Autonomous Source


August 14, 2005

The lameness continues...

Despite the death of the editor, this blog is somehow still stuck in first gear. I sincerely apologize. It may have something to do with the two people in the picture below, and I doubt I'll be able to get rid of them as easily as a figment of my subconscious mind. This month I'm even without the benefit of a couple days of daycare a week -- it's non-stop go go go around here these days.

They were very good on their first road trip. Some screaming was unavoidable, but it was fairly infrequent and so was tolerable. When we got there, they got to stay up late, ride in a motor boat, chase frogs, dig in the sand, and watch more TV and eat more ice cream than we let them get away with at home. They had a wonderful time, and because of that, so did I.

August 06, 2005

I don't know why I do this to myself...

I finally was able to track down a couple of smalls trikes for my tikes and proudly brought them home. After seeing the boxes, they convinced me to assemble them right away. What a mistake! I can think of only one thing that compares to putting togther two tricycles in front of their new owners, and that's defusing a bomb. Except with a greater sense of urgency.

Trying to decipher the mimeographed instructions from a factory somewhere in China while two new-toy-crazed toddlers clung to my legs is not an experience I want to repeat. They barraged me with questions, whined, fought with each other, whined, broke down in tears of despair, whined, and ran off with parts or my tools whenever I turned my back. And they whined. Whined, whined, whined, whined, whined. I'm lucky to be alive, really; that much concentrated whining is usually fatal. But it was all worth it in the end.

Who am I kidding? I'm going to need years of therapy to recover. I'm a broken man and will never be the same again.

July 25, 2005

The abandoned playgrounds

I occasionally take the kids to a playground in the course of the day. There are none within walking distance of our house, so I'll take them to others in different neighborhoods. One thing I've invariably noticed is that there's rarely any kids in them! My memory is hazy, but I seem to recall the playgrounds of my youth bustling with kids. Now they seem like abandoned ruins from another age.

Reasons for this? I dunno. There's the obvious society's-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket explanation that kids don't play outside anymore and prefer to sit in front of their home entertainment systems and blow things up. I'm sure that's part of it. But other things have changed as well. Parents don't let their kids go off by themselves the way they used to. Lots of people with kids build their own playground in their yards so they don't have to leave home.

It's too bad. Pick-up play with other kids is important. Seeing other kids is important. It would be nice if parents could take their kids out in public more often. (I'm not saying I do this enough, either.)

And though I rarely see kids in parks, I sure see lots of people walking their dogs. Is there something happening here?

July 17, 2005

A Day in the Life, part VII

Though this blog is on life support, every now and then I still get inspired and decide to put a lot of work into a post. Usually I think better of it and drop it, but this morning at 5:58 I decided I wasn't going to back down. Today I was going to write another installment of A day in the life and nothing was going to stop me. I was going to create a detailed chronicle of this day so my children will be shamed in the future into visiting me more often at the nursing home. And I managed to do it, like I have every few months since they were born. Hooray for me! Previous days in the life can be found here: part I, part II, part III, part IV, part V and part VI.

Note that they both are toilet training at this time, but to be fair to them I won't be writing about it. Multiply my described frustration levels in this post by about 1.5 to compensate.

6:00 The alarm goes off. After a minute I get up, shower, get the paper, and start to make breakfast. I'm very hungry, so I decide we're having pancakes with apples.

6:20 Michelle is up, and gets the kids out of bed.

6:30 Max comes down while she deals with Talia. He 'helps' me as I cook the pancakes. When my back is turned he turns the dishwasher on and soaks the clean dishes from last night.

7:40 Breakfast is done and Mama heads out to work. They didn't eat too well, especially when you consider that we had pancakes, one of their favourites.

8:00 It looks beautiful out, so we head outside. I'm building a new compost bin, and I thought I could get some work in while they were still in their morning good spirits. They 'helped' by handing me bunches of nails as soon as I picked up the hammer. They were pretty good, but after a half an hour they were starting to get mischievious, so I took them away to do something else. No use pushing my luck.

8:30 We went over to the hammock, where I got a few cute pictures.

Max sang a made-up song, "Swinging In Me Garden".

8:40 They're bored with the hammock. We go back inside to finish the breakfast.

8:45 I'm cleaning up in the kitchen when I hear the kids having a conversation at the table about imaginary gumdrops:
Talia: "My gumdrop is very pink!"
Max: "Me gumdrop is very big!"
Talia: "Hmmmm...?"
Max: "Don't take me gumdrop! NOOOO!!! AAAAHHHHHH!!!!"

8:50 Finished breakfast. For sure this time. Talia takes Max's boot from the hallway and puts it on. Max runs to me and says, "Ta-ya take me boot! She take me boot... Ousie! ... It's me boot! AAAAHHHH!!!" The day's fun has surely begun.

8:53 Talia throws an empty 18 liter water bottle down the stairs. Max forgets his earlier distress and laughs merrily. We're ramping up fast.

8:55 I'm done cleaning up. I take them upstairs to brush their teeth. When I'm in the middle of doing Talia's, Max bursts in the bathroom saying, "I got a snotty nose!" He then grabs a wad of toilet paper, jams it against his nose and blows, forcing out a gout of translucent goo. None of it is caught by the tissue, which he neatly puts in the garbage can. Then he wipes his face with his forearm, making it slick and shiny, before dashing out.

9:12 We head out for a walk. Max rides in the stroller while Talia follows behind. Musette and Squeak come along as well. We walk down to the river. They get sticks and pretend to fish.

9:45 We're still there when the Wakefield Steam Train rolls by.

No matter how many times they see the train, they're still always excited by it.

10:00 We stop at a neighbor's on the way home. They have... a trampoline! These two love the trampoline and could spend hours bounding around on it if they could. Max still just runs on it, but Talia has got quite good at jumping and can get a lot of air.

10:30 Home for a snack and some inter-sibling conflict. Much squabbling -- over what I couldn't quite make out. You'll have to wait for them to write their memoirs to find out. Max seemed to be the most upset, maybe he's not feeling good?
Me: "Max, do you want to go to bed? You seem sick."
Max: "Yes! Me sick! Need medsin!"
Talia: "I need medsin too! I'm sick too! I have a cough! *caff* *caff* See?"

10:45 Downstairs watching Dora. It was the only thing I could do. Not that they still couldn't find something to get upset about. Here Talia lets me know how she feels about Max sitting on my lap.

12:00 I'm making lunch. Talia and Max are informing me that the world is coming to an end. Now. I serve them their tomato soup and crackers. I add ketchup in the soup to make sure they eat it.

12:30 I take them to bed for their nap. I don't get any arguments. I have my afternoon coffee while surfing the web to calm my nerves.

2:25 The approach of the train wakes them up and they scream their demands to see it. I manage to get them out on to the balcony so they can see it roll by.

2:30 Snack time again.

2:40 I take them outside again and resume working on the compost bin. Ten minutes is all I get before they're so distracting I have to give up. Max takes a broom and starts pushing our gravel into the road. I explain to him that I'd prefer he sweep the gravel from the road into our driveway, but he doesn't listen.

3:30 We come in for something to drink. My offer of water starts the wailing again, but I tell them we have no juice. Talia disagrees and says we have pineapple juice. After I dismiss this thought she insists, "YES! We have it! We bought it at the store together! It's in the... the closet. Downstairs!" She grabs me by the finger and leads me to the pantry, and sure enough, there's some peach juice there. They get their juice.

3:45 Talia knocks down the juice Max had been ignoring. Max is wailing again. Okay, time for another TV break. Teletubbies this time. We're rediscovering the pleasures of the Teletubbies after forgetting about them for eight months.

4:30 We go upstairs to await Mama. Can't let her find us slumped in front of the TV. Please Michelle, come home soon! They're extremely crabby and demanding Mama. To distract them while we wait, I decide to empty their little wading pool, clean it, and add more water. I don't know why it has to be clean, since all they ever use it for is as a reservoir to fill up buckets, cups, pots and watering cans, but we do it anyway. This task seems to put Max at rest, but Talia sees Max's contentment as a challenge and she goes all out to make him crazy. Much screaming and wailing ensues, and I struggle not to join in.

4:50 Mama comes home, and after an initial greeting, starts to make dinner. I'm left tending to Max and Talia, who by this time look like they're losing their sanity.

5:30 Dinner. A battle. I don't want to talk about it.

6:00 After dinner things cool down a bit. But I'm worn out. This conversation I had with Max as I cleaned up the supper dishes shows how little patience I had left:
Max: "What's that thing?"
Me: "It's a mixer."
Max: "What's it for?"
Me: "It's for mixing up things."
Max: "Mixing up things?"
Me: "Yes."
Max: "What things?"
Me: "Anything."
Max: "Anything?"
Me: "Anything."
Max: "... Oooohhhh..."

6:30 We cut up the rest of the pineapple for dessert. Mama and Papa don't get any.

6:45 Bath time. Again, I don't want to talk about it. It was a two person job and involved a lot of screaming. Only most of the screaming was from the kids.

7:15 I leave Mama with the kids to do the story thing. The last thing I saw as I closed the door to their bedroom was Talia running up and head-butting Max as he was drinking from his sippy cup. The last thing I heard was the crack of teeth on plastic. (Okay, that's not true; I heard the screaming...)

9:00 Time for one episode of Buffy before bed. We're in the middle of season two (we started with season three.) We're almost done watching them all! How will we unwind after they're gone?

July 11, 2005

The cat came back

After a week of roaming the neighborhhood and getting into fights, Squeak the cat has returned to his place of birth.

After rubbing his head against everybody and his favourite pieces of furniture, and eating a whole bowl of Meow Mix, he demanded to go outside again. I tried to explain how much these long absences hurt us, but he wouldn't listen...

July 05, 2005

Going to buy blueberries

Dora the Explorer this morning had her and Boots on a quest to pick blueberries on Blueberry Hill. It was a perilous journey because Swiper the Fox lived on Blueberry Hill and might swipe their berries. Somehow the two of them overcame their obstacles and everyone danced the we did it! dance.

This story so inspired Max and Talia that they decided to go get some blueberries of their own this morning. But they know of course that blueberries don't grow on bushes, but come from the store. So they got dressed to go to the store with their blueberry buckets...

June 26, 2005

Busy with life

It's been a beautiful long weekend. Is there anything more pathetic than sitting indoors while the sun is shining and blogging? Well, yes, but I won't get into that.

June 21, 2005

Tuesday tot shots

There haven't been any pictures of the kids posted for more than three weeks! I will rectify that:

May 27, 2005

My son is a genius!

Max has taken up the art of photography. I think his work radically transcends the moribund passivity traditionally associated with this medium. He imbues his images with a passion and dynamism that gives his subjects a freshness that is bracing for the viewer.

The photo of the baseboard heater is especially evocative, don't you think? I don't think I'll ever see it the same way again.

May 23, 2005

Sibling rivalry

Bad news for those who think we can build a society of tolerance, love, equality and mutual respect. We're not built for it. Until the end of time, humans will always seek to dominate and impose their will on others. Sorry.

I came to this shocking and unique observation by watching my kids. They've moved from being primitive creatures of instinct -- seeking food, attention and stimulation -- to being more sophisticated creatures of instinct. Now that they're more socialized, they're concerned with things that are pretty intangible, but nonetheless drive our civilization.

Talia started playing the game of domination. She loves her train game and adapted it for play when there was no chairs around. She would grab Max from behind to make a 'train' and shout, "Choo Choo!" to try to get him started. Max hated it. He doesn't like being immobilized and would scream when Talia grabbed him. She took note of this and started doing it solely to demonstrate her power over him. It got to the point where she could simply lean over and whisper, "choo choo" in his ear and he would start bawling.

After a while the 'choo choo' strategy started losing its effect. Max regained his composure and developed his own counter to Talia's tactics. He would... Roar! Max started taking on the aspects of various animals. He would be a lion, a 'scary monkey', or his current favourite, a jaguar. They're all the same from Max's point of view; he raises his hands above his head and shouts, "RRRROOOAAARRR!!!" as loud as he can.

The tables were turned. Talia fled in terror at the animals, and Max was in now firmly in charge. Whenever conflict arose, he raised his arms and shouted and Talia gave way.

But Talia didn't give up. In the past couple of weeks she's introduced a new strategy to reaffirm her primacy in this household: scratching, pinching, and hitting. And it's very effective. Even though Max is much bigger than her, he's been very intimidated by her assaults. What's contributed to Talia's success is that she doesn't just show Max who's boss when she wants something, she works to keep a permanent low level of fear in him. She does this by reaching out at random moments and giving him a good pinch or scratch. By doing this she's saying, I'm the Boss, don't you forget it.

And that's the way the situation stands right now. We try to police these behaviors but it's not very effective. Talia chooses her moments perfectly. I wonder what Max will come up with to counter her?

May 13, 2005

A couple of swingers

May 08, 2005

Mother's day tot shot

Sorry, can't resist: one more photo of the kids. This time with the addition of their lovely mother...

(Doesn't a green room do wonders for one's complexion?)

Born to be Wild

Twelve cars, coming very fast, Kemosabe

April 26, 2005

Sofa slugs

I feel obligated to post something right now, but I'm just too comfortable.

April 19, 2005

Everyone's a critic

I attempted to shake up the bedtime story tonight by reading Green Eggs and Ham in a hip-hop style. It adapts to it quite well. (I DO not LIKE green eggs and HAM, I DO not LIKE them SAM I AM!) But Max and Talia shouted me down and covered their ears. So much for me being the next white rapper...

April 17, 2005

The anti-Seuss

Dr. Seuss has achieved a cherished place in our culture. His wacky rhymes and surreal art can only be discussed today with hushed reverence.

And I like him too. Right now Green Eggs and Ham is one of my kids favourite books (I almost have it memorized). But there's another kid's book creator who's a contemporary of his that doesn't get that kind of respect, and I think he deserves it. And that's Richard Scarry.

Scarry's work is the very different from Seuss's. Seuss's work is mostly very verbal. His rhymes are wonderful, but his art is somewhat lacking. Scarry on the other hand writes dreadfully. Really, it's quite awful some of it -- but the wonderfully detailed art makes up for it. His drawings have the ability to mesmerize kids the way little else does. The stories don't really go anywhere, and certainly contain no deep ideas or clever metaphors, but they take place in a busy and complex environment. I think they're so popular with younger kids because they touch on so many parts of life they're familiar with, but have a fun little twist.

As an engineer, I appreciate Scarry's left brain sensibilities. The drawings are detailed to the point of being cluttered. You can look at a page you've studied or a long time and still spot new things. His books also work to explain things in our culture that are still mysterious to little boys and girls. A small piece on farming, for example, had Alfalfa the farmer (who was a goat) loading a hopper on his tractor with corn seed, plowing the earth and planting the seed, letting the rain and the sun grow the corn, harvesting the corn, saving some of the crop for himself and putting aside some seed for next year, selling the rest to a grocer (a pig), and using the money to buy a new pick-up truck. Seuss is very right-brained. He's be unable to tell something so directly.

A good biography of Scarry (complete with many examples of his work) can be found here. Max is his number one fan.

April 12, 2005

There ain't no tellin' who ya might meet

First time through the car wash. No fear at all...

April 05, 2005

Saw this one coming...

Could anyone think that this:

Wouldn't lead to this?

April 03, 2005

We still need a bass player

March 20, 2005

The CLONK CLONK CLONK of little feet

Talia has finally grown into the wooden shoes her relatives in Holland sent over. Now if she'll just let us take them off...

March 12, 2005

A Day in the Life, part VI

It's been four months since I wrote a Day in the Life, so here's a new one. I write these mostly for myself to help me remember what things were like raising two toddlers. They're pretty narcissistic, so be forewarned. This is what happened yesterday. Previous days in the life can be found here: part I, part II, part III, part IV, and part V. (Use those links, and not the links from the links, if you know what I mean.)

6:30 I wake up. Mama has been up for 15 minutes already doing her yoga. Then she starts making breakfast. I better get moving or I risk getting a serious case of the guilts.

6:45 The kids are up, and Mama changes and dresses them while I have my shower. Funny how things work out sometimes.

7:15 We're eating breakfast. Mama made very nice biscuits, which we cut in two and lather with jam -- so Max and Talia have a nice soft surface from which to lick off the jam. They eventually get around to eating the biscuits.

7:40 Mama leaves to do some errands. The kids are still eating, and making quite a mess.

8:00 I put on Sway by the Blue Hawaiians for the breakfast clean-up period. It's nice, mellow surf music that fits the mood perfectly.

8:10 Well, it did, until the kids start fighting. Talia starts playing with the digger. But it's Max's digger (according to Max). Hell threatens to break loose. I pull out the top and start spinning it, and Talia forgets all about the digger and grabs the top, giggling.

8:15 Max is unhappy again, whining in that way toddlers seem to be programmed for. I give him the cloth to wipe the dinner table. Talia flips out and demands to wipe too.

8:20 The wiping has lost it's appeal. Max resumes whining. I think he's still a little sick from his cold, but his endless poor, poor me routine is getting pretty draining. To distract him (again) we give Musette her arthritis pill. She's getting pretty creaky in the legs so she's getting glucosamine sulfate pills twice a day. When she gets a pill, the kids get to give her a cookie, which is a brief break from the unbearable tedium and frustration that apparently makes up the rest of their lives.

8:30 Now Max is going absolutely bananas, walking backwards while crying, pushing Talia whenever she comes into range. Time to take them upstairs to brush their teeth, and perform one of their favourite shows, shaving and trimming my beard.

8:50 I get them in their coats in preparation for an exciting excursion in the car.

9:30 It's Kindermusik time! Mama has enrolled them in a music class held at a Loblaws in Aylmer. She usually takes them, but it falls to me to do it today, because of Mama's tasks. Funny how things work out sometimes. It's supposedly to help young children develop an appreciation for music, but it seems to me to be just a cruel torture for parents. Music is played, and the parents (well, mothers actually -- I'm the only father foolish enough to be tricked into attending) attempt to get their dependents to sing, dance or clap along. The kids pay little attention, of course, so you have the absurd spectacle of seven mothers sitting in a circle slowly standing up and stretching out like a tree -- each while holding their kid's hand to prevent him/her from running around and playing with the other kids. I have a powerful aversion to these types of organized activities -- I remain seated with my arms crossed if a 'wave' washes across the stands where I'm sitting -- so naturally this class makes me uncomfortable. Luckily I have two kids to manage, so I can arrange to have one that needs corraling during these episodes and don't have to participate too much.

10:30 It's over. Whew. We're at Loblaws, so I decide to do a bit of grocery shopping. It starts badly. They need a snack and I'm very thirsty for some reason (all that mumbly singing I did, I guess), so I buy an 'all-natural' root beer and some Smarties for the kids (don't tell Mama). Right away, I spill half the box of Smarties on the floor, then, minutes later, half the root beer spills after falling over in the shopping cart. (Why don't they come with drink holders?) But after that, I get my groove back and execute an efficient campaign to load up my cart with healthy food -- plus two Winnie-the-Pooh toothbrushes (C$3.69 each! Aargh!) and a box of generic Corn Pops.

I told them to smile.

It's just water in those cups, honest!Efficiency ends at the checkout, however. Only two cashiers are open, and they both have four absolutely loaded carts lined up in front of them. After cursing for a moment (under my breath, of course), I make a tactical error. I decide to use one of their 'self-serve' checkouts. Big mistake!

I mentioned my aversion to joining in to group activities. Accompanying this is a dislike of being told what to do -- especially if what I'm told is senseless and arbitrary. "Please place the item in the bag", the friendly woman's voice intones. "Please take the last item out of the bag." "Please enter the produce code." "Please select the type of produce." "Please scan the item again." "Please stand on one foot and pretend you're a tree." Slowly but surely, I become irritated. The produce help menus lack the codes for basic fruits. Green grapes? Clementines? "Please wait for the cashier." Oh, the one who's gabbing with her friend and aggressively ignoring me? Grrr.

11:40 We finally leave Loblaws, me in a grumpy mood and the kids kind of squirrely. More than an hour in there, fifteen minutes of it at the checkout. I play Audio by the Blue Man Group for the ride home. And now some old lady moving extremely slowly drives in front of me just as I'm leaving the parking lot. I need to make a left turn and the traffic light ahead is favourable -- but at her pace we'll never make it. I turn right instead, cursing (mostly under my breath), intending to take a shortcut I know of. Another mistake. Ahead some city workers have blocked the turn-off I need to take and narrowed Aylmer road to one lane. There's traffic; I have to make what I call an 'idiot or asshole' decision. (Excuse the language, but no other word works.) Am I an idiot (get into the lane that's not blocked and slowly move past the congestion point) or an asshole (go into the blocked lane that's mostly clear and cut off one of the idiots at the congestion point)? Well, I decided to be an idiot. But I wasn't as much of one as the guy in front of me, who kindly let numerous assholes cut him off while I fumed behind him. What is it with people who drive outside rush-hour?

11:55 Finally free, and after much backtracking we're on our way home. The kids conk out in the car. Not even the polyrhythmic sound of the Blue Man Group could keep them awake.

12:20 We're finally home. We need a quick lunch and then some nap time. I heat up a can of beans. Max takes the spoons to the table and hands one to Talia, who's already in her booster seat. She says, "Thank you, Max!"

12:30 They're eating their beans. Max eats well, but Talia uses her hands to put beans on the spoon. Mama calls with the message that she's going to be late. She's had to take her Father to the hospital for some tests and is now waiting in the emergency room.

12:50 Lunch is finished. Talia says, "I get down by self. I big, big girl!"

1:10 I stuff them into bed and heat up leftovers from supper yesterday for my lunch. Then some light cleaning, mild web surfing, and a cup of coffee. The kids aren't going to sleep, but they're not screaming either. They're just chatting away to each other, which is fine.

2:30 The chatting turns to demands for me. "Papa, wheh ah you? Paaaapaaaa!" I better go get them. I'm shocked to see that they're both naked from the waist down and have removed their (now poopy) diapers. Oh, I hope they haven't got poop all over everything...

Funny how things work out sometimes.

3:00 All cleaned up. After much sniffing of everything in their cribs, I determine that poop did not escape their diapers. They just took them off and put them aside. They've already done the 'just what is this poop stuff, anyways?' explorations months ago; I'm glad they didn't feel the need to repeat their research.

3:20 We head to the basement for some kidvid. I give them some generic Corn Pops in bowls as a snack. Mama calls from the hospital. They're still waiting and she's bored. I suggest the waiting rooms should have entertainment that could be an extra source of revenue. Maybe some pinball machines. Or how about a Dance Dance Revolution Machine? While I'm talking to her, the sounds of fighting are heard from the other room. I break it up by letting them speak to their mother on the phone. Max tells her, "Ta-ya pushed me!"

Later, Max plays a round of Lie on the cat with Samba. The old favourites never go out of style.

3:30 Blue's Clues is on! Unfortunately it's one with Joe. The show really jumped the shark when he replaced Steve. But I let them watch it anyway, I've got to start dinner. I set up my new toy in the kitchen so I can watch a video while I cook. I crave constant stimulation, just like some other people I know, so this will help keep me content while I perform the menial tasks. I'm still in a Blue Man mood, so I play their concert show The Complex.

Bruce's improvised Curried Chicken

6 trimmed and deboned chicken thighs
1 can tomatoes
1 onion, chopped fine
4 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsp Patak's Mild Curry Paste
Vegetables (I used carrots and sweet potato)
1 can black beans
1/2 cup thick yogurt

Sauté the onions in the ghee until soft. Add the garlic, the curry paste, then the chicken. Brown the outsides of the chicken at medium heat then add the can of tomatos. Mash up the tomatoes with a potato masher (or a tomato masher if you have one). Lower temperature and simmer for ten minutes. Add the vegetables, chopped into pieces sized for toddlers. Simmer for 40 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionaly. Add the beans in the last 10 minutes and mix in the yogurt right before serving. Serve over rice.

During this process I take a few trips to the basement to check on them, and they make a couple trips upstairs to check on me. But the hour is free of conflict and we all get to watch our shows. Mama calls and says she can't make dinner becuase she's got to take her father home.

5:00 Suppertime. They like it, but don't eat too much. They possibly had too many generic Corn Pops. I think it turned out great and have seconds. I wash it down with a St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout.

5:30 Dinner's done and I start to clean up. They're always much calmer after they've eaten, and are happily playing with each other. Talia starts making a train, and Max joins in.

6:00 I take them upstairs in preparation for bed. It's about this time of day that they get totally wound-up and commence running from room to room, turning lights on and off. Today is no exception.

6:30 Bathtime. Squeak is really taking a chance here. But somehow he manages to avoid being pulled into the tub.

7:00 Bedtime. I manage to use my camera's timer to stage a photo of us reading together happily before I put them in their cribs. But Talia still feels she has some running around that she wanted to finish today, so I let her go. Once she winds down (about ten minutes) it's time for bed. Goodnight Max! Goodnight Talia!

8:00 Mama gets home. I'm too tired to write, and Mama is pretty exhausted too, so we settle in and watch a couple of episodes of Buffy. We're on the 5th season now, and things are pretty interesting. How are they ever going to defeat Glory?

10:30 Bedtime. I have a lot of stuff to write up tomorrow.

March 05, 2005

Everybody's got a little light under the sun

Sure you don't want some orange?

February 08, 2005


Mama was still at work, finishing off the overnight shift, and I was getting the kids up in the morning. Sometimes we have things to do and the mornings are rushed, but sometimes we just like to play around and take things easy. That's what we were doing this morning. I let the kids out of their cribs and they immediately started rushing to and fro and squealing with delight. After five minutes of this I was cuddling with Talia on the bed and wondered where Max had gone. Just then I heard some Mozart from behind the closed closet door:

"Tingo tingo lia STAAAAAAAAA,
Ow I wowa ......... AAAAAHHHHHH,
Opa bow ........... HIIIIIII,
Tingo tingo .... STAAAAAAAA,
Ow I wowa wawa AAAAAAHHHH!"

February 06, 2005

It can't last

Playing together. Happily. Next to each other. With the same toy.

Max and Talia are being raised with the kind support of Levi Strauss & Co.

They made it for four and a half minutes before the screaming started. Not bad...

January 22, 2005

Shall we dance?

I've gotta get that leering photo of Micro Bill off the top of my page! It's driving me batty! Here's a shot of Max and Samba doing the inter-species tango.

Only one animal was harmed in the shooting of this picture.

January 18, 2005

Go suck a lemon

Talia and Max just love their fruits. Even lemons. Anytime I cook with lemons they have to have a slice to put in their mouths to suck on.

They like limes too.

Zesty Lemon Tuna Pasta

I sometimes imagine people think I feed these guys nothing but Alpha-getti.  But it's no more than three times a week.  Honest!Sauce: Sauté 2 or 3 cloves of minced garlic in a generous splash of olive oil. Add a can of strained tuna, the juice of one lemon, either some chopped fresh basil, some dried basil or a couple tablespoons pesto (best), and a couple dashes Maggi seasoning (my no-longer secret ingredient). Optional: some frozen peas or some lightly boiled, sliced sun-dried tomatoes.

Mix with a pasta that holds sauce well, such as Fusilli or Rotini. Top with grated romano or feta cheese and some toasted pine nuts. CAUTION: Do not attempt to do this alone with two hungry toddlers underfoot or you will go crazy.

January 05, 2005

It's quiet. Too quiet.

Why? There's no kids here right now. I would like to thank the taxpayers of Quebec for subsidizing the friendly, 'organic', and 'natural' day-care that has agreed to look after Max and Talia for two days every week. (And since the rest of Canada subsidizes Quebec, I guess I should thank all Canadian taxpayers. Thanks. I really appreciate it.) It costs me 15 Canadian pesos a day (each) to warehouse the kids there each day. Normally, the standard subsidized price is C$7 in Quebec, but apparently it's legal to tack on some extra fees for extra services -- in this case, organic food (groan...) and 'educational activities'. Whatever. I'm not complaining; the few remaining wisps of my sanity are worth the price.

Now that I have no little people grabbing my legs or fighting about toys in my presence, I have some time to describe what they're like these days. Flipping a new picture up every now and then is nice, but it doesn't tell the whole story.

They're pretty funny little people. They're developing real imaginations and putting things together in their heads -- though not always accurately. Here's a picture from a game they made up recently:

They take all the chairs in the dining room and line them up to make: a train! Then they climb aboard and make their train noises. Woo-woo! Ch-ch-ch-ch! They work together to do this and receive no encouragement from any adult. They also climb under their high chairs and pretend they're in a car. (Beep beep! Brrrooomm!) When I ask them where they're going, it's always, "Oma". They have other games that we can't figure out, like the Dup Dup game. In this game they follow each other around with a funny walk (for example, Talia slowly nodding her head while taking big steps as Max does a quick-paced, high-stepping jog) saying, "Dup-dup! Dup-dup!"

Their mobility is incredible. They can push a chair into the kitchen, climb up it, and be fiddling with the dangerous items on the counter in no time. Max has deciphered the mystery of the door knob (Talia could have too -- if she could reach them) and is always looking for new places to get into.

They talk a lot to each other. When they wake up in the morning, they don't cry like they used to but instead have a chat with each other. It's not loud enough for me to understand them, but there's lots of giggling. Max doesn't talk as much as Talia, and is not quite making sentences yet. But Talia has quite the vocabulary and is quite a chatterbox. Max has just begun to say his own name, which is odd, because Talia's name was one of her first words. Talia still calls Max 'Taxi' and can't be convinced otherwise. We were looking at a picture book yesterday and pointed at a car and called it a 'Taxi'. She pointed at it and said, "Taxi's car" and looked at Max. I said no, this is a taxi and this is Max. She looked at me like I was stupid, and pointed at Max and said, "dat's Taxi!"

I could write for a few hours on all the funny things they do now, but I have to run out and pick them up. I'll leave with a couple of photos of Max being a good boy and eating his vegetables.

December 25, 2004

Christmas kid shot

Here's the photo of the kids that when out with our Christmas cards. We sent them out pretty late, so if you haven't received it yet, you can still look at the picture. Merry Christmas everyone!

December 22, 2004

Santa Claus. Fear him.

Check out this series of photos of kids with Santa. The theme is raw terror. It's one of those collections that just keeps getting funnier as you page through it.

What a lovely souvenir!

We're waiting until next year before introducing St. Nick to Max and Talia.

(via Nealenews)

December 08, 2004

The gang's all here

I usually get emails from a few people complaining if there's no photo when I write about the kids. So this time I'll pre-empt them with this photo. As a bonus, our three, rapidly filling-out cats are in the photo: Squeak (bottom-left), Samba (top-right), Piccolo (bottom).

They all soon fled, as is the smart thing to do when Max gets that look in his eye...

An hour (and a bit) in the life

I haven't written much in the past week, and in my opinion, my output has dipped quite a bit in the past month. I'm writing this as an explanation. I'm busy. I have two kids that keep me running and continually off balance. It's crazy around here; you have no idea. I've written a number of pieces called 'A Day in the Life', which try to capture what life is like with these two little people. But they do a poor job at capturing the density of everyday activity, because I just can't write that much. But maybe if I concentrate on just one hour you can get an idea...

Mama had gone to work and I was downstairs with the kids watching videos. They've been changed, dressed, and have eaten and are moderately content. I hadn't eaten, but I had had my coffee, which is much more important. I've got my laptop with me -- plugged in because the battery seems to hold only fifteen minutes of charge -- and I'm doing my preliminary webcrawl of the day. I find a great piece by one of my favourite 'big picture' writers, Robert D. Kaplan, called 'The Media and Medievalism'. It's a little long, but I start to read it. How long will it take me?

We're watching 'Blue's Clues' (starring Steve, of course) because Talia demanded it. We have only three BC tapes, but Max and Talia can watch them over and over. The first episode on the tape is over and the second is just starting. I manage to read over a paragraph and a half before Max climbs up next to me with this ancient book from the Seventies my brother-in-law picked up at a garage sale that focuses on the amazing world on motorized transport. It has many pictures of of vehicles in that icky commercial art style of the era. He says, "Tuck! Tuck!", meaning he wants to look at the pictures of trucks. I hook him onto my lap with one arm and hold the book for him. He turns the pages on his own, happy to be sharing this wonderful resource with his Papa and expressing astonishment with each page. Meanwhile, I'm feigning interest in the 'tucks' while rereading the second paragraph on the article. Talia is watching the show while playing with some Fisher Price 'Peek-a-boo Blocks'.

I'm on the third paragraph when Steve whips out his handy-dandy...

Max: "No-book!"

Talia: "No-book!"

Papa: "Notebook"

Right. The show has a strange way of capturing your attention.

Max is now losing interest in the book and is starting to twist towards the computer. I know from past experience how fast he can be, and also that the button he wants to push is the big round one that shuts the computer down -- no 'are you sures?', just an automatic power-down. I move it out of his reach and get a better grip on him. I scroll the page I'm reading down to reveal unread text and try to let my eyes rest on a few new words.

Talia approaches me with some of her blocks, and says, "Pus! Pus!" Some of these blocks can make sounds if you manipulate them properly, but Talia is still working out how to do that. I take one of them and make the clicking sound for her. Unfortunately, Max -- with his long reach -- also takes one. This one block, out of many, many blocks, and just one toy out of dozens and dozens strewn around the floor, now becomes the center of a major confrontation. Talia wants it back. Max doesn't want to give it up. Both start screaming.

Distraction is the key to these disputes. I grab the nearest toy animal -- another gift of my brother-in-law: a smirking chihuahua that will hump your leg when you turn it on (the batteries are dead now, sadly) -- and make it jump on Talia to lick her face. It turns around in a circle and barks and jumps, and soon both of them have forgotten the standoff over the plastic block with the monkey inside it. They're giggling. But both of them are now focused on me for their entertainment, so I've got get them interested in something else if I'm ever going to crack that fourth paragraph. Hey look at the TV! I feign an intense interest in what's happening with Blue and Steve (Periwinkle and a tractor have joined them for a trip to an imaginary city where they're looking for the tractor's friend, a taxi cab). I ask Max and Talia questions about what's going on, and soon their attention is diverted enough that I manage to get through another three or four paragraphs.

Then: "Taya pee-pee!" Okay, time to take Talia upstairs for a session on the potty. I carefully hide the computer under the sofa (because you can't imagine what Max can do to it in just a few minutes) and take Talia upstairs. Except now she doesn't want to go. Something's happened on the show that has captured her attention and now she's looking at the TV and saying, "No pee-pee! No pee-pee!" No point trying to drag her up, she'll just scream; I take out the computer, sit down and read perhaps a sentence before: "Taya pee-pee! Taya pee-pee!" I hide the computer and hustle her upstairs.

Once she's sitting, she starts making demands. "Book! Book!"

"What do you say?"

"Peez!", she says sweetly. I give her a book. She drops it and says, "Book! Book!" She wants the other book.

I look at her sharply. She says, "Peez..." We're getting there.

The potty's just a little big for her, and she swings her legs as she flips through the other book. Finally she gets up and says, "Ah-done!" There's maybe 5 ccs of liquid in the cup. Once she's dressed, she runs into the kitchen and demands a cookie. I figure a cookie will distract them for a couple of minutes, so, once I coax the 'P' word out of her, I grab a couple of cookies, hook her under my arm and take her downstairs.

I give them their cookies and try to decide what to watch next. Blue's Clues has just concluded. We have a DVD of 'Finding Nemo', Talia has been interested in fish for a while, so, maybe that'll be good. They've never seen it, but maybe they can get something out of it. And maybe I'll get enough quiet to finish this article. I slap it in and let them watch.

It's got a few scary bits in it, so Max has curled up next to me. Max is pretty sensitive about these things. Talia is standing in the middle of the room watching. I get about ten minutes of reading in before Talia starts heading upstairs. I call her back down, but she doesn't listen. Because I'm cuddled with Max, I don't want to run up after her, so I set my internal trouble timer for five minutes and leave her alone. She can't get in too much trouble in that time. I try to read a bit more, but I'm distracted.

When the trouble timer goes off, I go up and see what she's up to. She's sitting on her little tricycle and pushing herself around. Someone must have brought it inside. I take her and it downstairs so she can continue to play.

Back downstairs and reading, I manage another few sentences before another confrontation is underway. Max has somehow taken the tricycle away from Talia and is sitting on it and rocking back and forth. Talia is shrieking at the injustice of it all. This will be a difficult situation to resolve. I pick up Talia and try some intense cuddling and tickling to distract her. She's having none of that; she arches her back and squirms and screams. I sit her on the couch and call up some pictures on the computer. She loves to look at pictures and is soon happily naming all the people she sees and answering my questions about what colour things are. Max has now abandoned the tricycle and is back to watching the movie, but I have the feeling the confrontation would erupt again if Talia were to touch it. It's still his property.

Eventually I get her watching the movie again, but their attention doesn't last. First Max starts heading upstairs, then Talia follows. We've had enough TV, I guess, so I take the computer upstairs and plug it in on the kitchen counter. I've finished almost two thirds of the article! I put together a snack for them. They get cut-up dates with Cheerios in two little bowls. Max eats all his dates first, and Talia eats all her Cheerios. Then Max spills his Cheerios on the floor and raids Talia's bowl for more dates while she picks up and eats Max's Cheerios. Since screaming is not involved in these activities, I pay little mind as I start getting close to the end of the article.

Once Max is done, he grabs my leg and says, "Mee! Mee!" This means 'More! More!', but I tell him he's had enough. This was not the answer he was hoping for so he starts shrieking. Again.

Looking at the clock, I say, "I think someone's tired. Would you like to have a sleepy?" Max doesn't seem too keen, but Talia is already climbing the stairs. I pour them a couple of cups of water and carry Max upstairs. He's sniffling a bit when I put him in bed, but he accepts it and is happy to take his cup of water -- or "ow" as they both now call it. Talia easily lies down in bed and takes her cup. As I close the door to their room they're already falling asleep.

I get down to the kitchen, and in five minutes finish the article! (I can't say much for my comprehension though...)

December 01, 2004

Snow! Snow!

Big excitement around here today as the first major snowfall laid a thick, wet, white covering over everything. Max and Talia had had snow explained to them and they had been reading about it in books such as Stella, Queen of the Snow, but today they finally got to see it. Right after breakfast, I dressed them in their oversized snowsuits and took them out.

The snow was perfect for packing, and I found I could roll a big ball without a bit of effort, just like in the cartoons. In my childhood, I rarely encountered snow like this, but then, I grew up in Winnipeg, and it was usually too cold for snow to be sticky. We had to make a snowman.

We named him Roger. He was a big hit with the kids, and hopefully we can keep him around for a while.

November 28, 2004

Finally, corporate sponsorship

After an extended period of negotiations, I am finally able to announce that I have landed deep-pocketed corporate sponsors for Max and Talia.

Nike's bid just didn't measure up.

November 15, 2004

A Day in the Life, part V

It's that time again! Time to give a detailed accounting of my day so I can remember what it was like to manage my two children when they were small. Previous days in the life can be found here: part I, part II, part III, and part IV.

Continue reading "A Day in the Life, part V" »

November 09, 2004

No babies, just toddlers

I'm sorry, but I have no more baby pictures. Instead I can only offer my toddlers. Here's Max, AKA Captain Destructo, and his sister Talia the Mistress of Chaos. They just look angelic.

These week's blog forecast calls for intermittent lameness with severe periods of neglect. So I'll just slap this picture up before I go and try to deal with real life. Wish me luck.

Max is doing his Donald Trump impersonation

October 28, 2004

The fall collection

October 22, 2004

A couple of things to deal with

No matter how crazy things get, they can always get crazier. A month ago I thought my kids were exhausting and infuriating and out of control. Well, they were; but now they're even more so.

They're still great fun to be around, of course, but I'd prefer if the doses were a little smaller. When I'm paying attention to them things are great. But if I focus on an interesting blog post for too long or try to engage in some food preparation, I get this:

The apperent size of my belly is an optical illusion.  You see, I had to lean back to take the photo.  I'm actually quite svelte.  Really.

"PapaPapaPapaPapa, upupup!!!"

Or even worse, they'll find something to occupy themselves with. Yesterday Max got in the bathroom and threw a roll of toilet paper in, climbed up on the back of the couch and twiddled the knobs on the stereo at least 72 times, and climbed up on the dining room table, pulled the flowers out of a vase and soaked his shirt trying to drink the water. And Talia did her part too, throwing anything that isn't nailed down down the stairs to the basement. Anything anywhere near the edge of the counter or table and it'll be on the floor and being inspected by my two scientists before you can blink. You may think this sounds funny, but hours (and days) of this is enough to drive anyone crazy.

There are compensations though. Talia has begun singing quite a bit, and is even composing her own songs. Here's one she sang during a car ride a couple of days ago:

Ahhh, Cookie

Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to left) Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to right)
Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to left) Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to right)
Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to left) Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to right)
Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to left) Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to right)

(lyrics copyright Talia Gottfred)

Max has a phrase he now uses when things go wrong -- and for him they go wrong quite frequently. It's "Oh no!" He says it with such an air of dramatic import -- like a dance choreographer when his star twists her ankle. It's hilarious. He drops his cookie: "Oooohhh nooo!"

The other parents I know estimate only another year and a half of this kind of craziness. Hey! Light at the end of the tunnel!

October 15, 2004

Deep inside Sucking Central

Busy day with the Latin American Correspondent as we foraged for supplies for the weekend while I looked after the kids. He insisted we visit Parliament so he could talk to his reporter friends and he told me he'd show me where our tax dollars go. Unfortunately, the furnace room was closed, so he made it up by arranging a photo shoot in the Speaker's chair in the Senate.

And no, I don't know what's going on with my hair.

October 07, 2004


Swamped. Exhausted. Disconnected. Overwhelmed. Unmotivated. Apathetic. Confused. Distracted. That's why I have nothing to say.

But here's a nice photo of the kids.

They just LOOK peaceful and content.

October 01, 2004

The most important subjects at hand

I haven't written a good update on what's happening with the kids lately. That's because while it's easy slapping a photo up every now and then, it's hard to really describe these guys right now. They're changing so much, so fast, that whatever I right about them is very superficial. But I'll try.

Talia has really taken off with her language. She uses small phrases and understands some abstract concepts. She tells me she wants to "stee owsie" when we come home from a walk. When Max is upset, she comes over to tell me "Tax cry" (yes, I can hear him, little girl). She is constantly trying to figure out what should be done in different situations and knows the procedures for all the days activities and will prompt me if I'm moving too slow. She listens and understands everything I say, and often repeats me if it's something interesting. ("Tax, stup eet!")

Max is not as good with language but is still developing very well. He talks a fair amount, but isn't quite as easy to understand. He has an entirely different way of mispronouncing things than Talia does. He's also talking mostly for his own benefit, he's not really talking to communicate. He doesn't listen too well either.

Max the weightlifter

Physically, they're both speedy and nimble. They're good at climbing, and like experimenting with movement, like walking backwards or sideways, or spinning round and around. Max is much bigger than Talia -- about eight centimeters taller. And he's much beefier too -- Talia will learn a lot about defending herself in the next few years.

They're both extremely affectionate, and it's really wonderful to see big smiles on their faces as they run across the room to greet you -- even if you've just been away for a half-an-hour. Max loves to give big bear hugs and Talia just wants to sit on my lap. One of the main causes of fights is them both wanting to cuddle me at the same time.

They're both very good children. They don't fuss all that much and do very well when they go out. We took the for a big dinner at Mama's uncle's place a couple of weeks ago and they sat in booster chairs at the table for almost three hours -- after their bedtime -- without one angry squawk. And they ate everything, just like they do at home. They're quite good at using a fork and a spoon now. I can usually just cut up their food and put it in a bowl and they'll find a way to get it inside them.

At the Carp fair

Okay, what else? Uh, Talia has made her first poopy in the potty today, if anyone's interested by that news. Like I said, she's very interested in doing what she feels she's supposed to do, so I don't think toilet training her is going to be too difficult. Dreamy boy Max will be much harder, but then boys usually are with this sort of thing.

Okay, they're waking up from their nap. That's enough for now...

September 21, 2004

Toddlers on crack!

Actually, I'm pretty sure they're not really on crack. We're responsible parents -- we keep our drug stash out of their reach.

But they have been acting pretty crazy the past few days. Last week, if you listened outside my door, you'd have heard cries like these, pretty much all day long:

"Max, no!"

"Max, stop it!"


"Max, I said no! Maaaaxxxx?!?"


You get the idea. He's a fast-moving, inquisitive little dynamo. He's tall, so he can reach things on tables and shelves pretty easily; and he's quite the little monkey, able to quickly climb anything that gives him access to where I've moved all the interesting stuff.

When I say these these things to him, of course, he just laughs. It's all part of the game. And when I'm finally forced to grab his arms, look him in the eyes, give him a mean look and say, "Stop it!", he cries. And he doesn't stop for some time.

But at least it was just him going crazy. But now Max must have told Talia where he's been scoring his drugs, because she's gone haywire too. When they've been inside for the past few days, they've both been just bouncing off the walls, running around, shrieking, and throwing everything down the stairs -- even the dog's basket. The pull out anything they can get their hands on and spread it out all over the floor. It takes so much energy to try to keep them under control. I can see why so many parents just turn on the TV to take the edge off them.

I also take them outside for a good part of their day. Talia's favourite word right now is 'owsie!' She always wants to go 'owsie', and when I take them into the yard things get even crazier. Max takes a small tub of water and pours it all over himself. Talia runs off into the neighbor's yard. Max crawls through the garden in his wet clothes. Talia giggles and squirms in my arms as I bring her home. Max puts some gravel in his mouth. Talia starts pestering me to get her a stick. I get her a stick. I take the gravel out of Max's mouth. Talia pokes one of the cats with her stick. I take the stick away from Talia. Max runs into the neighbor's yard...

One of my friends is also a stay-at-home father, and a few months ago he told me that kids always get easier as they get older. Each day you can reclaim more time for yourself as your children will require less care, he said. I'm sure he had a good laugh with his wife about that after I left.

They're exhausting. But they're very cute too.

Photo by Mama

It's really wonderful seeing them in the tub -- because I know they'll be in bed soon.

September 09, 2004

Talia then and now

A year ago we were also in Iqaluit -- in this same apartment. I posted the first picture in my old blog and thought an update would be interesting.

September 03, 2004

Northern tikes

I've pretty much given up on the playgrounds around here. Despite Polarman's efforts, they're quite the mess. Yesterday was the last straw for me though: all of the swings had the seats spit on and someone had urinated down the slide.

So our play places now are empty spaces off of the beaten path. Max and Talia can have fun playing with rocks, and I don't have to worry about what horrible thing they'll pull out of the sand next.

September 02, 2004

Slumped on the couch with the kids

My connection up here is so tenuous that randomly strolling through the web has been replaced by watching bad TV. Most of the bad TV I'm watching is kids TV, because Max and Talia need to distracted or Papa will go crazy. Mama is working twelve hour days right now, so I've got these little guys to manage all day. Sticking them in front of the evil mind-control device all day for a couple of weeks won't irrepairably corrupt them, will it?

I'm learning the names of all the trains on Thomas the Tank Engine. For some reason my kids find this show fascinating.

Barney is as bad as I thought it would be. Worse actually. If you were to imagine a show that a totalitarian society would use to turn the next generation into good little worker drones, Barney would be it. It's ghastly, but I can't find the energy to get up and get the remote.

Boobah is absolutely wonderful. There's nothing like it. We're all completely entranced by it. I'm going to have to write a longer piece on the magic of this show sometime.

There's some really bad Can-con kids shows out there. Really, really bad. Ants in your pants comes immediately to mind, but there's others. Brrr! Your tax dollars at work. Timothy goes to school is pretty good though.

Sesame Street seems to have really gone downhill. The show seems to be more about celebrity cameos and in-jokes for the parents and has forgotten the kids. Mine pay little attention to it. And what happened to the street scenes?

The Berenstain Bears (wasn't it the Berenstein bears when I was a kid?) is not as bad as it looks. The stories are pretty good, but I really hate the animation.

Okay, Boohbah's on now, so I gotta go.

August 22, 2004

Ow! Ow!

Talia calls water 'ow', which is pretty cute. Less cute is her charging madly towards any puddle, river, lake or stream. She has to be held back of she'll rush right in. Here's some photos of her (and her brother) interacting with her favourite element.

I managed to keep her from sitting down in this puddle. Usually she's too fast for me. And the reason Max is wearing the pink boots instead of Talia is that the pink boots are bigger, like Max's feet. I hope one day he'll find it in his heart to forgive me. I hope he'll forgive me for the hat too.

This is up at Meech Lake. It was pretty cold (it's been a cold summer!) but Talia insisted on staying in the water. You can see her skin was actually taking on a purplish tinge here before we pulled her out against her will.

August 11, 2004

Flower Power

The kids are absolutely bonkers this morning. They're pushing, biting, and screaming at each other. They're also extremely clingy and demanding of me, wanting to be picked up, have bouncy rides, and be given treats -- or "teets" as Talia says. And when they found some distraction could be had by destroying Mama's flowers, I had to make a choice: save the flowers or face escalated crankiness. It was not a difficult decision.

August 08, 2004

A day in the life, part IV

Okay, it's been three months since the last day in the life, so here's an update. I do these mostly for myself so I'll remember what being with these guys was like, but I've made a concession to readers of this blog this time and decided not to give a description of each poopie diaper I change. Previous days in the life are here: part I, part II and part III.

4:30 Talia wakes up crying. She's been doing this quite a bit lately and it's frustrating. Nightmares we think, and they're common at this age so we're not worried about it, but it is a bother. Mama gets up to pat her head and calm her down and she goes back to sleep. We don't take her out of her crib. Max never even moves during all this.

Continue reading "A day in the life, part IV" »

August 01, 2004

Baby's first dueling scar

Max was taught a lesson yesterday by Heidelberg fencing instructor Squeak about showing proper respect. You'd think it would be a lesson he wouldn't soon forget, but you'd be wrong. After a five minute crying and sobbing interlude, he was right back at it, pulling the poor cat's whiskers and giggling madly.

Mama said the scar will fade in about a week.

July 30, 2004

What happened to my babies?

They're not babies any more. They're little kids now -- running around, deliberately disobeying me, figuring things out on their own. And about time, too.

I've been told by so many people that the baby days go by so fast and that I should treasure each and every one of them. Well I did; but they didn't really go by that fast. I can't think of any period in my life that seemed to go more slowly than the last year and a half I've spent at home with these guys. Each day was very busy, but not in the where did the time go? sense, but in the clockwatching, planning and juggling tasks sense. I wasn't frantically busy, but I had to manage and anticipate the multiple needs of infants.

Yeah, yeah, poor me. No really, it's been fun. Sometimes. More than you might expect anyway. And what do I have for my troubles? Two active little people.

Talia is talking quite a bit now, though only in her caveman-like two word sentences such as, "Ta-ya cah!" (Father, would you be so kind as to pass me that cup of milk over there?) She has quite a vocabulary, though it's often difficult to understand what she's saying. "Bis... bis... bis... bis... bis... bis... BIS! BIS! BIS!" How am I supposed to understand that? But she understands everything we say -- though she doesn't always listen. Max speaks quite a bit less, still only in single words and from a smaller selection. But he understands quite a bit -- and listens even less than Talia.

They get on quite well together, following each other around and doing the same thing together. I don't have the impression of either of them being the leader and determining what the other will do. One will get an idea and sometimes the other will join in. They do fight, of course. Max in the past few weeks has become very adept at mugging Talia for the toy she's carrying. He'll grab her shirt from behind, spin her around and knock her down, grabbing what he wants when she starts bawling. He just trundles away after this, with only the smallest of smug smiles on his face. Talia has been countering this recently with bites. She'll grab his arm (or leg) and just sink her teeth in. Right now Max has three oval-shaped bite marks on his arms. They take about a day to fade.

They become little scientists out in the yard. I've put a few bins of water on a small patch of gravel at the end of the driveway, along with cups, sticks, buckets, and pieces of wood. They can get very focused playing in this lab, dropping things in the water, pulling them out, filling containers and emptying them (over themselves, usually). The sandbox is another lab, where they concentrate on similar activities -- pouring, burying, poking and sprinkling. I've managed to keep the water out of there so far, but it's probably only a matter of days before one of them decides to haul a bucket of water from one end of the yard to the other to pour into the sandbox...

July 23, 2004

Hot fun in the summertime

I've been remiss in posting photos of Max and Talia. I will correct that remissiveness right now.

July 15, 2004

Life with toddlers

So what's it like? Well, listen for yourself. Read it out loud for the full effect:

I think this is what Kraftwerk used..."Trois - un - deux - trois ... trois - trois -tr-tr-tr-t - trois - un - deux - trois - trois - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - un - deux - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - un - deux ... deux - un - deux ... un - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - d-d-d - deux - deux - deux - un - deux ... arf-arf - arf-arf ... arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf - ar-ar-ar-ar-a-a-a - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - trois - trois -tr-tr-tr-t - trois - un - deux - trois - trois - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - un -deux - trois - quatre ... meow-meow - meow-meow - meow-meow - me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me - meow-meow ... trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - un - deux - trois ... arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arfeine zwei drei vier... - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - deux - un - deux - un - trois - tr-tr-tr-tr-t - trois - un - deux - trois - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf - ar-ar-ar-ar - arf-arf - arf-arf ... arf-arf - arf-arf ... arf-arf - arf-arf ....... quatre - un - quatre - quatre - qua-qua-qua-qua-qua-qua-qua-qua-quatre ..... ar-meow-meow ... meow-meow - meow-meow - meow-meow - meow-meow - meow-meow - meow-meow - meow-meow - meow-meow - me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-meow-meow ....... un ... un-un-un-un-un-un-un-un-un-un-un ... trois - un - deux - trois ... is - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - un - deux - trois ... quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - un -deux - trois - quatre ..... "

Now read it again.

July 05, 2004

What else is there to talk about?

I sure as hell don't want to talk about the election. I am in denial? Am I refusing to face reality? Am I withdrawing from the world? Yes. So let's talk about the kids.

It's hard to believe it was only a month or so ago that Max started walking. The house looks very different when you have two toddlers compared to having two babies. Danger lurks everywhere -- and if by chance I've missed one of these sources of danger, I can count on Max to find it for me.

They've become very agile over the last two months. They quickly scurry around the house and yard, picking up any new thing and exploring it. They carry large, cumbersome objects around -- not caring if they prevent them from seeing where they're going. They climb onto things and then look to see how they might climb even higher. They chase each other, and play strange games that I don't understand but that have them giggling away. Max has learned (from watching Teletubbies) how to 'walk sideways'. He shuffles his feet to the side and wears an enormous grin as he does it. Talia tries to do it too, but only manages to rest her head on her shoulder and walk in a circle.

Talia is learning words quickly. She seems to understand everything we say and repeats the key words (though not very clearly). She's even started making sentences, and her first one was quite funny. They were in the bath and Max was gripping his penis pretty tightly, as boys his age will do. Attention was drawn to this portion of Max's anatomy, and we told them that was his 'penis'. "Peens?", said Talia. That's right, little girl. Now, Talia will say her name and point when she wants something. So she pointed at Max's penis, looked at us, and said, "Ta-ya peens!" No, I'm sorry little girl, you can't have one. "TA-YA PEENS!" I think she's got over the disappointment by now.

I'm sure Max knows as many words as Talia does, but he doesn't talk as much. But he listens. This morning Mama was changing Talia and Max was watching. Talia had her toothbrush in her hand to distract her while Mama worked. Max wanted to see it to, but Mama told him to wait until he was being changed, then he could have his toothbrush. Time passed. I changed him ten minutes later, and I usually give him a toy car to look at and keep him busy. But he wanted nothing of it, he reached out across the sink and said, "too ... too."

It's funny, Max has still never said his name even once. Before, I thought it was because he considered himself 'Da-da', which he said a lot (and Talia said too). But he hasn't said that in a while, and Talia has started calling him 'Tax'. He manages to express himself though, even though he only says about ten different words.

Every parent of a child this age has a 'cute little trick' they like to have their kid do to impress visitors. Mine is to ask Talia if she loves Max. She always walks over to him, wraps her arms around him, and rests her head on his shoulder. It's possibly the cutest thing anyone has ever seen. Until Max pushes her away and she falls over and lands on her bum...

They've started to play a little more deeply than they did before they were walking. They both make brrm-brrm noises when they push toy cars, even though we never taught them that. Talia has become a cuddle girl, hugging stuffed animals and the little dolly we got her. Max is more thing oriented, starting to play with the gizmo toys and find out their secrets. Talia sorts things and Max messes them up. The scientific method is applied to objects by both of them. They push things under water, drop them, roll them, stack them, then change some variable and do it again. They're learning fast. It's a real treat to just watch them go at it.

It's customary in these posts to finish with a picture, so here it is. IKEA has the solution to all your storage problems. IKEA. Proud sponsor of Max and Talia's childhood.

They're generally happier than they look in this picture...

June 15, 2004

It's summertime

And about time for another picture of the kids. Here they are enjoying the pool I so heroically inflated the other day.

June 04, 2004

Let's go for a walk!

It's 11:00. Time to get the kids up. We've got time for a walk before lunch at 12 -- won't that be nice? They're both in their cribs standing up and waiting to get out. I let Talia out -- and away she goes; and Max -- whew, I've got a poopy diaper to change. I put him on the changing mat, and he starts to squirm and complain. He needs a distraction -- Mama's makeup bag (empty). It works. I get the freedom to open up downstairs -- and what a mess it is. One of those brown slimy, ookey poopies that get in all the crevices. Yuck. Someone's been feeding him strawberries. Nothing to do but clean it up. One cloth -- not enough, two cloths -- that'll do. Latch him up again just as he's losing interest in the bag. And now where's Talia? She's smart enough not to have tumbled down he stairs, but she's had the time to get into real mischief. I'm lucky, she's just in Mama and Papa's bedroom looking out the window. I take Max downstairs and close the gate to the basement, latch the door to the foyer, and set the gate for the upstairs before putting him down. I set my internal trouble timer for three minutes though, because Max is better at getting into trouble than Talia, and head upstairs. Okay, does Talia need a change? Sniff. She does. Put her on the mat and hand her the bag. She's enthralled. I get to work. Hmm, even worse than Max's -- ick. One cloth, two cloths, all done. Wipe her up and, uh oh, my trouble timer's gone off. Nothing I can do, get her dressed, but wait -- it looks like a bit of poopie got on her pants. I need new pants. My trouble timer is blaring. Let's get some pants. Now where are they? Those nice white overalls with the anchors would be perfect right now. Here they are -- no wait, these are different. Where's the other pair? Trouble timer -- deafening. These'll do, I'll put them on her downstairs. I lift Talia up, take her downstairs and look for Max. No sign of him -- not good. Oh, he's opened the screen door to the back deck and is outside. I didn't know he could do that. He's fine, I just quickly latch the gates to prevent him from getting into the yard and leave him there. Okay, let's get Talia dressed. These overalls are -- too big. Maybe if I adjust the shoulder straps -- no. Way too big. Okay, gotta find some more pants, this should just take a second. I run upstairs to the kid's closet. Where's those damn pants? Here's her blue overalls, they're getting a bit small but they'll do -- hey, look, the nice white ones with the anchors are under the blue ones -- perfect! Oh oh, what's that? Max is screaming. I run down the stairs, avoid tripping over Talia who is wandering around with those giant overalls on and get to the back deck. Max is on his hands and knees, red-faced, crying loudly. It looks like he tripped over the extension cord I had out for some yardwork this morning. I pick him up and let him get it all out. There's tears all down his face and his mouth is wide open -- oh, here's a bit of blood in his mouth. He must have bit his tongue when he fell. Poor boy. I look through the screen door and see Talia strolling around, holding her stuffed panda. She trips because of her long pants but gets right back up again like nothing happened. Cutey. Max is okay now, so I put him down and grab Talia and sit on the couch. She's squirmy, but I manage to get the correct pants installed. Okay, now we need socks and shoes. I remember that yesterday's socks had been pretty dirty so they needed new ones. This will also free me from having to actually find yesterday's socks -- Bonus! I go back upstairs to get socks. Mama has the socks well organized and I have no trouble picking out socks that will match their cute little outfits. Now, the shoes. Where are the shoes? Are they on the kitchen table? No. The kitchen counter? No. At the front door? On the front deck? On the back deck? No. No. No. Where are the damn shoes? Maybe they're upstairs, sometimes they're still in shoes at bathtime and get left in the bathroom. I run upstairs and check. Nope. In their room? No. In Mama and Papa's room? NO! WHERE THE HELL ARE THEY? And then from downstairs -- BAM! (pause) Whaaahhh!!! I run downstairs to see Max tangled in the screen door. The cats have ripped a hole in it, and Max had put his foot in the hole and fell trying to get it out. He's okay. Talia is patting his head, not very gently. And so back to the shoes -- where are the damn shoes? Downstairs, could they be there? Yes! I see one shoe in the middle of the room and manage to find the other three scattered under various pieces of furniture. One of them even has a pink sock still in it. How they got there I can't remember. Maybe we should create some kind of system so that ... yeah right. Okay, lets get the shoes and socks on. Max lets me do it no problem, and his are quick because they're velcro. Talia is squirmy girl and doesn't want shoes. Luckily I'm much much stronger than her and manage to force them on. Double knot, they're not coming off, so there. Next: sunscreen. Where is it? Out on the front deck under the Adirondack chair. Of course. Out to the back deck where the kids are playing. Grab the small one. A struggle. Lather her with goop. Set her free. Grab the other one. Another struggle. Resistance is useless, foolish earthling. Finished. Now all we have is the hats and we're ready to go. And the hats are where they're supposed to be! Great! I put their hats on, snapping on Max's and tying on Talia's, and then set them free in the front yard before putting them in the stroller. Um ... where's the stroller? No stroller. Oh wait, I remember now -- Mama took them for an outing yesterday, so the stroller must still be in the car. Talia starts walking to the right of the house and Max staggers to the left. I open the trunk and pull out the parts of the stroller. When we first got it, it was very easy to unfold. Now for some reason, things get caught when you're trying to open it, so you've got to hold these things apart with one hand while you pry the thing open with the other hand and one foot. Very awkward. Okay, it's opened, now I just have to attach the front wheel ... and what do you know, it doesn't want to go on. I've never had a problem with the wheel before, what's going on? While I struggle with the wheel, Max loads the stroller with gravel. I finally get it on, though the lock didn't latch the way it normally does. Who cares, it's good enough -- now where's Talia? She's on the other side of the yard trying to get the lid off the sandbox. Not right now, my dear, time to go for a walk. I strap them in, and do we have a dog? Musette? Yes! Okay, let's go.

It's noon. Time for lunch.

June 02, 2004

And I thought my back was sore...

Take a look at this enormous kid, the same age as my two, who weighs the same as Max and Talia put together.

May 30, 2004

Rare personal post

Few readers of this blog know I am the father of two toddlers who keep me busy for most of the day. My belief is that information about families, recreation, amusing links, what I had for lunch, and especially children and cats make for boring reading, so I try to keep this blog free of such fluff. But just this once, to satisfy the curiosity of those who really should be thinking of more important things, I'll post a picture of Talia and Max. But never again. I promise.

Sometimes, I even let them out.

May 27, 2004

2 kids X 2 legs = trouble

Max is now a walker -- or should I say a lurcher. He has abandoned his previous preferred method of getting around and now gets up on his feet when he has to get somewhere. It happened very quickly; a couple of days ago he just got up from his hands and knees and started to go, never looking back. But he's not graceful. He's stiff and shuffling and his arms are still locked in a rigid, uncomfortable position. He walks like a miniature Frankenstein monster.

But he enjoys his new freedom and now spends a lot of time walking back and forth with a big smile on his face and making his funny sound of the week, "Lolloollollolloollolloollo..."

Talia meanwhile has gotten faster and more agile. She doesn't fall down much at all and navigates through the cluttered play area with ease. She's making a funny new sound of her own, which really astonished me when I first heard it. It's a really strange noise and goes something like this, "Gloi-gloi-tloi-ui-oi-glui-OI-GLOI-TUI-GLOO-GLOI!" She gets quite loud with it. It's hilarious.

But they're both making progress with language, Talia ahead of Max, as usual. It's hard to make out what they're saying sometimes, as they often drop the last sounds on their words. And I think I've solved the mystery as to why neither of them have said Max's name, or anything even close to it. It's because he already has a name: Da-da (with the second syllable stressed slightly). Michelle is not as convinced, but I've played a naming game with Talia, where she will point to herself and say her name, point to me and say, "Papa", and point to Max and say, "Da-da." Max says, "Da-da" quite a bit, just as Talia went through a phase when she said her name frequently. He most often says it when he wants something, just as Talia will say her name when she points at something she wants. I'll be interested in how this develops.

Here's a shot of the two of them with a new toy borrowed from the local toy library:

May 20, 2004

Mango girl and monkey boy

Some more pictures. Why? Because I can.

The first is Talia with a mango. She really loves her mango. She carried it around for an hour today.

Can you see her as the first female NFL quarterback?

And then we have Max climbing the furniture. He can only walk a few steps on his own, but he can scale the couch in ten seconds. He was obsessed with doing this for about an hour today, scrambling up as soon as my back was turned.

You must become one with your spoon...

Spoon training began today. Spoon use does not come naturally, and requires dedication and inner peace to master. As my students' spoon sensei, I first concentrated on the two fundamentals of the spoon: the bigger end goes in your mouth, and don't whack your sibling with a spoon, especially when it's loaded.

May 11, 2004

A day in the life, part III

Posting has been weak to non-existent lately, I know. (But at least I'm posting more often than the missing Andrew Coyne.) These guys of mine take up plenty of time, and what time is free I prefer to spend engaged in combat with other pathetic nerds from around the world. This will eventually change, but for now enjoy the third installment of my 'day in the life' series. Lots of pictures of happy little children to tide you over until I get my priorities straightened out. (Also check out part I and part II.)

Continue reading "A day in the life, part III" »

April 28, 2004

A perfect moment

In Swimming to Cambodia, the late Spalding Grey talked about his quest for a perfect moment. He made it seem like these perfect moments were hard to come by, but I've had quite a few of them. What makes a perfect moment is to have that feeling of contentment wash over you. All worry is gone, and you live in the moment feeling that all is right in the world. Most of these moments I've had have been related to travel and food -- sitting outside, watching the fountain show at the Belagio while dining on a delicious steak with blue cheese sauce, or an afternoon pastry and coffee outside a cafe in Vienna -- but today with my sweeties I had another one.

I was lying on the patio stones with my eyes closed under the sun. Max was crawling over my legs, back and forth, having a good time, while Talia was tottering around behind my head, saying to herself what she's been saying a lot lately, "Ta-ya ... Ta-ee-ya ... Ah-ya ... TA-YA!". The sun was warm, even though the day was pretty cool, and the insides of my eyelids were orange. This was good. I was happy.

Of course it didn't last. Max, the Gravel Gourmet, had moved out to the driveway so I had to get up to hook from his mouth whatever it was he stuck in there. But that's what makes them perfect moments, I guess.

I'd like to say that the reason I haven't been blogging so much lately is that I've been too busy enjoying similar moments and leading a contemplative life, but the real reason is that I've been spending my few free moments playing Unreal Tournament 2004. Not exactly peaceful or relaxing, but still very fun. Onslaught mode rocks.

But I'll get bored of it soon. Normal blogging will resume shortly.

April 15, 2004

Baby update

Finally the colds are that Max and Talia have been suffering through are coming to an end. I can't complain too much about them; the kids were remarkably easy compared to how it could have been. They (mostly) slept through the night and only occasionally were completely miserable. Our secret? Multiple doses of liquid ibuprofin and liquid acetaminophen staggered throughout the day. And tissues, lots of tissues, the kind with the skin lotion included. As you can see in this early morning picture of Talia, our two little patients generated an enormous quantity of snot. If there was an industrial use for snot I might have been able to sell the contents of our wastebaskets for quite a sum of money.

I said their colds were almost over. Where's the fun in being sick if you can't share it with anyone? I took the kids to their playgroup today to cough on some toys. After all, they probably picked up the cold there, we should bring it back.

At the playgroup the first 15 minutes is the two of them gripping me tightly as they peek over my shoulders at all the other kids and the toys. Talia is the first to let go to play on the floor next to me. As long as I don't go too far, she's happy. Soon, Max will try to grab what Talia's playing with and she will start screaming. Then we're back to normal, and I can move around and talk to some of the other parents. Once they warmed up, they had a good time pushing each other around on this little buggy:

April 09, 2004

It's for you!

The kids are still sick, but I managed to grab a shot of Max in one of the few moments when he's happy and isn't sporting a glistening, goopy moustache.

It's amazing how they have the ability to learn concepts from so few clues. This toy phone looks nothing like the cordless phone he's seen Mama and Papa using, he's never seen a dial on a phone, and the colors are all wrong. Still, he pieces together that this is something you hold to the side of your head and talk to. My training is in technology, and there you become accustomed to the boundaries of a definition. Things must be expressed precisely and with no room for error. But babies get little snippets of information and manage -- through trial and error of course -- to build an understanding of the world.

March 25, 2004

Bonus baby photo

I know one photo a day is all most people can handle, but what the heck, it's Christmas. Here's Talia pushing Samba around on the stool. This is a scene oft repeated in our home. Samba quite enjoys it, strangely enough.

Obligatory baby post

Things have been hectic, hectic, hectic around here lately and they show no signs of changing for quite some time. On the contrary, I've suddenly comprehended how insanely busy I'll be when these two start walking. They are exceptionally good at finding things they shouldn't have, opening containers they shouldn't open, and getting on top of things that have precarious drops and sharp edges. When their mobility and speed have increased, well, look-out! The crazy days I'm having now will no doubt look like an all-inclusive holiday package compared to what lies down the road. So I'll save some of my whining for then -- just remember to write soothing words of encouragement to me when my blog posts are nothing but all-caps messages saying, "I CAN'T TAKE IT ANY MORE!"

The babies are fine. They're sleeping right now but will be up soon to cling to my leg and whimper pitifully. Maybe they'll play with their toys for a few minutes as well, until one grabs one of the boring things they've seen a million times before from the other and all hell will break loose.

They're crazy eaters right now. I think some of the leg whimpering I've been experiencing lately is related to their lack of food, and I've moved to fix it. This morning I continued to spoon the goo into them until I actually got a hand-wave from Talia, "No more please, I'm stuffed." But it seems to be changed into poopies pretty quickly (without changing that much sometimes). The problem is not just the quantity, but the frequency.

We took them out to Loblaws the other day. Mama and Papa, Talia and Max, thinking it would be a good outing. Then when we got home I would do some more handyman stuff and Mama could do some kitchen stuff. It didn't work out that way. The trip took way too much time, delayed babies' lunch, resulted in crankiness and parental headaches and nothing being accomplished. But we did get a photo:

Notice the wonderful cart that fits two babies! Notice also that Max has pulled off his left shoe. Max is always pulling off his left shoe these days. Which is always followed by Max pulling off his left sock (as happened here as well). Loblaws is a big, big, store. The shoe was found, but the cute little sock with the logos of all the Canadian NHL teams was lost forever.

Talia has come to pronounce Papa in a new and infinitely more cute way. She says, "Puh-aaaaaaaahhh Pah. Puh-aaaaaaaaaahhhh Pah!" As she holds that long A her pitch rises slowly. They're such wonderful little guys.

March 17, 2004

The Teletubbies Rock

The other day I made an excursion to Wal-Mart to find some kid-vid that will allow me to immobilize my offspring for a half-hour when I need a break. We turned off our satellite feed a few months ago (because we weren't watching anything), but now the kids are at an age when they can watch and follow a simple show. The selection wasn't good. Lots of Disney hyper-kinetic smart-ass animals, some cheap licenced cartoon character junk, and some over-priced Blue's Clues and Dora the Explorer (Swiper, no Swiping! I love that line.). I'm not prepared to pay $10 for 30 minutes of video. I bought some Rolie Polie Olie tapes because they were cheap, Lileks swears by them, and I'd seen one episode before and thought it was pretty good.

But they weren't good for Max and Talia. Too much movement, too much assumed knowledge, too hard to figure out. They lost interest pretty quickly. Maybe in a year they'll appreciate them.

The only kid-vid I've been able to find for their stage of development is the Teletubbies. (Possibly they might like Barney, but I don't think I'd be able to take it. It will not enter this house.) I haven't been able to find any tapes or DVDs for sale anywhere, but Opa records them for us and brings them over.

If you haven't watched any Teletubbies before, you would probably be shocked at how bizarre and surreal the show is. These four pudgy creatures (right to left), Tinky Winky, Dipsy, LaaLaa, and Po, live in a strange, hyper-modern, partially-underground house where they are taken care of by machines. They don't need much care, but there are machines to provide their tubbie-toast and tubbie-custard, and a sentient vacuum cleaner, the Noo-Noo, that cleans up. Outside their home is an idyllic pasture with rabbits and flowers, and overlooking it all is the sun, which is a baby's face. Not much happens in an episode: the Teletubbies run around, eat, fall down, giggle, hug each other, march, and dance. The music is wonderful, and there's no singing! Once in every episode the giant pinwheel starts spinning and triggers one of the Tubbies to play a short film on his or her tummy. These are quick little vignettes of children in a simple setting doing things like hanging laundry or riding tricycles. Seeing the film once isn't enough for the Teletubbies though, they demand to see it again, and so the same film is shown once more. All this is bracketed by the extended opening and closing sequences (which are the same every episode) consisting of the Teletubbies waving. And waving and waving and waving.

For a one-year-old, this is the perfect entertainment. They are absolutely riveted by everything that happens. They laugh when the Tubbies chase each other around, wave when they are waved at, and are fascinated by the kids building sand castles or playing in a box. Talia has said "ta-ta" for Teletubbies for a few weeks now, and now Max's third word -- after "Mama" and "aht" -- is "ta-ta". He'll get around to saying Papa sometime, I'm sure of it.

March 16, 2004

The days are just packed

Killing and burying the editor was one of the reasons for taking my week off, the other was to refocus on the most important people in my life, my two wonderful little guys. I was starting to find myself becoming distant and annoyed by them as I argued with the editor and tried to feed the blog. They're not little passive people anymore that can be parked in a pool of toys and ignored. They need a lot more interactive attention. Their little brains are growing so quickly now it's really hard to believe. No more trying to write when they're awake.

Here's a few of the things I've spotted them doing in the last week:

I use a little hand blender to moosh up leftovers that are a little too chunky for people with few teeth. Talia makes brr brr noises to imitate the sound.

Talia has finally learned to crawl on her hands and knees rather than the commando crawl she first learned to get around with. She lifts her hands up high and slaps them down as she moves. It's quite funny.

Max has created a couple of games that get played in the highchairs at feeding time. There's the looking up game, in which he looks at the ceiling and makes a big goofy smile. He started this after I had a particularly stiff neck one day and spent a lot of time stretching. Then there's the shaking head game, in which he shakes his head from side to side while wearing a big goofy smile. Talia always joins in these games.

Oma has taken to sometimes playing the airplane game when feeding the babies. You know, "Rrrrrr, here comes the airplane! Zoom! Right into the hanger!" Sometimes when I'm feeding Talia she'll move her hand slowly in front of her going, "Rrrrrr...".

Watching Teletubbies is one of their big thrills of the day. They watch intently for awhile, but then go off to play with their toys. They're paying attention though. Talia can be off in a corner where she can't see the TV and she'll still wave 'bye-bye' at the end of an episode.

Max likes to keep his crib neat. He carefully tosses every toy we put in with him over the side when he wakes up in the morning.

Talia tries to imitate the sound of a dog's bark. She makes a odd mmm mmm sound when she hears it.

Max is somehow managing to speak using only consonants, just like Grundoon. Unfortunately, he bites like Grundoon too.

Max loves to splash like a maniac in the tub. He uses a cup to scoop the water into the air while laughing.

Talia thinks she has telekinetic powers. She reaches out to whatever's caught her eye as if she expects it to fly to her hand.

When I make a fire in the morning, Max stands beside me and blows little tiny breaths (peh-peh) to help me.

I'm thinking of starting a home paper shredding business.

March 03, 2004

Child's play

There are moments when Talia and Max are not transfixed by the Teletubbies, pulling at my legs begging to be lifted up, or crying because some inanimate object is behaving in a frustrating way. Sometimes they just sit and play with their toys. Incredible but true. I managed to snap this photo to prove I'm not making it up.

February 24, 2004

Adorable special sweeties update.

A few weeks ago it looked as if Max and Talia would be walking by their first birthday. Well, it hasn't happened. They're still topplers, not toddlers. For now, they seem happy with the amount of mischief they can get into by crawling and cruising.

Max Max in particular is very good at wreaking havoc. He has added the nickname Captain Destructo to his other names. He pulls hair, bites, pulls stuff off shelves, turns on the gas on the stove, pulls over stools and rips up any paper he lays his hands on (and quickly too). But it's all in such a pleasant, innocent manner that you can't be bothered by it. He has an intense curiosity about things. When he sees something new he doesn't forget and clambers, struggles and reaches until it's in his hands. He doesn't talk too much yet. His two words are "mama" and "ut" (hot).

Talia is not quite as destructive. Probably just because she doesn't have the reach and the strength of Max. He's seven centimeters taller and 2 kilograms heavier than her. She has a quite a few years ahead of her in which she'll be pushed around and have things grabbed from her by her beefy brother. She's a little more serious and little faster learner than Max. She's usually the first one to do anything new and has a larger vocabulary than he does. She says "mama", "papa" (with a perfect sing-song lilt, so cute!), "ka-ka" (which means dog -- their Opa's dog is named Kafka), "cah" (cat), and "ba" (which she says when I'm scolding Max -- bad?).

They really do change each day, but you can only see it if you look carefully. There are the big milestones that are remembered -- first steps, first words -- but there are hundreds of little milestones as well. Most of them we can't see because they happen internally within the child. I'm pretty happy to be able watch it all close up.

February 15, 2004

Max and Talia's Birthday.

This is going to be an exceptionally lame post. I'd like to write witty, clever things about the big get-together we had for our two dear sweeties yesterday but there's nothing clever or witty to say. I have absolutely no interesting observations to make. I'd like to put up exciting pictures that make the event look magical but all the pictures have the kids looking away from the camera as soon as the flash went off or with unflattering looks on their faces.

Michelle went a bit overboard in the preparation department, as she usually does. No Loblaws cake, taco chips, carrot sticks, dip, and a few bottles of Gato Negro for us. No, she started cooking the evening before and was still at it the morning of. We had little twisty pastries with some kind of cinnamon filling, three kinds of focaccia (one stuffed with butter and prosciutto), home-made orange-flavoured chocolate-chip cookies, tiny little black forest cupcakes, and an assortment of Italian wines.

We told people we were just going to have an open house between two and five, thinking that would be about as much as the babies could handle. Of course, no one showed up until three, and by the time three-thirty rolled around the place was packed with our friends and their squealing kids. Max and Talia were very apprehensive at first but quickly adapted. We asked for no gifts, but people love buying things for babies and many people disobeyed. Thank you all for the lovely clothes, books and toys.

So here's the pictures. This is Max, but you probably knew that.

Here's Talia as she pushes Samba around on the stool. It's very cute, but this picture doesn't quite capture it.

To make up for the lame pictures I offer an Autonomous Source first: a video (5 Mbytes +) taken this morning of the babies playing with a couple of helium balloons. I'm no James Lileks willing to edit these shots to get the best effects -- this is the raw footage. Max and Talia do not stay still or behave in an amusing way on command. But I still think this is pretty good. Note that after this video was taken, one of the balloons floated up to the cathedral ceiling (where I could not reach it), the string wound itself around the ceiling fan, and the balloon brushed off twelve years of dust from the blades to fall like black snow all over the kitchen. Though my art isn't that good, I still suffer for it.

UPDATE: For some reason I couldn't access the video through Microsoft Internet Explorer. I naturally thought this was my fault, so I struggled for twenty minutes trying to figure out what I did wrong. But in Netscape (or Mozilla) there's no problem. Grr. Did I ever mention that I have issues with Microsoft?

If you're using IE, I suggest you change browsers. That's what I'm doing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Michelle has insisted I inform readers that she does dust the blades of the ceiling fan periodically. What I claimed was twelve years of dust was probably only three. *Ouch!* I mean three months.

February 12, 2004

I'm a bad influence on my babies.

No, they haven't learned any naughty words. But a few months ago I started bonking my head into the babies as a sign of affection. They enjoyed it and would laugh and give me big grins. Now both Talia and Max are bumping heads with each other. Unfortunately, they are not quite as gentle as I am, and today I have had my hands full calming down injured babies. They haven't quite figured out that the way to avoid injury is to stop ramming your heads together! Just now Talia bonked Max's chin as he had his tongue stuck out, resulting in him biting himself. He's been biting everyone else lately, so it's about time he found out what it feels like...

February 08, 2004

Talia and Squeak.

Blogging may be light today due to the pressing demands of real life. But a picture is worth a thousand words, so this should get me off the hook for awhile.

January 29, 2004

Max Max looks for a way out.

Talia got all the attention yesterday with a couple of solo shots. Max Max is nearly as cute as she is and so should get equal billing. Here he is as he looks in vain for a way to tumble down the stairs and crack his head open.

There's not going to be much blogging today as I try to deal with real life a little bit. It's a passing phase, I assure you.

January 28, 2004

Talia goes for a ride...

Oma and Opa bought a little push-bike for crazy baby number one and crazy baby number two for Christmas. Talia has really taken to it and loves to go for a ride.

As you might guess, ten seconds after the last photo was taken there was a thump followed by some prolonged crying and cuddling.

January 22, 2004

The weeks of bumps and bruises.

Talia and Max have given themselves the personal goals of learning to walk by their first birthday. I assume this anyway by the reckless abandon with which they pull themselves up on anything that has a vertical dimension. Once upright they shuffle around slowly, shifting their grip on whatever is supporting them until they inevitably fall back down again. This sometimes requires a brief screeching spell, but then they're back at it again. The bruises were sometimes pretty bad at the beginning, but they're getting better at falling down now.

All the wonderful toys we have don't seem to interest them for more than a couple minutes. They just want to get up higher. Talia is a speedy stair-climber and will race halfway up the staircase in no time if I forget to put the gate up. She's just today managed to climb up onto the large plastic cooler I gave them to push around. Soon she'll be climbing onto the couches, then onto the backs of the couches, and then ... I don't want to think about it.

January 18, 2004

Gotta look out for that Cosmic Justice...

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Cosmic Justice giving a good solid thwack to a woman in the supermarket who felt she could intervene in the correcting of my child. Well I got my own taste of it the other day when I was again at the supermarket, though this time I was at the giant Loblaws and was without babies.

I picked up my shopping cart, and for some reason I looked at the handle and saw these words, "This cart is different. Please leave adequate room to manoeuvre." I'd shopped here for a long time and used the same oversized carts each time. I had never noticed this warning before. And I thought -- what a stupid warning!

I went into full curmudgeon mode then. I muttered to myself about lawyers' paranoia about liability. I fumed about the contempt corporations have for people's common sense. And then I turned a corner too wide and knocked over two dozen jars of baby food.

The funny thing (well, the other funny thing) is that it wasn't until I was warned to be careful that I no longer was. This means something, but I'm not sure what.

January 17, 2004

Bad Babies!

It seems my children have a disrespectful attitude to one of the great statesmen of our nation. I can't imagine where they picked it up...

January 15, 2004

Speaking of family values...

I just read a good article on the problems with men today. There's lots to disagree with, a bit too much assumption-taking, but lots of food for thought too. As someone who is now an important male role model, I took quite a bit away from it.

(from Instapundit)

Hello, Poison Control?

I was putting the dishes away and the babies had been quieter than usual for a few minutes. This usually means trouble, so I went to see what was up. Max and Talia were happily pulling out the detritus from under the front baseboard heaters. But what's that? Max has a poinsettia leaf in his mouth!

Everyone knows poinsettias are incredibly poisonous. Even my wife the doctor regretted that someone had got us a plant for Christmas and we had allowed the deadly thing in our home. And now the worst has happened -- Max has chewed up a leaf! It was all soggy when I pulled it out of his mouth! OMG! Where's the number for Poison Control?

But wait a second. If it was such a deadly poison, it wouldn't be sold. Max looks fine. Let's take a look on the internet. Snopes says they're not poisonous at all; it's just an urban myth. Whew!

Now we have something new for lunch today.