in my mad dash through motherhood.

Mrs. Scott showed up Friday in bathrobe, slippers and smile, lugging a Prius-sized basket brimming with books, cookies, and four monogrammed cups of milk. The girls spread a blanket on the living room floor and eagerly plopped down in their pjs as if they had front-row-center seats at the circus. Mary Poppins plopped right down beside them, and read and read and then read some more.

They spent weeks on a single page. They searched illustrations for wild antics in the periphery. They flipped back and forth to compare what the crazy cat was wearing on page one and then on page eight. The girls listened and laughed and hung on her every word for over an hour while Dave and I silently dipped Oreos in milk and bowed our heads reverently.

As she read I heard Kira’s three-year old voice tugging at my speedy soul. ‘Yes,’ my heart answered hers. From here on out, I promise, no flower shall be safe from our plodding noses. I’m an old dog, for sure, but I dissolved like butter under Mary Poppin’s sparkling spell.

One week later, and I’m happy to report that the dandelions pushing their way through our spring lawn have become beautiful bouquets on the kitchen table that I ostentatiously sniff every time I pass by. And Kira and I are on chapter five of Little House in the Big Woods. We’re reading it together; she listens dreamily with her head on the pillow, and I do my best to avoid the siren’s call of the infernal ticking clock. Our minds dance with tales of Laura Ingles and life in that log cabin in the woods.

And I swear I can smell the pine trees.

You can read more of Daphne’s work here on the mama bird diaries or visit her site, Sestina Queen.

10 Responses to mary poppins was here

  • Kelcey says:

    Daphne – I just love this post. In fact I thought about it a great deal when I was reading to my kids tonight. Even though I had been up since 5:30 and I was insanely tired… I really stopped to appreciate the time with my girls. Thanks for helping me stop and smell the flowers and the books and everything else.

  • Diane says:

    Love it – I've got 4 kids and my husband travels some weeks. Bedtime is my bane. With examples like this, though, it might be something to look forward to. Thanks for sharing!

  • Betsy says:

    Bedtime stories are something that my daughter and I both enjoy. We snuggle up under a comforter on the floor every night. In fact, when she started potty training, she earned an extra book for each "accident free" day.

  • Kristen M says:

    Daphne – love love love this post! Do you think I could rent a Mary Poppins for a few nights? I think you won the best prize. Todd is away again this week so I am sure I will be needing some supernatural power to get through the bedtime. I will try to stop and smell the flowers (or read the books) with lots of patience this week! Thanks for the encouragment!

  • sharon says:

    Goose pimples galore! This was could be my favorite of your posts! You know Justin’s mom is a children’s librarian, right? She gives Clare the best books, which makes reading with my baby, one of my most-favorite things to do. Hooray for fairy-dust!

  • cyndi says:

    love this post daphne! i can just picture the girls curled up listening to mary poppins. i can hardly wait for george to sit still while i read :-).

    btw, love the post about NY restaurant. i can totally picture you “nothing is jumping out..”.

kelcey kintner