Harried Poppins: Free Bowling and Racing…Worms?

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Two days of talk about all the details that go along with being the responsible adult.

Now for the good stuff.

If you haven’t heard about www.kidsbowlfree.com, you’ve been ignoring your junk inbox. It looks very spammy, but it’s a legit program that is exactly what it says it is. Kids get 2 FREE games of bowling A DAY for the whole summer. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. We don’t go that much, but we tried it out this week.

It’s an easy sign-up, just a bit of information and then pick your closest participating bowling alley. You’ll receive an e-mail every Sunday for the week.. We go to Ten Pin Alley in Fitchburg, but there’s a large list of centers in Wisconsin (and everywhere else). When you go into bowl, use your smart phone to follow the link in the e-mail and the employee will input the necessary code right on your phone. Adults can sign-up for a separate program, but it costs about $25 and we don’t bowl enough for it to be worth it.

You do have to pay for shoe rental ($2 at Ten Pin), and since I bowled 2 games I also had to pay for those, but for the 5 of us to bowl 2 games, including shoes, it was $14 total compared to the $38.50 we would have paid without signing up.

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One of our first stops after I had picked everyone up was our local library to sign-up for the summer reading program. This summer the theme in our library system, the South Central Library System, is Dig Into Reading. They each received reading logs, where they track their time in 15 minute increments and turn in levels at every 2 hours for great prizes (passes to Cave of the Mounds, the Milwaukee Museum and the Dane County Fair, dinosaur gliders, sticky lizards, etc). This was M’s first year getting to sign-up and she also got her very own library card. A paramount day in any young girl’s life, if you ask me.

In addition to the reading logs, the library hosts the occasional program relating to the theme. We are lucky to be in close proximity to about 8 other library branches, so we take advantage of the free activities when we can. Some of the same programs are featured at different libraries throughout the summer, which is nice because we have more flexibility in our schedule on when and where we can see it.

Later in the week we wound our way to Mt. Horeb for their Zoozorts program. This is the first time we’ve attended an event at the Mt. Horeb library, and as a bit of an unintentional, but overtly sassy library critic, I must say their facility, program, and, most importantly, librarian where impressive. They reserved a big space in the middle of the library for the program. I don’t know the layout of the library, but generally children’s programs are given the unused meeting room or slightly smelly conference area, so it was a nice change. The librarian was enthusiastic, which seems hard to come by in the children’s librarians I’ve encountered lately.

Yeah, I know, completely counter-intuitive, but some are just nasty. Down right Agatha Trunchbull.

Finally, the featured program was Zoozort. A live, animal education program by Noelle Tarrant. She had an amazing energy that kept the audience enraptured for the full hour. She filled every minute with information on each animal and allowed the opportunity for every child to touch almost all the animals, which included a fennec fox, bearded dragon, giant marine toad, 6-banded armadillo, a wallaby and more. If you get a chance, try to track her down at one of her events throughout Wisconsin.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed them up, but the Oregon Public Library 4th Annual Worm Race is exactly what it sounds like. The boys were paired into teams, each received a worm-petitor to compete for the coveted trophies and, of course, the glory of being a worm race champion. It was a fairly large event and included worm EMT’s (nurses from a local veterinarian clinic) which was a great way to include local businesses.

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Unfortunately, neither of the boy’s teams made it beyond the first round but they received a certificate, a pass for the Dane County Fair, and, a small bag full of their worm’s gummy counterparts.

The initial idea for our “lunch around the world” idea started during the Olympics last year. As with everyone, we spent those few weeks consumed by the events and the culture of the London Olympics, including making a lunch of Shepard’s pie. This year I decided to expand on the idea as a means of introducing practical skills and global thought.

A fantastic(ally) theoretical idea. The kids seem to think because I live in a space without my parents and that I’m big enough to be an adult that it must translate to a natural cooking ability, like their mothers. But in reality, it doesn’t reach much beyond the same pb&j’s they are capable of making.

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So when in our first week, the random selection was Saudi Arabia, I panicked. Middle Eastern cuisine is not one that I’m familiar with, so after I sent the boys to the computer to find recipes, I stealthily pulled out my phone to do some research of my own. In the end, our menu of falafel, pita chips, hummus, and laban (plain yogurt mixed with water and poured over ice) was easy to make, but less so to consume. Of the 4 kids, only A enjoyed the falafel, he was joined by J in the crunchy consumption of pita chips and hummus, but I was the only one who finished their glass of laban.

We started our first week with behavior management contracts and ended with an unpopular meal. A week book ended with low points for the kids, but really an opportunity for a growth in knowledge and experience.

But, as the responsible adult, I have to say that.

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Harried Poppins: School’s Out for the Summer…So Sign Here

Signed Contract

Schools out forev…um…77 days.

But before those 11 weeks can be filled with adventures, new experiences, and memories, we have to deal with the nitty-gritty.

This will be my third summer with A, C, and J, but first with Big M. The addition means a new dynamic for our group. That crew mentality is one that I will stress all summer. I am constantly reminding them that if compromises aren’t reached and tolerance gained, this will be a L-O-N-G summer for all of us (and by all of us, I mean me, of course). It also means that not all of our activities will be based around the interests of the boys. An important, but hard lesson.

Being an only child, A, doesn’t have the same patience and ability to ignore the bossy 4-year old as her older brothers do. This summer is a new experience, but he’s starting to realize that similar to large, seemingly vicious beasts in the woods, if you don’t bother them, they generally won’t bother you.

I decided that because of this new dynamic, and the slight maturity gain that the boys seem to have made since last summer, that I would create individual contracts for everyone to sign and follow throughout the summer. Including me. It’s similar to the contracts that classrooms set up in the first week of school to ensure that both the expectations for behavior and the consequences for poor choices are clear.

It’s a way to keep everyone accountable, as well as providing a safety net in behavior management. The “But-I-didn’t-know” whine doesn’t work when their name is on the line.

I had M sign one, as well, as a means of solidarity in the group and as another introduction to the idea of actions and consequences. At 4, there is less expectation that these rules will be remembered, but, as with any knowledge, each time a concept is introduced a little piece sticks. It can do nothing but help.

Each contract had 8 responsibilities that were the same. In talking to their parents and my previous experience with them, I then personalized the final 3 for each child. I then left spaces for them to add their own rules if they choose to. No one did and I’ve half played with the idea of creating some crazy rules and sneaking them in, but the trust I would lose would far outweigh the hilarity of trying to enforce Tiara Tuesday.

There was some hesitancy in signing the contracts when I first mentioned them, as they were convinced I was making them agree to horrid things, like toilet cleaning and tea parties. It’s amazing what a little ice cream can do to grease the pen. Here’s a link to one of the contracts that I used. I keep them in the back of the binder and gave a copy to the parents so that it can be reinforced, if necessary.

Through this whole half-hour process, I’m sure they thought I found this to be the highlight of the summer. They probably swore they heard me cackle, as I rubbed my hands together, and plotted to make this the most responsibility-filled, boring summer yet. If they only knew, I hate this stuff as much as they do! I don’t want to have to say, “You need to say kind things.” or “Critical comments won’t be tolerated.” But unfortunately, I have to.

This sounds like a it-hurts-me-more-than-it-hurts-you statement, that I always called b.s. on as a kid, but, well, it’s kind of what it is.

If I didn’t know that there was a potential for that behavior, it wouldn’t need to be said. It sounds terribly pessimistic, but think the worst sometimes. Don’t voice these thoughts to the children, but keep them in the back of your mind. You’ll be better prepared for a proactive solution when you see it coming than if you naïvely considered it impossible.

So with the contracts signed, any semblance of school is gone.

Except for the required reading…and math…

Only 77 more days until September.

Literary Review Tattoos: “…a compelling tour de force…”

I have a friend who stores her books in teetering stacks on the floor. They’re usually ripped, dog-eared, and deeply scarred. The way she likes them. When we lived in the same time zone, I would relish the time I spent digging through the pile. Pulling the most worn titles as they seemed like the most coveted.

It was in these stacks that I discovered Octavia Butler’s Kindred. And that I passed over Hitchhiker’s more than once before asking her to page through the book replacing any reference to individual spacecraft with the word ‘car’ or, if larger means of spacial transportation was being used: ‘bus’ She refused and I read it anyway. I loved it.

Her impending birthday left me with the excruciating task of finding more books for her to play literary Jenga. After a recommendation from a tan-jacketed actor, I feel like I’ve discovered the perfect books.

And now the fun begins.

Not simply satisfied with birthday wrap and a bow, I feel that the act of gift giving should go beyond the physical interaction of passing the present and tearing the paper, so I sent her this picture of a review from the back of one of the books.

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It was only after I sent it, partially hidden to remove incriminating statements as to the identity, that I realized how much the portioned description encompassed our friendship.

Consider the idea of reviews on book jackets. The negative are relegated to star-rated columns, but the best of what is being said is boldly printed for immediate judgment.

I propose that we start doing the same for people. The nicest thing that anyone has ever said about them is tattooed down the nape of their neck, possible the breadth of their shoulders if the review is pretentiously wordy. This way we enter our interactions the way we begin reading a book. We’ve scanned the visible for an immediate impression and now garnered the best parts from one persons’ subjective critique.

The best part about this new movement, beyond the sociological connotations  is that it’s easily marketable. Literary-themed tattoos. Encouraged judgment. Egocentricity. As soon as this takes off in Portland, we’ll spread to Seattle, Austin, San Francisco.

With this new proposal in mind, I started pulling books from my shelves. My discoveries were astounding. First, I own an incredible amount of books that I have yet to read, but refuse to stop purchasing more. And secondly, people have already written book reviews about people I know.

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So, go to your bookshelves, find your friends in reviews, and then start to send tattoo suggestions ransom note style. The ability to convince one of applying permanence to these reviews may hinge on an inherent need to share views non-verbally, so start with friends comfortable with revealing opinions on t-shirts or the ass of their yoga pants.

Who’d you find on your shelves? Share your reviews. So we can all judge with you.

Travelers are Snobs. Tourists are Lemmings.

Backroads in Arusha, Tanzania

The genesis of any war can be traced back to three ideological maelstrom: politics, religion, and race. At some point one faction disagrees with another and the resulting is quick societal disintegration. There are annals, anthems, and archeology to speak to worlds lost and lands gained. No generation has lived without a story of war.

Beneath that holy trinity of excuse, there lies a deep-seeded hatred between two groups of people so similar that to the un-indoctrinated they appear one in the same. Yet, there can be a lack of similarity in each that is so uniformly different. The only thing that each unequivocally shares is the fact that none are “home.” It is the first world battle forever engaging the tourist vs. the traveler.

The easy explanation is that the uneducated, un-adventurous mass headed over that cliff at the Grand Canyon? Those are tourists. The two people at the cafe in Abu Dhabi, those three at the artisan market in Otavalo, and that solo adventurer coming out of the Mongolian hostel are travelers. That is to say they are the elite, the group with more right to be exploring the unfamiliar.

Because they are not hanging upside down to kiss the Blarney Stone or creating photo magic by holding the Great Pyramid in the palm of their hand, they have staked a claim on the ideals of travel. An exchange of ideas and culture, expelling complacency, and an escape from reality. For the traveller, these ideals seemingly include exclusivity and solitude.

Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, BC

Robert Frost the tourist is not. Preferring the road most traveled…in large groups…with a charming local guide. Making scheduled stops at the large ‘traps’ and purchasing kitschy ‘authentic’ souvenirs from a disparate looking vendor. The tourist is not searching for themselves in an ancient cobbled street or looking to plant the flag of discovery for Smalltown, Middle America. They are participating in the global community at their own pace.

Without forcing the proverbial joining of hands and harmonious rendition of a unifying camp song, can we not co-exist peacefully? By definition, outside of the airport or public transportation, these two factions should never even meet. Over priced admission and guided tours don’t intersect with hidden alley cafes serving questionably eatable cuisine.

I’m occasionally shamed into denying my tourist self depending on the company I keep. But I now know, I am a travelist. When I go to Paris I will stop at the Musee Carnavalet and get creepy at Cimetiere de Montemartre in between climbing the Eiffel Tower and mimicking the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Top three destinations on my list? The Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, and the Sphinx.

I am a calculated wanderlust. I like to research neighborhoods and plan a few destinations, but the route between is fair game for wandering. I like finding the oft overlooked, disregarded history, and the backyard culture. But I’m enchanted by St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I was in London a few years ago for less than 24 hours. I ate samosas in a sidewalk cafe, waded through early morning fog along the Thames – oh and I saw Buckingham Palace, the London Bridge, Big Ben, ate fish and chips, and went to the British Museum.

Pre-packaged culture is better than none at all. Argue that what you are given in a tour is not ‘real’ but it’s more than you are going to get on your couch at home. Travelers are snobs. Tourists are lemmings. We should create a unified force, Travelists. Proudly display your nighttime panoramic shot of the NY skyline, next to your collection of African craft beer labels. And fight the real enemy – the homebody.

London Bridge, London, UK

A Snobby, Pretentious, yet Oddly Open-Minded Hello

I find the introductory post to be cliché, boring, and the least indicative of who a person truly is as a communicator. It’s reserved for the blogging ideals and goals, which are never completely achieved as they are so carefully outlined in that inaugural post. It’s filled with promises of timely, regular and insightful opinions that are at first occasionally broken, and then as interest ebbs, those same earnest promises drift into internet oblivion.

So.

Sometimes good intentions are enough. Creativity flows, so you start a blog and you share life as it’s lived or as you think or wish it would be. And then creativity wanes. But there is now an eternal snapshot of your mind at that moment in time. It’s what you could or wanted or allowed yourself to give. It’s enough. You’ve now contributed to the global community, where someone else hasn’t.

Use this post not as your introduction to me, but as a welcome to my creative snapshot in time. As an invitation to secretly observe or loudly participate in my mostly contradictory and occasionally coherent contribution.

I’m choosing to leave these first four paragraphs as I wrote them a few days ago, as it so seamlessly represents me and the blog. In a true indication of my stumbling contradictions, I leave them as snobby, pretentious and, yet, oddly open-minded as they were. You should know that the cringe etched between your eyebrows as you weed through the ostentatious mess is only deeper between mine. But due to laziness and the knowledge that my opinions may eventually revolve back to the original pompous prose, I leave them.

So.

Nice to meet you.