Whitening Toothpaste

In a comment on my last post, Alison asked if the whitening toothpaste I mentioned actually worked.

Here is my story.

It all started when I decided to break up with my dentist. It’s sad, actually, because I really like the dentist (actually a married wife/husband dentist team, both of whom are absolutely delightful and skilled). The problem is my hygienist. We go to a large office where there are several hygienists and the first time we went, everyone was assigned one randomly, and I have a different one than the rest of the family. She’s a very nice lady and we always find plenty to chat about but after every single cleaning, my mouth is a total mess. Bleeding, soreness, awkward feelings when I chew. I have two crowns right next to each other in the back of my mouth and after every cleaning they kind of felt “shifted” – not sure that is even possible, but they always felt really oddly out of place, and I would keep getting all kinds of stuff caught in them, and they’d bleed all over, and it would take weeks before I felt like everything had settled down.

(Caveat: I have been through SEVERAL dentists and hygienists in the past 15 years, to the point where it MIGHT be me, and not her – either my over sensitive gums or my over sensitive heart. But WHATEVER.)

So all five of us had a cleaning coming up in August – today, actually – and as the day got closer and closer I found myself dreading it. And then I had a thought: what if I just cancelled it? But then: what if they want to know why? But then: I could say I just need a break! Or that the insurance is maxed out due to the root canal I had back in February! Or whatever!

So I called and cancelled, and they didn’t even blink an eye or ask me why, even though I am obviously not busy as I am bringing in all three children at the exact same time. Success!

But it was a bit of a scary thing for me, because I actually have not gone longer than six months between cleanings since I was a baby. My mom was passionate about our dental health, and I had an awesome dentist growing up who I loved (also: a pretty good hygienist), so regular cleanings were just part of the lifestyle, and I always totally bought into the idea that my teeth would turn black and fall out without the regular attention of a dentist.

So to counteract my daring act of rebellion, I bought myself some antiseptic mouthwash to use after brushing and flossing, and made it a pact to take better care of my teeth myself, in order to avoid the hygienist. I started nightly rinses with the stuff (Crest ProHealth if you want to know).

And then, after about three weeks of having a super clean mouth, I noticed that my bottom teeth had these weird brown marks on them, like really bad stains from a life time of smoking and drinking coffee, neither of which I do. I thought maybe they’d always been like that, and I just never noticed, but then I had a sudden flash of inspiration and I read the label of the mouth rinse, and it said this:

“Staining of teeth may occur with this product, but it can easily be removed with a professional cleaning.”

WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT I WAS TRYING TO AVOID WITH THIS PRODUCT. GAH.

I immediately stopped use of the rinse and, in desperation, went out and bought some whitening toothpaste. (Sensodyne Whitening, if you want to know).

So I’ve been using the whitening toothpaste for about two weeks and LO, the stains are almost completely gone. And I even feel like my teeth in general are more glowy and shiny, without looking really fake-white. I’m not sure I will continue to use it once the stains are gone completely, but it has more than solved the problem.

So to sum up: yes, whitening toothpaste works.

Anti Aging

A list of things I swore I would never use, because I was going to “age gracefully” and “embrace my natural body” and “be who nature intended me to be,” but which I now use on a regular basis:

Hair Colour

Under Eye Concealer

Whitening Toothpaste

Oil of Olay products (remember how OLD the ladies used to seem in Oil of Olay commercials, when you were a kid?)

Jowl-concealing neck scarves

Facial Masks

Can a face lift and tummy tuck be far behind?

Dance! Show! Top! 10!

I am finding that although I am still passionately in love with dance show (So You Think You Can Dance, for the newcomers among us), it takes a lot more to “wow” me these days. I have been enjoying this season, but I remember back in seasons 3, 4, and 5, practically every week was just SO AMAZING I had to watch and rewatch and then talk about it and talk some more. So far, it’s been solid but not mind blowing, know what I mean? I think it’s really a factor of having seen a LOT of dance show, and that means all the contemporary stuff is starting to blur together.

That said – the two group routines from last week, featuring the top 7 girls and the top 7 guys, were SO GOOD, were they not? Awesome.

Also, while we’re complaining – I find the couples this year didn’t generate any memorable magic for me. I mean, we can’t all be Katie and Joshua, but I remember couplings like Sabra and Dominic, or Phillip CHBEEB (best surname ever) and Jeanine, or Amy and Fikshun from last year. When they showed up, you knew there was going to be some heat. This year – ugh, I could barely keep everyone straight, let alone remember who was dancing with whom. Does not bode well for big sparkling personalities to shine in the top 10, does it?

Speaking of which…we are down to the top 10! Let’s rank! And predict! And discuss! Ready?

Bridget. There were so many cute little contemporary girls this season that I never did keep them all straight. But now that Bridget is the last one standing – she’s standing out. In the top 7 girls’ routine last week, I picked her out easily as being the best. I really think she could win this thing. She’s paired with Brandon this week which means they will likely get disco and it will likely be a too-frantic, too-energetic festival of sequins. But if she makes it through this week I predict she will shine.

Ricky. Ricky is awesome. Ricky is amazing. Ricky is possibly my favourite male contemporary dancer since Jakob. Ricky is also a pretty small guy, which makes it harder for him to partner, and yet he has really made it work with Valerie (one of the few couples I felt had real chemistry). He could win if America votes based on skill and not cuteness factor. He’s with all-star Lauren tonight so that could mean jazz or Broadway or something like that, and I’m sure he’ll do great.

Rudy. Rudy annoys me, because he seems to have the cute guy vote, and I totally don’t see it. But on the other hand, he is really an incredible dancer. He has surprised me week after week with his skill and ability to get into character. I think he can do pretty much anything…if he gets the right partners, he could go all the way. Rudy’s with Jenna tonight, which means ballroom, which he’ll probably suck at but his personal popularity should easily help him weather the storm.

Jessica. The energizer bunny! Somehow she has survived the elimination of just about everyone she’s ever danced with – with good reason. She’s really growing on me, and I thought she was just amazing with Casey last week. I wanted them to save Carly until Jessica’s number – and her awesome solo – and now I’m totally converted. She’s with Twitch this week so that means hip hop, and I think this is a golden opportunity for her – if she rocks it and blows people away, she’ll make her mark in a big way.

Zack. Another guy who continues to surprise me, Zack seems so harmless and then, when he gets on stage, totally transforms into a man of power and charisma. Plus, he taps! I love Zack. He’s with Amy this week for contemporary, and if he makes the chemistry happen then he’ll maybe win some cute-guy votes away from Rudy. Fingers crossed.

Emilio. Emilio is one of the few dancers that I think has shown growth – each week I see him doing something totally outside his comfort zone, and doing it well. He obviously has worked very hard to be here and I like him for that – but he’ll need to really show off some surprising partnering skills if he wants to go farther. He’s with Jasmine this week which means hip hop, which should help him make top 8.

Tanisha. I’m a big fan of Tanisha, I think she doesn’t get enough credit on this show. She seems to meld into every style seamlessly, like she’s been doing it for years, and she has the best snap (meaning, when she dances, everything is exactly where she wanted it to be, and she’s solid and sure about it). I do find she had weak chemistry with Rudy – they often seemed like strangers with no connection at all. She’ll have to showcase some serious heat with her future partners if she’s going to change people’s minds – she’s with Ryan this week for ballroom so this is her big chance.

Casey. Cannot believe I am putting Casey as the bottommost boy, because he is ALSO amazing, and so good, and under appreciated, but it’s a very strong field for the boys this year. He’s with Kathryn this week, which is unfortunate, because I do not like Kathryn – she’s the worst all-star to get because a) the choreographers love her so much that they always choreograph for her, and the boy becomes just a background prop to hold her up and make her look pretty; and b) she seems totally incapable of forging a personal connection with any of her partners. They’ll likely do something lovely and beautiful, but Casey won’t be anywhere near the most memorable thing in it, and that’s bad for voting.

Valerie. You know I love a tapper, and Valerie is so cute and has such a great smile, and she’s my personal favourite girl. But she’s also one of the weaker dancers, and I find she doesn’t show a lot of emotional range on stage – she’s always happy and giggly and up, and given a tough, serious, emotional contemporary piece, I just don’t think she can sell it. She’s with Ade this week and that’s going to be a big, big challenge for her – she’ll have to really transform before my eyes for me to be impressed.

Jacque. Definitely the weakest of the girls, I find Jacque to be a bit of a blank slate – I always watched Zack when they were on stage together (in fact, I just had to go and look up who her partner was, because I couldn’t remember her in anything other than her first week ballet number). She’s just not as versatile or interesting. She has Chehon this week which should make for an AMAZING ballet number (plus: CHEHON, SQUEE), and that could easily carry her through for another week, but in general I don’t think she is top 4 material.

Just realizing, though, that neither Valerie nor Jacque have EVER been in the bottom 6, which usually means they have a massive and rabid fan base…so it’s probably Bridget that will be going home. It’s like I know NOTHING about Dance Show at all. SHEESH.

See you next week!

Summer of Awesome Mini Updates

I remember the days when I used to write charming little reports on each Summer of Awesome activity we did, complete with insider tips, photos, and all my recommendations. I don’t know if life has gotten busier, or I’ve gotten lazier, or if I’m just too distracted by Dance! Show! (more on that coming soon), but I find I can never make space these days for the full details.

So I bring you: Summer of Awesome mini updates!

RCMP Musical Ride: Finally made it this year! It was a pretty good show, with lots of different components – it’s not just the musical ride, but also some riding skills demonstrations, a pipe band, and some “humorous” clowns. The ride itself was definitely the best part, though – be sure to stay until the very end as you have a chance to approach the ring and visit with the Mounties and their horses up close and personal. Also, if you stay after the show ends, you can watch them cooling down the horses – they walk in a small paved ring at the far east end of the stadium for about a half hour after the show. The kids enjoyed this part the most.

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Tips: Arrive EARLY, OH SO EARLY – we got there a more than an hour in advance and we were able to get seating, but by the time there was only a half hour to go, it was standing room only (recommended: sit at the west end so the sun is at your back, and you’re not facing into huge glare). There are displays on site to entertain you and the kids while you’re waiting for the show to start – some interactive crafts and things. Bring chairs (or a blanket, but I recommend chairs), hats, and sunglasses (there’s no shade, or shelter if it is rainy); you may also want some pocket cash to buy drinks/cotton candy/pizza from the various food trucks on site, and cash donations are also welcomed.

The Mint: So, The Mint is not for everyone. There’s no interactive displays or things to touch and do, and you can’t even take pictures inside. There’s the shop, and there’s a guided tour of the facility (featuring the Vancouver Olympic Medals, behind glass), and that’s it. I wouldn’t recommend it for toddlers or preschoolers, but for the right audience of older school-age kids it works. We went because my son, who is 11, has recently become a bit of a coin collecting fanatic, and he wanted to buy himself a real collector coin (which he did). The girls thought it was okay – the best part by far was getting to hold/lift a real, solid gold bar in the gift shop (constantly monitored by a security guard, in case you were thinking of running with the 28 pounder).

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Tips: Most of the market roads near the Mint have complex parking rules and signs, so be careful or you’ll get a ticket. The tours cost a little bit, but they offer free or discounted tours on some days of the year so check the website if you’re looking for a deal. You will be amazed at how beautiful and tempting the collector coins are, so make sure you discuss up front what the budget will be for any purchases, or else you may find yourself sucked into getting your kid a $100 sterling silver keepsake.

Museum of Nature: We saw their current special exhibit, Creatures of Light, and it was lovely although a little scary in places for the very young (it’s twilight-type dark in there, there’s giant fireflies and a few scary looking deep sea fish sculptures). Worth it alone, however, for the flashlight fish – black fish with light-up eyes (they look kind of like aquatic Toothless from the How To Train Your Dragon movies). We also caught their newest 3D movie, on surfing in Tahiti, which was cool and make all my kids want to immediately learn how to surf.

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Museum of History: Turns out the Children’s Museum is still a huge hit at age 7, huge hit at age 8 (we were there with friends), sort-of hit with age 9, and totally over it by age 10. So while my youngest stayed in the passport stamp getting area, I took my bigger two to see their special exhibits on Snow and the Empress of Ireland. The Snow exhibit is interesting but not very interactive, although the kids enjoyed watching snippets of Canadian films. The Empress of Ireland exhibit is amazing, totally immersive and fascinating and very, very sad. My older two learned a lot and were really interested, but it’s also not a place for small kids as we had a lot of deep conversations in there about death and disasters.

Our real purpose for going to the museum was to see Pandas 3D, as I have one very, very serious panda lover here (Gal Smiley), and it did not disappoint – adorable, and also informative and inspirational. Recommended for all ages that can keep the 3D glasses on.

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Upper Canada Village: Totally lived up to its reputation as a kick-ass day trip. We spent the whole day there and could easily have stayed longer – we’ll have to go back to see everything. I was afraid the kids would see it as an “educational” trip but they were immediately fascinated with the workings of the various mills, the farm animals, the carriage rides, and the variety show. The schoolhouse was a hit, too – they wanted to stay there all day hoping to get into trouble and have to stand with their face to the blackboard (well, they were hoping their siblings would have to do it, anyway). We added the miniature train ride to go and tour the field where the Battle of Crysler Farm took place, and the kids had a zillion questions about the war of 1812, and then they INSISTED on going through the little museum there on that topic, and then later I caught them PLAYING “War of 1812″ with their Legos, and if that isn’t the very definition of Successful Summer Road Trip, I don’t know what is.

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Tips: It’s about an hour and a quarter drive from the west end of Ottawa, so be prepared. There’s little shelter or shade there, so bring sunscreen and hats and sunglasses, and lots and lots of water. We actually went on a drizzly kind of day and it was perfect as it wasn’t too hot or sunny, and it was practically deserted as well. The Harvest Barn is a great place to have lunch (you can buy food, or bring in your own). Be sure to wear very comfortable walking shoes as you’ll be on your feet all day – as long as it’s dry you can easily bring in a stroller or wagon. Try to arrive as early as you can as you’ll want to maximize your time there.

SkyZone: This place is like, an hour’s drive for me, but my kids would live there if they could, so it’s worth it. We bought the 90 minute package and they still whined when we had to leave. Basically it’s a place where you jump, then jump, then jump some more. Parents don’t have to jump (and if you have had babies, I would not recommend it, if you know what I’m saying); you can still come up into the main area to supervise your kids, or if your children are a little older, you can just sit on a comfy couch at the entrance with a magazine while they jump away inside. Non-jumping parents need to wear socks; jumping kids must wear special non-slip socks that you buy there for (I think) around $2 a pair (remember to bring them back next time).

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Tips: I would definitely recommend buying your tickets online in advance from their website – tickets are for a specific start time and duration. You can just buy them the morning that you are going, then print them out and bring them with you. Otherwise, when you arrive you might find yourself twiddling your thumbs for a half hour or more while you wait for the next available jump time. Also: if you already have SkyZone socks, don’t forget them!

Saunders Farm: I always think my kids are going to get tired of Saunders Farm someday, but they never do. We had as good a time here as always. Special shout out to Jonathen, who was working the jumping pillows, and who spent a lot of his time good-naturedly bouncing my children around. My kids could jump on the pillows literally FOREVER, but I do drag them away for the pedal cars, giant slide, mazes, climbing structures, and wagon rides, and it’s all awesome.

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At Saunders Farm

Tips: Saunders Farm gets a LOT of day camps. The day we were there, there were 10 day camps on site. The farm is really super organized and the camps are all on a tour schedule so no one area or facility is overrun with people at any given time, so it’s really not so bad, and we certainly never had to wait for anything. But if you are really afraid of crowds, try going on a Monday or Friday (fewer day camps), or call in advance to ask how many camps will be there, or go on a weekend.

Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo: We have been there dozens of times, and there’s always something new to see. This time we went specifically to see these little guys:

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Two baby foxes they have just received, named Crimson and Clover. They bring them out regularly for the “visit with animals” show and we actually got to touch them both – so, so cool.

They also currently have a nocturnal animals exhibit, featuring this little guy:

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He’s a hedgehog named Sonic (of course!). Usually Sonic is inside his aquarium and is sometimes pretty sleepy. But we happened to get lucky, and managed to catch him outside for his daily run and explore time. If you specifically want to see Sonic out and about, ask when you get there what time he’ll be exercised. He’s adorable, and the kids LOVED him. Kind of surprised I don’t own a hedgehog by now.

Parliament Hill: Of course we have been to the hill many times, but I actually have never taken the kids for the inside tour because I thought they’d be bored. And they were…sort of bored. The Captain learned a lot about the government in school this year so he was by far the most interested, but the girls (age 9 and 7) were bored at times (but surprised me at other times – they loved the library and looking at all the portraits on the walls).

We all actually enjoyed the outdoor tour more, I think – looking at all the statues and reading in the guide (available at a kiosk near the Centennial Flame) about all the various immortialized people. The best statue is the one of Lafontaine and Baldwin. The wall they stand on is curved, and it is a “whispering wall” – stand at the end facing the flat part, and whisper, and someone at the opposite end of the curve can hear you clear as day. It’s AMAZING. Super cool.

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Tips: Remember that going up the Peace Tower is separate, and you don’t need a ticket for that – in the past we have only done the Peace Tower part and it was a bigger hit with the kids. Do yourself a favour, though, and ask upon entering how long the wait is – we did not realize how long the line up was and ended up waiting over an hour to get up the tower, which did push the kids’ limits of patience. On weekends, arrive early in the day and get your tour tickets immediately from the Information building across the road on Wellington, because they go quickly and once the day is “sold out” (tickets are free, but limited), that’s it until tomorrow.

Well, that was a MUCH longer post than I intended…but now I won’t have to blog for a month! Hope you’re having a Summer of Awesome, too.

A Cautionary Tale About Summer Day Trips, In Three Acts

Act I

A mother lovingly packs a picnic lunch for herself and three children.

She places a large collection of small plastic containers in a pile near the front door, waiting to be packed into the World’s Heaviest Backpack ™.

On top of the pile she gently lays two bananas, one for herself, one for her son. They are the last two bananas in the house.

Act II

Three children begin a spirited game of soccer in the front hallway.

Act III

The middle child sidles up to the mother, who is in the kitchen filling water bottles.

Middle Child: Mom? Do you think we really need two bananas in the lunch today?

Mother: SIGH.

Fin.

Shared Experience

At Saunders Farm

A couple of years ago, my university friend Lisa came to town with her husband and two young sons for Canada Day. I headed downtown with the girls, determined to show our visitors what Canada Day in Ottawa is all about.

Unfortunately it was the year that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were visiting, and by the time we all got together and started to head over to Jacques Cartier Park for Super! Big! Fun!, we found ourselves trapped by barriers, closed streets, and massive crowds.

We ended up being stuck on a grassy knoll across from the Art Gallery for a couple of hours, just hanging out waiting for the royalty to pass and crowd to clear. By the time we were over at the park, the kids were hungry and hot and tired, so we laid out the picnic lunch. By the time they were done eating, it was almost nap time for the youngest ones and we all wanted some air conditioning. So we headed back across the bridge, which took a lot longer than expected due to crowds and now-cranky children, and by the time we were back in Ottawa, it was time to call it a day.

I was pretty disappointed because we’d basically done nothing and seen nothing. But Lisa – who, I may point out, is rather brilliant about Life, The Universe, And Everything – said it was still a good day. “It was a shared experience,” she said, “And that’s something.”

So I am trying to adopt Lisa’s zen-like attitude towards everything we do this summer. For me and the kids, it’s less a Summer of Awesome and more a Summer of Shared Experience. I am finding, as they age, that it grows ever more difficult to find activities that everyone will love. Someone is always hungry, or bored, or thinks that poking at all their siblings’ hot buttons is more interesting than the offered activity. We’re still getting out – heaven knows, staying cooped up in the house all day is worse – and we’re seeing new things, exploring the town, sometimes running errands. But it’s come to this: harmony is an elusive quality, and every outing is sure to end in either tears, a lecture, or both.

But that’s okay. Breathe deep.

I do miss those summer days when a daily trip to the park, followed by nap time, maybe a little colouring before BBQ dinner and bed, meant a delicious glow of warmth and sunlight over the entire household. When just loving summer was more than enough to keep us all busy and happy.

But that was then, and this is now. We’re all still spending our summers together, we’re all still happy for the good weather and break from routine, we’re all still pleased to see each other each morning (no matter what squabbles and squibbles happened the day before). We’re probably not getting enough time away from each other. But that’s part of the whole shared experience, the making of memories, the stuff that makes us a nuclear family, while we still have a quorum to make fusion happen.

So rather than wax nostalgic about the golden days of three toddlers piled into a wagon, coated in sand and sunscreen…and rather than fret about summer days to come when we will be off in five different directions, each sharing experiences with other groups…I’m trying to stay in the present.

Here. Now. This Summer of Shared Experience. Whatever we do or don’t do, whatever we see or don’t see, however much we bicker or not – it’s still all together, at least for today.

Butterflies Are Free

Little Miss Sunshine turned 7 years old last week, and I admit it was a bit of a jolt. Two years ago, I’d see pregnant or new mothers at the mall and laugh, a deep rolling evil laugh, then dance up the stairs kid-free to shop at Lady Clothing Stores while they struggled to make it to the Baby Gap on the single creaky old elevator. HA! HA! HA!

But just in the past few months I find myself gawking at the adorable six-month-olds cooing in the shopping cart seats at the Superstore, and getting misty eyed, and OH MY HEAVENS, I’m turning into a Grandmother Wannabe. How did this happen? I’m looking for a cure, especially since my youngest is just SEVEN, it’s not like she’s thirty and I’m nagging her about her hair and her job and why she hasn’t produced any grandchildren for me yet, GEEZ.

So! To help me focus on the now, here’s a refresher of what a kids’ birthday party looks like.

She wanted it to be butterfly themed.

Here’s the centrepiece I made. I made the terrible mistake of surfing around on Pinterest for “butterfly birthday party ideas.” Fifty dollars’ worth of supplies later, I’m up to my elbows in ribbon and glue and swearing I’ll never go on Pinterest again. But it did turn out pretty well in the end.

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We also had many, many, butterfly cookies. Memo to self: do not leave making of cookies (and all other food) to morning of the party. You WILL find yourself still in your jammies, frantically applying sprinkles, 15 minutes before guests arrive.

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Of course there were also butterfly cupcakes. Memo to self: see above.

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We did four different butterfly crafts. In retrospect this was a little ambitious. Thank heavens Fame Throwa and Mr. Chatty came over to basically run the craft station. I didn’t take any photos because I was too busy trying to remember how to fold the damn origami butterflies, but if you’re planning a party of your own, you should definitely consider these colouring pages (we coloured the large size butterflies, taped them to a stick with a handful of ribbons, and made butterfly magic wands); these origami butterflies (the girls LOVED them), and these butterfly necklace craft kits (super easy, with lovely results, a nice addition to their loot bag – not an affiliate link, by the way, you can get these at Chapters or Amazon or local seller Tagalong Toys, among others).

Then we went outside and had a huge water fight with water pistols and water balloons (Sir Monkeypants took the brunt of it, and the Captain and Gal Smiley were also surprising good sports), and frolicked on our slip and slide, and played in our tiny ankle-deep wading pool, and ate treats.

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Oh, and then there was a pinata! Butterfly, of course.

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Then everyone went home and we cleaned up and tried not to finish off ALL THE COOKIES (total fail) and flopped into bed early so we could get up at 5:30 a.m. the next morning to go see a building implode. What, don’t you do that every morning after a party?

QUITE a weekend.

Puppets Up! Giveaway!

Puppets Up!

As part of my job as a mom, and part of my job as a parenting writer, I’m always looking for stuff to do around the city – special events, cool places to visit, new shops and services. I try not to play favourites but I can’t help but notice when there’s something so cool, so unique, and so fun that it’s worth talking about.

So with apologies to my out of city readers, I’ll just take a moment to rave about the Puppets Up! festival running August 8 to 10 in Almonte, because it’s awesome, and you should go.

And now there’s totally no excuse NOT to go, because I have passes to give away. PASSES. FOR FREE. BOO YEAH.

Disclosure: Puppets Up! is providing the passes for the winner of this contest, but I wrote about them for free, with no compensation to my family. That’s because it’s awesome! And you should go! Trust me. :)

So what’s so great about Puppets Up? First of all, PUPPETS. When my kids were little, puppets were a touch-and-go thing – sometimes fun, sometimes scary. But at the festival it’s very, very kid-friendly. Most of the puppeteers are quite willing to show their faces – some are even an integral part of the shows – and everyone is very open and friendly about showing how the puppets work. Everything I’ve seen has been very fun and funny, nothing intense or scary – definitely aimed at families.

There’s a parade every day at 1:45 down Mill Street, Almonte’s main strip – very cool and interactive, and it’s totally free. Most of the adorable shops and cafes in town have at least something puppet-related in the window, so if you’re looking to check it out but don’t want to commit to buying tickets, you can still get a flavour of the event just by heading out for the parade and having a wander.

But! If you do invest in passes ($20 adults, $10 kids), you can pop in and out of tents to see any number of performers and shows. Check their website for details of who will be performing (full schedule coming soon, but stuff is going on all the time there, so you can really just head out when it works for you and then catch whatever you can catch). And the shows are charming! And cute! And funny! And entertaining!

ALL GOOD.

So! Want to win passes? All you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me your favourite summertime activity in Ottawa. The giveaway is for four passes – you can use them for two adults, two kids, or one adult, three kids, or four adults, or whatever works for you. You can pick them up at the Puppets Up VIP box office when you arrive in Almonte.

Contest ends Thursday, July 24, at midnight EST. I’ll draw a winner at random on Friday, July 25. Good luck – and if you don’t win, you can always pick up passes yourself through their website.

Flyers

When Sir Monkeypants and I were young marrieds, I used to really hate the weekly arrival of The Flyers. It’s a thick packet of flyers from various stores featuring their weekly specials, and I used to never, ever look at it for even a second. For a while I even had a recycling bin on our front porch so that the flyer delivery guy could just drop the packet directly in there and eliminate the middleman, but then he started bringing it with an elastic wrapped around it, so I was forced to pick it up, remove the elastic, and then drop it in the bin myself, which I complained about LOUDLY and AT LENGTH to my poor husband.

(Aside: Do you spell it “flier” or “flyer”? I always have gone with “flyer” but Google seems to think I am in the minority. Is this a Canadian thing?)

Now that I have young children and am, basically, a hermit, I rely heavily on the flyer packet to do all my major shopping. I now LOVE the arrival of the packet, I actually call to complain if it arrives late (or, heaven forbid, not at all). I lovingly go through most of them looking for deals or things we need or, I have to admit, just generally browsing in the same sort of way that my younger self used to go the mall, just for something to do, just to have a look around.

(Younger self to my current self: “You are a sad, old lady.” Current self: “You don’t know the half of it.”)

Anyway, this past week’s packet included a flyer from Toys R Us, which used to be the holy grail of flyers. They’d have great baby stuff on sale, and once my kids grew a bit, they’d have all the great toys there in glorious technicolor. Toys that might become birthday party gifts, or part of the birthday party emergency dammit-I-forgot backup bin. Toys that might become loot bag items, or gifts for my nieces and nephews. Toys that might become dreams in the sparkle of my kids’ eyes, to be filed away on wish lists for Christmas. Things that were fun and multi-coloured and plastic.

And this week, after pouncing on the Toys R Us flyer, I noticed something…we don’t actually need to shop there very often anymore. My two oldest are now at the age when they are not really wanting so many toys. The Captain still loves LEGO, but he doesn’t really play with it, he just collects it, making us highly unmotivated to buy him more. Gal Smiley loves sports equipment and board games but is long past the age of playing with dolls or action figures or dinky cars. If either is invited to a birthday party, we give books or a food gift card or maybe art supplies; things like water tables and sandboxes have been here, and have long since moved on to new homes.

Even Little Miss Sunshine, who will be seven years old next week, has entered the craft kit/Rainbow Loom phase of life, and although she still loves her Barbies and Strawberry Shortcake dolls and Pretty Ponies, it’s clear we don’t need to significantly grow our collections.

We’re also done with the Baby Gap, the Gymboree, and the “toddler” sections at places like The Children’s Place. Heck, I actually looked at grown-man socks for the Captain the other day, because “boy” socks seem to max out at size 4, which he is pushing, but then the man socks jumped to “one size – 9 to 11″ which seemed huge (note to self: fill sock gap, make millions). So we didn’t quite make the leap, but we’re on the verge.

All this is to say that it’s funny the things that make you notice how much time is passing, and has passed already. How our whole family has moved out of a phase that used to be all-consuming, and now is becoming something more scattered, something more grown-up without quite being something mature. The time has come to just drop the toy flyer straight into the bin, and I’m both ready for that and not ready for that.

Blink, and you’ll miss it.

Awesome and Not Quite as Awesome

And we’re off! Summer vacation has begun, and that’s good, and bad, but mostly good. For example, yesterday we went to Upper Canada Village, a place I swear I will take the kids every year, but we never get around to it, and so this year I knocked it off early. And despite a drizzly day and my fears of three kids imploding given a whole hour’s worth of driving with no video games (OMG CERTAIN DEATH), we made it.

And know what? We had The. Best. Time. The kids loved it! They actually wanted to learn about history. They actually begged to stay longer. They were hypnotized by the mills. They loved the animals. They enjoyed the shows. They had a million questions about the War of 1812.

And then! They were all so exhausted at the end of the day there was total silence on the drive home.

AWESOME. Especially considering I am wondering a) how to get one of those glass dividers limousines have for the van, or alternately, b) how to get all three kids to move the way back row of the van so I don’t have to hear the bickering, GAH.

So speaking of the down side of summer, I am already quite frustrated at how much I have been expected to act as Program Director for this summer. In the past I think I have been spoiled, because if we weren’t doing a day trip, I was able to just strategically leave out a bin of LEGO or Playmobil, and the kids came across it and were all, “Hey, what’s this?” as if they had never seen it before, and I didn’t hear from them for three hours. But now they are all boooooored, so booooored, want to DO SOMETHING, Mom? Mom? Mom?

(Or rather: want to suggest a hundred things, all of which I will say “no” to? DO YOU?)

For example, today I took them to the park, and since we were already out and about in the van I thought I’d stop by the Far Park because it has swings, whereas the Close Park does not have swings. I had this fantasy that I’d sit in a nice shady spot with my coffee and enjoy the weather while basking in the glow of happy, active children.

And then one kid was all, “Mooooom, come play tag with me,” and if you know me at all, you will know that although I can be a bit of a Busy Beaver when it comes to Planning Stuff, I am not at all interested in activities that involve sweating. So I was artfully dodging that one when another come came up all, “Moooom, there’s nothing to doooo, will you play frisbee with me?” and I was all, “What is wrong with your sibling RIGHT HERE who is looking for something to do with someone else?”

And while they were both, “Mom, are you done your coffee yet? Now? Now? How about now?, the third one, who loves swinging, was all, “Moooom, there are no monkey bars here, no mooooooonkey baaaaars, and also, I need to pee RIGHT NOW,” and so I gave up and we came home.

I’m thinking perhaps the first week of summer vacation is always this way, just trying to find our way to a rhythm, trying to negotiate the video game rules, learning anew that their brothers and sisters can actually be entertaining from time to time. Remind me next year to come back and read this post when I’m on my sixth cup of tea trying to soothe my throat from repeated declarations of, “NO, you have played ENOUGH Clash of Clans for one day!”

Really, summer IS awesome, and will BE awesome, I am just in a mildly ranty post-park mood.

So! In more personal awesome news, two things: first, Dance! Show! has returned, and is now at the top 20 stage, which means plenty of posts on that topic coming your way soon.

Second, I am going to be on Our Ottawa on behalf of SavvyMom.ca again this weekend talking about stuff to do with your kids around town in the summer. This time, Lucy Van Oldenbarneveld was away, so I got to hang with Adrian Harewood instead:

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SO COOL. It’s on the local CBC TV channel at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning, repeating Sunday at 11 a.m. and Monday at 11 a.m.

Awesome!