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!