Tag Archives: zoo

Zoo Adventures


On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving the boys’ school break began at noon. While they spent the morning wrapping up school work for the week, I spent the morning baking and prepping for our Thanksgiving feast. At noon we all hit pause on the tasks at hand and packed lunches for our afternoon adventure.

Ozzie had be approved for a 24 hour home pass for Thanksgiving Day and the transport van was scheduled to drop him off in Pittsburgh at 5:00pm. Knowing we needed to trek down to Pittsburgh anyway, and since school wrapped up early, we decided to take advantage of free zoo days at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

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For one week a year (usually during Thanksgiving week) the Pittsburgh Zoo opens their gates to the public for free as an expression of gratitude to the people of Pittsburgh. With the cost of admission being $16.95 per adult, this is a great deal to take advantage of, especially for large families made up of primarily adults!

We arrived and found the zoo to be far less crowded than we expected. We could only assume that most people were at home preparing Thanksgiving dishes for the following day.

The weather was beautiful. It was classic November weather. The sun warmed our faces while the chill in the air nipped at our noses. The winds were just strong enough to make the fallen leaves dance at our feet.

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 We had three hours to wander the zoo before needing to pick up Ozzie so we headed out exploring the zoo and enjoying the animals.


One of our favorite exhibits was the gorilla enclosure where a baby stole the show with her toddler-like antics.

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I could have sat and watched her play all day!

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We also really enjoyed the beaver den where a family of kits kept their parents busy with their non-stop movement. There is a reason we use the expression, “Busy as a beaver.” One of the kits went about diligently collecting leaves and piling them in the corner of the pond. Unfortunately the little beaver hadn’t figured out the importance of placing your leaf collection on land if you want them to remain where you placed them. He continued to re-chase the same leaves that kept floating away from his pile into the center of the pond.

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The otters (both sea and river varieties) are always a family favorite. They truly are the “puppies of the sea.” They were so social and animated as they interacted with the visitors watching them through the glass.


When we meandered by the sea lions we discovered a training session in progress. We stopped to watch as three trainers worked with the three sea lions, putting them through their paces as they showed off their collection of tricks.

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The aquarium is always Tyler’s favorite stop at the zoo.

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Pittsburgh boasts an impressive aquarium for a landlocked location, and for Tyler, our resident fish lover, this always proves to be his favorite part of the zoo.

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Personally, I am a fan of the larger mammals. I love the elephants and big cats that call Pittsburgh Zoo, “home.”

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Located in the area of the zoo called Pier Town guests will find the seals, otters, and of course the polar bear!

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The polar bear is another one of our favorite animals to watch!


At 4:30pm we began moseying our way back to the front gate so we wouldn’t be late picking up Ozzie. We had a full Thanksgiving weekend ahead of us with many fun, family adventures planned,

But I can’t think of a better way to kick off our Thanksgiving holiday than a beautiful day at the zoo with three of my favorite guys!!

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A Visit to Oz


We were overly dressed for the zoo due to our plans to head to the Palmyra LDS temple following our visit. Ozzie just wanted to dress up for the occasion. The result: A sweet Amish family stopping us at the zoo to inquire if we were Mennonites. ūüôā¬†

Last Wednesday was our first off-grounds visit with Ozzie since his placement at Harborcreek Residential Treatment Facility back in May. This is his second stay there and it has been an immense blessing. The facility is astounding and Ozzie thrives under the structure, care, and therapies offered there. In an ideal world we would be able to meet Ozzie’s extreme therapeutic needs at home through outpatient services, but his history of extreme abuse and neglect prior to adoption, coupled with his multiple diagnoses, make the level of therapeutic care needed for healing unrealistic in an outpatient form. Our hope is that an extended stay at this RTF, with its many forms of therapy and its superb staff, will facilitate a level of healing that his therapist at home can’t achieve in two hours a week.

At Harborcreek Ozzie is eagerly involved and engaged in multiple therapeutic groups daily in addition to art therapy, music therapy, trauma release yoga, EMDR therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma therapy and family therapy weekly. He also attends school on campus for a half day and participates in work release program at the carpentry workshop a few days a week where he has the opportunity to learn carpentry skills. With other boys that qualify for this privilege, he is learning to build picnic benches which are then sold to local businesses and organizations. He loves his time with the work release team.

Every Wednesday I drive 2 1/2 hours up to Erie to have a family session with Ozzie. This is not required. In fact most parents participate in these weekly therapy sessions over the phone, as families are scattered across the state of Pennsylvania,  but I have found Ozzie makes more progress in his healing with one-on-one, face-to-face support and accountability. We have turned these family therapy days into weekly social visits. Rather than taking advantage of open visiting hours for family every Sunday from 1-4 pm (which is what we did each week during his last stay there,) I piggyback a social visit following these weekly family therapy sessions. It has worked out well, as it was always a challenge to fit in church and get up to Erie before visiting hours were over. It made Sundays stressful and took us away from our other kids on the one day of the week we have everyone home together for family time. With this new routine I am able to focus on Ozzie that day and enjoy an extended visit with him following therapy where our time is spent playing the board games I bring with me.

Now that he has been at Harborcreek for three months, and is doing so well there, the next step is transitioning those skills to the home environment. This is especially important for Ozzie, as his ability to self manage is far more challenging when he is around family and is being shown love than it is for him in an institutionalized setting that is more structured, disconnected and impersonal. The first step in this transition process (which will probably occur over the course of six months) is to begin introducing short off campus visits with siblings. These short visits give everyone a chance at reconnection while also allowing us to increase Ozzie’s emotional discomfort and observe his reaction to emotional triggers so that when he returns back to Harborcreek at the conclusion of the off-grounds visit he can process through the experience (and the resulting behaviors) with his trauma therapist and come up with strategies to implement next visit.

It was decided that for his first off-grounds visit with siblings we would just bring Molly and Grace. Both girls are well versed in how to manage Ozzie in an emotionally healthy way without being triggered themselves, so we thought it best to set everyone up for success and just bring the girls. It was especially important for Molly to attend as she will be leaving for school in Idaho in two weeks and I felt it important that she and Ozzie have a visit before an extended separation. There were hurts that needed healing in their relationship with Molly being one of Ozzie’s primary targets before he was admitted to the RTF. We were granted a two-hour off-grounds visit and we chose to head to the Erie Zoo.

The zoo was the perfect choice for the girls’ first visit with Ozzie since seeing him in his dysregulated state last spring. I could tell both were apprehensive and a bit nervous, but hopeful that healing was possible. I felt a visit to the zoo would be a good environment for their first visit together. My thought was that at the zoo wee would have the benefit of being able to move around as we talked and have plenty of conversation starters as we experience the zoo. Also, I have found that animals have an emotionally calming/therapeutic effect on all my kids, so I figured it would increase the likelihood of everyone staying regulated, thus ensuring a positive visit among siblings.

We arrived at the zoo following a family therapy session that included all of us and Ozzie’s trauma therapist. We started our visit with a picnic lunch that we packed and brought along with us.

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Once everyone’s bellies were full we started our exploration of the zoo.

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The charm of the Erie zoo is found in its historic roots. Opened in 1929 it has a charm that isn’t seen in modern zoos. It is on the smaller size which made it perfect for the amount of time allotted for our visit with Ozzie, and there were just enough exhibits to entertain us during those two hours.

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We all enjoyed strolling through the zoo looking at the animals and watching them interact with each other.

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The Orangutans were especially charming as they had a little one in the group who was a delight to watch. I could have spent all day at that exhibit!

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Ozzie’s favorite animal was of course the donkey. He has a thing for donkeys!

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He also loved the train display set up in the center courtyard.

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As we walked around the zoo he was able to point out some of the picnic tables they make in the Harborcreek carpentry shop and sell to the Erie Zoo. He was quite proud to claim some ownership in finished project.

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It was a beautiful day and everyone had a good time. The interactions were positive and the kids enjoyed getting time together.

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We are one step further down the road to healing past hurts.

Philadelphia Zoo


One of the three sites we chose to visit as part of our sightseeing pass was the Philadelphia Zoo.

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The Philadelphia Zoo is the oldest zoological park in America. The zoo was slated to open in 1859, but it was delayed for 15 years because of the Civil War. Finally, the zoo opened in 1874 with 1,000 animals, not too many fewer than they have today.

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Over 140 years later, the Philadelphia Zoo still welcomes millions of visitors a year, and this weekend Toby and I joined them for our first visit to Philly’s zoo.

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My first impression of the zoo was that it was nicely laid out, with reasonably sized enclosures for the animals.  It does have a bit of an urban feel to it, most likely because of the close proximity to roads and railroad tracks, but that doesn’t distract much from the overall experience. It actually reminded me a lot of the Erie Zoo, due in part to the age of the zoo.

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Aside from the surprising lack of elephants, the zoo featured most of the animals that you would expect to find at a large American zoo. Animals like giraffes, gorillas, and big cats, could be found roaming their enclosures or simply laying around enjoying the day.

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We did find that the Philadelphia Zoo offered one particularly unique feature that we had never before experienced in all of our zoo experiences: Zoo360.

Zoo360 is a campus-wide network of see-through mesh trails that afford the animals within the enclosures more opportunities to roam around and above Zoo grounds.  Zoo360 is the first of its kind at any zoo worldwide.

There are several components of this innovative experience:¬†Treetop Trail, Great Ape Trail, Big Cat Crossing, and Gorilla Treeway, with more on the way.¬†The trails link existing animal habitats with similar habitat requirements so animals can utilize each other‚Äôs spaces in a time-sharing system, and take advantage of having more room to roam. New destination exhibits will be created and designed to accommodate all of the species that would use each trail type.¬† We found that the Zoo360 experience enhanced our experience, creating a more dynamic engagement as animals moved around us, 360 degrees ‚ÄĒ along, above and across visitor pathways.

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It was pretty cool getting to watch the animals walk right above us as we strolled through the zoo.

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In addition to making the zoo experience more engaging to visitors, Zoo360 benefits the animals by offering more opportunities for long-distance travel, a greater variety in their environments and an increased ability to determine their own experiences.

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In addition to the thrill of seeing some big cats stroll above our heads, we also got to experience the delight of watching monkeys frolic above us along the Treetop Trail. The Treetop Trail is an elevated trail for small primates like the red-capped mangabey, black and white colobus monkeys, white-faced sakis, blue-eyed lemurs and mongoose lemurs, who love to travel and explore among the treetops.

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A momma with her baby.

My favorite stop was the PECO Primate Reserve, which featured two-and-a-half acres of indoor and outdoor exhibits.

We were drawn to this yard by the sight of the orangutans in the outdoor yard sporting pizza boxes and towels over their heads. Initially we thought that someone’s choice to litter resulted in some mischievous monkeys getting ahold of contraband, but soon discovered that their collection of “trash” was actually provided by the zoo staff as enrichment objects for the animals. This family of orangutans had ingeniously created sun blocks for themselves to battle the intense heat of the day. It was pretty cool to see how their minds work.

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The PECO Primate Reserve houses some of the world’s most endangered primates. We got to see gorillas, Sumatran orangutans, white-handed gibbons, black and white ruffed lemurs, golden lion tamarins and more. The best part was the sprinkling of babies through the exhibit that tickled us with their delightful antics. I could have spent all day in the ape house watching them play.

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Overall we found the Philadelphia Zoo to be a fun stop but not at the top of our list when it comes to the best zoos we’ve toured. In our opinion the Pittsburgh Zoo has it beat, but we had to admit that the Zoo360 experience was incredibly cool and worth the trip to check it out!

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This Place is a ZOO!


In honor of life at Patchwork Farm and the ZOO we lovingly call “everyday life” in the McCleery household, we decided to take a field trip over Thanksgiving break to the Pittsburgh Zoo.

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In the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving the Pittsburgh Zoo was offering free admission to all its visitors as a way of expressing gratitude to the people of Pittsburgh for their patronage.

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We decided to take advantage of this incredible deal and take the kids to the zoo for a day of free fun.

It was just what we all needed after a highly emotional holiday weekend.

The fact that all members of the family were able to visit made the day even more special.

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It was a cold and rainy day so we were one of only a few families visiting the zoo that day, despite the incredible deal of free admission. It was lovely to be able to meander along the paths without having to push through any crowds.

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Because of the chilly weather some of the animals were put away, but we enjoyed watching those whose thicker coats allowed them to stay outside and soak up the few rays of sun that were breaking through the clouds.

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Tyler, like the big cats, was unaffected by the cold as he enjoyed some time in the islands!

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We timed our visit just right and entered the elephant house just as bath time commenced. We took our place at the railing and watched with delight for a half an hour while this beautiful lady was scrubbed and shined.

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Many animals in the zoo were unaffected by the cold temperatures due to their inside habitats. We enjoyed visiting the monkey house because the hot humid interior temps allowed us to warm up a bit.

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As we moved from the monkeys to the aquarium Molly spotted a few exhibits that spoke to her tender heart. The first was a display of sculptures that an artist creates from snare traps, repurposing something destructive into something beautiful. The artist then donates the proceeds to help with the conservation effort.

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As we neared the aquarium Molly spotted another exhibit that spoke to her tender heart. This one was a sea turtle second chance facility where injured turtles are rehabilitated. After her summer trip to the Sea Turtle Initiative in Costa Rica she has a heart for these special animals.

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Then it was time for the PPG Aquarium. This was the busiest part of the Pittsburgh Zoo that day. It seemed everyone had the same plan for getting out of the cold rain and we found the crowds significantly denser within this building…

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But that didn’t affect our enjoyment of this beautiful aquarium in the least. The kids all enjoyed checking out the vast variety of fish, crustaceans, sea birds, and large marine predators that call Pittsburgh PPG Aquarium home.

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The sting ray tank was a family favorite as the kids jostled for a spot near the tank to pet these soaring skates as they flew by just below the surface of the water.

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From there we headed back into the cold to visit Brandon’s favorite zoo animal: the polar bear.

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Unfortunately he wasn’t out so we moved onto the sea otters who put on a delightful display of playful charm that kept us enthralled for 20 minutes. The kids laughed with delight at the silly antics of these personable critters.

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By the time we were done watching the sea otters it was time to start heading for the exit. Grace had work that afternoon and everyone was ready to warm up and dry off, so after a quick stop back at the tiger enclosure to get a photo of the tiger for Brandon (Go Beaver Falls Tigers!), we were gone.

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It was a wonderful day!

Thank you, Pittsburgh Zoo, for your generosity…

My “crazy zoo” had a delightful time visiting yours!



Living Treasures Animal Park





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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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


 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.


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




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.





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!


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.


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.



Oklahoma City Zoo


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.




The First Day of School



Today officially marks the first day of school for my older three kids. (The little boys begin next Monday). I now have a freshman, sophomore, and senior…Yes, this is Gracie’s LAST first day of school. *SOB*

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 It was the most unique first day of school they have ever experienced. Through the course of their school day they crossed through five states and completed first day orientation from the comfort of a bouncing bus seat.

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Today marks the first day of an epic road trip around the United States. We are in the unique position of being able to take this road trip in September because we home school our children, as well as the fact that Toby is self-employeed and can set his own vacation days.

We love being able to vacation in September and it has been our choice vacation month for years. We find the cooler temperatures and¬†smaller crowds, due to kids being back in school, make for a less crowded, more enjoyable vacation. We have also found September a more affordable time to vacation since¬†places often offer “off season” rates after Labor Day.

The downside of vacationing in September, however, is that when we are traveling from place to place that our “free time” isn’t actually free time since there is daily school to be done…

Although it is my belief that anything to be learned in their textbook pales in comparison to what will be learned through the hands-on experiences of touring the very places they read about in those books.

As we traveled through Ohio on our way to Missouri we decided to make a stop in Columbus to visit the Columbus Zoo. This stop has been on my “wish list” of destinations for decades after falling in love with Jack Hanna, who served as director of the Columbus Zoo from 1978-1992 and is still heavily involved there today.

I had never had the opportunity to visit the Columbus Zoo so when our travel route took us right by there we decided it was a perfect first stop on our trip.

The zoo was stunning! Far more impressive than any we have visited before. The attention to detail and the staging of different “areas of the world” were Disneyesque in their grandeur and in its ability to take you on a magical journey, reminding us a lot of Animal Kingdom.

The zoo was huge and we didn’t even make it through the entire park.

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We were so impressed with the Columbus Zoo and found out first hand  why the Columbus Zoo consistently makes the list of top 10 zoos in the USA. Here is a look into our fun, memory making stop at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium:

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Arriving at the Columbus Zoo!

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The gorilla play area was amazing. Tyler was quite jealous of the gorillas’ playground and desperately wanted to join them.

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What hauntingly beautiful creatures!!


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Toby and Ozzie

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The kids all got a kick out of the touch pool…especially after seeing the movie “Finding Dory.”

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The manatee aquarium was so neat. The room was filled with mangroves and decorated to look like a bayou fishing dock.

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Tyler was thrilled when the Momma manatee swam up to the surface for air and he could see the baby manatee that was laying behind it.

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Manatee kisses for Molly

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Near the aquarium there was a splash pad to cool off  in. The boys loved the spitting sea creatures!

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The girls!

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Ozzie loved the kangaroos.

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“Paint me like one of your French girls.”


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And then we headed to Asia…

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Look at the reach on these two!!

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Because the zoo is so large they offer complimentary shuttle service to the far sections of the zoo.

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A napping lion ūüôā

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In “Africa” there was a plane the kids could climb in and pretend to fly. This was Tyler’s favorite thing at the zoo and it took forever and a day to get him out of it!

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My favorite experience of the day: Watching these two Grizzly bears. They kept “kissing” and drew quite the crowd with their PDA!

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The Africa section of the zoo was my favorite part. The attention to detail was magnificent. It truly felt as though we had been transported to the savannah.

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While the airplane was Tyler’s favorite part of the zoo, this safari truck was Ozzie’s. He LOVED¬†pretending he was driving his way across Africa.¬†.

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A beautiful shot by Gracie!

It was an amazing start to our trip!





Living Treasures Animal Park


About 30 minutes from our home we have a gem of a place we like to visit:

Living Treasures Animal Park.

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We have been visiting this hidden treasure for 15 years, beginning when Grace was just a wee lass, toddling around the park. When we first started visiting it wasn’t the same place it is today. Over the years it has grown, expanded, and improvements have been made, but that “small zoo” feel remains the same. My kids have always preferred Living Treasures to the Pittsburgh Zoo, due mainly to their close proximity to the animals and the interactions¬†they can have feeding and petting the animals.

Interactions¬†¬†that aren’t possible at larger zoos.

We have so many sweet memories of visits to Living Treasures…

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Memories of Great Grandpa Parmley¬†feeding the animals with us, of field trips and “get togethers” with Aunt Kelly when Lydia was her only child. We have pictures of my kids, before they¬†were old enough to start¬†school, walking around, feeding the animals, and petting the goats.

Over the years Living Treasures has become less of a “hidden” gem and the crowds have grown, but even with the changes that have been made and the increase in popularity, it still remains a magical place in our hearts,

Grace and Molly

Grace and Molly

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and a “must visit” destination when the cousins come for a visit!

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Thursday morning we fed the kiddos breakfast, packed a picnic lunch, and drove over to Living Treasures Animal Park. When we arrived we purchased a couple buckets of feed and a few bags of carrots to feed the animals.


We spent 2 1/2 hours walking around the park feeding and petting animals. The kids were thrilled to see so many babies this late in the summer. They were especially thrilled by the newly born baby jaguar, which most agreed was the highlight of the zoo.

Baby deer

Baby deer

Grace got to help bottle feed a baby camel.

Grace got to help bottle feed a baby camel.

The precious baby jaguar.

The precious baby jaguar.

The cutest babies at Living Treasures!

The cutest babies at Living Treasures!

As the kids walked around they fed some of the animals, like the goats, deer,¬† alpaca, and babies, by hand and other bigger animals by dropping feed down a tube which landed in a feeding bucket near the fence. This system of feeding keeps the kids’ little fingers safe but the animals in close proximity for easy viewing.

Sammy feeding the wallaby carrots.

Sammy feeding the wallaby carrots.

Rusty and his very hungry friend!

Rusty and his very hungry friend!

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Feeding the birds.

Feeding the birds.

Everyone had a wonderful time feeding the animals!

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When we had our fill of animal time we stopped at the gift shop where the kids enjoyed spending their gift money from G.G.

Lydia and Nate

Lydia and Nate



Then it was time for lunch. By this point everyone was hungry and ready to eat so we drove over to McConnell’s Mill State Park and had a picnic.

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When we were done eating we took the kids down to the mill to walk around and explore the rocks, the waterfall, and the covered bridge. What a beautiful place!

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All the boy cousins.

All the boy cousins.

And the girls!

And the girls!

Then it was home for dinner. (Kelly treated us to pizza…YUM!) and time for some nighttime fun…

Stay tuned!

Living Treasures Animal Park


Yesterday we had some special visitors wander in from Ohio. My parents and my brother Travis came for a day visit. Travis flew into Ohio from Texas to see my parents. Tomorrow they all leave for Michigan to visit my sister, her family, and the new baby, Charlie. Before they headed north they drove east to visit us at Patchwork Farm. The kids were eager to show off our latest addition, Miss Ellie May.


After they arrived and the kids took them on a tour of the yard and house we all headed out to Living Treasures Animal Park for a day of fun. It was fun having Travis visit since he hasn’t visited our home in many years. It was also fun taking everyone to Living Treasures ¬†since the last time they had been there was when the kids were little.

When we arrived we had a packed picnic lunch in the shade before we went inside. It was a perfect day for our outing. The rain we had been expecting held off while we were there but the threat of rain was enough to keep the crowds away.  We pretty much had the place to ourselves.

A fun day with family!

A fun day with family!

We bought animal feed and carrots to feed to the animals. The fun part of Living Treasures is getting to feed and pet so many of the animals on display. I have always preferred it to the zoo. When the kids were little I appreciated the shady walking paths, the shorter distance between exhibits as well as the close proximity to the animals.

Grace and her favorite animal: Levi the giraffe.

Grace and her favorite animal: Levi the giraffe.

The first animals the kids were able to feed were the deer in the deer yard. The fact that there were babies made the feeding all the more thrilling for the kids.


Some of the other big “A B C” hits of the day were:

A is for Alligators.


B is for “Buffalo” (water buffalo that is).


C is for Cattle.


D, E, F, G, H, I, J……………………….and Z is for Zebra!

This baby Zebra was a big hit in the petting area!

This baby Zebra was a big hit in the petting area!


For some of the larger or more dangerous animals that you can’t feed by had they have tubes set up to drop food down into the animals’ dishes. It was funny to watch some of the critters, like to camel, wrap their lips around the end of the tube waiting for the pellets to come down.

Travis feeding critters via their tube.

Travis feeding critters via their tube.

In addition to feeding and petting a wide variety of animals the kids also enjoyed playing at the pirate ship playground, feeding birds by hand, and meeting some baby animals like this baby Coatimundi.



Do you ever get the creepy feeling that somebody is watching you?

Do you ever get the creepy feeling that somebody is watching you? ūüôā

Travis made a friend.

Travis made a friend.

As we were leaving, Uncle Travis treated the kids to the penny press machine. The little boys loved watching their pennies get flattened and pressed as a souvenir of their special day.


Soon after arriving back at our home my parents and brother had to head back to Ohio to prepare for their next special visit.¬†As they¬†drive on to Michigan and we are headed camping. Wish me luck. This will either be a wonderful memory making weekend in a tent or someone will end up tied to a tree. Only time will tell!¬† ūüôā