Notes to Self: Going to the Zoo

1. If the carefree urge and/or guilt that you should be out and doing something on a beautiful mild and warm spring day hits you, don't let the fact that it took you until afternoon nap time to get dressed and out of the house keep you from going. It is really not as ill-fated as it would seem. In fact, it might be one of your best trips ever.

2. Don't go to see anything specific. Just wander. Follow the signs and the boys. Forget the map. You'll see and enjoy more of the animals than you ever have before.

3. Remember how good it feels to pack light - the umbrella stroller for one was perfect, and the little backpack with a diaper, lots of wipes and some drinking water was all you needed and it fit just right hanging on the back of the stroller. You were never loaded down or annoyed by too much gear the whole day, and never needed any of the contingency items you might have otherwise hauled around for hours.

4. Don't be surprised if the highlight of the day for the boys (and probably most of the onlookers) is the drinking fountain that overshoots its basin. To quote Henry, "It's yike a waterfall of waindwops on my head!"

5. When their dad isn't there to talk sense, you can learn that $3 for cotton candy isn't the ridiculous waste that it may seem to be. One time is all it takes for them to really get disillusioned with sugar in fluff form and the yucky sticky-finger-and-face after effect, and they will never ask for it again. Splurge once and the cotton candy stand never holds the same allure. You've successfully eliminated one source of the plaintive, "Pllllleeeeeeaaaaaase?!" we all know and love.

6. Sometimes your love for your children will be sorely tested, like when you are standing in a dark, small, insanely crowded and smothering, sweltering invertebrate house holding your lead-butted two-year-old up, waiting for them to feed the octopus they were supposed to feed ten minutes ago. Breathe if you can. You are not going to die. It will all be OK once you hear the 4 year-old come out of the crowd by the tank exclaiming how cool it was. Normal breathing will resume and claustrophobic overheating madness will dissipate right as you get to the exit. And you will manage to be delighted by the fabulous indoor butterfly garden by the door in which the 2-year-old goes wild with excitement at the hundreds of butterflies and he flits after them, finding each new one more fabulous than the first.

7. Next time when you are very pregnant pushing an umbrella stroller with one small boy in it and one boy zigzagging inches in front of the wheels, wear some really svelte maternity yoga/exercise type clothes. That way even more people will smile, talk to you and ask you if you are having a girl this time. And if you're dressed right, when that one lady stares at you while saying none too quietly to her friend, "I bet she's burning a lot of calories," you can flash her a big ol' glowing pregnant grin and give her a thumbs up in a hearty gesture of, "Dang straight!" Instead of merely blowing the sweaty bangs off your forehead and wishing you could grab the ice cream bar right out of her hand and swallow it whole.

8. If Calvin ever asks you a perplexing question and you don't know the answer, don't feel too much pressure. He might actually just be testing you, like he did to a random zoo-goer today:

Cal: What's this animal called?
Random Zoo-Goer: (glancing at the random boy talking to him, then looking for a sign with the scientific name of the R.O.U.S. in question, and finding none) Uh, I don't know.
Cal: (shaking his head, rolling his eyes just a bit and giving a crooked, matter-of-fact smile) Uh, I'm pretty sure it's a capybara.

9. If you stay just a leeeetle too long, even after a marvelously surprising pleasant day, and then say no to the "Pllllleeeeeeeaaaase can I get some popcorn?" someone will stomp the entire way to the car and scream, "I hate you," every time the thought of the popcorn strikes him. Don't take it personally and don't buy the popcorn - it feels good to be in charge like that.

10. If you happen to drive instead of take the Metro and all the parking lots are overflowing when you get there, it's not so bad, after all, that you had to scrounge up a parking place in the lot furthest in. It's actually lowest in elevation, so you had the uphill walk when you and the kids were fresh and enthusiastic, and it's all downhill when your bangs were sweaty and the kids were exhausted.

11. There are days when you will feel competent and so cool as a mom, like when you pull off a wonderful and enjoyable day at the zoo. And there are days when you will feel like the sorriest excuse for a maternal unit in the history of the universe. Just hold on to the zoo days, congratulate yourself on being able to make even a few of them happen, and try to get over the rest. Then hope your kids will do the same.


someone else said...

You're a brilliant writer. I was transported to the scene just reading this. Sounds like a successful day out, sweaty bangs and all.

Angela said...

I am seriously in awe that you pulled this off. Lived to tell and reported on it so positively! I'm still swearing about last week's trip to the grocery story. I'm just not a nice lady at this stage.

Also, I still love cotton candy. Maybe because I never got it when I was 4. I always think my kids will be thrilled when I try to treat them to it and they can't be bothered--so much work, so little enjoyment.

An Ordinary Mom said...

Your writing talent and your ability to paint a picture is AMAZING! Thanks for sharing your talent with us and I hope you have many a happy "zoo" days to come. It is all about appreciating what life throws us.

Blog Antagonist said...

LOL! This was funny because it's so true. I can't even begin to count how many of our outings ended up that way. What an entertaining account of something we all experience at some time or another.

Anonymous said...

What a great post! You are such a creative writer! Glad you had some wonderful moments at the zoo!

The Amazing Trips said...

This sounds like a RAGING success, to me!

I wish you lived next door so we could go to the zoo, together. Then we'd surely get all kinds of fun stares & hopefully, lots of free ice cream!!!

Millie said...

"too much gear" and "it feels good to be in charge" - AMEN.

Good for you. Pretty soon it won't just be two kids and yourself to get ready. (You needed to hear that, didn't you?)

KatieBug said...

I love the r.o.u.s bit. The capybaras are one of our favorites. So glad you had a fun time!

Ice Cream said...

The capybara conversation has me in stitches! My daughter does that all the time. I prefer it when she does it to strangers and not me =). Thank you for the wonderful Zoo handbook. I have printed it and will take it with me next time we go too the zoo!

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

What a terrific mom you are! Good for you for getting out there with the boys -- I had to literally drag myself to do ANYTHING when I was pregnant. Sounds like a great day, and the capybara comment would totally have made it all worth it for me. :)

Pam said...

Oh, I love absolutely everything about this post - especially number 11! It's so true and I love those days when I really, honestly feel like I am the best mom in the world and that everyone must have thought I was insane to try to pull off all the craziness I was able to fit into the day but I did it none the less and I did it incredibly well:) I wish those days were more often but hey, take what you can get, right?

Job well done!!!

Unknown said...

Oh, this is great. The packing light is my favorite tip. I never do this, and there's generally no reason not to.

Super Happy Girl said...

"Uh, I'm pretty sure it's a capybara."

Dang straight!

Jennifer @ Fruit of My Hands said...

I really really love & relate to #6.

Sketchy said...

"it feels good to be in charge like that."

I'm taking notes! Heck I may even print this out for future zoo/anything else remotely similar reference.