It seems funny writing a fun blog after the last week of sadness in our community. The thing is that life is full of sunshine and rain. The rain makes us appreciate the warmth of the sunshine all the more. When we are touched by tragedy, there are two choices... Wrap yourself up in sorrow, bask in it. Look at the world as a sad and terrible place. In the end "you" have a choice. I choose to see the world as beautiful. The bad/ hard times remind me of my blessings. My children are my blessings! My children right now, at this time and in this place are my world.
I know that I sound like a broken record, but honestly my goal at the end of this trip we call parenting is to have my children grow up healthy and happy. I want them to always have my love, and wear it wherever life takes them. I want them to look back at their childhood and know that they were always the centre of my universe. I want them to grow up and always want to learn and to explore. If I can accomplish these things then I have been successful at the most important job I will ever have.
As any of my regular readers know (and I love you so much. Thank you), my goal is to live life to the fullest, but do so on a tight budget. This past summer I planned a summer full of fun, on a budget of low fee/ or no fee adventures. There were lots of picnics and fun with friends, both theirs and mine. Our end of the year extravaganza was a trip to Saunder's Farms. saundersfarm.com
For those of you not in the know, Saunder's Farm is an amazing family destination on Bleeks Road in the village of Munster, just this side of Ottawa, Ontario. It is a low tech, amazing wonderland of fun. I had seen advertisements on our local Ottawa television station for the Halloween Haunting they have there, but had not realized that it was also this family attraction too. I came across it accidently in my search for low/ no cost summer activities. I began by exploring their website. It looked amazing. Because there was a group of us (my friends and their children) I inquired about a group rate. The individual rate is $16.50 per person, and the family rate was $62.00 (that includes two adults, two children). The group rate for 15 or more is $12.50 each. The group rate saved my family of 5 (Christopher had to work) $20.00! My friends and I had planed this trip all summer and by the time came for us to finally go, all the kids were really excited.
We drove to Bleeks Road in Munster and drove right past the farm. The entrance is quiet and unassuming. As I drove past, the car was alive with screams of "MOM, MOM, you drove right past it! MOM". I turned around and found a place to park. As we walked into the entrance building / gift shop we were greeted by two really friendly girls with big smiles. One of them was our Saunder's ambassador. It honestly was a really nice introduction to the farm. She gave us all maps and each of the kids received a passport. They were to get stamps at each of the fun stations, and when it was time to leave they would hand in their passport to receive a prize. All of the kids were really excited about this. We also found out that because we were a "group" we had a pre-assigned time for our hay wagon ride... we were special!
As we left the building the kids were all itching to run and to explore (it was all we could do to prevent them running out while we were paying and finding out all the details). The first thing to explore was a playground. The favourite of this group of play equipment was the barn with the hay at the bottom. My guys took great delight in jumping into the hay. I'm pretty sure that the whole farm heard their shrieks of laughter, and screams of delight.
My personal favourite was the princess house. It was beautiful, like a little Swiss Chalet. I could feel myself being transported back to being a little girl and how much the little me would have loved this playhouse. All of the little girls were in love, running up the stairs, standing on the little balcony. My favourite were the adorable little Muskoka chairs outside. All it was missing was cups of coffee.
By large one of my own personal favourite parts of the day was the wagon ride. I love wagon rides. If I were to be completely honest my idea of a good time would be to sit on a hay wagon all day and take trips. I love the bounce and the slow sway of wagons!
As I already mentioned, the bonus of having the group rate means that you don't have to wait in line for the wagon ride and sit with strangers. Our little group got our own wagon ride at our own time. The kids could have fun exploring all of the fun things to do, instead of having to waste time waiting in a wagon ride line up.
You can see from Riley and Rowan's faces that they LOVED it.
There were just so many great things to do for such a low price. The pirate ship was a big hit.
My guys all loved walking the plank.
Witch Mountain was also a favourite. From the bottom of the hill, it looked like a relaxing gazebo placed upon a hill to take in the scenery. At the top it was all of those things, and a monster slide.
The kids all whipped down the slide squealing all the way. O.k. we big kids also slid down it squealing all the way. We went a few times, sometimes with our littlest children, but most times by ourselves, arriving back to the top of the hill with flushed faces and big smiles.
By far the hands down favourite was the Jumping Pillows. These amazing things are like a cross between a bouncy castle and a trampoline (a trampoline that I am not terrified of them getting stuck in or breaking something). The kids did not want to leave. There were cries of "MOMMY, MOMMY LOOK AT ME!" delightedly squealed by all of our children. It was really beautiful to see the big kids (our group ranged in age from 4 - 13) holding the hands of the littlest and helping them. It did not matter if the big kid was a sibling or not, they helped the little ones. It truly was beautiful to see them all having so much fun, but also being so kind.
Even the big kids (by big kids I am no longer referring to the 14 year olds, but rather the women who gave birth to them all) got in on it. I really wish that someone had video taped me. I am not a very agile individual, nor am I generally a risk taker. I cautiously walked over to the jumping pillow and gingerly tried to walk up, it was much easier said than done. All around my children roared with joy, and lets be honest laughter at me. They were holding my hands, encouraging me to jump. It really was a lot of fun. I am pretty sure that I looked like an idiot, but that's ok, my kids loved it and so did I.
Next stop after reluctantly tearing them away from the jumping pillows were the pedal cars. They raced around the track pedaling their little brains out.
At the far side of the farm there are several mazes. We all raced around the mazes, trying to find our way out. The kids wanted to cheat and push through the sides, but there was to be no cheating (mainly because I was too big to fit and would be too embarrassed to get stuck).
My adventurous friend Julie went up to the observation tower with the kids. I do not do heights and will not even brave it to be "the fun mom". Thankfully Julie took my camera with her, and took some really great shots for me.
There was a puppet show that the kids excitedly watched.
We had an fantastic, memory making day. We packed a picnic and were able to bring our coolers into the farm and eat at picnic tables. We visited each of the well thought out areas of the farm, and even hit a few of them twice (The jumping Pillows).
The whole day the kids were all on the edge of hysteria about getting all of their passport stamps. At the end of the day, some of the stamps were missing and some of the kids were approaching hysteria about it. We mothers kept trying to impress upon our offspring that it would most probably be some kind of super lame prize. If they were lucky it would be a sticker or a tattoo, if they were super lucky it might be a lame bookmark. They needed to just calm down and enjoy the experience. I said it so many times that I was nearly horse, but to no avail, they were still on the edge of hysteria.
So as is often the case, a fact I usually try to gloss quickly over, I was wrong about the passports, but only partially. The kids timidly handed in their incomplete passports. They looked up at the lovely smiling girl with worry, thinking she would tell them there would be no prize because they never finished their passport page, and then chastise them. Instead she handed them each these really cute pens that had carrot orange fuzzy hair like a troll doll (I should mention that each of the kids named their pen 'little Rowan', except the youngest of our group who named hers 'Rowan the girl'). They were flying so high as they left that they could have floated away. Before we even made it to the van I was assaulted with pleas of "When can we come back here?"
We drove home with a much quieter van full of children, they were all exhausted. I reflected on the day as I often do after trips. It was an amazing day! Everything was geared toward children, and yet it was geared toward true children, not the tech savvy children that everyone thinks that they are. Everything at Saunders Farm was child driven, hands on. They used their whole selves as they played, and not just their fingers and eyes in a stationary position. They interacted with each other, helping, laughing. They were exercising and stretching all the while not knowing it. We spent this bliss filled day together just being together. Not only were they being 'true kids' we adults were too. I was being that Mom that I really want to be. I was completely attentive and I was interacting and actually "playing" with them. It was a wonderful day, a day that will be banked at least by me into the beautiful memory category.
As if I did not include enough pictures, here are some more set to music.