Happy Birthday Spiderman! On Toddlers Learning to Sing

I was holding my toddler up in the shower when he started singing happy birthday out of the blue. He had never sung it on his own before. In fact, he typically shuns any sort of singing that isn’t coming from some professionally produced media. He has spent the past couple years shouting at me whenever I show an inkling of beginning to hum a tune. When I dare to get into the swing of things, he will run up and slap me on the thigh before firmly directing me to cease and desist. This may actually denote a fair bit of good taste, as I am more prone to breaking glasses than records with my dissonant voice.

It therefore startled me to find him belting out the lyrics so energetically. “Happy birthday to you!”

Each refrain would be punctuated by a wide-mouthed smile, his eyes beaming at this minor miracle of childhood development. He paused. I assumed his moment of grandeur had ended. I was wrong. He started up again, but after his second refrain, he hesitated slightly.

“Happy birthday…Spiderman!”

And so it went. Spiderman had somehow become a celebrated figure in this impromptu epic choral arrangement. I am not quite certain where my boy has been exposed to the daring webslinger, since I haven’t exposed him to it at home. Perhaps the older kids at daycare are fans? What I do know is that Spiderman’s birthday was back in August, so I guess these heartfelt wishes are better late than never!

 

The Dark Sorcerer: Quantic Dreams E3 Demo (not suitable for younger audiences)

If you haven’t caught it yet, here’s Quantic Dreams’ demo of the Dark Sorcerer. It is a technology demonstration being used to test out some next generation capabilities for the PS 4. With any luck, games will look like this in real time in the (relatively) near future.

Even if you’re not into the technology of game development, it’s worth watching the video for the humour that has been profusely laced throughout its twelve fantasy-packed minutes.

A Child’s Love

Thump!

I can usually hear it faintly from a block and a half away. I am walking back from the grocery, loaded down like a pack mule. It is a matter of pride that I make the effort to hand carry all of my supplies, never resorting to the car, regardless of my shopping list’s bulk. I tell myself it’s doing my little bit for the environment, and has an added bonus of giving me an opportunity for a little cardio and strength training. It’s not that the store is that far away. My home lies within the radius of the outer reaches of a large mall’s parking lot from the store. It’s just that I tend to walk back with a enough bags of milk and other heavy liquid supplies to buckle a donkey’s legs. Whatever it takes to keep my boy growing strong and healthy.

Thump! Thump!

The sound is more distinct now. A sharp note breaking the silence of my quiet neighborhood. There is no-one on the street. It’s about at this point every time that my hands start to go numb. I try to shift the weight around, but invariably my pinky finger feels like it’s about to get pulled off of my hand, so out it slips, leaving my load precariously anchored to three or even two fingers.

Thumpity, thumpity, thump! THUMP!

I can now see the corner of my house. The sound is really loud, but I can’t quite bring myself to pay all that much attention to the constant and frenetic drumming that resonates down the street. I heave on my bags, tossing a set over a shoulder. There. That does it. My screaming muscles groan in relief. The moment passes as I realize that I am mere seconds away from losing my grip on the bags I hold clutched in my other hand. Oh no! The eggs are in that bunch, doubtless nestled between something hard and something harder. Regardless, if I drop them over the asphalt road, I am toast.

THUMP! THUMP! THUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMP! Thump!

I look at the living room window. A small head with a huge grin is waiving madly. My boy is ludicrously happy to see me even though I have been away less than an hour. He has been bashing away at the window since I came into view minutes before. I can’t help but evoke a dog eagerly awaiting the return of his master by the door. Speaking of which, I have somehow managed to clear the last few steps to the stoop. I use my elbow to ease open the latch and shoulder my way into the entryway. My kid dashes around the couch screaming “papaaaaaa!” and collides into my leg, arms thrown wide open. The ensuing bear hug is surprisingly firm on my leg, despite his diminutive stature. Somehow, I have managed to retain my grasp on the bags so as to preserve him from a grisly demise, squashed under a metric ton of rice, apples, and a watermelon. What the heck was I thinking when I bought that?

I set the bags down and he starts to rummage through them, keenly eying their contents as a raven would a shiny thing at a camp site. Out he pulls an item and proudly brings it to his mother. He appears to take great pride in contributing to the chore of organizing our kitchen supplies. A grocery bag rolls over. CRUNCH!

Guess I’ll need to get some more eggs.

At least I know I’ll have someone cheering me on all the way!

Blue Nile Crocodile Smile

Dora has warped my kid’s sense of where crocodiles should normally be found. He now dashes around the living room shouting “kokodyle, kokodyle” in mock fear as he leaps from safe island to safe island formed by the couch and nearby chair. He despairs when he gets stranded on the chair.

During this evening’s imagination-fueled rush around, I ad-libbed a little poem that I delivered in my best Monty-Python falsetto cockney accent to cheer him up:

The Blue Crocodile
Of the Nile
Goes around the floor
Looking for more.
When he find his pile,
He can’t help but smile.
The Blue Crocodile
Of the Nile

He didn’t like it.

Everyone’s a critic.

Programmer’s humour

Yesterday, software engineer Alex Shchepetilnikov (Twitter handle @irqed) graced the Twitterverse with a programmer’s take on the song “99 bottles of beer”. I feel compelled to share it with you, if only so that I can keep it close and remember it:

99 little bugs in the code
99 little bugs in the code
Take one down, patch it around
117 little bugs in the code

If you’ve ever tried your hand at programming, this should resonate with you.

Mr. Shchepetilnikov, my hat is off to you!

Buns in the hallway. Sometimes it’s hard to take a toddler seriously.

My kid has just developed a case of athletes foot. It must be the result of all the hours he’s spending in the gym getting ready for football pre-season camp. Sure, he’s not yet three years old, but you’ve got to start them young if you hope to get them into the big leagues. Tomorrow: we’re doing squats. We’ll start him off easy at 320 lbs, and work our way up from there.

Anyhow, just moments after having having pulled him out of the bath tonight, we dried his feet off and applied a liberal dusting of foot powder to keep his feet dry over night. We then toss on his socks to make sure he doesn’t play with his feet and attempt to keep the powder in place rather than have it wiped off all over his sheets.

We had just finished getting his last sock on as he wriggled out of my arms and dashed down the hallway towards his room. By this stage, he’s still running around au naturel, and it is at this very point that he lost the opportunity for us to ever take him seriously again. There’s nothing quite so hilarious as a naked toddler running away screaming “ninja!” (I am at a loss to explain where that came from) while wearing nothing but white socks as he disappears down a dark hallway.

I’m going to have to bring this up the first time he brings a young lady over for family introductions when he gets a little older. He may die of embarrassment, but the lass will likely find it quite endearing.

I’m looking out for you, kid.

On toddlers and the spontaneous generation of novel vocabulary

Toddlers are an author’s best friend. If you’re ever stuck in a rut and need some help, pay close attention to a kid trying to grapple with the intricacies of learning a spoken language. They will inevitably toss in extra vowels and consonants, clip words short, duplicate sections, or improvise sounds that are more manageable for their developing mind-lip interface.

I think every parent has had the pleasure of being called “Mapa” or “Pama” at some point or other. My boy is fascinated by crocodiles thanks to Dora the Explorer. He trundles around the living room yelling “Crokoli, crokoli!” and roaring his head off. Today, my kid invented a novel mashup of ketchup and mustard. “Kestard, moustchup!” I’m not quite certain why he was going on about condiments, since it wasn’t mealtime, but his little mind was bubbling away trying to figure things out. I keep my ear trained to his vocal experiments, and from time to time can come away with a wonderful nugget that will serve as the setting, character, or event for a future story.

This may not be too useful a feature for non-fiction authors. In fact, such re-interpretations of any language is probably going to lead to deleterious effects on your writing by osmotic transference so having kids is probably not a great career move. Thankfully, mine will doubtless continue to enhance my efforts to produce engaging works of fantasy and science-fiction.

Thanks kiddo!

On expanding your toddler’s vocabulary – You know you got it right when…

Monstres: A great kids’ book.

A few weeks ago, we bought a gorgeously-illustrated story for our toddler. Monstres from Édition Nathan is a wonderful story of a little boy embarking on a quest to find the ingredients needed to brew a potion to heal an ailing dragon. Since it’s a kid’s book, I won’t go on any longer since I’ve already covered a significant portion of the plot as it stands.

It caught my wife’s eye at the book store and I have to admit that I think I spend more time taking in the brilliant illustrations than my son does — and he looks at it a lot. The book depicts a wide menagerie of fantasy monsters in a cartoony style reminiscent of what a Pixar movie would look like in 2D. It has been a great opportunity to plant the seed of wonder in my boy’s mind.

Yesterday, I managed to get him to babble on about dinosaurs, trolls, ogres, krakens, dragons, and skeletons (not all depicted in the book, but what the heck, it’s always good to get some value added for bedtime stories.) Today we started working on goblin. Not bad considering he still has a while to go before he makes it to three years of age.

The best part about it all is that though the book tries to create some dramatic tension by making some of the monsters adversaries, others are allies. Best of all, a little kid can overcome the mightiest of mythical beasts. My wife and I aren’t presenting any of these creatures as something to be afraid of, so there have been no issues with nightmares, and hopefully it will prime him to be receptive to diversity as he grows up. It incidentally blends in with the general concept of the book I’m in the process of writing, so it is nice to see the concept pop up elsewhere.

If I end up writing about my son the basket case at some point down the line, or decides that wearing elf ears to work is an acceptable fashion choice, I guess you’ll be able to point to this as a potential cause. Sheesh, parents can never win!

My kid and his superfast jumping shoes are so much fun

We recently bought some new running shoes for our toddler. They’re a deep blue with neon green highlights. He didn’t really take to them at first, but now just look at him go! He zooms all over the place, little legs pumping into a thumping blur. This evolution has taken place without having converged with the development of a nascent sense of fear or self preservation. This kid is not afraid of any bone headed, death defying act of daredevilry (as a side note, I’m surprised that the term daredevilry didn’t tweak the spell checker; I was certain I’d just made that up.)

Tonight, he decided that running off of the front steps towards the lawn would be a good idea. He decided to do this rather spontaneously as both my wife and I were getting ready to go in the front door. We lost control of him for that nanosecond that is needed for a life changing tragedy to take place. Off he went. One, two, three snappy paces then bound! Bounce! Hop! Off the stairs and onto the stone landing he ran. Zip! A short stumble, but his stumpy legs started recovering.

Almost.

Nope. Not quite.

Two more uneven steps and he launched himself off of the landing and towards the lawn. He sailed head first off of the two foot drop and into our flower bed, our hands outstretched in a vain attempt to catch him. They were ever so close yet so far.

Fwoosh! His trajectory bore him right into a soft, young, and supple hosta. Only his small backside and two feet were seen protruding through the foliage. He rolled himself out as we ran over to him and burst out laughing. Yes, we are that kind of supportive, nurturing parents. He wasn’t certain about what to do for a moment, but then he started laughing and all was good. His head left a deep crater in the young plant.

I’m glad we didn’t rip those hostas out last year to replace them with rose bushes and cacti. Of course, they would probably have fared a little better in their encounter with a rambunctious toddler.

Why – the toddler’s milestone

Let it be recorded that yesterday, it started with a simple question. THE question, in fact. “Pou-kwaa?” This utterance, a first attempt at “pourquoi?” Why. My son was playing on his own in the living room, driving toy cars over the coffee table. I looked over at him and smiled. Something had clicked in his head. I had just listened to it happen.

“Hey, babe, I think our kid has just entered the ‘why’ stage.” I mentioned to my wife. For some strange reason, her razor-sharp motherly hearing hadn’t picked up on the word. It had blended into the babble. She was just happy that he was making noise, since that’s an indication that he’s not getting into trouble.

I smiled. It isn’t often that I pick up on something our kid is doing before she does. For the most part, I’ll come rushing up to her, proudly holding the boy aloft “Hey, hey, hey! He just did X for the first time!”

“That’s nice, dear. But he’s been doing that for the past three months.” is the typical underwhelmed response I receive. Chalk one up for the record books. I’m even fairly certain that my mind hasn’t made this one up. Awesome!

And now we brace ourselves for the coming onslaught of questions that will assail us for the next decade-and-a-half. I am now absolutely certain that we will not be spared the rapid fire barrage of queries and inquisitiveness that will have us sighing as we explain for the hundred millionth time why the sky is blue or why we have to eat our greens.

And you know what? That’s just fine, because it’s a sign our little critter’s mind is developing and on its way to making him one heck of a guy.