Saturday, May 26, 2007

Rolley-Polleys and Other Magical Creatures

We love bugs at our house. From our Icky Bug Alphabet book to our Blue Owl Bug House, we’ve got bugs on the brain. [Don’t worry, no bug has yet died in captivity. Cooper can’t help himself and just springs them out of jail before they croak.]

Our daily routine includes at least 20-30 minutes of extra dawdling as we look for rolley-polley bugs and other magical creatures. And every time we walk outside through the front door we have to hang a left and check out how many wasps are in the wasp trap that hangs on our porch.

So, I decided to treat the boys to a special day. We drove about an hour to one of the northern suburbs and visited the Butterfly Pavilion. Besides butterflies this small adventure museum offers interaction with all types of bugs, spiders, fish, crabs, butterflies, tropical plants, etc.

As soon as we got there Cooper spied an enormous atrium tank filled with hundreds of pill bugs – or rolley-polleys. He noted they were eating lettuce. Then it was on to the sea creature room.

Here Cooper and Mason touched two starfish (so did mom, blech). One was fuzzy and the other felt like the hook side of Velcro. Then Cooper touched the hermit crab and a horseshoe crab. Mason and I kept our distance. We also saw Nemo and his dad!

Then we entered the tropical forest exhibit. This glorified greenhouse was filled with sweet smelling flowers and tons of butterflies, turtles, fish, and frogs. There were also a couple of small birds (nothing big enough to eat butterflies). The butterflies would just fly right up to you or sit on bananas and suck the sticky juice. It was fascinating. I could not believe how close we got to all of the creatures. Mason wasn’t sure what to think of the climate in the tropical room. It made him a little cranky.

Leaving this exhibit was fun. You enter into a mirrored chamber where you are supposed to check your clothes for hitch-hiking butterflies. So fun! We didn’t have any on us. But there were some school children that managed to find a couple strays.

Next it was a stop in the “Shrunk!” exhibit that had been built to make visitors feel that they were the size of bugs. So, there were giant ants, scorpions, a honeycomb, and a 15-feet tall praying mantis. Was very cool.

The icing on the cake was a trip to the arthropod room. This is where all the random bugs were. The spiders were really creepy. I mean really creepy. There were walking sticks, enormous grasshoppers, and a clear, working beehive with access to the outside. Real bees were just flying in and out of the room through a clear pipe and into the clear hive. So interesting! Then the real nail-biter… a forest-ranger type asked Cooper if he wanted to hold one of the bugs. I thought he would shy away when he saw the bug. But he bellied up and stuck his hand out. To this she plunked a 3-inch long Madagascar Cockroach on his hand!

He was so brave and he didn’t even flinch. Until I tried to snap a picture. The flash freaked out the bug and it started scurrying up Cooper’s arm. Meanwhile I was trying to balance Mason, not scream, and not laugh.

The lady in the shorts was more concerned for her precious bug and started saying, “Don’t squeeze it!” Mind you Cooper was so afraid the bug was going to climb into his shirt through the sleeve that he clamped his arm to his side like a vice. It was fantastic.

All in all a very good day.

PS – Happy Birthday to G-Ma Go Go. Hope you’re having fun in NYC.

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