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Becca Beasley is the owner and operator of Becca Bee Events, a wedding planning business thriving in Central Virginia. With twelve years of event experience in the tourism industry and a solid background in literature, Becca contributes her talents to travel blogs in the Mid-Atlantic region. Her FredParent blog relates the adventures she and her two young children, Maggie and Brendan, embark on in Fredericksburg with a focus on the area’s family-friendly locales. This September, Becca and her husband, Mark, are expecting their third child.



Childhood is Calling

Beat the Heat, Part One: Bass Pro Shops

The past few weeks it has ranged between 90 and 97 degrees outside, often with a heat index of over 100, and I’m 33 weeks pregnant. Normally, hours of outdoor play are mandatory for me (and therefore my children), but the excessive summer heat combined with my biggie-pregnant state has forced us indoors. Not surprisingly, I’ve found several creative (and cheap!) indoor activities within close proximity to Fredericksburg and I want to share them with you!

Last week, a dear old friend of mine was visiting her hometown of Midlothian from Denver. She suggested that we meet halfway between Fredericksburg and Midlo to get our kids together and play, which led us to the Bass Pro Shop in Ashland. I admit, I was skeptical when she suggested it. It’s a retail store, right?! Can you play in a retail store?? The answer: YES. And DO IT. Spending money while you’re there is easy to do and encouraged, but it’s not required.

From the minute we got out of the car, my children were captivated. I didn’t think I’d pull them away from the fish pond adjacent to the building! Maggie “ooo-ed” and “aah-ed” over the real lily pads (pretty awesome, I admit) while Brendan all-but-launched himself into the water to catch a fish with his bare hands. I finally lured them (pun intended) to the doorway, where my five-year-old aspiring doctor noticed all the antlers and literally fell on the ground and dramatically declared, “Bones! Bones are my life!” (I can’t make this stuff up.)

Fishpond1

Just inside the door, we found leather sofas, comfy chairs, an impressive stone chimney…and taxidermy. Lots of taxidermy. I thought perhaps my daughter would be intimidated (I knew my son would love it), but she was right there beside Brendan excitedly jumping up and down each time they discovered a new creature. The bear was especially impressive, because we do have a black bear that lives in our Fredericksburg neighborhood but we’ve never seen it in person. I couldn’t contain them to wait for my friend and her son, so I did my best to waddle quickly they darted toward the waterfall at the back of the store.

Four Wheeling

The waterfall was just one part of a large aquarium on the back wall of Bass Pro Shop. Inside the tank, there were fish larger than my three-year-old! Very cool. We climbed the stairs to see what was on the second floor (can it get better?!) and found more taxidermy (an albino deer!). I was pleased, as this was now turning into a fun educational outing, and then their eyes were drawn to the four-wheelers. I quickly drew their attention to the animal tracks on the floor in an effort to keep them [mostly] off of the floor displays, and thankfully at that time my friend and her sweet little family arrived.

Treehouse1

We spent our remaining time in the children’s department, which has so many awesome Christmas and birthday present ideas. There is also an enormous tree house in the middle, featuring a saloon-type swinging door. On our way out, the friendly sales staffer shared that every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from noon until 5 pm beginning June 25 and ending July 24 (so this weekend is the last weekend) there are free family activities and workshops. How did I not know about this?? From noon until 2 pm on those days, there are free crafts. Other free activities include a casting challenge, shooting arcade, and catch and release pond photo download. If you missed the family camp this summer (as I did), then I encourage you to keep an eye out for it next year. But take a visit sometime! It’s totally worth the short drive and you’ll stay cool in the air conditioning!

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Fast Feet at the Flying Squirrels Game

Every summer, I have a few things on a mental bucket list that I’d like to do with my children. This summer, one of those things was take them to a baseball game. My daughter and my husband went to a Nationals game the year that my son was born, but we have never gone as a family. I thought that a minor league game would best suit our needs so I checked out the Richmond Flying Squirrels. It turns out that the Flying Squirrels have an amazing kids club with promotions specifically geared toward children ages 14 and under. Score!

The Squirrel Tails Kids Club is free for fans aged 14 and under. I easily signed my kids up using a quick online form. Membership in the kids club gives young fans free access to all Sunday games, a free membership card, free autograph sessions, the ability to play catch on the field before and run the bases after every Sunday game, as well as discounts. Given all the benefits of attending a Sunday game, in addition to the fact that Sunday games are in the middle of the day rather than at night, I chose Sunday, July 10 as our preferred game date. 

The morning of July 10, my family was reluctant to leave the house. Even my husband was grousing about driving down to Richmond! But I insisted that it would be a good break in our normal routine, and I coaxed the kids out of the house knowing that the first 1,500 young fans received a free Nutsy or Nutasha superhero cape. I also allowed my two to wear their favorite superhero costume to the game (and packed a change of clothes for each), seeing as it was superhero day at the park! 

Excited Superheroes

When we got down to the stadium, I learned that I needed cash to park. Thankfully we found a nearby ATM quickly. I didn’t buy tickets ahead of time—we’d never seen the stadium, so I opted to buy general admission tickets at the gate rather than have assigned seats. Even with the unexpected ATM detour and the stop to buy two adult tickets, we made it inside in time to run on the field before the game started. Watching my small children on the large baseball outfield was a special experience. As a parent, one of the great joys is experiencing life through the perspective of a child again. Their unbridled excitement and wide eyes nearly brought tears to mine, and I knew that we made the right choice in trekking down to the game.

spidey flying squirrels

It was a hot Sunday, so we picked seats in the very top row of the stadium where we could be shaded. My seven-month-pregnant self wasn’t thrilled about climbing all the stairs, especially because my three-year-old insisted that I carry him, but I was happy about the shade. Life is about compromise; what can I say? We sat through all nine innings, with breaks for lemonade, popcorn and Italian shaved ice. I explained the rules of the game to my daughter and spotted the mascots with my son. It was a great time! Being at the top of the stadium gave us room to spread out so my children could wiggle without being disruptive. And of course after the game, we stayed to run the bases!

Top of the Stadium

If you know my son, he is FAST. Here pretty soon I'm not going to be able to catch him anymore, even though my legs are double as long. The kid has wheels! The promise of running the bases kept him going through the game, and when it was finally time he could barely contain his excitement! We walked down to the field where we found a line of children waiting to go on the field. Maggie and Brendan were escorted sans-parents out onto first base where the announcer asked them to say their name into the microphone. Brendan was way too focused on running to say his name and he took off like a shot just as we heard Maggie proclaim herself as “Maggie!” very loud and clear. Brendan decided to chart his own course inside of the base line, and he was on lap number two before the staff realized that there was a loose runner on the field! He made it back to first base where an escort found him and ran with him around the baseline…just once. Maggie, being our first child, followed the rules and ran the bases with ease. I laughed the entire time watching them: the differences between my two children is sometimes so apparent and entertaining!

Runner!

I highly recommend a Flying Squirrels game to anyone with the vicinity of Richmond. Be sure to check out the Kids Club promotions before you go. And please, stay to watch your children run the bases. It is magical!

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YMCA Waterpark Adventures

Neither one of my young children love super-hot weather, though my son tries to maximize every possible moment outside, rain, shine, sleet or snow. In order to avoid the invariable one-is-inside-unsupervised/one-is-outside-unsupervised dilemma, we spend a lot of time playing in water during the summer months! This year, a friend suggested that we try the YMCA public pool at the Massad Family YMCA at 212 Butler Road in Falmouth. The pool is more like a waterpark, complete with water slides, splash pads, and a concession stand. For complete information on pricing and hours, visit the YMCA website. (www.family-ymca.org/WaterPark.html). 

One such super-hot Saturday afternoon, my husband and I felt sporty enough to pack up both children and loads of pool toys and brave the crowds at the YMCA waterpark. We didn’t have a strategy, meaning that we didn’t arrive as soon as the park opened, or even pack food for that matter (the water park forbids outside food, so I guess this was a good thing!). Despite the inevitable chaos that comes with detaining two young children as you wait in line for entry and jockeying for position in poolside lounge chairs, we had a great time! My children, ages five and three, are good listeners and they know not to run on the pool deck or jump in unless an adult is there to supervise, so the stress level that may have arisen when they were younger is no longer so much of an issue. My daughter loved the frog slide and splash pad toys, which are probably more appropriate for younger children but they suit her just fine. She’s comfortable mostly in water where she can touch. My son loves everything - his only issue is that he isn’t tall enough to do the big kid slides. After a few hours, my husband and I had no complaints, so when I was invited to go back on a weekday with a friend and her children, I jumped at the chance.

Massad Family YMCA Waterpark

Weekdays are different than weekends in nature, even during the summer months. I suggest you call ahead to see if summer camp groups and/or swim meets are occurring, as they may dissuade you or change the hours of the park. There was one summer camp there while we were there on a random Thursday, but it really didn't impact us too much. We arrived right when the waterpark opened and we quickly put our towels down to save chairs near the water's edge. My children again spent their time in the shallow end (pictured above) and though there were people there, it wasn't too terribly crowded. They were able to jump off the side into the deeper water without colliding into others. My daughter is tall enough to use the twisty slide, and she proudly marched off to get a yellow wristband, but then changed her mind about the slide at the last minute. My son, on the other hand, was sorely disappointed that he remains too short!

Maggie in Shallow End

We spent several hours at the waterpark, with a short break for lunch. It's not an incredibly social experience at this stage, because you always have to keep your eyes on your children, but going with friends is always fun! And on these hot days, the water feels so refreshing. We'll be going back before summer ends. Enjoy!

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Catching a Fish at Mott's Run Reservoir

One of my children’s all-time favorite places to play in Fredericksburg is Mott’s Run Reservoir, located at 6600 River Road. Mott’s Run is open seasonally from April until October from 7 am until 7 pm, and closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. My two little ones love the children’s recreation area, which is equipped with a large sandbox, pretend campfire cooking area, canoes with paddles and wooden teepee structures. Of course the reservoir itself is a huge recreation area, and this year I thought it was time that they learn to fish. I grew up fishing nearly every weekend on the Chesapeake Bay with my family, much to my chagrin at the time. Being captive on my father’s boat on sweltering summer days were not fun times for me, but surprisingly it is a legacy that I long to pass on to my children. 

The first step in the journey was to shop for fishing rods! My three-year old son was thrilled to find so many options for little tykes at Gander Mountain. He selected a Lightning McQueen rod for himself and his cousin and a Barbie rod for his sister. I am really pleased with the quality of the Fisher rods, which compactly fit into a little backpack that came with the purchase. Gander Mountain also now sells bait, so I picked up some juicy fat worms along with a few bobbers and rod stands to spear into the soft dirt.

Cousins with fishing rods

I invited my brother and his family to join Maggie, Brendan and me on our fishing adventure. On a misty Saturday my gang of eight descended upon the quiet, unsuspecting fishing crowd at Mott’s Run Reservoir. With children ranging in ages from 12 months to five, it was a bit of a challenge to keep everyone focused on the task at hand (and out of the water, which is used as drinking water in parts of Spotsylvania County!). My brother baited my daughter’s hook, I cast it off of one of the piers and then I trotted off after my son who was making me nervous by chasing his cousin around the water’s edge. My focus, admittedly, was not on Maggie and when she started calling, “I think I have something!” I honestly doubted that she did. But sure enough, she caught a sun fish! My mom and brother came to her rescue since I was occupied, and Maggie beamed with pride the entire time. The fish wriggled off of the line before I could get close enough to get a good picture, but just catching any fish was super special for my little girl.

FisherLady2

Lunch2

It turns out that Maggie’s catch was our only catch the entire day, but we enjoyed watching the cousins play at the recreation center after our picnic lunch. Mott’s Run Reservoir also has marked nature trails, but our attempted hike wasn’t much more than a minor exploration. Nonetheless, we cannot wait to go back and give the boys a shot at catching their own fish! And when we got back home, Brendan had a blast “releasing” our remaining worms into the front mulched bed.

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Summer Days on the Farm

Every Wednesday during the summer months, my two children and I journey out to Caroline County to visit Snead’s Asparagus Farm off of Route 17. For the past three summers, we have participated in their CSA program which stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” As CSA members, we receive a weekly bounty of fresh, seasonal produce and the ability to play on the farm. I enjoy the program not only for the social aspect, but also because of the educational aspect.

Educationally speaking, visiting a farm on a regular basis teaches my children where our food comes from. During the peak summer months, we are able to pick berries and Concord grapes directly from the bushes and vines. I don't have a garden at home, so this is my opportunity to teach Maggie and Brendan about the process from seed to fruit. They witness the farm hands harvesting the crops and they feel the heat of the summer, so they appreciate the hard work that goes into growing our food. This year while exploring the farm, Brendan even discovered the asparagus field! I’ve never seen asparagus growing directly from the ground: it is militantly straight and strong, like small trees or sticks poking through the dirt. Quite a sight to behold, especially for an excited three year old who loves asparagus. He wanted to eat the stalks directly from the ground! Last year, while snipping the enormously heavy sunflower heads off of their tall, tall vines, we saw the nearby beehives and I taught my children the importance of the bee in the pollination process. And of course, once we arrive back home with our fruits and vegetables we enjoy trying new things and incorporating fresh, seasonal produce into our weekly recipe repertoire. (For more recipe ideas right here on FredParent, check out Practical Pantry.)

Mr. and Mrs. Snead also do a great job of exposing the CSA members to their farm animals. Having grown up with horses, I’m happy that though I don’t currently have farm animals, my children can still have similar experiences to mine growing up. Last summer they had a baby calf tied to a tree so children could pet and socialize the young animal. Imagine petting a baby cow! Every year, we pet the friendly sheep dogs and note how they herd the animals. Fearless Brendan was brave enough to ride a pony with Mrs. Snead as the supervisor, while my more cautious Maggie prefers to pet the noses of the horses and llamas.

But of course if you ask my children their favorite part of the CSA, they will say they just love to play! We know several families who participate with us and every week we gather with friends to ride the toy tractors, swing on the wooden tree swing, climb the hay bales, weave through the maze to the wooden teepee, or play in the “river” which is actually a small creek on the edge of the woods. A few weeks ago, Brendan was in the small play house and scared Maggie when she went to open the window: they crack me up!  

Maggie Scared

Brendan Laughing

While sometimes it can be stressful having two young children who prefer to go in opposite directions on such a large property, the value in the experience outweighs any difficulty. If you haven’t yet been, I encourage you to visit Snead’s Farm or other similar farms like Miller Farms and Braehead Farm. We are fortunate to live in a community where agriculture is prevalent… and makes learning fun.

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Pouches' Community Corner

Pouches went to visit our local Kiwanis Club to find out how they have been growing future leaders through area high school Key Clubs.

Pouches Kiwanis Club sm

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