I’ll Always Remember our Water Date!

I didn’t want to get wet.  Let’s just make that clear in the beginning.  I was wrong. You should probably know that early on too.

When we planned a geocaching day with our friends Leigh and Tony, we specifically planned for hiking caches.  The Bug said she wanted to go hiking and get in the woods, and that suited the rest of us.  So, we found a couple locations in Delhi, Ohio (basically Cincinnati) where we could get in the woods, find some caches, and enjoy time with our friends.

Our second location was a set of hiking trails made by Boy Scouts on a hillside.  We parked on the side of a road and started hiking.  It wasn’t long till The Bug saw a creek at the bottom of the hill.  “Guys, it’s time you start thinking about me and go down to the water.”  (We’re still working on the whole humility thing, but you can tell she likes water.)  Well, we ignore her and kept up our hike.  Up the hill we went, then swept down through the woods, finding “treasures” all along the way. Come to think of it, asking an 8 year old to hike 6 miles without a creek break may be a bit extreme… but she did do remarkably well. 

Finally, toward the end of the hike, the trail met up with the creek, and we stepped down into the rocks.

The Bug took off for the water.  As the dad, I had to keep up with her in case she fell.  Her balance isn’t what it should be and it helps to have a spotter.  “Honey, don’t get your feet wet.  Hiking with wet feet is not fun.”  That lasted 7 seconds.  As she splashed her way around the little pools of water, it didn’t take long till my hiking boots were submerged too.

We sloshed around for a while, till we were beckoned back to the trail.  As we walked the last quarter mile or so back to the car, The Bug never let go of my hand, as she kept telling me sweet nothings.  “We need a date night again.”  “I love you a billion times!” “I’ll always remember our water date.” “I love you more than anything.”

Sometimes I can be such an adult. I can only think of the practical side of things — what has to be done or what is the best way to do something.  It’s so easy to forget to have fun with my kid.  I’m thinking it was a good idea to get in the water.  What do you think?

Pro Tips:

  • Don’t be afraid to get wet, but make it at the end of the hike.
  • Waterproof your boots or wear hiking sandals. (Wet boots, socks, and jeans were not fun to hike in, even if we were basically done.)
  • Keep dry shoes in the car.
  • It’s OK to be a kid once in a while.

When was the last time you were a kid with your kid?

The Bug and Her Mug

 

The other day, The Bug and I hit up Color Me Mine in Crestview Hills Town Center.  She has painted something for all her parents and grandparents and decided she wanted to paint something for herself.  We both have Bug-created coffee mugs and she wanted one for herself.  So, we took an afternoon to enjoy some Starbucks and some painting.

I love seeing The Bug’s creative side come out when she’s doing something crafty.  I’m decidedly not crafty, so it’s fun to see her go to town.  She picked out the colors and the designs, and I was just there for support.  “Daddy, you just look for glops and tell me where they are.  That’s what Mommy always does.”  Well, I looked for glops, held the mug, and directed traffic as best as possible.  What was cool was when other people noticed and said something to her.  One little girl said that it looked cute.  The lady at the table next to us (who was painting some cool stuff!) told The Bug it looked great too.  (Side note: We had the Asian Connection. She has two daughters born in China.  Love that Asian Connection!)

The staff at Color Me Mine is wonderful!  They are patient with The Bug, answer all our questions, and are genuinely there to help.  You should go visit sometime.

So, you’re probably wondering what her mug looks like.  Right?  Here are some pictures of the project from start to coffee.

The mug before she put any paint on it.

The mug before she put any paint on it.

Blowing paint bubbles for the inside of the mug.

Blowing paint bubbles for the inside of the mug.

Painting the outside bluew.

Painting the outside blue.

Starting the dots.

Starting the dots.

Lotsa dots.

Lotsa dots.

All done with the paint! It took a long time and patient work, but it looks great!

All done with the paint! It took a long time and patient work, but it looks great!

After they fired it, we picked it up. Opening the paper...

After they fired it, we picked it up. Opening the paper…

Looks great!

Looks great!

First cup of (decaf) coffee!

First cup of (decaf) coffee!

Let’s end with some pro tips.

  1. Pony tails are better than hair down. Look at that last picture again.  Why on earth would she want to wear her hair down when she has to do that to take a drink?
  2. It’s OK to be crafty.  After typing this up today, I made flowers out of egg cartons. It’s cool. Your daughter will love it.
  3. Starbucks. You need coffee for an hour or more of mug painting.
  4. Decaf for the little one.  Don’t give your kid caffeinated coffee at 5:00 in the evening.  Don’t go there.  Don’t be silly.

What’s a cool paint project you’ve done with your kid lately?

 

Family Night

You know how it is when you need to fill out a survey and you’re asked about your hobbies?  What are some things that jump out at you right away?  For me, one of my favorite hobbies is being with my family.  Yes, I know it sounds hokey but I really do enjoy when the three of us are together.  And I don’t mean the “together” that comes from trying to get homework done or rush out to church or clean a toy room.  What I really like is an evening or weekend where we get to hang out and just enjoy being together.

A while back, we realized that there was dearth of that in our home.  With weird work schedules and other obligations, we didn’t get a lot of time to just be a family, having fun together.  That needed to change, so we instituted Family Night!  There is no magic behind Family Night and we rarely do anything over the top.  Here’s how it works…

  • We look ahead at the calendar for a weekend night we have free.  No extra work shifts.  No plans with friends.  No big plans the next morning.  THAT becomes our next family night.
  • We take turns.  Each member of the family gets to plan a Family Night.  This includes dinner, dessert, and any entertainment.
  • Eventually, we will work with The Bug about budgets and things like that.  Till then, we get to approve or disapprove her ideas based on cost.

This really is a great way to teach a few things to The Bug.  One, there’s the whole planning thing.  She has to think about each aspect of the evening and decide what is fun for all and sensible to do. Second, the aforementioned budget will be vital to her life as she tries to figure out the tricky world of finances down the road.  Third, as individuals, we may not always be happy with what the family does, but we all have to get along.  A very important lesson for an only child.

Recently, my wife got her turn to plan Family Night on a Friday night after she got home from work.

We started by letting her unwind on the back patio.  This was Fourth of July Weekend, and we had introduced The Bug to various fun (yet not wildly dangerous) home “explosives” like sparklers this year.  So, for us, unwinding meant throwing those little popper things on the patio over and over and over again.  Great fun.  Good times!

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Then, it was time for the park!  I — Mr. Domesticated Daddy — had already packed a picnic dinner, so we loaded up the car and went to a local park that we don’t frequent much.  The Bug ran immediately to the playground.  The swings used to be her favorite thing, but now she is working on learning things like rings and monkey bars.  She also tackled her fear of the the largest “fireman pole” we have ever seen on a playground.

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Just before dinner time we decided to head to an open patch of grass to try our hand at a frisbee catch.  Years (and years and years) ago this used to be one of our favorite outdoor activities.  Now, I think we are learning (or re-learning) to throw a frisbee using these awesome discs The Bug won at various school activities.

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We ate our dinner and played some more before it was time for the grandest event of the evening — ice cream at Graeter’s!  For those of you who live outside the Cincinnati area, I really am sorry that you don’t get to experience Graeter’s ice cream.  I’m sure your city has its own wonderful cuisine that you can call your own.  There’s only one problem.  You don’t have Graeter’s.  You need to come visit us and grab a bowl or two.  The Bug and I shared a bowl of mint chocolate chunk and my wife had watermelon sorbet.  Oh so good!

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Then, it was time to go home and get ready for bed.

Simple, fun, making memories.

I love my family!

 

How does your family make simple memories?  How do you celebrate family time?  Let us know in the comment section. 

Geocaching in Ault Park

Geocaching has been one of my favorite hobbies for years.  Well before there was a Bug, we loved to get out on a Saturday, visit a local park, and find a few hidden treasures.  In fact, I’m proud to say that our Cache Find #1100 was at a Buddhist temple in Seoul and The Bug’s first ever find was in the shadows of Seoul’s Olympic Stadium.  Anyhow, after we brought The Bug back home with us, our caching excursions ground down to an almost complete halt.

But…wait…you may not know about geocaching and everything I just said sounded like gibberish to you.  Let me explain.

Let’s start with the satellites floating above us in space.  You probably already know that many of these satellites can team up together along with devices here on earth to pin point our locations pretty much anywhere on the planet.  This may freak you out in a Big Brother sort of way, and I’m sorry about that.  There’s not much I can do about that.  Just enjoy the fact that your phone can now tell you where the nearest Starbucks is and give you directions to it.  Now, keep reading.

There are people who enjoy using this cool yet creepy technology to hide things and make other people find them. These people are called geocachers. So, here’s how it works.  Someone goes out and hides a container.  It can be big like a box or small like a little magnetic dot about a centimeter in diameter. It can be in the woods five miles from anything or along a crowded city sidewalk. The important thing is to get the GPS coordinates before walking away.  Go to www.geocaching.com and write up a description of your cache, including what to look for and any hints or stories you want to tell.  Eventually your cache gets approved, then you sit and watch your email inbox. Other cachers will use your coordinates to go out and find your cache.  When they open your container, they may want to trade stuff they find in it with something they brought along.  (Think cheapo toys that somehow invaded your house when you became a parent.) They will also sign a log book you left in the cache to mark their success.  Eventually, they will sign a digital log book to alert you that they were there.  It’s a fun — yet geeky — activity that can be done in all weather and relatively inexpensively.  (When I say all weather, I have cached in pouring rain, burning sun, and falling snow.) Every geocacher has a special code name.  Our family is called the Steagles.  (I’m an Eagles fan, my wife is a Steelers fan, together we make Steagles.) I call The Bug “Steaglette” in my posts.

If none of that made sense, here’s a video to explain it better.


Now that you’ve had that introduction to geocaching, here is what we did on Father’s Day.

If you recall, we celebrated Father’s Day a week early.  We were going to go camping on the real Father’s Day Weekend, but that didn’t happen.  Instead, we decided to go to Ault Park in Cincinnati to do some hiking and geocaching.  It was a HOT day and The Bug was more interested in playing on the playground, so we only logged a few finds. I still had fun, though.

As we walked through the garden areas, I realized there was a cache only a few hundred feet away.  This can be deceptive, since those distances don’t take into account that most humans can’t walk a straight line to all caches. We got to within 100 feet, and saw that we were on the edge of forest with a steep decline toward the cache.  So, our nice little walked turned into a hike.  We had to find a trailhead and weave our way through the woods to the cache.

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Hiking to the cache. (Yes, the eye crossing was a complete surprise to me when I opened the pic on the computer screen. Oh well. She’s cute!)

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This is very typical of what you might find inside a cache. I tend to leave the toys and stuff alone. I’m sure you can figure out why. The Bug always wants something but rarely brings something to trade out.

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Sometimes caches aren’t quite on the beaten path. The Bug followed me off trail a bit too late to make it to the cache, but this is a good example of what you may have to hike through to grab your find.

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Heading back to the main path.

The Bug finally got to a swing and all was right with the world once again.

The Bug finally got to a swing and all was right with the world once again.

As always, here are some pro tips for you.

  • Get the geocaching app on your phone, but it’s also good to have a good handheld GPS.   I once cached with a family who tried to use their car GPS. Not such a good idea.
  • Bring plenty of water, a pen, and junk to trade if you want to trade junk. Don’t forget the bug spray too! I could tell you stories…
  • Always plan time for playgrounds. Once you get going you just want to keep finding the next one, then the next one, and so forth.  Always be prepared for the inevitable swingset to mess up your plans.
  • I asked The Bug for good geocaching advice.  She said, “Nuttin’.” She doesn’t like geocaching nearly as much as I do.  Sad, really. (One fun fact is that she doesn’t call it geocaching or caching like we do.  To The Bug it’s called, “finding treasures.” Cute.)
  • Make it a fun time! Enjoy the hike, race to see who can find the cache first, and always end with ice cream.

I’d love to hear your geocaching stories!  Drop a good one in the comment section.

Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver

Zoo Camp

The Bug loves the Cincinnati Zoo.  I don’t think I can overstate that fact in any way.  Her lifelong dream is to be a zookeeper, but she has recently narrowed her focus. She wants to be in the Bird Show…or more accurately she wants to be in charge of the Bird Show.  This girl has goals.

With her love of the zoo, it was only natural for us to enroll her in Zoo Camp this summer. While the zoo offers a couple different camp options for the little ones, we went with their half-day morning program called “Growing Up.”  She loved it!

Each day I dropped her off in her classroom, which was really a tent overlooking the giraffes. Since she has always had a soft spot for the giraffes, I’m surprised she was able to focus at all, but she learned a lot!  Her teacher is a zoology major at a local university and was INCREDIBLE with the kids.  (And I know a thing or two about being patient with 7 year olds.) Not only that, but they had three “volunteens” in their class to help the learning and fun go on.

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Every day, they focused on a different kind of animal — insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. They had visits from animals in those categories and went on hikes to see them in their enclosures at the zoo.  All along the way, they sang songs and played games.  Their time together ended with a craft about that particular animal.

THE BUG LOVED IT!

We made plans early in the week to eat lunch together at the zoo on Friday.  Now, I’ve mentioned before that we normally pack a lunch to save some money, but I didn’t tell The Bug that we were going buy pizza instead of eating a sandwich.  She flipped out with excitement.  (Seriously, it doesn’t take much when you’re 7.) On our way to buy our food, I told her we had to hurry if we wanted to make it to Bird Show in time.  Oh! My! Goodness! I had one hyper girl on my hands! We hooked up with one of her camp buddies at lunch and had fun hanging out with her and her family that afternoon.

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I highly encourage you to enroll your kid in Zoo Camp.  Slots fill up fast, so start looking for sign ups in Spring 2017.  Just to warn you… The Bug plans on taking a full day slot next year.

Here are some pro tips.

  • Take something to do.  It was silly for me to drop her off at the zoo, head back to Kentucky, then turn around and get her again.  So, I camped out with a laptop and did some blogging last week.  They have free wifi throughout the zoo, so come prepared. The views above your laptop are probably much better than what you see in your office anyhow.

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  • Don’t be a nerd and hang out with your laptop the entire time.  You have a world class zoo right there in front of you!  See some animals before you get your cup of coffee and hit the wifi.

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  • Find your kid during the zoo hike.  The Bug’s teacher was really cool about me meeting them at random times and places to snap a picture or two.  I never wanted to be in the way and just wanted a quick hi and picture.  It got so The Bug was looking for me while they were out and about.

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  • Don’t forget the Pizza and Bird Show Trick.  It’ll be a winner every time!  Add some ice cream too.  I give you permission to compromise.

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One other thing, I’m already pushing The Bug to be a volunteen when she turns 13.  This is an awesome opportunity to spend time in and around the zoo helping out and seeing if this is what she wants to do full time.

 

Happy Father’s Day to Me!

We decided to celebrate Father’s Day a week early this year. Why?  That’s a different story for a different post.  What does matter is that I got to be spoiled!

Actually, it was a pretty low-key day.

It started with a few quiet moments with my wife while The Bug slept.  We were sitting on the couch sipping coffee when a cherry bomb went off somewhere nearby!  What?!?! We both jumped up and ran to the front door to find the culprit.  (If it was you, SHAME! You ruined our tranquil morning, and you should be really sorry.)  Of course, that woke up Bug, so the party started with a Lion Guard card.  (Lion Guard is one of The Bug’s new loves.)  Inside the card, I was told that my present couldn’t be wrapped and I would have to search for it.  Hmmm….

They played Hot and Cold with me till I eventually stepped outside and saw a shiny new grill sitting on the patio.  Sweet! I’ve been using a table top grill for the past year or so, and it’s a pain in the neck to set it up and tear it down whenever we want to grill.  What a great gift and a great surprise!

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Then, it was time to get ready to go to church.  Normally, we serve in Kids Club then go to the service, but this week we opted to skip the adult service.  We’ve had a busy and tiring couple weeks adjusting to my wife’s new job and summer break and all sorts of other fun.  So we went home after hanging with the kids for an hour.

Lunch was dinner which I got to cook on my new grill.  Pork chops, potatoes, and asparagus.  Very yummy.  Very fun to cook on the grill!  (OK, truth be told, we weren’t sure how to do the asparagus on the grill and decided to cook that in the oven. I’m open for grilled asparagus recipes if you have one.)  We followed that up with some ice cream sundaes, and the celebration was over!

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We took naps and went to a swim birthday party where The Bug jumped off a high dive!  Now, that was a very cool Father’s Day gift too!

 

Pro Tips:

  • Even if a cherry bomb goes off on Father’s Day morning, don’t run out the back door.  Yes, I saw the grill before I was supposed to because I wanted to find the evil cherry bomber. I tried to act surprised when the big reveal came.
  • Always work a nap into Father’s Day.  Who doesn’t love a good nap?  You deserve it!
  • Celebrate a week early if you can. Maybe you can squeeze two special days out of it.  I’m still banking on saying something like, “Today is the REAL Father’s Day,” on Sunday.  Who knows what will happen?

 

Breakout!

My wife and I got to have a date last night!  I admit that this happens way too infrequently.  Life gets busy, everyone is tired, and we don’t hang out without The Bug nearly enough.  However, we had a blast the other night with a group of friends at Breakout in Cincinnati. (I really need to give some props to my friend Erin at A Bird and A Bean for setting this up.)

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Never heard of Breakout?  No worries. I’ll give you a primer.

  • Gather a group of friends.  We had 10 in our group, and that may have been a bit too much.  Most rooms can only hold 8.
  • Hop on to www.breakoutcincinnati.com to reserve your adventure. You can pick from four rooms.
  • Show up on time (maybe a bit early) and be ready to be locked in a room with your friends.

Yes, I said you’ll be locked in the room.  The whole point of the game is to figure out the clues to get yourself unlocked…and you only have an hour to get out.

So, let’s talk about what goes on in that room. First, they give you instructions in the hallway before you go in. Then, they lead you into the room and they… wait a minute!  No spoilers.  For one thing, it would ruin the fun for you AND I’m fairly certain they frown upon any and all discussion of what really happens in there.  The mystery and intrigue is part of their business.  I do feel pretty confident that I can tell you the room is FULL of clues.  Once you decipher one clue, it leads you to another clue, which once deciphered leads you to another clue, and so on, till you finally figure out the code that unlocks the door.

There is great pride in unlocking the door before 60 minutes expire, and I’m proud to say that my team made it out with roughly three and a half minutes to spare.  Whew!

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Breakout is a lot of fun and a great way to bond with your friends, small group, or office mates.  I highly suggest you visit some time this summer.

And when you go, you’ll want some pro tips.

  • Groups of 8.  Let’s get the truth out there.  I enjoy each and every person in that picture.  We’re good friends, and I love hanging out with them.  However, I think that 10 people was too many.  “We” solved some puzzles that left me clueless about the solution.  I joked that I could go back in the same room and be almost as lost as I was the first time because I missed a lot of things.  Most rooms can only handle a max of 8, and I think that may have been better. (No, I don’t have a suggestion of who to leave off the island.)
  • Everything is a clue.  Seriously, I think everything I saw in that room lead us to the solution.
  • Use the calculator app on your phone.  Mental math doesn’t work when under duress.
  • Bring $15 for your “I Broke Out” T-shirt.
  • Always watch your wife for something that might make her shriek.  I will be forever sorry I missed it happen.

I loved my time in Breakout!  Tell me about your experiences in the comment section below!