"Hacks" are all the rage these days. The internet allows us to share tips and tricks for how to make life easier. Some of the life hacks I've seen are pretty sketchy, but some have proved quite useful. The parenting hack I'm sharing today is one that Jason and I stumbled upon long before becoming parents.
Let me set the scene. We were at Greenfield Village. It was Thomas the Tank Engine day. We didn't know that it was Thomas day when we had decided to attend and we didn't even have any small children with us. The crowds were oppressive, but we made it in and since we had come a distance to visit we stayed. For the most part we avoided the large creepy train (sorry - I've never been a fan), but we were surrounded by children wearing all sorts of Thomas gear. At the end of the day we sat watching the Sir John Bennett clock chime 5:00. Behind us sat a little boy wearing all sorts of Thomas the Tank Engine apparel, holding a Thomas the Tank Engine balloon, and eating an ice cream cone. We overheard his parents talking about how fun it had been to ride on Thomas and see him in action. Including Village admission and swag these parents had probably spent at least $200 on Thomas themed activities that day. Then it happened. The dad asked his little guy this question, "So, what was your favorite part of the day?" Waiting to hear something that including the word "Thomas" the parents were flabbergasted to hear their child say, "Ice cream!" "Ice cream?!" the dad exclaimed in a high and slightly frantic voice, "We could have stayed home and had ice cream!"
At that moment I thought, "Note to self. Skip the expensive day out and get ice cream."
Because of that experience we opted to embrace the little moments and opted out of the stress of big events that parents feel pressured to participate in when Logan was very young.
I don't mean to contradict all the other stuff that I've said about experiencing things, but when it comes to toddlers and preschoolers, save your money for future trips. This doesn't mean they shouldn't go places, just that you shouldn't spend time and money on expensive places they won't truly appreciate. Little ones need to get out and see the world, but they also need naps. This can make activities difficult and exhausting for parents. Below is a list of activities that are toddler or preschool friendly versions of more extensive activities.
This morning I have one quick question for you. WHERE DID THE SUMMER GO? Can you believe it? Logan's first day of school is August 19! I've already got his 2019-2020 school calendar and have entered all the dates in my Google Calendar app. I've filled out out forms galore and our new school uniforms should be arriving this week.
All this school prep makes reminds me that we have so far to go on our bucket list. As I said during an earlier post, I don't ever intend to get the entire list complete, but we still have a LONG way to go this year. As I look at all the things we haven't done, I try to remember what we have done. Well, so far this summer has been full of a lot of family activities. We went up north to a family wedding, my sisters came in to visit for a week, and we spent a few days up in the Thumb of Michigan during the week of the 4th of July. Once I realized that we've been busy just not busy doing the things on my list, I relaxed knowing that time spent with family is time well spent. We've listened to old stories, made new memories, and shared many a meal together.
We also have several things that are "in progress" like reading books which we've attacked with renewed vigor after seeing all those back to school forms. I've been working on all kinds of craft projects including how to use my new Cricut Maker. I'll talk more about my favorite craft projects at a different time though.
This summer has been a good one. I strongly believe in making the list and pushing myself and my family to do things, but sometimes, other things come up and we do those instead. That's okay. The time with family, making the most of spontaneous opportunities, and embracing the time we have is what makes for a memorable summer. Time is a fleeting and fragile commodity. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. How we use it demonstrates what we believe about God and what is important to us. There's only a few weeks left! How will you spend the rest of your summer?
Last week in my post about summer break, I emphasized that school does not have a monopoly on learning. Summer can be all about the best kind of learning. The kind of learning that expands the mind. The kind of learning that leads to interesting places and people. The kind of learning I hope Logan will continue with for the rest of his life.
There are two parts of our summer bucket list this year. I want to visit some interesting places and try some fun things with Logan, but I also want to work organizing some areas in the house, improving math skills, and strengthening language skills. When considering academic work over summer break, I like to think of it as bonus time. We had too much homework for me to add on more during the school year so summer is the perfect time to learn a few things that will help with next year. I also want to play some fun games that teach as we play such as the periodic table battleship and the Pringles ring.
The second part of the list is all about the go. I'm currently obsessed with my National Park Passport book and I want to collect several stamps available in our area. Detroit is part of the Motor Cities National Historic Area so several museums offer the National Park Passport stamp. On the list below, the areas with the available stamp have the green letters next to them identifying what they are. (Key below). Will we make it to all these places? Absolutely not, but we will have fun trying and often we get to them during days off school and weekends.
Without further ado, here is the Gies 2019 Summer Bucket List.
Visit Niagara Falls
Visit Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural NHS
Take piano lessons
Visit Whiting Forest
Clean out guest room closet
Visit River Raisin NBP
Study Men and Women in the Word with She/He Reads Truth
Learn about the law of diminishing returns with ice cream
Visit Cranbrook Gardens
Go to a baseball game
Host a class party
Day camp at the Henry Ford
Visit Stahls Automotive Foundation NHA
Ride bikes to downtown Rochester
Family game night
Visit the Edsel Ford House and Gardens NHA
Play the license plate game
Visit Cambridge Junction Historic State Park NHA
Build an egg drop
Visit the Detroit Zoo
Read and complete Big Life Journal
Visit the Toledo Zoo with Fougeres
Family movie night
Memorize the definitions for the parts of speech
Visit Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes NL
Jackson Pollock Painting
Visit Yankee Air Museum NHA
Play periodic table battleship
Visit the GM Renaissance Center NHA
Build a LEGO fortress
Visit Meadowbrook Hall NHA
Visit Michigan Military Technical & Historical Society NHA
Make a Pringles Ring
Plant giant sunflowers
Read a biography of Bob Ross
Finish London puzzle
Visit the Detroit Historical Museum NHA
Finish toy puzzle
Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts NHA
Memorize times tables
Read Treasure Island
We're ready to grow and go!
NHA - National Historic Area, NBP - National Battlefield Park, NHS - National Historic Site, NL - National Lakeshore
Are you excited about summer break being right around the corner? I am. (Notice my excessive use of exclamation points.) I love summer. I'm not just talking about the season itself, although I do love that - I'm talking about the long break from school.
Summer is time to take a break from school. Summer is not the time to take a break from learning. Summer is the perfect time to learn without the pressure of tests and the responsibility of homework. It's the perfect time to visit museums and parks. These experiences are extremely important because by exploring and experiencing, children lay the groundwork for their classroom experience.
Here’s an example. At some point in their science education, your child will learn about the life cycle of a frog. I remember learning about this as a student, but I didn’t have to memorize it as a student. Why? Because there was a ditch in the front yard of the house I grew up in. Every year frogs would lay eggs. Once the tadpoles emerged we would scoop them into buckets and check their progress. It was play. Gloriously messy, sometimes muddy play. But then when I got to science class the life cycle was something I knew. I had watched. I had observed. The teacher had new information that I didn’t already know, but she had a shelf to place new information onto. My existing knowledge allowed my understanding to be deeper and more lasting than the student who had never seen a tadpole.
Often our school system becomes adversarial. Students work hard NOT to learn the information the teachers are tasked with the responsibility of forcing the materials into them. This push back doesn’t usually happen until middle and high school, but the mindset begins as early as elementary.
We make a critical mistake when we equate school with learning. Why? School does not have a monopoly on learning. It CANNOT have a monopoly on learning. This is NOT to say that students don't learn in school but when we limit learning to school we limit our children’s mindset and limit their growth. Learning should be a lifelong pursuit. Adults calling themselves a life long learner has become popular. Why can't we let kids embrace that too? Oddly enough when I say stuff like this is it is usually the adults who tell me that kids don't want to learn, NOT their kids. This disturbs me. Learning is awesome. It is fun. It is something that the mind embraces and takes pleasure in. The brain releases a dopamine response when a new fact snaps into place. (Imagine that feeling when a puzzle piece clicks into place.) When your brain has an “ah-ha” moment your brain releases pleasure hormones. When kids make a connection between something they learned in school and something they already know, their brain releases a “reward” for their effort.
Not interested in "teaching" your children this summer? Afraid that you will get stuck or not know what to say? Here’s an example of the type of learning and teaching I am talking about. Many kids have had the experience of trying to connect toy trains. Sometimes the trains won’t connect. They may get frustrated, but they usually figure out that the key to success is to turn the train around. It works! Cool now they can play. When they get to science class and learn that magnets have a north and south pole and connect it with their memory, their brain rewards them for that connection. Those students who have been trained to recognize the moment a connection happens can gain an even greater response. Training to recognize this is as simple as noting when it happens and cheering.
Older students who are interested in Greek Mythology will love making connections about their secular reading and the experience of Paul in the book of Acts. Read Acts 17:16-34 (Paul’s sermon from the Aeropagus.) Those Paul is speaking to believe in and worship the gods we read about in stories. In verses 24-25 Paul makes specific reference to the stories of mythology. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything.” The Greek gods constantly needed help from heroes who were demi-gods. Without Heracles, Jason, and Theseus the gods would be in desperate straights. Paul is remarking that the one Creator God who is over ALL, not just the wind, seas, seasons, medicine, etc., doesn’t need human heroes to save him. He is omnipotent. When students connect these two things (the Bible and Greek mythology) they get very excited and the discussion is usually a lively one.
Even students who say they “hate” learning take pleasure in learning about things that they are interested in. Summer and other breaks from school are the perfect time to leisurely explore their own pursuits. I recommend exposure to a wide range of activities that will eventually coincide with their classroom learning. Some areas are richer in learning opportunities than others. I have been working on my Southeastern Michigan page and hope to add several more places this summer. Check it out and comment with places you would add. There is no way that you will be able to experience everything that your child is going to be learning about, but you can participate in a variety of things that will set them up for future success.
Next week I will release our full summer bucket list. We are planning on visiting several places that are recognized by the National Park Service as the Motor Cities National Heritage Area as well as River Raisin, a National Historic Battlefield. (All within an hour or so of our house.) Subscribe using the form below to follow our adventures and learn more about fun activities that will help your child's summer be both fun and constructive.
A Note About Video Games: Learning isn’t the only way to receive a dopamine response from the brain. Video games flood the brain with a dopamine response, but rarely are real skills gained and often the cost/benefit ratio is out of proportion. Alarmists love to report that kids are addicted and scare parents with statistics about the dangers of gaming. This sells stories and gets people to click, but it isn’t necessarily true. Video games aren’t all bad and can be a good way for families to have fun together (Wii) or kids to learn about the challenges of running a city (Sim City). Think of it this way - taking the family out for ice cream can be a fun way to bond and have fun. It’s a good thing. Eating ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is excessive and detrimental to your health.
Confession: I have been working on this post for a few days now. I planned to talk about the word hubris, and maybe I will someday, but after reading and writing for several hours, I have decided to go in a completely different direction. Has that ever happened to you? I thought I knew what I was writing about but as I studied and thought I realized that the material was diverging from my original thoughts. This feeling, though somewhat discombobulating (another great word), is what I love about learning. I was not incorrect in my original direction, but the opportunity to learn something new took me down an intriguing path. Come walk with me.
My grandfather was an artist by trade and along the way, he collected some interesting books about art. One of them is called Shepp's Photographs of the World. The copyright is listed as 1892. The good old days of 1892. Everything was better back then. Well, maybe not everything. There were no antibiotics. The country treated people of color with the understanding that they were lesser citizens. The life expectancy was 48.4. But it was an exciting time. Things were looking good for the United States. Grover Cleveland was fighting the spoils system and we were had not yet fought in the Spanish-American War so there was no need to, "Remember the Maine." The country was healing from the Civil War and figuring out a new path as a united nation. Rapid changes in the world filled people with wonder and optimism. The Bessemer process had revolutionized the steel making process and railroads were connecting people in ways that had previously seemed unimaginable. The publication date is almost the end of the Gilded Age, which I just learned because I Googled it, was named that because it looked like a Golden Age, but things underneath were less than perfect. (Thank you Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner for that excellent description.) Side note: I had learned that it was the Gilded Age but never grasped the meaning behind the term. Interesting.
Today's Word: Limn
One syllable. Pronounced [lim]. verb. Defined in the OAD as to depict or describe someone or something in painting or words. As I said, this word wasn't my first choice to write about, but as I was writing about Shepp's Photographs of the World I was quoting from the preface and came across this word which I had never taken the time to look up. Let me continue with my explanation about the book and you'll see the word come up in context.
My favorite part of Shepp's Photographs of the World is the preface. Most of the book is photographs of monuments, cities, and natural landmarks. There are some photos of famous works of art. The premise as explained in the preface is that few people will ever be able to travel around the world and see all the wonders it has to offer and even if they can travel, they won't make it to all the places to see all the things.
". . . a trip around the world, in the literal sense, would reveal to the traveler only a portion of its scenes of interest. Many of its greatest wonders lie off the line of circumnavigation and require to be reached by special journeys. To really see the world, one must explore it, seeking out spots to the north and south at every stage of the voyage " They mention that a newspaper reporter outdid "Mr. Phineas Fogg's famous flying voyage of eighty days," but continue on saying that a trip at this pace leaves little time for any sightseeing. The preface continues, "Fortunately for the public, the perfection of the art of photography . . . have rendered it possible to bring the whole world home to anyone's door in a manner heretofore unknown. The panorama of the world has been limned by the sun to such an extent that there is no longer an excuse for our remaining in ignorance of its most inaccessible or remote marvels. We can surround ourselves, in our own homes, with the scenes which intrepid and adventurous explorers have taken for us, often at the cost of their lives, and visit the great historic sites, the centers of strange civilizations, as well as the habitations of barbarous and savage tribes, without moving from our own firesides."
Since first reading it, I've loved the part where it says "the perfection of the art of photography" because this is 1892. Photography was far from perfected. But today I noticed that word limned and I realized that they are saying that the sun has allowed for the depictions of these great places. The sun. Because photography is light [photo] writing [graph]. Aaaaahhhhhh!!! Isn't that so cool!?!?!
Looking through the book I see recognizable monuments, but the descriptions are no longer accurate. For example, on page 159 the Eiffel Tower is described as "being the loftiest monument in the world." In the photo of the Arch de Triumph, there is no Tomb of the Unknown Soldier because that wasn't built until the Great War. The Brooklyn Bridge is described as "by far the largest suspension bridge yet constructed".
After perusing the pages and exploring from my house, I remember the admonishment in the preface to the readers of 1892 that there is no longer an excuse for remaining ignorant of the world around them because photography made the world accessible. If the 1892 audience has no excuse where does that leave the 2019 audience? I don't believe that photography or cinematography have been perfected, but they are beyond impressive. Most of us have access to the world at our fingertips. (If you have access to Google Earth then this is you.) There are also excellent documentaries and shows about the world that allow us so much access to the incredible and awe-inspiring. So as I close today, I give you (and myself) the same admonishment the author gave in 1892 - Surround yourselves with scenes which intrepid and adventurous explorers have taken for you. Visit the great historic sites, the centers of strange civilizations, as well as the habitations of barbarous and savage tribes, without moving from your own home. Travel is wonderful and I encourage it, but a lack of funds to travel does not limit the amount you can expose yourself to the magnificent world around you.
Lately, I’ve been trying to define some goals and gain some focus. I'm living digital, but there must be more. As I’ve said before defining my interests has always been a struggle, but nevertheless, I’m trying. I still want to explore other topics, but why? Why is bouncing all around and being random so prevalent in my life? The more I think about it the more one word comes to mind. Experience.
I love to experience things AND I savor opportunities to engage others in new experiences.
Experience is crucial to understanding. This is true of everything. How can someone understand the need for kindness? By experiencing kindness. How can someone understand the delicious flavors and sensations of a home cooked meal? By eating a home cooked meal. How can someone appreciate the joy of receiving a letter in the mail? By receiving a letter in the mail.
Imagine this: You want a friend to visit your favorite restaurant with you. Which of the following activities would most likely get them to understand and appreciate your love for the restaurant?
Understandably, it would be difficult for our kids to experience everything they learn about in the classroom during school hours. Complications would be numerous and be challenging to overcome. My experience in the classroom tells me that this isn’t a practical expectation for teachers or administrators to organize.
Proving children with experience cannot be one more thing thrust upon the classroom teacher to complete. Students need to spend time outside with their friends, with their families, and with their community. Visit an area museum, walk through a forest, tour a city. Many of these activities are free and require only small amounts of preparation but pay off in the opening of the child’s world with experiences that add value and depth of understanding.
As I walk through schools, stores, and restaurants, I cringe to see the large numbers of children hovering over their cell phones or iPad with their heads down looking into a screen. I worry that their worlds are shrinking. Experts tell us that being able to look up anything on the internet makes us less likely to do so. What’s that capital of Turkey? Who cares? I can look it up when I need to. (Read: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains) That intellectual procrastination inhibits the curiosity that would stimulate the brain with the knowledge that Istanbul is a fascinating city with a intriguing history that would totally be worth looking up and remembering.
Why are we so willing to allow our children to become absorbed in screens? They are safe. They are quiet. They are under control. I hear you. When we are out to dinner it is very easy to hand over a screen to quiet the child with me. They become absorbed in a game or video and I can enjoy my meal and time with friends. I get it. Sometimes it can be necessary, but we take advantage of it.
Walks through the forest are messy. A virtual exploration of a Minecraft world is clean and tidy and leaves me with zero extra laundry. Trips to museums take time away from my time to work, clean, and relax. A day spent watching TV leaves me plenty of time to get my stuff done.
So what am I saying? Live in some screen free world and exhaust yourself entertaining your kids? NO!!! We need to live a life of intention that allows time for enriching activities.
Find a forest and explore. You don’t need to know what to look for. Just play. Dig. Look for bugs. Listen for birds. Then go home. Later, when their teacher is trying to teach them about a forest ecosystem they will hook the information onto their previous experiences and grasp the material that much easier. Go to a museum. Find a free one so you don’t feel compelled to get your money’s worth. Ask questions. Use your imagination. Laugh at something if it looks silly. Later, those experiences will provide a framework for your child's teachers to build upon and develop.
This link will connect you with places I’ve visited and recommend. If you have any questions or would like more information on something please comment below. Let’s enrich our lives and the lives of those around us with experiences that provide depth and meaning.
If you enjoyed this post, please "like" it and consider subscribing to my blog. You can read my post about collecting experiences here.
Our summer adventures have been keeping me busy and unfortunately away from my computer. I have a lovely Tiffany blue notebook that is full of ideas and thoughts that come to me as I travel, but getting those thoughts onto the blog has proved to be challenging. Hopefully I can soon work past my technical difficulties and learn to work remotely. Technology is not always my best friend, but it allows me to do this, so I will persevere.
In the second full week of June we visited Paris. My husband, Jason, headed there for work and Logan and I tagged along as tourists. Travel with him is something I do as often as I can because it gives me insight into what his business trips are like and the stress he is under. As he travels we often hear comments from people teasing about his fun jet-setting life, and if I didn't understand I could be jealous. He has traveled throughout the United States and internationally to Canada (Quebec), France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, India, and China on business. What I learn when I travel with him is that business travel involves little time to adjust times zones, working at hectic paces in strange places, and little chance to enjoy the culture or scenery. Logan and I explored all over Paris, but Jason worked most of the trip. We did have one day together and some time at night for adventures as well. Sometimes he gets a break and is able to explore so I don't begrudge him that a bit. We took every minute he could spend with us and thoroughly enjoyed our time together.
Have you heard that Parisians are rude and difficult? Paris is just like any other place you will visit. You will get what you look for. If you seek beauty and culture it is to be found in spades. If you expect the people to be rude and the tourists obnoxious you will find plenty of that too. On a past visit to Pairs we encountered a gracious host at a restaurant. He showed us around his establishment with pleasure, introduced us to the chef, and told us about himself. Among other things he had studied at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. His English was fluent. He offered us the French menu because it was better worded and offered to explain the options rather than just handing the English menu. We happily obliged and had a marvelous time. Later, another American couple and their friend came in. They were abrupt and asked for the English menu. Our waiter spoke French to them and they spoke about him as though he couldn't understand them. It was truly painful to watch. They expected to find a rude Parisian and they found one. We expected to find a kind Parisian and we found one. The city is what you make of it.
We left Paris as different people than the people we were when we arrived. We learned and grew in ways that only come trough experiences traveling. What are your favorite travel destinations for business, personal, or missions? I will definitely have more to say about Paris later, but for tonight, I must say bonne nuit.
I love summer break. One of the reasons teaching appeals to me is summer break. My calendar runs June - May in my recently created bullet journal. I. Love. Summer. It is a time to take a break from school and learn just for the fun of it. Did you catch that? Not take a break from learning, just a time to take a break from formal learning. Summer is the perfect time to learn, grow, and explore in ways that just aren't possible during the school year.
For the past several summers Logan and I have had a themed summer bucket list and a hashtag to go with it. We've had The Summer of Adventure, The Summer of Go and Grow, The Summer of Exploring, and The Summer of Progress. As you can see, I put some big things like trips on the list, but I also plan little things, like make paper airplanes or play Old Maid. I started it because I don't like the days passing and feeling as though we've accomplished nothing. We never complete everything on the list but we have fun trying.
Earlier I wrote about the importance of experiencing things. The more children are exposed to the more they will be able to learn in a classroom. Standing in the Wright's Bicycle Shop is way different from seeing it in a textbook. At their childhood home actors put a on a show called "Coming home from Kitty Hawk" which is quite inspiring. I usually cry, but I'm weird like that. Don't believe me? Well, go to Greenfield Village and check it out for yourself. The Wright brothers' father strongly believed in the power of play and encouraged his children's curiosity by giving them educational toys, including a propeller toy and you see where that lead. No, building paper airplanes isn't usually encouraged in the classroom, but this is summer. Look up different designs then build a airplane landing strip to see which fly the best. You don't have to make it super educational by explaining the science behind the aerodynamics, but when your child studies physics and learns about lift, the lessons they learned through play will help the ideas click faster.
One of the saddest things I saw as a teacher was a lack of REAL outdoor experiences among my students. If you know me, you know I'm far from outdoorsy, but I do enjoy walking and taking easy hikes. If your child has done some hiking, they can relate to the mountain stories they will be reading about in literature. Students can tell all about building a shelter in a video game, but send them out to try to build one with whatever they can find in the woods. Suddenly Hatchet by Gary Paulsen gets much more intriguing. Once, on a walk on the I&M canal trail we saw a tree that had been chewed down by a beaver. That experience was priceless and way more valuable than only having read that beavers chew down trees. The time we've spent exploring the Morton Arboretum or the Stage Nature Center has helped Logan understand forest growth and decomposition in a way that is more comprehensive than he could gather from a book. Trust me, I'm not saying that ONLY experience is necessary, but that it lays a strong foundation for academic learning.
This summer we have big plans. We are calling it "The Great Summer of Adventure" and using #greatsummerofadventure2018 to track our activities. I would be honored if you would join in our adventures. Come over and swim, visit a museum with us, join us on a walk at the nature center, but let's get out there! If you can't be with us in person, join in by making and displaying your own Great Summer of Adventure bucket list and hashtaging along with us. I'm waiting to reveal our list until Monday, the official first day of summer break for Logan, but if you would like a copy of my "Great Summer of Adventure" bucket list poster please contact me. I can't wait for the fun to begin!
I love words. Really. I get super excited about them. My excitement would sometimes illicit eye rolls or groans from students, but that didn't slow me down. If the teacher isn't enthusiastic about vocabulary instruction how can the students be? I've read multiple books about the English language, books about language development in children, even a book about the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary, who's title contained the words "murder and insanity" so that was a must read. My love language is words of affirmation. I even made a list of my favorite words, just to see them on the page. I adore the way some words sound when spoken aloud. The pronunciation and sound of certain words is just requires them to be spoken.
Have I convinced you I'm a big nerd yet? Anyway, I decided to share my favorite words with you each Wednesday. (Why Wednesday? Well, without doubt, I have a weakness for alliteration.)
Today's Word: Undulate
Three syllables, rhymes with rate or eight. It could also be pronounced to rhyme with lit or bit, but the first is my personal favorite. According to my handy dandy OAD (Oxford American Dictionary) undulate is verb with two meanings: 1) move with a smooth wavelike motion 2) have a wavy form or outline.
The first time I remember reading this word was in Jack Prelutsky's book If Not For the Cat, a collection animal riddles in haiku. He uses the word to describe the movements of the jellyfish and it is beautiful. I can't print his poem here, but really, just check the book out of the library or get yourself a copy.
Recently, I visited the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach California, which was stunning and packed with fascinating creatures. The creatures I couldn't get enough of were the jellyfish. All I could think of was UNdulate, UNdulate, UNdulate. It even sounds like wave like motion. Below are a couple of videos I took of the entrancing jelly fish at the aquarium. I tried to take photos, but it was their movements that made them so intriguing to watch.
Parents, when you are out and about with your little ones, look for times like these to teach new words. Your children are much more likely to remember a wonderful word like undulate because you said it while watching jellies at the aquarium or hearing the wailing of a siren. Children are never too young to hear big words. If they misuse them that can be corrected, but hearing more words even at very young ages can increase verbal understanding and abstract processing.
As we explore marvelous words together, I look forward to hearing from other word nerds about their favorite words and how they acquired them. Vocabulary doesn't have to be a boring class with memorized definitions. Word lovers unite!
I don’t like to work out with friends, because I’m also kind of a loner and I’m also terribly wimpy. Once, I went to a weight training class with a friend and discovered she was a beast! She was upping the instructor’s suggested weights and lifting with ease! Meanwhile, I was struggling with half the weight and staring at the clock waiting for this torture to end. The next day she was gracefully ambling around while I moved with the ease of a ninety four year old woman. By attending the class, I learned to respect my friend’s physical prowess and gained new found respect for her. Did I go back? What am I crazy?! No. No, I did not. But I got a great story out of the experience. See? This whole paragraph would have been empty without that story. So many paragraphs of the story of my life would be empty without having endured painful experiences. Even though I don’t like something while I’m experiencing it, when it’s over I find a way to turn it into a good story. It’s made my life so much more enjoyable.
This turning-bad-experiences-into-a-great-story thing is not unique to me. It's pretty much the majority of what you will hear if you listen in on a gathering of Booths. The crazier the story the more we get excited to share it with our audience. These story telling gatherings were my first introduction into why experience collecting was so valuable. We didn't have to be rich in money or possessions. We took the experiences we encountered and used them to enrich our lives.
Collecting experiences isn’t as easy as collecting Starbucks mugs, t-shirts, or bumper stickers, but experiences are much more rewarding. They enrich my life as a reader, learner, and employee. Experiences have made me a more interesting person and they have made me a more interested person. I can hold my own at a dinner party with a story to share about one of my experiences and I am interested to hear about others experiences.
Collecting experiences has taken me down some rather unusual paths, but that’s the point, right? While in St. Louis with Logan, we were slowly wandering toward our dinner destination. During our walk we ended up splashing and laughing in a park fountain. By the time we were done we were both soaked and disheveled looking, but we had a lot of laughs and made some great memories. (This park seemed to allow this activity. I wouldn’t recommend splashing in random public fountains.)
I’ve seen a performance at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, walked on the Great Wall of China, and stood on the top of the Empire State Building. I've also snuggled a new born baby, cooked with my mom, and danced in the rain. Experiences can be big and grand, but they don't have to be.
Sometimes collecting experiences can be perceived as expensive because experiences seem better in exotic locations. But don’t believe that you have to spend big to begin your collection. All it takes is the actions I’ve mentioned previously. You need to be a learner and reader so you know why something is an experience worth collecting and you need to be willing to explore. Why is it worth it to eat a brownie at the Palmer House? Because it is where brownies were first invented. So after eating it you can say that you have tasted the original brownie. Being willing to explore will push you beyond your comfort zone. If your friends are going camping and have invited you, consider going even if you aren’t a camper. This doesn’t mean it has to be a regular thing, but you can say that you did it and create lasting friendships and community along the way.
Sometimes these experiences don’t go as you intended. That’s okay. Go with the flow. One time I took students and Logan down to the Museum of Science and Industry for a lecture about Project 120 and Jackson Park. It ended with me climbing in the koi pond to fish out Logan’s toy boat. I could have been really mad. I could have chastised Logan and lamented that the day was a disaster, but what a story. After the lecture we headed out and had a tour of the island given by the president of Project 120 and the director of Chicago’s parks and recreation department. Our group met the president and even took a few photos with him. We then toured the Wooded Island and visited the Japanese Garden. This was beautiful. The cherry blossom trees were blooming and the garden, which was not even open to the public yet, was peaceful and inviting. Our group wandered all over the garden until we heard Logan calling. He had sunk his toy boat in the koi pond. The same koi pond we had just heard about in the lecture. The same koi pond that had just recently been cleared of years’ worth of litter and debris. The same koi pond that the director of parks and recreation department, the president of Project 120, and other official-ish people were now standing around. I contemplated what to do. Logan wanted his boat back. Jason had purchased him that boat as a special present so he would have been disappointed at its loss. I knew wading in the pond probably wasn’t encouraged. I also knew that they had only recently completed the clean-up effort and wouldn’t be thrilled about seeing a sunken toy boat in the pond. The parks director and other officials were staring at me to see what I would do. Logan and my students were watching. I sat down on a bolder, removed my boots, pushed up my leggings, and climbed in the pond. After removing the toy boat and seeing the stricken faces of the officials I held up the boat and proclaimed, “I didn’t want to litter!” One of the representatives of the parks department came over and shook my hand and said it was the most valiant effort in litter removal that he had ever seen. What started as an intellectual outing with students turn into a debacle that included a teacher in the pond. Despite the cold and the embarrassment the day was ultimately a success because we all got a great story.
Do things that are unique, fun, and sometimes weird. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Sometimes these things scare will scare you, but that’s okay. Face your fears and proceed. Some things, like zip lining were terrifying at first, but then they become thrilling. My experiences also help me better know myself. How do you know if you don't like something if you've never tried it? I have tried to like fish. I really have, but I can say with confidence and authority that I don’t like fish or other sea food. When I say that people often tell me that I haven’t tried it in the right places, but I can respond, “I’ve tried it in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Portland, Maine, Boston, Massachusetts, and Monterey, California.” I don’t like camping and I know it because I’ve done it a few times. I did enjoy sleeping in the tent with my friends though so I’m glad my parents encouraged me to go. I have really tried to like roller coasters, but I don’t. I just don’t. Sorry, Cedar Point.
I hope to look back on my life and remember the things I have done and the places I have visited with fond memories, thankful for how each experience has enriched my life. Collect experiences to fill your life with interesting paragraphs that will fill in the boring mundane details of your chapters. Some chapters are duller than others so they need more interesting paragraphs as fillers. So let's get experiencing together!
A Few of My Favorite Experiences
1. Being at Stonehenge for the summer solstice sunrise.
2. Running a marathon. I'm really slow, but I love being able to say I've done it. I've done a total of 6 (thus far).
3. Goat Yoga. This one is just too odd not to love. There are some people who find goat yoga a beautiful expression of connecting with nature, but I found it difficult to fully relax with the possibility of getting pooped on being present.
4. Staying up late to watch a meteor shower. A few of my former students visited me last summer and we sat in the driveway wrapped in blankets to watch the Perseid meteor shower. The photo below isn't mine. That night we put the electronics away and just watched and talked. Also that's WAY more stars than we could see from our home in suburbia.
5. Visiting Platform 9 3/4. My niece and I thought the idea was original. Apparently we were wrong, but nevertheless we had a great time.
What are some of your favorite experiences?
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."