4.30.2010

Warning: Watch Out For Flying Pizzas

Multiple cars and SUVs were loaded with kindergartners bubbling over with excitement and enthusiastic energy as we headed out for our first (and last) field trip this morning. I drove Annelise, her sweet teacher and four lively boys.
Approximately five minutes after loading up we reached our destination:
21 little ants, er...I mean children were soon settled in their banquet room to anxiously await all. the. pizza. fun.
I was under what I soon realized was a misguided impression that there would be an educational demonstration, tour or at least brief bullet points on pizza or Italy or family owned businesses or something.
My expectations were obviously way too high.
Each student was given a plate with a flour coated dough ball and told to start kneading it. So they did.
After pressing, punching, shaping, and pinching (the dough, not each other) it was time to fly their pizza.
Oh yes, they did.
Annelise loved this part. A lot.
Until she socked herself in her eye. Oops!
On one fling she overshot a bit and her dough landed on the floor. Isn't that so hygienic and tasty?
The pizza guy then talked about how they throw dough at each other in the kitchen when they get bored. Isn't that so hygienic and tasty too? He then chose one student to *catch* the dough when he, um... let it rip.
Well, before you could say Mambo Italiano, all the boys and girls were jockeying for their turn.
Um, pizza dude, that's really not such a good idea. It was like a horde of single bridesmaids jostling to catch a bridal bouquet. Thankfully no one was harmed, except the dough.
They quickly settled back in their places and started to add cheese and pepperoni to their creations. It was probably a good call not to give them tomato sauce, yet their pizzas looked fairly pitiful without it. We then had to help them get their unbaked pies into boxes (which was like peeling wallpaper, these kindergartners were not so gentle with the dough) so they could be taken home four hours later and baked*.
The *field trip* wrapped up with freshly baked pizzas and pink lemonade for all the boys and girls, which was of course, a crowd favorite.
Now, not to sound like Nellie Nitpicker, but I was left feeling a little disappointed by the whole experience. Like, what was the point anyway? Make your own pizza? Cool, but we did that last week. Eat pizza? Yeah, did that too. I think they could have let the boys and girls at least walk through the kitchen, see how things work back there, see the pizza ovens,Check Spelling get a behind the scenes look at how a restaurant works, etc.
I am Nellie Nitpicker aren't I?
Oh well, Annelise had a blast either way, so I guess my expectation letdown doesn't matter.
*Two guesses, and the first one doesn't count: do you think I'm going to bake (and let her eat) her oops-it-fell-on-the-nasty-floor-and-was-manhandled-by-numerous-hands-cheese-pepperoni-no-sauce-pie?
Dean Martin is rolling in his grave I'm sure.

4.29.2010

Two Out of Three (so far) Isn't Too Shabby

(I first typed ain't in my title, you know, for a more colorful language effect, but I just couldn't go through with it.)

Remember the other day when I proclaimed how I was trying to be more purposeful/intentional with my mornings, and hopefully therefore my entire days? Well, I stumbled a little right out of the gate. In the spirit of full disclosure I will tell you I spent most of Wednesday finishing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (#5), mourning the ending (I was not prepared for THAT, *sob*), reconciling my feelings about Harry and his friends, their future, taking a deep cleansing breath and diving into HP #6 (the Half Blood Prince).

Aren't you proud of me?

I tried to talk to Scott about everything that has happened to Harry and his friends and explain my surprise realization of how attached I have become to HP and crew (and the fact JK Rowling made me cry). He was trying to be a good sport, but he shut me down pretty quickly and said he wanted to watch the movies (from #4 on). As fate would have it, Netflix had sent HP and the Goblet of Fire so we decided to watch it after bible class and bedtime for A. last night. I even popped popcorn! (Well, the microwave did). Annelise, of course, had her popcorn radar out and came downstairs asking, "What smells like popcorn?" 820 times and we ignored her queries and told her to scoot on back to bed. As I was munching I kept thinking, "Man, this is good for 95% fat-free kettle corn! Why are my fingers getting so greasy? ", but I kept on smacking. Turns out it was not the fat-free version. Oh well, it was good.

Not even halfway through the movie Scott started remembering that he had watched HPATGOF on PPV back in the day (back when I scoffed at all the HP obsessed fans and all the HP brouhaha), so since it was getting late (we are such party poopers) he said I could finish watching it at my leisure. He did promise to join me for HPATOOTP when it arrives from Netflix.

Anyway, thank goodness the Lord's mercies are new every morning and I took advantage...

(No, it's not just a re-posting of Tuesday's photo even though I know it looks eerily similar. Today I wore pink.)

Later, after I rinsed some of the sweat off, and started making Annelise's breakfast (scrambled egg & assorted sides again, can I get a HOLLA?), Annelise busied herself drawing something. When I was cleaning up she sneaked her little mailbox onto the counter with *mail* for me. Can you tell that's us? I want to remember moments and pictures like this when, probably not too far in the distant future, she is rolling her eyes and embarrassed by my very being.

After a quick blow dry of my sweaty hair edges, a spritz or two of Bath & Body Works Sea Island Cotton and throwing on a jacket over my tank, I was ready to take A. to school and hit HEB. Early-ish morning is the best time to shop our closest HEB, otherwise it's packed and hair-pulling worthy. I love HEB's produce and brand selection, things are usually easy to find--there is logic to their shelf stocking, and I can usually find everything we need (except for turkey pepperoni, what's up HEB?) Everything was fine and dandy and I was heading to the check out when another cashier popped over to *help* me unload my cart.

I found myself clenching not only the cart handle but some body parts too.

Soon my cart was empty and all of my groceries were in a hodge podge pile on the conveyor belt like my cart had vomited. There was no organized grouping of produce, dairy, meat, pantry items, etc.

I somehow managed to thank her between my clenched teeth and tried to block the experience from my mind.

Things got worse when my bagger applied absolutely no logic or reason to his bagging duties. Please, please, utilize the strength and capacity of my canvas bags (and I'm begging), don't stuff two bags of Sun Chips, one bag of granola and (my new favorite) whole wheat sandwich thins (have y'all tried these? they are round and less bread-y--perfect for sandwiches), call it done and place everything else in 15 separate plastic bags.

Cue more clenching.

And my passive aggressive singing (in my head) of Supertramp's Logical Song.

Now I guess I better scurry off to make my afternoon a little more intentional too. Or at least shower. Stay tuned...Annelise and her Kindergarten posse have their first field trip tomorrow to Mario's Flying Pizza and I am one of the drivers.

I predict more clenching.

4.27.2010

More Intentional Mornings

My effort to make my mornings more intentional got off to a wee bit of a rocky start today.
Instead of lacing up my running shoes this morning when my alarm went off like I had planned, I talked myself into settling back into bed with Harry Potter #5, a cat and my coffee beside me. I could (should) have done my bible study lesson, but Harry's pull was way too strong.
After a quick shower and the tossing on of some clothes (go-to black shirt and bermudas), Annelise said, "Wow, you look good this morning!" I guess she has grown tired of my unshowered, t-shirt I slept in, same jeans all week regular morning look.
I then multi-tasked the making of a hot (!!) breakfast, lunch and snack, while these guys were staring at me from their respective perches. It's time for these freaky Grow Pets to find a new home. They have been living, growing and shrinking on our kitchen counter since Easter.
Annelise then exclaimed, "You scrambled me an egg?!?!?" and then proceeded to gobble it up in between ear to ear grins. She is, after all, a simple girl, with simple pleasures. They are having achievement testing the next few days at her school (I don't think the Kindergartners are doing that, but they are having reading readiness type testing, so a note came home yesterday encouraging healthy breakfasts, good night's sleep, etc., hence the egg.)
Soon it was time to make our way to school.
Thankfully, we have a short drive which is usually filled with a little chit chat and a morning prayer.
After a quick hug and smooch while leaning over the seat, my little girl dashed into school.
I trudged back home (well, my car did).
Made the bed, started some laundry and then cleaned up the breakfast detritus. Oh, by the way, I am completely obsessed with these lime striped dishrags I picked up at TJ Maxx a while back (see it peeking in over there on the left?). One side is the soft absorbent microfiber and the other is a nylon scrubby material. How did I survive before them?
Then I did something kind of backwards. Even though I had already showered (but not my hair, that would have been a deal breaker) and was dressed, the slight breeze and slightly cooler temperature whispered in my ear, "You really, really, really should go for a run. How else are you going to atone for the Double Stuf Oreo Fest 2010?"
Granted, 3 miles isn't much of an atonement, but at least it's a start.
I'll keep you posted on my more intentional mornings (and hopefully even days). I already feel better.
Duh.
Do you struggle with being more intentional or purposeful with your mornings (or days)? What works for you?

4.26.2010

Let's Play Ball (and while you're at it cross this off my list)

We made our way downtown Friday at the crack of early evening to take in our first (and very likely my last) Astros game of the season.
My two people were beyond excited. The bigger one was eager to see the game and get his free Astros blanket (he goes a bit nuts for promotions) and the little one was eager to eat copious amounts of overpriced junk food.
I was mourning my decision to leave my book behind (evenings like this made me wish I had a Kindle so I could read a little more discreetly and hopefully not get popcorn thrown at me for poor sportsmanship).
Since we had to get that ridiculous free blanket (three, actually) Scott insisted we get there as close to when those ballpark doors opened. We've had a few close calls over the years when someone, not naming any names but she tends to drag her flip flops when it comes to baseball and wishes she could bring her books along, caused her husband to miss out on free junk merchandise. He still may be nursing a grudge or two.
After receiving our blankets (and hearing someone let out a sigh of relief), we had plenty of time to kill before the game started to browse the gift shop and get something to eat.
This is probably the closest Scott will ever get to this retro jersey since it's priced at the rock bottom clearance special of $250. Ahem.
We paused for a family photo near left field.Annelise settled in with her hot dog and was already eyeing the cotton candy and snow cones being hawked around us. We managed to avoid those, but did get popcorn later. Well, about 15 minutes after the hotdog, and the game had barely started at that point. Scott decided on pizza and I went for the culinary delight otherwise known as chili cheese fries.
Our seats were in the middle of the row, where the view was good, but I hate feeling trapped and having to crawl over people (and their beer) when I need to get out. The good news is, the Astros ended up winning (this is rare so far this season) and we left a little early. The bad news is that Annelise left her baseball cap on the toilet paper thingie and while she was washing her hands, someone snagged it. She was crushed, and then angry, and then tearful, that someone did that (and upset she had left it in the first place). The other bad news is that by leaving in the 8th inning we missed the fireworks show, which is always a hit, but we forgot.
Oh well, at least we have our blankies.

4.23.2010

Truth

I can't help it. Every time I talk, think, or type about truth I instantly hear Jack Nicholson in my head angrily screaming, "Truth? You want the TRUTH? You can't HANDLE the truth!"

And then I see Tom Cruise doing his fake emotional thing (he really only has two acting ranges, angry with the hands (like angry Jazz Hands) and fake crying with bottled tears threatening to slip from his lids) and Demi Moore back when she looked like herself.

But back to me.

I have not done a planned grocery shopping trip in, oh, maybe two weeks.

That is not to say I haven't popped in to buy essentials like Double Stuf (what's with the cutesy--but wrong--spelling of double stuffed?) Oreos (golden--they are like slices of heaven and regular) and odds and ends like bread, eggs, sandwich meat, milk, and maybe a fruit or vegetable here or there.

Therefore, I haven't cooked a real meal, in, oh, what might be just this side of forever.

We have been existing on cereal, sandwiches, take-out or eating out.

I'm somehow scraping together lunches for Annelise.

I have not done any form of exercise in over a week.

I am in the midst of some sort of downward spiral of binging on sweets (see above Double Stuf Oreo confession and emergency candy purchased at CVS) .

It's making me lethargic and cranky, yet I can't seem to stop. Oh, and puffy, let's not forget puffy.

I've done my bible study lesson each morning this week, yet I feel like it's just something I'm crossing off my list. Maybe that's better than not doing anything at all, but I wish I felt it more.

Yeah, it's a state of my heart.

I feel like I'm failing my family. And my friends.

I know I'm not trying very hard.

I'm selfish.

I haven't taken very many pictures lately, not even documenting the random daily stuff. That makes me sad.

I woke up this morning and stepped in cat poo (at least on my flip-flop).

Before I cleaned it up (in my defense, I covered it with a paper towel and was going to pick it up right after I made Annelise's breakfast and lunch. I know, either way, ewww.) Sadie, our dog, ate it.

Animals are gross.

Annelise is scared to play outside lately after two sightings of this certain poisonous breed of caterpillar.

Scott planted tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers and sunflowers in our little garden last weekend while I was at the Ladies' Retreat.

I obsess about apostrophe usage. It bothers me when people misuse or totally abandon its usage in contractions or to show possession. Shouldn't it be Ladies' Retreat since it's the retreat for the ladies?

I'm finally on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (#5).

Have you heard of Vampire Weekend? (It's a band and I'm currently infatuated with them.)

I think I'm going to have to break up with glee. I know. Believe me, I don't want to, but I think they are really pushing the acceptable envelope of hanky-panky and suggestive behavior (both teenage and adult) and it's really bothering me.

But then that would mean I'd probably have to break up with Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, and a few others too.

Not that I'm in any way perfect (hello, have you met me?), but sometimes it hits me over the head that some of the things I watch on TV and listen to on my iPod are really not appropriate. Yet, of course, I enjoy them, and therefore don't want to give them up.

Human behavior stinks sometimes.

And that's the truth.

4.21.2010

Semi-Wordless Wednesday: Viva Italia!




There's a local Italian restaurant that is not part of the corporate chain gain, it's more of a mom and pop organization. Nothing fancy but still tasty Italian food at reasonable prices. We're fans.

Annelise is too, ever since the last time we visited and the sweet waitress brought her a coloring book (not just a page), blank paper and Crayola twistables. Plus there's the pink lemonade and Make Your Own Pizza Night for the kidlets (Tuesday, if you're interested).

We planned to go last week but our plans we're derailed when Annelise had to go visit the principal, and not just in the hi, how're you doing kind of way. Apparently she was running in the cafeteria and continued to talk after being told to stop, so she and another hoodlum had to go talk to the principal and sit in isolation during lunch the next day. Now, to me, I agree this seems a little extreme because it's not like she was staging a food fight or kindergarten mutiny or anything, but I think they (the lunchroom staff) were trying to make an impression. I'm okay with that. My poor hoodlum was upset the rest of the afternoon, sat out during recess (her choice), burst into tears upon entering the car and cried almost until Scott got home.

I think she got the message.

Anyway, we didn't want to reward her hoodlum-ness with make your own pizza night, so we waited until this week.

Her clothespin stayed on green (two days in a row!) and so we celebrated.

Small victories, people.

4.20.2010

SPT: Gimme a Break

(and break me off a piece of that KitKat bar too)

This afternoon, after a stressful day in Kindergarten for the hip-high crowd and refrigerator angst for me (thankfully all is well now, $300 later of course) we took a short literary break this afternoon.

With me on the recliner and Annelise sprawled on the beanbag that mysteriously appeared downstairs moments after I suggested she grab a few books and get comfy, we each escaped into our books.

Fancy Nancy for her (along with a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, a Skechers comic and a couple others) and Harry Potter for me (I'm nearing the end of #4, HP and the Goblet of Fire, and, may I say, I am positively bewitched by Harry and his friends).
It was a delightful little break.
Even without a KitKat bar.
Be sure to visit Lelly's blog to see how others take their breaks.

4.19.2010

A Little Hodge with a Dash of Podge

I'm not quite sure how I've missed so many days of blogging but it might have a little something to do with being away at a Ladies' Retreat over the weekend. It was nice to get away and spend some time with friends laughing, eating, singing, praying and studying God's word. Oh, and a little more laughing and eating too. This was the second year we've stayed at a delightful lodge about 45 minutes out into the country. There are comfy guest rooms, a large dining room and a cozy great room that is decorated within an inch of its coordinated life.
We had some time to reflect and write in our journals and the overstuffed chair in the far corner beside two huge windows overlooking the pond and peaceful scenery was the perfect spot for me. I had brought Harry (still working my way through #4, have you seen how huge it is?) with me and wanted to creep back over there later to escape into the adventures at Hogwarts, but I never did.
Things finished up Sunday morning with a devotional and communion, then it was back to reality. On the drive home I stopped like a stalker and took a picture of this:
Believe it or not, this law office was my grandparent's house many years and another town ago. My mom grew up in this house and Scott and I even lived in it for a few years after we got married, before we built our home. We sold it to a house mover who then sold it to someone who moved it to this teeny tiny town (where our Ladies' Retreat happened to be). Does that make a hill of beans worth of sense? It made me so happy to drive by it and visit it (at least from a distance) and know that it is still being used.
I'm thankful I was all rested up after the retreat, because bright and early this morning I had to help Annelise's class with their art project for the upcoming school auction. We decided to make and decorate a family set (mom, dad and child) of aprons that could be bid on as a group. One of the mom's graciously offered to sew the aprons (yay!!) and then two other moms came to help me this morning with the painting. We tried to do it in an organized way and thankfully no paint disasters occurred. Since they had to paint two different hand prints, then a thumbprint and then write their names once the paint dried, it basically took all morning.
Don't laugh, but somehow I ended up with the honor of turning their thumbprints into butterflies or caterpillars. See?
Whaddya think?
Again, I must bless her Kindergarten teacher's heart. I was only helping with this for about three hours, yet came home exhausted and in dire need of coffee and chocolate. Day in and day out with a room of five and six year olds, yikes!
I sure hope people bid on them!

Well, there's my latest hodge with a side of podge. What's new with you?

4.14.2010

Bullet Points, Get Your Fresh Bullet Points Here

Ever have one of those days when your brain has a lot to say, or at least thinks it does, yet it does not seem to have the cognitive where-with-all to say this abundance of thought in an organized, cohesive and highly entertaining way?

Yeah. That.

Fasten your seat belt, it's going to be a bumpy night. (man, I love Bette Davis)

*I ran this morning for the first time since the race on Sunday. It felt surprisingly good. This was probably a combination of a distance of only 3 miles instead of 13.1 and a cool breeze instead of a sauna, but still, it was a good run.

*Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen can be a highly motivating running song.

*I do need some new running tunes to add to my play lists though. Any faves to share?

*You know I am a fan of running skirts, but I'm also a fan of Nike tempo track shorts. They are cool, breezy and quite comfy. I'm a little more thigh-paranoid when I wear them (also self-conscious of the right side muffin-top--did you know I'm uneven?--since they hit more on the hip), but love them anyway (the shorts, I still need to learn to love my thighs). I only have one pair, basic black, but have promised myself a new pair--with accent color--soon.

*I'm experiencing a bit of an annoying tingly numbing sensation on my right foot/toes when I run. I don't think my laces are too tight, but my shoes are still new, so that might be part of it.

*Near the end of the race Sunday I noticed I had developed sausage fingers, which pretty much freaked me out since it's never happened before. I imagined myself passing out and lying by the side of the road and the medical motorcycles having to come and get me. Later that day things returned to normal, so I'm not sure what it was. Dehydration? Sodium out of whack?

*I wish I was more low-maintenance because all the running/exercise combined with higher temps which leads to sweatier, mangier hair faster which requires more frequent shampoos and therefore more blow-drying and flat-ironing, which leads to more sweating. It's a vicious cycle. It makes me cranky.

*Last night was just filled to overflowing with TV goodness (I realize how lame this might sound). I kept checking the DVR to make sure everything was set to record and there wouldn't be any DVR timer crisis (again, so lame, but true).

*Glee is back. That is all.

*Kate Gosselin REALLY needs to be kicked off DWTS. Why is she STILL there? Why was she even there in the first place? Well, exploitation of course. Do viewers feel really sympathy for her and keep voting for her? People, please! It's a freak show.

*I don't know if anyone noticed the absence of my LOST thoughts recently, or if anyone cares (don't all respond at once, it might crash the system), but lately I haven't been feeling the LOST recap mojo. I think I'm in a period of early mourning or something. I've been savoring each episode though and soaking up each moment of perfect LOST television. And wanting to reach through the screen to give Hurley and Desmond (DESMOND!!) big ol' bear hugs.

*It's official, I am hooked, okay, obsessed with playing Words With Friends on my iPhone. It's still new to me, and I'm slowly learning the strategies, but it's loads of fun if you like Scrabble. (I'm also a fan of run-on sentences, commas and the word and.) Are you playing too? Wanna play a game with me? I'm Holly68.

Hmm...looks like that's all I've got for now, which as it turns out is not that much after all.

Happy Wednesday, folks!

4.12.2010

AHCHM Race Recap: Suck It Up, Cupcake!

The moment of truth had finally arrived. After having a loose-y goose-y interpretation of what proper training involves these last several weeks, it was time for my feet to do their thing.
This was my second time to run Angie's Half Crazy, and I'm happy to report they got that pesky mileage problem fixed. She and her crew put on a stellar event (they always do) with lots of fun details and great support. This year's event had a military theme and portions of the proceeds from the race were to benefit not only a cancer charity but also military families.
I knew I was going to have fun when I saw the tag line to this year's race:Last year, members of my running group participated in a relay across Texas Independence Trail, which is basically like half of Texas. It was a two-day thing where they ran night and day in shifts. No, I didn't do it, but wish I did. Maybe. Anyway, whenever someone would whine or moan along the course Angie's husband, Frank, would run by and tell them to, "Suck it up, cupcake!" Which, to me, is perfectly hilarious and so useful in many situations. I love that. It was also printed on the bottom of the socks that came in the race goodie bag (along with a cool tech finisher shirt and coffee mug).

After waiting in what was possibly the longest port-o-potty line ever, and mooching some toilet paper from the highly prepared lady behind me just in case (she spared a square), I made my way over to the corrals. Where I killed time while waiting for our start (I was in the second to the last corral, basically the turtles) by snapping some pictures.

Obviously I was somewhat undecided between smiling or saying something and ended up with this. Nice. Let me also take this moment to sing the praises of my new Wonder Girl tank from Skirt Sports. LOVE it! It has a racerback style, yet it's not too low cut or hoochie in the front, the bottom half is a mesh material for air flow (sweat flow?) and there is a hidden pocket for a Gu or cash or whatever. I know they are a bit pricey (not too much more than Nike though), but very well made and comfy. I got mine (along with a hot pink one) on super sale when they were discontinuing certain colors, I think it was almost half off.
I also wore one of my trusty running skirts. Seriously, they will change your life. Even when you are sweating like an overweight construction worker in the middle of July, you will still feel cool, feminine and twirly. They are magical.
Here's Angie atop a fire truck's cherry picker (she and her hubs are also volunteer firefighters) signaling the start of the race. Sweet.
The morning started out cool, which was wonderful. I realize now I got caught up in the race and started out a little too fast (for me) which, while fun, came back to bite me on the back of my running skirt a few miles down the road.
I kept up with my intervals pretty well and stayed consistent for the first, oh, maybe 6 miles. Between miles 7 and 8 my body and mind started having, um, discussions. By this time, even though it was morning, the sun was out and the temps were rising. It was HOT, my feet were starting to protest their commitment to this whole thing, it was HOT, my run:walk intervals began to reverse themselves, and did I mention it was HOT?
I was so not sucking up the cupcake.
Between miles 10 and 11 I really just wanted to go lie down with these guys:
Those are Longhorn cattle who, for some unknown reason, reside on NASA property as part of their agricultural division (???). They looked so peaceful relaxing in the grass, if I wasn't afraid they'd impale me with their horns--and if I didn't have that stupid race to finish--I might have joined them.
But I journeyed on.
From mile 10.5 on I resigned myself to the fact that you really can't train for three or four weeks (after not running consistently for a year), take the next three weeks before the race off and consume large quantities of sugar and expect to run your best race.
Pity.
I also decided to forget about my run:walk intervals (because I wasn't really fooling anyone anyway), finish the race walking, enjoy the pretty day, the songs on my iPod and work on my tan.
I still got my medal, it just took me a little longer.
While not my best performance, and I'm still bitter about the heat, this race served as a spark to get me back into running. To remind me that I do in fact love running (even though I whine sometimes), that training can not be skipped, and that I am capable of doing hard things. It also reminds me to be thankful for the ability to run and the fact that my body still shows up and participates even when I don't always take the best care of it.

Like, for instance, devouring the post-race hot dog, plain Lays potato chips and Circle K cola like it was the best food ever. At that particular moment, it was.

4.09.2010

Put Me In the Zoo

What do you do when you have an extra day off from school and no plans penciled into your date book?

Well, I guess when you're in Kindergarten you probably don't have a date book.

Movingrightalong.

Since it was a lovely spring day, your mom was feeling human again (thanks to a big swig of Imodium A.D.) and your dad took the day off work, you go to the zoo of course!

And this time you actually go inside. Which is, of course, a bonus.

First things first, you must get a lay of the land, gather your bearings, plot a course of attack. This requires focused concentration. How thrilled are we that she can read now?

Thanks to the popularity of Meerkat Manor (at least in our house, however I've never quite recovered since the death of Flower), we decided to visit the meerkats first.We paused for a family portrait in front of the graceful giraffes. As I was attempting to take a self-portrait--granted it was quite a challenge to get all of us and a giraffe--a passerby offered to take our picture. Instead of trying to explain the concept and philosophy of self-portraits, I handed her my camera and said thank you. Next we paid our respects to the Asian elephants, including the baby of the bunch. Isn't it cute? What looked like a perfect opportunity for a photograph resulted in this:
Obviously stopping for 45 seconds to pose for a picture put a cramp in her zoo animal viewing schedule and so she gave me the Plastic Fantastic Mannequin Wannabe smile. I'm learning I have to capture her when she least expects it, otherwise I get the mannequin pose. Sigh.

Since it was early afternoon, many of the animals were snoozing. Like these leopards.
Which way to the monkeys? Better check the map again...
It's so interesting to see all the variations within one species of animal, each with different physical features suited for its habitat; such a wonderful reminder of God's creation and detailed plan.
Our tummies were growling for some lunch (and not really zoo fare), so we started wrapping it up. We visited most of the animals except for the reptiles and amphibians, which were skipped by mutual consent. Or maybe it was two out of three.

However, we did stop by the flamingos on the way out.
We had just enough time for a train ride around Hermann Park too.
Which was a hit, even though it wasn't on the map.
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