Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Once again, I can't believe how long it's been since I last posted!  Work has been crazy the past couple of weeks with moving animals and opening the new Aussie area.  Home has been crazy getting the kids ready for back to school.  Aussie's open and school's back in session.  No more excuses...

We took a "weekend" trip to St. Louis last Thursday and Friday to celebrate the end of summer vacation.  The kids both wanted to go to City Museum and I wanted to go to the zoo.  City Museum was a blast as always.  I can never believe how amazing that place is!  Kaylin and I went to the roof for the first time and while it was fun, I doubt I'd ever pay extra to go up there again.  I got up close to the giant praying mantis statue, but otherwise it was more of the same stuff you can do everywhere else in the museum.  Logan still hates elevators so he and Gene skipped the roof.  The kids played everywhere, but this time their favorite area seemed to be the skateless park.  They ran up and down the ramps and around the bowls so many times I'm surprised they didn't just collapse on the floor from exhaustion!

We left City Museum just before 5pm, so I thought maybe we could stop at Union Station to kill a little time and avoid some traffic before heading to our hotel.  Wow.  The recession has killed that place!  I remember when I was a kid and every store was full and that was the most fun mall on earth!  It's down to a few t-shirt shops and a food court.  Man, it was lame!  We were there a few years ago and while the mall was obviously dying, they still had some fun stores (toy, candy, dog breeds, etc.) and some fun activities.  This time the thrill of our trip was a booth you got inside to experience hurricane force winds.  It was actually really fun and totally worth the two bucks.  We had eaten a late lunch so nobody was hungry.  I imagine we spent maybe 15 minutes in the mall and 10 minutes feeding koi in the pond outside.  It's sad that such a cool place with so much potential could just basically go out of business.

We left downtown and found a hotel close to the zoo.  We ate at Steak 'n Shake and the kids went swimming.  Friday morning we headed out to the zoo.  Logan asked if the zoo was as big as Omaha's zoo?  I told him I thought it was probably bigger.  He looked at me in complete disbelief and said "Yeah, I doubt it."  I laughed.  We toured around the zoo and saw a lion way up in a tree, baby takin, camels and a newborn colobus monkey, hyenas fighting over bones and the beautiful, new sea lion exhibit.  We pet stingrays and rode the train and carousel and even went on some 3-D motion ride that ended up being really fun.  Our favorite animal encounter was in the bird house.  I was talking to and playing around with a hyacinth macaw.  It started reacting to me and pulled the piano wire in front of the enclosure apart, stuck almost its entire body out of the exhibit and chattered nonstop before tucking itself back inside and riding down the wire like some James Bond stunt.  That bird was hilarious!  I wonder if the keepers find it roaming around the building every morning?  We had a great time at the zoo and Logan admitted it was fun and we should do it again sometime.  I was pretty surprised because I feel like I've been to the St. Louis Zoo a zillion times and was shocked he didn't remember it.  Then I realized I've been there several times with coworkers and haven't taken the kids in years.  Definitely long enough that he wouldn't remember!

We headed home Friday night so I could attend a birding field trip I had signed up for on Saturday.  It was my usual "south loop" of the Illinois River Road Scenic Byway, but with bird experts.  We hit Spring Lake, Lake Chautauqua and Emiquon.  We saw all 5 swallow species found in the area, a great horned owl, lots of black-necked stilts and a whole bunch of sandpipers and herons I was glad to have the experts identify.  I added at least 5 birds to my year list and ended up seeing 54 different species.  The group as a whole spotted 68, but that counted everything everyone saw from different cars and in different areas.  I thought it was funny that I didn't even see one robin the entire day!  Usually they're everywhere.  It was a fun day!

The kids spent Saturday with my parents.  I know they went fishing and possibly swimming in the lake, but I was fast asleep when they got home and didn't get all the details.  I do know that Logan caught a small fish that was then grabbed by a water snake that refused to give up the fish so he had to pull the snake out of the water.  How cool!  Gene had a relaxing day to himself.

Monday was the kids' first day of school.  It was kind of weird this year because they want everyone to pay fees online so there was no "fee day" where you pay and get schedules, fill out paperwork and get all the information for the first days of school.  We went Sunday night and checked the class lists posted on the doors at the schools, but otherwise I had no details other than school times.  We didn't even get bus schedules!  Last night I got a mountain of paperwork.  I did all of Kaylin's first, with all of the emergency cards and permission slips for this and that and all of the teacher contracts.  I moved on to Logan's and at the end of a large packet of reading material found a parent quiz.  I had a long, hard day at work and was already sick of filling out paperwork- now I'm expected to go through a long series of fill in the blanks about my child's personality and learning style?  Pul-ease!  I've already been through a year of this teacher and I KNOW she's not at all into digging deep to learn each individual's learning style or even their personality!  Save a tree and don't print this crap!

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Bowling for Rhinos went fairly well.  We had hoped for more bowlers, but we still had 30-some.  It was a weird day weather-wise with our first strong storms in ages, so I think that kept away some of the people who were driving from a distance.  We made decent money at our raffle table, got good overall donations and will eventually send in more money than last year.  Improvement is good.  The other fundraiser I'm working on, the Vote for Your Favorite Animal contest, is going really well!  We started in April with four popular zoo animals each month and visitors putting money in a donation box with the animal raising the most money moving on to the Final Four.  We've averaged just over $100 each month which is twice as much as I expected.  I figured the donations would be mostly coins, but they are mostly dollar bills!  This month I put up signs at each of the Final Four's enclosures.  (The Final Four are Arthur the lion, Vaska the tiger, George the Aldabra tortoise and Silver the horse.)  I changed over the animals on July 29th (3 days early due to Bowling for Rhinos preparations) and in 11 days we've collected more than $130!  I usually empty the money once a week, but between last Thursday and this Tuesday the collection tubes were so crammed full I had to empty them early.  I don't know if our August visitors have been more generous, if people are more excited about the Final Four, if the signs (EVERYBODY knows visitors don't read signs!!) actually are helping, or what?!  We even had a lot of donations on free day this week!  I can't tell you how many free days we've had that thousands of people attended and not one dollar was added to our donation box.

I've been keeping busy at work preparing for the opening of our new Australia area.  We moved all the animals to their new enclosures this week. Well, except the 250 budgies that can't be moved until Friday...  The emus are loving their new area, the swans are still a bit nervous and the wallaby hasn't actually been inside the yard yet.  I'm guessing he will love the yard and that it will be a MAJOR challenge to get him to come inside at night.  The area itself is really nice and I'm looking forward to everything being in place and it being open to the public.  The tiger cubs are still doing well and are learning to walk much better.  It's getting harder and harder to shift the mama tiger without cubs following her.  They are still too little to be scampering around out in the yard, but they're starting to really play with each other and are getting stronger every day.  I'm sure they will be ready in the next few weeks or so.  I can't wait!  I want EVERYONE in the entire world to see these adorable cubs!

The kids are in their final two days of Camp Zone.  They get a weekly schedule that I pin to the bulletin board in the kitchen.  Kaylin was looking through past weeks and was disgusted that the theme weeks have barely changed in the 7 years she's attended this camp.  She was REALLY disgusted at the theme "Wayback Machine" because that doesn't even make sense!  Bu-but, Mr. Peabody and Sherman?  Y'know, Bullwinkle?  No. Kaylin didn't know.  And she looked at me like I grew another head. And when I explained it to her she thought it was even more stupid because kids her age have never watched Ballthingy. Bullwinkle! Whatever...  Kaylin took it upon herself to make new or at least revamped theme weeks.  She even filled out schedules with new ideas.  The counsellors thought her "book" was hilarious and called their boss to come see it.  Mr. Steve has always loved Kaylin and every time I run into him at the park district offices, he talks about her latest scheme.  He REALLY loved The Book.  He went on and on about how he's going to use some of her ideas next year and laughed at how Kaylin told him how she'll change things when she has Mr. Jimmy's head counsellor job.  It cracks me up that her biggest career goal is to be a counsellor at a summer day camp where the current counsellors are either college students or young teachers struggling to find their first full time job and needing to make a buck during their off-season. 

Logan is coming down with the traditional right-before-school-starts cold.  Last year Kaylin was sick the entire week before school started, missed the entire week of Riverplex Camp and I was worried she'd miss the first day(s) of school.  I don't remember exactly what she had, but it involved never-ending fever and antibiotics.  I hope Logan's cold is just a cold and that the rest of us don't get it and especially that it doesn't develop into something worse! 

Friday, August 3, 2012

August? Already?

I've been a major blog slacker the past few weeks.  At work I'm busy with the tiger cubs and getting ready for the new walk-through Australia exhibit to open in less than 2 weeks.  Work-related, I've been spending most of my spare time on AAZK stuff- our Bowling for Rhinos event is tomorrow night and we're also in our final month of our "Vote for Your Favorite Animal" fundraiser.  I'm not allowed to do any AAZK work during regular work hours, so I've been going in early and/or staying late to accomplish the things that can only be done on site.  It's all stuff that's well worth the time and effort, just nothing anyone would care to hear about in detail.  I will be very relieved to have Bowling for Rhinos over and out of the way :)  Hopefully it will be successful and we'll make lots of money.  I can't help fearing that only 5 people will show up to bowl...

I've been shocked at the generous Bowling for Rhinos donations!  Many have been completely unexpected and unsolicited.  One of the gift shop workers donated a really cool zebra "tie blanket" she made, as well as a rhino plush and an afghan her sister crocheted.  I had been talking to the Lodge workers (zoo restaurant) hoping a couple of them might show up to bowl and one of them donated two movie-themed baskets full of candy, popcorn seasoning and movie passes.  They are beautiful!  I would love to win ALL of this stuff!  I asked my boss to donate a behind the scenes tour, hoping for something like "This is where the rhinos and giraffes live at night.  Have a nice rest of your zoo visit."  She instead donated a personally guided 90 MINUTE tour!  Awesome!  Other coworkers are bringing in stuff and making stuff.  We should have a really nice set-up!

Outside of work, we're keeping busy with back to school preparations.  The kids' final week of Camp Zone is next week.  That flew by!  As usual, Kaylin and I are having a blast shopping for school supplies and Logan couldn't care less.  We stopped at Office Depot last weekend and while Kaylin was carefully choosing the color of her 25 cent protractor, I noticed a bin full of utilitarian pencil cases in a rainbow of colors.  I asked Logan if he liked them and he stopped his bored twirling for a half-second's glance and said "Fine."  I asked if he wanted a different color than the one I picked up and he replied "NO! Now stop asking questions!"  Sigh.  He really doesn't care At. All.  HOW can one not get excited about a new pink eraser or a perfect box of sharp new crayons?!  Kaylin was a little annoyed that I bought packs of loose-leaf paper during a solo Wal-Mart run!  She's spending tons of time personalizing each notebook, folder and binder.  The nicest thing I could do for Logan would be to buy every item on his list, put his name on it and have it conveniently in his (years old) backpack ready by the front door on the first day of school.  I totally understand not enjoying shopping for socks or bread, but school supplies? 

Well, I'm gonna drop the kids off at camp and head out birding for a couple of hours before spending the rest of my day cleaning the house and doing some last minute Bowling for Rhinos stuff.  It should be an exciting weekend.