Archive for the ‘imagination’ Category

Lego Master Builders and the New Lego Store

The first Lego store in Ontario (only the second in Canada) officially opened last Friday in Sherway Gardens shopping centre. To celebrate the store gave away prizes and gifts to shoppers and held a big Lego build in the center of the mall with a Lego Master.

You know how my kids love Lego (like most kids their age) so of course we hopped over to check it out. You can read all about the weekend celebrations on EverythingMom‘s Toronto edition. The kids had a great time and after helping with the build project they earned their own Lego Master Builder certificates.

Heaven Cats: Kids Dealing with Grief

As parents we do what we can to protect our kids, steering them clear of sadness, hiding them from cruelty. It’s true they are vulnerable, more so than us, and we want to preserve their innocence, hold off on tainting them with skepticism, doubt, and fear that we as adult seem to know all too well.

But some things you cannot hide from your kids, like the death of a pet. One of our family cats became very ill within the last few days. We had lost two other cats recently to the same illness but that doesn’t make this loss any easier. It was obvious to even the kids that Tick (our cat) was not well and really struggled with her disease near the end. We all tried our best to make her comfortable and pay her extra attention but her condition quickly worsened.
We were hoping Tick would make it past Monday since it was my oldest daughter’s ninth birthday and having one of your favourite animals, a member of the family, die on your birthday isn’t something you would wish on even an enemy. But all hope and prayer aside, it would have been very unfair to Tick to prolong her discomfort and sadness. We hated seeing her in a constant state of depression, unable to walk or even stand on her own, so my husband and I decided to ease her suffering at the vet’s office.

I don’t believe in lying to kids. Some truths are painful and have to be faced but the degree of truth can be adjusted. We told the kids that Tick has passed away in her sleep during the afternoon, when they were at school, so they wouldn’t feel as though they missed saying goodbye to her. I did make sure they all visited her in the morning before heading out but I didn’t see the need to send them to school heartbroken and distraught. Some might disagree with what I did but I can live with my decision.

Of course my kids were devastated, especially my oldest. I think she was also angry that Tick has died on her birthday. Of course she wished Tick had held out a little longer but my daughter also knew that Tick was in pain and really, any day is not a good day for a friend to die.

I don’t know what tore my insides up more, the fact that Tick was gone or that my daughter was so upset over her passing. And although it should have been me, the mother, who offered the reassuring voice, the person to bring comfort to a difficult situation, it was my daughter. It was her and her Heaven Cats.

Heaven Cats is an imaginary world involving, you guessed it, cat spirits. It use to just be made up cats, living wonderful lives free of want and suffering, but with the passing of three of our five cats, Heaven Cats took on a whole new meaning. The cats were no longer imaginary but rather the spirits of our cats. They lived their days enjoying anything and everything they wanted. Sometimes they would visit us, walk with the kids to school, hang out and listen to a story, sleep on a pile of pillows in my daughter’s room.

My daughter was indeed update by Tick’s passing, but somehow knowing that Tick wasn’t gone, that her spirit lingered or could be called on when comfort was needed, was reassuring to my kids (and to me). I don’t think this avoids the fact that our cat had died – my kids knew Tick was gone – but it made thinking about her passing easier. This was especially important since Tick seemed to be in so much pain near the end, not able to do the things she use to do. Now as a Heaven Cat she was hanging out in a jacuzzi tub, eating ice cream, chasing butterflies and visiting the kids for a walk home from school.

I guess sometimes kids are more resilient than we give them credit for.

We’ll always be sad and miss Tick but it’s nice to know she’s out there, hanging around, keeping an eye on us (between milk baths and back rubs of course).

Write a Review Wednesday: Where’s Walrus?

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Zero Kisses for Me. This week we looked at Scholastic‘s Where’s Walrus (age 3-7) written and illustrated by Stephen Savage. I have to thank Dina at Big Honcho Media for my review copy.


Walrus gets tired of life in the zoo; it’s boring. When the zoo keeper isn’t looking he escapes into the outside world. Walrus tries to blend in to the world around him, trying to hide from the zoo keeper hot on his tail. But eventually Walrus’ identity is revealed and in a glorious way that gives the zoo keeper an idea.

Where’s Walrus is a wordless picture book. Although wordless picture books are a great tool for young kids, encouraging them to tell their own story based on the pictures, I’m usually not a big fan of them; they’re just not a style of book I prefer. But Where’s Walrus impressed me differently. Perhaps it was the simple 2D illustrations or the clever story told without words that grabbed my attention but I enjoyed going through Where’s Walrus as much as my 4 and 6-year old did.

Where’s Walrus is sort of like a Where’s Waldo style though Walrus is much easier to find. My kids loved to ‘hunt’ for Walrus, pointing him out on each page, laughing at how silly he was trying to be a dancing girl in a stage show or a mermaid in a fountain. I love a good story that’s probably why most wordless stories don’t appeal to me; they don’t seem to have any real story just related images to encourage your own story. The lack of words in Where’s Walrus didn’t detract from the story but still left room for your imagination and your own rendition of what was happening.

This book trailer doesn’t give away any part of the story but it does give you a feel for the book’s fun:

You can add a copy of Where’s Walrus to your own library by visiting your local bookstore or Scholastic. For other great book recommendations for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What are you reading with your kids?

25 Days of Christmas – Day 1: the Rainforest and Tangled

Wednesday kicked our the start of a new advent calendar for us, the 25 Days of Christmas. My youngest daughter turned four on that day so our advent activity was determined by her.

To the Rainforest Cafe for dinner.

The Rainforest Cafe is my daughter’s favourite restaurant, at the moment. Each of our kids has a birthday restaurant, a place we go on their birthday to celebrate their birthday as a family; the Rainforest Cafe is my youngest daughter’s birthday restaurant. I think she loved the show, the animals dressed in their Christmas finest dancing in during the storm, and the Volcano ice cream at the end. Reluctantly she shared. The big surprise was the show the kids got leaving the restaurant; an employee in a scuba suit submerged in one of their big tanks, cleaning it. Now there’s a job.

After dinner is was time to head open and open the presents. I think my daughter had an idea about what she was getting from us, due to no small part on my son’s end (he’s really not good at keeping a secret), but that didn’t affect her excitement. Although I love my iPhone, it doesn’t do a good job at grabbing clear pictures of a super excited child. She loved the Tangled movie and was ecstatic to receive the dolls and Tangled Tower for her birthday. The tower is so big standing at 3 feet it’s almost as tall as my daughter.

Of course the big surprise of the night was my 6-year old son’s enthusiasm for my daughter’s gift. Sure he was happy that his sister was excited about her gifts. He was happy that he played a part in making her so excited. He enthusiastically helped my daughter get all the castle parts out of the big box not because he wanted to wanted to help her set it up (that fell on dad to do), not because he wanted to play with her. No it turns out he wanted the big box for himself.

My daughter had a fantastic birthday and we kicked our 25 Days of Christmas in a big way. I think we’ll take it a little easy on Day 2.

Summer is about…Reading

There are many signs that summer is upon us, like starting summer camp or enjoying that lazy afternoon ice cream, but in our house summer is also greeted with books. My kids, all 3 of them, enjoy participating in the Toronto Public Library‘s Summer Reading Club program. They participated last year and had a great time (including an end of season party).

Today was the first day of sign-up though you can sign-up at any time during the summer. My kids wanted to get a jump on collecting their stickers to we signed-up today. The kids each received their poster (where to place their stickers) and an activity book full of puzzles and colouring and even recipes based on this year’s jungle theme. The activity guide also recommends some great jungle themed books the kids can read but you don’t have to stick to the jungle. The whole point is getting the kids reading. And with each book they read, and report on to the librarian, they get a sticker for their poster.

It can be hard to find something to occupy the kids during the summer, but the Toronto Summer Reading Club program keeps them entertained and reading and it’s FREE.

Write a Review Wednesday: Topsy-Turvy Town

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Scholastic Canada‘s The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge. This week we ventured into the mind of a child in Tundra Books Topsy-Turvy Town (age 2-5) written and illustrated by Luc Melanson. I have to thank Sylvia at Tundra Books for my review copy.


A young boy takes a trip through Topsy-Turvy town, where cars are made of chocolate, dogs play the tuba instead of barking and broccoli rains from the sky. His sister thinks he’s silly. His aunt thinks he’s making it up. His dad pretends to ignore it all. Nobody believes him; nobody but his mom.

Luc Melanson‘s Topsy-Turvy Town gives us a peek into the wonderful and creative imagination of a child through he delightful words and whimsical images filling the pages before you.

I’ll admit, the first time I read Topy-Turvy Town I didn’t fall in love with the book. But reading it again (and again) with my kids has given me a new appreciation and perspective. My 3-year-old and 5-year-old loved the little boy’s world. You could see in their faces that they too had stepped into that world while we were reading the story. Although this particular world isn’t like any they have imagined, they were quick to explain how Topsy-Turvy Town was similar to or different from their own imaginative worlds. Reading the story  got my two youngest excited about fantasy worlds and the ideas poured out. A book that extends my children’s interest beyond just the pages we’re reading is certainly worth adding to our collection.

You can add Topsy-Turvy Town to your own personal collection by visiting your independent bookstore or Tundra Books. If you’re looking for other great books for kids, take a read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Are we over scheduling our kids?

As I sat watching my two oldest during their swimming lessons this week, I couldn’t help but over hear the conversation between two parents near by.

Tuesday night is soccer and Wednesday night is baseball. Thursday night is drama after the math club. Friday night is greek school. Even the weekends are full with cooking class, dance lessons and Sunday school.

How do they do it?

I have my kids enrolled in swimming. I think swimming is something every child should learn. They also belong to their local Brownie/Beaver group and attend Sunday school. With just three activities planned I find our week busy; I can’t imagine having a program every other night.

And what about the kids? On nights we have swimming we go from school to the pool, homework and dinner are taken care of in the van before class and after swimming it’s time to head home and start the evening routine. They’re exhausted. How would they feel if they had to repeat a day like that every day? And what about free play?

My kids love their programs but not nearly as much as they love their free time in the backyard. They bond as siblings, they explore and discover the world around them, they imagine and pretend. In school they follow rules and focus on work. At their lessons they focus on the class and follow the rules. Where’s the yelling and running and sitting and dreaming and singing and laughing and doing nothing?

I can appreciate a parent wanting to give their child an advantage by enrolling them in special programs to expand their knowledge but I think scheduling all your child’s free time is a misguided decision. And it’s these over scheduled and structured kids that complain about being bored in the summer or standing around in the school yard doing nothing. They don’t know how to use their imagination, they don’t know how to occupy their time unless there’s a coach or instructor telling them what to do.

Of course we don’t help each other either. It’s those parents, the ‘I have my child in advanced chess for fun’ type parents who guilt and shame the rest of us into following them. I mean if we really cared about our kids why wouldn’t we have them taking Latin classes. Or perhaps our children just aren’t gifted enough to handle the extra work.

I think there’s a misconception with some parents that a child doing nothing is a child wasting valuable minutes of their young lives. But you know what, doing nothing can be one of the precious things only found in childhood. As adults we seem to spend so much time getting things done that we don’t appreciate doing nothing or goofing off.

So my children won’t be chess masters or learn how to do pleas, but there’s so much more they will learn by just swinging on the tire swing in the back yard.

I think it’s time we as parents just let our kids be kids.

Magic for the Emergency Room

I think most kids like magic; my kids are no different. At the grocery store this morning my I caught my five-year-old son showing his younger sister his newest magic trick. He has a penny (which he found on the dirty ground outside the grocery store I should add) and he explains how he’s going to make it disappear from his hand and then make it reappear somewhere else. He squeezes his hand tight around the penny and asks his sister to blow on his fist (magic is part showmanship you know). Then he waves his hand around in the air, grabs his head and shakes it back and forth then stops. He slowly opens his hand to show the penny is gone. His sister lets out a dramatic gasp.

So where did his penny disappear to? He reaches up to his ear and pulls it out. Impressed? Maybe if it wasn’t for the fact that my son had jammed the penny into his ear during his trick to later pull it out. Thank goodness he was able to get it out and that he didn’t try his trick with something smaller. So we’ve put that trick on the back burner. But I know it won’t be long before he goes up to the privacy of his room and practices it, unsuccessfully, resulting in us performing the reveal part of the trick in the emergency room.'s magic!

Every Lego has its place

You may remember my son’s Lego obsession. He loves these little blocks. He likes to build cities and cars and buildings and robots and secret hideouts and…well I could go on and on. There really seems to be no limit to my son’s imagination when it comes to these little blocks.

And like most parents, when you child finds something they like and can do well (assuming it’s legal of course) you encourage them; in our case we buy more Lego sets and Lego pieces.

The problem with this of course is my son’s collection has exceed his current containment set-up. Originally he had a drawer in his toy cabinet. That drawer expanded to two drawers. Then it took over his little table, then his dresser, then is storage bench (which is really supposed to be for dirty laundry). But when it started to creep out on the floor so we were stepping on it and vacuuming it up I knew something had to be done.

Off to Ikea!

I found a storage unit with buckets that fit perfectly under his bed (we raised his bed so he has a play area underneath). Now my son had various buckets to store the different Lego pieces. It took my son and I almost an entire afternoon to go through all the Lego hiding places in his room and sort it into the new containers: one for Lego people, one for small pieces, one for big pieces, one for those pieces that don’t seem to fit into one category and of course he needed one for work in progress. We also set aside three drawers for the bigger Mega Bloks that his younger sister likes to play with.

A drawer for the various Lego blocks

...the small pieces go here...

Now to build the holding cells for secret spies

Pay no attention to the builders behind the curtain

Now my son can find that long triangle piece when he needs to build a jet or the hinge piece when he’s building a trap door or an army of Lego guys when England is invading France. Plus the top of the storage area makes a great construction, display and play space. But the best thing is I’m not pulling Lego blocks out of the central vacuum system or the washing machine anymore.

Practicing for Winter

You may remember the video of my son and younger daughter doing their crazy slide tricks. I thought that was bad enough until I turned around and caught my two older kids doing this:

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that my son came up with the ‘bright’ idea. I mean, he’s the one with the creative way to solve those pesky slide puzzles.

And when asked what made him do it: Winter’s coming and we want to tobogganing but we don’t have snow yet. It’s almost like tobogganing down the big hill.

Hopefully the snow will arrive before a trip to the emergency room.