Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Halloween and Other Fall Activities

Fall is my favourite season, and I love decorating the apartment with kids' fall-themed crafts. One of the first crafts we did for fall was this cute leaf craft. I cut leaf shapes out of Bristol Board and the kids painted them, as well as a little flower pot. Later, they glued eyes to their leaves, and a Popsicle Stick to the back. I helped them draw a mouth on. Then we anchored the 'leaves on sticks' into the flower pot with tissue. Oscar was particularly proud of his work and kept pointing up at his decoration, saying "Leaf!"

I also cut out many leaf shapes from the kids' paintings (in which they used fall colours). I then hole-punched the top of all of them, and got the older boys to string black yarn through the holes. I taped the yarn to the back of each leaf to hold them in place, then hung the stringed leaves around the apartment. (left picture below) So pretty!

Another fall craft we did was ripping orange, gold and red tissue paper into little pieces, and gluing these to leaf shapes. (right picture above)

Usually we play outside Noah and B.'s school for a while every day. At least one day every week though, we have been playing at Lithuania Park and playground. The bigger boys really crave a visit there every now and then, since we pass it on our way home every day.

One day, we ventured over to High Park to jump in the leaves. I was hoping the leaves would still be carpeting the ground in the forest area (since it's stunning to look at, and we had brought our own kiddie rakes) but the machines had already formed them into huge piles. This is also an awesome time to visit though, and the kids and I had a blast jumping in the leaves.

Thomas loved the challenge of climbing up the mountain of leaves!

What a great, safe way to climb!

Leila watched the boys. She'll be able to fully participate next year! As you can see from the photo on the bottom right below, it was a very beautiful place to be. Oscar was away that day, but we were planning to return with him the following week. Unfortunately, when we were able to go, the weather did not permit it.

Later that day, after a short nap, Thomas made a strong case to be let out of his playpen. However, shortly after he joined us, he conked out again, smack dab in the middle of the floor. Our talking did not awaken him. He is just so determined to keep going, even when he is exhausted! (He and Leila are very similar in this way.)

Speaking of the little princess, here she is enjoying a story with Thomas. Daniella reads Thomas and Oscar a story every day before their nap. Oscar was away this day, so Leila subbed for him. Leila's usually still  eating at this time. Okay, more like I'm still trying to get food into her mouth at this time!

A couple of days before Halloween we managed to scoop out a pumpkin. Oscar and Thomas helped the big guys. Later on in the afternoon, we enjoyed the delicious roasted pumpkin seeds!

Here are my two little pumpkins on Halloween day, posing with our very basic jack-o-lantern (created with the 'let's just do this fast" carving approach). After our Star Wars themed good-bye party for Aidas at the end of August, Noah had been afraid of Darth Vader. This Halloween he conquered his fear by being Darth Vader. What a divergence from last year's firefighter costume!

Leila was very comfy in her kitty-cat costume. And Thomas wore a beautiful hand-made lion costume. Isn't this the cutest lion you've ever seen? Oscar refused to wear his costume, although he apparently was persuaded to dress up that evening. His mother reports, "We were able to get the costume on him by feeding him a steady stream of M&M's". Love it! He then had a fantastic time trick-or-treating for the very first time.

In the afternoon when the younger guys were having their naps, Noah and B. played a Halloween game that we had created together. We used foam pumpkins, spiders and ghosts as spaces on our game board. Most pumpkins were blank but some said things like "Go back 3 spaces". All spiders were "Miss a turn". And, if you landed on a ghost, you got to skip ahead to the next ghost.

We made the "Finish" spot of the game board a haunted house (picture below), and used a large foam die. They had an audience consisting of Leila. See if you can find her in the picture below! This was a great way for the bigger boys to play quietly, while still getting to move around a bit.

Next they played Halloween Tic Tac Toe. I taught them the strategic move of blocking another player from getting 3 in a row. I think they are getting the hang of this game now! They are still both very bothered when the other one wins. Sometimes the loser will refuse to play again. I guess that's just how it goes when you are 4 years old (or close to it).

But switch games and all is forgotten. Both were up to the challenge of the Halloween memory game (recycled from last year).

When everyone was up from naps we played freeze-dance. When the music was on, the kids were supposed to dance over all the foam pumpkins. When the music stopped, they had to stand on a foam ghost. I thought this would be a good game for Oscar to play, but instead of playing, he grabbed our toy vacuum and insisted on 'cleaning up'. He got so into his work that he kept pushing B. off one of the ghosts, and then vacuuming over it again. It was hilarious to see him fussing about this. It's as if he was saying "I just vacuumed that, and you keep messing it up!" 

Next, Oscar manned the Ghost Toss game. I had lollipops covered in tissue with ghost faces on them. The kids had to stand a fair distance back and toss the ghost into the bucket.

For dinner, we had meatball spiders (meatballs with carrot legs, on a spaghetti web), and read spooky books. Still, Noah and B. were most excited to go trick-or-treating that night (despite the pouring rain). I'd say it was a successful Halloween party, though Noah corrected me on this. It was not, in fact, a party, because there was no cake. Alas.

Here's Mr. November (Thomas) in the firefighter hat. He loves to wear this around the apartment, and "hat" is one of his many newly learned words. This was just too cute not to post!

The two photos below of Oscar have got to be a couple of my all-time faves. How awesome is it that I got Oscar, in his ACDC shirt, on his big rig? This was not an easy feat for a kid who's almost always in motion! This was his absolute favourite truck for a while, but this past week he is all about the big dump truck. He loads as many little cars and/or pretend food items as the truck bed will hold, and then pushes it around the apartment. One day he dumped the load in the doorway between the kitchen and dining room (such a convenient location!), then walked away to play with something else. It brought back memories of when I had been looking after five 2-year-olds (Oscar is nearing 2). Two-year-olds have an incredible ability to trash an area, then move on. Trash another area, move on. Don't get me wrong, the other kids all know how to make a mess too. There is just something so distinctive about how a 2-year-old does it. Anyway, rock on, Oscar!

For the month of November, we have had a delightful 5-year-old join the daycare. Although his parents have permitted me to use his name and portray him in pictures on this blog, the boy himself has requested that his photo not be on the internet. (Yes, he is already a mature and thoughtful man at the ripe old age of 5). So, I have edited the picture below not to show his face, (as well as B.'s) and will refer to him as A. So for now we have both an A. and a B.

Some of the things he has said have been quite humorous to me. For instance, one day we were all about to come in the building, and he and B. were banging against the door. I told them that they'd better not do this, or they'd get in trouble with Jennifer. A. said, "Who's Jennifer, Charla?" I thought carefully for a moment about how to word it so that he would understand, and replied, "She's the big boss of the building."  He came back with "Do you mean the resident manager?" I looked at Daniella, kind of taken aback. She replied  with a huge grin, "Yes. Yes, A. That is what we mean." Precocious 5-year-old!

A couple of weeks ago, on our way home from school, A. requested leave from the daycare for the following Monday. I mean this literally. He said, "Charla, can I take leave from the daycare next Monday? I want to go to my friend Tony's house for lunch." I had a good laugh over that one!

Another funny incident was around the time of the Indian festival Diwali. Since A. And B. are both from India, I thought it appropriate that we do some Diwali themed activities. One night at dinner I told the gang that we would be watching a short video about Diwali on the computer the next day. A. piped up with, "Why do we need to watch a video about Diwali? B. and I already know about Diwali. We're celebrating it now with our families." You see what you get for being inclusive? Ha ha! I said, "Well...maybe it will be good for Noah and I to watch it then, and you two could tell us more about it." Just to clarify, there was nothing rude about his tone. His question was completely innocent. He was just bewildered at why we would do such a thing. 

Diwali is the festival of lights, and is celebrated in India with fireworks (among many other festivities). So, I thought it would be a good idea to do a craft showing fireworks. We spread glue on construction paper in a star shape, and then put sprinkles over top. And, as was foreshadowed in the previous paragraph, the only kids who opted not to do the Diwali craft were the two that do actually celebrate the holiday. Oh well, happy belated Diwali anyway!

Monday, October 15, 2012

School Boys

Noah and B. have started Junior Kindergarten last month. The first day, Noah cried for 40 minutes, or so his teacher reported. B. cried a little on the 2nd day. (They are in different classrooms.) It only took a few days for these two to realize how fun Kindergarten is. Every day when I pick them up, they run into the yard, a fierce look on their faces, saying, "We're Spidermans!" And they've already made a ton of friends.

I don't have to worry about drop-off, since Dan brings Noah to school before he heads to work. But after their morning, I head down to the school with Leila, Thomas and Oscar to pick Noah and B. up. "Whoa whoa whoa. Back up", you say. "Who's Thomas?" Thomas is THIS cutie-pie.

He's just over a year old and started at the daycare this September. He has won my heart already! He was a little bit nervous his first week, but is settling in and becoming very comfortable with the place now. He's a little chatter-box, and though his conversation mostly consists of baby babble, he also has some words already, like "Daddy", "Doggy", and "Hello". Sometimes I could swear I hear him say a more complex sentence, like "Daddy go work", but I must be imagining things, since he won't repeat it. Either that or he's trying to keep his superior intelligence a secret.

Thomas and Leila are developing quite the friendship. They immediately smile and clearly recognize one another when they see each other now. Oscar is also very good to Leila, and brings her toys. That's right...Oscar's back, full-time!

When Thomas and Leila go for their morning naps, Oscar and I spend some quality time together. (Much of it involves me trying to keep him relatively quiet, so the babes can sleep.) I love Oscar's spirit. He is such a "hit the ground running" kind of kid.

Here's a rare moment when he was not running. Well, other than snack time of course. Speaking of which, he cracks me up at snack time! I don't think it's possible for him to get any messier. It's hilarious! Although I put large bibs on him, he finishes his morning snack just covered in oatmeal. I stand him on the table while I shake the oatmeal off him. That's the first phase. Then I bring him to a different area for his second 'dusting off'. Hey, for a 21-month-old eating steel-cut oats, he's doing fabulous!

Here's the little rascal goofing around at snack time.

And here he is using a carrot stick as a spoon for his yogurt. Not very efficient, but creative, nonetheless! So darn cute!

So, the morning is relatively quiet, with 2 out of the 3 babes taking a little nap. This all ends when we pick the boys up from school. The kindergarten schoolyard is a busy, bustling place, once the kiddies are released. After the first couple of weeks it became clear to me that handling Leila, Oscar and Thomas around the playground equipment, amidst the pandemonium of the schoolyard, and retrieving Noah and B. from their classrooms was....too much for me. I hired an assistant to help with this lunch hour commotion (two hours actually, from 11 - 1). Her name is Daniella. She is a teacher, an ECE, and a godsend.

She is so great with the kids and we are so lucky to have her with us!

Daniella and I now bring the Spiderman backpack of outdoor toys to help keep the boys corralled in the front yard of the school (away from the playground). We usually have quite the little gathering of kids from the school and other daycares, wanting to share our toys and play with us!

Noah and B. go back and forth, from the playground to the front yard to check in with us. This is how we spend the majority of our outdoor time.

We often eat most of our lunch outside, but we finish off when we get home, and then the younger kids go for their afternoon naps. At that time Noah and B. do quiet activities such as work books, Lego, puzzles, painting, gluing and board games. We usually only have about an hour until at least one of the 3 wakes up and decides he or she would like to join the party.

The pictures above are just so sweet. I am only just realizing now that Noah is actually under the easel. It's funny the things you pick up on in pictures when you take a closer look, huh?

I also love these photos of Oscar painting. He insisted on bringing a chair over to the easel. Painting is, after all, hard work, and one may as well take a load off!

I believe this is all I have for now. I'm just going to go ahead and post it whether or not it really is 'finished', since it has taken me almost a month and a half to write this blog post. I don't think it has ever taken me that long! But, until last month, there would have been time to write a little while the kids were sleeping. Now, there's always at least one kid awake! Something's gotta give, and it looks like it's going to have to be this blog. Maybe I can make it a quarterly newsletter?