Archive for the ‘time fillers / activities’ Category

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

I’m afraid that I’m going to incur the wrath of some with this next statement… I’m so glad that the summer has come to a close.

A gorgeous drive home from Algonquin

Summers can be hectic times.  Schedules are all thrown out of whack.  The kids are off from school and the house becomes a giant clubhouse filled with stinky boys and all of their toys.  And the heat! My god I hate the heat.  My time of year is Fall.  I’m in my element in the Fall.  It must come as no surprise then, that my favourite time of the year for tripping is upon us.  Cozy fleece jackets and bug free nights around a warm fire.  Hot chocolate and frosty mornings.  I’ve been checking out the Fall leaf report for Algonquin, and the leaves they are a changin’.  Break out the calendar, it’s time to start counting down the days to our annual September trip to Algonquin, ye ha!

The view from our canoe access site September 2010 – Algonquin

Next weekend we are heading up for a fun-filled get-away in the park.  We are going to canoe in to a site on Rock Lake for a night and then paddle over to the other side of the lake the next day to meet up with some of Fraser’s family including his folks.  It couldn’t be more convenient.  Rock Lake has both canoe access and car access so visitors of all skill levels and interest can enjoy it together.  It’s become a tradition.  It’s a nice laid back affair with some solitude to launch the trip and family and friends to wrap it up.  Fraser’s mom and dad always cook up a storm and I’m looking forward to bacon and eggs and fried mushrooms and steaks and homemade jam and pies and I’m bringing s’more fixings.  It’s going to be a blast.

Even Lambie needs a sweater in September – Algonquin

So what makes “shoulder” season tripping different from summer trips?  The weather of course.  The thermometer may say 10c but it feels much cooler when it was 30c just last week.  Bring warm clothes, a warm sleeping bag and if possible, plan for cooked meals and hot drinks.  Once a chill sets in, it’s hard to warm up your body and you want to be comfortable.  Also, only the bravest of souls will be

swimming for entertainment, so plan to spend your days participating in other activities.  How about hiking, leaf collecting, art projects, photo shoots, reading…eating?  Personally, I like to take up some yarn and knit up a small project.  I’ve already got a bunch of lovely knitted items named for the parks that they were made in.  I plan on making an Algonquin leaf scarf on this trip.  I swear I’m a lot cooler than I come off in this post!

The Saroyan Scarf – photo and pattern by Liz Abinante

My point is this… Don’t put away your paddles just yet.  Canoeing season isn’t over until the ice is on the lake.  In fact, we have plans to squeeze in another trip to the park before it’s time to trade in our pfd’s for skis.  Stay tuned.

Silver Peak or Bust

I can smell it.  I can taste it.  The air is thick with anticipation.  The calendar conspicuously hangs on the kitchen wall taunting me

beautiful clear lakes

with its highlighter scars.  Monday creeps ever closer with its promise of peaceful moments and fretful challenges.  The boats are ready, the Jeep is ready, we are ready, but is Killarney ready for us?

classic killarney

The family is taking over Killarney Provincial Park all next week.  If you’re there too, chances are good that you are going to see us.  We’ll be on the lakes, on the portages and hopefully at the top of Silver Peak.  At 539 meters, Silver Peak is the third highest “mountain” in Ontario and is almost as tall as the CN Tower.  Interior access is from Bell Lake along the aptly named Silver Peak Trail and the hike to the top is about 6km.  I’m hoping that the beauty of the place and natural features like the waterfalls near the last section, will be enough of a distraction that the kids won’t balk at the distance or the elevation.

As long as the weather cooperates, I’m determined to take some beautiful pictures.  Beautiful pictures and even more beautiful memories.

a storm rolling in

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

zach and luke entertained by the scenery in algonquin (ages 2 and 5)

So you wanna take your kids on a canoe trip?  I’m talking about a real trip

look at our paddles

here, not just a day paddle.  Day paddles are pretty straight forward.  You can take whatever you want, including your time.  But what if you’ve packed for a multi-day trip and can’t afford the space to bring juniors collection of beach toys?  As a general rule, Luke and Zach are only permitted to bring a couple of toys on trip at all, but even these stay packed tightly away while in the boat.  The last thing you want is to lose any favourites overboard.  This will result in whining and tears for the duration of your trip.  Not fun.  If there is one special something that MUST come and it absolutely isn’t up for debate (I’m referring to Lambie here), you can tie said object of affection to the thwart.  My suggestion would be to use those multi-coloured plastic baby chain links.  Something about having a cord that little ones can get tangled up in, in the unlikely event of a dump makes me nervous.  It makes me think of why manufacturers

stopped putting drawcords in kids hoods.  They are a choking hazard.  If you insist on using cord, at least make it short.

first trip with kiddie paddles (ages 7 and 4)

You are going to want to set out some in-boat rules, and they must be laid out days in advance of your departure.   They will need to be firmly deposited in your little ones memory bank.  Examples?  There will be no toys in the boat.  There will be no electronic devices including but not limited to cell phones, iPods, portable DVD players and handheld game devices.  Sunhats and sunscreen are a must.  For safety, children must respond to all instruction immediately and without fail.  I realize this sounds strict and like a bummer of a trip, but it makes the time more relaxing in the end.  If you’ve laid down the law well in advance, it heads off most arguments.  I get it.  You’re thinking to yourself, “This chick’s crazy.  What kids will agree to, let alone follow, these rules?”.  Or maybe you think your little one is, well, too little.  This harkens back to an earlier post about how toddlers are tricky.    You can reinforce how one of their jobs is to stay in the middle of the boat.  It’s their job to help keep the family safe.  If they veer over to the edge, they can feel the boat listing to that side.  This tippy feeling can in and of itself spook them into staying put.   Cause and effect.  “Oops.  Help Mommy keep us safe by staying in the middle”.  I honestly never had a problem with my boys in the boat.  Never a complaint, never a restless moment, never a fight.  And my boys are normally quite crazy.  For older kids that can’t be finessed into compliance, it’s simple.  Don’t make me turn this boat around.  No cooperation, no trip.

Let’s talk kids and paddles.  You can buy amazing quality paddles in kids sizes, and they

zach opts to sit in the bow

make for such cute photo ops, but also make for pain in the butt boat companions.  I thought that these would make my kid’s early trips more special and they would feel like they were contributing.  In reality, they were too small to reach over the edge and touch the water, so they leaned out further and further  to make contact.  Ahhhh!  This was a disaster waiting to happen and it made steering awful.  I put the kibosh on kids paddles until they were big enough to actually help out.  In fact Zach still doesn’t paddle during the actual trip, just during day outings.  Even then, with four of us in one boat, there is never enough room, or dexterity, to coordinate paddling in unison.  I have found myself sitting in the bow with teeth clenched tightly, trying not to freak out at the unsteady rhythm and the constant jostling.  That is something that I’m not going to miss.

zach and lambie take a turn (massasauga 2010)

So what do you do to entertain the kids if they don’t have paddles or toys?  My answer is simple.  Nothing.  How did you entertain YOURSELF before you ventured into the realm of family tripping?  You listen to the sweet sounds of paddles dipping and loons calling.  You keep a keen eye on shore in hopes of spotting a moose or maybe even a bear.  You laugh and talk

a bear seen from our boat in killarney

and dream.  Don’t rob your kids of a true wilderness experience by bringing home along with you.  With our over-scheduled lives filled with classes and lessons and late-night meetings, canoe tripping is an opportunity to connect

a deer seen from our boat in algonquin (pondweed lake)

with your kids.  Slow it down a bit and enjoy the time with each other.

40 Minutes…Really?!

water bug (exoskeleton) destroying the valvoline car

luke paddling the wave

On my morning commute today, I read an article in the paper about how poorly Canadian kids are doing at getting the daily recommended amount of exercise.  It is suggested that kids need at least 40 minutes a day of physical activity.  Really? 40 minutes? and only 4% of girls and 9% of boys aged 6-19 are accomplishing it!  That’s kinda depressing.

I admit, my kids absolutely love the tv and video games.  I’ve seen a few tears when I’ve said no to a movie.  That’s the culture we live in now.  Technology rules.  I too, am a tv addict. The difference though, is that my whole life isn’t spent in front of the tube.  In fact, we have a “no electronics” rule when we go tripping.  Yes, it would be easy to allow Luke and Zach to bring along their iPods or the portable dvd player, but why did we go then?  It is my opinion that if you make tripping a technology free zone from the very beginning, there will be no arguments later.  I’ve found that if you’ve said yes to something even once with your kids, you’ve set a precedent that they won’t forget.  It will be a struggle and a fight every time going forward.  So what can they bring?

frog in a boat

We don’t bring much in the way of toys when we go camping.  They will bring an action figure and a toy car, and of course Zach brings Lambie.  My advice is not to bring so many toys that you lose track.  A couple of things keeps them from feeling deprived, but they value them more.  And get this…they use their IMAGINATIONS to occupy their time.  I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true.  Trees, rocks, slugs, bugs, snakes, frogs and dirt, dirt and more dirt.  These are all fabulous distractions.  Let them get dirty, don’t freak out about keeping them clean and dunk them in the lake every once in a while.  This is what I remember about being a kid.  They hadn’t even released Walk-man’s yet when I was my boys’ age.  We had a 13″ black and white tv and no cable.  It can be done!

frog catcher

You know what else is nice?  YOU get a chance to use your imagination too.  On our last trip, I wove a frog catcher with some grass and a stick and Zach spent hours catching frogs.  Luke and I built birch bark canoes (from fallen wood, not off of a live tree!) and grass and then guess what we put in them…storm troopers and frogs!  My point is, the opportunities for exercise and exploration are all around us.  We should be ashamed that our kids aren’t able to squeeze 40min of exercise into a day.  You don’t have to wait for your next canoe trip to get them outside.  Walk them to school, play at the park, get a wagon and pull your groceries instead of giving them a first class lift home in your trunk!   They grow up so fast, and you’ll remember the time you’ve spent together, but will you remember what happened on this weeks episode of American Idol?

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