Sunday, November 13, 2005

Whose Idea Was the Zoo Trip?

Yes, it's been a while since I posted an entry. I'm not good at journaling.

One recent Friday I decided that it was such a beautiful day and since we didn't have school I would take the kids to our local zoo. Since there was no school and it was beautiful, EVERYONE decided that they would go to the zoo. We walked up to pay and to buy a cup of food for the goats only to be told that the family in front of us bought the last cup of food. There were so many people that day, the staff were afraid that the goats would be overfed. That's okay, we've still got the train ride. Nope. The train was out of service. Ah. Our day had begun.

We got into the zoo with a surprising lack of trauma from the news of no food and no train. I think my kids were just happy to be able to run around and see some animals. (Just for reference, my daughter is 5 and my son is 2.)

Now, keep in mind, this is a rescue zoo. Most of the animals they have there have come from not so great conditions and some may have developed some not so great behaviors. I keep forgetting this.

We walked up to the first monkey cage and the monkey took a keen interest in my son. They stood there looking at each other and I said, "Look Buddy! He wants to be your friend!" At which time my son's new "friend" climbed to the bottom of his cage, picked up a rather large rock and proceded to hurl it in the direction of my son's head. Luckily, the monkey was not a good shot. Buddy was not hit, but he sure screamed like he was. Amid his sobs I said something like, "Oh look! He wants to be a quarterback, too! He's trying to throw the rock like a football!" And we left the monkeys.

There was a bear in the lion enclosure. I'm still not sure why.

So we went and looked at the tigers, the cheetahs, the bears, no lions, the pigs and the tortoises. Time for lunch. They have a picnic area with tables, vending machines and the like. We had packed some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with grapes, crackers, and other kids stuff. So we unpacked the lunches and sat down. Now, in the picnic area they have a variety of birds wandering around. There are chickens, roosters (the kids love it when they crow) a duck or two and several peacocks. Most people throw them crumbs which they seem happy to nibble on. That's one of the reasons we brought some crackers. Well, did you know that peacocks like peanut butter sandwiches? Me neither. I turned around to get something from the stroller and heard my daughter scream. I now know what a bloodcurdling scream sounds like. I wheeled back around to see my daughter scrambling away from the picnic table alternately falling and running and this huge peacock ON THE TABLE taking her sandwich. Her brother was so scared that all he was doing was covering his eyes and screaming. So what did I do? I tried to keep my head. I shooed the peacock. Did you know that peacocks like peanut butter sandwiches so much that they will not back down when shooed by a freaked out mom? He finished his sandwich and then calmly strolled off of the table. My daughter was completely traumatized and wouldn't sit back down (who could blame her? Those peacocks are huge!) and my son was still sitting at the table with his hands over his eyes screaming. I thought, Okay, it's time to go. I put them both in the stroller and that's when the bees got into the action. They heard that there was jelly with the peanut butter. So now both kids were in the double stroller surrounded by bees. More screaming. Not all of it was coming from them.

I leaned over and made a huge mistake. I should have given them the correct itenerary from that point. "Children, we are now going to leave the picnic area and go calmly to pet the goats. After we pet the goats, we will calmly and happily leave the zoo since we now have seen everything." What I said, over the screaming, was, "Okay! We're going! We're going!" More screams. This time the screaming was, "NO! We can't go! We have to pet the goats! No!"

At this point in the story, I became THAT mom. You know, the one you see and it makes you feel good about the way you parent because you couldn't possibly be THAT bad. Yeah. And did I mention that there were a LOT of people at the zoo that day?

I leaned over and took my daughter's wrists (because they were flailing about trying to shoo away the bees that were no longer there - I think they had gotten tired of the screaming) and got in her face and told her to just be quiet. Then I realized that she wasn't going to be quiet in any way, shape or form so I just gritted my teeth, loaded the rest of the stuff and started pushing the stroller. So now here's THAT mom with THOSE kids (my son still had his hands over his face and was still screaming - the exact thing that I wanted to do at this point) trying to push a cheap double stroller over a dirt path, down a hill to a petting zoo.

By God's grace nothing traumatic happened during our time with the goats. I even got a few very cute pictures of my daughter hugging them. Ah. A very nice end to a stressful trip.

Not so fast. There's still the parking lot.

We got to the car and I got the kids in their car seats and buckled in. Then the one bee who had been fashionably late to the peanut butter and jelly party decided to come and see what it had missed. So it flew into the car. My daughter started screaming and kicking and pulling at the straps to her car seat. My son, yet again, put his hands over his eyes and just screamed. (I actually admire the simplicity of his reaction.) My daughter was screaming, "Close the door! Close the door!" So I did. Then the absurdity of that action hit me. Now both of my kids were strapped into their little seats AND a bee was trapped inside with them. It was then that I began to laugh. Finally. I almost started to look for the hidden cameras. But I decided that I should deal with the situation first. So I opened ALL of the doors and let the poor, scared and now deaf bee out of the car. Then I threw any remains of any peanut butter and jelly out of the car to throw off any bee who might be looking for it, jumped in the car and left the zoo behind.

We turned off of the small street from the zoo onto the main road and we saw a dog trotting merrily down the center stripe. After the day we had just had, I thought for sure that we were about to witness something completely horrible. So I pulled off the road and the dog made a beeline (sorry) right for us. Thank goodness!!! She seemed very sweet, but the thought of putting a strange dog in the car with my two children who were captives in their saftey seats did not appeal to me. But another Good Samaritan pulled over just about that time. He asked if I needed help and I told him the situation (minues the bees and the peacocks - he seemed only interested in the dog). He said that he lived in the neighborhood and his kids might know where the dog lived. So he opened his car door and the dog jumped happily in and they were off. Whew.
And that's where our adventure ends. We went home and my son had a three hour nap.

I still love our little zoo. But we haven't been back since then. We'll go again some day, but not without backup. And not with peanut butter and jelly.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Motherhood - Am I a Different Person?

Not too long ago a friend wrote to me in an e-mail "Being around all of my friends who have children has simply underlined my decision not to have kids. Most of their personalities change for the worst." That made me wonder whether I have changed for the worst.
I wish that I were better at journaling. I would love to have a pre-pregnancy account of what I thought motherhood would be. How could I know? How could I understand just how fully my life would change? I knew that there would be no more 9:30 p.m. spur of the moment dates at Barnes and Noble for my husband and me. I knew that it would be weird to be called "Mommy”. I knew that it would be hard. Two kids later I realize that I didn’t know anything.
I didn’t know how being a mom would change the way I watch movies. I almost threw up when I saw “Panic Room” because the daughter was in danger and the mother seemed so helpless.
I didn’t know exactly why sleep deprivation is used as torture.
I didn’t know that any child reported lost would instantly turn into my child in my mind prompting me to memorize what she was wearing for the next three days.
I didn’t know that my world could revolve around a little being that weighed less than 20 pounds. And I didn’t know that I could enjoy that!
I didn’t know that a four year old could be my best friend.
I didn’t know that a 20 month old could have a great sense of humor.
I didn’t know that moms and dads agonize over discipline decisions and that the punishments really do hurt them more than they do the kid.
I didn’t know that watching a toddler eat could be so captivating.
I didn’t know how one tiny tear running down a soft, smooth cheek could make my heart break into a thousand pieces. And I didn’t know how hearing a belly-laugh could fill me with sunshine for days.
I didn’t know how many great books there are for children out there. And I didn’t know how bad children’s literature could be.
I didn’t know that I could love my husband more. Hearing him play “tickle monster” with the kids while I make dinner makes me fall in love with him all over again.
Not only have my kids taught me, they have also caused me to remember.
I had forgotten the joy of the feeling of snowflakes on my face.
I had forgotten the magic of a shooting star.
I had forgotten how much fun it is to scream and run around for absolutely no reason.
I had forgotten that macaroni and cheese is really, really yummy!
I had forgotten about bubbles.
I had forgotten that time is the greatest gift you can give or receive.
I am humbled and blessed that God chose me and my husband to be parents to my daughter and son. I cannot believe that He trusted us to raise them and help them become adults. I thank Him for teaching me and reminding me of wondrous things every day through my children. My prayer for them is that they will grow up to experience the same wonder through their children, should they choose to have them.
Have I changed for the worst? No, of course I don't think so. My friends who have chosen not to have kids may beg to differ, but I know that my kids have enriched my life in ways beyond my wildest dreams. How can I exhibit a negative change in my personality when I am overwhelmed by the positive? I pray that I can exude that positivity and can honestly show joy in my parenting - outside the home to friends, family and strangers alike, but most importantly IN my home with my kids and my husband. I want my family to know that I love them and treasure them and just plain enjoy them. I hope and pray that comes across in my life. I don't want to be one of those people who has changed for the worst.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Bonnie and Clyde

This evening as I was rummaging around in my jewelry box I found my great-grandfather's Sheriff's star. He was sheriff of a county in west Texas. He helped chase Bonnie and Clyde through Texas. I was casually relaying that story to my husband when our daughter started asking questions. How do you tell a five year old about a massacre? We just told her that they did some bad things - robbed banks and shot people - and when the police told them to come out of their car they wouldn't so the police had to shoot them. I really hope that she doesn't pursue it, but I know she will.

She asked me if I knew my great-grandfather. I told her that no, he died before I was born. She got to meet her great-grandfather. We called him Great Bigdaddy. He died when she was almost three years old, so she really doesn't remember him too much. That's such a shame because he was amazing. He was the best grandfather a person could have. And I got him. I still tear up most of the time that I think about him because I miss him so much. It wasn't that we were incredibly close or I sought him out to talk to or anything like that. He was so decent and respectable and just such a good, upstanding man that the world felt okay just because he was in it. His voice was my childhood. His scent could take me back to those days at the cabin when all we had to worry about was how much sunscreen we put on and who was driving the boat when we would ski. His presence was calming. I miss him so. I miss him so.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

First Post - How Exciting

Wow. This is a little odd, knowing that I'm putting thought and ideas out there for virtually anyone to read! It's a little cool, too. I've never been that good at journaling, but I'm pretty good at writing letters and e-mails. As long as I think I have an audience, I can write. Now I do. The pressure is on!

I took the title of my blog from my grandparents' lake cabin. The times that we spent at Cabin 77 were the best times of my childhood. My brother and I have vowed that as soon as we get a little bit ahead, we'll buy a lake cabin so that our kids can have the opportunity to have the same kinds of experiences that we had. But will they really? Back then - the late 70's - parents were much more willing to let kids run around and just be kids. We would leave the cabin in the morning, check in with them maybe a time or two during the day (mostly for food) and come back around dinner time. They never knew exactly where we were, but they trusted us. And they weren't paranoid about some wacko swooping in and carrying us off. I'm just not sure that if we did have a lake cabin I would be able to let my kids go for long walks unsupervised.

Yesterday was the Fourth of July. That holiday always reminds me of Cabin 77. We spent every July 4th of my youth down at the lake. The tradition was to load up the car, drive to the lake, unload it and immediately jump back in to go get our fireworks. We saved our allowance for weeks for that trip! Of course we had to get the Black Cat firecrackers so that we could blow stuff up. Then there were the bottle rockets - the kind that just went up and popped. I always liked "Clustering Bees" and "Ground Bloom Flowers" as my pretty fireworks. After we spent on the staples then we'd try one or two of the fancy kind. We usually didn't have to spend too much on the fancy stuff because Heath, the boy who lived at the lake, would always get the really good kind. His house was just three doors down from our cabin so we could see the fireworks that he and his family shot off. Everyone in the cabins all around would work together for our own fireworks show. We'd take turns shooting them off so that everyone could enjoy everyone else's. I remember sitting on our screened-in porch, smelling the gunpowder and watching the displays sometimes curled up on my mom's lap and other times just rocking in the rocking chair alone. I don't think my eyes could have gotten any bigger.

Last night my own daughter sat in our kitchen looking out the back door as my husband and I lit "Ground Bloom Flowers" on our back porch. It's not really the same, but she doesn't know any better! Her eyes were wide and beautiful. Maybe someday I can sit with her on the screened-in porch of our own lake cabin.