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!

International Cook With Your Kids Day

Celebrate International Cook With Your Kids Day & Win Big!

I have to admit that I am not a master chef in the kitchen. Far from it, really. Based on a research study done by Uncle Ben’s that showed less than half of Canadian parents feel confident in their own ability to cook, it seems I am not alone in my struggle. With that being said, I am one of the 98% of parents who feel it’s important that children learn how to cook and bake at as early an age as possible so they can develop healthy eating habits from a young age.

Cooking With Kids

To help get you off the couch and into the kitchen, Uncle Ben’s has launched International Cook With Your Kids Day, which takes place this Saturday, October 15th! In case you needed a little more incentive to get your butt in gear, snap a photo of you and your kids cooking a rice based dish and submit it on the Uncle Ben’s Beginners website and three lucky Canadians are going to win a $10,000 grand prize which may be used towards a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP)!

I know what you’re thinking. “But, Chris, I still don’t know how to cook, so how am I going to cook with my kids?!” Don’t fret, my friends, as Uncle Ben’s has you covered there as well! Simply visit the Ben’s Beginners website and choose from the many family-friendly recipes available to not only get step by step instructions but also hands on, interactive tutorials that the kids can use to practice before moving on to the real thing.

Cook With Kids Days Uncle Ben's

Hopefully you will all take some time to grab some Uncle Ben’s and hit the kitchen for International Cook With Your Kids Day this Saturday, October 15th! If you do, don’t forget to enter the draw and also share your creations on social media using the #LookWhatWeMade hashtag! You can visit the Ben’s Beginners page for all the rules and regulations on the contest. Happy Cooking!!!

Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this campaign, however I really do think it’s important to get our kids cooking from as early an age as possible.

Her Last Dance

The Last Dance

Emotions are a funny thing, aren’t they? I have always been pretty stone-faced when it comes to showing any sort of emotion, which has been to my detriment at times. Ever since having kids, however, I have been finding that my emotions are on a constant roller coaster that I have no way of stopping. To demonstrate this fact, I give you my 6 year old daughter’s recent dance recital.

Going into the recital we had already decided that this would be her last year of dance as other hobbies had become more important to our daughter and, of course, there’s the overwhelming cost of youth activities to consider. As strange as it sounds, at 6 years old, my daughter was one of the oldest and most experienced dancers in her class so we had a great opportunity to talk to her about leadership and making sure that she helped the younger girls along. I can still remember how nervous she was the first time she took to the big stage in front of a packed theatre and how great the older kids were with her.

Sitting in the crowd on the big day I felt completely fine. I was definitely excited and nervous for my daughter but otherwise my emotions were status quo. That lasted about as long as it took for my daughter to get in position for the start of her dance. The music began and I sat in stunned silence as I watched her glide across the stage with that focused look we’ve become accustomed to. My eyes twitched with the familiar sting of trying to hold back tears, as a slideshow of her short dance career flashed through my head. We made the right decision in cutting dance from her activities list but knowing that this could be her last big dance made it both more special and harder to watch.

If we’re being technical, the routine itself was a hilarious disaster, as can be expected from a group of 4-6 year olds. That said, I couldn’t have been more proud of my daughter as she led her young group onto the stage and gave it everything she had one last time. We underestimate the bravery it takes to get up there in front of a packed houseMaybe someday she will dance again but until that day comes I will always smile when I remember her last dance.

Energizer Camping

Camping In The Comfort Of Your Own Home? {Plus A $500 Gift Card Giveaway!}

As we excitedly planned our camping trip for this upcoming weekend, I decided to set up our tent in the living room to make sure all the pieces were there. I walked away for maybe 2 minutes and when I returned I was shocked to see that the kids had already filled the tent with their blankets, pillows, books and stuffed animals, and had settled in for the night.

Not one to stifle their creativity, we decided it would be fun, and very inexpensive, to host a camp-in! The timing was great as well because we had been planning a backyard camp-out to celebrate Energizer Canada’s #EnergizeYourSummer campaign but the weather has been less than favourable here the last couple weeks, so we had been putting it off.

We read stories, made shadow animals, sang songs and laughed until the kids looked ready to pass out. In true sibling fashion not everything was sunshine and roses, but once my daughter got her vision back after having a spotlight pointed in her eyes, the kids were all love and snuggles once again! Seriously, though, check out how deliberate the boy was about pointing it directly in her eyes… Yikes!

Energizer Camping 2

You may be noticing that I was not in the tent with the kids. The simple, hard truth is that the kids decided that adults were not allowed in their fortress of solitude, so I was forced to sleep in my comfortable queen size bed instead. Bummer. We listened to the kids giggle and play together for about half an hour before they finally fell asleep but I could have listened to them having fun together for a lifetime before making them sleep.

On the kids request we decided to leave the tent up for a few more days so they could have more camp-ins together. I mentioned Energizer® before and that’s because I couldn’t believe how much we relied on batteries to power our camping adventure and to keep us safe while out in the dark. They also make a wide range of great lighting products for the outdoors, such as flashlights, headlamps, and lanterns that we will be using on our upcoming trip!

Giveaway!

Here is your chance to win a $500 Walmart gift card so you can stock up on your favourite Energizer® products before your next camping trip! To get you started, I thought I’d share some of our favourite camping products from Energizer®!

Energizer® Vision HD Headlight

Energizer Vision HD Headlight

 
 

This has three headlamp light modes: White spot light, white flood light & spot and flood together, along with dimmable to control brightness and run-time (only with all LEDs on).

It is also up to 4X brighter than standard LED technology, pivots to direct light where you need it and includes 3 AAA Energizer MAX® batteries. If you’ve ever had to use the washroom in the dark, you’ll be glad you had the Energizer Vision HD Headlight!

 
 
 
 

Energizer® Ultimate Lithium Batteries

Energizer Ultimate Lithium Batteries

 
 
 

Energizer® innovation strikes again! New enhancements make Energizer® Ultimate Lithium™ batteries THE best and longest-lasting disposable AA batteries.

The provide superior performance in extreme temperatures from -40F to 140F degrees which is great for use in all seasons. They also hold power in storage for up to 20 years, are lighter weight than alkaline batteries and are leak proof!

 
 
 
 

There are so many more great Energizer products that are perfect for camping, including Energizer MAX® Batteries, and you can check them all out by visiting Energizer.ca!

Alright, on to the giveaway! I am giving away a $500 Walmart gift card and all you have to do to enter is fill out as many of the Rafflecopter entry options below and I’ll contact the winner when I have the name in hand. This giveaway is open to residents of Canada, excluding Quebec. Happy camping!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in the #EnergizeYourSummer campaign.

Baseball Season Is Upon Us

I’m struggling to express the joy I felt when our son let us know that he wanted to give baseball a shot this year. Having played ball for my entire youth and well into adulthood, I was excited to have the opportunity to help him on his way to baseball mediocrity as my father had done for me.

We are two weeks into the season and things seem to be going according to plan. The kids love kicking their feet around in the dirt, creating mini dust tornadoes and making it impossible for anyone to see what they are doing, as we did in our youth. Wrangling twelve 7 & 8-year-old boys and getting them all to pay attention at the same time is always a fun challenge but you learn to appreciate all of their individual quirks and mannerisms. That said, one of the many perks of volunteering to be on the coaching staff is that you can always keep your own child inline and paying attention!

True to the chaos that is parenting, right before the season started we realized that our son had no proper baseball equipment. Flashing back to my youth I can remember the excitement of my dad bringing me to Canadian Tire because I always new I was about to get some new gear. The only downside to shopping when I was a kid was that we were at the mercy of the stock on the store shelves. We live in a slightly different time now so I was excited to present my son with the new Canadian Tire WOW Guide so he could pick out the items he wanted and then I had them ordered right to our store.

Canadian Tire Baseball

Tell me this kid doesn’t look like a seasoned baseball player now! Through the Canadian Tire WOW Guide, we were able to score him a new Troy Tulowitzki glove, a Raptor baseball bat, a new Rawlings baseball, new cleats and an amazing Easton bag to carry it all in. I loved watching his face as he flipped through the WOW Guide and excitedly circled all the things he wanted. I obviously had to shave the list down as he circled about 6 pages worth of sports gear but it reminded me about the fun of going through catalogues when I was a kid.

I highly recommend that you grab the WOW Guide from your local Canadian Tire store or check it out at Canadian Tire’s website. The guide covers everything from lawn and garden and home décor to power tools and tires, plus you can use the Canadian Tire app to hover over the products you love in the WOW Guide to unlock dynamic digital extras like videos, how-to’s and DIYs. Well, what are you waiting for?!

Canadian Tire WOW Guide

Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this program, however I used that money to buy more baseball gear from Canadian Tire because I have no self control.

A Star In The Making

“It goes by so fast”. Ask any parent something they wish they’d known before having kids and that quote will be in there every single time. It sounds cliché but it’s so very true. One minute you’re teaching them to skate and the next they are skating circles around you. My daughter is no exception to this rule. To put it bluntly, she’s amazing. Every new task she takes on she does it to the fullest of her ability. Can’t do a cartwheel at gymnastics? She’ll do 500 cartwheels in one week until she masters it. In the last two weeks her coaches in gymnastics, dance and figure skating have all come to us to say that our daughter should be in their competitive programs.

While my first reaction to this news was an indescribable sense of pride, the next was one of worry because even forgetting the costs of these programs, there is not enough time in the week for her to possibly compete in multiple competitive sports. I also struggle with the fact that at 6 years old, how much do we really want to put on her plate? When asked what she wanted to do our daughter didn’t hesitate as she made figure skating her top choice. Coming from a life of team sports, this is a whole new adventure for me. Private coaches, booking ice time and not being able to volunteer are all things I will have to get used to but I can’t wait to watch my little girl grow into a beautiful skater and I can guarantee tears the first time I see her doing a routine.

We had the chance to take our daughter to see the Investors Group Stars On Ice show this weekend so she could see what the payoff could be for all the hard work she’s about to put in. While we couldn’t get too many pictures due to the dark lighting during the show, I can assure you that she was dazzled by the skaters and especially the jumps! She may not know who Elvis Stojko, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir or Joannie Rochette are but they definitely captured her attention and made her want to skate even more.

For my wife, who was also a figure skater as a child, having the opportunity to see Kurt Browning skate live for the first time was a dream come true. She posted a short video of Kurt’s performance on Facebook mentioning how exciting it was to watch him skate, and then got a message from a friend who was currently sitting next to Kurt on a plane heading out of Ottawa. The friend said that Kurt had just watched her whole video because it was a new routine and he’d never seen himself doing it yet. Then he shared this picture…

Kurt Browning

Kurt Browning giving my wife a thumbs up!

Needless to say, my wife hasn’t been this excited since the time Jann Arden called her on her birthday. It was a perfect way to cap off an amazing Stars On Ice show! After seeing the smiles on my two favourite ladies faces after the show it is impossible for me to not recommend that you check it out with your family. It is especially great if you have young figure skaters in your house. 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.

Father Son Hockey

You’re Already A Good Dad

Life can get pretty repetitive, can’t it? Work, school, ballet, hockey, sleep, repeat. Entire weeks can go by without anything significant happening and I’ve made my peace with that as we can’t be all spontaneity all the time. Every now and then, however, something sneaks up on you and kicks you right upside the head. Such was the case this Monday as I drove my 7 year old son to power skating, as we have done every Monday for the past 3 months.

If you had told me that I was going to get misty eyed while driving to power skating on this day I would have probably laughed, given you an “okay, then” and rushed out the door with my son, you know, because we are literally always late somehow. My son has been more and more interested in hearing about my father lately and never seems to run out of questions about him. I have written about my father before for those who are new here but he passed away a few years ago on the same day that we found out we were pregnant with my son.

While he usually wants to know about my father as a coach and other sports related stories, on this day he shifted his focus to me and was curious about how I dealt with his passing. I know, heavy for a 7 year old, right? That was my initial thought as well but I always jump at the chance to both talk about my dad and bond with my son, so I happily answered his questions.

He asked if I was sad when my father died and how it all happened, which were easy answers. Then he asked me if I missed him and I froze a bit, not sure how much to get into it. I told him that I missed my dad everyday and explained that I was sad that he never got to meet my son and his sister, but mostly I missed him because I didn’t get to have him around to teach me how to do technical things like change a tire, or help me with coaching or help me learn to be a good dad. This conversation alone could have been enough to cause my emotions to go haywire but I held it together, until my son hit me with…

“But, you’re already a good dad.”

I’m guessing he didn’t realize how powerful it was to hear those words after the conversation we had just finished. I thanked him as I discreetly wiped a happy tear from eye and saw him light up knowing that he had made his dad smile. We sat in comfortable silence the rest of the way to hockey, both proud of our achievements for the day.