Hooky Day

Every once in a while, you need to step back and take a day to get out of your routine and reset.  You need to put all of your obligations and everyone’s expectations of you aside and do something for yourself.  

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This week, it was Hudson who needed that break.  Between his Mom being away for a week and me keeping him up way past bedtime for a showing of Infinity Wars, he woke up absolutely zonked and feeling emotional and anxious one morning.  

I am fortunate enough to work for an employer that offers a nice little benefit called an “emergency” day.  It’s there for just such occasions when you need to drop everything and handle something personally.  It’s perfect for the unexpected moments that life throws at you.  I tapped into one of these days to give Hudson a day of full attention and flexibility.

We went back to sleep.  We made a great breakfast.  We walked our dog, well, he walked our dog while I trailed behind them.  We played at our local park.  And we made a delicious lunch together.     

After lunch, we decided to head over to High Park in Toronto to see if the Cherry Trees were blossoming yet.  Oddly, as we were leaving, he commented that we would be about 3 hours.  I didn’t think much about it at the time, but he was right, almost to the minute.   

We brought along our cameras to capture some of our day:

Toronto Christmas Market

Since 2013, Damian and I have made a point of going to the Toronto Christmas Market together with our families.  We book a date that will make sense and head down for an afternoon of fun and Christmas cheer.  A typical visit includes a visit to Santa, some shopping, a few snacks, lots of photos, and a sit-down bite to eat.

This year, Susie and I had taken Hudson to see Santa earlier, so we came up with a new way to enjoy the market: a photo scavenger hunt!   We made a list, checked it twice, and made our way down to the market.  Here is our list of must-have shots to finish the scavenger hunt:

  • Shot of the big Christmas Tree

  • An ornament bigger than your head

  • Pink trees

  • A gingerbread house

  • A photo with a smiling elf

  • A photo with soup

  • The Big Heart

  • A shot with the Werthers display

  • A shot with the Ferrero booth

  • The #TCM17 hashtag

  • A picture of lights

  • A shot of an oversize present

  • A cask

  • A picture of some people carolling

  • The Ferris Wheel

  • The Carousel

  • A shot of an old vehicle

  • A picture of a disco ball

  • A shot with one of the performers

  • A picture on the "merci" bench

Of course, you can mix up the above with any of your favourites.  We made up a prize for Hudson if he could find all of the shots on the list ... a $10 prize that he could shop for as we were on the hunt.

Here is a Flickr album with some of our favourite shots from 2017:

Toronto Christmas Market 2017

Letters to my Son - “One-and-Done”, The Only Child

When your mom and I started dating we talked about everything that was important as part of the process of getting to know each other. One of the little things that we agreed upon even before we got serious about each other was that we wanted to be able to live our lives in the city and that we wanted to be able to always maintain a certain lifestyle.

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Part of that discussion was an agreement that we were each only prepared to have one child. That would mean that we would be able to comfortably bear the costs of raising a child while providing all of our life necessities without having to sacrifice too much of our lifestyle.

Things like having university paid for by your parents would give you a leg up on the other kids who wouldn't have that same opportunity. I, for one, couldn't afford to go to school the same way that some of my friends did. My parents gave me what they could, but it was more in the form of support, food, and advice rather than the actual cash that is needed to pay for tuition and accommodations.

I had the stress of applying for government assistance to pay for school and then the ongoing stress of paying those loans back for years after I was done with school. I never finished my degree, partly because of the overwhelming feeling that I would never be able to finish paying for school. I don't want you to have that feeling. I want to be able to afford to pay for your education and give you all the things that I could never have.

Your mom and I also agreed that “one-and-done", as we would go on articulating the philosophy, would give us the opportunity to be the awesome parents that we know we can be, but also allow us to get back to having lives as individuals sooner since there wouldn't be other siblings trailing behind you.

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of course, I had some concerns about having only one child. I was the oldest of five kids and your mom was the youngest of three kids. Neither of us had any experience with what the life of an only child would be like. We both wanted to give you the best parts of our own childhoods, but quickly we realized that you wouldn't be growing up like either of us. Rather, you would have your own journey through life. Instead of trying to shoehorn our experiences into your life, we decided to just go with the flow and do whatever made the most sense for our family.

Sometimes I worry about whether you will be happy without any siblings. Having your uncle Damian around to play with always kept me out of trouble and, in fact, shaped my sense of responsibility because he always seemed to be on the verge of getting into trouble himself.

We had you around the same time that a lot of other friends had kids so I imagine that you will always have a family friend to play with growing up.

Also, I intend to spend as much time with you as possible for as long as you will let me so I hope that's healthy.

I have a Wife and a Girl Friend

First off I want everyone to know that I'm committed to my wife and we're totally in love.
But I have a girl friend.   

Eva

Eva

We recently moved from Bowmanville to the north west side of Brampton.  Originally we planned to move when Cru started school in 3 years. However, things quickly changed when Eva went back to work. The 240km daily round trip to Mississauga wasn't gonna work anymore with a toddler. Eva was missing Cru way too much. The next 40days were a bit of a whirlwind. we bought a house,  sold our first home, and moved. And just like that, everything we knew was gone. The main reason for the move was obviously to shorten Eva's commute. She went from 120km to 18km. Which has been amazing.

We met our neighbors Helen, Scott, and Elena when we first arrived. Right away they said to us they had bought a house in Georgetown, and they were moving. Like they were telling us this so we wounldnt get too attached to them. LOL. I told them we had too many friends and weren't interested into them anyway. Classic Damian.  From there we started hanging out practically every day.  Walks after dinner, late night drinks with baby monitors. Turns out Elena and Cru are only 3 days apart, which has been great for comparing every aspect of their development. Like everybody does. We all do it. "Oh, Cru's walking now," I'd say. Helen would reply "Elena's saying two words together now."  "Cru say your ABCs" Eva would say.  Helen "Elena, say your ABCs in Cantonese". Constant banter back and forth between the two families. It's been great. I think Eva and Helen have already discussed an arranged marriage for our kids. 

Cru & Elena

Cru & Elena

Helen and I started hanging out a little more when the school year ended. Helen is a teacher and of course has summers off.  At the beginning, we would bring the kids outside to play and socialize. On really hot days when the weather was too nasty for the kids to be outside we would play inside. Which was actually a pleasant surprise to see how other people live with a toddler. Disaster zone. Just like us. We would laugh about how at night when the kids go to sleep we would tidy up, then at first light, it was like a tornado had gone through the house. When Helen's sister would visit them, she would bring slippers. Helen would say "whats with the slippers?" Sisters response "there's crumbs everywhere" 

Elena, Helen, Cru, Damian

Elena, Helen, Cru, Damian

Our daily hangouts turned into grocery shopping and little adventures with the toddlers.  Our spouses seemed pretty cool with the hangouts and encouraged it. Midsummer we took the kids to Canada's wonderland. Which was surprisingly super fun for the toddlers. Lots of rides for them to go on. And they had a pretty cool park with slides and swings. We decided to take one vehicle. It just seemed to make more sense. when Cru and I picked up the girls, Helen's mom was there to see us off. As we were driving away I said to Helen "does your mom think it's weird that we're going together?" Helen says "you're the only one that thinks its weird, stop making it a big deal." Apparently, I brought this topic up way too much.  I was always asking her if her friends thought it was weird, or if Scott was cool with us hanging out. Because Eva was. In the past, I would have thought this behavior was borderline inappropriate. Especially for two married people hanging out without each other's spouses.  And I'm sure some people do think that. I think our spouses know how much the kids love just being around each other, and the importance of interaction between toddlers. I believe the reason our dynamic works is because Eva and I met Helen and Scott at the same time and became friends together.   Plus our kids love each others company.  It's not like this is some random woman I met at the park, and is some mystery to my wife. Or maybe it works because we're older now, and a little more mature, and get it. I guess whatever works right. I mean we're hanging out, our spouses are cool with it, our kids love it. 

Helen & Elena

Helen & Elena

One of our highlights from the summer was an outing to the Bramalea City Center. At this point, we're practically BFFs. We're at the food court, Cru projectile vomits Jimmy the Greek all over the floor, and me. Puke everywhere. Helen hands me a few wipes, and like it was nothing, kept filling her face with some vegan salad. I say to Helen "Eva and I break up,  who do you choose to stay friends with?" Helen while still shoveling salad in her mouth - "Eva, she's my girl."
 

Too much confidence, Too little skill

Hudson getting a cast for his broken arm at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto.  August 26, 2017

Hudson getting a cast for his broken arm at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto.  August 26, 2017

When I was 13, I almost drowned in a wave pool in Montreal.  Not once, not twice, but three times in the same afternoon.  We were there as part of a SEVEC student exchange where I was welcomed into a home in Trois Rivieres, QC for two weeks and then my host was welcomed to my childhood home back in North Bay for two weeks.

Every day, we would go on some adventure with the entire group where we would need to help each other to communicate and grow as people.  On this particular day, our outing was to LaRonde theme park in Montreal.  

I was intrigued by the wave pool.  Nobody else from our group was interested, but I wanted to spend the afternoon coasting around in the waves.  Almost right away, the waves started, and I was having the time of my life. But I found that the pounding waves were a little too much for me.  Lucky for me, there was a lifeguard nearby who was able to throw me a lifesaving buoy.  I would guess that she was about 16 years old and she was absolutely beautiful.  She rescued me, and she pulled me along to the shallow end of the pool where she made sure I was OK before heading back to her lifeguard duty.

I remember the feeling of being overwhelmed by the waves very clearly.  It was terrifying, and while I first I tried to find it my body simply gave up, and I went weak like a dummy.  If the lifeguard hadn't been there, I'm sure I would've drowned.  You think that would be the end of the story, but it's not.  As soon as I felt strong enough I headed straight back out into that wave pool and, of course, I was again completely overwhelmed by the waves.  Lucky for me, the same lifeguard spotted me right away and saved me again.  We laughed, and I was embarrassed but OK.  Sure enough not a few minutes later I find myself waiting out into the wave pool for the third time. By now, my hero lifeguard had moved on to help someone else who was having a hard time in the pool.  This time, as the waves overwhelmed me, I was on my own.  I went under, and I remember thinking this is it.  This is how I die.  

I went completely under, and I lost track of which direction was up.  Then, as I'd given up hope and resolved that this was the end, I felt hands reach under my arms and pull me up to the surface and drag me to the shallow end.  I laughed again and thanked her for the third time, but she turned to me and said: "maybe you should go and play somewhere else for a while. The wave pool is not your friend today".

This wouldn't be the last time that I would get myself in over my head.  When I first learned how to snowboard, I was too impatient to wait for the lesson that came with my package in the afternoon.  I figured how hard can it be and I strapped on the board and headed for the top of the hill.  On my first run, I fell so hard that I'm pretty sure I dislocated my elbow.  I was in so much pain that I thought my day snowboarding would be over.  Then the lesson started a few hours later, and I decided to participate so I could learn where I had gone wrong.  I was tentative because of my tender arm, but in five minutes I discovered where I had gone wrong.  The quick tips and tricks that the instructor gave us for snowboarding were all I would've needed to hear at the beginning of the day to prevent injury and have a great day overall.  

It never occurred to me that my tendency to be over confident in my abilities before developing the necessary skill sets would be something I could pass along to my son.  Until, that is, this week when he broke his arm playing on the monkey bars.

He had been practising monkey bars for the entire summer, and he's falling off more times than I can count.  I was never particularly worried because the base underneath the monkey bars at his favourite park is a thick, soft sand.  On that fateful day, I watched him traverse the monkey bars back-and-forth twenty bars each way at least half a dozen times.  Then, I watched him do something that another child had done the day before.  He reached out instead of grabbing the next bar in the row and tried to skip a bar and go two at a time.  Between overextending himself and the change in how your body bounces when reaching that far he was able to catch the bar but not hold on.  I watched helplessly as his entire body weight swung through and he lost his balance and went tumbling towards the ground.

He landed directly on his right hand snapping his elbow back further than it's meant to.  Immediately, I jumped the fence and ran in to where he had collapsed and was now writhing in agony and grasping his arm.

After a visit to the hospital, he now has a cast.  He's not really in pain because the cast stabilizes his arm in a comfortable position.  Next week, we will be back at the orthopaedic clinic at the Hospital for Sick Kids where he will get a more permanent version of the cast.  He will be 'the kid with the cast' for the first week of school next week, and I'm sure he'll love all of the attention.

I've managed to go my entire life without learning that I need to beef up my skills before trying something new and I've hurt myself or nearly killed myself sometimes.  At this point, I'm torn between whether I should be guiding Hudson not to try things because he might get hurt and encouraging him to be like me and sometimes leap before you look.  For now, monkey bars season is over and so is scooter season and the season for playing around and not paying attention.  

Hudson will be forced to be careful to protect his arm until well into the school year.