….Canadian Imperial Bank of Dad!

So I was fortunate enough to have received a promotion at work recently; upon communicating this with my family, my middle daughter Vanessa doesn’t skip a beat, she says….a promotion means more money right dad?  does that mean we get a raise in our allowance dad?  Leave it to the quiet one to pick up on that, she certainly does not miss much.  This is where I am supposed to say money doesn’t grow on trees….which ironically my wife has latched on to that saying and has branded her bookkeeping business very creatively with a money tree.

The statement from my daughter got me thinking about allowances and teaching the value of money to the girls, money is a fairly open subject in our house; my wife owns a financial business and I manage construction finances as part of my job, but it’s important that we communicate to our children the value of personal finances and how money can be used wisely.

For quite some time now we have been giving the girls an allowance, we decided on $5 every two weeks, which isn’t a lot perhaps but it allows them to learn how saving up for something takes time.  The girls have found that saving up for something can be quite rewarding; or spending it as soon as it’s received can be rewarding too, but the joy of spending it quickly usually only lasts for a short time.  For us though the allowance isn’t automatic, the girls are expected to do chores, like keeping their rooms clean, dusting, dishes and shovelling snow off the roof in the winter time….well maybe not that last one, just yet!

It is interesting to watch them save up the allowances, until they have decided on something; once they have enough saved up we plan a trip to the mall and they get to spend their savings.  Sometimes they come home with exactly what they wanted, other times they decide while at the store that maybe $40 worth of gummy bears isn’t the best way to spend their money and they return the money  back into their wallet until the next exciting thing catches their eye.  As an adult I find myself learning from the children about restraint and splurge purchases, in the era we are in where money is primarily exchanged on plastic, you sometimes loose the sense of letting it go on things that may not necessarily be essential.

The retail business does not make this easy, any store you go to have bins and shelves of non-essential items lined up at the check-out in hopes of attracting that impulse buy.  But if you watch children, of course they are tempted by the splurge purchases, after all who wouldn’t want a OneDirection Pez Dispenser, but when mom and dad’s response is….you will have to use your own money, it’s funny how fast their desire for the purchase goes away.
But managing money is stressful and its stress a child does not need, so for us we are trying to teach our girls the value of a dollar, without letting them worry too much about buying the things they want; they can still learn the value of dollar and that they can’t always get something, just because they want it.  Recently this Christmas my oldest daughter felt the need to buy everyone in the family something so that she had a gift for each of us under the tree, she was stressing about having enough money to get us something we would like and having the time to go and pick it out.  My wife and I talked about this and we didn’t want her to feel obligated to spend her money on her sisters and us, so we decided to have a secret santa between the three girls and my wife and I.

So what we did was put all of our names in a hat and took turns drawing names; everyone picked out a name and kept it to themselves, IMG_2782yes even the youngest;  we then set a $10 budget and decided to take them to
Value Village.  We got there and picked out some items, keeping in mind the modest budget and then all snuck our finds to the front to pay and headed home to wrap them.  Of course we still provided the girls with the usual gifts under the tree but what we found with this experiment was the girls were very proud of their frugalness and not to mention, everyone really liked what their secret santa got them

So it’s not always about how much money is spent, it is more about the thought and with the girls it seems that they are learning to appreciate the value of a dollar.

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Guy and Dolls….

Most kids have a favourite toy, usually it’s something that they carry around the house, take to bed with them or play with all the time; but the favourite toy usually doesn’t last too long before there is a new favourite toy.  Well with my girls their favourite toy is their doll, but not just any doll, a Maplelea doll….think American Girl for Canadians.

So needless to say I didn’t know too much about dolls, not having any sisters, and growing up the closest thing I had to a doll was a GI Joe action figure…well I guess that’s not totally true, I did have a cabbage patch kid when I was nine, but it was the Toronto Blue Jays collectors edition and it sat on a shelf more that it actually was played with.  But I have come to realize that when you have three daughters you quickly learn if you want to engage with what is important to them, you have to learn about things you otherwise would have never pictured yourself experiencing.

So these dolls are generally sold from a magazine, you pick out your doll based on different physical features and hobbies and each doll is based on a real child, each one from a different part of Canada.  Once you have picked the girl you would like to purchase, you order it, and in two weeks you have a new friend.

The interesting thing with these dolls is that you can purchase any type of clothing or accessories imaginable, from sports outfits to kayaks to horses.  Now these accessories are not cheap, but they are good quality and the girls have fun picking them out.

At first I thought that the doll would be a fad, but we are now heading in to the girl’s fourth Christmas since getting their first doll and they are still excited about having them, so much so that I recently took the girls to the seasonal doll store in Toronto to see what was new….needless to say it was a hit!

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Looking back at this summer we attended Black Creek Pioneer Village, where the doll company Maplelea hosted an event specifically for girls and their dolls, hundreds of little girls with their dolls at the pioneer village, learning about how dolls were made in the pioneer times, how the pioneers dressed, farmed and generally lived.  The girls loved the experience and to be surrounded by so many other little girls and their dolls was quite exciting for them, a little overwhelming for dad, but fun for the girls.


So that’s the kind of things you do when you’re a dad to three girls, even if you don’t know anything about dolls, or their accessories, to connect with your children sometimes you just need to share their interests.

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That Dreaded Four Letter Word….

Yes we’ve all heard it, and we cringe every time it’s uttered, some of us likely know who introduced it to our child….but the word I am referring to is not the one you are thinking of right now, the word I’m talking about is iPad!

Yes that’s the one, the device that can be handed to a child and kept them occupied for hours….free babysitting, count me in! But wait, it can’t be that easy, there has to be a catch; there is always a catch.

Sure tablets and smart phones are wonderful devices, most of us start and finish our days with them, heck some of us look at our phones more than we look at our spouse, after all its the digital revolution, the generation seeking constant and immediate information, but how much information is too much?  And how much do our children really need?

I will admit, electronic devices are powerful and handy tools, from email, to texting, to social media; they have become the primary tool for us to organize our lives, but do we rely on them too much?  If you went to work and forgot your lunch at home, most of us would simply change our lunch plans and go out; now if you headed to work and forgot your cell phone, my guess is most of you would return home to retrieve your device….why? because this is how we run our lives, our calendar, our phonebook, our shopping list, our link to the world….one simple tool has become so powerful and convenient we depend on it in order to carry out our day.

But adults have restraint, most of us know when to put down the phone,  a device this powerful in the hands of a child needs to be monitored, children’s minds are sponges, they are curious, with all the knowledge of the universe at their fingertips, how will they know when to put it down? how will they know when it’s time to go outside and play?  That’s where us parents come in, not just through enforcement of the usage of these devices, but also by example, a child that observes their parents on a tablet for hours and hours is going to see this as acceptable.

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So here is what my wife and I do (this is new to us too, so maybe we’ve got this wrong), but what we do is allow our girls one hour of electronic time every weekday evening after the kids get home from school, this allows my wife and I to catch up on the days activities and to prepare a family dinner, of course there is a bit more leeway on the weekends; the kids know that once their hour is up and we call them for dinner, “electronic time” is done for the evening.  Sometimes we get some pushback, but more times than not the kids have had their fill before the hour is up and have discarded the device and moved on to more exciting things, like trying to apply their own make-up or counting how many flushes it takes to devour an entire roll of toilet paper….see there are many ways to learn math skills!

But the use of these devices is becoming natural to our children, most classrooms now have tablets that are being used as tools to deliver the curriculum, which is great, there are many educational apps to be found, but too much “screen time” at home or at school allows kids to zone out, and with so many exiting games can be over-stimulating.

So like many things in life, we apply “moderation” to the challenge of mobile device usage, it may not work out the way we’ve planned, but like my generation, we never grew up with these devices and a lot of us have many fond childhood memories….not memories of Minecraft, Candy Crush or SnapChat, but memories of playing outside, exploring and being a kid; there will be plenty of time for our children to catch up on the latest news on Facebook and Twitter, but for now perhaps the only tweets they should concern themselves with are in the backyard at the bird feeder!

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Christmas Traditions….

I’m sure everyone has wonderful Christmas Traditions that they remember from their childhood, ones they look back on and smile, and ones that they carry on with their own families.  But at some point these traditions are started, and whether it is intentional or accidental; maybe something happened one year and you and family just decided to continue the trend….either way these are traditions and there a big part of what makes Christmas so memorable.

Like many people my family has traditions that we observe each year, and for the most part it’s a combination of traditions that I observed as a child and traditions observed by my wife when she was young, and some of these traditions started with our grandparents and maybe even further back; however we each have unique memories of Christmas and cherish the season in our own way…but what about our children, it’s great that my wife and I can pass on our respective traditions, but maybe some new ones can be introduced.

This weekend we decided to do just that, start a new tradition….typically the Christmas season starts pretty early for us, around mid-November….yes were one of those families!  We decorate the house, fire up the Christmas music and in the spirit of traditions we watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for the umpteenth time…it never gets old!  So this year like so many before we put up our artificial Christmas Tree and decorated it as a family.  But this year something just didn’t feel right, my wife made the observation, she said, I think we should get a real tree this year!  I thought about it for a second and replied, that’s a great idea, after all we live in old farmhouse, the tree is next to a beautiful wood fire a real tree sounds perfect!

So on the first Saturday in December we set off to the Christmas Tree farm to find our tree, thus begining the journey on our new tradition.  We were quite fortunate to find a tree farm just a short drive from our place in Stirling, as luck would have it Denmar Farms was having their grand opening on Saturday.  We arrived and immediately the kids were thrilled, a hay bale maze, a bonfire to roast marshmallows, snow taffy and list goes on.  So to get to the tree plantation they take you out on a wagon ride, past rows and rows of young trees, that no doubt we will observe as something worthy to celebrate Christmas around in years’ to come, but for this year we need to trek a bit further back to where the mature trees were….not that a four or five year old tree is necessarily mature, but at 8 to 10 feet it would be perfect for our living room.


So the wagon came to stop and we all piled out, there were rows and rows of trees, a bin of swede saws and a handful of families eager to find that magical tree that will symbolize their Christmas this year.  So off my family and I went, saw in hand.

 I like this one, my oldest says…no this one says the middle daughter…this one over here dad….then we see it, our Christmas Tree, the one that all five of us agreed on…our new family tradition, and for my wife and daughters their very first real Christmas Tree!  So we cut it down and carry it out to the laneway to be picked up by the tractor upon his return, and as I watch the other families carry their trees from the rows, I realize just how important tradition is to people.

So back to the main gate we go, they bale our tree, provide us with some free hot chocolate and we load it on the roof of the family minivan, with just a bit more finesse than Clark Grizwald.  So the tree made it home, we put it up in the family room next to the cory fire, decorated it and started the new tradition of trekking out on the first Saturday in December to find our family Christmas Tree. 
So thank you Denmar Farms for your hospitality and for helping our family start a new Christmas Tradition.

….Go Figure!

"Go Ask Your Mother"

I am sure you are all familiar with the Hockey Dad, you know the guy that spends his winters in a small town arena, living off coffee and that dream….some day my kid is going to play in the NHL. Well there are many of those dads out there across Canada, but there are also another bunch of gents know as Figure Skating Dads. Much like their counterparts, they spend plenty of evenings and weekends in the small town arena.

The Figure Skating dad however, may not have his sights set on the NHL, or even the olympics, but in arenas across Canada there thousands of boys and girls that are privelidged enough to have made the sacrifices it takes to support these sporting activities.

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As for being a Figure Skating dad, I have to admit I was a bit out of my league at the start; my wife has…

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