Vacation Series: Richmond with Young Kids Part 4: James River Park and Deep Run Park

The fun in Richmond seemed never-ending until it ended.  After our morning at the Botanical Gardens we headed for the James River.  The temperature was 90 and muggy and we needed to get wet.  We found ourselves at a section of the James River Park called Pony Pasture which was advertised as being kid-friendly.

Well, the river must have flooded because those kid-friendly play areas could not be found.  We managed to find a shallow creek but the volume of poison ivy was causing such high anxiety I felt an eye twitch coming on. We got back in the car and headed for a flatwater area downriver called The Wetlands which was rumored to have a shallow sandy beach.  There was no beach.  Only mud.  And roots.  And a long walk from the car.  I wore the baby in the Ergo and pulled my daughter along by the hand.  It was the kind of thing that should have been fun but nobody seemed to have received the memo.

Still, we changed our focus from swimming to hiking and with the added intrigue of the floating cottonwood puffballs my daughter became rather enchanted.  I was not but tried to keep my sneezing to myself for the sake of the group.  One day we shall visit these spots again but hopefully during a non-flood period.

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The thing about wearing a baby is that they get to smear you with whatever happens to be on their hands and there is nothing you can do. And they know this.

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The smell of the honeysuckle in the humidity was delicious.

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Wait a minute. Escaping baby!

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Intro to trudging.

Summer 2014 047 The next morning was our last in Richmond.  I took the kids to Deep Run Park in the nearby town of Short Pump and I was so glad we had saved it for our last day.  What a wonderful place.  In Southern Maryland where we live there are many nice playgrounds but few of them have any sense of imagination and they are all in full sun.  Deep Run Park is apparently where that imagination ended up.  There is a CASTLE.  A great one.  In the shady woods.  Behind it there is a smaller play area that features a stagecoach with separate rocking horses.  The bathroom is close by and there were no crowds the morning we were there.


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Deep Run Park, Short Pump, VA

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Exploring Horseshoe Crabs and Pinecones

summer 2013 022 Some days entertaining the little ones is so easy that I find myself in a constant state of shock.  Today we visited a local park which has both a beach and a playground.  It is an outstanding combination and is summer 2013 012by far the most scenic place around.  The wind can be a deal-breaker in the winter and so we try to go there as often as possible throughout the fall.  This morning was chilly and delicious (decidedly fall-like) and so we found ourselves at the familiar playground doing underdogs and inhaling the briny Chesapeake Bay.

summer 2013 017When we got tired of that we headed out on a beach walk to see if anything interesting had washed up.  This is the time of year when all the seaweed seems to come ashore thus forming a 4 foot wide barrier to the water.  summer 2013 021We kept our distance because the seaweed is a big insect attractant and it smells to high heaven.  It was because we were not at the water’s edge that we discovered something I’ve never had the pleasure of coming across naturally- a horseshoe crab skeleton in excellent condition.

My daughter was enamored with it and decided to name him Herman.  Here she is showing him an oyster shell (bet he’d never seen one of those before…).summer 2013 027  Most of the time I stick to the following advice, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints,” however now I have kids and I am loathe to missing a teachable moment (or hour).  Teachable moments are a little more awkward with a second child strapped to your chest.  I wrestled with my desire to take the crab home where I could spend some time learning about it myself before passing the knowledge on to my daughter, or leaving it on the beach for the tide.  In the end I decided to borrow it for a time and then I will either turn it over to the local college and its biology department or take it back to the beach.  The undersides of horseshoe crabs remind me of cockroaches so I will have to complete my research with a firm sense of resolve in order to avoid getting the heebie-jeebies.summer 2013 024

We also collected some pine cones from the parking lot on our way out to use for bird feeder projects. We’ll be working on them as soon as we remember to buy more bird seed.

Both of my kids have colds and although the mother in me said to stay home today I couldn’t fathom another day stuck at home.  So glad we were able to have an adventure without being any worse for wear.

Parent Talk at the Playground

Summer 2013 224On the surface the playground is what it seems- a dynamic place where child interaction opportunities are many and imagination is often in full swing.  Under the surface however the parents often have their own kind of club going on.  Here is a sample of the conversation from our park visit this morning.

Dad #1:  “Oh yeah, I have 4 kids but the only one you have to really watch is this one here.  He’ll drop a load on the carpet in 2 seconds flat.  Just let me tell you about yesterday!  I found him in the bathroom rinsing his dirty underwear in the toilet.  He’d obviously spent some time dunking the undies in the water and then pulling them out again so the whole side of the toilet was just a mess by the time I found him and then……”

Me:  “Really?  That’s horrible!  And you had 3 other kids to watch at the same time?”

Dad #1:  “That’s right.  Well the little one is only 2 weeks old so she’s with my wife all the time.  I’ve been on leave for 2 weeks and I’ve already lost 10 pounds!  Can’t afford to lose any more or I’ll disappear.  I see now how my wife was able to lose all her baby weight so fast  It was chasing those other kids that did it!”

Mom #1:  “Well that must have been nice.  My baby weight is still hanging on and it has been 2 years- I just want my body back!”  (My daughter stands on the periphery of the parent circle while blatantly moving her bowels.  He eyes water.  Her face turns red.)

Mom #2:  “Can you believe that my daughter won’t eat any vegetables that don’t come in one of those squeeze pouches?  What do I do about that?  I’ve tried everything.” (A kid runs by with their laces undone.  Mom #1 attends to it.)

Me:  “My daughter refuses to use the potty.  She held it for 15 hours yesterday.  Granted she was asleep a lot of that time.” (Mom #2’s kid runs by eating what looks like a donut.)

Mom #3:  “If I have to read another Sandra Boynton book I’m going to go insane.  My son just wants to read them over and over again.  They’re hypnotic I tell you!  He can’t sit through a picture book to save his life.”  (Mom #3’s kid starts growling at the other children.)

And to think I had no idea this club existed before I became a member.  God, it’s nice to be included.