Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Things That Amused Me/Happened at the Maryland Zoo

By the last day of our ELEVEN DAY LONG spring break I was desperate to get out of my house. By that point in our "vacation," I would have taken the munchkins on a day-long trip to a pottery and crystal gallery if it would have kept them out of the house long enough for them to stop shouting at each other about not wanting to share their things.

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.

Not to be confused with the National Zoo;
probably to be confused with the Baltimore Zoo, which is what it used to be called.

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, 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.

He did stop to take a thorn out of this lion's paw, which was hard,
considering the paw was made out of iron.

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 is ridonkulous how much food he can pack away.

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?

Do I encourage my kids to raise the popcorn victoriously
over their heads in a fist pump of joy?

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.

Does anyone else wish that there were Dharma Initiative
hatches and whatnot in this habitat?

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.

Because I'm six, I yelled, "He's scratching his butt on the rocks!"
and, like, ten kids came running over.

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.

It is of the horrifyingly scary wolf spider 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.

This is Jack mind melding with one of those 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!

Way to show your gratitude, kiddos!

At least I have Jack in my corner.

Turns out that his Biggest Train Smile is kinda goofy.

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.

He attracted a surprisingly small amount of attention.
And, yes, I know it's gross. I don't really care.

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 opted for something even messier.

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).

There was probably a full serving left on Quinn's face after he was done eating.

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.

I did not photograph the obscenities. You are welcome.

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.

These things.

Then it was off to the penguins, who did all kinds of cute waddling around, but not enough jumping in the water for Quinn.

This one did work the audience by swimming through cherry blossoms.

Then off to the cheetahs, because come on, cheetahs. The Cheetah Cheetah is in the background of this photo of Cheetah Jack.

Cheetah Jack's expression is better though.

I also really liked this bird. This bird had giving the Whale Eye down to a science.

It seemed like hard work to be this bird though.

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.

Sam is waaaay up in the front. Quinn continues to levitate.

This "5-10 minute walk" took a lot longer for us. Why? This:

Jack meanders like it is his motherfucking job.

And then just because I love this photo because it is very Sam and Quinn.

Sam is being crazy swinging our sweatshirt and Quinn has lost a shoe.

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.

I'll take it.

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.


  1. So I do the "one kid, two kid" thing too. In my own backyard.
    Speaking of which, after reading this I think we will be spending the rest of our break in the backyard.
    I'm glad Jack was okay. I know that instant panic.

  2. Good lord woman, not only would I have sent them back to school I would have gotten up early, stuffed them all in the minivan myself and hit the eject button at the schools curb without slowing down.  Or at least that's what I did in my mind after our spring break was over.    

    Next time you're there, see if you can get the kids to ride Alsan, then Algernon can play Reepicheep.   I have no idea what part of my brain that just came from but I'm going with it.  

    Spring breaks are not meant for adults.... I'm glad you survived.  

  3. Your post has made me crazy-happy, thank you.  I love that Jack was found safe, I adore Algernon and the Lion, I think it's awesome that you took them all to the zoo despite them not wanting to go (though I was sure it would end up being a "I left them with Alex and went to the zoo by myself, yay!").  I even love Jack sunning himself on the rocks. He looks so peaceful.
    The spiders creep me out though. Thank you for not getting close-ups.

  4. I think your 3 boys are good indicators of what mine will be like in a few years. Sam swinging the sweatshirt 100 feet ahead, and Quinn running to and fro are totally my oldest and youngest. And Jack sunning himself?! Totally my middle son.

    you are brave. Going to the zoo solo with the 3 kids makes me break out in hives!

  5. Sending hugs for those moments when the heart was dancing on the pavement in search of Jack. We know all too well what that feels like, and good for you to go ask for help (even if they didn't actually get you any). I so wish we had gone with you. Only it would have been a real disaster, because... well, you know the because. (I mean two adults, five kids, two of them autistic and tendencies to wander... you get the picture).  

    And thank you again for Joey's present. We are presenting it to him tomorrow in grand ceremony, when he goes Two Full Days Without Saying "Fuck", and the new case for it arrives. :) He is going to be SO in love with you. But that's only fair, since I am Jack's kind of woman. ;) 

  6. Oh SO familiar! Yes, we too have one hare and one tortoise, making it impossible to watch both simultaneously. And I have VIVID memories of standing outside a motorway services loo waiting in vain for our eldest (AS with OCD hand washing issues) to emerge. Every guy that went in while I waited looked like a potential child attacker. I took the boys in with me until they were almost as tall as me. Now we also make VERY clear plans about where to wait and what to do if I'm not there. I've also learnt to 'go' really fast!! 

  7. I am so glad I only have one to focus on wrangling! They are pretty cute, but just reading this post raised my blood pressure. You are very brave. That zoo looks like fun, even though they are drowning their penguins in cherry blossoms.

  8. Awesome day.

    You are funny and make me laugh.

    1)  Jack eats popcorn like I eat popcorn, only he doesn't jam as much in his mouth at once as I do.  He should work on that.
    2)  Quinn eats cotton candy like. . . well not like me.  Did you go all Alicia Silverstone on the cleanup, or did you have wipes?

  9. Oh, the bathroom visits. My oldest is a girl. I could have planned that better...

    I still have PTSD from the last museum trip we took. My middlen sat down BEHIND a display in the gift shop 3 feet away from me "to wait" and had no idea we spent 20 minutes looking for him. BTW, security is GREAT at the Air and Space Museum as soon as you say autism. It also helps that, 9 years into my aspie kid adventure, I take a picture as we are getting out of the car so I can remember what he's wearing.

    Let me know if you ever want pictures of your kids hiking in upstate New York, New Orleans, or Southern Virginia. You can photoshop your kids faces right on top of my kids bodies and it will be just like you were there yourself!

  10. That pic of Quinn with cotton candy debris smeared all over his face made me so hungry for cotton candy I went and ate the rest of my kid's sub-par, store bought chemically tasting  cotton candy she got for Easter. And now i want more.

  11. Oh, crap, I was laughing sooooo hard at this one.  I especially love that you yelled, "The Polar bear is rubbing his butt!"  I would have done something similar.  I often laugh about farts, etc with my kids, knowing I am extremely inappropriate, but I can't help it.  And I love that pic of Jack with the popcorn.  Made me laugh.    

  12.  Sometimes I do it inside my house.

  13.  You're so right. How did I not force them to sit on that damn lion?

  14.  And your comment has made ME crazy happy. :)

  15.  Those few years help a lot. I don't know that I would have done it two or three years ago. Or, actually, I probably did and it turned out terribly. :) Gotta keep trying, right?

  16.  I don't know if I could go two full days without saying fuck, even if there were a prize involved. :)

  17. Yep. It sucks to do the standing outside the bathroom waiting and waiting and waiting thing. I'm just grateful that I have other boy children too.

  18.  Zoos are so mean to penguins.

  19.  1. Let's all take a moment to remember how Jack choked on a slab of bacon. Wonder how that happened?
    2. Neither. I made him lick himself until he was less sticky and then he eventually found a sink.

  20.  Oh, that is so terrible. Like, they're all unconcerned because they know where YOU are and meanwhile you have already seen your kid's photograph on the news in your imagination. So scary. Glad your kiddo is okay.

  21.  Ha! Good cotton candy really only exists in a few places. You know you're desperate when you break into the kids' Easter candy. I did that last week.

  22.  Based on the reactions to everything I yelled at the zoo that day, the bear scratching his butt was the most interesting thing that happened.

  23. Ha! What a day. I actually forgot Baltimore had a zoo. I want to say I went there as a kid with my grandparents (who lived near there) but I can't swear to it. National Zoo was always so close...

  24.  Yeah, and aside from parking, it's free. The zoo in Baltimore is NOT. It turned into a pretty pricey day. But we had a good time and no one yelled much at anyone else, so I would say it was worth it.

  25. Between the snacks, merchandise  and either parking or metro, it never ends up actually being free. OK everyone once in a while I pack a lunch for the boys, and stay strong on the cotton candy and stuffed and animals. 

  26.  True. Free is rarely free. Although I think I've managed to keep my kids from knowing that there is a gift shop there. But I can't say no to cotton candy. Because the photo ops are so good.

  27. You know what? I'm exhausted reading this!

  28. I think you mean Code Adam? I used to work at Home Depot; there was a protocol, but everyone there was shamefully undertrained in it. It was kind of scary the couple of times we had one called.

  29. I didn't actually spill my tea (from laughing) until I got to the tire/tiger part. Which just goes to show my magnificent self-control.

  30. What is it about autism and being so S L O W moving?  Is it that they are lost inside their head so they move slower outside their world then in ours?  I REALLY get you on this one!

  31.  Totally. Some of these kids quite literally march to their own beats. :)


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