Every Kid in a Park

We’re currently recovering from a week-long family vacation touring Northern California.

My husband planned this trip (!!!!) after we heard about the National Parks Service’s Every Kid in a Park program that gives every fourth grader (and his or her family) free access to our country’s national parks, in honor of the system’s centennial anniversary. 

In a week, we covered 1,200 miles, nine national parks, two California state parks, two aquariums and two popular tourist destinations tourist attractions. We are all still speaking to each other, despite what I will call The Gas Incident, or You Should Really Do What Your Wife Asks You, It Will Save a Lot of Trouble in the Long Run, Volume 352426.

Because it’s summer, and because the parks received a boost of publicity when the President visited several the week before we were there, many were crowded. Preserving and maintaining these spaces is not big on Congress’ to-do list (although Not Working is currently the only item on Congress’ to-do list), so more restroom facilities and personnel are needed to make things a little more visitor-friendly.

As a rule, all of the park rangers we encountered were awesome. The one who admitted us to Yosemite treated my daughter, the fourth grader, as if she were a rock star, complete with high-fives and shouted encouragement. One who took us on a tour of Point Reyes describing Native American life there patiently listened while my son described the different variety of trees in Minecraft. (To my son’s credit, he wasn’t talking about butts. Baby steps!)

I prefer national parks to entertainment parks, even though I still got sunburned.

Every Kid in a Park

Pool Style

We go to one of our township’s two pools nearly every day of the summer. My children have reached the magical age in which they can enjoy the pool without me having to be in an arm’s reach. They always run into friends. More often than not, I do, too. They’re worn out when they get home and always sleep well. Our township takes pretty good care of their facilities so as I type this I’m relaxing in the shade knowing my children are safe. Going to the pool can’t possibly be stressful, can it?

Here is an abridged list of everything pool-related my children argue about.

  • Who gets sunscreen first
  • Buying something from the snack bar
  • Buying something else from the snack bar
  • The rules of a constantly evolving game that only takes place during “pit swim” in the diving pool
  • Finding all the pool toys they insisted on bringing
  • Going to the pool to play basketball when we have a basketball hoop in our driveway 
  • Goggles
  • Packing snacks because we are not buying anything from the snack bar
  • Adult swim (my children are truly enraged that the lifeguards hand over the pool to adults for 15 minutes every two hours)
  • Proper cannon ball form
  • Who gets to shower first when we leave
  • How they determine who gets to shower first when we leave
  • The number of paper-rock-scissors games that has to be won to determine who gets to shower when we leave
Pool Style

The Entitled Fan

I came across this gem of a story via Twitter yesterday, right after I learned Disney ordered a reshoot of the upcoming Star Wars film Rogue Nation.

I consider myself a nerd–not nearly cool enough to be a geek–but I operate on a rather narrow slice of nerd-dom. I like some science fiction, a handful of popular television shows and movies. I’ve never been to a con. For the most part*, I don’t even visit websites for shows or look for spoilers because I genuinely want to be surprised. 

(*The exception is the X-Files, because it peaked during the early days of the Internet and I had unlimited access to the Internet at college. I eventually disliked the way the show was going so I read more than my share of fan fiction that was devoted to Mulder and Scully NOT having a relationship.)

The article really made me think about what it means to be a fan and what I should expect as a fan.

Annie Wilkes is a character in Misery, a Stephen King novel. Kathy Bates went on to win an Oscar for her portrayal of Wilkes in the film adaptation. In the story, a writer gets into a car crash and is kept captive by a nurse who is his biggest fan. During his rehabilitation, she forces him to resurrect a character he killed off and write a new novel dedicated to her.

Over the years and with the advent of social media, fans have more access to their favorite shows. People who like The Magicians can explore a website dedicated to Brakebills, the fictional school that the characters attend. Casts of Orphan Black, Shadowhunters and the Magicians all tweet and interact with fans while episodes air. Like Breaking Bad, Orphan Black has a behind-the-scenes show following every episode with cast members, writers, extra footage and more. That’s not including Comicon and other appearances, plus promotion tours and the like.

So with all the fan outreach to promote and encourage viewership of shows, fans can end up feeling as though they should be able to dictate plot development, casting decisions and more. When he was playing Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Wesley Crusher, Wil Wheaton was excoriated at public appearances by fans of the show who were annoyed by the character. To put it another way, people lashed out at a real, live actor because they didn’t like the pretend person he portrayed.

I’m not going to lie:  If George R.R. Martin were to get in an accident near my house and I had to shelter him during a storm, I’d at least ask him about Winds of Winter. My daughter, who just finished the fifth Harry Potter book, has said on more than one occasion that if she ever met J.K. Rowling, she’d ask for a novel (or series) about Severus Snape, easily the most misunderstood character in the series.

But people tend to flock to the Internet, like newspapers before it, only if they really hate or really love something. That’s what I love about the article: exploring the good and bad sides of extreme fandom.

The Entitled Fan

T Minus Seven Days


I don’t know if it’s a side effect of me needing to connect to other parents and their kids when my children were toddlers, but now my offspring come to expect a JAM-PACKED SUMMER FILLED WITH ALL THE ACTIVITIES.

This is what’s on tap:

-Four week youth yoga class for both children

-A pretty epic vacation in June and our normal shore vacation in August

-Four week kids crochet class for my daughter

-Sleepover Scouts camp for my daughter

-Family passes to an amusement park only 40 minutes away

-Family pool passes, where I will offer to pack lunches and my children will insist on waiting in line for 30 minutes for a hot dog and then return to the pool just in time for adult swim #myturnontheslide

-Summer piano lessons

(I buy them each activity books for their respective grade levels to keep their minds on school-like material and I ask them to complete four pages each day. You’d think I was demanding they become proficient in renal transplantation surgery. The piano teacher conducts a pretty awesome practicing contest, and I don’t know what’s worse: putting both kids on the same team and have my daughter accuse my son of sabotaging victory, or have them on separate teams and trash-talk one another.)

I have the activities lined up because my children do not do well with unscheduled free time that’s not in front of a television or an electronic device. There are enough kids in the neighborhood that they can find someone to ride bikes with, but they’d much rather have me make suggestions and reject them all before finding something to do themselves.

In a few years, summer will be long and boring for everyone. My children will be too young for part-time work yet too old for most organized activities. They’ll be bored at the pool and the idea of a family vacation will cause their eyes to literally roll out of their heads. That’s why I’m trying–albeit with little success–to find ways to entertain themselves now.





T Minus Seven Days