Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tips for a Day at the Metro Toronto Zoo

Are you heading out to the Metro Toronto Zoo this summer? Here are a few handy tips that you might want to keep in mind if you are not a frequent visitor.

1. Try to get there early, especially if you are going on the weekend or from Tuesday to Thursday. The weekends are just plain hairy and during the week you've got a lot of day camps visiting. The Zoo itself is huge, but some of the pavillions are small and get jammed up easily, making it difficult to bring your stroller in. You can also rent strollers with canopies- single and doubles, which if you don't have your own, I would recommend. The Zoo itself is very spread out and can be very tiring for kids and parents alike, not to mention carting all of your gear around.

2. Pack a lunch and snacks. The food concessions are outrageously expensive, Disney was cheaper! Not only that the fare isn't very nutritious or appealing, just your typical hot dogs, junk food and pizza. The best deal on food if you have to buy it is to get a whole pizza. The healthiest food I found was at the main gate, you could get a bagel and cream cheese and veggie sticks. You'll need a loan to get ice-cream for your family at about $4 each... There are lots of nice areas where you can sit on a bench or at a picnic table to eat, so enjoy!

3. If you are not planning to do the whole Zoo, here is where the best stuff is. Once you enter through the main gate, go right and head towards the Kids Discovery Zone. This is a great little play area where the kids can see some animals up close, play in gopher tunnels, climb a tree house and slide down, dig for dinosaur fossils in a giant sandpit, play in large turtle eggs and shells, and climb on a spider web.

If it's a hot day, the Splash Pad is great! It has tons of water cooling action, although be warned, the water is quite chilly! It is toddler friendly in that the flooring is rubberized. There are also 4 waterslides that range in size to accomodate smaller and larger kids. Parents, be prepared to get wet as watching your kids often requires that you enter a wet zone.

The Waterside Theatre is at the entrance of the Discovery Zone and you can catch a show there, but be warned, there is no shade, so on a hot day you'll roast!

Currently, you can visit StingrayBay, which is a special attraction for this summer, just enter to the left of the entrance to the Discovery Zone. You have to pay $3 for this, but it is well worth it. There are tons of stingrays and they seem to like being petted. To get more stingray action stand closer to the exit doors, for some reason they like that side better.

Next, visit the newly renovated Australasia Pavillion. When you leave the Discovery Zone go right to get there. This display is pretty good, there is a large "Great Barrier Reef" tank with a small shark in it and some neat creatures to see, including the Seahorse tank and some cool looking jellyfish. After this, go back towards the main gate and go left, you'll see way more animals and pavillions out this way. If you continue to go right you will be in for a rather long walk with animals in very spread out pens.

4. If you are planning to do the whole Zoo in a day get a Zoomobile ticket. It's a bit pricey for one day, but if you're going to see everything this is the best way to do it, especially if it's hot and you're not in the best shape. The Zoo is huge and very spread out and there are some fairly large hills to walk up. Getting to Canadiana is a bit of a trek. You can take collapsable strollers (probably an umbrella stroller would be best) on the mobile, but larger ones won't fit. With a Zoomobile ticket you can get on and off at different stops and you get a little tour too.

5. Don't forget your hats, sunscreen and water! Enjoy!

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Last week one of my kids came down with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. My jaw dropped to the floor when I got the diagnosis. It sounds so serious, well, as it turns out, it's just a virus, and very common in children, especially during the summer months. Aparently it's going around, I have no idea where my daughter got it, but it sure knocked her out!

Here are some of the symptoms that my daughter had. She started out just kind of tired, thought she'd had too much excitement and was worn out. Then she got a tiny little blister on her hand, just one to start. A few days later she had a fever and said that her "body was tired" and she was achy. She also lost her appetite and ate very little. She had white spots on the back of her throat- which I thought was Strep Throat (that's when we carted her off to the doctor's). After the low grade fever she got a few more spots on her hands and wrists. She didn't really have any on her feet and didn't seem to have any blisters in her mouth, but she did complain about her mouth hurting some days earlier but we thought that she just bit her tongue in her sleep.

Since the disease is caused by a virus, it is not treated with anti-biotics, you simply have to wait it out and treat the symptoms (Tylenol for fever and pain). It's been about 10 days now and I can still see that my little firecracker is still under the weather, this virus is a nasty one!

After combing the web I found that the incubation period is 2-7 days and that kids are contagious before the symptoms show and for 14 days after the fever. Some sites said that kids could go back to daycare after 3 days, others said after the blisters had dried up. Another site said that the disease is contagious during the first week of illness and less contagious later on but that the virus could live in feces for longer (14 days). There isn't much that you can do to prevent getting it except for good hygeine. The virus can be tranferred from direct contact with saliva or things that kids have touched or mouthed.

Hopefully, your kids won't be unlucky enough to catch this summer bug!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Since when is Second Hand more than New?

Okay, so for my first official blog entry, I am going to rant a little.

So today, I went to the local kids' second hand store to look for a pair of inexpensive sandals for my one year old after having no luck at the mall. I had no luck at the second hand store either, but was shocked to see that the EXACT SAME pair of Walmart aquasocks that I had contimplated buying for my daughter at $6.97 brand new, were $6.99 at the second hand store!

Now, I understand that the store owner has to make a living, but seriously, the shoes were used! You really do have to be a savvy shopper to make sure you are not getting duped these days. Why would I pay the same for used clothing when I can get it new (albeit on sale) for virtually the same price! I'll admit that for higher end clothing like Gap or Gymboree second hand is a good choice, but even Gymboree is reasonable when it is on sale.

The same store has been charging way too much for baby gear and toys as well, I say skip the middle man and check out Craig's List, Kijiji or a Mom-to-Mom Sale.

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This is for all the Markham Mama's out there and anyone else who is interested in the musings of a fellow mom.