December 21, 2015
Bits and bobs

When I look at these pictures, I remember how much Elizabeth loves to climb trees and hang upside down from things. Matthew has gotten super into puzzles and games. He's not totally into following the instructions on games. Usually he makes up his own.

Matthew stopped riding his balance bike willingly this fall, declaring it "for babies". The tricycle is more grownup because it has pedals. But he'd rather have Maria's old bike, never mind that he's not quite tall enough.

He's also a big fan of butter. I don't think I mentioned he chowed down on half a cup of butter at the cottage but that time where he dragged a dining room chair into the kitchen in order to be able to reach the butter out of the fridge so that he could fetch his own butter "for a yiddle 'nack Mommy" is definitely going to become family lore.

Did I already blog about the time that Matthew sighed "Oh Mommy, you are my friend"? Daddy asked "Am I your friend too?" Matthew very indignantly replied: "Oh no Daddy, you're not my friend - you're my OWNER!" I was highly, highly amused. It's slightly more understandable when you know that my kids like to play a game they've dubbed "Meow Meow and owner", which has one person playing the part of the cat and the other person bossing the cat around. The cat is the most desirable character, which suits me fine as I am not really into crawling around, even for my adorable offspring. Amelia usually gets to play the part of the baby.

In addition to Meow Meow and baby, dressing up is a BIG thing. Elizabeth likes to be animals, and Elsa. Matthew likes to be spiderman, and Elsa. He's not allowed to wear Elizabeth's Elsa dress though, so he uses the other princess dress and whirls around singing "Let it go".

Both older kids drive us crazy by tying things to other things. At least they are learning some knots? Also annoying is their bad habit of sucking on clothing, certain stuffies and ropes. I suppose it is better than nail biting, but I was less than impressed when Matthew basically chewed the nose off his poor little kitty. Matthew has endless faith in our ability to fix the things he inadvertently destroys. This is not always well-placed.

Lest the reader be tempted to think our children never succumb to sibling rivalry... The time change was quite hard on Elizabeth in particular (possibly she was fighting the terrible virus that felled much of the rest of the family). In any case much of November was punctuated by temper tantrums, screaming fits and annoying each other (not to mention their parents!). "I'm never talking to you again." "Yes you are" "No I'm not" 

One memorable evening they were cuddled up nicely in Matthew's bed. Elizabeth was reading him his bedtime story. It was the sort of idyllic scene a parent dreams about. Then she suddenly pinched him hard on the cheek, hard enough to leave a bruise for a few days. That was the end of her getting to read. Cue spectacular meltdown "If you don't let me practice reading even if I'm misbehaving I'll NEVER be a good reader." After a few minutes of melodramatic sobbing didn't have the desired effect. "Fine. I'll read another book so loud that Matthew can't hear you finish the story." Me: "Um. No." So she chucked the book at me. Inevitably that resulted in being sent to bed without seeing the rest of the pictures. "You would NEVER get a job at the library, mom!"

Thankfully the tantrums seem to have more or less subsided about as abruptly as they began.

20 photos / videos

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December 19, 2015
Gingerbread the 20th

Somehow we managed to get to 20 years of gingerbread without really realizing it.  Having started as a small get-together with a few friends back in high school and progressing to an all time high of sixty something people last year there has been a lot of change over the years and I'm not just talking about the quantities of candy consumed. This year the final tally was a quiet 41.  Some of the original group still make it out (looking at you John) and people still make houses (sometimes).  The big shift now is that we are starting to watch our kids make stuff instead of making stuff for them.  Elizabeth surprised us by quite competently and calmly working away on a house of her own (using pieces she coopted from others...) creation for a couple of hours with very little input or assistance from her parents. Shout out to various encouraging adults definitely due here (looking especially at Heather, Renée, Simon and Hayley here!)  Most of the younger kids have been sticking to making flat cookies and then covering them in copious quantities of candy.  While fun this doesn't make for epic creations that rival those of the early years.  With several of the kids moving into three dimensional realm we are hopeful that this will swing back the other way.  This year we also had a number of regulars who for various reasons couldn't make it and a whole pile of neighbours (some new and many of whom we are only just starting to really get to know) who could make it.  It was really nice that a lot of the people knew each other, other than by virtue of seeing each other every year at gingerbread.

It was also the first year that Elizabeth had friends that came without any supervising adults. Adi, Elizabeth and Mila all decorated elephants, designed courtesy of Aunt Heather. There was a moment of wildness when I wondered what we had done but the kids settled down and after that they played more or less nicely. The house was still standing in the end; always a mark of success. Besides, it turns out that even 41 people including four infants and hordes of children six and under still don't make as much of a mess as 6 teenagers did when making gingerbread unsupervised for the very first time. The real mystery is why my mother let us use her kitchen again the following year!

Matthew enjoyed himself very much. He apparently literally climbed on the table, and then used the time honoured toddler decorating technique as follows: Choose candy after taste testing to be sure it is good. Glue candy to a cookie. Remove candy from cookie and pop into mouth. Repeat.

I was surprised there weren't more cookies with a Star Wars theme, but John's tie fighter was awfully cute. Just needed a wookie... Maybe a few baby ewoks... But then I think Wookies and Ewoks would make a positive addition to any movie (don't tell me about the new Star Wars though; haven't seen it yet!) My favourite creation this year was probably Auntie Janice's chocolate covered owl. Tinfoil core, marmalade ears, chocolate paint... What's not to love? A close second was Catherine's Rubik's cube. Her son's obsession with that piece of plastic is directly responsible for Elizabeth's newfound interest! I was also amused when Noemie's creation didn't work so she rescued it by adding much candy and calling it modern art.

Oh and thing we are holding is my chocolate covered gingerbread baby. And yes the baby is doing what you think she is doing...  After nearly seven months of cleaning spit up we decided that this needed to be properly immortalized.

42 photos / videos

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December 18, 2015
New lights

Half our old LED lights strings failed to light last year, so we decided that we could get new lights.

I sent Brendan to the store to get something good and he didn't disappoint. The new "icicles" are extremely tacky and I love them. They are even better in person. I may have aspirations to be "that house" on our block (but we'll need more lights next year, Brendan...)

4 photos / videos

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December 17, 2015
Teacher gifts

Elizabeth had a slightly smaller list of people she "had" to give gifts to this year, and we were slightly more organized getting it done as a result. I might have been much more organized, except that I didn't really want her to make fudge or toffee while recovering from stomach flu...

She did the cards herself, mostly even without spelling assistance!

5 photos / videos

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December 16, 2015
Field trip

I should probably reiterate here how pleased we are with Elizabeth's teacher this year. She communicates!!! Elizabeth is learning stuff! Did I mention she communicates??!! So important.

I got a chance to go along with her class to the NAC on their first field trip of the year. They walked, which was cool and unexpected. Even better, they looked at a map and used the process of getting there as a "learning about maps" and the local neighbourhood. The performance was pretty awesome too. It started as they were walking in (one way to keep the kids quiet!). Called "L\u2019après-midi d\u2019un foehn - version 1" I'd highly recommend it if you have a chance to see it.

The website described it as follows: "Surrounding the ring, an array of inward-facing fans. In the middle, a rather odd-looking puppeteer who is using the breeze from the fans to breathe life into some unconventional characters: dozens of multicoloured plastic bags. Caught on the rising drafts, the little bags perform an astonishing airborne dance, and our imagination soars right along with them! A delicate and poetic juggling act that explores the magic in everyday things."

I found it completely mesmerizing. At first I was suspicious that the bags were controlled by something other than the fans but no. Elizabeth's favourite part was when the performer made the first bag in front of us. Her friend thought it was when the man made all the bags jump into an umbrella (that was quite something). The umbrella sequence was quite lovely, but I think my favourite part was when he tipped them out all over and it was like the bags were suddenly attacking him. The ending was perfect, but I won't spoil it in case you can go see it for yourself. I hope I get a chance to see it again sometime.

2 photos / videos

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