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!


Conversations with my 2 year old. Brilliantly shot and highly entertaining. A must for any parent!

My wife recently found this outstanding series of shorts floating about Youtube. They feature discussions between a father and his 2 year old daughter, re-enacted with a full-grown man in her stead. This creates a superb tension that helps highlight the often times surreal situations we find ourselves in as parents with young children.



Wasabi's first fusion burn is unforgettable.

Wasabi’s first fusion burn is unforgettable.

We like exposing our toddler to a wide variety of foods. Having an open gastronomic mind creates so many opportunities to appreciate the world, but it doesn’t just happen on its own. Kids have a natural tendency to shirk away from foods that they perceive as unusual. I believe that this has something to do with our primitive survival strategies back when we were still learning to play with fire. Early exposure to a wide variety of nutritional experiences in a supportive environment help plant the seed for the future.

One of the staple celebratory foods in our household is sushi. From an early age, we let our boy have some of the rolls. We are careful not to give him any of the raw fish to avoid picking up parasites, but he is otherwise happy to munch away on the veggie rolls, wakame salad, and other assorted goodies that make up a great sushi dinner. He is extremely fond of the pickled ginger, and would be happy to drink a bucket of the soy sauce all on its own. Thankfully for his health, we are thoroughly grossed-out at the prospect and limit him to a few drops of the dark ichor.

We had assumed that he would be overwhelmed by wasabi, so we never bothered giving him any. I can barely survive the mighty punch a tiny dollop of the green stuff. When I muster up he courage to indulge in a bite, my sinuses instantly combust, and my eyes water almost as profusely as my nose do, sending me scrambling for the closest glass of milk to quench the burn. I am left with a feeling that someone swung a sledgehammer at my head, and my tongue dangles lifelessly from my mouth. I could scarcely imagine what a dose of the nuclear goo would do to a toddler.

A few days ago, he finally noticed the verdant dollop gracing the takeout platter. He stood up on his chair and pointed at it insistently.

“Quoi ça? (What’s that?)” he asked pointedly.

“It’s wasabi. It’s a got a lot of kick. It is spicy.”

“Wasabi!” He pointed at it again.

“It may be a bit much for you, dude.” I try to talk him down from what would probably be one of his biggest mistakes that week.

“WASABI!” He insisted.

“I’m not sure…”

“WA-SA-BIII!” he interrupted.

“Ok, you asked for it. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.” I reached out and poked a tiny speck onto the end of my chopstick. My wife cocked one eyebrow up in the universal spousal signal for “is my boneheaded husband really going to do what I think he is?” She curled her lip, instantly freezing the chopstick’s progression towards my son’s mouth. I found myself in a bit of a dilemma.

“WAAAA-SAAAA-BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!” our child bellowed. That’s it. He’s in for it now. I popped the chopstick in as he was taking a big gulp of air to power another scream. His lips closed tightly around the stick. He held it in his mouth for a moment and then closed his eyes. It was almost as if the little fellow was savouring some flavour that I could not even begin to guess at. I slowly pulled the chopstick out of his mouth.

He beamed a huge smile. “Wasabi!”

I was now thoroughly confused. How on Earth was my son still standing there, not a care in the world? He should have been a babbling mess on the floor by now. Maybe it’s a delayed onset wasabi? Seconds ticked by. Nothing. My confusion began to grow exponentially.

“Papa! Wasabi!” He pointed once again to the platter. Meh. I guess this is an impotent batch. Whatever, knock yourself out. Here’s another scoop, kiddo. I hefted on a slightly larger glob onto my chopstick and nonchalantly placed it on his extended tongue.

I am not quite sure what happened next, but the larger quantity of wasabi must have crossed some sensory threshold, since he started hopping up and down energetically on his chair.

“PASABI” He exclaimed, almost in tears. He had just invented a new word, a mashup of “pas ça (not that!)” and “wasabi.” He had concisely articulated his displeasure in such a novel and memorable fashion that we shall never forget it.

Needless to say, he is much less fond of the green paste, and politely refuses it when we offer it to him. For some strange reason, though, he loves offering me some every time we get sushi. What a little bugger.

Camper Vans of the Dead

We like taking our boy to a big park down the hill from our place. It has plenty of games in it and has tons of sand, so when he launches himself off from perilous heights and plows into the surface, leaving a crater that would shame a meteor strike, he can dust himself off and giggle his way to the next part of the jungle gym and try it all over again.

It’s a bit of a hike to get there, so we don’t go every day, but we made it out yesterday. There is a large open area next to the park. It is typically empty, but is sometimes used as the community fair grounds. On this particular day, several large campers were clustered in an irregular ring in the center of the field. Although it was a little unusual, I didn’t pay it much heed.

We had the rare privilege of being back in the area this evening, so we decided to haul junior back out to the park so he could air out and vent some of the energy his Acme toddler nuclear generator builds up over the day. As he was caroming between play structures like a pinball on Speed, my wife gently clutched at my elbow.

“Do you notice something strange?” She asked.

I keenly  surveyed the surroundings, having perked up from my glassy contemplation of the envy I felt for my son’s boundless energy. Within seconds, I was invigorated, nerves on edge, alive! Were there ninjas hiding in those bushes? Nope. Perhaps angry clowns ready to dash out from around the fairground lodge? Hmmm. Neither. Maybe there was a cloaked UFO hovering above us, levitating a cow up to its hold for unspeakable experimentation. Nada. This is a little disconcerting. What had she noticed?

“Sorry, I’m not seeing anything.” I admitted, slightly downtrodden. What good are my manly defensive instincts if I can’t pick out something unusual?

“Look at the campers. There are lots of them.” She pointed in the direction of the large open area.

“Uh, yeah, they were there yesterday.” I splayed my hands out dismissively. It was time to turn my attention back to the boy. Doubtless he would have found some way to chew his way through the steel plays tructures by now. Where had he run off to?

“But there are way more than there were yesterday.” I could tell she was about to smack me behind the head, so I decided to take her implicit invitation to take a second look. She was right. It’s like if some out of control cancerous cellular division of caravans took place overnight. There were dozens of campers of all shapes and sizes densely packed into the field. A small flag was erected in the middle of the camping area. Where had all of these vehicles come from, and why were they here, in the middle of nowhere? We live in a pretty small community. It isn’t quite in the boonies, but it isn’t in the middle of prime camping territory as far as I know.  It just didn’t make any sense why these visitors would have been drawn to our little park, nestled in a quiet little nook of nowhere.

As I began to grasp the scope of the invasion, my wife pointed to crowds of people milling about, seemingly emanating from the caravan hive. They were slowly ambling about in ones and twos, almost aimless in their demeanor. Since my wife and I seem to share the same brain most of the time, the same idea popped into our heads: this must be a zombie invasion. Zombies don’t spread their disease about by slowly shambling through fields from city to city. They clearly get into campers and set up shop in a new town. Most people don’t see it coming. I mean, who would suspect a bunch of holiday travelers to be the undead?

At this point, we both started laughing at how this started sounding like the setup for a movie like Shaun of the Dead. Soon after, we were arguing vociferously over who would get to be Nick Frost or Simon Pegg in our little horror escapade. At about this point, our kid thundered into the ground at mach chicken, leaving a smoking crater. A loud wail keened over the playground. Oh no! The zombies got him!

Not really, he slowly rose, his face covered in sand, his mouth filled with grit, and dribbling sandy slobber all over his chest. He wasn’t hurt, but his pride certainly took a beating. A swig of water later, and he was away, clambering up a ladder to a higher play structure. We forgot our zombies for a while, and turned our vigilance back towards our progeny.

I’m going to have to keep the story premise we stumbled across in the back of my mind, because I think it can be turned into a rip-roaring adventure. Of course, if Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost want to use this nugget as inspiration for their next fantabulous outing…

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.

On Toddlers Discovering the Sears Catalog

A couple days ago, I swung by the local Sears delivery point to pick up a brand new bed set my wife ordered online. Since we live in a remote location, these delivery points are a useful feature of the local commercial landscape. This particular one is in the bottom of floor of a little strip mall. It is dim and cluttered, but it does the job.

As I picked up the delivery, the lady at the counter, who was only a few years younger than I, rummaged through a new box of Sears catalogs and popped it onto the ginormous bag in which the bedding came in.
“Did you know that we are also now offering the telephone order service. You didn’t have to get caught up in costly long distance phone calls to Toronto anymore.” The clerk announced eagerly. “You can simply leave a message on our answering machine and we’ll handle placing the order for you.”

I smiled at her offer of such a cutting edge service, but I did not have the heart to tell her about this newfangled thing called the Internet.

She triumphantly held aloft the catalog she had by now liberated from its shipping box. She plopped it down exuberantly on the bed set. I dubiously eyed the addition, since I had decided to use the pickup as an opportunity for a little exercise and had walked down the hill from my house. It isn’t a huge distance, but I wasn’t looking forward to the concept of lugging the bag up while juggling this awkward inch-thick softback glossy paper tome of consumerism.  I politely took it, since I figured at the very least I could ensure that this particular copy would make it to a recycling bin rather than the dump or simply tossed to decorate the countryside with more unsightly trash.

I trudged the shipment up the hill to our house, channeling every ounce of Sherpa mountain guide I could conjure up. The catalog ended up perched on the living room couch while my wife and I adorned our bed in its new finery. During this time, our boy discovered the marvels contained within the catalog’s inviting pages. I almost had to wrestle it out of his hands to get him to lunch. He spent the rest of the day dashing back to ogle its enthralling contents of toys and baubles. By nightfall, he was fixated on a particular page that displayed a few snazzy train sets.

He came running down to the basement where I was working on a report for work with a page held aloft, roughly torn from the magazine.
“Uh, oh, did you break the book, kiddo?” I asked him.

“Noooo!” He thrust his little arm out for me to see. It was the page with the train set. My wife had removed it from the catalog as it was the only one he was looking at and was hauling the document all over the house. She thought this would help him lighten his burden.

After getting him into the bath, we engaged in the nightly book reading ritual. He insisted that it culminate with a prolonged examination of the ripped page. He gazed at it as if it held the secret to life, the universe, and everything. I knew it held nothing but the forbidden promise of unfulfilled dreams, but I wasn’t going to break it on him, as I remembered fondly my own reverie in contemplation of the potential held by similar pages a little over three decades ago. We eventually had to turn the lights off and lay him down to sleep. The page was set down on the floor, next to the books we had read. We closed the door as he drifted quietly off to sleep.

The next morning, he did not wake us. This is highly unusual, as he is usually the first up in the house. He usually comes tearing through our bedroom door to hop on the bed, bounce around, and climb under the covers in an attempt to rouse us from our slumber so as to force us to flip the TV on and give him a glass of milk. Not this time. The house was gloriously quiet. We managed to eek out another half hour of sleep before my wife pulled herself awake. It was probably some bit of motherly instinct, that bit that invariably cooks up conspiracy theories and potential ploys of destruction that your children could be conceiving when all is too quiet, that  got her out of bed. She shambled gingerly over to his room, stiff from the unexpected gift of extra sleep.

“Ha! You have to come and see this.” She whispered back to me.

What? Can’t I just lie here for a little longer? It’s such a rare and precious moment. Sleep. Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

“Quick. Come see!” She insisted.

Ok, ok. I’m up. I swung my heavy legs out of bed and my creaking back cracked and groaned in protest as I stumbled still bleary-eyed towards the kid’s door. There he was, lying face down in his bed with the page from the Sears catalog clutched tightly in his arms.

It was no wonder he was still asleep. He must have been having some sweet dreams.

A Child’s Love


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.


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!

On Communicating with Toddlers

Toddler Communications1

Sometimes, I get the feeling that my son is making tremendous progress developing his communications skills. He blurts out long sentences, and we even are starting to have nascent forms of cogent communications. He can go on at excited length in a breathy voice about the trucks that he sees rolling down the street or the slide at the park. It is quite amazing that he is now even able to recount events that have happened to him several hours earlier in sufficient detail that I can understand what he is talking about without having been there myself.

Yet, at other times he seems to slip into a stubborn verbal blockade. His words escape him and he can go hours without uttering anything that has any semblance to anything other than a baby’s babbling. I cannot help but wonder at the epic construction effort that must be underway in his mind, building the complex and vast neural network required to imbue him fully with the gift of communication. It is as if parts of his brain shut down for a while as tiny work crews put up “closed for construction” signs, erect whatever marvelous structure needs to be in place, tear down the scaffolding and turn the power back on to the particular cerebral block and the owners open their shops up for business once again.

His most predictable response to any question at this stage is “blue.” He will use it to answer anything from colours to preferred foods, to numbers, and even friends’ names. He does this while still being able to identify the required items when we ask it of him, so he clearly has not forgotten what everything is, regardless of whether we ask him in English or French. Truly wondrous.

Of course, he may simply be trying to see how much it takes for us to crack. Clever little bugger.

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.

On toddler’s intellect and their safety

Despite initially gloomy weather reports, today turned out to be a beautiful day. We were working in the yard, enjoying the sun, and letting our toddler run amok in the grass with a small beach ball. Two wires suddenly crossed in his head, prompting him to drop the ball and dash towards the open garage while howling a long, ululating cry of joy.

Such behaviour is not uncommon, as he typically reaches the garage, turns towards a bin of toys we keep there for him, rummages around quickly to find whatever gizmo seizes his goldfish’s attention to play with for a nanosecond and ultimately discard on the lawn, only to repeat the cycle ad infinitum. Our garage is separate from the house, and doubles as a shed, so there are no cars in it, and there are lots of his toys piled in there. Strangely, very few garages around here actually seem to contain cars. I ‘ll have to dig into that.

After a minute of silence, our spider senses began tingling. All was quiet.

Quiet is bad. A kid can be screaming their head off to all mighty Heaven and will generally be okay. It’s when they get quiet that you have to be worried.

My wife and I drop what we’re doing and walk towards the garage to see what kiddo is up to. He’s not playing with his toys. Nope. He’s nowhere near the end with his toys in it. He’s not even playing with a chainsaw. I could dig him getting into juggling chainsaws someday. He’s playing with the barbecue. We berate him as he runs away from the various knobs and buttons he was playing with. This implementation of discipline for playing with something big and shiny is somehow devastating to him. He collapses in a gooey ball of tears and snot. My wife checks on the valve to the gas cylinder. All is in order. The garage isn’t going to get blown to Kingdom Come. Not this time, at least.

She checks the burner dials and finds that they are all out of whack. She immediately flashes the laser eyes at me. “You didn’t shut these valves off the last time you used this.”

“I did! I only used one of the three burners.” I offer back in my defense.

“He doesn’t know how to use a push and twist knob yet.” Her gaze hardens.

“Babe, he knows how to use an iPad.”

Kapow! Realization dawned on her that our little cherub is one smart cookie. I guess we’ll have to keep a closer eye on him. And mount the barbecue on our roof. It seems to be the only place he hasn’t figured out how to get into yet.