"Hey! We could take the kids to the zoo tomorrow!" my wonderful wife blurts out suddenly in the middle of the movie. Friday night is "Pizza and Movie" night around here, wherein we are allowed to eat an unhealthy dinner of pizza and drink soda and watch a movie. It is one of the few times during the week that we don't eat around the table, and allow the TV to be on while we eat.
I don't hear her at first. My mouth is full of pizza and the movie is at an extremely tense moment. Plus, I don't think I want to have heard her. I grunt and nod, hoping that I misunderstood her. Hoping against hope that she has instead suggested getting a tattoo on my face or going in for some voluntary root canals.
"Didn't you hear me?" Perceptive. That is what my wife is. Pulling my eyes away from the screen I stop chewing my food for an instant and shake my head.
"Let's take the kids to the zoo tomorrow! It is supposed to be good weather, and we don't have anything else to do. What do you think?"
This is one of THOSE questions. Guys know what I am talking about. Very similar to the one about the new pants and whether they have caused inadvertent weight gain. Much like the one about a new hairdo. The kind of question that you MUST answer correctly, ignoring the knowledge that you are an outright liar.
I nod my head, and mumble around the pizza in my mouth: "Sounds like a great idea. Let's do it!"
Saturday, 8:07 AM -- Awakened by small child (Child #3) smacking me in the forehead and asking if we are going to the zoo today. Repeated attempts to convince the child that plans have changed are interrupted by child's mother reminding me that she wants to leave the house no later than 10:00. Stifling a laugh and/or sarcastic retort I climb out of bed.
-8:10 AM -- I am back asleep on the downstairs couch when another small child (Child #2) decides that Daddy is not comfortable sleeping all by himself. Climbing up and inserting himself between me and the couch, he proceeds to wiggle and talk to himself until I am actually awake. When I sit up he starts crying. "Nobody ever wants to cuddle with me!" I try to comfort him, but he is still crying when Mommy walks in and he runs to her. "What's wrong?" she asks. He just points at me and cries harder, obviously communicating in that sweet way mothers and children have, that I have just viciously abused him and that he will never be the same and that we will be paying for therapy long after we are dead. She pats his back and scowls at me. "Can't you try to be cheerful this morning?" I try to protest, but this only proves how grouchy I am being this morning. In the middle of trying to demonstrate how cheerful I am, she notices that I am still in my pajamas. "Why aren't you dressed yet?" I have just lost the first battle of the day. The first of many.
-10:00 AM -- Still in my pajamas, I am loading up the dishwasher as ordered. Well, I have loaded up all of the dishes except the ones the kids are still eating off of at the table. Mommy is outside cleaning out the van for the trip. Child #1 is entertaining her three younger siblings with a tale of a previous trip to the zoo, wherein she saw the monkey expressing his dislike of humans by throwing..."Hey! We don't need to hear that story this morning. Princesses don't have to resort to potty humor." She finishes the story as if I am not there. I seem to be invisible this morning. Mommy comes in with an armful of stuff from the van. "Are you still in your pajamas? We are supposed to have left by now!" I gesture at the table as if to indicate how much it is not my fault we have not left. But I am apparently still invisible, except for my pajamas.
-11:15 AM -- We are in the van. In the driveway. Seconds before actually backing out, Child #3 realized that he had to go potty. I am not complaining. It could have been ten minutes down the interstate.
-11:25 AM -- Child #2 has to go to the bathroom. "Number TWO Daddy!" he informs me when I express frustration that he didn't go before we left. Naturally, he didn't have to go Number Two then. That urge has developed in the last ten minutes.
-11:30 AM -- I stand guard outside the stall in a grimy truck-stop bathroom, trying not to make eye contact with the men who come and go. Every so often I shout encouragement to my son over the stall divider, hoping against hope that the other patrons of this charming establishment will understand what I am doing standing in the bathroom apparently with nothing to do. I also try to persuade my son that it would be okay for me to come in the stall with him, but that idea goes over like a lead balloon. "Ewww Dad!"
-11:35 AM -- Still in the bathroom.
-11:40 AM -- Back at the van, accelerating up the on-ramp. Child #3 realizes that he must also make #2. NOW.
-11:45 AM -- Another truck-stop bathroom. (See 11:30 AM entry.)
-12:15 PM -- Stopped at Wal-Mart to "pick up a few things we forgot".
-12:59 PM -- Finish stuffing $257.39 worth of groceries, toys, and house wares in the back of the van. ("I can't believe these are on sale!")Move the jogging stroller from behind the seat to the roof rack and secure it in place with shoelaces from my shoes. ("No honey, we don't need to bring the cargo straps. We aren't putting anything on the roof.")
-1:03 PM -- The Wal-Mart bathroom is much cleaner than the ones at the truck stop. A much higher class of people too. Much easier to avoid eye contact.
-2:00 PM -- We finally arrive at the zoo. The parking lot is full.
-2:30 PM -- Three blocks away from the zoo, we finally find an empty parking meter. We begin to tumble out of the van. I am trying to untie the shoestring cargo straps securing the stroller to the roof, while Mommy puts shoes on kids, and keeps them from running into traffic. This is not easy, as the kids have been cooped up in the van for a couple of hours, and their batteries are fully charged. I finally cut the shoestrings and unfold the stroller and begin stuffing various coolers, bags, blankets, coats, into its pockets. I even manage to save some room for the two youngest. (Well, if they don't mind holding some stuff on their laps.) After a quick headcount, we rescue Child #2 from the tree he has climbed and start the final trek to the zoo.
-2:45 PM -- The Zoo! Admission for two adults and four children: The cost of one semester of Ivy League tuition. ("Your contribution to the Zoo Society is Tax Deductible!")
-2:50 PM -- The Zoo bathroom has murals of animals on the walls. I pretend to be an art critic, studying the painter's technique.
-3:00 PM -- We have lost track of Child #3. While refereeing a fight between Child #1 and #2 over who would get to see the hippo first, he seems to have slipped out of the stroller and wandered off. I tell my wife to stay put and see if he returns, while I run off searching for him. I frighten several other families by staring intently at their children. I run up to a Zoo employee and gasping for breath, tell him I can't find my son. He shrugs his shoulders and tells me to try the lost and found. I am pondering the possible consequences of punching him when my phone rings. It is my wife. Child #2 was hiding under a picnic table next to the stroller.
-3:05 PM -- I return to the spot where I left my family, but they are no longer there. I call my wife's cell phone, but Child #4 answers. She refuses to give the phone to Mommy, instead regaling me (in two-year-old speak) with tales of... well I don't understand much of what she says except for "poop". I hear the sound of monkeys in the background though, so I figure they must be somewhere near the primate house.
-4:00 PM -- Having toured the primate house, the giraffe house, the reptile house, and the "Naked Mole Rat" exhibit, I still have not found my family. (The naked mole rats are kind of frightening, too...) My wife calls my cell phone to ask where in the world I am and to wonder if I know how hard it is to keep track of four kids all by herself. I ask where she is, and she tells me: in the primate house.
-4:05 PM -- I arrive at the primate house just in time to meet my wife rushing out, holding Child #4 in one hand, pushing the stroller containing Child #3 with the other. Child #1 and #2 are for once silent and keeping close to their mother. I immediately suspect something has happened.
-4:06 PM -- "We have to go now." My wife says, with that tight-lipped face that I have learned never to argue with. I don't even want to ask questions.
-4:10 PM -- Rushing past the souvenir shop, Children #1 - 4 begin pleading to "just look" at the toys. Seeing my wife's face, I don't think that is a good idea. Promising each of them their own personal toy store if they will just drop it, I convince them to keep walking.
-4:15 PM -- As we are leaving the Zoo, several emergency vehicles enter with lights and siren flashing. My wife realizes that her shoe is untied and leans down to tie it. I suspect this is a lie, as she is wearing sandals.
-4:30 PM -- We stop at McDonalds for food. Due to our hasty retreat from the Zoo, we didn't get a chance to eat the picnic lunch. My wife REALLY doesn't want to discuss it right now.)
-6:00 PM -- We have made it home without any bathroom stops! The kids all fell asleep right after we tossed their Happy Meals back to them. I have tried several times to broach the subject of the monkey house with my wife, but it seems to make her rather sleepy too, as she suddenly yawns and falls asleep muttering something about "...then you will have to testify."
-6:05 -- The kids are grouchy at being woke up, but are straggling into the house. While unbuckling Child #4, I find out that her diaper has experienced what we call "blowout". I hand her to Mommy and start taking the seat out of the van.
-10:00 PM -- The kids are in bed, the car seat cover is banging noisily in the dryer, and I am relaxing on the couch eating some cold pizza left over from Friday night and watching TV. My wife comes in and cuddles up close to me.
"So, what should we do next weekend?"
-- Tyler Willson