Family weddings may be the best source of blog fodder on the planet. I spent two days in Baltimore with my extended family this weekend and have blog entries clogging up my brain. Here's the first installment.
We arrived via 11 hour car trip in Severna Park, MD on Thursday evening. My kids were beat but they were looking forward to seeing their cousins and excited to be on vacation. We were staying in my Aunt's neighbor's house (she was with friends for the weekend) so that my parents could help out as-needed next door. My Aunt Janet was the mother of the groom and handling all of the wedding plans as well as hosting the rehearsal dinner. Friday was the day of the rehearsal and, suffice it to say, it was a little nuts. My cousin Janet (yes, it's confusing. We're all J's and half of us have the same names. Try and keep up.) and I were under strict orders to get all of the kids out of the house during the day so that the rest of the crew could prepare for the rehearsal dinner. Janet and I did a little preplanning and decided to take the kids to the Chesapeake Children's Museum. It was only a few miles away and cost $3/person. With five kids and two adults, we were sold. Plus, it's a children's museum. I've never been to a bad children's museum.
It should be noted, for the purposes of this story, that my cousin Janet works for Walt Disney World. Her expectations, as a result of her job, are a little high. She told me in the car on the way to the museum that the online reviews of the place were less than stellar. When we arrived, we discovered why. The museum resembled a small mobile home. I think Janet's exact words when we pulled up were, "I think I'm gonna cry." We opened the door to the mobile home to find an elderly lady who asked us repeatedly if we were from a daycare center and seemed to be a little angry that we didn't call her to tell her we were coming. When we finally got her to understand that we were not with a daycare center, she counted all seven of us and asked for $21. We gave her $30. She continued talking and had no intention of giving me my change.
I spoke up, "Um, we gave you $30."
"Oh, I'm sorry honey, I thought you'd given me $21."
And so the kids set out to explore all 350 square feet of the museum. Despite my trepidation about the cleanliness of the place and the "Museum" designation, I must admit that the kids had a great time. We had three five-year-olds, a three-year-old and a two-year-old and they engaged in a variety of elaborate scenarios using the museum equipment. It was fun to watch. After some time in the "main room," we moved to the upper level (about three steps up). Here there was a dollhouse, a couple toys and a large wooden cage with a sign that said something like, "This is Bubba the red Boa Constrictor's home." The kids and I looked and looked but Bubba was nowhere to be found. There was a regular visitor to the museum sitting in a rocking chair close by who casually explained, "Oh Bubba's been missing for a couple days. He got out of his cage and we haven't seen him since. We're sure he'll come back soon." I'm not sure how you would have reacted to that but it was a pretty big red flag for me. A boa constrictor large enough to justify a six-foot-tall cage was loose in the museum and no one seemed even a little concerned. Feeling a little uneasy about the snake on the loose, we decided to take the kids downstairs and see what exhibits awaited them.
The downstairs area features a large lounge area, complete with old leather recliners, a long table with chairs, shelves full of cleaning supplies and indistinguishable clutter, and a rabbit cage with a cute grey rabbit walking all over his own excrement. In my experience, rabbits are usually kept a couple inches above where their poop falls so they remain clean. Not at the Chesapeake Children's Museum. Our new goal became keeping the children away from the poop-coated rabbit and we made use of the two sinks that randomly sat against the wall of the downstairs. One of them was full of dishes and couldn't be used but the other was in working order. We coated each kids' hands with Dawn (the only soap available) and washed them one by one. We headed back upstairs for one more look at the upper "exhibits." I secretly hoped that Bubba would find a way to get to that rabbit and put an end to its misery but I decided not to share that little tidbit with the kids. We left the Chesapeake Children's Museum feeling that we'd gotten our $3 worth and headed to lunch.
I have mentioned the museum a couple times in front of my son, doing my best to do justice to the nature of the place but my son gets very defensive. I believe the words, "The best museum ever!" have come out of his mouth on more then one occasion. What do I know, right?