Month: July 2013

How to amuse a child all summer

It was Canada Day last week, and we celebrated my 2nd and Carl’s first 1st July Festivities. I am stupidly excited about Summer (it’s felt summery since the snow melted, admittedly), because this year Carl is here to enjoy it all with me. The stupidly hot temperatures have now hit though and I have to admit that the following is written on the proviso that you have enough energy and suncream for these activities to be possible. And bug spray. TONNES of bug spray.

When we are not lethargic with the heat or too busy scratching our bites, Miranda and I have been adventuring again. I love that I am still discovering new things, even after being here for over a year now. To make our outings more challenging, we have a few perimeters: everything we do must be in walking or at least, tricycling distance, and they have to be free. This is not self-inflicted, skinflint health-freakishness, but has anyone in Regina even found a bus recently?? With all the roadworks downtown, ALL the bus stops have been moved, and Regina Transit Live is, woefully, not Live enough to be able to tell me where the new bus stops are, let alone what time the routes are running now.  And I’d prefer to spend my tight budget on icecream than bus fare and entrance fees. With those ground rules in place, here’s the Miranda-approved weekly guide to the Regina Summer.

MONDAY: Edumacate Yerself.

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Outside the Science Centre

Go to a Museum! Admittedly, not all of them are free, but the Royal Saskatchewan Museum (otherwise known as The Dinosaur Museum) is entrance by donation so we donate whatever we can afford. Now they have the Paleo Pit open full time again, Miri and I have been spending a lot of time there.

We also LOVE the Science Centre. Again, not free, but my parents kindly bought us a family membership for the year, so we can now go whenever we want. The family memberships are great value, as if we go more than three times, then we’ve got the money back already. It also gets us into other Science centres all over the world, including, amusingly, the Life Centre in Newcastle, UK!

TUESDAY: Hang out at the Library.

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The RPL Red Piano

Libraries are cool, obviously. One of the first things I found to like about Regina was the way that people queued up, patiently in the rain on Sunday afternoons, waiting for the Central library to open. It’s just brilliant.  We frequent Connaught and the Central library, and occasionally the George Bothwell when there is something on down there – and there’s ALWAYS something going on. I used to take Miri to Toddler Time at the Connaught branch every Tuesday, and she loved it, but now that has finished for the summer, there’s still loads happening, puppet shows, films, craft workshops, the drop-in storytimes, etc etc, and there’s even just toys and things to amuse kiddies when the programs finish. And of course, there is currently, inexplicably, a bright red piano outside the Central Library. You know you’re not in Britain when a piano appears in a public space, and hasn’t been vandalised/stolen/used as a toilet/set on fire.

WEDNESDAY: Try out the Early Years Family Centres

There’s two, but our nearest is at the Scott Collegiate, which is supposedly, ‘the wrong side of the tracks’. Such is the location that a few Mums in my acquaintance initially refused to go up there. Their loss! It’s a half-hour walk (with kids!) or a pleasant 5 minute cycle from the apparent ‘safety’ of Cathedral. I’m sure Bad Things do happen up there, but as yet, they have never happened to me and I don’t see why I should let the vague paranoia of others detract from a good day out. North Central has nothing on Darlington, I reckon.

Music with Shaya at Scott Collegiate
Music with Shaya at Scott Collegiate

Anyway… Scott Collegiate has a wonderful early years facility, where kids can just play around all day. The collection of toys is fantastic – no TV spin-off merchandise, no pink princessy plastic crap, few things make irritating noises, it’s just simple toys. And painting. And chalking. And drums. And bugs and magnifying glasses. And a lightbox. And a tent. And books. And a mini treehouse. And a play kitchen. And coffee and big comfy sofas for us parents too. All free, all day, every day. They’ve just started doing a Music session on Wedneday mornings, and there’s a children’s cooking group starting soon too. Go. It’s wonderful.

ADDITIONAL BONUS ACTIVITY: Get Stuck Behind a Train on the Way Back Down Elphinstone Street and Have To Wait Half An Hour Breathing In Smelly SUV Fumes While On A Bike In The Heat, with Child Bouncing Excitedly Yelling “LOOK MUMMY! TRAIN! ‘NOTHER TRAIN! BIIG TRAIN!” Incessantly As It Passes.

THURSDAY: Get wet!

Spray parks or Water parks or splash parks or whatever you want to call them are now officially our New Best Things Ever. We got as far as the spray park down by the South end leisure centre. It looked far closer on the map!! I was half dead by the time I got there, cycling in that heat! But it was awesome.  There’s nothing better than dancing under a dragon that spits cold water at you on a hot day… oh and the kids enjoyed it too!

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Kiwanis Waterfall Park

We’ve also made it to the Wascana Pool – I love swimming outdoors! Only free if your kids are under 2 though. If all else fails, you can also go stick your feet, or your entire daughter, in the waterfall at Kiwanis Park.

 

 

FRIDAY: Find a Parents Group

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Playing “how many people can I fit in my living room?”

There are a lot of them in Regina, but it’s only recently that I’ve been getting involved with them. When we first came over, I was working full time and wouldn’t have had the chance to go, even if I’d thought of it. There’s Y’s Mums (as in, part of the YMCA), Regina Moms, even something called MOPS (Moms Of Pre-Schoolers). I go to a Thing on Mondays which is just Cathedral parents getting together for playdates, and then the Globally Minded Mums and Dad’s group on Fridays, which involves watching documentaries then discussing them once a week while the kids run around someone’s yard. We have the unwritten rule that Tidying Is Unnecessary too. The groups really help the house-bound craziness, and it’s nice to occasionally discuss something that isn’t potty training, teething or breastfeeding! We seem to have got a lot in common other than kids as well. I’ve even met “Regina Celebrities” through the Friday group, such as CBC’s Nichole Huck, and Dr Marc Spooner. [Stop name dropping! – Ed]

 

SATURDAY: Go to a Festival

The Plywood Cup at the Canada Day celebrations
The Plywood Cup at the Canada Day celebrations

There is ALWAYS a festival on in Regina. I swear there is one every weekend – I guess because everyo ne is forced to hibernate over the winter. Two weeks ago, we discovered it was “multicultural day” and there were dancers at the MacKenzie Art Gallery. Last week was obviously Canada Day, and we duly got sunburnt, watched people in the Plywood Cup fall in the lake and saw a bit of the Strongest Man competition, which was fun! This weekend is apparently I Love Regina day, so we shall go and celebrate proudly, possibly with my beloved Poetry Slam at the Creative City Centre. After that, theres the Fringe Festival (Yay!), Queen City Ex, Folk festival, the Summer Invasion, and the Dragon Boat Festival to name but a few!

SUNDAY: Find a Giant Animal, then celebrate it’s existence by having a barbecue in it’s honour.

Rusty the Elephant
Rusty the Elephant

There are a lot of Giant Animals in Saskatchewan, and not just animals either (see aforementioned Giant Coffeepot of Davidson). In Regina, we have a large grasshopper on Albert Street and College, Rusty the Elephant at the library and the buffalo thing downtown, the oversized geese outside the Connexus Credit building, a large beaver in the Les Sherman park, a huge frog in the college grounds, the weird anteater/Clanger things outside the Neil Balkwill centre and apparently there’s a big chicken somewhere too. All delightfully eccentric and need celebrating.

If you can’t find one, go and draw one at the Studio Sundays session at the MacKenzie. Then be sure to go barbecue as many bits of dead animal as you can stand to eat. Om nom nom!

 

There you go, the whole week occupied on the tiniest of tiny budgets, kids amused and somewhat educated without resorting to the TV-shaped-babysitter, no petrol burnt, and as much time spent out in the summer sun as possible!

I’m exhausted.

GUEST POST: Michelle Birbeck, “Canadaland”

Canadaland – A Place I Really Want To Visit.

There is something fantastic about the land of maple syrup, something that makes me want to get on a plane and come say hello. These days I have any number of excuses to get on that plane, but an unfortunate lack of funds (at least at the moment!). So I thought I would share some of the reasons I think Canada is great, even though I haven’t yet managed to visit.

For a start, I have friends there now! Wonderful, fantastic friends who I miss lots. They’re as crazy as I am, and sometimes more so, which in my world is the same thing as utterly brilliant. They’ve been gone from the UK for over a year now, and it has been a long year.

But they’re not the only reason I want to come over and visit. See, I’m an author, and people pay me to sit at home and make stuff up. So I make stuff up about places I really want to visit, slipping in little references and stories of far away places, so one day I can go visit and say it’s a business expense.

Canada is one of those places. For me it is not only the home of maple syrup (which is beautiful stuff, by the way!), but it is also home to the Canadian Bears. I’m not talking about a sports team, either. I’m talking wereanimals.

My first book, The Last Keeper, has five races of Weres: the Cats of England, the Congo Lions, Brazilian Panthers, the Wolves of Russia, and the Canadian Bears. The Bears are stout looking people who live scattered through the wilderness, rarely speaking with each other outside of the full moon. When they get together, they turn into… well, Bears. They love the freedom of Canada, and I’m pretty sure they’re all fans of maple syrup, too!

They don’t hibernate in the winter like real bears, though, and prefer to roll around in the snow and play games. The young ones are always getting into trouble sneaking off to scare poor humans, and have enjoyed a stereotypical picnic or two.

And as if I needed more reason to come over and visit, my second book, Last Chance, begins with the main couple, Serenity and Ray, coming back to England after living in Canada for a decade or so. Serenity wasn’t so much a fan of the winters, but Ray, being a vampire, had a soft spot for them.

So even though I have never been to Canada, it is a place that I love very much, and absolutely want to come visit one day. In the meantime, I will keep writing in more reasons to visit, just to keep me tempted.

owl Michelle Birbeck is an author from Hartlepool, UK. She writes loads of things, but recently the first two books in her “Keepers Chronicles” series have been published, and her first Young Adult book, The Stars Are Falling is coming out soon.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Michelle-Birbeck/e/B00800FYQ2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1363107267&sr=8-1
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/michelle-birbeck
iBookstore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/michelle-birbeck/id518091551?mt=11
Website: http://michellebirbeck.co.uk/
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MichelleBirbeck
twitter: https://twitter.com/michellebirbeck
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5291957.Michelle_Birbeck
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Cover 2 Rework 6 - chelle edit - 300 dpi