OCR Academy

Why Do Kids Have To Climb Everything??

I’ve written previously about how I have to work extra hard to bury my inner helicopter parent and as my kids are getting older I am finding that fight gets harder every single day. One of my biggest triggers is with the kids’ constant need to climb everything they see, so in an effort to fight back against my brain I decided to take them to a controlled climbing environment by visiting the OCR Academy here in Ottawa.

I foolishly thought that by letting them climb things that were meant to be climbed, my mind would be at ease. I was wrong. I spent the first 20 minutes following closely behind the kids, not wanting them to do anything without me being right there as a safety blanket. As I watched them fly through the obstacles I started to realize that they could handle themselves just fine, and even the times they fell it wasn’t so bad. A funny thing happened when I started letting them do their own thing, I got to actually relax a little bit and really enjoyed watching them push their boundaries. Who knew? I even managed to get comfortable enough to shoot some video and have shared our experience below.

How about you? Do you still have helicopter blades hidden underneath your hat or are you perfectly okay letting your kids explore on their own? Let me know in the comments here or on our video!

International Cook With Your Kids Day

Celebrate International Cook With Your Kids Day & Win Big!

I have to admit that I am not a master chef in the kitchen. Far from it, really. Based on a research study done by Uncle Ben’s that showed less than half of Canadian parents feel confident in their own ability to cook, it seems I am not alone in my struggle. With that being said, I am one of the 98% of parents who feel it’s important that children learn how to cook and bake at as early an age as possible so they can develop healthy eating habits from a young age.

Cooking With Kids

To help get you off the couch and into the kitchen, Uncle Ben’s has launched International Cook With Your Kids Day, which takes place this Saturday, October 15th! In case you needed a little more incentive to get your butt in gear, snap a photo of you and your kids cooking a rice based dish and submit it on the Uncle Ben’s Beginners website and three lucky Canadians are going to win a $10,000 grand prize which may be used towards a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP)!

I know what you’re thinking. “But, Chris, I still don’t know how to cook, so how am I going to cook with my kids?!” Don’t fret, my friends, as Uncle Ben’s has you covered there as well! Simply visit the Ben’s Beginners website and choose from the many family-friendly recipes available to not only get step by step instructions but also hands on, interactive tutorials that the kids can use to practice before moving on to the real thing.

Cook With Kids Days Uncle Ben's

Hopefully you will all take some time to grab some Uncle Ben’s and hit the kitchen for International Cook With Your Kids Day this Saturday, October 15th! If you do, don’t forget to enter the draw and also share your creations on social media using the #LookWhatWeMade hashtag! You can visit the Ben’s Beginners page for all the rules and regulations on the contest. Happy Cooking!!!

Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this campaign, however I really do think it’s important to get our kids cooking from as early an age as possible.

Her Last Dance

The Last Dance

Emotions are a funny thing, aren’t they? I have always been pretty stone-faced when it comes to showing any sort of emotion, which has been to my detriment at times. Ever since having kids, however, I have been finding that my emotions are on a constant roller coaster that I have no way of stopping. To demonstrate this fact, I give you my 6 year old daughter’s recent dance recital.

Going into the recital we had already decided that this would be her last year of dance as other hobbies had become more important to our daughter and, of course, there’s the overwhelming cost of youth activities to consider. As strange as it sounds, at 6 years old, my daughter was one of the oldest and most experienced dancers in her class so we had a great opportunity to talk to her about leadership and making sure that she helped the younger girls along. I can still remember how nervous she was the first time she took to the big stage in front of a packed theatre and how great the older kids were with her.

Sitting in the crowd on the big day I felt completely fine. I was definitely excited and nervous for my daughter but otherwise my emotions were status quo. That lasted about as long as it took for my daughter to get in position for the start of her dance. The music began and I sat in stunned silence as I watched her glide across the stage with that focused look we’ve become accustomed to. My eyes twitched with the familiar sting of trying to hold back tears, as a slideshow of her short dance career flashed through my head. We made the right decision in cutting dance from her activities list but knowing that this could be her last big dance made it both more special and harder to watch.

If we’re being technical, the routine itself was a hilarious disaster, as can be expected from a group of 4-6 year olds. That said, I couldn’t have been more proud of my daughter as she led her young group onto the stage and gave it everything she had one last time. We underestimate the bravery it takes to get up there in front of a packed houseMaybe someday she will dance again but until that day comes I will always smile when I remember her last dance.

Energizer Camping

Camping In The Comfort Of Your Own Home? {Plus A $500 Gift Card Giveaway!}

As we excitedly planned our camping trip for this upcoming weekend, I decided to set up our tent in the living room to make sure all the pieces were there. I walked away for maybe 2 minutes and when I returned I was shocked to see that the kids had already filled the tent with their blankets, pillows, books and stuffed animals, and had settled in for the night.

Not one to stifle their creativity, we decided it would be fun, and very inexpensive, to host a camp-in! The timing was great as well because we had been planning a backyard camp-out to celebrate Energizer Canada’s #EnergizeYourSummer campaign but the weather has been less than favourable here the last couple weeks, so we had been putting it off.

We read stories, made shadow animals, sang songs and laughed until the kids looked ready to pass out. In true sibling fashion not everything was sunshine and roses, but once my daughter got her vision back after having a spotlight pointed in her eyes, the kids were all love and snuggles once again! Seriously, though, check out how deliberate the boy was about pointing it directly in her eyes… Yikes!

Energizer Camping 2

You may be noticing that I was not in the tent with the kids. The simple, hard truth is that the kids decided that adults were not allowed in their fortress of solitude, so I was forced to sleep in my comfortable queen size bed instead. Bummer. We listened to the kids giggle and play together for about half an hour before they finally fell asleep but I could have listened to them having fun together for a lifetime before making them sleep.

On the kids request we decided to leave the tent up for a few more days so they could have more camp-ins together. I mentioned Energizer® before and that’s because I couldn’t believe how much we relied on batteries to power our camping adventure and to keep us safe while out in the dark. They also make a wide range of great lighting products for the outdoors, such as flashlights, headlamps, and lanterns that we will be using on our upcoming trip!

Giveaway!

Here is your chance to win a $500 Walmart gift card so you can stock up on your favourite Energizer® products before your next camping trip! To get you started, I thought I’d share some of our favourite camping products from Energizer®!

Energizer® Vision HD Headlight

Energizer Vision HD Headlight

 
 

This has three headlamp light modes: White spot light, white flood light & spot and flood together, along with dimmable to control brightness and run-time (only with all LEDs on).

It is also up to 4X brighter than standard LED technology, pivots to direct light where you need it and includes 3 AAA Energizer MAX® batteries. If you’ve ever had to use the washroom in the dark, you’ll be glad you had the Energizer Vision HD Headlight!

 
 
 
 

Energizer® Ultimate Lithium Batteries

Energizer Ultimate Lithium Batteries

 
 
 

Energizer® innovation strikes again! New enhancements make Energizer® Ultimate Lithium™ batteries THE best and longest-lasting disposable AA batteries.

The provide superior performance in extreme temperatures from -40F to 140F degrees which is great for use in all seasons. They also hold power in storage for up to 20 years, are lighter weight than alkaline batteries and are leak proof!

 
 
 
 

There are so many more great Energizer products that are perfect for camping, including Energizer MAX® Batteries, and you can check them all out by visiting Energizer.ca!

Alright, on to the giveaway! I am giving away a $500 Walmart gift card and all you have to do to enter is fill out as many of the Rafflecopter entry options below and I’ll contact the winner when I have the name in hand. This giveaway is open to residents of Canada, excluding Quebec. Happy camping!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in the #EnergizeYourSummer campaign.

Baseball Diamond

Baseball Season Is Upon Us

I’m struggling to express the joy I felt when our son let us know that he wanted to give baseball a shot this year. Having played ball for my entire youth and well into adulthood, I was excited to have the opportunity to help him on his way to baseball mediocrity as my father had done for me.

We are two weeks into the season and things seem to be going according to plan. The kids love kicking their feet around in the dirt, creating mini dust tornadoes and making it impossible for anyone to see what they are doing, as we did in our youth. Wrangling twelve 7 & 8-year-old boys and getting them all to pay attention at the same time is always a fun challenge but you learn to appreciate all of their individual quirks and mannerisms. That said, one of the many perks of volunteering to be on the coaching staff is that you can always keep your own child inline and paying attention!

True to the chaos that is parenting, right before the season started we realized that our son had no proper baseball equipment. Flashing back to my youth I can remember the excitement of my dad bringing me to Canadian Tire because I always new I was about to get some new gear. The only downside to shopping when I was a kid was that we were at the mercy of the stock on the store shelves. We live in a slightly different time now so I was excited to present my son with the new Canadian Tire WOW Guide so he could pick out the items he wanted and then I had them ordered right to our store.

Canadian Tire Baseball

Tell me this kid doesn’t look like a seasoned baseball player now! Through the Canadian Tire WOW Guide, we were able to score him a new Troy Tulowitzki glove, a Raptor baseball bat, a new Rawlings baseball, new cleats and an amazing Easton bag to carry it all in. I loved watching his face as he flipped through the WOW Guide and excitedly circled all the things he wanted. I obviously had to shave the list down as he circled about 6 pages worth of sports gear but it reminded me about the fun of going through catalogues when I was a kid.

I highly recommend that you grab the WOW Guide from your local Canadian Tire store or check it out at Canadian Tire’s website. The guide covers everything from lawn and garden and home décor to power tools and tires, plus you can use the Canadian Tire app to hover over the products you love in the WOW Guide to unlock dynamic digital extras like videos, how-to’s and DIYs. Well, what are you waiting for?!

Canadian Tire WOW Guide

Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this program, however I used that money to buy more baseball gear from Canadian Tire because I have no self control.

20160502_233019

A Star In The Making

“It goes by so fast”. Ask any parent something they wish they’d known before having kids and that quote will be in there every single time. It sounds cliché but it’s so very true. One minute you’re teaching them to skate and the next they are skating circles around you. My daughter is no exception to this rule. To put it bluntly, she’s amazing. Every new task she takes on she does it to the fullest of her ability. Can’t do a cartwheel at gymnastics? She’ll do 500 cartwheels in one week until she masters it. In the last two weeks her coaches in gymnastics, dance and figure skating have all come to us to say that our daughter should be in their competitive programs.

While my first reaction to this news was an indescribable sense of pride, the next was one of worry because even forgetting the costs of these programs, there is not enough time in the week for her to possibly compete in multiple competitive sports. I also struggle with the fact that at 6 years old, how much do we really want to put on her plate? When asked what she wanted to do our daughter didn’t hesitate as she made figure skating her top choice. Coming from a life of team sports, this is a whole new adventure for me. Private coaches, booking ice time and not being able to volunteer are all things I will have to get used to but I can’t wait to watch my little girl grow into a beautiful skater and I can guarantee tears the first time I see her doing a routine.

We had the chance to take our daughter to see the Investors Group Stars On Ice show this weekend so she could see what the payoff could be for all the hard work she’s about to put in. While we couldn’t get too many pictures due to the dark lighting during the show, I can assure you that she was dazzled by the skaters and especially the jumps! She may not know who Elvis Stojko, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir or Joannie Rochette are but they definitely captured her attention and made her want to skate even more.

For my wife, who was also a figure skater as a child, having the opportunity to see Kurt Browning skate live for the first time was a dream come true. She posted a short video of Kurt’s performance on Facebook mentioning how exciting it was to watch him skate, and then got a message from a friend who was currently sitting next to Kurt on a plane heading out of Ottawa. The friend said that Kurt had just watched her whole video because it was a new routine and he’d never seen himself doing it yet. Then he shared this picture…

Kurt Browning

Kurt Browning giving my wife a thumbs up!

Needless to say, my wife hasn’t been this excited since the time Jann Arden called her on her birthday. It was a perfect way to cap off an amazing Stars On Ice show! After seeing the smiles on my two favourite ladies faces after the show it is impossible for me to not recommend that you check it out with your family. It is especially great if you have young figure skaters in your house. For more information on upcoming shows and tickets you can check out the Stars On Ice website. Oh, and Kurt, if you ever want to talk fatherhood, I’d be happy to conduct that interview (insert winky face here). I promise not to let my wife hijack the call…

About Investors Group Stars On Ice

Founded in 1986 by skating icon and Olympic Gold Medallist Scott Hamilton, the Stars on Ice Tour originated in the United States. In 1991, Stars on Ice began to tour Canada and has now played nearly 300 shows in the past 25 years. Past tour performers include Kurt Browning, Jamie Salé & David Pelletier, Kristi Yamaguchi and Elvis Stojko. Investors Group Stars on Ice presented by Lindt is produced by IMG, the global leader in sports, fashion and media. For more information about the tour, visit www.starsonice.ca. Keep in touch with Investors Group Stars on Ice presented by Lindt on Facebook: www.facebook.com/starsonice Instagram: www.instagram.com/starsonice, and on Twitter: twitter.com/starsonice.

Disclosure: My family was provided tickets to this event.

Father Son Hockey

You’re Already A Good Dad

Life can get pretty repetitive, can’t it? Work, school, ballet, hockey, sleep, repeat. Entire weeks can go by without anything significant happening and I’ve made my peace with that as we can’t be all spontaneity all the time. Every now and then, however, something sneaks up on you and kicks you right upside the head. Such was the case this Monday as I drove my 7 year old son to power skating, as we have done every Monday for the past 3 months.

If you had told me that I was going to get misty eyed while driving to power skating on this day I would have probably laughed, given you an “okay, then” and rushed out the door with my son, you know, because we are literally always late somehow. My son has been more and more interested in hearing about my father lately and never seems to run out of questions about him. I have written about my father before for those who are new here but he passed away a few years ago on the same day that we found out we were pregnant with my son.

While he usually wants to know about my father as a coach and other sports related stories, on this day he shifted his focus to me and was curious about how I dealt with his passing. I know, heavy for a 7 year old, right? That was my initial thought as well but I always jump at the chance to both talk about my dad and bond with my son, so I happily answered his questions.

He asked if I was sad when my father died and how it all happened, which were easy answers. Then he asked me if I missed him and I froze a bit, not sure how much to get into it. I told him that I missed my dad everyday and explained that I was sad that he never got to meet my son and his sister, but mostly I missed him because I didn’t get to have him around to teach me how to do technical things like change a tire, or help me with coaching or help me learn to be a good dad. This conversation alone could have been enough to cause my emotions to go haywire but I held it together, until my son hit me with…

“But, you’re already a good dad.”

I’m guessing he didn’t realize how powerful it was to hear those words after the conversation we had just finished. I thanked him as I discreetly wiped a happy tear from eye and saw him light up knowing that he had made his dad smile. We sat in comfortable silence the rest of the way to hockey, both proud of our achievements for the day.

Tampa Bay Rays Kids

I Wonder If They Know

I see a lot of great clips in the media that show professional athletes or celebrities interacting with children and putting a huge smile on the children’s faces in the process. I often wonder if the athlete or celebrity truly understands the lasting effect it can have on a child when they take the time to make them feel good about themselves.

This past weekend while I was away at the Dad 2.0 Summit in Washington, DC, my family visited with my in-laws in Florida. While they were there my father-in-law took my son down to watch the Tampa Bay Rays pitchers and catchers as they took to the field for the first time this year. Any time you get to see professional athletes up close it is a treat but my son’s experience went beyond simply watching them from afar.

Before I get into the story, here’s a little background. I played pretty high level fastball growing up and loved everything about baseball. There was nothing I wanted more than for my son to love the sport I grew up with but I also wanted him to make his own decisions about what he liked and disliked, so I tried not to force baseball on him. Early on it seemed like he wouldn’t be interested and I had since made my peace with that. This year he asked to sign up for winter baseball skills lessons but after seven or eight classes still hadn’t decided if baseball was for him. Fast forward to this past weekend, however, and he came home from Florida begging for me to sign him up.

What changed, you ask?

As luck would have it, the Tampa Bay Rays are really good with their fans and especially the kids. They probably thought nothing of tossing a ball to a young fan but to my son it was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to him. For Chris Archer and Blake Snell to come and sign the ball and his newly purchased Rays hat made the experience even better for my future slugger. If this is all that had happened my son would have walked out of there an excited young baseball fan, but there was one more interaction that pushed him over the top and has since convinced him to want to be a baseball player.

One player took a little extra time chatting with my son and it was his excited recollection of the conversation that convinced me to write this story. So to pitcher Mark Sappington, thank you for making my son feel extra special. Thank you for signing his ball and thank you for not only asking him to show off his arm for you but also for praising him after his throw and telling him you think he has what it takes. What was most likely a common fan interaction for you meant the world to him and gave him more confidence than I could ever give him with the same compliment. He finalized his decision to play baseball this year because of you. How cool is it to have that kind of influence over a young person?

Thank you to the Tampa Bay Rays for treating my son so well and for giving him the confidence to believe in himself. I also promise not to steal the signed ball or hat that he has yet to leave out of his sight…!

Rays Baseball Gear

Outdoor Hockey Rink

Sticks In The Middle

Hockey players come in all shapes, sizes and skill levels. Some are naturally talented while others have to scratch and claw for every inch. We sort them by age and skill level, throw them on teams and shuttle them off to their 6am practices while we sip coffee or lace up with them and breathe the unmistakable arena air. In most cases, the children will stay in their comfort zones and play at the same skill level for the majority of their hockey lives and become friends with other similarly skilled players. While we may want to believe that there isn’t separation among friends based on your athletic abilities, for those of us who grew up in sports, we know that it definitely exists.

There exists, however, an alternate hockey universe; a glitch in the matrix, if you will, and it takes place in the dead of winter at the outdoor rink. As far back as I can remember the outdoor rink was a neutral playground for anyone who has ever laced up their skates and picked up a stick. As the outdoor rink there are no levels, no jersey numbers and definitely no egos. It’s always been a place where people from all walks of life meet up to simply have some fun.

Just the other day my 7 year old son, his friend and I went to the rink and within minutes of arriving had been thrust into an ongoing game. In that game there were two dads, three 7/8 year olds, a handful of teenage boys, two teenage girls and a couple guys who I’d guess we’re in their mid-20’s. Some of the players were obviously in competitive programs, others were less so and the young guys are still trying to find their place. None of us knew each other when we arrived at the rink but we threw our sticks in the middle, blindly selected teams and formed immediate bonds with the players in the game.

You’d think with all the different ages and skill levels that the game would be controlled by only a few skaters but something funny happens once you step onto the outdoor ice. Maybe it’s the lack of pressure to succeed or simply kindness taking over but a silent agreement is made between all players that everyone gets the chance to shine. This is my favourite part. There is a renewed faith in humanity in watching a 13 year old kid with all the talent in the world stop himself from scoring a goal in order to feed passes to a 6 year old kid who is still learning to shoot without falling down. Although the 13 year old isn’t my child I still feel a sense of pride as a parent, knowing how much awareness and maturity it took to share the glory with someone else.

Being involved in organized hockey can be tough, as a player and a parent, but the minute you step onto that outdoor ice you remember why you love this game so much. So don’t be afraid to jump into the game and throw your stick in the middle when asked. The game never really ends, it’s just waiting for the next player to get there.

When I Grow Up

When I Grow Up I Want To Be…

Each year before the kids go off to their first day of school, we take the same picture of them out front of the house, as parents do. We ask them what they think they want to be when they grow up and we write it on the sign and snap the picture. The first couple years we got the standard responses of policewoman, doctor or firefighter, which are excellent choices by the way, but we noticed this past year that the kids are really starting to give the question some thought.

Instead of doctor, our daughter has narrowed down her field of choice to veterinarian, which, judging by the way she takes care of her stuffed animals, is an excellent choice. My son, on the other hand, has bounced between policeman and firefighter the last couple years but this year he too narrowed his choice down to working in forensics, just like daddy, as he put it.

While I realize there is a very good chance that my children will not work in these fields, I’m excited that they are already thinking about what it is they would like to do in the future. I spent a lot of time focusing on sports as a kid and then flaked out in high school, despite my parents encouragement to strive for more. So as I sit here still wondering what I want to do with the rest of my life, I’m hopeful that my kids will continue to dream big and not let anything get in their way. At their young ages there is truly nothing they can’t accomplish and I can’t wait to see what they do with their lives.

I mean, who knows, my daughter might still change her mind back to skateboarding princess, which would be absolutely rad! Plus, if she ever stumbles for career ideas, she can look no further than the Barbie collection she plays with almost every single day. Fun fact: Barbie has had over 155 different careers in her lifetime and although that makes her sound like a terrible employee, I can assure you it’s just because she never ever ages…

Giveaway

To celebrate the new Barbie “You Can Be Anything” campaign, I am giving away a very cool Barbie Prize Pack to one luck reader. Just enter as many options as you would like on the Rafflecopter form below and I’ll select a winner on the weekend! Giveaway is open to residents of Canada, excluding Quebec, and includes the Barbie™ Careers Eye Doctor Playset and two Barbie™ Fashionista dolls. Good Luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, however I do think skateboard princess is the coolest job you could ever hope for!