Monday, June 11, 2012

Bowling bash

A few weeks before his birthday J and I were discussing what kind of party he would like to have.  He started by saying he wanted his grandparents and aunt and uncle to come over for supper.  I told him we would do that too, but I was really asking what kind of kids party he would like to have.  His eyes nearly popped out of his head, such was his surprise.  "A kids party?  I can have my friends at a party?"  He was so happy about that simple fact that he really had no clue what kind of party he should have.  So I gave him a few choices (based on my cost analysis research) and he ended up picking a Bowling Party at Merivale Bowling Lanes.

First of all, bowling is a great activity for kids.  It is active, fun, and really not all that hard to do.  They put bumpers on the lanes for kids so there are no gutter balls to discourage them.  This way, they hit the pins a lot more making it more fun for everyone.  The bowling balls are smaller, not as heavy so the kids can handle them fairly easily.  I don't recommend it for kids under 3-4.  There is music blasting, lights are low and the shoes glow in the dark!  Such simple things to enhance the experience. Young or very sensitive children may be a bit scared or overwhelmed by the music, lights and noise of the bowling alley.  My son invited six of his friends, 3 boys from school and 3 kids he's known since he was very little through my friends and daycare.  The kids dove into bowling with lots of enthusiasm, they picked up quickly when it was their turn and how to keep track of their scores, and at one point we had a mini mosh pit of little boys rolling around on top of each other.  Birthday boy was at the bottom, of course.  His friends were all so excited that they just piled on top of him to wish him happy birthday!

Merivale Bowling lanes did a really great job with my son's birthday party.  They were well organized, had a hostess assigned specifically to our party to facilitate our experience there.  We had one hour to bowl and one hour in the restaurant for lunch and cake.  Our hostess organized all the kids with their shoes, programmed all the lanes with names and such and checked in with us regularly to make sure things were going smoothly.  When we were done with bowling we went to the restaurant and the table was set with all the gifts at one end, and the food was ready so the kids didn't have to wait for anything.  They could dive into their pizza, bash open their bags of chips (yes, there were chips everywhere!), and they were all thirsty and so there was apple juice for all sitting at their places.  Presents were opened and cake was served.  Overall, the food was really good and they did a great job on the cake.   

We would definitely go back again, both for just family bowling and likely for another birthday.  The cost was really very reasonable, it saved me a whole lot of work, all we had to do was bring the loot bags for our guests.  We bought gift bags in bright colours and filled them with fun items from our local Dollarama.  At the end of the party everyone seemed happy and the birthday boy was thrilled with it, which was, above all, the whole point.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Exploring nature safely

When we are out enjoying nature with our little ones, it's really important to be safe in our environment.  We must encourage our kids never to eat something such as a plant or a berry found outside unless we are absolutely certain it is in fact safe and edible. Many species of plants look very similar to each other, so if you are not sure, err on the side of caution and bring a snack with you!  

 If you suspect your child or another adult has ingested something or is feeling ill do not wait to call the Ontario Poison Centre.  They operate 24 hrs a day and in cases of suspected poisoning, time is critical.

Ontario Poison Centre (24 hrs) 1-800-268-9017

Water Hemlock is the most poisonous plant in North America.  One mouthful of this species will kill an adult.  This plant should not even be touched.  Small amounts even through skin absorption can make you ill.  This plant can be found in wet, open areas, along shore lines and in marshes. Ingestion of this plant would require immediate medical attention.  It has small white flowers, jagged edged leaves and a long, hollow, purple stems.  People mistakenly use the stem as a natural straw and end up extremely ill.

Poison Ivy is a very common and irritating plant.  It coined the phrase "Leaves of three, leave them be." It can be found close to the ground, climbing trees, or poking through rocks.  It also develops white berries at the base of the plant.  These are not edible.  Their leaves can have a glossy, purplish sheen, or be quite dull.  Most people will develop a skin rash as an allergic reaction to the oils in the plant.  You can pass it on to someone else, so no touching if you have it!  If you need to treat someone, please wear latex gloves.  Oatmeal baths and other topical ointments can be helpful in easing the itchiness and pain.  Calomine is messy, but effective.

Poison Sumac is just as common, but more aggressive than poison ivy.  There are many leaves to a branch and is a much larger tree, can be 6-7 feet tall.  It's berries look very much like those of poison ivy, white, small and hard.  It grows in wet areas or damp ground near water.  A person's reaction to poison sumac is very similar to ivy, only more intense.  The same treatment is recommended.

Red Baneberry and White Baneberry or "dolls eyes" are very poisonous if eaten.  Children are most often poisoned by these since they are easily grabbed and the red ones are quite attractive and glossy.  As few as 5 berries can make an adult seriously ill and just a few more than that are fatal.  Few people would ever eat that many since they are quite acrid tasting, but medical attention should be sought if ingested.

Canada Moonseed is often confused with grape vines. The leaves have a heart shaped base and lack the tendrils of grape vines.  They do bear a grape-like fruit but these berries and the roots of the plant are very poisonous.  They contain high levels of alkaloids and ingesting them can cause seizures.

Please be careful when out there exploring with your little ones and animals too!  Nature is so much fun to enjoy, but has it's own natural defenses built into it.  What looks like a pretty berry could turn your day in the forest into a trip to the emergency room.  

(Photos from