Not all cougars are in the zoo


Sarah and I used to have a Friday night date night every week. It was a great time to just spend quality time with each other over dinner and drinks and feel less like husband and wife, and more like two lovers on a date. FNDN is teetering on extinction now that we have the responsibilities of raising a new life.

We are blessed to have an extremely well-mannered baby, and have been able to take Tyler with us to dinner quite a few times. It’s a modified FNDN – less about just Sarah and I – but it’s still nice to get out of the house together, even if we do have a third wheel with us. We had a FNDN yesterday. I spent much of the day hanging up a privacy fence (and received a wicked sunburn as a result) and felt like it was deserved. We went to a restaurant called Mad Anthony’s.

Our waitress’ name was Sheila. She is an attractive, punky-looking girl, with a piercing in her lip. At one point, she asked how my drink was. I told her it was quite good and she would have to try it when she turns 21. She looked like a junior in high school, but she informed me that she recently celebrated her 22nd birthday.

A few minutes later, she was waiting on the table next to us. It was occupied by three blue-collar guys who appeared to work at the local factory. Sheila’s back was to us while she took their orders. Tyler turned to look at her stare at her… then proceeded to reach out and grab her butt.

The dudes at the table next to us told Tyler “way to go” and asked for high fives from him. Looking back, I’m surprised that I wasn’t mortified about him grabbing her butt, but I actually thought it was hilarious. Sarah made a comment about Sheila being a cougar at 22. I didn’t say anything aloud, but thought to myself, “That’s my boy.”

The moment we got in the car, Sarah – who didn’t bring her cell phone – said, “Dial Melanie and give me your phone.”

I did as ordered. After a couple seconds, Sarah said, “I have to tell you what Tyler just did.”

After telling the story to her BFF, Sarah turned to me and said “Melanie said ‘he is his father’s son.’”

Indeed.

Got to keep on movin’

The first time Tyler went to Grandma and Grandpa McLain’s house (my parents), he made his first crawls. It was awesome to watch. Luckily, Grandpa loves having an excuse to bring the camcorder – which never seems to have a charged battery – out.

Although my parents aren’t the most tech savvy people I know, they still managed to burn the video to a DVD and sent it to me via manila envelope. Subsequently, Sarah and I have taken videos of Tyler crawling around the house, which I’ve posted to YouTube. One video was actually sent in to America’s Funniest Videos, so I’m not allowed to post it here, or talk about it, yet. The video of Tyler’s first crawls somehow never made its way online… Until now.

**** Errr… Nope, the video isn’t available. There were some technical difficulties with the disc that the video was recorded to. ****

We went to Canada two weekends ago (the weekend previous to Memorial Day weekend) for the wedding of one of Sarah’s cousins. Driving back from Canada, the GPS had us passing through my hometown of Flint, Michigan. My parents still live there, in my mom’s childhood home, so we stopped by to visit and stretch. Tim, my awesome step-dad, got the camera out to take some pictures. Dead batteries. Tim then got the camcorder out to take some video. Dead batteries. But, that was remedied with a power adapter, and a little bit of a guilt trip from the rest of us.

Tyler eventually made his way to the refrigerator and, more specifically, the magnets on it. Leaning against the side of the fridge were two food trays. You know what I’m talking about, right? They fold open and closed like an ironing board, allowing one to eat food while sitting on a couch. They’re quite handy, unless you’re a ten month old baby and they are standing between you and the magnets you so desperately desire. Tyler stood there, hands on the folded trays, when they did the thing that the ladder did in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. In the movie, Clark Griswold is standing on a ladder and hanging Christmas lights from his house. He inadvertently staples his shirt sleeve to the house and, when he yanks himself free, the ladder upon which he is standing pulls away from the house. It sways to the precarious point where you’re not sure if it’s going to fall backward or safely to its original position against the house. This is what was happening with Tyler.

I watched this happen, knowing that I could, potentially, have a very upset baby, and yet I did nothing. Generally speaking, if it won’t result in a hospital visit or expensive property damages, I let Tyler learn the consequences of his actions. I said something to that effect, and I fear I’m coming across on the video as an uncaring parent. The thing is, I viewed that as a controlled environment. I was there, and I knew that the worst that would happen would be a bump on Tyler’s head. I don’t want him to learn that lesson from pulling on a heavy TV or a dresser or bookcase that isn’t tethered to a wall. Those consequences could be disastrous. And, yes, I am spilling all this here in the hopes that you, dear readers, will validate my thought process.

My mom couldn’t stand by and allow the shenanigans to unfold, so she pulled the trays away. This left Tyler balancing on his own, with nothing to hold onto. This is nothing new, as Tyler stands on his own quite often. But, instead of falling to the ground and crawling to the fridge, like he always does, Tyler WALKED to it!!!! His first real steps were caught on video!


Video not playing? Want to view it larger? Watch it on YouTube by clicking here.

I simply find it amazing that a ten month old baby would make the decision to try to take a step, especially when he knows that it would be easier to just crawl. Parental pride aside, watching a baby think and make decisions and try new things is… well… "amazing" is the only word I can think of.

So, Tyler’s first crawls and his first walks were at my parents’ house. And, the latter probably wouldn’t have happened if my mom hadn’t taken the food trays away. It’s interesting how things work out.

He was tired, so he rubbed his eyes

I currently have extremely limited internet access. I’ve got fingers crossed to have that fixed today, but in the meanwhile, I’ll post a couple pictures. Truth be told, we aren’t sure exactly what’s happening, but we’re pretty sure this is what happens when you rub sunscreen in your eye. If any of you have any other thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

All said, Tyler seemed to be really happy, save for the red eye and rash around it.

I didn’t even see the spoor!

 
The Gearhart family – sans Delilah, who was reluctantly left in the kennel – went to Canada last Thursday. One of Sarah’s cousins was getting married up there (a cousin whom Sarah was very close to as a child) on Saturday, and only a zombie apocalypse would have been able to keep her away. We arrived around 1am on Friday morning and with the entire day free, we wanted to do something touristy. 

We decided to go to the Toronto Zoo. I doubt Tyler would have enjoyed going on a wine tasting tour, being underage and all, and he’s not tall enough to ride the roller coasters at the amusement park, so it was a no-brainer. I flipped to the back page of the tourist’s guide to the foldout map. The Toronto Zoo wasn’t on it. Confused as to why a tourism guide would list a place of interest but not mark its location on the included map, I walked to the Blazer so I could bring it up on the GPS. I was completely unaware of where we were, in relation to the zoo, and wanted to make sure we weren’t looking at a two hour drive. I read the button names aloud as I pressed them on the touch screen.

"Go to. Point of interest. Near my current location. Categories. Zoo. Search."

The GPS then listed a number of zoos, ordered by their distance from where I was. The first result… The DETROIT ZOO! This left me even more flummoxed than its omission from the tourist guide. I looked to my left and spotted my father-in-law. He had a giant map sprawled across the trunk of his Fiat. He was able to locate the zoo in mere seconds.

He told me, "I hear you could spend an entire day there and still not see everything."

I asked what he and the missus had planned for the day, to which he replied, "We’re driving to Snowball, Ontario."

"Why?"

"Cuz I’ve never been there before."

That’s as good a reason as any, as far as I was concerned. Finally able to get an address programmed into the GPS, Sarah, Tyler and myself began the 33 mile 54km drive. I don’t know any other way to describe the route that the GPS took us on other than to just quote Sarah.

"Are we driving to Deliverance?"

At the mercy of the electronic equivalent of an old man, sitting on his chair with a piece of grass hanging from his mouth, telling us to "…turn right at the old Sunoco station, drive for, oh say, two miles or so, until you see the broken down John Deere. Keep goin’ a little while longer and hang a Louie at Mr. Krenshaw’s dairy farm," we had no option other than to just trust it would get us to our destination. After many twisting roads and two bridges that could only support the weight of one vehicle at a time – No Trucks, the sign read – and was only wide enough for one vehicle (seriously), we did eventually get to the zoo.

Here’s some things you really need to know before you continue reading.
1) This was a Friday
2) It was beautiful out. 64ºf (18ºc)
3) Many school buses were there (field trip)
4) There were hundreds of parents with strollers
5) There were at least three people in wheelchairs that I physically saw

The first sign I read at the zoo – aside from the one that signified that we were parked in the "E Elephant" section – said that children under three were admitted for free. That brightened my day until I saw that adult admission was $21 each. Oh, and $8 for parking. I don’t want to hear the crap about CAN to US conversion, and how it was actually cheaper. Fifty bucks to see a bunch of animals that I can easily see in HD on the Discovery Channel? Shoulda went wine tasting.

The zoo was split into regions. They included a Canadian animal exhibit, Americas, Eurasia, Africa, and a couple others. It seemed that most of what we saw in Eurasia, aside from a camel, were fish, birds and snakes. I was pretty disappointed with it.

Then we saw a children’s zoo area! And they had a shark there! Oh, but guess what? You have to pay extra to go in there. Looking at the cartoonish map of the zoo that they hand out at the entrance, I told Sarah that there was still plenty to see and we wouldn’t miss out by skipping this area.

Next up, the Americas. We went in the pavilion first and looked at a couple turtles, more fish and more birds. when we circled around and left the building, we were excited to go see the flamingo exhibit and the rest, including a POLAR BEAR! Oh, but guess what? With the exception of the pavilion we just left, the entire Americas exhibit was closed for remodeling. Instead of animals, we saw a bulldozer, people shoveling mulch and yellow tape blocking our path.

 
More than a little disappointed, we continued to the Canadian animals exhibits. We were immediately greeted with a red sign.


So let me get this straight. The zoo recommends that parents not take their unable-to-walk-on-their-own children to all the exhibits down there? There were, honestly, hundreds of strollers at the zoo. Yeah, and the handicapped are SOL also. And, if you do walk down there, you must realize that the people who designed this area are idiots. Instead of making it into a circle, you must walk all the way down, admiring all the exhibits, until you reach the main attraction… the moose exhibit, then you have to turn around and walk all the way back, past everything that you’ve already seen!

Spitting in the face of the warning (figuratively), we made our way down the steep grade, which was no simple task. On the way down, a guy looked directly at us and said, "Don’t bother. They’re either all sleeping or not there."

Thinking that it couldn’t possibly be true, we continued our perilous journey.

Here’s the raccoon exhibit. No raccoons.

Here’s the owl exhibit. No owls.

Here’s the bald eagle exhibit. You can barely see the tail.

Here’s the moose exhibit. No moose.

Here’s the crane exhibit. No crane.

Here’s a picture of people that paid extra for a guided tour to not see the same stuff we didn’t see.

I commented to Sarah, "Your dad was right, you know."

"How’s that?"

"We could spend an entire day here and still not see everything."

Her reply was loud, infectious laughter, and it went a long way towards boosting my spirits.

Here’s where it gets even funnier (in a sad way). The zoo started making excuses.


But wait, it gets better. Since we can’t see real animals, the zoo planted some fake ones. 


Then we saw something that was quite rare… A group of people huddled around an area.


Monkeys! Tyler LOVES monkeys! These pictures do no justice because you can’t see the humongous grin on his face.



Our legs and feet ached as we walked through the parking lot, past A Alligator, B Bear, C Crane (no, I didn’t see crane, thankyouverymuch), and D Duck. Back in the Blazer, I told the GPS to take us back to the Bed and Breakfast. I kept the camera up front so that I could take pictures of the crazy route it took us on. Except, the GPS told us to turn right, instead of left. Less than a quarter mile later, we were on the expressway and on a direct route to our room. What?!

If you want to look at all the zoo pictures, start here.