Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. the zoo - Part I

My dear readers, this might actually be a three-parter! In an unprecedented turn of events, Awkward Dad has the day off. A random Tuesday, but hey, we’ll take it. Awkward Dad’s last day off was 11 days ago, so we are more than ready for his contribution to our adventures. He may even guest-tell some of this story; oh you are in for a treat! You see, lions and tigers and bears, oh my; the Awkward Family is heading to the zoo!

After a decently harrowing trip through the Detroit suburbs, we arrive at the zoo. The day and the zoo lay before us; both have excellent promise. It is one of those impossibly beautiful fall days; not cold enough for sweaters, not hot enough for sweat. You are wearing a jacket but you know you are gonna take it off before long. The zoo is decorating for Halloween, happy little ghosts and pumpkins abound. There are green, orange, and purple twinkle lights in the trees. (Am I the only one who didn’t know these electrical wonders existed?) The fall air seems to sharpen everything; the sky and leaves look like they were colored out of the Crayola 8 pack. There is a light smoky smell in the air, while dreams of candy apples and caramel corn dance in your head. Maybe I just like fall….

First decision: shall we try to convince the ticket taker that Super Toddler is under 2 years old, in order to get him in free? Super Toddler is quite small for his age and the fee for children at the zoo is not. However, Super Toddler makes this decision for us by going up to said ticket taker and announcing that he wants to see “penguins, bears, and giraffes, please.” Needless to say, we are charged in full.

Now, traveling with Awkward Dad is different than traveling solo. Before I start complaining (because you know it is coming), I want to point out that outings with Awkward Dad afford many perks. For example, we can trade off pushing the stroller or wearing the backpack. There is another pair of eyes to confirm if Super Toddler really did hit Super Baby or if he was brushing a fly off his face, as claimed. Awkward Dad’s super abilities include, but are not limited to, the high-flying-baby-toss, the toddler-on-shoulders-carry (endurance edition), extreme-leaf-throwing, numerous animal imitations, and at least 18 different ways to produce toddler laughs (7 of them rare tickle variants); all of which are excellent super powers to posses on a trip to the zoo.

However, (here it comes) outings with Awkward Dad can result in the sensation that I have three children. For example, we barely make it through the gates, when Super Toddler heads for the Halloween display surrounding the Welcome Sign, shouting something about “bones and ghosties,” I’m not really sure, he is running away from me. Super Baby is screaming, displeased to have been woken up from his car-ride induced nap and thrust into this prison of a stroller. Once they learn they can get away from you (as newly crawling Super Baby is learning), the stroller no longer seems to hold the same allure. Case in point, Super Toddler’s mad dash away from me into the arms of some decidedly scary scarecrows, 2 mummies, and what I am hoping is a pretend vulture. Where is Awkward Dad during this moment, you ask? Why, he is over there, by the gift shop, admiring some rubber snakes.

Luckily, moms (awkward or otherwise) come armed with herding abilities, and we are soon on our way to the penguin house. And luckily for you, I am gonna turn the story-telling over to Awkward Dad, as penguins are his favorite animals.

The penguin house is usually everybody’s favorite destination at the zoo, during typical “let’s go to the zoo” season – mid July. This exhibit is the one with the hour wait, the one that you have to give up seeing because the wait exceeds the toddler “ants in the pants” critical time threshold of 9 and a half minutes (the amount of time they can be contained before the boosters kick in and they enter outer orbit). The main reasons for this are: 1) the exhibit is cold as the inky darkness of space inside to keep those cute little birds comfy, and 2) we, like everyone else, always go to the zoo the one day in summer when it is 9800 degrees out. Therefore, we usually either miss the whole exhibit or are pushed to the margins (the far wall, away from the actual penguins, but intimately close to the “educational station” that everyone ignores – you know, where they talk about habitats, ecosystems and such).

This time, though, we went on a Tuesday in October, so let me tell you, we SAW those penguins! Right up close! With NOBODY else there but us! After a good twenty minutes of admiring all three species of penguins present, in all their polar exhibit glory, just us and them, you do start to notice some things: 1) those cute little guys really don’t move much in the middle of the morning. Maybe they are consummate show penguins, used to working off the energy of a packed house, because I know when we went on those days in the summer (on the margins), we heard many OOOHS and WOWs from those people who could actually see them. I imagine that they were running about and chasing each other and doing synchronized dives into the little display pool. For us, they had nothing. Mostly standing and an occasional stare directly at us. I love just seeing them, but could have used more signs of life. Given how little was happening in there, you start to notice 2) it is pretty DARK and COLD in there. And eerily quiet. Like a freezer that has been closed, the only light reflecting off of the old cottage cheese in the back that was forgotten about. For a moment, I actually found myself missing the throngs of people that usually are there, but there is also a fun that comes out of being able to feel like this is MY exhibit. Like I was a Rockefeller for a day & decided on a whim to procure the penguin house, JUST for me and MY guests. Monocle in place, top hat secured, I imagine strolling Mister Peanut style through our EXCLUSIVE penguin house. I say chappy, it’s good to be the Penguin king!

On that note, and until tomorrow, off we shall stroll. Mister Peanut style, of course. Back tomorrow, with snakes, skinks, and Spiderman….I am serious.

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