Toronto March break vacation

Toronto March break vacation

We’ve been waiting since Christmas to take this trip. This year we surprised everyone with tickets to see a Toronto Raptors game over March Break. This may just become new tradition. We haven’t really done anything big for March break before, but this ended up being a great vacation.

We debated for a short bit about flying but just too expensive so we did our usual road trip. We broke up the drive over a few days and were able to see friends along the way. We drove to Northern New Brunswick the first night and stayed with friends there who we don’t get to see nearly enough and we stayed on the way back as well. Next we headed to Montreal for a night.

Montreal

In Montreal we were able to meet up with a couple co-workers from my team Jupiter! They met us at the Montreal Science Centre which was fun and a good way to stretch our legs for a while.

Since we were in Montreal we figured we should have some real poutine as well. The locals humoured us and came along too. There were so many other people that I’d love to have seen a long the way but our dates and plans were kind of up in the air until the last minute. One of the benefits and downfalls of working in a distributed company, you know people everywhere, but on short trips it can be a challenge to take advantage of that.

CN Tower

Though the main point of the trip was to see the Toronto Raptors play when in Toronto for the first time as a family we had to do some of the other tourist things a well. We spent pretty much the whole day on Monday in Toronto and first hit up the CN Tower. There were some impressive views. Noah was pretty hesitant to go up and buried his head into me the whole elevator ride up, but once we were there he loved it. Even out on the glass floor jumping up and down. Caile and I on the other had almost didn’t go out onto it. Last minute right before we left we finally went out, slowly and tentatively.

Ripley’s Aquarium

We had heard from many people that the Aquarium was a must see. Everyone has really enjoyed on all the ones we have visited over the years and this one is right up there for sure.

Toronto Raptors Game

After the aquarium we walked to get something to eat at Jen’s favourite restaurant Wahlburgers. The burgers are pretty good, but it’s her love of Donnie Wahlberg and NKOTB that makes it for her.

Timing the whole day worked out really well and we made it back to Scotiabank Arena with just a bit of a wait before the doors opened. While in line we saw two people from here in Nova Scotia going to the game a well. Earlier on our way to the CN Tower we ran into one of Jen’s friends from school as well. There were other people of we knew of who were at the same game as us but we didn’t see them.

The game ended up being fantastic, though not really suspenseful. They beat the Knicks 128 – 92. Seeing an NBA game live regardless was a lot of fun and it was great to see them win.

Going into the game we were a little nervous. There were a bunch of players that we might not be able to see play. It was the second night of a back to back game which meant we were pretty sure Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t play and that was right. Serge Ibaka was out due to a suspension and both Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet had been out some games due to injury so we were hoping they would be back. Thankfully they both played, though Kyle was re-injured in the third quarter and hasn’t been back yet.

Danny Green and Pascal Siakam are both favourites in our house and being there early we were able to get down close and see them both warming up before things got underway. One of the other big highlights for me was seeing Fred VanVleet get his first ever NBA double double. He’s one of my favourite players, if you’re not familiar with him this is a great article written last year.

Everyone had a lot of fun and is looking forward to our next opportunity to see a game, maybe next March break again.

Escape Room

One of the things we talked about on the drive to do an Escape Room. I’ve done a couple on work trips, but no one else had. We tried to find one to break up one of our drive days but it never worked out. One day after shopping at the Eaton’s Centre we intended to head to the Ontario Science Centre but realized it was too close to closing time. So we were trying to find something else to do and Ella thought of an Escape Room. We found a good family friendly one we were able to book last minute.

It was a Christmas themed one where we had to help an elf save the Christmas Spirit. It was a lot of fun solving all the clues and puzzles. Everyone was involved and together we escaped the room and ended up with some snow on us as a result.

Toronto Zoo

The whole trip we were watching the weather both for our drives and because we knew we wanted to go to the zoo. We timed it well because we had a lovely day for it. It was the first day of Spring and it even felt like it.

There was weather in the forecast for our scheduled drive home though so we called the trip a day short. We hit the zoo first thing when it opened and pretty much had it to ourselves. Once we were done we hit the road on our way home.

Nick De Palma is a class act

Tonight was the final home game for the Acadia Axewomen and Axemen. These student athletes are such great role models. They have come to help run practices, run camps, and really help foster his love for basketball.

Tonight was a bit of a sad night as this was the last home game that Noah’s favourite player Nick De Palma would be in. This is his fifth year so he’ll be moving on, we will miss him, but wish him the best of luck. His kindness and willingness to help Noah and other kids is really impressive.

When helping out at camps he would stay late and play with Noah. He’d indulge him in shooting threes and even half court shots. I was never a student athlete but I remember how I was at that age and I wasn’t thinking much about other people especially other peoples kids. When I went to Acadia myself, I wasn’t a student athlete I was a mature student. Being a student itself is busy and hard, add in the responsibilities and work of being playing University sport and it is all the more impressive the time he dedicated to spreading the game of basketball.

The game tonight went into overtime, it was getting late and way past Noah’s bedtime but it was an exciting game and hopefully he’ll sleep in tomorrow. At the end of the game the Axemen came away with the win and while cheering Nick came over and asked us not to leave for a minute. He ran out back and brought out a signed jersey for Noah. He was about as proud as I’ve ever seen him. The whole way home grin ear to ear. He told me he wants to hang it on his door so when ever anyone comes they see it right away. This is after I got it off of him to get him into bed. For now we have it hanging from the TV where he can see it from bed and will be about the first thing he sees in the morning.

I’m certain this is something he’ll never forget, thank you Nick.

Work, family, basketball

Work, family, basketball

Seems like a lot of the posts I end up writing these days are either about work, family, or basketball. That makes a lot of sense because that is basically my life and I’m happy with all of it.

There is a really nice balance with everything right now that hasn’t always been present. I’ve written about this elusive balance a few times over the years and I believe it’s helped me get to this point. Starting back in the summer of 2014 when I really started looking for and going after what I wanted. Then in the fall of that year when I was in the heat of it, essentially working two jobs in an attempt to get there. Then the summer after I started my new job, life and work seemed to occupy the most time still. 

For a while I had running. That was my dedicated time for myself where I was spending hours every week with just my thoughts and the trails, but as I fell out of that habit any free time I had, I filled up with less productive things. I still need to make time for my health and make that a habit again, but I’m so happy with the overall aspects of life right now.

My job is fantastic, family life is busy but full of love and happiness, and I have found a hobby that I enjoy, is fulfilling, and I can share with my family, basketball. It’s funny Jen wrote a bit about it this morning as I was thinking over the ideas for this post. Noah’s love for playing basketball has really gotten us all into it. For me it is back into it, but everyone else truly enjoys it now as well.

For many years I stopped following basketball but as Noah got more and more into it, and I started helping coach the two teams he plays for, we started watching more. We go to live games at the local University watching the Axemen and Axewomen play. We follow the Raptors pretty closely, but even if they aren’t playing most nights I find some game to watch. 

It’s entertainment yes, but working with Noah and his team and helping them develop it is also very fulfilling. I played a lot of basketball when I was growing up, but never in a real team environment. So being involved in a team sport and seeing the importance of everyone working together, even at their young age, really helps me see connections to this and work.

Having a strong team means helping everyone develop their individual skills, but also having them work together as a team to make each other stronger. Each team member has a role to play and it will likely change over time and situations. As a coach or team lead you help the members develop their skills and to find their role in the team.

Noah plays on two teams and his role is different on each team right now. On our club team, seeing this is his second year at the U10 level, he has more experience than others, a strong drive, and can score. In yesterdays game we were a couple people short and needed someone to score. Noah ended up scoring 27 points out of teams 48 for the game to help the win. On his other team, everyone is pretty much at the same level. Lots of people can score and others have more advanced ball handling skills, but Noah with his speed and determination can play darn good man to man defence. So in those games he may not always score as many points but instead prevent the other team from scoring while his teammates get the baskets. 

With my recent role change at work, and the team changes that happened in conjunction with it, I’m still trying to see where my role is with my team. We have a solid group where everyone has areas they are really strong in. We work together and help each other with problems which helps everyone learn and get stronger. Some people are really great with domain names, some with CSS, and some do a great job at staying up to date with new products or changes and help everyone else learn about them. I’m one of the more experienced on the team because I’ve been with the company longer than most. My recent experience leading a team and the skills and knowledge I learned there can be a strength. Maybe my role is that of a player coach, where I’m doing the same work as everyone else and using my experience to help others on the team continue to grow and develop.

For now, I’m really happy with all aspects of my life and seem to have found the balance I was chasing after for a long time. Life has a way of changing things up and causing things to rearrange but like always we’ll roll with those changes keep making things better. 

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!

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!

Proud Dad / Coach

Proud Dad / Coach

This weekend has caused me to fill with pride, not because anything I’ve done, but because the effort and growth Noah and his whole basketball team has made this year.

Last year I had told the coach of the Little Dunkers group Noah was in that I’d be happy to help out with anything I could. At the beginning of this year in the Under 10 group he asked me if I was still interested and that led me to be sort of an assistant coach to the team. Basketball is the sport I know the most about, because I played a lot of in my younger years, but I was never coached and have no experience being a sports coach. Thankfully the other coaches are fantastic so I get to learn from them and basically repeat everything they say while helping the kids in practise. Honestly I’ve probably learned as much as the kids have over the year.

We technically finished our season a while back but didn’t want to quite yet. We asked some of the kids from our team and another local team if they wanted to keep going and so made up a new team. We’ve been practising hard usually a couple times a week and they are keen to learn and push themselves. It’s inspiring to see the kids put in the work, get noticeably better, build trust with each other, and really become a team.

At the beginning of the year Noah was timid, would pull up early when dribbling down the court, and just hold back in general. Throughout the year he’s become a good defensive player, he’d stick to players and fight for rebounds. This weekend he took it further, he was diving for loose balls and driving to the net. Watching Noah’s confidence grow makes me so happy.

This weekend we played in a small tournament we were invited to. We played two games on Saturday where we won the first game and then lost the second by one point in a very hard fought battle against a strong team. This morning we won again which took us to the final game against the team we lost to yesterday. Once again it was a hard fought game that came down to us winning by just a couple points. You can see from the players on the bench in the background while Noah was taking this foul shot in some of the last seconds of the game how invested they all were. Everyone on their feet as each point here made a difference. I don’t have many fingernails left today.

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We still have a couple tournaments we’re going to play in and I can’t wait to this group get even better. Here’s a little video that we put together as part of a contest to see more of this team.

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.

Automattic Pumpkin

Noah and I have most of the day together. We’re off to play some basketball shortly but this morning he helped me carve my pumpkin.

He choose to paint his own this year, it has the first coat only so far, so not ready to share.

For a while I’ve wanted to try this kind of carving where you more skin the pumpkin, so I choose a fairly simple design. Maybe I’ll try something more detailed next year.

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 🙂 I convinced him that it was cool but it wasn’t until Jen told him it was cool that he was really at ease.

Basketball

Saturday morning has becoming basketball morning for Noah and I. This is his second year signed up in the beginning levels of our local basketball program. He’s always excited to go, and I’m excited to go with him. He’s always enjoyed being active and has been involved in soccer, basketball, and now karate as well. He tells me basketball is his favourite sport though. This came without any real pressure from me but it does make me happy. Growing up I was never involved with sports much. I watched lots of hockey on TV and was into baseball during the early 90’s when the Bluejays were doing really well, but only really played basketball.

Basketball seemed like an unlikely sport for me to play too as when I was growing up I was always the shortest in my class for a long time. Memories also go back to early elementary school where we first started learning basketball in gym class. At first it wasn’t fun because I was terrible. My coordination was way off and I couldn’t even dribble the ball without losing control. I can still recall the frustration of looking around and seeing so much of my class appearing to do so much better. With these things in mind I never ended up trying out for basketball teams or playing in any sort of organized way, but I still played.

At home I turned a section of our yard into my own personal basketball court. It ended up being essentially a piece of plywood with a basketball rim attached. This was somehow connected to a tree in our yard. The lawn in front of it quickly turned into a large dirt patch, or mud depending on the weather. There were tree roots sticking out which made it even harder to dribble than just the packed dirt. Air balls were never any fun as they could roll into the backyard, down the bank, and into the river that was behind our home. It was a race to chase after the ball and catch it before it made it that far.

Our neighbours I’m certain hated me. The sound of a basketball bouncing from early morning to late at night. The sound of it hitting the plywood backboard and shaking against the tree. Though I don’t recall any direct complaints from them, I do remember scoldings from my mother to not be out there so early.

Later on as a teenager I didn’t play much at home anymore. But being out with friends we would often head to the neighbourhood court and play three on three half court games. Not sure how I’m not injured as most of the time I’d play in flat deck shoes, if you can remember them. We would play for hours at a time. In high school when we moved away it didn’t take me a long time to find friends and get us all playing at a near by schools basketball court most of the summers. Looking back it helped me make more friends and kept me busy  so I didn’t get myself into more trouble than I did anyway. It gave me an outlet to let out some of my teenage anger and frustrations.

There was one winter where we didn’t want to stop playing. We ended up making arrangements where a small group of us rented the gym at the town hall one night a week. There were times we ended up getting large groups of people showing up to play with us.

When I first moved and after feeling fairly confident in my skills from playing so much I thought maybe I’d stand a chance to join the high school team. It was a new school, no one knew me, I could break out and be different than the person I was at my last school. First day of try outs I walked into the gym, I didn’t even get my new shoes which were purchased for just this reason. Watching everyone play and run through drills who had obviously been doing it for years showed how little I really knew. Even though I felt comfortable with my skills on the neighbourhood courts, this was a different level and I didn’t fit. I left before even lacing up or talking to anyone.

It excites me now watching Noah play. Having him enjoying it and building the skills and techniques now so that if he does decide to continue on he won’t have the same barrier to entry I did when I finally decided I would give it a try. Who knows maybe he’ll get bored of it in the next while and never want to join his high school or any other team. But he’s having fun now and I want to try to make it something we can do together.

Our yard makes it difficult to find a place to put a net, but if I could find away to have one in our yard when I was a kid, I’m sure I can figure something out now. I can already picture summer time out shooting and practicing together, or looking out my office window and seeing him out there shooting over and over again.