Archive for December, 2011

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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I forgot about these two shots from the weekend. Guess he must have been hungry.

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Well this is interesting

Just now, Nicholas pulled himself to standing all by himself, at the base of the kitchen stairs. I would have taken a picture of it, but I was too scared to leave him there alone while I got the camera. He wasn’t too stable, but he was definitely standing up. The picture to the left, which I took at an earlier attempt, gives you an idea of where he was headed.

Downward dog

I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. Unlike Thomas, who hardly budged from his playmat until he was more than a year old, Nicholas has been pulling himself around commando-style for a couple of months. And he’s really fast.

Not exactly on topic, but from the same photo shoot...and so darn cute.

Then last week, he was doing downward dogs on the diaper change pad. So I

took some pictures. I predict that pulling up to the coffee table is next.

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  This week’s big adventure was a trip to the Aviation Museum. Ottawa has a lot of big, impressive national museums, which are very popular with parents. Possibly with children, too. But with children it’s more complicated. More on that in a moment.

As you can see, this particular museum is full of planes. Thomas loves planes. Maybe not as much as he loves trucks, but he still thinks they’re pretty great. He has a book called “Things That Go” which features a rescue helicopter much like the one on display at this museum, so he was pretty excited to see one close-up.

Overall, I would say our visit went pretty well, despite a brief and somewhat inexplicable tantrum at the museum entrance (possibly a warning sign – again, more later). Of course, Thomas did want to climb on the planes, and it was unpleasant to have to keep hauling him away from the barriers, but I think that his reaction was pretty normal for a kid his age. And it helped that there was one airplane he was allowed to climb inside. A Cessna, which you can see him sharing with another little boy (one who’d broken his collar-bone at daycare, according to his mom, with whom I chatted briefly. Eek.) Nicholas had a good time, too, smiling at people from the comfort of the kiddie backpack in which I was carrying him.

I could file these pictures away in an album and end the story there. Family albums are full of pictures like these. Pictures that don’t tell the full story. Pictures like the one of the happy family around the Christmas table, with a drunken uncle slumping just outside the frame. Yes, unfortunately, there is more to this story. I have, as we say in journalism, buried the lead.

This day was one of the worst in my life as a parent to date.

The horribleness began pretty much as soon as Thomas disembarked from the Cessna. To my surprise, he went willingly. Encouraged, I told him that we were going to have some lunch at the museum (Nick’s was all ready in the backpack, I was that organized), and that afterward we’d stop at the museum store to buy him a small airplane he could take home.

This all sounds like fun, right? But Thomas just wasn’t listening. Some kind of hyperactivity switch had flipped in his little brain, due to tiredness or hunger or whatever. He took off running through the museum, with me chasing after him as best I could, and poor Nick bouncing around on my back.

When Thomas headed for the museum door, I figured I might as well just seize the moment and get both the boys back in the car and home to their beds for naps. So I coaxed Thomas there as best I could, alternately guiding him by the shoulder or heaving him by the arm as he tried to run away laughing.

Once we got to the car, I thought things would be simple. I’d left both their jackets in the car while we were in the museum, which should have made it easy to buckle them both into their car seats. But as soon as Thomas was in he started wailing for his jacket (and no, he was NOT cold, it was completely irrational).

“Helping mommy winter jacket helping mommy winter jacket helping mommy winter jacket!”

I thought for sure he’d exhaust himself with that in a minute or two, but as we drove away, he just got more and more worked up. Yelling at the top of his lungs, flailing in the carseat, then demanding his various dinky cars and a stuffed toy dog that was in the backseat.

“Helping mommy car dog helping mommy car dog helping mommy car dog!”

Then, as I handed it to him: “Tha-ROW!” he would yell. “Throw!” And back it would land on the floor of the car. This happened multiple times, with him getting hoarser and hoarser. I was so rattled by all of this that I missed my turnoff, and had to turn back around when we reached a dead end. I admit I lost my cool and yelled at him to shut up a couple of times. The reaction felt almost biological.

But it gets worse. In my attempt to circle back to the turnoff we’d missed, I overshot, then made a left instead of a right…and we ended up BACK AT THE MUSEUM!

Never have I felt so defeated. By this time it was approaching 1:00, nearly an hour past the time Nick should have been eating his little lunch. I worried that any minute, he could lose it as well (though he’d fared rather well during Thomas’s tantrum, looking on in interest but not outright fear). So I pulled into a parking spot, took a deep breath, and devised Plan B. I got out, unbuckled Thomas from his carseat, and brought him around to the front passenger seat, where we sat for a good long while with his head on my shoulder. When he’d calmed down enough I asked him if he’d like to sit in the driver’s seat for a bit while I fed Nicholas. He did. So I got Nicholas out, and nursed him as best I could before putting both boys back in their carseats for the trip home. I resolved to stop at a McDonald’s drive thru for Thomas’s lunch, a thing I have never done.

And then I missed a turnoff (was in the wrong lane to get onto the highway this time. It’s true, I have almost no ability to navigate). And then the McDonald’s I stopped at didn’t have a drive thru. And then when I finally got the boys into bed for their naps an hour and a half late, Nicholas only slept for 15 minutes.

I’m sure I’ll be processing the lessons from this day for a long time to come. I have already done some constructive reading about tantrums with the help of Google and parents.com. But for now, let’s just say that Cessna at the museum should be for the grownups. And it should be able to fly, far and fast.

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