Category Archives: Our Adventures

Children Should Be Seen

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There is an old saying “Children should be seen, not heard.”  Well, with three boys I have quite the herd, but they are generally very well behaved in public.  There is a good reason they are generally well behaved in public too—they have been out in public frequently since they were infants.  Scrolling through Facebook and Twitter lately I have seen a number of complaints about children in public.  I would wager a guess that most of the complainers do not have children based on their gripes.

The fact is, if you want a 6-year-old who knows how to sit quietly in a restaurant you need to start taking him to restaurants before that.  If you want your 4-year-old to wait patiently in line at a store, he needs to learn that at a younger age.  I have witnessed toddlers behaving better than teens.  A child’s age has very little to do with their ability to behave well in public.  I do agree with the adage “children should be seen, not heard,” especially the part about children being seen.

Training your child to behave in public

First some tips, based on my experience…

  • Set your child up to succeed:    Take your child out on days that he is well rested, healthy, and well fed (if you are shopping).  Try to avoid going out during nap time.  Catch your child at their best moments.  Remember that even the best kids have bad days, and even to worst kids have good days.
  • Pick an appropriate location:  I’ll go into this more later, but generally pick a kid-friendly location.  Someplace your child can be a child without causing too much of a disruption.
  • Set up rules before you arrive:  I usually outline our errand before we leave the house, and then again before we get out of the car.  For example, “We need to get diapers, look at shoes, and get juice.”  I usually also offer the incentive of looking at toys if we have time and they are well behaved.  It is important to let them know that we are not buying any toys or treats ahead of time.  This helps to prevent melt-downs in the toy aisle.  If it is not a great time for shopping, but the errand must be done I remind them exactly what I expect (no running, walk with mommy, no shouting. Etc.).  It has been quite some time since I have needed to define good behavior for my older boys, but the baby is getting to be the age that he can understand these things.
  • Offer incentives, but don’t bribe them:  This can be a little confusing, but it is all in the timing. An incentive is offered at the start of the trip, in the car or while getting the cart.  “If you behave you may ride the pony.”   A bribe is offered after the bad behavior has started “I will get you a juice if you stop running.”  There is a subtle difference, but the kids know that one is a reward for good behavior and the other is a reward for driving Mommy crazy.  (On a side note:  don’t beat yourself up if you have to get milk today and you end up bribing your kid just so you can get through the checkout line in one piece.  Let it go—you’ll do better next time)
  • Reward good behavior: I still point out to my 7-year-old when he has been exceptionally well behaved. Usually praise is all the reward the boys need, but sometimes I’ll surprise them with a bottle of juice or a small toy from the checkout line.  If they ask for a treat at the end of the trip I will allow or not allow it citing their behavior.
  • Be flexible:  Sometimes behavior can seem turn on a dime for the worse (there are clues, watch for them), be prepared to leave if behavior gets out of hand for the location.

Location, Location, Location…

I am going to break these down into a few categories: Beginner, Intermediate, and Experienced. I am of the opinion, that with the exception of some content, there is not anyplace your children should not be able to go if they can behave.

Beginner Locations:

If you are not a parent, and want to avoid ill-behaved children all together, here places to avoid. You will get little to no sympathy for encountering less than perfect angels here.

If you are a parent looking for someplace you should be able to go without offending the childless here are some places I would consider good.  These are places your child can learn how to behave.

  • Shopping: I have found shopping trips to be the best place to start behavior training as they do not require the child to sit still, only to restrain from running. If a store exclusively sells children’s items or has a children’s dept., a toy dept., and sells diapers, this is family territory. Some examples would be Target, Walmart, or Toys ‘R Us. This is a store parents can take their kids as they are learning how to behave.  If you visit these stores regularly you will witness temper tantrums and children running and being loud.
  • Dining out: If you want a quiet dinner do not go to a restaurant on “kids eat free night.” This is the perfect time to acclimate toddlers or older children to eating out.  Other visitors should expect the restaurant to be louder than normal on this night.
  • Entertainment: The drive-in or week-day matinee of kids movies or live shows fall very firmly in kid’s territory.  The drive-in was created for the purpose of allowing parents to take their kids to the movies and to see movies while their kids slept in the car.  I would also categorize most sporting events, which are loud by their very nature, to be ok for kids.
  • As a general rule anyplace outside is kid friendly, the park, the zoo, etc. (But you smart folks already knew that!)

Intermediate Locations:

These are places that do call for good behavior, but still should offer some wiggle room for kids to be kids.  Be sure to put a stop to rambunctiousness ASAP.

If you are out at these locations without and a parent is doing their best, try to cut them a little slack.  Parenting is tough work. Society will benefit from children learning how to behave, but every kid still has a few tough days and makes a few mistakes.  We don’t want you to have to deal with their bad behavior anymore than you do.

  • Shopping:  If a store has a children’s dept., a toy dept., or sells diapers, this is a middle ground.  Shopping in the misses dept at Kohl’s does require a quiet and mostly still child, but if they are talking a little louder or moving a little faster (not running and screaming) in the children’s/toy dept. that is ok.
  • Dining Out: Generally, I would say any restaurant that has a kids menu with crayons is a good place to take young children, although you have to use your judgment on what level of fidgeting or loudness is appropriate at any given time.  Restaurants like Chilli’s or Applebee’s may call for different levels of good behavior based on the time of day and ambient noise.  Even the location of a corner booth or a central table may have different demands on your child.  Be prepared to take the child out if he gets too loud.
  • Entertainment:  G or PG movies/theater at any time, week-day matinee of other shows.  You know your own kid, you are the best judge of whether or not something is appropriate for your kid, and how much your kid is actually going to pick up from a movie.  I have taken the boys to PG13 movies in the middle of the day during the week.  The movies are not as crowded then which puts less pressure on your child to be perfectly behaved, which actually makes it easier for them to behave well.  It is harder to behave in a crowded theater, but if you are seeing a kid’s show you are going to have to expect kids to be there, sorry!

Expert Locations:

These are places that require your child to be on their very best behavior, and that very best behavior is to behave like an adult.  If you are taking your child here be prepared to remove the child at the very first signs of bad behavior.

If you see a child here, don’t automatically assume the worse, I have taken young kids into all of these situations and not only did we not disrupt the public, we have been complemented on our behavior. Yes, someone at these locations is well within their rights to complain if a child is misbehaving, but not just because a child is present.  Give the family the benefit of the doubt to begin with.

  • Shopping: Boutiques and antique stores are filled with breakable items and other delicacies that should not have sticky fingers all over them.  Clientele here is expecting a quiet and serene experience.  The most important thing to enforce here: No Touching!
  • Dining out:  If there is no special kid’s menu, or it is only printed at the bottom of the regular menu, then this restaurant is not going to be very forgiving of fidgety kids.  I would not recommend  eating out at a place like this without two adults, that way someone can stay behind to pay the check and box up un-eaten dinners if necessary.
  • Entertainment: I know the movies are considered by many to be adult-only territory, but I disagree.  Again, you do have to be prepared to leave at the very first sign of bad behavior.  Sit on the aisle, not too far from the exit, so you can get out fast if the child starts to act up.  You are the best judge of whether the content of the movie is ok for your family.  Honestly, to see a movie for adults with a baby or toddler, I would recommend going after the child’s bed time if he will stay asleep.  Movies and live theater call for the highest level of discipline, but if your kid can handle it I say go for it!

So that’s it.  That’s my two cents on children being seen in public.  I suppose I should add that infants who will take a pacifier, bottle, or breast and be quiet should be welcome anywhere, but a colicky baby is best left at home except in the most dire circumstances. As always, this is what works for my family.  Yes, I can take my 7 and 5 year old sons into expert locations sometimes, but there are also days I would cringe to take them to a beginner location. Such is the nature of childhood. You know your children, you know what they are capable of, you know what is best for your family.

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The Penguinarium

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A few weeks ago Ted was studying penguins at school. He would come out of school waddle over to the car and tell us all about the new trivia facts he learned about penguins. I remembered there being this “huge” penguinarium at the Detroit zoo so on a day off the boys and I loaded ourselves into Nana’s truck and went with her to the Detroit zoo to see the penguins.
It was probably 15 years since I last visited the Detroit zoo. The penguinarium was not as big as I remembered, but it was still pretty cool. There are 3 types of penguins there: King penguins (which look like emperor penguins but not as big), Rockhopper penguins, and Macaroni penguins. We were lucky enough to be there at feeding time. Did you know, penguins will only swallow fish head first? It they swallow them tail first the scales will scratch their throats.

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The boys all thought the penguins where very cool and funny to watch. But our trip didn’t stop there. We went to just about every open building there. Jensen’s favorite was the reptile house. I think that was because it was warm enough in there to take off his coat and walk around. Also the animals were all at eye level in there. This long necked turtle was just as interested in Jensen as Jensen was interested in the turtle.

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A really neat exhibit is the Arctic Ring of Life. Oddly enough it started snowing as we stepped into the Arctic Ring and stopped as we exited. I thought the arctic foxes were just too cute!

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The exciting part of the exhibit is the underwater tunnel. There is space for both seals and polar bears to swim around and right over head in here. We spent a long time watching the seals, which were so kind as to delight my boys long enough for this great picture with Nana.

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The polar bear was all curled up off in the depths of his exhibit so we didn’t get to see much of him. He did stick his nose up in the air and sniff around when we walked by eating granola bars. The boys thought he might be hungry. He was not the only animal interested in our granola bars though:

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This peacock was very interested in us, especially Jensen. I would guess that he steals food from babies on a regular basis. He followed us from the Arctic Ring in the middle of the zoo almost all the way to the back where we visited the giraffes.

I don’t have any pictures of the giraffes, but I wish I had been able to get a good picture. The female giraffe was due any day now (I was unable to find any information on if she has delivered yet this morning). The poor thing looked so uncomfortable. She was hanging out in a more private area of the exhibit but we could see how large she was. As we were getting ready to go we also got to see the baby kick. I thought that was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. Life is amazing, and this was pure life ready to come into the world.

 At one time there were a few wallabies at the Toledo Zoo, but there moved out when Nature’s Neighborhood opened, but it was nothing like the Detroit Zoo’s kangaroo exhibit. This is an open exhibit. The animals can hop right up to you if they want. One hopped right past Kaelen, within arm’s reach, while he read a sign. I was surprised how active the kangaroos were on such a cold day.

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 Even thought it was really cold we had a good time. I think we might go up again when it is a little warmer out. I would like to get a better view of the wolverine, which was one of Ted’s favorites even though we just saw a little tuft of fur, and see a baby giraffe. It’s (back) on the list of things to do.

Busy Winter Weeks

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Busy Winter Weeks

Wow, It was already been over a week since I posted–so much for trying for one a day. It has been a busy week. We had Tiger Cubs on Tuesday. I’ve starting party planning for my mom’s party. We went to the Detroit Zoo on Friday. We also celebrated with my grandma Land, Aunt Sue, and Uncle Kent & Aunt Barb Friday evening. Yesterday I drove up to Great Lakes Crossing to hit the children’s outlets. All this while everyone seems to be (mostly successfully) fighting off a cold/flu bug. We have been lucky that no one is curled-up-in-bed, I-can’t-move miserable, but everyone is a little run down and cranky.
I have not been completely remiss in my picture-taking though so here is a little catch up on our week:

Jan 13: Circle

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Sunday we went to Spaghetti Warehouse with Grandma & Grandpa, Ted made HUGE circles of spaghetti noodles on his fork. Watching him, we were reminded why we use bow tie noodles. Jensen had his first spaghetti noodles.  The first one he had he grabbed the two ends and took a bite out of the middle, but he quickly figured out how to slurp them up!

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Jan 14

I don’t have something yellow for Monday–but I do have another circle.  Kaelen and I played Wii Sports.  This is his golf swing:

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Yes, that is my four-year-old doing an airborne 360 for golf.  I may not know much about sports–but I’m pretty sure this is not usually seen on golf courses around the world.  But hey, he is off the couch and being active and that is all that really matters!

Jan 15: An Ordinary Moment

Just chillin’  waiting for Ted to get out of school.  Here is one of Kae’s many self portraits.

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Jan 16: Two Things

Take two peanut butter hearts add one baby and what do you get?

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A chocolate goatee

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Jan 17: Ready

Someone is ready for a nap! Ok, it’s Mommy.

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Jan 18: Shadow

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A shadow of a seal swimming overhead in the Arctic Ring of Life at the Detroit Zoo.  More on our adventures there to come–but the real camera is in the diaper bag, in the car, and it is -15 wind chill out.  I’m not making any extra trips outside today.

Jan 19: Delicious

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Ok, not my picture, but we did try out this new recipe for Chicken, Ranch, and Rice soup and it was very delicious. It was also pretty easy to make, which is a requirement in our home!  Check out the Picky Plate recipe here: http://picky-palate.com/2010/06/07/homemade-chicken-ranch-and-rice-soup/

Jan 20: Something you Saw

Sunday is Downton Abbey day here in the states.  Even though I finished watching the season 3 DVD set (contributor gift to PBS) Sunday during the day I still loyally tuned in at 9:00 to watch it on PBS.  It is hard to believe there are only a few weeks left and then we have to wait a whole year for season 4.

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Jan 21: What You Do

I am Mommy, I do many things.  Something I really enjoy doing, which I worked on this week, is party planning.  I love picking a theme and coordinating everything.  I think I use to drive my husband crazy with the collection of scraps of paper with supply notes on them all over the computer desk and internet images saved all over the desktop.  Then I found Pinterest…

I working on planning a birthday party for my mom.  I’m thinking a sort of peacock/game foul theme to coordinate with the regency era tavern which will be set up in our space.

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What does everyone think?  This is a collection of some of my pins for the party to check them out with the original sources visit my board: http://pinterest.com/cross321/mom-s-birthday-party/

Family Game Night

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Back when my husband & I were married Target was carrying a line of vintage style classic board games in wooden boxes. “Hey,” we thought, “We love games…we should register for some of these!” We ended up receiving Monopoly, Scrabble, and much to my delight, Clue. Growing up we did not own Clue but I loved playing it at my Mormor & Pa’s house. I loved the miniature murder weapons and the handmade envelope (the original had been lost) with a magnifying glass drawn by my mom on it. It had been a long time since we had played and so I was very excited to take it home and play with my new husband. I was so excited that I did not realize that to play Clue you need at least 3 players. So we quickly set to work on getting another player…
My oldest is now seven and very in to “Family Night.” It doesn’t matter much to him if what we do on family night is the same thing we do several nights/day a week, if we call it family night it must be extra special. He is coming of age to be playing board games. He especially likes Star Wars Monopoly even though he never gets very far into the game. We were looking together for a game to play and my eyes fell upon the forgotten Clue. At long last we had 3 players! Ted played Col. Mustard, Kae and I were Mr. Green, and Josh was Prof. Plum. The game started out well, I thought I was really on to something, until Ted revealed he had a card that I asked about several turns earlier. More than once he screwed up my strategy by (unintentionally) withholding evidence. The boys had a great time. I have no idea how many things Ted figured out, but he sure loved suspecting people. Kae really enjoyed moving the suspects and weapons into the different rooms when they were called. Josh won, of course it is easy to win when you are the murder.
Josh and I use to play games frequently before Ted got old enough that he wanted to steal all the pieces. Jensen is in that phase right now. Kaelen is a little too young for most of our games. Regardless, I hope this is something that we can do more often.

Ted with Clue

P.S. An update on Kaelen’s dislike of eating goulash. We made it up tonight, but combined all the veggies into a sauce (like spaghetti sauce) and he loved it.

The Magician’s Sons

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Tonight's instalment: chapter 2, Digory and His Uncle

We are a family of readers. Josh and I both grew up reading a lot, and now the boys all enjoy books immensely. Even Jensen who doesn’t yet understand what is going on will sit and flip through the pages of whatever book is within reach, be it a colorful ABC board book or Daddy’s latest Preston & Child suspense.
Although we have always read to our children frequently and pretty much on demand we do not have a nightly reading ritual. Some nights may have Ted and Kae each picking out a story while others may not include a story at all. Until now, that is. Josh has decided that the boys are old enough to read “The Chronicles of Narnia” with him. He purchased the collection a few years ago and was very disappointed when they did not have the focus to listen to an entire chapter, especially when there were no pictures! Last night we started again. The whole family sat down on the couch while Josh read the opening chapter of “The Magician’s Nephew.” Ted was enchanted and eager to continue, Kae was less interested but happy to be sitting cuddled up with Mommy & Daddy, Jensen got down after a few words and played quietly on the floor. Tonight we continued.
I think this may become something that the older boys will never forget.  There is something quite magical about reading as a family. I remember gathering in bed with my brothers—a different room each night—while my Dad read to us the Hobbit when I was young. I don’t remember how old I was when we did that (older than Ted is now for certain) and I don’t even remember the details of the story (there are a lot of details in Tolkien) but I will always remember the special feeling of togetherness as we explored Middle Earth as a family. I hope Ted and Kae will enjoy exploring Narnia with their father just as much.

Ted & Kae listen to Daddy read from "The Magician's Nephew"
Ted & Kae listen to Daddy read from “The Magician’s Nephew”

Theodore

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Today’s subject was really easy to decide on. The Photo-A-Day prompt was “Something that begins with T” and I could think of nothing I would like a photo of better than my “baby” Theodore.
Seven years old, my little Teddy-bear is growing up so fast. For starters he doesn’t like to be called Teddy any more, he especially doesn’t like to be called Teddy-bear. He is too old for that already. Over the summer he started introducing himself as Theodore, although when he went back to school he has been using Ted a lot. Theodore is a lot to write out. Frequently, when he does write it out he spells it “Theodoer.” I think that is pretty adorable and have filed it away under “embarrassing stories to tell potential girlfriends.” It is hard to believe that he is already in first grade, playing t-ball, running cross country, in scouts, and hanging out with the cute blonde from next door.
Theodore is a carbon-copy of this father. Their appearance, their expressions, especially their interests and how they think. Theodore is my little engineer. He will spend hours building Legos® or creating robots, racecars, and rocket ships from scraps of cardboard and empty pop bottles.
But, sometimes I see a lot of me in him too. He is the best big brother. He loves babies. Theodore was in the room when his brother Jensen was born. All throughout my labor he was very attentive and a great comfort. While I was pushing, he was standing my by side holding my hand then he disappeared. I thought maybe it was a little intense for him so he backed away, but I realized I was wrong when this little blonde head popped up between my legs. I’m told that he practically delivered the baby himself. He help Daddy cut the cord and blood splattered all over the two of them (which was really cool in his 6-year-old mind). I remember being present when my youngest brother was born (I was 5), and although I don’t remember many details about it, I know that it was something very special that I shared with my mom and my brother. Having all boys I never thought I would get to share a birth with them. Theodore’s presence at Jensen’s birth will always be a treasured memory for me.
Although I hate to admit it I see a lot of my less-than-desirable qualities in him also. Being the oldest he can get a little bossy sometimes and he is really stubborn. I’d love to blame Daddy for this but deep down I know it is all me. His sleep habits are like mine, which makes for some tough mornings. We both hate to get out of bed.
Overall he is my favorite first-born son, my favorite Theodore. I treasure the special times we spend together, and look forward to all the adventures yet to come. I love you Ted!
Because asking me to post just one photo is pretty much impossible (I have well over 3000 to choose from) here are some of my favorite photos of Theodore:

Our baby, Theodore Martin, 3 days old

Our baby, Theodore Martin, 3 days old

One year old

One year old

Riding a pony at the tree farm. December, 2006

Riding a pony at the tree farm. December, 2006

Hanging out at Fort Meigs. May, 2008

Hanging out at Fort Meigs. May, 2008

Teddy & Mommy on the break wall at Presque Isle, Marquette, MI. July, 2009

Teddy & Mommy on the break wall at Presque Isle, Marquette, MI. July, 2009

His future is so bright...waering sunglasses while waiting for the electric light parade in the Magic Kingdom.  December, 2010

His future is so bright…wearing sunglasses while waiting for the electric light parade in the Magic Kingdom. December, 2010

Sharing a lollypop with Mommy. December, 2010

Sharing a lollypop with Mommy. December, 2010

Ready to take Jensen home! December 14, 2011

Ready to take Jensen home! December 14, 2011

"Best day EVER!" The first day of first grade. August 2012

“Best day EVER!” The first day of first grade. August 2012

My handsome guy. Christmas 2012

My handsome guy. Christmas 2012

 

The View from the Zoo

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2012.01.04 Toledo Zoo Lights

A holiday tradition here in Toledo is to visit an amazing light display at the zoo. Although we are zoo members and can go free we rarely make it out to see “The Lights Before Christmas” until after Christmas, if at all. I thought we had missed our chance again this year but they offered an encore tonight and tomorrow night.
We had such a wonderful time even though it was cold—really cold, around 20-25 degrees before the wind chill. We got there around 3:30 so even though it wasn’t dark yet we did get to see a few animals. It was close to feeding time so everyone was very active and very noisy. I don’t think I had actually heard a tiger roar or an elephant trumpet before tonight. I love seeing the animals in the winter because those who are out are really active. I’d swear the snow leopard was close enough to touch, and he is usually hidden away in the back of the exhibit.
Another thing I love about going in the winter is how much space there is to play and see things. The lights are usually pretty crowded but since we were there so early we had the place pretty much to ourselves. We were very pleased to find the building in Nature’s Neighborhood (the children’s zoo area) open and completely vacant. We probably spend 45 minutes there waiting for dusk while the boys explored the heated building. Jensen, who has just started walking, was especially pleased to have a new area to check out without being confined to the stroller.
The light displays are always a lot of fun to see. There are dancing lights set to many different songs including Trans Siberian Orchestra, and a dueling banjos version of “Jingle Bells.” There is also an 85 foot Norway Spruce completely decorated with over 35,000 LED lights. The boys were especially pleased to find a model train display in the museum of science which featured 6 trains including Thomas and the Polar Express. The drive in at the model train display also happened to be showing the movie “The Polar Express.”
A great time was had by all. If you are in the Toledo area and have not seen the lights I would highly recommend bundling up tomorrow night and heading out.