Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Museum Deja Vu

I know what you're thinking: Is this a new blog post or did you just edit the last one?

No, it's new. It just so happens that we went back to the Children's Museum tonight and I'm blogging about it. What delight to find out that museum night was to be on the same day as our visit to....the dentist!

RJ2 has known about this dental appointment for months. Let me remind you, she does not like going to the dentist! Dr. Chris is one of the most understanding dentists. A real put-you-at-ease kind of guy, while, at the same time, delivering the bad news. RJ2 really doesn't dislike Dr. Chris. But the thought of having someone else brush her teeth with that horrid rubber toothbrush is just too much to bear (which is why she had full sedation at her last visit).

So, RJ2 has been preparing for this visit. She's been reading all the books, reciting all the lines, chatting with friends over lunch at school about their dental visits and, basically, just psyching herself up. Of course, an hour before it's time to leave, she starts to break down. She doesn't want to go. As we get closer and closer to the office, she starts tearing up and saying that she's ready to take 3 deep breaths.

I remind her that after the dentist, we have a dinner date at McDonald's and a trip to the Children's Museum. It helps. She knows the

As we usually do, I sign the girls in and RJ2 waits in the outside vestibule. Today, CJ has the large waiting room all to herself. I think the blaring Nick Jr. on the TV keeps RJ2 waiting in the wings. But, the hygienist calls us quickly, and both go back willingly, for a few steps. RJ2 starts breaking down again. But, with no other kids waiting in the back room, she calms down, sitting in the exam chair next to CJ and starting to brush her teeth with the base of some dental instrument, talking non-stop.

The hygienist decides that it will be better for RJ2 to be in "her" room, so we make our way over. Things are going well. RJ2 grabs the rubber toothbrush and places it on her teeth. This time, I got smart and brought a large hand mirror, so she could see what was going on in her mouth. Definitely helped! I had her "spin brush" with me, but the hygienist wasn't up for using that.

Had very high hopes that RJ2 was going to allow the hygienist to put the toothpaste on and the two of them would start brushing together. But then, we had a surprise. The hygienist started to raise up the chair before telling us her plans. The jolt got RJ2 (and me!) up all too quickly and made her completely out of sorts. Bummer!

She managed to calm down, but any thought of brushing was gone at that point. Dr. Chris came in and commented on RJ2's loss of teeth, and that things looked good in there! He had to do some scraping, but RJ2 had completely calmed (and was looking seriously into the mirror again). He had to apply that liquid fluoride varnish, which was a sufficiently yucky note upon which to have ended the visit. But, all in all, she took another small step forward in conquering the dentist's office.

And she knows her next visit is in May. (I'll have to make a note to have the hygienist use hand signals or Pig Latin when announcing the next 6-month openings....)

* * *

Chicken nuggets for dinner?! She had a Chicken Select piece tonight. Girl is full of surprises....

* * *

On to the Children's Museum for another "Special Night." The girls seemed to be the only returnees in the small crowd. But they had lots of fun!

RJ2 doesn't look thrilled, but it was her idea to have CJ climb into the farm truck with her.

The girls had a blast in the toddlers' area tonight. But, who wouldn't with all the fun foam stuff to walk on and climb through.

CJ on the museum's version of the "Big Comfy Couch." She's not feeling 100 percent, with a seasonal sinusy thing kicking up this week. But, didn't stop her from making the rounds....

Last time, the water activities ruled the night. Tonight, the museum had a special Thanksgiving heritage focus. We walked in and were immediately invited to crawl into a Powhatan Indian style tent. The staff also put together a great sensory exhibit in which the Powhatan figurines were buried in some 15-bean soup mix. We came back to this table again and again. The "10 Fat Turkeys" story time and the make-a-turkey-out-of-a-paper-bag exhibits, however, did not draw but a glance.

Lots of cool fidget balls and awesomely huge bean bag chairs were cool finds tonight, as well as being reunited with "Miss Megan." I chatted with her about the possibility of a "Bells and Boomwhackers" night. I may get the call for their January session. We'll see.

A really long day, but it closed out with 3--yes, 3--very tired girls. (Why am I still up?)


OOH, almost forgot. We went shopping again! Now I just need to splice in a few shots of Kroger and a cool soundtrack..... then, maybe, we can go!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Special Night at the Children's Museum

It's not often we get to attend an inaugural event. Tonight was such a night.

The Children's Museum of Richmond hosted a "Special Night for Children with Special Needs." The museum opened its doors for two hours and hosted some kids who might have difficulty going to the museum during regular us!

We weren't sure RJ2 was going to walk in the doors. She has a really tough time entering unfamiliar places. We browsed lots of cool pictures of the museum's exhibits online at home, but you never would have guessed that as we approached the doors. We waited patiently and stared into the big glass-paned windows. Then, a museum employee came out to see us.

"Miss Megan" could tell we were having difficulty. She brought a big smile and said, "Hello!" which immediately cheered up RJ2 and got her talking. (She also brought a "social story" about having fun at the Children's Museum!) "Miss Megan" did her best, but RJ2 was reluctant. As "Miss Megan" returned inside, we all thought it might be time to head home.

But, after waiting a few more minutes, RJ2 walked to the doors and said, "All right, let's go inside." Of course, then she couldn't open the very tight doors! We did make it in, ever so slowly, and the warm welcoming smiles of staff inside--and "Miss Megan" taking RJ2 directly to the exhibits--made for the start of a great night!

We pretty much saw everything! CJ has been itching to go to the Children's Museum for weeks, and since siblings were invited, it was the perfect opportunity to go together. She was our tour guide for the evening, and a good cow milker!

RJ2's very most favorite activity (and calming place) is this fountain, which comes at the end of a large river exhibit filled with plastic boats and one really huge rubber duckie!

There is a "backyard" at the museum, which is filled with sand toys, climbing toys and musical instruments. And this flower that my folks and sister have growing at their houses.

CJ insisted that RJ2 check out the cave exhibit, complete with (stuffed) animals, like that orange snake (far left) that you might find in a cave. RJ2 grabbed the snake and started running with it. I feared she might bring it back to the water fountain. "He lives in the cave," I said. (Whew!)

The museum has a very cool shadows exhibit. An image of plastic balls is projected on this screen. But, if you jump or move your arms forcefully--as if pushing the balls--the balls move across the screen! It's a perfect place for shadow dancing and, for RJ2, singing "Kibbles' Rockin' Clubhouse." ("It is time to clap your hands....")

A grocery store is almost a must-have for a children's museum. I didn't think RJ2 would have any interest in here, since she can't take a step in the grocery store these days. Wow! Not so.... She grabbed a cart as soon as she saw one and started right in shopping for fruit and garlic! Then, she got baked goods from the bakery. Finally, some staples, like Gushers and plain spaghetti, from the back shelf. CJ scanned her items and I bagged her groceries. "Miss Megan" came by to shop with us, and we learned that she used to teach 3rd grade in our school district!

Finally, in honor of Uncle Jeff, we had to drive the ambulance! This was another highlight. No sooner had she left the wheel than RJ2 went out the back of the ambulance and right back into the driver's seat! Not a bad fit....

One last visit at the fountain, then it was off to the entrance again. "Miss Megan" was waiting, seeing off other children. RJ2 had a last goodbye for her, which, no doubt, made her night. She certainly made ours!
For thinking we might have spent the night in the car driving to and from without ever entering the museum, we all ended up having way more fun--and we have a pass for 3 more free visits on Special Nights!

Does this mean we'll be shopping at Kroger again soon? Only if we can get a little cart.... and maybe Miss Megan....

Sunday, October 3, 2010

All Around the Town....

With summer being so hot this year, it was difficult to think about planning short-term excursions anywhere. Sure, we did the long trek in August. It's tradition! But we didn't make many day-long picnic/hike/park outings locally. We're making up for that as the Fall season is just getting started.

A week after we hiked Zoar State Forest, we took a short drive to downtown Richmond and visited one of our favorite river stops--Belle Isle.

Belle Isle is right on the James River. You take a wonderful pedestrian bridge to reach it. (That's Route 1 above.)

It provides for spectacular open views and gives photographers a nice perch for those great cityscape shots they put in the tourism brochures. (It was worth hanging out on the bridge for a few minutes to wait for the train. Never-say-die PR person....)

There are some days when the James is mighty frothy and kayaks are aplenty. The drought has calmed things down considerably. But, the people definitely came out to enjoy a warm Sunday afternoon on the river rocks.

If you come down to the river
I bet you gonna find some people who live
And you don't have to worry if you got no money
People on the river are happy to give.
Rollin' on the river....

The James is full of rocks, which is why it can be a bit dangerous some days. On our outing, it was fairly tame, although kids maneuvering from rock to rock means you need to keep on your toes (and not taking pictures!).

Besides climbing on rocks, there is a long trail, part nature/part historical--that leads around the island. The trumpet lilies from Zoar also found themselves in a thick patch of vines near this swampy lake...

with a turtle!

We enjoyed sitting on the rocks for quite awhile. We also met some puppies. The trail is a very popular spot for people to bring their pets (for a swim!). Overheard a man talking with some other dog-walking visitors about his teeny tiny gray-furred pup that he found. This little puppy wouldn't stop coming over to us for a nuzzle. Tried to follow us back onto the trail. [No, we're still not getting a dog...really...but it was starting to tug on some old heartstrings.] Anyhow, his new owner called him back--"AWOL. Come here, AWOL!" Of all the names....

Although we ended up coming home really muddy (and somewhat damp, in some cases), we had a good time.

* * *

This past weekend, we went to a local carnival, "Celebrating Families." A local church has put on this event for the past 3 years for special needs kids and their families. This was the first year we decided to venture out and take in the sights.

As soon as we pulled in the parking lot, RJ2 spotted the jumpolene. Oh boy! Would she ever leave?!

We did manage to pull her out for a bit. Had to check out the cool trains running around the parking lot. Waiting on line, we discovered one of RJ2's classmates from preschool with her mom and sister. Wow! Fun!! All aboard....

Little red caboose
Little red caboose
Riding behind the train....

As we were walking through the array of stations, CJ noticed the gigaballs. She spent most of her time at the carnival either inside one of these or helping to push someone else who was inside one of these. Definitely not for me, but the kids found it quite fun.

Of course, we had to make one last stop back at--you guessed it--the jumpolene. Practically shut it down with RJ2 inside. We decided to make the carnival a stop for next year, for sure, and we'll have to make it a date with our old friends.

Into October now, with a middle school dance, a big anniversary, birthdays and trick-or-treating still to come. Hoping our delighfully cool weather sticks around for a bit and that the girls will entertain their mama's wish to go back to Zoar one more time in the changing leaves. We'll see....

One thing's for sure, the new interest in hand-clapping games will keep these girls giggling and playing together for awhile, yet.

The Fresh Beat Band went to the store
Here's what they spent their money for....

Sunday, September 12, 2010


We went on a hike through Zoar State Forest yesterday. Enjoyed beautiful blues skies, a mixture of trees and sweet-singing birds. The recent drought hasn't helped the marshy environments within the forest, but perhaps last night's rain will provide some small relief.

Looking forward to going back in a month to note changing leaf color. Plus, there are two nature trails near rivers still to be explored.

Such a swell find. A gem in the "backyard," if you will....

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

And....They're Off!!

One, clearly ready for the challenge of middle school. Yea, CJ!

The other? Well....

It's OK, RJ2.

Actually, by the time she was dropped off at school, she was leaping for joy out of the car and dancing her way into the building. Go figure!

Yes...They're off!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Summer Send-Off

Tomorrow marks the official end of summer. OK, well, summer is not officially over, technically. You will still find several days before we get to Autumn on the calendar. But, you know, it's Labor Day and school starts on Tuesday [finally!]. So, since there's one more day to go, what a better time to check out the end-of-summer vacation pics!

We spent a really amazing afternoon at The Discovery Museum of Acton, MA--Massachusetts being the first state stop on "Cousin Tour 2010." RJ2 is sitting in front of a roadway on which the kids can ride bikes and trikes, or set up play road signs. We enjoyed a picnic lunch and some time in a very large sandbox before heading inside Part #1, the Children's Museum.

This is part of the museum's water display room--this exhibit, explaining how water travels down a river. A recirculating pump that the kids can control sends the water back up to the top. Plenty of duckies! RJ2 and cousin, H, had a great time.

I just love the realism in the museum's diner! RJ2 and H are cooking up lots of things in the kitchen. The glow you see comes from lit-up burners on the stove--great touch! CJ is waiting for her food in this swanky stylin' booth, complete with jukebox. (Wish they actually worked; great way to take in some extra money for the museum....although it would probably cost a fortune to pay the rights to play the tunes in the first place.) The murals throughout the museum are wonderful! Really fun....

When we finished our time at the Children's Museum, we walked across the parking lot toward Part #2 (the Science Museum). But, being the excellent kid-friendly place it is, the museum set up some great exhibits to play with along the way. This is a Slap-a-Phone! Although the kids seem to be looking into the holes as if this was a multi-manned periscope, they should be slapping the PVC tubes, making cool sounds. (Their own version of "Blue Man Group.")

As if that wasn't enough, they had a whole music room inside, complete with this PVC and wood block xylophone! I took a bunch of pictures, thinking, in my silly ole head, that I will craft one of these for the backyard. Remember that scene in the movie, Big, in which Tom Hanks dances on the giant foot piano with such childhood glee? That was me, here. They had to drag me away while I was trying to play the theme from The Flintstones. (The museum had the music there. How could I not try it?)

Wall of shadowboxes. I'm thinking I have new inspiration for the playroom....

Next stop on the "Cousin Tour" was, actually, Grandma and Grandpa's house! But, we did see more cousins there, so that worked out nicely. CJ joins her cousins on a tube. There was lots of cross-ball, jumping, splashing, etc. Just like old times....

RJ2 enjoyed the swim. We swam both days we were there--one day in a light rain and the other day clearly overcast. Didn't bother anybody!

CJ had the special privilege of trying out Grandpa's SCUBA equipment! It was not as fun breathing from an air tank as she thought it might be. But, she really enjoyed scoping out the pool below the surface with the full face mask and snorkel. (Fins came later.)

The water theme continued into warm (not hot, for a change!) Ohio. We have enjoyed some activities that are now tradition when it's August in Ohio and the J Girls are in town. The plastic pool came out along with the super soakers, and everyone had fun spreading water every which way.

Cooling off with games indoors. (And making Cousin Studios' latest video productions!)

Camping out in the backyard! This is a "before" shot. By the time morning came, only three of the five cousins were still in the tent. For RJ2--buried and asleep in the LOVE sleeping bag--this was her first campout, and she made it all the way through. Although CJ is a backyard campout veteran, a pesky round of congestion brought her inside before midnight. Next year, perhaps, they'll get me out there.

And Bella the dog--the REAL Bella the dog!--showed off her soccer (er....volleyball-setting?) skills for us before we left for Virginia.

We returned home, some 2,000 miles later, and have had these past two weeks to unpack, resettle and enjoy some take-aways from our trip. Aunt Ed gave RJ2 some cool new Sesame Street cards on which to trace letters and numbers. RJ2 took it one step further, adding her own characters and even one card with a sentence: "Mom says no." (Yea!...sigh)

CJ received a birthday present from Grandpa--a fantastically made 'tween mirror. How can you not look sharp in that?!

All in all, 10 days of amazing fun and good times with the family! Fun photos and videos to view. Cherished memories now on file, to add to those already stored from summers gone by. Talk of next summer already begun (and "Can we stay longer?!?!").... Thanks, guys, for EVERYTHING!

P.S. Decided just to shoot the front cover of the Herald-Progress with CJ's theater camp story. She would be the speared one on the far-right.

Bye, Bye Summer!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It's all blending together

Happy August!

August marks a shift in the schedule of the past three weeks. Although there has been much to celebrate and enjoy, we could all really use a change of pace!

Who's that girl?

CJ just had the wrap-up party for three weeks of theatre camp. (Yes, they use the British spelling. It is the theatrrrrrrr, after all!) The afternoon camp included sessions on make up, costuming, the psychology of color, stage combat, improv, commercial scripting and production, headshot photography, and music (and other things I've probably forgotten that CJ will probably mention on her blog).

Last Friday night at the camp Showcase, CJ demonstrated her stage combat skills in the recreation of an historical battle scene.

The young warrior is the first to take her position on stage.

The battle begins.

A duel--and dual--hit!

And CJ becomes the battle's first casualty, leaving her duel partner blinded, but still able to participate. (Apparently, she dies the following day. Fortunately, this was a time-lapse recreation!)

CJ also was a lead "cuckoo" in the Showcase's finale, "So Long, Farewell," from [Mom's] favorite musical, The Sound of Music. We played her rehearsal CD in the car to and from camp for two weeks, giving RJ2 ample opportunity to memorize the song, which she now sings all the time!

If you asked CJ what her favorite part of camp was, I'm fairly certain she would point back to week #1, in which small groups of kids brainstormed ideas for a commercial. They worked with a director to script the commercials and to gather the necessary props, rehearse the lines and more. (It was also nice to have an Emmy-winning commercial producer on hand to supervise all the projects!)

CJ really loved everything about the process. This is the closing scene from her commercial--in which she is the lead narrator/product endorser (for chocolate). When we receive her camp DVD, perhaps she'll post the actual commercial. [It's very good, and I'm really not being biased!]

Many kids from the camp go on to participate in a full-blown musical in a production that is separate (yet related) to the camp. CJ wasn't ready for that step this year. But, so she can see what next year might hold, we will go see "Willy Wonka" this Friday. She might come home dreaming about next summer....

* * *

RJ2 has delighted everybody in the house with her sudden attachment to a pet dog.

She calls him Kibbles, which is the name of the dog on a video that she watched frequently at school. Kibbles is really a human in a dog costume who teaches kids about issues that can be socially challenging, like understanding feelings. Although Kibbles is much larger on the video screen, I suppose we can see the resemblance in this dog.

This dog, by the way, is a golden retriever puppy that I gave to my husband more than 20 years ago. [And his name is Humphrey, after Bogart! Oh well....he is well-loved.]

Kibbles comes for breakfast pretty often. He gets lots of snuggles, enjoys nighttime reading with RJ2 and keeps his barking to a minimum.

It's all terribly cute! [No, we're not getting a dog.]

Funny, too, is that the other large stuffed dog that we have in the house--the one who used to be called Rusty--is now called Bella, my sister's family's dog. [I'm totally serious about not getting a dog. Really....]

* * *

I'm in the midst of making selections for the JuBELLees concert schedule this year, which kicks off September 5th! Hey, look--it's the concert in Central Park! HA!!.... (sigh) Much work to do, still.

Looking forward to our upcoming travel and visits with family. One last break before we flip that calendar toward September and say, "So long, farewell" to summer!