Monday, August 30, 2010

Busy Sunday

Today was one of those busy Sundays. Andrew and I both spoke during sacrament meeting in our ward—my mom and Karen helped out with the girls, which was so amazing of them to do, not only because Miriam was such a handful today but, because both my mom and Karen had already sat through three hours of church at their own wards. Karen and Reid both spoke in their ward today and Emily played the cello for the special musical number.

As a finale to our Sabbath day, my brother Patrick was set apart as a service missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He’ll be volunteering his time and talent down at the LDS Motion Picture Studio for 12 months.

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My mom and dad, auntie Judy and uncle Wally, brother David, sister Josie, and Andrew and I all came to support him.

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I thought it was funny that my mom and I both wore the same skirt today, though hers is orange and mine is blue. Josie has one, too—hers is purple—but she didn’t wear it today. My mom got them in South Africa when she was there for a conference last summer before she visited us in Egypt. If I was Andrew I would have either died of embarrassment on the spot or ran home as quickly as I could to change my clothes. But I’m not Andrew, so instead my mom and I just laughed that we wore the same skirt on the same day—besides, they’re different enough that I’m sure no one noticed except for us. And Josie.

We also got to visit with my mom’s cousin Marie, her husband Steve, and their son, Eric. They live in Ohio so we don’t get to see them very often—the last time was at my cousin Mary’s wedding nearly 5 years ago—but Eric will be attending BYU starting on Monday so they were in town “dropping him off” at university.

It was definitely one of those Sundays that makes you wonder where the phrase “day of rest” came from…

Rexburg

Andrew was worried about getting lost in Rexburg so I made sure to have addresses for all the attractions we wanted to see. Turns out that in Rexburg addresses are for pussies. We could see the temple long before we arrived in town and easily found it from the highway.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Still in Bear World

After driving through the park once we got out to play for a while. After all we’d been sitting in the car for hours on end and the girls were going a little stir-crazy.

Rachel and Miriam measured themselves on the ride sizer and we found out that Rachel is taller than 36 inches so she could go on most rides by herself. We weren’t brave enough to do that, though, so we mostly accompanied her. Sometimes Miriam got to go on the rides, too.

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We had heard that Bear World was dumb, so we were a little worried about what we would find there but it was absolutely perfect for Rachel. I could, however, see how a teenager would think it was lame. The rides were boring eight-year-olds, but Rachel thought they were amazing.

Andrew took her on the roller coaster.

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Then I took her on some bouncy race cars.

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At first we weren’t sure that Miriam was really allowed to go on any of the rides since she’s so little. So she sat in the stroller and glowered at everybody until we decided she could have a turn, too.

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Miriam was all over the steering wheel.

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Everybody loved the train.

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There was one ride that took you way up high. We didn’t take Meme on that ride.

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Miriam wasn’t very happy about being left behind with Mommy but Daddy made her feel better when he came back down.

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Later Rachel met a little boy about her age and since he was riding rides by himself she decided she could do it, too. So she trailed behind this boy, going on every ride that he did.

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She acted so grown up and followed all the rules. It was fun to see her managing buckles and things all on her own. I didn’t know how we’d ever manage to tear her away from the park but eventually the boy she was shadowing ditched her. That made her a whole lot more willing to come with us.

Our next stop was the petting zoo, which was mostly fun. Right when we walked through the gate we were accosted by a pregnant goat who wanted a good rubdown. I don’t blame her—I’m fond of massages when I’m pregnant, too.

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At first Andrew was like, “That goat can’t be pregnant. It’s a boy. He has horns.”

“And an udder?” I asked him, “It’s a girl. Female goats have horns, too. Trust me, she’s pregnant.”

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Once the goat was satisfied we were able to move onto other animals. The deer were especially tantalizing. I mean, you can pet a goat on any old farm but getting close enough to a wild deer to pet it is a trick. There were a few fawns in the petting zoo, as well as some does.

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The smallest fawn was gentle and the doe she was hanging around was kind, too—she was even licking children in the face—but the other fawn, an antlering buck, was not at all gentle. He was grouchy, abusive, and over-protective of the other deer.

While Rachel finally got brave enough to approach the littlest fawn…

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…when the grumpy, antlering fawn charged at her and started jumping around her in circles, bucking his legs out and acting rather aggressive.

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That really ruined things for her. That, and the truculent turkeys who went around pecking everybody, searching for food pellets. Some poor kids had been given quarters by their parents and were trying to use them to get food out of the dispensers but they couldn’t turn the knob because they were swarmed upon by gobbling turkeys, snapping at their fingers, legs, and faces.

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Rachel’s favourite animal in the zoo was, of course, a little pink and black pig—because it was pink. She had a hard time getting up the nerve to pet it, though, and I don’t blame her because pigs are so wiry and gross feeling.

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It was hard to tear ourselves away from Bear World—we were there for about four hours—but we had so many other things to do in Rexburg that we had to say goodbye.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Yellowstone Bear World

Our first stop was Yellowstone Bear World, a drive-thru adventure. 

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I must admit, we were both a little nervous about this experience. I felt kind of how I felt before I went snorkeling for the first time…or how one might feel going down in a shark cage. We’re talking grizzly bears, here: wild, ferocious, territorial, rip-your-car-door-off. Actually, I was the only one nervous at first and Andrew made fun of me., but then he reflected back on a documentary he watched about polar bears and he started to get nervous, too.

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The drive through the animal park is pretty short but you can drive through as many times as you’d like. We only drove through twice because we spent so much time at the petting zoo and amusement park. The first drive was pretty tame. We were close behind the feeding truck so a lot of the animals had come out of “hiding.” We saw deer and bison and caribou and moose and even an albino elk…

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Then we entered the bear enclosures. The grizzly enclosure is rather small—there were two little grizzlies behind electric fences. Grizzlies are very dangerous and territorial—thus the reason for the high security in the park.

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Grizzlies are thought by some to be the most dangerously aggressive bears in the world.

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Knowing that, we thought it was funny to see a worker weed-whacking right there just a few feet away from a grizzly when we were supposed to stay inside our car with the windows rolled up and the doors locked.

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After driving over another electric fence we entered the black bear and wolf enclosure. There were bears all over the place and they were absolutely flocking the feeding truck. We counted seven bears around this truck, alone, and there were more coming.

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Black bears are rather innocuous, though can be provoked. They aren’t very territorial, nor are they very protective of their young. They are quintessential “lazy” bears. After the feeding truck passed they would just sit on the side of the road scratching their tummies and picking at their fur.

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Unlike brown bears, of which the grizzly is a subspecies, black bears typically attack humans when they are hungry instead of to fend off their territory so it’s really important to know your bears because if you played dead for a black bear it would eat you but if you tried to fight off a grizzly bear it would surely maul you to death. The easiest way to tell them apart, I think, is that grizzlies have a hump and black bears don’t. Every other identifying characteristic requires some up-close-and-personal contact with the bear which I think most people would try to avoid.

Black bears and grizzlies both are garbage addicts and where I grew up in British Columbia it is actually illegal to put your garbage out the night before collection day. You have to do it the morning of or you face major penalties. I think, though, that if I had to have one kind of bear or the other sniffing around my trash I’d choose a black bear. You?

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Andrew was creeped out by the wolves. They look so domesticated yet ferocious at the same time. We didn’t see very mean wolves, although we may have seen more than we actually noticed since we saw quite a few lying down together in the shade. Most were very well camouflaged…except this white one.

The second time through the park was so much better. At first we thought we weren’t going to see anything because there was no feeding truck in front of us. But we were wrong.

While the herbivores were hiding the grass the bears were all over the place and, since the feeding truck was gone, were rather interested in the remaining vehicles. We let Rachel out of her seatbelt so that she could kneel on her seat. She couldn’t see anything otherwise and we figured there was no harm in it since the speed limit in the park is 3 MPH.

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She was probably more thrilled to be out of her seatbelt than she was to see the bears.

I saw a bear swimming in a pond right outside my window.

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He came out to say hello before wandering over to his friends at the “playground.” Most of the trees in the bear enclosures were wrapped with metal so that the bears wouldn’t scratch them, but they had this little structure made of logs for the bears to climb on—we saw some way up at the top. They also had dens made of large corrugated pipes—like what you’d use for a culvert.

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We continued on our way, looking for bears and not really seeing any. Suddenly a large black bear jumped out of a pond onto the road directly in front of us. It scared the dickens out of me.

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“Stop!” I commanded.

Andrew slammed on the breaks and we missed hitting the bear (because wouldn’t it have been embarrassing to hit a bear in a protected area?) and sent Rachel flying off her seat. She slammed her face into the back of Andrew’s seat and was so surprised that she didn’t even cry, though a livid bruise spread across her swelling nose. We were afraid she had broken it but she said it felt fine and the swelling went down quickly. Poor thing.

As for the bear, it just stared at us, dripping wet,  for a minute and then meandered out of our path and back to the pond.

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We were shaking for the rest of our drive through the park, but that wasn’t even our final encounter. We saw several other bears up close.

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We caught the tail end of a feeding before the truck disappeared out of the park and, as I said, that left the bears mighty interested about our car.

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This bear stopped in the middle of the road, forcing us to stop.

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He walked right up to our car and fiddled with the front bumper.

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Then he walked right underneath Andrew and Rachel’s windows. I’m quite positive this is the absolute closest any of us have ever been to a bear.

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When we were driving out of the park there was a bear right by the exit gate. A worker has to open the gate for each car to pass through and Andrew had to turn the car to get through the gate. When he turned he ended up honking his horn, which is a huge no-no at Bear World because it disturbs the animals. The worker tsked at us. It was embarrassing but we got over it.

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The girls were excited to get out of the car when we were through with our drive. The tickets to Bear World are rather expensive, but they include access to the petting zoo and amusement park so we thought it was kind of worth it. As you walk out of the gift shop there are habitats for the cubs but I could hardly get Rachel to stop and look at them. She was already on her way to the rides.

I thought the cubs were so cute, though, all cuddled up together in their little caves.

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I think it’s really sad that they don’t get to be with their mommas. It seems to me that when animals are born in captivity they are taken away from their mothers far too often. I don’t know if this is because the mothering instinct isn’t as strong in captive animals or if humans just like to interfere. Either way it always makes me a little sad to see baby animals all alone without their mothers.

Can you imagine being separated from this cute, little bear cub?

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Me neither.                                        

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Later I’ll post about the amusement park ad petting zoo, but to sum up: Bear World was awesome and perfect for our three-year-old. It was a little on the pricey side, though, I thought…but since it was our last hurrah before the semester we rationalized that it was okay. And it was. We had a great time!