Thursday, April 13, 2017

Detroit's Riverfront: Outdoor Adventure Center, Riverwalk, Ren Cen

Ages- 3-10 (any older, diminishing returns for older kids)

Cost- Adults (age 13-61)-          $5; Seniors (age 62 and older)-$3; Children (ages 2-12)-$3; Children under age 2-Free; Annual family membership-$50

Location-  1801 Atwater St, Detroit, MI 48207

Phone- (844) 622-6367

Parking- Free in next door lot

Places to eat nearbyAtwater Brewery,  Rattlesnake Club, Andrews on the Corner, Andiamos Riverfront in Ren Cen, Snack Shop on Riverfront

Why to go there: The DNR Outdoor Adventure Center has stations for your kids to experience archery (on Saturdays), to get into a canoe, to fish, to shoot guns, to ride ATVs, and to climb trees.  It has a Cabela’s feel, without having to busy something unnecessary.  Just outside of the Adventure Center is a lighthouse, some big hills for running down, and beautiful vistas of the river.

The OAC itself is an hour, tops.  It seems best paired with a walk down the Riverfront, through the Milliken Park (to check out some swamp land wild life) and down to the Renaissance Center.  In summer, they have great walk through fountains, cool down on a hot day. 

Once at the Ren Cen, check out Hart Plaza, Joe Louis’s Fist, and the Spirit of Detroit.

Inside the Ren Cen, take a GM Ren Cen Tour at 12 PM or 2 PM. 

For a quick tour of downtown, take the People Mover (75 cents per person) from the Ren Cen.  I’d recommend taking the kids off at Greektown and checking out the Belt, a culturally refined public alley.

Be careful:  Check weather first, needs to be a nice day.  Bring cash for people mover and snacks.

Summary:  Cities are a must see for kids, and Detroit is in transition and has a lot to do for an inexpensive cost.  The mix of the shared public and outdoor space along the riverfront, with a unique downtown, makes this trip an annual pilgrimage for our family.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Lights at Greenfield Village

Ages- Any age

Cost- $22 (over 12 years old); $16 (5-12 years old); FREE (4 and under)

Location-  20900 Oakwood, Dearborn, MI 48124

Phone- (313) 982-6001

Parking- Free with membership; $5 without membership

Places to eat nearby- Several eateries on the premises (most of them are decent, Al Ameer (Middle Eastern), Buddy’s Pizza, Big Fish (Seafood), pf Chang’s (Asian), Bravo Cucina Italiana (Italian)

Why to go there: You’ve read about my overall affinity for the Henry Ford/Greenfield
Village experience; Holiday Lights has the same best part: living history.  From a classic mainstreet scene (with a quote from Upton Sinclair) to a one room schoolhouse, full of civil war troops, all visitors get a chance to interact with the holidays.

Our kids really enjoyed watching the horse drawn carriages and Model Ts whizzing by us as we walked.  They also liked the historic homes, all decorated for the holidays.  We met a couple of chimney sweeps.  They sang a couple of “Mary Poppins” songs for us.  Our family also enjoyed the fires set throughout (smell great), as well as the hot cocoa.

I captured a fife player leading us in song and Santa leading Jingle Bells as a couple of examples.  Santa also will mention your kids and tell them to be good for the the holidays (look for the ladies dressed in female Santa outfits).

Though not as “light” as zoo or park displays, the interactivity makes learning seem like fun.  The performers who work there also will throw a funny line or two to the adults.  It is a trip back in time, and the experience varies based on what your kids are interested in seeing or doing.

Be careful:  Get there before your ticketed time to get good parking.  Try to have a plan for drop off and pick up.  Parking can be a hassle.  Bring some cash for snacks.

Summary:  Though slightly inconvenient with parking and a little steep on price, the overall experience is a mix of activity (walking around the village), interaction, and the excitement of the holidays.

The Reindeer at the Santa House

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Parents Take on Rehydration After Vomiting

Sadly, it is flu season.  Especially the stomach bug.  Here’s the cycle.  Your child throws up.  You give them water.  They throw up again.  You take them to the doctor or the ER.  Things improve a bit.  Then the whole cycle starts again.  Virus, mixed with dehydration, can become a non-stop cycle of badness.

The doctors cannot do anything about viruses.  But, your child is still sick.

Here are a couple of reputable websites, talking about it:

  • what do these sites not tell you?  As a 7 year vet of the flu, as well as a person who has been blessed with a great pediatrician, here’s what I’ve learned.
  • If you’re in the cycle, you have to give the kid 30 mins before doing anything.  They will feel better.  You’ll want to rehydrate.  However, their stomachs won’t be ready for water.  It could upset it further.  Give them at least a 30 minute break.
  • Even a three year old can take a gatorade/water mix.  Start really a teaspoon (we use the little plastic glasses they give you with prescription meds).  Then a table spoon.  Then two table spoons.  We work our way back up.  The “shots” of 50/50 (gatoraide/water) can go every five minutes.  We use the stove timer.  It is annoying, but it has worked for us a dozen times over the last few years.
  • If you go to an ER before trying the steps above, they will do a version of it.  Do the step above first.
  • Ice cubes are like water.  Not tasty.  Very cold.  Overall, they’ve upset my kids’ stomachs.  I steer clear.  Gatorade (a flavor they like) and water mix seems to work the best.
  • Aspirin is your just makes matters worse
  • The BRAT diet, once you get rehydrated is boring, but so worth sticking with until you are sure, really sure, you and your child are in the clear.
  • You also should track their urination and tears for if things worsen.  I suggest writing them down, so you can remember.
Though personally not a medicine doctor, these steps are versions of the progression outlined by physicians. 

If you’re suffering through the flu, I am sorry.  Hopefully, these tips will help.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dear Organizers of Kids' Activities and Sports,

Dear Organizers of Youth Activities,

I am so glad you spend time organizing events and activities for the kids.  Whether it is soccer, dance, hockey, flag football, Bricks for Kids, or t-ball, I appreciate all the effort.  I know you don’t do it for money (and if you do, my kids aren’t in your activity).  I know you likely are passionate about the sport or activity.  

Maybe even as a kid, you wanted to play the sport you run all day, every day, and twice on Tuesday.  That is cool.  I want my children to be as passionate about everything they do as you are about your chosen activity.

I enjoy you being so into it by bringing my kids to your events and activities.

I suspect that your kids likely were or are very into the sport you lead.  At one point of your or their life, they might have wanted to play all the time.  Maybe you were just providing what they wanted.

I’ve got some bad news.  Don’t take it the wrong way.  Think of it as a call to action.

Your passion can make you blind.  It can make it hard to see that if you force kids, if they want to be involved.  It weeds out the riff-raff, the kids who want to sample a bunch of sports before choosing their focus in middle school.  What you’re doing, though, is narrowing your scope too early.  Kids and their interests change.  If necessary, offer up the three or four nights a week, along with a weekend.  But, please allow there to be a rec option, where kids can keep up with your sport/activity as they try others.

For example, forcing third graders to take ballet (if they are going to stick with hip-hop or jazz) stinks.  Two practices per week with a game on Saturday stinks.

You're killing your sport.  You're killing yourself.  You're losing my kid.

I want my kids to run around the yard.  I want my kids to do homework (and not at 8 PM).  I want the weekends to do family things, and I don’t mean sleeping some Red Roof Inn outside of Akron for a travel basketball tournament.  I want to eat dinner with my family as much as  possible.  

I don’t want to pay a year of college tuition for you and your activity to dominate my kids’ lives.  

I just don’t.

You really shouldn’t either.

If you want the maximum number of kids to be varsity ready and interested, keep your net broad.  Even if people get pushy, keep saying, “I want the kids to be kids.”

Some of the kids will change.  Some will stay the same.  You’ll have a broader audience.  You can charge a little more for a little less work.  You can sleep more.  You can eat dinner with your family too.  Your life will be better.  So will mine.

Focusing too early, by all researcher, causes many problems.  Injuries.  No sports you can play for a lifetime.  Limited friends.  Bored easily.

Please, please don’t try to manipulate my emotions by telling me my kid is “accelerated” or “really talented” when he or she really isn’t.  My kids are going to make their money with their brains, not their bodies.  My wife and I have advanced degrees, not advanced experience in professional support.

Here’s what I would like you to do:

  • Keep the total commitment for your activity/sport to two nights per week until 7th grade
  • Partner with other activities the kids might want to try to allow the kids to try more than one activity per year
  • Don’t make the kids travel longer than 20 miles to play sports/activity unless your location is EXTREMELY remote
  • If you do have to do two nights per week, make the commitment durations six weeks or less
  • Don’t manipulate me or other parents with untrue estimates of their kids’ skills
  • Understand your sport will be better in the long run if you don’t burn younger players out in the short run
  • NOT question my commitment to my kid if I don’t want to do what you want

Thanks for listening.

I look forward to a better tomorrow.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

This summer's greatest misses (2014)

Some of my favorite albums from the 80s were those where the group, rapper, or singer went over their greatest misses.  Songs that could have and should have been good.  But they weren’t.  They ended up buster.

You’ve seen a lot of my greatest hits on the blog.  Trips and adventures that went well, that the kids loved, and that I would recommend.

Here are my five greatest misses this summer.

Motown Hitsville Museum- Detroit, MI- I made Motown mix that we listed on the way.  As I pulled up, there were several problems.  The first was it is just two houses put together on a busy boulevard.  Only street parking on the busy thoroughfare was available.  When  I went to cross the street, the light wasn’t long enough, and a teen hot roder gunned his engine and scared my one slow walking kid.  Once we got there, we found that the museum only offers GUIDED TOURS, which last about an hour.  As someone who has gone on several guided tours for free in museums I paid to enter, this is an altogether bad idea.  Finally, they had two or three senior citizen groups that had reservations, which are recommended by the museum (but not mentioned anywhere on their website).  Though Motown was important to the American history, the museum isn’t appropriate for kids.

The Zoo and Aquarium at Belle Isle- Detroit, MI- The zoo and aquarium are only open certain days.  I missed the days they are open (maybe two or three times a week).  If you are going to promise the kids a zoo or aquarium, you have to bring it.  Check first on when it is open.

Tiger Game for 4 year olds- Unless your numbers are 1 to 1, taking kids before they are 7 is a fool’s errand.  Here is why:  they have questions; they need to use the restroom; and they need to have the game explained.  Unless you have 1 on 1, you won’t be able to do that.  There will be a lot of whining and gnashing of teeth.  Get your numbers down to 1 to 1 or wait.

Dad, what is a run?

MOCAD- Detroit- You’ve read my railings already modern art in general.  To briefly review, you cannot touch any art.  It’s not clear what the art means.  It looks like you can touch it.  The people there are snotty (about their art, I guess).  Bad idea with kids.

Zingerman’s- Ann Arbor- In theory, I love everything about Zingerman’s.  The way they treat their employees.  The eclectic feel of the interior.  The trendy way you order.  Except, it really stinks with kids.  There is no real kids menu, so kids’ sandwiches still cost you $12, plus milk and chips.  The food takes forever to get out to you.  The food also is too complex for most kids’ palates.  There will be a day when all three kids can appreciate a $15 sub.  That day is not near.

Kevin, how did we just spend $80 on sandwiches and chips?

So..these are my disrecommendations...hope they help you avoid some of my mistakes!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Why To Run Fun Runs by A Dad Who Dislikes (Hates) Running

Though "hate" is a word my wife and I don't allow our kids to use, it accurately describes my feelings about running.  I don't dislike physical activity.  I like elliptical; I like full court basketball; I like soccer; and I like bike riding.  I don't like running.

Too hard on my knees/ankles/feet, too painful in my chest, no scoring, not enough ground covered (to make me feel like I am accomplishing something),  you name it, I have a million reasons.

But, I am running in my second fun run type run today, the Run for the Rolls, in Chelsea.  And I am going to be miserable.  Chloe, my daughter, won't love it.  But..we've leveraged 3 to 4 days of running and bike riding out of it.

Why do you have to do a race?  Like almost all things, kids/people engage more when there is going to be an audience.  If the letter is going to grandma or grandpa, careful spelling and letter spacing are used.  If writing is to be for improving for school in the fall (without the teacher seeing it), the writing is quickly and unenthusiastically done.  It helps to have a place to show the world the fruits of your labor.

Chloe was pretty tentative before our first race.  She was nervous about racing, as fun runs seem a little bit like a race.  She's been a dance and gymnastics participant; she only played basketball for the first time last winter (and we did not keep score for the first and second graders).

She had done a running club with a couple of cool teachers at school, so that is where an interest (amplified by me) came up.

She liked the dressing up part.  She liked the excitement of race day, as we signed up.

Once we were off, we talked; sometimes, we walked.

The last quarter mile, where a small group of people gathered (waiting for their 5K or 10K), she was off.  After finishing the race, she enjoyed the small gift certificate for a free ice cream cone, but she loved the ribbon.  She had accomplished something she didn't think she wanted to do.

Here are my tips for training:

  • Vary it up.  Bike riding is cool.  Playing soccer for a half hour is cool.  As long it is running, it is training.
  • Let the kids use headphones.  Adding "Frozen" songs to the training made Chloe like the running portion of the training.
  • Praise the effort (not how fast, how smooth, or how well he/she runs)
  • It's frosting for the adults.  I do my own workout in the early morning or at night.  I do not rely on training with Chloe 

I do hate running. I will all during today's race.  However, if I am willing to coach sports I know little about, I certainly should be willing to run.  And have fun doing it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park (Traverse City Area)

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park

Ages- 5 and up

Cost- $10/vehicle (if there is a senior citizen in the car, they can purchase a lifetime pass for $10)
$20/year pass

Location-  6748 Dune Hwy (M-109), Glen Arbor, MI 49636—Directions to Different Locations

Phone- (231) 326-5134

Parking- Free on Site

Places to eat nearby- Joe’s Friendly Tavern (Empire), Boondocks (Glen Arbor), Good Harbor Grille and Botanicals (Glen Arbor), The Homestead (Glen Arbor)

Why to go there: It’s flat out going to be the prettiest water scene you’re going to see in the lower peninsula of Michigan.  The Dunes climb is a mix of adventure, exercise, and challenge (and a killer view once you get
to the top).  The scenic view tour sounded silly, but had some pretty cool spots for the kids to run around on the dunes (without physically taxing themselves beforehand).

The museums and the little village are subpar.  Dipping your feet in Lake Michigan is nice and convenient at the end of the park.  It’s hard not to marvel at all of the natural beauty in the Sleeping Bear area.

What to do before hand: Read and understand the legend of the dunes.  Research some of the plants and animals you’re going to see.  Talk to your kids about the prettiest place they’ve ever seen and why it is so pretty.

Be careful:  Pick a day 80 degrees or below if possible.  Bring water for the Dunes climb.  Do not use the bathrooms in the scenic drive.  They are gross.  Don’t go down the Dunes on the scenic drive.  We saw a few families do that.  Long way back up.

Summary:  Great stuff for adults and kids.  Simple, beautiful, pure Michigan way to spend an afternoon around Traverse City.