Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Any Questions?

"Does anyone have any questions for us?"

Oh boy.

That's usually what we hear at the end of a children's workshop, storytime, performance or presentation. Maybe we've just finished a tour at the Humane Society, or listened to a lovely theatre performance.

Surely the kids must be brimming with questions for the performers! Surely they want more detail on something inspiring that was just explained to them!

They are excited, alright. Excited to tell you how this all relates to their own lives.

I've taught Kindergaten long enough and taken the kids on enough homeschool workshops to know "any questions" is universally interpreted as "and now you may tell something neat about yourself that may or may not be related to the past 45 minutes". Perhaps they have the same scissors at their house! Or were a baby once! Then all their friends need to also chime in to say that, ooh ooh, they, too, were babies once! Then mayhem ensues.

Any time I've insisted that they can raise their hands only for questions, they have to get creative.



Ah well, it's a start. They're participating.



Monday, May 21, 2018

Machine de Cirque at the OICF

I was delighted to be invited for the fourth year in a row to bring my family to a show at the Ottawa International Children's Festival. This year was the 33rd for the festival, which celebrates the best in live performing arts for children.

In addition to the myriad activities for kids on the grounds, the variety of top-notch shows from around the world makes the festival second to none. This year we saw Machine de Cirque, a five-man acrobatic troupe from Qu├ębec City. The premise of the show is that they are the only people left in a post-apocalyptic world and have to survive on ingenuity and spare parts. The set includes a two-storey high scaffold equipped with trap doors, sliding panels, pulleys and trapezes. There are poles, cycles and a teeterboard as well.



The performers climbed, flipped and held each other up like it was effortless. So many times I was thinking "I don't know where to look" because there were so many acrobatic feats being performed at once. The crowd would burst out in laughter, and I'd realized I'd missed something.

Other times I was thinking of the precision and coordination required; how any one performer's high-risk act required the other four to be exactly on cue in order to avoid catastrophe, which was stunning on its own. One false move and someone's on his face.



Thirdly, I had remind myself every so often that the accompanying music wasn't a pre-recorded sound track, but was actually being played by one of the performers using items like tubes, drums (with juggling pins for sticks), buckets, a keyboard (I think?) and a giant pan flute he whacked with a paddle, often while simultaneously contributing to the visual comedy. The music added to the suspense and humour.

And humourous it was. The kids' minds were blown every time they thought the consecutive unicycles couldn't get any taller, but they DID. There was also a mock date scene that involved bringing my neighbour up on stage, and let's just say I've never seen people play the roles of the stage props quite like this. (You had to be there, I think)
Oh yes, there's an even taller unicycle. 

And then, of course, the famous towel scene. The guys all end up in nothing but bath towels, and there are a bunch of really close calls as they flip the towels, drop them, trade them and trip over each other, all while in a state of faux-panic about staying decent. I had to shush my kids from enthusiastic commentary and questions, but luckily the crowd's roars of laughter drowned them out for the most part.
3 towels vs. 1 towel

It's mostly a nonverbal show, except for the odd outburst in French or the little "Tout nu, tout nu, Tout NU!" song they sing while conga-ing around in aforementioned towels. That gem stuck with my kids and is a favourite song here at home this week. Just one of the many ways these performances inspire our youth, y'know?

The show was 90 minutes long, and it held everyone's attention until the very end with its impressive acrobatics and comedic visuals. We were all so wired on the way home from the show raving about our favourite parts, I didn't know if the kids would be able to get to sleep. Another memorable year at the OICF!



Friday, May 04, 2018

Being a Xennial Parent- Also, a Contest!

I'm apparently of the "Xennial" micro-generation (Finally, I've felt so lost without a designation for years), which means that I was born in the late-70s-early-80s range. Not quite Gen X, not quite Millennial. We grew up with an analog childhood and a digital adulthood (Atari and Super Mario Bros doesn't count, I guess? Pfft). It's true, I suppose; I didn't get an e-mail account until I was in university. My teenage life was free of ICQ and Instagram.

So, being the nostalgia fiend that I am, I sometimes I like to blow my kids' minds with stories of life back in Stranger Things times: Home phone lines! No Googling! Cameras with no view screen and 24-exposure film and photo counters! Renting movies from an actual store! Having to rent a giant camcorder from Ron's TV and Video once a year to record home movies!

And how about: Having to plan ahead to watch a show "when it's on"!

In our house, we don't have cable (I know it still exists), so the kids don't know what it's like to come home on Friday afternoon and know your choice of after-school show is The Monchhichis or nothing. The kids are only used to YouTube and Netflix, and all the choice and instant gratification that comes with it, they had a bit of a culture shock when we stayed at a hotel with old-fashioned cable TV:



The humanity. At least it wasn't the Monchhichis, but I'm sure they wonder how we managed.

______________

CONTEST: Win a Family Pass to a show at the Children's Festival!

The Ottawa International Children's Festival is coming up once again, May 11-15! My family and I have been the past 3 years and are delighted to have been invited to go and review the experience once again. 


It's "an extravaganza of the finest quality theatre, dance and music for young audiences" and "the only annual festival of its kind in Ontario to offer international, live performing arts for families". There are always lots of activities to do onsite as well, including a rock-climbing wall and Instrument petting zoo. 


This year, Fred Penner will be performing, for all you fellow Xennial parents nostalgic to see a childhood favourite. Will he sing "Sandwiches"? Check out the rest of the program here.

Want to win a family pass to a show at the OICF? Comment below and tell us what show you'd take your family to... or, tell me about your "generation gap" experience with your kids, whether or not you're a Xennial. One winner will be picked on May 7. 




Sunday, March 18, 2018

Them's Fightin' Words

My boys are best buddies. They really have fun together and look out for each other.

Oh, sure, they fight sometimes. But when they do, it's always about something significant and worthwhile.

Like this actual conversation I witnessed, on the topic of the alternate lyrics of "Happy Birthday":


click to enlarge


(Note: On the inside, I was also thinking about how, technically, it's "And you SMELL like one, too", but I'm not bringing it up because someone has to be the adult here).

When kids fight over seemingly trivial stuff, there's usually a bigger underlying reason. Like in the old Dr. Phil episodes (and maybe the current ones, I don't know), when a couple is fighting about buying chicken, he says usually it's not about the chicken.

I have found the theme that elevates these scuffles is as follows:
Big Bro: I like rules, and you need to follow rules, and I'm right and you need to acknowledge that.
Little Bro: I make my own rules.

It's kind of like a comments section debate (except they're actually kids, so it's not so bad).

So, to establish his position as the right one in the argument, Big Bro launches into a song to the tune of Jingle Bells as follows:
"Right-right-right, right-right-right..." 

All the while Little Bro is screaming "NO YOU'RE NOT".

I'm impressed with the problem-solving skills I've fostered in them to this point. #proudmommoment

I interrupt with something long and wordy about how he's said what he wants to say and can know where he stands and it's only making people upset and screaming is only for emergencies...

Big Bro sees I have valid points, but also just has to get in that last line of the "right right right" theme song, punctuated by a cymbal crash of "NO" followed by another attempted round of fisticuffs.

I never fought over silly stuff like that with my siblings... did I?

*Exhibit A: cartoon circa 1992; my brother and me doing the dishes*



Disclaimer: Some teenage artistic licence used. Also, how about those earrings?

Ooh, that smug routine would make me SO MAD!

But, like my own boys, we'd be friends again five minutes later.

Whoops, gotta go, I hear a feud brewing over whether the colour "golden yellow" exists.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Surprise...

"I'm like a vault, baby; locked down."
- Will Smith, Hitch

Kids love keeping exciting secrets, like others' Christmas presents. Well, all except actually keeping the secret.

When I was a small child at Christmas, my dad came home and I immediately announced that I couldn't tell him what his present was, 'cause it was PURPLE SLIPPERS WITH NO FLOWERS ON THEM.
Sorry, Ma.

Fast forward to the new generation. I brought the boys to help buy a present for their dad. Spoiler: it's a thermos with a cup on top. (I daresay *I* didn't spoil it, though).

So we're at Canadian Tire and the kids are giddy with delight at being in on this clandestine operation (cue Mission: Impossible music). They were a great help, though I had to steer them away from the idea that a Bubba Keg-sized thermos would be an EXTRA great surprise.

On the way home, the car is full of adrenaline as the kids clutch the purchase and discuss the best hiding spot, which cannot be somewhere boring like in a drawer because Dad might just get a new and sudden urge to root through random drawers, and we can't risk that.

Dad won't be home for 2 hours, but time is of the essence. We gotta get this thing in the house, or all will be lost.



So because buzzkill Mom won't get out the ladder for them to climb to the attic, they decide on a drawer, but to be doubly sure that Dad doesn't stumble upon it in his random drawer-snooping activities, they make a big sign with his face with a line through it. There.


Now all they need to do is keep it secret for 2 weeks.

(Later that day: )


*sigh* Like a vault, baby. Locked down.

Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

First Date Problems

Anytime someone tells me, "I hate driving in downtown Ottawa", I tell them the story of Hubs' and my first date, 11 years ago this week.

I was living and working five hours north of the city in Val-d'Or, smallish-town Quebec. But I got down to Ottawa often, to see family and such. Therefore, it wasn't such a stretch on a Christmas-shopping-in-the-city visit to agree to a coffee date with that handsome French-Canadian computer scientist I met online. (We'd see if he was really 6' tall like he claimed... )

I was supposed to meet him at  a coffee shop in the Byward Market. I was not familiar with downtown and neither of us owned a cell phone, but I was armed with a Mapquest printout and a plan to swoop into the market, find a close parking spot, and show up all cool and collected at the coffee shop for 3:00 p.m.

Ottawa's roads had other plans for this out-of-town chump.

Sure, it's not the white-knuckled insanity of, say, Montreal, so don't roll your eyes too hard... but you really need to know what lanes go where, what lanes end, and where you can turn or not, and there are a lot of surprises for anyone not familiar with the routine.
For instance, you're heading north along Nicholas, thinking "I'll just keep straight, here in my right lane, and turn right on Rideau", and then the street's all "LOL NOPE" when your lane suddenly ends and you're exiting on some random side street instead.

So anyway, on that day in '06, things were not going well.


Yeah, I ended up pretty far from where I was trying to be.

Hubs told me that he figured he was being stood up (those online dates are so flaky) and was about to leave. Just then I burst in, 20 minutes late, all red-faced after power-walking four blocks. Whew! Future saved. Kids reappearing in the photo. So much for a dignified entry, though.

He offered me some of his ginger cookie, but I was too busy being embarrassed to take any. It was overall a pretty good date though.

I know the downtown pretty well now, having lived here ten years (you'd hope). It's a lot easier when you know what lane you'll need to be in and what roads can be taken where, but every so often in a new area Hubs or I find ourselves up against a traffic surprise and taking an unintended scenic route. It's those times I turn to him and say, "See? THAT'S why I was late."

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Rowdy. You Don't Say

I'm not a fan of those "open letter" posts, where the person does nothing in the moment, but then goes home and rants online like they're all tough and making a difference. 

But if I were the type to write an open letter-style post, it might be titled something like this:

AN OPEN LETTER TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHO GET THE KIDS ALL WOUND UP AND THEN WONDER WHY THEY'RE SO ROWDY

Before we visit people or have guests over, we often have a chat with the kids about what it means to be a good guest or a good host, and the kids are all set to rise to the occasion. 

But then the evening starts.

It's great when family and friends take interest in the kids and take time to connect with them. I love that, and so do the kids. 
Sometimes there's extreme connecting, in ways they know kids will enjoy: goofy jokes, wrestling, tickle fights, flips over the shoulder and all-around rowdies. Good times had by all, no arguments there. Shrieking good times. 


DISCLAIMER: Cartoon does not depict real-life friend or family member. The kids are more or less real though.

But then! Then the family member or friend decides he or she has had enough for now and is ready to settle in interact with adults.





But the kids don't get that memo. They're SENT the memo, several memos, in fact, but they're so worked up by the attention, the new audience, the new person to find their antics funny, that they're not quite done with shenanigans.


That includes jokes that were funny half an hour ago, especially wink-wink ones that are out of the normal range of appropriateness. I hope you're ready to hear that fart machine until well past 7 if you bring it out for some giggles at 5, because jokes don't get old for kids. On the contrary! 


So here I am, wrangling them like greased pigs to send them out in the yard to do some laps because the adults would like to have time to talk about something other than butts for a while.


And THEN I come back in all dishevelled and the aforementioned friend or family member is swirling their wine and remarking:


NEED I REMIND YOU, I'd say in all caps in my open letter, that you are the one who got them all wound up and then retired to the living room to let me peel them off the ceiling at my leisure!

I mean, all I'm saying is, thanks for being so fun, but if you're going to be a human rodeo, don't make sideways 'kids these days" eyes at me ten minutes later while you're trying to drink your wine in peace.