The Canusa Games

It’s a sunny, muggy Friday afternoon in August, and I’m standing on the field of Atwood Stadium, in Flint Michigan, with my family. It’s busy here, full of kids and adults interacting with each other.  There’s an excitement in the air, too. Lots of laughter. Lots of smiles. We exchange pleasantries with a complete and total stranger. Soon after, the stranger rounds up her children, and four others, including my nine year old son B. The stranger then says goodbye and leaves with them all. As I stand there, clutching my daughter’s hand, sweat now escaping my forehead more rapidly than before, watching as my son walked across the field with the stranger, and then disappeared out of the stadium, I wonder if I just made the biggest mistake of my life.

Welcome to the Canusa Games.

Canusa Games

 

OK, OK, that’s a melodramatic opening paragraph, so I should probably provide some context.

The Canusa Games are, per their website, North America’s largest and longest running international games. Athletes mainly under the age of 18 from Hamilton, Ontario (my hometown) and Flint, Michigan compete against each other annually in various sports.  The two cities take turns each year hosting, as well. This year, it involved over 1200 athletes across 13 different sports. Of those 1200 athletes, one of them happened to be my nine year old son B. He tried out for Canusa’s youngest age division’s basketball team, and ended up making it.  Basically, picture the Olympics but on a smaller scale; replace all the countries in the world……with Hamilton and Flint.

The 2019 Canusa Games took place in Flint, over three days. Here’s the huge part of the equation, though. Unlike the Olympics, which has an Olympic village to house the participants, the Canusa Games relies on billets. The visiting athletes all take chartered buses to the hosting city, and are then paired with a local family for the weekend. That family houses them, feeds them, and gets them to their respective sports on time.   It’s a longstanding tradition.

Now, back in the day, growing up in Hamilton, the Canusa Games to prepubescent/teenage me sounded awesome. Roll up into Michigan for a weekend by myself and get treated like a big shot while competing in a sport? Sign this boy up! Unfortunately, prepubescent/teenage me lacked the actual skills required to make a Canusa Games team, so the awesomeness remained in my head only.

Nowadays, the idea of leaving my  little kids alone in a foreign city with a stranger for a weekend terrifies me.  In fact, when B made the Canusa basketball team for his age group, I figured that we would take advantage of the modified billet system. The host family would handle B  during the day, and we would come grab him at night.  Unexpectedly, though, K wanted B to do the full billet! She HAD actually competed in the Canusa Games when she was younger. It was a great experience, with no incident.

Times change, of course, and your feelings evolve as you grow up. Nostalgia tends to cloud your memories, as well. The more that I thought about it, the more that I just didn’t get it. The billet system seemed like a quaint idea from a woebegone era to me, when people didn’t lock the doors of their homes, and children sat in the passenger seats of cars without using seatbelts. Society is just so much more different now. America is just so much more different now.  What the heck was I missing, when it came to Canusa? How could so many people be so trusting in this system, when it defied common sense? My family was making the road trip to watch B, but some parents just left their kids at the bus stop in Hamilton. Good luck, see ya in a few days, essentially.

For my own sanity, I wanted to believe in Flint, Michigan.  And then I learned this. And this. Shoot, there’s even a Netflix documentary about the city which, spoiler alert, doesn’t portray it very glowingly. Don’t forget the water crisis, too. You can’t even take in a Flint Tropics game, as they don’t actually exist! Well, maybe that one doesn’t count.  Regardless, K, who’s usually more overprotective than me, was fine with B going it solo. Nothing on the old Google machine listed any horror stories from past Canusa Games, either.

 

What the heck was I missing?

 

These are the thoughts which raced through my sweaty head as I stood in Atwood Stadium on that fateful afternoon.  Similar to the Olympics, the Canusa Games had an Opening Ceremonies, complete with the delegations walking into the stadium separately, national anthem performances, and a torch lighting run.

Canusa Games

Canusa Games

When the ceremony was complete, the athletes and their families met up with the billets on the field. Besides passing a police check, I knew nothing about the prospective host for B. If you didn’t know me at all, but knew that I was going to watch your precious child for three days, what would be going through your head?  My perception beforehand was so rife with negativity that I will admit to grasping at judgemental straws.  However, B’s billet gave off a strong first impression. As well, while most hosts were taking one or two young athletes, she was housing four. You’re either bananas or incredibly openhearted for taking on such a responsibility, and as they disappeared across the field, I was hoping that it was the latter.

 

Pure Michigan

B’s first game was later in the afternoon, which gave K, J, little KJ and I some time to check into our hotel and grab a snack. Every city has bad areas and good areas, no doubt. Driving around Flint was pretty eye-opening, nonetheless. Neighbourhoods full of rundown, vacant storefronts and houses, pocketed by empty plots of land.  Instead of cars parked on streets, I saw more cars on cement blocks in front lawns with no rims than I’ve ever seen before, in one particular street.  More people sitting on front porches glaring as we drove by than I’ve ever seen before, on another street. A Starbucks was temporarily closed, so we went to the adjacent Quizno’s, and I audibly gasped when the Quizno’s associate informed us that the Starbucks was closed because of a water problem (luckily, it had to do with a heating issue, and not because of the Flint water crisis).  There’s quite a bit of “used to be” in Flint, which is better than being “never was”, I think.

At B’s game,  we seated ourselves near the other Hamilton families in attendance.  Conversations centred around how sad Flint was, and how scary. How there were doubts about drinking the water still. The funny thing was, as I looked around at the Flint families, there was no sadness or scariness. Just regular, happy people, having a good time.  As the game went on, it became readily apparent that, when it comes to Canusa Games basketball, Flint has Hamilton’s number. The contest was never in doubt, and Flint won running away.

canusa games

 

canusa games basketball

I’ve seen kids get pretty demoralised after such a defeat, but when the game ended, there were plenty of smiles and camaraderie among both sides, including from B. The billets were matched up by age and sport, for the most part. Evidently, it’s hard to be upset at your housemate for the weekend, after they beat you. The game the following day had the same result, and same vibe.  Also, there was more mingling back and forth amongst the Flint and Hamilton family contingents.  To top it off, not only was B safe, but he couldn’t wait to head back with his billet, and totally brushed us off! #theygrowupsofast

canusa games

With B in good hands, we had the rest of the day to ourselves. As options are kind of limited, when it comes things to do in Flint with kids, K and I ended up taking little KJ and J to the Flint Children’s Museum.   This is located downtown, near Atwood Stadium and Kettering University. This area is actually nice. Vibrant maybe isn’t the correct term. Let’s go with active and up-and-coming. On first glance, the Children’s Museum is pretty unremarkable on the outside. We had to double-check to make sure that we were at the right building. Once inside, though, holy Michael Moore-ly, is this place tons of fun for kids!  It reminded me of Rochester’s The Strong Museum Of Play. There’s numerous exhibits, all designed to bust out your imagination and curiosity through hand’s on play.  Many have an educational aspect, too.

things to do in flint with kids

We were there for hours, and KJ didn’t want to leave, which is always a good/bad sign. I had a coupon, so it only cost us about $10 in admission total, which was a steal. It’s such a simple, nice concept for a play centre that any city (cough, cough, Hamilton, cough, cough) could learn from it and implement it. If you’re looking for things do in Flint with kids, I do suggest hanging out here.

things to do in flint with kids

 

things to do in flint with kids

things to do in flint with kids

Any place with mirrors that slim me is alright, in my books.

After our outing at the Flint Children’s Museum, we eventually made our way out to the suburbs, Grand Blanc, to pick up pizza for dinner, from Da Edoardo.  This area didn’t feel or look like the same Flint at all, and I felt like I should have been wearing a tuxedo, when I entered Da Edoardo. The dichotomy between downtown and the suburbs can be quite striking in some cities, and Flint is no exception.

Later on that night, back at the hotel, I was chit-chatting with a few other Hamilton parents, whose children were there for hockey. The conversation turned to billets, naturally.  They then told me something which I never realized. Billeting in the hockey community was common, one person said. The community is tight knit,  and everyone looks after one another.

Huh.

That was it then, for the Canusa Games, too, wasn’t it?  I had been looking at the whole thing all wrong the entire time. I couldn’t get how two large, flawed cities could expect to keep kids who don’t live there safe every year. The thing is, the Canusa Games is like a 60 plus year old community in these cities, and it’s a community which protects their own, and looks after each other.  Instead of focusing on the negatives, I should have considered the many positives of the games and Flint, which really weren’t that hard to find. To paraphrase Joel Embiid, I should have just trusted the process.

The next day, at the Closing Ceremonies,  Canusa’s motto of “experience the friendship” was on full display.  There was no separate congregations, as yellow shirt-wearing Hamilton athletes mixed with blue Flint ones. Lots of pictures were taken, and lots of contact information was exchanged, for keeping in touch. B was safe and sound, with memories that will last his whole life.

We met his billet one last time, the woman who I expressed so many doubts about prior to the weekend, but who generously housed four random kids, and literally even gave B the shoes off of her son’s feet (he had outgrown a pair of Jordan’s, and they were just going to throw them out). K asked how B was for her, and the billet replied “OK”.

Uh-oh!

In parent-speak, OK is what you say when you don’t want to say bad! So, you mean to tell me that I was worried about whether Flint, Michigan was good enough for my precious nine year old boy, when in the end, my boy wasn’t good enough for Flint?!

Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?

 

Hey, not now, Alanis Morrisette!

Anyway, next year’s Canusa Games are in Hamilton, and B has already expressed interest about participating again. If you’re apprehensive about billeting, like I was…..take a deep breath and trust the process. And if you somehow end up sending your kid to my house, don’t worry, B will be more than OK.

Promise!

 

 

 

 

Your Guide To Summer Fun In Hershey PA

 

things to do near Hershey PA

On our last visit to Hershey and  Harrisburg, Pennsylvania,  we had a nice time hanging out in the area. Afterwards,  we realized that there was a lot more around the Sweetest Place On Earth  which we didn’t get to experience.  There were so many things to do near Hershey PA, in fact, that we just had to make the fifteen hour round trip drive (don’t worry, with bickering small kids, it felt like twenty hours. Wait, what?) and go back again this summer!

 

Now, before we can talk about things to do near Hershey, PA,  I need to mention THE attraction do in Hershey – Hersheypark.  I won’t go too deep here  (note: you can check out this piece, where I discuss it extensively), but in terms of family fun, you really can’t go wrong with a visit to this park.  If you aren’t into amusement parks, though, you can still have a memorable time in the area.

 

For example, Lake Tobias Wildlife Park is situated about 35 miles outside of Hershey.  The park is home to animals,  birds and reptiles from all over the world.  There are zoo exhibits, a petting zoo,  fishing, a reptile /exotics building, and my kids’ favorite,  a safari tour! The tour is pretty wild. It has a Jurassic Park-vibe to it, as we got into a roofless “cruiser”, and then headed off into the yonder.  As we drove through the open woodlands, we saw scores (500 approx., according to the website) of animals roaming about freely, some of whom weren’t shy about coming up, or in, to our cruiser!

Lake Tobias. Things to do near Hershey PA.

Lake Tobias. Things to do near Hershey PA.

You could easily spend half a day at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park, without the kids being bored. Concessions are available throughout the park, but you’re allowed to bring your own food, too.

Lake Tobias. Things to do near Hershey PA.

Just don’t give your food away in the petting zoo.

 

Another fun thing to do near Hershey in the summer is hit up everything that Adventure Sports In Hershey has to offer. Located four miles south of Hershey, this entertainment park features stuff like bumper boats, go-karts, batting cages, an escape room and an arcade. While not ideal for little kids (since they are too small/not age appropriate to go on most of the attractions), it was still a fun way to spend a few hours, with the family. For example, B and J were both too short to ride the go-karts on their own, so they had to roll with an adult. This meant that I had to get behind the wheel, to predictably mediocre results.

 

It’s not as if little two year old KJ was bored, by the way. He loved pretending to play games in the arcade, and flexed some serious short game skills on Adventure Sports in Hershey’s beautiful mini-golf course!

Adventure Sports in Hershey. Things to do near Hershey PA.

Adventure Sports in Hershey. Things to do near Hershey PA.

Get them chips with the dip, young fella!

 

 

Adventure Sports in Hershey is also home to a Turkey Hill ice cream parlour. Along those lines, another fun thing to do near Hershey, PA with the family is to learn more about Turkey Hill and their offerings.  Located about 20 miles outside of Hershey,  The Turkey Hill Experience is not an ice cream and tea factory like we thought, but a way cooler indoor attraction!  It’s full of interactive exhibits and stations (re: so lots of opportunity for kids to play and run around) all centred on how Turkey Hill’s ice cream and tea is made.  Yes, there are sampling stations around, to try them out.

Turkey Hill Experience. Things to do near Hershey PA.

Not a real sampling station.

 

As an add-on option, you can also take part in one of their Taste Labs, where you follow the steps that Turkey Hill uses, to create (and eat!) your own ice cream, and in Tea Discovery, where you learn about (and drink!)  tea.

Turkey Hill Experience. Things to do near Hershey PA.

Turkey Hill Experience. Things to do near Hershey PA.

I’ll admit to not being familiar with Turkey Hill and their products before (around us, anyway, they aren’t readily seen in stores). This place is basically a big advertisement for them, which is pretty clever, and effective,  in terms of brand awareness, and goodwill.

Turkey Hill Experience. Things to do near Hershey PA.

Coincidentally, they have an exhibit where you can make your own big Turkey Hill advertisement.

 

Now, on our last trip to Hershey/Harrisburg, we went to the lowest of the lows, on our Echo Caverns cave adventure. As such, it would only make sense to experience the highest of the highs this time around, which is what J and I did, when we went on a hot air balloon ride!  The United States Hot Air Balloon Team are a premier ballooning company, with multiple locations. Our ride took place in Lancaster, PA,  about 33 miles outside of Hershey, and smack dab in Amish country.  Fun fact #1 – hot air balloon rides are VERY weather dependent, and for safety reasons, can only take place either super early in the morning, or early in the evening. Fun fact #2 – we chose the morning flight, and were there so early, that even the roosters next door weren’t awake.

United States Hot Air Balloon Team. Things to do near Hershey PA.

I’ll tell you what, man. When you say to people that you’re going on a hot air balloon ride, they think you’re crazy, or awesome. I’ll own up to being in the former category. Heights aren’t exactly my jam.  However, the staff, and pilots at the  United States Hot Air Balloon Team are pros, and their calm attitudes made me feel better. Plus, once you’re up there, it’s such a breathtaking, serene experience that you can’t help but soak it all in and appreciate it. I know some people might question bringing a little child on a hot air balloon ride. The United States Hot Air Balloon Team did assure me that they take children on flights ‘all of the time’. As well, the basket that we were in was almost as tall as J. She had to sit down, and look out of peep holes, to see out, as opposed to trying to look over the edge. Again, I’m slightly acrophobic, and I tend to be more overprotective, when it comes to J. I at no point felt that we were in any imminent danger while we were on our hour long hot air balloon ride, for what it’s worth.

United States Hot Air Balloon Team. Things to do near Hershey PA.

United States Hot Air Balloon Team. Things to do near Hershey PA.

The face of someone who is totally not scared to be 2000+ feet in the sky.

 

Zip lining, on the other hand, now that was a scary rush!

Roundtop Mountain Resort is a ski hill that is open year round, and offers a summer activities area called Roundtop Mountain Adventures. Located in Lewisberry, near Hershey PA, among the many fun things to do here is zip lining.  K, B and yours truly took a whirl down the 700′ long “Dual Zip Lines”. J was too small for these, but, luckily,  Roundtop Mountain Adventures has “Tree House Zips”, which are 100′ long lines, and more little kid appropriate (ages five and up).  I think she went on this six times, so, suffice to say, it was a hit!

Roundtop Mountain Resort. Things to do near Hershey PA.

Wheeeeeeee!

 

We received “Adventure Package” passes for the day. These give you unlimited access to all of the attractions in Roundtop Mountain Adventures. I’d recommend this as the way to go, if you and your family do make the trip. It’s enough to easily fill up most of a day. Besides zip lining,  the kids enjoyed the 600′ downhill super water slides .and the OGO balls.  I was digging their bumper boats, as it was an opportunity to smash into B and J, and squirt them in the face with water (but I say that as a loving dad)!

Roundtop Mountain Resort. Things to do near Hershey PA.

If ya don’t know what an OGO ball is, now ya know.

Little KJ was too small for that stuff, but he did enjoy the Woods Playground, which is full of things to climb, ride and play on. It’s surprisingly challenging in some parts.  I did have to navigate my way high up at one point, to rescue J, when she got lost.  Conversely, when I got lost in the nearby Cedar Maze, no one came to rescue me.

Roundtop Mountain Resort. Things to do near Hershey PA.

We gotta stop entrusting KJ with maps, to find the way.

 

Speaking of matters which needed to be saved, my sorry attempt at throwing out the best first pitch ever clearly needed a lot of assistance. Regardless, the rest of the Harrisburg Senators minor baseball game that we checked out was cool.  FNB Field where they play is uniquely located on an island (City Island). The stadium is also family friendly. For an added price, there’s a speed pitch cage, along with a kids’ zone section, with many inflatables and activities in it.

Harrisburg Senators. Things to do near Hershey PA.

 

I’ve mentioned before on here that the closest place to watch professional baseball for us is at the Rogers Centre, the complex where the Toronto Blue Jays play. It’s OK, but it just doesn’t beat the atmosphere and intimate experience of seeing a game in a ‘real’ ballpark.  The Harrisburg Senators also do a nice job with in-game entertainment to keep the vibe upbeat, and run numerous promotions during the season. Besides yours truly throwing out the first pitch, the other headliner (OK, OK, ONLY headliner) for our game was the Human Cannonball.  They also had a cheap craft beer special before the first pitch, which made me flattered when the server asked to see my ID when I ordered, but then confused me, when she wasn’t sure whether my Canadian driver’s license was acceptable or not (it was, so don’t worry, my fellow Canucks).

Harrisburg Senators. Things to do near Hershey PA.

 

Just like it’s impossible to talk about family fun things to do in and near Hershey PA without mentioning Hersheypark, it’s also really hard to talk about the city without mentioning the industry upon which the city is built on – chocolate!  My family of choco-maniacs did have plenty of opportunities to indulge. For instance, we made a return visit to Hershey Chocolate World. We’ve done the Chocolate Making Tour before, but since little KJ is old enough to appreciate it more, we rode that again. I  still can’t believe that it’s free, as it’s a neat, well-done ride (with a tasty sample at the end, to boot)!

We hadn’t watched the 4D Chocolate Movie before, and wow, that show was trippy, yo! An animated chocolate bar interacted live with us, between the action.  We “helped” solve the mystery of the movie.  The bar even used people in the audience’s names, while talking on screen! Having never experienced digital animation like this before,  my easily amused brain was very impressed.

Hershey Chocolate World. Things to do near Hershey PA.

Yes, I realize that this looks like a 90s kid band album cover.

 

As of this writing, the newest attraction at Hershey Chocolate World is Hershey’s Unwrapped: A Chocolate Tasting Journey. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was a really lively, engaging theatrical performance. My kids were engaged throughout, and followed the chocolate sensory instructions dutifully. They don’t even follow instructions at home dutifully. This attraction also comes with a souvenir kit, as a bonus.

 

Hershey Chocolate World. Things to do near Hershey PA.

 

The 4D Chocolate Movie and Hershey’s Unwrapped are both about 30 minutes long. On their own, the pricing is a tad on the high side, so I’d suggest bundling them up with one of the packages available, with other attractions, and making an outing out of going to Hershey Chocolate World, as opposed to going specifically for these only.

 

Hershey Chocolate World. Things to do near Hershey PA.

Don’t forget to check out the store there, too, for all of your hilariously oversized candy needs.

 

Not far from Hershey Chocolate World is another popular location, The Hershey Story Museum. The feeling that I got from visiting the city is that it is very proud of its history. The Hershey Story Museum showcases this in the Museum Experience, where you see how Milton Hershey went from a failed entrepreneur to chocolate kingpin and beyond.  My kids in particular liked the new, interactive kiosks, where they personalised a wooden coin at admissions, and used that at these kiosks to activate a little story about Mr. Hershey. Be sure not to miss the final one, too (no spoilers here).

 

Hershey Story Museum. Things to do near Hershey PA.

 

The highlight of the museum was the Chocolate Lab, a hands on workshop where you learn about the chocolate making process, and get to partake in some pouring and decorating.  Our lab consisted of making customized “beach bars”. KJ was too young for this experience, so K stayed behind with him, while I rolled up my sleeves with B and J. Don’t worry, we shared the finished results.

Hershey Story Museum. Things to do near Hershey PA.

I called my beach bar the Tropic Like Its Hot.

Final note. For accommodations, we were hosted at the newest hotel in Hershey, Tru by Hilton Hershey Chocolate Avenue.   Located about five minutes away from Hersheypark, it’s very bright, casual, modern, and reasonably priced. TVs and foosball tables liven up the lobby. For the buffet breakfast, there isn’t a designated area. You just grab a seat and hang out. In terms of rooms, this hotel is big on efficiency. There’s lots of storage space (ie. racks), but the rooms are smallish.  We were on the go a lot during our trip, and were only really there at nights to sleep. It wasn’t a huge deal, but the room was a bit cramped for the five of us, when we were in it.  For other sized families, I can see this as not being a problem, however.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There you have it.  Hopefully, this will help you enjoy the Hershey and Harrisburg PA area as much as we did. Until the next one, peace!

 

 

Note: My family was hosted by Visit Hershey and Harrisburg as part of a press trip, which included passes to many of the places mentioned. Opinions expressed are my own, as always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best First Pitch Of All Time

 

PHOTO CREDIT: HARRISBURG SENATORS

As my kids get older,  their perception of me continues to evolve,  too.  Sure, Little KJ looks up to me with the awe that any two year old gives to their parents. However, to B and J, I’m no longer Superdad, high on a pedestal. The curtain has been pulled back, and I’m just regular dad now. For example, I used to read them the book Why I Love My Daddy, by Daniel Howarth, and they would compare me to each reason given in it (“I love my daddy because he’s strong.”Hey, you’re strong, daddy!“). A while ago, though, I overheard them reading the book to each other, but then comparing me negatively (“Dad’s not THAT smart.” “He’s only KIND OF funny.” ).  Page after page of little gut punches to me.

I realized that I needed to do something extraordinary to shake up how extra ordinary my kids seemed to think of me. And after thinking long and hard, I decided on what that was….

I WAS GOING TO THROW OUT THE GREATEST FIRST PITCH OF ALL TIME AT A BASEBALL GAME!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ya darn right, I was serious! See, to really impress them, there would have to be a high degree of difficulty involved,  which they could appreciate,  and have a coolness factor to it. This checked all of the boxes, in my household of baseball fans/players. As well, throwing out a ceremonial first pitch is one of the few jobs where there are high hopes that you fail miserably. Everyone loves a good blooper, and asking non-pitchers to fire one in there can be a recipe for disaster. It’s a surprisingly daunting task!

Now, you have to be pretty special to have the honor of tossing out a ceremonial first pitch bestowed on you. Fortunately,  I’m a top dawg who does top dawg things,  so this was easy to arrange. Ok,  none of the previous two sentences are even remotely true, but I did reach out to my man Randy Whitaker,  who’s the General Manager of the MILB’s Harrisburg Senators, and he made it happen (in addition to hooking us up with tickets to the game, too, in the interest of full disclosure).

With the date and location set, my next step was to prepare. In order for this to truly be the greatest ever, to really wow my kids, I would have to respect the grind and put in some work.  They say that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. With that in mind, I decided that some serious advice was required.

 

 

Unlike me, Monique Evans really was a top dawg doing top dawg things when she was asked to throw out the first pitch at a Texas Rangers game in 2014. At the time, she was Miss Texas, and it’s somewhat of a tradition by the Rangers to have the newly crowned winner do the honors!  While the throw was lacking, the amazing, unorthodox flair in the delivery was not.  I figured  that I could learn a thing or two about showmanship, if I contacted her.

“Before, I was feeling pretty nervous and excited; during, I was feeling hopeful”, she told me via DM. “After, I just had to laugh because it didn’t happen like it did in my head. But I didn’t realize how truly bad it was until later.”

In my head, I pictured myself on the mound with the swagger of Prince, firing a Noah Syndergaard-esque fastball. I could see things not playing out like this at all, in real life, though. The pizzazz is certainly memorable, but if I truly wanted to make the best first pitch of all time, I probably needed to focus on the throw. I did ask Monique Evans for some advice.

Her response?

“Have fun, smile, and don’t take yourself too seriously!”

 

 

When Jordan Leandre was a child, he had cancer, and went through the Jimmy Fund for his treatment, a foundation whom the Boston Red Sox work closely with. Over the years, he has had the opportunity to take part in several on-field ceremonies at Fenway Park.  He was a varsity pitcher, as well.  To summarize, not only does he have pitching experience, but he also has experience in performing in front of large baseball crowds.  Yet, when you search “first pitch in the nuts”, or “first pitch hits guy in balls”, or something along those lines on YouTube and Google, Mr. Leandre’s infamous experience from 2017 immediately pops up. While hilarious, I didn’t want the second name to come up when you’re searching these phrases out to be mine.  I just had to pick his brain a bit.

“I wasn’t overly nervous. There are obviously some nerves going in there because the crowd is so huge, but for me it wasn’t too bad,” says Jordan, via DM.  “But I’d also done it before so I was more comfortable in front of the crowd. Some advice I’d give is to just zone in on whoever is catching you. If you can somehow zone out the people watching, it becomes a game of catch. Another piece of advice I’d give is to just have fun with it.”

Between Monique’s and Jordan’s experienced-based tips, I was now headed in the right direction for greatness. I still wanted to get some words from the toppest (yes, I know that’s not a word) dawg that I could think of.

 

When reached for comment by me for this post, the press office of Barack Obama politely declined, on his behalf. 

Oh well. Maybe next time, Barack. My man Randy Whitaker of the Senators did give me one more tip, though, to complete my prep work: “JUST DON’T BOUNCE IT!”

 

After months of  sitting on my butt watching the Toronto Blue Jays perfecting my four seam fastball, the big day in Harrisburg finally arrived. I purposely delayed telling B and J about my moment,  and when I did, I’m pleased to say that I saw glimmers of awe in their faces.  B even sounded jealous.

Sweet!

Now all that I had to do was groove one into the catcher, and bask in my kids’ adulation afterwards.

B and J were allowed to accompany me down to the field, so I asked them each to record my pitch. Luckily, Harrisburg isn’t exactly Arlington or Boston. The crowd was still rolling in when I was announced, and not super large.  Finally, it was time for greatness. Time to unleash the best first pitch ever. I took a deep breath, zoned in on the catcher, wound up, and threw. Here is what happened:

Dang it! I guess that I should have trained J better on making videos. Here is what actually happened, courtesy of B’s footage:

 

 

Yeah, I didn’t bounce it, but I almost pegged the mascot in the head. Ugh.

As I walked off of the field and up to our seats, there was no adulation.  No basking. No good job. Nothing.

I tried, but greatness had alluded me. To be honest, I wasn’t super bummed about it, either. Throwing out a first pitch at a minor league game isn’t as big a deal as I’m making it out to be, obviously. I just randomly wanted to do it better than it’s ever been done before, because I thought that it might gain me some long lost cool points with my kids. It’s not like they think any worse of me now, however, after blowing it. Most importantly,  it was a lot of fun!

We were in Harrisburg/Hershey for the week, as part of a media trip. When we returned home a few days later, one of B’s buddies came over and asked him how the trip was. To my surprise, the first thing that B told him about was me throwing out the first pitch! I mean, he also told him that it kind of sucked, but that’s not the point, right? #coolfather

 

Maybe I’ll never be the Superdad that I used to be. You know what,  though?

I’m Ok with that.

Ordinary with an occasional touch of extraordinary is just fine. Things will never stop evolving with my children,  but I’ll always be their dad, and that’s all that matters.

 

Yo, Daniel Howarth.  I got a bonus chapter now,  for your Why I Love My Daddy book:

Until the next one, peace!

 

How To Attend A Championship Parade

Toronto Raptors NBA Championship Parade

Congratulations! Your favorite professional sports team won the championship, and now it’s party time! Or more specifically, it’s victory parade time! But, what’s that, you say? You’ve never been to one before, and don’t know what it’s like? Well, have no fear, dear reader, as I’m about to hook you up, and give you some advice on how to attend a championship parade. Let’s get it on, FAQ style!

Have you even been to a championship parade before?

Yup. I was one of the two plus million who took part in the Toronto Raptors’ celebration this year. As someone who’s a lifelong fan of the Raptors, the Phoenix Suns, and the Toronto Blue Jays, all of whom aren’t exactly perennial champions, it was a pretty amazing day!

Your choice in teams is very questionable, so I don’t think that I trust your judgement, or your advice. Do you mind if I stop reading now?

Uh, yes, I mind? Please read on?

Fine.  What should I bring with me?

I’ll start with what you should not bring.  And that…..is little kids.

Huh?! You’re suggesting depriving my children of a historical moment that they’ll remember forever? You’re a terrible parent!

I’m just sayin’. For one, teams tend to schedule these things during the week, so they’ll have to miss a day of school, which may or may not be a big deal, to some folks. For another, kids are short. You’re planning on watching a parade with hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of other grown fans. You’re going to have to go early, to guarantee a spot in the front, so they can see over everyone. Otherwise, be prepared to have them lifted up on your shoulders for extended periods. Back to going early, though. It’s potentially a long day (in my case with the Raptors’, I was there around 9am, but the parade ran late, so it didn’t pass us until around 2pm). You don’t exactly have in and out privileges. If you claim a good spot up front, and then leave, you’re not getting that spot back.   I don’t know about you, but my kids have this habit of wanting to use the bathroom at the most inopportune times.  How would you feel if, you’ve been standing around for hours, crammed among a huge crowd of people, and in the distance, you finally see the team caravan coming, but you then hear these words: “Daddy? I have to go to the bathroom really bad! I can’t hold it!”

I’d be furious! ARGH!

Right.  Furthermore, my kids get restless pretty easily, which leads to boredom complaints, or worse. It’s just potentially a long, tiring day of keeping them entertained. I overheard at least one unhappy little camper asking to go home, about two hours into the Raptors’ parade. Bringing lots of food and drinks is a good idea, in theory, but this will inevitably lead to bathroom breaks, which means spot-losing. My kids also have this habit of gobbling up everything in site and then, minutes later,  complaining that they’re still hungry. Food runs again leads to spot-losing.  I mean, sure, a championship parade is a fun event for families, and some, heck, maybe most families, have a positive experience, but I’d definitely put an asterisk next to them.

Kawhi Leonard at the Toronto Raptors NBA Championship Parade

Kawhi Leonard waving the trophy in the air like he just don’t care. What a fun guy!

OK, OK, I get it. Ditch the kiddos. What should I bring, then?

Food and drinks are good, with the disclaimer mentioned above (if you’re moving around, throughout the parade route, that isn’t much of a problem, however). Comfortable shoes. Sunscreen. A fully charged phone, so when the good stuff happens, you have enough battery life to spam your social media with pictures to make your friends, to quote J-Lo, jelly.  Some fresh, official championship merchandise to wear.  An umbrella.

An umbrella? Because the parade goes on, rain or shine?

Nah. Because your favorite athlete might roll by drunkenly popping bottles of champagne and spraying them into the crowd. Champagne soaked clothes doesn’t sound like a comfortable look.

 

Toronto Raptors NBA Championship Parade

Watch out! He has an open bottle!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But if they’re pouring beer afterwards, I should be good, correct? Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear?

 

That saying doesn’t apply at all.

Whatever. What else shouldn’t I bring?

GUNS! Like, it’s a day about showing love to your team, and coming together as a community. There’s no need for weapons. Besides that, don’t bring giant signs that obstruct the view of those behind you. At the very least, if you do bring them, be smart about when you hold them up.

Do I need to do anything beforehand, to prepare? Should I memorize every player’s stats , so I’ll have some conversation points, when I’m standing for hours on end surrounded by strangers?

At the Raptors’ championship parade anyway, the crowd was massive, but it was a mixture of hardcore fans, casual fans, bandwagon fans who jumped on board when they realized the team might win the title, and people who were there out of FOMO. Basically, it wasn’t hard to make polite chit chat, so no need to bone up on statistics. Beyond that, know the parade route, and have a good entry/exit strategy. Large volumes of humans converging in one area makes getting there and going home a bit of an adventure. Also, you know how when you go to a Santa Claus parade, and before Santa’s float comes, there’s like a million other stuff before that? Bands, maybe some insurance company’s car, with smiling brokers waving in it, that kind of stuff?

Yes?

Same thing for a championship parade. It’s not just the team on a bus with the trophy. The Raptors’ one had some cars and buses full of people most wouldn’t recognise who were invited to take part. Sponsors, front office executives,  family members, etc.

Anything else?

Yeah. Shower and put on deodorant before you go. When the players do finally roll by, the mass of humanity around you will most likely lift up their arms to take pictures. I inhaled some interesting scents when that happened, to put it politely.

And just like those armpits, this post stinks, too!

OK, we’re done here. Enjoy the parade!

Masai Ujiri at the Toronto Raptors NBA Championship Parade

Hand’s up, to take pictures of Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri’s butt!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips For Attending a Professional Golf Tournament With Kids

A View of the RBC Canadian Open

Admittedly, I am not a golf fan. However, I’ve watched PGA and LPGA tournaments on TV before, and always thought that it would be cool to attend one in person.  So, when the good folks at the RBC Canadian Open offered me a ticket to check out their event, I was all over it like Rory McIlory on a par 4 hole. Not only that, but I took my seven year old daughter J, who isn’t a golf fan at all, with me. I know, I know, this sounds like a bad idea, but we both actually had a good time! Here are my tips for attending a professional golf tournament with kids.

 

PLAN AHEAD

At the RBC Canadian Open,  I misunderstood the prohibited items list, and didn’t bring any food or drinks, so I had to buy all that stuff there.  It was a hot day, and J loves her snacks, so my wallet ended up taking a nice hit. There was also hours of interactive, kid friendly scheduled activities on site, but these didn’t happen on the day that we went. We knew, walking-wise, that we were going to get our steps in, but we both didn’t realize how ‘hilly’ the course was, which made things more physically demanding than expected, especially on J’s little legs. Also, between the walking and the heat, we had to stay hydrated. Places to grab a drink were scattered around the course, so being aware of where they were was important. Basically, as golf tournament novices, planning ahead was crucial. Knowing the schedule, course layout, and policies ahead of time can save you some disappointment and money later.

Attending the RBC Canadian Open PGA Event With Kids

PARKING

I have no clue what the parking situations are like for every professional golf tournament, but they probably all vary. So, along the lines of planning, be sure to look into it ahead of time. It might be on site, you might have to buy passes beforehand, who knows. In our case at the RBC Canadian Open, we paid to park at a nearby fairgrounds, and took a shuttle bus to the course.  In case you were wondering, yes, J enjoyed the bus rides almost as much as the golfing.

HAVE  A GAME PLAN

There are a few ways to maximize your experience when you attend a golf tournament with kids. If you and your child have a favorite golfer, you could find out when they tee off, and follow them during their round. For the less ambitious, bring chairs,  plop yourselves down at a hole, and watch the entire field come through, so you see a wide range of golfers. If you guys are all about dat social media life, find out which holes or areas are famous/infamous, and hit them up, for Insta-worthy, ‘Gram-able pictures. If you don’t have a vested interest in any of the golfers or the course, like J and I, check to see if the event has a family /fun zone of some sort.  We spent a while hanging out in the “Hamilton Fare Way” area, near the 18th hole, eating, playing mini putt and cornhole, and loading up on free swag.  We also went to the RBC Canadian Open early, as I figured the crowds wouldn’t be as bad then as in the afternoon, when the big name PGA dudes teed off.  We did eventually wander around the course for a few holes, before heading back the Fare Way area (it was pretty entertaining, there, what can I say).

Attending the RBC Canadian Open PGA Event With Kids

 

 

TO QUOTE ALLEN IVERSON – “WE TALKING ABOUT PRACTISE, MAN”

If the course of the golf tournament that you are attending has them and allows it, make time to stop by the driving range and putting greens.Attending the RBC Canadian Open PGA Event With Kids

You can see the pros up close, practising. It’s also a decent opportunity to possibly even score an autograph or selfie, if you’re nice about it.

J and I stumbled our way onto a large crowd of people watching some well known PGA stars work on their putting, and then squeezed our way through an even bigger crowd of people watching Canadian golfer MacKenzie Hughes on the driving range (I think).

 

AUTOGRAPHS

Speaking of autographs, that’s another way to keep your kid engaged, while at a golf tournament. Besides the practise area, the 9th or 18th holes, where rounds end, are also usually primo locations to score someone’s John Hancock. Attending the RBC Canadian Open PGA Event With Kids

For J and I, this wasn’t that appealing (as we didn’t know who most of the golfers were), BUT we did overhear security talking about  Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors possibly coming to the RBC Canadian Open that afternoon.

Since he is her favorite player, we did figure out where the entrance was, and hung out there for a bit, in the hopes of getting his autograph (no luck on this, by the way).

 

ETIQUETTE

Attending a professional golf tournament is unlike any other big time sporting event, as golf has certain etiquette which needs to be adhered to. You’ll have to keep your kid in the loop on this stuff. Even as spectators, you should probably dress a certain way, to look the part (though, because our experience at the RBC Canadian Open coincided with the Raptors’ NBA Finals run, there were a ton of people rocking Raptors shirts and jerseys, instead of fancy polos).  You also can’t move at certain times, when the golfers are in action. You have to know when to be quiet, as well, which is important if your kid is a chatterbox like J.  Don’t forget to tell them that if you see a ball, it’s not finders keepers. While strolling down a hole, we heard someone yell “WATCH OUT!” (unrelated sidenote: shouldn’t he have yelled “FORE!”?). Turns out, a golfer hit an errant tee shot which soared out of bounds and came flying down maybe 15 feet in front of us. J saw where it landed, said ‘Hey look! A  ball!’, and immediately ran to get it, which caused me to sprint after her, to tell her not to touch it.

Attending the RBC Canadian Open PGA Event With Kids

Hey look! A ball!

 

And finally, the most important tip of all, for attending a professional golf tournament with your kid…..

 

HAVE FUN!!!

Seriously, it’s a cool experience, and a nice way to spend some quality time together. Enjoy it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Reclining Seats Are Trouble

To recline or not to recline. This is the age old question that has divided travellers on planes since the, uh, inception of reclining chairs on planes. Recently, however, that debate has crossed over into other facets of life where extra comfort is an option. Take movie theatres, for example. Some of them are equipped with reclining seats that let you lean back like you’re Fat Joe in 2004. And I use movies as an example, because, recently, I found myself smack dab in the middle of the reclining seat debate.

The scene was the local Cineplex, during the opening weekend of Avengers: Endgame. B and I had purchased tickets beforehand, and the theatre was jammed pack. In front of us was a man, with three boys. Irrelevant detail – the man kind of looked like the Trivago Guy. Second irrelevant detail – the man had a giant bottle of fancy water, which he clearly bought at a grocery store beforehand.

As the movie was about to start, a group of kids filtered in with some adult chaperones, who were all there for a birthday party.  They weren’t especially quiet, so the man in front of us took it upon himself to loudly yell at them about how noisy they were. The same message probably could have been conveyed politely, and not so rudely, but I digress. Anyway, not long after, the man decided to recline his seat.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve been to a Cineplex with recliners, but you can get a pretty good lean on, and this guy had a nice one going. He was in front of B, but if he was in front of me, he would have squished my legs. B seemed pretty chill, though, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. The man spent the rest of the movie in varying degrees of recline. At one point, it almost looked like he was in a rocket ship during takeoff (OK, I’m exaggerating, but you get the point). Again, though, B was fine with it.  I did try to recline once, too, but I immediately felt a knee behind me, so I propped back up.

B was cool, but he also was fidgety. It’s a looooong movie, after all. While adjusting in his seat, I did see him once, accidentally, kick Fat Joe’s, err, I mean Trivago Guy’s, err, I mean the reclining man’s seat lightly. The man didn’t say anything, but I told B to watch his feet, and not kick his seat. Even though his leg space was severely hampered, that was the polite, well-mannered thing to do. It wasn’t like we could move to another seat, either, as every one was filled.

Flash forward to the end of the movie. I saw B accidentally kick the seat again, while Rocket Man was getting ready for takeoff  as the man was reclined far back. The man then whipped around, and yelled at B to stop kicking his seat.

If this happened to you, and your child, what would you do?

Instead of kicking his seat,  kick him!

Uh, I guess that’s an option, but not what I chose.

See, I was really annoyed. He could have just asked B politely, to stop.  When it comes to kids, and there is an issue, I tend to take it up with the parents. If this man channelled his inner Hulk and just had to rage about the incidental kicking, he easily could have yelled at me instead. Snapping on B in this case seemed kind of bully-ish. Regardless, B did not deserve to be yelled at, in my opinion.

In the ‘to recline or not to recline’ debate, the main argument for reclining is that, hey, you paid for the seat, so you can sit however you want in it. If other people aren’t comfortable, too bad. The thing is, though, to misuse Newton’s Third Law, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you choose to recline so far back in your seat that you are compromising the person behind you, then there will probably be some kind of consequence. Knowing that, are you really in any position to get upset at the resulting consequence? Dude is all up on B’s spot, so B can barely move without touching his seat, so dude gets mad that B touched his seat? To quote The Nappy Roots – awnaw, hell naw!

Sensing a confrontation going bad, and not wanting to miss the end of Endgame, I waited until the movie was over, to approach the man. He ducked into the washroom, which B had to use, too, so I waited there, near his group of boys, until he re-emerged. When he did, I basically told him, sternly, that he spent the whole movie leaned far back into B, and he had no right to yell at him for kicking his seat accidentally. He, wasn’t having it (shocker), and started to yell (More yelling? Double shocker) about how he wasn’t that far back, and that B and I didn’t have any manners, unlike his kids.  I walked away as he raged on and on.  I said my piece, but he didn’t get it, and I didn’t want to make the news over some pettiness.

source: https://www.fodey.com/generators/newspaper/snippet.asp

 

So what are the takeaways here? Well, for one, until reclining seats are abolished, I guess it’s is on us to know the etiquette in using them, and to be aware of the effects on those behind you.  I personally think that, if movie theatres, planes or wherever are going to be equipped with them, then the space in between the rows needs to be bigger, to not take away someone’s leg space. Clearly, this isn’t practical or realistic, but a dreamer’s gotta dream, right? Finally, based on my own informal research among some parenting peers, screaming at someone else’s child is a big no-no.  Whatever side of the ‘to recline or not to recline’ argument you choose, and even if you think the man in front of us was justified in being mad at B, yelling at a stranger’s kid over something trivial is a real prick move.

Speaking of prick moves, B told me that, while in the bathroom,  after our Trivago Guy-looking friend relieved himself,  he washed his hands. However, instead of drying them, he shook them off, shamelessly spraying water droplets onto B and a couple of other people. Now on that, I hope  we can all agree, no debate……

That’s just gross and ignorant.

 

Later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kids Are Alright

Even though that they lost, they were all still winners, in the end.

Now, that probably sounds like the ending to some cheesy, cliche sports story. It’s not, though! It’s the beginning to this non-cheesy,  non-cliche sports story. Trust me, it’ll make sense later.

stories about tolerance

 

I don’t know about you, but I worry about what kind of people my children will be, when they’re older. B, in particular can be a handful, to put it mildly.  We try to instil as much as we can, but at the end of the day, it’s on B to accept it or reject it. As such, putting him in the right environments is always a big factor for K and I.  Sports, for example, are perfect, as they expose him to all kinds of life lessons in a structured, fun way.

Luckily, B loves basketball, and he played on a rep team in Hamilton this year. Even more luckily,  the team was comprised of a good group of boys. Sure, skill and talent-wise, they were OK, but everyone got along, and their attitudes were fine.  Off the court, whereas B’s the type who takes goofing around to new levels, I was surprised to see that, when with his team,  he wasn’t any more rambunctious as anyone else (usually).

After an up and down season, the team competed in the provincial championships recently.  The tournament covered a whole weekend, which meant staying out of town in a hotel.  After the first game Friday evening, the team went out to a restaurant for dinner.

While there, some of the boys ended up at the bar area, to watch the Toronto Raptors game on TV, including B. Don’t worry, they weren’t drinking  (they’re 9 years old. C’mon now). Eventually, though, B came running over to K and I, excited. He had worn his warm-up shirt to the restaurant, but now, he just had his jersey on. He told us that he gave away his shirt, to a kid at the bar. Since we had paid for the shirt, as part of his uniform, and B has a track record for silliness, like I mentioned earlier, our immediate reaction was to cut him off, and tell him to go get the shirt back.  He ran back to the bar, and came back to show us that he got it.

I’ll admit to screwing up here, folks. Sometimes, like the Fresh Prince said, parents just don’t understand. After the shirt incident, J went over to snoop on her big bro, and reported back that the boy who the team was hanging with at the bar had a disability (not her words, but I’ll error on the side of vagueness here). Then, we started hearing from B’s teammates that the boy was really excited to be talking to, and chilling with, the team. Then, we heard that B and one of his buddies had given him their shirts, as a token of friendship, and that the boy was super excited about receiving them.  B had come over to explain this, but K and I kiboshed it.

Sigh. Don’t do this.

When B walked by, after we found out about his gesture, we told him that, of course, he could give his shirt to his new friend, if he wanted to.  So he did. He then returned to say that the boy’s mom wanted to know where our games were the next day, as they wanted to come watch. K jotted down the address on a paper, which B delivered. Afterwards, when it was time to go, the mom approached the parents on the team, to say thank you, and compliment the boys.

The next morning, B kept nervously wondering if his new pal would actually show up, with his mom. importance of tolerance in schools As game time neared, I looked around the gym, and didn’t see them, which was disappointing, but understandable. Right before tip-off, though, they walked in! The dude was even rocking B’s warm-up shirt. B broke into a goofy grin, which made me goofily grin, too.  After the game, the team went over to say hi, and give the boy props and stuff, which he was clearly thrilled about.

Needless to say, I was proud that B, unsolicited and unprompted, made a new buddy, not because he was ‘different’, not because it was ‘the right thing to do’, but just…….because.  Maybe that guy will be alright, after all. We could all stand to be more tolerant, accepting and not quick to judge, right?

The only part that sucked was that the team kind of got killed in that game. However…..

Even though that they lost, they were all still winners, in the end.

 

Told ya that it would make sense. Til the next one, later!

 

 

Trapped In A Closet With Fake Newz Around The Corner

Three quick posts for the price of one today, dawg. Let’s go!

TRAPPED IN A CLOSET

A while ago, lil KJ outgrew his crib, so we upgraded him to his own bed. For the most part,  it’s been alright.  Sometimes, though, I miss the containment of the crib. Take the other night, for example.

I had put him down to sleep, which was a laborious, time-consuming process. About an hour later, I heard his door open.  He happily came bouncing down the stairs, fresh as a daisy.

Oh, c’mon!

The increase in bed freedom has led to an increase in late night wandering.  He usually comes to our room later, though.  Why he was up so early now, no clue. Regardless, I took him back to his room, and he was out within minutes.

I had promised J that I would crash in her bed (that’s a whole ‘nother story), so that’s where I ended up. At around 3AM, I was awakened to KJ screaming for me, and crying.  In theory, I should have just gotten up, but I was barely conscious, so I yelled for him to come to me. I must have dozed off, because, the next thing that I know, I heard KJ frantically yelling for me, plus a lot of indecipherable, two year old toddler gibberish (“Daddy, lkfjk$ajfuebt! Daddy!”).  I had to get up now. I stumbled around upstairs, in the dark, trying to find where the yells were coming from. It was like the sorriest game of Marco Polo ever. Eventually, I realized that the screaming was coming from B’s room.

Or more specifically, B’s closet.

See, B has a dresser in his closet, with a  gap between it and the wall. The gap is roomy enough for me to stand there, for example, but I’m too big to easily wedge myself into it. KJ,  presumably in his hunt for me, in the dark, decided that I must have been in that gap.

He got himself into it, but then couldn’t get back out, and started freaking.  I saw him, lifted him up, and as soon as I did, he calmed down. Fresh as a daisy, he then said ‘Oh, hi daddy!’ as if he was surprised to see me.

Legit, I think that, with R. Kelly making headlines, I had been reading a lot about him and his music lately. KJ must have been secretly reading along with me, too. Otherwise I don’t think that I’ll ever understand why he was trapped in a closet.

FAKE NEWZ

Speaking of big new stories, the Momo Challenge was a huge deal recently. As parents, K and I had the same sense of moral panic that you probably did, which meant that we had to confront what our kids were consuming on social media head-on. It’s crazy how impressionable a child’s mind is.

Take J, for instance. In her six year old eyes, a heavy set toy delivery man in a red suit, magic reindeers, unicorns and giant, chocolate-dropping bunnies are all very important to her. Shoot, for a minute, so was a ghost-hunting Elvis Presley.

Knowing this, a few weeks ago, J casually asked me the following:

“Is YouTube Real?”

I was slightly distracted, so I said of course it was real, without hesitation. Real live humans, posting real stuff. In retrospect, this was not the greatest idea.  YouTube is reality, but there’s also a lot of phoney bologna which can fool a naive young brain.  Later on, we had this conversation:

J – “Daddy, I’m scared of the Bad Elf.” ( J loves the Elf On A Shelf, and takes the whole thing very seriously. In turn, I have to treat it seriously.  Imagine her dismay when she came across some dastardly video, of elves behaving badly and ruining Christmas for kids). 

Me – “The Bad Elf isn’t real. You have nothing to be scared of.”

J – “But I saw him on YouTube.”

Me – “So?”

J – “You said YouTube is real.”

Oh. Right. I did say that.

Despite my attempts to explain myself, she was worried about this creepy little jerk for weeks afterwards.

Another time, while out for dinner, J  casually told us that she had been watching the news.  This was odd, as current events isn’t really her thing. She continued on by discussing how mermaids existed, and where you could go to find them.  Believe it or not, she didn’t see this on CNN. It was some random YouTube news channel. Fake newz at its finest, which I had to explain to her.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, despite the Momo Challenge being (most likely) a hoax, the idea of the Momo Challenge was terrifying, because of how easy it could be real.  In my house, anyway, it doesn’t always take much to sway one of my kids.

‘ROUND EVERY CORNER

Speaking of my house, I’d like to think it’s a pretty typical home. I still shake my head at the stuff that takes place in it, though. ‘Round every corner lies a possible surprise.

One night, I turned a corner and almost stepped on J. Instead of going to sleep as asked, she stubbornly put together a makeshift bed in her doorway, and slept there. I mean, based on the amount of effort that this would have taken, it would have been easier and more comfy to just to lie in her regular bed, but what do I know?

KJ was calling me here, on two phones (he drips too hard, as the kids say).  They’re actually a calculator and a broken walkie talkie. The reception on those things is horrible.

On first glance, I was grossed out when I entered B’s room and almost stepped on this. Luckily, it’s just a brown deflated balloon.

This time.

B wasn’t home when I walked into his room to see this, so you can imagine my reaction.  Luckily, it wasn’t some sort of bizarre, inappropriate class project. I found out later that he had an audition, and was practising some lines.

J decided to play dress up. Here she is, as Marshmello, the famous DJ. Curse you, Fortnite.

KJ was walking around eating and drinking. He then pulled a toddler David Blaine. I looked, and his snack had vanished. I finally found it here,  down low, on a shoe rack. I’ve heard of waffle shoes before, but this is ridiculousness!

Anyway, you get the idea. You just never know what to expect, with kids.

One thing that I do know, however…..is that this post is over. Later, y’all.

 

Top 8 WWE Live Moments!

funniest wwe moments

 

World Wrestling Entertainment’s Road To Wrestlemania Tour comes to Toronto this Friday, March 8, and thanks to my friends at the WWE, my family will be attendance for the show! It should be a great way to kick off March Break. As someone who’s been to an event or two over the years, I can tell you that the experiences are always memorable. Like, listicle worthy memorable. Check it out! Here are eight of my top WWE moments, experienced live, in person:

8. The Royal Rumble is one of the biggest shows of the year that the WWE puts on. I actually went to the very first show, in 1988, in my hometown of Hamilton. It also happened to be the first show that I went to. Even more memorably, despite coming from very modest means,  my family somehow had floor seats, just a few rows from the ring!

wwe best moments of all time

A picture that my mom took of the action. Hulk Hogan, wobbly, after Andre The Giant overturned a table on him.

7. While leaving the above event, heading back to our car, I had my first celebrity encounter! We bumped into legendary wrestler Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts and legendary wrestling personality ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund outside of the rear entrance of what was then known as Copps Coliseum. As Jake was my favorite wrestler at the time, little kid me was in awe and starstruck.  They had clearly downed “one too many” beforehand, but were incredibly nice and talked to us for a while. For those not around in the 80s, we couldn’t just bust out our phones, to take a selfie, if we met a star (crazy, eh?), so you’ll have to take my word on this encounter.

6. A couple of years later, I went to a house show with one of my sisters, also in Hamilton. Again, for reasons unknown to me now, we somehow had floor seats, a few rows from the ring. My favorite wrestler at that time, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart, was scheduled to be on the card. One of his gimmicks was that, during his entrance, he would give his sunglasses to a child who was ringside. Knowing that we would be close, I brought my Bret Hart action figure with me, with the intention of waving it, and drawing Bret’s attention, so I could hopefully score a pair of shades. When the big moment came, and Bret came strutting to the ring, he took off his glasses, looked right at my frantically waving little butt, and headed over. BUT, before he got to me, he saw a kid rocking a Bret Hart shirt, so gave the glasses to that boy, instead. Yo, I didn’t say they were all of these top WWE moments were good moments, peeps.

5.  When attending any event live, the crowd can really add to the experience . Wrestling is no exception to this. The hypest atmosphere of any concert/sport that I’ve been to occurred at the 2006 WWE Unforgiven Pay Per View, in Toronto, during the main event. Local hero Edge versus challenger John Cena, in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match. The crowd was bananas for Edge, and the hatred for Cena was hilariously harsh, so the place was rockin’. When Cena ended up winning, grown men were legit furious. Just a very surreal match, to say the least!

4. 2007. Saturday Night’s Main Event, in Toronto.  Batista’s music hits, followed by his pyro routine. Here’s an example of it, for reference:

Needless to say, it is LOUD! However, I looked over at my buddy…..and he was fast asleep. Slept through the whole thing. I was surprised, but impressed. It takes a special kind of tired to saw logs through that kind of noise explosion.

3. I’ll cheat a bit, as this wasn’t at an official WWE event. However, when a guy like ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted Dibiase wants to lock you up in his signature move, The Million Dollar Dream, you suck it up and do it! Everyone has a price, right?

best wwe moments

Tie 2. & 1. First times always trump everything, so my top moments are when I took my oldest two oldest kids to their first shows. B a few years ago, to a Smackdown house show, and J, last year, to a WWE NXT show.  We had a good time, and they’re both looking forward to the upcoming Toronto show. At the end of the day, man, that’s what it’s all about – creating memories with your children. Who knows, maybe we’ll add to this list of top WWE moments Friday.

See you at the fights!

 

 

 

 

The Problem With Fortnite

In my house, we have a Fortnite problem. My son B is kind of obsessed, people.  Lemme explain.

Now, truth be told, I’ll admit to being a casual gamer. I first discovered Fortnite when I saw a video of Drake playing it.  Since I’m somewhat of a Drake Stan, I figured anything good enough for Drake is good enough for me. Plus, it was free. After playing it for a bit, I realized three things – firstly, I sucked. I was routinely killed quickly. Secondly, the game isn’t really free. It’s “freemium”. Like, it’s free to play, but your character is basic. To not be such a plain Jane, and to get better stuff so you might last longer, you have to either do well, to earn in-game currency (V-Bucks) to buy better stuff, or use real-life, hard earned currency to buy in-game currency. Running around dressed in a fish costume is cool, but not $20 cool to me. Thirdly, a big part of the appeal of the game is goofing around online with your friends. I have zero gaming buddies, though. Having strangers in weird outfits shooting my basic butt just wasn’t very enjoyable. Go figure.

Anyway, since the game is such a huge phenomenon worldwide, it was inevitable that B would discover it. It started off pretty harmless. One of his friends got him onto it, and the two of them would play together. Not long after, we got him a headset with a mic, since his buddy had one. Socialising with peers, no biggie, right? From there, things snowballed. Turns out, kids love Fortnite. Specifically, a lot of kids that B knows love Fortnite, including him. If he wasn’t playing, he was talking about playing. Or watching videos of people on YouTube playing. One time, he went off and came back wearing a ridiculous outfit. Backpack, goggles, Nerf gun, backwards hat. When I looked at him confused, he told me that he was wearing a Fortnite skin.

And don’t get me started on the dancing. OMG, the dancing! B is constantly busting out moves that he’s seen in Fortnite, which, while amusing, is also kind of annoying. Ever try to have a serious talk with someone, but midway through it, have to say “Hey! Stop flossing and listen!”? Oddly enough, pre-Fortnite, he was a stiff, awkward dancer. Now, though, he’s pretty slick. It seems as if other kids have stepped up their abilities to emulate the moves, too. At B’s basketball practises, boys who, on first glance, look like they have two left feet, all of the sudden will boogie like they’re auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance. I guess I gotta give Epic Games props, for improving the next generation’s co-ordination, worldwide.

For a while, B was happy just playing the game.  Unfortunately for B, like father, like son. He inherited his old man’s suckiness. Initial glee would turn to screams of ‘”No! Don’t kill me!” or sad comments like  “Hey guys, can you wait for me? I died.”

Compounding the situation was that his friends all seemed to have upgraded characters and weapons. He was stuck with the cheapo, free ones. One day, he said this to me:

“My friends all have battle passes and make fun of me because I’m a newb. Can you buy me some V-Bucks?”

Those are all English words, but I didn’t know WTF those sentences meant.  The gist of it was that he wanted real money, to buy stuff in the game, so he wouldn’t suck. Newbs are slang for beginners.  His birthday was right around the corner, so, luckily for him, he did get his wish. He got a gift card that he used to get V-Bucks.

No joke, overnight,  after he bought some new skins, he went from this  sorry, basic B, to a cocky, bold, trash talker, making fun of newbs. Like, less than 24 hours ago, his game was lame, but now that he’s dressed as a giant tree making it rain, he’s stuntin’ on some fools?!

There’s a bunch of other parenting things, as well, about Fortnite, that need to be monitored. Being careful talking to strangers, for example. Making sure he’s playing nicely with his friends, for another. Keeping track of his time, too. Yo, If you ever want to see someone lose their mind, try telling a kid that they have five minutes left to play Fortnite, then, in five minutes when they protest that they need more time, turn the game off, anyway.

They’ll explode like this, except worse.

The final straw was a social studies test that B had recently. It was about looking at a map and naming the provinces and capitals in Canada.  Normally, he gets good marks……but he failed it! Now, how in the world of Carmen Sandiego does a boy, who can easily look at a map in Fortnite, memorise every nook and cranny in it, and successfully parachute down to a location on the map of his choosing, not know where Ontario is, in Canada? He lives in freakin’ Ontario!  Yeah, between that and some other issues, it was time to take away Fortnite for, uh, at least a fortnight.

And that’s where things are currently. B can talk about it all he wants, and do the dance moves, but he’s not allowed to play it.

To any other parent who thinks their child has a Fortnite problem….I feel your pain.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sneak in a round or two of Fortnite Battle Royale.

What?

B can’t play, and there’s no point letting his V-Bucks go to waste. Later, newbs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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