Posted in Being Jewish in Toronto, Daddy, disaster, family, Life, Parenting, The Urban Daddy

July Was a Very Shitty Month!


What an absolutely shitty month, July turned out to be!

July last year was great! It was the first year that my wife and I had the pleasure of enjoying our @kidfreejuly (yes, we have that Twitter nickname) while all of our kids were enjoying PlanetArowhon. We went out for many dinners together, we tore apart the house and cleaned it from the bottom to the top culminating in a huge garage sale, and we even celebrated our wedding anniversary with our friends.

We were looking forward to more of the same this #KidFreeJuly. Very sadly, however, this July just sucked!

Kid free July began with my epic passing out routine, 45 minutes into an hour fitness class, and only got worse – I know, you’re thinking how much worse can it get than being the old dude walking out of a fitness facility accompanied by a stretcher and 2 EMT’s…

Well let me tell you!

A week after fitnessfailgate, my wife and I flew to the Big Apple, New York City, to meet our friends and enjoy a few days sightseeing, and attending a Billy Joel concert at the famed Madison Square Garden (a huge highlight for me).

We stayed in the lovely Carnegie Hotel, enjoyed a plush, comfy king bed, the snacks, and the 5pm wine and cheese. We had some fantastic meals, including one of the best meals I have ever eaten in my life at the Candle 79 Restaurant.

We walked on the High Line, then stopped in the Chelsea Market for a bite to eat when my wife’s cell phone rang. She answered, and within seconds, spun in her seat to face me – a look of shock in her face – placed her hand on my arm and said, “Oh my G-d, I’m so sorry Warren”.

My mind began to race… You see, my mother has not been well.  She was diagnosed with liver cancer a couple of months ago, and given a year, to a year and a half to live. Hearing that was extremely difficult for me. My father passed away 17-years ago, after my wife and I had been married for just a year, and my dad never got to meet his grandchildren.  Not a day goes by when I wish he could have met them and visa versa.

A year after my father died, my grandfather died. He was one of a kind. One of the kindest, sweetest men I have ever met. He was such an inspiration for me.

After losing my father and grandfather, my mother’s 2 brothers began to leave me, my wife and eventually our kids out of family functions, instead choosing to invite just my mother and sister instead.

I didn’t know what I may or may not have done, but for the longest time it really bothered me because it was a huge cause of stress for my mother and grandmother.  I tried to figure it out and resolve it. I apologized for what I thought I had done, and for what I may or may not have done, and I even asked for a face to face meeting to put all of this behind us.

They never responded. Like, ever.

They kept leaving us out, and kept expecting my sister to choose them over me and her niece and nephews.  Whatever… Everyone has family issues, right?

Getting back to that phone call, though… unbelievable.

My grandmother had passed away, just 8-days after her 96th birthday.

Born in the Ukraine, my Bubi was a true balabusta (Russian for homemaker), and to be honest, I thought she was never going to die. She lived alone right up to the end, and she was fully functional and fully operational, not like the Death Star from Star Wars. She was awesome, and for a long time, my sister and I had our grandparents to ourselves until it was finally time to share them with the other grand kids.

We used to visit all the time, help them out in their store, take care of their gardening, help around the house, and I was the only grandchild that my Bubi allowed to help with the hand washing of her dishes.

We were tight. I loved her dearly.

Even as the years progressed and as my mother’s brothers convinced her that I was the problem and they were justified in their actions, it took just one visit, or phone call for her to understand it was all crap.

I spoke to her on her birthday. She sounded great.  This loss hurt.

So after receiving the news we quickly moved to make arrangements to leave NY, get to Northern Ontario, pick up the kids from camp and attend the funeral. The only wrench in the plan would be in they planned a quick funeral.  We contacted Camp and learned that our eldest was in the middle of the wilderness on a camping trip, and while they had an emergency phone, it would only work if the trip leader called the base, at which point the could send a helicopter in to retrieve our son.

He was, however, coming back on the Sunday – just 2 days away – which meant any time Sunday in the afternoon, or Monday for the funeral would be best.

I reached out to my mothers younger brother to explain the situation, that we would need a bit of time, and it her could plan the funeral for the afternoon at the least, it would work out..

He basically said, tough shit, the funeral is planned.

I explained our intentions – my son being the oldest great grandchild, and knowing that he would really want to be there and speak at her funeral.

Again, I was told that there was no chance it was being moved.

Frantic, I offered to pay for the funeral, contact the funeral home, and let everyone know that the funeral has been moved from Sunday morning to Sunday afternoon.

He replied that it was the last he was going to talk about it, and that it was the last he was ever going to speak to me “as long as he lived”…

… okay…

He went on to say that I didn’t attend the mourning period for my grandfather (called a Shiva) and that I hadn’t visited my grandmother in the hospital.

I needed a second to comprehend what he had told me because that Shiva was 16-years-ago and also because I was at that Shiva each and every day.

Yes, I had not visited my grandmother when she was in the hospital because no one told me that she was there, but I did speak with her several times.

Frustrated like never before, I unleashed my thoughts to him in text, and in typical fashion, faced with the truth, he chose not to reply.

So my wife and I changed our flights and just made it home in time for the funeral.

My kids remained at camp, completely unaware that their great grandmother, their last great grand parent, had died.

They were going to be CRUSHED when they came home from camp and learned the news… My heart breaks for them.

During the funeral, I was a mess. I was super close with my grandmother having done so much for her before there were any other grandchildren, and recently watched as my mother and sister picked up the slack and helped her out.

My mother was unable to attend her mother’s funeral and she had been rushed to the hospital and was not doing well in her own right.  I know my mother wanted to be there, but the only bright side was that it saved her from hearing stories about how much her brothers did for my grandmother considering they had to pick up the slack only recently as my mothers health took a turn for the worse. They made themselves seems like such wonderful children…

Then, just 2 weeks after my grandmother died, my children arrived home from camp and after hearing what an amazing time they all had, I had the break the news that their great grandmother had passed away.  You could have heard a pin drop, and that silence which seemed to go on for hours was quickly shattered with the sound of crying.

My oldest was really upset. Why didn’t we come to get him? He was not happy at all knowing that my mothers brother – who cut his own 3 children and 7 grandchildren out of his life – had refused to wait half a day longer for them.

It was their great grandmother!

My kids were crushed. Devastated.

Then I had to break the news about my mother, whom the kids were REALLY close to. They loved her so much. When they saw her, or spoke to her you could see and hear the unconditional love in their emotions. The feeling was very much mutual.

We went right from the camp pickup point to the hospital to visit my mother who’s health had deteriorated to being in the 3-month to 6-month range, and we had no idea what we were about to face…

My mother was not doing well this day. She was in pain, and although I had come and spent time with her, supported my sister, over the previous 2 weeks that she was in the hospital, my mother just wanted to know when she could see the kids.

When my eldest arrived, my mother smiled for the first time in a very long time and told him how much she loved him.

Over the next hour, while being whisked from room to room and from doctor to doctor, to learn that my mother had days to live, she managed to tell all my kids that she loved them.

Later that night, she passed away.

She held on long enough for her grandchildren to return from camp, before she succumbed to her ailments and 2 weeks after the passing of her mother, she left us.

What came next makes me shake my head as I write this…

My mother would have wanted the family to mourn together for the week-long Shiva period, but that was not to be the case as her brothers decided they were going to observe their mourning period about 10 minutes away in the condo that belonged to my grandmother.

At the funeral, the youngest of my mothers brothers ignored me, my wife and my kids, instead embracing my sister while saying “I’m so sorry for your loss”.

Against the advice of the Rabbi my mother’s eldest brother announced to the attendees that he had some “issues” with my mother and that they “made peace” and that out of respect for my mother, they were sitting separately.

Absolutely disrespectful. If making peace means apologizing for 17-years of family stress by treating one of her children poorly (and his family), then one does not then continue the pattern and do exactly what my mother would not have wanted.

Then, not 5 minutes after we had buried my mother, he texted my sister and asked her to come mourn with them. Completely disregarding the fact that it’s our mother who died and that we actually had a relationship with her and didn’t cause her stress over the last 15 years with made up stories.

They never reached out to me to see how I was.

They emptied my grandmother’s condo without even asking me if there was something that I would like.

None of them – 4 adults and 6 children – contacted me in any way to offer condolence.

My eyes were open, but they have been opened even wider now.

I don’t know why they continue to put my sister in the middle of their childish stupidity.

I’ve come to realize that the opposite of love is not hate – I don’t hate anyone – but indifference.

I’m indifferent to them.

But Karma… She’s a bitch…

Posted in Being Jewish in Toronto, Canada, Community, Daddy, family, government, Parenting, politics, The Urban Daddy, Thursday Thirteen, Toronto

Who is this Urban Daddy character? Thursday Thirteen: 13 facts about this Canadian Blogger


Today is Thursday, which means it’s a very good time to create a Thursday Thirteen post – and the topic this week is 13 facts about The Urban Daddy.

  1. I’ve been writing this blog since 2004.  That makes for a very old blog, eh?

  2. I have written 1,434 Blog posts for The Urban Daddy

  3. I have a tax blog -for my real job – called inTAXicating, which I started in early 2008 and I have written 369 Canadian Tax posts for that site.

10.  I used to work in the Federal Government, in the Canada Revenue Agency, for almost 11-years before resigning to take a managerial position in the private sector.  The change was long overdue.

9.   In the CRA, I collected taxes, trained employees, took 3-years of my accounting designation and then completed my MBA.

8.   I don’t play many online games – after my wife freed me from my Cityville addition – I only play Tap Baseball, Clash of Clans and Tiny Tower Vegas.

7.   I live near one of the most affluent neighbourhoods, in the largest city in Canada – the 5th largest in North America, Toronto

6.   I ran for student council president of my university only to lose to some guy named Jian Ghomeshi  It was a half-assed attempt, but fun nonetheless.  I vaguely remember meeting him and his campaign manager in the main hall and one, or both of them, telling me that they were going to tear down my campaign posters and threatened me about something.  I was wearing my cowboy boots (don’t judge me) at the time, and with them stood about 6 foot 2.  I was NOT intimidated.

5.  I’m fiscally conservative but hate guns, racism and drugs.  I love common sense, saving money, and being upfront and honest.

  1. I’m a rule follower.  Clear your sidewalks.  Don’t throw snow in the street.  Don’t disrupt others.  Live and let live.

3.  I’m learning as I get older things I should have learned much younger.  Foods, anxiety, ADD, how to treat those you love…

2.  I love being a Dad.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.  Love attending events and being there for the kids.  Something I either didn’t have or don’t remember.  It was a different time back then, but still.

1.  I ran a left-handed students association at my university – the school gave us an office, and money to find areas where lefties were being discriminated against.  Our main beef was that some of the largest lecture halls had no left-handed desks, or if they did, the desks were on the far-left side of the lecture hall.  Not cool if you’re vision sucks like mine does.

 

 

Now it’s your turn.

What are 13 facts about you that make you who you are?

 

Urban Twin Mummy… You have a week.  Get started.  🙂

 

Posted in Being Jewish in Toronto, Canada, Community, Daddy, family, Life, Parenting, The Urban Daddy, urbandaddyblog

Holy Hell! Please Tell Me Today is NOT Monday!


I woke up this morning at 6am with a feeling of dread that today might actually be Monday…

I turned to my wife who was already awake and I asked her, “Is it Monday?”

“Yup”, she responded with a sigh.

It’s not that we hate our jobs, or that we had something to do today which we were dreading, but today came way too soon.

For those of you with multiple children – especially those of you with children in activities – know that this is one hectic time of year.

Programs are ending, programs and starting, and that means 8am-10pm programming and with 3 children and 2 parents, it means a whole lot of juggling and lots of mileage on the car!

Take Sunday for example.  My oldest boy umpires baseball, and as his baseball season came to an end yesterday, he found umpiring work at the Toronto Girls Baseball League, an upstart league created by Dana Bookman, which has taken the city by storm.  Very well run, extremely well-organized, and extremely well supported it’s been a huge success and is growing by leaps and bounds.  Our daughter has played in the league and would play more if it didn’t conflict with her dance classes.

As the oldest, and considering the park was close enough to home, he was the lucky one who had to make his own way to and from the games.  He gathered his umpire gear, made sure he found his bike lock, and set out his water bottle, snack and sun screen the night before.

His younger brother had Sunday school in the morning, followed by his Select hockey practice, followed right after by his baseball playoff game.  He made muffins in the morning which made him happy, and he loved his select practice and his baseball team won (even though he wanted to pitch and his coach wouldn’t let him pitch – which made him grumpy).

As an aside, he’s an outstanding kid – all about fairness and equality for everyone – he knows that he has pitched the least out of all the kids and out of frustration he declared that he’s not playing baseball next year.  Never ever again.  All of this because he’s had the same coach 2 years in a row and he feels that he’s going to get the same coach next season and that coach will not let him pitch.  It’s NOT fair.

Our daughter, fresh off a Saturday afternoon dancing at half-time of the Toronto Argonauts football game, had her day filled with another dancing gig at the Girl Expo Canada, which coincidentally was created and run by Dana Bookman along with Alison Cepler.

After that event, she headed downtown to synchronized swimming practice where 2 hours in the pool tuckered her out.

Back at home, the oldest had a play date with a former school mate, and by the time we all settled in together, it was 8pm and I left my equally exhausted wife with 3 hungry, tired children while I raced out to a 8:30pm business meeting.

I finally returned just before 11pm to find my wife laying in bed – too tired to sleep – but so tired she needed to sleep.  We planned Monday’s responsibilities and I headed down to the kitchen to clean up from dinner, and take care of the load of laundry she ran.

Midnight came very quickly.

She was still awake.

I was wide awake.

“You know, we’re going to close our eyes and it will feel like seconds before it’s Monday morning.”

With that thought, we closed our eyes…

 

(For those of you who are thinking about commenting that it’s our fault for having 3 kids, and for programming 3 kids and that we’re just being whiny for complaining… Yup.  Saved you from having to enter that comment.)

Just thinking about myself as a kid – my parents put me in the one program that they thought I should have been in – and that was the way it was done.  I want my kids to experience plenty of things – we’re smart enough to plan the schedules accordingly, but when programs overlap… So not cool.

 

 

Posted in Being Jewish in Toronto, Canada, Community, Daddy, family, hockey, Toronto, urbandaddyblog

Why I Hate March Break!


I have to be honest with you, and with myself when I say that I hate March Break.  I always have, and to be honest, I likely always will.

Growing up, I attended public school and we had March Break, but my family was not big into travelling so we never went anywhere, never had programs to attend to and never did anything interesting which at the time suited me and my anxiety just fine!

Yes, I spent the week playing street hockey from morning until dark and that was awesome, but that was all that I needed.  The break from school was much needed.

Fast forward to having children, all of which attended private secular schools which did not celebrate March Break (we had our break over the holiday of Passover instead), so while we were working and the kids were in school, people were heading south to the warmth and sunshine while we shovelled snow and continued living life as normal.

Now, with one child left in a secular school and the others in public school, I have some of us in school and some of them on break and my wife and I hard at work.

So now, March break consists of driving the kids to, and from programs, work, work and more work, and whenever I check social media, I see friends and family living it up down south in the sun, sand and surf.

It’s very much like previous years’ where March Break is not a time to go down somewhere warm and sandy but couldn’t because the kids had school and we had work.

I’ve asked all the travellers to please bring back the sun and warmth…

They’ll all likely forget because they’re having such a great time, or at least their social media posts depict a great time.

On the positive side, I was able to spend a considerable amount of time this March Break with my middle child at his hockey camp.  He attended Creative Hockey Development’s (creativehockey.ca) March Break camp – which was put on by my friend, Dusan Kralik, and his new business partner Daniel Erlich.

The camp was incredible!

The hockey skills and pace of the camp were fast and the players even faster.  I think Dusan found a match in Danny as someone who possesses an incredible hockey IQ to go along with his world class skills and speed.

The camp was well run, the kids came off the ice tired and they learned more than just hockey this past week.

Now, as for March Break itself…

Going forward, I’m have to make sure that I refrain from checking social media that week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Being Jewish in Toronto, Community

Proud Recipient of a 2015 Ontario Volunteer Service Award


On June 16th, The 2015 Ontario Volunteer Service Awards were handed out in Toronto, which recognizes individual volunteers for continuous years of commitment and dedicated service to an organization. 

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This year both my wife and I received an award for 15-years of volunteering with an organization call Jewish Family and Child Services (JF&CS).

Jewish Family & Child supports the healthy development of individuals, children, families, and communities through prevention, protection, counselling, education and advocacy services, within the context of Jewish values.

Their priority areas are;

1. Increasing Safety and Security

2. Reducing the Effects of Poverty

3. Improving Mental Health and Wellness

My wife and I became volunteers in the Big Brothers / Big Sisters program to assist the JF&CS staff with the planning and coordinating over events for the programs’ participants and volunteers.  Over the past 15 years we have met a lot of incredible volunteers and incredible children who have grown up to be amazing young adults.

None of this would have been possible without the hard work and support of Andrea Pines, the Volunteer Coordinator for Big Brothers / Big Sisters.

We also try to model what it means to be a good person to our children and I recall a picture being published of our oldest boy – at probably 3 months old – strapped to my wife in a child carrier and the 3 of us set off to an event.  We try to include all of our kids in the event planning as well as at the event so they will understand that giving their time might seem like such a small gesture, but to some people it means a lot.

Obviously we do this for the organization, and not for the recognition, and I’m hesitant to publish this except I hope down the road, my kids will be able to read this and realize that volunteering is important and that it’s been a part of their lives since they were born (and their Dad expects them to continue doing it!!)

The awards ceremony is a lovely ceremony where volunteers are presented with stylized trillium pins and personalized certificates.