Sometimes an ordinary outing becomes the extraordinary, one that upon reflection, could not have possibly occurred, but being of mostly sound mind you know that it did.
I took the children to the McDonalds indoor playground.
It was a school holiday, my clan had energy to burn, and I had lesson plans to complete. A win-win for all involved. However, the circumstances that evolved over the next 49 minutes would prove that there would be no winners that day, that it would take some time for the McD's establishment to forget our faces long enough to allow us to ever place an order again.
I have broken down our memorable visit with the following detailed timetable:
1:00-1:05 - I order everyone's food. We find a table in the corner of the very crowded playground area and I spread out my books, my notes and my annoying syllabus.
1:06-1:07 - The children scarf down their saturated fat-filled concoctions, while never taking their eyes off the playground that tempts them like an unopened, unclaimed, Happy Meal toy.
1:08-1:10 - Pure kiddie playground joy. Climb way up, squeal way down. I turn focus to my lesson plans, hoping that I can somehow come across as smarter than my collegiate audience. Insecurities temporarily overcome me, until I remember their incessant need to include "like" with every sentence and the overuse of the word "amazing". Much better now.
1:11 - My six year old announces he has to use the bathroom. There is a designated, single bathroom for the play area so I watch (and cringe) as he walks to the door and enters into the breeding bastion of bacteria that universally terrifies all Lysol packing moms. I am praying that he only has to stand to conduct his business and that he remembers not to touch anything. I soon find out that I am hopeful, and overly optimistic in my thinking.
1:11 - Because I am about 25 yards away, Chandler apparently thinks he needs to use his biggest, loudest "outside voice" and yells, "MOOOOMMMMMM, I"M GONNA NEED A LITTLE HELP IN HERE! I HAVE THE DIAAARRRHHHEEEAAAAAAA!"
1:12 - Time stops. I close my eyes and pray for the return of Jesus.
1:13-1:14 - The coming of Christ does not occur, so I make my way to the bathroom we have now just polluted for all playground preschoolers, feeling the horrified eyes of the other capable moms of children with healthy gastrointestinal tracts. I discover that Chandler is not sick, but that his sensitive little stomach has reacted adversely to his meat stick addiction. (I will spare you the details of how I know this to be true. You will just have to trust my acute deductive reasoning, my keen investigative skills along with the shocking discovery of the canned evidence found earlier in the trash can at home.)
1:15 - I return Chandler to a state of cleanliness. He resumes climbing way up, and squealing way down.
1:16 - I sit down, pen in hand, and begin my attempt again, to implement something remotely academic onto the blank piece of paper that mocks my intelligence.
1:17 - I hear a distinct, familiar scream that I immediately identify as belonging to the offspring of yours truly. I jump up, knock all my papers and a small Sprite to the floor and race to the multi-colored, now multi-menacing, playground equipment. I climb into a tunnel meant for someone two feet shorter and sixty pounds lighter, and assess the situation. There I find my eight year old with his right arm entrapped through ill-placed bars that will not release him. My formal training is in education, not engineering, and I am momentarily dumbfounded as how to proceed. Lecturing skills will be of no benefit.
1:18- 1:28 - I tug, I pry, I push, I begin to panic.
1:29-1:39 - A sympathetic mom joins our effort and we tug, we pry, we push, and she panics. Various staff members make their way into our tunnel of terror and they tug, they pry, they push, and everyone panics.
1:40-1:41 - Just when I think I am going to have call the paramedics, the encased arm pops free. Everyone exhales a huge sigh of relief, and the kind McDonald workers walk away as I exclaim to their uniformed backs, "Thanks so much! You deserve a break today......at McDonalds!" No one thinks I am funny. (Old school, vintage McDonald fans would at least offer a supportive chuckle.)
1:42-1:45 - The helpful mom introduces herself. She is relatively new to town and we strike up an amicable conversation. I find out that she is looking for a church and I begin to tell her about mine. I give her way more details and information than she solicits because I am excessively grateful that our family antics of the past half hour have not yet affected her opinion of me. My words spill over one another, very much like the waterfall of carbonation I caused earlier, as I simultaneously wonder if Chandler's condition has now effected my mouth. Shut up, Joni.
1:46 - I offer to meet Jane and her husband outside of our Sunday school class to be a familiar face in an atmosphere where the unfamiliar can be overwhelming.
1:47 - Suddenly, we are both stunned by a howl so high-pitched it is almost unrecognizable by ear-pierced ears. Neighborhood canines come to immediate attention. My poor Chandler, in his own words, has been "bitten on the bone" by the child of my new friend Jane, and is hollering in protest as only a child, or a 37 year old mom, can do. A hunk is missing from his shoulder and he has no intention of letting up vocally anytime soon. Jane is mortified, apologetic and looking to escape and my new, short-lived friendship comes to a halt when she grabs her brood and hauls tail out the door. I consider chasing her down to offer reassurance but conclude that it may be received as borderline creepy.
1:48 - Once again, concerned staff of the golden arches race to the playground area to determine that a massacre has not occurred. They can not hide their disappointment, or disdain, when they discover it is just me and my motley crew , complete with an upset stomach, a vampire bite, and an arm pulled out of joint. My left eye involuntarily begins to twitch just to fit in.
1:49 - I gather my books, my children and my wits and we head home.
A worn out welcome and witness in McDonalds all in the span of forty-nine minutes. I'm not Lovin' It.