Thursday, March 26, 2015

st. louis day 2

"Did you love it as much as you remembered?"
"Yes, even more."
That was how we all felt about the City Museum in St. Louis. Yoda was just learning to crawl during our last visit, and the big kids weren't quite old enough to let completely out of our site for a few hours, but this trip was different. 

After strapping on our wristbands, Punk and Kooka grabbed Yoda and headed straight for the dragon cavern, where we promptly lost all three of them. 

There is no proper explanation for St. Louis' City Museum, except to say that there is nothing "museum" about it. It's either the most dangerous playground you can imagine, or the safest junkyard you've ever explored. You'll enter a dragons mouth and come out of a whale's vagina - no I didn't make that up. You can climb ten stories and slide down an old merchandise chute from days of old (very old). You can traverse the St. Louis skyline via an old Cessna plane and a giant slinky. (Because the plane obviously had other structural inadequacies, so why not perch it on top of a ten story building, hold it up with a chain and a bungee cord and let it support the weight of hundreds of adventurous children and their vacationing families?).
Which of course, is what makes this place sooooooo freaking cool. Yoda was in love with the art room and the board less skate park where the whole point was to just run up the ramps and try not to to fall back down - or do - your call. 

Punk loved the human hamster wheel and had a religious moment with the circus magician who said, "I do anything I can to keep from having to get a real job." To which Punk replied, "Amen! I feel you brother!" And tipped the guy generously with his own money. (Because, and I quote, "I need to support my people."). 

Kooka loved everything - the higher and crazier the better. She dragged us all to the top of the outdoor climbing arena, OSHA standards be damned.

The kids weren't happy when we made them break for lunch, but the snacks at Gus's Pretzels more than made up for it. Gus's is a St. Louis institution, and for $13 we loaded up on two bags of squishy pretzel ends, a twist stick, two garlic butters, two cinnamon sugars, two salsiccias (the house special - spicy sausage wrapped with a steamy pretzel), cheddar dip, honey mustard and cream cheese. 

Which fueled us up for another four hours of climbing, jumping, sliding and losing each other in the labyrinth of recycled parts that is the city museum.
Dinner at Pappy's Smokehouse featured fried corn on the cob, sweet potato fries, baked beans and fall-off-the-bone-ribs. Four of us were in heaven, one of us fell asleep at the table before she could even finish a fry.

Not gonna lie - we book our hotels solely on price and the pool, with free breakfasts a close third. So when we saw pictures of the pool area at the Crown Plaza in Clayton, Missouri (which was 3 miles from everything we wanted to do), we jumped on it. We weren't disappointed. For starters, the pool is warm -really warm, which means even Rico could swim all day. It's one of those inside/outside pools, so you can just swim under the barrier and take in the stars, (or whatever those lights are three miles out of St. Louis proper), while remaining toasty warm. And the poolside game room is free - that's right, you heard me FREE. Rumor has it that the guy who bought the place got sick and tired of doling out quarters to his grandson, so he just made everything gratis. Granted the games are old school: Atari race cars, Frogger, Mario Brothers, PacMan, but that just makes it better. By sheer luck, they gave us a room on the concierge level which meant free dinner, free soda, free nachos, free cookies, free wine - like, all you can eat and drink, and good stuff too - spaghetti and meatballs, chicken Parmesan, Merlot (not that I can stand the stuff, but Rico said it was good).

My one complaint with this hotel is this: wood and marble floors.
Even in the rooms.
So the pool's great, bit you'll slip a disk (or worse) walking the two city blocks back to your room. For real, it takes two brass elevators, two access ramps, 300 yards of marble flooring, lord knows how much tile, just to reach the relative safety of your own laminate-floored room. And once you're there, good luck navigating safely with five sopping bathing suits, ten wet feet, and three drippy ponytails. There ain't so much as an area rug for safe landing. Your only choices are to completely flood the bed you are about to sleep in, or continue to play ice-dancing roulette until you somehow manage to land in your pajamas. Seriously, Crowne Plaza, throw us a bone, or at least a sham-wow. For real.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

spring break 2015

Why St. Louis?
The short answer is - why not?
The longer version goes something like this: no snow, no switching weekends in Wisconsin, smoked ribs and the City Museum.

Yeah, the City Museum is a repeat venue for us. Somebody told us about it 4 years ago, and the kids have been begging to go back ever since.

So why did nobody ever tell us about this FREAKING AWESOME zoo?!

We thought we'd spend a couple of hours here and soak up some sunshine. After all, we'd been to Henry Doorly twice, what could this place possibly have that we haven't seen? Well, whatever it was, took us six hours, and we didn't even see all of it. 

Admission is free. Throw in our MN zoo membership and for $5 we had unlimited train rides, carousel, 4D Dinosaur rides, and children's zoo. All of us loved something different. Punk loved the elephants and having a rare blue morpho butterfly land on him in the insectarium. Kooka loved the hippos, meerkats and big eared foxes. Yoda loved the rhinos and acrylic slide that ran underwater right through the otter habitat.

Speaking of habitats - they're huge. The elephants have a small village to themselves, the lowland gorillas have four viewing areas, while the rhino, the sea lion, the giraffes and kangaroos all have more space than any zoo we've ever visited. As Punk so eloquently put it when checking out a habitat complete with hammock, waterfall, lounging point, shade trees, jungle gym, hidey-hole and giant stashes of fruit, "Whoa, that red bear's life is straight up better than mine."

After the zoo, it was off to Fitz's on the St. Louis loop for coney dogs, burgers with fresh roasted chilies, key lime and tutti frutti floats, and fresh brewed root beer. 

It's only 65 degrees here, but it beats fighting the crowds in Florida and the snow back home.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

i know nothing

It's true.

Homeschooling was going along just swimmingly. Yoda was interested, engaged, learning and everything was cool.

Well, not everything.

All of her friends had gone off to preschool - so there was nobody left for playdates, parties, lunch. She had no friends.
And lets be honest, that's what public school is all about.
It's true.
It's all about finding your peeps.

That's what I told the lady at the Montessori program we we enrolled Yoda last week. I said, "I don't get it, one day there were tons of kids her age, and the next day - poof - there were none. I just figured we'd do our thing and find her people next year."

And the Montessori lady said this - "That's a lovely theory, but not everybody knows how to do that."
"Do what?"
"Your thing. Not everybody can teach their child."




It's not like we're solving quadratic equations or balancing protons and electrons here. I mean, I know there's no official test for parenthood, but I assumed that most people can tell a penny from a quarter and point to Antarctica on a map.

Of course - that's not what she meant. Not that I can blame anybody for feeling completely confused about any of this.
For example:

At the Montessori school we don't have sharing time unless there is a very special event or natural item of interest.
At the Art School, we share every day to encourage public speaking skills.

At the Charter School, we call teachers by their first names, to promote trust and partnership with our instructors.
At the public school you get suspended for that.

At the Montessori school, we try not to talk to the kids too much, which encourages them to stay immersed in their work and help each other.
At the other preschool class, it's mom & me all the way, and we're supposed to spend every second engaged with our kids, playing, painting, building, whatever.

At the public school they test you every freaking year, because if you can't spell "house" by the third grade we may have some issues.
At the charter school, we eschew tests because hey - there are lots of ways to be smart, and dammit, that's what spell check is for.

I know nothing.
Nothing at all.
Except that every time I go to preschool I become the stupiderest person ever.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

confessions of a dance chick

Things I am glad are on their way out:

1) Duck face
2) That whole "I'm not gonna wear tights thing"
3) The gigantic Amy Winehouse hair poof
4) Wearing only one shoe. Newsflash, you just told the entire auditorium that you are a poorly trained dancer who can only balance on one foot. Newsflash #2 - "trendy" does not equal "good".
5) The crotch-flashing leg extentions - just do it to the side. No, seriously JUST DO IT TO THE SIDE.

Things I wish would be gone soon:

1) Jazz hands in a contemporary dance. You're intense - we get it. Now close your frigging fingers when you turn - you look like a burn victim. (You know I'm right).
2) Hey - I know you think solos are fun. But dance was meant to be done with OTHER PEOPLE - that's how you get good - that's what people like to watch. Not sayin' - just sayin.
3) Rich kids wearing red and blue headbands tied in the front like they gangsta or sumpin. Oh - you're doing hip-hop? That's great! Your sequin boots tell me you've never set foot in the hood, so don't adopt a culture like it's a new Claire's accessory. Nobody would put up with you walking around in a kimono to "Turning Japanese" or donning a Native headdress and running around stage going "Ay-yi-yi-yi".  Yeah  - no - we don't do that.  So turn on your music and dance - but let's be real - it's a dance. The thug life didn't choose you.