camping

The 10 Best Provincial Parks in Ontario for Camping With Your Family

Spring has finally arrived here in beautiful Ontario, Canada and camping enthusiasts like us are eagerly planning and booking their camping trips for the summer. We all know camping season begins with the May long weekend. Everyone has different requirements when they start searching for the perfect park to stay at, and parents camping with children know all too well how important it is to get a campground that will have enough going on to occupy their kids for the length of the stay. I took my little one on her first camping trip when she was four, and she has been on several since.  We both love to camp and are looking forward to getting away this summer.

camping

Finding that right campground can be a challenge when you are looking for the right activities and attractions. You work hard all year and your vacation time with your family is precious, so you want to make sure everything is researched, planned and perfect for your family. I know that is my desire when I make plans for us.  Check out what I consider the best 10 Ontario Provincial Park Campgrounds. I’m sure you will find your perfect summer family camping getaway amongst them.

Algonquin Provincial Park – 8 Campgrounds; 14 Trails; Each Campground and Picnic area has its own designated swimming areas; Birding; 3 Biking Trails; Boating; Canoeing; Fishing; Public Wolf Howl; Moose viewing along Hwy 60; Evening Outdoor Theatre Programs; Visitor Centre for Hour of Discovery with Games, Stories and Animals; Educational Guided Walks; Logging Museum & Art Centre.

My father first took me camping in this park when I was about ten years old. I still remember that trip. We spent a lot of time going for walks and swimming.

Arrowhead Provincial Park – 3 Sand Beaches; 5 Trails, Stubbs Falls; 2 Bike Trails; Birding; Canoeing; Fishing; Motor-Boat Free Lakes; Canoe, Kayak and Mountain Bike Rentals; Remains of Old Homesteads from 1870’s; Educational Programs for kids include Historical Walks, Evening Programs, Crafts & Games; 1 Hour drive to Algonquin Park.

The homesteads at this park remind me of my heritage. My family has been in Canada since well before Confederation. They were early farmers not far south of here.  This is where Rachel mastered the canoe.

roasting marshmelllows

Bon Echo Provincial Park – 100 Metre High Mazinaw Rock with over 260 Aboriginal Pictographs; Interpretive Boat Tours on Mazinaw Lake over to Mazinaw Rock; 6 Hiking Trails; 3 Natural Sand Beaches; Educational Programs, Children’s Programs, Evening Shows; Biking; Birding; Boating; Canoeing; Fishing.

This campground was the very first one that I took my daughter too when she was little. She loved the evening programming and the educational programs. This is a great park with little ones.

 

Grundy Lake Provincial Park – 8 Natural Sand Beaches; 3 Hiking Trails; 9 Back Country Sites; Biking; Excellent Birding; Non-Motorized Lakes; Jumping Rocks; Canoeing & Kayak Rental nearby; Interactive Educational Programs, Guided Hikes, Campfires; ‘Art in the Park’ Program.

 

Killarney Provincial Park – 645 km of Backcountry Wilderness; 50 Lakes; 11 Canoe Routes; 6 Hiking Trails; 2 Beaches on Campground; Biking; Birding; Boating; Fishing; Georgian Bay Coast Line of Pink Granite & The La Cloche Mountains White Quartzite Ridges; Guided Hikes; Children’s Programs; Evening Programs; Art-In-The-Park & Artist-In-Residence Programs; Observatory hosting Guest Astronomers.

I have friends who live just outside the park, and it is one of their favourites. We camped here many years ago when I was younger.

 

Killbear Provincial Park – 6 Km of Biking Trails; 4 Hiking Trails; Birding; Boating; Canoeing; Fishing; Excellent Sailing & Windsurfing conditions; Cliff Jumping; Each Campground has its own designated Beach for Swimming; Children’s Programs; Guided Hikes; Evening Programs plus Musical Concerts by groups such as the Wakami Wailers.

This is a smaller park but a great getaway.

 

Long Point Provincial Park – 2 km of White Sandy Beach and Warm Lake Erie Water; 4th Oldest Provincial Park in Ontario (Est. 1921); One of the Largest Bird & Waterfowl Migration areas in North America with over 300 species; Biking; Boating; Canoeing; Programs throughout summer include ‘Reptiles at Risk’, ‘Creatures of the Night’, ‘Fowler’s Toad’

Everyone must camp here at least once. It truly is a wonderful park especially if your kids are into science and animals and migration.

Port Burwell Provincial Park – 2.5 km Sandy Beach with Shallow, Warm, Blue Water on Lake Erie; Excellent Play Area for kids; Biking; Boating; Canoeing; Fishing; 2 Hiking Trails; Birder’s Paradise with over 232 species; ‘Marvels of Migration’ Annual Autumn Hawk watching program; Interpretive & Recreational Programs include semi-weekly Children’s Crafts, Slide Show, Nature Theme Movies, Campfires, Skits & Conducted Hikes.

If you are a fall camper, it is a perfect time to hit this park.

 

Sandbanks Provincial Park – 3 Sandy Beaches with Shallow Water; World’s Largest Baymouth Barrier Dune Formation; Biking; Birding; Canoeing; Boating; Fishing; Explore 3 Hiking Trails with a Park Naturalist; Children’s Programs; Evening Campfire & Slide Shows.

One of our families favourite places to go is here. We love everything about this park.

 

The Pinery Provincial Park – 10 Km of Sand Beach on Lake Huron; Rolling Dunes; Rare and Fragile Oak Savanna & Coastal Dune Ecosystems with Extraordinary Biodiversity with over 800 Vascular Plants; Birding 318 Species; 10 Hiking Trails; 14 Km’s of Biking Trails; Fishing; Canoe, Hydro Bike, Paddleboat & Kayak Rentals; Programs Include – Bike Hikes, Evening Program, Conducted Walks, Children’s Nature Discovery-Stories & Animal Programs, ‘Ooze n’ Gooze’ Aquatic Discovery; National Geographic ranked Sunsets here among the “Top 10 Best in the World”.

If you love your sunsets like I love sunsets you want to go here.

Where ever you go, we are blessed to have some great provincial parks that we can get to this summer.

 

Honourable mentions: Awenda Provincial Park , Lake St. Peter Provincial Park, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Presqu’ile Provincial Park, Silent Lake Provincial Park

work at home mom

5 Ways to Save Your Sanity When You Work at Home

5 Ways to Keep Your Sanity When You Work at Home

I run my blog and small business from home. Sometimes when you work from home you can go a little stir crazy. Sometimes you feel like you could be losing your sanity. When you work at home, having a work/life balance can be something you need to work on. I know this has been the case for me. There have been days when I sit down at the computer, after my morning tea and don’t get up from it till bed time. So how does one save your sanity when you work from home? How do you get to be a happier mom, one that has a great work life balance? For me here are some of the things that are working:

1. Make Google Calendar Your Best Friend

I have always struggled with keeping myself on track. I can get lost in projects and timelines. I can get lost in thinking there are ways this could be better so what should take me an hour takes me five hours. How I learned to combat this was to structure timelines into my day. A good blog post takes me 2 hours. Then there is another hour for the creative and promotion. So every blog post gets 4 hours. I have started putting everything into my calendar from work obligations to personal ones. I love with the Google Calendar you can color code everything. This works for me. It helps me to be organized and it helps me to take back time.

2. Work during Work Hours

Have you ever found yourself answering an email during family time? while you are out on a date? with the kids at the beach? I even answered emails while at church.  It was on a Sunday that I realized I needed to leave work to work hours unless it was truly urgent. It was a struggle for me to turn work off. I have learned that I can give more to family and friends when I am truly present in the moment. I have learned to but my phone on silent.

3. Take a Break

A dear friend, who is a pretty big name in the Stocial Media space, once told me for them to give the best to their clients they needed to take regular breaks during their work day. Every 2 hours they take a 15 minute break. They found it helped them to get up and move around the house, make a cup of coffee, check on other family members and then get back to work. They came back able to focus better. For me I find getting up and moving works. I now take 2 tea breaks a day and take an actual lunch time when I actually get up and do not eat in front of the computer ( a bad habit I had formed).

4. Exersice

For those of us who work from home, it’s easy to just stay home and get to work in front of our computers but what about selfcare? Until last year, I ignored regular exersice. One of the biggest lessons I have learned this year was to get outside and walk. It clears my mind and gives me energy. Living in Canada though, its not always easy to get outside so I also do BeachBody dvds that I love now and I find after a good workout, I write better and work better as well.

5. Bring in the Fun

What is fun for me might not be fun for you. I love finding time to binge watch a favourite show. I love getting creative for me (not for a blog post). I love colouring like I did when I was a kid. I love to read. I love to go thrifting and to garage sales. Find time to do the things you love. Schedule it in. For me and my daughter it was important to find time to do something fun at least a couple times per week. This might be baking ( something my daughter finds fun), hitting an arcade, playing a board game or watching a movie together, whatever it is we try and make it fun.

So what works for you? Let me know in the comments. What helps you keep your sanity if you are a work at home mom like me?

 

 

 

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What Do You Need to Know About Teens and Mental Health in Ontario

Hospital waiting room

After the attack at a local high school, it took me a couple of days to really think about what I wanted to write here. From all media reports, it seems the girl who stabbed several other people was a time bomb waiting to explode. She had serious mental health issues, that were not being treated. Those are the facts.

If you have been a long time reader of mine, you know my daughter had serious mental health issues after being badly bullied at school. The issues came out with her being angry and being unable to control her emotions. It came to a head one day in the March of 2012. She was at school when she had a complete breakdown ( she has allowed the sharing of her story to help others). She made some serious threats. She was not expelled, not charged, she was suspended from school and put on a Do not Attend order that lasted till February of 2013. She was 14 (the same age as the young woman now in police custody).

From what I understand of the teen’s plight in Durham, she was waiting on mental health care. She had been struggling for years.

Here are some harsh facts I came to know well.

  • Wait times in Toronto to see a mental health specialist can take about 2 years.
  • Wait times for community programs after diagnosis can take years.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death of our kids only behind car accidents.
  • We have a shortage of specially trained adolescent care providers.
  • The only place to get urgent care is the emergency room and even then children and teens are often released to their parent’s care because of there being no treatment or hospital beds available.
  • We have no wait times standards for care in Ontario when it comes to our kids and mental health.
  • There are a shortage of Section 23 school seats where kids with mental health issues can get proper support.

So what can we as parents do? What can we as a community do?

We all have seen the promos, the sugar coating on Mental health days that try to bring issues to the forefront, but the reality is not enough is being done. More funds were recently made available but they did not even make a dent as the need is real. Wait time even for urgent care hospital beds and treatment programs are long. My own daughter waited 8 weeks ( while doctors said she was at extreme risk and labeled a high priority case). We need to stand up and say our kids lives matter. If these kids had a disease or illness that was not mental health related they receive a  certain level of care. We need to require that for our children who need support and care so they can have the chance to grow up. Statistics show the faster a child with mental health issues is treated the cost of long term care decreases.

Several things I learned as my daughter and I waited.

Advocacy is a must. Sometimes our kids can’t advocate for themselves so we must be there to do it for them. I became a momma bear. I even wrote a letter to the newspaper long before I was the Common Cents Mom.

Mental health issues can literally send a family into poverty. I had to give up a full-time job and work from home for several years so I could parent my daughter, look after her needs and learn as much as I could about mental health issues.

I trained myself in restraint holds when she was little, I learned about coaching my daughter. I learned to look for triggers and how to plan. It was hard work and google became my best friend.  I had to learn quickly what would work with little supports in place.

With mental illness isolation comes. Our support cycle shrunk as we battled. I had more then one well meaning friend speak to me about her behavior issues as if I was not parenting well. I left a couple of churches because of words said and the lack of empathy and compassion. She was the girl kicked out of Sunday School. Mental health is not a parenting issue ever! Parents of mentally ill children and teens often work overtime and hard to get their child what they need. They are often left unsupported.

Every case and every teen is different. My teen had two traumatic events happen and to be honest I am still not sure she has fully recovered from them( she still cringes every time we talk about life in Nova Scotia), add to that ADHD and a learning disorder that has her processing things at super speed and well you get a jumble of adjectives from doctors to describe my teen.

One of the biggest things I learned was what to do while I waited with her to get the care she needed. I had to do whatever it took. I had to think outside the box finally. Lucky for me, I found a great therapist who took my daughter unto their case load. But the reality is he charges quite a bit for a normal family. Thankfully, he allowed me to pay on a sliding scale. My teen waited over a year and half for community support programs that never came. We were on wait lists everywhere. There were no after school supports, no community therapies, no camps for her.

Schools need the funding and resources to have trained Child Youth Workers available so our kids can learn. There needs to be better supports for these children in school. Right now my daughter is supposed to have a certain amount of hours with an EA thanks to and individualized educational plan. She has yet to have that support this year. She has been dual identified on her plan yet does not get that support. Funding is lacking.

For us and for her it took time to heal. Like any illness, mental illness takes lots of recovery time and self care. My teen needed and needs medication to keep her doing well along with structure and support.  There is no shame in that. She has also grown a lot in the last four years. Karate, a good school where she could excel, medication and regular check ins keep her doing well. She has come a long way and fought a good fight but as a mom of a child who has struggled I am always on guard.

So what do I do? What should we do? We need to be advocating for care and a standard of care to be in place here in Ontario. We need to start saving the lives of our mentally ill youth, we would be trying more if it was any other illness. It is time to step up to the plate so our kids can have the lives they deserve.

 

Netflix resolutions

A Month In And I am Making New Resolutions #Netflix

I think if you are a regular reader of mine you know I love Netflix. Over the Christmas break my teen and I got to watch quite a bit and even did some binge watching but then came January and the rush and hustle and bustle to get back into routine and our viewing time was at a minimum.

 

With the end of the semester for my teen and things finally setting in here at home this week we are finally making a viewing resolution. We each have our favorite shows that we want to binge watch and yes you can. My daughter loves “Dragons Race to the Edge”. She adores Toothless. I can’t wait for Fuller House that comes out later this month and I might even get caught up with some Friends. I am also looking forward to the next seasons of Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and Drop Dead Diva. I know what a mix.

Binge-watching can be dangerous for you if you don’t like to be left waiting. I know I am left here waiting for certain shows but they are easy resolutions to make even if you are late to the game like me. So tell me what are you looking forward to watching on Netflix this year?

*this post was brought to you by team at Netflix Canada. Once again I am a member of the #streamteam. I do receive compensation in the form of gifts and free Netflix. 

 

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Breaking the Bedtime Stalls with Netflix in Just 5 Minutes

Long gone are the days of the great bed time debates between my daughter and I, but I remember them like they were yesterday. She was the master negotiator always begging for just 5 more minutes. She wanted that victory and when she wouldn’t get it she was thirsty, slow as could be and sometimes when she was in a mood I just couldn’t get her to bed no matter how hard I tried. Ever have a night like that? I think most of us have. Well, Netflix has come up with a way that we can get our little ones to bed while giving them just 5 more minutes.

Netflix polled parents and found that kids are willing to do almost anything to stall bedtime. My daughter would of been a master negotiator with a side of thirsty. What is your child’s stall technique?

Check out this infographic from Netflix and let me know:

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To help with the bedtime rituals and to get rid of the bedtime stalls, Netflix and Dreamworks Anmation came up with the new Dinotrux 5 Minute favourites. It’s a great way to let your child have a little win at bedtime and then go straight to bed. Perhaps it’s a great way to cut down down on the bedtime battles at your house.

 

thanksgiving

Counting My Blessings this Thanksgiving

thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Day here in Canada, and I am so grateful I have made this whole month about things I am thankful but today especially I wanted to give thanks. First, I must thank you my readers for stopping by Common Cents Mom thousands of time every single month. You have made my life as a work at home mom possible.

Now what am I thankful for this Thanksgiving:

1. Faith- if you follow me online and have been doing so since I started blogging you will of found that my spiritual walk has taken me on a path with many twists and turns. Right now, I am grateful for God. I know he is not finished with me yet. I am also grateful that I have found a new church home.

2. Prayer- Some people meditate some people call out to God, I am so glad I can call on him every day.

3. My family- we may not be perfect in every way but we are family and we are there for each other.

4. My daughter- I am blessed to be a mother. In my 30’s I didn’t think I would have a child of my own. I was happy being a step mom but then I was blessed with my girl. It is a joy and privilege to raise her. She really is a gift from God.

5. My friends- Some people come into your life for a short time and then leave, others come walk a longer part of the journey and well some you have known for years. No matter how long the friendship or how we meet, I am forever thankful for the people I call friend.

6. My business- Years ago as a single mom on welfare I never thought I could stay home, raise my daughter, work my butt off from home and earn enough to live off of. Today I do just that through blogging and doing freelance community management. I also do some network marketing as well. All of these revenue streams means we have enough and for that I am thankful.

7. The ability to give back- I love when opportunities to give back come into my life, I love to help others. It is why I started this blog in the first place I wanted women in a panic, women who needed encouragement, help with things like budgets and tips to have a spot to come read, learn and grow. I wanted no other woman to suffer like I did. I am thankful for this chance to give back.

8. I am thankful for the beauty that surrounds me every day. It might be something simple like being able to watch the sunrise, taking in a flower on your walk, sipping a cup of your favourite tea, it might be the beauty of the written word, it might be the beauty of a song on the radio..there is much beauty around and grateful for all of it.

There are so many things to be thankful for and these are just a few of the things I had wanted to mention this thanksgiving day. Let me know what are you thankful for?

 

 

Star Wars Monopoly

Month of Gratitude- Day 2: Awards and Board Games

Today  was a busy eventful day for me and for my teen daughter as well, there is definitely much to be thankful for today.

Business wise, I redefined my role with one of my clients. I was also busy getting ready for Blissdom Canada. Did you know I am one of the mentors doing a micro session? If you have thought about community management as a career possiblity, I am there to answer your questions and give you a hand. I am also bringing my favourite brand, Flipp with me. Yes, Flipp is one of the sponsors again this year. Make sure you look for me if you are there and love Flipp, I might have a surprise for you. I also did some project management work and plotted a new course for the #cdnmoney chat. Look for a cool announcement next week.

awards

Now, today was also a busy day for the teen as it was Awards day at her school. I am very grateful that I am raising a daughter who loves science and math. She brought home the highest grades in both subjects last year. We had to celebrate her success so what a better way then time together.

Star Wars Monopoly

We cooked dinner and cleared the dining table for a night of Monopoly. We played both the Dr Who version and the Star Wars version. It was a fun epic battle of mom vs daughter. She ended up winning. It was a fun time of conversation and game play. Really, I am thankful for moments like this because as she gets older I know soon other things will occupy her Friday nights.

Today was a blessed day and I am forever grateful for the blessings that came our way. What has you blessed this weekend?

 

 

 

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31 days of Gratitude

It’s October 1st and here in Toronto, I woke up to a crisp fall morning. For the past few days I have been thinking about a series I could do here on Common Cents Mom that would encourage me to write  every single day. Since October, brings so much to be thankful for I have decided to write about gratitude. Each evening, before I retire for the next 31 days I will share what I am thankful for that day.

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Today, I am thankful for a day of fun, work and play. I attended a taping of The Marilyn Denis show this morning and after that found a new restaurant on Queen west to try out. I used to live in Halifax and since moving back to Toronto I have missed donairs. If you don’t know what a donair is you are missing out! I entered the doors of The Battered Fish expecting fish and chips and then I saw it right there on their menu, donair poutine. They put two of my favorite cheat day foods together. Well, lets just say this I am very thankful for this find as I had a great lunch downtown after the show.

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I am grateful I work from home and have great clients and brands that want to work with me. This afternoon was a mix of client work.

By the time my daughter got home from her college class, I had dinner waiting and we had a great discussion about school, gun control and what we wanted to get done this October.

Then it was time to log on to Twitter. Are you on Twitter? You can always find me there as @commoncentsmom. The #Prep4Bliss hashtag was full force and it was great to tweet with others who will be attending Blissdom Canada next week. Hard to believe it but two weeks from now I will be one of the mentors at the conference. I am looking forward to sharing my love for community management.

What am I most grateful for today? The chance to connect in little ways. It is the little moments that allow us to connect, to get real, that challenge us. I am also grateful that my teen and I can talk about anything.

All month long may my readers get to know me a bit better as I share what I am grateful for. Its a month of gratitude. You can always join me by sharing in the comments what you are thankful for.

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4 Tips for Having That Conversation With Your Teen

7880334384_2b75e9aabd_kThere comes a point in every parents life when we have to have certain conversations with our kids. Some of them are really really hard. I know talking to my daughter about sex and sexual health certainly have been tender conversations with a bit of embarrassment for the both of us. Now, it simply makes sense to have these important conversations and not to put them off.

I know I want my teen daughter who is in both grade 12 and heading off to college at the same time is equipped with the right information, With other teens headed off to higher education TROJAN ™ has some great suggestions for making “the talk” a breeze:

1)  Be proactive and askable.   Life brings many opportunities to have real conversations with your kids (eg, sexual situations on TV) . Be honest about your values ​​and expectations for behavior. With my teen we have house rules, next year if she is in a dorm room she will have her own rules. It is so important to be supportive while at the same time giving some guidance.

2) Educate yourself. If you really want to have an informed conversation regarding the sexual health issues that impact your teen, there are plenty of resources available. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada website http://www.sexandu.ca/offers information on Many different aspects of sexuality and sexual health.

3) Share credible resources with your kids. Send your kids links to credible information on the internet. For the older teen or young adult, check out weknowsex.ca (a website developed by the makers of TROJAN ™ condoms and the Sex Information Education Council of Canada).

4) For the college kid. Be aware That MOST university / college kids are sexually active. It is just a fact. How about sending a package of condoms in your next care package. It just lets them know you are thinking of everything that can and does happen.