A Trip to the Zoo and a Nature Center

There was no school today, so I had a day off work. Which meant it was the perfect time for an adventure. Isaiah, my mom, and I loaded up the car (we even remembered to pack a picnic!) and headed off.

First on the agenda was the zoo. We live within reach of a couple and Isaiah had asked to head to this one a few times recently, so it was definitely time for a visit. We saw lots of happy animals while we were there, much to Isaiah’s delight.

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The red panda, enjoying the morning sun

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Curious bushbaby

The zoo’s tree kangaroo has a new baby, but it’s still small enough that it stays hidden away in mom’s pouch. Mom wasn’t much in the mood for pictures, either. Bummer.

The naked mole rats were quite active, causing plenty of excitement. Isaiah loved watching them race between “rooms”, tripping over each other, doing flips, and generally causing complete chaos. They may be ugly little critters, but they’re certainly interesting to watch!

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Observing the naked mole rats

Video of the naked mole rats

Isaiah was pretty interested in the snakes today. A friend recently got a pet snake, so he’s started seeing them in a different light. He’s still not sure he’d want a pet snake, but he likes watching them.

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Checking out the rainbow python

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You can't see it in the picture, but he's looking at a very large iguana

We managed to be in the right part of the zoo to catch a creature encounter show. It was about one of the zoo’s macaws, so the keeper had him out with her and let him show off some tricks. The macaw’s name is Elliot and he’s quite the little attention seeker. Any time his keeper put him down to talk, he’d start going through all his tricks, trying to keep the spotlight on him, instead of his keeper.

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Elliot the macaw

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Demonstrating how he can use his beak for climbing

Elliot showing off

We made sure to get some food so Isaiah could feed the zoo’s goats. The bigger ones are a bit pushy, but, in general, they’re pretty friendly. He had a lot of fun feeding them and trying to make sure everyone got a fair amount of the food.

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Feeding the goat

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Making sure the smaller goats get some, too

Silly goat

When we went into the reptile building, they had a number of animals out so that kids could touch them. Isaiah bounced from one critter to the next, petting them and asking their names. He would have happily stayed there all day, playing with the animals.

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Petting a shy ball python

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Skittles the black and white tegu

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Petting an adorable leopard gecko named Casper

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Twiggy the bearded dragon

Before leaving the zoo, we had to stop and play on their natural playground. Isaiah adores all the things they have to climb on and wanted to do it all before we could go anywhere else. He’s been getting braver and was able to jump from one tree stump to the next, as well as climbing to the highest point on various structures.

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Balancing

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Jump!

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More jumping

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Happy spider

After the zoo, we headed over to a nature center. It was getting late in the day, so we didn’t have time to explore all the buildings and trails, but we got to see the buffalo herd and some geese. We walked down one of the shorter trails, along a lake. We could hear frogs chirping all around us, but any time we came near any, they’d get quiet, so we couldn’t find them. After a while of searching, Isaiah finally spotted one and showed us where to look.

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The buffalo were fairly close to the fence

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Talking about pioneer children and collecting buffalo chips to build fires. He was surprisingly enthusiastic about the concept.

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He really loved this feather

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The frog Isaiah spotted

Isaiah was a little sad when it was finally time to go home, but it was a fun day. He can’t wait until we can go on another adventure.

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At the Zoo with DJ and Shiloh

We’ve been wanting to meet up with DJ and Shiloh for a zoo day for a while and it finally worked out that everyone’s schedules allowed for a zoo day at the same time. Yay! Isaiah could barely contain his excitement.

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Snow leopard

I wasn’t able to get very many pictures because Isaiah flew from one exhibit to the next, dragging DJ and Shiloh behind him. He wanted to make sure they saw all his favorite animals. Since he’d never been to the zoo with Shiloh before, he was sure she’d never seen the animals before, which made it extra important that she see everything.

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Riding on Uncle DJ's shoulders

I managed to stop everyone in the jungle for a few pictures, before everyone took off again. Isaiah wasn’t sure he wanted to waste time on it, but did manage to give me a few nice shots.

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Isaiah with his favorite aunt and uncle

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Silliness with Gram

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Pretending to eat me

We managed to see quite a bit of the zoo in the couple of hours we had together. We made a few new friends, too. Isaiah found a tiny lizard that followed his finger and my mom had a nice conversation with a cougar.

Talking to a cougar

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Isaiah's little friend (Isaiah took off before I could get a picture of him with the lizard)

Family Photos, 2015

We try to get family pictures taken every year or two. This year, pictures were a high priority because our family has grown. DJ got married this summer, bringing Shiloh into our family. Obviously, it’s important to have a family picture that includes her.

So, we got everyone together when DJ and Shiloh came for a belated Thanksgiving celebration and set up a bunch of pictures.

First, we needed to get some individual headshots and “family” shots (my parents, DJ and Shiloh, Isaiah and me). Those took some shuffling around and craziness, but we pulled it off somehow.

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DJ and Shiloh

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My parents

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Isaiah and me

Then, it was time to cram everyone into the small space in front of our Christmas tree for a whole group photo. Of course, the room isn’t quite big enough to back the camera up and get a wide shot. That would be too easy. But, with some serious effort, we managed to get it set up and set the timer. A few photos later, we had our shot.

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The whole crew

Before I could take the camera down, Isaiah had to get a few special shots and my mom and DJ wanted to pose with the cats. Once those were done, it was time to download everything and see what we had. We definitely got some winners!

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Isaiah getting a ride on DJ's shoulders

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Isaiah and his new favorite person

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Isaiah wanted to pose with Gram the way the guys were posing with their wives

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Kisses for Gram

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My mom and Jack

Conversations with Isaiah: Naughty Kitty

I was sitting on my bed with the computer, while Isaiah was happily sitting in a corner with his iPad. Thomas jumped up on my bed, walked up to me, sticking his nose up against mine, and proceeded to meow as loudly as he could.

Me: *laughing* Hi, Thomas.
Isaiah: *running to “save” me* Thomas! No. No putting your face in Mama’s face. It mean. Don’t put your face in Mama’s face.
Me: *laughing*
*Isaiah released his grip on the cat, who came right back to me and started chirping in my face again*
Isaiah: No! No, Thomas! I told you not to do that!
Me: Chirping and rubbing on me is how he says “I love you”. It’s ok.
Isaiah: Oh? Ok…

My boys

Isaiah and Thomas

Talking Pets

Any time I leave the house (or go to a part of the house where they can’t follow) for more than about five minutes, both Thomas and Dusty are waiting when I get home. When I walk in, Dusty about takes me out, in spite of his small size. When Dusty is done going crazy, Thomas wanders up and starts yelling at me. This can go on for anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour. I guess they miss me when I’m gone.

Silly pets

Conversations with Isaiah: Spiders

The first half of this is borrowed from my mom’s Facebook post. Just FYI.

Yesterday Isaiah was using his iPad in the nearly dark living room and suddenly said, “Gram, there’s something walking on my iPad!” I turned on the light and, sure enough, a spider was on his screen. We caught it in a jar so it can be released into the wild…
However, this morning the spider (still in his jar) has watched Isaiah eat breakfast and helped with a couple of chores. My grandson is trying to choose a name but can’t decide because, “Gram, I don’t know if it’s a girl spider or a boy spider.”
It may be traumatic when it’s time to release his new pet…

Conversation on my mom’s Facebook wall included discussion about how to keep spiders as pets and potential names for the spider. One friend suggested, “Call it Elsa and teach him to sing Born Free as you set the thing loose FAR from your home!” Another suggested Charlotte (from Charlotte’s Web, but he still didn’t know if it was a boy or girl. When my dad arrived home from work, he examined the spider and declared it most definitely female (and spent the next 20 minutes looking for photos on Google to show the rest of us how he reached his conclusion). The spider was then named “Charlotte” and carefully released into the wild (well, as wild as a backyard can be…) where she can build beautiful webs.

Hours later…

Isaiah: It a SPIDER!
Me: Leave it alone.
Isaiah: But I never leave alone a BUG!!!!
Me: Well, you’re fine then because it’s not a bug.
Isaiah: *confused* Oh? But we don’t know if it’s a female or not!!!!

Predictability

Actual conversation with my dog:

The scene: I’m in the kitchen, cutting up an apple. Max joins me.

Max: Please?
Me: No.
Max: Pretty please? I love apples.
Me: No. I’m not sharing. Mine!
Max: But… Please?
Me: I don’t know why you ask. I don’t share with you and have no intention of starting now.
Max: Please?
Me: Hope springs eternal?
Max: Please?
Me: Are you ever going to give it up?
Max: No.
Me: But the answer won’t change…
Max: That’s ok. I’ll wait.
Me: Wait for what?
Max: It’s just a matter of time…
Me: *drops a chunk of apple*
Max: See? You always drop stuff.
Me: *sigh*

“I love you, Dusty”

Isaiah is happily singing to the dog…

Dusty, Dusty! I loooooooove you! Dusty, DUUUSTY! I loooove you to my TOOOOOOOES!!!!

He’s emphasizing his words with grand hand gestures and stretching his feet out in front of him, showing Dusty his toes and how far they are from the rest of him. He must really love Dusty!

How Pets Entertain Themselves

There was a large bug flying through the living room. Dusty was lounging in the middle of the floor when he spotted it, rolled to his belly and lay there, alert, waiting for an opportunity to strike. After a brief moment, Thomas noticed the bug. His head popped up and his whole body stiffened as he watched from his perch on the couch. Seconds later, he leapt off the couch, flying toward the bug. The cat’s swift movement caused Dusty to spring into action, as well. Soon, the bug had landed in a corner and found itself trapped, with a dog on one side and a cat on the other, both poised to attack at a moment’s notice. When it attempted to make its escape, it met its doom–Dusty says it tasted delicious.

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My happy pets

Lambie at the Harvest Moon

The Harvest Moon is a local pumpkin patch that Isaiah loves. I took him last year at the end of the season. This year, we went as soon as they opened and got a season pass, so that he can play there every weekend. He’s absolutely loving every minute and counts down the days until the weekend, so that he can go back.

Today, Isaiah announced that he couldn’t go, unless Lambie could go with him. He couldn’t be swayed and melted into a puddle of tears, hugging his toy, when I suggested he didn’t have to bring it. He found a backpack that he could wear, so he could bring Lambie along and we headed out.

When we arrived at the Harvest Moon, Isaiah excitedly showed Lambie all his favorite places. He started by trying on costumes and showing them off for the camera, as Lambie lay nearby. When he was done trying on costumes, he took her out to the play kitchen to bake cookies.

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Trying on costumes with my mom

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Baking with Lambie

Of course, Lambie needed to take a ride in the cars, so Isaiah trotted off toward them. First, he stuffed her into a little pickup truck with him, then he gave her a ride on a tricycle.

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Riding a tricycle (notice Lambie's bow peeking out from his lap)

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Found a more comfortable way to ride with Lambie

After that, we went over to talk with a man who was showing off an old corn mill. He showed us how his mill worked and told us that it was built in 1914, so it’s 100 years old this year. Then, he brought us to another set of mills to allow Isaiah to try them. Isaiah was fascinated and would have happily played with them all afternoon.

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Removing the corn from the cob

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Putting the corn into the mill

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Grinding corn to the perfect consistency for chicken feed

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My mom wanted Isaiah to pose with the man who taught us about the mills, but he was too shy, so she posed instead.

Isaiah, hard at work

Next up was the kiddie roller coasters. This is one of Isaiah’s favorite places at the Harvest Moon, second only to the corn pit. He loves the roller coasters, but is always just a little bit nervous. This time, with Lambie’s help, he was brave enough to release his grip on the sides of the car, hold his hands in the air and shriek with joy.

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Riding the roller coaster

Isaiah shrieking as he rolls down the hill

Lambie had to just observe at the corn pit. Corn is really dusty, so we agreed that she’d be better off not getting covered in it. Isaiah had tons of fun showing off all that he can do in the corn, though. The corn is a perfect sensory experience for him. He can be wild and jump in it or he can dig down into it and let it sift through his fingers. He generally starts out wild and gradually relaxes, as he spends more time in the corn.

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Happily playing in the giant corn pit

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Totally relaxed in the corn

''Corn water''

Quiet conversation in the corn pit

We headed toward the zipline, but, as we passed the other part of the barn, the donkey, Eyore, brayed at us. We decided to go see what he wanted. When Isaiah walked into the barn, Eyore lit up, perking his ears forward and reaching toward him. Isaiah petted him and showed him Lambie, then went over to see the other animals. The goats were pretty disinterested, so he mostly ignored them, too. He felt it was very important for Lambie to meet the sheep, though. He was thrilled that one of the sheep reached out to sniff Lambie.

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''Hi, Eyore!''

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Lambie, meet Sheep. Sheep, meet Lambie.

We continued on our way to the zipline. Isaiah discovered it the first time we went to the Harvest Moon this year. At first, he was frightened, but quickly decided it was tons of fun. As long as there’s not a line that he has to wait for, he’ll happily ride the zipline over and over again. This time, of course, Lambie needed to experience it, too.

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He couldn't wait to get to the zipline

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Lambie riding along on the zipline, while Isaiah practices some twists

Lambie had to pose in the tree cutout, but Isaiah wasn’t too sure he wanted to join her. With a little coaxing, he joined the fun and posed for a picture with his friend.

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Lambie striking a pose

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Isaiah and Lambie

Next up was the “crow’s nest”. To get up on the platform, Isaiah had to climb a little rock wall, which he loved. Once he was up there, he walked around to check out the view and headed down the slide. He met another little boy who wasn’t quite sure about the rock wall and spent a while encouraging him to try it, then cheered when he made it.

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Taking Lambie down the slide

Last, but not least, we headed to some swings. First, a horse swing. Isaiah tried to ride it with Lambie in his backpack, only to find that it didn’t work too well. After a minute, he pulled her out and set her across his lap. When he was done with that swing, he wanted to ride the tire swing that he’d seen other kids playing on. He loved spinning on it with Lambie and was sad to leave.

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Horse swing

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And the tire swing

Spinning and shrieking

It was time to go, but there’s always the promise that we can return. He selected a couple gourds to buy and we headed out. He can’t wait to go back!

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We had to grab a quick family selfie before heading for home