With Halloween just one week away, I went through the kidlets’ bookshelf to pull out some books to get us all in a spooky mood. I broke out “Clifford’s Halloween,” “The Berenstain Bears Trick or Treat,” “Froggy’s Halloween” (my son is totally into the Froggy book collection) and even the Peanut’s classic “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” I put them all front and center on their bookshelf in our living room, but the book they keep pulling out, time and time again, and asking mom, dad or anyone else to read them is the “Monster Mash” book I bought last year at the Hallmark store.
Last week I wrote about “Boo at the Zoo” and the Halloween-themed family activities that you can enjoy there, but the Bronx Zoo isn’t the only place where families can enjoy some scary fun! Only running this weekend and next, The New York Aquarium will celebrate Halloween with their swashbuckling “Ascarium” celebration.
The past few weeks in my household have been nothing less than hectic. Between major projects and late hours at work for both me and The Hubs, getting in the habit of daily “homework” with my kindergarten son, ballet class for my daughter, weekend soccer games and my father being ill and in the hospital – we frankly haven’t had much “family fun-time” as of late.
Thankfully, that will all change when we take the kidlets back to the Bronx Zoo’s Boo at the Zoo and totally start to get into the Halloween spirit!
This past week has been nothing I could have ever expected.
In a previous post I talked about my 85 year old father, who has now been in rehab for six weeks following colon cancer surgery. He still cannot get up, stand or walk even with the aid of a walker or cane. He has not regained his strength or coordination. Though my father had been trying during his therapy sessions, there has been no significant improvement in his condition. So last week his medical team at the rehab hit our family with a sad conclusion: his physical and occupational therapy should be discontinued. They have suggested that we place him in a nursing home where he can receive 24-hour care. My dad’s not totally aware of what is going on, but you can clearly tell he’s tired, frustrated and scared. However, before we even had the chance to look at potential nursing homes to move him to, we received a call that he needed to go back to the hospital. He had developed an abscess and would need an operation to resolve it. He had the procedure yesterday, Thursday, and is now comfortably recovering. The next step for him is still to be determined, but we are fortunate to have him here for another day.
In the midst of all this was Peanut’s second birthday. She’s still very young and oblivious to what is going on with her Pop-Pop, though she does know something is not right, but I still wanted her to have a birthday celebration. So we invited my mom, sister and brother-in-law to come over for dinner and mini-party, complete with a Hello Kitty birthday cake. That was this past Saturday.
Now, we live in NJ, and as I’m sure you’ve seen on the news over the past week, we had a freak October snowstorm aka “Snowtober” on… SATURDAY! Yes, the very day of Peanut’s birthday celebration. The wet snow combined with leaves still being on the trees resulted in lots of downed limbs which also meant lots of downed power lines. Just as my mom and sister arrived, the electricity went out and wouldn’t return for four very long and cold days.
We made the best of the situation and used our ingenuity to make sure that Peanut still had a celebration. My husband was able to rig our gas line grill up to our generator so he could cook the roast and grill the veggies. I was able to light the stove with a good old-fashioned match and cook some couscous. Mom helped make a salad with what was soon to spoil in our rapidly defrosting fridge and we wound up having a pretty nice feast lit by candlelight and flashlight. A couple of glasses of Pinot didn’t hurt, either!
Waking up in my house on Sunday morning was like walking through a frat house the morning after a rush party. My house was a mess, dirty dishes and glasses in the sink, empty bottles on the counter and sleeping bodies everywhere. With the power company telling us it would be days before electricity and heat would return, the kidlets and I decamped to my mother’s house. She always manages to escape these disasters, so we stayed with her for the next two nights. The poor hubs spent those two nights with our dog at our igloo, I mean, house, with the generator cranking away to make sure our basement wouldn’t get flooded from the melting snow.
I was thankful that my mom took us in. Though I grew up in that house, it’s been a long time since I’ve lived there and with my dad not there, it certainly felt strange. I felt bad for my mom and sister, they are not used to the chaos of two little kidlets. They can sure wear you out. My mom said she enjoyed it all, that having the kidlets around took her mind off of things. I also felt bad for the kidlets, though they dressed up in the costumes, they didn’t really get to celebrate Halloween since it wasn’t really safe to be trick-or-treating with downed power lines all over. However, Nana saved the day with some well placed candy snacks in the kidlets jack o’ lantern buckets.
When the power went back on at 4:50 pm on Tuesday, I screamed and jumped with joy. We were able to return home – as a family unit.
It was not the week that I expected, but right now I’m just grateful that I still have my family….
What are you grateful for?
I think I love going to the zoo almost as much as my two kidlets do. Luckily, our family lives in the NYC metropolitan area, aka the Jersey ‘burbs, so it’s an easy hike to great places like the Turtle Back Zoo, Bergen County Zoological Park and Maritime Aquarium to just name a few.
This past weekend we went to The Bronx Zoo, located in the “Boogie Down Bronx” as the hubs jokingly told our son on the drive over. My son was as confused as I was by this comment, but we just went with it Our kids are big fans – during our last visit our daughter became obsessed with peacocks and this time she announced that we had to see the rhinos!
This year we finally sprung for a family membership, which gives us unlimited visits to the Bronx Zoo as well as zoos in Central Park, Prospect Park and Queens, and the NY Aquarium in Brooklyn. There are lots of plans for different budgets: we spent $130 and got four pre-paid parking passes, worth it for those alone, I think, sixteen free attraction passes, plus a cool limited edition wildlife t-shirt (my son claimed it immediately!) and plenty of additional perks. If you hit the zoo more than once a year, you’ll save a lot.
While the kids never get bored looking at all of the exotic animals, the zoo also plans seasonal themes keeping it fun and ever-changing all year round. This Halloween season, it’s “Boo At the Zoo” where kids, and even adults, can dress up in costumes and can go “trick or treating” throughout the zoo, grabbing treats like Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish and granola bars. There was a haunted hayride and maze — we ran out of time for those — as well as some Halloween mask making…you see the kidlets’ handiwork in the photo above.
If you go with little ones, go early. We got there soon after it opened and grabbed a plum parking spot. We also took advantage of short lines for “in demand” attractions such as the Wild Asia Monorail, Jungle World, Tiger Mountain, the Children’s Zoo and the Congo Gorilla Forest which can really get crowded as the day goes on. In addition to our kids’ favorite animals, we saw zebra, buffalo, a red panda, okapi (sort of a half zebra/half brown horse, kinda weird but neat looking), elephants and baboons. We never made it over to the monkey and reptile houses and to the sea lions – it’s really hard to do it all in one visit!
The whole family even took a ride on the Bug Carousel. The carousel has a photographer that roams around and takes your picture, and he took a great one of me & my daughter, but quite honestly it wasn’t a great enough photo to spend $13.95 on. In fact, I didn’t see one sale of a photo during our ride on the carousel. Sidebar here: the hubs & I decided that with digital photography today, it can’t cost them more than $1.00 to print out a photo, if they lowered the price to 9.99, parents and grandparents would be buying the pix like crazy.
We walked everywhere on our visit and must have logged more than 2 miles, plus lots of pushing the stroller uphill-a better workout than the gym! If you don’t want to walk, you can catch a tram, which are scattered around the zoo, but be warned, you have to buy an attraction pass to ride them. The zoo itself is so large – 265 acres – that even though there were lots of people, you never felt like you were over-crowded.
Another plus for a family looking to keep costs down, like ours, is that you can bring your own food with you. I made sandwiches, packed some juice & milk boxes plus some snacks and put them into a little cooler made just for outings like this. Not only does it save money –the food can get pricey – but I can actually get my kids to eat something they are familiar with. Plus it helps mom/dad avoid the inevitable fried lunch! My hubs joked he’s feeling like a gourmet expert on chicken fingers!
Our four hours at the zoo was perfect-and went fast. The kidlets fell asleep the moment we pulled out of the parking lot. They were still talking about all the animals they saw on Monday morning and couldn’t wait to tell their pals at school what they did.
I’d have to say that The Bronx Zoo is one of my favorites – with the Denver Zoo and Philadelphia Zoo coming in second and third respectively. Our next animal outing is likely going to be the NY Aquarium. I’ve never been, so I will share our experiences as soon as we go.
What is your kid’s favorite animal to see at the zoo? What’s your favorite zoo?