Tag Archives: animals

Treasured Memories at Living Treasures

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Ever since our visit to the subpar animal park we visited while in Virginia I had been itching for a visit to Living Treasures Animal Park. With Brandon visiting for a few days we thought it the perfect excuse to visit.

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It is a bit of a tradition in our family. It seems with pre-placement visits with both Tyler and Ozzie, Living Treasures was on the agenda and one of both of their first memories of time with our family. I treasure this because Living Treasures holds a special place in my heart and has since I first visited almost 2 decades ago. It was our go-to outing adventure with the older three when they were too little for the miles of hiking at the zoo, and as a result I feel a sense of nostalgia when I enter its gates.

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Having special “firsts” memories of Ozzie and Tyler there, when they first entered our lives as 6 and 10-year-olds, makes this place all the sweeter.

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Now I will have equally sweet “firsts” memories of Brandon strolling down the same gravels paths that have been the source of much joy as a momma.

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We arrived and purchased some feed buckets and carrots and headed to the deer yard:

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The wonderful thing about Living Treasures that sets it apart from larger zoos is the proximity to the animals and the opportunity to interact with the wildlife so closely.

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The chance to feed animals from the palm of our hand or through a gravity fed feeding tubes produced larger than life smiles and numerous giggles.

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Everyone has their favorites whom they have come to know and love over seasons of visits.

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The giraffes are always a hit!

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Another favorite area is the goat pen/ nursery area. This area has changed a lot in the past decade. It used to be on large pen with goats and baby animals running free. It was fun to navigate your way through the chaos of tongues and fur as critters fought for attention.

Unfortunately this area is now very tame (thanks to liability risks I’m sure) with only a small petting area for the goats…

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And a separate pen for the babies of the park.

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Despite not being able to climb in the pen with them and “shnuggle ’em” like I’d like, we still had a wonderful time getting kisses from these ADORABLE slime monsters.

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The kangaroo/wallabies yard is another favorite area of the park due to the incredible fertility of the mommas that call this area home.

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It seems each and every one of them have a leg or two sticking out from her pouch. If one lingers long enough a baby sometimes will pop its head out to say “hello.”

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Tyler’s favorite section of the park is, and always has been, the aviary. Here the kids purchased a small container of seed to split. That $1.00 purchase provided a good 45 minutes of entertainment as the kids lured in these flying beauties with a sprinkling of seed on their hands.

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Turns out the seed wasn’t needed…

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The colorful string bracelets that adorned their wrists were the real bait!

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It was such a delight watching the kids find such delight in the animals and in each other’s company. It was fun to hang back and observe as our kiddos shared a beloved family tradition with Brandon,

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And an even bigger joy watching him let down his guard and just be a kid…

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Something he hasn’t been able to do for a long time.

Another special day for this momma’s “Living Treasure memory book!”

 

Molly in Costa Rica #1

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At the airport at 4:30 am.

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After braving the adventure of international travel, Molly arrived in Costa Rica.

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While transferring planes in Houston, Texas she was thrilled to see another young lady wearing the identifying t-shirt of the GLA and got to become acquainted with a fellow Sea Turtle Initiative participant before arriving in Costa Rica. Both girls were glad to see each other. Their seats weren’t together but upon departing they were able to navigate customs together, making the process a little less intimidating.

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Students trickled into the airport through the afternoon from all corners of the globe. Once everyone had arrived GLA staff helped everyone securely exchange their dollars into colones,

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And then they headed to Hotel Pacande to freshen up and settle into their next 10 days of Pura Vida!

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After enjoying lunch at the hotel, students had the option to rest, or participate in activities to break the ice and get to know their new GLA family.

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Because the trip to home base involved a 6 hour trip via car then boat, the group spent the night at this local hotel and left for the remote village of Parismina the following morning.

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Day 2 involved a long drive, followed by a boat ride to arrive at the organic fruit farm where they would live and work for the next 10 days.

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Along the way there was a planned stop at the first adventure of the trip: Ziplining through the jungle of Costa Rica.

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They also stopped at a village store to purchase munchies before heading into the wilds of Costa Rica.

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Located on the Caribbean coast the farm they were staying at was quite remote. Travel to the closest town involved a 45 minute walk through the jungle, but was only about 10 minutes from the beach.

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This beach is known for being the prime location for four species of sea turtles to nest.

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While in Costa Rica, as part of the Sea Turtle Initiative, Molly and the other participants spent their days helping protect and improve conditions for the sea turtles through night patrols with ASTOP (an anti-poaching organization,) beach clean-ups, surveying nesting sites, and raising community awareness.

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After a long day of travel, the students and staff arrived at the eco-lodge Friday night and settled in for a week’s worth of adventures. As parents we were privy to some of their adventures through blogs written by the students and posted every few days on the GLA website. Since they can better express the experiences they enjoyed than I can retell, I will be posting their recaps of their days in Costa Rica. (Because internet access is spotty in the jungle there were not blogs posted every single day, but I will share what they shared.)

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Here is their first blog entry:

This morning we all woke up in our new rooms in our lodge here on Parismina. A lot of us learned an important lesson about tucking our mosquito nets into our beds, because we woke up with upward of ten bites.

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We then had some morning free time and many of us headed downstairs to rest in the hammocks.

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The “living room.” This open area, filled with hanging hammocks, was the gathering area of the home.

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After our breakfast we got ready for our first walk of our organic farm tour led by our house leader Jason.

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The “dining room.” Molly said she loved the sand floor.

Here we saw various plants, fruits (some of which we got to taste!) and insects.

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The tour of the organic fruit farm.

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The students got to taste many of the fruits grown on the farm.

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Molly sampling the fruits…

During our nature walk we got to see a sloth, some iguanas, grasshoppers, a ribbon snake, and a nest of biting fire ants.

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A Sloth!

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Molly said this plant felt and smelled like soap.

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After some free time we got to see a presentation from ASTOP, an organization for the preservation of sea turtles. This group taught us the reasons poaching of sea turtles occurs here in Costa Rica and what they have been doing to stop poaching.

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This information got us very excited for our first night patrol. The very nice man left and then we were given time to go swim in the ocean.

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The ocean was gorgeous, and had black sand which many of us had not seen before.

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After we passed a swim test (which we all did AWESOME at) we got to swim.

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About half-way through swimming, more and more people went off to go play in the sand. Some people were buried while others of us just relaxed on their towels. The heat of the day was wiped off of us while swimming.

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After that, we came back where we all rinsed off and then had some downtime to relax and talk with everybody. All in all we had a great day and are looking forward to hopefully seeing a turtle on our night patrol.

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If not, at least it will be an awesome week!

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Living Treasures Animal Park

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While Molly and Rusty were hiking with the school’s Adventure Club, Tyler, Ozzie and I went on an adventure of our own.

Just down the road from McConnells Mill State Park is Living Treasures Animal Park. This park has a special place in my heart, as it is home to so many sweet memories. Our first visit here was with Gracie as a baby. We have visited it with my sister and her kids, my parents, my brother, my grandfather and many friends. Over the years we have created many sweet memories at this special place, and Thursday we created a few more.

It has been over a year since we visited Living Treasures. We were long overdue for a trip to our favorite animal park. Having just the little boys with me afforded me the opportunity to spend some special one on one time with the two youngest and give them the chance to create some special memories together as brothers.

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We arrived as the doors opened and I bought animal feed for both boys to feed the animals. The fun thing about this park is the many opportunities to interact with all the animals more intimately than you can at a zoo.

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The animals that you can pet and feed by hand include deer, cattle, alpaca, goats, and the giraffes.

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The giraffes are some of our favorite friends at Living Treasures.

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Currently there is a new addition in the giraffe house. Baby Calvin, a one month old calf, was recently born at Living Treasures weighing in at 145 pounds and standing 6’3″tall. He is now making daily appearances with mama a few times a day.

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What a doll he was!

Bigger animals are fed through feeding tubes that drop their treats into a food dish that they eagerly wait beside, hoping for a handout. This system allows kids to interact with the animals up close without the risk of losing fingers.

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The monkeys and apes at Living Treasures are fed with a bucket system. Visitors can place carrots or special monkey pellets in a bucket attached to a chain, and the monkeys can pull the bucket to the cage and fish out their treats.

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Other animals, like the alligators, can only been viewed from a safe distance away.

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 Two of our favorite exhibits in the park were the aviary, where guests are invited to feed the birds, and the petting zoo, where the goats and baby animals are housed.

At the aviary the boys had a wonderful time feeding their bright, feathered friends. Never have we experienced that level of interest from the birds. Being the first visitors of the day paid off, as the birds all had empty stomachs and were eager to eat. The result reminded me of a certain Alfred Hitchcock classic.

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It made for a lot of squeals and giggles, and some awesome photo opportunities.

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We experienced a different sort of swarm when we entered the petting zoo area to feed the goats. They too acted as though they hadn’t been fed in months and were all over the boys and their buckets.

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The best part of visiting this area of Living Treasures, however, is the baby animals. Here we were able to feed and pet two baby camels, and various baby cattle. Oh, how sweet they were. Oh, how tempted I was to smuggle one home!

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Especially this sweet thing, that looks like a hoofed version of a Basset Hound.

There were also a few baby pot belly pigs that reminded us of our own Pot Belly Pig, Harley D. Hog, when we first brought him home as a bottle fed baby.

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All too soon, it was time to leave and pick up the other kids from their Adventure Club outing. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to create some special memories with my two youngest.

It is a day I will treasure.

 

 

Fort Worth Stockyards

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Fort Worth, Texas is known as the City of Cowboys. One of the most popular things for families to do is spend a day at the Fort Worth Stockyards. With its brick lined streets, historic buildings, a weekly rodeo and twice daily cattle drive, this is the place where tourists come to experience the American West.

And this is where we spent the day on Wednesday.

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When we asked for suggestions of something fun to do with the kids in the Dallas, Texas area a friend suggested the Fort Worth Stockyards. I looked into it and knew at once that it was a must-see stop on our Texas journey.

The girls were excited to have an excuse to pull their cowboy hats out again.

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We arrived and easily found parking near the end of Exchange Ave. Tyler loved the parking payment system at the Stockyards that involved pushing your folded dollar bills in the slot that corresponded to your parking spot. I’ve never seen a system quite like it.

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Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center where a helpful young lady gave us the low down on the Fort Worth Stockyards. She explained the cattle drive, including what time to line up along the road and the best spots to stand to best see the longhorn cattle (and view them from the shade. A key tip in the 100 degree heat!). She also went over the various activities available and her recommendations for the best BBQ joint in town. All were helpful tips that helped structure our day and determine what we ended up seeing and doing.

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We found the Visitor’s Center to be a worthwhile stop before beginning our day at the Stockyards.

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It  had the added appeal of giant misting fans out front…another huge perk in the 100+ degree heat.

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Our first stop was the Cattle Pen Maze. It too was recommended by my friend. The cost was $6.00/ child but ended up being one of the highlights of our day at the Stockyards. The kids each received a ticket that was marked with their starting time. They then had to race the clock, seeking out the four hidden stations to punch their card, before finding their way out of the maze.

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It proved to be far more challenging than they thought it would be.

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There was a covered observation deck that extended above the maze, allowing us to look down at our kids and watch them scramble through the blind twists and turns of the maze.

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Rusty was the first one to find the four punch stations and get out of the maze. He did it in 10 minutes.

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Grace was next with a time of 13 minutes.

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Molly came in third with a final time of 16 minutes,

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And Tyler brought up the rear with a time of 20 minutes. I will say, though, that Tyler lost time because of his kind heart and willingness to backtrack and help a lost mother find her way through the maze.

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Then we walked over to the petting zoo. At $2.00/person this was a fun and affordable experience for all of us animal lovers. Once again, for the second day in a row, Molly got her goat fix and loved it.

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Tyler also LOVED feeding the goats and sheep.

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Rusty made a special friend while we were there.

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We all enjoyed this nice little petting zoo.

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Then it was time to get in position for the cattle drive.

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“The Old West comes to life before your eyes during the Fort Worth Herd’s twice-daily cattle drive. Genuine Texas cowhands drive a herd of Texas longhorns down Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards national Historic District every day at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Every detail of the cattle drive—from the saddles and chaps to the boots and hats – is authentic and historically true.”

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It was incredible to see these iconic Texan Longhorn cattle up close as they walked down the main street of town.

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What a thrill!

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It was the highlight of the day for me!

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After the cattle drive we had fun exploring the stockyards and seeing the pens where the Longhorns are held,

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And catching a glimpse of the cowboys at work.

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We also stopped in Billy Bob’s- The World’s Largest Honky Tonk.

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This 6000 person capacity nightclub is open during the day for families who want to grab a bite to eat or buy a Fort Worth souvenir. It was fun to check out the bull riding ring and the huge nightclub that becomes a line dancing haven when the sun goes down.

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I best this place gets crazy at night!

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We didn’t eat at Billy Bob’s, but walked over to Risky’s Bar-B-Q instead, as suggested by our new friend at the Visitor’s Center.

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Toby, Rusty and I followed the recommendation of the waiter and ordered the specialty: Beef Bar-B-Q ribs. The girls ordered the brisket sandwiches.

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The ribs were incredible, made all the tastier by their awesome sauce.

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We ended our day at the Stockyards with a little shopping at Stockyards Station,

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and some horseback riding…

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Hang on kiddos! Those are some wild stallions!

Next stop: San Antonio, Texas

 

Oklahoma City Zoo

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The next stop on our journey towards Texas took us to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

We woke early this morning for a quick “fill-up” at the hotel’s complimentary continental breakfast before we were on the road again. From Springfield, Missouri we had a  4 hour stretch of road to drive before reaching Oklahoma City…the next stop on our itinerary. We left by 8:00am with the goal of reaching Oklahoma City by noon.

When researching things to see and do in Oklahoma City we had a few options. I really wanted to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial which stands in remembrance of those whose lives were lost in the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, but felt that given everyone’s emotional state it was probably too heavy a place at this time, so instead we decided to spend the day at the zoo.

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After reading many reviews online I was excited to explore this zoo that received high accolades for their affordable price and awesome exhibits.

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We arrived to find the zoo empty. We had the place to ourselves, which was shocking given the fact it was the summer season. Our “out-of-town visitor” status soon became apparent when we realized that the locals, who are more familiar with Oklahoma City summer temperatures, were all home enjoying their air conditioning.

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But we didn’t let the 97 degree heat (103 degree heat index) dampen our day…although it did dampen our shirts!

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Luckily there were water misters and industrial fans sprinkled throughout the zoo.

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Each cooling spot became an oasis for these “desert travelers.”

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The nice thing about visiting Oklahoma City Zoo in July is that you have the place to yourself. There were no lines and no fellow visitors to maneuver around.

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We were so impressed with this zoo. They had such a fun variety of species that we hadn’t seen in other zoos, particularly in the reptile house and the aviary.

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Some of our favorite exhibits included:

The Pygmy Hippo:

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The Galapagos Tortoise:

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The Elephants:

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The Tiger:

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But the best exhibit, hands down, were the Gorillas.

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We spent the longest part of our day sitting at this window, interacting with this amazing group of Gorillas.

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There was a beautiful Silverback, a few female Gorillas and two babies. There was a four year old male named, “Liom,” and a two year old female named, “Rubi.”

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And they were hilarious to watch!

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It was just like we were watching preschool siblings.

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Rubi killed us. She is just starting to interact with the public and spent much of her time at the window interacting with us.

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We died when she ran along the window with her tongue to the glass, licking it all the way to the other side.

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Both babies would follow the big silverback anytime he would move across the yard, but unlike her big brother that moved in a straight line from point A to point B, Rubi would spin like a two year old doing pirouettes across the living room.

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Then she’d tip over and roll on her back when she got too dizzy.

We could have stayed there all day!

The thing that really set this zoo apart from its counterparts was the staff. We were amazed by the amount of staff that were positioned at the various exhibits around the zoo to answer the visitor’s questions and educate the public on each animal. With so few visitors, it was like having our own private, backlot tour of the zoo. They were all so informative and it greatly enhanced the experience to have an employee who personally works with the animal, telling us about that animal and answering any questions we had. It was so much more engaging than simply reading plaques on the sides of exhibits.

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There were also employees stationed at the intersections of the various sections of the zoo to direct you to your destination if you were turned around, to inquire if you needed anything, and to remind visitors to drink  water.

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The staff at the Oklahoma City Zoo was amazing!

Although we really enjoyed all the cool exotic critters, my kids were inevitably drawn to the farm animals that were so familiar. There was a nice little petting zoo area where the kids could brush goats, sheep and miniature donkeys.

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Molly, my goat whisperer, was in heaven.

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Tyler also really enjoyed the lake where you could purchase a handful of fish feed for a quarter and feed the catfish, ducks and turtles that congregated at the edge of the dock.

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The heat was intense enough that Toby indulged in a way we don’t normally, at places like the zoo, and bought everyone ice cream cones. They tasted so good. I don’t know if it was especially good ice cream or if it just tasted exceptionally good because we were so hot. Either way, our cones were delicious!

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We stayed until 4:30 pm and then drove over to Five Below. Toby’s uncle, Dave, lives in Oklahoma City with his wife and manages the Five Below store there. Since he was working, and couldn’t meet us at the zoo, we decided to come to him.

It was so great to see him and catch up, even if just for a short time.

He generously gave the kids each $5.00 to purchase a souvenir. The kids loved it, and it was so sweet of Dave.

Grace bought a cute hat, Molly purchased a new backpack, and both boys picked a Heliball after Dave told them it was the coolest toy they sold in his store.

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He was right! The boys have had a blast with their new toys. Thank you, Dave!

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It was a very hot, but VERY FUN day, in Oklahoma City.

Next Stop: Ft. Worth, Texas.

 

 

 

Penguins and Sharks and Seals…Oh My!

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Yesterday we woke up to a forecast of 90% chance of rain and a high of 55 degrees…a little to chilly for a beach day, even for Tyler and Ozzie!

So we decided to head 15 minutes north to Point Pleasant Beach.

In researching fun things to do in the area I stumbled across another blogger’s review of Jenkinson’s Aquarium, located right along the boardwalk of Point Pleasant beach. The cost was very reasonable, the reviews were great, and since all my kids love any experience involving animals or wildlife we thought it would be a fun, (warm) way to spend the day.

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And we weren’t disappointed!

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This privately owned aquarium was smaller than what you would see associated with a larger zoo or what you might find in a big city, but it was beautifully and skillfully put together. The displays were arranged artfully, making the most of the small space they had to work with. It was amazing the amount there was to see but the tanks were arranged in a way that it didn’t feel crowded or sterile. The entire building was really a feast for the eyes and so well done.

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We arrived at 11:00 am, just as the African penguins were being fed. They were such a kick to watch with their bigger than life personalities. The trainer was feeding them a bucket of small fish which they swarmed around her to receive. Then she pulled a small squid out of the bucket and it was like watching a momma try to feed her toddlers broccoli. They would run up to her, beaks open, eager for a bite…until they saw the squid. Then they would shake their heads with a firm “no” and run away from her. It was quite comical to watch. In the end she couldn’t convince any of the penguins to give the squid a try and it ended up back in her bucket.

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Each of the penguins were sporting fancy bracelets, like the ones we used to make with plastic cord and pony beads in middle school. The trainer explained they were for identification so visitors could learn each penguin’s name and a little about them. Hanging beside the exhibit was a tv screen, flashing pictures and bracelet codes for each penguin. I thought this was a fun tool for visitor interaction.

On the first floor were the large tanks, housing the bigger fish. There was a large freshwater tank, a shark tank, and a smaller saltwater fish tank. All the tanks had seating in front of them, allowing visitors to just sit and observe. We could have all sat and watched the fish for hours, but were maneuvering around 200 kindergarteners who were all there for an end of the year school trip. The benefit to shadowing these dozens of groups, however, was the great informative information we could glean from the tour guides by listening in.

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All the kids were enthralled, but none more than Tyler who LOVES fish. Today he is with Toby on a special father/son deep sea charter fishing excursion, so yesterday his question, as we walked through the aquarium, was “So, do you think we will see one of those, Dad?”

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One of our favorite characters in the big tank was this silly puffer fish that could not get enough of Miss Grace. He kept circling back around to swim past Gracie’s head and when he did he would press against the glass like a little kid smooshing their face against a window trying to get a better look. It was so funny and it was hard to walk away! We could have watched him for hours.

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In the center of the first floor sat a pirate ship and a surrounding pier that was home to small tanks of fish and a running stream to house various turtles. It was such a beautiful exhibit to walk through and the kids had fun watching the turtles swim.

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The second floor of the aquarium was where the smaller tanks were located.

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It was here that Molly found a tank of her favorite sea creatures…jellyfish!

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And we had the unique experience of watching Nautilus being fed. Although a relative to the octopus, these animals are unlike any other I have ever seen. They basically float around, moving in reverse, and seem to struggle seeking out the food the trainer drops in the tank because she hand fed each critter. It was fascinating to watch as I have never seen these guys up close before.

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It was up on the second floor that we found the touch tank. Although after seeing “Finding Dory” I find myself looking at touch tanks in a whole new way, as I remember  that humorous scene from the movie when all the animals retreated in fear as little fingers moved in from above.

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In this touch tank we were able to touch a sea star, sea urchins, sea snails, horseshoe crabs and sting rays.

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Ozzie found it fascinating to learn a bit more about horseshoe crabs like the one  we saw at the beach.

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And of course the sting rays are always the biggest hit in any touch tank with their outgoing personalities and cheerful waves as they swim by.

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We ended our day at Jenkinson’s Aquarium with the seal feeding. At this aquarium they have one seal by the name of LuSeal, who was rescued after being injured off the coast. It is unknown whether her injuries were sustained by a passing motor boat or a shark but after rehabilitation her remaining injury is blindness in both eyes, which is why she lives at the aquarium rather than being released back into the wild.

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For feeding time LuSeal showed off her “tricks” for the crowd as the trainer explained the work they do with LuSeal. She explained that every “trick” LuSeal is taught are behaviors natural to seals and beneficial for her care by the trainers or the vet that cares for her. She is never trained to do anything that she wouldn’t do in the wild. (For example: balance a ball on her nose)

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We were amazed at how well LuSeal maneuvers around, using only her whiskers for spatial reference and the sound of the trainer’s voice as cues.

At the end of her meal she opened wide for her daily teeth brushing, something they do after each meal to prevent gum disease. I couldn’t help but point out to Tyler how willingly and happily she gets her teeth brushed without fighting…hmm!

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We had so much fun at Jenkinson’s aquarium and highly recommend it to anyone in the Jersey area. It is small but beautifully done and well worth the price…

especially on a cold, grey day.

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Molly, Grace, Rusty and Toby…Can you spot him?

Jenkinson’s Aquarium, thanks for the fun day!

 

The Cone is Back!

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Just when we thought we were free from the terror of a Great Dane encased in a hard plastic cone…

Just when the other dogs quit cowering in fear at Olive’s entrance into the room…

Just as the cuts on our arms and legs began to scab over…

Just when we finally threw that sad excuse of a cone into the trash,

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the adventure begins again.

For the THIRD time!

We arrived home on Wednesday evening, following two fun-filled days at Kalahari. We were greeted by enthusiastic, happy dogs who were glad to see us.

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All was good.

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All was well.

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Until…

*cue scary music*

We open the door to find this!

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Blood everywhere.

Olive was let outside for a few minutes and in that time, in the midst of her leaps of joy and pirouettes of happiness, she somehow injured herself. And I mean REALLY injured herself.

We opened the door to find our front porch looking like a scene from The Walking Dead.

Undeterred by the gushing wounds on two of her feet, she continued to bounce around with 100-pound-puppy energy, quickly coating the porch, us, and herself with blood.

It was at this point Molly pondered out loud, as she ran to the medicine cabinet for bandages, “I wonder what it would be like to just have a normal, boring day around here.”

But, alas, nothing is ever simple, uneventful, or boring at Patchwork Farm.

No, everyday is an adventure…whether we want it to be or not. 😉

Thus began adventure # 786,901 at Patchwork Farm: “The day the cone returned!”

It took all the older kids to hold Olive down so that Toby and I could inspect the damage. When the blood kept soaking through the pressure dressings we put on her ankles, we knew the situation exceeded our level of expertise and it was back to the vet for another overnighter for Olive.

She is earning her frequent flyer miles at Rainbow Vet, and we are personally funding our veterinarian’s next European vacation! Ugh.

We were able to pick up Olive the next day. After walking the entire yard we still have no idea what she ran through that tore her up so badly that she needed to get staples in her legs,

But the end result was minor surgery, boxing gloves for paws, and the return of “The Cone.”

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She is now on “bed rest” once again-

“And it is SO MUCH FUN!!” I scream with a manic grin.

She also can’t get her bandages wet for 10 days, a challenging feat living in Western Pennsylvania, so she was sent home from the vet with little plastic galoshes that must be tied onto her feet every time she goes outside.

Moving with the grace of a newborn giraffe, she struggles to move through the yard hampered by boxing glove feet, covered in stiff plastic bags.

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She has adapted by learning to walk on her tip toes, quite reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote sneaking up on the Road Runner.

It is quite comical to watch,

but the return of the “cone of shame” is not so comical.

We are all suffering from this latest Olive adventure…

Olive is feeling the pain of her most recent injury in her feet.

The kids are feeling the bruising pain of collisions with the “cone of shame” on their arms and legs.

And Toby is feeling the piercing financial pain of Great Dane ownership in his wallet.

Can someone pass me an aspirin?

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Olive is Free!

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Olive is free!

Oh, what a ride it was from day 1 of surgery #1 to day 10 following surgery #2. Her cone of shame did a fair amount of damage to home, other pets, and the human members of our home before she was finally set free.

You can get a fair idea of how hard she was running into everyone and everything by the sad state of her cone on the final day of confinement before she was set free:

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But we are happy to report that she is free,

she is healing…

And slowly, but surely,

So are we!

😉

 

 

Easter at the Homestead

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Last weekend we headed to Ohio.
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Since we had spent Easter day with Toby’s family, this was our second Easter celebration…this time with my parents.
We could not have asked for more beautiful weather. It was a perfect spring day. Between the bright blue sky, kelly green grass, and purple violets, the Homestead was alive with color.
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Much of the day was spent outside enjoying this ideal spring day.
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For lunch we enjoyed a picnic lunch of subs, potato salad, deviled eggs, and pickled watermelon rinds.
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The animals gathered at the fence to watch us eat. Perhaps they were hoping someone might toss them a roll. 🙂
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It is funny to see how alive and engaged the critters become when they see the kids arrive.
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After lunch we participated in a new Easter tradition, something we had never heard of before. This Easter tradition was introduced to us by my soon-to-be sister from Texas. Upon hearing that my poor, Pennsylvania children had never experienced cascarones before (a Easter tradition in Texas) she sent a package as a gift. “What are cascarones,” you ask:
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“A cascarón is a hollowed-out chicken egg filled with confetti. Cascarones are common through Mexico and are similar to the Easter eggs popular in many other countries. They are mostly used in Mexico during Carnival, but in US and Mexico border towns the cultures combined making them a popular Easter tradition.

Popular for generations as an Easter tradition in the Southwest, they are now making a splash elsewhere in the United States.”

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She explained to my mom how they work and that getting hit with a cascarone is supposed to bring good luck.

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So we tapped into our very shallow, pretty much non-existent Latin roots and grabbed an egg.

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What fun they were!!

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I think we have established a new Easter tradition, although Tyler suggested that next year we just use regular eggs.

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It could be fun. Messy, but fun. 😉

After our cascarones battle it was time to switch gears from Easter to birthdays, as we planned to take advantage of having everyone gathered, so as to celebrate Ozzie’s and Molly’s birthdays.

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Life has gotten busier in recent years and the added distance between our homes (2 1/2 hours as opposed to 1) makes getting together a bit tougher, so we have begun clumping birthdays and celebrating 3 months of birthdays in one sitting.

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Both kids were tickled pink to receive such perfect, thoughtful, creative gifts from my parents.

Ozzie received two new puzzles and a deck of John Deere playing cards. They couldn’t have picked a better gift for my puzzle loving boy!

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Molly received a Ukulele…an adorable Ukulele! She has been talking about wanting to learn to play the Ukulele and Mimi and Pop Pop heard her wish and granted it.

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Mom even had special Easter treats for Toby and I.

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It was very thoughtful!

The remainder of the day was spent soaking up the sunshine, enjoying birthday root beer floats, and playing Frisbee as a family.

How blessed we are!

Olive the other Reindeer

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Olive our Great Dane pup is growing by leaps and bounds. She now outweighs half the family, is as tall as Toby when she is standing on her back legs, takes up the entire couch when she is stretched out, and can reach the countertop with all four feet on the ground…

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which has led to a new level of puppy proofing,

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And she is not even 10 months old!

With this incredible 9 month long growth spurt comes a lot of feeding (8 cups a day/ spread over three servings) Toby recently repurposed an old bench that had lost its seat, into a new feeding area for our tall girl.

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But even with all the unique challenges of owning a Great Dane, the dividends are huge. Since we brought home Olive, Tyler is a different child. We were led to adopt Olive as a therapy tool for Tyler, our youngest son who suffers from PTSD due to early childhood trauma. He was in a bad place and couldn’t sleep at night because of the paralyzing fear he had that his birth father was going to find him and kill him. He needed to feel safe. He needed a furry companion that he felt could protect him from his worst nightmare which led us to find the biggest, and yet gentlest/most tolerant breed of dog we could. We needed a gentle giant to serve as Tyler’s support dog.

Since Olive moved in Tyler has become a different child.

Olive has not only grown physically in the time we have had her but she has also grown in her ability to obey and follow commands thanks to obedience class. We knew it was important with a dog that big, that we establish control and teach good manners as soon as possible. It is one thing to have a naughty 8 pound Yorkie that jumps up on you, but quite different to have a naughty, 150 pound goliath try to climb up your leg.

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Olive has now completed three levels of training and begins the advanced class this week. Rusty has stepped up as the primary trainer who works with Olive in her classes and at home. We found Tyler’s energy, coupled with Olives distractibility, a bad fit for obedience class. Rusty’s calm, but strong presence, is a much better fit.

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Olive loves class and looks forward to playtime with her four footed friends, especially Rebel, a German Shorthaired Pointer, who is her best friend.

I am amazed at how much she is learning and how well the classes are working…

for the most part.

But every now and then Olive gets herself in trouble.

For example…

Saturday morning we woke to the clip clopping of feet on the roof above our head.

Our first thought was “Tyler!”

After a quick peek in his bedroom to find him still asleep,

Our next thought was, “Goats!”

It has happened before…

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What we never expected when we stepped out the front door was to look up and see this:

It wasn’t the pawing of Dasher, Dancer, or Vixen…

No, it was Olive, the other reindeer!

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Being the owners of an under one-year-old Great Dane is a dichotomy. She has the appearance of a full grown dog. She is as tall as a small pony. But she has the enthusiasm, curiosity, lack of common sense, and klutziness of the puppy she really is. It is a dangerous combination and many a breakable has been destroyed inside the house because of this  combination of energy and enthusiasm, coupled with her complete lack of understanding of how big she really is.

She has gotten “stuck” in many sticky situations as a result, and this morning was a prime example of that.

Near the back of our house the distance between the ground and roofline in significantly shorter than in the front of the house, which means a determined little boy, a pair of climbing goats, or a tall Great Dane in pursuit of a cat can, if they are motivated enough, climb onto the roof.

It appears this is what happened on Saturday morning. Olive, in pursuit of the cat, followed Stripy up onto the roof and then discovered it was a jolly, good place to play. She ran, frolicked and barked, delighted by this grand adventure until mean old Toby made her come back down to earth.

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What a goofy girl she is!

Olive, down girl! Down!