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.

When Good Ideas Go Bad

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen Big Hero 6 and don’t want to know tiny details of the story, do not read.  Be warned it may not be appropriate for younger audiences or maybe just not in place of a nap!?

We live just a few blocks from an AMC movie theater and pass by it on almost a daily basis, so, on almost a daily basis Parker suggests in the sweetest possible tone, with her held slightly tilted to the side and cheesy grin, “Mom, we could go to see a movie.”  She’s only been a few times; based on how she suddenly becomes a boss lady explaining where to wait in line, where to go and what to do, you’d think my four-year old is employed there.

Yesterday I beat her to the punch and surprised Parker with a mother/daughter day date to the movies.  Daddy may have felt a little left out, though, saving on his ticket, snacks and paying matinée prices equates to huge savings in theater dollars.  As we waited in line to buy tickets she reported we needed to go look at the posters on the wall to pick a movie, not understanding the movie had already been chosen.

Happy for the movie theater adventure.

Happy for the movie theater adventure.

“Big Hero, remember with the kid and the robot?” I reminded her. She and I had been watching previews for Big Hero 6 for weeks, always pointing out the scene where the kid packs the robot’s fluff into the armour and it all bursts back off.  Parker accepted, only slightly annoyed to not get to choose off the wall yet still happy to be at the movies.  Against my desire to be frugal, I bought her an overly priced snack pack.  A few puffs of popcorn, a small cup of lemonade and bag of fruit snacks (my fruit snack loving kid claimed “I don’t like these,” refusing to open the bag).  Parker played with the motorized leg rests, ate popcorn, giggled at previews and mumbled undistinguishable babble between them in order to hear me hush and reiterate we have to be quiet in the movie theater.

On my lap, still smiling before the movie.

On my lap, still smiling before the movie.

A soon as the lights went out she crawled over to my lap where she snuggled in for the remainder of the movie.  In hind-sight maybe I should have looked into what the movie plot was and made an informed decision about whether my spontaneous activity was an appropriate one.  Instead, there we were and there she witnessed the death of Hero’s brother.  And by witness, I mean in the Disney sense, where the character walks off and you know what happens without explicitly seeing it.  Even though I’m positive Parker has seen other shows where death has occurred it made me wonder if she understands it differently now?  If maybe the method of walking into a fire was more emotionally stimulating? I was slightly resentful considering she doesn’t even have a sibling to relate it to but when the death of parents occurred in Frozen she didn’t even blink…  Granted it was just built into a catchy little tune inviting the construction of happy winter creatures.

Parker tried to initiate a conversation in the silence of the movie theater to explain the scene, I did my best to validate the need to talk about it and told her we would have to wait until after the movie (also buying me time to come up with an explanation of premature death by fire in four-year old speak.)  She appeared to enjoy a lot of it chuckling at the silliness of the robot and then covering her eyes at scary parts.  Again, I know she has seen scary parts of movies.  Villains, witches and monsters are not foreign to this child, yet something about the bad guy in a nightmarish mask was more fear provoking than any she had seen before.

Near the end of the movie, whether from the lemonade sweetener wearing off, the fact we had overlapped would-be nap time with the movie, or the build-up of action and emotion, Parker was sobbing.  She reminded me of the women trying to hide their bawling in a full movie theater during opening night of the Notebook, trying to be quiet while fighting the urge to wail in agony.  The movie had broken her down and she could not take anymore, by the time I had filled my hands with our belongings to walk out the action was over, the rescue had occurred and the movie was wrapping up.  PJ had calmed down and thankfully re-tuned in to see the happy ending.

We walked out of the theater holding hands, tears still streaming as Parker remarked “I did not like that movie,” and I feeling less of myself as a mom for subjecting my child to the terror she suffered.  She couldn’t verbalize if it was because she was scared or sad and what it was that bothered her.  Later in the evening she spoke with Daddy about our outing to the movies.  It was funny to hear her recap of the plot and comment she didn’t like it but would see it again with Daddy.  “It was just out of control,” she told him.

Lesson learned… Impromptu trips to the movies have greater implications for young children, what is seen can’t be unseen, plan wisely.  I bet she stops asking me to take her to the movies, though.