Tree house of fun

When I was a kid growing up in Southwest Ohio, we moved a lot. From Goshen to Sardinia, then on to Colerain, Lynchburg, Goshen again, and Milford, I was the new kid many times in my youth. I was fortunate to spend all of my high school years in Gahanna, which is why I am trying so hard to keep my guys in that school system. But that is a blog for another day.

Every time I moved to a new place, the adjustment was difficult and uncomfortable. But no matter which of these towns I found myself in, I could always look forward to the field trips. From the Cincinnati Zoo to the Taft Theatre, these places were a little piece of familiarity for the awkward newbie every year. And my favorite of these school day get-a-ways were the visits to the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History.

Having a standard custody agreement with my ex wife means that I only get to see my guys every other weekend and every Thursday evening. And while I have a good working relationship with their mother and often take them for a night here or extra weekend there, it still feels as though I do not get to spend as much time with them as I would like. However, when they are here, we try to pack as many good memories in as we can. Last weekend my oldest and I watched the Bengals game together. Yesterday afternoon we hit the thrift stores and flea markets they have come to love. And today, Tiffany and I decided to take them to one of my favorite childhood places, the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History.

When I started to look up their info online, I learned that the museum had moved from where it was in the 80's. No longer right up against Eden Park, Union Terminal now houses the museum center in Cincinnati. Originally a hub for railroad travel, this building was very spacious and provided plenty of room not only for the museum as I remembered, but for a Children's museum and Cincinnati history facility too. Add in a large flea market in the main rotunda, and the reciprocal admission program from my COSI membership giving us free passes, and this was about as perfect a destination as we can find for my boys.

The Natural History Museum was very similar to the memories I have from my childhood. There was the walk through cave, complete with narrow walkways, low passages, and just about every type of cave dwelling animal on display. And the Glacier experience, which displayed the wildlife in the area during the Ice Age. And of course Dinosaur, Native American, and Science exhibits that are standard in most museums around the country.

After exploring every inch of the facility three or four times, we made our way to the Children's Museum. As you might have guessed, this was a very interactive facility. Ben headed immediately to the Lego and Lincoln log building area. Tanner found himself right at home behind the cash register of the kids sized Kroger store located within the museum. John-Michael, well he is 13 and wasn't at all interested in any of the interactive exhibits they had to offer. Through the play vet clinic, construction site, and water exhibits, he would find a place to sit and watch everyone else. Don't get me wrong, he never complained and laughed as the other boys did their thing. But a few years ago I had told him about my childhood visits to the Natural History Museum, and he had begged me to go ever since. However, that seemingly disappointed him as well, as he skipped the cave tour and kept to himself through the rest. I felt bad for him.

The last exhibit we came too was the large tree house exhibit. And this thing was cool. Staircases hidden in trees were the only way to get up to the large platform in the middle. Once there, it seemed as though there were ten different tunnels for you to disappear into. They led over the crowd of people below, to slides and chutes that would take you to the bottom, and back to the main platform. As Ben and Tanner laughed and played, John-Michael again stood and watched. I asked him if he wanted to go up too, and he informed me that he was too old to go in there in play. I could see that he wanted to, but he's 13 and couldn't break his cover. I put my arm around him, pulled him close and said "Really? Cause I am 38 and I want to go play". He grinned and I said "Dude, the only people here that know you are Tiffany, Ben, Tanner, and I. If you want to play, go for it". His smile got bigger and he took off. For the next half hour or so, I only saw glimpses of any of my boys as they ran and crawled and slid and had an awesome time.

As we made our way home, they all told me how great of a day it had been. Ben passed out in the car, Tanner recited the highway signs in his evil voice. And John-Michael resumed his "too cool to hang out with my brothers" attitude that I am sure will be a constant in all of our lives for the next 6 or 7 years. Heck, I bet Ben and Tanner catch the same thing when they hit 13. But today, for at least a day, I know they all had a blast and just enjoyed being kids. Like I did so many years ago. And like I did today.

Next time, I am going in the tunnels. It may take a tub of Crisco and the Cincinnati Fire Department to get me out. But I am going in the tunnels. Looks way to fun not too.........

Have a great night everyone!

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