Thursday, December 1, 2011

Helping Hand

What's wrong with people? I mean really, what is WRONG with people? When I got to work this morning I was about to head upstairs but I saw an elderly man standing near me and he was crying.

From the look of him he was in diminished circumstances and pretty upset. I watched as people looked at him and just kept on going about their business. I couldn't believe it!

I walked over to him and asked him if he was alright. He said that he was worried about his sister because she had a stroke and he didn't know what to do. I asked him if there was someone I could call for him. He said that he wasn't sure who to speak to. He wasn't sure if she was in the hospital yet or where she was.

He was obviously not flush with cash and probably not fully capable either. I asked where he lived and he said that it was a lodging house a couple of blocks away. We decided to try and go to the community policing station in Jackson Square but it was closed. In the end I called the police to see if they could give me some idea of who he could speak to.

Once I explained the situation the police offered to come down and have an officer speak to him. That way they could find out where to take him. Unfortunately at that point I had to leave. I spoke to security in my building and they promised to look after him until the police showed up.

I went back down on my break and was advised that the police showed up and they have spoken to him in the past. They took him and advised that they would find out where his sister was and would be able to get him to see her.

That took me 10 minutes. I had a conversation with him and offered my sympathy for the fact that his sister was ill. All he needed was for someone to try and all he got from the people around him was disdain and uncomfortable stares. Sickening.

I want my kids to grow up treating people like people. I want them to know that it is alright to ask someone who is obvious distress if they need help. I want to think that if one of my Grandparents or Parents was in the same situation someone would have helped them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Jumping Ship

I have decided to make a big change in my life. At a bit of a dangerous time I have decided to change jobs. This wasn’t something that I actually was seeking at this time seeing as Andrea is on Maternity Leave and we have a new baby, but it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Let me be frank, currently I feel that I am good at my role. The problem is that I have been in it for more than 4 years. I began with my company and within 9 months had moved 3 positions, all of which were up the ladder, and the one I currently in was advertised as the next stepping stone. Unfortunately, the combination of an American head office, a tanking economy and a stalled workforce made it impossible to move to where I wanted.

I don’t in any way feel animosity towards the company. I thank them for the opportunities that they provided me. I was able to take training in Boston for a week which was nice because I was able to visit a city I have always wanted to see, I have provided a month-long Sabbatical on my 5th anniversary which allowed me to spend time with Andrea and our newborn son Leighton not to mention be there for Declan’s first day of Junior Kindergarten. A generous Vacation policy was also extended upon being hired.

The drawbacks were varied. I have never worked Monday to Friday in my whole working life and the new job has offered that. I can’t count the number of events I missed out on because of working on Sundays. I hope that this never happens again. The commute was difficult and could be costly. On Sunday mornings it would take 11 minutes from door to door but on a Monday it has taken upward of an hour. My new position is within a 15 minute walk of my front door. I have always wanted to work in Hamilton and being this close to home is a dream come true.

The pay difference has the potential to be substantially in my favour and when you combine it with the saving of wear and tear on the van and gas you can’t go wrong. I also get to take advantage of the pension program which I look forward to learning more about.

I think that the most important difference will be the possibility for advancement. The new place seems to have plans in place for movement through the company. I look forward to this most. I crave the chance to continue to learn in a situation that can provide me new experiences. I look forward to identifying a career trajectory and working toward fulfilling it.

I won’t pretend that this change will be easy or that it will be comfortable. The anxiety that it has produced has led to some sleepless nights as well. What I do know is that with the support of Andrea and my Family I have made a decision that I hope will lead me to further success.

I can’t wait to see where it takes me!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Christmas' Past

Christmas is coming…There I said it! It is really only two months away and now that we have three kids I am starting to wonder if July would be a good time to begin planning for Christmas presents going forward.

Having said that I have been struggling over the last few years to continue the connection that I have always had with the holiday. We didn’t have much as kids, we never went hungry or anything, but at Christmas my parents did everything that they could to give us what we wanted. I honestly don’t think I can remember a year where I was not happy with what I got. I learned to set my expectations appropriately so that what I received was in line with what Santa could bring.

Those days were filled with very specific traditions. We always had a Scotch Pine, which my parents discontinued recently, that my Dad would trim and set up. My Mom, my Sisters and I would decorate it with baubles and things that we had accumulated since I was a kid. In the end our tree was a gaudy assortment of the Christmas detritus of years past. I absolutely loved it. It was a connection to my childhood and the one season that I adored.

Now that I have my own family I find that sometimes I struggle at Christmas. We are still establishing our holiday traditions because of how young our family is. Andrea is allergic to pine so a real tree is out of the question. No matter how much I love the idea of a real tree I hate the idea of my wife being uncomfortable. She offered to just dose herself with Benadril for the holidays once but I couldn’t ask her to do that.

I find the lights on the trees to be kind of annoying now. I used to love the flickering of the coloured lights that we used to have as kids but now we have LEDs that are energy efficient and they don’t feel as warm or inviting to me. I liked watching my Dad go through a string to find the one bulb that was shot and I actually enjoyed doing that myself when I first got my own place.

I struggle to continue traditions from my family such as placing cards on the tree for everyone in the family. This is only due to the fact that Christmas Cards are ridiculously expensive these days. But on Christmas morning we would go downstairs and the tree would be covered in them: From my parents to us kids and vice versa as well as from us kids to each other. It’s unfortunate to think that this isn’t practical, but that money could be spent on presents.

I find I have no connection to any of the television specials that are on now either. I don’t get excited unless The Grinch, Rudolph, Frosty or Mickey’s Christmas Carol are on. The rest of them are just a bit silly. I am also waiting for Charlie Brown’s Christmas to be discontinued due to how religious it is.

I feel like they had Christmas right until about the mid 80’s and then it just fell apart. The magic was lost. I used to get excited about the Sears Christmas Wishbook because it was the best way to tell that Christmas was on the way. Now you can just search the web and find the top presents out there and order them on Amazon. Not that this is a bad thing because I find myself ready to snap whenever I go Christmas shopping.

Part of me wants to try an Olde Fashioned Christmas. Something out of a Dicken’s novel without the dirt of Victorian London around me. I would like to give gifts that mean something, possibly even gifts that are homemade, be it in my home or some other home from someone who has much more skill than I do. I have even been looking at the Lee Valley catalogue because they have some really neat wooden toys that I think would be fun to put together with the boys.

I guess what I am saying is that Christmas isn’t what it used to be. We can’t sing Christmas songs without offending someone, we can’t say Merry Christmas without upsetting people. I feel like we have squeezed all the joy out of the Season. I used to look forward to the Christmas concert that we had at school or when I was in High School we would get together before classes began in the school lobby and sing Christmas Carols. At those sing-a-longs we had Hindus, Jews, Christians, Atheists, a veritable plethora of beliefs. No one was upset because these were the songs of our childhood, our parent’s childhood.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t meant to be a rant about Christmas being ruined by people who are hyper-sensitive (though I think there is something in that); it is me mourning that in the end it will probably never live up to what it was when I was a kid. I think I am just trying to find my own way of getting a bit of that feeling back.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I love my kids

I love my kids. I really do. Andrea and I have found that adding a third to the mix has been both rewarding and challenging to say the least. Two is easy compared to three. I have had a lot of people tell me that once you get past three it becomes easy again if you decide to have more. I think they are full of it.

When I say I love my kids I mean it in the most sincere way. I can tell you right now though that there are days where I don’t like them much. Such as days when none of them listen to a word that either of us say or days when all I hear is the whining and whimpering over the littlest thing. “Daddy, Rhys took my puzzle piece” or “Declan took my truck”. Let’s be honest, there are more trucks and puzzles then I care to think about. Unfortunately there is no reasoning with them when these situations occur.

Yesterday Leighton and I had a bit of a misunderstanding. He didn’t realize that when having his bum changed he shouldn’t pee or poop. I didn’t realize that as a six week old he hasn’t quite grasped this concept. In the span of 5 minutes he almost peed in his own face, almost had and explosive bowel movement all over me and our bed, and then almost peed in his own face again! It definitely was not one my more stellar moments as I said to Andrea, “This going very poorly for me right now!” I seem to recall also saying, “Oh geez, I’m panicking!” Hilarity ensued. Eventually he got cleaned up. No one got hurt in the process so that it is good.

We have found that going out to supper has become fraught with trouble. One doesn’t want to eat anything on the menu or only wants to eat what is on someone else’s plate and the other just wants to go the bathroom 5 times to check it out.

Last night we were asked to go to supper for Andrea’s Father’s birthday. We gladly accepted and hoped that by going with the Grandparents the boys may behave a bit better we would not be in as much trouble as we have been lately. Boy were we wrong.

Dinner was at the Mandarin in Burlington which is a Chinese Buffet for those who don’t know. It is considered one of the best one’s around and is always busy at dinner time. We chose a good time as we were there earlier than most diners so it wasn’t as busy as it would be later. The boys started out alright but it eventually went downhill.

Rhys had a small throw up off garlic bread that set the tone. His diaper then leaked and I had to change it which was a joy. Picture a men’s bathroom with urinals across one wall and then on the opposite wall next to the stalls there is a diaper change table. Picture me in front of that table squatting on the ground to get Rhys’ new pants pulled up and put his shoes back on. Now picture a grown mad coming in and deciding to use the urinal directly behind me even though there were 3 others that were vacant. This man’s derriere was approximately half a foot from the back of my head. Very pleasant. What possesses someone to do that? Really.

Halfway through the meal Declan began looking a little worse for the wear and was starting to choke. It was decided that we would hurriedly pay and get out of there in case he actually threw up. We made a bee-line for the doors but when we got to the lobby it was absolutely packed. Andrea’s Dad must have excused himself 20 times to get people out of the way.

It was no use. We got the big revolving door and Declan threw up right in front of it. Ah buffet vomit, how wonderful.

Andrea’s Dad continued to try and get Declan out through the revolving door and Andrea followed closely behind with Rhys. Unfortunately Rhys got stuck in the door. Half of his body was inside the door and half was out. Poor kid, he looked really distressed and scared. Andrea’s Dad had no idea why the door was jammed so he continued to push which just made it worse unfortunately. Poor Poppa.

Once we got him out we advised the restaurant of the accident and quickly high-tailed it out of there.

When we got back to Andrea’s parents house the boys perked up and everyone was fine. We could laugh about the whole thing but it was really a rough end to a pretty good meal.

A little while later we were in the living room and Rhys was near the rocking chair. I am not certain how but ended up smashing his nose on the arm of the chair and had a quick whine about it. I checked him out immediately and he seemed to be fine so he went on playing and laughing. About a minute we realized that he was actually bleeding from the nose so we frantically tried to stopped the bleeding while keeping him calm. We all know that kids won’t freak out as long as they don’t see the blood or see people panicking. Eventually we got the bleeding to stop and decided that the day was done. We went home and called it a night.

I love my kids, I really do. Yesterday, I didn’t like them much. I am eagerly awaiting my Father of the Year award.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Falling Into Life

What a crazy couple of months we have had!  Andrea, Declan, Rhys and I would like to welcome Leighton Robert Carroll to the world.  He was born August 31st, 2011 which was a week early.  Obviously anxious to enter our lives.  He is a wonderful little boy and we have been incredibly blessed with all three of our boys.

Having said that I can say with the utmost sincerity that sleep is something that I am sure will happen again.  I have tentatively scheduled it for around Summer of 2015.  We are officially outnumbered now!

Declan turned 4 this summer and started school at the beginning of September.  So far he has taken the changes very well.  He enjoys his teacher and seems to be excited every morning when he is told it is a school day.  He only goes two days a week currently and then a third day every 2 weeks.  It is kind of confusing and has created a bit of stress in making sure that everyone is where they need to be on the correct day.

With Rhys still in daycare there is some continuity for Declan as well because he can go into the daycare when Rhys is dropped off.  Speaking of Rhys, he amazes me.  He is so big now and has such a sweet heart.  He truly enjoys snuggling and hugging and has a smile that lights up the room.  He is thriving in Daycare and I am very happy with how he is developing.  We are in the process of trying to potty train which is a bit difficult with all the adjustments that have been made in his life but he is slowly getting it.

I can't believe how big our boys are getting!  They are little men in truth.

I cannot say enough about how much I feel daycare provided Declan with the tools required to transition into JK.  His conversational English is terrific and his ability to adapt to new situations has certainly benefited.  I would strongly encourage anyone who is on the fence about daycare to seriously consider it.

One of the things that I have been able to take advantage of over the last month is the sabbatical that my company offers.  After 5 years of employment we are entitled to a month off fully paid.  It is supposed to used as a enriching opportunity and I have used it as an opportunity to provide as much support as I can to Andrea during the last month.  Between the arrival of Leighton and Declan beginning JK it has been wonderful being at home.  I have been able to see first hand how quickly the day goes by.  I am awake by 5 or 6:00am and the next thing I know it is the afternoon and almost time to pick up the boys.
Going back to work will be hard because it will be another adjustment for everyone.  It look as though will take off next August for Parental Leave as well which should be nice.

I cannot say enough about the strength that I see daily in Andrea.  She has the patience of a rock with all of her boys, myself included, and is doing it all while being so tired that I am unsure how she functions.  The crazy part is she really doesn't think that she is doing anything remarkable!  I am so proud of her.  She is an amazing Mother and wonderful Wife.

All in all things are going very well.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memories to Last a Lifetime

Last full day in England and we had a lot of stuff to pack into it. We had to clean up the flat and pack our suitcases so we were ready to be out the next morning no later than 7:00am to get to Gatwick. After tidying up for about 45 minutes (with Declan bouncing off the walls) we got ourselves together and went out for our last day of exploring in London.
I decided that we should pay a visit to Buckingham Palace as we had not been there as of yet.

The flat was only a 10 minute walk from the Royal Mews so we legged it over. Declan was amazed at how big everything was and loved being able to climb up no the Victoria Memorial Fountain. That was until a police officer told me that he should get down as it wasn’t safe. I thought that funny considering some of the other activities I watched people doing but in the end he has a job to so whatever.

The Queen was in residence so Declan waved at the castle in case she saw him which I thought was incredibly cute. We tossed some of my loose change into the fountain to lighten my pockets since I hate bringing coins back from abroad and headed off through St. James Park.

The whole area was under construction since we were only 3 weeks away from the Royal Wedding so there were paths that could be taken and paths that were forbidden. It also seemed that there were a large amount of school groups in the area and I have to say that I am amazed at how inconsiderate some of those punks can be. They walk 5 abreast on a path and expect you to walk around them. I wasn’t having any of it and shouldered through two separate groups almost dropping one kid when he realized that I wasn’t moving.
Declan was so busy running through the grass he never noticed thank goodness. I tried to keep him off the grass because they can be really testy about that sort of thing but in the end it was no use. He was in his element and loving it.

We eventually made our way to Charing Cross Station and boarded a train for Sidcup to have one last visit with my Grandmother before having dinner with my Uncle and his family. I was looking forward to both as I hadn’t seen my Uncle Tim since my Grandfather passed and I have always enjoyed speaking with him and his lovely wife Carol.

Upon arrival at my Grandmother’s we were ushered in and had a wonderful visit. We were able to Skype Andrea’s parents so that she was able to actually see Rhys while he was awake and smiling which I think she really appreciated. Declan was content to sit on the floor and watch a movie on the laptop between having little chats with Grandma and eating as many of her oranges as he possibly could. I don’t think that afternoon could have gone any better.
When Tim and Carol arrived to take us over to the restaurant Declan immediately took to them. Walking over to the restaurant was funny because they were more concerned about him than I was. I know what his limits are and how adventurous he can be but I also know that he is sensible and cautious.

We had a wonderful meal with Tim, Carol and her daughter Leanne and her family. Declan enjoyed meeting more cousins and was sat with their two daughters who fought over who was going to play with him. It was funny to watch to say the least. We had a wonderful meal with good conversation and were able to catch up as best as possible which was really nice. By the time all was said and done we got back to the flat around 8:30pm that night and had a relatively early night.

I am not going to go too far into the flight home as it was a bit of a nightmare and in all honesty it would take too long. Needless to say, we were delayed for over 5 hours and had boarded, disembarked, re-boarded and then sat in an airplane with no power over that whole time. The only saving grace about that whole experience was that Declan was amazing. He took it all in stride and never real got upset about the whole thing. If I had been travelling on my own I probably would have lost my mind but for him it was just another part of the whole adventure. How could I get upset with that? So didn’t.

It’s been just shy of two months since we had our big trip. I have called it my first real opportunity to be alone with my son, my first father-son trip and an exceptional opportunity for my oldest son to meet his Great-Grandmother as well as others in his family. I feel as though I was able to provide him with some sense that he is part of a family that is bigger than what he has here which was my goal. I was able to show him that although family may be far away in miles they can be close to heart. I think that he understands that in his own way since he still speaks of his cousins and the fun that he had playing with them. He asks me occasionally if I remember that day he played in the park with his cousins, or if I remember when we went to Great-Grandma Carroll’s flat. I don’t think that I can ask for anything more of this trip than that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

To the Tower with Him

We were coming into the homestretch on our trip and I was beginning to really miss home. Declan had a couple of nights where he was really tired and while we were laying in bed together he cried that he missed his Mummy and his Rhys and that he wanted to go home. I explained that we would be going home soon and he would calm down and eventually drift off to sleep.

Skype had been a lifesaver throughout the trip. Andrea and I talked almost every day online and Declan was able to see her and Andrea’s parents on more than one occasion which I am sure helped.

We had a big sleep in on Wednesday morning and eventually decided to get our day going. It was probably the crummiest day that we had, weather-wise, but we decided that we were going to go to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London for a few hours.

When we got out off the tube at Tower Hill we were able to see the Bridge as well as the Tower grounds. Declan was immediately impressed with the “Castle”. We walked along the Thames toward the bridge and up toward the bridge deck. The breeze on the bridge was pretty strong and a bit cool but we soldiered on toward the museum area. Before we arrived Declan saw the Tower again and looked like he really wanted to be there instead. I asked him which he would prefer; going up to the top of the bridge or going into the “Castle”? The castle it was.

It had been about 8 years since I had been to the Tower area and it has completely changed since I was there last. We made our way to the booking area to get our tickets and then went through the entrance gates.

I have to admit I never had a real desire to go into the Tower grounds as I didn’t really feel it would be that interesting. I was wrong. The Tower of London was incredibly impressive. My only complaint? Too many stairs! The place is a warren of stairs and passages and I swear that Declan wanted to climb every one of them. We were up and down throughout the whole grounds. He loved it! I loved it! I even got a picture of Declan sitting on Henry VIII’s garderobe!

We did a quick jaunt through the building that houses the Crown Jewels and Declan pretty much just ran through it all. He wasn’t interested in seeing tiaras and rings and baubles. That’s okay though we just ran around pretty much.

I love to see the history of things like the Traitor’s Gate (which to Declan was just a huge wishing well) and the graffiti that is on the walls inside some of the buildings. They house some intricate carvings that were made by some of the most famous political prisoners in history. It was great to get an up close look at these.

I actually found out later that my Grandfather used to take his lunch break strolling along the Thames the same way Declan and I did. When my Grandmother told me this I felt a connection to him that was really powerful. We were walking in his steps even if they were from 30 years ago. I don’t have a ton of memories of my Grandfather (Grumpies) but he was always a large presence in the background of my upbringing: Primarily when we were out of hand and his name was invoked to explain what would have been done if we were his kids.

In speaking of him with my Father and Uncles over the years there has always been a sense of wonder about him. This was a very human part of his life that my Grandmother shared with me. I was incredibly grateful for it.

Once we left the Tower it was a quick jaunt over to St. Paul's. I wanted Declan to see the Church as it is such an icon in the London skyline. It was spitting out slightly so we didn’t stay too long. We sat on the steps and had a quick drink and then I let Declan have a run around the Churchyard so that he could chase the pigeons. He was in heaven (excuse the expression) and I watched him actually chase the pigeons into a group of school kids which made me laugh.

We had an extremely full day and decided to call it a night a bit earlier than normal. This was primarily because we were going to have one more full day of fun before we had to pack up and get ready for the flight home.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Day 5

This was the second most important day in the trip next to visiting my Grandmother (no offense to anyone else that we visited). Declan and I were going to WEMBLEY to see England v. Ghana. For anyone who knows me this was the pinnacle of football for me. Wembley is the cathedral of international football and I was going there with my son. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it still.

Since the game was going to be a late one we
got up early and had a good run around London. I decided that since we had been doing everything for me so far I would surprise Declan with a trip to Hamley's Toy Store. This store has been there for over 250 year
s! It is 5 stories of crack for kids! Declan loved it. We spent over an hour in there just looking and playing with stuff.

We also decided that this was where Declan would find what to get Rhys. It took about 45 minutes and many different ideas but eventually Declan decided that Rhys would love a train from a show called Chuggington. He was right too! Rhys loves the thing.

After all the excitement I was able to convince Declan that we should have nap without much difficulty.

We woke up with
enough time to get ourselves ready for the big game and headed to the tube. After 3o minutes we arrived at Wembley Park station and got off. We walked down Wembley Way and I was blown away at how brilliantly the stadium is framed from

It took about 15 minutes to walk to the stadium and we went in to get our tickets. Once they were picked up we went to the shop and looked around for some England gear. Declan was adamant that he did not want a shirt but I was able to get get him a scarf. I was able to get a great England Shirt for next to nothing and they put on the England v. Ghana crest for free! It looks fantastic!

We grabbed some grub and waited for the gates to open. We were first in line at our gate. Once in we took 5 escalators up to our seats and had a great view of the pitch.

The Ghanaian fans were incredible and though they were a minority you wouldn't know it from the noise they made. Once God Save the Queen beganit was mesmerizing. Goosebumps and tears in the eyes territory. So cool.e at our gate and really excited to get in. Once in we went up 5 escalators and got to our seats. It was so freaking cool to be in Wembley while it was empty.

The game itself was great. It was end to end with both sides getting great chances. England's first goal was even scored by a Carroll! How awesome to have a Carroll score the first goal I ever witnessed live at Wembley.

Declan was right into it as well. There was a little boy in front of us who knew all t
he songs and Declan just copied him and sang along with him for the game. H
We left with about 10 minutes remaining because I wanted to avoid the massive sea of people trying to get to the tube. We made it in no time and the train was pretty empty. We got home by about 10:00pm and hit the sack. It was one of the most fulfilling days we had of together.e was so good and I was so proud of him. We were in a crowd of 90 000 and he didn't even care. He loved it!


I had decided that by Day 4 we should spend some time in London itself. I absolutely love the city and wanted to start wearing the soles of shoes a bit walking around. By this point Declan had got himself a great routine going. We would get up, get dressed and head to Victoria Station. He would get pancakes at McDonald’s since that was the easiest and we would set out from there.

This day was different because we were meeting a friend of mine and her daughter at the Museum of Nature for a day of fossils, dinos, science and fun! Declan and I got a jumpstart on the day and were in Knightsbridge by about 8:30am and we weren’t meeting up until 10:00am so we just walked around and waited for the Museum to open up.

Once it did we couldn’t wait for out guests so we just took a quick look at the dinosaur exhibit. It was amazing! To really experience it you walk up a flight of stairs and there is a catwalk that overlooks the whole exhibit with dinosaurs suspended from the ceiling and also just tall enough that you can look them eye to eye. Declan was mesmerized! We went back out to the lobby and were able to meet up with my friend Natalie and her daughter Keya which was great because she is about 7 years old and really interested in walking around with Declan. We went back to the dinosaur exhibit and walked around the Museum for probably 2 hours. I don’t think anything quite captured Declan the way the dinosaurs did but he was pretty interested in the massive Blue Whale that they have as well as the hands on exhibits that they had.

We made our way over to the Science Museum and saw planes, cars, trains and old steam engines that the kids just used as climbing devices. We grabbed a quick lunch and continued on for a bit before decided that it was too nice a day to be stuck inside. We made our way to Hyde Park and the wonderful stretches of green grass which were so verdant compared to the dead brown we had at home. We walked the length of the park and into Kensington Gardens where the Diana Memorial Playground was. The remarkable thing about this park is that it is built around a massive pirate ship that the kids can climb all over. And I mean ALL over! I remarked to Natalie that you would never see that at home. The first time a kid fell the Parks Department would be sued and the ship would be tore down. The kids were in heaven climbing all over the place.

Lucky for me, Natalie brought her camera along and took some lovely shots of Declan and I which I am attaching to this post. She captured some great ones. THANKS NAT!

Eventually we had to take leave of our friends and Declan was pretty crushed that he couldn’t play with Keya anymore. She actually protected him from some kids who were kicking his sand castle in the hull of the pirate ship. She was so good with him and gave him such a great run throughout the day. Declan has since asked if he can play with Keya again some time. I hope he has that chance.

The weather was fantastic for us on Monday and we took our time meandering back to the flat for a bit of a late meal. After that it was in bed to watch Wall-E before we both passed out.

England Day 3!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my vacation with Declan was the opportunity to get to know my son a bit better. I was able to really see what a remarkable little guy we have. On Day 3 of our trip we went to Blue Water mall near Dartford to visit with some of our extended family.

We arrived at Greenhithe and were met by Rhiannon and her boyfriend Maurice who then took us to the mall to meet everyone else. Maurice was awesome with Declan and they got into a conversation almost immediately about Optimus Prime! You can tell Maurice is comfortable around kids and I think he genuinely enjoyed talking to Declan.

When we got to the mall it was short hop to Pizza Express (amazing pizzas!) and waited for the rest of the crew to arrive. Eventually we were joined by my Aunt Pam, Cousin Meghan (Rhiannon’s sister), my cousin Daniel and his boys Charlie and Isaac as well as his Mum Shelley.

It was a big table of family! There was a lot of catching up and anecdotes about family exchanged throughout our meal and then we decided to go outside and let the kids have a stretch. The mall has a great little play area that we let the boys run around for about an hour. Declan loved playing with Charlie and Isaac and still talks to me about that afternoon and how much he had with his cousins.

It was great to see my Aunt Pam as I haven’t seen her since I was around 6 years old. I have fond memories of meeting her when she visited Canada with my Uncle Mike. She was great with the boys and bought them all a round of ice cream after they played.

The day seemed to run incredibly fast and Declan and I had to get home, but not before he bought himself a little present. He had been given some pocket money to spend on himself and decided he wanted to buy a plane. We found one after some searching and he immediately asked that I open it up so that he could play with it. He has it in his playroom at home now and flies it all over the house. Brilliant day had by all!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Of Riots and Trains and Wonderful Days

Day 2

An early morning for us both as we slept from around 9:00pm until 8 in the morning. The day before had worn us down significantly. Saturday was going to be an exciting day for two reasons. One was that we were going on the London Eye and the second big deal was Declan was going to meet his Great-Grandma for the first time.

Heading to the tube at Victoria Station Declan stated to get excited about the idea of being on trains. We quickly developed a strategy for getting us both through the gates since they required me to carry him through. I would give him the Oyster Card and he would scan us through. It was great teamwork and he was so happy to be helping. A quick jaunt to Embankment and we got out to a large crowd with placards, flags and buttons. Apparently we had just found ourselves in the middle of the largest protest to hit London since 2003.

We naively continued on our way across the bridge to the Eye amidst loud groups of people and roving bands with drums shouting slogans. We arrived at the Eye, checked in and thankfully there was not a terribly long line. Once on the Eye we stood at the one end of the pod and watch London rise before our eyes. It was gloomy out which we expected and all of our pictures show the fog that was in effect that day, but we really enjoyed the half hour just watching out the windows. Declan even said at one point, “I can see the whole world Daddy!”. Not the first time he would say it on the trip but definitely one of the cutest.

Once we were done it was time to make our way to Charing Cross Station so that we head to Sidcup. However, once we arrived at the footbridge to cross the Thames we were met with a police barricade and the information that the bridge was closed and that we would have to walk to Waterloo Bridge to get across. It wasn’t worth the extra walk so I decided that we could just go to Waterloo Station and get on the train from there. In hindsight I am glad that I did. I saw some pictures of the Victoria Embankment on the news and it was absolute bedlam. I don’t know how Declan would have handled that.

I have been to Sidcup for three stays over the past 10 years and it hasn’t changed at all in that time. The walk from the Station to my Grandmother’s took about 20 minutes and Declan just spent that time walking on grass and low garden walls.

Upon arrival at my Grandmother’s she was waiting at her door at the end of the hallway and Declan ran to her and gave her a hug. Probably the most heartwarming part of the whole trip. This trip was originally planned as an opportunity for Declan to meet her and he was amazing with her. We also were joined by my cousin Rhiannon who I met once when she was about 3 months old. It was truly great to be able to catch up with my Grandmother and meet Rhiannon as an adult. Declan took to them both immediately and spent a good portion of the time exploring “Great-Grandma’s flat”.

I have only really seen my Grandparents on a handful off occasions over my life as they have lived either in England or Australia for the entirety of it, but I can honestly say that I have always felt calm around my Grandmother. I find that she exudes calm and even when she is cross never really raises her voice. I have always found her presence to be comforting and I see that my son picked this up immediately as well. I will always treasure that afternoon.

We had a nice light lunch and spent the afternoon in conversation. I was able to log into Skype and have a call with Andrea at her parent’s house and Grandma was able to see Rhys sleeping in his bed there which she seemed to really enjoy.

It had been a long day and we decided to head home around 5ish. We had watched the news and found out that parts of the West End had actually experienced some good old fashioned rioting so we decided to forgo the regular route and had Rhiannon drive us to Dartford so that we could take a train directly to Victoria Station. Good idea in the end I think.

We ended the night at a restaurant called Giraffe where we had a short meal because Declan was so incredibly tired. He started to get a bit fussy, which I can’t blame him for and decided that he was not happy with the pasta that they brought him. We ate a bit and then just went home and crawled into bed. We watched Wall-E for about 5 minutes and he was out like a light. What a great day.

TOMORROW: Bluewater Mall to meet more family.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Vacation Day One

It’s been about 3 weeks since we returned from England and I wanted to take some time to actually reflect on the trip before I put it on a post. This was a huge event for both Declan and I. I was absolutely terrified as I have never been fully responsible for him with no real means of support and I was convinced that at some point I would do something horribly wrong (such as lose him somehow). Luckily this never came close to occurring. I am sure that it has more to do with the fact that he is such an absolute joy and an amazing kid than my tremendous skills as a Father.

Day One:

We arrived at the airport with Andrea and Rhys and waiting in line to check in. Andrea and Rhys stayed with us up until Security and I must admit that once we said our good-byes and gave our hugs and kisses I became a bit emotional. This was Declan’s first big trip and it felt wrong that I was going to be doing it alone with him. I wanted Andrea there to witness it all as well. Declan, not so much, he was just excited to see the “DC Airplane” (I found out that this is from a show that he watches called Mighty Machines. They show kids what goes on at places such as airports and they named one of the planes DC as it was a DC 10. Now all planes are DC airplanes!).

Security was a breeze and he was great with the scanner and everything. He was slightly worried about his carry on luggage as they took it to scan it but I told him that would be given back. Once he received it he was greatly relieved and we continued on. The departures lounge was great because he could see our plane and watch it being fueled and readied. We had to wait for about an hour and a half and killed time by Declan playing on my laptop. We were allowed to board first since I had a child with me which was convenient.

Once on the plane we settled in and waited for the imminent take off. Declan was reluctant to have his seat belt on and wanted to just play with the buttons on his seat arm but he calmed down pretty quickly. Once we actually went down the runway the excitement kicked in with a joyous “We’re flying Daddy!”

The flight itself was totally uneventful. We watched movies, talked and then he slept for about 4 hours which was what I was hoping would happen. We landed in London at 5:50am local time and luckily I was able to wake him up so that he could walk to passport control and luggage returns. I was congratulated by a number of passengers who marveled at how well behaved he was through the whole flight. I was incredibly proud of him.

At passport control they carefully scrutinized our documents as I had his Passport, Birth Certificate and a document that Andrea and I signed allowing me to take him out of Canada. We got our suitcase and made our way to the Gatwick Train Station and got our tickets for the Gatwick Express into Victoria Station.

I was amazed at how familiar everything felt immediately. I felt comfortable with purchasing what was needed without looking like a tourist which was nice. We got to London after a 30 minute train ride. Victoria Station was exactly as I remembered it 6 years before when Andrea and I were there on a visit to Victor when he was living in town. I love the station and its’ surroundings. You get out and are right at the theatres where Billy Elliot and Wicked are playing.

A quick walk down Vauxhall Bridge road brought us to Hatherly Street where we were staying thanks to the incredibly generosity of some friends who allowed us the use of their flat. We were let in and given the quick tour as well as an idea of what was in the area that we may need which I was very appreciative of. Luckily that area is full of vibrant little boutiques and shops that fit the bill perfectly for two guys on vacation!

I hadn’t slept yet and decided that since it was around 9:00am GMT I should try and get some shut eye. Unfortunately Declan was wired and awake so I set him up with a DVD on the computer and he watched it in bed with me while I slept. I was wakened 2 hours later when he told me the movie was finished. Luckily I was able to convince him to sleep for a bit as well. We didn’t wake up again until 1:30 in the afternoon.

Full of energy and excitement we decided to go for a walk. It was 18 degrees and sunny so we had a fantastic day to start with. Being in Victoria meant we were only about 10 minutes walk from Westminster Abbey and Parliament so we decided to go that way and see what we could see. It was so nice to see flowers and trees blooming. When we left Hamilton there was 20 cms of snow on the ground so this was like the tropics for us!

I was able to get some really nice photos on that first day of Declan just walking around and looking at things. We went to the tube for the first time and I purchased our Oyster Card for the rest of the week so that we didn’t need to worry about change ever. I started feeling like we belonged as soon as we had that because it is what everyone uses in London to get around. We took the tube a short distance from Westminster to Embankment and Declan got his first look at the “Big Ferris Wheel!”. The London Eye.

A quick jaunt up the stairs and across the Golden Jubilee Bridge brought us to the South Side of the Thames and face to face with the Eye. Declan loved seeing it and told me that it was just like the one at the fair (he was talking about the one at the fair in Erin that we attend every Thanksgiving). I agreed and asked if he wanted to go on it. He said that he did so we booked a flight on for first thing the next morning. We were both excited to do this.

We had a quick lunch and McDonald’s and then wandered aimlessly for a little which was great. It was interesting to see how he interacted with London. Everything became an obstacle to climb on or jump off of. Nothing was off limits as long as he wasn’t in danger of hurting himself or damaging property. I was fascinated to see how he viewed the City. It was one big playground for a 3 year old.

Eventually we decided to find a place to have dinner. We went to a restaurant called Garfunkel’s that was in the Victoria Shops attached to the Station. We just ordered pizzas and drinks and ate a bit and took the rest home. When we arrived it had been a long day and we decided to climb into bed, watch a movie and go to sleep. We were so tired. Day one was done and it had been marvelous. What a great start to our vacation.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ah Family, You Can't Pick 'Em Can You?

Family has been on my mind quite a bit lately. I mean extended family, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, Cousins.... the whole lot. This is partially because Declan and I are travelling to England in a week to meet some of my Family and I am excited but there is a undercurrent of concern there as well. You never know what you are going to get. The Canadian side of my Family are outsiders with the English side. This is through no malice or forethought I am sure but through separation. We aren't a part of the everyday goings on of life in England so we are not part of some of the petty arguments are the large issues that are unresolved.

As such I feel I have to delicately map out the time that I have to try and insure that there are no slights. Please don't misinterpret that I think my coming is a major event for anyone, I am sure that it isn't. It is just an honest effort to see my Grandmother and have her meet her Great-Grandson. I don't want to create any problems.

I have cousins that I have never met and we are all adults. I think that is preposterous. I have had more contact with cousins in Australia than I have had with some in England. That is preposterous and I want to try and fix that.

I find the same issues with Family over here. We attended an event last night and I found myself calling my Mother to find out who was attending and who wasn't so that I could be prepared for any cold shoulders that may be turned my way. None of the invited guests were of the cold shoulder variety and all in attendance were incredibly happy catch up with us and see how our kids are growing.

This is what Family should be. I find it disheartening to think that you need to prepare yourself for an event of any kind in the anticipation of problems but I find it necessary nonetheless. I have been assured in the past that nothing would happen if certain individuals were in attendance but there always the discretionary, "if anything did happen it would be handled appropriately.". That unfortunately is not good enough. The fact that there are omissions in the invites speaks volumes at these events.

What am I getting at? I find it unfortunate that in the end events occur that require the elimination of relations with certain members of any Family. In my specific case I find it unfortunate that my children will probably not have the chance to know their full families. I however am also relieved that my children will not be subjected to the vitriolic and venomous confrontations that I witnessed growing up. No family is perfect, we all have little ugly secrets that we wish would stay hidden. When my children are old enough to start asking questions I won't hesitate to explain the reasons that I made the decisions that I made regarding the family that they met growing up. When they are old enough they can then make the decision to reach out to those family members if they so wish. Just as I am doing now.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

All Growed Up

In the past few weeks I have been looking at our old pictures and fondly remembering my teenage years. I had some truly great friends, many I have been able to keep with me over the years, and I realized the other day that well and truly we have all grown up. We have spouses, children, mortgages, car loans and all the responsibility that goes along with them. Some of my friends came to marriage and children much sooner than I did and I remember being shocked at how quickly it all happened for some.

Most of my friends got married while Andrea and I were dating and it gave me a really good idea of how to do it. I see couples with incredibly strong relationships all around us and that is encouraging. That's not stay that there are not struggles or difficulties but that is the ebb and flow of life.

I have watched with interest the families that have grown around us and enjoyed spending time at birthday parties and holiday gatherings catching up and seeing how everyone has developed. It is fascinating watching someone who you have been falling down drunk beside gently calming a crying child or patiently changing a poopy diaper.

Our kids are a reflection of who we are and from what I have seen we are doing alright.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Declan was being a bit rambunctious last night so I turned off his TV and pulled out some of our photo albums for him to look through with me. The original goal was to show him some of the sights for our upcoming trip to England and then I started actually looking at some of the pictures that we have and were able to keep safe from the flood.

It's funny to watch a 3 year old go through these keepsakes and not know what to do with them. He saw Andrea and I from almost 10 years ago when we got our first apartment and didn't understand that it was where we lived at the time. He saw Andrea's cousin Jacob as a baby and thought that he was Rhys because they actual do look alike. It was funny to see him recognize things that we were doing at the cottage with the kids before he came along as things that we do with him now. Seeing the Kincardine Pipe Band parade, making sand castles and going to the family reunion.

What shocked me were the pictures that I had totally forgot about. Pictures of Mike, Mike and I in Los Angeles after the infamous shaving cream fight (I don't think we ever did get all of the gel off the walls or the floor), and the pics of Saibal's wedding (which I attended after having a gig at a house party in the middle of nowhere on no sleep whatsoever). There are pictures of Andrea and me in Quebec City freezing our butts off but having a blast and also walking around rainy London with Victor (the day that we drunkenly decided to by a Louis Vuitton clutch!).

I showed Declan pics of me with my Grandmother and explained that we are going to go meet her in a month. He was slightly confused but honestly interested in who she was. I showed him my Grandfather's photo which is actually a picture of the last time that I saw him before he passed away. It was a wonderful meal with my family in England.

I was lucky enough to see my grandparents a handful of times over the years when they were able to visit us and was blessed with my Grandmother being able to come to out wedding. I am incredibly excited that she will be able to meet her first Canadian Great-Grandson and hope that maybe in a couple of years she will be able to meet her second one as well. I can't wait to have photos of those visits.

One of the funniest pictures was of me with blond hair. Declan had no idea who I was and didn't really believe it was me when I told him so.

It was interesting to see the pictures of our house from before we actually moved in. The reno work we did changed it dramatically for the better and I remembered all the help that our friends and family gave us to get it ready in such short order. Amazing when I think about it. We took possession of that house on December 1st, did the renovations for 2 weeks and then moved in on the 15th. We had our house warming party on the 17th which is madness! It was wonderful though.

I also realized that we are blessed to have so many photographs of our families. We have lots of Andrea's Grandmother at the cottage, lots of the Jacob, including the first time he stayed at our apartment (which ended up with me going to Andrea's parents at 3 in the morning because Jake had actually thrown up all over the place and we had no laundry facilities).

There is something marvelously simple about the photo album. I forgot how much I love opening them up. Something gets lost when you are just scrolling through the pictures on a computer monitor, you can't touch them, turn the pages, hear the binding on the spine crack. What I really found remarkable was that Declan sat there with me going through all of those pictures, asked the questions that he had about them and enjoyed the answers and the stories that I shared with them about them.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Snow Days!

The blast of winter that we got this week made me think back to when I was a kid. Winter was such an amazing time of the year for us. I lived in a townhouse complex which had a large parking lot that needed to be plowed during snowstorms. That plowing would inevitably create a massive pile of snow that we quickly turned into a rabbit warren of a snow fort!

This came with the obvious pleas from parents to be careful because we could be buried alive in the caves that we were building. They fell on deaf ears. We actually got to the point where we were reinforcing the walls and ceilings with small spray bottles of water. The frozen mist would strengthen the walls in our minds and render them safe. We spent hours digging in those snow piles until we were saturated and shivering but it was always worth it.

The other way we killed time in the winter was to go sledding. We lived across the street from a hill that was on the property of an old-folks home so it was dubbed Granny's Hill. No idea who first called it that but it stuck. The hill was large and steep and had a creek at he bottom of it. Many a time I watched friends end up in the creek soaking wet.

When the snow came down it was a given that the Hill would be climbed and ramps would be made. For the longest time we used Crazy Carpets and Flying Saucers to go down at unimaginable speeds. Hitting bumps and wiping out more often than not.

Then one day the GT Snowracer came into our lives. A sled WITH A STEERING WHEEL!! We would tow them up the hill and have races to see who could be the fastest. We were daredevils (and maybe a bit insane). Luckily our parents never came to Granny's Hill with us. It was generally the province of kids and teenagers. Our parents never new that we had side hills called Suicide (aptly named because of the incredibly steep slope, and chain-link fence at the end) and Roller Coaster (lots of bumps and dips).

As we got older the hill also became the place for us to learn the delicate art of BEERBOGGANING. Get a 2-4 and take it to the top, have a beer or two and go down the hill. Climb back up and repeat. Luckily the snow kept the beer cold.

Once in a while we would get some stick from the old folks in the home that didn't want us to have any fun but all they would do was yell from the windows. We were never actually told we couldn't be there.

I drove by a couple of weeks ago and noticed that some new developments had occurred on the hill. They have actually reduced the slope with infill from some construction in the neighbourhood, but there were still kids there having a blast. When the boys are a bit older I would like to take them to Granny's Hill and show them what Tobogganing can be.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Family Movie Night

One of the coolest things about Declan being the age he is has to be that he now has the attention span to watch a movie with us. Since we have been home we have had a few nights now were we get Rhys to bet and have time to watch a kids movie like How to Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me or Monsters Inc. and it has been so much fun. I love watching his face when something funny happens and he gets it! It makes me laugh so hard.

I also have to say that How to Train Your Dragon was an amazing movie! A bit risque at points for younger kids with the language but altogether a really fun and entertaining movie. I think that Declan got scared maybe one or two times at things that happened a bit fast or loud for him but nothing too bad and he still was talking about it days later.

This is the best time because he wants to cuddle and relax as the day winds down and I watch as he lays on the couch with Andrea and just nuzzles into her. You can actually see his eyes slowly closing and hear the change as his breathing slows and deepens. I don't get those moments since I generally am the one that has to be wrestled with or tickled or climbed all over. I only get the relaxing cuddle when he is REALLY tired.

Anyway, I am sure that in the next year when Rhys joins us on these evenings I will get some snuggles with one of them. Or maybe they will just fight over who gets the prime spot with Mommy. Oh well, at least I will have my couch to myself!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. So far Rhys, Declan, Andrea and Andrea's parents have all been hit with the flu. I am just waiting for my turn and believe me I am not looking forward to it! This years flu virus is brutal! It hits you like a truck and puts you on your arse for a day and keeps you feeling like rubbish for a couple more. It's incredibly how quick it hits.

Luckily Rhys and Declan bounced back pretty quickly and I hope that after a day of resting Andrea is feeling a bit better as well. I guess it's lucky that they cancelled my surgery after all. If they didn't who would be taking care of people at the sick house?

The best part is that they cancelled my surgery because the hospital was filled with too many people who are sick. They couldn't find a bed for me and have to cancel surgeries because people with the flu are overloading their system. Insane!

I got a call from the surgeons office yesterday and they want to rebook for about a month from now but they still can't guarantee that the surgery will happen. I am going to hold off until about March in the hopes that all the Sickies are done being sick and hopefully at that point I will be able to get a private room to rest in for a day or two!

Monday, January 3, 2011


Two days in and I realize that the biggest adjustment to being back at home is getting used to Rhys being mobile. When we left he was still just walking along walls and couldn't really pull himself up on his own. Now he is pretty much running and into EVERYTHING! It is going to take a while to figure out what he can get into and start Rhys-proofing everything.

It feels good to be home. To sit on my couch and watch my TV and sleep in my own bed. I am not sure if Declan is having a hard time adjusting because he keeps coming to our room at 3:00am and crawling into bed with us. Other than that he seems to be pretty happy to back at home with his own toys.

My favorite part at the moment is our heated bathroom floor. There is nothing better than getting out of the shower and stepping on a warm bathmat. I love it.

I get my big test tomorrow in fatherhood. Andrea is leaving for Vancouver for 4 days so I am going to be a single dad for a bit. I am terrified but excited at the same time. I have never had the boys for so long on my own and I am unsure as to how everyone is going to handle it. Pizza party here we come!

I am sure that we will survive and I will develop a new appreciation for single parents everywhere. If no one hears from me in a couple of days however, please send help.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Out with the old...

I really considered just putting together a note today on how awful the last year was. You know what, screw it, not gonna do that. It was a tough year for us but all in all I know that there are people who have had it much worse. I have to try and just be positive about it.

In the last year, Rhys learned how to walk and beat up his older brother. He has developed all kinds of hilarious expressions and his smile is infectious. Declan took amazing strides in his potty training and has become a remarkable young man. He is polite (though needs to be reminded at times) and is incredibly sensitive for a 3 year old. He charms people as soon as he enters a room which is wonderful to see.

Andrea and I have both weathered a storm that seemed to rage for a good portion of the year and I am convinced that we will come out of it stronger than before. Maybe a bit battered but all in all better.

I look forward and see changes for all of us on the horizon. The big one will be that Declan begins real school this autumn which should be traumatic for all involved. He has been at his current daycare since he was 11 months old and they have grown as attached to him as he has to the staff there. Rhys has come around to the whole idea of being in "school" after a slightly rocky start. Both of our boys enjoy their time there.

I hope that all of my friends have had a safe and happy holiday season. I am sorry that I was unable to see as many of you as I would have liked and hope that we are able to remedy that situation come this year.