Experience 39 of 52: Skiing

Two trips to Ski Roundtop this year have exposed the gals to the skiing experience and it quickly became a favorite activity for them. ¬†Susan is the experienced skier in the family and, I’m glad, wants to expose the gals to something that I must admit is no so exciting for me ūüôā

On the first adventure both girls enrolled in a lesson which helped them to learn the basics and to gain confidence . ¬†Both gals quickly picked up the minimum skills (controlling your downward speed and being able to slow down and stop yourself). ¬†It’s taken me a little longer but Kate helped me on the next trip! ¬†After spending the day learning and taking a final run down the slope, we headed for home.

On the second adventure we were joined by some of our good friends and their children which made the experience all the more fun.  We skipped the lessons this time and headed straight for the slopes where Kate did a fantastic job of teaching dad all that she had learned during our previous trip.  Grace and her friend ended the day making a few runs on their own which was a whole new level of trust and the confirmation that Grace is growing up and is certainly mature enough to be trusted in this type of environment.  Kate continued to make runs with mom and did a great job staying in control the entire time.

I have to admit that skiing isn’t exactly dad’s thing but as long as the gals want to continue I’ll go along for the ride!

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Experience 36 of 52: Xel Ha

Xel ha¬†Park¬†is essentially a natural aquarium that provides many activities to fill your day with adventures. ¬†Because the entry fee pays for an all-inclusive admission, we didn’t need to bring food, towels, snorkeling equipment or even money for lockers which simplified this adventure. ¬†We walked into the park and made our way to a tube ride which led us through a mangrove forest before expelling us into the snorkeling lagoon.

Here you could participate in numerous activities such as cliff jumping (which Susan braved) zip lining into the water (which we all braved) and other adventurous activities. Because we were pressed for time we were limited in what we could do but besides the tube ride we were able to

  • see and hear about 10 parrots
  • see a toucan close up
  • walk onto a glass bottom boat and look at the colorful fish below
  • discover many coati animals which are indigenous to the area
  • discuss what a cenote is, although we didn’t have time to see or jump into one

Some of the adventures available here that we would definitely want to investigate next time include:

  • Sea Trek¬ģ Xel-Ha – allows you to safely walk on the bottom of the lagoon without requiring scuba training
  • Snuba ‚Äď combines snorkeling and scuba by allowing you to use snorkeling equipment that is attached to compressed air tanks located on the surface
  • Swim with the manatees
  • Stingray encounter (swim with them)
  • Zip Bike ‚Äď a bicycle on a zip line gives you a bird‚Äôs eye view of the landscape

As is evident, there is a ton of extremely cool adventures available at Xel Ha.  We absolutely loved this adventure and would go back and spend an entire day here so that we could take part in all of the activities.  Although we were not able to squeeze in snorkeling during this trip, others in our party who did said that although they had to swim longer distances (than in Akumal) to find fish, when the schools were found they were as vibrant and plentiful as what you see on the Xel Ha brochures.

I think the biggest lesson learned here was that it is ok to, in a safe environment, step a little bit outside your comfort zone and take a calculated risk and enjoy the adventures that are in front of you. Susan set this example for the girls by jumping off the cliff even though it was intimidating. Hopefully the cliff jump planted a seed for the girls to enjoy life and to take a chance sometimes.

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Experience 31 of 52: Cancun

The education that comes with traveling to other countries can’t be compared to reading about it in a school text book. Although the girls have been absent from school this week, the cultural experience of being in Mexico has, among other things, provided opportunities for the girls to

  • navigate an airport and understand how to go through security, how to determine which gate your plan will be at, how to find your gate and where to pick up your luggage (yes, we do involve the girls in the entire process)
  • understand the customs process and the purpose of passports
  • read a map of a park to determine how to reach our destination
  • convert pesos into U.S. dollars (good work on their multiplication skills)
  • learn about safe travel in other countries
  • learn about public transportation by riding the public bus for local business
  • purchase goods in a market where prices are negotiable and learning that it is ok (and sometimes profitable) to walk away from something you really want if the price is not fair for both parties
  • hear the Spanish language used in an authentic way

The girls have also been able to enjoy themselves playing in the pools, walking on the beach, ordering drinks from the pool bar, playing on the playground, making t-shirts, doing a pi√Īata and visiting with family.

I think the point I’d emphasize from this trip is that all of life is school and every experience we give our children adds value to their lives.¬† In the experiences that involve traveling, especially to other countries, our hope is that the girls will come to understand that the United States is but one country in a large world and just because we do things one way in America it doesn’t make it the right or only way. Diversity of ideas and lifestyles is what makes the world such a fascinating place and the sooner we can appreciate and accept differences in others the sooner we can find peace in ourselves.

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Experience 26 of 52: Port Discovery

Our¬†Port Discovery experience was better than expected because not only did the girls enjoy the fun of the play maze but the exhibits connected nicely with our previous experience and interest in Greek mythology as well as Kate’s recent interest in Egypt and Cleopatra. ¬†The “Gods, Myths and Mortals” exhibit presented several interactive exhibits that allowed the girls to test their knowledge of the Greek gods by matching the names to the myths.

Another mythological exhibit asked a number of multiple choice questions on how you might handle certain situations. After completing the questionnaire you were told which mythological character you were most like. Kate was clever like Hermes, Grace was adventurous like Odysseus and Dad was hideous like Polyphemus, the¬†Cyclops¬†blinded by Odysseus. ¬†It was a welcomed opportunity to brush up on some of the crazy myths and characters. ¬†We had previously encountered some Greek mythology in the book “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief”, during¬†Experience 3 of 52: U.S. Capitol¬†Building¬†and during¬†Experience 10 of 52: The Baltimore Museum of Art¬†(BMA).

Another thing we learned about ancient Greece was that Athens invented democracy, or rule by citizens but  in order to vote you had to:

  • be male
  • be at least 18 years old
  • your father had to be a citizen
  • your mother had to come from a citizen family

This led to the obvious discussion, especially in this political climate, about the treatment of women, slaves and immigrants and how our U.S. modern society has changed its views regarding these ideas.

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Experience 24 of 52: Riding bikes along the C&O Canal

Riding bikes on the C&O Canal towpath allowed the girls to visualize the book “Captain Kate“, purchased during Experience 1 of 52 at the Cumberland Visitor Center, that Susan is currently reading to the girls. The book follows a young girl named Kate and her step-brother as she learns humility while captaining their mule-drawn canal boat from Cumberland to Georgetown. Having heard about the canal, seeing an actual lock with the home a lock master would have lived in with his family and seeing the depth of the aqueduct provided context the girls could apply to help visualize the story.

We began our experience at mile 44 of the C&O Canal, a.k.a, Noland’s Ferry because it was the closest point to our home. As this was our first time on the towpath, we decided we would go as far as Kate and her seven-year old legs (and non-existent trail biking experience) would take us.

We headed south towards the Monocacy Aqueduct where we would have our picnic lunch before making the round trip back home. Grace led the way as if she were a veteran of the Canal and Kate, as she always does, persistently pedaled along determined to stay on the path and keep up with the rest of us.

After a few breaks along the way, we reached the aqueduct and enjoyed the serenity of the Potomac River over which the aqueduct was built. The girls learned that an aqueduct is essentially a water bridge and this aqueduct is considered the finest one of eleven built along the canal. Seeing and walking along the aqueduct also allowed us to envision the depth of the canal and to help us visualize why the draft of a canal boat was less than five feet when fully loaded.

After lunch at a picnic table near the aqueduct we decided to continue another 3/4 mile to Lock 27, a.k.a. Spinks Ferry. This was an easy ride and we were rewarded with seeing an actual lock and the house a lock master would have lived in, as well as several turtles living in the canal.

This experience was worth the time and the effort although the next time we take this adventure I think we’ll seek new sites to see by either starting at Brunswick, MD and riding five miles north to Harper’s Ferry, or starting at the Monocacy Aqueduct and riding about five miles south to the Marble Quarry. Riding along the canal was time well spent and an experience worth repeating. Kate was very determined and did a fantastic job with her biking, however, if you have younger kids who may not be as determined you may want to wait on this experience. Grace, at 10 years old, had plenty of stamina and a bit of an easier time since her bike could change speeds and was intended for trail riding.

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