This weekend my husband, Brian, and I went to Columbus Zoo, which involved a seven-hour round-trip journey that marked our first long car ride with all five of our children in tow. Before this trip the longest my crew had ever been confined to a car was the hour-long ride to Grandma’s house. The zoo trip required us to pile into our old Suburban together for hours on end, elbow-to-elbow and head-to-head. I was apprehensive to say the least, anticipating numerous potty breaks, backseat fighting, and boredom. But we were long overdue for a family vacation, so we were getting to zoo even if it killed us—and at times I thought it very well might.
We had planned for an early start to our day, hoping to have already arrived when the zoo gates opened at nine. However, by the time everyone was dressed and packed into the car along with an adequate supply of snacks, pillows and games, it was already nearly . Oh well, this was supposed to be a day a leisure; no use stressing over the clock.
I would like to say that I spent our hours in the car entertaining my children by playing mind-stimulating word games or singing old-fashioned campfire songs. Alas, it was the fully charged hand-held video games that kept my car silent for the majority of the trip. Yeah, maybe the previous generations used long car rides for quality family time, but they had no choice—MarioKart hadn’t been invented yet. Given the opportunity to shut up their young fry during the trip out west, I’m pretty sure our pioneering forefathers would have gladly stocked their carriages with overpriced Nintendo products too, and the song “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” would have never been penned.
Approximately five minutes into our journey, Brileigh leaned forward and uttered the phrase that was surely ringing out from the back seat of every car on the freeway with us- “Are we almost there?” I sighed and explained once again that it was going to be a very, very long ride and that we wouldn’t be at the zoo until the nine on the clock turned into a twelve—about three hours. Tony chimed in “How many seconds is that?”
“I don’t know, a lot, why?”
“I want to know how high I have to count until we get there.”
“Uh… 10,800.” (Yes, I most definitely used a calculator.)
Brileigh began staring intently at the clock as if she was going to miss the big moment and Tony began a loud, monotonous countdown that only lasted until about 32 (God bless his ADHD).
I passed out baggies full of Cheerios, which the children happily munched on and flicked at each other over the seats, while Lacey kept herself occupied by sticking her hand through the loop of her shoelace and screaming for help... over and over and over again. I ignored her request after the second round, but Brileigh indulged her fake pleas long past the point of reasonable sanity. Her unebbing attention is why all of the youngest kids prefer her over me, which is fine because someday, long after her little sisters have exhausted the last of her patience, she will have children of her own that cant stand her and I’ll be the cool grandma that doles out lots of candy and indulges every tedious, repetitive game.
A wave of nostalgia washed over me as I watched the semi-trucks pass by, which led me to show my children how to pump their arms up and down at the drivers. As soon as the first semi responded with a blast of their air horn my kids were hooked and my legacy was firmly passed on to the next generation. There, quality time achieved. For the next 90 miles we were serenaded by semis in 30-second intervals as my car shook back and forth from my five fervent fist pumpers. Nerve-rattling, no doubt, but it kept them nicely occupied, and I was willing to endure nearly anything to avoid hearing them bicker in close quarters.
And yet, I suppose it was inevitable.
It’s no surprise that Ainsley was the first to resort to torturing her siblings to keep herself entertained. After the last semi disappeared from view, Ainsley turned to Brileigh and continued to pump her fist up and down. So what, right? No one was being injured; no annoying sound was being made. No big deal. Um, no, evidently this is a very big deal. The familiar screech of “Ainsleyyy-uh, stop iiit-uhhhh” rang out moments later. For those unfamiliar with petty sibling squabbling, a child’s level of annoyance is directly proportionate to how long they draw out the whiney “uhhh” at the end of their words. On this particular occasion Brileigh’s “uh” went up an octave or two, indicting that she was about to deck someone, which only served to visibly delight Ainsley and fuel her psychological assault. Twenty-five minutes later Ainsley was still hard at work pumping her arm; her face was red, she had a hint of sweat on her brow, her little arm was trembling from exhaustion, but the tears forming in her sister’s eyes helped her push through the pain. It wasn’t until Brileigh sneered at her and said “Your arm is going to fall off if you don’t stop” that Ainsley finally relented and moved on to her next victim.
Moments later I heard an animalistic growl from my son in the back seat and I turned to see Ainsley sweetly hugging Tony who was seated next to her.
“Get offff of meeee-uhhhh.”
“Ainsley, stop hugging Tony” I sighed
“But I loooove him,” she sang out sarcastically, a ornery smile spread across her face.
“No she doesn’t! She’s doing it on purpose!” Tony protested
“Aww, be nice, she just wants to give you a hug,” I said as I whipped out my camera—hey, I need a little entertainment too.
After pouring a venti coffee into my grande bladder, I initiated the first potty break. We pulled into a Burger King and I took our entourage of girls into the women’s restroom while Brian and Tony strolled into the men’s room. The gender imbalance of our family always leaves me with the lion’s share of the work during bathroom visits. Stupid abundance of X chromosomes. The very first thing Delaney did when we walked into the restroom was to bend over and touch the floor. With her bare hand. Yes, the tile was interesting, but did it really require a touch? I guess so. I ushered the three oldest girls into each stall and jumped around awaiting my turn praying that my pregnancy-ravaged bladder wall would hold.
Suddenly the unexpected sound of the automatic flusher sent Ainsley bursting out of the stall with her pants still around her ankles. I had to grab her before she ran right out the door into the restaurant in a streak of bright white bare bum. As Delaney finished and stood up, the second flush resonated through the room and another round of screams ensued as she frantically tried to open the locked door with all of her three-year-old might, shaking the entire wall of stall doors. Just as I was resigned to the fact that I might have to crawl under the door to free her from her chamber of terror, she flung it open and jumped into my arms, her eyes as big as saucers and her little heart racing against my chest. More and more time passed as we waited for Brileigh to come out. Finally I called out to her to see if she was alright.
“Yeah, I’m okay. I just, um, don’t want to stand up”
“I don’t want the toilet to flush with me still inside,” she whimpered desperately on the verge of a full blown wail.
Once she managed to unlock the door without removing her butt from the seat I went inside and found her sitting perfectly still on the commode as if perched atop an active landmine. I covered the sensor and she pulled her pants up and exited to safety before the ferocious flush. (McGyver has nothing on a mom.) I came out just in time to catch Lacey playing with the garbage can flap and yanking dirty paper towels out like confetti. I cleaned up her mess, washed all of our hands, and dragged everyone back to the car before Hazmat could arrive to isolate anyone. Then I ran back in to relieve myself in peace, unsure if I was ever going to go back out to join my family. At this point spending the remainder of eternity in a fast food john sounded like a reasonable option.
Once on the road again I doled out another round of snacks and watched happily as Lacey’s eyes fluttered shut and one by one each little head nodded to the side as they rested up for the long day that was still ahead of us. The remainder of our trip was silent, save for the faint jingle of a video game left on in the backseat. As we pulled into the vast zoo parking lot we looked at each other, took a deep breath, and woke our sleeping beasts.
***Be sure to check back on Thursday to hear all about our exciting day at the Columbus Zoo!***
|To see more hilarious comics by J-Sto, please visit www.mykidcomix.com|