Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Advent Calendars

My mom got the kids those cardboard advent calendars with the chocolate in them (still wondering where mine is, Ma!). 

The idea is that you open the door numbered with the current date and have a little chocolate treat each day in December right up until Christmas Eve.

Some kids actually follow the plan. Some, not so much. 

(also add December 3 denial that it was all eaten)

Which one are you?

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Candy Cane Problems

I can't unwrap candy canes without breaking them.

Who cares, right? Tastes the same.

Not to kids, it doesn't. It tastes like minty disappointment. There's no greater ruiner than she who was entrusted with a new candy cane and broke it, and no one more insulted than he whose brother managed to get an intact one.

Gingerly peeling the plastic off a candy cane while your 3-year-old breathes down your neck feels much like those people in the movies with the wire cutters attempting to diffuse a bomb.

And if you fail, the results are also comparable.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Big Boots

Purchasing footwear for kids is always a great reminder of how fast kids are growing. "I can't believe it," we say as they tromp around in their new boots.

Well, believe it. They had these adorable little round kid boots last year, and now they have these giant monster truck-tire jobbies with velcro (bought from the OTHER side of Kiddie Kobbler).

I get all faux-traumatized (well, maybe a bit for real), then I remind myself that they sell them large so the kids can grow into them over the winter.

I also remind myself that one day, the shoe tray in the entryway will look like this

and when that day comes, their old Kiddie Kobbler boots will seem still pretty tiny after all.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Family Game Night

We have a decent collection of board games, mostly from the days when we'd get together with friends for "game nights". Nowadays, Hubs and I occasionally enjoy a game of Dominion or Lost Cities when we go wild and try something other than Netflix. 

Board games are fun. We look forward to playing many a board game with our sons, too. 

Not sure when that'll be, though. Big Bro has liked board games since ever. Little Bro does too, but it's a different kind of "like".

As in, "I like to make my own rules",  More of a monkey-wrenchy, sabotagey kind of like.

Family Game Night, circa 2016.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The "Sugar High" Myth

Here's a fun fact to follow up on Halloween candy overload:

Did you know that the "sugar high" is not a thing?

I admittedly sometimes feel skeptical, especially after a night like tonight spending a good hour being mauled by my two rowdy, KitKat-filled post-trick-or-treaters dressed as blanket ghosts.

But, according to research (and this isn't new), an overload of Halloween candy (etc.) doesn't actually make kids into wild baboons. It's the excitement of the day, or parents' expectation of a sugar high that makes it seem related. We see it because we are looking for it.

So how do you like that? The correlation between sugar and craziness was all in your imagination. So when your kids are having a post-Snickers swing from the curtains, or doing donkey kicks in the tub... all in your imagination.

I have quite the imagination sometimes, it seems.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bricks 4 Kidz

What if I told you there was a program starting up near you where kids can learn STEM concepts and skills year-round by constructing machines, buildings, vehicles and other projects with LEGO bricks?

You'd say you want to be a kid again? Me, too!

Big Bro and I were invited to a sneak peek of the Bricks 4 Kidz program, which will be part of the soon-to-open Club Square facility in Kanata. Club Square will feature zones for coding and online gaming, cooking, arts and crafts, and science activities.

Don't get your shoes on yet; it's not due to open until later this fall. But we got to try a sample workshop, and here's what it was like:

The instructor, with a strong background in programming and robotics, led a short interactive lesson on gears. Big Bro was anxious to get to the hands-on part ("I'm ready to build now!" he'd announce every so often).

Soon enough, the kids were handed a toolbox of parts and bricks, along with a tablet featuring step-by-step instructions much like the leaflets you get with Lego sets.
Yes. This is what I'm talkin' about. 

Using gears and a motor, the kids made a 'Paper Crinkler" and "Plate Spinner". These were two of the (over 300!)  proprietary projects designed by engineers, architects and teachers for Bricks 4 Kidz.

What was really cool to see (besides the machines put in motion, of course) was how the activity appealed to a wide age range. At 5-and-a-half, Big Bro was by far the youngest, so he needed some parental help, which I was happy to contribute, but he really enjoyed the project. Watching the plate spin, he was brainstorming all kinds of inventions that he could use it for (Dusting? Brushing teeth? Passing out snacks?). The older kids, aged 11 and 15, started modifying their machines, making all kinds of elaborate inventions, even disappearing into the hall at one point to test them out. How often do you find a workshop that appeals to a 5-year-old and a 15-year-old all at once?

Big Bro's only two beefs were that he couldn't take the machines home (though he did have a little project created with their help) and that he couldn't stay longer. Oh yes, I'm picturing this will be the kind of place parents will have to drag their kids from.

Although...FYI, there IS going to be a café and young kids' play area in Club Square, so maybe giving them "a few more minutes" wouldn't be out of the question.

Bricks 4 Kidz has programs for kids of all ages, from Duplos for the under-five builders to advanced robotics clubs for teens. They do after-school programs and birthday parties. They also have a homeschool program (woot!) and offer workshops for groups up to 20 people. I can hear the parents of little makers and LEGO fanatics lighting up now.

If all this wasn't appealing enough, I'm told there will be tool belts and badges kids can earn as they master different skills and techniques. I don't know about your kids, but mine would be all over these tangible milestones.

How many more kids will pursue engineering, architecture, robotics and coding because of engaging programs like these? Well, whether they do or not, they'll be learning STEM principles and skills in the only way that learning makes sense-- when they're engaged and interested, and that's what you'll see at Bricks 4 Kidz.

Monday, September 05, 2016

If You Give a Kid Some Tape...

Do you have a maker kid at your house?

I do! The good people at Dollarama probably recognize me as the one always buying armloads of masking tape. No toy can compare to the endless possibilities of tape. I recently had to take apart a pirate ship made of two dining room chairs held together by a pantload of tape (complete with flag), much to Big Bro's dismay. We did need them for sitting, eventually.

For all of you fellow parents with maker kids at home, I have written a story in the "If You Give..." style of Laura Numeroff.

And this is why it's a losing battle to try to clean up around here.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Listening Skills

Kids have selective hearing. I don't know how many times I've practically had a bullhorn in the kids' faces and can't get their attention... but boy, talk about bat-like hearing whenever I'm saying something that's not as kid-friendly.

Next time I need their attention, I'll just mutter a few swears. Or something about butts.

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... )

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Attack of the Kleenex

6 a.m.... a sweet little hand reaches out in the dark:
"Here you go, Mama."
"What is it?"


I couldn't let the winter go by without making another cartoon involving kids and their colds. I did it the last two years, after all.

I don't know why little kids hate having their noses wiped. I guess it's pretty irritating... but surely no more irritating than a giant snot bubble preventing your breathing! Sometimes their own efforts (or lack thereof) don't quite do it. I have to be stealthy about my Kleenex manoeuvres, though, much as one must be when trying to nab a hornet with a rolled-up magazine, only way more scary.

Little Bro gets me back, though. Whether walking hand-in-hand or cuddling on the couch, he seems to think I make a handy Kleenex whenever the need arises. What am I, the Giving Tree?

This is why I can't have nice things.

Monday, February 01, 2016


Mittens. Everyone needs them for this Canadian winter, but there's more to think about when getting a kid through the sledding and snowman season with warm hands.

Some thoughts on the subject of mittens:

- After ending the last 4 winters with only two mismatched lefties to show for our mitten collection (they've gone the way of all my bobby pins), I now start the season buying about 12 pairs of mittens and gloves in the hopes that we'll always have something until the snow melts. Let's see how that goes.

-There are two main kinds of mittens: Useful or warm (but not both). First are the two-pack dollar store kind that are pretty much good for Fall or car rides. In the snow, they allow you the manual dexterity to make the most detailed sculptures, at least until your fingers fall off from frostbite:

-Then there are the heavy-duty mittens that are like stuffed oven mitts that keep you warm and allow for lots of Winter fun as long as you don't need to climb or grasp anything:

But the best kind of mitten, at least in my 3-year-old's opinion, is any kind roomy enough to put on over the car you're holding.

- Incidentally, I prefer mittens to gloves, because I haven't once put a glove on a kid that didn't involve this finger-hole square dance while the kid panics that things aren't right:

Finally, did you know that a sock with a thumb-hole cut in it worn under the mittens will prevent Cold Wrist-Gap Syndrome? I learned that one yesterday.

Enjoy your winter, and may your mitten stash last as long as the snow.