Swimming Lessons

On Friday afternoons, Owen and I go to the pool for “Starfish” level swimming lessons. We did the same class last year, from January to March, when Owen was 7 to 10 months old. Then, as I do, I missed the next sign-up deadline, summer came, and then I thought, well, better to wait until the skills and familiarity he gains can be put to some use (i.e. in the summer).

This is last year:

So here we are again. Owen LOVED swimming last year, but this year, in his almost twos, he is bad at beginnings in general. He cries when he arrives at birthday parties right now. The first lesson was a little bit stressful because it took a lot of encouragement and distraction to keep him involved in the activities. Last week was better: walking the plank (walking across a floating mat and jumping into my arms) and going under the tunnel were both a big hit.

This week was the best so far. He fussed for 2 minutes at the beginning, but then loved jumping off the edge of the pool, doing floating puzzles, and blowing bubbles. I am convinced that he drank a fair bit of pool water, too, since every time he blew bubbles he also said “num-a-num.”

Another attraction the pool offers is that it’s full of babies. I don’t know if it’s the age, but Owen loves babies. He pretends to give doll babies water (de l’eau) in bottles. Last night, he tried to put a diaper on his stuffed dog. Anyway, he likes to wave at the babies and watch them swim, so it’s an added selling point, and when I tell him we’re going swimming, he almost always says “babies?”

The only embarrassing aspect of tonight’s lesson involved Owen’s non-existent bladder control. He peed on the floor as soon as I took off his diaper to put his bathing suit on, and then he peed again when I took his bathing suit off… I held a towel to the stream, which he thought was pretty hilarious. I dried the floor off as best I could, and even used some baby wipes. I guess that’s why people wear shoes in there? Oh well. Here he is after his lesson:

Happy, Happy

Owen’s newest word is “happy,” which is so fun. We discovered he could say it yesterday when he was looking at his Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever, in which there is a page about emotions and actions and such, and there are three pigs in a row, one laughing, one smiling, and the third crying. Owen already likes to imitate crying. After he’s has a particularly bad crying episode (I don’t want to be at this birthday party or some other weird integration problem), we tease him about it afterward, asking what he looked like when he cried before, and he usually obliges with a rubbed eye and a boo hoo hoo (and then a grin).

When he looked at the images of the three pigs, he said “happy, happy, boo hoo hoo (eye rub)” … and I think I reacted so delightedly that he’s been saying happy ever since. “Hapy, Happy! Owie Happy! Owie Happy! Mama Happy!” – And it’s true. A happy Owen makes a very happy Mama.

[Insert Expletive Here]

[Look away if excrement is not your thing]

So… it was bound to happen. Once. But two out-of-diaper poop incidents in one week? Not likely, right? And yet, Thursday night, the night Duncan teaches late and I am alone, after Owen’s bath, was much worse. I gathered the clean boy up in a towel, showed him in the mirror how cute he is (as we do), and carried him into his room. After drying him off with the towel, I put him onto a clean diaper, hauled up his legs, and… well, there was poop there. I thought he had just started, so I tried to get the diaper on so he could do his business. Except then (slowly… think every 45 seconds or so) I noticed some on his feet, and then on the towel, and then a streak on his back. And I was trying to clean him bit by bit (thinking there couldn’t be much) and get the diaper on, which I did, but then I picked up the towel and a big chunk fell out onto the carpet. I cleaned the carpet, but not before I knelt on another small smudge. So off with my clothes, too. I washed out the towel, threw in a load of heavily bleached laundry, and came up to put Owen’s pajamas on. And I saw another small streak on his back, but wiped that off, still denying, somehow, that I had toweled him off in a poopy towel, which I must have done. And we got into the reading chair with some books and instead of smelling bath-fresh, Owen smelled, well, you know. And so we had to start over – back in the bath, back in another towel, diaper, pajamas.

I was near tears this time, I will confess to you.

And as my mother always said, things tend to happen in threes.

Ouf Chat Two!

Owen and I built two snow creatures on the weekend. The snow was perfect for snowmen, but when I asked Owen what we were building, he said, “ouf, ouf” – so I made a dog.

Then when I was finished, I was ready to go inside, but he said, “mo’ mo’ chat,” so I made a cat next to the dog. Owen helped me pat the snow down and roll the balls of snow. When we were finished, he said “Two!” (his favourite number, and the only one he really understands). Now he asks about “ouf, chat” several times a day. He said good night to them before bed tonight.

Life is So Peculiar

Owen is certainly not the only toddler in this city who loves to dance, but he might well be the only toddler who commands his parents to play his favourite song on the Victrola (a Christmas present from Duncan from 2 years ago):

Our go-to song right now is Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters singingĀ  “Life is So Peculiar” from the movie Mr Music. Full disclosure: I love Bing Crosby. I started playing his Christmas album White Christmas in early November and had to force myself to put it away at the end of January. The actual collection of music we have for the Victrola is pretty sparse, but this song sounds better on our old, wind up gramophone than it does digitally. The sound literally transports you. It’s faster when we play it, too, so infectiously danceable.

The lyrics are 50s silly: “When I get up in the morning, there’s nothing to breathe but air / When I look in the mirror, there’s nothing to comb but hair [at this point, Owen points to his hair]. When I sit down to breakfast, there’s nothing to eat but food / Life is so peculiar, but you can’t stay home and brood.” What the song stresses, though, is the predictable, and not the peculiar.

I was teaching Thornton Wilder’s Our Town this week, not my favourite play, but certainly one that made me think. The most important message in the play is that human beings never “realize life while they live it,” and while the play’s version of daily life is lamented, the truth is (I think) that much (most) of life is trivial and banal and repetitive. On the other hand, you can’t only live for the exciting moments, but sometimes have to wait for the magical to appear out of the everyday. I confess that I have spent too much of my time with Owen waiting for time to pass so that I can get on with the next task I am trying to accomplish. I had to keep him home from daycare on Monday and the morning stretched ahead of me like some looming wasteland I had to get through. We had a lovely day together, in the end, but that morning was LONG. Teaching a four-hour class (or two two-hour classes back-to back) passes in the blink on an eye by comparison. I get physically tired teaching (and today lost my voice), but mentally, I am active and so don’t get bored. With Owen, I run out of mental resources. I don’t have enough ideas of what to do with a 20-month-old, and so many of his games require my active participation that I, quite frankly, get bored. And when I do get interested (in building elaborate train tracks or tall towers out of blocks) I sometimes have to remind myself that I’m playing for him, so when he starts taking my train tracks apart and putting them away, it’s his game, not mine.

My point, though, is that over the course of the day, Monday, I realised that I was having a really great day at home with my boy, but it had taken me time to relax into it. I tried to balance getting things done (like shovelling out the 30 cm of snow that had and was still falling) and surrendering to Owen’s whims (dancing for as long as he wanted or letting him tear the stickers in his colouring book. Because it’s his colouring book, not mine, and if moving the stickers around brings him joy, I should just relax).

What I guess I am saying is that life is predictable, but that in and among the mundane are glimpses of the magical (or peculiar), and, as the song says, “that’s life, that’s life, that’s life.”

A Beautiful Disaster

The title of this post is borrowed from a student, who wrote one of the most poetic lines in her essay I think I’ve ever read: “A child is a beautiful disaster created by love.” Isn’t that just lovely? And true?

Owen is getting to an age where he likes to climb. He’s still a fairly cautious kid, so he’ll stand on the coffee table and look over for the disapproval he knows is coming, and get right down again. He’s mostly able to shimmy up onto the couch, though sometimes he needs an arm or a pant leg to grab onto. He sits on the edges of things, keels over, falls. He leaves miniature disasters in his wake: a trail of cheerios, a smattering of blueberries, a smear of banana, a drool of milk – but it’s all part and parcel of the growth and health (thank goodness) of the boy he is becoming. One of his favourite places to stand is a step stool that he likes to pull up to the kitchen counter. The problem with this stool is that every now and then he loses his balance and teeters backwards, and sometimes there is no one there to catch him. But seconds after I’ve kissed it better (kisses sound like this: “moooooah”), he’s ready to climb up there again, to be a participant in whatever is going on at the counter – usually some kind of cooking or eating, but sometimes just an adult conversation.

Anyway, here’s to our beautiful disaster. Am I ever glad we made him.

Ouf Ouf Sled Ride

These are from a couple of weeks ago – the most glorious day of the winter so far, spent with a great friend, Rebecca, and her son Theo. Rebecca and I met in prenatal yoga class and have shared many moments of early-motherhood angst – so it was nice to have our sons so… well… civilized for a change.

Look at them “conversing”:

Our main goal for the day was to ride on dog sleds, which we did. The dogs were just this side of wild, and some of them had eerie ice-blue eyes – which impressed me, though I’m not entirely sure why. Some of the huskies kept leaping off the ground in their harnesses, eager to move forward yet obedient to their tasks. One plunged into a snowbank to have a bath (or so it seemed). Here they are looking fairly sedate:

Days like this make me love winter. I love this picture of Owen:

This one, too, though it’s pretty much what he looks like every day:

xo Anna

A Monkey on a Dinosaur

When Owen was quite small, he had some pajamas that featured a monkey riding a dinosaur. These pajamas initially struck us as cute, but later on we wondered what the designers had been thinking. Were they making a political statement? Were they suggesting that monkeys and dinosaurs roamed the earth together? We referred to them as his creationist pajamas, and were kind of sad when he grew out of them.

This past weekend we went to our village’s winter carnival, part two. Part one involved sled dogs at Morgan Arboretum and in some days was more glorious (the day was perfect and the setting so majestic). Owen, Duncan and I headed out after lunch, thinking that if it was not going to be any fun, we’d just go home. Initially, it seemed like there was nothing for us to do. There were hockey tournaments, blow up castles, and skating – none of which we could really do with a toddler. We meandered over to the sign that proposed free hot chocolate, and I bought Owen his first taste of maple taffy. Then we noticed a table covered in garden tools and spray bottles of coloured water. It turned out that we could claim a block of ice for ourselves and carve it into whatever shape we chose…

We dragged Owen and his taffy over to an appropriate block and threw him in a snowbank so we could get to work. A colleague of mine claims that almost every story I tell of Owen lately involves me first throwing in the snowbank. To be fair, Owen loves being thrown in snowbanks (literally) but I do not actually THROW him in snowbanks on a daily basis. In this case, we (literally) sat him down in the snow so we could work our artistic magic and he could finish his candy.

Most of the people around us were spraying their names onto the blocks of ice. One family had made a tunnel. The week before, the projects had been more ambitous: there had been a little snowy owl, a heart-shaped bench, and an (amazing) octopus fighting a snowman. Duncan and I were ambitious. First I proposed our family. Too ambitious. Then we thought a snowman. Too boring. Then I proposed a dinosaur, because dinosaur is one of Owen’s new words, and I figured he’d like it if he could say what we were making: “Disoh!”

One of the corners already kind of looked like a dinosaur’s head, so we started to whittle away at the ice. As soon as we started, we realized how much more difficult it was going to be than we imagined. I still have bruises on my hands from smashing my trowel into the snow, only to find that it hid ice. We had also left the house wearing jeans and impractical clothing in general, so we got colder and wetter as the afternoon wore on. When Owen finished his taffy, we gave him one of the garden tools and asked him to poke holes in it (as a way to occupy him) because by this point, frankly, the carnival was about us, not about him. He played for a bit, and then some 80s tunes came over the sound system and he started dancing. He was having a good time. Duncan and I took breaks occasionally to dance with him.

Eventually, we decided to abandon one side of our beast, because we did not want to be there all day. We were cold, and worried that Owen might get cold too (though he was toasty because dressed appropriately in a snowsuit.)

We finished our creation and placed our own monkey on top (sorry for the quality of the images, but all I had to record the moment was my cell phone):

And just before we left, we gave our dinosaur some rosy cheeks (fortunately sent by a friend who had a real camera):

Isn’t he cute?

I want my Mo’TV

We don’t own a television. When we watch shows, we do so online on our laptops, because we can choose what to watch and when. We also listened to a CBC documentary called “The Hurried Infant” before Owen was born that detailed the pernicious effects of television watching in babies (a pronounced decrease in vocabulary for every hour of television watched), and what a mockery it is to sell “educational” DVDs to the under-two crowd.

And yet, every now and then, and then more and more often, we have been letting Owen watch YouTube videos – mostly Sesame Street – and more and more he has seemed to like them and know them until recently (this week?) he started asking to watch videos, every day, twice or three times a day. Last night as he sat watching Katy Perry chase Elmo, I tried to engage him in conversation (about the video) – with no acknowledgement. I then waved my hand in front of his face. Twenty times? No reaction. When I said no more TV, oh la la… Owen began the biggest meltdown I have ever seen – tears, rage, running away from me, throwing blocks on the floor, incoherent blubbering… Now, he was tired, but really? Is this the effect of television on a toddler? Because I was really beginning to like the free time his videos gave me.

On the other hand, he’s adorably into Grover’s “Near and Far” demonstration, and does his own “Nee” “Daa” game in his high chair, throwing himself back and forth toward me and away from me. He asks for “Nee Daa” while pointing at the computer and requests “Mo” and “Mo” of the clips he enjoys.

So… it’s, like, educational, right?

Like & Love

I have noticed recently how much I love my boy – like heart-swelling love. As he develops into his own little person, as he fills out his personality, I find myself filled up with pride – and my love has a different quality than it used to, which is why I feel compelled to write about it.

I think it has to do with how much I like Owen as well as love him. He’s helpful, he’s kind, he’s friendly, he’s everything I would choose in a friend (OK – not the whiny bits, but they are pretty rare).

We’ve started cooking together when I bring him home from daycare. He stands on his “stoo[l]” and helps me dump flour or milk into a bowl – or he eats the vegetables I am chopping (he didn’t like the onion). And he loves being involved, and it’s so fun to remind him that he made the pizza he’s eating, or the bread, or the soup.

He’s a bit of a neat freak – not entirely sure where he got this quality from, since neither Duncan nor I is particularly tidy, but when anything is out of place (i.e. there’s jam on his finger or he finds a piece of lego under the table) we hear “uh oh… uh oh… uh oh” until the problem is resolved. I had to teach him that he could lick the jam off his own finger. But this slight OCD quality makes him very good at cleaning up his own toys (I think they foster this behaviour at his daycare). He’s also a great help when I need him to bring rinsed containers to the recycling bin.

He’s also become so independent lately, so that I can send him off to his room to read a book while I shower, and sometimes he will spend 5 minutes (or more) by himself (and not destroying anything, but playing, reading) before coming to play peek-a-boo with his mum.

I know I’m his mother, and I know I am supposed to love him, but I honestly wasn’t prepared for liking him so much.