Yesterday morning, after I endured my glucose tolerance test (yuck!), we loaded up the kids and took a trip to the zoo. Not our own local zoo, no, the one an hour and a half away in Oklahoma City. In our car that doesn't have a working air conditioner. Which is why we left at 8:30 in the morning on a day predicted have a high temperature of "only" 93 degrees.
It was an interesting trip. First of all, we had to park in the very back row of the parking lot. The place was packed. My anxiety level went up several notches at the sight of all the day care and summer camp vans and buses parked there. The wonderful thing about the OKC Zoo is that it is so big, there can be lots of people there and it still doesn't seem all that crowded. Except in the buildings, where you could barely move for all the people.
I must admit I was irritated with the behavior of a lot of the kids I saw. Lots of screaming and yelling and running inside buildings. Lots of language I'd rather not hear. I was even more irritated, however, by the adults who were supposed to be in charge of these kids. I heard lots of screaming and yelling by the teachers/chaperones/parents. I heard lots of griping and hurrying along.
But, rather than letting my stress level skyrocket because of the people around me, I tried to focus on being thankful for my own children. During our four hours at the zoo plus a three hour round-trip drive, they never whined or complained, there was no fighting, no arguing, no screaming or yelling. They were hot and tired and sweaty, not to mention hungry by the time we left at 2 pm, but they were good sports. They walked inside buildings, they patiently waited their turn at the exhibit windows and railings. They behaved admirably and once we got to where we could actually hear each other, I did thank them for behaving. Then I thanked God for my children.
The thing I love about going to the zoo with my kids is that they like to read the information about the animals. They like to know the names of the animals and the interesting little facts that are posted. They ask questions. Sometimes they find something they think is really amazing and just have to share it with the rest of us. Or something they find really gross, which they also feel the need to share. It's like you can just see their brains processing things, really thinking about things. Jake stood and read the step by step description of how a tiger sneaks up on a deer to eat it. He really thought about it. I could see that he was bothered by the deer being eaten but Tony explained simply that tigers have to eat something, too!
Katy loves the big cat section of the zoo, I think she could stay there all day long. Every time we go, she reads all the writing on the walls and sits to watch the cats for a long time.
All the kids loved seeing the new baby elephant. Tony took them way up on the observation deck to see her while I sat on a bench at the bottom (6 months pregnant and high heat don't mix all that well). Eventually the mama elephant and baby walked out to where even I could see them. Too cute! Baby followed mama around everywhere!
Another thing I just love about going anywhere with my kids is the fact that notice little things. They pointed out bees and dragonflies and cool shadows on the sidewalk. They paid attention to what the animals had to eat. They have always been like that, noticing things that most kids would just run right past and not even see. I like to think I've had some part in teaching them to be like that by always pointing out the small things and encouraging them to go slowly enough to really look around at things.
As usual, Jake had to have a map of the zoo. Anywhere we go that has a map, he wants one. He has been that way for years and I think it is so funny and yet cute at the same time. Maybe he'll grow up and be an explorer!
Another thing I noticed while I was there was the extreme lack of adult males. All the daycare teachers were female, and probably 95% of the kids there with parents were with just mom. I was very thankful to have Tony there with us, very thankful that he is nearly always with us when we go somewhere. I love that he gets to experience so much with his kids, and of course it makes it so much easier to have two adults around! I have very few memories of ever doing anything with my own father as a child (he was usually at work and if he wasn't he was sleeping or doing his own thing) and I am so glad that our kids will have their dad in so many of their memories. He's a keeper!
Despite the heat and the crowding and even the long car ride, we had a great time. On the way home we played the alphabet game, thinking of as many animals as we could for each letter of the alphabet, and the kids used some of the animals they had just seen at the zoo and wouldn't even have known about before that day.
We arrived home hot and tired but happy after a long day together among the animals and flowers!