The Weekend Vibe

I felt like we lived in this car most of the weekend! We kept busy for most of the weekend, whether it was time spent outdoors, with family, and sometimes just taking a ride around. I apologize, this will probably be a long post with lots of photos!

Friday morning we loaded up the car with our new little red wagon, a cooler of water, my backpack of snacks, and headed off to the zoo! We were meeting my brother Devin, his wife Chrissy, and my niece Dino Girl. Thank goodness it was a cooler day, it has been so hot and humid in Michigan it’s like a swamp out there. But Friday was practically perfect.

Whenever we go out we have to make choices on how Wyatt will get around. A backpack carrier? And with me or with Billy? A stroller? I hate that these options limit his independence to practically nothing, but he outgrew his wheelchair over the past year and the way insurance works, if we were to get another one we would practically insure that he would never get another walker again. So, we are trying to work around that since he is working on walking and can use a walker, just not well enough for a trip to the zoo. And not to be negative on here since I hate doing that, but my husband took him for a stroll around the neighborhood the other day in the stroller and was stopped by someone asking what Wyatt’s “issue” was. They also let Billy know that Wyatt was eligible for therapy services, like he hasn’t been in them since he was six months old. So frustrating. I get that the person had good intentions but frankly it wasn’t her business. And now I feel super self-conscious taking Wyatt out that way, I don’t like people staring at him. It will more than likely happen his whole life but I want to be able to make things as easy as I can for him when I can. I’m his mom. I can’t help it. Anyway, Thursday night it clicked that we could use a wagon. So, Billy headed out at 8pm to find one. And delivered like the awesome dad that he is. I felt like the wagon would first, blend in, and second, I was positive my niece would crawl in there at some point too, giving him company and making him feel less isolated. And it was so much easier to take him in and out, he could move around a bit, and it folds down into a bench seat as well. Win-win. There were a million wagons at the zoo too, just like ours so I feel like if he looked around, he wouldn’t feel as different.

Anyway. Once that was out of the way, we were golden for the whole day. Zebras, lions, giraffes, rhinos, camels, tigers – they were all out and about and looking cute. Zebras are Wyatt’s favorite (and mine) and I was excited to see them so close this time!

However, we all seemed to love the Amphibian House the very best. I guess our family does love its little creatures!

I also got super excited about this turtle in the marsh system outside. And this bee!

Saturday we stuck closer to home. We loaded up our little wagon again, this time with picnic supplies, and had a little picnic in the park. Later on that night we had drinks with my brother and fam, plus my dad and stepmom too.

It was so hot and sultry out this weekend, and I think we were all remembering our many trips to New Orleans – which inspired Billy to make a cocktail. Which he never does. And I rarely drink at all, if ever. But it was good, y’all. Also, my new favorite summer wine made an appearance. The drink Billy made is called a Gin Basil Smash, and it is so light and refreshing and citrusy. And actually so is the wine. (Loveblock, Sauvignon Blanc)

Sunday morning, and we just kept on rolling. We took a drive around Detroit, specifically Belle Isle and the farmer’s market area of Eastern Market. Eastern Market was closed so I was able to grab photos of the beautiful street art.

From here we headed to Belle Isle for a total change of scenery…

And someone got a little sleepy.

It was a busy, full weekend, full of people and sights and things that I love.

I hope you all did something or talked to someone that made you smile over the weekend!

An “Otterly” Fun Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day began with pancakes. Heart shaped pancakes with whipped cream and M&Ms, to be exact. It was a cold cold morning, and these pancakes warmed up Wyatt’s little belly while Billy and I drank tons of coffee, which was needed to keep up with our sugared up kiddo. Billy and I decided to be a little silly this year and do a theme for gifts. We don’t even usually do gifts, but this year we are celebrating everything we can. I am going to share what we got each other at the end of this post, but let me tell you our theme…

Our theme? Otters. A little unusual, but perfect for our nature loving family. And otters, while actually sort of vicious little creatures, also do something so sweet and cute – hold hands while they sleep so they don’t drift apart. And I love that so much. So, because we were all about the otters this Valentine’s Day, we had to go to the zoo and see them!

It was very cold – like 20 degrees- but sunny with blue skies, and we bundled up in many layers before hitting the road. I was still a little nervous but I wanted to go. Our plan was that if it was too cold, then we would just head home. We have a membership, since we go so often, and I love it. We feel so much more freedom with a membership, and feel we can enjoy the zoo without feeling pressured to get it all done in one day. We can just take our time and wander around, see what we want to see.

Anyway, the day was gorgeous and once we were in the sunshine, it didn’t feel that cold. I won’t share too many photos of our zoo trip, as most did not turn out, but the day was amazing. We were only there about an hour but it was perfect. We pretty much had the zoo to ourselves, most of the animals were out sunning themselves, and we had so much fun. Our first stop was the otters – who was laying in the sun enjoying himself. (or herself, I don’t really know) We ended up seeing the red pandas, the tigers, the camels, and the arctic foxes before packing it in for the morning, but it was just enough time. We had wanted to see the wolves but they are all the way in the back and we decided we would come back and see them soon.

We stopped for chicken nuggets and fries on the way home since we are fancy, and ate them in the car on the way to my mom’s. I had a few things for her, including Wyatt’s homemade Valentine.

After chatting with my mom a bit we headed home and just chilled out. Later we ordered pizza for dinner and Billy and I got a chance to use our Valentine’s gifts to each other – matching otter glasses – a whiskey glass for him (although he had cider in his that night), a wine glass for me. They are adorable! We had read Wyatt his book before we went, but we read it again – Together by Emma Dodd. Also adorable.

It was such a great day with my guys!

World Giraffe Day

Friday was World Giraffe Day and also summer solstice, celebrating the longest necked animal on the longest day (or night depending on your hemisphere) of the year.

Wyatt loves giraffes. They are his favorite (coincidentally, his favorite colors are also orange and yellow..) We were already planning on celebrating solstice in our own small way, by eating summery fruits like strawberries and getting together with some friends, but when I read about Giraffe day, I decided to make a whole day of it. Billy even took the day off from work so that he could celebrate with us all day as well!

We headed out early, basically waking up and packing up our “adventure backpack” as we call it and hitting the road, zoo bound. The giraffe festivities at the zoo were starting at 10, but I like to get to the zoo, or anywhere, right when they open as I have found places are less crowded earlier. We found the parking lot empty and the zoo almost to ourselves when we got there, and since we had time before the giraffe day things we visited some of the new exhibits, like the red panda’s new enclosure, with its rope swinging bridge, which puts zoogoers closer to the treetops where the red panda’s hang out, and the arctic exhibit which is usually jam packed. We had both exhibits to ourselves, which was kind of neat, especially the arctic exhibit. I finally got a chance to view the artwork that is inside! We were able to get very close to the glass as well with our kiddo, so close that a passing seal startled him a little! Most of the seals at the Detroit Zoo have cataracts and would not be able to survive in the wild and it is amazing how they still can perform their water acrobatics and swim and dive with limited vision. Nature is so cool.

After checking out the most popular attractions, we went to our other favorites, the wolves and the bears, who were all out and up front and center that early in the morning. I have actually never seen either the wolves or bears so close to visitor areas, we were able to get great views of them. By the time we were done, it was time to head over to the giraffes, our whole reason for going!

The zoo had volunteers standing by to answer questions, as well as information tables and signs laid out everywhere. We saw the skull of a giraffe, and signed the card for Kuvali, the mom giraffe at the zoo. We have a family of giraffes, Kuvali, Jabari (dad), and Mpenzi, their son at our zoo, and they were showing off in the yard, playing and posing for photos.

Wyatt and I had been doing some reading in preparation for World Giraffe Day, to expand our (my) knowledge of giraffes, and I learned quite a few crazy things! We learned that the collective noun for giraffes is a tower, which makes sense, and that giraffes actually have the same number of vertebrae in its neck as a human. Giraffes also have blue-black tongues to protect the tongue from sunburns, and fight by swinging their necks around, which I never want to see.

Sadly, these gentle, quiet, beautiful creatures have become endangered. According to bornfree.uk, giraffe numbers plummeted by a staggering 40% in the last three decades, and less than 100,000 remain today. I hate hearing about all of our animals slowly disappearing; it is hard to imagine a world where these magnificent beasts no longer roam. To read more about their plight and what you can do, visit the Giraffe Conservation Foundation here. I have already signed up to make a monthly donation and “adopted” a giraffe, but there are other ways to help, which can be as easy as just making people aware that these amazing animals are in danger.

How about you? What is your favorite animal?

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. 🙂

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 – the 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 – I 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 – oz 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 – me 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.