Sunday, June 19, 2011

Monkey Meets Monkey

On Friday, we attended Cora's annual daycare field trip to the Edmonton Valley Zoo. This marks the 3rd year we have gone. It will also be the last year we attend since Cora will graduate come December. The weather was quite nice in the morning but torrential rain started at lunch time. It's a good thing the zoo is small because we saw the whole zoo in the morning.

We started the morning off right by riding the train to daycare. Cora loves the train and she was quite excited to have Lee join us for our morning commute. Now that the weather has warmed up significantly, Cora and I have been taking the bus and train to and from University. It was much too miserable this winter to bother with a 2 year old and standing in -40F temperature waiting for the bus that was more than likely way behind schedule because it wouldn't start in the morning. We opted to help pollute our environment and had Lee drive way out of his way to drop us off at the front door of each of our buildings. Once at daycare we hopped onto a big yellow school bus to make our way to the zoo.

If there is anything I have learned in my life, it is how to effectively navigate a zoo to avoid huge amounts of crowds and see more animals up close. When Lee and I saw troves of school buses arrive at the zoo shortly behind our bus, we knew some strategy would be involved for Cora to experience the zoo at it fullest potential. Note: the fullest potential for this zoo is not much. Outside of a couple tigers, an old elephant, and some red pandas, this zoo is little more than an expensive petting zoo. However, it is nice to have something in Edmonton. I have a hard time not cringing at most of the displays. I am a huge advocate for zoos, but this zoo needs some money to help it out. They make the most of what they have though, which I definitely appreciate.

Golden rules for navigating a zoo
Rule #1: Go backwards. Every one always goes in the same direction every time. The keepers know this. Going in the opposite direction really is the path of least resistance. Less people mean you'll get the best view. We were able to see unobstructed views of many of the "big animals". Cora was often times ran over by bigger kids and this way she was able to enjoy much of the zoo by herself.

 The alpacas were busy roaming around.

 We came around the corner and Lucy the Elephant was out for a walk. They often walk Lucy throughout the morning. We got to see her before they took her out to the big open pasture for people to see. I love that Cora is pointing at her in this picture.

 Cora and Lucy.

 Viewing Lucy from a distance. Cora still doesn't understand that you can't run up to everything. We were practicing using a little voice and standing still. I can't stand it when people stress animals out by being loud and obnoxious around them.

Even when people are coming around, Cora still gets a good view.

Rule #2: Go in the morning or leave when they close. Get there in the morning before they open and be the first one through the gate. If that isn't possible, be the last ones out in the evening. Keepers feed in the morning and night. They also spend more time with animals in the morning and late afternoon when fewer people are around. Chances are, you'll get one on one time with keepers and animals this way. Our daycare was there waiting for the gates to open. We were one of the first groups through and Lee and I tried to make the most of it.

On this particular day, we met Marcy the red-foot tortoise. She was out for a morning stroll eating dandelions and grass. The keeper told us she was 13 years old and would live to be 40-50 years old. She was a beautiful critter. Cora was very good with only looking. I was quite proud of her.

Rule #3: If the indoor exhibits get crowded, go to them first. The Edmonton Valley Zoo has one indoor exhibit and it is awful to get through with crowds. And, for some reason, everyone takes their strollers in! We headed there first and were the only ones in the building. Yee haw! The animals had just been fed, so they were pretty active. Cora was so excited to see monkeys. She was dragging us into the building because she wanted to see the monkeys.

 The spider monkeys came out to play much to Cora's delight.


Despite the nice angle of the monkey's butt, the monkey and Cora both had their hands pressed up against the glass right before the picture was taken.

Rule #4: Go to the petting zoo and touch the animals. Nicely pet them and love them and hug them. Petting zoo animals tend to be "bomb proof" and aren't going to maul your kids. They also aren't dirty. Let your child pet them and then let said child eat a sandwich without decontaminating their entire bodies first. 

 The lambs were seeking refuge in their safe place while Cora was cruising around pen.

 This old goat seemed perfectly fine with her petting him. 

 The blondies.

Rule #5: If the crowds are mostly school groups, save the "pay-for" items until the end. If the crowds are families or on the weekend, hit the activities you have to pay for first. 

We were up against the school crowds, so the last thing we did before going for lunch was ride the ponies. Cora has been telling us she "needs" a horse. She "wants" things like ice cream, chocolate, cheese and milk, but she NEEDS a horse. Oh boy. She understands the difference between wants and needs. We thought it would be good for her to ride a pony because of her obsession lately over horses. We walked up to the fence where two ponies were lazily eating hay. We had a pretty long conversation about whether she wanted to RIDE the horse. She seemed adamant that she had to ride at least one of these horses. The lady running the pony rides asked us if we wanted to sit her on the horse to see if she would like it. Deep down, I thought she would get up on the horse and think it was great until the horse moved. Then I thought there would be a mini melt down where she had to get OFF the horse at that very moment. I was wrong. Very wrong.

Cora entered the pen, marched right over to Frodo the Pony, let him smell her and started trying to climb into the saddle. I lifted her up and she grabbed the saddle horn like a champ. I was shocked and delighted all at once. See photo below for my exact expression.

As soon as that horse moved, Cora's eyes lit up. She thought this was the best experience ever. I think horses may trump cats in her book of things she loves.

Trying to smile and concentrate isn't the easiest of tasks.

Close to the end of the ride, I released my grip on her pants and let her go all on her own. She's a natural.

At the end of her ride, she hopped down and scooted over to the other horse. I had to explain to her that we were all done and had to leave. Cue the giant belly sobs. In between belly aches she was saying "my horse, my horse." Poor tyke. It's hard to explain things to a 2 year old. It is even harder when they are crying so loudly they can't hear you. Eventually we were able to move on. I think the sight of a big grassy hill and the word "lunch" was enough to divert her attention.

Rule #6. Have fun and make the best of the zoo your city has to offer. Even when the weather isn't perfect.

Sleeping toddler = Successful Zoo Day!

Travels Sans Bebe

Lee and I have done a bit of traveling without Cora this past month. We went to Miami and Key Largo for a convention through Lee's work. Cora stayed in Edmonton with Grandma Jo and Aunt Carol.

Since this is Cora's blog, I'll start with her. She had a wonderful time. They spent so much time at the park, went swimming, and read a lot of books.

She was speaking much better when we got home. She must have needed to "use her words" to get things from Aunt Carol and Grandma Jo. She was pretty good at squeaking and pointing for things she wanted.

As for Lee and me, we spent all day every day on the beach. Really, we did. The first day, we snorkeled down in Key Largo. Funny enough, we only took 2 pictures during the entire vacation. This isn't the type of vacation Lee and I would normally take. We're not much into huge resorts, but it was a nice change of pace. We read a couple books, swam in the ocean, and ate as much good Mexican food as we could.

We were some of the whitest people in Miami. I think this was the first time my legs had seen the sun in 2 years. We had a great time snorkeling. We saw tons of different types of parrotfish, lots of barracuda, and Lee got stung by jelly fish.

While in Miami, Lee read that if you spent 1 hour just beyond where the waves break would have been withing 5 feet of a shark. We spent all our time swimming just beyond where the waves break looking for sharks. Obviously. We saw something rather large and dark, but I think it was a ray. Neither one of us had the guts to reach down and grab it. :) Turns out, the day we left someone got bit by a shark. Supposedly it left a hickey like mark and didn't break any skin. That would have been a heck of souvenir to have brought back. You can bet your bottom dollar we would have taken more pictures if that would have happened. :)

When we got back, we spent a couple of days with Mary Jo and Carol before they headed back home. We went to the farmer's market and showed them my new building on campus.

A short time later, Lee hopped in a rental car to drive to Washington State for another meeting.  While there isn't much of anything interesting to tell you about this trip other than wrecking the rental car (he's fine but the car wasn't in good shape), the place he stayed was beautiful. He stayed at a place called Cave B in central Washington. He said there was nothing to do except enjoy the surroundings. It was a small vineyard with a mineral pool close to the Columbia River. Sounds nice to me.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Spring Time Giggles

Oh, neglected blog. How I have missed you.

I'm a wee bit embarrassed that I haven't updated the blog since Easter. We haven't done a bunch of things, but we've certainly done enough that is going to take a couple posts to update my dearly devoted readers. I thought I'd kick this post off with two videos that crack me up.

This first one is of Cora watching Bambi for the first time. I love her deep belly laugh. This video gives you all a bit of a preview. She was laughing a lot harder before I turned on the camera. She gets a bit of stage fright.

The second video is one Cora took of herself. Lee and I had no idea she was video taping herself. It cracked me up when I saw it a few days later. She is quite the little kid.

Lee and Cora helped me celebrate a low key Mother's Day. Lee grilled a fantastic dinner and then we headed to the park to fly our kite. It was a perfectly windy kite flying day.

 Maybe Cora could get a summer job as the Poop Fairy?

 Cora loves the city park.

 Reggie even got in on the kite flying fun.

 We got the kite way up there.

 Cora tried her darnedest to get that kite back up in the sky. It might have been easier if the kite wasn't bigger than her.

Cora the Kite Flying Queen! We had a blast.