Sep 022015
 
Follow me!

Follow me!

There is a wonderful art camp my children attend each summer in Richmond, Virginia. Many mothers think I am insane for traveling so far for art camp but when we arrive, we are with our tribe. My children love the art camp and the art camp counselors are always thrilled to see my kids. So, when it came time to sign up for camps this summer, we made sure to put our names on the list early. I wasn’t exactly sure how it was going to work out adding our new baby to the mix so we committed to only one week.

It has been an incredibly rainy summer here in Virginia. The first day of camp was no exception. It poured as we drove down I-95 in the morning.

Heavy rainstorms have been commonplace this summer.

Heavy rainstorms have been commonplace this summer.

We dropped the girls off for camp with their new backpacks.

2015-07-13-02-pinkbackpacks-IMG_9727

The boys and I headed off in search of an adventure to occupy us for the day. I had a loose list of activities in mind for the week. For today, I thought we would try Belle Island. I set off driving in roughly the right direction, when I saw a green tourist sign BELLE ISLAND with an arrow. I made the appropriate turn and found myself in an unfamiliar parking lot.

There were not many cars present. Just a few hikers and one family driving a run-down pickup truck. The boys were asleep so we hung out in the car for a little bit. I read and dozed a bit until they woke up.

My preschooler was ready to run! We set off on the trail.

This was a different entrance to the James River Park system than we were used to but it looked awfully familiar for some reason. We crossed a railroad bridge and wound down a set of steps. Below us beautiful views of rocks and the river beckoned.

More signs of the recent rains.  The water level in the river was quite high.

More signs of the recent rains. The water level in the river was quite high.

The gorgeous view as we descended the steps.

The gorgeous view as we descended the steps.

At the bottom of the staircase, we decided to go for the “dry rocks” section. This is an area of large rocks separated by small rivulets of water. The deepest water was about one foot. My son thought this looked like a huge climbing playground and it was! It was a bigger challenge for mom to get across as I had the baby strapped to me in a sling.

There is no set trail for the dry rocks. You can go in any direction. We tended to look for the easiest path.

Exploring the dry rocks.

Exploring the dry rocks.

Spotting a heron in the distance, we took off an an Alice in Wonderland like experience, following the heron.

Spotting a heron in the distance, we took off an an Alice in Wonderland like experience, following the heron.

2015-07-13-07-james05-heron02-IMG_9748

Every once in a while, it was time to stop, find a stick and poke it into a puddle.

Every once in a while, it was time to stop, find a stick and poke it into a puddle.

Over this way!

Over this way!

We found our heron again....scaring it out of some rushes where it was fishing.

We found our heron again….scaring it out of some rushes where it was fishing.

Herons are some of my favorite birds.  It was a treat to see one at such close distance.

Herons are some of my favorite birds. It was a treat to see one at such close distance.

2015-07-13-12-james10-IMG_9772

Stopping for a selfie.

Stopping for a selfie.

2015-07-13-15-james13-IMG_9799

We wandered back toward the bridge to the parking lot. I gave my son a choice. We could either go find some swings to play on at the nearby park or walk down the trail in the other direction. To my great surprise, he chose the trail . . . with enthusiasm!

The paved trail in the other direction.

The paved trail in the other direction.

At the end of the trail, there was an old power plant building which seemed to be in disuse.  There were several people sunbathing, fishing and a gaggle of Canada geese.

At the end of the trail, there was an old power plant building which seemed to be in disuse. There were several people sunbathing, fishing and a gaggle of Canada geese.

2015-07-13-jamesriver-powerplant-IMG_9810

We turned and walked back toward the car. Generally, we were all alone on the trail so I was spooked when someone silently came up behind us and needed to pass. I screamed and then laughed in embarrassment.

2015-07-13-jamesriver-bridge-IMG_9818

Little did I know the biggest surprise was yet to come!

2015-08-13-smash-IMG_20150713_143447

 Posted by on September 2, 2015 General Tagged with: , , ,
Jul 292014
 
We drove past this "laser eyes" mural every day on our way to camp.  I am not sure what it represents.

We drove past this “laser eyes” mural every day on our way to camp. I am not sure what it represents.

It was the last day of camp and we were all glad to have made it the full week and to be celebrating artistic accomplishments!

We dropped off the girls and my son and I spent the morning looking at Richmond architecture. I was specifically looking for ideas that would help us with the pending exterior renovation of our home. We are due for a paint job and a new roof and I wanted to see if there were some real life examples of what we were considering.

Richmond is a goldmine of architectural inspiration for Colonial style. We looked at many different types of paint schemes. One of the newer trends that gives a European look to a traditional Colonial home is to paint the trim and the house in shades of the same color. Shades of taupe and beige were particularly striking in this combination.

It was also helpful to see how certain colors and architectural features weather over time. If something still looks good with a little age on it, then it is likely a great choice.

Richmond has lovely rowhouses with classic style.

Richmond has lovely rowhouses with classic style.

As I looked at house and roof colors, I found that I liked it best when the house color and roof color had a bit of contrast, such as a dark house color with a lighter roof and a lighter house color with a darker roof.

As I looked at house and roof colors, I found that I liked it best when the house color and roof color had a bit of contrast, such as a dark house color with a lighter roof and a lighter house color with a darker roof.

The double porches on many homes looked so inviting and seemed like the perfect people watching spot.

The double porches on many homes looked so inviting and seemed like the perfect people watching spot.

We grabbed the girls from camp and had a few shopping errands to run first. We were surprised to find that back-to-school shopping is in full force with store aisles transformed into school supply meccas.

School supplies so neatly organized in bins.  Heaven!

School supplies so neatly organized in bins. Heaven!

There is something so satisfying to me about school supply shopping. I love to browse all the new products and deals. It is also a wake-up call that the cash hemorrage is about to begin. Between summer vacation expenses, school clothing and school supply expenses, August can be as expensive as Christmas!

After our shopping trip, we grabbed lunch to go and made our way to our last Richmond attraction. I saved the best for last. We managed to parallel park the minivan into the last available parking spot and made our way across the bridge.

Crossing the Belle Isle suspension bridge

Crossing the Belle Isle suspension bridge

The Bridge to Belle Isle is a relatively recent Richmond tourism and recreation investment. A suspension bridge was created below the existing highway bridge allowing people to walk or bike across the bridge to Belle Isle. Belle Isle was a former prisoner of war camp for Union Soldiers during the Civil War and was then the site of a hydroelectric power plant. Now it is used solely for recreation with hiking trails and the main attraction, a rocky, urban “beach.”

View from the bridge.

View from the bridge.

2014-07-29-bridgeview2

On Belle Isle.

On Belle Isle.

Lots of green, open space.

Lots of green, open space.

Picnic lunch on the beach.

Picnic lunch on the beach.

2014-07-29-rockybeach

There is only one hazard to be aware of on this beach and that is that the rocks near the water are very slippery! There is some sort of slippery moss or algae that grows on them that you can’t see. Three of us were caught in this trap. My daughter first discovered this as she gently stepped into the water, then suddenly lost her footing and slid right in to a shallow pool. I ran to fish her out and many kind people nearby also started to help. Fortunately, she was able to climb out herself and other than being wetter than she would like, was fine. The next person to discover this trap was me! I was walking quickly over what I thought were dry rocks. One had just a bit of water on it and sure enough it was mossy and slippery and down I went! The last victim was my son. He was sitting on the rocks dangling his feet in the water, slid just an inch toward that slippery moss and slid right into the water! I was right there to fish him out but it taught us all to be VERY careful.

Celebrating the end of our week of adventures!

Celebrating the end of our week of adventures!

The children could have stayed on the beach all afternoon and were sad when it was time to leave. We could not miss the children’s art exhibit that afternoon, however, and hustled toward the car.

The camp does a wonderful art exhibition of all of the children's work at the end of camp. It looks just like an art gallery and it is all put up very quickly with little more than masking tape.

An exuberant self-portrait

An exuberant self-portrait.

Another terrific self portrait.

Another terrific self portrait.

A diamondback rattlesnake made from clay, used in a claymation project.

A diamondback rattlesnake made from clay, used in a claymation project.

Another claymation detail of a flying squirrel and a tree.

Another claymation detail of a flying squirrel and a tree.

We admired the projects done by children of all ages. In the older classes, the children were asked to work in teams to create installation art. This project done by three girls was fantastic.

2014-07-29-house-installation

The best part for me was the artists’ statement.

A wonderful artist statement.

A wonderful artist statement.

The statement said a lot to me. Some efforts are hard for others to appreciate. Simple things can be deceptively complicated. Artistic mess is as difficult as artistic order. It takes time to learn to create good art.

The art show was a great lift to the end of a energy-filled week. While we weren’t expecting to have Richmond in our summer plans, we are glad there was space in our lives to allow for this last-minute change. Rather than being exhausted with all the early-morning wake-up calls and the driving and touring, I left energized with new ideas and perspective. My children took a lot out of the experience too. I will remember most the times spent outside, watching them run joyfully in the sunshine. It’s what summer is all about.

 Posted by on July 29, 2014 General Tagged with: , , ,
Jul 262014
 
Resting up for the day's adventures.

Resting up for the day’s adventures.

Day 4 arrived and we did our morning commute to art camp yet again. After the drop off, my son took a snooze in the car while I tried to find something for us to do.

I learned from my past hanging out sessions in Richmond that the Richmond public library often holds many interesting and free events for children. I checked their website from my phone and found out that two different branches were having a preschool story time that morning. I wasn’t sure how long the story time would last so I went for the one that started soonest.

We drove for about 20 minutes until we reached the first library branch. We arrived just about a minute before the story time started at 11:00. I walked into the library and asked where the story time was. The librarian pointed the way and as I reached the door, I was greeted with a pre-printed sign that said that I was not to enter, that story time had already started and that the maximum number of guests were already in the room! The sign continued that if I wanted I could request a ticket at the front desk, wait half an hour and. . . if there was enough interest, they would hold another session! This was a bit more bureaucracy than I was expecting and I wouldn’t be able to wait for the next story time as it would make me late for pickup.

So, we got back in the car and rushed to the second branch of the library with story time at 11:15 a.m. We arrived there also a minute before story time began.

2014-07-26-belmontlibrary

This time, the librarian at the desk showed me to the room and found the children’s librarian who, with a cheery smile, greeted my son and then rounded up all the children in the library for stories and games.

This was my son’s first story time. While he listens very well to stories at home, in a public setting he was a little distracted.

Someone is not paying attention!

Someone is not paying attention!

The librarian had wonderful inflection as she read the story. At the end, she asked the children some reading comprehension promoting questions, which I thought was impressive.

The librarian then asked each child to request a song to sing. While some stuck with old favorites like the ABCs and Wheels on the Bus, one child requested to sing “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen. We are probably the only family in America who has not seen this movie. The children who requested the song began to sing the somewhat complex lyrics. When it came time for the chorus, everyone was singing out enthusiastically, “Let it go! Let it go!” All I could do was sit there and smile. The children sang the entire song which seemed to be about 4 minutes long! We clapped for them when it was done.

We finished off with the librarian blowing bubbles for the children to pop. My son thought this was great, until he realized he had to compete with the other children for the bubbles and that being the youngest and smallest he was at a disadvantage.

2014-07-26-bubblepopping

Overall, it was quite a successful first story hour.

We rushed back to camp for pick up.

For our afternoon adventure, we were blessed with a “polar vortex” which brought cooler weather. Mind you, it was still plenty warm, just not as sweltering as it had been.

One of the things I have never successfully done in Richmond is visit Brown’s Island. I know roughly where it is and as far as I know it is not that hard to get to. However, every time I attempt to get there something happens to disrupt our trip.

We parked near the Tradegar Iron Works, grabbing the last available public parking spot. We began walking toward Brown’s Island when the children spotted a sort of beach and decided that would be the best spot to eat our picnic lunch.

2014-07-26-beach-view1

2014-07-26-beach-swimmers

My daughter found this a perfect spot for sketching.

My daughter found this a perfect spot for sketching.

2014-07-26-beach-sketching

My son was unimpressed with our picnic lunch.

My son was unimpressed with our picnic lunch.

. . . but very impressed with the train!

. . . but very impressed with the train!

2014-07-26-beach-stoneseeking

2014-07-26-beach-splash

We wandered a bit down the beach and found the Three Days Bridge.  This is a wonderful cross between history and art.  The bridge commemorates the three days in Richmond after the Confederate surrender.

We wandered a bit down the beach and found the Three Days Bridge. This is a wonderful cross between history and art. The bridge commemorates the three days in Richmond after the Confederate surrender.

2014-07-26-bridge-gengary

2014-07-26-3daysbridge-lincoln

The bridge offers amazing views of the James River as well.

The bridge offers amazing views of the James River as well.

2014-07-26-bridge-view-divers

At this point, the children said they were tired and ready to go home. I am not entirely sure if we ever made it to Brown’s Island! We were certainly in close proximity. Ah well, we’ll have to try yet again.

2014-07-26-bridge-run

It is always amazing how children find the energy to run when they have the right motivation! We walked back to the car and drove home. We had just one day left to spend in Richmond but we were appreciating all that we were able to experience.

 Posted by on July 26, 2014 General Tagged with: , ,
Jul 252014
 
Enjoying the architecture exhibit at the Virginia Center for Architecture.

Enjoying the architecture exhibit at the Virginia Center for Architecture.

Day three of our Richmond travels began thankfully smoothly. We dropped off the girls and drove to our morning destination, the Virginia Center for Architecture. We had an hour before the museum opened so my son took a nap and I read.

The exhibit on current display was an overview of the 99 best architectural structures in Virginia. My son enjoyed the huge map of Virginia at the entrance, especially pointing out numbers to me.

Look mom!  Number three!

Look mom! Number three!

I wasn’t really paying attention to what these numbers meant but since my son kept drawing my attention to them I took better notice. When he got to the number zero, I was shocked by the information.

We do love Colonial architecture here in Virginia.  Perhaps we need to encourage modern twists on colonial architecture that incorporate other perspectives.

We do love Colonial architecture here in Virginia. Perhaps we need to encourage modern twists on colonial architecture that incorporate other perspectives.

I always enjoy the exhibits at the Virginia Center for Architecture. It is a bit different from a traditional museum in that there usually are not original works of art guarded in glass, climate-controlled cases. Generally there are no original works at all. It is more like a unique display of information. But it really works!

The exhibit techniques are usually novel uses of graphic design. The display methods are as much a part of the exhibit as the artifacts themselves! In this case, the architecture works were numbered from 1-99. There was a photograph of each building with some brief information about the building and then a plastic sliding sign with the number of the building in the ranking system.

We had the exhibit to ourselves and took our time looking at each work. There were also some great quotes from architects in the exhibit as well.

Gorgeous architecture was used in the renovation of an elementary school.  What a great learning environment!

Gorgeous architecture was used in the renovation of an elementary school. What a great learning environment!

The unique wall display with sliding plastic partitions.

The unique wall display with sliding plastic partitions.

2014-07-25-venturi-quote

I had no idea Virginia had a D-Day memorial.

I had no idea Virginia had a D-Day memorial.

Another Richmond landmark to look forward too!  VCU is in the process of constructing a contemporary art museum.

Another Richmond landmark to look forward too! VCU is in the process of constructing a contemporary art museum.

What a staircase!!

What a staircase!!

After the exhibit we ran around the grounds outside for a bit.  Such a lovely home!

After the exhibit we ran around the grounds outside for a bit. Such a lovely home!

The Virginia Center for Architecture is going through a few changes at the moment. Some information at the museum indicated that the mission of the center is going to expand beyond architecture into interior design, fashion and other related disciplines. Sounds amazing! Their gift shop was also empty and undergoing some sort of remodeling effort. So there are some more things to look forward to on our next visit.

Inspired by the architecture we saw, we took a leisurely stroll around the block and made note of Richmond’s wonderful historic architecture. Then we went to pick up the girls from camp.

We had a packed schedule today and I had been so preoccupied getting the girls ready for their ballet class that afternoon that I forgot to pack lunches! So, we drove toward our afternoon destination looking for something the children would find appetizing. There were lots of cute bistros but nothing we could get a consensus on. Finally, we stopped at the last eatery before our destination.

We ended up at a small, neighborhood convenience store.

We ended up at a small, neighborhood convenience store.

We walked in and saw typical convenience store far, like candies and drinks. Since the sign outside promised sandwiches I looked around expecting a display of prepackaged sandwiches. To my surprise, instead there was a very tiny grill in the corner and a woman ready to cook up fresh sandwiches, fries and chicken. We tried the chicken fingers special and a turkey sandwich.

We had to wait for our food in front of this delicious display of homemade desserts.

We had to wait for our food in front of this delicious display of homemade desserts.

As we waited, we overheard conversations between the regular customers and the staff.

“Hey….haven’t seen you around for a while. Are you still working?”

“No. I haven’t had any work in three weeks.”

Everyone was very friendly. When our food was ready, we purchased it along with some bottles of milk and a treat each child picked out from the immense display. Our total came to $10! It was quite the bargain.

We drove to the nearby park and found a picnic bench in the shade.

Devouring the chicken fingers and fries.

Devouring the chicken fingers and fries.

Thumbs up for the grilled turkey sandwich too!

Thumbs up for the grilled turkey sandwich too!

For the afternoon, our destination was Maymont, the giant park that was formerly a very wealthy estate. The grounds are gardens are incredible. It was the first time my eldest daughter had been.

All that open space inspires running.

All that open space inspires running.

2014-07-25-maymontbench

You get a little bit of a free zoo experience at Maymont.  They have a collection of injured raptors and some black bears.

You get a little bit of a free zoo experience at Maymont. They have a collection of injured raptors and some black bears.

The black bear statue is well polished where all the children climb all over it.

The black bear statue is well polished where all the children climb all over it.

We made our way to the Japanese garden.  My daughter was duly impressed.

We made our way to the Japanese garden. My daughter was duly impressed.

My daughters compared knee ouchies.  You can tell how much fun a little girl is having at Maymont by how many knee scrapes she has.

My daughters compared knee ouchies. You can tell how much fun a little girl is having at Maymont by how many knee scrapes she has.

Everyone's favorite . . . leaping on the stepping stones.  My son was upset that I wouldn't let him attempt the 1 foot gaps by himself.  I wasn't up for a swim at that moment.

Everyone’s favorite . . . leaping on the stepping stones. My son was upset that I wouldn’t let him attempt the 1 foot gaps by himself. I wasn’t up for a swim at that moment.

More koi.  My children were thrilled and started naming them.

More koi. My children were thrilled and started naming them.

We made our way back to the car via the lovely Italian gardens.

We made our way back to the car via the lovely Italian gardens.

The row of red hibiscus plants was very striking, especially paired with the pink accent flowers.

The row of red hibiscus plants was very striking, especially paired with the pink accent flowers.

Back at the car, we pulled out the first aid kit to dress the knee wounds, used a large wad of baby wipes to give an improvised shower, changed into ballet clothes and headed back to Fredericksburg for ballet class. Whew! Another successful day!

 Posted by on July 25, 2014 General Tagged with: , ,
Jul 242014
 
Uh-oh!  Trouble on the morning commute.

Uh-oh! Trouble on the morning commute.

We were late for the second day of camp. We were running just about on time until we hit a traffic situation on I-95. About 15 minutes away from our exit, traffic ground to a halt. We crawled along at 2 miles an hour or less. Traffic condensed from 3 lanes to two lanes and then down to one.

Finally, we hit the source of the problem:

An overturned tractor trailer carrying a load of butter slowed I-95 South to a crawl.

An overturned tractor trailer carrying a load of butter slowed I-95 South to a crawl.

We call this incident the "butter jam" of 2014, referencing my son's name for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

We call this incident the “butter jam” of 2014, referencing my son’s name for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

45 painful minutes later, we finally got to our exit and made it to art camp.

My son and I then drove around looking for something to do. I thought we might take a look at the Virginia Historical Society. This is a wonderful place to spend some time. It has great exhibits, plenty of free parking and even a good spot to eat your lunch.

But it was closed!

The Virginia Historical Society is being renovated and is closed until fall 2015.

The Virginia Historical Society is being renovated and is closed until fall 2015.

So, we drove around, sat in the car and waited until it was time to get the girls. It was kind of a bust of a morning.

That afternoon, it was another scorcher and we needed to do something inside. I settled on touring the most recent exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Posing Beauty: a celebraton of African American portraits from the 1890's to the present.

Posing Beauty: a celebraton of African American portraits from the 1890’s to the present.

2014-07-24-wallwalk-vmfa

My children love the swivel chairs in the lobby and remembered them from our last visit.

My children love the swivel chairs in the lobby and remembered them from our last visit.

At the entrance to the exhibit.

At the entrance to the exhibit.

The exhibit contained rougly 200 photographs of African Americans from the 1890’s to the present day. There were historical prints, fashion magazines and art photographs. I asked my children to try to pay attention to how the hairstyles and clothes changed throughout each era. I’m not sure they grasped what the exhibit was about but they had two favorite pieces. One was an artistic work of a large close-up photograph of a Barbie doll face photoshopped in a mosaic with African American features. “Barbie!” they called out. They also liked watching an art film where footage from a Texas beauty pageant with the first African American winner was set to the Psycho soundtrack and sped up and slowed-down in certain places. My favorite pieces were the family portraits from the 1890’s with elegantly dressed families in outdoor settings.

My children were most excited to have a snack on the deck.

My children were most excited to have a snack on the deck.

This was one of my fast days but the VMFA desserts did me in. I couldn’t bear to throw my son’s barely touched cinnamon scone away. Then I had to finish off my daughter’s vanilla cupcake (which had the strongest and creamiest vanilla flavor I have ever tasted).

They were equally intrigued to look for koi in the pond.

They were equally intrigued to look for koi in the pond.

2014-07-24-koi-vmfa

Next, we spent a little while exploring the outdoor gardens.

Next, we spent a little while exploring the outdoor gardens.

Someone just couldn't stay away from the water.

Someone just couldn’t stay away from the water.

In a little boy mystery, I turned around to take a photo of my girls and turned back 10 seconds later to find my son completely drenched!  I am not sure if he fell in the very shallow fountain and climbed out or just managed to splash himself enthusiastically.

In a little boy mystery, I turned around to take a photo of my girls and turned back 10 seconds later to find my son completely drenched! I am not sure if he fell in the very shallow fountain and climbed out or just managed to splash himself enthusiastically.

It was hot and bright and time to get home to rest up for the next day.

Even the parking lot of VMFA is artful.

Even the parking lot of VMFA is artful.

As we drove home, we noticed that I-95 southbound was still butter-jammed! The traffic did not seem any better than it was over 6 hours earlier!

It had been a day with rough patches but we managed to salvage it. I was proud of my kids for rolling with the punches rather than getting upset about all that didn’t go according to plan. It’s one of life’s best organizing lessons.

 Posted by on July 24, 2014 General Tagged with: , ,