Blue Jays Family Shot

A Weekend We’ll Never Forget

What started as just another travel baseball tournament weekend quickly morphed into one of the better trips we’ve had as a family in a while. A week before we were scheduled to leave for London, Ontario for my son’s baseball tournament, I was already whining in my head about the 6+ hour drive ahead. You see, I love the actual tournament experience, I just don’t like the driving part. It’s not even because of the kids because they are excellent passengers, it’s just the physical act of driving that I don’t enjoy at any time whatsoever.

To break up the trip a bit, we decided to take in a Toronto Blue Jays game the day before the tournament began. Through an exclusive opportunity from both Rogers and the Toronto Blue Jays organization, I managed to get passes to watch the Jays batting practice before the game, which I figured would be a cool way to make my son’s experience that much more special.

The batting practice sounded like it was going to be fun as we would get access to the stadium before the gates opened and I assumed we’d sit in the seats behind home plate, watch them hit and then leave. Imagine my surprise as they walked us out onto the field, right behind home plate, and plopped us mere feet away from the whole Blue Jays team, who were warming up right in front of us.

Had that been the whole experience we would have been more than happy, but then the players started coming over with game balls, signing them for the kids and taking pictures with them. My son stood, wide-eyed, as his favourite players passed by, high fiving the kids, and then it happened. While wearing his Aaron Sanchez jersey, my son looked up to see none other than Sanchez himself. I was so excited for him that I forgot to ask Aaron for a nice photo but I guarantee it’s something my boy will never forget.

Altuve Sanchez Baseball

All in all we got to meet players like Ezekiel Carrera, Ryan Goins, Danny Barnes, Roberto Osuna and manager, John Gibbons. Oh, and the fact that after the Jays finished batting practice, the potential MVP of the league from the Houston Astros, Jose Altuve, came over and posed for a picture with my son and signed his ball. I can’t say enough good things about these players and the Blue Jays organization for putting these kinds of things together.

The game itself was everything we could have asked for as well. A few other boys from the baseball team were there and the kids had a blast. We saw a Russ Martin homerun, Kevin Pillar made some Superman-like plays, we got the full Roberto Osuna experience and the Jays beat the best team in baseball! Oh, and our hotel, the Radisson Admiral, was a 3 minute walk from Rogers Centre, which, if you know downtown Toronto at all, is so incredibly convenient.

Speaking of the Radisson Admiral, I can’t imagine I will ever swim in another pool with a view like this one!

Radisson Admiral CN Tower Toronto

I woke up before the rest of my family the next morning, grabbed a Starbucks from the Radisson’s lobby (yeah, the Starbucks is IN the lobby!) and set out on a walk of Toronto’s Entertainment District. I can see why people love it there as it’s the best of both worlds, being so peaceful in the morning and so much fun at night. This is a trip I look forward to every year and it was magical as always.

Thank you so much to the Toronto Blue Jays organization, Rogers and the Radisson Admiral hotel for helping to make this a weekend we won’t soon forget!

Plate Clock

Learn to Tell Time with a Plate Clock

Want a fun way to teach your child to tell time? Making a plate clock is a great way for him to learn how to tell time in a way he’ll actually find exciting. He’ll love having an excuse to push veggies around his plate without getting in trouble for it. It may be a simple art project, but in no time, your child will be able to tell time, an important building block for other math skills.

What You Need:

White plate
Porcelain paint markers
Strips of vegetables
Oven

What You Do:

1. Ask your child to choose what colors he wants to use for the numbers.
2. Write number 1 on the plate in the 1 o’clock spot, then have your child tell you which number comes next as you write them clockwise on the plate with porcelain paint markers.
3. Place the plate in an oven and let the ink bake on. Follow the instructions on the package of markers to determine how long to leave the plate in and at what temperature. Make sure little fingers aren’t near the stove!
4. Once the plate is done baking, have your child set a trivet on the counter while you remove the plate using pot holders.
5. When the plate cools off, hand your child two vegetable strips, such as green beans or pepper strips. One should be slightly longer than the other to represent the minute and hour hands.
6. Now the fun begins! Ask him to show you different times on the clock plate using the vegetable strips. For example, if you ask him to show you 3 o’clock, the long pepper slice should be pointed at the 12 while the short green bean should be pointed at the 3.
7. Every time he eats a meal on the plate, periodically ask your child during the meal to show you the time using the vegetable strips. He’ll love playing with his food!

Plate Clock

The best thing about the plate clock is that it creates a learning opportunity at any meal. Use french toast sticks or sausage links at breakfast, sweet potato fries at lunch, and vegetable strips at dinner. Your child will be so busy playing with his food he won’t even realize how much he’s learning in the process!

*This is a guest post from Education.com*

SAHD Guest Post

Best Vacation Ever! {Guest Post}

We have another guest post on the blog today! Please welcome Canadian father, Ingus, who is Toronto-area photographer and new dad, learning the fine art of parenting a new baby girl. You can read about his wacky adventures at Dad Mode On blog!

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“So you’re going to be off for five months, eh? You’ll have plenty of time to catch up on Netflix!”
“Five months? You’re going to be playing so much Call of Duty!”
“That’s a long time, won’t you get bored?”

Before going on my parental leave, that was the typical response I received when I told family, friends, co-workers, or even strangers that I was taking close to half a year off for the birth of our daughter.

I began to think that being a dad for the first time was going to be a sweet vacation. I mean, I won’t have to be with the baby all the time, right?

I can binge watch a little, work on that photography project that I wanted to do for years, or play videogames like I did when I was a teenager.

This is going to be an awesome, awesome vacation!

Then on Christmas night- as cliché as it can be – our 7lbs 14oz bundle of joy arrived.

And in an instant, all of those silly thoughts disappeared.

I’m sure many of you parents can agree, the first month is a write-off. Your mind, body, and soul belongs to your new little blob. You can also agree that, though the first month is difficult for dad, it is 100 times more difficult for the new mom.

For my wife and I, we made use of the fact that I was going to be off for five months by ensuring that I would be as involved as possible.

We made sure that I was earning every single moment of this vacation.

The truth is, though my job and Employment Insurance (Go Canada!) allowed me to take more time than most others, we are still taking a hit financially to make it work. Not all families have this option, and I can understand the raised eyebrows when people learn how much time I’m taking off.

Of course, there are those who go a little further and undermine the decision that I’ve made, as they are perhaps even little jealous of my situation. Through their eyes, they see me as some lucky dude who has the luxury of taking five months off as a vacation.

However.

They don’t understand that when you’re off on parental leave, it’s not a vacation and that you also become more involved and accountable for your growing family unit. They don’t see the side where you are immediately available to take your wife and baby to the Emergency Room; or where you are able to call an ambulance in the middle of the night without having to tell your boss you won’t be in; or where you don’t have to ask a co-worker to cover for you after speaking to a telehealth nurse about your daughter’s fever.

They don’t see those things, and I suppose it may be my fault for only showing the good side. To them they only see the fruits of the work I put in – you know, those silly photos, status updates that I post on social media. The thing is this was not me bragging about my situation, this was just me relishing the hard earned vacation I was having.

SAHD Guest Post 2

I love (and am loving) every minute of it. If we have another kid and if it were financially feasible, I will no doubt choose to take the same or more time off.

You see, there’s also an added benefit to being there from the get-go: I am damn confident in my dad abilities.

She needs a changing after front and back poop… in the dark? Boom. Done.
She’s wearing button-on shirt today, with jeans and socks? Boom. Done.
She won’t burp? Burp. Done.
Mom needs to go out all day to help a friend? Done, and I’ll have dinner ready by six.

There’s no better feeling than to feel confident and competent as a father and husband. I sincerely feel that had I taken only a few weeks off, I don’t think I would feel the way that I feel right now.

Every day I am rewarded with something new from my daughter. Whether it was her first smile, first laugh, or most recently her first babbling conversation: I’m here to witness it.

And there’s no better thing in the world, and it was simply the best decision I ever made.

Now with two months left to go on my parental leave, it truly does feel like a vacation. Instead of binge-watching Netflix, I binge-watch my daughter figuring out the world. Instead of playing video games at night, I play how do we get her to sleep through the night.

I truly do not want it to end, as it really has become an awesome, awesome vacation.

SAHD Guest Post 3

Jason McNaught Guest Post Canadian Dad

From Zombie to Post-Op {Guest Post}

We have another guest post on the blog today! Please welcome Canadian father, Jason McNaught, who is a father to a three-year-old ninja-in-training, and loves every minute of it. In May, he will publish the first issue of The New Hip, an Ottawa-based lifestyle magazine for older adults. TheNewHip.com

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My wife and I knew something was wrong from the beginning. Tate hardly ever slept. He would wake up screaming almost every hour. I’d be at wit’s end, bouncing him on a ball, singing whatever came into my head (lots of times it was Amazing Grace for some reason). Nothing ever seemed to work, except for lying on his Mom’s chest when she was propped up by a couple of pillows.

We took some heat from those close to us about him always sleeping in our bed. After a few months, we got rid of the crib because we never used it.

It was a fluke, after a year of living life in a zombie-like haze, we discovered there actually was something wrong with Tate. My wife went to feed him in front of the doctor, and as soon as he got a mouthful of nipple he started to grunt like a suckling piglet. Turns out, he was struggling to breathe, not being cute.

When the doctor heard the noise, her eyebrow raised and she asked to look inside his mouth. “That’s not normal,” she said flatly.

Her diagnosis was quick, primarily because when she tried to look down Tate’s throat, her light didn’t travel very far. His tonsils were the size of a grown man’s … even when he wasn’t trying to feed, he was struggling to breathe.

An MRI, scheduled shortly after, confirmed what the doctor had suspected: Tate had sleep apnea. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just his tonsils that were causing problems. His adenoids were also abnormally large, and his nasal passages were narrower than normal.

The MRI was something else. Seeing your baby shoved into a clear plastic tube to keep him from moving, screaming bloody murder, struggling with all his might to free himself, not even remotely understanding why he was trapped there, why his parents weren’t responding to his cries for help … and then … being gently shoved into a larger tube, away from his parents, to the sound of strange, intermittent whirring.

Watching that is torture. At least, for my wife it was. I wasn’t there. It caught her off-guard. My wife and I both had MRIs before, and we knew it was painless. But then again, we’d never considered that, for Tate, it might be our equivalent of being abducted by aliens.

For those who aren’t sure what sleep apnea is, I really didn’t know a lot about it either. In fact, the extent of my knowledge was that it affected people who were obese and they commonly wore very uncomfortable masks to sleep. Formally, the Mayo Clinic defines Sleep Apnea as “a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts.”

I had no idea babies could have sleep apnea, and that was part of the reason it took us sooo long to get help. Just think about what happens when you tell another parent that your baby isn’t getting a lot of sleep at night. “Oh, yeah. I’ve been there,” is what you’ll get in response to that. You’ll never hear: “Your child isn’t sleeping at night? You need to take them to the hospital and get them checked out.”

It’s uncomfortable to think that, every time we put Tate onto his back after falling asleep in our arms, we were unknowingly allowing him to be choked by his own body. But that’s exactly what was happening. As soon as he’d relax, his tonsils and adenoids (a mass of soft tissue behind the nasal cavity) would close up his windpipe and he’d stop breathing. That was why he kept waking up screaming.

Fixing Tate’s sleep apnea was relatively straightforward, but not as fast as we had hoped. Even before seeing an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist, we could have guessed that Tate would need surgery to remove his adenoids and tonsils, but the bad news was that, because he was so young, they couldn’t remove them both at once. The risk of swelling and other complications was too high.

Between the first surgery to remove his adenoids removed, and the second surgery to remove his tonsils, we waited approximately a year. During that time, Tate’s breathing — although it showed initial improvement with the removal of his tonsils — became progressively worse.

A few months before the removal of his tonsils, we were back at the doctor again. A quick examination revealed that were blocking 70% of his airway. Although we had moved him into his own bed at that point (at least, he started the night there), we would lie awake and listen to him subconsciously fight to get air. It was noisy … and frightening.

After Tate’s second surgery, his life improved dramatically. Without sleep, parts of his development had been slow. His hair was thin, he hadn’t been able to gain weight, and his eyes had permanent dark circles, almost like a raccoon’s. Tate had been known secretly among our family as “Rage Baby”. My wife was often the only person that could console him. He spent parts of the day absolutely hysterical — crying and screaming for no apparent reason.

Three weeks after the removal of his tonsils, his hair began to grow thicker, he put on a little weight, and finally … he started to sleep through most of the night, and those dark circles faded away. His rage also subsided, although not completely. Perhaps our son was born a bit of a curmudgeon. We’re still figuring that one out.

The best lesson I can teach about this experience is to trust your instincts as a parent. Our doctor told us that, had we been absolutely steadfast in our resolve to have him sleep in his crib, on his back, there was a chance that he might have stopped breathing … and not woken up.

Fortunately, my wife resisted the gentle prodding from friends and family to let him “cry it out” in that crib, and instead stuck to the only thing she found to work: propping herself up on a few pillows and putting Tate on her chest. That decision, said our doctor, was the one thing that might have saved his life. The sound of her slow, steady breath triggered his brain to breathe too, and that semi-upright position kept his airway open.

Finally, if you get the feeling that something with your child just isn’t right, even if it is as common as not sleeping, make an appointment with your doctor and talk to them. Put aside the feelings about wasting their time, because you are not a healthcare expert. If you think something is wrong with your child, let a doctor make the final call. Better you think you’re crazy than to find out you weren’t after the fact.

Hand In Hand

What You Get When You Give {Guest Post}

Today we bring a new era on the blog by welcoming our very first guest post! Please welcome Canadian father, Jamie Schmidt, from the blog A Crock of Schmidt!

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It happens without warning. Usually right about the time I’m rounding up the kids I’m supervising on a field trip in order to get them to a scheduled classroom session, to the designated lunch spot, or to begin the walk back to school. I call out their names, which I’ve hopefully gotten straight by now, and like a kindly but firm drill sergeant, shout their marching orders.

“Alright troops, time to go. Let’s boogie!”

Then it happens. A small hand belonging to someone else’s child, a child I may have just met for the first time that very day, will reach out and take hold of mine in order to walk with me hand-in-hand to wherever we are going. They don’t ask nor do they hesitate, they just do. With a warm smile on their face and happy skip in their step. This simple act of friendship is without a doubt the greatest reward of being a parent volunteer.

This has been a watershed year for me when it comes to involvement in my kids’ lives. Now, hearing me say that might cause the raising of a few eyebrows considering I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for the past eight years, but there is some truth to the statement.

This past September marked the first time that both of my children would attend school full days, a moment I only half cheekily referred to as the greatest day of my life. No longer constrained by having the younger sibling under my care at home, I was finally free to equally avail myself for volunteer opportunities in both my son and daughter’s classrooms. This was a long time in coming, as I’m sure my daughter, the eldest, would swiftly affirm.

Not one to inch my way into the deep end of the pool, okay that’s not true but it makes for a good, albeit clichéd, metaphor, I dove headfirst into as many volunteer opportunities as I could. So much so, in fact, that I’m now the room parent for my daughter’s class which means I assist the teacher by finding parent volunteers for various in-school and off-campus activities. It’s the surest way to guarantee I’m always picked for the field trips I want to go on. What, you thought I was it for altruistic reasons?

My new-found vigor in volunteering even extends outside of school as I am also, for the first time ever, a volunteer assistant coach on both my kids’ minor hockey teams. This particular avenue of volunteering (and meddling) in my kids’ lives is one I’ve desperately tried to avoid. I’m all too wise as to the pitfalls of parents coaching kids. I don’t think I’m one of “those” hockey parents, nor were mine, I just know that my kids, like most, myself included, respond to the guidance of non-familial coaches far better than dear old dad. Never let it be said I don’t learn from history. But this year I was asked to help by my son’s coach who urgently needed extra parents on the ice and my son eagerly gave his approval. Of course, once I committed to his team it took but a single forlorn, watery-eyed look from my daughter before I was committed to her team as well.

The results have been exactly as expected and also the complete opposite. Yes, my kids hate when I “coach” them on the ice but we’re all having a blast being out there together. What’s even better is how much I’ve enjoyed bonding with all these other kids I’m now interacting with. I didn’t see that coming. Much like I didn’t see the same thing happening with the other children in my kids’ classes either. It’s not that I dislike youngsters, I just sort of assumed they’d see me as yet another crusty adult enforcing rules and other indignities of childhood.

And yeah, I am also scared of their unceasing energy and tendency to mob any poor sap who mistakenly exhibits a willingness to engage them in play or possess a natural and uncontrollable magnetism that attracts children like cherry stains to picture day attire, but I do like them. Just, you know, in moderate, scientifically approved doses. Hey, don’t judge me; I once licked a kitchen floor to “entertain” a seven year old!

Five months have now passed since that infamous “greatest day of my life” and in a way that great day has never ended. I’ve made enough classroom appearances that all the kids now know who I am. I regularly get friendly hellos at the playground or when passing on their way to the bus taking them home. I’ll even get some mischievous looks followed by playful punches to the gut or a roguishly accusatory pointing of the finger. My kids love this recognition too. They’re the ones with the (reasonably) cool dad. For now, at least, I’m a source of pride to them which is pretty cool too.

And then there’s the hand-holding. Sometimes I’ll even get a hug. One hundred percent initiated by the children, boys and girls alike, with no forethought or reason; just honest, spontaneous demonstrations of kindness and appreciation. The same thing happens at the hockey rink. Except the hand-holding, of course, because, well, it’s hockey. On the ice, kinship is shared via staged fisticuffs and change room ribbing. The means may be different but the message is the same. All are perfect little moments for me. It’s like experiencing the Grinch’s heart growing three sizes each and every time.

So yes, it has been a watershed year for me. An eye-opening one and a heart-warming one as well. In a world drunk with selfishness, intolerance, and ego; where unpleasant people monopolize our attention and the nice ones seem ever fewer in numbers; where our fears too often trump our compassion; and where the simple, human act of physically expressing fondness is wrought with wariness and openly discouraged, I have been fortunate to experience the sweetness of kids. Gentle, honest, terrific kids, not yet sullied by the harsh realities of life or tempted by the darker urges of humanity … well, usually.

I’m lucky to be getting to know them and earning their trust and friendship. They haven’t a clue of the joy they’ve given me this year. All thanks to a simple holding of a hand.