21st Night of September

Today is one of my favorite days. It’s all because of the song “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire. This song is one of those songs that you just know. It is catchy and fun to sing. Do you remember?

It all started back in my days as a manager at Chuck E Cheese’s. The video screen would play Chuck E and his cohorts singing the song. All the while the animatronic Chuck E would sing alongside them. These videos were on loop for a month at a time playing again every few hours. The songs would get droned into your head and the staff would sing along unknowingly. Here’s a link to the C.E.C. Video: CEC September

The other reason I love this song is that my wife’s current coworkers love to “Rickroll” her with it. Every so often they will play the song for her. My wife lights up with joy when she hears it. (Hashtag sarcasm) For her, it is one of those ear worms that she cannot get rid of for ages.

Here is a link to the original video just in case you haven’t seen it before: September. Enjoy your 21st night of September! Ah ee ah!

The Pathway To Curb Appeal

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been working hard at creating “curb appeal” for our home. Most of the summer was too hot to do manual labor in the front yard. During that time, we enjoyed our backyard immensely, and who wouldn’t?

But it finally came time to start with landscaping the front. I would be lying if I didn’t say I had “Yard Envy” of our neighbors. They all had a decade to creat beautiful landscapes. The home we bought- the previous owners put the time and money into the backyard. The gave my wife and I pretty much a blank canvas to do what we want in the front.

All summer we talked and planned. We drew ideas, hit some nurseries, and finally started in the purchasing of plants and such. A few bushes, trees, dirt, cement slabs, and stones have arrived. It has been back breaking work, quite literally. I pushed myself too hard last week and felt it.

After that, my wife put our two youngest to work helping out. I utilized our middle for quite a bit of the work. So naturally I paid her afterwards- much to her surprise. Today, my wife also took a few minutes to assist me. (Do I need to pay her also?)

Here are some of the before pictures of what we have done thus far. We decided to add a stone path along the driveway that leads past the front garden and towards our back gate. I did this all the right way, so I won’t have to try and fix it later on. We dug up the grass, leveled it off, lay down landscape fabric, put in a border, spread some sand, put down the slabs and shoveled the tiny stones all around.

Last week we planted a few of the bushes where we want them to be the centerpieces once we finish pulling up the lawn and adding some garden islands. In fact, we are hoping to remove the entire lawn to create a beautiful, low maintenance garden. That will likely happen next spring.

Today was a delivery of the stones and it only took about two hours to spread it out. The final look of the pathway is amazing. I’m really satisfied with how it turned out. I always love a sense of accomplishment when finishing a project. Now on to the next one!

New Movie Theater Experience

Last night, I went to the movies for the first time since the pandemic started. We have been to the drive-in, but that was a different experience since we socially distanced in our vehicles. Attending a movie in the theater was a the experience I had been missing.

What was really awesome was my son. Instead of just asking to be dropped off at the theater to watch a film with his friend, he invited me along. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, Saying I Love You… he made me feel wonderful inside.

We watched Marvel’s Shang-Chi. The movie itself was a fantastic martial arts movie. Loads of action, humor and along with some fantasy elements. I would wholeheartedly recommend the film. Seeing it with my son and his buddy (avid Marvel fans) made for some great discussions afterwards.

Getting back to sitting in an auditorium was a great sensation. It was enjoyable to see a film on the big screen.

Saying “I Love You” In Different Ways

Yesterday evening my 15 year old son sent me a text. It was the nicest and most surprising text I have had in quite some time. I was genuinely taken aback by the text.

My son and I talk a lot about Marvel and Star Wars. We try and watch the movies and shows together. It has turned into a great father/son bonding time. But to have him start by asking if I wanted to attend a movie with him and his friend was by far the most loving moment he has shared with me- without knowing it.

I am now seeing a movie on Friday night with a couple of teenage boys. They could’ve easily asked to be dropped off, but I’m glad he chose to ask me along. Things may change over the years, but this Friday I will feel like a superstar. And all it took was my son asking a simple question. My heart swelled up last night when I read the text.

I’m not crying. You’re crying.

Remembering The Family Dogs

Today is International Dog Day. Since I was a small child, I have always had a dog in my life. When I was born my parents had a wired haired fox terrier named Whiskey. When he had to get put down, I was maybe 3 years old. My father vowed to never get a dog again.

A couple years later, he brought home another terrier named Brandy. She lived with us for a couple of years until she bit my mother’s hand quite badly. Since my sister was a toddler at the time, the decision to give her up (the dog not my sister much to my chagrin).

Shortly after that we moved away from Edmonton, Alberta and into Langley BC. My parents adopted a cocker spaniel puppy named Charlie. He lived with us for about four years until a tumor took over. He was one of the most lovable doggies ever and enjoyed being cuddled.

Alvin the little white pooch mooch.
Chuppy the puppy.

We moved again to a new home where my mother and sister adopted a multipoo that I got to name Alvin. He was a bouncy little fella always happy yo see you. He lived for a very long time. So long in fact that my wife and I looked after him in his final year.

When I met my wife, she had a Rhodesian ridgeback that was a big ol’ softy. His name was Chuppy. Everyone who met him fell in love with his demeanor. He lived for 17 years. He was always known as Chuppy the Puppy. Bum rubbies was the best way to his heart.

Then came Lex Luthor. We adopted him about eight years ago at the age of about six. He brought some energy back into Chuppy which was the biggest reason for adopting a second dog. He was such a well trained big lug who always hung out with us everywhere in our home. We lost him at the start of this summer, so that sadness is still fresh.

Last fall we adopted Maki. She is turning five and much like Lex did for Chuppy- she brought some life back into Lex for a bit. Maki is probably one of the most loved of all. She has become an emotional support dog without intentionally doing so. She seems to know when people need love the most.

My wife and I have spoken about Maki being our last dog, but in reality we both know this to not be true. We are dog people and will always have a dog as a member of our family. They bring such joy to us all.

The Vault

Yesterday we spent the afternoon and evening with a couple of friends. All of our kids were off doing their own thing, so my wife and I had a night to ourselves. First was hanging out at our place for a drink and appetizers.

Costco is great for finding quick and easy foods to share. I made some mini wontons and potato skins for us to share. Hanging out in the kitchen is always a great way to converse. Having a large kitchen island made it even better.

Afterwards we headed to a local establishment called “The Vault Restaurant”. It’s been around for ages and was built in an old bank. Kind of a steampunk/industrial feel inside. The food was great and the company was entertaining. It was ridiculously fun.

It’s been a while since my wife and I headed out for a night with friends. I’m glad we did as it turned into a fantastic evening. Date nights are becoming somewhat more frequent now that our kids are teenagers. It means my wife and I can get to know one another again. For that, I am grateful.

Phone Upgrade Day

Every two to four years we upgrade our cellphones and plans. Today was that day. My wife and I and our two youngest kids each got our own iPhone 12.

My old phone taking a picture of it’s replacement.

We upgraded from the iPhone 8 so it’s kind of a big deal for us. Yes we are a family of iPhone users and have been since the iPhone 4. I like the simplicity and user friendliness of Apple products. The transfer of data is easy as well. Even with new features on the phone, I like that it has all my old apps laid out exactly where they were from my previous phone.

Of course we did our upgrade at Costco. Which was a fantastic deal. We got the phones for $0 down, free car chargers and ear buds for each of us. And $250 in Costco gift cards for each phone. Basically handing us $1000 which we promptly spent 3/4 of it.

Back to school sale and Costco is a great deal. Being at Costco for two hours to set up the phones is the only caveat. But new phone!

Clam Chowder In A Bread Bowl

My wife thinks that she must be missing Disneyland. Mostly the memories that the food brings back. She made churro cookies the other day- which are delicious! Last night for dinner we had clam chowder in bread bowls. Just like the ones we ate from Harbour Galley at New Orleans Square in Disneyland.

My wife has been playing with bread recipes for a few weeks now. These bread bowls were perfect. We have a “Proofing” option in our new oven, so the bread is rising nicely each and every time. The clam chowder was also made from scratch. My wife is superb when it comes to chowders and goulashes.

I just wonder what our next Disneyland themed treat will be. Perhaps beignets like the ones we at in Downtown Disneyland from Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen. She could find us some smoked Turkey legs. Or maybe a Dole Whip or even a Margarita like we had at Rita’s Baja Blenders. Who knows what my wife’s tastes will bring for for the rest of us.

But my tastebuds have been pleasantly surprised thus far.

Central City Fun Park

My daughter and I had another “Daddy/Darwin Day” today. It started with her getting some driving practice in. We headed to our old neighborhood to drop my son off at a friend’s house. After that she drove to do some grocery shopping with me. We did a pit stop at home and then went out for some more quality time.

We went to a place called her in Surrey that hasn’t been open for very long- Central City Fun Park. Essentially it is a superior Chuck E. Cheese’s. There was pizza, video games, skill games, and prizes. But what made it better than CEC was the mini golf, bowling, vr, and the roller rink. We went there to see if there was DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) and roller skating.

We found a similar game to DDR and did our best to play. Let me tell you- my foot/eye coordination is abysmal. Unfortunately there was an injury in the roller rink, so skating was unavailable. We decided to try the 9 hole mini golf, which was okay, but we really wanted to skate.

After playing the arcade games (Star Wars was fun!) we had a battle of air hockey (tie game) and some other skill games to earn tickets. My daughter decided to keep the tickets and hopefully earn more in the future for a better prize. 287 tickets doesn’t get you much.

It was a good day followed by a fun afternoon of quality time. Next time we better get some roller skating in!

Biking With My Son

This morning I took advantage of the fact that our teenage son wanted me to go with him to the Cloverdale Athletic Park. He has been there a few times himself with friends and his sister. At the park is a bike park section that he wanted to show me.

My son picked up a free trail bike back in February. He has been using it diligently since then. He likes the suspension on it to go over the jumps and hills. I have a “cruising” style bike, so I am more casual in my riding.

Unfortunately on the way back home, my son ran into an issue. The brakes seized up. This was likely due to the rear tire being warped. That also caused the gears to constantly skip and the chain would always fall off. Today the bike ended its cycle. Wahahahhaha

Now my son wants to buy a better bike. This is something I told him he needs to save up for. Perhaps it will motivate him to get a job.

Anyways. It was a good father/son time and I’m glad we had it together. He really loves hanging out with me. I’ll take it any day!

Dino Mountain

There are plenty of paths in our neighborhood. Some lead around the houses, other paths lead through trees and parks. One of the paths has been filled with toys and art. It is titled “Dino Mountain” and was created in 2017.

There are little plastic dinosaurs near a large rock. My daughter will often straighten the ones that have toppled over and sometimes set up little scenes. I think it’s a fantastic way to encourage children to go on walks. It’s neat that the City of Surrey has also left it for the neighborhood to enjoy.

Today, we added our own touch to the Mountain.

Back in 1994 I was given some promotional material from a video store for the release of Jurassic Park. I have put them on display in all of our houses. Because I love the film so much, it was time to give back to the world and share some fun. I took the cardboard signage and taped it up in hopes that it survives the elements. Off to the trail we went and put them up for others to enjoy.

So if you’re in my neighborhood and go for a walk passing Dino Mountain- make sure you keep an eye out for Dinosaurs Crossings the path.

Patience Young Grasshopper

For the first time in over three decades, I caught a grasshopper. Super exciting, I know. But this summer is also the first time in about thirty years since I’ve even seen a grasshopper. I hadn’t realized that fact until I saw one.

It’s just an insect. No big deal to most folks. I found it fascinating as a flood of memories came swarming into my head. My wife and I were walking along a berm that ran behind our home the other day when my first encounter occurred. A similar type of place from my youth where we would hunt grasshoppers and frogs.

I remember spending hours in the fields and mud trying to capture these hopping critters. Taking your time to sneak up on one only to miss nine times out of ten. But that final catch always made you proud. My friends and I would take the grasshoppers or frogs home in an ice cream bucket with holes punched in- just to show the other kids in the neighborhood. This made you the highlight of a hot summer day.

So here is my ice cream bucket. A quick photo of the grasshopper I caught. I hope that for a brief moment it brings you joy like it did me.

Littles

Today was a good day. I had the opportunity to have a few coworkers over with their families. Each of them have young children to take care of.

It’s been a long while since my wife and I have had to deal with small kids. It was nice change to hang out with everyone. And see how they handle their kids.

I’ve always been good with children. They seem to gravitate towards me. Today made for another one of those moments. My favorite part was being able to hand back the kids at the end of the days. The kids were well behaved. I’m most impressed with my friends’ parenting skills.

Ha! 19 Now…

Our oldest child turned 19 today. That means she is legal drinking age and can have alcohol without trying to sneak it. On my 19th birthday I went to the club and got completely loaded with a coworker who was five years older than me. I was a disaster. Our daughter on the other hand? Well she chose something different.

She doesn’t want alcohol. It’s never interested her. Instead she wanted to have a day at work followed by an at home family dinner and some ice cream cake. Totally doable and within our means!

I’m really impressed by how much more mature she is than I ever was when it comes to partying. But we still had a lot of fun at dinner. We were listening to a playlist that her sister cream Spotify, took some silly photos and cut the ice cream cake in the worst possible ways. Laughter filled the atmosphere.

It was exactly what she wanted. Why not give a person what they ask for on their birthday? No unwanted surprises. Just a casual night at home with family. In the end it was more a gift for the rest of us than for her. She even arrived home in great spirits!

Happy 19th Birthday Random! May you always be the responsible adult you have proven to be on your first day of adulthood!

Summer Tradition- Fish and Chips in White Rock

Tonight was the perfect night to go out for dinner with the family. It was also the perfect evening to eat outside and stare at the water.

Every summer we go to Crescent Beach and get ourselves deep fried cod and chips. Then off to find a log or some rocks to sit at to enjoy our dinner. This year we tried a new fish and chips location. We were not disappointed!

While we waited for the fish to cool down a bit, the family posed for a picture at the beach. After several retakes and arguing, I got a sort of okay photo of us. You’d think that after all of these years my kids would just cooperate willingly. I mean, honestly- how hard is it to give a smile to your poor old dad?

After dinner, we strolled along the beach looking at houses and the fun seaside artwork that the town has. I’m happy that we are only about a twenty minute drive to Crescent Beach. I’m hoping to go kayaking some more like we did last year- read about it White Rock Kayaking.

This summer could go on forever. I’m enjoying every minute of it. Even the arguing about posing for a picture. That’s quality family time!

25 Years of ID4

Every year on the Fourth of July we watch the movie “Independence Day”. It’s a tradition that I have kept up since I can remember. I first shared our story five years ago: ID4. My wife and kids all look forward to it each year. I can’t believe the film is a quarter century old now.

This is a great sci-fi film which borders on impossible at times. The characters and interactions more than make up for the fluff that this movie has to offer. Heck, after 25 years a lot has changed. Even the US Military has sort of, partially, kind of told the world that there is such things as ufos.

As American as A.L.F.

I have always wanted to believe that there is life out there. Hopefully it isn’t as mean as the aliens are in this film. Perhaps as a race we can come together and accept diversity as a way of life. Only then do I think we will meet alien life forms. Hopefully they are also not like A.L.F.

Happy July 4th to our American Cousins!

Lego Bonsai

Today we went shopping for some summer clothes. We also went to a couple of stores just because we were at the mall. One of those stores happened to be The Lego Store. I totally did a spontaneous purchase of a Lego set.

The Lego Bonsai Tree.

We got it home and decided to put it together as a family. This is the first set we have built in the new house. It’s also been years since we last tried to build a set together. The Lego Spaceship from The Lego Movie was an ordeal and a half one Christmas! We were lucky to not repeat that fiasco.

But we were able to work together and got it completed rather quickly. We even had a spot all picked out at the bottom of our stairs for it to hang out. I think it looks really neat.

As well, when spring comes around, we can change the bonsai tree into a Sakura tree.

Raised Spirits

After a week in our new home, it was time to enjoy quality time together. Boy was it fun!

This evening before dinner, we all hung out at the pool. Loads of laughter and splashing. It was an excellent way to cool off after a smoldering hot day.

To finalize our family time together we did something we always do. We watched a movie as a family. The movie of choice? Spirited Away. A favorite amongst us all. We love Studio Ghibli movies and enjoyed visiting Studio Ghibli when we travelled to Tokyo a few years back.

We also chose this film because it starts with a family on their way to their new home, yet adventure takes hold. It’s the perfect film to boost our spirits amongst the chaos of unpacking. I’m so happy to feel like a family once more. Stress is behind us.

Time to live our best lives.

Longer Sunshine

With these summer days upon us, the sun is staying out longer and hotter. It’s a blessing and a curse as they say. I’m getting up early and starting my day of a billion chores. Only to end the day with a late dinner watching the sunset.

I’m still trying to get some relaxation in each day. That’s tough. But today I made it into the pool twice! I was also able to sit and talk with my wife as she finally hit our soaker tub.

Our son had a couple friends over to hang out in celebration of the last day of school. They hopped out of the pool for dinner and we’re back in it until 11pm. After the got out, I managed to stand on our top floor balcony and see something I never saw in our last home.

The Big Dipper.

Not a big deal to most, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen the sky from my balcony. I’ve really enjoyed the sunsets. I can’t believe this is our home now.

Loss Of Our Family Dog

Today we had to say goodbye to our family dog, Lex. We adopted him January 2013 and he has been a great family member ever since we met him.

Lex was a great dog. He always stayed nearby us whenever we hung out as a family. He would join us in our media room to watch family movies. He would go on walks and camping with us- never required a leash.

The first day we met him, he never left our side. He chose us to be his family- we didn’t choose him. We brought him home that same day between snowstorms.

We did our best to make his final year comfortable as we could see his health deteriorating. I’d like to think we helped for the last few months, and I know the kids are glad that he got to see our new home. My wife and I knew something was up when Lex decided to go for one last walk in the old met last week. He pushed himself harder than he had in recent times. He hardly moved after that.

Lex was a good boy and made our lives fulfilled. We will miss you buddy. May you Rest In Peace.

Goodbye

So long, goodbye
I'll see you when I see you
You can pick the street
I'll meet you on the other side
So long, goodbye
Do I really have to finish?
Do returns always diminish?
Did I say that right?

Time to bid farewell to a home that my wife’s father built 49 years ago. It’s been our family home for the last 14 years. During which time I renovated, repaired, revived, and even at times resented. These past four months have been a difficult time as we prepared ourselves to leave. There was no chance that we were going to leave on a negative note, so we continued to enjoy the house and yard right to the last possible moment.

2008.

But today is the last day. A chaotic good change is occurring. Our home is filled with boxes and people moving those boxes for us. I really don’t have much more to say on the subject that I haven’t previously. So I’ll keep it short and sweet.

So long brick house. Goodbye parenting memories. Farewell country living. Our castle gave us a roof over head and natural beauty on the doorstep. Everything this home could offer us, it successfully accomplished.

Thank you Castle Havelka.

We love you.

Hello

Our first full day in the new house has begun. The foray of chaos yesterday ended, yet the unpacking will remain for days, nay– weeks on end.

It was a bittersweet move. Emotions ran high yesterday. Everyone was happy to experience our new home and we took our first family photo in the backyard. I even broke my dry spell of almost 300 days and sipped on sparkling wine and then had a beer poolside.

Before that- I started the evening off for everyone by taking the first jump into our pool. The weather was perfect and the water was fine.

Once everyone was gone, we enjoyed seeing a sunset for the first time in years from our backyard. As much as I loved the tress in our last place, I have really been enjoying the million dollar view we have now.

As we greet our new neighbors we are also looking for some names for our home. The last place we titled, “Castle Havelka”. Our Internet still says Castle, but I’m thinking since we moved up we should call it “Kingdom Havelka”.

Let me know in the comments some suggestions for a new name should be. For now, it’s time to tackle more boxes.

3

Triple trouble- time to talk about number 3.

Rule of thirds. When I’m feeling especially artsy, I’ll take photos and do my best to follow the rule of thirds. If I’m being sassy or humorous- I also follow the comedic troupe of doing a joke three times. Surprisingly, it works well.

As you may be aware, we have 3 kids. They are teenagers now- almost into adulthood. Each has grown into their individual personalities. My wife and I love them to pieces and have become so proud of them. If you have been following my blog, you will notice that I tout their accomplishments on a regular basis.

Finally, this move will be the third house my wife and I will be purchasing together. Eighteen years ago we bought our first place for $210,000. That was one of the most difficult expenses we ever faced. I worked three jobs at almost 80 hours per week to make ends meet. Within two weeks of buying that house we found out we were expecting our second child.

We sold that home in just under four years of owning it at $410,000. Our mortgage that remained was $167,000. That was when we bought the house we are in now for $570,000 in the year 2007. After fourteen years, we were able to get $1,900,000 for the home. Earning us $95k a year.

We are now moving into another beautiful house that meets our changing needs. As excited as I am about the change, it is difficult to fathom that we have come this far in under two decades. Even though this is the third house for us to buy, it kind of feels like this is our first house. It was the one that we absolutely fell in love with and it won’t need any upgrades for a long time.

4

Passing the number 5 on a countdown is like hitting the home stretch on a marathon. With four days remaining, today I shall hit on the number 4 and some of its significance in my life.

Here’s a tidbit of information that some people may not know about me. Not that it’s a big deal, but I am the Fourth Josef Havelka in a row. My mother named me at the last minute in the hospital. Originally I was going to be named Michael, but I’m glad I wasn’t. I’m a Joe. Or Josef, Joey, Joe-Joe; you get the picture. As well, we continued the tradition and our son has Josef Havelka V on his birth certificate. Some places look at the “V” as his last name which I find humorous.

Since my name starts with a “J” and when I write it out, it looks like a sideways number “4”. That’s because I have a tendency to print in capital letters. It’s a habit I developed at a young age and it has continued into adulthood. Printing in all caps has become useful at work, since a clear understanding of the work to be accomplished is required. Typing out information isn’t always feasible.

FORE!

I know, it’s not really the number four, but it sure sounds like it. As a homophone, it’s close enough to hit on my memories to be shared today. Golfing is not really my thing. However, I’m not bad at hitting golf balls. My father was an avid golfer and pushed me to take my swing seriously. At work, if I’m giving out car counts and the number 4 is needed- I call it out as if I was golfing. Sometimes you need a bit of lightheartedness to get through a work day.

With only four days left to go, I have given plenty of forethought as to how to enjoy our new house. We will have a formidable foreseeable fortunateness forging forward forever foreboding unforgettable efforts.

5

FIVE… 5 days to go people! Here comes number five for my numerical blog posts as you countdown with me to our new home. Let’s go retro fun to start on today’s blog.

When I first moved to British Columbia, my mother bought me some books. Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series was some of my favorite childhood novels. I spent hours in my room reading about the adventures of these kids. Especially as a child who had no friends moving province to province. This was my version of the Harry Potter series, only without magic. I never did pass these novels onto my kids, but they did read a lot of their own books growing up.

Number 5 is alive! Short Circuit was a fun movie from the 80’s. Not a great plot, more relying on slapstick and humor to get the film through. Yet, anyone around my age can quote this film in some way. “No disassemble!” In fact, I’m hoping that one day I can a Johnny 5 with my 3D printer.

I can’t talk about the number 5 without mentioning I have a family of five. We have all been working so hard to get ready for this move. It is an emotional time for all five of us. Leaving one home to get into another. This countdown is getting us closer to that day. A chance to create a new home.

To quote Johnny 5- “Home… Number 5, home.”