What This Election is Teaching our Children

There is a basic amount of decency and respect we all deserve. I learned this from my parents, I learned it from following Jesus, and I learned it from the community in rural Michigan where I grew up. And it goes without saying this election is not bringing out the decent in people. I’ve had to tell my children on more than one occasion that not everything you hear from an adults’ mouth on TV is OK…in fact, much of it is quite rude, self-serving, and downright vicious. In a culture where kids already are not taught much about empathy, this election cycle hits where it hurts. And it’s simply NOT OK. I would love to get back to a level of civility among people. What is happening in this election is setting the tone with how Americans will engage with each other. And frankly, it stinks.

I grew up Republican, but somewhere in the last 10 years, the Republican party left me. They left me in the middle. Here I am, with my economically conservative, yet socially liberal roots. I would really love a candidate who was more economically conservative, because I think it’s good for the US economy, but also was accepting of ALL the people: black, white, gay, straight, religious, non-religious (or religions different from mine).

And now I’m left with this choice that I’m not crazy about. I generally think many of the Republican ideals work – small government, letting free markets work, letting states make local decision-making. But there is something more important than all of this. And it is this question: Can I explain my choice on election day to my children? Can I tell them who I voted for, AND, am I proud for it? Do I feel good about it? Because at the end of the day, character matters. Leadership matters. Kindness Matters. It matters less to me if the government gets bigger, less to me if spending goes up, and it matters SO much more to me if I picked a candidate who extends a basic level of human decency and respect to his/her fellow person. What is most important is that we all teach our children through our actions, through our actions of voting, that we don’t name call, we don’t bully, we don’t belittle women (or anyone), no matter the cause, no matter the issue, no matter the position of power. There are some ideals that are more important than ANY of the political platforms or issues of today. So, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m crossing the aisle, I am voting for Clinton. Trump has no place in this government.

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Not Your Mama’s Conner Prairie

When we relocated to Indy last year, I remember hearing about Conner Prairie, conjuring up memories of my childhood visit there.  Once when mom or dad had a conference in the area, we got to make the trek down from Michigan for a visit.  All I really remember is a bunch of old prairie style homes.  Well, a lot has changed.

What I love about Conner Prairie is that you have different experiences every time you visit.

IMG_2046Case in point: our last visit, we got to pet a nine day old lamb, build blanket forts, and eat fresh made caramel apples.   None of these were available during our last visit, where we got to pretend-shoot rifles in the Civil War Journey, throw a tomahawk in Lenape Indian Camp, and ride in a hot air balloon.

And I always learn something new.  Did you know a group or flock of turkeys is called rafter?  We learned this as the entire rafter (quite literally) followed us through Prairie Town.  While they were harmless, the kids loved but were somewhat frightened a bit to have them within a few inches of their legs.IMG_2050

After visiting the loom house, we learned it takes nine days on a loom to make a blanket.  I think my kids had a whole new appreciation of what it takes to stay warm (or at least I did.)

IMG_2174Back to those delicious caramel apples.  My son got to experience his first, a salted caramel chocolate yellow delicious, while my daughter sampled the apple cider slushie, and even tried the apple, though she doesn’t like caramel or chocolate….miracles never cease.  The Apple Store is only open a few short months in the fall, and celebrates all things apple.  Sales benefit the charitable arm, Conner Prairie Alliance, which funds missions of Conner Prairie.  I even brought a half peck home to share from a local Indiana farm.  Delicious!

And let’s revisit the blanket fort…or aptly named the Hide Away Fort building area of the indoor Discovery Station, which is open all season.  My kids couldn’t get enough.  The area in which Conner Prairie has it right is making very simple things fun, which you could even replicate at home. IMG_2054

So, you have until the end of October run out for those caramel apples and other treats at the Apple Store.  After that, the outdoor portions close for the season (except for select events), but the indoor areas remain open.  So we’ll have to settle for blanket fort making, crafts, and how to harness wind energy, all located inside.  But somehow we don’t feel like that is settling.

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I’m a Guest Blogger: Check out “New Buffalo, Michigan: A Homecoming”

Hi All! I am so fortunate to be a guest blogger for Lisa Lubin (llworldtour.com), friend and former colleague at ABC7 Chicago! Check out my hometown update on her site at http://www.llworldtour.com/new-buffalo-michigan/!
You will love Lisa’s story. Years ago, she left the big job, sold the condo and travelled around the world. I got to live vicariously through her, as she kept a great blog about it all, to which I subscribed. What inspiration. Happy Reading!
New Buffalo Beach

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The Speedway

If you were looking for that insiders look at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this is not it. Confession: I am a complete racing novice. So, think of this post as an outsiders look at the Speedway. But one can’t live a mere 20 miles away from the IMS and not talk about it, especially this weekend, the annual running of the Indianapolis 500.

ImageBack when I worked in media, we affectionately refer to many Midwestern states the flyover states, ie, less noticed, than the coasts. Indeed, while living abroad, I found while many folks had heard of New York and L.A., the same people gave a blank stare when I mentioned Indiana, Ohio, or Michigan. Sigh. They would often speak of spending a two week vacation in America, but all of that time was either on the coasts, or at Disney World. But there are so many sites to see here, I couldn’t let the weekend pass without giving some love to my new state (as of 6 months ago), Indiana.

I went to my first race a number of years ago, while living in Chicago, but I remember it well as it was Danica Patrick’s first Indy 500 race, so there was extra excitement in the air. First impressions: it is super loud, so bring some headphones. And, my first attempts at photos were a joke. Even with a good Canon Digital rebel, the cars were out of the camera frame most of the time before I could click. Maybe I was jaded, living in a large city, but I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to park only a short distance to enter the track. Although there were crowds, it didn’t feel crowded.Image

ImageWhat I’ve discovered since becoming a Hoosier, is that the IMS has a Community Day in May, where you can visit the pit area, meet drivers and get autographs, play games; it even has a kids area with bounce houses – cool! And, if you enter at Gate 10 (and sign a waiver), you can drive the actual track in your own vehicle – way cool! (If you’ve missed this, you can visit the IMS museum and ride a bus around the track.)Image

To get in the spirit, catch the 500 Festival Parade, today at noon, in downtown Indianapolis. Or visit the Dallara Indy Car Factory, makers of the Indy car chassis, where you can watch an Indy car being made, and the kids can enjoy racing simulators, or my husband’s favorite, build your own car, pinewood derby-style. Adult guests can even pay to ride an actual indy car through the streets of Indianapolis. And cars are not the only Italian import on site; don’t miss Lino’s Coffee, for pizza, snacks, and of course, cappuccino, direct from Parma, Italy.

So, enjoy the race tomorrow. Through research I learned the Speedway is so big that Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, the Roman Colosseum and Vatican City all could fit inside the IMS oval, which covers 253 acres. Now, if a local could just tell me why there is a golf course in the infield?  Image  

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Think Spring

Dayton 2012 March

March 2012

In case you have never been, let me tell you a little about spring in the Midwest.

weather photo 1

Tuesday

weather photo 2

Wednesday

On any given day, we can either be wearing short sleeves or have snow on the ground.  And with the winter we have had, I am seriously ready to just get in the car and drive south until I see grass.  As Spring Break season approaches, many of us will be packing up the family vehicle and trekking south.  And, with summer holiday not too far off, I thought I’d brush up on my top five travel tips with children, as we’ll be venturing off in a few short weeks to South Carolina.

  1.  Be OK with throwing your schedule out the window.  You know, I used to feel terribly inadequate when I’d meet parents whose kids all napped at the same time, ate
    Quiet dinner

    Quiet dinner

    at the same time, woke at the same time, etc, etc.  My kids never did, even with my attempts to set a schedule.  But part of living a travel-full life is being able to chuck the kids’ schedule without getting heart palpitations.  I know couples who returned to a hotel room so their kids could nap.  Maybe this works for some, but I would seriously feel like we were missing out.  Lay back the stroller or strap on the baby carrier for a walk.  But don’t stress if the naps happen at dinner time.  I specifically remember a time in 2010 when my kids both fell asleep in a cab on the way to a restaurant when we were traveling in Egypt.  They stayed asleep at the table/booth most of the meal, which equaled instant date night!  Yes, they stayed up a little later that night, but it was a decent trade off.

  2.  Snack, snacks and more snacks.  I can’t believe how often I have forgotten this one.  How easy is it to grab a handful of granola bars (or whatever packaged food your kiddos will eat) before a long day of travel?  As we prepare in a few weeks, I am not only stocking up on the tried and true snacks but also grabbing some that can be considered treats we wouldn’t normally have at home.
  3.  Technology can be your friend.  I realize screen time is a hotly debated issue these days.  However, when we are trapped in a car for 12 plus hours trying to make it to our Spring Break destination, we lower our standards.  Yes, I said it.  Perfectionist me used to hate it when people would say “lower your standards.”  I like to now think of it as being open to alternative resolutions when presented with new challenges.  When you arrive (or are on driving breaks), put the games and movies away, find a park and explore!  I usually even hide the games until the return trip.  
  4. I think a realtor in Chicago once told me that everything in negotiable.  That statement took on a whole new meaning once I had children.  I negotiate daily my way in (and out) of situations with my kids.  My husband and I are history enthusiasts and have taken our two children (ages somewhere between 1 and 6 at the time) to two presidential museums.  My son ate candy and fruit snacks out of my pocket most of the morning, and my daughter got to pick the restaurant where we ate lunch that day; meanwhile, my husband and I got to see at least part of the museum.
  5. Prepare early.  My husband laughed a few years ago when he saw me packing up the suitcases a couple weeks before we were leaving.  His fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants attitude leads him to wait until the last minute.  However, I know that with my brain only half functioning most days, which inevitably comes from a sleep drought most nights, I work better with a system of lining all suitcases in the hall, and chucking items in as I remember them; then doing one final check at the end.  This also ensures I’m not up until all hours the night before.  At least, I’m not up until all hours packing suitcases.  (Of course as soon as they are old enough, dear children will be doing their packing themselves.)

When disappointments happen, be OK with spending a little more to be happy.  Last year in Estes Park, we upgraded our room at the start (a small price to pay for functioning outlets and a closer walk to the dining hall), and we were so much happier and relaxed for it.  In San Antonio last spring, we veered off course a little to spend an extra night in a hotel near a theme park so that we could settle one of our sick children, before meeting up with family the next day.

Happy Trails!  Maybe we’ll pass each other on South I-75.

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ASCOT

As I sit watching the Kentucky Derby, kids having living room horse races,

Imagesipping a mint julep (I wish), I immediately go back to our lovely visit to Ascot Racecourse.  While living in London, a neighbour told us that “we simply MUST go to Ascot,” which is British for, it will be a very fun time for the family.

ImageSo we trekked due west of London, for almost an hour by train, to Ascot, which is about 6 miles from Windsor.  An over 300 year old racing track, Ascot began in 1711, on an idea from Queen Anne.  The original racers were English hunters, quite different from the jockeys we see today.  The first race was four miles, and bared little resemblance to today’s races.  A proper race course was erected later on the site, and a permanent building followed in 1794.  The most prestigious races happen during Royal Ascot, which is held over five days in June, and is quite a formal affair.

ImageWe attended on a beautiful April morning for Family day, which had an Alice in Wonderland theme my three year old absolutely adored.  Complete with rides on the outside lawn, delicious food booths, face painting and games, it really is an all-day outing.  We had such a great time, and I was so happy to have the experience. Now someday we really MUST go to Kentucky for the Derby.Image

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Ireland

So, what do you do, when you know your time in London may be coming to an end soon?  Well, just as one in the US could hop a plane for a 1 hour flight from Chicago to Nashville or St. Louis, we booked a long weekend in Ireland.  We ended up having 4 days, due to the bank holiday (Bank Holiday = the generic British term for that Monday holiday that gives you a 3 day weekend.)

What I’m first struck by: the topography.  Now, I don’t know about you, but having flown ovImageer the US 100s of times, this photo to the right is what one would typically see: nicely laid out square or rectangular plots of land, either farm or city, shaped in a lovely grid.  I guess that’s what one typically sees in a relatively new (~ 200 years old) country.

ImageJuxtapose that to the photo on the left, an aerial view flying into Shannon, Ireland.  Crazy lines going every which way, literally as far as the eye could see.  And yes, it goes without saying, as green as I’ve ever seen any land.

Having straightened out the Visa situation for my son, we were set. (Yes, we remembered to get his passport for going home, but totally forgot he would need a Visa to re-enter Britain.  Thank you, nice border patrol man. I’ll need a separate blog post for that experience later).  We jumped on Ryanair for the one hour flight from London to Shannon.  We were lucky in the fact that my husband spent 15 months living in Ireland about 10 years prior, so we effectively had our own built in tour guide.  He suggested flying into Shannon, driving the southern coast, including Dingle Bay, then back north through Clonmel (where he worked) and then up to Dublin, and flying out of Dublin.

ImageOne of the first things we found?  A beach!  Go figure.  I guess I was picturing green, rocky cliffs and not sandy beaches.  Not at all what I was expecting, but then again I also wasn’t planning that it would be 70 degrees F and sunny every day.   Ok, now this next photo on the left was much more in line with the Irish coast I had envisioned in my head.

ImageOne of the most beautiful drives?  Slea Head Drive, where we found a charming Bed and Breakfast that would accept children, and had a lovely time.  My 9 month old, being so mobile and at that age, detested the car drives, and as desperation got the best of us, we actually turned his rear-facing car seat around so he could see out on the drive.  Sadly, it didn’t work, as he still didn’t see the beauty that we saw. Between this and the fact that my 3 year old daughter got sick in the car nearly each time we got in (the very winding roads got her every time), we made slower than normal progress, but managed to see countless castles and numerous picnic spots, which we discovered was a far easier way to eat our lunch than finding suitable restaurants for small children, which would either take a very long time to get served, or we’d feel uncomfortable being literally the only ones with littles in the restaurant.

ImageOn arriving in Dublin, we headed straight for the Guinness Brewery, having heard they had a lovely tour.  It did not disappoint, and the view from the tower at the end was magnificent.  My daughter enjoyed it (almost) as much as we did!  A fabulous tour also not to be missed is that of the Kilmainham Gaol Museum.  A former prison and famous for its presence in dozens of movies (In the Name of the Father, anyone?), the tourImage was wonderfully guided, and we learned so much of Dublin history.  Included as its famous residents were Patrick Pearse, and James Connolly, leaders of the Easter Rising, 1916.  Here is where they and 13 other leaders were shot to by British firing squad.  And we got to stand in that very spot.

Next was a stop at the Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Ireland, where we had a wonderful stew.  Established in 1198, it also functions as a hotel.  Outside the pub was the site of the first bridge across the Liffey River, so at that time it was a bustling area of trade.

ImageAfter saying goodbye to the white cows, it was time to also bit farewell to Ireland, easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

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