Let’s Count The Animals

May 24, 2008 by Michelle

Ahhh, the infamous zoo field trip. Apparently Mister Man’s preschool isn’t the only one that does this, as we had at least 100 other schools at the zoo at the same time yesterday. I’m getting ahead of myself though.

My mom kindly volunteered to come over early to watch the wee ones so I could go running before Mister Man and I left for the zoo. Mister Man didn’t do great on the bus last year (he was getting bus sick), and it seemed silly to drive the 25 minutes to the school then get on a bus and drive back towards the direction I came and then reverse that on the way home. Besides, Mister Man didn’t want to ride the bus.

My mom kept harping on how it’s part of the experience to ride the bus, so at 8am, I asked him again if he wanted to ride the bus. Nope. I went running and got back at 8:52, just in time to throw a lunch together and head out the door (gotta love the no sweating gene sometimes). My mom and the wee ones were sitting on the front steps. Apparently, she’d talked him into riding the bus. However, by 8:52, I literally couldn’t get to the school before the bus left had I walked out the door that second. Thanks, Mom.

Fortunately, Mister Man was amenable to riding the bus next year. Then of course I realized that I didn’t really have all that much lying around the house to make lunch for both Mister Man and I. Whoops. Toss together some bread and ham for Mister Man, a couple of little treats to share with his friends, cut up a pineapple to take with us, a string cheese and some granola for me (like I said, there wasn’t really much just lying around), and all of a sudden it was 9:20.

It takes at least an hour to get to the zoo, and the class was going to leave the meeting point at 10:20 sharp. We hustled into the car and headed out, with Little Miss going with my mom to spend the day with Grandma and Grandpa. Somehow, we got to the zoo at 10:16 (and I wasn’t speeding – gotta love it when you hit the lights).

When I got to the meeting place, I didn’t see anyone who looked like they were in preschool, so I immediately started panicking. Then I saw someone waving at me, one of the moms in Mister Man’s class. She was waiting, too, and shortly thereafter, another mom and boy came up to join us. Then we saw another boy with his brothers and mom and Grandma. And finally, the first mom got a call from another mom saying that she’d driven behind the buses and they were just arriving. That was at 10:40.

By 10:50, we still didn’t see anyone from our preschool coming in the gates, so we started wondering if we’d missed them somehow. Finally, I saw two teachers I recognized so went up to them to ask where Mister Man’s teacher and class were. At that point, I learned that it was likely the class had already come in but that the teacher wasn’t with them and had yet to come in. Interesting.

The teacher finally walked in the gates, saw the five kids standing there waiting (of the 13 who were even possibly coming to the zoo) and walked up to us. “Hi, there’s no pressure but if you want to meet up with us for lunch, we’re meeting at noon at the Safari Café. Have fun!” And then she walked off. By herself. With no kids. After we’d spent 35 minutes with very anxious 4 and 5 year olds waiting for the class to go on our field trip together. No further comment.

What option do we have now? We decided to just go do our own thing. One mom really wanted to see the dolphin show with her son, so she went off to do that, but the other three of us headed out together. First stop – because the kids saw it and begged – was the carousel. The three boys rode next to each other, with Mister Man on a turtle. As we got off the carousel, we ran into another mom from our class walking by herself, so she joined us.

At this point, the kids (including one of the boys’ younger sister) started the wagon rotation. One mom was smart and brought a wagon to help cart things around. Two kids rode at a time, one pulled the wagon, and the other ran near it. With four and five year olds, the rotation system wasn’t the easiest, but they all got along.

Somehow, the moms decided that the first stop would be one of the two playgrounds in the zoo. Of course! Why visit the animals? Once we finally left the park (which was a lot of fun, just not what I’d choose to do at the zoo if it were my sole decision), we started walking towards the bears. We saw a brown bear, and then we decided to stop for lunch since there was a not busy side restaurant right near the bear exhibit.

After our leisurely lunch, where fortunately everyone ate a decent amount, and our chocolate covered gummy bears were a great hit, as were the M&Ms from the bag of trail mix one of the other moms had brought.

Unfortunately, the mom we had picked up at the carousel had ridden the bus and wanted to go see lots more animals before she had to be back at 1:15, so she split off right after lunch. The other three of us had driven, so we didn’t have the same constraints.

Although it was May 23 and supposed to be 64 and sunny – I swear I was listening to the forecast on the radio as I was getting ready – it was freezing and windy and cloudy, maybe 55. Mister Man was wearing a t-shirt and jacket but was lucky to be warm enough. I had a long sleeve t-shirt and jacket and was freezing.

Knowing it was supposed to be 64 and sunny, I had brought a short sleeve t-shirt for me to change into once it got warm. And because it’s Chicago, I brought a long sleeve tee for Mister Man if he got too cold. Well, it was at the end of lunch when I finally gave up and decided fashion wasn’t important. I brought out short sleeve tee from the backpack and on it went over the other t-shirt. Fortunately, it started to get warmer at that point.

We didn’t trust this, of course, so we went to the nice 80 degree primate house. They all loved it, and it was so warm and lovely inside. Of course walking back outside after that was a bit of a shock! Fortunately, the sun chose then to make an appearance.

Right outside the primate house was an educational play area where we spent some time. All the kids loved putting their heads through the various pollution superheroes, as well as hanging out in the random tube. I swear they were all sitting so nicely together and posing quite cutely until we got out the cameras.

After this, the kids decided they wanted to go to the other playground in the zoo, so we walked around the zoo until we found it and ended up playing there for most of the rest of the time. The dolphin show mom also happened to end up at the park shortly after we did, so the boys all played together and the moms got to chat some. Nothing like a zoo field trip for bonding!

As the other moms left at 2:20, Mister Man and I decided to go see some animals real fast before we left. After all, traffic in Chicago is a nightmare and it was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.

Once we left the others, we saw the elephants, tapirs, rhinos, hippos, ostriches, waterbucks, warthogs, camels, bats, various Australian animals and reptiles, kangaroos, and a few more I can’t recall at the moment in less than an hour. Now that’s my kind of zoo visit. It’d been awhile since I’d been to the Brookfield Zoo, and it involves a lot of walking.

Poor Mister Man was all tuckered out, not that he fell asleep in the car on the way home. Both the wee ones spent the night at my parents’ last night as I had my last yoga class and my husband had baseball (plus, they love to do it – my parents and the wee ones). Somehow, Mister Man slept in until 8:30 this morning which he never does. At my parents’ house, he usually wakes up around 6:30. Plus, he napped this afternoon and is already asleep tonight. This is at least a great way to wear out a small child.

Next year though, I’m going to drive again. And I’m going to verify with the teacher how she envisions the field trip working. If it’s anything like this year’s, I’ll call the moms I’m friends with and hang out with them like I did this time – sans the waiting for over a half hour for no reason.

Oh and ummm pics tomorrow, I promise!

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