Cottage Life

Serenity Now

The waves crashed into the rocks on the shore. In the distance a low flying plane rumbled by. The squirrels and seagulls congregate on the beach to discuss the day’s happenings while I sat quietly on the deck, enjoying my coffee and the serenity of being the only one awake. I’m not usually this chipper to be the first one out of bed but then again, this isn’t my usual morning view. I watched the animals run around and wondered if they actually communicate with each other, but only because there was no one else for me to talk to.

The day will soon be filled with sand castles, beaches, games and laughter, but for now it is as peaceful as you could ever imagine. Almost an hour goes by before the first sounds arrive. The very familiar “Hi-Ya!” sound of Michelangelo, to be exact. The ninja turtle, not the artist. I often wonder if my son was destined to someday become a ninja turtle with the amount of time he spends acting out scenes.

“Hi Daddy”
“Hey buddy, did you have a good sleep?” I’m not the least bit upset by his presence. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’ve had my quiet time and it was more than enough serenity to recharge my mind.
“Yes. Do you want to play soccer with me?” He hasn’t been awake 10 minutes and he has already begun planning out our day together. We played barefoot soccer in our PJ’s before retiring for breakfast with the rest of the family.

As expected, the day was action packed and full of laughs. We left paradise that day and returned home to our own beds and busy lives, but held on to the new memories that were created. Now, whenever life hands me that overwhelming feeling it sometimes does, I simply shut down all my devices, close my eyes and picture the waves and the coffee and playing soccer barefoot in my PJ’s.

TMNT Craft

The Ninja Turtle Heard Round The World

Well, now you’ve all gone and done it, internet. My poor, innocent young boy, who knew nothing of the internet is now a raging attention seeker looking for his next fix. Every night before bed time, my kids get between 30 minutes to an hour of creative time in their rooms. This can include doing crafts, colouring, dancing, singing or whatever, as long it is something creative. The other night, my son decided to practice his scissor skills and made this very cool Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Leonardo craft.

He told me it was for my desk at work, an offer which he has since rescinded, and I was so impressed that I shared it on all my social networks. In passing, I mentioned to him that you guys liked it too and told him it had garnered 30 “Likes” in under a half an hour, plus read him a few of the comments. Had I known what his reaction to this was going to be, I probably would have just left it alone. In the next thirty minutes, he asked me how many people liked it over 3,000 times (numbers may be exaggerated) and like a rookie I checked every time.

Canadian Dad TMNT

When the picture reached 70 likes I jokingly told him he was internet famous, to which he replied, “I know, it’s because I make great stuff”… Monster. Created. Not one to make his living off one work of art, my son then proceeded to create the rest of the ninja turtle team, and then quickly asked me to take a picture of it so he could see how many people would like it on the computer. I took the picture but told him we needed to wait a couple days to avoid turtle burnout.

That brings us to today. His newest work is shown in the header of this post and seeing as how you are the ones who created this monster by liking his original work, I figured that you should probably leave a comment here telling him what you think of his complete collection of ninja turtles. I mean, do you really want to break his little heart?

Brookstreet Hotel Family Buzz

A Weekend To Remember. See Also: How To Tire Out Your Kids!

Last weekend my family and I stayed at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata, Ontario. Being from the area, I had always attributed the Brookstreet to being on the fancier side and as such, it had never occurred to me to take the kids there for one of our local mini vacations. Well, this weekend definitely changed my mind about that, over and over again. PS – Before I get started, you can check out all our photos from the weekend by heading over to this Google+ Album.

Before the kids arrived to stay with us, however, my wife and I had the luxury of spending the first night at the hotel on our own. We started off our stay with a couples massage in the serene Au Naturel Spa that set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Relaxed and sans children, we took a long stroll around the hotel and the attached Marshes golf course, before heading to the Options Jazz Lounge for dinner and entertainment. The dinner was incredible and the Pram Trio Jazz Band was even better as we enjoyed grown up drinks next to the amazing red piano that acts as the centerpiece of the lounge.

Brookstreet Options Jazz Piano

Seriously, with the number of amazing packages that the Brookstreet Hotel offers, from couples and golfers to families and rejuvenation, there is literally something for everybody. Refreshed and relaxed, my wife and I picked up the kids for day two of our adventure and the rest, as they say, is history!

When we arrived back at the hotel the kids were greeted with loot bags that were filled with colouring books, crayons, games room token and a new water bottle that could be refilled for free at the Options Jazz Lounge with water, milk, juices or soft drinks throughout our entire stay. Needless to say, this alone would have been enough for our kids but the fun was just beginning! When we read through this list of weekend activities for the kids to do, we knew they were in for an amazing time.

Kids Activities Brookstreet

We started with the Brookstreet’s “B Crafty” session, where we coloured and then made butterflies and Despicable Me minions out of toilet paper rolls. There were staff running the activities and helping all the kids with their crafts, which was perfect. The kids had a blast and are still playing with their toilet paper toys a week later! After about an hour of fun with the activities, we decided to check out both the indoor and outdoor pools. Both pools have a dedicated kids section, which is a nice touch for everyone who wants to enjoy the facilities. I try not to take too many pictures in public pools because, you know, “weird guy with a camera”, but believe me when I say that I had to drag the kids out of those pools…

Brookstreet Kids Crafts Activity

After swimming we attended the “Kids Kulinary Mini Pizzas” session, where the kids got to design, decorate and then eat their own mini pizzas. Lucky for me, my daughter wasn’t hungry so I got to eat her pizza. Win! Right after the pizza fun was finished, we were joined by the Brookstreet’s new mascot, Buzz (pictured above), who brought freezies for the kids and then posed for some pictures. This was followed by an hour or so in the massive games room, where I showed my wife what it looks like when you win at mini basketball ;) The kids loved the games room, which had a little movie theater, video games and other games for all ages.

By now, you can probably see where this story is going. There seemed to be a never ending supply of things for the family to do together and we weren’t even close to being done yet. We had a wonderful dinner on the patio at Perspectives Restaurant, which has a full kids menu, and then made our way to the fire pit, where the hotel had set up a s’mores station for the kids. We roasted marshmallows, smashed them together with chocolate inside a graham cracker and stuffed our faces! Again, in the lucky department, my son only wanted to roast marshmallows, so I got to enjoy his delicious s’mores.

Brookstreet Pizza Smores

Then something happened that has never happened before. My kids were so tired from all the fun they’d had that day, that they asked to go to bed. Seriously, they’ve never done this before. Miracle! Unfortunately (no, really, very fortunately) the Brookstreet had one more surprise for the kids when they got back to the room…

MILK & COOKIES!!!!!

Brookstreet Milk Cookies

I can’t think of a better way to cap off a great weekend than with milk & cookies for all kids that stay at the hotel! Oh wait, we actually capped it off with the giant brunch in the Perspectives Restaurant before we left on Sunday. I went into our stay thinking that the kids would be bored, and came out of it with our new “Go-To” local destination. The staff were all amazing to the kids as well and made them feel like part of the family. I highly encourage you to check out the Brookstreet’s Family Package, along with all the other great and affordable packages they have to offer. This was definitely a weekend to remember and we will be back for sure!

Disclosure: We stayed as guests of the Brookstreet Hotel in order to see how much they have changed to accommodate children and we were thoroughly impressed at every turn. None of the staff knew who we were and we were treated with nothing but respect and gratitude by every employee we encountered. Also, I ate some of the kids’ cookies when they weren’t looking. So what?

Park Throwing Sand

What Would You Do? Sandbox Edition

My kids were playing nicely in the sand at the park the other day, when two young boys came over to join them. As children do, they all began to play some randomly made up game together and things were going well. That was until one of the boys, a four year old, began lightly shoveling sand onto his brother’s lap. The brother didn’t seem to mind at all but his mother asked him to stop doing it. The young boy decided to tempt fate and shoveled one more scoop into his brother’s lap, at which point the mother walked over, leaned down, grabbed a handful of sand and threw it in the four year old’s face and mouth.

I have to be honest, I was shocked at the choice of punishment for such a minor crime but I really had no idea what to do, so I continued to just stand there, stunned, pretending everything was cool. The tactic backfired as well, as the boy wiped the sand from his mouth and stated with glee, “Mmmm, I love sand in my mouth!” At this point, I gathered up my children and we started the walk home.

It’s easy to judge parenting methods, so I try to keep my nose out of other people’s business and don’t typically write about the things I see but this one struck me as odd and it didn’t end there. Nothing was said about the incident as we walked home but as soon as my four year old daughter got home, she went running to her mom and explained the whole sand throwing story. We then spent the next few minutes trying to explain why it was a bad idea for the mommy to do that and telling her that she shouldn’t ever throw sand in people’s faces. Like I said, I stay out of other people’s parenting business…until it affects my ability to parent my children.

That brings me to my question. What would you do if your child was the one throwing sand at the park?

Oren Miller GiveForward

The Story of Oren

A fellow father, dad blogger, and friend, Oren Miller, is going through a tough time right now. Diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, he is in a fight for his life and the dad community is responding in a united effort to help Oren and his family with moral and monetary support.

To the dad blogging community, Oren Miller is more than just a dad who writes about his kids. He had the idea to start a Dad Bloggers Facebook group a couple years ago that now houses almost 800 fathers from around the world. This may not sound like a big deal to some but this group has been a source of great pride, support, debate and friendship to those members and, to us, Oren is our leader.

A GiveForward campaign was started, with the initial goal of $5,000, to help Oren’s family go on a trip together. In less than 24 hours, the campaign had reached $15,000 and it continues to grow each day. What started as a simple gesture has now turned into an amazing outpouring of support that is going to help Oren and his family with more than just a family trip. Essentially, the dads have decided to push the bystander effect to the side and set a new trend of giving and sharing as much as they can to help a fellow brother and friend.

I have never been so proud to be associated with a group of such amazing and supportive people. Just two years ago most of us were struggling on our own with our blogs, and now, thanks to Oren, we have a place where we can hang out, share ideas and thoughts on fatherhood, and develop friendships that will last a lifetime. We owe Oren more than just money but this is our way of helping him now, in his time of need, and I hope you will consider helping him out as well.

To donate to Oren’s fund, you can click on this GiveForward Campaign and help in any way you can. Thank you for your consideration in helping my friend and his family.

Father Son

I Still Remember

I rubbed my daughter’s back last night as she cried in her sleep and wondered how many times you did that with me. I can still remember climbing in to your bed when I would get scared and have vowed to never deny my children that luxury.

I think about how proud you must have been when I scored a big goal or made a nice catch. My kids do those things now and my heart swells with pride. Some people say not to over praise your children but I can never seem to stop myself. I wish I’d had the chance to trade these stories with you.

I remember how cool and calm you were when I’d get hurt. I channel that energy now when I see my children in pain, even though I am filled with nothing but panic. I’m guessing this is what all parents feel.

I wish I could ask you silly questions, like whether you smiled the way I do when we coloured nonsensical pictures for you, as my children do for me.

I still see the effects of the work you did to make our community a better place to live and hope I can live up to your level of commitment. There are so many times where I feel like I don’t have the energy and wonder how you accomplished all that you did. Because of you, I work harder so that my kids will see me as a difference maker someday.

You let me be my own person and make my own mistakes, while also giving me the chance to make up for those mistakes without violence or rage. Like the time I “borrowed” that money of your dresser… I’m still learning patience and I wish I had you here to tell me that it gets easier.

I remember a lot great times, which is what I hope for my children when I am gone. Even when I think about the tougher times, I find so many lessons that I can apply to my parenting today.

There are so many things I never got to say to you, so instead I make sure to say them to my children every single day.

Although you may not be here to lean on, I am doing my best with what you left behind so I can be the kind of father my children deserve. The kind of father I had in you.

Canadian Dad Bissell Vacuum

Canadian Dad & Agent Bissell in The Attack of the Evil Dirt Twins

I was asked by the fine folks at Bissell Canada to review their Multi-Surface Expert™ canister vacuum cleaner. So, instead of the usual sponsored post you are used to, my family and I decided to mix it up by creating a trailer for a new movie, “Canadian Dad & Agent Bissell in The Attack of the Evil Dirt Twins”!

For the record, the vacuum was incredible, and especially for a family that has been searching for something that works for years. I’m a huge fan of the canister system and it actually picks up dirt off my floor! It was also perfect for hardwood, tile and carpet, which is a huge bonus for me. For more information on the Bissell Multi-Surface Expert™, you can visit the information page on the Bissell Canada Website.

So, without further ado, here is my family’s big screen debut!

Disclosure: Bissell Canada provided us with the vacuum cleaner to facilitate this “review”. I really do love it and love even more that my kids got to have fun with it.

Bike Riding Training

The Greatest Bike Riding Teacher Ever!

He ran up and hugged me tightly. “Daddy, you’re the best bike teacher ever!” he exclaimed, his voice filled with pride. Up until that moment, I had managed to contain my emotions solely to a prideful glow, but this kid always seems to find a way to push me outside of my comfort zone. Today’s moment comes courtesy of him learning to ride his bike, without training wheels, in under an hour.

The truth is, teaching a child to ride a bike has little to do with the teacher. I was essentially there for moral support and to follow along behind him, holding his seat as so many Hallmark cards would imply. He is the one who did all the work and my heightened emotions came from watching his pride in himself rather than being proclaimed World’s Greatest Bike Teacher, although it does have a nice ring to it.

This is just one of many obstacles he will hurdle in his lifetime and watching him have pride in the things he accomplishes has been helping me renew my own sense of pride in the things I have done recently. It’s so easy to get lost in routine to the point where you feel like you are just going through the motions of life. What my kids have taught me is that you are never too old to learn something new, and in the case of my children, I’m learning to become a teacher, mentor, disciplinarian and role model, all at the same time. This has opened my eyes to all the other things I want to accomplish in my life and has encouraged me to start going after those dreams.

Funny the effects children can have on our brains.

Zinc Chozen Scooter 2

The Day A Grown Man Got A Scooter And Ruled The World!

Naturally, the first thing I did when my shiny new Zinc Chozen scooter arrived in the mail was to scour the neighbourhood for other grown men to join my scooter gang. I actually thought it would be easy to find some other dads to join my crew but when it proved more difficult than expected, I went with Plan B and recruited my children.

Now, before we go any further, I promise that my original plan was to give the scooter to my kids, but after my initial test run on the beautifully smooth Zinc Chozen, I knew that this was going to become one of daddy’s toys. You see, I never had a real scooter as a child and seeing as how I don’t own any other method of transportation other than a car, I figured I was due.

My initial goal with the scooter gang was to use our super speed to fight crime in my city. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, there is a severe lack of crime in my city, which thwarted that plan. On the bright side, I have been able to use the scooter as a way to bond with my children. We’ve gone on rides to the park, to school and had some amazing adventures in general that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to have without it. I think my favourite thing about the new Zinc scooter is that my four year old daughter has been asking if we could go on a scooter ride, “just the two of us”. Fathers of daughters will understand the heart tug on that one.

I know the Zinc Chozen scooter is designed to be a trick scooter (I promise I am working on my tricks) but it actually ended up providing me with something that I hadn’t expected in the form of a tighter bond with my kids. Also, for the record, this thing is the smoothest ride I have ever had. Even on the gravel pathway it exceeded my expectations, which is the main reason why I will be keeping this baby all to myself!

For more information on Zinc scooters, you can visit them on their Website, ZincHQ.com, and also on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Now, check out my awesome scooter gang!

Zinc Chozen Scooter

Disclosure: I received a Zinc Chozen scooter for review. Everything I stated above happened and the scooter is extra rad and makes me feel like a kid again.

Mother's Day Brookstreet

A Night Away For Mommy

Last weekend was Mother’s Day and instead of our usual routine, I decided to send my wife to the Brookstreet Hotel here in Ottawa. The goal was to get her a good night’s sleep and a day full of pampering without having to worry about doing anything parenting related. Now, my kids think hotels are hilarious, so we decided to have a pizza dinner in her hotel room on the first night, but quickly left mommy to her relaxing.

My wife’s stay included lots of sleep, breakfast in bed and a spa treatment at the Brookstreet’s Au Naturel Spa, before we would return in to pick her up, refreshed and ready for Mother’s Day dinner. I was surprised at how much there was for the kids to do at the Brookstreet because I had always assumed that there wouldn’t be a ton of kiddie stuff for some reason. They had a whole array of children’s activities and as you can see from the video below, my kids spent quite a bit of extra time out front of the hotel after we dropped mommy off, entertaining the guests as they walked by.

My wife said she loved her stay and even though we didn’t actually stay in the hotel, my kids and I had a blast taking in everything there was for them to do at the hotel. With Father’s Day just around the corner, I know what I will be suggesting…

Disclosure: My wife was provided one night accommodation by the Brookstreet Hotel and I was not required to write this post. The spa treatment was paid for by us.