Saturday, March 23, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Workshopping

We wish it was with wood or that she was welding something. But no, this is writing class workshop and workshopping words is the worst! Especially when you have an alliteration addiction.

OK, so, it is my turn to present in writing class on Monday and I am, naturally, in a panic. I queried my allies, and the Wondrous Woodworker gave me some stellar advice. He said, "Don't take your best work. If they rip that apart, it could be somewhat discouraging." And then he said, "Don't take your worst either. Same effect. And remember, chances are some of them won't have a clue what they are talking about." Totally sound advice. Although, I am still no further along because all my work is mediocre. What to choose, what to choose. Well, I found an old one that I think fits the bill. I have combined a two-part Natural History visit from 2 years ago and here it is. Advice on cuts would be welcome. I still need to lose about a page before it fits the class requirement. That is about 2 paragraphs in Awkward Mom writing. Let me know what you guys think!

Boldly going where many have gone before (except with more tripping 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 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.    
So, in an attempt to deepen and widen Super Toddler’s dinosaur world view, we are currently heading 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.
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 a stuffed bear. Which (you guessed it) wakes the Super Baby.
I assess the 4 steps in front of me; not a problem. (Have I told you that super stubbornness was in my arsenal? It is.) 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. 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 step, forcing the stroller and its inhabitants into a 90 degree angle. I am not worried about Super Baby, who is shielded from potential harm in his bomb shelter of car seat, surround padding, 2 safety bars, and 2 sun shields. Super Toddler, thanks to the geniuses who designed this thing, is 1 strip of nylon away from plummeting to the 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 step and pull the bottom half onto the 2nd step, which proceeds to get stuck. As I beat on the lower half of my stroller, the father with the twins, cooling monitoring the situation for 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! As I am celebrating my victory against the scary 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.
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 Super Baby, catching glimpses of the toddler from time to time (or another little blond 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 Super Baby under his arms, while Super Toddler is holding his brother's feet, and, unsurprisingly, Super Baby is laughing his head off. I swoop in and rescue 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 Super Baby's face and tuck him into the stroller. Hunting down Super 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 Super 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 Super Toddler has appeared next to me, wearing a party hat and clutching a slice of pizza.
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, 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!
Super Toddler clearly approves this post, Super Preschooler seems less sure. Wonder what the writing class will make of it. Bets are good they are gonna have issues with my Ted Nugent reference.


  1. Your writing is awesome!! I enjoy it in every single post! Just thought I would let you know :) It's the truth!

    1. Awwww! Thank you! I really enjoy your writing as well, it is very real and down-to-earth. Thanks!

  2. Aww, I don't want you to cut any of it! I want more, not less! Darned class requirements. I LOVE the part where Super P crashes the birthday party. And I totally want to see a picture of him in a canoe overflowing with 4th graders. Good luck tonight!

    1. I ended up cutting the dino stuff in the beginning, which I loved, but something had to go. Yes, him crashing that party was a highlight of that trip, as was the canoe-kidnapping. :)

      It went very well, actually. Never perfect, but please. Do we ever expect perfect from me? :)