Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nebraska in November

Let me tell you one thing about going to Nebraska - it's a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG drive! How long? Well, let's put it this way - at some point half through the drive, M voluntarily gave me the iPad back saying that he had enough of it. So you can imagine what the second half of the drive was like in terms of the frequency of the "Are we there yet" and "I'm bored!" sentences.

To be fair, M didn't just play on an iPad all the time (I wouldn't let it happen no matter how many "Are we there yet" he threw at me). He spent a lot of time drawing too. On the way there it was mostly Star Wars stuff. But on the way back it was all about dinosaurs, dinosaur bones and him and his friends digging up dinosaurs. And he took lots and lots of pictures of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa... all looking pretty much the same.

The highlight of the trip there (for me) was seeing a trailer hauling a wind turbine blade. The thing is unbelievably huge and absolutely beautiful, especially up close.

M loves taking pictures. He's careful enough that I trust him with my cheapie camera. He doesn't know how to navigate through the menus or, say, turn the flash or the macro options on and off. And sometimes his hands shake so much that the pictures come out impossibly blurry. But other times he takes great pictures! The best part is he is not at all afraid to find just the perfect spot for the picture, even if it means crawling under furniture or climbing up on the kitchen table. And he rarely takes "a picture of everything", preferring to focus on just one or two elements at a time. The downside is he takes A LOT of pictures. I mean, hundreds. Which makes my job of sorting through them that much longer.

But I digress... By the end of the drive to Lincoln, M was so sick of being on the road and so bored, that he kept saying how he wasn't going to be nice to Nebraska and how he was going to not like it and kick it. And how he wasn't going to talk to anyone in Nebraska.

And then we got to Grandma Phyllis's house and parked the car and M looked around and said "And you dragged me here for this?!" But then two things happened. One was M got to go out into the yard and play in a huge pile of leaves. And then he got to eat spaghetti for dinner. Well, actually there was a third thing - M got to see, touch and pretend-call a friend on a very old telephone that was hanging on the wall downstairs right above a huge old wooden trunk (M's dream possession). All this was just too great to stay mad. So M cheered up and even conceded that "Nebraska was turning out to be better than he thought".

Then the next day M got introduced to American football as we spent the afternoon with Chris's family watching the game on a humongous TV, the biggest TV M has ever seen. At first he was bored with the whole thing. After all, we don't have a TV set at home and he's not used to watching anything, not even cartoons, much. Plus he's never seen American football before. But by the end of the evening he said he understood what the game was all about and liked it. And the next day he came over to me and asked me to switch the TV channel to a game.

Honestly, I don't care much about football. Yeah, it's an American thing and all and maybe I should learn a bit more about the game. But it seems pretty boring even compared to soccer (which I don't care much for either). Still, I must say that I had a great time at Aunt Sharon and Uncle Sam's house spending time with the family. Too bad we had to leave kinda early 'cause M was so tired that he actually kept asking to go to bed (another first).

Over the next two days we didn't do much. One day we went to this little museum on the U of N campus. It was terrific. We were in luck 'cause they had some kind of Science Sunday event with all the fun activities for kids. The best one, IMHO and according to M, was the one about making edible scat (that's animal poop, in case you don't know). I always knew Tootsie Rolls were good for something.

M was absolutely in love with the place. And that was just after looking at mastodons and dinosaurs and trilobites on the first floor (and making edible poop). Then we got to the second floor where they have a great collection of rocks and minerals. Oh, boy!!! I think if M could stay there overnight, he would had. He was all teary-eyed when we had to leave 'cause the place was closing for the day. The next day he kept asking to go back.

But instead we went to the zoo in Omaha. And we spent pretty much the whole entire day there. I love that zoo. Except I never get to see it when the weather is warm. Seriously, I've been there 3 times - in the winter, in late fall and in early spring. And each time it was cold and miserable. So I haven't seen the entire zoo, not yet anyway. But what I've seen is really terrific. And M seems to agree, mostly.

The very first place he wanted to see was, of course, the Desert Dome. It's the most visible structure as you drive up to the zoo and it looks so cool too! At first M wanted to see and take pictures of everything there - the cacti, the birds, the "cave paintings", the snakes, the meerkats and so forth. But after about 20 minutes or so he started to get overwhelmed and was ready to move on.

And so we braved the cold and wet weather and went to see the big cats (tigers were having lunch of what looked like chopped steak), the orangutans, the gorillas and the giraffes. Of all these, M seemed to be most interested in gorillas mostly because they had a baby gorilla who kept trying to annoy the daddy gorilla. Plus in the same structure there were displayed skeletons of various primates for comparison. M spent quite some time in front of them, discussing the difference between human and gorilla skeletons.

Then we went to the aquarium. And that was pretty much it. Once we got inside, M did not want to leave. He just wanted to look at everything over and over and over. And when he got to the end of the aquarium, he wanted to start the tour all over again. He tried taking pictures, but that was tricky because of the lighting. So he asked me to do it and kept pointing to hundreds of fish and corals and anemones, asking to photograph them all. Apparently he had this idea that once home, we'll print all those pictures, cut out all the fish, etc, glue them to blue paper and we'll have our own aquarium.

After we took pictures of every fish in the aquarium... twice, we all went to eat at a cafe in the Lied Jungle pavilion. It's definitely the best place to eat at the zoo. The food is actually good and not at all expensive. And you can get a table with a great view of the family of monkeys. That's exactly what we did. It was great, watching Mama Monkey, Papa Monkey and their two kids. Except M got it into his head to act like those baby monkeys for the rest of the day which was funny only for the first 10 minutes or so.

We then tried going through the Jungle pavilion which is my favorite place at the zoo. Except M was dead-set on going back to the Aquarium. So after just 2 minutes in the jungle he asked мама, ты уже наджунглилась? And after another 5 minutes or so he started the "Are we there (at the exit) yet?". Which turned the whole thing into an exercise in parental restraint. So we turned around and went back to the aquarium... and, of course, to the gift shop.

On the way back from the zoo I noticed a sign for the Strategic Air and Space Museum. But I kept quiet because it was already around 4pm (and the museum closes at 5pm). Pitty. But maybe next time. Besides, they do not allow kids under 48" tall on their multi-axis trainer rides and M would'd been pretty unhappy. He tried this ride back in NY and loved it. I finally found a video of it.

And the next day it was time to drive back to NC. Another two-day drive, grrr. This time it was especially long for some reason. Missouri seemed absolutely endless! But then, late in the evening on the second day we finally got home. As Dorothy would've said "There's no place like home!"

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