Ah yes... that time of year when school is out and the pressure is on to organize summertime activities to keep the kids from getting cabin fever.
Early July always starts off as usual... the best of intentions. Notions of visiting a different wading pool around the city every Wednesday, Library visit every other Tuesday, picnic at the park every other Thursday, free bowling (Kids Bowl Free program) every Monday, etc... The occasional "big deal" trips such as a Tinkertown, water slides, Zoo, Children's Museum, so on and so forth. The possibilities for making it a memorable summer are endless. But the challenge lies in the timing between nursings, snacks, meals and naps. But who isn't up for a challenge in this family, right?
Apparently I live in a world of ideas which seem to rarely transform into action. And what good are the ideas if you cannot make them happen? What is the old saying about the road paved with good intentions? (Nervous laugh). So I resolved to make these activities happen to the very best of my ability (singular here because at this stage of my life, I feel like I have only one ability left!).
I registered our children with the Kids Bowl Free program and was pleased to see that two more alleys had joined the program. One, of which, was much more conveniently located than the one from last year. Awesome! We're set for some Monday fun (said my Good Intentions brain)!
First off, I figured a trip to the zoo would be great. Izzy was at daycare so we'd have to drive into the city to pick her up anyways... why not make it a zoo-trip day? The only vehicle we own that fits eight of us is the old Suburban, which has no working air conditioning. Given the fact that air conditioning was a near pre-nup must-have for me, a vehicle without air conditioning is an eye-twitch factor for me. Not to mention, it is rather challenging to get Izzy in and out of the Suburban particularly in comparison to our modified van with turn seat!!
But hey, at least we HAVE a vehicle that fits most of us!
I checked the weather and it was to be a high of 22 degrees. Perfect. By the time I finished nursing, changed some diapers, packed snacks for the kids, packed Izzy's stroller and the double stroller, filled water bottles and sippy cups, loaded Ethan's Emergency backpack (epipen & Benadryl), refilled the diaper bag and found a place for that, too, including hats and sunscreen... it was about an hour later and we were ready to load all the kids. Antoinette and Melina were my helping hands which is the only reason I felt this task could be tackled in the first place. Duane was working a day shift.
I had a chicken in the crockpot so that supper would be easily set out despite having to nurse upon our return, Izzy given her water and feeding bag setup, diapers changed and potty breaks enforced. It would be hectic and there wouldn't be much time but hopefully it would all be worth it!
Alright kids, here we go!
Sweat was soon dripping down my face as we drove, particularly when we discovered major construction and traffic issues. What should have been a fifty minute drive became nearly two hours! Wiping the sweat off my face, I turned to Antoinette and asked "Good grief... what is the temperature??" to which a quick glance to her iPhone confirmed my fear... it was well passed 22 degrees and was now 28 and rising!! Avalyn was crying in her car seat and a quick look in the rear view mirror revealed red-faced children looking exhausted before even arriving to the zoo! Windows opened too much made poor Sivana look like she was having seizures trying to breathe! I could feel the tick in my right eye...
Finally, we arrived at the zoo and so we commenced the unloading of the children. Its description could rival a circus act, if you ask me! Antoinette get's Isabel's stroller while I get the double stroller. Diaper bag, Ethan backpack, purses, water bottles and hats while Izzy's backpack with emergency meds for seizures are loaded on her stroller. Baby Avalyn next, then Sivana in double stroller while Antoinette loads Isabel in hers. Melina is keeping Ethan and Anika entertained while the rest of us load up like pack mules! Sometimes it feels like moving a small army!
What originally began as an aimed 3:30 pm arrival in reality became a 5:20 pm arrival. My shirt is sticking to me from sweat and my left arm is already burned from the drive in. The kids have nearly drained their water bottles and look as though they're fighting heat stroke! The nervous tick in my right eye is threatening to turn into incessant blinking! I send Duane a text "Won't be home when you arrive at 6:00 but chicken in crock pot for 6:30, potatoes & beans ready to go. Eat without us." We've got enough Ethan-safe snacks for his supper and the rest of us could just pick something up.
As we walk towards the zoo entrance, I notice the sign... "Zoo doors close at 5:30 pm and zoo closes at 6:00 pm."
We'd invested well over three hours into the excursion thus far and the idea of reloading the Suburban to turn around and tackle another two hour trek home in that heat was border line insanity. But so was the tantrum I was imagining in my head... full blown rolling on the ground kicking and screaming "WHY? WHY?"
The kids' eyes were so excited despite their overheated red faces as they asked "When are we going IN the zoo, Mom?" "Mommy doesn't know if we CAN go into the zoo today."
Six kids. Six kids and I still haven't figured out a more tactful way of breaking my children's hearts. My general rule of thumb is "do NOT tell the kids where we are going, who is coming over, etc... UNTIL you are WHERE you aimed to be and/or the friends who were supposed to come over have actually ARRIVED." For whatever reason, I had stupidly told the kids we were going to the zoo and anything other than going to the zoo was NOT going to go over well. Their jaws dropped and tears glistened in their eyes as they looked at me as if I just cancelled summer itself!
So I paid the admission for our whole gang for a thirty minute zoo excursion. And then paid the $5 fee for a wagon for Ethan & Anika so we could zip through the park randomly pointing at animals as we whiz by to maximize on the thirty minutes and ridiculous price of admission.
So began the whizzing around... first exhibit - empty. Second exhibit - empty. Third, fourth, fifth - empty. "Mommy, when are we going to see animals?"
"Look kids! It's a PEA-COCK!" I attempted to say it with sheer excitement hoping it would rub off on the kids but instead it came out more threateningly through gritted teeth. "Here, we'll go find the polar bears."
We whiz passed more exhibits that are empty and surprisingly come to the end of one part of the zoo... we ask how to get to the polar bears to which the staff answer "we haven't had polar bears here for a couple of years. We're still constructing the exhibit." Oh my goodness, some savage-based instinct could be felt bubbling through my veins threateningly close to the possibility of biting someone's head off.
"Okay kids, we'll go find the zebras and the camels."
Nope, they weren't out either. And as we tried making our way towards the other end of the zoo for the last fifteen minutes, we were stopped by zoo staff on a little buggie saying "You can't come through here. You're gonna have to start making your way towards the exit now."
"Why? We still have fifteen minutes."
"The zoo closes in fifteen minutes so you need to start walking towards the exit."
Ladies and gentlemen, we just about had a polar bear exhibit at the zoo in that moment. I remained dangerously quiet as we walked back towards the exit. There must be an aura of caution that surrounds me in those moments because the kids tend to leave me alone. Melina, however, pipes up and says "with the zoo's slogan being 'imagine a place', I guess they really mean it."
And like a nudging gift from Heaven, I burst out laughing and the choking grip of the heat-stroked-savage from within was let go. To my surprise (and relief) the kids seemed happy about the zoo visit (thank goodness they had no previous memories of it to measure against) and things were looking promising for us to be home around 7:00 pm or shortly thereafter. Hopefully Duane will have been able to get supper on the table and we could have a relatively smooth transition into a meal before 7:30 pm.
But the fact that it was now 6:30 pm and I still hadn't heard back from Duane... I was thinking it would be just our luck that he would be held up at a call. Which he was. We ate around 8:00 pm and then put the kids to bed. And I vowed never to attempt a zoo trip without every last inch of zoo details memorized! Or at the very least, not until the Polar bear exhibit is open.
Stay tuned for my attempt at bowling, and the movie theatre...