Thursday, May 29, 2008


So I've been "involved parent" this week and last and chaperoned trips with both the kids.

For O, the outing was to the Toledo Zoo. These kindergarten teachers had each kid bring a "special adult" so that no one adult would end up managing multiple munchkins. Not surprisingly, some kids didn't these kids would just not get to go. In reality, though, these kids were placed with willing adults who could attend.

I've heard folks raving about this zoo for years, but this was our first visit. I didn't like the layout of the place -- lots of land to cover -- but the exhibits are well set up for human-animal viewing. I don't know if this works all that well for the animals (I hope it does, soft-hearted vegetarian that I am), but I know it worked well for the human animals. We spent a long time watching the orangutans, in particular. The momma even dragged her tarp over to one of the windows, and laid it out for a nap. Then her kid came over to playfully pester her, but she gave as good as she got. Roaring white lions, a pacing snow leopard (with a giant fuzzy tail!), a meandering hippo with shit all over its hind quarters were all amazingly close. Watching the polar bears belly flop into the water was a treat. O was done by this time, but I was fascinated.

For O, though, the trip was much more about the social world than the natural world. He didn't want to walk around with just me and look for animals, he wanted to be with his classmates. We ended up spending time with one pair of boys and then a larger gaggle of kids (escorted two parents). When the latter group hit the gift shop, my boy nearly lost it with envy. "What do you have?" and "Where are you going?" meant far more to him than whether we got to see any zebras or otters. In this sense, the teachers' plan didn't really work all that well. I was just not enough for him -- until he slumped over on me for a good long nap in the bus seat on the way home.

Today, I went to The Henry Ford with E's fourth grade class. She was delighted to have me along, though I did get a few too many lectures about all the rules we were supposed to be following. Since her BFF's mom was also attending, she and T ended up in separate groups but we scored her buddies N and O, along with another girl I hadn't met before. I am super proud of E for making sure that J, who is not a part of E's usual gang felt included. She even insisted that J pick the first place we visit. Yay!

The kids were great. N is hilarious -- such a suck up. He laughed loudly at all my jokes, stayed glued to my side, and always asked ever so politely for the map. How many 9 year olds do you know who greet you with "It is so good to see you again." Hehe. He is one of 6 or 9 kids... wonder if he is desperate for adult attention.

I thought it might have changed, but my overall impression of the museum is much the same as when I was a teen and last visited. It is such an odd hodge-podge of stuff. The kids loved the trains, the 1940s diner, and (I swear, I didn't lead them at all on this) the bicycles -- especially the 8-seater. They were awfully good sports when I asked them the "what do you think that was used for?" questions and made them put a post-it note response on the wall under the question of "What does freedom mean to you?" before they could have lunch. The trouble of having E's mom (aka: the History Professor) as chaperone is that you are going to have to discuss hearth ovens, the Selma to Montgomery march, and the significance of Amelia Earhart. Ah well, they survived and E didn't roll her eyes at me once.

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