Thursday, April 3, 2008

Monkeys, Bears, Eagles - oh, and the animals in the zoo too!

Yesterday was a wonderful day here! My husband took the day off and we headed to the zoo. Our boys are very much interested in animals, but even more fun is that we've all explored, and decided upon, our own personal animal spirit totems.

The hubby brought back two necklaces when he went to Glacier Park on a business trip last July. Ever since, the boys have been fascinated by the concept of spirit totems, and we've even begun a treasure trove of stories about two spirit brothers, Brother Eagle and Brother Bear. It's wonderful, and I've always felt drawn to the earth religions and the Native American religions.

My older son is Bear. Bear is loving, but grumpy, wise, but impulsive and war-like. It's perfect for him, he's such a dichotomous personality! My younger son is Eagle. Eagle is respected, wise, overlooks everything with a benign eye. He can be playful, but firm and resolved. He is also more removed and aloof. Once again, it fits him very well. He is wise beyond his years, yet playful. He holds himself somewhat aloof from people, and has always been an observer.

Of course, the kids picked out totems for my husband and me. I was the harder to peg. Up until a few weeks ago, I had no totem. Each one we all thought about didn't seem right. My husband is turtle. Turtle is a survivor, he travels, and is also associated with longevity and life. It fits him well, if you ask me.

Now the funny part. My younger son never liked any of the suggestions any of us made for me. He was always and forever yelling at us about it! But a few weeks back - apparently he decided. He is very persistent and tenacious about his beliefs, and due to the fact that he is our Eagle, and thus a leader of some sort, we've all given in to his choice.

I am butterfly, apparently! He picked it in part because I am the "pretty" one in the family, since I'm the only girl in the house! But butterfly seems to work well, as it is a constant metamorphosis totem, and also has a critical and multi-faceted way at looking things.

So, I promise, I have a point. Truly!

The boys kept hearing these stories of Brother Bear and Brother Eagle. And somehow, our younger son came to believe that these animals are purely made up! He wouldn't believe me that there really were wild eagles and wild bears, as well as live ones we could go visit in the zoo.

So I determined to prove him wrong, and in turn, cause much elation in being able to visit their spirit animals in the flesh. We gathered our passes, and snacks, and hit the road.

The awe that my younger son had on his face when he saw the condor that he was convinced was an eagle was just breathtaking. His little face lit up, and he was yelling and waving, and singing to this giant of a bird. Here's a picture of him in front of the wingspan display:


The older son was a little less enthusiastic at first. Then we saw the polar bears and the brown bears swimming and playing and goofing around with each other. He loved it. He didn't realize other animals played. It's so much fun watching that sort of realization hit. Here's both kids in front of the bear display:


It was a gorgeous day, albeit a very cold one for our area in April! But the best part about having free passes is you don't feel the need to stress out and SEE EVERYTHING. I hate that part about vacations where you buy tickets to parks, etc. I just don't enjoy having to rush around. I like being able to visit only 4 exhibits out of our enormous zoo's entire grounds. It's so much more fun.

And the picture (and hats) that made me laugh:


And in case anyone complains about my not including one with me in it:


I do have one main problem with zoos. I don't know that ALL zoos are like this, but we go to Brookfield Zoo a lot. My mom has an awesome membership, and she takes us, we get passes, etc. So it's several times a year at the very least.

For some reason, our zoo feels the need to keep changing these display boards. Why is it that we can't just go to the zoo to see, GASP, animals? Instead, there's these "informational" and "educational" boards with switches, and cranks, and buttons, noises, lights, you name it! I hate the things. The kids push the buttons to push the buttons. They don't stand there and actually LEARN something. They're just doing it to do it. It drives me nuts. My kids aren't allowed to touch them, in fact. Maybe that's borderline crazy, but I would much rather talk to my kids and explain things to them than they stand and press a button and keep pressing it, doing a sort of DJ-style mixup.

The money they use for these displays boggles my mind. They could be using it for much better things, I would think! There's a new one. You exit the gorilla house - ours is Tropic World, and it's indoor, but with "realistic" habitat. It's wonderful. It even RAINS in the ape house. It's fantastic to hear the thunder and watch the monkeys take off to get out of the rain. But you exit - and BAM. It's a maze of these big wooden things. You have to walk through it, and it's a "decide what path" sort of thing. Except that the decisions are things like, "Are you going to conserve energy and walk to school, or waste the Earth's resources and flush the toilet every time you use it??" What kind of question IS that, anyway?

It just makes me nuts that I can't just go to a zoo, see the animals playing, being themselves, without some sign preaching at me with really lame pictures (seriously, folks - there was a giant TOILET with an evil face....). Why can't I pay my membership fee, and that will be enough to save the Earth for them? I try. I really do! I recycle, I conserve energy, I try not to drive tons of places, and I am pretty tough on water usage. I just don't see how Terry the Evil Toilet helps.

And I do see how lowering ticket prices COULD help, I guess.

So, all that long windedness about a short trip to the zoo! Well, the good news is, we got to see animals, and I didn't go berserk and rip down the signs with Agua the water droplet. The bad news? They wouldn't let us set up an exhibit for the boys.


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