lydamorehouse: (cranky aizen)
My family has a very unusual attitude towards truancy. We encourage Mason to practice it from time to time, as needed, to blow off steam and to have a 'mental health' day/practice self-care. I don't ask a lot of questions or make any requirements for him to use these days. Mason just knows that he's allowed to say that he needs a day now-and-again.

On Thursday, driving in to school, Mason said, "You know how we sometimes just take off and drive somewhere? Today would be a good day to do that."

So, we turned around, I called him in sick, and we went home so he could catch up on a bit of sleep. Then, we talked about what kind of adventure he wanted, and, since it was really cold and there was supposed to be a winter storm moving in around us, we decided to stick close to home. After a comforting lunch, we headed out to Como Zoo. We spent most of our time in the Conservatory, because it's warm in there. Here's the view looking up at the glass dome.

looking up at the Como Conservatory's glass dome

This was just what the doctor ordered. Mason and I chatted about what's going on in his life, while strolling through the heat and the humidity of the conservatory. Because of the time of year, a lot of the tropical plants had fruit. We saw a Buddha's hand, coffee beans on the coffee tree, several ripening cocoa pods, and a bunch of other stuff that made me think that maybe I should try to take over the Conservatory when the apocalypse comes. I mean, they have COFFEE!

Then, because we're insane, we decided to see which animals might be out enjoying the sub-arctic temperatures. No surprise, perhaps, but the Siberian tiger thought it was lovely out.

Siberian tiger in the Minnesota snow

As I wrote on Facebook: 'Not the polar bear, surprisingly, she was sleeping. The Siberian tiger was out, as were the wolves, the reindeer, the bison, and the arctic foxes which I have LITERALLY never seen at Como Zoo before, despite having walked passed their labeled area for YEARS. The two foxes were prancing they were so happy that the temps were sub-zero windchills."

I couldn't get a good picture of the arctic foxes because probably all you'd see would be two eyes and a nose. They are MADE to perfectly blend with the snow, after all. But, they were very, very adorable. Potentially worth braving the temperatures to see, honestly. The Como Zoo is still kind of the sad zoo (as opposed to the MN Zoo, which we just call "the big zoo"), in that a lot of their "enclosures" are still little more than chain link fences, but they've been slowly renovating the place to improve the animals' quality of life. The foxes, unfortunately, are still in a very small-sh space, so that's why I'd say "potentially" worth a visit. Your enjoyment would totally depend on whether or not you can stand that kind of zoo.

Then, on Friday, Mason was officially home from school, but I let him sleep in while I met a friend on Friday to go to the Science Museum. As part of his job, Mason gets free passes to the museum and this friend had been looking for cheap/free things to do during the day. I ended up cancelling on my usual ladies to hang out with her, but I had previously planned to go on Tuesday, but that was the day the plumbing broke. What I would say about our trip to the museum was that, if you go, you totally should spend some time in the Race exhibit. It's... well, I mean, parts of it are heartbreaking and awful, but it's extremely well done. Anna and I probably spent the majority of our time in that room. It was a moderately quiet room, not being a favorite of the countless screaming argonauts (aka other people's children), which was also nice for us, as Anna is deaf/hard of hearing.

But, also, there are dinosaurs! This is a "compi" from Jurassic World (Compsognathus).

a Compi!  (Compsognathus)

Anna and I don't know each other terribly well--this is the third time we've done something together, though the first time it was just us. I would definitely hang out with her again. She's lovely company. 

In other news, I continue to try to find a plumber for our upstairs bathtub. The good news is that we have a fully functional bathroom on the first floor that has a tub, so we're not out anything while we figure out what we're doing. I had one set of plumbers out already, Ryan Plumbing, whose estimate was 1,500 - 2,000 bucks, as they figured they'd have to rip up the kitchen ceiling to get at all the pipes. Weld Plumbing called back and would like to wait and talk to their owner about whether or not they think they're the right people, which I told them was FINE as we're in a buyer's market, as we can just let it sit there until we get the right people with the right price. Weld was the first group who said that they thought there might be a way to McGyver it, if we wanted to try a fix for ourselves... which made me like them a bit more than the Ryan guys, but the chances of them calling back seemed kind of slim, you know? As soon as "I have to talk to the owner" comes out, it either means they think your job is too small for them or they otherwise don't want to do it at all.

BUT. I'm going to keep calling a couple of outfits every day because seriously, we have all the time we need to figure this out. It's a BIT WEIRD to take a full soaking bath downstairs while the rest of the family is hanging out in the living room, but it's definitely not the end of the world. 

I've been mostly keeping up with my spell of the day, but I'll catch up on posting about those the next entry. I've got to wrap this up as I need to run off to pick up Mason from his job in about five minutes.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
 That is a screen shot of a tweet that says something like, "The worst part of being an adult is that no one asks you what your favorite dinosaur is."

Mason has always been an odd one in this case. Even when he was in the "dinosaur phase," it was not dinosaurs that enchanted him, but pre-dinosaurs. This caused a lot of trauma for me, as a stay-at-home parent. Do you know how hard it is to find kid-friendly books about the Cambrian period?  THANK GOD FOR HANNAH BONNER.  She wrote When Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm: A Cartoon Pre-History of Life Long Before Dinosaurs and When Bugs were Big, Plants Were Strange, and Tatrapods Stalked the Earth: A Cartoon Pre-History of Life Before Dinosaurs

Between Hannah's books and BBC's "Walking with Monsters: Life Before Dinosaurs," (which Mason watched continuously, with the subtitles on, so that he could learn how to spell the names of the various pre-dino creatures that he loved) Mason mostly got what he wanted.

When he was still in this phase, I took him to Chicago's Field Museum, during one of our annual trips down to see grandma Margaret in Indiana. I love to tell this story on him, because it was very typical of Mason.  I thought for sure that what Mason would want to see was Sue, the big T-Rex. They (Sue's preferred pronoun) were the subject of a musical 'documentary' that Mason listened to a lot. But, while he did run up to greet Sue, what Mason really fell in love with was the Cambrian Period room in the "Evolving Earth" exhibit. I could not get him to leave this room. Not that I tried terribly hard, but there he was, only three, maybe four years old, and he sat and watched the little Cambrian life animated movie that they had projected on the wall and then had me read EVERY SINGLE BIT OF INFORMATION ABOUT EVERY SINGLE FOSSIL/DISPLAY.  We watched tour groups come and go around us.  Eventually, a volunteer came over to excitedly show Mason even more cool things in the Cambrian room.  Finally, he moved on... only to get stuck in the Caboniferous Period for another hour.

The only section he ran through without looking at much? The Hall of Dinosaurs.

And, I'm proud to say, he hasn't changed ONE BIT.  We decided to take a day to go to the Field Museum and once again, I could not get my boy out of the pre-dinosaur section.

A dark photo of Mason reading everything about a display in, I think, the Carboniferous Period at the Chicago Field Museum

Actually, he remarked that the literature all said that it should take an hour to get from the dawn of time to the present, and he shook his head. "Who can see all this stuff in an hour?? It took us at least two!"  I did not point out that, almost no one else on the planet is as enchanted by small sea creatures from the extreme distant past nearly as much as he is, because somewhere out there, no doubt, is someone who loves pre-dinosaurs as much, if not more, than Mason does.

We really didn't actually do much else at the Field Museum. Mason, who is generally excited by sea life, including present-day animals, really wanted to hit the Shed Aquarium first, but we ran out of time.  We did check out the traveling exhibit from China. Mason showed me a number of Chinese characters that he recognized, and pointed out a few that I could also read (the Japanese Kanji for some numbers are the same as the Chinese Mandarin.)  

Next time we go to Indiana to visit grandma, we're going to be sure to get up extra early one day in order to do the Shed Aquarium.... and, you know, maybe go back and just spend a little time with anomalocaris.

an illustration of anomolcaris, aka "weird shrimp" from the Cambrian Period
lydamorehouse: (Default)
First of all, I have to apologize. I've been very off-line. Part of it has to do with the fact that Mason is off school right now. We've been spending our days enjoying his vacation by doing nothing together. Plus, the big computer has been occupied, as we're trying to beat the "insane" level of Luxor 3. Important stuff, don't ya know?

A lot has happened since last we talked.

First of all, my folks came to town and we checked out the Minneapolis Institute of Art's "Louvre" traveling exhibit. My short review: save your money, and start budgeting for a trip to France.

The long review goes like this: we went on a Saturday, which was insanely busy, and the show was sold out to non-members, which meant that if we wanted to go to the special exhibit, we had to fork over the $50 for a membership. My folks paid for me (they got a discount ticket for their membership), but even at $2.00, I'm not sure it was worth it. Have you been to MIA? The traveling show room is really only about three rooms big. You COULD pack a lot into those rooms, they certainly did when they brought the "Myth and the Magic of Star Wars" there. But, as I've been describing this, it was like they took all the weird stuff they keep in the basement of the Louvre and brought it to Minneapolis. There were two "oh wow!" names there: Da Vinci and Michaelangelo. But in both cases, what they showed us were studies/sketches of nothing special, which is to say it wasn't even the practice piece for something famous... it was, in the Da Vinci case, a sketch of sunlight over a drape of cloth in pencil. It was clearly GOOD, but nothing that made me catch my breath.

I'm not an art historian or even necessarily a good judge of fine art, but I have had the experience of walking through a museum and having my breath taken away by something that just HIT, you know? At the Louvre the first time, it was seeing Nike/winged victory on the stairs (it's since moved). The second time, it was David's "Oath of the Horatii." (sp.) At the Chicago Institute I have "Aries Chastising Cupid" stop me dead and an El Greco rock my world. At the MIA there's a bust of a woman behind a gauze veil done in marble that is stunning as well as a smaller painting by a lesser known artist of a rug merchant bazaar that also gave me that "oh!" moment.

At this little exhibit, there wasn't anything like that for me. Some people seemed stopped by some of the bigger paintings, but, well, in the parlance of writers, "they didn't quite grab me, alas." And art *is* subjective, so perhaps, if you go, you can tell me about the amazing stuff I missed, but I'd recommend to most people to save their money and go "masterpiece" hunting through the main museum. The Minneapolis Institute of Art is full of some really crazy cool stuff.

And it's free.

And I think that's what it comes down to. For fifty bucks, or even whatever the regular cost is to get into the special exhibit hall, you kind of expect.... well, something. If not something that knocks your socks off, at least a sense that you've seen something "important." Maybe that's not a fair expectation, but it's there all the same.

And, for those of you locally, be warned: the art the MIA is using in its advertising is NOT in the show. (It's a Renaissance looking-painting, though I think it's more in the style of Waterhouse, of an alchemist/astronomer gazing at a globe. Not there.)

Anyway, I'm being bugged to read from the KING'S QUEST COMPANION... so I'll leave things here for now.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
 Our trip to Chi-Town was successful.  Mason got to see "Sue," as well as fall deeply in love with the "Evolving World" exhibit in the Natural History Museum.  I had to laugh.  Whereas I was very much conscious of the fact that we only had an hour until we were going to meet up with Susan and Zoe (the most adorable baby in the world), Mason just wanted to watch the prehistoric ocean video over and over.  It was fairly awesome.  I was completely animated, but it looked real.  It showed various prehistoric arthropods and triobites and other weird creatures -- some of which, we learned from a volunteer, they couldn't animate eating because they still hadn't discovered where the mouth of the animal was located.  I shot some video of the video, so that Mason would always have a little taste of that exhibit.  Anyway, Mason was much less impressed with the hall of the dinosaurs (which I have fond memories of tearing through with Maureen McHugh's husband, Bob, at the Chicago Worldcon.  I really wanted Mason to see the underground exhibit that Bob and I loved best, but, alas there was no time.  Next year.)  

My favorite part of the trip happened while we were waiting for Susan and Zoe to find us.  Right on the lawn between the Field Museum and the Shedd, a hawk came swooping down and landed in the grass -- which is quite unusual for them.  I thought it looked like it might have captured something like a songbird, so Mason and I crept closer to investigate.  It took off with a pigeon in its claws and dragged it into the underbrush.  Then all of a sudden -- whoosh!!! -- out flies the pigeon in one last daring attempt at an escape!!  Mason and I are watching this drama with our mouths open.  I'm shouting, "Go!  Pigeon!"  But, the hawk won the day.  She nabbed that pigeon right out of the air and slammed it into the ground again.  This time opting for cover right away.  A couple of other women passing by watched with a lot less enthusiasm.  I think they thought we were pretty insane to be so enraptured with this gruemsome display of the natural food chain in action.  Anyway, with the excitement over, Mason and I noticed Susan coming, and we all exchanged hellos and greetings and oohing over the baby.  Then as we were heading in the stroller-friendly entrance to the Shedd, who should hop up out of the bushes but the well-fed and satisfied hawk!  It sat there digesting for some time.  I got a great photo of it, which I hope to put up here sometime soon.

The jaded Chicagoians mostly ignored the hawk.  I mean, here was this amazing and magestic wild animal sitting less than a foot from the entrance to the Aquarium and most people just walked by it, as if were a common sight.  If I hadn't been "oohing" and "ahhing" and shouting my excitment to Susan, Zoe, and Mason, I think most people wouldn't even have stopped.  Which seems wierd to me, since they were all headed in to "view" animals.   The experience reminded me of what Mrs. R. said about Mason at our parent/teacher conference.  She seemed genuinely impressed at how engaged he is in his environment.  At the time, I mentally chalked it up to our lack of TV obsession, but I think that it's all down to grandma and grandpa Morehouse in the end.  My dad was notorious for slowing the car to a crawl the moment we spotted an egeret in the marsh between the north and south side of LaCrosse, my hometown.  My mother could identify most species of wildflowers, even when we were passing clumps of them at highway speed.  My folks would have been just like me -- shouting "Holy cow!  Would you look at that hawk?!!!"  

The Shedd was amazing as usual, though as Susan said at one point, "And now we're viewing the exhibit: Sea of Humanity!"  There were a LOT of people there -- of course it was a Friday, so I should have figured, but it made the experience a lot less personal than say the one we'd just had with the hawk.  Mason's favorite part was seeing the baby hammerhead (shovelnose?) sharks, and the blue monitor lizards in the new lizard exhibit.  Again, most people just took a look to see if they could spot the animal and then moved one like a scavenger hunt, while Mason sat and watched those blue monitor lizards for ten or fifteen minutes.  They were very active and... uh, playful.  They laid on each other, as, I told Mason, ima and mama do.  

It was a good time, and I'm very glad to have met little Zoe and had a chance to hang out with Susan, even though it was classic parent with children chat -- a few minutes of "oh, yeah, the baby" and "hey, Mason, don't get lost!"   

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