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     Yesterday was Father's Day. And as usual, we had no idea what to give my husband. The kids and I had racked our brains the entire week trying to figure out a good gift - something that would be thoughtful, useful, handy, funny, wanted. New dress shoes? Practical, yes, but not very desirable for the man that would rather wear a ratty t-shirt and cut up firewood in his spare time. A new ax? Desirable, yes, but he probably has at least 12 other axes lying around in the garage... and I don't know the first thing about ax purchases. Is there an ax store? Do they have more than one kind or can you just walk in and ask where they keep the ax? I don't know (I don't care). 

     We decided that it would be best (even if it lacked a little creativity on our end) to let Dad pick out his own gift. So he thoughtfully bought himself a new hard drive for his computer. (Why didn't think of that? Um... because no one would.... ever.) He picked his own gift and we got to pick the activity we thought would best celebrate his special day.

     We chose the circus.

     When I broke the news to my husband, I think he thought I was kidding. He giggled and then asked, "Wait, are you serious?" I'm betting that visions of the two of us trying to keep the toddler from being eaten by a lion, the baby from chucking his cuppy at the row in front of us, and the older two from literally trying to join the circus... I'm sure these thoughts ran through his mind at least once before he agreed to the adventure. But for good measure, we invited his mom for reinforcement.

     We arrived at the circus and saw a sad looking tent surrounded by a few llamas, some skinny ponies, and an annoyed looking camel. There was one snack stand, two port-a-johns, and an even smaller tent where three tiny horses were hooked up to a metal spokes system, giving children rides. 

     Swell. The kids have never been to the circus before and I had talked it up as if we were going to see the Ringling Brothers.  It was apparent that I had spoken too soon. There would be no tigers, no rings of fire, no tight rope walkers. There would be an emaciated petting zoo and stinky toilets. 

     For this, we paid $45 and two babies missed their naps.

     Since we were already there, we tried to make the best of it. After all, it was only 300 degrees (in the shade) and all the attendees looked to be carnies, themselves. We made our way through the sea of bearded women and toothless men, over to the "petting zoo". I use this term loosely because the skinny animals did not seem to enjoy the whole "petting" part of the experience. Apparently the hungry little suckers thought that my kids’ fingers and limbs were carrots. At first, the toddler cried, stating that the horsey had bit him. Like any good mom, I assumed he was exaggerating. Surely the horse had licked him or given him a little nibble. A horsey kiss, perhaps.  

     But then, I watched (and photographed) as my youngest stood there, minding his own business while a particularly famished-looking pony attempted to eat him, starting with his fingers. My baby started to scream. I started to panic. I gave a gentle tug to see if I could get his finger loose, but no such luck. I didn’t know what else to do. So, I slapped the pony. I was just getting ready to give him a firm upper-cut when he finally released my child’s fingers.

     For the record, I will literally beat up any animal that tries to eat my children. Just in case anyone asks.

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     I grabbed my children and we began to flee the petting zoo. And that’s when the camel turned and spit all over us. Apparently he was ticked off that I’d slapped his friend. Never in my life did I want to drop kick an entire lot of animals like I did in that moment. I dared the camel to take one step closer as I mentally threatened to turn him into a camel-burger. (Please don’t call PETA on me…. I’m the nice one here. These animals were jerks.)

     Next, we decided to make our way to the pony rides. (I know, right?) These guys looked less hungry and much more in control of themselves. So, we watched as our children awkwardly rode atop the slowest moving ponies that I’d ever seen. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe they’d lost their will to go on. Either way, my kids smiled and we took pictures.

     No sooner had the small people begun to pester me for money to jump in the bouncy house when it suddenly deflated. Parents ran to rescue their children from the collapsed vinyl as toddlers sobbed in fear. Yeah…. No.

     Finally, it was show time. We made our way into the Little Top tent and found seats near the front (which wasn’t hard to do, as all the seats were near the front…. It was a really, really Little Top). There we sat, huddled together on mud-covered bleachers with about a hundred other sweaty people and their equally sweaty children, not a breeze to be had beneath the shelter of the tent. We fanned the young ones with Father’s Day cards and poured water over all their heads as we awaited what would be the worst circus in circus history.

     And then, all of our dreams came true.

     The music began to thump. The ringleader began to announce. Jugglers juggled. Contortionists contorted. Acrobats acrobatted. Magicians did magic! There were stunts, clowns, incredible tricks, and death-defying acts (not kidding!). Even the camel and llamas made an appearance. But I didn’t clap for them. I was still bitter.

     For nearly two hours, four children and three adults sat enthralled with the show. At intermission, we attacked the snow-cone guy, shoveling the shaved ice into our mouths as fast as we could manage. But neither the heat nor the vexatious animals could spoil our fun.

     The circus was haphazard. It was unexpected. Unconventional. Amazing. It was just like our family. Now that I think about it, there could be no better way to spend Father’s Day. 

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