Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Places Every Kid Should Visit

I came across this list of 10 Places Every Kid Should See. I didn't see a single one of them as a kid. The list includes: The Grand Canyon, The National Mall, Redwood National Park, Ellis Island, Niagara Falls, Yellowstone National Park, Colonial Williamsburg, Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Independence Hall, Alcatraz Island. I've still only been to two of those (Yellowstone and Redwood). I am glad to see that half of the places are natural sites and the other half are historical.

And while many families in America live within a few hours of at least one of those places, others do not. The closest site to where I live is almost 1000 miles away. It would take a lot of driving and even more money to see them all. Someday I'd like to, but it probably won't happen while my kids are young.

So, instead I propose my own list of places every kids should visit. Most are free or very cheap. Most should be within a short trip of your home. All provide great opportunities to give the kids a new experience and a fun time.
  1. A different library than your usual one.
  2. Your local historical site or museum. Even most small towns have one.
  3. A state park. Be sure to take in a naturalist program if they have one.
  4. A campground where the kids can spend a night in a tent (no RVs; preferably a state or national park--not a commercial campground).
  5. A Great Lake or ocean. At least a lake to go swimming in (something that's non-chlorinated). While there, be sure to show them how to skip rocks.
  6. An art museum. Many have scavenger hunts for the kids to do.
  7. A local sporting event (non-professional). We've lived near high schools where we got to see rugby and field hockey played (for free!)--sports you don't often get to watch on TV.
  8. A small town. Banter with the locals and enjoy home-cooking at the local cafe. Try and go when the local festival is happening.
  9. A farm. Teach the kids where food really comes from--and all the hard work that goes into it. Enjoy the "simpler" life.
  10. A nursing home. It may be uncomfortable for some kids to visit, but it brings great joy to those who live there, and it's a wonderful opportunity to teach kids about the value of older adults. Plus, they've got great stories to share.
What would you add or change?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Road Trip

Anders had Spring Break last week, so we took the opportunity to do some traveling. We had a few of the grandparents whom we haven't spent time with in a while, so they were our priority. We first saw my wife's mom in Wisconsin. And we had a big snow storm while there, so we didn't get out much, other than a trip to the local gas station. Odd destination? Yes. But the owners are friends of my wife's family, and they're big hunters. Anders has been obsessed with trying a bow and arrow since making an arrow from a straw and construction paper for Valentine's Day at school. It was too snowy to shoot one, but they did take a kid's bow out of the package and pull back the string. Which was enough for him. At the time he said it was the thing he would share at school. And my mother-in-law loves spending time with the boys--she doesn't have many grandkids very close (and many of them are in or near college).

From there we went to Iowa. We spent a night with my sister. We tried to use the swimming pool at her apartment complex, but the water was not heated very well (we don't seem to have much luck with her pool working when we're there). Which was too bad because the boys enjoy using the little swimming skills they've gained. She lives right near my grandmother's independent living facility, which was why we went to Des Moines (we didn't get to see her at Christmas). She's not doing well. Which was hard to see. She's been putting up with a lot of pain lately and doesn't want to end life this way. But the boys were good with her. Both of their great-grandmas are near the end, but it's special that they get to know them. Even if its not in their prime. Sadly, we didn't take pictures while we were there.

We had our last night with my brother and his family--he's got kids near our kids' age, so they love being together. We left late Saturday night so they'd have a full day together.

Our kids travel well. I'm thankful for that. We listened to the first Harry Potter book on tape for a bit of the drive (Anders' friends at school have been talking about it, and he's been wanting to experience Harry Potter, but isn't quite ready for reading it by himself). Anders liked it. Nils wasn't too fond of listening to that much book on tape. We had to take a few breaks for playing "I Spy." Between reading their own books, drawing and playing games, they do well in the car. And that's a good thing for a road trip.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Car Seats: A Brief Rant

Confession: I'm all for safety. But sometimes I'm more for not fighting with my children.

Car safety reports just came out with new recommendations for children. The recommendations are for kids under 2 years old to be in rear facing car seats. While I'm all for safety, clearly these people don't work with actual children. At least neither of my children enjoyed riding backwards as soon as they were long enough to be able to see out the window from their seat. The backwards motion wasn't fun for them; neither was not being able to see. Admittedly, we turned our children around before we were supposed just for the mere sake of being able to travel with them.

And while I don't mind having children in booster seats longer, maybe we could get the manufacturers of sedans, minivans and other vehicles that will most likely be used by families with children to find a way to make the seats in the back (and their safety restraints) more child-usable. I've seen very few times where adults are sitting in the back of a minivan, yet the seat belts tend to be fastened near the ceiling of the vehicle.

I remember the days before wearing seat belts became a law. And I'm all for wearing seat belts. They save lives. Period. I don't drive on the road without wearing one. But I also wonder when we'll get to the point of recommending that children be wrapped in a protective cocoon that is fastened to the floor of the vehicle and surrounded by air bags on all sides. Sometimes we can go a little overboard because we tend to be more driven by litigation than common sense. (I love Bob Stromberg's reflections of car safety back in the day when we considered the arm rest in a sedan's front seat to be a place for children to sit--along with the ledge under the back window.)

A Prayer for Parents

Today's concluding prayer of the church in the Midday Office of The Divine Hours reads:
Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up so that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of blessed St. Joseph, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We don't know much about Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, but he must have been a good father to Jesus (Jesus, at least, didn't seem to have a lot of "father issues"). And a prayer for strength and wisdom in parenting is always a good thing in my book. May it be so.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The End of Cabin Fever

Just last week my niece and I were out side playing. She sat at the picnic table and wanted to have a picnic. So I started making her food requests out of snow. She had a hot dog, potato chips, a peach, lemonade (with a snow straw) and a slice of birthday cake (which we had to put a candle in).

Most of that snow is now gone (hurray!). Yesterday when I took Anders to school we stopped to watch a couple lines of geese flying overhead. Then Nils and I took our first bike ride of the year. It was around 50. I was getting overheated in my spring jacket. The kids and I walked over to the park earlier this week. The ground was still covered with snow, but it was nice enough to be playing on the playground equipment.

Today while at the library's story time, we saw a few robins in a tree outside the window. I daresay Spring is just about here. We may get another snowfall--it's not unusual in Minnesota--but the hope is that it's not going to last. It's time to get outside, get some fresh air and play!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Confession: I've done too much yelling today.

My 2-year old niece and my 4-year old son spent much of the morning arguing with each other--wanting what the other had, telling the other to do/not do something, being in each other's personal space a little too much.

The thing is, when I find myself getting to the point of yelling--or even just upset--it's because of me, not them. I get to that point when I don't respond immediately. And that's not always easy to do when I'm in the midst of preparing lunch or cleaning or working on something else or feeding my 9-month old nephew. But if I take the time and deal with appropriate consequences immediately, I don't get to the point of yelling. When the kids start arguing with each other I should immediately put them in separate chairs until they're ready to play nicely together or play separately from each other.

When I'm getting to the point of being frustrated or angry, it's usually because I haven't stepped in right away and given the kids appropriate consequences for their actions. Sure, it's easier to turn a blind eye or keep working on my project, but often things escalate and I find myself getting upset.

I am the adult. I am in control. Or I should be--I need to be. When I am in control of the activities in my house, my emotions are in control. That doesn't mean being an overlord (like the father in the Von Trapp family who had a lot of order in his house, but little relationship with his kids until Maria came along). The kids have freedom, but they also have boundaries. And so do I. And that makes us all happy. Most of the time, at least.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Snow Play

At our old apartment we lived next door to a park that had a fairly decent hill in it. Last winter it was not unusual for us to go sledding several times a week. I've only been four times this whole winter. The boys have only gone a few times more. Part of it is our new geographic location--other than a small run in front of Anders' school, there aren't hills in close proximity to us. We have to drive to get to them. And part of it is that this winter hasn't been as hospitable for playing outside.

Nils and his cousin Riley wanted to go outside with me today when I was shoveling the sidewalks. The piles of snow along road between the sidewalk (especially on the corner of our driveway) are Nils' favorite place to play. He loves to grab his little shovel and sled on it. We've needed more of these opportunities this winter. We haven't gotten to to get out of the house of much--and getting out has been much needed. Hopefully playing in the park is soon here, along with walks and bike rides. Patiently awaiting Spring...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Einstein Parenting

‎"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." — Albert Einstein

It's important to know the differing abilities within our children--and how they differ from us. It's important to encourage and challenge them to take on difficult tasks and persevere through tasks they may not like or enjoy. But it's also important to recognize their gifts that we may not naturally encourage. If you're an athlete, you may tend to overlook your son's artistic abilities. If you're a bookworm, you may push reading (which is good), but neglect your daughter's gift with tools. Search for the genius in your child.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sesame Street: Celebrity Lullabies

I don't normally post videos, but this one both the parents and kids can enjoy (at least we all do in my family--my 4-year old can't stop laughing during it).