Put a spring in your step and get creative!

I know, I know. It's snowing like crazy outside, and seems like spring will never come this year. It's been a LONG winter. I know in the past that long winters can get me down in the dumps. There was no warm beach vacations this year, so I'm feeling extra grumpy.

 Spring in happier days

Spring in happier days

So how do I put that spring back in my step? Here's 5 easy tips:

Get a haircut

After a long winter, I love giving my hair a little spruce. I've booked an appointment with my favourite hairdresser, and may do something different (with curly hair, going straight for a day is always fun)

Sign up for a workshop

I did a paint night this past winter, and had SO much fun. I've just signed up for another one with Nepean Creative Arts Centre. They're also offering an 3-hour Inktense workshop on Saturday April 29th. A great way to get creative without committing yourself to a weekly class.

Kids driving you crazy? Sign them up for something too! There's a 5-hour Theatrical Make-up Design workshop on April 29th from 10am - 3pm. This is for tweens and teens to train in maquillage – stage makeup – and design and implement fantastic theatrical looks. 

If your tween or teen is looking for something super fun and exciting, check out ABBA's Greatest Hits & Pop Performance - kids will work with professional voice teacher Marina Rososky to develop excellent singing ability, musicality and vocal projection, and master stage fright. 

Bring the beach to you

Can't get away for a warm vacation? Grab the ingredients for a pina colada, dress in shorts and t-shirts, and blast Bob Marley. Close your eyes and dream of the sun and sand.

Embrace winter's last hurrah

If you DO normally enjoy winter (which I do,) you may want to get out for one last ski or snowshoe before all the snow melts. Temperatures are on the rise, and it looks like this recent dump of snow will be gone by next week. So hit the slopes!

Get some exercise

Pick a super fun class to try, or check out your local yoga studio. We know how much exercise affects our mood, but at this time of the year, it's hard to find motivation. I have the MS Society's Ottawa to Cornwall bike ride coming up in less than 4 months, so I've really got to get my butt in gear!

What do you do to survive the last dying days of winter?

Reducing plastic with reusable containers at Bulk Barn

Months ago I walked into our local Bulk Barn and saw a little green flyer by the cash. I was SUPER excited. I've always wondered why I couldn't use my own containers at Bulk Barn, and I'm really keen to reduce plastic and waste in our home.

We shop at Bulk Barn almost weekly - it's my go-to place for all the ingredients I need to make granola, bread, muffins and snacks for the kids' lunches. So you can imagine how many plastic bags we were using. And although I try to reuse and recycle, I know that every time I rip one of those plastic bags off the roller, some part of the environment is dying a little (ok, a bit melodramatic...but true, right?)

We've been doing the container system for a number of weeks now, and here is what I've discovered:

I'm shopping more often

In the past, I'd hit up Bulk Barn every 2-3 weeks and buy really large quantities of things I needed. Now I'm a bit limited in space as I don't own many gigantic jars. One of my goals is to build up my supply of large containers, so that I can take home more of everything I need. Small jam containers only work well for spices or smaller goods.

Waiting in line to weigh my jars is annoying

Once you get to the store, you have to get your jars weighed before you can fill them up. This can be annoying when the store is really busy, and you're waiting in line behind people who are trying to pay for their stuff. It would be great if Bulk Barn came up with an automated weigh system - so far, their staff are using little stickers to write down the weight, and it seems they won't take my word for it if I've left the sticker on from my previous shopping.

Things can get a little messy

Trying to shovel flour into a container can be a bit messy. It's doable, but be prepared to spend a few more minutes filling your jars (and discreetly covering up your messes.) Also, apparently Bulk Barn will not allow you to use "dirty" containers - they have to be really well cleaned. I can see this as a liability issue for them, but I'm not fussy about a bit of flour being left over in my jar.

I LOVE the grind-your-own options

I've never enjoyed Bulk Barn's peanut butter. I recently realized it's because they add salt, and I find it WAY too salty. With my jars I've started to grind my own peanuts - it makes a nice, smooth peanut butter that the kids really enjoy. It's a tiny bit pricier than the stuff in the bins, but I'm happy to pay the extra for the superior taste.

My kitchen is more organized

Most things are now stored in mason jars, which actually makes my cupboards a bit more organized. Instead of trying to sort through bags and bags of food to find something, I can easily see what I'm looking for. And I've labelled most of my jars so I don't have to ask my husband "is this icing sugar, or corn starch?"

All in all, I think it's fantastic that Bulk Barn has made this move. I really hope more people will start using the container system, as I think it will force them to improve the system a bit more. There should be automated self-serve weigh stations, and smaller scoops in the bins. Also, I would love a discount for reducing my waste, just like I get at the coffee shop when I bring my own mug. 

Have you tried the new system? What do you think?

Lice doesn't have to be a nightmare

Picture this: you are off on a trip with your family. Money has been spent on hotels. You're not in a familiar environment, and the kids are hyped up on excitement.

The first morning of your trip, you go to brush your daughter's hair and notice something strange; something dark and suspiciously "bug" looking, crawling through her hair.

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This was the scenario we found ourselves in last fall. I hadn't been checking my daughter's head regularly, and the infestation had gotten pretty bad. A quick check on my head revealed that I was also dealing with lice (strangely, my husband and younger daughter never got them).

We found a local pharmacy and purchased the stuff that the pharmacist told us to buy. We treated ourselves, and went to bed with horribly smelly hair. I lay awake for hours in a state of panic. Without the comforts of home, I had no idea how I was going to deal with the lice. 

We made it back (and managed to have a little bit of fun) and I started washing everything. I received conflicting advice, that ranged from, "wash only things that come into contact with heads" to "burn the house down." We dealt with lice for SIX weeks before I finally managed to get rid of them for good.

 High-tech glasses to check for lice!

High-tech glasses to check for lice!

Had I been to see the kind folks at Lice Services Canada, my story might have been different. The original lice removal experts in Ottawa, the staff at Lice Services have a combined experience of over 50 years! I'm positive my infestation would have been over in a shorter amount of time, and with less tears. Lice Services can do checks and removal at their centrally-located offices, or in your own home.

What's more, I wouldn't have used the (probably dangerous) and smelly product on our heads, which destroyed my scalp and caused me months of problems. Lice Services Canada uses only non-pesticide products.

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I think one of the main reasons I had such a horrible experience was that I didn't know what the heck I was doing, and I was taking advice from non-experts (including Google). Lice Services Canada has a great "Myths" section on their website, which helps to educate people about lice. 

For example, did you know that you don't have to be itchy to have lice? My daughter never once complained her head was itchy until we spotted the little buggers. And although homemade products CAN work (e.g. we tried vegetable oil,) they have to be left on the head for 8 hours. It was a hugely messy process that wasn't really necessary. I just needed to get proficient at removing the nits (or eggs) - something which an expert could have done much more quickly.

March Break is coming up, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but many families will deal with lice after coming into contact with airplane seats, movie theatre seats, and museums or play centres (my kids are never allowed to put on dress-up clothes from these places again)! It's time to think about the possibility of lice, and do regular checks of your children's heads. 

Not sure what you're looking at? Snap a picture on your phone, and send it in to Lice Services Canada. They will take a look and give you a free diagnosis! Lice Services also provides screening programs at daycares, schools and camps. I remember all the checks I received as a kid at school, and I'm sure it gave my mother some peace of mind.

Remember that lice are in no way linked to being "dirty." After the common cold, lice seem to be the most communicable affliction among school-aged children. It is likely that your child will one day experience them, and there is NO shame in that!

What's been your experiences with lice? Leave us a comment!

Disclaimer: Lice Services Canada is one of our blog sponsors, and have compensated us for our time. All opinions and stories are our own...although we maybe wish this one particular story had never happened ;) 

Milestones and the Passage of Time

Recently I picked up a packet of forms from our local elementary school. It’s Kindergarten registration time and come September I will have a child old enough to attend. Not only is she old enough to attend, she is more than ready. 

Like most parents’ I have watched my child achieve many a milestone. Milestones that are written about in baby books and on the pamphlets we take home from the hospital. As a parent, I’ve met milestones too. The first date night after baby, the first daycare drop off, returning to work, tossing the pacifier, buying that last box of diapers. Some of these transitions and changes have come with great emotion. Others with great relief. 

As I spread the Kindergarten forms out on my kitchen table I waited for what I assumed would be feelings of shock or even sadness to arise. I looked at the beaming faces of the children on the school brochure. They were polished and content. Engaged and happy. She could easily be one of them I thought to myself. What surfaced with this realization was not sadness or shock or even a jolt of “how did this happen!”. I felt proud. 

This milestone packaged in an orange envelope is one that marks the passage of time. Proof that yes, time does go by quickly. I have watched my daughter go from baby curls in tiny bows to long braids down her back. From splashing barefoot in puddles to flying leaps into the deep end of the pool. From learning to roll over to cartwheels in the back yard. But when she lays sleeping at night I can still see in the curve of her cheek the baby I desperately struggled to breastfeed, and recognize the toddler who lived in imaginary worlds created with her doll. These days, I see the emerging preschooler who is independent and kind and intense and strong. Her growth and her story are written all over her face and I choose to see her unfolding as a remarkable gift.

With the passage of time, motherhood has also revealed itself to me as a remarkable gift, and I have grown to view it like the branches reaching out from the sturdy tree that stands in my backyard.  A branch that has never taken over fully and completely, or grown so out of control that it has choked out the other parts of me permanently. But rather, a branch that is part of a whole that grows in harmony and is supported by the wisdom, resiliency, and strength that is already present and alive. I think of myself like this tree, the pieces of me as the strong branches, and motherhood as but one of them. 

I suppose this is why it is pride I feel rather than sadness or shock when I reflect on the place I now find myself. For it is the bitter sweet passage of time that got both me and my daughter here. And where is “here” exactly?  It is with completed Kindergarten forms in hand, and another major milestone underway. Not just for the capable little girl in cardboard fairy wings, but also for me as her mother, committed to maintaining the necessary bend and sway and growth and trust needed to guide and love this tiny human well into her own journey. What a milestone. What a joy.

Julianne is the mother of a toddler and a preschooler, a Masters educated Social Worker, and a Certified Positive Parent Educator. Read more about her work at www.parentingcalmlivingconnected.ca 

March Break Fun: kids treated like royalty at Kids Kingdom Orleans

Last year we saw an exciting sign go up at a location near St. Joseph and Trim Rd. "Coming Soon - Kids Kingdom!" it read. 

"Finally!" we thought. There are several indoor play places around Ottawa, but they were always a bit of a drive away if you live in the East end. Now we have something close by!

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My daughter and I got a chance to check out the new Kids Kingdom Orleans location when she was invited to a friend's birthday party there last month. 

We started off with playtime in the large castle play structure. The kids can run over suspension bridges, whoosh down the slides, do a rope climb and crawl through tunnels. There is also an infant play centre for the little ones.

Next it was off to the giant inflatable castle (with a climbing wall and slide.) My daughter got too scared to come down, so I had to crawl up there after her. The 5 and 6 year-olds had no trouble sliding down!

The highlight of the party (other than cake) was the redemption games. I remember the same excitement as a kid - getting the tokens, playing the games, and then seeing how many tickets you won. The tickets can be traded in for sweet treats or small toys. For only $5, my daughter got to play several games and took home a ring and a candy.

Another great activity that we need to try is LASERFORCE Laser Tag. This is a 6,500 square foot laser tag facility, and kids can get their energy out playing hide-and-seek and developing tag strategies.

For weary parents, there's plenty of seating and healthy snacks at the Kids Kafe (plus....coffee!!)

If you're looking for something to do over March Break, Kids Kingdom can be a great place to hang out and let the kids burn off their energy (and bonus - it doesn't involve them making "castles" out of your couch)

Have you been to Kids Kingdom? What did your kids enjoy about it?

Disclaimer: this post is part of our March Break Fun Campaign, and we were compensated for our time. All opinions in this review are our own!