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.

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