I guess you can be all things to all people, or at least that’s what the folks at the Columbus Zoo believe. They are all four of these things, and although we haven’t been to the water park yet, I can tell you they do the other three things very well. It’s a great space to take a day trip, like we did today, or really, you could spend a couple days there. This was my third trip and I still haven’t been to all of the zoo (and next year they’re opening a new polar bear exhibit)! I guess the only “problem” is that with the great playground and rides, sometimes it was hard for the kids to remember we were at a zoo (we weren’t the only parents to tell our kids, “If I hear you ask about the playground one more time, we’re leaving! We came here to see the animals!”). It’s just a really well done place all around (my kids now want to live there). And fairly affordable — Akron Zoo members pay half price, and you can bring in coolers to help save on dining costs. They also have tons of special events, so I think anytime is a great time to go!
Archive for September, 2009
My husband got a new car recently that came with a three-month free subscription to XM radio. I guess there are 200+ channels, but there is really one channel for me: E Street Radio. I had thought my Bruce collection of music was pretty good – not totally complete – but still, pretty wide-ranging. Well, I have heard so many Bruce tunes I had never heard, ever, like “Dream Baby Dream”, “Viva Las Vegas” and “Forever Young” (with Bob Dylan, who had penned the song). I’m not nuts for all the songs, but still, what a great way to discover – or rediscover – Bruce music, and the live versions, well, it’s not the real thing of course, but if you close your eyes really tightly (not while driving of course) you can almost put yourself at one his shows. This doesn’t mean, however, that when the free subscription ends we’re going to continue it. It’s just been fun to know that as a Bruce fan you’re far from alone!
When I was in my late 20s, I began to travel overnight by myself. A few times, I stayed at cheap hotels/motels and was really creeped out and scared to be there alone (especially since at one place the rooms could be entered from the parking lot; I was awakened several times during the night by someone(s) knocking on the door and trying to twist the knob). At some point I realized a B&B might be safer for a single woman traveling alone. A host/ess at least would know by morning if I didn’t make it back at night. I don’t remember my first B&B — I think it was the glorious Chocolate Turtle in Albuquerque, where I went to celebrate my 30th birthday.
Since then I have stayed at countless B&Bs from coast to coast — first alone, then later with my nieces, my BFF, my husband, and now, with my own children. Some B&Bs were absolutely incredible – and some were incredibly bad. But each one was an adventure in itself. I stayed on a tugboat in Seattle (actually, it was a “bunk and breakfast”), an old jail in Bardstown, KY and in someone’s kid’s old basement bedroom in Ann Arbor. Breakfast has ranged from a gourmet, five-course affair served on fine China by candlelight with classical music playing to stale donuts and in one case, no breakfast at all. Some hosts/esses have bent over backwards, and some have seemed irritated when we asked for a fork. We’ve met other guests who have been a source of information, a source of annoyance, or once, a source of creepiness (another couple was a bit too friendly, if you know what I mean).
One of my favorite memories was a trip my husband and I took in France — we biked from B&B to B&B in the French countryside. Each B&B would pack a picnic lunch for us to carry on our bikes, then they’d take our luggage to the next place. Yes, it was as incredible as it sounds. The food, the scenery, the utter “coolness” — and especially, the memory of sitting around a huge table for three hours enjoying a 7-course dinner (the only time I’ll probably eat “duck throat” in my life) with couples from all over Europe. B&Bs are definitely not for everyone — but for those adventurous enough to try them, you could be in for a real “trip”!
When you have kids and they start asking a million questions about things, you realize how little about the world you actually know. But here are a few quick ways to look like you’re an animal expert when you take one of your approximately 546 trips to a zoo:
llamas vs. alpacas: Llamas are Larger, have Long, banana-shaped ears, and their tail is held high. Alpacas are Smaller, with Smaller, Spear-shaped ears, and their tails hang low.
turtles vs. tortoises: all tortoises are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises. A turtle generally hangs in the water and a tortoise on land.
jaguars vs. leopards: jaguars are larger, and their “rosettes” have smaller spots inside (I think jaguars = jaggedy); leopards are smaller, and their rosettes usually don’t have spots inside.
horses vs. ponies: a pony is NOT a baby horse. A foal is a baby horse (and a baby zebra). A pony is related to a horse, but they’re not the same creature. Biggest difference is size.
So now you know!
I have this compulsion to keep moving. I always want to be going somewhere and doing something. I get frustrated because there’s too much to do in this world, and not enough time and money to do it. One thing I’ve never lacked, though, is the desire — that is, until the last few years. I think it’s a combination of getting older and having the responsibility of kids — but some things just don’t appeal as much to me now. And it scares me. I know it’s a natural part of aging – interests change and you’re more aware of risks. But still, I have this fear that I’m going to “run” slower and slower and slower until I stop, and I spend my last days sitting on a bench at the mall, or home alone in an armchair, like the guy in “Up” (before he set his house aloft, of course). I don’t want to be like that — I want to be traveling, and biking, and hiking, and painting, and playing until my last breath. But what if I have no control over this? Then I feel badly for even worrying about this stuff when there are millions of people around the world who would be happy to do anything but can’t because of health problems. But in a way it makes me feel even more strongly that I should do all I can, while I can.
I hesitate to even bring this subject up, since there really is no answer. But another wedding of 20-somethings this past weekend and a discussion with two kindergartners this morning about their parents’ divorces compels me to write about this. I think on average, someone shouldn’t get married until they’re at least 30. That doesn’t mean they start dating at 12 and get married until they’re 30, however. It means they’ve been out of college a few years, lived on their own and have a better idea of who they are before they get married (and especially have kids). I know, I know, there are those couples that start dating at 12, marry at 18 and live happily ever after. But I truly think that’s the exception. Most everyone I know who married before they were 30 either got divorced, secretly wish for a divorce, or went through a lot of soul-searching to make the relationship work, often leaving a bunch of kids tossed around in the middle of a mess. Don’t get me wrong, I love the dewy-eyed optimism of young couples. It’s very sweet and romantic. But I also know about reality, and that you’re not really dealing with reality in your 20s – you’re dealing with some unattainable ideal of perfection. The irony to my whole premise, though, is that as soon as a woman turns 30 her fertility plummets. What’s the sense of that? But I guess nobody ever said life makes sense (you learn that in your 30s).
My husband got a call that one of his aunts died yesterday. It was sad, of course, but not unexpected; she was sickly and we’re at that age where our parents and their contemporaries die. What’s kind of unusual is that my husband and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum where extended families are concerned, yet it actually makes us more alike than different. You see, I grew up with no aunts, uncles or first cousins. My husband’s parents, on the other hand, each had 9 or 10 siblings, who in turn had several children, bringing the number of my husband’s first cousins to close to 100. I had no aunts and uncles by circumstance, but with my husband, because there were so many, it was almost like he had none either. It wasn’t the fault of the aunts and uncles — with several children of their own how could they have special relationships with 90+ nieces and nephews? My goodness, how could you even remember their names?? I have 7 nieces and nephews on my side and 5 on my husband’s (so far), and it’s a struggle for me to even tell you what grade they’re all in. I guess my point is that having not grown up with an extended family, I always envied those who had aunts, uncles and/or cousins they were close to. But as my husband’s family shows, it’s not a given when you have a huge extended family either. I guess that’s why I have always tried especially hard to have a special relationship with my nieces and nephews, and how much I love to watch my kids play with their cousins. People need family, whether they’re biologically related or created in other ways, and a special relationship with an aunt, a niece, a cousin, whoever, is certainly a blessing.
Ever since Labor Day weekend I’ve been in a bit of a funk and I’ve diagnosed myself with a big case of the “end-of-summer blues.” I think beautiful 72 degree, blue sky, slight breeze, sunshiney days make it worse because I feel all this pressure to take advantage of them because I know these days are numbered. I feel like if I don’t have this super-fantastic way to spend the day, it’s a waste, or worse, when I have to spend these picture-perfect days inside, I feel really resentful, like I’m being taunted. What’s worse is that the leaves are changing color, making the beauty of these brilliant red, orange and yellow hues against the blue sky kissed by the golden sun even more bittersweet. It’s hard to enjoy this splendor 100% when you know the leaves are putting on this show because they’re dying and it won’t be long until the rainbow colors of nature are replaced by six months of brown and gray. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in Northeast Ohio and I love the seasons. It’s just the older I get, the more I realize how fast time goes. The transition of summer into fall reminds me too much of how I’m also entering the fall of my own life and there’s no way I can go back to its summer.
On Saturday, my husband and I had a day without the kids, so we took a spur-of-the-moment day trip to Yellow Springs, Ohio (about 3 hours from Akron, near Dayton). Yellow Springs is a funky college town. The biking trails are paved, scenic, and pretty much go on forever. We took the 19-mile roundtrip route to Xenia. I was fighting a cold and not in the best condition for a long-ish bike ride, so for me the trail seemed slightly uphill both ways. In fact, for most of the bike ride I was going “pedal, pedal, pedal, coast … pedal, pedal, coast … pedal, coast.” After a drink al fresco at a place called “Peaches”, I was better able to handle a hike through nearby Glen Helen Nature Preserve, where you passed a couple waterfalls and the “Yellow Springs” after which the town is named. If we would’ve had an earlier start on the day, we could have visited a couple more of the area parks, which promised scenery galore. As it was, we were just able to have dinner at Ye Olde Trail Tavern (billed as the second oldest tavern in Ohio — the food wasn’t great, but it made up for it with atmosphere) before calling it a day and hitting the road back home. Too bad, it would’ve been fun to stay the night and do more exploring on Sunday!
There is something almost magical about a field of sunflowers … especially when one pops out from the middle of nowhere, like when you’re traveling south on Rt. 68 heading to Yellow Springs. It was a feeling you knew was shared when, driving by as the sun was setting, you saw couples, friends and families all walking in amazement and with delight through this forest of flowers — most taller than they were – trying to capture the moment in a photo, but knowing they never really could.