Tag: dad blogger

Working From Home With Kids And Other Quarantine Life Stories

 

working from home with kids

 

Hey, all you cool cats and kittens! When I last gave y’all an update, my family was still adjusting to that quarantine life. I was also still adjusting to working from home with kids, too. Since that time in early April, a lot has changed.  With these changes comes lots of free time to analyse them. Or, in this case, blog about them. Random musings start……NOW!

 

 

WORKING FROM HOME WITH KIDS

 

We’ve settled into a workable routine, on this front.  I’ve been fortunate enough to remain employed, so I do my work upstairs at a table by the window.  With no door, my space is the definition of ‘open door policy’, which my fam takes advantage of.  Luckily, this hasn’t affected my job too much. I mean , only one client on the phone has heard little KJ screaming “Daddy! I POOPED!” in the background, anyway.

Back in the early days of self isolation, there was still a hope here in Ontario that schools might open up before the end of June. This all changed recently, though, when the government announced that schools will be closed for the duration of  the year.  K, who is a teacher, has seen her job responsibilities change lately, with a greater emphasis on distance learning. So between her work, and mine, plus B, J and KJ, it’s a juggling act, for real. Speaking of which…..

 

TEACHING THE KIDS AT HOME

 

B and J both have daily curriculum distant learning requirements. I don’t know about your kids, but getting these two to do even the bare minimum is a regular struggle. Dragging them away from their devices to do just an hour of school work is the parenting equivalent of playing Pac Man. They zip around the house, gobbling up screen time, but as soon as they see K and I with assignments, they immediately take off in opposite directions.

 

I could learn a thing or two from your kids!

 

Even if we track them down, they still make excuses to not do their work.  Oh, the excuses! The other day, B looked at a project, and told me that he couldn’t do it, because it would take 24 minutes, and his arm would get sore from writing for that long. This is the same active kid who will shoot hundreds of shots on the mini basketball net in his room . The same kid who sits in the same position for long periods playing video games. Maybe if he thought that it would have taken 23 minutes, then he would have done it?

 

 

Toddler quarantine life, PART UNO

 

 

 

With toddlers, routine is key.  KJ’s life used to consist of waking up early,  and me getting him ready to take him to his daycare. He spends the day there, hangs with other children, gets picked up by K later, comes home, does dinner, then eases into his bedtime routine.

In quarantine life, now that we are working from home with kids, his routine has been blown up. KJ is now the type who will wake up at 10:30am, ask if it’s breakfast time or lunch, and get mad when he can’t have a Popsicle and garlic knot to eat. He’s the type who doesn’t nap anymore, and doesn’t understand why he can’t take a toy boat that’s bigger than him to bed, when he’s tired. He’s the type who will happily sit around almost naked all day.

I can’t blame the poor kid. Think about it. What if you couldn’t tell time,  had zero responsibilities, and were completely dependent on someone else to provide for you?

What would you do?

Shoot, you’d probably sit around in your underwear , confused, wondering why you can’t eat garlic knots for breakfast, too!

 

 TODDLER quarantine life, PART DEUCES

KJ does not have any peers his age, to interact with.  B and J do try to entertain him, but the age gaps between them makes it hard. As such, KJ is usually left to his own imagination, to amuse himself.  Mr Sun is now his good friend, for instance.

 

It’s literally the sun.

 

I’ll also do the honors on a  daily basis, and try to play with him.  Man, if I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – never underestimate the imagination of a child.

KJ came up with this one game for us to play recently. Him and I were firefighters. We lived at the firehouse with our baby. I don’t know how we became parents to this kid, but bear with me.

We would then get an emergency call and have to go rushing to a room in the house, to deal with it. Did I mention that we had superpowers, too? And that we had to stop villains, in addition to putting out fires or rescuing people?

THEN, when we were done solving the emergency, we would come back to the fire house, but our baby was missing! So, we would have to try to find him in the house, as well.

This game went on for like two hours. Every nuance and plot twist was his idea.  It was basically the best/worst action movie that I could think of. Quentin Tarentino would be proud.

I’m not proud, Mike.

 

THE ENCINO MAN EFFECT

 

Remember that movie Encino Man? A caveman gets unfrozen in the modern age, and  early 90s, Pauly Shore-led hilarity ensues? Working at home with kids and living the quarantine life got me pondering this analogy.

What if I was frozen in January, and unfrozen last month? It would have been a huge culture shock, correct?  The city would have been like a ghost town. Few cars on the streets. Most stores closed.  Rec centres, movie theatres and other fun stuff closed.  No sports to watch. Long lineups to get into grocery stores. Not many people out and about.  Something called Zoom would be my go to app.

Ontario recently started to loosen up some of the stay home restrictions, in phases. We are currently in the early stages of this, proceeding with caution. The funny (not funny) thing is, though, if I  was unfrozen today……it wouldn’t be such a culture shock.

In my part of Hamilton, Ontario, anyway,  there is a lot more normalcy around town.  Large gatherings  of people hanging out shoulder to shoulder in their driveways. Groups of  neighborhood children playing together. Teen friends shooting hoops.  Drive-by birthday parties have become full-on birthday parties. I go by the nearby school (still closed), and the parking lot is half full of cars and people.

 

It makes me wonder…..is all of this too much, too soon? Should more responsibility be taken, in following the stay home recommendations? Or are we at the point where-stir craziness and mental well-being wins out over worrying about getting the coronavirus? Is the worst really behind us? I don’t know, man.  All I know is that if I was frozen today, and unfrozen six months later,  and I find out that we’re still dealing with second or third, or more, waves of outbreaks around here, I won’t be shocked.

I really hope not, though.

 

 

MIKE VS TICKETMASTER

 

On February 18,  I bought tickets on Ticketmaster for J and I to go to a NBA G-League game, for $18.10.  Toronto Raptors 905 vs. Capital City Go-Go game, March 24.

Weeks later, when things on the ol’ social calendar started to be crossed off due to coronavirus concerns, this was one of them. The G League suspended the season indefinitely on March 12. As of this writing, it has not resumed operations.  J and mine’s game was obviously not played.

I don’t know about you, but with life slowed down these days, looking into stuff more carefully has become a habit. A few weeks after the non-game, I found it odd that I hadn’t received any communication from Ticketmaster about a refund. I thought, from reading their policy before, that postponed/suspended events qualified for refunds. When I looked on Ticketmaster’s website at the time, however, the policy only referenced refunds for cancelled events.

I tried calling Ticketmaster for clarification, but after being on hold for a long time, I got disconnected. A quick look on the old Google machine, however, revealed that I wasn’t suffering from the Mandela Effect about  misremembering the refunds.  According to numerous articles, amidst the abundance of events being shelved because of the COVID-19 crisis, Ticketmaster quietly changed the wording of their policy. “Refunds are available if your event is postponed, rescheduled, or cancelled” apparently became “Refunds are available if your event is cancelled.”

Our non-game currently has a status of TBD, in terms of a date.

 

Since it hasn’t been cancelled (even though the likelihood of fan-attended games for any sport, any soon isn’t realistic), I’m out of luck for getting my $18.10 back. And look, I get it.

It’s only like twenty bucks, what’s the big deal? STOP COMPLAINING.

I’m sure that life at Ticketmaster the last few months must be pure chaos.  To their credit, due to the backlash, they have tweaked their refund policy. It kind of gives the event organizer more discretion in terms of giving refunds or not. So, in my case, I gotta wait on the G League to decide, as well.

While it’s only $18.10 for me, what if I had spent $181.10 per ticket, to see the Toronto Raptors play, and this was the case? What if I dropped $500 for concert tickets, only for the show to be rescheduled for an unknown date? What if, instead of working from home with kids, I  lost my job and needed the cash back? A lot of money is being held up right now by Ticketmaster. It’s understandable, given the uncertain economic climate….yet it still doesn’t seem right.

What does seem right, however, is wrapping this post up. Stay safe out there.  Until the next one, peace!

When all else fails……just dance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Normal

 

We are currently living through extraordinary, catastrophic times, man. Not only that, but one of the worst parts about this COVID-19 novel coronavirus story is that we don’t know the ending.  Will it be happy, like the end of the TV show Friends? Or will it be disappointingly infuriating, like the end of the TV show Dexter? Who knows, dude. Until then, all that we can do is cross our fingers, and adjust our lives around the terms that have become part of our vernacular lately. Self-isolation. Self-quarantine. #stayhome.  Social distancing. Flatten the curve. The new normal.

The new normal.

Like you, my family’s daily routines have been completely overhauled, in our attempts to ride this out and not get sick.  How’s that you going, you ask?  Well……

 

ARTIST’S RENDITION

In the economic game of musical chairs, I currently am still working at my day job,  but just from home.  Because of societal musical chairs, public gatherings of five people or more are currently prohibited in Ontario.  As such, the kids and K (who’s a teacher) are also home.  And, in all honesty, it’s all good. Doom and gloom aside, it’s nice to hang out with the fam more.

With nowhere to go, it’s led to creative ways to entertain ourselves.  There’s an increase in puzzles, board games, instrument learning and streaming services in our house.  J is taking to making pictures of me, for unknown reasons, too  Here’s a painting that she drew, of yours truly:

 

I asked her why I’m yellow, and she said that it was because she didn’t have any brown.

 

Hue problem aside, it’s not bad. Unlike this one, though:

 

the new normal

 

She discreetly took a picture of me, to make a Nintendo “Mii”.  Yes, I realize that my Mii resembles a digital, pink-lipped Sherman Helmsley. And yes, I realize that I look like Keenan Thompson from Saturday Night Live in the picture.

 

YOU WISHED THAT YOU LOOKED THIS GOOD, MIKE!

Sorry, Keenan.

 

ATTENTION TO DETAIL

 

I’ve talked on here before about the continued development of little KJ. With his daycare closed, he’s home, and makes frequent visits to my workspace during the day.  Sometimes, it’s just to chit chat about whatever is on his three year old mind. We’ve discussed career ambitions (“Daddy! When my grow up, my want to be a butterfly!”), dietary habits (“Daddy, if my eat carrots, I’ll be bigger!” *eats carrots* “See, mine this big now”  *holds arms out as wide as he can*), and family history (“Daddy! When my brudder and sister were in my mommy’s tummy, my was older, too. My wasn’t scared!”).

Sometimes,  he requires my assistance. For instance, he dictated a story to me once, and had me draw it out for him:

 

The Joker. What a jerk.

 

And sometimes, he just wants to chill out with me:

 

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to work at home with kids….it’s this.

 

game over

With B being our oldest, he gets what’s going on the most. He’s been the most affected by it, as well. His life, like many 10 year olds, revolves around sports, school, and video games. Two of those three have been removed from the equation.  As a result, he has leaned heavily into his one remaining old normal avenue, in these times of the new normal.

For real, I don’t mind the gaming. If he can’t physically talk to, and play with, his buddies, doing so virtually is better than nothing. The problem is trying to get him off to do something else…..when there isn’t much else to do.  Many a time of me yelling at him to go outside, for some exercise, is usually met with “BUT I’M PLAYING WITH MY FRIENDS!”.

If B had his way, he would probably disappear into the basement at the break of dawn, play games all day, and emerge at night, red-eyed, with a five o’ clock shadow. OK, I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea.

 

you gon’ learn today!

 

It’s not all fun and games. K and I have been doing some homeschooling, and (more recently since the curriculum was just launched in Ontario as of this writing) online learning, as well.  It’s…..going.  I’d like to say that, with so much free time, B and J are eager, model students,  thirsty for knowledge from bottomless learning cups provided by their parents.

I’d also like to say that my dad bod stomach has turned into a six pack.

Neither of these statements are true.

 

i spy

 

 

Remember that episode of The Simpsons, where Bart breaks his leg, and, while recovering in his bedroom, starts to get the wrong idea that his neighbour was a murderer?  I’m not saying my neighbours are killers, don’t get it twisted. However, my workspace is by a window,  which leads to occasionally peeking out of it.  There’s such a monotony of joggers, family bike rides and dog walkers passing by during the day, that anything else has my mind playin’ tricks on me.

A Purolator truck with a big package?  Exciting! I wonder what they ordered!

A husband leaves his home, then hours later, another man in a van pulls up, and goes into the house with a toolbox. Service call by the wife? Or something else? Ooooooh, scandalous!!!

Shoot, my one neighbour wasn’t quick on picking up their bins on garbage day, and I was seriously considering contacting the police about a house call, to see if they were alright.

The old me wouldn’t have noticed any of this stuff.  Why does the new normal involve me being a nosy neighbour?!

 

 the ish

I know what you’re thinking.

“But Mike, what about your family’s toilet paper situation?”

OK, you probably weren’t thinking that, but the answer is…….we good.

See,  being on the outskirts of Hamilton means everything is a drive. Let’s say that I need to pick up some toilet paper, eggs and milk. My options that are up to a 20ish minute trip away include Freshco (x3), Fortinos (x2), Walmart (x2), Costco (x2), Real Canadian Superstore, Food Basics, No Frills (x2), Lococo’s, Zarky’s, Sobey’s, Metro, Shopper’s Drug Mart (x too many to count), and Foodland.  Plus, Amazon Prime has a program where they will send you the same products every month recurring…..and we’re signed up for that, to receive toilet paper.

Hoarders be hoarding, cool. But in our case, with so many options at our disposal, we have been able to get by fine, so far. Just don’t get any ideas about stealing my limited supply, though, please, if the hoarders turn out to be right.

Y’all dancing on TikTok to combat boredom, while I’m taking tough guy selfies with a chain to combat would-be TP thieves. We’ll see who wipes, I mean, laughs, last!

 

 

The old normal seems like a distant memory already. We have gone from looking at Wuhan, and thinking that there’s no way what happened there could happen here,  to looking at the new normal and thinking if what used to happen here will ever happen again.  Stay safe and smart, folks.

Until the next one, peace!

Three’s Company

 

 

Today’s post is brought to you by the number three. You see, three is a big time number in our house, especially recently, as our third child, KJ, recently turned three years old! Since having a third child, we have been regularly asked three questions:

  1. You have three kids?! This is always asked in a shocked voice,  by anyone who has less than three children.
  2. When are you having more?  In my head, I follow up by  giving the person a crisp slap to the face, for asking such a bananas question. In reality, I just laugh it off.
  3. So who is the third kid most like?

Now this. This is a thinker. As KJ entered into the threes, he really has developed his own  personality, to say the least. For example:

 

CLOTHING OPTIONAL

Despite not living at a nudist resort, or coming from a family of exhibitionists,  KJ loves to not wear any clothes.  On a typical evening, I’ll come home from work, and find him in nothing but a diaper, looking like Mowgli from The Jungle Book.

You might be thinking “But that’s cute, Mike. What’s the big deal?”. And sometimes, it is cute. Conversely, sometimes, when I’m trying to get him ready to go to daycare in the morning, and he’s refusing to get dressed, it’s not so cute. There are some things that you just can’t force someone to do.  As a fun family game tonight, ask your kids to put a shirt and a pair of pants on you, but make this as humanly difficult as possible on them. You’d be surprised at the number of ways that there are to accomplish this.  You’ll win every time! Anyway, I’ve loaded KJ’s diaper-only clad butt in my car on more than one occasion (because he wins every time). That, my dudes, ain’t so cute.

This happened, too, not long ago:

 

 

That right there is KJ standing shoeless on a busy winter afternoon in downtown Toronto. If you’ve never done this before….I don’t recommend it.

 

enunciation IS A WORK IN PROGRESS

 

KJ’s vocab game is ever-improving. His pronunciation and sentence-making skills are coming along, too. He still has his moments, though. For instance, I took him with me to J’s basketball recently, and we had this conversation while sitting on the sidelines:

KJ – You made me crap!

Me (looking around nervously, to see if anyone else heard) – What did I do?!

KJ  (louder) – You made me crap! With your legs!

Me (stunned silence)

KJ – Crap me with your legs! Now!

At this point, I had no idea what he was talking about, so I just sat there with my legs spread. He then crawled between them, and pulled them together, so they were closed around him.

KJ – See? Crap!

I then realized that he meant to say trap.  No bowel-moving maneuvers needed.

 

FICKLE, FICKLE, FICKLE!

 

When KJ is unhappy, we understand him loud and clear, because he will articulate his feelings loudly and clearly.  In his little world, the most petty things tick him off.  He’ll look at me pouting, and say “Dad, I’m so mad at you.” The reasons for the rage have ranged from understandable ones, like he didn’t want to stop watching his tablet, to irrational ones, like he didn’t love the voices that I made for the toys we were playing with, or he wanted two ice cubes in his sippy cup, but I only gave him one.

 

 

A CAREER IN COMEDY DOESN’T SEEM PROMISING

 

KJ – Knock knock.

Me – Who’s there?

KJ –  My dad is so nice!

Me – My dad is so nice who?

KJ – My dad is so nice because he is nice.

And that was the joke.

*crickets*

He also thinks it’s hilarious to pinch my nose and ask if I’m Batman.

 

*tumbleweed blows by*

 

OK. This is pretty funny. When’s the next open mic night?

 

how rude!

 

KJ’s perception of me has changed as he’s entered into the threes, as well.  For some reason, he thinks our bedroom closet is my “room”, as if I go there every night, and curl up on a shelf to sleep, snuggled up in Drake shirts, with In My Feelings as my lullaby.

Furthermore,  before, he thought this WWE action figure was me:

 

 

Professional wrestler Shelton Benjamin. Big, strong, muscular, handsome. I’ll take it!

Lately, though, he has called me this:

 

A half completed, goofy Mr. Potato Head?!  I’m a bit of a hesi-tater when it comes to an una-peel-ing comparison!

 

 

This:

 

A broken, ancient toy car? I’m not as young or as fast as I used to be, but c’mon!

 

And this:

 

If I were a firefighter, it wouldn’t be so bad. However, I am not. When I told this to J, she asked if I liked black shoes (sure?) and flashlights (I guess?). She then shrugged and said “close enough”.

 

So who is KJ most alike in our family? The answer can be summed up in three words:

“Uh, no one.”

 

And with that, this post is a wrap. Triples!

Wait, I mean deuces!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Uninformed Parent’s Guide to TikTok

Parent's guide to Tik Tok

 

Today, we’re talking about what is TikTok!

Now, if you’re over the age of 25, this may or may not mean anything to you. However, if you have kids under the age of 25, especially teenaged ones or younger, it should mean something to you. I am by no means a TikTok expert (TikTokspert?).  However, I have had some experiences with it, courtesy of  my son B, who’s currently 10 years old. Since I’ve talked to other parents who don’t know squat about TikTok, I figured that I’d share my limited knowledge in the form of a parent’s guide to TikTok. Let’s do this, FAQ- style!

 

I love Ke$ha! Tik Tok is my jam!

 

Sorry, person-older-than-TikTok’s-main-demographic. I’m not talking about that classic song.

 

Oh. So what are you you talking about?

 

I’m talking about TikTok, the social media app that has, as of this writing, over 1.65 billion downloads  and 800 million monthly active users.

 

That’s a lot of people waking up feeling like P. Diddy! What is TikTok, exactly?

 

Still not talking about the Ke$ha song, dude. Anyway, TikTok is an app from China, where users can upload short form videos and share them on the network. The videos are usually only a few seconds long and musically oriented. Lots of lip-syncing, dancing, singing, and random clips set to songs are what you can expect to find on it. Plenty of memes and challenges, too.  You know how you saw Ellen dancing to Old Town Road by Lil Nas X, and you pretended to know the song, when you really hadn’t heard it before?

 

I remember that day well.

 

A big part of that song’s initial popularity was because of how it blew up on TikTok, by people using it in their videos.

 

So TikTok  iS like YouTube for people who can’t be bothered to watch videos longer than a minute long?? No wonder kids like it.

 

Not exactly. But yeah, kids do seem to love this app.  Some of the stuff on there is pretty entertaining.  Plus, with all the silly filters and effects available when creating the videos, it’s a fun way to flash some creativity.

 

 

Sounds awesome! I’m going to sign my seven year old up for it ASAP!

 

Hey slow down, pal. TikTok has a minimum age requirement of 13 years old.

 

But you signed your 10 year old up for it!

 

We did, and, in retrospect, it was a mistake. The first time that B had an account, it was because a lot of his schoolmates were on it, and he had a case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out. I’m down with that Gen Z lingo, too, sometimes. Not really).  One thing with TikTok is that, unless you change the settings, anything you upload can be seen by anyone. K and I let B have an account,  and monitored what he was posting, but not as closely as we should have. It’s easy, especially if you’re young and  impressionable, to get caught up in likes/followers/comments chasing.   Long story short,  in most likely an effort to impress his friends, B posted some stuff that was reckless, embarrassing and inappropriate for a child of his age, so we deleted his account.

 

is tiktok safe for kids

 

 

Did you say the first time?! You mean you let him have an account after this?

 

Sigh. Yes, we did.  We thought B had learned his lesson, and was going to be more responsible.  So, like his fondness for Fortnite, we gave him another chance. And, for a while, he was OK. His videos were mostly just self-made highlight reels of him playing basketball in his room, set to non-explicit songs. I mentioned before that TikTok is a social app, and another aspect to that is the ability to direct message people. Yes, you can slide into DMs (more Gen Z lingo!) on TikTok. Anyway, long story short again, but more recklessness happened.  For example, he sneakily pulled an all-nighter one Wednesday night, to screw around on TikTok (with predictable sleep-deprived results the next day). He also posted a video in which he was lucky to have not resulted in more serious ramifications than it did.  Because of those, and some other incidents, we deleted his new account, for good this time.

 

And the award for “Parents Of The Year” goes to.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We screwed up.  Every kid is different, right? You want to instil a sense of trust and responsibility in your children, and when it doesn’t work out, it sucks. On the surface, most social media has lots of redeeming qualities, like the positive interaction with your peers. Beneath that, though, sometimes, lies a toxic, addictive cesspool.

 

 

what is tiktok

 

Daaaaang, Gina! Tell us how you really feel.

 

I’m just sayin’, you can’t be too careful when it comes to monitoring your kids’ TikTok usage. For instance, it’s all username based, unlike Facebook or Instagram. Say your friend is named Tyrone Biggums, and you want to follow him on TikTok. You can’t just search up Tyrone Biggums.  He might have changed his username to AshyLarry or something. It really does take some effort to find your friends.

I remember B showing me  a video that a girl at his school had made, which was pointless and dumb, but had a lot of likes. I quickly looked at her account, and all her videos were in the same vain, but she had, relatively speaking, a lot of followers. When I thought of how ‘out there’ she was,  how anyone with or without an account could watch her videos, and how fairly anonymous most of her followers could have been, it made me wonder. Who exactly was following this little girl and why? How many of these people were trying to slide into her DMs?

 

Is TikTok SAFE FOR KIDS, OR IS IT full of creepy perverts?!?

 

I….I don’t know. I’m also just a dad with a blog with limited experience with this app. I’m guessing, at the very least, it has the same ratio of normal people to predatory creeps as anything else online, but it’s impossible to know for sure.

 

Besides monitoring, is there anything else that I can do to protect my child on TikTok?

 

To their credit, TikTok does have numerous parental controls and privacy measures available, which can help you in this regard. It’s also a great idea to talk to them about cyberbullying, and about making smart choices online.

 

You’ve said a lot, but I still don’t get TikTok, or its appeal. I’m too old for this app.

 

Nice self awareness. While you don’t have to like it, you should get used to it, as, data breach controversy aside,  TikTok most likely isn’t going anywhere  anytime soon.

Shoot, like all cool, hip things of the moment, more and more businesses are jumping on the TikTok bandwagon too, as a way to build brand awareness. If you really want to win brownie points at your work, tell your boss that you want to open and run your company’s TikTok account.

 

Well, if you want to win brownie points, you know what to do.

Nope!

 

Just do it.  c’MON. We’re about done here anyway.

 

True.

Fine, here you go. And happy TikToking. Be safe out there, folks:

 

 

 

The Definitive Guide To Splash Lagoon in Erie PA

Splash Lagoon Erie PA

 

Believe it or not, I’m Canadian…but I hate the winter.  Some people love dealing with that cold, numbing feeling of the wind chill hitting your face. I’m not one of them. Escaping potential frostbite to go somewhere warm and sunny isn’t really in the cards, either. Luckily, however, there are places not far from me (or anyone else in the Greater Toronto Area)  to temporarily get away for some summer-like fun. Places like Splash Lagoon  in Erie, PA!

 

 

What is Splash Lagoon in erie pa?

 

Splash Lagoon is an indoor, Polynesian-themed waterpark, located in Erie, PA. At 80,000 square feet, it’s one of the biggest indoor waterparks in the USA. It’s full of aquatic activities (and more) for people of all ages, set to a tropical theme/design.

 

 

GETTING THERE

 

Erie, Pennsylvania is located about two hours southwest from the Niagara Falls border (or the comparable indoor waterpark to Splash Lagoon in Niagara, Great Wolf Lodge). This worked out to a three hour drive for us. When travelling with three small kids, this is about as good as it gets, time-wise, for a road trip. It’s almost doable in one drive, without having to stop for bathroom breaks. Also, you can schedule it so that you can hit the road after a meal at home, negating the need to stop for food along the way. Just throw on The Irishman for them to watch, and by the time that it’s almost over, you’ll be there (note: that was joke. I do not advise showing The Irishman to little children).

 

 

staying there – SPLASH LAGOON ERIE PA

 

I mentioned Great Wolf Lodge earlier, because that is more of the go-to waterpark destination, for families in my region.  My family has stayed at Great Wolf Lodge several times before. I will say that Splash Lagoon is different, but in a good way.

The experience at Great Wolf Lodge is pretty immersive.  Everything at the resort, from the hotel rooms on-site, to the waterpark, to the decor, to the  games and restaurants, all have the same kind of nature-y, rustic theme. The thing is, though, that you really pay for the immersiveness, as an overnight visit can be quite pricey.  You also can’t easily obtain day passes only, to visit the park.  If you want to get your swim on, you gotta get your sleep on there, too.

Splash Lagoon, on the other hand, is its own standalone place. However, it has three hotels connected to it: Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Inn and Hawthorn Inn & Suites. These have stay and play package deals which include passes to Splash Lagoon. The good thing about these, of course, is that you can stroll from your hotel room to Splash Lagoon in just your Speedo, without having to set foot outside in the frosty winter elements (note: that was a joke. I do not condone unwanted Speedo strolls. Think of the kids, people). If these don’t float your boat, a few of the nearby hotels also offer overnight package deals, and include a shuttle service Splash Lagoon, too.  Then, if none of these are appealing for whatever reason, you are able to just buy day passes to Splash Lagoon, and stay somewhere else .

 

Holiday Inn Express Erie PA

 

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Erie PA, which is the closest hotel, proximity-wise, to Splash Lagoon.  Our stay was complimentary, but the rates online for a stay package were more affordably priced than Great Wolf Lodge.  Our room was suitably clean and tidy. Breakfast was included, too. With a family of five, anytime that you have one less meal to worry about is always nice.

One more thing. The Peace Bridge Duty Free store, near the Canadian border, also promotes Splash Lagoon overnight deals, that seemed to be very reasonable, so keep an eye out there, too, when booking  a stay.

 

 

playing there (water)

 

Alright, now let’s get to the wet and wild stuff! Over two days, my family experienced  almost every attraction. Instead of a typical Splash Lagoon review, though, I’ll break them down for you, by age appeal and appropriateness. And yes, Splash Lagoon does have life jackets on-site, don’t worry.

 

Splash Lagoon review

 

 

 

For KJ Sized kids (re: babies and little kids)

Monkey Shines Island

This play area is in a shallow pool, with seven small slides scattered around it, which have a 48″ maximum height requirement. KJ could go down these by himself, but I still had to hang out at the bottom, to catch him.  Some parents took their kids down them on their laps, as an option. There’s also a tipping bucket in this area, and “showers”, as KJ called them.

Adventure Bay

Adventure Bay is a big pool with basketball nets and balls, along with lily pads to jump on (which were off limits when we were there).  While more suited for all ages, little kids can still have fun here, in life jackets, with parents nearby, I think. B and J both commented that the water was colder in Adventure Bay than other areas of the park.  Hoops-loving B could have stayed there the whole time, regardless, challenging random kids to one on one games, like he was at the aquatic version of Rucker Park.

Wild Water Waves Pool

Billed as “the largest indoor wave pool in the Eastern United States”, Wild Water Waves Pool was a hit with my fam. Again, while more suited for all ages, KJ did enjoy bobbing up and down on the waves, some of which got pretty big!

 

Splash Lagoon Erie PA

Underwater selfies in a wave pool are hard!

 

The Frog Pond 

The Frog Pond is an area with a whirlpool for the family to relax in, and leapfrog fountains for little kids to splash around on.  It’s kind of tucked away in a corner, behind the Tree Tops Ropes Course. Not gonna lie, because we didn’t try the ropes course, I didn’t notice the Frog Pond, so we never went in it.  #planningfail

The Lava Pool

This is a small pool, with “lava” for kids to play in. Again, not gonna lie, I assumed that it was a hot tub, and didn’t stop to go in. J checked it out, though, with K, and reported back, in her words “the water was not deep, and  it was hot, and there were benches nearby, and it was relaxing.”

 

For B and J SIZED kids (re: big kids)

Tiki Tree House

This is located in the middle of Splash Lagoon, and is a featured attraction. It’s four stories high, with activities like water cannons, and a giant tipping bucket. I’m not sure why, but the Tiki Tree House didn’t seem as functional as it probably normally is, during our stay.  If fully operational, it appears to be a blast, but I can’t vouch for it, based on our experience.

The Lazy River

This is just as it sounds. Grab a tube, alone or with your kid, and lazily float around the river. It’s a decent size, so you can do a few laps without taking up too much time. Minimal congestion, too, which is sometimes an issue with these things.

WARNING: if you have a mischievous daughter like mine, she will probably steer you towards the waterfall, where you will get splashed worse than a basketball net after a Steph Curry versus Klay Thompson three point contest. I suggest singing the chorus to TLC’s ‘Wateralls’ to alleviate any potential soaking (note: that was a joke. You should obviously sing TLC’s Creep, instead).

 

Things To Do in Erie PA

Thumbs up to TLC song references outta nowhere!

 

 

Big Kahuna

This is a big, curvy water slide that actually goes outside for part of it.  It’s for single or double riders with a tube, with a minimum 36″ height requirement. Children 36″-42″ tall, like J, had to slide with an adult, though.

Python Plunge

Python Plunge is similar in thrillness to the Big Kahuna. It has the same restrictions and tube requirement, too (though this one is a lot of fun with two riders).

Shark Attack

This is a single person body slide, minimum 36″ height requirement.  It feels like you’re going pretty fast, and it’s another slide that takes you outside for part of it.  The lineup for this water slide was a bit confusing. It’s located beside the Big Kahuna, and I noticed a lot of people standing in the line for that because they didn’t realize that the line for Shark Attack was separate.  In B and I’s case, we made that mistake initially before noticing, once we got to the top, that there weren’t actually any people in line for Shark Attack, so we went right on.

Black Hole

This was J’s personal favorite. From the top of the Tiki Tree House, the whole water slide is in complete darkness.  Single riders only, no tube, minimum height requirement of 36″.

Maui Wowie

Maui Wowie is a bit of a quickie single rider slide, no tube. It shoots you down and around the sharp, sudden turns pretty fast. 36″ height requirement.

Cyclone

B’s fav because, in part, of the toilet bowl effect of going round and round before being flushed out into a pool below. For single or double riders with a tube, with a minimum 36″ height requirement. Children 36″-42″ tall gotta ride with a grownup.

Hurricane Hole

This is like the Cyclone, if the Cyclone was on Red Bull energy drinks. A bit more extreme, as it’s for tubeless single riders, which means you go faster, and end up in a deep pool. For people 48″ and up, who are strong enough swimmers to swim out of the deep pool at the end.

for DA GROWNUPS

There’s a bar upstairs called Island Oasis Bar.

What?

Stay thirsty, my friends.

 

extra playing there at splash lagoon

 

All of the above attractions are included in your day pass admission. If you want to spend a few more bucks, Splash Lagoon in Erie PA has some other fun ways to take your money. The aforementioned Tree Tops Ropes Course, for example, costs $7 per person. It’s three stories high,  of various climbing challenges, for kids and adults (36″ and taller).  $7 will also get you a spin on the Aqua Tumbler, a giant inflatable ball that loops you around and shoots water at you while you’re in it.

Upstairs from the park is an arcade. It has a decent selection of games, with the usual selection of prizes to be won when winning tokens at said games.  One unique feature, though, was the Hologate Virtual Reality game, which cost $8/person, and looked pretty interesting.

If you’re like my family, you can expect to spend $20 at the arcade, for the joy of watching your kids win about $1 worth of tokens, which they will then argue about because they want to each cash it in for a different toy. B played one of those claw pickup games, and somehow ended up winning so much candy that even Milton Hershey would have been like “dang, homey”.

Splash Lagoon Erie PA

Spoiler: We did not win 100 tickets on this spin.

 

Things to do in Erie PA

 

During our trip, The FlowRider, a wave simulation ride similar to ones seen  at other theme parks,  was not  operational.

 

 

eating there

 

Outside food is a no go at Splash Lagoon. However, there is a restaurant on site called Laguna Grill. It serves the expected theme park foods like burgers, pizza and chicken fingers.  One kind of odd thing was the ice cream stand. It’s nearby to the Laguna Grill, but to order a cone, you have to place the order at Laguna Grill, and then go to the stand to get your order. However, there was never anyone working at the stand, so you had to wait for someone who wasn’t busy at the grill to come over to scoop your order. K and the kids actually waited a half hour for an order that we placed (it was really good ice cream, admittedly, and almost worth the wait).

 

 

Hooch and Blotto’s Sports Bar& Grill is also connected to Splash Lagoon, and it’s a great place to go for a change of pace of the waterpark. While we didn’t partake in any food,  the menu was pretty tasty looking.  There was nice selection of craft beers featured, which I may have had one or two of. We did hit hit up the lanes there one night, to play some bowling. No shoe rentals required, and small balls with bumpers in the lanes available, so it was very kid-friendly. At the end, though, you might leave the prohibition-themed restaurant with the same thing on your mind as B did: what’s with all the moustaches?

 

 

Beyond these options, there are several restaurants a couple of minute’s drive away. Because, as I have noted before on here, we are kind of suckers for chains that aren’t near us, we went to Applebee’s one evening. It was delicious. Come to Hamilton, Ontario, Applebee’s. Sheesh.

 

applebee's erie pa

Who goes to Applebee’s with their family and takes a picture of his oversized drink? This guy.

 

 

this, that and there

 

Some closing points about Splash Lagoon in Erie PA. Staying at the Holiday Inn Express did allow us to walk back and forth to the waterpark and our room swim-ready. However, I did duck my head into the change room on hand, and it looked really clean. The closeness also meant that we could just leave our stuff in the room. Otherwise, a locker might have been needed, which are available on the premise, for various prices. As an option, there was lots of tables and seating around, which people would claim by leaving their stuff on.

Towels, unfortunately, are not available, unless you want to buy them at the Surf Shop store upstairs, so you gotta bring your own.

Parking is free.

In terms of staff, everyone that I encountered was friendly, and helpful. There were  plenty of lifeguards on hand, too, at every attraction.

 

 

getting out AND ABOUT there in erie pa

 

things to do in erie pa

 

I mentioned above about doing other stuff as a change of pace to Splash Lagoon. In terms of things to do in Erie,PA, it is a nice little city, with some cool options to keep you and your family busy, if you want to take a break from the water.

I loves me a good children’s museum (yes, even more so than my kids sometimes), so I, uh I mean we, really liked The expERIEnce Children’s MuseumLocated about 10 minutes away from Splash Lagoon, it’s three stories high, along with an outside play space.  Each floor focused on a different  play-inspiring theme: creativity, explore, and imagination. I  do think that it’s a bit more suited for smaller kids. B’s ten years old, and was more into goofing around with his brother and sister than most of the exhibits. However, J and KJ both had lots of fun, especially on the imagination floor being doctors, grocery store clerks, and firefighters.  The expERIEnce Children’s Musuem is definitely a nice place for kids to safely run around and blow off some steam, while learning a thing or two, in the process.

 

experience children's museum

 

 

 

experience children's musem

 

 

 

experience children's museum

Surprisingly, this wasn’t taken at Splash Lagoon.

 

 

 

If you want to blow off some steam, in the offline retail variety, Erie is also home to the MIllcreek Mall. It’s one of the largest mall complexes in the USA. Even with the Canadian dollar being where it’s at, there were some good deals to be had there.  Also, there’s no sales tax on clothes in Pennsylvania, to boot.

 

Millccreek Mall

 

For the sports fan, Erie, Pennsylvania is also home to teams like the NBA G League’s Erie Bayhawks and the OHL’s Erie Otters. Neither were in town during our stay, unfortunately.

 

While we didn’t do a heck of lot of sightseeing and exploring in Erie, PA, what we did see and do was very worthwhile.  Splash Lagoon, in particular, was the obvious highlight. When it comes  to affordable road trip destinations where you can pretend to get away to somewhere tropical for a day or two,  put Splash Lagoon at the top of your list.

Until the next one, peace!

 

Disclosure:  though our accommodations and experiences during our stay were covered by Visit Erie, all opinions expressed are my own, as always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full Circle

While in downtown Hamilton this weekend, I ended up walking past Gore Park. A ferris wheel has been set up there this month, which you can ride for free. Despite being alone,  I totally went on it, because, well, free ferris wheel ride, duh. As I sat in my carriage, going round and round, taking in the sky high view of my hometown, a Forrest Gump-like thought entered my head. Life is kind of like a ferris wheel. Through the highs and the lows, things tend to always come back around full circle.

 

 

downtown hamilton

 

 

I mention this because it relates back to the reason why I was downtown, to begin with.  The Good Shepherd was hosting their annual Christmas dinner event, at the Hamilton Convention Centre by Carmen’s, and I had signed up to be a volunteer.  While this was my first year volunteering, it was not my first year attending an event like this. Back in the day, things were always tight money-wise, to varying degrees. On more than one occasion, the best meal and toys that little Mike got over a holiday season came courtesy of the Good Shepherd, or a similar organisation which helped those in need. And yeah, for the longest time, I’ll admit to being a bit ashamed about this.  I grew up being the dude who was usually “without”, surrounded by people who were “with”.  These experiences were my own little secrets, ones that I tucked away and never really looked back at it.

Until this year.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I got to that dinner. One thing that I wasn’t expecting was the crowd. I arrived early, and had to wiggle my way through large throngs of people, to get to the door. Later, I was told that a lineup had formed, which stretched down to MacNab Street. All in all, there were more than 2000 guests and about 800 volunteers  in attendance.

 

Good Shepherd Hamilton Christmas dinner

The calm before the storm…..

 

The other unexpected thing was how much time and effort was clearly put in to make it seem like you had been transported to a winter wonderland.  A band and a choir comprised of volunteers performed holiday songs on the way into the dining rooms. The dining rooms themselves were festively done up. On the lower level, Santa was in the house, flocked with toys to give out.  Some of the giant inflatables for kids to play on even fit the snowy theme. At the exit, a donation area was set up, for you to grab free winter clothing if needed, to help stay warm.

 

Good Shepherd Hamilton Christmas dinner

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was part of the serving team for the day, which basically involved running back and forth to the kitchen, making sure that there was always food on hand. No trays of turkey were dropped by yours truly, which was a win in my books. Another win was the amount of people young, old and in between, who came out to help. From my numerous conversations with other volunteers, the common theme seemed to be that, for many folks, this was annual tradition.  My team leader, Lisa, for example, had, over the years, done almost every job possible at this event, and happily kept everything on track for us. Annette Hamm, a local news personality, was also on my team. She was a repeat offender (when it came to volunteering there!) and offered me some great advice.

 

 

The Good Shepherd opens the doors to their dinner to everyone and anyone. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but I can only assume that people from all walks of life came out to eat.   At one point,  among the sea of happy faces, I saw a little boy who resembled me when I was younger, sitting at a table with his mom (I’m assuming). I’d like to say that we then locked eyes, and that something profoundly, magically, Chistmas-spiritually happened, straight outta Hallmark. In reality, he probably wondered who this weird guy was that was staring at him, and I had to run off to get more mashed potatoes. At the end of the event, though, I did see the mom rummaging through the donated winter items, and giving him a scarf, which made him smile as if he just got a Playstation 5.

 

Look, parents tend to reflect on the jobs that their parents did on them, and want to do better than that with their own children. I’m no exception. When I see B and J’s annual Santa wish lists, and how thrilled they are, when they actually get what they asked for, I remember all of those years when little Mike would make his own lists, yet those lists had no chance of ever being filled. Shoot, on Black Friday this year, I woke up early, to go to a Real Canadian Superstore to buy a TV. On the way out, because I spent more than $250, the store gave me a free frozen turkey.  When I told this to my family, no one cared, and we ended up giving it away to a friend. On some hungry nights, little Mike would have given his right leg for a right turkey leg, but here’s current Mike out here giving turkeys away, like it’s no biggie.

 

I guess what I’m rambling about is this. Though it’s been said many times, many ways (probably), everyone deserves a good meal this time of the year. Everyone deserves to feel a little bit special, too, especially kids. I’m glad that organisations like the Good Shepherd exist to help facilitate this.  While not profoundly, magically Christmas-spiritual, it did finally dawn on me that we should be more appreciative, because things really do come around full circle.  Ain’t no shame in that.

 

Happy holidays, y’all!

 

 

 

Holiday Gift Idea – The Sony Xperia 1 Cell Phone

 

 


sony xperia 1 review

Disclaimer: Compensation was received from Best Buy in exchange for this post about the Sony Xperia 1 phone, but all opinions expressed are my own, as always.

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! If you are still looking for that extra special gift for an extra special person, then have you considered the Sony Xperia 1 Cell phone?  Since my FAQ posts are sometimes always popular, let’s do this in that way!

 

A POST ABOUT A PHONE? JEEZ, YOU’RE REALLY PHONING IT IN TODAY, HUH?

What? No! I like to keep up on the latest and greatest in mobile devices, and the Sony Xperia 1 is pretty sweet. Plus, Best Buy has a nice deal on it right now, too.

 

 

FINE, YOU CELL-OUT.  TELL ME ABOUT THIS PHONE THEN.

The Sony Xperia 1 smartphone has a triple-lens camera system and advanced autofocus technologies, which makes it easy to take stable, detailed images and capture 4K videos. It’s unlocked, and has a 6.5-inch 4K OLED touch screen that really brings out the detail in captured footage and streaming videos.

 

 

6.5 inches? that’s big! bigger than my current phone.

What phone do you currently have?

 

 

hey, i’m asking the questions here!

Right. My bad. Anyway, besides the screen, the storage is good-sized, too. 128 GB internal memory with a microSD slot.

 

 

go on.

It’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor with a respectable 6GB of RAM, and runs on the Android 9.0 Pie OS at 4G LTE speed.

 

 

SO YOU’RE SAYING THAT I CAN TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES OF MY KIDS PLAYING AT THE PARK, UPLOAD THEM IMMEDIATELY TO  MY “KIDS PLAYING AT THE PARK” FACEBOOK ALBUM, AND LIKE ALL THE PICTURES, TOO? ALL BEFORE THEY FINISH GOING DOWN A SLIDE?

 

I….I didn’t say that.  You’d have to try doing that on your own, and get back to me. The Sony Xperia 1 does have a 12.0MP triple-lens camera system and 2x optical zoom to capture details without losing quality.  Also featured is Motion Eye, which lets you capture slow motion videos at up to 906 frames per second,  and Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, to help keep your images free from motion blur.  All of this will result in some dope shots of your, uh, kids on slides.

Wait. Why do you like your own photos on Facebook?

 

 

I’M WARNING YOU, pal! STOP ASKING QUESTIONS! NOW, CAN I DROP THIS PHONE IN A TOILET, OR NOT?

 

Uh. I mean, the Sony Xperia 1 has an IB68 rating, so it can stand being submerged in static water, to a point. I wouldn’t want to find out if it can survive a toilet drop, though. Neither should you!

 

 

YOU SAID THAT BEST BUY HAD A DEAL? EXPLAIN IT, PLEASE.

From December 9 to 22 2019,  you can save $200 on the Sony Xperia 1 at Best Buy. Check it out here!

 

 

$200? do you hoW MANY SUBSCRIPTIONS TO DISNEY PLUS I CAN BUY WITH THAT?

Why do you need so many Disney Plus subscriptions?

 

 

THat’s it, mike! i warned you about asking questions. i’m leaving!

Yeah, I think we are about done here.

Happy Sony Xperia 1 smartphone shopping at Best Buy!

 

 

 

5 Times That I Failed As a Parent

 

Parenting, as we know, is a tough but rewarding gig. Parenting fails are inevitable. For every parenting win like this, though:

 

A sight seen less than Bigfoot – my three children all playing nicely together!

 

There are way more parenting fails. Head shaking, hand-wringing fails. Fails that can make you feel like a complete failure of a loser. Shoot, this past week alone, I feel like I’ve been throwing up Ls left and right, on the fatherhood front.  Here are five examples.

 

 

MY OLDEST SON DOESN’T APPRECIATE THE VALUE OF MONEY

I’ve told you before about B’s ongoing infatuation with the game Fortnite. Recently, he worked and saved up some money, so he could buy a Playstation gift card.  He really wanted the latest Fortnite battle pass, and a new skin. What’s a skin, you ask? This:

 

fortnite hot dog skin

 

When I was a kid, on more than one occasion, we had to scrounge up loose change, to be able to buy a cheap pack of hot dogs for dinner. Now, here’s my son spending perfectly good cash to buy a video game character dressed up like a bratwurst?

I’m sorry, people. I done messed up.

 

 

 RULES ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN BY TODDLERS

 

I took B to his piano class at a music academy the other day, but I had little KJ with me.  KJ actually likes to go there, because the place has a toy area set up. We drove over, then walked along the snowy sidewalk to the building where the class was. When we entered the building, I noticed that there was a sign on the door of the academy which said to please remove your shoes.

No biggie, right? No parenting fails here?

B dutifully removed his sneakers and went in. KJ, however, refused to take off his shoes. Not just refused, but full on screaming and crying refused. It was an out of nowhere reaction. I was shell-shocked. I have no clue what was going on in his head. Maybe his feet smelled? Maybe he was embarrassed about his choice of socks?

Regardless, it’s been a minute since I’ve been apart of a ‘terrible twos’ tantrum, and that old familiar feeling of essentially being screwed set in real quick. If I took his shoes off, and carried him, that would just escalate the meltdown, and disrupt all of the classes. Standing in the hallway trying to be the stern father, followed by the bribing father, followed by the begging father, also didn’t work.  I couldn’t just let him go in, though, because cleaning up dirty wet little footprints wasn’t fair to anyone. I couldn’t even take him to the car. That would have involved leaving him in the hall while I went into the academy for who knows how long to find B, to let him know where I was going.

After about  20 minutes, I scooped KJ up off of the ground (because no tantrum is complete without a good ol’ floor flopping), and carried him into the academy, shoes on, to sit on my lap for the rest of the class. He was less loud, but not quiet, during this time.

When the class ended, and we got back into my car, KJ, the newfound rebellious rule breaker, only had one thing to say for himself:

But I want to play with the toys!

 

Parenting fails

 

I FORGOT TO TELL THEM ABOUT R. KELLY

 

Driving home one night, with B and J in the back bickering about something ridiculous, ‘I Wish’ by R. Kelly came on the radio. I hadn’t heard that song in forever, so I cranked it up, to drown out the arguing. As I was jamming like it was Y2K all over again,  this conversation then happened:

B – “Hey, dad. Isn’t R. Kelly in jail?”

Me – “No. Well, yeah. He’s in jail while he’s on trial.”

J – “What did he do?”

I then thought about the answer, looked at my daughter in the rear view mirror…..and I chickened out, dude. That’s a complicated issue which I didn’t really want to talk about with her, or B, at that time. I mumbled something about he did some bad stuff, then we talked about what a trial is, and that was it.  Maybe this should not  be in the parenting fails. Maybe it should. I’m not sure. All  I know is that I didn’t feel like listening to ‘I Wish’ by R. Kelly anymore.

 

I put their health in jeopardy by making them swim too soon

 

Do you remember, back in the day, when your parents would tell you that you have to wait an hour after you eat, before you can go swimming? I gave KJ a hearty bowl of chicken noodle soup before his swim class the other day. This led to him turning the pool into a hearty bowl of chicken noodle puke.  For those keeping track at home, a half hour was not enough time, in this case.  Oops.

 

funny parenting fails

Who’s hungry for some soup now?

 

 

MY YOUNGEST SON IS AFRAID OF TURNING INTO A BLUEBERRY

 

KJ’s vocabulary has come on strong the last few months, and it seems like we hear him saying a new word daily. The other night’s word was “disgusting”. His toy cars were disgusting. Everything on his dinner plate was disgusting.  It was kind of annoying. I gave him a bath, and he complained that the water was disgusting. Finally, when he sneered, with one eye opened, that the soap was disgusting, I asked him why. With zero hesitation, he replied:

“Cuz soap makes you a blueberry! I don’t wanna be a blueberry! I’m a boy!”

Good googly moogly, there’s a lot to decompress here.  Is berrying by way of soaping even a real phobia?

Nope. And it’s really weird, Mike.

 

Thanks for the reassurance,  Sigmund Freud. Anyway, aren’t toddlers supposed to be afraid of monsters, and clowns, or Sir Topham Hatt, or something?  Clearly, I’ve failed at properly scaring my kids, in addition to failing at the other parenting stuff I’ve mentioned.

That’s all that I got for now. Until the next one, stay winning, y’all. Parenting fails are bound to happen, anyway!

 

 

 

24 Hours In Chicago

 

24 hours in Chicago

 

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

why plans great til they gotta be great?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24 hours in chicago

 

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

chicago day tour

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

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

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

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

Skydeck Ledge

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

 

24 hours in chicago

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

skydeck ledge

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

 

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

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

chicago day tour

Thanks, white van, for the photobomb.

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

24 hours in chicago

chicago day tour

wrigley field tour

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

 

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

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

KJ – I miss you!

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

*KJ runs away, runs back*

KJ – I miss you!

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

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

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

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

Stan's Donuts Chicago

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

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

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

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

24 hours in chicago

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

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

We continued our way out of Chi-Town, until it was nothing but a recent memory. 24 hours in Chicago, done just like that.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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