I'm no expert on child care or on what kids love most, but I recently had about a week off, which I spent pretty much alone with my wee one and partly due to good planning, partly due to good weather, partly due to luck and partly due to his good nature, the string of days was a success.
Of course, good naps are key to success, but that's not what's in my list. Rather, here are some things we did that he loved, even if he didn't necessarily get as much out of them -- in the form of hardcore fact-based knowledge -- as he will when he's, say, 8 or 9.
1) The Milwaukee County Zoo. We made two trips there to bookend our six-day fun fest. The train was a reliable pleaser, as were the hippos -- which are so darned unlikely looking! -- the penguins and the petting zoo. I have a feeling this experience will change when my son is old enough to start demanding things like hot dogs, dippin' dots and cold sodas, but for now, he's focused on the animals and the other visitorsm -- and the planes and helicopters above -- so it's really just lots of fun.
2) Discovery World. We were there on a sizzling hot day but inside it was cool and welcoming, especially down in the aquarium, where we oohed and aahed at most everything, but only I had the courage to stick my hand in the tank and touch the starfish and the huge fish circling around the perimeter of the tank. But I understood my boy's reticence since at 39 years his senior, even I felt a pang of hesitation before taking the plunge. I've vowed to be more of a do-er than a watcher to encourage him beyond what is probably an innate reservedness. We took a quick trip out into the heat so he could see the Denis Sullivan up close, but the sun was so hot we quickly retreated back in.
3) The East Troy Electric Railroad is a short stretch of streetcar line that was once at the farthest reaches of The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company system that also went as far north as Sheboygan and as far south as Kenosha (ah, just think of the convenience!) and it runs between the Elegant Farmer in Mukwonago and the Railway Museum in East Troy. For a train-obsessed kid, it's perfect, although don't sit at the front of the open car because the horn is loud. And as expensive as the toys in the museum gift shop might seem, they're not really that pricey compared to other retail outlets and it's for a good cause (the maintenance of this fun railway).
4) The Soref Planetarium at Milwaukee Public Museum. We took in a morning show of "Wonders of the Universe" and nearly had the place to ourselves (two others were there in the IMAX theater), almost entirely surrounded by the starry skies. I feared that the little one would freak out when the lights went down, so I warned him, "it'll get dark, but then you'll see the moon." For the remainder of the day -- even after a long nap -- and into the next day, he kept repeating, "dark. moon." He was astonished and amazed for the first third of the 45 minute show, then a little upset that the moon disappeared and later a little sleepy, but for someone with a limited vocabulary, he spent a lot of time talking about the planetarium. That there were four people there (one was a visitor from Texas, another who appeared to be visiting from outside the country) is a crime.
5) Bubbles, the neighborhood playground, lying on a blanket and looking up at the sky to watch the planes and the clouds and, if you're lucky, a daylight appearance by the much-loved moon. These are cheap and free and are available all around you.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.