Friday, August 05, 2016

Good Times Near the Playground

This summer, we're making the rounds to check out all the "must-see" playgrounds in Ottawa. Parks with splash pads, parks with giant climbing structures, and parks with two-storey tube slides have made the list.

I don't know about yours, but my kids always seem to prefer playgrounds with a bike rack on site.

Sometimes they just prefer the bike rack, period. I can't get 'em to move on. Take that, really cool rock-climbing wall and spider-web rope thingy. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Notes from a Five-Year-Old

Five-year-old Big Bro is making great strides with reading and writing. He never ceases to find an opportunity to write these days, be it making a book or adding CHES!! to the grocery list ("cheese", FYI; exclamation marks to illustrate urgency).

Why, just the other Saturday morning, he he made a "Don't wake up Mama" sign to stick on the door (the kids fought loudly over who was going to hang it up. Note the irony).

I love kid writing. He writes notes to his friends, pen-pal style or via stealth doorstep delivery. To remedy the issue of squirrels eating from our berry plants, he wrote "NO SKROS" and stuck it on the planter pot. Those greedy so-and-sos can't read beginner writing, it seems, but I appreciated the effort.

He also writes notes for me, which is fun. Being a former Kindergarten teacher, I'm pretty good at deciphering five-year-olds' writing, but sometimes I'm caught off guard.

HEY! Who are you calling a-- oh. wait a minute.

Sometimes I can't figure it out, I admit. I try the "tell me about what you've written on the board!" bit.
"Well, read it, Mama."

OK. I can do this...


Don't. Don't something... iskem is ice cream? Ice cream sam... sam-wich. Don't FORGET ICE CREAM SANDWICHES! Yess! I feel like I've just won the round on Bumper Stumpers.

And now I'd better not forget ice cream sandwiches on the next grocery trip. It's in writing.

And lest I get too sentimental about his adorable hug notes, I'll tell you about the time he couldn't contain his mirth when he passed me a note that said "STIK" on the outside (with a drawing of a skunk), and giant letters saying "POP" on the inside. THAT one I deciphered right away. Call it a gift. I'm sure you can figure it out, too.

Kids will learn to write when it's meaningful and relevant to them... and it doesn't get more relevant and meaningful than that.


I've been asked to mention an event coming up to raise money for Fort McMurray. I'm happy to oblige, especially where Fort Mac is sometimes known as "The Maritimes of the North". A lot of my fellow East-Coasters are/were up there.

Here's a description of the family event being held here in Ottawa, called Fort Pizza (just the name makes me want to check it out!). Kind of short notice, but if Thursday's  your family's pizza night like it is ours, this might be where you want to go!

"Enjoy a family friendly evening including princesses, magicians, a silent auction, karaoke and more. Each ticket comes with a salad and pizza meal. Tickets are $20 and $10 from each tickets goes to the Red Cross for Fort McMurray. Families may arrive to each anytime from 5pm-9pm with a DJ appearing at 8pm. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling (613) 226-3374 or emailing

Friday, June 10, 2016

Wakey, Wakey

I do  love seeing my kids' shining little faces each morning. But sometimes, particularly lately where the early June sunrise means "it's daytime, Mama" as of 5 a.m., it's also nice to dream of a bit of time to come to terms with reality first.

Every so often, I get a teaser.

Nice try, Mama. Oh well, I probably would've spent the whole time trying to decide how best to savour it anyway.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Eric Litwin Live! at the OICF

Polka-dot doo doo doooo... Polka-dot pants, polka-dot pants...

Sorry. Just saw Eric Litwin live at the Ottawa International Children's Festival, and I'm still dancing around to that number.

I think most people with little kids know who Eric Litwin is. His best-selling Pete the Cat books (the first four in the series) sit on most Kindergarten shelves, and they were most definitely in our must-have-in-family-library list. Homemade felt Petes are found at every playgroup and library storytime. We just became familiar with the Nut Family stories, which are just as much fun. As with the reading of any Litwin books, you must play the accompanying audio (CD or link) to hear him read and sing for for the full experience. They aren't just books, but interactive performances.

So when the Ottawa International Children's Festival invited me to take the family to a show in exchange for a review, we had to go with Eric Litwin Live. It was a tough decision; The festival features many award-winning acts from around the world, some that have appeared at Just For Laughs or even Broadway. The Box Brothers and Raw Metal looked pretty great too, but Litwin's books are such a staple in our kids' lives, and we were sure he'd put on a fun show.

From the moment we arrived, I knew it would be a good time because he asked the families to sit together. We've been to shows where the kids sit up front and parents hover in the back like Junior High Dance chaperones, but this was going to be a family affair. The kids liked that as much as we did. So we all piled on one blanket in the front row that cold Sunday morning, the kids in their polka-dot pants. Though it was chilly in the tent, we warmed up fast when Mr. Eric had us seat a kid on our lap ("preferably one you know", he advised) and chuck them in the air as he sang and played guitar. Big Bro was especially enticed by the offer of bonus points for hitting the tent ceiling.

Mr. Eric sat down with a few families before the show and showed us his some of his upcoming book, Groovy Joe, which he narrated later in the show with the usual audience participation. As always, it's easy to join in even if it's the first time hearing the story. Note to self: Add Groovy Joe to the must-read list this September.

We were also treated to an old favourite, Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons, only with some artistic license. I've never considered channeling Metallica while singing "still have my bellybutton".

Litwin often got the kids in on teasing their parents, which the kids enjoyed. This included having them lecture us on how children learn to read best through more than just sight words and phonetics (!).

What's this, now? You see, Mr. Litwin is a "recovering teacher", as he put it, who noticed that his Grade 3 students didn't love to read like young kids do, and believes it's largely due to the way reading is taught. Eventually he left teaching and began working on kids' books that incorporate multisensory techniques such as movement, music, repetition, call-and-response and rhymes-- all stuff that keeps kids interested when they might otherwise lose their attention and start pouncing on their older brother (not that I have experience with that).

If I may be serious for a moment: Also being a former teacher who saw the difference between the enthusiastic Kindergartners I taught and the disillusioned ten-year-olds, I know exactly what he's talking about and find this whole background story really interesting. I'm also the parent of two boys, so I know well how kids need to move, as I've written about before.  

And move they did! Big Bro even got to join Mr. Eric and a few other kids on stage to dance in his Polka-dot pants.

Eric Litwin knows what makes the kids light up. Anytime I glanced over my shoulder, every kid on his or her parents' lap was singing along or roaring with laughter, and usually the parents were, too (we got our fair share of wink-wink jokes). My kids said their favourite part was the nutty song where words were replaced by blowing giant raspberries. You had to be there, but it was hilarious. 

I imagine every performance leaves parents and teachers noting down the next books to get when they see how much the kids love them. 

What a treat it is to have the Children's Festival in our own backyard (Ottawa, I mean), to get to see live performances like these made for kids and their families. We'll be singing nutty songs and doing the Polka-Dot Pants Dance for weeks to come. 

Sunday, May 08, 2016

"Now, Get One with Me in It"

This is the scenario I envision when my kids look back at our family pictures in future years.

It's because, like many moms, I am always the one taking the picture. I love taking pictures. Everything around me looks beautiful or adorable or hilarious; something that we'll want to look at fondly later. So I'm always running out of storage space on my phone due to my snap-happy tendencies.

Hubs, on the other hand, prefers just to enjoy the moment (what's up with that?). He has about 20 pictures total on his phone, and I probably took a good chunk of them. He will gladly take a picture if asked, but he doesn't have the urge to preserve everything like I do.

Fair enough. But that means, if I'm not paying attention, that we'll have several outings where I don't show up in the pictures. Not that I photograph particularly well or enjoy gazing upon myself (I've certainly taken some scary selfies), but I do like having the occasional record that I, too, was there, and had a hand in contributing to the family adventure. 

Given that, my options are:

1. Secretly hope that Hubs will develop an overwhelming new urge to take pictures;

2. Sit and eat worms, stewing about how one day I'll be dead and they'll have no record of what I looked like, and then won't they be sorry they didn't offer to get me in a picture when they had the chance;

3. Hand him the camera and say "now get one with me" every so often.

I usually go with option 3. 

A few weeks ago, we took the kids to Great Wolf Lodge, a fabulous indoor water park resort near Niagara Falls. After two days, I realized we had a great collection of dad-and-kid precious moments, but I hadn't shown up yet. So, I handed hubs the camera and went to stand beside Little Bro atop the kiddie slide.

There. Now we'll all know I was there. I brought the camera back to the hotel room and resumed good times at the water park. 

Later, I go back and scroll through the pictures. Here was the one picture with me in it.

It couldn't have been better if it were done on purpose.

I burst out laughing and told Hubs he had to let me turn this into a cartoon. He's a good sport, so with his permission, I present to you the memory of the vacation where we'll know at least my legs were there. That's going in the album. 

Happy Mothers Day to all you moms out there. Make sure you get in the pictures sometimes... even if it's only half of you. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

"Ten Minutes Earlier"... And Some Updates

OK, so if you read my last post, you know the Bros are all about their stuffed buddies these days (which includes, but is not limited to, Beanie Boos).

These stuffies often want to join us on outings. This makes getting out the door even more efficient, she said sarcastically, as the kids scramble to find Puffin. Puffin really wants to come grocery shopping, too. We can't leave without Puffin!

Do anyone else's kids take their buddies out in makeshift carriers? I don't mean a backpack. I mean, like, sitting in one of your shoes (What! Not more shoe adventures!). Medium Owl, as named by Little Bro, has come on bike rides nestled in one of my rubber boots. Lamb came to the doctor's office in Hubs's shoe. You had to leave your wet boots on the tray in the hall, so anyone coming out would have found a lone men's shoe and maybe wondered what that was about, unless they had seen the kid in the waiting room with the lamb and said, "Ah, I bet it was used to transport the lamb." At least Lamb is considerate of the doctor's office policy.

But I digress. The main theme here is that we seldom go anywhere without a stuffed tag-along. Problems with buddies accompanying us only arise when the kids decide they're not as keen to hold onto them for the whole outing. In those cases, guess who ends up with a giraffe in her pocket, or better:

Yeah, he lasted about 2 minutes. Oh well, everyone does the scarf thing anyway, right? So I figure I was pretty stylin' on our trip to Dollarama. Don't be jealous.


PS: Guess who's back for the THIRD year in a row at Blog Out Loud 2016! Me, that's who. And a bunch of other great Ottawa-area bloggers; some whom I've heard of (or heard read before), and others that will be new and exciting. It takes place Sunday, April 17th at 2 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral. I take it as a great compliment to have been chosen yet again, because if it's like the last two years, I'll be in great company. Come see us!

PPS: Guess who also gets to take the fam to the Ottawa Children's Festival 2016 (May 10-15) to see and review a show! Me again! It was hard to pick which show we wanted. I am very intrigued by the Box Brothers, but my kids love Eric Litwin's Pete the Cat readings. So we'll be going to see him, I think. It promises to be a good time! I can't wait to check out the Dot Maze, too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Boys and the Beanie Boos

 I love it when kids show their caring and nurturing side-- boys as well as girls. Though girls are often the ones seen more readily cradling and tucking in their toys/remote control/produce, boys have it in them, too. (And, also, future potential dads and whatnot, so let's encourage it).

Though my kids have often taken the typical "boy approach" with toys that means the dollhouse becomes a four-storey parking garage, they have a soft spot for their Beanie Boos, too.

What are Beanie Boos, you ask? Oh, you know what they are. If you've ever been out in public in any retail area, you've seen Beanie Boos staring at you with their enormous, sparkly, post-insanity-pepper/toad-licking pupils. Cute as buttons, they are, and they come in more varieties of critters and colours than you can cram onto a twin bed.

My kids have some of the monkeys (with extensive backstories) and family of owls which is lovingly packed in Little Bro's backpack for outings. Every time we pass a Beanie Boo display in the mall, the boys are drawn to it like moths to a flame, looking for a new buddy to build Magna-Tile homes for or to take on a holiday in the camper van.

Then it's Game Over for me. It's my Kryptonite. They could have hundreds of the damn things. But there is just no way I can refuse when they pick up a googly-eyed baby seal and squeal with delight as they hug it vigorously; when they show me the unicorn they know would just love to join the purple lambs at the next plastic-food picnic. Look at them being all nurturing and affectionate. Argh, I can't stand it. Take all my money.

(PS: Three guesses who Big Bro got the line "so cute I could burst" from... )