Enchanted Gardens

By:  Kelly Driver

Central Ohio is a great place to raise a family.  There are a lot of great activities and entertainment for families, but it can start to get expensive.  When I became a stay-at-home mom I knew that I had to find budget friendly activities for me and Sydney during the day.  Once Sydney stopped taking naps it became even more important. 
I started doing a lot of research and realized there was an untapped treasure in the Central Ohio Park Systems Metro Parks.  The Metro Parks are conserving open spaces, while providing places and opportunities that encourage people to discover and experience nature.  What better entertainment for a 5 year old than being outdoors in nature.  Taking advantage of the different programs offered by the parks throughout the year fit right in our budget…FREE!
There are 16 Metro Parks in the Central Ohio area and each offers natural beauty and wonders with trails, picnic areas, fishing, playgrounds, wildlife, gardens and programs for people of all ages. 
Today we visited Inniswood Metro Gardens in Westerville, Ohio.  “Nestled within a scenic nature preserve, Inniswood Metro Gardens is a continual source of inspiration for Central Ohioans of all ages.
Inniswood Metro Gardens entrance

Streams and woodlands filled with wildflowers and wildlife provide a majestic backdrop to the beautifully landscaped flowerbeds, rock garden and lawns.
Dedicated to the enjoyment, cultivation and preservation of nature’s treasures, Inniswood boasts more than 2,000 species of plants, specialty collections of hostas, daffodils, daylilies and several theme gardens including the rose, herb and woodland rock garden.
Visitors will enjoy the seasonal beauty of the gardens and natural areas as they stroll along three miles of trails and paved pathways.” (Metro Parks website). 
Soil Animal Snackers

Today’s program was Soil Animal Snackers.  Kids learned about the soil organisms that make meat their primary source of food.  The program was for children ages 8 and younger and it was a lot of fun.  Held in the Innis House Education Pavilion it started with a kid-friendly lecture about the black beetle, ant and centipede all of which are meat eaters.  The guide talked about distinct characteristics of each bug and led the children in movement and songs. 

After the lecture the children were free to explore each of the 6 individual stations that highlighted a bug with crafts and hands-on experiments.
Digging like a black beetle

The first station was a kiddie pool filled with soil that had rubber insects buried in it.  The children put on a “shell” like a black beetle and shovel gloves which replicated the beetles legs.  Then it was a free for all.  The kids started digging and finding insects.  After a few minutes they identified the bugs they found and whether they were meat eaters or salad eaters and each kid walked away with a temporary bug tattoo.

Next it was on to the ant colony station.  Using their fingers and ink pads the kids were able to make ants on a drawing of underground tunnels.  Sydney had so much fun making her fingerprint ants.  She even had me make a few.Another ant station allowed the kids to make a crayon rubbing of an ant.
Fingerprint ants
Ant rubbing

The centipede had two stations as well.  The first was a craft where the kids were able to make a paper centipede using craft paper and brads.  The second involved two planks with ropes in which the kids stood on and tried to walk the way a centipede does with a long body from side to side.

Centipede craft
Walking like a centipede
The final station involved live bugs in glass blocks with magnifying glasses.  This was a little to real for Sydney and she did not spend to much time there.
Checking out a beetle

We had such a fun time at the program but we were very excited to explore the rest of the beautiful park. 
Sydney was anxious to go to the Sister’s Garden especially once she saw the bright sunflowers welcoming you to the Entry Garden. 
“This 2.8-acre garden honors the memory of sisters Grace and Mary Innis, the benefactresses of Inniswood Metro Gardens.  Designed to celebrate the complexity of nature and the inquisitiveness of childhood, visitors can explore seven themed gardens.” (Metro Parks website).
The Entry Garden has daffodils, one of the sister’s favorite flowers, surrounding the beautiful scultpture of the sisters as children.
Check out Granny’s House and Bessie’s Barn in the Country Garden.  Granny’s House is delightful, decorated with murals on all four walls creating the home of several frogs.  Just past Granny’s House is Bessie’s Barn and then the windmill which pumps water to the water tower and comes out a series of open pipes for the children to play with.
Sky Woman statue

After exploring the Country Garden we stumbled upon a maze.  Sydney was running around when I realized that there was a story carved in the paving stones of the maze.  We followed the stones of the Story  Maze and were treated to the Native American legend of Sky Woman and the Grandfather Tree.  It was a beautiful story and at the end of the maze we were greeted by a statue of Sky Woman herself.

From the Sky Woman statue there are several paths that create the Circle Maze.  Each path of the maze led to a new adventure. 
In the Secret Garden

One of the paths we chose led us to a Willow Tunnel.  Once passing through it we entered into the Secret Garden, where a loyal Owl stands guard from his corner perch.  The Secret Garden was beautiful and was absolutely enchanting.  I think this was one of Sydney’s favorite parts of the Garden.

A second path led us to the Woodland Garden and a wonderful surprise.  There hidden among the woods was a whimsical tree house.  The tree house was had a series of bridges (both stationary and swinging) that led to other paths and hidden adventures.
Finally, after many different paths and many twists and turns we ended up at the Wetland Garden.  The Wetland Garden lies at the bottom of the big hill.  You can observe the wetlands from the boardwalk or from the stone steps.  We chose the stone steps, much more dangerous, unstable and of course fun.
The Sister’s Garden was an enchanted place for kids and adults.  I had so much fun watching Sydney explore and discover at this park and it took me back to my childhood and the wonderful “adventures” I would dream up.  The Sister’s Garden at Inniswood Metro Gardens brought them all to life.  We will definitely be visiting Inniswood Metro Gardens again, only next time Sydney really wants her Daddy to come too.
There is something magical about this place and for a family on a budget you can not beat it for a day outdoors filled with wonder, enchantment and fun.

Visiting the real Winnie the Pooh

By:  Tom Driver

New York Public Library

During our trip to Ney York in March, one of our stops was the New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street to see the display of the stuffed toys that inspired A.A. Milne to write a bedtime story for his son, Christopher Robin.  I absolutely love reading Winnie the Pooh stories to Sydney.  I’m sure I’m not the only parent who has fun imitating the voices I learned for each of the characters from the Disney productions I enjoyed growing up.  So far, we’ve only read a handful of Disney’s Pooh stories based on Milne’s classics, but we brought a collection of Milne’s original stories home with us after our trip to Disney World last September.  Lately, Sydney has been denying my attempts to read Pooh stories at bedtime; I used to read them to her all the time when Daddy was choosing the stories and I believe this is one way she can exert her growing independence.  I don’t think it’s my bad impressions of the characters because she has a set a Pooh bath toys and I’m doing at least three shows a week at bath time.  I think it’s time to introduce the original tales of Winnie the Pooh into our bedtime story rotation. 

With Sydney and the “real” Winnie The Pooh
The display at the New York library is downstairs in the children’s section.  There’s no entry fee to the library so the only expense is transportation.    The display is not very large or flashy; just some drawings of the 100 Acre Wood on the walls and the original Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger and Kanga safely under glass.  Kelly and I talked to Sydney about how a long time ago there was a real Christopher Robin who played with these stuffed animals.  After watching his son play with Pooh and his friends, Christopher Robin’s daddy used his imagination to create many wonderful adventures for Pooh and his friends.  Winnie the Pooh was a staple of my early childhood from reading the stories, or having them read to me, and watching the Disney shows.  I was looking forward to this part of our itinerary not just because of the Pooh display but it was also my first trip to the New York public library. 

The old Carousel in Bryant Park
I could have stayed at the Library all day, probably all week, wondering through the reading rooms and galleries.  As we walked through the reading rooms I imagined pulling a classic collection from one of the shelves almost at random and blissfully losing an entire day to whichever book I chose.  Kelly would have no problem doing this either but this is not an ideal way for our daughter to spend an entire day, at least not yet.  So after our all too brief tour of the library, during which Sydney was a wonderful listener, we walked over to Bryant Park where she got to ride on the old carousel.  It was a great morning.  

The Idea

By:  Tom Driver

The idea of We Travelers Three is something Kelly and I have spoken about many times over the years but approached from a few different angles.  As I’m sure it is with most couples dealing with the various issues which arise during the course of a long relationship, Kelly and I share some opinions on why we want to start the We Travelers Three project, while some are uniquely personal.  I feel the biggest reason we share is our wish to show our daughter, Sydney, as much of the world as we possibly can before she steps out on her own. 

We feel it’s critical she realizes the world has more to offer than our little piece of Hilliard, Ohio.  Through travel, we hope she’ll learn, right alongside her parents, people develop different perspectives based on the circumstances of how and where they were raised, and while we may have different ideas on how to achieve success ultimately, most of us share the same goals; mainly health, safety and happiness for ourselves, our children and our children’s children.  We feel that as our world continues to shrink, the issues impacting all of us will need to be addressed through global cooperation.  Maybe Sydney will grow up and want to directly participate in solving these problems, maybe she won’t.  She’ll be free to choose her own path but, at the very least, we hope she’ll begin her journey with memories and experiences that will serve her well. 

Kelly and I made the decision long before Sydney was even a tiny cloud shaped mystery on the ultrasound picture we were only going to have one child.  The reason is, Kelly and I both decided we only wanted one child, no further explanation needed.  However, two of the factors impacting that decision were an agreement on the choice of Kelly staying home to raise Sydney and our hope to give her as many life experiences as possible during her childhood without ultimately being avalanched by mountains of debt. 

At no point will either Kelly or I say this is the best way to raise a child.  This project is not a parenting guide nor is it intended to be another “how to” on life.  We Travelers Three is nothing more than our story and if someone takes something away from following our story that is beneficial to their lives that would be great.  But if not, than Kelly, Sydney and I will be left with only the experiences, memories and education which only travel can provide, and that’s pretty awesome too.