Sunday, December 23, 2012

A trip to Raleigh

Today we went on a little adventure to Raleigh—our state capitol. I sat in the way-backseat between the girls. The girls wanted to play all sorts of things that I couldn't imagine myself playing for an hour—like I Spy with My Little Eye? That game is fine in general but we've banned it from being a car game because it's almost impossible to play in a moving vehicle and people end up getting frustrated.

The girls were upset that I reminded them that I Spy is a "waiting in the doctor's office" game and not a "going on a road trip" game so we decided that we'd count cars like they do in Up! only some of us aren't very good at counting yet so we all counted red cars together. By the time we got to Raleigh we'd counted 100 red cars. Then Rachel decided that 100 red cars was plenty and that we'd move onto counting green cars.

Where are all the green cars these days? We were hard-pressed to count fifteen before we got to the museum, though we passed several more red cars on our way. I suppose red has always been a more popular colour for a car.

Our first stop in Raleigh was the capitol building. We wandered around outside for a while because we weren't sure that the building would be open. But then Grandpa (and Benjamin!) went missing so we had to go find them. They were inside...we had a lovely self-guided tour.

Here's Miriam standing in front of a statue of past-presidents from North Carolina: James Polk, Andrew Jackson, and Andrew Johnson. Andrew Jackson is my Andrew's namesake and, as Andrew pointed out, "He's on a horse."

Inside the capitol building is a very interesting statue of George Washington in Roman attire. Really. (Read why here).

Here's the domed ceiling above the Roman Washington statue (I love the skylights):

The capitol building is rather empty these days—it's strictly gubernatorial (I've always wanted to use that word) housing only the governor and the lieutenant governor (and their staff). All the offices currently being used are on the first floor, along with the Romanized George Washington. Between 1888 (when the library struck out on its own) and 1963 (when the General Assembly moved into the State Legislature Building) different branches of the state government quit their residence in the capitol building.

This is the now-empty senate room:

They had it dressed up with some old senator-like things:

The House of Commons/Representatives room:

Rachel was rather excited about these chairs: "They're woved! Weaved! Woven!"

She was less excited about the rotunda—she's a little afraid of heights but after much coaxing from Andrew marched bravely to the railing, grabbed it with both hands, said, "There! I did it!" and then scuttled back to the safety of the wall behind her.

She was not thrilled at all about walking up the spiral staircase to the third floor and then having to walk across some creaky floor boards all so that she could peer down into the Senate and Commons from above.

"This place is kind of cool but it's high and squeaky so I don't really like it," she told me. "I just don't like high things or squeaky things but mostly I don't like high things that are squeaky."

We all enjoyed looking at the library:

And then we puzzled over why/how the State Geologist got such a swanky office in the state capitol building:

It was used for the Supreme Court (from 1840 to 1843) and then, I guess, Dr. Ebenezer Emmons, the state geologist, moved his rock collection in. Rocks are fascinating...but I still don't quite understand how they belong in the state capitol building. I suppose they were trying to keep their rock collection safe from those crazy northerners but their plan failed and in April of 1865 General Sherman's incorrigible troops "rifled the mineral collection." For shame!

The following year the collection was donated to UNC and the room proceeded to go through a number of transformations, housing various legislative officers until the 1960s when the upper levels of the capitol building were cleared out for good.

I'm not sure why they chose to re-enliven the room as the state geologist's office, but they did. Perhaps it was to get another jab in at the union...because we're still a little bitter about the Civil War in these parts. "...And they messed up our rock collection, too!"

Here's Benjamin and Grandpa enjoying a peek at an early Confederate Flag:

The Museum of Natural History is right across the street from the State Capitol Building. And it's free! We went there next, stopping by the Museum of History along our way, but we didn't go inside, not because it's not free but because we figured the girls would enjoy Natural History more than plain old History. The statues sure were enticing though (and Miriam probably would have enjoyed looking at all the clothes...) so we'll have to go another time.

The Museum of Natural History was just fine for us today. The girls had a lot of fun exploring. Most of the museum is strictly no-touchy but there were a few discovery rooms where everything could be touched—the girls especially loved those parts.

Here's Rachel dressed up as a T-Rex:

And Andrew standing under some mistletoe (and, yes, he insisted on getting a kiss from me):

Here's Miriam playing with some things out of the dinosaur discovery bin:

And here you can see Grandma and Grandpa and Miriam getting into another discovery bin while Andrew and Rachel explore the art of spider webs and sea shells in the background:

The girls tested out their wingspans. Rachel's about as a big as a Wood Duck:

Miriam was upset that she wasn't tall enough to put her arms in line with anything so we didn't ever get to see her full wingspan, though I'm sure it was bigger than both the hummingbird and the cardinal:

The girls also had fun taking turns hibernating, first as bears...:

...then as foxes. Foxes don't actually hibernate but the fox toy was so soft and cuddly that the girls couldn't resist taking it into the den for a warm winter's nap. I'm sure foxes nap during the winter at least a little bit...

Rachel also wanted me to take a picture of her making this raccoon scurry up the tree:

There's a new addition to the museum. To get there you have to use a walkway that goes over the street below. We went to check it out and on the way I got a glimpse of one of the exhibits I missed while I was nursing Benjamin:

They had so many neat exhibits! We'll have to go back sometime...

Anyway, here's the view from the walkway:

On one side you see downtown Raleigh and on the other side there's a big globe. Rachel asked if that was how big the world was...I told her it wasn't...she asked me if I was sure...I assured her that the world was much bigger than that...she asked me how I knew.

"I know because that globe is on the earth," I told her. "If it was as big as the earth it would squish the earth or send it off its orbit or something. That is not as big as the earth. Trust me."

"It looks pretty big..." she contradicted.

The squares on the window are to dissuade birds from trying to fly through the glass. The newer side of the building seemed geared toward older kids so we didn't stay there very long. We did walk through the weather exhibit, though...

...and got a good laugh at these sticky notes answering the question "Arctic sea ice shrunk to a record low this summer. How do you imagine this could affect you or the rest of the world?"

We didn't write either note, I promise.

We visited the dinosaurs...

And then moved smoothly into a geological survey of the world. We learned that we could take a short trip to Canada by going hiking in North Carolina because apparently every 1000 feet you climb up is equal to traveling 300 miles north. So the next time I get a hankering for some cool Canadian weather, all I have to do is climb Mount Mitchell (a 6684 foot trip verses a 1800 mile trip). That's good to know!

And, hey, look—beavers!

We walked past a snake exhibit. Most of the snakes were pretty sleepy, but this rattlesnake decided to dance for us. I'm pretty sure it would have been striking at us if the glass hadn't been in the way—I'm not sure what we did to get it so interested in us...

Our last stop was the insect area of the museum where they had some larger-than-life exhibits of maggots chowing down on ROUSes (which I will spare you a picture of) and giant fly heads (which I will not spare you a picture of):

They had a butterfly room, which was not as neat as the one we have at the Museum of Life and Science here in Durham because it was smaller and had fewer butterflies (in both number and variety) but it was cooler because they had a tarantula and a sloth and turtles and a pineapple. Butterflies are always fun to visit.

We were ready to call it a day after that. Wandering around museums certainly takes a toll on your energy level and the kids were getting whiny and hungry. I sat on a bench with Benjamin while everyone else used the facilities (it was nice to have enough grown ups that I didn't have to drag Benjamin into the bathroom, too).

I'm not sure how the girls entertained themselves on the way home. I fell asleep (as did Benjamin). There's something magical about being in the backseat; I'm not sure what it is...I just can't stay awake back there. I stayed awake for (most of) the trip we took to DC, but I was sitting in the front seat. Still, that's 10 hours of driving and I stayed awake the whole time. On this drive to Raleigh, though, which is a 2 hour trip (roundtrip) and I fell asleep within minutes. I simply can't stay awake in the backseat.

If only our girls would follow suit.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this post. Your girls are the cutest little bears, too. :)

    It's a bit further for you, but you could look up Old Salem sometime if you think your family might like that sort of thing. Then again, your kids may be a bit too young to appreciate it. We went on a school field trip in 4th grade. It costs though...they use the money to fund the place.

    They do participate in the free museum day in late September - or they have the past couple of years. We were going to go this year, but it rained a lot that day and we melt in the rain. :)

    I enjoyed your commentary on the rocks and those northerners..haha!