Last week the Handy Man and I decided to take a day off. Well, sort of. We actually officially started school last week, and the girls and I have been getting ourselves back into the habit of rising early. Those of you who know me well know how much I like sunrises. (Not.) I am more a late-to-bed, late-to-rise sort of girl, but with Dee’s senior year barreling down on us, I realized that we were going to have to start school pretty early each morning to just accomplish all we must accomplish this year. Add to my morning routine exercise, quiet time, and a shower, and I have to get up at 6 AM this year. I know this is not such a big deal for the majority of working adults, but for me, it is very early.
Back to my story, the Handy Man and I realized we had done very little this summer that was really fun. We had one day that we all went tubing down the river at our friend’s house, but other than that, we have not done much fun stuff as a family. So we decided to take a field trip to the zoo.
We got up early, began our school day and accomplished all we absolutely HAD to accomplish together, and then we set out. The boys and Little Princess were particularly excited about going to the zoo. The older girls were just excited to go somewhere at all. We loaded the laptop so Dee and Starchild could do their math (DVD program) and we took along Little Princess’s read-aloud books and math flashcards. We also set out with a picnic lunch.
We decided that we would go to the Greenville Zoo. It is not much farther than Atlanta for us, and the zoo is much nicer. There is also an amazing playground there, and we suspected our children would love the playground as much as the zoo. Since we left a little later in the day, we arrived at lunch time, so we started with a tailgate picnic. Thus nourished, we proceeded to the gate. We decided that we would, for eight dollars more than our regular admission, purchase the season pass. Not that we get to Greenville all that often, but even if we only go once more this year, we will have profited by having the season pass.
It was about 12:30 when we entered the zoo. I love watching my boys as they encountered different animals. It was cooler than it had been, but the temperature was still around 87 degrees, so most of the animals were taking a siesta. The monkeys, normally active as they swing from ropes and branches, were lazily lounging on their hammocks or draped lethargically over the branches of the trees in their enclosures. The ocelot lounged asleep on his branch. The giraffes were languidly huddled under the lip of shade provided by their building in the noon-tide sun, except for when another zoo patron managed to fling a piece of animal food (rye-crisp crackers which were for sale at the gate) into the giraffe enclosure. The male giraffe condescended to stroll out to the cracker and bend his impossibly tall body down to partake of the offering.
And so it continued, past the giant tortoise who did actually move with a little curiosity toward the cracker offerings, past the wild birds in their feathered plumage, and then to the elephants. The elephants stood with their back ends to us, but at an angle, so we could see that their eyes were closed. It appeared that we were interrupting their mid-afternoon nap. Lil’Adventurer made some observations about the elephants–their saggy skin, their grey color, etc. And then it happened. The elephant peed. The elephant pooped. Lil’ Adventurer and Curious George erupted in peals of laughter and finger pointing, making sure we all noticed the obvious. Little Princess commented that “someone’s going to have to clean up a lot of waste!”
We went on to the lions, who were also taking their siesta–right under the observation windows. We saw the different fowl, including the flamingos, ducks, and barnyard chickens. We observed the orangutans as the mother tried to take a nap while the playful baby tried to rouse her. (I was actually captivated by that–what mother doesn’t know the feeling of desperately wanting a nap while her young child wants to play?) And so on through the zoo. We got to the end, and we exited to the playground.
The children all played hard at the play ground, and after about a half an hour, the Handy Man and I rounded them all up so we could load the van and head back home. A promise of ice cream hastened their movements, and we were on our way. I asked the question, “So what did you like most about the zoo?” And the immediate response from Lil’ Adventurer was, “The elephant POOPED!! He pooped a LOT!”
It is funny to think about what people–especially children–remember. Several days later, the highlight of Lil’ Adventurer’s zoo trip was the elephant’s excrement. So often I forget grace…I forget that I am accepted only by grace in Jesus Christ, not of my own merit, not of my own effort. I am not accepted because somehow I was worthier than someone else. When I act like I am better than someone else, when I act proudly or self-righteously, when I forget to extend the grace to those who have offended me as the Lord has extended grace to me who offended him, I in essence poop in public. I do it far too often to my husband and my own children. The elephant is a lesson for me. No matter how majestic my motive, no matter how eloquent my speech, no matter how good my intentions, if I poop in public, that is what they will remember.