Life is Better With Plans, Right?

My first meme!!!

It’s been a while since I blogged and to my six fans out there, I apologize.


I have a plan.

I’ve spent the last six months working on my novel, Yager’s War, a historical mystery set in 1940s Holland (about a Chicago detective who must find his missing sister before the Germans invade) and that has distracted me somewhat from sitting down and ramble-writing. AKA blogging.

All fair and fine.

But I’m back, baby.

Time to restart blogging, again. But time to kick it up a notch.

So this month, I’m going to look at revamping the website (which means an old dog like me will have to learn some new tricks.)

I’m going to look at changing up the content of the blog.

I’m going to try and make it a billion times better.

And maybe attract one more reader (see, proper goal setting is about making the bar so low that you’ll easily vault over it and not twist a metaphorical ankle.)

So put down that video game, pause season 5 of Homeland on Netflix, put supper back in the oven or move date night to tomorrow.

Cuz I may need your help.

What would you like to see in the blog?

I’m thinking some funny memes. Some advice from people who know what they’re talking about (and not, you know, me). A few guest blogs. Less selfies of me trying to look like Brad Pitt going insane.

Inner Harbour, Victoria, BC.

But first up, our trip to Victoria.

This year, we won’t be able to manage a proper vacation. You know, pack 20 bags, yell at the kids to hurry up, to stay together, to stop picking your nose in public, then spend 2 weeks somewhere that only I want to see (“What’s the deal with this Grand Canyon thing, Joe?” “Hello! It’s grand! And a canyon!”) and engage in Bataan death marches around exotic locals to see things we’ve never seen before (“Wait, Joe, I’ve seen the Eifel Tower on TV, so why do we need to see it in person?”)

Don’t get me wrong, next year, we are totally doing those things, but not this year.

This year, it’s short trips. Hit and run vacations. 2 days here. 2 days there. No planes. No borders. No strip searches (sadly – Apparently, they’re supposed to be done by professionals, not me.)

So this year, we’re going to try to do more things by… ack, I can’t even say it…by… by the seat of our pants.

Without a plan.




Grand Pacific in Victoria, BC.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

We’ve got a bit of a plan.We’ve booked a hotel (the fancy–smancy Grand Pacific) and we have arranged to visit family, but nothing like, 7am, breakfast, 7:35 go to bathroom, 7:50, get into car, 8:30 (have you ever tried to get kids into a car quickly???), head off to see something, 9:00 see something and take lots of pictures of it. 9:10 yell at kids for complaining there’s no wifi. 9:40 head off to see something else that may or may not be cool…. Etc, etc.

Nope. We’re trying to be more flexible (and by ‘we’, I mean, ME.) It’s me growing as a human being while devolving as one at the same time.

Friday night, we’ll take the ferry and sort out what to do when we get there. Saturday, brunch with family, then, THEN, sort out what to do afterward, then the evening, see fireworks, but make no plans where to see them from or what food to eat or ….

Wait, I need a moment.

Ok, hyperventilating over.

Then, Sunday, totally playing it by ear. Maybe see a friend. Maybe look around town. Maybe relax in the pool.

At the very least, it could be interesting.

Likely, I’ll be drinking more than usual.

At least, that’s the plan.

And hey, thanks to all my readers who followed me. I hope you’ll return, make a few comments below or on Facebook, and help me create a better blog. Text me, email me, respond in the comment section. Let me know what you think.

The Day We Became Avengers – Vegas

The Avengers Tour at Treasure Island.
The Avengers Tour at Treasure Island.

Ok, so here’s the set-up for the Avenger’s Tour at Treasure Island…

The world has been attacked by robots, Loki’s goblins, creatures from another dimension, the Red Skull’s super soldiers and James Spader.

Seems the Avengers need help. Seems we are recruited into S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network) to assist them.

How cool is that?

So, we entered the super secret recruiting center. We were given portable devices (or in my case, I download an app to my phone) and these devices gave us all the necessary information about the Avengers to prepare us for… the final battle.

What does that mean? Well, first we were scanned to make sure none of us were Hydra. I personally suspected The-Youngest to be either a Hydra spy or the spawn of the devil, but he passed and we were allowed inside.

What we had to do was listen to the audio histories or facts about all the Avengers, take a test, play with everything in an Avengers room, then move on to the next one. The-Youngest was appalled that we would take a tour where there was a TEST, but I dragged him along anyway.

Captain America's shield. Made from impossabilium or Vibranium or something
Captain America’s shield. Made from impossabilium or Vibranium or something

The first room had my most favourite Avenger – Captain America. (Yes, I have a favourite Avenger, don’t judge me!)

I think The-Oldest’s favourite is Ironman because, well, Robert Downy Jr is awesome, but also because the guy uses his mad brain skills instead of being some sort of mutant. He’s funny, he’s tough, he’s irreverent and his only real flaw is that he doesn’t play the piano, but The-Oldest is willing to overlook that, I think, given that awesome suit he built.

The-Youngest’s favourite is Thor, though he can’t explain why he likes him so much. Having seen The-Youngest in a glass store, I would have thought he’d be more Hulkie. But I think he likes the idea of being a powerful god. He likes a hammer that only HE can use to throw at people. And he likes that Thor constantly beats up his annoying brother. So, yeah, I get it.

This is the way The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World looks at Captain America with his shirt off. The same way, I think, she looks at me.
This is the way The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World looks at Captain America with his shirt off. The same way, I think, she looks at me. At least in my dreams.

We listen to Cap’s story. Scrawny guy with a big heart tries to join army to fight Nazis. Doesn’t quite make it, but gosh-darn-it, does he ever try hard, attracting the attention of a special group of scientists who decide to inject him with super juice and turn him into a supersoldier. He bulks up in a way that makes The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World blush when she looks at him, then goes out to fight bad guys who actually existed back in a day where we didn’t blame all the evil in the world upon ourselves and instead blamed it on, you know, bad guys.

Given the name ‘Captain America’, he fights some Nazis, falls in love, then saves America by crashing a Nazi super plane into the Artic and lies frozen for…what’s the math? 2015-1945 = 70…. 70 years. Then he’s reanimated and joins the Avengers.

I was in nerd heaven. I got to hold his shield, read all about his tragic love, listen to his anguish at having to fight his best friend who he thought died in a WW2 mission, but was, yes, secretly mutated into the evil Winter Soldier, (which, by the way, is a very cool title.) For me, that story, all that tragedy they heap on him makes him such a great character.

See, the Hulk really just has anger issues. Cool, but not deeply moving. Ironman has, well, no real tragedies in his life, and he’s super rich and funny and everyone likes him, so not that moving either. And Thor, well, look at him. He’s a god. Not much to feel for a god is there, especially one that looks like Chris Hemsworth?

Hulk Hands compared to our hands.
Hulk Hands compared to our hands.

The boyz, while having a good time as well, simply didn’t have the stomach for reading every panel and listening to every information podcast. They were happy to leave me in my nerdvanna.

However, the next room, the Hulk’s room, was loud and kind of scary so The-Youngest didn’t go too far in without me, not that he was scared, you understand, but because there were facts I might need to know.

The Hulk room was awesome as well, but (like I said) very, very loud. I mean, hey, it’s the Hulk. He’s not a quiet guy.

And there was a ton of Hulkie things to do. Like making a life-sized, animated picture of him roar, clap his hands together like thunder or punch a hole in the wall beside him. The-Youngest loved that. The-Oldest, however, loved reading all the sciency facts about Bruce Banner and his transformation.

After that, we learned about Vision and Hawkeye and the Black Widow and Antman and Falcon and Nick Fury and at least two other rooms filled with Avengers. Both boyz got a little bored doing all that reading stuff. (Joe, reading AND a test in each room???? Seriously????), but The-Youngest amused himself by stomping on the Antman’s ants that swarmed the floor, while I read/listen to pretty much everything in every room.

He was sure he was a descendant of Odin, too.
He was sure he was a descendant of Odin, too.

Then we moved on to The-Youngest’s favourite – Thor. He tried to yank out Thor’s hammer, stood transfixed as the room blurred with light and sound like we were moving through the Asgardian bridge to other worlds, and told everyone who tried to lift Thor’s hammer that the hammer was actually fixed to the floor.

‘Cuz they needed to know that.

The-Oldest insisted he didn’t have a favourite. He told that to all the attendants who asked, but in the last room we say, in Ironman’s room, I actually saw him get excited, taking pictures of EVERY Ironman suit and gaping up in awe at Ironman’s Hulk-defeating-super-suit.

Then we were all lead into a big room where we faced off against Ultron in a video game where we stood in front of a giant screen and used our phones or devices as weapons to defeat him.

Fun. Fun. Fun.

I had a great time.

Not sure the boyz loved it as much as I did, but they did get to be in an awesome picture with the Avengers so that’s something, and The-Youngest made it through without breaking anything, so I count it as a complete success.

Especially since The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World came back with tons of clothes that she adored (though, being true to herself, 90% of those clothes were for the boys, not her.) It’s what makes her so amazing. She always gets more excited about doing stuff for others than herself.

Like a real-life super hero. Minus the cape.








6th Day in Vegas –

The Germanic part of me always needs a plan.
The Germanic part of me always needs a plan.

I have to have a plan. I still can’t quite play it totally “by ear.” It may be something I need to work on in therapy. Or after a bottle of wine.

But today’s plan? An adventure for me, (I would have said, “an adventure for the boyz”, but the truth was, it was for me, me, me and me.) An adventure for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World. And an epic adventure for The-Oldest. Since yesterday was pretty much a whole day for The-Youngest, the rest of us would get something special today.

On the agenda, a visit to the fashion mall. Take the Avengers Tour. See Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles Love.

Can you guess which experience belonged to which person?

Luckily, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World felt good, today, her migraine mostly, but not completely, gone. We began by marching out into the sunny… wait, what, cloudy??? Day. The air smelled of smoke from a fire off to the west. My eyes burned. The-Oldest sneezed a lot, though he was pretty sure it was not because of the smoke, but because of the light???? Apparently being allergic to light is a thing.

At least according to the internet.

The Fashion Mall, right across the street from Treasure Island.
The Fashion Mall, right across the street from Treasure Island.

Not a lot of people up at 11am, not many in the mall. Shamefully, we ate breakfast at the food court and I devoured about 3000 calories in a crape so stuffed with whipped cream, they burned out an entire can on it. (BUT, also inside, there were 3 banana slices, so, yeah, it was totally healthy, too!)

While we ate, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World kept glancing towards the mall, towards all those shoe stores and purse stores and clothing stores … with a lean and hungry look like a praying mantis.

No, ah, not praying mantis? How about an octopus? No??? Ok, how about a beautiful lioness? Ok, that’s the one, then. …with a lean and hungry look like a beautiful lioness.

But what would the boyz do in a fashion mall, you ask?

Well, there was a Lego store, a video games store and The-Youngest had decided he needed a pair of headphones – ones that he could afford, that would have professional, studio-quality sound, and ones that had super comfy padding so his ears would be, you know, super comfortable. He set his price limit at about $20. I set the possibility of finding one at about 0, especially with no Best Buys or Walmarts in this mall.

So as soon as we were all done breakfast, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World roared off. I won’t say she ran, but, you know, she didn’t saunter to the stores, either.

Looking for headphones in a fashion mall is like looking for honest politicians in Washington.
Looking for headphones in a fashion mall is like looking for honest politicians in Washington.

We boyz meandered around, vaguely heading towards the gaming and Lego stores, looking at the people, at the displays set up and at the other stores, no matter how mundane,

When we found the gaming store, we looked at every game there. Literally. Every. Game.

We even looked at a few twice. Plus, The-Youngest touched everything at least once and I’m pretty sure he fondled the headphones there more than 30 times, (but didn’t buy any, cuz, “Joe, did you know that these are gaming headphones? They have mics and I don’t need a mic.”)

Then we went to the Lego store and found that they have a nifty new screen that detects your box and then animates the Lego for you. So, lemme esplain. The screen reads the picture on the box, say a tie fighter, then an animated tie fighter appears on your box and zooms around and shoots things.

It was dead cool.

The-Youngest tried every box in the store, I think. All the while, the-Oldest began to build his most epic racer from old Lego parts. See, they have a neat box that you can build lego the way I used to build Lego. No instructions. No tie fighters (sadly). Just blocks and wheels.

After about 40 hours, The-Youngest grew bored with getting boxes and watching the animated lego pictures, and began to build his own super racer. It was about a foot long. The-Oldset built a wide, heavy, four-wheeled racer with a jet engine on the back. The-Youngest built, ah, something like a truck. Or a snake with wheels, I’m really not sure.

Ah, the simple joys of Lego. Old-school Lego. No tie fighters, no complex kits that make the Taj Mahal, just blocks and wheels.
Ah, the simple joys of Lego. Old-school Lego. No tie fighters, no complex kits that make the Taj Mahal, just blocks and wheels.

Then they raced. If they started nose to nose, The-Oldest won. Hands down. But!!! If you started butt to butt, then the shear length of The-Youngest’s extra long hauler could squeak out a victory.

Honestly, I don’t know how long we were in there, but that’s the cool thing about the Lego store. They just let you play if you want.

When we left, I texted The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World. She was still in the first store. Zara. Right beside the food court.

I had to laugh.

But she was having fun, so we went in search of headphones, trying all the major stores and even the booths. Remind me never to approach a booth. The-Youngest shot off to one and I nearly had to punch the person to get away. Think of it as having to get rid of a leech. Fire is the best method, but lacking even a lighter, I had to say, no, we aren’t interested about 8 times as we walked farther and farther away, the seller trailing us like a Turkish Rug hawker.

Having looked through the ENTIRE mall, I texted The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and she had found a great store that carried the pants she LOVED.

“Better you boyz head off to the Avengers,”  she said. At least that’s what I heard. Could be she said, why don’t you come bra shopping with me, but whatever, we went back to the hotel to do something I wanted to do.

Nerd stuff.

Avenger stuff.

Top 10 Cool Facts About the Grand Canyon.

I admit it. I love facts. Facts are fun. Here are a few..

1)94% of the Grand Canyon is untouched by humans.

Like the ocean, the Grand Canyon remains largely untouched by smelly people
Like the ocean, the Grand Canyon remains largely untouched by smelly people

That information makes we want to go touch things. Same with The-Youngest. Give him a year there, though, and he’ll have touched everything.

2) They totally goofed up how long people had been in the canyon. Originally, it was thought about 4000 years, ago, but recent discoveries put mankind buggering around in the area at about 10,000 years, ago. Even Wiki needs to be updated. But it makes me think how many facts we take as facts are not, in fact, facts, but best guesses.

3)going to 11 The river rapids are so dangerous that here there is an entirely new rating. Most go I-VI. The rapids here go to 10. Like Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel’s speakers going to 11. (See link for why, it’s kinda cool.)

4) The dude who finally and successfully navigated those rapids had one arm and couldn’t swim. Think about that for a moment. His name, not a crazy name like John ‘the macho man’ Powell. Simply John Wesley Powell.

Just as I was about to take the perfect shot of the Grand Canyon, two people stand to admire the view. At least they gave scale.
Just as I was about to take the perfect shot of the Grand Canyon, two people stand to admire the view. At least they gave scale.

5) 5 million people visit the canyon every year. Most show up the same day as we do and try to block all my cool shots.

6) No one has been killed by a mountain lion in the park. I was massively disappointed. I say we serve up the dumbest tourist every year to one of those cats just to make sure they’re well-fed.

7) It’s not the deepest or widest canyon. Screw you, Himalayan and Australian canyons, it’s still the prettiest.

8) Scientists don’t agree on how it was formed. Oddly, I’m ok with that. I worry a lot more when everyone agrees on something without question. Sounds more like dogma than science to me.

The picture of the Grand Canyon I took from space that last time I was there.
The picture of the Grand Canyon I took from space that last time I was there.

9)The Grand Canyon is one of the few natural landmarks that can be seen from space. Like me with my shirt off. It’s also listed as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.

10) You can see about a quarter of the earth’s natural history here. Or approximately 1.75 IMG_0491billion years of history of a world 4.5 billion years old. Older than the dinosaurs. It’s older than Betty White.

For more cool Grand Canyon stuff, check out these links.

National Geographic 

Written by the Grand Canyon itself, I think.

Lonely Planet

My person go-to site – Trip Advisor

Best Things to Do

Best Map For the South Rim

Let me know if you have any advice to add 🙂




The Grand Canyon – It Doesn't Disappoint

That's it, boys, the Grand Canyon! That's the Colorado River, you see.
That’s it, boys, the Grand Canyon! That’s the Colorado River, you see down there. Kinda cool, huh?

I won’t lie.

This blog could be boring.

No one fell off a cliff. We didn’t get attacked by mountain lions or vultures. We didn’t have to hike out of the bottom of the canyon in 104-degree heat. We simply took an astonishing tour of the Grand Canyon’s Southern Rim.

If you don’t like reading about fantastic tours, I get it. It’s ok. You can skip this post. I won’t hold it against you. But if you are ever thinking of going to the Grand Canyon and want to know what one family experienced, then read on.

Let me do a plug for the tour company. Sadly, I’m not receiving any money for this, but maybe one day when I monetize my blog and have a million followers, I will sell out and give good reviews for massive compensation. But for now, it’s just the truth.

Pink Jeep Tours
Pink Jeep Tours

Pink Jeep Tours and our guide, Sean, were awesome.

The moment we arrived, they treated us so well. The guy at the counter knew we were coming. Knew we might be late. Congratulated us on making it and said we could still catch the 8:30, said we had a great tour ahead of us. Or we could wait for the next one. Whatever works for us.

We chose to go right away, but that kind of friendly is awesome. I’m sure he would have held my backpack and computer if I asked.

Now the Pink Jeep Tour only has, you know, jeeps. So, we had to share with two other people. Friendly people. From Cincinnati. A dad and his son doing the long drive home, seeing what they could see from LA back to Ohio.

So cool.

Our Pink Jeep Tour Guide, Sean
Our Pink Jeep Tour Guide, Sean

Our guide was Sean. Tall. Thin. Long fingers. Young. Enthusiastic. The type of guy who actually seems to love what he doing and loves to talk about it even more.

Hard to fake that stuff. I know. I’ve tried. I can pretend to like Chopin for only so long before I start to fall asleep.

And off we went.

The+Youngest became the official assistant guide on the Grand Canyon Tour.
The-Youngest became the official assistant guide on the Grand Canyon Tour.

The-Youngest, being the cutest kid in the world, was designated by the guide as the official assistant guide and map holder. The guide told us the parts of the Grand Canyon we’d be seeing. Why we’d be seeing the best parts. What would be the stops we’d make.

At our first stop, we got out and, like the first time I saw the canyon so many years, ago, I was awe-struck.

Pictures never do the Grand Canyon justice
Pictures never do the Grand Canyon justice

There aren’t any words to describe the canyon.

It is grand, for sure, but grand is such a small word for something so immense.

It is simply magnificent and, since I’m afraid of heights, not a little terrifying, with cliffs and no fences what would stop me from tripping and falling 6000 feet.

But looking at the layers of rock, at the colors, at the way the light and shadow made each formation, each outcropping, or landmark or feature utterly breathtaking made me realize how beautiful, beautiful can be.

Duck Rock. Or do you see the head of a sphinx? Or a monkey with a hat?
Duck Rock. Or do you see the head of a sphinx? Or a monkey with a hat?

I’m not sure the rest of the family had the same experience. I listened with rapture as the guide told us about the 6 million year history of the canyon, how once it had been a part of a mountain chain taller than Everest, then how it had been under a sea, how once it had been a marsh or a desert or a lush plain filled with all manner of plants and animals.

I loved hearing about the people who inhabited the nearly uninhabitable canyon. About how the canyon is unique in the world (it has a combination of deposits pushed up by the plate tectonics, then sheared and shaped by water and wind).

For The-Prettiest-Girl-In-the-World, it put all of the world’s petty problems in perspective. The world had remade itself so many times. Creatures lived and died and become part of the rock. We humans barely occupied the tiniest speck of time in the canyon. In earth’s history.IMG_9340[1]




IMG_9339[1]For The-Youngest, he didn’t care at all about the history or geology or the funny stories the guide told about his experiences with the canyon. He wanted to run around and get as close to the edge as he could. Personally, I think he just hated not having any attention on him, but his antics terrified The-Prettiest-Girl-In-the-World.

Our guide showing us how to take a picture like we were falling off a cliff
Our guide showing us how to take a picture like we were falling off a cliff

And me.

My worst nightmare is not falling off a cliff, though that is quite terrifying. No, it’s someone I love falling off.

So she held The-Youngest’s hand when she could, but not wanting to treat him like a 3-year-old, she tried to let him experience the canyon in his own way. But, in the end, I had to have a talk with him. Man-to-man. Face-to-face. No threats. I simply told him his mom couldn’t have fun and enjoy the canyon and the tour if she had to watch constantly out for him.

For the most part, it worked. Not because of what I said, but I think he didn’t really want to ruin his mom’s enjoyment. Plus the guide showed him how to take a picture that LOOKED like he was falling off a cliff.

Yes, it's the Indian Watchtower at Desert View, a 70-foot-high stone building located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Yes, it’s the Indian Watchtower at Desert View, a 70-foot-high stone building located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

We got to see the canyon from several vantage points, and at each point, it was different and incredible. We stopped at the very touristy tower, and while I’m not a big fan of touristy, we had fun climbing to the top of it, and taking in the view.  To be honest, though, while the Boyz ran to the top, by the time I got there, I was red-faced and breathing hard. Most of the other tourists looked at me like I was having a heart-attack.

But that was the worst that happened.

We simply had a great time seeing one of the world’s wonders, guided by the entertaining and enthusiastic, Sean.

So, my advice, if you can, see the Canyon at some point in your life. It’s worth the drive. It’s worth the flight. It’s even worth unclogging a toilet.

Even if it makes for a terrible blog post.

How To Enjoy That 'Travel Day'. Or Not.

1 bag less than normal
1 bag less than normal

There are travel days when you simply have to, you know, travel.

Nothing more.

But can those humble and unassuming days of vacation also be an adventure?

I guess it is all in how you look at it. Right?

Here’s the first day. As seen in a non-epic way.

Had to catch 10:15 flight. Needed to be there 2 hours before. Needed to drive 1 hour. Prettiest-girl-in-the-world needed a good hour to become the-prettiest-girl-in-the-world.

At least when you get up early, you see this
At least when you get up early, you see this

Had to do math. Math said to wake up at 6:15. Math is mean. Math never lies.

Had to pack the night before. Loved the new suitcases. Stuffed a ton inside them. And they still weighed out under 30lbs each. Fearful of the boys packing theirs, but tried to let it go. Did deep breathing exercises. Tried to be all zen about it.

No traffic problems. Parked in the cheaper of the lots. Took shuttle to departure terminal. Being The-prettiest-girl-in-the-world’s actually birthday, day, we took over the rolling of her luggage and carrying her carry-on.

Inside. Hit ‘yes we have dangerous goods by mistake’. Doh!!!! Had to speak to an attendant. Had to explain I’m an idiot. Something I’m pretty used to explaining so all went well. Used opportunity to have a quiet word with attendant about doing something special.


Need to back up. Remember I said today was her birthday? Well, I need to make it special somehow. And I had a plan.

A week before, I phoned WestJet to see if they could do anything special for the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and they said they couldn’t, not really, it’s just something they don’t do anymore.


But I didn’t give up. I told the WestJet employee that I wanted to make this trip more than just special since the birthday girl is such an amazing woman. Plus, I added, WestJet had a great reputation for going that extra mile and I needed them to go that extra mile.

In the end, the WestJet girl said she would put a note in the file and they would see what they could do at the gate. Nothing’s promised, you understand, but ask, she said.

So, flash forward, and we’re at the ticket counter and I asked if the attendant had gotten the note about making the flight special, and he said, ah, errr, umh, ah. No.

So, I made the same request, only trying my best to look all sad and puppy-eyed. He eventually found the request, hummed and hawed a bit, but he could not resist my sad face and agreed to pass along something to the in-flight attendants.

The day before, we had cake!
The day before, we had cake!

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, however, knew something was up.

How did I know this?

She asked, “Something’s up, isn’t it?”

“Why no,” I replied. “Nothing at all. Not a thing. Nope. Nothing.”

She frowned at me. “If there’s anyone singing happy birthday to me, I’ll murder you in your sleep.”

“Fair enough,” I said, and wondered what they’d do. Would they sing? Give her some free peanuts? Would I be murdered in my sleep?

A little anxious, we went through the auto passport check-in. How cool is this thing?  It scans your passport, your face and then prints out a receipt saying you’re awfully handsome or something. I took a great picture, The-Youngest looked like he was afraid we were kidnapping him and The-Oldest pulled such a horrible face that it looked like we’d molded a monster out of clay.  FYI – he was very proud of that face.

However, somehow we buggered THAT up, too. Who knows, maybe messing up that whole, yes I’m carrying banned weapons and bombs in my underwear made the passport machine suspicious. Maybe it was the expressions on the children’s faces, but we had to speak to another real, live person.

Oh how everyone loves customs. From
Oh how everyone loves customs. From

Now as any traveler knows, getting special attention from customs or border guards is about as fun as a colonoscopy. Or watching an hour of Criminal Minds Beyond Borders.

But we smiled, were politely Canadian, and since we weren’t actually terrorists or kidnappers, just technological goobers, we were let through.

Felt relieved.

Ate badly at the airport, but seriously who can resist Cinnabon’s?

Then onto the plane. The-Boyz and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World were able to sit together. I sat beside a footwear salesperson. Against my normal tendency, I actually talked to her. And I talked to the air hostess or whatever they call the woman who has to feed and water all the passengers. She had braces and hated them. I empathized with her chewed up cheeks, the stupid braces catching on her lips, the fact we can’t really eat in public and if we do, we’re likely to have what we ate on display in our braces, then spit it at them.

But what I really wanted to know is what they would do for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World?

I waited. No take-off announcement. No free peanuts. No cake with flaming candles brought out from the cabin. I began to worry that NOTHING would be done.

So I asked one of the attendants. And she said they would be doing something on the decent. She wouldn’t say what.

The-Prettiest-girl-in-the-World eyed me suspiciously. I mean either I was flirting with the pretty attendant or her worst fears were about to come true.

In the end, on the decent, they asked everyone on the plane to wish The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World a happy birthday. She went beet red, sunk down in her chair and gave me the finger… right at the moment a little girl leaned around to wish her a happy birthday.

Perfect timing.

I leaned across the aisle and wished her a happy birthday. She told me she’d get me for this. She. Would. Get. Me. For. This.

Mission accomplished.

Vegas beware, we have arrived.

The great birthday adventure had begun!

But more little adventures awaited us on our day of travel.

Some I couldn’t have possibly predicted despite my overly active and twisted imagination.


The 2016 Family Vacation


Where else would you take the children but Vegas?

Like most families we get to have one vacation every year.

Last year, we went to Oregon Coast. Family gathering. Lots of food. Sandy beaches. Sea-lions.

The year before that, San Diego. The zoo. Legoland. And my first outing as a stepdad.

So this year, we had to do something different. The boyz got to see Disneyland with their dad last year as well, so that was out. Apparently a hike up to the top of some Rocky Mountain was out, too. As was a week deep sea diving.

In the end, we went with a split vacation. We’d see the majestic – if not outright jaw-dropping – Grand Canyon

And Vegas.

You know, lights. Strippers. Gambling. Joe Pechi putting people’s heads in a vice.

But wait, THAT’S not a kid’s vacation.

True, but was there another side of Vegas? A kid’s side?

I mean, having our 9-year-old watch women take off their clothes isn’t someting we want to happen. Nor are we going to take them to a gun range and let them fire off 1000 rounds on an MP5 submachine gun. Sadly.

Still, there was plenty to interest the boys that wouldn’t get us arrested for child endangerment.

Now with the grand canyon, there was zero interest. I mean, why go see it when you can download a youtube video? Or watch it in IMAX?

But I was adamant. Like a good parent telling their children to eat beans or stop licking the electrical socket, I was sure it would be good for them. A once in a lifetime experience. A chance to see one of the great natural wonders of the world.

The Grand Canyon. Would it be a breathtaking experience or the snoozapolooza? 

So what if there wasn’t a splash mountain in sight? So what if Pokestops would be few and far between? This would be a visual wonder, dammit. A freaking visual wonder!

And if that failed, there’d be Vegas.

But what to do in Vegas?

Ask the 9-year-old.

As soon as I stopped ranting about how spectacular the Grand Canyon would be, and switched to Vegas, The-Youngest perked up a bit. Being of his generation, he went on-line to sort it all out.

We tasked him with a top 10 list and he didn’t fail us. That’ll be a future post. It’s actually a pretty impressive list. Cancel going on your own vacation so you can read it.

For now, know that we have an epic trip planned. One day at the canyon, or as the boyz call it, the snoozapalooza. Then 4 days in Vegas.

Our goal. Give the boys a great experience. Avoid them seeing a lot of drunk adults, including, but not limited to, us, and balance off goofy fun with some real life reality.

Will we succeed? Will it be awesomely amazing?

I’d beat against it, but I’ll keep you updated.

In the meantime, the next post will be the 10 things we’ll be doing differently on this trip.

And I’d put it out there… what would you do in Vegas? With your family?

The Stepdad and the Great Pokemon Kakuna Hunt

Pokemon Go on the go.
Pokemon Go on the go.

Ok, Kakuna is a Pokemon. We didn’t specifically go hunting for him. Or Zubat. Or Rattata. Or a bird called Pidgeotto. But we did go on our first HUNT.

What is a hunt? Well, let me start at the beginning.

After much consultation with the Boyz, I loaded up the Pokémon Go game on my iphone 6. It was free. I like free. Oh, there are ways to spend a lot of coin on this game, but for now, it costs me nothing.

Then I chose myself an avatar/trainer that looked like some amine-thin youth. I picked hair –  blue –  and a color scheme – orange – since I root for Holland during the World Cup. Then I was good to go.

I logged in, and my first Pokémon appeared. Right on the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world’s chest. So I grabbed it. The Pokémon, not her, ah, you-know-whats.

The Pokethrow. Or Pokeflick. From
The Pokethrow. Or Pokeflick. From

To grab a Pokémon, you have a ball at the bottom of the screen. You FLICK, Joe, FLICK!!! the ball at the Pokémon, or more specifically at the circle encircling the Pokémon and if you hit it, you capture it.

If you really know what the hell you’re doing, and you’re good at this whole flicking thing, then you aim for the green (or yellow or red) circle inside the circle and if you hit, you capture a more maxed out Pokemon.

Or not.

Seems those silly things will escape, too, which took me a few minutes to realize. But once you capture one, you get experience (to level up your trainer), and some candy, which you can use to give your Pokémon more power or ‘evolve’ it, and some stardust, which you also use to give your Pokemon more power.

I have to say, that whole capturing thing was kinda fun. Had I been smarter, I would have found out that if you don’t capture the 1st three that come along, you get a Pikachu, and I do love Pikachu (mostly cuz it’s the only Pokémon I know.)

With that, we drove off to Fort Langley. AKA, the big city. Now, to be fair, downtown Vancouver would really be far, far better, but that drive is long and hard, so the Fort seemed a good alternative.

Pokemon Go Map of uber-awesomeness
Pokestop. On the left. Beside the Avatar

And it totally was. The key, apparently, to gathering as many Pokémon as possible is to find a spot that has a lot of Pokestops. Now what the hell are they?

They appear on your Pokemap that you have accessed with your Pokefingers and looked at with your Pokeeyes. They look like a block on a stick when far away. When you get near one, it looks like a big circle with another circle inside and another circle inside of that. I think my picture shows this better than I can describe.

The Pokestop. Usually at some monument or sign (like for a trail or where Michael J Fox once peed.)
The Pokestop. Usually at some monument or sign (like for a trail or where Michael J Fox once peed.)

At the stops, you can also get supplies. Once you find one and it goes all roundish, you tap it and then you swipe the picture you see. Very often it’s a sign. Like telling you you’re on a trail or near a spot captain Vancouver peed on or something like that.

So, in the Fort, we found a ton of Pokestops and the boyz got super excited. Heck, they weren’t the only ones. There were tons of people there. Sure some were shopping or drinking coffee and actually talking to people, but there were also hordes of people in small groups wandering around like us, looking for Pokestops or parked against a statue waiting for the Pokémon to come to them.

The Boyz and I went to all of the stops we could find, gathering balls, eggs, potions and things I didn’t have a clue about. The balls are obvious. You throw them to catch the Pokémon, which I was informed, anyone should know who’s ever played a Pokémon video game (which I have not.)

Eggs are placed in incubators which you get automatically as you level up. By walking, yes walking, you can hatch them and they become Pokémon. So, while you’re meandering around looking for Pokestops, you’re also working on hatching your eggs (and actually exercising!)

Cool, right?

A gym. Or battle arena - where you can take on other players. from
A gym. Or battle arena – where you can take on other players. from

The other things you’ll see on your Pokemap look like big towers built by aliens. (A place that the Pokémon dudes decided to call a ‘gym’ for some stupid reason. A gym?!?!?) That is where you battle other Pokemoners. Pokemites? Pokeplayes? However, we didn’t get into that on this adventure (the reason being, we had level 12 Pokemon and the dudes ruling the gym had, like, level 1534!)

See, the goal, as far as I can tell, is to get a Pokemon, evolve it to a more powerful Pokemon, then evolve it again to the ultimate uber Pokemon and then brag about it to your friends in a mean and cruel manner. Or, you can also take that uber Pokemon to a gym and battle other players and then brag about that in a mean and cruel way to your friends.

Fun times.

IMG_9049[1]And then we found where people had dropped ‘lures’. Lures, I was told by The-Youngest as he hopped up and down with excitement are like incense – which explained exactly nothing, really. But incense is used to attract Pokémon faster. Like free booze for people. Or free wifi.

These lures are placed by people at a Pokestop so that everyone, but mostly their friends, can benefit from lots of Pokémon flooding into the area. It’s actually kind of social. If you can grab a group of people and they all go on a hunt, you can use lures, which last 30 minutes, for hours and rake in the Pokémon while talking to each other. Or at least watching your screen next to someone.

Pokemon Go at its finest.
Pokemon Go at its finest.


In the end, we spent a good 90 minutes on our hunt, partially walking around, partially sitting and waiting by lures. However, we did it all together. Us boyz. And that makes it totally fun for me. I love listening to what they have to say about life or Pokémon or music or how best to kill someone in Assassin’s Creed.

We caught about 20 Pokémon, leveled a few of them up, evolved one or two, and then returned home.

It was a good way to spend a few hours.


For those who prefer a Pokevideo, there is one below.

Top 10 things I Will Never Hear as a Parent

Top 10 things I will never hear as a parent

  1. Oh, sleep, glorious sleep.
    Oh, sleep, glorious sleep.

    Joe, thanks so much for getting us to bed on time so we can get a good night’s sleep and not be complete asshats the next day.

  2. Joe, thanks for making me apologize to my friend for doing something derpy to him. It made me a better person.
  3. Joe, why don’t we sit down and talk about history for a bit? You can tell me more about tanks.
  4. Joe, tell me more about what it was like back in your day. Especially about how much harder it was. Or better.
  5. Joe, any advice you can give me on how to please a woman?
  6. Joe, thank you for taking away my electronics for a week so I could focus on my homework.
  7. Joe, the best experience of my life was mowing the lawn every week. Right up there with picking up the dog poo.
  8. Joe, can we move, again so I can pack and unpack all your books? All 800 boxes of them.
  9. Joe, can you come and visit me and my friends at lunch time so we can all talk about life, the universe and girls?

    The most-interesting-man-in-the-world is never wrong.
    The most-interesting-man-in-the-world is never wrong.
  10. Joe, you were right.

Well, the truth is I could hear all those things sarcastically.

But I’m ok with that. When they’re 30 and have kids of their own, they will understand.




A Will

Last Will and testament document.
Last Will and testament document.

As an adult, there are simply things you HAVE to do. Feed yourself (and hopefully others.) Wear pants while shopping at Walmart. Make a will.

Of those, making a will is the most important and most likely not to be done.

Hey, I get it. It’s not easy to think about what will happen when you’re gone. Discussing death is not a fun conversation to have around the dinner table. Figuring out who will get your collection of mint condition STNG Picards is particularly hard.

But it needs to be done. The truly horrible thing is that you are going to die. We all are. Some a lot earlier than expected. So it’s vital your loved ones know what to do. Here’s a quick link to a blog about wills.

I began thinking about this, again, while talking to a friend of mine. He didn’t want anyone to go to any trouble after he died. Just sprinkle his ashes somewhere. Have a drink in his name. Move on.

I had the exact opposite thought.

A funeral pyre would be nice.We just don’t do pyres anymore and I’d like to bring that back. Or maybe a nice cremation on a Viking longboat.

Then, when I’m ashes, I want my friend to take them to the top of Everest and build a monument for me. Made of marble. 20’ high. In the shape of a giant hobbit’s foot so that a hundred thousand years from now someone will find it and go, what the fuck is that?

I want lots of people at my funeral even if you have to pay people to be there. I hear the homeless are pretty cheap. I don’t care about how anyone dresses.

I want a choir to sing songs of lamentation. I want crying. Lots of it. Big tears. Quiet sobbing is ok, too.

No wailing though.

Amazing Grace played by a piper. How sweet the sound.
Amazing Grace played by a piper. How sweet the sound.

I want a piper. Playing Amazing Grace. In the mist. Or back-lit by the setting sun.

And someone to dress in a kilt. With no underwear. And ,no it can’t just be the piper.

I want someone to make a speech about how they’re going to miss me. I want people to tell stories about me and them. About our shared experiences. They don’t even have to be true. They just have to be good stories.

I want free booze for everyone. This may help with the sobbing and attracting the homeless. I want people free to feel whatever they want to feel. But only if it’s sadness.

But more than all of that, I want to make sure everyone takes care of the person I’ll be leaving behind. She’ll need lots of hugs. A few shoulders to cry on. Maybe some wine and someone to talk to. A lot. I want people she loves to be there for her. To hold her hand at my funeral. To find something funny to say about me that will make her laugh. To make sure she’s not alone. To remind her that she was loved more than anything else in the world and will find that again some day.

As for my possessions, ah, that’s where the will comes in.

Without a will, the court will decide who gets what. Likely it’ll go to my wife, but without a legally binding will, that could take a while and be a HUGE hassle and who needs that kind of hassle when you’re grieving or working on how to find a long boat to light on fire.

In our complex world, I need my estate to pass along to those left behind as quickly and easily as possible. No fights with the courts. No claims from all the illegitimate children I’ve sired. No confusion as to what goes to who.

Please, if you do only one thing this week, make sure it’s getting a will done.

Is there a sadder movie than Up?
Is there a sadder movie than Up?

As for the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, she has some requests for her funeral, too. She wants clowns. Sad clowns, mostly. A few angry ones. Old retired, disgruntled clowns. They need to all arrive in one car. Some need to have matted hair. All should have drinks in their hands. And there should be lots of balloons. Lots and lots of balloons.

In other words, she wants people to laugh and cry.

Not a bad request.

In the end, I think we all just want to know we’ll not be forgotten. That we mattered to someone somewhere. That we’ll be missed.





What I am. Or Who I am.

And the result is….

Should I change my name to Ragnar? Bjorn? Eric the not-so-red?
Should I change my name to Ragnar? Bjorn? Eric the not-so-red?

Turns out I’m mostly Scandinavian!

Yup. Viking blood flows in these veins.

Vikings… you know, uncouth barbarians. Beserkers. The Scourge of Europe.

I think my mom would not be surprised.

So how does this change my life?

Or why my life makes sense, now…

A Top 10 List

  • First of all, I love the show The Vikings. So, yeah, that makes total sense, now. However, if I based my ancestry on the shows I like, I’d be a Dothraki. Or a hobbit.
  • Due to my heritage, it turns out that I’m not a hoarder, I am a collector. My people, the Vikings, believed that you needed to collect things. Sure, some would call it ‘looting’, but collecting is really what they were all about. So that’s why I have a love of gathering things up and keeping them forever. It’s harder to explain my love of books as my people basically burned them or ate them.
  • I have always loved the legend of Valhalla. I love the fatalistic end to that saga where every great warrior goes out to fight one last battle, a battle they are destined to lose. How epic. How sad. Well, at least now I know why I root for England in the World Cup.
  • I don’t rage-quit games, I am actually feeling the beserkergang fill me. When some asshat shoots me from some hidden sniper position on Call of Duty, I’m not being a sore loser, no, I’m calling upon my Viking ancestors to fill me with the anger of Odin so I can have my revenge upon them!
  • Crepes, croissants, ah the French do know a thing or two about food
    Crepes, croissants, cheese! Ah the French do know a thing or two about food

    It’s why I like to eat. See, my people didn’t have a lot. It’s why they raided other people. All we had were pickled fish, the odd, sad-looking turnip and mead. Now, while I do like pickled fish, turnips and mead (oddly enough, that should have been a sign of my heritage right there), imagine how my people felt when they sacked Paris and ate croissants, brie cheese and crepes. At that moment, a love of food was burned into their DNA.

  • I love to travel. See, contrary to what most people think, the Vikings loved to go sight-seeing. Everywhere. They got to the Black Sea, cruised the Mediterranean and even snuck out to see Canada. Sure, they went there to loot stuff or trade, but it’s still basically the same – My people NEEDED to see the world. Like me.

    Thor or me, it’s hard to tell sometimes.
  • I kinda look like this guy. (if, you know, you drink a lot and forget your glasses at home.)
  • My favourite character on the Muppets was the Swedish Chef.
  • My second favourite NFL team is Minnesota.
  • Scotland was ruled by the Vikings for so long, that if you say you’re Scottish, odds are you’re the result of the Picts and Gaels, well, let’s say ‘intermixing’ with the Vikings.  And that means,  I can still be Scottish!  Whoohooo!

So, there you have it. I know what I am. I’m oddly very excited by all of this.

The actual results are below.

58% Scandinavia – Vikings!

The Muppet's Swedish Chef. How poetic.
The Muppet’s Swedish Chef. How poetic.

28% Finland/NW Russia – Kinda Vikings!

4% Asia (think Uzbekistan) – Errr, maybe where the Vikings pitched a tent once?

4% Irish – cuz, you know, as Silk said, everyone has a bit of Irish in them.

4% English – Due to the fish and chips which my people would have loved.

1% Iberian (that’s Spain) – ah, who knows what happened here.


So that’s it. I will still own my Scottish heritage and proudly wear my kilt, but knowing where I came from has anchored me in the world in a very unexpected way. So if you’ve ever wanting to sort out your true DNA history, I say give a look.

What are you?

Who Am I?

Braveheart, you can take our lives, but you can never take our freedom.
Braveheart, you can take our lives, but you can never take our freedom.

Since I’m adopted, I never knew exactly where my people were from. So, I adopted my family’s history (proudly Scottish). Kilts.  The Loch Ness Monster. Braveheart.

I went all in. I said ‘wee,’ a lot, I learned to recite Robbie Burns poems and I got all weepy when I heard Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. Although, seriously, who doesn’t?

When I was younger, I actually went to my adopted ancestral home. North Queensferry. Scotland.

We went into the local bar, asked if they knew anything about my family, and, being from the Old World (and a pub in Scotland), everyone seemed to know something.

Not that I could understood much of what they said (hey, it was a bar in Scotland where people speak a very strange version of English), but they knew about my family, my history and the lore of my home. Back in the old country, they nurtured a great love of ancestry and history.

It was one of my most favourite memories. But that’s another blog all together.

However, I always wondered… what was in my DNA? Where did I really come from? Are all the silly things I do and love determined by my blood? Am I an alien? where you come from where you come from

Now, sure, I could have searched my adoption records, but that’s a can of worms I’d like to leave unopened and buried in my backyard of avoidance. So when offered a service that would explain what I am, I thought, why not?

So, for Christmas, The-prettiest-girl-in-the-world bought me a kit. I gathered a sperm sample, a lock of my hair and a pint of blood. After filling the sample tube with all three, I read the instructions and learned all they needed was a bit of spit.


But after cleaning out the tube, I gave them what they needed, sent it off and waited. 7 weeks later, I got the results.

I would have guessed 50% Northern European due to my ability to endure sitting in a freezing ice-hockey arena for hours without getting cold. 25% Aboriginal due to my facial bone structure. 10% English due to my love of fish and chips. 10% German due to my love of organizing things and wanting to conquer the world. 5% Irish due to a weird spiritual experience I had with the smell of burning peat.

I could be 100% ferengi
I could be 100% ferengi

Anyone want to take a guess?


10 Best Kid Smells

Calvin and Hobbs. Calvin knows something about bad smells
Calvin and Hobbs. Calvin knows something about bad smells

The list of bad kid smells could fill a book, but maybe there is another side – Smells that are awesome and you pretty much only get them around kids.

  • Crayons. Ah, crayons.
    Crayons. Ah, crayons.

    Crayons. Now this could just be me, but opening up a drawer filled with used crayons smells wonderful. Maybe it takes me back to my childhood. Maybe I like the smell of wax mixed with whatever yummy, sticky food the boys had on their hands while using them. Maybe I’m just suffering from a stroke.

  • Baby shampoo. (No more tears, stuff.) Now THIS reminds me of childhood for sure. But in an age of tangerine-oatmeal bodywashes and pear-jasmin shampoos. and moisturizing, organic, stress-relieving body butter made from the sweat of koalas, that no more tears stuff still smells the best to me. A part of me wants to go back to that, but I believe the ads that say I will get a hot woman if I use Axe (and clearly it worked!)
  • bubblegumBubblegum. Ok, adults can totally get bubblegum vodka and bubblegum flavoured condoms, apparently, but there’s nothing like the smell of bubblegum out of a pack of hockey cards or brought fresh from the local convenience store. That’s total kid stuff right there. Pure as it comes. Sometimes squishy and sometimes hard as a frozen sheet of steel.
  • New Plastic. I can’t explain why this smells so good, but open up a new lego box or tank model or the latest plastic toy and you’ll see what I mean. Was it because that new plastic smell meant I got something cool to play with back when I was a kid? Or did all the glue fumes from making models severely damage some part of my brain?

    Ah, model glue. Is it the smell or the fact it't toxic and addicting?
    Ah, model glue. Is it the smell or the fact it’t toxic and addicting?
  • Plastic Model Glue. Ok, I get why this one smells so good to me. I got high off it for years before I ever knew you could get high off it. I guess it’s like the smell of cigarettes to former addicts – it just kinda hits that part of your brain that says more please. Luckily, that addiction has now been replaced with donut cravings.
  • Pools. Now this isn’t a particularly kidish smell, but let’s face it, we don’t go to the pool that often unless we’re taking the kids. But that toxic smell of chlorine… Oh so good. But it’s a smell that could have been a total nightmare, too. I mean, my brother and I learned to swim in a chlorine pool and back when we were taught such things, they literally tossed us in the deep end, and there we were, desperately dog-paddling to stay afloat and gulping down gallons of the stuff. So it is a little odd I love the smell. It could have easily been something that sent me to therapy.
  • Playdoh.

    Play-doh. It’s in every box in which the boys have stored their toys. Little blobs of it at the bottom. Small jars underneath their cars. Giant globs stuck the sides of the Rubbermaid containers. I don’t honestly recall playing with it that much, but that smell… like cookie dough. Or an almond-vanilla thing. The more I think about it, the more likely it is that I didn’t so much play with it as eat it. I wish my mom was here to tell me what happened.

  • Cookie doh. Ha, cookie dough. Not that I haven’t eaten my weight 200 times over in cookie dough over my adult life, but it’s still a kid smell to me. I’m not talking those super-good-for-you cookies, though. Nope. We’re talking chocolate chip cookies. Maybe smartie cookies. But that sweet, doughy smell is hard to beat. Personally, I think Sesame Street should have made a cookie-dough monster except, you know, for the fact you shouldn’t really eat raw cookie doh,
  • School Books. No other book smells quite like a school book. Maybe it’s the smell of despair or panic that’s put into all of them. Maybe they use a different paper or a different binding than the Stephen King books. But there’s that new text book smell that’s just kind of hard to place. Inky. Something chemical-like. Probably the glue. Wait. Dammit, did they make those things with the same stuff I made models with?
  • Sharpies. Not only fun to draw with, but fun to smell.
    Sharpies. Not only fun to draw with, but fun to smell.

    Sharpies. OMG sometimes I think that when I’m down, I should just take off the lid of a sharpie and sniff, sniff, sniff. I’m not sure how healthy it would be, but there’s an intoxicating element to that pen. I don’t recall sharpies from my childhood, though, so the smell is a great 21st century kid smell. Probably done deliberately. Probably tested on rats or kids in China.

Oh, hey, but that’s not all. There are a lot of other smells associated with childhood or kids. Campfires. Burnt marshmallows. Fresh band-aids. Wet dog. Wet kid. Cold water on hot asphalt. Rubber dodge balls (I took a lot of those off the nose in my time.) Mothballs. Leather baseballs.

Oh the list could really be endless, as is the list of horrible smells. But as the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world reminded me, focus on the positive (and not the smell of vomit that you can’t get out of the car.)



Oh the Horror – A Movie Review and More

Still one of the scariest movies of all time - Exocist
Still one of the scariest movies of all time – Exorcist

At some point in a boy’s life, he becomes… well, let’s say ‘interested’ in horror movies. ‘Obsessed’ might be a better word, but ‘interested’ will do.

The-Oldest has reached that point. He’s read It. He’s watched movies like Nightmare on Elm St and Exorcist, which, FYI, is still one of the best horror movies of all time.

So while the Prettiest-Girl-In-The-World took The-Youngest to his first baseball batting tryout, The-Oldest and I decided to watch a movie. I wanted to make sure I got quality time with him as well. I greatly fear that The-Youngest, being a little more sportsie and challenging, tends to take up nearly all my time.

So I hoped I’d be able to do something fun with The-Oldest.

Hence a movie.

A movie I’d not heard about.

At all.


How did we choose it?

Well, we did what we do. Both The-Oldest and I won’t use a Kleenex until we’ve researched which ones last the longest, which ones are the softest and which ones are the most environmentally friendly.

So we looked into the best horror movies of all time.

There are many lists out there. There are lists of lists. Seems everyone and their demonic dog has a thought on this subject. Most included movies like 6th Sense or Silence of the Lambs which are not, in and of themselves, actual horror movies.

We’d looked at the lists from Rotten Tomatoes. IMDb. Metacritic.

Sadly, we’d seen most of the movies on most of the lists.

Child's Play.
Child’s Play.

Now, currently, The-Oldest’s favourite horror movie of all time is Child’s Play. He admits it isn’t the best movie ever made, nor even a particularly good movie, it’s just that he likes it. At his age, I thought Phantasm was the best movie ever made, so maybe at 13, our minds see things in a totally different way.

So I was a little leery when we found this Babadook movie. It’s Australian for one. It didn’t have any talking dolls or demons brought back from dreams or slashy serial killers. On top of that, it was written and directed by a woman.

Jennifer Kent.

And it had a silly name. Babadook? WTF???

It was, however, the winner of 49 awards!

Here’s the pitch… “A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.”

A scary house. A monster. A sinister presence.

Sounds ok, right? Sounds like something I’ve seen a hundred times before, right?


It was the most terrifying movie I’ve seen in awhile. Quite awhile.

It was the type of movie that stays with you for a long, long time.

Babadook. Holy hell, scary.
Babadook. Holy hell, scary.

The visuals were perfect. I mean, freaking perfect. The acting was so un-Hollywood that you thought you were watching a real family in crisis. The pacing was agonizingly tense. The music so creepy, I had to claw a blanket over me.

But the true genius was in the characters, their struggles and the ambiguous nature of the ‘evil’.

Without giving much away, the child wasn’t a lovable waif who said ‘I wove you momby’. No, he was deeply damaged by what happened in his past and was, to quote The-Oldest, “one tough kid to like.” He screamed a lot. Obsessed a lot.  Needed his mom A LOT.

And his mom, well the best that can said about her is that she was having a complete mental breakdown. Who could blame her? A huge trauma in her life. No sleep. A spooky book that she couldn’t get rid of. And a crazy? son.

I don’t want to reveal everything, but jezzus was this a great movie. I could not guess for a moment where they were going from scene to scene and, even after watching it, I’m still not entirely sure what happened. I mean, what REALLY happened, especially with her being a writer and all (they’re messed up people.)

The-Oldest, however, loved it. Even though he’d never admit it, it scared the pants off him, and there’s nothing a teenager (who hasn’t discovered girls, yet) likes more than having his pants scared off. Nightmares will come. Some of those images are burned into his brain. And that music…


So, yeah, a total success.

I’m super glad I didn’t have to see it alone.







Missing Them

Spazadoodle and the boyz

Much to my surprise, I found myself missing the boys.

Both of them had gone off to Mexico with their dad (and his family), so I thought, wow, The-Prettiest-girl-in-the-World and I would get some couple time.

You know, sleep in, eat at any time, play loud music and dance around naked, build a blanket fort and watch movies, use a lot of swear words… Plus, no hockey practice, no picking the boys up from their dad’s, no driving them to and from school.

I thought it would be heaven.

And we did have a good time. Valentine’s. My birthday. Walking Dead. But… I missed the little buggers.

When we went to see Deadpool (about as un-kid a movie as you could see that wasn’t porn), the first thing I wanted to do when I got home was tell The-Oldest about the movie, about how they did things not done before, about how they broke the 4th wall in a very big way.

When I finally finished cleaning and organizing the game room downstairs, I wanted to show The-Youngest what I’d done. We now had room for Lego, and models, and games, and I put all my painted D&D miniatures in a display, and all the puzzles were sorted and stacked according to size and likelihood of ever getting done…

But no, the boyz weren’t here.

Rick and Morty
Rick and Morty – and perhaps you can see why it may be inappropriate.

It wanted to talk to The-Oldest about Rick and Morty, a funny (but not perhaps appropriate cartoon) and show him how I’d reset the TV room (the sweet spot was no longer the sweet spot).

I wanted to show The-Youngest a goofy hockey video I found on YouTube and play in the blanket fort we made.

I wanted to teach them both to play crib, or if they already knew, to have a good game with the entire family, and I wanted to take the boyz to the mall and show them the real-life tanks and guns on display. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World was less keen to take them for some reason.

I missed hearing about what’s important in their lives (which never seems to be school.)

I missed hearing The-Oldest practice on the piano. I missed him always giving our dog Vegas more love than all of us combined

I even missed sitting in a cold arena watching The-Youngest play in goal. I missed him starting every third sentence with, “Joe, did you know…”

But The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World had it the worst. She pined terribly for them. She missed reading The-Youngest stories at night. She missed helping The-Oldest learn piano. She missed hugging them when they needed it or didn’t. She missed seeing their faces in the morning, hair all messy, eyes kinda glassy, sleepy lines on their skin.

And I know Vegas missed them. She knows the time they normally come home and would march out of her spot in the TV room to wait for them by the garage door. Come to think of it, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World did pretty much the same thing. With sadder eyes.

When we’d hop in the car to go do something at night, she would become super waggy-tail excited (the dog, not The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World) thinking we were going to pick them up.

Vegas the dog is never happier than when she has her boys
Vegas the dog is never happier than when she has her boys

Yesterday, she went into their rooms and sniffed their laundry (again the dog, not The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World). That sounds kinda yucky, but I think she wanted to remember what they smelled like, maybe see if there were any new smells, if somehow she’s missed them.

It was a little sad. There’s no way to tell a dog that her babies are coming back. They’re just not there.

Same for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, too. I could tell her that her boys would be back soon, but all she knew. They just weren’t there.

I have to say, I was a bit shocked that I did miss them. I mean, when did they become such a vital part of my life? How did I let that happen?

I guess little by little, the same monsters that go to 5am hockey practices, that respond to you with more shrugs than words, that lose their coats or forget to take signed paperwork to school also become so very important in your life.

Because now, I can’t imagine my life without them.