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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.

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Childhood is Calling

End of Summer Musings

T.S. Elliot wrote “April is the cruelest month” in The Wasteland, but I would argue that August is the cruelest. The heat this summer has been oppressive for us all, at times, but being pregnant and chasing two young children has really lengthened the summer for me.  August, especially, seemed to drag on.  Vacations and trips are all wrapped up and I’m stuck playing an agonizing waiting game as I wait for kindergarten and preschool to start and wait for the baby to arrive. It is an emotional time for me.

My first-born is going to kindergarten. I can and cannot believe the time is here. When Maggie was born, I gave up my career to be her stay-at-home mom. It was a very difficult decision for me because I both enjoyed and excelled in my event management career. I gave up my ambitions to be immersed in a daily routine that is, at best, difficult to control. So a big part of me breathes a sigh of relief, “We made it! She’s going to school!” However, something happened over the course of the last five and a half years: Love. I love my children. I love and embrace my role as mama. So now a big part of me laments, “She’s going to school?? She’ll never again be home as much as she has been in the last five years!” Mixed emotions, for sure. I hope and pray that I’ve poured enough into her—that I’ve given her enough of a solid foundation in these five short years—so that she will make smart decisions when it comes to her friends, her activities, and her conversations.

My son—my baby to-date—is starting preschool. I cannot believe that he will be four this year. It seems so logical that my daughter is nearly six… She is currently five, so of course six comes after five. But for some reason, Brendan’s four years have flown by at a rate which Maggie’s never did. He starts preschool this year—it’s his first real foray into the world without me. He is excited, and I am so excited for him. But I am sad! Where has the time gone?? And why has it gone so quickly? I am incredulous. 

My third child is due in less than two weeks. Waiting for a baby to arrive is rough, at least for me. There is only so much one can do to “prepare.” If anyone tells you they’re ready for the arrival of another child, they are lying to you and to themselves. But never mind the physical and mental challenges… can I just vent about the emotional comments I’m getting from others?? I’m going to start being flat rude to those who say, “Three is exponentially more difficult than two,” or “You only have two hands; you’ll be outnumbered now!” I want to ask those commentators, “What is your point? Can’t you see that this baby is coming no matter what? Why do you choose to be negative?” After I had my first child, I went to a breastfeeding support group. It seemed to be a big bitch-fest for new moms. It was the first and last meeting I went to because I contended that I wasn’t going to successfully breastfeed if I continued to surround myself with such negativity. I feel the same way about my success as a mama of three: if you must make a comment, make it a nice one. Otherwise, keep your mouth shut!

And so it is easy to see why August has been such a trying month for me. I feel out of control in many areas of my life, and rightfully so. Sadly, this means that I must give something up in order to prioritize others. This is my last blog post for Fred Parent. I have enjoyed sharing my summer activities with you! My children and I will continue to explore Fredericksburg. If you happen to see us out, please say hello! But please be positive and patient with us… ♡

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Montpelier: Hands on History

My father-in-law visited us this past week. As a former history teacher and lifelong resident of California, he is fascinated with all the history surrounding our home here in Central Virginia. Almost daily, he and my husband visited the battlefields in the Fredericksburg area. One day we all headed out to Orange to see Montpelier, the home of James and Dolly Madison.

Of course I did my research prior to arriving to make sure Montpelier was kid-friendly. I could just see my father-in-law trying to enjoy his educational tour with my five-year-old and three-year-old running loose in the historic home! I was pleasantly surprised to find out that in addition to free house tours during the summer (with purchase of an adult ticket), Montpelier offers “Hands on History” activities geared specifically toward children under the age of 14. The upcoming “Hands on History” exhibits are on August 25 and 27 and they are complimentary from 11 am until 5 pm. The day we visited, the featured “Hands on History” exhibit was about weaving and creating textiles. I was excited that the kids would have something to occupy their attention, so we set off on our exploration!

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We stopped in downtown Orange for lunch. My favorite local place, The Light Well, was charmingly closed for vacation so we tried Wise Guys Burgers which is just a few doors down. The prices would good and the food hit the spot: Great fries and sandwiches!

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When we arrived at Montpelier, we walked through the visitor’s center first. A nice docent allowed my children to touch the zebra rug in the DuPont Gallery, which was SUPER exciting to them! We then walked down the forest trail to the mansion home of James and Dolly. I took the kids immediately out back to the “Hands on History” exhibit and they took turns weaving with the proper tools and instruction, provided by the staff guides. I was impressed that they both seemed genuinely interested and proud of themselves for accomplishing the task!

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After the brief activity, we explored the “secret garden,” as my daughter called it. The English garden was truly symmetrical on both sides, and Maggie was fascinated by the new term. (“Mama, it really is the exact same on both sides!”) She and Brendan ran up and down the stairs and into little “secret passageways” where clearly only fairies would live. It was enchanting and adorable!

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It was a hot day, and I am still pregnant (37 weeks and counting!), so after a quick stop in the cafe for water, we headed home. The trip didn’t take a full day—more like a half day—but it was just right for the kids and I. I think even my father-in-law had all he could handle in just four hours. During these last long, lazy days of summer, if you’re looking for an inexpensive and educational diversion, I recommend Montpelier!

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Back to School Shopping

My daughter is starting kindergarten this year and my eldest son is starting preschool so this is our first real year doing back-to-school shopping! As a child, back-to-school shopping was one of my absolute favorite activities. There is a line in the movie “You’ve Got Mail” about loving the smell of “bouquets of sharpened pencils” that I totally relate to. So I admit, I expected this to be a pretty fun experience for all of us, especially given all the stores and activities at the Spotsylvania Towne Centre. (http://www.spotsylvaniatownecentre.com/).  

I did my homework, pun intended, before I set foot in stores with my two children. July is apparently a big month for online sales for fall clothes, backpacks, and the like. Saxon had 50% off of shoes. Nordstrom had their half-yearly sale on big-name brands. Pottery Barn Kids discounted their backpacks and lunch bags. I found that even L.L. Bean runs sales on their winter clothes. If you have enough foresight, you can really snag some deals! That being said, by the end of July I felt completely broke!

When August hit, it became crunch time for me. You may or may not know that I’m 35 weeks pregnant. I’m feeling very anxious about the baby and the school year, and I’d like to have everything neatly tied up by the end of this month (yeah, right!). So we made our shopping trip a priority. Every time we head to the mall, we start off at the play place. Maggie and Brendan love the play place located outside of JCPenney and Costco. It’s kid corridor in that part of the mall: the food court is nearby, Build-a-Bear is an alluring activity, and several quarter ride-on toys beckon from the middle of the floor. We zeroed in on Gymboree and I let each child select several outfits to supplement what I’d already purchased online.

Of course, back-to-school shopping is more than just clothes shopping! I went online to my daughter’s school website and printed off a supply list. After playing, shopping and eating, we headed to the Target in Central Park to get all she needed. Maggie absorbs everything around her, as I’m sure most five-year-olds do, so she wanted to buy “the gel pens that Aunt Chelle has” and some other specific brand of pen that she saw on a commercial. It was a bit of a challenge to get her to stick to the list at this juncture in the day; I should have known that we wouldn’t accomplish everything in one day. But when everything is so conveniently located in close proximity, it’s hard to justify more than one trip! Next time you’re trying to find an indoor activity to beat the heat for a few hours, I highly recommend that you check out the Spotsylvania Towne Centre… school shopping or not!

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Beat the Heat, Part Three: Liberty Lanes Bowling

The weather is no longer as brutal as it was, but I continue to seek indoor activities for myself and my children. Recently, we went bowling with a group of friends at Liberty Lanes at Massaponax, off of Southpoint Parkway. On Tuesdays, Liberty offers $2 games and $2 shoe rentals. They also have bumpers in the lanes to prevent gutter balls and ramps to assist young children with pushing the ball down the alley. 

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This wasn’t our first time bowling, so my children were already familiar with the concept of changing their shoes and using the assist ramp. They know the object is to knock the pins down, and they know where to look for their ball to return after their first turn. However, they don’t really understand that they get two rolls per turn and they often lose focus in between their turns. With a big group, it is especially difficult to maintain their interest because it can sometimes be a long wait. 

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Maggie and Brendan were particularly moody the day we went bowling. Perhaps they didn’t eat enough breakfast, or perhaps the game wasn’t moving fast enough for them. In hindsight, I should have packed a snack or bought food from the concession stand. About halfway through our game, Brendan had to use the bathroom and he discovered the arcade games. He lingered just long enough to divert his attention, though I didn’t actually pay for him to play. Maggie, too, decided she had enough and she let Brendan take several of her subsequent turns on the alley. Toward the final frames of the game, they both got renewed energy and finished strong… and with smiles!

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Bowling is a great way to spend a morning indoors with young children! But I’m sure you can agree that the success of any outing depends on the mood of your children. I was glad we went on a morning when the games are inexpensive and it wasn’t crowded. If it’s your first time, I recommend trying Liberty Lanes on a Tuesday morning!

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Beat the Heat, Part Two: Barnes & Noble

I’m now 34 weeks pregnant, and it's not getting much cooler outside. Outdoor play for my kids is still very limited thanks to the summer heat combined with my biggie-pregnant state. This is part two of a three part series about creative and affordable indoor activities in our area, and this week I’m taking you to Barnes & Noble for their free story time.

When Barnes & Noble came to the Central Park shopping center in Fredericksburg a couple of short years ago, my children and I were there on opening day. We not only love books, but we love to play in the kid’s area at other Barnes & Noble locations. I was thrilled to have one right here in my town, and the store has not disappointed! Not only do they have a train table, lego table, and fun chairs and tables for little people, but they also offer a free story time every Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Weekday story times are at 11 am and weekend special events range in time, so please check the store’s website or call for more information. I should mention that one of the highlight’s of my daughter’s life was when Olivia appeared at Barnes & Noble on a weekend and led a parade around the store. Maggie was an enormous fan of Olivia at age two, and, at the time, it was better than taking her to Disney World! 

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Story time is usually led by Miss Allison, a friendly staffer who is great with children, and after she reads she leads the group in a simple craft. Sometimes treats are provided by the café, but not always. My children and I invited friends to a Wednesday morning story time recently. I’m always so proud when they sit quietly and listen to the book, even though it’s only a brief story. (Small victories are to be celebrated!). After the book, both Maggie and Brendan enjoyed the craft, which was a very age-appropriate coloring and cutting activity for my five and three-year-old. 

After story time, we always stay to play with the train table. Even though we have one at home, there is something about a “fresh” toy that makes it so much more interesting. And of course, the sale tables and racks of toys provide inspiration for future occasions. With friends there to play with as well, we read, played and ate for about two hours after story time ended. It was SO nice to be in the air-conditioning! Thank you, Barnes & Noble, for providing fun, free, educational and enriching entertainment for my children! See you next week!

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Pouches' Community Corner

This month Pouches learned about a very important resource for families who have lost loved ones to sudden tragedy, an organization called LLOST.

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The foundation has helped 44 hospitals in 22 states through their Treasured Memories program. The program sends nurses to bereavement training, and provides or supplements the $55 memory boxes that include clothes, booties, handknot blankets, pictures, foot prints, hand prints, clipped hair and other mementos.

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