National We Day

Sometimes Inspiration Hits When You Need It Most

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend my third We Day event. I went into this We Day thinking that I had seen all there is to see when it came to the Free The Children event, and I left with something I hadn’t realized I needed. Personal inspiration.

Life has been busy lately. With family, a full time job, part time job and a blog to look after, I had started to feel overwhelmed on an almost daily basis. In essence, my time had become small units of monetary value and I was having trouble seeing it any other way. Family was still number 1, always, but every other aspect of my life was suffering and I was too busy to notice it.

Enter, We Day. This was by far the largest We Day I had been too, almost quadrupling last year’s Ottawa attendance. As I sat and listened to speaker after speaker share their stories as the 16,000 children in attendance screamed and flashed their strobe-like wristbands, I was transported back to the place I was in a year ago. That place was one of kindness and love, where the prevailing thought on my mind was making sure I left the world a better place than I entered it.

I got to hang out with my inspiring friend and We Day speaker, Hannah Alper. I met another amazing youth in Vishal Vijay and had the chance to speak to two amazing local girls from Huntley Centennial Public School, named Isabelle Poulin and Chelsea Wilken, who were all doing their part to create a positive change in our day to day lives. Listening to these children speak and share why kindness was important to them, reminded me of what was important to me.

When I got home that day, I immediately re-launched Kindness Canada, as it had been on the back burner, and started re-organizing my life. I realized that I still have time to do all the work that I was doing, but I plan on doing it smarter so that I have more time to focus on the things that are most important to me. Those things are my family, my health and my commitment to making the world a better place, one smile at a time. I guess this sounds cheesy but it’s how I feel, so I’m not sure how else to word it.

The We Day movement is something that I knew nothing about a year ago, and yet I have no idea where I would be without it. Everyone from the founders to the PR team and speakers are all amazing people and it just reinforces the benefit of building a strong community. I realize that the event was created to inspire children to change the world, but it has changed my world, multiple times over. Please do yourself a favour and check out the Free The Children website and the videos within it. They will change you in a very good way. Also, keep an eye out for Hannah and Spencer West as they embark on the We Create Change Tour, which started this week.

Here are some shots from the National We Day event I just attended. It’s not the same as being there but it’s still pretty cool!

We Day Speakers, Isabelle Poulin & Chelsea Wilken

We Day Speakers, Isabelle Poulin & Chelsea Wilken

Simple Plan frontman, Pierre Bouvier, rocks the We Day stage

Simple Plan frontman, Pierre Bouvier, rocks the We Day stage

 

Hannah Alper and Vishal Vijay give their powerful presentations.

Hannah Alper and Vishal Vijay give their powerful presentations.

Power In Numbers

Power In Numbers

 

 

 

April Fools Day

Some Of The Best Moments Go Uncaptured

It was April Fools Day yesterday, and while I am not someone who partakes in any of the festivities, my son’s class put together a fun little prank for the kids to play on the parents after school was done. All the children giggled and joked about fish on their way out of the school, as us parents went about our busy day’s, oblivious to the inside jokes. Upon arriving home, I felt a tap on my back and realized it was just my son dishing out some random hugs, as he is prone to do. Being the amateur prankster that he is, his giggling started almost immediately and I knew something was up. I reached for my back and pulled off the paper fish, shown above, as he quickly yelled, “Happy Fools!”, not fully understanding its meaning. The laughter that ensued was infectious and heartwarming. It was one of those moments that you wish you could capture in a bottle and keep forever.

We quickly tried to get him to try it again, this time with my wife filming his reaction, before realizing that it wasn’t going to be the same the second time around. In this age of digital devices and advanced technology, we often try to capture moments as they happen, sometimes at the expense of enjoying the actual moment itself. That’s not to say that we are bad parents for wanting to capture as many moments as we can, but while I was enjoying the original moment with my son, the thought of grabbing my phone hadn’t crossed my mind and that is something I have been striving for. I may not remember that moment forever but I know that I enjoyed every second of it while it was happening and I plan on doing much more of that in the years to come.

Side note, the video we took of my son recreating the April Fools moment was actually pretty funny in itself and I’m still kind of glad we did it.

Tims2

How Tim Hortons Gave One Classroom The Gift Of Creativity

The list of traits I want to pass on to my children is extremely long. Near the top of that list, however, is that I want my kids to be able to express themselves creatively. That said, I was excited to find out that my son’s kindergarten class had decided to re-arrange their play area, and was even more excited to find out that they had voted to turn it into a Tim Hortons drive-thru station. If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you will know about my love for everything Tim Hortons.

In essence, what this did was combine two of my favourite things, in creativity and Tim Hortons coffee! I decided to reach out to my local Tim’s restaurant to see if there was anything they could do to help out and I was pleasantly surprised with not only how quickly they said yes, but also with the amount of stuff they contributed to the kids’ new play station. There were hats, toques, balloons, Tim cards, cups, carry trays and even name tags that read “Owner”, which my kids loved.

The kids all had a blast with their new Tim Hortons drive-thru and one of the parents even told me that it was her son’s favourite part of the whole year so far because of all the cool stuff in there. With that, I would like to extend a huge thank you to the management and staff at the Tim Hortons on Carling Avenue for making these kids’ lives a little more exciting and a lot more creative!

Tims1

Tim Hortons Drive Thru

Princess Story

Children Telling Stories #1 – The Princess and the Underpants

 Something I have noticed about my children is that they love performing for a camera. Whether it’s dancing, singing, telling stories or making up new languages, they always ask to be taped and then come running to watch and laugh at the playback. I’m guessing they get their narcissism from their dad and I think it’s great! I’m always happy to let my kids express their creative sides and these stories have become an important part of our bonding process. That said, I have decided to publish some of them in a segment called, Children Telling Stories, and will hopefully be posting one story a week.

In this week’s story, my daughter tells the story of the magical princess, who ends up in a waterpark after taking a magic carpet ride and needs to clean some underpants. Enjoy!

Days Inn Dad Ad

Days Inn Canada Falls Short With New Dad Ad

I have been a part of the online dad community for a little over two years now. In that time, I have learned to value my contributions to my family and have become a far better and more attentive father because of it. I have also become more aware of the way fathers tend to be portrayed in the media and have even been fortunate enough to be a part of a community that is striving to, and has succeeded in, changing the dumb dad stereotype. In fact, according to a recent extensive study by 8 Bit Dad’s, Zach Rosenberg, fathers are being portrayed in a more engaged and positive light, more and more every year.

Unlike my American counterparts, however, it is extremely rare for me to see a commercial where the dad is being portrayed in a negative light. That changed this week after I saw the new commercial from Days Inn Canada. The commercial shows a sad child sitting alone in his room, wishing his father was there with him to read his bedtime story. It then cuts to the father, who is excitedly lounging alone in his hotel room, and sings the line, “And on the brighter side, dad’s watching mixed martial arts”. It gets worse from there but this is about the point in the commercial where I checked out and thought of a million different scenarios they could have gone with that would have made this commercial a viral sensation. First and foremost, why not have the dad reading to the kid over the internet and showing the love that I know most dads feel for their children. That would have been something I would have been proud to get behind and shared immediately. It would have even been enough to get my future business, at least once. And look, I’m all for Me-Time, as we all need it, but mixing it in with the sad child just made it look like the dad was happier outside the house than in it.

Not that fatherhood has ever been the way that the Al Bundy’s of the world would have you believe, but things are different now than they used to be. For a father to be a more engaged member of the overall household and child raising duties is not the exception anymore, it’s the norm. I’m sure Days Inn Canada thought this was harmless fun and others may see this as me being a whiny dad, but I think it’s important for them to know that it’s okay to go against the stereotype and to create a new mold.

What are thoughts on the commercial? I know we all see things differently, so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

All this said, I would love to invite Days Inn Canada to have a conversation with us dads, so we can talk about what our version of fatherhood looks like for future commercials. In the meantime, I invite you to take a look at how the face of fatherhood has changed in just the last 1000 days. Video is courtesy of the folks at the Dad 2.0 Summit.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Check out these posts from Buzz Bishop from DadCamp and Justin Connors from Life in 140.

Disney On Ice Finale

Disney On Ice Delivers Again!

Let’s face it, having children can get pretty expensive, which means that we have to choose our activities and events wisely. After attending Disney on Ice’s “100 Years of Magic” event at the Canadian Tire Centre last night, I can say with complete certainty that it is worth the price of admission for my family. It sounds cliche to praise Disney but between the light displays and the non stop action in their stories, they really know how to put on an amazing show that a whole family can enjoy.

From my son screaming, “Stitch, Stitch!!!”, in my ear, to my daughter’s excited squeals at seeing all of her favourite princesses, there was never a dull moment for the entire two hours of the show. Admittedly, I spent more time watching the wonder in my children’s eyes than I did the show, but seeing their joy alone was completely worth it. On the adult front, my wife and I both agreed that the production of Mulan’s story completely stole the show and had me drawn in as if I were watching a Broadway play. It’s really tough to explain how good the quality of the production is without you watching it yourself but I promise you that you will be amazed.

One of the other cool things about these shows is that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know a few of the cast members and have come to find out that they are all fascinating people in their own unique ways. You may remember a few weeks ago, I interviewed cast member, Matthew McLean, and this week I had the chance to chat with Kirstie Nelson, who also taught me how to do the ever popular, “Twizzle”, of Olympic fame. Kirstie’s bio blew me away by how diverse she is and because we had major audio issues with the audio during filming, I just wanted to point out a few of her many talents. She is a surfer, hair stylist, figure skating champion, yoga instructor, who also happened to graduate University with a degree in chemical engineering. Yes, I felt like an incredibly lazy human being after reading all of that. Anyway, I have attached our interview below and even though you may not be able to hear the whole thing, you can always skip to the end to watch my incredible Twizzles!!!

Thanks to Feld Entertainment and Canadian Tire Centre for facilitating the interview and I offer my sincere apologies for the technical issues with our sound. On the bright side, guess who just purchased a bunch of new sound equipment… Also, the Ottawa show runs until Sunday Feb 23rd, so there’s still time to see the show! You can buy tickets RIGHT HERE!

Disney on Ice cast

Mickey Mouse Disney Hugs

18 More Sleeps

“18 more sleeps until Disney!”, the kids shouted with glee. That’s how early the countdown began. That’s how soon the magic starts to flow through your veins. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling it too, even though I worked hard at containing my excitement. At 35 years old, 18 days of uncontrolled excitement can cause burnout.

The trip didn’t get off to the magical start we had anticipated but a stranger on a plane helped restore our faith that all would be fine. Upon landing in Disney, because explaining the difference between Disney and Florida to a three year old is almost impossible, the kids loaded up on pixie dust while the grown ups focused on grown up things. Magical bags needed to be collected from the magical conveyor belt and children needed to be reigned in so they wouldn’t fly away in the busy airport.

The planning for this trip had been meticulously drawn out by the missus, down to the very last ride. Rain, however, was not on the agenda. In any other place on earth, rain would be a deal breaker. But not at Disney World. Not on this trip. Our smiles were as bright as ever as we crossed through the gates and into paradise, ponchos and all. The kids gripped their autograph books tight as the first character, Jake the Pirate, approached our breakfast table. Overwhelmed with excitement, my normally reserved young boy leaped from his seat and hugged Jake as tightly as he had ever hugged one of us. That was the magic of Disney.

There were many more hugs and smiles throughout the weekend. Some for us, but the most enthusiastic ones reserved for the characters they have grown up watching, which was more than fine by me. The magic was there for me too, just in a different place. Instead of the exhilaration of meeting the characters, my joy came in the form of watching the excitement on my children’s faces as they discovered a world they had only dreamed about. They were my Disney and I cherished every excited squeal they belted out.

There were more magical moments than I could count, from tears during Fantasmic to our emotional meeting with Mickey Mouse. The one that stands out to me, though, is when my three year old daughter snuggled up to me on our last day and said, “I love you more than Disney”. Impossible, but I’ll take it.

Buzz Woody

Seat 19D

To The Woman In Seat 19D

I’m not sure you realize the magnitude of your actions. You see, we were all very excited for our first real family vacation. We were off to Disney World, every child (and parent’s) dream trip. Things didn’t go exactly as planned. In fact, things went the exact opposite of anything I could have ever planned. 

Our first flight was cancelled at 9pm on the eve of the trip, long after the kids had gone to bed with dreams of mouse ears in their heads. My wife and I struggled with the notion of how to tell them the trip would have to wait another day. Luckily, we managed to get another flight out of town very early in the morning.

The kids woke this morning with an excitement I have never seen and may never see again. “DISNEY, DISNEY!!” they shouted as they doled out thousands of pirouetting hugs. This, is the reason we get into this game called parenting. Those smiles, that love of the magical unknown. 

It only took five minutes after we arrived at the airport to be told that our flights were overbooked and we were getting bumped. I pointed to the kids and muttered, “but, Disney”, to the woman, who shrugged and apologized. We avoided disappointment the first time but it seemed inevitable at this point. Then out of nowhere, another agent called us over with good news. A NEW flight for us to try our luck with. Relief. 

We got on the plane and hit our connecting city. Success! One flight to go until the magic begins and nothing could go wrong. I excitedly printed the boarding passes to our final destination and noticed that we were all spread out in different seats. No problem, the airline will help us out, right? Wrong. The airline said that I would have to figure it out on my own which meant that I had to grovel with passengers, who were probably as exhausted as I was, to see if they would switch with me. It was more uncomfortable than anything I have ever done in my life. 

That’s where you come in. I had a 1 in 4 shot at finding a match and I was 0 for 3. I’m not going to lie, even though I understand that nobody owed me anything, I was baffled at how the others could stare at my crying child, who was petrified to sit alone, and not bat an eye as they rejected my offer. But not you. I could tell that you booked your aisle seat on purpose and I know that you really didn’t want to move but you did it anyway, without hesitation. I just hope you can understand how agonizing it was for me to have to ask you to take my middle seat and also how deeply I appreciate your act of kindness. 

I have nothing to offer you except words and a wish for all the best things that life can throw your way. You made a disastrous day a million times better and I will never forget that for as long as I live. You are an amazing human being and my whole family thanks you from the bottom of our hearts. If you read this and want some Mickey Mouse ears, please email me, as it’s the least I can do!

Sibling Love

The Art of Making Friends

Making friends is a tough business. It seems the older you get, the harder it is to put yourself out there, and especially in this digital age where everything you do is out in the open for the world to see.

I can remember back to middle school and the awkwardness of trying to fit in with a particular group. For me, it was such a painful experience that I got to the point where I just kind of shut down and coasted around the halls unnoticed.

High school wasn’t too much different of an experience for me. I certainly had more friends but none that I would have called best friends. They were more like acquaintances. I was just way too uncomfortable in social situations and to risk what I had built in an attempt to be outgoing just seemed irrational.

I figured it would get easier with age and even though there was a point after college that I decided not to be the shy guy anymore, I still found the friend making process incredibly intimidating. The very first blog event I attended consisted of me hiding in the back of the room, near the M&M’s bowl, watching everyone mingling and having fun and wondering how they were doing it.

It certainly couldn’t be as easy as walking up to someone and simply talking to them, could it?

And then it happened. My three year old daughter was at her ballet class, when another young girl approached her and asked bluntly, “Do you want to be my friend?”, to which my daughter giggled and answered “Yes”. And that was that, they were friends. She retold the story a number of times that night, gushing about all the play dates they were going to have, and I remember thinking how easy their friendship transaction had been. Maybe it really was that easy.

I have since adopted this method in my own life and have to say that walking up to someone and saying “Hi”, is a lot less stressful than thinking about it for 3 hours and then walking away. Something to think about.

King Daddy

How I Became Known as Prince Chris

It was this year’s Santa Claus Parade where it was made official. As the amazing staff from Official Princess Parties drew closer to us, my daughter lit up with the joy of a child whose magical belief of princesses always makes me think back to my youth. As they often do, the princesses spotted her, waved, called her name and made her feel like the most special child in the world.

Something different happened this time though.

One of the princesses, Ariel, if you’re keeping track, looked over and said “Hello, Prince Chris”, to which my friends immediately shot my a sideways glance. I’m not sure whether it was because of the fact that she knew my name or the fact that my wife had little to no reaction to the shout out, but I think I managed to explain it to them in a way that didn’t make me look creepy. I won’t go through that process with all of you, instead opting to link to a few times I’ve run in to the amazing princesses from this company, such as Here, Here and Here, plus countless others at smaller events.

Now that I have officially been dubbed, Prince Chris, I feel like I will fit in a lot better at this year’s Official Princess Parties “Royal Ball” on Feb 23rd. I’ve been spending the last few months practicing my royal dance moves and trying to eat properly so the food doesn’t end up on my shirt. It’s a work in progress… Aaaaanyway, I hope to see you at the Royal Ball on Feb 23rd, and don’t worry, it is not necessary to kiss my royal hand. It’s more of a mandatory thing.

Prince Chris, signing off.

Official Princess Royal Ball