Happy Winter Solstice 

‘Tis the season!


Today is the first day of winter!  The one day of the year that has the least amount of daylight and the most amount of darkness in the northern hemisphere.  The Winter Solstice was originally celebrated by many religions and pagans prior to Christmas taking over.  In fact many Christmas traditions derived from the Winter Solstice.

Today I shall be driving through the Mountains of British Columbia.  I will be enjoying the daylight- as short as it may be.  Tomorrow, the days will slowly start to feel longer as we begin our journey towards the Summer Solstice.


Even though I may be an atheist, I still enjoy celebrating the Winter Solstice on Christmas Day.  Many of the traditions are a wonderful way of keeping history alive.  It makes sense to me to celebrate around the same time as the majority of those around us.  Have yourselves a great first day of winter.

Happy Winter Solstice to you!

Hot Toys

Being a child throughout the 80’s I saw many fads and toys become popular.  I was too young to appreciate the Star Wars toy debacle of 1977.  My first brush with this phenomenon wasn’t a toy for me, but rather my younger sister.  


In 1982, my little sister wanted a rub-a-dub doggie for Christmas.  It was a plastic dog with fabric ears that came with a bone shaped sponge.  The gimmick?  On his collar was a lever that you moved back and forth making the dog shake his head causing the wet ears to swing.  Water flew everywhere.  Great bathtub toy to give a toddler.  

My father did his best to get this toy for my sister.  In a time of no cellular phones or internet, my father used the resources he had readily available.  He had an associate from Chicago bring one out during a business meeting in Edmonton.  And the toy dog was there, under the tree for her on Christmas morning.

The following year, Cabbage Patch Kids hit the stores causing mass riots.  A few years later, Teddy Ruxpin caused an uproar as the talking teddy bear that would move his mouth and blink while telling you a story.

Tickle This

1996 had the Christmas of Tickle Me Elmo.  Or as was commonly dubbed- “Tackle Me Elmo” as Store had them flying off shelves and people trying to sell them for $1500 each.  Two years later- Furby hit the stores.

This year sees Hatchimals as the toy to have (and the Nintendo NES Mini as a close second).  But reading online how a child’s Christmas “will be ruined” if they don’t get one is absolutely bonkers in my mind.

There’s many more toys that have been huge hits over the years that have been highly sought after- Super Soakers, Ataris, Tamagotchi, the list goes on.  One of my favorite toys from my childhood was a tiny plastic race track and a tiny car that I played with all of the Christmas break. It was probably bought at a dollar store, but I loved it.

Everyone has heard this before.


But not getting a toy won’t “ruin” Christmas.  Unfortunately, not everyone thinks like I do.  Toys and Christmas go hand in hand.  But it shouldn’t be the only thing.  Sometimes just having an extra day with the kids can be gift enough.  Kids will get over not getting the hottest toy.  I look back at Christmas with fondness.  It was the one time a year that my father was around.  He made delicious meals and we all watched tv together.  

Those memories have lasted longer than any toy has.  I hope my children also feel the same towards me.  

Actually

Actually.

You can hear this word in TV shows, movies, even children speaking to adults. The overuse of the word is becoming an epidemic and everyone should become aware of this problem.

“Actually” is now becoming the most annoying word in the English language. It has taken over for the previous annoyance from the word “like”. People are often using this word in an attempt to sound more impressive and intelligent- usually during a discussion or argument.

Don’t get me wrong, this adverb should still be used in moderation. Actually, I use it quite often in my speech as well. It just tends to sound better than “like” or “uh” and “um”. But the overuse has got to stop. I urge everyone out there to help put an end to this problem.

Perhaps we can use another language to express the word:

Arabic: فِي الوَاقِع، فِي الحَقِيقَة، فِعْلاً
Chinese (Simplified): 实际上
Chinese (Traditional): 實際上
Czech: skutečně, opravdu
Danish: faktisk; faktiskt; virkelig; virkeligt
Dutch: echt
Estonian: tõepoolest
Finnish: todella
French: réellement
German: wirklich
Greek: πραγματικά, όντως
Hungarian: valóban
Icelandic: raunverulega
Indonesian: benar-benar, sebenarnya
Italian: in realtà; veramente, realmente
Japanese: 実際に
Korean: 정말로
Latvian: īstenībā; patiesībā
Lithuanian: iš tikrųjų
Norwegian: egentlig, faktisk
Polish: rzeczywiście, faktycznie
Portuguese (Brazil): realmente
Portuguese (Portugal): na realidade
Romanian: într-adevăr
Russian: действительно
Slovak: skutočne, naozaj
Slovenian: v resnici
Spanish: en realidad, realmente
Swedish: verkligen, faktiskt
Turkish: gerçekten, hakikaten

Because together, we can benar-benar make a difference.

I’m Going to Share My Ingeniusness

I have an early Christmas Gift that I wish to share with all of my friends who have more than one child.  Please share this wisdom with your friends as well.


Having one child at Christmas is a blessing.  Pretty much everything is for that child.  The same was for our first daughter.  All of the gifts were hers!

When our second daughter was born, we ran into a dilemma.  We now have two girls in the house who are only about two years apart in age.  Sharing toys was about to get hectic.  And unwrapping Christmas gifts was going to be a challenge.  Putting their names on the gifts wasn’t going to help, since reading wasn’t really an option.

So, I came up with the most ingenious of ideas- I colour coded the gifts.

WHAT?

Yes.  Our oldest- Random- her gifts were wrapped in red paper.  Our other daughter- Darwin- her gifts were wrapped in green paper.  

Pure genius.

Then the inevitable happened two years later.  We had a third child.  Luckily for us, there is an entire rainbow of colours to choose from.  So our son- Theory- would get all of his gifts wrapped in blue paper.  Santa gave them a letter explaining this on Theory’s first Christmas.  


Years later, we still follow this rule.  Our children have gotten accustomed to not seeing nametags on gifts.  They just go for the colour that is for them.

For family gifts- we use silver or gold paper.  

Some days I just have to pat myself on the back for this idea.  

Merry Christmas!

If You Could See Yourself Through My Eyes

Earlier this week our oldest daughter had an opportunity to get her hair dyed professionally at no charge.  She agreed to it, so we went and got it done for her.  It turned out far better than I could have imagined.  I may be a biased father, but she looks really pretty.  But it’s hard to get her to understand that.  She just feels that it’s dad being nice.  See for yourself- this is our fourteen year old:

Rainbow hair dye.


As young teenagers- those of us who remember it- finding your identity was difficult.  Trying to figure out where you fit in, what clothes to wear, what music to enjoy, and so on.  I don’t think it has changed much, as I am now bearing witness to my children enter into young adulthood.  It’s fascinating to watch.  But not always enjoyable to be nearby.

I love my kids.  Sometimes, on those rare occasions, a magical thing happens.  Those moments disappear.  Suddenly my babies aren’t babies anymore.  Suddenly they have aged- right before my eyes.  It catches me off guard.  I don’t want them to grow up.  I don’t want them to lose sight of laughter and compassion.  They don’t always have to be serious.  Life is a game.  A game that can be a lot of fun.
Our oldest took a chance on getting a new hairstyle.  I think it paid off.  Even two days later, the magical unicorn named “Happy the Teenager” is still around. I hope this version remains until New Years.

One can only wish.

Christmas Cards?


Today we received 3 Christmas cards.  One from my mother, one from my aunt and uncle in Glasgow, and one from a customer that my work deals with.  


I’m still expecting a card from our financial advisor and our mortgage broker.  Earlier this month I received a card from my boss.


It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sentiments.  But it’s odd that every year, our Christmas Card collection gets smaller.  The only other card we received is from some friends who have a great sense of humor.  I am beginning to think that the art of giving cards is dead.  A big part I have found is the cost of cards being sold by the big companies.  Another part is because we are busier as technology and life moves past us.  I would make my own if I had time.  I like to buy from craft fairs and support small biz.

We used to send out cards every year along with a letter about our family.  I don’t know when it stopped.  But it did.  In this day and age, there’s no need to wait a few days for a letter to arrive.

In the end, this year we sent zero cards.  Please enjoy my generic text I will copy and send sometime between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

For now, enjoy Jon Lajoie as he sings.

New Car Smell

I was so happy to get my new car. It was bought and paid for on Monday.  I drove it to pick up my kids on Tuesday afternoon. That evening we drove as a family to their Christmas Concert.  The leather interior promoted a very strong new car smell.  Our one daughter described it as “smelling like Gramma’s car”.  Note 1: My mother takes very good care of her vehicles- that they smell like they are brand new years later.  Or she buys a new car constantly and I just never caught on…  But the new car smell doesn’t last forever.  In fact, I think my kids are pretty determined to change it in my car.

After the Orchestra Concert that our daughters performed at on Tuesday night, I decided to drive the family around and look at Christmas lights.  Of course I wanted to- I had just bought a new car!  We all sat down in the car and the heat warmed us quickly as we headed away from the auditorium in search of some lights.  Within moments, a peculiar odor emerged.  Turns out that my wife’s daughter farted as soon as she sat down.  Note 2:  As with most couples- our kids are often referred to as the other one’s kid when something goes wrong.  Or in this case, sullied the air that we breathe!


After opening our windows and letting the stink cloud out- as well as all of the heat in the car- the New Car smell began to break through again.  Hooray for leather seats!  We continued on our journey finding Christmas lights on our way home so we decided to take a detour and check out our local park.  


“Christmas in Williams Park” is celebrating 26 years of the event.  Lights, time, and effort are all donated to the event.  To view it is by donation.  Not $20/person like some of the bigger events around Vancouver.  So don’t expect much.  But it’s good for the kids, plus you drive through it.  Yay!  Keeping warm and enjoying my new ride.

We left the park and we were about five minutes from home when my son, who was sitting in the back middle seat of the car, announced that he was feeling sick.  I assumed he just didn’t want to go to school the next day so I told him we’d be home soon and he could go to bed. 


A few seconds later he warned me again.  Then came the sound.  The sound of vomit being stopped by his hands.  The sound of puke spraying out of his mouth and trying to squeeze past his fingers.  The screams of fear from our daughters on either side of him.  Oh the noises in my new car.

I remained calm and pulled over.  Put on the hazard lights and fumbled to unlock the doors.  Our oldest quickly jumped from her seat, pointed out that the car smells like barf and announced that she was going to be sick now.  My wife’s son (see Note 2), who still had his hand over his mouth, struggled to undo his seatbelt. So our other daughter -the one now called farty pants- who was still in the car tried to help him.  He got out of the car finally and moved his hand to release the vomit he was holding from his mouth onto the side of the road.

My wife was on the side of the road with him, helping to clean him up.  As much as I could have lost my cool, yelled, and thrown a fit, I felt bad for my son.  So, I calmly wiped up the couple of spots from the car- again Yay for leather!  And we got back into the car and made our way home.  My poor new car.  Not even in my possession for a day and two of the three kids attempted to “mark their territory”.

The next morning, I went to my car to warm it up- I was sure it would smell like an after party.  I opened the door, and it hit me like a wave.  New car smell was back!


Miracles really do happen.

Snowmageddon 2016

A friend of mine, from two lifetimes ago, shared a news article mentioning the great snowstorm of Vancouver back in 1996.  I remember that one.  Sort of.  Here’s what I do remember:

  • There was a lot of snow.
  • There was a lot of drinking.
  • There was a lot of stupidity.

Man were we stupid.  My sister’s boyfriend at the time had a 4×4 truck.  I had a sled, a rope and some beers in me.  Out on the snow covered main roads we went.  I was dragged behind the truck riding a plastic sled drinking a beer in nothing but jeans and a t-shirt.  Straight through a red light at full speed, followed by a sudden turn and brakes being slammed.  Before skidding under his truck, I leaned to the side and flipped over.  Thank goodness for the fresh foot of snow on the roads.

A few days later was New Year’s Eve.  I was sick with the flu- maybe something to do with the sled and not being dressed for the weather.  But, we still had a party at our home because my parents were snowed in elsewhere at the time.  Even though I was sick, I still drank in excess.  It was the best/worst New Year’s ever.  Hot NeoCitran and sparkling wine make for a unique cocktail.  One that I have never gone for again.

The snow this year isn’t nearly as bad as we’ve had it in the past.  Sure, it sucks to get around in.  But my kids love it.  Most kids love it.  I love it.  It reminds me of my childhood in Edmonton.  I’m ok that we only get these snowfalls every few years.  Usually we suffer through rain.  The man-child inside of me is hoping that we have a true white Christmas this year.  That always adds beauty to the moments.


Being young and dumb in the snow is great fun.

Artificially Yours

Alive vs Artificial.  Trees.  I’m not going to use the terms “real” or “fake” because both are physically there, not imaginary.


Yes, this debate still goes on.  There are many facets that are involved in the debate.  Personally, we have artificial trees-yes plural.  (My wife loves decorated trees.)  Our reason is the simple fact that our allergies and asthma don’t flare up.  The smell of a living tree would ruin my Christmas because I’d need a Kleenex box strapped to my face the entire season.  Where as I’m only bothered by the dust for about a day when we first unbox our trees.  

The most common question asked: Is owning a plastic tree better for the environment than cutting down a living tree?  


We live nearby to about a dozen “Christmas Tree” farms.  All of them are hopping this time of year.  To me, I’m surprised that so many trees are sold without the root ball.  I know that some people attempt to re-plant their tree.  But most just turf them out with the recycling and yard waste.  I’m not an environmentalist, but that’s a lot of perfectly healthy trees getting cut down for a couple weeks enjoyment.


Artificial trees aren’t exactly eco-friendly either.  They are made from all sorts of plastics, metals and chemicals.  They are pretty much “perfect” when you first get one.  But over the years, they start to look ragged and decrepit.  Only to be tossed out with the garbage one Christmas and get replaced with another one.  

Pretty sure the landfill isn’t the best place for your memorable Christmas tree.  But what choice do you have if you want to keep tradition alive in your home?  Having no tree isn’t really an option.  As we finish decorating our third tree, I don’t have an answer for this.

Instead, I’ll just play ignorant and continue to do what I always do.  Set up the tree, throw on some lights and baubles, and enjoy the Christmas Spirit.

Here are the local places near me if you are still needing a live tree:

Giesbrechts Tree Farm
Churchland Tree Farm
Frosty’s (sold out for the year)
Even Krause Berry Farms has a full on Christmas section now.

Changing It Up

Today I start a new journey.  One that I feel better suits me and my skill sets.  My current employer offered me an opportunity to change my work path into more of a career path.  After much deliberation and discussion with family and friends, I have taken a leap of faith into a more challenging role.

I’m not getting any younger.  I have children growing up and I want to deliver the best that life has to offer to them.  Be it a good education, travel, or just the necessities of life.  For the first time in what feels like years, we decided to celebrate my new journey.


My wife took me (and the family) out for dinner at Milestones.  Very fitting considering I’m reaching a new milestone in my life.  I haven’t been to this restaurant for a meal since we moved from our last home over a decade ago.  The food was tasty and the service was fantastic.  It was a nice treat for the family.  

Since I went rogue from my previous position and joined management, my expenses have changed and some money opened up.  Time for me to finally get a new vehicle.


I bought a new 2016 Nissan Rogue SL…  It looks like an angry Storm Trooper.  Tomorrow afternoon, it will be gracing our driveway.  Finally, a little bit of luxury for my drive to and from work.

As I further my journey over the next year from the title of Yardmaster to Trainmaster, I hope to still remain friends with those who matter most.  I understand that it’s not easy being friends with the boss or management.  But I know that in my journey through life, many people will grace me with their presence.  Many will stay connected with me.  Many more will just be passing through.  

With those thoughts in my mind, I have chosen to do what’s best for me and my family.  No one else could make the decision for me.  I believe it is the right pathway towards the betterment of my family.