kids

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.

Thursday Thirteen Returns! The 13 Items Parents MUST Keep Away From Children


I know what you are thinking already… You have just clicked through and dammit, you want to be educated and impressed by 13 items which MUST be kept away from kids, and you do NOT want to see the same obvious items that other bloggers include, like; fire, axes, switchblades, or acid on this list.

Good. You must read on!

None of those even made this list.

What did make this list, are 13 things which new parents really need to keep away from their children, and trust me when I say that us, experienced or established parents, are nodding along in understanding. You will be amazed with this list, and you will want to follow it! Each and every item on this list!

You’re welcome.

So sight tight, and be prepared to be educated. In The Urban Daddy household we don’t just quiz each other about mathematics for fun, we also drive mummy and daddy crazy by taking these items… often.

Here is THE list of things to keep out of the hands or sight lines of children at all times:

13) Paper – new paper, coloured paper, paper from the recycle bin, paper with bills on it, or from our offices. If it’s paper, then it must be okay to draw / colour / fold / crumple or pour liquids on. Once children understand they can do this, it does not stop at scrap paper. They will colour or write on calendars, important papers for the office, papers for school, items belonging to others and so much more. If they want paper, give it to them in a controlled setting. Don’t let them see where it came from.

12) Band-Aids – “I have a boo boo” means, I want a Band-Aid. The worst part is finding the wrappers and peels all over the house and when you need a Band-Aid finding the box empty, and only Hello Kitty or Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles available. They take them to their rooms, they cover their body with them.

11) Money – It is very important to teach children about money. I have a lot of posts throughout my blog relating to this very topic. But be careful because once they realize that money is a scarce resource and that you have to EARN it, they always find other ways to get money, like taking it from their siblings, from you, family members and searching the earth for money. Just last week my kids were peeking under the vending machines at the RINX sports complex in Toronto and yes, they came up for $4.55. Still… My 1923 penny has disappeared as has the toonies in my “hidden” drawer…

10) Elastics – I made this a completely separate item, not included in officer supplies, because elastics, like paper clips often disappear and are found tied together, in one long massive strand, usually when I really need one. The kids play with these and ultimately use them as weapons. Best to keep away.

9) String – My oldest has always liked tying things together. From as young as I could remember, but when he was 3 1/2, I came out of the family room to see his toys being lifted from the basement all the way up to the top floor via a make-shift pulley system he had created. It’s never ended. Pulleys, zip-lines, clothes lines, he has created it all. He has also set up booby-traps for his brother and sister and tied every piece of string from the lacing toy together time and time again. If there is string in the house, at one time it was tied tightly to his next adventure.

8) Zip Baggies – Not for the reason you might think – choking hazards – but rather because once my kids found out how useful Ziploc baggies were, we could not keep track of them. Toys were zipped together, rocks, dirt, bugs, garbage, and especially paper, all stuck in baggies. Even when I hid the baggies, they found them and used them all up.

7) Kleenex – First it’s 5 Kleenex to wipe their nose, then they get older and it’s a box of Kleenex because it’s fun to pull them out. Now I cannot find a box of tissues anywhere in my house when I need one! I could, however, open up a drawer and find 1000 loose ones sitting there…

6) Dental floss – Flossing is VERY important, and pulling floss out of the container is a LOT of fun. Putting it back…. Not so much. I’ll never forget the site of my wife’s late cat, Lucie, walking down the hall with a piece of her poo trailing her by about 3 feet stuck on a piece of dental floss she had eaten. I had to pull out the other foot… UGH.

5) The hiding spot for anything – If it’s hidden they find it, and they go back regularly to look for more.

4) How to erase from a PVR – My mistake because I came downstairs one night after everyone had gone to sleep to find all of my wrestling that I had recorded gone and the PVR full of kids TV shows…

3) Tape – First they tape paper, then more paper then they ask to borrow the tape and we say, “fine just go get it” and then it’s over! They tape toys, the floor, the walls, each other and viola… No tape. And it’s not just scotch brand tape either… Watch as they use duct tape in the same manner (mine have not, yet).

2) Staples – See tape above. The only difference here is they do not use it on each other but there is nothing worse than walking on the carpet and getting a staple rammed into the bottom of your foot. It’s happened so many times I’d rather not say anything except that the staples and the staples are in different places, and they must use it in front of us on the wood floor.

1) Passwords / passcodes, anything confidential that you don’t want them to know or repeat to strangers, it’s best to leave alone. They don’t understand the importance of being quiet here and they announce information to everyone and anyone.

Honourable mention to shampoo and soap because a new bottle one week is empty the next but no dirt has been removed from their hands… Funny how that works.

What is dangerous in the hands of your kids?

Stewie Writes! The Adventures of Stewie and Boo: Lunch for Lions.


My 7-year-old son has decided that he wants to get “published” and fast! He’s started writing some stories for me to post on my blog so that he can work on his stories for his book. I have not edited it in any way. He actually wrote it into a word document which I pasted here.

Here is another one of his short stories. He is Stewie. His protégé and 4-year-old sister is Boo.
2 lions

Once upon a time there were 2 children in the house named Boo and Stewie.

One day when they were walking in the rainy jungle they saw a hungry lion, so they SCREAMED for help but no one came, so they ran away from the lion as fast as possible.

As they were running away from the lion as fast as they could, they saw a house where they thought they could be safe from the lion. As they got closer to the house they realized it looked to be haunted, but they did not want to be lunch for the lion so they ran right into the house.

When they were inside the house they immediately saw a ghost. They asked the ghost, “what is your name?” The ghost said my name is Spooooooooooooooooky and they wanted to talk more to the ghost, but Boo said “the lion is coming in 20 seconds; 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20. Oh no. He’s here. Run everybody!”

So they all ran away from the lion, but the ghost stopped because it did not need to run. It is a ghost. The ghost flew up in the air which confused the lion.

The lion was very hungry and wanted to eat Boo and Stewie for lunch but now they were gone and all the lion saw was a ghost and the ghost was not running away. The lion wondered why. Was the lion going to have a yummy ghost lunch or maybe the ghost was not running because the ghost was not scared of the lion, which made the lion worried, because everybody runs away from him.

But instead of chasing Boo and Stewie, the lion decided to eat the ghost.

Silly lion.

You cannot eat ghosts.

Does it REALLY Matter in the Grand Scheme of Things?


Menorah or Hanukkiah?

Mop or Broom?

Glove or Mitten?

Track Pants or Sweat Pants?

Video or Record?

Album or Disk?

Record or Track?

 

How about the way things are pronounced?

TOE-may-TO or to-MAT-to?

Assed or Asked?

Puh-JA-ma’s or pa-JAM-a’s?

 

When I’m in a rush or have said the same thing over and over and over again, does it really matter what the *&^%$%^& I call it?

Why do I need to be corrected all the time by a child whose age is less than the size of my shoes.

OR

Should I be corrected so I don’t pass this craziness on to my children?

 

Parents… Discuss!

Is This What Brothers Do?


Parenting questions to follow:

Last year was all about Skylanders!  My children HAD to have as many game pieces as possible (and that I totally understand from my hockey card collecting days).  If their friends had 25 characters, my kids needed the same 25.  Keeping up with the Joneses, I believe.  But then came the search for the elusive Ninjini character they HAD to have.  Only one other kid had one, and he got it from the United States.  Ninjini was selling on eBay for $80.00 and my kids would have ordered them all if given the opportunity.

I finally found one by fluke, when I walked into an EB Games location in downtown Toronto, but by the time I let the kids open her (only a week as I contemplated selling her on eBay) their interest in Skylanders was waning because the new phase of Skylanders were coming – Swap Force – and no one wanted to play with the older once anymore.

Geez.

In fact, Linus would play the game and Stewie would watch… for hours. Sometimes. Boo would use the character names or expressions and we would laugh because it was funny coming from someone who never played the game.

In our house, that fad has fizzled.

Now it’s all about Pokémon.

First Linus, the oldest, became interested, then midway through the school year, Stewie expressed his interest in collecting the cards and learning to play the game with his classmates.

What I don’t understand – and it might just be because they are brothers – and I don’t have a brother, is that they trade cards, they give away cards and they steal each others cards.

What’s up with that?

Do they not understand that if one kid has a gold card in their room at 9am, and by noon that card is missing that it is painfully obvious that the other took it?

But they deny it.

They yell.

They scream.

They accuse.

They write notes to each other.

They send each other bills for the missing cards based on a value clearly decided upon while reading a Richie Rich comic ($1,000,000).

Then the card(s) turn up with an elaborate story involving wind currents, forgetfulness, and finger-pointing at anyone and everyone but themselves.

We know what’s going on.

They know what’s going on.

Why do they do it?

Is this what brothers do?