The Family Movie Night In

 

Winter 2015
Are we having fun yet?

It’s winter, which means for the majority of the northern hemisphere it’s cold and snowy and there isn’t really a lot to do outside. When the day ends and the family is inside the house, there isn’t normally a ton of things to go out and do. Sure…there are activities like skating and hiking and skiing and sledding, but not every family does that every single night of the week that they’re together. In addition, poor weather can result in more time spent shoveling than anything else (at left is our front doorstep last winter…and yes, the snow was over 4-feet high WITHOUT drifts).

NetflixUsually once or twice a week, my family gets together for a couple of hours to either watch some pre-recorded television or something on Netflix. I don’t know about you, but we have our own little set of rituals that have…something that my own family growing up didn’t really have (eat supper during the news; don’t talk; watch tv with the folks after supper or go to your room if you want to watch something you’re actually interested in). The fact that I’ve got rituals with my wife and awesome stepdaughters makes me have “all the feels”. I’m really glad to be a dad, even if it is time spent inside instead of outside.

PIZZASo what we normally do is have a “quickie meal” for dinner. It could be something like pizza grilled cheese sandwiches (which is a grilled cheese sandwich with pepperoni inside, then cut up into squares and dipped into pizza sauce) or pizza (made from scratch, of course…lol) or even Shepherd’s Pie…as long as it’s something that can easily be devoured while sitting on the couch and doesn’t take too long to make after the work day is done.

Netflix on Apple TVWe have one couch and two small chairs for the girls. We usually have me sitting on the left-hand side of the couch, Sunshine sitting on the right-hand side, and one of the girls sitting in between us while the other girl sits off to the right in a chair. Halfway through the evening, the girls will switch spots in order to get their “snuggle time” in. Our television is in the corner of the living room. It’s not super-huge, but it’s 32″ and that’s definitely big enough for us (for now, anyway). The set-up is small and cozy and fits our family to a “t”. 

We all change out of our work/school clothes and put on t-shirts and pajamas. It’s really a LOT more comfortable wearing pj’s at home, and one of the fun things the girls have done over the years is buy me silly pajama bottoms to wear (ex: Smurfs, Muppets, superheroes, etc.). It also gives us that feeling of comfort…that we’re all there to relax and enjoy what we’re about to watch.

How I Met Your MotherLately we’ve been watching How I Met Your Mother (the girls LOVE Barney, the character played by Neil Patrick Harris) and we’ve been introducing them to the glory that is Friends (my wife and I watched the entire 10-season run last year in a couple of months). Both of those series help us laugh together as a family…and that’s really important to me.

inside outIn addition, there have been some great family films that we’ve been watching together: Inside Out makes the girls cry EVERY time (lol), I really think that The Lego Movie is just brilliant and I find myself catching more tiny details every time I watch it, Tomorrowland is a movie I think that deserves a viewing but could have been a bit better defined storyline, and even The Avengers: Age of Ultron helps me bond with the oldest stepdaughter because she’s really into the “superhero movies” right now.


Sometimes we’ll pop some fresh popcorn, other times we’ll share a bag or two of chips. We may not even snack at all…it really just depends. At the end of the day the only thing that matters is the fact that we’re spending time together during a time of the year when we might just be each doing our own thing in the house…strangers living under the same roof.

Netflix - CBGI, for one, would much rather spend time together in a room talking and laughing and acting silly while watching Netflix than doing our own thing. It’s all about family time…something I didn’t experience when I was young.

My First Family SuperBowl

Anti-HockeyI’m one of the few Canadians who doesn’t really like hockey very much, in spite of the fact that Canada is primarily a hockey-centric nation. In fact, I’m not much of a fan of sports in general…though I absolutely LOVE football. No, not the 3-down Canadian version…but rather the National Football League. In fact, an NFL game is pretty much the only sporting event that I can watch on television from beginning to end and not get bored.

Over the years, I spent many a SuperBowl watching it by myself. I occasionally spent it with friends and the past few years have been spent with my wife. But where Sunshine isn’t a football fan, it’s not quite the same…y’know? My son is usually with his mom on Sunday evenings and Sunshine’s girls are with their dad doing their own SuperBowl thing.

This year, though, the girls were scheduled to be with us on Sunday night. Instead of going to their dad’s, they said that they actually wanted to watch the SuperBowl with me. Well…that’s all I needed to hear in order to want to have a kick-ass night!

I spent the weekend with the Ankle Biter, but had picked him earlier on Friday so I could drop him off a bit earlier on Sunday and get back home in order catch the start of the game. I had discussed it with him a couple of weeks previously, and he was fine with the trade-off. He watches football with me, but also knows the routine. I promised him that some day we’ll watch the big game together.

Damn long distance parenting…

So Sunshine and I had come up with ideas for fun. It started off with a late supper with home-made pizza…

005

…we even had “cookie pizza” desserts that were made by the 10 year old, Lil’ Mo. She decorated each with mini-M&M’s with initials (for Dad, Mom, Mo, & Em).006

Before the SuperBowl started, we played a game of “Which Mascot?” where I had pictures of 20 NFL mascots and the ladies had to match them up with their corresponding football team (fun because they’re not football fans).NFL Mascots

I had some trivia questions for them to answer. Any correct answers would result in a chocolate treat!TriviaI also downloaded some Football Bingo cards that made the game a LOT more fun for the girls to watch. Everybody got three cards and a straight line would result in some more chocolate goodness…

036On top of everything else, we had snacks laid out in football containers to go on our football plates and accompanied by our football napkins. 011

We didn’t end up eating the cookie pizzas, nor did we end up eating the chicken wings that Sunshine and I had purchased for halftime. But all told, I think we accomplished what we set out to do. We wanted to make sure that this night was about THEM, not about me or my love of the game. We wanted them to have fun and not regret their decision to be with their dad and have him and his friends drink and yell at the TV all night.

So that was our SuperBowl Sunday. How did you spend yours?

Anchors Above Zipline

Sunshine was going through some Groupons when she noticed one in particular and was hit with a pretty good idea: get a family-discount pass to go ziplining with the kids!

Let me back up just a little bit first…

One a weekend where both Sunshine and I were with our kids, she had asked the girls if they had a “Summer Bucket List” of things that they wanted to do this summer. Near the top of their list was to go ziplining, something they had never had the opportunity to do before. So when the opportunity came up in the form of a Groupon from Anchors Above Zipline, she wanted to jump on the idea. The only question was whether or not my son would want to join us.

I asked my ex-wife what she thought about the situation (her opinion is very valuable to me when it comes to raising our son). She said that he had seen it on television and had mentioned wanting to try it. It seemed like a win-win situation, so Sunshine and I purchased the tickets and arranged a date for me to bring Ankle Biter to Halifax for the weekend so we could all do it together.

And because we’re sneaky…we didn’t tell the kids ahead of time. They had no idea where we were going or why, so as we hit the highway we told them and they FREAKED OUT. They were so excited that they didn’t know what to do with themselves.

We arrived at Anchors Above and, thankfully, it wasn’t very busy. We walked in, signed the waivers, and began preparing for the fun to begin!

Ziplining kidsSunshine was really excited about going, but with my fear of heights I wasn’t quite as keen…

Ziplining?So we walked up through the woods to the first of two ziplines. The walk up the side of the hill was pretty steep and, in all honesty, I was actually a little tired before we even had done anything. The kids, though, were super stoked and couldn’t wait to get started.

Let's get started!My nerves were wound up pretty tight, but I was prepared for the thrill ahead of me. I mean heck…I had done this just three years earlier, so what else had changed? Let’s do this! Pre-zipline selfie

The first zipline wasn’t really very steep, but it was long and very high up. Because of this, they hooked up the two girls together so that their weight would ensure they’d make it across to the other side without any issues. Getting hooked upBecause my son is only 53 pounds, they hooked him up with me. We were REALLY excited to be able to do this together, even though I think I may have been more nervous than he was. 004Getting preppedFather & son!

As expected, we all made it across to the other side without any issues. Ankle Biter had tears in his eyes and I couldn’t figure out if they were because of the wind or because he was scared of the experience. He told me it was because he was just so excited about it all he got tears in his eyes. How awesome is that?

We then walked a little bit to the second and final zipline. This one was a lot steeper than the first one, so each of us would be able to go solo. The view from above006The girls went first and were super excited about everything. They did a fantastic job and helped motivate Ankle Biter to do this on his own. If you watch the video below closely, you’ll be able to see him let go of the ropes when he turns around and even give me the “thumbs up” before fading from view (something he saw Kiddo do previously). I was super proud of him because, quite frankly, I don’t know if I could have done the same thing when I was his age.

After everybody had gone down, it was then my turn. I knew that things might go a little faster than normal because of my weight, but I just shrugged and said WTH? Thankfully, Sunshine was able to document the occasion.Comin' in fast! (TWSS)

So when all was said and done, all of us had smiles a mile wide and, as a blended family, had gone out and done something incredibly fun that we may never get a chance to do again together. It was something that Sunshine and I don’t take for granted, either. As the kids get older, the opportunities for all of us to do things like this together will get fewer and farther between, so we need to cherish the times that we get.

This was definitely a day I’ll not forget any time soon.

The Treasure Hunt

Sunshine recently came up with the idea of having a week of fun with the girls. For no reason, really; just to show them how much we love them. We didn’t think the things we were planning were “awesome”, just fun…so we decided to call it “Super Duper Fun Week”.

Super Duper Fun WeekOne of her ideas was to create an indoor treasure hunt, leaving clues around the house for them to find and decipher before finding a treasure at the end. I decided that would be a fun idea for my son and I during our weekend together.

So that’s what I did. I printed off clues on coloured index cards and bought a little treasure chest at the Dollarama, along with a number of one dollar and two dollar chocolate coins from the Bulk Barn. As I went to pick up my son, I was totally ready!

Let me begin by saying I stay at my dad’s house during my weekends with my son. When I made the decision to move-in with Sunshine, he offered his finished basement as a place that the Ankle Biter and I could stay every two weeks. Plus, both my dad and my step-mother spend five months in Florida every winter, so the house would basically be ours half of the year.

So I was going to wait until Sunday to set the plan in motion. We were going to see the new Spongebob movie on Saturday afternoon and had nothing really planned for Sunday, so that seemed like the perfect time to do it.

Saturday morning was beginning to end and I was preparing to have a light lunch with the Ankle Biter. The matinee wasn’t going to start until 4pm, so we had lots of time to hang out and relax.

THEN THE POWER WENT OUT.

It was about 12:30pm and everything went out. I immediately went to the Nova Scotia Power website on my phone to see who was affected and saw that over 2,000 people in the immediate area had been hit, meaning that it was a pretty big outage and they’d work hard to get the power back as soon as possible.

At one o’clock the website said it would be 2:30pm before the power came back on. No worries, I said…we won’t freeze in two hours. And if it gets cold, maybe we can run out for a quick drive in the car to warm up.

Wait…uh oh…I had parked the car inside of my dad’s garage overnight so I wouldn’t have to drag in groceries and bags through the snow. The garage door is electronically run, meaning I couldn’t open the door and the car, and thus the two of us were pretty much trapped inside of the house with the power out.

We watched some 80’s wrestling on my laptop for about an hour (gotta love Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant in their prime!) before he went to play with his toys. I played music off the laptop to keep things going but soon realized the battery wasn’t going to last the whole afternoon.

As 3 o’clock hit, the NS Power website said it would now be 5:30pm before the power would come back on.

I sheepishly told Ankle Biter that we wouldn’t be seeing the movie and explained why. He said that he understood, though I could tell he was a little disappointed.

I then decided to launch the treasure hunt!

While he played downstairs, I went upstairs and began setting the plan into motion. I put out the clues in their proper locations and was careful to not give away what I was doing. Just as we were about to start, the power came back on. Thankfully, he wasn’t interested in doing anything else at this point.

What happened next was a LOT of fun…

I kicked things off with Clue #1
I kicked things off with Clue #1. He guessed pretty quickly that the next clue was in the fridge. Just as we were about to start, the power came back on! If nothing else, we were glad to know we’d be warming up soon.
Looking for Clue #2
Looking for Clue #2
Finding the next clue wasn't difficult. With my dad down in Florida, there's barely anything left in the fridge.
Finding the next clue wasn’t difficult. With my dad down in Florida, there’s barely anything left in the fridge. Ankle Biter knew right away that the next clue was at the washer & dryer.
Sure enough, on top of the washer & dryer was the third clue. Ankle Biter anxiously read it.
Sure enough, on top of the washer & dryer was the third clue. Ankle Biter anxiously read it.
Clue #3 said
Clue #3 was referring to a box of tissue. My dad has a box of tissue in practically every room of the house, but I did’t want to make it too difficult so I put it in a spare room that was just down the hall from the washer & dryer. Thankfully, it only took a second for Ankle Biter to find it.
Clue #4
The fourth clue was, of course, the bathtub!
Ankle Biter looking around the bathroom to find out where the next clue was hidden.
Ankle Biter looking around the bathroom to find out where the next clue was hidden.
Along with a "pirate's telescope", Clue #5
Along with a “pirate’s telescope”, Clue #5 was found inside the bathtub. Ankle Biter immediately knew that the answer was “bed”, but wasn’t sure which bed in the house he needed to look at. Thankfully, the first room he checked was the right one.
This one was a little tough. He wasn't sure what it was referring to. I helped him a little bit and it wasn't long before he guessed something in the kitchen.
This one was a little tough. He wasn’t sure what it was referring to. I helped him a little bit and it wasn’t long before he guessed something in the kitchen.
The answer was the microwave, which he found after looking inside the oven. This clue was one he picked up right away...a table!
The answer was the microwave, which he found after looking inside the oven. This clue was one he picked up right away…
...the answer was a table!
…the answer was a table!
On the kitchen table was the eighth clue and a pirate eye patch. Ankle Biter guessed this one right away...
On the kitchen table was the eighth clue and a pirate eye patch. Ankle Biter guessed this one right away…
...the front door! Wedged into the door was the ninth clue, which read: "What invention lets you look through a wall?" This was probably the toughest one for him, because he kept thinking it was a door with glass in it. Once he realized the answer was "a window", he then started making his way around the house trying to find the clue.
…the front door! Wedged into the door was the ninth clue, which read: “What invention lets you look through a wall?” This was probably the toughest one for him, because he kept thinking it was a door with glass in it. Once he realized the answer was “a window”, he then started making his way around the house trying to find the clue.
After a few minutes, he finally found the right window! This was the final clue.
After a few minutes, he finally found the right window! This was the final clue.
I had to ask him what he could look at that would let him see his own eyes. He guessed "mirror" and then got excited...
I had to ask him what he could look at that would let him see his own eyes. He guessed “mirror” and then got excited…
I don't normally go into my dad's room, but I thought that placing the treasure chest here would make the most sense.  This, obviously, is a picture I took before we started the treasure hunt.
I don’t normally go into my dad’s room, but I thought that placing the treasure chest here would make the most sense. This, obviously, is a picture I took before we started the treasure hunt.
Ankle Biter was SUPER excited to open up his treasure chest to see what was inside...
Ankle Biter was SUPER excited to open up his treasure chest to see what was inside…
You can't have a pirate-themed treasure hunt without a treasure chest filled with coins, right???
You can’t have a pirate-themed treasure hunt without a treasure chest filled with coins, right???

In the end, the power going out could have been a terrible thing that ruined the day for us. Instead, it gave us a chance to get a little closer without having to rely on technology to keep our interest. Ankle Biter had a BLAST and when Sunshine did the same thing with her girls, they loved it, too. 

Fun Music Flashback Friday – Wild Thing

I was extremely fortunate to be able to visit London, England back in 1989. I was a member of the high school drama club and our teacher had some contacts in England. The idea was that we would create a home-made play that described how Canadian teenage life was like, and then perform for British audiences (schools, church groups, etc).

We came up with our play and raised enough money to have about a dozen of us fly over to London for two weeks. It was truly one of the most memorable experiences of my life. One of the things I remember most about it was the music that I purchased while over there.

Y’see, cassettes were cheaper (even with the currency conversion) and cd singles were a “thing”. I remember that I purchased two cd singles (“Don’t be cruel” by Bobby Brown and “Straight up” by Paula Abdul) and two cassettes (“Vivid” by Living Colour and “Loc’ed After Dark” by Tone Loc).

Out of those purchases, though, it’s Tone Loc that stands out for me. “Wild thing” had initially been released as a single and wasn’t quite a big hit in Canada when I left. I bought the cassette (off a street vendor, if I remember correctly) and listened to it incessantly. When I returned home, I came to realize that the version of the cassette I had was slightly different from the one sold in Canada.

The cover of each cassette was completely different.

North America Cover
North America Cover
UK cover
UK cover

At the end of the day, there were only two good songs on the album to begin with (the other being “Funky Cold Medina”) so it’s not like I had something extremely unique or valuable in any way. But any time I hear “Wild Thing”, I think back to those two weeks in London…walking through Piccadilly Circus, visiting Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and the London Dungeon, going on a double-decker bus tour of the city, traveling by train to Bath,  and so many other memories.

It’s funny how one song can bring back so much.

Fun Music Flashback Friday – “Original Sin”

Do you remember the first music video you ever saw?

I’m 42, so it’s tough to know for sure exactly what the first music video I saw was. But I know which one I can remember seeing first.

You have to realize…back in 1980, there was no MTV or Much Music. There certainly wasn’t any YouTube, either. All you had was AM radio and maybe…if you were lucky…you’d see a live performance on television.

MTV launched to huge success in August of 1981. The first video played was “Video Killed The Radio Star” by the Buggles. In Canada, we didn’t get Much Music until September 1984. In between, though, I was able to watch late-night weekend video programs to get my fill.

So…do you remember your first music video yet? I can tell you that the first video I ever recall seeing was “Original sin” by INXS.

I don’t know exactly why, but I found the video fascinating. The lyrics were incredibly deep (I still don’t understand them) and the video was dark and brooding. A bunch of guys riding around on motorcycles singing a song wasn’t something you normally saw in early 1984.

It’s still definitely one of my favourite INXS tunes, and they ended up being one of my all-time favourite bands.

So…what was your first video?