Category: real talk

What A Wonderful World

 

I had a really vivid nightmare a few months ago. One of my kids and I were on a roof of a house, when they suddenly lost their balance and fell. I tried to catch them, but I didn’t. I watched them fall and land gruesomely on the hard ground below. This image stuck in my head, and even now, I’ll randomly remember it and get chills. What’s even worse, though, is this feeling that, despite me trying to hold on and protect my kids from the evils and dangers that exist in this world, as they get older,  it’s getting so  much harder to do this. I’m losing my grip, but I don’t want to see them fall.

 

I say this because I’ve been thinking a lot about a horrific incident that happened here in Hamilton this week.  As of this writing, the full details aren’t completely clear, but a 14 year old kid named Devan Bracci-Selvey was stabbed to death outside of his downtown high school,  in front of his own mother. Two teens have been charged with first degree murder, teens who allegedly bullied this kid since the start of the school year. How the bullying escalated to the point that it culminated in killing someone in front of their own mother’s eyes is unfathomable.

Like most of the community,  I was shook when I heard about this tragedy. Things resonate more when they are so close to home. I mean, yeah, I mentioned my stupid nightmare, but to actually helplessly watch your child die in front of your eyes in such a sadistic way is unimaginable. Like most parents, it made me think about my children, too. Everyone that I talked to about this tragedy all had the same conclusion:

This could have happened to my kid.

 

I nodded in agreement every time that I had heard this. It makes me wonder, though, why do I nod at this conclusion? It’s almost like we’ve come to expect the worst-case scenario, and live our lives based on that.

The other day, I found J and KJ playing “school lockdown” with their stuffed animals at our house. Two little kids making a game with some teddy bears, out of running and hiding for their lives, in the event that some bad person wants to do something bad to them. J’s school had practised a lockdown recently, so in her seven year old head, she thought it was no biggie to explain it to her two year old brother.   When I suggested to J that they play something else, she was confused. In her mind, a lockdown was just as normal as doing math work, or drawing pictures, or anything that she does throughout the course of a school day.

And you know what?

She’s not wrong in thinking this, because that’s the way things are nowadays. It’s important and necessary…but it’s still kind of heartbreaking.

 

One of the criticisms of Devan’s situation already is that “the system” failed him. If he was being tormented for months by these people, and he went to the appropriate authority figures for help, why wasn’t more done to protect him?  If my kids were being relentlessly bullied, or being relentless bullies, I don’t know what exactly I’d do, to make it stop, if my kids weren’t able to, on their own.

Bullying has been around since the beginning of time. I get that, and educating kids about bullying and its effects is key. But what if who you’re dealing with goes behind being a bully? Is the kid who gives wedgies the same as the kid who decides to bring a knife to a school and commit cold-blooded murder for God know’s what reason? Which system is at failure here? The school system that Devan went to, trying to get the bullies to leave him be? What about the system that didn’t recognize the signs that the bullying teen was disturbed, and needed to be helped before he kills someone? That goes beyond the school and starts at home, no? Was this an extreme example of bullying, or the deplorable work of a depraved young individual who should have been diagnosed and stopped a long time ago?

Did we all fail Devan?

Not long ago, J and I drove past a candlelight vigil for Devan that our part of Hamilton had put on. J didn’t know what had happened, or what a vigil was, so we talked about it for a bit, her voice full of surprise and sadness.  She asked me why the ‘bullies’ did that, and I had no good reply for her. I don’t know, man. I don’t know. I’m just trying to make sense of something that makes no sense, looking for answers that may never be answered.  I don’t know why Devan was targeted to be the victim of torment which eventually cost him his life. It really could have happened to any kid, and that’s a scary thought.

R.I.P. Devan Bracci-Selvey. While your story isn’t unique, unfortunately,  hopefully your senseless death is not in vain and we can all come to grips with ensuring that a tragedy like this never happens again.

24 Hours In Chicago

 

24 hours in Chicago

 

They say that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  Now, I haven’t planned anything with a mouse lately (or ever), but I have with my family,  and, to paraphrase Lizzo:

why plans great til they gotta be great?

For example, we recently got to spend 24 hours in Chicago. Having never been to The Windy City before, I had a rough itinerary in mind for us, to maximize our time. I then envisioned coming back and telling y’all about our adventures. Luxurious shopping sprees along the Magnificent Mile. Family photos in front of iconic Chicago landmarks like the Bean and the Michael Jordan statue. Self indulgent visits to the locations of my favorite rapper’s childhood home (Kanye West) and the house where my favorite TV show is filmed in (Shameless).  Scenes recreated throughout Chi-Town with the kids from my favorite 80s movie (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Potentially, it would be an epic Chicago day tour.

Believe it or not, our 24 hours in Chicago did not go as I thought that it would.  At all.  Here’s how it went down, to the best of my recollection:

9:00AM – Stopped by the Milwaukee Public Market to grab some breakfast, as part of the final stop on our Milwaukee trip.  Planned to then make the almost two hour drive to Chicago afterwards. Arrived at the market, and realized that most of the vendors did not open up shop until 10:00AM. Sat outside the market in our van until then.

10:00AM – Stopped by the Milwaukee Public Market to grab some breakfast as part of the final stop on our Milwaukee trip. It had started to rain heavily while we were waiting outside.  We got our food to go, and then headed to Chicago in some occasionally torrential downpours, surrounded by dangerously driving transport trucks. It’s a white knuckle drive.

11:00AM – Realized that the forecast in Chicago calls for rain all day.  Realized that we’ll have to call an audible on most of the potential destinations on my agenda. Touring around in the rain with three small, soggy kids is a recipe for a sucktacular trip.

11:50AM – Arrived at our first destination, Water Tower Place, to go the American Girl Store, a giant doll store that J had been excited about visiting for months. Upon arrival, discovered that affordable parking in downtown Chicago is harder to find than Steve Bartman’s whereabouts.  Some of the parking signage is harder to decipher than the Bulls’ old triangle offense. Proceeded to drive around aimlessly, looking for a reasonable, understandable parking spot.

12:20PM – Finally find a meter parking spot about two blocks away from Water Tower Place. Walked to the American Girl Store.

12:20AM – Kidding. It only felt like I spent 12 hours at the American Girl Store. We were actually there for an hour, with J loving every minute. If you’ve ever wanted to take your doll to a hair salon, or get your kid the same outfit as their doll,  then this is the place for you, by the way.

24 hours in chicago

 

1:20PM –  The rain kiboshed the shopping spree along the Magnificent Mile. Well, the rain, and the price tags at some of the high end shops. Instead, we walked through Water Tower Place and went to Macy’s. It had eight floors in it, and clearance sections galore, perfect for Canadians like us looking to ball out on a budget.  Unfortunately, it’s also perfect for toddlers like KJ to run around the store like Walter Payton, and to play hide and seek by himself in the clothing racks.

chicago day tour

KJ still made time to pose with J in front of this giant Lego statue, though.

2:10PM – Back to the car, to make our way to an actual iconic Chicago landmark – the Skydeck at Willis Tower (courtesy of tickets from my good friends at the Skydeck. Thanks again, guys!).  It’s about a 12 minute drive, to get there from where we were.

2:50PM – Finally find a parking spot after some difficulties, same reasons as before. We are basically closer to Water Tower Place than Willis Tower. We are at a confusingly worded meter, as well.  From it, I conclude that we have until 4:00pm to park there, before Oprah Winfrey would come to take our car away, and give it to a member of a studio audience.  My conclusion is most likely not even close to being correct. Regardless, we gotta book it to, and through, the Skydeck.

3:00-3:40PM –  the Skydeck was not busy, so we were in, up (a 90 second elevator ride!) and enjoying the 1300 plus feet lookout in short fashion. It really was amazing up there. Spectacular views of the city. Tried to take some pics for da ‘Gram, none of which end up making the cut. For example, here’s a family shot of us on the Skydeck Ledge glass floor.  If I look scared, it’s because I was scared. If our family looks short-handed, it’s because B didn’t want to come on the Ledge, for the picture. If KJ looks like he’s so hungry that he had to eat his shirt, it’s because he probably was.

Skydeck Ledge

Tried to get the kids to pose like Ferris, Sloane and Cam did in Ferris Buehller. Realized that they hadn’t seen the movie, and didn’t know what I was talking about. Settled for this shot:

 

24 hours in chicago

In the spirit of the Toronto Raptors’ championship and “We The North”, here is “He The North”, as in I’m way up in sky, rocking a Raps’ hat:

skydeck ledge

I’m sorry, peeps, I’m really not very creative.

 

3:45PM – Time to rush back to the car. At one point, instead of running, KJ dropped and starting doing push ups.

3:54PM –  Noticed KJ crossing a bridge, with some of Chicago’s majestic skyscrapers in the background, would make for a cute pic. Say cheese, little man!

chicago day tour

Thanks, white van, for the photobomb.

3:59PM – No sign of Oprah, so our car is safe. With rain pouring down, we decided to go to our hotel, The Willows Hotel, located near the Wrigleyville area of the city.  On the way, a rain-drenched Wrigley Field field was not in the cards, so I did the next best thing – walked around the stadium and took some mediocre pictures!

24 hours in chicago

chicago day tour

wrigley field tour

The rain is temporary, but the stupid look on my face will last forever.

 

5:00PM – Arrived at The Willows Hotel. It’s a lovely, smaller, boutique hotel, with an old, old school (think 19th century) feel. B will make repeated comments about how he can’t believe the TVs are so new in such a classic building.

6:00PM – The hotel is in a nice, quiet neighbourhood, so we decided to go for a walk.  We end up in a clearance section at a T.J. Maxx, because we are apparently all about discounted stuff from department stores which aren’t in Canada. I have this convo with KJ there:

KJ – I miss you!

Me – You can’t miss me. You’re right beside me.

*KJ runs away, runs back*

KJ – I miss you!

I should also mention that, throughout these 24 hours in Chicago, B had been complaining about a headache. The poor kid kept freaking himself out, and escalating his symptoms via incorrect self-diagnosis.  It started off in the morning as the slightest of headaches. Later, it increased to it hurting only when he shook his head violently, as if he was headbanging (note: B had never headbanged before in his life).  By the time that we are in T.J. Maxx, he is essentially sulking around the place, thinking that he needs a brain transplant.

6:30PM – K had looked up restaurants in the area, so we start to head out to decent sounding one.

6:32PM – K looked up reviews of said restaurant, and read that the owner was allegedly openly racist. We walk to a different dining establishment (in the rain, of course).

8:00PM – After dinner, we walk to get dessert/breakfast, from Stan’s Donuts.

Stan's Donuts Chicago

What? They were really good. That’s all.

8:25PM – Back to the hotel.  Yes, I realize that this seems early to call it a night for someone who wanted to maximize their 24 hours in Chicago. However, we were tired. Plus B had ‘inceptioned’ me, by planting seeds of doubt in my head about the crime rate in the city (“Hey dad, are we going to get shot in Chicago?“). Tapping out and enjoying the safety of our comfy hotel seemed like a good call.

6:00AM-7:00AM – Pack up, get some continental breakfast to go with our donuts, and check out of the hotel, so we can make the 8ish hour long drive home.

7:00AM – 7:30AM – We followed the Waze App, to guide us. The route that we take is very scenic, along the outskirts of the city.  Between the skyline and architecture, it’s beautiful looking, in the distance.

24 hours in chicago

7:30AM – We get led to the “Chicago Skyway”, which is a toll road. We pay $5 US to use it.

7:38AM – Waze leads us off of the Skyway, and onto another road. Huh? That’s it?!  I immediately want my $5 US back.

We continued our way out of Chi-Town, until it was nothing but a recent memory.

Hopefully, a return trip will be in order, in the future, and hopefully, things will go as planned, too.

But, you know what they say about the best laid plans, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Reclining Seats Are Trouble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead of kicking his seat,  kick him!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

That’s just gross and ignorant.

 

Later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trapped In A Closet With Fake Newz Around The Corner

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

TRAPPED IN A CLOSET

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

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

Oh, c’mon!

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

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

Or more specifically, B’s closet.

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

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

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

FAKE NEWZ

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

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

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

“Is YouTube Real?”

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

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

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

J – “But I saw him on YouTube.”

Me – “So?”

J – “You said YouTube is real.”

Oh. Right. I did say that.

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

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

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

‘ROUND EVERY CORNER

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

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

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

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

This time.

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Problem With Fortnite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They’ll explode like this, except worse.

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

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

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

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

What?

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 7 Cruising Songs (According to a One Year Old)

One of the big developments in the ol’ Daddy Realness household these last few months has been the ever improving vocabulary of little KJ. Between the indecipherable baby babble is the odd word or two that you can actually understand. And not only that, but he will use his words to communicate what he wants sometimes, too.

Take music, for example. Before, we would just play whatever, no questions asked. He’s probably heard more random sports talk radio and 1990s hip hop while riding with me than any one year old would care to admit (if they could even admit it).  Nowadays, though, he’ll demand to hear his favorite jams.

Like, loudly demand.

Like loudly, repeatedly demand, to the point that I have to stop listening to Nas’ Illmatic album, or Steve Philips talking about Jacob deGrom’s chances of winning the Cy Young Award, and put on what he wants.

So what does he like, you ask? Well, let me go Ryan Seacrest-mode on you, and count down the hits!

7. Johny Johny Yes Papa (Parents Version) by Cocomelon a.k.a. HA-HA-HA

 

Coming in at number seven is this song from Cocomelon. Basically, the parents keep getting up in the middle of the night to eat junk food, and then lie about it to each other, even after they’re caught. Eventually, their kids wake up and catch them, so they lie to them, too. They all keep laughing about the dishonesty for some reason. Deception is so hilarious? Anyway,  when KJ starts asking for “HA-HA-HA”, it’s time to press play on this song.

6. Roar By Katy Perry a.k.a Ra-Ra

 

Sliding in at number six is this anthem from Katy Perry. J loves this one, and I legit think that KJ only asks me to play it because it reminds him of his sister. I get that, unlike what’s next, at number five.

5. Baby??

Not gonna lie, KJ will frequently request to hear ‘Baby’, but I have no clue what the heck he wants. I end up random shuffling a Spotify playlist, stopping at songs with ‘baby’ in the title. ‘Baby’ by Justin Bieber, ‘Baby Got Back’ by Sir Mix-A-Lot, ‘Baby One More Time’ by Britney Spears etc. Not surprisingly, KJ will continually say no to everything, until he gives up, and asks for something else. Let’s just leave this one here, and keep on keepin’ on up the charts!

 

 

4. Basketball by Lil Bow Wow a.k.a. Ba-ball

Number four is this classic jam (no pun intended) from the artist formerly known as Lil Bow Wow.  Last week, KJ not only wanted to hear it on repeat all the way to daycare, but when I picked him up later, he wanted to hear it on repeat on the way home, too. But really, can you blame him? What one year old child doesn’t love early 2000s NBA references? Oh, nevermind. Let’s see what comes in at number three.

3. Baby Shark by Cocomelon a.k.a. Baby Do-do-do

 

Now this one is a certified banger!  Despite there being a way more viral version of this song, KJ likes this particular one, and this one only. It automatically came on after another Cocomelon video ended, and he was immediately hooked. Truth be told, I had no idea how big a phenomenom Baby Shark was until last week, when I saw Ellen talking about it, on the Ellen Show. Y’all have been doing the goofy shark dance for months now, but no one bothered to fill me in. Thanks, friends. Speaking of viral sensations………

 

In My Feelings By Drake aka Kiki!

Why in the world does a one year old like this Drizzy hit, you ask? I’m guessing it’s because he can say the first lyric (Kiki). Or maybe he just needs a black card and a code to the safe. Maybe he wants me to upload a video of him doing the In My Feelings Challenge. Regardless, this is the one joint here that I don’t mind listening to constantly (clean, radio edited version, of course).   Unlike the number one song on the list.

1. Wheels On the Bus By Cocomelon a.k.a. Bus! Bus!

 

When KJ starts screaming for ‘Bus! Bus!’ then you know it’s about to go down. Cocomelon must have some audio baby hypnosis going on, because he only likes their version of this timeless nursery rhyme, too.  The appeal here are the visuals. Besides a monkey’s naked butt, the video has easy to mimic actions, which KJ does in my car. He’ll give me a big, hokey thumbs up when it comes on, he’ll tell an invisible baby to shush, and so on. No doubt this one is a crowd-pleaser; especially if that crowd doesn’t include me. Nonetheless, its place at the top of the charts is firmly cemented on my drives with KJ.

Until the next countdown, Seacrest…out!

 

 

The Inverted Awkardness Conundrum

I’ve started to observe something with lil KJ.

Something very troubling, that I never experienced with my other kids.

He’s flipping the script on awkwardness!

As he has grown out of babyhood, and is heading towards the terrible twos, he has a knack with putting me in less than ideal situations with strangers.

What?

It’s a real problem, people! Here, lemme give you some examples:

  • Once,  KJ wandered over to a dad and just stared at him for a while, until I took him away. The dad was clearly super uncomfortable, too, and I don’t blame him. It’s like KJ had an awkward radar, and he picked out the person in the room who would get the most squirmy.
  • Sometimes, the radar is off. The person he’s randomly staring at will be OK with it, and then try to make him laugh. Instead of cracking a smile, KJ will continue to glare at them with a cold, hard gaze. Watching a grown person acting goofy, while a toddler looks on at them with the demeanour of a British guard, is as weird as it sounds. I will then have to start chuckling like an idiot, to ease the mood.
  • Speaking of chuckling, KJ has also walked up to strangers, pointed at them, and started laughing. What’s so funny? No clue. He lacks the vocabulary to explain.  All I know is that if I walked up to you, pointed, and laughed in your face, you’d  be justified in breaking my pointy finger and punching me in the face.
  • Speaking of violence, while walking through a park, we saw a father hide behind a statue, jump out, and scare his son, who looked to be about seven or eight years old. The boy proceeded to scream and lose his dang mind. Pure meltdown mode. Having been in public situations involving bad tantrums before, the worst part is when people stop to enjoy the show. You can almost feel them judging you as a parent. Thus, I tried to shoo KJ along and allow the dad to soothe his son in peace. KJ stopped to look, of course, and wouldn’t move. He’ll probably grow up to be the type who slows down to gawk at car wrecks on the highway. Anyway, the boy was holding a balloon during this meltdown. He accidentally lost the grip on it, though, sending it high into the sky.  The dad then noticed us noticing him, so he tried to laugh things off, but the kid went into sicko mode (word to Travis Scott). He yelled that he hated his dad. He hit him hard over and over, like he was trying to knock him out like a light (like a light). To distract KJ and move on from the ugly dispute, I pointed out the flying balloon, which got him to continue on walking. On last glance, the boy stopped hitting the guy, then stormed off in the opposite direction of us.
  • While at one of J’s baseball games, some kid had to use the portable toilet. KJ noticed this, so he went………and sat down outside of it. Worse, he tried to insist that I sit down beside him. He got mad when I picked him up, to take him away. Not sure what his intentions were here. He’s not even potty trained. Maybe he wanted to give them a standing ovation when they came out. Regardless, pretty sure most folks don’t want to see a seated audience when they emerge from a public washroom of any kind.

  • Long story, but I had to take KJ to the emergency room at the hospital recently. He’s fine, don’t worry. While there, however, his energy level somehow changed from lethargic to lit! So lit that he wanted to play Ring Around The Rosey. He’s too small to Fortnite dance, and he doesn’t like most songs, so this is his jam. I can only imagine what the staff there must have thought, listening to us going round and falling down. I’m surprised that they didn’t drug test me. Or escort us out of the building.
  • He took my hat off one time, ran off, and tried to give it away twice, to two different random men. Either he was trying to make some new adult friends by impressing them with his dope, stolen headgear, or he thought these guys had bad hair and needed to cover it up. Not sure. Doesn’t matter.  Anyway, the first dude at least politely declined. The second guy looked like he was considering keeping it, which meant that I had to intervene (awkwardly, of course). It was a nice hat, what can I say.

I could go on, but I think that you get the idea. Until KJ becomes a bit more socially refined, this is my life now. I apologize in advance for any awkward encounters that we may have.

 

Later, y’all.

 

 

 

Tips For Attending Toronto’s Festival Of Beer

It’s party time, people. Toronto’s Festival of Beer presented by the Beer Store is this weekend! For those that don’t know, the festival takes place July 26-29 at Bandshell Park, Exhibition Place, featuring over 400 (!!!) beers from about 100 brewers. I went for the first time last year, and it was such a boozy, kid-free blast, that I’m going again this year (this time, though, as invited media). It’s almost sold out now, too. With that said, if you are planning on attending, lemme give you some quick pointers, so you don’t make the same rookie mistakes that I did.

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT BEER

The festival also features some stellar musical acts, too, performing on the OLG Bandshell Stage! Last year, my buddy and I copped tickets super early (like January early) to save a few bucks. We picked them for Saturday, without realizing that each day would have different headlining performers. It turned out that Canadian rock legends Sloan were the main act that Saturday. While cool, the headliners on the Friday, Method Man and Redman, were more up my alley, musically, and I was kicking myself for selecting Saturday tickets. Oh well. Live and learn. Here’s this year’s lineup (I’ll be there Friday):

Thursday, July 26:

  • Broken Social Scene
  • The Rural Alberta Advantage
  • The Darcys

Friday, July 27

  • Ludacris

Saturday, July 28

  • Dwayne Gretzky

Sunday, July 29

  • Finger Eleven
  • I Mother Earth

 

BRING CASH

It’s all about tokens at the festival, as that’s the currency. You buy them at booths (credit cards are accepted there), or from people are walking around selling them.  There were ATMs on site, but these usually had lineups at them. So, to maximize your drinking time (and save on the ATM fees), be sure to bring money, because it’s easier.

THEM MUG SHOTS, THOUGH

With your ticket comes a little commemorative mug, which you use to get your drank on. In general, one token costs a buck, which should get you about half a mug’s worth of beer. Some places will charge more for a pour, though, so keep an eye out for each place’s rates.

EAT, SUCKA

I pity the fool (word to Mr. T) that tries to booze it up on an empty stomach. While you can’t bring outside food, the festival is promoting its “culinary experience” this year. Some of Toronto’s most popular restaurants will be there, to happily take your money, so you can get your grub on, including La Palma, Campagnolo, Fidel Gastro’s, Tiny Tom Donuts, Queen Margherita Pizza, Smoke’s Poutinerie, South St. Burger, Jerk Brothers, Ted’s World Famous BBQ, Ted’s Beer Dogs, Heirloom Toronto, ONO Poké Bar, Melt Grilled Cheese, Ontario Corn Roasters, Oyster Boy, Hot Bunzz Street Cuizine, and Brando’s Fried Chicken.

ENJOY SOME NON-ALCOHOLIC, FREE REFRESHING H20

You can’t bring your own water, but luckily, a lot places had cold bottled water available. Be sure to take advantage.  Even better, you don’t have to sing like Justin Bieber on a Major Lazer track to get it for free!

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE BEST SERVED COLD

I totally screwed up that cliche, but you get the idea. Like I said, the festival is sold out, so there’s going to be a lot of people. Last year, we went pretty early on the Saturday, and, while the line to get in moved decently enough…..it was still a really long line. I can only imagine what is was like later in the day. So chill, Bill.  Expect lines for everything, but try to make the best of it. We’re all in the same boat.

SLOW YOUR ROLL, HOMEY

I know, I know. The natural inclination, as soon as you enter the festival, is to blow all your tokens at the first few booths you see. And to that I say, slow down, son.  Pace yourself.  You paid good money for your ticket, so there’s no need to get escorted out by the cops for being a drunken idiot an hour after you get there. The festival covers a lot of area. Take your time and explore. You never know what might find, that will tickle your fancy.

Have fun and be merry this weekend. Cheers!

 

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!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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