A picture of spontaneity with four five-and-under

On Saturday, we got a little spontaneous and decided to throw housework to the wind and go to Indy to use our zoo passes.  It was Samuel’s first little mini-road trip, and our first major outing with all four children.  Were we crazy?  I’m sure some would think so, but overall we had a great day with some definite crazy moments.

Our trip began well, with Samuel asleep in his carseat and the girls watching a movie.  However, when we were still about 20-30 minutes out, Samuel woke up and decided to let it all out and squall the rest of the way.  The girls handled this well for awhile, then they all three developed their own coping skills.  So after a few minutes, Clay and I were listening to Samuel squalling his head off, Abigail singing Jingle Bells at the top of her lungs, Catherine singing the ABC’s at the top of her lungs, and Elisabeth yelling, “Mommy!  Baby!  Mommy!  Baby!”  over and over.  Now Clay and I had to pull out our coping skills, which basically involve a choice between laughing and crying.  We were managing pretty well, until the previously forgotten movie (Tarzan) decided to chime in with the classic Tarzan yell on top of all the other noise!!   You have never met a family so glad to see the 114 Exit ramp!!

We finally got there, unloaded out of the van, loaded into the strollers, made it through the gate and into the zoo.  Surprisingly, the zoo trip itself was relatively mishap-free.  We had a few whiny moments, had a couple of crises involving bees and Abigail accidentally throwing the whole piece of pretzel to the ducks when she really just wanted to throw one little part, but we had a pretty good afternoon.  No matter how many times we go, it is always amazing to see the variety of God’s creative work, and the excitement on our kids’ faces when they see their favorite animals.

So, by the time we left we were all absolutely starving.  We drove north on the interstate a little ways to the Zionsville exit.  Then we proceeded to do something we never do, and will never do again.  We decided to not try to please everyone at one restaurant, but let everyone get what they really wanted by hitting more than one.  First stop, Subway.  Clay and Abigail go in search of two turkey sandwiches, two bags of chips, and two drinks, for Mommy and Abigail.  They come out with two bags of chips, one drink, and a slice of turkey.  Read the next sentence carefully, because you won’t believe it at first:  The Subway restaurant was out of bread!!!  (I didn’t believe it, either.  Just sit for a moment and let the full impact hit you.)  Let me say it again:  Subway was completely out of every kind of bread!!  Is bread not the main staple of a Subway restaurant?  How does a Subway restaurant completely run out of bread in the middle of a Saturday afternoon?  Crazy.  So, once we got our wits about us after being completely baffled for a moment, Clay took Catherine inside the store attached to the restaurant in search of a potty and some chocolate milk for the girls to drink.  They come back out, having been successful in their search this time, and Clay proceeded to dump the majority of the chocolate milk out on the van floor as he was trying to pour it into their cups.  Wailing almost commenced from the back of the van, but he stopped it just in time, convincing them that he had gotten enough in their cups before the spill.  Now thoroughly convinced that this stop was cursed, we move on to Burger King.  Amazingly, we have no mishaps here.  We get Mommy and Catherine and Elisabeth taken care of before heading to Popeye’s to satisfy Daddy.  While Daddy goes in to get his food, Samuel decides he needs to just absolutely squall his little head off again.  The van windows were down, and an older couple came out to get in their car which was parked right next to us.  I was hurriedly scarfing down my food so I could get to him, when I heard the lady say to her husband, “Remember that sound, honey?”  “EH?” he said.  “I said, remember that sound?” she said louder.  “EH?” he said.  “IT’S A BABY CRYING!  REMEMBER THAT SOUND?”  “EH?” he said.  (I guess he is the picture of how I’ll end up one day–deaf from hearing too many babies crying!)

Finally, we got on the road with everyone filling their bellies.  Samuel went back to sleep, we popped Dumbo in the DVD player and off we went.  Then we hit that magic mark of about 20-30 minutes out, when this time Elisabeth got bored with the status quo, and decided to play her new game.  This is a super fun game, consisting mainly of a lot of fake crying.  “Mommy!” she’ll yell.  “What?” I’ll say.  “Cry!” she’ll command.  After I’ve obeyed, it’s Daddy’s turn.  Then Abba.  Then Catherine.  Then Mommy.  Then…you get the picture.  Why do we encourage this?  Why in the world would we want to encourage fake crying when we hear so much of the real thing?  I don’t know.  I guess we are crazy.  But I do know that sometimes, it’s easier just to give them what they want when it doesn’t hurt anything, even if it does seem crazy.  It’s all for the greater good, which in this case, meant a happy end to the ride–even though the happiness resulted from fake sadness.  Yes, we’re a strange family.

So, regardless of the crises and weird moments I’ve described here, we count our first big family outing a success.  In a family with children these ages, we’re learning to roll with the punches and remember that children act childish.  We cannot go somewhere and expect our five, three, and one year olds to act 10, 8, and 6.  When we remember that and remain flexible, we have a good time in spite of the little moments that inevitably occur throughout the day.

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