Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wonderwild(er)

This morning I took Little Boy to Wonderwild(er), the "big kids" side of Wonderwild, a local indoor play centre.  This was a rare treat for Little Boy for a couple of reasons - it's expensive ($10 per kid no matter how long you stay); and I can't take all of the kids at the same time.  There are two sides to the play area (Wonderwild and Wonderwild(er)) and Baby Boy can only go to Wonderwild while Big Boy can only go to Wonderwild(er).  No-one can play unsupervised, and I can't be in two places at once, so I can't take the kids as a group.

Little Boy was the only child in the entire play centre for the first hour (after we'd been there about an hour some other people arrived to play in Wonderwild) and he had his play area to himself the whole time.  He had a blast!  He could go on anything and had no worries about waiting or sharing.  It is a spectacular play centre with a jumping pillow, pedal cars, soft blocks, a ball area, a ropes course, and Tarzan ropes.



Imagine not having to share this whole play structure!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hermann Park Train Ride

Little Boy and Baby Boy did not have school today so I decided to take them to Hermann Park.  We rode the train (a first for us) and had a picnic.

When I arrived at Hermann Park I was very concerned because the parking lot was filled with busses.  Thousands of kids got off of the busses and luckily they walked in many lines of colour-coordinated shirts into the zoo.

Look at all the busses!
After we sorted out the tickets we had a short wait until the train left the station.  The train is really cute and we travelled all around the park.  Near the playground area the train travels around a loop through a short tunnel that is decorated with animal-themed art.



The train also travels past some interesting public art.

After the train ride we picnicked near a pond and then the kids had a play on each of the three playgrounds.  We inquired about a pedal boat ride but they are closed during the week.


We had a great morning but I was overwhelmed with the amount of trash strewn around the park.  It is absolutely disgusting!  I know the weather was lovely this weekend, and I'm sure there were many picnickers but is that any reason to throw piles of rubbish everywhere?  The park has plenty of waste bins and they were overflowing but why can't people carry out their trash?  I know I complain about trash a lot, but this is the worst I've ever seen.  Hermann Park is a lovely, important park in the city of Houston and people treat it like a landfill.  

In case you think I'm exaggerating, here are some photos, all of the white bits are garbage:






Luckily the ducks don't mind swimming around in garbage-filled water.





Sunday, March 29, 2015

Party

Yesterday we had a birthday party for Big Boy.  

My husband took Big Boy and his friends to play laser tag and then everyone came back to our house for pizza and cake.   It was Big Boy's first laser tag experience and he loved it!  Everyone agreed that it was a lot of work...more exercise than expected.

The party went well, but for one thing....Little Boy opened all of Big Boy's gifts.  

Friday, March 27, 2015

Criticism - The Children's Museum of Houston; Grocery Carts; Activities

I feel like complaining today.

The Children's Museum of Houston

I posted earlier this week about my visit to the Children's Museum of Houston with Baby Boy.  While our visit was fun, I have a couple of issues with the Museum itself.

The layout of the Museum is not suitable for families.  It's great for a parent bringing a single child but that's about it.  The top floor is only for children under 35 months.  The middle floor is more general, probably kids about 4 and up would enjoy it and the bottom floor consists of a science centre great for older kids, probably 6 or 7 and up.  Unless your ratio is 1:1 parent to child or unless your kids are very close in age, you are going to have a problem.

If I take all three of my kids alone, Baby Boy can't go to the toddler play area on the top floor because I can't take my other 2 sons.  He could go to the other areas with my other sons, but he would not be able to do much (even on the pretend street most of the activities were too tall for him).  This would make him bored and cranky after a short while.  I could bring the kids with my husband but no matter how we all split up, someone is not in their ideal area.  And....it's not much of a family outing if we have to split up!

I also think it should open earlier.  The Museum opens at 10:00 a.m. most days and noon on Sunday.  It's closed on Mondays.  Baby Boy generally starts to get hungry and tired around 11:00 a.m., so our visits will always be on the shorter side.   I think it's fair to say that a lot of parents of small children appreciate activities that start early.

Grocery Carts

Here in Houston many of the stores have novelty grocery carts for kids.  My kids love them - they are usually in the shape of a car and the child can pretend to "drive" while they are shopping.  I think they are a great idea, but they are not without problems.

The carts require cleaning and maintenance and none of our local stores do a proper job.  I'm tired of starting to lower Baby Boy into one of the carts just to find that it is full of rubbish, filthy, or dangerous.  Over the Spring Break holiday, at our local Kroger, 2 of the kid carts were filled with garbage and the other was broken.  By broken, I meant that the steering wheel was snapped off and there was a jagged post sticking out in it's place.  It doesn't matter if a store makes the effort to have kids carts if they are not useable.  It actually annoys me more than stores without any kid carts at all.

Also, the kid carts never have coffee holders like the other carts.  My guess is that it is to avoid burns, but there must be some way to add a coffee holder safely.

My last cart complaint is that there are never enough kid carts.  You have to arrive very early for your shopping to get one, particularly if you want one that is not filthy or broken.

These carts are a major fail on the part of most stores.....they are a source of irritation just as I enter the shop.....that does not put me into the mood to spend.  Grocery shopping is hard for parents, stores should try to make it easier.  

Activities

Lately I've hit upon a strange quirk within the after-school activities system in the U.S.A.  Parents are expected to sign up for activities without having any idea what day or time they take place.  It's astonishing that people accept this!  It is definitely the norm, because all three baseball programmes we tried to sign up for operated this way.

We first ran into this issue in the fall with Little Boy's soccer.  I signed him up for "after-school" soccer only to find out that it was at 6:00 p.m. and on Saturdays.  Our schedule was off for months as we struggled with practices that ran over bedtime and games on Saturday during other regular family activities.  When we were invited to sign up for baseball at Little Boy's school I asked when it would be and was told they have no idea until all of the kids sign up.  What?

I signed the kids up for community baseball in January and this week I had a phone call informing me that the baseball practice would be Tuesday nights and the games on Saturdays.  We can't make it at either of these days and times, so I had to pull the kids from baseball.  The man on the phone asked why and seemed very irritated because we messed up his teams.  If they scheduled the activities before people signed up it would make so much more sense!

In January I tried to sign the boys up for Little League and they didn't know the schedule either.  But they did know that Big Boy and Little Boy would have practice at the same time on the same day in different parks.  So we could not sign up unless we could commit to both parents driving every time.

I was complaining about this with a group of mothers at the playground yesterday, and only one (a friend of mine) agreed with me (and maybe she was just agreeing to be nice....).  The rest thought it was reasonable to wait and schedule practices and games once signup was closed.  They obviously are not trying to schedule multiple activities for multiple children.  One told me that if you want to play baseball or football it's your life anyways so you just make it work!  It's ridiculous....I can't be in two places at once and we have to be able to manage our schedule.  

It's back-asswards!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Happy Birthday

It's Big Boy's birthday today!  

He was excited to wake up and have a day of celebration.  He decided to take cookies in to his class and we had cake for breakfast!

He will have a party this weekend to round out the celebrations.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Children's Museum of Houston

Today I took Baby Boy to the Children's Museum of Houston (http://www.cmhouston.org).  I used one of the family entrance vouchers that I got from the FLIP programme at the Houston Public Library.

We met some friends and we had a great time at the Museum.  We spent most of our time in the toddler play area on the top floor.  Baby Boy enjoyed sitting in the car, pretending to re-fuel it, and sliding.  As he grew tired he started to play with baby toys.

When his energy was starting to fade we decided to go home but I pushed the wrong button on the elevator.  We went to the basement and ended up in the building workshop.  It was so cool!  We decided to build a rocket and test it in the rocket test centre.

Once we had figured out where we were going, we headed out, stopping to check out a few exhibits on the way.

The Museum relies on a lot of corporate sponsors.  There is a small "street" with different businesses and some of them are sponsored.  There is a pretend Bank of American Machine and Baby Boy loved it!  They gave him a bank card and he could take out "money" and make deposits.  Really neat!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Zoo and Party Time

Zoo

On Thursday morning I took the kids out to the zoo.  I wasn't sure it was a great idea, Little Boy was still recovering and Baby Boy was a bit grumpy.  I was also concerned that the zoo would be crazy busy because it is spring break for kids in Houston.  The zoo actually arranged for extra parking over spring break.

I was right about it being busy.  We arrived at the zoo about 15 minutes after it opened and the first parking lot was already filled.  There were road blocks to control the traffic on the way in and police officers supervising the flow to traffic.

Our first stop in the zoo was the Swap Shop.  It wasn't busy and the boys earned loads of points for their trade....but not enough to purchase the item that they are saving for.  Then each boy picked an animal he wanted to see and we walked around to see them.  The animals were not particularly active, I think it was because it was hot and humid.  The zoo was crowded and getting busier every minute.

Little Boy wanted to see the monkeys so we walked along the path through the monkey area.  Baby Boy picked elephants and it was fun watching the baby elephant eating straw that he stole from his mother's mouth.  

Big Boy wanted to see the aquarium.  It's been closed for ages and this is the first time we've been to the zoo when it's open. Baby Boy was scared in the aquarium and it was crowded so it was a quick visit.  The boys loved the little sharks and the rays.

Little Boy was getting tired at this point so we stopped for a snack.  I thought we could grab a coffee and muffin, but it wasn't really an option at the cafeteria we visited, so we shared an order of fresh, hot, fries.  As we did, a lady commented to her parents "see, American children just eat fries all of the time".  That's not a fair statement about my boys....and it really irked me.  I'm not American and we don't often eat fries.  Also we were sharing a side of fries between 4, hardly a fat binge.  She was making a lot of assumptions.....

After our snack we left the zoo.  The lake next to the zoo was really peaceful so we spent a few minutes walking around next to the shore.  Baby Boy was scared of the birds!

The drive home was long.  There were road blocks to control the traffic and I had to turn around in a different parking lot.

Party

On Saturday night we decided to have a few friends over and then we invited a few more to make it a party.  It was fun and surprisingly not much work.  My husband was so helpful with the cleaning and the kids even pitched in.  It was good for us to have a distraction....it's been a long week!