Learned something new today, friends! If you suspect your baby might have an ear infection, there are places you should not take him. Topping that list is AN UNDERGROUND CAVE.
His mouth is smiling but his eyes say "I just screamed for forty-five minutes IN A CAVE!"
Ryan and I saw this cave on a PBS show we watched last Saturday night because we are too cool for words and decided we needed to go see it for ourselves. It was about an hour away and we managed to keep the kids excited by calling it a "science field trip" and stopping at Sonic for breakfast tacos along the way.
At the entrance to the park was the original visitor's center, built by the CCC in the thirties and it was SO COOL. It was the size of a small house and constructed of local stone with wooden beams and shingles. A large wrought iron chandelier hung in the main room, which had a grand domed ceiling decorated with rocks and crystals found inside the cave. It had a staircase outside that led up two winding stories to the roof, which served as an observation deck with a compass rose inlaid into the stone floor.
We all claimed the cozy room with the balcony on the second floor as "our room". My parents and niece came with us and people thought the four little blond children were all ours. One person said to Sibley "Oh, look at you! You're the only girl! I bet you can hold your own, though!"
We finally managed to get the kids away from the magical storybook castle house and moving towards the cave and were treated to more intricate stonework and a huge natural stone arch that led into the cave.
The kids were excited but nervous the whole time we were inside. Wes spent lots of time draped over my dad's shoulder. Charlie clung to my hand so fiercely I had to pry my fingers free if I needed to scratch my nose or get half undressed to feed the baby.
The cave had been used at various times as a meetinghouse for Indians, a hideout for outlaw Sam Bass, a Speakeasy, and a church. There are no pictures from inside the cave because of all the necessary kid juggling, hand holding, and passing James around, bouncing James, cave-nursing him in the cave-Ergo and ultimately deciding that there was nothing we could do but let him scream then give a huge tip to the ranger, who probably thought we were from some fringe religious sect with our four children aged four and under.
Despite the screaming, which didn't start until the farthest point away from the cave entrance, where I couldn't have found my way out myself, the tour was really cool. Lots of windy passageways and beautiful rock formations. Just enough climbing and tunnels to keep the kids interested. Some historical tidbits (LBJ kept an office down there in case of nuclear attack!).
Nonetheless, I was happy when we got back to the surface where James's choking sobs stopped immediately the moment he felt the sun on his face. As I handed the ranger all the singles I could find in my purse and apologized profusely, he said "Yeah, I've seen a lot worse (?!). Sometimes the pressure gets to their ears when we get near the bottom." How was I to know that? The pediatrician has never suggested we avoid spelunking before when the kids have had ear infections. SO WEIRD. I'll have to mention it to him. "You should really tell the other parents not to take their babies six stories underground when they have an ear infection." Right after "Avoid close contact with siblings," maybe.
We went out for lunch after the cave. It was uneventful except that Charlie ordered a man-size plate of fried catfish and ate almost the whole thing. Also, he carries stuffed animals inside his shirt (like an Ergo I think, not like a pregnancy).
Everyone conked out within minutes of leaving the restaurant and we went home to watch a movie for the rest of the afternoon.