Hawaii – The Big Island

We took a wonderful trip to the Big Island of Hawaii this month with our extended family. It is a great time for all of us, but especially for Theo to spend time playing with his two cousins. We enjoyed going to the beach and seeing the sights around the island. Continue reading

Freenotes Harmony Park – Moab

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Last summer, I wrote a post about Fun Playgrounds around the state of Utah. They were spread all over the state and I didn’t know if we would ever have the chance to visit any of them in person. We spent last weekend in Moab, Utah and while I was planning our itinerary of activities, I remembered the post and the playground in Moab! I actually had to search through my archives and find the reference so I could be reminded of what exactly the playground was. And we made it!

The Freenotes Harmony Park in Moab is a part of their Rotary Park and is tucked away from the main town of Moab. It is quiet and relatively lush (green grass and trees) which is a contrast from the red rock and sand you see everywhere else. As soon as Theo saw the large musical instrument structures, he exclaimed, “This is awesome!”

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The philosophy behind the Freenotes Harmony parks (there are several around the country) is that recycling materials into aesthetically pleasing (both visually and aurally) structures in a natural setting can produce educational opportunities for kids. There were a lot of different types of “instruments” to play — from banging on drums to using the provided mallets to hit chimes and pipes. It was beautiful to hear all of the kids playing, even as we were walking away from the park back to our car.

I’m so glad we got the chance to try out something that I had once recommended on this website but hadn’t actually tried — and to discover that we indeed loved it! We had a great time in Moab (perhaps a post for another day) but it was a special treat to stop by this park.

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Utah Pride Festival 2016

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One of my main goals as a parent is to raise Theo to be an ally for LGBTQ+ issues. Theo’s uncle (my brother) is gay and married, and having two uncles is normal for Theo. He also has classmates and friends at school with two moms and two dads, so it’s just a part of regular life for him. One way to show our support to this community is to attend the annual Utah Pride Festival which is now in its 41st year!

The image above (from the Pride Festival’s Facebook page) includes a lot of the information that is relevant to families and kids, but one event I want to highlight is a Children’s Book Reading to be held on Saturday, June 4th from 3-5pm. Storytellers from The King’s English Bookshop will be reading picture book favorites at the Library Outdoor Amphitheater at Library Square during this time.

Bring your family and have some fun this weekend! Remember that kids 10 and under are free with an adult, and adults can buy their tickets to the Festival here.

Inversion Protection

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Courtesy of The Salt Lake Tribune

As I type this, I’m looking out my windows into a haze of nondescript gray haze. It looks much like the photo above of the Utah State Capitol, which is at the same elevation as where I live.

I downloaded the Utah Air app for my phone and watch with increasing dismay at the hazardous levels of air quality in our city. Theo’s school is keeping kids inside for recess during the day. I have a scratch in my throat and congestion that I fear is due to the conditions outside rather than a virus. It’s sad to say that it’s come to this, but I’ve started to do a little research about face masks, especially for kids.

Here are a few choices I’ve discovered:

Vogmask

  • You can purchase at the link above or they are sold on Amazon
  • They have a wide range of sizes, starting from XS (10-24 lbs), S (25-50 lbs) and M (51-120 lbs) as well as larger sizes for adults
  • There are lots of different patterns and designs to choose from

Scough

  • This is a combination mask/scarf so it is a more discreet way to protect your face than a mask
  • It purports to block not only air pollutants but also germs that cause illness
  • Comes in kids styles/sizes (more like a neck gaitor) as well as longer scarves
  • As I was doing research, it seemed that the effectiveness of an air mask is in large part due to the seal around the nose and mouth. This scarf is much looser around the face.

3M Mask

  • No frills, actual mask used to protect against fine particulate matter
  • Disposable, rather than the reusable (with replacement filters) masks like the ones above
  • Less expensive per unit, but again, disposable

I think there’s definitely a trade-off between what a kid (or adult, for that matter) will actually wear vs. the effectiveness of the mask.

Of course, getting a mask at all is just putting a short-term Band-aid on the overall problem of our poor air quality. During days like these when the air is literally in our face and we can’t ignore it, consider learning more about groups like Utah Moms for Clean Air who are working towards a healthier environment for all of us.

Fun Playgrounds Around Utah

This is a quick post based off of this fun article, “Utah’s 5 Coolest Playgrounds.” We haven’t been to any of these, but need to keep these in mind if we’re ever headed on a roadtrip and need a place to stop and get some wiggles out.

At a glance, the playgrounds listed in the article are below. I made a little map showing the various locations since I am not well-versed in Utah geography beyond the SLC area.

  • A – Castle Heights Playground in Fruit Heights
  • B – Wild West Playground in Jordan
  • C – Freenotes Harmony Park in Moab
  • D – Electric Park in Layton
  • E – Adventure Playground in Logan
If anyone has been to any of these playgrounds and can vouch for the accuracy of this article, please let me know!

Memory Grove – Discovery Day

We went to a great “Discovery Day” at Memory Grove Park last weekend, which was sponsored by the Utah Heritage Foundation. Inside the Memorial House, they had super fun indoor activities for the kids, all around a structure/building/architecture theme. They had cookie stacking (Theo got 27!), building out of toothpicks and gumdrops, and making stained glass windows out of black construction paper and colored tissue paper. I got really into my stained glass window project while Theo was building his gumdrop structure.

They also provided a “scavenger hunt” worksheet that had pictures of different aspects of the various buildings around the Park. You had to go outside and match up the pictures with the buildings on the worksheet, which took you around the whole park. We went to the Meditation Chapel which I had never been inside, and they had a tour guide there to allow the public to see the interior. It is tiny and so beautiful with stained glass windows commemorating the four services of the US military, and a small bench and altar. The entrance gates look out over the park and line up exactly with the cupola of the Capitol building. I could totally imagine sitting inside and being meditative and peaceful.

We ended the outing with Theo and his dad exploring the pathway that leads from the park up to the Avenues, where we live. I met them all the way up the hill in our car and we vowed to one day walk all the way from our house down to the park again. Such gorgeous scenery so close to downtown/Capitol/Avenues and we are glad that this Discovery Day activity brought us out to enjoy it.

Halloween 2014 – by Aimee

My amazing friend Aimee always puts together a wonderful list of Halloween activities every year. I asked her if she would mind if I borrowed her expertise for a “guest blog post” and she has supplied a great and comprehensive list! Here are Aimee’s Halloween Adventures:

Red Butte Garden – Garden After Dark, Once Upon a Fairytale
Oct 16, 17, 18 & 23, 24, 25; 6-9pm 
The Garden has been overrun with your favorite fairytales! From wicked brambles to magic pumpkins, plants are surprisingly prevalent in these famous tales. Enjoy an enchanted evening exploring these connections and hunting for signs of fairytale villains hidden throughout the Garden.
With crafts, activities, light displays and more, this is an event you definitely don’t want to miss! This is an indoor/outdoor, costume, and kid-friendly experience in the Garden to celebrate Halloween.
 
Gardner Village – Witchfest
Now – Oct 31
Lots of events: Witches Brew Ha Ha 5K run/walk; Breakfast with a Witch; Wee Witches Playground. The village is decorated up for the season, and there’s a fun scavenger hunt that will get you peeking around every corner to find the hidden witches.  
 
Sugarhouse Park – Ginormous Pumpkin Regatta
Oct 18; Carving Noon – 1pm, Race: 1pm – 3pm
The 4th Annual Mountain Valley Seed Co. Ginormous Pumpkin Regatta will take place Saturday October 18th from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm at Sugarhouse Park. Pumpkin carving from 12:00 to 1:00 and race from 1:00 to 3:00. Come watch these heroic growers race their 1,000 lb. plus pumpkins for love, honor and bragging rights.
Cinderella in her Giant Pumpkin carriage


CLAS Ropes Course in Provo – Halloween River Cruise
Oct 1-31; 6:30 until 9:00pm on weekdays, and 10pm on Fri and Sat
A fun 20-minute boat ride along the decorated stretch of Provo River. Not too scary, but pretty and fun to be outdoors during a beautiful fall season. Be sure to print a coupon from the website. 
 
Utah Symphony – Halloween Hi-Jinx
Oct 28; 7 pm
A HUGE costume contest and the best-quality spooky classical music – you can’t go wrong! Tickets start at $8 and little kids three years old and younger can sit on a lap. Check out the program line up, and borrow some of the music from your library or buy it for your iPod and you’ll be a musical expert.
 
Hogle Zoo – Boo at the Zoo
Oct 25; 9am-3pm
Every October, the Zoo puts out a casting call for all princesses, cowboys, superheroes and wild things! Kids 12 and under can come in costume to trick-or-treat at booths set up throughout the zoo grounds. There will be lots of candy and lots to see and do.  Trick-or-Treating activity is free with regular Zoo admission or membership.
 
Wheeler Historic Farm – Pumpkin Days and Haybale Maze
Sept 26-Oct 31; 11am until 8pm weekdays and 9 pm weekends; 10am-3pm Sundays
Hay maze, wagon ride, and a pumpkin to take home. The farm is also hosting a doggie Halloween costume contest and a festival of scarecrows.
 
Thanksgiving Point – Halloween Central “A Nod to Oz”
Oct 3 – Nov 1
Cornbelly’s Corn Maze and Emerald City at Farm Country include lots of fun kids’ stuff. You can add on the Insanity Point haunted attractions if you’re really brave.
 
Heber Valley Railroad – Pumpkin Festival
Lots of outings from Oct 9 – Oct 30
You and your kids will enjoy the annual Pumpkin Festival trains. Your ticket includes a short 40 minute train ride where you will be entertained on board by costumed entertainers! You’ll also get to sample a pumpkin cookie.  At the depot you can take a trip through the fairly spooky haunted car, and then get a Halloween sticker or temporary tattoo.  And of course you also get to select a pumpkin from the Pumpkin Patch and take it home with you! Additional food and snacks will be available for purchase at the depot and in the concession car.
 
Tracy Aviary – Halloween Hoot
In previous years, a few days during October offered discounted tickets for costumed kids. Nothing scheduled yet, but keep checking with them.
 
Retirement / Assisted Living Home Costume Parade

We love to dress up in our costumes, make some fudge, and hand it out to people living at “old folks’ homes.” Call a facility in your neighborhood and ask if you can schedule a little visit. We like to go during social hour when the residents usually gather in the dining room or lounge. We stay for about 30 minutes and hand out our treats, discuss all things Halloween, and make some new friends.

Long Train Journey

Last month we went on a true Adventure when we took the Amtrak train (the “California Zephyr”) from Salt Lake City to Colorado (Glenwood Springs). Our final destination was Snowmass Village, Colorado (which is near Aspen) where we attended the Utah Bar convention.

The train trip itself went very well — even though it was 9 hours each way. We brought our portable DVD player (along with several “new” DVDs we borrowed from the library) and busied ourselves with napping, watching the scenery along the way, and stopping at the cafe cart for snacks.

The Snowmass Village area was beautiful and we enjoyed taking several gondola rides and going on hikes in the area. We went swimming every day at the hotel pool and had some great meals. We even stumbled upon an outdoor concert with a great view of the entire valley.

Although we had a great vacation, there was definitely a downside to our grand train adventure. The trains were insanely delayed both times. By several hours. Train travel in the US is definitely not for people who are on any kind of schedule or timeframe — it is only best enjoyed if you have no pressing need to arrive at your destination at any particular time. We also had to deal with leaving and arriving in the middle of the night (3-4am). Theo was a trooper and took it all in stride, but this means of travel may not be in our future ever again. Perhaps this is only what it’s like in the Mountain West (we’ve taken Amtrak on the East coast without any problems lots of times) but if you need to travel between California and Chicago (which is the route our train took) be prepared to do a lot of waiting and be very relaxed about your schedule.

Park City Escape

A few weeks ago we went on a short 24-hour getaway to Park City with some friends, and it was a great little escape. We went up for the Deer Valley Music Festival’s Disney concert and arrived early on a Friday evening. We stayed at a great condo in Deer Valley and were able to eat dinner and settle in before the concert.

The kids loved the concert! They wanted to stay until they could hear the songs from “Frozen” which meant that we stayed until the very end, which was around 10pm. We still had to navigate the packed parking lot, but were happy to only drive a few minutes until we got to the condo. The kids went to bed immediately and we were all ready to relax and rest.

The next day, we woke and ate a casual breakfast at the condo and then headed out to Park City’s Main Street for the Kimball Arts Festival. The traffic going into Park City the day before had been really terrible since they blocked off lanes for the exclusive use of shuttle buses. We took advantage of these (free!) buses on Saturday and were able to get in and out of Main Street easily without having to worry about parking.

There was a special kids area with activities and we watched a pottery demonstration. The adults enjoyed looking at all the various artists’ work while the kids focused on things like snow cones. We had a nice lunch at a restaurant on Main Street and then headed back to the condo. The kids took a quick dip in the hot tub while the adults finished packing up and then we said goodbye to Park City!

It was a great little respite from the heat of the Salt Lake valley and felt like we were really away from the daily grind. So glad that we live near someplace that can feel like we’re so far away!