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Entries in dinosaurs (5)


Kitchener, Stratford, and Port Huron

Our trip is over and we're home sweet home. Just in time for a low grade heat wave. But here's the rest of our vacation.

After we left Niagara we headed inland to Kitchener where Jon gave a workshop to a group of piano teachers. We could have done without Kitchener. It was a little like walking into Twin Peaks. Or the Twilight Zone. Odd, odd, odd.

Calvin and I went to The Museum (really, that's its name) while Jon was lecturing, but their idea of a museum was pretty lame. Best part? Working the animatronic dinosaur parts.

We got the heck out of Kitchener as fast as we could and landed in peaceful Stratford for two days. What a totally different experience from Niagara and its neon flashing lights. In Stratford we took a pontoon boat tour, ate at the local restaurants, shopped in the quaint shoppes, and stayed in an inn above a tavern right on the main street, a block away from the theatre and the river.

Ye olde fashioned accommodations.

We ate breakfast at the local bakery across the street (chocolate croissants and fresh coffee). We talked to ducks, geese, and swans by the river. We played pianos street side. We relaxed and took it in, two days in a row.

Of course the real point of our stop there was to take in a show, and we saw Pirates of Penzance on Wednesday afternoon. It enchanted us to end. Calvin loved it. We played the CD all the way home the next day.

Following the musical we walked across the street to a small museum of the Festival's 60 years of existence. Two rooms of artifacts and we spent over an hour in them. Mockups of models from costumes and sets through the ages, and some of the actual pieces as well. The girls working the admission desk were the best part. They fell in love with Calvin and basically gave us a private tour. They even let us touch some of the carefully guarded pieces.

To break up the trip on the way home we stopped in Port Huron to visit the lighthouse, train depot, and lightship museums there. Thomas Edison I could do without, but the other two were pretty good stops.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig.


Planes, trains, buses

We left the snow behind this morning and headed for warmer climes and a Walt Disney World vacation. It may sound a little out of character for someone who has carefully avoided the machine that is Disney and other pop culture booby traps, but I have very fond memories of Florida and Disney World, none of them having anything to do with the usual character association. I'm hoping to repeat the experience for Calvin.

If nothing else, our transportation quota was met for today: driving to the airport; using escalators, moving walkways, and the tram (just for fun) in the terminal; taking the bus to the Disney resort. This was the first flight I have ever been on that produced a chorus of "wheeee!" with every sickening drop during landing. The cabin was abound with giggles.

The bus to the resort started us off with videos about the park while Calvin watched for interesting wildlife out the window. Disney makes it easy to vacation here. They picked us up at the airport and dropped us off at our resort, and they did the same for our luggage, picking it up and delivering it to our rooms so we didn't have to wait. Transportation within the resort area has been a breeze as well. We took a bus to Downtown Disney for dinner, which we ate with the dinosaurs at T-Rex Cafe.

For Calvin every step has been a hit. He rode and re-road the moving walkway, and tram rides at both airports were like icing on the cake. He was clearly nervous about the flying, but he handled it well, and by the time we were on descent he was oohing and aahing along with the others. And we were not at all surprised by his excitement over the dinosaurs at dinner. We experience no fewer than four major extinction episodes in the form of meteor showers while we were there, and had a chat with dinos and mammoths alike.

We're in bed now. Tomorrow will be busy. I have a feeling this will be the kind of vacation that warrants a spa weekend upon return home, but what great joy to find ourselves drinking in the warm sunshine in the middle of January.



We are squarely in the Jurassic period around here now. We completed the species list and felt creatures for the Triassic, and then we watched Allosaurus, a special episode of BBC's Walking with Dinosaurs. Who could ever have believed a carnivorous Allosaurus could be a sympathetic character. We're all a little in love with Big Al now, so I know what felt creations are on my plate for tomorrow. This newest exploration we're on—the trip through evolution—is really the first time that I've utilized multi-media as a learning tool. When Calvin was younger we sometimes watched the Old School Sesame Street shows (volume 1 or volume 2), or sections of Planet Earth, but until now the TV or computer were merely rare bits of entertainment. I still don't view the TV as an educational tool, but entertainment is a part of learning, and vice versa, so when we found the BBC series that was kind of a match made in heaven, and we have two great iPad apps about evolution and dinosaurs as well now. They've been good jumping-off points.

Today we made Triassic felt and started Jurassic felt, we did a dinosaur puzzle, we played Allosaurus all morning. We both practiced the piano, and we did some math and map worksheets together. We practiced drawing, we sorted and shelved books in the library sale room. For Calvin the past few days have been full of sudden mental leaps, and even though phases like these always bring with them an over-tired, grumpy attitude, I have come to understand the cycle over the past few years: a sudden onset of grouchy, crazed behavior, even after plenty of sleep, has almost always been a sign of expanding mental capacities with him. He does this at least twice a year. In the past I've panicked, wondering what had happened to my usually cheerful son, but I've since learned to be patient and to look for the newest achievements.

Patience is something I am learning with motherhood.


Field trip—UofM Museum of Natural History

Calvin had his five year old doctor appointment today, only almost two months late. We're late because when I called to make the appointment his pediatrician was booked for the next three months, and we didn't go through a ped selection process in order to see some other doctor the one time each year we end up in the office. I love our pediatrician, and the wait was well worth it. He's always put Calvin at ease, and been happy to answer any questions I may have. I've always figured that we're doing our job right if the visit is merely an affirmation of things that are going on at home, and he has always been conscious and supportive of our decisions.

But no matter how fantastic of a visit it was, there were two shots waiting at the end of it. I knew they were coming. Calvin knew they were coming. When we talked about them yesterday I was honest in telling him that they would hurt for a short while, probably not even as long as the wasp sting he had gotten last Friday and had forgotten by Saturday. I offered him, as something to look forward to, as a reward for braving a tough situation, his choice between going to the splash zone, going to the movies (his first time), and going to the University of Michigan's Museum of Natural History. I was kind of looking forward to a movie (they are very air conditioned, after all), but he chose the museum. And that's my boy.

During the latter of my college years the Museum of Natural History was my home away from home. I attended several classes in the rooms down those hallways, dissected animals and identified species by their skulls in the labs, and had long, drawn out conversations with professors, T.A.s, and other students while sitting in the rotunda. These are my favorite memories from school, and walking back into the building, which has hardly changed, was like being transported. Except for the overly excited five year old who had too much innate curiosity and unquenchable exuberance to be anything like the kids I went to class with (or myself).


Calvin loved the exhibits. The museum has the feel of something assembled almost as an after-thought, as you walk in amidst signs warning you from research wings and labs and classrooms left and right. You pay by honest donation, you take your own tours, some things are behind glass while others are not, and only some are touchable, but it is up to your own guess as to which those things are.


Basilosaurus isis

Basilosaurus isis

But the mastodons and the Allosaurus are right there, two feet away, as large as life, and they are oh so impressive that way. And the fact that they are squeezed into an overcrowded, un-air conditioned room along with 70 year old cases of even older fossils, sculptures, and drawings, gives them a purely academic feel that is inspiring.



Tyrannosaurus rex skull

There is no real flow, but each section is a world unto itself, full of things to discover. The writing also has the flavor of academia, as in long winded and excessive to read, but Calvin actually absorbed quite a bit of it before succumbing to exhaustion (or heat stroke, one of the two).



There are two more floors, current Michigan fauna and biology, and a planetarium that we have yet to explore, but that's the great thing about being close: we can come back. He was so thrilled with it that I think I see it again in the near future, which is actually better than trying to go during the school year anyhow.

For more info:

The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History


Dinosaurs, discovery, and make-believe

PaleoJoe was at the library today. If you're not familiar with PaleoJoe, which we weren't and likely neither are you, he's exactly what he sounds like: an energetic, entertaining, real, live paleontologist, complete with stereotypical hat. The beard suited him quite nicely, too.

PaleoJoe is a local author, and between book tours (or probably the other way) he's at a site in Utah, digging for dinosaurs. PaleoJoe had just the right amount of scientific information to share, mixed with just the right flavor of humor to make it lively and absorbable. We learned a lot. I, for one, had heard that new thought on the T-Rex paints him as a scavenger or opportunistic hunter, but PaleoJoe gave us all the great arguments for why that would be true. Just ask Calvin and he will likely tell you about that carnivore's poor eyesight, good sense of smell, and brain shape matching that of the scavenging vulture, the opposite of the super hunting eagle. There's a bit about the tiny arms, too, and the danger of running or lunging after the prey you are stalking if you have no arms with which to catch yourself if you fall. We also explored the theory of the great die off and the effects of the volcanic ash from a super eruption.

PaleoJoe brought with him replicas of fossils he'd found, and also so fun dinosaur puppets. A velociraptor with hair? Well, no, but very fine feathers that resemble hair, yes.

PaleoJoe also brought some of his books with him, because this was a book tour, and we are suckers for books.

After PaleoJoe Calvin has an enlivened interest in dinosaurs and digging. Later in the afternoon we visited the park by my parents' house and discovered great dig sites.

And femurs and teeth.

And then, because it's make-believe and can take us anywhere we want, he climbed into his futuristic lab and used the computer to create images of the dinosaurs whose bones he'd found, and shipped them off to schools world-wide for other kids to discover.