The Jim Henson Company invited our family to “stomp around and hobnob” with Buddy the Dinosaur at The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles on Saturday. The event was part of “Big Big Dinosaurs Week,” which is going on this week on PBS KIDS. Buddy, for those without children obsessed with dinosaurs, is a character from the cartoon Dinosaur Train. He is a young Tyrannosaurus Rex living with his adopted Pteranodon family. Because Buddy is adopted and lives in a mixed-species home, he hops on the Dinosaur Train with his family and travels around learning everything he can about other dinosaurs. Adventures ensue.
No one paid me to say that. I just have the major plot points burned in my brain because I’ve watched almost every episode several thousand times.
It’s rare for me to get invited anywhere, and it’s especially rare for an invitation to come that seems tailor-made for our family. We have dinosaur dig vacations planned, a goal of visiting The Smithsonian and every Natural History Museum in the US and abroad, 11 lovingly abused dinosaur encyclopedias (and counting), and almost every dinosaur documentary/movie/cartoon created. We counted down the days and got up at 5:30 in the morning for this one. It was worth it.
I wanted to visit the National History Museum last year after watching a special on their dinosaur puppets. They are incredible, like the guy on channel 7 news promised, as were the shows. The Triceratops show featured Mary Anning as the narrator, which thrilled me.
If I may geek out on you for just a minute, Mary Anning was a fossil hunter from the early 19th century. When she was only 12 years old, she discovered the first prehistoric skeleton, an ichthyosaur, while fossil hunting along the coast in Dorset. She hunted fossils to then sell to tourists, as she came from a poor family and was scrappy enough to figure out a way to make money. Although the ichthyosaur was an incredible contribution to earth science–to say nothing of her later discoveries–the British science community shunned her. She was not allowed to call herself a paleontologist (hence the title fossil hunter) or join prestigious geological/paleontological societies. Even more insulting, her work often went uncredited. All this, of course, was because she was a woman. I wanted to burst with pride when “Mary Anning” introduced herself and Mikey turned to me and said, “Mom! She’s the paleontologist who discovered pterosaurs!” That’s my boy. I was even more happy when “Mary” later encouraged all the girls in the crowd to become paleontologists.
Last piece of trivia: Mary Anning is the inspiration behind the tongue twister, “She sells seashells by the seashore.”
We had such a fun time, we stayed and watched the Tyrannosaurus Rex show. It was great, but it was no Mary Anning.
Fossils, teaching moments, and a walk in the Butterfly Pavilion to identify as many butterflies as we could. I wasn’t sure the boys would like the butterfly exhibit, but in the end it was one of their favorite stops. I always wondered why people would go on bird watching vacations, but if they are as fun as butterfly watching, I understand the desire to sit on your haunches in the forest and look in the trees. There were a couple of moments where Mikey and Nico were about to go to blows arguing over which butterfly was which thanks to that butterfly chart (“Dude. That looks nothing like an Anise Swallowtail. Where are the blue spots?”), but whispering “Museum Gift Store” into the air was all it took for them to suddenly become agreeable.
We had a great time. For our next adventure, I would love to hit up a good space museum, since that’s Nicholas’s preferred obsession.