Field (Museum) Trip!

On Friday, Watson and I picked up the kids from school a little early and drove the three hours to Chicago in the not-quite-freezing rain in a car that was packed with sleeping bags, pillows, backpacks, and flashlights.

We had a date to sleep with the dinosaurs at the Field Museum—a Christmas gift from my MIL.
Dozin with Dinos

For those of you who haven’t heard of or been to the Chicago Field Museum . . . you’re missing out.  And if you haven’t thought of sleeping there overnight . . . do.

It’s a blast.

My MIL had opted for the premium package, which included a tour of part of the Zoology Section in the lower level of the Collections Resource Center, the place where ninety percent of the collections are kept and the scientists do their things—the Field Museum is an active research facility, emphasis on active.

About fifteen of us, kids and adults, piled into an enormous elevator with our Museum guide and our scientist, Kevin the “Fish Guy”, to visit the underground Fish Lab.

Field CRC

It immediately became clear that ichthyologists have a sense of humor:

Finding Nemo

I looked, but Nemo’s mugshot wasn’t there—probably because they already had him in a jar,  carefully arranged by his geography and Latin name.  Somewhere:

Oceans in Bottles

I’m pretty sure that Kevin, our ichthyologist, picked up a clownfish jar to show the kids, but I was too busy looking around at the other residents.

There were old fish, like this one, which dates back to 1934.  I forgot to write down the name, but Sunny told me this morning that it’s a Gulper fish:


There were flat fish, like this sting ray, whom I could identify without help, thank you:


There were gorgeous blue and silver fish, which didn’t photograph as brilliantly as I’d hoped—this one is a Goby, or so Sunny says:


There were evil-looking fish, like this angler and her parasitic little husband on the tray.  We had quite the discussion about their sex life, in term scientific enough to earn a general audience rating.


There were skeletal fish, too, like this piranha, which had been stripped down by the Museum’s own collection of flesh-eating beetles, that  most of us were glad were housed in another part of the CRC:


And there were brains in boxes.  I didn’t ask why—at that point, my own brain was stuffed so full of fish facts, I had to depend on my kids to carry on as I nodded and snapped pictures (or asked Jane to do it, to cut down on the number of thumbs and blurs).

Fiiiiishhhhh Braaaiiiiins

Luckily, Sunny was on the case.  In fact, you couldn’t take a picture of Kevin without getting a curly-headed, six-year-old pre-ichthyologist somewhere in frame, spouting random  facts about every single fish on the table.


By the end of the tour, I wasn’t sure whether I should research an ichthyology program at a University that offered after-class day care, or send in an application to Junior Jeopardy.  One of the parents suggested we send her on Jeopardy to pay for college.  That works.

Her older sister was the only one who wasn’t impressed:  “She’s getting all this from Octonauts, you know.”

But Jane had her moment, when she asked to see a Humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa—which she’d heard about last year while her class was studying the pacific states—and completely stumped Kevin, whose expertise was in colder waters.  He had her repeat it several times, and even called over a colleague, who had heard of the thing, but wasn’t sure where its jar would be at that time of night.

Jane was very proud.

Kevin managed to stump us, though, or at least knock us back, with the ugliest fish we’ve ever seen.  It’s a rock fish—thanks, Sunny—kept in an old-fashioned brain jar, which I thought was fitting, since that’s what the front end looked like to me:

Ugly Fish

The back end of this thing looked a lot like a turkey.  It jiggled when Kevin shook the jar.  UGH.

Ugly Fish Got Back

There was also a blowfish lurking on a shelf, newly returned from a display upstairs. It was puffed up, but did not seem much impressed with us.


The tour was over way too soon, at least for us visitors, though Kevin, who was an engaging tour guide with unlimited patience, seemed to be having a good time, too . . . at least until Sunny’s parting shot:  “Thank you!  When I come back, I’m taking your job!”*

Watson said he seemed more puzzled than insulted, so she could probably risk an internship application in sixteen years time.

After that, we crawled all over the public areas of the museum, looking at a little bit of everything.  Including a saber-toothed deer:

Vampire Deer

Sure, the sign said it was a musk deer, but who are they trying to kid?

Another highlight was the ladies room—no, really—which won an award in 2011.  It was a very nice ladies room, with a special set of low sinks and commodes for the younger visitors and murals on the ceiling so everyone had something lovely to stare at during the process, as it were.  Sunny especially loved the hairdryers hand dryers.

World's Coolest Hand Dryer

Jane found a scientific artist, who asked her if she would like to try her hand at drawing a clam.

She would, for a solid hour.

Jane Draws

After a flashlight journey through the Egyptian tomb, which was amazing for three of us—Sunny wasn’t pleased with the dark, the mummies, or the boys who were more interested in flashlight fun and screaming than history—we wandered through a few more exhibits and called it very sore feet a day about eleven thirty.

We brushed our teeth, changed into our jammies, claimed a patch of carpeted undersea ground in the Cretaceous period, and rolled out our sleeping bags.


It would have been a peaceful spot, if it hadn’t been for the Parasaurolophus, also known as the trumpeting dinosaur, who, as we all known from Dinosaur Train, hooted through his headpiece.

The museum helpfully provided an interactive version, not fifteen feet away from where Sunny and I were trying to sleep.


This thing was irresistible to every single male human who came into the room, and so delighted were they with this example of bioengineering, that they could not stop at one Hroot!if they’d tried.  And you know they didn’t.

Hroot!  Hroot!  Hroot!  Hroot! “Hey, Jamie, come try this!” Hroot!  Hroot!  Hroot!  Hroot!

At one point, an exhausted Sunny rolled over and said, “Mommy?  Why are boys so mean?”

But the lights went out at midnight and—after the requisite screams and flashlight fun—everyone settled in for a comfortable night’s sleep.  Except for me, because I am not built for sleeping on hard floors without more padding than even Mother Nature, a ground pad, and a thick L.L. Bean comforter provided.  Also, Sunny stole all the covers and the pillow within the first ten minutes.

I ended up dozing upright for a few hours, leaning against the wall with Sunny’s head in my lap and the pillow cushioning my back.  It was peaceful . . . but not particularly REMful.

The next morning, after we were all packed and I’d had an early breakfast of Advil, we adopted two dinosaurs, Hot Dog (who is not a Brontosaurus, Mommy,  possibly for the same reason Pluto isn’t a planet anymore)  and Fluffy (who is still a T-Rex, because no one’s would dare mess with those bad boys).  I don’t have photos of them because I was too tired to find the camera.

But as I was paying their nominal adoption fee, I suggested to the staff that renting out air mattresses  would be a great additional fundraiser for the Museum on these overnights—I myself would have paid anything they asked around 2am, and I know we weren’t the only ones who hadn’t bothered to bring ours.

We then headed out for breakfast and an outlet for my phone, which had died around 1:48 am.  Ask me how I know.**

Recharged in more ways than one, we then headed downtown to Water Tower Place.

First stop: the American Girl Store—Sunny, who had never been to this Mecca of Historically Based Consumerism before, had been promised a Christmas doll and I’d also promised Jane that her beloved Penelope could have a good cleaning and de-thatching spa treatment:

Doll Spa

Penelope is in the chair, Jane is sporting the purple pack, Sunny is holding her own mini-me, and that shopping bag is holding more AG stuff than I had originally anticipated, because I am a sucker. 

We also did the LEGO store for Watson, Godiva—to pick up something for my MIL, as a thank you—and Teavana, where I sort of overbought, because tea.

I amLEGOman

My only regret is that I didn’t plan my vacation for the week after this trip, instead of the week before.  And that I hopped on my new exercise bike Sunday morning, thus turning what was left of my lower body into jello-filled manicotti.

Rookie mistake.

Next time—and there will be one—I’ll be ready.

I’ll have a car charger, an air mattress, noise-cancelling headphones, an eye mask . . . and an Out of Order sign for You-Know-Hroot.

Let’s get a group together!  Who’s with me?


*One of the older kids, who lives in Chicago and clearly knew his stuff from sources other than cartoons, was given some information about volunteering at the Museum.  Jane grabbed my arm and said, “MOM.  WE HAVE TO MOVE.”

**As Watson later said, “See?  I knew we should’ve bunked down under the Giant Tree Sloth—there’s an outlet in there.”


Random Thursday: Under the Influence of Random Potter Flashbacks

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

The kids gave me a head cold as a late Christmas present, so I’m posting under the influence of Dayquil and half a pot of Walnut Cinnamon coffee.  

Bring on the random—whee!!!


Polarius Vortexio!

Polaris Vortexio!

I’m honestly in awe of that carrot—is that real?

I just realized that this can’t be Harry Potter . . . s/he has a beard, see?


Lifting my Ban on LEGO . . .

Don’t get me wrong—I have nothing against LEGO, per se.* I think those little bricks are an amazing gateway to the imagination, even without the bells, whistles, wheels, and motors.

But I have a lot against my kids’ inability to use LEGO bins for their intended purpose of keeping all those tiny pieces under control, instead of, say, housing for itinerant stuffed animals.

It doesn’t hurt when I step on stuffed animals, except maybe psychologically.

However,  if they agreed to keep their LEGO in the garage . . .  and build Mommy a new car . . . I might reconsider.


It’s Alive—Alive!!!

Stationary Bike

To be honest, I was afraid to open the box.

But after putting this bad boy together, I’m glad I didn’t have to provide my own pulse, ’cause I had to go take a nap.


But . . . I Don’t Want to Unsubscribe

Hogwarts Spam


I Defy You not to Squee

A snoring baby hamster. ‘Nuff said.


*Though I have a few problems with their “pink will bring girls to us” marketing strategy.  I didn’t need pink to love LEGO when I was a kid, and I’m old enough to remember when people started to complain about sexism “suddenly being wrong.”

Random Thursday: LEGOing Looms, Defending Socks, and that Essential Touch of Glass

It’s Thursday.  It’s Random.  It’s Random Thursday.


It’s a loom. Made out of LEGO.

You would think this would get boring after the first thirty seconds.  But it actually doesn’t.

Beats those elastic-loop potholder frames by miles, doesn’t it?



Octopus Knot

I’ve had three wonderful people e-mail me their contest poems, but in the comments of yesterday’s post, there is naught but whistling wind.

Where is the love? Where is the Octopodean verse?

You have until midnight Chicago time tonight! There’s a free mug at stake!

Simple Haiku Mug

Go forth and find rhymes for eight, ink, calamari, squishy, and Blue-Rings of Death!

And post them here!


Sock Defenders!

An alternate theory explaining the disappearance of socks

and why cats are so interested in sitting on one’s clean laundry.

You know those kittens are going to catch it for messing up the drawers.

That’s why adult cats are so cynical.


Dropping the Pigeon

Pigeon Lost

I’m probably going to have to retitle Pigeon Drop, as there is no longer a literal pigeon drop scam in it and the metaphor is a bit of a stretch.

Dang it.


A Touch of Glass Class

Simply beautiful.


What are you waiting for?  Go write an octopus poem!