family

What’s Up With The Random Posts? A Family Vacation, Of Course!


I’ll tell you what’s up with the random posts that came infrequently to The Urban Daddy during the month of August.

VACATION!

I had a bunch of posts in my draft folder, and I scheduled them to come out while we were away on vacation.  Unfortunately, I still have about 77 more of them to get through…

As for the vacation, all 5 of us filled our backpacks up and headed out for a 19-day adventure which saw us leave Toronto and arrive in Iceland, then on to The Netherlands, Belgium and Paris, France before heading back to Toronto via Iceland. The trip was fantastic, the kids were amazing and my wife is the world’s best travel planner. Seriously.  She did not miss a single detail and I learned how to plan a vacation right down to places to eat, foods to buy, where to buy them and what souvenirs to seek out.  She’s amazing at this.

Without getting into too much detail about the trip, I can say that we loved Iceland a lot!  We rented a car, drove the Golden Circle and embraced the culture as much as we could. Icelandic people are beautiful and friendly and food is expensive, unique and tasty!

We saw waterfalls – especially the incredible Gulfoss waterfall – geysirs, hot springs and every now and then the sun would set so the kids could fall asleep.  Instead of going to the Blue Lagoon, we went to a small hot spring at the base of a mountain, just past a church and peeled off our clothes, changed into bathing suits and hopped in with a couple from Denmark.  It was very hot and very bubbly, like nothing we had ever seen before, and getting out of the water into the very cool air, we barely noticed the cold as we changed back into our clothes and walked back to the car.

We swam at night in the public pool near our rented house with the locals and warmed up in the hot pools where temperatures ranged from 37 degrees to 44 degrees.  On the food side, we all tried the famous Icelandic hot dog (only I liked them) and Boo and myself were the only brave ones to try eating whale (which I thought was delicious and a bit gamey) but she did not like at all (insert face here).  Stewie and I walked down to the bottom of the Kerið volcanic crater lake to touch the very cold blue-green water and to see there was a park bench in the water for people to sit on.  I guess volcanos, lava and waterfalls are common for the locals.  :)

From Iceland we flew to The Netherlands and spent 5 days in and around Amsterdam taking in the sites and sounds of this beautiful country packed with tourists.  We toured the Jordaan district, the Jewish district (my wife and eldest son visited Anne Frank’s house) while me and the other 2 explored our neighbourhood.  We took a day trip to beautiful Zaanse Schans to see and tour the windmills and we visited the medieval town of Bruges.

From our apartment backing onto the Vondelpark, we were close enough to pretty much everything we wanted to see, and in those 5 days, we mastered pretty much every possible method of transportation there except cycling – and we managed to not get run over or step in front of a bike on the dedicated bike paths. We took an all you can eat (Dutch) pancake boat ride plus a canal cruise, and we lucked into being there for the Pride parade on the water, which was packed and a lot of fun.

From the Netherlands, we took the train to Brussels for 5 fun days spent eating Belgium waffles, frites, chocolates and drinking the wonderful fruity beers (less than 3% alcohol).

Our apartment was close to the incredible Grand Place and we walked by the Manneqin Pis a couple of times to see what he little guy was wearing.   We visited the comic book museum, saw the Smurfs, Tin Tin and Asterix and Oblix and had a nice meal out with the kids where I had, mussels, of course (I kept thinking about the Muscles from Brussels – Jean Clause Van Dam’s line from some movie where he said “How does it feel to be hunted!!”

I was disappointed with Brussels, but once I got past the site and smells of urine, vomit and litter, an insane non-functional transit system and a ton of graffiti on buildings and statues from the 1600’s, I realized how much Brussels had to offer if it could get it’s act in gear.

We took days trips to Bruges, the medieval town of Ghent and we found these areas to be beautiful and awesome for the kids.

From Brussels we took the high-speed train to Paris where we stayed in the Marais quarter for just under a week.  Having spent 5-weeks in France for our honeymoon, we had high hopes for our time in Paris, hoping to show the kids the must-see sites.  We saw, but did not go up the Eiffel Tower, we did walk up the Arc De Triomphe, walked the Champs-Elysées in the rain, visited the Notre-Dame Cathedral, and stood in the middle of Paris.  We ate crepes, the kids played with boats in the Jardin du Luxembourg a we took a boat tour on the Seine.

We searched high and low for Berthillon ice cream (luxury ice cream and sorbet) only to find it closed in the month of August?!?  Actually a lot of things were closed in August, and on August 15th the Assumption long weekend, there was very little open outside of the major tourist areas.

The weather in Paris was average and fluctuated between cold and rainy and hot and sunny which meant my backpack carried sweaters and umbrellas every day, plus snacks and water to keep the kids moving.  We made the most of the weather, jumping into the Pompidou Centre and the Orsay Gallery when it rained, and walking around the streets when it was nice outside.

My wife managed to get a babysitter for one night in Paris so her and I went out for a lovely dinner and a stroll towards the Eiffel Tower until it started to rain and we realized that after 11pm we were getting tired, so we headed back on the Metro to our rented apartment.  Getting away from the children was a much-needed break – if even for 4 hours – and the adult conversation was much appreciated.

On our last day we took the Metro to the airport, flew back to Reykjavik, then after a 2 hour layover, headed back home to TO.

The trip was awesome, the kids were fantastic, and neither my wife nor myself thought there was a chance that our 4-year-old daughter was going to be able to walk as much as we walked over 19 days, up and down stairs, in and out of museums, and without needing to be carried, but she surprised us all.  She was awesome!  She even learned words in Icelandic, Dutch and French.

We all came out of this vacation closer as a family, with a greater appreciation of what we have and thinner from all the exercise.

With school around the corner, I hope my kids will be able to recall some of what they saw and share with their teachers and their classmates.  I can say that one week after our trip, my oldest son is watching the volcanic activity in Iceland, while my middle child has been working on a Powerpoint presentation with his pictures in it.

The break from work and school was great but it’s back to the grind come September.

Canadian Living Likes The Urban Daddy too…


Father’s Day is a great time to check out some of the great Daddy bloggers on the Internet, especially the – ahem – Canadian ones.

I was thrilled when I received word from David Eddie who writes for Canadian Living saying he wanted to add my blog, The Urban Daddy, to his article titled; Daddy Blogs You Should Be Reading.

David, in case you were not already aware, has blogged under “Mack Daddy” and has written and published (is this not one in the same) a few parenting books;

  • Damage Control: How to Tip-Toe Away From the Smoking Wreckage of Your Latest Screw-Up With a Minimum of Harm to Your Reputation (2010)
  • Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad, (2003)
  • Chump Change (1999)

You can see more of David’s work, here.

Here is what David wrote; “Moms have ruled the blogosphere, but daddy bloggers are throwing their ball caps in the ring. Here are the daddy blogs you should be reading.

While women are naturals at communicating and forming communities, it’s tougher for us guys. I was a stay-at-home dad for many years—I even had a blog called Mack Daddy, which quixotically tried to make being an SAHD seem cool—and I know that, as a dad, you can feel isolated, like you’re the only guy in the world going through what you’re going through. Reading some other dude’s blog is one of the best cures. Dad bloggers offer a unique window into what men think about their lives in the wake of having children.

Maybe in some utopian future when we’re all riding around in hovercars, we will speak only of “parent bloggers,” making no distinction between male and female. Until then, dad blogs add a spicy flavour to the blogosphere. A flavour kind of like…barbecue.

Here are some of my go-to sites that let me know I’m not alone:

The Urban Daddy is the blog for products and practical tips, especially for things to do when your kids are driving you up the wall. Warren Orlans, the Toronto father behind the blog, says he’s “not your typical daddy,” and I’m not quite sure what he means by that. (What’s typical these days?) But, like me, he has a three-kid, two-career household. Also like me, he and his wife have the odds stacked against them: three to two. He’s very good on the topic of “juggling”—which is especially useful for readers who live in urban jungles. Don’t kid yourself: It is a jungle out there, and Urban Daddy is a great guide to avoiding the bear traps, vipers’ nests and poison darts.”

Please go read the entire article, here.

Local Event: chickaDEE and the Toronto Zoo, June 21st, 2014.


Suddenly, this Urban Daddy feels very old!

Upon receiving a tip that OWLkids and the Toronto Zoo are partnering to celebrate 35 years of chickaDEE magazine on June 21st, my mind started recalling the release of chickaDEE at the ripe old age of, ahem, 7-years-old.chickaDEE Magazine 35th Anniversary issue

Needless to say, I’m old, but I LOVED OWL as a kid, and loved chickaDEE too. My kids love OWL and chickaDEE as my middle child is the ripe old age of, ahem, 7-years-old.

So as a result, we have cleared our calendar on the 21st to ensure that we can attend this event (we already have the family seasons pass to the zoo).

This event is an excellent addition to The Urban Daddy’s event listings because it is an educational activity that the whole family will enjoy, while seeing a major Toronto attraction in the Toronto Zoo.

EVENT: chickaDEE Magazine Zoo Puzzle Search

DATE: Saturday, June 21, 2014
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

VENUE: Toronto Zoo
361A Old Finch Ave.
Scarborough, ON
M1B 5K7

EVENT DESCRIPTION:

Kid explorers and their families are invited to join Owlkids, publishers of chickaDEE Magazine, for a fun-filled day of discovery at the Toronto Zoo on Saturday, June 21, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Come out to follow the clues and search the Zoo for four puzzle pieces that will reveal a special picture. Collect all four and win a prize!

For more information visit the Toronto Zoo website, here.

 

See you at the zoo!

It Can Be Very Stressful To Be a 4-Year-Old Girl!


My boys will be experiencing sleep away camp this summer. When I was young I remember my mother asking me, and me providing an anxiety-ridden reply that had 2-letters, a “N” and a “O”.

In hindsight, I should have gone, or they should have forced me. Instead, by 14-years-old I was working in the summers and the rest shall we say is history.

So I want my kids to try sleep-over camp, meet new and interesting people (boring ones too, to be honest) and determine on their own if they want to go next year or not.

My 9-year-old has already asked if he can stay for the month if he wants.

I think what helps with the transition is the fact that we’ve been getting them ready for this for the better part of 5-months, from talking about it, to getting them new clothes and items for camp.

So how does all of this relate to the 4-year-old?

This was the morning conversation about camp;

Boo: “My brothers are going to camp?”

Me: “Yes!”

Boo: “They will be sleeping there?”

Me: “Yes!”

Boo: “I will be going to the same camp?”

Me: “No. They will be away at camp, then when they come back they will go to the same camp as you.”

Boo: “I will be coming home from camp every day… On the bus?”

Me: “Yes”.

Boo: “So my brothers will be at camp. They will sleep there, and then they will come back and we will all go to camp together? I will not sleep at camp, but I will come home and sleep at home?”

Me: “Yes! That is exactly what will happen.”

Boo: “GREAT! Whew. I need a break…”