It's one of those days that I think my family shouldn't be allowed in public.
Tonight was supposed to be a warm-fuzzy, put-Christ-in-Christmas sort of night. Garry and I took the kids to the Creche exhibit (which is free, open to the public, and perfectly lovely if you aren't us; how's that for an advertisement?) at our church building tonight. The event included a live reenactment of Luke 2 and displays of over 400 nativities. Musical performances in the chapel provided a nice backdrop for the tour, as well.
For most people, I imagine the experience was peaceful and sort of reverent, perhaps maybe interesting or awe-inspiring. I bet some people even had fun. But for Garry and me, it was an exercise in crowd control, constant counting of heads, and strict vigilance to make sure one of our children didn't run away, break something, or get hurt. We lost Gavin before entering the building. He and Tyler took turns disappearing throughout our stay. Zach was furious about being forced to attend in the first place, and Lexi cried about walking, and holding an adult's hand, and not being able to touch the displays.
The children's room offered a brief reprieve from the chaos, since everything in that room could be handled by little fingers. There were baby dolls and dress-up clothes and coloring pages and child-friendly nativity scenes. But there were also candy canes, which the kids quickly got all over their hands and faces. That led to play time in the bathroom. That's when Tyler disappeared, too.
The kids were all anxious to see the live animals that were available for petting before the nativity reenactment began outside. I fetched coats and we bundled up against the cold (the temperature was in the mid-20's with a breeze). Once we got outside, I felt badly that Tyler was missing the opportunity with the animals, so Kate and I went back in the church to find him, leaving Garry with Zach, Gavin, and Lexi. Tyler was completing a scavenger hunt of sorts, looking for specific nativities throughout the building. He only had one left to find, and he yelled at me when I made him come outside with me.
When we met up with Garry, he looked totally exasperated. He blurted out, "Gavin was just kicked in the stomach by a llama."
Apparently Gavin scared a llama by approaching it from the rear, so the llama reacted with a swift kick to the ribs. Gavin was crying, but the injury appeared fairly minor. We decided to stay and just monitor Gavin's pain level, hoping the kick wasn't a big deal. Garry and Zach secured seats for everyone and then went to get hot chocolate. Lexi hadn't had her chocolate in hand for two seconds when she spilled it all over herself. Then she started stomping on her chair in anger, and made Garry spill his hot chocolate all over her chair. I went back inside to get paper towels to clean up the mess, and then I stood in a long line to get hot chocolate for Garry and me.
Our seats for the performance were close to the back and we couldn't see anything. Lexi stood on her chair and whined that she couldn't see. Gavin ran up and down the aisle. When the wise men walked down the aisle with the llama, Gavin yelled, "That's the llama that kicked me!" Shortly afterward, Tyler wanted to leave the seating area to get a second cup of hot chocolate and when we asked him to sit down, he turned red in the face and crushed his styrofoam cup in his hand.
Somehow we survived the next 10 minutes until the closing number of the performance. Garry and I kept exchanging significant glances, as if to say, "Are we done yet?" "Why do we even try?" "This was SUCH a bad idea." Then Lexi started screaming--full-blown, toddler-tantrum style. Garry got up to take her to the car, and Gavin ran after him. I collected the big boys and we made a hasty exit.
I had to stay to sing with the ward choir in the chapel, but I helped buckle everyone into the car. Three of the kids were crying. Garry had a wild-eyed look about him. As I closed the last door, I told him I would get a ride home. His response: "THE KIDS WILL BE IN BED."
And he was right. I came home to a quiet house. As we recounted the details of the evening, we laughed together and made a solemn vow to never take the children anywhere ever again.
Until tomorrow, of course.