Back to School: Managing Tips/Strategies for Busy Moms

Last year, I did several posts on how to prepare for back to school and specifically the busy schedule that September brings. As a mom, teacher, blogger, DIYer and volunteer, I find that being organized is absolutely essential to surviving the demands of a busy life. Aside from writing everything down on my “Mom’s Family Organizer Calendar,” I use a weekly calendar to highlight the events for a given week and try to follow a menu plan to make meal time run smoothly. I also recommend having a family meeting to decide on expectations regarding chores and helping out around the house. If you’d like to check-out a sample chore chart, you can visit my previous post called “Many Hand Make Light Work.”

Managing Tips for the Working Mom:

Back to School Worries: Tips on How to Deal with Childhood Anxiety

Back to SchoolI have been in the education field for more than 20 years, having taught Kindergarten, grade one and grade two. As well, I am the mother of two great kids that are now 10 and 12. In my experience, I have both parented and taught many anxious children. Over the years, I have made several observations and noted some patterns regarding anxiety in children. I’m certainly not a psychologist and do not claim to have all the answers, but wanted to share some of what I have learned through my years of working with children.

My Observations and Thoughts on Childhood Anxiety:

Most children are going to feel at least somewhat apprehensive about going back to school. Usually these feelings are balanced with excitement and are what I would consider to be completely normal. Every child wonders what their new teacher will be like and which friends will be in their class. They often wonder if the work will be hard and if they’ll have lots of homework. Every year is a new beginning and there is often a fear of the unknown. Once they arrive at school and the get the answers to the questions that have been swimming around in their mind, all is well and they settle in nicely. However, this is not always the case and for some children they become so worried and anxious that it can be somewhat all consuming. A parent with even the highest level of patience can become frustrated by the constant questions, need for reassurance and even, complete melt downs. Believe me, I’ve seen and lived it all.

If your child is feeling quite anxious about school, here are a few things that you might want to try or at least consider:

  • Worry Too MuchTalk About the Worry and help to put it into perspective. Try to work through the “worst case scenerio” because for some kids that is where they’re “stuck”. For example, a child with separation anxiety, is often worried they’ll be left at school. Emphasize all the “right” things such as where you’ll be and at what time, but also talk about what would happen if you were running late. Let them know they would never be left alone and would always be kept safe. Don’t discount their fears, but help them to recognize that even if their fear came to pass, it would all be okay.  Emphasize all the great things about school such as making friends, playing with new toys, story time, playing in the gym, singing and dancing, recess (older kids), etc. Having said this, I found that with my own children, after explaining and discussing the worry, we tried to lay it to rest. For me, I found that when we continued to discuss the same worry over and over it was like watering and nourishing a seed and if we continued to give it the attention and nourishment, it would take root and become even worse. If your child does not bring it up, don’t ask them how they are feeling as it is only going to re-surface. This is an excellent book/workbook that I used with my own children and I would highly recommend it, if anxiety an issue in your home. It provides you and the child with great strategies for dealing with worries.
  • For younger children just beginning school or changing schools, try to spend time at the playground just to help the child feel comfortable around the school. It is quite possible they may also meet some neighbourhood kids while playing. I also suggest pointing to the school as you drive or walk by for months prior to school starting. Talk to them about how that is going to be their school. If your child’s school has any city programs or preschool programs offered in the school building – register your child for a program. Our school division has a program called Kindergarten Here We Come. It is designed for 4 year olds in their pre-kindergarten year. I find that children who have spent time in the school for programs, picking up siblings or playing on the structure generally feel more comfortable with starting school. Programs also have the added advantage of helping your child meet other children their age, learn how to engage socially in larger groups and can sharpen their physical and/or academic skills, depending on the type of program.
  • Walk to school when possible. I’m a firm believer in walking your children to school when possible. Of course, this isn’t an option for students that are bussed, but if possible, I think there is a lot to be gained. First, if your house is like mine, it can be a bit crazy and even stressful in the mornings. Trying to get everyone up, showered, teeth brushed, lunches made, homework and notes packed and out the door on time. Sometimes the morning frenzy can add to the anxiety of a child. I find that the walk to school provides the child with the time they need to calm their nerves and relax before entering school. It provides you with an opportunity to connect positively with your child without the “nagging” and frustration that can often happen in the midst of the morning rush. It also gives the child a chance to stretch their legs and have a bit of exercise before having to sit down, concentrate and complete their school tasks. A bit of exercise is a great way to start the day on a positive note!
  • Register for Morning Class if your child is in a half day program. When your child is entering a half day program, there are many things to consider such as what works for your family, childcare arrangements and of course, what program you think your child will thrive in. One of the things I’ve noticed is that children that have issues with separation anxiety seem to cope better in a morning program. I don’t know why, but I feel it is because they get up and go. They don’t have the time to think or worry about school. When a child is enrolled in the afternoon program, they have all morning to worry about leaving their mom and possibly even the fun games they are engaged in with their siblings. To them it probably feels like a punishment. They are having fun playing with their favourite toys with their brother/sister in the safety of their own home and it doesn’t seem fair when their siblings get to stay at home with mom/dad while they go to school. I’m sure they think about all the things they are going to miss out on. The afternoon program works well for many children, but I believe, generally speaking, that morning Kindergarten/Nursery works better for those with anxiety.
  • separation anxietyBe Punctual – the absolute worst thing you can do when you have an anxious kid is be late. It is essential to have your child at school with enough time to briefly engage with their peers prior to the bell ringing. Once they see their friends and have a chance to chat, it immediately lowers their anxiety level. If you bring them late and they have to enter the building by themselves or with you and there are no friends in sight ~ their anxiety level skyrockets. Of course, the same is true for after school. Whoever is picking up your child must be on time. There is nothing as devastating for a small child than leaving the classroom and finding no one there to pick them up. They often dissolve into tears immediately, believing they’ve been abandoned. Don’t be late and if you are stuck in traffic or something, call the school so that the teacher can prepare the child.
  • Don’t enter the school/classroom. Every school/teacher is different and has their own procedures and expectations for drop-off. After teaching kindergarten for many years, I have found that the last thing an anxious child needs is a parent to come into the school/classroom with them. I teach the kids in my pre-kindergarten meetings that Kindergarten is for kids and that we will wave goodbye to mom and dad outside. It is way easier to take a child’s hand and lead them into the classroom than to try to have a parent leave once they’ve entered. Usually, even the most upset child will settle within the first few minutes once the parent is out of sight. I usually have support teachers who are available to help during the first few days of school. It is much more effective for the school to handle the anxiety without the parent involved. If the parent comes in, it sets a precedent and the child gets the message that if I scream louder or cry harder, they’ll come in. It is very difficult to break and only escalates the anxiety and the behaviour. The sooner they face the unknown on their own (with staff support as needed) the more quickly they’ll settle. I have had many kids that have literally clung to their parents screaming and crying, but will settle within a few minutes of saying goodbye. Every parent who experiences this, feels absolutely horrible when they see the distress of their anxious child, but in their best interest say your goodbyes outside and set them up for success. I know this is extremely hard, but it will be worth it. Remember it is often the difficult choices that are more effective, it is much easier to give them a big hug and whisper those words of reassurance, but unfortunately its not all that effective. It is much more productive to talk about how “how it is going to go down” before the day ever comes – the key is preparation, so they know what to expect.
  • Meet a friend before school. If you child is feeling worried about the first day of school, plan to walk to school with neighbourhood friends. If this isn’t an option, perhaps you can plan to meet at a specific spot 5 minutes before the bell so that the kids can connect before school. Walking in with a friend is much easier ~ I know I always prefer to do something knew with a friend.
  • Bathroom Bashfulness – This is so common! I wrote about this in my post yesterday, but it really fits with the subject of today’s post, so I’ll say it again. Using the bathroom independently is a pretty important part of going to school. The children should not only know how to go to the bathroom on their own, but should also be taught proper bathroom etiquette. Using a public restroom is very different from going to the bathroom at home. Help prepare your child by talking about things like: closing the door, washing their hands, knocking before opening the door when it’s closed, what to do if they “drip” on the seat, what to do if they have an accident, etc. Using the bathroom is actually a cause for great anxiety for many youngsters and the result can sometimes be that they will refuse “to go” at school. This isn’t healthy and although the strategy may work in a half day program, it isn’t as effective when they come all day in grade one. The anxiety comes from all the “unknowns” and the best way to conquer this is to talk about it.
  • Plant the seed and register early – most schools accept fall registrations as early as March (this gives you months to talk and prepare for it). As mentioned before, you should be talking about school (positively) long before they ever start. Your attitude and excitement will play a huge part in how your child feels about school. My daughter can be a bit anxious, so we began going to the February open house for her grade 7 school when she was in grade 4. We knew where she was going to go, so we gave her 3 years to get used of the idea and prepare for the change. Naturally, she still has some worries about the unknown, but she’s also super excited and looking forward to it, instead of having anxiety attacks and meltdowns. She already saw the new school as “her school” long before she ever started, and she did not know one single person who would be attending the same school. Anxious kids need plenty of time to adjust and accept change.
  • Make sure your child gets enough sleep and has a good breakfast in the morning. I don’t think I really need to expand on us. We all know that overtired and/or hungry kids pretty much equals disaster. Establish a consistent bed time and wake up time for your child.
  • Establish Routines – I’m a pretty rigid routine kind of a person, but when my son was having some anxiety issues when he was younger, one of the things we did to help him was tighten up our routines. Children that feel anxious need to very tight boundaries. They need to know what’s happening and when. We already ran a pretty tight ship, but we did things like formally establish and mount house rules and designated a very specific time-out space with a set of expectations on how that would work. Routines are extremely important to anxious kids. They do not “fly by the seat of their pants”, at least not well. If your child is feeling anxious, you need to do what you can to create very firm boundaries and with clear expectations.

If your child suffers from anxiety, there are two other things I think you need to consider.

  1. I had written a post some time ago suggesting that I think there maybe a link between technology and childhood anxiety. Now a days, kids spend much of their time on some kind of a device. They are constantly being “entertained” and I believe it is detrimental to their overall development. When there isn’t WiFi or a device available, they are “bored” and don’t know what to do with themselves. They are uncomfortable with themselves and their own thoughts and don’t have the slightest idea how to fill their down time. For many, their entire self-image can be traced to the number of likes, friends or followers they have. If you would like to read more from my post “Is Technology Causing Anxiety?” , follow the link.
  2. There is also research suggesting a link between diet and anxiety. Many psychologists and physicians are suggesting a controlled diet as a means of helping manage anxiety. Research indicates that sugar can be one of the worst contributors. To learn more about how and why diet is so important, check out this two part article called Feed them Calm: The Role of Nutrition in Your Child’s Anxiety.


Insider Tips from a Teacher/Mom: “Getting Schooled!”

back to schoolAfter teaching for more than 20 years and raising two small children (they are now 10 and 12), I think its safe to say I’ve learned a few things from being on both sides of the equation.  Today,  I’m sharing some tips based on my daily experience as a mom, teacher and volunteer that serves with the 2 year olds at our church. Along with some “how to prepare for school tips”, I also wanted to offer a few insider tips on the little things that can sometimes drive a teacher crazy! I walk in both sets of shoes everyday and hopefully, you’ll find my insight helpful.

Getting Schooled:

  1. Purchasing school supplies. In order to get the best prices, you may need to shop around, but my suggestion would be to start at the dollar store and knock off as much as you can for the best price. You can buy some brand name items like Crayola there and you can be quite certain you won’t be over paying. Having said that, restrain yourself from purchasing the cheap stuff. I know you may think a pencil is a pencil or a notebook is a notebook, but trust me….the teachers order brand names such as Hilroy for a reason. I have had students go through an entire pack of 10 pencils in the first few weeks of school because the leads constantly break and they won’t sharpen properly without disintegrating. Cheap notebooks fall apart and simply do not with stand the wear and tear of 10 months of handling. If your school offers the option to pay a flat rate instead of shopping for supplies – do it! It is often difficult to find the exact items on the supply list and teachers often get discounts from suppliers and can purchase everything the child needs for much less.
  2. “Indoor shoes” are required for physical education classes and it is essential to purchase quality footwear that will properly protect and support your child’s foot. Flimsy shoes without proper support aren’t safe and you’ll probably be asked to replace them. Make sure the soles of the shoes are “non-marking”. If your child is not proficient at doing up shoe laces, buy velcro and practise at home until they can tie their laces independently. (Contrary to common belief – most teachers don’t teach kids how to tie their shoes!)
  3. back to schoolBackpacks can be fun to purchase because there are so many styles and themes, but first and foremost, they must serve the intended purpose. That means not too small that they can’t fit their notes/work into the bag. (Be sure to keep the backpack relatively empty. The purpose of the bag is for school and shouldn’t be stuffed with clothes and toys that are not needed at school.) On the flip side, please stay away from the “rolling luggage”.  As a teacher, I can tell you there simply isn’t room for the oversized backpacks, especially when the base offers no flexibility because of its structure. Most younger students put their belongings in a small locker that is shared with a classmate.
  4. Do not plan to extend your summer vacation and have your child miss the first few days of school. The first days are absolutely critical. It is during the first few days when the class will get to know one another and more importantly, when the teacher will set the tone for the entire year by explaining the expectations and rules. When a child arrives late for school or misses the first days, it immediately causes anxiety for them as they feel like “a fish out of water” because everyone else seems to know what to do. Although they will eventually “learn the ropes” there will never again be the thorough explanations and demonstrations that occur in the first few days. As a kindergarten teacher, we actually do demonstrations, explanations, role-playing, chanting, etc. just to learn simple routines like handing in notes, hanging up belongings, school rules and using the bathroom.
  5. Get out a calendar and start writing everything down.  Every August, I buy my new “Mom’s Family Organizer Calendar” from Costco. It comes with stickers and has lots of space to write everything down. September is crazy for most families and when you’re a teacher its like a double whammy! There are fall registrations deadlines, meet the teacher evenings, sports and activity schedules begin and in all honesty I believe it is impossible to stay on top of things if you don’t write everything down in one central place. Our family calendar contains every meeting, open house, appointment, lesson, and activity you can think of. When you receive newsletters from the school or classroom, immediately take out your calendar and start to write things down. Often you will be informed of school closure dates (for professional development or administration days) in the September newsletter. Be sure to write these down so that you can plan for child care arrangements well in advance (if necessary). Newsletters will also give you information regarding field trips, Christmas Concerts, programming and other schedule changes. Stay informed ~ read and record! One of my pet peeves is when parents ask me about information regarding something that I have previously sent home in the form of a note or classroom newsletter, and often more than once. If someone needs clarification, by all means, but when it is asking details about information that was clearly communicated, it can get frustrating. Having one or two ask isn’t really that bad, but when you have as many as 50 students and many parents don’t take the time to read the notes, it can become frustrating. Even the busiest people can stay organized by writing down what is happening and when it’s going to happen.
  6. Permission Slips. Most schools still send letters home in hardcopy form and expect to have the slip returned with or without money to pay for the trip. As a busy mom, my rule of thumb is this:  Sign and return the following day. Whether it’s a form and money for hot lunch, a fundraiser or a field trip. Take the 2 minutes it takes to fill out the form and be sure to tear off the permission slip and keep the letter for your own reference. Many parents who have questions regarding the details of a field trip have made the common mistake of sending the entire letter back to me instead of keeping the information portion at home. Write the time/date on the calendar and then store away the top portion of the note. At our house, we usually place the information between the top pages in our calendar. (For example, when it is November, you can slide notes between the pages of the Sept – October.)
  7. Snack – if your child takes a snack to school ~ keep it healthy. If they are truly hungry, they need nourishment to help them think and concentrate. Sugary treats do not help when a child is hungry.
  8. Doctor/dentist/eye and hair – try to get the appointments out of the way before school starts! If you have a pre-school child and you are concerned about some areas of their development such as speech or fine motor skills, get a referral from your doctor because many services are free for toddlers/pre-school children and early intervention is key. I do not recommend leaving it until they start school because the case load is very high and it can be a long process to get service. Generally speaking, a child who is already “open to services” will be seen sooner.
  9. Zippers/clasps and buttons – if your child is not yet able to do their outdoor clothing up, don’t sweat it, but start practising at home. As long as they can get their coat and shoes/boots on, most teachers are more than happy to help them get “done up” until they can manage on their own.
  10. Nursery/Kindergarten – using the bathroom independently is a pretty important part of going to school. The children should not only know how to go to the bathroom on their own, but should also be taught proper bathroom etiquette. Using a public restroom is very different from going to the bathroom at home. Help prepare your child by talking about things like: closing the door, washing their hands, knocking before opening the door when its closed, what to do if they “drip” on the seat, what to do if they have an accident, etc. Using the bathroom is actually a cause for great anxiety for many youngsters and the result can sometimes be that they will refuse “to go” at school. This isn’t healthy and although the strategy may work in a half day program, it isn’t as effective when they come all day in grade one. The anxiety comes from all the “unknowns” and the best way to conquer this is to talk about it.
  11. Punctuality ~ this should be near the top of the list!! Being on time is a life skill and needs to be taught early. When a child comes in late, they immediately feel anxious because they feel like all eyes are on them. Additionally, they may have  already missed the shared “plans for the day” and even all or part of a lesson. Aside from how the child feels, the other students now have to wait while the missed directions are repeated and/or a mini version of the lesson is explained to the late student. In order to maximize the learning of all, it is really important that students attend daily and arrive on time. We have all experienced arriving late for a meeting, church or work and it is not a good feeling for most people (unless of course you are very used to being late!) In fact, I can honestly say, that after 20 years of teaching I still have pre-school nightmares about being late on the first day of school!
  12. Every school has designated times for parent teacher conferences and report cards. The dates are usually outlined in the September School Newsletter, so that you know when to expect a report card home or an interview with your child’s teacher (usually fall and spring). If you have specific concerns regarding your child, I encourage you to set an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher. Do not wait for the interview if you feel that there are pressing issues that need to be addressed. A discussion regarding your child’s academic performance and/or behaviour is one that should take place privately at a predetermined time. As a rule of thumb, consider this …..if you can send the information in a note or an email, do so. Most teachers now check their email regularly. Drop-off and pick-up times are not a great time to meet because teachers want to be available to greet their students before class and ensure everyone is ready and accounted for at pick-up time. This is especially true if you are the parent of a nursery or kindergarten student. The teacher is probably helping kids get their outdoor clothing done up, touching base with parents he/she needs to speak to briefly and observing to make sure the children are going home with the person they are supposed to. Again, quick questions for clarification or about programming are usually fine, but discussions should take place at a mutually agreed upon time.
  13. Childhood anxiety is at an all time high. I will be doing a separate post on anxiety in the coming days, so stay tuned…..


Tooth Fairy Tales: I don’t do night shift!

Do you ever feel like the stars just don’t align in your favour? Well, let me tell you, when it comes to our kids “losing teeth”, this is definitely the case. I absolutely love sleep and one of the top ranking events of my day is hitting the sack….early! It is not uncommon for me to be asleep by 10:00 and when the kids were younger 9:00 was the norm. After teaching almost 50 five year olds all day and then coming home to your own little ones, by the time the sun set, I was totally done! The point of this is that I in no way shape or form, do nights (except when granted the opportunity to engage in a great game of cards or Settlers). My husband on the other hand has worked the night-shift most of his adult life. It is rare for him to ever make it to bed before 2 or 3 in the morning, even on his nights off. So in my mind, it seems like a total injustice when one of our children should lose a tooth on a day when their dad is going to work. He clearly would make a better “tooth fairy” than I. He is already up most of the night and it would take nothing for him to sneak into the kids rooms and exchange their tooth for a bit of cash. Despite this, you can bet that a large percentage of the teeth fall out when my husband will not be home. It is like some kind of a sick joke, that I have to set my alarm to wake-up and do the deed.

My daughter is cut from the same cloth as her father. Despite being sent to bed and tucked in at a respectable bed time, she is her father’s daughter and unfortunately a night-hawk. She often complains she just can’t fall asleep and has way more stamina than I’ve ever had late in the evening, so for a long time now, I have fallen asleep well before her. In 2011, when she was 9, Eden had already been tucked in and I was just heading to bed. I was totally exhausted and figured she was coming down to say she couldn’t fall asleep, but this was not the case. She had continued to wiggle her loose tooth long after I sent her to bed and eventually removed it. Instead of coming down when her tooth fell out, she got up and made a note for the tooth fairy.

Eden's Note

Dear Mrs. Tooth Fairy, I don’t really need money but if you really want to you can. If you don’t give me money I prefer drawing supplies. PS and if you really come, me and my brother Shay would like you to draw a picture here and write something. Sincerely Eden

So, she came downstairs to not only tell me about her tooth, but also share her note. She was already starting to question the authenticity of the tooth fairy, so I knew this was a test. Had I not been so over tired, I might have handled it better, but the only thing I could hear was the voice inside of my head screaming “Why me? Why on my watch?” I told that to the best of my knowledge the tooth fairy did not take requests and that she had better get to bed or the tooth fairy would be done her rounds for the night and she’d get nothing (or something like that) and so off to bed she went.

I was so mad and should have just taken my cue from the first line of the note that said I could leave money if I wanted or even better, spilled the beans and revealed the truth, so I would never have to do this again. However, not being one to shy away from a challenge, I took my very tired body back to the computer and began to respond to my daughter’s note. I’m no artist, so the first thing I did was look for a sketch of a fairy under Google images. Pretty smart, I thought. I then wrote a little note and searched for a “fairyish” font that I downloaded for this very occasion. Finally, I imported the picture into the document with my note and printed it out on the “fast” setting of my printer so that the quality would be low. (I think of everything.) Once printed off, I took a black pen and went over the writing to make it look a bit more handwritten and not quite so perfect. I then took a pencil and added free hand sketch lines to the image to make it look much more realistic. By this time, I was just shy of a zombie, but was too determined to let my child down. I finished my little project and then went down to the basement to see what I could find in my gift box. I wasn’t sure what would be there, but I was so excited when I found a pack of markers. By this time, my daughter was sound asleep, so I snuck up and placed the markers, 2 dollars and the note at the top of her bed just beneath the edge of her pillow. I was nervous because not only is she a night-hawk, but also a light sleeper. I made it in and out without so much as a stir and left feeling very satisfied with myself. I finally got into my nice warm bed and was asleep within seconds.

tooth fairy note

My Dearest Eden, Congratulations! I can’t believe you have lost another tooth. You are getting so big! I have a very hectic schedule and don’t usually take requests, but I happen to have something in my travel bag. I thought you might also like some money for your own upcoming trip. Bon voyage! Keep well! Tooth Fairy PS I like pencil sketches the best!

Eden was so excited when she got up to find the note, drawings and goodies left by the tooth fairy, I couldn’t help but take pride in the fact I pulled it off. (Of course, when I look back now, it is so lame one has to laugh.)

Later that evening, Eden was on the computer, when I heard her call “Mom!” When you’re being called, there are all sorts of tones and implications associated with how one’s name is called. I could tell by the tone of her voice that something was up. I came to the library to see what she was working on and was immediately greeted with a question. “What is this?” she asked as she pointed to the little icon of a fairy drawing that still sat on the screen of our home page. Ugh! How could I have been so stupid. I went through all of that work to trick her and ended up leaving the original image on the computer. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to put the pieces together. She was pretty proud that she figured it out and in the end, I was too. The next time she lost a tooth all I said was, “I guess it’s too bad there is no such thing as a tooth fairy.” That was the end of that business. Shay continued to believe for a while, but now I can honestly say, we are passed that stage. Yay!

I do have to wonder what possesses me to act like such an idiot sometimes. Prior to this event, I can remember trying to sneak in to perform my “tooth fairy” duties and Eden sitting up to ask what I was doing and I, like a skilled improv comedian would tell her I was checking on something or just came to give her a kiss. My husband actually taught me the trick of doing the swap at “tuck time”. He would sometimes have the money in his closed fist and do the exchange during story and tucks. I was always worried about this strategy because when I was a kid it was my nature to check that the tooth was still there a dozen times before I actually fell asleep. Crazy!

My Tooth Fairy Tips:

If you have little ones and are just beginning this fiasco, here are some things to consider:

  1. Do not respond to requests – plain and simple the tooth fairy doesn’t take requests!
  2. A friend suggested hanging a little bag on the door knob on the outside of the bedroom door. This was so clever it made me mad….duh….why didn’t I think of that. If I was doing it all over again, I would definitely consider doing the “hang the bag on the door knob trick”.
  3. Remember there are 20 teeth in that little mouth. Do not start what you aren’t prepared to stick with, especially when you make it a consistent rate or expectation. If you do have a tradition, make sure to have a stash on hand. I was never this prepared and always seemed to be caught off guard.
  4. This tooth fairy (as in me) really doesn’t do nights well. If I had it to do over again, I might even look into the possibility of having a tooth fairy that worked the day shift and did pick-up and deliveries while the kids were at school or maybe even left money with a new toothbrush that was waiting in the bathroom for them in the morning. The possibilities are really endless. Let’s face it, I don’t think there’s a book on tooth fairy rules. You get to make them!

The reason I started to think about this was because one of our local news stations was talking about how much the average tooth fairy leaves across Canada. The stats were interesting and it made me think about how some of my students have shared what they got from the tooth fairy – everything from $20 to actual presents. I think I got a quarter when I was a kid and as parents, Tim and I didn’t really have a set rate. This was mostly because I rarely have actual cash on hand and would have to scour the house for money because it was pretty customary for the kids to lose teeth after their dad left for work. I don’t think a Visa or a debit card would work in this case. The other issue is, I really never thought about it until the first tooth was lost and by then, it was too late to have a game plan. It may seem really lame, but this is a long term commitment and if you have multiple kids it’s even more work. There really is something to be said for those that forgo the entire charade altogether. As much as I hated being the TF, I can say one thing…it created memories and there are stories to tell because we did engage in this crazy tradition.

I would love to know your tooth fairy traditions! Do yo leave money and how much? Do you have other creative ideas or family traditions that others might like to hear about. Remember what is considered “normal” for you, might be considered “genius” to someone else. Leave your ideas below!

Manitoba Stay-Cation #13: Selkirk, Manitoba

Selkirk, MBWith just under 10,000 people living in Selkirk, it is considered one of Manitoba’s 10 cities. Being a small city, Selkirk obviously has a much larger array of businesses, recreational activities and services than many of the smaller communities I’ve highlighted this summer. From my home in Winnipeg, I can reach Selkirk in about 30 minutes, depending on traffic. It’s close proximity makes it an attractive destination when you are looking for something to do that is close to the city.

This summer, we have made not one, but two trips to Selkirk. On our first excursion, we went with only one thing on our minds….DINNER! I had heard about Barney Gargles from a few different people and the rave reviews made it a must to check-out.

The History of Barney Gargles:

Barney GarglesJudy Venier (Parkin) first took over the restaurant from her former partner around 1988. In 1991, Shirley Cormack joined her sister Judy, and together they became the sole owners of Barney Gargles. Over the years, Judy and Shirley’s children worked in various positions at the restaurant. Sadly, after 25 years in business, the future of this family run restaurant became uncertain, when the sisters both passed away earlier this year. Shirley’s son, Rob Cormack, had returned to the business to help out his mother in the weeks leading up to Judy’s passing and made the decision to stay on when Judy passed away in March of 2014. When Shirley passed away very suddenly just a few months later, in July, Rob, his siblings and cousins were left with many questions regarding the future of Barney Gargles. The restaurant temporarily closed its doors following Judy’s passing, but in the end it was decided, by both families, to reopen the business with Rob’s sister, Julia, as the manager. Rob continues to help-out at Barney Gargles when he is not at his full-time job. I was fortunate enough to sit down and speak with Rob for a few minutes following our meal and have since corresponded with him via email. He provided me with the history of the restaurant. He said that the decor and menu have changed over the years, but the family has always been committed to making as much of the food “in house” as possible. Rob shared that:

All of our cakes and pies are done right in the back kitchen and we still follow the fish batter recipe that came with the restaurant.

I’m sure that the decision to keep the doors of Barney Gargles open was welcome news to the community of Selkirk.

Our Experience at Barney Gargles:

First and foremost, in my experience a “line-up” is generally a good sign. We headed out for dinner on the Sunday of August long weekend and the restaurant was running a rib special. Having never been there before, I’m not sure if there is generally a wait or not, but I can honestly say it had me excited about the prospects of a great meal. We were told we’d have close to a half hour wait, but ended up getting in within 20 minutes or less. We waited out on the lovely bench outside and enjoyed the great weather. Many came and went while we waited. All those that left, seemed very satisfied with their meals and several were regulars (of course, I asked).

We had heard that Barney Gargles was best known for their battered fish and chips and desserts. We wanted to have a bit of variety, but at the same time, Tim and I both wanted the fish. Here’s what we ordered:

Every item we ordered was absolutely delicious. All of our meals came with fries and coleslaw. The fish was also served with a signature sauce that was super good. Tim requested sweet potato fries in lieu of regular and said the were very good as well. (I can’t believe I didn’t sneak one off his plate!) We really enjoyed the deep fried pickles and bruschetta appetizers that we shared, but the battered cod was superb. We were pretty much filled to the brim when we finished eating, but having passed the dessert showcase on the way in, there was no possible way we were leaving with sampling! It actually reminded me of a mini Baked Expectations, but with less selection. My guess is there were about 8 to 12 desserts to choose from and all looked incredible. I suggested sharing, but we all wanted something different, so in the end we ordered three and took the left overs home in a container. Aside from the food we ordered, Tim and Shay both had drinks. We were amazed by the very reasonable prices as our bill came to around $80 with taxes for the three of us (Eden was away at a friend’s and missed out). We really felt that both the food and value were very good. The restaurant was quite busy when we first arrived, but the service was still very good and the atmosphere was warm and comfortable. It is a great family restaurant and we’ll definitely be making the trip again soon.

Tim hadn’t sampled Shay’s chocolate cake until the next day and it was so good that he admitted he might actually be convinced to become a chocolate convert. It’s not that he doesn’t like chocolate, but when given the choice, he will almost always choose something else. This chocolate cake even had him “oohing and awing!”

Although we did not order either, when I quizzed our server up, she said that people actually travel miles for their liver & onions and veal. So, if you’re craving liver, veal, fish & chips or even a yummy piece of dessert, consider driving out to Selkirk to try something different.

Marine Museum of Manitoba:

Our second trip to Selkirk was planned to take advantage of what I hope is not the last hot day of the summer. The kids and I packed up and drove out to Selkirk for the afternoon with plans to visit the Marine Museum of Manitoba and the Selkirk Park, Pool and Splash Pad.

The Marine Museum of Manitoba is situated on the banks of the Red River just outside the Selkirk Park gates. The museum exhibit consists of self-guided tours of 6 of Manitoba’s historic vessels. You are free to wander the ships and explore them in their entirety, from the guest rooms, to the decks, the galley, and even the “bowels of the ships”. If that isn’t interesting enough, many of the rooms in the ships are filled with theme based marine artifacts. The ships range in age, with the oldest being a steamship that was built in 1897. The ships are all unique and different as they were all designed and built for a variety of purposes. Aside from the S.S. Keenora (steamship), there is a historic icebreaker, a passenger and freight boat, a lake and river tug boat, as well as the Joe Simpson freighter which was built in 1963. The other 4 vessels were built in 1915, 1942 and 1955. I found it interesting to note the differences in what appeared to be the quality of the materials and workmanship in the various vessels. Understandably, each served different purposes and therefore the aesthetics would not be as important in an ice breaker as in that of a passenger boat! The kids and I enjoyed exploring the different boats and I thought it was neat to experience the true size of the boats because they were sitting on the ground and the entire “body” of the vessel was visible. The ships are connected by planks, so you are easily able to go from one ship to the next. It was a very hot day and I must admit we didn’t spend much time examining the various artifacts throughout the vessels.

Selkirk Park, Pool and Splash Pad:

My cousin and her family just moved back to Selkirk in June and she told me about the pool/beach. We had planned to get together, but it just hasn’t worked out, so I decided we would head out on our own. I think what really intrigued me about the pool/beach (or as the kids and I now call it “the Peach“) was that it brought me back to the many days we used to spend at the Oasis. We had always loved the Oasis because it was super close to the city, a great beach experience and yet pretty safe because there were no currents or anything like that to be concerned with. We were so sad when it sold several years ago and went private. In the years since, I can honestly say we don’t do more than a couple of beach trips per year. However, the Selkirk “Peach” may be just what we were looking for!

The Peach (pool/beach) is a man made pool with a “pebbled” finish cement bottom and a side walk that extends around the entire circumference of the pool. The pool is 110 by 95 metres and holds 6 million litres of water! It has a gradual depth increase and in the centre of the pool there is a floating “dock” to jump from. Diving is not allowed as the depth is only 7 feet in the centre. Sitting up against the sidewalk that surrounds the pool is a nice beautiful sandy beach and then beyond that, the outer most layer of these “concentric ovals” is several feet of grass. It is truly a wonderful place. Although the water is not “blue” like a pool, it seems very clean and I love that I can experience the beach without the worry of blood suckers, fish and seaweed. I must say I can be a bit squeamish when swimming in open water. This is really the best of everything. I also love the fact that trees have been planted in the grass that grows outside the sandy ring. This allows you to choose sun or shade or even both, depending on where you set-up for the day. I also loved that I could park right up against the fence that sits outside the perimeter of the pool and not have to lug the chairs, beach bags, air mattress, etc. too far. In fact, at the end of the day, I dropped everything over the fence to Shay who was waiting on the other side to put everything in the car. The water was beautiful and it really was a great day! For all of you former Oasis lovers out there….this is it, even better.

In addition to the pool, there is also an 18 feature splash pad for smaller children and modern change rooms and washrooms. The pool is located right inside the Selkirk Park, just past the Marine Museum. The cost is $4.50 per person, but children under 3 get in free. There are also season passes available.

Snak Shak:

Snak ShakBy the time we were ready to head back, it was late afternoon and everyone was a bit hungry. Although Selkirk has both a McDonald’s and a Dairy Queen, I really wanted to treat the kids to ice cream at a smaller privately owned business. I asked the lifeguards at the pool and they recommended the Snak Shak. It is a little drive-in style restaurant that was established in 1973. It is off the main drag, located at 545 Manitoba Avenue. You order at the window and either eat outside or in the car. At the Snak Shak, they serve both hard ice cream and 24 flavours of soft ice cream, as well as many specialty ice cream treats like sundaes, floats and banana splits. In addition, they also serve a variety of fast foods such as burgers, fries, taco in a bag, perogies, pizza pops, onion rings, etc. Although we didn’t eat, I asked our server what meals were the most popular and she immediately answered that their burgers and fries were very good. We didn’t have either, but I would love to check it out sometime.

Upper Crust Bakery:

Upper Crust BakeryWe didn’t stop at the Upper Crust Bakery, but some of you may remember when they had a location in the city, on Pembina Highway (I think). Their bakery offers delicious baking and I especially loved their cinnamon buns. The original bakery is in Selkirk and still remains there today. I actually didn’t realize it until I did this post, but the Upper Crust Bakery does still have a Winnipeg location in Charleswood at 3416 Roblin Blvd. So, if you’re craving one of the best cinnamon buns around and can’t make it out to Selkirk, you can always pick some up in Charleswood.

If in fact you do take a drive out to Selkirk, Eveline Street runs along the river and has some beautiful old historic homes along it. It is obviously one of the older streets in the city and is lined with big beautiful mature trees as well. Enjoy your trip!

Manitoba Stay-Cation #12: Half Moon Drive-In

It almost seems embarrassing to admit that I’d never been to the iconic “Half Moon Drive In” until Friday evening. Our house was too hot to even think about preparing a meal and we decided to hop in the car for a mini “Manitoba Stay-Cation”. The Half Moon is located on Henderson Highway just this side of Lockport, MB. We have driven by many times and in all honesty, I always thought it was an “order at the window” style drive in. Although you can order from the window, the experience is really all about the fabulous retro “eat-in” style diner. I know this isn’t news to most Winnipegers, as I’m sure I’m among the minority who have never been there before, but believe me it’s no wonder that it’s been so popular for so long. It is like stepping back in time, with the chrome edged tables and checkerboard tiled floor. The decor is really great and our food was delicious.

The Food:

The Half Moon serves what I would consider to be typical drive in food: burgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings, shakes and ice cream. We ordered 3 burgers (various kinds), large fries, chili fries, 2 shakes and a pop all for under $36. I was pretty impressed with the price as I think we spend almost that much on our rare trips to McDonald’s. I ordered the Saturn Burger which was loaded with toppings including bacon and onion rings! It was really delicious and I was so disappointed when I took the last bite as I wasn’t ready to be done. Everyone enjoyed their meal and I’m certain this will be the first of many trips!

Aside from the great food, there is also an arcade for the kids to enjoy.

Visiting the Half Moon/Lockport:

I know most people have heard of the Half Moon, but if like me, you’ve never taken the time to check it out, do so. You can also enjoy the nice drive down Henderson Highway. There are many spectacular homes along this stretch and to make the most of the excursion, I suggest making it a round trip and taking Henderson one way and River Road the other. It’s also a beautiful drive along the other side of the river (River Road) with many huge homes and a few historical landmarks. Some of the oldest buildings in Manitoba can be found in and around the Lockport area. Of course, Lockport is probably best know for the fishing. The community website is actually quite informative and offers some history of the area as well as information on fishing and their annual Lockport Dam Family Festival which will be held September 12th and 14th.



Manitoba Stay-Cation #11: Cooks Creek Afternoon Adventure

Why Cooks Creek?

Cooks Creek is a very small Manitoba community located just minutes from the city. The only reason I even know of Cooks Creek is because Ace Burpee often mentions his parents and home town during his morning radio show. Being a small town girl myself, I was always intrigued and wondered what Cooks Creek was like. This summer, Cooks Creek once again popped up on my “radar” when I was researching Manitoba Festivals. I thought the Cooks Creek Medieval Festival sounded really cool and was so disappointed when I had a schedule conflict and couldn’t make it. It is definitely on my “Manitoba Must Do’s” list, but it will now have to wait until another year.

Although I’d really never travelled in this direction, I did end up heading out this way as part of my Manitoba Stay-Cation blog theme. I was out for a drive and passed the Cooks Creek turn off while en route to Beausajour and Lac du Bonnet. I made a mental note and decided to do some research and find out more about the town when I got home (despite having missed the festival). I was amazed to learn about the massive “prairie cathedral” located in Cooks Creek and just knew I’d have to set aside some time to check it out. So, Sunday afternoon my neighbor and I hit the trail and set out to do some exploring.

Cooks Creek Heritage Museum:

Although our sites were set on the Immaculate Conception Church in Cooks Creek, we had decided to take the afternoon to explore the area and thus made a stop at Cook’s Creek Heritage Museum before continuing on to the church. The museum grounds consist of 7 historic buildings that are full of treasures from the past. I have been in many museums, but what made this a bit different was the large collection of religious artifacts. Having grown up Roman Catholic, many of the pieces brought back memories of my childhood (when I was an “Alter Girl”!) There was also war memorabilia and it was interesting to see pieces from Auschwitz, a concentration camp that was located in Poland. [I had just finished reading The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (an excellent book) and much of the story focussed on life in this particular camp.] We did find that some of the museum items didn’t have proper signage or descriptions and it was somewhat difficult to figure out the historical value/purpose of them. The museum also boasts a beautiful array of traditional Slavic costumes. We enjoyed browsing through the various rooms of the main house, as well as most of the outlying buildings. Here are a couple of pictures from our museum stop:

St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church:

While at the Museum, we also had the opportunity to take a quick peek at the church next door. St. Michael’s is also a beautiful old church and I’m so glad we got to take a look around before heading to the Immaculate Conception Church.

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Immaculate Conception Church:

I have to begin this with a bit of a disclaimer. Although raised Catholic, I have not attended a Catholic church for many years, so I feel like I’m almost talking about a foreign subject. Please forgive me if my descriptions or wording are not completely accurate, most of this post is based on a the limited printed information I was able to find/collect along with what I remember from the tour.

One of the Manitoba treasures that I learned about in my Manitoba Stay-Cation research was that located less than 40 km outside of Winnipeg is this monstrosity of a church that is not only an incredible piece of architecture, but also has a tremendous story that’s really worth exploring. The Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church was designed and constructed under the leadership of Father Philip Ruh. Construction began in 1930 and continued to be worked on in stages until it was consecrated in 1952. As you approach the grounds and building for the first time, you can’t help but be “awed” by the expanse and grandeur of the structure, especially when you consider that it is located almost in what appears to be the middle of nowhere. It is not found in the hustle and bustle of the city where there is a huge population to support it and it is not even found in the midst of a rural town, but rather along country road 212, just outside of Cooks Creek. The entire building and grotto were built by volunteer church members. The main church structure was created with concrete, stucco and paint. From the murals to the faux marble painting….everything was created with the love and passion of a group of committed parishioners. This project not only extended over a 22 year period, but also continued during the war when times were very bleak. It is hard to imagine the thousands of hours of volunteer labour that went into the building of the Immaculate Conception Church.

Our tour guide, Darlene, was extremely knowledgable and it was very interesting to hear the stories of how the church came to be and learn the history of many of the artifacts as well as the symbolism and meaning behind the icons and art work that flank the sanctuary. It seemed as though every image and statue was created, selected or given for a very specific purpose or with symbolic reasoning. It was very interesting, but I highly recommend the short guided tour as I would never have learned what I did without Darlene’s expertise and passion for what she does.

Although I’m sharing a few pictures, mine totally fail in comparison to the amazing photos taken by Winnipeg photographer Ken Yuel. You absolutely need to click the link to check-out his pictures of Manitoba’s “prairie cathedral”.

There is much written about Father Ruh, as he was responsible for designing many churches across Canada in the early 1900’s. It is believed that over 40 of those churches remain as a part of his legacy today.

Shortly after the completion of the church, Father Ruh embarked on a new dream. He envisioned creating a place of worship similar to that of Our Lady of Lourdes shrine that is located in Lourdes, France.  It is considered to be one of the most popular Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world and it was Father Ruh’s dream to create something similar right here in Manitoba. The grotto that was created on the grounds of the Immaculate Conception Church is very large and has a somewhat medieval look. Although the structure is still very impressive, one couldn’t help but notice the deteriorating condition of the faux stone.

The Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church and Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes are really a testament to Father Ruh and the dedicated volunteers in his parish who joined together in this labour of love. Upon close inspection, you can see the little imperfections in some of the work, but when looked upon as a whole I am truly moved by how they pulled together to accomplish this wondrous place of worship. It is truly mind boggling to think of all of the effort that went into to the planning, building and finishing of this project. It is totally worth the drive to see this for yourself.

Pineridge Hollow:

Time was running short, but we couldn’t help but take a quick detour and stop at Pineridge Hollow on our way home. We didn’t have time to eat, but I know their reputation speaks for itself. The restaurant boasts fresh Manitoba grown food and the atmosphere is second to none. The grounds are beautiful and the store has “my taste” stamped all over it. I absolutely love all of the unique gift ideas, furniture and accessories. If you are looking for a great meal and an awesome shopping experience, Pineridge Hollow is a must stop!

We had a wonderful afternoon and all of this was less than 40 minutes from the city. If you decide to do the Cooks Creek Adventure, be sure to check the websites for hours of operation. I do believe the church is only open on weekends. Enjoy!


Bacon Stuffed Jalapeño Poppers

My cousin makes this Bacon Stuffed Jalapeño Popper recipe often and these tasty morsels always disappear quickly. This appetizer is very yummy and surprisingly, they don’t burn the end of your tongue off! I love peppers, but many don’t enjoy hot and spicy foods. When the “guts” of the jalapeños are removed and then grilled/cooked, they aren’t nearly as hot as you might expect. Even my dad enjoys them and he is not one for spicy foods at all. This recipe is super simple and a guaranteed hit!

Bacon Stuffed Jalapeño Poppers


  • 1  8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 6 – 8 jalapeños, sliced  lengthwise with ribs and seeds removed (depends on size of the peppers)
  • 8 slices of bacon
  • 2 finely chopped green onions
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup of grated cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degree. Line your baking sheet with foil and apply cooking spray.
  2. Cook the bacon until crisp and then soak up the fat using a paper towel.  Chop the cooked bacon into very small pieces.
  3. Give the cream cheese a really good stir to create a smooth consistency. Add the bacon pieces, chopped green onions, and grated cheddar into the cream cheese and mix until thoroughly combined.
  4. Cut the jalapeños in half, lengthwise. (You may want to wear gloves when handling the peppers.) Carefully remove the seeds and ribs with a spoon. Fill each jalapeño half with the cream cheese mixture.
  5. Place the poppers on your prepared baking sheet. (They can be quite close together.) Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the filling begins to bubble. Serve hot from the oven!

Recipe Variations to Consider:

Kathleeen’s recipe on Gonna Want Seconds is slightly different, but she recommends dipping the stuffed jalapeños into bread crumbs, so that the crumbs stick to the surface of the cream cheese. I’m sure this would give the finished popper a nice crispy texture once baked. Sounds delicious!

Another variation of this recipe is to omit the chopped bacon from the filling mixture and in lieu of that, wrap each stuffed poppers with a slice of raw bacon and then secure it with a wooden toothpick. Depending on size of the bacon slices, you may want to slice the bacon in half lengthwise, so that one slice will actually do 2 poppers. If you choose to do this option, make sure you have enough slices (whole or halved) to wrap all your poppers.

These could also be placed on the BBQ for a great grilled appetizer.

No matter what variation you choose, these are sure to be a hit. Enjoy!

Click here to print the recipe for Bacon Stuffed Jalapeño Poppers in PDF format.

Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

The GiverI actually came across The Giver through my daughter when she was in elementary school. I don’t remember if she brought it home in Grade 4 or 5, but she raved about it and I thought I would read it as well. I don’t generally read these types of books, but I did love the Hunger Games series and The Giver series may be considered somewhat similar. Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

Lois Lowry creates a society that at first seems to be almost perfect and unblemished, but as the story and ensuing sequels unravel, this utopia is eventually exposed to be something far more sinister. If you would like to read a more extensive review of the book, visit The Wire. I really enjoyed The Giver, (even as an adult) and would highly recommend reading it before seeing it on the big screen. The movie is to be released later this month, so you want to try to get your hands on a copy as soon as possible.

I read the book a year or two ago, when my daughter brought it home from school, but if the truth be told, it wasn’t until I read the second and third books this summer that truly loved the story! The books are really well written and I just couldn’t put them down. If you haven’t read The Giver yet, do so. It is a great read. If you’ve already read it, for goodness sake, don’t stop there! This series is definitely worth the read. I absolutely loved Gathering Blue and The Messenger and can’t wait to read the final book of the series, Son.

Gathering Blue


Happy reading!

Manitoba Stay-Cation #10: Clear Lake/Riding Mountain National Park

As a kid, Clear Lake was an annual vacation destination for much of our extended family. Several of my cousins and their families would rent cabins at Clear Lake and spend a week there each summer. Our family never rented a cottage, but we would sometimes drive up for the day and join in the fun. I have only been back a few times as an adult, but a few weeks back, the kids and I were invited to spend the weekend with my cousin at the cottage they’d rented for the summer. This coincided perfectly with my kid’s camp pick-up date and the cottage was less than 15 minutes from their camp. The best part was that we got to visit with Brenda and had a wonderful tour guide to shows all the best things to see and do. Unfortunately, it poured rain much of the weekend. When it wasn’t raining, it was really too cool for swimming in the lake, so we didn’t get to do as much as we wanted. Despite our limited personal experiences on our Manitoba Stay-Cation at Clear Lake, here are a few pointers if you plan to visit Riding Mountain National Park any time soon.

If you’ve never visited Clear Lake before, it can be a bit confusing. Here are a few tips that may help to prepare you for your trip. There is a fee when you enter Riding Mountain National Park and it is per person, not per vehicle as is the case in Provincial Parks. It cost us $7.80 per day for an adult and $3.90 per day for youth. So it cost us around $16/day just to enter/stay in the park. We were there 3 days, so that cost a whopping $48! There are annual individual and family passes that are much more economical if you are planning several visits. The Single Location Annual Pass for National Parks is just under $100 for a family. A Discovery Pass allows your family entry into any National Park across Canada and is well worth the $136  if you plan on visiting more than one park. Park passes are valid for 12 full months from date of purchase. Clear Lake is as the name would suggest, the name of one of the lakes inside the park. The park is huge and actually consists of several smaller lakes and campgrounds. Clear Lake is the largest and located closest to Wasagaming which is actually the main town-site in the park. Wasagaming is sometimes used synonymously with “Clear Lake“. Onanole, MB is a small village just South of Wasagaming and between the two is Sportman’s Park, which has a seasonal campground and offers various services and activities for those visiting the area. If you click this link, there is a map that will provide you with a better understanding of the park.

Things to Do:

There are so many things to do that I couldn’t possibly identify them all, but I assure you there is something for everyone. Here are just a few:carriage ride

  • Horse drawn carriage ride around the Wasagaming Town-Site
  • Boat and Paddle Board Rentals
  • Bike Rentals
  • Horseshoes
  • Tennis
  • Miniature Golf
  • 18 Hole Clear Lake Golf Course
  • horse back riding
  • hiking
  • swimming
  • and no doubt many more things I’ve failed to mention

The Park Theatre is the largest log cabin theatre in North America. It was built in 1937 and is definitely considered a Clear Lake hallmark. It still operates today and in 2012 converted to digital film in order to stay in business. I was disappointed we weren’t able to see a movie there during our stay. I know I would want to arrive early enough to check out the building as I know I’d appreciate its unique architecture.Park Theatre


Of course, I can’t speak based on first hand experience because we stayed in my cousin’s rented cottage, but I can tell you that there are various types of accommodations to choose from.

  • camping
  • oTENTik and Yurts (for those that are looking for something more rustic than a cottage, but a step up from tenting. I actually saw a sample oTENTik in the park and was very impressed. This would be a great option for anyone willing to rough it…..just a bit.)
  • Hotels/Motels/Resorts
  • Cottage Rentals

My cousin made a few recommendations regarding places to stay. She said that Manigaming Resort always appeared to be very well maintained. She also told me that her family annually spends a few nights at one of the chalets at Elkhorn Resort during the winter and they love it. Aspen Ridge cottages were formerly known as Lee’s and have been well maintained over the years. Idylwiylde cottages are also nice. I’m sure there are other great places to stay, but these are the ones that she had either stayed at, visited or heard about.


The streets are lined with quaint little shops and boutiques offering beach wear, high end clothing, good quality footwear, jewellery and giftware. It has a very “old-fashioned resort town” feel and the streets are always busy with people wondering in and out of stores. I am generally not much of a shopper (other than for great deals), but there were many businesses that are sure to appeal to those that love to spend.

One place that really stood out for me was Poor Michael’s Emporium. This shop is packed with used books and an assortment of unique giftware and art. It is bubbling over with character and has an incredible cozy atmosphere. Inside there is also a cafe that offers a selection of home baking and light snacks. Poor Michael’s should be on the top of your list of “must do’s”. I wish I had more time, but I was on my way to pick the kids up when I stopped in. Next year when I go to camp drop-off/pick-up I’ll be sure to set aside some time to truly explore and enjoy Michael’s. It is located right on the roadside in Onanole MB, just a few miles from the park entrance.Poor Michael's Emporium


If you regularly read my blog, you already know food is much more up my alley. We only tried out a few of the establishments, but of course, Brenda was able to advise us on the best “eats” in the area.

The Chocolate Fox is a quaint cottage style shop that offers an assortment of Manitoba products. Some of the products they sell include Manitobah Mukluks (love these!!) and Fixation Jewelry. They also serve some of the best gelati I’ve tasted. The gelati is made right in the store and is absolutely delicious. They sell other specialty treats like Morden’s fine chocolates and an assortment of fudge, as well as freshly made popcorn in a variety of flavours. The Chocolate Fox is a “must” if you are visiting Clear Lake.

The Martese is a local tour boat that can accommodate 95 passengers on its 3 decks. They offer a dinner cruise that received some good reviews on Trip Advisor. We weren’t able to do this because of the weather, but I think it would be a lovely experience and word is the food is good….especially the cheesecake. This short promotional video gives a bit of Clear Lake history and some video footage of the lake.

If you asked my kids, I’m sure that they would agree that The Sugar Shop is one of their favourites. This is a little shop that is filled with bulk candy bins and an assortment of wrapped candy. The best part is that all of the bulk candy is the same price, so the kids can fill there little bag up with all of their favourites without the fuss of bagging each selection separately. Brenda says the store is always busy!Sugar shop


We didn’t even enter T.R. McKoy’s during our short stay, but I was told that the patio is a lovely spot to enjoy a few appetizers and sangria late in the afternoon on warm day!

Whitehouse Restaurant & Bakery is clearly a popular spot. Every time we walked by there was a line-up that extended outside the doors. Obviously, the crowd is a testament to the great food and service. We didn’t get an opportunity to sample the goods, but I’m told the bakery is excellent. In fact, Manitoba sought out some of the best places for sweet treats across the province and has placed the Whitehouse in what is known as  Cinnamon Bun Trail brochure! Who wouldn’t want to follow that trail?Whitehouse Bakery

Clear Lake Trading Post serves as the local grocery mart and is great for picking up anything you may have forgotten when packing for your trip.

Sportman’s Park is not only an RV park that offers seasonal sites, it also has a restaurant, small arcade, pool table, miniature golf course and a convenience store. The parking lot is host to a busy Farmer’s Market every Saturday. We stopped by and loaded up on fresh fruit and veggies, some baking and I even bought a funky watch to replace my broken one. We also stopped at Sportsman’s Park on the way home for a quick round of mini-golf and a bite to eat. The golf course seemed to be well maintained and the food was good. I had a burger and the kids both had pizza and everything tasted great. I was a bit disappointed that we had to leave, as the Sunday evening live entertainment on the patio was just starting and it looked like a good time.

Across the road from Sportman’s Park is The Foxtail Cafe. Although we didn’t eat there, Brenda says the food is very good and made special mention of their signature wood fired pizzas.

One of the places I went on more than one occasion was the Siesta Cafe. Although we didn’t eat, they served an awesome cup of coffee and had a wonderful little patio out front that you could sit on to enjoy your java. The cafe was very quaint and one of my favourite spots. The food also receives great reviews on Trip Advisor.

There is so much to see and do (and eat!) in Clear Lake. The whole experience seems to take you to a far off place. It feels like you are walking the boardwalk in a popular tourist destination, but instead of tacky knickknacks and souvenirs, there are good quality charming little spots to eat, drink, shop and explore. My biggest disappointment was the weather and lack of time we had.

Of course, all of these things cost money! It is difficult to explore the Wasagaming town-site without the kids begging for this and that along the way. I would suggest setting a budget or pre-planning the activities that you’d like to do during your stay. It could get very pricey between park fees, accommodations, activity costs, trips to the candy store, eating out and gelati runs!

Clear Lake is a beautiful place to visit and makes a wonderful vacation destination. I highly recommend it and would place it near the top of my Manitoba Stay-Cation list!