Even though Andrew is insanely busy I convinced him to play hooky and come to the zoo with us today. In all honesty though, we did cut our DC trip a day short, so this kind of makes up for that, in a way. There are a few other reasons forthcoming which justify front-loading some family time for October...but since those are in the future and I still have so much to cover in the past (like the week we spent in DC) I'd better get to it.
I boiled eggs last night so we could pack them for our lunch today, which was brilliant. No one even asked for a snack the whole time we were at the zoo (except Zoë, but she doesn't count because she didn't eat much of her egg). Protein really does make you feel full longer!
Zoë was the perfect age for a trip to the zoo. She loved everything about it.
We started out on the Africa side of the zoo since we didn't quite make it there when we went to the zoo in January. We made it to the lion enclosure just in time to watch them being fed.
Interestingly enough, the keepers were chucking hunks of meat off the observation deck, then the lions would race to go pick them up. I'm honestly not sure that's the most well-thought-out plan. I mean, do we really want to teach them that their food comes from right where all the people are?
Plus it was kind of odd to have someone approach you from behind holding a dripping cut of...whatever it was.
Zoos are kind of strange places. I can't really decided how I feel about them... It's highly likely that my kids would be equally as excited if we unleashed them on a park full of animal statues.
Here are the kids crossing the bridge to Lemur Island:
The water was so covered in pond scum that it looked safe to walk on (though it probably wasn't). Here are my two little monkeys trying to scale the fence by the lemur enclosure (this was not the only obstacle keeping them apart from the lemurs, thank goodness).
She'd found an acorn, you see. Acorns were literally hailing from the sky anytime so much as a breeze whispered through the trees. They were scattered liberally throughout the zoo and I don't think any of us escaped being knocked on the head.
"We must go and tell the king!" I'd sing in a silly voice whenever one of my acorn-bopped children would start whimpering to me. "The sky is falling down!"
I'm not sure oak trees were the best choice of tree to line the paths of the zoo with, but I'm sure we can all agree that they're a much better choice than, say, coconut trees would have been.
We thought this sign was clever:
We were actually stopped by this sign, catching a Pokemon of sorts when another little family walked by and the wife remarked to the husband, "I really don't understand the whole Pokemon Go craze," she said. "It just seems so silly."
Rachel burst out laughing while Andrew and I dum-de-dummed to ourselves.
It is rather silly, but we truthfully go on more family walks now than we did before Pokemon Go was a thing (and that's saying something) and our kids love taking turns catching Pokemon. It's a fun, silly thing.
This stop, however unaccessible, was nothing compared to the stop that seemed to be inside the elephant enclosure!?! We all thought that was pretty funny.
I enjoyed going inside the aviary. I missed out on that last time because instead of going in I sat outside by the stinking flamingos, nursing Zoë (while Rachel sat pouting on the bench beside me because she didn't want to walk anymore). So although we did make it as far as the aviary the last time we were at the zoo, the aviary was completely new to half of our family.
The kids got a kick out of the dumb cane plant:
It turns out it's called dumb cane due to the "poisoning effect of raphides, which can cause temporary inability to speak." Raphides are needle-shaped crystals found in over 200 species of plants, including pineapple (though the weird mouth sensation you feel when eating raw pineapple is more likely due to bromelain, Josie, still that numb-mouth thing is a thing (so probably never eat dumb cane)).
Here's Andrew and Rachel working on some plant identification:
Oh, there were these big vents all over the place (I mean all over the place; there was no way to avoid walking on them) and Zoë wasn't really sure what to make of them. They were a little unnerving (she really didn't like walking on them) but about half of them were blasting air, which was kind of fun...
Oh, look who found a feather!
Miriam loved identifying all the birds we saw (her favourite was the amethyst starling):
We spent quite a bit of time watching the ducks (specifically the marbled teals) and I was able to catch a few glorious seconds of Zoë being Zoë:
She was sitting with her feet between the rails of the bridge, which is why it's hard for her to stand up. I'm really not sure what distracted her—some kind of bird or another that flew by.
Here we are at the bee exhibit:
I did not realize that honey bees aren't native to North America (or at least not recently native); they were brought overseas with European colonists. I wondered aloud why we couldn't live without the bee, then, since obviously North America had food before Europeans arrived. Pumpkin, tomatoes, squash, beans, corn...
Andrew then pointed to the next little sign telling me I could wave bye-bye to almonds, apples, avocados...and a billion other yummy things.
I guess a lot of our crops that honeybees pollinate aren't technically native crops, either.
Not that I wasn't in favour of saving bees beforehand. I was just wondering aloud how it got to be such a huge issue if they aren't even a native species, that's all...
Here are my two little bugs hiding out in a beehive:
We thought this sign explaining different climates was interesting:
Rachel is 53 inches tall, which is just a a few inches taller than the average annual rainfall of Asheboro (where the zoo is)—48 inches. Meanwhile, Arizona averages 8 inches of precipitation annually. That's six times as much water!
Here's a picture from inside the desert biome—Benjamin with a blue-tongue skink:
It looks like the animals are free to roam all that open space, but I'm not entirely convinced that they are, otherwise they wouldn't be readily viewable from their respective observation decks. Like, it looks like a big open space, but the elephants are always over in the elephant area (which we walked to later) and the rhinos are always over at the rhino area (which we decided we were too worn out to walk to). As Dr. Hyson explains the illusion: "The naturalism's more for us, us the humans, than it is for the animals."
I don't even know what's going on with Rachel's face in this picture but she did it on purpose and was rather proud of it, so...
Rachel, ever a good sport, waved her arm in the air with a goofy grin on her face.
Miriam sheepishly put her hand in the air, while snorting out the last of her tears.
Then Benjamin started goofing off and Andrew said, "Careful, you're going to bonk your...head."
Just as he said 'head' Benjamin bonked his head, which got him started crying, too. Even more funny was that earlier (by the desert biome) the kids were walking along a wall. One side dropped down to the ground (a good 8–10 feet) and the other side dropped into a landscaped area (about 2 feet). The girls were okay up there but Benjamin was making us nervous.
"Careful," Andrew said. "Don't fall off the...wall."
Just as he said 'wall' Benjamin tripped and fell off the wall. Fortunately he fell off the landscaped side into the ornamental grass. It was a little tricky to fish him out (since the wall was so high) and as Andrew pulled him up he moaned a little bit, but he was otherwise alright. He chose the right side to fall off—it could have been a lot worse!
While we were standing there I had been holding Zoë and she decided she wanted to nurse, which meant I had to put her down so that I could put the front carrier on before feeding her. This made her very angry (how dare I put her down!?). She stormed off, highly offended, and crashed, headfirst into the wall!
So over the course of the day all four children managed to bump their heads—and cry about it.
We won't even talk about how we let Zoë ride on the "stand" part of the sit'n'stand stroller (because she really wanted to)...and then fell off because probably that part of the stroller is meant for big brothers and not baby sisters to ride on. We also won't mention how Andrew, who had been pushing the stroller, then tripped all over her on the path because he didn't notice that she'd fallen right in front of him in time to stop walking. Oi.
We're definitely winning this parenting gig.
We may have all left the zoo a little more battered and bruised than when we arrived, but we also left happy (and alive). So there's that.
Here we are enjoying the giraffe exhibit before we left:
We also got to watch some ostriches run by, holding their wings up all funny. It was rather entertaining. Andrew said he remembers seeing ostriches do that on the movie Swiss Family Robinson. I have no memories of that movie at all, so it was new to me!
And, finally, here we are chucking acorns into the water from the bridge:
Andrew joked that our double stroller was the "zoo train." When Rachel was a baby Grandma (Karen) gave us a Little People DVD that included a little show about getting the animals in the zoo to sleep. At one point the zookeeper sighs and sadly says, "That's what I was afraid of! Everyone always has fun on the zoo train."
We say that all the time in our house (actually, we quote so many lines from this DVD—it was one of a handful of DVDs we owned when we lived in Egypt and we watched it a lot over the course of those two years) another favourite line is, "Oh, dear. I guess we must have jumped around too much" (7:55, in case you're interested).
All in all it was a wonderful day and we can say—with much more enthusiasm than the Little People zookeeper—that everyone had fun on the zoo train.