Father’s Day Done Right

What is the greatest gift you can get on Father’s Day?

playing the board game, pandemic on Father's Day at Mr. Mikes.
Getting ready to play the board game Pandemic on Father’s Day

I think every dad has a different idea of what makes the BEST Father’s Day: fishing, bowling, golfing, camping, whiskey, strippers… but for me, it’s playing a game with my family.

So, this year, I chose for forgo presents, dinner, and whiskey to play a game.

See, I love to play games. Risk. Life. Chess. Apples To Apples. Catan. But the games I love the most are the cooperative ones. D&D is such a game, where a group gathers to overcome obstacles by working together, but I would have more luck getting The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World to shave her head than play that game, so I found another one. Pandemic.

There’s a cool video on the game below, but basically, 2-4 players must cure 4 plagues before they become pandemics and wipe out the world. We either all win together, or we lose together.

It’s a cool life lesson.

Now the challenge was that we had never played this game before. None of us.

In a perfect world, the boys would have learned the rules but that was a bridge too far, sort of like getting your dog to write letters to the editor complaining about lack of fire hydrants. So I did what you do these days – I watched YouTube videos.

After about an hour of watching tutorials and gamers gaming, I was ready, more or less. It looked simple enough, but the devil, as they say, is in the details. Basically, you win by defeating the 4 diseases, but you could lose if you run out of territory cards, if you run out of disease counters, or the outbreaks become so many that they overwhelmed the world.

Whew. I’d never played a game with so many ways to lose.

We drove down to Mr. Mikes, where they encourage you to play games, and set up the board. The manager came over immediately, excited by our choice and after we told him this was our first time playing Pandemic, he told us to get him ANYTIME you have a question.

That was cool. Plus, Mr. Mikes has the Mike burger and that’s one of my favourite burgers (mostly based on my childhood, where a visit to Mr. Mikes was, at least for us, 5 star dining!)

The game began well enough and we pounced on the diseases sprouting up around the world like Harvey Weinstein pounces on vulnerable women. We even managed to eradicate one, and stop numerous outbreaks from spreading too far.

The-Youngest was amazing, often thinking 2-3 moves ahead, but in the end, we ran out of territory cards, and lost. I see this as running out of resources, like suddenly someone defunds the program and starts up a starbucks somewhere.

But I had a ton of fun. Not sure everyone else did, but they were troopers and had done something that 2 of 4 didn’t particularly enjoy.

It was a great Father’s Day!

But to answer the question posed in the first sentence, the greatest Father’s Day gift that can be given is not playing a game.


It’s the gift of time. It is the most precious commodity we possess, the only one that matters in the long run.

Father’s Day was the best because 3 people gave their time to me so I could have some fun. How awesome is that?

One Last Morning in Vegas

Day 1, pretty organized at Treasure Island, but by day 5, it looks like "a bomb went off in a thrift store."
Day 1, pretty organized at Treasure Island, but by day 5, it looks like “a bomb went off in a thrift store.”

If I was a better person, a more organized person, a person who thought about things before he went to bed instead of at 5am, getting up and out early in the morning would be easy.

But I’m not there, yet. Not by a long  shot.

So this is what its like when I get up before the rest of the family and sneak out of the hotel room so I can do some writing.

First of all, I rarely wake up to an alarm these days. At some point in the morning, my body and brain collude and decide to wake me up. Or I need to pee really bad because I’m getting older and weird things are happening to my bladder.

At home, it’s a pretty simple matter to leave, go write or watch TV or read about the latest sales on Amazon. But in a hotel room, I have a lot more to do and there are a LOT more pitfalls.

See, my goal is to get out without waking anyone else up.

Not so easy.

First, I have to go to the bathroom and that means making my way over and around the suitcases, shoes and random bags that the boys have moved at some point during the day. On a great day, I remembered to charge my phone so I can use that little light the phone gives off when you turn it on.

But not today.

Oh, I actually remembered to plug it in, but for some reason, it didn’t charge. Maybe it came loose at night. Maybe I sleep-watched all the episodes of Supernatural. Maybe the phone faerie came and unhooked me because I didn’t make the proper sacrifice.

I move like a stealthy ninja. Just like Po. And looking about the same size.
I move like a stealthy ninja. Just like Po. And looking about the same size.

Either way, I have to make my way in the dark like a chubby ninja or Kung Fu Panda with my phone cords in my chubby fingers, cuz I have a plan.

The other phone cords lie in wait like trip wires in Nam. I inch forward. Literally. Inch. Forward.  Ah, there’s a cord. My toe feels a shoe. I stub my small toe on the corner of a suitcase I didn’t see, and somehow manage not to swear.

Amazingly, I make it to the distant bathroom without waking anyone. I plug in my phone to get a quick charge.

Then, completing my task, I make my way back through the minefield of discarded family items.  I find my shoes. I remember where I left them. I pad back to the center of the room, pull socks from the drawer. Beside the drawer is my suitcase. For some stupid reason, I zipped it up. With agonizing slowness, I unzip it with the care normally reserved for the bomb squad debombing a bomb.

No one wakes up.

I get shirt and shorts. I put them on with the dexterity of a cirque du soliel acrobat. Lacking any real dexterity, though, there is a great risk I’ll snag one foot in the legs of my shorts and stumble fall right on top of The-Youngest.

But I don’t fall and I am no longer likely to walk outside of the hotel room in my underwear. At 5am, this is not always a given.

Next up, where the f*** did I put the room key? And my wallet?

Back to the bathroom to retrieve the phone. It’s had about 15 minutes to charge and that’s good enough to give me a distant star’s equivalent of light.

No one’s woken up.

The light lasts for, like, 5 seconds, so I have to be fast each time I use it. I find my wallet, it’s on the bedside table. The-Prettiest-Girl-In-The-World has her charging cord wrapped around it and the boys have booby-trapped it with bags of candy.

For the morning ninja, though, this is child’s play. Like Indie Jones, I take the wallet and leave the bag of candy behind. Then I gather up the laptop cord which has somehow managed to wrap itself around the ice bucket, all the remaining phone cords and our half-drunk bottle of water that should have been put back in the fridge.

I make only a few sounds. No one wakes up.

The Last Hurdle - the hotel safe.
The Last Hurdle – the hotel safe.

Then the big one. I have to unlock the safe and haul out the laptop which barely fits in there. During the day, I usually swear and bang it about a lot while getting the damn thing in or out.

So, yeah, I can’t do that.

I pad over to the safe. Slide open the door. The light comes on for the closet. Automatically.

Dammit. Light can wake everyone up as surely as a loud fart.

I hold my breath. I listen.

The-Youngest is muttering something about wanting to go in something. A ride? The pool? I dunno. The-Oldest is breathing heavily. Asleep. The-Prettiest-Girl-In-the-World moans softly and I hear her turn over. It could be that I’ve woken her up as she has momma-senses, but if I did, she’s gone back to sleep.


And I’m in luck. I don’t have to remember the code or punch it in. The safe’s been left open. I ease the laptop out like I’m hauling the thigh bone out of the body in Operation.

Then it’s only a matter of finding my back-pack, putting on my shoes and socks, stuffing my laptop in the bag and getting out the door.

The door is the hardest of the entire ninja operation. I don’t know how they would do it, (likely they’d not use the door, but cut a hole in the window and use their fingers to climb down the sheer wall of the hotel), but I have only one choice. Turn the handle quietly. Ignore the loud click when the locks come unlocked and keep going, pulling the handle down all the way until the door opens.

Then get out. Close the door.


Go to the nearest Starbucks and write.

Simple. It only took me 37 minutes.

But will I get the coveted ‘I didn’t hear you leave?”

Only time will tell.


Thanks to everyone who’s read my posts, followed the blog or just looked at the pictures. We’re almost done. One more post and then you can return to your lives.

What Writers Do on a Vacation in Vegas

You got time for a confession?
You got time for a confession?

Confession time. I hate everyone, and everything at 6

I hate everyone, and everything at 6 am in the morning before I’ve had coffee.

I do not leap out of bed and think, wow, what a wonderful world, I’m so grateful to be alive. I think, why no one has invented an intravenous machine that pumps hot coffee directly into your veins?

Everyone is still asleep when I get up and it’s hard to sneak out to do writing because The-Prettiest-Girl-In-the-World has momma-hearing, (and that means she detects the exact moment my breathing changes.) After thumping around, I kiss her on the forehead and tell her I hope she gets back to sleep.

The strip and casinos are dead at 6 am. Even the in-house Starbucks isn’t busy. The few who are up seem to be either rushing out with a suitcase, or staggering around red-eyed like they never went to sleep. There are a few nutbags at the hotel gym, I should imagine. Some at the slots looking tired and broke. I see one sad-looking soul at the bar (and I’m not even sure they’re serving anything.) But a casino is a spooky place without a lot of people.

Right now, I hate everyone I see. The thin guy in his expensive jogging shoes and high-tech sweat gear heading out for a run. The large black woman who’s closing in on 400lbs who has decided yoga pants are a good look this morning. The overly nice barista who tries to make happy-happy conversation with me when all I want to do is order a coffee, grande. The white-haired old guy who couldn’t figure out what to order despite standing in line for 10 freaking minutes and stands at the counter, looking at the board like this is his most difficult decision of his day and if he gets it wrong, he’s going back to the concentration camp or something, (spoiler alert, this will be me when I’m 200.)

Lacking a Tim Hortons or Dunkin Donuts, I guess a Starbucks will do.
Lacking a Tim Hortons or Dunkin Donuts, I guess a Starbucks will do.

I need coffee. Coffee doesn’t so much restore my faith in people as it moves my brain way from sleepy grumpiness to wide-awake creativity.

It really quite a transformation. I go from wanting to murder the guy who looked like he shined his bald head with a floor buffer to give it a blinding shine to reading the burlap sacks on the walls of Starbucks and wondering when the sack says “save the Amazon, use Jute” what the heck Jute is? A tree? A plant like hemp? What if I had a character named Jute? From the Amazon? Who wears burlaps sacks?

So, this morning, yes, not only will I write a bit, but I have to figure out how to make the tickets to the High Roller Ferris Wheel usable on my mobile phone. We’ve also brought tickets to the Beatles Love (Cirque du Soliel style) because The-Oldest needs a good music fix. He hasn’t been able to play his piano for nearly a week, listened to no classical music for at least two says, and I can see that his eye is starting to twitch.

Last night I failed to get those tickets on my phone. I was simply too tired to figure it all out. With more coffee, I hope everything becomes clear. Last night, The-Youngest, who listed the High Roller in his top 10 then asked, actually asked, if he could bring his iPad cuz it could be boring and he didn’t want to be bored on it.

This from the guy who bugged us for WEEKS to go on the High Roller.

I said, ah, that would be a no. No iPad.

New York, New York, in Las Vegas. The Holy Grail of the kid side of Vegas. Rides. Candy. Arcades.
I would actually love to visit the real NY one day, but for now, this’ll have to do.

Also planned for today…NY NY, mostly for the rollercoaster there, which (after supper), The-Youngest vowed NOT to go on because of his terrifying experience yesterday. He’s gone from literally vibrating with excitement at the mention of a rollercoaster to looking like he’s about to have his liver removed with a spoon and all his electronics sold to hobos.

But The-Oldest is dead keen on that coaster. He’s fearless on those things. Beyond fearless, really. He loves the speed, the exhilaration, the feel of terror and impending death.

He’s 13.

Then after NY, NY, we’re hitting the candy shops, a place that The-Youngest can talk to you about for hours. I kid you not.

The Hershey Store in Vegas, with a freaking WALL of Jolly Ranchers
The Hershey Store in Vegas, with a freaking WALL of Jolly Ranchers

“Joe, did you know they have giant jars of Jolly Ranchers that are just the red kind, but I don’t know if they’re actually the watermelon kind or the cherry kind or what, but it doesn’t really make any difference because I like them both, but I also like the apple ones which are green, and they have jars of them, too, and all the other colors, and I think, if I have enough room in my luggage, that I’ll get the green ones, cuz apple is my favourite and Joe, did you know that they have Hershey bars that are so big that they cost $50…”

Knowing how much time everything takes, we’ll have a full day. I suspect we’ll be spending hours in the candy store alone while The-Youngest debates which two jars of candy he’ll take home. Joe, did you know that on one hand, the watermelon ones are good in the summer because they taste like real watermelon, and that’s refreshing, but apple is kind of refreshing, too, and tastes like, you know, apple, which always tastes good, but then, again, oh, look there’re the jars filled with the blueberry ones and they’re my all-time favourite…

Fun times.

And I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

After I’ve had my coffee, that is.

Trolls, Bad Choices and No Acme Anvils – Grand Canyon Day pt 1

Pink Jeep Tours, Grand Canyon, Arizona. Our goal for the day.
Pink Jeep Tours, Grand Canyon, Arizona. Our goal for the day.

Up at 5:30 am.

Why? It was Grand Canyon day and we needed to arrive by 8:30 am. We had a tour booked. Pink Jeep. The eastern side of the southern rim. Looked amazing.

No one was impressed at getting up so early. Boyz looked like death. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World spent extra time in the bathroom getting all pretty-like.

As she did so, I went downstairs to have the front desk hold my backpack with my laptop. Normally, this encounter goes something like this. “Mind if I leave my laptop bag with you?”

“Why sure, sir, thank you for staying at our hotel, we’d be honored, nay, blessed, to look after that ratty-looking bag.”

Instead, when I asked if I could please leave my bag, I encountered one of the worst types of creatures on the planet.

The night shift guy.

Long, greasy hair. Thick glasses. Probably writes a lot of horror porn. “Why?” he asked like I had just asked him to give up masturbation.

“My laptop won’t fit in the safe,” I told him. Not that I wanted to put it there. Last night all that we put inside was nearly locked up forever.

He looked at me like deciding if he should use a hacksaw to cut up my body or dissolve me in acid. “What?”

I repeated my request. In my most polite Canadian tone.


The guy looked like Manson with glasses. Had I known he was on at night, I would have not slept.
The guy looked like Manson with glasses. Had I known he was on at night, I would have not slept.

He sighed, shook his head, then walked away.


He just walked away.

“So you’re taking it, yes?” I said. I may not have sounded so polite.

“I guess,” he said, cleared a spot on the counter, then took it.

He said nothing as I thanked him and I strode back to our room. Apparently, they only put the-very-pretty-young-Asian-girl-with-white-pants-who-couldn’t-have-been-nicer out at night. In the morning, they use trolls. Who need to bathe.

Despite our best efforts, by the time we hit the road, we were behind schedule. Google said we’d arrive right at 8:30.

The tour started at 8:30!!!

And that didn’t include any lost time due to traffic, me making a wrong turn or getting behind someone from Whiterock who drove 20kph under the speed limit.

So I did what I usually do when late. I made a series of bad choices.

First, we had to get gas. Now we should have gotten gas last night, but after all, that had happened, we were simply too exhausted. Maybe we could have made it, but maybe not and who wants to be stuck on a highway begging for someone in a pickup to put us in the back with the hogs so I can get gas at a gas station.

And because we were late, the pump wouldn’t take my card, and I had to go inside, and because we were late, there was a huge lineup, and then I had to guess how much gas and apparently, a lot is not an acceptable answer.

So, I made my best guess and was totally wrong since in the US they pay about as much for a tank of gas as we pay for tolls over a bridge, and so I had to get back into a lineup to correct my error. In the meantime, the Boyz and The-prettiest-girl-in-the-world had gotten lots of healthy snacks for the drive and tour. Plus lots of water.

Having paid, we sped off, my eye twitching with anxiety.

How did I miss the WRONG WAY signs???
How did I miss the WRONG WAY signs???

Then, I thought it might be fun to take a wrong turn and drive onto the highway.  Onto an exit. On a one way street.

The f-word may have been used. A lot. The swear jar was owed about $145.

But I managed to U-turn in the middle of the road and correct my navigational error. The good news was that, by now, EVERYONE was fully awake and wide-eyed.

I might even use the word terrified.

Then we had to get coffee, because even when you’re late, you need coffee. How else was I supposed to drive 50 miles over the speed limit, pass everyone, and avoid the wildlife on the road?

But about 1000 people had the same idea and we had yet another line-up to line-up.

See, the rules of being late specifically state that everything that can delay you further will delay you further.

But we got coffee, and I sped off like we were being chased by tough-looking bikers (who, spoiler alert, appear in a later story.)

The 2-hour drive could have been filled with lots of swearing and me passing trucks over a double-line on a blind hill (and, FYI, a Hyundai is not built for passing anything) but The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World saved the drive by phoning the tour company and seeing if we could book a tour an hour later.

No problem, they said, or if you get there in time, you could still take your original tour.

Stress melted away. My eye stopped twitching. And I enjoyed the drive up, the area not like the Vegas desert but filled with pines and cedars (or as I later learned, not cedars, juniper trees), and green grass and cows and the occasional deer darting in front of us.

Roadrunner! Meep-meep. The coyote’s after you

The Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World pipped with delight when she saw a road runner whiz by in front of us. Disappointingly, no coyotes or Acme anvils followed.

And without incident, accident or breakdowns, we made it to the canyon. At 8:15. I made epic time.

Our tour awaited!




Traveling With Kids – San Diego – IHOP Super Powers

Breakfast of Champions and Super Heroes.

There was something odd in the sky today. Kinda round. Yellow-orange. Surrounded by blue sky. I think primitive cultures called it the sun. It was not something I have seen for a while in San Diego.

That made it a perfect day for Seaworld.

But first, remember the #1 rule? Food!!!IMG_0339

So we went to eat at IHOP.

It isn’t as easy to find a place to eat with the boys in tow. Or cheap. If there’s a place that offers kids eat free or kids will be made to wash dishes if they don’t eat what they order, then I’m so there. As it was, we thought the IHOP would be a safe bet.

It was.

The boys got to choose if they wanted pancakes, how their eggs were cooked, if they wanted sausages or bacon, if they wanted brown bread or white, if they wanted juice or milk. Now it’s not like they couldn’t have starbucksdone that at the other restaurants, but here it was easy to point on the menu while the waitress took notes. The loved the power. Soon they’ll be at starbucks ordering a drink, “grande skinny half soy, half skim, iced half mocha, half green tea, no ice, double whip, caramel topping in a ventii cup.”

One of the coolest things about eating here (or not, depending on your POV), was that they put a calorie count on all the food. Pancakes and sausages and 1 cup of syrup was like a billion calories. Who knew?

While we ate, the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world tried to arrange to meet a friend from her childhood, a friend that shared a fence with her for years, who knew her through good times and bad, a friend who she hadn’t seen again for a very long while (aka our spy).

Unfortunately, his family had been battling a cold and it was looking dicey that we would be able to all get together. However, today, it looked like he might get a free moment.

While she tried to connect with him, the boys and I worked on something vital to our existence.

Super powers.

What super powers did we have. Not which ones we wanted, which we had.

super powersThe youngest has the ability for his sleeve to find any spill on the table. Even spills he, himself, did not make.

The oldest has the ability hide all interest in all things. Every so often a smile creeps out, but it’s quickly covered up with a shrug even the French would be proud of.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world has the ability to look pretty even at 10am in a pancake house.

I have the ability to make any lineup I’m in the slowest line. Proven time and time and time again.

We came up with other ones like the youngest’s ability to snort milk out his nose if he giggles too much while drinking milk, to the oldest’s ability to be the fastest mouse clicker on the face of the planet.

However, the funniest moment of the morning was when the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world had looked up at me, with a bit of cheese hanging off her lower lip. Being me and being tragically flawed, I laughed. I mean, it looked funny. She still looked pretty, but it was funny.

“I have cheese hanging off my lip, don’t I?” she asked.

I giggled.

She glared at me. “Were you going to tell me?”

“After I finished giggling.”

“So you’d let me walk out with a giant cheese strand dangling from my lip?”

“No. At some point I would have stopped giggling and told you. It might have been in Seaworld though.”

She glared at me.

It looked like we weren’t going to be able to meet her friend, our spy, today.

No matter, it was going to be a great day.

How could it not?