More Vegas Lights

No one told me I’d be walking as much as I have this trip. But with so much to see you forget about the walking.

Besides walking around outside, we end up walking through numerous casinos as well. Tons of sounds and lights inside. The only part about walking inside is the smell of smoke is strong. Not my favorite aspect.

Today will be a day of gift store shopping. There are neat stores everywhere. Coca-Cola, Hershey, M&M, Pepsi, so many kitschy places to check out. I’m sure I will find some great and unique gifts to bring home.

Frugal Christmases of Yore

When I first met my wife, I didn’t have much of anything to my name. A bed, an old stereo, a tv and a DVD player was pretty much it. We slowly began to acquire items from family friends. A couple couches, a deep freeze (which we still have to this day!) and some old dishes were sent our way. And we appreciated everything about it. That year, I chose to donate almost all of my Star Wars action figures to the needy. I kept a couple basic characters in hopes that one day we’d have a kid to pass them on to.

A couple years after marriage and our first kid was born in 2002. They were spoiled that year by everyone in the family because it was the first grandkid on either of our sides. Two years later and kid (grandkid) number 2 arrived and was equally spoiled. Same with our third who showed up two years after that. By this point I was still making a fairly low income and my wife was a stay at home mom doing her best to add extra income in any way possible. But my job at the time had one great perk.

I was a manager at a Chuck E. Cheese’s. I was in charge of ordering all those prizes on the back wall. My boss at the time told me I could always add an extra few toys for my family whenever I wanted. So I did. I accumulated these bigger ticket items throughout the year to stockpile for Christmas. My kids also got treated at least twice a week to dinners and unlimited games and small prizes. In their eyes- this dad had the greatest job ever!

Not everyone has loads of money to make the holidays “special”. Sometimes we rely on the kindness of those around us to make it feel better. I was not ashamed to thank family, friends and coworkers for their generosity. The joy I felt from their kindness far surpassed my need to go it alone.

If you see someone needing a hand, emotionally, financially, even spiritually- try and help out. I’ve been doing my part to “Pay it Forward” over the years.

Helping people financially isn’t always giving money. Sometimes it’s offering a home cooked meal, or helping them get better jobs, supporting their art, or buying their handmade wares. Getting that internal smile always made me feel good that someone out there cared. And in turn, I know they felt good as well.

Birthdays

Private Movie Screening

This morning I saw an old friend for his fortieth birthday. It’s probably been about a decade since I last saw him. Today, he rented out a movie auditorium and screened the film,”The Green Knight” which was a film that my friend enjoyed this year and really wished to share with us. I’m glad I saw it, as it was more artsy than the films I have been known to watch. The last time he rented out a theater was probably 20 years ago when we both worked at Colossus and he showed the 1990 classic “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

It got me thinking about how we celebrate birthdays in general. First birthday is mostly gifts for baby and parents. As children, your parents throw parties for you with the expectation that gifts will be given to the birthday child, they give some cheap goody bags as a thank you.

Then you are a teenager, and you’re “Too Cool” for a Chuck E Cheese party, so you go and hang out. Everyone is broke, so you just do what you did on a regular Friday Night. Once you hit “legal drinking age” that’s when friends buy you drinks and everyone will pitch in for the dinner. After a couple years of this, everyone is broke again. So your birthday is just another reason for others to get drunk- byob style or everyone pays their own way.

As you get older, it seems the milestone birthdays are all that matter. And if you want friends to celebrate with you, you end up throwing your own party. Supplying the food and beverages. Some friends will bring something to share or a bottle for you to enjoy. Eventually as we get even older, birthdays are all but forgotten. You made it around the sun once more, and the few who care will still send you love. And that’s what really matters.

Feeling loved. Not showered with gifts. Legitimate love and caring from people who at one point made an impact on your life, and you made one on theirs. My friend today was an integral part of my life at one point. I’m so happy to have seen his successes and been able to share with him a brief moment today once more. Birthdays should always be important to your friends and family.

Pre-Christmas Online Fulfillments

Holy smokes have we been hitting the online purchases a bit heavy this year. My wife and I were a bit skeptical about the gifts arriving on time for Christmas. So we ordered in advance with plenty of time to spare.

This is the “condensed” version of what we have received so far. Amazon ships far too many packages with one or two items inside. It’s good in a way because we know that we are getting 90% of our stuff in time for the holidays. There’s a couple items set to arrive by December 22nd still. Which feels crazy in a world where we came accustomed to instant gratification.

I can’t really complain because we always choose the “Free Shipping” option. Sometimes it’s the next day, other times it could take a couple of weeks. Plus Amazon is great when you need to return an item or the item does a “no-show”.

All I need to do now is keep the kids out of the boxes and “Archive” the purchases so they don’t “accidentally” see an item that has been ordered. We all know how sneaky kids can be when it comes to finding out their Christmas gifts. I know I was pretty bad at spoiling the surprises for myself when I was younger.

Are you done shopping? Have you even started? Any horror stories of online shopping? Still looking for that perfect gift for your family members? Let me know in the comments.

Have You Begun Holiday Shopping?

The year is in the final quarter. That means gift giving season is approaching quickly. Whether you celebrate Winter Solstice or any number of religious based holiday- giving gifts is a big part of it.

Ordering online is a gamble these days. Sometimes packages are shipped overnight while other times it could be a few weeks. Ordering from Amazon is interesting, I swear that a new package arrives every other day. So I am trying to get the goods before the crazy rush that will approach makes it difficult.

I worry that I will resort to last minute shopping in a Walmart mid-December. When all the good stuff is gone. I’m already getting panicky that our gifts will feel meager when under the tree. Who knows. I have a few tricks up my sleeves still in order to make Christmas special.

Are you ready for the holidays? How much shopping do you have left? Does shopping in Walmart scare you? Let me know in the comments.

That’s Mine!

Seeing my name on the gifts that my family gave me this Christmas made me feel very loved. Knowing that they took the time to purchase or make the gifts they felt were in my best interest was very kind of them.

As much as I think that Christmas is for our children, I still enjoy opening gifts. The anticipation and surprise that is associated with gift giving appeals to me. Giving and receiving has its emotional benefits.

We may not have gotten spoiled this year with an abundance of presents, but we did have a great time sharing with one another. Seeing the joy in my children as I unwrapped their gifts to me was almost better than the joy I saw when they unwrapped their gifts from my wife and I.

Maybe this is the dawning of a new way of gifting to one another. More joy being shared instead of just stuff. My hope is that our children feel it is better to give than receive. I think my wife and I have done a good job raising kind and caring young adults. That’s the gift that keeps on giving.

One Week Remains

It’s getting down to crunch time! Only one shopping week remains to get that special gift for your special someone. Unless you are in a perfect relationship like I am- where my wife said to me, “You don’t have to get me anything for Christmas.”

That is not what I wanted to hear. I’m fairly certain that she’s lying. I’m no good at guessing games. So if she dropped hints all year long- its likely that I missed them.

My wife did however buy herself a few items and give them to me to wrap. I guess not knowing which gift is inside which wrap is good enough? At this stage in life, one may as well buy what they want and gift it to themselves. That way you’re not disappointed and display “Present Face” for those not-so-amazing gifts.

In the past I’ve bought her jewelry she doesn’t wear and craft supplies she doesn’t use. I’ve even picked up kitchen knives and dishes in the past. These are more for everyone, but I throw her name on them so she has something to unwrap.

Yup, Christmas gift giving to my wife has me turning into a husband cliché. I’m not sure how to break the cycle. Maybe one Christmas I’ll nail it. Until then, I wonder how late Walmart is open?

Wish List Time

Christmas is on the horizon- so that means gift giving and holiday cheer. The holiday cheer part is getting into full swing at our home. Minus the music… that starts at the beginning of December. Oh and Christmas Trees- we have numerous trees that go up starting December 7th. I’m getting off topic… let’s talk “Wish Lists”.

As a child, I remember filling a page of dreams, or rather filling it with stuff that my young mind thought I needed. Video games, Transformers, remote control cars, or whatever toy was popular. Up until we had three kids, I still made a list. It turned into an adult list involving housewares, tools, and small appliances. Now I make those purchases myself and get exactly what I need or want.

Wish lists always have been filled with hopes. An idealistic vision of what would make your life complete. But if you don’t get everything on the list, there can be a sense of disappointment. As parents, the lists can be beneficial. You want to give your kids so much in life, but you also have to make sure they get what they need. Going into debt over material stuff isn’t a good idea though.

Our kids have lists. It’s smattered with things they think would make their lives fulfilled. Things like books, pens, art supplies and music are topping the list. Knowing that they want to create more than consume makes me happy. I’m not quite sure where or when it changed, but I’ll gladly support their artistic side.

I’m sure Santa will support it as well- if you know what I mean.

What’s on your wish list? Do you set limits on what your kids ask for? How much stuff is too much stuff?

Let me know in the comments.

What I Didn’t Get For Christmas

Sometimes you just don’t get what you want for Christmas. Of course Christmas is a time of giving; But receiving is pretty sweet as well. I’ve tried to drop hints to my family over the years. I guess my subtlety was overlooked– Most likely ignored.

I had a wonderful Christmas, as I do every year. With good laughs and lots of love being spread. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. However, maybe next year Santa could find room in his sleigh for one of these items I’d kinda like:

I have been wanting a large 3D Printer for ages. Maybe not that large. But still, I love movie replicas. I see this as a way of doing it as a hobby with the idea of making my own movie replica props. Full size Han Solo in Carbonite? Yes please!

Speaking of movie props, on my list is the Leg Lamp with crate from the film “A Christmas Story”. I have wanted this for nearly three decades. Ever since I first saw the film as a teenager. It screams Christmas to me. Yes, my wife has known I have wanted it but refuses to buy it. She’s kinda like Ralphie’s mom in that aspect.

See that watch Elvis is wearing? There’s just something about the design of a Hamilton Ventura wrist watch. I’m not a watch guy, but this is the piece I have always wanted. Forget Rolex, that’s way out of my price range, or the trendy 1980’s Casio calculator watch (I had one of those at one point as a kid)- a Hamilton Ventura is where it’s at.

I have many other things I have hinted at that are just regular items, like a sawzall or outdoor speakers, but this dad just seems to get ignored. Honestly, I’m okay with that. All of these items I’ve mentioned, I could just go out and get myself. That’s not what Christmas is about.

I am delighted with the gifts I did receive from my family. Many of them surprised me. From a jar of mustard to slippers, or a stuffed animal that shares my birthday, or a keepsake from our trip to Japan- my family knows the right things to give me that hits me in the feels.

For this, I am grateful and wouldn’t change a thing.

Christmas Day 2018

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I’m not going to write much today. Just going to share some photos of our Christmas Eve fun.

First was our traditional dinner of Fancy Sandwiches, Schnitzel and potato salad. This year, everyone helped in making the Sandwiches. Our youngest helped with the salad and our oldest helped make the schnitzel.

After dinner we retired to the theater room and opened our Christmas PJs. The kids had fun taking selfies for Instagram. Afterwards we watched Aggretsuko Heavy Metal Christmas and Powerpuff Girls: The Fight Before Christmas. An easy way to unwind before bed.

Once the kids were in bed, my wife and I got to work laying out their gifts. And one last hiding place behind the door for Creepy Santa to surprise the kids. Next will be the the start of the big day filled with gifts and fun!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Wrap It Up.

Pretty sure that my wife and I are ready for Christmas now. At least in the gift department area. We always do our shopping throughout the year and we try and make “Black Friday” the last day possible. Most years we don’t even do shopping this weekend. That’s how prepared we are for Christmas! Now to move onto wrapping the gifts.

I’m hoping to get most of the presents wrapped up over the next week or so before the kids get out of school. We won’t need tags either because of my Geniusness plan from years ago. Wrapping before hand also gives us a chance to decide if we are giving too much or too little to our kids. If it’s too much, a gift or two will stored away for a future birthday.

The kids in school makes it easier to wrap during the week. We can take over the dining room table and whip through the gifts in an afternoon or two. I want to try and get them wrapped up soon. I’m not sure if our kids hunt around the house for gifts or not.

I used to search for gifts.

I spoiled a few Christmases for myself as a child. I would search closets, attics, under beds, even in the trunk of my parent’s cars. All in the crazy search for gifts for me or my sister. I just wanted to know how to react on Christmas morning. After finding the stash of presents, I planned out each reaction I would give. Super excited or awestruck? Which is the best face to use? Should I jump up and hug my parents? Being a child is tough as it is. But the obligations to show enthusiasm is equally tough. Even for the things that weren’t exactly desired. (I didn’t want the cassette player boom box, but it definitely got lots of use later on as I grew up.)

Hopefully my kids didn’t follow in my footsteps over the past few years. Maybe I should pay attention to their reactions this year. Will dad get a hug for no reason? I guess I’ll find out.

Is The Magic Over?

Post Christmas time.  We are putting away the gifts and eating the last of the rich food.  Soon the trees, lights and decorations will come down.  But that’s not what I mean by “Is The Magic Over?”


My three children are well past the age of believing in Santa.  But something else has occurred that I suspected was happening.  I found out while we were having dinner the other day.  Our middle daughter let it slip out…

She mentioned that she “accidentally” saw some Christmas gifts before Christmas.  After some discussion with the other two, my wife and I discovered that all three had “accidentally on purpose” found our hidden Christmas gifts.


When I was a child/teen I avidly looked for my Christmas gifts prior to the big day.  My parents weren’t very good at hiding places.  Pretty sure my mother figured out that I was searching for the gifts.  Sometimes she resorted to locking the gifts in the trunk of the car in hopes that I wouldn’t find them.  It was never spoken about, so I never had to deny it.  Now my kids are doing it.

But is the magic gone?  Or is it a rite of passage into adulthood?  Does the joy you feel from a surprise gift occur while you’re alone.  The happiness that we as parents once saw on their faces is now going away.  Perhaps the magic is gone for me as a father.  I loved seeing their eyes light up as they unwrapped their favorite gifts.  I worry that next year it won’t happen.  I worry that perhaps this is the beginning of the end of that magic. 

I guess I’ll find out next year.  Or I just need to hide the gifts better!

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!

It’s Not Really a Lie…

I have a talent of expressing half truths and giving out just enough information as needed.  I’ve done it all my life- usually only when it benefits me.  My favorite part is that I know what I’m saying isn’t true, but I can make it believable.  

This is especially handy when it comes to my children at Christmas time.  


Sorry, but they are way past the “we believe in Santa” stage.  I’m talking about lies regarding what they are getting for Christmas.  I can string them along quite nicely and shock them with a gift (or lack of a gift…) on the special day.  

Part of the magic of Christmas is not knowing.  My wife hates that I can guess what she gives me almost every year.  But, I’m good at catching her off guard with that “WoW” gift.  I also enjoy those moments when one of my kids goes, “Huh.  Dad really does listen.”  The look on their faces is priceless and heartwarming.

What am I going to do with a gun rack?


I wonder if I will get surprised this holiday season?  Doubtful.  But I know I’ll be surprising my family quite a bit.  I’m excited.  Hopefully my kids won’t read today’s blog…

Kitsch 

There’s always someone who has to sell it and someone to buy it. I’m talking about kitschy stuff.


We travelled to Vancouver Island to visit my mother.  We left early from our home in order to catch the first ferry.  Made it on with 15 minutes to spare.  Score!  BC Ferries sells Kitsch with Canada and BC Ferries plastered all over their products at jacked up prices.  I have zero desire to spend more money than I have to to take the vessel on an hour and forty minute boat ride.  In fact, this trip I chose to stay on the vehicle deck and nap with my dog in the car.  This proved to be both good and bad.  By the end, my allergies were in full force and I was miserable.  Back to blogging about Kitsch.  


We got off the ferry and drove for about forty minutes and hit a little town called “Coombs”.  It’s a BC landmark.  Really.  Known for one thing.  Goats on a roof.


This little shop has expanded the town into more of these unique stores.  All specializing in selling Kitschy Junk.  Stuff that you see and say, “This would be the perfect gift for so-and-so.”  You spend the money leave the store and as soon as you hit the road, you regret the purchase. But now you are committed to giving this crap to your family/friend or coworker.

It’s just stuff.


What do you do when you are given Kitsch?  You say thank you.  If a family member gave it to you, you are forced to keep it and show it off when they stop by.  “I totally love it.  Everyone who sees it says how unique it is.” Loosely translated, “It’s a piece of crap that clashes with the rest of my home, but you seem to think it’s what I wanted.”  Kids giving gifts to parents and grandparents are prime examples.  

Stopping at my mother’s home, I see it everywhere.  Gramma likes dolphins about as much as a preteen girl it seems.

My mother has more stuff scattered throughout her home.  Many are gifts from people she knows.  Bought (or made) from local shops and artists.  She appreciates everything she has been given.


In the right setting, the Kitsch falls under unique and one of a kind.  But more often then not, it shows up in a donation bin or garage sale.  Stop the Kitsch!  Our landfills will thank you.  But hey, here’s the new sticker for my car: