Tag: hamont

Your Guide To Family Fun in Hamilton – 2020 Edition

 

The fight against COVID-19 is still an ongoing battle.  We have gotten to the point where we can proceed with caution in many aspects of our lives, though. Normally, for a  summer vacation, my family enjoys taking a road trip. We weren’t really ready/able to this year, however.  Turns out, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. When it comes to risk level during this pandemic, nothing beats staying home, sure. If you do want to get out, and #supportlocal,  I’ve learned that there  are plenty of fun places in Hamilton that are following government protocols (or going above and beyond them), to try to keep you and your family safe. After spending some time checking out new stuff, revisiting old favorites, and looking into others, I’ve compiled this guide of things to do in Hamilton with kids, during these quarantine times. To quote the Beastie Boys, ch-check it out!

 

GOLFING

Our summer days and nights are usually all about baseball, as all of the fam (minus little KJ) plays it. As most leagues are not running this year,  due to COVID-19, we had to look elsewhere, for our lower risk, socially distant sports fix.  For example, we signed B and J up for tennis lessons. In my case, I tried golfing.

 

southern pines golf and country club

 

Hamilton is home to numerous highly rated courses (including one that was the home to last year’s Canadian Open).  As a complete novice, I hit the links with another complete novice, on a course not far from my house, Southern Pines Golf And Country Club.  The cool thing about golf is that you can play it while comfortably abiding by COVID-19 protocols. For example,  Southern Pines has a mandatory mask policy when indoors there only. Check-in is done through a window outdoors, as is ordering takeout food and drinks.  Physical distancing is encouraged, and I didn’t see anyone not following it, when I was there. Carts are available for rent, but clubs are not.  You can’t remove the flag in each hole when putting, either, to minimize the touching of it.

The non-cool thing about golf is that it is super hard:

 

Southern Pines, while very scenic, also isn’t the easiest course to play or navigate. While bumbling along the greens looking for where to aim,  for example, someone yelled at us that to get to the hole, we had to take a dog-leg left. I still don’t know what the heck that means, but we, predictably, took aim at the wrong hole.  The duo of teen boys behind us did not have the same problem, for what it’s worth. Regardless, Southern Pines is still quite enjoyable, even for rookies like my buddy and I.

 

BOWLING

 

When I heard that Splitsville in Hamilton was opening back up a while ago, I will admit to being surprised. A bowling alley, with all of the sharing and closeness, seemed like a risky outing.  And that’s without mentioning the arcade there. In actuality, Splitsville Hamilton is following the government guidelines, and taking many other precautions to try to ensure that everyone’s visit is as safe as possible.

On our recent visit there, masks were mandatory everywhere except when you were at your lane. Capacity was also heavily limited, too.  Groups are limited to five people, and placed on every other lane, for social distancing purposes.  Arrows and signs were everywhere, as well, so the flow-through was suitably distant.

Regarding the bowling balls,  there’s no sharing. A bunch of them are already at the lane, when you get there. If you need another sized one, you have to ask a staff member for it.  When you’re done, you leave them there, along with your bowling shoes, both of which are cleaned and sanitized afterwards. There’s lots of hand sanitizer on site, and staff members were constantly cleaning the different surfaces. The restaurant is not open to dine in, but servers are available, to take food/drink orders. A little patio area is set up outside, too, if you just want to eat/drink.

 

things to do in hamilton with kids

 

Splitsville is one of the most fun things to do in Hamilton with kids, regardless. These procedural modifications didn’t hamper our bowling experience at all.

 

TREETOP TREKKING

 

treetop trekking hamilton

Treetop Trekking Hamilton is a place that I’ve heard good things about, and have been meaning to check out for a long time. It only took a pandemic for me to finally book a visit for the family. Located in the Binbrook Conservation Area, Treetop Trekking Hamilton is an outdoor park, with numerous courses and adventures for people of all ages.  There’s the Zipline And Aeriel Game Trek, for 9 year olds and up, where you move through the trees via various challenges; Discovery Kids Courses, which are like mini versions of the Aerial Game Trek, for kids 5 and up; and the Treewalk Village, a big playground, made up of treehouses, slides and obstacle courses, for kids 3-7.

Reservations are required ahead of time, because they are operating at a lower capacity, but are still busy. They want to stagger things, to reduce traffic during check-in (which is also done outdoors).  Equipment and harnesses are cleaned and sanitized after every use, too.  Hand sanitizer stations were readily available, and the staff are really particular about making sure people are acceptably spaced out, either in line, or on the different activities.  Masks are required during check-in, but not while out in the park.

We really did not know what to expect….

Because of time constraints, B and I opted for the Aerial Game Trek, while K, J and KJ did the Treehouse Village. The feedback that I got from  them about the Village was that it was more suited for smaller kids than older ones, and adults are mainly just there to supervise.  They also were done well before the allotted two hours. In retrospect, we would have got more bang for our bucks if we booked J  for the Discovery Kids Courses instead, and then let KJ do his thing, in the Village.

 

treetop trekking hamilton

Me holding up the line of people to take a selfie.

 

The Aerial Game Trek is admittedly  fantastic.  Once you are harnessed up, you go through a brief orientation, to get used to the equipment and rigging.

And then you are off to try the courses on your own!

The courses are composed of a variety of “games” that you have to pass through.  Once you are on one, there is no turning back, because of how things are designed, with the rigging.  The games includes stuff like rope bridges, tightropes, moving logs, and, of course, zip lines!

things to do in Hamilton with kids

The courses get progressively difficult and fear-inducing.  It’s pretty physically demanding,  as well, especially if you’re in dadbod shape like yours truly.  I was sweating profusely, but I didn’t want touch my face to wipe the sweat away, either. B’s an agile, athletic 10 year old kid, but he struggled as we went on,  and developed sore hands (note: bring gloves). We both tapped out before the last course, but it was good times for the most part.

One other note. Pricing for Treetop Trekking is not insignificant (our outing regular price would have been $150 approx, for the five of us). This does include admission to the Binbrook Conservation Area. To get the most value,  a decent plan might be to bring a picnic lunch, and hit up the Conservation Area before or after Treetop Trekking.

 

 

ADVENTURE VILLAGE

 

Adventure Village is an amusement park located in Confederation Park, which is on the waterfront in Hamilton. While some of the attractions are not open, some are,  with additional COVID-19 safety measures, like batting cages, go karts, laser tag and mini golf.

On a recent family outing there, to go mini-golfing, a tee time had to be booked ahead of time (maximum group size is six people).  Clubs, balls and retrievers are sanitized after every  use, by staff.  Masks are mandatory throughout the park, and available for purchase if you don’t have one. Temperatures of guests are taken via a non contact thermometer.  Hand sanitizer is at the entrance booth, but I did not notice it elsewhere on the course. While on the course,  you have to wait for those ahead of you to finish, as usual. I think that the actual holes seemed shorter too, so you don’t have to reach so deep down to get your ball.

Adventure Village, as mentioned, is near the shores of Lake Ontario.  As such, one thing that my family loves to do on a nice day, is grab some ice cream from Hutches, and go for a walk along the beach!

 

things to do in Hamilton with kids

 

 

PARKS AND RECREATION

For the more budget conscious outings, Hamilton has some sweet spots. Since it’s unofficially “The Waterfall Capital Of The World”, hikes to see said waterfalls are a popular past time. The Devil’s Punchbowl, in particular, is one of the more unique places in Ontario to  explore.

As I have alluded to before on here, playgrounds and splash pads are operational again, in and around the city. Hamilton is full of good ones, too. Gage Park, for one. The Dundas Driving Park, for another. Or my personal favourite,  Pier 4 Park.

 

pier 4 park

 

When it comes to kids, it tends to be hit and miss, in terms rule following, and COVID-19 guidelines. Some kids are OK, some, like Pushy (who we saw again at a completely different park! What are the odds?!) are not OK.

 

THE SHOW MUST GO ON

 

Catching a flick wasn’t really an option in Hamilton until not too long ago.   And, in the interest of realness, we have yet to venture out to the movies.  Cineplex Hamilton Mountain, Cineplex Ancaster, Playhouse Cinema and Landmark Cinemas 6 Jackson Square are all open, with modified, safer viewing experiences. These include reduced capacity, in-theatre seating distancing, masks requirements, enhanced cleaning measures by staff, and directional signage.

For that throwback vibe,  The Starlite Drive In Theatre in Stoney Creek, is also open.   Because of COVID-19, they’ve cut capacity, to allow for extra distance between vehicles.  As well, only members of the same household are allowed per vehicle. The on-site playground is closed, but concessions and washrooms are open. Tickets must be ordered ahead of time.  I didn’t see anything about masks being required.  Bottom line, for family fun ideas,  you can never go wrong with hanging out in your car and watching a movie under the stars!

BRING IT ON HOME

 

In terms of things to do in Hamilton with kids,  checking out shows, concerts and sporting events are highlights, for my family. These obviously haven’t been possible recently.  However, as the old saying goes, if you can’t build Rome in a day, bring Rome to your home! Pretty sure that I butchered two expressions there, but let’s continue.

For example, for those who miss going to Tim Hortons Field, to watch the Hamilton Ticats play, Bench Brewing Company has a special edition Ticats beer!    bench brewing companyGrab a six pack of that and throw on the 1999 Grey Cup, to get your pigskin fix. For bonus points, to get a truly authentic stadium experience, find a Toronto Argos fan in your neighbourhood, tell them that they suck, then get into a fist fight, while people nearby chant Oskee Wee Wee (note:  I’m joking. Please, no violence, people).

This pandemic has seen a rise in virtual events, as well.  Virtual fans are rising in popularity, such that it’s possible to get your travel fix, from the comfort of your couch.

 

 

Here’s me in the NBA Bubble, watching the Toronto Raptors play:

 

nba virtual fan

 

I made a trip to the WWE’s Thunderdome, to witness Summerslam:

 

wwe thunderdome

 

RANT TIME: this was a bummer!

See, I signed up, and was told that my time in the ‘dome was 10:45pm. The show was slated to end at 10:30, however. Weird. Hours before the show, I received an email saying that my time changed to 6:45pm. I logged in at 6:45pm, and was told that my session was over.  No Summerslam for me. For the heck of it, I then logged in at 10:45pm, and I got inside the Thunderdome. This is the virtual equivalent of wandering around the concert venue after the show is over, and no one else is in the building.

J and I did make a much better trip from Hamilton to Los Angeles, to watch America’s Got Talent from the ‘virtual audience’.

AGT Virtual audience

 

Some of my peeps couldn’t believe that I got these “tickets”, but it wasn’t that difficult.  Googling is bound to find scores of opportunities, if you know what you want to see!

With that, I think that’s it’s time to see the end of this post. Tata for now!

 

 

Yo, don’t be mad! I’ll be back again someday.

 

 

Disclaimer: complimentary or discounted rates were provided for some of the places mentioned in this post. Opinions expressed were all mine, as usual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kids Are Alright

Even though that they lost, they were all still winners, in the end.

Now, that probably sounds like the ending to some cheesy, cliche sports story. It’s not, though! It’s the beginning to this non-cheesy,  non-cliche sports story. Trust me, it’ll make sense later.

stories about tolerance

 

I don’t know about you, but I worry about what kind of people my children will be, when they’re older. B, in particular can be a handful, to put it mildly.  We try to instil as much as we can, but at the end of the day, it’s on B to accept it or reject it. As such, putting him in the right environments is always a big factor for K and I.  Sports, for example, are perfect, as they expose him to all kinds of life lessons in a structured, fun way.

Luckily, B loves basketball, and he played on a rep team in Hamilton this year. Even more luckily,  the team was comprised of a good group of boys. Sure, skill and talent-wise, they were OK, but everyone got along, and their attitudes were fine.  Off the court, whereas B’s the type who takes goofing around to new levels, I was surprised to see that, when with his team,  he wasn’t any more rambunctious as anyone else (usually).

After an up and down season, the team competed in the provincial championships recently.  The tournament covered a whole weekend, which meant staying out of town in a hotel.  After the first game Friday evening, the team went out to a restaurant for dinner.

While there, some of the boys ended up at the bar area, to watch the Toronto Raptors game on TV, including B. Don’t worry, they weren’t drinking  (they’re 9 years old. C’mon now). Eventually, though, B came running over to K and I, excited. He had worn his warm-up shirt to the restaurant, but now, he just had his jersey on. He told us that he gave away his shirt, to a kid at the bar. Since we had paid for the shirt, as part of his uniform, and B has a track record for silliness, like I mentioned earlier, our immediate reaction was to cut him off, and tell him to go get the shirt back.  He ran back to the bar, and came back to show us that he got it.

I’ll admit to screwing up here, folks. Sometimes, like the Fresh Prince said, parents just don’t understand. After the shirt incident, J went over to snoop on her big bro, and reported back that the boy who the team was hanging with at the bar had a disability (not her words, but I’ll error on the side of vagueness here). Then, we started hearing from B’s teammates that the boy was really excited to be talking to, and chilling with, the team. Then, we heard that B and one of his buddies had given him their shirts, as a token of friendship, and that the boy was super excited about receiving them.  B had come over to explain this, but K and I kiboshed it.

Sigh. Don’t do this.

When B walked by, after we found out about his gesture, we told him that, of course, he could give his shirt to his new friend, if he wanted to.  So he did. He then returned to say that the boy’s mom wanted to know where our games were the next day, as they wanted to come watch. K jotted down the address on a paper, which B delivered. Afterwards, when it was time to go, the mom approached the parents on the team, to say thank you, and compliment the boys.

The next morning, B kept nervously wondering if his new pal would actually show up, with his mom. importance of tolerance in schools As game time neared, I looked around the gym, and didn’t see them, which was disappointing, but understandable. Right before tip-off, though, they walked in! The dude was even rocking B’s warm-up shirt. B broke into a goofy grin, which made me goofily grin, too.  After the game, the team went over to say hi, and give the boy props and stuff, which he was clearly thrilled about.

Needless to say, I was proud that B, unsolicited and unprompted, made a new buddy, not because he was ‘different’, not because it was ‘the right thing to do’, but just…….because.  Maybe that guy will be alright, after all. We could all stand to be more tolerant, accepting and not quick to judge, right?

The only part that sucked was that the team kind of got killed in that game. However…..

Even though that they lost, they were all still winners, in the end.

 

Told ya that it would make sense. Til the next one, later!

 

 

Top 8 WWE Live Moments!

Best WWE moments

 

With Austin 3:16 Day (a non-real holiday on March 16th, named after Stone Cold Steve Austin) right around the corner, World Wrestling Entertainment’s Road To Wrestlemania Tour comes to Toronto this Friday, March 8, and thanks to my friends at the WWE, my family will be attendance for the show! It should be a great way to kick off March Break. As someone who’s been to an event or two over the years, I can tell you that the experiences are always memorable. Like, listicle worthy memorable. Check it out! Here are eight of my top WWE moments, experienced live, in person:

8. The Royal Rumble is one of the biggest shows of the year that the WWE puts on. I actually went to the very first show, in 1988, in my hometown of Hamilton. It also happened to be the first show that I went to. Even more memorably, despite coming from very modest means,  my family somehow had floor seats, just a few rows from the ring!

austin 3:16 day

A picture that my mom took of the action. Hulk Hogan, wobbly, after Andre The Giant overturned a table on him.

7. While leaving the above event, heading back to our car, I had my first celebrity encounter! We bumped into legendary wrestler Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts and legendary wrestling personality ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund outside of the rear entrance of what was then known as Copps Coliseum. As Jake was my favorite wrestler at the time, little kid me was in awe and starstruck.  They had clearly downed “one too many” beforehand, but were incredibly nice and talked to us for a while. For those not around in the 80s, we couldn’t just bust out our phones, to take a selfie, if we met a star (crazy, eh?), so you’ll have to take my word on this encounter.

6. A couple of years later, I went to a house show with one of my sisters, also in Hamilton. Again, for reasons unknown to me now, we somehow had floor seats, a few rows from the ring. This also was not on Austin 3:16 Day, unrelatedly. My favorite wrestler at that time, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart, was scheduled to be on the card.

One of his gimmicks was that, during his entrance, he would give his sunglasses to a child who was ringside. Knowing that we would be close, I brought my Bret Hart action figure with me, with the intention of waving it, and drawing Bret’s attention, so I could hopefully score a pair of shades. When the big moment came, and Bret came strutting to the ring, he took off his glasses, looked right at my frantically waving little butt, and headed over. BUT, before he got to me, he saw a kid rocking a Bret Hart shirt, so gave the glasses to that boy, instead. Yo, I didn’t say they were all of these top WWE moments were good moments, peeps.

5.  When attending any event live, the crowd can really add to the experience . Wrestling is no exception to this. The hypest atmosphere of any concert/sport that I’ve been to occurred at the 2006 WWE Unforgiven Pay Per View, in Toronto, during the main event. Local hero Edge versus challenger John Cena, in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match. The crowd was bananas for Edge, and the hatred for Cena was hilariously harsh, so the place was rockin’. When Cena ended up winning, grown men were legit furious. Just a very surreal match, to say the least!

4. 2007. Saturday Night’s Main Event, in Toronto.  Batista’s music hits, followed by his pyro routine. Here’s an example of it, for reference:

Needless to say, it is LOUD! However, I look over at my buddy…..and he is fast asleep. Slept through the whole thing. I was surprised, but impressed. It takes a special kind of tired to saw logs through that kind of noise explosion.

3. I’ll cheat a bit, as this wasn’t at an official WWE event. However, when a guy like ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted Dibiase wants to lock you up in his signature move, The Million Dollar Dream, you suck it up and do it! Everyone has a price, right?

best wwe moments

Tie 2. & 1. First times always trump everything, so my top moments are when I took my oldest two oldest kids to their first shows. B a few years ago, to a Smackdown house show, and J, last year, to a WWE NXT show.  We had a good time, and they’re both looking forward to the upcoming Toronto show. At the end of the day, man, that’s what it’s all about – creating memories with your children. Who knows, maybe we’ll add to this list of top WWE moments Friday.

See you at the fights!

 

 

 

 

The Problem With Fortnite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They’ll explode like this, except worse.

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

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

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

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

What?

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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