Tag: hamilton ontario

The Canusa Games

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

Welcome to the Canusa Games.

Canusa Games

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What the heck was I missing?

 

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

Canusa Games

Canusa Games

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

 

Pure Michigan

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

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

canusa games

 

canusa games basketball

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

canusa games

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

things to do in flint with kids

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

things to do in flint with kids

 

things to do in flint with kids

things to do in flint with kids

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

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

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

Huh.

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

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

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

Uh-oh!

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

Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?

 

Hey, not now, Alanis Morrisette!

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

Promise!

 

 

 

 

Why Reclining Seats Are Trouble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead of kicking his seat,  kick him!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

That’s just gross and ignorant.

 

Later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Road Trippin’ – Winter Fun in Cooperstown, New York!

 

things to do in cooperstown ny winter

When I think of Cooperstown, New York, I think of one thing – baseball.  Similar to how Augusta, Georgia is revered by golf aficionados, baseball fans like yours truly hold Cooperstown in the highest esteem. As such, many people flock there in the summer, especially during the Hall of Fame induction festivities. However, being so closely tied to a summer pastime does pose an interesting  question- what the heck goes on in Cooperstown, after the bases are put away, and the diamonds are cleared up for the season? Fortunately for my family and I, we were able to find out the answer to that question, when my friends at This Is Cooperstown invited us down for a fun-filled almost winter weekend! Turns out there are plenty of things to do in Cooperstown in the winter!

Regular readers know that we love road trippin’, and Cooperstown was a perfect destination. To my fellow Canucks in the Hamilton/Toronto area – our drives there and back each took about five hours, with stops. Upon arrival, it becomes apparent quickly how unique a place Cooperstown is. It’s a small village, nestled at the end of a lake, basically. The downtown area has one stoplight. There’s only one grocery store in town. Main Street is lined with restaurants, shoppes and the Hall of Fame, but you can’t exactly drive very fast down it.  I kind of felt like that I was in Stars Hollow, actually, and expected to bump into Rory or Lorelai Gilmore at any time. I don’t mean that to throw shade; I love Gilmore Girls. I’m just sayin’, picture Stars Hollow with a baseball focus, and that’s Cooperstown.

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

This Joltin Joe Dimaggio song is now on my daughter’s playlist of favorite songs, no joke.

Most of that focus obviously is on the town’s biggest attraction, the Baseball Hall Of Fame. Things To Do in Cooperstown in the WinterAs someone who’s dreamed of strolling the hallowed halls since I was a lil dude, I was in heaven. The amount of history that it covers, and the items and memorabilia on display, is overwhelming, but in the best way possible.  Walking past the walls filled with the plaques of all of the inductees gave me goosies (word to Jennifer Lopez!).  Things To Do in Cooperstown in the WinterThe Hall does provide a scavenger hunt for children to do, with a prize given out, for completing it. B and J, to their credit, were determined to finish it, which was cool. The only thing was that they zipped through the place to find the answers, and didn’t really want to drink in the awesomeness of it all, which meant that I couldn’t either. I left thirsty (for more).  K thought that more interactive exhibits probably would have helped engage them better, which is probably true. Regardless, my family, who range in levels of baseball fandom, all enjoyed the Hall Of Fame to varying degrees, and it’s definitely THE must-see attraction, when in Cooperstown. Be sure to grab a bite at the iconic Doubleday Cafe, too, before or afterwards. Besides having delicious food with generous portions,  it’s like a two minute walk from the Hall, and there’s lots of interesting baseball memorabilia on display there, as well.

Along those lines, a visit to the Cooperstown Bat Company was also in the cards. They offer tours of their factory, including a bat turning demonstration. The people there were very friendly, knowledgeable and legit seemed to love their jobs. To be honest, my kids, while initially really into it, did get bored after a while.  Maybe just plan on a quick trip, if you go with little children.  However, it’s a fascinating place.  Don’t let the size of the facility fool you, too.  Their capabilities and clients are impressive.  One of the coolest things that they offer is a custom engraving service. A high quality wood bat with a name engraved on it makes a great souvenir.  Since they have an online store that ships all over, it makes a great gift, too, for Christmas!

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

Balancing bats on random things is fun!

Along those lines, the timing of our trip (late November) happened to coincide with some local holiday festivities. For example, we braved the cold one night to check out the Santa’s Arrival Parade. Main Street  was filled on both sides with families eagerly awaiting Santa’s appearance. Things To Do in Cooperstown in the WinterThere was a buzz in the air, as only St. Nick can create, among excited children.  Well, a buzz and a lot of chattering, too. From people’s teeth. For real, it was chilly!

Eventually, after the floats and performers and whatnot went by,  Mr. and Mrs. Claus arrived with their ‘reindeer”, police escort in tow, like they were rock stars or something. They set up shop in a park on Main Street, which had been transformed into a Christmas village. Kids then lined up to meet them, which was a nice touch, different from other parades that we’ve been to. Anyway, it was nice to see the community come out, to interact and enjoy the event. I really felt at home there, and not like a tourist.

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

 

Also on our agenda was an adventure on The Santa Express, courtesy of the Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley Railroad.  Train cars were decorated on the inside and outside with a holiday theme. While on board, we went for a slow, relaxing, heated ride along the tracks, while enjoying goodies and Christmas music. The highlight, of course, was an appearance from Santa and Mrs. Claus. They had gifts for each of the kids on board, and handed them out to everyone, by name. B and J couldn’t believe it, when they received a couple of toys on their wish lists.  The magic of Christmas, I tell ya.

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

 

Along those lines, we were magically transported back in time, while in Cooperstown, too! Well, not really, but we did venture out to the Farmer’s Museum, to see what life what life was like 100+ years ago. Things To Do in Cooperstown in the WinterCooperstown in general has a throwback, old-school vibe to it, especially in terms of the architecture, but the Museum takes it up a notch. Past the main barn (which had various interactive exhibits and displays in it) was a historic village. It was comprised of buildings and characters which would have been common in the 18th and 19th centuries, like a school house (with a teacher) and a tavern/hotel.  There’s also a farmstead on site.  My kids’ favorite part, though, was the Empire State Carousel, a retro merry go round.

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

Alright. Maybe it was my fav part, too.

Along those lines, my family LOVED our accommodations for the weekend! We stayed at the Oneida Lodge North, courtesy of CooperstownLuxury.com.  This was basically the most spectacular cottage that I’ve ever seen. The lodge was multi-levels,  featuring a beautiful, intricately designed staircase that wrapped around a pine tree.   It was huge and spacious, too, which meant that the kids had lots of room to run around acting lit, or in B’s case,  to work on his Fortnite dance moves. I tried to play hide and seek with B and J at one point, but I gave up after one round, in trying to find them. The place was that big.   It’s also located on a lake, with access to a boat house, and a dock. In the summer, it would be dope. However, even during a frosty November weekend, it was still fun.  There was a games room, loaded with board games, and plenty of flat screen TVs throughout. Fireplaces, too, if you want to level up the cozy factor.

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

With lots of windows and balconies, the views were outstanding, and peaceful. Nature rules!

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

The kitchen was well stocked with utensils, and lots of modern appliances, including a dishwasher. No paper plates and plastic spoons for us. Everything about the lodge that I could see was high quality, made with a fine attention to details. Things To Do in Cooperstown in the WinterThe owners and staff were even nice and responsive.  They were in communication our whole time, making sure things were going well.  Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter If you’re planning on staying with a large group of people, this is a great option, too, as our lodge could sleep 10, with bedrooms that were very roomy.  Seriously, if want to treat yourself to something a bit different and more secluded than a regular hotel, I can’t recommend staying at a CooperstownLuxury.com property enough.

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

 

Things To Do in Cooperstown in the Winter

So there you have it. After spending three days in Cooperstown, I think that the question has been answered. What goes on there, after the baseball season has ended?

A lot of fun stuff still, that’s what.

Until the next one, peace!

 

Disclaimer:  while we received complimentary accommodations and tickets/passes to various attractions, thoughts/opinions expressed are 100% my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make A Dollar Out Of 15 Cents

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – never underestimate the power of a child’s imagination. Even though the game’s changed, and kids nowadays are different than how I was when I was a little, this statement still rings true.

B and J, for example, love technology. If left to their own devices, they could spend hours playing on their devices, or watching TV, Netflix or Youtube.  And in all honesty, sometimes I don’t mind a little tech time. It’s a break from the chaotic havoc and non-stop bickering that usually goes on in our house. The kids quietly staring at a screen, not getting into trouble? Sign me up!

The downside, of course, is that too much screen time will probably turn their brains into mush. Therefore, kids need to find other ways to entertain themselves. And I gotta admit, when it comes to making something out of nothing, to combat boredom, J is a pretty resourceful girl.

Take last Sunday, for example. It was just J, little KJ, and yours truly hangin’ and bangin’. Out of nowhere, J blurted out that she was going to make a train.  Lacking anything even remotely resembling train parts, I had no clue what her plan was. She then ran off to the garage, came back with two giant boxes and put in some work.

KJ also tried to help.

A while later, here was her end result:


Two train cars, attached with tape. One baby-friendly, with toys and snacks for KJ.  One J-friendly, with, uhh, a picture of her hanging in it, for some reason.

They played in these for a while, including pulling them around the kitchen, making “stops”. Eventually (or a lot longer than I would have thought, since it’s just two boxes),  J got bored and tried to play on her tablet. I could tell that KJ wanted to keep playing with her, though, so I suggested that she entertain him.

Her solution? Instead of watching unboxing videos on Youtube, her and KJ could play “unboxing videos on Youtube”!

This literally involved J hiding in a box and KJ opening it up. To his credit, KJ seemed impressed each time he peeled back the flaps, and saw her sprawled inside.  You know,  like how Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph looked when they opened their presents in that Saturday Night Live “D**k In A Box” video.

Step 1…

Later that evening, after I put KJ to bed, I heard J singing. While some kids belt out Disney songs, or Bruno Mars hits, or Cardi B jams (see, I’m hip to today’s music), J was singing about…..punctuation.  I went in her room, and saw her standing with a marker in hand, beside this creation:

 

We then had the following conversation:

Me – What are you doing?

J – Oh, I’m just working on my anxiety.

Me – Your anxiety?!

J – Yeah.  My teacher says that I need to practise my anxiety. *starts singing about puncuation*

Me – I don’t think that’s the right word. You drew some punctuation marks.

J – I did?

Me – Yes! *I point to them*

J – Oh. There’s four of them! Question mark….explanation mark….comma…..what’s the fourth one?

Me – Period.

J – What’s a period?

Me – You drew it! It’s the dot.

J – Oh right! I forgot. Then what are these? *scribbles randomly*

Me – Those aren’t anything. Why are their hands?

J – Those are my hands.

Me – I know. But why did you draw them?

J – I dunno.

Maybe the hands were anxiety hands. Who knows.  You catch my drift, though. Leave a kid on on their own, and they can come up with some wild thoughts (word to DJ Khaled!).

Anyway, I went downstairs after that encounter. A bit later, since imagination knows no timeframe (re: she didn’t want to go to bed),  J came downstairs, to tell me about her latest project:

J – You know how you always wanted a puppy house?

Me – I’ve never said that before. We don’t even have a dog.

J – Well feast your eyes on this! See, you just put your puppy in here, and they can sleep in it.

Me – Ok. This is awesome. But the roof is a book? What if you want to read it?

J – Oh, I’m too big to read it.

Me – What if KJ wants to read it?

J – Oh. Well. He can just take the tape…

*stops talking, to think hard*

He’s never going to read it! *grabs house, goes back upstairs*

 

Children’s imagination, people. They can turn nothing into something better than we can, for real.  And that’s not even getting into the deadly burglar ball that B and J concocted.

Until next time, peace!

 

 

 

The Push – Dad 2.0 Summit

 

Dad 2 Summit 2017

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

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

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

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

Speaker?! Moi?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Canadian Basketball League – Turning Hoop Dreams Into Reality

 

I’ve mentioned before on this site that one of the best things about being a parent is sharing my interests with my kids. Take basketball, for example.  It’s always been my favorite sport. B’s picked up on that vibe and become a huge hoops fiend, too.  If he’s not playing ball, then he’s talking about it constantly.  It’s that interest which led me to stumbling onto the Canadian Basketball League  (CBL).

The CBL is the brainchild of Butch Carter, the Toronto Raptors’ former head coach. It’s a fledgling, four team professional league in its first season, with all four teams located in the GTA. I discovered this while randomly looking at things to do one weekend recently. To my surprise, one of the teams is located in Hamilton. As such, I copped a couple of tickets, and B and I checked out a game: the Hamilton Basketball Club vs. the Scarborough Basketball Club.

You’re probably now wondering what the game was like. And to that I say it was…….professional. Lemme explain.

I think one of the keys to operating any sports league or team is to not come across as rinky dink, or lame. With that said, I think the CBL does a pretty good job with that. The league website looks pretty slick, for example. They also have their own online ticket buying site, as opposed to going through Ticketmaster, which I think is pretty clever (both them and the consumer save paying Ticketmaster fees).  They even have a TV deal, as they show some games on Yes TV.

Hamilton plays it home games at Mohawk College, which has a decent sized facility, and a fair number of rafters. B did ask about buying snacks at the game, as we were driving there. Being familiar with the campus, I knew that there weren’t any concessions. However, that just meant we had to make a quick stop at Bulk Barn, to load up on goodies. When  we got there, the attendants at the game didn’t care that we brought our own food and drinks. In a neat touch, we were given a free Hamilton Basketball Club rally towel as we walked in, too.

In terms of in-game presentation, I was pleasantly surprised. There was an announcer who did his best to hype the crowd up, and played music throughout the contest (similar to an NBA game).  The players looked like real basketball players, for lack of a better term, which was good, because they were real basketball players.  I read their bios, and they were all legit. From local stars, to former US high school standouts, to college grads looking for another chance, there were a lot of talented dudes, which made for some quality, entertaining basketball.

It really is an interesting niche to go after. Ballers who aren’t ready to give up their hoop dreams yet, and need a place to play, to take the next step up in their careers. They are paid for their services, too.  There is another league in Canada, the National Basketball League, which is bigger, and has been around longer, and I think does the same type of thing. However, the CBL’s rosters seems to skew on the younger side, most likely by design.

One other interesting thing of note.  B and I sat in the front row, so we could hear everything that was being said on the court. I don’t know if it was conscious effort by the players and coaches, but we only heard one use of profanity the whole game. The rest of time, there was a lot of “Shoot!” or “Dang it!”, stuff like that. When you’re with small kids, this is huge. I was happy that the atmosphere was so family-friendly.

Now, obviously, it’s not the same as going to an NBA game, or even a D-League game. To say the attendance was sparse would be putting it generously. It’s a shame, but I guess that goes with the growing pains of a new league that isn’t heavily promoted. Regardless, it was still fun.  We went to a Hamilton Bulldogs (a  junior hockey team who play out of the FirstOntario Centre, which is a borderline NHL-caliber arena) game a few weeks prior to the CBL game, and the products were similarly entertaining.

B was really into it, by the end, cheering the home team on (even though they ended up losing).  It was also an eye-opening experience for him, as he didn’t realize that you could make a living playing basketball outside of the NBA or D-League.

When I say that the CBL is professional, I mean it as a compliment. The effort is obviously there, to make for an enjoyable fan experience, and it’s pretty good value, relative to other pro sports in the GTA.  Hopefully, the league continues to grow and improve!

 

https://canadianbasketball.com/

https://secure.cbltickets.com/online/index.asp

 

 

All Play, No Work

Make no mistake about it, the bedtime routine in our house still kind of sucks.

Sure, there are occasions where B and J, when told to go to bed, will happily oblige, settle down for the night, and be asleep in no time.

There are also occasions where February has 29 days.

This occurs about as often as an easy bedtime for us.

See, what usually happens is that when B and J know  Mr. Sandman is coming, they’re like Olympic runners nearing the finish line. They get one final adrenaline rush, and to quote Fat Joe, go ALL THE WAY UP! 

Unfortunately, some of these ALL THE WAY UP nights are so bananas , that I gotta give them their own category, which I’ve dubbed The Bedtime WTF Awards.

The other night was one of those nights. Ladies and gentleman, your nominees are:

1.

K left to pick up some stuff, so it was just me with the kids.

Before going to bed, B and J were assigned a very straightforward  task- clean up the playroom which they had spent the afternoon destroying:

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The first thing that they decided to do?

Instead of putting on pyjamas, they stripped down to their underwear.

2.

I went downstairs to do some tidying up. After a few minutes of silence, I heard footsteps, followed by B screaming, followed by laughter. A few seconds later, there were footsteps, followed by J screaming, followed by laughter. I went up, to see what was going on:

Me – “What are you doing?”

B – “Oh, we’re just pretending that we’re walking by and don’t know we’re there, and jumping out and scaring each other.”

When you were little, did you a play a rousing game of “half-naked creeper terrifies innocent bystander?” Of course you didn’t (but if you did…….how are you reading this from your jail cell?).

Anyway,  I squashed that game, and told them to get back to cleaning.

3.

Note this for later – J smelled delicious. Her and B  told me that she put some scented hand cream on, because J wanted to smell nice for work, or something like that.

4.

I supervised them for a bit, and watched them put toys in a big toy bin. Things were going well, so I left them alone. Not long after, I heard the sound of something being dragged.  Confused, I went up to check.  The toy bin had been emptied, and J was now sitting in it, with B using the rope handle to pull it along.

B – ” I’m just taking her for a ride!”

pulling

While impressed by B’s strength for a six year old boy, I was also annoyed.  The playroom was now messier than before. I squashed their rousing game of  Toronto rickshaw tour driver, and once again told them to get to work, in no uncertain terms.

5.

I monitored them for a few minutes, to keep them on track. Satisfied with the progress, I decided to leave, to resume my cleaning.  After a good long time of blissful, shenanigan-free silence, I came back to the playroom, to see how it was looking.

When I walked in, B was bent over to the top of a shelving unit, butt in the air.

J, meanwhile, was holding a fly swatter, as if she were about to hit him in the underwear with it.

I didn’t even ask what they were doing.
I just cut their rousing game of 50 Shades of Grey short, and told them to get clothes on ASAP.

6.

After about an hour in the room, here is how B and J made out on their mission:

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The playroom looks exactly the same!

Hey, it doesn’t look exactly the same! Do you see the toy microphone that was in the first picture? No, because they put it away!

Regardless, after this lacklustre effort, K eventually came home. The kids’ mission was deemed a failure for the evening, and they were sent to their rooms. While upstairs, K asked about the smell. I told her that J got into some hand cream.

After more inspection, we realized that she didn’t just get into the cream.

She got the cream into one of the toilets. As in, she smeared it all over the inside of the bowl.

quote

That night’s winner? The toilet. It smelled like candy canes for days afterwards.

That night’s loser?  Me.

Review – Marvel Universe LIVE! (Hamilton, Ontario)

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So I checked out Marvel Universe LIVE! last night, at the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton. I can honestly say that it was unlike anything that I’ve ever seen before!

B had been pretty pumped for the show, for weeks. However, despite being corrected repeatedly, he insisted on calling it “Marvel on Ice”. When we arrived, any disappointment that he had about the lack of ice was immediately replaced with awe, as he was amazed with the elaborate stage set up.

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I was impressed with the variety of people in the crowd. While it was mainly composed of families with small children, many of whom were dressed up as their favourite Marvel characters, there was also a fair number of older teenagers/adults without any kids. The appeal of Marvel really does span all ages.

That multi-generational appeal applied to the show, as well. Without giving away too many details, the best way that I can describe it is that is like one of the recent Marvel movies come to life. Basically, Loki was being a really evil power-hungry prick, and needed to be stopped by a bunch of superheroes. In terms of the dialogue, action sequences and special effects, all were top notch. B was a bit too young (5 years old) to really understand the plot, so I had to explain the story to him as it unfolded. I even chuckled a few times at some of the jokes (that went over his head, of course). I don’t think that he cared about the plot, though. He was really into the show, regardless. Between the pyro, lasers, and motorcycles, it really did get your adrenaline flowing. The fight sequences and stunts were very well choreographed, too (Black Widow busted out a sick Frankensteiner, for any wrestling fans out there).

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There was also a mean armbar sighting, too!

You know that old commercial tagline, about paying for the whole seat, but only needing the edge? The only time B sat was to stuff his face with food. He was standing or jumping up excitedly the rest of the time. It was cool, seeing him get caught up in cheering for the good guys as they kicked the bad guys’ butts. I should note that the fights weren’t too violent or gruesome/bloody  (that was a slight concern that I had, going in).

Another cool part was the sheer number of characters. There were 25, encompassing many parts of the Marvel Universe. Pretty much everyone that you’d expect made an appearance.

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The biggest crowd-pleaser (and B’s favourite) was the Hulk. He was huge, yo!

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With intermission, the show wrapped up in about two hours, which was the perfect amount of time.
Marvel Universe Live!  greatly exceeded my expectations. I would say that if you’ve enjoyed the Marvel films from the last few years, you’ll really like this show. Even if you’re not, there’s so much going on, that you’ll still be engaged. Marvel fans and non-fans – don’t be afraid to assemble, if this show comes to a city near you!

Bedtime WTF Awards!

 

First post! I will get things poppin’ with an ongoing problem in our house – the bedtime routine.

As a three year old, B was your typical three year old boy. Or so I am told anyway.  Before having kids, I wasn’t really up on how toddlers were.  Getting him to go to bed varies in levels of sucktacularness and ridiculousness each night. The highest level warranted their own awards, which I call the Bedtime WTF Awards. For example, one night, here were the nominees:

1) B is screaming for help. I go to check on him. As I open his door, he sprints by like Usain Bolt, stops on a dime at his bed, grabs a book and flings it across the room like a discus. He then goes “Please get my book, daddy!”

2) Later, B is screaming and banging his door, I check on him again:

B (tears running down his face, sobbing) – ‘Your hair is on my door. Get it.’

I don’t have hair. I fake wipe the door.

B (sobbing more) – ‘No! The other side of the door!’

More fake wiping.

B (voice suddenly normal) – ‘Put the hair in your pocket! Will you put it in the garbage? For the garbage truck? What colour’s the garbage truck?’

3) Later, yet more screaming, I go to his room again:

Me – ‘What’s wrong now?’

B- ‘The cows outside. They’re mooing. The mooing is scaring me!’

Me – ‘We don’t live on a farm. There are no cows outside!’

And the winner is…no one.

The loser? Me……

.stick1

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