Sunday, June 28, 2009

I've got catitude and I'm not lion

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day I do a daily keeper chat. It's basically an informal talk where I go out and answer questions and give general information about the animals. In previous years I've done tiger, tortoise, emu and camel chats. The worst ever was a capybara enrichment demonstration. I'd come up with amazing enrichment ideas and the capybaras (largest rodents in the world) would sit in the shade and not move. Ever. I mean, they never did anything. Visitors supposedly like the "insider information" the keepers can provide. Yeah. I don't really think most visitors are that excited about getting to talk to a Real Zookeeper. I mean, many people think I have a cool job, but most don't care if they get their info from a keeper, an educator, a volunteer or a sign. Actually, most don't want ANY information.

Of course, there's always an exception to the rule... Sometimes I have a visitor who is THRILLED to talk to a Real Zookeeper. Someone who asks question after question and expands my usual 10-15 minute chat into a 30+ minute, I'm going to pass out from heat and hunger chat. (My chat is at 12:30pm and I usually go to lunch right afterward.) I've had people yap on and on about everything from animal rights to Creationism. The number of people who assume I'm a vegetarian astounds me.

Today I had a crazy cat woman. This year my chat is in front of the large lion viewing windows. I walked out to the windows and she pounced. I gave some general information and then broke into my insider information. Cat Woman got really excited and started talking about our lioness' "cattitude" and how she shares so many "cattributes" with her house cat. She went on and on, using these terrible puns. I was about to explode with laughter. I wanted to scream. I had to stand there and act pleasant, as if I thought CATTRIBUTES was actually clever! Wow. I practically ran to lunch to share my new vocabulary with my coworkers. I decided to change my keeper chat from an informal talk to a formal, scripted speech with at least every 5th word a "cat" word. Yep, Cat Woman was the CATalyst to my CATtempt to CATtain a larger CATtendance at my chats. Perhaps I'll need a CATtorney to defend me when I'm CATtacked for my CATrocious puns :)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

lightning bugs

Last night Logan came home from dinner with my parents with a large package of "fireworks." It was actually a bunch of those party poppers that you pull a string, hear a bang and confetti shoots out. It was already after Logan's usual 8pm bedtime, but since it was Friday night and he could sleep in I figured I'd let him have his fun. The three neighbor kids (already in their pajamas) came running over so all five kids were shooting off the party poppers. Tiger Kitten was interested in what they were doing, so I harnessed him up and took him outside.

Tiger wasn't overly thrilled when the kids started covering him in strings of confetti. On the rare occasion he gets to go outside, it's all about hunting. He watches birds and bugs and small mammals. He twitches his tail, cocks his ears and makes a clicking sound in his throat. Last night Tiger discovered lightning bugs. It was one of the funniest, best things I've seen.

Tiger, on harness and leash mind you, would locate the flashing bugs, stalk them and then leap into the air and catch them between his front paws. He then pinned them to the ground. He ate the first one but it must have been nasty, because he shook his head for a while trying to get rid of the taste and then just captured and released the bugs. Tiger caught at least six and would have caught many more, but the kids kept swarming him and delaying his progress. By 9:15 we were all getting eaten by mosquitoes and went inside for the night. Maybe tonight I'll take him out "hunting" without the harness. Too bad it's so dark, it would make hilarious video.


I love my job and love working with "my" animals, but I've worked so much this month I'm really getting burned out. The entire month of June was just a big flash, with every workday blending into every other, leaving me with no memory of if something happened yesterday or two weeks ago. I was talking to my Big Boss a few days ago, explaining that I hadn't accomplished something because there were almost daily changes in my routine. She looked at me like I was nuts and asked "What daily changes?" I was like, uh, um, well the past three weeks don't count! She laughed in agreement and sent me on my way.

I guess my point is that I need some time off. Time to rest my aching feet and scrubbing arm. Time to spend with my kids. Time to get out of this town and do something fun! I know I'm stressed when I start having major longing for Disney World and the magical escape it provides. Unfortunately, I don't have enough time off to go to Disney, but I do have Thursday through Tuesday off. Gene has Friday through Monday off. We're grabbing the kids and heading out somewhere. Right now, the plan is to go to Chicago and Milwaukee. That's about the 10th plan so it could easily change. I just know I need to relax and get away for a few days!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Buh-bye June

The fact that this is June 21st blows my mind! For the third year in a row, June has been so busy at work that I've basically lost the entire month. The past several weeks have literally been a big blur. I don't have any real time reference for work-related things because every day is pretty much like the next. At least this year's stress has been (for the most part) good. Grand opening of a new exhibit is WAY better than an inspection! Next year we have another inspection in June or July. Thinking about it makes me feel sick.

Last year the kids had swim lessons on Monday and Wednesday and Logan had tee-ball on Tuesday and Saturday. This year I had the awesome foresight to sign them up for the SECOND session of swim lessons so we only have tee-ball one evening a week. Tee-ball has been a blast! Logan loves every second of it. He's not particularly good, but he loves to practice and especially loves the games. He was very thrilled to find out his (2nd?) cousin is on his team. Are my kids and my cousin's kids second cousins? Whatever, Logan's happy :) Anyway, Logan had refused to wear his baseball pants to the first game because he'd never worn them before. Cuz was wearing his so Logan agreed to wear them to the second game. Aw, so cute. Perfect for picture day. Until I took a good look at his dirty knees and realized the reinforced knees were in the back. And the single pocket was in the front. Whoopsee! Eh, his backward pants probably won't show in the picture.

Yesterday we sort of celebrated Father's Day. We got Gene the new Punch-Out! game for Wii. I've never been crazy into video games, but Mike Tyson's Punch-Out for NES was my favorite video game ever. The Wii version is a blast. None of us has mastered the controls yet, but we all had fun fighting Glass Joe and Von Kaiser. I gave Disco Kid a shot, but I don't think I even landed one punch. After the Wii session, we went to Cheddar's for our now customary Cookie Monster and Brownie Thunder combination. Yummmmmmmmmm. Otherwise, Gene wanted to mow and do some other work around the house. Eh, it was his day, he had the option of choosing boring :)

I'm attempting to sneak some time off before one of my coworkers goes on vacation for basically all of July and half of August. If I get approved, we'll head out of town next weekend. If I get denied, I suppose I'll remain stressed until my late August vacation time. Ugh. Too. Much. Work.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feelin' like a cat on a leash

I did go out and buy myself a foot massager and it was $20 well spent! It's just a "bubbling foot spa" I found at Wal-Mart, but it is wonderful and relaxing. I took a 2-3 hour nap yesterday afternoon and then slept from 8:30pm-6am. I really wanted to do something fun with the kids today, but I'm going to make myself stay home and rest instead. Maybe I'll enjoy my bubbling foot spa for a while and follow it with another nap :)

I've never given much thought to the fact my neighbors are deaf until this weekend. The weather has been beautiful and we've had the doors open. (Our crappy windows don't actually open.) Anyway, I first realized they can't hear their dog barking and barking and barking and barking. Also, they can't hear their car alarm that for some reason they've set off 94 times in the past 48 hours. Oh, and then the dog starts barking because he CAN hear the car alarm. I want to start barking, too!

I was outside playing with the kitten this morning when the alarm went off yet again. I looked over and Neighbor Man was cleaning out his hatchback, completely oblivious to the BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The kids told their mom and she ran out and had him turn it off. Thirty seconds later... WHAT is he keeping in that car that is so valuable it needs to be alarmed? And if you can't HEAR your alarm, is there really a point to having one? Theirs goes off often enough I don't give it a thought other than annoyance :)

Yesterday was Logan's first tee-ball game of the season. So far there are none of those crazy parents who get all worked up about their Little Pumpkin being wronged by the evil coach or the other kids or parents. In tee-ball, every kid fields at the same time and every kid bats each of the (2 or 3 depending on time) innings. Last year every kid on Logan's team mobbed the ball regardless of where they were playing. This year it seems that all the kids on his team are in their own happy world and only notice the ball when it hits their foot. Either way, tee-ball is hilarious to watch. Tee-ball is definitely about the basics!

Kaylin was whining about having to go to the game so I let her take the kitten. I got him a harness and tied on a lightweight piece of twine as a leash. Tiger really seemed to enjoy being outside and even all the attention he was receiving from the other "poor little girls" attending their brothers' games. Tiger's a great cat. We got some weird looks and comments for taking a cat on a leash to a ball game. Pffffff. Why wouldn't we take a cat?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Grand Opening Week

Whooooo! I did it! I somehow managed to make it through seven straight days of work and survived to tell. Grand Opening week has been amazing. I have never seen such long lines or experienced such crowds at the zoo. Visitors have been very positive despite the lines and lack of parking. Yesterday was crazy and we were staffed for a "normal" day so the Director of the Park District Herself was doing crowd control at the front entrance. At 3:30pm I was hungry and wanted to stop at the Lodge (snack restaurant) for a cookie. The line was halfway through the rather large building. At 3:30! Even my kids (at day camp in front of the zoo) have been commenting at the lines every day.

The piglets are still doing great. They are now tearing around the entire day room exhibit, chasing each other and wrestling. I tried to shift them to a normal stall to clean yesterday. Mama Pig happily shifted and had a happy reunion (through a gate) with her other piggy friends. The piglets were confused and wouldn't follow. Eventually I had to have my boss "guard" me with a push board (just a board with handles, in this case used as a barrier shield from a potentially dangerous mama pig.) Mama Pig laid calmly with her piglets the entire time I scooped, scrubbed, hosed and squeegeed. She's smart and realizes we're only there to clean, not to threaten her babies. It was a fun week watching baby pigs!

The kids started Camp Zone this week. I was a little nervous about Logan because it's his first year and he was SCARED. He quickly made friends and loves playing outside all day. The only negative is that he's completely exhausted at the end of the day but then still wants to play with the neighbor kids or has to go to tee ball practice. He's been a leeetle grumpy at night. Eh, me too. Kaylin was very disappointed that several of the kids from the past few years aren't there this year. A lot of people have moved. Others have gotten too old for the program. I think Kaylin always loved being one of the younger kids and now has to adjust to being one of the older kids. This week they went swimming, to a movie and to other park district facilities. They use city buses to get around so Logan is very happy :)

I have to take the kitten to the vet this morning for his final round of shots. Then I get to go to Logan's first tee ball game! (Last year I worked Saturdays so only got to go to one Saturday game.) After that, I'm relaxing and resting my poor feet and my aching "scrubbin' arm." I also have Sunday off this week. Maybe I'll just sit on my butt the rest of the weekend :) Maybe I'll go out and buy myself a foot massager.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Saturday was Grand Opening for the new Africa exhibit. It was a beautiful day and everything went well. We went in at 6am to get all the animals out on exhibit and get as much cleaning done as possible before opening. I was letting the red river hogs out into their yard. When Sultana stepped over the small threshold into the yard I noticed her very protruding nipples. Yikes! My coworker was working in the hog dayroom which happens to have windows to the hog yard. I made her check out Sultana and we agreed she was quite plump and nipply. Later that afternoon Sultana was looking pretty uncomfortable and appeared to be in labor. We brought her inside and then moved her into the day room to separate her from the other two hogs.

Sunday morning I was really excited and went into work ~7:30am. I stopped in the zoo kitchen to grab my radio and told my boss I was going to check for piglets. I walked up to the window and sure enough, three adorable striped piggies! I announced my find over the radio and the few people already at work ran over to see. Sultana is a first time mom and so far she is doing a fantastic job caring for the piglets! It's been hard to work the past two days because I really just want to watch them.


When I was a teen a few of my good friends enjoyed making fun of my mom's angry outbursts over things they found to be hilarious. One friend still calls me a "cream cheese hog" and another teases her own children about "working at a gas station for the rest of their life" if they don't bring their grades up. If a teacher or other adult went off on us for something we considered stupid, we called it "pulling a DBK" after my mom's initials that were on her license plate. (Sorry Mom, the truth is out...) Anyway, last night I pulled a DBK on DBK.

I got home from work completely exhausted and just wanted to go to bed. By 7:45 I was in bed asleep. Kaylin came into my room and woke me up to talk about her birthday party. I told her I was sleeping and that we'd talk about it another time. She went away and I fell back asleep. A few minutes later, she came back into my room and asked again. I. Went. Off. I don't remember exactly what I said, but I was screaming at her that I didn't want to talk about her party and that I was tired and to leave me alone! When I finished my tirade, I realized she was on the phone with my mom. Whoopsee. Sigh. Like mother, like daughter.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wal-Mart crazy

Today is my one and only day off this week and then I have to work 7 days straight for the grand opening of the new Africa area at the zoo. I have a large to-do list to complete. Nothing major, just making sure the bills, property taxes and house payment are paid, the laundry is done and the groceries are stocked. Since work has been consuming my life and will for the next couple of weeks, I wanted to make sure I remembered important things like the kids needing cold lunch supplies for daycamp next week. I got their input this morning before (their last full day of) school and headed to Wal-Mart for supplies.

Wal-Mart was a disaster area! They are rearranging the entire grocery section of the store and had literally about 30 extra people stocking shelves and moving stock from one aisle to another. I was trying hard to find all kinds of extra things for lunches, but EVERYTHING was out of place. It would have been really annoying and frustrating had it not been so funny! I walked down one aisle filled with canned vegetables, moved on to the next aisle filled with um, canned vegetables. There was a section with Jack Daniels Hard Lemonade directly next to apple juice with Sesame Street character bottles. The fruit snacks were in between displays of beer. (That's my weekend relaxation treat- fruit snacks and beer!) When I thought I was finished and realized I forgot toilet paper, I had to walk all the way to the back of the store to find it. I'm sure I forgot many things and will have to send Gene back later in the week :) Maybe they'll at least be organized by then...

Well, better go pay the bills and wheeeee! stop at the bank. Oh, and drop by the vet's office for flea stuff. Thank goodness for my boring day :)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Big Spender

Gasp! Logan spent HALF of his money this week!

Logan had a goldfish in his room from the time he was born until it died last year. Beth was a cool goldfish. She (yeah, I have no idea how to determine the sex of a goldfish) would respond when someone walked into the room and swim around excitedly, begging for food. When Beth died, I threw out her disgusting plastic tank and decided to be done with fish for a while.

Last week Logan got it into his head that he NEEDED more fish. He wouldn't stop talking about it. I decided that he could get fish, but ONLY if he bought the fish and supplies with his own money. I also offered an incentive program through which he could earn the fish by (finally) learning to properly tie his shoes and use the phone, but he actually opted to spend his own money.

Friday night we went to WalMart and bought a 5 gallon "starter set" aquarium. I required that it had a full hood so the cats can't get into it. We set up the aquarium and let it run for a couple of days. Sunday, Gene took Logan to the pet store and got four goldfish. Vidia, Jokish and Queen Victoria are still with us. Harold met a sad end sucked into the filtration pipe.

I suppose the important thing is that Logan actually spent ~$40 of the money he loves to buy fish that he loves more. Not surprisingly, he's been taking excellent care of the fish, carefully feeding them just the right amount. I don't doubt that the only thing I'll have to do for these fish is helping Logan clean their tank occasionally. I'm just happy that my kid loves animals as much as I do :)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I'm pretty much living for work at the moment... Last Thursday was the company picnic that kept me at work late, followed by Member Day/Donor Night on Saturday (my usual day off) that was a 15 hour day. This Saturday I will work again for Grand Opening and then next Friday I have to work to cover for coworkers taking off. The special events have been wonderful. I have been having a blast, but man, I. Am. Tired. On Saturday, the only time in the 15 hours I got to sit down was a half hour for lunch. Otherwise I was running around. Work is kicking my butt.

I've been so busy I've completely lost track of time and of the fact that this is the last week of school. I forgot about tee ball so Gene missed the Mandatory parent-coach meeting last week. We now have no idea what team Logan's on or where he's supposed to meet TONIGHT. I keep forgetting to sign Kaylin's student planner, something I've done every school night this year. Monday is the last day of school and the kids have to go from 8:45-9:15am. Seriously. This is going to be such a huge pain for Gene and me I am considering having them skip and just taking them directly to Camp Zone! Logan is furious that "everybody else" gets to have the rest of Monday off. Kaylin loves Camp Zone so much she can't wait to get there.

I'm ready for school to be out and to not have to worry about homework for three months. Hee hee. Logan received a homework packet every Monday night this year that was to be completed over the week and turned in on Friday. He came home EVERY Monday night and completed his packet before he allowed himself to play. It was totally self-imposed. Kaylin, on the other hand...