The morning was so nice...we woke up nice and slow, had a leisurely breakfast with Grandma-mother and got dressed whenever we felt like it. Once we finally got up and going, we headed out to visit the zoo.
After first attempting to enter in the service entry (dumb navigation) we wound up walking up and over a cute wooden bridge, pointing at the turtles and fish filling the stream below us.
The zoo had received great reviews and is supposed to be one of the larger zoos in the country. It was definitely cute, but in an old fashioned, adorable and quaint, country kind-of-way. I suppose I've been spoiled, growing up near San Diego zoo, Wild Animal Park and Los Angeles zoo, so I was slightly less than impressed. Still, at only $8 per adult and much less for kids over three, it was perfect for a couple hours of walking around, saying hello to a few animals and riding the train.
Speaking of the train, that was by far our favorite part, and the sweet man hosting the train tour allowed us an extra ride around the park just because. After the train, we hopped right on the carousel, which never disappoints. ;)
Then we decided to wander around, checking out exhibits and seeing a few animals. The giraffe exhibit was really neat because the zoo had a pavilion with a raised platform so that you were right at eye level with the giraffes, who were so friendly and walked right up to the railing. You could feed them and everything, so it was a really neat way to interact with the animals first hand.
It didn't take long before our granola bars were no longer quieting the rumble in everyone's bellies, so we took a vote and headed out of the zoo to get lunch. We headed over to Whole Foods, which I had on my list of things I wanted to see/do. I don't have a Whole Foods and had really been wanting to check it out. They have such a great fresh deli and cafe, with tables set up inside and outside, games and books for kids and adults, a cozy fireplace for cold and rainy days, microwaves to heat cold foods and a seemingly endless array of fresh, whole and organic foods to make the most delectable lunch.
We sat inside and enjoyed our lunch of organic chicken breast and homemade macaroni and cheese, spicy mozzarella penne pasta salad (which was my pick and was TRULY amazing), smoked chicken tortellini salad and broccoli salad. It was all so heavenly.
As far as the store, the selection was grand and the layout was enticing; the food looked fresh and the people were kind. But the prices seemed a little steep and all in all, I'd take my Henry's and Trader Joe's any day. But then again, I'm loyal to a fault. ;)
After we had stocked up on fresh produce, juice and granola for the week, we headed back home to enjoy the sunshine before the day got away from us. Grandma-mother blew up a million inflatables that she had been hoarding in her garage and the kids threw on their suits stripped down to undies because I forgot their suits (except for Daughter who insisted on pj's because only undies looks like a boy) and jumped in the pool. For those of you who know us personally, you know that this is never a fun way for us to spend our time. My kids hate the water, worst than a Persian cat. They truly hate it for anything other than bathing. But there was something in that Okie air that just got them all into it and I couldn't get them OUT!
They did so great (for them anyways) and swam for almost four hours. I was amazed, and thrilled beyond words. Every day for the rest of the trip they begged to go swimming, but that first day was the only day quite warm enough.
Part of the backside of my parent's home
We came inside and Poppa helped Daughter with some homework.
We played LOTS of sidewalk chalk ;)
Funny Story: When I took the kids outside, I told them I'd be right back with my camera. Well, Daughter, frantically asks
"What if a tomato comes??!"
She nervously scanned the sky as I told her that it wasn't "tomato" weather right now and explained how the sky and weather would change before a "tomato."
When I went inside I told my dad about her concern for unexpected "tomatoes" and he went outside and showed her the "tomato" cellar (below, that door in the ground) and how she could just climb right in and be perfectly fine. It was hysterical and we called them "tomatoes" the rest of the time we were there. We may just call tornadoes, "tomatoes" forever. It's kinda catchy, huh?
Enjoyed beautiful sunsets and scenery
Fed the horses a little treat of carrots
Played the old passed down family piano that I played as a child
Said hello to Bently, my mom's new puppy
Admired my mother's GORGEOUS basil plant
We wrapped up our day with a yummy dinner at home and watching old home videos to show the kids what mom and Auntie were like when we were little. They got a total kick out of it and passed out early from their busy day.
It was a fun day filled with simple pleasures and joy. I loved watching our old home videos, memories recorded. One of the videos we watched was a family birthday party at my Auntie Susie's house, where we celebrated three birthdays. I loved watching how we all used to interact and be together, the smiles and laughter, bountiful and contagious. In that video, we saw my Uncle Whitey, Uncle Dennis and Grandpa Carlos. Three men who have passed away in the last ten years and have been sorely missed by our family. In that time, my parents also moved out of state and now our family just seems to be missing that spark, that life that once defined us. Watching these videos brought all those memories and emotions flooding back.
I found myself desperately missing my Grandpa, a quiet old man, stuck in his ways and stubborn bad habits. A man that was more of a closed up mystery to me. His face always seemed to have a story to tell but rarely revealed any. He had experienced and done things that he chose to keep to himself, things that a Grandfather doesn't share with his granddaughter. But he loved us. He loved me. I think that grandchildren helped soften him just a bit, cracking the hard and cold shell he had worn for so long.
My Grandpa Carlos with my cousin
And my Uncle Dennis, a man with a smile that truly lit up a room. A gruff exterior, his skin was tan and weathered, scarred and wrinkled prematurely. His hair was always long and in a ponytail at the base of his neck, the same color as honey. His eyes danced when he talked and the wrinkles showed the memories that he held inside. I loved him, in his tank tops and eighties shorts. I loved his rough hands and how easily he'd get down and roll around on the floor playing with us kids. He was quick to help or give what he had to anyone. He was funny and lively, never skipping an opportunity to tease. We miss him terribly.
Uncle Dennis is in the tank top and Uncle Whitey is the white one with no shirt ;)
Ahh...Uncle Whitey. He died shortly after Daughter was born. He was an amazing man. He and my Aunt Susie sometimes seemed like the central hub of the family. They eagerly hosted every family holiday and birthday and were the epitome of a warm home. Always available with a cheerful smile and warm hug, Whitey was kind and loving. He was sweet and had a soft voice but a crazy sense of humor. He was the guy that would walk our wearing a depends at an all ladies baby shower or nothing but jingle bell boxers and a Santa hat on Christmas. He was always up for a laugh, a game, anything to live life to its fullest. I miss him dearly.
It was a lovely day, fabulous to be spending it with loved ones and remembering passed family also. Great to see my kids soaking in the new sights and experiences.