Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. the Natural History Museum (part II)

Now, where were we? Oh yes, our triumphant trio were celebrating their ascent of those pesky Natural History Museum steps, only to learn of the presence of more stairs. Let’s watch and see how Awkward Mom deals with this one…I am guessing awkwardly, but that is just me.

Stairs. Stroller. Stairs. Stroller. Shoot! Now what? OK, well, doesn’t matter right now anyway because if my super nose is correct, Super Baby is due for a diaper change. There has to be a bathroom on this floor, right? I mean, fate can’t be that cruel…

And, for once, fate wasn’t. We find the bathroom and guess what? It is right next to an elevator! OK, so the elevator is about as old as some of the fossils in here, but at least I don’t have to hulk this stroller all the way upstairs. It does sorta sound like the elevator is being pulled upward by some very cranky ogres. However, the ogres are no match for the noise coming out of the second floor exhibit. It appears that we have found the 4th grade field trip.

The room is huge; filled with case after case of fossilized creatures, petrified wood, and colorful dioramas. I think time stopped around 1950 in here; it looks like an Indiana Jones movie. The back wall is covered in a dinosaur mural of epic proportions; I can’t tell from here if there is any dinosaur eating dinosaur action, but given the crowd of happy little boys near it, I am guessing yes. Two mammoths benignly reign in center of the room; their empty eye sockets gazing over the absolute chaos of what appears to be a hundred 8 year olds. Super Toddler starts clamoring to be freed about the same time Super Baby starts clamoring to be fed, so I find a sparsely populated bench and haul them out. I give strict instructions to the toddler to stay where I can see him. Then, I don’t see him for 15 minutes.

I am almost finished feeding the baby, catching glimpses of the toddler from time to time (or another little blonde boy, I can’t be sure), when a little girl clutching a dingy sheet of paper plops down and asks me when the mammoths went extinct. I tell her I don’t know, but maybe the exhibit that is 5 feet away from us will tell her. She sighs, but she does wander over to the mammoths. She returns, secretively writes something on her paper, and asks to hold the baby. I hand him to her, and we are sitting there very nicely, when Super Toddler appears to jet in from space. He yells something completely unintelligible at the little girl, throws her paper to the ground, and begins to pull Super Baby out of her arms. She is holding the baby under his arms, while the toddler is holding the baby’s feet, and, surprisingly, the baby is laughing his head off. I swoop in and rescue the Super Baby, who then begins to cry. I try to apologize to the little girl, but she doesn’t seem upset. In fact, she takes Super Toddler’s hand and they go skipping off toward the dinosaur mural. I am left to trail behind them, awkwardly pushing the stroller with my chest, holding a slightly damp piece of paper in one hand and a baby desperate for that piece of paper in the other.

Yep, there is some serious dinosaur eating dinosaur action going on in this mural. There is also a full size replica of a T-Rex fossil, standing over a half eaten something, it is quite intense. The little girl and Super Toddler are now playing tag with some other kids. They are happily throwing the worksheets they are supposed to be filling out. The teachers don’t seem overly concerned, so I lean against a display and watch this living snow globe. As I turn to check on the baby, who is merrily chewing on the piece of paper, I look straight into a jar filled with snake heads. Thankfully, it is so noisy in here, no one hears my scream. Apparently, I am leaning against a good old fashioned curiosity cabinet. This one contains (in no particular order) 6 stuffed monkeys, an icon made completely from seeds, 3 stuffed owls, the aforementioned jar of snake heads, an alligator replica, some human hair, a dozen poison vials, a stuffed raccoon, a petrified wasp’s nest, and a glass beaker that looks like it contains the unholy offspring of a toad and Darth Vader. I move.

The field trip is being called to the next floor, so I wipe the paper mustache off the baby’s face and tuck him into the stroller. Hunting down the toddler is a little harder, but I finally locate him, dancing on top of a petrified tree stump. I bribe him with fruit snacks and he climbs in the stroller. The groaning ogres take us to the next floor; the trip lasts the time it takes for Super Toddler to eat 7 fruit snacks and for the sugar to hit. He explodes out of the stroller the moment we step off the elevator. In retrospect, I suppose I should have buckled him in.

The third floor appears to be designed from Ted Nugent’s dreams. It is case after case of stuffed animals. There have to be 500 birds at least. A whole wall of butterflies. Water displays with half the glass painted blue and enormous fish, swinging silently, their wires barely visible. There are cases of insects, which complete confuse me, can one stuff an ant? I am gonna assume they are fake or this museum employs some of the most talented taxidermists alive. But, the crown jewels of this floor have to be the lifelike replicas of natural habitats found in Michigan, inhabited by scores of stuffed squirrels, deer, weasels, bears, and a complete opossum family (with 10 baby opossums!). They all stare at me with their unblinking shiny eyes, sure to haunt my dreams for weeks to come. I find Super Toddler as fast as possible, hogtie him into the stroller, and book it to the fourth floor.

The fourth floor is blissful quiet; the field trip hasn’t worked its way up here yet. I allow the toddler to get out of the stroller and look around. It is an interesting mix of studies. There is a long hallway with ecological posters and glass cases of minerals, satellites, and pictures of rockets. The planetarium’s door is halfway down on the left. There is a show in process, so we tiptoe by to be confronted by three choices. There is a door on our right side, which contains a child’s birthday party. A large SpongeBob piƱata is hanging in the middle of the room, under which a host of kids wearing party hats are eating pizza and drinking orange pop. Two signs point in opposite directions at the end of the hallway; Science to the left and Anthropology to the right. I am contemplating this when I turn to see that the toddler has appeared next to me, wearing a party hat and clutching a slice of pizza. Sigh.

We head toward Science. We examine the “cutting edge research into DNA” exhibit and Super Toddler attempts to climb the double helix. We move on to a display about river pollution, where Super Toddler examines river water through a microscope. I am feeling really proud of my skills as a mother, exposing my children to the wonders of science and raising such advanced, intelligent young men. That is how I am feeling until I realize that he is looking through the microscope with his closed eye. We breeze by displays about the communication techniques of bees, the breeding habits of grasshoppers, and the something about beetles. We wander over to a display about teaching sign language to Gorillas. A boy appears next to us and shows us his imitation of an ape. It seems the field trip has caught up with us.

We head into Anthropology and are met by displays regarding ancient tattooing practices, currency around the world, the burial traditions of ancient cultures, and a canoe overflowing with children. Super Toddler immediately wants in; I helplessly watch a horde of 4th grade girls abscond with my son. The teacher pats me on the shoulder, telling me not to worry; “the museum said it was ok.” Well, if the museum says it is ok for my son to be kidnapped by 6 girls in a canoe, I suppose I can’t argue with that. So, I don’t. Instead, I sit down on a bench and try really hard not to think about how on earth I am going to walk all the way back to our car.

Fear not, faithful readers! Awkward Mom made it back to her car…after a construction detour, a couple blisters, a run-in with a pothole, and completely exhausting her resources of patience, imagination, and snacks. I wanted to spare you the whole thing, you can thank me next week, when you join us for another episode of …Awkward Mom!

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