California Dreamin’….

As I have mentioned before, my wife’s particular career choice provides us with some very fortunate traveling opportunities throughout North America.  Whenever possible we bring the kids along for the ride and make family vacations out of these opportunities.

While traveling to different cities there is always the highly marketed attractions and theme parks, however we tend to migrate to site-seeing opportunities that are more cultural, such as museums, historical landmarks and parks; after all, we figure if we are going to take the girls out of school to partake in these trips, it is important to include some learning into the vacation.

We were quite fortunate last year to attend a conference is San Jose, California; and even more fortunate to have attended again this year.  San Jose is a city with many wonderful cultural attractions, this year we made a return visit to the Children’s Discovery Museum.  dscn0139This museum focuses on sensory activities for kids of all ages, most, if not all of their exhibits are interactive and provide a creative and imaginative learning experience.  Our daughters were able to explore science and engineering, learn about healthy eating in the Rainbow Market, experience city life in a life size re-creation of a streetscape, blow bubbles,  and many more exciting things, including all kinds of craft activities and building with life size foam blocks; a very imaginative exhibit which happened to be sponsored by Intuit, which was the company holding the QB Connect conference that my wife was attending.  Needless to say, the girls had an absolute blast and took with them many new creative thoughts.

On the same theme as museums, San Jose also has an incredible Science and Technology centre called The Tech, which is a self described “museum of innovation“.  Again this was a must see this year as the girls enjoyed is so much on their visit last year, much like the Discovery Centre, this museum is very interactive and provided numerous learning opportunities for the girls, from science based crafts (building butterflies using links and hinges) to interactive motion screens teaching about balance, the human body and exploring space and geography.  I asked the girls which exhibit the enjoyed the most and it was definitely the in the new biology exhibit; they were at a station which had them perform real science experiments where they used DNA to create their own bacteria and analyze it.

Of course museums and technology centres are great learning environments, however sometimes you come across other cultural opportunities that are inspiring and make you truly appreciate things in life, as were are typically too busy to notice them sometimes. dscn0026While walking through a park in downtown San Jose, we came across a musical swing set, as people would swing, it would play a beautiful melody, with a unique sound depending on how fast the swings were moving, and if all of them work moving or just some.  While my wife and I observed this beautiful park feature, we could not help to notice that the swing was drawing in people of all ages, all walks of life and many different cultures.  Everyone felt comfortable on this swing, nobody was being judged, there was no costs to swing on it, there was just one thing in common with everyone, they all had smiles on their faces, not to mention the joy it brought to all of the passers-by.  So “well done” San Jose, a fixture in your downtown park has broken down barriers and reminds people to stop and enjoy the simple things in life, which sometimes includes embracing our neighbours and fellow park goers.

Later the same day as our swing set experience we were absolutely in awe of the annual Dia De Los Muertos festival, which is San Jose’s “Day of the Dead” celebration.  This is a
celebration of life, observed by Mexicans and other cultures too.  We arrived at the square
where people were gathering for a procession through downtown San Jose; this included hundreds of participants, young and old.  There will traditional dancers, drummers and even people on stilts; many wore costumes and had their faces painted.  What was truly great for us is that they asked us if we would like to join them in the procession, of course we said yes and were glad we did, what a memorable experience this was.  The girls has so much fun and were truly amazed at this cultural celebration.

During one of our final days in California we traveled to San Francisco, now having not rented a car while we were here, we figured that we would try Uber out; so I downloaded franciscanthe app entered in our location and what our destination was and literally within minutes their was a car at the front of the hotel to whisk us off to San Francisco, this service is great.  We decided to check out the Fisherman’s Wharf area, which is very lively; while there we seen street performers, checked out some souvenir shops and had lunch at a place called Franciscan Crab Restaurant which seemed to be a go-to place for celebrities, with pictures on their walls of folks like Jack Nicholson, Lucille Ball, Dustin Hoffman and Anthony Hopkins to name a few, the exterior looked like a ship and the interior had a vintage fifties vibe.  The food was incredible and the very entertaining atmosphere was enjoyed by the girls.

So overall I would say that our latest experience in California was very cool, the kids had fun as alway, they swam in the outdoor pool in late October; because, well they’re Canadian! and we checked out great culture.  So now it seems that California has definitely made it onto our list of our favourite destinations.  With the focus on culture and learning, it certainly makes for a rewarding and memorable experience for the girls, and for my wife and I too.  So if you ever have the good fortune of finding yourself in California, it’s an absolutely beautiful part of the world!  Not too mention when you travel in the fall the weather is perfect.

And by-the-way, the conference my wife attended was an amazing experience for her, she was named the 2016 Firm of the Future representing Canada, which allowed her to rub elbows with some celebrities, network with new and existing colleagues in the industry and overall strengthen her place on the Global Stage as a leader and innovator in Cloud Accounting.  Congratulations to my wife Jennie on a very successful year in business, all the while being an amazing, dedicated and involved wife and mother!

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Kindness Takes Flight….

As I reflect on a recent family vacation I am reminded of the humanity that surrounds us on a daily basis and the fact that sometimes we don’t give society enough credit for the good people that walk amongst us.

The girls and I were fortunate enough to tag along on one of my wife’s business trips, this time to California; the catch was that her flight was already fully booked, therefore I would have to take a separate flight with the three girls without my wife’s help. No problem! I said, after all it’s California, how exciting would that be?  Besides how hard could it be to navigate an airport and plane ride with three kids?

So off we went for Toronto for an early morning flight to San Francisco, all was well as my wife helped us find our terminal and sent us on our way….see you down there, she said nervously; I got the feeling that she was a bit concerned that this might be too much and daddy might snap somewhere over the mid-west.  Bye mommy! the girls all said, and that was that we were on our journey, dad and his girls, navigating security, finding our gate and boarding the plane.

We all got settled into our seats, girls with their headphones on, movies cued up and snacks on their trays.  The flight went quite well, and I have to say my youngest did amazing considering this was her first flight.  As we exited the plane the girls were commended on their excellent behaviour by  at least half a dozen people…..nothing better than well mannered kids to make a father proud.

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So off we went to tour San Francisco and headed to our final destination of San Jose, the girls had a very eventful and fun-filled week, children’s museums, make your own milkshakes and swimming in the hotel pool….even if we were the only ones crazy enough to swim outside in November; y’all must be from Canada! were the comments we got!.  But like all vacations, they come to an end and its time to head home.  So came the time to prepare for the trip back.

This time we were faced with an early flight; 7:30am, and with our hotel being an hour away from the airport 3:00am came all too soon.  But the girls handled it in stride, we arrived at the airport, dropped off the rental car, checked our luggage and headed for our gate.  Much like the flight down I was doing this solo, as my wife was on a different flight.  This time however the girls and I did not have the luxury of sitting together on the plane, even with advanced pre-selection of our seats, the best we were able to acquire were four middle seats disbursed over two rows…..not going to lie, at this point I was getting very nervous, it’s one thing to navigate an airport with three kids without the aid of your spouse, but not being able to sit alongside your young children is a very helpless feeling for a parent.

But I wasn’t going to let this ruin our vacation, that had been incredible up to this point, so I remained positive and said to the kids…..it will all work out and we are going to have a great flight!  So we made our way through security, found our gate and boarded the plane.  I helped my oldest and middle daughters into their seats and got them set up for the flight, one row back was my youngest daughter and I.  So I got my youngest set up in her seat, headphones, snacks and such, when the person in the seat next to her introduced himself……he said Hi I’m Mike, I see that you are separated from your girls, don’t worry, I can help to get your little one settled in and once were in the air we’ll figure something out so you can sit near her!

Wow!, an instant relief, this kind gentlemen observed my situation and instead of ignoring us and looking out his window he decided to show compassion and lend a hand.  Thanks Mike! I said, and proceeded to sit down in my seat.  As the plane started to fill up there were only a few more people to board and the seats on either side of me were still vacant.  Down the aisle came a young mother with a child (maybe around 3 years old) she approached and said to me, our seats are on either side of you, would you mind trading so that I could sit next to my daughter?  No problem!, was my reply as I was now on the aisle seat and closer to my own daughter.  Well the gentlemen on the opposing aisle next to my youngest overheard this exchange and turned to me and said, I have three kids of my own, I understand what it’s like to want to sit with them on a plane, you can have my seat if you like!  Thank you sir!  And just like that, I went from stressing out about not being able to be there for my daughter to sitting right beside her holding her hand, all because three complete strangers showed kindness and compassion towards us.

As for my other two daughters in the row ahead of us, it worked out that they were on either side of a elderly couple, who took quite a shining to them….perhaps reminding them of their grandchildren, not sure, but as she knitted away, she would stop from time-to-time and report back to me on how the girls were doing, letting me know that they were just fine.

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So there we were, my girls were all content, I had a nice chat with Mike, our new family friend, and I was no longer looking for the beer cart at 8 o’clock in the morning.  So just when you think people around you are too caught up in their own busy lives, you have wonderful experiences like mine; we all get bogged down, we all have our own stresses, but lending a helping hand to a complete stranger could just be what a family needs….I know our experience was a memorable one, thanks to other peoples kindness.

 

Go Ask Your Mother

Welcome to my blog, I have decided to write these entries to share everyday stories of being a working dad, a husband to a very successful wife and just how rewarding a busy family life can be…..enjoy the journey.

When my wife and I met some seventeen years ago, we talked casually about having kids, and how nice it would be to someday take the leap into parenthood; well after five years of courtship we were married and then had our first daughter Natasha three years after that……a leap into parenthood was certainly an understatement, more like a plunge off a cliff or free fall from a airplane, we had no idea what we were getting into.

But like most parents, we all go in blind with no formal training and somehow we seem to struggle our way through the early years, with many sleepless nights, lots of indigestion from rushing through meals and that frequent conversation between spouses, you know the one that goes something like this……”what did we get ourselves into? and how are we going to survive? and hi I’m your husband….haven’t seen you in a while“.  But we do survive and at some point the thought enters at least one of the parent’s minds “hey this isn’t so bad, maybe we should have another child  I said Pardon?

And that is just what happened, two and half years after our first daughter came along, we had another girl; Vanessa, however unlike our first daughter the second one seemed to always have a grievance with the sleep union, it wasn’t until after her third birthday did she sleep through the night.  But like her older sister she was happy and healthy so we counted our blessings.

As time passed and our daughters grew, my wife posed the question again….how about having another kid?  said with a straight face no less!  My response was, sure, why not?  we are veterans at this point, how much could a third child possibly change things?

Well it did change things…..we had our third daughter Marissa two and half years after the second one, once again happy and healthy, but unlike her sisters, not only did she not care for sleep too much, she wasn’t that big on food either, but her sisters adored her.

So back to the comment about the third child not changing things too much, what we quickly realized was the concept of divide and conquer between my wife and I no longer applied….we were now out numbered and the kids knew it!  Going out shopping or to dinner now took the logistical coordination skills of a FedEx executive, just when we thought we had learned the ropes of this parenting gig, we quickly realized we were still rookies.

As all parents find though, you make sacrifices, you roll with the punches and you do your best to be a role model to your children and just as important you ensure that you are there for your spouse, after all they’re the ones riding shotgun beside you in the family minivan….even though they are likely sleeping.

So now as we are blessed with three beautiful daughters the fun begins…..