Camping in Bon Echo: Part 1

My family loves to camp. Or maybe I should say my husband really loves to camp, and I sort of love it. I don’t mind sleeping in a tent, and I’m happy outdoors as long as the bugs aren’t too bad. But I have a terrible fear of bears, and feel uneasy in the wilderness. I know that I have a better chance dying in my automobile than dying at the jaws or paws of a bear, but there isn’t much rational thinking that occurs when I’m imagining myself (or my girls) being eaten alive.

Camping 1

Despite my reservations, I believe that camping is a fantastic activity for kids. Not only are they learning new skills and an appreciation of nature, but they’re doing what kids do best – getting dirty and exploring the world!

So each year we plan a camping trip with good friends of ours, who also have two daughters around the same age as our daughters. This year we chose Bon Echo Provincial Park, about a 2.5 hour drive from Ottawa.

Camping 4

We reserved site #165, which is one of five walk-in sites at the Sawmill Bay campground on Mazinaw Lake. Bon Echo also has back country camping, cabins and yurts. 

Positives:

  • There’s a lot to do with kids. We rented a canoe for 1 hour and went to check out the native pictographs on Mazinaw Rock. The park offered amazing kids programs every morning at 10am, and most evenings at their amphitheatre.
  • The beaches are sandy and clean. The girls spent many hours wading, swimming and building sand castles.
  • The walk-in sites are beautiful – rocky and treed, and right on the water. You could easily jump off the rocks at your site and go for a swim. The lake is the second-deepest in Southern Ontario.

Camping 3

Negatives:

  • For a walk-in site, I expected to have neighbours who had done a lot of camping and respected general camping rules. Nuh-uh, didn’t happen. We ended up with several yahoos camping on either side of us – one couple lighting their fire with charcoal and starter fluid, another dragging giant logs and brush to burn, and a group of campers with no respect for quiet after dark (to give them credit, they weren’t drinking or anything – they were just obnoxiously loud people. In fact, the following group at that site were the ones drinking and carrying on, and even they shut up at 11pm. I could have kissed them!)
  • Walk-in sites and young children don’t really mix (but as another positive, I’m in really great shape after all that walking back and forth!)
  • Lack of policing from park rangers: our friends were staying in the main Sawmill campground, and had a horrible experience with drunken teenagers (or maybe they were 20…whatever). And in the walk-in campsites, we didn’t see a single ranger in seven days. I realize funding is scarce, but I think a walk-through each evening is warranted.  I could have made the park a ton of money by handing out tickets for all the infractions I spotted
  • The park was BUSY. Although I appreciate the human bodies surrounding me (as protection from bears, of course!), my hubby and I could have done with a quieter experience. We camped Achray in 2012 and it was very peaceful.

Camping 2

Although my negatives seem to outweigh the positives, we still had a wonderful time. The girls had a blast with their little friends, and the giant tarp my husband rigged up over the campsite saved us from days of rain. We’re already planning our trip next year, and need ideas. What are your favourite campgrounds for kids?

Oh, and no bears were spotted. That didn’t stop me from having a 2am heart attack after I heard what I thought was a bear – it was just a really loud racoon :)

 

Are you ready for back to school?

Some of us have already gone through back to school and the rest are coming up to it quickly.  I’m on my fifth year of back to school and I thought I’d share a few thoughts.  Please add any other ideas and tips to the comments below!

Clothing

  • What still fits?  We go through a fashion show and get all the kids to try on all their clothing and depending on the kid, clothing gets moved to their younger sibling, or it gets put into donation or consignment piles (the older the kids get, the smaller the consignment pile gets ;)  It’s a great time to purge all the stuff that doesn’t fit any more or that has been destroyed.
  • When possible, I try to get my kids’ clothing used.  There are lots of great ways to do that in Ottawa, including great consignment sales (the Hot Tots is September 6 and the MBFA sale is on September 13) and there are all kinds of Facebook groups where people sell clothing, toys, etc, not to mention sites like Used Ottawa.  Leave a comment telling us what your favourite place to get used clothing is!
  • Another great option is to have a clothing swap with your friends.  Kids go through clothing so quickly as kids and they play so hard in them, I’m all for keeping it as affordable as possible!

Making memories

I’m not always a super organized mom but the one thing I’ve always done is take first day of school photos.  I love seeing how the kids change over the years!  Make a point to take a shot on the first day of school.  We take ours in the same spot every year outside our front door.  The bricks really show how much they’ve grown from year to year.  Unfortunately this means we can’t move until they’re all done school now ;)  If you’re worried your skills aren’t going to capture the moment as well as you’d like, there are lots of photographers now offering back to school sessions too :)

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Being mentally prepared

A lot of the hardest part of back to school is being mentally prepared.  Just remember:

  • Breathe.  :)
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.   (For all the planning I tried to do with clothing my daughter wore one of the most ridiculous outfits ever on the 3rd day of school.  If it isn’t inappropriate weather wise, I just go with the flow )

Extra stuff

I asked people to share their back to school tips with us on Facebook.  Come add yours (or put them in the comments here!)

Want to share your back to school photos with us?  Do that on this Facebook post!

Bit of Momsense shares so great tips on back to school shopping and lunch ideas.

Happy back to school everyone!!

What To Do If Full-Day Kindergarten Isn’t Right For Your Child

This is a post from our sponsor Bells Corners Cooperative Nursery School. I’ve heard amazing things about their school, so check them out!

September will mark the final year of Ontario’s roll out for full day junior and senior kindergarten, meaning kids as young as three will be heading off to school for at least 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. Though this new programming may feel like a financial and logistical blessing for dual income families, a vast majority of parents are left feeling uncomfortable with their children’s ability or readiness to cope with institutional care for such long hours in their young life.

Emily 2

While the actual benefits of full day kindergarden are being publicly and feverishly debated, these parents are still left on the sidelines scrambling to find alternatives – alternatives that will not only meet (or better, exceed) the educational milestones of the mainstream kindergarten curriculum, but nurture their child’s innate curiosity, instil a love of learning and celebrate their unique little personalities.

Bells Corners Co-operative Nursery School (BCCNS) provides an exceptional alternative or supplement to full-day kindergarten. Based on a core belief that every child and family has a right to a quality early years education and experience, BCCNS provides a unique and caring program that fosters hands on “learning through play” experiences specifically focused on developing self confident, life-long learners.

The program is staffed by experienced, passionate and educated teachers. “We maintain a cap of 16 students per 2 teachers to ensure adequate one on one time with each of the students on a daily basis.” says Chelsea Coe, Program Director at BCCNS. “The small class sizes also allows us to conduct special projects, exercises and experiments that would otherwise not be possible with a larger group of students. This means we are not only able to fulfill the curriculum standards set by the Ontario Ministry of Education, but we go above and beyond those requirements.”

If you live in the area and are looking at alternative care, contact BCCNS today!