Monday, October 15, 2018

The Latest Groovy Joe Installment

When I like a song and can't make out the lyrics, I Google them so I don't make a fool of myself, even if there's no one else around to hear.

Kids, though, they'll just belt it right out whether or not their understood lyrics are even words. Oh, to have that confidence. 

Kids love singing and music. How do you get the attention of a rowdy class of kids?  How do kids learn the months of the year, days of the week, or rituals that aren't fun but maybe are a bit if you add a song? (I'm looking at you, Barney's "Clean Up"). Songs! That's how.

(Maybe I need a song that makes a game of emptying the recycling, a la Mary Poppins. Something like 'sorting plastic something something fantastic'. I'll let you know how it goes.)

Recently, I received a copy of Eric Litwin's latest book, If You're Groovy and you Know It, Hug a Friend. As with the previous books, Litwin gets children's attention using music and repetition.

The new book features Groovy Joe, previously seen in Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs, and Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown. Joe is interacting with his animal friends and the world around him with his usual positive outlook on life. 

As with any of Litwin's books,  It's a book that a young child could easily "read", using the predictable text and Tom Lichtenheld's appealing drawings. As always, checking out the song online adds to the experience. 

All of Litwin's books can be found here. Perfect for when the kids want to belt out some songs... and build their reading skills while they're at it. In this instance, they'll even know the words. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Weeee... or Not

As kids, my brother and I would play that game where you put your forehead on the end of an upright baseball bat, go around it seven times and let the hilarity commence as we stumbled dizzily around the lawn. Then we'd do it again.

Now that I'm an adult, all I have to do is watch the kids spinning at the park, and I want to barf. They can whip around and around, laughing all the while, but I can't even do a cartwheel without being in the fetal position for 20 minutes afterward.

Luckily I'm not called upon to do cartwheels often, but still.

Also, might I say that nothing makes you feel cooler than commiserating with a bunch of other adults about how stuff you used to like now makes you nauseated. No more "all you can ride" bracelets at the fair for us; everything is too high or moves too much.

Meanwhile, I just have to avert my eyes when the kids get going... from the comfort of my stationary park bench.

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.