Eulogy for my Brother

When you are the youngest of three what is the first thing that pops into your head when you think of your older siblings? Is it a wonderful time you spent together growing up or the times they held you down sitting on your chest hanging a big green luggie over your face?  For me it’s the ladder, My brother Donald could be a bit of a shit and he just loved to hear me scream I suppose. Where else would I learn about Indian rope burns, noogies and how to play or rather lose at knuckles. I was his first punching bag but as much as you hate the pain you still looked up to him. He was after all the same guy that showed up at the schoolyard when some kid who was being a pain got his big brother to come along to intimidate me. My big brother was bigger than his so though no blows were exchanged the matter was settled quickly. 

He was also the same guy that took me into the woods and showed me the trails close to our house up to the point that overlooked our home town. He showed me the way to safely climb a rock and taught me how to get down onto a ledge under the point. This information would serve me well for years as my friends and I explored these local woods every weekend enjoying cooking out over an open fire. 

He was the guy that was there on one scout camping trip as a leader assistant. I argued with my tent mate over where to set up our tent. It was my tent after all. He settled the argument and made me compromise and got me to set up the tent where my roomie Tom wanted to go. Later that night as the outer edges of a tropical storm hit us the wind blowing so hard our tent was collapsing on us. I was on my back with my arms and legs outstretched to keep the tent up in the hurricane-force winds meanwhile Tom prayed. The lightning flash was blinding and the sound of thunder roared and shook the ground. Moments later my brother was opening the flap of the tent to see how we were. On my back holding up the tent I said fine why. He pulled back the tent flat to reveal the huge Oak tree I wanted to set our tent up under was on the ground where we would have been if I’d won the argument.  My brother getting me to compromise probably saved my life that night. As much as a tormentor as he was when we were young he made good choices, had good friends and I looked up to him.  

At some during high school, he discovered beer as we all do around that age. That was a turning point in his life.  He was always pissed off at our father and a few bottles of beer gave him the courage and bravado to let the old man know. When you’re outweighed by a hundred pounds it wasn’t a fair fight but he got what he wanted, a battle, a showdown that he would keep trying to win for years. It’s hard as a kid to see two people you look up to beating the shit out of one another but that was my life as a young boy. I grew up watching domestic violence first hand.  I never had sleepovers on the weekend because I never knew when my brother would come home drunk spoiling for a fight. I was embarrassed by it all. Excuses were made why my brother had his front teeth knocked out. Why things were broken in our home. Heartbreaking to see my great aunt whom we lived with in her 90’s hitting them with her cane to stop. My mother is so upset she starts breaking dishes in the kitchen to draw their attention from each other. I sat there on the stairs not able to do a thing at my age watching this fight unfold with all too often regularity.  

In winter 1983 was when my brother died for the first time. After a day spent at a funeral for my father’s best friend’s son who accidentally shot himself in the face we retired to quiet sleep. I was having the most intense dream ever sitting at a campfire, I could hear the snap crackle pop of the fire and even smell the smoke. I couldn’t taste the marshmallows but it was very peaceful. I heard my bedroom door open abruptly and my father grabbed me out of bed and pushed me into the hallway. Not awake and disoriented I walked into a wall as the hallway was full of smoke. It’s only about eight feet from my bedroom door to the stairs by I walked into another wall till I found my way. I saw my brother’s room in flames. It was December 15th and I was standing in the snow on the front lawn in my winter boots with a jacket on in my underwear because I didn’t use PJ’s and getting pants wasn’t given as an option when my father shoved me out of my room. Our hometown uses volunteer firefighters so ten minutes is an eternity when you’re watching your house burn and your brother is still unaccounted for. A can of lighter fluid in his room exploded by the window and blew debris all over the cars in the driveway. My dad then suggested we get the ladder from the garage and see if he climbed out onto the balcony attached to my brother’s bedroom. 

On a normal day, this 50-year-old wooden extension ladder was so heavy I could barely pick it up. That night with the adrenaline flowing I not only picked it up with ease I had it up against the house and extended in mere seconds and I was scrambling up onto the balcony. My brother wasn’t on their so I had a look through the window and saw very few flames.  I stood back and kicked in the door with ease and looked around for my brother but saw nothing but charred furniture. Now this was a few years before the movie Backdraft and I’d never even heard of this term but as soon as I took a couple of steps back we got a huge backdraft of flames that covered where I was standing only moments before. What we found out from the fire chief later is when we exited the house earlier we left the front door open so that was drawing the fire downstairs towards the oxygen. When I kicked in that door the flames went for the easy source of air to consume which drew the fire back upstairs towards the now wide open balcony door.  This allowed the firefighters who had now arrived the opportunity to do a room to room search eventually finding my brother passed out on the floor of the upstairs bathroom.  When they brought him out and laid him in the snow on the front yard he was clinically dead. He’d stopped breathing. They worked feverishly for the next five minutes pumping his chest to keep his heart pumping while giving him oxygen. Eventually, he started to cough and regained colour. 

If my father ever had a reason to go at my brother before he had a reason now as he destroyed the house and forced us all into a trailer in the driveway. If arguments were uncomfortable in the house they were even worse in a two-room trailer where the main area was kitchen, dining room, living room and my brother and I’s bedroom.

After a week I asked if I could move back into the house in my great aunt’s room. She’d been relocated to an old age home till the house was rebuilt and her room on the first floor was the only space in the house that did not experience smoke or water damage. So to avoid the battle in the driveway I stayed in the abandoned house on my own. 

Even after my brother moved out a few years later and I was still at home he sometimes came back for a rematch with our father thinking he finally had the skill to outmatch the old man. He never did.  I was a teenager by then and one time got between the two of them as the battle moved to the front yard. Someone hauled off with a punch that missed the intended target and knocked me out. Next thing I knew I was in the kitchen with my mother who said I took the punch, got up, drove my car that was on the street into the driveway then I went in the back door and sat down. The last thing I remember was standing between the two of them yelling at them to stop. 

As troubling as all this history may sound it was merely the tip of the iceberg for where my brother’s life would go in the coming years and decades. The only thing he ever did that was positive was create his son who against overwhelming odds has turned out to be a rather well-adjusted young man. He was an abusive alcoholic husband during his short turbulent marriage. When that went south he went even further off the rails. I guess for me the line that he crossed I couldn’t forgive is when he drove his son as a five-year-old along with his then girlfriend’s five-year-old daughter both in the backseat while drunk and already under suspension from a previous DWI. I went to his house and told him if he wanted to kill himself then to just do it but don’t take innocent kids with him. My ultimatum that day was that when he was clean and sober a year to please give me a call. My phone never rang. 

I heard through our mother over the years that he was in and out of prison for god only knows what reason. I never wanted to know and I never asked.

I didn’t see him again till 2008 at our father’s funeral. At this point, it had been over 15 years since we had last communicated. No one in the family expected me at the funeral since I became a father for the third time the day after dad died. I figured I 

needed to say goodbye so I was on a plane only 12 hours after welcoming our newest daughter. Many family members were shocked to see me with my oldest daughter in tow and I made the rounds introducing myself to people I didn’t know. I’d walk up and tell them I was the son of the deceased till one person at the visitation said he was too. I recognized the voice immediately but not the face. The 15 years of hard living and alcoholic abuse had aged him about 30 years to the point I couldn’t even recognize him. Over the next few days, we mended a few bridges but the fact he was still drinking didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t want him around my daughter but he’d become a more reclusive quite drunk. Those couple nights we both stayed at our parent’s house were the last we ever spent under the same roof.  When I left to fly home to be with my wife and our new baby I’d never see him alive again. 

We chatted on the phone a couple of times over the years. He was working on a boat that was taking him to the middle east and I think he was scared of being killed in a war zone. It was understandable I didn’t have Libya or Kuwait on my tour itinerary so I got why he was nervous. I last spoke to him not too long after he became a grandfather. He eventually had two grandsons who just lived across town but he never met them even once. I’m not sure how receptive his son was and I understand his trepidation as well to have his father be around his new family. 

As was his pattern I got a text on Christmas day last year. We had a couple of exchanges and I told him mom wasn’t doing very well. Our big brother hadn’t shared this with him but then no one in the family shared anything with him. When you self ostracize yourself away from the family and intentionally have no contact it’s kind of hard to expect us to reach out to you when things aren’t going so well for our mother.  I told him on the 28th I’d let him know how she was and he reiterated to “PLS KEEP ME updated”. That was the last thing he wrote to me. 

 On Monday, February 8th I saw a text from our older brother Mike who’s been dealing with our mother since he lives in the Falls close by. Seeing a text from him to call him did not instill me with confidence because the last time I called him mother was going downhill fast. I expected a new update heading in the same direction only to find out it was our brother he was calling about.  The smell from his apartment had caused some complaints from neighbours and when the authorities entered the suite they were a few weeks too late. They were going to need DNA and dental records to identify the body at this point. The sad reality is the police couldn’t just call a close contact because he didn’t have any. They had to call our mother’s old number, find out the house had been sold and contact the realtor to get to Mike. I’m not sure when they found the body because this investigation to find the family had to take a day or so.  It’s not the end I ever expected for him. I sort of figured he’d have a violent end whether by his own hand in a car wreck drunk or beat to a pulp by someone he challenged to a fight. As I’m writing this right now his son just called me from the apartment where his father died. I can’t imagine the emotions he’s experiencing right now looking at his father’s life’s work.  Seeing the missing hardwood floor they had to cut out because he expired there. Hi slast outgoing call was made January 14that 2 pm so he died after that date. Seeing his father had a framed photo of him holding the grandson he never met did Rob in. A bunch of old paperbacks and cases of empty wine bottles. Quite a legacy but for better or worse he will always be my big brother and I guess he’s in a far better place now.  


Olympic Adventure

So the other day my daughter Emma reminded me that it was one year ago that I left for the Olympics in Korea to drive for NBC.  I knew this anniversary was approaching but the actual day I really hadn’t looked at the calendar to figure out when it arrived. To mark the occasion I will share some recollections of that adventure.  I made a conscious decision before I left for Korea I was going to keep a diary of all the things I experienced. I had no idea that journal would swell to 65 pages so I’ve attempted to edit here.

A few preparations were made in the months leading up to my departure but until I got past New Years it hadn’t really registered what I was about to embark on. I may have been blocking it out not wanting to think of the twelve plus hours on a plane. Maybe it was the time away from family but until I actually started thinking about what I needed to pack the week before I left the scope of what I was about to do hadn’t really clicked. I always think I like to travel but what I like most is getting back to the creature comforts of home.  Saying goodbye to my girls was a bit surreal, the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing them is about a week. This felt more permanent and no one seemed to choke up about it except me. Saying goodbye to JoAnn at the airport was much harder because I know how much I rely on her, but don’t tell her I said that. We were both a bit teary-eyed though we tried to play it down.  For better or worse I was now on my own.

As it turned out the flying was pretty good, I had lots to keep me entertained however I didn’t sleep all night. Once on the ground in a terminal that opened just the day before I saw my first NBC sign held by a greeter to meet me and one other from Vancouver. We were walked over to meet a growing group that had gathered from a few arriving planes and we waited for the last few to arrive. My first experience at eating in Korea was a total fail as even 7-11 didn’t have anything I recognized as food. This may be harder then I thought. We were piled onto a coach for the three-hour drive across the country and I think I fell asleep before we got out of the airport as the next thing I remember was exiting a highway and seeing a huge cross-section of the Olympic rings all lit up. That was only minutes from my hotel.IMG_7303.jpg

As I checked in it really hadn’t occurred to me till I opened my room door that I might actually have a roommate. I recall reading that in the literature I was sent months ago and low and behold there was a fella lying on a bed watching TV. Was he a murderer or psychopath I didn’t know and I was too tired to care. I’ve been travelling for 18 plus hours and really didn’t want to be social but I made the best of it.  After pleasantries he offered me a stiff drink, this guy already gets me. His name was Mark and he’s a cabbie from London.  I already loved his cockney accent and it became apparent over beers in the bar that we had a lot in common.  The one downfall of this hotel we were both stuck in was that it was in the middle of nowhere. I mean there is nothing close by, no stores, no coffee shops, no bars, no town, just nothing. Who builds a luxury hotel in the middle of nowhere? You either bought what the hotel was selling or you did without. It’s only redeeming quality was the entire lobby was full of Olympic memorability with actual gold medals from just about every game dating back to 1900. On our first full day in Korea, one of Mark’s cabbie friends who was already entrenched took us for a drive around town. It was just nice to get out of the hotel. I was pleased that same day to finally see a familiar face from home when Red who is the guy who got me involved with the Olympics dropped by.IMG_7446.jpg

After that day off to recover from our flights Mark and I learned we were both eerily similar in so many ways sharing the same compulsions and irritations to many mundane daily things. It’s a scary thought I’d been billeted with my UK doppelganger.  Day two began with classroom orientation where we met other new driving recruits. After many years working with drivers you start to recognize traits quickly and a couple of the fellas I knew I was never going to be buddies with but the guy sitting next to me caught my attention right away. A Welshman named Jerry living in Spain that test drove sports cars and he packed a wicked sense of humour. Both Mark and I liked him straight away. Next, we were all loaded into a few vans and shuttled into Alpensia which was where the main broadcast center and NBC’s facility was located. At this point, we had no idea how much time we’d spend around that place over the next 6 weeks. This was the main hub for Olympic broadcasting around the world. First off we got our accreditation tags. These had sent to us last month but now it was time to have it laminated and turned into jewelry we’d wear everywhere till we left the country.  If I knew the photo I had taken last summer was going to appear on a huge screen at every checkpoint I passed through I might have at least smiled. We were then combined with a bunch of other new arrivals that got started training a few days earlier, even more drivers from the UK. A lovely retired couple from Liverpool and another newlywed couple from Poland by origin that now lived in London and a Russian guy among others. We started our tour by looking at the main stadium for the opening ceremony then visited many snow venues.IMG_7008.jpg

On day two of our training tour, we met up with all the same folks and were driven down the mountain to the coastal city of Gaugnuan for the first time where all the ice venues were located.  We all took turns at the wheel and I for one was happy to drive because a few of the others scared the crap out of me. Gaugnuan was a huge city and I couldn’t help but think there was no way I would be able to drive here without getting lost. The learning curve at that point was pretty much vertical and it seemed like a lot to take in before the games started in three weeks. Some of us were given our vans on this day like Mark but not Jerry or myself which just helped solidify our friendship. We started training as a team, taking turns at the wheel and challenging each other on how to get to different venues. Having Mark with us was invaluable because as a cabbie this sort of knowledge-based learning how to dissect a city was something he was very familiar with. His approach rubbed off on us and I had no idea others were not training as hard. I finally got a van after a couple days but Jerry would still be another week before he got his so we continued to train as a duo.  As a test driver for McLaren he’s used to pushing vehicles to there limit but at times I think he was just seeing how far he could push me before I said slow down. I never did but I was uncertain how many photo radar tickets our van had been captured in so I smiled and waved at everyone as we flew by.IMG_8407.jpg

After a week we were all moved out of our hotel in no man’s land and punted to the main media village on the coast.  The Athletes and Media Villiage was a security zone you could not enter without accreditation on your vehicle or around your neck. The whole complex was a series of 24 story condo towers. What I didn’t enjoy however were the fact they covered everything up with plastic from kitchen cabinets and sink to the floor and even some walls. I mean what kind of damage do they think we can do in a month? I can’t help but think the cost of this protection and the labour to install and remove it from thousands of suites must have been more money then any potential loss and damage could ever cost.  It was not very welcoming, to say the least.

The biggest issue I had with the village was checking in. Here’s a tip, having people on the front desk dealing with foreigners from around the world it’s a good idea they speak at least one other languages besides Korean. That part wasn’t well thought out and here’s where being on my own was trying. I was losing patience and this is where JoAnn would have taken over. The cafeteria to feed us breakfast every morning was a tarted up part of the parking garage under the condo complex with carpet and heaters. There were equally haphazard constructed laundry facilities also in the parking garages for us to use.  The initial hope was that my two UK pals and I would share one of the three bedroom condo’s we were moving into but that hope was quickly dashed and Mark was no longer my roomie.  Jerry too was separated and  I would never get to know either of my two new flatmates, I don’t even remember their names. Mark, Jerry and I did still continue to train together and we even enjoyed days off together.IMG_8128.jpg

We decided the DMZ was the place to see. Well, I pitched the idea and they both bought it, I mean how often do you get to see a country that makes the news every night for all the wrong reasons that are not the US.  It was the first touristy thing we’d done away from the Olympics and it was refreshing.  I personally thought we were going to die and make the news ourselves that night, when Jerry pulled up to the checkpoint with guys carrying automatic weapons, pointed our way that didn’t look amused.  We had missed the turnoff to get registered for the DMZ because the sign was in Korean (go figure). At first, we thought we were at the border to North Korea causing an international incident but these were South Korean soldiers protecting the entrance into the DMZ.  Properly registered we returned and the same armed guards smiled and let us proceed. The only photo of the three us together was taken here looking towards the North. It may be my favourite photo from the whole trip.baad3b9b-10d9-467d-8443-aa2cd1489359.jpg

At the end of two weeks of training, we were all pretty much ready for the games to start. We’d toured around and inside every facility pretty much whether we were allowed in or not. Jerry literally pushing me to the top of the Ski jump and I do mean the top, up the stairs, outside on the roof. Great view, but dam cold! Thanks, Jerry. At least our game missions were finally coming in. Both Mark and Jerry had been designated exclusive drivers and been given their assignments. I was in the motor pool and had no idea what I was up too till I was pulled into the dispatch office. I was given the task to drive around a VIP guest NBC had flown in, former news anchor Katie Couric.

We hit it off right away and I loved watching her transform from passenger to news reporter. She liked to do live Instagram posts so sometimes I would hold her phone and film her, I can now take being interviewed by a News anchor off my bucket list.  It was amazing to watch her delivering a cold intro as if a million people were watching her on the nightly news.  I just followed her around as she pointed things out or got into an impromptu interview with members of the Belarusian Olympic team on the beach. She was always engaging with the camera and ever conscious to never have dead air, it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Her husband John had joined her by opening night and with the opening ceremony done now, it was all about having some fun. IMG_8511.jpgAll the early training we did with no crowds, no busses, no army of volunteers or security checkpoints couldn’t really prepare you for the actual games themselves. One way streets went into effect and many of the routes we were used too changed overnight so it was a quick readjustment to the new reality of the games. Once where there was no traffic could now take hours just to get off the highway. Our dedicated Olympic lanes and passes were no match for limited street access and the ridiculous number of highway buses now clogging every artery. The new reality of the games had me attending as many events as possible, not just with Katie and John but when they wanted to be picked up later I got up early to go see sports I was interested in. I had a full access pass and rock star parking for my van at every venue so why wouldn’t I attend?  It was weird to see the stadiums full when only a few days ago we were touring them empty. Witnessing Canada doing so well was amazing. The very first-speed skating event I ever attended Canada won gold. I saw many more Canadians win gold and I never tired of it though I saw a few heartbreaking losses as well as our Women’s hockey team. That one really hurt.IMG_9133.jpg

After I said goodbye to Katie and John at the airport I was put onto another guest of NBC, being SNL comedian Leslie Jones. I knew very little about her but I saw the first Instagram video she posted in Korea knocking the driver that picked her up at the airport for playing a 3 hour Andy Williams playlist. I had appropriate tunes programmed the next morning when I picked her up for the first time and nothing was ever said about my musical selections to me or on Instagram.  She had a small entourage which meant I had to give up the van I’d gotten so used to for 5 weeks for something bigger and far less comfortable for everyone.   She was indeed a personality but like many actors what you see on screen is not what you see in private. In public it was like a switch that went to 11 but in the van, she was more the person I expect she is most of the time. I enjoyed the public persona because she made us all laugh but I liked the private Leslie and felt privileged to be able to see that side of her.  She had no formal duties to attend too so it was all about going to events and making viral videos. I loved being paid to watch the games live. That was literally my job description as I was also offering security and guidance to get them into the venue and safely back to the van.  After a week she and her posse left town I was without a purpose for a few days and then I saw what the motor pool really did.IMG_9434.jpg

It was during this time on my way to a hotel in Alpensia early one morning I had the most unexpected emotional moment of the games. I had taken a banana from the breakfast buffet and on a quiet stretch of road approaching Swiss house, I finished it and as I have done so many times before I lowered the passenger’s window and I whipped the peel out towards the frozen ditch. I was instantly having a flash of my father and had tears streaming down my face. You see, I never came up with this move on my own, it was a learned manoeuvre I’d seen my dad do for years in the mornings on the way to work. I started chucking banana peels out of my car 30 years ago because he did it and every time I do, I think of him but this was my first time doing so in Korea. Here I am on the other side of the world from home having a moment thinking of my dad. Would he be proud of what I was doing participating in the Olympics or just think I was a fool for travelling so close to North Korea? A little of both I suspect, he was like that and I missed him even more.

I remember all the hotels and venues but not who I transported in my few days as part of the motor pool it was all a blur. The one exception was my last ride during the games. I was tasked with picking up some VIP’s from the hotel Mark, Jerry and I met at and taking them to the closing ceremony. I had no idea who was getting in my van till they appeared. The gold medal men’s curling team who I watched win gold live just the night before but I wasn’t able to stay to see them awarded their medals. No worries they were all still wearing them less than 24 hours later so this was my first close up with a medal from these games. We had to wait for one more rider who turned out to be Olympic Skiing Royalty Lindsey Vonn. She was not wearing a medal but she has a few golds to her name. That was a heck of a last ride. Like an idiot, I never took a photo because my day job back home dictates you just don’t do that.

The next morning the games were over and it was startling how fast all the volunteers and security personnel disappeared. No more checkpoints, no more busses, no more crowds, where did it all go overnight. I’d been suffering from homesickness for the better part of a month and as departure day approached it seemed like time was slowing down. I was sad it’s all over on one hand but very anxious to get home.  I chatted with JoAnn via text daily or at least we tried, the 17 hour time difference made scheduling chats a challenge plus life was still going on in my absence back home. I had only face time with the girls a couple times so I missed seeing or just hearing them, I missed our home, I missed our bed and maybe most of all I really just missed having someone look after me.

My last working day in Korea it did something I had not seen since my first day, it started to rain on the coast. I was even more homesick as it was starting to look like BC. I did a victory lap around the city of Gaugnuan visiting all the places I’d become so accustomed too from the Hotels to the beach to the Olympic Plaza and the media village. I knew this city so well now and I had no idea if I’d ever return.  As I headed up the mountain one last time towards Alpensia the higher I got the rain turned to snow. With every mountain tunnel, I came through it was snowing harder. This snow was not only sticking it was starting to pile up. It had been pretty warm for a week like spring was on the way but this was one last blast of winter the likes we had not seen during the games. Checking into the hotel for my last night was a treat as I couldn’t get my van up a hill through the now very deep snow. I ended up working till nearly 6 that last night returning vans in the driving snow teaching Brits how it’s done, they all just fell in line behind me. We had to have had 2 feet on the ground by then. I even had to rescue Mark who got his van stuck checking into the same hotel as me. The two of us then had our last meal in Korea together, which resembled our very first, a couple of convenience store bought noodle bowls with a couple of beer chasers.IMG_0314.jpg

Like our first night, we headed to the nearest bar which meant slogging through the snow to get there instead of just an elevator ride to the lobby. Unlike that first night where we had just 2 rounds, I lost count after about 7.  I was properly pissed when we finally stumbled out into the snow hours later. I was just glad I wasn’t leaving till 11 am. Mark met his ride to the airport at 6 am. He would have been lucky to have 2 hours sleep so I can only imagine what he felt like at that hour knowing how bad I felt when I woke up.  I was missing my doppelganger when I got up knowing he was already in Seoul. I was glad I made a couple new friends that shared this adventure with me because the people I cared about most were not here to share any of it. I posted more than I usually do on social media to try to keep them in the loop but its just not the same. For me, that shared experience of what it was like to really experience the games first hand will forever be shared with a couple guys from Great Britan whom I now count as friends. I miss everyone I met really, far too many to name as they all share a part in this chapter of my life. I hold out romantic notions of doing this again one day but I know I’ll never recreate what I experienced in Korea. Looking back now I don’t think of the actual games themselves, the venues, the streets, the traffic, the driving or the constant security I went through daily, I just remember the people I met along the way, they made this experience what it was. I thank them all for being part of this Olympic adventure with me and maybe we’ll do it again in three years.img_0303

Ten Year Gone


Volume #271

So it’s been ten years since you left us so I thought it was high time I got you caught up. It really doesn’t​ matter how old I am when I write to you, I always feel like the little boy in the photo holding a fish standing next to you. The other day on the 12th JoAnn and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary. Well, you totally lost that bet. I think your comment was “I give it ten years, five if she cooks”. As it turns out I kind of like Dutch food, yeah she’s still Dutch and there is nothing I can do about that. The one thing JoAnn seems to be very good at is being a mom so I just stand back and try not to get in the way. Our girls are so lucky, they just won’t know it for a few decades till they start to reflect on heir childhood.


Not sure if you heard about Mom. Back in late 2016, she had a pretty bad fall that landed her in hospital. That spelt the end of her time alone in the house in Smithville. Last year Mike and Ann got her into a great facility close to them in the Falls. It was a bit surreal to help pack up the house as it was the last time many of those things would ever be together under the same roof. On the downside why on earth did you keep some of that crap for so long?

Kate turned 15 two days ago. Only 15, it feels like she’s been a teenager for about a decade rather than just two years. On the upside, we only have 5 more teen years with her, but on the downside, we have her three sisters still yet to crack the teen mark. Kate reminds me of me on so many levels and not the sort of traits I’m all that proud of. Moody, angry, argumentative for no reason, bull-headed, stubborn. She also has a sensitive side she likes to keep locked up and out of reach from everyone which I also understand. Clearly, we did give her the name that suites her as just like her namesake she’s quite good at creating art. She’s not a traditional painter but rather a digital artist. She’s always drawing on her i-pad which we tell her to not spend so much time on but it’s hard to be annoyed when you see the end result. She’s in Europe with her guide troop so this is our first time ever not seeing her on her birthday. Not sure who’s suffering from the separation​ more, mom or child.


Emilia is 12 and finally becomes the second teenager in the house this December. Her age, however, has not stopped her growing as she’s as tall if not a hair taller than her older sister. She also shares a few of my less desirable traits in that she’s a bit OCD. She collects things and arranges them constantly and changes her rooms furniture on regular bases. Things I did all the time as a teen. You can actually see the colour of her walls under the photos she has taped to them but I credit that to her mother as I think given her way she’d have blocked it all out like I did. She has a few passions I don’t share like her love of horror films. I’m still having nightmares about “the Amityville Horror” from 1979 and refuse to set my alarm for 3:15 on nights I need that wake-up call opting instead for 3:16. Better safe than sorry.


Samantha is the first granddaughter you never had the opportunity to meet, but you did know about her. Born less than 24 hours after you departed this world if your spirit landed anywhere, Sam has it. This granddaughter of yours is so sweet and innocent some days but on the other hand, she can be violently stubborn. She takes tantrums to the next level like I’ve never seen before. She refuses to give in once she’s taken her stand and drawn a line in the sand. Who does that remind you of? If she ever becomes a union organizer like yourself I think she’ll fit right in. She’s incredibly smart and turns 10 tomorrow but I don’t think it’s too early to draft her now.

Danielle is my little girl, she came along a few years after you left us so like Sam she’s never had the first-hand experience to meet you. That may be a good thing for them, who knows. Really I wish you were around to experience them because I know all four of my girls would have changed your life. You were one of three boys born into a family with stoic parents. You and mom had three boys yourself so you’ve never ever known the joys of being around girls. Nor had I till now. I know you had one granddaughter but taking on a personality like yours was probably a pretty tall order for Sarah on her own. She needed allies. I recently uncovered an old video I created back in 2005 when we flew east for your mom’s funeral. Kate was not yet 2 and she clearly had you wrapped around her finger watching the two of you in the yard. Had you been given the full Ellis girl experience my four daughters would have broken you for certain, they certainly broke me in all the best possible ways.


To mark the occasion of your tenth year gone Emma created an amazing rock marker with your name on it. It’s red, your favourite colour. We placed this on the rock outcropping in Tofino where we spread some of your ashes in 2010.


It’s under a bush with an amazing view of the ocean and beach. A place that I know if you had ever climbed up to see for yourself you’d have sat there for hours. We had a small tea party in your honour on the rocks and Dani even held a cup up to the rock thinking you might want a drink. She’s so cute and I’m not really sure she totally understands what it is we’re doing. I think she really thinks you’re in that rock. We’ll explain it all to her in a few years.


For me personally, I’ve always loved coming to Tofino ever since the first time you brought JoAnn and me here 24 years ago. You always threatened you’d move here one day so spreading your ashes in this spot only seemed appropriate. Now, whenever I’m here I feel closer to you, more so than visiting a gravestone back in Grimsby. I know that’s where you spent the bulk of your life but it was the west coast you always ran too when you wanted to escape. When you brought us here I was apparently instantly bitten by the same bug that got you years earlier on your first trip. I had the chance to take a couple of long walks on my own this past trip. I like to get up early in the morning because the house is quiet when the girls are still asleep but I took my coffee out for a walk on the beach.


I wasn’t alone however, I knew you were there with me the second I hit the beach. I could hear your voice in my head, your laugh and we enjoyed the crashing surf for an hour or so as we walked from one end of the beach to the other. Not even sure why I’m writing this down since I told you all about the girls on our walks. I can’t imagine what you were thinking when you first saw our current Prime Minister on your beach bare-chested surfing that week but I could certainly hear you muttering and cursing under your breath. That’s the stuff I miss more than anything. Just hearing your voice. You always had an opinion on anything I asked you about and right or wrong, whether I agreed or not. I respected the point of view you took, maybe because it was usually 180 degrees opposite of mine. I miss that in my life, someone to always challenge my point of view. It was never an argument, just a different point of view. Now at least you have one of the best views in all of Canada, one that we can both agree on and I’ll be back real soon with the girls to go for a walk on the beach with you. I am and forever will be your little boy.


Mobility that Bites


Volume #16

One of the more interesting aspects of this new life JoAnn and I have chosen to undertake is the transformation of our everyday life. For so many years we both worked all day rarely ate together during the day and had only moments when we were both awake and in the house at the same time. Weekends were strictly business as it was mostly chewed up with household chores we’d neglected all week, couldn’t someone have taken out the garbage? My first clue that things would change with a baby should have come a year ago when JoAnn stopped working and stayed home working on the nest. She’d call me more and make dinners that I rarely got home to eat and weekends we shopped for baby gear she’d spent all week picking out and was dying to show me.


Flash-forward a year and the JoAnn I married has transformed herself like a superhero into a first-rate stay at home mom. She puts the same energy and enthusiasm she used when working into taking care of Katie and the house and subsequently me. My own mom was the stay at home variety and in this day and age when so many people are quick to head out the door back into the workforce it’s so refreshing to see. Financially I guess a lot of people need two incomes and let’s be serious it wouldn’t hurt us to have some extra cash. Since I imposed a weekly budget it has changed the way I used to waste money for the better but oh how I miss being able to buy that new DVD without a thought or care now I do without, I’m guessing it’s like quitting anything spending was my habit so now I’m on the wagon.


More importantly, I couldn’t imagine someone else spending most of Katie’s waking hours with her and reporting to us when we picked her up what she’d done that day just so we could have a nicer car in the driveway or the newest electronic toy. I love that JoAnn is there all day every day and every time something does happen that I miss while working I get called right away. It wouldn’t mean as much sharing that moment with Mrs. Jones the sitter as it does share it with the other person responsible for Katie’s being.

So JoAnn has thrown herself into the role of full-time mommy with “Baby Talk” class one day “Mother goose nursery Rhymes” the next and “story time” at the library after that. A week full of networking with other new mommy’s and their kids, all comparing notes on early childhood development and where their child sits on that scale. This creates a little competition with some women and JoAnn and her closest ally in these classes trade calls whenever one kid or the other does something new. We actually meet this couple at the hospital during the birth as they shared a room and the two of them have stayed friends ever since. It’s good because you have two girls born under twenty-four hours apart so charting progress from one to the other is neat and they both are advancing at their own rate. Each excelling at one thing or another first before the other and sometimes it’s days or weeks before the other does the same thing. Of course, I’m partial my little girl is superior in every way even if that another little girl has some of her own tricks she was a full term baby and Katie was a month premature so of course, she’s ahead. Of course with that logic why does Katie outweigh her? All I can say is thank god it’s women at these classes and not men or you know there would be betting on who’s going to crawl or sit up first.


This month like every other my little girl has shown remarkable ability to follow along with the weekly development book like clockwork and had many huge firsts. The biggest would have to be the breakthrough of her first tooth followed quickly by her second on her lower gum. Now when she grabs a finger to chew on she has the ability to do damage and every time I see JoAnn breastfeed her I cringe just a little at the thought of the danger she’s putting herself in. There have been incidents but so far so good.

I got a frantic call one afternoon while at work with the proclamation she spoke her first word and it was “mama”. True to her word over the phone I was hearing something that resembled mama if you listened really hard and disregarded all articulation, yeah you could hear it. Really it was more “ma ma ma ma ma ma” and when I saw her do it in person she said it to everything and everyone including the dog so it may have been a leap of faith on JoAnn’s part but I’m willing to overlook it. For the sake of her childhood development and JoAnn’s ego and the fact it puts her one up on the other kids in baby class, my daughter can speak. Her next word is more puzzling as it sounds like “bab bab bab” and we don’t actually know a Bob. I guess I could stretch things and say she’s trying for “dad” but I have a hard time selling it to myself so I doubt I could sell it to anyone else, it will come when it’s ready.


The next big time accomplishment call was to inform me that Katie has pulled herself to her feet from a sitting position. This is something we’ve been expecting and waiting for as she’s been so close for quite a while. She sits on her own playing very well though the ability to lay down gracefully still escapes her, it’s more of a thump followed by the obligatory crying. Once she discovered quite by accident the joys of rolling onto her tummy from her back and visa versus there has been no stopping her. This has lead to creeping and was it not for our hardwood floors where traction is hard to get in a sleeper I’m sure she’d be crawling. Her version of crawling combined with rolling has everything on the floor within reach and now that she knows how to pull herself up, her discovery range just got that much bigger. She’s always had strong legs and liked to stand only she needed help, she still does but something tells me not for long. I curse the exercise saucer we got her last month as one of the side benefits of this thing is she likes to bounce up and down. If you’re holding her on your lap or worse on your stomach while lying down yourself you’re in pain because she gets air and at twenty pounds that’s a heck of a weight using your groin as a trampoline.

It really is quite funny when you see her holding herself up against the coffee table and she starts to slide to one side. She doesn’t take the precautions to protect herself she just starts falling and the look on her face when her balance has let her down is precious, gravity is not something she’s mastered yet. Of course, JoAnn and I are always there to catch her but I fear as she perfects this standing thing and puts the motions in place to start crawling the opportunity for getting out of sight and into trouble rising considerably. It is now officially time to start childproofing the house and fast.

In only seven months I’ve gone from complete baby fear to embracing this wonderful little mini me in ways I never imagined. I look at her first photo’s and video and can hardly believe they are one in the same little girls. I have so much fun playing with her on the floor experimenting with all her noise making toys and building blocks I can’t remember a time I wasn’t doing this. The smile I get from hearing her laugh and knowing I made it happen gives me a charge every time. Whether I’m swinging her upside down or flying her like a plane or just teaching her the finer points of a perfect tummy fart she gives JoAnn and me endless joy. But even more is coming home to find the two of them happy to see me and tell me about their day. The first smile on Katie’s face when she sees Daddy blows me away. Every morning I look in on her while she sleeps before I leave and I can’t wait to get home to see her smile. Yes, our lives have all changed dramatically in the last year and for the first time in my life, there is a real focus of what I have to do and who I have to do it for and that’s my family.


The First Live Gig


Volume #232

I was so excited to see my first rock concert at age 14. I’d been seeing photo’s of my rock hero’s in magazines for years playing live on stage. You’d listen to a live album, hear the crowd and the song you know so well but hearing it played live it was different, there was an energy and when you looked at that still photo it only told part of the story. Up till that first live gig, my favorite bands were just orchestrated still photo’s smiling back at me from record jackets to the albums I was listening too. I finally saw a video of my favorite band playing live around 1981 but even this had interruptions for interviews so it wasn’t close to the full live show experience. I can’t believe my mother agreed to it but in the winter of 1982 she said I could go to a live show in Toronto with a school buddy. It was his first show too and he wanted to see Ozzy Osborne. If my mom had access to the internet back then and knew anything at all about this guy she would have said no. That doesn’t even begin to explain how she let us take a thing called “The Party Bus” to Toronto to see this show.  I know I just told her it was a package price, ticket and bus, which it was so that was no lie but being on that bus was an eye opener. Open beer, smoking joints, nudity, it was a ruckus loud party of late teens, none of which we knew.  In the middle of it all were these two 14-year-old kids in sheer disbelief of what we were experiencing.  This was never the type of environment I was comfortable in so I was ever so relieved to make it to Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and exit that bus. It didn’t occur to me at the time these same teens would be even drunker or higher on the return trip in a few hours, that’s another story.  For me however seeing a building I only knew for hockey being turned into a music arena was thrilling. I was just as excited to see how the rigging above the stage was hanging from the roof to create grid to suspend lights and speakers from. The opening band was a local group called Santers so in reality that was my first live show though I didn’t know it at the time since we bought our Ozzy tickets.


I was not a huge fan of either band, I just wanted to see a live rock show. Being in the dark with 18 thousand other screaming fans watching the stage bathed in coloured lights and hearing the music so loud, I was hooked after that first gig. I took the party bus a couple more times with more of my own friends so it didn’t feel quite so crazy till finally one of us had a license this was our only way to the show. None of our parents were going to drive us to Toronto, sit around for a few hours waiting then drive us home and none of them were ever going to buy a ticket to see the show. I’d have loved to see my Dad at a Rush concert but that wasn’t ever going to happen.  In fact, the only live shows I ever saw with my dad featured Scottish Pipe and Drum bands.  One when I was 10 even had the Queen in attendance along with 50000 other spectators. I came from a town of about 15000 residents so it was odd to think everyone in my town and the surrounding towns could be in this stadium at once. I was also excited to see this show just for the pageantry of it all. These big pipe bands all dressed to the nines in kilts with big fur hats marching in perfect time into the stadium as they played. What I wasn’t so up on was the music which after awhile all pretty much sounded the same to me. No doubt the same observation my dad would have said about  what I liked to listen to.  There were a couple songs that stood out however like “Amazing Grace” or the rather new “Mull of Kintyre” which Dad pointed out to me was written by a Beatle. He said it like that because I don’t think he actually knew which one of the Beatles wrote it but he heard that fun fact somewhere or read it in the program.


Even before Kate got to attend her first big time concert of Taylor Swift last summer with her mom in tow Emma has been asking to be allowed to see a live show.  She has friends that were allowed to see acts like Justin Bieber when they were 7 or 8. I think that had a lot more to do with the age of the mom that was taking her daughter then her friends wanting to go but regardless they had already been to their first show.  If Emma is anything she is one that wants to keep pace with everyone around her and not miss any new experience.  She was even begging me if she could go to the Rush show I had tickets too last summer. She doesn’t like their music at all, she just wants to get that first concert notch on her belt at any cost which I totally could relate too. Kate was only weeks away from turning 12 last summer when she got to go her her first show so that was the precedent we as her parents had set. She’d already asked if she could go to the Selma Gomez show this spring but we pointed to her age and said, “Kate was 12”.  This is not a show JoAnn or I was all too interested in and since we’d have to take her because no 10-year-old of mine is boarding anything called a “Party bus”.  I tried her out one day in my car on a playlist of mine featuring “The Who” who were also coming in the spring.  I mean this is their 50th anniversary tour so the likely hood this would be the last big tour was high. I hadn’t seen them since there were three of them still alive but now John Entwistle was gone so it was really just Pete and Roger and a backing band. It was still the right voice and guitar so it was as close to The Who as you could get.  Emma was not that interested in the band till I mentioned they were playing this May and then she wanted to go. That showed a severe determination to want to see a live show so bad you’d go see someone you don’t even like. Who am I to talk? I haven’t listened to Ozzy Osborne since 1983 in fact to this day his are the only albums I ever sold from my record collection.


These days’ concert tours are set up so far in advance you’re buying tickets 6 months or longer before the show and you could lose interest before the gig arrives. Then a funny thing happened, an unexpected concert was announced with the show date only 5 weeks later. It was unexpected because there were only 5 dates on tour at the time and 2 of them were here in Vancouver. The last time I’d seen this show was in 2012 and I was positive at the age or 72 that was the last time I’d ever enjoy Paul McCartney live. I’d already seen him three times previous but this was his first time to Vancouver since 1965 so we jumped on it. Now not even 4 years later Paul was coming back to town. This one had me intrigued because Emma not only liked the Beatles music but some songs like Eleanor Rigby or Hey Jude were among her all-time favorites. From the moment I heard about the show I knew I was going and I’d be taking JoAnn with no argument from her, she loved his music too.  If there was ever a concert to let Emma see earlier then we said we would could this be the one? Paul turns 76 this year and regardless of how healthy he is as a vegan sooner or later, the clock runs out on us all. He is a musical icon that helped influence pretty much anyone that has picked up an instrument since the 60’s.  This is a show that couldn’t wait for her to grow up, Paul isn’t getting any younger.


Even before discussing the idea with JoAnn I was thinking it over for a few days as the tickets went on sale only a couple days after the announcement.  On the morning the tickets went on sale our power was out so I had to use my phone which had me a bit stressed. The only saving grace is this was an early American Express offer so it wasn’t general ticket sales open to the public which happened a few days later.  I had my hands on two amazing seats within the first 10 rows for JoAnn and I.  You only have four minutes to hold the seats before they are returned to the pool. I then looked at what 4 tickets in the cheap seats looked like. The same money as those two amazing seats up front, this was certainly the last time I’d ever see Sir Paul and it would be great to see him up close. I however, pulled the trigger on those cheap seats and wondered what I was going to do if JoAnn thought taking the girls was a bad idea.  Thankfully she was on board but we didn’t tell the girls. For weeks I keep telling both Kate and Emma that their mother and I were going. Maybe it was a bit of a sick twisted mind game but it was fun to hear them plead. It wasn’t untill the weekend before the gig only a few days out did we let them in on the secret. I asked them if they’d like a concert shirt to which they jumped at the chance to get one. I told them it might be hard to pick the right size without them being there so maybe they should come. I wasn’t expecting dead silence but I think they were both trying to compute what I just said.


The excitement never really wore off because they only knew days before the gig. It was sort of funny their friends at school didn’t know who Paul McCartney was. So sad but for that state of ignorance, I have to blame the parents on that one. Introduce your kids to good music people.IMG_0805


I was excited as I normally would be for any show but I think I was even more excited at the idea of taking the girls. JoAnn and I had seen this show three times before, two before we ever had kids so this was a first for me too. I was so excited to see how Emma reacted to all of it. The walk up to the arena, finding your seats then describing to her what she was looking at. She didn’t even realize which end was the stage where he’d be playing. I was instantly recalling my first show with wonder, not knowing how anything worked or what to expect. I guess the difference for her is she really liked some of the songs she was about to hear.  Every time Paul played one she knew well she perked right up. She was getting pretty tired as the show hit the 2-hour mark when I told her if she slept through the next one she could sleep anywhere.  “Live and Let Die” starts out nice enough but ever since I’ve been seeing Paul live this is the one song where pyrotechnics get lit off. From fireworks over an outdoor stage to flames and cannon blasts like this night, combined with lasers bouncing all around the arena it was 3 minutes that could wake the dead. Then into “Hey Jude” her favorite that had her singing along with everyone else in the building, “NA, NA, NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA HEY JUDE”.  It was a memorable show for me and I can’t imagine Emma will ever forget her first show with her dad at age ten. Heck I never forgot my first gig with my dad at that exact same age.


For me, the highlight of the night after being able to enjoy this show with my girls was during the encore. I like any fan nerd checked the first 3 dates of the tour online to see the complete set list. It didn’t change from night to night but something strange happens when Paul plays Canada. He pulls out a song that rarely gets played anywhere else in the world.  When I saw his guitar tech hand him his acoustic guitar when he should have been strapping on his bass I knew we were in for a treat. When the song started I held my breath, was it really happening? After the first verse, a local pipe and drum band marched onto the stage in full Scottish tartan dress to play the rest of “Mull of Kintyre” with Paul’s band. On one hand, I’m enjoying live music with my girls from an icon I’ve been listening too since I was five. On the other hand, I’m listening to live pipe and drum band like I did with my dad when I was ten at my first real live show. For the record dad, the Beatle that wrote that song was Paul McCartney and I wish you were here to enjoy this with us.

Something for Dad


Volume #235

I started this blog basically to satisfy a resolution I made to myself one New Years that after over 10 years of writing about my kids I was going to actually let someone other then my hard drive read any of it.  Slowly I’ve added posts here when I find the time to do so but I have no preconceived notions that anyone is actually paying attention.   Nor does it really matter to me in the big picture, I’m not looking for platitudes from the family which is why I’ve never shared any of my posts via social media. No one I know even knows about this blog and I kind of like having this anonymous relationship with the world wide web. Whether anyone is listening is not the point, that fact I finally put it out there for consideration is. To that end, I thought it was time to broaden what I write about occasionally beyond my kids. If you’d allow me to indulge myself I’d like to share something new of interest in my life.


I’m not sure if it was my 49th birthday last month but something clicked in me earlier this spring when I had to renew my driver’s license. As I stood there in the line at the license office I saw the computers for taking the written part of your test. The last time I took one of those tests was over twenty years ago when I upgraded my classified license from a class three to a class one which then allowed me to drive any combination of motorized vehicle legal on the roads. Well, all except one, I could drive the biggest trucks around but I still could not drive the smallest which was a motorcycle.  In a moment of pure happenstance, I asked what the cost was, $15 was not a lot of money to get your learners permit so I decided to take the test.  I was allowed to get something like 6 out of 50 wrong and still pass which I thought would be easy. I breezed through the general driving and signage questions but when they asked specifics about motorcycles I was a bit lost. I was down to my last wrong answer with half the test still to go yet somehow I prevailed. I now had a learners permit so what was I going to do with that?


I remembered a couple friends of ours recommending a local guy, a former bike cop that was now retired and did lessons out of his house. I looked him up and booked myself into the course. I hadn’t been on a bike in 15 years.  Even then I still had no experience and I just learned the basics to move a bike around. You see I was working on a TV show and our main hero picture vehicle was a motorcycle. In fact, since it was the star’s ride we had 2 identical bikes for picture and two other different bikes painted the same for stunts. In the second season on the show, we added another character that rode so then we had 6 bikes. As a part of working on the show as the transportation captain, it’s nice to be able to move anything for the camera when asked by the director. As the head of my department on set, I just hated getting one of my guys to always do it for me. If a Teamster doesn’t know how to ride a motorcycle is he really a Teamster some would ask?  Well I didn’t want to face that question so I learned how to start a bike and get it from A to B but I never had a license and I never rode a bike outside of whatever closed set we were filming. At the time getting my license was something I was very interested in doing but finding the time when you’re working 100 hours a week is not the easiest thing to do.  I even made a pact with my wife while we were in Ireland in 2001 during my hiatus. She wanted to get a tattoo and I said if she was doing that than I was getting my bike license. We walked into a tattoo parlor in Limerick and looked around politely but the level of cleanliness left us uninspired and quite honestly scared. When you’re in a shop and a fly who is used to walking on shit flies in and says “Whoa this place is filthy” then turns around and fly’s right out you have to think twice about letting a needle pierce your skin. She did not get inked that day but when we returned home she got her Celtic knot tattoo but I never got my license.  When our first daughter came along a year later that pretty much changed our focus completely and with every new daughter we added what I wanted becoming less and less important.


This year I finally put myself first.  OK maybe not first but I finally decided to do something just for myself. I’m not sure if it’s my age since I’m turning 50 next year. I never put “get my motorcycle license” on any bucket list or New Years resolution. None that I recall anyway but I did still made that pact 14 years ago and as JoAnn’s Tattoo fades and needs to be touched up I thought it was high time I followed through on my end. Some of my favorite TV series have been about guys on Motorbikes. Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor going around the world or Charlie on his own TV show touring countries including Canada and the US a couple years ago. I’ve read countless books by my favorite rock drummer Neil Peart as he chronicles his own adventures from the saddle of his bike touring the back roads of whatever country the band was touring. It seemed like such a great way to get to a gig.  So I’m not a biker, I’ve never owned a bike or had any desire to do so but something keeps drawing me to all these images and stories about riding.  I’ve had a long-standing dream to ride a bike across Canada as a result but I’ve never taken the first step to making that a reality. Till now.


The one thing all these riders I’ve followed have in common is they all ride the exact same bike. A BMW R1200GS so even though I’ve never even sat on one before let alone talked with someone who has that is the bike I covet.  After reading about this bikes adventures in 4 books and watching in excess of 50 hours of television with this bike at the heart I guess I have good reason to be enamored. None of the riders talking about this machine have a bad thing to say about it and I guess the TV stars won’t since it’s product placement, however, it’s a comment made by Charlie Boorman that’s always stuck with me. For the first series, they filmed that took them around the world they were trying to secure a deal with his preferred bike manufacturer Ducati. That’s what he liked to ride at the time and what he wanted to use for the show but the deal fell through so BMW stepped up. At some point during that first series, Charlie said he’ll never ride anything but BMW again and every show I’ve seen him in since he has been on a BMW. That coming from a seasoned rider meant a lot. BMW should be using that quote in their promotional material. When I think of what I’d like to ride now how could I consider anything else? Every Teamster I know who rides also has a Harley so maybe it’s just the stereotype cliché I want to avoid. I always did go counter to every stereotype that the Teamsters had had thrust onto them over the years by a small subset of the membership but if the cliché fits it’s hard to break. Thankfully I’ve never been one to follow others or fall into the trap of peer pressure so regardless of what everyone else might think, I’m not buying a Harley. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course, for me when it comes to old school muscle bikes my interest lean towards Indian.


I went into my first riding class really knowing very little which meant no bad habits to break so that might be a good thing. The first question my instructor asked us was why we wanted to get a bike license. Something I’d been struggling to answer on my own and now I had to try to express why I wanted this. Was it the influence of the media I had read or watched? Was it to satisfy a 14-year-old pact with my wife? Was I really that annoyed I had a license to drive the largest vehicles on the road but not the smallest? or was it because I was turning 50? I think I can safely say everything was an influence. When you spend over a decade reading about a guy biking to work in a different city every day it starts to become part of your subconscious.  I have been dreaming of riding across the country on a bike for years because of these book and TV shows yet I didn’t own a bike or even have the right to ride one yet. Now I finally took that first step. The first day in the saddle riding around a church parking lot was an eye opener. I wasn’t sure if there were any symbolism in the fact that we were learning to do a very high-risk dangerous activity in the parking lot of a church. A place your family maybe parking to say goodbye to you if you really screwed up. I had a friend (who was also Teamster) who lost his life on a bike a few years back so that was on my mind.  I don’t attend any organized religion myself but I’d be remiss if I didn’t look up and say a short prayer to please watch my ass.  It was shocking how quickly the basic skills of maneuvering the bike came to me. One of the other students in the class was really struggling with it and didn’t pass the basic skills test that day.  I don’t think the fact her dad dropped her off for her lesson on his Harley then stuck around to watch helped her confidence much.


The next lesson we were on the open road and though I know the rules of the road I instantly felt very vulnerable without a protective metal jacket. I seemed more intently aware of all my surroundings on a bike. Simple maneuvers like going through an intersection were far less routine.  The whole leaning of the bike to turn on winding roads was a bit foreign to me but I quickly got the hang of it even if it scared the shit out of me at times. The first time we got up to over 80KM an hour the wind hitting me really freaked me out. I had a hard time keeping up not because the bike was slow but the sensation of becoming a human kite kept going through my mind so I was backing off. Did I really want to ride all the way across Canada on one of these things or would making it as far as the next town safely now satisfy me? As the weeks went on and I got more rides in I stopped holding the handlebars like they were going to be ripped from my hands. The wind no longer bothered me at speed and my main focus was always keeping up with my instructor and I was doing pretty good. I was getting comfortable in the saddle.


Like with learning anything new sometimes to take a giant leap forward you take a step back and that happened to me last week. One thing we get more than our fair share of here in BC is rain and last week at the very end of our ride we got stuck in the middle of a short downfall. The rain on my helmet visor streamed away nicely so that wasn’t the issue I expected it to be.  When a light changed suddenly I figured I was going to get separated from my instructor briefly which was nothing new, he’d wait. However, he made the stop fine, the rider behind him who was on his first open road ride ever hit his rear brakes way to hard to stop and I watched him put the bike on the ground.  I’d never seen a motorcycle accident happen right before my eyes. It was all in slow motion, I saw the entire thing, his front wheel still going straight while the back of the bike swung around to his right till I was looking at the side of his bike then it went down, it felt like it took a minute to happen. The bigger problem was I was on the exact same piece of slippery road as him, on the exact same kind of bike and now I didn’t want to hit that rider who was on the ground. I hit my brakes way to hard also and unlike the slow-motion drop I just witnessed my own experience was much quicker. I was down laying on the pavement with the engine still running wondering what happened in the blink of an eye.  I guess it’s inevitable at some point when you ride you may put a bike down for whatever reason. No one plans on having a car accident either but those happen all the time too, thankfully my last one of those was decades ago. Now here I was on the ground and in shock at what just happened. I got up right away but my foot that was on the brake pedal as the bike went down took quite a hit. The crushed foot peg I saw when I got the bike up told the story, that’s where my foot was and it’s now crushed, no wonder my foot hurts so much. I was angry at myself for such a stupid mistake but at least neither of us was seriously hurt.  I had the bruised foot from hell, a bruised hip and a nice road rash on my right elbow even though my jacket showed no sign of damage. Not sure what I hit my left hand on but I imagine it was pavement as I hit the ground and it didn’t give much play. Riding lesson over instantly only blocks from completion as neither bike could be driven back in this state.


Two days later I was back in the saddle on the same now repaired bike facing any lingering doubt before it had time to manifest into a larger fear. I needed to know that was an anomaly not the norm when riding. Yes, I could have handled it better by not over reacting and hitting my brakes so hard but I’m looking at this as a learning experience. I’m planning on not hitting my brakes so hard the next time I see a rider go down in front of me. Lesson learned. I’m just glad if it had to happen it was after many hours of riding and not my first ever ride like the other fella that went down that day. That might have ended it for me right there. I’m still hobbling around with a swollen foot and a bruised ego but my desire to keep riding and get more comfortable in the saddle remains intact. First, I get the license then I’ll worry about how to tell the wife I want the motorcycle that goes with it. I don’t think she really believed me when I told her I have a class one license and I don’t own a truck when I told her I was going to take bike lessons and she was sure I was going to buy a bike right away. Of course, she was right and I don’t think I even believed the BS I was shoveling when I said I didn’t want a bike.  For now, I’m just going to keep riding towards that license and keep my eye on the prize and in the future I’ll try stay on two wheels at all times.

Here we grow again


Volume #15

Six months is a landmark date in any babies development and oh how far we’ve come in such a short time. She’s still reliant on us for everything but she’s so much more durable and mobile than she ever was. The first thing that hit was another growth spurt like we saw around her third month and at first we were mystified at what was going on. I mean come on it was only three months ago so you’d think we’d recognize the signs but we were for a couple of days wondering why her schedule was off and she was so grumpy. Nothing seemed to please her and she did nearly everything contrary to the way she’d always done things. Here I thought I had at least ten years before her first rebellion against us. All the signs were there we just didn’t see them for what they were. She was restless and cranky, wanted to eat non-stop and didn’t want to go to sleep at night. No she’s not a teenager but she’s acting like one.


When JoAnn took her to be weighed and realized she’d gained 14 ounces in a week we knew something was happening. As recommended JoAnn was taking the solid food one step at a time first trying one grain cereal than another always monitoring her to see if there was any allergic reaction. After that first week of solids when she hadn’t filled her diaper in over a week she struck back with a vengeance. I was never so glad we’d just moved her up to the next size of diaper because there was no way the old ones could have contained her new solid output. The shriek from her room when JoAnn first discovered our little girls first adult looking poopy mess got my attention and I came to see what was the problem. The situation was made worse with the fact Katie and her newly discovered opposable thumbs were really good at undoing diapers. We both knew it was coming but here it was staring at us the fullest diaper we’d ever seen. My years of cleaning up after the dog were finally going to be put to use. Never before had so many wipes been required to clean her up but on the up side this stuff wasn’t so runny that it leaked out forcing a full wardrobe change. So you’ve got to look at all the positive aspects of this new reality no matter how ghastly they may seem at the moment. She’s so good at teaching us. Now that we know what’s happening when we see her make the strange concentration grimace face followed by a happy smile we know its time for a change.


The feeding frenzy finally leveled off but her intake sways from morning to lunch to dinner and we never know how much she’ll want. On the doctor’s recommendation we just keep shoveling till she says enough. Her repertoire of baby food products increases from day-to-day as we keep introducing her to new flavors more based on what we like but so far there’s very little she doesn’t like. I think beef stew is the first real dud but when she’s hungry anything will due.


As this second major growth spurt tailed off we were also left with the first inkling of things to come when we found two nubs on her lower gum, teeth were on the way. We had no way to gauge when they might break through but we prepared ourselves with any supplies we thought we might need for this next hurdle. We got the Ambasol cream and freezer bound teething rings and waited and watched.

Meanwhile our doctor thought an exercise saucer would be a good idea for Katie, as she always wants to stand. I was wondering if our doctor was getting kick backs from Toys R us because every time she recommends something it means a hundred bucks out of our pocket. But this is for my little girl so anything she needs she’ll have even though our living room was beginning to look like a proving ground for new child corralling apparatus. This exo saucer was truly amazing I must admit and Katie took to it right away getting her spit on every toy around her in record time testing each one to see how they fit in her mouth. The being able to turn 360 degrees was not lost on her and she goes around and around chewing on everything even changing direction to see us if we call her name. This is very cool as either she knows her name or she just wonders why were yapping behind her back no matter her hearing is working fine. She gets this saucer really bouncing using her feet to get some serious air and she can entertain herself quite nicely giving JoAnn a needed break that is provided she doesn’t leave the room.

No matter how much fun she might be having with daddy playing with her toys if Mommy leaves the room her alarm goes off. Sometimes I can distract her but more often than not she wants to know where her mommy is.


I know she is the milk machine but honestly little girl she’s just gone to pee, we don’t all go in our shorts now do we? The power of the Mommy was never so apparent when one evening while Katie and I were having such a good time playing that JoAnn for a change took the dog out for her nightly walk. Daddy and daughter were left alone to bond on the floor but no sooner had the front door closed that a realization came on to Katie’s face “Where’s my Mommy?” She tried a pensive call out cry to get her attention. She waited to appropriate amount of time but when mommy did not show herself it was time to ramp things up. Me I’m just Daddy and it took me a minute or two to realize I wasn’t going to be able to appease her. I went through the normal steps I would to calm her but everything I tried seemed to make her madder as what she wanted was her mommy not some psycho babble from her father designed to chill her out. I thought walking her around would help and I patted myself on the back as a good parent as it did not realizing that this was what she wanted. I was suckered and as I thought to return to the living room to play she’d make a little wail and force me to move onto another room. Upon her careful inspection as I moved from room to room she soon realized her mother wasn’t not in the house and then she got serious about the crying. I’d never experienced this sort of outburst and at first I laughed a little at her drama and did what I always do to calm her only everything I did made her worse. We now had real tears streaming down her now turning red face. She was having trouble with her breathing as her wailing and I mean wailing made it hard for her to take in deep breaths and she gasped for breath between screams. This was a full-out code red defcon 5 alert and something was going to blow and I just hoped it wasn’t going to be her. I had a true feeling of ineptness and despair, as I was just as anxious for JoAnn to return as Katie was. There was nothing I could do or say and my own emotional level was peaking as I was now afraid for my daughter’s life worried that her irregular breathing was going to adversary affect her, worried I’d damaged her and just wanting her to calm down. When JoAnn finally came back after being away almost ten minutes we attacked her at the front door not letting her get her coat off before I handed Katie to her. Joann’s reaction was one of surprise and inconvenience barely getting in the front door, Katie’s was one of joy and satisfaction mommy came back and mine was of anger at her taking so long on the walk. I was yelling at her but I was upset at myself unable to console my daughter and no doubt jealous at the bond the two of them share. At this point we both needed a cookie and a good hug.


The rest of the evening my nerves were shot and I was afraid to hold Katie till hours later when I finally calmed down. She got over the whole episode rather quickly as soon as her mother came home but I took a lot more consoling. It was a traumatic moment for us both and it just taught me such a valuable lesson that I really know very little about what makes my little girl tick and I have such a long way to go. It also gave me a huge appreciation for the job JoAnn is doing as a stay at home mom. I knew she was good at this whole mommy thing but this really opened my eyes as to just how far she’s come as a mother. She was made for this and I stand in awe of her ability and power as our child’s true caregiver. Dad can be fun and entertaining but mom is it right now in Katie’s life. I wonder if she’ll ever like me in the future?

Built to Last


Volume #14

Maybe the reason I was so afraid of having kids was that I was really afraid of babies. Well afraid isn’t the correct word but I had very little experience with them; they intimidated me because I had no point of reference with how to deal with them. I saw two nephews and one niece as babies but I rarely was left in charge or even held them for that matter. I was so afraid I might break them they were just so helpless. Of course my experience didn’t go past a weekend visit so I didn’t have the 24/7 exposure that a parent is subjected to.


So now after over five months my eyes are truly open to the wonders of babies and I’m not really sure what it was I was afraid of. Sure the first month is pretty tough with a learning curve that is basically straight up but it levels off over time and these babies are far better designed than I ever expected. As long as you don’t take to poking the soft spot on their heads with a Bic pen they can put up with a lot more than any adult can. Once they can hold up their own melon these little marvels are really quite amazing.


My little girl loves, I mean loves having her feet in her mouth and when she’s naked on the change table that’s the first thing on her agenda. She can do it dressed but I guess the fabric from her sleepers or her socks doesn’t quite taste the same. A sure-fire way to get her laughing is to sing her a song and while following the rhythm put her feet to her face. What adult other than a gymnast or contortionist can do this? These little marvels are just that and have abilities and powers way beyond grown ups. There is nothing I mean nothing that can top the feeling you get when your daughter smiles at you because she’s happy to see you. There is nothing in nature that can elicit that feeling other than your own child. JoAnn recently said to me she guessed she was now number two in my life but as I pointed out to her I was also number two in her life also. I’m ok with that and I accept the fact that this little girl is the most important responsibility our lives for the next couple decades. This five and half month nearly sixteen pound pink food processor that demands constant attention and drools a lot had taken full custody of our hearts. It really doesn’t matter how much I love my wife or how beautiful I think she might be this little girl had moved in and taken over big time.

Kate @ 6 months


What I think really gets me is I can’t remember a time where Katie wasn’t in our lives and yet JoAnn and I have been together over thirteen years now. Is there regret we didn’t do this sooner, maybe a little now but I wouldn’t trade the pre baby years we spent together for anything different now.

Every week Katie discovers something new. Be it finally realizing the power of opposable thumbs to undo her diaper as fast as her mother puts it on her or trying to master motorboat sounds with her tongue (this is a work still in progress but it’s not from lack of trying). And now she’s onto solid food so I get the chance to feed her. Of course this has so far had the positive side effect to slow down the hot potato game, as she doesn’t have as many poppy diapers. In fact she’s gone over a week between full shorts but it hasn’t hurt her ability to pass gas and now they have all the benefits of any good fart, they smell. No more little cutesy baby farts for my little girl she can clear a room like no one. I’m afraid this looks like it’s only going to get worse so I’m shopping for a full-face gas mask to help make diaper changes a little less painful.


She took to solid food so fast you can’t load up a spoon fast enough she’s already waiting and snapping at the spoon as it approaches. Better yet using her opposable thumbs to grab your hand and ram the spoon down her throat. That is a problem there are simple things you take for granted that kids have to learn and it seems it’s usually painful. Painful as a parent to watch and painful for the baby as they learn limits like how far a spoon can go into your mouth before it gets uncomfortable. The great thing is again they are so resilient that a few consoling words and a little hug and were right back to shoveling more food. They really aren’t as delicate as I ever thought they were and now that Katie is sitting and able to grab I take great pleasure in holding her in the air over me as I lie on the couch or hanging her upside down which makes her laugh while she tries to reach out to you. I know JoAnn cringes when she see’s me rough housing with her and that’s not going to get any better as she gets older. I’m sure she’s just waiting for us to break something so she can tell us to cool it.

One thing Katie still won’t do with me is fall asleep. She can be so tired rubbing her eyes lying on me but she will fuss and whine till she’s handed off to her mother where she promptly falls asleep. I think we are getting close and I’m sure we’ll have a break through soon enough. When JoAnn hands her off to me already asleep and I hold her it’s such a gorgeous feeling I couldn’t hope to describe it here. She will wake ever so slightly see it’s me holding her and she’ll drop her head and close her eyes and that just sends me knowing she approves. It’s pretty sad a five-month-old babies approval means that much to a grown man but it really does. It’s magical knowing she trusts me and feels she’s safe and secure, of course she may be just to tired to give a crap but I tell myself it’s the former and we both feel good.


I’m not sure what’s next on the development front as I leave the book reading to JoAnn I just take it as it comes but I know she wants to walk. If you hold her by her hands she immediately puts one foot in front of the other and starts walking of course she has to perfect this whole standing thing first. I guess you have to learn to crawl before you run but I feel she’ll be tearing up the hardwood in no time. She is taking interest in anything new and now if you have her on your lap drinking anything it can be a challenge as little hands try to grab your glass or hot mug. This is when you start to look around and realize what a death trap for children we really live in. I know before I write another word here in the future I’ll have had to go to town child proofing the house not only to protect her but to guard personal property from emanate destruction. It’s something I always thought was a little silly but now I see how little curious fingers have no boundaries and it’s up to us to build them.

Nap time


Everyday as she grows and learns we as parents grow and learn how to react to her both to further stimulate her but also to protect her. This is my life long commitment to her to look after her and I fear that day when I have to let her go forth on her own. We can equip her with knowledge best we can but sometimes you can’t control outside influences. Now when I see distraught parents on TV news pleading for the return of their child I can relate with the feeling of loss as I know I’d be frantic if I was in their position. For now I’m not ready to cut that cord.

A New Vocabulary and the Musical Child


Volume #11

As human beings in the world we take communication on a daily basis for granted. With the advent of pocket universal translators and the help of advanced charades a person can travel almost anywhere and can be understood. To date no one has invented a translator in any language that will assist a new parent in understanding their new child’s cries. I think they did invent one once on the “Simpson’s” and I didn’t really see the usefulness of such a tool till now. I think to any man this would be a useful aid because to me it’s just a baby crying but to a woman it means something totally different. Maybe it’s because JoAnn has spent a lot more time with Katie she recognizes the different cries in her limited arsenal of a vocabulary but to me it all means the same thing, “Help she’s broken again” as I hold her out to JoAnn. Of course this instantly stops her crying which at first was cute the power of the mommy but after a while it starts to dawn on you, “what the heck is the matter with me? What am I doing wrong?” If she keeps this up I’m bound to develop a complex, all I want to do is cuddle her but I’m told I’m getting to close I need to give her space. She’s six weeks old and I need to give her space, are you kidding me? I didn’t expect this speech till she was fifteen.


JoAnn has in her time with Katie developed the skill in reading her cries so as she knows exactly what it is she wants or needs and is able to satisfy her in a way I have not been able to do. She knows a hungry cry, from a change position cry, wet diaper cry, to a “I’m tired” cry, it’s amazing really. Of course JoAnn has been living with me for over a decade so she’s had lot of practice at reading the cries of others. My breasts don’t start to ache when Katie cries so I don’t have that going for me, she’s really got all the advantages and I just have to accept she knows what Katie’s telling her and hope I’m not being lied too. I’ve got to learn this new baby language or I’ll be an inferior father unable to satisfy my little girl’s smallest whims. When she’s older and speaks my language I’ll be able to buy off her loyalty by spoiling her rotten…not that I condone that sort of fathering by wallet style but come on it’s got to be easier than this. All I want to be able to do is hold her and have her smile at me and know I love her and all I get is crying. Am I trying to hard? Does she not like me? It’s so hard for me to read but I keep trying.


JoAnn seems to have figured it out and instinctively knows what Kathleen wants with a mere whimper, is this that whole mothers intuition? Or is it just some sort of black magic? No matter at least one of us is able to look after her needs although I am starting to feel a little helpless or useless I’m not sure which just yet. I look forward to when she’s able to vocalize what she wants but then of course she’ll get whatever she wants if she comes to daddy, I already know I won’t be able to say NO.


It is neat now that she’s able to hold her head up on her own she will hold a conversation of sorts while sitting in your lap. She’ll chirp and grin and make noises that I think surprise herself when she hears them and I just mimic everything she says right back at her which she loves and she shoots right back at me. If I make a noise that impresses her she looks at me with wonder than will smile and make a cute noise back at me. There is a dangerous line you cross if you make a sound that scares her more than amuse her as once she processes what she heard her eyes start to look concerned and her smile disappears into a quivering lip, which is followed by a loud cry. Sometimes I can pacify her but more often than not it’s something only mommy can fix and she’s whisked away from me till she’s calm again. Just hearing her cry fascinates me as I’ve spent so little time around crying babies other than myself so it’s interesting to watch. Of course if JoAnn is out of the room she comes in to see what I’ve done and why her daughter is crying. These are the moments you think about before she’s born and I savor them as long as they’ll last which is usually about ten to twenty minutes.


Something JoAnn and I both wanted for her was an early introduction to music. I took lessons all through school and was mediocre at best; JoAnn never learned to play anything and still has regrets so she was hot to get Katie involved early. Imagine our surprise when our little girl has beat us both and started singing already. Well it’s a form of singing isn’t it the way my little girl lets loose with an earth shattering belch once she’s finished eating, it’s music to me. This is a talent I’ve had as long as I can remember, the ability to belch on command or recite anything in belch form. JoAnn is fond of reminding me of a time when I was rather drunk in a bar out with buddies having wings and pizza on a Friday night as was our tradition. I leaned over to her in a tender way to whisper in her ear and belched “I love you”. Now to a group of drunken guys this was killer stuff and I did mean it, I loved her as we were still in that honeymoon first year of our relationship stage. I guess that was her first clue as to what I’d be like later in life. Thou I’ve grown up I can still belch on command and wouldn’t you know it my little girl inherited her Daddy’s ability to do the same. This couldn’t have surprised JoAnn but who knew it would manifest itself at such a young age, that’s my girl. She seems very proud of herself but it could just be the relief of passing the gas bubble.


Katie does have other musical ability I had no idea about. In the one baby book that I did read, it didn’t say anything about the fact babies like all humans get gas and fart. I think what shocked me was the sound this cute little girl could pump out of her diapers. Who knew babies could fart like a trucker on a steady diet of baked beans and light beer. It’s almost refreshing someone not concerned with what someone might say, she just lets it blow it’s really quite cute even if it doesn’t smell like a rose garden.


Thankfully her gas doesn’t always signify a full diaper or we’d never leave the change table. Sometimes you just need to fart to keep from exploding. Something else we never read anywhere is that she can go quite a period without filling a diaper. The first time she went a week JoAnn was worried there was some sort of blockage but the doctor assured us she was fine and this was completely normal. For Katie this started after her first growth spurt about three or four weeks old then we settled into long gaps between full diapers. In fact we were counting ourselves lucky as when she did finally go there was nary enough room in her diaper for all she had to put out, she was full right up to her belly button. The first time you open one of these surprises it freaks you out, like where was she storing all this? You just resolve yourself your washing her cloths the change table cover any anything else that came within range of her butt as to perform a normal diaper change and keep her out of it you’d need three hands minimum.

I think what were both looking forward to most in the next few months is the opportunity to just watch Kathleen grow and develop now that the drama of the birth is done. We’ve also finished with the parade of family and friends wanting to meet Katie for the first time and give us all the advice that worked so well for them when they had kids. So now we can get down to the job of being parents and finding our way through the obstacle course and hurdles of early childhood development. It’s a challenge that now that I’m here doesn’t seem so bad at all; I’m not sure what I was so afraid of. I always thought I was way too immature to have the responsibility of a child in my life but now that Katie is here I can’t imagine not having her around. It just doesn’t seem a big deal at all and I’m loving my new role as a Dad even if Kate still isn’t to sure about me yet, I know she will soon enough and we’ll wish she was still a baby. I can see why people say kids keep you young as I feel more like a kid than I ever did and watching her takes me back and I feel as I’ve finally found what it is I’ve always wanted out of life. We’ll see if I’m so optimistic in a couple of years.

(I found a bunch of old DVD’s with videos I made of Kate as a Baby. Funny how I found the time to do this for our first daughter but not with the daughters that were to follow. I just never seemed to have the spare time to edit let alone film as much once we had more than just one child to deal with. Here are a couple from that first year I found amusing)

Katie Chronicles Baby Love

Katie Chronicles- I’m Only Sleeping

The Worst Birthday Party Ever


Volume #224

For nearly twelve months I’ve been hearing this statement, “for Halloween I’m going out as (insert costume choice of the week here)” and I’ve been hearing that times four. It changes more frequently then they brush their hair it seems sometimes. Thankfully their mother doesn’t jump up and buy every thing they think they want to be because we’d have quite a collection by now. Of course some of those early choices based on movies that were popular that week didn’t last long. When it comes right down to it they will go out for Halloween in the best most affordable costumes their mother comes home with and that will be that. Sure we sometimes have to sell it a bit but in the end is it the costume that matters or the fact that you get to dress up and every door they knock on that night will give them candy. One year not so long ago Samantha was so unhappy with the outfit that was selected for her that she refused to wear it. So she went out as a little girl who was just so stubbornly fierce and scary that looking at her would make you scream, (no costume required for that). After a few houses I didn’t even have to explain her outfit any longer, she was getting candy by looking cute regardless. No one really wants to ask if they can’t identify it right off like a princess or a witch.

This year Kate went a bit spooky as a zombie but Emma was a Bobby sox girl from the fifties and Sam and Dan went out as a kitty and a unicorn respectively. I told the older girls to choose one of their younger sisters to stick with and they’d be sure to feel the cute factor in their candy bags. The smaller they are the more candy they seem to get and I guess I’m no different when kids come to our door. I always give the little kids the most (like they need it) but it’s better than rewarding teenagers for trying to score free candy at their age. I guess it’s better then doing drugs, maybe I better rethink my strategy for the older kids.  Since we always kid that Dani is basically fueled by candy this was her night. True to form she was the last one to throw in the towel. Her older sisters were done first with Emma no longer even going up to the doors we passed, but Dani was not about to pass any closed-door that might give her more candy. Occasionally as we marched around the neighborhood we’d find some candy on the ground and Dani would try to pick it up. She didn’t tell me it was hers and it wasn’t till we were probably ¾ of the way through the night that I realized she had a fist size hole in the bottom of her candy bag. She’s been bleeding candy since the first house. I did what I could to set her up with plastic bags to line her candy bag but she still lost the odd piece as we headed towards home. Since Halloween fell on a Saturday night we stayed out a bit longer then if it were a school night. It had been raining for three days straight so going into the evening I was concerned it would be a very short night but almost like it was planning all along, as the sun went down the rain stopped. I looked up and saw nothing but stars as I waited for the girls at each house. This was the second straight year of solid weather for trick or treating. It seems only fair since we had about three years of downpours before that.

The piles of candy on the floor when we got home were staggering, I just kept trying to put a dollar value to it. What’s more surprising is that even with Dani’s leaky bag she still accumulated more candy then any of her sisters. Like I said the cute factor pays off. Again for the third year running JoAnn had an open invitation to trade candy for cash. After you’ve enjoyed a few select pieces and pulled aside about a dozen for later enjoyment she would give them $20 to spend at Toys R Us. This year all but Emma took the deal. She decided to be the master of her own candy bag. I think what she doesn’t realize is that her mother would not be destroying the candy or giving it away. This candy would be coming back to the girls in the form of treats for months to come. So really three of the girls got the addition of $20 and to have their candy in moderation. Emma got no cash but did hold onto the right to be able to self govern her own candy intake. I’m not sure who won here in the end. As a kid I’m not sure I would have made that deal with my mom. I find it easy to side with Emma’s choice but knowing that you’re getting it all back in the end it does make the cash seem pretty attractive. Sometimes the bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush and I respect that she stuck to her guns no matter how hard her mother pushed her to accept the deal.

As if Halloween on a Saturday night wasn’t enough sugar for the girls, the very next day Dani was having her fifth birthday party and for the first time ever, on her actual birthday. In recent years we’ve staged parties at indoor play zones, movie theaters and even an indoor rock-climbing place. Last year Dani wanted her birthday at the rock wall so bad after Samantha had her party there. She was nearly the only little girl who made it to the top of the rope and rang the bell every turn she had, twenty-five feet in the air. However they don’t generally do parties for kids under the age of six and last year all her friends would have been four. The people who ran the place were a bit shocked to find out she was so young because she showed no fear at all. Last year she had her party at the gymnasium where she took gymnastics classes for fun even though her instructor was an Olympic golf medalist.




This year she wanted to have her party at home. I think she just wanted to have her school friends to the house. She gets so annoyed all her sisters have play dates or “Hang outs” as her older sisters refer to them these days and I think she just wanted to have her friends here in her house. The only prerequisite she demanded was a piñata, (as she did last year also) so as long as she could have one of those then a party at home would be fine. The theme was to be “Frozen” and she wanted a Elsa Frozen cake but other than that everything else was open. We hadn’t had a party at the house like this for quite a few years. Maybe it was Samantha’s fifth I’m not sure but we used to have them at the house all the time till we had so many parties to deal with a year. There is a certain satisfaction being able to show up at a location, let the kids party their little brains out, eat pizza, cake and some one else does the clean up. Even better with set start and finish times there is no loitering. You have to be there to pick up your kid on time.

When I was a kid we only ever had a party at home. Places like Chuck-E-Cheese or indoor play zones just didn’t exist. Mom got a movie projector from the library since this was before the advent of the video store. (Yes I am just that old). We’d watch a couple of Laurel and Hardy shorts, play a few games, eat some cake, open a couple presents and that was your party, see you next year. It was always co-ed too. My mom always had me invite 2 boys and three girls, like it was a set up and we were all going to pair off. When I went to other kids parties it was the same thing except sometimes they’d have the entire class show up. When I was a little older than we went to a pizza joint and I just got to bring the two boys. It was never a really big deal. JoAnn has proclaimed this to be the last big party for any of the girls. Big in terms of the amount of friends invited. Kate and Emma have been enjoying smaller gatherings for a few years and even Sam had a lunch and movie party so it was a smaller affair. I’m not sure I’m really ready to give up on the crazy big birthday party yet because they can be fun, certainly memorable. There are moments from parties past that really stand out in my mind, like Kate’s first birthday because it was the first for us as parents. Dani’s fifth party however may have given us the sound bite we’ll never forget.

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As you do with house parties we had games lined up and JoAnn had a table of prizes all laid out. Win lose or draw everyone was going home with a prize. We started the day with a couple of rounds of musical chairs, before we moved onto hot potato and pin the nose on the Olaf (formerly pin the tail the donkey when I was a kid). We didn’t have Disney commercialization to help set new trends and I think my mom used the same Pin the tail on the Donkey game for all my brothers so it was about twenty when it was finally retired. There was one little girl who cried when she was eliminated from the very first game of musical chairs. She refused to play the second round. She was angry when she was left holding the hot potato and was cut from that game. Even after being spun she managed to get Olaf’s nose to the EXACT spot because she was pulling the blindfold down with her free hand and cheating. She was that determined to win a game because whoever won got first pick at the prize table. She was not happy when her nose pinning attempt was not deemed the winner because she had cheated.

After some cake we set up the piñata and gave everyone a bag to collect the candy when it finally broke open. We’ve seen WAY too many episodes of AFV where some parent gets nailed with a bat in the balls to play that game so JoAnn always gets the kind of piñata you have to pull one of a few dozen hanging strings. Last year the first kid actually pulled the right one and the game was over quick. This year it was the third string that did the trick. What I found funny was that all the girls were lined up waiting to take their turn and when it opened up and the candy hit the ground they were all still standing waiting in line. I had to tell them to “Get the candy!” before any of them realized they needed to pounce. We all have such polite kids it seems. The last game of the party was pass the present. This was a double whammy because if you took off the last layer of wrapping to reveal the present you got to keep it plus pick from the prize table of dollar store crap. When our little cheating princess did not get to remove the last layer of paper to win the round she spun around on the floor where they were all sitting and loudly proclaimed “THIS IS THE WORST BIRTHDAY PARTY EVER”! The other girls didn’t seem to notice since I’m guessing they are all used to this sort of drama from her at school. I think I even saw a five-year old roll her eyes at her classmate. All the other parents that were within earshot could not contain their laughter. This wasn’t just this little girls statement, she really believed it. I know Dani was at this girls birthday party only the week before so I’m guessing any party that did not have her as the centre of attention was going to pale in comparison. I don’t believe in rewarding bad behaviour but I had asked this precious little drama princess earlier in the day what it was she had her eye on from the prize table. At the end of the party when anyone who had not won a game lined up to claim their prize I made sure she got exactly what it was she wanted. No one goes away from one of my daughter’s birthday parties upset. Maybe it wasn’t the worst birthday party ever after all.