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.


The red panda, enjoying the morning sun


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!


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.


Checking out the rainbow python


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.


Elliot the macaw


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.


Feeding the goat


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.


Petting a shy ball python


Skittles the black and white tegu


Petting an adorable leopard gecko named Casper


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.






More jumping


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.


The buffalo were fairly close to the fence


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


He really loved this feather


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.


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.


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.


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.


Isaiah with his favorite aunt and uncle


Silliness with Gram


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


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

Art Works

We’re within a reasonable drive of a couple of art museums. Today, we decided to check out the Joslyn because we haven’t been there in Isaiah’s life time. I’d been there a few times as a teen, but didn’t have much reason to bring a little kid because it’s a pretty serious art gallery. They recently added a special kids’ section, though, so that it’s more inviting to the younger crowd.

Isaiah started with a tower in the middle of the room that has pieces that can be hooked together to create a giant piece of art. He carefully attached brightly colored shapes, stopping to bounce and wave his hands with joy after each piece was placed. When he was done, he stepped back to admire his work, looking quite proud of himself.




So proud

Next up was a window with dry erase markers. There were chairs on each side, so that kids could draw “on” someone else’s face. Isaiah started by just drawing a fun picture, then allowed me to draw funny things on his face. He was delighted by the silly mustache and hat I gave him.


Carefully starting to draw


A finished drawing


My drawings on Isaiah

In one corner, there’s a big touch screen built into the floor for painting. There are brushes, scrapers, and a bucket that interact with the screen, allowing children to “paint” all sorts of designs. Before starting to paint, we got to choose the type of canvas and thickness of the “paint” we wanted to use. We ended up experimenting with different options, to see what we liked best. Isaiah liked the really wet paint because it was easy to splash around. I preferred the thicker paint that could actually be controlled to create an image.




The cool touch screen ''canvas''

Joslyn Art

This is what the canvas looked like with wet paint

Joslyn Art 2

And again, with thicker paint

One wall has a bin full of rings and metal posts lined up that the rings fit over. Isaiah, my mom and I really enjoyed creating different patterns with it. Some got pretty complicated, while others were very simple.


Isaiah's pattern

Isaiah really enjoyed drawing on the Greek vases that have been finished with a coating that allows kids to draw on them with dry erase markers. There are pictures of real vases on the table, so kids can try to imitate the real pieces or make up their own designs. Isaiah drew a raptor on his.


Drawing happily

By the time we left, Isaiah had played with just about everything in the room and was determined to go back as often as possible. It’s a good thing it’s not too far away and entry to the museum is free!

Conversations With Isaiah: Poop

Driving through the safari park, looking for wildlife…


Posing with a buffalo statue

Me: Well, I know there are buffalo because I see buffalo chips.
Isaiah: Chips?!?
Me: Buffalo poop.
Isaiah: EEEEEW!!!
Kat: Did you know, if you’re lost, you can light buffalo chips on fire and keep warm.
Isaiah: EEEEEW!!!
Me: Scientists use poop to track animals and learn about them. Like, Chris and Martin used to pick it up and show it off on Kratts Creatures

Time passes…

My mom: Oh, look, elk poop.
Isaiah: EEEEEW!!
My mom: What? I saw elk poop.
Isaiah: EEEEEW!!
My mom: Everybody poops!
Isaiah: Oh, brother. *facepalm*

Oh, brother.

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.

Harvest Moon

Trying on costumes with my mom

Harvest Moon

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.

Harvest Moon

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

Harvest Moon

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.

Harvest Moon

Removing the corn from the cob

Harvest Moon

Putting the corn into the mill

Harvest Moon

Grinding corn to the perfect consistency for chicken feed

Harvest Moon

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.

Harvest Moon

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.

Harvest Moon

Happily playing in the giant corn pit

Harvest Moon

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.

Harvest Moon

''Hi, Eyore!''

Harvest Moon

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.

Harvest Moon

He couldn't wait to get to the zipline

Harvest Moon

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.

Harvest Moon

Lambie striking a pose

Harvest Moon

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.

Harvest Moon

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.

Harvest Moon

Horse swing

Harvest Moon

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!

Harvest Moon

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

Visiting Parks

The last two days, we’ve been visiting family. I took Isaiah and my cousins to the park to keep everyone busy yesterday. Everyone had tons of fun playing and I had some backup supervision for the littler ones from Sandra.

I took Isaiah and Azalea to play on the playground while Sandra ran around the half mile track a couple times with Luke. Isaiah loved the digging toy and kept calling it the “Bob the Builder digger”. He and Azalea are both too short to sit on the seat and touch the ground, so they needed help. For a while, they worked together, each holding one of the handles to scoop sand. Azalea lost interest pretty quickly, but Isaiah was determined to work with the toys. He tried a bunch of different approaches to use the digger and quite enjoyed himself.

Park Fun

Not big enough...

Park Fun

Go teamwork!

Park Fun

This works...

Azalea loves the slides. There are two slides at this park, so she tried each. The first is straight and open. She climbed to the top of it, then was afraid to come down. She wouldn’t go alone or on Luke’s lap. I climbed up the ladder to talk to her about it. She decided that it would be okay to ride down on my lap and we headed down. She didn’t go on that slide again. She went down the twisted slide repeatedly. It’s completely closed over the top, so Isaiah wouldn’t even consider trying it, though he liked the open one.

Park Fun

Isaiah on the slide

Park Fun

Luke's turn

Park Fun

Helping Azalea come down

Park Fun

This slide is better, according to Azalea

When Sandra was too tired to run with Luke anymore, she sat down to rest and I took all three of the younger kids to walk on a shorter track. Isaiah and Azalea wanted to be animals, instead of just walking, so I ended up with a walking zoo. All three of them had a blast pretending to be all kinds of animals, moving like the animals and making their sounds.

Park Fun

Sandra walking with Isaiah and Azalea

Park Fun

Little bunnies

We met back on the playground where Azalea and Isaiah dug in the sand with sticks and played on the swingset and Luke built a fort out of sticks in the sand. Luke’s water got swiped by a barely-walking toddler, so he felt a need to protect it and built a special “room” for his cup. We made sure to get a picture of the three kids inside the fort before we headed home.

Park Fun

Digging is so fun

Park Fun

Luke likes the climbing stuff

Park Fun

Okay, you have enough smiling pictures... How about a silly one?

Park Fun

Fortified cup

Park Fun


I took Isaiah to another park today to help keep him busy. He loves this park because it has a little lake that usually has geese or ducks on it. There are fish in the water, though they usually aren’t visible in the murky water. Isaiah started throwing some small pebbles into the water to see the splash. After a couple minutes, some fish noticed him and started swimming up to see what was happening. He threw some grass, leaves and acorn tops to see if they’d eat anything and discovered that they like acorn tops. We had a huge group of fish, waiting for Isaiah to throw things into the water for them. All the fishers kept glaring because Isaiah was so loud and they thought he was scaring the fish away, but he’d actually collected all of them around him. He thought it was the best thing ever.


Posing with the geese--sort of


''Don't take my picture. I'm busy.''


Watching the fish


A fish, grabbing the acorn top Isaiah had thrown

We spent a little time on the playground, too, but it wasn’t a good day for that. First, Isaiah wanted to play with some kids, but didn’t know how to join in. I told him what to do, then he came back to me, crying, a few seconds later, saying they didn’t ask the question I’d scripted him with. I distracted him by bringing him to another part of the playground, since the other kids were leaving. The other play area was much busier. The kids there were pretty mean to Isaiah, calling him names and pushing him aside. We finally decided to just head for home, since he was getting more and more upset at being teased.




He wanted to swing sideways...

**Note: Many pictures from yesterday were taken by Sandra, not me.

Mini Vacation!

I was on spring break last week, so we decided to do a mini vacation. We stayed pretty close to home, but there’s plenty to see here, so it was tons of fun. Isaiah had been to some of the places we visited, but he doesn’t remember his first visit. We had three days of fun adventures.

Day 1:

Sgt. Floyd Riverboat Museum
I’ve been to this museum several times because it’s free and really interesting. Of course, I love history and Sgt. Floyd is a big part of the local history. The museum is in a riverboat, right off of the Missouri river. It was an instant hit with Isaiah because it was a boat. There’s tons of cool Lewis and Clark stuff inside and quite a few models of different types of boats and various activities that used to take place on the river. The top level of the riverboat is still set up as it was when it was in use, with the captain’s quarters and other rooms. At the very top, the navigation equipment is all set up for kids to play with. They can even ring the bell. Of course, that was a huge hit with Isaiah!

Sgt. Floyd Riverboat Museum

Looking at a boat model

Sgt. Floyd Riverboat Museum

Checking out the captain's quarters

Sgt. Floyd Riverboat Museum

Ringing the bell

Sgt. Floyd Riverboat Museum

''Phone's ringing...''

Sgt. Floyd Riverboat Museum

''It's for you!''

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
This museum is set up for kids. When you arrive, each kid is given a passport to fill in along the way. First, they get to pick what position they’d like to have on the Lewis and Clark expedition. Isaiah wanted to be a soldier, so he stamped his passport as a sergeant. There are lots of things in the same room where kids can try parts of each person’s job, like standing guard or identifying animal tracks. The next part forms a circle around the first room. It takes you through Sgt. Floyd’s time in the area, starting with him getting sick. There’s a huge scene of his burial with life-sized talking Lewis and Clark models. That part freaked Isaiah out pretty badly. The rest of the room has a scene showing those on the expedition examining “strange” animals and plants to learn about them. It has some stuffed animals there, too. My favorite part is the life-sized Seaman looking at a prairie dog. He barks and cocks his head as the prairie dog moves in its cage.

Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center

Pictures aren't allowed in the interpretive center, so this is all I have from there

Dorothy Peacut Nature Center
This is one of Isaiah’s favorite places to go. They have lots of kid friendly activities inside and great trails to walk outside. It was too cold to go outside while we were there this time, but that didn’t keep Isaiah from having a blast inside. He played with the animal furs, went into the underground prairie tunnel and looked out through the badger-cam, admired various animals in the room and played with all the activities.

Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center

Animal footprint stamping

Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center

Operating the badger-cam

Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center

''I wearing it!''

Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center

''A baby reindeer!''

Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center

This is one of Isaiah's favorite exhibits

Bald Eagles
When we got home, my dad told us that a coworker had told him about some bald eagles in the area. We loaded up in the car and headed out to see them. There are about 300 bald eagles about forty minutes from our house! A little over half of them are juvenile, so quite a few didn’t have the distinctive white heads. We couldn’t get nearly as close as we would have liked, but we took pictures of what we could see. Isaiah thought those were pretty amazing, too. None of us had realized until now that bald eagles migrate through here every year. Now that we know, we’ll be waiting for them next year!

Keelboat Visitor Center

Mature bald eagle

Bald Eagles

Juvenile bald eagle

Bald Eagles

The eagles winked at me

Bald Eagles

All the birds in the tree behind this juvenile are eagles. All the trees were full of eagles!

Day 2:

DeSoto Bend Wildlife Refuge
Since there were so many eagles here, I decided to check the most recent numbers at DeSoto Bend. Their numbers from almost a week before reflected the number of eagles we’d seen the night before, as well as huge numbers of other birds, so we decided to stop there on our way to visit my grandmother. We went into the visitor center, where there were almost no birds to be seen. We did, however, spot two pelicans on the water. Unfortunately, they were too far away to get a picture. After hanging out there for a while, we started following roads around the refuge, looking for signs of birds. At one spot, we parked in a lot and I got out to take some pictures. I could see a juvenile bald eagle in a tree and was hoping he’d move closer. I gave up after a few minutes because he wasn’t showing any intention of moving. As I turned to get into the van, an adult bald eagle flew over, less than ten feet above my head! He’d caught a fish on the lake and was headed up to a tree branch when I saw him. We followed him to where he landed and I got some nice pictures of him enjoying his dinner.

Keelboat Visitor Center

Geese that we spotted on the way to DeSoto

DeSoto Bend Wildlife Refuge


DeSoto Bend Wildlife Refuge

The bald eagle with his dinner (you can see the fish in his talons)

DeSoto Bend Wildlife Refuge

Beautiful bald eagle

After the adventure with our bald eagle friend, we headed back inside the visitor center to let Isaiah look at the exhibits. There are some kids’ areas that have things to touch that Isaiah really loved. He got to touch furs, feathers and deer antlers. The antlers were his favorite. He put one on his head and said he was a reindeer!

Fun at DeSoto

Eaglet practicing flapping his wings

Fun at DeSoto

Isaiah's ''wingspan'' is almost the same as a red-tailed hawk

Fun at DeSoto

My little ''reindeer''

Fun at DeSoto

Somewhere in all my mom's pictures, there's one just like this of me

Day 3:

Henry Doorly Zoo
When you live this close to the best zoo in the nation, you don’t want to pass up any opportunities to check it out. Besides, the lion cubs are getting bigger and are so fun to see! Isaiah voted to go in the jungle this time, so that was where we started. We went through the top part of the jungle (the canopy), where Isaiah was thrilled to be on eye level with some fruit bats. The monkeys and gibbons bothered him because they’re so loud, so we had to move passed them pretty quickly. He loved the birds, tamarins and otters, though.

Zoo Adventures

Playful otter

Zoo Adventures

Hippo! And he's actually on land for once!

Zoo Adventures

The cutest monkey in the jungle

After the jungle, Isaiah wanted to visit the sharks, so we headed for the aquarium. We hit it just right because the penguins were not only in the water, but actively playing with visitors. They would come flying up against the glass and stare at whoever was closest them before rushing away, only to come right back. Then we went to see the shark tunnel. Isaiah was sad that the rays weren’t sliding down the sides of the tunnel, but got over it quickly when he spotted a sea turtle. It was resting in a corner, but when Isaiah walked up, it lifted its head to watch him. Isaiah says the turtle is his new friend.

Zoo Adventures

Riding a sea turtle

Zoo Adventures

''Touching'' a fish

Zoo Adventures

Playful, friendly penguin

Zoo Adventures

Isaiah's sea turtle friend

Of course, no trip to the zoo is complete without stopping to see the lion cubs. We got there as they were settling in for a nap, but they were still as adorable as ever. They’re doing some work on the outdoor lion enclosure, so the mama lion was having trouble going to sleep. Every time something happened outside, she’d jump up to make sure her babies were safe. One of the cubs decided within minutes that it had to have been long enough that he could get up now. Of course, the answer from the adult lions was “absolutely not!” We went around and visited all the other cats before going back to the jungle for a few minutes on the way out.

Zoo Adventures

Cub pile!

Zoo Adventures

Beautiful Mama

Zoo Adventures

''I'm awake! What do you mean it's not time yet? I was asleep! See? Please let me get up now?!

Wow, that was a busy few days! And so much fun! I took hundreds of pictures, so I can’t possibly share them all here. Feel free to check out the rest on Flickr.

And now, back to the regularly programmed school week…