When we returned to west Michigan to do Much Ado About Nothing with the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company, the family we’ve stayed with for the past several trips wasn’t able to host us. They had way too much going on. We still did get to see them a time or two, which was fun.
Instead, we stayed in a house that is usually occupied by a friend of the company. She is a traveling nurse, and she was scheduled to be away for most of the time we were in town. That was quite a relief–housing is always the hardest part of going there.
Well, that and childcare. But this time, JC was able to arrange with his company to be with us for the whole time. Since he works on the internet, it’s quite feasible for him to be fully remote. Having him there dramatically lowered all of our stress levels. I spent a whole month working on a show and literally never had to find a sitter. Not once. The kids seemed to be much less anxious, too. We had a ball.
Family at home kept in touch with calls and occasional strange mail. I mentioned on facebook that a man had yelled at Silas in the bathroom because he mistook my long-haired boy for a girl, so my dad sent his idea of a solution to that problem…
As much as I adore Spring Lake/Grand Haven, where we usually stay, being in Grand Rapids was a fun experience. We were only 10 or 15 minutes from the place where we had most of our rehearsals, so I wasn’t getting back super late. We still made several trips to Grand Haven to see people and places we have connections to, but we also enjoyed exploring what Grand Rapids had to offer. Also, JC said that the midnight pokemoning was very good there.
Some of our old favorites were worthy of a revisit. JC took the kids to the Children’s Museum, which they loved. The whole bunch of us spent a day at the Grand Rapids Public Museum (aka the Van Andel). That museum does an amazing job of being basically a museum for adults that offers kids plenty of things they can touch and experience. They had an amazing exhibit on whales, from prehistoric to modern, there. The kids enjoyed playing in a replica whale heart and hearing recordings of different whale songs. We also enjoyed their permanent exhibits of truly random items, from fur pelts to vintage cars.
Another favorite place was the Meijer Gardens. I could go there every day, but especially in March, when they have an amazing butterfly exhibit in the rainforest room. We were there for the butterflies one other time, when Silas was a toddler. He was better able to appreciate it this time. In addition to the butterflies, an exhibit of sculpture and graphic design by Ai Wei Wei was going on. Everywhere we turned, another of his sculptures seemed to be popping from a corner. Silas was truly intrigued by them.
We made some new discoveries there, too. One fun thing was the Goldfish Swim School. I wish they had those here–it’s a pool completely designed for teaching kids to swim. We went a few times a week while we were there. Both kids got much more comfortable in the water. Unfortunately, I didn’t do a great job of keeping up that kind of pace when we got home, so they still can’t really swim on their own. 🙁
We enjoyed discovering new libraries, new mall play places, and new parks and wilderness preserves. Every day was an adventure.
JC took the kids to the John Ball Zoo, which they enjoyed but said would be more fun in summer. We discovered a movie theater that has super cheap movies on Tuesday mornings, so we surprised them with LEGO Batman.
I think this was our most fun and successful “traveling for mama’s work” trip yet. The kids being big enough to understand that we were eventually coming home was a big factor, as was JC’s constant presence. They surprised me by bragging to other kids about their mama being a director. I’m not sure the other kids even knew what a director is! But still, they understand that it’s my work and that it is important to me…and can be fun for them.
At least weekly, they ask us when we’re going back to Michigan. Not soon enough, friends. Not soon enough.