Posts tagged travel
Advice from El Mayor of the San Antonio Zoo

I consider myself to be a Zoo freak. And by freak, I mean virtuoso. On average, Juniper and I visit the San Antonio Zoo once a week. It is for this very reason that I have been crowned Mayor of the San Antonio Zoo. Yeah. That's right. MAYOR OF THE S-TO-THE-A-TO-THE-Z!  Some times, even if we don’t go into the actual zoo, we’ll hop on the zoo train for a quick ride through Brackenridge Park. It's fantastic. They have the best hippo exhibit I've ever seen and they just opened phase II of their Africa Live Exhibit: it's a byooot!

For as much as we find ourselves there, I tend to consider myself an expert on the San Antonio Zoo. And here is what I know...

Almost every weekend, as I drive down Mulberry to the Valero or to the Redbox or to get to Broadway or whatever, I spy hundreds of poor souls waiting in traffic to gain entrance to the zoo. Which is precisely when I’d like to stop my car, walk up to theirs and reach through the window to shake some sense in them! Why put up with such misery? Seriously. A trip to the zoo on the weekend will result in just that. And since we’re officially in the hot season, multiply that misery by 100.

The zoo is great. But not worth experiencing in misery.  

Considering many San Antonians drive at least 30 minutes to get to the zoo, I would really recommend that they heed the following advice:

1. Don’t go to the zoo on the weekend.
2. Limit your visit to 2 hours.
3. Don’t go when it’s hot. Period.

When you do hit up the zoo, be sure to check out the best the zoo has to offer:

I. The Africa Live Exhibit (phases I & II).

    A. Phase I is indoors. Here you’ll find

        1. THE BEST HIPPO EXHIBIT IN THE UNIVERSE! 

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        2. And a REALLY COOL CROCODILE EXHIBIT!

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     B.  Phase II is outdoors. Here you’ll find

        1.   THE AMAZING OKAPI EXHIBIT

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        2.   THE AWESOME WILD DOG EXHIBIT

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      3. Rhinos

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      4. And Elephants

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II. The Tiny Tot Nature Spot (for kids 5 and under)

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      A. The Discovery House (indoors) offers a lot of hands-on interaction for the kiddos: a play kitchen, a            fishing area, a cave/tunnel area (with one tunnels under the prairie dog exhibit to a bubble look-out).

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      B. The Campground area offers a lot of places to sit out for a picnic.

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      C. As you leave the Campground area and head toward the Riverbank, there is an exhibit of EXTRA-            PERKY MONKEYS that are always a joy to watch!

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      D. The Riverbank area offers a beach that the kiddos can wade & play in. Bring your bathing suits and            a change of clothes.

      E. Don’t miss the GIGANTIC TORTOISES. THEY ARE BEYOND COOL.

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III.   The Zoo Train

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I’ve annotated the best route to take while at the zoo.

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You’ll notice on the map the entrance at the bottom of the image. Start with the orange colored arrows. (I’ve circled in yellow all the exhibits that have been beyond cool at some point for some reason). Across from the Black Leopards, at the entrance into Amazonia, there is a split in agenda. Follow the orange arrows to continue on to The Africa Live exhibit or follow the black arrows to continue on to The Tiny Tots Nature Spot.

Now that you know the best exhibits & most efficient route through the zoo, consider the best time to visit the zoo:

1. If it is winter (November-March), go. Just go. People are afraid of the cold, thus the zoo is quiet and you’ll have the place to yourself. Also, because the temperature is cooler, the animals will likely be out of their hiding spots & fairly active. Unless it’s really cold.

2. If it is spring/summer (April-October), go:

    a) at 3:00 PM. Seriously. All the field trippers will be gone (they generally leave & load up buses around         2PM). Thus, the zoo is quiet and you’ll have the place to yourself. Also, the temperature will be slightly         milder as the sun is lower in the sky. Yes, you’ll only have 2 hours to explore. But trust my experience,         YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE AT THE ZOO FOR MORE THAN 2 HOURS. The kid’s attention span will         self-destruct at 2 hours. Trust.

    b) when it is overcast & rainy. Seriously. Some field trips will be cancelled due to weather and most                 visitors will refrain from going due to the fear of getting wet. Thus, the zoo is quiet and you’ll have the         place to yourself. Also, the temperature will be slightly milder as the clouds provide protection from the         sweltering sun. Yes, you might get wet. But be smart and bring and umbrella. Also, the majority of the         zoo is under a huge expanse of trees. AND? THE BEST PART OF THE ZOO IS LOCATED INSIDE A         BUILDING! (see above for the best parts of the zoo)

    c) if you cannot go at 3PM or when it is overcast & rainy, go very early in the morning. 9AM (when the             zoo opens).

 

If you live in a 5-10 mile radius of the zoo, and you have kids, invest in a membership. Seriously. If you see yourself going to the zoo more than once in the year, just do it. You'll be supporting an awesome cause. The zoo also provides many amazing educational programs for kids of all ages: Buggy Babies, Tiny-Tot Classes, Feast with the Beasts, summer camps, sleep-ins, Zoo School and home school programs, just to name a few.

A Family membership (2 adults, plus all children living in the same household, or grandchildren under 18 yrs.) = $65/year

A Family + 1 membership (same as Family, plus one guest each visit) = $85/year

A Contributing membership (same as Family, plus five guests each visit) = $120/year

*Admission to the zoo for an adult (12 and up) is $10; for kids (3-11) is $8

**Also, as a member, you have access to the zoo as early as 730 AM

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Enchanted Rock

This past weekend Tim & I were faced with a beyond gorgeous day, so we instantly packed up the little scallywag and the two dogs and left the house for an impromptu adventure. Destination: Enchanted Rock.

Because we left a little late (12:30 PM. To go hiking, we'd typically leave a lot earlier in the morning--especially to go to Enchanted Rock, because it often closes due to capacity issues), we created a plan B.

Our fall back plan: Fredricksburg. A small, charming German town just 30 minutes on the road to the rock. I'll save writing about this treasure for later.

We arrive at the rock and start our trek up the summit trail and spy one of these:

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Still on the trek up the summit trail. Amazing big sky:

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Tim, at the summit, teaching the girl about trail essentials:

1) Sunblock 2) High-quality H2O:

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The girl's first summit picture (1,825 ft.):

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The descent and our brand-spankin' new child carrier:

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We just couldn't get enough and decided to hike the circumference of the rock via the Echo Canyon, Turkey Pass and Loop Trails:

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The Enchanted Rock gets its name from the local Tonkawa, Apache & Comanche tribes of yesteryear who ascribed magical & spiritual powers to the rock. There are a number of legends associated with the rock, including my fave: Anyone spending the night on the rock becomes invisible.

The summit trail is an easy-peasy 0.6 miler. That's zero-point-six. Do it. There's a little cave up on top that is really cool and that probably has something to do with the legend that the Tonkawa & Comanche tribes committed sacrifices at the rock. 

If you decide to go to the rock, here is a short list of "DON'Ts" that I just have to mention because, yes, I witnessed them on the rock:

1) don't wear a mini skirt and/or heels

2) don't litter

3) don't wear your Baby Bjorn like you wear your jeans: all loose and hangy

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The next day, Juniper was in the mudroom while I was fixing her breakfast and when I peeked around the corner, I noticed her trying to get herself into the child carrier. She's a nature girl, for sure!

(P.S. If you're in the market for a child carrier, I would highly recommend the Deuter Kid Comfort II and possibly the Kelty FC 3.0 , but not the Deuter Kid Comfort III. Your best bet is to take your kid into the store with you so that she can help you choose, because IT DOES MATTER to her. For instance, I had originally gone to the store intent on buying the Kelty. But as I tried to get the girl into the contraption there was nothing but screams & tears. When the dude showed us & recommended the Deuter... complete 180. Seriously. The girl was delighted to honor us with her cooperation. I bought the Deuter KCII--not the KCIII because when I had that thing on, there was nothing but screams & tears for ME!)

The World Is Your Oyster

Exactly one year ago today my mother offered to pay me the cost of the trip to Greece for me to change my mind and not go. But this only strengthened my resolve. I was on a quest to prove to the world, and to my self, that one’s life, or more specifically one’s ability to simply get up and go on an adventure—even half way around the world—does not have to change just because of a little baby.

I was 31 when I gave birth to our little maguai and not at all ready to succumb to the stereotypical world of motherhood—a life dressed in, depending on your style, anything from Dress Barn to J.Jill. I didn’t want baby contraptions littering my modernly designed home and I certainly did not want to be shackled to the neighborhood, with play dates as my only getaway.

 So I went on a little trip. With June. To Greece.

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It was, by far, the best thing I could’ve done for myself at the time.

I learned that it is possible to plan an impromptu trip to Europe, with a baby, in a few short weeks. I learned that it isn’t hard to do so.

All you need is:

1.one of these for you & your kid (and you may need one of these)

2.a letter signed by your spouse stating that it’s okay that you travel out of country with your kid

3.one of these or one of these, depending on the size/weight of your kid

4.this or this (remember any food and/or liquid can be taken through TSA (airport security) if it is for your kid.

5.this (notice it is a slow-flow nipple). It is important that your child be sucking (if not this, than one of these) on descent of the plane (usually 30 minutes from landing).

6.If you so choose, you can register your travel with the State Department—wise to do in this day & age… in case there is an emergency (natural or terrorist) at your destination, the U.S. government will know you are there.

7.Efficiency. If you’re not efficient practice at home so that you’ll be efficient at the airport. (will help achieve #10)

8.A plan, and share it. Write down which hotel you’ll be at it’s contact information & your itinerary for your spouse.

9.An international cell phone. (you can rent one here or through your wireless provider at a reasonable cost, but learn from my mistake and be sure to know how to use it before you leave)

10.A confident chillax-ness. It sounds silly, but when we act confident & relaxed, our kids, the sensory reactors that they are, will also be confident & relaxed.

Finally, and more importantly, I learned that that motherhood stereotype that was implanted in my brain was founded on ignorance. There are other women out there who have the gumption, chutzpa, moxie to travel to all kinds of places with their kids—who successfully juxtapose these and these into one lifestyle.

It’s all about how you define yourself. Never mind what other people think—don’t pay attention to some one else’s definition of “mother.” Come up with your own. And never, ever, be apprehensive about doing something because you have a kid!

I owe much of the success of this trip to one incredibly chillax kid and to two other mommies with the audacity to break the old mommy-mold…

Jeanette & Yas: Cheers! to the one-year anniversary of our debut as bad-ass-adventure-muthas!

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Delta, Delta, Delta... Can I Helpya, Helpya, Helpya?

When the J turned one, she was well beyond the 20 pound requirement for front-facing car seats—she’s a ‘healthy baby’ (read: she likes to eat), so her Halmoni bought her one of these. It’s—by far—the nicest car seat on the face of this planet, in the entire universe, to infinity and beyond!

A couple-a months ago, the J and I went on a brief little trip to Florida and to make my life a whole heck of a lot easier, I bought one of these and one of these on a last-minute whim.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a thoughtless, big spender. I don’t just throw my money at some gimmick that I saw on some infomercial one day (no, that wasn’t me who purchased the Your Baby Can Read program… that was some mindless little leprechaun—I keep him silent by periodically throwing my husband’s hard-earned greenbacks at him every now and then. How’s that for contradiction!).

I had my radar on the GoGo Babyz Kidz Travelmate for some time… a good several months, at least. And I even did some product research and read a lot of reviews—which is why I even hesitated before making the purchase (as I read that the accessory Car Seat Protector Bag might not accommodate the size & girth of our current car seat.

So I called them up. And a real, live dude answered the phone! And he was nice. And accommodating. He even took the time to fit a Britax car seat in the protector bag thing right there, in his office? warehouse? to alleviate any concern on my end. And so I purchased, and it was delivered the very next day. And I saw that it was good.

[FYI: I bought the ‘recycled’ Travelmate not just because it was the green thing to do, but also because it would make my parsimonious husband very happy.]

That last-minute whim purchase was one of the best purchases I’ve made in a very long time. I mean, besides this, of course. The Travelmate is amazing. You just clip the roller board onto your car seat, drop it into the protector bag and off you go! The best part is gate-checking the entire thing! So, at the airport, instead of looking like some disheveled, tired momma with bags all hanging off my arms, a car seat flung around my shoulder and a kid on my hip, I looked like a well-traveled, jet-set momma. And did I mention how cute the J looked in her new getup?

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So when Tim, the J and I arrived in Baltimore, MD last week and realized that our new best friend  didn’t make it with us I was completely distraught! And not just because it meant that my husband's hard-earned greenbacks, in the form of a car seat & travelmate, were lost... but because that thing is a lifesaver!

Because we had gate-checked the bag, there was no link to its owner like there is if you were to check it in. And because, on occasion, I’ve been known to do stupid things, including not putting any identification on our Travelmate or car seat, we were screwed.

Tim, with the never-ending optimism, was sure it was simply left in San Antonio. I, with the paranoid personality disorder, was sure that one of the six people in the San Antonio airport that eye-balled our little piece of treasure earlier that morning had made off with our goods.

At the Delta Bag Claim Office, Tim told the agent that he was 100% certain that the bag simply did not get on the plane & was now probably sitting in the Delta Bag Claim Office in San Antonio. That all it would take was a quick phone call to the San Antonio Airport Delta Bag Claim office to describe the bag and that surely it would be right there, sitting in the office, if some one would JUST TAKE THE TIME TO CALL THE SAN ANTONIO OFFICE.

But that is not Delta procedure. Instead, they take your name and number, a description of the lost bag and hand you an automated 1-800 number to call. They also offer an un-reassuring promise that if, in the off chance that they do find your bag, they will deliver it to you.

In Delta’s defense, they did offer us a complimentary substitute car seat to use for the week.

And when we landed in San Antonio eight days later, sure enough, our bag was sitting in the Delta Bag Claim Office one day short of being shipped off to Atlanta with the other unclaimed bags.

So the point that I’m failing to make in this exhaustingly long post is that HELLO AIRLINES! WE ARE NOW PAYING TO CHECK OUR LUGGAGE. THE LEAST THAT YOU CAN DO IS UPGRADE YOUR LOST/BAG CLAIM PROCEDURE!

POP! Goes the Weasel

Tim, the J-pop and I were in D.C. last week to enjoy some time together when it happened.

Much to my dismay, it didn’t happen in a convenient location (i.e. in the privacy of our hotel room) but in public.

No, I didn’t pee my pants while laughing hysterically at one of Tim’s jokes. And I didn’t haphazardly make a nasty pongu (korean for fart) while sneezing—both of which I would have happily endured a million times over what actually did happen.

I cried.  (I never cry)

In public.  (Especially in public)

In the middle of a very nice restaurant.

In front of our very good friend who took time out of his very busy schedule to stop by and imbibe with us (he’s deploying to Afghanistan this week).

In front of our very attentive waitress, who, by the way, did not know what a White Russian was and ended up bringing me a Black Russian that I had to send back because I was in the mood for a white one—I like my Russians like I like my Greek yogurt: white & creamy. Bad analogy.

It had been a very long day. The three of us and Karla (a former student of mine who traveled along with us as J’s nanny) ventured out into the day at 8AM. We toured the Capitol, compliments of Ileana Ross-Lehtinen who has this amazing view from her office:

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We had lunch with another good friend, who left one bad-ass job (USAF Special Ops pilot) to go do another bad-ass job on Capitol Hill. We walked westward down the mall, toured the National Museum of Natural History, detoured to walk around the White House, randomly met, on the street, one of Tim’s friends from medical school… but I digress...

We continued walking all the way down the mall from one monument/memorial to the next until we reached the Potomac. By that time it was 7PM, the sun was setting, the temperature dropping. My feet were sore and I was famished. Famished!

We finally made it back to the hotel when Tim had the idea of having dinner in Georgetown. (Did I mention that June is only 16 months old and her bed time is at 7 PM?) After some slight hesitation, I agreed--Tim has a way of convincing you with that toothy grin of his and JP is amazingly flexible and chillax.

Although my mommy intuitiveness knew that this was going to be messy, I remained optimistic.

Dinner was a bomb. Everything that could go wrong did. Due to circumstances that I won’t bother getting into, we didn’t order immediately (as all you mommies already know, you simply must, must, order immediately, if not sooner, when dining out with a ticking time bomb). And to make matters worse, June decided she wasn’t going to be chillax after all. She’d had enough of being flexible. It was her fourth night away from the comforts and routine of home and, damn-it! she wanted to be held by mommy. Right now! Not Karla. Not daddy. But mommy! Mommy! Mommy!

Through my eyes, Tim, Karla & Mike were all enjoying their nice, warm, delicious meals (the thought of them not being nice, warm or delicious was beyond me), engaging in delightfully witty, adult conversation while I wrestled a very tired little maguai, sipping on my White Russian and nibbling on my fries (the only thing on my plate that I could manage to eat with my hands full).

I kept trying to make eye contact with Tim, desperately putting on my “please save me” face. But no go. He didn’t get it. I tried something a little more assertive.

“Hey, Teej… guess who’s eating fries now (indicating the J-pop)”

“What! Why?…don’t feed her fries…”

“Well, then… you hold her!”

What. He didn’t get that hint either? That was crystal!

Then, some 10 minutes later as they were all finishing up their nice, warm, delicious meals (while I had only nibbled on a few of my, now cold, fries), I hear Tim say to the waitress,

“Can we get another one of these (indicating his empty pint) and another one of those (indicating Mike’s empty pint).”

That’s when it happened.

If you know me at all, you know that I’m the “keep all the emotions inside” type. The kind that likes to bottle things up in nice little, neatly P-Touch labeled beakers, topped with a synthetic cork--not natural cork because I’m trying to be green (those trees are endangered, or are in danger of becoming endangered) even though natural cork is more romantic than synthetic. But nowadays being green trumps being romantic—and they pop just the same.