Kemper Outdoor Adventure

One hot afternoon at the end of June, we found ourselves set off for another adventure to fulfill out Kansas City Passport to Adventure book.  This time we stepped into the scenic landscape near Lake Jocomo in Blue Springs, Missouri at the Kemper Outdoor Education Center.  It was clear they had amazing day camps where kids were canoeing on a pond andkemper-outdoor friendly camp counselors aimed us on path to hike.  The path took us over a marshy area with a long wooden boardwalk and lead to prairie and forest areas.  With the heat and hungry irritability, we decided we had seen enough and retreated to the cabin to collect our passport stamp.  Inside the kids not only got a stamp, they got to select a small nature figurine.  Parker got a turtle while Jones picked up a plastic ant to take home and fool Mom when she walked in the door.

We were also instructed to not miss the hoofed animal enclosure just a short ride around the lake.  There Jones fed an antelope through the fence with some other patrons who brought carrots.  Since Parker’s mood reflected the heat of the day, I required her to ride with her eyes closed home from Kemper (in hopes she would nod off and get some much-needed rest.)  Jones softly sang a lullaby about stop lights to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle” to her the whole way home.

Kemper Outdoor and the hoofed enclosure were two unique finds for outdoor fun in Kansas City.  I would take advantage of participating in the activities they offer, enjoying another hike or returning to check on the antelope up close – this time I will know to bring some carrots.kemper-outdoor3

Gorman Passport Adventure

Our next trip for the Kansas City’s Passport to Adventure was to the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center.  I was most surprised and slightly embarrassed to find this little eight acre gem nestled into the city near the Country Club Plaza.  There is no telling how many17anitabgordonILKC times I’ve driven right by it and never paid attention.  This discovery center has both indoor and outdoor adventures to explore.  Inside there were classrooms (I imagine were for scout meetings, field trips and summer camps) filled with nature experimentation and live animals.  On a separate wing of the building we could hear the high energy fun of a group of day campers.  A gift shop and information counter are to the right at the entrance for anyone looking for information on wildlife, plants and conservation.  The person at the information desk was excited to greet the kids and patiently answered their four and five year old questions, she also offered each kid an animal temporary tattoo.  The building had a formal presentation area facing a wall of windows where my two adventurers found entertainment in performing dances and songs to an audience of one after our hike outdoors.  The building also is an example for sustainable features like geothermal and water waste systems.   18anitabgordonILKC

The eight acres outside provides nature trails lines with native plants to demonstrate how beautiful nature can be in an urban setting.  The kids enjoyed picking the paths and alternating between the wood chip trails through the foliage and the paved walkway.  We hopped over a creek, watched water bugs on the ponds, identified details on flowers and plants, and climbed logs in the outdoor classroom.  Now that I am aware of the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center, I look forward to checking out more events there.  Next month alone they will have several story times, a presentation on Missouri Bats and Monarch Mania.19anitabgordonILKC

Following our outing to the Discovery Center, we cooled off at Loose Park’s splash pad.  One thing I love about Kansas City is the many free splash park areas were kids, and parents alike, can go to play during the summer time.  We made a quick wardrobe change in the car, brought in our water bottles and some water toys and smiled through the rest of the afternoon.

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KC Passport Stamp #2

Our second stop with the Kansas City Passport to Adventure took us to the Beanstalk Children’s Garden.  It is a small community garden we have passed nearby dozens of times, with it’s close proximity to the Kansas City Zoo, though we never knew it existed.  Thankfully our Passport to Adventure book brought us in search of the welcoming plot filled with raised gardens, cheery volunteers and a small water feature.  We were encouraged to explore the plants and invited to pick ripe raspberries to eat fresh.  15jonesIL

I quizzed the kids with age appropriate questions about where fruits and vegetables grow, we looked at the shapes of leaves and memorized the names of some of the grain plants – a necessity for earning a stamp at the Beanstalk Children’s Garden.  Unfortunately due to the outside temperature the day we visited, we did not stay for long and the kids seemed to enjoy their hands in the fountain the most while requesting that I feed them raspberries.

It was a unique spot in Kansas City I was happy to get to see and may be some place to return in the future for another adventure.

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Summer Passport

I am grateful for the time I get this summer to spend with my five-year-old daughter and my friend’s four-year-old son.  The two have grown up together and lovingly refer to each other as “Brother” and “Sister.”  They do behave a lot like siblings when spending any volume of time together; they truly adore each other though the laughter can easily turn to bickering and arguments – especially when not properly fed, hydrated and entertained.  At the start of the summer, the plan was some weeks I would have the two together three days during the week.  I knew this would require some thrifty creativity.

In the first week we had already gone to some of our favorite and free spots; Matt Ross Community Center (for their indoor play gym), Kaleidoscope (the art activity center at Hallmark), and Crown Center (The Adventures of Mr. Potato Head Exhibit).  I knew the air conditioned play would not last and we would have to be finding some unique outdoor activities too.  After the first few days of making it up as I went along, I stumbled upon an idea which would help guide our summer experiences.  I found Kansas City’s Passport to Adventure created by The Interpretive Site Coalition; “a not-for-profit organization comprised of historical sites, museums, nature centers and like agencies in the Kansas City region.”

I picked up two passports and have each child bring their own on each adventure we attend now.  The passport contains nineteen different locations to visit around the city, information about each location including address, hours of operation and admission fees (though most are free).  At each location there is a question for the kids to answer about what they see or learn on the visit and they provide their answer to an employee to earn a stamp.

While the kids are excited about earning stamps and playing, I am interested in checking out places in Kansas City I have never visited and avoiding fussing between the two by keeping our adventures fresh and new each day.

Our first adventure was to Burr Oak Woods, or as Jones called it, “Broke.”  This park contains 1,071 acres of forest and prairie, with hiking trails, picnic areas and a discovery nature center.  Upon entering the park I encouraged the kids to look for wildlife and to my surprise, the four year old voice in the back seat quickly responded with “There’s a deer.”  I put the car in reverse and we sat to watch a deer in the prairie for a few minutes before continuing on our path.  We started with a short hike on the trail so I packed chemical free bug07jonesIL spray and bottles of water to stay comfortable in the heat.  Because of the tree coverage and small breeze the June temperature didn’t feel as bad as I dreaded.  We listened to the sounds of nature, climbed on logs and held hands until their little legs were tired and then we went to explore the nature center.08jonesIL

Inside the nature center there was a 3,000 gallon aquarium with Missouri fish, smaller tanks for snakes, frogs and turtles and a long wall of windows for wildlife viewing out back.  Along with hummingbirds, squirrels and finches there also happened to be a gang of wild turkeys wondering through.  The kids turned every knob, flipped every switch and pulled every lever to explore all of what the exhibit offered.  They had the children’s play area all to themselves where they put on a puppet show from a hole in a log they could crawl into.  The kids had a blast sliding down the slide and using their imaginations to learn and grow.

Burr Oak Woods is definitely worth the trip to Blue Springs to enjoy the hiking and the nature center.  You can also pick up a passport there to begin your own summer adventures.

Strawberry Adventure

My family loves an adventure, sometimes just a ride in the car with no destination in mind will lead us to creating fantastic memories.  On this particular day, we did have a plan to try something we hadn’t done together before.  We found ourselves near Edgerton, KS on a family farm for strawberry picking.  The fields at The Gieringer’s Orchard wafted with the 01strawberrysweet fruity fragrance I had engraved in my childhood memory bank from the back corner of our yard in Minnesota.  It was refreshing to crouch down and search deep into the leaves to find the most perfectly ripe fruit others had passed by.  I had forgotten completely about the little white flowers on the plants and the method to plucking with the stem.  Like some new adventures, Parker was hesitant at first and then enthusiastically joined in the hunt.  When I noticed she had a tendency to choose tiny berries which were far from ripe, as she has an undeniable preference for tiny things…  I asked her to nibble on one and tell me if she would like to eat more.  Her pre-prepared it tastes good mom nodding smile turned to a bitter tongue out frown and her strawberry picking greatly improved instantly.

It was a chilly morning for May, though the temperature didn’t impede on the dozens of other strawberry pickers present there.  Thankfully we were able to fill our tray before the skies opened up to a cold shower.

As we love to eat strawberries: plain, covered in chocolate or juiced with spinach.  I know we will be back again soon because picking up a carton in the grocery store just won’t taste as good now.00strawberry

Camping Cheers and Six Years

Camp Site“This is one of Mommy and Daddy’s favorite things to do.  We want to share it with you and have fun together.”  I explained to Parker as she completed round 2 of timeouts in the car.  She nodded and smiled, apologized for whining and fussing, and we returned to blissfulness at the picnic table.

Camping is one of our favorite past times and this was our practice run for Parker.  My husband figured it would be better to start with a day trip to a camp site and see how she managed.  Although, right away she began asking where is the tent and how are we going to sleep?  Her curious mind was satisfied with our explanations to only stay out a while and not all night, then she jumped right into collecting twigs for helping Daddy to start a fire.

For a four year old, who seems constantly stimulated by toys, puzzles, books, electronics, music etc.  It was quite an adjustment for her to create her own fun, to explore in nature and to sit still to watch the fire (for about 20 second intervals at a time).  In hindsight, I could have brought more toys to help her stay content.  After all, there are only so many times you can fill a hallowed acorn shell with water for the Frozen Anna doll before that gets old.  Or maybe it was just a perfect way to demonstrate to her, you don’t need “things” to have a good time with people you love.  During our camping adventure, Parker and I hiked in the woods.  Or On Our Adventure Hike Lake Clintonshould I say she waddled down to the lake and then clung to my back like a koala bear while I clawed my way back up the steep ravine.  She assisted Daddy with gathering supplies and cleaning up.  She observed other camp goers and commented on the super swanky RV’s, “Can we get one of those?” And of course, she devoured the always necessary camping dessert.  Except as soon as her s’more started falling apart and getting her fingers sticky, I had to be the holder while she took bites and then carefully wiped her fingers and lips back to unsticky perfection.

Smores Attack

It was a wonderful idea my husband initiated on a beautiful fall day.  The outing was a reminder of what we do together when we are having fun, being adventurous and working well together as a team.  On our sixth wedding anniversary, I am so thankful to continue to do the things we love to do together and to get to share this experience with our daughter.  Cheers to six years, to camping out, to cheese and crackers, to being more of the best and less of the rest, cheers to daily celebrations of happiness and to many more anniversaries (and campouts) in the future.

Camp Kiss

Reflections Fit For Father’s Day

That’s me and my dad (1982). You will see not much changes, he still wears the same mustache.

I have an older brother and a younger sister, none of us look a thing like my dad.  We are all three reflections of my mom and her side of our family.  My mother is beautiful and looks the same now as she did in pictures from twenty years ago, except better because she is without a helmet perm and enormous eye glasses.  She is incredibly kind spirited and generous to all living things.  She is bursting with creativity and is more motivated to follow-through on tasks quickly than anyone I have ever met – which easily demonstrates why she has been so successful in her own interior design business.  My siblings and I have observed these characteristics in her and have absorbed parts to benefit us each in unique ways.

For better or for worse, feel like I am the only one in my family who has acquired some personality traits from my dad.  So, in honor of my dad on Father’s Day – here goes…

*HUMOR*

I’ve always heard stories about my dad’s dad and his family of brothers, my grandpa passed away before I was born although I feel I know him from these memories shared.  My grandma told me while she was dating him she would eat at his family’s house for dinner and her stomach would ache the next day from laughter.  She talked about how each brother would seem funnier then the next and how his mom would top them all with her punch lines.  I can almost imagine the scene, the sarcasm and the ridiculousness.

The Mady Brothers. My grandpa is the handsome one, third from the left.

At our family dinner table I know when my dad is about to tell a joke before he even opens his mouth.  So I find it exceptionally entertaining when I can make him laugh or encourage him to be gullible in an outlandish tale.  Part of what makes my humor is how people don’t suspect it from the sweet look I got from my mom.  I can make a silly request or develop a whole unbelievably, outrageous story leaving the other person looking dumbfounded before they question my innocence.

About to ride The Tower of Terror 1995. Looking so cool – Dad in his member’s only jacket and me in tapered jeans.

*ADVENTURE*

My mom, brother and sister are perfectly content  staying with their feet firmly planted on the ground, and without risk or fear.  My dad and I are not.  My dad and I rode roller coasters on family vacations while the rest faked illness for a seat on the park bench.  We took scuba diving lessons while the others were beach bound.  He escorted me and my friend’s to haunted houses before we were old enough to drive ourselves. And while my family came to support and watch me skydive, I think my dad was slightly jealous to not be strapped to a parachute too.

Without my dad being at my side through the early adventures, I may not have gone on to pursue my own later – canyoning, paragliding, river rafting etc.  Don’t get me wrong, some of these risks have been terrifying to me.  It’s overcoming the fear for the adventure which makes it exhilarating and worth it every time.

*QUESTIONING*

My dad always wanted us to think for ourselves.  Sounds like a great thing for a parent to want to teach their children, except if you are the child and you just want to know how long before we stop.  And what you get in response is “Well, we are driving at a rate of 68 miles per hour and have another 150 miles to go.”

As a double major in biology and chemistry it was important for him that we didn’t just get answers, rather  we would know how to solve the problems.   This would lead to thinking outside the box and questioning what was already known.  Around middle school or high school age I began to understand from my dad there is a lot more happening in the world then I would get from public education.  I gained confidence to speak my mind, ask direct questions and point out what didn’t make sense to me in school, at the workplace and in general.  It’s not always cool to be the one who is trying question the flow of the popular opinion.  Being cool isn’t important to me though, I would rather not conform back into a box.

I am an extremely lucky individual to have the parents I have, who have supported me so much in life, and who have blessed me with the inherited and learned characteristics which make me who I am.  I love them both, and today – Happy Father’s Day Dad – I appreciate you in so many ways.