Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Backyard plans

So we started a little deck project in our backyard this summer. There was already a large existing lower deck. We just wanted to add a smaller second-storey deck with a set of stairs connecting the main floor of our house to the yard rather than just the walk-out basement.

Of course, like any project, it's taking about a zillion times longer than we anticipated. Complications creating the engineered drawings. Building permit delays. Zoning department delays. Seemingly endless rain delays. Sports three nights a week and soccer tournaments every second weekend. We ended up having to demo the entire lower deck. An auger wouldn't fit where we needed to dig the post holes so we needed to dig by hand - seven holes, four feet deep, through solid clay. Literally nothing about this project has gone smoothly, quickly, or as planned - on the very few days we've actually managed to have both cooperative weather and time to work.

As we approach the middle of the summer and the backyard still sits as a half-landscaped construction zone I'd just like to fantasize a little bit about how it will one day look.

In the back corner of the yard we built a garden with a stone retaining wall and filled it with enormous shrubs, perennial flowers, a Japanese Maple and a dwarf hydrangea. It will be a few years before the maple fills in, but the rest looks great. We framed it with a pair of oak trees which we plan to layer with cedar shrubs, but those will have to wait until next spring. (Did you know that cedar shrubs are only shipped in bulk once a year from BC? Neither did I. When you see them for fifteen dollars at every garden centre in April, snap up as many as you need - when they're sold out a week later you're out of luck until the following spring unless you want to pay eighty to a hundred dollars a plant.) We're going for a lush, layered, English garden / urban oasis (well, suburban oasis) look. It needs a few more years to fill in fully, but it's pretty. Next year it will be even prettier.

On the opposite side of the yard we built another curved stone wall for our vegetable garden - not quite as pretty, but very practical. Three kids of tomatoes, two kinds of peppers, Swiss Chard, cucumbers, carrots, strawberries and a half-dozen herbs. There's nothing better than being able to go out into the backyard and pick our dinner vegetables out of our own garden - and the kids get so excited watching everything grow and waiting to harvest our crops.

Against the house is the construction zone / lumber yard / mud pit. But one day - hopefully one day soon - it will be a gorgeous two-storey deck and turned staircase with beautiful iron pickets and rails, a pergola and trellis and will house our outdoor cooking, eating and lounging areas. Soon.

Most of the rest of the yard is open green space, for now. We like having a lot of room for the kids to play, to kick around the ball or toss the frisbee, to set up the inflatable pool and slip n' slide or run through the spinkler. But we have big plans for a big part of the yard in the next couple of years: a hot tub and pool. A small pool of course. But a pool. I see an elevated hot tub with a stone surround spilling into the swimming area. Lots of lush, layered greenery growing around it. Organic, but elegant. A vacation getaway in our own backyard. It'll eat into our lawn space for playing, but our backyard gate opens into a park with two playgrounds, a soccer field, a picnic area and lots of green space so we're not hurting for running-around-room.

It's going to take time. The decks and pergola should be done in the next few weeks, but it'll be next spring before we're able to grow all the drooping vines I picture climbing all over it. The trees and gardens are about half-planted; the rest will be finished next spring. The pool and hot tub will likely need to wait until the following year. And, of course, with each passing year the trees grow taller, the gardens grow fuller, and our beautiful little backyard grows more and more into the private vacation-at-home oasis we dream of.

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Monday, 29 July 2013

Tree envy

When you're a homeowner, you're never really finished working on your home. There's always another project, another reno, another improvement, another room you want to redecorate or fixtures you want to update or shelves you want to restyle or chair you want to replace. And that's half the fun of home ownership.

We have an endless list. In the two years we've lived here we've replaced all the flooring, redone all the stairs and railings, painted every wall in the house, replaced all the light fixtures and most of the appliances, gutted and re-done one of the three bathrooms, landscaped both the front and back yards, installed a stone walkway in the front and a two-storey deck in the back, and decorated and redecorated to our hearts' content. (Whew!) Still on the list for the next year are a new counter and bar in the kitchen and new iron railings and stone for our front steps. But my biggest home obsession lately?


We need more trees.

I love our neighbourhood, our yard and our house and would never want to live anywhere else. But one of the drawbacks of living in a new-ish neighbourhood is the distinct lack of mature trees.

Our home and our neighbourhood are about fifteen years old, so the streetside trees - planted by the builder when the homes were first built - are full and mature. The streets are lush and green and leaf-covered as you drive through the neighbourhood. The view from our kitchen window is a bower of branches and berries and greens. But the backyard? Not so much.

I don't know why the previous owner never planted any trees. I don't know why any of the previous owners in our little row of townhouses never planted any trees. If they had planted just a couple of teeny-tiny garden centre maples when the fences first went up we'd have a gorgeous cover of greens back there by now. But we do not.

When we moved in, our backyard consisted of a big deck and some grass. And that's about it. Our home backs on to a big park - which, yes, does have a lot of big, beautiful trees - and we wouldn't want to completely block that view with large planting. But we would like a bit of a leafy screen for privacy, particularly now that we've built a second story deck well above the fence height.

landscaping, gardening, trees, shrubs, flowers, Japanese maple,
Back garden
Trees, unfortunately, are very expensive. Very expensive. And they take an awfully long time to grow. So we've started slowly. Last year we planted a big garden in the back corner of the yard with huge, fast-growing shrubs - after a second summer's growth they've already filled out the space and grown taller than the fence. This past spring we planted a teeny-tiny Japanese Maple - laughably small, but it'll be pretty in a few years - and a couple of twelve-foot columnar oaks, still not large enough to qualify as mature trees but tall enough that they're visible from our second-story windows and starting to frame out our yard with some foliage. Next spring we'll plant another one or two of the oaks - we really like them, and their tall, narrow, fast growth is ideal for a townhouse yard. We also plan to put in a bunch of cedars to layer and soften the hard corners of the yard.

Our biggest dilemma is what to plant in the back corner of the yard opposite the garden. That is the corner where I think we really need a great big full leafy tree with a huge canopy. Great big full trees with huge canopies cost about a zillion dollars, so whatever we do invest in, there will only be one of them. The problem is that the particular corner of the yard where I want to install this enormous tree is also where our gate to the park is - so the tree needs to be tall enough that we can walk beneath the canopy, it needs to be planted close enough to the side fence to allow a path to the gate, and the full canopy needs not to spread too far into the neighbour's yard so they won't be tempted to cut it all back.

Green Pillar Oak
Columnar Oak
Autumn Blaze Maple
London Plane Sycamore

So we need a ten to twelve year old tree local to this climate with a narrow root base, a dense, upward-growing canopy that starts at five or six feet off the ground - and ideally with a variation in foliage colour from everything else we've already planted. Oh, and it needs to be affordable.

Kind of a tall order.

So, lately, I find myself obsessed with trees. Walking through the neighbourhood, driving around town, watching home improvement shows on tv - all I see is trees. I have tree envy.

(That's a nice tree - I wonder what it looks like in the spring? I like the shape of that tree - would it fit in our yard? How long did it take to grow to that size? That tree's a pretty colour - what kind is it? Is it local? Expensive?)

Trees are all I can think about. And even when we do find something and make a decision, we can't plant until the spring - so I have the better part of a year to keep obsessing.

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Friday, 26 July 2013

It takes a village?

You hear the expression all the time and the constant advice from other parents, experienced grandparents, know-it-all in-laws - it takes a village, no-one can do it alone, you need to rely on the people around you.

I disagree.

I don't see any reason why I can't raise my kids myself, without the assistance of the rest of the world.

It's not that I think there's anything wrong with the whole "it takes a villlage" philosophy, if you're that sort of person and you have that sort of family and community around you. I think it's a great idea. If you have dinner at your parents every Sunday night and send the kids there for a sleepover once a month, if you sister lives nearby and drops round for coffee twice a week and babysits your kids whenever you need a few hours, if your best girlfriend lives around the corner and you take your kids for park playdates together every afternoon, if you've set up a network of night-out babysitting exchanges with neighbourhood friends who have kids the same age as yours and that's what works for your family, then good for you. I sometimes wish I had that kind of community around me.

That doesn't mean it's the only way to do it, though.

My parents and brothers and sisters-in-law live an hour and a half away. Those of my friends who have started families - and most have not yet - have only just started and have children years younger than my own. I'm not the sort of person who makes new friends easily - casual friends, sure, acquaintances, neighbours we'll chat with out on the stoop, other moms met in the schoolyard or at the park or on the sidelines of the soccer field - but not real friends, not anyone I'd feel comfortable asking a favour from or trust to take care of my kids necessarily.

I also tend to feel a debilitating sense of guilt if I'm not absolutely around for and involved in every aspect of my children's childhood - I feel like as a mom, that's my job; if I'm not doing that, then I'm failing as a mom. Silly, perhaps, but it's how I feel and it has shaped much of how I've lived my life since having kids: what kind of jobs I've taken so I could still be home with them, how my husband and I spend our time together, how we all spend time together as a family.

My kids are only young once, and it's for such a short time. I want to cherish every moment. I want them to cherish every moment. I want to make enough wonderful memories of those moments with them to last the rest of our lives. And to do that, I feel like I need to be there for all of those moments.

I'm not saying every moment of Mommying is wonderful. There are days when I'm exhausted, when I'm bored, when I feel unfulfilled, when I feel like I've lost my sense of self completely, when I would practically kill for five fucking minutes to myself, when if I hear "MommyMommyMommy" one more time I might gouge my own eyes out with a fork. But none of that negates the amazing feeling of my boys wrapping their arms around me and telling me they love me, of answering their questions about the world around them, of listening to the stories they make up or what they think about the books they're reading, of playing board games for hours on end or cuddling up together for a movie night, of helping them with their homework after school or trying new bike tricks together, of watching them learn and grow and become ever more their own unique little people every hour of every day. I wouldn't miss any of those moments for the world.

So I'm a stay-at-home (well, work-at-home) mom. I've sacrificed a lot in order to be able to manage that. My husband and I have alone time and "date nights" at home, after the kids go to sleep. The only vacations we take are as a family - March Break at Disney, camping and cottaging in the summer. Anything I need to do, anywhere I need to go, the kids come with me - or it gets done late at night after they're in bed. This is what I'm comfortable with, and this is what works for us. For others, a full week without a "night off" of parenting when the kids go stay with Grandma and Grandpa and Mom and Dad get a date night as a grown-up couple would be unimaginable. And that's what works for them.

There's nothing wrong with the notion that "it takes a village" to raise a child - but if there is no village or if Mom isn't comfortable with creating or relying on one, there's nothing wrong with doing it alone, either.

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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

"Mom"ing other kids

There's a very fine line that has to be tread when dealing with other people's children. All parents have a different system of values, a different set of rules, a different way of doing things. Most parents are pretty sure their way is the right way. And all parents are very protective of their children.

As a mom, I find myself getting very defensive and protective and up-in-arms when I hear another mom address my kids to discipline them or give instructions - even if it's justified. It's instinctive. And it's very hard to turn off. But at times it's absolutely necessary.

Once kids are at the age for endless playdates, party invitations and a rotating roster of sports teams the parenting lines can become very blurred. Where once Mom was the supreme ruler of everything in her child's world - what he ate, what he wore, who he played with, how long he could watch tv or play video games, how far he could ride his bike from home - she has to relinquish some of that control when her kid is spending time in the care or supervision of other parents.

Maybe it's easier for those parents whose kids are in daycare - they've already had to adjust to placing their trust in another adult or group of adults to care for, watch over, teach and discipline their little ones. But for those moms who stay at home to parent their children during those early years it's a big transition to suddenly have to trust in another adult to take care of their angel, even for a few hours.

It's a matter of relinquishing control and going with your gut - do you trust this person? Do you have similar parenting values? Will you feel comfortable with this other mom being responsible for your kid? Whether it's an all-day babysitting engagement or a two-hour birthday party, that parent you're dropping you baby off with takes on your parenting role for that period of time, keeping your kid safe, making sure they behave, helping them to make good choices. Trusting her kids to the care of another person is a big thing for any mom to do.

On the flip side is the act of "parenting" other moms' kids. To discipline or not to discipline? When is it ok, and when is it not? When is it expected, and when is it offensive?

Those first couple of times you suddenly find yourself responsible for a kid who isn't yours it feels a little bit odd. It's one thing if you've been asked to babysit - you're being assigned the official role of caregiver. But when it's just a casual playdate it's very different. A kid you've met a couple of times at the playground, a mom you've idly chatted with in the schoolyard once or twice - and suddenly the kid is in your house and you're responsible for him.

Is it ok to discipline a kid you barely know? What if his rules at home are different from yours? What if his mom gets upset with you for it? What if he doesn't want to play with your kid anymore?

It's a fine line, and it takes a few experiences of "Mom"ing other kids before anyone really feels comfortable with it.

My rule of thumb is: if you're in my house, you follow my rules. If a kid uses language we don't allow, plays too rough, forgets his manners - I correct him in the same way I would my own boys. And I won't apologize for it if his mom disagrees - I'd expect the same thing if my son were at her house.

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Monday, 22 July 2013

Sleepovers with friends

One of the big milestones of growing up is when kids are finally old enough to have a sleepover with a friend. It's one of the first real steps toward independence at that age when children are anxious to show how grown-up they are but still want bedtime snuggles from Mom, when they hold hands on the way to school but give good-bye kisses outside the gate beyond their friends' line of sight.

That first sleepover is a big step for little kids just turning into big kids and they look forward to it with as much excitement as Christmas morning - packing their bag, picking out which toys to bring and which stuffy to sleep with, planning out what they're going to play. For most kids' first sleepover it's harder on the moms to have the kids away for the night than for the kids to be away from home overnight for the first time - most little ones are having way too much fun to miss Mom and Dad and the comfort of their own room and bed.

For my eldest, seven was the magic age when he was ready to start having sleepovers with friends, and we never had any problems with homesickness. Oldest child is an extrovert, confident and outgoing and mindful of rules and behaviour and respectful of other adults. Middle child is seven now, but he is nowhere near ready for sleepovers away from home - he's much more of an introvert, shy and often nervous around people he's not completely familiar or comfortable with. It's different for every kid, but when it happens it's a special time regardless of age.

Last week we hosted a double sleepover at our house - both boys invited a friend over for the same night. Twenty-four hours of non-stop over-the-top playdate fun with swimming-soccer-video-games-nerf-gun-fights and pizza-potato-chips-ice-cream-induced euphoric insanity and midnight bedtimes for the kids. Twenty-four hours of parenting four boys and one girl between two and eight years old and one enormous headache for Mommy. (Yes, one of my boys' best friends is a girl. Yes, they had a sleepover playdate. No, I don't think that's weird.)

The kids had a blast. I could have used a nap. But there's something so special for kids about getting to have a sleepover party with their friends that makes it all worthwhile.

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Friday, 19 July 2013

Free summer fun

kids, summer

There's a lot of fabulous summer field tripping fun to be had - water parks, amusement parks, zoos and farms and drive-in movies. But there's so much to do to entertain the kids in the summer that's completely free, too.

Bike riding through the neighbourhood and hiking through the local trails. Playing at a park or a trip to the local outdoor splash pad. If you're lucky enough to live near a beach the kids can spend a whole day playing in the water and the sand, and a picnic lunch anywhere other than home is always a special treat for little ones.

A movie, museum or indoor playplace are fun activities for a rainy day, but there are lots of free indoor options, too. Most malls have a free play area for little ones. The library is a great place to spend an afternoon, and often has free children's programs and special events. Community centres offer a variety of free or inexpensive drop-in programs, and a public swim at the local indoor pool is several hours of fun.

Toronto has so many amazing destinations for family fun - Canada's Wonderland, Centre Island and Centreville, Wild Water Kingdom, the Toronto Zoo, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Ontario Science Centre...the list is endless.

But we're also a city rich in walking and biking trails, beaches, parks, botanical gardens, and outdoor theatre and art. Summer fun with the family can mean field trips to amazing destinations, but just as many special memories can be made without spending a cent.

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Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Summer camp

Summer camp is such a fun experience for kids. There are so many options - sports camps, arts camps, outdoor camps, computer camps. There are all-day camps, half-day camps, and overnight camps; kids can go all summer or by the week.

For some kids a couple of weeks away from Mom and Dad with a great big group of kids their own age, of sleeping bags and bunkbeds, campfires and s'mores, swimming, hiking, canoeing, exploring and crafting becomes a cherished summertime childhood memory - but some kids wouldn't make it through one night away at an overnight camp. For working parents, day camp is often the slightly-more-active and slightly-more-tailored childcare option while kids are off school for the summer, with children grouped by age and activities geared toward their interests. Specialty camps are a great way for kids to try out new sports or arts activities without the commitment of a whole season, or can be a wonderful opportunity for specialization and extra practice for children who've already found a passion.

My kids do a sports camp every summer. Just half days, and just for one week. It's a soccer camp (obviously) - a couple of hours of active, outdoor play, great extra practice and drills for two little boys passionate about their favourite sport and a little break for them away from Mom.

And, just as importantly, it's a couple of hours a day where I'm down to only one kid to take care of. Practically a vacation.

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Monday, 15 July 2013

Tournament weekends

Out-of-town tournaments are a new experience for our family since our eldest started playing rep soccer this year.

Days of packing and planning and prep, insanely early mornings, long road trips to unmappable fields in the middle of nowhere. Warm-ups and practices scheduled just after sunrise on fields still slippery-wet with morning dew, lugging folding chairs and umbrellas and cooler bags and team swag across the inevitable miles of walking paths between the parking lot and field, hour after hour sitting field-side in the blazing sun or pouring rain, last-minute schedule and roster changes, uniform and equipment changes on the fly, endless Tim Hortons runs.

Though we've been playing together for most of a year now, these tournament weekends have brought us much closer as a team - coaches, players and parents. Those hours spent field-side cheering on our own and each other's boys, those big, noisy breakfasts out and lunchtime pints on a patio when there's a break between games, those late afternoons poolside and big team dinners back at the hotel, those hours and hours spent together that make us realize we're no longer idle acquaintances united only by our kids' common interest, but we've actually become friends.

It really is like a second family, this team of players and parents and poor long-suffering siblings. Everyone knows each other's kids' names and what's going on in each other's lives. The boys on the field are buddies, their brothers and sisters on the sidelines are friends. As a parent, there's nothing quite like the feeling of cheering your child on and hearing another parent down the line call him out by name and cheer with the same pride you hear in your own voice.

I love watching my boy play. I love watching him learn, I love watching him work and push himself, I love watching him try new things and fail and try again and again. I love how proud he is of himself when he finally masters a new skill or trick or play he's been working on. I love watching him play.

And there's something about those tournament weekends, that coming together as a team family, that's very different from a regular practice or game and makes the experience even more special for all of us.

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Friday, 12 July 2013

Summer journaling

It's important to me that in our summers full of long, lazy, sunshiny days lounging in the yard and bike riding and hiking and field tripping to parks and splash pads and amusement parks and attractions my kids don't forget or fall behind with everything they learned in school during the year.

It takes some planning to keep up with traditional learning during the summer months while kids are on vacation from school. We join the summer reading club at the library every summer and have quiet reading time before bed every night. They do the money counting and score keeping when we're playing Monopoly or cards and there are lots of opportunities for learning when we're out for bike rides or hikes through the arboretum and ravine or exploring the botanical garden and the zoo. But my favourite learning activity is the summer journal the kids keep every summer.

writing, reading, learning, making memories
We started the summer journals a few years ago. We set aside time twice a week for them to write an entry - one for the week and one for the weekend. It's so interesting for me to see what sticks out most in their minds and what details they remember and the differences in how the two boys interpret the same memory of an event. Then they draw a little picture to go along with each journal entry.

At the end of the summer it's a great little keepsake of their summer and a wonderful record of their childhood memories. And without even realizing it they've been practicing their reading and writing skills all summer long!

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Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Summer reading club

kids, booksMy boys are voracious little readers, which I love. Reading is so important - it opens a whole new world to them, a world of imagination and learning and creativity. It helps them expand their minds, it teaches them independent thought. It's a tool they'll need for the rest of their lives in order to lead successful lives, and I'm so glad it's something they actually enjoy.

I love seeing the boys get so engrossed in a story that they don't want to put their books down. I love watching them use their imaginations to create for themselves their own version of the world they're reading about. I love listening to them tell me about the story they're reading, who said what and why it was funny and what was exciting or scary or confusing and their predictions for what will happen next, their heads so full that their words are spilling out over one another.

To make sure we don't lose any of that enthusiasm over the summer months when they're not in school we join the summer reading club at the library every year. It's a wonderful program, free to anyone with a library card. Each child receives an activity book and a "reading passport" at the beginning of the summer. In the passport they record all the books they read - there's no minimum or maximum and no deadline; it's completely non-competitive and self-driven. After every three books they can go in and do a little book report for the children's librarian. Their passport is stamped and they receive a little prize for their accomplishment. It's wonderful incentive to keep the kids reading all summer long and reminds us to make the time to get over to the library every week. And it keeps their learning going through those lazy summer months without their even realizing it!

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Monday, 8 July 2013

Fun at the berry farm

Kids, summer, fruit, farm,strawberries, organicThe first weekend of July is always marked by a trip to the farm to go strawberry picking.

It's a perfect summer family field trip - a wagon ride out to the strawberry fields, meandering up and down the rows picking only the ripest and juiciest berries, filling our baskets as the sun streams down and the sounds of nature and open space fill the air around us.

This was the first year Baby was able to help with the picking and he had so much fun.

The fun didn't end after the wagon ride back - the farm we go to has a petting zoo, playgrounds, old tractors to climb on, and a winery with tastings to keep Mom and Dad happy.

And once we were home it was down to work - strawberry smoothies, strawberry jam and three kinds of strawberry crumble. What a treat!

Strawberry Crumble Recipe:
Dessert, baking, fresh fruit, strawberriesMix:
1 cup oats
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
Press 2/3 mixture into bottom of 8" x 8" pan.
3 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pour fruit mixture evenly over oat mixture.
Sprinkle remaining 1/3 oat mixture over fruit mixture.
Bake 45 min. at 350F.

fruit, farm, organic, baskets, strawberries

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Friday, 5 July 2013

Splash Island & the Zoo

Toronto Zoo, summer, kidsThe zoo is our all-time favourite family field trip. We've been getting season's passes for the last six years and couldn't imagine our summers without those long sunny afternoons wandering through the trails and paths and seeing our favourite animals.

It's one of those places we never tire of, no matter how many times we visit - there's always something new to see, there's always an area to explore we haven't been through in a while, there are always different animals more active than others and putting on a show for us, there's always a habitat or pavilion we didn't get to on the last visit.

zoo, Toronto Zoo, animals

The biggest new thing this year is the panda bear exhibit. Very cool. 

zoo, Toronto Zoo, animals

Last year it was the white lions. 

zoo, Toronto Zoo, animals

The year before, the African penguins. 

And the year before that were the sharks and stingrays. There's always something new and exciting to see.

We couldn't let the first week of summer vacation pass without a visit to the zoo.

zoo, Toronto Zoo, lynx, animals
This time, our focus was on finding the Canadian Lynx - Middle child did a massive research project, diorama and presentation for his first grade class before school ended last month and was excited beyond words to see one up close and in person now that he knows all about them.

And there's no better way to spend a hot, sunny afternoon in July than at a splash pad - and one of the best ones around is Splash Island at the Toronto Zoo. We can spend hours running through the spray, chasing one another all over the climbing structures, playing and splashing on the waterslides, and climbing all over the molded whales and fish and turtles and shooting water at each other across the park from the mouths of the molded seal waterguns.

What a wonderful way to spend a summer's day!

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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Starting summer with a splash!

kids, field trips, family, summerThe beginning and end of summer vacation for our family are always marked by a visit to our favourite splash pad, lounging in the sun and splashing in the fountains, an ice cream treat while the kids curl up and let the sun dry them off, then an afternoon at Edward's Gardens for a walk through the botanical garden and the Don Valley trails, playtime on the rocky beach and skipping stones in the river.

When we lived in the city this was one of our favourite ways to spend a sunny summer afternoon and now that we're settled in the suburbs it's still a special treat - a summertime tradition, a day of free family fun, and a special sense of nostalgia for our early days as a family.

Family traditions and making memories are what this time of year are all about.

Welcome summer!

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Monday, 1 July 2013

Canada Day!

kids, family activities, bouncy castles, Lightning McQueen, Canada Day
We celebrate Canada Day every year at the big event at the town park.

Our town really goes all out for holidays and special events, and Canada Day is probably the biggest and the best.

A parade in the morning and a free pancake breakfast. A giant petting zoo. Bouncy castles. Inflatable slides. Mini-golf. Obstacle courses. Geocaching. Sports. Crafts. A passport activity for kids with themed activities for each province. A birds of prey and reptile show. Bands playing at the bandstand all day and a video dance party for teens in the evening.

The pool is open for free public swimming all day and the beer garden keeps the adults entertained. And then, of course, a massive fireworks display at sundown.

It's a fabulous day full of free family fun, a wonderful way to celebrate our amazing country's birthday, and the perfect way to spend the first weekend of summer vacation.

Happy Canada Day!

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