Checking out the Como Zoo

A cancelled camping trip led to a trip to visit friends in Minneapolis – St. Paul earlier this summer. Though we’ve been to the Twin Cities several times during summer, we have covered Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet, but we hadn’t been to the Como Zoo.

We started out pretty early and found parking in nearby lots.  We decided to check out the animals in the morning, enjoy a picnic lunch in the park by a playground, and then try some rides after that.

Como Zoo really is a lovely free zoo! There is a suggested donation at the entrance followed by many gift shops, rides, food and other opportunities to spend money. We made it out with two stuffed animals for our kids!

The zoo has a nice variety of animals and it’s small enough to walk through with kids quite easily.

We spent the most time at the Primate House, watching the mom and baby gorilla munch lettuce. They were positioned so close the the glass and just looked so comfortable, hanging out in the shade. I love how the mom is cradling the head of romaine like a baby too – it’s hers! It looked like such a sweet, domestic glimpse into their gorilla family life.  Meanwhile the silverback gorilla was out pacing the yard. The gorilla forest was a really cool exhibit, housing seven gorillas in total.

apes and monkey at Como Zoo

Emperor Tamarin and Mom & Baby Gorillas

After checking out the gorillas, we kept walking through the primate house. I really liked watching Como Zoo’s Tamarin climb and leap from branch to branch in their exhibit. The mustaches gave them a distinguished sort of look.

As a member of our zoo since our kids were babies, I’ve been going to zoos a lot over the last six to eight years, though it seems to be less and less frequent as my kids get older. Still, it is a treat to see endangered animals up close, showing off their normal behaviors, such as eating a head of lettuce with her baby or effortlessly jumping from branch to branch.  I / we may never have the opportunity to see these animals in the wild. While that would be preferred, we will enjoy zoo visits and learn the conservation stories the animals and their habitats around the world.

Thanks for a great visit, Como Zoo!

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Random Pictures on my Phone Or What I Didn’t Buy This Summer

I was going through pictures on my smartphone because after taking so many pictures on summer vacation, I needed to delete some images. I scrolled through a lot of pictures of my kids and fun things we did, and then I came to these images:

mosquito relief ideas

Hammacher Schlemmer: so many ways to beat bugs!!  

I remember paging through a Hammacher Schlemmer magazine earlier in summer, laughing at all of these mosquito repellent items (but seriously thinking that some of these might come in handy, as I am a prime target for these blood suckers).

Search “mosquito” on Hammacher Schlemmer, and there are 25 results! Quite honestly, I’m surprised that there is a demand for some of these products. There are even mosquito netting sleeves that you can just slip-on. Wow! What will they think of next?

From $9.95 to $149.95, there are many options that I could test out for keeping the bugs at bay.

Natural Remedies for Mosquitoes

I’ve tried “natural remedies” – stuffing a dryer sheet in my shoe or rubbing a dryer sheet over my clothes.  I can’t say I noticed a difference, and the dryer sheet usually just falls out of my shoe. I’ve also used natural insect repellent, which typically does okay, but proved terribly ineffective on a very buggy hike at a state park this summer.  There were literally swarms of mosquitoes that made us run back to our car after only 15 minutes of hiking. Yikes!

Time for DEET or Other Options?

When we went camping, we simply used a bug spray with DEET (a lower percentage than some).  This has worked the best for me, but maybe I could sport a mosquito net someday? Pretty hot, right?!  I haven’t tried “bug shirts,” clothing that has insect repellent in the fibers itself. I can see bugs just biting me elsewhere – unless I wear a net or try clipping on the Personal Mosquito Repeller.

I love the great outdoors, but wish bugs would love me a little less.

I may just end up scratching away at my mosquito bites, OR put some of these items on my Christmas list.

Would you try any of these mosquito repellent products?

“Own Every Second” Kids – a Wish from your Parents at Back to School

Since my youngest is now in kindergarten all day, and my oldest is now in second grade, I felt this blog post still rings true. I am so proud of my kids and hope they have a great school year. Another mom told me that the year that both of her kids were in school full day was “life-changing.” I am sure it will be the case! Happy Back to School!

go mama o

This song has been stuck in my head for some time, and it’s so appropriate for the emotional, reflective time that back to school season brings.

My sister first introduced me to this song and this video, and it brought tears to my eyes when I watched it. Check it out below.

My favorite line is:

I owned every second that this world could give

Love it! Don’t we all want our kids and ourselves to live life this way?

While my kindergartener can’t really comprehend what this line means, it IS my wish for her to “own” and embrace this beautiful life and many opportunities that she has been given.

The marking of a new school year is always a celebration and time to reflect on how far your kids have come since last year. It’s a time to be proud and hope for the best experience possible, as…

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In Loving Memory of Grandma

Last week we said our goodbyes to our last living Grandma. As expected, it was difficult, though memories of many years together helped provide much comfort. I was so very blessed to have had my mom’s parents around to see me graduate from high school, college, get married, and meet my two kids. While Grandpa Mark passed away in 2013 (I wrote about some memories of him), my Grandma lived on to reach age 87.

Grandma can be described as independent, generous, hardworking and kind. I always remember her home full of family socializing around holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays. We often went to classic Wisconsin supper clubs together to enjoy fried chicken and meals served family style.  Grandma was the matriarch of our family, raising three independent, strong daughters while working on their farm for over fifty years.

Grandma and her daughters 1960s

Love this picture from 1960-ish of my mom and aunts snuggling with Grandma. How many selfie’s do we take today with our own kids?

I have so much respect and admiration for all of my grandparents, given how much the world has changed in their long and full lives.

Many Changes in 87 Years

My Grandma was born in 1930. She remembered hobos coming up to their farm house and asking for food. Her mom would always manage to find something to give them, but made them sit outside and eat.

Grandma and her siblings 1930s

My Grandma was the youngest of four, here in the lower right. She is about 4 years old in this picture.

She attended school in a one room schoolhouse through the eighth grade. After that she was needed to work on the farm. I remember her telling me that she would have liked to have gone to school longer and might have even become a teacher. Though she didn’t teach in a classroom, our family will long remember her lessons and values she passed on to all of us.

As she went on to tell my mom, that’s just how things were back in the 1950’s: few women worked outside of the home, unless you were a nurse or a teacher. Women got married, kept up their home, raised children, and in my grandma’s case helped on the farm.  She would drive the tractor and work alongside my grandpa. Running a farm certainly takes a lot of hard work.

My grandma was proud of her daughters, who all went on to work full time and raise their own children.  When my mom had me and my sister (and after we had graduated from college), my grandma commented that her granddaughters “didn’t need a man to provide for them.” So true – how things have changed in 50 years!

The Original Girl’s Night

Along those lines, my grandma and her friends had their own “girl’s nights” except they took place on Tuesday mornings at the area bowling alley.  There was even a newspaper clipping that showed my grandma leading her team with a score of 186! When she talked to my grandpa about the possibility of bowling on Wednesday mornings too, he told her, “Dorothy, well, I don’t know about all of you women getting together at a bowling alley.” Her response, “Mark, who’s going to pick up a bunch of farmers’ wives at 9 am in the morning?”  She went on to enjoy bowling with her friends two mornings a week.

Grandma & Grandpa

When my grandparents were married in 1950, my grandma moved to grandpa’s farm, where he had led the life of a bachelor for several years.  He only had 1 fork and 1 spoon, and when he made her eggs, he first gave her the spoon. My grandma refused to use the spoon, so he let her have the fork! My grandma just laughed at this memory and would shake her head every time she would retell it. She truly was the one who made their house a home!

As I mentioned earlier, there was always a lot of talking at family gatherings. My grandpa was notorious for his jokes and stories.  I always liked it when he did something to make Grandma say, “MARK!” in her disapproving, scolding tone. Grandpa’s eyes would get really big, he’d raise his shoulders and cross his arms, and say, “I’m in trouble!”

So Many Good Memories

I was so blessed to have shared so many years with Grandma and fondly remember the earlier days when we’d visit their farm.  There was always something to do on the farm: playing with the kitties in the barn, petting the calves and seeing the big cows, climbing around the hay mow, sledding and snowmobiling in winter too. One friend once asked, “Doesn’t everyone have a grandma who owned a farm in Wisconsin?” Yes, many do! And I certainly loved mine.

While the later years were more difficult as her health declined (farm work is tough on a body), I still enjoyed visiting grandma with my own family. As I put together the photo boards for the visitation and funeral, I especially loved seeing the pictures of Grandma with her great grand kids. She gazed down at them so lovingly, so full of pride.

Grandma and great granddaughter

Grandma and my oldest’s first Christmas. LOVE this picture.

The great grandkids always brought a smile to her face. I have pictures from Mother’s Day this year, ones I took and others that my seven year old daughter took.  My daughter’s picture captured Grandma with a genuine smile much bigger than those in my pictures.

I’m so glad my kids were able to get to know you, and I hope that all of us grandchildren brought you joy and made you proud. Love you always, Grandma.

 

#MondayMotivation Own your Awesome

Ever hear a news story and it just sticks with you? This was the case for an interview that NPR did with soccer star Julie Foudy.  Take a minute to read or a listen to Julie!

I remember exactly when I heard this story too: it was on the way to my photo shoot for my new website and marketing consulting business. I wanted to “own it” on the shoot and be myself.

Julie Foudy talks about how she learned about different styles of leadership from her soccer team mates. She explains:

They showed me that asserting your own leadership style is most important — being authentically you.

This reminds me of the quote that goes something like, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

Don’t be afraid to be uniquely you, find your voice, and do something that matters to you. In the process of getting out of your comfort zone, you may surprise yourself and inspire others along the way.

Starting my own business has had moments of sheer excitement and panic. “Am I really doing this?” has crossed my mind more times that I can count. Still, I persist in times when I feel uncomfortable or uncertain. I trust the network of friends, family and colleagues who have provided support and encouragement.  I step back and do research to help be more prepared and informed about whatever it is that I’m facing. I’m doing it all in my own way, owning my awesome!

And that photo shoot that I mentioned earlier? I think the results help show my awesome.

Cheers to owning your awesome! Have a great Monday!