Sunday was just a beautiful day and my main goal was to get them OUTSIDE. Alas, Noelle woke up with a hacking cough and a very low-grade fever. Sorry kiddo; no way you're leaving the house today. She needed to rest and Noah needed to be removed from electronic stimulation so I made a unilateral decision: we'd go to the zoo. At first there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth: Are Grant and Carter going to be there? No. Waaah! Are Kylee and Karson going to be there? No. It's just you and me. Waaah! Then he got over it and got dressed while I made lunches and packed snacks. I love that about our zoo (The Maryland Zoo at Baltimore), sure, it's not free but we go often enough that the membership we buy pays for itself in a couple of visits and we can pack the entire kitchen if we want. Suddenly, it dawned on him: he's got a whole day with just mommy and no sharing. Onward!
With multiple kids, where we go and when is always a negotiation but driving down I told him that he gets to set the agenda: we'll do as much or as little as he wants. He makes the decisions. And so he did. We saw the prairie dogs, spending a lot of time there. He requested a stop by the playground but decided once there that he'd rather have a drink and we headed down the shady path, him stopping to read the banners, practicing sounding out the words. Something that would never have happened if his sister or cousins were there - they'd be too busy laughing and running. He and I together? We took it slow and talked and walked and held hands. I made a vow to myself to be more present and less 'all-pictures all the time' and pretty much held to it. Sort of. And you know what? I've got a pretty neat kid.
We noticed all the updated signs and read them. By doing so we actually saw the river otter. She was huge! We got to see her get out of her nest and slip into the water. He jumped across the lily pads and we explored the caves. He pet the goats and didn't whine to ride the train. If he had asked, I would have gotten us tickets but no, it was time to visit Africa! With a quick detour by Penguin Coast for a time lapse construction video dance party. We saw two crocodiles swimming with turtles and our favorite funny monkeys. The giraffes were out in force and sitting down in the giraffe viewing area for lunch, three of them came up to vie for treats of leaves. We saw the elusive Dik Dik and the warthogs, heading then to visit the elephants where we practiced reading more signs and talked about why they were brown instead of grey. We headed back to the African aviary and spent a long time searching out all the birds, all the while steadily chatting about everything and nothing. We got to see the new cheetah, a beautiful, powerful animal stalking her new habitat and the lazy leopard snoozing in the sun. We finished our zoo day with penguin feeding time then headed home without a fuss.
Even the drive home was special, chatting the whole way about nutrition and what we have to do to survive. Our good moods continued with a quick stop by the grocery store and then back home to daddy and Noelle...and electronic entertainment. But that night he wanted me to get him ready for bed even though it was his turn to be with Dylan. Just like me, he didn't want that day to end. I've had experiences of being just with Noelle and it's fun and easy because she's so much like me. With Noah, I haven't done that before and wow, I've been missing a lot! He's sweet and funny and observant and curious and just so, so loving. All of which I knew but it's so much easier to revel in it when I can devote myself fully to him.
I've got the best little boy and I can't wait to do it again.