Monday, September 26, 2011

Support Local Museums Before They Disappear

I was heartbroken to read in the Detroit Free Press on Saturday that the Detroit Science Center was closing temporarily  to evaluate the museum's financial operations.  The goal of the two-week closure is to review the financial operations to plan for long-term viability.  A Science Center spokesperson said they hope to reopen but can't "make that promise."  Sheesh.  No Detroit Science Center?  Say it ain't so.

Our family has been Detroit Science Center members for several years.  Our membership allows us to experience incredible hands-on exhibits explaining how rockets work or teaching us how much effort it takes to burn the calories equivalent to eating a cheese burger and fries by propelling a wheelchair or walking on a treadmill.  The boys have played bass guitar and drums as they rocked out to Ike and Tina Turner and learned about engineering accomplishments on the Mini Mac Bridge, an 80-foot-long pedestrian bridge modeled after the Mackinac Bridge. The list of exhibits goes on and on and on.  Every trip uncovered something new.

It didn't matter how many times we watched the DTE Energy Sparks Theater shows explaining how electricity affects the world, we were mesmerized every time someone's hair stood on end from too much static electricity.  We learned about coral reefs and Mount Everest in the Chrysler IMAX Dome Theater and about an Olympic kayaker who designed and built the world’s largest man-made whitewater rafting park in the Toyota Engineering multi-media 4-D Theater.  The Kids Town area kept us entertained with a diner where the boys pretended to be cooks or waiters, serving food and counting money.  We always took part in the art activity of the day where crayons, paint, tissue paper, glue, sparkles and other items were available for the boys to create whatever artwork their hearts desired.  We never left Kids Town without a trip to the water table or a quick costume change for the boys to dance on stage.

The best part about our Detroit Science Center membership was the reciprocity agreement with other science centers in Michigan and across the country.  We took advantage more than once of 1/2 price admission to the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills and the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum in Ann Arbor and free admission to the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum of Natural History in Ann Arbor and the Impression 5 Science Center in Lansing.  We even took the whole family to the South Florida Science Center for free when we were visiting the grandparents.  Our Detroit Science Center membership has served us well in our never-ending quest to find fun, imaginative things to do as a family.

I hope the Detroit Science Center can figure out a way to stay open.  The problem is they rely on ticket sales and memberships among other individual donations to stay open which means people have to use the service they are providing.  People have to go to the science center and support its mission to "inspire visitors to pursue and support careers in engineering, technology and science."   One woman quoted in the Free Press said, "I heard good things about it," along with "It's a shame if they close because we need places like that in Detroit."

It sounds like she never took advantage of the incredible resource right in her own backyard. And that is a shame.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of School Woe

Gosh, it's quiet in my house.

The school bus just pulled away with my baby on board.  Oops.  I mean my 6-year-old.  Wait a minute.  How did he get to be six already?  The operative word here is "minute."  That's about how long it took to give birth and send my precious babies off to school.

I have written here before about how grateful I am to be a stay-at-home mom and how wonderful the past eight years have been for me (six years home with the oldest before he started school and two extra years with my youngest ...now headed to school full-time).  I've touted the glories of part-time Kindergarten that enabled my kids to learn at school but continue our other activities like museum trips and park play dates -  during which learning took place on a whole different level.  I've even shared my horror stories about how my kids turn into the Incredible Hulk at the very tender age of six.

I've had to navigate the crazy, constantly-changing, anxiety-producing stages of babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  It seems like just when I get my groove on and start to understand a certain stage, it changes.  They grow and change some more. Nothings ever stays the same.

And so in my too-quiet house I have to come to terms with the fact that I no longer have babies, toddlers or preschoolers running around.  I have a 1st and 3rd grader who will keep me busy with school volunteer opportunities and sports practices.  Our lives will change, yet again, with our brief conversations over breakfast before the harried morning starts and our brief conversations at dinner before we head out the door for practice.  We won't get too many opportunities for sleeping in late or making homemade granola together.  Oh sure, on the weekends maybe, but that would have to take place in between soccer games and playing outside with friends.

I love that the boys are excited about school and eager to get back in touch with classmates they weren't able to see over the summer.  They were all smiles as they got on the bus today.  Their first day of school is an exciting time of new teachers, new friends and new opportunities.

The first day of school for me is a head-scratching, teary-eyed, reminiscence of two boys who were babies just a minute ago.  As they move forward toward independence, I cringe at the the thought of another year passing by so quickly.

So, I'm just going to sit here today and feel sorry for myself.  I will probably cry a little (okay, a lot) and then I will look forward with anticipation because our lives are changing, yet again. Change isn't always bad, right?   More often than not it brings unexpected potential.  What will this new change bring to our house?  Dunno.  But, I'm open to the possibilities...after I spend my day looking through old photo albums and feeling sorry for myself.  And crying.

I'm not sure my tears can drown out the tick-tock of my family room clock.  Who knew it was so loud?

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