Nature Discovery Zone: VA Zoo

The Virginia Zoo has debuted their newest addition, and this time it isn't an animal. The Run Wild Nature Discovery Zone is the work of some of our local Rotary Clubs (who also donate dictionaries to local schools!) and lots of volunteers to bring natural play structures to life. The playground has stumps to stomp on, a sandbox to dig in, tunnels made of willow, and a maze made out of bamboo.
The zoo has made an attempt in the past few years to really engage children, through the VA Zoo Live stage, the splash pads, and now the nature  play area. The zoo's plan is to have informal animal pop ins in this area so that kids can see and possibly touch the animals.
The playground is located across from the Australia Walk About and does include its own set of restrooms. Lucky for parents, it is almost all in the shade and there are lots of stumps to sit on. Of course, it wouldn't be a trip to the zoo without a ride on the train. RT says it's his favorite animal there!

Eric Carle: Moonlight Nights & Other Illustrations

Eric Carle is a staple in the children's literature world even though he didn't start publishing until he was 40.  Although Hungry, Hungry, Caterpillar is his most famous work, Carle has illustrated more than 70 books. His artwork typically has vivid pictures on either plain white or deep black and blue backgrounds. He creates his look by using hand painted tissue paper in a collage.

Another note about Carle's books. If you look closely, he has done an excellent job of weaving in so many educational ways to use them. Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar is something I use even in second grade when teaching life cycles.  I use The Grouchy Ladybug when we teach telling time.  I read  Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me to third graders when we talk about moon phases. These books captivate children young and old. (For the record - older kids totally love being read to, even if they pretend they are too cool!)
Norfolk's always free and beautiful Chrysler Museum welcomes the Eric Carle Moonlight Nights & Other Exhibits from June 14th to September 8th. The exhibit is great for all ages. It has original art work of Eric Carle, showing how he creates his books. It also has interactive games for the kids and a puppet show experience that is also great for taking pictures. Several of Carle's books are available for the kids to read or for you to read to them. There is a magnetic board, activity bags, and peg boards to play on.

Want to check out the exhibit for yourself? Tomorrow, June 15th is a Family Day. They will have moonlit night crafts, visits from zoo animals which are featured in the artwork, stories, and local librarians around. At 10:30 and 2:30 a screening of the Eric Carle documentary will be shown and Astro will be entertaining.all day long  NASA will be in attendance, the Norfolk Public Library Bookmobile will be ready for checkout, and Applewood Book Party will have custom books available. Be sure to check out the Rainbow Puppet presentation at 11:30 and 1:30 also.
On July 11th and August 22nd from 5-8 you can come down to the museum in your pajamas and enjoy Moonlight Nights Pajama Party with s'mores and astronomy activities. Stuffed animal friends are welcome too. Chrysler's Tickle My Ears program, which hosts a monthly story time (we wrote about it here!), will meet June 20th, July 11th, August 1st and 15th all with Eric Carle stories. Tickle My Ears is open to ages 2-5 and meets at 10:30.
As a reminder, the museum is free and open to the public Tuesday-Sunday. Strollers are available free of charge. Also, don't forget to check out the Wonder Studio which has art that's safe for kids! You can see our write up on that here!
If anything, Carle's exhibit should be a reminder to read a ton this summer. Read to your kids; have your kids "read" to you. Ask questions. Just fifteen minutes a day can make a huge difference in their future. What a great way to start off the summer by mixing art, fun, and a little education! (Hey- just because this teacher is officially on summer vacation, doesn't mean I stop trying to force everyone to read!)

NFK Street Museum- Mural Walk

One of the many reasons we love Norfolk is because of the public art scattered all around. From mermaids to murals, the city is covered with them. Norfolk threw a party yesterday to unveil the 10 latest murals in the Railroad District Business Association.
This includes murals from John Hamersveld, Gary Wong, Tim Skirven, Mahari Chabwear, Earl Mack, Dathan Kane, Andy Harris, Hampton Boyer, Asa Jackson, and Charles Rasputin and was curated by the Contemporary Arts Network. The event was free and open to the public and had things to do all up and down the street. We started at Toast where they had a DJ and local merchants set up, then headed to their annex parking lot where Lava Presents had a stage with live music set up and Veil Brewing (which is coming to Norfolk soon!) had a tent selling craft beer. We kept walking down the street to Absolute Kitchen & Bath which was grilling outside and had corn hole set up. We continued down to the Kid Zone outside of Norfolk's 757 Makerspace and toward Oconnor's Brewing which had a whole carnival set up.

True to its name, the highlight of the day for RT was the trains that kept coming by us. We counted four big trains. We ate from different food trucks, Neil was able to drink several local beers, and we ran into some friends.
Want to check the murals out for yourself? You can get all of the addresses here, or see the map below. Be sure to stop and check out the many local businesses along the way! 

Home Ownership Blues

You might have been wondering why we haven't been out and about as much recently. Besides being super pregnant and it's being super hot, our world has been more than chaotic. In February, a house near my mom that we loved was bought by a flipper after being vacant for several years. We watched as a new roof was put on, new hvac was installed, and the whole house transformed.  New windows were put in, the house gutted, and plans seemed to unfold. We put in an offer on the house before it even went on the market and our offer was accepted. We were all set to move in during March. We put our house on the market and it sold in less than 48 hours. Everything seemed awesome!
Well...... the story is that the contractor lied to the owner of the house. They would tell us that they were there working when they were not. (I pass the house twice a day to pick up RT, plus we know all the neighbors who would report to us!) They promised us that the bathrooms were done, which you could see from the windows had not been started. Apparently shady sub contractors were hired then fired, and they broke back into the house and stole all of the materials. They swore the house would be done, but it was pushed back to mid April. Then the end of April. Then the end of May. Meanwhile, as we had sold our house, we needed to be out. So everything that we had went into storage, and we headed to my mom's for what we thought would be a short stay. When we packed, in February, we packed all of our summer clothes away- so here we are, June still in pants. Neil has slept on the couch for weeks and RT asks us constantly when we will be going to the new house. We love my mom, but three adults (one pregnant!), three dogs, and a toddler is a lot in a house.
The latest is that they will be done with the house on the 31st. Now I don't have the power to see into the future, but I would assume that things like floors and walls are needed to be done before moving into a house. They keep telling us that it will only be a little longer, but from March to June seems like a while to us.  When we first met the contractor, he told us how much he loved Chip and Joanna on HGTV. I can't help but think that, unless they had the entire HGTV crew, there is no way this house will be done by then. We have started looking into other options, but are really heartbroken about this house. I loved this house, but I can't keep waiting while they argue with each other and get nothing done. The issue now is that even with a normal 30 day closing, this baby will be here before we move. Our family has been uprooted, in transition, lied to, and now I'm full of anxiety and dread about a move. I thought this was going to be so exciting, buying our forever home, setting up a new nursery, nesting and getting a new house ready for this little man, but it's been nothing but stress and frustration.

Maybe I seem whiny. We are lucky that my mom has been letting us stay with her, and to be honest it's been great having dinner together every night. But... to be playing around with that kind of money and investment in addition to all of the stress of living with all of our stuff in storage is rough. We plan to back out of this contract, which is the only real legal action we can take and are protected by, and look for a new house. But with this comes the frustration of searching and bidding on houses again. Plus I'm sure whatever we find won't be as move in ready as the house we already put all of our time and effort into. I mostly am angry and feel bad for RT, who keeps asking to go to his home and sleep in his bed every night.
In the mean time, we threw together his very low key and laid back birthday party, and my family threw me a "sprinkle" to get ready for the new baby. The teachers at school were kind enough to throw me a shower there too. We have help from friends and family to help move our stuff into either storage, my mom's garage, or my mom's computer room. We are just hunkering down in the mean time, waiting for the baby to come, looking at new options, and trying to regroup. All we can do is make the best of the situation that we are in.

A Letter Before Your Third Birthday

I started writing these letters before birthdays, so that one day RT can pull them out and read them. Our lives are often a whirlwind of school, work, swimming lessons, exploring new places, and trying to have a decent meal in the mean time. It's nice sometimes to slow down and reflect on the last year and put into words what I'm looking forward to with RT for the coming year.
Dear RT, 
This past year has flown by. I can't believe it's time already for me to write this. Tomorrow you turn THREE! Since your last birthday you've started going to school five days a week, something that I was both nervous and excited for. While your vocabulary has increased exponentially, you still sometimes cry when we drop you off and it breaks my heart. You have learned all of your letters, and counting to at least twenty. You know every type of construction truck there is.  You've discovered trains and became obsessed. We took you to your first monster truck show, and you got your first dental x-ray when you jumped at the playground and hit your tooth. We took you to your first show and you caught your first fish. You skinned more knees, got more bumps on your head, and learned how to make us even more nervous. 
This coming year is going to bring huge changes, and I worry that with the addition of a baby brother, you'll get jealous and feel left out. I worry that you'll learn to say your R's correctly and lose the baby W sound. I worry that you wont get to spend as much time out doing things and running around because of the new baby. But I also know, that you're excited for baby brother to come, and that you can't wait to be a big helper.
I also know that as you get older and more aware of the world, you'll be more aware of what's going on outside of it. It can be a scary place, but if I've learned anything since you've been born, it's that it is also so full of so much love. Your family is so happy you're here, and we are all so in love with you. You light up all of our worlds, and we couldn't imagine life without you. Here's to another year of light, love, and laughter. Bring on the three's! 

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