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Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Lovely Day at the Zoo

Hallie, Sharon, and I had the most wonderful Sunday. These are very satisfying words to type.

It's been a busy week or two around here, as you can tell from my previous posts and from my lack of regular posting. Much of this has involved preparing our home for the Great Expectation, who really might arrive any day now (Sharon was 2 cm dilated and 70% effaced as of last Wednesday). So we've been moving, cleaning, doing laundry, building new toy-storage furniture, cleaning and installing carseats and the like. Hallie clearly knows something is up, but we're not sure how much she understands about what is about to happen.

Given this, we really wanted to do something nice for Hallie and for the whole family. Back a few months ago, we joined the
Philadelphia Zoo, which, like many other things, is the first of its kind established in the nation (Hallie and Olivia were born in the US's first hospital, for example. It's kind of cool, but I'm sure glad that they installed running water and electricity since Pennsylvania Hospital opened its doors in 1751). Anyway, the Zoo runs a lot of programs oriented at kids and we decided to enroll Hallie in their early readers series (which is aimed at 2 and 3 year olds). Hallie loves books intensely and we thought this would give her good exposure to reading in a circle with other kids, meeting some animals close up in a controlled setting, and perhaps socializing with her peers. The first book the Zoo teachers featured was none other than one of Hallie's most beloved volumes, Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?. Even though Hallie has read this book a million times (easily) and has committed it to memory and even though we own not one but two copies of it (one board book, quite worn, and one regular hard back book, untouched), we thought that these factors recommended the class and did not detract from our interest in attending it. Given Hallie's lack of social and classroom experience, our goal was to make the event comfortable for her. What's more comforting for a toddler than knowing what comes next and having some sense of routine? Hallie knew all the animals, could say their names and make their sounds, could clap and cheer at the appropriate places in the book. In other words, she could be an equal participant in the activity and not hang back (as is her usual style in settings that are unfamiliar to her) to take a cue from others.

The Zoo gave us atrocious directions. This is a massive understatement. They told us to go to one building, next to which we parked, and it turned out that the program was a very long hike away from that building, clear across the grounds of the Zoo. While this afforded us the opportunity to see from very cool penguins (they were one of the few animals out there that found the chill in the air to their liking), this meant that, although we were running early for once (practically unheard of in our household), we ended up getting to the building where the readers group was meeting quite late. We were not the only lost souls; we encountered others searching for an elusive classroom in the Tiger Theater when we arrived there. Sharon saved the day by calling the Zoo hotline; the hotline folks alerted the classroom teacher who came to retrieve all of us.

Anyway, following this minor SNAFU, all went quite smoothly. Hallie had a great time reading, meeting a red parrot and a yellowish duck, petting a black bear, a striped zebra, and a leopard skin (which she appropriately identified and distinguished from the tiger skin she also petted. Apropos of this, yesterday at Whole Foods, Hallie was very cute---she pointed to a woman and said "Tiger. Roar." At first I was a bit puzzled, but then noticed that the woman had on a fake fur plush leopard skin coat).

Following the reading and the petting, the kids made their own brown bear masks (featured above; the only help Hallie received was the gluing of ears onto the mask by yours truly).

By this time, it was after noon and Sharon and I needed a snack (leaving the house early meant not taking the time to eat breakfast). We stopped into the cafe at the Zoo and ordered a couple of cheeseburger meals for ourselves. Sharon offered Hallie some animal crackers (I figured that they were thematically appropriate and Hallie has taken a liking to the vanilla flavored ones). Hallie was quite content to munch on these until she saw our fries. The fries that came with the burgers were, the counter folks confirmed, made only of potatoes and so, even though they were a lot thicker than the ones Hallie gets at home, we figured we'd take our chances. By the end of our meal, Hallie had eaten at least ten and probably quite a few more than that fries and had contentedly enjoyed lunch with us without becoming overly antsy.

We were thrilled. It seemed so, well, normal. There we were, along with pretty much every other family that had attended the program, eating lunch with our kid, who was actually eating lunch and feeding herself. No baby food jars were opened, no bottles appeared (Hallie drank out of her juice box with a straw) and no vomiting followed the meal. I know this seems so mundane, but that's kind of the point. We like mundane. We crave mundane.

After our lovely lunch with Hallie, we went off to the Tree House, which is an indoor playground, to let Hallie climb and explore. I was a bit skeptical at first (I am the skeptic in the family more generally). After all, Hallie has had a couple of rough days in a row (read: she vomited on both Friday and Saturday of this week) and I was concerned that running and jumping and horsing around would undo the special feeling Sharon and I had about the day. Happily, I was proven wrong (I love to be proven wrong when I get into the glass-is-half-full mode).

Hallie had a great time. And, even though we were silly enough to leave our camera home, it turns out that the built in camera on the iPhone is pretty darned good and we were able to capture the moment.

Here are some lovely shots from Hallie's exploration of the tree house:

And this has to be our absolute favorite. Hallie was having a blast jumping and making percussive sounds (read: banging the heck out of) the giant beehive. She also loved racing back and forth across the honeycomb to kiss me, and then Sharon, and then me and then Sharon.

We love this little girl! And we look forward to many more splendid days like today (which finished up with an impromptu play date over at Karina's. Ethan and little brother Cole and Sophia--who is also about to be a big sister--were all over (with their parents) and Hallie had a grand time.

No post would be complete, of course, without our tally of days. So far, in 2009, we've had 19 spew-free days. Today was the nicest of them all. And, so, even though it was a few hours late, I consider this to be a very lovely birthday present from my girls.


Trisha said...

Looks like you had a great day! So happy for you all!

Jennifer said...

Oh how nice! We bought a pass to our local zoo last summer - figured dad could take her while I'm on bedrest, just to get her out of the house.

Yep - haven't gone yet. But hope to this friday...

Judith and Jason said...

Sounds like a fab day! We are going to join the Philly zoo too! That's cool they have programs like that esp during the winter.
I check daily for updates of new baby! I am sooo freaking excited for you guys!!

Kirsten Wood said...

What a lovely post about a lovely day! So nice to hear about "a great day out" for all of you. Fingers crossed for another good outing before the baby arrives? Or is it fingers crossed for the baby to arrive already and meet the family? Either way, best wishes from down here in Fla!

BusyLizzyMom said...

I love days like those. As Hallie gets older there will be more of these days, days where you can just sit back, watch and marvel at all her accomplishments. We have had more of those days and the feeling is amazing, it reminds me that things are getting better.

Anne said...

Isn't "normal" wonderful?

BusyLizzyMom said...

It is wonderful and often unnoticed by others.

Jodi said...

Sounds like you had a great time. My birthday is Feb 1st. . .would be a great day to be born!!

Sara Cohen said...

Glad you had such a great day at the zoo! we'll have to meet up ther ein the spring sometime with all of our kids! Can't wait to hear about the new one, I work tuesday, friday and saturday nights...can't wait to meet her!

Stacy said...

sounds like a great day...and i'm so jealous that you were able to go to the zoo. i need fresh air!! glad you had a good birthday.

Anonymous said...

I was so happy reading this post, I can't stop smiling. I know how exhilarating Normal can be. You all deserve a magical trip to the zoo, and you GOT it--- hooray!


The Microblogologist said...

That is so cool, and glad you have such a beautiful "normal" moment, you deserve many many more!