Working From Home With Kids And Other Quarantine Life Stories

 

working from home with kids

 

Hey, all you cool cats and kittens! When I last gave y’all an update, my family was still adjusting to that quarantine life. I was also still adjusting to working from home with kids, too. Since that time in early April, a lot has changed.  With these changes comes lots of free time to analyse them. Or, in this case, blog about them. Random musings start……NOW!

 

 

WORKING FROM HOME WITH KIDS

 

We’ve settled into a workable routine, on this front.  I’ve been fortunate enough to remain employed, so I do my work upstairs at a table by the window.  With no door, my space is the definition of ‘open door policy’, which my fam takes advantage of.  Luckily, this hasn’t affected my job too much. I mean , only one client on the phone has heard little KJ screaming “Daddy! I POOPED!” in the background, anyway.

Back in the early days of self isolation, there was still a hope here in Ontario that schools might open up before the end of June. This all changed recently, though, when the government announced that schools will be closed for the duration of  the year.  K, who is a teacher, has seen her job responsibilities change lately, with a greater emphasis on distance learning. So between her work, and mine, plus B, J and KJ, it’s a juggling act, for real. Speaking of which…..

 

TEACHING THE KIDS AT HOME

 

B and J both have daily curriculum distant learning requirements. I don’t know about your kids, but getting these two to do even the bare minimum is a regular struggle. Dragging them away from their devices to do just an hour of school work is the parenting equivalent of playing Pac Man. They zip around the house, gobbling up screen time, but as soon as they see K and I with assignments, they immediately take off in opposite directions.

 

I could learn a thing or two from your kids!

 

Even if we track them down, they still make excuses to not do their work.  Oh, the excuses! The other day, B looked at a project, and told me that he couldn’t do it, because it would take 24 minutes, and his arm would get sore from writing for that long. This is the same active kid who will shoot hundreds of shots on the mini basketball net in his room . The same kid who sits in the same position for long periods playing video games. Maybe if he thought that it would have taken 23 minutes, then he would have done it?

 

 

Toddler quarantine life, PART UNO

 

 

 

With toddlers, routine is key.  KJ’s life used to consist of waking up early,  and me getting him ready to take him to his daycare. He spends the day there, hangs with other children, gets picked up by K later, comes home, does dinner, then eases into his bedtime routine.

In quarantine life, now that we are working from home with kids, his routine has been blown up. KJ is now the type who will wake up at 10:30am, ask if it’s breakfast time or lunch, and get mad when he can’t have a Popsicle and garlic knot to eat. He’s the type who doesn’t nap anymore, and doesn’t understand why he can’t take a toy boat that’s bigger than him to bed, when he’s tired. He’s the type who will happily sit around almost naked all day.

I can’t blame the poor kid. Think about it. What if you couldn’t tell time,  had zero responsibilities, and were completely dependent on someone else to provide for you?

What would you do?

Shoot, you’d probably sit around in your underwear , confused, wondering why you can’t eat garlic knots for breakfast, too!

 

 TODDLER quarantine life, PART DEUCES

KJ does not have any peers his age, to interact with.  B and J do try to entertain him, but the age gaps between them makes it hard. As such, KJ is usually left to his own imagination, to amuse himself.  Mr Sun is now his good friend, for instance.

 

It’s literally the sun.

 

I’ll also do the honors on a  daily basis, and try to play with him.  Man, if I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – never underestimate the imagination of a child.

KJ came up with this one game for us to play recently. Him and I were firefighters. We lived at the firehouse with our baby. I don’t know how we became parents to this kid, but bear with me.

We would then get an emergency call and have to go rushing to a room in the house, to deal with it. Did I mention that we had superpowers, too? And that we had to stop villains, in addition to putting out fires or rescuing people?

THEN, when we were done solving the emergency, we would come back to the fire house, but our baby was missing! So, we would have to try to find him in the house, as well.

This game went on for like two hours. Every nuance and plot twist was his idea.  It was basically the best/worst action movie that I could think of. Quentin Tarentino would be proud.

I’m not proud, Mike.

 

THE ENCINO MAN EFFECT

 

Remember that movie Encino Man? A caveman gets unfrozen in the modern age, and  early 90s, Pauly Shore-led hilarity ensues? Working at home with kids and living the quarantine life got me pondering this analogy.

What if I was frozen in January, and unfrozen last month? It would have been a huge culture shock, correct?  The city would have been like a ghost town. Few cars on the streets. Most stores closed.  Rec centres, movie theatres and other fun stuff closed.  No sports to watch. Long lineups to get into grocery stores. Not many people out and about.  Something called Zoom would be my go to app.

Ontario recently started to loosen up some of the stay home restrictions, in phases. We are currently in the early stages of this, proceeding with caution. The funny (not funny) thing is, though, if I  was unfrozen today……it wouldn’t be such a culture shock.

In my part of Hamilton, Ontario, anyway,  there is a lot more normalcy around town.  Large gatherings  of people hanging out shoulder to shoulder in their driveways. Groups of  neighborhood children playing together. Teen friends shooting hoops.  Drive-by birthday parties have become full-on birthday parties. I go by the nearby school (still closed), and the parking lot is half full of cars and people.

 

It makes me wonder…..is all of this too much, too soon? Should more responsibility be taken, in following the stay home recommendations? Or are we at the point where-stir craziness and mental well-being wins out over worrying about getting the coronavirus? Is the worst really behind us? I don’t know, man.  All I know is that if I was frozen today, and unfrozen six months later,  and I find out that we’re still dealing with second or third, or more, waves of outbreaks around here, I won’t be shocked.

I really hope not, though.

 

 

MIKE VS TICKETMASTER

 

On February 18,  I bought tickets on Ticketmaster for J and I to go to a NBA G-League game, for $18.10.  Toronto Raptors 905 vs. Capital City Go-Go game, March 24.

Weeks later, when things on the ol’ social calendar started to be crossed off due to coronavirus concerns, this was one of them. The G League suspended the season indefinitely on March 12. As of this writing, it has not resumed operations.  J and mine’s game was obviously not played.

I don’t know about you, but with life slowed down these days, looking into stuff more carefully has become a habit. A few weeks after the non-game, I found it odd that I hadn’t received any communication from Ticketmaster about a refund. I thought, from reading their policy before, that postponed/suspended events qualified for refunds. When I looked on Ticketmaster’s website at the time, however, the policy only referenced refunds for cancelled events.

I tried calling Ticketmaster for clarification, but after being on hold for a long time, I got disconnected. A quick look on the old Google machine, however, revealed that I wasn’t suffering from the Mandela Effect about  misremembering the refunds.  According to numerous articles, amidst the abundance of events being shelved because of the COVID-19 crisis, Ticketmaster quietly changed the wording of their policy. “Refunds are available if your event is postponed, rescheduled, or cancelled” apparently became “Refunds are available if your event is cancelled.”

Our non-game currently has a status of TBD, in terms of a date.

 

Since it hasn’t been cancelled (even though the likelihood of fan-attended games for any sport, any soon isn’t realistic), I’m out of luck for getting my $18.10 back. And look, I get it.

It’s only like twenty bucks, what’s the big deal? STOP COMPLAINING.

I’m sure that life at Ticketmaster the last few months must be pure chaos.  To their credit, due to the backlash, they have tweaked their refund policy. It kind of gives the event organizer more discretion in terms of giving refunds or not. So, in my case, I gotta wait on the G League to decide, as well.

While it’s only $18.10 for me, what if I had spent $181.10 per ticket, to see the Toronto Raptors play, and this was the case? What if I dropped $500 for concert tickets, only for the show to be rescheduled for an unknown date? What if, instead of working from home with kids, I  lost my job and needed the cash back? A lot of money is being held up right now by Ticketmaster. It’s understandable, given the uncertain economic climate….yet it still doesn’t seem right.

What does seem right, however, is wrapping this post up. Stay safe out there.  Until the next one, peace!

When all else fails……just dance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Guide To My Father’s Day Gifts, Throwback Edition

It’s almost Father’s Day season! That time of the year where dads everywhere are shown some love. Now, for many of us, that love is in the form of presents. Beautiful, glorious gifts, straight from the hearts of those who appreciate us the most.  In our household, the kiddos tend to hook me up nice. They put in work, making some sweet gifts for their old man, which they are dying to show me. Conversely, I’m dying to show you some from a few years ago. A lil inspiration for your own Fathers day gift ideas  in 2020.

 

So let’s get to it!

 

Yo, B and J, come here. Can I please see what you’ve created? Alright J, you first. What do you got?

 

Fathers day gift ideas 2020

 

Amazing artwork! I love them. You did these all by yourself? Wow, your penmanship is spectacular for a four year old.

Oh, what’s that?

You got me a medal, too? For being the World’s Greatest Dad? But I didn’t even know that I was in the running this year for it. I wasn’t even in the movie!

Yes, of course, I’ll put it on!

 

Fathers day gift ideas 2020

 

I’d like to thank my family, the Academy, and my fellow nominees, and…..sorry, let’s get back on track.

B, what did you make?

 

20160620_220743

 

Homemade BBQ rub! Yum! What’s your secret recipe?

Spicy peppers and sugar?

Delicious. Can’t wait to try it! Oh, you made some artwork, too? Sweet!

 

20160620_220906

 

A family portrait? Well done! Very true to life, right down to my bald head!

 

20160620_220839

 

A picture of us in our house.  Looks like there’s a party up in here, up in here! Word to DMX! What do you mean, who’s DMX?

Anyway, what are you doing?

Playing basketball? Cool.

Where am I going?

To play basketball? Yikes. The party must have been pretty lame.

You wrote a note, too? Aww, how sweet!

 

Fathers day gift ideas 2020

“Mom makes me happy. You make a great mom.”

 

Well, that’s a lovely thing to say about Mommy. I really was hoping, since its Father’s Day and all, that the note would have been for me, though….

Hey, is someone cutting onions? My eyes are starting to water.

Oh, you did make me one, too!

Thanks, B! I can’t wait to see it!

 

20160620_221006

 

Whoa. What did you try to say here?

“Shake your booty booty booty booty in daddy’s face. I hope you had a stinking Father’s Day.”

 

Son of a B!

WTF, dude. Stop giggling! Butts in the face are NOT a laughing matter.

Well this didn’t go as planned. As usual.

Time to wrap it up.

B, go to your room.

J, come listen to the rest of my acceptance speech for my World’s Greatest Dad award.

Happy Father’s Day, y’all. Hopefully this has been a useful in giving you some Fathers day gift ideas in 2020.

 

fathers day gift ideas 2020

Super Dad? Thanks, B!

The New Normal

 

We are currently living through extraordinary, catastrophic times, man. Not only that, but one of the worst parts about this COVID-19 novel coronavirus story is that we don’t know the ending.  Will it be happy, like the end of the TV show Friends? Or will it be disappointingly infuriating, like the end of the TV show Dexter? Who knows, dude. Until then, all that we can do is cross our fingers, and adjust our lives around the terms that have become part of our vernacular lately. Self-isolation. Self-quarantine. #stayhome.  Social distancing. Flatten the curve. The new normal.

The new normal.

Like you, my family’s daily routines have been completely overhauled, in our attempts to ride this out and not get sick.  How’s that you going, you ask?  Well……

 

ARTIST’S RENDITION

In the economic game of musical chairs, I currently am still working at my day job,  but just from home.  Because of societal musical chairs, public gatherings of five people or more are currently prohibited in Ontario.  As such, the kids and K (who’s a teacher) are also home.  And, in all honesty, it’s all good. Doom and gloom aside, it’s nice to hang out with the fam more.

With nowhere to go, it’s led to creative ways to entertain ourselves.  There’s an increase in puzzles, board games, instrument learning and streaming services in our house.  J is taking to making pictures of me, for unknown reasons, too  Here’s a painting that she drew, of yours truly:

 

I asked her why I’m yellow, and she said that it was because she didn’t have any brown.

 

Hue problem aside, it’s not bad. Unlike this one, though:

 

the new normal

 

She discreetly took a picture of me, to make a Nintendo “Mii”.  Yes, I realize that my Mii resembles a digital, pink-lipped Sherman Helmsley. And yes, I realize that I look like Keenan Thompson from Saturday Night Live in the picture.

 

YOU WISHED THAT YOU LOOKED THIS GOOD, MIKE!

Sorry, Keenan.

 

ATTENTION TO DETAIL

 

I’ve talked on here before about the continued development of little KJ. With his daycare closed, he’s home, and makes frequent visits to my workspace during the day.  Sometimes, it’s just to chit chat about whatever is on his three year old mind. We’ve discussed career ambitions (“Daddy! When my grow up, my want to be a butterfly!”), dietary habits (“Daddy, if my eat carrots, I’ll be bigger!” *eats carrots* “See, mine this big now”  *holds arms out as wide as he can*), and family history (“Daddy! When my brudder and sister were in my mommy’s tummy, my was older, too. My wasn’t scared!”).

Sometimes,  he requires my assistance. For instance, he dictated a story to me once, and had me draw it out for him:

 

The Joker. What a jerk.

 

And sometimes, he just wants to chill out with me:

 

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to work at home with kids….it’s this.

 

game over

With B being our oldest, he gets what’s going on the most. He’s been the most affected by it, as well. His life, like many 10 year olds, revolves around sports, school, and video games. Two of those three have been removed from the equation.  As a result, he has leaned heavily into his one remaining old normal avenue, in these times of the new normal.

For real, I don’t mind the gaming. If he can’t physically talk to, and play with, his buddies, doing so virtually is better than nothing. The problem is trying to get him off to do something else…..when there isn’t much else to do.  Many a time of me yelling at him to go outside, for some exercise, is usually met with “BUT I’M PLAYING WITH MY FRIENDS!”.

If B had his way, he would probably disappear into the basement at the break of dawn, play games all day, and emerge at night, red-eyed, with a five o’ clock shadow. OK, I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea.

 

you gon’ learn today!

 

It’s not all fun and games. K and I have been doing some homeschooling, and (more recently since the curriculum was just launched in Ontario as of this writing) online learning, as well.  It’s…..going.  I’d like to say that, with so much free time, B and J are eager, model students,  thirsty for knowledge from bottomless learning cups provided by their parents.

I’d also like to say that my dad bod stomach has turned into a six pack.

Neither of these statements are true.

 

i spy

 

 

Remember that episode of The Simpsons, where Bart breaks his leg, and, while recovering in his bedroom, starts to get the wrong idea that his neighbour was a murderer?  I’m not saying my neighbours are killers, don’t get it twisted. However, my workspace is by a window,  which leads to occasionally peeking out of it.  There’s such a monotony of joggers, family bike rides and dog walkers passing by during the day, that anything else has my mind playin’ tricks on me.

A Purolator truck with a big package?  Exciting! I wonder what they ordered!

A husband leaves his home, then hours later, another man in a van pulls up, and goes into the house with a toolbox. Service call by the wife? Or something else? Ooooooh, scandalous!!!

Shoot, my one neighbour wasn’t quick on picking up their bins on garbage day, and I was seriously considering contacting the police about a house call, to see if they were alright.

The old me wouldn’t have noticed any of this stuff.  Why does the new normal involve me being a nosy neighbour?!

 

 the ish

I know what you’re thinking.

“But Mike, what about your family’s toilet paper situation?”

OK, you probably weren’t thinking that, but the answer is…….we good.

See,  being on the outskirts of Hamilton means everything is a drive. Let’s say that I need to pick up some toilet paper, eggs and milk. My options that are up to a 20ish minute trip away include Freshco (x3), Fortinos (x2), Walmart (x2), Costco (x2), Real Canadian Superstore, Food Basics, No Frills (x2), Lococo’s, Zarky’s, Sobey’s, Metro, Shopper’s Drug Mart (x too many to count), and Foodland.  Plus, Amazon Prime has a program where they will send you the same products every month recurring…..and we’re signed up for that, to receive toilet paper.

Hoarders be hoarding, cool. But in our case, with so many options at our disposal, we have been able to get by fine, so far. Just don’t get any ideas about stealing my limited supply, though, please, if the hoarders turn out to be right.

Y’all dancing on TikTok to combat boredom, while I’m taking tough guy selfies with a chain to combat would-be TP thieves. We’ll see who wipes, I mean, laughs, last!

 

 

The old normal seems like a distant memory already. We have gone from looking at Wuhan, and thinking that there’s no way what happened there could happen here,  to looking at the new normal and thinking if what used to happen here will ever happen again.  Stay safe and smart, folks.

Until the next one, peace!

The Pull – Dad 2.0 Summit

dad 2.0 summit

 

 

The first time that I attended a Dad 2.0 Summit, 2017 in San Diego, I wrote about ‘the push’ of going to it. I recently went to my second Dad 2.0 Summit, in Washington, D.C.  This time, I would describe the experience as more of a pull, than a push.

For the uninformed, the Dad 2.0 Summit, per their own words, is  an open conversation about the commercial power of dads online, and an opportunity to learn the tools and tactics used by influential bloggers to create high-quality content, build personal brands, and develop business ideas.  Since I started blogging way back in 2013 (!!), I’ve watched, mostly from afar with a keen eye, this annual conference grow and evolve.

In 2017, I was fortunate enough to be given an Oren Miller Scholarship, to help offset some of the travel costs, as well as being selected to be a featured Porchlight Post reader. Both of these spells of good luck pushed me into attending, where I then spent most of my time at the conference feeling overwhelmed and nervous. Looking back, I regretted not soaking in more of what was presented. I did still somehow walk out of there with a newfound sense of excitement in myself, this whole Daddy Realness thing, and my parenting abilities. It was as if my imaginary cup was full. Full of hope, knowledge, opportunity, connections and pride.

Several unattended Summits later, I realized that I missed that feeling. It was as if my cup was empty.  As such, this urge to refill it, as well as having a better game plan to take advantage of the Summit’s offerings, is what pulled me into going to Washington for three days. Well, two and a half days actually, by the time that I got to the venue (The Mandarin Oriental Hotel), because of numerous flight cancellations and delays, but you get the idea.

 

washington library of congress

Delays or not, you still have to find time to do some sightseeing!

 

 

While Dad 2.0 has evolved, one thing that remains the same is that it really brings together the dad blogger/content creator/inlfluencer community. I think that the main appeal for many attendees is being able to reconnect in person with their online friends once a year.  People who aren’t into the scene as much anymore, because their kids are older, still come to see their buddies, for example.

While I am a part of the community….I’m a small, not very vocal part. Also, the conference ran Thursday-Saturday, with the Thursday mostly being a day for networking, especially for new attendees; I was only there Friday afternoon-Sunday.  I immediately felt a bit like an outsider.

I don’t say this to scare you off from attending, or to make you pity da fool. I did find a roommate (which I highly recommend doing, if you go), and we were lucky enough to be upgraded to a suite at the Mandarin Oriental. A luxury suite in a luxury hotel is as fancy as you’re probably imagining it to be, trust me.

 

 

Mandarin Oriental Washington DC

If you’ve ever wondered what the lap of luxury looks like…it’s this.

 

 

Also, the community is very open and accepting. Lack of photo evidence aside, I did hang out with LOTS of cool, fascinating people. From dads just starting out their blogs, to dads with blue checks next to their names on social media. From men and women without blogs, to YouTubers with hundreds of thousands of followers. From podcasters looking to take things to the next level, to next level, esteemed, award-winning writers.  My best example of this acceptance was on Friday night. While walking around by myself looking for a cash bar (long story), I stumbled upon a group of Jewish attendees celebrating the start of Shabbat, and remembering the late, beloved dad blogger Oren Miller with prayer. Instead of telling me to leave, they explained what was going on, and invited me to stay, which I happily did.

This meetup took place before Dad Voices, a popular event where people read a piece of their work before an appreciate audience. I read one  of my typical irreverent posts. Some guys chose to go the funny route. A lot of guys, though, read personal, vulnerable ones. Laughs were shared, but more tears were shed. Between that, and the earlier Shabbat celebration, it was an emotional night, to say the least.

Besides the bonding,  Dad 2.0 is also about the bizness, with lots of opportunities provided to listen to, and engage in, all facets of it. I tried to soak in as much information as I could, as it really was invaluable. There were many workshops, sessions, and speakers covering stuff like the numerous technical sides of blogging, improving brand relationships, and coping with substance abuse.  One of the most well-received featured speakers this year, Donte Palmer, discussed how an incident where he had to squat in a men’s washroom to change his child’s diaper went viral, and led to him creating the Squat For Change initiative.  It’s crazy that one day, you’re just a regular dude struggling with a diaper, and the next day, you’re breaking down all kinds of barriers, leading a nationwide movement!

 

dad 2.0 summit

 

 

Along those lines, several of the brands in attendance were also looking for “dadvocates” to help lead their own movements, like Dove Men + Care advocating paid paternity leave, and Responsibility.Org striving to eliminate drunk driving. I remember, years ago, the Dad 2.0 folks were highly motivated in trying to change the bumbling/absentee father stereotypes often seen in the media. While there is still work to be done on that front, it’s cool to see the shift in the thinking to issues on a grander scale.

At the closing reception, the founders of Dad 2.0 announced that they would be holding smaller, frequent, more focused gatherings in the future, starting with  Los Angeles in October. I don’t know when, if ever, I’ll be pulled into attending one of these again. I do know that, as I walked out of the Mandarin Oriental Sunday morning to start my journey home, my cup wasn’t just full.

It was overflowing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three’s Company

 

 

Today’s post is brought to you by the number three. You see, three is a big time number in our house, especially recently, as our third child, KJ, recently turned three years old! Since having a third child, we have been regularly asked three questions:

  1. You have three kids?! This is always asked in a shocked voice,  by anyone who has less than three children.
  2. When are you having more?  In my head, I follow up by  giving the person a crisp slap to the face, for asking such a bananas question. In reality, I just laugh it off.
  3. So who is the third kid most like?

Now this. This is a thinker. As KJ entered into the threes, he really has developed his own  personality, to say the least. For example:

 

CLOTHING OPTIONAL

Despite not living at a nudist resort, or coming from a family of exhibitionists,  KJ loves to not wear any clothes.  On a typical evening, I’ll come home from work, and find him in nothing but a diaper, looking like Mowgli from The Jungle Book.

You might be thinking “But that’s cute, Mike. What’s the big deal?”. And sometimes, it is cute. Conversely, sometimes, when I’m trying to get him ready to go to daycare in the morning, and he’s refusing to get dressed, it’s not so cute. There are some things that you just can’t force someone to do.  As a fun family game tonight, ask your kids to put a shirt and a pair of pants on you, but make this as humanly difficult as possible on them. You’d be surprised at the number of ways that there are to accomplish this.  You’ll win every time! Anyway, I’ve loaded KJ’s diaper-only clad butt in my car on more than one occasion (because he wins every time). That, my dudes, ain’t so cute.

This happened, too, not long ago:

 

 

That right there is KJ standing shoeless on a busy winter afternoon in downtown Toronto. If you’ve never done this before….I don’t recommend it.

 

enunciation IS A WORK IN PROGRESS

 

KJ’s vocab game is ever-improving. His pronunciation and sentence-making skills are coming along, too. He still has his moments, though. For instance, I took him with me to J’s basketball recently, and we had this conversation while sitting on the sidelines:

KJ – You made me crap!

Me (looking around nervously, to see if anyone else heard) – What did I do?!

KJ  (louder) – You made me crap! With your legs!

Me (stunned silence)

KJ – Crap me with your legs! Now!

At this point, I had no idea what he was talking about, so I just sat there with my legs spread. He then crawled between them, and pulled them together, so they were closed around him.

KJ – See? Crap!

I then realized that he meant to say trap.  No bowel-moving maneuvers needed.

 

FICKLE, FICKLE, FICKLE!

 

When KJ is unhappy, we understand him loud and clear, because he will articulate his feelings loudly and clearly.  In his little world, the most petty things tick him off.  He’ll look at me pouting, and say “Dad, I’m so mad at you.” The reasons for the rage have ranged from understandable ones, like he didn’t want to stop watching his tablet, to irrational ones, like he didn’t love the voices that I made for the toys we were playing with, or he wanted two ice cubes in his sippy cup, but I only gave him one.

 

 

A CAREER IN COMEDY DOESN’T SEEM PROMISING

 

KJ – Knock knock.

Me – Who’s there?

KJ –  My dad is so nice!

Me – My dad is so nice who?

KJ – My dad is so nice because he is nice.

And that was the joke.

*crickets*

He also thinks it’s hilarious to pinch my nose and ask if I’m Batman.

 

*tumbleweed blows by*

 

OK. This is pretty funny. When’s the next open mic night?

 

how rude!

 

KJ’s perception of me has changed as he’s entered into the threes, as well.  For some reason, he thinks our bedroom closet is my “room”, as if I go there every night, and curl up on a shelf to sleep, snuggled up in Drake shirts, with In My Feelings as my lullaby.

Furthermore,  before, he thought this WWE action figure was me:

 

 

Professional wrestler Shelton Benjamin. Big, strong, muscular, handsome. I’ll take it!

Lately, though, he has called me this:

 

A half completed, goofy Mr. Potato Head?!  I’m a bit of a hesi-tater when it comes to an una-peel-ing comparison!

 

 

This:

 

A broken, ancient toy car? I’m not as young or as fast as I used to be, but c’mon!

 

And this:

 

If I were a firefighter, it wouldn’t be so bad. However, I am not. When I told this to J, she asked if I liked black shoes (sure?) and flashlights (I guess?). She then shrugged and said “close enough”.

 

So who is KJ most alike in our family? The answer can be summed up in three words:

“Uh, no one.”

 

And with that, this post is a wrap. Triples!

Wait, I mean deuces!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stone Cold Truth About Hot Air Balloon Rides

hot air balloon ride

 

 

Greetings, fly guys and fly girls! If you ever considered going on a hot air balloon ride, but don’t know what you’re getting into, then you’ve come to the right spot.  Last summer, my daughter and I took flight in a hot air balloon, compliments of my friends at the US Hot Air Balloon Team. Boy, let me tell me you, the experience was something else! And as a certified balloonatic (OK, not really), I figure that gives me enough credibility (this is probably wrong, too)  to debunk myths and spit hot truths about  hot air balloon rides.

 

 

YOU CAN’T GO ON A HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE ANYTIME OF THE DAY

 

Ever notice that you’ve never looked up in sky during lunchtime in the summer, and seen a hot air balloon floating by? Me neither, but there is a reason for that.  A hot air balloon ride is very susceptible to weather, and can only fly in the most stable of  conditions. For scientific and technical reasons beyond my pay grade, this happens to be before dawn or occasionally at dusk.

For J and I, this meant taking a 45 minute long Uber ride at 4:30AM from our hotel to the heart of Amish country in Pennsylvania, Bird In Hand. We had to arrive by 5:30AM, at the US Hot Air Balloon Team’s headquarters. If you’ve ever wanted to wake roosters up, instead of vice versa, I highly recommend taking early morning hot air balloon rides. Also, to give you an idea of the high volatility/subjectivity of ballooning, ours was a shared flight, with two long-time friends, and an older couple. This was the older couple’s sixth attempt at trying to take a hot air balloon ride, as every other time that they tried, it ended up being cancelled because of the weather. Talk about your hardcore balloonatics!

 

 

THE CHASE

Unlike an airplane, hot air balloons do not need an airport to depart from. After we arrived at the headquarters, we were then transported via white van to the launch point, which was just an open field. The van’s driver and navigator also doubled as set up and take down crew. Most interesting, though, is that the van was a chase vehicle. While in the air, the van followed the balloon around, until it landed.  Watching this lonely white vehicle on the empty roads from high in the sky,  kind of made me feel like a journalist in a chopper following OJ Simpson’s Bronco. Kind of.

 

 

up,  up, and…..in?

 

At the launch point,  the crew setup the hot air balloon, which was much larger in person (like, small building-sized) and inflate it. I then realized that the basket, which was also larger in person (the size of a small car, and about chest level high) didn’t have a door. So how the heck do you get in it, you ask?

The answer is….not delicately.

The older couple weren’t especially agile, for lack of a better term, especially the wife. They thought that the basket would be on its side, and that they would get in, sit on the bottom, and wait for the inflated balloon to  pull it upright.

This wasn’t the case, though.

The crew are there to assist, but for the most part, you’re on your own, to enter the basket. In the couple’s case, the crew gently helped lift the wife up, and over, the edge of it. In the husband’s case, he climbed in on his own, with some struggle. When it came to J’s case, I gave her a boost and dropped her in, since the basket was too high for her to climb  on her own. In my case, I tried to clear the edge by leaping over it, like how this guy jumped over the wrestling ropes. Spoiler alert: my leap was U-G-L-Y, and I ain’t got no alibi:

 

 

 

 

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

 

Once you’re in, there is nowhere to go but up. For real, when in flight, the experience of hot air balloon rides is as breathtaking as you probably imagine it to be. Our US Hot Air Balloon ride was over miles of farmland in Amish country.  Picturesque views of the Pennsylvania landscape stretched as far as the eye could see.  The world seems so different when you’re gliding through the sky, thousands of feet in the air. Surprisingly, it was very quiet. Besides the chit chat of those on board, the only sound was the hissing of the burners. At one point, we could hear dogs barking below!

 

hot air balloon ride experience

 

BE PREPARED FOR A CRASH LANDING

 

Unlike planes, hot air balloons don’t just land on a runway. In our case, the pilots pointed out a spot in an open field that looked land-able, called down to the chase vehicle to see if it was OK or not, and after receiving affirmation, started the descent. They actually missed the spot, then had to re-ascend, and get the chase vehicle to confirm another location.

Unlike planes, hot air balloons don’t have wheels, to roll into a gentle landing. They literally just crash into the ground. Now depending on how skilled your pilot is, the crash landing varies in gentleness. In our case, it knocked me off of my feet (word to Stevie Wonder!), because I didn’t have time to brace myself, and J  went tumbling into the side of the basket.

This was considered a good landing.

 

 

So….crash, and dash?

 

Once on the ground, you don’t just leave the balloon, and take off in the chase vehicle. Everything needs to be packed up, too. One of the dudes in the crew was jacked (re: very muscular), and he had the job of doing most of the heavy lifting (fun fact: a deflated hot air balloon still weighs a lot).  I tried to help where I could, as well, though. We happened to be in an Amish family’s farm, so they all came out, too see what all the commotion was. I’m sure the scene was quite the culture shock to them! Once the van was loaded up, we headed back to the headquarters, where we celebrated our save travels with the traditional balloonist champagne toast. J had orange juice, by the way, so stop wagging your fingers, people.

 

 

ARE HOT AIR BALLOONS RIDES SAFE?

 

Aww, the proverbial elephant in the room, err, post.  Are hot air balloons safe?

The answer is….I think so? I mean, it is a pretty outdated mode of transportation.  When you’re planning a trip on Google Maps, a balloon is never an option for the fastest way there. It’s all for pleasure and enjoyment now, based on skills and techniques developed over centuries of balloon aviation.

Whereas, for example, people a long time ago stopped riding those bikes with the giant wheels, because of how dangerous they were, ballooning remains a popular past time today. If they weren’t suitable, they wouldn’t still be a “thing”, right? The accident rates online seem to support hot air balloons as being fairly safe, too.

J couldn’t peak over the edge unless I lifted her up, so there was no concern of the basket rocking, if that’s what you’re thinking (or at least that’s what I was thinking, after watching that episode of Family Matters recently, where Steve Urkel and Carl go up in a hot air balloon, and that’s what happens to Carl). The basket’s floor was sturdy, too. So, to me, as someone who is pretty cautious, somewhat afraid of heights, and flying with a child, I didn’t feel like we were in any real danger….except during the landing, as mentioned.

All in all, hot air balloon rides, while not for everyone, are a really cool experience.  I’d recommend them anyone looking to book a flight with their kids, if they’re up for it.

Until the next one, you balloonatics,  peace!

 

are hot air balloons safe

 

 

 

Disclaimer: we received a complimentary flight from US Hot Air Balloon Team while on a press trip in Hershey, PA. All opinions expressed are mine, as always.

 

The Uninformed Parent’s Guide to TikTok

Parent's guide to Tik Tok

 

Today, we’re talking about what is TikTok!

Now, if you’re over the age of 25, this may or may not mean anything to you. However, if you have kids under the age of 25, especially teenaged ones or younger, it should mean something to you. I am by no means a TikTok expert (TikTokspert?).  However, I have had some experiences with it, courtesy of  my son B, who’s currently 10 years old. Since I’ve talked to other parents who don’t know squat about TikTok, I figured that I’d share my limited knowledge in the form of a parent’s guide to TikTok. Let’s do this, FAQ- style!

 

I love Ke$ha! Tik Tok is my jam!

 

Sorry, person-older-than-TikTok’s-main-demographic. I’m not talking about that classic song.

 

Oh. So what are you you talking about?

 

I’m talking about TikTok, the social media app that has, as of this writing, over 1.65 billion downloads  and 800 million monthly active users.

 

That’s a lot of people waking up feeling like P. Diddy! What is TikTok, exactly?

 

Still not talking about the Ke$ha song, dude. Anyway, TikTok is an app from China, where users can upload short form videos and share them on the network. The videos are usually only a few seconds long and musically oriented. Lots of lip-syncing, dancing, singing, and random clips set to songs are what you can expect to find on it. Plenty of memes and challenges, too.  You know how you saw Ellen dancing to Old Town Road by Lil Nas X, and you pretended to know the song, when you really hadn’t heard it before?

 

I remember that day well.

 

A big part of that song’s initial popularity was because of how it blew up on TikTok, by people using it in their videos.

 

So TikTok  iS like YouTube for people who can’t be bothered to watch videos longer than a minute long?? No wonder kids like it.

 

Not exactly. But yeah, kids do seem to love this app.  Some of the stuff on there is pretty entertaining.  Plus, with all the silly filters and effects available when creating the videos, it’s a fun way to flash some creativity.

 

 

Sounds awesome! I’m going to sign my seven year old up for it ASAP!

 

Hey slow down, pal. TikTok has a minimum age requirement of 13 years old.

 

But you signed your 10 year old up for it!

 

We did, and, in retrospect, it was a mistake. The first time that B had an account, it was because a lot of his schoolmates were on it, and he had a case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out. I’m down with that Gen Z lingo, too, sometimes. Not really).  One thing with TikTok is that, unless you change the settings, anything you upload can be seen by anyone. K and I let B have an account,  and monitored what he was posting, but not as closely as we should have. It’s easy, especially if you’re young and  impressionable, to get caught up in likes/followers/comments chasing.   Long story short,  in most likely an effort to impress his friends, B posted some stuff that was reckless, embarrassing and inappropriate for a child of his age, so we deleted his account.

 

is tiktok safe for kids

 

 

Did you say the first time?! You mean you let him have an account after this?

 

Sigh. Yes, we did.  We thought B had learned his lesson, and was going to be more responsible.  So, like his fondness for Fortnite, we gave him another chance. And, for a while, he was OK. His videos were mostly just self-made highlight reels of him playing basketball in his room, set to non-explicit songs. I mentioned before that TikTok is a social app, and another aspect to that is the ability to direct message people. Yes, you can slide into DMs (more Gen Z lingo!) on TikTok. Anyway, long story short again, but more recklessness happened.  For example, he sneakily pulled an all-nighter one Wednesday night, to screw around on TikTok (with predictable sleep-deprived results the next day). He also posted a video in which he was lucky to have not resulted in more serious ramifications than it did.  Because of those, and some other incidents, we deleted his new account, for good this time.

 

And the award for “Parents Of The Year” goes to.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We screwed up.  Every kid is different, right? You want to instil a sense of trust and responsibility in your children, and when it doesn’t work out, it sucks. On the surface, most social media has lots of redeeming qualities, like the positive interaction with your peers. Beneath that, though, sometimes, lies a toxic, addictive cesspool.

 

 

what is tiktok

 

Daaaaang, Gina! Tell us how you really feel.

 

I’m just sayin’, you can’t be too careful when it comes to monitoring your kids’ TikTok usage. For instance, it’s all username based, unlike Facebook or Instagram. Say your friend is named Tyrone Biggums, and you want to follow him on TikTok. You can’t just search up Tyrone Biggums.  He might have changed his username to AshyLarry or something. It really does take some effort to find your friends.

I remember B showing me  a video that a girl at his school had made, which was pointless and dumb, but had a lot of likes. I quickly looked at her account, and all her videos were in the same vain, but she had, relatively speaking, a lot of followers. When I thought of how ‘out there’ she was,  how anyone with or without an account could watch her videos, and how fairly anonymous most of her followers could have been, it made me wonder. Who exactly was following this little girl and why? How many of these people were trying to slide into her DMs?

 

Is TikTok SAFE FOR KIDS, OR IS IT full of creepy perverts?!?

 

I….I don’t know. I’m also just a dad with a blog with limited experience with this app. I’m guessing, at the very least, it has the same ratio of normal people to predatory creeps as anything else online, but it’s impossible to know for sure.

 

Besides monitoring, is there anything else that I can do to protect my child on TikTok?

 

To their credit, TikTok does have numerous parental controls and privacy measures available, which can help you in this regard. It’s also a great idea to talk to them about cyberbullying, and about making smart choices online.

 

You’ve said a lot, but I still don’t get TikTok, or its appeal. I’m too old for this app.

 

Nice self awareness. While you don’t have to like it, you should get used to it, as, data breach controversy aside,  TikTok most likely isn’t going anywhere  anytime soon.

Shoot, like all cool, hip things of the moment, more and more businesses are jumping on the TikTok bandwagon too, as a way to build brand awareness. If you really want to win brownie points at your work, tell your boss that you want to open and run your company’s TikTok account.

 

Well, if you want to win brownie points, you know what to do.

Nope!

 

Just do it.  c’MON. We’re about done here anyway.

 

True.

Fine, here you go. And happy TikToking. Be safe out there, folks:

 

 

 

24 Hours In Detroit

 

24 hours in Detroit

 

 

Even though Detroit has a rich music history,  there’s a case to be made that the city’s theme song should be “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett. Indeed, to outsiders like me, Detroit has a perception for being dangerous, unsafe and having a struggling economy. So, with that in mind, I figured a perfect road trip for my family would be to spend 24 hours in Detroit!

Whoa.

Reading that out loud makes it sound like a terrible idea. Anyway, there are actually  plenty of things to do in Detroit with kids, that are safe and fun. During our brief time there, we scratched the surface of Motown’s sights and sounds like a DJ playing a vinyl record on a turntable.  While that probably doesn’t make me qualified to give you and your family a guide of things to do if you’re spending 24 hours in Detroit, it’s too late now. To quote Marvin Gaye, let’s get it on!

 

 WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKENHEARTED LIONS FAN?

 

Detroit is a serious sports town, with professional teams  represented across all four of the North American Big Four leagues. For the family of sports fans, you could base a short road trip to Detroit around attending a Tigers, Lions, Pistons or Red Wings game. This is actually what we did, as we were fortunate enough to check out an NFL game for free, courtesy of my friends at the Detroit Lions!

 

Ford Field review

 

Now, almost every sporting event that we have been to over the last 10 years has been with a kid who was still in diapers, thus requiring us to bring a diaper bag. To our chagrin, the NFL ain’t about that. They have a  strict clear bag policy  and diaper bags are prohibited. Attempts to find an approved bag beforehand, last minute, were futile, so we Macgyvered a solution:

 

NFL Clear Bag Policy

Our diaper bag for the day.

 

I tried to get clever with it, once we got inside the stadium. I stopped by a merchandise stand, and asked if they could give me a plastic bag. They, not surprisingly, said no, unless I bought something. I promptly purchased an official Detroit Lions clear bag, which I will probably never use again, but made for a nice souvenir.

Of the five people in my family, only B and I would consider ourselves true football fans. As such, the off-field stuff would need to be as on point as the on-field product, to entertain my clan.  While we didn’t partake in any tailgating, we did arrive at Ford Field early, to check out the pre-game festivities. To the Lions’ credit, they did a pretty good job of getting even neutral bystanders like us to buy into the #onepride spirit.  Games were set up, with chances to win Lions swag.  A drumline roamed the stadium, playing some hyped-up jams. A live band rocked out near one of the gates, which had people dancing in the streets.

 

things to do in detroit with kids.

Coincidentally, Martha Reeves, who sang “Dancing In The Streets” with the Vandellas, was even in attendance.

 

Ford Field doesn’t wow you with anything, but everything about the stadium is OK, if that makes sense.  As we wandered around Ford Field, I noticed that the concourses were very wide and spacious. I didn’t worry much about losing my kids in a crowd, as they were always within site.  Guest services was helpful in this regard too, as they provided us wristbands which K and I wrote our contact information and the kids’ names on, for them to wear. Food and drink options were plentiful. The washrooms weren’t disgusting. Our complimentary seats were in the 100 level. Great sight lines, and comfortable enough.

 

 

24 hours in detroit

 

 

I’ve been to  football games before where drunk and belligerent fools made the experience less than family-friendly. Luckily, this wasn’t the case at our Lions game. The crowd was very lively and rawkus, but I didn’t see anyone being too out of control. Well, besides little KJ, I mean. He developed cranky toddleritis, so we had to leave before the game ended. This was for the good, as the Lions ended up losing in last-second, heartbreaking fashion. Beyond that, it was a solid afternoon of pigskin action, and I wouldn’t find checking out a Lions game again, in the future!

 

knocks me off my feet (to sleep)

 

Now, a good chunk of our 24 hours in Detroit was obviously dedicated to the Lions game. However, we still needed a place to rest our heads.  If sports are the purpose of your trip, like ours, Ford Field, Comerica Park (where the Detroit Tigers play) and Little Caesars Arena (home of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons) are located downtown.  As such,  it makes sense to try to stay downtown.

When looking into hotels, I found ones located in downtown Detroit to be a bit on the pricier side.  For the most part, parking was an extra cost, too. The rates were not insignificant at that ($30 and up), especially if in and out privileges weren’t included. If you just plan on taking public transportation/taxis/Ubers around, this isn’t a big deal, of course. For us,  it was potentially a costly issue.

We ended up staying at a Holiday Inn Express in Allen Park, Michigan, which is a 15 minute drive in the southwest direction from downtown Detroit.  The room was about half the price of similarly rated rooms near Ford Field, plus free parking.  This seemed to be typical of most hotels located outside of downtown, either in surrounding neighbourhoods or bordering cities. Speaking of that….

WHAT’S GOIN’ ON (in detroit)?

 

downtown detroit

 

Look, man, there’s no way to sugarcoat it.  Detroit is known for being a violent, unsafe city. When looking up hotels, I did do location research, too, to see what the crime vibe was like. I’m not trying to perpetuate any stereotypes. I’m just saying, in my case, a van with Canadian license plates, not in Canada, just screams tourist. This can be a petty criminal’s dream in any city with unreputable areas. It’s a good idea to be cognisant of these areas.

 

 

stop! in the name of the love of sightseeing!

 

When driving through, and walking around, downtown Detroit, the efforts to revitalize this neighbourhood were noticeable. Contemporary looking buildings are numerous, and beautiful artwork dots the streets.  While the weather was too rainy for them on our visit, the Detroit Riverfront  and Campus Meritus Park looked like fun places to take the family for some outdoor quality time.  There were many theatres and concert venues downtown, too, which I guess is to be expected from a city with a rich music history like Motown.

 

 

 

Once you start to venture outside of downtown, things in the city start to look more….gritty, for lack of a better term. Some of the more popular tourist spots are sprinkled all over the town, which allows you to see the grittiness up close.  If you only have 24 hours in Detroit, hitting up at least one of the tourist attractions really is a must, though.

For example, music lovers will appreciate a trip to Hitsville, USA, to check out the Motown Museum.  For hardcore and casual art enthusiasts,  the Detroit Institute Of the Arts and its huge collection is what’s up.   In our case, my friends at Visit Detroit hooked us up with complimentary tickets to The Henry Ford, so we had the pleasure of checking that place out.

The Henry Ford is the brainchild of, you guessed it, Henry Ford. It’s located in Dearborn, Michigan and is a huge indoor/outdoor museum complex, with the overriding theme of it being a tribute to Americana. The campus is home to the Henry Ford Museum Of Innovation, Greenfield Village, the Ford Rouge Factory and a giant 4K screen. We focused our attention on the artifacts, exhibits and memorabilia of the Henry Ford Museum. There were lots of hands on activities, and things to climb on/in, which was great, in term of keeping B, J and KJ engaged. The amount of cool, eye-opening stuff to be seen was impressive.

 

the henry ford museum

The Kennedy Presidential Limousine.

 

 

the henry ford museum

Paper Planes weren’t M.IA. in this exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum.

 

 

I do wish that we explored Greenfield Village (which features, among many highlights, one of Thomas Edison’s lab), but weather and timing did not permit this. Regardless, The Henry Ford was awesome. Just be sure to budget a fair chunk of your 24 hours in Detroit there accordingly, if you go.

 

 

the henry ford museum

 

One other comment. On the way back to Canada, my kids really got a kick out of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. The whole ‘being underwater to cross the border’ aspect was pretty neat (though not recommended for any claustrophobes).

 

TAKEOUT, OR SIGN, SEALED, DELIVERED?

 

If you’re like me,  your knowledge of Detroit cuisine consists of Little Caesars Pizza and Eminen’s mom’s spaghetti.  You probably aren’t like me, however. Anyhoo, Detroit’s food scene is quite dynamic. On the one hand, the rejuvenated downtown core is littered with trendy, hip restaurants. On the other hand, Motor City is still a blue collar town, and the dining options tend to reflect this.

One thing that my family and I were confused about  was why there were so many Coney Island restaurants, as we had never heard of them before. Turns out that these are a  Detroit staple, and the Coney dog is one of the city’s signature foods. Detroiters love these pseudo-gourmet hot dogs the same way that my fellow Hamiltonians love Tim Horton’s coffee, apparently.   Alas, I was not able to convince my family to indulge in one of these Detroit delicacies, as tasty as the sounded.

 

you heard it through the grapevine

 

downtown detroit

Note: this is not a grapevine.

 

When it comes to visiting Motown,  the city isn’t nearly as bad as its reputation.  Not once did I feel like myself or my family where in any imminent danger during our 24 hours in Detroit.  Just take the usual precautions that you would, when going to any major city, and you should be alright.  I got the impression that it is slowly improving, one neighbourhood at a time. It’s truly a proud, unique place, and while living there may be a different story, I enjoyed our brief time in town.

 

 

24 hours in detroit

Until the next one, peace out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Definitive Guide To Splash Lagoon in Erie PA

Splash Lagoon Erie PA

 

Believe it or not, I’m Canadian…but I hate the winter.  Some people love dealing with that cold, numbing feeling of the wind chill hitting your face. I’m not one of them. Escaping potential frostbite to go somewhere warm and sunny isn’t really in the cards, either. Luckily, however, there are places not far from me (or anyone else in the Greater Toronto Area)  to temporarily get away for some summer-like fun. Places like Splash Lagoon  in Erie, PA!

 

 

What is Splash Lagoon in erie pa?

 

Splash Lagoon is an indoor, Polynesian-themed waterpark, located in Erie, PA. At 80,000 square feet, it’s one of the biggest indoor waterparks in the USA. It’s full of aquatic activities (and more) for people of all ages, set to a tropical theme/design.

 

 

GETTING THERE

 

Erie, Pennsylvania is located about two hours southwest from the Niagara Falls border (or the comparable indoor waterpark to Splash Lagoon in Niagara, Great Wolf Lodge). This worked out to a three hour drive for us. When travelling with three small kids, this is about as good as it gets, time-wise, for a road trip. It’s almost doable in one drive, without having to stop for bathroom breaks. Also, you can schedule it so that you can hit the road after a meal at home, negating the need to stop for food along the way. Just throw on The Irishman for them to watch, and by the time that it’s almost over, you’ll be there (note: that was joke. I do not advise showing The Irishman to little children).

 

 

staying there – SPLASH LAGOON ERIE PA

 

I mentioned Great Wolf Lodge earlier, because that is more of the go-to waterpark destination, for families in my region.  My family has stayed at Great Wolf Lodge several times before. I will say that Splash Lagoon is different, but in a good way.

The experience at Great Wolf Lodge is pretty immersive.  Everything at the resort, from the hotel rooms on-site, to the waterpark, to the decor, to the  games and restaurants, all have the same kind of nature-y, rustic theme. The thing is, though, that you really pay for the immersiveness, as an overnight visit can be quite pricey.  You also can’t easily obtain day passes only, to visit the park.  If you want to get your swim on, you gotta get your sleep on there, too.

Splash Lagoon, on the other hand, is its own standalone place. However, it has three hotels connected to it: Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Inn and Hawthorn Inn & Suites. These have stay and play package deals which include passes to Splash Lagoon. The good thing about these, of course, is that you can stroll from your hotel room to Splash Lagoon in just your Speedo, without having to set foot outside in the frosty winter elements (note: that was a joke. I do not condone unwanted Speedo strolls. Think of the kids, people). If these don’t float your boat, a few of the nearby hotels also offer overnight package deals, and include a shuttle service Splash Lagoon, too.  Then, if none of these are appealing for whatever reason, you are able to just buy day passes to Splash Lagoon, and stay somewhere else .

 

Holiday Inn Express Erie PA

 

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Erie PA, which is the closest hotel, proximity-wise, to Splash Lagoon.  Our stay was complimentary, but the rates online for a stay package were more affordably priced than Great Wolf Lodge.  Our room was suitably clean and tidy. Breakfast was included, too. With a family of five, anytime that you have one less meal to worry about is always nice.

One more thing. The Peace Bridge Duty Free store, near the Canadian border, also promotes Splash Lagoon overnight deals, that seemed to be very reasonable, so keep an eye out there, too, when booking  a stay.

 

 

playing there (water)

 

Alright, now let’s get to the wet and wild stuff! Over two days, my family experienced  almost every attraction. Instead of a typical Splash Lagoon review, though, I’ll break them down for you, by age appeal and appropriateness. And yes, Splash Lagoon does have life jackets on-site, don’t worry.

 

Splash Lagoon review

 

 

 

For KJ Sized kids (re: babies and little kids)

Monkey Shines Island

This play area is in a shallow pool, with seven small slides scattered around it, which have a 48″ maximum height requirement. KJ could go down these by himself, but I still had to hang out at the bottom, to catch him.  Some parents took their kids down them on their laps, as an option. There’s also a tipping bucket in this area, and “showers”, as KJ called them.

Adventure Bay

Adventure Bay is a big pool with basketball nets and balls, along with lily pads to jump on (which were off limits when we were there).  While more suited for all ages, little kids can still have fun here, in life jackets, with parents nearby, I think. B and J both commented that the water was colder in Adventure Bay than other areas of the park.  Hoops-loving B could have stayed there the whole time, regardless, challenging random kids to one on one games, like he was at the aquatic version of Rucker Park.

Wild Water Waves Pool

Billed as “the largest indoor wave pool in the Eastern United States”, Wild Water Waves Pool was a hit with my fam. Again, while more suited for all ages, KJ did enjoy bobbing up and down on the waves, some of which got pretty big!

 

Splash Lagoon Erie PA

Underwater selfies in a wave pool are hard!

 

The Frog Pond 

The Frog Pond is an area with a whirlpool for the family to relax in, and leapfrog fountains for little kids to splash around on.  It’s kind of tucked away in a corner, behind the Tree Tops Ropes Course. Not gonna lie, because we didn’t try the ropes course, I didn’t notice the Frog Pond, so we never went in it.  #planningfail

The Lava Pool

This is a small pool, with “lava” for kids to play in. Again, not gonna lie, I assumed that it was a hot tub, and didn’t stop to go in. J checked it out, though, with K, and reported back, in her words “the water was not deep, and  it was hot, and there were benches nearby, and it was relaxing.”

 

For B and J SIZED kids (re: big kids)

Tiki Tree House

This is located in the middle of Splash Lagoon, and is a featured attraction. It’s four stories high, with activities like water cannons, and a giant tipping bucket. I’m not sure why, but the Tiki Tree House didn’t seem as functional as it probably normally is, during our stay.  If fully operational, it appears to be a blast, but I can’t vouch for it, based on our experience.

The Lazy River

This is just as it sounds. Grab a tube, alone or with your kid, and lazily float around the river. It’s a decent size, so you can do a few laps without taking up too much time. Minimal congestion, too, which is sometimes an issue with these things.

WARNING: if you have a mischievous daughter like mine, she will probably steer you towards the waterfall, where you will get splashed worse than a basketball net after a Steph Curry versus Klay Thompson three point contest. I suggest singing the chorus to TLC’s ‘Wateralls’ to alleviate any potential soaking (note: that was a joke. You should obviously sing TLC’s Creep, instead).

 

Things To Do in Erie PA

Thumbs up to TLC song references outta nowhere!

 

 

Big Kahuna

This is a big, curvy water slide that actually goes outside for part of it.  It’s for single or double riders with a tube, with a minimum 36″ height requirement. Children 36″-42″ tall, like J, had to slide with an adult, though.

Python Plunge

Python Plunge is similar in thrillness to the Big Kahuna. It has the same restrictions and tube requirement, too (though this one is a lot of fun with two riders).

Shark Attack

This is a single person body slide, minimum 36″ height requirement.  It feels like you’re going pretty fast, and it’s another slide that takes you outside for part of it.  The lineup for this water slide was a bit confusing. It’s located beside the Big Kahuna, and I noticed a lot of people standing in the line for that because they didn’t realize that the line for Shark Attack was separate.  In B and I’s case, we made that mistake initially before noticing, once we got to the top, that there weren’t actually any people in line for Shark Attack, so we went right on.

Black Hole

This was J’s personal favorite. From the top of the Tiki Tree House, the whole water slide is in complete darkness.  Single riders only, no tube, minimum height requirement of 36″.

Maui Wowie

Maui Wowie is a bit of a quickie single rider slide, no tube. It shoots you down and around the sharp, sudden turns pretty fast. 36″ height requirement.

Cyclone

B’s fav because, in part, of the toilet bowl effect of going round and round before being flushed out into a pool below. For single or double riders with a tube, with a minimum 36″ height requirement. Children 36″-42″ tall gotta ride with a grownup.

Hurricane Hole

This is like the Cyclone, if the Cyclone was on Red Bull energy drinks. A bit more extreme, as it’s for tubeless single riders, which means you go faster, and end up in a deep pool. For people 48″ and up, who are strong enough swimmers to swim out of the deep pool at the end.

for DA GROWNUPS

There’s a bar upstairs called Island Oasis Bar.

What?

Stay thirsty, my friends.

 

extra playing there at splash lagoon

 

All of the above attractions are included in your day pass admission. If you want to spend a few more bucks, Splash Lagoon in Erie PA has some other fun ways to take your money. The aforementioned Tree Tops Ropes Course, for example, costs $7 per person. It’s three stories high,  of various climbing challenges, for kids and adults (36″ and taller).  $7 will also get you a spin on the Aqua Tumbler, a giant inflatable ball that loops you around and shoots water at you while you’re in it.

Upstairs from the park is an arcade. It has a decent selection of games, with the usual selection of prizes to be won when winning tokens at said games.  One unique feature, though, was the Hologate Virtual Reality game, which cost $8/person, and looked pretty interesting.

If you’re like my family, you can expect to spend $20 at the arcade, for the joy of watching your kids win about $1 worth of tokens, which they will then argue about because they want to each cash it in for a different toy. B played one of those claw pickup games, and somehow ended up winning so much candy that even Milton Hershey would have been like “dang, homey”.

Splash Lagoon Erie PA

Spoiler: We did not win 100 tickets on this spin.

 

Things to do in Erie PA

 

During our trip, The FlowRider, a wave simulation ride similar to ones seen  at other theme parks,  was not  operational.

 

 

eating there

 

Outside food is a no go at Splash Lagoon. However, there is a restaurant on site called Laguna Grill. It serves the expected theme park foods like burgers, pizza and chicken fingers.  One kind of odd thing was the ice cream stand. It’s nearby to the Laguna Grill, but to order a cone, you have to place the order at Laguna Grill, and then go to the stand to get your order. However, there was never anyone working at the stand, so you had to wait for someone who wasn’t busy at the grill to come over to scoop your order. K and the kids actually waited a half hour for an order that we placed (it was really good ice cream, admittedly, and almost worth the wait).

 

 

Hooch and Blotto’s Sports Bar& Grill is also connected to Splash Lagoon, and it’s a great place to go for a change of pace of the waterpark. While we didn’t partake in any food,  the menu was pretty tasty looking.  There was nice selection of craft beers featured, which I may have had one or two of. We did hit hit up the lanes there one night, to play some bowling. No shoe rentals required, and small balls with bumpers in the lanes available, so it was very kid-friendly. At the end, though, you might leave the prohibition-themed restaurant with the same thing on your mind as B did: what’s with all the moustaches?

 

 

Beyond these options, there are several restaurants a couple of minute’s drive away. Because, as I have noted before on here, we are kind of suckers for chains that aren’t near us, we went to Applebee’s one evening. It was delicious. Come to Hamilton, Ontario, Applebee’s. Sheesh.

 

applebee's erie pa

Who goes to Applebee’s with their family and takes a picture of his oversized drink? This guy.

 

 

this, that and there

 

Some closing points about Splash Lagoon in Erie PA. Staying at the Holiday Inn Express did allow us to walk back and forth to the waterpark and our room swim-ready. However, I did duck my head into the change room on hand, and it looked really clean. The closeness also meant that we could just leave our stuff in the room. Otherwise, a locker might have been needed, which are available on the premise, for various prices. As an option, there was lots of tables and seating around, which people would claim by leaving their stuff on.

Towels, unfortunately, are not available, unless you want to buy them at the Surf Shop store upstairs, so you gotta bring your own.

Parking is free.

In terms of staff, everyone that I encountered was friendly, and helpful. There were  plenty of lifeguards on hand, too, at every attraction.

 

 

getting out AND ABOUT there in erie pa

 

things to do in erie pa

 

I mentioned above about doing other stuff as a change of pace to Splash Lagoon. In terms of things to do in Erie,PA, it is a nice little city, with some cool options to keep you and your family busy, if you want to take a break from the water.

I loves me a good children’s museum (yes, even more so than my kids sometimes), so I, uh I mean we, really liked The expERIEnce Children’s MuseumLocated about 10 minutes away from Splash Lagoon, it’s three stories high, along with an outside play space.  Each floor focused on a different  play-inspiring theme: creativity, explore, and imagination. I  do think that it’s a bit more suited for smaller kids. B’s ten years old, and was more into goofing around with his brother and sister than most of the exhibits. However, J and KJ both had lots of fun, especially on the imagination floor being doctors, grocery store clerks, and firefighters.  The expERIEnce Children’s Musuem is definitely a nice place for kids to safely run around and blow off some steam, while learning a thing or two, in the process.

 

experience children's museum

 

 

 

experience children's musem

 

 

 

experience children's museum

Surprisingly, this wasn’t taken at Splash Lagoon.

 

 

 

If you want to blow off some steam, in the offline retail variety, Erie is also home to the MIllcreek Mall. It’s one of the largest mall complexes in the USA. Even with the Canadian dollar being where it’s at, there were some good deals to be had there.  Also, there’s no sales tax on clothes in Pennsylvania, to boot.

 

Millccreek Mall

 

For the sports fan, Erie, Pennsylvania is also home to teams like the NBA G League’s Erie Bayhawks and the OHL’s Erie Otters. Neither were in town during our stay, unfortunately.

 

While we didn’t do a heck of lot of sightseeing and exploring in Erie, PA, what we did see and do was very worthwhile.  Splash Lagoon, in particular, was the obvious highlight. When it comes  to affordable road trip destinations where you can pretend to get away to somewhere tropical for a day or two,  put Splash Lagoon at the top of your list.

Until the next one, peace!

 

Disclosure:  though our accommodations and experiences during our stay were covered by Visit Erie, all opinions expressed are my own, as always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full Circle

While in downtown Hamilton this weekend, I ended up walking past Gore Park. A ferris wheel has been set up there this month, which you can ride for free. Despite being alone,  I totally went on it, because, well, free ferris wheel ride, duh. As I sat in my carriage, going round and round, taking in the sky high view of my hometown, a Forrest Gump-like thought entered my head. Life is kind of like a ferris wheel. Through the highs and the lows, things tend to always come back around full circle.

 

 

downtown hamilton

 

 

I mention this because it relates back to the reason why I was downtown, to begin with.  The Good Shepherd was hosting their annual Christmas dinner event, at the Hamilton Convention Centre by Carmen’s, and I had signed up to be a volunteer.  While this was my first year volunteering, it was not my first year attending an event like this. Back in the day, things were always tight money-wise, to varying degrees. On more than one occasion, the best meal and toys that little Mike got over a holiday season came courtesy of the Good Shepherd, or a similar organisation which helped those in need. And yeah, for the longest time, I’ll admit to being a bit ashamed about this.  I grew up being the dude who was usually “without”, surrounded by people who were “with”.  These experiences were my own little secrets, ones that I tucked away and never really looked back at it.

Until this year.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I got to that dinner. One thing that I wasn’t expecting was the crowd. I arrived early, and had to wiggle my way through large throngs of people, to get to the door. Later, I was told that a lineup had formed, which stretched down to MacNab Street. All in all, there were more than 2000 guests and about 800 volunteers  in attendance.

 

Good Shepherd Hamilton Christmas dinner

The calm before the storm…..

 

The other unexpected thing was how much time and effort was clearly put in to make it seem like you had been transported to a winter wonderland.  A band and a choir comprised of volunteers performed holiday songs on the way into the dining rooms. The dining rooms themselves were festively done up. On the lower level, Santa was in the house, flocked with toys to give out.  Some of the giant inflatables for kids to play on even fit the snowy theme. At the exit, a donation area was set up, for you to grab free winter clothing if needed, to help stay warm.

 

Good Shepherd Hamilton Christmas dinner

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was part of the serving team for the day, which basically involved running back and forth to the kitchen, making sure that there was always food on hand. No trays of turkey were dropped by yours truly, which was a win in my books. Another win was the amount of people young, old and in between, who came out to help. From my numerous conversations with other volunteers, the common theme seemed to be that, for many folks, this was annual tradition.  My team leader, Lisa, for example, had, over the years, done almost every job possible at this event, and happily kept everything on track for us. Annette Hamm, a local news personality, was also on my team. She was a repeat offender (when it came to volunteering there!) and offered me some great advice.

 

 

The Good Shepherd opens the doors to their dinner to everyone and anyone. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but I can only assume that people from all walks of life came out to eat.   At one point,  among the sea of happy faces, I saw a little boy who resembled me when I was younger, sitting at a table with his mom (I’m assuming). I’d like to say that we then locked eyes, and that something profoundly, magically, Chistmas-spiritually happened, straight outta Hallmark. In reality, he probably wondered who this weird guy was that was staring at him, and I had to run off to get more mashed potatoes. At the end of the event, though, I did see the mom rummaging through the donated winter items, and giving him a scarf, which made him smile as if he just got a Playstation 5.

 

Look, parents tend to reflect on the jobs that their parents did on them, and want to do better than that with their own children. I’m no exception. When I see B and J’s annual Santa wish lists, and how thrilled they are, when they actually get what they asked for, I remember all of those years when little Mike would make his own lists, yet those lists had no chance of ever being filled. Shoot, on Black Friday this year, I woke up early, to go to a Real Canadian Superstore to buy a TV. On the way out, because I spent more than $250, the store gave me a free frozen turkey.  When I told this to my family, no one cared, and we ended up giving it away to a friend. On some hungry nights, little Mike would have given his right leg for a right turkey leg, but here’s current Mike out here giving turkeys away, like it’s no biggie.

 

I guess what I’m rambling about is this. Though it’s been said many times, many ways (probably), everyone deserves a good meal this time of the year. Everyone deserves to feel a little bit special, too, especially kids. I’m glad that organisations like the Good Shepherd exist to help facilitate this.  While not profoundly, magically Christmas-spiritual, it did finally dawn on me that we should be more appreciative, because things really do come around full circle.  Ain’t no shame in that.

 

Happy holidays, y’all!

 

 

 

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