Last week, we made our customary pilgrimage to Chicago for Danny's therapy. Since the kids are accustomed to driving the three hours to Chicago, they are typically quite cooperative in the car. I used to pack all kinds of treats, books and toys to keep them occupied, but lately, I have become lax. I might throw a box of Triscuits in the car, along with a bottle of water, but it's basically up to the kids to entertain themselves.
Until this trip, it has never been a problem.
Charlotte happened to sleep quite late the morning of our departure, which I am guessing is what accounts for her unprecedented energy in the car. She rarely stopped talking the entire ride, and this girl has nothing even remotely resembling an inside voice. Danny had the box of Triscuits at one point and was dutifully sharing them with both Charlotte and Tommy when Charlotte started whining and crying. Charlotte insisted that Dan give her precisely 5 crackers, and her requests ("I want 5 crackers! FIVE! FIVE! FIVE! Gimme FIVE CRACKERS, DANNY!!!") got whinier and more strident until I felt like my ears were going to bleed.
I think she finally stopped screaming when Danny threw the box of crackers at her.
Like I said, the kids are typically pretty subdued in the car, and this is especially true of Danny. For some reason, though, this trip was different. Almost as soon as we left our town, Danny was asking me if we were in Chicago yet. Anytime we passed a building--even if only a farmhouse--he repeated his question: "Are we in Chicago now, mom?"
It got even worse when we passed anything that remotely passed for a town, no matter how small. Danny would squeal, "Yay! We're in Chicago now!" and he would moan when I contradicted him. How he could mistake Neoga with Chicago, I will never know.
I finally got the kids to settle down and listen to some music. We were getting pretty close to the city and only had another 35 minutes or so in the car left, when all of a sudden I was assailed by an ungodly stench. I couldn't figure out what it was, but it seemed to be emanating from the back seat.
As I tried valiantly to breathe through my mouth, I heard Charlotte say, "Danny, put your shoes back on! Your feet are sweaty!"
Remind me to never, ever allow Danny to wear Crocs without socks.
While in the city, I took the kids to the zoo. Despite a torrential downpour and very, very high temperatures and humidity, we soldiered on and saw every manner of mammal, fish and bird. At the end of our visit, I decided to splurge and take the kids on the zoo tram ride.
Not since choosing to wear shoulder pads in the 80s have I made such a grievous error in judgment.
Everyone was tired and cranky. It was already well past 1 pm, which is Tommy's normal nap time, and we were all muddy from the rain and puddles
we the kids insisted on jumping in and splattering over all bystanders. My patience was worn thin, so I thought the tram ride would be a nice, peaceful break.
Tommy was not happy about the rule that every kid needed to sit in a seat or in a lap. He wanted to wander around and flirt with the cute 16-year-old Romanian girl sitting across from us. He bucked and flailed as I wrestled to keep him in his seat. It was exhausting.
The nice Romanian man and his daughter, who were impeccably dressed and groomed, smiled at us and commented on how dirty my children were. They also happened to notice that Tommy's diaper was hanging precariously low.
This is when Tommy decided to attempt to climb into the seat next to the beautiful daughter and throw up all over said seat. Luckily, none of the puke spattered her, and I even happened to have exactly two wet wipes in my purse and was able to clean it speedily. Still, I felt somehow responsible for my toddler's unpleasant bodily excretions.
It turned out I didn't have long to agonize about the vomit though, because Danny and Charlotte decided they both wanted to sit next to me, though only one seat was actually available. Whining and angry recriminations followed. I came *this close* to throwing my precious offspring to the hippos, as we passed the Amphibians.
We were stuck on this tram for about 45 minutes. The longest 45 minutes of my life. I thought 45 minute of Chemistry class in high school was long. Yeah, that was like the blink of an eye compared to the glacially slow passage of time on that tram. Oh, that tram!
Oblivious to my agony, the tour guide kept prattling on and on about all the wonders of the zoo. At each stop, she would remind us to keep our extremities inside the tram and would go on to inform us that no food or alcoholic beverages were allowed on the tram.
As I listened over and over again to the prohibition of alcohol, I couldn't help thinking that these zoo workers were mocking me. Though I no longer drink alcohol, if anything were to drive me to fall off the proverbial wagon, it would be wrestling an 18 month baby into a tram seat, while listening to the high pitched keening of my four-year-old daughter because her brother wouldn't sit next to her. This all in 90+ degree weather.
It took every ounce of willpower not to turn to the clean, good-looking and very civilized Romanian family and beg them to adopt and rescue me from this squalor that is my life.
Instead, I went back to my mom's house and passed out in her bed while Danny and Charlotte watched hours of cartoons and Tommy napped.
I'm sure my Mother of the Year Award is in the mail.