Tag Archives: kids

My Top 10 Favourite Halloween Costumes

Over the years, I haven’t been one to shy away from dressing up for Halloween (… or any other day of the year, when the occasion called for it). I have always found it to be a lot of fun to step out of character for a day and take on another persona for the pure fun it.

Over the course of a half-century, I have had plenty of opportunities to try on different costumes. What surprises me is that the ones that seem to be the most memorable were not necessarily the store-bought ones, but the ones that involved an injection of creativity to complete the look.

Here are a few of my favourites:

10. Bugs Bunny

The most memorable store-bought costume had to be my favourite cartoon character, Bugs Bunny. Because I wasn’t in growth spurts around that time, I am pretty sure I wore it for (at least) two consecutive Halloweens.

It was pretty simple really, a grey polyester jumpsuit with a white chest and belly that I could hop in and out of in seconds, and a plastic mask with a little elastic in the back that needed a little reinforcing for the second year.

Add a carrot, fresh from our garden, with the stems still on and I was as happy as a clam. It really was a simple pleasure.

9. Groucho Marx

Inspired from an episode of “All in the Family” where Mike and Gloria were dressed up as Groucho and Harpo Marx, Mom helped me make a home-made Groucho Marx outfit. For the costume, she raided my parents’ closet for a white shirt, jacket and pants that would appear baggy on me, and then drew on a moustache and bushy eyebrows. Combined with plastic glasses and a plastic cigar from my toy box, and a repertoire of horrible jokes, it was an easy yet effective home-made costume that was a lot of fun. Continue reading

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The Rewards of Vending Machines

vending-machinesOn a recent visit to the mall, I noticed a little girl was carefully perusing the contents of the row of gum ball and toy vending machines, with the same intensity I demonstrated when I was shopping for new appliances. She was contorting herself around the machines, checking out all of the contents and trying to predict which items were to come out next.

I understood that this was a major purchase and she was looking for the best value for her hard earned allowance money. That was me 40+ years ago!

After much scrutiny and analysis, she pointed to a machine, put in her coin, turned the crank, opened the plastic bubble and voilà! Pure joy and a huge smile! I could only assume that she got what she was looking for as she was visibly delighted with her prize.

I was reminded of my own childhood and my borderline addiction to those machines. I remember my sock drawer was proudly filled with little gum-ball-machine toys I had collected from trips to the grocery store or the department store.

I don’t think my experience was all that unusual though. With those machines at eye level for a kid, it was so easy to beg parents and relatives for coins, to get something I “positively need, and promise I won’t ask for anything again”… until the next visit.

But what is it about those machines that ignites our curiosity? If common sense prevails, one would think that being able to hold, feel and inspect a product up close to make an informed decision would the more balanced way to go. However the separation of human and product by a plastic window seems to appeal to our sense of adventure.

Or is it because we have become the product of our own life-long Pavlovian experiment since a very young age: put in a coin, get a treat? Continue reading

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The Fear of the Truant Officer… Even at Age 51

police-carsA couple of weeks ago, I had an errand that needed urgent attention, but trying to deal with it outside of work hours would have meant long line-ups. While it may have seemed like a no-brainer to most people, after 35 years of riding the bus, it still is not second nature to me to think that I can jump into my car and to run an errand at lunch time!

As I was driving around, I don’t know why but I had this feeling deep down inside that I was doing something wrong. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it seems like a throwback to my primary school days when leaving school grounds was a no-no.

Picture it… Ottawa… 1974… two boys are playing in the schoolyard and one them tells the other, “Come on, I do it all the time. I’ve never been caught”. The faux-pas in question was the idea of leaving the school grounds to go to the convenience store to buy some candy. Of course I was the boy who needed a lot of convincing, as disobeying orders from authority figures was not second nature to me.

Let’s face it, having grown up as an only child, I could never get away with blaming a brother, a sister or a pet if something got broken. Even if I could attempt to blame the imaginary friend or just simply shrug my shoulders and say “I don’t know”, I was a horrible liar anyway. Between Mom’s glare that would extract the truth out of me without trying too hard, combined with the prospect of “wait til your father comes home”, the skills required for bluffing never became part of my wiring.

After much coaxing and the fact that recess was ticking away from my analysis paralysis, I decided to join him. Continue reading

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My Top 10 Easter Memories

As we head into the Easter holiday weekend, the memories of Easters past started flashing before my eyes. Maybe it was the delirium induced by a sugar rush of Easter treats that have been in such great abundance in recent days, but when I stopped to think about it, there were just as many great Easter memories as there were great Christmas memories.Easter

The best part is that my Easter memories often stem from their simplicity and their timing. With the floating holiday, Easter sometimes feels like winter while other years it feels like summer. Easter is often associated with the beginning of spring and the approaching end of the school term. It also heralds a period of coming out of our winter cocoons and opting to spend more time outdoors. And of course, there are the Easter treats… some years, too many of them, undermining the New Year’s resolutions, if they were still in effect.

Here they are, my Top 10 Easter memories:

10. My first road trip to Montréal
While I can’t say for sure the exact year, maybe it was 1990, it was right after I had moved out into my own apartment. It was the first time I had rented a car for the weekend with the purpose of a same day trip to Montreal to take in some sights, food and shopping. It was a great taste of independence and doing exciting grown-up things. I vividly recall a beautiful sunny day, the road conditions were perfect, even though there was still some snow on the ground, but I had a lovely day enjoying the charm and warm hospitality of Montréal, the first of many trips to come.

9. While it usually meant a long weekend of studying for exams, it also meant that the university term was almost over.
It was always difficult to stay in and study for exams when the urge to break out and enjoy the spring-like weather was tugging at me. Just the same, I knew that school was almost out. Bringing the books outside to study seemed like a fair compromise.

8. 6:00 a.m. Easter egg hunts
As an only child, waking up early and keeping myself quietly entertained (often, just watching cartoons) until my parents woke up was a weekly weekend ritual. Easter Sunday was really special as I recall waking up, finding the basket and hunting around for Easter eggs that my Mom would have hidden the night before after I went to bed. I recall my huge excitement every time I found one and then shushing myself to keep it down and not wake up Mom and Dad. Continue reading

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The Surprises at Summer Camp

As I was driving around and dodging potholes this week, I couldn’t help but notice a big sign announcing “summer camp registration”. I don’t know for sure if the flashbacks I was getting were just my life flashing before my eyes given the massive holes in the street left behind from Old Man Winter or the warm memories of day camps I attended as a child.

But there is something about the mention of camp that has of those songs running through my head like a freight train again (40 years later) like the one about the littlest worm that got stuck inside my soda straw or poor Charley who never returned.

I think to myself that I was very lucky that my parents made me… I mean… offered me the opportunity to go as many times as I did.

The truth is, I was at that strange age: too young for a job and too old for day care. Frankly, if left to my own devices, I probably would have been stuck in the 1970’s version of “screen time”: park myself in front of the TV and watch game shows all day for the entire summer. And for this little guy who shopped in the “husky” department, getting out in the fresh air, sunshine and actively mixing with kids my own age was definitely better for me in the long run.Camp

The attached picture is one of the rare pieces of evidence of me ever setting foot in a tent. Even from a young age, roughing it was not my thing, so shipping me off to an “away” camp in the woods, would have required significant bribery. My mom signed me up for the next best thing: day camp.

Most of the camps I attended lasted two weeks, just long enough to give my parents a break from tearing me away from The Price is Right, and not so long that I felt it encroaching on my unstructured play time. As an only child, I had a strong sense of boundaries where that was concerned.

As much as the first days were filled with apprehension and butterflies, not unlike the first day of school, campers had to get into the groove quickly because it was over before they knew it.

My first ones were camps involving getting on a bus and heading to some distant green spaces. I would pack my Archie and Bugs Bunny comics into my little knapsack to read along the way, as well as a classic PB and J lunch, my bathing suit and towel, a rain poncho just in case and an ample supply of bug repellent.

Once there, I forgot any of the apprehensions I had, while mixing and mingling with other kids who were looking for something fun to do over the summer. Our camp counselors were fantastic in Continue reading

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