Since I last made an appearance on this sorely neglected blog, Nicholas has had his first (real) haircut. He went to Melonheads, just like his big brother, and sat in an airplane seat while Thomas sat in a Thomas the Tank Engine chair nearby.

More importantly, last week Nicholas celebrated his first birthday. The party was lots of fun. Baba and Grandpa and Auntie Evelyn were all there, Grandma joined us by Skype, and the birthday boy was in fine spirits. He was delighted with all his presents, including the Fisher Price house that Dave and I bought for him. He spent a lot of time just going back and forth through the little door to the amusement of all the grownups. Sadly, many of the other features didn’t work properly. For example, hitting the doorbell produced some weird garbled music and random noises. So, after the cake was eaten and the guests had gone home, Dave was at Toys ‘R Us half an hour before closing, exchanging the fully-assembled dud of a playhouse for a new one in a box. Which he then put together in a state of exhaustion so the boys could wake up to their new toy none the wiser.

Here’s the highlight reel, plus the picture of the haircut again, which for some reason WordPress won’t let me exclude from the slideshow.

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Nicholas has made the leap from walking around the furniture to just…walking. Dave and I were talking in the kitchen one day and looked up to see him coming toward us with a big grin on his face. And now he’s doing it every day as if it were nothing at all.

Here, see for yourself!

Could be almost anywhere, really. Here are some of the places the vehicles have ended up lately.

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The annual Winterlude festival is on now in Ottawa, so last weekend we took the boys. Pre-kids, Dave and I typically celebrated by looking at a few ice sculptures and skating on the canal. But this year, we went first thing in the morning to the kickoff event at city hall – a pancake breakfast.

You see, Thomas adores Curious George. And in his big collection of George stories, there is one in which George attends a pancake breakfast. He gets into all sorts of trouble when he decides to help make the pancakes. He gets covered in syrup, then the napkins get stuck to him and he decides to wash himself off in the dunk tank. Of course, George is a big hero by the end of the story, because people love his pancakes and the fundraiser is the biggest success ever, thanks to him.

All this to say, Thomas was pretty excited to go eat pancakes, but we weren’t terribly excited to stand in line immediately upon our arrival. So we watched some figure skaters, had a look at the ice sculptures, and got Thomas a bit of maple syrup taffy first. And in the end, the pancake line moved mercifully fast, even without a monkey at the griddle. It helped that there was a clown making balloon animals for the kids, so Thomas got a purple poodle. And the mayor even stopped to say hello and give him an “Ottawa” pin. (He even said “Enjoy the pancakes!” like the mayor in the George story.)

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  This week, we took Thomas to (we hope) his last-ever speech assessment at CHEO. He didn’t make it easy for the therapist to assess him, since he only wanted to talk about trucks and vehicle-related things, but she managed. And it seems he is now fully caught up in terms of vocabulary and the grammar he is using.

This is in contrast to the first appointment, about two years ago, when he was making very few sounds of any kind and not even making any attempts to imitate basic syllables. Even at age two, after Nicholas was born, he wasn’t saying “mama” or “dad.” But now, at nearly three, we have conversations like this:

Thomas: (looking at a book) That’s a BIG TRUCK!!!

Me: Yes, it is.

Thomas: It’s coming towards us!

Me: You’re right!

Thomas: That’s a ball.

Me: Yes, it’s a beach ball.

Thomas: Different colours.

It’s pretty amazing to hear your child saying words and combining them in ways you have no memory of teaching him. It seems clear that during his long silent period, Thomas was absorbing incredible amounts of language information. Which makes sense, now that we know a little more about his personality. He’s quite a cautious little boy. And we always did have the feeling that he understood a lot of what was being said to him, but we (David and I, but me especially) didn’t want to second-guess the experts too much. At any rate, it is a huge relief and a pleasure that he now speaks so well. I suppose things would have worked out all right in the end if we’d never bothered to take him for any of these appointments, but we learned a lot of things that will perhaps be useful when Nicholas starts to learn to talk.

One of the things Thomas likes to talk about these days is the Alphabeasts. These creatures inhabit a big, strange old Victorian house in a book by Wallace Edwards. The animals get up to some strange things:

A is for alligator, awake from a dream
B is for bat, slurping ice cream
C is for cat, who reflects on itself
D is for duck, guarding toys on a shelf
E is for elephant, on the right track
F is for frog, who never looks back
G is for giraffe, minding a tray
H is for hippo, preparing to play
I is for ibis, arranging some pears
J is for jaguar, checking the stairs
K is for kingfisher, the best in the box
L is for lion, styling his locks
M is for mandrill, expecting a call
N is for narwhal, wrapped in a shawl
O is for octopus, changing a light
P is for pig, tucked in for the night
Q is for quetzal, decorating with flowers
R is for rhino, daydreaming for hours
S is for swan, dancing with glee
T is for tarantula, arriving for tea
U is for unicorn, the shyest of beasts
V is for vulture, dying to feast
W is for warthog, feeling under the weather
X is for xenosaur, composing a letter
Y is for yak, seeking a path
Z is for zebra, taking a bath.

It’s a great book with beautiful illustrations, and Thomas likes us to read it to him often. Sometimes when I’m getting Nicholas ready for bed, I can hear him reading it to himself, too. And lately, Thomas has been reciting it to his dad at bedtime. Here’s a recording: Thomas recites Alphabeasts

I highly recommend this book as a gift. The pictures are beautiful, and there’s lots going on in them to keep little minds occupied. A two-year-old couldn’t possibly grasp it all, but from the reviews I read on Amazon, it seems to be quite popular with this age group.

And just for fun, here’s a little recording of last night’s storytime with Dad – Up and Down, by Oliver Jeffers: Thomas reads Up and Down

Canal adventure

Today we took Nicholas out to the canal for the very first time, and Thomas for the first time on skates. The skates are strap-on blades from Canadian Tire that attach to his boots. He also has a new, huge black helmet that makes him look like Darth Vader, and an orange frame to help him balance.

Overall, I think this first skate went pretty well. Thomas skated (well, kind of walked on his blades while holding on to me or his dad or the frame) to Pig Island from the Bank Street Bridge. We were hoping to get all the way to Fifth Avenue to get Beavertails, but Thomas started to get a bit impatient. So we took off the skates and loaded him back into the stroller, where he and his brother happily chatted during the walk home, and admired the beautiful pink wintry sunset (“Rainbow colours in sky!” said Thomas).

Nicholas seemed happy as a clam to be riding in the big stroller despite the cold (-10C), though we will have to keep an eye on him, as he has a way of worming out of his mittens in order to better explore the stroller compartment.

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Thomas is quite into nursery rhymes these days, somewhat to our surprise. It all started with, of all things, the placemat he uses at mealtimes. It’s a handy little thing with a lip at the front that catches breakaway food bits, but Thomas is more interested in the pictures on it. There’s a cow jumping over a moon, a little dog and a dish and spoon. So I recited the rhyme to him and he was intrigued. In what seemed like no time at all, he was saying it himself from memory, or at least a pretty good version of it.

Since then, we’ve gone on to teach him Jack and Jill and more recently, Humpty Dumpty. For some reason he prefers to say them at top volume (“Is loud!” he says afterward), and to improvise on some of the verbs. So Jill is “coming boom after” instead of tumbling, which we think is pretty cute.

Anyway, you can have a listen for yourself here: Thomas’s first nursery rhymes

It’s interesting to dredge up these old rhymes from memory to teach them to Thomas. As a kid I don’t remember finding them especially strange, but to grown-up ears the stories are really quite weird, aren’t they? As we were driving back from Toronto this past weekend, Dave and I were wondering aloud where Humpty Dumpty came from. I mean, a giant egg sitting on a wall? Why? Dave said half-jokingly (I think) that it was probably about a revolution or something. Well, it turns out he was right. This article details the origin of all kinds of nursery rhymes, starting with Humpty Dumpty. It’s not a terribly cheerful read, but very interesting.

And Merry Christmas. Clearly I’ve fallen off the wagon with the whole blogging project. Here are some pictures of the big event.

I don’t have many deep thoughts to share, but it was a really great Christmas and New Year’s. Thomas and Nicholas were showered with wonderful attention and fantastic gifts. They are lucky boys. And, we are lucky to be able to look at the holiday through their eyes. They’ve certainly made it all feel brand new to me.

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Santa coming

Last week we started talking to Thomas about Christmas. This is the first year he’ll really be able to understand what’s going on, so I started simple.

“Christmas is coming,” I said.

“Kwis wights!” said Thomas. (Christmas lights).

“Yes. And Grandma’s coming.”


“And Auntie Karen.”

“Auntie Wona!”

“Yes, Auntie Lorna too. And do you know who else is coming?”


“Santa’s coming. And he brings presents for good little boys and girls.”


He seemed to get the gist, but I figured I’d have to explain things to him once or twice more before it sunk. Shortly after, we all headed upstairs so I could get Nicholas to bed. As I prepared to nurse Nicholas off to sleep, Thomas gave his little brother his usual good night hug and kiss, and used the remote control to shut off the overhead light in the ceiling fan. What usually happens next is that he goes off to his own room to play on his own for about 20 minutes, occasionally returning just to say “hi” (literally) before closing the door and leaving again.

But this time when he creaked open the door, he had something else to say.

“Santa coming!” he said, the hall light blazing behind him.

“That’s right,” I whispered back.

He closed the door and went back to his room.


Thomas was around eight months old for his first Christmas. So for Christmas cards that year, I took some photos of him in a Santa hat. First I tried having him sit on the floor in front of the fireplace, but he wasn’t terribly stable, and ended up flat on his back. So I set him up in the highchair, put on the hat and a white bib, and gave him a few Christmas ornaments to play with while I took some pictures. It worked out pretty well.

This year, I thought I’d try something similar with both Thomas and Nicholas. I set up my studio, i.e., removed the playmat from in front of the fireplace and put up some stockings.  I had many clever ideas, such as putting Nicholas in the cute little sled that Thomas received from his grandparents two years ago, and having his big brother pull him around. I even found some reindeer antlers for Thomas at the dollar store.

In the end, none of my shots turned out to be Christmas-card worthy. At least, none of the ones with the two boys together, which was my goal. Instead, here is a gallery of the off-cuts, and we will figure out the Christmas cards later. Maybe.

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