Category Archives: Dad/Daughter Dates

Valentine Dinners

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Sometimes I debate what I’m going to write about because I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence.  This is one of these moments.  Tonight, Amanda and I are headed to a restaurant in Austin called Juniper.  I’ve never been there, never heard about it, and am writing ahead of time so I can’t give you a review.

We try to go out to eat every Valentine’s Day, but this year I wanted to raise the stakes a little bit and find a nice restaurant to go to.  I googled “fancy restaurants in Austin” to get a list of places to go.  I started the process at the beginning of February, but I was already too late.  Everything I clicked on was booked for that special Hallmark Day where we celebrate a martyred Catholic in the name of romance.  Luckily, my wife doesn’t care about the specific day as much as spending time together, so we are going to dinner on the day before.

Enough about our plans for tonight, because I filed this one under “Dad Daughter Dates” and that is what I wanted to offer up.  It sounds simple to plan a date with your kids where you take them to dinner, but it is a traditional date for us.  Each February, I take my girls out individually to a Valentine’s dinner.  When we started, I had big ideas.  I’d wear a suit and my daughters would dress up.  We’d go to a fancy restaurant. I’d pull out the chair for her, we’d order expensive food, and have our own Hollywood movie experience.

It didn’t work that way.  One year, we literally ended up at the Whataburger drive thru because it was the only place my youngest wanted to eat and she wanted to eat it at home.  There were a lot of tears and it is possible, though unconfirmed, that I may have lost my temper that night.

Earlier this week, I took my teenage daughter to Valentine’s dinner.  I’ve learned some lessons along the way.  I texted her on the morning of our date and asked her what she wanted to wear.  I told her that we traditionally dressed up, but I realize that may not be cool for a 13-year-old.  She said she was in a sweater and jeans and so that is how we dressed.  I asked her if she had a place in mind or if she wanted to eat somewhere we’d never eaten before.  She said that she didn’t care, BUT she had been thinking about Kerbey Lane Café (she’s a sucker for Kerbey Queso).  Kerby Lane it is!

I said that I didn’t want to insult your intelligence at the beginning of this post.  Taking your daughter to dinner isn’t that creative of an idea.  You might have even done it for Valentine’s Day before, but it is a tradition we started a long time ago and it’s been a good one.  By the time you read this blog, it will probably be past that big day, but mark your calendar for next year and start a new tradition of “Valentine’s Dinner with your Daughter.”

Photography

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One way to find a day with your kids that they are guaranteed to love is to build a date around one of the things they are passionate about or something that they are exploring.  Our oldest has been interested in photography for a long time.  She has asked for cameras for Christmas, explored some of the high-end cameras at secondhand camera stores, and I’ve asked some friends who love photography to take her out and give her some tips.  To this day, she’ll be the first person to ask to take the family pictures during the holidays.

One afternoon we decided to go out and take photos together.  Well, I mean we didn’t take them together in that we were posing for pictures . . . we both took pictures of things to make our own portfolio.  We didn’t have any special equipment, just our phones.

We drove over to an area in our town called Blue Hole.  It is an area of the San Gabriel River where it is deep enough to swim.  When the water is high it is very beautiful.  The picture at the top of the blog is an actual picture of Blue Hole.  We stopped and took pictures of flowers, the river, the waterfall, and anything we could find that looked beautiful through the lens of the camera.

When we finished, we looked at each other’s photos, and I’ll admit, she did a pretty good job!  There was a lot of excitement upon returning home, too.  The first thing she wanted to do was show her mom all her photos.

We got to spend time together, enjoy God’s creation, and be outside.  It was a date that didn’t have to cost anything, although I’m pretty sure we grabbed sno cones before and she thinks we went to “our spot” for dinner.

Let me tell you how much of a memory this day was for my daughter.  I asked her about it as I was typing up this blog to make sure I didn’t leave anything out.  We did this date a couple of years ago so I thought I might be a bit foggy on the details.  I asked her, “What do you remember about our photography date?”  Without missing a beat, she said, “I’ve still got the pictures.  Do you want to see them?”

Wildflowers

wildflowersThis is a throwback blog.  I had forgotten about this date idea that I did with one of my girls several years ago.  I thought it would be good to give an idea for some younger kids because my current dates I blog about are for upper elementary to junior high.  When Emerson was probably four or five years old, we went wildflower picking.  You could do this with an older child, but it was perfect for that age.

I got the idea one day when driving down the Interstate and seeing all the spectacular colors that were in bloom.  Once I had the idea, I started looking around town for places that I could take a kindergarten kid.  The Interstate wasn’t one of the safer options, so I had to do some advance scouting.  Once I identified three places we could go where we could walk safely and not be on private property, I picked a Saturday.

We drove to each of the sites with the goal of making bouquets for mom.  We kept a little cooler of ice in the back of the car.  It would be wise to put something to drink in the cooler and then you can replace the drinks with the flowers that you pick.  This was a simple date to pull off that didn’t cost any money because we had everything we needed at home.  It was an easy way to spend time together and mom loved having three or four vases of colorful flowers to put around the house.

It Doesn’t Have to be Complicated

downloadI love creativity.  I love planning a one-of-a-kind experience or even doing things that create an experience that you’ll remember for a long time.  That is not always a sustainable model for planning dates with your wife and kids.  Sometimes you must do something easy, but still full of quality time.

Emerson (our youngest) and I had a date like that not too long ago.  All it required was a little bit of advance shopping on Amazon as my pre-planning.  I got on about a week before our date and searched for puzzle books for kids her age.  I was looking for the kind of activity book that has games, mazes, word puzzles, and such.  I found one in less than a minute and ordered it.  After it arrived, we went to a sit-down restaurant, because we needed some time and a fast food experience would be too quick.  We chose Razoo’s because I was craving Cajun food and Emerson only eats chicken nuggets and candy, and you can find chicken nuggets anywhere.

After ordering our food, we opened the book and started doing some puzzles together.  I ordered alligator tail and had her try some of it.  She’s more open to a new food experience when she’s on a date and things are out of the norm.  Since dad/daughter dates aren’t routine, they do provide you with some special moments.  It may be trying a new food, but it can often be an open window into a conversation that you wouldn’t have on a normal day.

We finished our meal, worked on some more puzzles, and ordered dessert.  Dad/daughter dates almost always require dessert!

This blog isn’t one of those creative blogs.  It’s just a short one to give you an idea of something that is out of your regular routine and easy to do.  The total cost was about $10 plus a meal.  She also kept the book which will come in handy on road trips!  That’s a two-for-one win!

Overheard Conversations

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A few weeks ago, I had planned a breakfast date with Raley, our 13-year-old.  She was not at all thrilled about getting up earlier than she had to on a school day so she asked if we could go to dinner instead.  Making that decision was easy.  I just had to ask myself if I wanted to have breakfast with a kid in a bad mood or dinner with a kid in a good mood?  So, we went to dinner this week . . .

This isn’t really a date idea like most of the blogs, but an observation of an impactful moment that happened to us.  I’m writing it because something similar could happen for your family if you took a few steps outside of your comfort zone.

We went to our regular dining spot that we go to whenever it is just Raley and I.  We found “our table” (the same one we always sit at) and we had a great dinner and conversation.  While we were eating, there was a table of about eight elderly gentleman that had gathered to talk and eat as well.  The restaurant was fairly empty and I overheard one of the men mention the “prayer list.”

After we finished eating and paying at the counter, Raley stepped away to use the restroom.  While I was waiting for her, I walked over to the table and asked the men if they were from a church group.  They replied, “We’re from a bunch of different churches.”  I discovered that one of the men in the group led a prison ministry and the rest of the group were volunteers in his organization.  My daughter walked back up right about the time that one of the men began to tell a story about some gang members who had given their life to Jesus and had been radically changed.  It was one of the “goose bump” type stories.  We only chatted for about five minutes and then I asked if I could pray for them.  Shortly after that we were on our way home.

Reflecting on the event the next day, I realized several things had occurred because I stepped out of a comfort zone to talk to people I didn’t know.

  1. My daughter was exposed to an incredible ministry to “the least of these” that she doesn’t get to hear about that often.
  2. She saw how my willingness to start a conversation gave encouragement to the men who were gathered.
  3. She heard her father pray for people out loud in a public restaurant.
  4. It spurred some interesting conversation on the way home.

Those were four wins that would have never happened had we simply paid the bill and left.  What might happen if you engaged your neighbors or other people with spiritual conversation as your kids looked on?

Deep Sea Date

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If you’ve read the blog often, you know that the quickest way to get my money is to give a deal on Groupon that I can use for a date!  Emerson and I went to the Austin Aquarium for an afternoon together.

I’ve driven past the Austin Aquarium a few times and I’ll be honest; I wasn’t impressed by it.  It is in the middle of a strip mall between the Salvation Army and a Half Price Books store.  If it wasn’t for the Groupon, I would have probably not considered it, but a deal is a deal . . . and I’m glad we went.

It isn’t a huge aquarium, but it is great!  They have several tanks where you can touch the animals like turtles, lizards, and sharks.  They also have a bird room that you can walk into.  That gets you a very up-close view!  We also talked to some of the people who worked at the aquarium and they were great!

This sounds like an advertisement for the Austin Aquarium, but it’s not.  If you are local and have kids, you should definitely check it out.  If you aren’t local, it’s simply an idea for a Dad/Daughter date.  Find a local aquarium and go check out some of God’s creation together with your kid.  Ask questions like:

  • What is the craziest looking animal in here?
  • If you could take one of these home, which once would you take?
  • Why do you think God made so many different animals in the ocean?
  • What does this creation tell you about God?

Tickets are $14 for adults and $9 for kids, so it’s less than $25.  You probably won’t spend more than hour there, but still worth it!

Movie Rental Night

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Growing up we used to ride our bikes down to the local video rental store and load up with movies for the weekend.  That was before Blockbuster came onto the scene and became the industry leader.  After we were married, we signed up for Netflix.  That was back in the day when they would mail you DVDs.  Going to the mailbox was like Christmas Day.  I would always forget what movie was up next in our queue so it was a surprise.  The worst part was when you had a TV series that had cliffhanger endings.  We watched the first season of “24” with Kiefer Sutherland and at the end of every episode something would happen that hooked you (why crazy things only happened at the top of every hour is beyond me).  If it was the last episode on the DVD you were stuck until you could mail it back and get the next one!

This isn’t really about the history of movie rentals, but I had a very easy to plan date with my youngest daughter.  We simply rented a movie.  We were planning to go see “Abominable,” but it wasn’t until I started checking showtimes that I realized it wasn’t out yet.  So Lesson #1 for today: “Plan your date in advance.”

Earlier this summer we watched the two newest Spiderman movies and she really liked them.  She was interested in watching Avengers, but there are too many characters she’d have no clue about.  My wife mentioned that she might like “Shazam.”  It is about kid superheroes and it is pretty funny.  Lesson #2: “Just because your wife suggests it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check the ratings and reviews.”  It was rated PG-13 for quite a bit of inappropriate language.

I picked up McDonalds and we ate while we watched the movie and then paused it halfway through to pop some popcorn.  This was an easy way to spend time together.

The movie had quite a few easy Biblical connections to it so we got to talk about that after the movie and then it led to several other conversations.  We ended up talking about the cartoons I watched growing up and listening to NF songs.

Obviously this isn’t a creative date idea, but it led to intentional time after the movie that was pretty great!  And the best part is, almost anyone can do it.

Cost:

McDonald’s for two           $13.00
Movie rental                         $6.00

Total                                      $19.00

Austin Zoo

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A couple of weeks ago I took our youngest to the Austin Zoo.  The big picture idea here would be to visit any zoo that is local, but I’ll tell about our experience at this particular zoo.  As is the case for so many of the dates I plan, I got a deal off of Groupon.

Emerson is nine years old and is the right age for the Austin Zoo.  If a child is too much older than that, it may not be as exciting.  The Austin Zoo isn’t your typical zoo.  Most of the animals there are rescue animals.  They had owners who could no longer take care of them, were injured/abused, or were found and needed some special care.  It is a small zoo, but it has lions, tigers, bears, and some great animals to see.  There is a pretty large area for feeding animals (and a lot of animals to choose from).

Walking around the zoo gave us a lot of time to talk.  We were able to talk about creation and God’s incredible imagination when he created animals.  We also got to talk about our favorite animals and the ones that we thought were boring (that would be the birds for me).

t took us nearly an hour to get to the zoo (and an hour home) not counting our lunch stop.  We spent between 90 minutes to two hours in the zoo.  We didn’t ride the train, but did just about everything else.

Pro Tips:

  1. It may have its address in Austin, but it is much closer to Dripping Springs.  Plan accordingly before you go.
  2. Don’t go in the heat of the day.  A lot of the animals are trying to find shade or are sleeping which makes them hard to see.

Total Cost: $14.50 for two people with the Groupon (plus gas and lunch)

Bike Riding

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This is an easy one that can be done with as much or as little prep as needed.  For us it took some preparation because we had some hurdles to overcome.  First, I don’t have a bike.  I started to research online and discovered that you can check bikes out from our local library.  I drove over the week before just to check it out (and to renew my library card).  I’m glad I did because I discovered that checking bikes out is just a theoretical concept.  All of the bikes at our library are apparently broken.  They referred me to the Visitor Center for our city.  I called and they only have one bike that works.  The rest are broken as well.  Luckily it is 2019 and social media was able to come to the rescue.  A post on Facebook landed me several bikes I could borrow from friends.

We got up in the morning, loaded our bikes, and drove over to one of our city parks that has trails.  We started riding and it was fairly clear we had two different sets of intentions.  I was wanting to ride all the way to the lake, hang out, and then ride back.  My oldest was looking for a short leisurely ride . . . but why go to all the trouble for a short ride, right?

When we hit the 1.5 mile mark she suggested we go to the two mile marker and then turn around and go back.  My mind still wanted to go all the way to the lake, but my butt spoke up and said, “Great idea!”  I was already starting to get uncomfortable from the bicycle seat that was foreign to my everyday experience.

After the bike ride, we grabbed lunch and spent some time talking about the morning.  I’d highly recommend this virtually free dad/daughter date!  It is great conversation, exercise, and gets you outdoors.

Archery

oThis could definitely be done as a date with your spouse, too!  I’ll probably do it and blog about it down the road, but I recently did this with my oldest daughter.

We went out to Central Texas Archery in Austin.  I got the idea from Groupon and it was a fairly cheap idea so I jumped on it.  You’ll need to lower your expectations of what you expect upon arrival.  This is an outdoor facility and I’m not sure “facility” is the right word. There is a large shed where you check in, but the rest of the venue is outdoor targets.  Don’t misinterpret that as it being a bad venue, but if you are expecting a building you might be caught by surprise.  Everything out there is well maintained and in great shape.

We signed up for the beginning archery class and we were put in a group of four (including ourselves).  We learned a few important things, like how to wear the arm guard, how to hold the bow, how to place the arrow (and all the fancy names for those things).  The staff was great.  They got the right bow and the right sized arrows for both us and then took us out to the course.

You have six to eight arrows.  I can’t remember the exact number now, but you shoot them all several times to warm up.  After a few warm up sessions (I’m not sure what to call it), then you start keeping score.

We were probably out there for about an hour or so, but it was a good amount of time.  Raley, my oldest, was “done” right before the clock officially ran out on us.  The staff was very friendly and helpful.  I’d highly recommend it as a different date with your kids!

Cost: $25 for two on Groupon, but you can add a discount code to make it even less.