Family Travel: Buffalo, New York

KITC would like to welcome back, guest blogger, Stephen Johnson. Stephen Johnson is an Ottawa writer who loves to write about family travel.  During the summer, you will most likely find him and his family at a local fair or festival.  During the winter, a beach in Mexico is a likely bet.  


Buffalo New York is a great place to visit with a family. You might think there is a typo in this sentence or it was April Fool’s day when I wrote this article. There is no typo and we are about six months away from April Fools. Buffalo may not be top of mind like Orlando or Hawaii but our family had an awesome trip to the city. Here are a few things we did. 

Family Travel: Buffalo NY

Buffalo Bisons Baseball Game - The Buffalo Bisons are the Triple AAA affiliate for the Toronto Blue Jays. In short, that means you get to see the future stars before they get inflated salaries and egos to match. We took in a game with the Bisons taking on the Syracuse Mets. 

Family Travel: Buffalo

We got to see Bo Bichette, who is now a major star for the Toronto Blue Jays. Aside from the baseball, there were plenty of other things to keep our interest. David spent much of his time trying to get on the stadium tv and succeeded. I had fun watching a drink vendor who wore the classic Saturday Night Live Conehead and had a jersey with Conehead on the back. 

The fans were some of the best I have ever met at a sports event. They were into the action and very friendly when I mentioned we were from Ottawa. The stadium is located downtown and even though it was constructed in 1987, it has a classic old-school feel. 

Buffalo Riverworks - Buffalo Riverworks are grain silos that have been converted into an entertainment complex. Activities include ziplining, a ropes course, brew pub and even an indoor roller-skating rink. Being from Saskatchewan, I never imagined grain silos could have so many different uses. 

Family Travel: Buffalo Riverside

David opted to try the zipline course which went between the grain silos. David tried all four ziplines. He ended up not making it all the way across two ziplines as he does not weigh a lot. The guides were great at assisting David. At no point was he in danger. The last zipline was quite comical as he was perched about ten feet over the crowd and everyone cheered when David made it to the end.

David’s thirst for adventure was temporarily quenched so we checked out the interior of Riverworks. There was a teen roller derby tournament going on. There were teams from various areas including Ontario. The space also featured a very popular brewpub. We did not try the food but it looked delicious.

Family Travel: Buffalo Riverside Roller Derby

There is also a ropes course, climbing wall and a skating rink in the winter. Definitely the coolest grain silo I have ever visited. 

Buffalo Canalside - Much of the resurgence of Buffalo can be credited to the development of the Buffalo waterfront. The day we visited the area known as canalside, there were fitness classes going on, a music festival and salsa lessons. There are plenty of restaurants in the area and a Tim Horton’s that even has a small exhibit about the Buffalo Sabres hockey team! 

Family Travel: Buffalo Canalside

There are also numerous family attractions including river cruises, a children’s museum and the Buffalo Naval and Military Park. David, Sandy and I enjoyed seeing the World War II naval ships and even a submarine. 

Martin House Complex and Buffalo Zoo - I have included both attractions since they are within easy walking distance of each other. The Martin House is a must see for an architecture fan. The complex was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright who is considered one of the leading American architects of the 20th Century. Both the exterior and interior of the buildings were stunning. We took the one hour tour which proved to be just right for David. Longer tours are offered and there are a number of other Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the Buffalo area.

The Buffalo Zoo is only about a ten minute walk from the Martin House. The zoo is well worth a visit and has all the animals you might expect including lions, giraffes and gorillas. David’s favourite area was the amphibian and reptile center. The zoo is located in Delaware Park which would be a perfect place for a picnic before or after the zoo.

Where to eat - It would be remiss to visit Buffalo without trying chicken wings. I quickly learned that Bufallonians take their wings seriously. Ask for the best place and opinions will vary. It is generally accepted that the Anchor Bar was the birthplace of wings. The day we visited, the lineup was quite long so we picked Gabriel’s Gate restaurant. I can say the wings were the best I ever had. The sauce was evenly applied and the wings themselves were juicy. Nothing like the frozen ones I have tried from the grocery. 

Family Travel: Buffalo

We had a very comfortable stay at the Embassy Suites Buffalo. The hotel was located right downtown so was close to everything. Breakfast was also included. I can recommend the omelettes!

For more information about Buffalo, visit, www.visitbuffaloniagara.com

Disclosure: Stephen was comped for hotel and attractions for the purposes of this review, but all views are his own.

FREE admission to the National Gallery of Canada for Family Sunday

You’re going to want to mark Sunday September 29th down on your calendar, because admission to the National Gallery of Canada will be FREE!! This special event will mark Culture Days, and is part of the Gallery’s Family Sundays programming. Family Sundays are a great way for kids and adults to create, learn and fun together while exploring the national collection at the gallery through various themes.

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Kids in the Capital will be at the gallery to check out the super fun themes of summer, camping and forest creatures - we’re hoping to bring back that summer feeling while we still can!

The fun kicks off at 10 a.m. and runs until 4 p.m. (the museum closes at 6 p.m.) Check out the activity list below AND don’t forget to check out the cafeteria, where a special kids menu will be served.

Art Making

Forest Creatures
10 am – 4 pm
Scotia Bank Great Hall
Cut and paste a magical forest creature!
All Ages

Campfire Singalong

10:30 am, 12:30 pm and 2 pm
Scotia Bank Great Hall
Join Milady and Treville for a campfire sing-a long and skits!
All Ages

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Gallery Games: Hoot Owl Hoot

10 am – 4pm
Garden Court
Work as a team to help the owls fly back to their nest before the sun comes up! Family time surrounded by your national treasures.
Ages 4+

Tour: Art Hike

11:30 am, 1 pm and 3 pm
Departs from Tour Group Lobby
Let’s get outside and visit artworks so big they can’t be contained by walls. Visit the Taiga Garden to learn about the plants and wildlife that live on the gallery grounds.
Ages 4+

Learn to Camp!

10 am – 4 pm
Scotia Bank Great Hall
Get ready for fall camping! Parks Canada staff will be on hand to give demos, offer some fall camping tips, and answer all your questions.
All Ages

Songs and Stories: Woodland babies

11:30 am, 1 pm and 3 pm
Departs from Scotiabank Great Hall
Songs, books and looking at art! Join-in on a campfire sing along just for the littles!
Ages 0-3

Sensory-Based Play

10 am – 12 pm, 1 pm – 3pm
Studio
Explore materials with hands-on activities. It’s never too early to get into art!
Ages 0–6

Film Screening: Hedgehog's Home

Auditorium
10 am – 4 pm
This award winning animated short (10 mins) is a warm and universal tale that reminds us there truly is no place like home.
Courtesy of the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) and the National Film Board of Canada.
All Ages

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This is a post sponsored by the National Gallery of Canada. Opinions expressed are solely our own and do not express the views or opinions of our sponsors.

Back To School Apps That Make Life Easier

It’s that time of year again where parents struggle to keep their schedules organized, make sure everyone is eating healthy, and that homework is being done! We asked our Kids in the Capital Facebook Community for their favourite back to school apps that make life easier, and we received many great suggestions. Here are a few:

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Google Calendar

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Available across devices, with Google Calendar you can share schedules, appointments and colour code everything for each individual in your family. When you create a family on Google, you also get a family calendar. Anyone in your family can use this calendar to create events that all the family members can see.

Doodle

KITC fan, Carolyn Reid, regularly uses Doodle! She said, “Doodle is a quick and simple way for everyone involved in an activity (sports practices, music rehearsals, play dates, etc.) to choose the date that works best for the majority of the group. Great when organizing family dinners and Holiday gatherings too!”

Google Translate

If you have a student in full French or French Immersion (or learning another language) and you struggle to read the notes home from school or help them with their homework, Google Translate is a must have. You can use your camera for instant translation or translate between 103 languages by typing.

Evernote

Evernote is a great way to make lists, store pictures and take notes. You can find information faster, share ideas between family members, take and save notes, web pages, projects, and to-do lists. This app is like a memory base for all the things you need to save and have handy, but don’t know what to do with.

OurPact

OurPact can turn off most of the apps on kids iPods, iPads etc., so they don't have access all the time. It’s an easy-to-use screen time management app, which is important for kids to balance the pressures of social life versus school and home life!

Flipp

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Make grocery shopping, finding the best deals on food and making a grocery list effortless with Flipp. This handy app delivers digital ads from more than 1000 retailers (not just grocery stores!) so you can find the best deals.

CanImmunize

If you’re a parent who’s received the “letter” (you know the letter - a warning that your child will be suspended if their immunization records are not updated!!) then you’ll love this easy app for tracking your family’s immunization records. No more lost yellow booklets!

Lara went on CTV Ottawa Morning Live to discuss some of these apps. Check out her segment!

Do you have an app you use everyday that helps you stay organized or makes your life easier? Leave a comment and let us know!

Let's take better care of our village

There are no shortage of articles out there about the loss of our parenting “village.” How with the advent of the global economy and pervasive technology, we have been given the opportunity to venture far and wide across this country and world, and yet, we seem ever further away from the people we need the most - our parents, the aunties, uncles, cousins; the people who USED to help us raise our children.

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Instead we are left with our singular homes, shut away even from neighbours who could lend a helping hand. Many of us have parents who live on the other side of the country because we left for the jobs, and once settled, we don’t return.

What I have discovered recently is that although the traditional village has disappeared, a new village has sprung up in its place. This village is made up of friends - our closest bosom buddies, and the acquaintances we see at the bus stop every morning. Maybe it’s the families you see at church or your child’s hockey games, or the online groups where you spill your heart to virtual friends you’ve never met. This is our village, and it is good and precious.

In our fast-paced and distracted world, it can be all too easy to turn our back on our village. We don’t do this intentionally, but life has a way of taking over. We get caught up in our daily dramas of school, work, appointments, activities and LIFE, and we can’t see when someone is struggling. In this way, we are failing our modern village and when it’s our turn for support, who will we turn to?

Recently I’ve been reflecting on how I can better support my village, from my closest family and friends to the people I know just by name. Sometimes that negative voice in our heads can tell us “I don’t have time” or “we’re not that close,” but when we make small acts of kindness, we find ourselves on the receiving end of love and support when WE need it.

Here are a few ways I’m trying to build my village:

Buy Nothing Groups

Joining my local Buy Nothing group has been a huge positive in my life. I have gotten to know several neighbours better, and we have helped each other out with gifts of meals, the elusive cup of sugar or 1 egg for our recipe, or other items such as used clothing (amazing for growing kids!!) Although these people may not become your best friends, it will certainly give you the sense that you are surrounded by caring neighbours ready to lend a hand.

Foooood

I get it - you are crazy busy, and it’s hard to find time to see your village in person. But in my mind, there’s always time to offer food. Maybe it’s some baking, or a big stew, or maybe you don’t bake/cook and just want to pick up some ready-made meals from the grocery store. In times of stress, supplying food to our village peeps can go a long way in showing support.

Checking in

Weeks and months will go by when I suddenly realize I haven’t spoken to any of my closest friends. In high school and my twenties, I would spend hours on the phone with my mom and my friends. I could communicate my daily worries, lend an ear when needed, or just have a really good laugh. With our busy lives, long, lazy phone convos may no longer be possible. Instead, take the time to quickly check in every couple of weeks.

Calling someone

If you’re anything like me (introverted and highly anxious) phone calling will set your palms sweating and your heart racing. Here’s the thing though: we’re actually losing the ability to relate well to others by conducting all of our lives online. We don’t get to connect on a deeper level with people when meaningful conversations are carried out over email or text. Do yourself and your heart a favour and call a real person - even if you try to manage one phone call per week!

Volunteering

Find out who in your local village could use some help, and then provide that help by volunteering your time. As I’ve mentioned above, sometimes we don’t have time - so maybe your support can be less time consuming. Perhaps you are an expert or specially trained in something, and can lend a hand without even leaving your house! (e.g. editing someone’s homework/school papers, fixing someone’s bike etc.) Let’s get out of the traditional mindset of volunteering as a boring job you need to do for your resume, and more as a way for you to build up your village.

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What I’ve come to realize is that if I don’t have time for my village, I don’t have my priorities straight. I’m putting non-essential tasks and “things” above the needs of my support network, and in turn, I end up feeling more anxious and isolated.

Giving more of ourselves can seem scary when pop culture wants us to focus on ME ME ME (if I have to read another article about self-care I will scream!) I’m not arguing that taking care of ourselves is not relevant - especially when it’s our own suffering we need to deal with. But if we’re regularly putting ourselves first without too much thought to our village, we may wonder why we have no one to turn to when we’re in the hot seat. In this big ol’ scary world, we can’t afford to turn our back on others.

What are the ways you take care of your village?

Taboo Talk: of periods and pain and endometriosis

One day in May, I was suddenly in the worst pain of my life. Pain that far outranked giving birth (possibly because it wasn’t stopping, not because the intensity was that much greater than that of a contraction) and the tooth infection I previously had in top spot for Worst Pain Ever.

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Turns out I had a 6 cm cyst called an endometrioma on one ovary, and a 7 cm endometrioma on the other ovary, and a 5cm fibroid in my uterus. So basically… all kinds of things growing in there that shouldn’t be, probably causing all my pain. Also, I have endometriosis.

Endometriosis is tissue which somewhat resembles the endometrium lining the inside of the uterus, but which is found outside the uterus where it doesn't belong. The chief symptom is pain. Symptomatic endometriosis affects approximately 5% - 10% of women, although up to 40% of asymptomatic women may harbor the disease, regardless of the indication for surgery. This makes endometriosis one of the most common human diseases on the face of the earth. ~ endopaedia


I have endometriosis, and likely always have. I realized going through this process a few really important things about women’s health that made me want to write about it here on Kids in the Capital (because I bet I’m not the only mom who needs to learn more about this!)

1) Pain isn’t “normal”

The pain I’ve had from my periods from a young age was a sign of the disease. My whole life I was told it was normal to have pain, and to just take lots of advil/naproxen or go on the birth control pill. No doctor I talked to thought it was a big deal - not because they were cruel, but because they were also taught to think it was normal. It’s not. If you have this level of pain every month, talk to your doctor about it again and ask for a referral to a doctor that can help you figure it out.

2) Periods aren’t gross and we need to talk about them more

People don’t talk about things like period pain and endometriosis and fibroids - we’ve been taught it’s gross (seriously, how many movies or shows use talking about your period as the number one way for a woman to get a man to just let her do whatever she wants or get out of class with no questions?!)

Our silence means that we don’t know what other people are going through and we aren’t normalizing this stuff. Instead we’re all living in our own little bubbles, unsure of what’s what - what is ok and what isn’t?

3) We need more doctors

There aren’t enough doctors who understand endometriosis! Doctors aren’t learning about this disease, even though a huge percentage of the population is impacted. This means they don’t ask the right questions and they offer bad advice. It also means that the wait time for the doctors that DO know what to do is exceptionally long. I’ve had to do a LOT of my own research to make sure that I get the right treatment and learn to manage what has become daily and unending pain for me.

4) We need to advocate for ourselves

Most of us have been brought up to believe that doctors know best and that we need to go to them to find out what to do. This really isn’t in our best interest. The more we know, the more empowered we are to make sure we have the best care. If I hadn’t done my own research I would be heading down entirely the wrong path to deal with my endometriosis.

Here are a few resources (Facebook groups) if you’re interested in learning more or think you have endometriosis:

Nancy’s Nook - this Facebook group is all about education (not conversation). There are so many incredible resources in this group, as well as a list of doctors internationally that have been vetted who really know how to deal with endometriosis.

The Endometriosis Network Canada - for conversations and resources that are specifically Canadian, this is a good group. They also have a list of specialists they recommend that is more extensive in terms of Canadian doctors than the list in Nancy’s Nook.

Ottawa Endometriosis Support Group - here’s a local Facebook group, which can be great for talking about our local doctors and what to expect.

Endometropolis - What I like about this group is that it is more conversation based than Nancy’s Nook and that there are some doctors who take part in the conversations.

I wanted to ask a few other women I know who have endometriosis what they wish more people knew about the disease or what they wish they’d known. Below you’ll read what they had to share. If you too have anything to add or share, we’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Chantal Sarkisian is a fashion blogger here in Ottawa who has endometriosis and has been sharing a lot about her journey on her blog and in the media so that more people understand what endometriosis is all about. She shared the following thoughts and tips with us.:

Endometriosis is a complex, under-researched and lifelong illness that affects so many women around the world. If I have to sum up my advice it would be:

Awareness- If you have a lot of menstrual pain and flow that is debilitating, that’s a warning sign. This is the beginning of your long and hard journey with endo.

Help- Find a doctor that is willing to listen and learn about endometriosis. Better yet, find a Gynecologist who specializes in it (ex: Dr. Singh in Ottawa is a world leader in endo!)

Treatment- Seek hormonal therapy that works for your body as soon as you can, to preserve the health of your ovaries and uterus if you want children.

Live- Manage your pain accordingly and try to live a normal life. A healthy diet and exercise can help manage your symptoms.

Education- Be a champion for other women and share your stories so they can learn from you. Make others understand that the emotional and physical pain is real, and it is permanent.

Support- Raise funds for research, support the endo community and give back!

Misty Pratt is one of our Community Managers for Kids in the Capital and was diagnosed with endometriosis several years ago.

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It took about six years for someone to tell me I had endometriosis. I remember the doctor saying "has anyone ever told you this before?" and I just stared at her in shock. That was my first clue that our medical system has absolutely no idea how to treat women with period problems.

Misty shared with us some of the following tips:

1) Don’t ignore problems with your cycle - if you notice a shift in your cycle (e.g. shortening or lengthening cycles) or problems such as excessive pain or intermenstrual bleeding make sure to get seen by your healthcare provider.

2) However, because most family doctors don’t have a lot of knowledge of the disease, the first line of treatment is usually hormonal birth control. This may be fine for some women, but it’s not fine for those of us who experience migraines (especially migraines with auras - stroke risk!!) Make sure to ask for a referral to an OBGYN (and if things are really bad, make sure it’s an OBGYN who’s an expert in endometriosis!) There are surgical treatments, although the effectiveness of those options is sometimes questionable and may not be appropriate for all cases.

3) BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF. Realize that your period may be a bit of a different experience from other women’s periods. It may mean you miss work once in a while. It may mean that you can’t do your favourite activities, such as running or swimming, because your flow is just too heavy. It may mean that you lie in bed crying every month while your family tiptoes around you and wonders when crazy mom will go away, and normal mom will come back. Do the self-care, even when it feels like you’re falling behind.

4) Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Sometimes I just have to tell people that it’s been a bad month, and I can’t do X, Y, or Z thing that I promised I would do. I usually feel much more comfortable saying this stuff to other women, but I’m hoping with time I will feel more comfortable talking about these things with men as well. Periods and period problems should NOT be taboo, and I’m making every effort to teach my girls that it’s OK to talk about PMS, flow, blood, menstrual products, and pain.

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When we think we’re going through challenges alone, it can make for an isolating experience. It also puts as at a disadvantage, as we typically don’t receive the care we need. By talking to other women (and men too!) we can start to open the discussion, share resources and provide emotional support. Endometriosis can be a hard pill to swallow, but we don’t have to suffer alone.

We’d love to hear YOUR story with endometriosis, as well as your own tips and resources. Leave a comment below, or send us an email: kidsinthecapital@gmail.com