Morgan’s Wonderland – A Special Needs Special Place

November 6, 2010

Inspired by my friend Rob’s Facebook status today about Special Education Week, I decided today had to be the day I shared an old article I ran across the other day. I had saved it because I wanted to share it with friends whose new baby has spina bifida. It is Ticket to Ride in the October 4th People Magazine.

Because I know several families with special needs kids, the article struck me as very special. Here was a dad who could do something – and DID it – to make the world a better place for not only his own special needs daughter Morgan, but for others as well.

Gordon and Maggie Hartman created Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas. It is a place where kids can ride a train, a carousel, a swing or they can experience sensory activities such as the interactive music garden – all independent of their physical or mental abilities. Actually it is even better than that because special needs adults can also have these great experiences – maybe even for the first time in their lives.

ABC News ran a special report American Heart: Spreading Joy to Special Kids about the new park that opened last April 2010. Here is the vision for a park for special needs people as documented by Gordon Hartman in its conceptual phase.

The hours, pricing and directions are here.

Check out ideas and activities to do with kids on by the author of the award-winning children’s book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!

Austin’s Reno Toboggan Rides

January 31, 2010

After being a good boy in the car (Are we there yet?) for a full day’s ride from Medford, Oregon to Reno, NV, last December, Austin was rewarded with a morning of sledding! We all had great fun! He must have had 15 to 20 rides down the little incline of cleared landscape – as in – it had fewer rocks than the rest of the land! Lots of fun in the crispy, fresh air! I posted a few runs on youtube:


…another run at it….

…and yet another run… I have lots of short clips but they all stop about half way down the hill because I stop the camera so I can catch him. This one runs a little further!

…and then a closer look at the nearby rocky bits that we maneuvered around for a toboggan run!

Check out for more interesting things and ideas! 🙂

Fun Places for Kids

December 2, 2009 has a great list of “idea-sparkers” for you with the photo list of 9 Places For Hands-On Fun. They’re great ideas and each one has an opportunity to look for similar places near your home! Have Fun!!

Read more of my blogs at

Memory Lane

November 16, 2009

Today was fun sharing our weekend adventures with the people at work and friends on the phone. It was like a trip down memory lane. We’d jump from one of our weekend adventures to someone’s remembered adventure from long ago. Had all kinds of smiles and grins. Just like the adventures in Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!, once triggered the stories flowed from one cherished memory to another. Rainy days, sunny days, cloudy days all had their special moments. It was a lot of fun!

More info on

Great Weekend in Portland!

November 15, 2009

Grandpa Ron and I had a great weekend in Portland with Austin, Bella, Madison and family! It had lots of surprises, twists and turns, yet it was a whole lot of fun and very insightful for us.

Austin is so much taller and so much more vocal! Bella is so much more a young lady as well – she’s four. I had fun one-on-one time with Austin on Friday while Grandpa Ron was serving jury duty. Then Austin, Bella and I went back to the Portland airport and picked up Grandpa Ron – practicing counting to a hundred and twenty five along the way.

Then on Saturday Bella and I went with Mommy to her Baby Shower while Grandpa and Austin went to the Vancouver, WA train station and watched trains move around.

Back in the hotel room Austin used the portable luggage holder as his own train. He climbed in, sat on the middle straps and showed us how he was moving his train – with air brake releases, clunking and sssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhh-ing and all. Sometimes he was the conductor and sometimes he was the engineer. It was a lot of fun watching his imagination at work. I do have pictures so I’ll get them posted – maybe tomorrow night. Now it is time to unpack and get to bed for bright eyes for work in the morning!!

More info on

Nature Rocks

September 16, 2009

The back of my Autumn Nature Conservancy magazine had a little ad on the back for Nature Rocks: Let’s Go Explore. It is a fun website to click through – complete with children’s voices and ducks! Here is a Staycation Guide (takes a while to load – it is a pdf file) on things to do as a family close to home. A fun feature to play with is Find Nature. Great photos can be seen here. Enjoy!

Games To Play While Waiting

August 1, 2009 has a great list of games to keep the kids occupied while travelling in the car, waiting in traffic in the car, waiting in line, waiting at the doctor’s office, or wherever. Grandson Austin loves to play the Bridge Game that I taught him while we are in the car in the city or suburbia. I learned it as a child from my grandpa.

It is part of the game to be the first one to say “Bridge coming!” to get the attention of the rest of the people in the car. As we get closer to the bridge – can’t be too far away – we time it with Ready, Set, and Wheeeeeee for as long as it takes to go under it. For tunnels we try to hold our wheeeeee to last as long as the tunnel.

Attention lags when there aren’t many bridges – except he came up with a variation on his own (He’s 3) on the last trip. He started pointing out highway/interstate/freeway sign ‘bridges’ that went over the road. As we went under , he said “Whe” short and sweet. It was too funny – and immediately became a variation of the game.

Grandpa Ron’s Review

July 28, 2009

At first, it was a series of pictures of Grandpa and Grandson enjoying themselves. Once the book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too! was together with the words, it became how do you influence another individual – and it’s multigenerational when you look at it that way. Of course, then that path has a deeper meaning in terms of philosophy in terms of understanding relationships. Parents and grandparents have to be careful because here are examples of the child emulating adult behavior.

The book started out a simple story from Grandma Sue’s hand. It grew deeper and broader through her artistic endeavors. For anyone who considers themselves a teacher or a rabbi, this book truly captures that student/teacher or parent/child relationship. It certainly has given me an awareness of the influence I have had on the people around me that I never realized I had before. The book brings that all into focus: my relationship with parents, grandparents, brothers and sister. All these memories were dormant but right there all the same. It has done that for several other people who have shared their reactions, feelings and experiences with us.

So from a simple picture story of a magical week, it became a reflection of all those things that derive from earning and sharing love and respect. This book captured it all.

Not everybody gets it. Some see just the pictures and don’t put themselves into the picture – so they miss out on the meaning and opportunity to relive their own special moments. Every one of those pictures reminds me of antics with my brothers and sister in younger days with family members. My brothers and I built roads in the dirt, sometimes using rocks as the trucks, using knockouts as manhole covers and using electrical conduit as sewer lines. The morning cereal one reminds me of my daughter and me making breakfast together. The swimming picture reminds me again of my daughter. All brought back. All brought back into focus by Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too! – I didn’t even realize all those memories were there. I look at my relationships with other people and I see similar characteristics that I just didn’t realize were there.

From a family values perspective I don’t know of a better example. Age doesn’t matter. It’s two people having fun in a very classic sense. It’s learning from one another – a two-way communication – like the cereal picture, I thought about picking him up and holding him while I prepared the cereal but I knew he’d get too heavy to hold long. So I got the stool. That facilitated him doing his own cereal preparation.

It’s more than “just pictures” of a grandpa and grandson that were captured. It’s a trip down memory lane for most of us – young or old.

New Whitewater Park at Rock Park

June 8, 2009

There is a new Whitewater Park at Rock Park in Sparks, NV. Now there is quite the rapids to get through if you start at Reno and float your way down to Sparks on the Truckee River! Overcoming early obstacles, the revamping of the river at Rock Park is the start of river restoration that’s taking place. More info is here.

Attention, Grandma! A Great Father’s Day Gift For Grandpa!

May 30, 2009

Attention, Grandmas!!!

Consider getting Grandpa Do It! I Do It, Too! for Grandpa for father’s Day!

Every day experiences turn into special moments for Grandpa Ron and Grandson Austin. The book captures some of those moments. It is a picture book with Austin-like sentences to describe the pictures. Most of the pictures are from photographs when 2 and a half year old Austi spent a week with us in Reno. Others are from Seal Beach and Long Beach, CA and the Portland, OR area. I turned the photos into drawings using photo applications.

It hits on the message that we may seldom be given the opportunity to know the impact we make on another, even very young, individual. Live as though it will happen always and then cherish the memories. It demonstrates “family relationship togetherness” and little ones watching and learning from grown-ups – namely grandpa! It helps foster self-esteem and demonstrate how every day activities can be special. Just taking the time to go places, explaining things to kids and playing with the kids can be something they remember for the rest of their lives.

There are some blank pages at the end of the book for you to put your favorite family photos or memories or the kids could draw themselves with their family. When they are all grown up 20 years later it will be fun to rediscover those special pages at the end!

The story has a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of 1.8.
The book is printed in the USA.

I call it a children’s book. Grandpa Ron calls it a grandparent’s book. Read it and decide for yourself! The kids enjoy talking about the activities and details in the pictures. The adults remember their own special moments – either as kids with their grandparents or as grandparents with their grandkids. Oh, and moms and dads get their own flashbacks, too!

I do it, too!!

Click the Amazon link on the right hand side of this page or click here to purchase!

Resellers, Non-profits and Libraries can obtain copies at a discount from BookSurge Customer Service 1-866-308-6235 Option 6. It only takes about 10 minutes to set up an account.

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