Travels with Children

The adventures I embark upon with my four young children.

New Sweden Creamery Historic Marker

New Sweden Creamery Historic Marker

Originally uploaded by minnemom

Located on west side of MN Hwy 111, just south of junction with MN Hwy 22.

State Capitol from inside the Minnesota History Center

State Capitol from MNHS

Originally uploaded by minnemom

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How Long Has This Been Going On?

OK, I’ll admit it.  When I’m out on adventures with the kids, we sometimes (gasp!) eat at McDonald’s.

We have a pretty standard order, and it’s usually in the same ballpark price-wise.  Today I was surprised at the price, and since my husband was along, I actually had time to look at the receipt in detail.  I was shocked and disappointed when I went back to the counter to question the manager.

My order for the kids was this:

  • 1 Hamburger Happy Meal, French Fries, Chocolate Milk, menu price $2.60.
  • 2 Chicken Nuggets Happy Meal, French Fries, Chocolate Milk, menu price $3.20.
  • 1 Chicken Nuggets Happy Meal, Apples, Chocolate Milk, menu price $3.20.

But on the receipt it looked like this.

  • 1 4NUG/AD HPY ML TOY $2.30
  • 1 HAMB/FRY HPY ML TOY $1.70
  • 2 4NUG/FRY HPY ML TOY $4.60
  • 4 CHOCOLATE MILK $5.80

These receipts have never been the easiest to decipher, which is probably why I didn’t figure this out sooner.

The “$5.80” is what caught my eye, so I broke it down, and found that I was paying $1.45 per milk above the Happy Meal price on the receipt.  This brought the Hamburger Happy Meal to $3.15 and the Chicken Nuggets to $3.75.  Each Happy Meal was $.55 more than the price in the menu.

I went to the counter and asked the manager about it.  I was directed to the “prices may vary” asterisk by the Happy Meal options and informed that the milk costs more than the pop does, so the Happy Meal with milk does as well.  (The asterisk was next to the french fry/apple dippers choice as well, but they cost the same, at least at this particular restaurant.)

I’ve been ordering milk with Happy Meals as long as I’ve had kids eating solid foods, which is about 7 years now, and this is the first time I’ve noticed that the milk cost more.  When my oldest was a toddler, the Happy Meals only cost $.10 more than the All-American meal (hamburger, small fries, tiny drink) so I would splurge and spend the dime to get him the little toy.  As my life got more hectic, I didn’t pay as much attention to the prices because I was just trying to get everyone fed and out of the restaurant in a well-behaved manner.  How long has this been going on?

What’s your experience with kids’ meals?  Do the healthier options cost more at other restaurants (fast-food or sit-down) as well?  I’m feeling really foolish right now and would love any insight you might have.

And, yes, next time I go in to McDonald’s, I’ll be pricing out the following: 1 hamburger, 3 4-pc. Chicken Nuggets, 1 medium or large fries, and 4 waters, to see how much these Happy Meals have really been costing me.

Crossing the Bridge

Today we crossed the new 35W bridge in Minneapolis for the first time.  It’s been a week since the bridge opened; just over a year since the old one collapsed.

I remember the day the bridge collapsed, thinking, “It couldn’t really have happened, could it?” as we so often do when tragedies occur.

But it did, and now it’s been rebuilt, with a memorial planned near the site along the Minneapolis riverfront.

And so today, a little because it was a good route to take, and a little because of curiosity, I talked to my kids about the bridge collapse, and told them that we’d be driving over the new bridge.  They are still young enough that the significance missed them, and they said, “OK, Mom,” and went right back to counting buses and airplanes and UPS trucks with the excitement of kids who rarely see these things in their rural life.

Traffic was blissfully quiet as we crossed the new span.  I didn’t hold my breath, as I’ve heard of others doing as they crossed this new piece of pavement.  I didn’t worry that this bridge would collapse, because it’s new and wide and strong, and there are so many older bridges that really are crumbling where I do say a prayer for safety as I speed across.

I did, however, think of the thirteen people who lost their lives on that August day, and of their families, and of the survivors of the bridge collapse, those who will forever have scars from it.

And then it was done.  It took only a few seconds to cross the bridge, and now I can say I’ve done it.  Why I think that’s important, I’m not sure.  But it’s a milestone nonetheless.

Moving on two wheels . . . and then some

At the beginning of the summer, we outfitted ourselves with some bikes and equipment so that we could take the family out on some bike rides.  Our criteria were a little unusual, I suppose: we didn’t want to spend a lot of money since we didn’t know how it would go, and because our kids are so young and not accustomed to navigating traffic with their bikes (we live on a farm), we wanted them all attached to us.

Hubby and I each got a new bike, and we got two tagalongs and a double trailer.  (I had joked that if I got a tandem bike I could have handled all four kids by myself, but we didn’t go that far.)  Again, these were all basic models, so our outlay for everything was less than $600, and we anticipate decent resale from the taglongs and trailer in a few years.  The kids and I all got new helmets at a bike fair, they were good helmets at a bargain price.

When we ride, I have our five-year-old behind me on a taglong, and hubby has our seven-year-old on a tagalong, with the girls (2 and 4) in the trailer attached behind it.

Our first “big” trip was a trip into town.  3 miles didn’t sound so bad, even on gravel.  Funny how I hadn’t realized how hilly our roads were until that time.  And hadn’t thought about the wind being against us on the way home.  But we made it home and everyone enjoyed the ride.

Our next stop was the paved portion of the Luce Line trail in Hutchinson, MN, which runs from one end of town to the other with some nice parks along the way, as well as restaurants.  We even made a shopping stop at Shopko, which is just off the trail.

We took the gear along when we spent a week at the lake and went on rides almost every morning.  We rode through Sibley State Park near New London, Minnesota, which is beautiful; along the Glacial Lakes trail beginning at Willmar, Minnesota, which is wide and smooth and flat and very peaceful; and around Spicer’s Green Lake, which we had estimated at 6-7 miles but found out when we were done that it was closer to 12!

At the end of the summer, hubby and I got away for a rare night out and decided to see how our bikes handle without trailers and tagalongs attached.  It was so gloriously easy without the extra 50-150 pounds of kids behind!  We rode the trail in New Ulm, Minnesota, and we’re planning to take the kids along on it soon.  On the north half, there’s only one street to cross, so we may actually unleash the kids and let them ride by themselves with their training wheels on it.

We’re still novices at this bike thing, but it was a fun way to spend some family time together this summer.


Do you take your kids on bike rides?  What kind of equipment do you use?  Do you have any favorite trails?  How do you teach your kids road safety?  Please let us know with a comment!

At the orchard

One of my favorite fall things to do with the kids is to go to an orchard.  Usually we’re in search of the Minnesota favorite Honeycrisp, and today we weren’t disappointed.  We stopped at Holmberg Orchard near Vesta/Marshall, Minnesota, where we’ve gone annually for the past four or five years.  I also realized that, although the kids and I have been on 10 or 11 orchard trips in the past five years or so, hubby has only been along on one of them, so it was a treat to have him accompany us today!

Since the kids still had their church clothes on, we didn’t allow a tromp in the corn-filled boats (yes, real corn in real boats, and it is fun for kids!) but we did take the tractor-pulled hayride through the orchard.  In previous years, the wagon took us out to the pumpkin-picking area, but this year it was just a tour of the orchard.  For some of their fall events weekends, the orchard has special activities going on as well.  In past years we’ve been treated to clowns and pony rides.

While hubby and the kids picked out a huge pumpkin to carve (a steal at $5), I went into the gift shop and made our apple purchase.  I had my heart set on both Honeycrisps and Zestars, but the price deterred me from buying more than one bag and Honeycrisp won out.  (Honeycrisps were $11 for 1/2 pk bag and $20 for a pk; Zestars were $10 1/2 pk and $19/pk.) 

Before we left, we stopped in the snack bar area where we each chose between apple crisp, ice cream, or cider (hot or cold).  Older son wanted a barbecue, but we had to remind him that we’d had lunch only an hour earlier.

A trip to the orchard is always a good way to celebrate fall.  I suspect that we’ll continue our orchard treats even when our own trees (hopefully soon!) bear enough fruit that I don’t have to buy apples.


What orchard memories do you have?  Do you have a favorite orchard to visit? 

If you’re in Minnesota and have seen Honeycrisp or Zestar apples at better prices than I mentioned above, please let me know, as I’d love to stock the fridge.  Honeycrisps easily keep into January or February if cared for properly!