Monthly Archives: January 2010

What To Do? Wednesday: Skiing!

It’s “What To Do? Wednesday,” and here’s the latest thing I’m trying: skiing! Baltimore County public schools are closed on Friday, January 29, so I’m taking my 6-1/2-year-old for the first time.

I learned to ski in Virginia and West Virginia, and moved on to Vermont-New Hampshire-Maine, then Colorado-California and even once to Switzerland. But I haven’t been in 15 years since I was in college and my own father paid for it.

The biggest factor in choosing where to go is the quality of the ski school. As a former swim instructor, I’ve had practically no success teaching my children to swim because I lose my patience too easily. Plus, they won’t listen to me, anyway. So I know I need a paid professional to teach skiing, too.

I’ll let you know how it turns out!

I queried the Baltimore At-Home Dads group for advice, and here’s what they said:

“I worked at Ski Roundtop in Lewisbury, Pa. If the drive isn’t too much for ya, I highly recommend it. I worked up there about 3 years ago as an instructor, and the children’s programs are excellent. As well as a nice wide beginner hill. Prices aren’t too bad, and I know you could probably find a deal depending on the day. Ski Liberty might be closer and probably just as good.”

–Dane

“Ski Liberty is a great family option and totally turnkey. The “magic carpet” conveyor is far better than the old rope tows we grew up on. I took [my 6-year-old] there a few times and did very well.”

–Eric

“Liberty Mountain is about 1.5 hours away.  Have a ski school and the kids have their own area for lessons.  Not sure on the cost, but it’s about in line with everywhere else. Kids have magic carpet, and the bunny hill has a lift, so kids can also learn to ride. I have been up a few time to snowboard both myself and with friends, but never with the boys.  I am no firsthand expert, but I will say that they crank out a ton of youth lessons and you see some pretty young kids on the bigger slopes, so I would say that they are pretty good.”

–Steve

Whitetail…less than 90 min, bigger mountain. Liberty and Roundtop…1hr plus. As far as I know, all good and reasonable.”

Dan

“Whitetail is close and nice(1-1/2 hrs), JackFrost has a great kids program (3hrs), but I really dig Mont St. Anne in Quebec, Canada.  Quebec City is great and beautiful in winter snow.  Mont Tremblant in Quebec is an alternative but more expensive.  But I think you only have 1 day, right?  So check out Whitetail.  I wouldn’t fret about ski school, kids love skiiing and catch on very quick.  He’ll be zipping down slopes after the morning lesson.”

–Jeff

“I have been skiing for over 30 years, but I took my first lesson at Ski Roundtop.  I have nothing but great memories of that first day.  Their beginner slopes are great, and they have expanded since I was there to include several more beginner slopes. I remember I was skiing on Minuteman by the afternoon. I would recommend renting skis at the place as they usually have a beginner package that will include rentals, lift ticket and the lesson. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the hassle of dragging all the equipment up there and back again plus hauling it around while you buy your ticket, etc.”

–Jason

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Dancing (Drama) Queen

dancing queen picture

Here's my little dancing queen, wearing 2 or 3 of her Mommy's 70s-era dance costumes.

It turns out that our 4-year-old drama queen, who melts down faster than you can flick a light switch, has found the perfect venue: ballet.

At her first visit to a dance class in August, our daughter Carla flamed out big-time. Some non-English-speaking mommies rushed the door to accompany their children into the classroom, even though instructor Miss Holly said kids must enter alone.

First, Miss Holly issued a stern “Mommies, NO!” Then the other girls melted down, and their moms upbraided them for crying. (My Lovely Bride and I don’t parent that way – if our kids don’t want to do an extracurricular activity, we’re won’t bully them into it. I’m much better at a passive-aggressive approach.) Carla got sucked into the drama vortex and melted down, too. Instead of pulling it together, however, she ended up spending the entire class in my wife’s lap. And then she got it in her head that Miss Holly is mean, and that she’s not ready for ballet class until she’s 4. My wife and I realize the teacher is merely keeping order in her classroom, but suspect Carla might be right on the second count.

Fast forward to January – with another birthday under her belt – and our Carla gives it another try. This time, Daddy takes her. (After she was repeatedly super-clingy and crying at the Sunday school dropoff at church, Daddy took to doing this one, too.) We built it up for weeks – her brother doesn’t get to go, only big girls can do this, she might get to wear a special costume and then we can go out to lunch – just her and Daddy.

The day arrives, and things are a little discombobulated. I forget to find out what time the class starts, so we just show up and hope for the best. My wife tries her best at the required ballet dancer’s bun, but our little girl’s red hair resists. And amid other girls in blue leotards, white tights and pink ballet slippers, our 4-year-old shows up in lime green tights she got on by herself, a black skirt with multi-colored hearts and a white turtleneck. But Miss Holly smiles, as Carla follows the swarm of other little girls into the room.

She passes the test! All she really had to do is enter the room by herself! Miss Holly waves me into the observation gallery as Carla falls right with the six other girls and one boy. In no time, she is at the barre with arms outstretched, pointing her toes and learning to piqué.

Things get dicey, however, when it comes time to hop on one foot, arms outstretched, the length of the room. “This is a 4-year-old skill,” Miss Holly tells the parents who are observing the class. When Carla doesn’t hear Miss Holly’s instructions, she gets the parental finger and a firm “wait your turn.” That’s all she needs, and Carla melts down. In seconds, Miss Holly scoops her up, and Carla sobs into Miss Holly’s neck.

“Drama?” Miss Holly calls across the studio in my direction, amid titters from the other parents. I nodded. “One of the qualifications of a ballerina,” she grins.

(The place we found classes is Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, known as Peabody Prep.)

Naming The Children

I’m going to name my children.

Obviously, they haven’t gone through life nameless, but they have on this blog. That’s because I’m skeeved about children and Internet safety. Heck, I’m not even sure I’ve put my own name on here.

When our first child was born in 2003, my Lovely Bride found “Bringing Up Ben and Birdy” on babycenter.com. Each week for four years, author Catherine Newman wrote about barf and poop, funny things her two kids said and the daily life of being a mom and wife. I’d be satisfied if I were only half as entertaining as she was.

She named her children in her column week in and week out, and that’s part of why I cared. They were real people.

I started this blog without my children’s names because I was concerned about weirdos finding them. But referring to them as “my first-grader” or “my 4-year-old daughter” just isn’t cutting it. How can I expect a reader to care about someone without a name? I thought about using fake names, but am I going to live in fear?

So here we are: my son, a 6-year-old first-grader, is Eddie. His little sister, a 4-year-old preschooler, is Carla.

Now was that so hard?

What To Do Wednesday: Outside In Winter

Watching football on Sunday with my 6-1/2-year-old son (as I prayed he wouldn’t notice Viagra commercials and ask “What’s erectile dysfunction, Dad?), an NFL commercial told me what fun it would be for my kids to get 60 minutes of exercise each day. How exactly are you supposed to do that in the winter?

You would think that in nearly six years as an at-home dad, I would have figured this out by now.

Our school lets kids out at 3:45 p.m., and it takes about 15 minutes to meander the 3-1/2 blocks home. By the time we have a snack, it’s 4:15. Then there’s the problem of convincing the children what fun it will be to suit back up and head outside. Then, if we’re lucky, we get maybe 45 minutes before it’s too dark, too cold or both.

When my first-grader was not yet 2 – and started to founder on the afternoon nap – someone made me see the light on the sleep-inducing properties of fresh air and exercise. Ever since, I’ve been hard core about playing outside. Unless it’s below freezing, wet or windy (and really, it’s not that bad until it’s 2 out of 3) – I’ve got to get the kiddos outside. And the snow we’ve had in the past month has made outdoor play a lot more appealing.

But during the fall, I got so rigid on my son finishing homework and “afternoon jobs” (setting the table, etc.) before going outside to play, that I painted myself into a corner come winter. After “work” is done, it’s too late to get out, especially once the snow gets iced over and slippery or half-melted and mushy. The kids don’t mind, but it just makes me itchy to be inside all the time.

On Sunday after while my Lovely Bride went to the gym, I lassoed up the dog, put the snow boots on the kiddos (couldn’t find the 6-year-old’s shoes) and out we went. We took Roxanne, our energetic 12-year-old border collie-retriever mix up to the big field between the elementary and middle schools to the illegitimate dog run. (I saw the PTA president with her dog there, so I figure we’re safe from the cops.) Dog and children had ran and ran – I found a great thing! As a guy who latches on to one thing that works until I drain all the joy, I did the same thing Monday and Tuesday after school – I even remembered to bring a snack along. We broke the streak on Wednesday when a school pal came over to play.

So do I go back to my new rut?

What can we do outside in winter?

Where The @$&?#!& Are Your Shoes?

When our first-grade son couldn’t find his shoes for a day and half this weekend, I came sooooooo close to teaching him a lesson about not putting things away.

But wouldn’t you know it – I found the darn things 45 seconds before he was supposed to leave for school.

His everyday tennis shoes vanished some time during his sister’s 4th birthday party on Saturday. There were lots of little girls playing dressup, so it only seemed natural that he’d be wearing no shoes or socks amid such chaos. But come to think of it, he must have had them on when the grandparents took us to Café Hon (www.cafehon.com) Saturday night.

But come time for church Sunday morning, they were nowhere to be found. We looked in his closet, under the bed, under his sister’s bed, in the dressup box, in the front-door closet, under the sofa and all those places at least two more times. No shoes. By the time the Ravens finished squashing the Patriots, we had to get outside, so he put the snow boots on.

The shoe hunt reached crisis point Monday morning when it was time to get dressed for school. Monday is gym day. No gym shoes means no gym class, and our son was really starting to get upset. I admit that I hate looking for things, but my wife will attest that I put in my best effort. I was ready for our son to go to school in his snow boots and have to sit out at gym class. (My wife reluctantly agreed – she just didn’t want to buy him a new pair of shoes.) After all, as I tell him at least 87 times a day, “We put things away so we can find them when we want.”

Two minutes before time to leave, he comes downstairs with his too-small shoes, which he laced up himself.

“How do they fit?” I asked.

“Well, they’re kind of uncomfortable, but they’re okay,” he answers.

I try not to gloat.

“Well, I like your thinking,” I tell him. “You’re doing the best you can, and you thought of your own solution to the problem. Now let’s go to school.”

I go to hand him his backpack, which feels strangely heavy. What’s inside?

Those @$&?#!& shoes.

What To Do Wednesday? Art for Kids!

By Wednesday each week, I’m often wondering what to do with my now 4-year-old daughter when she’s not in preschool. For those of you in the Baltimore area, the Walters Museum has just updated its class listings for ArtTots, 10-11 a.m. for 2-3-year-olds on fourth Tuesdays, and ArtKids, 10:30-noon for 3-5-year-olds. The free classes introduce kiddos to art and the museum through age-appropriate short stories, gallery play activities and an art activity.

Member registration began Jan. 4; public registration begins Monday Jan. 11. Sign up by calling 410-547-9000 x325 or e-mail familyprograms@thewalters.org.

For more information, visit http://thewalters.org/programs_art_museums/programs_family_programs_artkids.aspx