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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He told me it was for my desk at work, an offer which he has since rescinded, and I was so impressed that I shared it on all my social networks.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?

Fearless Kid

Fearless

“C’mon, dad! Let’s go exploring!”, she yelled as she ran into the small forested area we would soon refer to as “The Jungle”. She didn’t need me to follow along but invited me anyway, which was nice. Though you wouldn’t know from the fearless way that she leaped into the woods, part of me wanted to believe that my presence made her feel safer in there.

We ran through the jungle carrying sticks, just in case we ran into trouble, and popped out at an old wooden bridge that covered a small stream. I tried to explain to her that this was the bridge I used to hide under with my friends when I was her age, but she was way ahead of me in making her way underneath. She’s adventurous, this one. Just like her dad was at that age. We played troll under the bridge for a few minutes, with her insisting on being the troll even though I was perfect for the part, before moving on to the next adventure at a nearby park.

As we walked down the pathway to the park, I felt like I was walking through my past. We passed the creek where I used to catch frogs, the baseball diamond where I found out that I made my first competitive team, the high school where I broke out of my shell, and the park that I spent countless hours pushing my limits. You’d think twenty plus years would have had their way with these places but they all looked exactly the same as I had left them.

Exploring is tough work, so while I didn’t get the chance to stop and take in all the memories that were crashing around in my brain, I did relish the opportunity to create a new memory with her in a place that meant so much to me in my youth.

We left the park, walked through the baseball diamond across from the high school, crawled under the bridge and ran through the jungle back to our original starting point. “Did you have fun exploring with me, daddy?”

More than you will ever know, sweetheart.

Kindergarten Playground

A Moment In Time

Amidst the chaos in the fenced off kindergarten playground, I watched him quietly shovel sand into his bucket. If there has even been a time where I could ignore my surroundings and focus on a singular event like he was, I certainly can’t remember it. I realized today that I am lucky to have had the opportunity to hang around to watch him play and interact with potential new friends. Next year he will be thrust into the real world that is grade 1, where his school life will truly begin.

One of the most important things that being a parent has taught me is how to stop and enjoy a moment in time. This was going to be one of the last times that I would be able to watch him interact in the school yard and I was going to soak up every last second of it. At one point he glances over and flashes a smile my way. I played it totally cool, while my emotions raced with a thousand memories of his youth. It’s a lot harder to let go than I imagined it would be. He’s sheltered right now, with kids his own age, oblivious to what awaits beyond the steel gates of the kindergarten sanctuary. Soon he will learn about bullies, girls, structure and peer pressure, and I worry about whether I given him all the tools he needs to make the right decisions. Time will tell, I guess.

What I do know, is that I still have four months left with my kindergartner and I have no intention of rushing through that time. We’ll worry about bigger kids and heartbreak when we get to it, but for now, we’ve got some memories to create.

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!

Mr Zucchini Health Canada

Meet Mr. Zucchini!

I’d like you to meet, Mr. Zucchini! Mr. Zucchini was created by Health Canada as a way to talk to kids about eating well and also providing tips to parents on how to plan for a healthier lifestyle. I think this kind of creation is a perfect way to get children more engaged in the food choices they are making. To further prove that point, when I showed the above video to my kids, who are 3 & 5, they laughed hysterically and made me play it over and over again until I eventually just showed them how to do it themselves. Here’s hoping more of Mr. Zucchini will lead to them wanting to try some different foods!

For more information about this campaign, you can visit Health Canada’s Website!

I was compensated for my participation in this program.

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