Friday, 30 August 2013

Volcano Girl

I'm going to begin this post with a disclaimer.  I love my daughter Molly very, very much and I understand (hope) that this is only a phase, however I know that she is my daughter so it probably isn't a phase so much as a flare up of bad behaviour.*  This post is the mother's equivalent of  teen Sarabeth saying, "I'll tell you the truth if you promise you won't get mad, kay?" 

Three times this week, three completely separate daycare employees have approached me with one message, "Your daughter has quite the temper".  This isn't news to me.  I know she's a force to be reckoned with. I know that a lot of days she acts a lot more like Courtney Love than Cindy Lou Who, who she just looks like.

Cindy Lou Who (aka Cindy Lou Boo-Hoo)

I've always known that Miss Molly is a Queen Bee** and the terrible twos paired with her dad being away for work this week have not been a winning combination.  Sometimes I fear that I'm raising Regina George

Here are some of the low lights:

Half way through story time the other night Molly closed Scaredy Squirrel at Night and said to me, "All Done".  When I tried to continue reading she followed up with, "Not Daddy", closed the book again and insisted that I put her to bed so she didn't have to endure any more reading from her mom.

She had four giant temper tantrums at the mall because I wouldn't let her drive her own stroller and ram it into racks and other mall patrons.  She was the worst behaved person at Dufferin Mall, who's reputation is so bad that their ad campaign is, Dufferin Mall, Really.

At bed time she insisted on having her baby doll by her side.  Once she was in her crib with "baby" she stood up, whipped baby on the floor and yelled, "No baby!" then smugly laid back down to suck her thumb alone, because it was her choice and she had "owned" me.

At daycare drop off she begged to carry her and Jack's rain coats in, then proceeded to throw them on the ground in the doorway, refused to pick them up and sat on the wet ground crying, "Mama" as if I was the cause of the unidentified injustice.

And I now that  Chris is home she's be as sweet as sugar and I look like a crazy liar.

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*The force runs strong in this family, so does the temper.
**You can interpret that whichever way you want.  I'm proud to be a Queen B.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Lost for Words

I have been worried about Jack and his speech, or lack thereof, for a while now.  When he turned two he wasn't meeting the speech and communication checklists set forward on what he should be able to do at age two.  To see what a child should be able to do communication wise by age two via Toronto Preschool and Language Services click here.  Specifically, he didn't have 100-150 words, the ability to use two pronouns, and he could only name and point to two body parts.  I was concerned especially with the direct, unfortunate comparison between Molly who has many, many words.

This was something that was flagged as a concern by myself, our sitter A. as well as one of our ECE workers. Chris on the other hand was less worried, but supportive of anything we could do to help Jack communicate and put my mind at ease.  At the two year doctor's appointment I voiced my concerns to our nurse practitioner and she provided a referral to a healthy child assessment a few weeks later where Jack would be tested in a series of stations for hearing, vision, emotional well being and assessed by a speech therapist.  She thought that it was probably nothing, I've been previously told that most speech/language development issues resolve themselves by four anyway, but it was worth getting an assessment and get additional tips on how to help encourage speech.

A boy and a boat

In the three weeks between the doctor's appointment and the assessment Jack's speech seemed to sky rocket.  He learned 30-40 new words including: apple, boat, Molly, pooped, raspberries, raisins, bum, book, crayon, monkeys, shirt, pyjamas and the names of his favourite staff at daycare.  He started excelling at toilet training and started defining what was his, his sister's mom's or dad's...the beginning of "mine".*  I later learned from Chris's mum that both Chris and his sister didn't speak more than a few words until after their second birthdays and that she too had scheduled such an appointment (which she later cancelled) for Chris's sister who showed the same kind of warp speed improvement after the clock struck two.

Chris asked me if I was still going to go through with the assessment.  My answer an emphatic YES.  Some of the burst of verbage was an age ready anomaly, but a lot of it was due to implementing suggestions from our nurse practitioner and the help from our daycare staff.  His current primary ECE worker has been so vigilant about making him use his words and we are so thankful for her help.

We signed into the assessment centre shortly before 9AM.  For the next hour we visited multiple evaluation stations where Jack was tested, played and our interactions were observed.  We now know that there are no hearing problems so far with our Jack.**  Our interaction with the speech therapist was great.  She had a set of toys out on her table and Jack sat and played while we chatted about his number of words (at this point 60-80) and recent speech spurt. 

Basically Jack was assessed as a normal, quiet child who's a bit slower to speak.  He interacts well with adults and other children, makes eye contact, he tried to negotiate stealing the speech therapist's glasses and "shared" crayons with her.  When asked he was able to point and name five body parts (eyes, mouth, foot, belly and bum).  I was assured that his sudden surge of development is normal, for him.  Our attempts to separate Molly and Jack so they can have more one on one time with an adult to focus on making him speak are encouraged and should continue.  We could also get flash cards or use books to make him point out and name different pictures on a regular basis.

All said and done I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged that everything we are doing is working well and we can allow Jack to go at Jack's pace.  It was good to get an unbiased professional opinion from someone who could see Jack outside of the parallel between alpha twin Molly.  I now have the phone number and email of someone who's met and evaluated Jack should we hit a stall on progress for a number of weeks in a row or if things aren't going as they should when we hit the 30 month milestone checklist.  When I spoke to our daycare about our experience they were thrilled that we had arranged for an assessment and not waited until preschool, as many parents do, and will continue to make Jack's speech development a priority.

After an hour of being impeccably good for a two year old, Jack decided that he was done behaving.  On our way back to the car after the assessments he felt it was time to tear off his shoe and lay on the ground in an act of passive resistance to walking, directly in front of the sketchiest guy on the street.  Thank goodness he had the words to yell, "NO WALK" as I tried to drag him away.

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*Which I'm certain we will grow to regret.
**Note hearing problems in a toddler are completely different than listening problems. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Whole World is Our Playground: Review Neshama Playground/Oriole Park

When I first started investigating local playgrounds this one was highlighted as the mecca of the new world order of everything monkey bar centric.  Our sitter A. raves about how great this uptown playground is, so we decided to check it out.  This playground is an innovative masterpiece.

My park review disclaimer: If you don't live in the area I hope you enjoy the pics and can use some of the ideas to inspire and explore in your own city. If you have any recommendations for great playgrounds (or new criteria I haven't thought of) please post a comment on this post or email me.

Park Name:
Neshama Playground/Oriole Park
Chaplain Crescent (Near Davisville and Yonge)

There is plentiful parking along Chaplain by the park.  The playground is a five minute walk from Davisville Subway Station. 

Theme of Park:
Everyone has the right to play without limitations.

Ground Coverage:
Pressed rubber, rubberized wood chips surrounded by green park land.

Variety of Equipment for different ages:
This park has playground equipment for all ages. For the little kids it has a small structure and set of slides, a variety of infant and toddler swings as well as a splash pad that was made with the toddler in mind. The Splash Pad is open this year from June 28 - September 1st.  For the older kids there is wall climbing based equipment, slides, bridges and a good variety of other distractions.  Most of the children around the play area ranged from two to eight years old.

  Molly enjoying the lily pad water station

Best Part(s) of the Park:
This playground features something for everyone including wheelchair accessible equipment, signs and learning in braille and wheelchair accessible washrooms.  This park has unique items I've never seen anywhere else. (shown below)

 Giant chimes and mallets 

 Spider Web spinner (go round)

Flying saucer swing

Because there is so much to do some parents of older kids did their own things (i.e. ignored their kids and they played on their iPhones).  This meant that when a six year old thought it would be fun to karate kick water from the splash pad fountain in Jack's face, repeatedly, his father was 500 yards away and didn't notice.  Note to self: dirty looks will not discourage a rowdy six year old.  I had to restrain myself from disciplining someone else's kid* because his dad was too busy playing Angry birds.

Overall Rating:
I rate this playground a 4/5  and I struggled with this rating because based on equipment alone it justifies a 4.5 or a 5 however the community at the park just doesn't feel the same as it does at Dufferin Grove and besides I had to bring my own snacks!

To read my review of Jeff Healey Playground click here

To read my review of Marie Curtis Playground click here

To read my review of Dufferin Grove Playground click here

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*Thankfully he got bored of splashing Jack before I had to jump into the fountain myself and implement playground justice.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Emasculate the Masculine

The other night Chris and I collapsed onto the couch to see what was on TV and caught an episode of the new show Modern Dads.  We watched the entire episode in which a group of stay at home dads planned twin one year olds first birthdays.  When it was over we turned it off and went to bed.  Then over the next day or so the content of the episode marinated a bit.  It turns out it really bothered me, but it was more of a slow burn bother than an explosion.

The name in and of itself is Modern Dads, in which I'd expect them to be relevant fathers who are competent care givers as opposed to pandering outdated views on gender and heterosexual relationship roles is insulting.  It was a "big deal" that a dad was planning a party, the one dad was great at playing tea party but was about as skilled as the minions would be with a skill saw.   Apparently you can't rock both "masculine" and "feminine" tasks.

When I Googled the show I found that it wasn't just me, other people felt the same way as I did.  Maybe capable stay at home fathers just don't make for good television.  The portrayal of Will Arnett's stay at home dad in the recently cancelled Up All Night or Anthony Anderson's in the other cancelled Guys with Kids showed intelligent father's running their families well.  Maybe the world isn't ready for the Wrapkin just yet?* Or this is the  big difference between reality television and failed comedy-vision.  I don't just know.

It somehow felt the representation of fatherhood was akin to me likening my day at work to an episode of Mad Men, complete with an ass slap and sexual harassment to boot.  I'm pretty sure Don Draper isn't lingering around the photocopier stoned on whiskey looking for love in all the wrong places at my office.

These inept caricatures of the modern father are perpetuated in real life when men are chastised for stepping up to their fatherhood role through taking advantage of their paternity time as shown in this Globe and Mail Article.

At the same time, I didn't turn the episode off and I may watch it again, even though it infuriated me.  A long time ago a friend told me they watched reality television because it made them feel better about their lives and their competence.    Sigh.

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*The Wrapkin was a characters invention on Guys with Kids.  Essentially a smock to help keep your nice work clothes from getting ruined by children.  Just last week, moments before I left for work, I leaned into some bbq sauce Jack had rubbed into the bathroom sink right before bath time the night before...A Wrapkin would have saved me!

Friday, 23 August 2013

She's Come Undone

I can't say that I wasn't warned.  Our friend V. mentioned that her daughter started getting choosy about her clothes when she was a year and a half, adding to the chaos of trying to get two adults and children out the door to daycare and work in the morning.   She told me that the best solution she's found was to offer her daughter two options and let her pick one.  My sister found that incorporating selecting tomorrow's clothes into a bed time routine helped solve wardrobe related tears MOST mornings.

Up until now, we've been lucky.  Molly seems to agree with what I pick out for her to wear for the most part, and as for Jack, well we're fairly certain that we could dress him in a hefty bag and he'd be content. 

This week we hit a bit of a roadblock with Miss Molly.  First of all, she's been suffering from the sass attacks.  The other night, after bath, when I asked her if I could put moisturizer on her she said matter-of-factly, "No, Dummy!"*

Grouchy face circa Fall 2012

The following morning I tried to dress her in a pair of leggings and sleeveless hoodie.  After I got her dressed she immediately undid the zipper and started freaking out yelling, "OPEN" at the top of her lungs.  So I zipped it back up and she freaked out even more.  I unzipped it, result: full blown tantrum.  Next I grabbed a tank top to wear under the offensive hoodie, so she wasn't flashing all of the other kids at daycare like it was spring break and she was some whiskey-mean valley girl.  She got even more angry.**  Eventually I gave up and put her in just the tank top.  This is the second zipper related freak out in a week.  I'm hoping she gets over this before it gets cold outside and we're forced to use a combination of buttons, Velcro and duct tape to get her into her coat.

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*This is entirely our own parental foul.  One of our nicknames for each other is Dummy because we're romantic like that.  Apparently little ears picked up on that nickname and decided to run with it.
**Here are the levels of Molly's anger as they escalate: 1) whining (most annoying) 2) whining with crocodile tears 3) crying 4) crying as she hits at the air and melts onto the floor 5) sobbing uncontrollably on the floor as she spins around like a top

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Grand Optimist

I've noticed a shift in our parenting dynamic lately and it's not one that I expected.  It's the busiest time of year at work for Chris right now which means lots of work to take home, travel and in turn stress of monumental proportions.  He's trying to ride the tightrope of work/family balance and when we try to cram family fun time into one hour shifts and no down time paired with the fickle temperament of two toddlers it can be quite volatile.  Normally Chris is the cup half full half person in our dynamic duo, but lately I've found him on the other end of the spectrum while I try to overcompensate, poorly, left holding the empty glass so to speak.

With limited family time for Chris patience is lesser, expectations are higher and disappointment levels are brutal.  If I had the puppet mastery skills to make the minions behave on command I'd use it but sadly I don't.*  Play time with dad goes south when Molly gets jealous when she feels Jack is getting more attention than she is, then there are tears when Jack bites dad** and gets a time out and then dad feels bad because his quality time has become disciplinarian time.  I get burnt out and annoyed from the extra solo parenting/household running time I have with the kids when Chris is out of town and he's envious of all of the "fun" I'm having with the kids when he's not there.***

The stress of it all really hit home this weekend when we went out with a friend and the minions this weekend to the batting cages (bad pun intended).  The plan was simple 1-2 people would take a turn in the cages while the other person(s) played with the minions behind closed fences (at a safe distance) and then switch until we used up all of our batting cage tokens.  Molly was a dream and absolutely enamoured with the batting cages and was thrilled yelling "Baseball!" whenever mom or dad was up to bat.  Jack on the other hand wanted to explore the gravel roadways behind us, jump under passing cars and golf carts and generally cause mischief as two year olds are prone to do.  Almost an hour later all three adults had managed 16 combined rounds at the plate without a major meltdown from either child.
Trying on the helmet

As we packed up to head home Chris commented, "Well I wouldn't call that a success.  That was a lot of work."  Our friend and I assured Chris that it was in fact a win and well worth our efforts.  With lesser "play time" Chris is building up events in his head and then getting disappointed when they fail to meet expectations.  Meanwhile I'm trying to remain the positive cheerleader, a role that I'm fairly sure no one is buying into me playing. Batting cages with two year olds, no one is concussed, crying and everyone got a turn at bat? Win.  In fact I'm already planning our next trip out for later this summer.

Miss Molly watching "BASEBALL"
Any tips on toddler whispering, including how to handle the extra acting up for dad when I know we'll have added boundary pushing with his return from his next stint away? 

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*But if you know a toddler whisperer for hire, please let me know.
**For the fourth time that hour.
***As exhausting as it can get when I'm solo parenting I wouldn't want to change places here for a second.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Whole World is Our Playground: Jeff Healey Park

This past weekend we went and explored a playground that is a work in progress.  The Jeff Healey Playground (formerly Woodford Park) is dedicated to the memory of Canadian Rock Legend Jeff Healey who was taken by cancer way too soon.  Regular fundraisers worked on improving the park and playground in terms of accessibility and a baseball diamond became a feature just a few years ago.  Many of these improvements have been made via fundraising complemented by city funds.  Unfortunately recent storms in Toronto have taken out a bridge in the park which makes it more difficult to access.

Again, If you don't live in the area I hope you enjoy the pics and can use some of the ideas to inspire and explore in your own city. If you have any recommendations for great playgrounds (or new criteria I haven't thought of) please post a comment on this post or email me.
Park Name:
Jeff Healey Park, Toronto Ontario 
Off of Woodford Road - The Queensway, East of Royal York and West of Park Lawn.  There are three entrances, although if you aren't actively looking for this park, you probably won't find it.   By TTC you can take a bus south from Royal York Station and take a 10 minute walk to the park from Queensway and Royal York (11 minutes according to Google Maps).

There is a small lot at one entrance and street parking all around the park. 


Theme of Park:
Sunshine Yellow with a Happy Shiny Bug Theme...Spiderwebs to climb and a lady bug and caterpillar to ride on. The actual play equipment is for kids a lot older than ours, there are swings and one structure for toddlers but everything else is for ages 5-12, but that didn't stop our kids from trying with some boosts and spotted tumbles alongside mom and dad. 
Ground Coverage:
Wood chips (which means Miss Molly approves)
None that I saw.

The park is isolated with little road traffic nearby which means it's great because you don't need to worry about someone running out in front of a car, but I'd be loathe to allow older children play without adult supervision unless they were in a decent sized group. There were a number of people with rambunctious dogs off leash right beside the playground.  The dogs weren't vicious, but they were loud and this could be scary if your child is scared of dogs.*
Best Part of the Park:
Most of the great things about this playground (climbing/monkey bar accessibility for children in wheelchairs) etc. are for older kids, however since it's a hidden gem the equipment isn't overcrowded so there is more space to help younger kids enjoy.  Children who love wall climbing will adore this playground.  We also spotted a fabulous toboggan hill in the park for our very own winter enjoyment.  In warm months you're a short walk away from Etobicoke Iconic Ice Cream Parlour Tom's Dairy Freeze.
Overall Rating:
 I'd rate the entire playground area a 2.5/5 for kids under four years old, however if I were to review for an older crowd (I asked my nephew and he loves the climbing structures) I'd probably give it a much higher ranking.

To read my review of Vine Avenue Playground click here

To read my review of Marie Curtis Playground click here

To read my review of Vermont Square Playground click here

To read my review of  Dufferin Grove Playground click here

Want Multiple Momstrosity updates on Facebook click here

*Or is anything like Jack and bounds towards them with reckless abandon.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Champagne Supernova

Serendipitously the day before the minions second birthday an article came out in the Globe and Mail about parents with successful careers and good incomes who can't afford daycare.  It was a reminder about the sacrifices parents need to make in order to keep their careers going and fuel for the debate on whether or not it is worth it to go back to work when a good chunk of our salaries go into daycare.  Double the kids, double the costs*. 

Next month will mark the one year anniversary of daycare for Molly and Jack and over 30K in daycare expenses.  This is a significant amount of our net income, and when you consider the costs of our mortgage, food, property taxes and transportation things can get pretty tight.  The article highlights how daycare expenses come at a time when you are likely to have the least amount of money available in their adult life, i.e just bought first home, paying off student loans, still building their career etc. etc. 

I wouldn't change where our kids go to daycare for a second, although sometimes when I'm dealing with a double dose of daycare related illness I shake my fist in anger at everything related to Germapolooza.  I want to cry about the work into the nights to make up for the early pick up of said sick child or the double fees when you need to hire a sitter while your child can't attend the daycare that got them ill in the first place.  I know that we're blessed that we have family who can pick up the extra slack for us a lot of the time and lucky that we live in Canada where I was able to take 13 months with my twins full time before returning to the work force. 

There should be more help for families to support them in getting good, accessible daycare, so they can do things like save for when their twins go to college at the exact same time.  I know that I'm not saying anything new, so I won't complain or scare any other new or expectant parents any further.

Enjoying the finer things in life pre-minions at a family dinner.

All the same....As at the yeariversary of daycare here's what I could have bought with daycare fees:

One year of an MBA at the University of Victoria...with $1500 left to spare on coffee and red bull energy drinks.

Two square cut diamond engagement rings from Tiffany's

One 2013 Cadillac brand new.

10 replacement Sunfires (with similar mileage) to replace ours when they wear out.

105 bottles of Cristal

But I know my children are safe, sound and that there is an expiration period to beer budgets and champagne tastes.  I wouldn't trade my two years with the kids for any of that above.  So let's crack open a Colt 45 and celebrate another year closer to full day kindergarten and hope that some of this financial burden changes to help families who aren't as lucky as we are.

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*Unless you're lucky enough to stumble upon a daycare who gives a sibling discount when you have more than one child attending a daycare, I am not that kind of lucky.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


Last week we learned something shocking about the minions.  It was a regular Friday afternoon at daycare pick up, I was loading the Molly into the car (aka the "Sexfire") and Chris ran into the building with Jack in his arms to sign the kids out of the fire log and pick up the shirts that Molly had drooled through.*  Chris was standing at Molly's cubby retrieving the above mentioned saliva soaked t-shirts when one of the daycare staff approached him.

"Jack is doing really well on the toilet." She said simply.

Chris responded with a blank look, dumbfounded and eventually said.

"This Jack?" as if she'd just mentioned that he'd mastered playing Brahms Rhapsody in B Minor.

"Don't you read the notes?"


Hail to the King Baby!

She gave Chris a disappointed head shake and explained that they were toilet training our children unbeknownst to us.  Apparently Molly is doing just fine as well, but Master Jack has mad toilet skills.**  We knew that our kids would potty train in the senior toddler room, we just didn't know when and I sort of thought they'd hand us a manual when they started.  Something like, "It's time to wish away the diaper genie" or "Welcome to urgent bathroom trips and lots of accidents"

Daycare leaves notes each day on what the kids eat, how long they nap for and a diaper diary.  I usually skim the nap schedule to foresee any evening meltdowns as well as how much they've eaten that particular day so I can determine whether or not I need to stuff them like they're Hansel and Gretal so they don't keep us up all night starving.  Chris and I usually ignore the diaper diary unless we suspect the minions are ill or it says in giant bold print "BRING IN MORE DIAPERS".

When Chris told me what had happened it explained a few recent events.  The other night, right before bath time Jack started playing with the toilet seat.  I am extremely paranoid because of several incidents from my childhood involving toilet clogs*** so I shut the lid and moved him away.  He proceeded to pee all over the ground beside the bath, which I suppose is better than the alternative inside the bath.  Parenting fail on my end.

So I guess we're potty training now.  Weird.  Now every day, after hours at work deciphering business acronyms we've entered the world of SOT (sat on the toilet) and POT (peed on the toilet).  I still don't know the code for number two (SHOT??)

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*Molly teething creates saliva akin to aliens Kang and Kodos from The Simpsons.
**One can assume that he inherited from my father who has a full on book caddie in his washroom that would rival many libraries.
***My brother once (as a toddler) flushed my giant novelty soap in the shape of a Toucan down the commode and another time our dog Max thought it would be a good idea to ram his Kong chew toy down the toilet.  Both resulted in the removal of the toilet seat and a lot of swearing from my father.

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Whole World is Our Playground: Dufferin Grove Park & Playground

A while back our sitter L. recommended that we try out this inner city park as a part of my playground review series.  When we went to check it out we were not disappointed. 

My park review disclaimer: If you don't live in the area I hope you enjoy the pics and can use some of the ideas to inspire and explore in your own city. If you have any recommendations for great playgrounds (or new criteria I haven't thought of) please post a comment on this post or email me.

Park Name:
Dufferin Grove Park & Playground
875 Dufferin Street (on Dufferin South of Bloor Street, North of College Street)

There is some side street parking.  The playground is a two minute walk from Dufferin Mall and a five minute walk from Dufferin Subway Station. 

Theme of Park:
Most of the play structures are wood and go with the forest/urban tree house feel of the park.

Ground Coverage:
Sand around actual playground, grass in the outer area and concrete around the wading pool.  Since this park is in a pretty green area parents don't need to be paranoid about sunscreen as it is well covered and shady on hot sunny days.

Enjoying a post play snack.

Best Part(s) of the Park:
The playground has a little cafe that sells snacks for hungry players and coffee starved parents.  Healthy treats like sliced watermelon go for as low as 25 cents per slice. The playground also had a see-saw designed for four kids.   Another bonus, around the corner from the playground is a reservable fire pit for inner city camp fires.  ($20 donations suggested)

The playground area is a good size with a lot of variety, however if you're supervising multiple children with differing interests it can get a little challenging.  Parents watching their children had to stand atop some of the structures in order to be able to keep an eye on things, which can block some of the equipment for kids who are playing. 
Toddler sized climbing wall.

Graduating to the next level of climbing (aka scene from American Gladiator)

Variety of Equipment for different ages:
The park had great playground equipment for older kids and younger kids.  It has a basic splash pad open in the summer and a vast sand pit with a working tap which has peaks and valleys to give any real construction site a run for its money.  The Splash Pad is open this year from June 28 - September 1st. Most of the children around the play area ranged from two to ten years old. 
Molly in the splash pad.

Overall Rating:
 I'd rate the entire playground area a 4.5/5
To read my review of Vine Avenue Playground click here

To read my review of Marie Curtis Playground click here

To read my review of Vermont Square Playground click here

Want Multiple Momstrosity updates on Facebook click here

Friday, 9 August 2013

My Name is Zoom - Birthday Song

When I look at the calendar, the photo albums and the two toddlers in front of me, it is painfully clear that we don't have babies any more, we have full blown children on our hands.  On Saturday (tomorrow) Molly and Jack turn two years old.

Am I nostalgic and wistful for the early days of babyhood?  Sometimes, but rarely.  There's nothing like seeing a tired parent walking a colicky newborn to clear my uterus of baby fever.  We love that each and every day Molly and Jack have new skills, words and games.  This has been the craziest two years of my life*.

I am so proud of both of the minions and the family that we are.

The minions on the eve of their first birthdays

A little bit about Miss Molly at age 2:
  • Your favourite book is Five Little Monkeys...mainly because you like to point aggressively and wag your finger disapprovingly
  • Your favourite toy is your baby dolly who you couldn't stand when Nana and Grampa gave her to you at Christmas, but now you'll rarely go to bed without "Baby" or "Mean Baby"**
  • You are attached to flannel blankets and love to carry them with you wherever you go, or drape them around your neck like a pimp scarf
  • Shoes are your other key accessory and when guests come over you'll try on their shoes, if we're home alone you're content to wear mommy or daddy's shoes, at daycare you'll take off other children's shoes for them and when we ask you about it you'll explain, "they're babies" as the reason why you've stolen their shoes
  • You are a born leader, most of your sentences are commands: "Get out" (when Jack is in Mom's Lap) or "All done Jack" (when you've determined that Jack's turn is over and you're tired of sharing)

A little bit about Master Jack at age 2:
  • You like to carry around your dad's contact lense case wherever you go
  • You are obsessed with sharing and insistent that everyone in the house shares thing whether it be milk, cookies or toys...You'll say "Share" in a way that sounds like you're the leader of a toddler cult and will cry if others won't indulge your need to "shaaare"
  • Your laugh is contagious and you tease your sister endlessly
  • You don't speak English, you speak Foodlish or Delish since most of your words relate to food
  • Parkour may be in your future as you love to climb everything with the tenacity of a mountain goat revved up on sugar
  • Curiosity for how things work drives you, You love to explore door knobs, light switches, locks and anything with buttons
  • You've mastered the art of bartering and when your sister has something you want to play with you'll present her with one of her "go to" toys as an acceptable trade

Happy Birthday Molly and Jack!

And for you 1980's babies, do you remember that weird birthday theme song that was "in style" on your birthdays?  Here's a version for Molly and for Jack, just be thankful that I couldn't find one online for you.

To read my entry for Molly & Jack's first birthday click here

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*Two years and nine months if you count the complete circus that was twin pregnancy.
**I don't know what makes baby mean, but it might explain why you throw her down on the floor in a body slam several times a day.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

How Much Is That Doggy In the Window?

The minions turn two later this week (I know I can't believe it either) and we're preparing for the onslaught of festivities (Maximum Birthday Overload!).  As far as we know they don't understand what a birthday is, however Molly will often get excited and randomly sing, "Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy." which we're just going to pretend is her version of the birthday song. 

We started our gift search a couple of weeks back looking for practical and fun gifts, some for the collective "Minions" and other individual gifts for each child. Unfortunately toys for age two are a bit of a black hole wasteland because most manufacturers won't dare package anything with any semblance of a choking hazard for children under three.*     Here's what we came up with for their birthdays, on our budget of $80 total (not including taxes):

 Hello Spot Puppet Book that the minions were mesmerised by at the store.  
$14.99 at Mastermind Games

 Because it's shark week we couldn't resist the mini finger puppet book. (notice the cat paw in the top left corner as Pan had to be a part of this post)
$7.99 at Mastermind Toys.

Little Miss and Mr. Books.  $5.50 each for a total of $11.00 at Chapters or Amazon. 

 Surfing Ninja shirt for Miss Molly, $4.99 at Baby Gap in First Canadian Place.

 Okay, we cheated a little and bought something designed for age three and up.  It's a light up cash register with a scanner, scale and some plastic fruit.  We got it for $15 at the Toys R Us at Dufferin Mall on clearance and couldn't resist the allure, but don't worry we'll supervise while they play.

 I mean come on, look how happy this kid is.  I know I always looked this way when I worked at the IGA as a Goth teenager in the 1990s, especially when the seniors payed me in "coppers".

Super cute Raccoon shirt for Jack from Kid Culture in the Junction - $26.  The added bonus of our little splurge for Jack is that when he outgrows it, Molly can still wear it a little longer.

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*Likely something to do with a super man costume and a child believing that they can fly. (I'm pretty sure that's a part of a Seinfeld stand-up routine)

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Whole World is Our Playground: Marie Curtis Park

This past weekend I was thrilled to find out that BlogTo linked to my review of Vermont Square Playground as a part of their Best Playgrounds in Toronto feature.  In reading the article I flagged a bunch of new (to us) parks and playgrounds to explore and review.  This past weekend we decided to try one of the playgrounds that didn't make the Best Playground list, but was mentioned in the comments as the best park missed. 
Again, If you don't live in the area I hope you enjoy the pics and can use some of the ideas to inspire and explore in your own city. If you have any recommendations for great playgrounds (or new criteria I haven't thought of) please post a comment on this post or email me.

Park Name:
Marie Curtis Park, Toronto Ontario

#2 42nd Street (Farthest South West Corner of Toronto - Almost Mississauga)

When we arrived there was no parking spaces left in the park, no Parking along 42nd (no parking zone), but some parking a decent hoof away on a side street.  This is also not a very public transit (TTC) friendly location.

Theme of Park:
The splash pad is themed with bright primary colours on the equipment, big bright Muskoka chairs and yellow umbrellas.  It's like a Canadianized Salvador Dali painting, complete with screaming children.*  The key piece of playground is like a giant spider web.

Ground Coverage:
Small wood chips for the actual playground, grass in the outer area and cemented around the wading pool.

Variety of Equipment for different ages:
The park had great playground equipment for older kids with sparce choices for the little ones (three baby swings and one small structure for toddlers).   The big draw for the younger kids is the splash pad.  Our kids were on the regular play equipment for less than ten minutes before completely abandoning to enjoy the water works.   The play areas separated nicely, but probably a little too far to supervise multiple young children in both the splash pad and playground. The Splash Pad is open this year from June 28 - September 1st.  Most of the children in the splash pad were under four while those on the playground ranged from three to ten years old.
Jack Enjoying the splash pad.
Muskoka chairs and umbrellas
Molly and Dad with one pant leg rolled up, cause he's gangsta like that. 

There were washrooms further along the path, away from the playground by the beach.
The actual play equipment is for kids a little older than ours, and a lot of the older children were playing on the equipment meant for toddlers, blocking slides and climbers and their parents weren't supervising or stopping them from bogarting equipment for little ones who can't stand up for themselves.**  Also, the park isn't super accessible without a car and then when you get there parking is tough.
View from the pier.
Best Part of the Park:
The innovative splash pad (definitely a summer-time only visit for us until the kids get older) and the proximity to the lake.  There are board walked paths, a great beach, definitely a place to go for an afternoon and bring a picnic.

Overall Rating:
 I'd rate the entire playground area a 2.5/5 for kids under four years old, however if I were to rate the splash pad on it's own for summer time fun: 4/5

To read my review of Vine Avenue Playground click here

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*No melting clocks though.
**I may have given some parents the death stare for their eight year old son who wouldn't let Molly go down the toddler slide because he was climbing up it.  "Where are your parents?" has become code for, "Why are your parents letting you act like a giant douche at the park?"

Thursday, 1 August 2013


Since we survived camping with toddlers I somehow feel that I should get a special Girl Guides badge.  There is no baby proofing in nature, so you just need to wing it and figure out what works and what doesn't.  Since we just experienced it I thought I'd pull together a list of some suggested tips (best practices if you will) on camping with a toddler or in our case toddlers.
Tip #1
The larger the adult to toddler ratio the better.  Extra hands to wrangle a stray child or block them from the fire pit are helping hands and emergency room visit prevention hands.
Tip #2
Plan activities but know that things will need to go at a different pace than when you are camping with just adults or even infants.  Look for parks with playgrounds, beaches, nature trails and outdoor movies to help entertain little ones.

Tip #3
Keep the campfires to a minimum to avoid insane paranoia.  We had a grasshopper (single burner fuelled by propane) to make coffee and tea for breakfast along with muffins, fresh fruit yogurt and granola bars.  For lunch we noshed on wraps, this way we only needed the fire roaring for dinner and post-toddler bed time relaxation.*
Tip #4
Sometimes camping bath time will be a sponge bath, or baby wipe bath and that's okay because everyone knows mosquitoes hate dirty children.**

Tip #5
Know that you need to get things done when you can, sometimes dishes need to wait until after the kids are in bed, taking a nap or otherwise distracted in a safe and non-destructive activity.  Take these moments and run!

Tip #6
Have an extra bag of tricks up your sleeves that you don't use until you absolutely need it.  Busting out colouring books and crayons while we tore down camp totally saved our bacon.

Tip #7
It's going to be hard work, but I think it was worth it and if things go wrong, don't fret, by next year you'll be camping with totally different kids!

To read about our camping trip last year click here

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*This minimized the number of times we had to say, "How many times do I have to tell you Jack, stay away from the fire!"
**I'm fairly certain that I just made that last part up and dirt should not replace deet when camping.