Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Thing #42: Daycare fails & fun with Auntie J

The time has come, my blog friends, to talk of many things. Of eventually going back to work and searching for daycare and all the fun that brings...sigh. It had to happen sooner or later. I would rather eat an entire jar of fiery horseradish than arrange daycare. Unfortunately, it has to be done. So the great search has begun. I hope it has a better end than our last daycare search...

When I was preparing to go back to work after LP1 was born, I thought we had a perfect daycare lined up. Everything seemed to be going well. And then for some reason, two weeks before I was scheduled to return to work, LP1 decided she absolutely hated the place and would basically scream the entire time she was there. Daddy and I both tried to help her adjust but soon came to the conclusion that LP1 was telling us that this wasn't a place for her. As we spent more time at the daycare provider, we started to realize that things weren't as they seemed and it wasn't a place for us. Fortunately, we have wonderful family members who were able to step in to help us out with daycare for the six months I was back at work before LP2 was born. The entire experience, however, has left me a little nervous. I have been questioning my judgement and my ability to find sustainable daycare. The good news is that Daddy is really, really good at getting a good read on people and situations so he has been coaching me on things to look for this time so that we don't run into the same problems.

We had our first meeting with a daycare provider today. I was excited about this one, as it was within walking distance from our house and the information provided on the website seemed to jive with all of the things we were looking for. I was really, really hoping that we could get it all sorted with just one meeting. I got the LP ready to go and explained that we were going to make a new friend today. We were going to go to a lady's house to play with her toys and see if we liked being there and to meet some new kids. This was acceptable to them. It wasn't a lie. A few days ago, I had tried to explain to LP1 that eventually I will be going back to work. She burst into tears and wailed, "Mommy, you can't go back to work! I'm going to be really, really sad!" Oh no. Look over there...what's that in the corner? Oh yes. Mother guilt and feelings of being a horrible mother moving in. Excellent. I was wondering when that would show up.

So...we got there and I knew as soon as we were inside that this was NOT going to work for us. I'm just going to leave it at that because you never know who is online. Very nice lady, no question about that.  As I have yet to figure out how to gracefully make an immediate exit from a situation I have no intention of pursuing, I ended up staying for a little while, asking some basic questions and confirming that this was just not a suitable match for us. I have to figure out how to get out of these things faster. So far the only idea I've come up with is setting myself on fire but I think that would traumatize the LP.

We were back home just over 20 minutes after we had left. Grandpa had dropped off Auntie J just before we left, so the LP were thrilled to come home and play with her. We piled them into the ninky nonk and went for a long walk. LP2 fell asleep briefly on the way home and it was probably the cutest thing I have ever seen. At one point he was sitting straight up, completely out. Auntie J made LP1 and I lunch (the greatest food is food prepared for you by someone else!) and spent the rest of the day hanging out with us. She chased the LP, played with them, fed them and took them outside. Auntie J will soon be heading off to graduate school and we will miss her very much when she goes. The LP just love having her around. So do I. One of our New Things before I go back to work will definitely be making a trip out to see her in her new digs.

We will continue the search for daycare. The right fit is out there. In the meantime, there is still much fun to be had. Tomorrow we have family from out west arriving at Grandad and Nan's house. I'm not sure just yet when we'll get to see them, but I do know we are most definitely looking forward to it!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Thing #41: In which we brave an encounter with birds

If you have read this blog for any length of time, I think you may be aware of my sheer terror of birds. I deeply mistrust them and as I have stated previously, I am convinced that they will attack at any time. They clearly have no regard for anyone but themselves, as demonstrated by their willingness to poop wherever they fancy. They have absolutely no manners and no respect for their fellow bird and will fight one another for a mere morsel of food. Those beaks and claws are frightening and capable of inflicting damage. They might as well be armed with machine guns. Don't even get me started on the arrogance of geese and how they will just take over a territory, unconcerned for anyone who was there before them. Simply stated, I dislike birds and I do not like to be anywhere near them.

Children, however, tend to love birds. I have yet to meet a child that is not interested in watching or feeding them. As I am not interested in making our children unnaturally petrified of birds (this is something I am sure they will come to figure out on their own, as they are bright), birds are yet another item I have to add to my "pretend like you are okay with it in front of the LP" list, along with clowns, mall Santas and talking to people with bulging eyes. So when Auntie K sent me a message, asking if we would like to go check out the community garden and aviary she and Uncle L had recently discovered, I agreed because I knew the LP would like it.

There is a large park located near the McMaster Children's Hospital and university campus. Tucked inside this park is a community garden and aviary. Although the aviary is officially open on Sundays, apparently you can wander in anytime and check out the birds and the garden. It is a very peaceful, happy space that makes you feel as if you are out in the country. Although Hamilton has a bit of a reputation as an industrial, dirty, city, I am starting to realize that this is only partially deserved. There are hidden gems and green spaces all over the city.

The sign is missing the part that says "BEWARE, OUR BIRDS MAY KILL YOU AT ANY MOMENT"

While there are a series of buildings you can walk through to presumably view the birds on Sundays, there are also several pens scattered throughout the garden with birds on view. During our walk about, we said hello to a gorgeous red parrot with bright blue and green feathers. At first he was a total jerk and just ignored us, preferring to groom himself. Later, once we had moved on, he started making noise and trying to get our attention. When we went back for a second visit, he actually said "hello". The LP were most impressed. Naturally LP1 wanted to get closer. Given that his beak looked as if it could split a coconut and his claws were razor-sharp, I wasn't a fan of this. When I look at parrots, I can see how they are somehow related to certain kinds of dinosaurs. Jurassic Park taught me to respect the claws of animals.

A giant cage full of finches were next. This is the point where I confess that when I was fourteen, I received two finches as a birthday gift. My mother accidentally killed one with a fish net when she was trying to catch it and the other one died when were on vacation. Our neighbour left a note that said, "sorry, folks, your bird died. I left it on the tool bench in the garage." I did not mourn the loss. They were messy, noisy birds and I hated cleaning the cage. The LP were interested in observing the finches for awhile. I didn't tell them the story, although Auntie K and I were both remembering it.

We went and looked at some big white birds. I don't know what they were. They had big tails and just sat there like lazy, bored birds. Next up were some ducks. I have no issue with ducks. Generally they just walk around and quack and look cute. You never hear of a duck going rogue. There were some chickens next door to the ducks. I think these chickens were part of a polygamist sect. It appeared that there were two sister-hens and an assortment of chicks. The rooster was sitting in a dirt hole, occasionally flapping about but generally uninterested in what his women and children were doing...until they later chased him out and took over the hole. When this happened, the LP wanted to get closer but at that point, my heart could take no more and I asked them to stay away. You cannot trust chickens. Before that drama, we saw some pheasants and I have to admit that one was absolutely gorgeous, even if he was a technicolour mess. A bright yellow mullet, tiger-like markings around his neck and seemingly every colour in the rainbow on his body. What a bird. It was at this point that LP1 became interested in some small apples that had fallen off the trees all around this enclosure and alternated between attempting to feed them to the birds (much to my intense nervousness) and gathering them up. 

We also looked at a peacock with some babies and a bizarre breed of chicken that looked like they were wearing Ugg boots. The LP were drawn to these birds and I instinctively sprang forward to pull them back, much to Auntie K's amusement. We sat on a bench and watched the chickens for awhile as the LP had a snack. It was quiet, sunny and warm. If it weren't for the fact that we were totally surrounded by birds, it would be very relaxing.

When we weren't bird watching, we wandered around the gardens. I think they were wonderful. There is something so hopeful and optimistic about people coming together to grow vegetables in the middle of the city. Apparently some of them were destined for food banks. I also like this. People who use food banks deserve fresh, organic, local produce, too. There was everything from tomatoes to beans to celery and many things we couldn't identify growing in the gardens.

I admire people who grow their own vegetables...particularly since my attempts have largely been disastrous. The whole "water daily"thing doesn't really work for me.

As we were standing in one of the gardens, looking at the vegetables, we looked over to the fence and spotted a young deer! It was amazing. We tried to take the LP over to see it but getting them to remain quiet...doesn't really work. It scampered off. I think LP1 saw it, though. Both of them seemed to really enjoy our outing today. LP1 was content to run around, gather apples and look at the birds. LP2 liked looking at the birds (indeed, he likes all animals with the exception of pigs), and check things out. It was a happy adventure for all of us.

We left the garden and went for lunch with Auntie K. I always think that exploring new places is best completed with a spot of something tasty with good company.

Don't be fooled. If there wasn't a cage there, I know he'd be swooping at us. I'm not fooled by his cheery "HELLO! HELLO!" one bit.

Monday, August 29, 2011

New Thing #40: Playhouses & Pictograms

Monday! Monday! Monday! Ole! How goes? How are you? Will you ever answer me?! What did you get into this weekend? We had a great weekend here at Chateau Chaos. On Saturday morning we made our annual visit to the Peach Festival...this is where Daddy & I had our first date, so it has become a tradition for us. We checked out the kid-friendly rides and all of us enjoyed the obligatory peach sundae. After naptime, the LP went to Grammy and Grandpa's for a sleepover (they seem to be having lots of sleepovers lately, don't they?), because Daddy's band was playing their annual gig at a golf tournament hosted by the family of three out of the five band members. The boys did an outstanding job, as per usual, and we had a most excellent evening out. On Sunday morning we walked over to Starbucks and had coffee together on the patio before going over to Grammy and Grandpa's for a family lunch with everyone. By all accounts, the LP also had an excellent evening and while they were happy to see us, LP1 did say that she didn't want to go home. Unfortunately for her, we like having her around and made both of them come home.

Have you ever had so many things to do that you just don't know where to start and so you end up half-starting some things, never really finishing them, focusing your efforts on things you shouldn't be doing and ending up just feeling generally frustrated? I think that is how I would describe my day today. Lately I seem to lack the ability to focus and get things done. I'm all over the place and accomplishing very little. I am hoping a good sleep tonight (yeah, LP2 I'm looking at you, please no more deciding to be up for 2 hours in the middle of the night) might help me regroup. Either that or I'm going to start drinking rocket fuel.

After I realized that getting anything on my to-do list done was just an exercise in futility today, I decided to just play with the LP. We went for a walk to the store. LP1 was trying to entice butterflies to come to her. Perhaps yelling "HEY BUTTERFLY, COME BACK" at top volume is not the way to draw the delicate butterfly to you. It is, however, an excellent way to startle a man working on a boat on his driveway as you pass by, causing him to drop a hammer and give you a Stare of Disapproval. I didn't realize that small children should be muzzled. I've sort of been operating under the assumption that when we're out for a walk in the wide open air in the middle of the afternoon that it is acceptable to be noisy. My bad.

Once we returned from the store I set the LP loose in the backyard. It was a lovely summer day and I know they were itching to get outside. I pushed LP2 in the swing for awhile and listened to his happy swinging sounds. I pushed LP1 in her car for awhile and dutifully took orders about where we should go and how fast I should be going. Eventually both of them got bored. LP1 wandered into her playhouse and started to talk on the phone. As I saw LP2 watching her, I realized he was finally big enough to hold his own in the playhouse and I put him in there with her.

For her second birthday, LP1 was given an amazing playhouse. It is the perfect size for the LP and LP1 has spent many happy hours in there this summer.

If they could just make this a little bigger & swap out the sink for a bar, this would make an excellent Mommy playhouse

LP2 has been a nimble little monkey as of late. Although he is not yet walking, he has figured out how to pull himself up onto anything that is at his height. He has discovered the joy of opening doors and pulling out all the contents behind the door. Indeed, there is nothing quite like tripping over an onion you didn't realize was in the middle of the kitchen floor. And earlier today, he went from playing in with the kitchen centre in a corner of the living room to scaling the stairs and playing Daddy's guitar upstairs in the bedroom all while I was in another room. Yes, I realize I should not leave him. However, UNTIL THIS AFTERNOON he did not make wild breaks for another part of the house or crawl up the stairs entirely on his own and it wasn't like I was gone for very long. HE IS JUST THAT FAST. Don't judge me. But this is not the point I'm trying to make. Given that he can stand for longer, is more curious about things and can open doors, I knew he was ready to actually play in the playhouse.

The LP LOVED being in the playhouse together. I often play this game with LP1 where she closes the shutters on each end of it and I knock on them, demanding bizarre things in a silly voice. We played that game again. But for LP2, opening and closing the doors was just another variation of peek-a-boo, one of his favourite games. He stood at one end and we played for a good ten minutes. Hearing him let loose those infectious baby giggles was wonderful. LP1 had left a play necklace in there and it wasn't long before he had scooped it up in one chubby fist and was shaking it at me. At one point, he moved to one of the open windows and we played a game that only he understood where he would try to shove it in my mouth, I would make a terrible face and he would laugh. As he stood there, holding onto the side of the house and making conversation, I realized again how quickly he is growing up. Every day he moves a little farther away from "baby" and closer to "toddler". 

LP1 alternated between calling people on the playhouse phone to playing with us. I think she liked being able to share the playhouse with her brother. We were in there for at least forty minutes together, and that is a long time by LP standards. Eventually she tired of playing in there and fetched me some bubbles to blow for the two of them. I don't know what it is about bubbles that enchants children, but they were loving them...especially because they were the special purple ones.

Don't be fooled. These leave purple soap marks all over you. I looked like I had been mugged by a beet. Yes, it washes off but that is not the point.

When I got tired of making bubbles, we went to the patio and drew pictures on it with chalk. I love doing this with the kids. Sometimes we write names or draw shapes or make hopscotch courts. Today I look requests from LP1 for what to draw (with my stellar artistic ability) and attempted to prevent LP2 from putting chalk in his mouth. My art wasn't really keeping anyone's attention for very long and it was nearly dinnertime. We headed in for a drink and a snack. All that fresh air works up an appetite.


Friday, August 26, 2011

New Thing #39: A Visit from Auntie K

Oh, Friday. The day I try to get so many things accomplished. And usually do not succeed. The LP were in a bit of a mood today. I think LP2 is working on making more teeth. I think LP1 is a little tired after a busy week. We had our last swimming lesson of this session last night and I am proud to say that the two of them were amazing. They have made such progress and are little water babies. Hopefully we can find a time for the next session that works for our schedule because it is clear that they love it.

Auntie K and I were planning on taking the LP to an aviary Auntie K and Uncle L discovered recently. Unfortunately, it couldn't happen today. LP1 napped a little longer than expected and LP2 didn't really nap at all. I was frustrated with myself because I wasn't getting the things done I needed to do. Once both LP were up, we took them out into the backyard to play. Auntie K soon offered to play with them so I could go inside and get a few things done because she is nice like that. I took her up on her offer and was soon working on whittling down my to-do list.

In the meantime, Auntie K and the LP drew with chalk on the patio, played on the swings and slide, checked out the backyard toys and were visited by a grasshopper. Being outside was just what they needed, as it allowed them to expend some energy, get into the fresh air and do something different. When they came back inside, they were happy little souls. Thank goodness for Auntie K...she made all of us happy today!

New Thing #38: Shopping with Nan, Grandad and the Cousins

I have come to realize after observing both sets that it is a grandparent's privilege to spoil their grandchildren. Our LP are incredibly blessed to have two sets of grandparents that are forever doing thoughtful things for them, whether it is new jammies for a sleepover or making sure their favourite foods are in the house when we come over for a visit. Although they do not need to do any of these things because the LP are thrilled just to see them, I know the grandparents do it because they want to and they can. It is always appreciated, however.

Grandad and Nan were taking the cousins back-to-school shopping on Thursday and they invited us to come, too. They were exercising their Grandparent Right to Buy a New Outfit for cousins B and C. While the LP are obviously not ready to go to school just yet, Nan and Grandad wanted to make sure that they had new outfits, too. Because, you know, they are awesome like that.

Miss Fashionista was equally excited about new clothes as she was to see everyone. She was particularly happy to see Nan, since she wasn't with us yesterday. LP1 and the cousins were especially energetic and I feared for the store. Fortunately, I was able to corral LP1 and Cousin C and force them into a shopping cart. LP2 was happy to sit in the cart and walk around with Grandad. They were soon joined by Cousin B. Must be a guy thing...walk around the store and look at anything but clothes.

Nan, Cousin C, LP1 and I had fun picking out clothes. To be fair, Grandad and the boys joined us to give opinions and suggestions. It wasn't long before everyone was kitted out with adorable outfits. I think the cousins are going to look great for their first days back at school next month! The LP will also be rocking some great clothes in the weeks to come, too. I can't wait! LP1 will be in a grey-and-pink pants, Minnie Mouse shirt and striped hoodie set. LP2 will be sporting blue cargo pants, a very fun green shirt with a guitar and a plaid shirt with a black guitar shirt underneath. These are very similar to shirts Daddy likes. I do not want the weather to get cool because I want summer to last forever, but I know they are going to look great once fall does arrive.

When Daddy and I go grocery shopping, he often opens something in the store and shares a snack with the LP. I can see where he gets this from...Grandad found some fruit snacks and it wasn't long before LP1 and the cousins were into them. Like father, like son...and always appreciated by the recipients. I should add that they always pay for whatever is consumed, but I think it is a great way to keep little shoppers from melting down.

We browsed about the store for a little longer. Nan and Grandad also got LP2 a very cute dish set (and one that is very much needed), complete with sippy cup. I have been trying to interest him in a sippy cup but the ones we have in the house are more for LP1's age group. I think this new sippy might just do the trick!

As we were leaving, I was surprised to see that we had been in there for nearly an hour and a half. Time really does fly when you're having fun!

Thank you, Nan and Grandad for the new outfits! Can't wait for the LP to model them for you!

New Thing #37: Little Monkeys at Little Monkeys

Cousins B and C are staying with Grandad and Nan for a few days this week while their parents are away on a well-deserved vacation. Grandad called us to ask if we would like to join him and the cousins at Little Monkeys on Wednesday. Easy question. Of course we would!

Little Monkeys is an indoor playground in Burlington. I had heard of it before and wanted to visit, so Grandad's timing was perfect. We met up with them in the parking lot. It is hard to say who was more excited - the cousins or LP1. It was a noisy, happy group that entered Little Monkeys, donned socks and headed inside for our adventure.

Whoever designed Little Monkeys is a genius. It is enormous. There is a huge indoor playground, a rock-climbing wall, a designated toddler area, space in the back for riding these little bikes, playhouses, exersaucers and games to keep children busy. The best part is the ample, soft leather seating, the free wi-fi and complimentary coffee for the keepers of the little monkeys. Heaven.

Don't even try shaking a stick in here. There is so much fun to be had you couldn't get that stick anywhere close to it.

LP1 and the cousins immediately took off to play on the playground. I love the way the cousins look out for her and always make sure she is okay. It is so sweet to see. LP2 played in the toddler area for awhile and then decided he was hungry. He had a bottle while Grandad and I took advantage of the complimentary coffee and caught up with one another.

LP1 and the cousins alternated between running around, playing on the playground and checking out the other activities. Grandad got pressed into playing some table-top hockey with Cousin B. LP1 was playing by herself in an area where they have soft blocks made out of gymnastic mats. She was attempting to build herself a house. I heard her begin to cry so I went over to check it out. There was another little girl in there, probably at least 5 years old, if not older, who was taking away LP1's blocks and kicking down what she was building. Admittedly, LP1 is not the greatest at sharing right now and we are working on that...but she is also TWO YEARS OLD. My protective Mommy instincts took over and although I wanted to kick that child, I settled for staring at her until she finally got uncomfortable and left (this is the greatest thing you can do to kids that are being jerks because what are they going to say to their parents? "Mommy, that lady is staring at me!"? Bring it on). Fortunately, Grandad soon came to the rescue and it wasn't long before he was building LP1 a fantastic little castle to play in...I think he was also getting requests from other kids for their own customized houses. He certainly has a knack for pleasing a crowd!

LP2 decided he was ready to try out the toddler zone again so we went and played in there for awhile. He was happy to crawl around, exploring the small slides. He would sit back and clap his hands with delight. There was another small boy in there and LP2 ambled over to say hello and touch his face. I'm not sure if all children do this or if it is a phenomenon confined to ours but both LP always reach out and touch other children. It is always very gentle but sometimes it scares other kids. This particular little boy was unfazed, though. He also didn't speak a word of English. Fortunately, neither does LP2, aside from a few words like "yum yum", "hi Dad" and one time where I'm almost certain he said "okay".

After snack and juice breaks and some lunch for LP2, it was soon time to go. I was surprised to discover that we had been there for nearly 3 hours! What a fantastic morning! The LP really enjoyed being there with their cousins and Grandad. I did, too. I think Grandad and I should plan to meet there for coffee one day!


New Thing #36: Port Dalhousie with Auntie K & Uncle L

On Tuesday the LP decided to play a fun game called "Dueling Naps": when one was sleeping, the other refused to sleep, preferring to run wild, so that nobody slept at the same time and I felt like I was spending a large part of the day putting children down for naps. It made it very difficult to figure out what to do for the day. I got a brilliant brainwave a little after 3 and after exchanging messages with Auntie K, determined that she and Uncle L would be available to play with us once both LP were conscious and up and about.

When 4:00 rolled around, both LP were awake, dressed and locked and loaded into their carseats, along with the double stroller and an overstuffed diaper bag. We left for a jaunt to Port Dalhousie. Oh, you don't know where this is? Don't worry, you're not alone. Port Dalhousie is a suburb of St. Catharines. Obviously, it was once a port and is therefore located on Lake Ontario. For most people, it is probably most famous for the carousel at Lakeside Park. The carousel was built in 1903 and still costs only a nickel to ride. For a certain generation that grew up in the Niagara region, however, Port Dalhousie was the place where you went when you were not of legal drinking age and wanted to patronize certain establishments that were not perhaps the most rigid in their observance of the legal age of majority.When Auntie K and I were in high school, everyone went to Port (as we called it). However, on this particular day, we were not out to introduce the LP to cheap beer and thumping bass music. We were out to ride some wooden ponies.

The LP were on a carousel most recently in June at the Sound of Music Festival but I'm not sure how much they remembered about it. From the moment LP1 saw the carousel at Port Dalhousie, she was determined to get on. After investing an entire quarter so that both LP, Auntie K, Uncle L and myself could ride, we lined up and were soon on. LP1 chose a white pony with a long tail and wanted Auntie K to stand by her. LP2 and Uncle L settled for a stationary giraffe (LP2 was not a fan of riding up and down).

Over 100 years of entertaining children and making their parents slightly nauseated.

LP1 thoroughly enjoyed her ride. LP2 was uncertain at first but seemed to enjoy looking around and taking it all in. We took many pictures. All too soon, it was over, much to LP1's very obvious and loud dismay. Fortunately there is a playground directly behind the carousel. We were able to distract her with slides, stairs and running about. Thank you to whomever chose to put that playground right there. I'm sure I'm not the only one who appreciates it.

Once we tired of the playground, we set out for a walk along the beach. Because I am The Worst Mother Ever, I would not let the LP play on the beach. Look, we had no beach toys, they would just want to go in the water (which was clearly marked as Unsafe for Swimming), and I wanted to keep moving. We went along the pier with the goal of heading to the very end to look out at the lake. Unfortunately, the overwhelming odour of goose and duck poop soon drove us to change direction.

The beach I wouldn't let the LP play on. I'm sure they will be scarred for life and will write a book all about it one day.

As we headed in the opposite direction, Uncle L took the helm of the stroller. We soon came across some geese, going about their geese business. You may recall that I am generally terrified of birds and convinced they will attack at any time. Uncle L is fearless and got the LP quite close to some geese that were standing on the edge of the pier. I was nervous that they would turn on us but he assured me that he would protect the LP at any cost. The geese didn't attack...this time. We ended up feeding a group of ducks some baby puffs and the LP delighted in watching the ducks devour them and squabble amongst each other for each little bite.

You don't go to Port Dalhousie without getting some ice cream...well, come to think of it, I don't go most places without a little ice cream. We headed up to the main street and soon were enjoying some. I couldn't believe the changes since the last time I was there. Apparently there is a large condo going in somewhere on the main strip and many of the businesses were closed. It was kind of sad, really. Well, not for the LP. It is impossible to be sad when you have ice cream!

We continued on our walk and I realized that it was getting late and both LP were getting hungry. We stopped at a pita place for dinner. The food was so-so but the company was excellent. Once dinner was done, we headed back to our cars. LP1 is already asking when we can return.

They look innocent...until they turn around and attack.

POSTAPALOOZA FRIDAY

So this week has been a little busy and I haven't been able to post. I aim to remedy that tonight. I apologize...usually I sit down to blog after the LP are in bed and with the week we've had, I've either had something to do or have been too tired to write about our day once they've settled in for the night. Hopefully next week will be a little better and I'll be able to return to my faithful ramble-ramble-ramble posts again.

In the meantime....here we go!

Monday, August 22, 2011

New Things #34 & 35: Lunchin' & Chillin'

Well, here we are at Monday again! And how are you? This post is actually two posts in one as I didn't get around to blogging about Friday's adventures. Think of it as more bang for your buck and get over it. Our weekend was excellent, if not busy. On Friday night we went out to celebrate our friend B's birthday and found out that he and his wife had just brought their new baby girl into the world the night before! There were much congratulations and toasts to the new family. On Saturday we watched Cousin B's t-ball game, went to visit a colleague of Daddy's in the hospital, dropped in on Nan at work, and picked up the LP from their sleepover at Grammy & Grandpa's house. Sunday was errands and house stuff and relaxing. And now you are all caught up, let us get on.

As Daddy and I were going out Friday night, the LP were going to have a sleepover at Grammy and Grandpa's house. Auntie K, the LP and I went over early to have lunch with Grandpa. Grandpa was just as excited to see the LP as they were him. They did their usual run-around-the-house-making-sure-their-toys-were-still there. One of LP1's favourite toys is a cat that sings "Santa Baby". Naturally, this cat is known as "Santa Baby" to LP1. On this day, LP2 noticed Santa Baby and was enchanted by it. He sat on the couch with Auntie J (who was waiting for Uncle M so they could go on a roadtrip) and laughed at Santa Baby.

This cat's song will haunt my dreams until the day I die. I don't know how Grammy copes at Christmas when Santa Baby is joined by approximately 75 other singing toys.

We went for lunch at Joe Dog's and the LP were very well-behaved, especially since lunch was late for them and they were overdue for naps. LP2 must be going through a growth spurt because he ate 2 jars of baby food and half of LP1's grilled cheese sandwich! LP1 was thrilled because her lunch came with a special cup, a toy, a helium balloon and a popsicle. The rest of us also enjoyed our meals...but perhaps not as much as the LP.

Good lunch. Good people. Good day.

We went back to Grammy and Grandpa's and the LP were soon sound asleep. Reassured that they were in excellent hands, Auntie K and I capitalized on a free afternoon to get manis and pedis. It was heavenly. The LP had a fantastic sleepover and LP1 is still talking about things they did.

Mondays are always a little tricky in terms of New Things. I freely admit this. I don't plan ahead and usually I'm playing catch-up from the weekend. Today, for example, our kitchen looked like we were about to apply for an episode of "Hoarders". There was some serious cleaning to be done. I don't know how it all goes to pot so quickly but it does.

This morning the LP and I played in the backyard. Not really a New Thing, I guess. LP2 was happy to be in his swing and LP1 was bombing around the backyard. I pushed each of them separately around in their car and then we loaded up in the ninky nonk for a quick trip to the store. They really enjoyed looking around, saying hello to people and checking out the store. At lunch, I introduced them to Meatless Loaf. It disappeared quickly. It was a definite hit and a change from their usual lunch. Daddy and I decided long before we ever had the LP that vegetarian and meat dishes would be offered equally and without prejudice. Neither one of us makes comments about one being better than the other or makes fun of the food. Our goal is for the LP to think it is completely normal to either eat meat or not eat meat. Once they are old enough, it is up to them to decide how they want to eat, but we never want them to feel as if they have to take sides. I will say, however, that I am happy to see them trying falafels, veggie burgers, meatless loaf, and veggie chicken nuggets along with chicken, turkey, steak and bacon. I think it  makes for a well-rounded eating experience.

We went outside again after dinner to play, even though it meant bedtime was a little later. I just like doing things with them and sometimes the schedule can take a backseat to fresh air and backyard fun. And if I'm really honest? I also had some making-up to do for spending part of the afternoon cleaning!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Thing #33: Do you like painting and getting caught in the rain?

Sending things in the mail is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Sad as it may sound to openly admit this, I look forward to the mailperson's (some days we have a lady, some days we have a man) daily visit. What will s/he leave in our mailbox? Usually, just bills, flyers and coupon packs I let LP1 open. But every now and then, we get something personal. And I LOVE it. Whether it is an invitation, a thank you card or a birthday card, it never fails to make my day to see something real in our mailbox. Sometimes I like to return that feeling for someone else.

Today's New Thing is only half-done. I decided we were going to make something for someone, put it in an envelope we decorated and send it in the mail. We did this once before, for Nan and Grandad, but this time is different. First of all, we are doing it for someone's birthday and secondly, I didn't do the mail-the-letter part with the LP. I suspect that our little letter will get there late but I don't think the recipient will mind.

So today we worked on part one, the making of the picture. As LP1 wanted to paint today, our picture is a painting. I started by covering LP2's hand in green paint and making a print on a piece of construction paper. As there was still green paint all over his hand, I let him smash the paper repeatedly to remove some of it. We'll call it "abstract art". I could probably get some serious cash for it in a pretentious gallery somewhere. Next up was LP1. I painted her hand and she giggled the entire time. She made a print and then quickly seized a paintbrush to get down to the business of painting.

Paint goes on the paper! Paint goes on the paper! Well...and also on the table, the floor, and all over her arms, torso and legs. Fortunately everything is washable, including LP1.

LP1 was intent on making a good picture. She sang to herself and debated over colours. LP2 watched intently. I gave him a paintbrush to see what would happen. It went directly into his mouth. Unless he is planning to become one of those painters that paint with their mouths, I do not think he is ready for painting. Given that he also puts crayons in his mouth, I'm also pretty sure he is not yet ready for colouring, either. He does enjoy watching his sister, though.

When she was finally finished, we set the masterpiece aside to dry. And then I kind of forgot about it for the rest of the day. Either tomorrow or Saturday I will ask her to tell me what is going on in the picture and write a narrative on the page. We will get an envelope, decorate it, address it and then go together to mail it.

A sneak peak of their masterpiece. I have no idea what is going on in this picture but when LP1 tells me, I'll act like I do and that it is so obvious. That way she won't think I'm dumb.

As it is once again Thursday, it is Swimming Lessons Day. We did our usual feed-kids-get-everyone-dressed frantic rush around the house. Daddy had said earlier that we really should take the LP in the ninky nonk to the pool. It is so close to our house but we're always running a bit behind and end up driving, even though we feel quite sheepish about it. We made sure we had time today. As we were leaving, the skies were darkening and thunder was rumbling. I wasn't sure this was a good idea.

"If we get wet, we get wet," Daddy said. "We'll already be wet when we leave the pool. A little more water isn't going to hurt anyone." I was skeptical but I agreed. As we were walking to the pool, an ice cream truck came down our street. The driver very slooowly pulled up beside us and kept pace with us as we were walking. It was sort of creepy - it felt as if we were being stalked by an ice cream truck. A few summers ago, every time Auntie K and I went for a run together, an ice cream truck would show up. It felt like a sign from the universe to eat more ice cream. Tonight, however, it felt odd. Like that scene from "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" where the children-snatcher lures all the children by pretending to be an ice cream truck. Great. Now in addition to "clowns", "Santa Clauses at the mall" and "carnies", I have to add "ice cream trucks" on my list of "Things I Am Deeply Suspicious And/Or Fearful Of". The LP were waving at the truck but fortunately, they had no idea it was an ice cream truck or we would have had bigger problems than not looking at the ice cream truck beside us. Eventually the driver tired of this game and took off. 

We arrived at the pool with ten minutes to spare. As per usual, we each took a child into the changeroom  and were going to meet on the deck. As LP2 and I were heading out to the deck area, everyone currently in the pool came in. There was a power failure in the pool area and our class had been cancelled. Too bad. I was really looking forward to getting into too-cold water that I'm sure 3600 children have urinated in. We met Daddy and LP1 back in the main area and prepared to go home. As we got to the main doors, we discovered that it was pouring out. Thunder was booming and every now and then lightening would split the sky. Daddy just looked at me. "You can say it," he laughed. "You were right!"

I didn't say anything. The rain was starting to lessen and you know what? He was right. Who cared if we got wet? We weren't going very far. Once the LP were secured in the ninky nonk, we headed out into the rain. They thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a completely different experience for them. They kept looking up and around, marveling in the falling rain. As we walked home, the rain stopped. LP1 demanded first that Daddy and then myself jump in the puddles. We obliged, much to their amusement. By the time we got home, we were all wet (although not soaked) and we were all laughing.

We gave the LP a warm bubble bath, much to their delight. As I watched them splash I realized that sometimes I underestimate them. I thought they would fuss and cry if they were caught in the rain. Instead, they treated it as a great adventure. I think I need to adopt that way of thinking. After all, it is only water.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Thing #32: Grilled Cheese in the Ninky Nonk

Today was hot hot hot out. I found this out the hard way, when I was pulling the LP in the ninky nonk (you may call it a wagon...they prefer the term "ninky nonk"). I think I'm going to create a series of DVD workouts for moms. The first one will be called "Guns of Steel in Just One Year" and will focus exclusively on arms. Take a look at a mother with young kids sometime. Check out her arms. Chances are, she's got some muscle on them. Do you know why? BECAUSE NEARLY EVERYTHING WE DO RELIES ON THE ARMS. And my future award-winning, multi-million-dollar-generating fitness DVD empire will reflect that. It all starts in Labour and Delivery, when you warm up the arms by gripping anything readily available to help you push. Once the baby is here, you will use every muscle in your arms to haul their carseat bucket around for the first few months of his or her life. If you don't think this is a workout, please, come over and spend some time lifting it into and out of the car, carrying it through stores and up a flight of stairs to the doctor's office and then tell me how your arms are feeling. After you have mastered the art of carrying the bucket, two bags of groceries and a toddler on your hip while talking on your cell phone as you attempt to open the front door, you graduate to child carrying and rocking. This is the stage where the child cannot yet walk and may have some separation anxiety, so you resort to carrying him/her around because leaving the child unattended will probably result in something in your house being destroyed and/or harming the baby. Again, if you don't believe me, spend a day carrying a 20 pound baby around. Unless you have normally carry small children and therefore have Baby Arm, you will be sore. For cross training, take the stroller out for a spin and load it up with things that make it heavier to push. If you need some extra training, work on getting the stroller up and down curbs or down flights of stairs. When that gets easy, put the child and his or her sibling in the ninky nonk and go for a walk. Even if you go at a snail pace, pulling nearly 50 pounds of children behind you is definitely going to help those arms. Finally, once you have mastered all of these moves, you will graduate to dual carrying. This is where both children want to be picked up and the same time and ferried to their destination. When you have mastered this, you will have Guns of Steel. In just one year! Sure, the rest of you may sag and bag but your arms will be the talk of the town. You'll be able to wear tank tops or spaghetti straps with ease!  Just buy an A-line skirt and hide the rest. No need to thank me. I'll be somewhere tropical, paying minions to carry my children around.

As you may have guessed, I came up with my brilliant DVD idea whilst pulling the LP in the ninky nonk. I had forgotten a few things in my errand-running yesterday, so I decided we would walk to a nearby store to pick them up. This would be the longest ride both LP have had in the ninky nonk. I debated about putting them in the stroller instead but I wanted a chance to see what worked better for them. As it turns out, the wagon was a good choice (and not just for helping my arms). The LP face each other when they're sitting in it, there's a compartment for snacks and they have more to look it. We didn't have a single meltdown either, and we were out for quite a while.

We made it to the store and I happily stood in the blast of air conditioning, as I was a sweaty mess. With her usual charm, LP1 had asked if she could have a treat today. She definitely has a way of asking for things so that you don't want to refuse. I agreed that she could have a treat and we settled on chocolate milk. Unfortunately, there was no small carton of chocolate milk in the store we were in. We ventured into the Starbucks next door only to find out that they were currently out of chocolate milk, too.  Things were looking bad. I had to act quickly...we crossed the street and went to McDonalds.

It was at this point that I realized the LP were getting hungry. I ordered a chocolate milk for LP1 and two grilled cheese sandwiches. I thought that they would share one and I would have the other. Ding Dong! Guess who was wrong?! Between the two of them, they ate almost all of them, leaving only a few bites for me. Fortunately I can afford to miss out on some grilled cheese. They sat in the ninky nonk and I gave them pieces of grilled cheese to eat. LP2's were obviously much smaller, but he ate them with gusto. He has had bread before and he has had cheese before, but this was his first grilled cheese. It was a hit! The two of them were absolutely adorable, facing each other and eating their lunch. LP1 was making faces and noises that were making her brother laugh. I could tell that they were really enjoying this impromptu lunch. They were looking around at the other kids, sharing food and taking it all in. Their instructor from swimming lessons came in and they were happy to see her. LP2 was giving her big grins as LP1 mentioned that she was NOT wearing her life jacket tomorrow. The instructor introduced the LP to a colleague and mentioned that they were "superstar swimmers". It is always nice to hear your children complimented!

Once lunch was devoured, I gave them some sweet potato puffs and we began the trek home. They handled it very well and were, I think, relieved to get inside where it was cool. I was very proud of the way they behaved during our outing...and impressed with their appetites! I think we're in the middle of another growth spurt for both of them. See, that will be the other selling feature of my DVD. As the baby gets bigger, the weight increases and therefore you get more of a workout. This is a brilliant idea. I won't forget about you - you can say you knew me before I was famous!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Thing #31: Of Wallets, Ice Cream & Balloons

I'd like to start by publicly announcing that I owe St. Anthony an apology. For those of you who are unfamiliar with St. Anthony, he is the Patron Saint of Lost Things. Whenever you lose something, you are supposed to pray to St. Anthony and he will help you find it. The prayer I was taught back in my Catholic schoolgirl days goes like this: "St. Anthony, St. Anthony, won't you please look around. Something is lost and it needs to be found". And then you think REALLY HARD about what you are missing and St. Anthony will help you find it. This is probably not the Officially Sanctioned By the Catholic Church Prayer (theirs probably involves a confession of wrongdoing, supplication and a psalm or two for good measure), and I can't remember how I ever even learned this, but it has NEVER failed me. St. Anthony has always been my guy.

Until I lost my wallet. Then we had a bit of a falling out.

Auntie K and Uncle L got married this past June. I had my wallet during the weekend but when I went to use it a few days later, it had vanished. I tore the house upside down. I called everywhere we had been throughout the course of the weekend. I prayed to St. Anthony multiple times. I had dreams of finding my wallet. I did everything I could to find my wallet because in addition to having all my identification, credit cards, reward cards and gift certificates, it also had the LP's health cards and over $100 in cash. And also? I REALLY REALLY liked the wallet itself. One night back in February or March, I was up with LP2 and I happened to put the tv on to help keep me awake. Because it was late and I was up and I knew I'd be up for awhile, I decided to indulge myself and turn the channel to the Shopping Network. Normally I cannot watch this channel because I end up wanting whatever they are showcasing and I have to convince myself that I'm just being persuaded by aggressive marketing. But on that particular night, I didn't care. And of course they were showing this wallet that I ended up loving immediately. Zippered with a fun leopard print on the inside, made to last, lots of slots for cards and a change compartment...oooh la lah, I HAD to have it. I thought about it incessantly. I'm generally not much of a "I must have this item" kind of person (unless it comes to food), but this was the exception. When my birthday rolled around in April, it turns out that Daddy had been listening to my endless babbling about the Wallet to End All Wallets (he really does give the best gifts). I was thrilled. Until I lost it. And then I was gutted. Just recently, I had given up hope of ever finding it and looked on the website to reorder...and found that it is temporarily out of stock. Probably because it is so amazing. Sad, sad, sad was I.

I was also really mad at St. Anthony. I kept getting this feeling I should look in our crawlspace, particularly in the pieces from the bassinet that attach to the playpen. Every time I would look there, I was certain I would find it. And I wouldn't. I finally got mad at St. Anthony and stopped asking for help. But deep down...I really wanted to find my wallet. Fast forward to today...I was cleaning out things in the crawlspace this afternoon. I flipped open the bassinet and...

MY WALLET WAS IN THERE!!!! I must have checked in there at least 5 times and somehow I missed it. Moral of the story: always stop and thoroughly search.

St. Anthony, I am sorry I ever doubted you. You were right and I was wrong. Can we be friends again?

Okay, so this blog isn't about Patron Saints (which is a good thing, because I can maybe name like three of them in total, I never claimed to be a good or even a pay-attention kind of Catholic), so let me refocus and get on with it.

I had to run a few errands today and LP1 made it clear that she did not want to go anywhere. I had a choice to make: do I force her to come along and teach her now that life is full of things we don't want to do or do I give her an incentive so that she will be happy? Easy decision. I told her that if she was very good today, we would go get ice cream on the way home. I feel compelled to note that normally LP1 is very well-behaved and we rarely have any problems when we go out but today she was a little off and there was the potential for meltdown, so the ice cream incentive was just insurance on my part. And of course, she was perfectly well-behaved the entire time we were out. I had visions of cruising through the drive-through at McDonalds for some ice cream but LP1 had fixed her sights on pink ice cream. Life is short. Every now and then you should be able to eat pink ice cream. The best pink ice cream is at Stoney Creek Dairy. We had nowhere to be and no real agenda. Time for a trip to the Dairy.

LP1 got her pink ice cream (cotton candy flavour, in case you were wondering) and I had some birthday cake ice cream (tastes exactly like birthday cake & icing, complete with chunks of cake). LP2 tends to believe that if I am eating something, he should be eating it, too, and was quite vocal about it today. As he has had a few tiny spoonfuls of ice cream in the past, I shared some of mine with him. He was thoroughly enjoying it...until he suddenly leaned forward and threw up all of the ice cream I had just given him. If you were hanging out with some friends, eating some ice cream, and one of your friends just leaned forward, projectile vomited and then continued to go about his business, totally unaffected, I think you would find that odd. When the LP do this, I never know what to do at first. I think I can count on one hand the number of times LP2 has been sick, so we tend to find it more alarming than when LP1 would do the same thing (Daddy learned quickly to put on a dress shirt AFTER picking her up to say goodbye each morning). As he was his usual happy self, with no fever or other signs of distress, I decided it just didn't agree with him for some reason and we carried on.

The LP went down for naps after we got home and I began to attack the crawlspace (and find my wallet). When LP1 arose from her sleep, she found a package of balloons. She lost no time in asking me to blow up some "banoons" for her. Once LP2 was up, I obliged and it wasn't long before the three of us  were batting them around. I did the old "blow-the-balloon-up-and-release-it-in-your-face" trick. LP1 liked having the air rush out and ruffle her hair. LP2 thought this was blatantly ridiculous and was not a fan. We threw the balloons around, rubbed them on our hair, hit each other in the face with them and just sat and examined them in detail. I think all three of us were having fun with them. 

One of the balloons rolled over to the vent in the floor. As the air conditioning was on, the rush of air coming out of the vent lifted the balloon up. Both LP were enchanted by this. "Magic!", LP1 declared breathlessly. They sat and just watched the balloon hovering in the air for some time. And when another balloon rolled over and was blasted up? Double magic.

The magic banoon. LP1 continued to check it throughout the rest of the day and was still watching it at bedtime. I love seeing the world through their eyes. 

When we got bored of playing with the balloons, I started throwing them up into the ceiling fan. This was also a great source of entertainment. How far would the ceiling fan throw the balloon? If only we could have taken bets...maybe in a few years. I'll roll them for all the change in the their piggy banks. Eventually LP1 broke a balloon while sitting on it and they got tired of playing with balloons and turned their attention to other things, like destroying LP1's room. It was at this point that we went outside to play.

Balloons aren't the most elaborate thing to play with, I know. But they make the LP happy and while we were playing with them, everything around us stopped. I didn't care about what I had to do next. I wasn't worried about making a mess. I just sat on the floor and did silly things so I could hear them laugh. Sometimes that's enough.

Monday, August 15, 2011

New Thing #30: Walking and Talking with Auntie K

Top 'o' the Monday to you! How was the weekend? We had a simply wonderful time camping with Auntie K, Uncle L, Auntie J, and Uncle M. There was much laughter, family time and too many delicious treats. The weekend went by too fast for my liking! The LP were delighted to be camping with some of their aunties and uncles and certainly kept all of them busy. I am also very happy to report that LP2 is FINALLY cutting those teeth that we could see in his gums. He now has two little teeth slowly coming up! I don't know why I am saying "FINALLY" when (a) it is just yet another sign that my baby is not staying a baby for very long; and (b) in comparison, LP1 didn't get her first tooth until after her first birthday, so he is actually ahead of her. So yay to teeth and boo to my little guy charging his way towards becoming a big kid. At the rate he's going, he'll be walking in no time.

I know this will shock the pants right off of you, but I didn't have a definitive plan for today. Don't judge me! While I love our camping trips, they are also exhausting. I mean, sleeping on what is essentially a cushion on a board in our trailer DOES make for an excellent sleep at night, particularly when you've been up late around the campfire and the LP didn't get the memo that even though they were up waaaay past their bedtimes, they are supposed to sleep in. Once we get return from one of our weekends away, I always feel compelled to unpack everything immediately and get started on laundry. Today was dedicated to getting all the laundry done and trying to summon the energy to do something with the kids.

Fortunately, Auntie K sent me a message, asking if we would like to go for a walk. As her day was quite busy, we arranged to go after dinner. I met her at the Dieppe Veteran's Park, along the beachstrip in Hamilton. This is a different part of the trail that the LP and I went for a walk along a few weeks back. The LP were happy to see Auntie K again and we set off at a brisk pace. Once again, I forgot the camera, so I have no thrilling shots to entertain you with. Give your imagination a workout and just imagine a different stretch of the paved trail, with Lake Ontario on one side and houses of all shapes, sizes and repair on the other.

As we walked along the trail, LP1 amused us with stories about the things she was seeing. At one point, she was showing us the baby owl in her hands (an owl only she could see). We named the baby owl Hoots and eventually it flew away. Hoots went into the water for a swim. In a strange and unusual coincidence, Hoots also does not like to wear a life jacket in the water and instead prefers floaties on his wings. Surely this cannot be at all related to LP1's complete refusal to wear a life jacket whenever she is asked to at her swimming lessons. I bet if we asked we would also find out that Hoots does not like to hold onto those pool noodles, either.

LP2 was happy to look around, make contented baby noises and, later on, lean forward in the stroller to pull LP1's hair and to kick the back of her seat. Although I did not grow up with brothers and am not an expert, I am starting to think that brother behaviour is innate. We haven't shown him how to do any of these things but somehow, he knows. Perhaps it is revenge for all the times she attempts to pick him up and carry him around the house, or pushes on him while he is crawling or, my personal favourite, tries to sit on him. I don't think it will be too long before he is bigger and stronger than her...but I do hope that they will just get along well and look out for each other. Hope being the key word.

As we walked along, Auntie K and I looked at the houses and admired some of them. There was definitely variety along the path. We also dodged the usual assortment of runners, cyclists, dog-walkers, rollerbladers and two people on what appeared to be roller skis, complete with poles. Eventually we ended up near a park. Eagle Eyes in the front of the stroller spotted it immediately and politely insisted she be let out to play. We turned the LP loose on the playground. It was a really nice playground, complete with large plastic palm trees, slides, a spring-loaded see-saw and other fun things (oh, if only I had remembered the camera...keep using your imagination). Once the three little holy terrors playing there with their weary Nana had left, the LP briefly had the run of it to themselves. We let them play for awhile and then determined it was time to turn around and head back. Naturally there was a meltdown of ear-piercing proportions but we did manage to get both kids in the stroller and turn around.

The walk back seemed to take much longer than the walk there. LP2 decided he had had enough of the stroller so midway through I had to take him out to be carried while Auntie K pushed the stroller and kept LP1 amused. As usual, she did an excellent job. By the time we returned to our cars, we had walked nearly 5 kilometers. Not bad for an after-dinner stroll!


Friday, August 12, 2011

New Thing #29: Okay, so this is actually 3 days worth of posts

Many apologies (if anyone actually reads this anymore)...we've had a busy week 'round these parts and by the time I have time to sit down and post, I'm usually too tired. So this is a big catch-up post...although there aren't really any "new" things to report!

On Wednesday, Grammy and Grandpa came by for a visit. They had spent the previous ten days at the cottage and were missing the LP (and maybe, by some extension, me...but I'd put the smart money on the LP). The LP were just as excited to see them. They spent a big part of the day playing with their grandparents, having lunch together and just catching up. Once Grammy and Grandpa left, the LP went down for naps and it wasn't long after they woke up that it was time to get ready for dinner...so although we didn't do anything that falls into the category of "New Thing", I know they had a wonderful day with their grandparents.

Auntie J and Uncle M came over later in the evening on Wednesday and spent the night. Uncle M left early in the morning to attend to some things but Auntie J stayed. And believe you me, I put her to work. I had a very long to-do list and I needed someone to do what Auntie J refers to as "baby wrangling". So while I did the 4600 things that need to be done so we can go camping this weekend, cleaned up the house because Daddy's band was coming over to rehearse for an upcoming gig and got everything organized for swimming lessons, Auntie J took care of the LP. I am so grateful that she was able to do this because it allowed me to get everything I needed to accomplish done. Auntie J came with the LP and I to swimming lessons as Daddy also had a long to-do list before the band came over. Uncle M was there to watch and both LP delighted in looking over to see him. LP2 is learning how to wave hello and goodbye, so he was able to practice this from the water.

As I mentioned, we are going camping this weekend. We left early this morning in the hopes that we could get set up on the site before Daddy went to work. The plan was that Daddy would set up our camping trailer, head to work and join us at the end of the day. I was really looking forward to having a full Friday to get everything organized. It is always a mad rush to get there, unload everything and try to get the LP settled. Their dinner is always late, they get so excited about being somewhere new and getting them to go to bed is a very long process. I thought if we were there earlier, they would have more time to acclimate and relax. By some divine miracle, we were all up, ready to go and had the car packed a full three minutes before Daddy's "I want to be gone by..." time. We got to the park, checked in early, headed to our site and...someone was still on it. GRRRRR. So we dropped Daddy off at work and I've come home with the LP for a little while. Once I give them lunch and tidy up a few things, we'll try again...only this time, I'll be the one trying to set up the trailer. Say a prayer for me!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Thing #28: Making music and the noisy bear

Have you ever had one of those moments where you want to just smack yourself in the head? You know, like when you've been searching all over the house for your keys and it turns out they were in your hand the whole time? I had one of those moments today.

I have been trying to figure out how to make musical instruments for the LP. I thought it would be fun to explore sound and make some noise. I was thinking about putting dry pasta into containers for noisemakers but was worried they would figure out how to open the containers and then would eat the pasta and possibly choke. Or, in the case of the toothless LP2, hurt his gums. I have been having quite an ongoing debate with myself over how to go about this. Filling glasses with water and letting them tap on them just isn't a good idea right now. Wax paper over a comb? The old elastic-bands-over-a-kleenex box? Bashing away on pots and pans with a wooden spoon?

And then FINALLY this morning I had that "ah-ha!" moment...only it was more like a "what kind of idiot are you?" moment, complete with a smack to the head. Anyone who has ever been in our house knows where I'm going with this.

There are probably more musical instruments in our house than in some neighbourhoods. Just off the top of my head, I can think of at least 15. Yes, seven out of those fifteen fall into the category of "guitar" but still...we have more than enough things to make noise with. I think I've said before that Daddy has music in his soul and I'm pretty sure the LP do, too. They are already showing signs of an interest in music. LP1 plays the digital piano (bashes the keys, makes up songs, lays down some wicked beats) several times a day and loves to put on a show for people. She especially likes when Daddy is setting up for band practice because she takes the mic in two hands and belts out her greatest hits (Twinkle Twinkle followed by the ABCs and possibly a mashup of the two, in case you were wondering). She gets on the drums and can keep pretty good time. LP2 has lately taken to crawling over to one of the two acoustic guitars in our living room, pulling himself up and strumming on the strings. He likes the different sounds they make. When Daddy plays for him, he is fascinated. Music lessons are definitely in their futures.

Now, to be fair, I wasn't thinking about child-sized instruments in our house. It wasn't until this morning, as I was cleaning up the breakfast dishes that I suddenly realized I could probably find at least five things they can play now and that I could do it in five minutes or less. Sometimes I need to be quick with my set-up or everything goes sideways. I put both kids in LP1's room and went on a mad dash around the house. In five minutes I found most of the child-sized drum kit (minus a few drums and cymbals), an egg shaker, maracas, LP1's Barbie keyboard, a guitar that teaches about animals and numbers and the vuvuzela Auntie K brought back for me from last year's World Cup in South Africa (in case you were wondering, blowing a vuvuzela in a dog's face falls into the category of Not A Good Idea but IS a hilarious way to wake someone up). I set everything up across the floor. It didn't take long before both LP were gathered around the instruments and jamming.

The most unusual five-piece band in the world.

LP1 started out on the vuvuzela. Once she had tired of making loud noises with it and then using it as a telescope, she hit the drums for awhile and then turned her attention to the keyboard. I showed her how to play a scale. She really liked it when I used her index finger to play all the notes and did the whole "Doh, Ray, Mi" up and down the scale. We practiced that for awhile. Later in the day she would be jumping around saying "Fah So Fah...SOFA!", so I think at least a little of it stuck for her.

LP2 was immediately drawn to the egg shaker and the maracas, probably because he could hold them in his hands and make noise. He liked the different noises he could make just by the way he moved his arms. He also tested out the drums and then spent some time on the guitar. No surprise there. He would spend the rest of the day dragging the maracas around with him whenever we were in the kids' rooms.

Playing with the instruments held their attention for a long period of time. I think they liked being able to make noise in different ways. I know nothing about kindermusic or how to introduce music to the very young but I think that just letting them explore the instruments and playing with what interests them is probably a good start.

When they tired of music, LP1 wanted me to set up what she calls the "noisy bear". For her first Christmas, she received this polar bear slide toy. There are four balls that slide through a polar bear and down a penguin slide...I'm not very good at explaining things sometimes. This is what it looks like:


There is a spot on the bear where, when the balls pass over it, it triggers the bear to sing or say things. I think it is intended for babies who are about 6 to 12 months old. When LP1 first received it, she wasn't very interested in it. I kept it in her closet and would pull it out from time to time but basically forgot about it. Lately she has noticed it and keeps asking to play with it. Today I brought it out and set it up. Although LP1 is far outside of the recommended age group, she really enjoyed it. I tried to make it a little more age-appropriate by asking her to identify colours and shapes on it but really...I think she just liked playing with it. In fact, as I type this, the slide is sitting by my feet. I had to take it out of her room once she went to bed because I didn't want her staying up all night and playing with it. LP2 was also interested in it but his attention was held by the penguins that spin and flip as the balls pass through. He liked watching the balls go down the slide. Surprisingly, this also held their attention for longer than I would have imagined.

There may be some who feel that the LP have too many toys and it is quite possible that they do. But you know what? I'm starting to realize how much they enjoy playing with them and how many different uses one toy can have. And given the choice, I would rather see the LP spend a morning playing with all of their toys than sitting and watching television. It costs less, too ;)

Monday, August 8, 2011

New Thing #27: Ninky Nonk, Violet and Scout

Monday, Monday...how was your weekend? We had a great weekend here! We spent Saturday morning and the early afternoon playing outside before the LP went to Nan & Grandad's for a sleepover. They had, as usual, a wonderful time with the grandparents and their cousins, who were over, too. Daddy and I had a date night. Although we missed our LP, it was also very nice to have some time together. We reunited with the LP on Sunday and had a very enjoyable family day.

I wasn't sure what we were going to do today. We were playing in the backyard after breakfast when LP1 asked me to pull her around in the wagon. I had spent part of Saturday pulling each of the LP around the yard in the wagon. I wanted to try LP2 in it because we weren't sure if he was big enough for it. He is definitely ready for it, although at a much more sedate pace than LP1 prefers. I decided this morning to take the LP out of the backyard and onto the streets. We were ready for some serious wagoning. It didn't matter that both of them were only wearing diapers and I was in scrub pants and a tank top. I knew nobody would be out and about in our neighbourhood and I was right. I loaded them into the wagon and we went on a walk to see what we could see.

Our sweet ride...also known as "the Ninky Nonk", after a wild train on the TV show "In the Night Garden". When just LP1 is in the Ninky Nonk, I am required to run like a madwoman around the backyard, making sure there are bumps, quick turns and the ever-possible threat of tipping over. When LP2 is in the Ninky Nonk, I am like a slow donkey, pulling the wagon at a gentle pace.

It was warm and yet overcast and a perfect time for a tour 'round the hood. We were hoping we could find some other kids to have a wagon drag-race but once again, it felt as if we were the only people in the world. The LP were happy to see the neighbourhood from a different perspective than the one normally offered by the stroller. We talked about what we saw, we admired things, we looked at flowers. It was a good walk. It also gave me the chance to surreptitiously check out other people's houses. I am, and always will be, a nosy git. I like being able to look into garages and front windows as we pass by. 

We eventually returned home and LP2 went down for a nap. When he awoke, LP1 came in to say hello and discovered Scout in LP2's bed. Do you know who Scout and Violet are? Allow me to explain. Violet is a purple dog-like thing. Each of her four paws, when pressed, plays something different: happy songs, activities or questions from Violet, lullabies, and an on-off button. You can program Violet to say your child's name, favourite colour, food and animal and you can select the songs played. LP1 received Violet for her first birthday and absolutely loved her. The batteries kicked it again a little while ago and I kept forgetting to replace them, so Violet has been relegated to one corner of LP1's bed.

Scout is the boy version of Violet. He is green and does all the same things. LP2 was given Scout as a present last Christmas and this is another toy we've kept on the shelf for him. Daddy brought it down yesterday and programmed it for LP2. Unfortunately, as LP2 does not have a typical name, his name is not included in the database of names. I think this will probably be an ongoing issue for him. He won't be able to get the personalized toothbrush or placemat off the rack. We'll figure something out for him. In the meantime, Scout refers to him as "pal".  This will have to do for now.

When LP1 saw Scout in LP2's crib, she immediately went for him. I realized that the only way to prevent her from appropriating yet another of his toys was to search out batteries for Violet. I used to work at a place where they removed all the batteries from the supply closet right before back-to-school and Christmas because everyone who worked there would steal the batteries for their kids. I never understood this until we had children of our own. The battery manufacturers must be in collusion with the toy manufacturers...everything seems to require batteries and they all run out at exactly the same time, regardless of when you last changed them. I went on a battery hunt throughout the house today and after finding two in a package and taking one from a remote control, I was able to revive Violet.

I wasn't sure if LP1 would give up on playing with Scout once she saw Violet again. As soon as I turned Violet on and she heard her name, LP1 lit right up. She ran over to me. "MOMMY! VIOLET IS ALL BETTER!" she bellowed and took Violet back immediately. I gave Scout to LP2 and we all spent the next little while playing with Scout and Violet. It was really sweet to see how much both kids each enjoyed their toy in different ways. We sang songs and answered Violet and Scout's questions. Eventually LP1 wandered into her room with Violet and when I peeked in, the two of them were laying on her bed together as LP1 "read" her a story.

Violet went everywhere with LP1 for the rest of the day. LP2 was happy to play with Scout but he also had other fish to fry today, too. I'm happy that he likes Scout, though. Sometimes toys that talk can be frightening for babies. When Daddy came home today, LP1 ran to him and said, "Daddy, Mommy fixed Violet and now she can sing again." It was very sweet. 

We went for another spin in our Ninky Nonk after dinner. This walk was a little longer and we went a different way (more opportunity for covert spying). LP2 was singing to himself and didn't know where to look. He is definitely a fan of the wagon. LP1 was saying hello to people, asking questions and telling LP2 what she thought she should look at. Our second little jaunt today was just as fun for the three of us as the first.

As I was getting LP2 ready for his bath once we got home, LP1 did take Scout out of the crib. She put Scout and Violet in her shopping cart and took them for a Ninky Nonk ride around the living room. She said they were happy to be together and asked me to take a picture of them. 
They do look pretty happy to be together, don't they?


Friday, August 5, 2011

New Thing #26: Bayfront Park & a Trolley Ride

This morning I woke up and decided that today I was just going to stop "should-ing" all over myself. I was standing in the kitchen, coffee in hand, thinking "I should clean this kitchen floor and then I should go attack the bathrooms" as I watched the LP eat their breakfast. And then this little rebellious voice in my head said, "Ummm....hi. Today is a gorgeous day. See if Auntie K is available and take the kids down to Bayfront Park. The house will stay a mess but the LP will only be little for so long. And soon enough you won't have the freedom to do whatever you want with your day."

Sometimes when I listen to that little rebellious voice in my head I end up in trouble. It gets me to do things that aren't the best ideas. But today I knew this was a good idea. And so I did just what the little voice said and it wasn't long before we had picked up Auntie K and were headed down to the waterfront in Hamilton.

Bayfront Park is a large greenspace, situated right on the bay in Hamilton (see, it wasn't just a clever name). There are walking trails, a boat launch, marinas and sail clubs, a park, restaurants and even boats that cruise the harbour. There are also the usual assortment of ducks, geese, swans and other birds. I knew the LP would enjoy a visit.

We WERE looking at geese, who were just walking along, minding their geese business until a man set his dog loose on them and chased them into the water. The dog next went after the swans. As the mommy and daddy swan were protecting their baby, they weren't as easily intimidated as the geese.

We watched the geese, ducks and swans for awhile. LP2 was giggling and laughing at them. He really digs animals. LP1 wanted to go further down the docks we were standing on but after Auntie K nearly fell into the water, we decided to head for solid land. 

We went for a walk and discovered that part of the park was fenced off for Mardi Gras. Although the signage said the festival was to start today, they clearly weren't ready to begin while we were there. We did see some people making a float and while I salute their efforts, I sincerely hope nobody leans against the side of that float whenever the parade happens, because it looked like the sides would fall off. While this would be hilarious to witness, it would probably not be a happy Mardi Gras for whomever fell off the float.

Have you ever had a picture in your head of the layout of a place only to find you were greatly mistaken once you got there? In my head, the ice cream place and the William's Coffee Pub were much closer to where we had parked. In reality, it was a very long walk with two LP who were starting to get hot and hungry. Auntie K did a masterful job of keeping them distracted until we could get to our destination. 

We found the ice cream place and, after much deliberation, chose our ice cream and retired to the shade to enjoy it. LP2 is very interested in food these days and feels he should be able to try what other people are eating. As he has had a wee bite of ice cream before, I let him have some of mine...but only a bit. We didn't need any upset-stomach-diaper-blowouts today.

Two thumbs up for the ice cream at Scoops! Apparently it is made with local ingredients. I highly recommend the Black Forest Cake.

When the ice cream was gone, we continued on our walk. We stopped to look at some boats and more ducks. We strolled around and headed for the Discovery Centre. Unfortunately, the Discovery Centre is now closed. It looked like it would have been a fun place for the LP. As we were standing at the doors, LP1 turned to me and said, "Mommy, go get the keys so we can go in." I was impressed that she had worked out that we needed a key to get in and sorry to disappoint her that my keys would only open our cars and the people foolish enough to give me a spare key to their house. Somewhere along the way we lost LP2's hat.

We stopped to feed LP2. LP1 and Auntie K examined some murals that are scattered throughout the park as part of an ongoing art grant. LP1 found some puddles to splash in and amused both herself and the rest of us. I love watching how she jumps, two feet at a time, with great enthusiasm and joy, into the puddles. She makes a tremendous splash and usually creates quite a mess. That is one of the joys of childhood.

We were starting to think about leaving. I didn't think the LP would be able to handle the long walk back to the car. Fortunately, the trolley appeared. The trolley goes across the entire Bayfront area and provides interesting facts and information along the way. We had never been on it before. Given that it could get us back to the car faster than walking, we decided to hop on board. Here is a fun fact I bet you didn't know: sometimes when a kind stranger finds a hat clearly belonging to a small child, sometimes they hang it on the back of a bench in plain view. And when the owner of the hat comes past on a trolley, the trolley driver will stop the trolley so Auntie K can make a mad dash to retrieve it. LP2's hat was no longer lost.

The trolley ride was peaceful, informative and enjoyable. We departed at our parking lot and loaded up the car for home. I am so happy I listened to that rebellious little voice in my head today. It was a wonderful day in the sunshine, fresh air and near the water. I know the LP were happy to see Auntie K again, too...and so was I!

This particular trolley did NOT go "clang clang clang". Disappointing. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New Thing #25: didn't happen. Meh.

If there is one household chore I have a love-hate relationship with, it would be cleaning. In a perfect world, the house would always be spotless with minimal effort. In this world, however, it takes maximum effort just to keep our house habitable. I do not like it when the house is a mess. It makes my skin feel itchy. I don't want to mislead you, though. I don't think anyone would ever call our house immaculate...because it isn't. I think most of the time we hover on the line between "tidied up" and "clean". Every now and then we plunge into "total chaos" mode and I start to panic. And every now and then, in order to keep that scary "total chaos" mode at bay, I declare an Obsessive Cleaning Week.

Obsessive Cleaning Week is ridiculous. I know this. But still, I do it. It involves one or two rooms a day, thoroughly cleaned from ceiling to floor. Every drawer, closet and cupboard is organized, purged and cleaned. Everything is moved, vacuumed and dusted. It is exhausting. I have no idea if other people regularly clean their window screens or wash their baseboards or clean out the cutlery separator. Maybe I'm the only one who doesn't do this every time I clean. Don't get me wrong...every week our house is vacuumed, bathrooms cleaned, furniture dusted, sheets and towels changed and laundry done. Hmm. Now I'm starting to wonder if I'm just terrible at housekeeping. Well, if I am, then now you know my dirty secret. Sometimes I just dust and vacuum and say to hell with the baseboards.

Anyway...this week is an Obsessive Cleaning Week. I've been making good progress through the house. I was thinking I needed to tackle the basement today because it had become very bad down there when Daddy reminded me that his band was coming over tonight. As the band rehearses in the basement, I knew it was time to get crack-a-lackin' down there. We have a finished basement and our main tv is down there, but we spend more of our time on the main level. There are  also drums and guitars and recording equipment and amps down there. Our crawlspace is also in the basement. Things destined for the crawlspace make their way down to the basement but sometimes do not make it to their final destination. Unless I make a special effort, sometimes this area of our house only gets a pass-by in cleaning. I'll run the vacuum over most of the carpet and wipe everything down. It was due for a thorough going-over, especially with the band coming over tonight.

Most of my day was spent cleaning the basement. I ran out of time to do the activity I was planning with the LP. We did play "help Mommy tidy up" today. Mostly this involved me asking LP1 to pick something up about fifteen times in a row before she did it. I kept telling myself we would stop and do our activity once the basement was finished, once their laundry was away, once their rooms were tidied up...and then, because it is Thursday and we have swimming lessons, I was making them an early dinner and rushing around to get us all ready to go. It didn't happen.

Am I beating myself up over it? No. Why? Because we still managed to have fun. We sang and danced today. LP1 coloured all over her arms with markers. LP2 did two really amazing things: he climbed up one set of stairs entirely on his own, with no help at all from anyone and he also, in his own way, said LP1's name today! It was the sweetest, most wonderful thing to hear. My little guy certainly isn't staying little. At swimming lessons tonight, both LP were showing their comfort in the water. LP1 is trying to figure out how to swim on her own. As a result, she was showing more independence (and more tendencies to go under the water). LP1 and Daddy were working together on different tricks and techniques. LP2 and I were working on floating and kicking. I know that both Daddy and I really enjoyed this one-on-one time with them (and I probably say that every week). When we came home, I was able to spend time with each one as I put them to bed. There is nothing nicer than having a baby fall asleep in your arms. There is also nothing quite like watching "In the Night Garden" with LP1 before we read together.  We don't watch this show very often but when we do, I'm always laughing. If you don't know this show, it was designed as a way to help transition babies and young children to go to sleep. It is totally cracked out. As LP1 and I were watching it, one of our conversations went like this: "Oh no! The Tombliboos' trousers are on the Ninky Nonk with Macca Pacca! What will happen to them?" That made no sense - it was a sentence of gibberish. But so worth it to hear LP1 say "trousers".

It was a good day. Just not a day where we accomplished our New Thing. I'm starting to get that these happen every now and again. I'm not going to sweat it today. I worked up enough of a sweat in the basement. Fortunately, however, we have the gift of tomorrow to start anew. And tomorrow...tomorrow I WILL.