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    35-year-old mother of two, wife of one, instructor at a university and free-lance writer, editor, researcher. I promise, I'm more fascinating than this "about me" and my favorites.

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Saturday, December 11, 2004

Nocturnal lives

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is going to the Electric Safari at the zoo. Being members of the zoo, we're there a lot but it's all during the daytime hours. The Christmas lights extravaganza at the zoo gives us that great peek at what happens after dark and it's always amazing. (And membership has its advantages: After we waited for about 20 minutes in line to get in, the very polite dude who looked at our membership card and checked our ID apologized for the long lines. I'm guessing he didn't apologize to the people who just paid $6 each to get in.)

Of course the lights are just amazing ... millions of them give the place a surreal effect. We were walking in a winter wonderland. But the best part is getting a glimpse of the nocturnal animals. Tonight we watched a spectacled bear pacing, climbing and making this strange little noise ... when I think of bears I think of roaring grizzlies, I cannot even describe what this gentle noise sounded like - not so gentle that I'd like to be face-to-face with the bear, but this was not a noise you would expect to hear coming from a bear. We watched for 5 or 10 minutes, but finally I couldn't stand as each family came over the bear threshold and squealed, "Oh LOOK! Look at the bear!"

Next, we went beyond the lighted pathway to watch the tigers near the rear of their display. From our position, the fence was just about three feet away. When the tiger came our way it was frightening and amazing. It looked right at us as it paced around its display. (Yes, the pacing is a theme and it's probably why so many people don't like zoos. I'm guessing that these animals are just freaked out because for 11 months of the year they roam and do what they do all night long without an audience, then come December and the crowds swarm and the kind zoo folks put out little fire pits all over the place. So the animals that are used to some private time after dark now smell a bunch of people and fires!)

The final fun thing of the evening was in the usually stinky hippo house. It was stinky as usual, but for some reason the smell of ammonia didn't make me gag as it has done in previous years. Two hippos were lounging on the terrace while the third was in the pool swimming laps and chasing a ball the size of our exercise ball. It would open its mouth, grab the ball and dive. The ball would pop up and the hippo would follow. Some splashing ensued and if I were the woman who got splashed on the nose, I would still be in the shower three hours later. They give those hippos new water every day, but those are some disgustin' animals and that water was a dark, dark brown. Ewwwww.

When we got to the zoo tonight the lines were so long we really considered just turning around and leaving. The girls said no, and it is all about them. It helped that the temperatures outside reached about 65 today, so tonight was balmy and waiting in the long-ass line wasn't complete torture (the teenage mom and her friend in front of us might have disagreed, the teenage mom was demonstrating why most teenagers are not equipped to have children as she got frustrated by her daughter who was acting just like any 20-or-so-month-old would be acting in a long line with lights and excitement and fun just beyond their reach). Lucky for us, that's two years in a row that we've found the warmest night of winter to visit the zoo.

After the zoo we went downtown to grab hot chocolates so we could drive around and look at more lights (don't tell, but that means the girls had canned peaches and hot chocolates for dinner tonight). There's this one house just outside downtown with two enormous evergreens ... they must be 50 feet high (don't ask me how I determined 50 feet, just trust me, they're tall). Every year these trees are covered from bottom to tippy top with little white lights. If you drive down the highway you can see the perfect trees. Driving right by the house is amazing. They must have a crane to get these things lighted every year. I cannot even guess how many strings of little white lights it takes to make two perfect trees. Every year I swear I am going to send these people a thank you Christmas card. Maybe this year I will finally do it (though I don't know who owns the house, so perhaps I'll address it to Current Occupants).

We got home about an hour ago, turned on the Disney Channel and as I sit in the corner and write this, Max is asleep on the floor, and Madi and B were snoozing on the couch. But about five minutes ago he picked her up and took her upstairs. Being able to sit and watch my family sleep around me just makes my heart sing. And here's just a little more proof that B is a good husband and daddy. He disappeared for a while, making me think that he left me the 50-pound daughter to bring upstairs. But he came back and took her up too.

Now that the family is tucked in securely upstairs, I think it's time I join them.

Good night and happy holidays.

posted by Laura at 9:07 PM |

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