Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tales from the Academy

The Academy of Sciences, that is.

Usually on days when daycare closes for holidays or staff training Geekydaddy and I cobble together a day of piecemeal hours at the office balanced with hours at home with the children, who watch too much television while the parent at home attempts to call into meetings and fights with VPN internet access to the office servers. Today, Veterans day, I decided to claim real vacation, and planned a nice day out. A day devoted just to the children. I left the big camera at home, since I have a tendency to boink the kids on the head with it by accident, so please excuse the quality of the iphone snaps illustrating this post.

We got to the museum right as it opened. We dove straight downstairs to the aquarium, usually very crowded but almost people free so early on, and delighted in prime time viewing of the reef.

We came across exhibits I hadn't found before, of water insects.  The sight of the giant diving beetle sucking the liquefied innards out of paralyzed living goldfish, though quite fascinating, was unexpected, and did test my powers of description. I'm in the habit of slowly and loudly reading from the signs to explain things to the kids but my worlds trailed off as I realized that this was quite macabre for a toddlers ears!

We looked at the "living roof". I don't think I was the only person who kept expecting a Teletubby to appear.

This museum also has the classic "stuffed animal" exhibits, a legacy of any museum of Natural History of stature, but so at odds with the message of conservation and respect for nature we raise our children with today. The exhibit at the Academy, Africa themed, is very well done, the animals as sleek and glossy as the day they were shot died gracefully of old age, but it combines the preserved with the living, which makes for a rather odd feel to the room. There are some cases with live lizards and other reptiles, juxtaposed with stuffed lions and antelope. The crown of the exhibit is a colony of living South African penguins frolicking in a rocky pool contained behind floor to ceiling glass. Geekygirl ran from case to case shouting too loudly "Mummy, look, another dead animal! A dead Zebra! A dead Cheetah! Is this one dead, Mummy? This regarding the Jaguar posed in his tree overlooking the concourse, pictured below.

Keeping track of the kids in an increasingly busy museum started to get challenging so we listened to a children's author, Susan Stockdale, read from her books in a corner of the museum. Geekyboy's loud voice was the one raising eyebrows this time as he shouted out (accurately I must add) "Emperor Penguin", Coyote", recognizing the animals in her illustrations. I"d like to claim his exotic animal vocabulary comes from the kids National Geographic magazine we subscribe to, but I suspect it has more to with oversaturation with "Go Diego Go".

Reaching breakdown point we hit the cafeteria. The food offered is very nice, but poorly organized for a one adult, two barely obedient children kind of situation. If you want tacos, ribs and spring rolls you have to stand in three separate lines. At this point Geekyboy was lying on the floor under a whale skeleton, fighting off his sister's attempts to bring him back into the food line, and I wished I had packed sandwiches.  I grabbed a plate of ribs ("I want to eat ribs and pretend I'm a lion eating a dead antelope" Geekygirl had told me. Not destined to be a vegetarian like her mum, clearly"), some roast potatoes and a pizza. Well, I had thought I had a good grip on the pizza but it flew from its plate and hit me splat in the chest before slime-ing cheesily to the ground by my feet. I apologized as it was cleaned up, dragged the kids to a table and made do with potatoes and chocolate milk for my own lunch.

We overcame the obstacles of toilets with automatic flushes and loud hand driers. I had cleverly put Geekyboy in one of those super absorbent night time pull ups for the outing so avoided having to diaper change on the run. I didn't lose the parking ticket, and the children both chose the same cheap toy, a bag of plastic ocean creatures, in the gift store thus avoiding fights with me and with each other.

Safely home they are now sitting and classifying their plastic sea animals. "Does it have fins? yes? Does it have a blowhole? Then its a whale!"

All in all a very satisfying day. We teetered on that knife edge between fun and chaos most of the time, but I seem to have got much better at coping with small children in large places without my pulse racing. I'm proud that I barely even flinched when that pizza hit me in the chest.

I'm looking forward to a nice restful day at the office tomorrow though!