Ten Simple Answers

I’m going to need everyone to calm the fuck down about pretty much everything. Some super conservative dad that apparently just woke up here in 2015, saw a Princess Leia doll in a bikini with a chain around her neck and had no idea how to explain it to his children. (What grown man hasn’t seen this movie?!) This is just the tip of the crazy iceberg. These parents have no problem sitting their kids in front of violent television, but scantily clad heroines are a step too far. One Million Moms, which only has 75k likes on Facebook, by the way, and others like them, are worried about explaining that now any two consenting adults can get married legally. It’s a pretty simple concept and I bet their kids have a better grasp of it than they do. Transgender people not only exist, but now they are getting media attention and parents are freaking out. And of course mothers everywhere are feeling empowered and standing up (or sitting comfortably) for their right to nurse in public. Sit down, mom and dad, I have all the answers.

“What Will I tell my children?”

  1. I don’t know, let’s look it up together.
  2. That is none of our business.
  3. Yes, some people believe that, but I don’t. I believe _____________.
  4. It is a natural human function.
  5. I don’t know, we should ask him/her/them.
  6. 42
  7. Every American has the same rights, no matter what.
  8. If you don’t like it you don’t have to look/listen/buy/whatever.
  9. People with different backgrounds or cultures sometimes do things differently.
  10. We should not judge this situation with such limited facts. (See the first two answers if you need to expand.)

Now, print this list, stick it in your pocket, and next time your delicate senses are overwhelmed by all the side boobs and gay innuendo you can whip it out and pick the right answer. When in doubt, choose 1 or 2.

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The New Normal

I told you in March about my brain tumor, called an acoustic neuroma, or correctly but cumbersome, a vestibular schwannoma. In May they were able to remove the entire tumor without affecting my facial nerve and saved most of what vwas left of my hearing. I have been extremely lucky and for that reason I have also been mostly quiet about my recovery.

The five days I spent in the hospital are a blur to me now. Many patients experience extreme vertigo after having a vestibular schawannoma removed, because it is located on the nerves that affect hearing and balance. I was on a pretty decent cocktail of anti dizziness and anti nausea medications that kept me happy, but I’m going to deliver my PSA now. If you’re going to be in the hospital and possibly unable to speak up or defend yourself, be sure you have an advocate present at all times. I was asleep a lot and in pain so I did not want a lot of company. That was a mistake. I spent a very uncomfortable night in the Intensive Care Unit with a nurse that thought I should sleep less and take less medicine so I could get up and move around quicker. I can only assume she didn’t understand the nature of my surgery. I was in pain, drugged up, and trusting. I spent the evening sick and miserable and my only vindication is knowing that she had to clean up after me all night. That, and when my surgeon found out I got to listen to the head nurse explain to her that she was wrong. Call me petty, that felt good. Enlist advocates. Do not go alone.

I’m in several online support groups for patients all over the world with the same type of tumor. Before surgery I heard many horror stories; I also heard many success stories. I knew all the possibilities. I knew that even the most successful surgeries are still brain surgeries and have lasting effects. AN patients often refer to “the new normal” and I remember thinking that sounded like a desperate attempt to sound positive. I understand now that it’s not an attempt at anything other than explaining how you feel. It’s different for everyone. My normal isn’t anyone else’s normal anymore. I could be better, but I am very aware that I could be worse.

Yesterday, a member of my support group posted,

“I wish there was a blog that I can share on Facebook describing what daily life is like for those with AN. I want my family and friends to understand why I am chronically ill. They don’t understand why I can’t travel, stay up late, the chronic ear pain, etc. “

I realized that I had started out with the mission to raise brain tumor awareness, and then in the midst of my own battle, when I had the most to say, I shut my mouth. In my defense, it took me awhile to be able to sit upright at my computer.

My recovery isn’t like anyone else’s. It’s different for everyone. One of the most difficult conversations to have with this diagnosis is the “my brother in law’s cousin had brain surgery and he’s fine” talk. We are all really super happy for your distant relatives and acquaintances, but you simply cannot compare brain surgeries. This is not to say that one is better or worse than another, but that they are different. Not every surgery to remove a schwannoma is the same, let alone every brain surgery. My surgeons used the retrosigmoid approach, but there are other types, as well as gamma knife or simply monitoring the tumor to see if it grows. Surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma is one of the least invasive brain surgeries you can have, according to one of my surgeons, which makes it sound less frightening, but what I learned from my support groups and research was that it also has one of the most hellish recovery periods, and that some people never fully recover. Every journey is different, but I will invite other AN survivors (and those still dealing with their tumors) to leave comments about their daily life. I’ll leave you with a link in case you feel compelled to learn more or donate.

My New Normal
I can walk straight already. I can drive, but only for a very limited time and I’m not sure I should drive anywhere I don’t know my way around, only because I get frustrated when I get confused. My memory seems fine. I think. I can still hold my own in a political debate on Facebook. The boys never had that heart breaking moment I feared back in March; they’ve been able to climb around on me just fine even though I can’t pick them up. I can take my kids to the movie or a park as long as I’m careful. I can do almost everything I did before, except bend over, lift pretty much anything, or tolerate the heat. If I spend too much time outside I get sick, and considering that is my favorite place to be, this is a horrible side effect for me, possibly the worst. I can’t clean my house without bending over. Try it! Sometimes I sit on the floor to sort toys and I am very thankful for my ability to pick things up with my toes. Even cooking heats the kitchen up to an uncomfortable temperature, and just standing in the kitchen is exhausting sometimes. I wake up tired. I have kids to feed and messes to clean before my first daycare clients arrive, but all I want is to take my medication for inflammation and lay back down and wait for it to work. Just getting dressed is a struggle because our house is always so warm, which makes me nauseous. Once the meds kick in I get a small burst of energy that carries me through the first part of the day. Sometimes I feel so good, hiking the easy trails, reading stories, doing crafts, that I think I could go all day. I cannot. I’ve tried. The kids need a nap and I need conditioned air and rest. I still have tinnitus. It’s slightly worse since surgery, but most of the time it is white noise. It is one more thing that wears me down. The constant noise, straining to hear, inflammation of the neck and shoulder muscles, a swelling feeling in my incision area, all start to make me tired by the time I am off work. There is a condition called neuro fatigue or neuro exhaustion that accurately describes how I feel. If you have a friend or family member with any type of brain injury please click those links and try to understand their day.

My hearing was damaged before the surgery and, other than a hearing aid, there is no way to repair it or bring it back. I’m grateful they were able to preserve most of what was left of my hearing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a struggle. Some days I wake up with a fulness on the AN side and much louder tinnitus. I’m trying to teach my children to look at me when they speak. I hate when they ask me for something and I feel lost. I’m supposed to have the answers, but I need to be able to hear the question. They are kind and calm, though.  I wish it would not be considered impolite to snap at adults not to mumble, because they have no problem sighing at me when I can’t hear. I know it’s frustrating to repeat yourself,  but please be patient with people who ask you to clarify what you said.

Some days, busy days, the pain is worse and I’d like to take more medication, but The Barkeep (my boyfriend, for new readers) is not home and I have small children here, so I try to wait until they are in bed, because I never know how it will affect me. I spend a lot of time watching the clock for when I can take medication, or better yet, get some sleep. Putting little, wild people to bed when you are exhausted is trying. Thankfully I have a secret weapon, Goldy, my daughter that is living at here while going to college. (Beauty didn’t run away with the circus, she stays at her dads a lot, works some and spends even more time with friends. She was in school right after my surgery so was not here to help as much, but she is a great help when she is home.)

I also have a wonderful support network of family and friends that brought us dinner and watched the kids during the worst, early part of my recovery. I know that I am lucky. I know that my recovery has been easy compared to many. I also know that it’s not over. I have a long way to go. My doctor is confident my pain will get better in time, but much of what I am dealing with is here to stay, and I need to learn to cope with it. That’s what “the new normal” means. You adjust. It does not mean you pretend everything is positive, in fact it is the opposite. I can and should share with you that some things about my recovery suck, but I’m not defeated. This is how I feel. This is who I am. This is normal.

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I’d love for other AN patients to tell us about their new normal in the comments.

Please check out this link for more information: https://www.anausa.org/

Jester Park Natural Playscape – Real Reviews For Real Families

Jester Park Natural Playscape

11407 NW Jester Park Dr, Granger, IA 50109

FREE

Jester Park is not a long drive from Des Moines, but once you hit the front entrance it feels like another 20 minutes until you find the playscape. It’s a lovely drive, though, so just keep going and follow the speed limit. My kids like to sing songs from Into The Woods while we drive through the heavily wooded area. Do not go towards the playground, which is also nice, keep going towards the elk and bison, you will find the playscape.

A natural playscape is not a typical playground. There is no plastic or metal or rubberized surfaces. There are wood chips and rocks, dirt and weeds.  Kids need nature and they are not being exposed to nature the way we were growing up. I use “we” assuming that if you have a family you probably grew up with skinned knees and wet shoes in the summer, but I’m not exactly sure when they started paving and padding everything. Goldy and Beauty were lucky to have a playground and a pond directly behind our apartments most of their childhood, so we didn’t frequent other parks very much so I didn’t notice the change until it happened.  I love the exciting, modern playgrounds that I have previously written about, and they play a wonderful part in making sure our kids are moving and not spending too much time with screens in their faces, but if you want a true outdoor experience with all the comforts of a playground you can’t beat a playscape.

There are 3 playscapes in the area, currently, that I am aware of, and another going in right in our neighborhood at our favorite splash pad, McHenry Park. I am always looking for more. (Hint hint leave a comment if you know of one!) Jester is probably our favorite because it is closer than Brenton Arboretum, which I will write about next, and the water feature is more fun than Sargent Park.

There is always plenty of parking fairly close to the play area. The bathroom is in the parking area, just a small building with an outhouse toilet and plastic urinal, but they keep it clean and provide antibacterial soap. There is also a water fountain but I recommend bringing your own water bottles. There is not much shade anymore. They cut down our favorite shade tree that we usually sat under to eat lunch. There is a lot to do but my kids always go straight for the water. If it gets crowded or unruly we go down the hill to the sandbox. There are also wood blocks, a prairie grass maze, and prairie animals to view. There are no picnic tables at the playscape but you can lay out a blanket or drive to the nearby picnic areas within the park. There are benches and one by the water that even provides a little shade. I imagine it would be a handy place to breastfeed a younger child while an older sibling played in the water. The website says this play are is best for children over 5, but mine have been having fun their since they could toddle. When it gets busy you may want to take little ones to the sand box.

For the love of all things pink and sparkly, though, please watch your children of all ages. My sister in law and I witnessed several little boys throwing large rocks into the water while other kids were playing. The adults responsible for them sat under a shady awning, ignoring them. When one little boy got a rock to the scalp and was gushing blood, his mother patched him up. They told the kids not to throw rocks and went right back to their shady hideaway. The kids continued throwing rocks into the crowded water area, and slowly other families began to leave. I think I have mentioned that I dislike trendy names for parenting types, helicopter moms and free range parents. I think we need a new trend. Common sense. If all the other parents at the play area have to make their kids leave the water because yours are being unruly, you need to hover a little more. That doesn’t make you a helicopter parent. It makes you and your child decent people. If your child is throwing rocks into a crowded play area they are showing you they are not ready to be left alone there yet.

I don’t want to give you the impression this is a dangerous play area. Far from it! Kids can and do throw rocks anywhere. We go to Jester Park several times a year and have only had this one incident.

My family has been picnicking at Jester Park since before Beauty was born. I know because we have pictures of her there in utero. There are several nice shelters you can just show up and use as long as there isn’t a reserved sign, or you can reserve them for an event. There is a large modern playground with modern bathrooms and showers across the street, an equestrian center, an amphitheater, a golf course, camping, fishing and more. There is also a lodge for events and they hold classes there, as well. If your family loves nature or needs more time in nature you must check it out.

We had a great time and I hope you do, too!

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An elk was watching us dig in the sand.

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The boys are playing with the wood blocks under a somewhat shady awning.

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Sharkboy and his cousin, playing in the water.

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This is the elk and bison viewing area.

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Little S is playing in the sand.

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Ankeny Miracle Park – Real Reviews For Real Families

Ankeny Miracle Park

300 NW School St.
Ankeny, Iowa

The Miracle Park in Ankeny is another inclusive playground, meaning it is suitable for children with physical and cognitive disabilities. From the website:

More than 3,500 children with special needs between the ages of 5 and 15 live in Polk, Boone, Dallas and Story counties and more than 800 attend Ankeny Community Schools. Today, there is a lack of recreational facilities to meet the needs of our young special needs population as accessible playgrounds and the ability to participate in sports leagues are virtually non-existent.

Since 2007, Ankeny Parks & Recreation and the Ankeny Kiwanis Club have partnered to offer “Super Kids,” a series of programs designed for our special needs community. We’ve joined together again to create and construct a Miracle Field & All-Inclusive Playground facility specifically designed for children with disabilities. The Miracle League Field & All-Inclusive Playground will be co-located in Hawkeye Park in Ankeny and will provide children with special needs and their families:

  • A non-competitive co-ed baseball league
  • A custom field made of cushioned, rubberized turf that is flat and free from obstacles
  • A network of “Buddies” to teach, assist and protect players during play
  • A 100% accessible playground on a rubberized surface
  • A playground that focuses on maximum “play value” with an emphasis on inclusive play
  • A sensory rich playground experience catering to kids with physical, cognitive and sensory disabilities

As you can see, there was a real need for this in the greater Des Moines area and I am happy to see those needs being met. These are the only two inclusive playgrounds I am aware of, but if you know of others, please comment. I’m sure there are families that would love to hear about them.

Ankeny is a quick drive for us, but I used my navigation to find the park, taking us 20 minutes out of our way. It is by an elementary school and other ball fields, just off Ankeny Blvd. I don’t really know my way around Ankeny, but it was a simple drive with the right directions. There are giant baseballs on top of it so if you get in the right area you can’t miss it. I was told to park in the school parking lot and did not see any other parking. I’m sure it has a parking lot… right? I’ll look next time we go because we will definitely go back. Walking across the playground was not an issue but I did feel a bit weird when the kids came out for recess and clearly wanted to play on the equipment. Several hovered near the edge, waiting to see if the adults would notice, but no one actually broke the invisible barrier to join us. They did have two nice play sets of their own to play on, which will be an added bonus in the summer.

Unfortunately, the bathrooms were closed and Little S had to pee on a tree. He has gotten really good at aiming but stood a little too close to the tree. I think outdoor peeing is an essential skill that should be taught to kids at a young age, but not having a penis of my own I am still learning a few things, too. Back up. Guessing from the size of the building I expect comfortable restrooms with real toilets. I’ll let ya know.

I did not see a place for snacks, but that is another thing we will look for when we return. There may be a concession stand for the ball field. There is a shelter for shade up the hill from the playground and there are awnings over the equipment. I’ve heard several complaints about the lack of shady trees near newer play sets so I feel the need to point out the obvious. Trees bring birds and birds poop on slides. Most park developers are hesitant of too many trees, though, because they have to knock them down to build. Some newer playgrounds have planted trees, but they don’t provide much shade yet. You might want to wear a hat and bring extra sunscreen. I had a pop up tent for my kids that I bought at Goodwill, but I never used it. It was similar to this one, found on Amazon.

There are two playgrounds at Miracle Park, one meant for kids ages 2-5 and another for kids 5-12, as well as a long row of swings for all ages and abilities. I had Sharkboy, Little S and their cousin R with me, ages 3-5, and they all chose the big playground for most of the visit. I’m going to try to describe this to you, but you might need to see it and walk around it to understand. It was a bit like a maze. You can get all the way to the top using ramps and once you are in there doing it it is less confusing, but there are tubes and interesting things to climb on and ramps going in every direction. At least it felt that way to me. The kids had no problem getting around and Goldy caught on quicker than I did. Maybe you have to be under 12 to get around in there.

I don’t like parenting labels like “free range” and “helicopter” because I feel they divide us even more and unnecessarily, but I will say if you are an anxious, hovering parent you will not want to let kids under 5 play on the big play set. I saw young toddlers checking it out and they were fine, but I’m not sure my own heart could take that. There are some very tall slides, an open net for climbing across and some pretty high drop offs. There are also monkey bars at the perfect height for young kids, though, and a lot of fun spinning and climbing toys. There was so much more and I will show some of it in the photographs, but you’ll have to check it out yourself to see everything.

We had a great time and I hope you do, too!

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If you notice the parents to the left it will give you an idea how tall the slides on the right are.

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Little S, age 3, on the monkey bars.

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This is a like a rope bridge, only more rope and less bridge. There is nothing beyond their own skill to keep them from slipping through the net. Of course it was Sharkboy’s favorite place to climb around.

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We had no idea how this was meant to be used so we tried several ideas, including tread mill style.

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Like a regular slide, only noisier.

Ashley Okland Star Playground – Real Reviews For Real Families

Ashley Okland Star Playground

5300 Indianola Ave.
Des Moines, Iowa

April 21, 2015

The Ashley Okland Star Playground is a park on the southeast side of Des Moines with equipment for all children. including those with physical and cognitive disabilities. Ashley Okland was a realtor that also did volunteer work with Variety before she was murdered in 2011. The park was created in her honor for the children she enjoyed working with and it is a park to be proud of. Goldy and I took four boys on this sunny but windy day and got four stellar reviews.

The playground is large and spread out with different and interesting equipment. It has a clean, rubberized surface, which I appreciate on muddy days like today. The kids can play with little concern of getting dirty. (You know this is not normally a concern of mine, but we have plans tonight!) There are also wide open grassy spaces and a lot of trees for us to check out another day. There is plenty of parking close to the playground and a bathroom up the hill. The women’s restroom smelled recently cleaned and looked tidy. This is a vast improvement over most area parks. There were even real toilets! I might be a little too excited about that, but have you ever tried to get a newly potty trained child to hover over an open hole? It’s frightening for everyone involved. There were two stalls but no changing station. (That’s what blankets on the grass are for, right?) If you want snacks or water bottles be sure to bring them with you. I packed a lunch and we stopped at a convenience store on the way. It’s not too far off of E. 14th, so there are plenty of places to stop, but I realize not everyone has a handy helper to wait in the car.

Here are some photos of Sharkboy, Little S and their play school friends enjoying Ashley Okland Star Playground. There is a lot more to see!

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We had a great time and I hope you do, too.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden – Real Reviews For Real Families

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

909 Robert D. Ray Drive
Des Moines, IA  50309

ADMISSION

  • MembersFree
  • Adults$8.00
  • Senior Citizens (65+)$7.00
  • Military Personnel$7.00
  • Students (ages 4-17)$6.00
  • Children 3 and under Free

April 18, 2015

The Barkeep and I took the boys to the Botanical Garden on a rainy Saturday afternoon in April. The gift shop being right inside the door with no walls around it is a bit nerve-racking for me. My kids want to touch everything and it all looks so delicate and breakable. I try to hurry through the admissions process by having everything I need out and ready when I go in. We must have just missed a wedding as they were still there taking photographs, but it was not crowded at all. We went straight to the hallway where kids’ activities are usually kept and did some coloring and a rubbing activity. In the past we have done some cool art projects there and they often have sensory activities. For awhile there was dirt for digging in, with plastic bugs and other fun stuff hidden in it. After coloring we checked out the back room, a garden show house. This is usually my kids’ favorite area. It changes frequently and has small, interesting details to notice.

Before checking out the rest of the garden The Barkeep took Little S to the bathroom. They went to a family restroom so he did not check for a changing table in the men’s room. He said the bathrooms were clean. Little S was able to reach everything easily but there was no stool available. (This is an important detail to me, as LS likes to do everything himself.)

The gardens get very wet when it rains. Running is always prohibited in the gardens but be very careful to talk to the kids about using their walking feet when it is wet. The stones get slippery. We did not spend much time in the main indoor area but we did check out the waterfall and the stone stairs in the very back. My kids enjoy watching the fish swim under the bridges but I did not notice any on this trip.

There is a cafe, but other than popping in to buy a Fresca, I have never eaten there. The website says menu is locally sourced and plant inspired, so I think it would be cool to check out. We have always brought a snack lunch, which I discovered today on the website is not allowed. Oops. I’ve been bringing in food for over a decade and eating on the indoor balcony without ever being questioned. Sorry staff!

Outside is where the real fun begins. The entire outdoor area was dug up and remodeled last year. I went to the grand opening and was unimpressed at the time, but hopeful that spring would bring more changes. Wow, did it ever! I did not take many pictures to share because I want you to visit and see it for yourself. I’ll tell you this, it’s much bigger now and there is a waterfall you can go under without getting wet. There isn’t much shade out there right now so don’t forget a hat. The whole area is enclosed now, but it is huge, so it is possible to lose sight of a fast runner.

Brother Love

Brotherly Love

Other things to note: There were umbrellas available right outside the door to the outdoor gardens. Nice touch! The website says their on some strollers available on a first come, first serve basis. Other than the open floor plan of the gift shop there are no other “snack traps” or areas selling junk toys. We love the toys available in the gift shop but many are a bit out of my price range. You can get small books of stickers or stencils and a low price if you want a souvenir. Parking is free and plentiful and the staff is polite, happy to see the kids and helpful when needed.

We are members of Reiman Gardens in Ames so our trip to the Botanical Garden was free. As the boys ran around the paths outside I tried to assess how I would feel about the trip if we had paid the $22 to get in. I would not be disappointed, but I would probably not return again for quite awhile. As members we decided to return at least once a month to see the changes in the gardens as they grow. (This is our plan at Reiman Gardens, as well.) I highly recommend a membership if you like to take family outings. I bought the “supporter” membership for $55 and get myself, The Barkeep and all minor children in to both gardens FREE. There is also a list of other gardens across the country where you can get free or reduced admission. We have not taken advantage of this yet. If a membership is out of your price range be sure to drop hints to family members around Christmas and birthday time!

We had a great day and I hope you do, too!

Des Moines Art Center – Real Reviews For Real Families

Des Moines Art Center

  • 4700 GRAND AVE
  • DES MOINES, IOWA
  • 515.277.4405
  • FREE

April 16, 2015

We are currently studying the arts in play school and I thought it would be fun beneficial for the kids to visit a real art center. I wanted them to see all the different types of art and the many mediums and styles used by accomplished artists. I was also a tiny bit terrified about taking four kids, 5 and younger, to an art gallery. I’d like to give a shout out to the awesome Facebook group Des Moines – Beyond 4 Walls for their help in making the decision. I decided to go and bring Goldy to assist.

Before we left I read the kids books about visiting an art museum and made sure to emphasize the parts about not touching the art and other rules. I also prepped them all the way there, “hands to yourself, walking feet, museum voices”, being careful not to use the words I didn’t want them to pick up. If you say, “don’t touch” kids are more likely to touch. Try it sometime.

We were greeted at the entrance by a woman behind the desk and a “guide”. I’m putting guide in quotes because they turned out to be more like guards. Both were very pleasant, though, and not at all put off by the kids. Off to a good start. We were offered a map and after a quick appraisal of the boys ages she also directed us to the restroom, where we went immediately. Smart thinking, lady. The bathroom has several stalls, 3 sinks, and a stool. Everything was easy to reach and use for older kids. (I’ll be highlighting words like bathroom in these reviews so if people want to skim for key points, they can.) Back upstairs, we started our self guided tour. The kids all touched the first sculpture we encountered, but quickly pulled back when reminded to keep their hands by their bodies. I was very impressed by how well they listened! We walked around, constantly herding the boys into one small group so they were easier to watch. They are not used to this method. On most trips I let them spread out and check things out at their pace, but I had warned them this was a different kind of trip. I asked them questions about what they liked about certain pieces, what they thought the people in pictures were feeling, and what they though the artist used to make it.

I’d like to say it was a fun learning experience, but it was also very tense. I realize the guides are there to protect the artwork and they probably see a lot of unruly kids and unconcerned parents, but it is very uncomfortable to have someone follow you like a shadow, especially when your kids are behaving so well. I know he was doing his job, so this is not a complaint, just something you should be prepared for if you take children. We were followed very closely and if the kids got close enough to actually see something the first guide barked, “don’t touch” and they all jumped out of their skin. And of course Sharkboy and Little S immediately felt a strong urge to touch something, luckily it was just the wall. The farther we went into the building the less concerned the guards seemed and the more we enjoyed ourselves. The kids did amazing. They did not run or yell or touch. This is a group of boys that normally wrestle, jump, shriek and climb. If they can do it, your kids can do it. I recommend a ratio of one adult for every two kids unless you have a naturally calm group.

We spent less than an hour inside but saw almost everything. I could see that the kids had reached the limit of their restraint. They were starting to move a little faster, talk a little louder and get a little closer to the art. Too often adults ignore these clues and the results are unpleasant. Leave while everyone is happy and can remember the trip fondly.

We went outside to the rose garden but it is mid-April so there wasn’t much to see yet. Instead I had the kids race from tree to tree using different movements, flapping their arms like birds, swimming, skipping, galloping. It was a relief to move and touch and explore after following such strict rules for so long.

Overall I would recommend the experience. I think it is important for kids to be exposed to art. Be prepared for a shadow guide and make sure your children know the rules in advance. If you are overly anxious you may want to wait until they are older or take them while they are still young enough to be work in a carrier or pushed in a stroller. We had a great day and I hope you do, too.

Thoughts form the kids:

Sharkboy: I liked the face pictures and going outside. I like to look at abstract art and make real art.

Little S: I liked all the pictures and the gold trophy statue. I didn’t like the persons there. I didn’t like the steps that didn’t have the stuff right here on them. (Indicating stairs that had open backs. I forgot about that, none of the kids like that. Glad I asked for their input!)

Friend 1: The guy just said, “stay on the carpet!” The statue was thinking about his Mommy.

Friend 2: (Not much of a talker, simply said yes when asked if he liked the trip.)

EDITED TO ADD:
A few things people have asked about since this was posted, great questions!
There was ample free parking on a weekday at opening time. There is also overflow parking, I would assume used more for events. We were able to park in the center row, with a sidewalk down the middle. I wish every parking lot had spaces like this!

There was a changing table in the women’s room. I did not see a family restroom or check the men’s room for a changing table. Men, if you are not provided a changing table change your baby at the front desk. I think they will file your suggestion faster that way!

The gift shop is located off of the atrium and we did not even go near it. There were no other snacks or toys sold throughout the center. We dd not check out the cafe and I believe outside snacks are prohibited. We ate before entering and had lunch as soon as we left. I recommend keeping the visit short if you had a snacker. There were seats throughout the gallery but I did not see a specific place for breastfeeding. I will keep my eyes open on future visits, as I know that is important to many parents.

Thanks for the suggestions. I will try to add these elements to future reviews.

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