Top 5 Educational Toys for 2017

If you’re like me, you’re never entering a toy store with your child. Why would you torture yourself like that? It’s the third level of hell. Most of the toys you’ll see are pura caca: they’re cheaply made, un-educational, and going to die a slow death crushed to pieces under the weight of all the other crap smashing it in your toddler’s overflowing toy box. Worse, your child is going to pull boxes off the shelves, shout about wanting every toy, and you might accidentally impulse buy a drone because, let’s face it, those look pretty sweet with the VR Helmets and attachable NERF rockets.

Thankfully the web helps us avoid those problems, but, being a parent is difficult enough without having to sift through the internet looking for the top educational toys for your child. Luckily for you, I have some free time today so I’ve compiled my favorite list of toys that I’m considering buying my toddler for the holiday season this year.

Affiliate link disclosure: You may find affiliate links in this blog post. As an Amazon Associate, I earn on qualifying purchases. You can read my full disclosure here.

Top Educational Toys for Children for the 2017 Holiday Season

SmartMax Start XL 

If you’re looking for a toy that will encourage your child’s spatial and logical awareness while building and replicating awesome structures with a long-lasting toy, then the SmartMax Start XL is the best choice for you! The pieces are large enough that it’s safe for children as young as 1-year-old, but they’re colorful and engaging enough for an older toddler. Your little architect can learn about the power of magnetism while practicing their engineering skills. Seriously considering this as the next toy for my little Auburn! Click the image to check it out!

Amazon Fire 7 for Kids

Honestly, I’m tired of my daughter taking over my Kindle to play her games, I wanna play my games! So it’s about time I get her the All-New Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet with Kid-Proof Case so we can play together! For less than $100, this is perfect choice for my top educational toys! It comes with a two-year guarantee that if your child breaks, they’ll replace it, which is the best peace of mind you can offer us parents, in my opinion! It includes a free year of FreeTime, which gives them access to educational videos, games, books, PBS and Disney, for starters. And if you’re looking to buy more than one? There’s currently a variety-pack promotion that you can buy two of these tablets for just $149.98!
You know the drill, click the image or the links to check it out!

Mini Kick Scooter with Light Up Wheels

Okay, I’ve been geeking out over these Mini Kick Scooter 3 Wheels! So jealous I’m not a little kid and would probably crack the axels of one of these because I’m a chubby, old man super handsome, stacked, 30-year-old. I see other kids whipping around on these, wheels flashing multicolors, leaning to steer and slaloming between pedestrians, uggggh, I wanna do that! The next best option is buying one for my daughter so her childhood can be happy and I can imagine mine was, too. Without one of these scooters, however, I can’t lie to myself, childhood sucked. But how is this educational you ask? Duh! It teaches kids how to be awesome-looking. Also, balance and depth-perception are important parts of physical intelligence. 

This model is less expensive than some its better-known competitors but doesn’t sacrifice on quality. I honestly think the only difference in price (this is one better!) is the cost of marketing. Probably because they get free marketing from thoughtful parents like yours truly.

Check it out via the link or the picture, it comes in several different colors!

Tegu 42 Piece Magnetic Wooden Block Set

I’m having a very difficult time choosing between the SmartMax Start XL and this 42 Piece Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set! I honestly can’t recommend one over the other because they both look awesome, have a sturdy build, and will teach your child about magnetism, engineering, and spatial awareness. I would like your feedback in the comments to let me know what one you like better to help me decide!
Again, click the image to check it out!

Super Nintendo Classic Edition 

Yup! I’m going there, the Super Nintendo Classic Edition is making my list of top educational toys for 2018. Firstly, don’t give me your ‘video games aren’t educational!’ nonsense. You obviously haven’t ever played video games, researched their benefits, or been crushed by a rival in Mario Kart. Video games teach kids all sorts of things: eye-hand coordination, pattern recognition, increases memory skills, improves brain speed, and if you’d ever been crushed by an annoying rival in Mario Kart, then would know that it teaches you humility and improved social skills. 

Also, I grew up on a Super Nintendo so maybe this is just my nostalgia speaking, but Star Fox is the greatest game ever invented. You might disagree, but that’s because you’re an idiot. Click the link or the image to see what other games that come included you could incorrectly argue are better than Star Fox.

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking for the top educational toys to help your child build, improve their balance, or increase their eye-hand coordination, any of these can help your child grow into a more complete human.

I don’t take my choices for the top educational toys lightly. You’re welcome for doing your holiday shopping.

Shopping for children is a serious business of making smart choices–choose wisely.

How Traveling as a Single Parent Kills Your Children

Affiliate link disclosure: You may find affiliate links in this blog post. As an Amazon Associate, I earn on qualifying purchases. You can read my full disclosure here.

I felt it coming, but I didn’t know what it was. My stomach was cramping, my head was spinning, I could feel my blood pressure dropping, and my only thoughts were of my sleeping 3-year-old and how she would wake up to her daddy dead on the floor then she would die a week later of starvation.

Thankfully, I did not die. Or did I? And I’m writing this from the grave, you decide.

single parent travel
Me, happy to not die

Questioning the Idea of Single Parent Travel

Bad dad jokes aside, food poisoning is no laughing matter. In fact, it made me seriously reconsider my efforts in single parent travel. Why? Well, what if I did die? What would happen to my daughter? What would her memory and experience be? When you think you’re dying from food poisoning, these thoughts burst into your head and rip apart your moral foundation, convince you that you are a fool, and shred your sense of self-worth.



For me, the poisoning came full-force as I stumbled into the bathroom of our bungalow. Cautioning my readers here: it’s about to get graphic. Without aim, purpose, or an ability to control any bodily function, I painted the wall, floor, and wash bucket with vomit. I literally had no idea my body could hold that much inside of it. At this point, I was sure I was dying, and it happened, again and again, throughout the night. Seriously, how does my stomach hold that much fluid in it? I’m not sure, it was nasty you guys, for real.

single parent travel
The bungalow I nearly died in

Before this, I’d had food poisoning before, twice, in fact. But this was serious. What had it been? Auburn and I had eaten the same food, but she didn’t get sick thankfully. There’s only one food it could have been: street food in Thailand, specifically, grilled chicken and pork. I can’t remember who ate what, exactly, but Auburn and I definitely ate together and shared our food. Thankfully, I ate the bad part and suffered the consequences. She slept through the night.

Every time my body convulsed and ejected another round of fluids, I can remember thinking, ‘this is how I die, and Auburn will wake up to find her Daddy dead in a pile of his own puke, what a fucking mistake this was.’

Single parent travel
Somebody who loves Thailand: Auburn!

Surviving the Qualms

As with any negative horrible experience, you gotta push through, just like I did. I spent the whole night convulsing, the next day in shambles, and far too much time pondering the mistake I had made moving to Thailand alone with my daughter, but it was all worth it.

Yeah, cliché right? I don’t want to ever catch food poisoning again, but if it means that my daughter will get to see the world and grow up outside of any bubble that society can place her in, then that’s a life lived right and a parenthood I can be proud of.

single parent travel
A great reason to live in Thailand, the people! They’re super nice. This lady stopped her bike just to smile at Auburn 😀

I would recommend single parent travel, or duo-parent travel for that matter, to anyone who has children. You’re going to suffer along the way, yes, but you’re going to suffer no matter where you are, it’s just a point of choosing your suffering. I choose food poisoning over a 9-5, the loneliness of living outside of the USA over the comforts of it that make me fat and stupid, and I choose for my daughter to see the world over any desire I have to fit in with anyone else.

I have my best friend seeing the world with me, bring on the pain!


Traveling with children makes children as wise as it makes the parents strong; wisen-up the kids, strengthen yourself.

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A Daughter Abroad: Language-Learning, Dancing, and Dissing on Dim Sum

We’ve been in Hong Kong for roughly six weeks now and Auburn has been going to a local Kindergarten for a month. What do I mean by ‘local’ kindergarten? It means it’s not an international school where everyone speaks and is spoken to in English, as is very common for Western children to attend while in Hong Kong. So what does this mean for my little Auburn?

She’s Learning Cantonese

Being half-Chinese, with grandparents who don’t speak English any better than I speak Cantonese makes it difficult for her to get to know them. Also, it makes it difficult for her grandparents to discipline and take care of her.

So? She’s going to be spending this year learning Cantonese!


After one month, I’ve already seen some improvement in her Cantonese abilities. She’s definitely understanding some things and able to translate a bit of it and she’s able to chorally repeat things she hears even though her understanding and ability to come up with Cantonese phrases on her own isn’t there yet. If she’s asked to repeat something in Cantonese, she can follow the tones well, use the correct words most of the time, and it makes people here giggle!

Learning To Dance

Auburn started dance class yesterday. She’s begun her ballet! So how did the first day go? It was a rough start, but it ended with a giant smile on her chubber- face! Btw, she asks me what I mean when I call her ‘chubbers,’ and I just tell her it means super-cute, but really it means her cheeks are squishy and kissable cuz they’re a bit chubby!

A daughter abroad
Look at the chubbers!

Luckily, she had a classmate/friend in dance class with her, but that didn’t get her too warm because all the other girls had on their ballet costumes when we got there. Auburn was not happy about this, she did not want to dance without her costume so she crossed her arms, left the room, and walked to the door saying that she didn’t want to dance.

Luckily, her grandma had purchased her dress, tights, and they just needed to size her shoes to get her a pair. Once she saw she would be able to get into a sparkly, purple dress, her mood quickly changed, as is common with my little monster girl.

A daughter abroad
Dancing outside…with a mustard stain!

After dance class, she spent the evening showing her grandma and me all her moves and making sure we were practicing them, too. She slept in her tights and insisted she wore them to school this morning. Fair to say she’s obsessed and I might regret this decision in the future! We’ll see how it plays out, though. Auburn already has what Hong Kongers call ‘gong zhu bang’ (pardon my horrible pinyin), or what roughly translates to English as, ‘Hong Kong Princess Disease,’ and I’m certain letting her into ballet will only reinforce her princessy-ness.

So what is it like to raise a daughter abroad? It’s complicated 🙂

She Hates Dim Sum

If you’re not sure what dim sum is, it’s a traditional Chinese cuisine that is made of unrecognizable food if you’ve only eaten Western food, served on plates that everyone eats off of at the same time. I know my first time eating it in Hong Kong I thought it was slimy, bizarre, and a struggle to eat and understand the etiquette of. Now that I’ve had it probably 10 times, I know it’s delicious, healthy (mostly), and I have no problem sharing plates with people anymore.

A daughter abroad
Auburn as a youngster at a dim sum restaurant 🙂

Auburn, however, does not appreciate anything that comes with eating dim sum. Except, that is, for the Chinese donuts that come with a sugary, creamy sauce she can dunk them in.

A Daughter Abroad: I’ll Keep You Informed

Month-by-month I’ll be keeping you updated on Auburn’s experience and, most importantly, how she is coming along with her language-learning. I hope you stay in touch!

Do you think it’s important to teach children a new language? I do! Let me hear your thoughts in the comments 🙂

Good Parenting and How to Shut Up About It

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Everyone who is not a parent assumes that everyone who is a parent sucks at it. Everyone who is a parent doesn’t give a f*ck about what other people think. I’m in the latter group. Other people’s opinions are irrelevant. That is, except for one: my daughter’s.

The most important thing I can distinguish that makes me a good parent? I know how to shut the f*ck up. Blah, blah, blah I hear people say to their kids, including myself. The best thing I’ve learned, however, is how to cease the blah, blah, blahs.

“Don’t do [this or that].” “Be careful.” “Quiet!” I’m not sure how many times I repeated these futile remarks until I realized one day: they are all a waste of time. Now? I don’t want to waste my time, nor pretend like talking a lesson is going to teach my daughter anything.

Certainly, it didn’t stop her from dropping the wooden swing on her own head.

A Story of a Falling Child, Good parenting Idea #1

The other day, after I’ve warned her many times, “be careful,” she was not being careful. Auburn climbed into a circular monkey bar set, selected the highest pole and decided to hang from it. I knew what was coming, her grip would hold for maybe 10 seconds, and she was going to fall. Before I learned to shut the f*ck up, I would’ve rushed to her, possibly scolded her, and warned her again and again as she repeated this dangerous move.

good parenting
Let them smash their fingers, they’re tough!

So what’s my key to good parenting in this situation? Now that I’ve adapted my ‘shut up,’ approach. I watched and waited in anticipation as she was about to fall. Her fingers slowly slipped once, then twice, then her grip gave out. Down, down, down she fell. Feet, then butt, then her whole body, kerplunk! She looked up, searching for me, saw me watching and waited for my reaction: a neutral face. She smiled, laughed, and climbed again. “You okay?” I asked. “Yup!” She shouted back.

The moral? What a waste of time warning her (or worrying about her) again would’ve been, you know, ‘good parenting.’ She’s tough, she proves it over and over again, she doesn’t need my warnings, spoken lessons, nor vocalized concerns. If she had broken a bone, scraped up her face, or twisted an ankle, I would’ve immediately taken her to the appropriate facilities, of course. But instead she learned a lesson, “I can fall and get back up.”

A Story of Breaking Bedtime Routines

Another quick example of learning to shut up as a parent: last night before bed. We usually lie down, I’ll read her 3-5 books depending on how tired I am, and she’ll usually be asleep by the time I’m done reading them, or at least close enough to sleep I can give her a goodnight kiss and exit the room quietly.

good parenting
Sleeping, with her underwear on her head. Champion.

Last night, however, we were watching a movie during dinner, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2, and it was almost finished by the time it was bedtime, but not quite. She requested demanded that she be allowed to finish the movie. So, I gave her a choice: watch the movie before bed, or have your bedtime stories read to you. She chose the movie, which meant no stories (Lion Lessons, The Snowy Day, The First Strawberries (Picture Puffins)) from me.

So we watched until it was over, then she wanted to watch the credits and listen to the song, so we did. Then it was bedtime. “Stories?” She asked. “No,” I said, “you chose the movie.” She replied, “I’ll read them to my animals.” I gave her a goodnight kiss and left her room.

good parenting
Auburn playing Minecraft before bed, because I don’t always expect her to read books, no, just 95% of the time.

From my room, I could hear her reading repeating the stories I’ve read to her over and over again. Her stumbles, her stutters, her reading one of the Spanish books is especially hilarious because her speaking ability in Spanish is quite poor, it was all very touching and I just laid in bed listening to her from the other room. When she was done, she asked for two more minutes of snuggles, which I allowed, and she slept as well as she’s ever slept. Which, if you’ve been following our story, her sleep schedule has been one of the most difficult parts of my experience.

The moral of this one? Just because it might not be what’s considered ideal, break the conventional wisdom your own rules, shut the f*ck up, and let your child explore themselves and their routines on their own once in a while. You’ll be happier and calmer like I am. And my daughter’s opinion (the only one that matters)?

Well, not to brag, but, she says she wants to marry me one day.

Do you think allowing children to occasionally break their bedtime routine is okay? Let me know in the comments!

Affiliate link disclosure: You may find affiliate links in this blog post. As an Amazon Associate, I earn on qualifying purchases. You can read my full disclosure here.

Considering traveling abroad with children? If you are, then I’m sure you have a million questions jetting around inside your mind: is it safe to travel with children? Do you children adapt well to new cultures? Should I travel with my child? Most importantly, why should I travel with children?

Let me give you a quick answer to the penultimate question: absolutely, you should. There are always things you can do beforehand to prepare, so, prepare.

Now, let me tell you why you should travel with them. First, I’ll hopefully ease your fears, then give you two more important reasons to take your children traveling abroad.

Safety Concerns

Like any parent who is asking themselves the question if they should travel with their child, I have been concerned about my daughter’s safety abroad. More importantly, I am more concerned about her safety in the United States. It seems that every week there is a massacre of one type or another, a horrific act of violence, or a ‘mistake’ that ends in the death of a child.

Traveling with children
Auburn playing safely in Hong Kong, safety equipment and all

So if you’re worried about your child’s safety abroad, I can assure you, they are as safe as anywhere you would take them in the United States. Obviously, travel with caution and diligence; it’s probably not a good idea to take your child to Syria, Somalia, or Iraq, at the moment.

However, don’t be afraid to take your child somewhere that has historically been belittled by American/Western media. Auburn and I have been to Colombia and Vietnam, places I had heard from other Americans (who’d never been there) that I shouldn’t go there because it’s ‘dangerous!’ Now I just laugh when I hear this because I’ve never been to a place outside of the USA that felt more dangerous than living in the USA itself.

Traveling with children in vietnam
Auburn playing with her new-found friends in Ho Tram, Vietnam. I’m pretty sure this sand pile was for construction purposes so likely not the best example of traveling safely 🙂

Learning Opportunities

Can your child get a solid education in the United States? Sure, if you send them to a private school you know and trust. I may sound like a hater in this regard, but the American education system sucks, it sucks big ol’ donkey hooves.

So you think I’m a hater? Not true, I love the United States, but I also love and respect other places for knocking us around in the education department. Take for example that American education ranks just 14th in reading, 25th in maths, and a sad 17th in science.

Traveling with children, class in Ho Chi Minh City
Auburn enjoying her birthday in Ho Chi Minh City, summer camp 2016!

Now I’ll hand you over to my personal experience in public education: donkey hooves. I grew up being taught the letter ‘w’ could sometimes be used as a vowel, that Christopher Columbus was a class-act, and that the USA had never lost a war. Let me scribble that out for you: (1) is B.S., (2) is vomit-inducing, and (3) is utter nonsense. A university-education and the internet have taught me heaps more than what I could have ever hoped to learn (unlearn) from the over-lavished, sub-standard, American public education system.

Now take for example that if you travel with your child, they’ll have the opportunity to learn in a different culture (avoiding common mistakes), see things from a new perspective, and pick up on languages that you probably won’t be able to speak. Get them to put down the new iPhone, the latest gadget, and get outdoors and meet some new people! The new language alone is the best investment you can give your child. Aside from the fact that it might cost $10,000 in the future to learn a new language from a university and you can save that by simply immersing them in the language and culture, but learning a new language also changes your brain, makes you more open, and helps you understand things that monoglots cannot.

Memories Increase Your Lifespan

So maybe you don’t care about your child’s education that much or learning a new language isn’t really on your radar of things you want your child to achieve. Fair enough.

Then, for a moment, imagine a life without memories. Or, more common, a life with the same memory over and over again. How short is that life? Painfully, in my experience.

Traveling with children
Me, my daughter, and my sunburn, all together. Koh Tao, Thailand

I can remember spending each day waking up at the same time to go to the same job at the same place through the same amount of traffic. In my memories, months can pass without any significant change, and that’s where your life gets lost: when you’re not making new memories.

I don’t want to pretend like every day will be different traveling and you’ll remember everything, no, that’s not true. You can fall into routine traveling or living abroad as well. But the move itself, the plethora of new sounds, sights, smells, tastes, textures, people, all add ages to your memory. A year will no longer feel like it flies by when you live or travel abroad, a year can actually feel like a proper year, imagine that?

Traveling with children who sleep on your head
Auburn sleeping on my head in Hong Kong, a memory I won’t forget and she won’t remember 🙂

Travel, Travel Now

So your child will learn more than your standard American B.S., will pick up a new language, will be as safe as ‘back home,’ and you’ll expand your lifetime through an increased diversity of memories? That’s right; if you do it right.

Give me a shout out if you have any questions: do you agree? Disagree? Leave a comment 🙂 And don’t forget to sign up for reminders of future posts through the submission form at the bottom of the page 🙂

Traveling with children to U.P. Michigan
We didn’t have to travel far for this one, just a few hours north of home. Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan. Simply gorgeous, though it’s better in color, to be honest.

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By: Julie Morris

If you’re a single parent, you may think that single parent travel is out of the realm of possibility. There are always commitments and reasons to put yourself on the back burner, but the truth is, taking time to travel by yourself can be extremely helpful in getting to a place of self-discovery. There’s no reason to feel like you need to be forgiven for this.

It’s difficult to be our best selves when we’re faced with daily stresses and a schedule that never eases up, so in taking time for yourself, you’ll be doing something to help your relationship with your children… and yourself. So do some single parent travel and be a better person for it.

single parent travel
Get out and enjoy yourself!

The key to traveling solo is planning. Safety is always a concern, especially when you’re in a new country, so being prepared is essential. Packing the right items and knowing how to get around once you’re at your destination can help your trip go smoothly, as well.
Here are some of the best tips on traveling solo and staying safe while having fun.

Single Parent Travel, Plan Well

Do some research on your destination to find out local customs, such as how they handle tipping or shaking hands, and find out what the local scene is like. Is it customary to wear certain items of clothing?

single parent travel
Get lost if you have to, but stay safe

If so, come prepared so you won’t have to go shopping once you get there. It’s important to be able to blend in when you’re in an unfamiliar place, as tourists are often targets for theft or are taken advantage of because they don’t know any better. The more educated you are on where you are traveling to, the better off you will be.

Work out a budget

Solo traveling doesn’t have to break the bank, but you don’t want to find yourself in a tough position in a strange place, so work out a budget ahead of time and stick to it. If you’re in a foreign country and exchanged currency when you arrived, try not to carry too much of it when you go out. Ask the hotel manager if you can keep some things in their safe, including any expensive jewelry (though it’s best to leave these items at home if possible), and your ID and passport, which you can make copies of to carry with you. That way, if you lose your bag or wallet, you’ll still have the originals.

Focus on yourself

When you’re a single parent, your focus is likely almost always on your children: making sure they’re well fed and rested, taking care of anything related to school and childcare, dealing with illnesses. There’s very little time to focus on yourself, so make that a priority on your trip. Book activities that you’ve always wanted to try, and explore areas you’ve always wanted to visit. Bring a camera and journal to document everything and solidify your memories.

single parent travel
Find yourself by putting yourself in perspective

This experience is especially helpful if you’re going through recovery. Substance abuse, grief, and anxiety can take a toll on our bodies, minds, and emotions. Focusing on yourself during a solo vacation can help you get back to a healthy place and can lead to some self-discovery, which is an important part of recovery. Spending time in a new place can really help you see what areas you want to work on and eliminate from your life when you return.

For more information on how traveling can help during recovery, read on here.

Improving Yourself Improves Your Family

Remember that this trip is all about you, but that doesn’t you reap all the benefits. Find the best ways to enjoy yourself and relax, but remember to make your safety a priority at the same time so you can return safely to your children. Stay connected to someone back home and let them know where you’ll be at all times, especially if you’re going exploring.

camping with kids

Affiliate link disclosure: You may find affiliate links in this blog post. As an Amazon Associate, I earn on qualifying purchases.

One of the best things you can do for your children, in my personal experience as a child and as a parent now, is get them outdoors. The majority of my childhood memories are outdoors, and memories are what makes your life longer and more meaningful. Sure, I remember playing video games and watching TV as a child, as well, but I don’t have any particular memory that comes to mind that is nearly as enjoyable to look back on as my memories of being outside.

If you’re looking to get your child outside, take them camping! If you’re unfamiliar with who I am and what I consider to be a proper camping experience, then you should know straight away that I don’t consider using an RV to be camping. Plenty of people do, that’s fine, but we have a difference of opinion on that. Going camping is about connecting to nature, engaging with the elements, and removing as much of your comforts as you can. Now, some people are more extreme in their views of camping than even I am, but everyone has their own tastes and preferences. Here’s what I believe to be a camping experience and why is it important to go camping with your children.

Auburn and I went camping several times this summer. Tahquamenon Falls, Kitch-iti-kipi, and lots of smoked fish was on the menu. Rockstar of a summer. My dad even came out camping with us once!

camping with kids
I’m not a selfie-taker but the Upper Falls of Tahquamenon Falls deserved one

Why Should I Go Camping With My Children?

#1 Prepare for Doom!

Not really, but sort of. What if the electric grid goes down? What is a solar flare knocks out all the satellites in the sky? What if you get lost on a hike someday and can’t find the trail? Have you spent enough time outside to know that, hey, the end of the world isn’t so bad? I have, and Auburn is on her way there. She can help set up the tent, gather firewood, and prepare the food.

camping with kids
Auburn preparing some corn to cook in the fire

Camping is essentially wildlife survival training if you do it correctly. I’ve been trying to become more and more rustic in my camping adventures, but I’ll admit that I still bring along a blow-up mattress, an electric coffee maker, and a waffle iron so I definitely do not completely do rustic camping.

camping with kids
My little helper
caping with kids
It’s hammer time! Goodness, I’m old.

#2 Meet the Animals

Children love animals, at least mine does. She may be slightly frightened of some of them, but she adores little mammals like squirrels, chipmunks or ‘chick-monks’ as she says, and rabbits. One of the coolest things about camping is that the animals who live near the campsites are generally used to humans. They are still skittish if you get too close, but if you camp for a week or so, you’ll notice that the little animals will get quite close to you if you’re nice to them.

camping with kids
Meeting the ducks on Indian Lake

#3 Get Comfortable in Uncomfortable Settings

You’re not going to have a lazy boy, a big screen TV, and a microwave unless you are using an RV. And that, dear reader, is why using an RV is not going camping. You’re certainly not camping with kids if you’re using a wheeled home. An RV, no matter its class, is a home, and simply going from your usual home in the city to a home with wheels under some trees is not going camping.

camping with kids
Auburn playing at the campsite

I’ve been in campgrounds where there are 100 campsites full, and 90 of them are RV’s. (Sure, it’s because I’m in the RV area because I need an electric outlet for my waffle iron, coffee maker, and blow up mattress, but I’m hoping to cut down one day and get some cots, boil water over the fire for coffee, and simply not eat waffles.) But the point is that when the 90% of my fellow ‘campers’ experience rain, or thunder, or both, they retreat into their wheeled homes.

camping with kids
Doing a little trail hike 🙂

They aren’t taking the time to experience what camping is meant to give you, a level of discomfort that removes your brain from the plugged-in, electricity-driven world. Sleeping in a tent in a rainstorm is amazing: it’s loud, your tent may shake from the wind, and if you have to get outside to use the toilet, you’re gonna be part of the storm. If you’re not comfortable in those situations, you’ll probably be one of the first people to die when doom happens (see #1).

camping with kids
Found the most interesting tree

#4 Get Dirty

You know you’ve witnessed a parent who tells their child to stay out of X, Y, or Z because “they’ll get dirty.” Makes me cringe, ya’ll need to go camping with kids. One of the top reasons (hence why it’s on the list) that I like to get my daughter outside, especially in a camping situation, is because it gets her dirty. If anything, I fear the clean. When I take her to school in the morning, I’m probably the only parent who opts out of the teacher at the door holding hand sanitizer, “no thank you,” I say.

camping with kids
Getting dirty racing Grandpa to the restroom.. she lost

I’m not afraid of germs, dirt, but leeches yes because they’re weird, wormy vampires. Go camping with kids and show them that being dirty is okay! Getting filthy improves the immune system, calms the soul, and creates memories that last a lifetime. Just stay away from leeches, they’re little graboids trying to grow big enough to eat your truck, I think.

camping with kids
Running through the forest, she fell a few times and got quite dirty

#5 Pee on the Trees

There’s no better feeling than being able to let loose on a bush with no one judging you. That’s all I need to say about this.

The Wrap-Up

So go camping with kids, it’s fun, educational, and an experience that adds time to life because memories are what makes life long. A comatose person will not have memories of their coma (usually), and an able-bodied person who spends their whole life indoors is just a thinking comatose patient.

camping with kids
Auburn and I visiting Kitch-iti-kipi

Do you already enjoy going camping? Where is your favorite place to go? Let me know in the comments and I’ll comment back with one of my favorite places 🙂

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From planting a garden, to swimming at the lake, to camping and canoeing the Tahquamenon River, we have had a refreshing and relaxing summer, mostly.

Of course, I came home to make sure my mom was fed and kept on her meds while she recovered, but it wasn’t the only thing I did. Now that she is starting to get back on her feet again, I feel I have finally have enough time and energy to get to updating you on our life and a relatively mistake-free summer.

The Garden

We started our summer with getting some plants in the ground. The garden beds needed some TLC and Auburn was happy to help. She helped shovel in new soil, plant some vegetables, and put in this beautiful sunflower that is now standing taller than me!

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What We Grew

From tomatoes to kale, marigolds to other types of marigolds, the garden did quite well this summer. That is, except for the tomatoes. Why? Because we planted a few varieties with indeterminate growth and didn’t have a trellis system in place to support them. So what did we do? Improvised!

Gardening tomatoes, growing tomatoes
An old chair that I axed the seat out of to use as a support system for the tomatoes

Gardening is a learning process year-to-year. To me, it doesn’t matter if the garden looks professional, is well spaced out, or has an particular aesthetic to it. As I’m trying to learn in life and gardening: plant your seeds, care for them, and make due. If people want to judge you, oh well, that’s on them. Set your own standards and you won’t be flailing for reassurance from anyone else. The tomatoes will turn red either way, and they taste no less delicious.

Growing tomatoes, unconventional methods
An old guitar stand I used to prop up another tomato plant

If there’s on plant I can’t recommend enough to grow, it’s kale. It’s a delicious superfood that goes great in smoothies, salads, and steamed with butter. It grows quickly, has a a solid yield per plant and is also quite attractive on it’s own. Gardening with children helps them learn about where food comes from as well. You may find your own children are more likely to eat vegetables with them grow them themselves.

Kale, dew, gardening
Morning dew on the kale.
Tomates, gardening
Tomatoes growing

Marigolds are a great addition to any garden. They come in many varieties and colors and are incredibly easy to take care of. Give them water, and dead-head the dying flowers. At some point you might even be overwhelmed with how well they do. One of plants went from a tiny sprout to a flower plant nearly 2 feet in diameter with flowers sprouting from all over!

Marigolds, flowers
Marigolds: blooming and wanting to bloom.

Gardening with Children

Auburn has helped me create the garden at my Mom’s for several years now, but this was the first time she was actually helpful! Previously, she was keen to shovel out the soil I was shoveling in. This year however, she managed to fill several of plots all by herself and loved it! There’s nothing like watching a little kid get dirty and enjoy themselves, it makes me wish I was still a child sometimes. Aside from the fun they having gardening, there are numerous health benefits to it: fresh air, exercise, relaxation, and the microbes in the soil that get under your nails are beneficial to your immune system. Dig on, my child! And parents, try gardening with children and see how they do, it could be your next family activity 🙂

Gardening with children
Putting in work with her Auburn-sized shovel
Museums in Hong Kong, skyline

Guide to Visiting Hong Kong’s Museums

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One of greatest parts of visiting any big city is the access to museums and the wealth of knowledge you can gain from them. If you’re traveling to Hong Kong, the museums here are no different, and only a loser would pass them up. Did you know Hong Kong was occupied by Japan for nearly 4 years in the 1940’s, and that the Japanese enslaved not only Hong Kong people, but also the Brits? Ever heard of the Opium Wars? Did you know some people of Hong Kong almost never leave their boats? These are just a few of the things you can learn about in an interesting and fun way by visiting the museums in Hong Kong. If you’re looking to visit the museums of Hong Kong, this guide will provide you with an economical and simple way to do so. Your first step should be getting a coveted museum pass. Don’t make a mistake you’ll have to forgive yourself for later; don’t pass this one up.

Get a Hong Kong Museum Pass: What is it?

Hong Kong Museum Pass
My Museum Pass, hot off the press

This is by far my favorite part of Hong Kong. The museum pass allows you to enter the permanent and special exhibitions for free as many times as you’d like. The value that you get for purchasing a museum pass is bar none. Make sure you bring a form of identification with you to prove you are who you say you are when applying.

*There are ways to visit some museums for free on certain days, but I wouldn’t recommend going on those days; they get packed with people–including students’ field trips–and are much less enjoyable.

Museums in Hong Kong

There’s a lot of museums in Hong Kong. What Museums are included?

The museum pass grants access to the permanent and special exhibitions of the museums operated under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. Here they are linked with the address to each in parentheses and their phones numbers in brackets.

Hong Kong Science Museum (2 Science Museum Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui East) [2732-3232]

Hong Kong Heritage Museum (1 Man Lam Rd, Sha Tin) [2180-8188]

Hong Kong Museum of Art (10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui) [2721-0116]

Hong Kong Museum of History (100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui) [2724-9042]

Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum (Kom Tong Hall, 7 Castle Rd, Central) [2367-6383]

Hong Kong Space Museum (10 Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui) [2721-0226]

Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence (175 Tung Hei Rd, Shau Kei Wan) [2569-1500]

Best Museum for Children in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Museum of Science is one of the coolest museums in Hong Kong to take your child. There’s got to be 100 different stations they can interact with. Everything from toying with electricity and magnets, manipulating puzzles of all types (some of them are difficult!), VR systems, video games, and my daughter’s personal favorite: the construction yard for smaller children (technically the child must be between 80-120cms tall, but they seem to be quite lenient on this).

Museum of Science Construction Yard
Moving blocks around in the construction yard

The children are given a construction vest and helmet and can proceed to build a building with foam blocks, move blocks around with carts on and off a track set, operate a crane and way station, and more! They are allowed to play for 15 minute intervals at which point a bell will go off and they will have to get back in line if they want to go again. Get a museum pass to go on any day you want because if you take your child on the ‘free day’ everyone else and their child will be there and the line can get quite long. Get there on a Monday or Tuesday morning and you’ll likely see just a few kids playing at a time. Your little one can get right back in if they want!

Museum of Science
Operating and the crane/way station

Cost of a Museum Pass

Family pass (up to 4 people)…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..$100 HKD

Individual Pass……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….$50 HKD

Concessionary Pass (applies to full-time students, persons over 60, and disabled persons)………….$25 HKD

How Long is a Hong Kong Museum Pass Valid For?

1 year from date of purchase. They used to sell monthly and weekly passes, but those have been abolished.

It’s possible that the orders for passes may be backlogged and you will have to wait 2 weeks to pick up your official pass, but don’t worry! In the meantime, you can use the receipt for your purchase as you would the museum pass itself. Just don’t lose your receipt, you need it to get your pass once it’s ready!

And luckily, if you do ever lose your pass, you can get a replacement for $5-$10 HKD depending on the type of pass you have.

Where can I buy a Hong Kong Museum Pass?

You can buy your museum pass at the following museums in Hong Kong, address to each will be listed in parentheses, see above for links and contact information.

Hong Kong Museum of History (100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui)

Hong Kong Heritage Museum (1 Man Lam Rd, Sha Tin)

Hong Kong Science Museum (2 Science Museum Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui East)

Hong Kong Space Museum (10 Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui)

Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence (175 Tung Hei Rd, Shau Kei Wan)

Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum (Kom Tong Hall, 7 Castle Rd, Central)

Looking to Visit the Museums in Hong Kong for Free?

It can be done!

Firstly, some permanent exhibits have been opened for good. Secondly, the museums in Hong Kong without permanent displays open for free have free days you can visit. As stated before, this isn’t ideal because the museums get jammed with folks, but if you’re looking for free, be ready to join the hoards who are doing the same.

Which Hong Kong Museums are free?

Free Entry to Museums
Free? Get outta my way!

The permanent exhibits of the Hong Kong Museum of History, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence, and the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum are all open for free. The free entry does not include entrance to any special exhibits. That’s what the museum pass is for!

If you’re a full-time student, the Hong Kong Museum of Science and the Hong Kong Space Museum are also open for free to you.

Free Days for Hong Kong Museums

The Hong Kong Museum of Science is free to the public on Wednesdays. Beware, lots of field trips on this day, so come early if you want to beat the army of children that will be running and screaming throughout.

Other Perks of the Museum Pass

10% discount on souvenirs and publications purchased at the museums

Special offers at the catering outlets within the museums

10% discount on museum extension activities

Special offers on the Annual Pass to Ocean Park and the Magic Access of Disneyland

Conclusion

Hong Kong traffic
Museums are a great way to escape the congestion of the city

Visiting the museums in Hong Kong can be entertaining, enlightening, and an all around lovely morning or afternoon. I would highly recommend the museum pass if you plan on visiting multiple museums to see special exhibits, or if you plan on returning to the same museum more than once. I love to take my daughter to the Hong Kong Museum of Science at least a couple of times per week and the value of the museum pass paid for itself in the first few days.

single parent parenting blog

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Determining when our first time abroad was, isn’t easy. That’s because my daughter and I were born in different countries. The birth of my daughter was in Hong Kong, so for her, traveling to the USA was her first time abroad. So, let me clarify that I will be speaking about our experience from my perspective.

Not a newborn, but a chunk-chunk baby during dim-sum breakfast!

The Birth of My Daughter

Our first time abroad, then, was the first moment I saw her. Hair sprouting first, a mangled net of gooey fuzz. Happy tears were pouring from my eyes as the rest of her started to emerge. Her squashed face, wrinkly body, and trailing umbilical cord, all covered in purplish amniotic fluid. I’d never seen anyone more beautiful.


The doctors and nurses kept asking her Mom if I was okay because apparently, they don’t see many grown men weep harder than the newborns. I don’t care, seeing the birth of my daughter was borderline overwhelming, like someone was pouring love onto me like an overbearing syrup. I could feel it running down my neck, sticking inside my ears, and gluing me to that moment in time. I’ll never forget it.

The Cord Chop

I waited a couple of minutes before cutting the umbilical cord, letting the last juices being transferred to her make it to where they need to be. So, she laid on the table, squirming, not really crying, an amniotic fluid bubble formed around her lips, expanded, then popped. I couldn’t help but laugh, despite its unique weirdness.

No major health problems yet, just a healthy child 😀

Finally, I chopped through the cord with a pair of surgical scissors, she was wiped clean by a nurse, wrapped up, and passed to me. She looked nothing like me. Dark brown hair, the beautiful curved eyes of her Chinese mother, puffy cheeks (also her mother’s), and a button nose (also her mother’s). Her chocolate brown eyes locked mine, she stared at me, maybe not yet knowing who I was, but I know she could feel my love as I rocked her in my arms. My crying stopped and I had the adrenaline pump you get when you beat death. Like surviving a bungee jump, or escaping a Chinese cobra in the jungle (I’ll give you that story another time).

My first time holding the little squashball

The Riddle of Time

After the birth of my daughter, I spoke to her with a shaky voice, though I can’t remember what I said, and she listened better than anyone ever has. I don’t know if I held her for two minutes or an hour. There’s just no way to decipher a time frame in such an emotional moment. How long did your car skid out of control for? How long did your first fist-fight last? How long was your grandmother’s funeral? How long was the first time you made love? Okay, that one’s easier to answer, right around 2 minutes.

Unfortunately, the doctors had some health concerns for her due to some prenatal problems, so she had to be taken to the ICU for monitoring. I remember thinking, “she’s beautiful, she’s healthy, she doesn’t need this.” But I was impressionable and took the doctor’s word for it, so off she went, scheduled for an extra for 3 days of care and monitoring.

Sleeping in the ICU

The ICU

The next two days I was allowed to spend time with her in very distinct and short periods. Something like 10-11 and 3-4:30. Each moment I spent with her, I would have her lay on my chest and her tiny fingers would grip my chest hair like a baby monkey afraid to fall. But she had nothing to worry about. Her little head fit perfectly in my right hand, her squishy butt made for a perfect grip with my left. After day one, I was super annoyed she was being kept in that glass box, not being allowed to have her bonding time with her parents.

The walk home

On day two, a nurse tried to tell me I shouldn’t pick her up because she was sleeping, so I pretended I didn’t speak English and did it anyway. Back onto my chest, clutching my chest hair. After day two, I was pissed I couldn’t have more time with her. I knew she was healthy, her mother agreed, so we signed a form saying we take responsibility for removing her from the ICU early, wrapped her up, and walked her home. She slept the entire walk home through Hong Kong, cars honking, sirens blaring in the distance, people talking over each other in Chinese. She didn’t care.

Our First Night Together

Some people never co-sleep with their children for fear of smashing them, or fear of judgment. I co-slept with her in fear of not being able to snuggle her. Luckily, we were already abroad, and Chinese people don’t judge you for co-sleeping. And when she woke me up several times in the middle of the night to breastfeed with her Mom, I had never been so happy to have beautiful dreams interrupted.