Family Times, The Best of Times

I recently returned from a visit with my son and his family. I had looked so forward to seeing them and I enjoyed every minute I was there. The only part I didn’t like was saying goodbye on the last day. It was really, really hard.
The weather in Alberta in March can be anything from a deep freeze with blizzard conditions to warm and balmy with gale-force chinook winds. So I considered myself lucky that every day had temperatures above freezing and the sun shone most of the time. Even the endless winds weren’t too aggressive.
For the most part, I was there to spend time with my grandsons, so whatever they wanted to do, I indulged them. That included playing basketball, going for walks, reading the same books over and over again, snuggling on the couch (I adored that part) watching kid movies. Oh yeah, can’t forget JibJab. Those little boys love JibJab and can “create” their own movies, then watch them countless times over. It was all good fun.
Saturday morning I went along to watch the five-year-old’s skating lessons. He’s improved greatly since the last time I saw him, and that day his instructor moved him up a group because he’d advanced beyond the other kids. He was one justifiably proud little boy when he came off the ice.
On Sunday we took a trip to the Calgary Zoo. It had been eleven years since my son and I had last visited the zoo together and I was thrilled to experience it again with him and his family. There’s been many changes at the zoo over the years, all to improve the quality of life for the animals. This means the animals might not be readily in view, but we were fortunate that day to see most of them.
First stop was the penguins. They’re a recent addition to the zoo and one of my favourites.
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It’s a popular attraction and very busy, but well worth the effort to see them.
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We strolled through the dinosaur park next.
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Visiting the dinos was always a highlight for me as a child growing up in Calgary. There was something so mysterious and exciting about it, you never knew for sure when you’d turn a corner and come face-to-face with one of the giant beasts. There was even an intriguing smell to the park that I associated with the mystique of the dinosaurs and all my life, whenever I got a whiff of that particular blend of soil and vegetation, it brought me right back to my childhood at the zoo. Except for the briefest trace, the scent was missing that day. Maybe because the trees were not leafed out yet and the ground still partially frozen. The mystique of what might come next was missing too. Again, I blame it on the leafless trees. But perhaps it had more to do with no longer being a young and impressionable child.
Oh, no, don’t look behind you!!
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The Calgary Zoo, located on St. George’s Island, and surrounded by the mighty Bow River, sustained incredible damage from flood waters last June. It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication of zoo staff that only a couple of small creatures perished in the floods and in a matter of months, the zoo was once again open and functioning. The following link shows some terrifying photos of the flood damage.
 Calgary zoo flood
One of the hardest hit buildings was the Savannah Exhibit, which houses the giraffes and hippos. All the animals survived, although word has it one of the hippos briefly escaped by swimming from its enclosure.
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Red River hog eating lunch.
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The meerkats were vastly entertaining and very bright and inquisitive.
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Many of the animals were enjoying their lunch while we were there. I was disappointed the dramatic photos I took of the lions didn’t turn out.
IMG_1692 If I had to pick one favourite animal, that day, it’d be the gorillas. We were exceptionally lucky that they were unusually active while we were there and a zoologist happened to be on hand to explain some of their behaviour. The experience was very informative and entertaining.
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Approaching this teenage female the way I did (face-to-face) was an apparent breach of etiquette and she showed her displeasure by sulking.
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Note the dramatically crossed arms.IMG_1710

She soon forgave me, though, and came back for another visit.
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There are currently three elephants at the zoo, but they will soon be sent to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC, to join an existing herd already there. One-horned rhinoceros will take their place in Calgary.
This female elephant was eating popcorn, much to the amusement of my grandsons.
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I do believe this is the same old gent who as a youngster back in 1985 gave my middle son an unexpected elephant smooch. The two-year-old had been sitting on my hubby’s shoulders when the elephant, who was out of its enclosure with the keeper, spied him. Before anyone could react, it reached out its trunk and explored my poor baby’s entire little face. The child was rightly terrified and we managed to calm him down by telling him the elephant had just wanted to kiss him. I’ll never forget that day and we’re lucky the little guy wasn’t traumatized for life.
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My son’s favourite animal is the tiger and we found this large one pacing its smaller enclosure that day, giving us a good view of its majestic beauty.
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Grammy treated the little boys to a carousel ride, and it was only after they were seated that the three-year-old spotted a penguin to ride on. So next time, he knows which one he’s going to pick.
Our final destination of the day was the Canadian Wilds section. The otters were busy and fun to watch, but not easy to photograph. I tried taking pictures of the owls and raptors, but between their camouflage and the brilliant sunshine, none of the photos turned out. There were plenty of dead baby chicks in their enclosure and I wondered how the little boys would react, but they took it in stride. All creatures have to eat apparently.
Check out the grand rack on this elk.
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The bison lazily basked in the spring sunshine.
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With it being winter still, I was surprised to see both the black bear and grizzly bear out of their dens. Black bears are more nappers than hibernators, so maybe that’s why this fellow was out and about.
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And I guess if they’re provided with a warm den and constant source of food, not even grizzlies need to hibernate through the winter, although this massive guy appeared to be deep into its snooze.
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We have plenty of mountain goats here in the Okanagan where I live, but I’ve yet to spot any. They’re such gorgeous and agile creatures.
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Our day in the sunshine ended late that afternoon and not surprisingly, the little three-year-old peanut almost immediately fell asleep in the car. Even the five-year-old agreed to have a snuggle with Grammy when we got home and he too was soon sound asleep.
The next day was my last with them, so I really tried to treasure every moment. All too soon, I was back home to Hubby and Roxy, and already counting down the days until I can see those precious little boys again.

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One thought on “Family Times, The Best of Times

  1. Pingback: The Year of Positive Changes | joyceholmes

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