Posted in family, Life

Back From Vacation!


In case you were one of the MANY who email me trying to find out why there have not been any new posts in a month (or if you really don’t care – you’re going to find out anyways) but I’m back from vacation.

Yup.

Back from an amazing family vacation in Europe (again) and in need of another vacation.  LOL.

This thing called jet lag is kicking my ass… Hard.

I hope everyone has also had a wonderful summer and with 3 weeks still left in the summer, I hope the weather is great and I look forward to hearing about your family vacations as I outline mine.

Back from vacation and back to work!

The Urban Daddy aka Warren

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Posted in Daddy, family, Life

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.

Posted in Being Jewish in Toronto, Community, family, Life

Back to School Day! Walking in the Shadow of your Sibling…


So Tuesday was back to school for Linus and Stewie.  Linus entered the ever-pivotal grade 3 and Stewie into grade 1.  The boys are back at the same school but this year, the school is in a new, bigger, badder, stronger location.

As Stewie put it, “Our whole old school could fit into the gym of the new one!!!” Yes it could, son.

This new school location also brings a lot of traffic and a plea for parents to walk kids to school instead of driving them which meant my wife – who is back teaching at their school – was leading one of the walking buses at morning drop-off.  She had on her trendy fluorescent orange safety vest and was more than prepared to walk the students from the street drop-off through the park and to the school.

On the way through the park on the first day, Stewie saw a woman walking a bunch of dogs – 7 to be exact – and he let everyone know how cool he thought that was when he blurted out at the top of lungs; “Hey!!! Wow. Look. She has a LOT of dogs! 7 of them!!!”

LOL. He kills me. This is the same boy who a couple of years ago wanted a piece of fruit – then fell asleep in the car – and when he awoke the first thing he said was; “Heeyyyyyyyyyyyyy! Can I have my fruit now?!?”  He is animated and never forgets.  It’s like he’s on standby, absorbing everything and anything until he notices something interesting then he blurts it out.  Of course he’s also the boy who on a 4 hour car ride will talk the entire 4 hours…

So after 2 days of school the boys seem to be having fun.  Linus has a locker for the first time ever and Stewie… Well… Stewie is not having that great of a time so far because for the second year in a row he doesn’t feel that there has been enough work given to him or teaching done by the teachers.  LOL.  He’s totally going to say something.  He needs work.  He expects work.  Last year he commented to his teacher that he was bored because all they were doing is colouring and at 4-years-old he felt it was beneath him to colour while in school.  He’s there to learn!  He can colour at home.  Yipes.

Another problem the boys are going to face this year is that Stewie has 2 teachers who taught Linus and already one of them has called Stewie by the wrong name.  Another one called him LinuStewie as she realized she was calling him by the wrong name and corrected it.  Stewie, you see, already has the plan for rectifying this problem as he told us tonight that he plans on calling that teacher by the name of his other tacher in order to teach her to get it right.  LOL.  You confuse my name and I’ll confuse yours.

I totally know what it’s like to called the wrong name or to be judged by my teachers based on an older sibling.  I had to walk in the footsteps of my older sister who was about as opposite from me as one could be.  She was quiet and very smart.  She got incredible grades and was the perfect student.  Me… Not so much.  I would regularly get tossed out of class for talking or laughing, I used to copy homework from my friends before class and for a major French assignment I copied 12 pages out of a French novel.  I had no idea what the pages read and my teacher totally knew that and she hammered me on the assignment and destroyed me on my presentation.

Lesson learned.

I suspect what prevented her from tossing my ass out of school was that my sister was sitting with an average of somewhere near 99% in French so she cut me some slack.

I had MANY teachers say to me; “You’re her brother!?!  Really???”.

Yup.  More social, and less focussed.  That’s me.

So I’m not surprised to hear already that after 2 days Stewie is getting compared to Linus and boy are his teachers in for quite a shock.  Linus is full of energy, he bounces from person to person with a smile on his face and he completes his work when he’s interested in doing so.  Like his daddy he gets distracted when he’s unchallenged or bored and then he gets attention for being silly and disturbing others… Poor kid.

Then there is Stewie… Very focussed, very serious and incredibly driven.  Stewie goes to school to work – day 1 or day 100 – and you had better not talk to him or be silly because that’s a quick way to get on his bad list.  Stewie has a strong respect for justice and if you’re doing something wrong, Stewie will tell you.  Him and his brother are night and day.   If Linus’ teachers are expecting Stewie to be a distraction they are going to be surprised and they expect silliness or incomplete work they will learn quickly it’s not the way Stewie operates.

Boo started school Thursday morning and was preparing us by reassuring us every morning that  “Am I going to school today? I won’t cry!”.  She will, I’m pretty sure but the school said they can handle it.

On her way to school she blurted out this gem; “Am I having dance class today?”

Me: “No, sweetheart.  Not today  We’re going to school now.”

Boo: “Am I going with mummy after school to get my unicorn?”

Me: “Yes, dear”.

So how did back to school sound in your household?!?

Posted in Thursday Thirteen

Thursday Thirteen. 13 Things I liked about the 2011 Global Corporate Challenge.


This is my list of the 13 things that I really liked during (and after) the 2011 Global Corporate Callenge.

13. The actual Exercise – It was nice at first keeping track of my steps during a normal day, then during a day in which I went to the gym, and finally on a weekend when I took the boys for a 2-3 hour walk.  But as my numbers climbed, I found that I would walk a lot more at night, and always take the stairs, no matter where I was (see post on our holiday where were all took the kids from the 5th floor to the 12th floor numerous times a day).  Then it became routine.  Every day for 16 weeks. 

12. Losing inches – It was nice during the GCC to notice that while I was getting stronger and my endurance was up, that I was losing inches in places where I have wanted to lose inches.  A nice surprise.

11. Feeling lighter on my feet as the event went on. At first I was dragging my ass around, but the more I exercised, the easier it was to move… Funny how that works, eh?

10. Having walking meetings with my staff. It gave me an opportunity to speak with them in a neutral environment and I found they had more suggestions, some great recommendations and they were more eager to ask questions which were HR related or industry specific without the threat of having someone question them on something they should have knoen..

9. Competition – I love competition.  Once I saw that it was going to be a close race to the finish I turned it up and walked, more, exercised more and busted my ass to make sure I did the best I could and help my team win.  I’m really competitive.  REALLY. 

8. I hate to lose way more than I like to win – This challenge reinforced that I hate to lose more than I like to win. Now that the competition is over and my team came in first out of all our company’s teams in North America; 309th out of 28,249 in the world for and 6th in Canada out of 809 teams. That is all warm and fuzzy, but it’s over and I am so past it. But when we were losing… That got my ire up.

7. Saving my ass – By beating all the teams I trash talked in the early stages of the challenge, I saved my ass from ridicule and the fear of being mocked was part of my motivation to get the job done!

6. Knowing I had no choice but to walk / run / swim / cycle. With this challenge and your teammates depending on you plus the fact I was the team leader, I felt more was expected of me. With that “pressure” I had to keep moving… all the time. That meant I only went to sleep one day out of the 16 weeks before midnight because I reset my pedometer at midnight, so I used every spare minute to walk, walk and walk.

5. Being able to spend time walking and thinking about life, work, family and other things. The quiet was refreshing and it was nice to get out late at night to just walk around. When I run, I run late at night – 10:30 or 11pm, so I am used to getting out that late, but I’ve never been a fan of late night walks… Until this competition.

4. The race at the end. Since there were 4 teams really close together, I was fixated on the step entry and seeing who made personal bests, and the sort. It was a lot of stress but also a lot of fun!

3. The change to my body shape was a nice touch. My legs and torso are slimmer, my upper body more muscular and overall, I feel better.

2. Seeing all the locations on the http://www.gettheworldmoving.com site as we moved trough the course and the final drive to complete the course which we did not. Seeing that in Canada there was snow made me laugh since it was August and obviously there is NO snow here in the summer.

1. I’ve changed my ways and in addition to all the exercise I regularly do in a day (before GCC I was averaging between 12000-14000 steps without the gym, and 21000 with the gym) I find I’m more than ever walking to keep moving.

So what benefits did you find from the GCC? If you did not take part, would you enter it next year if your company took part?

Posted in family, Happy Wife = Happy Life, Life, Linus

Can you smell that too??? It’s summer and Toronto stinks… Why?!? And how about the CNE??


I can smell it, can you? I am born and raised in this City and I have never, ever had to encounter this type of smell before…

Maybe it’s just a Toronto thing, maybe not. Maybe it’s a global thing, maybe not, but for the past couple weeks, when I walk from the house to the subway, I get overwhelmed with this horrible smell of what I assume is garbage.

It’s really horrible. I have actually had to hold my breath for prolonged periods while walking.

I thought to post as maybe some of the local Toronto bloggers may be finding the same problem – at which point I can reach out to my City Councillor, Karen Stintz, to see waht the City is planning to do about it, or maybe other bloggers are finding the same thing and that would help confirm it’s an environment thing…

I have tried different routes to the subway, walked to the office directly, even checked my clothes and my bag to see if they (or me) is the offending party but everything checks out.

UGH.

And on a side note…

Who has gone to the CNE this year?

I really wanted to get out to the EX this year – I like the EX. As a kid I used to go down every year with my family including my gradparets. My grandfather was a wiz on the game where you have to drop a ring onto a coke bottle. He was so good at it, that when we met them down there, they always had the huge animals in their arms and eventually he was banned from the game. While I hated the buildings and never got to go on the rides, I loved the end of summer ritual which included the food building and many givaways.

I worry that UrbanMummy and Linus would get bored being down there – him at almost 2 years old and her 7 1/2 months pregnant – but on the plus side, I can for sure dominate the “Whack-a-mole” game and bring home some toys. I can win EVERY time!!! Unless the game is fixed – and they usually are at the CNE, but once I find the one that works, I win every time.

This is the same reason we didn’t make it to the zoo this summer. 😦

Is it worth going to the CNE? Or will I be okay to miss it?