Dear Jack: Your Week at Nashville Zoo Camp

8 and a half years.

Dear Jack,

You are one lucky kid. Last week, you got to spend 5 days of summer camp at the Nashville Zoo!

It was especially cool since you got to spend that time alongside your friend Duncan, who you have known since before you were born:

We were in birthing class with his parents back in 2010 when then two of you were still in the womb!

Needless to say, you had such a great time that we’ve already decided to send you back again next year.

Not to mention, your sister is already saying she wants to go in a few years once she is old enough!

Love,

Daddy

Our Family’s 1st Visit to the Nashville Zoo, as a Family of 4

The original plan was to take our daughter Holly to the Nashville Zoo on her 1st birthday back in April…

But between the rainy weather that weekend, and her being sick the next weekend, and our family being out of town after that, it took until this month to finally make our family’s first visit to the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, as a family of four.

It actually suddenly made sense though, to buy an annual family zoo pass, since it pays for itself by the 3rd visit. We live in Spring Hill, which is about a 45 minute drive for us; not so bad of a trek.

It pretty much takes at least that long to get anywhere in the Nashville area anyway, if you’re lucky.

Something I didn’t realize was how much the Nashville Zoo has expanded since the last time our family was there, a couple of years ago when we were only a family of three.

They have this new swinging rope bridge that our whole family loved, for starters.

Our 6 and a half year-old son Jack was pleasantly surprised to see the Nashville Zoo now has a Komodo Dragon. To him, that’s one of the most fascinating animals, because it’s ultimately a living dinosaur.

He also really liked seeing the porcupines, which I don’t remember from our last visit back when he was only about 3 years old. His hair actually looks like a porcupine, right?

Which, speaking of, Jack was so excited to be able to feel an actual porcupine quill. Coincidentally, the high school intern who showed him the quill was also named Jack.

Oh! And the kangaroos…

The last time I had taken Jack to the Nashville Zoo, the kangaroo exhibit had just opened. He obviously was in his element, being able to pet the tame kangaroos.

I also don’t remember him being able to see the giant turtles up close until this time either. He could have chilled out with those guys all day!

As for our daughter Holly, she was equally thrilled by the whole experience. She is currently fascinated by any kind of animals, especially birds. Right now she’s working real hard on trying to say the word bird. So it was a big deal to see big birds up so close.

I think in her mind, every other kind of animal is basically a mouse, a cat, or a dog. She loved pointing at each new creature she discovered.

Perhaps by default, her favorite bird was the flamingo. Why wouldn’t it be? A giant, funny, pink bird… perfect.

So naturally, her souvenir was a small stuffed animal version of one.

As for Jack, he choose a clouded leopard, as ultimately, that was the animal he was most enthralled by during this visit.

We were at the zoo for only two hours and only saw half of place. Good thing we have a year-long pass.

Obviously, we had so much fun and are looking forward to our next visit. And yes, it’s a complete coincidence that our last name is Shell, and the zoo just happens to have a section now called The Shell Station. (In case you were wondering.)

As for our next visit, maybe we’ll get around to sharing our experience in seeing the other half of the Nashville Zoo.

What Wile E. Coyote, Red Pandas, and U2 All Have in Common: They Still Haven’t Found What They’re Looking For

Ultimately, Bugs Bunny got on my nerves. He was obnoxious and dressed up like a woman too much. The reason I watched his show was to see Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. After a while, I realized that the coyote would never catch the roadrunner. But I didn’t care. Just like hiding Wilson’s face on Home Improvement, and Alf never getting to actually eat the Tanner family’s cat, and never really knowing if Pat was a man or woman, I still tuned in, if nothing else, to see all the creative ways the legacy continued.

With each viewing of the coyote and the roadrunner, I became aware of more and more logistical issues with the concept. For example, where did the coyote get the money to buy all those Acme products? Instead of ordering Acme products, why didn’t he just order some Omaha Steaks instead? Or a bus ticket out of Arizona? Surely as long as he’s been trying to capture the roadrunner (since 1949), as much energy as he’s spent and effort used, he could have ran to Phoenix by that point and just bought a Tex-Mex burrito.

But ultimately, the coyote’s instincts caused him to chase the roadrunner. It reminds me of a couple years ago when I visited the Nashville Zoo. That’s when I discovered the Red Panda (a distant Asian cousin of the raccoon), which has in turn become one of my favorite animals. I was drawn to this strange friend of Teddy Ruxpin because of its looks alone. Charming little fella.

When I saw him he was crouching, creeping along a log. The exhibit sign said that Red Pandas spend 12 to 15 hours a day looking for food. I starting laughing and couldn’t stop. Knowing that the zoo keepers surely fed him on a routine schedule, still he continued to look for food. Simply his animal instincts.

It’s not easy, being a citizen of the freest and most resourceful country in the world.  Having to fight off urges to obtain more material possessions because of the subconscious motto that excess is best.  For many, that’s what “the pursuit of happiness” means.  Despite all we have, despite our daily feeding, somehow like Wile E. Coyote, the Red Panda, and U2, we still haven’t found what we’re looking for.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on red pandas, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog”:

dad from day one