The “Big” Special Day

Last Monday marked the beginning of my new four-day work-week arrangement, and I was off on Valentine’s Day. I had discussed it in advance with the kids, and they were very excited. David kept saying to me: “When will it be the day when we have the big special day for ALL the kids?”

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Just ’cause you’re home-schooled, doesn’t mean you can’t ride on a bus once in a while. But how many kids get to drive it?

Although at first I had thought to go to Mt. Rainier or Mt. St. Helens, the weather was not optimal and there was a volcanic activity warning in effect at Mt. St. Helens. Reluctantly, Kathy and I agreed that the children hadn’t been that bad, so we decided to play it safe and go to the Hands-on Children’s Science Museum in Olympia. We opened a few presents to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and then we got ready go. Kathy decided to stay home, so I set off with all five kids in our little red van. She concealed her sorrow at being left behind by shoving us out the door and locking the deadbolt, laughing maniacally. We all felt very sorry for her.

There was some kind of protest at the Capitol, and the museum parking was taken … we had a terrible time finding a parking spot. I was about to give up but the kids all prayed for a spot, and we found one on the street nearby. I was reminded of my dear friend and adoptive mom, Sue Casner, who taught me that God cares about the little things like parking places.

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We had a few things to talk over with the legislature, and then we ate lunch.

The hands-on museum was fairly small and compact, but had many interesting exhibits, with something for all the kids from Sarah to Joshua. I took a few moments when we first arrived to talk over the building’s security with the museum receptionist. Apparently there was only one non-alarmed exit (right by the receptionist’s station) and they had a procedure for when one of the other doors was opened. Employees were assigned to go out each of the doors and had walkie-talkies by which they could communicate with the other workers … it seemed a good system which would prevent easy theft of a child. There were a few times when I lost sight of one child or another, but each time I found my errant child pretty quickly … the building felt secure and our family comprised about a fourth of their patrons for the duration of our visit.

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Daniel helped out at the dentist’s office, scheduling appointments and ruthlessly filing insurance claims. If you look closely, you can see him printing “Services NOT covered — OUT OF NETWORK”

The kids loved it. We bought a year’s membership, since I think we will definitely want to go back at least once more during the year, and the price structure was such that two visits will ‘pay’ for the membership with room to spare. It is a great rainy-day activity, especially when the rest of the benighted kids are whiling away their days in public schools. I picked Monday as my day off partly because I figured most schools won’t tend to have field trips on Mondays … it seems to me it would be hard to get kids to remember the field trip over the weekend, and so Monday trips would cause logistical problems with permission forms, attire and lunches.

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Sadly, it was determined that Joshua required extensive dental work, including several root canals and extractions. “Hurry it up with that novocaine!” shouts Dr. Rachel. “This guy’s about to make a run for it!”

Sarah got her shirt and jacket wet in the water table before I noticed, and we were short on drinks for the kids (I, of course, had a Diet Dr. Pepper). Kathy had packed us a lunch, and we ate outside in the sunshine, a nice break from the museum.

It was a pretty good day. We were gone for a little more than five hours, and Kathy got some down-time for herself … I’m sure to her it seemed we were only gone a little while. In some ways, it doesn’t really matter what we do on Mondays as long as we are out of the house … Kathy doesn’t get much of a break from the kids, between being a Mom of five kids and homeschooling.

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The kids loved playing with the ambulance and ER — Sarah’s real-life experience last September helped her to play the part of a patient convincingly.

One of the activities they had was a set of giant Builder Boards that you could use to build a play structure (like a little log house). Rachel and Daniel built a house without a door or window, so of course I had to prove that I could do one better, and I built a house with both. One of the museum workers passed by and remarked how many people forgot the door … I felt very smug. Then she noted that the average age of usual builders was 5 1/2, and I felt substantially less smug. It has been much too long since I was able to play with Lincoln Logs.

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A lot of the pictures that I took were blurry, perhaps because of the low lighting in the museum. I was rather disappointed, because some of them would have been pretty good, if it weren’t for the fact that the kids were nearly indistinguishable. But hey, they were good pictures. Really.

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“Captain, she won’t take much more! She’s breakin’ up!

At the end of our visit we stopped by the souvenir shop, and bought some healthy snacks (ice cream sandwiches and cans of pop) and devoured them in the sunny little cafĂ© area at the front of the museum. Kathy’s had the kids reading nutrition books ever since, trying to undo my influence. We piled back in our van and headed home … a good time was had by all.

Now I’m a little worried … can I come up with another Field Trip that won’t be a disappointment? The weather has been clear and cold this week, but I’d really like to do something a little less sedentary than a museum. Each morning as I ride the train, Mt. Rainier calls me with its snow-covered slopes and majestic beauty. But they require snow-chains on some of the roads this time of the year, and I don’t have any (or any desire to purchase a set). Then there is Pioneer Farms, another hands-on exhibit that has been very popular with the kids in past years, but one that has some dependency on good weather. Although it has been sunny all week, now that the weekend is upon us, it is supposed to cloud over. I guess we can have no complaints … once again, we’ve had an unseasonably mild winter, both in terms of temperature and rain. It is hard to remember that we live in Washington, sometimes … this place is more like San Diego!

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Sarah really loved the water table — I told Kathy we really needed to remember to pack extra clothes for her next time.

Of course, nearly every kind of activity costs money, which is discouraging in these months after Christmas, when money is tight and bills are thick upon the ground. But I am enjoying the kids so much these days, it seems very much worth it. At the end of the day (or my life) I doubt I’ll regret outings like this or the money spent. Nobody seems to request tombstone captions like, “If only I’d spent more time at the office!”

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