Category: Super Fun Adventures

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

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

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

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

B and I were in for sure!

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

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

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

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

SHOWTIME!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer was 3.

We lost.

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

OR WAS IT?!

Nah, for real this time, it was over.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Welcome back!

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

No dice. Everyone was good to go.

Back to the audience for us.

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

 

 

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

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

OR WAS IT?!

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Just kidding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Disney dream was over.

 

OR WAS IT?!

Head on over to part two, peeps.

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

 

 

Confession time!

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

The hostess with the mostest. Photo courtesy of Global TV

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When And Where To See Santa Claus In The Hamilton Area

 

One of our annual holiday traditions is taking the kids somewhere to sulk, act scared and cry get their picture taken with Santa Claus. This year, while looking into when and where Saint Nick is at, in and around the Hammer, I figured I’d pass on my findings, so here ya go. Cheers!

Limeridge Mall

From November 18 – December 10th:

Monday to Friday – 11 to 8pm

Saturday – 10am to 8pm

Sunday – 11am to 6pm

From December 11-23:

Monday – Saturday – 9:30am to 9:00pm

Sunday – 10:00am to 7pm

Christmas Eve (December 24th): 9am – 3pm

Santa’s workshop will be located on the Upper Level, Centre Court. All visits with Santa are free of charge. Photo package pricing varies.

Eastgate Square

Santa arrives November 19 at 2:00pm with his friends Nutcracker, Teddy Bear, Bella the Snowflake Doll and the Christmas Elves!
A fun interactive musical Elf show will accompany the character toys. They will be performing “A Toy Box” Christmas. The show starts at 2:00PM-2:30PM in  Sears Court!

November Hours:

Monday to Friday  10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Saturday  9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Extended Holiday hours begin December 1st:

Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Black Friday (November 24)-  7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Christmas Eve (December 24) – 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m

Photo package pricing varies. See pricing here.

Note these special events:

Friday December 1st – 9am to 3pm is a Babies’ First Christmas Event. Donate a new unwrapped toy or a gift card for the CHCH Christmas Toy Drive and receive a preselected FREE photo with Santa (Newborn babies until age 12 months).

Sunday, December 3rd – 8am to 10am – Before mall opening is Quiet Time With Santa. Children and teens to age 18 with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other
special needs will enjoy a craft area/entertaining Elves and St John
Ambulance Therapy Dogs for a preselected FREE Santa photo package.

Dog & Cat Photos with Santa:

Saturday, November 25th – 3pm to 6pm
Sunday, December 3rd – 3pm to 6pm
Saturday, December 16th – 6pm to 9:30pm

Regular Santa photo charges apply. Children are welcome without a pet,
too, provided they do not have a pet allergy. $5 will be donated to the CHCH Christmas Toy Drive from each pet photo package purchased.

Mapleview Mall

Free 5″x7″ photos here!  Just bring a donation in support of McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation.

DECEMBER 1 – DECEMBER 10:

Thursday – Saturday 10 AM – 8 PM
Sunday 10 AM – 5 PM

DECEMBER 14 – 23:

Monday to Saturday 10 AM – 8 PM
Sunday 10 AM – 5 PM

Burlington Mall

Santa will be arriving  on Saturday November 25 at 10am.  There will be entertainment and free hot chocolate while we  wait for him to arrive by helicopter (?!?!), in the north parking lot on the corner of Fairview St and Guelph Line. The first 1200 kids will receive a free gift!

November hours are Monday to Saturday from 10am – 8pm and Sunday from 10am – 6pm. Note that Sundays November 26, December 3 and December 10 are also pet photo days (after hours) and Saturday November 25 is a Baby’s First Christmas event (the first 300 babies will receive a free ornament).

 

Royal Botanical Garden

Visits with Santa are included in your general admission on these days:

Wednesdays (November 22, 29, December 6, 13, 20) 5 p.m. to 8 p.m (Hendrie Park)

 Fridays (November 24, December 1) 10 a.m. to 4 p.m (Hendrie Park)

The RBG has a bunch of other cool holiday-themed events going on, too. Check them out!

Stoney Creek Santa Claus Parade

The Hamilton parade will have come and gone by the time I post this, but you can still get a glimpse of Kris Kringle at the Stoney Creek Parade on December 2nd, 2pm, King Street East, Downtown Stoney Creek!

FINALLY, NO SANTA, BUT IT’S PRETTY AWESOME:

CP Holiday Train

Gage Park

November 28, 2017

7:45 PM to 8:45 PM

The train  features 14 rail cars decorated with hundreds of thousands lights and a modified boxcar that has been turned into a traveling stage.  The Hamilton stop will feature music artists Kelly Prescott, Jim Cuddy and Devin Cuddy. Concert starts at 8 pm. It’s a free event, just make a cash or non-persishable donation to the Hamilton Food Share.

Road Trippin’ in Rochester, New York!

(Note:  Rochester, New York hooked my family up with accommodations, a stipend, and passes/tickets to various attractions, in exchange for me writing about my experience in the city. The opinions given are my own, unbiased thoughts. Enjoy!)

 

Around my neck of the woods, Rochester is a city that gets slept on. Even though it is only about a two and a half hour drive away, it’s basically considered a “tournament city”;  that is, it’s the type of place which, unless you have family there, you only ever go to it for your kids’ hockey or basketball tourneys, or whatnot. You get a hotel for a couple of  nights , go to the games, maybe eat out at a restaurant or two, and then come home Sunday.

I’ll tell you what, though. After spending three jam-packed, fun-filled days in the ROC, it’s actually a great little town. One that is worth taking a vacation to, with your family!

B having a ball...in the Have a Ball exhibit.

Shoot, The Strong National Museum of Play alone is worth the drive, and somewhere you could devote a day to.  The Strong is an interactive museum devoted to the history and exploration of play. It’s also home to, amongst other things, the  National Toy Hall of Fame, and the World Video Game Hall of Fame. Basically, it’s is two floors of cool collections and exhibits that will entertain kids of all ages. B and J both loved the Wegmans Super Kids Market, a spot-on, kids sized replica of a grocery store, complete with the items having barcodes and prices that could be scanned at cash registers (side note – B cruising the aisles with his cart, grabbing only a pizza, and two cartons of chocolate ice cream is pretty much the most bachelorific shopping ever.) J also enjoyed  the Bear Country (Berenstein Bears) and Can You Tell Me How To Get To Sesame Street exhibits, while B totally dug playing the retro arcade games.

Another place which you could make a day out of visiting is Seabreeze Amusement ParkIt has over 70 attractions (including a waterpark) many of which are family and/or kid friendly. B, who’s seven years old and of average height, was able to go on most of the thrill rides alone, for example.  The Park is also laid out well. Navigating it was easy, and didn’t require a lot of walking, to get around. When you’re pushing a stroller and chasing after two other kids, I can’t stress the benefit of this enough!

The comparable amusement park near me is the similarly priced Canada’s Wonderland, in Toronto.  I much preferred Seabreeze to it, in terms of the all-around family experience.

 

Speaking of experiences, since our family are big baseball fans, you know that we had to check out a Rochester Red Wings game. The Red Wings are the Minnesota Twins’ AAA minor league affiliate, and they happened to be playing the Toronto Blue Jays’ AAA team, the Buffalo Bisons, when we were in town.

I gotta give the Red Wings credit. They create a great atmosphere, for their fans. Their stadium, Frontier Field, is pretty cozy.  As far as I could tell, every seat had a good view. The concourses were nice and wide (re: so minimal crowding, again key when pushing a stroller).  Tickets are very reasonably priced, as was parking. The food/beer prices are average, but there is a wide selection of concessions/brews, to satisfy every craving, anyway. We went on a Saturday, so we were treated to an extravagant, 1990s-themed fireworks show afterwards, too.

Three other random points:

1) An underrated perk of attending a minor league game is the good chance of getting a baseball. B somehow ended up with three. He kept one for himself, gave one to J, and gave one to a nice gentleman behind us, who was thrilled to get it.

2) The Red Wings have two mascots, Spikes and Mittsy. I’ve never seen a female mascot before, and neither had J. She’s normally indifferent to mascots, but she immediately took a liking to Mittsy, as did many of the other little girls in attendance. Why more teams don’t incorporate female mascots should be a think piece for a more scholarly website than this one.

3) B and J were the play ball kid, and honorary coach, respectively, for the game. Sweet!

Photo Credit: Bare Antolos

Photo Credit: Bare Antolos

We were also fortunate enough to be in town during Wickham Farms’ Sunflower Spectacular event. The farm planted about 85,000 sunflower seeds in the spring, to cover five acres of land. Seeing thousands upon thousands of sunflowers is one of those things that sounds neat in theory, but really needs to be seen in person.  Just a beautiful, breathtaking sight!

The farm also had a bunch of other family activities, like a corn maze, mini-golf, hayrides, batting cages and a jumping pillow, to name a few.  Little KJ loved the train ride. B and J had a blast shooting apples from the apple cannon (now there’s a sentence I’d never imagined ever writing).  The eats in their barn were tasty, too, especially the fresh donuts.

 

 

For the animal lovers, Rochester is also home to the Seneca Park Zoo, which is a pretty dope spot. While not huge, it still housed a lot of different animals and exhibits.

Each area was very educational and informative, while the staff was all super friendly and knowledablge. Even better, it looked like the animals were very well maintained by them, too.  Not gonna lie, though – this owl and it’s Excorist-esque spinning head had me bugging out, for real!

 

Along the same educational tip, a visit to the Rochester Museum and Science Center was an exciting place to get our learn on. I believe there are more than 200 hands-on exhibits and collections, with just enough of them age appropriate for my kids, which kept them engaged the whole time. The Lake Ontario Dive Simulator Ride, in particular, was a hit with the fam, but pretty much anything that the kids could interact/play on, went over well.

 

B also tried his hand at doing the weather there. Watch out, Brick Tamland (word to Anchorman)!

Finally, in terms of accommodations, we stayed at the DoubleTree By Hilton Hotel Rochester.  I highly recommend this hotel. It’s newly renovated, and our room was very ‘modern’ and spacious. The lobby area had a resort-like feel to it, which was cool. It also was well located; we only had to drive 15-20 minutes, maximum, to any of the places I’ve mentioned.

The best part?

The warm, chocolate chip cookies that they give you on arrival (or, you know, any other time, if you ask nicely)!

So that’s Rochester, in a nutshell, from my experience. It’s a city with a nice vibe, and lots of fun, affordable, entertainment options for a family.  Plus, if you’re in the Greater Toronto Area, it’s not that far, either. The ROC is definitely worth a visit, and exploring, my friends.

Until next time, peace!

 

 

Guest Post: Education.com Grocery Shopping Game!

It’s summertime, which can only mean one thing – it’s lemonade stand season!

 

Err…well, I guess it means more than that, but bear with me.  

See, B and J have already set up shop once this summer, and raked in some serious (to them) money by selling lemonade. They now look forward to taking their earnings to a store and making it rain, bruh!

Or just buying a bunch of candy at that store. One or the other.  

Anyway, B and J, while experienced hustlers, still have a lot to learn about the art of money. Fortunately, my good friends at Education.com have a fun, easy game to play, to help any young, budding entrepreneur or shopper. We had a great time when we played it at our house. Check it out!

 

 

Grocery Shopping Game

Want to make sure you raise a money-savvy kid? Start them out right with this activity that hides valuable math skills within a fun grocery store game. An added possible benefit of this game? It may encourage your child to join you on your next grocery pickup!

What You Need:
Money
Table
Several small objects
Paper
Construction paper

 

What You Do:

  1. Explain to your child that you will be the grocer and he will be the shopper.
  2. Lay out the small objects on the table. Objects can be anything from toys to clothes to food.
  3. Have your child help you make little paper tents out of the construction paper. (The simplest tent? Just a regular sheet of paper folded in half.)
  4. Write a price on each paper tent. Try to keep prices varied, but only as complicated as you think your child can handle.
  5. Group the items together and place a price tag in front of them. For example, all the 5 cent items should be in one group. All the $1 items are in one group and so on.
  6. Give your child a purse or baggie with some cash. If he has a wallet, this would be a good opportunity to use it.
  7. He can “buy” a number of things from you. But before you accept his money, ask him to tally up how much he owes you.
  8. If he gives you more than he owes, give him back change and ask him to count it.
  9. Continue to let him buy things until he runs out of money.
  10. Now let your child be the grocer. Have him organize the items by price on the table.
  11. Set him up with some coins and a couple of bills so that he can give you change.
  12. Go “buy” a couple items and pay him for them.
  13. If you want to challenge him, give him an incorrect amount of money and see how he handles it.
  14. After a couple rounds of this grocery game, he will be ready to shop at a real store!

The Push – Dad 2.0 Summit

 

Dad 2 Summit 2017

I remember being told once that sometimes in life, you’ll feel a little nudge, like something or someone is gently pushing you in a direction. And when you do get that feeling, don’t resist, just go with it.

I felt that nudge recently, and that’s how I ended up at the Dad 2.0 Summit.

For the uninitiated, Dad 2.0 is an annual conference for dad bloggers, held this year in San Diego. It’s an opportunity to discuss all things fatherhood-related, with like minded people and brands.  I personally have never been able to attend one, however, and had always been on the fence about going.

My nudge came in the form of a Miller Scholarship. I was fortunate enough to be awarded one of these by the Dad 2.0 organizers (thanks again, guys!). It included a free ticket, and money to help offset the travel expenses.  Soon after, I found out that I had also been selected as one of five spotlight bloggers. Not only was I attending for the first time, but I was also a featured speaker, where I was going to read this post! To say that I was nervous was an understatement.

Speaker?! Moi?!

See, at Dad 2.0,  there were hundreds of bright, talented, opinionated people (and also yours truly) looking to engage in meaningful dialogue about every subject under the moon. At the core of these conversations was dad stuff and/or social media. The talks occurred formally (like at the workshops, panels and breakout sessions) and informally (like while getting your drank on, at night). The schedule was jam-packed, too, so there always an opportunity to be engaged, if you chose to be.

I went to Dad Voices (formerly known as Dad Slam) on the Friday night. This was a highlight event for a lot of people. Names were drawn, and you could go up and read whatever you wanted, poetry-slam style. I threw my name in, and got selected to go up second. The post I picked out (this one) wasn’t deep, but it’s one of my personal favorites.  Not surprisingly, many brave, honest, wonderful posts were heard after mine, making me even more nervous for my reading the next day. Dad Voices wasn’t just listening to people read, though. An impromptu birthday celebration for the amazing Lorne Jaffe happened.  A ukulele jam broke out. Many tears were shed, and laughs were had. It was an all out cool night, which was neat to be a part of.

Let’s talk about the attendees. The level of camaraderie among them was off the chains.  My initial observation was that Dad 2.0 felt like a get together of old friends, where everyone knew each other already.  Sure, I knew some people, through Facebook, but not personally.  I carry a pretty low profile, and I felt like an outsider, at first. Luckily for me, the dad blogger community in attendance was very open and welcoming, for the most part.  It helped that there were a ton of “newbies” in attendance, who were in the same boat as myself.  As such, I met a lot of awesome guys and girls, who hopefully I’ll stay in touch with. Professional bloggers, wannabe bloggers, amateur vloggers, a fellow Hamiltonian (!!!) who was doing research for a study, it really was quite the range of attendees. I even met Josh Temple, from HGTV!

This was part of an interview that I did with Josh, put on by one of the sponsors, Rheem. The lesson learned there was that I suck at interviews, and should never be put in front of a camera again.

Regardless, I do have to say the sponsor game was on point. Whether it was hosting delicious meals and parties, or taking us out on excursions, I was impressed with the efforts that they made. My own personal fav was getting a straight razor shave for the first time ever, courtesy of Dove Men + Care. Yo, my face felt smoother than Bruno Mars eating a fresh jar of Skippy on a newly polished floor!

Also, whatever you might have heard about the swag at Dad 2.0 is true. I brought an extra knapsack, and came back to Canada with it full of cool goodies.  So big up to all of the sponsors – Dove Men +Care, Kia, Gifted Movie, Rheem, Lego, BabyBjorn, Plum Organics, Best Buy, Facebook, Russell, Hero Clean, Keeper Security, General Mills, fodada, and Smartypants Vitamins.  It was refreshing to talk to so many brands who were legit interested in parenting and fatherhood.

All in all, Dad 2.0 was dope, for real. Numerous people said it was the best conference of this kind that they’ve ever been to.  I gotta give props to the co-founders, Doug French and John Pacini, for making it all happen. It was a whirlwind three days, and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to partake in it. Once I got comfortable being uncomfortable (to steal a quote from featured speaker an ex-NFL star Charles “Peanut” Tillman), the Summit wasn’t so nerve-wracking. Oh, and for the record, my reading went just fine.  I  mean, the other spotlight bloggers and keynote speakers were all incredible, but I was OK. I didn’t get booed off the stage, like I feared, anyway.   I think that I even made actor/director/closing keynote speaker Andrew McCarthy chuckle. #winning

If you’re on the fence about attending the next Dad 2.0 Summit, consider this your push. Just do it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Good Outings Go Bad

The other day,  a milestone event occurred in our household.

I had my first outing, in public, by myself, with the three kids!

I wish that I could tell you that this monumental occasion went off without a hitch.

I also wish that I could tell you that I won the lottery, and am buying you a Nintendo Switch, for being such a loyal reader.

Unfortunately, neither of these things are true.

The outing was an unmitigated disaster, for real. Whoever said that going from two kids to three kids was easy, clearly only had two kids.

Lemme recap my night for you:

♠ The scene was B’s basketball practise, at an elementary school. The plan was that I would meet K and the kids there, after work. K would then take off, to do her thing.  We would switch cars, too, since we only have one vehicle that can hold all of us, a Dodge Journey.

Simple enough right?

KJ would sleep in his carrier the whole time, J would play on her tablet, B would ball out, and then I’d take the children home, when it was over, singing Kumbaya the whole way. Piece of cake!

♠ When I got to the practise, K told me that KJ had to be changed soon. Since he freaks out and gets hyped up whenever I change him, my simple plan of letting him sleep  the whole time was now a non-starter.

♠ After K left, J decided that she had to go potty….and that I had to come with her. She refused to go by herself.  I told her that I would wait by the door, while she went.

♠While waiting by the door, KJ started to fuss, so I had to  go over to him, to pick him up.

♠ I chatted with a friend, who wanted to hold KJ. After a while, I realized that J had been in the washroom for a long time.  When I went in to check on her, I found her standing under the air dryer, crying. She had an accident, before she made it to the toilet, and her pants were soaked.

♠ J said that there were extra pants in mommy’s car. Phew!

♠ I  told J to wait, and ran off to the car. I searched frantically, but alas,  no pants. D’oh!

♠ Ever panic, and come up with an idea that seems smart at the time, but is stupid in retrospect? Now back in the washroom, I figured that I would try to dry J’s pants. Instead of taking them off, I scooped J up, groom-carrying-his-bride style, and held her under the air dryer. Pretty sure Mr. Bean is the only other person who tried to dry their pants so incompetently.

♠After doing this nonsense for five minutes, my friend, who still had KJ, walked in. Luckily, after seeing me struggling like an idiot with J, she took pity on me, and offered to let J wear an extra pair of her son’s shorts.

♠ Wearing over-sized basketball shorts was too big of a fashion faux pas for my four year old girl, though. She refused to put them on, because she was worried that people would stare at her. We argued, but eventually came to an agreement – she would wear the shorts, but she had to wear her winter coat (which I had to go back out and get) as well, and she had to hide her face in my shirt when we walked out (so she wouldn’t see the people staring at her).

♠ Back at the bleachers. I relieved my friend of her KJ duties. KJ had duty in his diaper, so I had to change him. Not wanting to do it in front of a crowd (because of the freaking out that I mentioned earlier), I went into the washroom again. Apparently, this elementary school didn’t have a pregnancy problem, as there weren’t any change tables. There weren’t any benches, either. I wandered around, and eventually ended up in some sort of lounge area.  I changed KJ on a picnic table.

♠ I made my way back to the bleachers, and grabbed a seat. J immediately hopped up on my lap. Not having room for two kids, I asked J to sit somewhere else. More arguing ensued. Eventually, she agreed to sit in KJ’s carrier, where she remained for the rest of practise, watching her tablet. Yes, people stared at her.

♠ Words of wisdom – if you’re looking for a quiet place to put a baby to sleep, I do not recommend a basketball court with like 40 screaming child ballers on it.  KJ would doze, and then suddenly jolt up at the noise. I spent the time on the edge of my seat, hoping like heck that he didn’t start freaking out.

♠ Near the end of practise, B came over, bleeding.  He got hit in the mouth, and had a split lip.  He had to spend the rest of the time holding a cloth to his lip, soaking up blood.

♠ Don’t feel too bad for him, though.  Afterwards, as we walked out to the Journey, I opened the door, so he could climb in first, to the back. He immediately veered right, climbed to the front, and started to press a bunch of buttons.

 

He somehow turned on all of the interior lights. And of course, I couldn’t figure out how to turn them all off. After screwing around for a bit, I gave up, and drove home, with the inside of the car lit up brighter than a bar at closing time. No, we did not sing Kumbaya on the drive, either.

And there you go. My first attempt at an outing on my own sucked.

See, I used to be scared of doing stuff on my own with B and J, but I got over that, and things usually weren’t too bad.

Adding a baby into the mix, now, though?

I guess all I can say is that, eventually, things will get better, right?

 

Right?!

 

 

 

 

Road Trippin’ – Cleveland!

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For our summer vacation this year, my family decided to go to Cleveland, Ohio.

Now, when I would tell people this, it was met with one of the following three reactions:

  1. Confusion (“Cleveland? Why? Do you have family there?”).
  2. Disappointment (“Cleveland? Oh. That…um….sounds interesting?”).
  3. Excitement!  (Wait. Only one person that I talked to was excited. A co-worker of mine who wanted a pair of  motorcycle gloves from Whiskey Grade, which I agreed to pick up for him).

After spending four days in da Land, I can honestly say that the city deserves more of the latter reaction, and less of the first two.

For people like myself who live in the Greater Toronto Area, one of the best parts about Cleveland is its proximity. Being only five-ish hours away, it’s a great spot for doing a road trip and checking out for a few days, which is what my family did. As mentioned before on here, we are pretty big Toronto Blue Jays fans. As such, our vacation idea was to spend most of the week there, and take in an Indians-Blue Jays game. I’ll get back to the baseball in a bit, but spoiler alert – there’s actually tons of stuff to do in Cleveland!

Let’s start with their most well known tourist attraction – the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.

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I asked the kids to pose nicely for a picture, and this is what they chose to do.

I had my doubts, as I didn’t think B and J were old enough to find it interesting. However, children under the age of 8 are free, so we ended up going. That place really is a music lover’s dream. K and I easily could have spent a good part of the day exploring the memorabilia and displays. The kids were pretty indifferent to it all, though, so we only stayed for about an hour. They did get a kick out of playing with the jukeboxes which had music by every inductee on them.

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J’s artists of choice? The Jackson 5.

Fortunately, right beside the Hall of Fame was a far more kid-friendly attraction – the Great Lakes Science Center.  The kids had a blast checking out the various exhibits and activities, while also learning a thing or two. The Sports Arena in particular was a hit.

Literally:

Don’t worry, folks. She was just fine.

Anyway, both the Science Center and the Hall of Fame are located on the waterfront. This is perfect for taking a nice walk to enjoy some scenery, or to play Pokemon Go. Whatever floats your boat.

Speaking of creatures, B and J love animals, so visits to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Greater Cleveland Aquarium were a no-brainer. The zoo is huge (183 acres) so we made sure that we were well rested, and dedicated a whole day to it.

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B insisted on wearing a Steph Curry shirt that day. It went over with the locals about as well as you would expect.

One neat thing about the zoo was that, for the most part, it was divided into themes, based on different areas of the world, which is how the animals were housed. For the record, my favourite area was The Rainforest, a big two storey indoor tropical environment.   Despite B and J’s best effort, we did not see all 3000+ animals that lived at the zoo. We did see a good chunk of them, though!

The Aquarium also went over very well with us. It was spacious, with tons of sea animals to look at. B and J did what any six and four year old children would do while there –  point out the names of random fish  (learned from the TV show The Octonauts) and go on a mission to find Dory (from the movie Finding Dory).

Meanwhile,  I  got hands-on with some stingrays and shrimp!

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Shrimpin aint easy, man.

The only other aquarium which I’ve been to is Ripley’s, in Toronto. It’s impressive, but I liked Cleveland’s better.  It had a more laidback vibe to it, plus there were a bunch of friendly, knowledgeable staff available who patiently answered my stupid questions.

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Excuse me? How many times has this tank broken and sharks fallen on people?

In terms of accommodations, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Cleveland Downtown.  This was easily the coolest hotel that I’ve ever been in. It’s located in an historic, 19th century building, so it has that old-school feeling to it. Our room was very spacious, with high ceilings, hardwood floors, and a kitchenette. What really freaked me out was how every person on staff that I saw was really nice and personable (it’s amazing what a smile and a few kind words can do for one’s perception). Being situated downtown also meant that it was within stumbling distance to places like Progressive Field, Quicken Loans Arena, House of Blues, a casino, a bunch of bars/restaurants, a bowling alley, and Rocket Fizz (an awesome soda pop and candy shop).

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I went with the Buffalo Wing soda.

The most enjoyable part of the hotel for me, however? The evening refreshers!  #freealcohol.

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A view from our hotel room.

OK, let’s talk baseball. We arrived into Cleveland on a Tuesday. Our Jays-Indians tickets were for Friday. As you can see in the above picture, taken on Tuesday, we had a nice view of the ballpark from our hotel, and a clearly very sparsely attended game. After looking into it, I discovered that the Indians had one of the worst attendance rates in baseball. More checking discovered that tickets for the game the next night could be had for cheap. So, the next day, I got a pair for myself and B, like 15 rows up from first base, for A LOT less than what we would paid for the same seats in Toronto. We and only about 13,000 other people watched the Indians and the Chicago White Sox play an entertaining game.

This would be all fine and dandy if the Indians sucked…..but they were in first place! What’s up with that? Tribe fans, why aren’t y’all supporting a winning team? It took the Blue Jays 20+ mediocre years just to be good enough to play meaningful baseball late in the season. Don’t take winning for granted, Believeland!

Anyway, the Friday game was pretty dope. Progressive Field is a sweet stadium with a great atmosphere. They also stacked the in-game experience; that night was free fedora night, $1 hot dog night, $2 cans of beer before the game, and a rockin’ fireworks show after the game. They had a ton of giveaways between innings, too. This kept B busy – he would run down the aisles to try to catch the goodies which were being tossed out.  More than half of the  30,000+ crowd was Jays fans (and rawkus ones at that) so it felt like we were at the Rogers Centre. It was just a fun time all around, the best game that I’ve been too. Even though Toronto lost, they at least lost in a memorable way – on a walk-off, inside the park home run.

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As someone who used to roll their eyes at the thought of Cleveland, I see now how wrong I was.  It really is a cool, charming city with a lot going for it, especially downtown. We spent four days in the 216, and there was still stuff which we wanted to see, but didn’t. Whether you’re a sports fan in the GTA like me, or are just looking for somewhere fun and different to go to for a weekend, why not make the road trip to Cleveland?

 

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