Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Vacation, Day 2: Olympia Hand's On Children's Museum

Day 2 did not go so well... so the Olympia Hand's On Children's Museum has been a favorite of mine. Shortly after we moved here, we took Rachel. And by "we" I mean Lori and I and two of my college pals. It was great - with a ratio of 4 adults to 1 child, we got a chance to play ourselves. Children's Museums always have such cool stuff but children don't always appreciate it. I've suggested that they need "Kid-Free Nights" where grownups can come in and play with stuff without children. So this was a repeat from last year's Vacation Week. But since last year, they've moved to a new location and I can no longer recommend it. Essentially everything that could be wrong, is.

Starting with the parking lot. Getting to the parking lot itself is counter-intuitive with the car entrance far from the museum. That would be good, if it made sense on how to get there. The parking lot is small with tiny spaces and all of the edges are 2-3 foot-tall and made of concrete. So, you're all but guaranteed door dings or that you'll open your door into a concrete wall. It makes no sense whatsoever. The parking lot of a Children's Museum should be forgiving - large parking spaces, gentle edges, enough spaces and a well-marked (and protected) walkway. And it's a pay lot. But with only one place to pay, you'll most likely have to backtrack quite a bit to your car. (I said it was small - it's narrow.)

The museum itself is not autism-friendly, putting form over function. A beautiful, wide-open space encourages children to run and scream and be loud. Don't get me wrong - it's gorgeous - beautiful soaring space with lots of wood, but it's all open, essentially each floor has minimal partitioning and multiple hallways, it's difficult containing a child to a specific area. And in one case, a giant corkscrew slide from the second floor down to the first. It says that you're not supposed to go until the person in front of you exits at the bottom, but you can't actually see the bottom. So the first time, a bunch of girls jumped in and then Ben jumped in right after them and then I had to race down the stairs to the bottom, avoiding children and parents on the stairs, to make sure I didn't lose sight of him. The second time, he stopped short of the bottom and another children crashed into him. The water table has been a favorite of his in the past, but this time all he wanted to do was dip his hand in and then lick his hand. I tried keeping him out, but he did it repeatedly. And with no walls around, no matter where he was, he could easily get back there, so he did. Repeatedly.


I took him up to the toddler area, which is enclosed, to his other favorite toy - the bean bin, but he again, could not keep them out of his mouth and he ate quite a few grimy beans. So, had to leave that area as well. A construction area was more enclosed, but there was a girl in there who hit a boy with a large shovel and Ben with a large plastic rock so we left. But he kept running back in there to grab and chew on smaller plastic rocks.

Eventually, we stopped for lunch. The food was OK, though my chicken quesadilla had no flavor in the chicken whatsoever. Ben had grabbed a bag of Plaintain Chips so we let him have those and he ate a lot of them and some of my quesadilla and other foods. There was a problem with our order and how it was rung up and in the end we got overcharged by $2 + tax. Instead of reversing the charge and putting $2 + tax back on our card, the cashier just took $2 from the Museum Donations box and gave it back to Lori. Lori figured it wasn't worth arguing over.

Back to the museum, more chasing after Ben. All around the museum there was construction going on - both on other buildings and on all the grounds around the museum. The museum had these big roll-up glass-front garage doors and one of them was rolled up and all the sudden Ben darted out. I was on the other side of a display and I had to race around it. I knocked over a child in the process. I stopped long enough to prevent them from falling and their grandparent was right there and didn't seem concerned. I got to Ben, out on a patio and it was only then that I realized that it was all enclosed by construction fencing so he wouldn't have been able to get anywhere anyhow, but that was sure frustrating. I carried him back inside and I felt him stop breathing. And then he did his little cough. I knew that cough. That's the "I don't feel good and I might be barfing soon" cough. We went and sat in the stroller parking room for awhile. He seemed a little better so I let him back into the museum, but it was back to retrieving stuff from his mouth like plastic apples and plastic carrots and anything small and plastic.

Lori rejoined me and we hung out with him in a smaller, quieter area near the back that was devoid of a lot of exhibits but we could tell he was out of steam and not doing well.

So we got in the car and began driving. I decided to drive around the waterfront and then drive away from the freeway. I'm not sure why, but I thought it would be good to drive west and then south and then eventually back east to the freeway lower down, away from the city more.

Turned out to be fortuitous because eventually Ben did his cough a few more times and then let loose with the contents of his stomach all over himself, his seat, everything on the floor below his seat. Because we weren't on the freeway, we were able to quickly pull into a parking lot and get him out of his messy clothes, into new clothes, and then put him in the stroller while we cleaned up the car. Was really impressed when Rachel finally piped up and said "Can I have a wipe? There's still barf on me." Had no idea it had gotten that far and felt really bad (and really impressed) with Rachel's calm nature and patience as we worked to clean up an unpleasant situation.

After he he threw up, he seemed fine, happy, even. So we got on the road and headed home. We hadn't been home long when he started acting unhappy again and then he coughed. I quickly grabbed a bowl from the counter and got it under his face and he threw up a little more. And then again, seemed pretty happy.

Vacation 2013:

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