With crispy fall mornings becoming more frequent, I looked
back over our summer vacation with a sense of incompletion. Our three months of
warmth flew by filled with activities, appointments, and agendas yet nothing
really stood out as a memorable experience. Having a family full of young
children leaves us fairly limited in what we can do, or rather what we care to
to do, but our children
deserve a few good summer memories—even if it kills me and my husband Brian
Last year Brian and I visited the Columbus Zoo for our
anniversary. It was a much needed weekend away from the children, but all we
could think about while we were there amongst the lions and elephants were our
little monkeys at home and how much they would surely enjoy the sights we were
seeing. And so we decided that we were going to stop talking about wanting
to do it, and actually, well, do
With all five children.
Our first mistake was informing the children of our plans
before we had a concrete date in mind. It would require a day where we had a
little extra cash on hand, a week day that Brian was able to take off of work
to avoid the weekend crowds and a day with good weather—not hot enough to
create cranky kids but also not rainy enough to make soggy ones. For weeks on
end I spent my mornings answering the question “are we going to the zoo today?”
as each set of eyes popped open. And each day I battled the groans and whines
when I didn’t give them the answer they had hoped for.
Finally the big day arrived. It was a gorgeous Friday, the
weather was perfect, the crowds were thin and a fresh week’s pay was burning a
hole in our pocket. In an effort to keep the cost lower than a mortgage payment
we packed our own lunches into a cooler and filled a backpack full of snacks
and water. A little more work, sure, but far preferable to buying overpriced hamburgers
from the Safari Shack to feed seven hungry zoo explorers. We packed up the car
and began the three-and-a-half-hour road trip
to get us to our destination.
Once we arrived at the zoo gates we horrified to realize
that it was going to cost nearly $75 just to get us all of us into the zoo. So
much for a low cost alternative to amusement parks! But we quickly discovered
that for a few dollars more we could buy a family membership that would get all
seven of us in free for a year—definitely a better value. Score one for the large family.
Within moments of entering the zoo the first shriek of
delight rang out. “I see an animal! I see an animal!” The rest of my kids
gathered around and ooh’d and ahh’d at the amazing creature before them. They
were so thrilled and excited by the whole zoo experience that I almost didn’t
have the heart to tell them that a squirrel perched on a garbage can was not what
we were there to see.
We made it to the first set of exhibits, only to find that
most of the animals were fast asleep and tucked away in makeshift logs,
presumably to hide from the sun and the slew of gawkers intruding into their
homes. We spent the first half hour of our day playing “spot the little fuzzy
sleeping ball” in various forest scenes, but the kids didn’t seem to lose any
enthusiasm. They clapped and squealed upon spotting each obscure brownish
critter in the “North America” wing of the park. It
wasn’t until we came to the bears that the children were able to come face to
face with something they immediately recognized. The polar bear was
impressively large and the thick glass allowed us to get nice and close to the
massive beast. The children were awestruck as the bears snout fogged up the
glass inches from their face and shook with delight when we took them
downstairs to actually walk underneath him. It was then that the thrill of the
zoo kicked into high gear.
We walked from continent to continent, exhibit to exhibit
riding calmly in her stroller and the older kids walking obediently
by our side. With each new animal we visited whether beast, fish or fowl, my
kids each reacted the same way. Tony
ran ahead of us yelling cool!
said aww, it’s so cute!
, and Lacey said dats Ozzy!
—because in her mind an animal
of any shape or size is named “Ozzy,” like our dog. Ainsley
equally as enthralled—at first. But it didn’t take long for their attention
spans to wander to more enticing and expensive thrills such as face painting
and cotton candy.
We stopped briefly at a picnic table to refuel with a snack
and rest our weary legs when a rabbit hopped out of the bushes nearby to
inspect our goodies. Obviously used to the zoo crowds, he hopped right up to
us, less than arms length away, and wiggled his nose at some dropped crumbs under
the table. A collective gasp was the last thing I heard before the droppings
hit the fan.
“AHHHHH!!! IT’S A BUNNY!!!! Mom this zoo has BUNNIES!!!!
LOOK, LOOK, LOOK!!!!!”
I tried to explain that this was just a regular bunny that happened to be hanging out inside the zoo
perimeters; he wasn’t any sort of exotic zoo-sanctioned Japanese Red-tailed Bog
Hair or anything, just a regular old long-eared hippity-hop trying to nosh on
our grub. But my explanations fell on deaf ears as my slew of children swarmed
the brave bunny and plotted ways to snare him and steal him away in our back
pack. Luckily this bunny must have had a sixth sense about impending danger
because he quickly hopped back off towards the tiger display where he was
The next exhibit
along our route was the reptile house, most definitely my least favorite part
of the zoo. Like most other squealy, prissy, pink-coated girly-girls, I do not appreciate
things that slither. In fact I’m not particularly fond of any animal that
doesn’t posses fur and cock it’s head to the side when I talk to it. But my
husband is a reptile lover and I would hate for my fears to be passed on to my
children, so I painted on a brave face and entered my own personal tomb of
terror. Immediately we were greeted by a woman seated with a small snake wrapped
around her hands. Oh boy. Resisting my urge to throw the children out of my way
and bolt out the door I ushered my poor sweet vulnerable babies into the line
to—gulp—pet the snake. To my surprise they each rubbed their fingers over the
vile thing as calmly as if they were petting a kitten. Even little Lacey
reached up without hesitation. And in that moment I think she decided that
snakes were her most favoritest thing in the world, because she spent the
remainder of her time in the reptile house running from window to window trying
to grab each slithery serpent through the glass. It wasn’t until a particularly
active iguana lured her little face close and flicked his tongue at her
unexpectedly that she finally crawled back into the safety of her stroller.
As the day grew longer the toddlers’ attention spans grew
shorter. Delaney was the first and only child to get reprimanded and
sequestered to the stroller after throwing herself down on the ground and
refusing to budge. It wasn’t until she fell asleep moments later that we
realized the countdown clock on our little bombs had been set and it was only a
matter of time before all of the children were writhing piles of whininess destined
to be dragged out of the park under our arms. We decided to skip “Australia”
and head back to the car a little early; the kangaroos would have to wait until
On our way out we stopped at the gift shop and allowed each
child to pick out a small stuffed animal to bring home, a reward for toughing
out an enjoyable but lengthy day with surprising smoothness. There were three
large shelves of various animals to chose from so Brian and I stepped aside to
watch their decision making process in action. Tony, with his ever burning
desire to assert his masculinity in a house full of females, decided to the
most manly animal of the selection was the wolf. I’m not sure exactly what
criteria he used to come to this conclusion but I wasn’t about to argue with
his choice. Brileigh, agonized the longest over the decision, touching each and
every animal to find the one with the softest, cuddliest fur; in the end this
was apparently a panda bear although I couldn’t quite feel the difference
myself. Ainsley was immediately drawn to this small, reddish little animal with
a long complicated name on its tag. For whatever reason, it was the first
animal she chose and she immediately fell in love with it without giving the
others a second glance. Delaney pondered over a few choices before putting them
all back and selecting a bright blue sparkly frog with long arms and legs that
she insists is a monkey. At barely two, Lacey’s idea of making a choice was
gathering up as many animals into her arms as she could fit and then crying
pitifully when I took them away. In the end I chose an adorable little elephant
for her that she named Elmo.
As we headed back to the parking lot I asked the kids what animals were their favorites. Tony and Brileigh each rattled off a list of impressive jungle fauna, but Ainsley and Delaney unanimously agreed that the best animals were the bunny and the squirrel. Next time I’ll save my hundred bucks and take them to the park
. The long ride home was peaceful and serene. My exhausted babies fell asleep quickly, clutching their new furry friends, and Brian and I rested our throbbing legs while we rehashed the events of the day making us laugh all over again at the raw enthusiasm and innocence that children display. It was a long and exhausting day; the tedious task of keeping everyone together took it out of us. After all, the children outnumbered our eyeballs. But it was easier and more enjoyable than we ever could have predicted and it has made us eager to attempt more outings with our brood. Maybe next year we’ll even try Disney!
Hmm… and maybe not.
To see more hilarious comics by J-Sto, please visit www.mykidcomix.com