Adventures at Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara Falls, Ontario

32aWhen we left Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls, we had to literally peel my son’s fingers off of the door as he kicked and screamed. Needless, to say, he LOVED every minute and never wanted to leave. This was our first visit, and I want to share with you what we learned, what we loved and why we’ll be returning again as soon as possible!

To Paw Pass or Not to Paw Pass?

For first-timers I highly recommend the Paw Pass!  For $64.99 plus tax per kid, you get:

  • One MagiQuest game
  • One MagiQuest classic wand or classic topper
  • One quarter pound of fudge
  • One animal from our Great Wolf Stuffing Station (outfit not included)
  • One 5×7 Paw Prints water park action photo
  • 20 Paw Points and game card for Northern Lights Arcade
  • One gift at Scooops Kid Spa
  • Two games of bowling at Ten Paw Alley or one game at Wacky Wilderness Mini Golf
  • Two Great Wolf Kids activities in Cub Club
  • One pair of wolf ears

We did everything on the list except for the activities at the Cub Club.  The kids loved getting their wolf ears, their stuffed wolf (just like at Build-A-Bear), and their wands for the MagiQuest. I upgraded the Paw Prints photo for about $6 we got a printed picture of our family going over the Falls in a barrel. We have very few family pictures and I appreciate the kitsch of this souvenir.

Meal Plan or Bring Your Own?

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Dinner Buffet

Our package included the meal plan and I loved the breakfast and dinner buffets. There were lots of choices and my picky eaters were all happy. Niagara Wine samples came to the table (SCORE!) and as it was my daughter’s birthday, she received a special dessert and a birthday song from wait staff ending with a wolf howl! So fun!

Check out the video of the birthday song: Great Wolf Lodge Birthday Surprise

Lunch choices were ‘okay’. We could choose from a pizza slice, chips and pop; or a hot dog or burger w/fries and a pop.  Not as awesome as the buffet, but it was quick enough and let us get back to the more important task of enjoying the water park.

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Kitchenette

Next time I will consider bringing more food and possibly not getting the meal plan, it is certainly possible to make do without it, but I also really enjoyed the buffets!

The room had a mini-fridge and microwave oven, coffee maker and sink, so we could definitely have made do while in our room. No microwave popcorn is allowed to be popped in the hotel rooms – there are big warning labels on the microwave ovens. I brought snacks, chips, candy, and bottled water for the room.

Standard, Themed, or Premium Room?

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KidCabin TV bunk bed and single bed

Our room was a themed KidCabin Suite. The kids enjoyed the bunk bed room of their own. My son loved sleeping in the top bunk. My daughter turned 13 on the trip and found the beds very uncomfortable. Next time I would double a mattress for her (they were thinner than a standard mattress) and there were three beds in the suite and only two kids.

We would have been just as happy in a standard “Family Fireplace Suite” as we all really enjoyed the fireplace and would pay a little more for that perk (we visited in January and it was so nice to warm up by the fire and also to dry our towels). My daughter would’ve been more comfortable in a regular bed and would happily share with her brother.

If you have no budget, consider a premium suite. I’d love to try the loft fireplace suite. This would be great to book at Christmas as the room holds up to 8 people and Santa can bring presents to the fireplace! Some of the premium rooms come with dedicated parking right outside your suite so it is easier to load/unload.

The Waterpark!

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Massive Water Park – so much to do!

We have been to the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark in Niagara Falls twice thanks to Autism Ontario attending in the Winter and were rather disappointed both times. My kids are not thrill seekers and they only enjoyed the wave pool there and unfortunately as the day progresses the water park gets colder and colder as patrons go outside to the heated outdoor space letting cold air continually blast into the water park.

We were pleasantly surprised with Great Wolf Lodge as the temperature was nice and warm and stayed warm the whole time we were there. The water park had smaller water slides for young kids or ‘chickens’ like my two. They loved the lazy river (I think half of our day was spent in the lazy river)! The wave pool was a hit and they also loved the smaller swimming pool with basketball nets around the sides. It was easy to access self serve life vests. Heated towels were available and there were lockers for rent. On our second day, we remained at the water park after checking out from our hotel room, so we rented a locker. The locker was about $20 and when we returned our key we had the option to receive the key back or pick a wolf stuffed animal (my daughter chose the wolf).

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Bonus – they have a Swimsuit “Dryer” – spin cycle that gets most of the wet out!

One night or more?

For the budget conscious, you can get a lot of fun out of a one night stay.  If your room is not ready at your 1pm check in time, you can access the water park already!  And you have water park privileges for your check out day as well, so you can stay as long as the water park is open! My hope next time is that we book at least 2 nights as there is so much fun to be had and it would have been a more relaxed pace for squeezing in all of the fun activities.

The Happiest Place in Canada?

30We used to save up for Disney, the happiest place on earth for me and so many others – but now, in less than 2 hours with no border crossing, our family has found our new ‘happiest place’ and it’s IN CANADA. To celebrate #Canada150 a lot of bloggers are urging Canadians to make Canadian destinations a priority this year, so we will definitely be spending our vacation dollars in Canada and as often as possible, at Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Check out all of my Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls videos on YouTube here:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8kbJAZWbYm80uhs7pibCfBAW1eXnuG_w

Ready to book?

NEW!!  Enter to WIN here, ends May 24 2017: 
http://blog.parentlifenetwork.com/great-wolf-lodge-for-the-kid-in-all-of-us/

Discounts here:

Great Wolf Lodge Official Website Deals: https://www.greatwolf.com/niagara/deals

Entertain Kids on a Dime posts monthly deals, here are the APRIL 2017 ones:
http://entertainkidsonadime.com/2017/04/05/great-wolf-lodge-april-deals/  

cropped-access-2-logo-2014-eng-tageline-e1402684890727Special Needs Families! Did you know your Easter Seals Access 2 Entertainment card gets you a discount to Great Wolf Lodge? Scroll to the very bottom: http://www.access2card.ca/onattractions/

This Review is not an #Ad. It is my own opinion based on a stay my partner WON from CHYM-FM in Kitchener (Thank you for making me the #BestMomEver ).  

The World Needs YOUR Family

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Comedian, actress and YouTube entertainer, Lilly Singh, inspires 20,000 attendees at the inaugural WE Day Family in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre on October 19, 2016. Photo Credit: Maria Gagliardi for WE Day

Last year, I read Craig & Marc Kielburger’s book The World Needs Your Kid: How to Raise Children Who Care and Contribute and was inspired to help my children find their own ways to give back in our community.  Then in April of 2016, Ontario announced a cut to services for children with Autism over the age of 5 (a decision which did not impact my son with Autism, but greatly impacted his same age peers), and suddenly, my daughter and I were off and running. We marched in a rally in our hometown, headed to Queen’s Park for a protest and attended Question Period, and we helped organize a small protest at a local MPP’s office. We engaged on social media (#AutismDoesntEndAt5), posted signs, printed and distributed flyers in parking lots along with many other families across the Province. Thankfully, the government reversed its decision, but for our family, teaching our daughter that she has a voice and can use it, was the best outcome.

Craig  and Marc Kielburger were raised in a family who practiced seeing the world through a lens where they were active participants in making the world a better place. At a young age they were moved to create Free the Children (now WE.org) and worked tirelessly to create a world where child slavery could be a thing of the past. Over the years, their effort has morphed into the WE movement. Children all over the world earn their way to attend WE Day events by fundraising and participating in volunteer projects and initiatives.

The first ever WE Day Family!

Many local school children participate in WE Day clubs and volunteer to earn their ticket to WE Day. There they are inspired to do more and find their own way to change the world. Kids come home from WE Day pumped up and excited, and they bring this enthusiasm home to their families. Families were looking for direction and ways to support their children and get involved.  This was the inspiration for the first ever WE Day Family event, held in Toronto on October 19th, 2016.

My daughter and I were honoured to join over 20,000 people at the Air Canada Centre where we were treated to inspirational talks from speakers such as Chris Hadfield, Rick Hansen, Nelly Furtado, Paula Abdul, Lilly Singh and music from The Barenaked Ladies, Gord Downie and Hedley.

WE Were Inspired to Spread #GirlLove

Lilly Singh (aka YouTube sensation IISuperwomanII) shared her #GirlLove movement and the Rafiki bracelet she created while visiting Kenya on a WE Villages trip. Sales of her GirlLove Rafiki bracelets help girls in Kenya access primary education. Lilly wants to end ‘girl-on-girl hate’ and spread #GirlLove!

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Rafiki bracelets are handmade by women in Kenya! Purchasing Rafiki bracelets through the ME to WE store helps a variety of causes such as access to clean water!
newrafikiwaterMy daughter, was inspired to help communities access clean water and proudly purchased a WE GIVE CLEAN WATER Rafiki bracelet. She also picked up a #GirlLove Rafiki bracelet!
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WE were Moved to Tears

Gord Downie is lending his voice to furthering the cause of the Reconciliation movement in Canada. Gord delivered an emotional rendition of “The Stranger” from his Secret Path concept album/Graphic novel collaboration with Jeff Lemire.  Gord sang of the tragic death of Chanie Wenjack, who died while fleeing a residential school and attempting to walk to his home (not knowing it was over 400 miles away). Gord walked the stage as if Chanie, falling to the stage floor – a move that left many of us in tears. After the song, Gord was joined on stage by Chanie’s sister Pearl Wenjack, who sang a heart wrenching song. Although Chanie died 50 years ago today (Oct. 22, 1966), his sister’s ever present pain was evident in her voice.

TAKE ACTION: Tune in and watch as a family, then start the difficult conversation of Reconciliation in your home. The Secret Path will be broadcast by CBC in an hour-long commercial-free television special on Sunday, October 23, 2016, at 9pm (9:30 NT).

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Gord Downie, Mike Downie, Pearl Wenjack and William Wenjack inspire 20,000 attendees at the inaugural WE Day Family in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre on October 19, 2016. Photo Credit: Maria Gagliardi for WE Day

WE Were Encouraged to Aim For The Stars

Astronaut Chris Hadfield joined the Barenaked Ladies to play his guitar and sing along with “If I Had A Million Dollars”, then joined a room full of children and Mom Bloggers for an inspiring Q&A. When he was little, there was no such thing as a Canadian Astronaut, but he didn’t let that stop him. He dreamed big and achieved his goal through hard work and determination.

His time in space inspired his commitment to WE.org – having a space-eye view of Earth, taught him the “WEness” of us all. WE are all in this together, and WE can make a difference to the lives of others around the globe.

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Juno and MMVA Award-winning alternative rock band, Barenaked Ladies, and astronaut, author, professor, musician, first Canadian to walk in space and command a spaceship, Chris Hadfield, perform for 20,000 attendees at the inaugural WE Day Family in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre on October 19, 2016. Photo Credit: Maria Gagliardi for WE Day

Paula Abdul shared her story of achieving her dream to be a dancer and a choreographer, cleaning a dance studio in exchange for lessons and not letting her petite physique keep her from mastering the grace of ballet. Now she is a WE Ambassador and has traveled to Kenya.  Her message was about taking action to achieve your goals, which really resonated with my daughter (who dreams of Broadway).

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Yes, she is the nicest celebrity you’ll ever meet!

WHY Should WE Get Involved With WE.org?

If you need a reason to get involved as a family, studies have shown that by engaging your children in WE Movement charities “youth experience profound academic and professional growth and develop critical 21st century skills, including leadership skills, as well as collaboration, communication, and problem-solving skills, all of which contribute to creating better prepared students and job candidates.”

By living “WE” at home, families learn how to make a difference through their everyday actions. Families bond over causes that matter to them, and raise children who become caring and compassionate adults.

HOW Can WE help?

If you only do one thing today, take a minute and join the WE movement, visit WE.org and take the WE pledge. $10 will be donated for every pledge taken, up to $1 Million dollars will be donated to support charitable domestic empowerment programs and sustainable development programs in communities oversees.

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TAKE ACTION: WE Scare Hunger Campaign

One of the action campaigns my Tween wants us to take on as a WE Day Family, is called “WE Scare Hunger.” With materials available online, we have all the resources we need to organize and collect food for our local food bank on Halloween. A few days before Halloween, we will be delivering notes to our neighbours, so they can be ready for us to collect non-perishable donations for the food bank when we visit them for Trick-or-Treat.
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This is also a great way for kids who are starting to feel a bit too old to Trick-or-Treat to stay involved with the Halloween fun!

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We Day Family was proudly sponsored by RBC. Check out their Make 150 Count campaign and share how you would use $150 to make a change!

The world needs your family! WE Hope You Will Join WE

❤ Jennpup ❤

P.S. Check out Canadian Living’s Me to We Family Award winners, the Bodanis Family here.

We send our heartfelt thanks to  Erica Ehm’s Yummy Mummy Club for tickets and Media Access to We Day Family, Toronto 2016. Thank you to Canadian Living Magazine, Craig and Mark Kielburger and the WE.org staff for an unforgettable and inspiring event! 

 

Adventures in The Deep End: Finding Dory

finding-dory
As a mom of a child with autism, I have a ready list of worries relating to him being out in the world. I recently took my eldest child to see an advance screening of Pixar’s latest release, “Finding Dory” which we both enjoyed immensely. I chose not to bring my son with autism, because an advance screening means a big crowd, long line-ups and sometimes a late start. It is potentially too overwhelming for him, so it felt safer to keep him home.

He won’t miss out – Cineplex in partnership with Autism Speaks Canada is offering a sensory friendly screening of Finding Dory on July 2nd, so my partner will take my son to see Finding Dory then, when my son can move in his seat, make noise and we can ‘relax’ that we are in an audience of people who “get it”.

But this is just one of the ways that having a child with autism impacts our family. I worry about him every time we leave the house and go out into the community, and even in the house I worry – we have baby gates and high bolts to help keep him from wandering.

I worry about how he’ll do at school, if he’ll be able to attend integrated ‘typical’ classrooms or if he’ll be separated. I worry about potential bullies and people who might harm him due to his sweet nature and trust of other people.

In “Finding Dory”, the main premise is that Dory remembers she has a family and that she misses them, so she sets out to find them. Through flashbacks we learn about her parents Jenny (Diane Keaton) and Charlie (Eugene Levy) and how they worried about Dory.  charliejennyDory suffers from Short Term Memory Loss and if she leaves home without her parents, her parents are afraid (and rightfully so) she won’t be able to make it home on her own. They practice playing ‘hide and seek’, devise a way of leaving shell paths to help Dory find her way and come up with songs and rhymes to try to help Dory retain important information so that she can be safe when away from them.  Dory wants to learn and tries to learn, but her disability prevents her from being successful. Her parents spend every day practicing these drills over and over again, not unlike how we work with our son at his IBI therapy. I can completely relate to their worry about Dory, how hard they work to try to help her and how proud they are when she accomplishes her goals.

Unfortunately, Dory’s parents fear is justified. Dory does get separated from her family, and she does encounter many dangers in the ocean, but luckily escapes harm. She meets Marlin and later Nemo, who end up taking her in to be a part of their community and family. They offer her support and patience and do what they can to keep her safe and help her be included in their community.  They accept that she can’t help but wake them up in the night and that she makes unsafe decisions, and they love her anyway.

dory marlin nemo

I hope my child with the support received in his childhood is able to be an independent adult who can find companionship and form a family of his own. I hope that he can be gainfully employed and help make the world a better place with his beautiful spirit. I worry about him and hope he makes it safely through the world into the future I dream of for him. I am hopeful that there will be community living options for him should he need them, such as those offered at the organization I work for*, and I will continue to advocate for a more inclusive world for him, not unlike the reef Dory lives in with Nemo and Marlin (her chosen family).

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In her community, Dory finds acceptance, inclusion and a feeling of independence while being supported. These are the things that help me worry less while advocating strongly so this future can be a reality for children like mine.

❤ Jennpup ❤

-*Jennifer works in KW Habilitation’s Residential Services since 2013. Her son was diagnosed at age 2 1/2 with autism and benefited from KW Habilitation’s ELCCFR Special Needs Access Point (SNAP) program which brought additional supports in to his daycare, to address his early social and communication needs, prior to and following diagnosis.

 

 

 

 

 

It was right in front of my eyes and I missed it! #FamilyEyeHealth

Did you see it?

Did you see it? When my daughter was 2, I shared some pictures of her spinning around with family – she looked so joyous!  Our aunt replied, noticing our DD’s eyes were not aligned and suggested I see an eye doctor.  I could see it in the pictures, but thought it was from the spinning.  I booked her for an eye exam the following week just to be safe and the Optometrist confirmed it, my daughter had a ‘lazy eye’ (amblyopia) due to a slight misalignment.

Lazy eye (amblyopia) is decreased vision that results from abnormal visual development in infancy and early childhood. Although lazy eye usually affects only one eye, it can affect both eyes. Lazy eye is the leading cause of decreased vision among children. – The Mayo Clinic

In most pictures, and most of the time, her eyes appeared to be fine. It was so slight, I couldn’t see it myself.  I thought it would be more obvious if there was a problem. I thought my child had to be able to read letters on a chart to get a thorough eye exam. I didn’t know that optometrists can screen and assess eyes for infants.

At the time, our treatment options were fairly limited. The optometrist advised that we had caught the eye turn too late to correct itI was shocked! She was only 2, surely, there was time to fix it!  But I learned that I should have brought her in at 6 months.

This was almost 10 years ago, there have been some advances since that time. We followed a routine of patching and doing exercises to help my daughter strengthen her weak eye. Ultimately, we were able to get her vision back and each eye is now 20/20.  Surgery was offered for cosmetic purposes only, but with her eye turn being so slight, I was unwilling to opt for the surgery.

She currently uses one eye or the other, never both at the same time. The optometrists at UW Optometry check up on her every year and seem impressed with her ability to switch eyes.  She does not have ‘3D’ vision, but her brain compensates for this and although some skills may take her longer (hitting a baseball or riding her bike) she will lead a normal life and be able to drive if she chooses.

When my son was 6 months, I took him to our local Ontario Early Years Centre for a vision screening. No eye turn, healthy eyes. Please check with your local Early Years Centre or equivalent to see if they offer this program:

The University of Waterloo, School of Optometry offers vision screening for children 6 months to 6 years of age. The vision screening examination will include an assessment on your child’s visual acuity, eye coordination and depth perception. Question’s you many have regarding you or your child’s vision can be answered. – Our Place Early Years Centre

In Ontario, OHIP covers annual eye exams for children and young adults under the age of 20 (and seniors over 65).  We take both of our children annually for their free exam.

People 65 years and older and those younger than 20, are covered by OHIP for a routine eye examination provided by either an optometrist or physician once every 12 months plus any follow-up assessments that may be required.Ontario Ministry of Health

October is Children’s Vision Month. Please join @YMCBuzz and Doctors of Optometry Canada to learn more about keeping your children’s eyes healthy at the #FamilyEyeHealth Twitter Party on October 18th at 9pm ET.  There will be lots of good information as well as awesome prizes!

During the party, five lucky winners will win the following:

  • A HP Pavilion 360 laptop and a $200 gift voucher to be used for goods/services from a local doctor of optometry.

I hope to see you there! 🙂

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Details:  http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/contests/tweet-familyeyehealth-for-a-chance-to-win-a-600-laptop-bc?s=ymccommunity

❤ Jennpup ❤

This post was not sponsored, but it is an issue I care very much about! ❤