Author: mike

No Father’s Day

Gratuitous picture of the kids. Getting them to smile is hard!

 

It’s Father’s Day season! So, in honour of the day where we show the father figures in our lives some love, lemme tell you about that time when myself and some other dads got no love.

I’ll error on the side of vagueness, to protect the innocent.

J is in a club with some other little girls, which gets together weekly, to hang out. Because of my work schedule, K almost always take her to their get togethers. The few times that I’ve picked up J or dropped her off, I’ve noticed the occasional dad, but it’s almost always mothers.

A couple of months ago, a message was sent out to the parents, about an event. Basically, the group was going to have a big sleepover at a local tourist attraction, for the girls and one parent. They would stay up late, do a bunch of fun activities, and sleep on the floor in the main area, in sleeping bags. Some other groups would also be there.  It was definitely going to be a unique, memorable outing.

Because K was more involved with the club, she was the one who was going to go to the sleepover. However, a few weeks before the big night, something came up, and K wasn’t able to take J any more. No problem, though. I’d go instead.

And then the message about the details pertaining to the event came out.

In it, it specifically said that it was for the girls and their female parent or guardian only. 

 

Now, in my mind, that was pretty discriminatory. Not every child has a female in their life who could participate in an event like this. Why should they be punished? What difference did it make, too, whether a dad or male guardian came?

Suppose that you had an opportunity to do something really cool with your kids. Not just cool, but something that was an unforgettable experience, the likes of which would create memories which would last forever.

Now suppose that you weren’t allowed to partake in this opportunity because of your gender. This seemed like a backwards-thinking, judgemental, sexist wrong.  Was the club really some bizarro version of Al Bundy’s “NO MA’AM” organization?  I was pretty upset, people.

I went on the attraction’s website, to see if maybe there was a gender policy of some sort, for the sleepovers they hosted. No dice.  In fact, pictures of previous sleepovers on the site clearly showed men in them, alongside women. Making it a man-free zone must have came straight from J’s club.

On the Facebook group for the club, I politely posed the question, to clarify that dads weren’t allowed.  Someone posted that it was true.

The weird thing, though, was what occurred next. Do you know what happened?

 

Nothing

No one replied, no one commented. Again, my interaction with the club was limited, so not wanting to rock the boat and ostracize J, I dropped the issue. And that was that.

In the days following, I can’t say that I was angry. Sure, I was disappointed for J, since she would miss out on the fun night with her friends. And yeah, it was a bit outrageous, that in an era where it’s easy to outrage us, this little moment was met with a giant shrug of indifference.

However, I accepted the fact that the club probably, in their mind, had a valid reason for excluding dudes.  Maybe there was a bad incident of some sort, in the past. Maybe they took a poll of the fathers of the girls, and the majority of them voted that they weren’t interested in going. Maybe it just came down to a comfort level thing, for the club. Who knows.

I guess all that I’m trying to say here is, sometimes dads…… just want to be dads. Nothing more, nothing less.  Point blank and the period. Just being there for their kids and bonding with them, creating memorable experiences. Really, is that so wrong?

Anyway, Happy Father’s Day, peeps. Here’s to creating some long-lasting memories!

 

One more gratuitous picture. At least they are all smiling. See? There’s always a bright side!

 

 

 

“Your Kids Shouldn’t Be Walking Around Here!” A.K.A. A CFL Game Experience With The Family

Disclaimer: My friends at The Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League provided my family with complimentary tickets for their first game of the season.  Here are my random musings and thoughts about the experience that night, at Tim Hortons Field:

  • There’s a palpable buzz towards the team lately. Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winning, former NFL quarterback, has taken his talents north of the border, and is making his “comeback szn” with the Ticats this year!
  • There were a lot of Manziel fans in attendance. Based on the conversations I overheard, there were also people who weren’t even football fans, but came to see what all the fuss was about.
  • Admittedly, I’m a very casual fan myself. J and little K accompanied me that evening , but neither are fans. J’s six years old, so she was happy checking out the stadium and stuffing her face with food. KJ is one and a half. He was happy being anywhere.
  • We spent some time in Stripes’ Jungle, which is a really cool kids area in the stadium. I believe it was introduced last season, but this was new to us. It had a playground, and a face painting spot, while various mascots/team ambassadors were there, too. For little ones who get squirmy or restless during the game, this is a great place to go blow off some steam.

  • The Ticats’ gameday experience has really evolved over the years. It’s not about just buying a ticket to watch the game anymore. It’s also about hanging out, socializing and partying. Check out the stadium map, for example:

As you can see, almost everywhere you turn in the stadium, you’ll encounter a patio or lounge area of some sort.  I’m sure this has helped them attract more of the demographic who are into this type of vibe.

  • Back in the day, when I was a young boy,  I used to go to the odd game. The messed up thing is,  while I don’t remember anything specific about the games, or anything kid-friendly that occurred, I vividly remember incidents in the crowd. Drunk people yelling crude and vulgar things. Drunk people fist-fighting. Drunk people making asses of themselves and being dragged out by police. I honestly don’t know if this was a Hamilton thing, or a CFL football thing, or what the deal was. It wasn’t this extreme at say,  a Toronto Blue Jays game, for example. Regardless, when I had kids, the memories of boorishness and non-family friendliness made the idea of taking them to see the ‘Cats unappealing. Eventually, I did bring B out years ago, and it wasn’t that bad. There was the odd belligerent person, and profanity spewed, but it was better than I expected.
  • My most recent game was fine, too, in that regard, in the seats.  Some people were cussing out the starting QB, because they wanted Manziel to come in. OK, whatever, not a huge deal. However, venturing out of our seats, to say, get food, or go the bathroom, was eye-opening. The concourses had a sports bar-atmosphere to them. Very rowdy, very alcohol-fueled. While fun, if you’re holding hands with two small kids, trying to navigate through it, it’s a bit treacherous. One large,stumbling dude almost trampled KJ, apologized, then yelled at me about it. “Your kids shouldn’t be walking around here!” He said, “There’s a lot of drunk people here!”
  • So, by that logic, if the concourses are boozefests, and almost every corner of the stadium has some lounge or patio, which potentially could also be full of inebriated individuals, the only “safe” place for small kids, then, is the Family Zone?
  • Yo, I’m not saying keep your kids away from Tim Hortons Field. J and KJ both had a great time, and there were lots of other little happy faces in attendance, too. Shoot, one of B’s all-time best memories was when he entered the Ticats’ Halloween costume contest two years ago, as Drake. People that night at the game were going nuts about him, treating him like he was the real Drake. He got to go down to field, be on the big screen, and win a gift card!
  • I’m saying that, in my experiences attending live sports, I’ve encountered some of the most drunken, disorderly fans at Ticats games. I’m sure lots of people go and don’t have any issues.  You get thousands of people together in one setting, looking to have their own version of a good time, well, it’s basically buyer beware, for sure. I’m not complaining; I made the choice to go, right? This is just my observation as a parent, to other parents. Take it for what it’s worth.
  • Moving along,  the Ticats’ all female cheerleaders have been replaced this year with a co-ed “performance” team.  When they weren’t entertaining the crowd with routines on the field, they entertained the crowd throughout the stadium. Their engagement level with the fans was more than the cheerleaders used to be, I think. I saw some of them in Stripes’ Jungle for example,  interacting with everyone there.
  • We didn’t stay for the whole game, as KJ and J both started to get sleepy after halftime. From what I saw, Manziel looked OK playing, for what it’s worth.

That’s all I got. With the Tiger Cats feeling optimistic, and Johnny Football in tow, this definitely has the makings for an interesting season in the Hammer.  Oskee-Wee-Wee!

 

 

 

 

PART 3: That Time When I Tried To Go To Disney World For Free By Being On a TV Game Show

And now, the exciting conclusion to the best trilogy since Lord Of The Rings! Well,  not the best, but it’s probably not the worst. Maybe. I don’t know.

Anyway, at the end of part two, B and I were heading out the door from our backup contestants gig on Just Like Mom And Dad. The casting director then gave us a silver lining, for my master plan of getting a free trip to Disney World.  She mentioned that one of the contestants for the final taping had been in an accident. Thus, they were touch and go on availability. She then asked if B and I were available to be backup contestants again.  We agreed.

Two days later, she called me. The other contestant was out.

B and I were in for sure!

For the love of Epcot, Could my plan actually work?!

Leading up to the taping, B and I were very confident. Remember, we had the added advantage of seeing two episodes, so we knew what was to be expected.  B’s biggest worry was the plane ride that went with winning the trip (from his newfound flying fear). I was only concerned with coming as across as interesting, but not “go-viral” interesting. You know what I mean. No one wants to be that person on the game show who says or does something so ridiculous that the world thinks you’re an idiot.

Finally, the big day was here. On arrival, we were led to a dressing room, with the other two teams.  The casting directors hung out with us the whole time. I’ll admit to being nervous, but they really lightened the mood. We all practised our intros and anecdotes, which put me at ease. The banter with the show’s hosts, Kylee and Sandy,  was where I felt that I would fail the most, but since I had some talking points ready, I was solid. We met wardrobe and makeup people, and got mic’d up as well.  Our competition for the day, a mother/daughter and dad/son duo, with the kids being close to B’s age, were all nice and personable.

Word to Drake, nice for what, though? While they would make for good TV, my eye was on the prize. Disney World would soon be mine for the taking.

SHOWTIME!

We were led out of the room, and down a hall. I felt like a UFC fighter, making that walk out from the back, to the cage. Just full of nervous excitement, especially as I got to the stage, under the bright lights, and stared out into all of the cameras and people in the crowd.
After we did our introductions, the game was on.  It was time for the kid’s round. The parents were escorted to a soundproof room, and given radios with headphones, to avoid hearing what was going on in the studio.

Eventually, we were brought back.  First up for me, was a question about what B would do if he wasn’t playing basketball. Going along with our sports shtick, I said baseball. B, however, answered video games. Not an ideal start.

Next was a question about what subject in school B was least excited about.

Now, I knew that B loved math and was good at it. However, less than two days prior, B told us that he hated math. So using the “what have you done for me lately?” logic, I said math. Boom!

Wait, no boom. I was wrong. B said social studies. He loves math. Oops!

The kids were then led to the soundproof room, as it was parent question time.

As the hosts bantered with the other contestants, I ran through what I was going to say, in my head, like we rehearsed. Easy, peasy. So of course, when Sandy came over, he asked me an out of the blue question about my soap box derby career as a child. WTF?!

I guess, in the audition process, I had mentioned this. Completely caught off guard, I rambled and babbled to Sandy until he mercifully pulled the plug and asked what  kind of fish B would be.

B isn’t exactly aquatically inclined, so I said a shark. Is a shark a fish even? Like Laurel vs. Yanny, it’s all about interpretation. The judges said it was, so my answer was locked in.

For the next round of questions, I tried to remember what the heck else I said in the interview process, but I was drawing blanks. Kylee then came over, and proceeded to say “We understand that you love Kanye West.”

I know, I know, y’all. Trust me, I know.  You gotta remember, this show was taped in October. Kanye’s a polarizing figure, but I do like his music, which I had  mentioned during the audition. Recently, however, Yeezy said some highly controversial, incendiary stuff. Stuff that infuriated a lot of people, especially in the black community.   So, yes, as things are at peak “everyone hates Kanye” levels, there was at least one brother on TV happily saying that he loves Kanye – me. While not quite game show fail montage-worthy, it was still pretty cringeworthy. From now on, if people ask who my favorite musical artist is, I’m just going to keep it safe and say Pentatonix.

Guess I better see them in concert, if I’m a true fan.

Anyway, Kylee asked a mulitple choice question about Mr. West, with one of the answers being underwear. B’s finds undies funny, so I went with that.

When the kids came back, B got the first question wrong. He even questioned whether a shark was actually a fish. He also, unrelated, is on Team Yanny.   Regardless, for those keeping track, that’s still zero points for your boys. The only saving grace was that the other teams weren’t doing so hot, either. On the last question, we avoided the embarassing shutout, as B nailed the underwear question. Going into the bake-off, we were in first place!

The kids had made their 60 second recipes earlier, while we were away in the soundproof area. Oatmeal cookies ala child-trying-to-make-their-parents-barf was on the menu. We had 30 seconds to try each cookie, and then at the end, we had to hold up a number indicating which cookie was our kids. Not gonna lie, them biscuits were nasty. Very uncookie-like, with weird textures and flavour combinations. As part of my non-viral thing, I wanted to play it cool. This turned out to be impossible.  Those cookies were gross, son. I was gagging and having trouble swallowing. Longest 30 seconds ever!

B had said on multiple occasions, and even during the audition, that he wanted to make something really spicy. One of the cookies had some kick to it, so I guessed that one. At least the food at Disney World was tasty, from what I’ve heard, so this disaster would soon be worth it.

On the big reveal, the first contestants guessed right, putting them in first place. The second pair was wrong.  It all came down to me! Disney dreams hanging on the outcome, I held up 2.

The answer was 3.

We lost.

While I was happy for the winning team, since they were really nice people, I was super bummed.  Then insult got added to injury. The winning duo spun the wheel…..and landed on the Sunwing trip, just as I had knew it would since the day that I came up with my plan. As the crowd went nuts, confetti rained down on the celebrating victors. A great moment for them, no doubt. For me, not so much.  I felt like a UFC fighter who went five rounds, toe to toe, winning the fight on the score cards, but then got knocked with five seconds left in the last round. So close, and yet so far. The dream was officially deader than Mufasa in the Lion King.

OR WAS IT?!

Nah, for real this time, it was over.

And that’s the story of  when I tried to go Disney World for free by going on a game show.

My seemingly ridiculous scheme didn’t work out, but I was one number away from pulling it off. Feel free to keep that in mind the next time someone tells you that one of your ideas sucks! Also,  B and I had an unforgettable, memorable adventure together. I’m proud of the lil dude, and that’s worth more than any vacation (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself).  I really can’t say enough good things about all of the  JLMAD crew, too. Making a TV show is a tough job, especially when dealing with unpredictable little kids, but everyone was always positive and cordial. Finally, B didn’t walk away empty-handed. He got a cool hockey prize pack, along with some other swag:

For those wondering, Just Like Mom And Dad is currently casting for season two! You can apply here.

Now, if you can excuse me, I’m off to go listen to some Pentatonix. Maybe they got some Disney-themed songs.  Later, y’all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART 2: That Time When I Tried To Go To Disney World For Free By Being On A TV Game Show

Welcome back!

At the end of part one, my Disney dreams had been crushed like Anna’s spirit when Elsa told her to go away while she sang “Do You Want To Build a Snowman”.  My plan of getting onto Just Like Mom And Dad, winning it, then spinning the prize wheel and landing on a trip to Disney was kiboshed, as we didn’t get picked to be on the show. At the end of the crushing call from the casting director, though, a Tinkerbell-sized glimmer of hope emerged.  B and  I were given the opportunity to be back-up contestants at a taping!

This was apparently standard procedure in the biz. They would film two episodes, so six teams of contestants. If, for whatever reason, one person got sick, or chickened out, or whatever, B and I would be on the show. All we had to do was come “camera ready” and watch both tapings from the audience.   They’d also give us a small stipend, and feed us lunch, since we were part of the “crew.” B was disappointed, but relieved (because of his newfound flying over water fear) with not being picked. Being a back-up was fine with him, though, so we agreed to do it.

Not wanting to be caught off-guard if we got selected, B and I spent quite a bit of time grilling each other beforehand.  If the new show’s format was like the old one, then we had to know each other well. We were definitely sixth man worthy, in the chance that we had to be called in off of the bench.

 

On the big day, we were told to arrive early, and hang out “backstage”, seperate from the contestants. Eventually, the audience members also arrived. Soon after, one of the crew let me know that the contestants were good to go for the first episode being taped. Oh well. Studio audience it was, for us.

When we entered into the studio, I was impressed. I pictured the set being 80s vintage-style, but it was actually very fancy, modern and bright.

We weren’t allowed to take pix, but this gives you an idea of my vantage point. Photo credit: Just Like Mom And Dad

My eyes drifted towards the prize wheel, where I immediately noticed a problem.  While full of amazing prizes……one of them wasn’t a trip to Disney! There was only a Sunwing vacation listed. Since it didn’t specify where to, I just assumed Disney most likely was a destination option. #keepthedreamalive

The taping itself was surprisingly long. There were lots of gaps and re-takes, to get things looking and sounding right. The contestants were great, though. They were mostly charismatic, with outgoing personalities. I understood why my sarcastic, mumble-rapping without the rapping self didn’t get picked. B was digging it, and told me later that he really wanted to be on the show now. I did, too, after seeing it. It looked fun. We had one more chance, for us to have a moment in the spotlight.

When the first taping was over, B and I grabbed lunch with the crew, then played the waiting game again. After the audience arrived for the next taping, I crossed my fingers that one of the contestants might bail.

No dice. Everyone was good to go.

Back to the audience for us.

Half-way through, the proceedings came to a grinding stop. One of the little girl contestants was quickly taken away! Was she sick? Did she bail? We didn’t know. All I knew was that it might happen. We might have to go on the show!

 

 

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The girl just had to go to the washroom. B and I watched from the audience when she returned, somewhat dejectedly.

When the taping was over, we had to hang backstage before we could bounce, to receive our stipend. The casting director eventually brought it to us, and walked us out. She thanked us for our time. Word to Boyz II Men, because that was the end of the road for us. A free trip to Disney was not in our future.

OR WAS IT?!

 

Be sure to check out the grand finale, part three!

 

 

PART 1: That Time When I Tried To Go To Disney World For Free By Being On A TV Game Show

The awkwardly worded title is pretty self-explanatory. So settle in, as have I got a story for you!

See, it all started last summer. While scrolling through Facebook one day, I saw a post about a casting call for a new game show, Just Like Mom And Dad (JLMAD), being filmed in Toronto.

 

Curious, I discovered that it was actually a remake of an 80s game show, Just Like Mom.  Basically, the premise was three teams of moms and their kids would answer questions about each other for two rounds, and get points for every correct answer.  The final round then involved a bake-off, where the kids would make some nasty concoction in 60 seconds (ie. brownies made with pickles), which the moms would eat. The moms then had to guess which one their kids made, and received points if they were right. Whichever team got the most total points won. The winning kid would then get to spin a big wheel of prizes, with the grandest prize being………………a trip to Disney Land!

Ahh, Disney. The most magical place on Earth. Or, so I’ve been told, anyway, as I had never been before.  And for real, it wasn’t even on my radar of must-see destinations, until recently. B and J are both now at the point where their peers will go on a Disney vacation, and come back to revel them about its awesomeness. Since monkey see, monkey do, B and J had started making more noise about wanting to go to Disney World. That’s all fine and dandy, except that Disney World ain’t exactly cheap. It would require saving up for a long time, to afford a trip.

So that was my situation on that fateful day of googling JLMAD.  As such, I came up with a brilliant plan:

I would get my family a free trip to Disney World by winning Just Like Mom And Dad!

 

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Mike, you dummy. That’s the dumbest plan ever.  You have a better chance of winning the lottery than of making it onto the show, winning it, then having your kid spinning the wheel and landing on the Disney trip!

However, in my scheming little head, I figured the fastest way to see Mickey Mouse in the flesh would be to win the lottery. The odds of appearing on and winning JLMAD had to be way better than that, right?

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to applying I go!

B met the age requirement, so he would be my partner in crime. Now, I have never been on TV before.  However, based on years of sitting on my butt watching it, I know that the best contestants on game shows/reality shows have a trait that comes across easily to viewers.  They’re the villian, or the girl next door, or the meathead, or the promiscuous one (What? You don’t watch Jeopardy and wonder who the biggest freak is?) etc. They have something.  As such,  I gambled that JLMAD wanted people with a gimmick, so I came up with one: B’s a funny, wild, little basketball loving jock, and I’m his bemused father.

This was the truth anyway, but I hammered the point home in the application.  The make or break part was the video that JLMAD wanted submitted, of the applicants. Instead of filming us saying something cheesy and unnatural (since B and I are horrible at being unnaturally cheesy), I sent this montage:

 

 

 

After I clicked submit, I started to pack our bags, since we would soon be Florida-bound.

Just kidding.

But the next day, I did get a call from the casting director. She really loved the trick shot video, and asked us to come in for an audition!

We booked an audition for a few weeks later. However, in the meantime, a slight problem came up. For some reason, B developed a fear of flying over water. A plane ride to Orlando from Toronto would probably go over the ocean at some point. Winning a trip to Disney World was a hard no for him now, unless the option was to drive there.  He still wanted to try out, though.

Yes, I realize B and I were clearly counting our eggs before they hatched.

On the day of the audition, driving down, we had no idea what to expect. I prepped B by reminding him to talk eloquently and constantly about sports.   On arrival, the initial process involved B and I discussing the application, with one of the casting people. B, to his credit/discredit, bragged about his athletic prowess, as I kind of looked at him funny.

Next, we went to a small TV studio. It was set up as a play area, full of toys. While there, B and I were filmed answering various questions, which I guess were to be submitted to the TV executives in charge of the show.   Believe it or not, trying to sound cool in front of a group of strangers while being videoed ain’t easy. We were then split up.  B was taken to be interviewed off-camera, as I was filmed trying to complete a fun challenge.  We then switched.

Yo, I fully admit to bombing the interrogation, dude. I didn’t have anything interesting to say about myself, off the top of my dome.  Nonetheless, B sounded confident in his performance afterwards, so I was still optimistic that we would be on top of Splash Mountain soon enough.

About a month later, the call came, from the casting director. The TV execs loved our audition……but they loved a lot more, too. We didn’t get selected to be on the show.

The Disney dream was over.

 

OR WAS IT?!

Head on over to part two, peeps.

Gone Girl

My good friends at The Dad posted this on Instagram the other day:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BiKhphohsla/

Pretty cool, eh? Yep, it’s me catching J in one of her random creative moments a while ago.  The feedback to that post was very positive, towards both her and myself. She’s such a vibrant child, and I’m an A-OK pops,  right?

This is why it sucked so much later that same day when the post came out.  I flushed all that positivity down the toilet, because J went missing, and we couldn’t find her.

It started off innocently enough. Mine and three other families (so picture lots of kids, and lots of adults) were at Great Wolf Lodge for the weekend.  While back at our room, B and J went off on their own, to find some ice for our ice bucket. K and I ended up in another room with the parents, discussing dinner plans. I have no idea how long we were chatting. Eventually, I saw B stroll by, alone. I asked him where J was, and he told me that she was still getting ice.

Weird, but alright.

A few minutes later, J still hadn’t returned. I asked B again where J was. He said that he didn’t know. They had ended up on the third floor, and they couldn’t find ice, so he left her, because she still wanted to look.

Judge me now if you want, but only at this point did warning bells go off in my head.

Our rooms were on the fourth floor! It’s one thing if they were wandering off down the hall, together, but now J was on a whole different floor, alone, in a giant, busy resort. She also doesn’t have the greatest sense of direction.  A million bad scenarios immediately ran through my mind, so I left everyone without a word, to go find her.

This particular Great Wolf Lodge was very spacious. I know that they take great precautions to make sure everyone is safe and sound, while keeping the atmosphere cheerful. At that time, however, all I could think of was how perfect a place like this was, crawling with young children, for a sick creep to try to do something vile. I ran down the stairs, and down one of the hallways, but didn’t see J. I texted K, to see if,  hopefully, she had made her way back. She hadn’t. I think everyone else in our party started to panic then, so they went out to search for her, too.

I then took off  towards another hallway.  I rounded a corner, and, thankfully, I saw her, finally. J was standing in the middle of the hall, holding the ice bucket, crying hysterically.  I ran up to her, and gave her a big hug. She then, through her sobs, said the exact same thing that I had been thinking, as irrational as it seems now:

“I thought that I would never see you again.”

It took everything in me not to burst into tears right there, dude. Shoot, my eyes just got welled up typing that sentence.  Like, what’s more heartbreaking: losing your kid, or finding your kid, and hearing them say that to you?

As we walked hand in hand, back to our room, I again felt a lot of stuff. Relief. Winded, since I was running around like Usain Bolt with a dad bod. Anger, towards B, for ditching J in such a savage way. Anger, towards me, for not just getting the stupid ice myself, and not cluing in sooner to J’s whereabouts. Mostly, though, I felt like a shitty parent (and yes, for good reason, I can hear you saying #guilttrip).

I can only imagine how scared and alone J must have felt in those few minutes, and it’s something no six year old child should experience. That’s all on me, though, for putting her in the situation.  Among all the people and commotion, it was so easy for J to go missing. How messed up is that? I guess this is how Kevin’s mom and dad must have felt in Home Alone.  It’s a parenting fail, pure and simple. You should always go above and beyond to protect your kids.  I did not.

Luckily, the story had a happy ending.  J was pretty upset, but not traumatised or anything like that. She was back to her normal, vibrant self soon after. And yes, dear reader, I promise to do everything in my power to not let something like this happen again. Word to Joni Mitchell, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. However temporarily.

Don’t lose your children, people, even for a little bit of time. And always get your own ice!

More J randomness. At Great Wolf Lodge, she wanted me to take a picture of her looking like she was going to jump off of the giant chair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dad’s Night Out – That Time When I Attended A Big Brother Canada Taping

 

 

Confession time!

My family are big Big Brother fans, both the USA and Canadian versions.  While not at the live feed-creeping superfan level, I will admit to having seen every episode of every season of Big Brother Canada, anyway. I had the opportunity to attend a Big Brother Canada Season 6 eviction episode taping recently. If you’re like me, and always wondered what one of these was like, then this is the post for you!

OK, so the first thing to note is that the Big Brother house isn’t actually a house. It’s inside of a large film studio in an industrial part of Toronto. The audience area that you see is in the same studio, but not directly connected to the house. Tickets are free, #butfirst you have to request them ahead of time. There was a group of people outside that I noticed without tickets, who I think managed to get in because of some no-shows.

Upon arrival, seating for the audience is on a first come first served basis. A few seats were reserved, though, for special guests, like Derek’s (one of this season’s houseguests) family.  If you are looking to be on TV, the seats on the left hand side were the place to be.  I figured that it would look kind of weird if I sat in that section alone, so I settled into the middle.

 

Before the actual taping, the audience coordinator, Philip Tetro, warmed up the crowd. He ran through the rules, with the most important being no phones out and no picture-taking allowed at all, or you’d be evicted from the taping. He also cracked jokes, asked people questions, and let us ask questions.

Trying to sneak into the house will also get you tossed out of the building, Uncle Phil throwing out Jazz on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air style.

 

Sidenote: Now, years ago, I went to a David Letterman Show taping, in New York City. I didn’t go because I was a fan; I went because we were on vacation, walking through Times Square, and one of Letterman’s staff asked us if we wanted tickets. When we got there, I got the feeling that most of the audience were also tourists who were happy to be there, but not true fans. The vibe was pretty subdued, and not very raucous.

The reason I bring up this is because at the BBCAN6 show, all/most people were fans who were legitimately excited to be there.  A good chunk had even been to multiple tapings before.  There weren’t any cues to cheer or clap; the crowd just automatically knew what to do and when, which was surprising to me. The conversations I overheard were mainly about the show, and some of the questions asked of Philip were pretty nerdy (which I say with affection, fellow BBCAN nerds).

After maybe 45 minutes (I couldn’t look at my phone, so I didn’t know the time), Philip suddenly introduced the host, Arisa Cox, and she came onto the stage.  My observation would be that she is a consumate professional. Very smooth througout the proceedings, with a fun, easy-going demeanour, who interacted easily and happily with everyone.

The hostess with the mostest. Photo courtesy of Global TV

Sidenote x2: Man, Erica (an evicted houseguest this season) is popular. She got done dirty by a Canada voting twist, but she had a lot of fans among this particular audience. Conversely, when Arisa asked who we thought would win, the only contestants to be booed were Kaela and Derek (poor Derek’s family. Sad face).

Once Arisa arrived, the taping actually went smoother and faster than I thought. If you’ve seen an eviction episode, picture that, but then picture it playing out live in front of you. We saw the same intros and videos packages in order as what was shown later, with Arisa making the transitions, or throwing to breaks along the way. The pauses in between the action were only a few minutes long, up to the actual eviction part.

Ryan breakin’ it down with Arisa. Photo courtesy of Global TV.

Once Ryan (spoiler alert?) was voted out, there was a lull, as he needed to be transported from the house, to us. On TV,  you think that as soon as they walk out the house doors, they walk into the studio, but this isn’t the case. Ryan did a quick sit down interview with Arisa at that time, but came back later to do a longer interview, which was to be shown on Facebook the next day.  After the first interview, there was a long gap in the taping, as they had to get ready for the the Head Of Household competition. During this time, Philip hosted a “slop-eating contest”, where three unlucky lucky audience members got to try that classic Big Brother staple food. Surprisingly, no one gagged, and they calmly chowed down their slob.

 

We saw the first few minutes of the HOH comp, before Arisa put a wrap on things. I thought that we might be able to watch the whole competition play out, but because it was an endurance one (re: long time), this wasn’t possible. Doors opened at 3pm, and we were out of there around 6pm.

All in all, while not quite jaw-dropping (even though my daughter’s jaw dropped when I told her about the day), it was a pretty memorable experience that I’d recommend for any Big Brother fan, if the opportunity comes up. I definitely wouldn’t mind going again, in the future.

Until next time, peace. And remember…someone is always watching!!!

No, that someone watching is not me with a stupid grin, don’t worry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stolen Cars and Kidnapping Rabbits – An Easter Story

 

In terms of holidays, Easter is definitely on the “Mt. Rushmore of Best Days Of The Year”, for my kids.  Now, how this holiday has evolved from its origins to what it represents today is a thinkpiece subject for a far more intellectually stimulating site than this one. In our house, while Easter is mainly about family, it’s also about the Easter Bunny.  And truth be told,  B and J are all in on believing in that chocolate pimpin’ rabbit!  J believed so much, that she even concocted a harebrained scheme this year. Lemme explain.

It ’twas Easter Eve, and I was doing what any good parent would do – running out to the stores last minute, to buy some chocolate and presents. After scouring the picked over shelves, I did manage to find some decent treats along with some cool cheap gifts. The best one was a toddler sized basketball net that I found in the clearance section, for little KJ.  I also had been scouting the house out for days, looking for awesome spots to hide eggs for an egg hunt (plastic ones that I would fill with candy). So with everything I bought safely hidden in my car, and my mental plan in check, I headed home. All I needed was for B and J to go to bed in a good time.

However, in the week leading up to the big day, J also came up with a plan……

She was going to kidnap the Easter Bunny!

My sentiments exactly.

Now, K and I did try to explain how wrong this was. J was undeterred, though. She just wanted to see him with her own eyes.  As such, I would hear her plotting and scheming ways as to how she was going to get him. She’s been on a Looney Tunes kick lately, so I’m sure she thought capturing the wascally wabbit would be a breeze. To top it off, she even recruited B, to aid and abet in the plan.  After K and I fell asleep,  they were going to go downstairs.  They would “chill out and watch TV”, in B’s words, to wait for the bunny’s arrival.

This plan sucked, quite frankly. I’m all for the kids having fun and keeping the charade alive. However, similar to Christmas, the key is for the kids to be asleep, so the magic can happen. The last thing I wanted was for B and J to sneak up on me as I was setting things up. Thus, the stage was set. Me versus the kids, in a battle to preserve the legend of the Easter Bunny!

I wouldn’t look so smug if I were you, rabbit.

As K and I binge-watched Seven Seconds on Netflix that night, J passed out by 9pm. Unluckily for me, B was wide awake. K got tired around midnight, and headed to bed, at which point B ran in to join her. While the Easter Bunny had probably visited your house hours before, and you were enjoying a good night’s rest, I had even started anything yet. Plus one potential magic-ruining boy was still up.

I figured that B would be asleep soon. If I waited a bit, I could quietly start getting organized. So, eventually,  I grabbed my  keys, went to my car to get my stuff…..

AND MY CAR WAS GONE!!!

I must have looked like the biggest doofus, standing in my driveway for like 5 minutes, dumbfounded.  K had told me earlier that vehicles had been stolen off of our street that week. Apparently mine got taken, too!  What kind of A-hole plays real life Grand Theft Auto on a holiday? I was confused and angry. The kids were going to be bummed out, because the Easter Bunny didn’t come with anything.  Brutal.

I had to break the news about the carjacking to K, and by default B, since he was still awake in our bedroom. B was shocked, but when I told K, guess how she reacted?

With laughter.

April Fool’s!

Yeah, she pranked me, since it was April 1. She thought I would go grab coffee in the morning, so she moved my car around the block that evening, to make it look like a theft. She forgot that I had all of the Easter stuff in my trunk, though.  I can’t lie. It was a funny joke, bad timing aside.

I waited for B to settle before retrieving my car, but then I got to work.  As I put together the eggs in the living room, I heard J’s bed squeak upstairs. Panic immediately set in; I tossed a blanket over the stuff.

Then I heard little footsteps.

Then I heard our bedroom door open.

Then I heard J loudly whispering to B to wake up.

Then I ran upstairs to squash that noise!

I told her that I wasn’t going to bed soon, so she shouldn’t bother trying to be sneaky.

Then she fake slept.

That was good enough for me, so I headed back downstairs.

I still had to set up KJ’s basketball net. I immediately realized why it was on clearance. Picture trying to put together Ikea furniture, but with less instructions, and more hard-to-unpackage, ill-fitting parts, and you get the idea. After fumbling with that for a while, it was now well past 2:00 AM. I tapped out. Instead of an epic egg hunt, I was exhausted, so the hunt consisted of me lazily scattering the eggs in our living room and kitchen. Your dude was then able to settle in for a good night’s rest.

Sike!

B and J woke us up at 6:30am.

However, the day wasn’t about grownups. All three kids were happy with their haul, and the hunt, so that was all that mattered. J’s already vowed to catch the Easter Bunny next Easter, unfortunately.

Stay tuned for the sequel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

McBrawlnald’s

You know that expression “the streets is watching”? Where, if you’re out on the streets, getting into trouble, you gotta be mindful of the fact that someone might have eyes on you? Along these lines, as a parent, good or bad, you quickly learn that you have to be aware at all times. Little kids see and hear everything! It’s like the Sesame Streets is watching.

Now, truth be told, pre-kid Mike said and did some stuff back in the day which I’d be embarrassed to do today. At the time, Y.O.L.O.  Who cared what people thought of me? Nowadays, though, there are many ramifications for daddy actin’ the fool in public. The most severe one would be that B, J and little KJ could see that behaviour, and emulate it. Other kids might be encouraged to repeat it, as well; kids who, in the heat of the moment, I may not even know are there. This just isn’t cool.  Stupidity breeds stupidity, right?  As such, the more that we, as responsible adults, can stop being morons acting moronically, the better things will be for the next generation.

For example, take this incident, which happened recently to my wife, K, at a McDonald’s drive-thru. I need to show you this cartographer-quality map, so you can picture what I’m talking about:

Not an actual cartographer-quality map.

 

This particular drive-thru is awkwardly designed. If you enter from street 1, you have to do the full loop around the building when you order. If you enter from street 2, depending on the size of the line, you have to veer off to the side and find a place to wait, before you can get in the line.

K was driving home with the kids one evening, when she stopped at this McDonald’s drive-thru. While waiting in line, a dude (late 20ish in age) rolled up in a pickup truck, from street 2.  Instead of looping back and going behind K in line, he stopped just off of the entrance. His idea was that after she ordered, she would pull up to the window, and he would slide in line after. The problem with this, though, was that until he ordered, he was blocking the entrance/exit.

While K waited, another dude (late 30ish) in a car, with a female passenger, drove up from behind. He wanted to exit onto street 2, but couldn’t, because of the guy in the truck.  Instead of politely asking him to move, he proceeded to roll down his window, to hurl profanities. Truck guy wasn’t having any of that noise, so he rolled down his window, and started cussing back at car guy. K was basically trapped in the middle of this swearfest, as she was boxed in, so she locked the doors.

Truck guy then decided to take things up a notch. He got out, and uttered the three favorite words of every wannabe tough guy and goon:

“YOU WANNA GO?”

Car guy, despite his lady passenger trying to hold him back, did indeed want to go. He hopped out, approached truck guy, and before you could say “let’s get ready to rumble”, they were throwing fisticuffs at each other. K, who was nervous before about the situation, was now scared, so she did what any sensible person would do.

Pulled out her phone, shot a video, and sent it to Worldstar Hip Hop?

What? No.

Her and the kids’ safety was more important than going viral. We live in volatile times, to put it mildly. If these two geniuses are the types to start scrapping in a McDonald’s drive-thru over some bad parking, who’s to say that they aren’t the types who have weapons, or even guns, on them, and would start hurting innocent bystanders?

She called 911.

As she was talking to the 911 dispatcher,  a third dude, who was at the order window, got out of his car. The two brawling mouth-breathers were now rolling around like UFC fighters.  This other guy yelled at them to stop…..

Because there were kids watching!

The two dummies used their few remaining brain cells to come to their senses, and stopped fighting. They then returned to their vehicles. One guy drove off, but the other stayed, to place an order. Remember how,  in old cartoons, the characters would use beef bandages (giant slabs of meat) on their black eyes? That’s what I figure that guy ordered. “Uh, can I please get a quarter pounder? No cheese. No toppings. No bun, either. You don’t have to cook it, just give me the raw frozen patty. Thank you.” 

Now, from this incident, do I think my oldest children are going to start swearing and sucker-punching people in fast food restaurants? I mean, they’re pretty impressionable, but hopefully not. Regardless, it really was something that they didn’t have to experience. It’s just another uncomfortable conversation that we, as parents, have to have with them. If you’re like me, you probably have too many of these talks as is.

So that’s today’s takeaway, folks. The next time you’re road raging, looking to make a spectacle of yourself to prove a point, or want to get in a fist fight in a McDonald’s drive-thru, think about the kids.

The Sesame Streets is watching.

Olympic Nightmares And Velveteen Dreams – WWE NXT Live!

Disclaimer: The good folks at World Wrestling Entertainment graciously hooked me up with tickets to their WWE NXT Live show recently, in St. Catharines, Ontario. This is my review of the event!

 

“WE. ARE. NXT!” 

When Johnny Gargano yelled those words, to conclude a fun night of wrestling matches, the audience burst into cheers, including my kids B and J. What started out as curiosity ended with two converted fans!

For the uninitiated, NXT is basically like the WWE’s minor league wrestling system. It is a roster of talented performers who aren’t quite ready for the big stage. Some of the wrestlers are brand new, some are experienced but still perfecting the intricacies needed to be called up one day, while others are big name “independent” workers  with built in fan bases who are adjusting to the WWE style. Whereas WWE promotes itself as “sports entertainment”, NXT has a more pro wrestling vibe to it. Less talking, more in-ring action.  NXT has its own weekly TV show and regular pay-per-views, as well as their own merchandise. It’s really not a reach to say that some of the stars in NXT are just as popular as WWE ones.

In our house, I do find myself watching wrestling more lately. It’s one of the few shows that I can put on and follow while doing other dad duty stuff, without having to pay attention too closely. Yo, with three kids, to paraphrase Batista, it’s like distractions are not only welcomed, but encouraged.

B will watch with me sometimes, but he’s not that familiar with the NXT brand. J, conversely, only knows John Cena. However, both are pretty open-minded when it comes to outings, so I knew they’d be down for some live wrestling action. Plus, J had told me recently that she wanted to be a princess when she grew up. Now, I know some princesses are pretty empowering. However, I also know that some are just side pieces for their Prince Charmings. I figured it would be a good opportunity to expose J to some other strong female characters.

In terms of the show, the Meridian Centre was about two thirds full. From what I could tell, the crowd was mainly families (with more small girls there around J’s age than I expected), and 20ish/30ish year old looking “smart fans”; that is, the more hardcore wrestling fans who know the behind the scenes stuff. Trust me, this made a difference.

To work on their money skills, I had a little contest going, where before each match, B and J would make a prediction as to who they thought would win. If they were right, I would give them 25 cents. Since they are little kids, their automatic pick would be to pick the good guy or girl, so they could boo the baddies. I’ve been to WWE shows before, and since those crowds tend to have more casual fans in them, they will play along, and cheer/jeer appropriately. With the NXT crowd, though, the smart fans just cheered their own personal favorites! For example, one wrestler named Velveteen Dream is a heel (bad guy). However, he’s such a cool, great performer, that, as soon as his music hit, the place went nuts. B and J both asked me if he was good or bad. All I could say was that he was in the middle. They then both picked him to win. Unfortunately, he lost to another crowd favorite, Aleister Black, in an awesome match.

Velveteen Dream, soaking in the adulation.

The crowd also popped huge when Richochet’s name appeared on the jumbo screen, and he showed up. This was one of his first matches in NXT, as he hadn’t been on the TV shows yet. So to me, it was unexpected that he got such a big reaction.  However, he is a star outside of WWE. Dude’s an incredible athlete, and did some stuff that I had never seen before, in his match with Buddy Murphy.

Not every thing was bizarro world, though. By far, the wrestler who got the most heat was a Marcell Barthel, an arrogant German. Earlier that day, Germany had stunned Canada at the Olympics in hockey, crushing our gold medal dreams. Barthel made sure to mention this to us, which got him booed out of the building, unsurprisingly.

Also unsurprisingly was J’s favorite contest – the women’s three way match between Nikki Cross (dat gurl be cray cray), Aliyah (who bragged about reppin’ Toronto, and hated on St. Catharines, so she got booed hard) and the NXT Women’s Champion, Ember Moon. J really liked Moon. I tried to say she was a butt-kicking warrior princess, but J took that to mean she was the Queen. Eh, close enough.

All in all, it was a fun night out, with a lively crowd. If you had no idea who the performers were going in, they all did such a good job in getting their characters over, and the audience was so into them, that it was easy to be invested in the outcomes of the matches. B and J went in blind, and a week later, they still randomly talk about Johnny Wrestling (Johnny Gargano), Mrs. Wrestling (Candice LeRae, Gargano’s wife), the Queen, or Velveteen Dream. I’ll add that even though my tickets were free, NXT Live is reasonably priced, as well. For our event, cheap seats weren’t that much more than taking the family to a 3D movie, for example. I also appreciated that, at least from our vantage point, the audience respected the kids in attendance, so the chanting and yelling was not vulgar or profane.

Thanks again, WWE. If NXT Live comes to your town, as Billy Red Lyons use to say, don’t cha dare miss it!

 

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