Kids in Flight!

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balloon_moonI know what you’re thinking– Where are the kids? Next time! Some things take a little planning, and maybe parents want to go up first to assess the flight for their kids. Found out hot air balloon pilots do take children on board. Nostalgia Ballooning is the only balloon company in the Chicago area. According to Nostalgia Ballooning in Hampshire, Illinois, children under five squirm too much, but provided there is parental help, children above five are generally able to see out of the basket and follow directions– which is all that is necessary for them to be involved in this lovely adventure! So when our son turns five, then he and  his sister might go with us!

This time I went with my father for his birthday and we had a wonderful time. He is standing next to me and the guy to the far right is Art Moller, a pilot from New Mexico, where hot air ballooning is big! We drove through New Mexico last spring, and perhaps next year we will try it out there! Just looking at his website with pictures of balloons flying over the red desert is absolutely amazing: www.albuquerquehotair.com

We arrived at 5:30 a.m. (You can see the moon still out when we were up in the air in the picture above.) Morning is when the winds are most still. Evenings are the second best time. The crew helped the pilots spread out the balloons on the ground and hold them while they were filled with cool air. You can see the size of the balloon in my new header picture where it is still being filled behind the truck. Once the balloons were full, the pilots started blasting the propane and a little hot air made the balloons start to pull away. We climbed into the basket, which felt like an over sized picnic basket. Five adults fit comfortably, considering everyone had a beautiful panoramic view. If you like watching out a plane window as you ascend, think of how it would be to feel embraced by the sky and fresh air from a basket! Planes hit turbulence in the clouds as they ascend more than 4,000 feet. Hot air balloons stay below that airspace. It is still possible to distinguish houses and trees.

The balloon lifted off gently and moved at only about eight miles an hour upward. We reached 3,828 feet high, and could glimpse Lake Michigan and Chicago on the horizon, with the sun shining almost right out of it, meaning we were due West of Chicago. We traveled 8.02 miles and the trip lasted 1.07 hours. About half way through the trip we came to a lower altitude. We crossed over familiar roads, the I 90 expressway, and drifted East. There is no control over the destination– but the countryside is full of decent landing spaces. Since the fuel lasts only a little over an hour, the pilot begins scanning for good spots well before then. We touched some tree tops as we flew over! When the pilot found a good spot, we landed, but waited for the ground crew to get permission from the property owner. Permission granted; the ride was over but the excitement lasted. The entire crew helped push the air out of the balloon and it was crazy to see such a glorious and gigantic item stuffed into a seemingly small, plain bag!

I want to look into this National Balloon Museum more. Have any readers been there? Let me know about your experiences with hot air balloons!

Another opportunity I’ve been looking into and planning for is the Young Eagles Program. Kids over eight years old can ride for free with a pilot as an introductory flight. This happens at airports all over the country. Check for events in your area. Lake in the Hills, Illinois, and the Dekalb-Sycamore Airport of Illinois sponsor a Young Eagles Flight event every year.

Birthday Book Bash: Travel and Camping Theme

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Our birthday book bash was great fun! Thanks to all those who came out to celebrate our son’s birthday! Our little guy was so excited about his party, it took a while for him to fall asleep afterwards! He kept hugging me and thanking me for the great party! Although shy at first, he warmed up to all his friends and was thrilled about all the beautiful books! I will give some tips about camping with kids in this blog series. But first, I thought I would share a few birthday party ideas we tried.

How to Incorporate Books Into Your Child’s Party:

1. Put books on your wishlist to show you are seriously fun!

2. Scope out your spot. We picked a great outdoor location ahead of time. A beautiful park with big shade trees over us, a playground nearby, bathrooms nearby. The park wanted to charge us $230 to rent a picnic shelter (which is usually full of flies and bugs.) No thanks! Natural shade from the oak  trees was exactly what we needed! Besides, no one can gather around to hear good books at a shelter with rows of tables.

3. Bring picnic blankets, a tarp, and ask adults to bring chairs. In case it rains before you arrive, you don’t really want to sit on wet ground. We thought it best to bring a tarp and put the picnic blankets on top. (We also planned a back up indoor location.)

4. We read books that had to do with camping, outdoors, and adventure. The What If Monster story from Usborne, and the Shine a Light Books by Usborne– which have to do with learning about nature- we read inside our tent.

5. For older kids, you could do a variation on the learning theme, using books about wilderness survival and outdoor skills; even having one of the dads– or moms– demonstrate some outdoor skills.

6. We ate a s’more cake! Marshmallows were toasted on a propane camp stove. Read on for more information!

Which Usborne Books to Choose:

So at our party we read some great Usborne books! In the What If Monster story they pass around a little green What If monster. The book goes through all the bad scenarios that could happen. Each time the kids hear “what if” they pass the monster to the next person. Then the child in the story begins to change his thinking to good thoughts– What if I am successful? What if I meet my very best friend? The child who ends up with the monster at the end of the story wins a prize! What If’s can be a good thing– it just depends on your thinking! What a great concept for a real camping trip! Animally was another cute story we read. My son loved the pirate story

Why Make a S’more Cake?

Other than being just plain fun, it’s easy, cheap, and it all gets eaten! Think about it– you buy a really beautiful cake from Jewel or somewhere. It’s good for two minutes and then you have little paper plates with gobs of icing stuck to cake left over everywhere and you throw half the cake away. Adults don’t want to eat it for fear of gaining weight. Most kids are smart enough to know the icing is bad for them– they leave it behind. Our family can’t tolerate sugar very well and the kids are gluten intolerant. But we decided to have a little fun with s’mores. I arranged the Chocolate (which of course was left on ice until the right time), graham crackers, gluten-free snicker doodles, and marshmallows on a large tray in sections. The compartment in the middle of the tray had a bunch of marshmallows, and we stuck the four candles in the top marshmallows! It created a lot of excitement!

Safety tip:

A campfire was out of the question as this was in a public park. A big BBQ grill wouldn’t be worth the effort, and too hard for kids to reach. So we just brought a little propane camp stove and placed it on the picnic table. We formed three lines of kids and had adults to supervise while they toasted marshmallows. We had a hibachi charcoal grill too, but it took too long. The propane stove was easy to set up, and cooked the marshmallows quickly!

Flash Light Books:

After the s’more cake, kids came back to read the Shine a Light Books from Usborne. I only wish I had gone to the effort to set up a bigger tent. But the books work even in sunlight, just hold the flashlight close! Camping and good books just go together!

Children’s Literature: Picture Book– Chapter 2 (To Travel to the Places Our Ancestors Came From)

When Sophia thought of her birthday then, it  still seemed far away– in summer. She pictured Giovina taking off the boots and the rain shrinking them down to her size. She pictured Giovina having fun in Italy with Jack, and buying new boots, so she could give Sophia the old pair. She tried to picture herself as a more grown up girl, going to Italy for her birthday.

As Sophia glanced out the window, she could see green grass. It was nearing the end of April, but still chilly out. Jack and Giovina had already returned from Italy, Sophia was sure of it. “When will we see Jack and Giovina?” Sophia asked. “I miss them and I want to see their pictures. Will they be back before my birthday comes?”

“They should be back soon.” said Momma. “And you may invite them. So you want to start planning your birthday?”

“Boots!” answered Sophia.

“So you want boots like Giovina’s?” Momma asked. “I don’t remember her wearing fancy boots.”

“Oh yes, she does. They wear everything fancy in Italy. She told me that. Let me draw you a picture,” Sophia said, determined.

Momma smiled, “You’re a little artist, just like Daddy!” she said.

Daddy looked at the picture. “Those look fancy, Sophia. You know we don’t have money for new things, especially if they are meant just to look fancy.” Daddy chuckled, “I wear post office boots, Momma wears hiking boots, but our little Sophia wants boots all the way from Italy!”

“Boots are not just to look fancy,” she said, repeating her idea: “Shoes take you places.”

“Sophia, shoes don’t take you places. Giovina does wear nice clothes, but she’s probably had them a long time and kept them nice. She can go to Italy because she saves money to go, plus she has family there to stay with– and besides she and Jack are only two people traveling together, not a family of four like us.”

“Yes, but she invited us to go next time, and we are from Italy, and we should go!” Sophia exclaimed eagerly.

“We’re not from Italy sweetie…” Daddy started to say.

“I know, not us—our ancestors are from Italy, that is, Grandma Barb’s dad, right? And his last name was Scalzitti, which means shoe-maker. And Grandma Barb’s mom was German, and your dad was from Puerto Rico, and mom’s family was from England and Germany. I know all that. But I want to go to all the places that our families are from. Why can’t we go?”

“I’ve always wanted to go to Italy, too” Daddy said. “But it will take time to save up money.”

“I know– Daddy, if you start painting more and selling your paintings, maybe then we can go to Italy!” Sophia said.

“Well,” Daddy said, “I have to keep my day job. But why don’t I do a painting for you, for your birthday. Find me a picture of someplace you have been– like our trip to Costa Rica, for instance. I’ll do a painting of you in a place you’ve already been.”

“O.K.” Sophia said. “As long as I can paint with you, Daddy!”

“That’s a great idea,” Momma said. “That will help you to be thankful for the places you have been. We have traveled a lot you know. Let’s look in our scrapbook tomorrow, and you can find a good picture for Daddy to paint from.”