Sea Gull Century Gets Unexpected Participant

October 10, 2008

On Saturday, my husband competed in the Sea Gull Century, a hundred mile bike race on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  But what we saw was an unexpected surprise.

This wild pony just joined right into the race.

This wild pony just joined right into the race.

Being the dutiful family, my three-year-old twins and I donned our team shirts and went to support him.  We saw him off at the start line in Salisbury.  Then we took a small detour to the Salisbury Zoo, before heading to Assateague Island to cheer him on at the 62 mile marker.

We arrived about 45 minutes before my husband, so we found some a good spot on the side of the road and cheered on all the other weary cyclists as they headed into their third rest stop.

But what we saw next was a delight to my children and just a surprise to the other riders.  We saw a new entry into the event – the kind with four legs.

How many races do you get to ride right beside a wild pony?

How many races do you get to ride right beside a wild pony?

Assateague – and the neighboring Chincoteague – Island is known for its wild ponies.  Well, while we were sitting there cheering on the cyclists we saw one pony insert himself into the race.

He started out grazing on the side of the road, but then worked himself onto the road where surprised cyclists traveling 15-20 mph had to navigate around him.

But just as quickly as he appeared our mysterious pony participant disappeared.  But when you hear my kids talk about the century, it’s all about the pony – and oh yeah, Daddy did good too.

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Get Lost for Some Fall Fun

October 9, 2008

It seems like just yesterday we were playing around in the pool in the hot sun.  But alas, the dog days of summer are behind us, school has started and fall is here.

But just because the days are getting shorter and temperatures are starting to drop doesn’t mean that the outdoor fun has to stop.

One great way to enjoy the autumn weather and expend some energy is to get lost.

What? 

I’m not suggesting you wander aimlessly.  Instead take in a maze.  You can find them everywhere if you know where to look.  They come in all shapes and sizes.

My twins taking on a hay maze.

My twins taking on a hay maze.

Hay Mazes

 

My kids started as toddlers playing in a hay maze the vegetable stand near our house puts up every fall.  You can also find hay mazes at festivals and neighborhood events.

I went through the maze with the twins the first couple of times.  But it wasn’t long before they were taking on the maze solo.

Hay mazes are great for younger kids for several reasons.  They are usually small enough that the children don’t get discouraged trying to find the exit.

The hay is also often stacked short enough that as a parent you can look over the top of it and feel comfortable letting your child go through alone, but still tall enough for it to be a challenge for the kids.

But what I like most about hay mazes is when the kids come to a crossroads in the path, watching them make a decision about which path to take.  Can’t you just hear Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” being recited in the background?

What’s even more interesting is watching their reaction when they come to a dead end.  How do they react?  Do they retrace their steps?  Can they find the right path?  I’m always amazed to watch their reasoning skills in action.

Corn Mazes

An aerial view of Cherry Crest Farm the year I went through it.

An aerial view of Cherry Crest Farm the year I went through it.

But if you and your family are looking for more of a challenger, I recommend trying a corn maze.

My first experience with a corn maze was at Cherry Crest Farm in Pennsylvania.  To truly appreciate this maze you have to see an aerial view.  But the real fun is when you try to manipulate your way through the stalks.

We also frequent the maze at the Chesterfield Berry Farm in Virginia.  Among the corn your challenge doubles.  You must not only find your way out, but you must also find certain checkpoints along the way (and they aren’t necessarily on the direct exit route) and get your ticket punched.  If you get your card punched at every station you get a prize at the end.

And for those of you more adventuresome, hit the maze after dark (where allowed) and try your luck among the stalks by flashlight.  My twins very first maze experience when they were still in carriers was at the West Nursery at night with only a flashlight to guide us.  At this maze, to help us along the way, at critical intersections were trivia questions about the area’s history.  It’s very help if you know your history.

Other Mazes

But the maze fun doesn’t have to end with Halloween.  A maze of lights is the perfect addition to your Christmas light tour.  Lewis Botanical Gardens in Virginia adds two light mazes (of varying levels) to their Garden of Lights.  And let me tell you that the lights add a degree of difficulty I didn’t expect.

But like the hay mazes, light mazes are usually low enough for parents to allow children to test out their skills solo.

You can find local corn mazes by going to www.cornmazedir.com, www.americanmaze.com or www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org.  Be on the lookout for hay and other mazes at local festivals and fairs.

So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and get lost.


Finally, a Children’s CD Parents can Enjoy

April 2, 2008

I’ve listened to enough Wiggles songs to make my head explode.  I’ve heard every song that Dora the Explorer and her cousin Diego have ever recited.  I know all the words to the Sesame Street classics.  But what else can I do?

You see my children like music – I mean really like music.  And in my effort to be a good parent, I try to cultivate that interest by surrounding them with music they enjoy.

Anything is PossibleAnd while they might treasure the sounds of their favorite TV characters, the repetition of that music on a daily basis is enough to test the sanity of even the best parents.

But when I’ve overdosed on children’s music, I can hardly put in Aerosmith or the Rolling Stones.  Not only is the language and references to sex and drugs questionable content for two year olds, but my kids find most of my music choices too loud (I know it’s only a short amount of time before I have the same claim about their music).

That Baby DVDBut I think I’ve finally found a CD that the children and I can enjoy together.  That Baby CD combines music made famous by some of my favorite artists with a nice acoustic sound that my kids can enjoy too.

“We are one of the few out there that have decided to take children’s music into a new direction,” said Rob Wolf, co- founder of OyBaby LLC, company behind That Baby CD.

That Baby CD has pushed children’s music further than ever before by trying to create “something that the entire family can enjoy,” Rob said.

And I think That Baby CD did just that.  The music is danceable.  The children can clap their hands to it.  Parent can – and will want to – sing along with the music, music they know from artists like Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and Bob Marley. 

This CD has something for everyone.  It’s perfect for those long car rides when tensions run high and boredom sets in.  Parents can feel comfortable about putting in That Baby CD to liven up those long trips with some snappy music that gets your feet tapping and your voice singing along with the familiar words.

“I think the music has to accessible to [the children].  It has to have melodies that are catchy and words that are appropriate,” Rob said.

Rob combined his hobby video editing with Lisi’s photography skills and the pair’s love of music to produce their third children’s album.

“We struck a chord with a product that fits a need for a lot of families,” Rob said, adding that it’s a labor of love for him and Lisi.

The Wolfs first venture, OyBaby, and its sequel OyBaby 2, focused on Jewish music for babies and kids.  They wanted a way share their Jewish heritage with their children.  Both albums were well received with more than 40,000 copies sold in the U.S. and 15 other countries.

So when non-Jewish friends started asking the Wolfs for a CD that they could enjoy with their children, Rob and Lisi were happy to oblige.

In 2007, the Wolfs decided to take the things that succeeded in OyBaby and turn them into a non-religious product.  And it was only natural for them to turn again to their friend Stephanie Schneiderman, and her sisters Lisa Schneiderman and Kim Palumbis, to record their songs.

Stephanie, who has done the arrangement for all three of the Wolfs’ children’s albums, is an accomplished musician in her own right with five solo albums under her belt.  She and her sisters sing 10 of the 14 songs on the CD.

And the 14 songs came out of a lot of brainstorming on Rob and Lisi’s part.  After weeks of looking for potential songs, they came up with a list of 30 which they eventually pared down to those on the CD.

But don’t ask Rob to pick his favorite:

“That’s like asking me which is my favorite child,” he said.

I, on the other hand, have already selected my top choices – The Pretenders “Brass in Pocket” and 10,000 Maniacs “These are Days.”

The kids and I put the CD in and dance around the living room to those two tunes all the time.  It’s a great chance for them to experiment with their own dancing style.

But if you are afraid that that your little one won’t identify with the words, then you should try out That Baby DVD that comes with a child-friendly video accompaniment for each song (the picture at the top of this article is from video for Jonny Lang’s “Anything is Possible”). 

The DVD gives the children a chance to “visually put their mind to” an image when they are later listening to the CD in the car.

So if you are looking for music for your children that won’t drive you crazy, check out That Baby CD


A Sad Day When Disney Starts Banning Children

January 16, 2008

Disney bans children.  Now that’s a sentence I never thought I’d see in print.  Granted it’s only one restaurant, in one upscale resort.  But a precedent has been set.

Victoria & Albert’sAccording to the Associated Press, the restaurant in question is Victoria & Albert’s, Disney World’s only five diamond restaurant.  Victoria & Albert is located in the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

Meals at this high-dollar restaurant start at $125 a plate.  Now, the truth be told, I will probably never take my children – at least as long as they are children – to a $125 a plate restaurant. 

But that doesn’t mean I’m not upset by the ban.  Here’s why:

Firstly, the name Disney, particularly Disney World or Disney Land, is synonymous with children.  After all, it has made its money off children.  So the thought that Disney would ban children from any part of Disney World or Disney Land (even if it is at the resort) just sounds out of place.

But Disney today is not the Disney of my youth.  Their market has changed.  Now Disney is targeting singles, young couples and other adults trying to relive their childhood.  This strategy is evident in the number of adult-type entertainment being offered at the resorts.

Secondly, Disney World is a vacation spot.  How many people go on vacation where they go out to dinner without their children?  Sure, we have taken my mother on vacation with us so that my husband and I go out for a drink and a little alone time while on vacation, but dinners are still for the family.  Besides how many parents can bring their own babysitter.  Children 10 and under cannot be left alone.

I’m sure the resort probably offers some type of babysitting.  I don’t know about other parents, but I’m hesitant to leave my children with someone I don’t know.  And is the babysitting available during evening hours too?

Furthermore, I think it’s elitist to say the parents with young children don’t deserve to enjoy a night of fine dining.  Rather than ban the three families a month that frequent this restaurant, why not offer a family dining section.

We’ve encountered these “family sections” at several restaurants we’ve eaten at during our vacations.

Lastly, my children (except for being a little loud) are pretty well behaved at dinner.  I attribute this fact to our practice of taking our children with us when we dine out.  How will children learn to behave in a nice restaurant if all they ever eat at our McDonald-like eating establishments?

All I can say it’s a sad day when Disney starts banning children.  I better take my children soon before it become an adult only facility.

(Photo Courtesy of Walt Disney Co.)


I Went to the Outer Banks, Came Home with a Dirty Dick

September 14, 2007

Yes, it’s true.  I went to the Outer Banks with my family and we came home with a Dirty Dick.  Although it’s not nearly as obscene as it sounds, this conversation-sparking souvenir is causing this parent quite a dilemma.

Dirty DHere’s the deal:  Last weekend we went to the Outer Banks for a long weekend and the twins’ first trip to the Atlantic Ocean.  Of course, you can’t visit the Outer Banks without stopping for some seafood.

So we stop at a restaurant called Dirty Dick’s for lunch.  With a slogan like “Get Your Crabs from Dirty Dick’s,” we knew that this restaurant was full of double entendres.  But the twins can’t read yet and we heard the food was good here, so we stopped in.

Yes, my husband did get crabs from Dirty Dick’s — three pounds worth (an all you could eat lunch special).  Being a landlover myself, I settled for a hamburger.  The kids got shrimp and a delicacy I’d never heard of — fried macaroni and cheese.  Needless to say, the twins and I were done with our meal while the husband was still delighting in his second pound of crabs.

So the kids and I decided to peruse the gift shop.  I was very glad to see that despite the restaurant’s name, the children’s shirts were very innocent (the adult shirts were a different story).  They substituted the name Dirty Dick for DD.  The toddler shirts said “Aren’t I Cute?” and the youth shirts said “My First Dirty Shirt.”  Cute, but innocent.

Now I’m a big fan of souvenirs, especially when we are some place we’ve never been.  And I really like the kids to have something to remember their trip.  I like to let them pick the souvenir themselves (within a price limit), although I’ve been know to steer them to certain items.

I show the twins the shirts, but they weren’t interested.  (Yes, they do pick shirts sometimes, but usually it’s got some cute character on it.)  However, my daughter did spot a cute stuffed pelican.  I tried to sell my son on a pelican too, but he’d already spied another stuffed animal (not sure that’s the right word) more to his liking — a stuffed version of the restaurant’s namesake.

I tried my best to talk him into anything else in the store — football, frisbee — anything, but he had his mind set on “Dirty Dick.”

Now this has to be one of the creepiest toys I’ve every seen, but my son loves it.  It went everywhere with us that weekend.  And nothing has changed since we’ve come back home.  He sleeps with it.  He totes it around throughout the day.  It goes to the store with us, everywhere.

Herein lies the problem.  When are ready to leave somewhere, I always check to see if the twins have the toys they brought.  I ask my daughter “do you have your pelican?”  Do I ask my son, “do you have your Dick?” 

If the twins are picking on each other and take each other’s toys, I interfere.  I tell my son “give your sister back her pelican.”  Do I tell my daughter “give your brother back his Dick?”

DD’s BackSure, my kids are too young to understand the Dick can be more than just a man’s name.  But you should see the looks I get if I use these phrases in public.  What if someone asks me what my son’s favorite toy is?  Do I tell them “It’s his Dirty Dick”?

See the dilemma.

For now, I’ve been calling Dirty Dick “Crabby.”  But that’ll only work until my son learns to read since Dirty Dick’s name is on the back of his shirt.  By then he’ll probably have heard of the other meaning for Dick’s name. 

I can only hope that by that time, my son will have lost interest in Dirty Dick.  And this tale will be just a funny memory.