Step-dad Peace and Quiet

Quiet Time

quietThere was a time in my life when I had quiet time. Any time I wanted, really.

But, like good health or good internet reception, you don’t appreciate it until you don’t have it.

Especially at night.

If this was 3 years ago, if I had some free time, I would’ve likely had the TV blaring with the sound of exploding bombs shaking my entire house. Or I would be playing a game, the sound  of exploding bombs shaking my entire house.

I know, sort of a theme there.

Now, with the boys, quiet time is something so precious, I have to write about it.

It does happen. Certainly after they go to bed, there’s a hush in the house that’s almost loud. You can hear the furnace, the dog licking something (I’m often too scared to look), or the neighbours having crazy sex (or just jumping on a mattress, we’re still not sure.)


But, usually, after the boys go to bed, that’s our time. Just the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world and me. Just the two of us.

Sometimes in bed, sometimes in the dark, talking about our day or our plans or our lives.

It’s not ‘technically’ quiet time. More like reconnection time. Or couple time.

Real quiet time, though, actually happened today. At 7:05.

I was able to sit in the family room, in the dark, alone. No computers plugged in, no TV on, no games on pause. Just silence.

In the kitchen, the boys were busy playing their games. They were oddly silent, not yelling at the screen or at someone who has just sacked their lvl 6 town hall and taken all their dark elixir.

They weren’t trying to bug each other or see who could fart the loudest. They were simply absorbed in their games.

I can’t honestly explain why they were so quiet. Usually when this happens, I rush to wherever they are to see what horrible things they’ve done.

But not this time.

Everyone was mellow-yellow. Even the spazadoodle.

So I took my quiet time, wrapped it around me, and had a moment all to myself. I have time in the day to do this, sure, but at night, it’s something super awesome. Something super peaceful.

And you know what?

wineIt may be the greatest gift this family has given me – An appreciation for the simpler things in life.

Now where did I put that wine?

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Games Night With Step-dad Joe (Part 2 sort of)

The Big Bang Clue

USAopoly-Big-Bang-Theory-Clue-GameSo, we shuffled the cards, unwrapped the dice and chose our characters. I went with Amy Ferra Fowler. The Youngest went with Raj. The Oldest, Leonard. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, Penny, the Prettiest-girl-on-TV.

I explained the rules as best as I could after having a glass of wine. “So, yeah, like that room is kinda where you have to go, you know to make a guess which (in this game), is called a rumor and you have to guess who did what to Sheldon and something he owns, but we each have cards that tell us which things weren’t done and where they weren’t done and then, like, we ask each other questions and, in the end, I win.

The Youngest was on to me. “Joe! That’s not in the rules!”

cluedoI told them it was in the Cluedo rules.

“What? What’s Cluedo??” The Youngest asked.

I couldn’t explain (can anyone?) why the UK game is called Cluedo.

“This is too confusing,” The Youngest added.

So I took another drink. The Youngest was right. It may have not been my finest moment as chief-explainer. So, the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world read the rules out loud – which seemed to make a difference. We all understood what had to be done. 3 cards were put aside in an envelope. Who. What. Where.

To play, we’d have to go to a room, guess who did what, and see if anyone had a card in their hand that said otherwise. You know the rules, right? If no one had any cards that could dispute your rumor, you’d race to the center of the board to have a drink. I mean, make an accusation. If you were right, you won. If you were wrong, you took a drink. No, wait, you lost. (Apparently this version of the game had absolutely no drinking component.)

So, the Youngest began by racing to a room and accusing his brother of bad smells in the bathroom. (He was still a little unsure of the rules.)

clue piecesThe Oldest denied it was him and blamed the dog. Then the Youngest made his first real guess. Penny defiled the toothbrush in the bathroom, all the while giggling like crazy. I think he liked the idea of defiling ANYONE’S toothbrush.

His brother beamed in triumph and showed him a card he held. The Youngest’s first guess, much to his surprise, did not win him the game on the first turn.

Then the Oldest took his turn, then the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, then me. No suspects or crimes or locations were determined, though it was decided that I should have another glass of wine (mostly decided by me) and the boys got to have 3 chocolates because they weren’t quite hyped up enough. (When we let that happen, again, someone please remind me what sugar does to an 8 year old.)

The rumors went whizzing by. After my second glass of wine, I accused Colonel Mustard of killing Sheldon in the stairwell with the dismantled Shelbot. Apparently that was wrong. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, however, kept careful note of who was asking what while The Youngest hopped up and down in his chair like we had set fire to him and kept up a barrage of rumors against those he thought had done Sheldon wrong.

Then I made another brilliantly deduced guess.

wine“I think Theldon did it to the… the Thelbot in the Laundry room thingee place. The wine totally like thaid tho.”

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world pointed out she’d just made the same guess.

“I know that! I’m, ah, err, you know, making my own guess.”

“Whatever,” she said.

The Oldest showed me a card that proved I’d got it wrong.

I got another glass of wine and came back. “I thay it’th that Penny girl in the red dress with the wine glath in the bedroom.”

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world scowled. “First of all, it’s not your turn. Second, what?”

“Nevermind.” I said and sat down. But I knew it was Penny. It had to be Penny. She’s always messing with Sheldon’s stuff. I looked around and clutched my cards close to my chest as the world spun and spun and everyone got all blurry.

The Youngest leapt out of his chair and hopped up and down and made a guess that was, as far as I could tell, even worse than that whole Penny and wine glass thing. He got it wrong. It didn’t stop him from hopping even higher or making pipping noises like a big truck backing up.

The Oldest made a guess, got it wrong, then the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world moved towards a room with serious determination. I knew she had it. She knew who is was and it wasn’t Penny. She knew where it was done, and it wasn’t done wherever the hell I thought it was done.

She’s a smartie

But so am I. Even drunk. I leaned over to her. “I know whatter you be thinking. You cam foollll me.”

As she told me to put the wine glass down, I raced my character to the room she was heading for and pulled out my last brain cell and shouted out my guess. Howard. Leonard’s bedroom. Erased Hard drive.

No one could dispute it.

Everyone looked at me. I swayed in my chair. I beamed. I may have drooled. “I gottid, didn’t I?” I blurbled.

Then the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world shook her head and grinned an evil grin. “You have to make the final accusation in the center of the board, not in the room you’re in.”


“Now we all know who did it!” shouted The Youngest.

The race was on. The Youngest needed an 8 or better to win. He rolled a five. He shouted bbt winNOOOOOOOOO at the dice. Then the Oldest rolled. He needed an 8 as well. Or better. He rolled a 4. Even worse.

But then he played his character’s special strength. He could choose to roll a second time once in the game. He rolled again. 7. He marched his character into the center of the board and prepared to declare the villain, the crime and the location.

I summoned all my guile and slurred, “I wath juss kiddin’ about my gueth, you know, right, ith totally not what I juss thaid.”

But he didn’t buy any of it. Not a word of my brilliant distraction.

He named Howard. He placed Howard in Leonard’s bedroom, which was weird in itself, and declared the crime, the erasing of the hard drive, a most devious deed indeed.

He’d won!

I clapped. Or at least tried to, but my hands kept missing each other for some reason and even staring at them didn’t make them work any better.

The Youngest howled in frustration. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world nodded with pride (not so much at me, but at the Oldest.) The Oldest beamed. His big brain and lucky dice rolls had won again.

Revenge will be mine, I cried. It may have sounded like “Re veg will beat mime.”

I can’t wait for the next game.

Count this one game night as a success!






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Stepdad Game Night


pvzgwIn 2014, we weren’t always successful with Sunday Games Night. Sometimes we succumbed to the lure of shiny video games. Sometimes we were off traveling or didn’t have the boys until late that night. Sometimes, hey, you know, we were just too damn tired.

But the worst barrier had to be getting consensus of what to play.

It’s hard to get 4 people to agree on anything. But when you have one boy, age 7-8, one age 11-12, one super old nerd and one girl, aka the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, that consensus is nearly impossible. Imagine the Hulk, Wonder Woman, Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory and Wil Wheaton all agreeing on something to play at 6pm.

Yeah, that was us.

But in 2015, we’d recommitted to playing a family game every other week. Tonight, it was Clue.

Big-Bang-Theory-Clue-GameBut not just any Clue. We’d bought the Big Bang Clue.

Big Bang Clue everyone could agree on.


For the boys, they frankly didn’t give a graveyard fart if someone was murdered and we had to find the murderer. Sort of like most of society in real life.

BUT, finding out who meddled with Sheldon’s belongings, well, that was something with which the boys could identify. Did Penny dog-ear the comic book in the laundry room? Who defiled his toothbrush and where? What dastardly villain erased his equation board?

Death, smeath. This was a crime that needed to be solved.

Someone loves me? How could they not?

Someone loves me? How could they not?

As I mentioned in another blog long ago and far, far away, the boys love Big Bang. Ok, let me correct that. They love Sheldon. They want to be him. So playing a game where they can help him, well, that’s all kinds of ok.

For the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world and I, we’re mostly ok with anything as long as it gets them away from all the electronic stimulation they usually prefer. I loved playing Smash-up, but it was a tough game on the 7-8 year old. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world loved Monopoly and Game of Life, but that can bore the Oldest. The Youngest loves anything where he wins and then gleefully gloat that he beat his older brother, but it needs to be a game he can understand.

So this could be the game for us.

Now, let me set the stage.

We have the round, kitchen table cleared. Supper has been eaten. Plates have been put away. The dishwasher is gurgling in the background. We have the board spread out underneath the glow of the fan lamp over the table.

I’m busy reading the rules. I have a HUGE glass of wine ready to go. I’m wishing I remembered how to play this game. Something about how to ask questions and bluff…. (I take a gulp of wine.)

smash up againThe Youngest is sitting beside me. He has a vengeful look about him, like someone who’s had all his money taken in Monopoly, like someone who’s been eaten by zombies in Smash-up, like someone who’s seen all his armies of destruction killed off in Risk, like someone who means to win this game.

The Oldest sits across from me, confident in his many wins playing Smash-up. He doubts we have the brainpower to overcome his epicness. He looks on with disdain as his brother vows revenge on us all. He snorts as I drain my glass of wine and shout, “Leth begin, bit-thes, whoohoo!”

elementaryThe Prettiest-girl-in-the-world remains silent, sitting on my other side, no glass of wine in her hand, no vows of revenge on her lips. But look closely and you’ll see a burning desire to win in her bright blue eyes. She tries to hide it, but she means to make us all leave in tears. She’s defeated all the CSI games. She’s mastered all the crime scene apps. She’s solved every Elementary episode before Sherlock Holmes.

Yeah, she means to win this.

So we pick up the dice.

The game is about to begin.

It should be an epic game.

Stay tuned for Thursday’s conclusion!


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Stepdad – Christmas

Santa Lives

santas comingOk, spoiler alert. We had Santa visit our house. I know some people don’t believe in Santa, but he’s alive and well and somehow managed to stuff his fat ass down our gas fireplace chimney.

The Youngest had tracked him as he passed over China, but feel asleep as old St Nick crossed the Pacific.

IMG_6439However, the Youngest had prepared for Santa’s arrival. He’d chosen the cookies himself, telling us that Santa did not much care for double stuffed oreos, but preferred shortbread cookies instead. Apparently short bread WITH maraschino cherries was his most favourite Favourite! cookie of all time.

The Youngest had also thought about the reindeer. Clearly they would be hungry, too (after such a long journey) so he hauled out a couple of handfuls of carrots for them, and then added a small bowl of dip cuz who really likes carrots without dip. Then milk was lovingly poured into a glass, and all of it was set up for Santa.

The only problem was, he’d set it up on the floor, right in front of the fireplace.

The dog thought Christmas had come early. She wandered by, took a double-take like she’d won the lottery and then snatched a carrot before anyone could stop her.

The Youngest scolded the dog for stealing from Santa and put the plate on the table. Then he went to bed, so excited about what Santa would bring him. Hell, he’d made a list just in case Santa hadn’t been paying attention – A list 4 pages long so Santa would have lots of choices, or, if Santa really, really, really wanted, he could get the Youngest EVERYTHING on the list.

IMG_6440But here’s the weird thing. We learned Santa’s a bit of a slob. When he ate the cookies, he ate only the yummy maraschino cherry center, left cookie crumbs everywhere and stuffed half of the carrots for this reindeer in the dip without eating them.

In some places, he’d be considered a bit of a douche.

But he was the hero of our house.

I know this might be the last year that Santa lives. Sooner or later, he’ll fade to myth. But this year was made special because, when morning came, the Youngest raced downstairs, shrieked in glee that Santa had come and couldn’t wait to see if Santa had got him EVERYTHING on the list.

I don’t believe in anything anymore with that passion. Not God. Not government. Not that GRR Martin won’t, in time, kill off every single character in Game of Thrones.

But the Youngest still does. He danced when he found Santa had given him musical candy. He raced around showing everyone that Santa had given him the latest Pokemon game, and (much to my surprise), actually hopped up and down with joy over getting his favourite underwear.

When I asked how Santa knew about the underwear, (it wasn’t on the Youngest’s list), he shook his head like someone about to talk to someone really stupid, and told me Santa knows everything.

But it was such a beautiful and wonderful thing to be a part of that magical time, when imagination and belief are more powerful than reality, where a jolly fat man, not me, can make him so happy.

It made it such a merry Christmas for me.

It was a gift I hadn’t ask for either.

But Santa knew.

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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?

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