Sign Up: Writer | Buyer
Contact Us

Empire State Building
350 Fifth Ave, Suite 7313
New York, NY 10118
phone: (800) 704-6512

Price: $25.00
Minor modifications of this article are permitted to adjust to the available space or to the publication’s editorial style.
Operation: Mary Poppins
by Leon Baxter
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

I can’t turn down a challenge. My wife, Mary, knows it. Be it beer chugging, arm wrestling, or burping the Star Spangled Banner. If I’m challenged, I can’t say “no”. Although there was no prize to win, no title to claim, no belt to wear, when Mary challenged me last month, I was forced to accept.

“You’ve got three weeks off work. I wonder if you... nah. Nevermind. It’s too much to ask.”

“What?” I wondered. “What’s too much to ask?”

“Well, Don’t worry about it. It’s your vacation. And, besides, I just don’t think you have the knack for it.”

She knows me all too well, which buttons to push and how hard to push them. “Don’t have the knack for what? If you can do it, I most certainly can. Come on. Tell me. I accept any challenge.”

Those were the words Mary was waiting to hear. “Any challenge?” she repeated.

“Any,” I retorted with the bravado of a second grader. I’d just begun digging my own grave.

“Well,” my wife began, “I gave the nanny the next three weeks off. You’ll be watching the baby from 6:00 am until I return home from work at 4:00 pm. Here’s a notebook. Keep a daily journal of events. You start tomorrow. Good luck.”

She shut the door to the bathroom and I could hear her chuckling away with the bottle of Mr. Bubble. My second grader bravado had been reduced to preschooler tears, as I just realized that I let my wife handle me like a bad situation.

Okay, so I may be no Mr. Mom, but I know my way around Maya, my eighteen month old. I’ve watched my wife feed her. I’d seen the nanny change her diapers. One side’s the input; the other’s the output. Wasn’t rocket science. A nap here and there, read a couple of picture books, play with some colorful geometric-shaped toys that played Bach or Mozart or Cat Stevens and the next thing you know, it’s four o’clock. Mommy’s home.

It was time for me to put my Binky where my mouth was. I was about to embark upon Operation Mary Poppins.

Day 1:

8:26 a.m. - Mary left instructions taped to fridge this morning. Ha, like I can’t handle this on my... Yikes, gotta run. Baby eating banana peels.

4:48 p.m. - Wife was a tad upset to find Maya’s diaper full when she got home. Asked, “Didn’t you change her at all today?” I told her I didn’t get around to reading the instructions on the diaper box. Wrong answer. I get to sleep on couch tonight.

(Note to self: Starting tomorrow, set timer to go off every two hours to check diaper.)

Day 2:

6:11 a.m. - Couch not so bad. Have pillow zipper marks on face, though.

12:08 p.m. - How am I supposed to get this child to eat? She doesn’t buy the old “Airplane and Hangar” bit. Reverse psychology? Ain’t having it. She totally ruined the BBQ spare ribs I gave her, licking off the sauce so no one would eat them. She will eat Cheerios and yogurt, though.

(Note to self: Buy stock in Dannon and General Mills. So much for the food pyramid.)

2:16 p.m. - Help! Stuck under pile of diapers, soiled bibs, dirty clothes and used wipes. I’m giving this notebook to my dog, Simon, in the hopes that he’ll find someone to save me.

2:53 p.m. - Freed myself. Dog was no help. Just ate the dropped Cheerios off the baby’s tummy and licked the yogurt out of her hair.

Day 4:

8:37 a.m. - Decided to enlist the help of Simon. After every meal he cleans the floor and licks the baby clean. Man’s best friend.

1:38 p.m. - Maya looked right at me and plain as day said, “Ont roz. Waya ont roz. Knee na-na. Utta knee na-na tue.” Then she waited for me to respond... So, I put on some Bruce Springstein. I wasn’t even close, but ten points for effort.

(Note to self: Go to Sharper Image tomorrow and buy baby translating device.)

Day 5:

10:57 a.m. - Last five mornings at precisely 9:00 this child points at TV and yells, “Ya-ya, Po! Ya-ya, Po!” I’ve tried everything: Sesame Street, Popeye, ESPN. Even gave her a yo-yo, a pogo stick and let her listen to cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Nothing. Then, exactly at 9:27, she silently leaves the TV and pulls on the dog’s ear.

2:16 p.m.- Quite proud of myself today. The kid’s been tearing off her diaper every chance she gets. Before I get it back on, she’s peed on the floor, or pooped on the carpet (I’ve left a few of those for Mary to clean and blamed it on the dog). Today I used "Man’s Second Best Friend", duct tape. She’s not getting those diapers off without a blow torch.

Day 7:

1:26 p.m. - Stumbled across four alien-like life-size Muppets with flat screen TV’s in their abdomens at 9:00 this morning. Maya screamed with delight, “Ya-ya, Po!” Apparently, I hit the motherload. It’s called, “Teletubbies.”

Day 8:

8:58 a.m. - Was terrified to continue Operation Mary Poppins today. Wife must have sensed the anxiety... she hid my car keys.

2:26 p.m. - Child won’t listen to me. I say “sit”, she stands. I say “come”, she goes. She won’t even put away her dirty dishes. I try reasoning, empty threats and pleading. Still, nothing. It’s like teaching a ferret to drive a stick shift.

(Note to self: Next car, buy an automatic.)

Day 10:

10:56 a.m. - Just got back from one hour gas station ordeal. Should have been a routine fill up, then Maya had a poop grenade go off at the counter. I was ill-prepared: no diaper, no wipes, no change of clothes. Used paper towels and Windex (bought from the guy at the counter). Made diaper out of newspaper and paperclips.

(Note to self: Never, under any circumstances, leave the house ever again!!)

Day 11:

12:28 p.m. - Maya likes rice (she calls it “roz”.) Eats it like there’s no tomorrow. Not quite a food pyramid yet, but maybe a trapezoid.

Day 13:

1:16 p.m. - Strange. Maya hasn’t gone poop in a couple days, but loving that rice.

3:41 p.m. - Already ignored one of my “Notes to self”. Ventured back out into the world today. Went to the zoo. Filled backpack with diapers, wipes, clothes, Cheerios, water, a toy, board books, cell phone, extra cash, duct tape and a photo of Mother Theresa.

What a blast! Maya knows all the animals. She called the lion, “ror”. The giraffe was “ror”. The capybara was “ror”. She was even able to identify the ticket woman... "ror”

5:15 p.m. - Still no poop.

Day 14:

11:51 a.m. - How come no one tells me that rice constipates? Didn’t anyone think that was something I should know? I’d say that child worked a good forty-five minutes on passing that stool, today. Talk about big... not quite a stool, but could pass for an ottoman.

Day 16:

2:41 p.m. - Have learned to slip carrots, broccoli and celery in rice soup. Too many for her to pick them all out. She’s actually eating veggies. Hello pyramid. Good-bye Minute Rice.

Day 17:

2:01 p.m. - This is absolutely ridiculous. Today Maya says to me as she walks me to the kitchen, “Papa, ong. Ont kee. Ont kee ak. Ont otta ak, kee. Waya tue. Waya tue.” And, I actually understood!

Translation: “Dad, take my hand. I want cheese. Maya also wants egg, please.”

What’s happening to me?

Day 19:

3:17 p.m. - Met three other moms at park today. Talked to these women for two hours! Told me about a Barney episode I’d never seen. Had a contest to see who could recite Good Night Moon fastest. I got second. Can’t believe this is coming to an end.

Day 21:

8:20 p.m. - It’s over. I did it. I won the challenge. I completed Operation Mary Poppins with no help. I didn’t win because I did it. I won because I got to connect with my baby and I’m able to appreciate my wife better. Wasn’t an easy job, but proud to know I could do it.

Glad it’s over, though.

(Note to self: Ask boss for another vacation soon.)


Leon Scott Baxter is a West Coast writer who lives with his wife and two daughters in California. To see more of his work, go to

Published: Nov 29,2008 17:16
Bookmark and Share
You may flag this article with care.


Featured Authors
Andy Cowan
Andy Cowan, an award-winning writer, whose credits include Cheers and Seinfeld, regularly contributes humor pieces to the Los Angeles Times and the CBS Jack FM Radio Network.
Paul M. J. Suchecki
Paul M. J. Suchecki has more than 30 years of experience as an award winning writer, producer, and cameraman. He's written numerous newspaper and magazine articles. Currently he writes, produces and shoots for LA CityView Channel 35 and his more than 250 articles for are approaching half a million readers.
Coby Kindles
Coby Kindles is a freelance journalist, screenplay writer and essayist. She has been a staff writer at Knight Ridder and a regular contributor to The Associated Press.
Debbie Milam
Debbie Milam is a syndicated columnist for United Press International, an occupational therapist, family success consultant, and motivational speaker with more than 20 years experience. Her work on stress management, spirituality, parenting, and special-needs children has been featured in over 300 media outlets including First for Women, The Miami Herald, Elle, Ladies Home Journal, The Hallmark Channel, PBS and WebMD.
Dan Rafter
Dan Rafter has covered the residential real estate industry for more than 15 years. He has contributed real estate stories to the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Business 2.0 Magazine, Home Magazine, Smart HomeOwner Magazine and many others.
Jack Nargundkar
Jack Nargundkar has been repeatedly published in Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. He is also an author of "The Bush Diaries" published in July 2005.