Who Needs A Map?

In what can only be described as a momentary blip of insanity I decided my children and I needed to escape our house and hit the road in a quest to break up the humdrum of summer vacation.

Since my sister, Mouse, had the week off of work, I decided to make it a real family vacation and invite her and my nephew along for the terror. I admit I wasn't just being nice. The idea of being alone with three kids and no father figure to help supervise was less than palatable. I've never vacationed with my children without their father. I wasn't quite sure I was up for the task without a little adult supervision.

Knowing me, I'd likely revert back to childhood myself and feed my children nothing but cotton candy and gummy worms for the duration. Although Fric and Frac would surely appreciate the lack of effort, Jumby requires an adult who is capable of remembering his medication schedule.

So with great excitement we piled into the vehicles earlier this week and set off on the open road with no discernable destination in mind. Because nothing says family vacation quite like wandering from one highway gas station to the next with no map, no plan and no destination in mind.

Hours later and the realities of traveling with children quickly set in. The whole 'discover Alberta' with no real plan was not going to fly since my children actually wanted to get out of the vehicle at some point.

Just as Fric and Frac were attempting to murder one another in the back seat and Jumby was trying to escape his car seat by gnawing through his straps, I looked in the rear view mirror and snapped, "You are acting like you belong in a zoo! Stop that!"

It was like a light bulb went off in my head. The Zoo! We can go to the zoo! And so the destination had been set. I always knew my children behaving like rabid monkeys would one day work in my favour.

The upside to taking the kids to the zoo is if they misbehave you can always threaten to leave them behind. Or feed them to the lions. The zoo is a magical place for a stressed out mommy's imagination.

Of course, the Calgary zoo isn't a regular zoo. It has dinosaurs. That roar. And twitch. And cause four-year-old nephews to lose their dinosaur-loving minds.

I admit, I wasn't thinking of the swarm of screaming ankle biters that would be running lose in the zoo, alongside my children when I decided to take the kids to the zoo.  I mean, why would other parents want to take their kids to a public place to run alongside the exotic animals? Who does that?

Nothing makes a parent feel old like realizing they can't keep up with a herd of excited, sugar-high stampeding children as one navigate the slopes of the zoo.

My children were in heaven. They have a twisted sense of humour.

Turns out if you place me in a public park with hoards of children that don't belong to me, I tend to get annoyed. Quickly. I sucked at this road trip business. After tripping over one small child after another, I knew that an attitude adjustment was quickly needed before I threatened to put my foot up some random innocent child's arse.

The best way to adjust one's attitude when stuck in a dinosaur park in a huge zoo, with no coffee or alcohol and the sun is rapidly sucking the life out of you? Kiss a dinosaur. Heck, since my husband is out of town it's the most action I've had in weeks. A girl can never bee too choosy you know.

Apparently all I needed was a little love because the day seemed to improve after I slipped the monster the tongue. What can I say? I enjoyed making a public arse out of myself.

We wandered the park and eventually made our way from the dinosaurs to the living-breathing animals. The kids got a kick out of seeing all the exotic animals and I got my kicks from watching all the other harried mothers wander about the park.

Misery does love company and I am a bit of a sadist.

Eventually, all the animals had been seen, all the parks had been played in and all my dollars had been spent on soggy hotdogs and snow cones. It was time to seek shelter at a family friendly hotel.

Which meant navigating a foreign city during rush hour traffic.

Have I mentioned I'm a nervous driver at the best of times? Here's where I desperately wished for my own little GPS machine that has a Darth Vader voice. Trying to cross the freeway would have been much easier if only I had Darth breathing out instructions like "In five hundred meters turn left Luke!"

Fate was merciful though, and a hotel was quickly stumbled upon. A hotel with a pool. My children were in heaven. It became abundantly obvious as they ooh'd and ahh'd over the minibar and the pre-wrapped soaps and sample sized shampoos that my children really need to get out more often.

Somebody get on that for me, will ya?

It was hard to be jaded and cynical (and face it, completely bitchy with fatigue) when the world was just. so. exciting. to my kids.

Oh, to be fourteen (and perky) once again.

The thing is, as much as I grumped and groused and as exhausted as I still am, from all the merriment, I wouldn't change any of this for the world. I want my kids to experience life, and I selfishly want to be there to witness when they do. They are growing up faster than I can slow them down and no family knows better than we do how quickly life can suddenly end.

My time actively parenting Fric and Frac is quickly coming to an end and I want to take advantage of the few years I have left.

Plus it is so much more socially acceptable to gorge out on junk food while watching Glee in your jammies and have a pillow fight when you are in a hotel room. If my kids tried that at home I'd likely lose my mind.

My children now know to fear my pillow-swinging prowess. Heh.

The road trip was a success. Defined by me not losing my mind, children sleeping soundly and a sister who is still alive even after snoring loudly beside me all night long.

The only down side of the trip, besides not having Boo along to share the memories with us, was realizing, I'm not as young as I once was.

There was a time when I'd stand in a hotel lobby and young men would approach me to flirt.

Now young men approach me to ask how old my daughter is and if she has a boyfriend.

She's never allowed to swim in a public pool again.