Surviving A Reno

“Let’s buy a fixer-upper.” Says my wife calmly, as though she was telling me we should go get groceries. “A fixer-upper? Why for? We have full time jobs and 3 kids, we don’t have time to be fixing up anything, especially anything that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.” I was not for this insane idea. Then she sat me down and gave me a lesson on the pros of buying cheap and increasing value by fixing up a house that needs a little TLC. “We could build equity then withdraw against it.” She explained. I will be the first to admit, I am not very savvy in money matters but I usually support her fully when she proposes we engage in some financial activity as she has proven she knows what she’s talking about, so I cautiously I agreed but first I had to be schooled by her on the basics of the business. She introduced the BRRR Method to me. No, not the the cold in Winnipeg. Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, that’s what it means.

Real estate was never my thing. My wife on the other hand was passionate about it. She attended information sessions, listened podcasts and followed the successful movers and shakers on social media and excitedly pillow talked me to sleep about it. Watching HGTV was our Netflix-and-chill time.

It was less than a year ago that we waded into the world of real estate investing and purchased a condo that needed no fixing up. It was a turnkey investment and it was more my speed. Buy it rent it and go home. My BRG Method.

Cutting to the chase, last June, we contacted Jesse Carlson from RE/MAX, who was also our agent on the condo purchas and let him know we were ready to start looking at houses again. We looked at some real gems, or should I say pieces of work that made Amie salivate at the prospect of fixing them up but made me cringe. To me, they were ready to be torn down. They needed more than a little TLC and I jokingly asked Jesse what were the implications of buying some of them and setting them alight.

After dragging our poor realtor all over the city from house to condo to house, we were starting to think of packing it in until the following year, but we still had this last house on our list that was a convenient couple of minutes away from our home that Jesse had recommended to us. We were in for quite a surprise, and not the good kind. This house looked as though the previous owner gave it too much TLC and ended up loving it to death! Every square inch of wall was covered with decorative panels and every room had mirrors that would have been the envy of many gyms! We were taken aback, we were aghast. We were dumbfounded. We laughed then but after going home and crunching numbers we decided that for the right price, we could hit our BRRR. We didn’t know what was in store for us. (A picture is worth a thousand words)… (You could also skip the pics and go straight to the video at the end).

Before Reno
Post Reno

We called Jesse and let him know we were ready to put in an offer. No more dragging him around like an unwilling mutt on cold morning walk. Except he was more than willing. In fact I think he enjoyed seeing these storied homes as much as we did. We bought the house! Yayy! High fives all around! Not so fast, let’s see what we faced.

We headed to our new rental property early on possession day, June 26th, armed with a carpenter’s bucket of the necessary tools that we would need or thought we would need for our renovation. We were ready. Well we thought we were.

First order of the day was to sell the half wall partition with the stained glass that separated the living room from the foyer. The buyer was removing it himself while we concentrated on our tasks. After seeing the magnitude of what was to be done, we hired the guy to help us remove the panels that covered every inch of the house. We also borrowed a couple of his tools!

Renovating a fixer-upper like this takes a toll on friendships and relationships. It also takes a toll on your weight! We lost about 20 pounds between us!

I have always stated that I have the best friends. Renovating the rental was proof of this as a few of them dropped in to help us tear down walls, paint, clean up or kept us filled with food and treats! Our real estate agent Jesse and his wife Heather spent an entire day with us and put in a herculean effort that saved us a few days work.

Along the way we found some nostalgic and interesting treasures and interesting alterations that were done to the house. Fortunately we were able to sell some of these cast-offs.

This was literally a house of mirrors! They adorned the walls of every room. We were able to sell most of these also.

the blogger at work
Found me a ping pong table!
No one said there will be blood!

I drafted this post after our renovation was completed but was too busy to proofread and published it. It was sitting in my drafts and I figured it was worth sharing. This was a tough project. We ended up doing way more than we expected but we were able to make it worth it in the end. We also have a great family renting the house and we are already feeling the itch to to get our next project! We would like to thank our family and friends who helped to make this project less stressful for us with their help and encouragement.

Posted in Family, Home | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dealing With Hockey Tryouts Cuts, Part II


9A3 Tournament Trophy

Almost a year ago to the day, I was moved to write a blog after my son Kenyan was surprisingly delegated to the house league after trying out for hockey 9A1 and 9A2 teams.  I thought that he was better than what was meted out and admitted to a negative  knee-jerk reaction.  After I came to terms with the decision I was able to help him deal with his first hockey disappointment.   I encouraged him to work hard to get the results he wanted and not to let this get him down.  Instead use it as a motivator.  I told him that for his next tryouts, he had to work his behind off and make the decision an easy one for the selectors. If you didn’t read the original post, go ahead and catch up by clicking here.

Sometimes, our disappointments end up being the best things to happen to us and in Kenyan’s case, this was very true.  He couldn’t have asked for a better year! His 9A3 team was made of up a great group of kids who could also hold their own while having fun.  While the A1 and A2 teams struggled to win games, the A3 went unbeaten, handily winning every game, many of them by blow outs! All this time, Kenyan kept working hard and morphing his game.

Then came tryouts for 2018/2019 season.  This time there were no broken or borrowed skates.  This time, the selectors were made of outside representatives.  In the past, the coaches did the selection and it left room for bias.  Another new touch was that instead of kids being cut along the way, they all skated through the 5 sessions then are notified via emails on which team they made.  No more letters to open in the parking lot, plus who doesn’t want that extra skate?

Kenyan had a great tryout! Before and after each segment, I would tell him that he MUST leave it all on the ice.  “This is for all the marbles son!  You could rest after.”  He listened.  The emails were promised 24 to 48 hours after the final session.  Ours came the next day.  The kid made A1!!  Was I surprised? Not really. Like I said, work hard son and you will get what’s  yours.

In hockey, as you may know, it’s a dog eat dog world filled with competitive parents with dreams of NHL hockey drafts.  Everyone feels that they kid is the next great one and deserve to play top level hockey.  At the tryouts, I saw kids who I know have talent and could pretty much be on a higher level team than they ended up on in the selection but these kids go in with the mentality that it’s a given.  Some of these kids were shadows of the kids the kid I watched lighting it up last season.   They got lost among the 40 plus kids that were competing for the same spots.  They simply did not work their butts off.

I am a proud dad.  Not because I think my 9 year-old is going places. Heck no! I am proud that he now knows what hard work brings.  He gets to experience it first hand.  I couldn’t have scripted it any better.

Kudos son and all the best for a great year of A1 hockey!  Let’s go Regents!



Posted in Children, Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goodbye Granny

Last night my family went from 5 to 4 generations with the passing of our matriarch.   My grandmother died peacefully in her sleep at the ripe age of 105.

She was born in 1912. Two years before WW1 and two months after The Titanic sank.  The world was indeed a much different place than we know it now.  Imagine what stories died with her.  We compare present day to our lives in the 80s and 90s and technological changes.  Imagine the changes she experienced.  Not just cell  phones but phones period!  Then computers.  A total societal shift of things once held dearly.  Things once embraced now being shunned and vice versa.  Some things you never understood, like how today’s kids were so spoiled.  I bet you felt lost in your own world.  You probably mentally lived in your past. Oh granny how I wish I could have documented your life…

Nennie, as we all called her, was in a league of her own. What a woman! A fighter right up to the very end.

Her stories at bedtime were legendary although I wish she had shared more of her own personal journey with us, those she kept locked away inside forever.

My Granny walked a long arduous path and made it to the end.  Even though her death was inevitable she still leaves a void that could never be filled.

Rest in peace Nennie.  Memories of you will live on forever.

Please also read:

Posted in Children, Family, Life, Parenting | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Dealing with hockey cuts

This is my 9 year old son’s 3rd year of playing hockey. He started at the 7 and 8s level and we got to watch his quick transformation from the awkward kid on the team who could barely stay on his feet to being one of the team’s top scorer and player the very next year. Not bad for having no skating experience at the Timbits level.

This year, Kenyan entered 9A1 tryouts with a high expectations.  Unfortunately he was cut in the first batch. He was not fazed as he wanted instead to make the A2, a goal that many, including his parents, thought was a given. Watching him in his practices, I saw nothing to suggest that he was behind the other skaters.  In fact I was certain he was in the top 10.  Alas, I was just a parent. What do I know?

Today, he was handed his letter to open in the privacy of the car. We all knew what it would say so I had him read it aloud.  “Thank you for trying out but you have been cut from the team.”

I thought it was a joke. I looked at his face frozen in shock.  No! How? He had worked his butt off, overcoming some obstacles on the way like unknowingly skating with a broken skate on his first tryout then having to borrow a bigger skate for his next one, then today skating with a recurring groin pain.  Through it all he barely complained, although as a dad, I could tell that something was off. He still managed to hold his own.

We sat in the parked car on the driveway for a long time with the tears streaming down his face.  I felt for the little guy.  He looked at me and said he no longer wished to continue.  We discussed maybe seeing if it was still possible to play indoor soccer.

My knee-jerk reaction blinded me to a perfect teaching moment and I rushed to the computer to request a refund and ask his soccer club if there was still time to join an indoor team.  The answer was faster than the response for a refund.  “Yes, we will take Kenyan.”  (Even though registration was long closed). 

Kenyan plays soccer in the summer and hockey in the winter.  He was his team’s top scorer and his old teammates transitioned to indoor soccer.

After chatting with Amie and my buddy Curtis, I was able to look at this setback without the daddy glasses. I even did some research on how to deal with getting cut from tryouts for kids and also parents.

As I went to give the boys their nightly hugs, I sat Kenny down on my lap.  I told him I wanted to apologize for my  irrational behavior. I explained that a ref or coach’s decision is always right and should be accepted.  They might be contrary to our own but it is what it is.  I explained the Michael Jordan story, him being cut from his college basketball team and other sports superstars who were deemed not good enough.  

Then it was time for the real question.  “Son, do you really want to be a hockey player?”  He said yes.  “Then take this as a blessing in disguise.  Go on this A3 team and own it! Be the best player, not just a supporting cast.  Learn and strengthen your weak areas.  Your skating was as good as any but maybe your shot was not big enough? Work hard on that then at the end of the season let’s revisit.  You are only 9 years old. There’s nothing to stress about. Go have fun!”  As I planted his goodnight kiss on his forehead I added, “I love you no matter what.”  

Yes, it’s just a game and the kid is a kid. Sure enough two hours later he was back to his normal self.  If the kid really wants this, then this could not have worked out any better.  A chance to be the big man on campus. Show the coaches what they missed.  Have a good season, buddy!

Posted in Children, Life, Parenting, Sports | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Ping Pong Table

Image result for ping pong clip artLast December, I finally got the kids a ping pong table for the basement.  Ok, you got me, it wasn’t exactly for the kids, it was more for me.  I love ping pong and always wanted a table.

So here I was, ping pong table in the basement and the family playing up a storm.  It was a great idea as the boys would play ping pong more often than they played video games.  I was the ping pong champion in the house and we would set up tournaments which I won handily.  It was a given.  I even beat our Chinese student! With his fancy Chinese-style serve, spins and all. Told you I was good.

All that changed last week.  Over the last few months, I noticed that my 8 and 10 year olds were winning the odd game but chalked it up to my lack of focus or just having a bad game.  Then last week we had a tournament just the 3 of us and was shocked by losing 3 games to the older boy! Three straight games!

Losing is not something I take well at so I was not satisfied with the outcome but after rematches and rematches, which I lost, I conceded that the torch was passed and 10-year old Mikhail was the new ping pong champion of the house. Sad. (As Trump would tweet)

I am comforted with the fact that I still could win the odd game between myself and the 8-year old but that too seems like it would end soon.  As they look at me sulking in a corner after another loss, they go, “Don’t be sad daddy, you taught us well and that’s why we are good!”

Thanks boys, how about one more game?  Just to make sure.

Posted in Children, Family, Sports | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Honey I Told The Kid

easter-1Lately, Kenyan my 8-year-old, has been reacting to not getting his way by crying that his life sucks.  On some occasions, he has threatened to run away, once packing his bag with his prized possessions, wrestling figures.  “Kenyan, many kids would give anything to have what you have”, Amie and I would say to him, while giving him examples of why his life doesn’t ‘suck’.   “You just went to Disney. You are in the movie, ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ you got cool light up shoes that your friends are jealous of, you perform on stage with Daddy every summer, to name a few.”  These always falls on deaf ears

Last week the wheels came off the bus in a big way!  While him and I were in the middle of doing something, he mentioned again how bad he had it.  Well I also had it!  “Kenyan, if you think your life is so bad, I will start taking away some of the good things you have and then maybe you would see how bad it really could be.”  “Like what?” He asked. “Your light up shoes.”   His reply was that I couldn’t because Santa got them for him, not me.

“Son, I wasn’t ready to tell you this but there is no Santa!”  There! I Said it!  Sorry Amie, I know we agreed not to let that cat out of the bag until he was at least 10 but I work too hard to get things for this kid to let some fictitious fat man take credit.  I did try to back pedal but there was no taking it back.

While I was on a roll, I also dispelled the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy myths as well. He was still a dubious on the Santa revelation and sat and quietly digested what he had just heard.  “How about the Elf On The Shelf then?”  I pointed to the box sitting high on the top shelf in the closet.  “He’s in there.”  He wanted to see for himself so I took it down and opened it, revealing that the Elf On A Shelf was in fact now a Jack In A Box.

Kenyan sat for about 20 minutes staring into space.  I let him have his moment and answered the questions he had.  “I feel so stupid now.” He finally muttered with an embarrassed look on his face.  At least now he knows how much his parents work hard for everything he has.


Since that revealing conversation, Kenny has not complained about his life or threatened to leave.  He has played Tooth Fairy to his little brother by putting money under his pillow after he lost his tooth and is also eager to be in charge of the Elf next Christmas. As for me, I feel like a weight has been taken off my shoulders. One more kid to go!


Posted in Children, Christmas, Family | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our Epic Road Trip To Disney World

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Aug 13th 2016, we set out on a long road trip to Disney World, Orlando. It was the most memorable experience for me and the family, one that we would cherish forever. Continue reading

More Galleries | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Excuse Me, I’m A Rookie Hockey-Dad

My Vuze, My Takes

It’s been a couple of weeks since my two oldest sons started their foray into the hockey world and I am still lukewarm about this venture.   Coming from soccer to this organized mayhem, it’s a shock to the system.  Maybe next season, if there’s a next season, all that would change and I’ll plunge headlong into being a full-blooded hockey dad.  For now, let’s just go with lukewarm.

“Why don’t you like it?” You might ask.  “After all it’s fun.  The parents are very friendly and willing to help when needed, so why don’t you like hockey, Carlos?”  Maybe I’m cheap? I never thought I was but after paying a high price to sign up for this fun sport, I thought I was done dishing out the coin.  Not even close.  I didn’t reckon on the game ice fee and the jersey fee and the…

View original post 827 more words

Posted in Family | Leave a comment

Why Our Kids Lose Or Misplace Their Stuff

Ever wondered why your kids are always losing or misplacing their stuff? Well read this.

My Vuze, My Takes

During the first week of school, our 5 year-old came home without his jacket.  How does one forget their jacket that they wore to keep warm? Wouldn’t the sudden drop in temperature be an instant reminder?  Apparently not to these kids who lose their gloves on the coldest of days.

I asked Treyton to check his school lost-and-found as I had no time to drop by his school to look myself.  He claimed that he did but it wasn’t there.  That was in September.  A week ago, I got a call from his school that he didn’t have a lunch.  Yes, he forgot it at home.  I went to his school bringing him MacDonald’s.  While there, I took the opportunity to inquire about his missing jacket.  I was sent to look in the lost-and-found.  It wasn’t hard spotting his jacket almost immediately.  I also saw one that looked suspiciously familiar…

View original post 281 more words

Posted in Family | Leave a comment

Best Halloween Prank

The boys in their costumes

If you know me well, you would know that I love a good prank.   So it was no surprise that when my brother called me from the airport this evening to let me know he was in the city, I immediately went along with him in his devious plan to surprise our mom.  Mom was at my house with Amie’s parents handing out candies while we took the boys trick or treating, with people in costume walking up to the house, it was the perfect condition for a good prank.  We decided that he would pretend he was a robber disguised as a trick-or-treater.  Unfortunately, and sadly, I was not at home when Sheldon dropped by but he gave me a play-by-play which was later confirmed by the victims of the prank.

Apparently, Sheldon walked in the door dressed in a balaclava and sunglasses.  Amie’s mom, Rose, was at the door doing candy duty.  He walked in, locked the door behind him and announced he was a robber and was robbing them.  Rose, trying to maintain a cool composure, told him there were kids outside waiting for candies and he should open the door.  Sheldon proceeded inside and grabbed hold of my mom’s arm asking for her money.  She yelled for him to get out and commanded Gilles, Amie’s dad to get the gun.  (there was no gun). Gilles himself hid in the kitchen and stayed out of sight.

It was a great prank but good thing he ended it when he did as Rose later stated that she was gearing up to kick him down the basement stairs.


Posted in Family, Halloween, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment