Forgotten Songs of My Teenage Years

This morning I spent a considerable amount of time putting together an eclectic playlist on Spotify. Find it Here. Creating this playlist sent me down a rabbit hole of nostalgia.

Many of the songs remind me of old friendships and fun times. Driving around town, sitting in my bedroom, even hanging out in class, buying albums through Columbia House, and overplayed songs on repeat. Using one headphone as you shared with a friend of the opposite sex and not hearing the stereo sound. But willing to sacrifice that for a chance to sit closer.

I still have many of my cds. But they are stored away in a steamer trunk as I don’t have a way to play them except in my car. And even then- using Bluetooth to play different playlists is the new normal. So much more convenient than the large booklets of cds we once carried around.

Enjoy the musical trip down my memory lane. A couple songs are NSFW but fun nonetheless.

Edit: An old friend asked to make this “Collaborative”. Anyone who knew me from my teenage years and can think of a song that reminds them of me- add away!

School Pictures

We almost missed that today was School Photos for two of our kids. My wife happened to read the email newsletter yesterday, so we did get a bit of advanced warning. You’d think that our 14 and 16 year old would have known.

My wife always has the final say in what outfit our kids wear for these things. Every time it’s something conservative and what you would call “Their Sunday Best”. The kids would go to school looking prim and proper. Only for us to see the pictures a couple of months later.

Yup, those smiles always look strained and forced. It’s still just kids being kids, so I cannot get angry. On the contrary- we never do reshoots, nor do we buy the $200 packages.

With cellphones and social media, I’m still trying to figure out why the hubbub about “Professional Photographers” still remains. Maybe it’s time to abandon them and let kids learn and have more candid shots taken instead. Like them opening a textbook or writing a test. I’d much rather see the kids in a more natural state than dolled up for a single photo.

A Day Devoted To My Teens

I spent the morning going for a drive with my oldest to her new school. It was a chance for her to practice driving on the freeway without much traffic. It also gave her an opportunity to figure out a course/the time and the distance for her commute. We had some good bonding time together.

Then we hit up IKEA to pick up a new desk for my son. He built his IKEA desk with my help. We laid out his room in a more functional manner. He wanted to change up his room to be more “teenage boy” instead of Star Wars themed. I told home we can paint the furniture black, but I had worked hard on the walls and refuse to paint over them. So he is stuck with just removing a few decals and living in a grey bedroom.

That meant giving the bunk beds to his 16 year old sister so she could put her stuffies on display. My wife discovered some bins in our son’s closet that had old costumes and toys from the much younger years. Our middle decided to wear one of them. She is becoming one with the toys…

It was a long day of growing up and pursuing the inevitable changes. But also a good chance to reflect and have some fun.

I Don’t Want To Miss It

The world for our children has been on pause for half a year. Any other year, they would’ve returned to school by today. They may only be sort of starting by the end of the week, but it clearly won’t be the same as it has in the past.

1st Day of School 2017

Today our oldest attended a virtual orientation. Tomorrow our middle goes to school for an information session about the new protocols and on Friday our youngest does the same. Every year, my wife likes to take a photo of the kids in our front yard getting psyched about the first day back.

Today, we didn’t do that for our oldest. She is in post-secondary school and is more adult than child. But I still want my wife to take photos of the other two. It’s a tradition I want to keep alive even in these uncertain times.

2011 Walking to school.

Did you still take first day of school pictures this year?

Grad 2020

Our oldest graduates from high school this year. Last week was supposed to be her graduation ceremony and tonight was meant to be her Grad Dinner and Dance. But alas, 2020 had other plans.

So tonight, we tried to make her Graduation something special. Everyone got dressed up and we headed out.

A short drive away, the outdoor mall had set up a backdrop that we took full advantage of. Our daughter willingly got up on the stage and had some photos taken with each of the members of the family in front of a Grad 2020 sign.

Afterwards we picked up some sushi from our favorite restaurant and brought it home. Our daughter ate a Sushi Boat to herself- A goal she tried to do a few years ago on her birthday. She succeed tonight! After dinner, she received some gifts from us and ice cream cake.

Then we streamed her graduation ceremony that was filmed a month ago. It was filmed with social distancing in place and edited together. Before we watched it on our big screen, we talked about all the years of school she has been through.

She made some memories over the years, as well as some great friends. I’m sad she didn’t have the same graduation ceremonies as those who came before her. As unfortunate as that may be, Grad 2020 will still be memorable in its own unique way.

This may have been said numerous times by numerous people, but it bears repeating:

To all those high schoolers who have had to endure similar nights like ours- you successes over the years should not be diminished by the fact that the world is struggling through a pandemic. Your resilience to overcome diversity, pandemics, or any number of worldwide challenges is proof that you are the future. A future that will bring us all closer together.

Congratulations Class of 2020!

Pre-Grad Photos

Today our oldest daughter sort of did her graduation ceremony. I say sort of because it happened without fanfare, just some video cameras and a few classmates.

The school had the art majors come in to be filmed as they crossed the stage. The larger groups of students were lined down the halls standing at markers. From there, only four went into the auditorium at a time. Then one would walk across the stage and pause in various spots as they were filmed and such. No audience. And only a handful of teachers. The rest of the world (family and friends) will see an edited version of the ceremonies June 17th- the original date of the Grad.

For the rest of the week, our daughter gets to hold onto her grad gown. My wife and I are planning on making the most of it and take a metric ton of photos. We already began tonight. We got lucky that our daughter has had the biggest smile all evening. Many of the photos were far more fun than I expected.

Today was a bittersweet day that’s for sure. It was already going to be bittersweet knowing that she has put in a lifetime of schooling that culminated to this final moment. We also drove up to her elementary school where she first entered the school system, just to get that photo.

Her smile was obviously genuine. And I did capture numerous other candid photos. But I cannot share them, she would be more embarrassed than she will be seeing this post. Even though I am totally a proud parent!

Wanna see pictures of my kid??

Calendar of Events

Our kids are doing the “at home school” stuff these days. These days they’re doing well keeping up with the assignments as well as joining their online classes.

Our kids are great at putting up their unique school schedule up on our calendar. The planning started off slow as the teachers and students tried to navigate this new world they are learning in. But now there is plenty of action going on. As well as emails and online learning at their own leisure.

This new process is working for our kids. Mostly. There’s a few snags, like making sure they are putting in 100% effort in the homework. Or lack of socializing with peers to discuss ideas. But this is uncharted territory for learning. It could become the new normal. And as a human race, we adapt and overcome.

Even though the days are passing by, and the kids have been stuck inside, our calendar is getting filled.

Back to…. School?

Okay. Self isolation is still happening in British Columbia. Easter Weekend has ended and the teachers at our school will be working on remote learning with the students. In our home, we have the “scheduled online class meetings” written on our calendar for each of our kids.

There are many different programs and apps that the teachers are planning to use in order to assist the kids get some form of education. It’s a crazy learning curve for everyone involved. Not just the teachers and students, but the parents who need to try and be a big part of this new adventure.

I for one don’t want to have a generation of stupid roaming the earth once the self isolation and quarantines are lifted. I want the students to still get an education. My wife and I are going to do our best to alleviate the strain on the teachers and our kids by being active in their learning. I’m not saying we haven’t been a part of their education, far from it. I’m saying that we are still having to evolve and learn with our kids.

Hopefully when all is said and done the kids will have learned something. Or perhaps they will have taught us something in the process. But for now, School’s Back In Session.

The Empty Halls Share A Voice

Tonight there is another meeting in regards to our oldest daughter’s future Dry Grad event. I arrived early at the school (I’m always early for everything) and wandered the halls. At 6:30pm on a Wednesday the halls aren’t as empty as you might expect.

The Langley Fine Arts School has numerous before and after school activities and classes. Our son in grade eight was at one of these classes called “The Mix” which has students from grades eight through twelve in it. They create in a variety of journalism styles. Our son is really excited to be a part of it.

Being a Fine Arts School, the walls are filled with inspirational quotes and imagery. The school also showcases the talents of the many students who have been through these halls. Stories and insight into the hearts and minds of these youngsters- encouraged by a school that sees their potential.

My wife and I have five more years of walking these halls. In the end we will have been going through these hallways for almost a decade. My years in high school were very different. I avoided the halls. Those halls held secrets- no sharing. I’m glad that our children are experiencing a better form of education than I had.

Exam Stress? Not if You Don’t Know About Them

What the heck. Taking exams is mentally exhausting. I’ve done two days of classroom studying so far. During those two days- we also wrote exams. Every test was sprung on us as well. I was mentally tired by the end of the day.

I suppose I should be ready for the next three days and expect to do three exams (or more like we did on day two). The stress of the exams is somewhat minimal so far since we don’t have time to prepare and freak out.

Not passing these tests is not an option. On the bright side it’s all open book. A lot of the information has been ingrained into my mind over the past dozen years. So I know the answers, but I need to put it in writing in a fashion similar to what our rule book states. That’s on the last day I believe. So far it is multiple choice and I’m feeling pretty confident with my skills.

You got this Joe!

The sauna and pool at the end of the day washes away the stress.

School Is Back In Session or How to Survive Re-Learning at Age 43

Every three years, I have to get re-certified as a conductor/switchman. The previous times I did it in my home town area of Vancouver. This time around my company sent me to Winnipeg. This is where the new centralized training center is located.

The CN Campus is huge and modern feeling. We have been treated to unlimited coffee and a cafeteria style lunch. The classroom portion itself is, basically, dry. When learning rules that are important for the safety and service of our industries- it’s difficult to make it entertaining.

At least after those eight hour days we get to go and leave it all behind us for the evening. My coworker and I headed back to the hotel where I enjoyed the pool and sauna while he hit the gym. The 21st floor of our hotel has the pool and views of the city. A few minutes in the hot tub and I was relaxed again.

On to day 2 of the classroom portion. Hopefully my swimsuit will be dry for another evening dip and relaxation afterwards.

First Day Of School- Sort Of

Yesterday was the first day of school. Only it was just one hour of school. Not really a “day” to speak of really. But the kids enjoyed seeing their friends and smelling the hallways once more.

My wife even took the obligatory “Seeing the kids off on the first day of school photo“. This year was of the car as it drove off. That’s because our oldest has her driver’s license and the other two are both in high school now. This meant we didn’t have to spend the “day” waiting for them. It’s bittersweet in a way. But for this year, my wife and I won’t have to spend 40 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the afternoon driving.

Huge sigh of relief.

Today is a real day of school. Now starts the hard work and education.

First Sunrise of Grade 12

Our oldest daughter is beginning her final year of high school today. As tradition with The Langley Fine Arts School, the Grade 12’s all got together nearby the school and watched the First Sunrise of Their Grade 12 Year.

My daughter came home about an hour afterwards with a big grin on her face and a pep in her step. She was happy to see all of her classmates and friends again. She told me that people shared stories of their travels and summer experiences. It sounded like everyone was hyper-energized this morning. I think they are all looking forward to the upcoming year.

And as with tradition, on the last “official” day of Grade 12- the students will get together and watch the Last Sunset of Their Grade 12 Year.

I wish them all the best for this final high school year! And may they enjoy the experiences that come with their friendships formed throughout these past few years.

Farewell Grade Seven

Last night was a celebration of the end of our son’s Grade Seven year. There was a couple slideshows. The first slideshow was a “Before and Now” where there was a picture of the kids from being babies/toddlers to present day. The kids had good laughs as they called out the names of the baby pictures.

Following the slideshow was an introduction of each child and a small blurb about favorite memories and future plans. The kids walked across the stage to shake hands with their teachers and vice principal, pausing for a photo op before returning to the audience. The only picture I was able to get of our son- he had his eyes closed. Of course.

After all the kids were introduced, the parents who chaperoned the camp where brought on stage. We were each given a handmade thank you card from the cabin group we were in charge of. This was followed up with a slideshow of the adventures from camp was shared. Pictures and videos were set to music expressing the adventures with a bit of sorrow as the realization that these kids aren’t going to be kids much longer.

After the “ceremony” we mingled amongst the parents enjoying snacks and sharing memories. There was some tears and laughs as the kids and parents hung out. It was a great evening that I was glad to attend and be a part of.

Supporting the Students

Today my son shared with me some of the school work he has been working on this year. It was a part of a “Student Lead Conference” that was going on today. I’m always thrilled to see what they’ve been learning. It’s even better because of our son’s enthusiasm.

He was keen to show me everything. From how clean his locker was to his poem and picture of a Blue Butterfly. We spoke of science, math and French as well. I also took the opportunity to speak with his teachers as well and heard nothing but encouragement. In fact, the one teacher was really excited to tell me which group of kids I was going to have in the cabin in June. (It’s a secret that I am not allowed to tell my son.)

I have always been a huge proponent of the education system of all students. In the front of the school is this mural that I helped to create and be a part of a few years ago. There was a set of meetings that brought the teachers, parents, and the community together to help develop our district.

Years later, I see how innovative and successful the students are becoming. And how they are willing to grow and learn in different ways. Knowing that our kids aren’t afraid to share what they are learning makes me happy. It’s a relationship that I want to encourage and have flourish over time.

Supporting our youth today will make for a better world tomorrow.

School Camping Trip

In June, my son will be attending his grade seven camping trip. My daughters each did it for their grade seven year. It’s a tradition that is upheld in our local community schools. It’s something the teachers look forward to as well as the students. It’s kind of like a farewell to the kids before they enter high school.

The big difference this year is that I’ll be attending as one of the parent volunteers. My son requested I come at the start of the school year. Of course I wanted to be a part of it. I found out on Friday night that I have been accepted to be a chaperone. My son couldn’t be happier. I’m looking forward to it.

I did a grade seven camp as a kid and had a pretty good time. I also attended a cub scout camp for one summer a few years prior. Both were great experiences. Looking back though, some of the councilors were a bit sketchy. Hopefully I won’t come across as sketchy.

I’ve met most of the kids in my son’s grade. He also has a collection of what I consider to be “top notch” friends. All of them have a wonderful sense of humor and are really delightful kids. Since they’ve all met me, they know I can be a bit, uh, zany?

In the end, I am excited about making memories for my son and his friends. The trip should be a ton of fun!

Computer Calculus

Back in October, our oldest had saved up money and bought herself a New Computer. She has been very proud of it and has taken extra care with it. Over the past few weeks, she has been using it for a school project.

The project was for her Pre-Calculus class. She had to enter formulas to plot out lines and curves on a graph to make a symbol. While many students chose much easier symbols, our daughter (who loves the tv show Supernatural) chose a much more intricate design. After weeks and hours of working on perfecting the equations, she is finally done. She also finished before her deadline which is the end of January. I am impressed because of her passion in the project, and mostly because she had to explain something to me that I didn’t have a clue about.

She has demonstrated that she is capable of a great many things throughout her life. Now that she has finished this project, she has been wanting us to pay for Adobe Photoshop for her. Part of the deal was to make sure she doesn’t fall behind in school work for a hobby. I think this Calculus assignment has proven to us that she can be committed to her word.

We look forward to seeing what she can do with Photoshop and her photography. My wife would like her to clean up some of our photos as well. Our daughter has also hinted at writing more music, only time will tell. But I’m glad to see she is far exceeding my abilities in computing.

Life Lesson

My son is only twelve years old and in grade 7. But he learned a tough lesson this week at school. He got suspended because of a fight that broke out the other day.

He wasn’t physically fighting, but he became one of the students in the small crowd of thirteen kids who watched and did nothing. Four of the students pulled out phones and filmed the situation. The rest cheered. Including my son who was caught on camera by one of the four kids. I support the school district’s decision about the punishment for all fifteen kids.

Yesterday at the end of school, my son was told that he was suspended. He was so distraught that his tears became heavy sobs.

I’m glad he learned this lesson now before adulthood kicks in. We’ve had a good discussion about what he could’ve done differently and what he plans to do next time. I also explained that as he gets older, there can be real world consequences for similar offenses.

His suspension has him home from school today. So I will be putting him to work doing some manual labor around the home. He knows that he better not argue with me about it.

Normally he is a great and loving child. This time he got caught up in the moment and made a poor decision which he has since regretted. I hope he learns from this and makes better choices to help people out instead of sitting idly by.

The Wizard Of Speed and Time

The Fine Arts School that our children attend is in full session now. The children are getting excited about the upcoming year. They have a lot on their plates: various music classes, theater tech, film, photography, yearbook, carving- as well as the academic classes. This school isn’t just 9-3 either. Some days the kids arrive at 07:30am. Some days they leave at 5:30pm.

It’s a full time commitment.

My wife and I have always encouraged the children to explore and discover new talents. Our 14 year old daughter is taking Stop Motion Animation this year and I am jittery with excitement. I’ve always loved that style of animation and films- It was big for me growing up in the 1980’s.

Most of it was Claymation (like the California Raisins). With some shows on a regular rotation such as reruns of these gems:

Gumby (1956-)

Jeremy the Bear (1968-1974)


Then there were animation movies that really came out and showed off a more demonic style of “Children’s Movies”. Here is one of my favorites:

The Adventure Of Mark Twain (1985)


But the 80’s also used stop motion to capture a new style of special effect. It brought monsters to life in films such as:

Clash of the Titans (1981)


Sometimes, a stop motion film was able to tell a story about itself… This afternoon I shared with my daughter (the one taking stop motion animation) an obscure film that I enjoyed from years gone by.

The Wizard Of Speed And Time (1988)

This film is based on the short stop motion film of the same title from 1977.

The original 3 minute film was shown during a segment of The Wonderful World of Disney which is where I first saw it.

However, this version showcases the artist struggling to make his film and all the roadblocks encountered along the way. It took five years to make and was completed in 1988. I love how this film is simple in its delivery and carries numerous subliminal messages. It has a charm that won’t win it any awards, but the heart this film shares is immense.

After showing the film to my daughter, she is now more inspired to film stop motion than ever before. I hope she can bring forth some effects and styles from this film.

Perhaps one day she will be the next Wizard Of Speed and Time.

I’ll Teach You To Be Happy

As much as I didn’t like high school, I’ve been trying to find some more positive aspects of my time there lately. So I began going through some of my old cds that I picked up during those “formative years.”

I never had a great cd collection at the start of grade 8 as most were mix tapes or soundtracks to movies on cassette (Prince’s BATMAN anyone?) However, back in the early 90’s, when I was but a nerd in grade 10, one of my favorite cartoons came out with a cd so I needed to purchase it.

The Ren and Stimpy Show: YOU EEDIOT!

The leaflet inside is still in pristine condition, considering how I read the lyrics until every song was memorized. Ya, back in the day before you were able to Google lyrics- if a cd came with lyrics, it was kind of a big deal.

I’m not saying I became popular because of this cd. But I found a kinship in other students who also enjoyed The Ren and Stimpy Show. Singing songs like “The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen” or “Happy Happy Joy Joy” made me happy. It even opened up the door to other comedy cds and shows. A specific love of Monty Python was hatched at this time as well.

This is a song about a whale.

NO! This is a song about being happy: Happy Happy Joy Joy

The hardest part about being a teenager in the 90’s was the fact that you could only bring one cd at a time. And you hopped to hell that your “Anti-skip” on the CD player didn’t drain your battery before you finished your day in school.

Sharing an earbud and with a girl was also a sign that she was into you. Ya, listening to half a stereo sound was a true sign of affection. It was also a great way to ignore people.

I’m starting to feel better these days just listening to the goofiness of this album. Happiness is on its way.

Now boys and girls, let’s try this again.

Wake Me Up When September Ends

September is rough month for me. I kinda hate this month. By the nineteenth of September- I’m usually a Grade A Asshole. Let me explain…

Memories of school and how much it didn’t do the right thing for my life are prevalent this time of year. The bullies, the terrible teachers (not all, but the ones who sucked- sucked bad), the routine of doing it each and every day.

But my time at school is nearly 25 years behind me. It should be a distant memory. Except I have kids. Kids who go to school. So I get to try and be a counselor as well as a parent when it comes to school. Taking from my own experiences to try and help them through theirs. Granted, it seems that things are going much better for my children than it did for me. Lucky bums.

September 19th is a critical point for me. That’s my father’s former birthday. It’s just one more reason for me to be a better man. He didn’t ever know what was going on in my life. Or if he did- he didn’t care. So I stopped caring.

My entire life, I always just wanted September to end. Just go away all together if possible. Maybe I should do a month long coma each year. Like some stasis pod thingy. Or maybe I just need to make the best of it nowadays. Enjoy the fall colors as they slowly set in.

I’m just going to go to back to bed and see what happens later. Wake me up when September ends.

Back to Getting Ready for Back to School

Last week we received an email about our daughters’ courses for the upcoming school year. As with every year, there are mistakes that need to be corrected before starting in September. No big deal really. In fact, the school is pretty good about fixing these things. Especially the academic courses.

This morning, my wife is heading out to the school office to make the appropriate changes. Being that our oldest is entering her last two years of high school, we deemed it important to get on the corrections immediately. Crazy to think that even as a teenager, our kids have to start planning for university well in advance.

I’m impressed at the goals our kids are setting for themselves. My wife and I will support them as much as possible throughout these crucial years. Hard to believe that another summer is drawing to an end though.

I’m starting to miss my children being kids already.

Humph

Today was meant to be the first day of summer and the first day of our daughter’s summer vacation. Instead, we got a call from our oldest daughter’s Social Studies teacher this morning. Turns out our daughter wasn’t handing in her work this semester.

Her teacher gave her numerous warnings and opportunities to hand in her work. So instead of sleeping in and enjoying the start of summer vacation- I had to take my daughter to school to finish her incomplete assignments. Lucky for her that the teacher is allowing this. Back in my day: If I didn’t hand in my work- I failed.

My wife and I warned our daughter midway through the semester when we saw her report card that if she failed the class, she would be attending summer school. Which meant she wouldn’t be working at the job she loves and saving money for the laptop she wants to buy. I’m not sure why this threat didn’t motivate her. Back in grade 8- she did the same thing for science.

In grade 8, she barely passed science- we made her do summer school in order to prove a point. She hated summer school. Not because of the work. She got an A (even though she did great in summer school- the school district wouldn’t increase her grade from passing). What she didn’t like was the quality of students attending. Many still didn’t care to be there and they put minimal effort in.

I’m not saying that I was a perfect student. After grade 12 ended, I was short One Credit to graduate. I ended up doing night school and paid for it out of my own pocket in order to be done. All because I dropped the ball on too many classes between grade 11 and 12. The hardest part now is trying to explain to my children to not screw up like I did.

I’m not angry at our daughter. Just frustrated. Probably the same way my parents were frustrated with my sister and I way back when…

Living In The Moment

It’s coming up to the end of the school year. Less than a month to go! It also means pressure on my children in many aspects. There are final exams, school projects and of course- performances.

Our children are finishing up their third year at the Langley Fine Arts School. All three children are majoring in music. The two youngest are also in the drama program. The school likes to have kids take a second Arts program until they start Grade 9. Earlier this week, our daughters had their year end performance for music and choir.

Our oldest was also performing with the Concert Band before the choir took the stage. She was in the percussion section playing the chimes and marimba. She took to these instruments partly because she enjoys being more in the background, but also because of her years of piano playing. After the concert band finished their part- the choirs came out. The venue chosen by the school was a Cathedral in Vancouver with excellent sound refraction. It was a pleasure to hear them perform in this location.

Today my son has two performances to do. One was already this morning. The other is this evening inside the theater at the school. For being in Grade 6, I’m impressed with everything he has taken on. From learning trumpet and violin this year to rehearsing his lines for drama. He has pushed himself to do his best.

When our kids were younger, we filmed every performance. But now that they are older, I prefer to just watch them. Living in the moment and not viewing life through a screen is very fulfilling. I have a chance to appreciate their talents. Watching them as they mature and grow into their artistic abilities is inspiring.

The Fine Arts School has been one of the greatest decisions my wife and I made for our children. Who knows what the future will bring for them. Only a few more years remain to enjoy these magical moments. I plan on seeing every single one.

Choir Night 2017

Since our children began at Langley Fine Arts, they have expanded their interest in many arts. While their majors are in the music program, they have enjoyed drama, art, photography and film. Tonight is the yearly Christmas showcase of the choir talents of the school.

I was never very talented at singing. My wife is decent, but won’t perform for people. So it surprised me when all three of our children willingly joined choir at school. All of them have enjoyed it so much so, that they keep returning to it.

My wife and I are extremely proud of our children. We are looking forward to watching the annual “Night of Choir”. This is a great way to get us all in the Christmas spirit a few weeks ahead of schedule.