Free weekend fun

Need something to do during the cold months with your kids?

The winter months are upon us here in the Midwest, and though our first snow of the year is melting, there’s certainly more to come. We’re always on the lookout for cheap things to do indoors with our family, so I thought I’d take a moment to share a few of our ideas with you to share with your family.

Lowes and Home Depot workshops: We like to attend these free workshops whenever we can. The stores provide free kits to build things, from race cars to bird houses to seasonal gifts, for free. Home Depot even provides paint for you to glam your project up! Not only do they cost you absolutely nothing, they also give you lots of freebies. We’ve gotten goggles, aprons and certificates, in addition to the monthly projects themselves! My daughter also gets a pin or a patch for her aprons.

Bass Pro Shops: We haven’t attended one of these yet, but I hear they have family events going on just about every month with all kinds of games and activities for kids to do. The closest one to us is a bit of a drive, but we might try it out sometime.

Michaels' Make and Take Projects: Select Michaels stores offer free workshops for kids on some weekends. You often have to buy the materials or another product to participate, but it’s generally pretty cheap. You can also sign up for a Jo Ann’s craft store class for half-price during open house once a month.

Garden Club: This year we are going to try to attend some St. Louis Garden Club events. They meet once a month at various locations, and it’s also free. Check with your local metropolitan area to see if similar city-wide programs are available for the public.

Library Programs: Speaking of the public, the library—and the rec center—are our favorite places to go for free! We do pay a monthly membership to the latter, but it pays for itself in a single week of use. You can swim, play sports, read books, attend craft workshops, and do so much more. I’m telling you, these are gold resources that many people simply overlook.

Bounce Places: If you have a local Monkey Joe’s, Bounce U, or other similar place, you know these are great for getting all of that winter energy out! They cost nearly the same, but at Monkey Joe’s you can stay all day, while at Bounce U you usually have to make a reservation f (and it’s pretty affordable if you buy a pass for multiple discounted sessions) or open play to stay for only an hour and a half or so (which is a good amount of time, of course). Also, MJ’s is for kids under 12, while Bounce U welcomes all ages—which is good for parents who want to bounce, too!

Surprises from a yuppie haven

I freaking hate this place, but it has its moments.

My husband and I used to have an annual tradition of going to Dave and Buster’s for his birthday. It’s an expensive date between dinner and games, so it’s a once-a-year thing. We weren’t able to do it for the past two years, but this year we were fortunate enough to go. We took our daughter with us so it wasn’t much of a date, but he was so stoked that I didn’t even care.

See, there’s the thing: I hate the place. I call it a yuppie haven. I don’t even like the food. The place is crawling with yuppies after work in their suits, sneering at us in our obviously cheaper clothes, and it’s as loud as Chuck E Cheese—a place I don’t care much for, either. But he loves it, so I’m more than willing to go with him. Usually I have a drink, at least, which I can enjoy—but since I was on kiddo duty while he played games, I didn’t do that, either.

So while I was there, rolling my eyes at all of the “yuppies” and still burning over a jerk who cut me off walking in earlier because he was obviously so much more important than my family and I am, I was pleasantly surprised when a woman—who saw my cute child, obviously—came up to us and offered us the tickets she won. I told her thank you, absolutely stunned at the surprise.

Not fifteen minutes later, a man approached us and gave us four game cards with money still on them to play on! Seriously? There was no way I could maintain my disdain for the place when so many nice people surrounded us.

Most days I do try to remind myself of the goodness of people, and of the world in general. This, however, has been one of those trying years filled with familial turmoil and change, which is uncomfortable, to say the least. It’s not even that I don’t embrace change—typically, I am great at rolling with the punches—but this year provided me with some change that I’m really not used to at all, including some “drama,” which I avoid at all costs, and I’m still carrying the effects of this with me. Our evening at Dave and Busters reminded me that I need to have faith in people and that optimism serves so much well than pessimism. Why bother wallowing when you can hope?

All of that said, if I had to eat at a yuppie place, I would totally choose TGI Friday’s instead. Maybe for our January anniversary date…

4-H isn't just about farming

So enough with the straw-chewing jokes already.

Last month I took a 4-H volunteer training class to begin preparing for our new 4-H club. We have been members in another club for two years, but it has since stopped meeting so we needed to find another closer to home. We didn’t have one, unfortunately, so we decided to create our own. In recruiting new members for this club, the most frequent question I have run across is, “Isn’t 4-H about farming?”

In a word, no! It is true that 4-H club has its roots in farming, but that’s because we used to be a largely agrarian society. The main interest of people—as well as their main interest—was farming. Now, however, as we have grown and diversified, so has the program. It’s really all about helping children develop their interest and leadership qualities by making friends.

Even the 4-H projects you might have been familiar with as a child have changed. Sure, there are still projects that include raising rabbits or cows, but there are also many others—from fashion design to robotics, cooking to Legos, and anything else you can imagine. 

There are even independent study projects for children who wish to explore something that may not already be covered in the 4-H curriculum. Your child wants to write a novel, create a Dungeons and Dragons role-playing group, or travel to every state as a project? He or she can totally do it! The only limit is your child’s desire and imagination—and, of course, your bank account if the dream does require that much travel.

We had our first meeting tonight and already I can see a great group of artists and engineers shaping up. So far no one in our group has really indicated interest in agriculture; the closest interest listed tonight was in animals—specifically, turtles. I can’t wait to see what kinds of projects our kids want to do and get started in doing them! Visit the website above to locate the 4-H group nearest you and you can get started in your own community.

4-H dues are very reasonable—ours are under $20 per year, per child, while adult volunteers are free—and if you have a financial hardship you can apply for waived fees as well. If you do live too far away from another group to meet, you can always start your own group or even do projects as a family, too.

Ronald McDonald’s magic show

The kids are lovin’ it.

As part of our giant summer of mostly-free fun and my aunt’s vacation, we signed up for the library’s annual Ronald McDonald Magic Show. You have to sign up for the summer reading program to attend—we always meet our quota of summer books by the end of the first week, anyway!—and you have to sign up early, because it’s PACKED. It’s full for a good reason, though; the show is fun and funny, and the kids always have a blast. You can see part of a show yourself here.

During the show, Ronald—a goofy guy with a giggle and plenty of jokes, not a lot like the clown I feared as a child—does lots of interactive tricks with the kids, from juggling and combining rings, magically coloring a book and then losing the color with the kids, cutting and reattaching a rope, and more. Instead of any other magical words you might think about, he has them say the word “Please!” prior to any magic happening; he also uses goofy words like “McBummer!” and “I made a Mcboo-boo!” which made a few of the adults chuckle, too.

My daughter wanted to sit in my lap for this show, which she did the previous summer, too. She’s fearless, wanting to sit with the rest of the kids for any other show—including ones featuring pythons and spiders—but when it comes to the clown, she’s gotta have mommy. I wonder if this is hereditary.

Still, she laughed a lot, as did I; can you help it with someone acting so silly? He didn’t really advertise the fast food chain much; instead, he extolled the benefits of the library, which was a little confusing because he did it so quickly, without it making a lot of sense. That’s okay, though; the kids were much more interested in him making masks and American flags out of torn tissue paper.

We sat on the side this time, so while I’m not sure if my daughter caught it or not, my husband and I were definitely able to see how at least three of the tricks worked—which was sad. I know I’m a grown-up, but I still want to believe in this magic!

I’m not sure how you can book a McMagic Show at your group event, but I would imagine that you could head to your nearest McDonald’s and ask about it. Even if you’re not a big fan of the restaurant, the show would likely be enjoyable for all of your guests.

Online Games

Why do we play them?

 

We have all played online games at one point or another. Many people play online games on a day to day basis. If you ever doubt that fact, all you have to do is go to your Facebook page and look at all the game requests that you get throughout the day.

I'm certainly guilty of playing online games; currently I'm playing Storage Wars. Facebook isn't the sole choice for online game play. Pogo was one of the first sites designed for playing games. In fact one of my favorite games, the Alchemist, is hosted on Pogo.

 

There's also endless online game sites that allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for various prices. I know GSN is one site that allows you to play games for points and then redeem your points for prizes. For the typical amount of points that are needed it would seem like it may take forever to actually get a prize, however if you're going to play the games anyway you just as well save up your points. It certainly couldn't hurt.

Actual cash competitions are another popular choice for online game play. The best-known game site that offers cash games is World winner. I've actually played on World winner a long time ago and managed to rake in $165. Unfortunately my winning streak ended there.

Whether you play for fun, prizes or actual cash, you can be certain that there is a website somewhere that can offer you all the online game play you could ever want and then some. We'll probably never know whether the online games are fun or a simple diversion to boredom. Regardless of why they're played online games will always be available for online enjoyment.

 

The Evolution of Humor

Innocent, Weird, Cute and Pain

Humor is constantly evolving just as people are constantly evolving. What was funny to those who walked before us is stupid today. What we find funny today would’ve been considered cruel and mean, possibly even sadistic.

In the 1950’s humor was characterized by innocent mishaps. Popular TV shows monopolized upon common household mistakes, such as burning thanksgiving dinner. It’s hard to really say why that was considered funny, though in its own way it was kind of cute.

By the 1970’s humor took a strange turn. New found intellectuals who dabbled one too many times with psychedelics were suddenly writing books, screenplays and everything in between. Mad magazine was at its highest point. People were watching TV shows like Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which ran from 1969 to 1974. Jokes ranged from slightly vulgar, to bitter to simply unclear.

The 1970’s led to the humor of the 1980’s, which though disturbing was also somewhat cute. People laughed at TV shows like Growing Pains, Charles in Charge and everyone’s favorite alien Alf. Girls acted stupid to be not only funny, also cute. Even seemingly intelligent girls used this tactic that can’t even be understood today.

Today are humor meter has surpassed any type of humor phase in the past. We laugh while watching shows like Two and a Half Men, Suburgatory and Trailer Park Boys. When we choose to watch videos online that are funny we measure it by how much someone suffered either emotionally or physically. Though it doesn’t stop there, we receive the greatest laugh when the one falling down just happens to be someone we know.

This is all the natural course of life. As we have changed so has the incidents that make us laugh. It might make you wonder, if we need someone to get hurt to laugh today what will they need in the future? In 20 years will decapitation be required to get a good laugh?

Should the Milwaukee Dahmer Tour be seen as Fun or just too wrong?

There is a new tour that walks people through the streets that Jeffrey Dahmer walked in search of his victims. It points out buildings that at one time had housed the very gay bars that Dahmer would frequent. The same bars that he lured numerous victims out of. The tour has met controversy and protestors, including a sister of one of the victims.  

    

There is certainly a part of me that would be drawn to taking part in a Dahmer tour or for that matter any serial killer tour. I would even enjoy it and consider it as a fun once in a lifetime opportunity, though in the end I would pass it by. I would pass on it mainly for the sake of victim family members. This isn’t a serial killer that took lives long ago, Dahmer killed between 1987 through 1991 with one exception dating back to 1978. This points to the fact that the bulk of the Dahmer killings were committed just barely over a decade ago and for family members it’s certainly still raw.

As interesting as a Dahmer tour would be, I for one would have to pass. Sometimes, no matter how fun, entertaining or unique an event could be, the bigger picture has to be considered. In this case, the bigger pictures is that family members of Dahmer’s victims have probably barely reached a point of healing. These weren’t even normal murders, these family members will suffer pain and loss for many years to come, in fact what little closure they’ve reached has most likely just been tore back open.

 

Just Grin and Bear It

It Could Be Fun!

Yesterday I had to host my child’s first homeschooling science club meeting. It wasn’t something that I particularly wanted to do because I’m a shy person—especially around groups of people, let alone individuals I don’t know—and I get very nervous.

I get so nervous, in fact, that I sometimes even stutter. So you can imagine how my hands were sweating before meeting these 22 different families with their multiple kids. I had volunteered to get this one started (our homeschool group had a high school science club started, so we wanted one for the younger children) but I had hoped that other parents would take leadership roles as well, which didn’t really happen.

I almost talked my husband into going. I didn’t really have time to go in the first place, being behind at work from a sick kiddo earlier in the week, but I knew he might get confused about the activities I had planned. So I grinned and bore it, and you know what? It was pretty good. Sure, there was the first-meeting awkwardness that you expect, but there were also only six families present due to the storms—and all of the kids seemed to have a good time.

I made them a science scavenger hunt/icebreaker game to play along with a balloon rocket race and a small experiment to do at home. One mother even e-mailed me to tell me that her daughter had had such a great time that she was looking forward to our next meeting already! Oh boy.

But you know what? I think it’ll be great. I am already thinking of activities to do. And this experience reminded me that sometimes you just have to grin and bear it, and it may end up being one of your best memories. Everything in my life really worth doing—from traveling and protesting to teaching abroad to having a child—was extremely uncomfortable, scary, and sometimes (usually, even) vomit-inducing! Maybe that bit of nervousness is the sign that this will be something worth doing after all.

And maybe we could all take a page from SARK’s book. SARK recommends not psyching yourself up (or down) and saying that you’ll have a good time or a bad time in the first place, but to simply tell yourself that you are going to have “a time.” Whether it’s good or bad is up to you—and you won’t be able to tell until it’s over anyway, so why label it?

Fun Theme Parks and Winners of the 2011 Theme Park Awards

It looks like the same winners that always win

If you absolutely love theme parks and are considering booking tickets for your next family theme park getaway then you’ll want to make sure that you go to the best. These three theme parks have won the theme park awards last year. Either of these will be a great vacation spot that’s certain to make every member of your party happy.

 

Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando Florida has again been named as one of the best theme parks. Certainly understandable with is long list of attractions and events. Universal has some great rollercoasters like the Incredible Hulk and Dr. Dooms Fearfall. There are also plenty of water rides to beat the Florida heat and a large variety of kiddie rides for your younger party members.  Universal is also known for their exciting fun shows, so make sure you set aside a little time to see the amazing nonstop action that Universal has to offer.

Busch Gardens was a winner though I have to admit this one actually surprised me. I had been to Busch Gardens when I was younger and it really wasn’t that great. Upon further inspection I quickly realized they have come a long way, in fact I may have to travel down to Florida and check out all of the new rides at Busch Gardens.

A final winner is none other than Disney's California Adventure, what a surprise. No seriously it’s Disney, I’ve personally never been to Disneyland however I have been to Disneyworld numerous times and to this day I’m still not sure that I’ve made it through the entire park. Of course maybe if I didn’t have to ride the same rides over and over then I might get to see the rest of the park, I completely blame Space Mountain.

So Stupid it's Funny

Yes for the most part we did elect them...

Those politicians and political mouthpieces of ours say some pretty stupid things. Oddly, when they  open their mouths to speak the words that will eventually cause them a great deal of speculation and downright ridicule it’s apparent that they believe they are being wise and intelligent. They must, unless it’s the opposite and they just think the rest of us our stupid and have decided to proceed with the ideology of “when in Rome.”

Yes Pat Robertson was in fact quoted saying...

"The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." –Pat Robertson

You would think that this statement came right out of the 1950's, sadly it came right out of 1992. Oddly enough he received minimal repercussions, the only real consequence he had was a moment of media attention that had quickly faded. Today many people have completely forgotten this strong yet stupid quote.

 

Michelle Bachman actually has said this...

"Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn't even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas." -Rep. Michelle Bachmann, April, 2009

Michelle Bachman has one statement after another that is certainly stupid and could possibly be deemed as retarded. She constantly speaks and I believe or at least it appears that she in actually thinks that she is connecting with the American public. If in fact she is then we may all want to consider moving to a smarter location, like perhaps maybe Germany.

Jimmy Carter speaks honestly just short of his election…

"I've looked on many women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times. God knows I will do this and forgives me." - President Jimmy Carter, in an interview with 'Playboy' one month prior to the 1976 election

 

I wouldn’t necessarily say that the words of Jimmy Carter were stupid, in fact if anything they were merely honest. The only real point that was stupid is that he chose to give Playboy an interview discussing sex and everything else a matter of weeks before his election in the year 1976. As prudish as people can often be in today’s time I can only imagine that they were worse in the 1970’s.

I could go on with the stupid things that are political voices have said, however it would probably take my entire lifetime to get through each statement. That being said I leave you with these three.

 

 

 

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