STIHL Neighbour Kids

Tips On How To Be A Good Neighbour!

Having lived in the same house for almost a decade now, I have managed to develop a pretty good relationship with my neighbours. I know that we live in a different world than our parents did, when all neighbours talked and hung out all the time, so I wanted to share some tips on how you can achieve neighbourly success!

In no particular order, here are my Top 5 tips for being a great neighbour:

1. Watch Their Pool For Them While They Are Away

STIHL Pool Swim

Look, being a good neighbour is a tough job and sometimes you have to bite the bullet and agree to take care of your neighbour’s pool for a few days in the summer while they are away. It not a fun job but it is your duty as a good neighbour to get in that pool and make sure it is staying at a reasonable temperature. How would you feel if you came home from vacation to a cold pool???

2. Help With Yard Maintenance

STIHL Neighbour Helper

Living in Canada, there are many factors that go into helping out with property maintenance. For instance, I share a lawn with a neighbour who works multiple jobs to support his family, so I generally take care of the front yard work for the both of us. In the winter, however, I will often find my walkway cleared of snow very early in the morning.

Everyone plays a role or has a “toy” that they use to help others. One of my neighbours bought a snow blower and helps clear the piles of snow at the bottom of the driveway after the plow comes. I have been enjoying being the neighbour that owns the STIHL Lithium-Ion Cordless Chainsaw because it feels good to know you’re contributing something to the area. Just the other day, I noticed a neighbour using a handsaw while trying to dig up some roots from a plant they were moving. It would have taken them hours to get it done, but because my STIHL Chainsaw is both cordless and lightweight, it got the job done in minutes. Needless to say, we spent a good hour admiring our work afterward but that’s because we were so impressed with how quickly the STIHL chainsaw got the job done! Bonus feature that helps in being a good neighbour: the STIHL Lithium-Ion MSA 120 Chainsaw is over 17 decibels quieter than the gas powered MS 170 chainsaw, making it as quiet as an electric drill. This feature significantly reduces neighborhood noise levels and will create much less of a disturbance for your neighbours when pulling out your chainsaw for required yard work.

3. Driveway Rental Service (With Optional Sangria!)

STIHL Driveway Friends

No good neighbourhood would be complete without a musical chairs of driveway parties! It really is the best way to get to know your neighbours, after-all. Everyone brings a couple food items, the kids get some water play in and the grown-ups settle in for some relaxation after a busy work week. Ours happen to include sangria but you make yours work in your own way!

4. Take Turns Watching Each Other’s Kids

STIHL Neighbour Kids

Look, it takes a village to raise kids, right? Well, in this case, sometimes it takes a minivan, 1 hour of trampoline time and a dinner at Lonestar, while you and your significant other spend uninterrupted time doing what you both love to do. That’s right, I’m talking about napping.

5. Provide Pet Sitting Services

STIHL Pet Sitting

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have a strict “no pets” rule at the moment. With kids in competitive sports and our work schedules being different, I feel it would be irresponsible of us to subject a dog to that much alone time. That said, I don’t mind borrowing pets from time to time and we have had guests such as hamsters, gerbils, fish and even a dog a couple times. It definitely goes a long way to keeping the “Pro Pet” folks in our house happy, which is basically everyone but me…

These are just a few of the things that have worked for us and hopefully they work for you, too! My suggestion is to go grab some hamburgers and maybe even one of STIHL’s Lithium-Ion Chainsaws, so you can start on your way to winning at neighbouring!

Disclosure: I was provided a STIHL Lithium-Ion Cordless Chainsaw to facilitate this post.

Viamede Resort Family Getaway

Viamede Resort Is The Perfect Family Getaway!

We had the privilege of being invited to spend the past weekend at the wonderful Viamede Resort on Stoney Lake in Woodview, Ontario. While you may have seen some of my posts on social media, I wanted to write out a bit more about the trip so you can understand why we can’t wait to visit again!

The main thing that sets Viamede apart from other resorts we’ve stayed at is that from the moment you check in, you feel as though you are part of a small community. The staff were all very welcoming and especially amazing with the kids. The other guests felt like neighbours by the end of the weekend and we were free to do as many or as few of the activities as we wanted, any time we felt like doing them. Need more proof? One of the unlisted activities was the ability to take the owner’s golden retriever for a walk if you wanted to get some extra exercise. How cool is that?

Viamede Resort View

As small as the resort felt, there was actually so much to do that a weekend wasn’t enough time to get to it all. On my list for our next visit are a game of Disc Golf with my son, a fancy dinner at Mount Julian with my wife, fishing and an afternoon in the activity field, playing soccer with my daughter. That said, we did get a lot of fun in during our stay, so here are a few highlights!

Turtle Catching!

Viamede Resort Turtles

During dinner on our first night, Viamede owner, Ben Samann came into the restaurant with a baby snapping turtle and brought it around the tables so the kids could hold it. When he mentioned that there could be more baby turtles making the treacherous trip across the parking lot in the coming days, I knew it meant that my animal loving daughter would be out there for the rest of the trip.

Considering they are the size of a small rock, I was skeptical that we would find any more turtles but my daughter is persistent and wouldn’t you know it, she found not one, but TWO more baby turtles the next day! Seeing the excitement in her face as she brought them to the front desk is something I won’t soon forget. They got them some water and kept them at the front desk for everyone to visit throughout the day and my daughter beamed with pride as they pointed her out as the rescuer. This was the highlight of the trip for me and I was even more proud when she turned down the reward of 25 cents per turtle because she was just happy they were going to make it safely to the lake.

The Food!

I mentioned earlier that we didn’t get a chance to visit the Mount Julien restaurant but we did have multiple meals at The Boathouse and they were all equally excellent, especially the french fries! I don’t want to say I am a picky eater but once I find something I like at a restaurant, I generally stick with it. I decided to go with a new meal all three times we visited The Boathouse and I may have to start broadening my horizons at other restaurants as well! The meal plan also comes with a dessert and I want to give a special shout-out to the Apple Fritters & Ice Cream I had with every meal. I’m still dreaming of you and can’t wait until we meet again.

The Water

Viamede Resort Lake Pool Kayak

While the pool is always a highlight of any family vacation, Viamede Resort outdoes all of that by providing 3 different options for water fun! First and foremost, there is the beach on Stoney Lake. What I really loved about Viamede is that they had canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and life jackets just sitting down by the water. No need to sign in and out, you just take what you want to use and enjoy yourself! As you can see from the picture above, I decided to try something new and it may or may not have worked out for me… Oh, they also has a sweet water trampoline out on the lake, which my kids had some epic battles on!

Viamede Resort Pool

On top of the fun at the lake, there are also 2 pools! One outdoor pool for the hot days and an amazing indoor pool that ensures you can still have fun in the water in case a storm rolls through. I will say that we spent quite a bit of time in the indoor pool because it was mostly empty and they had this really cool waterway that went from indoors to outdoors. The kids thought that was hilarious and had a blast in the water!

Endless List of Activities!

Viamede Resort Activities

I mentioned earlier that there was so much to do at Viamede that we couldn’t fit it all in, but we did get quite a bit accomplished during our short stay. To be honest, we probably could have done more but turtle catching fever really took over. That said, Viamede has a cool little farm on site that you can check out at your leisure. There were baby pigs and turkeys, as well as some very loud and awesome roosters. On top of that, we spent many hours playing ping pong, foosball, darts, basketball, yoga, tennis and many more activities that are freely accessible throughout the stay.

Viamede Resort Farm Piglets

All in all we had a blast at Viamede Resort and will absolutely be back again! It was the perfect balance between relaxation and excitement, with some amazing food thrown in! I’m happy to answer any questions you all may have about the resort in case you decide to check it out for yourself.

Viamede Resort Boathouse Pub

Disclosure: We were invited to stay at Viamede Resort as their guests for the weekend. That said, it was amazing and we can’t wait to return next summer!

Medieval Times Toronto Knights

Why Medieval Times Is A Must-Visit Attraction!

I love a good sporting event as much as the next person and with professional sports teams in all 5 major sports, Toronto is definitely not lacking in the “things to do” department. Other than soccer, I have attended events for each of the other 4 sports on multiple occasions, but there’s one Toronto attraction missing from the list that might be my favourite of them all.

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Medieval Times was kind enough to host my family this past weekend for an evening of fun, fighting and amazing food! It was at least my 5th time attending the Toronto Castle and every visit has been more fun than the last. Honestly, which other sporting event can you attend where they actually encourage you to be rowdy and taunt the other opponents?? Sure, you COULD do that at a baseball game but you will definitely end up as the center of attention as people turn away from you, embarrassed.

If you’ve never been to Medieval Times before, the premise is that there are 6 knights who battle it out in a last man standing competition. Each spectator is assigned a knight to cheer for and are also told which knight is their arch nemesis so you can boo them mercilessly! We drew the yellow knight this time around and while there are no pictures of me during the show, I can assure you that our arch nemesis, the blue knight and his fans, knew who I was by the end of the show!

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Besides the amazing show, there are many other reasons to love the Medieval Times experience. One such reason is that every time your knight succeeds in an event, he gets a flower to hand out to one lucky fan in his section. For the 2nd year in a row, guess who got the first flower?? Now, you might think to yourself, “who cares, it’s just the top of a carnation?”, but I can assure you that the excitement on her face was enough to melt this dad’s heart.

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Finally, it would be ridiculous to talk about how great Medieval Times is without discussing the meal. I will admit as a parent to picky eaters, my kids didn’t eat too much of the meal but that simply meant more chicken and potatoes for dad! Seriously, though, the food at Medieval Times is absolutely amazing! I’m always fascinated when a meal that is being made for over a hundred people still tastes like I would expect from a restaurant.

Medieval Times Toronto Meal

And yes, we couldn’t resist the spoils from the gift shop… If you haven’t visited the Medieval Times Toronto Castle, or any other castle, that is, I highly recommend giving it a shot the next time your family is nearby. My only advice to you is that you go into it ready to be loud and to have fun!

Medieval Times Toronto

Disclosure: Medieval Times hosted my family for our most recent visit to the Toronto Castle, however I have loved the show since the first time I went.

Disney Dream Cruise Ship

My Completely Biased, Non-Objective Review Of Our Disney Cruise

Yep, you read the title correctly. As I sat here and framed out this blog post, I realized that I didn’t have a single bad thing to say about our recent trip aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship. We were there as part of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration conference but my opinion of the cruise has nothing to do with that either. It was just a really, really fun experience and is something we are absolutely going to do again!

Let me walk through it from start to finish as best I can remember it all. I’ll try to throw in some tips along the way but seeing as how it was my first Disney cruise, what the heck do I know about tips and tricks? That said, tip #1 is to try to get an early boarding time if possible. Boarding was quick and easy, with the added touch of having your family announced on the loud speakers as you walk onto the ship as the staff are all lined up clapping for you. It felt like we were walking the red carpet! I say to try to board early because we walked by the main lobby a couple hours later and people were still being announced! All I could think of was how sore the staff members’ hands would be from all the clapping.

Disney Dream Sail Away Party

Tip #2, which probably should have been tip #1, is to download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app. You will get an itinerary left in your room each day but the app was a far better resource in finding out what was happening on the ship at any given time. It’s also handy for its chat feature in case you get split up on the ship. We mostly used it to find out when the character meetings would be so we could get there early to avoid lines.

Disney Dream Cinderella

Speaking of Disney characters, they were everywhere! There was definitely no shortage of character meetings and we never saw a line that was excessively long. On the last night of the cruise, you are treated to a long list of characters and it was amazing to see both children and adults alike, myself included, smiling for pictures with Mickey, Minnie and the gang. You can’t help but relive a bit of your childhood while surrounded by so much joy.

Disney Dream Mickey and Dad

Oh, Tip #3, which should actually be tip #1, then bumping the last tip that should have been #1 to #2… Anyway, you should definitely pre-plan your vacation in advance by reading reviews of the ship and even joining a Disney cruise group or two on Facebook. They are incredibly helpful and will have you feeling like a cruise veteran from the minute you get on the ship. Knowing about things like door magnets, fish extenders, pirate night and where the best seats are for the shows can really enhance your experience.

Speaking of the shows, every single one of them was amazing! I’m not just talking about the shows in the beautiful Walt Disney Theatre either. The sail away party, fireworks display and pirate party were all really fun for the kids as well. Tip #4, we grabbed the same spot on the upper deck, right next to the stage for each show and it was a great view for the kids. There isn’t tiered viewing from the main deck so it made it seem like if you weren’t in the front row, you wouldn’t get the best view of the fun. Also, we spent the extra money on pirate makeovers at the Pirates League in the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and the kids ended up looking amazing and loving their new pirate looks. I have to admit I was skeptical about spending the money, as it wasn’t cheap, but it was totally worth it.

Disney Dream Pirate Night

I forgot to mention the big production shows! Not being a big theatre guy, I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy the shows on board the Disney Dream but they absolutely blew my mind! The first night we were treated to the Golden Mickeys, which was an award show with some amazing performances. Tip #5, maybe, if your kids like to be a part of the shows, you’ll want to sit in the front row for this one as Snow White needs a few extra dwarves and that’s where we saw them pick the kids from. The next night we were treated to a Beauty and the Beast show that easily could have been on Broadway, not that I’ve ever been to Broadway, but in my mind it was Broadway-worthy! Finally, the show I was least interested in attending prior to attending was called Disney’s Believe. As it turns out, it ended up being my favourite of the trip and not just because it was the story of a workaholic father and a daughter who wants him to find his imagination again. So what if I cried during the show, it’s totally acceptable in today’s society!

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Where was I? Ah yes, the shows were great and the popcorn was even better, which brings us to Tip #6. Not everything is covered on the trip. Popcorn is one of those things but you can cut the cost considerably by purchasing the refillable container on your first day aboard the Disney Dream. Refills are only about $1 after that so you and your kids can enjoy as much as you want without breaking the bank!

Since I mentioned food, we might as well talk about it. This might be the single greatest reason why I would choose a Disney Cruise over almost any other vacation from now on. Every meal I ate became the greatest meal I have ever had and while that sounds like an exaggeration, I promise you I was melting into my seat with each bite. I’m a terrible food photographer but I am excellent at eating food, so I mostly stuck to that skill.

Disney Dream Family Dinner

We had a couple meals at the Enchanted Palace, including (tip #7) lunch immediately after boarding the ship, which I highly recommend doing as it is not very busy at this time. We also ate dinner at the Royal Palace and Animator’s Palate, both of which were excellent. Animator’s Palate was neat because there were video screens on the walls and characters were pop up from time to time and talk to them. I’d also love to give a shout-out to our dinner crew, Ravindra and I Made, who made our dining experience a magical one. From making Mickey Mouse out of ketchup blobs to performing magic tricks for the kids throughout our stay, they were the best duo we could have asked for. Side note and tip #8, there are 2 dinner service times, so make sure you sign up for the one you want way before your trip. Our kids are better suited for the 8pm time slot, so it worked out that I screwed up and didn’t pick one in time. You have no excuse now!

Hands down, the coolest feature on the Disney Dream cruise ship has to be the Kids Club. What is Kids Club, you ask? Well, Kids Club is a magical section of the ship where you simply drop your kids off and then go up to your room for a nap, errr, I mean, you go off and explore all the fun places on the ship that kids aren’t allowed to go, such as the adults only swimming area, packed with a pool, hot tub, lounge chairs and bar service.

Disney Dream Games Room Kids Club

Back to Kids Club, it is a place for kids to hang out any time throughout the day or night to not only give parents some time alone but also for the kids to have a blast and meet other kids. We were allowed to tour the club during the open house on the first day but it was no parents allowed from that point on. Kids Club has a video game room, a movie room, a craft room and a ton of activities planned throughout the cruise such as baking and slime making. There is also an amazing mock-up of the Millennium Falcon that you can sit in and control. Yes, I was jealous. The security is extremely tight when picking the kids up and you get to create a secret password that you have to tell the counsellor before taking your kids out of the club. Tip #9, don’t pick a stupid password like I did because you will be forced to continue saying it throughout the weekend and it never starts to sound less dumb.

Disney Dream Milennium Falcon Kids Club

Also, of note, you know how you go out for dinner and your kids finish their meals before you’ve even taken your first bite of food and then they pepper you with questions and hang off your arms talking about how bored they are for the rest of the meal? Yeah, not on the Disney Dream! One hour after you have been seated, counsellors from the Kids Club come into the restaurant and take your kids to the club with them so you and your significant other can enjoy the rest of your meal, and possibly a fancy drink, and possibly dessert, and maybe a 2nd dessert…

I talked about the adult’s only pool area but there were also a bunch of bars/clubs on the ship for the after-hours crowd. While I’m not much of an after-hours person these days, I did spend a couple nights in the very fancy, Pink, bar. While it is technically a champagne bar, our server, Pen, was more than happy to grab us our favourite IPAs from the bar next door. Tip #10, the next time you cruise on the Disney Dream, please go in and say hi to Pen for me. She was a great host and loves entertaining people!

Disney Dream Kids Ship

Look, even I’m tired of writing at this point but this stuff is important, so stay with me here another couple minutes, okay? I only have a couple more things and then I’ll finish with a flurry of extra short form notes.

The Disney Dream 3-night cruise docks at Nassau, Bahamas and again at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, which is pronounced Castaway “Key” for some reason I never bothered to ask about. When I found out that there was a Castaway 5K run, that also came with a fancy medal, I decided to register myself and the kids. It was a lot tougher than I expected and the kids embarrassed me by lapping me and laughing while they did it… Still, I finished, got the medal and then ate some delicious BBQ on the beach!

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Castaway Cay was definitely one of the bigger highlights of the trip for us. Even with her cast on, my daughter had an amazing time in the water, which, by the way, was ice cold, as I pulled her around in an inner tube. We shared fancy, age appropriate drinks, ate amazing BBQ food and lounged like we never have before. There are plenty of excursions you can book for your day on the island but we choose to make it as relaxing a day as possible, which was absolutely the right call for us.

Disney Dream Castaway Cay

Okay, I promised to end with a flurry, so here are a few other notes from our time on the Disney Dream!

1. I was very impressed with the emphasis put on cleanliness aboard the Disney Dream. Not that I expected it to be gross but the ship was immaculate. Every restaurant, event and especially the Kids Club required you to either wash your hands or use a sanitizing wipe before entering and it was great to see how seriously they treated those pesky germs!

2. Our cruise director, Mike, was amazing. We met him on day 1 and he told my daughter he’d have to sign her cast later in the trip. Well, true to his word, we found him on our last night and he not only signed her cast but spent some time asking her about herself. What a great guy!

3. We found out that you can order milk & cookies before bed through room service. Consider this Tip #11.

4. Finally, a huge shout out to Shilpa in Guest Services, who definitely had the biggest positive impact on the trip for us. I can’t really get into it because I’m not sure if she was supposed to do what she did for the kids, but rest assured, they will never forget her kindness, and neither will we. Disney has a great one in her and if you happen to be aboard the Disney Dream, you should definitely go down and give her a high five for us!

Disney Dream Family

I’m sure there are a million things I forgot to talk about but this should cover all your basic needs when it comes to climbing aboard a Disney cruise for the first time! It quite literally was a dream come true to sail aboard the Disney Dream and we will absolutely return for a future cruise! That said, if you do have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or shoot me an email chris@canadiandad.com! Cheers!

Gymnastics Dad

The Rewards Of Being A Gymnastics Dad

I probably should have written this story sooner but life is busy sometimes, okay, so back off!! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. You guys are great! I’ve told the story before of how my daughter was the first girl born into my dad’s side of the family in over 70 years, so my entire journey of fathering a daughter to date has been new, challenging, rewarding and amazing.

One of the many differences has been with my daughter’s choice of extra-curricular activities. I played hockey and baseball for as long as I can remember and my son followed in those same footsteps, even though I tried to get him to try other sports. My daughter, however, found her love in gymnastics, and man is she ever good at it! Every time I see her do a new move, it feels like the most incredible feat I have ever seen.

Although I know nothing about gymnastics, I still like being a part of the gym and help out whenever I can. My daughter’s coach, knowing that I try to be a team player, had asked me if I would do a little performance with my daughter for the Christmas showcase and naturally, I agreed. The idea was simply that my daughter would do a move and I would then try to replicate that move in front of all the parents and children in attendance. Easy enough, right?

Well, what actually ended up happening was that my daughter and I ended up choreographing an entire routine to surprised everyone in attendance. A couple notes about this. First, I was waaaay more nervous than I expected I would be, which then caused my foot to cramp up minutes before we went on. Second, the video below was posted to Facebook and now has over 2 million views, which is crazy! Finally, no, I don’t know how I nailed that first cartwheel and failed so badly on the other. I’m guessing it was a combination of age and lack of grace…

Luckily for me, there wasn’t too much pain the next day, although I’m guessing the shock of the video going viral probably helped. We never expected so many people to love the routine but I am so grateful that everyone got to see just how talented my little girl is! I wasn’t sure about this gymnastics thing when she started in it but it has ended up being an extremely important and rewarding part of our lives.

So, without further ado, and if you haven’t seen it, please enjoy what was one of the best nights of my life!

DisneySMMC

Do You Believe In Disney Magic?

Last week I had the good fortune to have been invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in Orlando, Florida. Like most attendees, I brought my entire family to the conference, which took place for 3 days at Coronado Springs Resort in Walt Disney World and then 3 days at sea aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship.

Now, before I continue, let’s address the topic of the conference title. You may not know this but I am not a mom and neither were the other 7 dads in attendance. Do I wish the conference were called Family or Parent Celebration? Sure, that’d be swell. That said, I recognize a couple things here. First, there are 190 or so moms in attendance and 8 dads, although I know more dads were invited. This is essentially the mom to dad ratio in blogging, so I get it. Second, they did an amazing job at saying both moms and dads while on stage all week, and I was never made to feel out of place, so I’m over it.

Let’s move on.

DisneySMMC Chewbacca Family

Dad’s Favourite Character Meeting Of The Week!

The reason for this story is that I went into the conference stressed about how I was going to balance attending sessions with spending quality time with my family. On top of that, I had seen how excited people were about attending and I was feeling guilty because I didn’t understand why everyone was so hyped up. I mean, we’ve been to Walt Disney World before and it has always been fun, if not hectic, but this was a next level excitement that I hadn’t felt since Joe Carter hit the homerun to win the Blue Jays the World Series in 1993!

DisneySMMC Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Next Level Excitement On The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Ride

It wasn’t until the tail end of the opening conference session that I started to understand it. Disney Parks & Resorts Director of Corporate Citizenship, John Breckow, took to the stage and talked to us about Disney’s charitable efforts, with specific emphasis on the Make-A Wish Foundation. He spoke so sincerely about their efforts that you could tell this wasn’t just a Disney executive trying to sell you on why they are great. He really cared about helping kids and I joked with him afterward that no one had ever made me cry that many times in such a short period of time but the stories were so powerful that you couldn’t help but well up. The larger message of his presentation was that Disney tries to say, “Yes”, as much as humanly possible and this was proven to us multiple times throughout our trip.

Dad Dancing DIsneySMMC

Letting Go And Being Part Of The Show At Animal Kingdom!

After John’s presentation, I felt like I was in a trance for the rest of the week. You might know me as a happy-go-lucky dad on the blog but the truth is that I can be a grump at times and things that might normally have bothered me on this trip were quickly brushed aside as I was able to focus only on the good that was happening around me. Essentially what happened was that I was able to revert back to seeing Disney through a child’s eyes, while also enjoying watching my own children’s excitement as their father, if that makes any sense? I felt just as excited to see characters like Mickey, Minnie, Sully and Chewbacca as my kids were and it felt great to allow myself to feel that type of childish joy.

Dad Mickey Minnie DisneySMMC

Hanging With Mickey & Minnie at #DisneySMMC

I’m not going to get into every minor detail of our trip in this post but wanted to leave with this message. Visiting Walt Disney World is a once in a lifetime trip for a lot of families and you will get a lot more enjoyment out of your stay if you allow yourself to see the parks through a child’s eyes. Buy the memory maker package and jump in to the character pictures with your kids. Ride “It’s A Small World” 20 times, sing along each time and make sure to do the actions on the restaurant signs while you are in line for it. Be a parent who is also a child at heart and your experience will be a magical one!

Hockey Kid

It’s Not About Me. It’s Not About Me. It’s Not…

Letting go of things is hard for me, but with the help of my kids I’m learning. My son is a fairly athletic kid. He actually reminds me a lot of myself at his age. Good at everything but not quite a superstar at anything, yet. It’s a good spot to be in.

He plays house league hockey and has been having a lot of fun, which is the point, right? I used to sign him up for extra skating sessions and camps but this season he told me he doesn’t want to do any of the extra stuff because he doesn’t enjoy it. He said he still loves hockey, just not the extra things.

Although I fought him on it a little bit, I ultimately respected his wishes and stopped booking extra stuff. I guess I just see that he has so much potential and want him to be able to unleash it as he grows. The thing is, he’s happier without it, and it took me until this season to realize that that’s enough. In fact, that’s everything.

MVP Hockey

All smiles with his MVP award!

I didn’t get picked as a coach this year, so I get to watch from the stands. I find myself holding my breath with anticipation of my son’s next turn on the ice. He works so hard out there and makes me proud every single shift. I’m serious, between his work on the ice and his sister’s in the gym, I’m ashamed of the amount of time I waste in my daily life.

The point here being, we all want our kids to be the best at the things they choose to love, but it needs to be on their terms. We stopped doing the extra ice times and yet he is still excelling because he loves the sport and works his tail off. Sure, it took me a while to figure it all out but I’ve arrived at the point of acceptance and it has been a fun ride watching him smile out there!

I’m never more proud than when other parents come up to me after a game to let me know that they think my son played great. If only he was this enthusiastic about his homework…

Tough Kid

Toughness Comes In All Sizes

I can still vividly remember the high school gym class where I suffered my first, and only, major injury. We were learning to play rugby, a bad idea to begin with, when I took a hit in the back from one of the rougher kids in the school. He fell on my knee and I felt a distinct popping sound, only to find out later that day that I had torn ligaments in my knee.

It was an especially bad time for this particular injury as I had worked my way into the 2nd of 4 tryouts for the Team Ontario fastball team, with a chance to tryout for Team Canada if you made it. I’m under no delusion that I would have made Team Canada but the option was most definitely gone now.

What I remember most about this time was how I started feeling sorry for myself. I stopped rehabbing as hard as I could and spent a lot of time sulking around while my friends and teammates had another championship season. Because they felt bad, I received an invite to the final Team Ontario camp the following year but by that point I had already given up on myself.

I tell this story because last week my daughter broke her arm while training at gymnastics and it felt very similar to my story, with one minor difference. She’s been training 20 hours a week at the gym for the last year and was to have her first competition this coming week, so the timing couldn’t have been worse. We were devastated for her because she works so incredibly hard, as do all the girls, and we weren’t sure how she was going react to not being able to compete. If I’m being completely honest, we were also sad that we wouldn’t get to see all her hard work pay off in competition.

Broken Arm Gymnast

The difference between my story and my daughter’s is the way she has handled everything so far. While there have been a couple moments of frustration at not being able to do something she was used to doing, she has generally been all smiles and remained our happy little warrior. In fact, one week after the break she was back at the gym on her regular schedule, with a modified workload from her coach. We were nervous about letting her go back so soon but she begged and the doctor said it was fine, so we caved.

I have never been more proud of her than when a man approached me at practice on her first day back and asked if that was my daughter out there training with a cast in a sling. When I replied yes, he congratulated me on raising such a tough daughter and it opened my eyes to just how strong she is, both physically and mentally. Her love for this gym and motivation to be great at this sport is something that I carry with me every day.

She may not have gotten this strength from me but I am learning a lot about toughness from watching her, not just through this, but in general with the way she carries herself. She is absolutely a poster child for the fact that strength comes in all sizes.

Beautiful Gymnast

Screaming Fans, An Historic Result & What Not To Do In Montreal

We recently took a whirlwind 24 hour trip to Montreal to see the World Gymnastics Championships and I had no idea so much could happen in that short an amount of time. Allow me to explain.

As mentioned, a large portion of the gymnasts at our daughter’s gym decided to make the 2-hour trip to Montreal for the weekend to watch the World Gymnastics Championships. While we were excited to see all the gymnasts perform and to cheer on our Canadian team, the girls were most excited to see Canadian Olympian Ellie Black perform and she did not disappoint!

With the girls decked out in their ‘Team Ellie’ shirts, they watched as Ellie Black became the first Canadian gymnast ever to win a medal in the all-around competition at the World Championships! I’ll save my rant for why this didn’t get more mainstream sports media coverage for another time…

Daddy Daughter Gymnastics

Watching the girls, each decked out with their own waving Canadian flag, cheer for their favourite gymnasts was my favourite part of the event as you could see the love of the sport in their eyes throughout the entire competition. I actually found myself getting a bit jealous as I’m not sure I’ve ever been as passionate for anything, outside of poutine, than these girls are about gymnastics. Side note: having been to see the Montreal Canadiens live in Montreal, I have to say that the crowd noise for Ellie and Brooklyn Moors would have given the Habs a run for their money!

We actually arrived in Montreal extra early on Friday so we could check in to our amazing hotel, the Residence Inn Montreal Downtown, and then head over to the Montreal Biodome! Tickets to the Biodome were kindly provided to us by the incredible people at Montreal Tourism, and while we had visited once before with the kids, they were too young to remember, making this a special visit.

Kids Montreal Biodome

I can’t say enough about how great the Montreal Biodome is and it was so much cooler than I remembered it from our previous visit. I’m sure that has nothing to do with the fact that we were lugging a stroller and a toddler with us at the time… My daughter was fascinated with the penguins and my son, who is close to that age where nothing is cool anymore, actually admitted that it was pretty cool and then spent a ton of my money on minerals in the gift shop. For me, the highlight was definitely getting to see 2 parrots having a very loud disagreement about whose branch belonged to whom.

Now, I did mention in the title of this post something you should NOT do while you are in Montreal and that thing occurred as we left Olympic Stadium after the gymnastics competition. I went to check the time and directions to the nearest metro station when I realized that I no longer had my phone on me. It turns out that I dropped it sometime in the final minutes before we left and it was nowhere to be found. To say I handled this situation well would be grossly incorrect but my entire life is on that device, which is kind of sad, and I was worried about whose hands it could end up in.

Kids Montreal Metro

We rushed back to the hotel, plugged in my wife’s phone to charge it to 1% and then I called my phone to see if it would be answered. “Olympic Stadium Security”, the man answered as my stress disappeared in an instant. The good news, bad news of this situation was that stadium security had my phone, but it was back at the stadium and 11pm at night. Luckily for me, and being from the archaic Ottawa system, I cannot stress this enough, the metro system in Montreal is incredible! A $6 return trip and I was back in the hotel with my phone in less than an hour. I’m serious, it would have been a minimum 40 drive each way with traffic and parking to contend with. The metro system was my one of my favourite things about our trip.

Montreal Canadiens Store

When we woke up the next morning, we hit the “make your own waffles” machine at the Residence Inn restaurant, always a hit with the kids, and then we walked to my favourite place in Montreal, the Bell Centre, to visit the Montreal Canadiens landmarks and store! I promised my son we’d get out to his first Canadiens game this year and I intend on keeping that promise!

Montreal Canadiens Dab

Being Thanksgiving weekend and with a full sports slate, we had to rush out of Montreal before lunch but it was an amazing trip with plenty of ups and one self-inflicted down that we will never forget! Thank you to Montreal Tourism for the hospitality and to the organizing committee of the Gymnastics World Championships for the amazing event!!

Kids 1st Day School

My Kids Are Growing Up Quickly, And I’m Okay With That

“They’re growing up too fast, please slow it down!”

I’m sure I’ve been guilty of uttering a variation of the above phrase at some point in the 10 years I have been a father. I’m also guessing that we’ve all had moments where our children have left us in awe at their budding independence. I used to dread the day when my kids didn’t want to hold my hand anymore while walking to school, but the more they grow, the more I understand their need to blaze their own trail.

As I walked behind them on the way to school the other day, I watched as they excitedly talked about all the friends they were going to see and which classes they hoped they would end up in. If we accomplish nothing else as parents, I will always be happy that my kids genuinely enjoy each other’s company, which may or may not have anything to do with us but I like to think we helped foster that a little bit.

When we arrived at the school, both kids ran in opposite directions to greet the many friends they hadn’t seen all summer, with neither one of them batting an eye in my direction. This may have upset me a few years ago but now I actually enjoy watching their excitement as they pick up right where they left off with their friends. I’m also thankful that they are fortunate enough to have a strong core of friends to come back to.

I stood by myself for awhile, taking in all the sights and sounds, watching the other parents, each with their own 1st day styles and personalities, and hoping my kids would have a great back to school experience. I forced them both to give me a hug before I left because I’m still a dad who needs a little love and validation, but I walked away knowing that my kids would be able to handle anything that comes their way and that they had each others backs, no matter what.

When I picked them up after school that day and asked how their 1st day went, they answered in unison, “Good!”, before running ahead to walk with their friends. Good is better than bad, right? The way I see it, I can spend time stressing out about the kids growing too quickly and potentially hold them back or I can let them grow and explore at their own pace and be there for them when they need me most.

And, hey, every now and then they’ll throw us a bone, like how they’re still cool with our customary 1st day of school pictures!

Kids 1st Day School 4