Zootastic is a very small zoo that allows kids to get up close and personal with the animals on exhibit. Jackson and his MiMi went to this zoo with his preschool class in October. Today was Teacher Appreciation Day at the zoo, which meant all family members received free admission AND a free lunch.
Jesse decided to go into work today, but I never pass up free entertainment. The kids and I left immediately after Maddie's PT.
I showed my teacher badge upon arrival and received a ticket for the meal and program. I didn't realize we would be assigned a specific time to eat and I didn't even know there was a program. We had an hour before lunch so we leisurely strolled through the exhibits and playgrounds. The babies were in the double umbrella and Ergo. (Our quad stroller is missing a wheel and the seat belts aren't installed in the wagon.)
I was much more excited about the animals than the kids were. Jack just walked around nonchalantly as if he is regularly within inches from giraffes, camels, llamas, and tigers! The babies followed each animal with their eyes and appeared mildly curious.
I was so impressed with the play area. There were large playgrounds for the big kids and several playsets for toddlers. I always bring the blanket since the babies prefer to crawl and pull up. The babies enjoyed a much-needed break from their confined stroller/ergo. All appeared happy to move around and play.
Lunch was very stressful. I arrived a few minutes early. I set everything up in the barn, put the babies on the blanket, and made the bottles, all before realizing there was a growing line of people waiting to pick up their lunch outside. We waited on the trio to finish their bottles before packing up and joining a line that had doubled in length. Jackson was amazingly patient under the circumstances. By the time we got our food, there was no longer any room left in the barn so we had to eat in the hot sun. While it was not ideal, I can't complain about free hamburgers, hotdogs, chili, slaw, chips, and drinks.
Now would be a good time to mention how challenging it was to wear a hot baby and push a double umbrella stroller through thick mulch, gravel, and hay. I could not maneuver the stroller in between picnic tables or through certain doors. After our lunch, bathroom breaks, and diaper changes, we headed to the indoor amphitheater for the program. I was immediately greeted by the sign, "NO STROLLERS!" After a bit of negotiation, the employees took out some chairs and made room on the floor level for the stroller.
The program was led by a Jack Hanna type character who taught about a variety of animals. Of course, he promoted field trips and other ways for teachers to collaborate with the zoo. He pulled out animals and allowed audience members to feed, touch, wear, etc the animals.
Unfortunately, it was at this point in the day that James decided he'd had enough. Neither pacifier, Ergo, rocking, swinging, nor pretzels could console him. We sneaked out during the presentation. (And by sneaked out, I mean, asked multiple people to move so I could unlock the second door and fit through the doorway--all while wearing a screaming baby.)
Though this was one of the harder solo outings I've done in a while, it was a change of pace, free, and fun. It's hard to find safe places for the babies to explore and have fun. It's even harder to balance my attention between all four kids and ensure that Jackson still feels special.
Not surprisingly, every kid fell asleep on the way home.