Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Destination: Disneyland!

Today is the day that we put our not so bright plan into action. By the time this is posted, the boy and I should be well on our way to Disneyland to partake in the leap year celebrations. 24 hours of continuous Disney magic, interspersed only with short breaks to enjoy a few glorious Churros. I'm a little nervous about how it's going to go, since I'm already over-tired and I can't see myself catching up on my sleep in just one night, but it's too late to back out now and this is the perfect chance to teach my son the family motto: "What's the worst that could happen?"

Actually the part I'm most looking forward to is getting to spend some time with my boy. Since my Call of Duty skills aren't good enough to warrant any playing time with him, there's not as many real opportunities for adventure with my son as there used to be. A 60 hour road trip (Is it still a road trip if you fly?) which only has about 10 of the hours allocated for sleep sounds like a great chance to have some guy time. I'm sure we'll have some disagreements, like when I make him ride Mr. Toads Wild Ride because no visit to Disneyland is complete without a spin around the Wild Woods, but I'm willing to bet that the majority of the trip will end up as a positive memory.

The details of Disney's plans for the evening are beginning to leak out. The days activities are about the same as a normal Wednesday, but there's plenty of extra stuff being planned for the night shift. According to the Disney Parks blog there will be an extra parade at 10pm, a set of DJ's playing in Tomorrowland from 8:30 pm until 4am, Billy Hill & the Hillbillies are going to be playing from 11pm to 5am, and most importantly, there's an extra showing of Fantasmic at 1am! On top of all that there's going to be a bunch of characters dressed in their pajamas out all night, and the food and beverage department is bringing back a whole bunch of old Disney favorites that aren't on the menu anymore. We might not have to survive on Churros after all.

It's going to be a lot of fun, and I'll have plenty of details for you once we get back. If you can't wait that long, I'll be trying to update as often as possible on the More Kids Than Suitcases Facebook page. If you follow us there, don't be alarmed if your feed starts showing pictures of people trying to catch a nap on a Pirates of the Caribbean boat, and if the spelling and grammar start to suffer as the day progresses, I apologize in advance (although somehow I'm pretty sure you won't notice the difference from my regular writing). Wish us luck!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Strange Reasons People Live in Kelowna

You know those Cosmo quizzes they have? Things like "5 questions to let you know what you're man is thinking!" (You don't need five questions. We're hungry.) They should have a quiz like that if you plan to move somewhere. Something that can test out whether you and your new city are going to be compatible. My questions would go something along the lines of:

Does it almost never snow?
Is it near an ocean?
Does it have a major league sports team?
Is there a major airport?

That's what would be important to me if I was looking to move to a new city, so it's understandable that when Lori and I decided to move from Vancouver, which scores a perfect 4/4, to Kelowna, which scores 0/4, that we took some grief.

Of course some of that grief was because we told people we were moving to Edmonton. It's not that we were trying to do anything covert. The original plan was to move to Edmonton, so we packed up all our stuff and told the movers that we would send them the address in Edmonton to bring our stuff to. Then we went to Edmonton to find a place to live, but something didn't seem right. Our house search was futile, the weather was dreary (it was August, we weren't asking for miracles here), and the sales at the mall weren't very good. Basically it was a giant sign from the universe that Edmonton wasn't the right place for us at this moment in our lives, but since we'd already packed up in Vancouver, we needed to find a place to live. Thinking back on our drive to Edmonton, we remembered a pretty place that we'd driven through and decided that we would go back there and check things out. That's how we ended up in Kelowna.

Now I'll be the first to admit that "It was pretty" is kind of a dumb reason to end up in a city, so I figured I'd ask some other people how they ended up living in Kelowna. My not-so-random sampling of people I come in contact with every day (and thus, people who are most likely tired of answering my questions) proved that maybe Lori and I aren't quite as strange as it seems. Out of 100 people surveyed, the reasons for living in Kelowna were:

34 - Just liked it here
17 - Moved here for a job
16 - Always lived here
15 - Moved here for a boyfriend/girlfriend
8 - Moved to be near family
4 - Moved here for school
3 - Wanted to live in a small town
3 - Other

Obviously we're a city of fickle romantics. 34% of us just thought it seemed like a nice place and 15% of us came for love. These aren't exactly the statistics that great cities of industry are built on, but it does kind of explain the optimistic feel of the city. I don't know how much longer the people who moved here to live in a small town will be happy though. Unless you came from New York, I don't think Kelowna is going to qualify as a smaller city for most people.

The best part of taking this survey though, was finding out that people ended up in Kelowna for far stranger reasons than us. You see that category at the bottom that says "Other"? These are the people with the truly strange stories of how they ended up here:

"I came skiing with my buddies but at the end of the day they left without me. I've been here 8 years now."

"I took a job in Kamloops, but I thought it was Kelowna so I moved up here then found out I'd moved to the wrong city. I decided it was easier to find a new job than to move everything again."

"Technically, I don't live here. I'm housesitting for somebody while they try and sell the house, but I've been here almost four years now and the For Sale sign disappeared about two years ago. To be honest I wouldn't really know how to move out if I wanted to, as the guy who owns the house moved back to Calgary last year and I haven't heard from him since."

Those answers make my path seem downright normal, so I feel a little better about how we ended up here now. A quiz might not have pointed me to Kelowna as the ideal place for me to live, but it's worked out pretty well. Our lake is almost as good as an ocean, everybody up here roots for the Canucks anyways, and our airport is growing every year. There's just the little matter of that snow...

Friday, 24 February 2012

Disneyland is 1.96% of Life

I love Disneyland. I mean, sure, I love my son too, but he loves Disneyland so technically it's sort of a whole "love triangle" thing that we've got going on here, although I don't think that's what they mean when they use that term. Anyways, Tal has pretty much grown up at Disneyland. He started going when he was four...

and he's visited Disneyland at least once every year since. We did the math a little while ago, and Tal has spent 1.96% of his life at Disneyland. He's been at the park for pretty much all of the major holidays, including his birthday...

but he is missing one thing. Tal has never been to Disneyland in February. We've hit the other 11 months of the year, but because there's no holidays where we live in February, we've never managed to get to Orange County during the shortest month. That's going to change on Wednesday. I've mentioned our plans for Disney's extra day promotion before, and despite some questions of our sanity, we're still following through. Wednesday morning at 6am we'll be hitting the park and staying until 6am the next day. I've never considered starting to drink coffee more seriously in my life. If I survive I'm sure I'll have lots of great stories to share with you when I get back. If I don't make it....

I'm sure the boy will keep going. After all, this could be the day that puts him over 2%.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and Friday Daydreamin at R We There Yet Mom. If you didn't get here from one of those sites, you should really go check them out. There's people there who spend 1.96% of their lives in sensible places like school or asleep. I don't get those people.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Hotel is on Fire...Please Stay Where You Are

There's some great things about having a hotel room on a high floor. The views tend to be nice, the noise from the street tends to be minimal (although the current trend of putting a nightclub on the roof of hotels is minimizing that benefit), and if you're checking out at the same time as everybody else, you can actually get on an elevator since it starts picking up from the top. When I'm riding an elevator up to a high floor however, the thoughts going through my mind are a little less positive. They tend to center on things like "I really hope I don't have to get out of here in a hurry for an emergency, because that's a lot of stairs!"

I've only once had to leave my hotel room for a fire alarm (although I just missed an earthquake evacuation at another hotel) and sure enough, we were on a high floor. We were staying at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, up on the 25th floor, and as usual for Lori and I in Vegas, we had gone to bed long before all the party people. When you don't drink and you can't dance, there's very few places of refuge for you on the strip after midnight, so Lori and I usually turn in early and start the next day well rested. That meant that we were sound asleep when a light in our room started flashing. Then came the buzz.

It was LOUD!

I scrambled out of bed and tried to gather myself. These white lights above our bed were flashing on and off every few seconds, and this loud "Mwaaawwwppp" sound kept repeating itself. It took me a few seconds since I'm not the most focused guy first thing in the morning, but eventually I realized that it was the fire alarm.

So I sat back down.

Now in hindsight, I'm not sure what the emergency would have had to be in order for me to maintain the level of alertness that I'd achieved when the alarm first sounded. You'd figure a fire in the hotel that you're staying near the top of would be enough to keep the adrenaline pumping, but apparently nothing short of an attack by a marauding band of ninjas would have kept me on my feet at that point (and I sincerely hope they'd have a completely different alarm for that situation). A few seconds after I sat down, a voice came over a loudspeaker in our room.

"We have received a notification that a fire alarm has been pulled. We are investigating. Please remain where you are and await further instructions."

At three in the morning, that made perfect sense.

So I laid back down, or at least I tried to. The white lights were still flashing and the alarm kept going, so sleep didn't seem likely. Combine that with the fact that Lori had taken advantage of my leap from the bed to steal all the blankets (she did wake up, she just never got out of bed), and I decided that I may as well get organized. I gathered a few things just in case we actually did have to leave, but about 20 minutes later the voice came back on the loudspeaker and said "All Clear".  

I appreciate the fact that they had to do a thorough investigation before cancelling the alarm, but 20 minutes was long enough for me to wake up fully, so I left Sleeping Beauty to her roll of king size bed sheets and went downstairs to check out the situation for myself. I inquired about the alarm at the front desk and was told that somebody in one of the clubs thought it would be funny to pull the fire alarm. Drunk humor - I don't get it - but what it meant for me was that I was up for the day far earlier than planned. I decided that I might as well play a little video poker since I was up, and maybe Lady Luck would take pity on me for the way the night had turned out.

Thank you Lady Luck. Have I mentioned that I didn't sleep well last night either?

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

10 Rides to a Successful First Date at Disneyland

First dates are hard. You've finally gotten up the nerve to ask the girl of your dreams out, and by some miracle she said yes. So now what do you do? Dinner and a movie is ridiculously cliche and is going to make you look like you don't have a creative bone in your body. A coffee date doesn't exactly scream Captain Excitement, and a bar is where you go to get the date, not where you go on it. What you need is something that will make you look creative, exciting, and fun loving, all while putting your date in a great mood. Someplace like Disneyland.

Can you screw up a first date at Disneyland? It's hard. I mean, if your date ends up in a bad mood after a day in the Happiest Place on Earth, you've gone wrong in ways that I can't even begin to explain to you. That being said, there's definitely some attractions that will help you increase your odds of getting a second date. You can waste your time wandering aimlessly around the park and asking her what she'd like to ride next, or you can have a plan to gradually ramp up the intensity. If you want guaranteed closeness by the end of your day, here's the plan to follow:

Peter Pan: Starting here is perfect because most guidebooks will tell you that this is one of the rides you need to knock off early, so it doesn't look suspicious. The boats only hold two people, and it's a romantic sail through the clouds over old England. Avoid any references to the length of Tinkerbell's dress and this should be the perfect start to your date.

Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters: There's not a whole lot of scenarios where your date grabbing a gun ends well, but here's your chance to be a gentleman. You have two goals on this ride: #1 - Let her win, although getting blown out isn't good either. You want to lose by a couple thousand points, which should be easier to do than it sounds. #2 - Look good for the picture. There's not many first dates where you have a candid picture taken, especially not one that you can e-mail to yourself during the date, so make sure you know where the picture is taken (it's about three car lengths after you get out of the tunnel when the ride automatically turns you to face Zurg) and give it your best pose. If things work out, you'll be able to show your kids how good you looked on your first date with their Mom.

The "Keep it Close" rule doesn't apply with family

Monorail - Doesn't sound all that exciting does it? The trick here is to not just hop on the monorail, but to ask the attendant if you can wait for the private compartment. There's a separate car that requires a numbered code to be punched in, and when you get it to yourselves you feel like quite the VIP. That's not a bad feeling to impart on your date.

VIP? or just better removed from the general population?

Indiana Jones - It's time to start showing some testosterone, so you need to get a thrill ride in here. Warning: If you don't like spiders or snakes, this is probably not your best play. Of course, if your date doesn't like spiders or snakes, that might work to your advantage.

If she leaves mid-ride, your date's not going well.

Haunted Mansion - If your date's been on this ride before, then it's just a fun outing with 999 of your other-worldly friends. If she's never been on the ride, you've hit the jackpot as a slightly nervous date is one who wants to make sure she's not alone. There's nothing at all scary about the Haunted Mansion, but you really don't need to mention that until later.

Tom Sawyer Island - Alone time is hard to come by at Disneyland, but Tom Sawyer Island is the closest you can come. Even though you know there's 50,000 other people in the park with you that day, you'll probably never share this island with many more than 100 of them, and there's plenty of space to spread out.  Be careful though, as Jack Sparrow has been known to make an occasional appearance on the island, and believe me, you can't compete with Captain Jack.

Space Mountain - No, it's definitely not a romantic ride in the traditional sense of the word, but this one is really all about playing the odds. You've got a 50/50 chance that the ride is going to break down, which leaves you stranded in the dark while the attendants try to find the light switch. If it's your date's first time breaking down, this might leave her a little concerned, but you, of course, have read my instructions on How to be Evacuated from Space Mountain, and come off looking poised and in control.

Star Tours - It's time to increase the physical contact. Star Tours isn't really a super high intensity ride, but it does shake you around a bit so you have to hang on. The beauty of this is that the armrests in Star Tours aren't much wider than those in an airplane. There's almost no way to avoid hand contact unless you try to be one of those ultra cool guys who doesn't hang on to anything. Don't be that guy.

Big Thunder - This is all about the Goat Trick. Make sure that you're sitting on the left side of the car, and tell your date that about half way through the ride there's a goat chewing a piece of dynamite. Explain to her that Disneyland tradition is to put your hands in the air and then no matter what you do, don't take your eyes of the goat. Then get ready because momentarily, your date will be in your lap.

Astro Orbitor - Now for the pièce de résistance. If you've ever ridden the Astro Orbitor, you know why I've saved this one for last. The seating on this ride is what makes it the perfect end to an evening. The taller person sits down, and then the other rider has to sit between the first riders legs. This is fine when one of the riders is a child, but for adults it can be a little cozy. It's as if the ride attendant came over and forced you to cuddle. If you're the person in the back, there are some handholds for you, but it's probably just easier to hang on to the person in front of you. Maybe even wrap your arms around them if it gets a little bumpy up there. Safety first you know!

So now you're high up in the air overlooking Disneyland with your arms wrapped around your date. I can't walk you home any further than that. No seriously, I have no idea what you do after that. I've yet to come up with a blueprint for what you do on your second date, and since there's no more second dates in my future, you're on your own. Good luck topping your first date and let me know if that whole dinner and a movie thing works for you.

This post is a part of Wordless Wednesday over at Focused on the Magic. If you didn't get here from there, you should really head on over and check out some of the fantastic people that hang out there on Wednesdays. There's probably people there who have a clue what to do on a second date. I doubt any of us ever got a third date though. You pretty much have to be George Clooney to get that far.

Written by Steve Pratt

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Hunting for a Hotel in Washington D.C.

I've been working on getting a hotel booked for our Washington, D.C. trip, and believe me it's not going so smoothly. It's always hard to figure out where to stay in a city that you know nothing about, but apparently Washington makes it even harder by driving rates sky high during the week. Are these seriously the kind of rates that politicians and lobbyists are paying to stay in this town? There's definitely not going to be a call to bail out the Four Seasons any time soon that's for sure. Still, I need to find a place for us to sleep, so I'm going through the listings of what's available to us and applying our family's criteria to the options. What's our family's criteria you ask (and thank you for asking to help move this post along)? We have four things we look for when choosing a hotel. They are:

Location - How close is the hotel to where we want to go? This is important because truthfully, I'm lazy, and barring somebody mistaking me for a presidential candidate (sadly, Newt Gingrich seems like the most likely) there will be no limousine chauffeuring us around town. There's very few conveniences as nice as being able to stroll down the street from your hotel to wherever it is you're going in the morning. More importantly, it's extremely handy to have a short walk back at the end of the day. I'm not sure how it happens, but I always leave with lots of energy and empty hands, then come back completely drained with 7 or 8 shopping bags weighing me down. Trust me, you don't want to be carrying bags of heavily discounted clothing too far at the end of the day.

Price - Remember when I said I was lazy? Well I'm cheap too. It's a good thing I'm not single anymore because my E-Harmony profile would just suck (Everybody congratulate Lori on her great catch!). I'm pretty sure that price is a major consideration for anybody when booking a room though, and we're no different. What I do is choose the hotel I'd like to stay at, then find options that are cheaper and try to justify the difference. For example, a $25 a night difference is significant only if I'm staying a week or longer. At that small a difference I'll probably just take the hotel that looks prettiest online. For a $50/night difference I'm looking for something substantial to justify the higher priced hotel. Something like a suite upgrade or letting my kids re-enact the "I'm just a Bill" song from Schoolhouse Rock. At $100/night difference, I'd better be hearing the words "Good night Barack." as I'm drifting off to sleep.

Kids in Regency Club...before the smackdown.
Hyatt/Fairmont - Status is still king when it comes to choosing a hotel, so if there's a Hyatt or Fairmont in the area, they automatically get first look, especially if there's a Regency Club or Gold Floor available. Having a kitchen full of free goodies is incredibly helpful in keeping my budget in line. Just supplying five of us with free pop and cookies can probably justify most price differentials, never mind the breakfast, light dinner, or desserts. Most importantly, since we haven't visited D.C. before, none of the Regency Clubs have had to deal with my children yet so unless our reputation precedes us, we're still welcome there.

Promotions - If all else is equal, the scales can be tipped by adding a little something extra via a promotion. We've quite often booked a deal that included a food credit or tickets to an attraction that we'd like to see. Early or preferred access to places is also a good way to swing our business. It might take a little more creativity than that in Washington though. I'm thinking something along the lines of dropping a water balloon twenty stories onto the guy who introduced the SOPA bill in the Senate. That would almost guarantee our booking (and I suspect a lot of other people's as well).

So far the only hotel that's been eliminated is the Fairmont whose rates came in at over $800 a night. I'm thinking business must be pretty good for them in Washington right now, but that's too rich for my tastes. If anybody wants to recommend a good hotel in the D.C. area, I'd love to hear about it. Is commuting from the outlying areas a bad idea? Obviously it's much cheaper out near the airports than right by the White House. How is parking in the city? Can I travel in by transit without needing too much brainpower (and remember, we're talking about a pretty low bar here)? Any help you guys can give me would be appreciated. In return, I promise not to mention your name at the hotel (believe me, that's a good thing), not contact you on E-Harmony (an even better thing), and I won't miss with the water balloon when the SOPA guy walks by.

Monday, 20 February 2012

A Steady Rain - James Bond Vs. Wolverine

I'd be broke if I lived in New York City. I mean, I'm not sure if it's possible to be more broke than I am now, but if we assume a never-ending string of negative numbers is a possibility, then New York would probably find my budget needing a bailout of Greece-like proportions. It's not even the normal living expenses like food, shelter, and homeless guy money that would do me in. It's the entertainment. Every concert tour stops in New York. Every major sports league has at least two teams in the immediate vicinity, and of course, every play is trying it's best to get a slot on Broadway. As tempting as the others are, it's the Broadway plays that would spell my doom. In my far too rare visits to New York I've managed to see a few plays, but almost everything I've seen has been a musical. In fact, I've only seen one dramatic play on Broadway: A Steady Rain starring James Bond and Wolverine.

At least that's how I remember it. Others might remember the stars as Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman, but whichever way you look at it, it was not only my first dramatic Broadway play, but also my first star-fueled play. This added a few things to the regular routine that I was used to at Broadway shows, including scalpers trying to buy tickets outside the theatre (when they're buying singles, you know it's a popular show) and a mile long line to get in. This made little sense to me as the theatre only holds a little over a thousand people, yet I was sure at least three thousand had filed past us as we waited for the end of the line to catch up to where we were standing. Eventually we walked back about a block and joined the end of the queue, only to find still more people joining in behind us. I don't know if people were entering the theatre then going out the side door and getting in line again because it was so much fun or if there was another explanation, but apparently in New York they count things differently as they just kept letting people in.

Fortunately our seats were there and waiting for us when we got in. Now during the preview performances for A Steady Rain there had been an incident where somebody in the audience had forgotten to turn off their cell phone and Hugh Jackman had stopped the play and called the person out for it. This meant that I was entering this play with the words "Quiet as a church mouse" solidly ingrained as my mantra for the evening. I triple checked that my phone was actually powered off, then took my seat, right beside a man with one of the worst coughs I've ever heard. Now there's not much you can do about a cough, and he was trying hard to muffle it, so I just hoped for the best, but for some reason this gentleman decided that the dimming of the lights was his cue to start unwrapping cough candies. Once the initial applause for the actors died down, the only noise you could hear in the theatre was the crinkling of Halls being unwrapped. I wanted to lean over to him and whisper "Dude, did you not see the video? Don't piss off Wolverine!" but I decided to just lean in the other direction towards my wife. If Wolverine did come up to deal with the serial candy cougher, I was going to have a prime seat.

As a non-musical, A Steady Rain was certainly different from what I was used to. The entire show consisted of the two actors and two chairs. That's it. I'm assuming the rest of the ultra-high ticket price went to paying the two superstars twelve weeks worth of wages, which seems fair when you think about it. While I've had some dramatic plays catch my eye before, none of them ever appealed to me enough to sacrifice an evening in New York (or half my salary) to check them out. If the casting of two mega-stars meant sold out shows for the entire twelve weeks, then the actors deserved to get paid. Truthfully though, I might even have passed on this one if it weren't for Lori's adoration of Hugh Jackman, but I'm glad we didn't as it really was a well acted play. I mean once you got past the whole idea that claws were going to shoot out of Hugh Jackman's hands at any moment. Block that idea out and the rest of the evening was superb.

As we left the theatre we discovered that half of New York had decided to come and greet us. Well, they might have been there to try and catch a glimpse of Daniel and Hugh, who apparently had to run the gauntlet on the main street in front of the theatre in order to leave. I love the fact that there was no back door for them to sneak out, although it doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the fire safety of the building. I really wanted to wait around and see what Daniel Craig drove off in (It had to be an Aston Martin right?) but the night was still young and there was plenty to see. Of course they would have to be free things, as New York had managed to leave me broke after only the first day. I definitely could never afford to live here.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Oh Oh Moments

This weekend we celebrated my oldest daughter's birthday. It's hard for me to believe that my baby girl is almost a teenager as it seems so recently that I was carrying her around on my shoulders everywhere. That's probably the way I still see her in my mind. When my daughter is at home with the family, she seems like the same little girl that I've known and loved all my life. When there's a group of pre-teens though, little things start to show up that concern me. I don't mean anything that anyone other than me would need to worry about, but as her father, these are things that terrify me. I had a series of these "Oh Oh" moments this weekend, and so far I've managed to resist the urge to send her to her room until she's 25 (although if she's reading this, it's still under consideration), but I'm seriously thinking I may be under-reacting. Here's why:

Stupid "Can't bring a gun across the border" rules!
Cute Boys -  Ummm...what happened to "Boys are icky"? That really wasn't that long ago, so apparently the boys in my daughter's class have really cleaned up their act in the last year or so. Either that or the net has been widened, as the name I heard tossed around most last night was Daniel Radcliffe (who is way too old for my daughter). It's not all Hollywood and models though. About the only advantage to being the driver who has to take a van load of pre-teen girls home is that I get to eavesdrop on the conversations. You'd figure it would be pretty hard for them to forget that there's an adult in the vehicle since none of them are legal age to drive, but apparently I'm invisible in the drivers seat as the names of the "cute boys" were tossed around liberally on the trip. While I'm not thrilled to know that there are cute boys, I'm at least glad to know their names so I can keep an eye on them.

Oh yeah...I embarrass you....
I Embarrass You? - We took the girls to see Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and it seems that my daughter is now too old to sit near her father. Not too old for me to buy the tickets, but definitely old enough to be as far away from her parents as possible. Actually the negotiations didn't start there, as originally Lori and I weren't deemed cool enough to even see the same movie as the girls, but since we were the responsible adults for this outing (or as Lori says, she was the responsible adult) that wasn't happening. We settled on same theater, different rows and sections, and once I delivered the popcorn and drinks, I wasn't to hang around them, speak to them, or do anything that might embarrass them. Of course they then proceeded to laugh, giggle, and generally draw more attention to themselves than I ever could have. I don't really understand the logic, but I suspect that there may have been some of those "cute boys" in the theater.

Ok, maybe not too much fashion sense...
The Clothes - This isn't a rant about short skirts and low cut tops. I'm very grateful that my daughter has very moderate tastes when it comes to clothes, and so do her friends. What does amaze me though is the depth of knowledge that these girls have when it comes to clothes, particularly accessories. Comments like "Oh this is perfect for your skin tone" or "This matches your eyes just right" served to do nothing but confuse me (Who matches things to their eyes anyways?).  When I was in middle school, I was completely oblivious to what the girls were wearing, so now I wonder if the girls back then actually spent time planning their wardrobe every day. If they did, I probably owe them an apology for not noticing, although I'm pretty sure they were all out to impress that Glen Trainor guy and not me.

This should solve our issue....
Perfume? - I was watching my daughter open one of her gifts and I saw her pull out a bottle of perfume. I kind of winced and hoped that she would have the grace to smile and say thank you for a gift that she didn't really have any use for, only to find out that it was the exact perfume that my daughter had requested, and in fact was very near the top of her list of things she wanted. Really? I've never noticed my daughter wearing perfume before (of course, I've never noticed Lori wearing perfume before either, and I know she does). More importantly though, who is noticing my daughter's perfume? It better not be any of those cute boys, or we're going to have an issue.

The Language - Not bad language. My daughter knows better than to use any of that, but I found myself getting constantly corrected for using improper adjectives. Apparently you don't say "awesome" anymore, it's "epic" and actually epic might have been dated too. I was only catching snippets of the conversation while paying a modicum of attention to the other cars on the road, but what I was hearing didn't make it an easy conversation to follow. When it takes more than a few seconds to decide if the word was meant as a positive or a negative modifier, then teen English has probably passed you by. Fortunately some of the words have stayed the same over time. Words like allowance, shopping money, and Daddy's credit card. As long as we have those words, there's still a basis for Father/Daughter communication.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Re-enacting Lady & the Tramp - The Old Spaghetti Factory

My wife is a bit of a Disney fanatic. I've known this from the day we were married, and if I didn't know it then it was hard to miss on the day as she walked down the aisle to a song from the Lion King. Now to a lot of people, this obsession with all things Disney might seem a little weird, but I've found that it comes in handy. Let's take romance for example. I'm not super creative when it comes to matters of the heart, but with Lori, I don't have to be. Whenever I need a few more points in the romance category, I just steal an idea from a Disney movie. It's not going to send my creativity score through the roof, but we all know that romance outranks creativity on the Woman's List of Desirable Traits in a Man. Unless they've changed the list again. It's not like they tell me when they do.

So last night was date night, and I decided that my romantic ranking could use some improving. The question though, is which movie to steal the idea from. I considered Cinderella, but pumpkins are out of season right now, and even if I could find one I don't have access to a Fairy Godmother. Toy Story had some cute moments, but I never really figured out that whole Woody/Buzz/Jessie/Bo Peep love quadrilateral. No, when it comes to romantic Disney moments, there's really only one that stands out above all others - the Italian dining scene from Lady and the Tramp, and I had the perfect plan.

Kelowna recently got it's very own Old Spaghetti Factory. It's the 13th location for this B.C. based chain, and it seemed like the perfect place to re-enact the romantic dinner from Lady and the Tramp. I had visions of Lori and I snuggled in a corner table, candlelight flickering, and sharing a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. I highly doubted that an accordion player would be available, although how cool would that have been, but even without somebody singing "This is the night.." to us, you'd think that there wouldn't be too much I could do to mess this up.

We all know better than that though don't we. When I say that Kelowna "recently got" an Old Spaghetti Factory, I mean it opened about ten days ago. New things are popular where I live, and we arrived at 8pm to be told that it would be about a 35-50 minute wait (It was 40. Points for accuracy.) for a table. Waiting isn't really romantic, and I considered adopting Tramp's technique of just barking loudly until I got what I wanted, but I figured that might not go over too well in this situation. Besides, any time spent with my baby is good time, so we settled in for the wait.

You know what really adds to a romantic evening? Bringing your kids. Our oldest daughter was at a birthday party that was supposed to end at 9:30 which we figured would give us plenty of time to have dinner before picking her up. The party ended early however, and when you pair that with the wait for a table, it meant that my daughter got dropped off at the restaurant just as we got seated. OK, that was going to make the romance a little tougher, but maybe she could play the accordion or something. There's probably an app on her iPod for that. This could still work.

When you order a meal at the Old Spaghetti Factory, it comes with Bread, Soup or Salad, and Ice Cream. Of course when I say "comes with", I don't necessarily mean at different times. Our bread, appetizer, and main course all came within five minutes of ordering. Sure, the first two entrees weren't actually the ones we ordered, but we were still two courses behind, and our server realized the mistake before we did. By the time we'd gotten through our soup, the corrected order had made it's way to the table with perfect timing.

Now for those of you considering an attempt at the Lady and the Tramp romantic evening, let me give you a few pointers:
#1 - Don't tell your wife in advance that you're taking her out for dinner. I did this, so my wife didn't eat all day. She was starving by the time we were seated thus eliminating any chance of us sharing a plate of pasta. The odds of ending in a kiss when you're both eating pasta from separate plates, are slim.
#2 - If you are sharing a plate of pasta, don't order sauce. In the movie the sauce splatters all over the place when the dogs are eating the pasta, but then it magically disappears. It works very differently in real life.
#3 - If your plan is to re-enact the meatball sharing scene from Lady and the Tramp, actually order a dish that includes meatballs. I forgot this, and was left facing the prospect of rolling a mushroom over to my wife with my nose. It didn't seem like a winning idea.
#4 - If all other romantic plans fall apart, order an extra piece of cheesecake for dessert. That pretty much fixes everything.

You know what you don't see in Lady and the Tramp? You never see Tramp having to look at the bill. In the movie it's "Ona da house!", but in real life, you have to pay for your attempts at romance. Fortunately, at the Old Spaghetti Factory, you don't have to pay too much. Our bill was $42 for bread, drinks, appetizers, entrees and ice cream for three people, plus an extra piece of cheesecake. That's a pretty good deal, and it pointed out to me that while my evening might not have gone as planned, the Old Spaghetti Factory really is a great place to re-enact a moment from Lady and the Tramp. Just think more towards the end of the movie when they're trying to figure out how to feed all the puppies. This is the perfect place for that scene.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Hockey Night in Phoenix

I love being a Canadian, and as a Canadian, I'm legally required to love hockey. Seriously, it's in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights or something like that. We're required to listen to Rush, eat poutine, and love hockey. As far as patriotic duties go, it's not a very challenging list, but up here in the Great White North, we take it pretty seriously.

The problem is that live hockey in Canada is expensive. Really expensive. You want to know how expensive? The sharp-eyed among you (or those of you capable of reading the title) will have noticed that the above picture was taken in Phoenix. That's because a while back we discovered that it was actually cheaper to fly to Phoenix and see an NHL game than it was to try and buy tickets to see the Canucks play in Vancouver. This gives us a great excuse to visit one of our favorite cities again (and sleep on the couch of one of our favorite couples) while fulfilling our obligations as Canadians. Of course the Phoenix arena doesn't sell poutine, and I've never heard any Rush played during the breaks either, but I can listen to music at home and even though it's only February, I'm pretty sure I've already eaten my 2012 quota of poutine. You may consider me a true patriot.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and Friday Daydreamin at R We There Yet Mom. If you didn't get here from one of those sites, you should really go check them out. There's people there who don't eat poutine and think Tom Sawyer is a book. We can go ahead and feel sorry for them now.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Sicamous, Surprise, and Spring Training

You wouldn't think that attending baseball spring training would be very high on my to do list. Where I grew up it was all about hockey. That's what you did from the moment you got home from school until your Mom yelled for you to come in, and then for about another 10 minutes after that while Mom wondered if you heard her or not (See kids...there's some disadvantages to technology too.). The extent of my exposure to baseball was my Dad's annual work baseball tournament that we had to attend in Sicamous, British Columbia every Labour Day weekend.

Now Sicamous (It's pronounced "Sick-a-Moose". I know, I know...I didn't name it) is a nice place, but it's probably the reason that I wasn't fond of baseball for the first 30 years of my life. You see, Sicamous averages 18 inches of rain annually, 75% of which fell between our arrival to and departure from town each year. My memories of baseball are all of muddy fields and soaking wet clothes. Throw in the one year that Dad thought it would be a good idea for us to bring a tent trailer up instead of staying at a hotel, and you can imagine how much I looked forward to this weekend every year. Essentially I just tagged along and wished that my parents would have left me at home.

Fast forward 30 years. I'd already recovered from the tent trailer incident enough to give camping another shot, so now it was time to give baseball another go. This time though, I was doing it in 90 degrees weather on perfectly manicured fields. Surprise, Arizona (I didn't name that one either) is where the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals conduct their Spring Training camps, and it's also just down the road from the house of my good friend. This meant that not only did my kids have perfect weather and comfortable accommodations for their first exposure to baseball, but they had a private pool to relax in after a day of basking in the sun and playing in the fields alongside some of the best baseball players in the world. To me, this seemed like a no-brainer winning situation. So why did my kids have that same "Why couldn't Dad have left us at home!" look that I was sporting 30 years ago?

It's a mistake I've made before, and unfortunately one that I'll probably make again, but I forget that just because I'm interested in something, doesn't mean everybody is as excited about it as I am. Baseball is a great sport; the finesse of throwing a hundred mile an hour fastball to an exact location over a 17 inch wide plate, the raw power and brute force of a swing designed to send a ball hundreds of feet in the opposite direction from the one it's traveling, and the gazelle like speed and grace of players trying to catch balls in positions that would easily qualify them for Cirque du Soleil's next show. There's a ton of artistry to the sport, but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that it can be a little slow at times and downright boring on occasion. Watching groups of players rotating around four different fields in order to practice such riveting things as base path running or ground ball fielding is something best left to those who truly follow and understand the sport. For my kids, it was leaving them with the same impression of baseball that I'd formed at their age, although at least they didn't have to wade through a foot of mud to get it. We stayed for a couple hours, but eventually we decided that the "training" part of Spring Training was probably best left to the diehards.

There's two parts to Spring Training though, and the next day the boy and I headed out with our friends to take in an exhibition game. This is where you want to be if you're anything lower than a complete baseball fanatic. We bought tickets to sit on the grass hill in the outfield, but the stadium was half empty so we were free to roam about throughout the game, and since it was a minor league stadium you had a perfect view of the game no matter where you went. For a while we stood over top of the bullpen where the Kansas City Royals pitchers were warming up, and on occasion the players would even talk with the fans who were hanging around (although to take the conversation any deeper than "Throw me a ball?" you'd better know some Spanish). There was even a merry-go-round set up on one concourse to entertain the littlest of fans. It was the most relaxed atmosphere I'd ever experienced at a sporting event, barring that time I fell asleep at a soccer game (which wasn't good as I was playing midfield), and an absolutely perfect way to enjoy a baseball game. This is the part of Spring Training that you want to bring your kids to.

So what will my kids tell you about Spring Training if you ask them? The boy will tell you that the practice field was boring, but the game was okay because the concession had great stuff. My older daughter will tell you that the field was conveniently located across the street from a Ross outlet store, and my youngest daughter will give you a confused look and say "Oh, you mean that place where everybody was named Rodriguez?" (In her defence, there were eight players named Rodriguez in one group. You might want to split them up a little.) It's not quite the glowing impression I was hoping they'd leave with, but it's still better than the rain, mud, and tent trailer outings that I endured. On the other hand, nobody in Surprise asked me to pitch an inning while they finished their beer. You could count on that almost hourly in Sicamous.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Hunting for Ducks, Boars, and the Best Airfare

Getting the lowest airfare is a point of pride for most of us. There's nothing worse than finally deciding the price is right for an airfare you want and making the purchase, only to see it drop further next week. It's like being a member of a caveman hunting party and triumphantly returning to your village with a duck for all to enjoy, only to find that Atouk over there was bringing back three wild boars and a side salad. Your duck is still pretty good, but you just want to slap Atouk upside the head.

This is where I found myself over the last week. It was time to book something for Spring Break, and no screaming deals had presented themselves to me as of yet. My plan had centered around going to Texas, and I'd begun to do some research on activities and hotels in the area. I'd even gone as far as to set up a Pinterest board for Texas so I could keep track of everything I was considering in the least manly way possible. The sticking point was the airfare. I had a price of $89 in my head for Seattle to Houston, and around $99 if we were flying in to Austin. These are the kind of prices that I'd noticed showing up during sales in the past, so I was patiently waiting for something in that range, but nothing was coming. In fact, prices were starting around $119 and were even higher on the days that I would have liked to travel. Those aren't duck prices...those are scrawny, malnourished, died from old age before you could catch it, rabbit prices.

Still, I was running out of time, so I was trying my best to make something work. Then yesterday, a member of my hunting party (otherwise known as cdavis5711 on the Flyertalk boards, although cdavis is a terrible caveman name) spotted a boar. A really fat boar. Now this boar wasn't headed to Texas. This boar was spotted in Spokane, Washington and, like all well-fed pork bellies, it was headed to Washington, D.C. Better yet, it was headed to D.C. on the days I'd like to travel. Best of all, and what qualified it as a boar, was the cost - $63 each way plus about $20 in taxes. I readied my spear (which is flat, rectangular, and has the word VISA on it) and within minutes I was headed back to the village with my own boar. Take that Atouk!

Now I'll admit that we're not talking about an apples and oranges comparison here. If you really had your heart set on going to Texas and enjoying that extra 20 degrees of weather, then it probably wouldn't matter to you that Washington D.C. was on sale. That's not the way we travel though. There's very few places we're not interested in seeing at all, so if going one place can save us enough money to take another trip later on, that's what we're going to do. Texas will go on sale again another time, hopefully at boar prices, although lets face it...if anybody knows how to barbecue a duck, it would be the Texans.

My Caveman/Playoff Beard look
So Spring Break 2012 will see us visiting Washington. My knowledge of D.C. is limited to what I've seen on Disney's Cory in the House, and I suspect that they may have taken a few creative liberties in the filming of that show, so if anybody knows of any good resources for planning a trip to the Washington, D.C. area, I'd appreciate your sharing them with me. I'm going to start by making a new Pinterest board for the area and the first thing I'm going to do is put up Atouk's picture and ram a pin through his forehead. That ought to make Pinterest feel a little more manly to me.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Traveling with my Wife

It's Valentines Day, so you know what I'm thinking about....yeah, chocolate! After my sweet tooth is taken care of though, I'll be thinking about my wonderful wife. I write a lot on here about the traveling with my kids, but not very much about traveling with my wife. It makes sense I guess since the blog is called More Kids Than Suitcases not More Wives Than Suitcases (and somebody in Utah just registered a new blog name), but today in honor of Valentines Day, I want to look at what's different when Lori and I leave the kids at home and travel on our own.

I have to be in half the pictures - Neither Lori nor I like being in pictures. That's why we had kids, so we'd have somebody to stand in front of the things that we want to take pictures of. When our kids aren't with us, we have to improvise. We've tried using random kids in our pictures, but people get all uptight when you start trying to correctly pose their children in front of snorting bulls or near cliff edges. It's amazing how many people don't teach their children the rules of posing for pictures. What did they have these kids for anyways?

We stop a lot more - In specific, we stop anytime Lori sees the words "Sale", "50% off", or "Final Clearance!" She doesn't give me a lot of notice for these stops either. Traveling in the fast lane at 100 MPH doesn't excuse me from taking that exit seven lanes over because she's spotted a Ross store. The only time I don't have to slow down is when a sign with the word "Liquidation" appears outside an outlet mall. Lori's leaping out of the car at that point anyways, so I can just continue on and circle back around to find a parking space.

I'm not getting my Bacon Double Cheeseburger - No kids means no fast food. I know that for most of you that's a huge selling point, but I'm pretty sure that by this point my body is functioning solely on the grease it absorbs from take-out burgers. That doesn't sound healthy, but how often do you hear people talking about their bodies functioning like a "well-oiled machine"? Where do you think that oil comes from? You know that stiffness you wake up with in the morning? That's just your body telling you it's a quart low and you need to hit an In-N-Out drive-thru right away.

There's nobody to distract Lori - When we're in a hotel room with our kids, you can bet that there's something Lori is dealing with. Somebody needs something, clothes need to be organized, or there's an argument that needs to be settled. When it's just Lori and I, all the entertainment duties fall to me. Now I'm all for entertaining my wife in the hotel room (I throw sentences like that in just to get my kids to stop reading the blog and go back to doing their homework), but if I'm trying to catch the end of a game, there's nobody to keep Lori busy. This means she tries to watch the end of the game with me, and that leads to questions like "'Why don't they have green in their uniforms?" or "Have their pants always been so tight?" This wouldn't be so bad if my brain would just ignore the questions, but sure enough I find myself wondering "When did their pants get so tight?" Believe me, the rest of my day is shot right there.

I don't have to drive a mini-van - When we have our kids with us, renting a car isn't very exciting. For our own sanity we always book a mini-van and make sure that the kids don't have to sit right next to each other. When it's just Lori and I, we get to wander the aisles of the car rental place looking for just the right car. Lori hates this part because she knows what I'm looking for...the word "Hemi". Now I have no clue what a "Hemi" is, but I've seen enough commercials where people get beat in a drag race then pull up next to the car and ask "Have you got a Hemi in there?" to know that I want one. I'll take any car that has the word emblazoned on the back, no matter how silly or impractical it may be, and once I hit the road in my Hemi, everything is possible:
"Hon, I don't think you're going to make that light."
"Don't worry baby, we've got a Hemi!"
"I don't think we can park here."
"Of course we can. We've got a Hemi!"
"We're going to be late for the show."
"Ha ha ha....Hemi!"
I'm going to be really disappointed if one day I find out that Hemi refers to a certain brand of windshield wipers or something stupid, but for now all I need for my life to be complete is for somebody to build a mini-van with a Hemi in it.