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

Kids Baseball

He Would Have Loved This

As my kids are growing older and developing into incredible little athletes, I find myself thinking more and more about my dad and how much he would have loved having sporty grandkids. I’m guessing he’d especially love the fact that my son is playing baseball.

I can still remember how our double car garage was set up as a batting cage instead of a place for cars, and while my garage isn’t nearly as large, I still have the batting tee and net set up in much the same way. One of my great sporting regrets is not realizing how good my dad was as a coach and taking our garage lessons more seriously. You’d think watching Canadian national team members come over to hit in our garage, or seeing him coach in the Olympics would have sparked me, but I was simply too lazy to put in the extra effort. That part hasn’t changed much, I guess.

The funny thing is that as much as I told myself that I would blaze my own path with my kids, I seem to be instinctively following in my dad’s footsteps, and that’s not a bad thing. As I helped coach with my son’s baseball team this year, I understood what it was that drew him to coaching. It’s not just that you get to be around your own child to watch them grow into a sport, it’s the rush of helping other kids grow and develop physically, mentally and socially.

The first moment a child thanks you for helping them overcome a hurdle, or a parent tells you that their child raves about how much fun they’re having, you get hooked. I understand now why my dad put in so many hours studying drills and taking coaching courses to better learn the game. The winning was a lot of fun, and we won A LOT, but we had fun as a team even when we lost and we worked harder because we had great coaches.

Baseball Coaches

He may not be around to help me as a father and coach but I know he would have loved this time in his grandkids lives and it gives me motivation to give both my kids and the kids I coach the kind of attention him and his coaching staff gave to us when we were young.

What I am also saying here is that you can expect a slew of sports related posts in the years to come!

Star Wars Prize Pack Fathers Day

My Top 7 “I Am Your Father” Moments {Plus Giveaway!}

Star Wars has provided me with so much joy over the years, with no line being repeated more than the classic Darth Vader shocker, “Luke, I am your father”. To celebrate the upcoming Father’s Day celebrations, I thought I would share my Top 7 “I am your father” moments! Here we go:

7. That time I told the kids to clear their plates after lunch but they forgot and then went to play outside with their friends and then found the same old half-eaten food on their plates for dinner.

6. When the kids were supposed to shower but defiantly avoided it, so I pretended the shower was broken for a week so they could be the smelly kids at school. Lessons learned.

5. When my son threatened to run away because I wouldn’t let him play on his iPad for an extra half hour and then called his bluff by letting him put his shoes on and walking all the way down the street, only to have him realize it was a bad idea and quickly run back home.

4. The day I became the “Worst Dad Ever” for not buying the toy my kid wanted, 5 minutes before their best friend invited them over for a playdate that they needed a ride to.

3. When I told the kids to bring their toys in from outside in case it rained because I wouldn’t replace them, only to have it rain on their not brought in toys, ruining them for good.

2. When my kids found out they loved sports, so my wife and I took on extra jobs to help pay for the costs of competitive sports fees because we want the kids to have the opportunity to explore their full potentials.

1. The day I realized that I get to wake up and experience something new and amazing with these kids every single day and loving every second of it regardless of whether it’s good or bad.

As you can see, for better or worse, there are plenty of “I am your father” moments throughout the days and I absolutely wouldn’t have it any other way. Speaking of that, check out this amazing Happy ‘I Am Your Father’s Day’ video made especially for the Star Wars fans out there!

How cool was that?! Now I want to hear some of your “I am your father” moments, whether they’re happy, funny or other, and I have a great Star Wars prize pack to give away to help make your Father’s Day that much more special! All you have to do to enter is using the Rafflecopter form below and I’ll pick a winner in a few days.

Good Luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this program, but I really am a father…

Dad Baby Hugs

My Top 6 Favourite Types of Hugs From The Kids

One of the benefits to running a dad blog is that I often get approached by companies who give me great ideas for posts that I wouldn’t have normally thought of on my own. This week I was contacted by Huggies who asked me to talk about the benefits of skin-to-skin hugs and how expecting parents can plan for their first skin-to-skin moments using the Hug Plan!

As you will see in a moment, I am definitely a big fan of hugs but not just for my own benefit. Research has shown that there are many benefits of skin-to-skin hugs provided specifically by dads for their babies. Some of those benefits include:

– Temperature control
– Better infant behavioural responses
– Improved bio-psychological markers
– Better interaction behaviour of fathers with their infants
– Reduced stress and anxiety experienced by fathers

As someone who might be classified as “a hugger” I was excited to read some of the research Huggies provided me with, especially because it was specific to the benefits of hugs between fathers and their children. I know what you’re thinking, “but Chris, you don’t have babies anymore!”, and while that may be true, I don’t want to live in a world where there are no hugs. That said, take a look at a few of my favourite types of kid hugs, in no particular order.

1. The After Work Hug – This hug is also commonly known as the “just got in from a business trip” hug and is one of my very favourites. It begins with my kids moving as far away from me as possible before running towards me at top speed and leaping into my arms as we spin around in circles. This is the kind of hug that lets you know just how loved you are and I look forward to it every time!

2. The Sneak Attack Hug – I usually pull this one off during one of our many wrestling matches, usually when the kids think they are about to finally beat me for once. They think I am putting them in an unbreakable hold but really I am just trying to sneak in some extra hug time.

3. The Morning Snuggle Hug – In the #1 spot on my list of all-time favourite hugs is the morning snuggle. This occurs when the kids roll out of bed and slowly make their way to wherever you are located, then crawl into your arms without saying a word. The only downside to this hug is that you know it has to end at some point.

4. The “Everything Will Be Alright” Hug – There is something very powerful in knowing that your hug can somehow help your child feel better when they are hurt or having a bad day. No parent wants their child to go through hard times but there is a comfort in knowing that you’ll always be there.

5. The “I’m Getting Too Old To Hug My Parents” Hug – I like to call this one the lean and turn. This is mostly used by my kids at school drop off or when they are anywhere near anyone who might see them. It involves their arms at their sides as they press their head against my shoulder while simultaneously turning away from me. I could get frustrated by this but I figure they are still technically hugging me so it’s better than nothing!

6. The “Thank You For Buying Me That Thing I Really Want” Hug – Finally, the biggest hug of them all! That hug when you get your kids that thing they have always wanted. Whether it be a toy, concert tickets or in our case lately, a new fidget spinner, these are the hugs where they squeeze the tightest. Even though they forget about the cool thing they got 5 minutes later and it is kind of like buying a hug, I’ll still take it to see that joy on their faces!

So for all you new dads out there, don’t assume that mom is the only one who can provide benefits for baby early on. Get in there and get your hugs right away! Huggies has developed this very cool Hug Plan to get you started on your way to unleashing the many benefits of skin-to-skin contact and it truly is an amazing resource!

You can follow along with Huggies new campaign by searching the #NoBabyUnhugged hashtag and by visiting them at @HuggiesCanada on Twitter and Facebook, and @Huggies on Instagram.

Happy Father’s Day!!!

Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this campaign.

TownePlace Suites Business Centre

When A Hotel Turns Into A Gymnasium

Disclosure: TownePlace Suites hooked my family up with a stay while we were in Buffalo and certainly exceeded all expectations we had with such a large group.

We traveled to Buffalo last weekend to take part in our daughter’s 1st ever gymnastics competition. I haven’t written much about gymnastics on here yet but if the trend continues, you are going to be sick of hearing about it by the end of the year. We brought the whole Kanata Gymnosphere competitive team and crashed into the TownePlace Suites Buffalo Airport location like a hurricane!

I had tweeted a warning to TownePlace Suites ahead of our trip to make sure they understood what was about to happen and they assured me that they were ready for it. I saw round-offs, back handsprings, cartwheels, handstands and more as the weekend went on and could have sworn we were back at the gym as opposed to being at a hotel. True to their word, though, TownePlace was ready at every turn.

TownePlace Suites Tweet

I have to admit that at one point during our stay I realized I had become the annoying guest who always had a question or request for the front desk, but each time they handled my requests swiftly and with a smile. Even when the kids got a little loud and rambunctious in the lobby area, which may or may not have happened on a couple occasions, the staff were polite in asking them keep it down a bit.

There were so many memories made throughout the weekend that it’s hard for me to talk about all of them but here are a few of the highlights.

The Pool – Something I learned this weekend is that gymnasts are not allowed to go in the pool until after they have finished their competition. That meant for 2 full days the girls could only stare at the hotel pool and dream of how much fun it could be. I’m not sure what I was expecting but those kids hit the water as if they hadn’t swam in years. It was really fun to see their excitement.
The Business Center – Who knew that the TownePlace Suites business center was going to be the place the kids spent the most time in? The girls spent hours on the computers watching, what else, gymnastics videos! I mean, it’s technically the business they were there for, right??
Pizza Night! – I was tasked with ordering pizza for the group on our final night, which is well outside of my area of expertise. That said, I ordered WAAAAY too much pizza but ended up being able to pay the staff back for all my questions by sharing some pizza with them. I’m just going to pretent that was my plan all along…
Breakfast!!! – The breakfast area was my favourite spot in the hotel, for obvious reasons. Every morning, the breakfast nook opened and was filled with goodies such as cereal, fruit, yogurts and my personal favourite, waffles! In fact, I had tweeted to TPS a month before our arrival asking if they had waffles and upon our arrival at the hotel they handed me this note.

TownePlace Suites Waffles

It’s a small gesture but knowing that they cared enough to make our stay a little bit more special is something that will always keep me coming back. We had an amazing trip and can’t wait to see what next gymnastics season has in store for us. I also want to say a huge thank you to TownePlace Suites Buffalo Airport for making our stay a memorable one!

Oh, by the way, we also did some gymnastics while we were in Buffalo! Proud Dad Alert!!

Stumpfs Gymnastics

Stars on Ice Happy Kid

Where’s The Backflip? – A Stars on Ice Story

Last week we were fortunate enough to bring our daughter and a friend to the latest Investors Group Stars on Ice show here in Ottawa and, as expected, it did not disappoint!

For me as a father, this was a bittersweet event. You see, when we had originally booked these tickets our daughter was right in the middle of her figure skating season and seemed to be loving it. Her coach had just recommended that we move her into a more advanced level of skating, because of course with this kid, and we were weighing our options to try to keep up with all the kids’ activities.

Three sessions later and we were now sending an email to her skating coach to let her know that our future Elizabeth Manley would be stepping away from figure skating to focus on gymnastics. The sudden shift away from her love for skating took us by surprise but was obvious from watching her in those final sessions. We’re not sure whether she simply had too much on her plate or if she really wasn’t enjoying it anymore but I was sad because I really loved watching her skate.

All that said, I was worried that she wouldn’t enjoy the Stars on Ice show as much now that she wasn’t skating anymore, but I’m happy to admit that I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m pretty sure that my daughter was more excited to see Kurt Browning, or Brownie as she still calls him, more than my wife was and my wife REALLY likes Kurt Browning… More than that, my daughter was excited to see Kurt do his famous backflip.

As the show went on and the skaters dazzled us with their best moves and amazing routines, she kept asking, “When is he going to do the backflip?”, to which we had no response except for her to keep watching. As Kurt’s final performance ended, she was close to tears as she pointed out that the backflip hadn’t happened. Just then, the skaters came back out on to the ice to wave goodbye, Kurt started his wind up and, BAM, nailed the backflip!

My daughter leapt from her seat in the same way I had when Joe Carter hit the World Series winning homerun. As my wife, who’s excitement matched that of my daughter’s, cheered the backflip, I noticed a little water in her eyes. When I asked her about it later she mentioned that seeing our daughter so happy got her feeling a little emotional. You can’t really go wrong with a mom like that, and you also can’t go wrong by taking your littles to see this amazing show.

For more information on upcoming shows and tickets you can check out the Stars on Ice website. Oh, and Kurt, if you ever want to talk fatherhood, I’d be happy to conduct that interview (insert winky face here). I promise not to let my wife hijack the call…

About Investors Group Stars On Ice

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

Disclosure: My family was provided tickets to this event.

Stars on Ice Kurt Browning Backflip

Chess Master Kid

Checkmate

Kids are funny creatures. Just when you think you know exactly who they are and what they are destined to be, they throw you a curveball that changes your entire view of them. Take my son, for instance. If you’d have asked me at the beginning of the school year I would have told you that he was an “all sports all the time” kind of kid who didn’t tend to express himself creatively very often.

As we close in on the end of the school year he still loves sports but he has also dabbled in things like writing stories, music, dance, YouTubing and most recently, playing chess. Chess is the one that was most surprising to me as we had never played it at home before, mostly because I never learned to play. He told me that he had joined the chess club at school and if I’m being perfectly honest the first thing that popped into my head was kids with suspenders, pocket protectors and tape on their glasses.

The truth, however, is that a lot of the sports kids had joined the chess club and I was really excited that my son decided to step out of his comfort zone to try something new. As it turns out this wasn’t just a weekly club that was getting together for fun to learn a new game, they actually had tryouts for the school team and my kid made it! They went to the city-wide school tournament and ended up placing second out of all the schools!

Chess Kid Medal

She was so happy for her brother for winning a chess medal!

He has since asked if he can enter a city-wide tournament where he wouldn’t know anybody, which is a huge step for him as a shy kid. I am excited to announce that he even managed to win a couple games at that tournament and finished a half point out of the medals! I know this sounds like a giant humble-brag post but this was a really big deal for him and I was so proud that he broke out of his comfort zone and did something that made him nervous. He proved to himself that he could do it and although he was disappointed that he didn’t win, I could tell that he was proud of his achievement. He has asked to try his luck at the next tournament and I couldn’t be more proud of my little Bobby Fischer in training!.

For the record, I didn’t expect him to win anything, especially considering he had just started playing chess a couple months earlier. I just wanted him to have a good experience and not for him to get crushed in every game he played. I think I did a great job of concealing my nerves while he was playing. This face looks totally natural, right??

Kids Playing Sports

How Much Is Too Much When It Comes To Kids Activities?

Dinner? Check! Water bottle? Check! Healthy snack? Check! Leotard? Check! Shorts that go over top of leotard or the whole outfit is ruined? Double Check! I quickly run over my list before picking up my daughter from school and rushing her to her 4:30 gymnastics class at Kanata Gymnosphere. We usually have about 20 minutes to eat dinner in the minivan, yes, I’m a proud minivan owner, and chat a little about our day before she has to get dressed for class.

This may sound chaotic to some parents, and admittedly it was at first, but it is normal routine for us now. To be perfectly honest I’ve grown to really enjoy that 20 minutes between school and gymnastics because we get a chance to talk, laugh and turn off life’s distractions for a little while. My daughter spends 16 hours a week at this gym so that one on one time before class starts is important for both of us.

I know what you’re probably thinking, “16 hours a week for a 6 year old?!? That’s crazy!!”, and I would have definitely agreed with you a year ago when we first walked into the gym. We started in a regular once a week class, which then jumped to 9 hours a week, then 12 and now 16. Every step of the way we hesitated, wondering if it was the right decision for our daughter. The thing is, she loves it, and she is really good at it. It also helps that the staff at Kanata Gymnosphere treat her like family from the minute she walks in until she leaves her session, and the focus, determination and discipline she has shown lets us know as parents that she is able to handle the workload.

All in all, between our daughter and son, we spend just over 20 hours a week at various organized activities and while the kids don’t ever complain about it, my wife and I definitely worry about the effects it could have on them, and ourselves. We keep a close eye on things such as the kids’ schoolwork, sleep patterns and general moods to make sure that the activities aren’t negatively affecting their day to day lives. It’s not just the kids we have to worry about either, as shuttling them all over the city and coordinating schedules for two working parents can be tricky and stressful as well, so we’ve had to be mindful of how this is affecting us as partners.

Kids Gymnastics Baseball

I’d love to sit here and act all-knowing but the truth is that I have no idea if we are doing the right thing for our kids by letting them spend so much time in extra-curricular activities. They don’t seem to be showing any signs of fatigue and their teachers have no complaints so we allow them to continue doing the things that bring them joy. We make sure to grab hold of any family/snuggle time we can get, eat dinners together when possible and talk to the kids a lot about how they are feeling. We’ve managed to strike a balance in there somewhere for the time being and hopefully we’ll fine tune it as time passes.

So, what’s the answer to the question of how much is too much when it comes to your child’s activities? I think the answer is that it depends on the child. Only you can know how your child reacts to different environments and workloads. What works for my kids may not necessarily work for yours, and that’s perfectly alright. As a former sports brat myself, my advice would be to let them experiment with new activities, gauge how they interact in them and talk to them about how they feel while doing it. Letting your children guide you as opposed to making the decisions for them is always a step in the right direction.

If you want to talk more about youth sports and activities, I’d love to hear from you in the comments or over on my Facebook page at facebook.com/canadiandad! Cheers!

OCR Academy

Why Do Kids Have To Climb Everything??

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

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

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