Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Way It's Supposed to Be... was the day I took Jacob to Strong National Museum of Play.  I'd been promising a day like this since, oh, early this year, I think.  Craig pulled Jacob out of daycare early and took him to the museum, where his cousins were on a field trip.  Since I didn't get to go that time, I told Jacob someday I'd take him myself.  I thought about it over the summer, but the right day never came and I sort of dreaded taking him when kids were off school.  The place is a madhouse on days like that.  The times I've been there have been under those circumstances, and I can see the place from my office so I'm well aware of the madness that ensues in the parking lot alone on holidays.  But today was perfect--a random weekday off.

We got there later than I'd hoped, about an hour after it opened.  The parking lot looked busy, but ultimately it wasn't bad inside.  To be able to roam freely and not have to wait forever to do any of the activities was heavenly.  The kids that were there were mostly well-behaved, which was a pleasant surprise given that most of the times I've been there have been full of cranky kids.  Chalk it up to being with the stay-at-home mom crowd, perhaps.  The kids were also mostly on the younger side, since most older kids were in school.  We also had the benefit of eating lunch later--it was hard to pull Jacob away from the activities--so the usually busy food court was downright deserted when we got there.  All of these elements created a very blissful setting.  In addition, I had convinced myself that this was Jacob's day, so while I did need to keep things moving a bit to ensure we didn't miss anything important, I tried not to rush him.  Keeping that thought in mind (and, of course, physically needing a rest here and there) helped me stay patient.

Jacob was, for the most part, a very good boy.  There were a couple times he didn't want to move on, but for the most part we had a very good day.  And considering he didn't have a nap, it was pretty much miraculous that things went so well.  We saw and did so much, and really had a great time.  As a whole today really was as things are supposed to be (per today's title)...a museum that was at our full disposal, a little boy who was actually a pleasure to hang out was such a nice change of pace!

Here's a bit of a photo rundown of our day, interspersed with tidbits about other things we did that didn't photograph so well...

One of the main exhibits at the museum is Sesame Street...and here's Jacob on the steps of 123 Sesame Street...

In one section there's a vendor cart full of fake food.  Even though half of Jacob's face is blocked by my ice cream order, I still happen to like this shot...

Jacob's favorite part of the day, by far, was part of a visiting exhibit featuring Dora the Explorer, which is ironic since he's not into Dora (or Diego) at all.  How we dodged that bullet, I don't know, but I'm grateful :) Anyway, he loved this animal rescue station where you could treat sick animals.  There were 12 cubbies that held stuffed animals.  You'd grab an animal and put it in an MRI-ish scanner, which told you what kind of animal it was (microchip?) and what was wrong with the animal.  The illnesses changed each time, and each had a recommended treatment.  There were doctor tools there (the standard Fisher-Price doctor kit), as well as an ace bandage.  Here's Jacob in his outfit, complete with stethoscope, ace bandage, and his favorite animal, the otter.

Sometimes the animal was deemed to be fine but the scanner recommended giving it a bath.  There was a tub of fake water, and working dryers.

Jacob probably played in this section for at least a half hour in three different stints.  I took the chance to sit and rest, and at one point chatted with another pregnant mom who was two weeks away from her due date.  She has an 11-year-old boy and a little girl who looked to be just a little younger than Jacob.  She's a first grade teacher, and she's just about ready to be done!  I can't even imagine working a job where you spend most of the day on your feet!

We checked out the superhero section, played a full-body video game controlled by tilting a board we were standing on (very trippy!), and Jacob played on a giant table full of wooden cars, roads, and trees.  He also played in a fake sand box (tiny plastic beads), where we ran into the one nasty kid we encountered today.  She was possibly on a field trip and was momentarily unsupervised.  She threw "sand" against the wall for a bit, and then threw it right at Jacob, on purpose.  I don't like to yell at other people's kids, but I didn't hesitate to tell her than wasn't very nice.  After that, I finally convinced Jacob that it was time for lunch.  We shared a yummy lunch at the Pizza Hut Express in the food court, and headed back out.

Our first stop was the mini-Wegmans.  It's really a cute thing.  You take a tiny cart at the entrance, and pick up five items from the shelves around the store.  A lot of the shelves are full of empty boxes and bottles.  However, the produce, meat, and bakery sections have very realistic looking food, which was the most fun to play with.  Here's part of the produce section...

Everything in the store has a barcode on it, and when the five items have been chosen, the kid gets to play cashier with a real, working register, right down to the conveyor belt.  You get a real receipt, too!  

He then checked out a big boat and lighthouse-styled lookout, and visited a Berenstain Bears exhibit.  He had been talking about this "egg" thing, and it turned out it was there.  You could take the eggs from the chickens and see how they rated.  There was also a thing where you cranked produce up a belt and it tumbled down a series of ramps on the other side, and a place to play dentist on a giant mouth.  He also really enjoyed the restaurant, where he and a couple other kids were serving up all sorts of play food at a diner counter.

Later, Jacob got to run around on a giant ship.  He then discovered a dress-up play stage, and got in a dragon suit.  This silly picture was taken just as he darted out from behind the curtain at me!

He then spent some time in a fairy tale house (part Snow White, part Hansel & Gretel), before we headed up to play a giant version of Connect Four and check out a massive chess set.   We ran back on the big ship, where Jacob put on a captain's coat and practiced writing and drawing.  Eventually we moved on to the Toy Hall of Fame, where we played with Slinkies, a giant magnetic Mr. Potato Head, and sat down for a couple games on an Atari--bowling and Asteroids!  What a blast from the past!

We moved on to the new video game section, which was pretty awesome.  Jacob and I played a giant version of Pong on a lighted floor...

...and I spent a buck to get six tokens (yay for six!!) so we could play some of the classic video games.  I played a giant version of Tetris, old-school Paperboy and Q*Bert, and Addams Family pinball.  Jacob played a driving game and Guitar Hero.  It was cool to see all of the old games, along with displays featuring old home video games like Atari consoles, original Nintendo, and one of those 80s tabletop arcade games complete with a tiny joystick and video display.  We took a quick walk through the museum displays of old toys (dolls, army guys, trains, Barbies, and every other pop culture icon-type toy you can imagine).  It's always fun to see things you own(ed) sitting behind museum glass!

Once we finished up there, we headed back down to redo some of Jacob's favorites.  That meant we were back to the animal rescue station, Wegmans, and Sesame Street.  Here's Jacob playing cabbie to Cookie Monster and Elmo...

I practically had to drag him out of Sesame Street as they were giving us the "15 minutes to close" message.  It had been a long day, but considering how well it went, I was feeling pretty good.  Not too fatigued, and certainly not like we'd spent six hours there!  Everything just felt...good.

Today was the kid-parent equivalent of taking time to smell the roses.  We took our time (mostly) and I let him discover things on his own as much as possible.  I know that this is probably one of the last times Jacob will get that kind of one-on-one, uninterrupted attention, particularly with his baby brother arriving in a matter of three (very busy) months.  I marveled at the big boy he's become (even more apparent in contrast to the younger kids around him today) since the last time I was there with him.  Despite all of the crazy things he's been pulling lately, he has turned into quite the big boy.  You should see his school pictures...and when I get the CD and copyright release for the one I ordered, hopefully I can share one here.  He looks so grown up.  I can hardly believe he's just six months shy of turning five, and kindergarten is really not that far off now.  It's mind-boggling that it's been that long since I was pregnant with him.  In spite of all we've been through, it just doesn't seem possible it was that long ago.

When he's behaving, he can be the most amazing kid, clever, loving, charming, silly, and  creative, among other things.  While I often hope this new baby isn't quite the defiant child his big brother is, I hope the lack of that trait doesn't come at the expense of any of these other traits.  It's hard to believe that in a few months we'll start this crazy journey all over again with another child, that we'll have another little boy to get to know as he grows up.  And we'll still have Jacob around to continue to get to know as he grows up.  By the time his brother is his age, he'll be nine and heading into 4th grade.  Holy cow.

Well, this post is long enough and before I lose my mind thinking ahead, suffice it to say it was a pretty fantastic day.  Now hopefully I have a couple productive days ahead...and tomorrow I have a doctor's appointment and we celebrate Craig's 40th birthday, too!  What a week!

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