Thursday, May 30, 2013

Do you throwback on Thursday?

For the past few months I have been taking part in #ThrowbackThursday on Instagram.
For those of you not familiar with it, Throwback Thursday is a fun way to share old pictures of "way back when" and of course it's all about the #hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, and Google+

Today I came across an old picture of Dylan from 2006.
He was 3 years old and it was his first visit to the Orange County Zoo.

I love looking through old pictures and reminiscing, so I look forward to Throwback Thursday.

Do you throwback on Thursday?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

So you want to help build the San Diego Zoo leopards a new home huh?

Well, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at Dylan's response when we received a letter informing us that the San Diego Zoo was building a new home for the critically endangered Amur Leopards and Snow Leopards. Dylan has been bit by the philanthropy bug and there is no cure. He is on a conservation high and I wouldn't dream of stopping him - but I will do everything in my power to keep supporting him!

Last year Dylan's birthday wish was to raise money for the tiger's new home at the Safari Park. His goal was to raise $1,000 and he surpassed that. His name will now be on a plaque at Tiger Trail and he couldn't be happier.

A few months ago he started a new challenge when he was asked to be part of a test group for the new I ___ for Wildlife program. He pledged to read 1500 pages of animal facts in 100 days and got people to sponsor him. He raised $500 for wildlife in 3 months.

So this time I told him he could take on the challenge to raise $1,000 for the leopards; however, he could not just ask people for money. I told him he had to figure out a way to raise the money by giving his time or selling something that he made. We tossed around a few ideas of things he could make and sell, but nothing really made us say WOW! That is until he came up with the idea of teaching other kids what he has learned.

And so Dylan's Animal Adventure Camp was born. 

Dylan will be hosting his very own 2-day camp where he will teach other kids about endangered animals, conservation, and most importantly how easy it is to make a difference. Thanks to some very generous sponsors, we will be able to donate over 90% of the camp proceeds directly to helping build a new home for the Amur Leopards and Snow Leopards.

Come join the safari with us this summer at Dylan's Animal Adventure Camp. Together we can explore, learn new things, and help the leopards!

Live out of the area and can't join us? Don't worry, we will have something special on the blog after the camp for those unable to attend.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tranquility and the butterfly house

Sometimes I like to escape from the busy world around me and find some peace. Even if only for a short time, the sound of silence is soothing to my soul.  Lucky for me I work down the street from the Environmental Nature Center and can escape to the Butterfly House.

Tiny California Dogface butterflies and beautiful Monarch butterflies fill the air.

Just stepping through the doors of the butterfly house puts my mind at ease.
I could sit in here all day.

Have you visited the ENC Butterfly House?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The sketch that started it all

Steph Calvert, of Hearts and Laserbeams, knew exactly what I wanted. She took my thoughts and ideas and made Dylan's dreams come true. Without her generous sponsorship, Dylan's Animal Adventure Camp would not be possible. Thank you!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The journey to Tiger Trail continues

On a recent visit to the Safari Park, Dylan was stopped dead in his tracks when he saw this sign.

He read it, turned around to face me and said, "Mom, that's me they are talking about."

Yes it is Dylan. Yes it is.

He was so proud and overwhelmed with joy. He just stood there.
Touching the sign.
Bonding with the tiger in his own way.

I will admit I had tears in my eyes watching him. When I asked if I could take his picture with the sign he smiled and said, "You better!"

He then proceeded to give the tigers a little more - because that's just how he rolls ...

and I wouldn't have it any other way!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

San Diego Zoo Garden Festival "Shades of Green" - Day 1

As much as I love the animals, the flowers at the San Diego Zoo are nothing short of amazing. I can't help but take pictures of the flowers - even the little daises that grow along the pathways. So you can imagine how excited I get when Garden Festival comes along. In fact, I have made it our official Mother's Day tradition!

Today was all about the orchids. The Zoo's Orchid House, which is open all four days of Garden Festival, is filled with the 900 different types of orchids the Zoo has. These orchids never leave the Orchid House because they are too delicate to have on the pathways. I also found out that some of the orchids were confiscated from people trying to smuggle them in to the country. For this reason, there are some very unique and non-native orchids on display.

I could have spent all day inside the Orchid House.

Every time I turned around there was another beautiful orchid waiting to mesmerize me.

These orchids reminded me of the singing flowers from Alice in Wonderland.

This year marks the 20th annual Garden Festival and the theme "Shades of Green" is aimed at bringing attention to the Zoo as a world-class botanical garden. With more than 700,000 plants and over 900 different types of orchids alone, the Zoos accredited botanical collection gets some much-deserved attention during this four-day festival highlighting all that is green.

There is a quote at the entrance to the Zoo's Orchid House that reads:

"The only person ever to see some rare tropical orchid might be a bulldozer operator who is clearing the two or three acres that constitute its only habitat on earth."

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the horticulture staff, I was able to see some of these rare orchids today.

I'm looking forward to seeing more of the Zoo's botanical beauty tomorrow.

To see more pictures from the Orchid House visit my Flickr album.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Life is always filled with little surprises

Imagine the surprise on our faces when we saw this last weekend at the San Diego Zoo Global booth. This made quite the conversation piece when people came by.

Have you met Dylan? He raised $500 reading for wildlife.

What will you do?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

One night of camping with my son that I will never forget

So last weekend was a Cub Scout camping trip that Dylan really wanted to attend. However, Grandpa was out of town on business and he is the camper ... not me. Knowing how much this camping trip meant to Dylan, I said that I would go Friday night and then my dad would take over on Saturday.  How bad could one night be?

We arrived at Irvine Regional Park around 5:30 pm and made our way up to the Irvine Ranch Outdoor Education Center. Looked nice. Buildings, lodges, parking lot, orchard ... but we were camping.
In a tent. On the ground.

As we walked the 1/3 mile up a steep incline to our campsite, carrying our gear, I remember thinking "What have I gotten myself in to?"

This is dirt with lots of cactus and bushes. Up in the mountains.

Well, with the help of one of the other parents I managed to get the tent set up and air mattress inflated. Hard part done right?

This would be my home for the next 18 hours.

As the boys ran around and played I settled in. This might not be so bad.

I love nature and the surroundings were beautiful. Why did I not bring my camera? At least I had my phone for a few pictures.

The sunset was gorgeous - this picture doesn't do it justice.  Oh, and the moon coming up over the mountain was awesome. It was so close to us, I wanted to reach out and touch the moon with my hand.

So now that the sun had set and dinner was cooking I started thinking about where I was. And how it was getting really dark. And how if I needed to go to the bathroom I would have to walk up the hill and across the dirt road ... with a buddy since we always use the buddy system for safety.

Time for s'mores. This will be fun and will get my mind off the idea of what animals would be coming out of hiding during the night. Wood fires are not allowed, so the campsites have these really cool propane campfires that look just like a campfire, but without the smoke in your eyes or any flying embers that could start a fire.

We had a visit from the ranger who informed us of the rules. Most were common sense and of course the be courteous to your neighbors rule of quiet time between 10 pm and 7 am. Great, this meant bed was at 10 and I could sleep. The faster I went to sleep, the faster morning would come and I could go home.

Oh wait, I almost forgot the best part of the ranger talk.

"You are out in the wilderness. We do have mountain lions and bobcats. We do have coyotes. We do have rattlesnakes."

Um, hello? Why are you telling me this at 8 pm.

Long story short. I laid in the tent from 10 pm until 3 am awake. Listening to the coyotes howl and the wind blow. Listening to the footsteps outside my tent that were not proceeded or followed by the sound of a zipper, which meant it wasn't someone getting up to use the bathroom. Wanting to look outside, but too scared too move. Oh, then there was the low flying helicopter that circled the area around 1:30 am. Talk about your imagination running wild!

I think my favorite part was at 3 am when I realized I had to go to the bathroom. Yes, my son was not too happy when I woke him up to be my bathroom buddy. I believe his exact words were "Really mom?"

Since it had been a full moon the night before, it wasn't that dark outside. We saw a few bunnies and even some frogs around the edge of camp. I will even go as far as to say that it was quite peaceful. Once back in the tent I fell asleep. Not sure if it was from pure exhaustion or because I had seen that there really was nothing outside. A few short hours later I was awake - along with most of the camp - thanks to the peacocks down the hill at Irvine Regional Park. Those are some very loud birds!

I will admit that waking up to see this was incredible.

 ... watching my son sit outside our tent and whittle with his pocket knife at 6:30 am was pretty cool too.

I may not be the coolest camping mom, but I sure did enjoy watching my son. He really is growing up and I am so proud of him. Rather than me taking care of him, he took care of me that night.

Breakfast was great. There is nothing like a good breakfast burrito with lots of fresh bacon cooked over a camp stove. I was amazed at the kitchen set up these dads had.

Oh, and we had Starbucks too -  thanks to a Dad who made a coffee run at 6 am.

The day would be filled with adventures and all things Cub Scout. On the agenda was zip lining, archery, BB guns, and a night hike. I would stay until lunch time and then it was time for the boys to bond.

I can not tell you how happy I was to see my reinforcement arrive. Grandpa to the rescue!

Once my dad was there, Dylan wanted to have nothing to do with me. He actually told me that I could leave.
He really does like spending time with Grandpa on these camp outs.

I stayed just long enough to watch Dylan go zip lining a few times and then I was out of there.

The last time I went camping was when I was a Girl Scout. That was 30+ years ago.

So my famous last words "How bad can one night be?"  Well, let's put it this way ... I won't be camping any time in the near future. At least not the kind of camping that requires me to sleep in a tent.