I had two tickets to the train at the Indianapolis Zoo.
The year prior, I took Riley to the zoo as our last outing with just the two of us. Maddie tagged along, but she was still in utero and had been for the previous eight months. It was unseasonably warm that day, and given my size, I felt a bit like I was sitting in a sauna I couldn’t escape from. We were excited, though. Riley, who was still working on pronunciation, exclaimed, “Zoo!” clearly and excitedly the whole way there. The trip up was uneventful and happy. Unfortunately, I had not checked the City of Indianapolis events calendar, and they were celebrating who knows what in the park next to the zoo, which was fine, except there was no parking to be found. I spent the next forty minutes driving the side streets trying to decide whether or not the neighborhood would be safe enough to park in. With my self-defense skills somewhat limited given my range of motion at the time, I finally decided on a parking garage at a nearby medical facility. By nearby, I mean a mile and a half from the zoo. Good thing I was a prepared momma and brought my walking shoes and the stroller! After being rerouted by a couple fences blocking our direct route, we finally made it to the zoo.
Riley, my lovely water baby, headed straight to the splash pad in the center of the zoo. After a break for lunch and another round at the splash pad, we ventured out to see some animals. And we did. One animal. A tiger. Riley lost interest. “Choo choo train! Choo choo train!” I must explain; with Riley’s limited speech at this age, she referred to everything that she wanted as “choo choo train.” Inventive but rather difficult to decipher what exactly she wanted. This time, she was, in fact, referring to a train. I bought our tickets, and we waited in line. For forty minutes. Forty minutes of line waiting with a two-and-a-half-year-old.
Finally, our turn! We boarded, and I sat next to my excited toddler who couldn’t believe Thomas had made it to the Indianapolis Zoo. Ten minutes into our journey, just outside of the grasslands, the train came to a slow, strained stop. Another ten minutes and our conductor announced that the train had indeed broken down and we would need to follow him back to the station. We were stuck on the other side of the zoo from the station. We had now been at the zoo for five hours. Riley was tired. Riley did not want to walk. So I carried my little engineer, and her little sidekick in my belly, all the way back to the other side of the zoo, where I was handed two tickets to ride the train again, for my trouble. After another mile and a half back to the car, I had three quarter-sized blisters, two “free” tickets to the train, and one sleeping toddler. A successful, memorable last day for just the two of us.
Fast-forward one year.
The beginning of 2015 has been anything but restful, which really isn’t a word a working mom uses to describe her world anyway. I have taken a large amount of sick time off of work this year due to Maddie adjusting to daycare germs. For those of you with a daycare baby, you know these sick days are never restful. They are either spent with a cranky, cranky baby or with a slightly sick baby who has a teething fever 1/8 degree above 100 and you feel too guilty to just sit around so you either work or madly clean the house while entertaining your happy child. It isn’t really a day off work either way. Lesley has also been feeling the working mom strain with an extraordinary amount of work to be done that often spills into the nighttime hours. We needed a skip day, and I just happened to have those two tickets to the train at the zoo.
It turned out perfectly. The weather was a warm 63 degrees. The sun came out at the right times, and the clouds came out at the right times. Riley and Story brought with them paper and crayons and drew each animal after they were done with the exhibit. Riley excitedly held her caricature of the polar bear up to the glass for the polar bear to see when she had finished, and Story went through each of her portraits in detail with a very sweet docent at the orangutan exhibit. Again, a successful day.
The ride home, however, was a bit more eventful. Just out of the rush-hour traffic, Riley announced that she had to go to the bathroom. Immediately. In luck we pulled into a nearby gas station. Crisis averted. There were a couple of teachable moments when it came to the sharing of crayons as they put finishing touches on their artwork. There was also one incredibly smooth example of sharing done right (go, girls!). Then we hit traffic — at the exact moment that Riley and Story discovered how utterly hilarious “butt-nana” sounded. You would think we had twelve-year-old boys in the backseat as they doubled over laughing each time one of them said their new word. For twenty minutes. The hilarity continued as they decided it would be equally funny to take off their shoes and smell each other’s feet.
Story: “Riley, my feet smell like cherries.”
Riley, smelling her own feet: “Yuck.”
Story: “You smell my feet.”
Riley, smelling Story’s feet: “Mmmm … I smell chips!”
The traffic finally broke as did Lesley when the girls began talking about poop. After she declared that the use of the word poop would no longer be used in conversation, the girls turned to the word toot. Lesley, despite herself, exclaimed, “A toot is almost a poop,” then shook her head. “I can’t believe I just said that.” We all roared with laughter.
Yes, this year has been a lot of work, but with our skip day, the mom balance has been restored.
Always be prepared for every scenario; you may be doing more walking than you expect. Enjoy the imagination of your children (while silently praying the whole daycare will not soon be saying “butt-nana” because of your child). Always make time for your family when you, or they, need it.