As part of a larger road trip over Memorial Day weekend, we stopped in Saint Louis to visit the regularly hyped City Museum. This destination has been on our bucket list for a while and we finally visited it!
The 600,000 square foot museum occupies a former shoe factory. The ferris wheel on the roof along with the giant praying mantis sculpture are dead give aways that you are about to have a great time!
Frugal Boy, sporting an “Old MacDonalds” happy meal box on his head, was unabashedly enthusiastic.
We parked in a nearby $5 surface lot and walked the block to the entrance. There is a closer parking lot for twice the price. Do you like the school bus hanging off the corner of the building? You can go into that and look down!
The museum has a bit of a cult following, and can roughly be summarized as a “love it, or hate it” division. If you love climbing around jungle gyms and crawling through tiny labyrinth tunnels, start planning your trip. If that doesn’t sound fun to you, or you don’t want to keep up with your child, then go somewhere else.
Headlamps are advisable for many areas of the building. We spent three hours there and covered maybe 70% of the grounds. A 1:1 adult to child ratio would be recommended.
Right off the main lobby on the first floor there are already plenty of “crawling holes” as Frugal Boy calls them. Some simply loop around while others will inexplicably go off to a different level of the museum. You really have to follow your ward into each hole because you don’t know where they’ll end up otherwise.
Sometimes they dead end.
And other times they connect to a larger passage.
Frugal Boy, age 4.5, was just about the right age for the museum. He had a complete blast and was usually yanking our arms to go explore another section. Frugal Girl, age 14 months, was delighted to do as much as she could, but her little feet were too small for some of the ironwork sections.
I really liked this part of the museum were you could crawl John McClane style through ‘vents’.
The only thing missing was a lighter and cut up bare feet!
Frugal Boy was kind enough to stop and take this picture of me squeezing through a particularly tight bend.
One of the points of reference that we developed to help navigate the place was this aquarium on the 2nd or 3rd floor.
It was right by the exit of the 10 story curly slide. Yes, you read that right. I was so sweaty that it wasn’t much of a slide down. Squeaaaaaaakk.
Outside is more metal work, wire mesh, and rebar. All of our tetanus shots are up-to-date.
There are two planes that are suspended in the air that you can climb to.
It pays not to be scared of heights!
Up on the roof you can climb up the inside of the rotunda. We didn’t have time to do it on this trip, but there is always next time!
The “Caves” were probably the favorite sections for our family and age mixture.
After a while you start to get a feel for how the craziness is laid out. I was able to get this video showing Frugal Boy and Shae emerging from one spelunking area.
Are you wanting to go to the City Museum but aren’t sure if it is right for you? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it. We had a great time and cannot wait to go back!
Summer reading programs are about to start across the country. If you cannot make it to your normal library, you may have something smaller and closer that you can utilize.
Little Free Library
These tiny sharing kiosks are great. The premise is pretty simple. A landowner who loves books builds a little library. Then anyone can come and take a book, leave a book, or just browse. Check out the map here to see if there are any near you (not all libraries are shown on the map, so don’t be discouraged)!
You never know what you will find and depending on how active the area is, the stock is always changing!
They come in all different shapes and sizes too! Frugal Boy has gotten very adept at spotting them.
Some owners put a lot of work into their libraries. I really liked this one that mimics the house design.
Did I mention how fun it is to chat with the owners? In my experience, the owners have been retired and are happy to spend some time chatting with you about their libraries and life experiences. Now that is a great resource!
I wanted to do something a little more memorable than Chinese takeout for Shae’s birthday, so for this long weekend, I packed up the car and we did a little road trip to two of my favorite childhood state parks in Indiana, Turkey Run and Shades. The two state parks are situated in West Central Indiana near the Illinois border. They both operate in the Eastern timezone.
Given that it was a holiday weekend, the park campgrounds were full, but I was able to make a reservation a week ahead of time for a primitive campsite at Rockville Lake Park. RLP is a private campground just 15 minutes south of Turkey Run and about 5 minutes east of the town of Rockville.
We arrived a bit before dinner on Friday night and decided to set up camp before looking for food. Who really wants to be a camp cook after a day of work and driving multiple hours.
I made Frugal Boy help pack the car, so he was excited to see those packed items come out and be used.
It didn’t take long for him to become a camping expert and start doling out advice on how best to secure the tent.
With camp secured, we drove into town and ate at a mom and pop restaurant. I had forgotten to stop at an ATM and only had $28 in cash in my wallet. Shae never carries cash and relies on the A(ndrew)TM whenever she needs it. I was a bit worried when we sat down at the cash only restaurant, but then remembered how cheap food is in rural Indiana. At $7 or $8 for an entree with two sides, we weren’t exactly pressured to eat miserly. Now I know how my middle brother, who spent a decade on the east coast, feels whenever I am bitching about the cost of staples.
The campground did not have an easily accessible supply of potable water so we stopped at a grocery store and bought a few jugs of water along with an evening treat.
A 4 pack of Smores drumstick ice cream cones was cheaper than buying a bundle of wood and having a campfire. You’re not supposed to transport fire wood because of all the critters that can hitch a ride and invade a new ecosystem and you are also not supposed to collect down branches and twigs in the campground because it depletes nutrients from the forest (my ecologist sister can correct me in the comments).
We turned in early that night because we were dog gone tired.
I woke up in the morning to an empty tent. Sometime in the night we acquired a couple of new neighbors. My stomach was growling, so I set to work making breakfast.
We had packed a cooler with half a dozen eggs, cheese, and an assortment of snack food. For car camping, I love the incredibly simple and rock solid single burner propane stove that I bought a decade ago at Wally World.
You have to buy the propane tanks separately, but they seem to last forever. The stove is strong enough to boil a few cups of water, so you can make quite a variety of foods on it. I had to take a picture of this particular propane tank because my parents gave it to us when they cleaned out an outbuilding. I remember these old tanks from my childhood, but they still work!
Shae had taken Frugal Boy down to the lake to go play.
When they came back, breakfast was ready!
I knew that Turkey Run was going to be popular on a Saturday, so we made tracks and got their early. The suspension bridge over Sugar Creek is always a favorite spot. A few kayakers and canoes drifted by below us while we crossed.
Inside, the spirit of adventure tugged at us to move forward.
Frugal Boy found a hiking stick
that he promptly lost, but talked about the rest of the day.
We found a cave (more like an overhang).
We hiked through streams
and climbed up ladders.
By lunch time, we had covered about 5 miles of trails, Frugal Boy was carried for some of that, but we made him walk even when he didn’t want to.
At lunch a bee landed on my hand. Frugal Boy asked what it was and I explained that it was a bee and it could hurt me. If I stayed still it would leave me alone and leave. We watched as it flew off and around and landed on Frugal Boy’s hand. My lesson apparently went in one ear and out the other because he tried to squish it. Maybe he is a first hand experience learner.
After lunch, we did one last trail. It was nearly empty and tucked away behind some cabins, but I thought it was one of the best trails we did that day.
When we left around 2pm all of the parking lots were full and the line of cars waiting to get into the park stretched out onto the highway. Just like the Shedd Aquarium, it pays to be there early.
We took a nap back at camp, and walked around the grounds. It was interesting people watching. Most of them were glampers, or people that were glamping (glamorous camping). We saw many satellite dishes, ginormous RVs, and flat screen tvs.
I made dinner on my trusty single burner camp stove.
I’m still trying to figure out what chain of events happened that made me the de facto camp chef. Some where history went wrong.
Frugal Boy has been doing very well with using the potty, but he still has some things to learn, like how to pee standing up. He got a primer on this camping trip and his only words were Awesome! and Again!
In the morning, we broke down camp quickly and left RLP so we could get to the canoe outfitters in time for their first run of the day. The outfitters was a well oiled machine that was processing hundreds of people. For $22 we had a three hour canoe ride down Sugar Creek. I could only surmise that the only way the outfitter made money was by sheer volume.
We got a different view of the suspension bridge that we crossed the day before.
We took one grainy selfie before we reached the pullout spot, a red covered bridge.
There is something like 48 covered bridges in this part of Indiana. I have never done it, but there is a covered bridge festival if that is something that interests you.
Back at the outfitters, we took one last picture of Frugal Boy and the canoe. He was really excited and wanted to go again.
From there we drove up to Shades State Park. The difference was night and day. Shades didn’t charge an entrance fee, even though it was listed. The parking lot was half empty at noon, compared to overflowing. The trails were sparsely populated. We ate lunch and hiked two more trails before declaring ourselves completely tuckered out. Frugal Boy loved the tricky ravine hiking and slept the entire car ride home.
If you are looking for a fun place to hike in Western Indiana, then I would recommend Shades or Turkey Run. There are some fun trails.
Mulberry trees are in peak ripeness in the Midwest right now. I thought that I would take advantage of that fact by going on a bike ride with Frugal Boy to a place that had plenty of low hanging trees branches.
Frugal Boy can eat them faster than I can pick them, so I had to teach him how to pick his own. Give a boy a mulberry and he’ll poop purple for a day, teach a boy to pick mulberries and he’ll poop purple for a week!
After I had filled up all the containers that I had brought with we took our bounty back to Shae.
Mulberries are fragile and don’t stay very long even when they are refrigerated. That is part of the reason that you won’t find them in stores. Shae decided that she wanted to make jam out of them. She followed a recipe without pectin. It was just mulberries, sugar, and a little water.
Mulberries have a very dark purple color to them. It looks almost black.
After cooking up the mixture it filled one pint canning jar. It is a bit runny, but very tasty!
The book penned by Steve & Annette ‘Economides’ (oh please) details their overly complex allowance system that they have developed to help raise productive members of society. The book starts off well, talking about the 5/50/500 concept whereby a small child will make a $5 request, a tween will make a $50 request/mistake, a teenager will make a $500 request, a college student will make a $5,000 request, and an adult child will scale up to $50,000 mistakes/requests. The sooner that you teach money handling to children, the less costly the requests and mistakes they make later on in life will be. In their words, kids will take everything that you give them, so it pays to control the purse strings early on in life and not bail them out of smaller goof ups.
The book takes a decided turn for the worse when the authors proudly state that allowances are bad and parents shouldn’t use them, then launches into a multi chapter discussion of their family’s allowance (er point) system.
Each child earns 0-5 points a day for completing expected tasks, like getting out of bed, and at the end of the week, the parents have to tally up the points and use some weird sliding age weighted scale to turn the points into an allowance (oops, they call it a paycheck).
If you have hours of idle time as a parent and are looking to add some complexity to your life, then by all means read up on the MoneySmart Family System.
Tells parents not to bail out kids mistakes
Includes discussion of all age groups from 2-24+
Chapters and chapters of overly complex allowance systems
The really corny made up stage name
The better than thou attitude (they do personal finance consulting for their church and talk about the silly mistakes that people come to them with concerning their children)