Fortunately, there were places other than the pottery and crystal gallery open that day. In fact, one of those places that was open fit my criteria of being a place you could shout in, somewhere that had food, a place where it was hard to break things, and was a fair distance away from my house so I could strap my kids quietly into the car for a good amount of time on the way there and back.
Algernon went too. He was going to have all kinds of adventures at the zoo, but it turns out that once I had to start doing the “one kid, two kid, three kid…one kid, two kid, three kid…” routine all by myself at a brand new to us location, Algernon decided he wanted to hang out in my bag and not bother coming out. Funny that.
Going anywhere with my three kiddos is totally an exercise in hilarity and that day at the zoo was no exception. I was all excited that morning, so I was surprised when my enthusiastic, “WHO WANTS TO GO TO THE ZOO?!?!” was met with, “Meh,” and “Not me,” and “NOOOOOOO!!!!”
For reals. It’s like I was asking if I could take them to the broccoli factory.*
Fortunately, I don’t much give a damn what they want to do, so I stuffed them in the car and dragged them down there anyway. I did make one really good decision, which was to take a bag of cheesy popcorn with us, which distracted Quinn for at least an hour.
It also made us at least one enemy in the tram line where the kids behind us watched my kids snarfing up their snack and started demanding food from their mother. I never know what to do in those situations. Do I offer some popcorn to the mom to give to her kids? Do I pretend like I don’t hear them? Do I shrug guiltily and look away?
The reason I chose to take them to the Maryland Zoo instead of the National Zoo is because (1) we have never been there, so I figured it would be new and exciting, and (2) they have polar bears and penguins. I figured that these things would make up for the fact that you have to pay admission.
They did. Polar bears are awesome.
I was a little disappointed that the polar bear wasn’t swimming and diving and being otherwise awesome, but he did rub his butt up against some rocks, so that was entertaining.
The Maryland Zoo isn’t all smiles and sunshine and polar bears and penguins. There is also a cave, which sounds awesome if you like caves (and I do) and it kind of is awesome, but it is also REALLY dark. I only took one photo in the cave, because…hello, dark—and it is not of the fuzzy bear or interesting stalactite variety.
The only reason I share that with you (because, frankly, even *I* would stop visiting my blog if there were regular photos of spiders on it; in fact, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to read this particular post again because of this photo) is to illustrate how goddamn dark that cave was. Imagine my “one kid, two kid, three kid…” count in the pitch black. Then picture Jack finding every single tiny corner nook and hiding the deepest crooks of each of them.
Sometimes I think the people who design these things are just laughing at us parents.
It is a minor miracle that I didn’t lose anyone in there among the wolf spiders and shadows.
From there, it was just a short trip past a collapsed bridge (for real), a slide in a tree-shaped building that my kids refused to come out of, and several photographs of common ducks later, until we made it to the petting farm. The petting farm consisted entirely of goats.
Aside: That photo takes my breath away every time I look at it. Jack has a thing with animals. I’m not entirely sure the goat was on board with the gazing into each others’ souls thing, but Jack was.
After the goats and the hand washing that followed, we went on the train. Now, I’m going to drop a tip on you here: Unless your kids are really into trains, you can skip this one at the Maryland Zoo. You don’t really see many animals and it is a pretty short trip for the $3/ticket cost.
Fortunately, my kids are into trains, so I felt that the trip was money…spent. In much the same way as my children were super excited when I asked if they wanted to go to the zoo, they were equally excited when I told them to give me their Biggest Train Smiles!
At least I have Jack in my corner.
From there, we headed over to lunch. It was chilly during our day at the zoo, so I let my kids sit in the sun at a table while I bought their lunch and kept an eye on them (“one kid, two kid, three kid…”). They ate their food and then Jack evidently decided that sitting on a bench didn’t make him warm enough, so he sought heat iguana-like on the pavement.
After lunch it was time for what I had been dreading: The Bathroom.
Those of you with opposite gendered children understand what I am talking about here. Sam can go into bathrooms by himself and Quinn is still young enough to seem appropriate in the women’s restroom with a parent. Then there is Jack. He is almost nine. He sticks out if I take him with me into a public restroom. I’ve gotten looks from Judgey McHaterpants for doing so. He is usually fine by himself in public restrooms, but sometimes he dawdles and doesn’t come out and I hate making it Sam’s responsibility to drag him out.
Normally I send them all into the men’s bathroom together and carefully watch the door to catch them on their way out, but if I am going to the bathroom as well and won’t necessarily be at the door when they come out, I don’t like sending Jack and Quinn in. God only knows where they would go if they came out and I wasn’t there.
Therefore, I told Jack and Quinn that they were coming to the women’s restroom with me and Sam that he would go to the men’s room by himself and then we would all meet just outside the bathroom.
But then as we approached the bathrooms with our plan in place, Sam spotted the family restroom (the savior of families like mine) and suggested we use it. I turned for a second to see where the bathroom was, turned back around, started my headcount (“one kid, two kid…”), and realized Jack wasn’t there anymore.
I sent Sam to check in the men’s room and I went to check in the women’s room because I couldn’t think where else Jack would have gone. I was so explicit about our bathroom instructions, that we were Going to The Bathroom, this is how we are Going to The Bathroom, and with whom and in what order we were Going to The Bathroom, so I couldn’t imagine him heading off to the goats or the train or to be eaten by the lions or whatever.
But, the truth remained, Jack was missing, he was not in the women’s room, and Sam said he was not in the men’s room. Just like on Loon Day, I passed the point when I was trying to quietly deal with the situation by myself.
My natural instinct is to not draw attention to myself, so it went against every part of me to do what I did next, which was to shove my way to the front of the line at the ice cream booth to report my missing child, something the teenagers there were ill-prepared to hear. I tried to spur them into action by using scary words like “eight years old” and “autistic.”
They claimed to be “calling someone,” so I returned to scanning the area for either Jack or a more responsible adult zoo employee who would understand that TIME IS OF THE MOTHERFUCKING ESSENCE HERE, PEOPLE.
It was shortly after this point when I spotted Jack sitting criss-cross-applesauce very obediently on the ground in front of the men’s room, where he had apparently been the whole time. (Dammit, Sam, we have to work on your search and rescue skillz.)
“You told me to go to the bathroom,” he said.
I shoved my way to the front of the ice cream line one more time to cancel the Amber Alert I had instigated and which had never materialized, then we went back to the family restroom and Jack and I had a little heart to heart and I pulled myself together.
Then we stood in the ice cream line where I ended up paying a tremendous amount of money for ice cream for my kids just because I was so happy that all three of my kids were still present and accounted for and I didn’t even give them the lecture about how if they were cold, ice cream would make them even colder.
Quinn was going to save some of his cotton candy for Alex, because Alex likes cotton candy. I convinced him that it was unnecessary to do so (mostly because I would have had to drag it all over Baltimore).
After we Went to The Bathroom and ate/smeared our desserts, we headed over to the chimpanzees, where we saw some extremely inappropriate behavior.
Seriously. It was a scene. Feeding time seemed to get them sexually excited.
There were also lions and an elephant that was trying to eat the (greener, literally) grass on the other side of the fence and the elephant that was playing with a tire (I originally wrote “tiger” instead of “tire,” which, honestly, would have been even cooler) and there were more ducks and some other birds and I actually gave my kids quarters to look through those stupid things that look like alien faces but that you are never quite able to find what you are looking for through them.
Then it was off to the penguins, who did all kinds of cute waddling around, but not enough jumping in the water for Quinn.
Then off to the cheetahs, because come on, cheetahs. The Cheetah Cheetah is in the background of this photo of Cheetah Jack.
I also really liked this bird. This bird had giving the Whale Eye down to a science.
So, the way the Maryland Zoo is set up, the entrance is either a tram ride or a short walk to the actual exhibits. We took the tram in the morning, but the line was really long in the afternoon, so we decided to walk back. Unfortunately, my kids have all kinds of different speeds. Sam is Mr. Fast and Jack is Mr. Slow and Quinn is Mr. Travel Twice the Distance by Running Back and Forth.
This “5-10 minute walk” took a lot longer for us. Why? This:
And then just because I love this photo because it is very Sam and Quinn.
After we had looked at all the animals, I asked if everyone had had fun and they grudgingly admitted that they had. So then I asked them if they could show their gratitude by smiling in unison and not looking crazy for a photo for me.
This is as close as they got.
There is the last day of spring break. Now perhaps you understand why I was so happy to send them back to school.
* a.k.a. the “farm”
Thank you to Kirstin G. for your donation to the Cheetahs. You all make me so happy. Thank you, my loves.