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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tips and Tricks for Amusement Park Fun!!

I will be honest. I am not a huge fan of taking my kids into the public. I get overwhelmed really easily and need a couple days before-hand to psych myself up so to speak. So when my cousin offered to come with me to Calaway Park I was excited at the prospect of having another person who had to care about my kids well being come with me. (you know family ties and all.)

I was pleasantly surprised that we had a great day! The only difficult part was getting out of the city through 4 different construction zones and detours, but once we got there the kids had a great time! I am disappointed that I didn't go earlier.

Here are some tips that I found made the trip that much better.

1. Dress for the Weather. (and for the weather that *might* be)

Calgary is notorious for changing weather. A popular saying here is "Don't like the weather? Wait 10 mins." It was a beautiful sunny summer day and so I dressed my kids in shorts, runners (as sandals will fly off on the rides), t-shirts and a light hoodie, hats and sunglasses of course. They stripped the hoodies off half way through. Bring sunscreen.

My 4 year old taking a break.
2. Bring a stroller or a wagon *and* a carrier.

I am not a huge fan of lugging my big bulky stroller to places - but when visiting Calaway or the Zoo it is a must. The kids left their sunglasses and hats in the bucket when we went on rides, and we were able to switch between the carrier and a stroller ride when the 2 year old got antsy waiting in all the lines. Also the stroller provides a little bit of shade and reprieve for tired little legs so it was a win all around. I did take my Kinderpack with us, and the two year old was on my back for a lot of the day since he was too little to go on rides, so the stroller was mostly utilized by my cousins almost 3 year old daughter and my 4 year old. That was until the 4 year old was feeling really tired and cranky and up he went on my back to get a cuddle and a re-charge.

3. Write your cell number on your kids' arm with a sharpie.

People were kinda looking at us a little weird as we were writing our phone numbers on children's arms…but Calaway doesn't actually have a lost kids tent, and it can be incredibly busy. Also when the children exit from a ride it can sometimes be a challenge to get to them quickly and grab them before they start to walk away. By having your phone number right on their arm, other patrons and staff can quickly locate you. We were happy not to have experience a lost child, but you can never be too careful.

4. Mark up the map.

Circles added by me.
Since all of the children that we were with were under the age of 7, we found it difficult to find the rides that all of the kids could ride on. We would go to a ride and all line up next to the measuring thing and find out that one or two of the kids couldn't go…so we would walk for a bit to find another one. Calaway doesn't have all the little kid rides in one spot as one would assume, so you really have to look at your map. What helped us greatly was going through the map to the list of all the rides that were for children under a certain height and then I marked them on the actual map so that when we would walk by a ride we could just look at the map and see if it was going to be one that the kids could ride. (this cut waiting times in half.)

5. Bring realistic expectations.

Waiting is hard for anyone, but it is even harder for children. Think of games like "I spy" or sing songs while waiting in line to make the time go faster. Know your own child's limitations…some line ups are just too long for a 2 or 3 year old, skip them and save you and your child from undue stress. Understand that they do not know why you are waiting and that they have really short attention spans. Also, be considerate to the others in line - but don't expect that your child will be an angel - Calaway park is for kids and people have to understand that sometimes children have tantrums when they are hot, tired and hungry.

6. Bring a lunch.

Lunch of hummus sandwiches and fruit. (goldfishes for L)
While carnival food is fun, none of it is healthy and the line ups alone can take 40 mins to get a hot dog (as my cousin experienced) There are picnic tables all over the park and most are in the shade. We spotted one next to the Driving School ride and the kids re-fueled. My son also has allergies so knowing where his food comes from makes sure that we wont have to visit the bathroom too much when wanting to have fun instead! Save that money for cotton candy!!

7. Water is a must!

Who doesn't love the boat ride?
Bring your reusable water bottles for you and your kids. Walking around the grounds on a hot day (with little to no shade) can make for dehydrated kids. There ARE water fountains located next to the bathrooms so it will be easy for you to re-fill as needed. OR you could spend upwards of $2.50 on one bottle of Dasani.

8. Games for young and old! 

My son loves to play games so when he walked into the park and saw all the carnival games he was in heaven. Make a budget for games (most are $5 a play) and explain to your kids that some of the games are not easy. (even though they look it). My son played two games; ring toss and a fishing game. He did not win anything and was upset. Next time I will make sure that we choose the games that are a guaranteed win. (ask people who have the stuffies which games they found to be the easiest)

9. Treats to end a wonderful day.

Still an incredible amount of sugar! 
Even though we eat very healthy I do allow my kids to choose one treat on special outings. My kids had never had cotton candy and when they saw all these other children walking around with them they decided that is what they wanted. (maybe it was also because I don't allow fake blue food and they knew I already said it was okay…)
One bag is huge and no child really needs that much sugar (treat or no) and so I asked the vendor for two more bags and split the cotton candy into 3 different bags. One for each child. (and amount based on age). The vendors have no problem giving you extra bags and this is a trick that I use often at places like Booster Juice as well.
I bought myself one of the salted pretzels which took me right back to my childhood…if you have never had one I would suggest you try it next time!

10. A final thought on babies... 

One last suggestion is to maybe not bring children under the age of two as they mostly have to wait in the stroller or wrap for the whole day and that isn't too fun for them - but if you don't mind waiting on the sidelines with them it will still be a great day full of fun for the whole family!

We had a great time and the kids want to go back and try some bigger rides now that they have their toes wet. Don't forget your camera! These days are fleeting and it is always nice to have some digital memories.
Favourite ride!

Their favourite ride! 

Get out there!! Do you have any tips that I may have missed? Share in comments below!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Review - The Wok Box

One of the biggest challenges with changing our eating habits as a family is eating out.

We love to eat out and try new things, and honestly sometimes my husband and I are so lazy that we enjoy food that is already made. Before becoming vegetarian we ate out at least twice a week…at least.

We have now been vegetarian for a little over 6 months… We have saved a ton of money by not buying meat and by not eating out..but we really miss the fun and ease of it.

The thing with us is that there are still plenty of "vegetarian" options at fast food and restaurants but, and it is a BIG but, my oldest son and myself have a dairy allergy; so anything with cheese it out…and we all know how many veggie burgers have cheese on them - almost ALL of them.

This is why I was so happy when we found Wok Box. We had driven past it a million times but never went in. When we went for the first time we saw that there was Asian and South Asian cuisine - but the menu was a little hard to figure out and so we basically ordered vegetables, teriyaki sauce, and noodles…for everyone.

The Restaurant
On our last visit the menu has changed for the better.

The Menu & Open Kitchen

You can now choose any of the dishes, ANY of them, with noodles or rice and then choose any protein. They even have Tofu!!! This is huge deal! For those of you who don't understand vegetarian/veganism, tofu is not readily available in most places. I have actually only found it in organic grocery stores "to go" items - and a couple Thai places. So to have it as an option to add to any dish is awesome!

The Singapore Cashew (used to be chicken) with Tofu!!!

If you add a fountain pop with a samosa or spring roll (both vegetarian) and you can combo it to make it a little cheaper. (kids meals come with orange or apple juice boxes)

I am so impressed that we will probably make the Wok Box our go to place when we are looking for "faster food". The best part is that it is still pretty healthy (minus the pop), with vegetables, sprouts, sauces, rice or noodles, and tofu or nuts.

The kids devouring the "Jungle Noodles" with veggies & teriyaki sauce with tofu thrown in (no charge)

Green Dragon Booth
The kids love the noodles, they get hidden veggies and protein and that is a bonus for me. They love that all the booths have different coloured dragons above each one. (the green dragon booth is a favourite). My middle child also loved that there was a stool (and a change table) in the bathroom so he could reach to wash the sauce off his hands.

The only downside is that it is just as expensive as any medium range restaurant - we paid close to $50.00 for all 5 of us - so $10 a person - which isn't bad - but most fast food comes to $30 for our family.

I also disliked that it was either booths or tables but no highchairs anywhere to be seen. My littlest is 2 and so standing on a bench eating noodles (stringy noodles at that) makes for one heck of a mess to clean up. (and yes, I do clean up those messes - I used to be a server.)

And really, how cute is this? 
The best part is that they serve the kids meals in these little to go boxes that you can clean out afterwards. My kids put their special "car toys" in them as a carry case. 

All in all it is a really great place. The one by us is walking distance and the atmosphere is sophisticated, yet kid friendly. I would rate it as a 9/10 - and only because of the highchairs.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Standing by His Side

Tomorrow my man runs his first triathalon. I am so proud. I know this sounds super cheesy - and you know what maybe it is - but I am.
He has lost over 20lbs, looks great, eats great and is in the best shape of his life. He is a great role model to our boys and to me as well.
Here is his blog where he talks about all that he has gone through.
I can't wait to see him cross that line.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Don't Fear the White Coat.

We all have those moments when you feel like you should win mommy of the year. Well at least I do, but it seems to happen more in my house than in other peoples houses.
Anyway, last week I would have definitely been in the running.

Offending Product. :P
I was outside lawnmowering (is that a word) as I wanted to help out my husband and our lawn looked like crap - and here in suburbia that is just not okay.
So there I am working this 100 year old gas powered lawnmower.
My eldest son (7) comes outside with freezies. He screams, "CAN I HAVE ONE?"
"NO" I yell back. (not wanting to turn off the mower for fear that it won't start up again).
"WHAT?!" he yells.
"AFTER I AM DONE!!!" I yell back.
He disappears into the house and comes back out with an open freezie.
I think to myself, "little (you know what). Oh well, at least he probably opened them for his brothers too, and this will keep them all quiet." I continue to push the mower through my 10 inch grass.

Next thing I know I see my littlest one (2) come out side and he has what looks to be berry juice on his hand…but he is crying and holding it up…so I am confused and think, "what the heck is that?!" turn off the mower and sprint to the baby. I look at his hand and try to contain the vomit in my mouth - his finger is cut so deep that you can see the fat and muscle inside. INSIDE his finger.
I grab him and run to the bathroom to wash it off and put pressure on it - but I know in my gut that this is going to need medical attention.

I scream to locate my other two children who have miraculously disappeared for the moment. No answer. I scream again. The eldest shows up and I start yelling about the baby - he starts to wail, "It was my fault. I should have been watching him…" As I try to convince the oldest that no, it is in fact mommy's fault and try to figure out what happened while still screaming for the middle child - I start to think how am I going to get all these kids to emerg and WHAT are we going to do for 8 hrs.
The middle child shows up. (4yrs). "What happened to E?" I ask. "I stabbed him." R repiles…and looks at me with this grin that only a sociopath can make. "WHAT?!?" I yell. I then start to yell obscenities to anyone within earshot - possibly scarring my children for years to come and send them to their rooms so that I do not do any more emotional damage.

I text my husband - "You need to come home NOW. We have to go to the hospital."
So I take the baby and sit on the front step ready to go to the hospital.
My husband arrives 5 mins later.
"What happened?" He asks.
"R said he stabbed him." I wail, "Look at his finger!!"
My husband (the firemedic) looks casually at his finger and goes, "ah ya, those will need stitches. I will get the kids ready." and calmly walks in the door.
He appears 5 mins later with both boys ready to go and says to me, "They found the knife on the floor, a pairing knife, (used to cut open freezies) and R held the plastic end and E grabbed the cutting edge and E lost that fight."
Enter the mommy guilt. Of course I was already feeling it - but if I had just cut open the damn freezies…. and then my husband goes, "What were you doing?"
I reply, "Lawnmowering."
He replies, "The grass is wet… you don't use the lawnmower when the grass is wet… that is why is isn't done."
So not only did my "helpfulness" lead to a mortal wound of my child's finger - it was also unnecessary.


Poor Guy
We went to the ER and he had 3 stitches put in. My competence as a parent was only questioned momentarily until they realized that I had 3 small boys and then they pitied me.
The actual stitching was the most traumatic part as they had to swaddle him and hold him down. They do a topical but babies don't realize that they can't feel it and so he screamed and screamed. (that was enough for me to lock my knives away forever.

I wanted the boys to watch, to see what happens when you don't listen to your mom…but the doctor refused and said that it was way too traumatic. In hindsight I am glad that she refused me - because it probably would have been, I just didn't want my boys to think that any of this was "cool" in any way.

However, E is pretty proud of his scar.
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