Thursday, April 30, 2020

Z is for Zoo

My husband is not a huge fan of zoos, but he will humor me and go on occasion (when you have kids, you kind of have to go to zoos, don't you?). 

It's not a long list. We've been to the Santa Barbara Zoo (built on a hill above the ocean and the best smelling zoo you'll ever go to), Tulsa Zoo, Omaha's Henry Doorly zoo (amazing gorilla exhibit), Oklahoma City Zoo (in the dead of winter, while our son was interviewing for medical school), the Zoo at Grassmere Park in Nashville (one of the prettiest, with gorgeous bamboo-lined paths), Swope Park Zoo in Kansas City (also went there on my first grade field trip), and the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri. 

Dickerson Park Zoo isn't very big at 55 acres (most bigger zoos are at least 100 acres). but it's a nice little zoo that was started in 1923. It was expanded in the 1930s by the Works Progress Adminstration (my dad remembers going there as a little kid), but little was done to it after that until the late 1980s, and over the next 20 years, the zoo was improved to the little gem it is now. It has a terrific river otter exhibit in the North American area. They also have a raptor rehabilitation program where you might see an injured bald eagle that is undergoing treatment before being released.

In 1984, the Halloween Spooktacular was launched. It was begun in an effort to get more people to the zoo during the slower fall season and held in the days leading up to Halloween. Decorations were set up throughout the grounds, the zoo stayed open into the evening, and kids could come to the zoo in costume and trick or treat.

We took our kids when my daughter was around 3 and my son around 7. The only real downside to the evening was that the animal enclosures weren't lighted, being as visiting a zoo is ordinarily a day time activity, and it was difficult to see the animals.

The exception was the giraffe house. During the day, the giraffes are outside, but in the evening (and in cold weather), they go inside their (very tall) house, and you can go inside and see them. What makes this even better is that the giraffes are really quite close to you when you're inside the house.

The four of us were watching the giraffes when one of them came to the edge of his enclosure and stretched his neck as far as he could to look at my husband. They stood there, man and giraffe, each marveling at the other. My husband would tip his head to the right, and the giraffe would mirror him. He'd tip it the other way, and the giraffe would do the same thing. It was a cute moment.

"I've never been this close to a giraffe before," my husband said, eyes still locked on the giraffe's. The words were no more out of his mouth when the giraffe quite suddenly went, "ACHOOOOOOOOOOO!" directly into my husband's face.

As we howled with laughter, my husband slowly turned towards us. His glasses were utterly and completely coated with a film of giraffe snot.

It was the best zoo visit EVER!

Zoo Animals :: Dickerson Park Zoo - Clip Art Library
One of Dickerson Park's giraffes. A lot of velocity can be
created from the lungs all the way up that neck and out the nose.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Y is for Y Things

Some things about things that start with "Y":

My favorite color is yellow. I never wear it, because it makes my skin look like cheese, but my living room and family room are both painted yellow. It's sunshiny and it makes me happy.

I hate the term "YOLO," but it's true.

I buy yeast by the pound, but when I realized I was running low on it, it was unfortunate timing that it was right as the toilet paper, hand sanitizer and clorox wipe hoarders were clearing the store shelves, and they got the yeast, too. After the restaurants had to close, several of them sold their grocery deliveries that they still received, and I scored a one pound bag of yeast and a 25 pound bag of flour for $10. 

The Try Guys are one of the best things on YouTube. Watch this episode, where they each try to bake a cake with no recipe.

Yams are yams and sweet potatoes are sweet potatoes, and I don't like either of them.

I like to think of yogurt as healthy pudding. 

I have always been a big fan of The Flintstones and of Seinfeld. I have used the phrase "yada yada yada" before, but I've never once said "yabba dabba doo". Until now, I guess.

The Flintstones' Is Coming to MeTV — Watch Fred's Announcement ...

What I know about poker would fit on the head of a pin, but thanks to my many years of playing Yahtzee as a kid, I at least know what beats what.

This is a yak, made by the sweetest, happiest boy I think I ever had in 18 years as a pre-kindergarten teacher. It never fails to make me smile.

I have never mowed a yard in my life. 

Yikes, y'all! One more letter, and the A to Z Challenge will be over for another year!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

X is for X-code

FEMA developed a marking system for use by search and rescue organizations when there is a disaster. It was first widely used after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has continued to be a standard for disasters since. 

On May 22, 2011, the "X" system was used in the aftermath of the Joplin tornado.

A  (usually) red diagonal line is spray painted outside the doorway of a structure (if there's enough structure for a line - sometimes, they have to be creative about this step) as the search and rescue team enters the building to search it. When they exit, they make a second diagonal line to form an "X" and add the date and time to the top quadrant, any hazards to the right quadrant, and the number of bodies found inside (two numbers with a slash between them designates that the count includes dead bodies). In the left quadrant is shorthand for the rescue squad doing the search. Vehicles are also searched and marked with an "X."

Creativity at work. The front door is actually lying on the ground just beyond the framed
window that is on the left side of the photo. The "X" is on what was left of an inner wall.
(This was the dance studio that was my daughter's second home for many years.)

Not sure why it was searched twice.

I hope you never have to see these X's in person.

A severe thunderstorm just passed through our area with strong winds, hail, heavy rain, dangerous lightning, and the potential for tornadoes.

Happy spring! 

Monday, April 27, 2020

W is for Wax

W day, w day...wuh... wuh... wuh... weather... wink... winter... winston... winstons taste good like a (pum pum) cigarette should... ooo, candy cigarettes! I haven't had those in--STOP! wuh... wuh... wuh... wicked... wuh... wuh... wuh... watermelon... I really need to pee, but I don't want to get up... wuh... wuh... wuh... weasel... pop goes the weasel... geez, that's a cruel toy for kids... wuh... wuh... wuh... work...water... weight - ugh! don't want to think about that... wuh... wuh... wuh... wax... wax lips... wax bottles with syrupy juice in them... we used to chew the wax when we finished the syrup to get every drop... wuh... wuh... wuh...

Such is the thought process of an A to Z Challenge blogger at 4:00 a.m., desperate for a topic, but it worked:

Many years ago, when I lived in Nashville, I knew a fellow who was a studio musician. He was very tall, probably close to 6'5" - lanky and leggy.

He had twin boys, and around the time I knew him, they were preschool age. 

As is not unusual for preschoolers, one day, the boys wanted to "help" their mom by cleaning the house. Imagine how cute they must have been, pretending to scrub the parquet floor of the entry hall! It also kept them quiet and busy for some time (probably TOO quiet...).

Fast forward to later that same day, when their dad came home from a long day at the studio. After kicking off his shoes in the bedroom, he headed out of his room and across the house in his sock feet. As he crossed the entry hall flooring on his way to the kitchen, his feet went out from under him, and next thing he knew, he was lying flat on his back on the floor.

It seems mother's little helpers had found and used a can of furniture polish to "clean" the parquet floor. It took quite a bit of REAL cleaning to remove all the waxy residue and return their temporary indoor skating rink to an entry hall floor.

Have you ever been coating a pan with cooking spray and, unbeknownst to you until you stepped on it and your foot slid, overshot the pan and gotten some of the cooking spray on the floor? And as you grabbed the edge of the counter to steady yourself, you let out a sigh of relief that you saved yourself from completely wiping out? Whenever I do that (and that's more often than I care to admit), I think about this little story of the furniture wax, and now you will, too!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

V is for Village

It was late afternoon, and they were hopelessly lost, having apparently taken the wrong road when they reached an unexpected detour after exiting the highway, hoping for a short cut to avoid a traffic jam.

"If we had just stayed on the highway, we would have been through that little kerfuffle and been well on our way," the woman chided her husband. 

"But we never would have seen all this brush and this fine gravel road," the man responded. "When was the last time we saw a house, anyway?" he asked, glancing quickly at her before returning his eyes to the narrow, rough roadway.

"Oh, my, it's been nearly an hour or more," his wife answered, looking at her watch. "What a desolate place this is! No wonder there aren't any homes out here! Besides, where on earth would you go for groceries or gasoline? We haven't seen any such thing since we left the highway."

The sun was quickly getting lower and lower in the sky, and they were each, silently, concerned, but neither said a word, not wanting to worry the other.

"Once it gets dusky," the man said, "we should be able to see lights from a house somewhere out here, and we can head towards it and ask for directions."

"That's as good a plan as any," his wife replied, and she scanned the horizon for spots of light in the growing darkness. 

She must have dozed off for bit, because she awoke to the car slowing; she glanced over at her husband and saw him gripping the steering wheel tightly as he braked the car. Looking up, she saw they had entered a small village, no more than a dozen or structures visible against the night sky. 

"Is it abandoned?" the woman asked, but before her husband could answer, a single light came towards them, swinging slightly. As it got closer, they could see a cloaked figure carrying what appeared to be a lantern. Other figures followed, and they surrounded the car as the man brought it to a stop.

The woman opened her mouth to speak, but her husband reached over and squeezed her hand, hushing her, but as the figures loomed over their car, she opened her mouth once again in a silent scream as the doors were wrenched open and she felt herself being dragged out into the darkness.

Friday, April 24, 2020

U is for Under

Because you needed to see this.

In order of appearance:

Nora "I Want Nothing To Do With This" Pearl
Lewis and Finn, together


I has toe fluff

I not fat, I fluffy

I soooo pretty

Look at mah toe beans!

No hatz! No hatz!

Imma outta here.


Thursday, April 23, 2020

T is for Too Much Time On My Hands

I was going to write a post about things I did today for "T," but it was a pretty dull list.

I had a piece of chocolate cake for breakfast.

I took a really long walk to what should be a crowded shopping district, but I was the only one there.

At Branson Landing

I found a wondrously misspelled word on a sign.


I saw a daddy Mallard duck guarding a very hidden mama Mallard duck as she sat on a nest.

Daddy on the left. Mommy tucked under the
grass on the right. Not a pond, just a low
place in a yard down the street after lots of rain.

I got a picture of our 5 itty bitty baby house finches that are in a nest made in the wreath hanging on the front door.

Mama was fussing at me from a tree.

And those were the highlights of my day. Imagine what I left out....

Instead, I decided to make hats for the cats, because when you're under a stay at home order, you find yourself with a lot of time on your hands, and even I have to admit there's a limit to how many episodes of "Friends" I can watch in a week.

I didn't have a pattern for the hats, because I couldn't find any free ones on the interweb, and I wasn't about to pay for one. But winging it is how I've gotten through the A to Z Challenge up to to this point, so why stop now?

I made a tiara for Nora Pearl (I could have stopped at that and called it "T is for Tiara," but I had a lot of yarn and a lot of time).

Princess Nora Pearl

She was not thrilled, but she did tolerate her tiara for about 15 minutes before she shook it off.

I made a beanie for Lewis. I had to put a chin strap on it, because he dodged it when I was trying to size it on him, and I knew he wouldn't leave it on long enough for a picture without one.

Watching me with interest before
I involved him.

I was correct.

Lewis trying to shake off the hat.

Had to be QUICK to get this.

Finn was minding his business, sleeping on the bath mat in a dark, quiet bathroom, when my daughter and I descended on him and made him wear the beanie.

He was the unhappiest model of all, but instead of shaking it off, he simply fell over.

Fell. Over.


Did I waste a ridiculous amount of time doing this?


Was it worth it?

A thousand times yes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

S is for Some Day

Some day

we will go back to work

and to school.

Some day

we will eat in restaurants

and talk

and laugh.

Some day 

we will go to parties

and stores

and sporting events

and concerts.

Some day

we will crawl out of our homes

and blink like moles

as we venture out.

Some day

we will begin a new normal,

but will we ever again feel safe 

and sound?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

R is for Roll Tide

I was living in Nashville and met a girl at my apartment complex swimming pool named Donna, and we became friends. We were very different; she was 7 or 8 years younger than I was (and I was 29), had never gone to college, was from Alabama, and worked for a dentist, but we hung out together at the pool and had a good time. 

By the time fall rolled around, things ended badly for her with the dentist (don't dip your pen in the company inkwell, especially when the inkwell is married), and Donna moved back home to Alabama. She begged me to come down for the Tennessee v. Alabama football game (probably the biggest rivalry in the SEC), because her brother could get us tickets. It wasn't my burning desire to do this, but Southwest Airlines was doing a promotion called "Fun Fares," and a flight from Nashville to Birmingham was only $19 each way, so I told Donna I would come.

I was always under the impression that Donna was from Birmingham, but she was actually from a tiny little town about 45 minutes outside of Birmingham, and lived in a mobile home with her mom and various cousins and siblings.The house was buzzing with people when we got there, and the moment we walked in the door, one of her cousins announced that Donna's brother had had to give our tickets to someone else. The reason for this, I found out, was because her brother was a bookie and the game was sold out, so why give away tickets for free when you can scalp them for a lot of money, right?

Donna told me not to worry about it, that not all the cousins who had tickets would want to go, but naturally, after we got to the stadium Saturday morning and met some of her cousins in the parking lot, there were no extra tickets. I was REALLY ready to call it a day and go home, especially after we heard the sounds of the game already starting.

"We'll just walk up to the stadium and see if we can tickets there," Donna said. I hadn't come prepared to purchase tickets to a football game that I wasn't excited to attend in the first place. I was a poor working girl, after all, and Donna had told me we were getting free tickets. I told her I couldn't pay more than face value ($20) for a ticket, and that's generally not the going rate with the scalpers who stood outside the stadium. 

We saw men holding tickets up as we got closer to the gates, but they wanted considerably more than face value, so we continued walking until a man shouted to us as we passed by, "You got tickets? You got tickets?"

"No," Donna answered, then asked, "How much?"

"Twenty dollars each, I can get you in," the man said.

"We don't have that much money," Donna told him. "We only have a twenty dollar bill."

The man hesitated, then said, "Okay, follow me." As we trotted along behind him towards the gate, Donna whispered to me, "Do you have a twenty dollar bill?" and fortunately, I did. As we neared the turnstiles, the man turned to us and said, "Give me the money."

Donna turned to me, "Give him the money."

I looked at her, then pulled a twenty out of my pocket and handed it to him. 

"Go on through," he said, nodding at the turnstiles, and we watched as he handed the woman taking tickets my twenty dollars as we walked through the turnstiles and into the stadium.

Once we were safely inside the stadium, we turned to each other and laughed. Donna led the way to the area where her cousins were sitting, but the problem was WE DIDN'T HAVE SEATS BECAUSE WE DIDN'T HAVE TICKETS. Donna plopped down in the aisle and chatted with her family, but rule follower that I am, I was sure we were going to get in trouble for blocking the fire exit and be asked for our ticket stubs and then have to go to some kind of stadium jail, and I was nervous and anxious to move. We sat there for most of the second quarter before I convinced Donna that we should move on (although I must note that there were dozens and dozens of people doing the same thing we were - apparently, the turnstile scam was lucrative). We walked around the edge of the field and watched halftime, then Donna suggested we go ahead and leave. Yes, please!

We found a little restaurant with outdoor seating in a beautiful courtyard, and we had a delightful afternoon, eating lunch and listening to some live acoustic music (ironically, it turned out to be someone I knew from Nashville). The rest of the weekend was uneventful, but I was more than ready to get on that plane and go home. 

I didn't stay friends with Donna, not because of this experience directly, but we were too different (my brother was an accountant) and lived too far away from each other. And while that UT/Alabama game was my first SEC football experience, it didn't end up being my last, because nearly 30 years later, I started attending games when my daughter started attending the University of Arkansas, and I think of Donna and our $20 game every time I walk through those turnstiles. Woo Pig Sooie!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Q is for Qtips

Last night, I was lamenting to my new (and very organized) bloggy friend Nancy (she does THE MOST amazing crafts with paper that are truly more like art, and you don't even have to be crafty to love her projects - go by Heart to Heart Soul Creations and see for yourself!) that I had not come up with a topic for today's A to Z Challenge post. She, of course, had hers planned ages ago. She threw out a couple of words. Quiet. Quickly. I jokingly countered with Q-tip.

It's 8:00. I have had no "Q" epiphany today, so Q-tip it is.

In 1923, according to the official Q-tips website, a fellow by the name of Leo Gerstenzang saw his wife sticking wads of cotton to the ends of toothpicks and got the idea to manufacture cotton swabs. He founded the Leo Gerstenzang Infant Novelty Company to market baby care accessories.

Let's stop right there. The company he formed to produce the cotton swabs was for the manufacturing of baby care accessories. When he saw his wife wrapping wads of cotton onto the toothpicks, was she using them on a BABY?! I think we can all be glad ol' Leo stepped in and put a stop to that.

The product was originally called Baby Gays, because they made cranky babies happy. My guess is this is a first-hand observation by Leo, due to the fact that his baby's mother was no longer jabbing the baby in the ear with a toothpick. The website "TriviaHappy:)" writes that the swabs were made by hand, then dipped in boric acid to sanitize them, and they were advertised as being great for babies' ears and nostrils.

Is sticking boric acid in a baby's ear safer than sticking a toothpick in there? I'm not sure there's a good answer to that.

In 1926, the label was changed to Q-tips Baby Gays. The company eventually dropped the "baby gays" part of the name and became known just as Q-tips. Incidentally, the "Q" stands for quality and "tips," obviously, stands for the cotton tip of the stick.

Hollywood make-up artists began using Q-tips for make up application in the 1950s. Aren't you glad that (a) you can use a Q-tip to clean mascara smudges out from under your eyes and not have to use a makeshift toothpick wrapped in cotton to do that and (b) they don't use boric acid any longer to sanitize the swab?

At some point, doctors agreed that sticking Q-tips inside ears was not a good thing and would cause more harm than good (still better than a toothpick), so every box now has a warning not to use them inside your ear, but seriously, is there ANYTHING that feels better than using a Q-tip to clean out your ear? 

One more thing that Q-tips are good for: art.

I may not be as crafty as my friend Nancy, and I found this on Pinterest and didn't make it up myself (although what I found was a painting for sale on Etsy, and I turned it into a preschool craft project), but here's a fun project:

I drew a couple of stems with a marker on blue construction paper. I took a second sheet of paper and cut holes in the paper over the top of each stem, then we made dots within each circle with a Q-tip dipped in white paint. When you lift away the sheet, you have a dandelion picture! I think the pre-k version is just as nice as the Etsy version!

Etsy on the left, preschool art on the right.

In conclusion, next time you reach for a Q-tip, say a little thank you to baby Gerstenzang for taking one for the team and being the reason you're not stabbing yourself in the ear with a toothpick wrapped in cotton.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

P is for Poppies

Every spring, social media comes alive with posts from my California friends about the poppies. The poppies are about to bloom, the poppies are blooming, the poppies bloomed. They are a VERY BIG DEAL to Californians, and when we lived there, we were told they were NOT to be missed and that we should make a point of going.

My parents came to visit us one spring during the poppy season, and as we were looking for ways to entertain them anyway, it seemed like a good time to finally see the famous poppies. I was also HUGELY pregnant, so it made perfect sense to drive a couple of hours to the high desert and walk around a poppy reserve.

We drove to the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve with no information other than that we would be speechless at the beauty of the poppies. It was spring, so we each had a light jacket and high hopes for a lovely day. We began to see some orangey splotches on the hillsides as we neared the place.

"Are THOSE the poppies?" someone in our car asked, probably my mother.

"Nah, THAT can't be the poppies! Everyone told us they were EVERYWHERE and all you could see was fields and fields of them!" someone in our car answered, probably me.

We arrived at the reserve, parked the car, and got out, ready to find the poppies, but the moment we opened the car doors, we were blasted with a frigid and wickedly strong wind that cut right through our little spring jackets.

Bracing ourselves against the cold and wind, we huddled together and joined the other visitors on a trail. 

"Where are all the poppies?" someone asked, probably my mother.

"I DON'T KNOW," someone answered, probably me, because we saw fields of little green plants and an occasional peep of orange, but not the acres and acres of gorgeous flowers we were expecting.

We were miserably cold and could feel the icy wind all the way to our bones, when someone, probably my husband, asked another visitor where the poppies were.

My parents trying not to show they are half frozen.

"Right here," the other visitor said, sweeping his hand from the hillside with the flecks of orange scattered over it to the edge of the path we were on. 

We looked at him, looked at each other, then looked more closely at the orange flecks in the field next to us and realized that THESE were the famous poppies. And they were colder than WE were and had curled up against the relentlessly chilly wind, refusing to show their faces, and I can't say I blame them. It's exactly what I wanted to do.

We snapped a couple of photos to prove we'd been there, then we headed back to the warmth of the car. Adventure over.

Someone may try to change my mind (you were there on a particularly windy day, it's not always that cold, the poppies REALLY ARE gorgeous), but while I commiserated with those trembling, cold poppies, I believe poppy viewing is best done by looking at photos of them from a warm, comfy place.

Oh, so pregnant!

Friday, April 17, 2020

O is for Owl Babies

I've been walking a lot during this coronacation. That's a good thing, because I've also been EATING lot during this coronacation. 

The other afternoon, my walk took me past some big pine trees in a little park. I know very little about pine trees, but it seemed that there were two different kinds of them at this park, because the pine cones off of one kind were long and thin and slightly curved (you can draw your own conclusion as to what that was reminiscent of), and the other type of tree had short, squatty pine cones. I gathered up an armful of both kinds and took them home, figuring I could come up with something to do with them for the A to Z Challenge.

Came up with something. Owls. Fuzzy, little owls. It's kind of a fall craft, but you could get started now and have an enormous flock by the time fall rolls around.

I used the short, squatty ones, because who wants poop-shaped owls?

Here's what you need:

Cotton balls, pine cones, and some kind of
poking stick. I used a pencil. Small children
could use a q-tip with some of the cotton removed.

Pull the cotton balls apart, like this:

This is a great fine motor skill for
little kiddos.

Poke the pulled pieces of cotton into the gaps in the pine cone. Use the poking stick to secure it in place.

Poke gently. 

This is what they look like when you are done poking cotton into the gaps:

Looking owlish yet?

Embellish with googly eyes and bits of paper to make beaks:

Stinkin' cute, right?!

 Read "Owl Babies" to your little ones (or to yourself if you don't have little ones around; it's a terrific book), then name YOUR pinecones Sarah and Percy and Bill.

My kids' favorite book!

Mike drop....