Saving Money & Still Having Fun

There are so many fun things to do in the summer, both indoors and out. But as you have no doubt already noticed, most of them cost money. I started thinking about this after we paid $17 ($15 family entry + $2 parking) to go to the Herb Fest. It wasn’t even my money (thanks dad!), but I didn’t like the feeling that I/we had paid $17 so that people could sell us stuff (turns out the Herb Fest is mostly sales stalls).

This is why I love the library (see yesterday’s post), but the library is not the only freebie out there:

  • My guys love the splash pads. Run by the City of Ottawa, you can find them in almost every neighborhood. If I remember to bring along some bubbles then we are set for a whole morning/afternoon.
  • Shakespeare in the Park: We haven’t tried this one yet, but I think it’s going to be a riot. There are only two weeks of performances yet, so get your fix now.
  • Picking berries: this has worked well for us from +18 months. There’s definitely more eating than picking at 18 months, but by the time my guy hit 3, he could fill up a berry basket all on his own. Strawberries are the easiest to pick, but it’s nice to go to a farm that has other selections at their farm store, so you can bring home a bounty. Here’s a quick summary of local u-pick farms
  • Kids Sports: We live close to a local soccer field. It’s a great venue for baseball games, soccer games, ultimate and even the occasional cricket match. There’s no need for me to pay to see a game, when it’s just as much fun for my guys to watch kids that are 10-15 run around. Not to mention that my guys can run/walk/crawl and generally entertain themselves along the sidelines. The kids on the field love to have someone that’s not mom and dad cheering for them.
  • Nature Walks: I wish we did more of these. When I’m at home and thinking about what to do for the day, it always feels like this is a big deal to plan. But that’s entirely not the case. You can start at any point along the NCC path system and have a great walk. If you want something a bit more rugged, you can go to any NCC nature conservation area (such as: Stoney Swamp, Green’s Creek or Mer Bleu) and go for a trail walk. There’s no need to lug your gang all the way up to the Gatineau’s to enjoy nature in Ottawa

This is by no means an exhaustive list. What are some of your favorites?

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Love the Library

I’m a library geek and I’m not ashamed to admit it. The library is a great diversion for my kids, we can wander over and get some excercize along the way and once we’re there there is a lot to keep everyone entertained. I never browse the adult section, but simply order my books ahead of time. I get an e-mail letting me know they have arrived, and my kids know that the last thing we do before check out is look for ‘mommy’s books’.

Our local library finally has the kids backpack program. It’s been available at the big branches for a long time, but now you can walk into almost any Ottawa library branch and pick up a backpack full of kids books. The books have been selected by librarians to be age appropriate. When I’m short on time, this means I can pop into the library and pickup a bag of books to bring home as a quick, happy and super cheap package for the boys.

As the librarians have vetted the books, this program also prevents me from bringing home any of the doozies that have accidently graced our shelves of late. These include:

  • The boy whose dad has died and whose mom gets a new boyfriend. The new boyfriend likes sailing and moves in with the mom and boy. When I flipped through the pictures it looked like a happy story about a family that liked to go sailing. I missed the details that the man was the new boyfriend.
  • The story about the little pig that spent lots of time playing and learning about the ‘old days’ from grandma. Again, didn’t pay close enough attention to the end of the story, where the grandma gets sick, can’t move and eventually dies while the little pig holds her.

These are only some of the winners that have escaped my editorial eye as I pile books into the stroller that my older one picks out.

All that to say, drop into your local library and see what book bags they might have for you.

Update on the Ottawa CSA front

As you may recall, we’ve been ordering groceries from Ottawa Organics for the past month or so.  Here are some thoughts:

Pro:

  • Arrives without fail every Wednesday
  • I can leave them a check in my cooler for the amount ordered
  • No one has stolen our groceries (big concern of my husband!)
  • The fruit has been very, very tasty.

Cons:

  • I’ve been ordering some extras off their web site (bread, milk, broccoli) to add to my ‘veggie box’.  When I order the extras, I’m given a total amount to pay and leave the check for that amount. Trouble is, they don’t always have the extras.  This means I overpay and have to take it off the next week’s check
  • The quality has been mixed: we’ve had bruised, punctured plums; moldy raspberries and worm riddled turnips.  Truth be told, when I brought this to there attention, we were given a discount off our next box.

Bytown Mom Conclusion: I’m doing this to save myself time and effort: when the milk doesn’t show up I have to head out to the grocery store on a weeknight; when the turnips have worms, I need to adjust dinner plans 15 minutes before it’s expected on the table.  Tomorrow’s our last delivery from Ottawa Organics.  We’re moving on to Bryson Farms for next week.

Lessons Learned On the Nanny Front

In an effort not to make the same set of mistakes twice, we’ve been doing a bit of research on the nanny front. I’m looking for ideas and tips on how to:

  • How to hire hire a nanny that’s a fit with the family?
  • How to integrate your nanny with your family?
  • How to quickly address any issues that might come up?
  • How to be patient when your nanny does something that drives you crazy, but isn’t something that endangers the kids?
  • How to come across as a normal family to your nanny, when really I’m learning that we are very particular about some things:  what the kids eat, TV, jumping on furniture, talking with respect, etc., etc.

I’ve found a couple of resources that are useful on this front:

  • Aunt Emma’s Blog:  The name doesn’t do it justice, but this is the rule book on what to do and not to do with respect to hiring, firing, and compensating your nanny.  It gets straight to the point and has no nonsense advice.
  • Nanny Network Parent Resources:  This one was helpful because they’ve posted a collection of articles from all over the web on the entire nanny process from requirements, interviews, initial days, keeping your nanny and taxes.
  • Short List of Government Links: No tips and tricks here, just a straight up list of government agencies and their forms that you will need to tackle when hiring a nanny.

Over the years, Canadian Living has run a couple of nanny related articles:

Canadian Living Tips:

Shading the Earth?

I’ve completely changed my attitude and language about the environment.  It’s not global warming, it’s climate change.  I’d almost be in favour it if it were global warming.  I live well above sea level; it wouldn’t be as cold here in Ottawa in the winter; my veggies would have a longer growing season in the summer.  What’s not to love?

But this climate change stuff is a disaster.  We are beseiged by rain and clouds for the second growing season in a row.  My veggies are beautiful and leafy, but with no produce develping.  The strawberries at the local farm might look tasty, but they are water logged.  It’s freezing here in the winter, and now it’s freezing here in the summer.  Forget the airconditioning bill.  I’m about to turn on the furnace!

All that to say, is that as far as I can tell, the earth is already shaded.  But the climate experts at the Carnegie Institution have a different idea.  The want to build a massive parrasol for the earth to help keep the sun’s rays off us and cool things down.

Family Triathlons

I’ve written about the Kids of Steel triathlon program before, but this recent article caught my attention, as I can just picture my little guy encouraging his brother in the same way the kid profiled in the article does:  come on, hurry up, let’s go.

There are plenty of local kids triathlon groups out there, including:  Ottawa Kids Tri and Toronto & GTA: Tri Kids Triathlon Series.

Heck there’s even a whole community of people that chat and discuss their family’s triathlon exploits at the aptly named: Triathlon Family.

My penis has a brain

Long suspected by many of us women folk, the rumour has now been confirmed:

Did you know that in my penis there is a thinking part?  Well there is.  My penis has a thinking part and right now it is telling me I have to do pee.  So that’s what I have to do.

Further good news to this story is that I was able to contain the giggle until after he’d gone back to bed.