It was a zoo yesterday….literally. My daughter and I took my grandsons to the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, NC. Two very active little boys , one strong boy-Mom, and one already tired NeaNea headed out at 7:15 AM to be at the zoo by the time it opened at 9:00. I think we might have been the first ones through the gates!
I was starting the day with an energy deficit after hosting the family for lunch on the 4th of July. We have had some pretty brutal temps lately, so we “grilled” burgers and hotdogs indoors. It was a lively afternoon that included celebrating my brother’s birthday (on the 5th). After cooking, serving, and cleaning up, I was beat and missing my hubby who is in Maryland helping his mother after her knee surgery, but I am always up for an outing with my boys.
My daughter, Ashlee, is a fantastic mom and is always planning adventures for her boys. She loves the zoo! When Caiden was born while she was living in Indy we took him to the zoo at three weeks old. (Indy has an awesome zoo!) He may not remember it but we sure got some adorable photos. She’s been itching to go to the NC Zoo.
She swears she doesn’t remember going to the NC Zoo as a child, but I’ve been there at least once with one of my kids’ on a field trip. The setting is beautiful, located at the foot of the Uwharrie Mountains in the Piedmont of North Carolina. It’s very wooded and scattered with boulders that date to a time when the mountains were volcanic. Most of the zoo is shady, thank GOD, but I think we picked the most humid day of the summer. We were sweating profusely by 9:30.
Area-wise it’s a very large zoo that requires HOURS of walking. There are two major sections: North America and Africa. We started in Africa because we thought there would be more unique animals to interest the kids, and we were not disappointed! The very first animals we saw were the giraffes in a lovely natural habitat, their long, graceful necks gently bobbing as they ambled along. We later were able to walk out on a special platform to feed two giraffes, Jack and Turbo. Up close the giraffes were stunning, their heads as big as a small child, long tongues reaching for the lettuce bits offered from little hands. I’ve always thought that God had so much fun when he created giraffes.
The rest of Africa was wonderful, with nicely designed natural habitats. Elephants, zebras, gorillas, baboons, rhinos, and more, delighted the boys and kept us all eagerly looking for the next exhibit. We had a double stroller and Owen, the youngest at 15 months, was fairly content to stay in his little seat. However, Caiden, the three year old….not so much. He wanted out almost immediately, which meant one of us had to push the stroller and the other had to keep up with Caiden. I preferred the stroller since keeping up with a toddler is exhausting and nearly impossible. Add to that the regularly spaced signs warning of possible SNAKES on the paths and this grandma needed all her wits about her! (Seriously?! Snakes?).
Lunch was the typical experience you expect on an outing with kids, but immediately after lunch we visited the Butterfly House, probably the favorite exhibit of all four of us. It was absolutely mesmerizing. Not particularly large but chock full of gorgeous butterflies, we could have stayed for hours. As it was we had a hard time getting Caiden to leave, while also keeping him from stepping on or grabbing at these fluttering friends. Thankfully, we enticed him with the carousel.
From there it kinda went downhill. There is a VERY long walk to transition from Africa to North America and by then I was just about over the whole thing. I felt like we had walked 20 miles in the heat and humidity (in reality we walked about 3 & 1/2 miles all day), and everyone’s attention span was waning. But we couldn’t give up without seeing the bears – grizzly, black, and polar. (The polar bear was very entertaining as he swam laps in his pool while we watched through glass.) We saw bison, otters, and sea lions. There were some reptiles, which I managed to avoid since by then Owen was asleep in the stroller and I was able to sit on a bench with him. There was also an adorable kids’ play area that used up the last bit of Caiden’s manageability. He staggered, exhausted, as we wound our way towards the exit.
Our departure required a ride on a shuttle back to the parking lot, which required unloading everything (we seemed to have an enormous amount of stuff with us), including the kids, folding up the stroller for storage on said shuttle, wrangling two tired and cranky kids into seats, and doing it all in reverse 15 minutes later, but much preferred to the 10 hour walk back through Africa to get there. By the time we got to the car Caiden was delirious and fell asleep before we left our parking space. Owen, on the other hand, having taken a short nap and being completely done with being strapped into a seat of any kind, cried desperately all the way home. He woke his brother up about 30 minutes later, leading to two crying boys, leading to a NeaNea ready to get out on I-85 and hitch a ride. As I told my patient daughter, “this is your reward for treating your children to a fabulous adventure.”
I required a shower, a glass of wine, and a quiet dinner, not necessarily in that order, when I was finally dropped off around 5:00 PM. One of the benefits of grand-parenting is the ability to send those cranky kids home with their mama. Did I feel guilty? Maybe a little. But I was past being a pleasant person at that point. Did I have a great day? Absolutely! Would I do it again? Of course. Tomorrow? Mmmm, probably not!