6 Hours of Driving for a Pile of Dinosaur Bones

Recently, on our trip to Utah, we took a special trip out to Vernal, UT – 3 hours there and 3 hours back.  The website URL for Vernal is www.visitdinosaurland.com.  Dinosaur tourism seems to be one of their biggest industries.    Thankfully, some of Caleb and Andrew’s cousins decided to take the road trip with us.

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Our first stop was the Utah Field House of Natural History.  Here we got to see dinosaurs nicely assembled like in most Dinosaur museums.  The dinosaur below is a Diplodocus – the most prominent feature of the Field House lobby.

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They also had an outdoor dinosaur park.  Here we are in front of the Woolly Mammoth.  Although, I don’t think a mammoth is a dinosaur.

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Who’s the most ferocious T-Rex of all?

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Then we went to the National Dinosaur Monument.  This was the unique site that we drove 3 hours to see.  There is a wall with over 1500 dinosaur bones embedded.  Normally, when we see dinosaur bones, they are replicas or casts that are nicely assembled in the form of a dinosaur skeleton.  This wall gave you a sense of what real paleontologists deal with.  It was like looking into a Lion’s den – a thousand random bones piled and scattered throughout the wall.  You get a sense of how difficult it is to put together the puzzle of even one dinosaur.  It seems nearly impossible.  

You also get to touch the dinosaur bones.  Real dinosaur bone – not just a plastic or bronze cast of one. 

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All the cousins were working hard to earn their Junior Ranger badge.  I love the Junior Ranger program.  It really helps the kids appreciate the wonderful National Parks that they are visiting.  AND, they get a special treat at the end if they work to earn it. 

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Our Junior Rangers going through the final audit.

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Official Junior Rangers with their official Junior Ranger badges.  They take their jobs seriously.

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The trip was just in time to make it into Caleb’s GoKids Newsletter Issue #2 about dinosaurs.

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Should we “allow” our children to curse in front of us?

Should parents let their children curse?  I saw a blog post recently posted by a dad that lets his child swear in front of him and he explained why.  He wants to provide a “safe” place for his child so that he feels he can say anything to his dad.  He calls this the bubble.

The post was interesting and I agreed with some things, but I also felt that there was another (important) part of the story missing without which the purpose of the bubble is lost.

Here is where I agree.  I, too, want my children to be able to talk to me about anything.  When they have questions, I want them to be able to ask.  When they have done something bad, I want them to counsel with me.  When they have big decisions to make, I want to know what they’re thinking and ask for advice.  There are guaranteed ways to make sure they never talk to me about anything.  I think one of those ways is to assume that we as parents somehow have control of our children’s lives.  That we can will them into submission by yelling, lecturing, or punishing.  (Don’t get me wrong, i regrettably do all three… )  But, where we as parents are most effective is when we persuade our children – and persuade them to do good.  This is the second half of that article that I felt was missing.

What is the point of having a bubble where our children talk to us, if we do not give them sound advice to do good and be good.    Whether we like it or not, our children already have “safe” places where they feel they can do and say whatever they want.    These safe places can be with their friends, wild uncles, and locker rooms.

And from these “safe” places, they will receive an earful of advice.  If memory serves, I don’t remember the advice that I received from other adolescent peers on a variety of subjects as “sound advice” leading to great outcomes.  They usually end with a phrase, “You only live once!”   Whether it’s about drugs, sexual activity, entertainment, gambling, etc…  The advice is often one that leads to trouble, heartache, embarrassment, or poverty.  

This is where parents are different.  Or at least _should_ be different.  Because we love our children.  Not like friends love friends.  But as only a mom or dad could love their son or daughter.  We would die for them if need be.  We live for them.  We want them to be happy and successful in their endeavors.  As parents, we want our kids to make investments into their lives.  We want them to have fun, but not at the expense of closing doors to opportunities in the future.  

So, yes – I want a relationship with my children where they can talk to me about anything.  But, when they talk to me, they will know that there is judgment.  Not the kind of judgment where they feel belittled, ashamed, or unworthy.  But, judgment about the issue at hand.  Sometimes this will include regrets I have from my own life.  Sometimes, it will be practices and decisions that I believe have had positive affect in my life.  From me, they can expect that I will always give them my best advice because I love them and want them to have lasting happiness.   Because they know this type of advice is consistently what I have to offer, sometimes they might even know what I’ll say before they talk to me.  This might cause some discomfort because perhaps this might conflict with what they want.  But, deep inside, they will always know that I want the absolute best for them.  And when they are about to go against my counsel, they will pause to ask themselves, “Am I really doing the right thing?”  Now, I’m not always right – and sometimes they should blaze their own path, but taking a moment to consider important decisions is never bad.  And I hope they do this whether I am next to them, or whether they are at a raging party surrounded by all kinds of temptation. 

The measure of our parenting abilities is not what they do or not do in front of us, but what they do or not do when they are on their own.  Have we convinced them , persuaded them to live with values and virtues that will lead them to joy that endures? 

I’m not writing this as an expert to say that I’ve done these things.  (My kids aren’t even teenagers, yet)  I’m just throwing out an alternative metric to “having a safe place” as  a goal for parenting.  I think the goal is more than that.  Through the “safe place” and my influence, do my children “make good decisions on their own?”  Do they believe I love them and will they consider my guidance?

So, do I let my kids curse in front of me?  I’m not so sure that matters so much.  I have definitely talked to both of my boys about curse words and what they mean, although rarely are curse words used to express their proper definition.  I have explained that we should be articulate.  We should be able to express how we feel.  We should be able to give and get what we want with words.  And often people use curse words as simple substitutes for feelings they don’t know how to express.  I also believe cursing leaves a negative impression upon the company that you are with.  This is why I don’t use “Grown up words” (even though I’m presumably a “Grown up”.)  The real question is, did I convince my kids?  When I’m not around, do they curse? 

To be honest, I’m not nearly as concerned about cursing as I am about treating people with respect, honesty, good sportsmanship, charity, and using good judgment.  Not saying a few taboo words is easy compared to practicing some of these other virtues.  It’s my belief that the pursuit of lasting happiness is not easy and it takes a lifetime of service and sacrifice.  These are not easy things to convince children, nevertheless teenagers.  But – you only live once.

Newsletter Analytics

Caleb has been thrilled to receive comments and feedback on his newsletter – http://www.gokids.us

We looked at Google Analytics and he started guessing who was looking at his site from each of the states.  Utah is probably his cousins.  California is probably his aunt.  But, who is looking at his site from Texas, Colorado, and Illinois?

Maybe one day, there might even be people we don’t know that come look at his newsletter…. One day…

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The most common feedback he received was about the jokes.  He is busy working on the next issue and putting extra effort into the jokes.  He is thinking this might be a bi-weekly (every two weeks) newsletter.    So, hopefully, the next issue will be out sometime at the end of next week.

Caleb and Andrew hustling the streets of Federal Way

Caleb and I have talked about what he wants to get good at.   He wants to be a good writer.  I told him to start writing stuff. 

After some brainstorming, he wanted to start a newsletter.  I helped to get him set up on MS Publisher and a Blogger site, and he started putting together an activity newsletter for kids.  You can check it out here at http://www.gokids.us  (He came up with the name after some time searching domain names… and finding out that most of the good ideas are taken… )

He found a crossword making app and a word search app to help him with the content.  He also got some help from his friend Kai for a Reader Picture submission.   He needed some help with formatting and layout, but pretty much all the content he put together himself.

He has been reading some books on marketing and came up with an idea to pass out business cards.  Apparently, there was a lot of advice about how to make your business cards stand out.  I had some sheets of Avery “Print-your-own” business cards, and so we designed one together.  

We were planning on going to the 4th Of July fireworks show at Celebration Park in Federal Way.  He asked if a lot of people will be there.  I said, “Yes, I think there will be a LOT of people.”  He smiled and explained that he wanted to pass out his business cards.  I suggested he might think about attaching something to the business card that kids might like… like candy.  He got 3 bags of dumdums on the next trip to Walmart. 

During the day, he spent time taping dumdums to 50 business cards.  This was going to be interesting… We showed up at the park and found a place to sit.  We told Caleb, “Good luck!”  and let him wander into the crowded streets of Federal Way.    I watched from afar as Caleb grabbed his bag full of business cards and lollipops and strolled into the crowd with his little brother.  For the first 5 minutes, they just stood their… frozen….  Tenille and I commented to each other that this might be good practice for Caleb for his mission.  Caleb is naturally shy, so getting up the courage to go up to people is kind of a big deal.  I would think giving away Lollipops is probably a MUCH easier sell than giving away a Book of Mormon. 

After some hemming and hawing, they awkwardly made their way to a few kids and asked if they wanted a lollipop.  They were so awkward, it seemed like they were trying to trick the other kids… some declined with suspicion…  others accepted… with suspicion. 

Somewhere along the line, Caleb made a deal with Andrew.  For each lollipop that Andrew gives away, he’ll spend a minute helping him with his Legos.  Andrew lit up like a comet.  He is more of a natural people person.   Caleb may have some weaknesses, but I suppose he knows how to find the right people and make a deal…

After a while, they found themselves in a street corner where crowds of people started flowing in.    Caleb started getting more comfortable offering candy to all the little kids – a practice only acceptable if you yourself are a little kid.  He was hustling the streets.  Pounding the Pavement.  Caleb and Andrew distributed all the business cards in about an hour.  By the end, he wasn’t a pro by any means…. but he was certainly a lot better than when he started.  I think it was a good experience for them both.

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Tonight, he was asking about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Web Marketing.  Apparently, this was in the same book as the business card suggestions.    We added in Google Analytics to his website so he can see where his web traffic is coming from.  So far, pretty much 100% is coming from our house…  If you’re reading this blog, please visit his website so that his analytics chart looks more interesting…

We also downloaded the Pagerank Status extension on chrome and talked about the relative importance of websites.  His newsletter is unrated.  Our family blog is a 1.  He searched around for all his favorite websites and made schemes for how he might get a link to his newsletter on the highest pageranked websites.  This will probably also be an interesting, educational exercise in cold-calling…   He is determined to contact everyone he knows with a blog or website and ask to get linked.  Don’t be surprised if you get an email or phone call from him…

He’s been throwing around the idea of printing out the newsletters and distributing them to family owned restaurants.  That would be a significant effort (for the parents!!)  We’ll see how many issues he pumps out, then start talking about mass distribution…

In the meanwhile, if you have kids – hope you check out his newsletter.  Feel free to leave him a comment or email.  I am told that the next issue will be on dinosaurs, so you can submit your favorite picture, poem, or story about dinosaurs.

http://www.gokids.us