I believe the plan was "It is rainy and cold, so let's take advantage of the fact that we have zoo memberships; pop in to the indoor exhibits really fast, eat some zoo food, and take off." That did not happen. Apparently no one told the children about that plan because what happens is an all day zoo extravaganza. Complete with lingering outdoor strolls and seeing every single animal foolhardy enough to be outside on such a rainy, cold day.
We start with great guns, busting in the entrance and racing for the nearest shelter to wait for the Awesome and Excellent families. But that first shelter is the gift shop; mistake number 1. And then, I make mistake number 2 in short order; having seen Excellent Mom pulling into the parking lot, I leave Awkward Dad and the Supers in the gift shop to meet her at the entrance. I return to them quickly, but it is too late. They have purchased the most expensive bag of trail mix and the second most expensive bag of Red Vines we will ever eat. (The most expensive bag of Red Vines we will ever eat currently lives at the Movie Theater.)
Oh well, we rally and make our way to the penguins. Or the Pingus, as everyone under 4 seems to call them now. Penguins are Awkward Dad's favorite animal and we make a pilgrimage to the penguin house every time we are at the zoo, even if it is the dead of July and we have to fight our way through the air-conditioning-seeking hordes. Today we fight no one but a relatively sedate field trip of middle schoolers, who shout a few lewd things at the penguins and move on. I think they are lewd; I am not up on my middle schooler humor. We meet up with Awesome Dad in the penguin house; he wisely skipped the gift shop. Super Baby takes one look at this:
And decides she is hungry too. Awkward Dad decides to do the honors. He is in heaven; out of the rain, with penguins and a snugly baby. I am left to monitor this:
While trying to remember if there is a "no eating or drinking" sign on the front of the penguin house and really hoping no one with a nut allergy comes by. Guess penguins make everyone hungry. Which makes no sense at all. Unless everyone is polar bears. Wait, they are later in this story. I'm confused, let's move on.
We leave the comfort of the penguin house and the children immediately do this forever:
It is probably 5 minutes, but it's cold! They frolic and romp atop some stones and 2 statues of penguins, adorably and with minimal pushing and shoving. They refuse to pose for any pictures, of course.
The Dads, pushing the strollers, take off down the path, seeking warmer locales. The toddlers, who are immune to cold, take their time and dawdle down the path like a bunch of, well, penguins. Excellent Mom and I have great herding skills, but we are quickly left in the dust by the Dads. We turn a corner and are confronted with a dilemma. There is the backdoor to the aviary and a path toward the front of the aviary; with no idea where the Dads went. Oh well, it all must lead to the same place, right? We take the backdoor; it is cold after all. Mistake 3.
We are warm, which is great. However, the aviary is one of those "rainforesty" set-ups where you wander along simulated overgrown paths and the birds fly free and buzz your head, which always makes me think of poor Tippi Hedren. It also makes herding children even more difficult, as you chase them, careening around corners, while yelling at them to stop chasing the birds, always keeping a wary eye skyward; Tippi and her woes firmly in your mind. It is not my favorite part of the zoo, but it is Super Toddler's:
In fact, hurling leaves into the fake river becomes such a good game that it attracts a big brother:
So, now I have lost my baby, the Dads, and Excellent Mom, who has the rest of the kids. I may bribe my children with expensive Red Vines (only the birds know for sure and they aren't telling), and we all leave the fake river to bustle along the twists and turns of the aviary to meet Excellent Mom and the other toddlers, who are throwing leaves into a tributary of the fake river. The Supers join them and I ponder the fact that we seem to be at a dead end. There is a wall of glass which looks in on the butterfly sanctuary but no door. I peek into the butterfly sanctuary and am startled to be peeking into my husband's face. He makes Super Baby give me a friendly wave, as he settles himself on the ledge next to Awesome Dad, who is serenely feeding Awesome Baby. I am distracted from this pastoral scene when a leaf misses the water and hits me in the eye. Super P. gives me a sheepish grin and I am all set to lecture him, but I follow his pointing finger to see that Super Toddler is climbing over the rocks and into the water below. Plus, those birds over there are starting to look shifty. It is time to go.
We find our way out the backdoor of the aviary and around to the front, where we join the Dads, who think it would be just fine to go see the butterflies again. Big shock. We head in there. Readers, I wish I could tell you that it is as restful and serene as it looked from the outside. But I forgot that the addition of 4 toddlers will disrupt the force faster than Darth Vadar and some Imperial Guards at a party on the Death Star. I spend the next 15 minutes completely freaked out that someone is going to step on a butterfly. No one does and I do get this picture:
It's hazy beauty is not artful photography on my part, but evidence of how muggy it is in the butterfly room. However, this doesn't detract from the loveliness of my son in the sightliest.
The warmth of the butterfly house warms us and fools us into trekking along to see some otters. The otters are sleeping behind a rock. We journey on to see camels. The camels are sleeping behind a rock. We proceed to see some snow monkeys. The snow monkeys are sleeping on a rock. What mistake are we on now? 17? We decide it is probably time to find a shelter, so we go see some frogs. The frogs are fun, they always are. Super P. kisses a few through the glass, but alas, no princesses or princes this time. Thwarted in finding the love of his life, Super P. decides to ride giant frogs instead:
Sounds like more fun anyway.
We race out of the frog house and go right into the snake house. There are a ton of people in here. Sensible people who don't meander around the zoo in the cold. We stay here as long as 4 active toddlers can stand it. I think it is about 5 minutes.
Who wants zoo food? I want zoo food! Surprisingly, I actually think I do. I did not pack a lunch today (thinking this zoo jaunt was going to be fairly quick...and, well, I am pretty lazy), and it is the end of a fairly staying-in-the-budget month. I am cool with zoo food today. Of course, Awkward Dad decides that today is the day to be frugal. He buys his cheap-due-to-his-reusable-cup lemonade and 1 hot dog and 1 cookie for us to share. Granted the cookie is the size of my head. But I am still forced to rely on the generosity of Excellent Mom and share her lunch, which, being excellent, she packed, complete with homemade granola bars! Her excellence knows no bounds!
Thus sated (sorta), we head over to the polar bears. Because why be warm when you can look at polar bears, right? The children race from trash can to trash can (it is a game Excellent Mom invented to keep them from running ahead....telling you, no bounds!), but I, who somehow get stuck carrying Super Toddler, despite a perfectly acceptable and available stroller, lag way behind. We catch up finally and experience this:
Super Cute. But not one to let his little brother hog all the photo ops, it is quickly followed by this:
Which is followed by this:
I'm not sure, but I do believe he is trying to phase through the glass, a la Kitty Pryde. Since we don't have mutations in the Awkward Family (yet...some are known to manifest at puberty, you know), he finally gives up on this quest. Thank goodness because that tank was home to this fellow:
Yikes! And double yikes, because you would think that after all that, we would all have some sense and stop. (cue mistakes 18-24) No, we sally forth. To zebras. And ostriches. And lions. And tigers. And....you know the rest. There are no real elephants at this zoo, but Super P. makes due:
Readers, it is endless! And their energy is endless. Endless that is, until we reach the end. Of the zoo that is. We are way in the back of the zoo when every toddler with us just putters out. And wants to ride. Oh Readers, it is a slow journey back to the parking lot. Here is everyone, riding in style:
Excellent Toddler knows that the best kind of snake is a cat toy snake.
But where, oh where, is Awesome Toddler?
Well, it appears that she wants to see the one animal here that we haven't seen yet. I am gonna let you go, Readers. This could take awhile...
Yep, not according to plan. Frankly, we are not even sure why Awkward Mom makes plans anymore. But whatever you do, Plan on reading some exciting tales here next week. Easter is always fodder for the awkward; visiting family, long church services, letting children hurl fragile eggs in and out of staining substances. Oh, the possibilities are endless! Hope your Easters are more holy and sedate than ours, with just enough awkward to make them memorable. See ya next week!
Another stunning fashion creation brought to you by my-mom-got-excited-by-that-one-warm-week-in-March-and-put-away-the-winter-coats.