We took the kids to the Wild Animal Park, today. The Wild Animal Park is comprised of a wide open space where animals roam around free. (With the exception of lions and tigers - which are separated from the antelopes, zebras, rhinoceroses and giraffes by a large chain link fence. If that large chain link fence wasn't in place - I guarantee they'd have to work on their breeding program a little bit more aggressively than they already do.)
A monorail runs around the perimeter of the Park, which is located approximately 25 miles northeast of San Diego, and the whole experience of seeing animals grazing in a large valley, is suppose to give you the sensation of being in Africa. The San Diego Zoo, on the other hand, is located in the heart of downtown and has all of it's animals (including hippos, polar bears, and every other creature you could possibly imagine & many more you could not) in smaller enclosures.
Both facilities are simply amazing and there is no doubt, the $79.00 a year we pay for a family membership to the San Diego Zoological Society - which includes admittance to the Zoo and the Wild Animal Park - is the best $79.00 we spend every year.
We have taken the kids to the Zoo at least 10 times. However, this was the first time we've taken them to the Wild Animal Park and they loved it. The highlight of their day was riding on the "twain" (monorail) and seeing all of the "antees" (elephants). They particularly enjoyed seeing the 3-month old "baby antee" (baby elephant). The lowlight of their day was seeing the big-haired yellow clown when we went out to dinner. This experience is described, below.
We're getting a lot better at going out in public with the children. Whereas we use to be nervous about letting them free of their stroller ... more and more, we are giving them the freedom to get out and walk with us. Usually, they keep up. Sometimes, they don't. Whenever they start running in three different directions, I have heart palpitations and break out in to a profuse sweat.
Fortunately, I'm still a lot faster than they are and can round all three of them up in an instant.
Still, I'm diligently teaching them how to hold hands and stick together. Every so often - they actually do it ... and to see the three of them walking with their little hands grasping each others ... is one of the most adorable scenes, ever. Of course, I'm totally biased - but to hear people gasp when they see our little entourage waddle by - I suspect absolute strangers think they are just as cute as I do.
Another scene (although, not quite so adorable, especially for the other 100 patrons) was tonight, when we went out to dinner at a local restaurant. Just as we were finishing up our meal - a real live clown came in. She had a huge yellow wig, a big red nose, huge feet and a painted face. Personally, I've never been a big fan of the clown - not as a child and not now.
They just plain freak me out.
The only thing that troubles me more than a clown is a mime. Maybe it's just me, but I don't get the whole paint your face white and act like a loon thing. These people give me nightmares. No kidding.
Now, I'm not sure if it was because this particular clown was of small stature, or if because our children have inherited my aversion of clowns, but they panicked. All three of them scrambled out of their highchairs and directly in to our laps, while crying and calling for their "Boo-Boo Bunny" (Whenever the kids are hurt - or more recently, if they are afraid - they will call out for this cure-all. Definitely a must-have item with small children.).
We could feel all eyes in the restaurant on us - while every other child - was over the moon thrilled that they would be so lucky to be in this particular location when a clown with balloons that were rapidly shaped in to dogs and flowers, appeared out of nowhere. After spending a lot of time in recent weeks at the zoo, I can definitively say that lions, tigers and bears with big fangs and claws don't scare our children.
Walruses, yes. Santa Claus, yes.
But even more than either of those things ... people with white-painted faces and colorful afros - it is that kind of horror that woke my toddler son up from a sound sleep tonight, and made him cry out "No cwown! Bye bye!!"
A clown. That's what caused my baby boy's first nightmare. Ever.
I've got the inside track ... they'll be gathering, en masse, in Springfield, Missouri in April. So, unless anyone objects, I think we should load all of them in to their little cars and push 'em in to a lion enclosure.