Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Montgomery Zoo

So back in the Spring, my youngest decided he absolutely wanted to go the zoo this summer.  I promised him that we would go in June, and today was the day.  We went with Mark, Mark's Mom and three of the boys' cousins, and I was chauffeur in Mom's very nice vehicle (:

We played a fun game of 'I Spy' for a good portion of the trip.  Some of the funnier attempted games:  Hide and Seek (lol) and Charades.  As the drive got closer to the 2 hour mark, Grandma Judy produced pads of paper for the kids to write and draw on and the two older cousins played dots and lines and hang man just as we pulled into the zoo.

As soon as we got out, everyone was doused in sunscreen and then we headed for the entrance.  It was pretty much noon on the money.

We spent two hours visiting different animals along the way.

Only alligator we saw and he was lazing in the pool (;

It was funny to watch the flamingoes-- particularly when they went after the geese they share the space with.

All the cousins, watching the Jaguars.

We watched these two pace and play for almost 10 minutes straight.
I got a -really- nice image of this tiger.  You can't tell it's over 20 feet away and through a sheet of glass while I stood behind a couple of ladies with a stroller (:

This deer is -so- white!

Notice how it looks like he's looking right at me?  He is.  He's less than 2 feet away.

I love the way this turtle is balanced on the rock (:

The boys decided the turtles were working on making a pyramid for the next turtle underwater gymnastic's competition (:

We had a long discussion about these-- first because they were hard to see, and second, because, despite the fact that they -look- like foxes, they're wolves!

Two favorite cousins enjoying the posts.

A really cool peacock pheasant.  In the light, it's circles were iridescent pinks and purples.

Mark said we absolutely had to see the warthogs.  They were enjoying some shade and watching the ducks play in a mud puddle.

The elephants were trying to keep cool in the shade.
 Before we actually saw the elephants, we came across a little nook that I had everyone stand in (:

We actually had to circle the monkey exhibit and -really- look before we saw them.
Then we made our way to the overlook cafe for our free drinks and bit to eat and took the kids to the on-zoo playground.

Throughout the zoo, the boys enjoyed the misters (:

I absolutely adored all the smiles (:
All of the kids trying out the playground (;

My youngest riding the frog.

One of the cousins riding the tire swing (:

King of the sand pile!

After that, we walked over to the Mann Museum for an up close and hands on look at some of the critters.

My husband, photo bombing (lol)
The kids were great about lining up for funny images (:
-Almost- fit (;
Petting a sting ray.
So it -looks- like the kids are just enjoying petting a moose, right?

What they were -actually- doing.  (lol)

Okay, so the reason this particular critter has a place of honor is that when I was a child, I adored "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers".  One of my favorite songs to sing has the line, "I'm a lonesome polecat." ...I never knew what that was before today.  (lol)

I could not -believe- how tall this bear was!

I took this image for my Father in Law, Tom.  (lol)

I love the way this image turned out (:
 By the time we made it back to the overlook cafe, we were all pretty much done.  We'd been walking the zoo for four hours and were ready to head home.

On the way home, we played 'what do you see in the clouds' for a good portion of the drive.  It started with what I thought was a pretty good cloud interpretation of a Unicorn, but I was quickly outvoted that it was a helmet with a spike, with a consolation vote of 'maybe a -really- deformed unicorn' from Mark (;  And the boys had all sorts of battles with the snake snap bracelets that we got them at the gift store.

When we got to Troy, it was McDonald's for dinner and a bit of play time at the indoor playpark before time to head home.  We got home at about 8 and my youngest went to cleaning his room.  It got -very- quiet by 8:30 and I went to check on him:

Now -that- is proof of a wonderful day (;

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Food for Thought

So tonight I'm the only person in my house.  Husband is at work.  Kids are at their Grandparents...although, admittedly, that means one is 5 minutes away...and the other is over 12 hours.

My mother-in-law and I went to the local farmer's market.  I got summer squash, beef tomatoes and corn on the cob.

I decided that since I'm the only one home, I was having pan fried summer squash, onions and bacon.  It was absolutely delicious.  And none of my guys will eat it.  That was about 5 hours ago.  Now, I'm thinking.  I'm thinking about why I love fried summer squash.

When I think of fried summer squash, I have two distinctly different memories.  One is of my Grandma Betty cooking them for us in her kitchen in Michigan.  The other is of my mother doing the same in the numerous kitchens the ARMY made home.  I associate a lot of laughter and a lot of smiles with the dish.  (It doesn't hurt that it's absolutely delicious!)

I can't get large beef tomatoes without thinking of Mark's Grandmother.  She introduced me to putting salt on the slices and just eating them that way with a fork.  Who knew tomatoes could taste that good?!?  Especially since I grew up with texture issues when it came to food.  I was the kid that picked the sesame seeds off the bun; the seeds off of a strawberry; the squishy center out of the tomato.  I couldn't eat anything slimy.  Or anything that had more than one texture at a time.  And to this day, if egg shell ends up in -anything- (from my eggs to my baked goods), as soon as I bite down on it, I have to spit out whats in my mouth and stop eating or I'm going to yark.  So I certainly never expected that I would actually -like- tomatoes.

That's something that I've come to accept in the last 5 years.  Our tastes change.  And they say it takes 12 or more exposures to a food before you develop a liking to it (if you didn't like it right off the bat).  Twice every year for the last 5, I try a boil peanut.  I eat it.  I haven't developed a taste for them yet.  Who knows if I ever will.  It might be back to that slimy thing...

As to the corn, I always think of my husband Mark.  He loves it, but more specifically, I always think of him telling the story of his cat Patches-- who absolutely adored corn.  I mean steal the cob off your plate, eat the plants you're trying to grow in the backyard, adored corn.

And it all makes me wonder what associations my children will have with the foods they love.  Will it be special dishes that were made with love?  Will it be fresh vegetables or fruit and a general feeling of happiness?  Will it be with funny stories?

I don't know.  But I sure do look forward to finding out (:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day and Why I Vanished for a Week

So it took 5 days for anyone on fb to notice that I'd vanished.  (lol)  It wasn't quite on purpose.  I went to visit my parents in Missouri for a week-- but my cell phone has absolutely no access where they live and I wasn't comfortable hooking up my computer.  Since I found myself in a position much like my friend Daigle, I'm completely stealing his idea for fb status updates that were never posted.

Thursday, June 16th, 7 am:  I hope I packed everything.  Little anxious about the drive.  Hope the kids aren't going to be -too- bored.

Around 11:30, after meeting up with my cousin Haley who I haven't seen since I was about 14, as we head to her house for the boys to meet her kids, she summed it up beautifully, "Look!  New cousins!  Go play!"

Had a wonderful 2 hours visiting Haley and her kids (:  Then I set up my computer in the truck to play a movie for the kids.

At 6:  Can't drive anymore.  No rest areas.  Need a break.  Pulled into a pharmacy parking lot figuring we'd eat out of the back of the truck-- and lo and behold!  They have picnic tables and a bit of grass for the kids to run around on (:

Around 11:30 at night:  I'm in the twilight zone.  MO-17 was only supposed to be an hour long...and I've been on it approaching 3 hours....

Midnight:  Made it to my parents house!  Never been so happy to see Rt 7 and know where I was and where I was going (:

Friday, my boys ran around my parents yard like barefoot heathens (:  Loved it!  I helped my Momma set up all the lovely decorations she'd prepared for my sister Amanda's wedding reception in the church hall.  As she and I were trying to leave the parking lot after a little bit of grocery shopping, I had the thought, "My red necks are more polite than your red necks..."  Mom says it's all the visitors to the Ozarks.  At this time of year, the locals are avoiding the lake (and the tourists) and are out on the rivers.

Saturday was all about the wedding (:  My youngest sister Amanda married her long time sweet heart Tyler.  My boys are excited to have a new uncle.  And my Mom did an -amazing- job on the catering for the reception.  Thankful that the wedding itself was only about 15 minutes long-- as we all stood for the entire thing (lol).

Sunday, Tyler and Amanda came to visit and share a movie.  Among the funnier jokes are me saying to her, "You am a Justice." (as Tyler's last name is Justice) and my mother saying to me, "You am a Wise."  (;

Through out the days, my boys go outside, play with the dogs, bring some of the dogs inside, chase (and carry) baby goats, sit on the fences, pet horses and feed them apples and continue to try to catch a glimpse of the elusive cows.

On Monday, we took the boys to my all time favorite store in Osage Beach:  The Discount Book Store!  They carry overstocks and slightly damaged.  I limited myself to 4 children's books and let each of my boys chose two of their own (They have an ongoing sale of buy 3 and the fourth children's book is free).  They sure have done a lot of building up in the area since we were there 2 1/2 years ago!  My Mom and I also spent 7 hours figuring out the machine my Dad had gotten her for saving her tapes to the computer.  I'm going to sum that up as a LONG process!

On Tuesday, my boys helped my parents vaccinate, round up, and count the goats.  They were only run over by the baby goats once.  My oldest came in to get glasses of water for everyone around noon and announced, "I'm learning how to be a goat herder!" and when they were all done, my youngest said he'd had a great time..."but my shoes are covered in goat poopie...and you can't wipe it off.  It sticks.  I tried."

Wednesday and Thursday, we just hung around the farm, visiting, watching shows (I introduced my parents to the animated "Avatar:  The Last Air Bender" series...and I believe I got them hooked! ((:  ) the boys playing legos and periodically fussing.  And I was glad to see the fly motels that I so highly recommended were -finally- starting to work.  Mark and I have set up 2 ever year for the last 4.  They really do work well at keeping the flies out of the house and reduced outside.

Thursday night, I made sure the boys knew they'd be spending Friday with their Grandpa and set my clothes out.

Mom and I left for Ft. Leonardwood around 7:40 for her doctor's appointment at 9.  At the first exit, we decided to turn around because a half dozen wide load trucks were headed that way and we figured it would make getting in slower.  We were a little over half an hour early for her appointment-- and she didn't actually get to see the doctor until 9:30.  Everything seemed pretty good and they sent her refill prescriptions to be picked up at the PX.

We get to the PX and shortly after my mother gets her ticket for the pharmacy window, the machine goes out (:  Fortunately, everyone was patient and in good spirit about it and it was well, if not quickly, resolved.  One of the more interesting things is that every lady that worked at the pharmacy was tattooed (:

It was noon before we had her meds, and we stopped in at a shop just to look around.  I had to resist the urge to buy a new mink blanket for $40.  Good deal and queen sized, but I didn't want to have to bring it on the trip home.

After the PX, we headed over to the commissary and I helped my Mom do Father's Day shopping for my Dad (:  It was a lot of fun to see the variety of things you just don't find at the non-military grocery store.  While there, I got to get 2 of my favorite treats from when I was a kid:  orange flavored Capri-suns, and a dried squid!  Woohoo!

As we headed to the Korean restaurant for lunch, we noticed lots and lots of people lined up along the street as if a parade was about to start.  We wanted to be well out of base before that happened!  But as we were leaving, we saw that people were lined up off base as well-- well up to where we were going for lunch.  Shortly after we arrived, everyone inside headed out-- it was not a parade.  It was a tribute to fallen soldiers returned home.  As the hearse passed, and I stood with my hand over my heart, I felt tears welling up in my eyes, not just for the soldier-- but for the amazing show of support for his family from all of these strangers.  As we all returned to the restaurant, no one spoke for almost 10 minutes, and even then conversation started quietly and somberly.  When the mood lightened, Mom and I talked about the wedding and how nice it was and how much the boys were enjoying their visit.  The food was excellent!  I had beef bagoki, pork barbeque, white rice, glass noodles with carrots, and four different types of kimchee (:  Then we headed next door to the Korean grocery store and got 2 packages of another favorite treat as a child:  Red Dried Prunes (:  I also got a lovely set of 5 chopsticks.  When we got home, my parents wanted to know why I'd gotten them, but even before I could answer, my 9 year announced it for me, "She got them for hair stick!"  ((:  I got to teach my Mom how to put hair sticks in, as well as how to put hair up with no hair holder at all.

Then I got ready for bed.  Thank you Mom, for making sure my youngest and I returned with clean clothes and plenty to gnosh on on the drive home!

Okay, just a little back tracking-- My Dad was having the hay cut on Friday because the forecast for the week showed that there was no rain from Friday through Tuesday.  Did you know that if you bail wet hay, it'll catch on fire later?  Decomposition is a powerful force!  My parents had a friend who bailed wet hay-- and put it in their barn...and lost the entire barn because of it!

So why mention hay bailing at all?  Because I woke up at 4 on Saturday to a fairly heavy thunderstorm.  You can't miss it at my parent's house.  When there's bad weather in the area-- every time there's lighting, the phones chirp.  I got into the habit of, even in my sleep, immediately unplugging my computer from the wall if I heard the phone chirp-- just in case.  I loaded up the truck to breaks in the weather and my youngest and I headed out, with a serious down pour at 7:30 in the morning.  I gave my oldest lots of hugs and promised to call him every night.  This is his first time away from me for more than a weekend.  He's about to enjoy a bit of his summer break with his Grandparents.  My Mom has lots of activities planned to do with him (:

My Dad wrote out directions for me that would NOT leave me on 17 for 3 hours (It's a lot like a roller coaster, and like a roller coaster, has no shoulders).  Once I got on 36 I KNEW that I hadn't taken my original directions like I should have-- as I went along, I discovered I'd gotten on 17 at the first spot, and not where I was supposed to-- so it added 2 hours to my drive.  When I told me Dad, he said, "Eww!!  Then you were on some pretty ugly parts of 17!"  Yup.  Completely agree (lol).  Lesson learned-- I will NOT be doing that again (;

So the drive that took 16 hours coming only took 12 hours going.  A large part of that is the nature of my youngest.  He doesn't need a whole lot of entertainment on the drive, if his brother isn't there.  He spent most of it asleep, so we only stopped to get gas (at the 1/2 full point), stretch our legs and go potty.

After we got home and got the vehicle unloaded (You do NOT want to leave food of any kind sitting in a vehicle in Alabama over night-- unless you LIKE ants ) then I hugged Mark, and then our critters.  Petted each of the dogs and let them know I loved them, and then I called my Peeveling over for some snuggling...
This is where I completely forgot that when I leave for a week, I come back no longer immune to my cats.  I'm extremely allergic to cats, in fact.  So after roughly 2 minutes of loving on my cat, my arms started breaking out in hives and my eyes were watering while they burned like they were on fire.  Sigh.  I had to down a quick dose of benedryl and toss myself very quickly into the shower.

Welcome home (;  The last thing I did was to call my oldest to let him know we were home and to ask about his day.  He spent it helping his Grandpa load logs into the truck and helping his new Uncle Tyler work on leveling for their trailer.

And then he announced, "Mom, I love cows!"  (:  He'd finally seen the two elusive cows (lol).  His favorite is the brown one.   If I needed proof that this is my boy, that'd do it: I'd said the same thing to my Mom when I saw them 2 days ago (;

So off and on, during the drive home, my youngest and I discussed Father's Day plans.  My oldest was a little sad that he won't get to be here with his Daddy, but he gets to celebrate with Grandpa John.  I promised we'd call today so that he could wish his Daddy a Happy Father's Day and my youngest asked if he could also talk on the phone to wish the same to Grandpa John.  My youngest wanted to make pumpkin muffins, made with REAL pumpkin, Momma!, for his Daddy's breakfast.  We also got him a couple of treats (;
 Doesn't that breakfast just look like it's saying, "Happy Father's Day!" ?