Playgroup drop-ins for Ottawa South/Gloucester

by Kamerine I have a three year old boy and a one year old daughter.  When I was on maternity leave with my daughter I pulled my son out of daycare.  I planned to take an unpaid leave from my job to stay home with my kids.

And that's just what I'm doing.  Staying home has been pretty great.  Sure there are bad days but they are far outnumbered by the good.  Staying home isn't the best option for a lot of parents, but it works for me and my family.

There are so many things I love about staying home but there are things I miss about working.  I miss being challenged, having tasks to complete and deadlines to meet, but most of all I miss the adult interaction.  I used to spend a lot of my time corresponding with people by email and over the phone, consulting coworkers and management, and chatting with coworkers who became friends.

Being at home can be very isolating, especially in the cold winter months, so I do my best to get out of the house.  Seeing people saves my sanity and I'm sure my kids love getting out too.

Lucky for us, Global Childcare Services has an outreach program that provides playgroup drop-ins at various locations near me.  The drop-ins are free and they provide a great opportunity for my kids to run around and play with new and exciting toys.  The staff are warm and welcoming and obviously truly care about kids.   There are snacks available for the kids and coffee for the adults.  There are lots of toys to play with, books to read, puzzles to do, and at least one craft set out.  The drop-ins always end with circle time led by one of the staff.

These drop-ins are perfect for meeting other parents.  Over time conversations have moved from the typical "She's so cute!" and "How old is he?" to the friendly exchanges I so crave.  Every week I look forward to going to the drop-ins and seeing the people I've come to know.

I hope if you're home with your kids and in the area - Ottawa South and Gloucester - that you'll check it out.  We're lucky to have this service available.

Kamerine is mom to 3 year old Little J and 1 year old Baby K.  She documents her life with two toddlers, a husband and a cat at

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How to prepare for crowded events with your child

by Karen

It's just been a couple of days since Canadians across the country were gathered together to celebrate the 145th birthday of the nation. That means big crowds - and when you're in Ottawa, it means really, really big crowds!

I happened to be speaking with a friend today and she mentioned that she volunteers every Canada Day (and Winterlude) for the NCC/Girl Guides Lost Children Service. The Lost Children Service is volunteer-based and RCMP is on hand for cases where children are missing for more than an hour. The service does require paperwork to be filled out on each incident.

As she was telling us about the service and how it works, I grabbed my notebook and pen to take notes. She had a lots of excellent advice for parents who are in crowded places with their children, whether there is a lost children service or not. And, since festival season is still long from being over, here are some tips!

  1. Label your child. Even if you've taught your son/daughter your names, numbers, address, what you're wearing, etc., the stress and fright of realizing they are separated from you may render that information temporarily lost - sometimes regardless of age. Some parents mark on their children's back with permanent marker. Others may put a sticker on the inside of the back of their shirt. If you choose a sticker - go with something tough and sticky. (These wristbands are a great idea too!) You don't want that info getting lost.
  2. Take a picture. Do you have a camera in your phone? Take a picture of your child(ren) in the clothes they're wearing (then you don't have to remember for a description) and in a spot with some frame of reference for height. That can be sent to someone in authority if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to track down a lost child.
  3. Take another picture! This one should be one of you. If your child has a device they carry with them, make sure your picture is on it. It's not unusual for the search to go both ways.
  4. Make a plan. It's easy to get separated in a crowded place with lots of distractions. Before getting too far in, check out the lay of the land and decide on a place to meet. Is there an information table? A ticket stand? A security desk? Figure out what makes sense for the situation you're in and communicate the plan to everyone in your party.
  5. Ask permission first. This probably goes without saying, but it never hurts to repeat to your children the importance of asking permission before they wander away.
  6. Share the load. In your group, buddy up. Pairs or trios are easier to manage. Get the kids involved with helping to look out for each other.
  7. Pack the necessities. And nothing more. If you're weighed down with tons of stuff that doesn't leave you a free hand to hold on to a little one, assess what's really needed and leave some things behind.

Above all, once you've done all these things and still get separated, don't panic. Remember the plan and act on it before assuming the worst.

These are just a few tips I put together from the discussion with my friend and ideas I had from my own past experiences. Let me know if you have more ideas to add in the comments!


Karen Wilson is a wife to Matt and mom to Brandon (4), who blogs about her life at Karen’s Chronicles. She can be found at Wellman Wilson, helping businesses use social media more effectively. Lately, she’s also busy planning a little conference and doing her part to keep the coffee industry alive.

My son has special needs, but I'm not sure what they are...yet.

by Karen I've recently begun writing about our experiences going through the system to get our son assessed.  It all started last summer when we were having communication difficulties around potty training. Eventually, we decided to talk to our doctor about motor skills as well. We've since added emotional development and behavior to the list.

That's a heavy load on our minds as parents, but in the grand scheme of things we are very blessed. We simply have challenges that may be considered by some to be outside of the "norm". And yet, life is just like that.

"Normal" is Relative

I have three family members who are on the autism spectrum so I've always known it was possible that Brandon could be as well since there's a strong genetic link. One family member was diagnosed as an adult and it explained so much about this individual. Resources and knowledge are far different now than they were when I was a child.

It can feel like such a punch in the gut to hear someone you trust tell you that you should think about getting your child assessed, but it's worth it to be proactive.

My experience so far has been so positive - friends are quick to offer support, helpful advice. The specialists we're seeing are incredibly compassionate professionals who take Brandon as he is and work with him. The waiting feels like it will never end, but we're finally seeing results after nearly 11 months.

The Testing Begins

It can be intimidating to go for an assessment, but the specialists we've encountered have been outstanding. They play with Brandon and work hard to engage him in ways that he will enjoy and respond to. When it's clear he's had enough, they generally don't push him too much further.

We've had two assessments so far. There are more to come.

The Goal

This is all part of a grand plan I have to give my son the very best life he can have. These assessments will put us on the right track. I want to know what makes Brandon tick. I want to know how to help him understand me better and vice versa.

Unexpected Inspiration

When I attended a conference recently, I got to see Jason Goldsmith - of The Big Blue Hug - speak about his son Ellis, who is autistic. Check out this video excerpt of the session:

Hearing Jason talk reinforced beliefs I've had all along:

  • Nothing is "wrong" with my son. He is exactly right just the way he is.
  • Assessments are just a jargony way of saying you have to be creatively vigilant and diligent to learn how to reach a child in the way that works for them.
  • I will do whatever it takes to help my son, because just as I get to share my stories in a way that works for me, I want him to find a way to share his.

I'm going to write about this from time to time as we go through this process. My hope is that I can help parents who may have fears about this process by sharing my story.

Do you have a child with special needs? What is the one piece of advice you'd give other parents?


Karen Wilson is a wife to Matt and mom to Brandon (4), who blogs about her life at Karen’s Chronicles. She can be found at Wellman Wilson, helping businesses use social media more effectively. Lately, she’s also busy planning a little conference and doing her part to keep the coffee industry alive.

Reel Babies - A Real Nice Time & A Giveaway!

by Carly
When the Little Man (now 5.5 years old) was well, little, I desperately wanted to do all the typical mommy things with him.  Playgroups, meeting friends for tea, visits to the park, and trips to the movies for those specific parent and baby screening things.  In the end, he had some health issues that directly impacted his sleep (and mine!) so I ended up giving most of those things a pass because we needed to nap . . . a lot.
Fast forward five years and I still love the movies, but knew the husband and I wouldn't be spending many weekends at the flicks - at least not at first - now that we had two children, one of them being an infant.
This time around, with the Baby Man (now 4 months old), I'd really hoped to be able to get to at least a few of the parent and baby showings.  There's a new theatre just up the road from us here in Orleans, with just such a program.  The Baby Man contracted a nasty case of pneumonia in early February, but I did make it out to Empire Theatre's REEL BABIES program to see "The Vow" toward the end of the month.  I was very pleasantly surprised with what I found when I arrived at the theatre.
The service was great, right from the start.  The staff were super helpful, offering to carry snacks and drinks for moms with babies in car seats and strollers.  The theatre was pleasantly dimmed, but not completely dark and the set up was fantastic.  Play mats, exersaucers, swings and bouncy chairs were readily available, right inside the theatre itself.  They were impeccably clean, even up to my high standards.  Parents were able to bring their strollers right into the theatre, something which wasn't an option when I went to check out a similar program at another theatre chain.
Also right inside the theatre was a proper change table, again scrupulously clean, and a microwave and bottle warmers.  Again, at another chain the change table option was found only in the lady's washroom and the microwave was outside the theatre doors.
Empire had some issues with the sound when the previews started rolling - it was on "full blast", but as soon as we let a staff member know, it was remedied right away.
My only complaint was that the sound was turned down a little too much, making the movie hard to hear over the noise of the wee babes from time to time.  And while I understand that the theatre wants to run their Reel Babies program when the theatre is already open for regular matinee showings, the timing can be a bit tricky if you've got to get home to meet an older child off the bus or at school.  The movies don't begin until 1 pm, which means having to make alternate arrangements for your other children if they get home anytime before 3/3:30 pm.  Fortunately that's not an issue for me, but I can see it being a stumbling block for other parents.
Overall, it was a really wonderful way to while away the afternoon, and I was very impressed with the set up at my local Empire Theatre.
If you go . . .
- Although there are a few Empire Theatres across Ottawa, the one in Orleans is the only one with the Reel Babies program.
- Matinees are just $8.99 per person and the baby is of course free.
- The Reel Babies program runs every two weeks, on Wednesday afternoons, at 1 pm.
- You can create an account on the Reel Babies website and then be eligible to vote for which movie they'll show at their next event!
The Giveaway We have two free passes for any Reel Babies showing across Canada, valid until December 31, 2012.  Along with that, two $3 off coupons that can be used for future ticket purchases to a Reel Babies showing.Please note that in order for the winner to claim their prize, they must be willing to either pick up the passes and coupons from my home in Orleans, or share their mailing address with me (Carly) so they can be mailed to you.
To enter, just leave a comment!  Although the Reel Babies showings are geared toward parents and their wee ones, you don't actually have to bring a child with you to the show - the matinees are open to anyone and the passes are good whether you come with child or without.
We'll do a random draw for one winner on Monday, April 2nd at noon!
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Social Media Mondays: 5 keys to parenting in a digital age

by Karen

Parents who are bringing up children right now - you, me and every other one out there - are living in a time where things change so fast that some barely even find out about one innovation before something new comes along to replace it.

So, how do we raise responsible children in this age of connectedness and sharing?

I have a few ideas:

  1. Moderation - I'm not a big fan of the word balance. I think it looks too different from one person to another, but moderation is easier to grasp. Having an active life online can be a hobby and/or a job and/or an obsession. Maintaining interests outside of the online world helps keep you grounded and prevents obsession. We need to teach our children how to use these tools in a healthy manner.
  2. Education - Parents need to learn what's happening online and know how to use the tools. It's not uncommon for parents to be uninterested but for their kids to be heavily active. That worries me. It leaves what can be (or become) a major facet of a child's life untouched by the guidance of a parent.
  3. Exposure - <rant>It bugs me that social sites have been forced by law to institute age limits - 13 and older only. As a parent, it is my job to decide what sites, when and how much my child is online.</rant> My point in that little rant is that early exposure is actually good. Let's teach children from a young age how to incorporate online tools into their lives safely and develop healthy use habits.
  4. Privacy - On this subject, I could go on and on and on. If you are typing words into a device that saves or transmits data in any way, you have no guarantee of privacy. Screen captures, hard drive recoveries, ISP data - these are just some of the places where that data can be obtained. Children need to understand that what they say on any device - connected or not - matters. Choose words wisely!
  5. Kindness - Also, empathy and compassion. It's far too easy to let loose online without regard for the person on the other end, but the point is that there is a person on the other end and words do hurt. The written word is a powerful thing. We need to teach our children that bullying, judgmental attitudes and meanness are not okay - online or off.

It blows my mind that my son will never know what it's like not to have some sort of computing device readily available in his life. I remember what those days were like. I remember going to the library to look up everything I needed to know to write a paper. The analog age was time-consuming, wasn't it? Personally, I don't have any desire to go back to that, though I understand why some do.

We need to embrace these changes that technology and the Internet have brought to our lives so that we can teach our kids to use the tools at their disposal properly.

What is your biggest concern for your children growing up during this time?


Karen Wilson is a wife to Matt and mom to Brandon (3), who blogs about her life at Karen’s Chronicles. Most recently, she can be found at Wellman Wilson, helping business use social media more effectively.