Joy is another guest blog…

I love hosting guest bloggers on my site. My good friend, Jennifer, is the mother of four and a creative spirit, who inspires me every time we are together. Check out what brings her joy in her latest contribution to Daily Doses of Joy.

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Guest Blogger: Jennifer Lawyer

When Jen put out a second call for guest bloggers, I already had a list of topics started…and here I am again. Like chocolate-truffle making, this one is near to my heart. And, again like truffle making, it celebrates local enterprise, but, more importantly, this one also celebrates the joy of spending time with family.

Besides a few months of my infancy and a few months in my late teens when I experienced intense wanderlust, I have lived my entire life in northern Illinois, in and around Rockford. I know the bad rep Rockford has, but outsiders don’t know this place like we locals know the Forest City. Those infamous lists and national news reports that focus on crime or unemployment fail to mark Rockford’s thriving local scene, from restaurants and specialty shops to parks and festivals. With 4 children of vastly different ages (nearly 20, 18, almost 7, and 3 ½), we have watched one of our favorite local “hot spots” flourish over the last 2 decades: the Discovery Center.

When our teens were small, a trip to the Discovery Center was a special treat, a splurge for a birthday or a reward for a job well done; now we are proud Family Super Pass holders, and the Discovery Center is a weekend adventure and a place to reconnect with friends. We purchase our pass as a family Christmas present every year, but it works out to be just over $10 in a monthly budget, and there are a lot of perks for that little investment.
Of course, we get free admission to the Discovery Center for our 2 adults and all dependents 17 and under. (My 18-year-old daughter almost cried when she realized that she no longer qualifies for our family pass. Obviously, the fun is NOT limited to small kids.) We also get free admission to participating Association of Science & Technology Centers (ASTC), such as Madison’s Children’s Museum, which is itself amazing and the subject of an entire blog of its own! In addition, we receive invitations to member’s only events, discounts on birthday parties, classes, and workshops, a copy of the newsletter Discover 3 times a year, and a 10% discount at the gift shop. So much for so little money!

Just in the last 2 weeks, we have visited the Discovery Center 2 times. On March 1, we celebrated National Pig Day—petting and cuddling 2 small piglets and asking endless questions of a farmer was so much fun—and saw a planetarium show featuring Elmo and Big Bird from Sesame Street. Of course, we also spent a good portion of our visit in the water play area and the new camping section of the Tot Spot.

This past week I also planned an impromptu play date for my youngest. We took a morning off, had breakfast together, and then braved some serious fog to meet one of my high school friends, her almost 5 year old, and her tag-a-long teenage daughter. The peaceful atmosphere of the Discovery Center on a weekday morning was the perfect backdrop for 2 young boys and their budding friendship: the best 2 plus hours of my week!

In the daily grind, we often miss opportunities to reconnect with others and to foster discovery. At local gems like the Discovery Center, we can celebrate the joy of both!

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