Playing Hookie

Today I had Claire to myself. Grace had asked for a week off to take her family to Orlando while her kids were still out of school for the summer. With Kit on a tough rotation and short on vacation, I would have had to take the whole week off myself to watch Claire. But I could not absorb a week off from work so suddenly. As a compromise, I am taking Thursday and Friday off to give Grace and her family a four day weekend for their trip. So it’s just me and Clair for two days.

Claire started out a little groggy today, so I thought I was in for a tough day. Usually a groggy Claire is not a happy Claire. But I knew that as long as she was doing or looking at something interesting, she would be ok. No problem. Fun for her is fun for me.

Thanks to another of Kit’s great ideas, we have a yearly membership to Zoo Atlanta, so we can just waltz in any time we want to without paying a nickel. We showed up at the zoo right when it opened at 9:30 am. I was anxious to go since I had missed the last couple of trips to the zoo, opting to “go running and stuff” instead. Kit had been happy with this arrangement since it gave her and Claire have some valuable “face time” together during Kit’s tough month.

Claire might have been the only kid at the zoo without a stroller. Letting Claire walk generally works out alright, although she needs little steering or else she ends circling back on herself a lot. We started out at the “mingos” near the entrance, and we moved on to the “ephelants”. But Claire’s favorite attraction today was not any bird or large African game, or even a monkey. It was the hand washing stations, which are scattered throughout the zoo. She really loves to wash her hands at home. She has even gone so far as to drag a step stool across the house, carefully navigating over the dog gate and into the bathroom, so she could climb up and wash her hands. But the zoo faucets are extra fun because they are motion-activated. She just sticks her hand in the sink, and it sprays a little stream on her hand. Then she giggles a lot and make it go some more. This is probably one of the coolest things Claire can imagine right now. After I drag her away from the sink, she spends a few more minutes maniacally running her hands under the hand dryer, which is also motion-activated. It blows hot air when she waves her hands under it. To Claire at the moment, all this is way cooler than some smelly elephant.

Later, as we wandered past the kangaroos, the zoo’s little train chugged by, startling Claire at first with its loud rumbling engine. Once she realized it was a “choo choo train”, just like Thomas the Train, she began to literally ran after it. I had to run and scoop her up before she made it to the tracks or crashed into a gaggle of kids from some sort of summer camp. But I promised her we would find that train again.

We slowly made our way across the zoo to the train area, visiting hand washing stations along the way. Once we got there, we had to burn a little time at the playground before the train’s ticket booth opened. The playground was fun, but apparently feeling that her basic pants and shirt were not quite appropriate for this situation, Claire repeatedly requested the “play suit” that Noni Harriet had made for her.

After a little while, we got our $2 train ticket and headed for the station. Claire was excited to see the train, and pointed out that the Braves had sponsored one of the passenger cars. But she stiffened up a bit when we actually got on it. She kind of had a look like, “You can do that? Actually get on a train?” The little train seats were perfectly Claire sized, but she opted to sit in my lap, which was probably wise anyways. We were the only people on the train when it left the station. Once it picked up some speed and we got a nice breeze, Claire was finally smiling and talking and pointing out all the different animals she saw.

After about three minutes, we were back at the station. Fifteen kids were there waiting for the next train ride. I guess we were real trend setters today. As we walked away from the train, we passed a running zoo themed merry-go-round. Seeing all the kids riding on the backs of (plastic) lions and ostriches, Claire said “Cowboy! Cowboy!” I think she knows cowboys from our big “Texas Inside Out” book that we sometimes read/show to Claire.

We were both pretty hot, thirsty, hungry, and generally tuckered out by the morning’s adventures. After lunch and cool drinks at Sonny’s, we headed home and played bubbles and jumping games in the back yard, followed by dancing to An Old Navy Christmas inside. Then Claire settled in for some some quiet reading alone. It has been a fun day with Claire, and it’s still only 2:00. I would normally be joining a weekly “Public IP MLFR Development Status Meeting” on the phone right now. Instead, I get to play with Claire and tuck her in for her nap soon. Maybe giving Grace these two days off was not a bad deal after all.

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