St. Louis

I know, you were expecting me to post pics of last night’s sewing party.  Well, silly me, I forgot to bring my camera upstairs!  So maybe next Monday I can get pics of the girls.  We had a good time; they worked on sewing projects, made some jewelry with my huge bead stash, played the new Halo game, and watched movies.

In the mean time, though, I can show you pics of our trip to St. Louis, Missouri.  There were two trips, actually.  Both of them had the same end goal:  to drop a kidlet off at the Federal Building so they could go to Army Basic Training.  If you’ve followed my blog before, you might have read my post about Mark and Phil, two of our sons who have joined the Illinois National Guard.

Phil is 21, and just got married this past July to his girlfriend of 18 months, Jewel.  Here they are at the train station in St. Louis, where we are dropping him off so he can go to Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  He is in training for communications, which includes phones, radios, and computers.  Interestingly, he is taking our oldest son’s place in their Army National Guard unit.  Our oldest son, Steve, was in the Guard for 7 years, and just retired from military service in September.  He was the communications sergeant for their unit, and when Phil gets back home in the spring, he’ll be stepping into Steve’s old job.

Mark is 18, and he joined the Guard not long after Phil did, but he’s in a different unit.  He’s in training to do maintenance and repair on helicopters.  On the day he had to be in St. Louis to catch the train, we decided to go to the St. Louis Zoo before dropping him off.  It worked out that Allen, Margo, and Will could come with, so we had opportunity to spend the day together.  Here’s Mark, in the Butterfly exhibit.  I know that butterfly looks huge, doesn’t it?  It’s actually about a 6-inch wing span when open, so yea, pretty big.

Seeing this picture reminds me of the line from the Disney movie, Mulan:  “I don’t do that tongue thing.”  Well, our family DOES the tongue thing.  It’s just become a family tradition, I guess.  Oh, the pictures I could show…  but that’s another story.  Here we are, at the entrance to the zoo.  From left to right:  Allen, Will, Margo, and Mark.  We were able to find free parking, just outside the zoo; and the zoo itself is free, too.  It’s definitely worth the time if you ever get to the opportunity to visit St. Louis.

I absolutely love this photo.  The hippo was making this loop in the tank (poor thing… that’s the equivalent of pacing).  Even though the water was murky, you could see her as she made her turn to approach the window.  I was able to catch this shot just as the hippo was passing by the kids.  It was really interesting to see a hippopotamus up close, and we stayed at her tank for quite a while.  (It was nice and shady, too, which helped.)

In contrast, this hyena wasn’t interested in interacting with it’s adoring public.  Sound asleep in the heat of the day, he reminded me of one of our cats, who sleeps like that on occasion.  And whaddya know… another tongue shot.  See what I mean?  Good one, by the way, Mags.

We watched a Sea Lion show, which was pretty good.  With it being the middle of the week and a drizzly, humid day, there were hardly any people at the zoo, which meant no waiting in lines and sitting right up front for the show, which cost a whopping $3.00 per person.  There were three trainers, and interestingly the youngest one, who couldn’t be more than 18 years old, was the best trainer.  I know they have to fight the boredom of doing the same show over and over, 3 times a day, year round…  But a little enthusiasm (even though feigned) would have helped the segments by the other trainers.  Then again, for $3.00 each, we more than got our money’s worth.

The St. Louis Zoo has a really good insect section, which both fascinated me and grossed me out by turns.  There was a really cool Monarch Butterfly hatching area, where you could watch the cocoons rattle and shake, and then a newly hatched butterfly emerge.  There were also gardens where you could see all the insects that pollinate the local flora.  Right, like this gigantic wasp!  That thing had to have been two inches long, eek.

The zoo is celebrating it’s Centennial this year, and there was a building dedicated to the history of the zoo.  This old-time photo was set up for people, and I was able to get this cute picture of Allen and Margaret.  I like the pout she gave– it really seems to tell a story about the two characters in the photo.  At first I thought the history of the zoo might be boring, but I actually found it very fascinating to see the progression and growth of the zoo.  Remember Marlin Perkins from the old Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom?  Yeah he was a part of the zoo for quite a long time.  I thought that was cool… Marlin was a childhood hero of mine.

A couple more photos as we were leaving the zoo:  Margo and Mark on this giant horned beetle statue outside the insect house.  I’d taken a few pics of the kids scrambling around on this thing, but this photo is my favorite.  It shows a lot of Mark’s personality.  And the second picture, in front of the waterfall:  It was the end of the day and everyone was getting a little tired, so we took this one just before we left.

After the zoo, we all headed to TGI Friday’s for dinner.  It was getting close to time for us to drop Mark off at his hotel, and we were putting that off as long as we could.  Here’s the crew as we waited for our food to arrive.  And the tongue thing, of course.  At dinner, I asked Mark if he’d had a fun day on his last day of ‘freedom’ before the torture began.  He grinned and said that he did, and he thanked everyone for being with him.

Just as we were leaving the restaurant, the light was perfect for catching this picture of the St. Louis Arch over the downtown area.  I’d been trying to get a good distance shot of the arch that day, but either it was from a moving car or from too much distance to really get a good pic.  So there was some irony as we exited the restaurant and stood by the car, and looked up at the sunset sky… and there it was.

So we’re getting regular letters from Mark and Phil, and they both seem to be doing well.  They’re graduating from Basic Training in about 4 weeks from now, and I plan on being at both graduations.  It’s a big turning point in someone’s life, and important for loved ones to share it with them.  So I’m going to be putting some of my bead stash on auction at JustBeads, so I can pay for the trip.  I’ll have to stay a week at Fort Jackson, because the boys graduate a week apart from each other.  More about that in a later post.

Coming up:  New glasses! In just a few short hours, I’m going to the optometrist.  I’ve needed new glasses for awhile now, because I can’t read things up close.  I think the time has come for me to get bifocals, and I’m kindof dreading it.  But I can’t keep on doing things the way I’m doing them now, because it’s important that I have good up-close vision.  I might consider contact lenses, and I might consider lasik surgery (both are covered under our insurance’s vision plan).  So I’ll be back with a new photo soon.

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