Basketball Withdraw

When we were getting ready for this trip Noah badly wanted for us to pack a basketball so he could use it and at least dribble around at times. We were pretty tight for space and there wouldn’t really be any spot to use it while we were staying in hotels and other rentals so we left them home. Having a break would probably be good too right?

At least two of the hotels we stayed at ended up having little half courts setup and the rental we’ve been staying in this week has a net setup almost right outside our door. He used these as opportunities to break out the old “I told you so”, but really it was too hot to play anyway.

On a couple of occasions so far we’ve let the kids play at arcades and both times Noah ended up right at the basketball free throw games for a lot of the time. The first arcade was one where you could win tickets to trade in for cheap toys so he used them to pick up a tiny little net and ball he could play with in the house.

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At SeaWorld there was one of the games you could pay to play for a chance to win prizes based on the number of shots you made. It wasn’t open which was the only reason he didn’t end up sinking a bunch of his own money into trying to win a Raptors flag there.

Tonight is our last night at the rental here in Florida so after we made it home we let the kids go for a swim. There were three teenage boys who had a mini basketball and were throwing it around the pool with each other. They could tell Noah wanted to play after a while and they let him join them just like he was a long friend. Except it was even better. They talked to him and asked him questions like his name, how old he is, if he played basketball normally, and built up his confidence by letting him know he had skills. Before long he was jumping off the side into the pool and throwing it while in the air, and they were throwing him passes he could catch mid air as well.

When it was time for us to leave they high five’d him and said good by. I thanked them for including Noah and told them he was missing basketball this trip. Right away one of the boys yelled to the other who had the ball telling them to give it to Noah so he could take it with him. We thanked them but declined so they could keep playing, and we have lots of basketballs at home.

There have been times on this trip already where I was frustrated with groups of teenagers who couldn’t seem to keep their language or volume at a PG level in public spaces with kids around, so it was extra nice to see these boys not only be respectful that way, but also be kind enough to include a much younger boy. I remember what it was like to have older kids include me in things when I was little, always made me feel good and a bit more grown up. Watching the smile on Noah’s face and the excitement when we got back and he told Jen the story was heart warming. Thank you boys!

Week of Theme Parks

Week of Theme Parks

At the beginning of this week I was contemplating about just how much I going to regret all the money we spent on this week of our trip. We had ambitious days planned to take in five Orlando Theme Parks in four days. The heat was already bothering me, and I’ve not typically been a huge ride person. Not enjoying heights makes thrill rides less appealing.

We started on Monday by hitting up Universal and trying to fit in two of their parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Universal is super cheeky and taking advantage of Harry Potter fans like Ella and the Fisher family who we were spending the week with. They split up Harry Potter across the two different parks so that in order to see it all you had to pay for both. The whole experience though is very impressive. Exploring Diagon Alley, picking out a wand and using it to cast spells around, then hopping the Hogwart Express to Hogsmeade. The line for the Escape from Gringotts was long but we waited to do it. By the time we made it to the ride Noah decided it was going to be too much so him and I opted out.

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We ran into issues here as there was an issue with some electricity in Hogsmeade so rides shut down. We did use that time to go play in Seuss Landing which didn’t have long lines, but cute rides. It was wonderfully colourful and a fun setup. The Hulk roller coaster had a very long wait but some of our group really wanted to go so they waited. It had weather delays on top of the already long wait and there just didn’t seem like great places to wait for them and avoid the heat. We hung out in an arcade for a bit to kill some time and spend money πŸ™‚ By this point I was really second guessing our decision for the week.

We finally did make it on The Forbidden Ride and it was a very cool experience, just not sure it was worth the wait.

Thankfully the next few days changed my mind and I’m a convert to these theme parks. we went to SeaWorld next and had a much different experience. We never waited really long for any rides and we were able to do the Manta, Kraken, and Mako, which were all fun roller coasters. The Antartica penguin ride was a great way to cool down, there were aquariums we could jump into between rides, and the shows were fantastic. We left for a bit to come back to the condo for something to eat, but then went back for a night Orca show, and laser and fireworks display. It ended the day perfectly.

We ended our parks with Disney. We visited both Magical Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. These were once again much better experiences than Universal, the FastPass option made things so much better. There was something just about seeing Cinderella’s castle that made things. It brought me back to our childhood and watching Sunday night Disney movie and seeing the castle in the theme with the fireworks and Tinker Bell. Back then I don’t even remember thinking that going to Disney and seeing it in person would ever be something I could really do. It just seemed so out of reach. Now here I am with my family and friends walking down Main Street USA towards the castle and staying all day until the end of the light and fireworks show.

It was a long day at Magical Kingdom but worth it. The rides were fun and enjoyed by everyone, the entertainment and shows were fun, and the parade down Main Street was very cool.

Today we went to Animal Kingdom and this was probably one of my favourites. There was so much to see even when not on rides. The Avatar ride was so well done. Soaring around Pandora on the back of a Banshee was a worth the bit of a wait we had. The shows we were able to see here were probably my favourite parts though. The Lion King and the Nemo Musical were high quality performances.

One of the fun memories that will stick with me longer than my toes were wrinkled was the Kali River Rapids ride. They say you’ll get wet or maybe soaked, we were certainly the later. Not from the ride, but because just after the ride started the sky opened up and dumped buckets of water on us. Very quickly I dove into the backpack to get ponchos by the time I had one out and opened it was already too late, we were dripping from the rain. Noah held the one I managed to get out of the package over his head, but the rest of us didn’t bother.

So despite the rocky start this has been such a fun week and I’m willing to come back again sometime in the future and maybe try out some of the other parks and revisit some of the favourites from this trip.

Childhood Excitement

Childhood Excitement

Last night I had a bit of a strange dream. In it, I was a young child again, probably about Noah’s age 9-10, and I randomly ran into and was able to meet Fred VanVleet. For those of you who don’t know Fred VanVleet is a basketball player for the Toronto Raptors, and someone I enjoyed watching this season. This article tells more about him and shows why he has gained a lot of respect. What I remember from the dream most though is that feeling of pure childhood excitement I had when meeting him.

For many years I haven’t followed sports, but I did when I was younger. It was mostly hockey and baseball, but there was also wrestling, as in the WWE, or WWF at the time. Watching my favourite team win the Stanley Cup, or the World Series or favourite wrestler win the championship belt, would give me some of that excitement. Back then it was more about feeling part of something; I could join in with my friends at school and talk about the win, or call family from any who had taken me to see the Blue Jays play in real life when they won the World Series.

It’s different now though, I enjoy watching basketball, but I only started watching again because of Noah. His interest is growing, and he asks me all the time if there are any basketball games we can watch. Maybe it’s not so different after all. It’s still being part of something, but this time it’s a father and son bonding. It could be because the Raptors didn’t win, but the excitement I get now isn’t from watching them play, but from watching his enthusiasm while playing or watching.

The excitement of the kids is part of the reason we’ve tried to change things like Christmas and our vacations. Instead of buying things we try to make experiences that will bring out that excitement in the kids. Then I can drink it in and have it myself, and we will then share those memories for the rest of our lives. Our vacation this year is going to be the best one yet. While we have a lot of things we’re going to do and see, the big part is finally taking the whole family to Disney!

Fourteen Years

Fourteen Years

To my best friend Jen,

There isn’t a day which goes by where I don’t want to spend it with you. For the past fourteen years you’ve stuck with me through many ups and downs. The whole time you’ve been my rock that I lean on, encouraging me to take risks, and holding me up when times get low.

You are one of the smartest, most courageous, hardworking, and kindest people I know.

A tiny list of the things we’ve been through together:

  • 8 moves
  • 9 vehicles
  • 12 of my jobs
  • 4 years of University
  • 4 children
  • Some immense heartache
  • Near death experience
  • Awesome vacations
  • Countless memories

Topping that list however is the endless love and happiness we share. I’m so thankful that we’ve had this time together, getting to know you better and better, and watching our family grow. It makes me extremely proud to tell people you are my wife and I’m looking forward to creating many more memories together for the rest of our lives.

 

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

Christmas Eve! All the gift preparations are ready. The house is all decorated. Today involves picking up some last minute supplies, Christmas Eve church services, and prepping some of the mountains of food we’re going to consume over the next few days.

Caile and I are making some pie crusts so they’ll be ready for the pumpkin pies tomorrow night. Jen is making her chestnut treats. Delicious sweet peanut butter balls dipped in melted chocolate to closely resemble chestnuts.

For years I didn’t like peanut butter and wouldn’t eat anything where I could taste it. Much to Jen’s disappointment a few years ago I changed my mind. It started with some cookies that only had a small bit of peanut butter in them and then expanded from there. Now Jen has to share these chestnut treats with me too!

Right before we started I thought I’d set the Christmas atmosphere a bit and put on the fireplace channel on TV. Noah came out with me as I was putting it on and asked what I was going to watch, that he wanted to watch with me. Without saying a word I put it in and watched for a few minutes as the fire started to catch and crackle.

Noah asked if this was all it was. I told him it looked and sounded nice nice while also helping warm the room. I then proceeded to walk up and start warming my hands in front of the fire. Noah looked surprised and confused but came up with me trying it out. He asked does really get warm? How does it? Without missing a beat Jen came in from the other room and started warming her hands as well.

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t until Jen screamed and jumped back a bit saying she got too close to the flames before Noah really 100% knew we were messing with him.

Hour of Code

This morning I was able to spend a bit of time with Noah in his class. They were participating in the Hour of Code. It was really neat seeing all the kids with Chromebooks working away.

Noah and I started out playing with Scratch. He wanted to build a basketball game but we didn’t have that much time and I haven’t spent a lot of time with Scratch so I’m not really familiar. We did make a character dribble a basketball across the screen.

From there we moved onto Code.org where we went through the steps to make a flappy bird game. It had ten steps where it gets you to setup the concepts of the game and change them around to immediately see the effect they have on the game. At the end he received a certificate he could print out.

He grasps the different concepts pretty quickly and seemed to really enjoy things. Im going to have to brush up on Scratch and maybe we can work at building that basketball game he wanted.

The Great Swapping Week

This week has been the week of many swaps. It’s felt like I’ve spent a large amount of time moving things from one room to another, it’s not quite over yet but all the main moving is behind me now.

It started with Jen and I getting a new bed. I can’t recall ever having a new bed before so it’s pretty exciting. One downfall though is the bed is from Ikea so I had to put it all together. There is still a new mattress which we ordered that has been delayed a bit so we’re still sleeping on the old mattress but on a new frame.

Us getting the new bed though set off a bit of a chain reaction. Alex who has been sleeping on a twin bed decided she wanted a bigger one. In preparation for our new bed we had to get rid of her old one. The mattress she had was still pretty good but we had other twin mattresses onΒ  top bunks which weren’t so great. When we found someone to take her old bed frame we grabbed one of the top bunk mattresses to go with it. We moved our old frame and box spring into her room but because our new mattress isn’t here yet we put her twin on top which makes for an awkward looking bed πŸ˜†Β I keep thinking about the episode of Seinfeld where Kramer planned on adding a bunch of levels to his apartment with carpet and pillows.

In summary we had one bed out the door, one mattress moved, our bed and box spring moved, and new bed built and setup.

This next part is going to make us sound like TV addicts but honestly not a lot of TV gets watched in our house. I’m honestly not sure why we have so many TVs. The one main TV that does get watched is in our living room. It is an older TV we bought refurbished quite a few years ago. It still works pretty well but some of the buttons don’t function great and it likely doesn’t have a lot of life left. With that in mind when we saw a decent deal on Black Friday sales we ordered a new one for our living room.

We’ve had a TV mounted on the wall in a room which was previously a play room for Jen’s Day Care. Since that is done we’ve been turning it into a sitting room of sort. The TV in there was small and almost never turned on. We figured we could move the Wii in there for the kids to play but it would be better with the bigger TV. The old one from the living room moved in there and mounted on the wall. The TV we took off the wall from the old play room we swapped with the TV mounted on the wall in Noah’s room. Another TV that never gets watched. It was in there from when the room was Alex’s but they swapped rooms a while back. The TV in his room then moved to her new room.

The TV that was in Alex’s room was actually Caile’s but she let Alex borrow it because she never watched it. She didn’t want it back so she ended up selling it to my In Laws instead. The moving of TV’s from sitting to mounted and vice versa was a kind of pain. Finding where we stored the bases, finding screws to either put the base on or screws to connect the mount to the back of the TV. Thank goodness for my mason jar full of odd screws which saved us in this process.

The last part of all the TV swapping is the room my In Laws wanted the TV for doesn’t have any connectors, so we’re upgrading our cable plan to one that supports wireless TV. That will mean taking some TV’s off the wall to be able to disconnect and hook up the new boxes required, but it’s almost done now too.

This all seems like a lot of work for one new bed and one new TV.

Epic Road Trip 2017

Epic Road Trip 2017

Monday evening we wearily rolled into our yard for the first time in a month. It was early morning July 7 when we piled into our SUV and started out on our cross country road trip covering 5 Canadian Provinces and 15 US States.

What wonderful experiences and memories we made. Spending so much time in tight quarters during the long drives, staying in hotel rooms, and a small AirBnB, I was afraid there would be fighting and us getting tired of each other. Thankfully it was the opposite, I believe we are closer as a family now. On the last night of our trip we stopped at Hampton Beach in New Hampshire for an evening walk on our favourite beach and gave some serious consideration to spontaneously extending our trip.

This type of trip just wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for Jen and I both working for Automattic. While we did each take two weeks off of work throughout the month, that left two weeks while we worked from the road.

Originally we were only going to have a three week trip out to Alberta to visit my sister, her husband, and my new nephew. When Jen, Caile, and Ella, received tickets to the NKOTB concert in Boston the weekend before we were going to leave, and with Jen starting the new job, we changed plans and booked an extra week at an AirBnB in Philadelphia. During this week Jen and I both got up extra early and worked, then spent the afternoons exploring the area with the kids, to come home and do a bit more work at night.

Jen took the next week off and did all the driving so I could work from the passengers seat while we made our way our Alberta. Jen then did the same type of schedule from my sisters house working early and late, and I started two weeks vacation. For the first time since I started at Automattic I removed my email and slack from my phone and completely disconnected from work, I didn’t even blog about the adventures as we went.

Thought I’d take the time now to highlight some of the fun adventures we had, I also kept a map showing the rough path we took and some of the main places we visited.

Hampton Beach, NH

We both started and finished our trip at this amazing beach. On day 2 we spent the early afternoon there and on our way home on day 31 we went for an evening walk before coming home.

NKOTB Concert – Fenway Park, Boston

Jen, Caile and Ella went on the night of day 2 to Fenway park and in the rain watched Boyz II Men, Paula Abdul, and the New Kids On The Block.

The Liberty Bell – Philadelphia, PA

On day 4 we explored some of the downtown Philadelphia area. We went through Spruce Street Harbor Park, walked up to the Liberty Bell, and then took the kids to The Franklin Institute.

The Jersey Shore

Jen found us an amazing beach at Strathmere, it was huge, beautiful, free, and not busy at all. We spent hours there and ate a picnic on the beach. We then on our way home I surprised Jen by mapping her to Atlantic City where we could walk the board walk and explore.

Fairmount Park – Philadelphia, PA

We spent a few days visiting the Delaware Museum of Natural History, Legoland Philadelphia, and the Academy of Natural Science.

Then on day 9 we explored Fairmount Park. We started out by going to to a community pool but it was crowded and the water was pretty cold. Instead we found Wheel Fun Rentals and rented a bike which fit us all and peddled around the park that way some.

Letchworth State Park, NY

As we started our driving again we stopped at the amazing Letchworth State at the advice of my friend and co-worker Chrissie! We met up with her, her husband, her mother in law, and our other co-worker Sam for some visit and a pizza lunch picnic. I’d never heard of the park before but it’s called the Grand Canyon of the East. It had some amazing views and beautiful water falls.

Niagara Falls, ON

Before we headed to our hotel for the night we stopped to check out Niagara Falls. We had been here when the kids were little but before Noah was born. It was like a water falls day for us, first at Letchworth then these powerful falls.

Marineland – Niagara Falls, ON

We met up with Tiffany and her family, and our friends from New Brunswick on day 11 to go to Marineland! Our plan was to explore the sea life, but the kids ended up having the most fun on all the rides.

African Lion Safari – Cambridge, ON

One of our favourite things last time we were in this area was the African Lion Safari. So on day 12 we got together with Tiffany and her family again and took everyone here. Driving through so close to these animals is really neat. Monkeys climb all over cars, giraffes cross the road right in front of you, rhinos graze on the grass right beside you. This was one of the main highlights of the whole trip.

Air Zoo Aerospace Museum – Portage, MI

Day 13 was a mainly driving day but we stopped to break at the Air Zoo Aerospace Museum. We didn’t get to spend much time here but there were many different old aircraft on display and lots of interactive exhibits to explore. Caile and Ella took a ride in a flight simulator and ended upside down for most of their flight πŸ™‚

Mall of America – Minneapolis, MN

What vacation wouldn’t be complete without some shopping. This I could have passed on but we did get to play some mini golf and had a good time doing that.

Worlds Largest Buffalo – Jamestown, ND

A quick stop on our driving day. I get a kick out of these Worlds Largest type roadside attractions. All I can picture is a town council meeting with a bunch of people sitting around. “What can we do to bring people to our town? I know”, one would exclaim, “let’s build the Worlds Largest Buffalo!”

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Sikome Lake – Calgary, AB

On our first full day with my sister Melissa and her family we headed to the lake in a part near their home. It was a warm day and was nice to get to spend some time in the water and just hang out with everyone.

Prince’s Island Park – Calgary, AB

By accident we ended up finding this park right downtown Calgary. We were going to head into the mountains this day but we ran behind and saw there was bad traffic on our way there which wouldn’t give us much time so we changed plans last minute looking for something to do closer. We made our way here and also walked around downtown for a bit to find a bit of an ice cream treat.

Telus Spark Science Center – Calgary, AB

On our way home we stopped in for a quick trip to this Science Center. It was close to closing time so we spent most of our time playing on a pretty impressive outdoor playground they had built.

Calgary Zoo – Calgary, AB

With Melissa and my nephew we spent the day at the zoo. So many cool animals to see. Zoo’s are one of our kids favourite things and counting the African Lion Safari this was our second of three zoos on the trip. The gorillas and penguins ended up being most everyones top pick from here.

Rotary Park – Whitecourt, AB

For day 20 and 21 we drove up north so we could meet with Jen’s Uncle, Aunt, and Cousin, along with her family. My mother in law had been visiting her brother in British Columbia and they drove over here to meet us. We spent a couple days in this park visiting with them with the kids playing on the playground and splash pad. This was the end of my mother in laws trip so we brought her back to Calgary with us and got her to the airport for her flight home.

Heritage Park – Calgary, AB

I had never heard of this place before this trip and Melissa and her family had never been. We could have spent a lot more time here as there was lots to see. It is like an old town with shops, a train, a farm, and even carnival rides which the kids loved. Our next visit out here this will be on the list for sure.

Parks – Calgary, AB

The last couple days we took it pretty easy. We did explore a couple parks, one huge off leash dog park where we could let my fur nephew run and cool off in the river. The other is the same park which had Sikome Lake in it which we went to early on in our visit. But this time we sent it walking along the river.

Worlds Largest Booming Prairie Chicken – Rothsay MN

We had some long drive days making our way back east and didn’t take much in the way of breaks. I had found this place on the map on the way to Alberta but we missed the exit, so we decided to indulge me and on day 26 we stopped here for a quick break to stretch our legs.

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Chicago White Sox – Chicago, IL

Noah has badly wanted to see a baseball game for some time. I started looking for our time in Ontario to see if I could find a Blue Jays game we could attend there. Tickets were pretty expensive and nothing really worked time wise. I tried a few other cities we were in along the way as well. As luck would have it though the Blue Jays were playing the White Sox on our first day in Chicago and we were able to get there!

Navy Pier – Chicago, IL

On day 28 we went down to Navy Pier and started out our day with an Architectural River Boat Tour of the city. It was a really great way to see a bit of it and learn some of the history in a very relaxed way. Once we were done with the tour we went to get a different view from the Centennial Wheel. From almost 200 feet in the air you do get a pretty good view!

For dinner we tried some Chicago Style pizza, and this was certainly some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. It certainly beats NYC style pizza with no contest in my books.

Brookfield Zoo – Chicago, IL

One last zoo visit for our trip. It was a pretty chilly day and some of the family even wore jackets and sweaters for the first time since we left home. It was pretty nice though as the animals were fairly active. The kids also all decided to have caricatures of themselves drawn as a souvenir.

Huntington Beach – Bay Village, OH

Making our way back home we broke up our drive on day 30 by stopping at a beach just outside Cleveland. Unfortunately the water was off limits the day we were there, but we still had fun walking the beach and seeing the Cleveland skyline in the background.

This was an amazing trip and I only touched on some of the main things we did or places we saw. The only part that I wish I could maybe skip was the drive days through Saskatchewan and some of North Dakota. The running joke was about all the hay bales which were about the only things we could see.

Honestly the best part of it for me was getting to spend so much time without the everyday things getting in the way. There was no dance class, basketball practice, or any of the other things which breaks us up in a regular week. We spent time together. We spent time with family. We spent time with friends. We made many memories and so I just wanted to document some of it here to help job my memory if I ever start to forget.

Old Man Music

Old Man Music

When we bought our new vehicle we received a free trial of satellite radio. During that time we’ve listened to a lot of pop music when driving around with the family. For the most part I don’t mind it and even find myself signing and humming the songs through the day, but I don’t choose the music.

There have been a few times that I try to put on music that I enjoy, things like The Tragically Hip or one of the 90’s alternative stations. Usually it comes with complaining and I switch it off or to something else.

Last night we went to Caile’s middle school band concert. They did a great job on songs like We Will Rock You and George of the Jungle. When the jazz band came on one of the songs they played was Proud Mary.

Ella, Noah, and I left at intermission as Caile was done and they had some late nights so wanted to get them to bed. I thought I’d share with them the CCR version of Proud Mary as it was the last song we listened to and I like it. Ella was having none of it. She started complaining right away, covering her ears, and trying to switch songs on my phone.

Eventually she told me the band’s version was much better and turned the volume down until we couldn’t hear the old mans music anymore. This from the kid who is going to a NKOTB, Paula Abdul, and Boyz II Men concert with Jen next month.
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Feeling Bummed

My dancing daughters are heading out to their last dance competition of the season. Last one I missed as I was traveling with work so was really looking forward to our weekend away and getting to see them dance again.

Plans changed quickly this morning when Noah woke up really early not feeling well. We were going to push through though as we figured he was mostly tired from lack of sleep. After breakfast though he was sick all over so that confirmed it. We’re going to have a father – son weekend, though not a fun one. 

I realized that I never wrote about our last one a few weeks ago when we went to see the Globe-trotters. It was an awesome show and we were able to hang out for the whole day. 

At the end Noah was getting some autographs on his basketball and we caught a couple pictures. Ace was our last person to see and he was excited to have her sign his ball. He then turned around so I could take a picture and I could see his face change. She thought he wanted his shirt signed and signed the back in sharpie! He was not super pleased about it. He was scared we were going to be mad about it because writing on our clothing isn’t a normal thing for us πŸ™‚ I convinced him that it was cool but it wasn’t until Jen told him it was cool that he was really at ease.