Monday, December 3, 2012

At the Tech Museum

What do you do on the busiest cooking day of the year?

Yeah, we left my mother-in-law chained to the oven and escaped to the Tech Museum.

Free with our ASTC Passport reciprocal membership to the Wonderlab, the Tech Museum was a huge hit for three of us and a dismal bust for the fourth of us. Poor Syd didn't WANT to explore math and hard science using interactive technology; Syd wanted to go a hands-on children's museum like we usually do!

And is Sydney a good sport when she doesn't get what she wants, but instead has to play along with what everyone else wants to do?

No, she's not!

Mind you, I could also go on and on about cross-country jet lag, that bugaboo that causes children to wake at 3:00 am Pacific Time; to need to eat when they wake, when everyone else is eating breakfast, an hour after breakfast when it's lunch time on the east coast, when everyone else is eating lunch, and then again at 3 pm; to be utterly exhausted by 5:00 pm Pacific Time but to want to stay up until midnight on east coast time; and then to wake at 3:00 am Pacific Time the next day. Cross-country jet lag does not improve the behavior, stamina, or attitude of children.

To make a long story short, I perp-walked Sydney out of the Tech Museum perhaps an hour after we'd arrived, followed by Matt and poor blameless Willow, who actually was a pretty good sport about being required to leave a museum she'd just gotten to, was enjoying quite a lot, and was behaving herself at.

We went back to Matt's parents' house, where the day passed by with several more off-hours meals, a visit to the park, and some quiet family time. Then, later that afternoon, Matt and I did something that happens to all of us so, SO rarely:

We left Sydney behind with her grandparents, and we took Willow, sans sister, back to the Tech Museum:
designing and testing a submersible

The Tech Museum has some of the same types of exhibits as other hands-on science museums that we've visited, as well as a lot of really special stuff, of course, but the unique thing about the Tech Museum, the thing that blows it WAY out of the water compared to every other hands-on science museum of my experience, is this thingy that they call the "tech tag." It's your ticket stub with a bar code on it, and when an exhibit in the museum has a bar code scanner, you can scan your code and later, at home, log into a free account and see digital passport stamps, or high-speed film containing the time frame that you visited the exhibit, or photos of you actually at the exhibit. You may have been in an earthquake simulator before, for instance, but now I have a photo of our family taken while we were in the simulator! I have a family portrait taken with a 360-degree panoramic camera, and I have a thermal family portrait:

How cool is that?!? Welcome to my new online avatar:

Of course, there were tons of fabulous and unique exhibits here. Many of them were so special that you have to see video of them to believe it. This is Google Earth, seen through a 180-degree surround screen:

This is a simulator of an astronaut's MMU, used during EVAs:

 There's a video camera that records your face for several seconds, then uses its facial recognition technology to merge your features with those of other visitors:

There's a robot arm that, after you type in a word or phrase, will spell it for you using alphabet blocks:

There's another robot that, after you pose for it--

--does a really funny, and REALLY abysmal, job of drawing a portrait of you that looks nothing like you:

This was Matt's favorite musical exhibit--

--and this was mine:

So much of my time parenting two children is spent mediating, moderating, managing, etc., that I feel like I often forget to enjoy them. Yes, I take them lots of places to do lots of things, but at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, for instance, I've just realized that while the girls were seeing the Wright Flyer for the very first time, instead of looking at them to enjoy their surprise and enjoyment, I was looking at the museum map trying to convince myself that surely there was some place besides McDonald's to eat, and wondering if the carousel takes credit cards, and trying to figure out if the girls could manage both the Natural History Museum and the Museum of American History without getting too footsore. 

There was none of that this time. While Syd was having a ball back at her grandparents' house making rice crispy treats with her Grandma Janie, I got to really take the time to enjoy my Willow's surprise and enjoyment, to notice the exhibits that she loved and run her to the bathroom to puke, bless her heart, when the exhibit on genetics tweaked her tender stomach (needles and syringes, doncha know?). Matt and I got to play with Willow all together without her having to share, or us having to leave out the other kid. Matt and I got to talk to each OTHER, my goodness!

And THAT was a good vacation.

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