Posts Tagged 'family time'

Do “North”

view on Mackinac Island

I’ve lived in Michigan for over four decades; my wife was an Air Force brat growing up around the world, but her roots were always in the mitten state. Together we ate in New Buffalo, swam in Lake Superior, and tailgated at our alma mater numerous times. So it’s amazing that neither of us ever hopped on the ferry to Mackinac Island. That changed in a recent family road trip “Up North.”

First off, let’s talk “Up North.” Where does it start for you? Past Midland? West Branch? Gaylord or crossing the mighty Mac? For our family, we consider “Up North” anything past the 45th parallel is north. We even make sure that everyone lifts their feet so no one trips over the imaginary latitude line that crosses over the highway.

We’re lucky enough to have family all over “Up North” which is great because it helps keep costs down, but more importantly gives us a little more time to reconnect with those we don’t get to see enough. And truthfully, it gives our girls the time to meet family for the first time and create a bond that can be built on for years to come.

One evening, my wife and I went to her class reunion (the reason for the trip) and had to leave our girls with family they don’t know very well and the plan was to go to a BBQ at another family member’s house they never met.

Our girls are OK at meeting new folks, but they have separation anxiety when we leave them for a longer period of time. But guess what? When we returned, our girls were running around like they’ve been there for years. They met cousins they never knew they had and a neighbor girl who showed them the ropes on the trampoline. The next day there was talk about coming to visit for a week next summer — without us!

Our trip ended on the mainland in the shadow of the Mackinac Bridge. Beautiful part of the state; the mix of tacky shops and history is perfect. Nowhere else can you buy a Mackinaw Strong camo hoodie and learn about how soldiers lived watching out for redcoats. It sets the stage for a whole different world on the island.

The four of us didn’t know what to expect when we got on the ferry to Mackinac Island. We knew we were all going to experience something new as a family. We sat on the second deck of the boat to see the sights. We saw the bridge, buoys up close and personal, and the island itself.

I won’t give you every twist and turn of our Island adventure, but I can say it lives up to the hype. You are transported to a simpler time (if that simpler time had 24 different types of fudge). Our girls learned a lot about the history that is around every turn and they seemed to soak it in.

The point of all of this is that we all experienced something for the first time that we’ll remember for a lifetime. Our state is built for lifelong memories, you just have to go find them and make them.

– Jim Pesta is a Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

Our summer bucket list

boy and his little brother in a stroller

Hitting our local splash pad was one of our summer bucket list items.

Summer is my favorite season and for good reason: There’s warm weather and extra sunlight, which brings outdoor activities and longer hours in the day to do them. Plus, my child behaves so differently in the summer because he can run, climb, swim, jump and play to his heart’s desire.

My family loves a good summer and this year we decided to make a summer bucket list. To me, summer feels like a fleeting moment that I’m desperately trying to extend. The anticipation of summer seems to last forever whereas the actual moments of sunshine tend to fly by. Our summer to-do list highlights all the major activities we have been anxiously awaiting. It’s also a great launching point when my child complains of being bored; I can point to our list and ask which one of the activities he wants to do. Mondays aren’t so bad when you decide to cover the sidewalk in chalk or pull out the slip and slide!

To create our summer bucket list, we pulled out white paper and my son’s crayons then started brainstorming. No idea was too silly or small. See a movie outdoors? Sure. Eat something from our home garden? You bet. Have a camp out in the backyard? My son had so much fun! We tried to create a comprehensive list of all the things we wanted to do. The end game was not to simply “check off” items on our list, but instead just to put on paper the fun ideas we each had and then do things as a family.

Incorporating my 4-year-old taught me that his idea of a fun summer is different than mine. While I was focused on including big-ticket items such as family vacations, camping trips and get togethers, my child had amazingly simple ideas to include items like “have a staring contest” and “catch fireflies” on our list. What is better than catching fireflies on a summer night to a 4-year-old? The Babcock Summer Bucket List has been a huge success and I will definitely continue this tradition in the future!

boys with bucket list

My boys with the official bucket list.

Here are the items that got included our 2017 summer bucket list:

  • Go swimming at Nana and Papa’s pool
  • Play on the slip and slide
  • Take a trip up north to the cabin
  • Lay on a hammock
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Take a trip to the zoo
  • Get our faces painted
  • Go visit our local splash pad
  • Catch a frog
  • Camp in the backyard in the tent
  • Have a staring contest
  • Go horseback riding
  • Cover the sidewalk in chalk art
  • Take a family bike ride
  • Have a bonfire and s’mores
  • Catch fireflies
  • Climb a tree
  • See fireworks
  • Have a sleepover with the cousins
  • See an outdoor movie (at the drive-in or at the park)
  • Jump on a trampoline
  • Go for a hike
  • Visit Michigan Adventure waterpark
  • Go fishing
  • Get covered in temporary tattoos
  • Have a hot dog
  • Eat something from our home garden
  • Go fruit picking
  • Visit Belle Isle Aquarium

Stephanie Babcock is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s a proud mom of two boys.

More summer fun in metro Detroit

boy at splash pad

Cropped image. Matt Molinari, Flickr. CC license.

Earlier this week I shared some fun activities to do with your family, offering tips for families with kids who have special needs. That post featured new-to-the area ideas as well as some suggestions for a “Day in the D.”

Today, I’m focusing on other great options for a memorable summer in the metro Detroit area.

Quick reminder: If you have someone in your family with special needs, I suggest calling ahead to discuss your child’s needs and asking what accommodations, if any, can be made. If crowds are a problem, ask about the best times to come.

U-Pick farms

What’s the best way to get a kid to eat his fruit or veggies? Probably by picking them. Next time you’re at a strawberry field, look around, and most likely a number of the pint-size pickers will have berry stains on their hands and faces.

U-pick schedules in southeastern Michigan are generally as follows:

  • Strawberries: Mid-June to mid-July
  • Blueberries: Mid-July to mid-September
  • Cherries: Mid-June to mid-August
  • Raspberries: July and September
  • Apples: Mid-August to October

Read here for a list of local u-pick farms.

Take me out to the ballgame

  • Nothing says summer like a night at the baseball park. Creating memories at Comerica Park has to include an obligatory photo in front of the giant tiger statue in front of the stadium and a ride on the carousel and Ferris wheel. But the Detroit Tigers aren’t the only game in town.
  • If a Major League Baseball stadium is too overwhelming, there are other smaller and equally exciting baseball venues. Last year marked the inaugural season for the United Shore Professional Baseball League at Jimmy John’s Field in Utica. Each of the four teams is composed of top-level college athletes from around the country. Ticket prices start at $6 for lawn seats and go as high as $35 for front-row club seats.
  • Located a stone’s throw from the Michigan Capitol Building sits Cooley Law School Stadium, home to the Lansing Lugnuts. The stadium seats over 10,000 fans and is considered one of the most handicapped accessible stadiums in the country. The Lugnuts, a Class-A minor league team affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays, have their own team song “Go Nuts” and a team mascot, Big Lug. Ticket prices start at $8 for lawn seats and go as high as $35.
  • Of course we can’t forget about the Toledo Mud Hens, a minor league team affiliated with the Tigers. Tickets prices start at $15.

Beat the heat

Tired of visiting the same splash pads each summer? If you’re willing to drive a little, there is no shortage of places to get wet.

  • KLR Splashpad
    • 2795 Seymour Lake Rd., Oxford Township
    • Non-resident fee $4
    • This is an inclusive park for kids of all abilities. Aqua wheelchairs are available.

Festivals

Festivals and summer are synonymous. Michigan weekends are packed with events centered around art, food, music and outdoor activities. Here is a comprehensive listing.

What are some of your favorite summertime activities?

– Jen Lovy, Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer

Summer fun in metro Detroit: Helping kids with special needs enjoy summer outings

boy in kayak simulator

Summertime in Michigan quite possibly makes the rest of the year in the mitten state that much more tolerable. The only downside to June, July and August is the fact that there aren’t enough days to experience all the local fairs, festivals and outdoor activities.

Venues such as Greenfield Village, the Detroit Zoo, and the area’s many parks and pools, are tried-and-true destinations but there are so many more ways to make the most out of what will hopefully be another glorious Michigan summer.

Since I happen to be the parent of a child with autism, I am constantly on the lookout for ways to accommodate my son while enjoying the next 11 weeks of vacation. Because this time of year can be particularly challenging for a child with a disability, included are some options and suggestions for kids like mine.

Today we’re focusing on activities that are new this area, as well as a fun “Day in the D.” Then, check back on Thursday this week for some other creative options!

New to do

  • Last year we saw the opening of several great family friendly venues, including the LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Great Lakes Crossing. The Detroit Zoo debuted the eagerly awaited Polk Penguin Conservation Center, and the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center brought a taste of the great outdoors to an indoor facility downtown.
  • This year, after more than a decade of planning, the much-anticipated QLine streetcar system along Woodward Avenue is finally open! Kids under 44 inches can ride free with an adult. A single-ride pass, good for three hours, costs $1.50 and an all-day pass is $3. Riders have easy access to the Detroit Institute of Arts, The Michigan Science Center, Comerica Park and Campus Martius Park.
  • What else is new? How about free movies at Emagine theatres? On select Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m., participating locations will screen popular kids films such as “Kung Fu Panda 3,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Trolls” and “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.” Admission is free for kids 11 and under and $2 for moviegoers 12 and up.
  • Need a sensory friendly film option? AMC Theatres offer the perfect venue on the second and fourth Saturday of each month with a family friendly movie. Tuesday evening movies offer options for more mature audiences. Participating Emagine theatres also have a lineup of sensory-friendly films for the summer.
  • Also relatively new, and unlike any place around, is Play-Place for Autistic Children. This 25,000 square-foot facility, located in Sterling Heights, houses a computer café, art studio, carousel, LEGO castle, laser light chalk room, calming rooms and so much more.

A Day in the D

In addition to a ride on the QLine, there is so much to do in Detroit. See why the rest of the nation is calling Detroit the comeback city.

  • The Detroit RiverWalk stretches several miles along the Detroit River. In additional to great views, there are plenty of places to explore. Highlights for the little ones include a splash pad, play park and river-themed carousel at Rivard Plaza. There, visitors will find a granite map of the Detroit River, a glass sculptured map of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the RiverWalk café, and Wheelhouse Detroit. This bike shop offers tours as well as bike rentals in a wide variety of bikes, including large tricycles (great for those who need an adaptive set of wheels) and kids bikes.
  • Also located at the Plaza is Diamond Jack’s River Tours, a company offering public tours and private charters along the Detroit River.
  • Elliott Park, located on the East Riverfront, features a Great Lakes themed play area with water cascades, cannons, wind chimes and other kid-friendly, interactive features. The newly renovated park was designed to be accessible to users of all ages and abilities.
  • When’s the last time you visited Belle Isle? There is so much to do on this 987-acre island. Here are seven things your family can enjoy during your visit.
  1. See the James Scott Memorial Fountain
  2. Visit the Dossin Great Lakes Museum
  3. Go to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
  4. Check out the oldest aquarium in the United States
  5. Swim at the Belle Isle Beach
  6. Ride the giant slide
  7. Enjoy the small, but free, nature zoo

A few general tips to an enjoyable summer include calling ahead to discuss your child’s needs and asking what accommodations, if any, can be made. If crowds are a problem, ask about the best times to come.

– Jen Lovy, Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer

Covert mission: How I sneaked a bike safety talk into a regular old bike ride

mom and daughter selfie wearing bike helmets

I tricked my 8-year-old daughter, Meadow, into learning bicycle safety yesterday. She thought she was going with me on her first bike ride outside of the neighborhood, but I had ulterior motives.

First, I showed her how we check our bicycles before riding for any potential necessary repair. We looked to make sure there wasn’t a loose or rusty chain, measured for proper seat and handlebar height, and checked the tire pressure.

We always wear our helmets, so we made sure they fit properly. (Side note: When we got home, I noticed my daughter’s “Y strap” had loosened up on her helmet and she had tucked it behind her ear. I reminded her how the helmet straps should lay for next time.) Helmets on and bike integrity checked, we changed out of our flip-flops and put on proper fitting tennis shoes and socks. Meadow cringed when I told her how my friend’s son had to get several stitches in the bottom of his foot from wearing flip-flops on his bike. Believe it or not, your feet can get really sweaty when you exercise and those suckers slip right off.

Ready to ride, we talked along the way about the importance of using your senses to look for danger:

  • Don’t let yourself get distracted by using your electronics.
  • Keep earbuds out so you can hear for sirens and cars.
  • Watch for the reverse lights in driveways for cars exiting.

When it came time to cross the street, we used designated cross walks, first looking left, right and then left again. I made sure Meadow saw how to make eye contact with cars at the intersection so they see us as we walk our bikes across the street.

We didn’t encounter any pedestrians, but we did a test run on how to alert them that we were approaching. Meadow rang her bell and yelled, “Passing on your left,” out loud.

Halfway through the ride, we took a quick break and I asked her what she would do if I had an emergency. She happily replied that she would call 911 on my cell phone to get help. I further questioned her how she would let them know our location and we did a scavenger hunt for notable landmarks and street signs. I pretended to be the dispatcher and we went over potential questions, such as my name, medical history, allergies and my husband’s phone number.

When we made it to our final destination, Meadow was surprised that we were at 7-11; she got a Slurpee for her reward. One last lesson was about visibility—she turned on her blinking head and tail lights since it was close to dusk.

The ride home was much quieter; we got to enjoy our mother/daughter time together and the beautiful views of our city.

For information on safe biking, check out these resources:

– Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health

Choo choo

two girls in front of Chicago skyscrapers

I have to admit I was a little nervous. It’s hard not to be when you go on a mini-vacation with your kids. Don’t get me wrong; my wife and I have done all we can to have our girls travel and we always have a good time.

I’m talking it about it being me — and only me — with the girls. We were headed to Chicago to visit my sister, her husband and my niece, so I had backup at our destination. Not only was it the first time I’m flying solo as a parent on a trip, but it was my first time on a train.

My wife, Becky, took the girls on the same trip a few years back, so the kids were pros riding the train. They told me where they wanted to sit, how to plug in the tablets, and even how to get on the Wi-Fi. The girls pointed out the bathrooms and even where the café car was. They acted like world travelers.

two girls in front of cupcake ATM

In Chicago, we hit all the hot spots a 9 and 6 year old wanted to hit. NikeTown for new shoes for Girls on the Run. Matching outfits for the youngest and her American Girl Doll. We even went to a bakery that had a cupcake ATM (check that one off the bucket list … and who knew it was on my bucket list?).

We weren’t just there to help the American economy, but I can say, “You’re welcome, America!” One of my main goals was for my girls to bond with their new cousin. Being hundreds of miles away from family is tough. Being that far away from one of the cutest kids ever makes it even harder. But we do what we can and by the time we were leaving, the three girls seemed to grow closer.

We walked on to a full train coming home, so full in fact we had to sit in the café car at one of the tables. I thought this would put a damper on the trip because it wasn’t exactly comfortable. But it made for good people watching!

We saw people from all walks of life like college kids heading back to Ann Arbor and moms taking their kids to see their grandparents for spring break. A train is a true melting pot and it provided me with some teaching moments.

It also allowed the girls to teach me a few things. Sure they pick at each other like siblings do, but they truly love each other and they showed it during that 4½ hour ride back by being patient and listening. I also learned that my youngest knows how to deal from the bottom of the desk during a game of war, but that’s for another blog.

It is nice to get a change of venue for some one-on-one time with your children. Shaking up the norm can show you as a parent where you need to help your kids improve, but it also lets you know what you’re doing right. The trip proved that my wife and I are building a pretty good team with our two girls and they’ll be ready to help each other up when they fall down; they may laugh first, but that’s for yet another blog.

– Jim Pesta is a Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

Chicago with kids: Nonstop fun

Let’s pretend we’re penguins!

My husband and I have a serious travel bug, but we’ve been grounded since having kids. For either cost or reasons lacking courage, we haven’t had it in us to go anywhere far with twins.

But we just got back from Chicago, and I’m so glad we went. The kids had a blast. We had a great time. It was amazing.

We started by driving to New Buffalo, Michigan, then taking an hour-long train ride into the city. The kids thought this was amazing and we thought it was economical and relaxing. For all four of us to take the train round-trip, it was $120. We’d have to pay $50 a day to park in Chicago.

girl at Adler Planetarium exhibit

Mission control at Adler Planetarium

After a short cab ride (another thrill for the kids) to our Airbnb, we set out to explore. My husband did great research and found a reasonably affordable place to stay that was central to what we wanted to see and do, as well as close to public transport. Luckily, the kids are just 5, so they ride for free on city buses and trains. Do your research, though. I thought we’d Uber around with them, but in Illinois, Uber has to abide by car seat laws, which means we’d have to tote their boosters around or pay an additional $10 per seat through Uber. Public transportation such as taxis and buses are considered commercial, so boosters aren’t necessary.

Our first stop was the Field Museum. I was warned that the museum was outdated, stuffy and not too kid-friendly. I found it the exact opposite. Just as we passed through the admission area, a dinosaur walked out — and not a Barney type, either. This guy was impressive! The museum was awesome with lots to look at, touch and do. But take this little bit of advice: Pack your own food. We had a small snack from the café there of three bags of chips, a water and two chocolate milks. Our total was $18.

boy watching two dolphins

Dolphin watching at Shedd Aquarium

The next day, we went to the Shedd Aquarium. It was a blast. From climbing rocks dressed like penguins to seeing the dolphin show and even watching a 4D SpongeBob movie, we all had a great time.

Finally, we headed to the Adler Planetarium. We didn’t spend a ton of time here, but what time we did spend was fun. It was definitely my least favorite of the three; it had a great play area for kids, but the rest of the museum went way over my 5-year-old’s head.

All in all, it was a great trip. I wish we’d been able to experience more of the cuisine, but time for that wasn’t in our favor. I guess we’ll have to go back again!

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer enjoying her newly enhanced mom status and past Parenting Program participant.


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