Third Birthday Celebration

My little guy is three. Three! I can scarcely believe how fast these years are going by. It seems like just yesterday he was a tiny peanut in the NICU.

The day Wyatt was born was the coldest day of the year that year. This year, we had a severe winter storm alert the night before. Schools were called off, big snow, ice and just generally crappy conditions were forecast. We were disappointed since Billy had taken the day off of work for us to celebrate as a family. And when we got up, the weather was pretty nasty. But within the hour, it began to warm up, and thaw. And melt. Huge snow clumps were raining from trees and telephone wires and house awnings, like enormous snowflakes. The sky was blue, the air was not blisteringly cold, and there was no bone chilling winds. So, we loaded up with multiple coats and layers to prepare for the day and whatever it might throw at us, and headed out into the blue.

First stop was Tim Hortons. Our guy loves doughnuts, and as a special treat, we had doughnuts for breakfast. Wyatt devoured a doughnut with sprinkles, most of his father’s sour cream glazed, and then followed that up with a few bites of Timbit. Not his normal breakfast obviously, but a special birthday one. I had a giant coffee and my favorite chocolate dip. Billy had the remnants of the doughnuts that Wyatt didn’t eat. I guess I lucked out since Wyatt is not a chocolate fan. ūüôā

Once Wyatt finally stopped eating doughnuts, we set our sights north to the Detroit Zoo. We have a membership to the zoo, and we love it. One of the things we love most about it is that with a membership, we never feel pressured to “do” the whole zoo in a day, if we don’t want to. We can show up, walk around for an hour or so, just visit our favorite animals. We do of course visit all the exhibits some days, but most of the time we amble about, taking our time. And we love to go on weird off days, when we have it mostly to ourselves. And Wyatt’s birthday was perfect – almost empty, probably due to the fact that it was midmorning on a Friday, and that the weather had been miserable in the morning. Plus, you know, it is winter. Lol. So, we had the zoo to ourselves.

First stop was the amazing Polk Penguin Center. It is seriously awesome, with a 4-D experience to enter, like you are on a boat headed to the Antarctic, complete with day and night changes, storm simulations, and even a little rain and water spray. Wyatt loved that part, getting wet in the spray. He loves the penguins, probably because he can get face to face with them!  That little trio of Gentoo penguins waddled on over to preen and show off and pose Рthe volunteer told us that the Gentoo are the friendliest and love to have their photos taken! If you want to see the penguins in action, you can check out their webcam feed.

From the Penguin Center, we headed further in, toward the River Otter habitat, one of our family favorites. This little river otter family is so delightful and entertaining, the way they zoom around, and play. We could stand and watch them for a long time, and we were the only ones there besides the volunteer for a good while. She shared some pretty fun stories, and the exhibit itself is relaxing, made of solid wood like you are in a cabin up north. It was a good moment, watching the otters play, in the brisk air, the scent of pine around us. We were so delighted by them we didn’t take photos!

Next we had planned to go through the Reptile house to warm up, but it was way too humid in there, and after being out in the cold, it was too much of a temperature change so we headed back out. At least the reptiles were comfortable though!

We decided to just walk a little further before leaving – the zoo is pretty huge and we didn’t want Wyatt to get too cold. So our last and final stop were the camels. Usually this family is sleeping or just relaxing all together on the ground, but today they were up and at ’em, super active. There was one right by the wall too, we could hardly believe it! They are pretty cute, especially the babies! Wyatt was entranced. He is usually a ham, posing for the camera (just like the Gentoos!), cheesing it up, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the camels to look at me long enough for a photo!

All in all, it was a fantastic visit, albeit short. Next time we will see more, the Red Pandas, the lions, the wolves, the kangaroos, the polar bears (our Nuka just got a girlfriend!). All favorites of ours. One thing I love about the Detroit Zoo is how many of their animals are rescues. They do such a great job, and while I don’t know the percentage of their animals that they have rescued, I do know that a great deal of them were. It’s definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the area!

We headed back home and had one of Wyatt’s favorite dinners – fish sticks and macaroni. The night sky even showed off for his birthday, with a clear sky and a giant brilliantly bright moon. My boy loves to be outside at night, stargazing, so this was the perfect ending to our day.

He was a happy little boy.

 

Rainy Day Weekend

Lately, I haven’t written much here. I sit down to write, but first I usually scan Facebook. Then honestly, I get too depressed to say anything. My stuff just seems so trivial, so little in the scope of what is happening around the world and United States – devastating fires, hurricanes, earthquakes. Shootings. Where does my little post about what we all did over the weekend, or what I read, or what we ate fit. And then I thought, it is like everything else. We grieve. We try to make things better where we can. And we live our lives. That’s all we can do. So, I have gotten back to being me, being us. Celebrating life, this world and its wonders. Because amazing things happen amongst the sad – like that woman who biked her way out of the California fires, with her 70 pound dog in her duffel bag. That was some serious grit and determination, and love. All love for that dog. She wasn’t a big woman by any means, but she and her dog got to safety – on a bicycle. Like I said, just dang amazing.

Our family spent the weekend celebrating the Halloween season. It’s my favorite time of the year, and now with a two year old, I am even more excited about it. We started off the weekend festivities Saturday night, when we went to the Detroit Zoo Boo. It was rainy but not too terrible, and it did not stop us from having a good time. My son was all smiles in his adorable skunk costume, loving every minute of the night. I was soaking wet, but I didn’t care. (He wanted to be carried by his father so, dad got the umbrella with the baby. I really need to add another umbrella to my shopping list so we have more than one!) They had some fun entertainers at the end of the trail, people performing with flaming batons and magicians and bands and music – it was a good time. Plus, I got to eat some candy. Lol.

The next day we were off and running again, this time to the apple orchard, a time honored Michigan fall tradition. This is a Midwest thing I found out, or at least it is not a widespread United States thing, which makes sense. Going to the cider mill in the fall is one of my favorite things we do all year – and we had awesome autumn weather. Blustery, gray, windy, rainy – at one point my son and I were sitting on the wide front porch of the shop, eating donuts, when a crazy strong gust of wind practically blew us off of the porch. We just laughed in the face of that wind!

Before we had the boy, we searched for a cider mill without the gimmicks, and found our perfect one – Bennett’s Orchard. Simple, great prices, great products. There are no bounce houses, bands, or booths of vend, which is fine if that is what you like. For us though, it is all about the locally grown and made products. Pumpkins, jam, doughnuts, honey, popcorn, and .. for parents .. hard cider, made on site. By law they can only serve three tastings per person, so my husband and I got different flavors and tried each others, splitting them. We have different palettes apparently – he really liked the crisp apple that had strong cinnamon flavor to it, while I liked the more tart ciders. We both agreed though, that the elderberry shine was so good that we had to buy a howler to come home with us. Perfect for around the bonfire.

We had a great rainy day weekend, spent outdoors. Remembering what is important about life. Family, experiences, making moments and memories.

It’s All About the Bicycles

Today is a day that Billy and I count down to in the summer – the start of the Tour de France. He is a huge bike guy; I just love the Tour. I am in awe of what these men do, how far they ride, for how long, through the Alps for goodness’ sake. Whole mountain ranges are devoured by their bike tires and sweat. It is an amazing feat, and I am blown away by their tenacity and athleticism. We hope to go and stand on the sidelines one day, cheering them on along the road of some small town in the mountains of France.

Our date night this week was bikecentric РI am not sure if the Detroit Zoo planned it for the week of the Tour on purpose, but if not, good timing on their part! The zoo hosted an evening event, a Bike Safari if you will, where participants could ride their bikes through the winding paths of the zoo, stopping to view the animals along the way. It was family friendly, although it was sponsored by New Belgium Brewery; you just got one of those neat wristbands to prove you were over 21.  Over 800 people attended, and it made for a very fun evening. Despite being so many people in attendance, it was not a difficult ride. I get really nervous if people ride too close to me, I am not a super confident bicyclist. However, there were three different start times, and it really divided everyone up very effectively. People riding were spaced very well, and it only became tricksy a few times, when riders would stop suddenly in front of you to see an animal, rather than biking to the side of the pathway and stopping.

There were three hydration stations set up, and two of them included a 3 Рoz sample of New Belgium beer to those who wanted to imbibe. We of course drank our samples, along with the water that was also provided. I am not a super big beer drinker, but I enjoyed my choices! The options were Cirtadelic Tangerine, Fat Tire, Voodoo Ranger IPA, and Dayblazer. I chose Dayblazer and Fat Tire; Billy had Voodoo Ranger and Dayblazer. We also got a can each at the end of the ride as well, same choices. We stuck with two we had already had Рme again with the Fat Tire, Billy with the Voodoo Ranger. They were icy cold and delicious after the long hot ride through the zoo. There was a live band at the finish, along with a few food options and the opportunity to purchase more drinks. Alternatively, people could choose to go listen to scientists speak at the reptile house about the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project. Nature nerds that we are, we opted for the wolf-moose project, although our beers did come with us.

The two scientists were full of interesting information and facts. We have always wanted to visit Isle Royale, so it was cool to talk to people who have not only been there, but really know the island intimately, and all of her inhabitants. It is a sad scenario though. Right now, there are some 1500 moose on the island. And just two wolves, who are so inbred that the pack is dead. They cannot reproduce. The pack in its heyday numbered 50, at least in as far as scientists have been tracking its numbers. Due to all the inbreeding though, numbers began to fall as they died off. Their health was compromised and a strain of parvo killed a bunch off. The moose are without predators, and while this seems like yay moose ~ it really isn’t, as they may run out of food sources themselves as the island may not be able to support that many moose, unchecked. This is the subject that the scientists we spoke with were studying, the effect of the moose upon the fir, and just how long these moose could be sustained by the fir trees on the island. They eat fir trees, and these fir trees barely have the opportunity to grow, as the moose just eat the heck out of them. An obvious solution would be to introduce a new pack. I would love to see this happen, and have the balance returned to the island.

That is only replica moose scat, btw. Lol. And a kick butt caiman looking at us in the reptile house.

This event was a great time, and well worth the money we paid to do it. It was a wonderful night and we will definitely go again. If you are interested in reading more about the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project, you can go here and here. If you are interested in participating (even cooler!) check this out.