My zoo buddy

Jack and I have gotten into the habit of hitting up the photo booth at the zoo while Jeremy is in his science class. It’s just so goofy and fun, and it’s been a great way to catalogue our one-on-one time this semester.

Recent photo booth faves:

Our routine at the zoo is consistent: first the penguins, then the play area. Next is the photo booth, then prairie dogs, followed by the elephants. Next come the zebras, and then we visit the lions. By then we’ve got to check our time and decide whether or not we can squeeze in the tigers and gorillas. This routine hasn’t gotten old yet, even though we’ve done it more than half a dozen times and will probably do it a dozen more before summer break. These precious days with my youngest are counting down because one day soon it won’t be cool to hang with Mom and hold her hand anymore. So for now, to him, I still hung the moon and he’s the best zoo buddy I’ve ever had.

Wrestling Penguins

So there we were, me and Jack, eating candy corn and watching the penguins. Jeremy was in his science class learning about gravity by dropping unfertilized eggs off a bridge with the rest of his zoo class friends. Jack and I were enjoying some time together. Just us.

While I’m relaxing and lining up candy corn pieces on my leg, I casually look over at Jackson, who has his nose pressed up against the glass of the penguin exhibit.

“Mom, WHAT are they DOING?” he asks.

“What do you mean?” I say. The penguins look like they’re just standing there, probably bored, but I get up anyway and walk to the glass where Jackson is standing.

Oh. Now I see.

“Well,” I pause, considering my words. “It looks like they’re wrestling.”

“Wrestling?!?” he laughs. “That’s weird.”

“Yes, it is,” I gulp, not ready to define “wrestling” to a six-year-old, as it pertains to girls and boys and all of that jittering between them.

“Hey, let’s go see the red panda!” I say.

“Okay!” he replies. And off we went, giving the penguins some privacy and saving myself from a scary conversation.

The Bridge to Hagrid’s Hut

This bridge, which leads you to the chimpanzee house at the zoo, reminds me of the wooden passageway between the Hogwarts castle and Hagrid’s Hut. For some of you, this means nothing, but for Jackson and me, it felt like we’d been transported to another world where anything is possible.

“Wow! It looks like Hagrid’s hut would be just on the other side of this bridge,” I said to him.

“Yeah! Let’s go see!” said Jack, and he promptly darted off in search of the lower grounds below the castle.

It still baffles me that anyone would say fantasy and make believe in novels is bad. Life is short. Use your imagination and follow that bridge to wherever you think it leads.

Happy Weekend, and Go Vols!

Wild Kingdom

Do I post too many photos? Sometimes I think it’s a little ridiculous that a) I document everything and b) share mostly everything here. But then I look back at previous years and feel glad that I was so diligent to take pictures of that insignificant Saturday (like this one, which is a snapshot from our old life in Amarillo). The pictures may not be meaningful to anyone but me, and I suppose that a good enough reason.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of Jackson’s favorite animals at the zoo.

Continue reading “Wild Kingdom”


Last year I bought a black tinsel-covered cat for a Halloween decoration, but in some sort of redneck way I’ve kept it out all year. I get so tickled when Salem pays him a visit.

I know some of you are saying, “OH MY GOODNESS you’re just like your mom!” But Mom and I both know these pictures are cute.

The first week of school is moving along smoothly. We spent most of Tuesday at the zoo for science classes. The boys learned about states of matter, molecules and how various animals use matter. (For example, did you know that chinchillas don’t like water? They clean their fur with dirt.) The jury is still out on whether or not Jackson will take every class this semester. His interest level was minimal, but part of that is because some of the other children were distracting. Towards the end of the class, he came to me asking for a book to read. Oh, how I adore that!

Jeremy, on the other hand, loved it. He has a big heart for animals and is very good about retaining what he learns. The older kids were able to take a mini-tour of a few exhibits and visit the animals they talked about in class.

At home, our subjects have gotten off to a solid start. The boys aren’t arguing about assignments yet, so keep your fingers crossed this lasts for at least another week. It’s enjoyable when everyone’s attitude is positive.

Bunch of Monkeys

We finally dropped by the zoo last week after one of Jeremy’s tutoring sessions at the university. We purchased a family membership a few weeks ago but the weather (and our schedule) has not been favorable for going. Since we were already downtown and the skies had not yet opened up with torrential rain, we made a quick visit to see the animals and inquire about homeschool classes.

This monkey was particularly curious about my two little monkeys:

There IS a sheet of glass separating the three, though you can’t quite tell. How fun would be if there wasn’t!

The Knoxville Zoo is a good size for this area, and I’m glad to know we can coordinate its hands-on classes into our curriculum. Jackson hasn’t expressed much interest in attending (he’s more of an indoor air conditioning computer kind of guy), but Jeremy is all kinds of ready. If they let him, he’d ride the elephants and tame the lions. He’d even handle snakes, which means I’d be waiting in the car to keep my distance.



Wherein I’m a Big Chicken

Last Friday we finally enjoyed the Knoxville Zoo, something that’s been on the “Must Do Soon” list I made after moving here. With our Dollywood season passes, we got a worthwhile 20 percent discount, and since I packed our lunch, the only money I spent was on admission. The zoo is fabulous for city this size, complete with elephants, giraffes, an array of African cats and large birds. My favorites were the red pandas and river otters, while Jeremy and Jackson fawned over the reptiles.

Of course they did. They ooed and awed and “Hey Mom, look at THIS one, it’s HUGE.”

The reptile house was like an exercise in asphyxiation for me. First, it was the python and then it was the 5,000 other snakes that I barely peeped at because I wanted very much not to scream in public.

Which became an impossibility when along came a zoo employee handling a live snake for patrons to see and touch. (Heart attack.)

I stood back. Way back, and I nudged the boys ahead so they could get all the snake they had coming to them. It was some ugly shade of orangey brown with spots or zigzags, and it was weaving in and around the man’s large hands. The small crowd around him, which included my boys, was fascinated.

I was in misery. Shifting and pacing, I keep half an eyeball on the boys for their own safety while also eyeballing the exit. We needed to be done very soon because my stomach hurt. The man noticed my unease and asked, “Is it okay for your boys to touch him? He won’t bite.”

“Sure, whatever,” I say, waving in his direction, my eyes to the ground. “I just don’t want to watch.”

After a few minutes, the man took a few steps in my direction. What the…? Is he taunting me? Teasing me? He better not come this way. 

I look at the exit, look at my boys, and look at the man with the snake. He’s taken another couple of steps my way, and my heart squeezes. He needs to stop coming this way. 

“I really don’t need to see it, thank you!” I yell at him. Doesn’t he read body language?

The crowd dissipates and my boys turn to check out the snakes behind glass. The man steps further toward me and I think I’m going to scream.

“You REALLY don’t need to come over here,” I say. My breathing quickens at the thought of this snake attacking and swallowing me whole.

“Yes, I do,” he says. The snake had wrapped itself around both his wrists and around one arm. God help me.

“NO SIR, PLEASE,” I yell. I could cry. Everyone turns to look at me. I am the center of attention in the reptile exhibit.

Ma’am,” he says sternly, barely five feet away. “I have to. I need to put him back and you’re standing in front of the door!”

Puzzled and jerked out of my trauma, I turn to see the Employees Only door behind me, where I had scooted and cradled myself into a corner. Mortified and eyes downcast, I whispered “Sorry, I’m so sorry” and moved out of his way as if inching along on a ledge. I called for the boys and they both come running around the corner talking about how cool the exhibit was and how I needed to see so-and-so snake behind such-and-such glass.

“Nope, we’re done here,” I said, eyes toward the turtle sanctuary and beyond. “We’re going back to the pandas.”