What you need to know to survive the zombie apocalypse

by Lara

Photo credit Elena Gatti

Photo credit Elena Gatti

I'm a busy parent, you're a busy parent. So I imagine you "get" this - sometimes I need an escape. I need to just chill out, relax, and escape into a good story. And lately those good stories, whether they be on a screen or in a book, tend to be leaning towards the zombie genre. That or post apocalyptic young adult fiction. When I'm relaxing I don't want to have to think much :)

Because I want to be helpful (and because I think we all need to think about things other than kids once in awhile,) I thought I could share with you all that I've learned from watching these shows and reading these books. My tips on the best ways to survive the zombie apocalypse (and probably why I won't survive, to be honest ;) 

1) Own an RV

That’s right. A home on wheels comes in handy when you’re living in a world of zombies.

All the survivors have at least one in their caravans in the shows I watch. It’s the place that people come together as an operation centre (it's where they keep all the maps!) And if you had to choose between a zombie scratching at your tent or a zombie scratching at your RV – which sounds better to you?

For these reasons I keep trying to convince my husband we should buy an RV. We can even use it for regular vacations until the apocalypse! Apparently he thinks it would be more like being locked in a tin can full of arguing children than a vacation, and getting ready for the zombies seems a little too low on his list of priorities.

2) Crossbows

The best weapon for killing zombies is a crossbow. The ammo is reusable, which is key in a world with no new resources. 

I took archery at summer camp as a kid, so I'm going to have to work on my skills. As it stands, the zombies would be all “what are these pesky sticks flying around nowhere near my body?” No way I’d get them in the brains.

I HAVE noticed lately there are lots of new archery and AX throwing centres popping up  – I appreciate knowing people are getting ready for the apocalypse with the right skills.

3) Don’t get left behind

You know how in horror movies when someone says “I’ll just go check out that weird noise in the basement”...you know that person is doomed, right? You’re thinking DON’T DO IT!!!

Same thing happens with people who stay behind anywhere when there are zombies. Always accompany everyone when they are going for supplies, or checking out what's just down the road in that farmhouse. Always.

Here’s the problem: I’m inherently lazy. I’ll know this about being left behind but then I’ll be reading a book in the shade of someone else's RV (someone else who was smart enough to be prepared) and I’ll think “you guys go hunt for supplies, I’ll just stay here and guard the camp”

Toast. I’m toast.

4) Building shelter

People don’t stay in the cities after a zombie apocalypse because that’s where there are the most people who got caught by other zombies, and therefore they're always overrun. That means everyone heads out to the wilderness and you need to create safe shelters that are zombie proof.

Based on my experience with IKEA furniture building, and the stories my husband likes to tell about said furniture building, I am NOT the person to be counted on for safe shelter. I’m all “this looks like it goes here, and this goes that and yup – this looks about right.” Zombies probably won’t follow my directions on how to keep the shelter upright: "Just don’t touch it in THAT corner!!" My husband won't even let me practice so I can improve my skills. He claims he wants all the furniture to be "well-built." Sheesh.

5) Skills

You need a lot of skills to help you survive, so if you’re looking for a new hobby I recommend:

  • gardening – so you can grow your own food when the grocery stores are all empty or overrun with zombies

  • mechanical stuff – so you can fix the old cars and trucks you find when the ones you had broke down

  • orienteering because you want to know how to get to Atlanta or California - once the zombies come those are the two most important destinations. Atlanta, because that's where the Centre for Disease Control is (do you see how much helpful knowledge I have?!) 

So there you have it - my tips on surviving the zombie apocalypse.  If you don’t already have an RV, make a run for the closest RV store when the zombies attack. Start practicing your archery skills now, get your building and mechanical skills polished (because there are only falling down houses and old cars from the 80s) to be found.

And most importantly....don’t count on me, because the zombies will probably get me first!!

Winterlude Fun

So yes, OK, Winterlude has been a bit of a bust this year. I even heard the term "Waterlude" the other day, which made me chuckle.

But let us not forget, dear, cold Canadians, that there are still many days left for us to enjoy the ice and snow. Many days to stand in line for overpriced fried dough, and take skates down the canal with our screaming children.

Winterlude

It is TRADITION.

I was really happy to get out the other day with my daughter, just before the warm weather left ice sculpture heads lying in the snow. And I realized that our previous Winterlude post needs updating (although check out Amy's post on snow tubing!)

So for those first-time parents hoping to brave the frigid (or not so frigid) temperatures, here are some tips:

Don't bring a stroller

If you want to participate in the activities at the central location at Confederation Park, the snow is so deep and slushy, it's almost impossible to navigate a stroller through there. I saw many stuck parents, weakly calling for their partners to fetch them a Beavertail.

Winterlude 3

DO bring a sled!

One of those small red sleds with the back are perfect for the wee ones who can't skate. Bundle them up well and pull them along behind you - unless you are the parents with the "crying child" who will not be happy wizzing along the frozen canal (see below.)

Don't expect your child will skate

Walk-skating on the canal is totally acceptable!

Walk-skating on the canal is totally acceptable!

The first year we attempted Winterlude with two kids, we ended the canal skate after about 0.4 kilometres of screaming. Their toes were cold, skating was terrible, and we were horrible parents for bringing them there. It's getting better, though, I promise! Each year we add about two feet to the skate ;)

Parents have to dress warmly too

If you think you'll get by in a pair of jeans and a warm coat, think again. Even on warmer days, kids love for you to get down on the ground and play. In the Confederation park zone, there was a great area for kids to build with coloured bricks - if I hadn't had my snowpants on, I wouldn't have been able to get down on the ground and be a kid myelf!

You must eat Beavertails and drink hot chocolate

YUM

YUM

Again...tradition!! Yes, they are $4.50 each, and you will question your sanity when buying one for each family member. And the hot chocolate is made from powdered sugar. But the good news is that you are fueled enough to withstand the frigid temperatures and crowds. 

Take the bus

Finding parking is sometimes difficult, so we had a great time taking the bus from Orleans. And don't forget - there are free buses to take you to and from the different Winterlude locations. We didn't do snow tubing this time, but I'd love to check out Jacques Cartier at some point!

 

How do you do Winterlude? What are your tips for our readers?

How to choose a school

It's Kindergarten registration time and I've been thrown back into the whole process again as I gear up to send my youngest to school. It takes me back to the stressful time we had when deciding where to send my oldest three years ago.

As someone pointed out to me recently, some areas don't have a lot of options. Perhaps the options are limited because of the remoteness of the community, or perhaps it is financial. Many of us can't afford to consider private or alternative education.

So I do consider myself lucky that we had several choices in our area, but it did make for a lot of careful deliberation (I almost wonder if one school choice would be easier!) I know what went into our decision, but I was curious how other parents made the choice. So I put the question out on Facebook and got a lot of responses. Below I've highlighted some of the factors you may want to consider when choosing a school for your child:

Language

We are lucky here in Ottawa to live in a fairly bilingual community. It's important for our children to learn French, especially if they hope to stay and work in Ottawa in the future (which we don't actually know at age 4, but hey, you can think ahead for them!) So before you look into the school in more detail, it's probably best to hash out whether you will do full French (both public and Catholic options), French Immersion (public and Catholic options,) or core French (the Catholic board starts with 50% French in Kindergarten and the public board does 200 minutes per week.) For those unsure if full French is the right option, I wrote a post about being Anglophone in a Francophone system.

Religion

As one parent wrote: "We went with the closest Catholic school to our house. I liked the Catholic board because of the 50/50 French in kindergarten and the later immersion options."

I am not Catholic, but my husband is. My oldest was baptised in the United Church, and my youngest has yet to be baptised. However, both will attend Catholic school for a number of reasons, and so far we've been really happy with the choice. If you know a great Catholic school nearby, but you aren't Catholic, make sure to contact them to ask about your options!

Location

Several parents commented that location was a deciding factor, which was our case as well. I wanted my children to be able to walk to school, and given our proximity to the school grounds the school we chose was definitely within walking distance - I can actually throw them over the fence and wave goodbye ;) 

For those who can't walk, bus schedules are another factor: "The school bus schedule. Yup. Anything to save on paying for before or after care so we can finally start mending the financial wounds of mat leaves and childcare for the past 4 years." 

Alternatives

"We chose the alternative system. The teaching style in the alternative system is so exciting and inspiring. We were completely wowed when we went for a visit. It's like home schooling, but at school!!"

Montessori, Waldorf, Forest School etc. There are many options in Ottawa! Check out a recent post by our friend Andrea over at A Peek Inside the Fishbowl, all about Joan of Arc Academy. We even have a public school across the street from us (called La Source) which follows a play-based curriculum. Many alternative schools are publicly funded, but parents will need to consider cost for private schools. 

School Resources

"We printed off profiles of schools from the school board when we were looking for a house and while we didn't intentionally buy our house based on the profile we liked the best, it sort of turned out that way. I liked the high number of kids who's first language was neither English or French. I liked the fact that the school has a hard of hearing program and I liked some of the partnerships that the school had developed with community agencies to support the students."

What types of programs does your school offer beyond the curriculum? Where do they focus their resources? How involved is the school in the community? These are all really important questions to ask at a school open house - parents know that volunteer work and strong community connections can engage students in a meaningful way. 

School Rankings

I've added this last one, because I noticed it didn't come up in any of the comments on our Facebook post. I'm not sure parents are considering "rankings" to be an important factor in their decision, probably because of some of the criticisms of how schools are ranked - after all, grades are not the decided factor when it comes to a school's "success." Many teachers I have chatted with all say that rankings are flawed, and that you are better off meeting the principal and speaking with other parents whose children attend that school to decide for yourself.

Having friends after having kids

I miss my friends.

In my twenties I had a really big group of friends. Some were closer, some less so, but they were all great friends. I imagined that getting married and having so many friends would mean opportunities for lots of shared experiences; for my kids to get to know their kids, parties, sleepovers and all the things good daydreams are made of.

What I never expected was that parenting would be so all-consuming. I probably should have known better, but as almost every parent discovers, you just don’t believe what it’s like until you’re in it. You don’t believe everything you’ve heard until you start to experience it yourself.

When we had one baby – even one who never, ever slept – we managed to still see friends. Not a lot, but there were still dinner parties and we invited each other to the kids’ birthday parties. We were still present in each other’s lives.

When our twins arrived, I started to drown. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but 3 kids under 3 including a set of twins… life got hard really fast.

My support network quickly became the people I felt comfortable enough asking for help from - our parents and a couple of very close friends. I was happy to catch up with everyone else, but the likelihood of me coming up for air long enough to realize I hadn’t talked to them in forever (and at a time when I was near a phone) were slim to none.

I started to lose touch with people I knew before and started to find communities of people in exactly the same situation as me – people who could commiserate about sleepless nights, crying babies and not having a life. I knew my single or childless friends didn’t want to hear about my life, but I didn’t have much else to talk about. I didn’t have the energy to reach out and try.

My kids are nine and six now and I’m just starting to come up for air. I’m still tired and there always seems to be something going on, but I’m happily treading water and within reach of a floating dock. I have time to think about the friends I once loved and spent time with - those friendships that I let slide during the years of early parenthood.

And all that time to think brings up the Big Questions. Have too many years gone by for me to bring that friendship back to life? Do we have anything in common any more? Do they think I abandoned them because I didn’t like them or do they understand that it was just because I was concentrating so hard on keeping my own head above water?

I’m not sure what the answers are, and I don’t know what will come next. I just know that we now have the capacity to get a sitter and go out for dinner with friends. I even have the energy to have a conversation at the same time! I know that I’m getting closer to the point where I’m going to want to start hosting dinner parties again, and I have more and more to talk about that isn’t kid related.

I miss the friendships of my twenties, and hope that one day they may be re-kindled. Life as a parent has changed me far more than I ever expected, but to be honest, it's been for the better. I like who I am now, and I’m grateful for all the people who acted as my life preserver. My forties are right around the corner and I have no doubt a whole new adventure waits for me in that stage of my life too!

by Lara Wellman

Happy mother, happy child

“The best gift a mother can give her children is a happy mother”, I often hear myself say.

I’ll tell you up front: I am a happy mother. I take good care of myself. I feel no guilt, ever. And my child is a well rounded happy individual.

How is that possible?

Me - travelling solo

Me - travelling solo

My mother was not a happy mother. She suffered from depression in a time when there were no antidepressants. She took “pills for her nerves”, sleeping pills and a lot of alcohol. Our existence as a family was tumultuous to say the least. And so, at age fourteen when she left, I told myself that if I ever had children I would be, if nothing else, a happy mother.

I realize now that she was sick and I am not, which makes it easier for me to be happy. However, that pact I made with myself as a teen has come in handy many times during the last twelve years of motherhood. Like a mantra, I would recite it to myself when times were hard. I have also used it with my friends, neighbours, coworkers and family members on numerous occasions to help them cope.

I realize that a big part of our unhappiness as mothers is rooted in guilt.

As women, are we naturally guilty creatures? Are we programmed that way? I would argue no. I would also argue that it's the women with a lot of resources available to them (supportive partners, friends, money etc.) that tend to feel the most guilt.

It IS possible to be the mother we want to be for our children and take care of ourselves at the same time - without feeling guilty!

Here is an incomplete list of things I do for myself without a drop of guilt. :

1. I take a bath every night

In fact, I have taken a bath every single night since my daughter was born. She has another parent, after all. If you do not have the support of the other parent, take a bath instead of doing the dishes. 

2. I don’t do chores all the time

Dirty sink

The picture on the right is the current state of my sink. I’m waiting for the child to empty the dishwasher and this morning, instead of doing dishes, I wrote a blog post. The state of my kitchen doesn’t affect anyone’s life in the least.  

3. I go to the toilet alone 

She will survive for two minutes without me. (Disclaimer, the dog and the cat are exempt from this rule.)

4. I have hobbies

I’ve been to yoga and zumba classes, and gone curling and running, and get massages when I want to. Without her. She has another parent, after all; and now she's old enough to stay home alone.

5.  I go on trips without her

The first one was my honeymoon (New York) for three days when she was fourteen months. Then at age tree (London), and four (Dublin) and ten (Palm Springs) and eleven (Turks and Caicos) - all for one week each. Why not? When she eventually leaves home, my husband and I will be left behind, together. We might as well nurture that relationship before we become strangers. Plus, children benefit from healthy relationships with grandparents, uncles and aunts, neighbours and friends; and as a bonus, they have a blast. It’s a holiday for them too.

6.  I go shopping alone or with friends - without calling home

In fact, I’ve done this so much that I now have to beg her to come with me. She does, which makes me happy!

7.  I don’t always clean up after her

Shocking, I know. She can do it herself, and learning to be a disciplined human being is a great asset.

8.  I save my money

She can pay for the frivolous things she wants as she gets an allowance.

9.  I don’t share my treats

I got a box of Turtles for Christmas. And the same way I would not take her Halloween candy without asking, she would not take my treats without asking. Most of the time when she asked, I have said no. She survived.

10.  I don’t always serve her 

She is capable of getting her own glass of whatever (what she could do at what age varied, but kids are often more capable than we think.)

11.  I let her, and even ask her, to serve ME

I show her gratitude, of course.

12.   I read undisturbed

Sometimes with a glass of wine and in front of a fire! She has another parent, after all.

13.  She occupies herself

I don’t always play with her or organize her a playdate, and I didn’t even do that when she was little. She learned to occupy herself, and now she loves and even needs her alone time.

14.   I sometimes watch what I want on the television, even when she is awake 

I've watched my share of Max and Ruby and Phineas and Ferb episodes to last two lifetimes. She can go do something else.

15. I do date nights

I go out alone with my husband all the time! My daughter goes to friend’s house and has a good time. We started this when she was three years old.

Are you gasping? I promise you, I feel no guilt.

I don't know if I've always been like this. I often had to take care of myself as a child, or maybe I taught myself that I am worth my own time.  Nevertheless, my daughter is smiling most of the time! She is happy.

You might wonder if I dislike my child or if being a mum is not something I particularly like. That could be, but no. I would spend every minute of every day with her. I often do, actually. I have always loved being her mother, even when I wanted to throw her out the window (can I say that?) My husband and I love having her around and we prefer a trip with her than without her. 

You might also think you can’t do any of these things because you have lots of children. Well, your children have another parent too. He or she can manage without you; they have a right to. They might even surprise you with their abilities. You have to remind yourself that he will do it differently. My husband and I joke that if I die, my kid will be dirty but well fed, and if he dies, she will be clean but malnourished. In fact, I once came back on a late Sunday afternoon from a weekend away and my kid was sitting in front of the television with her father, still in her pajamas. Her teeth and hair looked like they hadn't been brushed in days. Yet, she had this wonderfully goofy smile on her face. I guess she had enjoyed her break from me, too.

And remember, your children also have grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends who are just waiting for you to ask them to enjoy your children’s company, even for an hour or two.

Trust me- you are worth it, your child is worth it, and your family is worth it. Without the guilt.

by Angèle Alain