So this morning I woke up (after the baby has been sleeping through the night for the past week) and when one of the boys asked whether we can drive to Chattanooga today, I said: "Why not?" And just like that, we had breakfast, packed up lunch and a diaper bag, and set out. By "we" I mean myself and five kids. My husband had to work. I joked with him how I really need to go to farmer's market and Costco this week, but I much rather drive to an aquarium two hours away that go through the store with my crew.
On the way there, we finished listening to "The Dragon Rider" by Cornelia Funke. We started on the way to and from the homeschool conference, but since we have to intersperse music for the younger kids, books on CDs take a while. 3 yo's new favorite CD is Frog Trouble by Sandra Boynton, another library find. At least Sandra Boynton CDs are not annoying when played frequently, something that I can't say about Raffi or Wiggles.
I brought an umbrella stroller for the baby, a backpack cooler with lunch for 12 yo to carry, and a diaper bag. When we got to Chattanooga, we had lunch first and then entered the first building of the aquarium. I kept on thinking about the gorilla incident and the angry chorus how animals should not be displayed. And then I saw how much my younger kids, 6 yo and 3 yo, who have not been to the zoo in the past year, or any other place with animal exposure, picked up from seeing live birds, fish, and mammals. How can one teach a 3 yo to be brave enough to plunge his hand into cold water and pet a stingray? How can I give my daughter the experience of discovery that stingray feels like jello and she can reach in and touch it? How can they learn what a butterfly walking across one's face feels like? How else my 3 yo will discover excitedly that penguins "fly" underwater? That he can use two fingers to feel the scales of a cornsnake?
We had a great time. Nobody ran off, nobody got lost, nobody cried. 3 yo even didn't have any accidents, and the baby stayed awake and relatively happy the whole time. And I kept thinking: this is what a good homeschooling day feels like. This is what I love doing with my wild and crazy bunch: drive them to a cool place, get all excited about it, see them get all excited, and watch as they ask each other about what they liked the most.
Before we headed back, the kids asked about Ben and Jerry's corner store right next to the parking garage. I said that I will take a look at their prices. When you have five kids, getting everyone a scoop gets expensive very quickly, not to mention that we already spent money on gas and parking and admission (technically membership since I am planning to get there again). When I ducked into the store ( more accurately, as we spilled into the store) and I saw their prices, I felt ready to leave. Enter 12 yo, the rationalist: "If I split a cup with my brother, and sister splits a cup with 3 yo and you get a small cup for yourself, it is much cheaper than getting everyone a scoop". "Yes, we all all ready to share". Ok then, The older boys ordered their cup, but 3 yo, spoiled by getting his own (free) baby cone at local Bruster's was not inclined to share. So he dropped on the floor, kicking and screaming that he wants his own. The beauty of having so many kids is that it is no longer mortifying. I knew that either he will stop yelling soon and chooses to share, or he will continue yelling and I will take him outside the store without ice cream. Knowing this child, I was betting on the first. Sorry, patrons, but I had to pay for our treat. By the time I paid, he calmed down and chose to sit next to his sister.
We finished our scoops, got in the car, and drove back home.
May I be known as a mom with a messy house and without groceries, but the one who took her kids places that generated happiness.