The walk to the petting zoo for a normal person would have taken all of three minutes from the picnic table. Factor in two two-year-olds and the voyage took fifteen.
It's amazing how two people can have a conversation even while changing a dirty diaper and recapturing a child who has figured out how to unbuckle their own stroller. For instance, I knew Parker was two months older than Rielynn, had an incredibly bendy thumb for being a persistent thumb sucker, and was mesmerized by the sound of Velcro.
He also liked to watch himself pee.
When I was pregnant with Rielynn, I had secretly prayed to the head SIC (stork-in-charge) for a girl. I knew all about girls. I didn't want to worry about circumcisions and jock itch and all that boy stuff.
Needless to say, my prayers were answered. Rielynn was born a perfect six pound, eleven ounce girl.
But there was something entirely amusing watching the blonde little guy, holding his shirt, his pudgy belly on display, giggling at the arch coming from him and splattering right on the ground while Nick rummaged around in what looked to be the most horribly put together diaper bag ever.
Of course, I was so busy watching Parker's performance that I didn't realize until Rielynn started running past me, a big, proud smile on her face, that she had executed her escape.
"Rie, get back here!"
She turned to look at me and laughed. My warning caused her to move faster. Fortunately, my adult stride covered more ground than her Herman Munster stomp. I scooped her up, swinging her back and forth playfully.
Admittedly, this is probably why she runs away so much. I've made it a game.
Disciplinarian of the year, I am not.
"That's a river dude," Nick said behind me. I glanced over to see him yanking up Parker's shorts. He smiled over at me. "Sorry."
"Don't be," I said.
It was on the tip of my tongue to say something like, 'you have your hands full,' but I stopped. I knew how annoyed I got when people said that to me. Instead I pushed the empty stroller while Rielynn hitched a ride of my hip.
"I know it looks like I don't do this a lot," he said. I opened my mouth to answer, but he didn't give me the chance. "But this is just my natural state of being."
He said it so seriously that I couldn't help but laugh. I was still laughing as we entered the petting zoo.
“Caca! Caca! Caca!”
Nick and I looked at each other.
“Goat,” he explained. “Parker’s favorite.”
“Alpaca,” I pointed. “Rielynn’s.”
Rielynn squirmed excitedly against me, her tiny face alight. Our first stop was the feeding machines. Surprisingly, Nick was actually prepared. More prepared than me. He dropped quarters into several machines.
“Thanks,” I said gratefully, feeling a rush of camaraderie. My friends were either single or had children that were three times older than Rie. I was a ship alone at sea. My attempts at befriending other mom’s at storytimes, parks, and The Little Gym had failed miserably. There was only so much talk about organic foods, nursery feng shui, and designer diapers that I could take.
Even though he had insinuated his fear of taking on the goats alone, we split up. Rielynn wouldn't have it any other way. Alpacas came first. She knew the drill well. I sprinkled some of the food pellets into her tiny palm as she stood there, her big green eyes locked onto the furry alpaca. As always, they eyed her suspiciously. The smaller the person, the more destructive to ‘paca psyche. Eventually the enticement of food did win out. An especially cute black and white one took the bait, its lips suckling at Rie’s palm.
“CACA! CACA! LUB CACA!” she shrieked.
The alpaca chortled, or whatever alpaca’s did. He backed up. Even though I couldn’t see its eyes under all that fur, I imagined that they were probably bugged out in a definite ‘what the fuck?!’ look.
We fed a white one and an ecru guy before the word spread to stay away from the brown haired squealing toddler. Rie stood still for a few moments longer before her attention started to wane. She turned and surveyed the area.
“Goats?” I suggested. She nodded.
The goats were housed in the back of the petting zoo. Signs announcing the closure of the area for renovation were posted every so often. We had picked the right day to come.
With the random animal noises coming from all corners of the immediate vicinity, I didn’t realize anything was going on until I was almost on top of the action. The bleating of the goats was loud and frantic and I scooped Rielynn up. I didn’t do it a moment too soon either. Just as her feet left the ground I saw a goat run by with part of a shirt in its mouth.
Now, I don’t pay much attention to what other people are wearing, especially guys clothing, but I had a sneaking suspicion when I saw the pure cotton, jagged material. It was a light grey color, one that not many women wear on a daily basis.
“The goat ate my shirt!”
Parker was giggling hysterically. A zoo attendant was trying to play referee. The lower right half of Nick’s t-shirt was gone.
“What happened?” I asked in wonder.
“The goat went after the food in my pocket.”
“Why were you keeping food in your pocket?”
“Parker put it there.”
The boy’s eyes were identical to his dad’s. He did a great hand motion, holding them up and out with a casual shrug.
“We’re closing the exhibit early today,” the keeper said. “Renovations,” he explained. Somehow I doubted it was just because of the renovations. “I think our job’s done here anyhow,” Nick said. He scooped Parker up. “Right, Mr. Innocent?”
Some parents would get angry with such a reply. Instead, Nick kissed his forehead. He glanced at me almost cautiously. “I usually take him on the train next,” he explained. “Care to join?”
Rielynn wasn’t a stranger to the train. I was truly surprised my path hadn’t crossed with this crazy, goat-eaten stranger before. Feeling the need to continue the wittiness of kids and adults alike, I formed a slow smile.