Friday, April 27, 2012

Take Your/Our Daughter/Son/Gender Nonspecific Child to Work Day

Apparently yesterday was Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Next year Lumpyhead will be within the target age range for this, and for a moment I thought "He would like that" and the next moment I thought "What the hell would I do with him all day?"

I guess some organizations have a program. They assign some junior admin staffer to babysit the children for the day. The poor sucker scrambles to plan workshops and discussions and office tours, then spent yesterday shepherding munchkins around. Today she is furiously trying to catch up from a whole day away from her regular duties.

I was going to say "he or she," but I'm guessing it was a she.

Am I wrong about this? Did you take part? Did your office? Do you know anyone whose company plans activities, without dumping all the work on some already overworked assistant?

My colleague said she used to do it with her kids, but I realized she was just being snarky when she said, "Back then we called them 'Snow Days.'"

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Playground Stop - Trenton NJ

The Washington Post told us about this place.

Veterans Park
2206 Kuser Road
Hamilton Township, New Jersey 08690

This park is about ten minutes from the New Jersey Turnpike, off I-195 (exit 3). Not the first place I would expect to find a great playground -- no offense, Trenton -- but it's worth the detour. (New Jersey, man. It's like a real place off the toll roads. Where people live, and stuff. Who knew?)

There is another park entrance off Klockner Rd, and that parking lot is closer to the playground equipment. The Kuser Rd entrance gets you to ball fields, a helicopter/memorial, and trails that will lead you to the play area.

We haven't been there since 2009.  Nathan Jr is almost too big for that entire outfit Lumpyhead is wearing.

Sunrise, sunset, all that bullshit. Go to this park.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Playground Stop - Florence SC

During my fit of madness compiling playgrounds and rest stops, I didn't think this place existed. There was a mention of it on Kaboom, misspelled and in the wrong spot. I couldn't find anything else about it online, but when it popped up on our GPS, at just the right time in our drive, we decided to check it out.
Ebenezer Park
842 South Ebenezer Road
Florence, SC 29501

It's located just south of I-20 on I-95. You can get on and off I-95 at exits 160 and 157 without losing much time at all, and isn't too far out of your way if you're headed to Columbia on I-20.

The park has nice options for bigger and smaller kids, with enough separation to keep menacing hordes of 8-year-olds away from toddlers. Not that it was an issue when we visited - the place was nearly deserted - we simply had to keep about our menacing just-turned-three-year-old from injuring his siblings.

I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Playground Stop - Richmond VA

We stumbled upon this place after a Wild Gas Chase (you know, when you exit the highway expecting to find a service station at the top of the off-ramp, but instead you're sent seven miles into some tiny town) with some help from the GPS. It is now built in to every southbound trip. The distance is just right; by the time we hit this area, the kids are ready for a run.

If we have our act together, we pack a lunch and this park doubles as our food stop.

It is located north of Richmond, just south of where 95 and 295 split. You can slip back onto either road pretty easily. It's not as convenient as a playspace in a fast food joint, but it's worth the slight detour.
400 Sausiluta Dr
Henrico, VA 23227

The park boasts several large playgrounds and lots of open space. We have never ventured onto the trails or lake area, but those look cool, too.
Oh, the smallness. How it kills me.
I think this is the time we carefully planned lunch on the road, but left the sandwiches to rot for a week in the fridge. We remembered the cooler - which Bump packed - and the grocery bag with rest of the lunch in it - which I packed - but we both assumed the sandwiches were in the other thing. The lesson here is to always let your spouse handle all of the lunch details.

Some day the children will learn to hide part of the picnic before we leave, so they can stop at a kickass playground for a snack, but still get french fries for lunch.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Roadtrip Ideas

In 2011, we drove to Florida, Maine, and South Carolina. I like to think I learned something from each trip, and packed more planning into the SC drive than I did my own wedding.

(Ahem, full disclosure: I eloped on April Fool's Day.)

These are the things that enabled my survival (in addition, of course, to my husband -- who does all the driving and provides the wisdom of full-time childcare experience, vetoing countless irredeemably stupid ideas before I'm hip-deep in them -- and alcohol).

Lumpyhead's Mom's Roadtrip Checklist:

1. DVD player

How do people go on roadtrips with kids without these? Before we left, I transferred some of the kids' favorite TV shows to DVD, so I didn't feel so bad about their viewing choices. Nothing assuages nonstop-screentime guilt like a few episodes of The Electric Company. (See? They're learning. Sure, they could be discovering geography through first-hand experience, or building literacy by finding letters on billboards, but that Hector is kind of hot.)

Everyone gets a chance to pick the show. We establish the rotation as we're pulling out of the driveway -- by age, height, next birthday, whatever -- and stick to it until we get home. Bump and I are included in the batting order, even though we cannot see the screen from the front seats. This ensures that a few PBS titles get sandwiched in between every Pixar film ever made.

We only use the DVD player on long trips, and it goes dark between 2pm and 4-ish, when Quiet Time (you don't have to sleep, but you gotta go to your room and shut up) is enforced in our house.

The definition of "long" trip, as well as the official end of Quiet Time, is always at our discretion.

2. Games and activities

Lumpyhead spent the entire drive to Maine asking "What state is this?"

Toll booths prompted the question without fail, but sometimes he would just randomly spout it. We got really tired of saying "We're still in New Jersey, Buddy."

For SC, I made him a checklist of towns along the route. I used a map and picked ones near the highway. Most - but not all - were listed on the exits.
I printed one for Lula, too.
I made a packet for each kid, with coloring pages and scavenger hunts and a box of crayons. In a nod to <airquote> learning <airquote>, I found some coloring pages with state facts that I stuck in there. Ooooh, geography.

I found Mom's Minivan through Devra, and it is probably the best thing to happen to long drives since the in-car DVD player. Laurel has a great collection of games and printouts and ideas. Lula often asks to play the "Lines and Dots" game - which we called "Corn" when I was little, I have no idea why - when we are sitting in the living room.

The bigger kids also got highway maps in their packets, which they both completely ignored. Poor Nathan Jr didn't even get a real packet - it was more of a folder - that he didn't give a rat's ass about anyway.

The town checklist was by far the biggest success, adequately ending the "where are we/are we there yet" chorus. Predictably, when we reached our destination I realized that I didn't have a version for the trip back.

3. Playground stops

This is probably the point at which I crossed over into madness. I compiled a list of rest stops and playgrounds along the way - along with Chick-fil-A's and McDonald's with playspaces. Using the KaBOOM playground finder and Google Earth, I made a nine-page list of possibilities for when we encountered that inevitable "Oh my god, we have got to get these rabid monkeys out of this car immediately" moment.

Our GPS has a "Parks and Recreation Area" feature, but it cannot reliably distinguish a swingset-slide combo from a boat launch. On weekends, a "find elementary school" command might work, but that's not always an option.

I'll share the list if you want it, but you really don't. I'm planning some future posts about our favorite roadside playground stops, which I'll probably publish in time for your Thanksgiving travels.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

As If You Needed It

Further proof that I lack the maturity necessary to be a parent: Every time Dora says "unicorn" in spanish, I swear she's saying "Cornholio."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Just in Time for Spring Break

Last spring we drove to Orlando, and there was lots of stuff I meant to tell you about.

Then the months got away from me and I thought: I'll just wait and post it next year, so it will be "topical" again.


So, this is what I wanted to tell you:
1) Playground Find
2) Roadtrip Ideas
3) I'm a terrible blogger.

I'm going to go ahead and post this right now - assuming it will take me another several months to get my act together.

In the meantime, you can tell me about what you did for Spring Break this year. Because while I took a week off, I spent it at home, answering work emails. Yep, I can even half-ass Spring Break.