Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Teaser and the Firecat

My grandfather, Jack, loved to tease people and play practical jokes on them.  Most infamous in our family was when he slipped his false teeth into a fish that my cousin had caught (both horrifying for my cousin and incredibly gross).  He was really good at pushing people's, particularly my grandmother's, buttons.

The other week little Jack started a "trick" that was reminiscent of his namesake.  Chris was away on a fairly lengthy business trip and I was solo with the kids (which isn't nearly as horrifying as it used to be when they were younger).  We'd arrived home from daycare pick-up and I was trying to get Jack out of the car.  Every time I moved for the handle, I'd pull on a locked door.  So I got out my clicker, unlocked the door and tried again with no success.  This happened about three times before I stopped to watch that Jack had positioned his foot so he could quickly kick the lock each time he heard the clicker.  When I finally got the door open Jackie squealed with delight, "I got you Mama!" and started giggling maniacally.

I come from a long line of teasers, it's one of the ways we show that we care about each other in my family.  My sister has called me Toilet Duck for years (I don't even remember why) and Chris and my brother started a campaign recently to call me Paul Blart Mall Cop (I know exactly why this initiative was started and am unthrilled about it to say the very least).

Paul Blart Mall Cop Movie Poster
Image Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Last week, after a couple of weepy days at daycare, it was brought to my attention that Jack was teasing Molly, mercilessly and she was in tears a few times. He was excluding her from games with her two besties (who had incidentally declared themselves Ana and Elsa and suggested that Molly could be Sven, Kristoff or Olaf adding insult to injury), he was calling her bossy and had to be removed from her table at lunch because he kept announcing that she wasn't his friend.

Here's the thing, he's her brother, so it's kind of his job to drive her crazy.  But where should parents draw the line?  Molly is spirited and has commanding presence and demands, particularly with her brother.  Two weeks ago at swimming lessons, I saw her chatting with a little boy in her class seconds before he jumped in the pool after a bright yellow pool noodle she'd been pointing out.  He had to be rescued by the instructor because he's four and can't really swim yet.  After the lesson I quizzed Molly on whether or not the boy had jumped into the pool because she had asked him to fetch her the pool noodle.  Her response: "I didn't ask him mommy, I told him." Sigh.

We've been reinforcing with Jack that it isn't nice to call anyone bossy, period.  But she's been dictating games, activities, snacks and television picks for her brother since she was able to talk and we knew it was only a matter of time before, well, the uprising.  I am not regretting our request for separate kindergarten classes next year.

When should a parent step in on fighting and teasing amongst siblings?  How do we get Molly to use her leadership skills for good and not evil?

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Sunday, 26 April 2015

Old as Love - Our trip to the Royal Ontario Museum

On Saturday we went out with some friends for a play date at the museum and to check out the final weekend of the Douglas Coupland exhibit, Everywhere is Anywhere, is Anything, is Everything.  While the kids had an absolute blast, particularly in the children's area, I would recommend a trip without the kids (or having adults take shifts with the wee ones in the kiddie area on the second floor) if there is a specific exhibit that you need more than five or ten minutes to check out.

ROM dino mascot, Cornelius the dinosaur
Both minions were excited to be greeted by Cornelius, the ROM's Dino Mascot

Douglas Coupland exhibit ROM
 Enjoying the blur of the last weekend of the Douglas Coupland 

Trying to behave while we rushed through the Coupland exhibit

Social commentary Douglas Coupland
 Some of the social commentary tiles courtesy of Mr. Coupland.

Knight's Helmet and toddler, ROM Costumes
 Jack the Knight

kid paleontologists
 The minions practiced their paleontology skills, but soon abandoned because they didn't like the mandatory goggles.  This is something I would have loved as a little kid, because one of my life ambitions as a child was to become a paleontologist.  Unfortunately, Ross Gellar and/or my inability to thrive in math and science ruined that dream for me.....I'm just going to blame it on Ross!

baby dragon costume
Jackie finally agrees to wear a costume though he kept telling us he was a dragon, not a dinosaur, and roaring at other kids.  We had to make him stop when he made another toddler cry (he's a pretty convincing dragon!)

Overall I would say it was a win because the kids had so much fun, but I'd argue the focus was on what they wanted to do, not the adults. We cautiously approached the bat cave, wondering if either Molly or Jack would be scared.  They seemed fairly indifferent.   When I asked Molly what her favourite part was, she told me that it was the blue and white sprinkle donut she enjoyed at Tim Hortons after the museum.  Jack said he liked the urinals in the washroom at the museum best, because they have a big, loud flush and the pipes rattle.  I guess it's a good thing we have a family membership! General admission is free for children under four, $9 for kids 4-12 and $12.50 per adult.

To read about the minions thinking Douglas Coupland is their father click here.

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Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Heroes and Villains - A Movie Review of Big Hero 6

Sometimes on Sunday nights we have a family movie night where we watch something that we've never seen before or share an old favourite from either my or Chris' childhood with the minions.  This week we opted for Big Hero Six, which several ratings assured me was appropriate for all ages.

What's in it for the Kids?
The kids were smitten with Beymax, the lovable huggable teddy bear of a health care robot from his very first scene.  Jack was convinced the character was a friendly snow man.  Every single laugh, giggle or coo was because of 30 Rock alumni Scott Adsit's show-stealing portrayal of the giant robotic health care practitioner.

What's in it for the Adults?
There has been a lot of debate and controversy surrounding cultural appropriation/misappropriation in the media recently.  Seeing how creators have married American and Japanese culture within their fictional city, San Fransokyo (a representation of San Francisco and Tokyo as one city) is a remarkable example of cultural appreciation that can serve as an example to all of us.  There are a handful of scenes within the movie designed to entertain adults that don't disappoint, particularly the low battery scene, which any adult who has ever snuck a drunk friend home will appreciate.  Click here to view it on YouTube.

Big Hero 6 Movie Poster, Big Hero 6 movie review
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Best Parts of the Movie
This movie represents the first ever partnership between Disney and Marvel, which is pretty cool in and of itself.  Essentially it's a Disney movie with a gritty comic book edge to it. Secondly this is a movie with strong, inspirational male and female characters in it with no link to romantic love. A genuine example of a story about friendship and fraternal love is very refreshing to a parent who often finds herself in the wonderful world of Princess mania.  Additional themes include, it's cool to be smart and the showcasing of bright young women in science.

Worst Parts of the Movie
This movie was dark for an "all ages" rating.  The Kabuki mask wearing villain and microbots terrified Molly and she needed to be comforted several times throughout the movie.  The story has a slow burn, and plays like a typical comic origin story.  The movie didn't completely hold Jack's attention and held Molly's a little too well, particularly during scary scenes.  We may see nightmares because of this one.

Overall Rating
For kids under six I would rate this movie 3/5.  I'm glad we watched this, but I don't see myself buying a copy any time soon.  If either kid develops a love of everything Marvel, that might change. There is a lot of death in this movie, even though it's more implied than shown.  This is a sad movie for little kids, but all the same touches on real themes such as loss, love, growing up/puberty and grey areas of judgement surrounding morals, ethics, good and bad.  This would be a great discussion movie for parents with older kids.

To read my review of Boyhood click here.

To read my review of Cinderella 2015 click here.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Castle on a Cloud

Last week I was tasked with writing about indoor activities for toddlers for a mothers of  multiples site I contribute to called How Do You Do It.  I spent a good deal of time racking my brain for activities that have been the most successful for entertaining Molly and Jack and some items that were on our "to do" activity list, but not yet tried and true.

Sunday was, as A.A. Milne would put it, a cold and blustery day.  Chris was at the ball game for most of the afternoon and I wanted to ensure that TV time didn't get out of control.  While the minions had their quiet time I surprised Molly and Jack by preparing some cloud dough so they could enjoy some indoor sandbox time, one of the items that's been on my "to do" activity list.

What is cloud dough anyway?  It's a sensory treat that feels like a lighter, fluffier, almost velvety version of sandbox sand.  I used the recipe I found on Happy Hooligans which mixes 8 cups of flour with one cup of baby oil.  You can mix it using your hands or a whisk and it's ready in about five minutes.

Next I went and grabbed a variety of beach and garden toys, diggers, straws, plastic utensils and cups  (anything that I could put in the dishwasher safely) and divided the sand into two large Tupperware containers.

cloud sand, homemade indoor sandbox
 This was Molly's untouched cloud sandbox

cloud sand, cloud sandbox, cloud dough recipe
And this was Jack's

When I presented the kids with the surprise they were both very excited and immediately dove in, making me sand cupcakes, cakes, candies and tea.  They happily played nearby while I managed to cut vegetables and complete all my prep work for a batch of soup (almost an hour).

indoor sandbox

indoor sandbox
Molly digging in

rainy day toddler activities, rainy day preschool activities
Jackie playing

Apparently this cloud dough should keep (we transferred it all to one sealed container during cleanup) for around a month.  There are other recipes that include adding powdered paint, sparkles or cocoa powder so it smells like chocolate available at Familylicious, although if you find yourself yelling something to the effect of, "Jack don't eat the dough!" every three minutes, you may want to avoid making it smell even more delicious.

sandbox mess
As you can see this is a fun, but highly messy activity.  You may want to plan this before you sweep and mop your kitchen floor. 

To read about other indoor activities like stuffed animal hospital and the indoor toy wash click here.

To read about my infant/toddler heuristic treasure basket click here.

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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Revolution (Resolution) - Part 2

I had so much to write about my ambitious list of New Year's Resolutions for my first 2015 check in that it was worthy of two posts.  To read my first update click here.

Make Family Health A Priority
It's no surprise to anyone in North America that it's been a crazy winter where we haven't gotten out nearly as much as we should have.

I have really been trying to make healthy, tasty meals a priority for the family.  After some trial and error from traditional cook books and online, I am happy to report that I am making at least one to two new meals each week and packing more lunches for both Chris and I - some a lot better than others.   I have discovered just how much tastier, cheaper (and healthier) soup is when made from homemade broth and that recipe that's been popping everywhere up for healthy cookies is amazing (I like to mix mine up with the addition of almond butter, extra bananas and pumpkin seeds).  After a visit to my nutritionist who was adamant that I should be eating more protein I stocked up on navy beans and lentils.  Again, finding the best recipes is an adventure and often a work in progress.  Some recipes, such as, sausage, navy bean and kale soup, are keepers whereas my attempt at lemon Parmesan pasta was one of the most inedible things I've created in years.  Chris and I bought an elliptical which we have just begun using (we're only a little sore) and I managed to give myself a little TLC with one yoga workshop so far this year (I'm going to my second one in May).  I've been using my FitBit to track my progress as I go on more and more lunch and post-work walks as things slowly warm up around here.  I can't wait to begin working on planning hikes and playground visits this spring.

Last month I broke my garlic press and had to retire it.  I take this as a sign that I have satisfied my resolution to cook more. Plus it shows that I am super duper strong, right?  Chris implied that it's because I love garlic and I put it in EVERYTHING!  I beg to differ.

Book Two Dates with Chris Every Month
With the craziness of a family wedding and our family vacation -  this February we really let this one slide.  I'd say we got in about one date night each month, out of the house, just the two of us.  Pre-planning seems to be key to actually getting out together.  I don't know if this resolution is ever going to get moved from my list.

Focus my Energy on Important People in My Life
Since many of my friends are welcoming new babies into their lives this winter, spring and summer, it's been amazing to focus some love into sharing favourite casseroles and passing on clothes that no longer fit Molly and Jack.  I am trying to show people how I feel and that I'm thinking of, but need to continue to work on this, particularly to those closest to me who I lean on the most especially when things get tough.

Stop Complaining and Take Action
I really put a focus on getting some change underway the past few months.  Some of it took off, but a lot of it hasn't. I feel a need to insert a really inspirational quote about how anything worth getting has to be earned here, but am at a loss.  It's easy to focus on what's wrong rather than what's right.  We are really lucky, I just need to keep reminding myself and focus on the small things while I try to make the big things happen.

punk rock babies, babies camping

Looking at old photos is a good reminder of how fast the minions are growing up.  Probably time to lean in and smell the roses.

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Monday, 13 April 2015

The Whole World is Our Playground: Kew Gardens

After a long winter we've all been itching for warm sunshine and regular exploration of the great outdoors.  We were all very excited to get out for the first playground review of spring.

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:
Kew Gardens - 2075 Queen Street East

 There is limited pay street parking and a few Green P parking lots within walking distance of the park (about $1.00 per half hour).  The 501 Queen Streetcar will also drop you off in front of the park.

Theme of Park:
Urban getaway by the lake (including wooden benches designed to look like canoes and a row wooden playhouses that look like miniature log cabins)

Canoe bench

Ground Coverage:
Large wood chips.

Variety of Equipment for different ages:
There is some great equipment for kids aged three to around ten years old.

Best Parts of the Park:
The giant wooden castle structure was Molly's favourite part of the playground, offering a labyrinth for little ones to explore, but enough open space for parents to be able to monitor for safety from a distance and without helicoptering. The area around the playground has a public baseball diamond with bleachers, benches and shady trees (including a gazebo) and a beautiful public fountain.  This centrally located park is close to a variety of coffee and tea shops and a grocery store to stock last minute picnics.  The park also hosts a basic splash pad in the summer for those who want to cool off.

kew gardens fountain toronto
Molly checks out the fountains

Kew Gardens playground equipment, kew gardens playground review
Molly's "castle" on the beach.

As parents of pre-schoolers, one of which has been potty trained for less than a month, I was unimpressed that the public washrooms were locked.  We had to wait in a lengthy line at a coffee shop, which isn't ideal with a three and a half year old who needs to go "NOW!!!".  There were some older kids who were not only bogarting the baby swings while other kids were waiting, but were also standing on the swings and setting a pretty bad example for safe play.

Overall Rating:
This is a great way to enjoy the "beach" area of Toronto with more shade coverage.  Would definitely come back again, maybe even this summer.  4.0/5.

kew gardens playground review, kew gardens playground equipment toronto
Some more traditional equipment.

kew gardens playground review, kew gardens gazebo
Dancing in the gazebo.

To read how I feel about Sherbourne Common Playground click here

To read my review of Neshama Playground click here.

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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Revolution (Resolution) - A Review Part 1

It's official...we're now a quarter of the way into 2015 and it's time for me to check in (and own up) to how I'm doing on my resolutions so far.

Use my writing to help inspire more memories with Molly and Jack including monthly one on one "dates" with the minions
Okay, first off I have only had one date with a minion (Molly) where we went to see Cinderella, which I wrote a review for here.  I learned after two months with no date days that I need to schedule time (usually vacation time) to ensure I actually get a date day with my kids.  Jack's first date day is scheduled for later this month.  I was able to use my writing to create some food inspired movie memories while we watched Mary Poppins, Allow us to explore some local Toronto Green Houses (Allen Gardens and Centennial) to beat the bad weather and make storybook inspired Pinkalicious Cupcakes.

Read More in 2015 (Goal of 30 books total), Including at least 5 Classics that I've never read Before.

I read 7 books so far this year, including one classic.  Again, if anyone has any book recommendations I would love to hear them!

Landline by Rainbow Rowell - A little bit Back to the Future a little bit Christmas Carol.  The characters are all still quite likable, but the plot was predictable.  I wish I had read this holiday themed book in December when I was feeling a little more festive and less dull days of January.

breakfast at tiffany's movie poster, breakfast at tiffany's book review
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Breakfast at Tiffanys by Truman Capote  - The fact that this book is only 86 pages long (and really more of a novella) makes it all the more laughable when I think of that Seinfeld Episode when George desperately seeks the movie as a cheat instead of reading the book.  An enjoyable classic that was a quick read.  Capote's Holly has a more tragic fate and is far less likable than Audrey Hepburn's interpretation, which made her into a lovable icon.   I do not regret reading this classic.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler- An enjoyable yet somewhat A side bio, where Poehler discusses writing process and coming to terms with her evolving role as a mom/career woman workhorse.  As much as I like Amy and adore Leslie Knope this book confirmed me on team Tina Fey if there ever was a Ladies of SNL war.

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran- When I started reading this I instantly knew that I wanted Dolly Wilde to be 16 year old "me's" new best friend.  This confirms that over 20 years later, I'm still making poor choices for my teenage self.  This bio-fiction book is a great read and a fantastic message on everything I loved and hated from my youth at the same time.  Sit through cringe worthy newby mistakes with a fresh sense of humour as Dolly learns that a lot of the time it's better to be yourself than fake it until you make it.  (this has also inspired me to add Moran's How to Be a Woman to my reading list)

Wild by Cheryl Strayed - The brutally honest journal of a screw up as she attempts to hike the Pacific Coast Trail to get over her mother's death.  Insightful and worth reading, even though you want to yell at the character to smarten up as you read. This book has inspired me to research some sort of a (less hardcore) several day to week long hike to add to my bucket list.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell- I have always believed that our instinct or gut reactions are the rare instances when  humans momentarily utilize the other untapped 90% of our brains.  This book was about the theory behind it and I devoured it in less than four days. It also re-kindled my love of micro expressions and the tv show Lie to Me.  Gladwell fans will not be disappointed.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion- This fairly light comedic book not going to change your life, but is an easy and entertaining read.  Although I still loved Don and the regular cast of misfits I found my warm feelings for character Rosie vastly diminished based on her Katherine Heiglesque Knocked Up behaviour in the book.

Get better at Promoting my Writing and get Published in Seven New Places This Year.
In February my list about Growing up in Etobicoke was published on BlogTO, a site that boasts over 2.1 million visitors each month - my biggest audience yet!  While I continue to try to put myself out there, and I have something else "in the works".  This is my only new publication this year so far, I have something in the works presently, but it isn't quite out there yet!  Again, if anyone knows any websites, blogs or magazines where my writing would be a good fit, please let me know.

To view my full list of 2015 resolutions click here.

To see how I did with my 2014 resolutions (and more mini book reviews) click here.

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Monday, 6 April 2015

Okay Blue Jays!

Today is opening day in Major League Baseball in Toronto and despite the fact that it snowed several times this passed weekend, surely this is a sign that spring is here and winter is very, very slowly fading away.

Even though the minions are beyond the age of bottles, breastfeeding and changing stations I felt more than a tinge of envy last week when I read an article that revealed the first nursery in MLB history being launched for the 2015 baseball season in Cincinnati.  Parents no longer forced to miss the game while they change diapers, pump or breastfeed in toilet stalls - the feeding suite has flatscreens so no one is going to miss any of the game.  In my mind this validates the space as, Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park.

safeco field with babies, mlb with babies
Jack and I at Safeco field circa 2012

Chris and I pride ourselves on being active parents who try to socialize the minions by bringing them out to public settings.  That being said I remember countless times being forced to change diapers on the floors of public bathrooms, pumping milk in bathroom stalls and having to change both children because the availability of changing facilities in a men's washrooms are as rare as unicorns.  Often when public spaces, like Toronto's own Rogers Centre, have family washrooms they are few and far between and usually hotboxed with drunken baseball fans cigarette smoke.

I started my lengthy dislike of Ashton Kutcher a while ago, initiated by his show Punk'd and then escalated when his participation lengthened the run of the unbearably terribad show, Two and a Half Men.  Anyone who helps keep John Cryer on TV is in my bad books.  I'm actually shaking my fist in rage right now.  At this point you may be asking yourself what this has to do with public washrooms and sporting events, but stick with me.  Just over a month ago Ashton posted a Facebook rant about the lack of change tables in men's washrooms.  This post received over 245,000 likes.  He took this beyond slactivism and started a petition to get industry leaders Target and Costco to embrace the change first and offer publicly accessible family change stations for parents of any gender.  Target has responded, however Costco has not.  At this time more than 104,000 people have signed the petition. I appreciate Ashton for using his celebrity for good this time round.

In May 2012, Chris and I took the minions to their very first ball game at Safeco Field in Seattle. The staff was so family friendly that I couldn't get over it.  Chris and I were both stopped several times and given information on where the nearest family friendly washrooms were and Molly and Jack were both presented with certificates from the Mariners team to commemorate their very first baseball game.  We couldn't have asked for more for our first family baseball experience.

safeco field with babies, mlb with babies
Chris and Molly at Safeco Field.

Sadly our subsequent trips to Rogers Centre were not met with such fanfare (unless you count the smoke bomb in the parenting washroom that we had to walk half way around the stadium to get to). Does baseball actually want its' next generation of fans?  How are they going to get them out to games if they continue to make things difficult for parents to enjoy baseball with their families?  As we come out of a weekend where Montreal hosted baseball in hope of getting a team back perhaps it's also time for the league as a whole, Toronto included, to appreciate their fans by providing basic facilities to allow them to enjoy baseball after babies.  My family is ready to play ball, MLB are you ready for us?

For 10 Tips to Survive a Sporting Event With Preschoolers (and not lose your mind) click here.

For Tips on Surviving a Sporting Event with Babies click here.

To get access to the newest posts from Multiple Momstrosity and more on Facebook click here and follow today! 

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Bicycle Race

A couple of weeks ago we accidentally duped the minions.  On our way home from errands we told them that we wanted to stop off at Canadian Tire to take a look at some stationary bikes and ellipticals.  They seemed especially enthused, but we didn't think anything of it.  When we arrived at the sporting goods section they fervently sprinted towards the display in front of the counter screaming, "BIKES!!!" at the top of their little lungs.

Chris and I froze momentarily, now keenly aware of their assumption about our current outing.  We let them look at a few bikes and show us what they liked and then asked them about whether they wanted a two wheeler or tricycle. We were met with another chorus, but this time chanting, "Big kid bikes!"

We slowly steered them away from the brightly coloured, brand name, highly expensive, Tigger and Barbie bikes and made our way back towards the exercise equipment we had actually come to check out.  We told them that there was still snow on the ground, but we would look into getting them bikes for this spring.  They were, quite thankfully, very good sports about the fact that we were in search of exercise equipment for mom and dad and not "the littles".

When we got home, Chris and I looked at our budget, some flyers and the likelihood of these bikes lasting any more than two summers and decided we better get moving.  I became one of those people who posts on Facebook looking for information that I could easily Google, "Where can I get some cheap bikes for my kids?"

girls bike, training wheel bike
Molly's "new" bike...with seat on the back for dolls.

Thankfully people were generous with their suggestions and my sister offered up a bike that my niece had outgrown for Molly.  As both kids kept reminding us, "It's spring, so when do we get our bikes?" we promised them that part of our Easter weekend would involve riding their new bikes in a little used parking lot near my parents house.  The thought of Jack on the road puts a level of fear and stress in my heart that I didn't think was possible.  For several weeks, we stalked bike listings online, emailed and visited used bike stores in our area and came up empty handed.  Using bike shopping as a motivation (bribe) for Jack to behave we began to worry that 1) there would be some sort of assumption that we didn't have a bike because he was naughty 2) that we'd break our budget on a bike and 3) that Easter would involve all cousins on bikes while we tried to convince Molly the virtues of turn taking on her brand new bike for Jack - not very likely.

A couple of days ago I came across a flyer for a brand new red 14" bike with training wheels that was in our price range. We rushed out to the store, yet again with the kids in tow.  After twenty minutes of waiting and a trip for each child to one of the most disgusting public washrooms I've been in for a while, I managed to flag down a store employee to find the bike, which was not on the floor of the store.  A few minutes later he returned, apologetically, as they'd changed the colour of the bike this year from red to orange.  Jack rounded the corner and screamed, "MY TIGGER BIKE!" at the top of his lungs and jumped on the bike.    Clearly the change in paint colour was not an issue.

Tonight I'm going to clock my first shift spring training on our brand new elliptical...something tells me I'm going to be running alongside little bikes all summer long.

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