Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bismarck or bust! (yes)

We took a two-day trip to Bismarck for a change of scenery last Sunday. I'd found out from some moms at a play group that Bismarck was the place to go for a zoo, a pumpkin patch, hotels with cooler-than-average swimming pools (with long slides and kid sized wading pools), plus ordinary city stuff, which is, of course, extraordinary to us.

The weather was cool and cloudy our whole drive there, and then about 10 minutes outside of Bismarck, it started raining. Jason asked Zoralee if it was raining on her side of the car too, a reference to a kids' book we'd gotten from the library not long back. In the story, a girl and her dad are headed to a zoo and it starts raining.

Anyway, we pulled up to the gate, and there was a sign that said the zoo was closed today due to a water pipe breaking. Jason and I looked at each other for a long minute before Zoralee's little inquiring voice brought us to the fact that she had to be told. Her face wrinkled up, and then she cried - silently, tearfully, disbelievingly. To the Zoo Worker People, I'm saying that better have been a pipe of about 3 feet in diameter, totally broken in half, with water spewing every which way, even into the warm cozy nests of the baby ostriches, for you to close down the zoo. Zoralee's reaction would've broken the heart of the most hardened criminal.

At least that moment provided opportunity to quote my Grandpa Lautaret, who once said, "If this isn't the crowning disappointment of our entire trip, we're in for a real jolt somewhere along the line."

Jason pulled up a map of the zoo on his iPhone, and we navigated the roads around it to see what animals we could. There were a few animals hanging out in the rain, actually - bison, a lone wolf in the far far distance, and a few animals we'd never even heard of, so it wound up not being a total loss.
The Bismarck zoo is only open three days of the week, so this was our only shot, but Jason and I weren't completely deflated, because we knew about Part B of the plan, which was to hit up Papa's Pumpkin Patch. We didn't mention that to Z, "just in case." We tried to be vaguely comforting, like hey, let's see if there's anything else fun to do in Bismarck! We pulled in to the pumpkin patch parking lot and saw other cars there. We saw people inside the fence, carrying pumpkins, standing on bales of hay, just generally being real autumn-loving. But I looked at the window next to the entrance. "Why does that sign say Closed?" Silly people must've forgotten to change their sign all day.

I got out and asked one of the employees what was happening. He said they were closing down for the day because of the rain. All the other autumn lovers were making their final purchases and coming out.


I gave him my sob story about a little girl who'd driven for hours to get here, and that the zoo was closed too randomly. He wiped away a few tear and then said they would FOR SURE be open tomorrow, if it wasn't raining. All of that's true except the tears. He even asked a lady nearby, who appeared to be more in charge than he was, and she agreed: yep, they'd be open tomorrow if it wasn't raining. I had to go back to the car, where Zoralee was waiting hopefully for "something fun," and break the bad news that this potentially fun but nondiscript place wasn't open today either. She was a little sad, but more tired than anything. We headed for the motel.

When we got there, Jason made absolutely sure that their swimming pool was up and functional before we checked in. Then we woke up Zoralee, gathered Ziah and our belongings, and sloshed through the rain and puddles into the room, dog and all. It was a good room. We regrouped and decided to hit up a nearby Mexican restaurant.

Chips and salsa and a fancy umbrella drink can bring a girl around again.
 Can you tell what color Zoralee recently decided is her favorite?

I debated and debated between their famous fish tacos and their famous super burrito. The waiter suggested the fish tacos, so I went with that. EEEEEngh. Also, their salsa sucked; it was like somebody opened a can of stewed tomatoes and put in a couple flakes of dried cilantro. Oh well. Jason's food was decent, and Zoralee's was even free on account of it being Sunday.

Back at the hotel, Zoralee and I went for a swim in our exceedingly random swimwear. I'd just thrown out her swimsuit a week before. Fortunately, she had a pink body suit from a dress up ballet tutu outfit, and I had - oh, it doesn't even matter. Let's just say I wasn't approached by any modeling agencies. The motel had no fancy slides, but the set up was nice - a regular pool, a hot tub, and a warm in-between temperature wading pool. None were shallow enough for Z to walk around in, but it was really wonderful to hold her as we hopped from pool to pool. We joked and splashed. It was a good feeling to be able to concentrate on her and her alone for a little while. 

When we walked between the pools, if Zoralee got ahead of me, she'd jog / bounce a bit with excitement. Just before what was to be our final dip in the big pool, she was lightly running, and, as though she was the poster child for a Don't Run At Pools campaign, her feet slipped out from under her at the exact moment I was saying, "Zoralee! Don't run!" Bonk went her back, and konk went her noggin. It didn't seem to me that it was a particularly hard fall, but she cried quite a bit, poor thing. That put an end to swimming, which was fine; bed time was overdue.

We slept as a family in a King sized bed with a roll away pushed up next to it (and blankets over the crack to connect the beds). It was a fun way to sleep, albeit not excessively restful for me. We've done our share of co-sleeping in various configurations, but all being on the same level like that, Ziah scooched close to me, and Zoralee scooched close to him. It was a super cute visual, but I was too tired to get the camera. The next morning, Zoralee and Kaladi were wrestling around in the motel room, and Kaladi accidentally scratched below Z's eye. This happens about once a month anyway, but it sure enough had to happen this weekend.

We ate a decent motel-provided breakfast, and then Jason and Ziah headed to a junk yard in hopes of finding an electrical light dealy for the Subaru, while Zoralee and I went to the thrift store for sweaters and jeans. The potential for savings that our family had right then was out of control, right? I found some sweaters, but the jeans weren't happening. My post baby hips and belly can't get together and decide what size I am. But we got a couple cute decorations for Z's room. We had only made it through one store when Jason and Ziah wheeled in to take us to Red Lobster for lunch. No lobsters in the tank. Not a single one. And then, you know, I can't remember the last time I ate at a Red Lobster, but I'm thinking the servings aren't super substantial. Like, I scarfed down everything on my plate in about 5 seconds - hey, 3 shrimps and 3 scallops don't take long - plus the extra tidbits on everybody else's plates, plus the complimentary warm rolls. And I could've totally eaten that much again. Oh. Maybe that's why I was having a hard time finding jeans to fit. Heh heh. 

This probably sounds like a Debby Downer post, like I was looking for the bad in everything. At a certain point, I think I actually was, because it got to be so downright hilarious. Jason and I were laughing our heads off, and hopefully Z had some moments of fun too. As my dad texted, it was just like the pioneers. Yep, we could totally relate to the types of disappointments the pioneers must've encountered as they made their way across the prairies in covered wagons. Yep.
Anyway, nothing could dampen our spirits too much, because IT WASN'T RAINING, so there was still the pumpkin patch, with its hay rides, hay bale maze, fall treats, and of course, pumpkins to browse and pick! Oh, what fun pictures we would get with the children in a pumpkin patch, red nosed from the crisp fall air. Here's what the sign said, after all:

But nope!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Not a car in the parking lot.
We learned later from their website it was due to the mud from yesterday's rain.

Now, I am a patient woman. I am. But I seriously wanted to punt a Pumpkin Patch owner across a field of rotting pumpkins. Jason had that scene from National Lampoon's Vacation in his head, the one where they pull up to Wally World after their whole travel ordeal, and it's closed. Chevy Chase punches the moose. Well, if I'd have had a can of spray paint, you can bet your bippy I would've sprayed a big X over each of that scare crow's starry eyes. And if that weren't a message enough, I would've sprayed below the red letters, "Open?! Ha! You call this OPEN?! Ha! You bunch of hippocrites. This place isn't OPEN! And it's not even RAINING. And what's more, YOU SHOULD UPDATE YOUR PHONE NUMBER, CUZ THE ONE FROM YOUR WEBSITE IS DEFUNCT ON ACCOUNT OF YOU MOVING LOCATIONS. DAAAAAARN YOU!!!!!!!"  

So we found a fruit stand instead.

brimming over with gratitude

letting Z control the tunes - she chose "Hey, I Love You" by Michael Franti

Well, when the going got that tough, the tough decided to go for coffee. Or, as Jason called it, "The Cure for Disappointment." It made sense to finish off two Starbucks gift cards that had been rattling around the dashboard from two Christmases ago. Zoralee was asleep again, so Jason and I each ordered a $27 drink for ourselves and pulled up to the pay window with our gift cards. The young man informed us that one card had zero dollars and zero cents on it, and the other had 85 cents. Oh, real swell. [Shuffling about the car for loose change.]

As our final stop before we planned to screech our tires real hard on the fast road out of Bismarck, Jason ran into Menards to grab supplies for a window replacement project, and he was only gone for 45 minutes or so, during which me and two kids sat in the car instead of being at another thrift store finding jeans to fit. No bitterness for me though. Yay! Fun times in a parking lot!
Just so you don't fear Zoralee hoarded all the disappointment to herself, here's this.
I was nursing Ziah and must not've been what you'd call "present." Suddenly his fidgets
caught my attention, and I looked down to see him being power-squirted.
Hey, it happens.

HOWEVER. The drive home included a pretty sunset and the rest of a good podcast. Zoralee did great in the car both ways. Ziah, not so much, but this is the paragraph about redeeming things. We loved each other. We laughed. We cried. I found sweaters. The coffee beverages were delish. Zoralee learned about disappointment in life, and then learned it again. And again. And again.

Right, soooo, we're pretty much gonna just chalk that one up to a bust.



Rena said...

Oh, what a sad post. I figure that you and Jason are adults, well-accustomed to disappointment, and Ziah is fairly oblivious. But it crushes me to think of all that disappointment in one weekend for Zoralee. Sad, sad, sad. It makes me think of a famous quote (famous in our family anyway) by another relative, "Well, we don't always get what we want." How true.

Christi said...

This would have been kinda depressing if it was written by someone other than you. I love how you just find the hilarity in it all.

We all know what Z mostly wanted that have that tribe of four all together in one compact spot, with probably more attention aimed at her than in everyday life. I'm pretty sure no family trip could be a bust for this very reason.

melissa said...

OH MY GOSH that was THE BEST laugh I've had in ages. Aeons! THANK YOU! Wow, what a bust. And the way you tell it is just. So. Perfect. I think maybe my favourite bit was (well, all of it) the bit where your hubs goes in the store real quick for 45 minutes and you're stuck in the car with tots. BEEN THERE. DONE THAT. Wow, so, so funny.

And the bit about the bathing suits. I actually did get kind of teary, that's how hard I laughed. THANK YOU!

melissa said...

p.s. and I second Rena; poor Zor. xo

Rachel Clear @ Clearly Speaking said...

This was one of those classicly great Lori posts, with too many great parts to mention them all by memory. If you would change the format so that a person can read the post and the comments at the same time (or maybe I just need to click on the post title first) then it would be easier to comment about the post, line by line, as I want to do.

The part about Jason CRACKED CAM UP because he has been to stores with Jason, and he knows the sloooooow way that Jason rolls. Man, that guy rolls in and out of places at a snail's pace, especially if he's buying stuff.

The dinner sounds funny too. I wonder why they gave you so little. Was it spendy? That kind of thing would make me mad and I'm a grown-ass adult.

For probably a week after hearing this story, neither David or I could handle it. We just couldn't handle being so far away and thinking about Zoralee being so disappointed. Especially that true, honest, innocent disappointment. Like, she wasn't pouting or throwing a fit; she was genuinely bummed. I just can't handle that, yo. I just can't.

If you and Jason laughed though, that's a winner of a trip. And with Zor's killer memory, all you have to do is remind her how much she liked the circus that one time and she can focus on that.

tamie marie said...

It's not often that you actually get to laugh out loud for quite a while, sitting alone, reading a blog post.

But oh my God Zoralee's disappointment. I remember when I was a little girl, I asked myself what's the very worst thing you can feel, and I answered myself, "disappointment."

You guys are really just so great. Huge hugs to Zoralee.

And also, fuck Bismark.

tamie marie said...

P.S. Nick was in Bismark last week, and his cell phone stopped reaching, so he was hard to reach. Which already did not endear me to Bismark.

And I haven't been able to stop thinking about Zoralee all day!

lori said...

That was a pretty astute observation you made as a little kid, Tamie. I was thinking on the way home from Minot yesterday (because we went there to another pumpkin patch, which was also a disappointment) that disappointment is truly just a heart-breaking part of life, and probably one of the worst things I've had to watch born out in my kid's life. I know you mentioned that too recently, Christi, about Caden.

Shana said...

This is all great. Sad, true....but great. And is reality some of the time, right? One of my all time favorite movies is the National Lampoon's vacation so I'm with you on punching in someone/something's face! At least Kaladi didn't urinate on any of your food and you didn't gain any deceased relatives on the way home.