Mont Cascades

As part of #Outaouaisfun this summer, Lara and I are checking out so many great places to visit with our kids in the Outaouais region. Visit Outaouais Tourism for more information and follow along with the hashtag #Outaouaisfun on Facebook and Twitter! Disclosure: I was provided with free passes to visit Mont Cascades, but all opinions are my own.

Slip Slidin' Away

I've visited Mont Cascades once, when my daughter was 3 years-old. I was hugely pregnant at the time, and the morning ended in disaster when I let my daughter go ahead of me on the slide (hey, other kids her age were going alone!). She landed face first into the water at the bottom, and refused to try the slides again.

The Kiddie Slides for those 48" and under. My almost-6 year-old liked these the best

The Kiddie Slides for those 48" and under. My almost-6 year-old liked these the best

This past weekend was a much better experience. Now almost 6, my daughter and her younger sister (2) had a great day at Mont Cascades. Pictured above are the kiddie slides, and Big Sister worked up the courage to do the slides by herself. There was rarely a line-up, and we went up and down the slides many times.

My favourite part about Mont Cascades is that you can do the kiddie slides with your children. Other waterparks will not allow parents to go down the kiddie slides, which is disappointing for toddlers who aren't big enough (or brave enough) to do it themselves.

The Kiddie Pool

The Kiddie Pool

The Kiddie Pool was a lot busier, so we had a quick splash in there before stopping for lunch.

Seating area with lots of shade

Seating area with lots of shade

There is TONS of seating at Mont Cascades, but a lot of it is in full sun. I highly recommend you get there early (we arrived at 10:30 am, and most spots were gone) to snag a shady spot. It makes a big difference when you're trying to eat your food before it gets fried under the summer sun.

Enjoying our picnic lunch

Enjoying our picnic lunch

Our biggest mistake of the day was taking both girls down Black Magic. I saw so many other parents coming out of the tube slide holding onto their little ones, so I thought "hey, that looks like fun!" I didn't realize that a) the slide is SO fast; and b) it's really dark (duh, "black magic"). I was probably more scared than my daughter, and I think the entire park heard my screams of terror (in my defense, I was worried that the tube would flip and I would lose hold of my little one - even with a life jacket on, eek!)

SO, if you have young children who are generally cautious little beings, I would recommend avoiding the larger tube slides. Instead, you can check out the new Splash Forest for families and kids of all ages. A huge red bucket fills up slowly and then dumps all over the unsuspecting people below. The slides are small, but fun enough for older kids.

A terrible picture (the angry clouds had rolled in!) of the new Splash Forest, exclusively for families and kids of all ages. 

A terrible picture (the angry clouds had rolled in!) of the new Splash Forest, exclusively for families and kids of all ages. 

Another great plus for Mont Cascades is that it's affordable - seasons passes go for $39!! A single pass is $19 and kids 2 and under are free. This makes it a great destination for families who can't afford some of the pricier attractions in our area.

So make the drive up to this beautiful part the Gatineaus and have a splash! (bonus points if you stop for ice cream at Le Cigale on your way home)

Have you been to Mont Cascades? Share your experience in the comments!

 

Adventures at sleep away camp

I have friends who spent their summers at sleep away camp as kids and I've always been kind of jealous. I went a few times, a week at a time, but the stories I heard from some of my friends who stayed a month (or more) were stories of amazing friendships, learning great skills and enjoying the outdoors in all its splendor.

I want that for my kids. I know there's no guarantee that they'll adore it, but I had high hopes based on how much they enjoy our time at the cottage every summer. This year, we took the plunge and our 8-year-old spent a week at sleep away camp.

He loved it.

He came home glowing and didn't stop talking for two hours, telling us all his stories. Here are a few of my favourite things about his experience.

He got to try new activities

My not-so-particularly physical kid spent every day swimming, kayaking, rock climbing and sailing.

His favourite activities were rock climbing (which he did almost every day) and sailing (which I'm told is SO FUN! and SO RELAXING! and we need a sailboat for the cottage NOW!). Archery, which he was quite excited about, wasn't really all he thought it would be.

They had campfires and they slept in a tent overnight in the woods. They build boats out of cardboard and got to test them out on the lake (apparently the only one that floated was the one that was too small for anyone to sit in.) He tried so many great things I can only imagine what he'll try when he's there for several weeks.

He was completely disconnected

I have no problems with technology for kids in moderation but I definitely think that being disconnected is important too. I was impressed that he had no hesitation leaving his iPod behind and I don't think he missed it at all while he was away. He read paper books and wrote us postcards during his down time.

He had to take care of himself

He had a lot of stuff he was responsible for managing

He had a lot of stuff he was responsible for managing

They may remind you to brush your teeth and put on sunscreen at camp, but even at 8 you're pretty responsible for yourself. He had to manage keeping track of his stuff and keeping it organized (which I think he only did moderately well).

I packed his bag because he had another activity the night before he left and I would definitely make him be more involved in future years, because there were a lot of things that got jumbled up. He had so much stuff in his huge bag that he never ended up using or wearing certain items, because he forgot he had them. I think it was a valuable lesson in being responsible for himself and not having someone to just go to when he couldn't find something.

Camp Otterdale

The camp we chose was based on a recommendation from someone I knew, but my son headed off without any friends or knowing anyone there. The camp was so great at making him feel welcome and all the counsellors made me feel confident that he would be in good hands when I left him there.

Located just outside Smith Falls, it's on a beautiful lake and the amazing variety of activities they have for the kids is quite incredible. All the camp counsellors have to have been campers to get jobs there, and the staff loyalty was clear - they could demonstrate how great a time kids have when they go to camp.

Next year my son wants to go for two weeks and my daughter (who will be seven) wants to go for a week. I'm still waiting to see if I think her twin will be ready at seven as well (here's a great post from Mabel's Labels about figuring out if your kids are ready for sleep away camp). They're already looking forward to it!

Have you considered sleep away camp for your kids? Have they been? Share what your experiences have been like in the comments!

A very merry half birthday

My daughter was born in January, just a couple of weeks after Christmas, which makes the rest of the year very long for her. It's hard to be five. We usually note the day of the month that marks her half-birthday and this year I thought I would take an idea from Pinterest and let her celebrate her half birthday. 

She got to invite two friends over and play some games and have some cake. I also took two more ideas from Pinterest and we made our own bubble soap and the pinata she's been asking for since before her last real birthday. 

I was going to steal another Pinterest idea and make a half a cake, but then I realized that might not be quite enough for her guests and the guests we were having later that day for dinner. The kid was a little sad I didn’t just make two half cakes, but she still got to decorate it. 

The Bubble Soap 

Four tablespoons Palmolive (which I’ve heard is the best dish soap for bubble soap) to every one cup of water. I also added one tablespoon on corn starch for every one cup of water, which was supposed to make the bubbles last longer but didn’t seem to have any effect. 

The Piñata

Classic paste (flour and water) and newspaper over a balloon. Once it was dry the kid got to paint it and Daddy put a string around it and hung it on the swing-set. The two of them then went out to the local dollar store and found some things to fill it up with – a mix of fun stuff and candy. Three of each thing was put into the piñata, and one special toy for the person who broke it open. 

A sunny day with friends, bubbles, dancing and treats was a pretty good celebration for being done with junior kindergarten, half-way to six, and ready for summer. 

Do you suffer from Mommy Disease?

I'm finally at the stage where my young children are a little bit older. They're still "young" (one is in diapers, and the other starts Grade 1 this year), but we've gotten past the "I-depend-on-you-all-day-every-day" phase.

We've also chosen to stop at two kids. Maybe you're in the same boat - you've made  the permanent decision to protect yourself from more bambinos (the ol' snip-snip) or you use an alternative method of birth control and lots of prayer.

I imagined getting to this point in my life and feeling great - no more newborns sucking the nutrients out of my body, no more serious sleep deprivation, and the energy to exercise and eat well.

But now I've discovered I have Mommy Disease, a crippling illness that affects thousands of mothers each year (and maybe dads too, although I can't really speak for the man in my life).

Signs and Symptoms

- Low iron: you're running on fumes. Someone explained it to me like this - if you were to go shopping in your body for iron, the grocery store shelves would be empty. There's no supply!

- Low B12 or magnesium or Vitamin D: whatever vitamin or mineral it is, it's low. You're popping enough pills to rival a 75 year-old woman.

- Lack of energy: seriously, how did we survive the newborn years? Waking up every hour at night and I STILL managed to feed and clothe the children. Now I'm lucky if I can walk down the block without getting winded.

- Memory problems: remember pregnancy-brain or Mommy-brain? How long does this last? The other night it took me 10 minutes to remember the name of my cousin.

- Lack of concentration: raise your hand if you've stared at your computer screen a good 10 minutes before you suddenly realized you weren't doing any actual work.

- Chronic stress: doctor and dentist appts, visits to emerg for a spill at the park, the stomach flu, night terrors, potty training, your yearly performance review at work, money troubles, lack of sex, your car breaks down, the dog is sick....need I go on?

Other rare symptoms may include chest pains, hair falling out, heart palpitations and excessive sweating.

The cure? I haven't found one yet. Becoming an alcoholic is one option. So is running away to Hawaii. But my husband claims that those options are not "smart decisions." Whatever.

So right now I'm in brainstorming mode, and reaching out to other diseased moms. 

What's your cure?

Tea with Alice: Billings Bridge Estate

by Amy

I first heard about Alice's Tea Party, hosted at the Billings Estate, last year. I'm so happy that this year I managed to remember to make a reservation. 

On our arrival we were escorted to our table by the Queen of Hearts (much more mellow that her book self), and while we waited for our food we were entertained by the Mad Hatter. Who knew he can do magic tricks? 

The kid was delighted by the Mad Hatter, but even more thrilled when our tray of food arrived. Three tiers, from tea sandwiches on the bottom to sweet treats on the top. 

Cupcake goodness

Cupcake goodness

As we ate and drank our lemonade we also got to go through the sheet of riddles on our table and try to solve them all. There was one I didn't know that she guessed right (smart kid), and she was thrilled that we won a prize for our answers. 

After lunch and dessert we searched for the hidden Cheshire cats around the grounds of the estate and we played a little croquet, which I haven't done since I was a kid. This game was complete with flamingo mallets and hedgehog balls (sort of). 

 

You can find out more about upcoming events at the Billings Estate here. They host weekly teas, without Alice, on Wednesdays throughout the summer.