Lions and Tigers and Bears…Oh my!

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School is done..summer is finally here! To celebrate our completion of school (other than the schoolwork we will continue working on through the summer) I decided to treat the kids to a day at the Pittsburgh zoo. They woke up not knowing the plans for the day. When I told them where we were going there were squeals of delight and frantic racing around as everyone hurried through their morning chores. As we drove down to Pittsburgh the kids tried to describe the zoo to Tyler but he wasn’t sure if he had been there before. When we arrived he said, “I was here with my old family!” That was it..no tears, no melt down, no emotional struggles or acting up. He was just his happy self, excited to be at the zoo. I continue to be amazed at his progress.

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After a quick stop at the bathrooms we began walking around the zoo. We arrived around noon, in the middle of a hot day, so the first exhibits we stopped at were anticlimactic. The animals were all sleeping and hiding out in the shade. When we reached the 5th exhibit with no visible animals a little boy walking next to us asked his mother, “Mommy, are you sure they have animals here?”

We finally had luck when we reached “Africa.” I suppose the animals in these exhibits are used to the heat. They were all out and grazing.

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I was excited to see my favorite animal out and about.. elephants!

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As we walked around the zoo we stopped at each animal and used our “zoo key.” The zoo has boxes positioned around the park that you can put your plastic key into to hear facts about the animal there or hear a song. We bought our key when the kids were little and I have just kept it in a drawer.  We take it whenever we visit the zoo. Tyler loved being in charge of the zoo key.

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The Pittsburgh zoo also has a beautiful aquarium. Tyler enjoyed seeing all of the fish and kept commenting on how he wished Daddy was there because “Daddy would love all these fish!” The favorite animals of the aquarium were the penguins, the stingrays that you could pet, and the jelly fish. As we approached the end of the aquarium Tyler complained of tired legs and convinced Gracie to give him a ride. What a good big sister!  🙂

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Tyler’s one request, as the kids talked about the animals they wanted to see, was to see a “snow bear.” Lucky for him there were two “snow bears.” The poor things looked awfully hot and were not nearly as happy about the warm temperatures as the African crew. Here is Miss Grace at the “snow bear” exhibit.

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Under the polar bear exhibit there are tunnels that you can walk through to see the polar bear pool, otter pool and shark pool from below. Here the kids sit and watch the sharks swim above their heads.

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After the aquarium we visited Kid’s Kingdom. This area is a hands on, interactive area designed especially for the kids. We stopped at the playground so Tyler could try out the slides. He loved it!

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Rusty played with Tyler on the playground equipment while the girls and I rested our feet. Gracie wore new hiking boots to the zoo that she is trying to break in before she goes on trek in a few weeks. As we were leaving we noticed a little boy ( 3 or 4 years old) following us further into the park. When we walked him back to his parents at the playground they didn’t seem too concerned. He must wander off a lot. 🙂

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 Miss Molly looking especially cute!

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Another favorite exhibit was the meerkat exhibit..complete with a tunnel to crawl through and domes to peek though. Rusty spent quite a bit of time getting acquainted with his new meerkat friend.

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The highlight of the day, however, was the sea lions. It was our last stop of the day and voted best exhibit hands down..or should I say flippers down. 🙂 We spent about 45 minutes here watching the antics of a baby sea-lion. She was sunning herself on a rock while her parents swam around her when suddenly a white butterfly flew by. Well, this caught her attention and she then spent a half an hour chasing this little white butterfly. It was so cute to watch and she really drew a crowd! She would chase it around on land and then when it would change course and fly over the water she would dive after it and fall into the pool. Momma sea-lion kept barking at her and scolding her. Finally the butterfly flew off and you could see that the little sea-lion was so disappointed by the exit of her little flying friend. It was a perfect ending to a great day!

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