Tag: dad blog

The 2018 Wrap Up


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

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

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

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

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

– Fortnite. I don’t get it.

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

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

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

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

– Baby Shark.  I don’t get it.

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

Not daddoo back, FYI.

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

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

– This Is Us. I don’t get it.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Dad’s Night Out – Being An Extra On A TV Show

Have you ever watched a TV show or movie, and wondered about the people in the background? You know, the ones dancing up a storm at the party, or quietly working away at their cubicle, or cheering on the home team at the football game? What did they do to end up in that spot, and what was it like? Despite not being an actor, but always being up for a random adventure, I figured that I’d ditch the kids one evening, to find out, first hand.

My opportunity came from a Facebook post that my wife noticed, from a casting company looking for background ‘talent’ for a TV show that was filming in Hamilton (I can’t disclose the name, sorry). $14/hour, with more for speaking parts.  I filled out the application, uploaded a head shot picture, giggled at the section asking for my acting resume, and fired it off. The next day, I got a call from the casting director saying that I was hired!

I was to play the role of an aircraft marshall, and possibly something else.  No problem. I pictured myself being in a scene as a small blur from a distance, waving in a plane.  Not long after, I received a call sheet, which was basically the schedule for the filming the next day.

Now, if you’re a fan of stifling boredom for long hours, being an extra is the job for you! My schedule involved meeting with wardrobe, then waiting for my scene about three hours later, followed by waiting for up to another three hours, for another potential scene.

The filming location was an old, small airport. Picture a hangar, a runway, and a couple of portable classroom-like bulidings, which doubled as a wardrobe department, and main hangout location, respectively. When I arrived, I changed into the attire that wardrobe selected for me, then I went to the hangout spot…..and hung out with the other extras.

Some of them were engaged in conversation with each other, while the rest were reading books, or playing around on their phones. Various crew members would also come there occasionally, all of whom were cordial ( I had heard horror stories about people treating background actors like trash on sets, but this wasn’t the case at all). I was given a stack of forms to fill out, which killed some time. I had brought some snacks, in case I got hungry, but luckily, this set had sweet craft services  (as it is known in the biz), full of goodies. Lunch break for the crew also happen to coincide with my schedule, and they ordered enough for the extras, too. Yo, free food, can’t hate on that!

For this filming, there were no big name stars or anything. The scenes that they were doing were reenactments, as part of the series. Because I had nothing else to do, and totally felt out of my element, I eavesdropped on the other extras’ conversations, as I waited. There was a lot of stories about prior jobs that they had done. I was surrounded by some seasoned pros. Eventually, the talk turned to me. There were some raised eyebrows when I mentioned that I had never done anything like this before.  And then it happened. Not long before lunch, one of the crew told me that I was needed on set!

Showtime!

I was surprised, as this scene wasn’t in the schedule, but off I went. I should note that it was really cold, and they were filming outdoors. The scene involved a jet plane, and a UFO sighting. Two extras playing pilots were already there. The director then explained what I was to do. Remember when I said that I assumed that I would just be off in the yonder, waving in a plane? Yeah, not so much.  I had to actually ACT! Like walk, hit my cue, look certain ways,  point into the sky, give various facial expressions, and pretend to talk on a walkie talkie. Instead of off in the distance, the cameras were all up in my grill. I did the best that I could, but I would say that my performance befit the level of someone who’s only acting experience was a grade 9 drama class many years ago.

But wait. There’s more!

Later, it was time for my actual scene. This time it was on the runway, again in the freezing cold. I was right about the waving in a plane part.  And, for real, you think that would be easy, but I kept messing up. I guess that I was waving incorrectly, and looked unnatural (go figure), so they had to shoot me over and over. I was wrong about my involvement, too. Again, more closeups. Hopefully they didn’t catch my eyes watering from the chilly wind ripping across my face.  And also, more acting, as I had to pretend to see and react to the UFO. One the one hand, I felt kind of bad about my amateur hour thespian skills. On the other hand…for 14 bucks an hour and some pizza, they couldn’t have expected to get Sidney Poitier, right?

Keep my name out ya’ mouth, Mike!

Sorry, Sidney.

Anyway, my day wasn’t done. One more scene, thankfully indoors, and, thankfully, just the background work that I initially expected. They switched up my outfit, and I would only be seen from behind, as part of a crowd of people at a window, looking at a UFO. The back of my head gave an Emmy-worthy performance, if I do say so myself. After that, I submitted my time sheet, and bounced, a job well done, as the world’s worst aircraft marshall.

I can definitely see the appeal in background extra work. The actual time in front of the camera was fun. Depending on the set, the chance to see stars in action would be neat, too.  A couple of the extras that I met were retirees, and they just wanted something cool to do, to keep busy, which makes sense.  It also helps to live near a filming hot spot (Toronto, for me), where there are lots gigs to be had. However, it’s very repetitive work which requires a flexible schedule, the money isn’t great, and there’s long gaps of inaction on set, too, which can be a bit of a grind. I’m glad to say that I tried it, but I’m good now. Film studios, y’all are safe from my mediocre acting talents.

 

Until the next night out, peace!

 

 

 

 

Why Fort Wayne? Here’s Why!

Of the numerous road trips that we’ve been on, the one that got the most confused reactions by far, when I told people where we were going, was our recent visit to Fort Wayne, Indiana.

“Fort Wayne?? Why Fort Wayne?!”

Man, even my family was skeptical, initially. However, despite it not being a traditional weekend getaway destination, I had a hunch that this place might be a hidden gem. After spending four days there,  courtesy of the generosity of my friends at Visit Fort Wayne, I can now say that my hunch was right.

So why Fort Wayne? There’s plenty of reasons actually.

LOCATION

The key to any weekend road trip with the family is travel time. In our case, with multiple stops, it was about a seven hour drive, which was fine. The kids watched a bunch of movies, which meant no boredom complaints. Plus, even though it is a bit of a trek, it’s the type of drive where you can leave in the morning, get there in the afternoon, and still have time to do stuff that day.  As well, it’s not all that far from large cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Chicago.

A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT….AND ANOTHER RIVER….AND ANOTHER RIVER

Fort Wayne is built on three rivers, which is really unique. Plus, with over 80 parks, over 50 playgrounds, and over 100 miles of trails, it’s a place for anyone who loves the outdoors

Fort Wayne Outfitters hooked my family up with some bikes, so we went for a family bike ride along the riverfront. In theory, this should have been awesome. In reality, my daughter was a grump, and refused to ride, so she and I (because I couldn’t ride slow enough to match her stomping, sulking pace) went for bike walks. At least it was scenic.

Also, never trust a one year old with directions.

 

FORT WAYNE CHILDREN’S ZOO

Speaking of the outdoors, checking out the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo was a must on our list, and should be on yours, too. Even though my kids all loved it, don’t get it twisted; it’s not just a children’s zoo. I saw a lot of childless people there, which I am sure is the norm.  Ranked as one of the top zoos in the US, it’s  really well laid out, clean and interactive. The animals all looked healthy, and seemed to be in their more natural-looking habitats. We were able to get a nice view of almost all of them (instead of them hiding and/or being out of site, as is the case sometimes). It’s a decent sized zoo, but I didn’t feel winded after we strolled through it, and B and J didn’t whine once about being tired, either. There were also a bunch of rides, too, that were very reasonably priced and enjoyable.

Fake surfing wasn’t a ride, FYI. Just a photo op!

THE VIBE

While touring around the city, I noticed that there were a lot of places of worship. I later learned that Fort Wayne has been called ‘the city of churches’, because it has over 360 of them.  There are also reports which indicate that Fort Wayne has one of the lower costs of living, in the USA.  It seemed like the city was pretty spread out, too, with some pockets being better than others, like you’d expect from any big city. We were graciously given accommodations at the Hilton Fort Wayne At The Grand Wayne Convention Center.  This hotel is located downtown, which is one of the nicer parts of the area, and is within walking distance to several attractions.  When out and about, I never felt unsafe. I even walked around downtown basically in isolation one Sunday evening, as many businesses closed by 5pm.

A view from our hotel room. That rainbow, though!

All in all, my takeaway of Fort Wayne is that it’s a laid-back, down to earth city that’s family-friendly.

FALL FUN ON THE FARM!

One of the best things about travelling is when an experience completely blows away your expectations. Such was the case when we checked out Kuehnert Dairy Farm’s Fall Festival. We’ve been to events on farms before, but this was easily the best. It was well organized, and had a ton of stuff for the kids to do. Hay rides, corn pits, corn mazes, playgrounds, games, farm tours, jump pad, bonfires and ninja warrior courses, just to name a few. For me, the best part was the Mouse Trap, their famous grilled cheese sandwich.

The only bad thing was that the weather sucked, and the rain shortened our visit. Otherwise, we could have easily stayed there for the whole afternoon!

 

CULTURE (NO, NOT THE MIGOS ALBUM)

Besides the outdoorsy activities, Fort Wayne also has some nice indoor attractions, which are very sophistimicated and edumucational. Science Central is the only science center in the region, and it’s multi-level, with 200+ exhibits. The kids got their learn on, while playing and exploring the surroundings.

It also hosts events throughout the year. When we were there, a sci-fi convention was going on. Ohhhhh Chewy!

That’s a person in a costume, believe it or not.

 

Debrand Fine Chocolates is the only chocolate store that I’ve been to where I felt like I needed to wear a suit and bow tie when entering it. You don’t need to dress up, of course, but the decor and ambience give it a very fancy feeling. We did a tour of the headquarters (highly recommended, plus tasty!), and the attention to detail that they put into each of their chocolates to ensure that they are of the finest quality is really impressive.

J and I hit up the Fort Wayne Museum Of Art. I will wholeheartedly admit to being  clueless, in terms of being an art connoisseur. The people there all seemed to be enjoying silently taking in the artwork, though. I thought the Chuck Sperry exhibit was pretty wild. J really liked the kids area, where little ones can create their own masterpieces.

Also, time didn’t permit us to visit it, but the Botanical Conservatory looks very expansive, and beautiful.

GAME ON

Now, two things that Fort Wayne doesn’t have going for it are a major league sports team, and an amusement park. However, it does have minor league teams (sidenote: we only drove by, but Parkview Field looked like a cool place to watch a Tincaps baseball game!). In addition, it has Crazy Pinz, a 50,000 square foot entertainment complex, which features bowling, a rope course, laser tag, mini-golf, rock climbing, bar, restaurant and an arcade/prize store.

 

Do you see what I mean, now? Despite initial doubts, we ended up having an awesome little trip.

So, why Fort Wayne?

That’s why!

Until the next one, peace!

 

Disclosure: Visit Fort Wayne provided us with accommodations and passes to the attractions mentioned. Opinions expressed are my own.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

 

Do you remember when I made a joke about becoming a Pentatonix fan?  Yeah, turns out that I wasn’t joking.  Even better, that lovable a cappella singing quintet was part of a milestone – our first family concert was to see them live!

How’d the concert go, you ask?

Well…..

First off, I should say that finding a musical act who we all could enjoy and who wasn’t inappropriate was surprisingly hard. Whereas I like Drake, I could never bring my eight, six, and almost two year old to his concert, for example. Pentatonix hit the sweet spot, though. Their music is pretty tame, plus they do a lot of cover versions of  popular, current songs.  Since K really likes them, B and J like the songs they cover, KJ has no choice as he has to go wherever we go, and I don’t hate them, we figured we would see them live.

The venue was Budweiser Stage, in Toronto. Our tickets were cheapo lawn seats. Having never been before, I had to do some research.  Reviews online, in general, said that the place was great for watching concerts, but food was expensive, and the parking sucked. Strollers and high lawn chairs were prohibited, but blankets were allowed. Taking the Go Train was recommended, but because of the kids/lack of stroller, it was a bit too much of a walk for us, so we had to drive. I figured we would go early-ish, to get a decent parking and lawn spot.

I’m telling you now, the reviews don’t do Budweiser Stage justice. The parking is atrocious. All lots near the premises were full by the time that we got there, but because of the limited entrances, it’s impossible to know they’re full until you get close to them. So picture a long lineup of cars, all being denied by attendants only as they approached them.  One open entrance clearly pointed to parking, so a lot of cars, including us, lined up to go into it. However, once you got in and drove up the lane, we discovered that it just led to a roundabout that went back down to the street, no parking. It was basically the equivalent of the escalator to nowhere on The Simpsons.

After waiting for a good half hour in line, one of the attendants finally advised us where the nearest parking lot was.  That lot was basically a million miles away, which, again, wasn’t ideal for our family. Now late for the concert, I decided to loop back, drop K and the kids off by the front gate, so they could at least enjoy the show, find a parking spot, then run to meet up with them after. After dropping the fam off, I headed over to the million mile lot. Believe it or not, it was full, too. I then tried a couple of other lots nearby. Also rammed. Who knew Pentatonix were so popular?

After driving around beautiful downtown Toronto aimlessly, I eventually found some open street parking two million miles away from Budweiser Stage. Yo, beggars can’t be choosy. I pulled over, and went to see the rates. After 9pm, it was free, but I was there a bit after 8pm, so it was only $2.

Score!

Reading more, it looked like the only way to pay was by mobile, via an app which had to be downloaded. The app required paying $20 upfront, to make an account balance, which could be used at any of the company’s parking spots in Toronto. You know, a city which I don’t live in.

Dang it!

Not wanting to miss more of the concert, but being about a marathon’s walk away, I paid the $20, then ordered a Lyft, to give me a ride back. On the way, the Lyft driver told me that people were waiting for an hour for their Ubers, taxis and Lyfts after another concert, the prior night at Budweiser Stage. He advised me to either leave the show early, or walk up the street when it was over and get a ride off-site, to avoid the long wait. Leaving early was the best solution. You know, to go with me being already late.

Finally, I arrived.  First stop was to the concessions.  I saw people ordering “bottomless” popcorn, so I asked for one of those. I was subsequently told by the cashier that there wasn’t any, and to try the other concession stand, on the other side of the place…..even though people were clearly buying popcorn near me.

Next, I had to seek out my family.  The place was jammed packed, and seating areas were limited. I found them in the very, very back, with a large pole blocking the view. Not only that, but despite the venue stating regular-sized lawn chairs were prohibited,  some people had come after my family had set up shop, and placed their regular-sized lawn chairs in front of our blanket,  which also impeded our view.

Fortunately, I hadn’t missed Pentatonix, as the opening act, Echosmith, was still performing.  All I could do was make the best of the less than ideal situation, and enjoy the evening.

Some random guy came up to us, looking for four people to switch seats. Since there was five of us, we declined. I saw him walking around for a bit, but then he came back over. Turns out, he was the promoter. No lie, he said that we could have his dead-centre box seats, no strings attached! #upgraded

We quickly relocated to his seats (which even had a velvet rope entrance to it)  just as Pentatonix hit the stage. They put on a really good show, I can’t hate. They had the whole crowd (mainly tweens with their parents, and people in their early to mid twenties) eating out of the palms of their hands. Err, almost the whole crowd. At one point, Kevin in the group did an amazing beatboxing solo while playing the cello. B was confused, though, as to why he was being such a buzz kill. In his words, it reminded him of the feeling when you lose your dog, so you walk around sad with your head down (note: we’ve never had a dog).

Alas, time flew, and I had to bizounce before the show ended, to get a ride to our car (facepalm), so we could get home in decent time. Don’t fret, though, my pets. Afterwards,  K made sure to tell me that I only missed out on the best parts – some hip-hop themed beatboxing medleys which apparently were amazing (double facepalm).

And there you have it. Our first family concert. In theory, it was a good idea, but, man, Budweiser Stage was not the right venue at all for us. Like, I doubt I’ll ever take my kids to a concert there again, unless they are much older.  Despite that, Pentatonix were great, we lucked out on the box seats, and the kids had a good time, so it wasn’t a bad night overall.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go to Toronto now, and find somewhere to burn up the $18 on my parking app.

Later.

How Not To Chaperone A School Trip

One thing I’ve learned about being a parent is that sometimes, you have to put yourself out there, and do stuff way outside your comfort zone. That’s how I found myself as a volunteer chaperone on my daughter’s kindergarten class trip to the zoo recently. See, when it comes to being in charge of a group of children, I tend to suck. As such, I tend to avoid putting myself in those situations. Trust me, people, it’s for the best.

However, when a notice came home requesting chaperones for the zoo trip, J wanted me to go. Like, really wanted me to go. I of course, said no, but J was persistent and insistent, so I finally relented. One mandatory police check, and one random drawing of names later (three volunteers were needed, but eight parents wanted to go), and I was in. Time to face my fears.

I quickly Googled tips for chaperoning, and it seemed like an easy enough gig. Kids would be so excited to see a new face, and I’d be treated like a rock star? Sweet! I pictured them looking up to me in awe at the zoo, and following me around like the Pied Piper, as I regaled them with my knowledge about the various creatures.

On the day of the trip, the first thing that I had to do was sign in at the office. While there, one of the teachers came up to me and said that he never saw many dads volunteering, so it was nice to see me there. While initially flattered, panic then set in. Where were the dads at, all this time? Did they know something that I didn’t?

Uh oh!

When I entered J’s class, J was really pumped to see me, but the other children? Yeah, not so much. A lot were indifferent. Some looked confused.  A few seemed excited, but it was more like how a pack of lions gets excited when some fat, tasty prey shows up at their den.

Me aka dead meat.

One little girl came up to me, and asked what my name is. When I told her, she immediately called me something else. She proceeded to spend the rest of the day calling me by everything but my name, and laughing about it.  Mr. Hat, Mr. Brown Eyes, Mr. Poop and so on.  I’ll give her credit for coming creative with it, despite me feeling like Darryl Strawberry on The Simpsons, when Bart and Lisa heckled him.

Unrelated, but his classic moment was immortalized in pin form! Click the pic, to check it out.

J’s teacher (who did a great job communicating and keeping things organized) split the class up into groups, so each volunteer had six kids that they were in charge of.  I took a head count, and rattled off their names. This would be the first of about 1250 times that day, where I would do this.  One little boy immediately wandered off, leaving me wondering where he went. This would be the first of about 1250 times that day, where I would wonder this about him.

The zoo was an hour away, which meant that we had to take a school bus there. My group sat in my general vicinity, including J, who plopped down beside me. I went to the Juno Awards (Canadian Grammys) a few years ago, and these girls near me kept losing their minds whenever Shawn Mendes appeared. All loud squeals and screams. Some tears, too.  Multiply that by a busload, and that pretty much describes how the ride went. No one was bad…..it was just noisy.

The stupid, confused expression on my face was pretty much how I looked the whole day.

Once we dispersed from the bus (and my group scurried off in different directions), my friend who also was volunteering, but happens to be a teacher, took pity on my over-matched butt.  She suggested that our groups stick together, which I happily agreed to.  Once we entered the zoo,  it was time to use the washrooms, have a quick bite, and put on some sunscreen.  As I helped the kids with their snacks and lotion, I guess the little wandering dude was new to the concept of sunscreen. I turned around and he was happily sitting there, eating his sandwich, covered in globs of the  white stuff. His hands and arms were gloopy.  It was smeared all over his face. He looked like a five year old Pennywise the Clown. Anyway, after a quick wipe down, it was time to catch the trolley to finally see some animals!

At our first stop, the kids all ran off. So much for listening to me regale them with my knowledge. There was no time to regale anyway, as I could only worry about keeping track of my six. While five of my six were into the animals, one little homey was only concerned with the trees. He spent the whole trip picking up sticks, progressively grabbing bigger and bigger ones. It started out as twigs, and eventually he was swinging branches around.  I didn’t want him swinging these things in the crowd, because getting licked with a stick hurts. At one point, I asked him to put it down, and he said no. I asked again, and he refused. I then realized that I had no clue how to properly handle this situation. He then happily walked off, stick in hand.

Later on, after he grabbed one dangerous-looking branch, I tried to take it from him. He accidentally got dinged in the process, and said that he was bleeding. Now, for real, it was the tiniest nick, with only a slight trickle of blood. He was 100% fine, trust me.  At the time, though, my last name might as well have been Myers and it may as well have been Halloween.  I felt like I hacked the poor boy’s hand off, causing blood to spew profusely like a fountain.

Moving on. The zoo had these dispensers around the park, where you put your money in, twisted the handle, and food pellets came out, for feeding the animals. My group had zero combined dollars. However, at one point, I found almost all of them (not the little wandering dude, obviously) around a dispenser, trying to get food out. Stick boy had a twig jammed up it, and was maneuvering it similar to how a thief breaks into a car.  “Hey mommy, guess what we learned at the zoo today? How to commit petty crime!”

The rest of the afternoon was a blur of lunch, counting to six, rattling off names, rounding up my group when they split up, and riding the trolley around the zoo, doing a quickie tour. One girl complained about being bored, but I think everyone else had fun. I definitely wasn’t a rock star, in anyone’s eyes in the end, including my daughter’s  Before the bus ride home, J nonchalantly asked me who I was sitting beside, because she was sitting with her friends now. #savage

And that’s how my first time chaperoning a school trip went.

Let’s finish with some takeaways. First, shout out to anyone (teachers, coaches, daycare providers, whoever) that successfully deals with large groups of children on the regular. It’s never easy, and I don’t know how you do it! Next, if I ever chaperone again, I’ll probably do better.  For example, one of the other volunteers there called their group the Wolf Pack, which made rounding them up easier. Thus, I know now to have a fancy group name. If I just had to yell “Yo! Mr. Poop’s Group! Where you at?”, that would have saved me a lot of counting to six.  Finally, all jokes aside, I am glad that I had a chance to chaperone. Sure, it was stressful, but it was enjoyable, and almost everyone made it home injury-free.  It was a nice to get outside of my comfort zone for a few hours. Plus, it gave me the chance to do things like explain to a kid why he couldn’t pee by a tree near the lunch area.  All in all, it was a pretty good day.

Until the next one, peace!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

B and I were in for sure!

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

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

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

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

SHOWTIME!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer was 3.

We lost.

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

OR WAS IT?!

Nah, for real this time, it was over.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Welcome back!

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

No dice. Everyone was good to go.

Back to the audience for us.

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

 

 

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

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

OR WAS IT?!

 

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

 

 

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