Quick Ideas

Here we offer a simple list of quick ideas for stuff to do outside with your kids—or activities they can work at on their own. We add to this list all the time!

  1. Plan a Garden – Aside from BLTs made with fresh, homegrown tomatoes, the best part of gardening is the planning and planting, the watching and waiting. With young kids, start by talking about the kinds of things that grow in a garden. See if they can draw pictures of their favorite vegetables.
  2. Fly a Kite – Who doesn’t want to fly a kite? It’s a great way to let go of some stress, and there’s a lot to be learned from the spool end of a kite. And kite’s aren’t the only way for kids to take flight. Try a balsa-wood plane, a paper airplane, or a plastic glider.
  3. Build a Fort – You don’t need much to build a fort. Just some sticks will do, but you can mix it up by bringing out blankets and sheets, or ransacking the garage for old sheets of plywood and the short ends of 2x4s. The the building’s done, then it’s time for decorating!
  4. Design a Disc Golf Course – We have some great disc golf courses in our area. Unfortunately, they’re much too advanced for our kids. So we went a built a course in our own backyard. We let half the yard grow tall, then mowed creatively. Wide spokes radiating from the middle allow us to vary the course as we go.
  5. Create an Obstacle Course for Bikes – Grab some cones, pile up some dirt for a mini-ramp, and maybe buy some of the stuff they use to make lines on sports fields. Easy to draw a path through the grass and give kids an even better way to enjoy the bike.
  6. Make Some Tracks –Sure it looks cool on CSI, but it’s even in real life. Look around outside after a rain (when the ground is still holding tracks), find some animal tracks, and fill them with plaster of Paris. Hairspray helps the dirt keep its shape before pouring. Once the plaster is dry, you can bring the track home.

Detroit has recently become the recognized poster child for the woes of post-industrial America. From the city’s Guilded Age at the beginning of the 20th century, to the rise of the automobile industry (and the subsequent rise of the unions), to the race riots of 1967 and the city’s inevitable decline in through the 80s, Detroit has traced the arc of American industrial greatness—a path that has led to a truly tragic end. As the country looks to see how Detroit will reinvent itself, as it surely must, I propose a look back.

A lot of books have been written on Detroit’s heyday. There are books on Henry Ford, the auto industry, the unions, the race riots of 1967, the Purple Gang, Jimmy Hoffa, etc. None of these books, however, look at the city earlier than the twentieth century.

I propose a work that traces the history of Detroit from its roots as a French settlement in 1701 to Henry Ford’s first “car” in 1896. Though less than 200 years, the city was occupied by the French, the British, and Americans. Detroit played a part in the French and Indian Wars, the War of 1812, the Siege of Pontiac, and the Toledo War. In 1805, the city burned to the ground and was rebuilt under the leadership of Chief Justice August B. Woodward, a protégé of Thomas Jefferson. As the capital of the new state of Michigan, Detroit controlled the Great Lakes and was the gateway to the region’s vast mineral resources.

This is simply a brief recap of events. I plan to tell the story of these events through the lenses of the men and women who participated in them. The first French settlers wrote extensively about their experiences in the New World. For 125 years they made a life deep in the frontier (much farther west than most Americans ever roamed), intermarrying with the local Indian peoples, farming and trading furs. After the War for Independence, there was a great need to scout out the newly liberated nation, so surveyors and explorers (like Henry Rowe Schoolcraft) were sent to the Northwest Territories. As the country entered into the Civil War, men from Detroit joined in droves (impressing Lincoln with their sacrifice at Gettysburg).

I believe the story of Detroit is a compelling narrative, one those familiar with the tired old “Detroit as an urban mess” will find compelling and refreshing. There are a couple history books about Detroit already on the market, most published by Wayne State University Press. I am looking at a more popular approach to the subject. As someone who takes history seriously, I believe in getting the facts right, but I am primarily a writer who wants to tell a story. This book would fit squarely in the popularized history category.