Stepdad – Nightmares

Where Evil Lurks

exorcistThere are things from which nightmares are made of. Spooky clowns. Demonic, vomit-spewing children.  And kid’s birthday parties. Sometimes, all three at the same time.

So it was that I went with some concern, nay fear, to my first kid’s birthday party where I had to do more than just show up and look pretty.

This time I had to help out. This time I had to make sure all (or at least most of) the kids came home. This time I had to make sure the whole party didn’t disintegrate into mass chaos and destruction which would appear on a youtube video with me in the background in a fetal position, crying.

For the party venue we’d chosen a rock wall climbing gym (and by ‘we’, I mean the birthday boy, our Youngest, soon to be age 8). His first suggestion was laser tag, but when he went to another boy’s party and saw how cool rock-wall climbing could be, that’s what HE had to do, too.

So we chose The Rock Wall in Maple Ridge. We knew it had to be good. It was rock and wall in the name.

IMG_6382In all honesty, we loved his choice.  It could have been way, way worse. Like we could have had a party at our house. I think I would have been committed to an insane asylum after that. Next on my nightmare list would have been a restaurant. I imagined trying to control 11 sugar-filled spawns of entropy when there was knives and cake to be thrown. Yikes! I got a twitch in my eye that won’t go away just thinking about that.

But rock-wall climbing would burn off tons of energy, right? They’d be all docile and ‘yes, sir, no sir,’ kids, right?

Well, I’d worked years at Toys R Us, so I knew that the only way 8 year olds are docile is if they’re asleep and even then… So, realistically, as long as they’re awake, they’re little bombs on energy.

However, I had an ace-in-the-hole. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world had (obviously) done this before. Even better, she’d run events like this at McDonalds back in the day.

So this was not all on me. Not by a long shot.

But that didn’t alleviate the terror. Being a writer, I can always imagine the worst. A kid falls off the wall, the rope slips through the hands of the handler, splat. Or, the kids realize the power of numbers and gang up on the instructors, gagging and binding them, before setting fire to the place. Or a fight breaks out between the boys and they pull knives and dance to west-side story music.

Oh, it could be bad.

However, when everyone arrived, it was clear that some of the kids were scared to death. They had that pale, shifty look I get when I was called in for a tax audit. I think some of them imagined the worst as well. Maybe they’d seen Cliffhanger with Stalone? (Wait, hold on, only 6 people in the world saw that movie, so nevermind.)

IMG_6391But here’s the thing, here’s what happened to both the boys and myself. As the night wore on, we both became more and more certain that things were going to be ok. You could see it in the boys who found the courage to climb to the top. You could see it in me when I put my phone away with 911 pre-dialed.

In the end, much to the detriment of this story, everything went fine. Oh sure there was the usual, ‘don’t stuff icing up your nose’, or ‘what are your shoes doing in the garbage?’ or ‘ok, has anyone seen my keys?’

But it was fun.

A part of that, for me, was letting kids be kids. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world is so incredible at that. Like a little angel (the zen kind of angel you find on a christmas tree, not the avenging-angel-of-death kind.)

So it was ok that they dipped their pizza in sprite before eating it. It was ok if they didn’t sit down while eating (or kept to their assigned seat). It was s ok if they roared around on the mats, as long as the instructor remained in control. In fact, the instructors did a great job keeping the boys interested in climbing instead of trying to hang each other with the rope.

cupcakesEveryone had a great time, at least I think so. A lot of the boys overcame their fear and that always feels great. They had pizza. Pop. Cupcakes. They laughed and joked with each other. None of them sat still for more than 12 seconds (I timed it) and the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world did an amazing job of keeping everything fun and organized (and all without shouting at them once!)

Plus…all of them went home. Alive and mostly uninjured.

I count that as a win.

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Step-dad at Christmas

Tripping the Light Fantastic

calvin and lightsSo, last week, I’d begun the epic quest of getting lights up on my new house.

I’d never put up lights. I had to watch a video on how to do it. I generally watch videos on how to do anything for the first time. It’s that or ask someone. And asking someone is so 20th century.

Here’s what I learned.

I should never do this without proper supervision.

Here’s the top reasons why.

  • Never poo-poo a frosty roof. There was even snow on parts of the roof untouched by the sun. But I had to get to those parts. Lights needed to be put up. A smarter, more evolved creature would have waited a day or two. Not me. I had to get it done. People who end up in wheelchairs start a story like this.
  • I will push the limits of safety. So there I was, crawling over the peak of the frosty roof, clipping lights to the roof and I really, really wanted to get them clipped to the roof since I didn’t have a ladder long enough to reach the apex above the living room. So I lay down and inched over the peak, face-first, tummy in the snow, and clipped one more light on, then another, then inched down a bit more, then clipped another and another. I stopped when my face was close to the gutter with my feet clinging to the peak. My sphincter was so tight, I think I created a small black hole. But I didn’t slide off the roof and land face first. So, yeah, a win, right?
  • sealionI am not as limber as I think I am. Oh, not by a long shot. I had to climb onto the very top of the roof to, you know, get those extra cool lights up. I didn’t have a ladder that would reach, so I thought to myself, hey, you can haul yourself up, right big fella? Well I think a Magic Mike guy could have vaulted up the 4 feet, but me, I looked like a sea lion trying to wiggle his way onto some outcropping. I greatly fear that there is a youtube video the neighbours took of me flopping around.
  • jedi blow upsI can’t stop once I start. I think I went back 5 times to Canadian tire. Mission-creep becomes a real problem. At one point, I wanted a train, a projected image of Santa’s workshop on the garage, and a choir of dancing balloon-Jedi. Luckily they were out of all those things. So I just bought a lot more lights. I was pretty sure no one (yet) could see my house from space, and I meant to change that!
  • I don’t always make the best decorating choices. I even took the boys with me to help. I did manage to avoid a Christmas robot and we couldn’t find an Adventure Time blow-up, so we bought the epitome of a Christmas front lawn display. A giant, 8 feet tall dinosaur eating a present.


But after much swearing after I hung a whole string of lights with the pluggie thingee on the wrong end, after much time spent making sure all the lights were PERFECTLY straight, after retrieving my car keys that somehow fell out of my pocket and tried to hide on the roof, I finally had the lights up.

It looked great.IMG_3114

But the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world had learned her lesson. On the weekend, I wasn’t left to my own devices – we put up the tree lights together. There were no fires, no decorations that farted out God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, no rude gingerbread cookies, just a well decorated tree in the perfect home.

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Parenting – The Joy of Christmas Lights – Part 1

Putting Up The Lights



I wanted this to be the best Christmas ever. So, with our new house, I thought, hey, wouldn’t it be great to put up some lights.



I mean, how hard can it be? They have super nifty quick clips that clip quickly onto things like my finger or sweater or penis – not that I tried all three, but I’m sure it would work on all three. But the truth is, I’ve never hung lights before. On the house. Or the other three things.

So this should be fun. Right? Fun?

Here’s a video of them there lights…

So, a few things first. I would be the guy with the nails and duct tape. 2nd, that guy with the quick lights has a ladder that can actually reach his gutters. 3rd, they made this look all accident-proof. It is not. I should make a more accurate video.

However, my first real challenge was actually finding the lights. I went to Canadian tire, where they should have had like, billions of boxes of lights, but no, no they didn’t. They had an empty pallet and a very grumpy grandma pawing at it like she thought there were more buried under the pallet. I had the boys with me, so we all went on an eagle-eyed search for them.

Nada. The Youngest did find 10 more things for his Christmas list, but no warm bulbs with the quick clips.


I ended up going back the next day, after the night-restocking and scored 3 sets before the shopping piranhas descended again.

Joe -1.  Forces of chaos and Entropy – 0

cavlin and hobbs christmas lightsSo it was, with a tangled mass of bulbs and wires that I went out into the frigid afternoon and began to clip the lights on. It took a bit of time, but man, those clip-ons are the bomb. I could even do it with my small ladder. However, I had MASSIVELY underestimated just how many strings of lights I would need.

The house was half done. Ever see a house half done?

It looks like it’s had a stroke.

I wanted it to be the most amazing light display of all time. Instead when the Youngest saw it, he looked at me like I’d had fallen on my head, and the Oldest patted me on the back and said, You’ll get it right next time.

Joe – 1. Forces of Chaos and Entropy – 1.


I had to get more lights. So I used that old fashioned device we like to call a telephone. I made the clerk check twice, poor thing, because if I was going to drive out to Surrey, if I was going to brave the people turning right from the left hand lane or have someone roaring up on my bumper with a jacked up Humvee, then I need to know for sure they had my lights.

They said they did.

I had to ask again.

“Yes, I’m sure. I’ve check twice.”

“Warm color, right?”

“Yes. Warm color. I’m looking right at them?

“Right at the boxes? They are the big ones? Warm color? For sure?”

“Do you want me to get a manager?”

Ha, triumphantly I said, “No need. I’ll be there in a bit.”

So off I went.

Funny thing about the Surrey store. In Langley we have flyers pasted to the doors. Not pretty, but not bad. In Surrey, they have poorly pixellated shots of people who’ve stolen from them, defrauded them or, I think, asked the clerk to check for light bulbs twice.

But they had what I was looking for. 6 boxes. That would have to be enough. Right?

I brought them home, I set up the ladder so I could access the roof – I had to access the roof, and I stood at the bottom of the ladder, the tangled lights wrapped around my arm, and stared up at the frosty roof, partially covered in snow.

What could go wrong?

More tomorrow.


In the meantime, how have you risked your life for Christmas?

As always, if you love the blog, (or hate it) or just want to get snarky emails from me all the time, please follow or share in Facebook or make a poster of your favourite post and put it on your ceiling above your bed.


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Stepdaddying Adventures – The Power of TV

How the Big Bang Theory Has Changed Our Lives.

the-big-bang-09Now understand, I’m not talking about the actual theory, which I believe involves the creation of the universe and Angelina Joli. No, this is about the TV show.

We thought it was safe to let the boys watch it.

It wasn’t.

I guess TV influences us all in one way or another. I used to play Star Trek with my brother where we flung ourselves around the bedroom, yelling at Scotty to give us more power. Or making sure I had the official Gilligan’s Island metal lunch box.

So here’s how BBT influenced us. (And by ‘Big Bang’, I mean Sheldon.)

  • Thursday is anything-can-happen-Thursday. It could be anything from an extra slice of ham in their ham and cheese sandwich, to a quiz in their lunch (about hockey for the Youngest or odd facts about spiders for the Oldest), to me forgetting to bring the water-bottle (Ok, let’s not lie here, that’s a pretty common occurrence.)
  • couchEach boy now has a special spot on the couch where the heat is just right in the winter and a breeze cools them off in the summer. How they have a different spot, I don’t understand, but whatever.
  • Sheldon can scientifically prove that girls are icky. They approve of this. It’s pretty much validates their entire view of the opposite sex. Sort of like me finding an article on the internet that said I could eat donuts and lose weight.
  • They have become super interested in Uranus. No other planet makes them giggle as much.
  • The boys want their own Flash costume, but only if it actually works.
  • vulcan helloBoth want to sit at home and send a robot to school in their place.
  • If we were a gang, our gang sign would be the vulcan live-long-and-prosper-thingee.

But hey, my friend named her Dog Bazinga, so I guess that show has influenced us all.

It could be worse.

dohThey have just discovered how awesome the Simpson’s is. Doh!


Does anyone else have a show that has influenced your family for good or bad?

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Steppingdaddying Around – The Proud Moments

You know, it’s funny what makes parents proud. For some, it’s scoring the winning goal in hockey or soccer. For others, it’s great marks in math or in social studies.

For me, one of my proudest moments came today when the Oldest became a wisenheimer.

hobbs and snowmenI guess it’s that transition from child to teenager, that rewiring of his brain, but I nearly broke down in tears when he did a brilliantly funny comeback for us bugging him about his school work.

So, let me set the scene. Tuesday evening. Wind clatters the chimes outside and rattles the windows. The Oldest is on the couch. He’s got an assignment due the next morning and we’ve been on him to get it done. It’s pretty simple really. Tell everyone in the class what you did and how you felt about it.

First problem. His answer to the question, tell everyone what you did, was, err, uhm, I dunno, nothing.


Not, we watched Bear Gryllis and made fun of the guy who wanted to go home or the epic fail we had trying to load up minecraft on the new computer. Nor was it, we saw the movie Big Hero 6 and he thought he was too sad and too predictable. Nor even was it that he used power tools, built a table and still had all his fingers (Ok, I was kinda proud of him for doing that, too.)

But no, he’d done nothing.

bearWell, my lad, that’s not good enough. So the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world had him shut off Clash of clans, put down his iphone and think. What about finding that cool case for your iphone? What about playing with your brother and his friend in our rec room (playing a version of the floor is lava game?) What about doing stuff with your dad like seeing Avatar for the first time? Or…?

Well, you get the idea.

He finally confessed that he may have done stuff, but then all he did was list what he’d done. The assignment was really to focus on one thing and tell a good story. So he did. He’s what he told the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world.

beeer“On Friday night mommy went out with the girls and left us with our stepdad so she could party with her friends, and she came home with all these prizes that she’d won and she was drunk cuz mommy loves to drink and it was late, but she came up into our rooms and said, wake up, look at all my presents and we were all like, mommy, it’s late, we want to sleep, but she was all like, you wouldn’t believe how much I drank and everyone gave me presents and you have to see them, so we looked at the presents and then she let us go back to sleep.”

None of it was true, but it was amazingly inventive. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world responded. “OMG, don’t say that! You never lie, everyone will believe you. Tell them mommy came home from church to prey.”

“To pray for more beer!”

I laughed. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world laughed. We were so proud. He is an official wise ass.

We may come to regret this.





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Step-Parenting – Adventures with Kids

Ok, so I get it. This whole parenting thing can be hard. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually. Financially. I know my hair is greyer, my wrinkles deeper and I’m pretty sure someone smeared jam on my laptop keyboard, but every so often, something happens that makes it all worthwhile.

calvin dad


No, it’s not all the fun I have with my Joe-facts. It was something else.

Honestly, most of the time, I think I’m just no good at this parenting stuff. Like when I forget to tell them to take a raincoat, it (of course), rains in the afternoon. Hell, I seem to forget more than I remember.

IMG_6052[1]I don’t know how the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world does it, how she remembers schedules and hair appointments and other parent’s names and birthdays and what the boys had for supper last Tuesday and hockey practices and water bottles and where their oldest’s phone is and …

It’s a blizzard to me. Maybe I’ll get better with practice, but if anything, the older I get, the worse I’m becoming.

2 years ago, I couldn’t imagine being a parent. I was an awesome Uncle Joe. I would arrive, entertain, play with the kids, listen to their stories, eat some ice cream with them, then leave. I didn’t have to make them do homework or go to bed on time or tell them to stop poking the dog in the bum.

It was all fun and games.

Now I worry when they don’t call on time. I race to a hockey rinks at 6am. I nag them about doing math. I leap across a counter to stop the Youngest from juggling steak knives. I bug them about not interrupting. And sometimes, far more often than I ever should, I have to raise my voice to be heard above Plants vs Zombies or Youtube video about spooky-ass animatronic animals that creep up on you in the dark.

calvin dad and supperI imagined I would be the world’s greatest step-parent. I imagined Oprah asking me how I did it. I imagined statues would be built of me, and public schools named after me.

Instead, I fear I may be a cautionary tale. That parent all the other parents shake their heads at and say, well at least I’m not like THAT guy!

But maybe all parents feel that way. Maybe they’re all trying to figure it out and while it may look like they have it all together on the outside, deep down, someone in their family is wearing yesterday’s underwear.

So, yeah, back to what makes it all worthwhile.

It was a simple thing. I was in my usual after-school mode of making sure lunch boxes got put by the dishwasher, that ice packs got put in the fridge, that homework was put on the table, when the Youngest went over to our family board and wrote something on it.

It wasn’t “Joe’s a jerk!” It wasn’t “Why can’t I play video games, THEN do my homework?” It was something amazing.IMG_6055[1]

It wasn’t said, like “Yoer a good stepdad, now can I have a popsicle?” or “Yoer the best, Joe, can I get a bow and arrow set tomorrow?” It was just said.

And it made all the difference in the world.

So maybe I’m not the complete disaster.

Or maybe I’m just easily flattered.

Or both.


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Adventures in Parenting – Firsts


pumpkin pieAs we get older and older, those firsts are harder and harder to come by. We have to settle for things like ‘first time I watched Seattle lose while I was eating pumpkin pie.’

Ok, I’ve even done that a few times!

But let’s recall what it was like to have real firsts.

Kid firsts.

lego babyFirst steps. Done. First words. Done. First sentence. Done. First fit. First successful use of potty. First sleepover. First time on the computer (which I think for both boys it was before the first words.) First lego. Done, done and done.

For the Oldest, he’s had a few other firsts this year. First time alone. First time walking to school by himself. First time he had to phone for help (when the dog pooped all over the place.)

But there was another first recently. A big one.

He got to ride in the front seat.

Let’s not forget how cool this really is. If you doubt it, go and sit in the backseat for a while. It’s harder to carry on conversations, harder to shout out, “Squirrel!!!”, it’s harder see where you’re going, and you cannot, absolutely CANNOT change the radio channel.

IMG_1845So the Oldest was more excited to sit in the front seat than he was to get presents.

And not just because of the things mentioned. He was excited because it was one step closer to being an adult. Like he owned the mustang.

How funny is it that at his age, all he wants to do is grow up and become an adult, and we adults, all we want is to have back that time we were kids? Something’s seriously messed up here.

But he’s growing up. No doubt. You can see it in his face. You can see it in how he chooses to spend his time (no longer happy to read kids books, he now wants something better, something deeper). You can hear it in the questions he now asks. No longer is it “what’s the best pokemon card?” It’s now, “So, what’s the meaning of life?”

I told him not to forget how much fun this time in his life is, all these ‘firsts’, but I’m not sure he heard me, or if he did, he understood what I meant. Soon it will be first love. First class in highschool. First kiss. First driver’s license. First car. First job.

I hate that I missed all the other firsts before I knew him, but I feel lucky to be a part of those firsts still to be had.


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