A Dinosaur Train Hypothesis

The kids favourite TV show at the moment is Dinosaur Train. I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot. In fact one might even say I’ve been overthinking it a lot. On the surface it seems like positive, inclusive preschooler fare, but once you’ve watched as much Dinosaur Train as I have, you begin to question what is really going on. There are some things that just don’t quite add up. But its okay guys, I have a hypothesis. Hypotheses?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show let me explain it’s premise:

The Pteranodon Family, whose members are Mr and Mrs Pteranodon, their three biological children and one adopted Tyrannosaurus Rex, Buddy, have good old fashioned family adventures, which revolve around getting to ride on the Dinosaur Train. The Dinosaur Train, guided by their good friend Mr Conductor, not only travels across the world, but also through time. Mr Conductor is a troodon, that’s the dinosaur with the largest brain relative to body mass doncha know and also, presumably, the smartest. He is able to offer the Pteranodon Family a lot of educational information about the Mesozoic Era which makes for an absolutely riveting show.

Now, having read the premise I’m sure you’ll be able to see there are some astonishing inaccuracies, and anachronisms in this show. In fact, I have rather a lot of questions for the makers. PBS, if you are reading this, can you help me out?

Lets deal with the most troubling question. It is well established scientific fact that Tyrannosaurs lived at the very end of Cretaceous, whereas Pteranodons lived in the mid-Cretaceous. There is a whopping 20 million years between them. Did you think we wouldn’t notice? C’mon. Even my four year old knows that. This is a genuine puzzle to him, and I honestly don’t know how to answer him. I don’t like to pry into private family matters, but I really think we need some answers as to the circumstances of Buddy’s adoption. Given that the Pteranodon family have exposed themselves by participating in this show, then I think it is fair to ask. Was Mrs Pteranodon really surprised when one egg hatched and revealed a T-Rex, or is this some kind of long game played on her unsuspecting children?

And who exactly brought the egg back to the mid-Cretaceous? Brought, or should I say smuggled? The only one with unfettered access to a time-travelling device is Mr Conductor himself. What exactly is his part in this? Is he an unsuspecting dupe? Or is he (an intelligent troodon after all) the great Mastermind behind this “adoption”.

I have noticed a quite lackadaisical approach to biosecurity across the program as a whole, not just in this egregious example of a fertilised egg being transmitted through time. Maybe my opinions are skewed having grown-up in New Zealand with our tight airport screenings for unwashed shoes, and bananas neglected in children’s backpacks. The biosecurity risks NZ faces, however, seem tiny compared to criss-crossing the entire Mesozoic! That’s the Triassic, the Jurassic and the Cretaceous just in case you didn’t know. Some 186 million years. Have PBS considered the pathogens being transferred around willy-nilly by these sight-seeing hordes? They don’t just stay on the train you know. The get off and wander around, they eat, and as we all know from watching your excellent ‘Dinosaur Poop’ episode, everybody poops, and OMG what kind of microbes are these dinosaurs spreading throughout time?!

I guess it’s possible that having invented an amazing time-travelling train they’ve also created some sort of containment. We never see it but perhaps they’ve edited out the decomination showers for when they get on or off the train? Still doesn’t explain the poop though. Unless.

Unless they all have to poop on the Train?

Is that how it works PBS?

Speaking of how it works – how does this whole thing work? The only person who ever seems to work in the show is Mr Conductor. He is constantly walking up and down the train checking the tickets that everybody bought. What did they buy them with? Carrion? Money? Mr and Mrs Pteranodon don’t have jobs. Are they recipients of tax welfare? Are you trying to tell me that dinosaurs had money and a welfare state? THAT’S JUST CRAZY!!!!

I know I’ve expressed some concerns about this whole Dinosaur Train organisation but, I’m going to give Mr Conductor the benefit of the doubt, he seems a nice guy. A really nice, cheerful guy.

A really nice, cheerful, intelligent guy.

Too cheerful?

Is Mr Conductor’s cheerfulness a cover for a broken heart?

I just have to wonder, in episode 322 Back In Time they travel all the way back to the Permian (the time period before the Mesozoic), but they don’t ever travel further forward than the Mesozoic. Why?

Because even though they must know their life is but a fleeting blip in the march of time, to travel into the Cenozoic would be to face a truth too cold for their reptilian hearts. It is easy to fool a pteranodon Mr Conductor, but you can’t fool me.

I have two hypotheses as to what is the cause of Mr Conductor’s heart break:

1) No matter how hard he tries he cannot travel any further forward in time. The technology won’t work. The Cenozoic with its mammalian dominant life-forms is off limits to the Dinosaur Train. This torments Mr Conductor. At night, alone, after fretfully picking at his carrion, he lies in bed, staring up at the distant stars and wondering what it is that happens in the Year 186 Million of the Mesozoic. What horror lies ahead? Can it possibly be worse than his imagination?

Or

2) He knows. He knows. Oh, he wishes he didn’t but he does. He can’t forget. He can try, he can put on his whole ‘howdy-doody’ act, he can smile and sing and dance, but every time he yells ‘time tunnel approaching’ he dies a little more inside. Knowing that everything he loves so dear won’t die the gentle death of natural selection but will come to a catastrophic, cataclysmic end. He can’t bear to travel any further forward. It might as well be the end of the world for all he cares. All he can picture is that time he stood close, but not too close, at a convenient-for-sightseeing-but-safe-distance, and watched the intense red and yellow flames streaking through the sky. The enormous BOOM of the impact. The distant blast that knocked him off his feet as he watched the plumes of dust and rock and smoke shoot up into the atmosphere, obliterating the light and suddenly it was cold. So cold.

He couldn’t stay there for long though. He had to get back on the train to poop.

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There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing

How to dress your children for a Danish winter.

Undies
Singlet
Trousers
Long-sleeved t-shirt
Socks
Jersey
Snowsuit
Snow boots
Mittens
Hat

There is your list.

Dressed for winter snow
Dressed for winter snow

Oh, I’m sorry, you meant how do you get your kids dressed in all those layers and layers of clothing? My mistake.

How to dress your children for a Danish winter.

“Come hither my darlings. Let’s go exploring. Let’s go out and play.  Here let me help you.”

Your children come scampering over, eager to co-operate, knowing what fun is ahead. They already have clothes on. They get dressed promptly after breakfast. You lay their snowsuits on the floor, ready for them to step into. You know where all their mittens are. Everything is always kept in its proper place.

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Not just winter – we dress like this in autumn too.

You help AJ while MJ (being four years old) dresses himself. Their excitement does the get better of them briefly. MJ begins to spin in circles instead of getting his shoes on. AJ copies him.
“Ah ha ha” you say, sounding like the narrator from Maisy “What Fun!”
They fall over laughing, and remember that they are supposed to be putting shoes on. Little rascals! On go the shoes, hat, then mittens and, voila! You are ready to go out.

Sorry, sorry, that’s not right either.

How to dress your children for a Danish winter.

Oh shit. You meant to get ready ten minutes ago.

MJ is playing with Duplo. AJ has migrated from drawing on paper, to drawing on the drawing table. She’s wearing a nappy and t-shirt. You grab trousers for your daughter. She sees you coming and runs away yelling
“Chee-chi, chee-chi” Cheeky. It is adorable. Except obviously not right now.

Once you catch her and start wrestling, you ask MJ to also get ready.
“Do you need the toilet?”
“No”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.”
“Really sure?”
“Ye-es.”
“Really, really, really sure?”
“YES!”

Oh well. You’ll just have to accept the consequences of this decision later.

AJ is wearing trousers now, and you begin on her socks.
“MJ, you need to get some socks on.”

He doesn’t go and get socks. You go and get socks. Choosing a pair from the carefully curated sock drawer. Socks in one style, two colours: navy blue and grey. The only socks he will wear. Since they are sold in mix-packs, this is an improvement on the stage where he would only wear the blue ones.  Other socks are too scruffly. I can’t tell you what scruffly means. I can only tell you what scruffly is:

Scruffly is unbearable. Scruffly is something you feel at the depths of your soul. Scruffly cannot merely be said. It must be bayed at the lightbulb, head thrown back, like a wolf howling at a moon. Scruffly must ring out for all the world to hear. And while it echoes through your house, carrying its waves of despair with it, best practice is to throw yourself prostate on the floor and kick your bare feet.

(You have considered bulk buying these socks in enough sizes to last for years as a precautionary measure in case they are discontinued. Or the apocalypse happens and you survive but can only find scruffly socks whilst looting.)

The non-scruffly socks start to go on. There is a further complication. For some unknown reason the store decided to stitch the size in the bottom of the sock. This means tense moments where MJ arranges the sock with the numbers exactly in the middle of his sole. Thanks design geniuses. We definitely needed another hurdle in our routine.

Time for snowsuits. The best way to start is sitting down on the snowsuit laid out on the floor. Helpfully that is exactly where they got dropped yesterday afternoon. Legs go in, kids stand up – sleeves next. MJ can, and usually will, get his arms and legs in. AJ’s legs go in alright, but she needs you to do her sleeves. At this point, for some inexplicable reason her arm goes floppy. She is smiling at you sweetly, but honestly, now is not the time. You insert your fingers at the opposite end, groping up the sleeve until you find her fingers and then you pull.

She’s not smiling now.

You start on the second sleeve while AJ throws herself on the floor, legs flailing. She spins around, while you tug. Congratulations! You are now the epicentre of a toddler break dancing routine. Meanwhile MJ has got his suit on and is struggling with his zip and you can feel the despair building behind you, but you almost… have… the… second… hand… Done!

You offer to help MJ and narrowly avoid a disaster of scruffly-type proportions. Never touch the snowsuit without being asked. Touching it to help without being asked will result in removal of said snowsuit and a repeat of the procedure. You restrain yourself just in time, and look on while he tugs ineffectually at the zip. You hope he doesn’t break it.
“I could just hold the bottom while you pull?”
“Ooh. Yes.” He is pleased at your bright idea. As though this isn’t the same bright idea you use every day.

MJ starts on his boots, and even though you did shake out the boots, the minute he rips the velcro a puddle of sand appears on your minimalist Danish floor. AJ obligingly balances against you while you help her foot into her shoe. She’s relaxed again. Which is a shame as you need her to step down into the boot.
“AJ can you put your foot in the boot, please?”
The foot dangles resolutely at the top.

You try pushing the boot up onto the foot. The angle isn’t exactly right and she protests. You huff and puff, until finally she puts some weight on that foot and the boot goes on. One down. One to go. The process will work exactly the same because your children never learn, and neither, apparently, do you.

You turn to MJ to help him with the boot straps. The essential bit making sure the boot and snowsuit don’t separate and let cold air, or water, in. More sand and grit flakes off onto your floor as you run your fingers along the straps, tucking them under the boots. It is a delicate process. The trick here is to remember that it is impossible to walk with boot straps that are twisted. Impossible. MJ checks them suspiciously once you are done.
“Sådan” he declares, expressing satisfaction with your job.

Well, thank fuck for that.

You throw your jacket and boots on – that’s me done. Then their hats go on. Mercifully easily. Apart from the yelling, of course. As soon as they have their mittens on you can go.

Mittens… Where are the mittens?

Ten sweaty minutes later, you have found the mittens and operation Michelin-children is complete.

You open the door. It is like releasing a cork from a bottle. All the tension dissipates, your children fizz outside.

You are no longer a harassed mother and two young kids. You are no longer contained. Now you are explorers, adventurers, treasure hunters. You can see the possibilities.

walk-cold-appropriate-clothing
Ready to explore

The air crackles with ice-crystals. As the three of you roar, you melt it with your hot breath.

Here be dragons.

 

 

 

 

Welcome aboard

You are held up in traffic on your way to the airport. It’s as though the universe wants you to feel anxious. Miss one turn.

You arrive and join the queue for check-in. Your child’s nappy needs changing. Luckily you roll a Six and have time to run through the airport pulling her shoes off as you go, reach the changing area, clean nappy, and run back, before your husband reaches the front of the queue.

Airport security. You must scan you boarding pass and enter through the gates one at a time. The gate opens and the toddler rushes through first, followed by the preschooler who gets stuck as the gate closes. Miss one turn while airport security let him out.

You manage to control your children while waiting for carry on screening. Miraculously you haven’t forgotten any liquids or picnic knives in your overfull bags. Five.

You’ve got through security in plenty of time. Just in time to read your flight is delayed. Miss one turn.

Duty Free. Race through, nervously keeping children away from hazardous objects and temptingly placed chocolate. One staff member offers you a whisky taster; you turn it down as you rush past. You will regret this decision. One.

You find seats at the gate, but they are not close to the windows. Your children spend most of their time watching planes out of the window anyway. The toddler makes an occasional dash for freedom. Luckily no-one alerts security to your unattended baggage while you are running after her. Five.

child in airport window

Boarding commences. You miss the boarding opportunity for families – because, toilets. You and your husband bicker the whole time you are queuing, whilst walking across the tarmac, and getting on to the plane. But you also successfully juggle passports, boarding passes, bags, and two small children. Three.

You get side-eye from fellow travelers as you claim your seats. You remember you are supposed to bring goody bags to hand out to other passengers to placate them for the inconvenience of you paying to use a form of public transport. You opted not to bring any as you had enough to carry in the form of kid’s books, changes of clothes, and nappies. This is the right choice. You need nappies. Four.

Your preschooler is thrilled with your seats; he has a  window and can see the wing and jet engine behind him. As you zoom up into the air he chuckles watching everything get smaller “The cars look like toys.” You both pretend to pick up houses and trees and cars between your fingers as the plane climbs. When you fly through cloud and come out the other side he gasps “Are we flying all the way to the sun?” Six.

Joy is short lived and  boredom sets in. The kids are fidgety. In a moment of desperation you consider allowing your toddler to kick the seat in front of you repeatedly. This makes you a very bad person. The plane begins to experience turbulence, and now you have to hold your squirming toddler on your lap long enough to truly regret your thought crime. Miss five turns.

Drinks. You booked a low-cost airline and so will have to pay for your coffee. You desperately need this coffee. They don’t have lids. Drinking black coffee out of a paper cup balanced on a tray-table at high altitude whilst sitting with small wriggly hazards humans seems like a terrible idea. You desperately need this coffee. Buy one after all. You do not scald yourself or your children. Six.

Landing. You locate the toddlers dummy, and find toys that will keep them occupied during landing. Your toddler occupies herself by repeatedly dropping the toy through a gap in the seat back and onto the floor. Another passenger repeatedly hands it back to you. Neither of your children are having a hissy fit. It’s tedious, but we’ll call this one a win. Four.

Passport control. The queue is long, but your preschooler announces, loudly, that he needs the toilet. There are no toilets this side of passport control. For once airport staff act humanely and you are fast-tracked. Free roll of the dice.

Baggage collection are advertising a long wait. You find a bench, and sit down next to a well-dressed middle-aged woman and her husband. She asks you how old your children are. Mistake! The talkative preschooler latches on to her and begins to tell her his version of your family history. Take the chance to relax while your husband checks over-sized baggage for the pram. Five.

You relax a little too much and switch back on to realise the toddler is attempting to ‘share’ her breadroll with the well-dressed woman. Sharing involves pushing the breadroll towards her face while the well-dressed woman leans back. ‘Thank you’ she laughs ‘but I don’t eat carbs.’ As she says this you are distracting your child by allowing her to ‘share’ with you. Shame on you for eating anything as hideous as bread. One.

It’s late and you need to feed your kids before you leave the airport. The only thing here is Burger King. You buy over-priced fast food and wonder what the well-dressed lady would think of you now as you eat your fries. The only problem is the kids don’t really like Burger King, so you have to actively encourage them to keep eating the evil-capitalist-crap whilst hiding the crappy plastic toy you don’t want and to this day is still lurking unopened in its wasteful plastic bag somewhere. Finish your kids meal for them. It has been a long day. Two.

Congratulations! You have successfully completed the Game of Air-travel. We recommend our next level game Domestic Train Travel. Estimated playing time: 3hrs and 27mins.

I think, therefore I am.

The following conversation may have at some point become confused with the Phil101 course I took at university. I’ll leave it to your discretion at what point that occurred.

The players:
F: early thirty mother
M: her son three years old
A: ten month old daughter

The setting: a light afternoon snack at the table.

M: Are mice real?
F: Yes. Mice are real.
M: Are they this big? The real mice. Holds finger and thumb approx. 5cm apart Can we see them?
F: Yes. But we don’t have any in our house so there are none here to see.
M: Are tigers real?
F: Yes tigers are real. You saw one at the zoo, remember?
M: Do they come to tea?
F: No, tigers that come to tea aren’t real. Or at least I hope they aren’t.
A: unintelligible roar
M: Are dinosaurs real?
F: Ye-es. Dinosaurs were real. But there aren’t any dinosaurs anymore. They lived before there were people. But they were real.
M: Before the Romans?
F: Yeah. Before any people so, before the Romans.
M: Are dragons real?
F: No. Dragons are a bit like dinosaurs, but they are only in stories. Takes a sip of her single-origin coffee
M: Are witches real?
F: Some people call themselves witches. But they can’t do magic. Only witches in stories can do magic.

Silence, except for the noise of all three snacking on their organic vegetable crudités.

M: Is Santa real?
F: Well, what do you think?
M: I think he is based on the historical figure of Nicholaos of Myra, who lived in Asia Minor during the fourth century, and was therefore real. Sips his artesian  water. Furthermore, his name and penchant for gift-giving live on in the story we call ‘Santa Claus’. You and Daddy use this mysterious ‘Santa Claus’ as the embodiment of the Christmas spirit of generosity, and so in that sense you could say he represents a real thing.
F: Good answer M.

A, overwhelmed by angst, throws her cucumber on the floor.

M: Am I real?
F: I think so.
M: But don’t you know?

F passes around the homemade spelt grissini and a pesto dip.

F: Well, according to Descartes the only thing we can be sure of is whether our own self is real. I know that I think. I think I am sitting here talking to you, but our senses can be unreliable.
M: Meaning?
F: Meaning that from my point of view, I am real. But am I sure that you are real? Your sister is real? This house? Perhaps I am solely a brain in a tank – and everything I perceive is being transmitted to me via external electrical impulses, instead of arising from physical experience. From my point of view, I can only assume you are real, but I have no way of knowing for sure. Of course you could say the same thing about me. It’s a thought experiment.
A: Like Schrödinger’s cat.
F: Exactly, A.
M: Schrödinger’s cat?
F: The one with the cat shut in a box, and while the box is shut we don’t whether the cat is alive or dead.
M: That doesn’t sound very nice for the cat.
F: No. Look, can we leave ethics for tomorrow. I feel we can give it the time it deserves then.
M: Okay. I don’t mind waiting for answers to my questions.

F hands around finger bowls and starched napkins.

 

 

I’m a mummy, I scare people

I’ve been asked to post three photos that show why I love being a mother.

Gosh. Only three?!

Of course I love my little darlings. But motherhood is so much more fulfilling than smiling photos of my cherubs could show. In fact sometimes I feel the state of ‘motherhood’ is important than the unique ‘personhood’ of my own children.

And there is so much a photo can’t show. Like the beautiful pitter patter of feet on the way to your bedroom at 3am. The triumph of getting pram buckles closed while your baby is planking. The sense of superiority I get from my son learning to use the word ‘Fuck’ correctly in a sentence before his so called peers.

But I don’t want to sound like I think I’m too good for this sort of thing. So here we go.

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I love knowing no matter how much time I spend picking things up my daughter’s curiosity means she’ll instantly find something else to spread over the floor. Dvds, duplo, plastic containers in the kitchen, the contents of our change bag if I forget to zip it up. Books are a special favourite; I love seeing those getting good use. And while I’m at it, I love reading; I’ve always been a re-reader of old favourites. What a joy when I discovered the hidden depths of Thomas and The Bumpy Line. And you know Mr Skinny is very funny, Every Single Time we read it.

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I love watching my children turn there dreams into reality. Little A has had her eye on the drain for a while. Today, I went to get the camera as her brother was having fun playing in the sink. She seized the moment and I returned with said camera to see this. Oh those cheeky monkeys, I can’t turn my back for a second. No seriously. Because while I was changing her into dry clothes, her brother washed the soap.image_1 I managed to find some pieces, as you can see. The rest of them turned up when my husband unscrewed the pipes later. What larks!

Cooking has always given me great pleasure. That pleasure has only been deepened by the addition of whining for snacks. Of course I have to say No, otherwise they won’t eat their dinner later. Or they can nibble on healthy veges while they wait. I’m no angel though, sometimes they do test my willpower. So while they chomp down on cucumber slices, what I love most is knowing about this packet of chippies I keep on the top shelf…

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