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April 09, 2009

Emergency Plans

I've been meaning to write this post since that night. But life gets busy - as life does - but something else has happened which prodded me to get this written. Today.

So rewind to a bit to the night - where my prince was on a biz. trip. About midnight the power went off (my first thought was - they always cut the power and phone lines before they kill you - that is how my mind rolls at night).

No lights, no heat. I carried, sleeping Things 1 & 2 to my bed, thinking at least if we were together I could keep them warm (and protect them from the Jasons, Hannibals and Chuckies of the world).

I felt compelled to write something on the smartness of making a plan for emergencies...but life happened. A reader sent me a link to THIS (months ago)- a good read and I put it on my to-do list for Parent Club.

Then yesterday, my kids had a lockdown at their school because a house caught fire on the school's street. Someone died in that fire. The kids came home talking about the lockdown - how they walked out the back of the school, the police cars and fire engines. And, I thought - if the school has an emergency plan - why don't we?!

Louise Geoffrion, Program Manager, Canadian Red Cross says: "We always try to get the message out that everyone has to be prepared. In the case of an emergency, everybody has a role to play. That's why we train people in first aid and CPR and tell people to have an emergency kit. Being prepared yourself could mean saving the life of a loved one."
Despite a number of weather-related emergencies in recent years, most Canadians are still not well-prepared to sustain themselves for the first 72 hours of an emergency. Check out "72 Hours...Is Your Family Prepared?" to read more.

You should discuss with your children an emergency plan. Do they know how to dial 911? What to say to the 911 person? (I've called 911 once - I'll tell you the story sometime) Which neighbours to go to for help? (which neighbours are usually around, which neighbours we know, and to not cross the street).

You can read an emergency prepardness guide HERE - a good source for creating a family emergency plan.

You should also have a few supplies on hand in case of emergency. We have a nightlight - which is always plugged in - but when the power goes out it transforms into a high-powered flashlight (because it charges as it is plugged in). You should also have a first aid kit on hand, batteries, wind-up radio and lightsticks.

You could make your own kit or get a Basic Emergency Kit.

We are now prepared - are you?

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April 08, 2009

Parent Club Review: Great Wolf Lodge (2)

There is a reason why Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara Falls was the 2009 Traveller's Choice Winner: Best For Families; it accommodates adults and children.

For example, the buffets (breakfast, lunch and dinner) have adult stations with made-to-order omelet and pasta. One can also find child-sized islands where the child can take a non-breakable plate and choose from child-friendly foods (ie. french toast sticks, chicken nuggets, mac & cheese). When our waitress realized someone didn't finish their apple juice a take-away cup was offered so the juice could be finished later. Smart!

Other food choices include Pizza Hut Express, and the Bear Claw Cafe. Even the Trading Post Gift Shop (on-site) has single serving cereal containers and milk in case you choose to have breakfast in your room.

*Note on the Trading Post Gift Shop: Surprisingly, the gift shop has items starting as low as $2.00 - so the kids can bring home a souvenir and the parents don't have to break the bank. Additionally, Simmonds notes that many items are produced in the Niagara region - supporting the local artisans and local economy.
After meeting Wiley at breakfast - we head to the 10am breakfast show in the lobby (free for all). The kids LOVED it!

We walked the animal-image carpet (in fact - they do a great job of animal imagery throughout the facility) to the Cub Club Room where the kids could craft their hearts away. They chose to colour their own Great Wolf T-shirt with fabric markers (cost $15.00). Free day long craft activities are; making a fruit loop necklace, stamping a bookmark and painting. The staff in the cub room were friendly and very helpful. (Note: child-sized potty in the cub w/c!)

From there (and no, we haven't even been to the water park yet!) we head to Scoops Kid Spa where kids can wear a tiara and enjoy ice cream themed spa treatments. Oh la la!

My prince, taking advantage of adult time, headed over to the Iron Horse Fitness Room for a workout.

I, on the other hand, ventured to Elements Spa (right beside Scoops) for a Pumpkin Wrap (ask for Carolina!). It was a decadent treat!

A quick lunch later...and we hit the water park. It had a little something for everyone. Big slides for family tubing, four sizes of water slides (ranging from appropriate for teens & adults to toddler sized), swimming pool, wave pool, frog pond and our favourite the lazy river. We went mid-week and it was busy but not overpopulated.

After a few hours of water play, we changed activities and went outside to try out the Wacky Wilderness Mini Golf. Usually, mini-golf with un-coordinated youngsters is not-so-fun, but this course has animated animals which move and talk at each hole giving you something to giggle at while you wait your turn.

We also hit the Northern Lights Arcade (and we aren't an arcade family so this was somethin'!). The skeet ball tables were returned to again and again.

It is true as, Mr. Simmonds so eloquently put it; "Great Wolf is making family traditions one family at a time". My kids are already asking to go back for their birthdays. I'm sure they would love the upcoming Easter Eggstravaganza complete with the Easter Egg Hunt. A Dad might like the Father's Day race cars & drivers activity. A Mom would enjoy the Mother's Day Tea (a spa treatment would be nice too).

Though the building does have WiFi; I didn't see one parent checking their blackberry. What I did see was families playing and re-connecting.

We will go again - and recommend others to go too. The fact that everything is housed in one building makes it feel like an all-inclusive resort (psst...a meal package is in the works so it will soon feel even more all-inclusive).

Thinking of going?...check out the Great Deals section of the website. Also, save by looking into into corporate rates (Teacher's Union for example).

Read Great Wolf tips from our own Parent Club readers - HERE, HERE and HERE.

Follow on twitter: @GreatWolfLodge
Surf their site:

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April 07, 2009

Parent Club Review: Great Wolf Lodge

The lobby of Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara Falls is amazing. Enormous antler-clad chandeliers, a glowing hearth and big welcoming chairs. Wolves (robotic wolves!) looked down from their ledges above the fireplace. This is some-kind-of-place!

On check-in, we get our first two tastes of family-friendliness...

First: hand prints are etched along the wall - where kids can touch and hear animal sounds during check-in. Whoever thought of engaging the kids during check-in and check-out must be a parent!

Second: we are given, each, a wrist band. The microchip in each wristband is a room key, lock for the change room lockers and can have money added to it in lieu of carrying around a wallet. Should a child become separated from his caregiver, says Keith Simmonds, (General Manager of Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara Falls) the wristband can be scanned - to find the room number and then the family name of the child. In such a large and populated facility, they have never lost a child outside of the building.

We stayed in a Kid Cabin suite; a large accommodation with a queen bed, pull out couch, refrigerator, microwave, TV, gas fireplace, patio and cabin for the kids. The cabin was an almost separate sleeping space (no doors or windows to actually separate it - so you can keep an eye on the kids) housing two bunk beds, one single bed and the kids very own TV (note: cartoons are the first channels to come up on the menu). Ah, luxury!

The kids notice the recycling bins in the rooms straight away. In fact, water conservation and recycling are seen throughout the hotel and water park. From shower heads to composting kitchen waste to large recycling bins (complete with raccoon sitting atop) Great Wolf is a green destination - demonstrating that mini-vacations and fun can be environmentally friendly.

8pm is The Great Forest Friend Show and Story time - where kids in pjs (ahem...some adults in pjs too - not judging - just reporting) gather to enjoy a free show. Talking (robotic) moose, bear, tree and those wolves above the hearth entertain the kids. If you have a nervous child - this might be scary, but most children are very much entertained.
Should you want to go out after the kids go to bed (perhaps visit the falls?) there are themed programs for in room care ("Cub Care") by trained and certified attendants.

We chose to go back to our suite, though only a drive from Toronto -it is far enough to feel like you're getting away without a long travel time. The kids were more than happy to tuck into the bunk beds in their own little cabin. They knew, to be up for breakfast at 8am to have a visit with Wiley or Biko (the mascots) in Antler Shanty. [Ed. Note: they were up at 6am]

There is a reason why Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara Falls was the 2009 Traveller's Choice Winner: Best For Families...*

*part 1 of series

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April 06, 2009

BlogHers ACT Canada Column

Eco-birthday parties: The Good and the Bad

I have fond memories of stacks of birthday prezzies wrapped with colourful paper, eaten store-bought cake (the icing - most likely contained red dye) and brought home loot bags filled with items manufactured in China). many good times. So when I receive an e-mail invitation for a paper-less birthday party - well I feel a little jipped. Here's why...

Read on at my latest column at BlogHers ACT Canada

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