Friday, April 8, 2011

April 8, 2011 ~ Day 120
A Change Of Scene...

...did us some good!

Our two sons have been home from school for Spring Break this week. Even though he had a lot of work to do, my husband wanted to spend a little special time with them ~ all of us as a family. This made me very happy because thanks to our weekend 'personal time' parenting schedule it is rare for the five of us to go together to do any kind of "fun" activity during daylight hours.

We had planned all week to enjoy a sunny day at the local outdoor theme park. However, thanks to an unexpected fever in the elder son and very cold/windy weather, I nixed that idea yesterday night - much to my husband's chagrin. (Hard to say which one of my guys was looking forward to spending time at the theme park most, hahaha!)

"All right," he said - "If we can't go there then you need to come up with an equally attractive indoor plan".

This seemed reasonable, so I got right on it.

At first I contemplated the local aquarium but it is fairly small without many hands-on activities and my children have been there a hundred times. Then I imagined taking them to one of the local fun "play" houses designed for kids, but quickly remembered that the last time we went to one of those play houses all three of my children came down with the stomach flu within the next five days. Too many germs smeared all over the walls, toys and costumes I would imagine! So that was out.

I looked into movies but unfortunately neither of the two films playing in theaters right now for children were appealing to my brood. They considered one too violent ("That animal is holding a GUN, mommy! Too scary!") and the other was intended for older children and my husband decided it would be too crass.

We've already had a stay-in-our-pajamas and do arts and crafts/writing/baking/movie watching day this week so that was immediately deemed "Too boring" by all.

Just when I began to curse our city for typically having such good weather that indoor activities are not usually necessary (and thus, unavailable) I remembered that we have a local art museum for children that we hadn't gone to in a long time. When it first opened up we had a membership but the activities were way over our sons' heads ~ too cerebral, not enough play ~ and we let the membership lapse.

I googled to find out if there would be a coupon or discount for this museum and to my delight they offered a program through the city library system where you can actually 'check out' a museum membership (just like a library book) for the day in order to get into the museum as though you have a family pass.

We were so excited, this sounded like a great plan for a rainy day. Now that our eldest son is so excited about creating art, it seemed like a much better fit.

Of course, nothing quite went to plan.

Our local library was listed as having one of the passes to check out. It was actually the ONLY library in our city listed as having an available pass to the museum. Every other pass was in use, in transit or "ON HOLD" for another library member.

"Wow, what good luck we have!" I exclaimed and after showering the kids we went trotting on down to the library to check out the pass.

"Do you have a reservation?" the librarian asked.


"Do you have a reservation for the pass? Are we holding it for you?"

"Well, no. But you see it says in your online system that you have a pass available."

"That is very unlikely. We almost never have that pass. It gets checked out almost the moment that it is returned, every time."

"Oh. Well, would you mind checking again for us?"
She looked at me a little wearily, so I hastily added - "We would really appreciate it!"

The librarian sighed but went to sift through some papers on the back counter. Apparently her cursory search revealed no pass anywhere near her desk or within the general office area. She returned.

"Would you like me to add you to the waiting list, ma'am?"

I looked down at the two drawn, worried little faces of my sons. They were clearly wondering if we would end up at home drawing with crayons all day.

"That would be great, thank you."

She pulled up the waiting list and lo and behold... we are now 50th in line for the pass. Yes, you read that right. 50th.

"Will that be all?"

"Um yes. Yeah. Thanks."

We headed back to the car. I caught my younger son's lip beginning to quiver.

"Boys," I said, "Don't worry. I'll pay for our day at the museum from the work I do for daddy's company. It will be a special treat."

Luckily my husband accepted this rationale and so off we went, ready to enjoy the fun of a new experience in a relatively warm and sheltered atmosphere on what turned out to be a very cold but reasonably sunny day.

We found that the museum itself is still a bit 'adult' for my children. They couldn't be bothered to want to stand and hear about the artist's motivations behind each exhibit... mainly they wanted to draw, sculpt and blow bubbles. I don't blame them!

The best Children's Museum we have ever experienced was in Portland, OR - now THAT is a place for kids. That place is magical. This one is more like a showpiece for hip scenesters who are into art, thinly veiled as a place for small children. Perhaps it is geared more toward high school students with an interest in painting? I guess we'll find out in a few years, when our kids get older.

Despite this, we still had a great time because we were doing enjoyable things together AWAY from our house. We cut paper butterflies AWAY from our house. We blew bubbles AWAY from our house. The day became an adventure simply because we changed locale.

At the end of two hours, the kids had exhausted all opportunities for fun within the building and even done some of the activities twice. Realizing that hunger was on the verge of precipitating some exciting meltdowns, we then took them for burgers at an awesome nearby restaurant - 100% organic beef burgers with fresh baby green salads, all for not much more than you'd spend at Carl's Junior. Nice!

All in all, it was a fun afternoon and I think it taught me a simple but important lesson about parenting. Sometimes all you have to do is change the venue of an activity or meal to take it from mundane into the realm of fabulous. We did art projects all day long at our home two days ago and my children could not stop fighting with each other... they were both completely tired of coloring, painting and sculpting right away. Today we did art projects for two hours at a museum and they thought it was fantastic.

In the bigger sense, I am thinking that it probably does us all good to get away now and then - change the scene - switch up the stale energy and make everything feel new. I've always been really excited about travel, and one of the best parts about traveling has always been that it makes me so much more appreciative of my home and my own city.

It makes perfect sense that my children would share this need to break up the routine, see new things, get to know different sides of themselves by interacting in new situations. And while traveling isn't really an option for us right now, there are plenty of places to travel in walking distance from our own home. Lunchtime? Why not have lunch at the park instead! Homework? Why not take them to a local cafe to do it?

I need to keep this in mind for the future... and not just for rainy days, sick days or Spring Break days. Busting out of set habits can be a wonderful thing for our family on ANY day, and it doesn't have to take money! We simply need creativity and an excited, "can-do" spirit.

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