Something of a Rite of Passage…

What? A rite of passage? Which one? Graduation, marriage, birth, death, adoption finalization, first steps, first tooth….what?

The zoo, of course!  Going to the zoo is a mini rite of passage for a kid, specifically an American kid.  Some might argue this, but really, I think we can agree that it’s a kid marker, a kid commonality….more, it’s family bonding.

watercolor by m.mahan

The zoo.   You go with your family when you’re little, with the school on the bus when  you’re bigger, you’re dragged there on family vacations and outings when you’re a teen, and then you start the cycle all over again with your own new little family.  Right? Well, maybe for a few zoophobics its not.  But still.  For most of us, the zoo is treasured memories and stories.  It’s boxes and boxes of old kodak snapshots; all looking mostly identical – yellowing blurred shots of us near some big trees that have monkeys in them, somewhere, standing awkwardly waving with bad hair and ill fitting shorts (ok, maybe that’s just me).

So, for one reason or another fifty, we hadn’t yet made it to our local zoo for Gabey or Marta.  Let’s rephrase that to be more shockingly precise: Gabe has been home almost four years and Marta is at two and half, and they  had not been to the zoo.  Mom fail. Yes. We are the slacker parents of all time.  I know.  My pitiful excuse defense: the weather is wonky here, either freaky freezing cold or hellishly sticky muggy humid hot AND we spend our days dealing with many kid behaviors and issues, not to mention juggling schedules like a circus clown.

Anyhow, if the weather is good (on those two to three days a year of weather perfection), I love going to our little zoo.  It’s just the right size, not too big to be overwhelming, not so small as to be a joke.  It’s a friendly little place, with a fantastic playground area to collapse and the let smalls get the last dregs of their energy out so that they will be happily exhausted for the rest of the day.  And so, on Tuesday, all the planets aligned and the day was perfect.  It was spring break, the weather was going to be in the high 70’s and sunny…it was the perfect day (In four years!) for the zoo.  And so we went.

It was just me and the youngest five. I packed a picnic lunch and we all set off for the longish drive to the zoo.  They were very excited. Marta wasn’t entirely clear on how it would be…but she was game to try (which is a huge deal for a hyper-vigilent kid).  As we piled out of the car, grabbed the old stroller to carry our gear (and occasionally Gabe, who knows a good deal when he sees it) we could hear the whoops and hoots of both the Gibbons and the parrots and I’m not sure what all else…but it was a minor racket.  I looked at the kids and grinned.  Marta’s eyes were big, “What is that? Loud!”, she said.  I laughed, the girls laughed.  The little boys speculated about dinosaurs.  I said, “You’ll see!”  Gabey was just pulling us along as quick as he was able, in a rush to go see the monkeys.

We saw the monkeys.  Marta was most impressed with their feet being like hands, we saw beautiful tigers and leopards, cool zebras, scary alligators, scary snakes, weird frogs, cool camels, pet a goat, pinched noses (my city boy) and laughed at the “wild” smells and marveled over the bizarro but beautifully pink flamingos.  

Best of all we saw the “Very big!” elephants and the “Very tall, so cute” giraffes.  We even saw a few babies: with the leopards and the giraffes.  We had an easy happy picnic lunch in the shade, we lifted our faces to the sun as we walked.

Then, for another classic thrill, we got tokens to ride the carousel. Oh the thrill of even picking out which animal to ride as they waited.  Then the fun of scampering on to claim the chosen beast (Sweet dear Emmy sacrificing her choice of dolphin to stay close to help Gabe, even without being asked.  What a girl!).  The whirling ride got face splitting grins out of all, even our toughest customers.  

So, totally worth those pricey tokens.

After the twirling  thrills of the carousel (Can  you say double win?: Vestibular therapy motion too, score! It’s occupational therapy!) we headed to the playground to close the visit.   I sat in the partial shade while I watched my kidletts run and rampage over and around, under and through the twists and turns of this huge crowded playground.  There were ramps to ascend and tunnels to slide and rope bridges to climb, nooks and crannies to explore.  Marta didn’t last long there, she ventured forth and then came back quickly to sit with me in the sun.  Gabe ended up choosing to swing for a bit, helped again by my mamacita Em.  We finally dragged Little Man out, sweating and happy.  The sun was high, we are all getting hot and tired.  Perfect.  Time to go  home.

But first, no premier trip to the zoo should be complete without that last final classic treat: the slurp of a soft serve swirly ice cream cone.  And so, we did.

It was a very good day.

Pure gift



It’s pure gift. All of it.
I don’t always have the eyes and clarity to see it as such. But sometimes, in this rare sparkling days in the sun, I do.

We are at the beach,still. Visiting family this weekend, intensively. My oldest dear friend, a sister, really, has come down to visit and hang out with us. My sister and her three big boys plus one of their lifelong buddies has come, her husband arrives today. My folks even came up and we had a loud big old crazy beach supper. The big boys are so physically large, just big ol’ men, that they take up enormous space in this tiny old simple condo. Six of them sprawling around. Plus of course, the rest of my not small at all clan. And then my sister and I, handing out plates of salad and slices of pizza, reaching over heads and across sunburned backs as bbig guys forage for more. My dear friend tells stories of us as girls, making my boys laugh at me, my folks embellishing to hoots. I worry about how Marta will handle the commotion but she does fine; she withdraws to the balcony for a few minutes here and there for a breather, then comes back in and sits near, then goes and laughs at the big boys antics. Big guys head out to surf and ride waves, again, its dusk, we all watch, footballs are thrown, we stay on the beach until the tourists (I know, that is us, but this feels like home too, so we don’t count ourselves as such) go home and the cold chases us in. Finally, my folks make their goodbyes for the night, my sis and sis head down to stay at my folks house…big boys go to call girlfriends and walk into town for ice cream. I tuck small sandy boys into eternally sandy beds.

I wake first; pad around the house picking up stray shirts, flip flops, legos, sunglasses. I make another pot of strong coffee. I go out and gaze at the empty beach, tide low. And I breath deep and whisper a prayer of thanksgiving, my entire self twinges with gratitude for this time.

It is time out of time. It is gift. I’m taking pics, but more, I’m searing it into my heart and soul and memory as best as I am able.

Thank you tom for making this happen. We are all missing you and Hannah. But it is oure gift. Every moment. I feel a touch guilty for not seeing my other friends who live near (sorry Clyde) but this is what this time is. It is time to imprint all of this, it’s a special weekend. My nose keeps twitching here and there, feeling the tears press in suddenly….I’m outing them back and instead choosing the grinning sparkly skittly joy of it (yes, Courtney, skittley). Gabey just woke, he pads iver and snuggles next to me, then he’s up and checking out the ocean. He turns to me and says, “Can you believe Nancy is coming back today?” Yup. She is, they all are. It’s gift. Every sandy salty funny loud messy moment of it.
It glitters.




>Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, it’s off to Disney we go..

>Ok, so yeah, we lost our minds (Ok, Coffeedoc did) and decided we should “do Disney.” After falling out of my chair with sticker shock upon researching the cost (even w/ current specials) for Disney World…I realized we could go see my family, the beach,and college if we went to DisneyLand versus the Florida world – for about a third of the cost. Plus, and here is a “Big Family Tip,” since we are SO big now, we finally could get a group rate: buy 10 tickets as a group, get one free and group rate is about a 40% discount. Score! Decision: made.

Let me preface this post by saying I am a bit conflicted on the whole Disney thing. It’s a love/hate thing for sure for me. Part of me totally loves the whole deal, I like the scary but not terrifying rides, the whole vibe, the make-believe kiddie fun. But part of me resents it in the sense of the sticker shock and, well, the after effects. You moms know what I’m talking about: its the “donkey effect.” Yup. You know, I took Little Man, Marta, Sbird, and Miss M on Pinocchio’s Wild Ride (or something like that) and it’s all about Pinocchio’s visit to Pleasure Island – where he and the other spoiled boys run amok and turn into donkeys. It occurred to me that this ride should really be placed at the very entrance to the park and be a mandatory ride for all families with children under fourteen. Because, the kids, they all start to bray by the end of the day.

But I digress.

Anyhow, so we went to Disney, myself, Coffeedad, and eight kidletts (one of them being a buddy of Booboo) on Day one and nine (nephew joined us) on Day two. Whew. And let me remind you that one of them doesn’t speak any english and also doesn’t have that built in cultural soak in Disney. And let me remind you that one of them is two. Double whew. Makes you tired just reading that, doesn’t it? Go ahead, read it again, imagine it……yeah, has that effect on me too and they are my kids!

And yes, count those kids. Thats missing a few too.
And yes, I look like a dork but it got hot so I put on a skirt and I have bad feet.
Sue me. I don’t care.

But I digress.

So. We went to Disney. Overall, really, it went better than expected…for a while anyhow. A visit to Disney goes through the same rough stages: giddy anticipation, arrival and shock at the crowds the lines but the giddy anticipation carries you through, giddy fun while seeing the cool pretty park and the wandering characters, giddy anticipation of the first rides…. The whole “giddy fun” factor holds over for awhile, until it’s past lunchtime and then the slow crash begins.

Maybe you go on a ride that was a bad choice. Looked like fun but caused the newest teen to freak out. Was it the height? Was it the swinging? We’ll never know, not for a long time anyhow. But you console, and move on. Get some food into you, move into the next phase of “who rides what and when?” Strategizing. The giddy anticipation stage is over and it’s all strategy from here. It’s logistics times 8. You strategize potties, lines, rides, fast passes, snacks, and shows.

Finally, the teen boys return, the family comes together again. One last ride before you try to find a spot for the fireworks. Lunch was so late you only need more snacks and as you park and sit on the ground, all the kids are starting to crash whine. You jolly along, wondering if it’s worth it to wait. Finally the fireworks start, and they are amazing. Lots of oohing and aahing. All the teens agree that it was great, the smalls are too sleepy to say much and the two year old is asleep in his stroller. You walk back to the hotel, with the masses exiting the park, amidst the wails and whining of all the other small overstimulated children. Ah, the sounds of Disney at night.

And that is the plot line of the first day. Our first day. But really, I think the stages are roughly on target: giddy anticipation of the park, shock at the lines and crowds, giddy anticipation of the rides, giddy glee over the rides and fun, a few frowns and tears at a bad ride, hunger crashes and rallies, complicated logistical strategizing, and then the final surge of wow and the tired exit. Typical I’d say.

It really was fun, for the most part.
Watching Gabey see Mickey Mouse with his eyes huge and a little gasp: priceless.
Watching Little Man race to the rides and come off grinning: priceless.
Sitting next to him and Marta and Sbird with them all shrieking and burying their head against me, then grinning: hysterical.
Watching my Prima Diva go on her first real rollercoasters and come off with her face flushed, giddy and jabbering: priceless.

So, yeah, we had fun.
But OH so many more things to talk about.
But that will need to be another post. I’ve gotta take the kids out to the beach!

>Go Irish!

>And so it begins….College football, I mean. And I was never a fan or followed it, not really. But now, my Buddybug is at college, and its a LOT more fun. In fact these pics were shamelessly snagged from his post on the football season. Go read it, he is much better with sports than I am and oh he loves his teams.

Anyhow, today is the first game, a home game against Nevada. We are supposed to win! And we, here at home are going to be watching and shouting, rooting for the Irish and also scanning the crowd shots for the one in 80,000 (Yeah, you read that right, big stadium!) chance of seeing my boy {Don’t judge me, it may sound pathetic, but I miss him. It’s a mom thing and I can’t help it}.

I love watching Notre Dame football now and am hoping for a great fun winning season. ‘Cause yeah, I like to win. It’s the BIG event of the weekend up there, for sure. And down here in our little house its the big event as well! Got my ND t-shirt on…we are so excited!

Last year at the ND v. Stanford game, big fun (and Bananas begging to go again).

>Friday Fun: Toddler Style


We are finally getting a hint of words to come from young
Mister Gabriel Tariku!

We hear “Mama” “Hi” “Up” “uh-oh” “ba bye,”
possibly “shoe” “dog” and “J” for his brother.

Oh but he is coy!
Today he started saying “Uh-oh” and “Peeboo” (peekaboo, of course).
But never, never on demand.

This (above) is the face he makes when he knows you just heard him almost say a word,
but hey, you missed your chance and that’s breaks! Gotcha!

Great tease, this boy!

He is, of course, forgiven immediately for this game.
Look at him, how could you not?

But this afternoon’s fun has been taken up with the newest, best game of all:

On your mark.
Get set.

Every time, this means a collapse into giggles on the floor or my lap,
simply overcome with the thrilling glee of such a wild game…
then a swift recovery and back to the start line!

Yeah, life just doesn’t get a whole lot better ‘n that, for a toddler, don’t ya know!

>On the record


I want to go on the record here.
This is what I just did this afternoon.
Yeah, I did.
I tubed.

Ok, that pic above not me, but it was Bananas and I and I think today we looked just like that!
Ok, Coffeedoc said we were only going about 16 mph when I was on it, but I think he wasn’t paying attention. We musta hit 75 easy….

So, I know, I haven’t been on the tube all summer.
I don’t know why. I forget how much fun it is to just be out there and watch the kids. I get caught up in the hassle of chores and such instead. Or, maybe it has been so smothering hot that I knew I would be crazy sick if I did go out there.
But I promised and so today was the day, my daughter declared.
It was really, exciting!

But it was baby Gabe’s first time on the boat. And my first time on the tube w/ Banana girl.
And yeah, feeling a bit more cool…kinda, or not, I think they are still in awe..ok, laughing at me.

But anyhow, I think we both are feeling pretty good about it.