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

Giving Thanks

TurkeyhandThanksgiving is here to celebrate!

It’s not about the Turkey on your plate,

It’s not about watching football,

Or a late night shopping trip to the mall,

Thanksgiving is time to appreciate,

Be thankful and know life is great.

From Inspired Living we send,

Wishes for happy times with family and friends.

 

Since I am lacking in skill in the kitchen, Parker and I worked on a crafty project in preparation for Thanksgiving.  We painted her hands and printed cards for her family and a few friends.  Shepic&sig wrote out her name (in her sweet four year old print) on hearts and we pasted the turkeys, hearts, pictures and a simple poem onto cards.  Parker stickered up the envelopes while I printed out the addresses and sent them across town and across the country.

Parker and I talked about her cousins and her family, she was excited knowing her thoughtful piece of mail would make them smile.  As Thanksgiving seems less and less about being thankful, and more and more about consumerism and holiday shopping – I want to ensure she knows the holiday is dedicated to family time.  I want her to spend time appreciating the people around us who help make our life wonderful.

Red Hair Equals Mermaid

I will admit, Halloween really crept up on me this year.  I know, it’s the same October 31st I look forward to every year, except this year we had taken three trips out of town in two months and had what felt like the rest of the month of October absorbed in my sister’s wedding.  It was the weekend before Halloween when people started questioning my daughter what she was going to be for Halloween when I figured I had better pull something together.

She wavered between costume ideas, initially stating her destiny to be a princess.  Of course not related to any of the princess costumes we already have at home to regularly get dressed up in.  Then one morning during our typical getting the hair done routine…  This consists of PJ isolated sitting on the dresser, holding my phone tuned into Youtube Cimorelli videos (Cimorelli is a girls group from California who cover major pop songs in a PG version – perfect for little ears – and Parker learns and loves all of these pop songs.)  After the combing, pulling, braiding, twisting and rubber bands she eventually earns a marshmallow for cooperating.  During this morning, as she is scrolling through videos and singing along to the teen lyrics in a slurred unclear of all the words kind of way, I asked her if she wanted to be a pop star for Halloween.

Of course the answer was yes.  And then it was up to me to figure out what a pop star looks like in age appropriate four-year old kind of way.  I figured she had some pop-star-ish clothes and we could just pick up some accessories like a microphone, play jewelry, and a wig.  With her participation, she was getting into the idea of what a singer would wear on stage and loved picking out some blingy $0.50 rings.

On Friday afternoon I took Parker to school to trick or treat with her class.  She had already made it clear she was not a fan of the wig during our trying out the costume at home so I brought bobby pins to staple it to her head.  And when the moment came to walk into her school she began refusing the rest of her costume accessories fusing about the headphones, jewelry and handed me her microphone.  In her classroom she appeared as the whiny girl, fashionable dressed with red hair – to which most people assumed she was going as Ariel the Little Mermaid.  I’ve never seen Ariel in a cheetah print top, but lesson learned red hair equates to mermaid.

On Friday evening I had high hopes of capturing an image to show the true pop star image my four-year old can emulate.  I imagined a scene with her in the foreground posing as she loves to do garnishing all of the pop star accessories we had planned.  She’s pop out her hip, throw her arms in the air and belt out a song.  Then in the background her daddy would be dressed as the bodyguard in his decade old workout shirt labeled “SECURITY,” a dark suit jacket, sunglasses and an ear piece.  Then I would be standing next to him as the manager holding a clipboard, two phones and talking on 08one more.  I envisioned this legendary Halloween 2014 picture and when it came down to it all I got was one cranky looking wild girl ready to go out and hit the streets for candy.  Oh well, there’s always next year.

On Saturday we had a family adventure to the Louisburg Cider Mill.  It was their final weekend for the fall festivities so PJ got ample time on the jumping pillow; it was nice to be able to stand on the sidelines and watch her enjoying herself without having to be Jumping Pillowholding hands with her.  We took a hay rack ride, I found out it is my husband’s favorite fall activity.  And we found our way through the giant corn maze.  We let Parker take the lead and choose the paths, my husband and I played behind her tossing dried corn cobs at each other.  I may have chucked one a touch too hard and his retaliation cob throw ended up with a rip in the back of my pants.  “It’s not so bad, you’re wearing pink underwear right?” he said.  Unfortunately it was my bare butt and a day I wish I had worn a longer shirt.  The adventure ended with hot cider and apple cider donuts which made up for the end of life for my pants. Jumping Pillow2 Corn Maze Louisburg Cider Mill

 

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

Don’t Change Your Smile

smileSometimes the world can be overwhelming with tears, fears and frustrations.  War, controversy, politics, violence, injustice and natural disasters all happening simultaneously.

Consuming so much negativity is detrimental to our minds, bodies and relationships with each other.  The terror of all that is bad can be paralyzing, and yet in the time spent worrying we miss so many opportunities to smile, appreciate the positive and truly live.

It is a difficult balance to not be apathetic about problems, while not allowing the problems to consume us.  How can we work to improve the world without the circumstances of the world delivering us to a rotten place?

It starts with keeping a smile.

 

Warrior Dash 2013

The Warrior Dash is a 5K race with various obstacles along the way including hurdling fire, crawling through mud and climbing ropes.  In Kansas City, this years race happened to fall on a weekend after a week with several inches of April showers so the track was extra muddy.  The weekend remained overcast and the temperatures unseasonably cold.  And while no running activity is ever appealing to me, a group of friends convinced me to do the dash last year.  It turned out to be a ridiculously messy adventure to which we all agreed we might need a little more conditioning to actually appear somewhat fit to do it again.

What was I thinking – I don’t run, I thought as my friend Jeanne tried to cheer me on and push me to not stop until we got to the next obstacle.  Never in my life did I think I would be pleased to fall into a pit of mud or go wading into a murky pond, yet on that day we were like pigs on a farm needing relief from the heat.  Toward the end I was so exhausted I could hardly push my body weight over the logs I was attempting to hurdle, just as the fit and fast people from the next wave time effortlessly leapt past me.  Jeanne pushed and pushed me until I finally convinced her to run ahead and I’d meet her at the end/ As soon as she was out of sight I pondered if anyone would notice if I laid down to take a nap on the side of the track.

This year my friends all signed up again, and my best intentions to learn to run and build muscle for climbing, I did not prepare at all.  Fortunately or unfortunately, I dropped my plans to participate after dealing with the flu days before hand.  This year I went as a cheerleader/photographer, maybe next year I will be trained and ready to run.
w13My fanatically clean friend called me up a few days before she was scheduled to run the Warrior Dash.  She planned to run it this year for the first time and had an important question needing an answer.

“Do you have to donate your shoes?” Crystal, asked.  While the answer is no, I explained most people do throw their shoes in the suggested piles after running.  The shoes are cleaned up and given to charity, while registration fees contribute to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.  “I just got rid of all my old tennis shoes,” she stressed.  Despite knowing the Warrior Dash was scheduled soon, she couldn’t control her compulsive decluttering.

“Well at least when it’s over you will have something to clean,” I optimistically suggested assuming this might appease someone who finds so much pleasure in cleaning.

“Oh no, that’d be too messy.”  She reported her husband will be responsible for washing her tennis shoes after the race.

Dollhouse Foreshadowing

My sister and I spent endless hours playing with dollhouses when we were little, I’m talking NASA astronaut training hours.  Our first dollhouse was constructed by my mom from a wooden craft kit.  The four room house was decorated and redecorated by painting the interior, gluing felt for carpeting and paper on the walls.  We bought furniture and accessories down to potted plants, tiny picture frames, dishes and tea cups.  Later we planned to add to our dollhouse neighborhood and each bought our own craft kits for additional houses.  My house, like many of my master-minded projects, never got completed.  I lost the directions and the beginnings of a large three-story house remained untouched in my parent’s basement for nearly 20 years.  Call it divine intervention interrupting either mom’s hoarding reservation in throwing things out or my inability to follow-through with projects; the remaining contents in the doll house kit got wet in a minor leak in their basement and the house was finally set out on the curb.

The clean up effort lead my mom and I to rediscovering the remaining dollhouses last week.  I assumed at some point I would introduce my daughter to the houses, thinking maybe when she is a little older.  Two years old is too young for the fragile old wood, it doesn’t light up or make sounds like other plastic houses she’s seen, and all of the itsy-bitsy accessories to keep track of is enough to cause me an aneurism.  In a few years I figured she would love the houses.  Then as quickly as the dollhouses were at table level and within reach, a childhood wave of sentiment rushed over me and I couldn’t wait for her to wake up from her nap to come and play.

My mom and I sorted through the miniature time capsule of our youth, cleaning up, dusting off and discarding what was broken or not worth keeping.  My sister was mighty pleased, back in the day, to use some creative skill in making her own dollhouse furniture.  Foam haphazardly covered in fabric as the bed would have been fit for a dollhouse equivalent to a crack house.  There were a few surprises in the excavation of the houses which ironically seemed accurate in our lives today.  My sister’s house was filled with pets, including two tigers.  This spring she will be completing her vet tech degree and the journey to get her there was inspired by her time working with the tigers at Endangered Animal Rescue in Citra, Florida.  (Click HERE for more on that story.)  My sister plans to work with a zoo veterinary department and continue her passion with big cats.

The other foreshadowing shock from our childhood houses, we found a black family.  In our suburban caucasian home I can’t remember or imagine why we had purchased a black family.  Perhaps my sister and I needed a way to distinguish who’s dolls belonged to each other?  Were we impatient with a store who ran out of white families?  Could it be my sister and I wisely saw a value in increasing the diversity in our dollhouse community?  Whatever the reasoning was back then it has long since been forgotten and I’m sure my twelve-year-old self would have never been able to know she would one day fall in love and marry a black man.

dollWith the components freshly sanitized, small accessories stored away and rooms reconfigured the houses were ready.  I barely withheld my desire to wake my daughter up to come and play…  Finally she arose and joined us downstairs to get her first glimpse of the hand crafted childhood treasure.  Parker jumped right into investigating the pieces of furniture, opening the refrigerator, rearranging the living room, and pointing out the bird-cage.  She opened the toilet seat and promptly put the little girl on it, holding the “mommy doll” near by to applaud her when she finished.  Dollhouses may predict the future and when a two-year old plays it replicates her present life with plenty of potty practice.

If you are interested in having your own fun with this creative and playful hobby you can find doll house kits online or at craft stores like Hobby Lobby or Jo Ann ETC.  In the Kansas City area you can check out Mini Temptations at 3633 West 95th in Overland Park, KS for a greater variety of houses, decorations, furniture and accessories you can see first hand.