Friday we went exploring. The attachlings and I discovered a wonderful regional park very near to us. It’s HUGE, btw, sorta like Eagle Creek Park back in Indy.

What do I love about parks and playgrounds here? There are trees in among the play structures and much shade. Chris and I would lament the lack of shade at playgrounds in Central Indiana. It made getting out and playing on hot summer days very challenging, since you don’t want small children out in full sun for too long.

But here, most of the play areas I’ve found have a good bit of shade.

The one we found Friday is nestled into a hill with loads and loads of oak trees. It was my favority find since moving here. There were little tot areas and big kid areas and I could see all over the vast play area from multiple vantage points.

Finding a good playground where I can be with Whinnie and supervise the boys, even at a distance, is awesome!

The park had a small nature center, miles of trails, and a butterfly garden. It was a delight to watch Nic and Theo (my full of energy boys!) trying to be still enough to get close to a swallowtail butterfly. We knew it to be a swallowtail, btw, because Theo had selected a book about swallowtails at the library 2 weeks ago. šŸ™‚

Anyway, they wanted to get close and watch its tongue unfurl and extend into a flower to extract nectar. Since this swallowtails are the biggest of the butterfly kingdom (according to said library book) they figured that it was the best chance they had of seeing that remarkable, well-adapted, tongue.

But, alas, the butterfly was elusive and they had to settle with just being near enough to really see its markings. Oh, and there were dozens of little white cabbage moths nearby to send Theo into giggles.

Yesterday (Saturday) found us trekking off to the National Zoo. THIS was the one thing Theo wanted to do on his birthday, see the zoo. Unfortunately his birthday came and it is dangerously hot outside, so we had to postpone.

Theo kept smiling like I was loony because I kept telling him ‘happy birthday’ when it clearly wasn’t his birthday…

Anyway, the National Zoo is fantastic. It is large and interesting. There are wide pedestrian promenades and trees EVERYWHERE.

We planned our day to get there early, before the day heated up too much. And the plan worked pretty well. We rode the metro and then walked the 4ish blocks from the metro station to the zoo’s entrance.

I’d never seen Giant Pandas IRL before. Two of them were sleeping. But when we went inside we found one panda, the youngest I believe, sitting in his indoor enclosure making short work of a huge pile of bamboo. It’s not hard to see why these animals appeal to us, especially children, so much. The really do look completely huggable (though obviously they are not!)

Many of the animals where hiding away in the cool shadows, it being mid-July and becoming hot outside (silly humans, why don’t we learn from the wisdom of animals and do likewise?)

The bird house was wonderful! Inside we saw many delightful birds, some of which I’d never heard of. It inspired many discussions about diminishing habitats and endangered species. The boys and Chris went into an indoor flight area and explored and watched while Whinnie and I watched an owl watching us.

I met a toucan with a wonderful, huge bill, who seemed to very much like all the attention we were paying him.

Outside the building we found even more birds, in their habitats, including storks and herons and flamingos. There were wild nighthawks overhead, as well as herons. These last two varieties could come and go, as they were not enclosed, but had determined that the zoological park was a logical place to make their home.

Oh, and we saw a cheetah. Nic has long been completely devoted to learning about cheetahs, but this was his first chance to see one. It was lounging, btw, like all intelligent animals should be in the heat, but Nic didn’t mind.

So, we saw about a third of the zoo on that first visit. We retreated when heat and hunger demanded.

The zoo will be a frequent destination for us, as everyone enjoys being outside and learning more about animals and our natural world.

Today? First we go to a park and then we plan to head off somewhere…