Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cityscape - Day 2

Today's Mission: Explore Uptown Charlotte.

Today's Goal: Experience city sights and sounds that were free and kid-friendly and educational.

Today's Purpose: Realize that city life is exciting, non-intimidating, and that our actions always impact other people.
I'm pleased to say that our mission was successful, that we accomplished our goal, that the boys learned a thing or two along the way, and that, most importantly, we had a whole lot of fun!
We left home at 8:15 and were on the light rail by 8:45. If I'm honest, taking the train doesn't save time and money, but it is a fun experience and something the kids always enjoy. And, referring back to our purpose of understanding the impact of our actions on others, the boys had an opportunity right off the bat to demonstrate this.

Since we were on the train during a heavy commute time, there weren't enough open seats for all of us. I needed to stand by Annalyse and her stroller and the boys were having a hard time standing still while holding a pole and not bumping into other people. When two seats opened up near the front of our train car, I asked them to walk up and sit together and listen for me to tell them when it was time to get off.

A little hesitant at first, but they both obeyed and sat wonderfully still and talked quietly together for the rest of the ride. I tried to put myself in the mind of a four or a six year old, and I decided that they demonstrated wonderful self-control and self-confidence. It must have been very intimidating to sit on the opposite end of the train from me and be surrounded by big adults.

Their quiet actions caught the attention of more than one passenger who commented to me as they were exiting that my boys were "very brave" and "very mature." I smiled politely, because, yes, at that moment they were brave and mature. On a normal and regular basis, not so much.

We got off the train at the Third Street stop, by the Convention Center. I explained to the boys that this big building was for large conferences and exhibits. I told them that a huge event, the Democratic Convention, was going to happen here in a few weeks and that people from all over the country were coming to our city for it.

In between making wishes and throwing pennies into the fountain, we talked about how Americans vote for a President, what the President does, and why it's so important to care about our leaders. (Whew. A little bit of learning did happen!)
Next, we crossed College Street to visit The Green, and small art and education park. The kids had fun climbing the sculptures and exploring the fountains. Ironically, we even noticed someone reading a newspaper on a bench that happened to be on the same train we took into the city.

Without thinking, Grady Lee raised his finger and his voice, to loudly announce, "That is the same man that was standing by me and Micah on the train! And he was on his phone the whole time!" Going back to one of today's purposes of knowing what our actions do to others, I reminded him we don't point and we certainly don't yell about people that are right next to us.
After lots of running and climbing, we walked down Tryon Street to the Wells Fargo Museum. This free museum introduces kids to Charlotte's banking history and gold discoveries. The boys held various metals and learned that gold is heaviest and they interacted with a touchscreen to practice panning for gold.
We spent a while at an exhibit that showed the history of customer banking - from talking with a teller in person, to a drive up window, to a drive through ATM. They also made a mail order and money order and chose if they wanted to send it via stagecoach, freight ship, or steam engine.
A lot of the antiques and information was beyond what they were interested in listening to me read, but that's not the point. They used all of their senses to experience a piece of history and that's more than a textbook or DVD can offer.
Hands-down their favorite exhibit was sitting in a stagecoach that slightly moved in rhythm to a movie playing next to it with trees rushing past. While Annalyse was busy letting out several loud nneeiigghh's, the boys tried to image what it would have been like to fit 18 people plus their luggage into the coach - something we had learned earlier on.
Before we left, a nice employee handed each of the kids a Wells Fargo souvenir gold coin, that Micah thinks is truly valuable, and she led us to a camera to have our picture taken and inserted on money. Huge hit with my kids.
With money souveniers in hand, we continued north on Tryon and stopped at the plaza outside of the Wells Fargo headquarters. Lots of flowers and fountains and seats - a perfect place for a mid-morning snack and some more penny tossing and wish making.
As we continued walking, we discovered fountain after fountain after fountain. It became a game for the boys to see who could find the next fountain first: outside of restaurants, in front of lobbies, along street corners, you name it.
I told the boys they were free to touch and explore, but that they couldn't reach in and take pennies other people had tossed in. Bummer for them, and both boys produced a few pennies from their pockets and put them back.
There were occasions where the boys were in a rush to cross the road and after looking both ways would begin to go. It gave wonderful opportunity to remind them that street-crossing rules are different in the city and that they need to look at the signal for the red hand telling them to wait or the white figure saying cross. 

Grady Lee tuned in very well to discerning which buildings were offices and which were homes "because the homes usually have a deck with flowers." He was quick to notice a food store and mention that "people can live in the tall buildings and get their groceries here without having to drive! That's kind of cool, huh?" You have no idea, Buddy, no idea. That is one thing I miss terribly about Chicago - the wonderful conveniences of city life (and my view from the 30th floor)!
We continued along Tryon and stopped to admire some of the statues representing pieces of Charlotte's history, as well as trying to decide how tall some of the buildings were. Micah guessed some were 117 stories high and Grady Lee thought maybe 76. Reasonable for some cities, I suppose, but hardly for Charlotte.
It was nearing lunch and we stopped at the 7th Street Public Market. Everything here is locally grown or raised - fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, and dairy products. We ordered a small pizza and the kids laughed so hard while watching our pizza being made and tossed high into the air. Grady Lee asked "which tall building the cows lived in that gave us the cheese?" I told him it was likely that the cows didn't actually live in the middle of the city, but were from farms close by the city. His response: "Yeah, because if cows lived in the city it would stink too much for people to want to live here and work here, right?"
And what's a fun day out without ice cream? And sprinkles? And gummy worms? And chocolate chips?

When we were finished eating, Grady Lee suggested that "we be careful to put all of our trash away and that we wipe up the table. There are other people here that will see us taking care of our things and it will be a good example of what Jesus wants us to do." Well done, Buddy, well done. Back to that whole actions impact other people concept...
With full tummies, we crossed the road and visited ImaginOn, a children's library and theater. I told the boys were weren't attending story time or looking at books like we usually do, but that there was a new exhibit we were going to explore before catching the train and heading home.

It's been a few months since we've last visited, and the main lobby is now transformed into a fairy tale featuring various settings common in most fairy tales (farm, work shop, dressing room, blacksmith shop, barn, kitchen, etc.).
The boys were definitely on the older end for this, but Annalyse had a great time, for sure! She was anxious to try on all the clothes, use the kitchen supplies, and harvest the vegetables.
After our brief adventure in fairy tale land, we went outside to wait for our train. The 7th Street Station is right next to ImaginOn and the kids enjoyed climbing on various pieces of outdoor art while we waited. Thankfully, today was slightly cloudy and breezy with temps in the low 80's so it was perfect for being outside.
When the train finally arrived, we climbed on and found seats all together this time. Grady Lee was fixated on looking out his window the entire ride back; Micah insisted on asking bazillion and one questions about everything we saw and did that morning; and Annalyse drifted in and out of a nap.
By the time we arrived home at 1:30, everyone was tired and happy to nap, read books, or lounge in front of a cartoon for an hour. For friends living in the Charlotte area, everything we did today was free, except, of course, the train and our lunch out. But, you can just as easily pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic since there are so many wonderful parks and benches all around. I'm anxious to take the boys to several art and culture and southern history museums that we haven't yet visited, but for now, our long walk with talking and looking was a fantastic way to see our city.

Charlotte - it's home.


  1. Sarah, I absolutely LOVE this! I missed your first post, but what a super cool unit you are doing! You are a fabulous mom & a wonderful teacher!!! You have me wanting to explore our own city more!

  2. i can't wait to go to the wells fargo museum. i had no idea it was there. i was born and raised here and there are so many things i don't know about. sounds like a good reason to meet daddy for lunch uptown soon. the girls will love all of these stops.

  3. What an AWESOME field trip! It's looks like the kids had a BLAST!