Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Detroit Zoo {Summer Day Trip #1}

While we are loading up the van in just a couple of days and heading out for a two and a half week trip back to the great midwest, we have no plans for our own little family vacation (a la last year's trip to Cincinnati) this summer.  Instead, we hope to make at least two, if not three, fun day trips throughout our state to explore, see some new sights, and spend a little out-of-our-ordinary quality time together.

Our first trip came together at the beginning of this week as we planned today's trip to the Detroit Zoo.  Detroit is about a two hour drive for us, so it's not too far for just a day away.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day - low 80s for the high with blue skies and sunshine - and with our water bottles and lunches packed and sunscreen applied, we arrived at the zoo just after 9:00.

{thus follows your run-of-the-mill zoo day photographs...}

I had heard really good things about the Detroit Zoo, and it did not disappoint!  There's a great variety of animals as well as several interactive experiences for kids.  One of the first things I noticed was the amount of green there!  I was particularly struck by how much grass they had on the property; it seems many of the zoos we've been to recently have a lot of pavement, and while certainly there was ample walking room, it was a really beautifully cultivated habitat there.  That, and the wonderful weather day we had, made this trip especially enjoyable.

Making this kind of trip a bit more budget friendly - I packed our lunches and brought along snacks.  Thankfully, it satisfied!  {Although there was that trip to McD's for ice cream on our way home. :) }

Reed, in particular, loved today.  He was super attentive with the map, finding the animals and observing them, too.  About halfway through the day, he declared he is going to be a zookeeper when he grows up.  His favorite from today was the polar bear, and then walking down the "Arctic Path" to view the polar bears and seals from down below.

This here is the only angle we got of the polar bear.  He's peeing.  That'd probably be why that was Reed's favorite...totally his humor.

I was most looking forward to seeing the bears - they have black, brown, and grizzly, along with the polar and red panda.  I was really excited to see that most of the animals were spot-able in their areas; however, once we reached the bears, it seemed most of them were nowhere to be found.  Special thanks to the brown bear for lounging around for us to see!

One of the funnest, and most surprising, parts of the zoo is the Australian Outback Adventure.  It's a completely fenced in area full of kangaroos and wallabys (no baby joeys this year) and the kicker?  Zoo visitors get to walk right through the middle of it!  Meaning, if a kangaroo wanted to say hi, he can hop right up to you on the path and give ya a hardy slap on the back!  Absolutely no barrier between the animals and the sidewalk we were walking on.  On our walk through, we saw what seemed like dozens of Australian natives lounging in the sun.  Only a few were up and hopping, but none close enough to say hello.  It was very, very cool.

My most favorite photo from the day.  

They have pet rocks, too!

The Penguinarium was cool, as was the reptile house (so say the boys) and the wolf exhibit.

The afternoon sun started to get warm and while we did opt out of just a couple of the bigger displays, we were very satisfied with everything we did get to see.  We left mid-afternoon and headed home.  I think our kids have been to more zoos in their lifetime than I have in mine - it may be time to broaden our adventure-seeking horizons! - but the Detroit Zoo is top notch and I'd definitely recommend it!


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ruby at 20 Months

Reading the Belly Button Book (we own it, but she loves it so much she refused to leave the library without checking out their copy, too)

Eating yogurt with a spoon (it's the one food item right now that she insists on doing herself with the spoon)

Drinking apple juice

Playing with her kitchen

Wearing all the size 5 shoes

Crafting with paper and pencil, and sometimes the wall, too

Clearly, we are quickly approaching TWO!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Good Morning & Good Night

When Brad's gone, I try to text him pictures as often as I think of it.  It keeps him connected to the kids and what's happening here at home while he's away.  When he was gone in February, I was sure to send him his daily "Rubygram" amongst all the other texts I sent.  The theme was kind of fun (and who am I kidding?  I love a good theme!) so I opted for one again this last week.  If I sent nothing else, I was sure to send him daily "Good morning, Daddy!" and "Good night, Daddy!" photos.

Like this.

(I crawled into bed and realized I'd forgotten.  So he got this.)

Simple and fun way for Brad to know that we're thinking about him and missing him crazy bad.

Technology is rad.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Without Dad

Brad returned home late last night after being gone since last Sunday (he spent the week in Chicago on a short-term mission trip with our youth group).  This is the third time this calendar year that he has left us here, alone, for more than just a couple days.  So I don't know if it's been the frequency of his absence or if things just finally clicked with me, but this was, by far, the best week we've had under these circumstances.

It's hard to be the single parent.  In the past, I've tried to arrange for some kind of help (i.e. the grandparents) to plan a visit that coincides with Brad's trips.  (Coincidentally, I didn't have any visitors the last two times Brad was gone either.)  But while having the extra hands to manage all the littles is certainly a gift, when it comes right down to it, it's still not the same as having my partner here, right beside me, to help love and manage and discipline and play with our babies.

The success we had, I think, is due in large part to my just settling down a bit a lot and relaxing.  I had really low expectations for everything last week - what I would get accomplished as well as the amount of screen time I would allow the boys to have.  Hey, something's gotta give when I'm going solo! We tried to get outside every morning to do something - ride bikes, go to a park, that sort of thing - before we settled in after lunch for naps and video games.  

But also, and so much more importantly, we had so many people who were willing to take care of us throughout the week.  So many friends volunteered to play with us and feed us and allow me time to take a couple breaks.  Friends that stepped into Brad's gap and were our village.  Often times it's difficult for me to say "yes" - to accept the help - and I don't know why.  Perhaps I have some deranged SuperMom complex.  But this time I said "yes" - over and over and over again!  So many offers and so much fun!  It made the biggest difference. Truly.

A bit from our week without Dad...  

Peacefully playing all together!

Park play with friends from school.

Our Culver's was celebrating their two year anniversary with $1 daily specials all week long.  We had plans to go three times to take advantage (aw yeah!) but ended up just going twice.  We go big when Brad's away. 

Baby's first shake!

Suppers are the worst.  All the time, not just when Brad's gone (hence where Culver's steps in).  I took advantage of the kids' propensity to snack and decided on a snack supper - popcorn, cheese and crackers and apples.  Yum!

Wednesday we took a field trip to Toys R Us to take advantage of their buy-a-backpack-get-a-lunch-tote-free deal.  Quite the decisions to be made.

Ruby decided she needed this lunch box.
Barbie.  So chic.
Somehow we got out of the store without it.

Some folks from church invited us for dinner, complete with lawn mower riding...

...and trampoline jumping.

A beautiful morning to be outside!

The boys had their door closed for the longest time, and it was so quiet and peaceful!  I was relishing in it...and then, like all moms, decided it was just too quiet for too long.  But all was well.  Just a little Pokemon card fun they didn't want their little sister getting in the middle of.

See?  What'd I tell you about supper?

Killing time at Target.
We found some plush toys from the movie Inside Out and this was Ruby's expression as I handed her "Joy".  Nailed it.

So good.  So necessary.

When they all play together - awesomesauce.

Yet another friend met up with us at a park and brought us dinner from Subway.  Brought all four of us dinner from Subway.  The generosity this week just floored me.

Friends called spontaneously on Friday night, asking if we'd like to take an after dinner walk through Dow Gardens.  Yes, we do!

We dog-sat yesterday for our neighbor's dog.  She likes him a lot.

Brad got home, finally, at about 10:00 last night.

This is how we feel about that.