If there’s one thing I have learned about parenting, it’s that you never truly know just how far you will go to make your kids happy. For instance, let’s say that you were going to be spending a week in the same hotel as your child’s sports hero. While there is definitely the option of ignoring that fact and moving on with your day, one must also consider the look of sheer joy on your child’s face when they see that hero from across the room.
This was the dilemma I found myself in as we spent the past week in Houston, Texas at the Simone Biles International Invitational Gymnastics Meet. For those of you who don’t know who Simone Biles is, I think it’s fair to say that by the time she retires, she will be one of the most decorated gymnasts ever. So, in my daughter’s world, she’s kind of a big deal. In the weeks leading up to the event, I tried to woo Simone into taking a team photo with our girls by promising to embarrass myself in front of large crowds of people (you’ve all seen this orange leotard by now). While I got a like or two from her on Twitter, no dialogue took place.
I know you may be thinking “Why do something embarrassing when you could simply approach her at the event?” That’s an excellent question, and I’ll tell you a couple reasons why. There were approximately 1600 gymnasts registered for this event, meaning it was unlikely that Simone would dare walk through the lobby of the hotel. Also, I have seen these girls in action as they try to get photos with their favourite gymnasts and knowing how badly my 8 year old wanted to meet Simone, I knew she’d need a photographer to tag along with her…
It was my son, of all people, who spotted her first, and as I watched the swarm of girls running up the stairwell Simone has just vanished into, I realized that the game had just begun. My father introduced me to Sherlock Holmes when I was young, and I had always believed that he was the smartest detective on the planet. That was until I saw this group of young gymnasts piecing together the clues of where Simone would turn up next. If I’m being completely honest, there were times where I felt uncomfortable about the whole thing, but seeing my daughter’s tears of joy after simply being in the same room as Simone Biles, I pressed on.
By the 3rd day, the girls figured they had enough information to make their dream of a photo with Simone come true. They had the hotel layout down, they knew who the security guard to watch was, and they knew that Simone was handing out the medals for some of the events. Frankly, if they don’t get jobs in law enforcement, I’d be shocked. And then it finally happened. We were sitting in the lobby late that night, possibly even later than we should have, sorry coaches, when Simone popped up right behind us. I flagged my little one and as the others stared in awe, she bravely approached her hero to ask for a photo.
There was one part of their plan the kids hadn’t taken into account. This was a busy weekend for their gymnastics icon as she worked long hours to hand out as many medals as possible, and by the end of the day she was tired. I completely understood when she answered my daughter with “hi sweetie, I’m not taking any pictures tonight”, but I knew that I would need to act quickly to do some damage control. As my little turned back towards me and the tears began to fill her eyes, my wife and I reminded her that while it wasn’t the result she was hoping for, she had just had a conversation with the reigning Olympic gold medalist! And you know what? It worked! Her tears quickly turned into a smile and we celebrated a small victory.
If that was how this story ended, we would have been more than happy. The girls had a great time chasing Simone Biles around the hotel, often shouting “We love you, Simone”, and often getting a wave back from her. They’d giggle and run down to tell the parents what had just happened and we’d laugh to each other about how excited they were. Fate, it would seem, was on our side this weekend and not surprisingly, this story ends with me excusing myself from a room due to overwhelming tears of joy.
I mentioned earlier that Simone was handing out the awards for some of the events, however, due to the fact that there were 3 venues, no one knew which ones she would be attending. As we sat in the awards room, watching the girls collect their medals, I kept peeking at the secret door in the back of the room, willing her to bust through. I’m glad I took a video because most of what happened next was a blur. I remember the moment my daughter saw her. I remember hearing her name get called. And I remember the biggest smile I’ve ever seen as the medal got placed around her neck.
As I moved to the back of the room and began talking to another parent about my daughter’s excitement, I started to feel the familiar sting of tears that has become common since becoming a parent. I left the room for a moment to gather myself and made it back in time for the cherry on top of the weekend. A team photo with Simone. It was perfect.
We came home with some new hardware, better friendships and some amazing memories. Not to be outdone, as the final award ceremony concluded, the parents decided that after all our hard work, we wanted a photo with Simone as well… I hope she knows that the younger kids really do look up to her and that all the intrusions were done out of love and admiration.
It was almost 1 year ago today that we drove our daughter to go watch her friends compete in their 1st gymnastics meet of the season. Unfortunately for her, she wouldn’t be competing as an injury forced her to miss her first full season of competition. While this could have been a devastating setback for some, we were amazed when she was back training in the gym only a couple days after getting her cast put on her arm.
It probably shouldn’t have shocked us that much as our daughter has been amazing us since she was born, but still, this level of determination and love for her sport is something I’m not sure ever I had as a child and I loved sports. I remember dropping her off at training and watching as she worked just as hard as she ever has, cast and all. I’d wonder if she felt any pain or discomfort. I’d ask leading questions, so not to make it seem like I was making a big deal out of it. “Nope, I’m fine, practice was really fun”, she would answer.
She trained and trained all year long, all while her friends competed and showed off their medals with pride, and there were a LOT of medals! Yet, she never complained. She never seemed jealous. She’d hug them and watch their competitions online when it was available and congratulate them on all their achievements. Now I’m going to be perfectly honest here. While we try our best to teach our kids good sportsmanship, I’m not sure I would have handled her situation even close to the way she did if I were put in her shoes. To say that we were proud of her would be a severe understatement.
As we geared up for this year’s competition season, I’m not going to lie, I have been extra cautious with my little jelly bean. She likes to wrestle with daddy, but I’ve had to cut back on it, just in case. There has been extra hand holding while out in public and I may be cutting the grapes a little smaller than I normally do. You can call it helicopter parenting if you’d like but selfishly, I want to see her do the thing she’s been training to do for almost 2 years now!
We were finally able to see her perform at her first ever competition this past weekend and as you can imagine, there were a lot of emotions for everyone involved, especially mom and dad. I had mentioned to someone the other day that it seems to take way less to make me cry these days as it used to, and this was no exception. I had so many favourite parts that I’d need a whole other story to cover them all. That said, at one point during her floor warm-up, she took a hard fall while attempting a move she had just recently learned. Everyone in the crowd gasped as she hit the floor, but not only did she get up smiling, she absolutely nailed the move when it mattered most and everyone gave her a huge cheer. Full disclosure, I’m tearing up again right now while writing about it.
The thing I love most about her gym is that they don’t focus on how many medals you win. They are more concerned with working hard and improving on your personal bests each time out. This was one competition none of us will soon forget. I have watched the videos of her routines over and over again, getting equally emotional every single time. We couldn’t be more proud of our little girl and the hard work she has put in to get to this point. The sky is the limit for her and we can’t wait to see what she has in store for us next, even though I may have suffered a mild heart attack during every single event last weekend…
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
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
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!)
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
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
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.
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?
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!
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.
Dining at the Boathouse Pub at @viamederesort and we're all smiles! 5 minutes ago we had a discussion about why we don't let the kids bring their iPads to restaurants. I'm kind of regretting the decision now… #BoldlyDifferent #Viamede #OntarioTravel #Travel #Vacation #Hosted #Ontario #Kawartha
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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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.