Category: lesson learned

The Canusa Games

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

Welcome to the Canusa Games.

Canusa Games

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What the heck was I missing?

 

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

Canusa Games

Canusa Games

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

 

Pure Michigan

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

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

canusa games

 

canusa games basketball

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

canusa games

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

things to do in flint with kids

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

things to do in flint with kids

 

things to do in flint with kids

things to do in flint with kids

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

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

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

Huh.

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

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

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

Uh-oh!

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

Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?

 

Hey, not now, Alanis Morrisette!

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

Promise!

 

 

 

 

The Kids Are Alright

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

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

stories about tolerance

 

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh. Don’t do this.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

The 2018 Wrap Up


What up, my dudes! Another year has almost come and gone, and looking back on it, I see that it’s been an interesting one, for real.  Through the many trials, tribulations and experiences (some of which I’ve written about here), I’ve really learned a lot. For example:

– I spent some time behind the scenes, in the audience, and in front of the camera. The TV and film life is cool from a distance, but it isn’t for me.

–  Being excluded sucks, and I’ve tried to remind my kids of this. Hopefully, they aren’t the ones who someday start a club like No Homers.

– From my chaperoning adventure, supervising large groups of kids isn’t my forte.  Yet.

– B’s hoop skills have improved a lot. It’s just a matter of time now before he beats me one on one. When this happens, chances are I’ll cry.  In the meantime, if he’s close to winning, I’ll start faking an injury before the last bucket, so my L isn’t official.

– Fortnite. I don’t get it.

– J’s grown up a lot, too. Reading, for instance.  She started the year as a pretty average reader for her age. She’s gotten a lot better, though, month by month, to the point that she now reads bedtime stories to me, instead of vice versa.

– Speaking of growing, check out her legs in this picture:

It’s from a modeling gig for a catalogue.  I figured that there would be some photoshopping or whatever involved. However, of all the things to digitally enhance, I have no clue why the photographers settled on a six year old girl’s legs. Always expect the unexpected, was my takeaway from that experience.

– We booked a road trip to Lansing last year, in part to see uber baseball prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. About a week before our trip, he got called up to the next minor league level, so we didn’t see him. This season, I bought Toronto Blue Jays tickets in April, for a September game, thinking Vlad would be in Toronto by then.  Then in May, I heard that Vlad was being called up to Buffalo soon, so we made plans to see him there in June.  Before our game, though, he ended up on the injured list, so we missed him again. When September came around, the Jays didn’t call him up to the major leagues, so I didn’t see him there, either.  Conclusion? Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a unicorn who does not exist.

– Baby Shark.  I don’t get it.

– KJ is a sweet lil dude overall, and hilarious, but the ‘terrible twos’ is still very much a thing. He spent the other day alternating between happily playing and losing his mind because he kept asking for “daddoo back”, and because I’m adult who speaks English, I had no idea what the heck he wanted.  If daddoo back was a physical object, he probably would have  beat me with it.

Not daddoo back, FYI.

– The older I get, the more conservative I get. Take this story, for example, of P.K. Subban, Lindsey Vonn and friends, cliff jumping.

About a week before, no joke, I was in the same spot, same cliff, with some of my friends, who took the same plunge as in this video. Where’s my Instagram evidence, you ask? There is none. I chickened out. Those rocks look painful, yo!

– This Is Us. I don’t get it.

– If someone told you that, in the last twelve months, they hung out at a set where Drake filmed stuff on, saw Drake in concert, dressed up as Drake for Halloween, and In My Feelings was their most played song of 2018, you’d probably say, “Man, that teenager sure is a Drake fan!”.  The fact that I’m actually talking about my thirtysomething year old self probably means that some of you are going to stop reading the rest of this now, out of Drake hate. Anyway, in 2018, I’ve discovered that I apparently really like Aubrey Graham.

– Finally,  I think the most important lesson that was reiterated this year was to not take your family and friends for granted. Like Ferris Bueller said, life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. So enjoy life, and the people in it who make it better.

From my fam to yours, Happy New Year, y’all! See you in 2K19!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Retail Stores

Dear Retail Stores,

You and I, we’ve spent a lot of time together over the years. Things feel different now, though, and I’ve felt this way for a while. Shoot, you look as nice as ever. That’s not the problem. It’s just…..

I’ve changed.

I got three small kids now, and I don’t have the time for you anymore. There’s also somebody else, too. Somebody who’s easier, sorry. Therefore, we need to take a break for a while.  Let me explain.

First off, relationships are based on honesty, and you’ve lied to me recently.  I went to Sears, where they heavily advertised everything being 20-50% off. Yet, as I walked around you, I saw a lot of 20% off signs, but no 50% ones. I had a better chance of finding Waldo there, than a half off discount.

Then, I went way out of my way to see you the other night. A Superstore, to be exact. I wanted to buy a basketball game that was in your flyer, but, alas, you were sold out. I guess that’s what I get for popping in, and not calling beforehand.  On the way home, I went to Walmart. I had to buy some toilet paper. I grabbed a pack that was on sale for $13.97…..but you did me wrong. You rang in at $19.98. I argued with the cashier a bit, who thought I was mistaken. I went back to the aisle where I got it, and I was right. The marked price was $13.97! I just wanted to buy some TP. Having to argue over your price was pretty crappy, no pun intended.

Pun totally intended.

That same night, I found out that K had spent hours trying to set up a printer that she got from a Staples a couple of months ago. I attempted to hook it up, too, but no luck. The next day, I called HP,  who made the printer. They told me that the issue wasn’t hardware related, but software related. They would happily fix my problem……for a one time set up fee of $49.99 and $14.99/month for a year after. When I pointed out that the set up fee cost more than the printer, and for all I knew, it was defective, so why should I have to pay $49.99 plus a monthly fee just for HP to tell me it was defective, I was met with indifference. When I asked if HP’s competitors had similar policies, I was basically told (not exact words) that Windows didn’t, but Windows stuff was more expensive, so you get what you get with HP, take it or leave it.  We decided to take it. Take it back to you, the next day!

Admittedly, the staff at Staples the following day was friendly and helpful, especially since we had lost the receipt. However, still feeling annoyed about my convo with HP the day before, I asked what was available in non-HP printers. Unfortunately, the selection was lacking. I settled with swapping out for the same HP model. It was disappointing, to say the least.

I was disappointed some more too, by you that day. I was in the market for a simple Nerf gun, and a booster seat. You’re called Toys R Us, but apparently Nerf guns and booster seats R Not Us, as you were out of what I wanted.   Next, I tried Canadian Tire, where you also didn’t have what I was looking for.  I headed to Walmart. Once again, I came up empty-handed. I did decide to buy some Christmas lights, to make my outing not so useless.  When I went to pay for my items,  however, you didn’t want my money.

No, for real.

Walmart’s debit/credit machines stopped working. Having no cash, I couldn’t buy my items, so I went home.

Home to someone else.

That someone else…..is Online. I bought my booster seat and Nerf gun Online, no problem there.  If Online doesn’t have something, I can quickly find it somewhere else. Online has a wide selection of stuff, so I don’t have to settle. Online always takes my money, no problem. It’s nice to not have spend hours driving around in vain looking for something, and spend that time with the family, instead. Online is so easy.  Online isn’t perfect, obviously, but right now? They’re kind of better than you sometimes.

I’m not a complicated man, but I have needs. Needs that you aren’t always able to meet. So for now, I’m going to pursue things more with Online. We can still chill, though, Retail Stores. There will always be a place for you in my life.  You can’t be my main squeeze. You can only be my side piece. But that’s OK, too, right? Consider us friends with benefits. If Online can’t satisfy me, you and I can hook up!

This isn’t a goodbye. It’s just a so long for now. Good luck over the holidays!

Sincerely,

Mike

 

45 Minutes

 

So my family was in Michigan recently. While strolling around a town one evening, we decided to eat at a restaurant. I won’t say the real name of it (to not falsely incriminate them), so let’s call it Milky’s. Milky’s looked fairly busy, so I figured that I’d run in, to see what the wait time was for a table. With a seven and a five year old, along with a baby,  plus a hungry wife, timing is everything. If the wait wasn’t too bad, I’d put my name on the wait list; otherwise, we would go somewhere else.

There were four employees standing around the front area in Milky’s, and the place looked at most 3/4 full. There were only a couple of kids hanging out in the waiting lounge, too. I asked one of the hostesses how long it would be for “a table for five, but one just needs a high chair”.  The four of them talked quietly among each other, then one wandered off towards the back area. When he returned, I was told that it would be at least a 45 minute wait. That seemed a bit long, so I said thanks but no thanks, and left.

I told the family about the 45 minute time. After talking to K, we realized that by the time we walked to a different restaurant, and got seated, it would probably take at least 45 minutes, anyway. As such, we decided to add our name onto the wait list at Milky’s. Or, more specifically, because I felt sheepish about going back, K headed in to put our name down.

As K went inside, B said the following:

“If mom gets us a table, then this place is racist!”

B’s seven years old. The whole subject of racism wasn’t one that I had touched on with him yet. Needless to say, my jaw dropped at his remark, so my knee-jerk reaction was to defend Milky’s. I told him it was really busy, it didn’t matter who you were, you would have to wait regardless, and so on.

I looked up, and saw K waving us in.  She said there was a table ready for us now!  B then said to me:

“See? I told you this place was racist!”

Once again, I was speechless.

This incident sucks, to be honest. I want to give the restaurant the benefit of doubt here. K did tell me that she asked for “four people plus one high chair”. This wasn’t like how I asked, so maybe they had a different set of tables in mind for my request, than hers. Waiting 45 minutes or longer isn’t that big of a deal, as long as everyone is in the same boat.

And yet…..

A black guy wearing jorts, a baggy shirt and a fitted hat (yo, I never said I dressed well, people) gets the ‘take a hike’ time, while the pretty blonde woman walks in right after, and gets immediate service?  The table that we ended up at was in the same area where the employee had went to, when I inquired.

So the time to be seated there went from 45 to zero, real quick?

Man, the optics are sketchy. It’s entirely possible that Milky’s rationale for this was perfectly valid. However, it’s plausible that their reasoning could have been discriminatory-based, too. I don’t know for sureAnd that not knowing part sucks.

Worst of all was B’s reaction, obviously. Your number one job as a parent is to protect your kids. Unfortunately, though, there are some things in our life which you just can’t protect them from.  Death, for example. Or the cold, hard truth about Santa Claus. Or, when you are a visible minority, the fact that there are people who will hate you because of the colour of your skin. I thought seven was too young of an age to be exposed to racism, but I was wrong.

I was a little bothered during dinner. I wanted to give it some thought, before talking to B.  So later, when we discussed what had happened, I asked him where he learned about racists. His response?

“Well, Donald Trump, because he doesn’t like black people”

WTF!

Look, don’t get it twisted, I’m not throwing shade at Trump.  B apparently heard things from his friends at school, and ran with it. I just think it’s messed up that a little boy visits the USA, and because (in his mind) the President of that country doesn’t like his skin colour, he can expect to go somewhere and be discriminated against. To reiterate, I’m not claiming Trump or Milky’s are racist. I’m saying that it sucks that my seven year old son somehow came to this conclusion, and I couldn’t entirely dismiss him, when he called out Milky’s on their tactics.

It’s on me now to work on this mindset with my children, I get that.  I can’t fix racism, but I can at least instil confidence and hope in my kids about who they are, and what the future holds.  Without going all John Lennon on y’all, imagine a world where you never have to think that the colour of your skin is going to hold you back from doing stuff. Pretty crazy, eh?

And yet, why is that crazy?

Anyway, that’s my story for today. For what it’s worth, if you can deal with the possible discrimination at Milky’s, I highly recommend the fish tacos.

 

 

 

 

Man Vs. Sub (Or What It’s Like Dealing With A Picky Kid Eater)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but I live with  a picky eater.

B’s seven years old, and for as long as I can remember, he’s been very particular and fussy about his food. I’m pretty sure he was spitting out breast milk when he was baby, if it wasn’t a certain flavour (Or not. That was seven years ago. I probably made that up).  Sure, he has his core meal foods that he’ll eat regularly. And sure, he’ll chow down on snacks like a mofo. However, the problem is  that his preferred meals list is specific and tiny. Like, you can count it on one hand tiny.

Take pizza, for example. Now, I don’t know about you, but for me, the best part of a pizza is the toppings. B, on the other hand, likes pizza, but hates toppings. As such, he only ever wants plain cheese pizza…..and only if it’s made a certain way, or from certain restaurants. Otherwise, he won’t touch it.

Now, I don’t know about you, but for me, plain cheese pizza kinda sucks.

 

Oh yeah, Mike? YOU SUCK!

Sorry, plain cheese pizza.

Anyway, I’ve eaten more B-rejected ‘za over the years than I care to admit.

So yes, meal times are definitely a challenge in our house.  Unless it’s something from B’s short list, we can pretty much expect a fight.  It’s like we’re in a rap battle. K and I get it poppin’ off right, but B comes back at us hard, and a verbal battle of wits ensues. Unfortunately, I’m not the Eminem of parenting, so I typically get served with the L. Man, I just want to eat my meatloaf, not negotiate with a kid about how few bites he needs to eat, or pick imaginary hairs off his plate, or watch him gag and convulse on the floor after taking a nibble, as if he just ingested bleach .

B is actually happy here, and rocking out to some music. I just thought this picture was appropriate.

K and I have tried every technique and trick that Google has  we can think of, to open up his eating habits.  Look,  I get it.  Maybe there’s some deep-rooted psychological issues and phobias behind B’s pickiness…….

Or maybe B just gets a kick out being off-the-chains ridiculous.

Take the other day, for instance. The plan for lunch was delicious, assorted Subway subs, left over from the previous night. When asked which delicious sub he wanted, B asked for a turkey one, with mayo.  I gave him a sandwich, he gobbled it down and that was that.

Haha, of course it wasn’t that easy. The following actually happened instead:

♦ When given his delicious sub, B immediately cringed at it. He said that he didn’t like the bread (parmesan oregano), and asked for it on different bread.

♦I’ve seen B eat this bread, though, a couple of times, so I told him as such. And not being a sandwich artist, I denied his request.

♦Whining ensued. He refused to eat, because of the spices on the bread. He attempted to scrape them off, to no avail.

♦Negotiation time! He asked if he could make his own sandwich, except on a tortilla wrap instead. I agreed, under the condition that he still eat the delicious Subway bread. More whining, but eventually he took the deal.

♦ B discovered that there was white cheese on his delicious sub, which was stuck on some of the bread. Oh no! Apparently he didn’t like cheese (on that day, anyway), so a freak out occurred.

♦After picking away for a bit, he now had the turkey, chunks of paremesan oregano bread, and a tortilla wrap spread out on his plate . Having taken zero bites, he insisted that he was thirsty, and needed a drink.

♦More negotiation. Now claiming to be full (of the water he drank?), he asked how many bites he had to take.  My answer of “all of them” did not go over well. After arguing a bit more about his fullness, he then asked if he could just eat his bread only. You know, the bread that he refused to eat initially.

♦I told him that he had to eat EVERYTHING on his plate. I logically explained that if he had just ate what he had asked for initially, he now wouldn’t have to eat that, plus a stupid tortilla. Kids aren’t always the most logical, so a freak out predictably followed. The main issue now was the cheese. To solve this problem, I ripped out the pieces of bread and turkey with cheese stuck on them. I then put the rest of the delicious sub back together and gave it to him to eat. It now didn’t look delicious. It looked like the sub of Frankenstein.

♦I left the table. While away, B tried to weasel a deal out of K, by agreeing to eat a handful of carrots instead of the food on his plate. No dice. He wasn’t going to waste his lunch this time.

♦After another 45 minutes or so of whining and complaining, he finally gave up. He ate his delicious, but not delicious looking, sub. I gave him a pass on the tortilla.

And there you have it. No clue if other picky kid eaters behave like this, but that’s what we usually deal with. At this point, improving B’s pallet is a definitely a work in a progress.

Perhaps one day when he’s older, B, between bites of his escargot or some other tasty, sophisticated dish, will read this post and chuckle at his youthful pickiness,

Until then,  I’m out. I gotta go finish off some plain cheese pizza.

Peace!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shot

I’m a real sucker for “dad” moments in sports.

You know, those heartwarming incidents that happen during a game or event, which really highlight the love between a father and their children.

From Jeff Hornacek wiping his face during free throw attempts as a way to secretly say hi to his kids, to the dude who saved his son’s head from a flying bat, to Derek Redmond’s pops jumping out of the stands to help him finish an Olympic race,  to (my personal fav) John McDonald fulfilling a promise he made to his dying dad by hitting a home run on Father’s Day, stuff like this really gets to me.

And to these iconic moments, I’ll add one of my own, one which will forever be known (in our house anyway) as The Shot.

It occurred during  three-pitch softball recently, where B had come with me to my game. Despite it being a fun, recreational co-ed league, there are a ton of people in it who can flat out crush the ball. Yours truly, however, is not one of them. Possessing shallow outfield pop-fly power, I am the most slap-single happy guy in the whole league.

While effective, this isn’t exactly sexy.  Other kids at games cheer their dads on to “hit a homer!” Meanwhile, B gets to watch his old man leg out infield grounders. As a result, B’s taken to the sluggers on our team, and roots for them more than me, because, well, dingers!

Glad you find that funny, Bryce Harper

Glad you find that funny, Bryce Harper.

Which brings me to The Shot.

 

B had been having a blast playing ball boy that day. When a foul ball was hit, he would run to retrieve it, and throw it back on the field.

As I was waiting on deck, for my turn to bat, B came over to me and said “Daddy? I’m going to go over there (he pointed to the backstop, behind home plate). Can you hit a foul ball to me?”

Now, besides having no power, I should mention that I also have no aim. I’ve never picked a spot and hit a ball to it. I’d have just as little a chance of perfectly fouling off a pitch as I would of hitting a home run.

So of course I told B that I would hit a ball to him!

As he excitedly ran off to the backstop, it dawned on me what a bad idea this potentially was. I would only have two chances to perfectly foul off a pitch (I couldn’t get out by wasting the third pitch). On top of that, there was a decent crowd of people.  I would have to hit it in the area that B was, so he alone could retrieve the ball. I also had to hope that the ball wouldn’t injure someone, too.

Negative thoughts filled my head when I stood at the plate. I pictured me swinging, and having the ball bounce off my face, shattering my nose. As I bled profusely, B would laugh and call me a failure, and immediately seek emancipation from his loser dad. Maybe Kelly Clarkson would write a song about it.

428px-Kelly_Clarkson_Blue_Angels

Glad you find that funny, Kelly Clarkson.

Anyway, with all that on my mind, the pitcher threw the ball.

As it neared, I took an uppercut swing.

CRACK!

The ball floated up. It sailed back. Back over the backstop…..back over B……and landed and rolled safely, a good 20 feet behind him.

B happily sprinted off, scooped it and proudly threw it back onto the field.  After the game, he was more turnt up about that play, than any other hit or home run. #winning

Against all reasonable explanation, I said that I would hit a foul ball to my son, and I did it. I called my shot, forever to be known as The Shot.

Babe Ruth would be proud. Or  indifferent. Definitely indifferent.

Babe Ruth would be envious. Or  indifferent. Definitely indifferent.

 

Now truth be told, B’s probably forgotten about this little play, and I’m the only one who still thinks it was awesome .

That’s cool, though.

You see, in baseball and in parenting, we can’t all be home run hitters.  All we can do is try our best. Sometimes we’ll strike out. Sometimes we’ll hit a single. Sometimes, we’ll knock one out of the park.

And sometimes, on that rare occasion, a foul ball will be just as good as a homer.

SAYNG

True Colors

The other morning,  while getting ready for school, B suddenly blurted this out to us:

“Did you know that they say the N word on Casper’s Scare School?”

npic

Now, if your kid said this to you, what would your reaction be? For me, I hadn’t had my coffee yet, but this provided quite the jolt!

B and J had recently watched some episodes of Casper’s Scare School on Netflix, featuring Casper The Friendly Ghost. As far as I could tell, it was a fairly tame show. So when B dropped this bombshell on us, I was confused and disappointed.

Did they really say THAT word on that show?!

It goes without saying that the N word which I’m referring to is still a very powerful, controversial one in our language. Shoot, I remember the first time I heard it. I was right around B’s current age, six or seven years old. I was playing in front of our house, when a bunch of teenage boys walked by, and called me it. Even though I didn’t understand what it meant at the time, the way that those boys said the word, with such laughter and disdain, it really did hurt me a lot.

The world kind of sucks sometimes, and there are a lot of haters out there. Fortunately, little children have this naive purity, in terms of their outlook on life. I can’t shield my kids from reality forever. I get that. I can at least do my best to delay certain aspects of reality from them, however. Let them be kids and worry about kid stuff.

With all that said, I was still confused about B’s comment.  Being multi-racial, my kids are ‘visibly black’, for lack of a better term. I do fully intend to one day sit down and talk about the N word to them. They should understand the history and meaning behind it, in case it is used in a derogatory fashion towards them.

But…..

I hadn’t had that conversation with them yet! As such, I wasn’t sure how B even knew what the N word was. I’ve never said it when he was around. We don’t listen to, or watch, anything profane around him, either. If he heard it at school, he probably would have told us about it.

So what was he talking about? Why was he so nonchalant? And what was Casper’s problem, to boot? Something didn’t add up.  More explanation was needed. I braced myself, and asked B to tell us what word he heard.

B’s response?

“Casper said…NITWIT!”

 

And like that, I instantly felt relieved. B meant a completely different N word!

I  guess I should have known better. There have been more times than I can count of me assuming something, and being way off about it. Sometimes, I’m not even in the same book as B and J, let alone on the same page as them. In this case, B’s book was full of N words, but not the N word, apparently.

So, in the end, Casper was just a friendly ghost, not a friendly racist in a white hood. And most important of all, my kids’ naive purity remained intact…….minus the fact that they watched a show which used such salty language.

Speaking of that, for the record, Casper also used the I word, according to B.

You know.

Idiot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bedtime WTF – Flaming Panties Edition

flame

One of the cool parts about being a parent is the never-ending string of learning experiences. Not just by your kids, though, but by you, too. It’s always something, man.

Take the other night, for example, when my house was almost set ablaze by a pair of underwear.

Yeah. Some things you just can’t make up.

 

It all started off so uneventfully.  It was just me with B and J for the evening, as K was out. After doing our usual bedtime routine (I tell them that it’s time for bed, and they proceed to defiantly cause a ruckus. What? I didn’t say that it was a good routine),  the kids went off to their rooms, to get their pyjamas on.  I said that I would come back soon, to check on them. Now, on most nights, I usually head downstairs and do whatever. On this night, though, I decided to stay upstairs in our bedroom, to put some laundry away.

Five minutes later, a warm, sweet-smelling scent filled the air.

My initial reaction was that someone was making cookies. Nice!

My next reaction was, wait a minute. No one else was home….who was making cookies!!!!???

 

I may or may not have thought of ghosts.

I may or may not have thought it was the ghost of a Keebler elf.

I headed down to the kitchen, to investigate. The stove was off. No cookies. No scents, as well, which didn’t make sense. Confused, I realized that the smell was emanating from upstairs. I went back up, and narrowed its origin down to either B or J’s room.

The kids don’t have Easy-Bake Ovens, so I knew they weren’t creating any late night goodies. After taking a nice big whiff, I figured out that the odour was definitely coming from J’s room. I walked in, and found her sitting on the floor, doing a puzzle with her stuffed animals. I asked why her room smelled so delicious. She had no idea. I looked around and I couldn’t figure it out. I searched under her bed, in her closet, and in her ceiling light.

Nada.

It then dawned on me that the lamp on her bedside table seemed darker than normal.

Bingo!

I discovered the culprit:

20160411_205119_HDR

No, someone did not forget to wipe.

This is a pair of J’s underwear which were cooking on the light bulb in her lamp. See, when J was changing into her pyjamas, she took off her underwear and flung them towards her laundry hamper. However, they somehow ended up landing in her lamp (Breanna Stewart, your job is safe for now). Then, instead of moving them, she left them there to bake, because, well #kidslogic.

The messed up part is that these were the charred remains after just a few minutes on the light bulb. Can you imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t stayed up in our room? What if a fire had broken out? Scary stuff, dude. It’s amazing how the most random things can potentially cause serious consequences.

The end result?

A valuable lesson about fire safety was learned.  The importance of understanding flammable hazards in the house can not be understated, for real.

And yes, in case you were wondering, cookies were had by me afterwards.

Be safe, y’all!

 

 

 

 

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