Monthly Archives: January 2010

Leggo my LEGO

Wheels, Wings and Wave got the crowds out to the Discovery Centre this weekend. When we left the special event for subscribed members, there was a line winding along Barrington St. waiting to get in.

Everyone came to see transportation themed LEGO creations that include the S.S. Titanic (approaching the 100th anniversary of its sinking), a space shuttle and vintage cars along with assorted trains, planes and helicopters.

There’s a Formula One car large enough for kids to sit in at the entrance. It’s sure fired to get little kids’ engines revvin’. Inside there are two six lane race tracks for legomobiles that the kids build on site. The racing ‘circuits’ are at kitty corners to each other just off the main exhibit area.

Noah was a racing fool at both stations. At the second, he assumed the starter role pulling the lever to lower the barrier that allowed the cars to start rolling down the incline. His happy smile was beaming as other racers looked to him to get things rolling. This is a fun for sure venue with the hands on racing and the gasps of wonder at the scale and precision of the incredible models.

We also met a family of three kids at the racing emporium who I had last seen on a Halifax – Ottawa flight in October. The biggest was a couple of years older than our lad. He was a sweetheart with Noah helping him reconstruct cars and opearte the race gate. Both of them had a good feeling with each other.

After about 35 minutes we mosey along to the second level to check out old favourites. There’s the big wooden truck that kids can climb in and sit behind the wheel, the sandbox with graders, dump trucks and other excellent types of heavy machinery, and the slippery and sticky at the same time bubble room.

Alexa was with us on our previous outing and tried to entice Noah into the spinning chair. It was one of her favourites as a kid. It was a convincing ‘no’ from Noah on several occasions that day. Alexa’s request must have softened him up though because he leaped into that chair and buckled his seat belt following our massive bubble fabrication party of two. It was spin city and we’re not talking politics.

We finally had to leave to go and pick up Alexa for a supper out in The Passage. I’m always happy to see her, give her a little squeeze and hear her latest news. Noah likes to tell her his own stories and play around with her cat TonTon when we drop by her place.

We’re on for at least one return visit of the LEGO exhibit. I for one would like to get in a little more racing time and go head to head with Noah – maybe a best four out of seven challenge – to determine the champion of the universe.

Thanks to the great staff who always have time to engage with the small ones and when the occasion permits to involve them in adventurous experiments like blasting off home made rockets. See you soon.

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The three bambinos

It’s -9 °C (16 °F) with wind chill this afternoon and Lila-Jeanne is out soaking up the rays. She is motionless in her car seat on the front steps leading up to the house. Mé is making sure she’s getting as much natural vitamin D as possible. Our main source is syrupy drops and Mé has determined that they are the likely culprits of some intense digestive pain that Lila has been experiencing. If the winter sky is blue and bright, we try and get her out sun worshipping.

There is no unanimity about the need for vitamin D supplements in exclusively breast fed babies. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Health Canada and our family doctor all recommend supplements for infants beginning in their first couple of months as discussed in this iVillage Q and A. Health Canada’s 2004 recommendation can be found here

We’ll continue with the supplement for the time being while monitoring for digestive pain. We’ll also be luxuriating in whatever wan winter sun we can conjure up.

The real news with Lila-Jeanne is that her smiling is on high beams now. She flashes them frequently and holds them for 10 seconds or more. She’s helping us all increase the happy quotient in a house that is already well endowed with laughter, kidding and general all around funniness, if not foolishness. If there was a Just for Laughs for kids, our guys would be headliners.

She’s also discovered her arms. That is, she knows they belong to her. Co-ordination and control of the flailers is developing slowly. She is reaching out though to touch just as we reach out to her to caress lightly, to rub and stroke and to comfort.

But best of all, she is now a conversationalist. She lies on her back gurgling and cooing away. I try to have a few exchanges with her every day. I interpret her talkativeness as commenting on the excellent cuisine she is being served, the overall superbly welcoming environment and a desire to pass on the innocent wisdom of babes in arms. It’s all happy talk with bright eyes and a sometimes protruding pointy pink tongue. This kind of talking play is an activity that I will never tire of.

Nellie has been having some socializing time with peers in group settings. As is to be expected at this age there is a lot of parallel play on the loose. I’m glad to see though that she is very confident with the other children and has no qualms about being assertive. I guess it helps when you have a brother two years older than you. She needs to be able to stake out her own ground.

Twice a week she is going to a small group that I’ve dubbed Romper Room with Diana, the leader. It’s a one hour encounter held in a small room at the local community centre. Parents stay to engage, encourage, or intercede as required.

The hour is structured with free play, crafts, storytelling, more free play and a final round of crafts. Nellie loves bouncing in the miniature inflatable jump palace with its whirring electric air pump. It’s a front end activity that’s unplugged and deflated after the first ten minutes. It’s interesting to see how the five or six children who participate all have varying levels of interest in the different activities. Their social skills, their ability to listen to instructions and their engagement in self directed play are each individualized idiosyncratic riffs. The strokes folks mantra is already going strong at the age of two.

Nellie and I have also stepped out for the first week of ‘Scuddles and Puddles’. I’m not sure what a scuddle is but I’m all in favour of inventing new words. I’ll have to ask one of the young women who direct the program when we return this week. I don’t think they mean the mining operation in Western Australia, or the web design company located who knows where.

Let’s get back on track. There are about 20 toddlers and their respective parents who come together for ‘Scuddles’. We meet in a dance studio whose 40 foot window overlooks one of the rinks in Cole Harbour Place. Inside the studio are the requisite mirrors that the young ones seem only mildly interested in. The narcissistic years are still ahead.

The kids gather in a circle for a song. On our first outing it’s Wheels on the Bus. This is a great choice for us because it is one of the handful of English songs that our Nellie knows. Who knew that Roger Daltrey laid down vocal tracks for the eponymous children’s series. Was he approached because of his original work on the 1968 tune, Magic Bus?

After the bus song, the kids disperse throughout the room to check out a variety of different play stations – a slide, a balance beam, hula hoops, tumbling mats, a rotating seat for two and the pièce de résistance, a mini, solo trampoline. Now this is an incredible improvement on any bed that Nellie-Rose has had the chance to surreptitiously jump on. This and the balance beam are the stations that get return visits.

A wrap up song in the toddlers’ circle and then it’s off to the puddle component of the program. We’re in the pool with instructors going through introductory exercises – starfish front and back, blowing bubbles and fishy in the middle. It’s all great stuff. Nellie is a floating sensation except when she’s slipping down the little yellow slide smiling her way into my outstretched arms.

Noah is a counting machine. He’s counting the days now to our next Sorel visit. There’s a January page ripped from a calendar taped to his headboard. He’s crossing off each day. At the outset, cross off time started when he went to bed. It then slid ahead to just after supper. Today, the advance continued and January 22 dropped off round about mid-afternoon.

There’s another week to go and I hope our wee boy will be able to contain himself. I predict though that by the mid week, the days will be getting checked off shortly after he wakes up in the morning. He is desperate to be in Québec, to see his grandparents and revel in the new playroom complete with toy airport. He’ll see his tante Titi too and experience a deep, snowy winter with sleigh rides and canal skating.

Skating is liberation, gliding joy. Noah is getting better with each outing. He’s still using the chair but should be ready to fly on his own any day now. He usually does a little solo step each time we’re at the rink. The distance he covers increases with each solo flight. In a couple of weeks we’ll be racing on the Rideau Canal.

We have a new landmark on our street. We have front row seats to Mt. Noah in the front yard. Our strong guy spent about 90 minutes outside redistributing snow into one central elevated location. He thoroughly enjoyed himself in the process wielding the big shovel expertly, skimming snow in pathways and pushing it to an ever expanding pile. What a lad, what a bunch, what a trio.

These last days I’ve been thinking of them as “all by myself”, “me too”, and the cooing dove. Noah is always doing things ‘all by myself’. It’s like he jumped right out of the Mercer Mayer book of the same name. There are plenty of things he can do, and do well, all by himself. The list gets longer almost every day. Sometimes it feels the time is passing way too, oh so quickly. Nell is big brother’s shadow, the ‘me too’ to all his shenanigans and adventures, to his heartbeats, to our love.

Noah is calling out tonight. He’s dreaming but I can’t reach through to his consciousness so don’t know what it’s about. I wish him a sound sleep and safe journey in his dreams. They will be in our arms again soon.

Time for an exhibition

Noah’s been heavy at the art today and with great results. First up is his most complex piece to date, There are figures, accompanying accessories and printing. It’s a thank you card for friends who brought each of our kids presents when they came for a visit earlier in the day.

THE HOCKEY THANK YOU WITH REFEREE

The referee if you can’t make him out is in the lower right hand corner with two orange pucks affixed to his arms. Above the ref and to the left is the hockey player with his stick and helmet. It’s awesome.

The second drawing is simpler and titled by Noah. It is a present from him to me.


TEMPÊTE DE GAZON/GRASS STORM

This is a tour de force, the dominant green washing across the page blocking out almost everything else. I am not sure what inspired this drawing. We played out on the lawn yesterday but most of it was under a thin coating of iced snow. Perhaps it is foreshadowing next summer’s lawnmower games. The object in the upper left hand corner is a tank. I am going to have to ask what it is doing there. Tanks are not in his general machinery vocabulary. I am little surprised to see it.

Nellie is in a strong abstract period. There’s none of that representational stuff for her. Her approach can be summarized as, ‘paper please, markers please and let me get at it’.

UNTITLED No 1

It will be like the art factory here over the next few years. Maybe some of it will rub off on me and I’ll be able to move on from my anemic stick figures, or let myself go on a walkabout away from representational reality. I’m not holding my breath though. But we should have lots of the kids’ stuff on hand. Digital cameras and scanners make it possible to capture virtually all the kids’ work. With digital memory as inexpensive as it is, the only real challenge is documenting the work – taking those photos and firing up the scanner. This generation of kids will be documented like no other.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has some great kids’ work on line as well as suggestions for art projects.

There are also a lot of ideas at Art Attack. On your mark, get set, draw………

Full body scans and other pre-school art

Mé is the one in our house who has all the arts and crafts type talent. She’s got a gift for getting the kids excited about projects they’ll create with their own hands – with a little help from maman. Really though, what’s not to be excited about when you’re let loose, after a fashion, with markers, glue, scissors, paint and a variety of mixed media materials.

Nellie and Noah both got going at a young age. Whenever Mé asks if they want to gather around the table for some bricolage, the response is always squeals of delight. For Nellie I’m sure it’s more than the crafts. It’s also the opportunities that might present themselves. Just once she’s hoping to make a clean getaway with markers, or glue that she can apply with abandon in the most inappropriate places.

Her full body scan’s earth tone swirling spirals are created with random élan. She does not brook outlines that demarcate where and where not to colour. As Queen of the Markers, Nellie is not bound by any conventions at all save the recurring messaging from both Mé and I asking her to limit her colouring to paper surfaces. Even in this she will slip, if not closely supervised, as we found earlier this week when we discovered some unmistakable Nellie markings on the family room’s cork floor.

Noah is building up quite a portfolio. A number of pieces are on loan to me for display in my office. They have a great aura about them and bring a warm smile to my face. As I was preparing for parental leave, he admonished me to ensure that I would not forget any of his bricolages in the office when I temporarily vacated. I made sure to pack them all and bring them safely home.

One of them has a particular hold one me. It’s a mixed media bird in its nest. I had this piece perched on a window ledge ready to fly away over the downtown traffic when freedom and adventure beckoned. This is my favourite work to date from his young art period. It’s an endearing sculpture that I hope to keep for ever as a reminder of his encounters with beauty, his touch of grace.

His full body scan is no slouch either, an impressive use of colour and stickers as the close up of the head depicts. This is a happy boy out under the sun. His green pants are form fitting as is everything else.

It’s no secret that most kids love this kind of creative expression, especially if it also provides them with a chance to get all messy. Why do so few carry the art bug through into their adult lives?

Kisses for K – Noah-David, 2010
Everyone in Noah’s class was exploring the art of the kiss a couple of days ago.

Nellie has just started with a toddler play group that meets twice a week. There’s something artsy or craftsy at each session.

There is plenty more art coming our way over the months and years ahead. Such is the magic of digital that we’ll be able to capture and keep files of the best creations by all the kids.

It’s a shame I didn’t have this for Kyla and Alexa. I was able to keep a few paper and ceramic treasures that may be featured here some day. I’ll have to get permission from the respective artists first.I’ll take advantage of today’s technology to create a digital archives of their best work so they’ll be able to enjoy down the road.

Thanks to Mé and all the other parents and teachers who make the time for their kids to explore and play with art materials.

Bear – crayon and
cotton ball appliqué – Nellie-Rose, 2010

Cleared for take off

She has been unceremoniously dragged out of the house, dropped at curbside and whisked away to the big chipper in the sky. Her demise signals the end of the festive season. For more than two weeks her flashing and twinkling adorned our front room – not a bad run for a Christmas tree.

We brought her home from a lot next to the Woodside Tavern. I saw her immediately as I stepped out of the car. She was the perfect shape and height, a fine South Shore balsam. The tree farmer was about my age and had been selling from this spot for over 20 years.

Christmas tree farmers had a tough year in 2007. This farmer said 2009 was looking fine, just as good as 2008. StatsCan gives a good round up of the industry in Christmas Trees… by the numbers.

Our most extraordinary gift this year was Lila-Jeanne’s arrival. Grand-maman and grand-papa drove from Sorel to share in her first holiday season and our first as a family in Eastern Passage. Then on Christmas Eve, Mélanie’s sister Stéphanie arrived out of the blue for a surprise visit that set the kids off on a goofy, giggling fest.

This was Noah’s first truly conscious year of reckoning about the Santa factor. Pre-school and the Great Christmas Concert helped to get the bells on bobsleds ringing for our lad.

Instead of a letter to Père Nöel, Noah thought he would draw pictures of the toys he would like to find under the tree. No drawing was ever created but there was lots of talk about the toys. He had a recurring request, wish, dream in the days leading up to Christmas. Car conversations frequently got stuck on the Christmas channel and went something like this.

Noah – “Papa, do you know what I want for Christmas?”

Me – “No Noah, I don’t know, what?”

What he wanted had been seared into my memory and I was still at a loss as to how we would fulfill our little lad’s burning desire.

Noah – “Papa, I want an airport for Christmas.” Pause for effect and clarification in the event that dimwitted, dullard papa is not able to grasp his intent. “Not airplanes. I don’t want airplanes papa. I want an airport. I’ll draw one for Santa.”

Me – “Making a drawing is a great idea Noah. We’ll have to wait and see what Santa brings…”

Grand-papa Raymond has found 10 small die-cast, military airplanes. He’s as psyched about giving them as he hopes Noah will be about receiving them. I’m starting to get nervous about unfulfilled expectations and a potential mach 2 burn out and crash. Noah forges ahead in the Christmas spirit.

Noah – “Nellie, what do you want for Christmas from Santa?”

NellieNellie’s head is lolling about, engaged in her own thoughts.

Noah – “Nellie, do you want an aiport?”

NellieShe’s not biting. A light, insouciant silence says it all.

Noah – “A farm Nellie? Nellie, a farm? Do you want Santa to bring you a farm?”

Nellie – “Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay.”

It’s Nellie’s inimitable drawl. I interpret it loosely as, “Well sure, don’t mind if I do. It sounds like a good idea. I’d love a farm.” Our girl can pack a lot into a couple of syllables.

Noah – “Ok Nellie, ok. We’ll tell Santa Nellie.”

Noah takes on his sweet, worldly, older brother persona. It’s like he will intercede on Nellie’s behalf to make sure that farm, a barnyard of animals and a winter’s worth of hay are stuffed into Santa’s sack of presents.

He is after all getting pretty savvy. He saw Santa up close and personal at least twice within a week and walked away with prezzies both times. He asks the right questions too. Noah wants to make sure he’s getting the whole picture. Following Santa’s visit to the staff Christmas party for kids he looked up at me with inquiring eyes and asked, “Papa, where are the reindeer?” I told him they were on the roof of the building. At four, when your papa tells you something like this, it’s totally plausible. He looked at me as if to say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

On Christmas Eve just before 23h00 we start making reindeer sound effects – hooves clacking on roofs, and bells jingling. The kids don’t hear a thing. We have to go in and wake them up. It doesn’t take them too long to come around after we tell them that Santa has just left. Paper is exuberantly ripped off gifts resulting in ooooos and ahhhhhhhs. I’m sure that the two of them would be doing backflips if they were able to.

The airplanes were unwrapped with a wow. After the under the tree presents, Noah was introduced to the Aéroport d’amour. This airport was handmade with boxes, construction paper and a red flashing safety button that was clipped on to the control tower. Mé and Stéphanies’s two runway creation was a smash hit. About a week after Christmas Noah outs with, “Santa Claus has children, papa.” I didn’t quite understand at first and asked him to repeat. “Papa,” he said, “I know Santa has kids because there were some on the box.” The main terminal of Aéroport d’amour was a diaper box in a former life!

The tree is gone. The lights are coming down. Pre-school is back. The holidays are fading. Already, Noah is counting down the days to our trip to Sorel – the original home of the Christmas tree in North America – and winter carnival fantasia.

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