Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of 2008

I didn't make 100 posts for 2008, but I came pretty close. Ninety-five is good enough!

I guess I'll recap my year...

Logan started kindergarten, which conveniently put both of my kids at the same school. I can write one check for MUCH cheaper daycare and pick both kids up at once. I get one more school year of same school after this and then Kaylin will go to middle school. Two years of convenience. Logan loves "real school" and Kaylin loves her wonderful 3rd grade teacher.

I started running for the first time in my life and ran two 5k races. I won my age group in my first race ever. I plan on running the same two races in 2009.

We took a fun mini-vacation to St. Louis where we went to City Museum for the first time. We MUST go back soon! I took a road trip to Nashville to visit a friend and got to feed yogurt and avocado to a dozen giant anteaters.

Work was completely insane this year. I spent the first part of the year preparing for the AZA inspection. I painted and weeded and raked and cleaned and set decorative rocks around pools. It was three months of working as hard as I could every day. We passed our accreditation so it was certainly worth it! I spent many days of October training with giraffes and rhinos at Niabi, Indy and St. Louis zoos. November and December were filled with seemingly constant animal deliveries and long days and weeks of caring for new animals. I've learned an amazing amount in a very short time and have made some great contacts at other zoos. This will likely be the most unique work experience I'll ever have. I'm enjoying (almost) every minute of it :)

Well, this has to be one of the most boring posts of 2008 so I'll end it now!

Monday, December 29, 2008

benda-what, benda-who?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Christmas is over :)

Today at work we have to unload at least one semi-trailer of hay. That won't be much fun, but the rest of the week should be a breeze. New Year's Eve and Day we only have to work a few hours (basic cleaning and feeding) so I'll have most of Wednesday and Thursday and all of Friday and Saturday off. Yes!

The neighbors got a Wii with Mario Kart and a STEERING WHEEL for Christmas and my kids have pretty much been living over there. Logan got Mario Kart for his DS but it is SO MUCH BETTER on Wii. Even though I've been at work, I immensely enjoy the fact that the neighbors are getting some payback for the bajillion hours their kids have spent at our house. (And I'm sure Gene is having a wonderful time with NO kids at the house!)

In a previous post I complained about the pointlessness of the utterly stupid As Seen on TV over and over and over Bendaroos... I was wrong. My dad paid $20 plus shipping for the glorified pipecleaners and they are without a doubt the kids' favorite Christmas present. They BOTH have spent hours and hours with the things! The wall by my front door is covered with Bendaroo creations. Bendaroos aren't messy and they are apparently fun. I'm not surprised Kaylin loves them, but Logan? Seriously? He loves them, too. Whatever.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Why must it be so cold? Oh, boo hoo hoo. I got home from work last night stinking like rhinos and freezing from driving around outside on the unprotected-from-the-elements Gator. The ONLY thing I wanted in life was a hot shower. Despite the fact that the water had been running from the tub all night and day, the hot water line was frozen. No shower for me!

Today's high is 8 but tomorrow is supposed to get all the way up to 30!!!! Thirty-four days until my Florida vacation. Even if it's only in the 50s down there it will be worth it!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Santa comes early

I was going to attempt to get my post count to 100 for the year, but at my current December pace that is NOT going to happen. Life is slowly returning to normal, with work and new animal shipments no longer dominating every waking moment. The addition of a new keeper and curator have ensured that I get my weekends off. The animals are all settled enough that I am no longer required to go in before or after hours to check on them. Things at work are pretty good.

Gene and the kids are off work/school for the next two weeks. I am not that lucky :) Saturday was my last day off before Christmas so we had decided that we'd have our family Christmas Saturday morning. Santa had no problem coming early and the kids were thrilled. Friday we had a huge ice storm. I decided that the kids and I weren't going to leave the house so we went ahead and opened all our "non-Santa" presents. We spent the entire day playing with Legos and new video games and Kapla blocks (the coolest wooden building blocks EVER.) Oh, and a knock-off version of Bendaroos...

Bendaroos are pieces of string covered in wax that can be molded or shaped. Actually, they are a waxy version of pipe cleaners. Bendaroos are advertised on Nick at every single commercial break and both kids wanted them desperately. Bendaroos are quite possibly the World's Stupidest Toy. Pipe cleaners are about a tenth of the cost and are much more versatile. Whatever, I found a very similar product at Hobby Lobby and it was the hit of the day. Logan spent more time with his wax sticks than I've ever seen him spend on anything "crafty" or that wasn't a vehicle or video game. Both kids spent hours playing with the things so I guess it was ten bucks well spent.

Santa came Friday night, so Saturday morning there was another round of presents. Kaylin suggested leaving Santa some Zingers (my favorite snack cake.) I got up at 2am and put out presents and stuffed stockings and ate Zingers. I then wrote a note from Santa thanking the kids for the Zingers and letting them know Santa hadn't had Zingers since he was a boy and his mom put them in his lunch box for school. Kaylin LOVED the note and immediately hung it in her room. The child REFUSES to stop believing in Santa. At least next year Christmas falls on my day off and Santa won't have to accomodate my schedule.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Who is Taz?

Kaylin's teacher does lots of projects involving animals. On the way home from school the other day, Kaylin was asking about Tasmanian devils. I told her what little I know about them and then made a comment that they're nothing like the cartoon character. (Crickets chirping...) My child has NO IDEA who Taz is!!!! She's eight! This kind of blew my mind! We've got Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Disney Channel available 24/7 and my child's never seen a Taz, Bugs Bunny or Roadrunner cartoon! I WILL fix this problem!

Gene took the day off work yesterday and we finished our Christmas shopping (other than a Looney Tunes DVD.) We somehow managed to find everything we were looking for at two stores! Logan wanted a police car Transformer we assumed we'd have to go to 18 stores to find. Nope. Toys R Us had it! I've been kicking myself for not buying Kaylin a Tinker Bell DS game back in November because I haven't been able to find one since. Wal-Mart had a dozen. We came home and wrapped (almost) everything. I have a couple more things coming in the mail and haven't bought any candy for the kids' stockings (because I will eat it) but that's it.

I'm still struggling to figure out what to do about Santa Claus. Christmas Eve and Christmas fall on the wrong days of the week this year! Santa usually comes early for us, but my closest day off is the Saturday before Christmas- that's FIVE days early. One or two days might be acceptable, but five? Ugh. I work hard to find the perfect fun stuff to fill the kids' stockings. I want to be there to watch them "open" them! At our house Santa only leaves a couple of small presents and stockings so everything from Gene and me will be opened on Saturday or else Christmas Eve after I get home from work (probably 10 or 11am.) Maybe if the kids KNOW they have to wait for me to get home, Santa can come a day early and everything can be under the tree and opened at once. Santa makes this concession for parents who have to work on the holidays :)

I'm half inclined to just TELL Kaylin there's no Santa, but we're going to Disney World next month and I want her to believe that Tinker Bell leaves her a gift (tooth fairy style) every night if she's good during the day. This little trick has worked wonders for our past Disney trips! The temptation to fight/whine/cry/throw a tantrum is miraculously curbed by a quick threat that Tink is watching and won't leave a box of princess band-aids or a cheap, dollar store Tigger pen if the kids aren't good. (Yes Sarah, Kaylin IS going to be asking Abbey what she got from Tink the night before! You're welcome.)

Oh, and in case you're wondering why I'm only worried about Kaylin finding out about Santa/Tink/Tooth Fairy? Logan has such a completely different personality, I strongly doubt this information will faze him. He'll be perfectly happy as long as he gets a present. For Kaylin, the "magic" means as much as or more than the gift. Logan is opposite.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Milk fight

When I picked the kids up from Latchkey last night, Logan was dumping one of those standup dustpans into the trash. He put away the broom and dustpan and joined me as we walked to the car. I asked him if sweeping was privilege or punishment? Sweeping was a privilege, but that question reminded him of the terrible punishment he received earlier in the day. For once in my life I was glad for the early darkness of winter- it somewhat covered my attempts to keep from laughing hysterically. Between Logan's long, sad story and Kaylin's smart-alecky comments, I was shaking with repressed laughter the entire drive home.

Long story short, Logan and two other boys were using their straws to spit milk at each other. The lunch aid had a fit and sent them all to the office to talk to the principal. The lunch aid, office secretary, principal and then classroom teacher all had plenty to say about the incident. Logan was VERY impressed by the huge amount of trouble he was in and will probably never spit milk on his friends again this school year.

Logan's confession was long and serious, all in his deep little monotone.
Me: Did you cry?
Logan: Not until I got to the office. Mrs. (secretary) was very, very sad that we'd do something like that.
Kaylin: Oh yeah, I'm sure Mrs. S was REALLY sad. Was she crying and crying because you guys spit milk at each other?
Logan: SHUT UP KAYLIN! Mrs. S was sad but Mr. (principal) didn't scream at us. He was very sad that we'd do something like that but he didn't yell.

The story went on and on. All of the adults were very sad. All except this one who was laughing her head off. WHY do schools overuse the word "sad?" Are little kids really too stupid to understand "disappointed?" If you hit someone, you're using "sad hands." Why? Can't a kid (even a preschooler) understand some basic concept of self-control and anger? Do we really hit others because our hands are SAD??? I digress...

When we pulled into the driveway, Logan noticed that the neighbors were home and wanted to go play. I said something about how he'd gotten into a lot of trouble and he should stay home tonight. His furious response? "I KNEW I SHOULDN'T HAVE TOLD YOU!!!" Ah, it makes me so SAD!

Friday, December 5, 2008


I'm on my first "scheduled" weekend since the new animals started arriving! We had two new people start this week so I should get all of my usual days off from here on out!

I've been getting a little stressed and burned out at work, probably just tired... Anyway, I had a couple of nights this week where I dreamed all night about cleaning out rhino drains. Seemingly all night long I cleaned hay and poop out of drains. Over and over. I remember when I worked at Pizza Hut I'd dream about cutting pizzas- just cutting and boxing pizza after pizza. I'm sure everyone has similar repetetive dreams. They make you want to jump out of bed in the morning and get back to doing the "real" thing. Yep. Uh-huh.

So Thursday morning after a long night of dreaming, I was in the bathroom getting ready for work. Logan came in and was playing with a marble. He was rolling the marble around in the sink. Around and around, it was kind of cool. I sat on the toilet to pee. (Privacy is a privilege reserved for work, when only the occasional child sticks his head under my stall door.) Mid-pee, I feel something cold hit my back and plop into the toilet. Why? Really. Why?

I was completely repulsed, but at the same time laughing at myself. In the past few weeks I've pulled literally hundreds of pounds of rhino poo out of the drains with my BARE HANDS. I've barely given it a thought. But there is NO WAY I'm going to reach into the toilet filled with MY OWN urine to retrieve a marble!

I gave it some thought and sent Logan to the kitchen for the salad tongs. The tongs worked like a charm! I easily plucked the marble from the toilet. But now what? Do I really want to keep the tongs that have been in the TOILET with my PEE???? No. I do not. Goodbye tongs, you served me well!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Colleen and I had just finished our lunch at McDonald's and were climbing into the car to go back to work when a pickup truck with a large chest freezer in the bed pulled up next to us. We were talking and putting on our seatbelts when the driver of the truck pounded on the passenger window. Now, I'm a total wus who gets tackled to the ground by two-year-olds and Colleen's a skinny girl. (Well, a skinny girl with a black belt in Tai Kwon Do and almost a black belt in Kuk Sul Won.)

Colleen rolled down the window and was mentally preparing to kick butt when the VERY friendly man asked us if we wanted to buy some meat? Just in time for the holidays!!! He started reeling off all the MANY different kinds of meat he had in his freezer. We were stunned speechless. Do people really buy meat from some random guy in the Mickey-D's parking lot? Not us!

This guy would NOT shut up! He was determined to make a sale. I was most certainly NOT going to buy his meat, but how to get him to leave... I finally blurted out "Sorry, Dude, we're vegetarians." He was soooo disappointed. He tried to convince us that some vegetarians eat chicken or fish, but Colleen said "Yeah, nothing that's had a heartbeat." He thanked us and left us alone.

We were silent as we pulled out of the parking lot onto Prospect. We then burst into simultaneous laughter when it sunk in that some guy just tried to sell us MEAT out of a FREEZER in the back of his TRUCK in the McDonald's parking lot! Wow. Yuck.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

ah, weekend!

On Thursday, I got a nice surprise and the boss said I could have my Friday and Saturday off. Yippee!!! I went to Toys R Us and Target and got some Christmas shopping done on Friday, but otherwise sat at home in front of my computer, watching terrible daytime tv and dozing. It was so great to have a day off I could hardly believe it!

Today we went hiking at Forest Park Nature Center. For reasons I don't understand, Logan has been wanting a hiking stick and they sell kid's ones at their gift shop. I finally bought him one today. He uses it like a cane/crutch. I can't quite put it into words, but I'll just say that walking with the stick takes about three times as long and appears to require far more energy than walking without the stick. It's pretty hilarious.

We hiked a couple of the trails and saw more than 40 turkeys and two deer. It was good to get a little exercise and good to be outdoors. The nature center has a nice indoor viewing area of their many bird feeders so we watched a long time. Kaylin learned the difference between a chickadee and a nuthatch. Logan preferred looking at their small menagerie of snakes, turtles and bugs. It was a good time.

I feel somewhat rested for the first time since the new animals started to arrive. I'm definitely ready to get back to working with the rhinos. The calmer of the two rhinos is starting to warm up to the keepers. He's been allowing me to pet his face and horn and hand-feed him produce. I'm loving the rhinos but they stink like no other animal I've worked with. They like to poop out of their bars into the drains so I have to get on my hands and knees to pull 30+ pounds of feces out of the drains. I'm sure I never smell good after work, but I can't ever remember the kids complaining about how much I reek before!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Today our two rhinos arrived on a semi-truck. They were in ginormous crates that had to be lifted with a huge, special forklift. They are half-brothers. Harris just turned 3 in September and Leo will be three in December. They both came crashing into our building, charging the bars and banging into things. Harris calmed quickly, but Leo was much more wound-up. We turned off the lights and left for most of the day. When I went back to check on them late this afternoon, Harris was calm and interested in what I was doing and Leo was pacing, but not charging the bars or being aggressive. I can't wait until they calm down. The keeper who came with them said that Harris loves to roll onto his back and have his belly rubbed. Yes. I want to rub his giant rhino belly :)

I am pretty much living at work. Gene has been great about it. When I'm actually home, I'm completely exhausted and nearly useless. I mean, I can help the kids with homework or balance the checkbook or do laundry, but I really don't feel like going back out to grocery shop and I'm not going to rake leaves. Gene's been great about cooking dinner every night and dealing with the kids every morning. I'll apparently continue to work seven days a week until the new person starts (and probably is trained) sometime in early December. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Happy Birthday, Mom!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

parent-teacher conferences, birthdays, animals, voting and funerals

Man, I've been busy with work. I'm at a place right now where I'm exhausted at the end of the day, but wake up excited and eager to go back. The new animals are settling in really starting to respond to the keepers. The most exciting thing is that the giraffe boys are now eating sweet potato out of our hands. They were too nervous to approach us for several days, but they've calmed down and now come right up and use their foot-long, scratchy blue tongue to grab chunks from our hands. It is sooooooo cool!!!

All of the new animals are quarantined inside their barns for at least 30 days so I've been coming up with stuff for them to do. We play radios for most of them and the monkeys even have a television. I've been giving the lion boxes to tear apart and a bowling ball to play with. The red river hogs have a baby pool filled with mulch to root in, the zebra has a ball filled with hay and a horse apple toy that can have chunks of produce inserted. I've been emailing friends at other zoos for different enrichment ideas. Oh, and all the new animals have at least some level of training which is major enrichment in itself.

The first parent-teacher conferences of this school year were last week. I was a bit nervous about Logan's very young, fresh-out-of-school teacher, but she turned out to be pretty sensible. I liked her a lot. Her biggest concern is that Logan uses the bathroom EIGHT times a day. Seriously, Logan??? That's more than once an hour! I was kind of surprised because I don't think he does this at home! He certainly doesn't need to use every restroom at every store when we're out shopping. Eh. I had Gene talk to him about it. Otherwise, he's doing well with his schoolwork and while his behavior isn't perfect, he's no worse than any other kindergarten boy and not one of the labeled Class Troublemakers.

Kaylin's teacher is FANTASTIC!!! FINALLY, a teacher who just likes her for who she is and while she'd certainly like to see improvement in Kaylin's organizational skills, she isn't spewing dramatic warnings about FOURTH GRADE and lecturing that Kaylin doesn't CONFORM to NORMAL third grade behaviors. (Can you tell I'm still bitter about last year's teacher???) Gene and I walked into the room for the conference and the teacher just started laughing about things Kaylin says and does. We laughed the entire 15 minutes. I never thought a P-T conference could be fun! I love this woman and have a feeling she will be an all-time favorite.

Logan turned 6 on Saturday! It wasn't a "major" birthday for him like FIVE! was. He was just happy to be a year older. I think he was a bit disappointed that he didn't sprout up a foot overnight Friday night. We had a party at my parents' house Saturday night. Logan was thrilled to be with his cousins and (la la la la) Uncle Andy. He received some great presents, but his favorite of the moment was the card with MONEY from great-grandpa and grandma. It was hilarious. He opened the card and his eyes got huge and he couldn't stop smiling. He whipped out his wallet and put the money away. While the other kids were playing with his new toys, Logan and Pawpaw were counting his money over and over. I think he has something like $44 now. When asked what he's going to buy, he looks at you like you're crazy and says "I'm not going to SPEND it! I like the money!!!"

While at the party, I was talking to my dad and sis-in-law about the election. Gene chimed in that I had been disgusted with the election. I was confused for a second, because I was happy with the election results. I then remembered I was disgusted NOT with the election, but with voting. I complained that I arrived at the polls at 5:55am and was about 80th in line, with more than half of the people in front of me old people who could have voted at any time. I commented that I wished the old people would have voted before OR after their funeral so the people who had to go to work wouldn't have to wait so long! There was no reason for them to clog the early morning "working people" line. Whoops! I offended my grandma :) Her reaction?

"Soooooooze! Grandpa and I were thinking about going early, but we decided to vote AFTER our funeral and only waited five minutes!" I was like "EXACTLY." I was laughing so hard it hurt. Grandma tried to make me feel bad by saying it was Grandpa's first cousin's funeral, but she so completely proved my point that it just didn't work.

Friday, November 7, 2008

New animals. Yeah!!!

This week we received several animal shipments. Tuesday we got our female lion, two female red river hogs and four Thompson's gazelles. Wednesday the two giraffe boys arrived. Thursday our amazing, huge male zebra came. Today was FANTASTIC because we had no animal deliveries and just got to concentrate on all our new animals. Figuring out all the new locks and sliding doors and guillotine doors and gate closures has been a full-time job in itself. The week has been utterly exhausting, but soooooooo exciting and fun.

My big surprise is how much I love the red river hogs. The piggies are adorable and so fun to work with. They will do almost anything for a chunk of apple or a leaf of romaine. They snuff their piggy noses up to my hand and follow me as I walk up and down the hall. The zebra is amazing. He is actually friendly and loves attention. His previous keepers have him majorly trained and he can be hand-fed. Amazing. The lion is growly and silly. I gave her a bowling ball today and she carried it around in her mouth most of the afternoon. The gazelles are skittish. That's about all I have to say about them :) The giraffe boys are slowly adapting to their new home. They've been very nervous, but are starting to calm down. They both ate well today and one of them "almost" came up to eat a chunk of sweet potato out of my hand.

I have to wear a lovely blue jumpsuit and rubber kneeboots while working with the new quarantine animals. If I go to the other part of the zoo for lunch or break, I have to change out of the jumpsuit and boots. It's a bit of a pain, but beats the original plan which was to SHOWER and change into a fresh uniform every time I needed to go over to the other part of the zoo. That would have been awful.

Next week the male lion, gerenuk, male red river hog and rhinos are scheduled to come. WHEEEEE RHINOS!!!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hurray, weekend.

Whew! I walked into work Saturday morning and the November schedule was posted. I was scheduled to work Sunday with Monday off and then off Saturday. I asked my boss if I'd need to come in at all on Monday and thanked her for giving me that day off. She looked at the schedule and said she hadn't meant to schedule me until NEXT Sunday and that I'd have Sunday and Monday completely off! Wooohoooooooo!!! Man, I needed this weekend!

We got our first new animals in yesterday. Five colobus monkeys, including an adorable 6-month-old baby came from New York. It was so amazing to see actual animals in the new building! It was also fantastic to see the other zoo's keepers' reactions to the monkeys' new home. They were all quite impressed.

This week the giraffes, lions, gazelles, zebra, red river hogs and some other small animals are scheduled to arrive. Within two weeks, all the major animals will be here. Incredible.

I spent most of this morning shopping for Logan's Batman birthday party. Kaylin was picking fights with him so I forced her to come along with me. We went to Wal-Mart, Dollar Tree, Michael's, Big Lots and the party store. That's WAY too much shopping for me! We got lots of good stuff, though. Logan doesn't want to see any of it. He wants everything to be a surprise :)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Crazy week, but next week will be worse...

So, this week in Susyland, Logan cut his hair. He chopped two hunks out of the front of his already buzzed head. It looks kinda dumb, but will grow back quickly. After he did it he lamely made a comment "Huh, some of my hair fell out." Yeah.

I was in St. Louis to train Monday through Wednesday. I got to see their five adorable tiger cubs and got to touch a baby elephant. Otherwise, I worked with giraffes and other antelope and then with rhinos and red river hogs. It was fun, but exhausting.

Wednesday was my birthday and I got home from St. Louis just enough before bedtime to have cake and enjoy the decorations the kids put up. They were really excited. I wasn't too excited about my birthday in general, but the kids made it fun.

Today my boss told me she's switching my days off from Sunday and Monday to Friday and Saturday. That probably means that I won't have any days off this week. She also said I'd be working 7 days a week for a month or two while the new animals get situated and we get used to working with giraffes and rhinos. That pretty much means that a week ago Sunday was my last day off until probably Christmas. Ugh. I won't have to work 8 hour days on my "days off" but will have to go in for at least a few hours.

Our first new animal shipment comes tomorrow and then I'm not even sure how many new animals are scheduled to come next week. A lot! For sure the giraffes! It's terribly exciting, but I sure wish I had a day to catch up on laundry and bills!!!!

Tonight we took the kids to the Halloween party thrown by my parents' neighborhood association. They have tons of fun games that are rewarded with candy. The candy this year was fantastic! It was ALL good stuff like Hershey's and Kit Kat. The kids both left the party with about 20 candy bars and then went trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. I couldn't believe their haul! Absolutely no Tootsie Rolls or nasty peanut butter kisses. No Smarties or Sweet Tarts or crap candy of any kind. Logan dressed up like Batman and wore his entire costume, including mask from the time of his party at school until we got home at 8:15pm. Kaylin dressed up as pageant queen "Miss Messy." She covered an old white Salvation Army dress with paint and markers and dirt. I ran it over with the car several times. We made a Miss Messy sash out of an old tee-shirt and covered an old princess tiara with foil. It was pretty cute and totally appropriate for my slob princess.

I better get some sleep and gear up for my crazy week!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Psycho Susy

Yesterday when I arrived home from work a few minutes later than usual, the kids were carrying bowls of mac and cheese to a picnic blanket in the front yard. Gene made a lot and gave some to each of the neighbor kids as well. All of the kids seemed to be happily eating outside, Gene was happily watching a home improvement show and I was happily checking email, completely oblivious to everything around me.

I looked up and mom from next door was standing in my living room. Uh, hi. She was acting kind of embarrassed and her little girl was sobbing and clinging to her. Ugh. What did my kids do??? Turns out, the neighbor girl didn't want to eat her mac and cheese. The Ultimate Queen of Bossiness, a.k.a. Kaylin, told her "I" would be very angry if she didn't eat her food. Little Girl wasn't too concerned with that so Kaylin upped the threat to "I" would "cut her back" if she didn't eat. Grrreat. I was pretty surprised and asked "Cut your back, like with a KNIFE???" Little Girl sobbed and nodded, Neighbor Mom looked like she wished the floor would open and swallow them both.

I then had to spend several minutes trying to convince a not-quite five-year-old that I would NEVER EVER hurt her and that I most certainly would never dream of threatening her with a knife! The neighbors left for the night (which almost made the whole incident worthwhile because it was a full hour earlier than they usually go home) and now I had to deal with Kaylin. She came slinking out of her room and made a lame excuse about how I don't like wasted food.

I'm all about the psychology of laying blame on superiors to get others to do what you want. I'm talking minor stuff like while training a new person at work, emphasizing that the BOSS likes the barns to be free of cobwebs. This is certainly not a lie, but it makes a much deeper impression than trying to convince someone to spend time on extra work because "I" want it done. Kaylin has the basics down, she just needs to tweak her skills so "I" don't get a visit from Peoria's Finest.

I told Kaylin that if this situation happens again she will be deeply sorry and will suffer extreme punishment that doesn't involve knives or cutting or violence in general.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Rhino training

I've now worked with the two adorable, sweet giraffe boys we'll be getting soon! It was an incredible experience and I can't wait to work with them every day! This training trip was perfect because we were stationed in a building with giraffes, rhinos and small antelope- the exact things we needed to work with.

The giraffes were fun because we got to hand feed them and they would bend down to sniff our hands or heads. The rhinos were possibly my favorite animal I've ever worked with. I heart rhinos! I think Roz was a bit disgusted with me because I was so much more interested in working with rhinos we'll probably never see again than I was in working with "our" giraffes. I couldn't help it! Rhinos are so huge and scary-looking while at the same time so calm and gentle. (Don't get me wrong, they are certainly potentially quite dangerous.) The rhinos would come up to the bars to be scratched and petted. I've always known their horns are made out of hair, but never been close enough to OBSERVE that fact. The entire trip was a learning experience and we learned an amazing amount about giraffes and rhinos.

As a zookeeper at another zoo, you tend to get plenty of behind-the-scenes tours and other extras. Zookeepers love showing off their animals. We saw the insides of most of the buildings in the general area we were working. We met and played with a hand-raised kangaroo. We talked with the keeper who trains a gibbon that came from our zoo. When we were offered a tour of the elephant barn we were only mildly interested, but in for a major surprise. We assumed we'd be looking at the building itself and possibly get close to one or more elephants. It was sooo much more :) We were led straight through the building into an enclosed training yard. We watched a couple minutes of a training session and the trainers invited us to come pet the elephant. Cool! We petted her a couple of minutes, thanked the keepers and started walking back toward the people we came with, when they said "Don't you want a ride?" Roz about flipped. I wasn't so sure. I'm not crazy about heights and elephants are big. Really big. Roz took her turn and as she was getting off they asked if I was SURE I didn't want a ride? I figured there was a good chance I'd never get this opportunity again so I went for it. This was no saddled elephant with a stairway to get on... This was a bareback ride. I had to climb onto the gigantic beast and practically do the splits to straddle its back! The only thing to hold onto was her ears. It was pretty scary going up and down but the ride itself was a blast. I'm very glad I did it.

The entire trip was a blast. We had a fun dinner with a former coworker and had a great time catching up. The only downside was our complete dive of a hotel. It was booked without any consideration other than distance from the zoo and the price. It turned out to be located in Trucker Heaven. We were surrounded by two huge truck stops. Within two minutes of walking, we could reach TWO CB shops, an adult book store, a strip club, a seedy-looking bar and a gas station that offered pay showers. The hotel itself was dirty. All the rooms opened to the parking lots. We had VERY little hot water- our showers were luke-warm. They left us two towels, one washcloth and one hand towel daily. Our original bar of soap had mold on the wrapper. There was no iron or hair dryer (and I couldn't use the shower steam trick because the shower didn't make steam...) The lobby window had a bullet hole. The "free breakfast" consisted of two cereal dispensers that sat out 24/7 and a tray of old-looking Hostess donuts. Oh, and a jug of milk in a bowl of ice and a cheap coffee pot.

We took pictures of all this stuff and went and had them printed. While waiting for the pics, we found a poster board, some markers, glue and tape, colored paper and some stickers and feathers. We then returned to the hotel and made a lovely thankyou poster for the boss :) We also included several photos of us with different animals. We apparently got our point across because we're booked at a Holiday Inn for our St. Louis trip next week. Score!

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Today I took Gene and the kids on a tour of the new Africa! exhibit at the zoo. Once the animals begin to arrive in a couple weeks, no one will be allowed over there because it will be a quarantine area. I wanted to show Gene everything while it's still new and pristine. We had a lot of fun posing in the different animal areas. The new header photo is the kids on a bench in one of the lion stalls. We also checked out the giraffe barn as well as the indoor monkey and red river hog exhibits, the zebra stalls and the huge boardwalk surrounding the giraffe yard. It's a beautiful new area that everyone MUST come and see next spring :)

The newest addition to the existing zoo is two adorable young male takin (rhymes with rockin'.) They are basically giant goats, but are soooo cute. The older takin Patrick is nearly full grown but Burt is only 6 months old. He's a "dinky" little guy and stinking cute. Takin love to climb and like rocky areas. They're very strange and cool animals.

Monday, Roz and I leave for Indy to train with giraffes and rhinos for three days. We get to spend Monday night so we don't have to leave Peoria at 4am Tuesday. We called a former coworker who now lives in Indy and plan to meet up with her one of the nights we're there. I'm more excited about seeing and catching up with her than I am about the animal training :) The whole experience should be a good time. It is especially exciting that we'll be working with the giraffes that will be coming to our zoo!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Zoo To-do

Work has been insane. Everyone is scrambling to get ready to start receiving new animals in less than two weeks!!! On Monday (my usual day off and Colombus Day so no school) I was supposed to help load the zebras onto a trailer, have Kaylin at the zoo for a photo shoot at 9:30am and then ride along to Racine, Wisconsin to help deliver the zebras. I begged Gene to take the day off work to stay with the kids. Fortunately, he didn't mind...

Gene got Kaylin all dressed up in a mini zookeeper uniform and brought her in to pose with the camel and the giant tortoise. The photo is for a fundraising calendar for the proposed children's museum. They wanted pictures of kids doing adult jobs and when they contacted my boss, she volunteered Kaylin for the job. Kaylin loved it :) Logan was happy to get to go into the yards with the animals, but NOT have to get his picture taken, thankyouverymuch!

Loading the zebras onto the trailer was relatively uneventful. They weren't overly nervous or stressed-out the entire trip. Every time we stopped to check on them, they were contentedly munching on hay. The trip was probably more stressful for my coworker Doug and me. The drive each way took five hours. The truck's air-conditioning didn't work so we were hot and sticking to the vinyl seats. We got such a late start due to problems with the truck/trailer electronics we got to the Racine Zoo after close and didn't even get to see any of their animals. It was a bummer to drive all that way, spend 40 minutes unloading the zebras and then jump right back into the truck for another five hour drive. Oh well. The zebras did great unloading and seemed to enjoy their new grassy yard.

Logan started in his new classroom on Tuesday. He likes his new teacher and is adjusting well. I figured out this week that Logan has been eating breakfast at school. I don't know how he figured out he could do this, but he was really enjoying it :) A few weeks ago, I added $50 to his lunch account, thinking I wouldn't have to think about lunch money for a long time. Tuesday night I received a notice that he OWED money. WHAT???? Not possible! I checked Kaylin's account and she still had more than half her lunch money! There must be some mistake! Nope. Brat Boy was eating at home and then again at school. A $25 discovery that if it wasn't so funny would have made me quite mad! I emailed his new teacher about it and she emailed back that the former teacher had him on the breakfast list. Seriously???

Next week I'm scheduled to train in Indy from Monday through Thursday. I CAN'T WAIT to work with rhinos!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Giraffe training

I made it through my first session of giraffe training! I think Roz and I both were a bit overwhelmed at how time-consuming it is to clean up after giraffes. Giraffes only sleep literally a few minutes every day so they spend most of their time pacing around, grinding their copious amounts of poo into the floor. The floor must be swept, soaked, scrubbed, sanitized and rinsed daily to clean their mess. Wow.

On the bright side, they are amazingly cool animals. While not terribly intelligent, giraffes are very curious. They like to examine everything in their environment. A falling leaf is fascinating and then good to eat. Giraffes have very good senses of sight and hearing. Roz and I enjoyed making subtle noises while the giraffes were inside the building and watching them react. All four would stop eating and slowly turn their heads toward us, just staring with curiosity. Very cute. We got to hand feed them banana chunks. It was awesome to be so close :)

We also got a complete behind the scenes tour of the entire zoo. We got to watch big cat and elephant training sessions. We also got to watch a veterinary procedure on a constipated snake. The vet was elbow-deep inside a huge python, removing large chunks of impacted feces. Pretty amazing... I took video.

Roz accompanied me to the mall and took great pleasure in forcing me to try on many different potential outfits (as well as several different hideous tops she just wanted to see me in.) I now have an outfit for our coworker's wedding! I even bought shoes! I ended up with a pair of black dress pants and a shirt that is on the casual side, but nothing at all like anything I currently own. I tried on 17 shirts/pants/skirts and several pairs of shoes. Utterly exhausting. I don't understand why so many women love clothes shopping. Ugh.

While I was gone we received a letter from the school that Logan was switched to the new kindergarten class. Just like Kaylin. The principal "randomly" picks kids for the move. I imagine that since we share the same last name our kids kinda jump off the page at him. Logan was adjusting really well and making lots of friends. Bummer.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Corn maze? Check.

I have no idea why, but I've always wanted to do a corn maze. The two mazes I know of in the Peoria area are both at apple farms with so many other activities, we've never had time to bother with a maze. Today was my day. We went to the farm with fewer activities and headed straight for the maze. Unfortunately, we had to walk through the playground with the giant slide and the pedal cars on the paved race track before we got to the maze entrance. The kids were distracted and annoyed they couldn't play...

We excitedly entered the corn field and started wandering through the winding paths. It didn't take long for me to realize that whoopee, we're walking around a corn field. A hot corn field full of bugs. And stinky corn. And within minutes, bored, complaining children. The map had 30 fill in the blank answers for different questions posted around the maze. We found 6 before we were completely done with being in the corn maze and found our way out. I suppose I'm glad I tried it so I'll never be curious again, but I can't imagine ever bothering to do it again.

The kids had a great time on the playground. Logan found a wad of cash on the ground. No one was around to claim it, so we let him keep it. $16 bucks! Logan had no concept of how much money he found, but he did understand how jealous Kaylin was. He very much enjoyed allowing her to count the money while refusing to let her actually hold it. A happy moment for the younger child for sure :)

The farm had a new "gem mining" feature this year. It was a genius money-making scheme that was really fun. They sold you a bag of sand for $6, you dumped it into boxes with screens and washed away the sand in a wooden sluice. The kids loved it! I think we ended up with maybe 6 polished rock sized "gems" and a whole bunch of tiny ones like you would find inside a souvenir pencil. We also received a nifty postcard to identify our gems and a tiny ziplock bag to store them.

Thursday night was Donor Night at the zoo to honor all the donors who made our new Africa! area possible. I was stationed at the rhino house and my job was to talk to the many different tour groups about the rhinos that will be arriving next month and to point out all the interesting features of their barn. I'm not much of a public speaker, but it turned out to be a really fun evening. It was great to have so many people excited about the new area and it gave me an opportunity to express my enthusiasm. One woman approached me after her tour and complimented me on the fact that I'm a zookeeper, not a public speaker, but I managed to infect the entire group with my excitement over the arrival of the rhinos. That was pretty cool.

Tuesday and Wednesday this week I'll head to the Quad Cities for my first session of giraffe training. They have a nice little zoo with lots of great animals and I'm very much looking forward to working there two days. My coworker Roz will also be there and I'm hoping she'll force me to go shopping for something to wear to another coworker's wedding on Saturday. Or maybe I shouldn't go shopping with her... We're going to be together for several more days of training this month so perhaps I shouldn't annoy her too much! I'm quite possibly the Worst. Person. Ever. to shop with.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Another 5K completed, Wii!

Yesterday I accomplished one of my 40 before 40 goals and ran the Zoo Run Run 5K. It was a pretty horrible race for this weenie novice, with many dreadful hills and a much larger and more skilled range of participants than the other, much easier race I ran back in May. The course included a run through the zoo's new Africa! exhibit, up and around the towering boardwalk. By the time I made it to the top of the boardwalk on my second lap I was fairly convinced I was going to christen the new giraffe yard with my vomit. I held it in and managed to finish without walking (or puking.) I had to work immediately after finishing the race and felt pretty queasy the first 30 minutes or so. I'm glad I did it and I'm even more glad it's over. I don't know if I'll continue running or not. We'll see...


I got Gene a new video game for his birthday that has renewed the kids' interest in the Wii. I think it's called Outdoor Challenge or something, but it came with a big floor mat that acts as the controller so they can run and jump to play the games. Kaylin and Logan love it so much I don't know if Gene's even gotten to try it. They get all sweaty playing so I suppose it beats sitting at the computer.

Kaylin's favorite thing about the Wii has always been creating Miis. (You can create a video game "cartoon" character that looks like you and use it to play many games.) She downloaded a Mii site where others share their creations. Wow! If you haven't checked this out, it's hilarious! People made Miis that look exactly like Barack Obama, Mr. Spock, Peter Griffin from Family Guy and tons of others. It's great.

I also downloaded Punch Out! onto the Wii. I've only played one game so far, but it is sooo fun. I finally remembered the secret to beating King Hippo but he knocked me out before I could use it. King Hippo's going down today! I can't believe it was only five bucks!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

last day of another vacation :(

So another vacation from work is coming to an end. Sigh. It's been wonderful. I had been pretty nervous about the drive to/from Nashville because I've never driven that far by myself (about 8 hours each way including stops.) Thanks to Gene's awesome new van and satellite radio I loved it. It was such a good opportunity to think about life and kids and work, completely uninterrupted. I thought through some personal issues and found some new conclusions. It was a good time and a good trip beginning to end. I'll never be afraid of another driving trip!

Silly tidbits about Tennessee nobody will care about but I want to record to remember... I can't believe how many people have horses. Julie lives in a subdivision and many of her neighbors have horses in their yards. Also, driving on the highway, you see more horses than cows. In Tennessee, you can't buy beer at a liquor store. Most liquor stores have a beer store on one side and all other liquor on the other, completely separate, with a separate cashier, side. Nashville was having a run on gasoline. It had been mentioned on the news that gas might be short due to Hurricane Ike hitting Houston. Nashville (and only Nashville) panicked and everyone got gas and topped off gas and stockpiled gas. The stations were literally out of gas for a couple of days and if they'd get a delivery, it would be sold out within hours. And finally, this was probably only in the neighborhood near Julie's, but instead of a new neighborhood with cookie cutter houses, there was a new neighborhood where everyone had the exact same round brick mailbox holder on the street. It was bizarre. They were so strange and unattractive. The houses were close together so the goofy mailboxes dominated the neighborhood.

I've had six days off work. I should probably do at least one load of laundry. Better go accomplish something. Ugh. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Still chillin' in Nashville

I had The. Most. Relaxing. Day. I can remember since before kids yesterday. Julie and I took her dog to a huge lake minutes from her house. We hiked through the woods to a rocky area where we sat for hours talking and watching the birds and boats. The dog swam but the sun wasn't on our area and we were satisfied just putting our feet in the water. We spent the rest of the day hanging out at the house, talking and relaxing.

I used MapQuest to figure the route/distance from Julie's house to Memphis Zoo and found that it would take almost four hours to get there. By the time I left after morning rush hour, it would be at least 1pm before I got to the zoo so I decided to skip Memphis and go back to Nashville Zoo as an actual visitor this morning (as opposed to being behind the scenes most of my visit.) My plan is to eat lunch with Julie after her morning of programs and then head home.

This has been a fantastic trip- so much fun and so relaxing. I think I'll try to go off for a few days by myself more often. (At least more often than once every 10 years!)

Today is Gene's 40th birthday! Happy birthday, Gene-Gene! Lordy, lordy, Gene is 40. Gene's over the hill. If we lived in Morton I'd put it on the bank sign but since we don't you'll have to settle for my blog :)

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'm on vacation, I'm on vacation!!

I'm in Nashville visiting my friend Julie who works in the education department at Nashville Zoo. She gives lots of behind the scenes tours and knows lots of the keepers in various areas. Julie took me behind the scenes at the anteater and giraffe barns yesterday. Anteaters are probably my favorite zoo animals. They are so weird-looking and cool... I got to touch one in St. Louis last year but this experience was INCREDIBLE!!! Nashville zoo has around a dozen anteaters in one large barn with indoor/outdoor access for all of the animals. The anteaters currently don't have a public display so the only way they are seen is on a behind the scenes tour. I got a personal tour. I got up close to all the anteaters, including a mother with a baby. I fed one an avocado and another some yogurt. We spent a looong time in the building and I can't even describe how much fun I had!

THEN, we went to the giraffe barn. I got to see all the indoor enclosures, the restraining device and the scaling system. The keepers told me about their training methods and then took me outside to show me the chute the giraffes walk through daily to their exhibit yard. We walked up onto a hill and the giraffes came right up to us, sniffing our shoes and allowing us to pet them. The male licked my hand :) Amazing animals!

We toured the rest of the zoo and ended with a tour of the education building and all the amazing education animals used for programs and shows. It was a very fun experience, though I did feel a bit guilty for making Julie go to work on her day off.

I then went with Julie and her friend Celeste to a children's birthday party. Celeste takes miniature farm animals and does a short show before giving rides on her miniature horse. It was pretty cool. The kids all loved the goat, rabbit and chicken and then really loved the horse ride. I took some pictures for Celeste and otherwise tried to keep an eye on the animals while she and Julie were giving horse rides. I certainly didn't think my vacation would include a child's birthday party, but it was fun.

Today we're going to a lake and then tomorrow I plan to go to Memphis to go to their zoo. Woohoooo!!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

only once a year

Today was the dreaded annual vet visit for cat vaccines. Taking the cat to the vet requires careful planning, sneaky acting and mad skillz at catching and crating wild animals. It also requires a higher tolerance for meowing and cat hair than I possess.

Step One is to trap the cat inside one of the bedrooms by simply closing the door. The kids cannot be involved with this step because they will inevitably tip off the cat by hollering "The cat's in Logan's room!" The cat will then escape outside, never to be seen or heard from again. Step One was easy this morning. Gene noticed the cat in Logan's room and shut the door.

Step Two is to keep the kids from opening the bedroom door while I clean the pet carrier that has been gathering dust in the garage for a year. Why didn't I clean the crate last night or last week? Because DUH! that would tip off the cat who will escape outside and never be seen or heard from again.

Step Three is to slip quickly into the closed bedroom with the crate without allowing the cat to slip out and escape outside never to be seen or heard from again.

Step Four is The Chase. It is where the cat sees the crate and begins tearing around the room, bouncing off furniture and doing anything in her power to avoid being caught. This step is where all of my vet's office and zoo experience pays off. I'm good at catching and Logan's room is small. This morning's catch was no problemo.

Step Five is stuffing the writhing, scratching beast into the pet carrier. Again, I'm pretty experienced at this and managed to escape without a scratch. It was still not fun, however...

Phew! The cat is crated and ready to go. Now the yowling begins. Nonstop rrrrrOW, rrrrrOW, rrrrrrrOW, rrrrrrrrOW!!! for 20 minutes before we leave (I have to start early just in case) and then even louder for the dreaded 15 minute car ride. The yowling stops the moment we enter the office. The next trick is to remove the cat from the carrier to be weighed. She has shrunk herself to the size of a cantaloupe in the far corner of the carrier. The Dreaded Box has transformed magically into the Wonderful Refuge. Grrrrrr. A few minutes later the cat is weighed and in the exam room. She sits perfectly still on the table, first allowing the vet tech to look at her ears and teeth and then allowing the vet to perform his exam. She doesn't flinch for the three vaccines and returns immediately to her crate when it's over. She then spends ten quiet minutes back in the waiting room while I pay and chat with the receptionists.

Fifteen more minutes of non-stop yowling in the car and we're safely home. No more scheduled vet visits for another year! I'm ready for some Advil and a nap! The cat has disappeared outside, but probably only for the rest of the day.

Hip Hip

Hooray!!!!!!!!! We passed our zoo inspection! Everything is rainbows and lollipops :)

The zoo's Africa expansion is scheduled to be completed at the end of the month. I haven't been to the new area for a few weeks, but from the outside everything appears finished. Most of the workers I see are painters and landscapers. Everyone is sooooooo excited! The current plan is that the month of October will be used to finalize every detail and get everything ready for the new animals who will begin arriving in November. It's beyond amazing that what has been planned for years and years is so close to completion! Just writing this, I have to keep stopping typing to force myself to breathe. Wow.

My favorite thing about working at a small zoo is that I get cross-trained to work with ALL of the animals. I have my primary string of animals I care for most days, but I occasionally work with snakes, monkeys or sea lions. It's cool to get to work with such a diversity of creatures. I always thought it would be incredible to work at a large zoo until I realized that the keepers tend to specialize in a certain area. For example, a carnivore keeper may work with a variety of big cats, bears and wolves (awesome!!!) but may never work with a bird, reptile, fish or other large or small mammal.

In October I'm scheduled for giraffe and rhino training at three other zoos. This will be completely different from anything I've done before and I'm really excited. I imagine the new animals will require an epic amount of time and patience, but... I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready-eddy, eddy, eddy, eddy. Bring It On!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Another Pumpkin Festival

I think we always take the kids to the opening (Wednesday) night of the Morton Pumpkin Festival. There are always plenty of people, but this year was exceptional. There were more people than there usually are on Saturday after the parade. We waited in a huge food line and then waited close to 15 minutes for Logan to go on the kiddie car ride. (One of those rides I've never waited longer than the next ride.) My dad bought 20 tickets and we didn't know how we were going to use them without staying until close on a School Night!

We did manage to use all the tickets because my dad, Gene and I each went on two rides. Kaylin tricked Gene into going on The Wipeout. It was fairly tame for a carnival ride, but lurched up and down over and over. Gene's stomach can't handle HIKING downhill, it really can't handle an up and down ride :) He didn't puke, but he wasn't too happy. Logan REALLY wanted to go on the kiddie roller coaster so we waited for 20 minutes while a little girl who was also a single rider clutched his hand and "reassured" him they'd ride together. I think Logan was equally flattered and annoyed.

We didn't have time for our usual stroll along Main Street to check out the decorated shop windows or see the giant pumpkins in the bank window. We didn't play any carnival games or get cotton candy or even pumpkin ice cream. No real loss- all that stuff will be there next year. The kids did get to sit in the driver seat of a fire truck. A REAL FIREFIGHTER even let Logan wear a REAL HELMET. Logan could barely turn his head but he was thrilled.

Every year Gene is surprised I want to go back. He knows I hate crowds and we usually take the kids to the HOI Fair or the State Fair where they get ride armbands and go on zillions of rides with no waits. I dunno. I guess the nostalgia is too much for me :) Plus, where else would I get a magic folding CEFCU hairbrush or a (some candidate I've never heard of) tire pressure gauge keychain? How could I survive without my annual free crap????

Monday, September 8, 2008


Kaylin has spent the past few weeks sleeping in the living room. She goes back and forth between the recliners and the couch, sleeping off and on in some of the most uncomfortable-looking positions imaginable. I've walked out in the early morning to find her sleeping sitting up on the couch. She can't be sleeping well. Plus, it drives me nuts to have to be quiet during my beloved alone time every morning.

I was starting to fear she must be having acid reflux (like Gene, I didn't just pull that out of the air :) or some other medical problem because of her weird sitting positions. I finally sat her down and asked what was going on and what she needed to be able to sleep in her bed again. Turns out, she was too cold in her bed because she refuses to use any blanket other than her too small Grandma Kaiser baby blanket. Also, her bed was so full of toys and other junk it wasn't comfortable. She also had an old plastic mattress cover that was bunching up and crinkling. Uh, sorry kid. You haven't wet your bed in years. I suppose we can remove it :)

Saturday night we cleaned all the toys and art supplies from her bed. She had an AMAZING number of Playmobil and Lego pieces, crayon and pencil stubs and wadded paper around the edges of her bed. It really hasn't been long since I last changed her sheets! The kid is a slob! We then went to Target and I let her pick out new sheets, a new blanket and new pillows.

We put one of those egg crate foam pads on her mattress and let her use all her new bedding. It's only been two nights, but she has slept well ALL NIGHT LONG both nights. I don't know if her bed is actually that much more comfortable, but she sure is happy with the new stuff. Hopefully, she'll stay in bed now!

Otherwise, life is same-old, same-old. The kids are still enjoying school. We hiked a different trail this weekend. It stretches between Grandview Drive and Forest Park Nature Center. It was fun, with lots of hills. It's ~2 1/2 miles round trip. The hills were a bit too much for Gene's stomach issues, so he and Logan stayed at FPNC and saw bunches of baby turkeys while Kaylin and I hiked back and got the car. I spent so much of my childhood in the woods it makes me happy to see my kids enjoying the trails and exploring all the plants and insects. Now if I could just find a good creek close to our house... We go to the river sometimes, but it's so icky it's just not the same.

Friday, September 5, 2008

locker room celebrity

I see the locker room as a necessary evil. I mean, I have to change out of my workout clothes and into my zoo uniform somewhere, but I don't exactly enjoy sharing that time with bunches of other women. My goal is generally to get in and out as quickly as possible, preferably without any physical contact (the huge naked woman I ran smack into as she was pacing and screaming at her landlord on her cell phone) or small talk (elderly padded bra nipple woman.) I don't watch others while they are getting dressed and I prefer to be given the same courtesy.

Thursday I went to step aerobics. I arrived at the last minute and had to set up in the corner of the gym with no fans or air circulation. It was HOT and I was sweating profusely. My shirt was completely drenched and... Ok, too much information. Let's just say I was disgusting. I don't shower before work because why would I shower before I spend the day shoveling manure? No point. Anyway, I was feeling a bit self-conscious about not showering because I was really, really sweaty and gross.

As I was getting my stuff out of the locker I noticed a woman staring at me as she was drying her hair. Ok. As I was changing she kept looking back at me. I was starting to get annoyed because I figured she was disgusted that I wasn't showering. (Sheesh, go ahead and say something, but STOP WATCHING ME GET DRESSED!) Then the second I put on my uniform shirt she squealed (seriously, she squealed) "Oooh, you DO work at the zoo!!!" She then went on and on and on about how she saw my sea lion program a few weeks ago and how funny it was (because I was their substitute trainer and they weren't doing much for me and I kept laughing) and how she saw me at the gym last week but wasn't quite sure it was me because I wasn't wearing my uniform. She just couldn't stop talking about how much she was rooting for me and how much she and her kids enjoyed the show. Then we talked a while about the other zoo animals and about the zoo expansion. It was like she thought I was a celebrity. I worked with the sea lions ONE TIME in 2008 and got recognized. LOL.

Meanwhile, I was thinking about the fact that my boss often attends a class at the same time as my step class and how if she had gone that morning she was likely getting dressed on the other side of the lockers, listening to the whole conversation. Wow. I was pretty sure she'd have some fun with my "fame." Fortunately, she wasn't there :D

It definitely makes me happy to talk to people who are excited about the zoo. Just not while I'm changing in the locker room!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

back to the grind

The kids had a great first week of school and we had a great weekend, but not much worth blogging about. Logan loves kindergarten and now scathingly refers to Rogy's (his preschool/daycare) as "that baby place." He seems to fit right in at latchkey. Every time I pick them up he's playing some kind of ball game with a group of kids. He's a bit jealous that Kaylin has homework (oh, how I love his teacher for giving him none, la la la) and has been making me hilarious cards and drawings as his homework while she does hers.

I hate homework passionately. I DON'T CARE if it reinforces what they did all day. I see it as a whiny waste of valuable daylight better spent running around outside or playing imagination games with cars or action figures. I understand practicing spelling and vocabulary words, but I can't stand worksheets and reading assignments. I don't want to spend my evening time nagging and checking and helping. I would MUCH rather ride bikes or pitch balls or even play (gasp) Candyland!!! Hmmmm. Maybe not Candyland, but Sorry. Sorry's kinda fun.

I put off all my household chores over the weekend and instead took the kids hiking both Sunday and Monday. We went fishing at my parents' lake on Monday afternoon and between the four of us and my brother Andy, caught 53 small bluegill. My dad was so busy taking fish off the kids' hooks and rebaiting I don't think he ever got to fish himself. At one point Logan caught 9 fish on the same worm. It was probably only a ten minute period! It was a fun and relaxing weekend. I was kinda kicking myself last night though, when after a super-hot day at work I had to go back out and do my weekly grocery run and then come home to laundry. Eh, it was worth it!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Baby turkey?

A baby turkey is called a poult. Short for poultry??? Terrible name! "Turkeyling" is almost better!!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

first day of kindergarten

The kids slept in until 7:15 and then rushed around getting ready until we left for the bus stop at 7:50. Logan was soooooo excited about the bus, jumping around and dancing with Kaylin. The bus came around the corner, Logan gave me a last excited hug and the bus blew right past us. Huh. It was definitely the right bus. Well, it comes back past our street so we crossed to the other side and waited a few more minutes. I stepped into the street and flagged it down (I figured Logan had waited long enough to ride!!!) and she stopped. Logan jumped right on before Kaylin and sat down and waved like crazy with a huge smile on his face. I think the bus was the number one thing he was looking forward to about kindergarten.

Gene went to work and I drove over to the school to meet Logan and take him in to his classroom. He was totally thrilled with the bus ride and even got to sit with one of his former preschool friends. I dropped him off at his classroom and he went in with no hesitation. He didn't even look back. School got out at 11:15am today, but I figured it would be less confusing for both the kids and their teachers if I went ahead and sent them to Latchkey. I figured they could eat lunch and play a little and I'd pick them up at 1.

I haven't been able to coax much information from Logan other than he loves "kinnagarten" and he loves latchkey. He got to play outside on both playgrounds and enjoyed the lunch Daddy packed. He played with one of the boys that was on his tee-ball team. That's pretty much all the info I've obtained :) Kaylin was very excited to be back with her friends and very annoyed that I made her go to latchkey when she knew perfectly well I had the day off work. There were only SIX other kids!!!! Yes, I am evil.

We took advantage of the gorgeous afternoon and went hiking at Forest Park Nature Center. We always see turkeys and deer and tons of other woodland critters, but today we got lucky and a cute fawn followed us for a while. It was no more than ten feet away. Pretty cool. We also saw bunches of baby turkeys. I'll have to look up what they're called. Chicks? Turkeylings? Anyway, they were awesome :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Last day of summer vacation

Today we celebrated the last day of summer vacation. The kids and I stuffed ourselves on pancakes at Ihop. We then stopped at home and picked up Brady-dog and went down to the marina. Brady swam in the disgusting river, Kaylin collected many filthy shells and Logan poked dead fish with sticks. Logan calls it "surgery" and I think he is slightly hopeful that the fish will somehow come back to life. The moment we walked back into the house the kids jumped into the shower to scrub off the nasty.

The kids spent hours playing outside with the neighbors. They made an outdoor mess with Play Doh that Gene felt compelled to clean with the ice scraper from his car, loudly complaining about the existence of Play Doh even outside before he came inside after work. I think he also used the leaf blower on the mess. Uh, it was OUTSIDE. Was it really that big of a deal? Logan and I played frisbee for quite a while and we all enjoyed the beautiful weather. It was a nice, relaxing day off and a good end to a busy summer.

Despite the fact that I spent the first half of summer vacation working my butt off for the zoo inspection, I think the kids had a fantastic summer. They both had swimming lessons, Logan had tee-ball, Kaylin had tons of fun field trips and activities at camp. We went to ball games, St. Louis, Schaumburg, fairs, museums and parks. We rode bikes and got ice cream regularly. The kids spent countless evening and weekend hours playing with the neighbor kids and caught hundreds of lightning bugs. I ran outside (as opposed to at the gym) several days a week and started riding my bike to work on Saturdays. I can't really think of anything I wanted to do that we didn't accomplish. I can't believe it's over...

Tomorrow my baby will get on the gigantic bus and go to his first day of kindergarten. He's so excited I don't know if he'll sleep tonight. Lunches are packed, supplies are packed and backpacks are ready by the door. Clothes are laid out and the camera battery is fully charged. Kaylin's buzzing with excitement about seeing her friends again. Everything's ready to go except me. I wish summer vacation could go on for another three months. I totally prefer lessons and practices and long days to homework and cold and darkness before I leave work. Hopefully the kids' teachers won't be nutjobs. Hopefully Logan will find kindergarten more interesting and exciting than Kaylin did. Sigh.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

class lists

Kaylin AND Logan's (wooohoooooooo!!!!!) school started a new fee night this year where parents can pay book/registration fees as well as get info about the PTO or buy school t-shirts, etc. Class lists were also posted for the first time and there was a kindergarten orientation. Whoever came up with this idea gets a big cheer! It was incredibly efficient and convenient!

Logan has the same kindergarten teacher Kaylin started with. (They added a 4th K class Kaylin's year and she was moved to a different teacher in October.) We really like this teacher so Gene and I are excited. Logan was thrilled about his new classroom. He got to find his seat and he just sat at his table, taking everything in while I filled out his emergency contact card and his bus and after school information sheet. Mrs. S had a scavenger hunt game for the kids so they'd find different areas of the classroom and then different areas of the school. It was great to have Kaylin along to explain how the lunch line works and where he'd sit for lunch. Logan tried out the bathroom and happily munched on Oreos and peach flavored gummy rings. He can't wait for Tuesday!

Kaylin didn't seem to care one way or another about her 3rd grade teacher. I've never heard of her, but will probably recognize her when I see her. Kaylin was just happy her best friend is in her room again this year. She ran into a couple of classmates whose siblings are also starting K this year so she was happy and excited.

I'm trying to remember if I ever cared what elementary school teacher I got. I absolutely loved riding my bike to Lettie Brown to check the class lists, but I think I was way more concerned about who was in my class than who the teacher was. I guess I didn't really know the higher grade teachers until I was in that grade. It was probably junior high before I knew enough to want Mr. X over Mrs. Y for math.

Friday was Kaylin's final day of daycamp and Logan's final day at Rogy's. Logan seems glad to be finished at Rogy's (because he's excited to start kindergarten) but he can't quite wrap his brain around the fact he won't be going there anymore. He is so confused that he won't be attending their schoolage program. I think the kids talk about "schoolage" like it is the pinnacle of coolness so he was looking forward to graduating to awesomeness. If they didn't charge twice as much as the YMCA latchkey program at the school, I'd possibly consider it :)

Logan brought home a huge pile of stuff. Spare clothes and nap blankets and a whole bunch of artwork. I was skimming through his artwork when I noticed a collage of magazine pictures he cut out and pasted onto a sheet of construction paper. There were several pics of various vehicles, a few animals, a house and a couple of outdoorsy scenes. Pretty consistent with what I'd expect. Other than the picture of Paris Hilton in a dress with the "neckline" at her belly button... That collage went into the Keep Pile :D

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The whole weekend in Schaumburg???

I haven't had an "extra" day off work since my vacation at the beginning of June. The kids love hotels and I love getting out of Peoria, so I took Saturday afternoon and today off work and we went to Schaumburg. We were originally planning to go to Chicago, but when I found out the air and water show was this weekend and that Lincoln Park Zoo was charging $30 to park, we decided to skip the city. Actually, we were still planning to go on Monday, but were having fun in the suburbs so decided Monday morning to skip the city.

We had a nice, relaxing weekend. The kids got to swim as much as they wanted and we did all kinds of fun things without the stress of traffic and crowds. We even bumped into my uncle, aunt and two cousins at the hotel breakfast area on Sunday. Weird that we stayed in the same hotel on the same night! The kids needed all kinds of clothes and supplies for school and we took care of all that and even got some great deals :)

Despite warning from a friend, we went to the Legoland Discovery Centre in Schaumburg. It just opened at the end of July. There was one ride, a 3-D movie, a room with a Chicago cityscape, a jungle area, a room with about 6-8 superheros and a large area where the kids could build cars and race them down tracks, build buildings on earthquake plates, build general stuff or play on a McDonald's type play area. We got there right at opening so had no waits for any of the "attractions." Oh, I forgot about the extremely lame factory "tour" that showed how the bricks are made. Yawn. The sculptures were great. Everything else was pretty boring. We did everything other than the Lego building play area in under an hour. Gene and Kaylin spent a lot of time building a car and racing it down the various ramps. Logan liked the huge Legos but mostly played at the McDonald's playland. It was fun, but we spent only two hours and paid something like $60 to get in. That was after getting $12 off with a coupon! Even the store wasn't great. The one at Woodfield Mall is significantly better. I guess unless your kids love Legos more than anything, I couldn't recommend this place. If it had cost $20 I would totally have thought it was great. For the price we paid, we did NOT get enough entertainment! The kids liked it, though.

We then went to the Cosley Zoo in Wheaton. It's the only AZA zoo in Illinois I'd never previously visited. What a great little place! It is small, but very nice and clean and fun. They have mostly native species and farm animals. Kaylin loved the duck pond with many different duck species. Logan loved the map. He studied the map the entire trip and let us know what was coming next. He was so focused on the map I'm not sure if he actually looked at any of the animals. Eh, he had a blast :) This place I will highly recommend! It was even FREE!!! Two hours very well spent!

Otherwise, we just went shopping and goofed around. It was very relaxing. We hit parking lot traffic pretty much the moment we exited 355 onto 55. We were stuck for an hour. We listened to the traffic report and learned that had we gone into the city that morning we would have spent an hour and a half getting to the point where we were stuck for an hour. I hate Chicago traffic! Gimme St. Louis or Indy instead!

Monday, August 11, 2008

state fair

I was scheduled for shotgun practice on Sunday. I need practice shooting the gun, but I hate going on my day off at 2pm because it takes forever to drive to and from the firing range so it feels like my whole day off is wasted. I definitely can't plan anything during the afternoon. Anyway, long story short, my practice was cancelled! Wooooohooooooooooo!!!

I found out about the cancellation just before I left work on Saturday and then promptly forgot about it because we went to a birthday party at my grandma's. Short side story- At Grandma's I was playing Superhero with Logan and my cousin's two boys who are 5 and almost 3. I was the bad guy and they captured me to put me in jail. I'd go along with their restraint and follow their orders for a couple minutes and then break away and run until they caught me again. One time after I broke away I was standing still, catching my breath. I was watching the 5-yr-olds but paying no attention to the 2-yr-old because duh, he's 2! Mistake. I saw Little Guy coming at me but didn't care. Mistake. Little Guy took me down! Dunno what his daddy's teaching him, but the kid actually tackled me to the ground! Hilarious! I want another round where I'm paying attention and defending myself. Yeah, he'll probably get me anyway...

I was tired when we left Grandma's and still wasn't thinking about my newly free Sunday. When I woke up Sunday morning I decided we MUST do something as a family on one of the last weekends before school starts. The number one thing "I" wanted to do was go see the baby tigers at St. Louis Zoo. There are five of them but they are only on display a couple hours a day. We'd be lucky to make the trip in time to see them. I then remembered the state fair is this week. Yeah! The kids will love that and I can see lots of animals. We got ready and left.

I found on the fair's website that many businesses around Springfield were selling tickets redeemable for ride armbands. The $22 ticket was good for unlimited rides AND benefitted Children's Miracle Network! We stopped at the Wal-Mart in Lincoln and I wrote a $44 check directly to Children's Miracle Network! The kids got unlimited rides between 10am and 5pm for a donation to a great charity! Cool!

I knew the kids were mainly interested in rides, rides, rides. I was mainly interested in animals. Gene didn't care about animals and kindly agreed to stay with the kids so I could check out the animals. It was soooo fun to wander through the swine, sheep, cattle and horse barns BY MYSELF with no one whining about going back to the rides :) I caught a little bit of the draught horse mare/foal show which was adorable. Meanwhile, the kids went on tons of rides and ran through the many funhouses over and over. We met up for lunch and then took in a couple of the wild animal shows. There was a show with tigers immediately followed by a separate show with a young male lion and two liger cubs. This family's lion and tiger "accidentally" got together. Uh huh. I'm sure the "accidental" mating had NOTHING to do with ligers being made ridiculously popular by the Napolean Dynamite movie! I came "this close" to having my pic taken with one of the liger cubs (just to show off for my zoo friends) but decided against it :)

We stayed at the rides until the armbands expired at 5 and then Kaylin went on one of those bungee trampoline things. She had a blast jumping high and flipping. We took the kids to the FFA farm animal petting area and they got to pet baby ducks (Kaylin's favorite.) We left just before 6pm. It was a long day, but everyone had fun. Gene was shocked when I requested we stop at Cracker Barrel on the way home. I usually can't stand the place, but wanted to sit and be served and NOT eat fast food. It turned out to be a good thing. We got to relax and unwind. I still think the food is less than mediocre. (How can a place like Cracker Barrel have such AWFUL biscuits and corn muffins??? McDonald's has better biscuits!!!)

We got home about 8:30pm. Bwa ha ha ha. Too late for the neighbor kids. I think it was my first Sunday of the summer without neighbor kids :D Well, we did wave to the little girl standing in her doorway on our way out. See ya!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

the difference between boys and girls

This morning Logan was eating a bowl of Cheerios (dry, with milk on the side- just like Grandma.) He grabbed one and said "I'm gonna rub this Cheerio on my hair." And he did. He then looked at it and said "Now I'm gonna fart on it." And he at least pretended to. Then he popped it in his mouth and ate it. Ummmmmmmmmmm.....

Monday, August 4, 2008

if you lick it, it hurts

Yeeee hawwww! Summer activities are over! We made it through the second session of swimming lessons without any vomiting. It will be WONDERFUL to not have to sit by the pool tonight. It is sooooo nice to just come home after work. The kids love it too. Next year we will only sign up for one session of swimming lessons! (Pounding that into my brain...) I'm hoping both kids will agree to karate again this fall since it's only one night a week.

We've been riding bikes a lot this week. I finally rode both to and from work on Saturday. I'm going to try to ride Saturdays from now on. Logan wants to ride up and down the street every evening, all the time. The kid is a speed demon. He rides so fast on his tiny kiddie bike I actually have to TRY to keep up with him. The neighbors all comment on how fast he is. If he ever falls he will probably lose many teeth. Shudder.

Buying school supplies was always one of my favorite things to do. Going to Ben Franklin and picking out a new pink eraser and brand new crayons was awesome! My mom was a major cheapskate and would rarely allow me to buy all the cool folders and notebooks so I had to use my own money. It was totally worth it! I decided that if "I" ever had kids I would not be so MEAN and that I'd allow them to get the supplies they wanted. School supply shopping with Kaylin is a blast. She loves to pick through the folders and find the perfect ones. She loves to sharpen the entire box of 20 pencils and make name labels for all her stuff. Choosing a new lunchbox is the thrill of her existence.

This year I was soooo excited about adding Logan to our fun. Too bad he could not possibly care less :) Usually he feeds off Kaylin's excitement, but not over school supplies. I mean, he was not interested AT ALL. He glanced at the lunchboxes and spent about half a second deciding between Batman and Spiderman. (Batman) I then practically forced him to choose two folders. He groaned and dragged himself over and grabbed the front Batman folder- didn't even CARE about looking at the other choices and then refused to pick a second folder. He wanted ME to do it. Sigh. (Oooh, Doug, Trapper Keepers are back!! If I could have thought of ANY reason I could use one I would have gotten one for myself.)

The other night Logan fell and scraped his knee. It was bloody and awful and must have hurt because he was actually crying. I got him cleaned up and put on a bunch of Neosporin and a big Band-aid. About an hour later I caught him messing with the Band-aid and asked if it still hurt. His reply? "Only when I lick it." EEEWWWWWWWWW!!!!!! You're eating half a tube of Neosporin!!!! Should I call poison control? Eh, it didn't make him sick. But still, YUCK!!!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

more snippets

Most of my nail polish was gone after two days at work so I removed it. My toes are still bright purple :) It must be the ugliest shiny shade of purple ever, but it's kind of growing on me.

The neighbors got a new 8 week old border collie puppy. I am completely in love. I love this pup so much I almost allowed their one-yr-old child into our house. Must. Keep. Control. That kid isn't coming in until he's at least two! Then (and only then) he can come in and poop on our carpet until Gene and Logan get him potty trained. The pup is smart and is supposedly already potty trained. The pup isn't coming into my house either. Probably...

I rode my bike to work Saturday. It's a 6-7 mile ride I would never attempt on a weekday because ~3 miles of it is on busy Knoxville. I didn't know how it would be so I arranged for Gene to pick me up after work. Next time I'll ride home. It was pretty safe other than the stretch between Detweiller and Pioneer Parkway which would have been scary had there been any traffic. On the way home I could ride or walk that 1/4 mile in the grass if the traffic was too bad. Fun! It was the first time I rode my "new" bike any real distance. I love the bike!

Logan finished his tee-ball season last week and swimming lessons are done this week. Phew! I can use a few weeks off from activities before school starts. I can't believe July is almost over. School starts in 4 weeks! Kaylin is loving daycamp and Logan's having a great time at daycare. Well, I promised Logan he could have a new pair of shoes in July. Since this is my last day off in July, I'm picking him up early to go shoe shopping before swimming lessons. He's terribly influenced by the stupid Sketchers commercials on Nickelodeon. Sketchers doesn't make Aerators or Z-straps in wide sizes so we're going to Stride Rite to spend even more $$$ on stinking wide shoes. I could be spending money on glasses or hearing aids or medication... Wide feet are our "disability." I have to keep reasoning that with myself.

Oh. I'll eventually remember to have Gene show me how to reduce photo size and switch the hideous spa pic :)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I'll fix it soon- hopefully...

WHEW!!! Sorry about the GINORMOUS horrible picture. I posted it seconds before I left for work the other day and just now noticed how huge it is. Hee hee. You can see every pore. I don't know how to fix it and Gene's out tonight. Whoopsee!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My first spa visit

Yesterday I drove to Springfield to surprise my friend Jenny for her birthday. Her husband had emailed me a couple weeks ago, asking if I'd be available to come down for her birthday party on Sunday. He said she wanted a party. He didn't think he could pull off a surprise party, but he thought if I showed up it would be a good surprise. I agreed to attend. A couple days later, he left a message on my answering machine, asking if I could come on Monday instead? Strange, a party on Monday? We played phone tag for several days before he finally got ahold of me and told me he decided he couldn't pull off the party, but wanted Jenny and me to have a spa day instead. Doesn't that sound fun? Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...

Well, I figured it would be INTERESTING if nothing else. I was also interested in Jenny's reaction when A. She didn't get a party and B. I showed up unexpectedly at her work. My guess was that she would be furious about not getting the party and not too thrilled about a surprise half-day of work. I thought she'd be happy to see me and happy about the spa, but I wasn't sure the happiness would outweigh the anger. Fortunately, I was wrong. Her husband misunderstood something she told her daughter. She didn't actually want a party and said if she had she would have arranged it herself. Her husband also told her he was picking her up to take her someplace nice for lunch so she was completely prepared to blow off the afternoon of work. Phew! She was happy to see me and thrilled with the spa plan.

We drove around a little and ate Avanti's gondolas (her favorite I brought from Peoria) before our 12:30 appointment. We walked into the spa having no idea what to expect. We were greeted at the front desk and led back to separate rooms for our facial/massages. I changed into some towel thingy and laid down on a bed and covered up with blankets. Ugh, it was hot! The massage woman kept asking if I wanted my arms under the blankets but I didn't. I would have sweated to death! She started with the facial and did all kinds of cleansers and creams. She massaged my head, shoulders and feet and then applied some kind of mask, covered my eyes with gauze pads (I was a bit disappointed it wasn't cucumbers, but oh well) and turned steam on my face. She then left the room for like 15 minutes! I'm the kind of person who likes to be doing something pretty much every minute I'm awake. It was soooooooo boring to just lay there with gauze over my eyes, listening to awful easy-listening music. She FINALLY returned and removed the mask and applied moisturizer and left me to get dressed.

Jenny and I met back up in the manicure room. This was the part I found to be totally hilarious. I have never even considered getting my nails done. I have a filthy, filthy job. What's the point? I can also probably count on one hand the times my nails have been painted- I think one time by my friend Aaron for a school dance and a few times by Kaylin. That's it. My (uh) nail technician was a nervous wreck. I think it was her first day at this salon. She was shaking and sweating and seemed terrified that the owner woman was sitting next to her doing Jen's nails. She was one of those people who aren't shy or afraid to speak, but she spoke very quietly so you had to listen hard to hear her. This was tough over all the other salon noise.

Dorie worked and worked and worked on my filthy nails and cuticles. She exfoliated my hands and arms. I had to get up twice and go rinse off in the bathroom. It was weird and totally different than what I expected. When it was time to choose a color of polish, the head lady said "She's a zookeeper, she probably just wants a clear coat." I immediately replied "No. I want orange nails with black tiger stripes." Dorie nearly stroked out, going on and on about how she didn't think she could do that. I told her I had confidence that she could but she kept insisting she had no training in "nail art." I told her I'd be happy to let her practice on me and that I just wanted some black stripes on my orange nails. I figured she could give it a shot. She kept insisting she couldn't do it and I kept insisting that I wasn't leaving without tiger-striped nails. Finally, the owner agreed to put on the stripes.

Meanwhile, Jenny was already getting her pedicure. Deb (owner woman) was striping my nails when Jenny suddenly yelped that her right foot (at that time covered in callous remover, inside a plastic bag soaking in the foot bath) was burning. Deb hollered at Dorie to get the bag off her foot and rinse the foot. Jen had a nasty chemical burn on top of her foot. Deb spent ~15 minutes torturing Jen by applying aloe and pouring water over it and patting it. Jen finally begged her to just STOP and leave her foot alone! Deb finished striping my nails and Dorie got going on my pedicure. It was now 2:30. It took an hour for the facial and an hour for the manicure.

Dorie was completely obsessed with removing all the dirt from around my big toes. I explained to her that I'd recently spent an hour barefoot in the tortoise mudpit and didn't expect that dirt would come out anytime soon. Dorie disagreed. She picked and picked and cut and picked some more. I was about ready to scream. She was nowhere near done with my pedicure when Jen was finished and able to walk out to the salon for her haircut. Dorie continued picking at my toes and cutting pieces of cuticle and exfoliating my legs and giving my feet a "glorious" (her word, not mine) massage while yakking on and on (very quietly) about her love of karaoke and how much practice it takes and how the bar owner's son sang a Garth Brooks song because she asked him to. AAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Stab me with pokers but SHUT UP about karaoke!!!!!!! When it was FINALLY time for the polish she asked what color I wanted? I said white with black zebra stripes. Dorie went pale and started sweating some more. I told her I was kidding and picked a bright, sparkly purple that Kaylin would have chosen. My pedicure took TWO HOURS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! By the time I was finally done, Jen's haircut was almost finished. We were at the spa for FOUR HOURS. They were out of soda so we were dehydrated and starving!

We left the spa and went directly to a gas station where we each got a gigantic drink. We then went to a restaurant and got gigantic horseshoe tenderloin sandwiches drenched in homemade cheese sauce. Best. Food. Ever. We then went to ShopKo for bandages and Neosporin for Jen's burnt foot. It didn't help. Plus, she was wearing sandals that had a thick strap right where the burn was. We decided to just go back to her house and talk. I planned to leave about 8pm but we were suddenly hit with severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings. I ended up staying until 10 when things calmed down. It was a weird drive home. Power was out in all the small towns around hers. The giant truckstop/gas station/McDonald's was completely black. The billboards and streetlights on the interstate highway were out. There was constant lightning most of my drive home but the rain was light. Weird stuff.

Anyway, I'll try to wrap it up... The day was a blast! The spa was a little long, but I'm glad I did it once. Jenny and I got tons of time to talk and the whole idea of being at a spa together was priceless. I would have another facial and possibly a manicure if needed for a special occasion. I doubt I'll ever have another pedicure. Especially if they normally take two hours! This morning I showed Logan my nails. I asked if he like my tiger nails? "Nah." I then showed him my purple toes and asked if he like them. He crinkled his nose and said "Medium." At least Kaylin liked them! The people at work thought my nails were totally awesome. Actually they thought the whole thing was pretty funny. I chipped off probably a quarter of the polish on my right hand and every time I glanced at my nails I thought I was bleeding. Eh, I'm glad I did it once. Thanks Mike!

Monday, July 14, 2008

shoes, double ugh!!

I needed a new pair of shoes for work. Just a pair of tennis shoes that will be worn in the mud and used to push manure onto a shovel. Shoes that will get soaking wet almost daily. I have a great pair of waterproof Redwing boots, but they are SOOOOOO hot in the summer. So I did the obvious thing and went to WalMart. They had plenty of wide-width shoes, but none that fit my feet. I then went to Shoe Carnival. I must have tried on 20 pairs of wide New Balance and Reeboks but none of them fit my fat feet. I tried Target and Kohls. Nothing. I went to a specialty store at the mall and the guy looked at me like I was NUTS. I HATE shopping for clothes and shoes! This was incredibly discouraging.

Today I went to Moser's Shoes. They specialize in quality brands with different widths. They had the upper line of New Balance athletic shoes. Ugh. I was HOPING they'd have some in the $40-$50 range, but nuh-uh. The salesman measured my foot and disappeared for a really long time. He brought back the only three pairs in the store in my size. Two of them fit. He left me to decide while he answered the phone. I thought about it and decided to just buy them both.

Why on earth are my feet suddenly so wide??? Ever since my pregnancy with Kaylin, I've had a hard time fitting into shoes, but I've at least been able to buy the wide ones at regular stores. I can't even fit into my normal size of Crocs anymore. I have to size up!

So tomorrow I will shovel manure in a brand new pair of $100 athletic shoes. Stupid fat feet!

neighbors, ugh

I whine continually about the neighbor kids. Now the OTHER neighbor has her 8 and 6-yr-old nephews staying with her for a month or so this summer. Our yard is bigger and has MUCH less landscaping, so it has become the neighborhood baseball field. Logan is THRILLED with these bigger, better baseball boys and would play ball with them from dawn to dusk. The 6-yr-old is only 6 months older than Logan, but he's a baseball superstar. The kid is seriously good. The usual lineup is 6-yr-old batting, 8-yr-old pitching and Logan retrieving the hit balls from the disgusting weedy woods barrier between the road and golf course. The boys are nice and fair- they pitch to Logan and are patient with his um, suckfulness :)

I'd actually be thrilled with their visit and all the baseball practice Logan's getting if it wasn't for the OTHER neighbor boys! (Kaylin and the girl happily stay out of the way.) I'm spending pretty much ALL of my evenings outside making sure Little Boy (just turned 3) and Baby Boy (just turned 1) don't get whacked with bats or balls. The little guys think Logan's pretty cool, but the baseball boys are AWESOME!!!! They totally gravitate to the baseball boys. The big boys aren't quite old enough to REALLY watch the little boys and the little boys definitely aren't old enough to understand to stay away from the batter. So I sit outside and distract the little boys and set up the plastic tee a million times so they can hit plastic balls and stay out of danger.

You might wonder why on earth I'm babysitting the little neighbor kids? I'm not, really. Their mom is usually over. She is just too stupid to keep both boys distracted at once so she usually watches the baby while I holler at the 3-yr-old to stay out of the way. The mom was playing with the baby in the "outfield" last night and got hit by one batted ball and had a couple of near misses before she FINALLY got the hint and moved to a different area of the yard. The woman is a dingbat!

Yesterday I was out running errands and Gene wanted to mow the backyard. The big boys were playing ball in front. BOTH little neighbor boys came over with mom nowhere in sight. Gene finally grabbed the baby and walked right into their house and asked the mom to please keep them home until he was done mowing because there was no way he could watch them. Can you imagine allowing your one-yr-old outside to play unsupervised with his THREE-yr-old brother??? We live on a very quiet street, but COME ON!!! My kids have been begging for an inflatable pool bigger than their small plastic baby one. Absolutely Not. Unless we lock our gate I would NEVER trust these neighbor parents. We will have no pool that can't be dumped immediately after each use!!!

Anyway, that's what I've been up to this week. (Sorry for not calling Mom, but I've been distracted and then think to call at 5:30 AM.)

We took the kids to the HOI Fair yesterday. It gets lamer and more boring every year. We somehow managed to spend FIVE HOURS though. Even the kids were ready to leave! I think being forced to watch the Rainbo Cloggers while we ate dinner kind of threw us all over the edge :) We were FINALLY done with rides and exhibits and farm animals. I promised the kids a bag of cotton candy and we had to walk a little to get it. It was the last thing we did before we left. Who do you think we bumped into on our little walk???? You guessed it! The neighbors! We never talk to them about what we're doing but we apparently ALWAYS do the same thing at the same time!!!