Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

Zoo Day, Take 3

Sitting in my new writing space, I’m watching the last of our summer sunshine slip through the treetops.  I went back to work last week, but tomorrow, all of our teachers report.  The girls will go back to their Mimi Daycare.  John will be up and dressed in the morning.  Our routine will begin to settle in.

Our annual traditions have come and gone for the year, but as I wrap up the loose ends of a summer vacation, I realized that I didn’t write down enough of those moments.  After all, I write so that my girls can remember – when I don’t write, they have to rely on my poor photography skills and fuzzy memory to piece together their childhood.

So I write.

Ellie and I had our annual Zoo Day much earlier this summer.  Although, it’s worth noting that the traditional date, which is the day after I finish my school year, flew by without our normal outing.  At the end of the school year, I had a brief bout of food poisoning, and we moved, and I had to hire some positions unexpectedly… and soon it was mid-June with no Zoo trip.  So Ellie stomped into the kitchen, grabbed a permanent marker, and scrawled “ZOO DAY” on the calendar.

How does one argue with permanent marker in almost five-year-old handwriting?


It’s funny, I don’t know if it is just because she has grown so much over the last year, or if it was timing, or just me, but this trip felt so different for me than in the past.  In year one, she was still in a stroller and pull-ups; year two brought an obsession with zebras and the bathrooms. This year, she wanted two things: Dippin’ Dots and a ride on the trolley.

She loves to get a zoo map and navigates through the zoo like any good tourist would do:


By far, her favorite animal is still the zebra…

IMG_2685reunited and it feels so good

But she also got a great kick out of the river otters this year.  She even picked out a river otter toy from the gift shop this year.  She lingered longer at each exhibit, too.  Since she can now read, she took great joy in examining the placards in front of each animal.  Things that she was once scared of, no longer made her panic.  I, the proud mother, happily snapped pictures of my brave girl, conquering the dreaded kangaroo pouch, the swamp, and that silly bird house.

We took our annual selfie on the trolley…


And she made point to stand in every. single. one. of these look-through thingies (do they have a name???):


I made her wait until the end of the day to get her Dippin’ Dots, even though she complained pretty much every five minutes until she got them.  We sat alongside the big fountain this year.  She enjoyed watching the people go by, and even made a new little friend with the girl sitting by her family eating Dippin’ Dots across the way.


Our Zoo Days are usually long – with a breakfast and several hours wandering the familiar paths.  This year, she had her fill in about two hours.  After that, she asked to go back home to Daddy and Tessa.  Our stop at the gift shop this year though, was considerably more difficult.  She is a thoughtful little lady, and after much deliberation over which item Daddy would most like to display on his desk at school, she settled on this keeper of a mug that I know John can’t wait to show off to his colleagues:


(She doesn’t need to know that I had to dig it out of the back of our tupperware cabinet just to take this picture.)

A little older, a little calmer, a lot of sweet memories made with my sweet-ish girl.  Who knows how many more years of zoo days I can talk her in to, so I will continue to soak in every one. 🙂

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Zoo Day, Take 2

There were three distinct differences between the zoo trip that Ellie and I took last year and ours today.

1. No more diapers.

2. No more stroller.

3. No more nap on the way home.

Because we no longer need diapers, I spent as much time checking out the potties as I did looking at animals.  Just sayin’.

We started with our usual breakfast:

During our meal, Ellie told me all about the animals that she would like to see.  We had been watching Wild Kratts in the moments before we left the house and by odd coincidence, it was all about an African Safari.  The last scene that we saw was a slide show of sorts that flashed pictures of at least half of the animals that we were going to see.  Because of this, I spent most of the morning explaining to Ellie how the zoo and Africa were two different places.   In any case, we beelined for the zebra and giraffes first, her two favorite animals.  Much to her dismay, the zebra did not pee while we were watching this year. The giraffes were so close to the fence though that the zebra was quickly forgotten.

We saw the Penguins eating their breakfast…

And, since this is the trip where we go crazy and do all the things that Daddy always says “no” to, we had our caricatures drawn by some high school kid saving money for a trip to Costa Rica.  Ellie was totally entranced by his work.

As usual, we saw the dolphin show and ate a really overpriced lunch.  We spent a good deal of time sitting by one of the fountains taking mommy/daughter selfies and debating whether the fake floating crocodile could eat the fake hippo on the other side of the pool.

We started at the zoo at 9:30 and by 1:00, I was exhausted.  Not Ellie!  Onward she lead me, to seals and rhinos and past the bears again.  We visited a little pet gift shop just because it looks like a dog house and she was desperate to go inside.  And of course, we had to cool down with some Dippin’ Dots!

Ellie took my picture outside of the Ape House:

By the end of the day, there was a lot of time spent on the trolley due to the tired legs (pros and cons to no stroller!).  Our last stop of the day was the gift shop, where she simply could not be swayed from the selection of this quality item for John:

Let me tell you, she was PUMPED to give it to him.  I gave him a heads up that he would need a good reaction prepared for this one!!  It really is cute, just not something that I’d ever pick out for the football loving, guitar playing guy’s guy that I married.  🙂  She was also desperate to give Tessa the exact same squeaky toy as she did last year, but I was able to convince her to pick out a little stuffed penguin.  Oh, to know what goes on in that kids’s head!!!!

Last year, on the way home, Ellie slept peacefully in the backseat and I had quiet time to reflect on our lovely day.  This year, she talked (and talked and talked) the whole way home about everything she saw and what she would tell her daddy about our day.  It was exhausting, but equally as lovely.  I can’t help but wonder how she be next year, as an almost five-year-old when we go again.  I don’t know if two years in a row counts as a tradition, but she is such a fun little girl… I can’t wait to go again!!


Mommy and Ellie’s Day of Fun – Zoo Edition

When was the last time that you were so excited that you felt giddy?

For me, it was last night… err, this morning at about 1:00 am.  I love that feeling!!

Even as a little kid sharing a room with my sister, I can remember “nights before” (before birthdays or vacations or other events) where I would lie awake thinking about how excited I was for what was coming next.  I did this on the night before I got married.  I did this on the night before she got married!  I am trying to convince myself that she joined in on my “too excited to sleep” chatter… however, it’s more likely that I was just keeping her awake when she would just rather sleep and get on with it.

In any case, I was over the moon because Ellie and I had a special day planned for today… our first outing to the zoo!  Every year, we sign up for a zoo membership and we have really enjoyed taking Ellie on excursions to visit the animals.  This was my first time taking her on my own.  The membership that we sign up for comes with some tickets to do things like take a trolley ride and see the Dolphin Show – things that John and I have never actually done with her.  So this time, I made a promise to myself (and her!) that we would really live it up on this trip.  And so I present pictures from Mommy and Ellie’s Day of Fun, the Zoo Edition:

First, we had breakfast at our favorite place.  I wish I had taken a picture of the awesomeness that was my cornflake-crusted french toast with vanilla creme and strawberries.  Instead, here is Ellie with her remnants:


When we got to the zoo (after taking the grand tour of the Western Chicago suburbs and hitting every. single. red. light.), we had to go on the trolley first thing.  That Daniel Tiger and his trolley talk had really gotten this kiddo excited…


For some reason, Ellie was obsessed with this snake on the ceiling.  She insisted on a picture and talked about “our baby snake” for about an hour.


After the trolley, we got into the first Dolphin Show of the day.  I remember the Dolphin Show being a spectacular showcase of amazing jumps and tricks where everyone in the front got splashed and soaked and had a rip-roaring time.  And, from a three-year-old’s perspective, it was all of those things.  As an adult…. not so much.


We actually bought over-priced zoo food for lunch and had a picnic on the concrete because there were no tables in the shade within eyesight (balancing a tray full of food precariously on the handles of my stroller was not the brightest idea I ever had).  Then we visited almost every animal and went to the souvenir shop (something I have never done in my entire life) to buy gifts for Tessa (a plastic bumble bee) and Daddy (paper made out of 100% elephant poop.  No joke.  Ellie picks out the best gifts!).

Here is Ellie as an otter, which is super cute:


After visiting some more animals again (Ellie insisted on another trip to the zebra because the first time, it was peeing and that was hilarious), we got Dippin’ Dots.  I’m not sure she really enjoyed them so much… I think she was a little unsure how to handle the little pellets that kept falling into her lap… but I still think they are one of my favorite foods.


And here’s my obligatory “my kid is exhausted after a long day of (fill in the blank)” picture.  Notice the zebra stuffed animal that she chose for herself.  Thanks to the peeing that we witnessed, she can’t get enough zebra.


We had the most lovely day!  If you have little kids, I hope you’ll take them, one at a time, to the zoo.  At the very least, for the poo poo paper.  $14.95 for elephant feces.  Worth. every. penny.