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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Day After School Zoo Trip

I am a bad mother who doesn't take pictures of her children or her beloved kindergarten teacher who is moving to AZ in a month. Today was the non-school sanctioned GHCS kindergarten Point Defiance Zoo field trip. We spent six wonderful hours of informality hanging out with the kindergarten moms, teacher and kids. I have no photos to show for it.

When I left for CA, I was frantically searching for pictures of Rich and the kids taken in the last, oh, I don't know, decade so I could show them off and look at them when I was missing them. I found stuff for everyone but Elijah. I told Rich that we don't take pictures of him. This isn't entirely true, we do, but only when he is covered from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet with food. We're working on this.

Anyway, the zoo. We met up at 10:00 am. Evidently a bulletin was passed out to the schools within a 100 mile radius (I'm not exaggerating) that TODAY was the day to bus all of their kids to our zoo. They kind of crowded the six (out of a class of eight) kindergarteners, their siblings and parents and lone teacher. We knew we could wait them out, though, and we did. They were zoo wimps. We stayed until 4:30.

The day began nicely enough, everyone woke up late except for the most troublesome child who informed us he was "poopy" and then proceeded to get us (read: Rich) out of bed to change him. Then, he wanted breakfast, if you can imagine, at 7:30 am. Didn't he know this wasn't a school day? So he ate alone while we got up and showered, and he interupted our shower to ask if he could be excused from breakfast. Yes, he got out of his seat, put his dishes in the sink and came to the bathroom to ask if he could do what he already had done. That's okay, though, the training is starting to work.

Elijah was one of the two children who got breakfast this morning, in a stunning display of poor parenting. Dominic was the next to wake. He also got to eat breakfast. Alexander got up about half an hour before we had to leave, and Amira got up around the same time. While Alexander showered, I got Amira dressed and gave her a bottle of milk. Went back to getting Dominic and Elijah appropriate clothes, (no a heavy long sleeved red turtleneck shirt and thick corduroy pants are not the best things to wear on a hot day to the zoo, why do you ask?), and nagging them to put them on, go to the bathroom, brush their teeth, get shoes on and get in the car. By the time Alexander finished the arduous task of drying himself off and putting on clothes we needed to have left five minutes before. So, he also got some milk, but in the car.

So, we get to the zoo. See the busloads of children and tremble a bit. Run into a parent I know who is from class. Find Mrs. Debby, all is well so far. We waited a bit for all the kids to show up, and went in. There is a new kid zone. There is one way in and one way out and there are armed guards zoo personel at each point. This is good. There are eight bazillion loud children and their adults with them in this area. Not as good.

Alexander and Dominic ran off to play, they are the ones I know will hop when I call them and stay where I can see them. I love these boys dearly and our early training has paid off with them in magnitudes. I contemplated briefly leaving Elijah in the stroller and not allowing him to play in the kid zone, because I knew he would give me a heart attack, but I decided that was too mean, even for me.

I should be meaner.

He was having a grand time playing in the water sprays when Amira started to whine a little (she's very demanding, and she was upset about not having eaten breakfast and being tired, so I gave her Elijah's milk when he wasn't looking). She was reclining and sucking her thumb, so I bent down for literally four seconds, tops, to put the back seat down so she could try to nap. I looked up and Elijah was gone.

Gone, like yesterday is gone. I knew he couldn't have left on his own, because one of the zoo people would have caught him and kicked him back into play. But, but, but, but, he could have been mixed in with the hordes of other children and gone out in a group and just be lost to me. I haven't been this scared in a long time. I lost my figure forever for this boy, gained more grey hairs and wrinkles and grew up in ways I never realized I could just to bring him into this world and he was gone.

I started calling him, I called Alexander and Dominic to look for him, I called the other moms into duty and Mrs. Debby (bless her heart) was feeling bad for organizing the trip and she was looking all over. We were all looking, and I was yelling his name, getting more and more terrified and trying to hide the hysteria in my voice. After a few minutes, we decided to enlist the fellow from the entrance. He wanted to look around the play area one more time before we really freaked out (that wasn't the phrase he used), so we told him Elijah's name, what he was wearing (remember the red turtleneck which was too warm, but nice and bright that I made him change out of?), a camoflage of drab grey shirt and tan pant, he looked like the zoo for crying out loud, and how old he was. We all looked. Everywhere. Three times.

Something that disturbed me a little bit, was how the parents who were not part of our group did not seem to care that we were scared and looking for my son. They just smiled benignly and went on doing whatever they were doing. I've never stood by when someone has misplaced their child in my presence, I help them look. So, anyway, this is why I am always counting kids' heads everywhere we go and consider Odyssey One and Chuck E Cheese two of the lower levels of hell.

I forgot to mention the lower inflatable, geodesic dome type thing below in this area with the goats and some other creatures. We checked there twice. No Elijah. We checked one more time, and this time he managed not to blend in with the walls and was standing in the middle looking at stuff all by himself. No, he didn't hear all that yelling of his name, why do you ask? He thought we were seeking the Old Testament prophet.

I gave him a huge hug, carried him out of there, and immediately put him in time out. I scolded him for going off without telling me, for not staying where he could see and hear me and pretty well scared him. He started to cry, mostly because he had no idea why we were all so upset with him. He reminds me of Grace Kelly in High Society talking about how she can't dance because George is frowning at her. Except he wasn't drunk.

Anyway, when his incarceration was over, I called over Alexander and Dominic (remember how obedient and quick they are?) and told them that I was sorry, but they would have to stay together and with Elijah the whole rest of the time. If any one of them wanted to play in another section, they all had to agree and go. Alexander immediately grabbed part of Elijah's shirt and didn't let go for the rest of the time we were in the kid zone. Elijah went back into the stroller for the rest of the zoo trip and didn't ever come out again. He even ate lunch in it.

Let this be a warning to all of you parents who are being lenient with one of your little children because you feel sorry for them. Elijah was our poor little baby, he had to have surgery, so we were way softer with him than we ever were with his brothers. You know, the ones who come at the first call, obey, are aware of their surroundings and are quick about responding? We have had far more work with Elijah than with them, and it is our own fault for being easy on him when he was younger. We never had to do the kind of discipline and control with Alexander and Dominic at this age that we do with him.

The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful and fun. We still have four children and they are all in bed now.

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