Archive for the ‘Brushes with Fame’ Category

Universal Studios was our first theme park stop, so Monday morning we stood in front of our hotel waiting for the tour bus. Miss S was particularly giddy when she saw that it was a double-decker bus. Yes, we hail from Little Britain here in Victoria, where double-decker busses are commonplace, but she’s never been on one, and has desperately wanted to. This was her chance to sit up high and watch the world go by, or as we soon learned, spy down on six to eight lanes of traffic, depending on the highway we were on. But it was a great view.

Universal Studios did not disappoint in star sightings.  We walked down the red carpet, through the iron gates and voila: A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez) was filming EXTRA right there in the main gate! My husband and mother-in-law would not have used an exclamation mark. I, on the other hand was told to take my picture and move along by a bouncer. AC

Scooby Doo, Curious George, and Woody Woodpecker were all wandering Main Street. Miss C was not impressed. In fact it is here that we lost our four-year-old. Oh not literally, thank goodness, but mentally.

She was so very overwhelmed by these walking creatures, that for all of our first shots of Universal, she is buried into my neck.

DonkeyBy the time we stumbled upon Shrek and Donkey’s show, Miss C was a hot mess. So while Miss Q told Donkey that Miss S was evil, and he subsequently listed all of Miss S’s evil powers, in his Eddie Murphy donkey voice; Miss C was with my husband being soothed with logic and keeping her distance from anyone wearing a costume.

Thankfully Miss C recovered in time for us to have a moment as we strolled through the gates of Harry Potter World. We had arrived. HPW

The first and only ride we did in Harry Potter World was ‘The Flight of the Hippogriff’.

Here’s the break down: after bowing deeply to the hippogriff we passed on the way up the ‘small’ hill, the rest of the 60 second ride was intense, filled with pull your heart out through your back circles.

Miss Q loved it; Miss S was curled up in a ball shrieking with fear.  It took me the rest of the morning, a box of popcorn and a Gravol to recover.

All I could gasp to Miss S was, “You should be proud of yourself for trying that ride. It’s over. It’s over, and you never have to do it again. But you can say you rode it now.”

Harry made riding hippogriffs look so easy.

We decided to recover from the Hippogriff by taking the always friendly, Studio Tour on those gentle trams.

Seriously, people, the last time I went on that ride, and I’m not sure one could call it a ride, we were toured through the Leave It To Beaver houses, saw the giant phone from Honey I Shrunk the Kids, said hello to Jaws, experienced a little avalanche and an earthquake. Badda-bing, badda-bang.

For some reason, all three of us adults missed the part that said the backlot tour had changed: for the better if you’re my husband and mother-in-law, annnnd, for the absolute pit of the worst for Miss C and Miss S. This ride for our four and six year old was an EPIC FAIL.

They spent ¾ of the ride, ears covered, tears streaming down their cheeks, shaking with fear. Miss C was wedged between Miss Q and I, while my mother-in-law comforted Miss S, who had her head buried in her hat and had once again folded in half, resuming the crash position.

What made it such a fail for a 4 and 6 year-old:

  1. The 3-D glasses that they dawned in the first dark space. Where they saw dinosaurs peacefully eating the fauna, where we were told we were looking at Skull Island, as in King Kong, where King Kong is no-longer a banana breathing animatronics, but a 3-D fighter who throws dinosaurs at the tram and then the dinos do what 3-D dinos do best as they fight a 3-D over grown ape.
  2. The 3-D Fast and The Furious finale. Where we were enclosed in another dark tube and found ourselves in the middle of a car chase/gun fight with explosions going off and if you looked at the road it felt like the tram was flipping, not that any of the girls were looking at this point.

All you could do was laugh, because jumping off the tram with your kids as propane tanks explode around you and the roof collapses in a simulated earthquake is frowned upon. I kept looking back at my husband shaking my head. What. Had. We. Done.

Miss C and Miss S were on such eggshells after that ride that we couldn’t stay in Simpsonland, the tram ride’s neighbour, because every so often that area would have a nuclear meltdown and while Miss Q enjoyed it, it was terrifying for the littlest littles.

Thankfully ice cream soothed all frayed nerves.  And we found Minions who never fail to make our girls giggle.


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IMG_1019Some people hunt Leonardo Dicaprio; others hunt Crystal the monkey.  Can you guess which side I’m on this week?  Times have changed.

In case it hasn’t been clear: Miss S is in love with monkeys.  Ape for them, really.

Every time I start to wonder if the shine is dulling on her daydreams, she’ll suddenly announce Vinsy (vine-zee) is hanging onto the roof of our car as we’re driving, or jumping on my head as I sit on the couch.

Since being a monkey lover in Victoria doesn’t lend itself to crossing paths with them on the beach or hearing them in the trees, it’s my dream to take Miss S to Costa Rica to see them live and in person.  Until then, she’ll have to be content with reading about them, watching them on TV and playing with her barrel of stuffed monkeys, or will she…

Wednesday night I read a tweet saying a movie called Monkey Up was being filmed at the Belfry, a local community theatre.  Doing some frantic research, definitely way more frantic than it should have been, I learned this movie was about a real live monkey.  No plot line, but a real live monkey.  Sure, the title, but one never knows with computers these days.

Enter Crystal the capuchin monkey of Night At The Museum, and Hang Over II fame, though I left the latter out of her screen credits as I zipped jackets and hustled the girls out of the house for a Thursday morning adventure/stalk.

The morning proved promising: sunshine, cherry blossoms, candycane posts being unloaded from a truck; pine trees tossed in a pile on the ground.  Filming was inside the adjacent high school, so though we saw the white movie trailers, and signs for crew parking, the adventure proved more of a lesson on set decoration than acting monkeys.

Tonight, undeterred, and still intrigued by the single tweet I’d read, I tossed Miss Q and Miss S their jackets, and drove them back down to the set.

Miss C got extra stories at bedtime from Daddy, but perhaps that won’t be enough of a get when she looks back on this evening.

Within minutes of arriving on set we spied Crystal the monkey on the back of her trainer, wearing a fur collared, plaid coat.  Miss S couldn’t believe her eyes – even more so when we realized there was a second, different, monkey being carried around the set.

We got within feet of both Crystal and the other monkey, multiple times, as their trainers wandered in the wings.  Miss S let out a squeal when Crystal’s trainer stopped and got her to smile for Miss Q, Miss S and an older girl.

Turns out the movie is about a monkey who saves Christmas. I reckon it will be like the Buddy movies the littles adore, in other words, we’ll be first in line.

While the smile Crystal flashed was the highlight, watching Santa explode backwards out of his chair, crashing through the set wall was also pretty cool.  From that moment on, Miss S had her ears plugged when everyone was told to be quiet.

Movie Santa, as he called himself, told us later there was lots of padding.  He was a handsome actor, grey hair, kind eyes – Miss S couldn’t take her eyes off him, while Miss Q shyly answered his questions.  When he left she said, “Now I know that there are two Santas: a movie one and the real one.”  I gave a vague nod and pointed out the bulldog wandering the set.

Though I wondered at times what the girls could actually see, being surrounded by Christmassy props, cameras, lights and action, it was worth keeping them up past bedtime, not only for educational purposes, but good ol’ fashion Hollywood monkey magic.

Yes, there is a monkey in this picture.

Yes, there is a monkey in this picture.  Not Crystal, but the second monkey.  We failed paparazzi school.




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Somewhere between the hoochies in the shortie-shorts, arm-in-arm with muscly man-boys, sipping their yard-long adult slushies. And the grey-haired, visor wearing seniors sauntering in and out of casinos gawking at the architecture, you’d spy me and Mrs. M: two ordinary Canadian mums wandering the strip sans children.

Vegas was ah-mazing.  It was also overwhelming, poverty-ful, gluttonous, twinkly, beautiful, and expensive.

Our adventure began in Calgary airport security, where after a morning of solid boo-hooing over leaving my littles in Victoria, and with one flight under my belt, I was beginning to get punch drunk.

Naturally this is where we saw our first and only celebrity: John Ratzenberger.  It was also where I realized I will never be selling my celebrity pics to TMZ.  Though we were side-by-side (at points) through the security line up, by the time I got myself together, went through the metal detector with all the seriousness of a Beefeater, and positioned Mrs. M, as not to make it obvious I was taking Mr. Ratzenberger’s picture, I got a great shot of his back as he sat in a chair waiting for his flight.

The flight to Vegas was lovely.  We got upgraded to WestJet Plus, which meant all the alcohol and food one could consume at the front of the fuselage.  It was a shame I found out about the all you can drink after popping a Gravol, but I learned one Gravol + one mini of wine = one great flight.  Never mind the man who sat beside me and told me he didn’t mind my drool.

Side note: The man also told me his job made him fly in and out of Vegas often. Sometimes in the span of one night. Clearly there was a hitman sitting beside me in 2F.

Las Vegas itself was like childbirth: a mystery that everyone was excited for us to experience, but no one could actually describe.  And now that we’re back, we get the keys to the club; as well as places we should have gone, secrets that would have made our lives less wander-ful and pocketbooks heavier.

Mrs. M and I put mileage on our pieds.  I don’t think I have ever walked so much on a vacation.  This includes when I backpacked around Costa Rica for three-and-a-half weeks.  Thank goodness for my runners, and-dare-I-admit-them, orthotics.

But we saw a lot: the two outlet malls; Serendipity 3; the M & M store; Coke store; The Flamingo, Harrah’s, Venetian, Paris, Caesar’s Palace, The Bellagio, Treasure Island, The Mirage and the Fashion Mall.

We also witnessed a lot: kids being pushed in strollers through smoky casinos at all hours of the day and night; mall security and Vegas P.D. taking down a shoplifter; Elvis with her boobs out; annnd a crystal meth deal going down. Though sadly, Mrs. M missed the latter.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. I have not belly laughed that long and hard since Mrs. M and I were roomies. Nor have I ever been so stressed about going on vacation.

Coming home has been more of an adjustment than I thought. As soon as I saw that everyone was well and their body parts were in tact, I wanted to pop them onto an airplane and show them what they missed. Yes, I’m a complete hypocrite after being so judgy of all the parents down there with their kids. And sorry, Husband, the travel bug has awakened.

But the one thing that surprised me the most about coming home was how much I missed having Mrs. M close by.

As an alpha female, raising her pups, I’d forgotten about the sisterhood, about holding fast to the strings connecting you with those who’ve known you your whole life, about really checking in with your touchstones – not just through email and crazy sand-filled letters.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, or so I’ve heard. So the Vegas tale ends here with me, the mum who survived leaving her family for five days, and who had an amazing time with her kindred spirit.






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Justin Bieber.  Halle Berry.  Me.  Believe it or not we all have one thing in common: the paparazzi.

Though I wouldn’t go so far as to allegedly beat someone up for snapping a picture, I now completely understand the flash anger that occurs when a stranger snaps a picture of your child.  Sure some would argue, it’s a free country and if you’re outside it’s game on.  But there is something very disconcerting about having zero control of how and when your child’s image will be used.

Miss S, with her blond hair and bright blue eyes is a magnet for tourists.  Some stop and stare, commenting on how adorable she is; how blue her eyes are (they’re very blue). While others nudge their friends and smile while bringing out their cameras for a quick photo.  Still others, don’t say a word, no smiles, nothing, just not-so-subtly hold out their iPhones, iTouches, iPads, cam-corders, what have you, and pretend to take pictures of the scenery, but really are zoomed in on our girl.

Those are the creepiest.  I’m constantly torn between being a polite Canadian – smiling and saying nothing, pretending to be flattered – but all the while wanting to chase the offending tourist down to destroy their memory card.

And that’s the thing.  I’d like to believe the people taking the pictures are doing so for innocent reasons: that Miss S’s mug will just end up in a photograph album somewhere across the Pacific, with a title of “Cute blond haired blue eyed Canadian Child” but you never know.  You never know.

This past weekend my girlies and I were cruising around the city in the ol’ minivan while Miss C slept (hallelujah) when we spotted an air ambulance helicopter landing at Ogden Point (the Helijet terminal).  Always up for a good helicopter, we parked to watch it refuel.

Once we were parked, I noticed three paparazzos milling around with their long lensed cameras.  A SUV with tinted windows was parked beside the building; my spider senses started tingling.

David Foster was hosting a celebrity filled concert- my husband was going with his mum that night – and judging by the jockeying for position on the part of the men with cameras, a celebrity was about to come in.

Sure enough, when the rotors had stopped spinning, out into the Victoria sunlight stepped Josh Groban.

Though I’m not a drooling fan of his, something crazy took over my being and I maneuvered the minivan so we could drive casually past his SUV on the way out.

No sooner had Josh stepped into the SUV, he rolled down his window and stuck his head out as if he were breathing in the salt air; recovering from the helicopter ride.  As he did this, his driver reversed and spun the SUV around so that Josh’s open window and my open window were meters from each other.

Naturally I did nothing, just sort of stared, hopefully with a pleasant look on my face, and after a couple beats of face time, let his SUV slip by mine.  Of course I followed it along the water until my slow-speed stalking mission came to a halt by a tourist driving 30.

Yes, Miss Q thought her mother had gone loco.

The next day, as fate would have it, David Foster himself brushed past me, Miss C and my father-in-law as we started down the gangplank at Fisherman’s Wharf.

After years of Hollywood images showing swarms of flashbulbs, yelling and elbowing paps, it was nice to see a celebrity out and about, low-key and common.

This wasn’t the case for Miss S, and to some degree Miss Q, at Butchart Gardens on Monday.  Once again I found myself either stepping in front of them to shield them from unwanted pictures, or holding my breath as we passed big groups with multiple cameras.

To me, everyone was a suspect and the further into the visit we got the more annoying the shutterbugs became. Even when we were eating lunch on the grass people took pictures. Really?  Someone wants a memory of blonde-haired-blue-eyed Canadian girl with peanutbutter smeared from ear-to-ear & her brown-haired-hazel-eyed sister licking her fingers?

I know they’re adorable.  I’m not just saying that because I’m their mother.  They are beyond beautiful – okay, I am saying that because I’m their mother.  But as flattering as it is that there are other people, strangers, thinking the same thing, it’s also slightly unsettling.

As I type this out, there is a side of me thinking I’m over the top, the tourists intentions are pure-hearted, they are on vacation.  But just as quickly as I think that, I jump to Miss S’s image, and how one person can innocently collect it, but then where does it go?  Who sees it?  What will they do with it?

When one of my brothers was seven or eight, he lost a shoe in a crevasse at the Athabasca Glacier.  There he stood in his red Bermuda shorts, basketball socks up to his knee-caps, and grey ski-jacket as tourists swarmed with their cameras.  It is the family antidote from that trip.  Of course none of us worried where the images would end up.  But back then cameras still used film.

My husband tells me the solution to my angst is to be vocal, not to shroud Miss S with a blanket. He’s right, and though it feels unCanadian; un-me, to say piss off, I’m going to have to start saying it with feeling to protect my two-year-old.



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Camilla.  It was all about catching a glimpse of this temptress.  This vixen who taught the world that patience is indeed a virtue.  That if you love someone, set them free; if they really love you they’ll come back.

Camilla; similar to Cruella.

Mucking across the legislature lawn for the second time in as many weeks, I was set to sneer.  Sure the royal family seems to have placed a Band-Aid over Camilla’s roll in history; and Charles’ too, for that matter.  But I hadn’t forgotten.  Diana is forever.

My cynicism held for all of thirty seconds.  The energy on the legislature lawn was contagious.  Cameras were readied; paper Canadian flags handed out; Prince Charles’ security guards loomed above us and the Canadian flag atop the parliament buildings was lowered.

As the motorcade echoed throughout the downtown streets, my husband directed our toddler’s gaze to the bottom of the driveway.  Not a fan of the royals, but humouring me with the adventure, he fielded Miss Q’s questions.  In her world princes have crowns and princess’; dutchess’ aren’t on the radar.

His Royal Highness’ motorcade lurched to a stop in front of us.  Everyone craned their necks for a glimpse of Camilla. Where was she?  Would she look as haggard as she has in photos?

Out stepped Prince Charles.  Smaller in person, but his presence warmed the gloomy Victorian afternoon.  I couldn’t believe I was so close.  I forgot about Camilla.  But, the people around me hadn’t.  They continued to search as Prince Charles shook hands with the premier of our province.  The low rumbles of, “Where is Camilla?” rose to cheers as she walked around the car to his side.

Camilla in real-life.  Jumping out of the tabloids; standing meters away.

Poof.  All my grr-fullness evaporated.   She was cute, yes, I said cute, in her blue double-buttoned jacket and black knee-high boots.  Quite stylish.  And her smile was genuine.  No hint of crocodilenss.

How could this be the woman dragged through the tabloids?  She looked strong, healthy, and had a glow about her.  Fresh?  Yes, fresh – as in a breath of fresh air.  And seeing her with her long awaited prince, you couldn’t help but think, albeit begrudgingly, that they were made for each other.

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Finding a prince.  That’s the dream.  Someone to slay the dragon, climb the tower and whisk the princess away from reality.  They’re hard to find, and even harder to catch- sort of like leprechauns.

I’ve been lucky enough to find two princes in my lifetime.  One, my husband (no, he’s not paying me to write that), the other, Prince Charles.

Prince Charles and I never had a love-love relationship.  I was always more partial to his brother Andrew, the handsome helicopter pilot; and eventually Prince William-but only in his twenties.

My grandparents (on both sides) were royal watchers.  They used to joke that I could marry one of the queen’s grandsons.  Sadly, I never made it to London, when I was single, to hunt one down.

My grandpa took me down to the legislature when I was five or six to see Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth when they sailed to town on the Royal Yacht Britannia.  It was pouring with rain and we couldn’t see much, but we did get close to the ship.

Now, twenty-seven years later, it was important to introduce my children to the tradition of royal watching.  Little did I know on our inaugural trip, they would bear witness to one of the top five moments of my life.

Prince Charles shook my hand and spoke to me.

I didn’t think he saw me lurking behind the man and woman in the front row.  Honestly, I’d experienced more than I ever thought I would after scoring poll-position with the motorcade.  But a second glance before he walked away, was all it took for our worlds to collide.

“Oh and there’s a little one,” he said.  “How is she?”  At least I think he called my wee daughter a “she” as he extended his hand.

“Good, good.  She’s twelve weeks old,” I answered, taking his hand and twisting so he could fully see Miss S.  To her credit, Miss S peered at him.

“Is she your first born?”

“No, my first born is right here.”  I turned to point to Miss Q, hanging out on her daddy’s shoulders.

“And is she taking to her sister?”

“Um, yes, slowly.”  With a grin.

He chuckled and continued working the line.

Clearly the deepest conversation he’s had, and surely the most memorable.

Yes, tonight I found a prince.  For one moment I caught him and he whisked me from reality.  But like Cinderella losing her glass slipper, the motorcade pulled away, the rain began to fall, Miss S started to cry, I was snapped back to reality.

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