Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kira celebrates her 3rd birthday

With all of the festivities for Calvin's 1st birthday, I didn't want Kira to not have a special celebration of her own. After all, she turned THREE this year (she likes showing people THREE with her fingers) the day after Calvin's birthday. In future years I can see the birthday weekend being a crazy one for the kids since they have them back-to-back. I'll try to make sure Kira makes friends ONLY with other children who have a sibling 2 years younger, haha! :)

Since the weekend was going to be crazy-busy with Calvin's festivities (see my previous post), I decided to host a party during the daytime for Kira's friends who are also children of stay-at-home moms. 7 moms came with their little ones (some with 2 children), so we had a full house! I served up simple fare for lunch (toddler finger-friendly), and the kids had fun playing in the basement playroom, eating lunch (and CAKE!) and finally, a bit of time in our backyard to burn the last bit of energy before passing out in their cars on the way home ("YAY!" say all the mommies). Kira had so much fun, and I was happy that we could spend that special time focused just on her.

Although I didn't serve it until the weekend, I prepared a birthday cake for Kira with her favourite Dora the Explorer. It was my first ever decorated cake, so I'm quite proud of it:

Here are some of the hit toys that Kira received, in case you have a toddler turning 3 and want some good ideas:
  • Aquadoodle (a lot of kids get this even from 2, but now that she's really "drawing", she has a greater attention span for this activity).
  • play food and a shopping cart (to go with her play kitchen). Pretend-play is starting with a vengeance!
  • board games. She now has a bingo game, a Chutes & Ladders, and Candyland.
  • a "laptop" computer. V-Tech makes a really great laptop that comes complete with mouse that you can control, and 30 learning activities / games. She isn't quite into that yet, but she loves to pretend to "work" when mommy and daddy are on their laptops.
  • dolls. Lots of role-playing and pretend play going on. Love it!
  • books. Kira has always been a book-lover so we can never go wrong by getting her books. She likes to "read" them to us these days, in "French"! I'll post of video of her "French" one day soon. ;)
Now that the birthdays are over, time to start preparing for Christmas (yikes, did I really just say that?!)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Calvin turns ONE!

Wow, did the year ever fly by. How and when did my newborn suddenly turn 1? I can't believe how quickly the year shot by, and to imagine at the same time that Kira is now 3... but more on her later.

Here's my wrinkly newborn Calvin. This photo was taken 10 days after birth, by photographer extraordinaire, Tanya Zaleski (yes, please ask me about her, because I will totally recommend her to you for preggie, baby, and family photos!).

Celebrations officially began on the Friday, when we took a little cake to Mums & Tots of Brossard (the playgroup that my kids belong to) to celebrate with the kids there. Unfortunately, there was BARELY enough cake to fill the many, many kids who were there on Friday! Here's a photo of the gang. Oops! Should have taken a much bigger cake, huh?

We hosted over 50 people over the weekend to celebrate Calvin's 1st birthday. Well, keeping with tradition we had to have a family bash, and if you haven't followed up on my past posts, this is an ever-growing family! All attending Takedas counted, there were just over 30 family including several babies and kids. With tremendous help from my sister in-laws Val & Gayle, there was a fantastic cake (see top photo - this cake was made by Val and decorated by her and her dad) and cupcakes (they're the colourful ones to the above right). I had ordered cupcakes as well, before I knew that Val had prepared her own - oops! Here's a photo of the cupcakes made by my Antonietta, who is a mom at Kira's preschool. She recently started her own pastry business - check out Les Sucreries Antonietta. Desserts galore! I didn't manage to snag a photo of all the hors d'oeuvres, mostly because as soon as they came out of the oven they disappeared. Val & Gayle had prepared spanakopita, meat pies, egg rolls, veggie rolls, and sausage rolls. In addition to that, we served salmon and chicken teriyaki, crabmeat tortilla rolls, munchies, gosh, I can't remember what else!

We were quite exhausted after this party, but there was one more to follow on Sunday. We invited some friends (mostly with kids of their own), and once again it was a full house. It was nice to be able to meet with friends who we seem to have so little time to see these days! Unfortunately, Calvin was quite tired and so he napped away half of th party, but it was great having so many people celebrating with us. We changed around the menu a bit and had make-your-own temaki sushi. It was a hit, needless to say.

For both of Calvin's parties, we had asked our guests not to bring gifts or if they did, to bring second-hand or creative gifts. We were pleased to have received some very thoughtful gifts for Calvin, including:
  • drawings and cards that were hand-made by children
  • a second-hand Brio train set
  • a craft book (crafts to do with your kids) that was never used because my cousin has a house with 3 "non-crafty" boys
  • a Little People set that my cousins had wrapped up for their own boy, but he got the same thing from someone else, so they kept and passed it forward to us!
  • second-hand clothes
We love that Calvin received such creative and thoughtful gifts because he has everything he needs already. Thanks everyone!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Halloween '09

The above pumpkins were carved by Mark. The one on the right was actually taken from a drawing that Kira made. Mark transferred it to a pumpkin and carved it out. :) Here's a better look at the pumpkin art by combined daughter / daddy combo. Makes me giggle every time I look at it:

This was Kira's first year trick-or-treating. Mark took her out while I stayed home with Calvin, handing out treats. Here is Kira in her ladybug costume. Getting that costume was an ordeal in itself, since I found it online and had to ask my friend in the US to order and pay for it for me, send it to me by post, and then I forwarded the funds to him (the company didn't accept orders from out of the US, or payment either!). Thanks for the favour, Cliffy! You contributed greatly to making my daughter the cutest little bug out there! :)

Meanwhile, Calvin wore Kira's costume from a couple of years ago. Isn't he an adorable little ducky? Calvin got a lot of attention just from staying home and hangin' around by the front door. Groups of mommies and kids commented on how cute he was, and one mom even took a photo of my little poussin with her cell phone!

We counted just under 200 treats given out at our doorstep. Not a record, but a busy night nonetheless!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A weekend of Wiggles and babies

A belated welcome to the newest baby in the Takeda family! Jacob Takeda was born to parents Bryan and Tara on September 12th. He weighed in at 7 lbs. 6 oz. We paid a little visit to him and his cousin Tyson (who I wrote about here) during our recent trip to Ottawa at the end of October. Jacob and his mommy are above, and to the right is Mark hanging out with Tyson.

The highlight of our trip was Kira's first concert to see her favourite group from her favourite show "in the whole wide world", The Wiggles. Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with the Wiggles, they are 4 men from Australia (the highest paid entertainers in Australia - even higher than Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe!) sporting colourful shirts, who make their living entertaining the preschool crowd. They sing, dance, and generally act silly. And they're a hit with all the 2 to 4 year old kids I know! The show did not disappoint. During the pre-show, Kira kept asking "Where are the Wiggles? Where aaaaare theyyyyy?" until they came onto the stage in their Big Red Car. For 90 minutes, the Wiggles (Sam, Anthony, Jeff, and Murray) delivered a high-energy performance with all of their popular tunes. I must say, mommy had a blast as well. I'm not posting any photos of the Wiggles due to copyright issues, but if you want to check out who they are, here is their official site.

Just before the concert, I had the chance to reconnect with an old high school friend. We hadn't seen each other since we graduated from high school, so this was a reunion after 17 years! My friend Jane gave birth to beautiful twin girls earlier this year. She and Jim have their hands full with Samantha (Sammy) and Jessica (Jessie). Just wait until they start running around! Here's Jane & family:

And, here's Jane and I with our combined kids, 17 years after high school:

What a fun visit! Hopefully we'll do a better job at keeping in touch so the next time we meet won't be when our kids are getting married! :)

Friday, October 31, 2008

The long walk home

The other day when I was out for my stroller workout, Kira fell asleep as she often does, for the duration of the workout. She woke up refreshed and ready for a stroll herself, so I let her out. Most days, I let both kids out of the stroller near the end of the workout, once we've parked the strollers and we're working with resistance bands, mats and stretching. I like to give them the benefit of breathing the crisp air, and walking / crawling around on the grass.

Well, what usually takes me 10 minutes to walk to the park with the kids in the stroller, took us ONE HOUR on the way home, because Kira had to pick up all kinds of things, and was she ever taking her time! But, I made a point not to rush her or to get upset. I just let her explore and sometimes coaxed her to move a bit more forward along the path home. Meanwhile, Calvin enjoyed the scenery from the stroller, and nodded off about halfway home.

First, Kira had to kick some leaves. Then she walked through a path of leaves while they crunched under her feet. Then, she picked up I don't know how many leaves to feed them to the birds ("Heeere, birdy, birdy, birdy!"). I found all of this rather amusing and I reveled in the sweetness, the innocence, and the adventure of it all. Once Kira remembered that I was still there, she proceeded to pick up sticks, leaves, and flowers and pass them to me as gifts. Then, she had to pick up every single dandelion in sight to blow on it.

Of course, she had to play peekaboo too, behind these enormous trees along the path home (Jay / Laura, this is right next to your house!).

After an hour of walking, we finally got home for some hot chocolate (well actually, Kira insisted on chocolate milk while I indulged in the hotter version) and cookies. I can't remember if Kira had a good night's sleep after this outing, but I sure can imagine that she had some vivid dreams as a result. :)

Here's a photo of the beautiful gifts Kira picked for me on the way home. I may not have kept all of those leaves, sticks and flowers, but I will keep the memory of this and all our walks throughout my life, my precious girl!

Sleepy Mikayla

On August 15th, the Takeda family welcomed its newest addition, Mikayla Miya Belanger. Here she is with her mommy, Stacy. Mikayla weighed in at 7 lbs. 15 oz. and is already 2.5 months old! (See how I was mentioning how behind I am on my blogging?)

Now, the most amusing thing to me about Mikayla is that, despite the fact that I see her mom twice a week for our stroller workouts (you can read about that here and here), I very rarely get to see Mikayla awake! In fact, I wonder if there was even one workout when she was awake?? So, I had to ask permission to snag this photo, which was actually taken by her daddy Shawn on a beautiful fall day only a couple of weeks ago.

Stacy's sister Ali (who I've also recently posted about here) also joins in on the workouts twice a week. Ali's baby Hunter has grown so much already, it's incredible. And he's the happiest baby on the block until the end of the workout, when he and Calvin start up a chorus of "WAAAAH!!" for the entire 15 minutes of our mat work / cool down. Luckily for me, as soon as we move for our walk back home, Calvin quietens down, but by then Hunter's just had enough of sitting in the stroller. I think he'd rather be bootin' around somewhere, on his hands and knees. Too bad the weather is getting a bit too chilly to hang around outside and let him crawl on the grass! Here are my kids with Hunter during a happier post-workout moment.

Stacy and Ali have 5 kids between them - wow! I admire them constantly for their closeness to their extended family. Oh, and did I mention that Stacy and Ali are married (& common-law) with half-brothers? Isn't that just the coolest thing in the world? So, their kids share pretty much the same grandparents from both sides (with some exceptions in there that are too complicated to get into). Now, that's so amazing!

Apple picking x 3

We've been to the same apple orchard 3 times this fall! But, we love Vergers Denis Charbonneau in Mont St. Gregoire, because it's so family-friendly, and this is an important factor when you have a baby and toddler in tow.

Our first visit of the season was with Kira's preschool. About 25 parents and their kids ventured out on a bit of a damp morning. However, the weather was actually quite perfect in retrospect. It wasn't too chilly yet, and because it was early enough in the fall and the weather was a bit speculative, our group pretty much had the place to ourselves. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera but no worries. We were back at the orchard the following week with my kids' playgroup, Mums & Tots of Brossard. During this second outing, we also picked pumpkins. Here are the moms and kids on the tractor ride (I decided to jog alongside with Calvin in the jogging stroller):

I couldn't resist popping Calvin into a crate full of pumpkins for the fall photo opp!
Here's Kira with some of the kids from playgroup. And, little Calvin sitting in front, heehee:

Calvin hard at work, biting into that apple!
Surprisingly, what interested Kira more than picking apples was seeing all the animals. Here's Kira with Jaiden, and a closer look at the rooster (there were also sheep, bunnies, peacocks, and goats). If you didn't see the video clip of these 2 during a play date earlier this year, click here.

Our final apple-picking excursion was with the dragonboat team I belong to, Isshin, and members of the taiko community in Montreal. The weather was once again, fantastic. I must say, we really lucked out on that front. As I crouched near a branch filled with apples, Calvin picked one out and proceeded to eat it for the next half hour until he passed out for a nap. I love the ease of carrying him on my back in the mei-tai (another Etsy purchase). Whenever I sense that he's tired, I throw him on my back and he eases into slumber. Plus, my hands are then free to deal with Kira. Oh, but I could ramble on for a whole other post about the benefits of baby-carrying. I might just do that, if I find the time. Meanwhile, I'm a month behind on blog posts...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mommy gets a haircut

This is not a furry animal - it's my chopped-off hair!

Pampering myself doesn't happen often enough, I tell ya. I hadn't had a haircut in a year, since I was 8 months pregnant with Calvin. And getting myself to a salon didn't seem like it would ever happen. Thank goodness for Rima, a fellow mommy and member of the playgroup I belong to here on the South Shore with my kids. Rima isn't a hairstylist by trade. She cuts hair as a hobby, and has been doing it for years on friends and family. I don't know how she does it, but she always looks glam and great! I forgot to take Rima's photo but maybe I'll be able to add it to this blog post afterwards.

Here I am, all sad and weepy before the cut:

Within 20 minutes, I had bangs and a short cut. Calvin seems to like it too! I think that's because I was actually able to nurse him while getting my trim. Now honestly, what salon lets you do THAT?

Thanks, Rima! If you do house-calls, maybe I can refer some new clients your way!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Loving the outdoors

I'm so lucky that my kids are nature-lovers! At the same time, they consistently fall asleep when in motion, be that in the car or in the stroller. So, whenever we're out for a walk (or my stroller workout - see my previous post) and I think "Hey, I'll let my kids out to play a bit", one of them is asleep. It's difficult therefore, to make a lot of plans in advance. I often have to plan as the day goes, depending on what's going on in the backseat of the car.

Last week, I went for a walk with Ali, Stacy and our kids. We went for a nice 1 hour stroll, but of course during this entire time all our kids were fast asleep. Go figure. On the way home, just as we reached my street, Kira woke up. I felt sorry for her because she missed a great walk, so I offered to take her to the park. We (just me and my kids) turned around and went to the park, where we spent an hour or so, and we had the entire place to ourselves! I'm not sure why, but once the leaves start to fall the moms don't take their kids to the park anymore. Yet, at the first sign of spring it's full.

Kira's apparatus of choice has always been the swing. Here she is, shaking and laughing on the swing. I love her giggles!

Meanwhile, Calvin isn't walking yet, so I sat him in the leafy grass. I have to watch him carefully whenever I put him down, as he's prone to eating whatever is on the ground around him.

Hopefully the fall weather will continue to be pleasant for a few more weeks. We're looking forward to at least a few more park days before toboganning season sets in!

More stroller cardio!

In the springtime, I wrote about my cardio-poussette classes which I took at the Récré-o-Parc in Ste. Catherine. You can see my blog post here, where I talk a bit about Cardio Plein-Air and the awesome program they have for people trying to gain back their pre-pregnancy shape.

This season, I'm taking the class once again, but in Candiac's Parc de la Promenade. It's a 10 minute walk from home, which is a perfect warm-up to the class. This is the first time since I started taking the class (when Kira was a baby) that I have a different instructor. I wasn't sure how it would be since I was so used to Geneviève previously, but I'm SO happy with Marie-Eve because she gives the course a fresh edge, and she's great at pushing us hard! She has new ideas that work to get us working out together and yet independently. She's also good at explaining things to us, albeit quickly in order to maximize our time together to get the most time for us to work out!

Bonus this season: I'm taking the class with 2 of Mark's cousins, Ali and Stacy. We all have babies born within months of each other. Ali and Stacy are sisters. I wrote about Ali's baby Hunter in a previous blog post here, and I'll have to give Stacy's baby Mikayla a headline soon too! It's nice to finally know some people in my class, although I must admit I'm not here for the socialization so much as for the workout...

We typically start with a bit of introduction of names, a brisk walk and a bit of stretching, then some aerobics to get our hearts pumping and our bodies warmed up. Then, we do about half an hour of various exercises while one the move, including lunges, squats, and imitations of basketball, skiing, and skating while pushing our strollers. The workout is as challenging as you make it because you can choose to push yourself harder (and go deeper / lower / farther), or not. Marie-Eve always asks us at the end of the workout, how much we pushed ourselves on a scale of 1 to 10.

My favourite part of the workout comes right after the stroller stuff, when we park the strollers to go for a little jog up and down the steps leading to the river. It's scenic and a nice jog for a bit of resistance (going up the steps). I could do this for 10 minutes except I'd probably get too dizzy. :)

After checking our heartrate for the last time (we check it periodically to make sure we're within our target heart rates) we work on muscular training with resistance bands and some abs / push-ups / plank on the mats. Here's Ali being cheeky when she sees me with the camera (notice how everyone else is focused):

Here we are with the resistance bands working on biceps. Marie-Eve is in the forefront:

Finally, a bit of tai-chi to end the session. Ahhh...

Gotta love blasting the post-baby gut, and being able to do it in the great outdoors!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Running for a cure

The month of October is flying by and I have so much to blog about! Before I end up too far behind, let me tell you about a run I took part in last weekend.

I don't know how many years I've been taking part in the CIBC Run for the Cure now. It must be at least 5 or 6 years. This is the cause that I've taken up as my annual commitment to do something concrete about. So, I register each year, and collect pledges. Then I set out to run a great 5k and hope for good weather. This year the weather was beautiful, somewhere around 12 to 15 degrees, with a very light breeze. I was lucky enough to have 2 friends join me for the run simply for the sake of joining. They weren't registered runners, just 2 awesome guys who wanted to support me in my run, support the cause, and enjoy a nice jog on a beautiful weekend! Introducing...

Jason, my personal trainer. This guy would go for a run with me on any given day / night at the drop of a hat. Running is part of his lifestyle routine (albeit not a religious one - I'm glad to know that he has good and bad weeks like us all!) and so it was never difficult to organize a few half-hour sessions with him. I need this kind of motivation because without someone pushing me out the door, I have no motivation to get my butt in gear with the 2 kids in tow, to run. Thanks Jay, for your encouragement all the way! Here we are somewhere near the beginning of the run (that's why I still have a smile on my face).

Mikio, my motivational guru. I kid you not, a few years ago when I was running the CIBC Run for the Cure, I distinctly remember that the only reason I finished the run without stopping (and believe me, did I ever feel like stopping when we started going a little bit uphill!) was that I could hear Mikio's voice in my mind saying: "Keep going, don't stop! Overcome yourself!" In fact, about half an hour before I had begun the run, Mikio called me to chant that mantra to me on my cell phone. After several years of wanting to check out the event in person, Mikio was finally able to make arrangements this year to come out and join. Not only did he run with me, he did it backwards while taking photos all the way! Mikio is a natural runner, so 5k didn't even make him sweat. Here he is showing his form, running with a smile after the 5k was all done.

What made this year's run so special was the additional company I had - my kids. Kira and Calvin were angels as they were pushed in the jogging stroller. I think they enjoyed the scenery of buildings and people, balloons, and pink everywhere. I'm sure they enjoyed the breeze on their faces (okay, not so "fresh" air because this was in downtown Montreal) and their simple presence urged me forward. Together, we raised over $400 for the cause, and the run raised over $28 million across Canada! Here's to finding a cure for breast cancer in our near future!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mama's little helper

I'm thrilled to have a new helper in the kitchen. It all started in the wintertime when Kira "helped" me bake cookies, by cutting out cookies and putting sprinkles on them. We continued this activity several times at home just the 2 of us, or when other kids came over for play dates. Here we are in February, baking Winnie the Pooh and friends cookies.

As the months progressed and Calvin began demanding more of my attention, Mark took over baking duties with Kira, and they prepared various versions of Rice Krispy squares, much to the delight of everyone who devoured them.

Over the past 2 weeks, Kira has taken on a keen interest in helping with all kinds of food preparation. In fact, when I was starting to bake a cake the other day, she ran to the bathroom where we keep our stepstool. Mark brought my attention to the squeaky dragging sound approaching. Kira was bringing the stool over so she could observe / help, and I gladly welcomed her participation. As a bonus, I let her lick the beater paddles. Much more enthusiasm ensued a couple of days later, when I baked muffins and she got to lick the spatula. Thankfully, her enthusiasm wasn't limited only to sweets. Here is Kira last week, helping me bread the fish I prepared for supper. Doesn't she look like a little pro?

And remember the 20 pounds of tomatoes we picked at the organic farm (see previous blog post)? Well, here's Kira squishing tomatoes with a "tomato squisher" (aka potato masher) to make a pot of tomato sauce (this yielded a lovely 4 jars of sauce which will hopefully take us into the fall / wintertime).

Kira is not mama's helper only in the kitchen. As you'll see in the video below, she's (sometimes) keen on "helping" feed Calvin. It's quite hilarious, really. Sometimes Calvin is frustrated when the food doesn't quite reach his mouth, or when Kira takes too long delivering the spoon to his mouth. Sometimes I lose patience and take the spoon from her when I see food dripping off the spoon or off of Calvin's chin. But for the most part, when Kira wants to help, I try to let her. And I see her continuing this role-play with her dolls. Watch as Kira cracks up when she gets cereal on Calvin's nose by accident. Calvin doesn't get what's so funny...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tomato-picking at the organic farm

My husband's cousin Jason (who lives around the corner from us) is a member of an organic farm co-op. Every week during the crop seasons (spring through fall), he goes to pick up the vegetables and fruits in season. Each week is a pleasant surprise, as you never know what veggies you are going to get. While Jason and his family went on vacation in August, they offered their weekly pick-up to us. So we went to pick up a delectable variety of 17 kinds of fresh, organic veggies and fruit. This included common vegetables such as tomatoes, garlic, and melons (4 kinds!) as well as some unrecognizable varieties which we simply didn't know what to do with. I totally forgot to take a photo of the collection, so I'm actually attaching one from Julie (Jason's sister) to show the cool variety that a weekly batch offers.

Last weekend, the farm offered its members the opportunity to invite friends and family to pick tomatoes. Jason invited his 2 sisters and us. As I carried Calvin on my back (poor thing, he was full of mosquito bites on his face when we got home! I couldn't see his face to shield him from the critters) we all headed into the tomato bushes to pick a yummy variety of ripe tomatoes. While we worked on our tomato-picking, Jason's daughter Jillian picked some yellow cherry tomatoes (are they called cherry tomatoes if they're yellow?) which we all ate during our labour. It was incredible how quickly we could fill a box with 20 lbs of tomatoes! 20 pounds, yes!

Here's Kira picking tomatoes. She'd pick all kinds: ones with bruises and holes, ones fallen off and laying on the ground, ones that were not quite ripe, and of course some red and perfect ones too!

"Here Julie, do you want a yellow one?" (Julie nodding politely as Kira puts it in, then pitching it as Kira looks away...)

That night, we ate tomato sandwiches, and Mark made chili. This week I'll be making a ton of tomato sauce, and freezing the rest. What a fun outing! Thanks, Jay!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Planting a tree from Lisa & Mike

Last month, we were thrilled to be guests at Lisa (Kira & Calvin's 2nd cousin) and Mike's wedding. It was a fantastic ceremony at La Ronde, if you can imagine! What a fun environment, for 2 fun-loving and down-to-earth people. It was a real family affair. The photo above was taken by Lisa's cousin (& photographer extraordinaire) Megan. We enjoyed ourselves enormously, and wish Lisa & Mike a wonderful future together!

As a gift to each guest, Lisa & Mike gave a cedar plant. What a great idea - something that is great for the environment, serves as a souvenir of their wedding, and that will last a lifetime. So we made an activity out of planting the tree, and explained to Kira that the tree was a gift from her cousins. Daddy and Kira dug a hole in our backyard, and planted the tree. We can't wait to watch it grow over the years!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Baby legs and toothy grins

I just felt I had to document my son's dimpled legs before he grows and I miss it. After all, soon after crawling comes walking, and then all that delicious dimpliness is gone for good!

Calvin has 4 teeth already. Gone are the goofy toothless grins.

My baby is growing so quickly!