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Fun Things To Do In “The Lou” (With Teenagers)

Let’s make one thing clear: Teenagers don’t like to hang out with their parents in public places, especially if there’s any risk of them running into their friends. However, when you bribe hormonal and hungry adolescents with food, you have a better chance of turning a family outing into something memorable. My hometown St. Louis, also known as “The Lou,” is a great place to raise a family and visit because this metropolitan city/small town offers so many free concerts, festivals, museums, and cultural events that are far more entertaining than hanging out at the mall or playing video games in the basement. Again, it’s all about your kids and what’s in it for them, and that means the more food and less togetherness in the car the better. Thankfully, in St. Louis, you can get anywhere in 15 to 20 minutes.

If your kid is a baseball fan or likes nachos drenched in melted processed cheese with jalapenos, there’s no better place to be than Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, 2011 World Series champions, thank you very much. This beautiful ballpark also has a full bar and serves sangria, I’m just sayin’.


In 2011, the Cardinals drew three million fans, with 27 sellout games – ranking seventh in MLB in attendance. With the Cards in the playoffs again this year, there’s a good chance you’ll run into a party anywhere you go. If your family is really into baseball, check out the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum, which is the largest team-held collection in Major League Baseball and is second only to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in terms of size with more than 16,000 memorabilia items and 80,000 archival photographs. You can even take a tour of Busch Stadium  and maybe run into our friendly-feathered mascot Fredbird.

Afterwards, treat everyone to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, a St. Louis favorite since 1931. You’ll probably have to wait in line in the parking lot, but it goes fast, and trust me, the rich and creamy frozen stuff is worth it. The custard is so thick, in fact, they serve it upside down, which is part of the shtick. Just don’t try that trick with the Cardinal Sin, a concrete or sundae smothered in tart cherries and hot fudge, especially on a hot summer day.

If you’re looking for an activity so that you can work up an appetite to eat again, head over to Forest Park,  which is located in the heart of St. Louis and covers 1,371 acres—that’s bigger than New York’s Central Park. I pinkie swear, unless your kids have an attitude that day, which is not uncommon for adolescents, they won’t be bored here.

Home of the 1904 World’s Fair, Forest Park has something for everyone and a variety of attractions, including the St. Louis Zoo, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, and The Muny, which is America’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theatre. And if that’s too cultural, your family can ride bikes, rent a paddleboat, play tennis, ice skate outside in the winter, and, of course, eat a lot of great food. I recommend the Boathouse, a casual restaurant located on a picturesque lake. In the summer, you can enjoy patio dining and live music, and in colder weather, snuggle inside by the large stone wood burning fireplace and sip hot chocolate.

In the winter, kids like to sled down Art Hill, which is in front of the art museum.

Another fun destination is downtown City Museum, which really isn’t a museum but a 600,000 square-foot playhouse located in the former International Shoe Company and features an eclectic mixture of a children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of unique, found objects. The brainchild of internationally acclaimed artist Bob Cassilly, a classically trained sculptor and serial entrepreneur, the museum opened for visitors of all ages in 1997. Caution: wear kneepads if you want to crawl after your kids in the tunnels, mazes, and pipes.

Not to worry, City Museum offers plenty of concessions to satisfy your hungry explorers, including freshly made sandwiches on handcrafted bread, fruit smoothies, brick oven pizza, barbecue ribs, and warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven. Parents, wash it all down with an espresso or cocktail.

And one more neighborhood hotspot sure to please is The Loop in University City, named “One of the 10 great streets in America” by the American Planning Association. In addition to the St. Louis Walk of Fame, The Loop offers lots of vintage clothing stores, ethnic restaurants, and a record store called Vintage Vinyl that has the largest inventory of vinyl and CDs with every type of music genre. The best burger in town is down the street at Blueberry Hill, a nationally renowned restaurant and music club filled with pop culture memorabilia where the great Chuck Berry plays the last Wednesday night of every month. You can play pool and shuffle board here, too. Over at Fitz’s Root Beer, you can eat dessert and watch how the workers brew and bottle all the frothy beverages. Afterwards, catch a flick at the restored Tivoli Movie Theatre, which offers patrons the chance to view contemporary independent films in a historic cinema house. And if you like to bowl, don’t miss the Pin-Up Bowl, a nostalgic bowling alley and martini lounge; kids are welcome here before 6 p.m. A full kitchen serves up an assortment of tasty foods, with everything from Campbell’s soups to freshly baked pizzas and even Pop-Tarts.

Finally, Demolition Ball, in St. Charles Countyl, is a favorite hangout with teens—no wonder so many bar/bat mitzvah parties are here. This crazy sport involves supercharged bumper cars with two five-player teams who shoot a whiffle ball through a 16-inch circular goal using a track ball scoop. I can’t figure out why grownups like this game so much, especially when whiplash is the prize. That’s why I recommend using a heating pad, while your kids run around Adrenaline Zone, a multi-level laser tag arena, located in the same building. Better yet, pop a couple ibuprofen while sipping on a strawberry daiquiri. You’re gonna need it; this place is loud and wild.

So, there’s plenty to do in “The Lou” with your teenagers. Just keep feeding them.


The ABCs of ACTs

This blog was actually posted last year in www.jewishinstlouis.org, but didn’t get in my website, so it’s worth repeating, even though my son is now a senior and the ACT is OVER!

In an effort to help my son achieve academic success (get into a decent college), I’ve decided to do my part without being overly involved. I know, it’s a tightrope act moms try to balance everyday with teenagers. As a parent of a high school junior, I feel overwhelmed just thinking about the near future. Somehow, Jack has to maintain a high GPA, stay involved in his activities, get a job, study for the PSAT, SAT, and ACT, schedule campus tours, fill out school applications, and, most importantly, learn how to operate a washing machine so that when he leaves home next year he doesn’t have to wear the same smelly t-shirt everyday and offend his roommate and accounting professor.
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College Prep Triggers Emotions For Mom

On January 10, 2007, I wrote a newspaper column that described how I freaked out when it was a year away from my son Jack’s bar mitzvah. A series of articles followed that described all the emotions that I experienced during this sacred rite of passage into adulthood.

  • Will he learn his Torah portion?
  • Will he feel closer to God?
  • How do we fit Hebrew school into an already crazy hectic schedule?
  • Who will be invited to his party?
  • Should I splurge on lox at the kiddish luncheon even though he doesn’t eat anything but plain bagels?
  • Will I find outfits for the entire family that coordinate with his necktie?
  • Will I be able to get through my speech in front of a congregation without weeping uncontrollably because my heart is bursting with pride?
  • Will I ever be able to walk again because my new high heels are too tight and my feet are killing me?
  • Will he finish his thank you notes by the time he gets his driver’s license?

That was five years ago, and now I feel that same panic again. Only this time I’m emotional because my first child is applying for colleges and he will be leaving home in, gulp, about seven months.

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Mom Offers Computer Camp

All these years I thought that my kids were wasting their time and their brain cells while they were glued to their video games and electronic devices. As a good parent, I constantly nagged them to do something more productive, like read a book, ride a bike, or help me fold the towels. Thankfully, they chose to ignore my advice, (although I still resent having to do all the laundry). Without their savvy technological skills that they developed at an early age, I’d be lost these days. You see, I recently made the monumental transition from a PC to a Mac, which is the equivalent of being dropped from an airplane into a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and can’t ask for directions to the nearest bathroom or coffeehouse without sounding like a total moron. Continue reading

Teenagers vs. “Terrible Two’s”. It’s A Toss Up

Being a teenager is tough, and so is parenting one. Think about it. Moms go through pre-menopause around the same time their children go through puberty, and that means a household full of mood swings, raging hormones, sugar cravings, weight fluctuations, bad hair days, forgetfulness, exhaustion, and inability to focus due to habitual multi-tasking. (Not a good time for a husband to have a mid-life crisis). Scientific studies prove that neurological changes in the brain peak at certain stages in life, including the time parents are raising their teens, so I’m not making this stuff up. Continue reading

New Confirmands Hit The Road

I don’t mean to sound cliché, but attending my son’s confirmation service at temple earlier this month reminds me, once again, how time passes so quickly. It doesn’t just remind me of how grown up our children are, it hits me like a ton of bricks as Jack and his fellow Class of 5771, many whom he went to preschool with, proudly stand on the bima and lead the service, chant the Mi Chamocha, and, most significantly, share their personal thoughts on what being a Jew means to them. Continue reading

Tweens and Cell Phones: Talk About Out-of-Control

The other day I’m in the neighborhood bakery—just looking, of course—and I notice several leftover Valentine’s Day cookies marked half price. The heart shaped treats are decorated “Be Mine” and “Cutie” in pink and white icing, but one stands out from all the others. This rejected cookie has red icing drizzled with the words “Text Me.” Seems innocent enough, but I’m actually sad about the reflection this rejected cookie has on our society. Are today’s teen falling apart just like the stale cookie next to the cherry stolen? Disheartened, I leave the pastry shop with a Styrofoam cup of coffee and a piece of glazed donut from the sample plate. Continue reading

Mom Catches Bieber Fever

Go ahead and make fun of me. I can take it. I’m a big girl. I openly admit that I’m a fan of 16-year-old singing sensation Justin Bieber—you know, the cute kid with the flip hairdo, no pimples, and the guts to dance on stage alongside his mentor Usher like no other white boy I ever saw.

Even though I don’t have the pop star’s poster on my bedroom wall yet, I still felt like a giddy teenage groupie (they’re called “Beliebers”) when I took my 12-year-old daughter Sari and a bunch of her girlfriends to the opening night of the wildly anticipated movie “Never Say Never.” Continue reading

Teen Brain Baffles Parents

Being a teenager is tough, and so is parenting one, especially in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world where, for the first time, kids are the ones teaching us about social media and how to navigate our way into the future. Honestly, without their help, I’d never figure out how to operate the television remote control or know how to add new contacts into my cell phone. Teenagers consider themselves masters at multi-tasking. They do homework while they watch television, text their friends, play on the computer, and listen to music, all at the same time.

“It helps me relax and focus on my studies,” says my son Jack, 15, who used to collect baseball cards and now accumulates apps on his iPhone.

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Volunteerism Brings Out the Best in Teens

Welcome to the lazy days of summer when final exams are over and teenagers relish a break from the hectic pace of the school year. Their carefree lifestyle in the next few months is enviable, ya know, riding around town with the top down (of the convertible, that is), hanging out at the swimming pool with friends, and playing video games all day long until their world becomes a virtual reality. On the flip side, other teens mix fun in the sun with volunteer work, including building a playground in a war ravaged neighborhood in Israel, teaching a seriously ill child how to shoot a bow and arrow for the first time at summer camp, or exercising homeless dogs at the Missouri Humane Society. Continue reading