8 Reasons your kid should travel (without you)

Midlife Sentence - Youth Exchange

The first time we sent our children on a trip without us (or any other relative), it was to a weeklong camp near a mountain lake. Our sons were ten and seven years old.

Some were surprised we’d let our younger kid go, but he was ready for an age-appropriate camp program like this. Both boys had the times of their lives, and returned to us scabbed, sunburned and smiling, the younger one with a suitcase full of clean clothes. He hadn’t changed the entire week.

I know. Yuck.

We learned about both boys that week, that they were resilient, behaved well without us around, and could keep track of their own things. And they learned about themselves, experiencing the world on their own, trying new things, making friends, and enjoying plenty of unfettered kid time (in the care, of course, of trained camp counselors). They’ve returned to camp nearly every year since.

Continue Reading

How to enjoy Calgary when any other normal person might just stay inside

Midlife Sentence - Calgary

When I Googled “One Day in Calgary,” I found a website or two with helpful tips for the person whose aim is to cram a whole lot of stuff into a teensy time frame.

It’s become our modus operandi to do what we can to experience an entire city in one day. We’re busy people. Sometimes a day is all we’ve got.

We had exactly that to ourselves this week before our conference started, and were prepared to make the most of it. My early research was promising. With a great transit system, a citywide cycling path, and a cute downtown area, Calgary looks like the perfect place for one of our everything-in-one-day visits.

…. And then we got up that morning to this:

Continue Reading

Youth exchange and a much-needed optimism refresher

Early last week, Anna, our Danish daughter, asked how it feels to know, as a nation, that the whole world is paying close attention to your every move.

To be honest, right now it feels rather like getting caught by the neighbors, having passed out on the lawn in a puddle of … well of something not left there by the sprinklers, lets say.

And for the record, no, I haven’t ever been caught passed out on the lawn. I’m just guessing how that might feel, you guys. Jeez.

I was working last week on a post I’ve since scrapped because I’m still trying to figure out how screaming into my pillow could be a productive part of any discussion. I’ll admit it was cathartic to give folks a piece of my mind though, even if that piece never leaves my desktop, or is only witnessed by those who happen to pass as I’m having a very heated discussion in my empty car.

One thing’s for sure: for a humor blogger, I have precious little to say that’s very funny right now. Hence the gap in my regular posts.

There was one thing recently that felt productive, though.

Last weekend, I was on a team of more than three-dozen volunteers who screened applicants for Rotary youth exchange. If all goes well, by this time next year, many of those teenagers will be on foreign soil, completely out of their element, struggling to understand and make themselves understood, and hopefully having the times of their lives. We’ll accept a few others just like them, here.Youth exchange and the gift of optimism - Manic Mumbling

Continue Reading

Three days in Music City: Eating my way through Nashville

I’m not much into the country music scene, and by not much, I mean not the teensiest bit. So when told my trip to Nashville would be on the eve of the 50th Annual Country Music Awards, with a lot of celebrity sighting potential, I had to confess I wouldn’t know a country star unless he bit me right in the face.

This statement did not get the laughs I expected in Tennessee, so I’m wondering if people there were just (a) too aghast at my ignorance to respond as expected, or (b) there’s actually more face biting going on than I realize.

It can’t possibly be (c) that I’m not as funny as I think.

Continue Reading

If you think traveling with young kids is a waste, you’re doing it wrong

Manic Mumbling - Family travel is never a waste of money or time

Manic Mumbling - Family travel is never a waste of money or timeLast month, Grant Feller of The Telegraph published an article admonishing parents to wait to travel with their children until they’re teens. To do otherwise, he says, is a waste of money, and the only reason anyone would do so is to assuage guilt about expensive vacations, and rack up bragging chits about their little ones’ ability to tick countries off lists before any of their friends.

Feller points his own childhood travels as “supreme indulgences” on the part of his parents, who dragged him along when he was too young to appreciate or remember anything of significance.

If all that wasn’t enough, he says, traveling with kids is distinctly no fun.

“Children are always inconveniently tired, have very little interest in culture, can’t walk longer than 45 minutes without needing sustenance and moan if burgers aren’t on the menu.”

As part of a parenting team that has brought one or more young children along on a number of regional and international trips, I have a different perspective.

No, more than that. I completely disagree.

Continue Reading

Turns out you CAN go home again, but they’ll probably make you sing

http://www.manicmumbling.com Challis Rodeo Grounds

“You know, JaNean used to play Delta Dawn on the piano. She was good. You could harmonize with her.” It was more a statement than a request from JaNean’s cute, bespectacled mom.

All I heard was Delta Dawn. I did what any rational person would do and belted out a refrain.

Del-ta-a Dawn, what’s that flower you have on
could it be a faded rose from DAYS GONE BYYY?

I took a long drink. Singing is thirsty work.

“That’s right,” JaNean’s mom patted me on the shoulder. She wrote on a slip of paper and she walked away. Realizing she was turning in a karaoke request, I looked at JaNean for help.

“Those are the only words I know.”

JaNean shrugged.

Continue Reading

Of couches and tchotchkes: pros and cons of hosting an exchange student

Exchange Student Hosting, www.manicmumbling.comAs I’ve mentioned, the term exchange student horror stories is one of the more frequent searches that brings people here. I’m still trying to figure this one out. Are you all considering hosting a student and wondering if it’s crazy? Maybe your own kid’s thinking about exchange, and you want ammunition to talk him out of it?

OR … are you creative industry types trolling for movie fodder?

Because if it’s that last one, I’ve got a great idea {call me}.

If it’s either of the former, I’ll warn you I’m biased. We’re preparing to welcome our sixth exchange student to town. Between Mike and me we’ve also been counselors to another five. Our oldest is going on exchange, and we’re actively hounding him to make good use of the tutorials we bought so he can coherently ask for directions to the bathroom once he gets to his host country later this summer.

Outside of Google searches, I’m asked every once in a while about the pros and cons of hosting exchange students. It’s hard to come up with a list. It’s kind of like quantifying the ups and downs of parenting, really. The downs of parenting are pretty straightforward. You don’t have to practice sleeping in ninety-minute spurts every night, or actively wear spit up on your shirt to know neither is especially your cup of tea.

Continue Reading

A last day in Seoul, and a few weird and awesome things

FullSizeRender (22)This is Anne. Anne is an English teacher who was sitting next to Mike on the train last night and asked if he would be willing to proofread an assignment from one of her students. Mike obliged and thumbed through the work on her iPad, and the two struck up a conversation. She found out we’d be leaving Seoul soon, and wanted to give him a gift. The two made arrangements to meet at the Kintex conference center today, so she could bring it to him.

She’d told Mike about her desire to be a missionary, so we wondered if we were going to get a bible or something. Later Mike and I had a conversation about what we would do if she brought us a packet to smuggle on the plane. Or, like, a baby or something really weird – with a couple of tough guys to rough Mike up and “make him an offer he couldn’t refuse.”

This is where our conversations go, because we are marginally kind of awful people with weird senses of humor. And because no one in the US would go out of their way to bring a thank you present in return for editing someone’s homework, so we know better than to accept the simple fact we could be on the receiving end of a straight-up thank you.

Continue Reading

Day … whatever … in Seoul: a little about the kindness of strangers

IMG_5586
Police officers in what Colin calls their “field-trip” grouping, watching a protest group of disabled vets across the street

Today on the way home from our conference, Mike and I stopped to watch a little drama unfold. There were several young police officers making clucking noises and beating bushes along the side of the road. A little crowd gathered with us. A mallard swooped overhead and landed in some tall grass beyond the sidewalk. One of the officers showed her a cardboard bucket, his fingers pinching the top closed. I could hear the noises from inside the bucket and hopefully the mother duck could as well.

Earlier, Colin had remarked how groups of police officers walking together in double lines on the sidewalks reminded him of first graders on field trips. I thought it was a little strange, too. Why is it that we see so many groups of what look like kids not much older than my sons, grouped together with fluorescent “police” vests, being led around as if in training, and not a lot of individual officers walking or cycling or driving around patrolling?

Continue Reading

Seoul Day 7: Birthday Gangnam Style

IMG_6135If you’re looking for Days Five and Six to our Seoul Saga, you can stop. I didn’t do them. Our conference has started and those posts would have been about over air conditioned meeting rooms and trying to remember to exchange business cards with two hands.

Actually, the last two days were dedicated to a pre-conference. Today the bonafide conference started, and the opening ceremonies were more elaborate than I expected. Like, by a long shot. I guess when forty-some-thousand Rotarians get together in a room, it causes a stir. We heard from the UN Secretary General, and the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka (home country of our international president, K.R. Ravindran), and that of the Republic of Korea.IMG_6163

Today is also Jack’s birthday, and with an afternoon light on actual conference activities, we let him set the afternoon’s agenda.

Continue Reading
1 2 3 6