Forward to School

forward to school

School starts on Tuesday. In how many hours is that? Everyone talks about the kids going back to school, but this week I heard it stated another way, forward to school. I like that. Starting a new school year is not about going backwards, it’s about moving forward. My kids will start a new grade, with new school supplies and new shoes. I hope they will make new friends, renew old friendships and maybe even learn something new too.

I am ready to move forward to school. The last week of summer vacation is hard on all parents. We love our children and we love to spend time with them. But really, the first day of school is a blessing for parents. All routines in our house have disappeared and there is too much screen time happening. They have been going to bed late and sleeping in (well one sleeps in and the other two get up early).

Julia’s bedroom floor is covered in discarded clothes and toys. Matthew prefers to wear his pyjamas all day. Nessa refuses to nap. I am trying to balance work and quality time with the kids that does not include screaming at them or cleaning up their messes.

Yes, I am ready to move forward to school.

I believe that the start of a new school year is the perfect time to start new routines and set new rules in the house. As children get older they can take on some responsibilities. The questions for me are, what responsibilities, and how much do I give them?

My daughter is messy – okay, she is really messy. Her bedroom can easily move from clear skies to hurricane status in minutes when she plays in there. Clothes, dolls, toy kitchen accessories and tiny knick knacks seem to be everywhere. When she wants to avoid her little sister, she finds other key spots in the house to play, and as the summer winds down and she is home a lot, her messes are everywhere.

She responds well to rewards and punishments, but there are no set rules of how to govern her behaviour. The messier her bedroom and surrounding rooms become, the more disorganized she becomes. She has a tendency to lose things as her piles build. Not great for the start of school. So, we need to put a system in place as we move forward to school.

My son is actually quite a neat and tidy child. In his case, he responds well when given tasks and chores that show him we respect that he is getting older. He easily switches from an active and vibrant kid to a lazy adolescent who starts glassy-eyed at the TV or iPad. So, I have to catch him before that screen turns on.

I have to move forward with regular small chores, like making his bed in the morning, throwing laundry in the basket, setting and clearing the kitchen table at meal time and helping watch his baby sister when I am making dinner.

Then there is homework. My kids do not receive a ton of homework, but once school ramps up they both expect to have some most days. Some assignments may be due the following day, end of the week or weeks later. This year I need to set up a routine for doing homework in the house. The kids each need a consistent place and time to do their homework each day, as they both respond well to routine. And that has to happen from day one once they go forward to school.

So, today is Thursday, which means five more sleeps until the early morning preparations happen to get the kids up and out the door for their first day of school. I will let them laze around in their pyjamas, screens on and toys scattered for a few more days. And then we get serious and focus on a new school year. My very best to everyone as we get ready to go forward to school.

Have You Ever Participated in a Weird Sport?

weird sport

It’s time for Sports Wednesday – a little later in the day, I know – but really, it’s never too late for Sports Wednesday. Today I was thinking about alternative activities. There’s the mainstream sports that are popular throughout North America, such as baseball, basketball, hockey, football and even soccer. Other popular activities (some are sports and others may be more in the category of hobbies) are everything from skiing and curling to bowling and darts to swimming and skating. So, I was thinking, have you ever tried a weird sport?

Thanks to everyone’s friend, Mr. Google, I have been searching around the internet today to see what’s out there in the category of weird sport, and wow, human beings do some strange things!

I found a great article from the Huffington Post that gave me a list that made me laugh out loud as I read it. Have you ever participated in a Wife Carrying competition? Did you know there are even world championships for this competitive sport? This is aweird sport that originated in Sonkajarvi, Finland, in which husbands carry their wives, as fast as they can, through an obstacle course. It’s not too late to enter into the North American competition this year, which happens on October 7, 2017, in Sunday River, Maine.

weird sport
I could never imagine participating in this sport with David. Never.

What is the strangest place you have ever played hockey? And I’m not talking about an ice rink near the equator or a parking lot in China. How about under water? Have you heard of Octopush, which is competitive hockey in a pool? It’s not some game played by drunk frat boys in a small Canadian town. It’s for real. Strap on the speedo, hold your breath, jump in the pool (with a hockey stick of course), and try your best to shoot the puck into the opposing team’s goal.

Chess Boxing baffles me. Chess is all about beating your opponent with your brain. Boxing is all about beating up your opponent, including that person’s brain. So how can a sport exist that goes back and forth between punching each other’s lights out and sophisticated strategy? And yet it does. There is even a World Chess Boxing Organization, and their motto is, “fighting is done in the ring and wars are waged on the board.” Sure.

weird sport
First they shake hands and play chess. Then they beat other up.

I could continue my Google searches for hours, and I know I would find tons and tons of activities under weird sport. How about cheese rolling or extreme ironing? Shin kicking? Fireball soccer? Giant Pumpkin regatta? Sepaktakraw (special kind of volleyball in Japan, but no hands allowed)? Face pulling contest?

weird sport
Those boats are pumpkins.

The photos and descriptions show people having fun, which I guess is really what matters. And what’s mainstream for one person may be weird to another, and vice versa. Have you participated in a weird sport? Leave me a comment here, post on Facebook or Tweet at me @AliciaRichler..

Extreme Weather is Headed Your Way

extreme weather

 I am a weather watcher, as I discussed in a previous post. For the most part I follow local weather and like to know the general current and future weather patterns crossing over my city. Will it be warm today? Is it going to rain tomorrow? Should I worry about a smog alert? For the most part, the weather in Toronto is quite tame. We experience four distinct seasons and can expect everything from heat and cold alerts to big rainfalls and massive snowstorms. But is it just me, or are there more extreme weather systems lately? And I’m not talking about just Toronto, but all over the world.

This past week all eyes have been on Hurricane Harvey. This massive, slow-moving storm has wreaked havoc on southeastern Texas in the United States and destroyed everything in its path. Hurricanes are not new, and there have been dozens of them that have been catastrophic. Hurricane Hazel in 1954 changed the city of Toronto forever. Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma caused death and destruction in 2005 in the United States. David crashed through the Caribbean and United States in 1979 and killed over two thousand people.

While hurricanes are big weather events that rightly attract tremendous attention, I believe that in general we are experiencing more extreme weather.

My own city of Toronto saw so much rainfall this spring that there was flooding. The average rainfall for May, for example, is 73 mm. However, over 142 mm fell in May 2017. Heavy rain fell day after day, the water levels rose in Lake Ontario and flooded lakeside communities and the Toronto Islands.  While most of the heavy rain has subsided, it’s rare this summer to have a few days straight with sunshine and no forecast of rain.

On the other side of extreme weather, wildfires are causing tremendous damage in communities in Western Canada. Last year it took over two months to bring massive fires under control in and around Fort McMurray, Alberta. Right now, with extreme temperatures and not enough rain, fires are ravaging British Columbia.

As I read in an article from Global News, “B.C. remains under a state of emergency as more than 100 wildfires continue to burn across the province. This season is now B.C.’s worst fire season in history and it is far from over.”

It’s not hard to find other extreme weather and its consequences all over the world. Tornadoes, mud slides, monsoons, flooding, record heat. I am not a meteorologist or a climatologist, but common sense tells me our world is changing. And I believe that we, as human beings, are accelerating those changes. From the worst wildfires to record temperatures to highest rainfall in one day, this is our reality today. Extreme weather is our present and our future. Let’s try to be a kinder to our planet, please?

Drive Driving in the Car all Along Highway 401

Highway 401

Highway 401 between the cities of Montreal and Toronto is one of the most boring routes on which a person can drive. If you are someone who lives in a village, farm, town or city along this route, I am sure your home is beautiful, but I am sorry to say, that highway is just awful.

I have been traveling along Highway 401 for my whole life. I grew up in Toronto but have a ton of family who live a few hundred kilometres away in Montreal. My parents actually moved from Montreal to Toronto a few weeks before I was born, so in my early years I spent a lot of time, with my siblings in the back seat of our car, shuttling between the two cities.

I know Highway 401 so well that I can name off many of the towns and their related exit numbers between the two cities. Just a couple of weeks ago my sister went as far as to call me a savant when I knew all the names of the towns she passed at certain exits along the route (as I sat in Toronto). Exit 696 is Brockville; 497 is where you will find the Big Apple; 798 is Cornwall; 543B is Belleville (but of course also the road that takes you to Tweed). I could go on and on.

Different exit numbers and towns connect with various stories and memories of my childhood, teenage years and adulthood. I will admit that most are happy memories, and you may ask why then do I find this highway so boring?

I guess it’s because it is just hundreds of kilometers of long, rather straight highway, where most of the views are the same. Or maybe it’s because I have gone back and forth so many times. I enter Highway 401 in the centre of Toronto, around exit marker 367, and continue on as it switches to highway 20 in Quebec, at exit 825.

Those first 130 kilometers can be really rough sometimes, as we fight Toronto traffic. If we leave Toronto at the “wrong” time of day (in other words rush hour), it could easily take two hours to get to the Big Apple at exit 497. Sometimes that first 130 kilometers seem interminable. If we are lucky enough to miss an accident or construction, the 500’s and 600’s can fly by. But somehow, always, there is a lane closure or potholes or repaving somewhere in the 700’s to slow us down. I won’t even start on the construction delays once we cross the Quebec border.

I was lucky enough this summer to skip the long drive along Highway 401 from Toronto to Montreal. Matthew and I flew to Montreal after our special weekend in Chicago. But yesterday, after a week with family in Saint Donat, our family of five drove that long way back along the 401.

The drive home, on a beautiful Sunday in August, is always long.  While I love the Laurentian Autoroute, with its twists and turns, mountains, lakes and stunning vistas, it is also always under construction and always jammed up with traffic. It took us almost three hours, from our start in Saint Donat, to reach the Ontario border and start of Highway 401. As we experienced the thrill of completing a part of our drive, the sober reality of hundreds of kilometers of the boring Highway 401 ahead made me depressed.

Highway 401
Selfie on the 401 through my car’s side mirror

My two older kids gorged on junk food and iPads while the baby drifted between sleep and screaming. David did a mighty fine job driving the full distance. We actually only hit big traffic in Toronto’s eastern suburbs.  Around us was the usual mix of aggressive drivers. There were some who drove their vehicles so close to our car at times that I could see the plaque on their teeth in my rear-view mirror and others who changed lanes so often that it seemed they were trying to weave a quilt with their car.

Highway 401
Thanks to Playland at McDonald’s in Kingston that gave the kids a good 10 minute run.

No, I don’t like Highway 401 between Toronto and Montreal. I like my home and I like my destination, but that route in between is boring, stressful and exhausting. All three kids were ecstatic to jump out of the car when we arrived home last night. They too clearly had enough. For now, that’s what we have, and I guess that’s the route we will take. The destination, and the family at the other end, are worth it.

We are Smartphone and Tablet Addicts


I love my Apple products. My MacBook, iPhone and iPad are always nearby. Some would say that it’s disappointing that I don’t have an iWatch or iPod too. I will admit that I am slightly manually operated, but I have come to love and embrace my technology products. And I believe that I am not unique. I am almost embarrassed to admit that in my household we own three laptops, three iPads and two iPhones. We may be on the edge of being smartphone and tablet addicts.

I found a survey from 2016 that showed that 76% of Canadians own and use a smartphone. That was up from 68% in 2015 and 55% in 2014. Common sense tells me that the number has increased in 2017 and undoubtedly has surpassed 80%. Among my close family and friends, I would say that number is actually 100%.

Everyone around me seems to own at least one smartphone and usually at least one tablet and/or computer as well. We carry our smartphones with us everywhere we go. Some would even joke that we would remember to take our smartphones with us before we remember to take our children.

People’s eyes are glued to their technology as they walk in the mall, commute to work or relax on the couch at home. What did we do with our time before we had smartphones? Did we actually stand in line and look around us or talk to the person beside us? When we sat on the bus on the way to work, did we actually read a newspaper or a paper-based book?  When we waited for our friend to arrive at the local café, what did we do with those three minutes?

Children are the technology generation. I will never forget the moment when my daughter, Julia, about two years old at the time, showed her grandmother how to use an iPad. Well, kind of. Julia crawled across the table at the Apple store, swiped her fingers across the iPad, tapped on Angry Birds and began to play. One-year-old Nessa sees a screen and immediately taps on it, as she knows it will respond.

The kids were not aware that I took this photo or even looked at them when I took this one last week
Nessa wants that iPad
My kids playing Angry Birds with their Bubby a few years ago

As I write this blog I am also hollering at Julia to get off her iPad and get dressed, brush her hair and make a card for her cousin. She doesn’t hear me and doesn’t even notice I am standing beside her, raising my voice. She is focused solely on the game on her screen. Clearly My Town Home, Minecraft, Plants vs Zombies and a whole host of other apps are more interesting and more important than listening to her mother.

This is Julia’s current position on the couch – photo just taken

The word “wait” has taken on a new meaning in my life the last couple of years. People around me, usually my kids, have to finish a game move, a YouTube video or a text before they can talk to me. It seems to be smartphone or tablet first, face-to-face communication second.

Father is asleep and baby is playing on the iPad. Do I need to say more?

Can you think of a time you may have walked into someone on the street because your face was down, focused on your smartphone? Have you ever missed your stop on the bus or subway because you were too engrossed in your What’s App conversation? Have you ever sat at a meeting at work, with your smartphone hidden under the table as you text your best friend, then realize that your boss is asking you a question – and you have no idea what to answer because you missed the whole meeting?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are a smartphone or table addict. And that’s okay. Technology is part of our lives today. Maybe sometimes we go a bit too far and forget about the world around us. Sometime we ignore our mother when she is asking us to make our bed or brush our teeth. Maybe we need to look up and listen up a little more.

Boy and his baby sister playing baseball on the iPad
On a boat between New Zealand’s North and South island and the boys were more interested in their iPads.

In the meantime, back to my eight different games on Words with Friends. I have to keep my winning streak going against my brother-in-law.

A Visit to the Stadium of the Competition


After a weekend of sports with my son in Chicago I’m excited for this week’s Sports Wednesday post. While in Chicago, Matthew and I knew that we supported the “other” team. We are used to supporting the home team, like the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre or Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. For Matthew, it was a new experience to be in the minority, wearing a jersey with the logo from the competition.

I have been fortunate to visit a number of ballparks in various North American cities over the years, but for Mathew this was a new experience. No doubt there is something exciting about walking into your own team’s stadium, surrounded by like-minded people. But I will always remember Matthew’s face when he entered Wrigley Field, the stadium of the competition, dressed in his Blue Jays jersey and cap.

The Cubs fans were welcoming and friendly. Matthew was warmly greeted at every turn, and an usher even handed him a Chicago Cubs sticker. People smiled at us as we walked to our seats and graciously stood up to let us into our row when we found our section.

I love to hear Oh Canada at sports events. Matthew and I sang along, as did the thousands of other Blue Jays fans in the stands. Everyone cheered as the anthem came to a crescendo and kept on cheering as the Star Spangled Banner began.


Blue Jays fans cheered loudly for our team, the competition, and Cubs fans of course cheered louder for their team. But everyone was in good spirits around us, Blue Jays and Cubs fans alike.  I don’t think this is the case in all ballparks, but wow the fans at Wrigley are something special.

At the Jays versus Cubs game
Matthew dressed in his clothing of the competition at Wrigley

Matthew and I also made the long trek to Toyota Park where the Major League Soccer (MLS) club, the Chicago Fire, play. By coincidence, our home team, the Toronto FC, were also in town, and we had to go to this game too.

I will admit that until Saturday I had never been to even one MLS game. While I know quite a bit about soccer in general, my knowledge of the MLS was limited. One thing I learned quickly is that soccer fans are dedicated and very serious. Their loyalty to their team is strong, and they are not as easygoing and welcoming as baseball fans.

The ushers at Toyota Park again were as nice as can be, but I have to say that with our bright red Toronto FC shirts on, the Chicago Fire fans were less than friendly. They barely glanced at us and clearly were not interested in cavorting with the “enemy.” You see, Toronto FC is in first place, in the Eastern Conference, and the Chicago Fire are in third. There is a clear rivalry between these two teams, and no one wanted to cozy up with us, who represented the competition.

Matthew and I excitedly cheered on our team when they scored the first goal of the game and went ahead 3-1 in the dying minutes. But we were clearly in the minority. The stadium exploded with cheers when the Fire scored the team’s only goal, but clearly fans were not pleased that at the end of the day their team was beaten yet again by our team.

A view of the FC versus Fire game from our amazing seats

When the weekend was over and we waited at the gate for our flight home, Matthew’s excitement peaked again when he realized the entire Toronto FC team was seated beside us. He could barely contain his enthusiasm when he pointed out his favourite player, #17, Jozy Altidor. The shameless mother that I am, I asked for a photo with this great athlete and my son. Mr. Altidor kindly obliged.

Matthew was so excited to meet Jozy Altidor
Matthew was just too excited to be near the whole Toronto FC team

Our weekend of sports is over, and now Matthew and I are scheming about where our sports destination will be next year.  Our goal, over the coming years, is to visit every ballpark in North America together. He wants to go to Fenway park in Boston to see the Red Sox. I’m considering that, as well as a ballpark or two closer to home such as Detroit or Cleveland. Where do you think we should go next? Post a comment here, share with me on Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.

Home is where the Hart is


I have been teasing this blog post for the last few weeks. I have mentioned the house in Saint Donat a few times in previous posts, and now is the day I will share the great wonders of this special place. I’m talking about the Hart family country home, deep in the Laurentian mountains, in the heart of Quebec.

The Hart family is David’s mother’s family. David’s grandfather, Isador Hart, bought land in the far-off village of Saint Donat in the 1940’s. In 1949 he and his wife, Ada, built a small cabin on the edge of Lake Archambault. They chose a spot where the land juts out and has the most spectacular view of the lake. From this spot, it feels like the mountains are melting into the water below.

The two-bedroom cabin was a tight squeeze for the Hart family of five, which included their three kids, Barbara, Annie and Billy. Over the years, as the family grew, the house was expanded and renovated. Today it is a five-bedroom, three-bathroom sprawling bungalow. The house maintains its 1950’s character, with the original yet functional kitchen, painted wood paneling and assortment of vintage furniture.

Ancestor photos from years ago

The Hart family’s connection to this home is something special. As my mother-in-law, Barbara, recently said, “If I forget thee, O Saint Donat, may my right hand wither.”  

Photos on the wall of Hart family descendants

David grew up in this home, as did his siblings and cousins. They spent their summers here, swimming in the lake, playing hide and seek and building sand castles on the beach. David often tells me that his best memories of his childhood are from Saint Donat.

I have been coming to Saint Donat for half my life. I have been here when it’s almost empty and quiet and also with twenty other people. When the house is empty, you can hear the loons sing on the lake and the trees rustle in the wind. When the house is full, like it is this week, it can be hard to find a seat on the couch or two minutes in the bathroom. I remember one summer, a few years ago, when the house topped twenty people and we ran out of beds and couches for people to sleep. The living room was so packed with people, on couches, the floor and a cot, that it looked like a homeless shelter.

Ancestor photo summer 2007
Ancestor photo summer 2010
Ancestor photo summer 2016

The traditions are many in the Hart house, and there are too many to include all of them here. People don’t swim here, they throw themselves in the lake. It wouldn’t be a summer without “Steak night in Canada.” A popular evening activity is a rousing game of Boggle. A morning is not complete without a roaring fire. Grandma Hart’s famous eggplant, first made by Ada and now by Billy, is a staple. There are power walks, canoe trips and camping trips. Squad Leader. The deer head. Decorated plates. Ancestor photo. Good things breakfast. Blueberry pie. People magazine.

Always follow the rules with eggplant
Blueberry pie

I often joke that the home has kept so much of its original charm that if you pushed one of the outside walls too hard the whole house would fall over. Okay, it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but like any home that is almost 70 years old, the property probably needs a bit of TLC. Maintaining a family country home for so many years can be a challenge, and planning for each summer is often an anxious experience. But for me and David, once we hit the Laurentian Autoroute and pass our favourite landmarks like the Big Chicken, Banana Bridge and cross on the mountain, our stresses disappear.

17-month old Matthew having a snack with his big cousins, Michal and Ela (circa 2008)
A silly moment with 15-month-old Julia and her great aunt, Annie (circa 2011)
Isn’t it just breathtaking?
A regular evening activity in the house.
Testing out the Zaidy Lou canoe last summer on Lake Archambault
Julia leaping into the fresh cold lake
An excited Matthew walking down our street
My lucky children listening to a book read by their Grandma last summer

For the Hart family, no matter how busy life is, no matter where in the world they live, Saint Donat is their true home. They would move mountains to spend time here and come together as a family. As a thunderstorm brews outside and we gather in the living room beside a roaring fire, today the Hart family is enjoying a typical Saint Donat day. I look forward to so many more.

Nessa is enjoying the sandy beach already at 14 months old
We brought my grandfather’s canoe here last summer and named it the Zaidy Lou. Nessa is testing it out.
The toy and book corner is a special place for all children
Matthew and his “twin” cousin Yael enjoying breakfast by the fire this morning. Matthew is 20 days older.

We were Eclipsed, and it was Great. Best way to experience a Solar Eclipse


The emails began months ago when the Hart family started to discuss summer plans. Uncles, aunts, cousins, sisters and brothers were planning to come together in August for our annual thundering hordes, and August 21 was pinned on the calendar. An eclipse of the sun. A partial eclipse, but still something special.

How do we “see” the eclipse without seeing it? How do we protect our eyes? Can the children participate? The emails swirled, orders were made for special glasses and research done on pinhole cameras. Would we “see” anything? Would the sky be clear or would we get rain? The questions and questions and emails and emails. It was overwhelming.

The Hart family (David’s mother’s family) has come together in the village of Saint Donat northwest of Montreal (more on this in another post). Relatives have traveled from far off places like Israel and Washington state and converged on the family country home.

Over the past 24 hours I have read countless websites about this major event, as I soaked up whatever knowledge I could. By mid-morning today I was still far from an expert, and I don’t think anyone else in the house was either. We all knew that looking directly at the sun was a bad idea and could do damage to the eyes (specifically the retina).

Some people chose to go on a short canoe trip and the bright sun be damned. Others wanted to close the blinds and hide out in the house all day. Most of us decided to strap on the special glasses and try to see the moon move across the path of the sun.

The Montreal area only expected a partial eclipse of about 59-66%, so we knew that the sky would not go dark. We also knew that a patch of cloud or burst of rain could ruin it all. But the day stayed bright and sunny with only a few clouds.

We made our way to the deck at 1:20 pm and carefully tried on the special glasses. It took us a while to fasten them tightly to our eyes, just in case a drop of sun dared touch our retinas. David gasped in fear if anyone looked up, with the glasses on, for too long, and Julia didn’t quite understand what was happening. The rest of us, in good cheer, enjoyed the experience tremendously. 

Matthew straps on his eclipse glasses
Barbara tests out the pinhole option to view the sun
Pema shows Julia how to put the glasses on correctly
Thanks Pema for holding those glasses on Julia so tightly
The group tests out the pinhole option

I tried to snap a photo with my phone (with my phone protected by the glasses), and that did not quite work and could only snap a photo in my mind as I glanced to the sky throughout the afternoon. I was in awe of the sight, of Earth’s great moon passing so gracefully across the sun, and blocking its path to us. With all the great inventions of humankind and great discoveries on Earth, there, in front of me, was an astounding natural sight. It is an event that has been happening for billions of years, and we were just spectators. Wow.

Okay it’s not a great picture but if you look at the top, that’s the sun, with a speck of dark at the bottom right corner
Julia took a break from the viewing party with her big cousins Lila and Pema, looking away from the sun
Nessa spent the eclipse indoors, and her father insisted that all the blinds be closed.

Thank you to everyone in the crowded house, all fourteen of you (with me it makes 15!), for preparing, discussing and experiencing this great event with me. We had disagreements today, a lot of silliness and a lot of fun. Maybe we can come together again for the next solar eclipse, scheduled for 2024!

Chicago with my Boy


My son Matthew loves sports. He is crazy for baseball and is a huge fan of the Toronto Blue Jays. He also likes the Chicago Cubs and followed their thrilling playoff run in 2016 when they won the World Series. After the big World Series win Matthew told me that his dream (note he was 9 years old!) was to see the Cubs play at Wrigley Field in Chicago. He joked that it would be just so cool to see the Blue Jays face the Cubs at Wrigley.

Then the 2017 Major League Baseball schedule came out and lo and behold, his beloved Blue Jays were scheduled to play the Cubs, at Wrigley, in Chicago. He had to go. I had to go with him. We booked our flight, our hotel, then secured a pair of tickets to the August 18 game.  Matthew’s dream was about to come true.

Fast forward to Friday, August 18, 2017 – today. I already sent David off to the family’s country home in St. Donat with our daughters (more on that in a blog post next week). Matthew and I woke up at 4:30 am to a dark and quiet house and crawled into our awaiting Uber taxi. With only carry-on luggage and Nexus cards in hand, we were at our gate 10 minutes after our arrival at the airport.

Our very full flight was on time and felt like a party. Most of the passengers were just like us, headed to Chicago to cheer on the Jays. There was laughter and chatter and even the flight attendant yelled “Go Jays Go” over the loudspeaker. It was the most festive atmosphere I have ever experienced on a plane.

We landed early this morning in Chicago, at 7:25 am, and made our way to our hotel downtown. We dropped off our luggage, enjoyed a filling breakfast at a local café then set out to explore the Magnificent Mile and surrounding area.


Matthew fell in love with Chicago immediately. The tall buildings, the friendly people and great shopping (for him that meant sports stuff and candy).  He secured a Cubs hat and even a t-shirt with Kris Bryant on it – only because he is #17 and that’s what matters, of course.  Then we made our way to Wrigley.

Selfie with some skyscrapers
Skyscrapers on the river
Matthew loved the wall of jerseys at the Blackhawks store
Matthew was excited about the gear he bought

On the packed train to Wrigley Ville Matthew was jittery and excited. He looked at me at one point and remarked with a big smile, “I have never been so excited in my life.” As the train approached Addison station and Wrigley field appeared through the window, he was in awe. He was so excited that he could not even speak.

The stadium and the game proved to be everything we had hoped. There is something magical about this ballpark, the Cubs and Cubs fans. The thousands of Jays fans in the stands were as loud as the Cubs fans, and we had so much fun sitting with locals and tourists alike. I have been to a few MLB ballparks, but never have I sat with more friendly and wonderful people than the Cubs and Jays fans we sat with today. They are what made the game so great. We cheered together for both teams, clapping loudly when Pillar made an incredible catch at the centre field wall or when Javier Baez blasted a massive home run late in the game.

The sea of Cubs and Jays fans as we entered the stadium
Selfie before game began

Matthew tested out his new Cubs hat and shirt and mixed these with his Blue Jay paraphernalia. He high-fived the pair of Jays fans in the row ahead of us. He shared stats and stories about all the Jays players with everyone around us. I learned the life story of the guy in the row behind us who is retired and now has season tickets to the Cubs. We were like one big happy family.

All decked out in Cubs great
The back of his Cubs shirt

The Jays lost the game, and they were clearly outplayed. But it didn’t matter. We had a wonderful time at Wrigley. We stayed a while after the game to explore the neighbourhood and celebrate the afternoon with thousands of other fans. Matthew even cheered on the Blue Jays players and coaches as they boarded their bus.

That’s Matthew in the front in the red shirt watching the Jays get on the bus

Tonight, we are exhausted but exhilarated. We feasted on some of Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza for dinner, and we are ready to collapse. Tomorrow is another day in the Windy City. We start our day on the river for an architectural tour of Chicago on the First Lady and will finish off at a Major League Soccer (MLS) game, as the Toronto FC take on the Chicago Fire.

It’s sports and Chicago with my boy. What could be better?

What’s in a Name? Best Names in Sports

names in sports

Sports Wednesday is back! My apologies that I didn’t get my act together last week and write a post for you. This week I was thinking about memorable, interesting, funny and unpronounceable names in sports. The idea got into my head recently when I wrote an email to Matthew at camp and wanted to tell him about a new player on the Jays roster who had a great night. I couldn’t remember the player’s name because I couldn’t pronounce it! The player is Rob Refsnyder.  I  typed it I realize now it’s not that difficult a name to say or spell.

So, I am going to dive deep and look at some other players, current or past, with names I just have to write about. Let’s start with baseball. Every time I hear about Coco Crisp I want to go to my pantry and eat a bowl of cereal. I believe his actual full name is Covelli, but I prefer to call him Coco. He played baseball for 13 seasons and retired at the end of last season. Milton Bradley is a baseball player but also the founder of the board game company that bears his name. No, they are not the same person.

Then there is John Olerud,. He was one of my favourite players on the Blue Jays during their 1992-93 World Series run. I feel like his name was accidentally spelled backwards and should really be John Durelo. Don’t you agree?

Then there are the baseball players whose names need no explanation, like Dick Pole, Johnny Dickshot, Boof Bonser and Rusty Kuntz (less disturbing when you learn the last name is pronounced Koontz).

Looking at more names in sports, let’s move on to hockey. The National Hockey League has mainly attracted players from across North America and Europe, and sometimes the names make more sense in their original language. Or sometimes the name comes from a country where the local language is pronounced or spelled very differently than English. Sometimes the name is just strange.

Take Radek Bonk for instance. He is Czech, but it seems to me that the word “bonk” has a clear meaning in any language. Bill Quackenbush played in the NHL in the 1940’s and 1950’s. This is a Dutch name that means “swamp wilderness.” Håkan Loob is a Swedish name, and he played for the Calgary Flames in the 1980’s. Does “Loob” mean something less silly-sounding in Swedish?

The NBA attracts players from around the world, including of course North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. There is quite a variety of names in this league. My local team, the Toronto Raptors, has a number of players with great names. Serge Ibaka is a good one, and of course I just love Jonas Valancuinas. Not only does he have a cool name but he wears a jersey with #17 on the back. Anything with #17 is great, of course.

Ruben Boumtje Boumtje, from Cameroon, enjoyed a short NBA career, and at 7.0 feet tall and 260 pounds no one ever made fun of his name! Other notable names are Detlef Schrempf, Luc Richard M’bah-a-Moute and Al-Farouq Aminu, just because they sound great.

I could probably go on forever, but for now I will just add a few more of the best names in sports in general. Dean Windass played soccer in the English Premier League, Yourhighness Morgan (no joke), a former football player, another football player named Fair Hooker and Kim Yoo-Suk, a Korean Olympic pole vaulter (unfortunate only in English).

What do you think are some of the best names in sports? Do you have a favourite or one that is unique or memorable? Leave a comment here, or post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.