Category Archives: Reviews

HELP!! My baby is going to sleep away camp for the first time!

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So we made the commitment to send our 7 yr old son to Ontario Pioneer Camp for a week of sleep-away camp this summer. We had been to Pioneer Camp as a family in the springtime and knew what a great place it is and how awesome their staff is so we knew this would be a good place for his first camp experience.

As time got closer I began to panic about him being away for an entire week when he’s never been away from us for more than one night and generally his little sister is with him. What were we thinking? Why didn’t we send him with a friend or cousin? He was so excited to go so cancelling due to my panic and worry was not an option.

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In the end, he was going and I knew that what I needed to do was to make myself feel at ease about him going. How does a Mom do this? Prepare, prepare, prepare!

Now I know some of you will laugh at this, but one of the main things I was concerned about was him wearing the same outfit the entire week. Really would it harm him if he did? Well, No but I wanted to give him the option to wear fresh clothes if he so chose. So I went out and bought x-large Ziploc bags and in 7 of them I packed a pair of shorts, t-shirt, socks and underwear. Voila, all he had to do was pull out a new bag each day! By the way, the camp counsellors loved this!

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Because he is such a Mommy’s boy (or so I tell myself) and he can be a wee bit on the emotional side, I was worried that he would be terribly homesick and wonder “What? They actually left me here? What were they thinking?” Every time the phone rang that week, my stomach jumped as I was sure the camp was calling to say he missed me. Nope it was always somebody wanting to clean my ducts! So assuming the worst I needed to prepare him to deal with his home sickness should it occur. So here’s what I did:

– Packed his favourite stuffie wearing “camp clothes” so he could be one of the campers and would be there for him to hug if need be

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– Had friends and family write letters so he would have a letter from home to open every day from somebody he loves

– One of my Twitter followers suggested I send him with pictures from home so I made him a little book of pictures with little messages under them

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Being a picky eater, I figured he would either starve or learn to eat new things. But just in case, I stocked him with money in the tuck shop so worst case scenario, he could eat chocolate bars and iced tea all week. Thankfully he didn’t starve and we actually got money back from the tuck shop but it was nice to know he had the option. By the way, he thinks Pioneer Camp makes the BEST chicken. Ahem, i’ll have to get that recipe.

Knowing they would have some downtime, I bought him a new book, as he’s an avid reader, and some fun magazines that he could read.

Lastly I packed him a camera and notebook so he could take pictures and write about his camp adventures.

So after all this preparation, the week at camp is over and we go to pick him up. He runs over to hug us all and then runs back to his friends. Uhm, hello? It’s me Mommy!!

Here’s how it all pans out:

– The clothes packing went over well and he wore everything.

– His teddy bear was a cabin favourite and he got along well with the other stuffies

– He ate a ton and actually gained 5 lbs,

– His notebook had a small scribble in it

– His books were unread

– Somedays he forgot to open his letters had to play catch up

– He looked at his picture book once.

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Needless to say he had a BLAST at Ontario Pioneer Camp and probably would have stayed another week if we’d have let him. My worrying and preparation was not necessary but yes I would do it all over again and probably will next year.

It was hard to let my baby go but I know he made great memories, had so much fun, stepped out of his comfort zone and in the end that is all that matters

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Thank you again to the staff at Ontario Pioneer Camp from the bottom of my heart for making my boy’s first camp experience an awesome one that will keep us coming back year after year!

Read about our family trip to Ontario Pioneer Camp in the Spring and what our kid’s had to say about it.

Don’t forget to follow OPC on Twitter, Facebook and visit their website for more info on this amazing place

Ho Ho Ho Santa’s Village is the Place to go!

When I was a little girl one of my favourite memories is when we would go to Santa’s Village in Bracebridge, Ontario.  Last weekend we had the chance to take our kids for the day and let me tell you, I was giddy with excitement.  I love when I can share what I enjoyed as a kid with my own children.

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I will be honest, with a 5, 7 and 11 year old in tow I wasn’t too sure how long we would be there as it’s hard to keep them all interested with such an age gap.  Well our time there was so much fun for all of us … all 7 hours of it!!  It truly is fun for all ages and a great place to make family memories.

After moving through a very quick line-up at the gates we entered into Santa’s Village where the kids were given their elf hats so they could feel like Santa’s helper for the day.  It’s these little touches that make this place great.  It was funny to see hundreds of little elves running all over the place!

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Does it get any cuter than this?

Right off the bat I loved the cozy warm feeling of Santa’s Village.  There were Christmas tunes floating through the air, you could smell the yummy goodness coming from Mrs. Claus’ Bake Shop and you felt like you were in a little forest of fun with all the trees surrounding you.

Let the fun begin….

The kids were quickly drawn to the wooden cutouts where you stick your face through the hole and have your picture taken.

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So cute you could just eat up these little gingerbread people!

Next they ran over to the “old school” playground with tunnel slides and swings.  They could have spent a ton of time here but we had to drag them away so we could move more than 20 ft past the front gate.

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Dress up anyone?  This was more fun for my hubby and I probably as we dressed the kids up to have their “Christmas Card” picture taken.  There are racks of christmassy clothes you can dress up in and take pictures with some Christmas backgrounds.  Too fun!

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Say Cheese!

And we’re off to the rides!  The Red Baron Airplane Ride, Jumpin’ Star Dropper and Air Bouncers were all a hit with the kids!  But out of the rides, I think hands down their favourite was Santa’s Roller Coaster.  The best thing about the rides, as opposed to other theme parks, is that the lines are short and move quickly which as a parent is fantastic because there’s no whining!!

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“Hungry and time for lunch” as my 5 yr old declared.  Food is all reasonably priced and there are lots of kid (and parent) friendly options from pizza, sandwiches, fries, hot dogs and chicken nuggets.  For dessert have an ice cream or Beavertail.  What we loved was the souvenir cup you can buy for $5.99 and refill for only $1.  This came in handy as it was really hot when we were there.  Another great option is that you can pack a picnic to save on costs.

Speaking of hot day, be sure to pack your bathing suits and towels to enjoy their fun splash pad and beach area.  Who doesn’t love running through candy canes that dump water on you?

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Nope, unfortunately if you lick the candy canes they don’t taste minty

Taking a break from the sun, we were happy to find the little 3D cinema where we could watch “Sleigh Ride”.  This was a short film but it was in a nice little cool building and we all got to wear big 3D glasses!

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Looking good!

Well of course while we’re at Santa’s Village there is a place where you can meet the jolly man himself.  This was definitely  at the top of our kid’s list because how often do you get to stop in for a visit with Santa in the middle of the summer.  As you stroll through his house you can see where he writes his letters, see his gift list, and maybe even find a gift already wrapped under the tree for you.  Bring your camera as you can get a pic of the kids with Santa.  And don’t forget that a  little eavesdropping from the parents and you can start your Christmas shopping early!  😉

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After seeing Santa, be sure and go visit his trusty reindeer that help him get the presents delivered on Christmas Eve.  They are super friendly and you can touch them and feed them.  Rudolph is that you?

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All Aboard the Miniature train!  This was a fun little train ride that takes you through a good portion of the village and gives you a different viewpoint of the grounds.  When we on here our kids spotted Elves Island and that was our next stop…

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Be sure to cross the bridge into Elves Island when you go for some fun on the playground, test your courage as your climb up the rope cargo net and let your inner Picasso out on the colouring wall.  This area was full of kids running around and having fun but I must admit that many adults (myself included) were loving the cargo net!

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Ready for a ride on Santa’s Sleigh?  Well, seeing as it’s summer and there’s no snow, this is really the next best thing!  Decorated to look like a sleigh, with the reindeer leading the way, this 50 ft. jet boat is super fun.  Captain Ricky, who has “steered” the sleigh for the past 32 years will entertain you with his personality, music and boat manoeuvres as you tour down the beautiful Muskoka River.

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Well our day has come to an end and we are ready to leave the park…but wait…Santa is hanging out at the exit saying good bye to all the guests.  Okay one more picture …

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What a great Santa!

As we pulled out of the parking lot, our very sleeping kids were already asking “When can we come back”?  See you soon Santa’s Village and thanks for all the memories 🙂

On top of all of this, there is Sportsland which is geared to the older kids (ahem or your husband). This area is free to enter and is pay-as-you-go so be sure to check it out! Here you can find Go Karting, batting cages, an arcade and a Bungee Trampoline which our kids loved.  Pics not included as I had so much fun taking pictures the rest of the day that my battery died 😉  Fact of life when you’re having fun I suppose.

Want to get on Santa’s “Nice List”?

Sign up here to receive their news, contests and special offers from Santa’s Village.  If you sign up now, they will email you a coupon for “Buy 1, Get 1 Admission 50% off Coupon”!

Be sure to follow Santa’s Village on Twitter, Facebook and visit their website to plan your visit as you are sure to have a blast!

Has your family been to Santa’s Village?  What were your favourite parts?

Run away with the Circus for the Night

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Look up….look wayyyy up!  Yep, that’s the Big Top which means the Shrine Circus is in town!!

We were invited to attend the opening night of the circus last weekend and of course we were thrilled and to say the kids were super excited would have been an understatement.  From the moment we could see the Big Top in the distance, the kids didn’t stop smiling!

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Before the show started we were given a special behind the scenes tour of the Big Top and to see the animals getting all prepped for their big performances.  Now I know most of us wouldn’t want an audience when we’re having our shower but thankfully the elephant didn’t mind us watching him get his spray down before the show. It was the coolest thing to watch as the elephant completely cooperated during the process and even helped out by lifting his foot to be washed.  It was so cute to watch the elephant interact with the circus employees as he would playfully poke them with his trunk. We also got to watch the tigers (from afar) resting up for the show and the horses looking beautiful.  The best part of the behind the scenes look was to hear about how well all the animals are cared for.

Ringmaster Richard Curtis

Once we grabbed our hot dogs, snow cones and caramel corn and took our seats we were greeted in song by the charismatic Ringmaster, Richard Curtis.  Richard was an awesome ringmaster that kept the crowd engaged with his booming voice, good looks (for the ladies) and all around enthusiasm.  You could tell he loves his job!

Tigers, Trapeze and Elephants…Oh My! 

Here we gooooo! Now I don’t want to give away the entire show as I feel you need to experience this amazement for yourself but i’ll give you a little peek into some  of what you can expect under the Big Top through pictures!  Get ready for amazing animals, feet juggling, heart stopping stunts and SO much more.  Watching these performers you will be dazzled by their strength, courage, love for the Circus and the overwhelming feeling of family!

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Get your Tickets Now

Grab your family and head to see this classic circus for a night of fun you won’t soon forget!  Oh and did I mention YOU can ride an elephant?  Right before the show starts and during the intermission you can take a ride on the back of an elephant! How cool is that?!  So don’t forget to bring money for the reasonably priced food, face painting, elephant rides and fun light up toys for the kids!  Most all, get ready for some family FUN!

Use the coupon code “FUN” and get your general admission tickets 50% off, 2 for the price of 1!! An amazing deal for an AMAZING show!

Show Dates

June 21-July 1 2013                Rexdale – Woodbine Centre Parking Lot

July 5 – July 14 2013               Brampton – Powerade Centre Park

July 18 – July 21 2013             Vaughan – Interchange Parking Lot

July 25 – July 28 2013            Oakville –  Entertainment Centrum Parking Lot

August 2 – August 5 2013       Markham – Markham Fair Grounds

August 9 – August 11 2013      Ottawa – RA Centre Parking Lot

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The Shrine Circus can’t wait to entertain your family!

Why my Kids Love Ontario Pioneer Camp

It’s always fun to get a kid’s perspective on things, so I thought it would be fun to get my 5 year old daughter and 7 year old son‘s feedback on what they liked about our recent visit to Ontario Pioneer Camp (OPC) in Haliburton.  Also be sure to read our full retell of our awesome weekend at OPC as a family here!

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Why were you excited to go to OPC?

I was excited because I really wanted to meet new friends

I really wanted to go so I could try archery

What did you think when you first arrived at OPC?

I was really happy we were there even though I was tired from the long car ride.  The show at the Crow‘s Nest was cool and so was the campfire with s’mores

I thought that it was going to be fun! I saw that there were cabins and it was really big.

What was your room like?

The room was big and had bunk beds.  I slept on the bottom so I wouldn’t fall out. The bathroom had a shower

Our room was cozy.  It had bunk beds and a desk. Oh and we all got camp shirts!

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What your favourite part of the shows?

The Crow’s Nest is a cool building for shows.  I like the 3 Little Pigs and all the Mommys and Daddys being funny. 

The camp councillors acting silly…throwing balls in each others faces and dumping water on each other.  The songs they taught us were fun.  

What was your favourite thing you ate?

Ice cream sundaes

Pancakes

Note from Mom…The food was awesome and healthy despite their faves! 😉

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What did you think of the following activities?

Archery

It was good.  I think I was really good at it

It was awesome because you get to use a bow and arrow and i’ve always wanted to do that.

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Crafts

I was really excited to do the crafts because I am really really good at crafts

They were cool

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Low Ropes  Course

It was hard but fun

Epic obstacle course

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Rock Climbing Wall

It was really easy because they put gear on you and they helped pull me up

I thought it was really high but really cool.

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Canoeing in the war canoes across Clearwater Lake

It was really peaceful and quiet

Pretty long and there were a LOT of people in one canoe. 

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Fire Blazers game

That was my favourite part because they had water balloons

It was really fun.  Even the parents had fun

Going down the big water slide at the Girl’s camp

It was really fast and I had no goggles on so I got water in my eyes.  It was fun but cold

The water looked too cold for me so I just watched

What was your favourite activity?

I really liked doing the rock climbing and crafts

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Were the campfires fun?

Thumbs up!  Good for roasting marshmallows and I loved the campfire stories

S’mores were yummy.  I thought it was cool that they lit the big fire on the beach by using a flaming arrow

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What did you like about the Beach area?

We could swim and build sand castles.  There were canoes and they set fire works off from a canoe at night time. 

There was beach volleyball, canoes you could ride in and they had tons of life jackets.

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Can you tell me about the Camp Staff…

They were all lots of fun.  Stitch did Gangnum style on stage cause he loved camp so much.  They did a funny show the first night.  They were so nice

They are all funny.  They were kind because you could tell they liked kids a lot.

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Did camp make you sleepy?

YEP…a little bit

No not that much

Note from Mom…Both were asleep the minute their heads hit the pillow!

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What do you love about OPC?

I had a fun time and made new friends

There was so much to do and lots of outside time.  I also liked trying new things

What would you do to show how much you love camp?

I would eat a hot pepper

I would let people throw water balloons at me

What would you like to say to the staff at OPC?

Thank you for inviting us!

Thank you all for being so much fun.  I LOVE camp!

What would you like other kids to know about OPC?

You should go there because it is a lovely place. When they ring the big bell you have to come running because it means it’s time to eat or change activities.

OPC is a wonderful place because it has nice staff, you can make new friends and it’s a lot of fun

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Would you like to go to OPC as a camper?  Why?

Yes because it is really fun and I really liked the beach.  I liked everything

Yes…yes I would!  I really think it would be fun to be with kids my age.

Ontario Pioneer Camp is #1 in our Hearts!

How often do you get to step back into your childhood and play like a kid?  This past weekend I was given the chance to do just that as my family was invited to be guests at Ontario Pioneer Camp (OPC) in Haliburton!

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To be honest at first I was mostly excited for my kids as they have never been to camp (yet) and I thought they would have a blast.  Well I was right that they had a ton of fun but my husband and I had just as much fun …maybe more!  Sit back and enjoy as I retell our amazing time at OPC and also be sure to read about our kid’s thoughts on why they LOVED OPC!

Right from the moment we were invited I knew this was going to be a special place and a wonderful getaway for our family.  A week or so before we went we received a package in the mail.  Not expecting anything, I was totally excited because really who doesn’t love getting mail, let alone a package!  OPC sent us a camp care package filled with thoughtfulness!

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On the day we were leaving, the kids were up at the crack of dawn asking if it was time to leave yet and I only heard that asked about 40 more times that day.  😉 Finally we were overpacked and ready to go! With a little pit stop at Webers for dinner along the way (thanks to the certificates OPC gave us in our care package) we rolled into OPC after dinner.

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We were welcomed with big smiles from the OPC staff and let me tell you, those smiles and their enthusiasm never wavered through our entire weekend!  I truly think OPC hit the jackpot when they secured their staff.  Every single one of them were fabulous and helped to make our weekend a great time.

Day #1 – Getting to know OPC and their staff

Once were all checked in and settled in our room we went to meet up with the other blogger families in the dining hall.  The kids would have been happy to spend all of their time here on the ping pong table, Ed’s alley and playing the games but OPC had a night of fun planned for us.

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We went to a show at the Crow’s Nest that night that was full of humour, goofiness and even required a lot of audience participation much to my chagrin. I am not one to jump up and volunteer but I wanted to make the most of this opportunity so I agreed to participate in an eating competition.  It was absolutely hilarious to try and move an Oreo that was stuck to my forehead into my mouth using only my facial muscles to get it there!  I could hear my children laughing and cheering me on from their seats and I knew I was making the cool Mom category today.

Next stop….bonfire with s’mores!  The kids were in their glory stuffing their faces with marshmallows and s’mores and the camp staff was right there getting sticks, cooking marshmallows and telling stories to the kids. The kids could have stayed here all night but there were games and nachos waiting for us in the dining hall.

Day #2 – Rise and Shine Campers…it’s going to be a fun and busy day!

Saturday was jam packed full of activities!  Once they filled our bellies with a yummy breakfast we got to try our hand at archery, climb the awesome indoor rock wall, make some crafts and try out their low-ropes course.  Now let me tell you, the kids were excited about all the activities but I think the kid in every single adult came out as we tried to master all of the activities as well.  What a fun time to put the worries of your everyday life aside and have some good true fun!  I loved how the kids cheered on their parents as they tried out the activities and you could see pride in both the parents and kids eyes as they watched each other complete the activity.  We saw fear turn to courage, uncertainty turn to pride and most importantly we saw families having FUN!

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In the afternoon we got to spend some time on their beach where you could play beach volleyball, go for a swim, take a family canoe ride or just relax and take in the beauty of where we were!  Once again the staff was there checking us in to the beach area so that everyone was accounted for, getting us out on canoes, teaching the older kids to kayak and even showing off their volleyball skills.

At one point in the afternoon they loaded family by family into their huge war canoes and we paddled across the lake to see all the different areas of OPC.  It was amazing to see all the camps, cabins, dining halls and certainly one of the coolest things was their worship area, Chapel Point, which is a point where all the camps come to meet on a Sunday morning to worship the Creator of their beautiful surroundings.  We made our way to the Girl’s Camp where we were given a tour and the kids got to go down this awesomely fast water slide into the lake.  Now some watched (yes I watched) but others braved the speed and cold waters below and said it was a great thrill!!

After dinner we were split into two tribes based on our bandana colours, put on war paint and were challenged to defend our camp’s fire.  What a blast this was!!!  Kids and adults were to sneak up on the other camp’s fire and throw water balloons on it to try and extinguish it.  I think at one point this game was all about the adults as our competitive sides came out and felt the need to win.  In the end I don’t even know who won but there was a lot of laughs, some really soaked people from an impromptu water balloon fight (which I may or may not have started) and a great bonding experience.

Back to the dining hall where we all indulged in a late night snack of make your own ice cream sundaes and then off to bed.  I think the kids lasted all of 15 seconds once their heads hit the pillow this night.  Fun times = exhausted children 🙂

Day #3 – Our time at OPC comes to an end and nobody wants to leave

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When we woke up on the last day I felt a bit of sadness knowing we had to leave this wonderful camp, the great staff and blogger families we had met.  We all met for a another yummy breakfast, got in a few last chats, pictures and a couple last games of ping pong and Ed’s Alley.  As we packed up our room, I listened to my kids talking about all the fun things they did, all the friends they made and how they can’t wait to come back.  Their conversation ended with a pinky swear to each other that they would come back together without Mommy and Daddy and have a great adventure!  My heart melted at that moment as I knew they had seen, as I had, what a super special place Ontario Pioneer Camp is.

Summary of my Rambling Thoughts…

  • Ontario Pioneer Camp was amazing
  • Their staff and recreational facilities are top notch
  • Food was delish
  • My kids (and their parents) can’t stop talking about it to everyone
  • Nobody wanted to leave
  • We can’t wait to go back!
  • Your kids will LOVE this camp!  Register them now
  • Ontario Pioneer Camp was named as one of the Best Camps in North America  and we can see why

Would I send my kids to Camp?

Before this weekend I would have said nope they’re not ready.  As it turns out it was probably Mommy that was not ready.  After this experience I would send them to OPC in a heartbeat.  I think it gives children maturity, courage and a great sense of camaraderie.  You could tell the staff loved what they did and had a true passion for working with kids.  OPC you will see my kids in the near future!

From one parent to another trust me when I say that your kids will have the time of their life at OPC, will be well taken care of and NO they will not want to come home when their time at camp is over!  Check out what Ontario Pioneer Camp has to offer for your child (Ages 5-17) and you will keep sending them back year after year!

Things I learned at camp…

I know that we never stop learning but there were things I learned about myself this weekend that surprised me so I can only imagine what a child can learn and walk away with after a week at camp!

Trying Something new

I am not one to normally step out of my comfort zone so when they asked for volunteers at the camp show the first night I was NOT the first person to raise my hand.  After some encouragement (ahem finger pointing) from my kids I did get up there.  Little did I know I would be sticking an Oreo cookie to my forehead and trying to move it into the mouth by only using my facial muscles.  It was a hoot and I am so glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone!

I AM Courageous

So I strapped on some climbing gear and decided to climb the rock wall.  The kids are doing it and i’m not afraid of heights so it should be pretty easy.  Boy was I wrong!  As I neared the top something came over me and I started to shake pretty bad and the first thought that came into my head was “I’m out!”.  How easy would it have been for me to come back to the stability of the ground and say I tried it.  From the ground I could hear my kids cheering me on as well as my new camp friends telling me “You can do it”.   In my heart of hearts I knew I could do it and persevered until I hit that bell at the top.  Although still shaking when I made my way back down, I was proud of the courage I found deep within with the help from my supporters on the ground.

You CAN make camp friends as an adult 

Going into this weekend I knew only one other family that was going.  From the moment we got there we were meeting and talking to all these new “blogger” families and instantly knew these were good people.  I enjoyed meeting all the parents and their fantastic children and by the end of the weekend we were all hugging each other goodbye.  The staff was the same way, we felt like we knew them when we left and we were very sad to say goodbye!

Coffee can NOT combat the tiredness of going to camp as an adult

I am not a child and do not pretend to be able to fully keep up with the energy that one has. I did think that the copious amounts of caffeine I consumed would keep me awake and raring to go all weekend.  I now know that there is nothing that can keep you awake after a fun-filled day at camp.

Mosquito repellant works

In our camp care package from OPC we received bug repellant.  Thankfully we brought it along as with spring time comes mosquitos.  Although the mosquitos were a swarming, we each only came home with a couple of bites.  So thank you OPC for thinking ahead for us and sending us bug spray!

Memories last a lifetime

We are so grateful that we were given this opportunity to visit OPC.  We took a ton of pictures and met great people but in the end each and every one of us left with great memories that we will always remember!

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Goodbye OPC!  

Thank you for welcoming us with open arms and sharing your wonderful camp with our family. See you soon!