Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How Playgroup Works

Playgroup is our time each week to get together and let the kids socialize as well as ourselves.

Here's what you need to know:

Playgroup Times: Playgroup is held every Wednesday from 10:00am to 2:00Pm. We have a second "playgroup" on Friday but we term this "Adventure Fridays".

Playgroup locations: Playgroup will rotate between North and South locations around the KC metro area so that, in general, at least twice per month a playgroup should be within 20 minutes from you. The North/South boundary is 47th St. in KCMO.

Hosting: Everyone is eligible to host a playgroup but it is not necessary in order to join the group. The hosting list is set 6 months in advance and posted in the secure section of the website. The Host decides where the playgroup will be but typically we ask that the Wednesday Playgroup is at someone's home to accommodate all the members with infants.

Playgroup notification: When you are assigned to host PLEASE remember to send out an email to the group at least 2 days (3 is better) before playgroup. Also, not everyone in the group knows who you are or where you live so ALWAYS give your address and phone number so everybody can find you. If there hasn’t been an email, or you want to know sooner than 2 days before, CALL OR EMAIL the host - the host’s full contact info. is right on the playgroup schedule.

Lunch: Lunch is typically handled by the host but is not required. The host will serve what best fits his budget and time table. Bringing extra food to playgroup to help out the host and is always encouraged.

Host trading: If for some reason you are unable to host on the day(s) designated, please find someone to switch that day with you from your “area” (North or South). As a last resort you may email the group and someone will pick it up for you.

Check your email: ALWAYS check your email for ancy changes made that week by the host.

Adventure Fridays: We use the Friday playgroups to adventure out into our community and get everyone out of the house. The Host is responsible for determining where the Friday activity will be. Times are also subject to change, due to start times of community events, but do try and keep it from 10:00am to 2:00pm as well. For example, a museum may not open until 10:30am. For lunch, everyone is on their own and the host provides nothing. Past activities for Friday adventures have been open gyms, civil war battlefields, or field trips to a museum. Weather plays a big part in Adventure Fridays and you should check to see if the activity has been canceled due to weather such as rain or snow depending on where we are going.

What Is Dad's Night Out

Let's face it, we need a break. We need a break from getting spit up on us. We need a break from reading the same book over and over and over again. We need a break from getting kicked in the balls.

This is our solution: Dad's Night Out and this is how it works.

Dad's Night is exactly what it sounds like, Dad's going out. All Dad's are welcome. New dads, dad's that have aged out and dad's that have had to go back to work. Everyone is welcome. Except Mom and the kids. They are not welcome. Sorry guys, we love you but we need just a short break.

Dad's Night Out is usually the second Thursday of the month. We schedule these events 6 months in advance typically but it is subject to change by group vote.

Also note that during special seasons we change the night of Dad's Night Out from time to time. For example, during March Madness we try to match up the night with the opening Thursday of the tournament. We also choose at least one Monday Night Football game a year as well. If there are other events, like the Hockey Playoffs, we also try to accommodate those as well. Typically, these decisions are left open to a majority vote and discussed on email and facebook.

As far as what we do, believe it or not we have a plan. One month we try and schedule an activity. The next month we schedule a bar. We alternate between these two things for the year. We also try and mix up locations so that everyone has a chance to make it. One month we may have the DNO (Dad's Night Out) in the North part of KC. The next month, we might head East, West or South.

As for the activities, we try and diversify and are always open to ideas. We have gone bowling, pool halls and our favorite: Dinner and a Movie. If you have an idea for DNO, bring it up and let's see if we can get together.

But no matter what we choose to do the idea is always the same. A time and a place once a month to get out of the house without the kids and family to spend some time with our own members. It's a good chance to really get to know each other and blow off some steam without worrying about the little ones are.

Activity: Mine Creek Battlefield

Location: 20485 Kansas Highway 52, Pleasanton KS

Ages: Appropriate for All

Cost: $2

Hours of Operation: Battlefield is open from sunup to sundown. Visitor Center times vary, so check the website.

We should really have a special section on civil war battlefields.

From the website:
"One of the largest cavalry engagements of the Civil War (and the largest west of the Mississippi River) was fought at theMine Creek Battlefield in Kansas on October 25, 1864 near present day Pleasanton when 2,500 Union soldiers defeated nearly 3 times that number of Confederate soldiers."

When one thinks of "Civil War Battlefield" the image of this place should come up. It's just a huge field in the rolling hills of Kansas. Seriously, it's gigantic. And it's a huge field.

Kids love huge fields though. They love space to run. They love space to tackle each other. And they love space to hide in the tall grass and hide from Dad.

The field is set up for a walking tour and walk you will. To walk the entire dirt track of the field is at least 2 to 3 miles. But you can get a stroller down there if you so choose. We made it about halfway before screaming kids asked us to turn around. But the parts that we did get to was well worth it.

Standing out in the middle of that big field made you really realize something about the Civil War. Mostly that if you were a lowly infantryman on either side, you were basically screwed. There was no hope for you pal. None what so ever. Where are you going to hide in the plains of Kansas? It's flat. There is no where to go. Now imagine that you were facing down charging Calvary on this plain. Yup, now you are double screwed.

That's the feel you get from this. The insanity that was that war and the bravery it took just to stay still. In the end, this is the battle that ran the Confederate army out of Missouri and Kansas once and for all.

The visitor center is a pretty nice setup. It's nicely built and well maintained. The local curator proved that he was very knowledgeable about the site and was very friendly with the kids. He seemed to enjoy their reckless abandon more than we did. There are several exhibits inside the visitors center that are well worth the stop off to read. There is also a display of all the bullets that have thus far been found on the battlefield and that is pretty interesting.

Take a trip to a big battlefield when you have a day to kill.

As for where to eat, your guess is as good as mine. There's not much in Pleasanton. My companion for the trip described it this way as we made our way through downtown:

"This is the kind of place that you always see the zombie Apocalypse come through."

All we were missing was a breeze and a tumbleweed.

Activity: CW Parker Carousel Museum

Location: 320 South Esplanade, Leavenworth KS

Ages: 1 and up.

Cost: The carosel ride is $1.50 a ride. There is a museum tour at $6 for adults, children 12 and younger are $3

Hours of Operation: Thrusday, Friday, Sat--11-5, Sunday 1-5.

You've got to do this. Get off your caboose, load the kids, and take an adventure in Kansas.

Of all the unusual things that we may have done, this might rank right up there. It was certaintly one of the most fun. It's a little hard to find but luckily Leavenworth isn't that big of a town. If you get lost, just ask a local.

The carosel museum offers two things: 1. A musuem tour. You are not allowed to look around by yourself and it must be guided. As our kids are notorious for not listening and wrecking things, we opted out of this. However, it is the second thing here that you really can't miss.

You get to ride a 100 year old carosel. Sound boring? Sound mundane? Dude, try it and then come back to us.

There is a working carosel from 1913 that is open for rides during normal business days. It's like no other carosel ride that you have ever seen or been on. First, there isn't really music like you would expect. The music for the ride is supplied by some sort of machine and I'm not really sure how to describe it but I'll do my best. You remember Dick Van Dyke in Marry Poppins? Ok, that's it. It has a drum that beats as you go around and the music is contained on a metal cylinder. And it's loud. Keep that in mind.

The carousel itself is from 1913 and has been restored by the museum. All the horses are hand painted and the look is truly unique. The ride even more so.

Having children I think that it fair to say that I've been on my fair share of carousels. However, I have never actually gotten dizzy on one until I rode this monster. We were told that the carousel moves along at "8 Knots" Now, I'm not a seafaring man, I have no idea how fast a "knot" is. So allow me to translate. It's really freaking fast. Fast enough that you must hold on or you will go flying off. My son only wanted one ride on this contraption but my daughter wanted 6. It was very, very fun.

Also in this room they have another very old carousel. It dates from 1850 and is an oddity that is worth seeing. It's a hand cranked carousel, I didn't even know those things existed. It's fun to look at and wonder though who was doing the cranking on this thing.

All in all, a fun trip and worth the time to get out there. Highly recommend and the staff was gracious and accommodating.

And while you are out in Leavenworth, on a side note here, feel free to drive by the federal prison. After you do, you will be sure that THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL ANYONE IS EVERY ESCAPING THAT PLACE. It's an interesting little side trip to scare your children straight.

320 South Esplanade, in Leavenworth, KS

Natural History Musuem, Lawrence KS

Location: 1345 Jayhawk Blvd. Lawrence KS

Ages: Appropriate for all ages.

Cost: Free--but parking is $1 an hour

The museum is located on the actual campus of KU so get your rock chalk jayhawk thing ready and come on down. Although I wouldn't even think about hitting on the coeds my brothers because you are now an old, old man with baggage. The baggage being the kiddos that you drag along to this thing. Coeds don't like that kind of baggage. However, you can buy beer so maybe you have that going for you.

The Museum is a little difficult to find so make sure you visit the website first to get directions. Parking is also a bit of a pain and it costs a buck an hour so bring some quarters and some dollar bills.

But once you find it, it's a great place to go. The museum itself is actually free and we always love free. Free is greatness to all of us single income people. And as is the nature in these parts, free doesn't mean crap. This place is great.

There are 4 levels to the museum. The bottom floor is dedicated to the creepy and the crawly. Giant roaches? They have them. Things that fly and land on your neck ready to suck you like a vampire? They got those two. The whole space down there though is really well thought out and kid friendly. It's a touch and learn type of place. It's a smallish room but it's set up well and seems to encourage the kids learning on their own. And although the giant Godzilla like cockroaches freaked us all out, the bottom floor is really well done.

The rest of the floors are dedicated to other things, the highlight being the dinosaur bones. I didn't think we would find that much when we first arrived and I am happy to say that we were surprised. They the head of a triceratops and without a doubt the biggest damn turtle shell I have ever seen. Seriously, it's like a dinner table. Most things are also set behind glass so your kids won't destroy them. The exhibits are set up on either side of the hallways so there is plenty to look at. It was fun seeing the kids reactions to everything that we had seen.

The top to floors I found a little spooky but still well done. They were filled with stuffed animals of every size and shape. The highlight here is the giant stuffed bear. The signs say "do not touch" but I don't think the kids could help themselves although I'm proud to say that no permanent damage was done.

If you see one thing though in this museum though, see the beehive. It is freaking cool. On the top floor is a hollowed out tree trunk covered in plexiglass. This is where the bee's live. They get to the outside through a glass tube. You and the kids get to see everything, inside and out. It is one of the most original exhibits I have ever seen.

The museum is worth the drive out there and I would recommend it for anyone looking for a cheap adventure.

As for lunch, you have a couple of options. You can go into the town of Lawrence and find you something as there is plenty there. It's a nice town with helpful people so I would expect no problems.

Or you can head to the student union and try to relive your own glory days of eating Roman Noodles and sipping on very cheap beer. We did the student union and I was pleased with the space, the prices and the coeds.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What I learned At the Convention

So you didn’t get a chance to make it to the 15th annual SAHD convention? No problem. I got you covered.

This is what I leared at the 15th Annual SAHD Convention:

That to parent effectively, I have to keep the situaiton from escalating above my “emotional” line.

That if you open a bar tab, your friends will find out about it and put their drinks on it, too. Then they will call your wife and tell her about the great prank that they just pulled. I now have to sell my Xbox. Thanks guys.

That drunk dialing your buddy’s wives in vengence for the above prank at midnight doesn’t work out as well as you would think it would.

That having a “yuk” list is a good idea to empower your children during dinner time.

That 8 Crown Royal and Cokes vs. Fancy Beer is not a fair contest.

That using “product” is essential in combing a little girls hair if you want to keep her from running away from you in the future and calling child services on you.

That two grown men can go down a slide at the same time if one sits in the other’s lap.

That children want attention, sometimes even if it’s negative.

That you should never open a package that came from the front desk in front of a group of people you don’t know because it may contain a book called “Miss Vera’s Guide To Becoming A Transvestite” that your buddy’s thought would be funny as hell to send to you. Again, thank you fellas.

That there is somewhere between 158,000 and 3 million stay at home dads in the country. I’m glad we could go ahead and nail that one down.

That Omaha, Nebraska serves the best milkshakes. Ever.

That we shold be partners with our children’s teachers and not their adversairies.

That I can pluck a CD case out of the air after it’s been thrown at Mach 3 at my head and still have the presence of mind to come up with a witty one-liner. I am an action hero.

That everyone deserves a door prize.

That you should never argue with the driver of a minivan who has access to the window locks when there are 6 guys driving cross country after a night of heavy drinking. Trust me, the driver always wins the arguements.

That chicks dig the SAHD.

That talking about potty training with other Dads can still morph into a discussion about sports.

That my wife may get tired of the phrase “That’s not how Daddy does it.” after I’ve been gone for 2 days.

That the one guy that roots for Iowa State. will find you and brag about hanging 52 points on your beloved Red Raiders even if he has to mow over a bunch of orphans to do it.

That the loud knocking at 2 am does not signify an emergency but is an indication that your new-found friends closed down the bar.

That everyone wants to hang out with Liam so that they can go home and tell thier wife “Oh man, there was this one guy……..”

That drunk texting the one guy in your group that coluldn’t go is still very childish but still very awesome.

That I want to be an All Pro Dad.

That drink coupons is the dude way of saying “I love you.”

That the next SAHD convention is on October 8, 2011 in Washington D.C.

That I miss my wife and kids and I’m a better father for going.

Kansas City Speedway

Kansas City Speed Way

Location: Intersection of I70 and 435, Kansas City, KS

Appropriate For: Dad's Call.

Cost: For the practice run, free.

What makes you a cool dad? Maybe you let the kids have donut's in bed. Perhaps you let the kids play with shotguns while riding the lawnmower. Maybe you even give the kids your credit car and drop them off at the toy store.

You still would not be as cool as us because we took the kids to the racetrack. To a three year old boy, this is a candy factory wrapped in a awesomeness and delivered by a racecar.

What we actualy did was attend the practice sessions the day before the big race. There was no actual race but we were able to see cars go around 5 to 10 at a time testing out the racetrack. We were even able to see a mock start.

Now I'm not a fan of Nascar, I don't really care for it. But I will admit, I am hooked now. I didn't realize that you could feel the engines. I didn't realize that you could smell the burnt rubber. I didn't realize that the thunder coming down the track made you think of Greek Gods. And I forgot that we were there for the kids.

And now back to them and what you need to know should you choose to. Headphones are essential to anyone wanting to do this. You can rent them at the track or bring your own. Without them though, and you won't be there for 5 minutes. So be careful and make the investment.

My boy was three when we took him and he couldn't get enough of it. He totally forgot that he was with me. He totally forgot about everything. All he could do was look at the race cars going up and down the track. The kid was mesmerized.

Another great thing about going for the practice runs was that there was nobody there. We had a 100,000 seat stadium as our own private playground. We could go anywhere. We went to the nose bleed seats and we went to the front seats right at the fence to see the racecars up front. It was one of the most amazing things we have ever done.

After we got tired of seeing the racecars, which took a while, we toured the rest of the stadium and saw all the big trailers that the drivers bring. It was a good way to end our day.

One more word of caution though, you will be walking quite a bit. So if you have a kid that doesn't like to wal, bring a stroller. This ranks as a top 5 outing boys, do it if you can. Check the Speedway website listed above for special promotions.