It's already Dec. 14! Doesn't it always seem like the months from October to December just fly by? Yet I love this time of year with one holiday right after another. It is also nice that the weather is finally starting to cool down and give us that winter feel. However, this means that Christmas is just 11 short days away! Are you ready? Is your tree trimmed and your house decorated? Do you have your cookies baked, cards sent and holiday dinner menu ready to go?

Then there are the presents. Oh the presents! Some relatives are so easy to shop for. Your little 2-year-old niece will probably love just about anything you get for her (including the box, paper and bubble wrap it came in). But what should you get that hard-to-buy-for uncle who you don't know so well? Or what about the brother who seems to have every toy, gadget and electronic device to hit the market since 1990? They undoubtedly present trickier cases.

Lucky for you, the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo have many options that can help you out. Purchasing a membership for the zoo is a good place to start. Memberships range from $30 for an individual to $50 for family or grandparent memberships. Most levels of membership also have a gift option. By becoming a member of Lee Richardson Zoo, you can drive through as often as you like for free.

But that's not all; members receive invitations to special behind-the-scenes tours, zoo updates, unique opportunities at events such as BOO! at the Zoo! and a 10 percent discount at the Safari Shoppe. Becoming a member at our zoo also benefits you when you visit other zoos and aquariums across the country, as many of them offer reciprocal discounts for admissions, food and gifts.

But what if your gift recipient is already a member? Well, we have that covered too! Animal adoptions allow an individual to become a "parent" to one of the animals here at the zoo. We do all the work, and you get the benefit of helping out your new "child" by providing resources for food and care without the shredded furniture.

The Friends have restructured their adoption packages so that any animal can be adopted for as little as $25. The higher level of adoption package you select, the more parent perks you receive. Upper levels of adoption can include behind-the-scene tours of your adopted animal's exhibit, breakfast with the zoo director or even a guided golf cart tour of the zoo.

And for that younger cousin who you don't really know much about, you could always give them the experience of a lifetime as a zookeeper for a day! Prices range from $50 for a half-day experience for members of the zoo to $115 for a full day of keeper fun for individuals who do not have zoo memberships. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn how the zoo really works and get up close and personal with some of our zoo animals. Because of the unique nature of this gift, individuals must be 13 or older in order to participate.

There are other options as well, if you think someone might want to leave a more lasting impression upon the zoo. Purchasing an engraved brick to be displayed in our Wild Asia plaza or a bench to be personalized and placed in a shady spot on zoo grounds are wonderful alternatives to one-time items. The benches and bricks are perfect ways to remember loved ones or celebrate a family milestone. Either way, it will be sure to create an impact not only for the gift recipient, but for the zoo as a whole.

More information on all of these wonderful gift options can be found on the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo website at www.folrz.com. Or you can give them a call at 276-6243. Or better yet, stop by the Finnup Center for Conservation Education during weekdays and talk to them in person!

If you are still at a loss for what type of gift to give, you also could purchase a gift certificate for the gardener on your list for some premium Zoo Doo compost. Compost can be purchased by the 40-pound bag for $10 or by the bobcat scoop for $25. This premium compost contains a combination of straw, hay, waste animal food and, of course, zoo animal manure that has been broken down into a nutrient-rich fertilizer that is perfect for gardens and flower beds.

No matter what you do this holiday season, make sure to slow down and take time to enjoy this most wonderful time of the year. Dinners, cards, lights, carols and trees are all fun, but spending time with family and loved ones is the most important part of the season.

The best presents of all are the memories you can make and cherish for years to come. For many citizens in Garden City and the surrounding communities, the zoo has played an integral part in creating some of those memories. So grab your coats, hats and gloves and come visit the zoo and make new memories this holiday season!