To My Aiden on His Fifth Birthday

Dear Aiden,

Today was your 5th birthday! It’s hard to believe how much you have changed since you turned 4, and yet at your core you are still the inquisitive, passionate and creative child. It’s hard to believe how much you have changed in the last month alone, since you started Kindergarten, and how that has translated into a new-found maturity and blossoming patience. 

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I know these next years you will continue to grow and mature, and I dearly feel the change in how much time you spend away from me. I cherish the moments we spend together, as I cherished our time today visiting the Ghost Train, playing Lego, playing with your new toys and decorating for your birthday party. I love your enthusiasm for life and cherish every smile you throw my way. 

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Though the past year was not without its challenges, particularly as you grew restless during the summer, upon reflection you have lived such a life and have changed so much. Graduating preschool and starting Kindergarten. Learning to ride a bike and a scooter. Taking long family bike rides and hikes through the forests. Drawing intricate pictures, faces and letters. Creating and inventing. Building and following instructions. Creating imaginary worlds to play in with your friends. Inviting your brother into your world to share your joys.  

You shout your joy (and your anger!), to the rooftops! You never fail to brighten a room with your enthusiasm and your chatter. Your aptitude, interest and concentration abilities for things like Lego or games like Carcassonne leaves me breathless. While you race ahead in so much that seems ‘grown up’, still you love to lay on the floor to drive around your cars in endlessly creative ways. 

Shout your joy, my Aiden. Live life passionately. Challenge yourself. These are the things that make you happy. Life will have its challenges, and its failures, but it is full of excitement for those willing to see it. I am thankful to be able to walk beside you to see the world with your excitement. 

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Every night I sing to you that “you’ll always know how much I love you, because I’ll tell you every day.” I love you, today, tomorrow and every day hereafter. Happy Birthday my special boy!!

Love, 
Mommy 

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The Wiggles in Concert

This past weekend, we took the kids to see The Wiggles live in concert. We have been fans of The Wiggles for some years now; their upbeat, original, catchy songs are great whether you listen to them or watch their videos. Aiden was never a fan of “kids music” as a young child, but for Damien, The Wiggles are his everything when it comes to video content. 

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We didn’t quite make it to age 2 before we started pulling out videos as a way to cope with the stupidly early mornings that toddlers of this age often go through. As with Aiden, we first cycled through short videos on YouTube, and music of course is a favourite. He went through some classic Elmo videos and a few others before getting hooked on The Wiggles. There’s been no turning back. It’s only recently, after 8-12 months now, that Damien has been ok sometimes watching something other than The Wiggles. 

Since Damien is obsessed with The Wiggles, Aiden has had a lot of exposure to them as well. Sometimes he hides his like of The Wiggles though, since I think he’s a little embarrassed of how much he likes them. When the kids pick songs to listen to, he’ll say something like “Damien, do you want to listen to Shimmie Shimmie?,” so that it’s not really him asking for it. 

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As with that, Aiden pretended that he wasn’t excited to go see The Wiggles, but he was. He passed up a birthday party offer to see them and all week he talked about it and how much “Damien” loves The Wiggles. At the concert, Aiden was beside himself excited and could even be seen doing some of the motions and songs. You know, as long as he thought we weren’t watching ;)

Damien was excited too. “We join’ a Wiggles!!” was heard all day. He napped for about 10 minutes on the way to The Wiggles concert in Surrey, and I was just about to transfer him to the Ergo when he woke up and yelled “We join’ a Wiggles now!!” the second his eyes were open. Quite hilarious. 

Damien was mesmerized for most of the show, completely zoned into their every move. He didn’t participate as much as I expected, but then again he was on my lap instead of on the floor with a guitar in his hand ;)

He clearly saw everything though, as he re-enacted their “Ralph Lauren” horse skit with his own giraffe and was singing some songs throughout the following days. 

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I was so incredibly happy to be able to provide this opportunity to my kids. How often do you get to see your idols in person? It completely melted me to be able to do that. After passing on Raffi tickets when Damien was in his Raffi-obsessed stage (because they seemed so incredibly expensive), this was an extra special experience to be a part of. 

As for the adults? Well, I have to say the current members of The Wiggles are incredibly talented. The show was done live with a lot of improv and there was enough comedy in the show, enough personality, to make the show that much more special. A very talented group of performers. 

Damien the Puzzler

Damien is currently obsessed with puzzles. Just last month, I would have told you that Damien rarely does anything beyond his music. Sometimes he would pick up a toy or draw or play with PlayDoh, but usually he made music. 

Right now, his activity of choice is puzzles. He can independently do the wooden alphabet puzzle (from Etsy) many times a day, but he’s taken a keen interest in larger puzzles as well (15-60 pieces). He is very good at putting the pieces together and turning them until they align. He’s less good at understanding the sequence of a puzzle (that you can’t put the front of the firetruck on unless you’ve completed the middle) and is only sort-of understanding how to look at the pictures on the pieces as well as their shape. 

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This is, from experience, the most annoying stage in puzzle love. I remember going through it with Aiden and trying to teach him how to look for a certain colour or shape only to be met with bafflement. 

“Can you find a piece with ladder on it?”

“Here’s ladder!” (holding the first piece he finds, a tire)

“Is that a ladder or a tire? Look at it.”

Sigh. 

He is starting to get it, but it’s an annoying stage that goes against my hands-off let-him-discover-the-way parenting approach. Damien is more used to this, so if the puzzle is small enough, he’ll keep trying pieces until he finds the right one and I can sit back to just sportscast if he’s ever unsure. Of course, he doesn’t always want to do the small puzzles. ;)

Jump Gymnastics Comes to North Vancouver

Jump Gymnastics is the latest child-focused facility to open up in North Vancouver, expanding beyond their existing Yaletown location. With a philosophy on curriculum for “physical literacy,” the program was designed to give kids (6m – 8y) foundational skills to be active in a variety of sports and activities in their lives. 

The new North Vancouver Jump Gymnastics location is East of Second Narrows bridge on Dollarton Highway, in the same complex as Cove Brewing if you are craft beer people like we are ;)

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I had the opportunity to preview the space and try out one of their classes with Damien. Having been through 4 years of the more play-based Gymboree classes with the boys, before the North Van location was closed, and also experiencing the more rigid educational component offered by the Flicka gymnastics club with Aiden, I found Jump to be a nice medium. 

The class is 45 minutes (so is open gym) and includes 10 minutes of free play. The instructional component is broken up into circuits where your child is asked to perform various body movements. At Damien’s level, age 2.5, those included things such as star jumping, balancing on a beam, rolling balls down ramps, or walking across the parallel bars. The class also included some song times. All the components of the class were very age-appropriate and engaging, while also challenging and new. 

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The equipment is great and very interesting for little explorers. The teacher was bright and cheerful and helpful at the more complicated stations. Having been through a number of different gymnastics-like class types, I did feel that 45 minutes was a bit too short and would have preferred a longer class with a mix of free play and instructional time. I know Damien was sad to leave when his class was over! I mean, who wouldn’t want to roll in a pit of balls?!

I also found that the circuits, run one at a time, would get quite busy and it was hard to keep Damien on task. While he follows instructions very well, I think we both would enjoy a more laid back open gym vs a class. There are several open gyms available in their schedule, but most occur during Damien’s nap time and are very short in duration. If you do want to attend one, it’s recommended to pre-register. 

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Taking the Instructions Out of Art Time

Yesterday I posed a link to the ActiveMama Facebook page with some Halloween craft ideas. Among the ideas was a super cute Mummy decorated with masking tape (from No Time for Flashcards). So easy, I thought! I’m totally all about the easy. 

Easy mummy craft for kids

Well, the kids were tired yesterday afternoon and starting to bicker. I took a sheaf of paper (first off, I’m out of black paper) and cut out a quick gingerbread person shape. I was about to give the kids some cute Halloween-themed washi tape that I had, when I realized:

  1. Giving them tape and asking them to cut it to specific lengths was not going to buy me the quiet time needed to complete dinner
  2. IT WAS TOO STRUCTURED

I’m kind of anti-structure when it comes to crafts and art. I think offering a child a limited set of materials with “instructions” to follow really limits their creativity. I avoid it whenever possible, particularly now as Aiden is in school. So, I kept my mouth shut about the tape and handed Aiden and his best buddy the shapes and told them to have fun. I accidentally let slip the “you could make a Mummy” but quickly recovered with “or any Halloween creature. Whatever you want!”

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Of course, my blunder meant that both boys created a Mummy first (see how used to instruction they are?!) but then they got into it. Aiden began a Frankenstein (he still wants to colour the feet green and apply eyes), accenting it with torn clothes and trimming the face shape and hands. His buddy made an awesome zombie. 

My supplies? A paper, a bin of odds-and-ends (buttons, beats, google eyes) and freedom to grab anything from the craft cabinet. 

Allowed to explore their own creativity, the boys spent a half hour at this craft (that’s a huge time for boys on a playdate). Even Damien scribbled on a man for a bit. 

SUCCESS.