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....