Monday, September 20, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. The Natural History Museum (Part I)

Boldly going where many have gone before (except with more tripping, less style, and no fun spaceships): Awkward Mom! Let us join our heroine, as she and her Super Sons explore the wonders of the Natural History Museum. Well, actually, let’s just see if she can get there first.

Super Toddler has a thing for dinosaurs. He also has the thing for princesses, but more on that later. Currently, like most 2 (and ½) year olds, Super Toddler is really really interested in dinosaurs. He has about 200 play dinosaurs and I am rounding down on that one. He plays with them for hours, creating mini-Bedrocks all over the house. Tiny villages that are crushed in the wee hours of the morning by a rare and dreadful creature know as half-awake Dad, but Super Toddler doesn’t care. He will just rebuild bigger and better. These dinosaur cities are incorporated into every aspect of his play. The dinosaurs stalk along the railroads that snake toward the Sesame Street playhouse, where they shop at Hooper’s Store, side by side with Batman and his gang. The dinosaurs routinely save the princess from the tallest tower in all the land (aka the supply closet); that is, the ones that didn’t imprison her there in the first place. The dinosaurs were little hats and tiny coats to go to work. Super Toddler has yet to tell me exactly where they work, but they are quite official as they march through the hallway. Yes, he likes his dinosaurs, so much so that dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets are currently the only thing he will eat voluntarily. And speaking of eating, he quite enjoys stalking and pretending to eat his little brother. Of course, I am not altogether sure if that is related to his dinosaur interest or something else entirely.

Anyway, Super Toddler has been talking endlessly about our early summer trip to the Field Museum in Chicago, where he got to see dinosaurs; real live dinosaurs. You see, they had this amazing display with animatronic dinosaurs; moving, growling, hatching out of eggs. The whole shebang. Now, I thought that maybe this was a little scary for Super Toddler. OK, maybe it was just a little scary for me. But that combined with the fact that Super Toddler insisted on being held throughout the whole thing (he who holds to the philosophy of why walk when you can run) had me convinced that Super Toddler wasn’t really ready to see dinosaurs in the scales, as it were. Boy, was I wrong. He will not stop talking about these “real” dinosaurs, especially the baby ones that popped out of the eggs. He has even posed the theory that Super Baby would be a whole lot cooler if he had popped out of an egg. And had horns.

So, in an attempt to deepen and widen Super Toddler’s dinosaur world view, we are currently heading to the Natural History Museum. OK, we may be doing this in an attempt to get out of the house, as well. Our little apartment was recently the battle site of our latest brawl with that nefarious villain known as the Cold; this 2 week siege (2 weeks!) was brutal, intense, and involved way too much knowledge of each other’s body fluids. We all need a change of scenery. Hence, our current trek to the Natural History Museum.

Now, I know that journeying into campus, just a few scant weeks after the students have returned, may be tempting fate, but that is where the museum is. Sometimes, you just have to grin, bear it, and deal with college students. Not often, if you can help it, but on occasion, it must be done. Happily, we have set out before noon, so not too many of them are about. Those that are must be tired or still drunk because they seem not too steady on their feet, weaving and darting into traffic like lemmings with a death wish. We avoid near collisions with about 6 of them before we find a parking place. OK, so it isn’t too close to the museum; I am pretty sure it is in the same time zone, so that is a plus. This is fine; a little walk never hurt anyone. Famous last words.

This section of this tale is extremely fast forwarded; you will thank me. Is this block 6 or 16? Sweetie, stay in the stroller. At least the baby is asleep. Yes, that fountain looks cool. No, you can’t go in it. I don’t care what those big kids are doing, you stay here. Sun block, where is my sun block? Please, stop dragging your feet. Yes, that is a pretty tree. Shush, honey, we are almost there. Where is your other shoe? In the car…that is where my sun block is. No, you cannot play in the fountain! Yes, that tree is very pretty. Wait a minute…were we here already? Construction, seriously?! Shoot.

We arrive at the entrance to the museum; I am a little out of breath and we are all slightly damp. I line up to go inside, sandwiched between a field trip of 4th graders and a father with twin toddlers. I am amazed by the composure and dedication of the teachers herding the school group and am openly staring and taking notes, so I do not notice the lack of a ramp until I hit the front wheels against the first step and go careening into Super Toddler and his section of the stroller. Super Toddler, the font of compassion that he is, starts screaming at me to get off him, while he beats me with Princess Bear and Frog Prince. Which (you guessed it) wakes the baby.

I assess the 4 steps in front of me; not a problem. (Told you that super stubbornness was in my arsenal.) However, these are not ordinary steps. These are super steep, 1950s-built, rock solid steps; not for the weak of heart and certainly not for those hauling unwieldy double strollers with angry, shouting children. These are not steps; these are stairs, full out stairs. I wrestle the door open with the side of my arm and hold it with my hip. I then wedge the front wheels up on the 3rd stair, forcing the stroller and its inhabitants into a 90 degree angle. I am not worried about the baby, who is shielded from potential harm in his bomb shelter of car seat, surround padding, 2 safety bars, and 2 sun shields. The toddler, thanks to the geniuses who designed this thing, is 1 strip of nylon away from plummeting to certain death. He is, naturally, delighted. At least he isn’t hitting me anymore. I wiggle walk the front of the stroller up to the 4th stair and pull the bottom half onto the 2nd stair, where it proceeds to get stuck. As I beat on the lower half of my stroller, the father with the twins, cooling monitoring the situation from behind me, tells me of a ramp at the service entrance around the block. How helpful. But he does awake my inner Hulk, which enables me to simply lift the stroller onto the landing. Success! (and while the door didn’t exactly slam in the dad’s face, I didn’t exactly hold it open for him either.) As I am celebrating my victory against the scary stairy steps, I look across the rotunda. What is that I spy? Beneath the exquisitely beautiful ceiling, to the left of the donation jar, and to the right of that bust of some important guy…2 more flights of stairs.

Let’s leave Awkward Mom for your regularly scheduled break. I mean, really, who can handle that much awkwardness at once, anyway? Will Super Toddler see dinosaurs? Will the baby stay awake for this visit? How on earth is Awkward Mom going to get up the second flight of stairs? We shall return with the other half of Awkward Mom vs. the Natural History Museum! The part where they actually go to the museum…

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