All posts in Adventures with kids

  • Chapter 148- Milwaukee Music

    Need one more reason to love this city?  Look no farther than the music scene!  I’ve found a ton of opportunities to take my kids to see some live and GOOD music here in town, and I wanted to share some of them with you.

    Let me first say why I think music is important to kids and families.  We have a vibrant scene here in Milwaukee, and by taking your kids to attend events/listen to their neighbors making music, you’re supporting your community.  And making it stronger.  The other reason I value music so much is because like all art, it’s a form of self expression.  We all (kids included!) have emotions and ideas inside, and music is just one way to get those feelings out.  When your kids see adults, teenagers, and even kids performing, it can be an encouraging way to tell your kids “Hey you’re important!” and that by expressing yourself you might even help other people get their feelings out.

    We spend quite a few nights over the summer at our amazing Milwaukee County Parks for Concerts in the Parks.  Almost every day of the week, you can find some free and family-friendly music around town.  Most parks are busy with families and picnic dinners, kids running around, dancing, and adults sharing a drink.  Check out MKE County Parks’ website for schedules (though I’m sure next summer’s lineups aren’t out quite yet).

    88Nine Radio Milwaukee is constantly offering ways to see music, with kids and without.  This summer they held a block party to celebrate their 10 year anniversary, and we were able to attend this fun free event!  My kids had been hearing the band Reyna on the radio, so I did some Instagram stalking to introduce myself.  After we saw this sister duo perform, we then got to say hi in person and snag a photo!

    88Nine also offers 414 Music Live, one of my favorite perks of the radio station.  At these sessions, you can watch musicians perform and chat with radio hosts.  We’ve been lucky enough to see and meet Sonny Knight & The Lakers, Siren, Lex Allen, WebsterX, Grace Weber, Kaleo, The Bahamas, Sister Strings and Jack Garrett.  Most of those performers are local…what a great way to support your community!  Check their schedule here.

    I don’t have any photos, but check out Free Space at the Jazz Gallery in Riverwest, and DJ Bizzon’s Scratch Sessions.  Free Space is a community event held the third Wednesday of every month, and opens up its doors to youth who want to explore music.  The Scratch Sessions offer free lessons on turntables for youth ages 12-19.

    Anodyne Coffee Roasters has some interesting and free and family-friendly events as well!  Last year I took the kids to see a jazz bass player and it was a really new and unique experience for them.  They were a little out of their element, looking around with wide eyes as if to ask “is this music, Mom?”  But I feel very strongly that exposure to new and different things creates appreciation for the arts.  As much as I hated being dragged to classical music performances as a kid, I’m so happy to have that as a foundation in my life.  Thanks Mom!

     

    Colectivo hosts Gospel Sundays, MSO Mondays and more chances to see some great music.  Check out the schedules and get yourself to one of the events, if just to say you tried it once.

    And then there’s the Festival city Symphony’s Pajama Jamborees.  If your kids can hang a little later in the evening, get them in their pjs and head to see some lovely music.  It’s a free event held a few times a year, and the concerts typically surround a theme like holidays or classic stories.

    Fox and Branch know how to bring down the house.   They’re a local duo who play bluegrass when they’re not entertaining kids.  Check out their schedule for chances to see them (like at Anodyne Coffee and this event at the Washington Park Library).

    I commend the Milwaukee Public Library for offering such a fun and out-of-the-ordinary event…Library Out Loud Days!  It’s a fun way to explore our libraries, by being loud.  They’ve hosted shows (we saw New Age Narcissism this past summer, where adults got to drink a beer while kids danced and played and explored), and this month they have what looks like a really fun event.  Haunted Central will be alive with “haunted-themed” events and activities for two days this weekend.  Check it out!

    The Milwaukee Art Museum has free days (first Thursday of every month) and great weekend events, many of which offer music.  Kids under age 12 are always free at the museum, so if you get a chance to attend one of the special events, please take advantage of it!

    And my last tip for introducing your kids to music is to have some instruments lying around your house.  Ours are all second hand from rummage sales, and the microphone we have doesn’t even work.  But kids get curious and want to explore things hands-on, so when they have the chance to pick/pluck/strike/sing, I say let them.  I’ve also enjoyed seeing my kids be able to play some music, whether on our Fisher Price cassette player from the 80’s, or putting on their favorite album on the record player.

    Thanks for stopping by and reading!  If you have suggestions for other ways to get your family involved in live and or local music, please drop a line!

  • Chapter 147- First Stage Theater (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)

    While growing up in my family, Thanksgiving meant a 3-5 day celebration with aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends.  Wednesday was an all-night pizza party that ran right into Thursday morning turkey baking.  After our meal on Thursday, we’d play and nap and the kids would invariably get into some sort of trouble before movie time began.

    We’d watch classics like Swiss Family Robinson, E.T., Mary Poppins, and one of my favorites, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  It’s a tale of imagination and perseverance, and has a flying car in it so OF COURSE kids like it.  And I got the opportunity to see this magical movie come to life in a First Stage performance!

    If you’re not familiar with First Stage, it’s an incredible children’s theater here in Milwaukee that began in 1987.  First Stage offers professional theater productions like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, an academy for theater training and classes, and educational programs in schools and our communities.

    And on this past Sunday, I took my oldest and youngest daughters on a special date to see the play, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  My two kindergarteners actually get to see it with school later this month, so it was a really nice treat for the other two to get to see the production!

    (above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography: Jackson Evans, Malkia Stampley, Jack Trettin and Paige Landrum in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG)

    And I have to tell you, it was nothing short of an incredible experience.  My 8 year old and almost 4 year old both loved the performance equally.  The theater is set up so there’s not a bad seat in the house, and the stage is recessed so everyone has a great view of the people and props on stage.

    (above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography)

    When the opening number began, I noticed the wide age range of actors.  We got to see some very young kids (the youngest appeared to be about 5 years old), adolescents, adults and even a “grandpa-aged” adult as my daughter said.  Some of these actors were entering and exiting through the audience, a great way for kids to see people and costumes up close!   I was also impressed with the use of stage…actors were standing on boxes and tables, getting close to the audience.  The pianist was pretty much in the audience which contributed to the almost hands-on feel of the show.

    (above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography: Rick Pendzich, Jackson Evans and young performer cast in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG)

    As for the actual story and performance, it was so creative!  The props were used in such a way that I think encourages ingenuity and creativeness.  For example, when the car was to be floating on water, stagehands crawled under the car and “inflated” some floatation devices, waving them gently.

    (above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography)

    At one point in the movie, a blimp is flying through the air with a small hut hanging below.  The actors carried a miniature blimp and hut in the air, with their voices sounding far off, and gave the clear impression that they were in the air.  Even if some dialogue was lost for younger audience members, the action/set/singing/dancing carried them through without confusion.

    This interpretation of the movie really emphasized the message of adventure and persistence.  The family didn’t give up on rescuing their grandfather AND helping the children of Vulgaria (you’ll just have to see the play to know what I’m talking about).  I was moved by the song “The Roses of Success”, where Grandpa Potts was given the impossible talk of making the Baron’s car fly.  We’re told “…up from the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success…”.  In the next number, the rest of the Potts family is trying to save the children of the city and they sing “…we’re all together, a team can weather any storm they may go through, cause teamwork can make a dream work, if you’re not afraid to fight!”

    (above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography)

    Now perhaps I was inspired by these messages of hope, unity, grit and determination because of current affairs in our county (and ahem, worldwide).  I’m uneasy about our volatile political climate and worried about the future.  But spending a Sunday afternoon listening to reminders that we can work together for justice and a better life eased my mind.  And it offered the same lessons to my kids.

    We loved the Q&A (or talkback) session after the last scene.  The cast stayed on stage and took questions from the audience.  The actors took turns answering the questions, which was a neat way for my kids to see that the people on stage were regular people, too!

    Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is playing through November 5th, and I really hope you get a chance to see it.  Thank you First Stage for the wonderful experience!

    A. Storm

     

  • Chapter 146- Pope Farm Conservancy

    In my effort to cram everything in to the last few weeks of summer, we headed to Madison to see Pope Farm Conservancy’s sunflower farm!  I’d been seeing some beautiful photos on Instagram since last summer, so this adventure has been in the back of my mind for quite some time.  As a bonus, I happen to meet up with a bunch of my amazing friends and their kids that day!

    As chance would have it, one of my friends spotted me on highway 94 near Johnson Creek, and another said she was on her way there when I called to check in.  All 4 moms plus our 12 combined children met in the parking lot and hugged, being amazed that we ended up there together!

    At the parking lot, there was one port-a-potty which had a line.  So after playing on some big rocks while waiting, we walked up a big hill to the large sunflower crop.

    There were lots of people taking photos and standing on picnic benches, and we waited our turn to snap a few pix.  It was quite hot and sunny that day, so the kids were antsy to get moving and/or retreat to the shade.

    We made our way clockwise around the flowers, and came upon a small woods with more rocks.  And honestly, this is where we spent most of our time.  The shade was oh-so important and the kids really just wanted to play with each other, anyway.   Adults talked as kids played with sticks and rocks, smashing acorns open and tasting the dry and bitter nuts inside.

    When it was time for naps/lunch/saving kids from meltdown, we headed back the same way we came.  That’s it, people!

    This trip was a bit of a letdown…I really wanted to grab some cute photos for holiday cards but people weren’t really able to put on cute holiday card faces (understandable).  The kids were underwhelmed with the flowers, because there wasn’t a path to walk through them or anything.  Having hot, thirsty, and bored kids didn’t make for a successful adventure.

    However, I learned that weather makes a huge difference, so maybe next year during the peak blooming week we could try again.  AND I got to see friends (which didn’t really happen at all this summer) so it wasn’t a big loss.  Also, the conservancy does some amazing work with land conservation and education.  There are plenty of opportunities to learn about stewardship and even volunteer, so we’ll make sure to keep this place in mind for future adventures!

    And here’s my advice:

    • -Check the farm’s Facebook page for updates on weather and peak blooming, both are super important.
    • -Bring water and snacks!  They had bottles of water for sale but not much else.
    • -Head to the farm early or late in the day.  Midday sun isn’t ideal for getting people to smile and look at a camera with eyes open.
    • -Pair this adventure with others in Madison.  It doesn’t fill up a whole day, and there are so many other fun places to explore in Madison.
    • -Call you friends to see if they all happen to be on their way to the farm at the same time on the same day.

    Here’s a quick list of some of my fave Madison spots:

    Thanks for making the trip fun, Kady, Kate and Margo!

    Good luck with school staring, everyone…

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 145- Tamarack Loop Trail at Mauthe Lake

    On our way back from a trip to see my folks in Appleton, I took the back roads to the Northern Kettle Moraine State Forest to check out the Mauthe Lake Recreation Area.  We’d been researching hikes in my new favorite book, Best Hikes Near Milwaukee by Kevin Revolinski, and narrowed it down to two hikes in the Northern Kettles.  The kids decided they’d be up for a flat 2-mile hike!

    When we arrived, the kids lamented that we weren’t camping and begged me to come back and stay SEVENTY nights at Mauthe Lake.  There’s a beach on the lake, a playground, and even a teepee to reserve.  The camping sites looked fairly small and close together near the lake, but we didn’t have a chance to see all of the loops.

    We did, however, ignore the sign that said flooding was present on the trail and started out going counterclockwise on the Tamarack Loop Trail.  I prepped the kids for a wet hike, and everyone said they were up for soggy shoes.

    We crossed a few puddles and found Queen Anne’s Lace and other pretty flowers.  We sang songs and took turns holding the backpack.

    At a small log crossing, we noticed some really interesting designs in the wood.  We talked about invasive species and the kids guessed that perhaps it was the box elder bug that made these marks.  However, I can’t identify trees yet so I couldn’t confirm that we were looking at an elder.  I’d really like to start learning about tree/plant/flower identification in Wisconsin, so if you have any tips please let me know!

    We made it through the white cedar forest when people started to get irritable.  It was around 11am so it was very hot, sunny, and humid.  The buzzing flies didn’t help.  The first wooden bridge over the Milwaukee River wasn’t too far ahead, but people were starting to fade.

    And so it was after this giant puddle that we had a board meeting to discuss the pros and cons of this hike.  It was a unanimous decision to head back to the car.

    We walked (ran) a little bit through the campground to avoid the same flooded spots we’d already navigated, and eyed up the teepee we plan on staying at next summer.

    The fishing pier provided us with a great view of the lake, and also the beach.  My people were DYING to go swim, but since I didn’t have swim suits or towels, I promised them with the deliciousness of cold ice cream on the way home.

    We peeled off our shoes and socks, and headed out with the intention of hiking the loop in early fall when it’s more dry.

    Like 100ft after exiting the recreation area, we came across Parkview General Store with a big “ICE CREAM” sign!  My kids tried bubble gum, rum cherry, chocolate and bee-nilla ice cream.  All gave an enthusiastic thumbs up!

    We’ll be back to explore when it’s dry, or when we bring rainboots.  The trail was really nice and flat, so I’m bummed to have not experienced it in entirety.  But this adventure served as a teaser for an even more enjoyable hike!

    Hope you’re taking advantage of summer, and if you have suggestions for hikes/other adventures, I’m all ears.

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 144- Discovery World (New Exhibit!)

    We recently decided to check out Discovery World’s newest exhibit, Zoo in You — The Human Microbiome.  Little T got a family membership last year, so we can come and go as we please without worrying about getting our money’s worth at each visit.  Which is awesome.  Because some days we stay for HOURS upon hours, and some we can only adventure for 45 minutes before people melt.

    When we entered, we went right to the new exhibit.  It is contained in one room, and has about 10-15 stations where kids can interact with the hands-on models and displays.

    The first stop we made was to a cool DNA puzzle, which challenges kids to connect nucleobases to create nucleotides.  Brought me right back to high school biology class.  Except way more fun!

    We learned how to build viruses and bacteria, and what they do.  Not all bacteria are bad, of course, and in fact we need some to digest food and create a balance inside our bodies.

    Little T had loved the microscope, which was easy for kids to manipulate.  She also loved the green screen where she got to pretend to be a newscaster reporting on the microorganisms in our bodies.

    Little A and I had a serious competition with the pinball-like game where we learned about places that humans can pick up microorganisms.

    I think the most eye-opening station for me was the interactive video, where we got to zoom in on a single cold virus.  We started out looking at objects like a penny, a grain of salt, a yeast cell, a skin cell, and a mold spore.  I made my kids watch that about a hundred times because I was astounded at how small that cold virus was!

    After spending about 30 minutes in the exhibit, we went to see the Challenger boat and snag a photo.

    And then, because it’s summer, we climbed trees and ran around in the grass outside of Discovery World.

    I’ll be back with more hikes and adventures soon…it’s been a hectic summer with a few setbacks, but we’ll keep exploring our city, parks, museums and trails!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 143- Gibraltar Rock / Merrimac Ferry / Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron

    I believe that fieldtrips are very important to a kids’ education.  And while our school is really amazing, they aren’t able to take my children on ALL the kinds of fieldtrips they need.  Those kind would be hikes in the woods.

    So when a friend I met on Instagram (weird, I know.  I feel conflicted about social media and virtual friendships, but I’ve made quite a few real friends through the internet so I can’t say it’s all bad) said she was hiking Gibraltar Rock on a Friday, I knew this was a fieldtrip worth missing school for!

    Leading up to the trip, I talked with my kids about the Ice Age Trail.  We learned that it follows the border of the last continental glacier in Wisconsin.  The giant sheets of ice pushed boulders and land into new formations 12,000 years ago, and now we get to see coulees, drumlins, bogs, kettles and moraines.  The Ice Age Trail Alliance has a great website with lots of information about the trail and ways that YOU can volunteer!  We’ll be hiking lots of different sections of the trail this summer, too.

    We met Kelly in the parking lot near Lodi, and put our boots and hats on for good measure.  The kids took turns carrying the backpack full of their water, and we decided that we’ll be asking for four of these when birthdays roll around next.

    The trail was easy to maneuver, and nobody got lost in their dashes ahead of me and Kelly.  There was a lot of yelling in excitement and finding sticks and using pine needles as brooms and whining that we were going either too fast or too slow.  You know, the usual.

    Kelly knows a lot more about plants/flowers/trees than I, so she educated us on jack-in-the-pulpits, trilliums and skunk cabbage.  Stay away from the latter.

    The hike from the parking lot to the top was less than a mile which was nice.  It definitely gets a little unnerving for mothers of four near the top, so if you go make sure your kids understand the necessity to stay on the trail.  It is a very long way down.  And we of course want to be safe and not add to erosion, but also keep the plants and flowers from getting trampled.

    Once we got to the lookout, we had snacks of apples and cookies and the kids did their best to give me a heart attack.  We grilled Kelly about her life because it was the first time we’d hung out, so thanks Kelly for fielding our million questions.  And for sharing about your hiking history!

    We saw quite a few large birds flying overhead, and read a bit about red-tailed hawks and other birds of prey who fly the thermals created by the tall cliffs (JSOnline has a good article about the hike).  I can’t say for certain what we saw, but I’m pretty sure J’s guess of Peregrin Falcons was a bit off.  Good guess, though!

    After our butts were sufficiently cold from sitting on chilly rocks, we decided to head back down.  Kelly grabbed this next pic of us right before we found the brightest bug ever!

    This little spider was about the size of a pinhead, and was a vibrant red from head to toe.  Half of my kids were scared and the other half wanted to take it home.

    On the way back down, Kelly got a good dose of whining that “this view is terrible!” and “I can’t walk any farther” and “I want to go home”.   I’m getting pretty good at just ignoring the ridiculousness of such statements and getting them excited about the next big thing.

    Which was finishing the hike and heading to the Merrimac Ferry!  After we said our thank yous and goodbyes to Kelly, and promising to do it again sometime soon, I took her directions to just keep heading north on 113 and find the ferry which carries cars across the Wisconsin River.  It’s free and runs around the clock from April to November.

    We were first in line and had to wait only about 3 minutes for the ferry to return from the other side.  When the gate opened, I drove on and put my car in park, hoping that’s all I needed to do.  At first there was some hesitation with getting out of the car.  For a 5 year old, it was a little unnerving to be floating across water where he thought sharks were just waiting to eat us alive.  After going over saltwater vs. freshwater, we all exited the car and took in the sights.

    And by the time we got outside, it was time to hustle back into the car.  It took about 5 minutes to cross the river, and when we arrived at the other side, we just turned around and got back in line to go back.

    Once back, I decided to try and find Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron.  I’ve been meaning to take the kids for a while, and since we were in no hurry to get anywhere, I headed southeast.  I didn’t have a map in the car, and wasn’t getting any reception on my phone to look at GPS, so I tapped into my innate navigational skills and hoped for the best.

    We ended up finding hwy 12 and that’s when I found service, so we knew to head north.  I’m pretty sure there used to be giant metal sculptures on the side of the highway to mark the spot, but I didn’t see them this time.  It took a tiny bit of backtracking, but we eventually found the entrance, just south of  Delaney’s Surplus.

    And when we got there, any trace of whining and complaining ended.  All four of my kids were entranced by the enormous machines and creations.  They all split up and walked around in amazement, imagining what the sculptures could do if they were functioning.

    There are very few pieces that you can actually sit/stand on, so if you go remember a few things:

    • This is about art, so be respectful of the work and take time to imagine what it might take to build and create these pieces.
    • There are no bathrooms here, but there is a gas station just north of the park.
    • Hours are posted online, and there is a box for donations.  There’s no entrance fee, so be generous with your dollars.
    • This fascinating place is run by the family of Dr. Evermor.  If you get the chance to speak with Lady Eleanor, whose office is in the park, please do so.   Her husband is Dr. Evermor and she’s knowledgable about the entire park and process.

    Speaking of Lady Eleanor, here she is.  She was kind enough to let me take her photo after we talked for a while about the history and future of the park.  She shared with me Dr. Evermor’s inspiration, a bit about her family, and the timeframe in which pieces were constructed.

    Near the end of our visit, my dude J took me on a tour of all of the bird-looking creatures.  I wish you all could have seen it.  Though it was starting to sprinkle, he pointed to almost every single creature and had names like “three-headed chicken lizard” and “electric cat king” and “fire-breathing trooper”.   He was in his element!

    When the rain turned into a drizzle, we packed up and headed to Madison.  Our friends hosted us for an overnight stay (which was the best, I love you Kady!) and then we hurried back to Milwaukee for a Saturday morning soccer game.

    It was a pretty epic trip in all.  We learned a lot about geological history in Wisconsin, we met a new friend, went on our first car ferry, filled our imaginations with art, and saw some old friends.  When we got home, I had grand plans to have the kids write/draw about the Ice Age Trail and present it to their teachers.  However, that didn’t pan out so my kids just ended up talking about all the adventures they had, throwing out terms like “glacier” and “driftless”.  Good enough!

    Hope this week is treating you well, all.  Be on the lookout for some pieces I’ll be contributing to Metroparent Magazine in the next few months, and I hope to see you adventuring soon!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 143- Kettle Moraine State Forest- Pike Lake Unit

    A few weeks ago (ok, it was mid-March.  I’m a little behind here) I desperately needed to walk in the woods.  I’m finding a direct link between my emotional state and exercise/exposure to the outdoors, and on a Sunday that my husband was coaching soccer, I packed up some snacks and winter gear and headed north on highway 45.

    The kids asked for a place with an observation tower, so a quick search turned up Pike Lake.  The drive was only about 40 min from Milwaukee, and was super easy find.

    We parked near the playground on the beach, and headed north on the hiking trail.  Before we even started, though, two of my kids got super muddy and started crying.  Luckily I’m good at deescalating (ignoring) things like that and we made it to the beach to find shells and lots of fun ice formations.

    We had left the car about 20 minutes prior, and made it only 30 feet into the trail, so I tried to get the kids moving.  Eventually they gave in, followed me, and then ran ahead leaving me in the dust.  We found a little fort and Little T took notes while the other girls discussed some very serious business.

    We stopped at the next lake access and threw stones.  Because it wouldn’t be an adventure without throwing rocks in water!

    About 1/2 mile (and about 45 minutes) later, we stopped on a bench for snacks.  The terrain had turned to a prairie with a much different view and we sat and talked about how different the trail was at this point.

    This was one of the first hikes that I actually brought a physical map to, so we spent lots of time learning how to read a map.  We were on the lookout for trail markers, and decided that since this was one of the slowest hikes we’d been on, we should take the green trail as a shortcut.  That trail cut down into very beautiful and muddy valley, and the kids did a great job learning to read maps/signs.

       

    We found some pine trees and the kids listened to me go on and on about how beautiful the small forest was.

    The kids spotted an uprooted tree and speculated how old it was, if we could get it to live again by tipping it back up, and what it could provide for animals/plants now that it was on the ground.  And we poked it with sticks.  Cause that’s pretty much childhood, right?  Poking things with sticks.

     

    Close to the end of our two mile and TWO HOUR hike, S was feeling a little tired and whiney so J took her hand.  It was a pretty sweet moment because it was completely unprompted and served as a good reminder that they do indeed care for each other.

    When we crossed the road back to the parking lot, after slipping and sliding down a muddy hill, the kids cheered for their accomplishment.  It wasn’t all THAT far, but those little legs carried them for a long time.

    They of course still had energy for a playground, so we played for a few minutes, and then cried when it was time to leave.  Which is how many of our adventures end.  Yay!

    We didn’t make the observation tower, but it’ll be on our summer adventure list.  There are lots of other trails we’d like to try, so we’ve got plenty of reasons to head back.  Plus it’s so close to Milwaukee!

    Thanks for your patience in my posts…I’m trying to get caught up.  But who knows, maybe it’ll be June and you’ll still be seeing posts of hikes in snow 🙂

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 142- Point Beach State Park & John Michael Kohler Arts Center

    On one of the Fridays off my kids had in March (there were a ton, though I’m not complaining because it means we get to go adventure!), I convinced my friend Margo to caravan up to Point Beach State Park with me.  Remember that I’m a “wing it” kind of woman?  Well I grossly underestimated the distance and sort of just got in the car and headed north, and it took us almost two hours to reach our destination.  Granted, a trip to Culver’s for ice cream may have added a few minutes to our travel time.

    But it was worth the drive.  Once Margo, our combined 7 children, and I arrived, we briefly looked at the trail map.  It was a little confusing because not everything was open and snow was covering most of the ground.  So we migrated towards the beach and the kids immediately waded in the icy cold water.  Luckily, our boots were waterproof enough to keep toes mostly dry.

    We then decided to just head to the woods and play in the snow.  A campground was across from the beach, so we made our way there.

    The kids got right to eating and throwing snow, dragging sticks, and searching for frozen puddles and ponds.  We hadn’t had much snow in Milwaukee, so it was a great surprise to play in lots of wet but fluffy white stuff!  Margo and I watched our kids make up imaginary games, discover new “nature treasures” as my kids say, and trek over small hills and through trees.

    After more than an hour of playing and walking not very far but having a blast, kids started to get a little chilly.

    We decided it was a good time to head back south and try to visit the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan on our way back home.  So after one last stop at the beach to get our boots thoroughly wet, we piled in the car and shoved some snacks in our faces.

    We were dry and somewhat rested by the time we arrived in Sheboygan, but my lack of planning gave us less than an hour to visit the museum.  The Arts Center has an amazing kids studio, called the ARTery which is open these hours.  The arts center is always free which is incredible.

    We made small booklets from magazines and folded paper, and worked on those fine motor skills to balance out the day.

    There was also a table with clay.  The kids were encouraged to check out the museum and a particular exhibit which had small figurines.  They came back to the ARTery and created their own little creatures.  Little T has a real strong affinity to cats, so she of course made a teeny tiny little kitty.

    Our time at the Arts Center was way too short, so we’ll definitely be back.  Sheboygan is only an hour north of Milwaukee, and we hope to combine it with the Children’s Museum and a trip back to Bookwork Gardens in the summer.

    On the way home, the sunset was incredible.  My oldest took the camera to capture the beautiful lines the clouds were making, so I’ll leave you with her shot.  A little blurry, but I think it does the sky and our day justice.

    Hope you all had a good weekend, and got outside to celebrate Earth Day!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 141- Discovery World

     

    On a sunny Saturday morning in February, the kids and I headed to Discovery World to check out one of their weekend events, Love Your Great Lakes.  It was a day filled with projects, games and learning opportunities led by local organizations and non-profits.

    We first took a stroll through the promenade, where we chatted with volunteers and staff who care about the Great Lakes.  We saw the Mequon Nature Preserve, River Revitalization Foundation, and even James Steeno with his local artwork.  When I was Outreach Specialist at REI back in the day, I got to work with many of these non-profits and learned all about some serious conservation and community efforts.  I was really happy to see their involvement at the event!

    All of the kids touched turtles and asked questions about salamanders, and Little A even got to hold a snake!  MPM and MAM also had stations set up for families to create and learn.  It was lovely to see all these museums coming together in the name of community and water preservation!

    IMG_6805

    Our first stop in the museum was the Kohl’s Design It! Lab.  I’d never been before, because it seemed complicated or like it was geared towards older kids.  Now, there’s no real reason I thought that other than the fact that we typically head to museums during the week, when hours are more limited.  But let me tell you….I WAS WRONG.

    We were greeted by friendly staff who sat us down at a table, gave us menus, and asked which projects we’d like to try.  We ended up on planetary headbands and cardboard helmets.

    IMG_6804

    Look at my 3 year old jumping right in!  We traced templates on foam paper, and decorated it with lots of fun embellishments.  I manned the hot glue gun, but besides that they were all pretty self-sufficient.

    IMG_6813IMG_6814IMG_6823IMG_6807

    This lab space really is incredible.  Discovery World has so many different classes and workshops, and even makes a concerted effort to reuse materials.  Check out that wall on the right…there are 5 gallon buckets mounted on a wall, filled with materials for kids to use for projects.  So awesome.

    IMG_6816 IMG_6824

    As my people finished up, they headed to the Kids Corner, a space with building blocks, markers, crayons, and kid-sized furniture.  A great space for open play.

    IMG_6840

    After the Design It! Lab, we went to see the Challenger ship, and walk around while trying not to run.  Exploring that and the water exhibit next door is always a highlight of our time at Discovery World.  And on this day, we spent over THREE HOURS at the museum and didn’t even see all of the exhibits.  Another reason that asking for memberships to local museums takes precedent over toys in our house.

    IMG_6845

    Afterwards, we hit up the Sportsology special exhibit, where we threw, jumped, cycled and tested our physical capabilities.  J spent most of the time at the pitching station, while Little T worked on her pull ups for quite a while.  It was a really good hands-on experience for my brood!

    IMG_6841 IMG_6856

    On the way out, we stopped by the photo op in the promenade, and tried out our best silly faces.

    IMG_6851

    Special thanks to Discovery World for hosting us…there were SO many things for my young kids to do and explore, and there wasn’t a dull moment from the time we stepped in to the time we stepped out.  We’re also very excited for the efforts to have new experiences every week, so there’s no chance we’ll get bored 🙂

    We’ll be back!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 140- Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

    IMG_6140

    Contrary to what my kids’ faces say in this photo, we had a really nice hike at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center over winter break.  We met up with some friends and took to the trails to adventure and get really wet and a little chilly.  This post is a little short on words, so browse through the “General Outdoor Adventures” category on the right for many more adventures to SANC.

    IMG_6116

    We headed out on the Norman C. Huth trail, and made our way to Teal pond, which was frozen through.  So of course, we went “boot skating”!  After slipping and sliding around, the group decided to keep going towards the North Prairie trail.

    IMG_6119DSC01149

    About halfway through, we had requests to take a break at the tall evergreens.  We stopped on some benches in the tall evergreens and ate some granola bars.

    IMG_6145 IMG_6148

    The kids were pretty beat after the hike, so after stopping on the rocking chairs on the porch, we went inside for snacks and hot chocolate.  In the main hall, you can grab a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate and leave a donation in thanks.  We also looked at the resident rodents and turtles while warming up.  Schlitz Audubon has SO many opportunities to learn and explore, you just have to make the trip there to see all the options.

    IMG_6150

    I’ll leave you with this picture of Little A and S reading trail maps in kid-sized rocking chairs.  Because there’s nothing cuter than when kids cross their legs as if they’re reading the Sunday paper.

    Hope you’re all doing well this spring, and getting outside!

    A. Storm