As I posted last night, yesterday the five youngest kids and I drove up to Memphis with Anna. She was catching her first MegaBus for a jaunt to Chicago where she was meeting up with her friend Megan Stover before heading to the wedding of one of her African Expedition teammates.
Since we were in the city, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to take the kids to the Memphis Zoo. Ever since I had found out that they had pandas there, I had wanted us to visit it. After all, it isn't everyday you get the chance to see these rare and amazing animals and with us moving to Africa in two months and eleven days --- have I mentioned that we're moving to Africa? --- they chance that my kids will get to see them again anytime soon is quite slim.
With that said, after seeing her safely on her way in the giant orange and blue bus, we were off for a full-day of zoo-doing.
David and Patrick had been before as wee lads when we had met relatives up there for a family outing during the Gammill Cousins baptismal weekend. They were still in diapers (though maybe David was in pull-ups by that point) so they zoo was basically new for all the kids. A lot of it was new for me, too, as much improvement and additions have been made over the last dozen or so years. I had remembered it as much smaller and didn't anticipate that it would take us a full 7 hours to see it all. It did but it was time well spent.
Besides the pandas, there were many animals we'd never seen before or not very often such as the polar bear who seemed stuck in a repeat back-and-forth range-of-motion close to the observation windows and the green mamba snake. I for one, would be very, very, VERY happy if that snake, which is native to Swaziland, is the last of its type I ever come face-to-face with.
We all really enjoyed the sea lion performance that was fun as well as very educational. Made me want to take the MacMunchkins even more to the Sea World in Durban, South Africa.
We ate lunch at the Cat House Café where the prices were a bit pricey but not too crazy considering it was zoo fare. The extra couple of bucks were worth the atmosphere, though, as the gibbons area was right outside the dining room and they frequently peered in the windows or went galloping past in their playful antics.
It was fun seeing the African penguins. I think I had seen them when I visited Cape Town, South Africa, with my friend Margie Hynd a million years ago during my Journeyman years. The kids really like the idea of penguins sharing a beach with them so maybe one year we can take them there as well.
It was especially fun seeing a few of the mothers with their babies. This mother in particular was fiercely protective of her young offspring.
At the zoo, they have a section featuring a handful of old-fashioned rides. Patrick, Merry, Laura, and Travis, and I rode one for a dollar a piece. It wasn't the fanciest ride around but it was worth the dollar. I rarely ride with the kids at the state fair as it is so expensive so it was nice to have this chance to just be goofy with them.
Near the rides is the farm animal petting area. One of the features is a model train display featuring a small town set-up.
We watched it for a few minutes between petting sheep, commenting on the smelliness of certain animals, and taking lots of goofy pictures of the kids climbing on the cow statue.
Near the end of our zoo visit, we finally made it to the star attraction, the pandas.
I think all the kids were surprised at how adorable and interesting they were. I had seen them years ago at the Atlanta Zoo but had also forgotten how charming they truly are. We had fun looking at them and had as much fun playing with all the panda stuff in the gift shop. Travis picked out a guitar-playing Panda shirt and spent the last of his birthday money. Merry picked out a stuffed animal panda that will be put up for a Christmas gift.
David and Laura spent their money on a camel ride. Their ride was much more pleasant than my camel ride in Israel. I'm thinking it was all in the seat. Mine made me feel like I was about to fall off at any given moment.
The Tetons Lodge and surrounding area was brand new for all of us. Besides a spectacular lodge with man-made geysers in front, there were swimming grizzly bears, wolves, and elk.
After such a long day of walking, climbing, laughing, and playing, we were pretty darn hungry and Steak 'n Shake was just what the mama ordered.
It was Patrick and David's first time to eat at one of these awesome diners but the rest of us were experts in the fabulousness of the place. We all indulged in burgers and shakes, and since all I'd eaten all day was a granola bar and salad, I relished mine with absolutely no guilt. Okay, maybe just an ounce or two, but all that walking made this foodie mama ready for some high calorie indulgence.
After our appetites were satisfied, we drove on home. I got fuzzy-eyed about two hours down the road so my dependable sixteen year old took over and got us all home safely around 10:30. Anna also got safely to Chicago and Jim was sound asleep after working a dam emergency for the past 24 plus hours.
Today has been a day of sleeping-in, getting the house cleaned this afternoon, washing clothes, and doing school. Tonight will be more family fun as we head to a We Will Go cook-out at the home of a dear friend, Renae Thompson. Tomorrow will be the weekly serve time on Saturday morning followed by a birthday party in the afternoon and four of my kids' friends sleeping over that night.
A mama's work, and fun, is never done. And that's just the way I like it. Well, most of the time. I also really relish my sleep.