Hidden Opportunities – Raising Multilingual Children Blog Carnival

Last year, Bee and I went on what we called our “Big Adventure”. It wasn’t really that big compared to what we’ve been up to lately but instead the was the beginning of the wonderful journey we’re now on.

When spring arrived in Seattle, we were more stir crazy than normal. Not only was the winter long & dreary but I had just finished dealing with treating yet another medical flare up. As always during the trying times of my disease I am hit with the realization that I may soon fully lose my eyesight. I’ve already dealt with declining cognition for a decade and I knew that the degradation of my optic nerve probably wasn’t far behind seeing as my “new normal” is only 70% of what it used to be.

So every time I recover I’m reminded “life is short – so go live it”.

Dreams

One thing I’ve always dreamed of was traveling and seeing the wonders of the world. I had spent some number of years imagining all the things I would see with my You Can Do It Sisters (more on that in a future blog post). My email and facebook feeds were a who’s-who of inspirational bloggers and travel writers. I had voiced my wanderlust to enough friends that no one was left unaware of my longings.

Well Spring 2012 was going to be different! With the prodding and support of my husband, I was encouraged to leave my comfort zone. He wanted me to test venturing away from my safety net of friends and family in Washington State. And to do that he wanted me to TRAVEL!

So in less than a couple of weeks, we threw together a haphazard itinerary of a road-trip that Bee and I would take to drive from Seattle down to see Hubby in the Bay Area. Normally when we make this trek we always take I-5 as its called by Seattlites (also known as “The 5″ to the California peeps). The drive is fast, straight, and doesn’t offer much in the way of getting “off the beaten path”.

Big Adventure Travels

Knowing that I love National Parks, Hubby suggested that I take a different route to California that would take me by park units I haven’t seen.  So I set upon heading east and cutting down through Idaho and Nevada before heading north from SoCal to the Bay Area. Then when all was said-and-done I would head back up to Seattle to recover.

As we set out we had no goal. No time frame. We just packed up and hit the road.

As we set off on our great road trip, we stopped anywhere and everywhere that interested us. Bee had definitely grown enough that now, at the big age of 4-years-old, she was able to express her interest or disinterest in particular sights. This was a growing point for us. No longer was it about me just leading the travel planning but Bee was now just as involved. Some of her favorite choices turned out to be places I would not have originally chosen. For example, while visiting Nancy Sathre-Vogel and family in Boise, Idaho, Bee asked to visit the Warhawk Air Museum.

The Native American Connection

One thing that surprised me the most was the ability for Bee to stitch together larger concepts and ideas while we went along on our trip!

It began when we saw the sign for the Wanapum Dam Tour off the side of the road in Vantage, Washington. We stopped for what we thought would be a tour of how hydroelectricity and dams are created (a random passion of Bee’s). Sadly the tours were temporarily shut down due to national security threat but interestingly enough there was a Wanapum Heritage Center also located on the site.

Inside the facility we learned about the Wanapum “River People”. There were displays and exhibits which explained about their ancestry, heritage, important impacts they had on the development of the region, their struggles with the federal government, and their attempts to pass on their traditions to a new generation.

It was a great introduction to a topic of Native Americans for Bee.

Further down the road in Richland, Washington, we stopped at the CREHST History, Science, & Technology Museum. Mainly focused on the development of atomic technologies and the Hanford Nuclear Facility, there was a small portion of this museum that that highlighted the environment, animals, and native peoples of the area.

The next day we stopped by the Sacajawea State Park located in Pasco, Washington. Unlike the other locations which had scale models, this one has and Interpretive Cultural Center with full-size, walk-in replica! While focused on Shoshone Indian Sacajawea, the discussion of her life and how it related to the Lewis & Clark Expedition across America added more pieces to the puzzle. Mainly discussing the colonialism of Western cultures and how it intersected with Native populations.

To end our time in Washington State, we visited Whitman Mission National Historic Site. This was a culmination in the different viewpoints and stories we’ve seen of the interaction between native peoples and the new emigrants to the area (explorers, traders, missionaries, and settlers). The relationship between the Cayuse natives of the Columbia Plateau and the Whitman missionary family was a tense one. While coexisting for a decade, there were tensions that ran deep between the two cultures. When a measles and cholera outbreak there was a hostage situation and then a massacre at the Whitman homestead. This lead to the Cayuse War and the near decimation of the Cayuse culture.

Those Hidden Opportunities

The road trip of our lifetime lead to new opportunities and learnings about Bee & I.

Bee surprised me with her threading together of complex ideas. While I didn’t expect any retention of each site, I was amazed that she’s connected the heritage, the conflicts, and the cultural differences between Native Americans and the Euro-American Caucasians. She was able to communicate about daily life of the native people of the area. She retained information on reasons why the cultures had problems connecting including language, beliefs, health, and traditions. It was truly astounding to see such a little girl understand larger philosophical and historical thoughts.

Bee was able to build upon this topic as we continued our travels through the Western United States. It was at this time that I realized that she would learn more about life from roadschooling or worldschooling. This was such an amazing leap of thought for me as it was not the “typical American childhood”. I knew, though, that this was infinitely better for her style of learning than sitting in a preschool classroom making macaroni art projects.

The trip proved that, while still challenging with my illness (we had to cut it short due to yet another flare up), we were able to accomplish seeing and learning about new things in the world. And while this set out as a chance to try to make my dreams come true, it highlighted the fact that Bee has her own dreams and goals. It encouraged me to let Bee in the lead sometimes to follow her own passions. I guess one could say that we learned so much about each others abilities and desires. In the end it helped solidify our family towards an unschooling focus in locations around the world.

 

America’s Best Idea!

Mt. Rainier National Park

Quite seriously one of our favorite pastimes is visiting the various gems our country has within the National Park System. These parks include areas of grand landscapes, beautiful shorelines, historical landmarks, exploratory trails, educational opportunities, ability for physical activities & sports, and allow the public to “own” a little piece of Heaven!

Growing up in the shadow of Mt. Rainier National Park, I was instilled with a love of the outdoors at a young age. I remember the weekend adventures taken with my father to go hiking at some of the wonderful rainforest and alpine locales within the park such as Mowich Lake or the Carbon Glacier Trail. I’ll be the first to admit, I was a stubborn kid who didn’t fully appreciate those hikes or the outdoors, but looking back on it, I’m nostalgic for those trips.

Every time I see Mt. Rainier, my heart sings a little, my pulse slows, and peace comes over my body. This is quite simply a lot of what the writers about playful living and nature deficiency disorder discuss (look for an upcoming review of “Last Child In The Woods” by Richard Louv). When Bee was born, I knew that I wanted to give her room to roam, space to breathe, and an appreciation of the great outdoors.

Do know that most (but not all) places within the National Park System have an entrance or parking fee. We found it best to just grab ourselves the America The Beautiful Annual Pass. For $80 a year, it includes: entrance for one vehicle, up to 4 adults, and all children under 15 (who are always free) into any locations run by these agencies:

  • National Park Service
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Bureau of Reclaimation

Lastly, if one is going to get out & about with one’s family to visit the National Parks and begin passport stamping, this is the year to do it. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the program (run by Eastern National) and thus every park has a special anniversary cancellation stamp to mark the occasion.

Important Informational Websites –
National Park System: http://www.nps.gov/
National Park System Annual Pass: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm
NPS Passport Cancellation Stamp Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Park_Passport_Stamps
Eastern National: http://www.easternnational.org/passport.aspx
National Park Travelers Club: http://www.parkstamps.org/
“America’s Best Idea” PBS Documentary by Ken Burns: http://www.pbs.org/nationalparks/

Finally, here’s a list of the parks we’ve been able to visit thus far. Each one will have a post written about them and linked here, so that you may find tips, tricks, thoughts, and ideas about family travel at each park. Every Friday, look for a review of a location within the National Park System.

Western (out of 57 Units)

  • Eugene O’Neill NHS
  • Fort Point NHS
  • Golden Gate NRA
  • John Muir NHS
  • Lake Mead NRA
  • Muir Woods NM
  • Pinnacles NM
  • Pipe Spring NM
  • Rosie the Riveter / WWll Home Front NHP
  • San Francisco Maritime NHP
  • Santa Monica Mountains NRA

Pacific Northwest & Alaska (out of 43 Units)

  • Hagerman Fossil Beds NM
  • Minidoka NHS
  • Klondike Gold Rush NHP
  • Mount Rainier NP

Rocky Mountain Region (out of 43 Units)

  • Golden Spike NHS
  • Zion NP

Memories And Regrets – Traveling With Young Kids Who “Don’t Remember”

Home Sweet Home Malaysia

For the past month, Bee & I have been living in Penang, Malaysia as the start of our international travel adventures. It was less than a few weeks from when we were presented with this awesome opportunity to when had passports in hand, our belongings packed up, and we were flying across the ocean to try something new.

Upon arrival, we stayed for a couple of weeks in a homestay situation where we were able to meet travelers from around the world. Add to that the fair number of travel bloggers I’ve met over the past couple of years and there’s one thing I know for certain…I missed out on the learnings and experiences of travel in my youth. Whether it was as a child or even in those “find myself” college years, I was never blessed with the life and lessons of travel.

This is my first trip outside of North America. While many people that we’ve encountered either grew up in a family that traveled far & wide or they spent time abroad in gap years and during college, I have none of that experience. To me Hawaii was a “foreign” destination when I first went there in my mid-30′s. It is for this very reason that Bee & I are setting out now to see what is beyond our borders and our understanding.

Image Credit – http://lovingwa.blogspot.com/

I grew up in stereotypical “small town” America at the base of Mt. Rainier in Washington State. It is an idealistic area dotted with farms of cattle and crops. Where blue-collar workers drive their pickup trucks along Main Street to stop at mom-and-pop businesses. The biggest annual events are one town’s Logger’s Rodeo that celebrates the area’s rich timber industry and the springtime Daffodil Parade that winds through 4 cities. Its a wonderful place so full of charm and kind people who smile while welcoming in strangers.

But at the same time, it is a very homogenous life where one’s neighbors are most likely Caucasian and the viewpoints held among the population are pretty much identical. There is not much in the way of different opinions, cultures, religion, or even culinary offerings.

One could say it was a very “white bred” or “plain Jane” sort of a place in which to be raised.

As a child I did not come into contact with those who did not look like me or who did not have similar experiences as I did growing up. I was never put into uncomfortable situations where I didn’t understand the language, the backgrounds, or the mores of the people I came into contact with.

Yet it is those experiences which help one to “Unpack the Invisible Knapsack” as it were. The realization that there are different ways to think, dress, eat, and believe pushes us beyond our sphere of understanding and grows one’s inner dialog.

It is for this very reason that I feel that travel is such an integral tool for learning and transcendence.

Now many more experienced travelers and bloggers have written great posts on why parents should incorporate travel in their children’s lives. I am not one to come up with a checklist or reasoning why (but many of the blogs listed below will give more meat to those discussions). I am just a novice myself, have no worldly experience, and am now reaching out to change things for my daughter.

I feel a pang regret for missing out on travel in those formative years. I was born & raised in the same 10-mile radius. I lived “in the city” of Seattle for 3 years during & after college, spent a few months living in the Bay Area when my Hubby was transferred there for work, and then moved back to the familiar plateau suburbs to raise my family.

As a child, I went on the obligatory childhood trip to Disneyland, saw the Grand Canyon, and visited relatives in Nebraska once. And while I don’t “remember” it per se, I do have fond feelings and a few lasting memories of the fun we had bonding as a family.

Whether it was the smell of my Dad’s convenience store coffee in his thermos as we road-tripped across the country or the excitement of my first airplane trip back in the days when one would dress up in their “Sunday Best” just to fly, there were impressions made.

When our foster children were young, we went on one *big* trip flying across the USA to Disney World. Then about 8 years ago my Hubby encouraged me to take the youngest of them to Manhattan. She was just 14 a the time and I was in my early 30′s. So began a desire to want to see and do more in this great world rather than just spend my days in the same bubble.

I have a new understanding of how precious life & time are as I’ve suffered with a couple of chronic and disabling conditions over the past decade. Along with the knowledge that travel and new experiences expand our mind and challenges grow our persona, I’m not going to let my present & future go to waste. That is specifically why with our biological child, little Miss Bee, I’m going to do everything in my power to show her the world!

Ardenwood Farm Is The Place To Be

Our first adventure to the Bay Area was a vacation to see where Hubby’s new office was located. While he worked, Bee & I were at a loss of exactly what to do or where to go. We were great explorers in our own Pacific Northwest backyard and even on holidays to visit friends. But how to approach what was soon-to-be our new home base? Hubby was lucky enough to have been raised in the Tri-Cities area so he knew how to navigate around, all the spots to see, and then some!

On our way to drop him off every day, we passed by the sign for Ardenwood Historic Farm. He admitted it was one place that he had never experienced or visited even though it was right down the street from his childhood home, his High School, and now even his new job. That intrigued me. And upon seeing a banner announcing their annual Rail Fair I just knew we had to visit because of Bee’s love of trains (or actually all things transportation)!

Run by the East Bay Recreational Park District, Ardenwood is nestled right where the I-880 & I-84 (Decoto/Dumbarton Bridge) intersect. And tucked back from Ardenwood Boulevard one would never know how amazing and immense this park property really is. With an historic Victorian-era mansion, working farm, enclosed railway and station depot, open picnic areas, and lush forests covering over 205 acres there is something for everyone in the family here!

The main building on the site, the Patterson House (run by the City of Fremont) dating back to the 1850s, is a glorious testament to the original “growth industry” of the Silicon Valley…farming! On the National Register of Historic Places, this mansion is open from Thursdays through Sundays for tours led by period-dressed docents. They even have times set aside on Friday afternoons specifically for families who want to go through the house with children under 6 (and thus necessitating a shorter/more concise tour).

In addition to the main mansion, there are several outbuildings that include a windmill, blacksmith shop, milk house, greenhouses, barns, a granary, and various others. This is truly a working and active farm that appeals to all ages and walks of life. Where else can one make an entire day of a picnic, be up-close-and-personal with farm animals, eat food made in wood-burning antique stoves, learn various turn of the 20th Century homemaking and agriculture lessons, ride a train, and watch people smithing items for use on the farm?

Bee and I have been here at least a couple dozen times since moving here. It is generally a weekly adventure for us to take a day just to relax and participate in farm life (which sort of reminds me of the romanticized childhood farm I grew up on). Between the Toddler Time classes on Tuesdays to the weekend activities (such as farm chores for kids, outdoor games, cooking demonstrations, monarch chrysalis hunting, and Victorian crafts) to the special events they host throughout the year, this is a place that we will keep coming to again and again. In fact, you’ll see a few posts in the coming weeks about some of their annual gatherings that really endear memories in a child’s eyes!

Location: Ardenwood Historic Farm
34600 Ardenwood Blvd.
Fremont, CA 94555
Phone: 510-544-2797
Website: http://www.ebparks.org/parks/ardenwood
Hours: 
Thursday – Sunday: 10 AM – 4 PM (Open on Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day; Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day)
Cost: Tuesday, Wednesday, & Saturday*: $2/adults (18+ years), $2/Seniors (62+ years), $1/Children (4-17 years), and FREE/Children under 4.
Thursday, Friday, & Sunday*: $5/adults (18+ years), $4/Seniors (62+ years), $4/Children (4-17 years), and FREE/Children under 4.
*This is based on their Summer rate good from April 1, 2011 to November 20, 2011.

Special Event Entry Fee**: $8/adults (18+ years), $6/Seniors (62+ years), $5/Children (4-17 years), and FREE/Children under 4.
**Special event entry fees may vary. Please call (510) 544-2797 for updated information.

Notes:
DO be willing and prepared to spend a whole day here.
DO bring a picnic lunch.
DO bring a stroller if you need one as they are allowed.
DO bring cash if you would like to purchase anything from or donate to the Railway Museum or the Blacksmith Shop.

DON’T BRING DOGS OR BIKES AS THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED!
DON’T let your children pick & pull up the plants {I have seen some horrific things} as this farm takes great care and many volunteer hours to be as vibrant as it is.
DON’T take the view from Ardenwood Blvd. at face value. This park is so big and isolated you’d never know it from the street.

 

A Wild Day North of Las Vegas

Every year, Bee & I spend a few weeks in Las Vegas, Nevada with dear friends. While visiting them on our Big Adventure last spring, they invited us to join in one of their favorite children’s spots, Roos-N-More Zoo!

An hour north of Las Vegas, Roos-N-More is a nationally accredited zoo that offers education and interaction with over 160 animals. It is available for private group tours (such as schools & scouting troops) as well as birthday party rentals. On various days throughout the year they are open to the public. At each of their events, both public & private, attendees have the opportunity to get up-close and personal with the animals. This includes petting some, feeding others, and taking pictures with many of them.

What kinds of animals can be found at Roos-N-More? A few of the varieties you’ll find are camels, zebras, toucans, otters, lemurs, boa constrictors, armadillos, and of course kangaroos!

Luckily we just happened to be in town for their 2nd Annual Animal Enrichment Day! In addition to their regular public days, they had informative presentations, face painting, games, raffles, and a food truck to keep the humans satisfied.

There was so much to see it was a bit overwhelming at first. Of course, Bee headed straight for the camel. She was a little shy to sit on him (or was it a her!?!) but still enjoyed petting it. One of our friends was kind enough to stand in the line for the capuchin monkey which was a hit with the kids (especially when it would climb on their shoulders and head). Another hit was the goat’s pen where the girls could run in circles after them petting each one.

I can’t believe that for us showing up early (which mind you, we are not morning people), that we still weren’t able to see all of the animals there in time. Around noonish the sun became unbearable and we were very thankful for the food truck that offered items such as burgers, tacos, hot dogs, churros, and humongous sno-cones!

In the end, the girls had a blast and I would definitely recommend a trip out that way if you are in the Las Vegas area!

Location: Roos-N-More
746 Snowden Ranch Road
Moapa Town, NV 89025
Phone: 702-467-3585
Website: http://www.roosnmore.org/
Hours: Day/Times vary as they are only publicly open a couple days a month. Check their event calendar for more information.
Cost: $10 general admission; 2 & Under FREE

Notes:

  • Do bring cash! While they are capable of taking debit/credit for entrance, their “gift shop” does not.
  • Don’t drive your nice cars. There’s a bit of off-roading on dirt roads to get to the Zoo. Don’t even attempt lowered cars.
  • Do take sunscreen and hats. I know this is par for the course in Vegas, I just thought I’d throw in a reminder.
  • Don’t go on windy days. Being the desert, just a little bit of wind equals a fair amount of dust clouds in the air.
  • Do get there as early as possible. As the day wears on into the afternoon it can get pretty darned hot.
  • Don’t bring pets or outside food!

A short video: