January 3, 2010
Museum of Science & Technology

Ottawa's Museum of Science & Technology was second on our list of museums to visit this year because I suddenly realized that today was the very last day to see the "Wheels, Wings & Waves" LEGO exhibit.  Back in October we thought it would be fun to visit this exhibit of air, land and water transportation (Sailboats! Airplanes! Steam trains! A race car!). It's been in the news a bunch as well, so I wanted to revisit the location to help make up my mind on whether moving the museum is a colossal waste of money or a good idea.  Not that my opinion will influence the final decision, but I do like having a somewhat informed opinion rather the the one that the local paper is trying to sell to me...


Although this museum is just down the road from our office somehow October turned into January and the exhibit is about to close.  Cousin Heather, Auntie Janice, Brendan, Elizabeth and I duly piled into our car and headed out to the museum.


There was so much to see and so little time that the exhibits went by in a bit of a blur.  All agreed that this was a place we'd need to come back to again.  Heather recently spent time at the Ontario Science Centre and was amazed by how much more interactive (and cheap!) our local museum is in comparison.  This museum is very hands on. Elizabeth spent a great deal of time crawling and "walking" around again, but as the exhibits got noisier and busier she decided that it would be safer to be carried. 


We started out with the special robotics demonstrations, but unfortunately we were rather disappointed.   Autopsy of a Robot ("Explore the inner workings of robots and intelligent machines.  Examine how robots think, sense their surroundings, and move.  Meet Pixel, the Museum's friendly robot.") could also be described as "Come and look at our ordinary computer on wheels.  It can play 80's music!  It can drive forwards and backwards!  It does not hop." Robots in Your Life was slightly more interesting, but the presentation had a lot in common with a vacuum cleaner sales presentation we saw at Sears several years ago (Why yes, one of the "Robots in Our Life" was a Roomba...)  Clearly the museum needs to work on their scripts for this kind of demonstration.  It was however neat to see both Roomba and Clockie getting some much deserved time in the spotlight, even if it was a rather dim one.


We wandered through the space station and then made the obligatory visit to the Crazy Kitchen.  It's apparently one of the most popular permanent exhibits anywhere in Canada.  Elizabeth crawled in with confidence, but nearly lost her balance and found it difficult to crawl in a straight line.  You could see her thinking "What's going on?"  The other visitors in the kitchen found her very amusing too.


Then we visited the LEGO room, which was fun, if a little too much like an art gallery of LEGO pictures.  We were particularly impressed by the car, except Elizabeth who decided she did not want to pose for pictures.  The lights were a bit bright and she was quite suspicious of the numerous small boys noisily racing LEGO cars up and down the ramps.  We moved on to the trains, where we could have posed for some very entertaining pictures.  But it turns out Elizabeth is not amused by trains.  They are BIG and SCARY.  I think I have bruises from where she gripped my arm.  I don't know what she'd make of a moving train, but hopefully we wouldn't be standing right in front of one pretending we are about to be squished.  Bringing Janice was quite educational; she's visited this museum numerous times as part of a field trip from the Aviation Museum camp program and could point out interesting details like the Science & Tech museum version of the Manikin Piss in the bridge building model. No, this does not appear in the official notes...


The canoe was much more fun from her perspective, and if it hadn't been for a couple of other children wanting to try it out too she might have spent the rest of the visit playing happily with the rivets and life jackets.  Brendan thinks this bodes well for paddling in the summer, but I have visions of her tipping us in an enthusiastic attempt to puddle in the lake.


As technology geeks, we were particularly amused and entertained by the networking exhibit where you pretend to be a network packet and get routed along various fiber optic and copper wires before arriving at your destination. Many network congestion and lost packet jokes ensued, mostly because some of the younger network packets didn't pay attention to the instructions.  Elizabeth was amused by the blinky lights, but when we went down the slide into the scary black hole at the end she completely lost it.  It didn't help that I built up a giant static charge on the way down.  Hopefully the resulting shock hasn't turned her off slides altogether.  It was so loud that Heather and Janice heard it from the top of the slide! Ouch!


All in all this is a much louder and busier museum, and slightly overwhelming for the easily stimulated.  You'll want to keep a firm grip on your kids as it would be very easy to lose track of them.  The museum is very hands-on and there is lots to see though and I expect that Elizabeth will enjoy going here again as she gets a little bit older. 

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January 1, 2010
Aviation Museum

One of my New Year's resolutions this year is to visit all of the Ottawa-area museums with Elizabeth.  We'll visit the obvious (Agriculture, Aviation, Civilization, Nature, Science & Tech etc) and the obscure (Governor General Foot Guards, the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa Regimental Museum).  Both Ottawa-area and museum will be defined somewhat loosely, but at the moment we're only planning to visit the one Art gallery.  In addition, I think we'll give the various archive collections a miss until Elizabeth is old enough to understand the concept of an "inside voice".


Since Janice works at the Museum of Aviation and has been trying to give us our very own tour for a number of years, I decided to start there.  My father dragged us to the Aviation Museum in the early 1990s and I confess that despite Janice's enthusiasm and admittedly wide knowledge of aviation history I was reluctant to go again to a boring museum for "aviation and military enthusiasts".  An "aviation and military enthusiast", I am not.  I was also pretty sure that Elizabeth would get bored pretty quickly.  "Seen one plane, seen them all", I thought, particularly for a baby on the go who would rather explore on her own than quietly stay in Mommy's arms away from the exhibits which you aren't even allowed to touch!


Apparently I was wrong.  It turns out that this Museum is pretty fantastic, especially if you are taking small children. It might be one of the top aviation museums in the world, enjoyable for aviation and military buffs alike, but the Museum of Aviation is also one of the most family-friendly places I've been to in a while. It might be one of the best kept secrets in the city.


The building is really big; it contains a whole bunch of airplanes and not just the small ones either.  This has the immediate effect of spreading out the visitors and creating space for wee ones to crawl, toddle and run around in.  Some museums would be stressful to visit with an active toddler sprinting around the exhibits.  One blink and the child is swallowed in a sea of blinking lights and other pint-sized children.  This museum isn't like that; even if your child managed to turn a corner you can always peek under the plane to keep them in sight. The atmosphere is pretty calm and quiet, even if you have a really excited baby zooming around.  I presume that the sound proof room would be good for temper tantrums!


I highly recommend taking a tour - it was really, really interesting. I particularly recommend Janice of course, but I hear that all the tour guides are pretty good.  I was amused by stories of the fast little rocket plane that kept blowing up during testing ... until I heard that most of the testing was done by women (being more expendable!)  I don't think I'll ever think about ejection seats in the same way, not having realized that you are usually choosing spinal microfractures over death.  Assuming the seat works correctly, that is.  The idea of a thousand Lancaster bombers flying over Germany (dropping 22,000 pounds of bombs each) is completely staggering when you have a chance to stand underneath one of these large puppies.  Oh, and I now know how to identify a pitot tube!


If you visit on weekends or holidays, there are crafts for the kids and you can sit in some of the planes (and the staff will give you a personal mini-tour).  Plus, there's a pretty rocking toy room.  Elizabeth would have been happy to spend the entire time there and I bet Erika would love some of the more advanced crafts too.

The museum has a small cafeteria, but we didn't check it out.  I hear it's not exactly geared to celiacs though.  There is a drinking fountain.  There is also a cloak room for those winter jackets and boots.  While the baby change table is just slightly higher than normal it's much (much!) better than the facilities at CHEO. Yes, I'm still outraged that a children's hospital is so poorly equipped for visitors under the age of two or so. 


There are apparently strollers available at no extra charge (and wheelchairs too). If you go during the summer there's apparently a playground.  Maybe we'll have to go back.  Forget that - Elizabeth and I are definitely going back.

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December 31, 2009
Happy New Year!

Farewell 2009...


"For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne."

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December 30, 2009
Winter Elves

We had a vegetable christmas Christmas this year; we had so many extra potatoes and sweet potatoes delivered that it needed two elves to carry them all to our door.  In theory we can line our cooler with pillows to prevent the vegetables from freezing solid, but in practice Elizabeth and I have taken to watching to see whether anything has arrived as we think we'd need at least one additional cooler if we were to stuff ours full of pillows instead of the vegetables.


We've noticed the shifting of the seasons more this year as the vegetables shift from leafy greens and tomatoes to mushrooms, onions and root vegetables of all shapes, sizes and colours.  One of the most eye-opening part of this experiment is how limited a selection of vegetables is available in our local supermarkets (even the so-called fruit and vegetable places!) As someone who used to take a potato to school instead of a sandwich, I'm very happy to have more potatoes showing up in my basket.  I'm also particularly fond of the white beets with purple swirls.  Not so exciting are the vast quantities of parsnips in our baskets, for which I'm in desperate need of recipe advice. 


I've tried out some of the suggestions from this pretty marvellous vegetable box recipe site, but I suspect we still have a number of parsnip weeks to go...

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December 29, 2009
10 Months!

Elizabeth turned ten months old yesterday.  Time for pictures with the bear.  It's getting more and more difficult to get her to sit in anything like the same position...


If you look closely, you can see tooth number one (bottom center) in a few of these!


At ten months, Elizabeth is a very busy and giggly baby who loves exploring the world around her.  She is fearless and foolhardy when it comes to sudden drops and trying new things, but new people and places will send her scurrying for Mom.  A very cuddly girl for Mom, Dad, Auntie Janice and occasionally her Grandparents, she is pretty suspicious when passed to others.  If you give her time though, she'll smile and play peek-a-boo or hide-and-seek with you.  She claps all the time.  It's important for Mom to keep a good grip when holding her because peek-a-boo Elizabeth-style is a full-body sport.


Elizabeth loves playing with balls, especially the hard bouncy ball that lights up with a vigorous whack on the floor, but her favourite toy is an empty toilet paper roll or anything made of paper.  Her favourite book is "Baby boo!", although she enjoys turning the pages of any book and pretending to read to her stuffed animals. 


Elizabeth likes to "help" Mom and Dad fold the laundry.  She will spend a great deal of time taking clothes out of the bin and carefully spreading them around the room.  She cleans the floor one piece of detrius at a time.  Maybe this is why she dislikes Rosie the Roomba so much (competition!).  She can open drawers and cupboards all by herself, but thankfully she has not yet figured out how to lift the toilet seat in order to indulge in a little puddling.


Not a big fan of mush, Elizabeth adores Cheerios.  She'll eat most things if she can feed them to herself.  I can't imagine weaning her though as she still appears to need a great deal of nursing (particularly when teeth come in).


Needless to say we are enjoying her very much!

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