Was I A Bad Dad? Maybe…

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So, how exactly did Abby end up needing emergency surgery on my watch? Was I guilty of a major parenting fail way back in 2009? Maybe…

It’s only natural to second-guess ourselves. Hindsight is 20/20. We’d all like a do-over from time to time. Shoulda, coulda, woulda…

Do any of these sayings ring a bell? I think anyone put in charge of their kids’ well-being looks back at some of the parenting decisions that they’ve made, shakes their head and says:

WHAT WAS I THINKING?

For me, one particular parenting decision still haunts me to this day.

It was mid-December, 2009. Daniel was in pre-school and Abby was just a few months into first grade. By now, I had been a stay-at-home dad for over five years and I thought I knew what was what. I had this primary caregiver gig down pat, and nobody could tell me otherwise.

It all started innocently enough… with a simple yet very common complaint from my six-year-old daughter.

“Daddy, my tummy hurts!”

Any parent will tell you this is the number one “ailment” of young kids, and I had heard this a one thousand times before. Here’s how it usually went down.

“OK Abby, just lay down on the couch for a while and let’s see how you feel in a bit.”

Then, I would usually bring her a drink with a snack as she lay on her side, watching cartoons. Sometimes, she would see her brother horsing around in the back yard or hear him playing in the basement. Then, she’d spring up off the couch just to see what she was missing.

“I just want to see what Daniel is doing and I’ll be right back.”

And that was that… she was off and running and somehow her serious ailment had been cured! This was a very familiar pattern, so when I heard the complaint of tummy trouble in December 2009, I followed my usual protocol. At first, Abby seemed to be following the script, as she spent very little time on the couch and was seen cavorting with her brother in no time. However, after a full day of seemingly on-and-off pain she went to bed that night with the same grievance.

“Daddy, my tummy STILL hurts!”

I thought that was a little weird, but I figured there could be a million reasons a little kid would have an sore stomach, ranging from acid indigestion to a mild virus, or perhaps a punch in the gut from her rambunctious sibling. Lianne and I talked about it, and because Abby informed us it wasn’t all that bad, we went to sleep feeling pretty good about ourselves.

The next morning Abby seemed to be in good spirits, but her tummy was still bothering her. I kept asking if the pain was sharp or too much to handle, but she kept saying it wasn’t that bad. By now, I was starting to wonder if this was more than a simple tummy ache. I told myself a trip to our family doctor was in order if the pain became more severe.

And, that was the problem with our little… problem. Abby never really complained about the pain. Sure, when asked if it was still bothering her, she would always say:

“Yeah, a little. I think I’m maybe feeling better?”

Then, she’d go back to watching TV. Again, I figured:

“This can’t be that serious? Can it?”

Later in the day, I noticed something that finally put me on HIGH ALERT. I noticed Abby get up, make her way to the bathroom and walk back to her spot on the couch. She was STOOPED, hunched over like a little old lady walking with a cane. I thought to myself, this CAN’T be normal, and when Lianne came home from work a couple of hours later, I told her we should really get Abby checked out that evening.

It was cold out, so I was helping Abby get on her winter boots and big, fluffy coat when Abby started hopping up and down and said something that stopped us in our tracks.

“Daddy, my tummy doesn’t hurt any more!”

There she was, smiling and standing tall, straight as an arrow. Abby seemed very pleased to be rid of her nagging stomach pain, and she immediately took off to play with Daniel. HIGH ALERT was cancelled. Lianne and I figured we dodged a bullet and we went to sleep feeling pretty good about ourselves.

The next morning, Abby was feeling lethargic and didn’t want to get up off the couch.

Then, we noticed it… beads of sweat dripping down the sides of her cheeks. Abby was BURNING UP! OK, her tummy ache was back, and now she had a high fever. HIGH ALERT was back on, and this time there was no last-minute reprieve to stop us from going to see our family doctor.

When Abby and I finally got in, I replayed the previous two days, describing the stomach pain, the stooped-over walking, the surprising relief from pain, and finally… the high fever.

When the doctor heard our story, she didn’t say a single word. Instead, she stood up and immediately bolted out of the examination room.

I was a little dumbfounded, and wondered what the hell was going on. Why would she up and leave without even giving me her diagnosis? What is happening here? After what seemed like an eternity, but was likely only a few minutes, the doctor came back in with very specific instructions.

“I’ve just called the Children’s Hospital and you need to go there RIGHT NOW. They are expecting you. Do not wait in line. Just go straight to the reception and tell them who you are and they will get Abby in to see a doctor as soon as possible.”

For a moment, I didn’t say anything. I just sat there with bewildered, wide eyes. Finally I blurted out:

“Wait, WHAT?”

The doctor seemed a bit perturbed by my inaction and made the situation very clear:

“Abby’s appendix has burst and that’s why she has a high fever. She could be in sepsis and needs immediate surgery to remove her appendix and clean out the abdominal cavity.”

I’m pretty sure I just kept looking at her in silence, with a slacked jaw. I was still in shock, trying to process her instructions as she continued to explain the situation. She informed me that sometimes, the pressure and pain of appendicitis is relieved when the appendix bursts or is perforated. That’s why Abby (temporarily) felt so much better yesterday.

Oh boy did I feel stupid.

Remember when I said hindsight is 20/20? I’d say this was the perfect time to second guess myself, to have that do-over… or to say I shoulda, coulda, woulda taken Abby to see the doctor BEFORE her appendix burst if I wasn’t such a CLASS “A” IDIOT!

When we arrived at the hospital, they were indeed waiting for us. Abby was immediately examined and whisked away into pre-op. We had to nervously wait around for a bit because she was second in line for surgery. Fortunately, Abby’s appendectomy went very smoothly and she only had to spend two nights in the hospital. Lianne and I took turns spending the night in a rather cramped “parent bed” situated right in Abby’s hospital room.

I do not think either of us went to sleep feeling very good about ourselves.

Abby, on the other hand, took it all in stride. By the time she was allowed to come home, Abby actually didn’t want to leave, as they were bringing in puppies later in the day and she didn’t want to miss it.

So in the end, what can be said about a “routine” tummy ache that turned into a potentially life-threatening situation?  No harm, no foul? I’m not so sure.

I’ve never been the kind of parent who gasps and rushes to pick up his kids the second they fall down and hurt themselves. I’d always sit back and watch, and see if they could dust themselves off and “self-soothe”. My kids rarely miss school due to illness. If they wake up and say they don’t feel well and want to stay home from school, I will always say the same thing:

“Let’s go to school, and if you still feel crappy, just call me and I will pick you up right away.”

Nineteen times out of twenty that call never comes. I’ve often thought I was helping to make my kids tougher, but it’s obvious my methods didn’t work out very well in December 2009 and they don’t always work these days either. Just last week, Abby was complaining of a sore throat. I told her it was no biggie and that it should go away on its own. My solution? I instructed her to gargle with Listerine. Well, five days later we finally went to the doctor: she has tonsillitis.

I felt less stupid this time, but stupid nonetheless.

Should I take my kids’ health concerns more seriously from the very get-go? Should I have taken Abby to see a doctor the day she first complained of a tummy ache… her most common “affliction”?

Yes? No? I think so? You know what, I really don’t know.

It’s almost nine years later, and I’m still asking myself:

“Was I a bad Dad? Maybe…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dad@Ukraine: An Extra Special Family Adventure

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In Ukraine, my brother and I felt like giants among men.

For years, I would tell people that SOMEDAY I would visit the ancestral homeland of my family. SOMEDAY, I would visit the relatives still living in the very village my grandparents immigrated to Canada from.

SOMEDAY I WOULD GO TO UKRAINE!

You see, my parents have visited this village not once, but twice… as has my older brother Mark. I wanted that same connection, that same experience, that same feeling of getting back to my ROOTS. But, as the years dragged on, the prospect of me actually following through on this grand plan seemed to fade as it never seemed to be the right time.

That all changed when my sister Angie told us several months ago she would be touring Ukraine this summer as part of her daughter’s Ukrainian dancing group. And, as luck would have it, the trip would take them to Ternopil, a city in the western part of the country just 45 km from the “ancestral village”. When my younger brother David caught wind of this, he immediately jumped on board and made Ukraine a part of his summer European vacation. Now the ball was in my court!

We had already planned and booked a spring break vacation to Italy, so I was a tad concerned about the cost of TWO overseas family vacations within a few months of each other. I had that sinking feeling that yet again, maybe it just wasn’t the right time. I was humming and hawing about it for weeks, but it was actually my wife Lianne who finally sealed the deal on the decision. She asked me very bluntly:

“Do you really want to be the only one in your entire family who hasn’t been to this village?”

NO. No I did not. It was now or never. We chose NOW and made Ukraine part of a twenty-day, three country Eastern European tour… with stops in neighboring Poland and beautiful Croatia. Once again, my wife donned her trip-planning hat and we set off for Lviv, Ukraine from Calgary on August 9th. After 22.5 hours of frustrating air travel, major difficulties securing a cab at the Lviv airport at 2:45 AM, and some minor difficulties checking in, WE HAD FINALLY ARRIVED IN THE HOMELAND!

My brother David and his wife Gaeil, along with my sister Angie and her daughter Erika had already arrived a few hours before us, so the next day we all hooked up to begin exploring this beautiful city and to watch my niece perform with her Ukrainian dancing troupe in the city’s main square.

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My niece Erika is just given’r up there! She’s the one in the exact centre of the photo.
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The highlight of our final night in Lviv was watching another Ukrainian dancing performance! I know what you are all thinking… my gut looks fat. That’s because it was fat. Correction: it IS fat.

We spent three days in Lviv, and really enjoyed it. This city was bustling with crowds, the weather was great and my God was it CHEAP! Hotels, meals, and the BOOZE! We were living like kings and queens in the motherland. While we were there we hit up several churches, the Italian Gardens, visited the ruins of the Golden Rose Synagogue, ate perogies every chance we got, had lunch at a cute but very unsanitary cat cafe, stopped for flaming coffees not once but twice and then hiked up to the best lookout spot in the city: High Castle.

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Not as good as my Mom’s, but these perogies were pretty, pretty good!

While my niece’s dancing group left Lviv for another city on their whirlwind Ukrainian tour, we rented a car and followed David and Gaeil to the Carpathian Mountains for a couple of days. We stayed in the resort town of Bukovel, which boasts the best skiing in Ukraine in the winter and a fun lakeside pool, spa and waterpark in the summer.

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The view of beautiful Bukovel from our hotel balcony.
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The view of the VODA CLUB from our special “private bungalow” area. A couple hours after this photo was taken, a huge thunderstorm with driving rain and hail blew us right out of our special private bungalows. That will teach us for trying to be BIG SHOTS in Ukraine.

After our two-night stay in the mountains, we headed to the city of Ternopil, where we would reunite with my sister and make our way to the small village Bobulyntsi, the place where my grandparents lived. The place they got married in. The place they left in the late 1920’s to begin a new life in Canada. We hired a driver and an interpreter, and we hit the very bumpy back roads. We didn’t have an address, just the name of the village. We actually had to stop several strangers on the road and ask them if they knew our relatives, or how to find them. We finally found someone who knew them, and we arrived late in the afternoon. They were anxiously awaiting our arrival and I was actually a bit nervous to meet everyone!

You see, this village visit was the MAIN REASON we made this Eastern European trip! This was a very big deal for me! This was the visit I had wanted to make happen for over thirty years. I know that’s a lot of pressure to put on a single moment, but you know what? It did not disappoint. From the second we walked through the door we were showered with love and hospitality. We were hugged, kissed and squeezed ever so tightly and I felt an immediate connection with family members who lived a half a world away.

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They laid out a wonderful spread of food for us! And the vodka shots. Let’s not forget the vodka shots. So many vodka shots.

We ate, we drank… we then ate and drank some more. We then toured the church where my Baba and Dido were married in and visited the cemetery where our ancestors were laid to rest. I remember my older brother Mark tell me he felt a bit emotional when visiting the village and I must admit I did as well. It’s a very special day when you can connect with your past and make new memories at the exact same time.

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The church my grandparents were married in.
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After our tour of the church and cemetery, it was back inside for more food, and of course… more vodka.

My siblings and I all spoke fluent Ukrainian as children, but we have since lost most of the language. That’s why we brought Roman, the interpreter. However, I tried to communicate as much as I could in the mother tongue, as I wanted to make the most of our time with the relatives. I even downloaded a Ukrainian language app on my iPad and completed 25 language lessons before we left. Despite my efforts, I found that Angie was far and away the best at communicating, while I was a distant second place. However, I did have better language skills than David, so I guess there’s that.

In the end, it was a wonderful visit, but it was vastly different than I my expectations. My parents visited in the mid 1980’s and then in the late 1990’s. They described life in the village as quite backward, with no indoor plumbing, little electricity and very few luxuries. My parents still communicated via snail mail, waiting weeks for delivery of their letters.

The first thing we noticed when we arrived was that everyone had a smart phone. They had email addresses, they were all on Instagram and Facebook, they had a satellite dish and oh yeah… they had made some renovations and now had a very nice INDOOR bathroom. This wasn’t exactly metropolitan city living, but it certainly wasn’t the backwater life I had imagined. I guess we can now ditch the letter writing in favour of modern technology!

We stayed later than we planned, but eventually we hugged our way out of their yard and back to the bumpy back roads. The next day my sister and niece were heading back to Calgary, and my brother and his wife had one more day in Ukraine before heading home to Toronto. Visiting Ukraine, the village, our relatives… it was all wonderful. And, sharing the experience with my brother and sister made it that much better. I’m also very happy my wife and children had the chance to learn more about my heritage and I truly appreciated Lianne’s prodding to make the trip happen. With all of that being said, it was now time for the next chapter of our Eastern European tour: POLAND!

Dad@Poland: Connecting With a Lost Heritage

When we planned this summer vacation, we wanted to add a couple of other eastern European stops, and neighbouring Poland seemed like a no-brainer. We had heard a lot of great things about Krakow, so we hopped on a train from Lviv and spent the next five nights in this very cool city.

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The Old Town in Krakow

Over the next several days, we would see A LOT. We ventured into the city’s massive main market square, where we toured the beautiful St. Mary’s Basilica, the Town Hall Tower and the Cloth Hall. We then took in the Market Square Underground museum, the Barbican, and walked the City Walls.  We also explored our “neighbourhood”, as our hotel was in the Jewish Kazimierz district. We viewed several murals and visited the oldest synagogue in Poland. We then crossed the river to see where the Jewish ghetto was situated in WWII, visiting the monument at Plac Bohaterow Getta, which honours the 70,000 Jews deported from the ghetto to the concentration camps. We viewed the remnants of the ghetto walls before we toured Schindler’s Factory, which has been transformed into a very impressive museum that chronicles the Nazi occupation. Our next stop was the very cool Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow.

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Just a bunch of Tysowskis in a land of many other “skis”

Our third day in Krakow was an emotional one. We visited the Auschwitz concentration camp and the Birkenau death camp. To stand in the very spots where human beings inflicted unthinkable atrocities against other human beings with such malice and indifference completely crushed our sprit. However, we felt it was very important that we visit them and we were thankful to have the chance to spend a day there.

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The words above the gate say: “work will set you free”.

Our final full day in Krakow we visited the Wawel Royal Castle, where we checked out the beautiful Cathedral, the underground ruins and the DRAGON’S CAVE. Spoiler alert: there was no dragon. We then took part in an excellent food tour of our Kazimierz district, where we ate way too much traditional Polish cuisine!

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Borsht and perogies… TOGETHER? Why didn’t I think of this?

As prepared to leave Poland, it really got me thinking about my Polish roots and how little I know about them.  I must say I’m very pleased to have spent five nights in a country that plays such a prominent role in my family tree. People have often asked me if I’m Polish when they hear my last name, and I’ve always corrected them: “YES, I have a Polish last name but NO, I’m actually Ukrainian!” And for the most part, this statement is accurate.

When my great-grandfather Tysowski and a whole whack of his brothers and cousins immigrated to Saskatchewan from Poland around the turn of the 1900’s, they settled in an area where there was an established Ukrainian community. They all married nice Ukrainian women and basically became culturally UKE! Polish customs, language and cuisine made way for Ukrainian, and hence… I’ve never felt very Polish. However, it turns out the village my great-grandfather hailed from is actually very close to Krakow. Spending time in my “other homeland”, and being immersed in the language, customs and seeing that they also eat PLENTY of perogies, borscht and sausage… I have to say, I’ve never felt so POLISH in my entire life! And that’s a good thing.

Dad@Croatia: Time to RELAX

Our recent summer holidays have usually featured a built-in “vacation within the vacation”. This year was no different. After two weeks of go-go-go and plenty of sightseeing, it was now time to CHILL. The coastal Sun Gardens Resort near Dubrovnik, Croatia was just the ticket.

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One word: simply gorgeous

After a gloriously hot, gloriously lazy first day on the coast of Croatia, we decided to leave our very pleasant resort on day two. We took a boat ride to Dubrovnik’s beautiful OLD TOWN! We walked on top of the wall, strolled through the skinny side streets, visited the fort and enjoyed the spectacular views! Side note: we visited so many Game of Thrones locations the famous strings of the theme song were on a constant loop in my brain all damn day.

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One of the breathtaking views from high atop the walls of Dubrovnik’s Old Town.

The next morning, we hopped on the very same boat, but ended up at a much more relaxing destination: the nearby island of Lopud. There, we did something close to nothing at Sunj Beach… all damn day.

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Sunj Beach… all damn day.
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Don’t kid yourself… a body like this doesn’t come easy. It takes YEARS to get it to look like this.

Our last day of soaking up the sun in beautiful Croatia saw us back on our ROCKY beach at Sun Gardens… and me ROCKING my bangin’ beach bod. The next day we were off, but not home quite yet. We had a one day layover in…

Dad@London: The Epic One Day Layover

Lianne and I have both been to London more than once, but our kids had never spent any time in this world class city, so we extended our layover to allow for one epic sightseeing day. We hopped on our hop-on-hop-off bus first thing and headed straight for the soaring heights of the London Eye. Then, we toured beautiful Westminster Abbey and followed that up with a very interesting tour of Buckingham Palace. That was a first for us and was actually better than expected! (Sorry, no Queen sightings) After that, we cruised the muddy waters of the Thames and hopped off our boat at the Tower Bridge. From there, we took in the many sights of the Tower of London, with a viewing of the Crown Jewels being the highlight. Fortunately, our hotel was just minutes from the Tower so it was an easy walk home, where we ate one final vacation meal at a nearby Indian restaurant.  

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Don’t let the dour expression fool you… I had a great time. I was simply showcasing my “stiff upper lip”, as is the local tradition.

It was a fabulous trip! Absolutely fabulous.

And if you’re still reading this uber-long blog post, then thank you for hanging in there! Thanks for not bailing out during Poland! 

Yours truly,

Dad@Home

Baby, You Can Drive My Car! (Just Don’t WRECK IT)

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Today, I passed the torch. Today, I officially retired from my reluctant position of amateur driving instructor. Today, my 15-year-old daughter began a twenty-hour driver training course with a professional instructor and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Ever since my daughter Abby passed her learners license written exam in early January at the age of 14, I have been the guy… the guy expected to show her the ropes, to introduce her to the wonderful world of driving, and it has been a nerve-wracking journey to say the least.

On that chilly afternoon in January, I agreed to let Abby drive if she passed her written exam, and pass she did… with flying colours. So, as promised, we drove to a large, empty parking lot and we nervously switched seats, with me setting up shop in the passenger side, and Abby in my seat, in my spot, in MY CAR! She adjusted the seat position, repositioned the rear view mirror and CLICK… she put it in DRIVE. I instructed her to firmly hold the brake down with her foot and gently ease off the pedal… and BOOM! We were moving at what felt like warp speed, but it was actually (wait for it) 5 kilometers an hour. The face she made in the photo above was the face she made the entire time behind the wheel.

Abby absolutely LOVED it, and I absolutely HATED it!

I had no idea 5 km/h could feel so damn fast as we “sped” through the parking lot, making too-sharp turns to the left and then too-sharp of turns to the right and then too many herky-jerky stops. I still can’t believe how many times I yelled out “SLOW DOWN”! –  only to hear Abby yell back:

“I don’t think I can physically go any slower!”

45 minutes of slow-motion laps around the parking lot felt like an eternity, and as we switched seats to make the drive home, I felt my heart rate slowly but surely ease back into it’s normal rhythm. How was I supposed to try this again? Would my heart be able to handle it? Fortunately for me, we were still locked in the icy grip of a classic Canadian winter for at least a few more months, so we agreed to pick up our “driving lessons with Dad” when the snow melted and the roads were clear.

Abby did not forget my pledge to resume her quest for driving proficiency and on a warm, dry weekend in mid-May we found a quiet area with minimal traffic and we tried again. This time, we were driving on actual roads with actual stop signs, actual pedestrians and (gulp) ACTUAL MOVING VEHICLES!

Being in the passenger seat meant everything on the right hand side of the road appeared shockingly too close for comfort. I warned her about getting too close to those parked cars! Or too close to the curb! Or about getting way too close to those massive steel construction waste bins! However, a funny thing happened that day. She seemed infinitely more confident behind the wheel, and all of a sudden 5 km/h felt really slow. We graduated to 10, 20 and OMG… even 30 km/h. Wow, what a speed demon!

The following day was a Monday and when I picked Abby up from school, I impulsively asked if she wanted to drive home. She jumped at the chance and once again my heart rate increased ten-fold as we were forced to enter our first interchange… which featured TWO roundabouts and my car drifting uncomfortably close to the guardrail. Oh the humanity! But the fun wasn’t over yet… as Abby insisted on parking the car in the garage for the first time ever – to triumphantly complete her first ever commute from school to home. It wasn’t the best park job in the world, but it wasn’t the worst either.

And so, driving to and from school became an almost daily ritual, and Abby soon had the route down pat. She even got better at pulling in and out of our garage. I decided we could push some boundaries and try some different routes home from school. She also aced those no problem.

Then, one day I asked if she wanted to drive home from her basketball game… on a really busy road. Once again, she was up for the challenge but none of us in the car were prepared for the stress of bumper-to-bumper traffic and the difficulties of changing lanes in that confusing melee! When we arrived back at home, I found that all-too-familiar jackrabbit heart rate took a while to return to normal.

Despite the stress of that particular trip home from basketball, I had to admit that our new driver was actually fairing pretty well and I was proud of her progress.

And then… it happened.

Abby wanted to drive home from her grade nine grad party at the school, and I said yes! Why the hell not? It was a route she had driven dozens of times, so what was the big deal? Well, it was her very first time driving at night, but that didn’t seem to phase her at all as we approached our home, seemingly in one piece. All she had to do was pull into our garage.

No problem, right? Wrong.

Every single time Abby had previously pulled into our garage, it was empty. This time, Lianne’s car was parked on the right hand side. Again… no problem, right? Wrong. I think having another vehicle to worry about spooked Abby and she overcompensated by turning in closer to the left side of the garage. I thought maybe she was pulling in too tight… but before I could say anything to warn her, I could already hear it! The scrunching sound of my car rubbing the entrance to the garage!

Oh boy. Abby felt awful. I felt awful. Lianne felt awful. It was just awful all around. To make matters worse, it was the first time Lianne was also in the car while Abby was behind the wheel, and our new driver really wanted to make a great first impression. The only good news was that the scuff on the wheel well wasn’t all that awful. And besides, my old Subaru has over 155,000 km of wear and tear on it. It’s almost a decade old and is entering its BEATER phase. No big deal. However, Abby felt it WAS a huge deal and stewed over her driving error for a couple of days before she got back on that horse.

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I’ve seen worse… we’ve all seen worse.

When she did finally climb back behind the wheel, she put her mistake behind her and continued to gain confidence on the roads. Despite her ongoing progress, I felt that Abby had reached a plateau under my barely adequate tutelage. She is definitely ready to drive on roads that have a posted speed limit of over 50 km/h. But here’s the issue…

I AM NOT READY!

The thought of her driving on freeways with speed limits of 80 and 100 km/h terrifies me. Just thinking about it gets the old heart rate to spike! I’m sure I could continue to instruct her and try to correct any miscues while traveling at relatively low speeds, but at high speeds?

No way! No how! No sir! No thanks!

And, that brings us back to TODAY.

Today was a good day. Today, Abby completed her first two hours of driver training with a qualified instructor. Today, I asked her if she went on the freeway, and she excitingly said:

“YES! But, only for a little bit.” That “little bit” was way more than I ever wanted to try, so again I must say:

Today, I passed the torch… and I couldn’t be happier about it.

It’s Funny Because it’s TRUE?

When it comes to stay-at-home dads, there are a lot of stereotypes… A LOT.

People make assumptions, people make jokes, and people make up their minds about who we are, what we do, and why we do it.

Over the last decade-and-a-half, I’ve seen a boatload of cartoons, memes and jokes about my chosen profession on the internet, and I must admit… a lot of them are actually pretty damn funny. But, are a lot of them also pretty damn accurate?

Are they funny because they are TRUE?

Well, that’s where my FOURTEEN years on the job come in. As a certified expert in domestic engineering, I am uniquely qualified to comment on this topic. So, without further adieu, here are FOURTEEN of those cartoons, memes and jokes about stay-at-home dads… and my “professional” opinion on just how realistic they are. Do they hit close to home, or miss the mark completely?

Are they the REAL TRUTH, or simply FAKE NEWS?

I’ll rate each one of them on a “truthiness” scale from 1 to 10.

 

#1 GUILTY AS CHARGED… OCCASIONALLY

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This particular one can hit close to home, but only once in a blue moon. I’ve been laying down the law and playing bad cop for as long as I can remember, but there have been times when one or both of my kids does something incredibly dumb, and I just don’t have the mental fortitude to deal with it. So, I will occasionally punt the ball… and wait for Lianne to come home from work and tackle the latest crisis. Is this practice fair to my wife? Not particularly, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Truthiness rating? Because I don’t make of habit of passing the buck and pulling this parenting stunt very often, I’ll only give it: 3.5 out of 10

 

#2 YUP, BEEN THERE… DONE THAT

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In the early years of stay-at-home fatherhood, I felt completely separated, secluded and sequestered… spending very long days with very small people with very small vocabularies. In those days, I would have given my right arm to go out for lunch with big people with big vocabularies… (who didn’t require me to change their big soiled diapers!) Because a lot of stay-at-home dads don’t get included in the “mommy group” social circles, this comic is totally relatable. Truthiness rating? I’ll give it a very high: 9 out of 10   It’s the REAL TRUTH people!

 

#3 I CAN SEE THEIR POINT, BUT…

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You would never-ever in a MILLION YEARS ask a woman if she was babysitting her own offspring, so why would anyone ask a man that very question? Oh yeah, it may be the year 2018 but we still live in a fairly sexist world. Asking a dad if he’s babysitting his kids implies that parenting children just isn’t a man’s job, and that’s an incredibly old-fashioned and outdated concept. However, the simple fact that I’ve seen PLENTY of these memes over the years must mean it’s a notion that is still alive and well. Truthiness rating? Sorry all of you angry stay-at-home dads, but I’ve actually never been asked if I’m babysitting my own kids, so I’ll only have to give it: 5.5 out of 10

 

#4 THIS ONE MADE ME LAUGH, AND THEN CRY

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At first, this cartoon made me chuckle, but then it didn’t. It implies that even little kids view mothers as the gold standard of primary caregiving. It’s safe to say that society in general may hold this belief, but I’m always hopeful the younglings in this crazy world of ours would have a more gender-neutral attitude on the subject. Truthiness rating? I think my kids have grown up to view what I do as a valid career choice, so based on my personal experience, I’ll have to give it a lowly: 2.5 out of 10

#5 THE THOUGHT HAS CROSSED MY MIND…

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The older my kids get, the closer to reality this particular scenario becomes! To be honest, there have been days when I wondered what life as a true “kept man” would be like… no kids yelling at me, no driving all over the city, no refereeing fight night, no fuss, no muss! I can totally visualize a very zen-like existence, with my usually ski-high anger level immediately evaporating into thin air. What a life that would be: just me, my thoughts, WAY less laundry and LONG afternoons to plan and execute a gourmet dinner. A few years back my son Daniel boldly proclaimed that when he grew up, he wanted to get married and immediately become a stay-at-home-dad. We explained to him that without kids that would be a tall order. We all shared a good laugh over that one… but maybe Daniel was right, maybe that SHOULD be his dream job. Can you blame him? Can you blame anyone? This one feels like a pretty high score on the old truthiness rating, so let’s go with: 8 out of 10

 

#6 YES, I’VE CHANGED… AND NOT FOR THE BETTER

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I wish I could have a do-over. I wish I could turn back time to when my kids started walking, talking and exerting free will. I wish I had tried harder to stay calm and rational when dealing with my illogical and unreasonable children. Before we had kids, I was always described a very laid-back individual who hardly ever let anything bother me. I simply rarely got angry. My unmanageable kids cured me of that very desirable character trait very quickly and quite easily.  Yes, Mr. Dad Duck… I too have lost my goddamn mind, and for that reason I MUST give this cartoon a truthiness rating of: 9.5 out of 10    I’ve got two words people: REAL TRUTH.

 

#7 OH, I’VE BEEN FRAZZLED… BUT THIS FRAZZLED?

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This comic strip is actually pretty darned relatable. Juggling two kids with competing after-school schedules can be very challenging at times, and I truly feel like a glorified Uber driver most days. Have I rolled into gymnastics ten minutes late, or pulled a kid out of soccer ten minutes early to make it to another kid’s activity on time? Have I made one of my kids wait ten minutes for a pick-up while I speed like a demon to get there? Yes, Yes and YES!!! Have I accidentally mixed up my two kids like the dad in the comic? Not yet… so I’ll have to give this one a middle-of-the-road truthiness rating of: 6.5 out of 10

 

#8 SORRY, BUT THIS ONE IS JUST DUMB!

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First of all, let me be 100% clear – being a mom is not DUMB! I’m talking about the BOTTOM half of this meme. In my experience, this characterization of stay-at-home dads could not be farther from the truth! For this reason, I must give it an unprecedented truthiness rating of: 0 out of 10     It’s totally FAKE NEWS people!

 

#9 I WISH THIS WAS TRUE…

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Being the primary caregiver also means being the primary consoler. I recall numerous incidents where Daniel would fall, scrape his knee on the playground asphalt and run right past his mom and into the arms of his dad. Or a five-year-old Abby would walk into our bedroom at 4:02 AM, right past her mom and tap me on the forehead until I woke from my slumber with an all-too-common complaint: “My tummy hurts”. I would always think to myself: “why don’t these kids ever go to their mother with this stuff?” She’s actually much better at snuggling them, calming them down and making them feel better. I’m the guy who ignored my daughter’s tummy-ache until it became apparent her appendix burst, requiring emergency surgery. True story! I’m not proud of it, but I simply didn’t believe her when she said her tummy hurt more than usual… more than the 600 other times she complained about it. But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s get back to the topic at hand. Truthiness rating? 1 out of 10    MORE FAKE NEWS PEOPLE!!!

 

#10 I WOULD NEVER LET “ME-TIME” GO TO WASTE!

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We had not one, but TWO kids with colic, so there were some very long days dealing with very fussy babies. The only good thing to come out of the experience was that we worked very diligently to SLEEP TRAIN our kids. They both slept through the night after only few months and they always went to bed at 7:00 PM. (As teenagers, their bedtimes have been moved back slightly) My point is, we couldn’t wait to get those kids to bed! We had all evening to unwind, relax and recharge. There’s no way I’m spilling ANY amount of alcohol and falling asleep in an armchair. I have never let ME-TIME go to waste, not even once… so for that reason, this comic gets a low truthiness rating of: 3 out of 10

 

#11 ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS… AND RIDICULOUS

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This is ridiculous, and also ridiculously funny. We have all seen the “clueless dad” jokes, and to be honest, I also played that card when I first started my new life as a stay-at-home dad. I staged several “funny” photographs of me screwing up my first day on the job and emailed them out to all of my friends and family. There was the picture of me changing the wrong end of baby, another one featured me not knowing that SlimFast isn’t an appropriate breakfast for baby, and my personal favourite was the shot of me testing the temperature of baby’s formula. I had taken some of Lianne’s lipstick to create the illusion of massive burn marks on my forearm. This was before the age of Facebook, but it was the same idea. I was implying that I didn’t know what I was doing, and I wanted as many people as possible to see it! But in my defense, I only did this particular gag the one time and knew when to give it a rest. I’ve always been a bit of a class clown, and I was simply poking some fun at myself and at the stereotype of the out-of-touch father. For this reason, I must give this a relatively high truthiness rating of: 8.5 out of 10

 

#12 REMEMBER WHEN THESE STUPID MEMES DOMINATED YOUR FACEBOOK FEED A FEW YEARS AGO?

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I found a few of these “What I Actually Do” memes on the old inter-web, but this is the only one about stay-at-home dads that truly spoke to me. Was it because I like to dress up with my kids? Nope. Was it because I fancy myself a great, multi-tasking househusband? No sir. It’s because of that last photo… the one where the dad is burying his nose deep into that baby’s butt. THAT’s what spoke to me! I don’t know how many times I felt the need to do the old SMELL TEST to figure out if my child had just dropped another special delivery for yours truly… and for that, I must give this stupid meme a truthiness rating of: 9 out of 10    That’s some REAL TRUTH brother!

 

#13 AND SPEAKING OF REAL TRUTH…

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One of the central themes of my book Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated (which is still very much available for purchase) is that there is an incredible double standard when it comes to being a stay-at-home-dad. There still aren’t that many of us dudes doing this gig full-time, so a man can do a truly half-ass job and somehow get a ticker tape parade just for… simply showing up? Wow, imagine that! Meanwhile, a woman is being compared to the endless generations of stay-at-home moms that came before her and thus, is held to a much higher standard. Is it fair? Absolutely not. Is this cartoon the absolute REAL TRUTH? You bet your ass it is, so it also gets an unprecedented truthiness rating of: 10 out of 10

 

#14 AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST. THE ONLY THING I CAN SAY ABOUT THIS ONE IS… WTF?

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What’s the deal here? This particular cartoon didn’t come with any caption or joke, just the file name of “house hubby”. I stumbled across it in my online search for stay-at-home dad cartoons and I just HAD to include it, as it’s so awful that it’s… awesome?

Um, where do I even begin? Right off the bat, what’s the deal with him drinking wine and beer at the exact same time? Beer, I can see, but does this unkempt schlub look like a wine connoisseur to you? And what’s the deal on the curlers in his hair? Is baldy really taking the time to roll those fat curlers into his few remaining follicles? And what’s the deal with that diaper? It looks like a hundred feet of bandages wrapped around that baby’s bottom! And what’s the deal with that old-fashioned, black and white TUBE TV… wall mounted? And with rabbit ears to boot? What year is this? And what’s the deal with that bright orange liquid the baby is sitting in? If that’s urine then that kid is super-dehydrated and needs more fluids, STAT! (I’m really hoping that it’s simply spilled Orange Crush)

And last but not least, what’s the deal with the angry-looking silhouette standing in the doorway? Sure, his hard-working wife is coming home to a huge mess. There are peanuts, popcorn and pizza strewn about EVERYWHERE! And don’t forget about the truly random and weird collection of items – diaper pins, rubber ducky, empty cans, soccer ball and some kind of yellow coil/spring thingy…  spread out all over the floor.

But hold your horses for just a moment. Let’s also look on the bright side. Despite the house hubby smoking a cigarette in close proximity to the baby (while letting said baby drink sugary soda) he’s actually DOING THE JOB! Is he supervising his child? Check! Is he doing some light housework by ironing some kind of wrinkled garment? Double check!! Is he also multi-tasking by talking on the phone and watching the game while ironing? Triple check!!! Is there a broom in the room, indicating that there is at least a chance he intends to clean up this pigsty? Quadruple check!!!! I think the angry wife should lay off her chubby hubby and thank him for… simply showing up?  😉

I find Mr. House Hubby completely relatable. I’m actually a bit of a slob myself, so I’m giving this cartoon a mathematically impossible truthiness rating of: 11 out of 10

And there you have it. Fourteen cartoons, memes and jokes… broken down the only way I know how. Another stay-at-home dad may have a completely different outlook on the job, and may think my truthiness ratings are totally WACK. That’s fine. Truthiness is usually found in the eye of the beholder, but I truly believe my fourteen years on the job has given me an exceptional ability to sniff out FAKE NEWS about stay-at-home dads a mile away.

So, always keep this simple rule in mind: If Dad@Home finds it funny it MUST be true, or at the very least… truthy.

 

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Hey, Remember When Someone Reviewed Dad@Home Last Year? Well, Now Someone Else Did!

I know what you’re all thinking… “Wait, is Greg still trying to get people to buy his dumb book?” Well, actually… yes.

Yes I am.

Getting “regular folks” to give a damn about Dad@Home has been hard enough since I released it over eighteen months ago, so imagine getting someone in the media biz to help promote a self-published book!

That’s been tougher than pulling hen’s teeth! (Sorry, but only really old people will have heard this particular saying.)

But don’t you worry… I haven’t stopped faithfully submitting Dad@Home to various websites that review “independent” releases. The first review of Dad@Home was back in March 2017… and now, fourteen months later, here’s the second one: courtesy of OnlineBookClub.org.

Enjoy.

“The Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of “Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated” by Gregory J. Tysowski.

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Being a stay-at-home dad seems like a daunting task to many dads. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of 2014 U.S. Census Bureau data, 16% of American households have a father staying home to take care of children and household duties. But almost a quarter of them are doing it only because they cannot find a job. These statistics quoted in the book, Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated by Gregory J. Tysowski, were eye-opening and grew my curiosity in trying to understand why Tysowski made the major decision to be a stay-at-home dad and let his wife be the bread-winner, even though he had a successful career.

From soup to nuts, Gregory J. Tysowski covers the whole experience of being a stay-at-home dad, the highs, the lows and everything in between. This I think is the most outstanding thing about the book, Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated. Tysowski does not glamorize the whole experience but writes in a down to earth style that allowed me to have a glance at his life. In the book, he captures substantially the perception of people and the society at large towards stay-at-home dads and how he responds to it.

In many instances, he includes his experiences and sometimes those of others. Some are funny; others enlightening while others are down-right heart-warming. At one point, Gregory J. Tysowski recounts an instance where an elderly lady asked him whether he was filling in for mommy and he replied stating that this was his full-time job. The lady was so amazed and kept asking question after question finally asking him whether he was bored. These and many other accounts make the book’s message candid and appealing. I was fully engaged throughout the plot and I could not put the book down once I started reading it.

Gregory J. Tysowski’s sprinkles humorous moments throughout while balancing these with sobering statistics. Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated is close-packed but still exhaustive, comprehensible yet informative. The author’s tone is smooth and left me with a lot to think about and re-evaluate.

The relationship the author shares with his children is splendid and his wife’s sacrifice of bearing the financial burden of the family is noble. Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated is a book about love and doing the best you can for those that you love. At the end of it all, Gregory and Lianne did what they had to do for their children.

I would have loved to rate the book 4 stars but it needs another round of editing. Hence, I rate it 3 out of 4 stars.”

Emunah An, OnlineBookClub.org
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Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon | on iTunes
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Didn’t Meat Loaf sing “Two out of Three ain’t bad”? Well, I’m 99% sure Mr. Loaf would agree that three out of four ain’t so bad either.

It’s actually a fairly decent review of Dad@Home, however feedback from the worldwide literary community hasn’t exactly been pouring in fast and furiously since the release of my book back in late 2016.

At this rate, we can expect a THIRD review of my book in November, 2019. Mark your calendars people.

If you want to check out the original link, click HERE to see my most recent review in all of it’s original glory. While you’re visiting OnlineBookClub.org, why don’t you dive into a few other book reviews? You never know what kind of hidden gems you may find off the beaten path of traditionally published authors.

Us “do-it-yourselfers” need all the help we can get!

And speaking of helping out, if you still haven’t bought my book yet, then here’s your chance! I’m also 99% sure that anyone who has read this semi-glowing review probably can’t wait to click HERE to order one or more copies of Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated: now also available as an AUDIOBOOK.

As always, thank you for your support.

 

Dad@Italy: 20 Years Apart!

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The pushing over/holding up the leaning tower of Pisa joke is obviously a timeless classic, spanning two generations of Tysowkis. Please focus on that… and not on how fat I look in this photo from 1998. Could those pants be any baggier? Did I make them myself out of a tarp?

You know you’ve visited somewhere special when you promise yourself “someday, we MUST go back!” For us, that place was Italy. In September 1998, Lianne and I… still kinda-sorta newlyweds, made our first big trip to Europe and it was fantastic.

We hit all of the hotspots: the Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, Tuscany, Rome, The Vatican, Positano, Pompeii, Venice, Varenna on Lake Como and Milan. The people, the sights and sounds, the history, the FOOD… it all beckoned us to someday make a return trip. So, earlier this year we decided it was time for a sequel, but this time we would have two more passengers in tow – our teenaged kids.

Could we recapture the magic of 1998? Would Italy still be as awesome as we remembered? Would the grown-ups still have a wonderful time saddled with edgy teens at every turn? Would the kids even appreciate it? The collective answer is: YES. Yes to all of it.

We wanted to avoid the heat and the crowds of the summer, so we thought Spring Break in Italy would be the perfect getaway. Twenty years ago, my wife Lianne planned a fabulous vacation itinerary and because we enjoyed the first go-around so much, all of the stops on our 2018 Tour were repeat performances.

But, how would they all compare to our first taste of Italy? Well, just like Italia’s fine wines; they keep getting better with age.

We landed in Milan, but we did not stay long… just enough to see a few late afternoon sights and share a lovely 15th birthday dinner with our daughter Abby. The real vacation would start the next day when we hopped on the train to Venice! Our two days in the city of canals were a lot of fun. Right off the bat, the kids seemed especially impressed with this city surrounded by water! What? ALL OF THE STREETS are water? Much like 1998, we visited St. Mark’s, the Campanile, Doge’s Palace and Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. The one thing we DIDN’T do twenty years ago was probably the most touristy thing you CAN DO in Venice, and that’s take a gondola ride. Back in 1998, we were much more thrifty, and couldn’t justify the exorbitant cost. Fast forward to 2018, and bringing along two more humans cut the “per person” cost in half! Let’s do this! The ride was lovely.

Advantage: 2018 Venice visit.

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On the left – 2018: our lovely evening gondola ride… exploring the many canals of Venice. On the right – 1998: we decided to cheap-out and take a traghetti, which is basically a water bus that takes you right across the Grand Canal in about 90 seconds… standing up the entire time, next to a handful of strangers. Can you guess which one we enjoyed more?

We bid Venice a fond farewell and trained it to beautiful Florence, where we once again gazed upon Michelangelo’s David, then saw all of the sites the Duomo has to offer… including climbing the dome for spectacular city views and then visiting the church, baptistery and museum.

Advantage: Um… I can’t decide. It’s actually a tie between 1998 Florence 1998 and 2018 Florence! A TIE!

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Only a very keen eye can spot the very minor oxidation on Michelangelo’s David that has occurred over the past 20 years. Don’t even bother looking for it… you very likely don’t have a very keen eye like me. I said don’t bother!

The next day, we left the hustle and bustle of Florence behind to take a guided day trip to the hills of Tuscany. We stopped in Siena where the highlight was a visit to the stunning cathedral. Then we toured the Poggio Amorelli winery, tasted several great Chiantis and were treated to a delicious lunch. Our final stop was the small town of San Gimignano, which dates back to the 14th century, but is famous for having the world’s best gelato. We tried it, but could not confirm or deny it was indeed the finest on the planet.

Advantage: 2018 Tuscany visit. We got to visit a winery this time. Wine always wins.

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Just look at how the Piazza del Campo in Sienna has changed in 20 years. Wow… just wow.

After bidding a fond farewell to Florence, we hopped on the train and ended up in Pisa, where we took in the many attractions of the Square of Miracles, including a climb to the top of the leaning tower and visits to the Cathedral, Baptistry and cemetery. After that, we walked the busy Pisa streets and had even more Italian food for dinner. In 1998, the tower was actually leaning TOO MUCH, so it was closed. The base had to be reinforced and the tower itself was “straightened” slightly… from 5.5 to 5 degrees. This time, we made it to the tippy-top!

Advantage: 2018 Pisa visit.

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OK, no kidding around people. This time, there’s actually a pretty noticeable difference when comparing the Baptistry in Pisa twenty years apart. The roof in 1998 looks TOIGHT! The roof in 2018 looks DUMB.

We bid a warm Arrivederci to Pisa and rode the rails to Roma! Our first order of bidness was to secure our reserved tickets to Easter Mass at the Vatican, so off we went to St. Peter’s Square. After wandering the streets of this bustling city, we then paid a visit to the fabulous and ancient Pantheon, which is right next door to our hotel. Day two in Rome found us up bright and early to take a guided tour of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. The crowds were crushing, as it was Easter weekend, but the sights did not disappoint.

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Um… this isn’t even a fair fight. 1998 St. Peter’s was covered in scaffolding while 2018 St. Peter’s looks glorious. 1998 St. Peter’s, you LOSE. Deal with it.

In the afternoon, our luck with the weather finally ran out! The skies opened up on our afternoon tour of the Coliseum and the Roman ruins of Palatine Hills, but that didn’t slow us down. It totally soaked us, but it didn’t slow us down. In 1998, Lianne and I didn’t tour the Coliseum when we visited Rome, but we didn’t make the same mistake in 2018. It was actually one of the highlights of the trip. Day three in Rome found us smack dab in the middle of a sea of humanity… along with 50,000 faithful to celebrate Easter mass with the Pope. Sure, Papa Francesco looked VERY small from our vantage point, but the experience was still very rewarding and well worth arriving almost two hours early! Fortunately, we did get a closer look when Francis hopped into the Popemobile to take a spin around St. Peter’s Square after the mass ended.

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Any questions?

After Easter Mass at the Vatican ended, we took to the streets for a self-guided tour (courtesy of Lianne) visiting the Piazza del Popolo, the Spanish steps, the column of the Immaculate conception, the Trevi fountain, Piazza Colonna, Piazza di Montecitorio, Piazza Navona, and Campo de’Fiori.

Advantage: 2018 Rome visit. Come on! We saw the POPE people!

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Legend has it, throwing a coin over your shoulder into the Trevi fountain will ensure a return trip to Rome. Hey, it worked for Lianne and me!

The next day, we escaped the massive crowds of Rome only to find everyone LEAVES Rome the day after Easter for the “Bank Holiday”. The massive crowds found us! Our first stop of the day was Mount Vesuvius, famous for erupting in 79 A.D. and burying Pompeii under seven metres of volcanic ash. When Lianne and I toured Italy in 1998, the ancient but incredibly preserved city of Pompeii was our favourite stop, and while our afternoon visit in 2018 was still enjoyable, we were part of a tour group and found we were kind of rushed through the ruins. In 1998, we spent a lot more time exploring on our own and found we enjoyed the site that much more. For that reason…

Advantage: 1998 Pompeii visit.

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When a city is already over 2,000 years old, would we see a big difference 20 years later? Not really. But the pristine condition of some of the ruins was still mind-boggling.

The next morning we were once again riding the rails, back to where we began our Italian family vacation… wonderful Milan. The day’s highlights included visits to the Castle of Milan, the spectacular rooftop of the Duomo and a very special viewing of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece The Last Supper.

Advantage: 2018 Milan visit. Seeing the Last Supper in person gives it the edge.

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The Cathedral in Milan is third largest in Europe and is spectacular. But wait… you’ve just been PRANKED people! You see, the picture on the top is actually from 1998 and the photo on the bottom was actually taken in 2018. Ha! Sorry for making you feel ridiculously DUMB! I can’t believe you all fell for that.

And, there you have it. While our 2018 tour of Italy was a few days shorter than 1998, and we visited fewer areas and attractions, it was definitely a great vacation. You must be asking… which trip had the overall advantage? A quick check of the score shows 2018 has the edge in 5 of our stops, while 1998 took the honors only once and of course, Florence was a tie. Does that mean our second time around automatically wins the day?

Does the 2018 Italy tour take the cake?

The numbers scream YES, but you have to understand that our 1998 Italy tour was our very first big trip as a young married couple, and that will always make it feel extra special. Sometimes you have to go with your heart over your head. So, let’s go with 1998. Sorry to lead you on this way.

Would Lianne and I go back to Italy a third time? Absolutely.  Would we take the kids? Um… I think we’re good. They can find their own special place… a place that impresses them so much it makes them promise themselves that someday they MUST go back.

Oh, and before I let you go… here’s one more picture from wonderful Milan.

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Good Lord! Why was I so fat in 1998? And again with those giant pants? Did I call up the professional clown supply store and ask for the biggest clown pants they had… but in khaki??? Why did I post this photo…

Ah Grazie.

The 5 Absolutely Funnest Things You Can Do That Only Take 3.5 Hours!

How you utilize your free time says a lot about you.

Some of us have all of the time in the world while others are so darn busy they won’t even give you the time of day. Some say life is really just a race against time, but is time really on your side?

Time is precious! Time is money! Time is of the essence! Time is a flat circle?

OK enough already! I think I’ve made my point. I say we all need to slow down and take a TIME OUT every once and a while, and lucky for you, I’m here to help.

If you’ve got some time to kill (three-and-a-half hours to be exact) then check out my list of the TOP 5 activities that will prove once and for all that time truly flies when you’re having fun.

Fasten your seatbelts and get ready to have the time of your life!

Number 5: Sit through 3.5 hours of the opera Der Rosenkavalier.

Der Rosenkavalier - Richard Strauss - Opera North - 17 September 2016Marschallin YLVA KIHLBERG    Octavian HELEN SHERMAN              Baron Ochs HENRY WADDINGTON                      Sophie von Faninal FFLUR WYN                  Herr von Faninal WILLIAM DAZELEY                        Marianne VICTORIA SHARP                          Valzacchi ALED HALL                  Annina HELEN ÉVORA                      Italian Tenor JUNG SOO YUN The Marschallin’s Servant DURASSIE KIANGANGU                    Leopold MARK BURGHAGEN Police Commissioner Dean Robinson   Marschallin’s Major-domo Graham Russell           Faninal’s Major-domo Ivan Sharpe               Notary					Jeremy Peaker				                  Innkeeper				David Llewellyn				                  3 Noble Orphans			Rachel Mosley					                                                                             Cordelia Fish	                                                                         Hazel Croft			                                         Pet Seller				Warren Gillespie                                                                                  Dressmaker				Miranda Bevin					  Marschallin’s footmen 			Alexander Banfield				                        	                                                          Tim Ochala-Greenough                                                                        					Garrick Forbes				                                                                                   Gordon Shaw                                                                          4 Waiters				 Alexander Banfield				                                                                                                  Ivan Sharpe                                                                                                                                                                      Ross McInroy	                                                                                                   Garrick Forbes                                                                         Flautist					Ivan Sharpe					     Hairdresser				Christopher Nairne				                       Hairdresser’s Assistant			Nicholas Butterfield				     Noble Widow				Claire Pascoe					     			              
Children				ARCHIE BRADLEY, BEN KELLY, BLOSSOM PALMER,  FAITH PALMER, INDIA THOMPSON Conductor				ALEKSANDAR MARKOVIC Original Director			DAVID MCVICAR Revival Director				ELAINE TYLER-HALL Set Designer				DAVID MCVICAR	 Costume Designer			TANYA MCCALLIN					 Lighting Designer (original)		PAULE CONSTABLE Fight Director				WILL TRISTRAM
Transport yourself to Vienna, during the last years of the Habsburg Empire. The Marschallin, Princess von Werdenberg, has spent the night with her young lover, Octavian, Count Rofrano. He hides when a page brings breakfast, then again when loud voices are heard in the antechamber. The unexpected visitor is the Marschallin’s country cousin, Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau. Oh SNAP! Can you imagine 3.5 hours of this?

Yes! What could be more fun and exciting than hours and hours of opera… but here’s the kicker, it’s being sung in GERMAN. Not just some of it, but all of it! All three-and-a-half hours of it! FUN FACT: there’s no intermission, so you won’t have to press pause on the action for even a moment! Have fun! Or rather…Viel Spaß dabei!

Number 4: Try qualifying for the Boston Marathon by running 42 kilometers in 3.5 hours.

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TALK ABOUT FUN!

This could be you! Over 24,000 people try and qualify for the Boston marathon each year, but not to worry, less than 10% actually run it under 3.5 hours and make the cut. Once you start, you won’t believe how much fun running 42 consecutive kilometers can be! FUN FACT: in 2017, over 1,600 Boston Marathon runners required medical assistance and could not finish the course. What fun!

Number 3: Turn on your TV at 2:49 AM and watch 3.5 hours of high-quality infomercials.

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Just think, you could use your ShamWOW to wipe off any excess “hair in a spray can” after you finish working out with your shake weight! Is there anything more fun than buying useless items at an ungodly late hour?

Let’s face it. We all get green with envy whenever we hear a friend or co-worker tell us they just couldn’t sleep and spent 3.5 hours watching late-night infomercials. Am I right people? If this isn’t the definition of fun, then you have no idea what’s what and should really be arrested by the fun police! FUN FACT: I have no idea what that creepy yellow serial killer mask actually does, but I bet you it’s super FUN and you should definitely buy it.

Number 2: Fly the Concorde from New York to London in just 3.5 hours!

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Supersonic travel has never been more luxurious, more convenient and more FUN! Just look at this menu on a typical British Airways Concorde flight: it features extravagant treats like grilled fillet steak, caviar and lobster canapés, palm heart salad with Roquefort dressing and fresh strawberries with double cream, Dom Perignon 1969 champagne, and even Havana cigars!

OK, full disclosure. Some of you may not have completely loved my first three fun suggestions on how to make the most of 3.5 hours, but you gotta admit, I really hit this one out of the park! Flying in the Concorde at supersonic speeds? Are you freaking kidding me? Oops! Dang it! Um… I TOTALLY FORGOT that the Concorde stopped flying in 2003. Sorry to get your hopes up. But wait, I have another fun idea! Why not fly on a regular (and much, much slower) aircraft from Regina to Hamilton, with a three-and-a-half hour LAYOVER in Winnipeg?  FUN FACT: Winnipeg was recently voted Canada’s worst place to have a three-and-a-half hour layover.

AND FINALLY…

The Number 1 FUN thing to do in 3.5 hours:

LISTEN TO AN AUDIOBOOK!

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Just look at these lucky people! Every one of them is having so much fun listening to a 3.5 hour audiobook. Wow, check out that old lady in the bottom right corner! She looks downright orgasmic! I wonder what audiobook they are all listening to?

It’s funny you should ask, but all of these people are actually listening to Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated, and you can too! At a running time of just over three-and-a-half hours, my new audiobook will be over before you know it.

Listen to it in the car on the way to work, or at the gym, or on a hike… the possibilities are endless, and all of them are so much FUN when you hear my soothing voice talk you through my hilarious adventures of stay-at-home-fatherhood.

FUN FACT: Only time will tell if my book will stand the test of time as one of the all-time greats, but I do know this – it’s actually a really fun book. So, if you’re into the increasingly popular practice of listening to audiobooks, then by all means, please consider purchasing Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated

There’s no time like the present.

Click here to buy it from Audible.ca!

Click here to snatch your copy from Amazon.ca!

Click here to secure this audiobook on iTunes!

 

Oh… and one more thing!

Because the process of recording, editing and uploading this audiobook has been such a nightmare from start to finish, why not put a cherry on top of it all with ONE MORE TECHNICAL GLITCH!

When I uploaded the files, I had a jazzy little musical number running under my opening credits and book dedication. It turns out, they don’t allow mixing music under any spoken word, BUT they didn’t tell me this when I submitted my files and they didn’t instruct me to fix it. So, they simply ran the music track on its own… without informing me.

So, please don’t be surprised to find 45 seconds of uninterrupted jazzy music before my audiobook actually begins. Oh well. I say just enjoy it!

You know you’ve got the time.

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Finally, an AUDIOBOOK UPDATE!

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This image of me struggling to enter my very professional recording booth has become a world-wide phenomenon. Anyone who sees it immediately knows just how difficult recording and editing their own audiobook can be. I am proud to be the poster boy for this very important issue.

I know what you’ve all been thinking.

“Why hasn’t Greg given us an update on his much-anticipated audiobook version of Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated?”

I also know that many of you have become very invested in my trials and tribulations after reading about my numerous difficulties recording it… (click here to revisit that nightmare.)

Countless others have become equally intrigued and enthralled by the editing process that almost drove me mad… (click here to refresh your memory on that infuriating time in my life.)

The last time we spoke, I was just over two-thirds finished editing my book. Fast-forward to one month later, and I am overjoyed to report that I have finally completed my audiobook this past weekend!

I then started the process of exporting each chapter out of GarageBand and uploading them to ACX.com. While that tricky operation doesn’t warrant another epic blog rant, I will tell you that I did manage to completely screw it up and waste several hours by incorrectly exporting the files! Why did I assume any part of this horrific ordeal would go smoothly? WHY?

Let’s just say I finally figured it out and and am currently waiting for the audio files to be processed by ACX. It could take over a week before my book is released on Audible, Amazon and iTunes but I promise you it will be worth the wait.

You might also be thinking: “Why should I even care at this point?”

Well, I will tell you. When we started this process back in early November, who would have thunk it would be this painful… this frustrating… this long and drawn-out… this eventful?

The struggle is real.

We’ve all come this far together, so don’t you want to find out how it all ends? Don’t you want to see (or listen to) the finished product? It won’t be long now.

It’s so close I can smell it.

 

 

 

 

NO! I Still Haven’t Finished My Stupid Audiobook! (But Thank You For Asking)

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This is me… having the time of my life spitting stupid regions at playhead, pasting and replacing stupid clips, mixing in a stupid music bumper and moving stupid tracks around. #TheStruggleIsReal

The last time I blogged about my forthcoming audiobook of Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated, it was hailed around the world as a hilarious cautionary tale of how NOT to record one. People really seemed to enjoy reading about (and laughing at) my incredible ineptitude. It was one of my most popular posts of 2017. Go figure.

There’s no need to rehash the many things I did wrong, or how I would have done things differently. Let’s just say I’m a complete imbecile who royally screwed it up and leave it at that. Looking back, I feel fortunate that I had the mental and physical fortitude to finish recording it in a cat-pee-scented, claustrophobic, wobbly play structure that doubled as my “very professional recording booth”.

I didn’t actually keep a detailed report of my recording time but if I had to guess, I’d say it took me 20 to 24 hours to lay down just over 4 hours of spoken word. When I finished recording, I gleefully dismantled my dumb booth (which was constantly on the verge of collapsing every day I used it) and felt a huge sense of relief and accomplishment.

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#NeverAgain

The weight of the world was finally off my shoulders, as I was certain that the worst was over and I could now get cracking on the easy part… editing the audio.

Um… yeah. About that “easy” part.

Here’s the thing. It was clear I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing when I was recording the audio, so I have no idea why I assumed it would be so easy to edit that 4 hour and 12 minute jumble of mumbled words into a very professional-sounding recording. Oh yeah, I remember googling “record your own audiobook” and reading about another self-published author who promised me I would really enjoy the editing process. You know what? I actually DID enjoy the editing process… for about five minutes… until it really sunk in how tedious, mind numbing and repetitive the process is.

Again, I’m not keeping meticulous records of my editing time, but I am positive that I have SURPASSED the total hours it took to record it, and I’m only two-thirds finished editing the damn audiobook! I thought the process of manipulating audio files would be relatively simple… I’d just “clean it up”! It’ll be easy; just shorten the odd sentence, adjust the master volume and remove a few breath sounds here and there.

I HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE WRONG ABOUT ANYTHING IN MY LIFE (and that’s saying a lot).

To give you an idea of what I’ve been going through these past couple of weeks, here’s a small sampling of what I have been painstakingly editing and CUTTING OUT of my recorded material. So far, over half an hour of crappy, unusable sounds have been axed from my audiobook.

Here’s a list of the Top 10 Most Unacceptable Noises I’ve removed.

  1. Loud inhaling at the beginning of a sentence.
  2. Loud exhaling at the end of a sentence.
  3. Loud breathing in the middle of a sentence that makes me sound exasperated.
  4. Loud sniffling of my nose throughout the recording.
  5. Loud throat-clearing every five minutes.
  6. Loud coughing for no apparent reason.
  7. Loud tongue-clicks at truly random intervals.
  8. Loud lip smacking at the worst possible time.
  9. Loud gulping sounds at the best possible time.
  10. Loud, extraneous mysterious thumping sounds.

You see, my extensive research taught me that you actually have to KEEP some breath sounds in your audiobook, or risk sounding like a robot! Have you ever heard Siri, Alexa or that bossy lady from Google Home take a breath? I didn’t think so.

Here’s the problem. My stupid my breath sounds are WAY too loud! How loud? Well, imagine you’re watching a TV show or a movie… and some unfortunate soul has just collapsed or has been pulled out of a lake after being found floating face down. You know that loud, gasping sound they make after the hero successfully performs CPR for a couple of minutes? You all know what I’m talking about… that first giant, deep, breathy gulp of air they take after they are miraculously revived from the dead?  Yup. That’s how almost ALL of my breaths sound on the unedited recording of my precious audiobook!

Am I exaggerating? Only a little bit.

This has become a very big deal, as I now have to scour my recorded files for that rare breath sound that actually sounds like it came from a normal human being. When I do find one, I squeal with delight and quickly copy it! I then use it for an entire chapter. But, then I get paranoid and start wondering:

“Will people notice that my breath sounds are all the same in any given chapter?”

That’s when I slap myself in the face and yell out loud:

“Dammit Greg! Stop overthinking it!”

I also have been struggling mightily with removing several breathy exhales that I inexplicably placed smack dab in the MIDDLE of a sentence! Why did I do that and why didn’t I notice all of them while I was recording the book and simply do a retake? Why indeed.

And speaking of retakes, some of you eggheads may be thinking to yourself: “Why doesn’t that idiot simply re-record parts of his book instead of spending 35 minutes trying to fix a few seconds of weird bodily sounds that ruined a take?”

I’ll tell you why!

For starters, I would have to recreate the exact recording conditions to ensure a consistent sound throughout the audiobook, and God knows I promised myself I would never go back! I can’t go back! I won’t go back! Never again!

I lived in a stinky, collapsing hellhole on and off for over a month, literally stuck in it for hours at a time, recording the same damn sentence over and over and over again every time an airplane flew overhead, a truck drove by, a dog barked, or my cat snored! The experience shook me to the core and when I finally finished, I said never again! NEVER AGAIN!

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#NeverAgain

So, that’s why I can’t simply restart the recording process. That’s why I am determined to make this work with what I’ve got. That’s why I must make sure the incredible sacrifice I made wasn’t in vain. I’ve been staring at a computer screen daily, taking 60 minutes to edit a measly two-and-a-half page section of my book. If I can survive this, I can survive anything. The good news is, I’ve actually been fairly successful in turning this pile of recorded garbage into a finished product that actually sounds pretty darned good.

I was starting to think that I might be able to pull this off. I was daring to dream that maybe, just maybe… all of my hard work… the 50-plus hours of recording and editing, just might be worth it! Then, the other day, my lovely wife Lianne asked me a simple question after I complained to her for ten minutes about how difficult this project has been since I started it in early November:

“What if you don’t sell any audiobooks?”

I didn’t have a response. I just stared straight ahead for a several seconds as my jaw dropped, my eyes bulged and my stomach churned. Thanks wife. That incredibly disappointing possibility had never crossed my mind… until now.  😦

But, that’s neither here nor there. If you would like to make sure that I won’t suffer the ultimate humiliation of producing an audiobook of Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated, and then not sell a single copy, then please stay tuned. If you help a brother out, I promise it will be a feast for your ears!

If all goes well, my “book on tape” will be available to purchase on audible.ca within a couple of weeks. Wish me luck!

 

Merry Christmas From The Tysowski’s! 2017: The Year In Review

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Old School meets New School. For the first time in history, our annual Christmas letter is online!

Well, here we are again. I know we are fast approaching the end of another year when I sit down to write the annual Tysowski Christmas letter. This is the 12th anniversary edition, and at this point, I’m not even sure why I’m keeping track. If it was the 10th anniversary, or the 20th… sure, I get it. But, this being only the 12th incarnation, it seems rather unnecessary and almost unnatural to announce the milestone. You know what, forget I even mentioned it. In fact, I won’t blame you if you decide to stop reading now.

But I digress… 2017 started off with a relatively uneventful January, but that all changed in February.

Unfortunately, the G.L.A.D.D.S. family tragically lost one its “D’s”. I’ll quickly ease any panic: it wasn’t Daniel! Rather, it was our furry feline friend Duff, who suffered what we believe was a deliberate poisoning by ingesting antifreeze while outside on his daily adventures. Once ill, he went downhill very quickly and the ordeal was extremely tough on all of us. But, just one day after our dear Duff departed, our family gained a brand new “D”! Enter Domino, a two-month old kitten adopted from the Calgary Humane Society.

He certainly has been a handful, but he has also been a great fit in the Tysowski household. Even Sasha seems to like him, despite his annoying penchant for pinning her down and biting her neck, all vampire-style.

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Merry Christmas from Domino, the newest member of the GLADDS family!

Spring arrived, and with it a couple of March birthdays. Daniel’s transformation into a fine young man has begun, as he turned 12, while Abby turned 14 and is quickly becoming a lovely young woman. (Fun fact: I always update the kids ages, but this year I’ve also stealthily changed a single word in this oft-used classic Tysowski Christmas letter phrase. Any guesses as to what I altered? Does anyone even care?)

Our first family adventure came in April, where we spent spring break in the hustle and bustle of Toronto. In eight days, we hung out and went sightseeing with David and Gaeil, spent a couple of nights in the cheesy glory that is Niagara Falls, and were absolutely perfect T.O. tourists: visiting museums, aquariums, a “Broadway” show, the CN Tower, the Hockey Hall of Fame, plus Blue Jays and Raptors games. You name it, we did it.

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The mostly hat-wearing Tysowski family wishes you all the best in 2018!

With the arrival of summer came another epic family vacation, and yet again, we teamed up with Mark, Dona and family. This time, we continued our quest to explore our great nation with three full weeks in La Belle Province! Or, in other words (that sound more English), beautiful Quebec! Landing in Montreal, we stopped in Trois Rivieres on our way to Quebec City, which was very busy but super cool. From there, we moved on to the Isle D’Orleans, then Montmorency Falls, the Charlevoix Region and Isle Aux Codres. After that, we spent some time in beautiful Tadoussac, the only place outside of the Artic with Beluga whales, on to Rimouski, and then hung out at a relaxing resort called Domaine Valga.

But wait, there’s more! After sightseeing at Bic National Park, we visited the Irish Memorial National Historic Site at Grosse Isle. Then came the vacation within the vacation, as we set up shop for a week at a cottage on Lake Memphremagog, which actually crosses the Vermont border. Lake life agreed with us, as we enjoyed spacious accommodations equipped with a dock to swim and fish from, all manner of kayaks and canoes to use, a dry sauna, nearby nature trails and some really great weather to boot. We finished off our tour of the province in Montreal, where we enjoyed some famous bagels, took a tour of the old city, and ate plenty of smoked meat.

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Seasons Greetings from Quebec City, where we briefly discussed permanently swapping various family members to really shake things up!

Lucky Daniel managed to take TWO summer vacations, as he hopped on a plane to Kelowna the day after we arrived home to spend a week with Angie, Andy and Erika in the BC interior.

With the arrival of fall, we all turned our attention to the beginning of a brand new school year. Abby was very excited to start her final year of junior high, as Daniel was extra-eager to kick off his first year of junior high. Wow, not one but TWO kids in junior high! If that doesn’t make us feel, look and act really old, then nothing will! Oh, who are we kidding? It seems everything in this life makes us feel, look and act really old.

Moving on… another year of swimming, piano, debate club, soccer, volleyball, basketball and hockey made sure our kids are well rounded, and also totally exhausted by the weekend. (Apologies yet again, as this tired, recycled line is also considered a Tysowski Christmas letter classic, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The kids won’t be involved in this many activities for that much longer, so take heart.)

For those very few of you looking for an update on my beer league hockey team, here it is: we still play, I still suck, but I’ll never quit the game I love, no matter how many of my teammates suggest it or petition the league to force me out. I guess that’s one of the perks of being a co-general manager with my brother Mark – they can’t get rid of us.

In last year’s letter, I boldly announced that my long-time pet project… my BLOCKBUSTER BOOK Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated, had finally been published and was ready for purchase at Amazon. Well guess what? It’s a full year later and it’s STILL for sale at Amazon, so for those of you who bought a copy, I sincerely thank you for your support. For those of you who haven’t bought a copy: congratulations, you’re now dead to me. But don’t despair, I’ve been spending hours voicing my book and will soon be releasing the audiobook version of Dad@Home on audible.ca! You will find more details right here on my blog… stay tuned!

And that brings us full-circle to December where we already have the mid-winter blues and are desperately waiting for Christmas holidays to save us all. Unfortunately for us, there will be no winter escape this year but we are already looking forward to a spring break getaway to Italy! That’s right, Italy, where I can finally say “Ah Grazie!” dozens of times a day with impunity. Our summer adventure has yet to be officially confirmed, so you will have to read my blog to find where we go this year. And while you’re visiting my blog, you might as well buy my book. OK, I apologize for the multiple book plugs, but we hope you had a wonderful 2017 and look forward to hearing from you in 2018.

All the best this holiday season! Love,

Greg, Lianne, Abby, Daniel, Domino & Sasha (the all-new G.L.A.D.D.S. family)

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Best wishes for 2018!