Category Archives: Animal appreciation

Mom Bloggers Tweetup at Seaworld

seaworld

This Sunday, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Seaworld with a fabulous crew of mom bloggers. All thanks to Ted Murphy at IZEA and Wendy Piersall at Sparkplugging.com, we were able to spend an entire day at the park soaking up all things aquatic. I had never been to Orlando’s Seaworld before and was very excited to see what all the fuss was about. And while I wasn’t able to bring my children, I got to see the park through the eyes of the other mom blogger’s children – all while plying them with cotton candy.

So who did I go with? Well the wonderful Shellie from Blog 4 Mom , the brilliant Susan from Egg Marketing and Sometimes Parenting Sucks , the wildly witty Britt from Miss Britt, and the beautiful Melanie from Modern Mami. And had I ever met these women before? Well, here and there on Twitter or in passing at Blog Her last year – but for the most part we met as strangers. But c’mon. Give us some credit. We blog, we’re moms, we had pleeeenty in common. We really had a wonderful day together and I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to hang out with them and their families.

Now what about the park? From sea exhibit to shining sea exhibit, I had an amazing time. Since it is February, the weather was perfect and the park was not very crowded. We walked casually to each section, we never felt too overwhelmed by other visitors and enjoyed every sea creature we saw.

The dolphin area was amazing. Visitors had the chance to feed dolphins and reach out to pet them if they happened to be at arms length. You could truly enjoy this creatures curiousity – they are such wonderful and social animals. The under water viewing area was impressive. The dolphins peered right back at us, swimming slowly by. I think they were equally entertained.

After checking out some wonderful manatee (and debating with husbands whether they are technically considered “cute” – which they are), we went to the Blue Horizons Whale and Dolphin show. I happened to capture the finale on video to share with my children and all of you.

Afterwards, we grabbed some lunch and then headed over to the shark exhibit. I really enjoyed being able to move through the shark tank and see them swim over us. I also appreciated seeing how thick that glass was separating us and the sharks!

The big event for the afternoon was the Shamu Show “Believe”. We all made sure to get spots as close to the front without technically being in the “splash zone”. If the kids had a choice however, we would have been right down front, bracing for wave impact. Nope. We mom bloggers are practical, we stayed dry. But I did catch that finale on video also.

At this point, the kids had been pretty good about following our agenda so we let them run wild in Shamu’s Happy Harbor while we chatted. Or should I say, the moms chatted and the dads braved the climbing contraption with netted tubes three stories above us. While we compared blog tips and tweeted from iphones, the dad’s sweated their way through it all, each coming back down exhausted and a bit overwhelmed. Be prepared if you head up into that maze yourselves, it is not really built for adults sizes or large crowds and can get very warm!

Our final stop was for the wild at heart. A few of the mom bloggers braved the Kraken – a ginormous roller coaster found at the back of the park. It absolutely took my breath away and was an incredible ride. Awesome for sure, but it left me seeing stars a bit on the way back to the car. (Groan, am I getting too old for roller coasters? …never.)

All in all, it was an amazing day. Seaworld is wonderful park for every aged family member. While it brings a lot of the Florida sea life to visitors, it does a great job giving us real accessibility to the animals. Afterwards, visitors are left with an educational visit and a true appreciation for what is really living in our oceans.  

Find some time when it won’t be crowded at Seaworld and go yourself!

**Update**

Izea is sponsoring a Seaworld trip for four! The contest begins February 11th and ends March 10th and is very easy to enter. Go check it out!

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Filed under Animal appreciation, Bloggers, Children, Florida, Reccomendations, Reviews, Theme Parks, Vacation

A Flock of Birds in my Backyard

This morning, my 5 year old came running in to tell me there were lots and lots and LOTS of birds in our backyard. “Uh huh, that’s nice dear.” “No, Mommy, LOTS. Come see.” And I did. And so did my husband with my 2 year old toddling behind us.

There were, in fact, many birds in our backyard. Hundreds potentially. A flock like I had never seen were swooping and swirling and flying just above our heads. And then landing in one bush, weighing it down. And then off they went again. It was close to magical.

I grabbed my video camera and threw this little montage of the scene together. It certainly doesn’t capture the feeling or size of this flock flying all about us. But blog-worthy still. My backyard strikes again.

By the way, I used my Muvee Reveal software for this. It took 5 minutes to put together. The software edits the footage to work right along with the song. Pretty cool, huh?

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Filed under Animal appreciation, Florida, One of those moments, Wildlife

When Good Gators Go Bad.

Well, it’s happened again. There was another highly publicized alligator attack here in Florida. A teen swimming in a Melbourne canal was grabbed by an alligator. He survived but lost his arm. He did, however, get a spot on the Today Show this morning discussing his attack. I am very happy to hear that he survived. And while he made some very good points about alligator over-population in Florida, he obviously did not have a perfect understanding of the potential harm these animals can bring or else he might have both arms today. But, once again, the country watched his report, wide eyed, and the notion of savage, blood thirsty gators hunting down Florida residents lives on.

I have lived in Florida for 3 years now. And as you might remember, I lived in Africa for a good portion of my life growing up. If there was one lesson I learned in Africa about animals, it was to remain humble about wildlife. We are only another animal in the grand scheme of it all. While we, as humans, have the capacity to remain separated and safe from animal attacks, if we are not well educated or respectful of the animals living in our environment, we can easily slip into our spot on the food chain and potentially be harmed. I have carried that lesson with me here. And Florida has certainly impressed me with its vast amount of wild life, just look in my own backyard. Even as I was writing this post and took a break to feed my kids lunch, I happened to see a gator swim across our back pond. This alligator is about 4 feet long and seems to have established this pond as its territory. Alligators are a very real part of our lives here and, it seems crazy to admit, seeing one is not quite the novel sight it used to be.

However, attacks can happen and so we hear of another on the news today. But, honestly, I’m just annoyed. These stories and fanciful national headlines very rarely give the viewer any sense of perspective. There is no information offered about the enormous mistreatment of alligators and our struggles to co-exist with an animal that has been going about its business in this state for hundreds of years. With the gory gator stories and all the misinformation out there, the masses just assume they want to eat us and that’s that. Even the victim had to make the comment “They’re out for blood.” Are you kidding me? 

Do you know why alligators usually attack us? They aren’t afraid of us. And why would an alligator go against its natural instincts and move towards us, rather than away? Because unfortunately, it’s been fed by humans. It happens all the time. Even down the road, there was a group of baby alligators that would swim up to a fence along the sidewalk when humans walked by. That’s insane. No, they weren’t born smacking their baby gator jaws, hungry for people blood. They wanted the scraps people threw to them. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen those alligators for some time now so, obviously, a call was made to the local “Alligator Hotline” (yup, that’s for real) and they were removed – and destroyed.

Do you want another reason why an alligator would attack us? Human stupidity. If we swim into its territory (um, teen from Melbourne, FL – this is you, buddy) or dangle our toes in a fresh water pond while we fish or let our dogs play in the water while we stand by – I’m sorry, you’re asking for it. Bottom line. Alligators do hunt by nature and will come after a mammal proportionate to its size if its right in front of its nose.

I have 4 separate bodies of water out back and no fence (they’re bloody expensive and don’t do that much to deter gators, but maybe someday). As you know, I also have two sons. And, as I’ve mentioned, we certainly have gators in that water out back. But have we had a scare with an alligator? Nope. Why not? My children are taught to be as afraid of any local fresh body of water as they are of the road. They don’t go near it. As a family, we are respectful of the alligators territory. If we do see a gator, we watch inside the perpetually locked back porch with our binoculars and talk about it. If my husband or I happen to walk out on the grass to get a better look from afar, the alligator immediately disappears, maybe emerging on the far end as it crawls out and into an even further pond. I promise you, alligators don’t want to be around us.

And this brings up the final unfortunate issue. Teen from Melbourne, FL., you’re right. There are too many of us and too many of them. And while Alligators don’t want to be around us, they are. Potentially, there may be more than one alligator in every fresh body of water in Florida. And, as we all move down here, set up shop, slap on our flip flops and sun glasses and park our booties under these lovely palm trees, the alligators are getting encroached upon. And while I don’t see the influx of humans changing anytime soon, unfortunately, the gator population needs to be controlled. This is a serious issue in any animal park or reserve where one species doesn’t have any natural predators – there are too many and it affects the natural balance of an eco-system. So while I am not a big hunting fan, I do support any humane destruction or relocation programs for alligators. It sucks for the gators, but we are really not responsible enough to live this close to this many of them for much longer.

Now before I start getting any comments about what a bad mom I am for raising my kids so close to alligators (um, did you read this post?), you should be aware of a few facts. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, between the years of 1948 and 2004, there have only been 15 reported fatal alligator attacks. That’s nothing when you consider how many of them there really are around here. In fact, the FWC receives 15,000 calls about nuisance alligators annually and then removes about 5,000 of the gators they are called about. These beasts certainly show up everywhere: in front door atriums, under cars, in a ditch, anywhere. But to have only 15 fatalities occur in 56 years? They really don’t deserve the man-eater rap they have been assigned. Like I said, they don’t like us and would be quite happy to just be left alone.

So that’s my public service announcement about Florida Alligators. I hope you’ve learned something. And I promise you that if my gators start getting frisky or deciding that they want to make my backyard their favorite sunning spot, I’ll be calling the alligator hotline asap. Maybe you’re wondering what they do with the removed alligators that are destroyed? Well, they sell it to make alligator meat OF COURSE. Do you think I’m kidding? A neighbor a few doors down had a nuisance gator removed… and guess what was for dinner? I kid you not. Gator BBQ. Gotta love Florida.

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Filed under Africa, Alligators, Animal appreciation, Florida, Teaching kids, Wildlife

Getting “Green” Kids

The other day, while I was pulling out my recycle bins to the curb, T. asks me “Can I recycle?” I stand up, beaming with pride and a little bit smug thinking my kid is so brilliant and say “Of course you can!” Excited but a little expectant, he says back to me “Ok!…” But then, he gives me a blank look. “Um, hon, do you know what recycling means?” “Nope!” Oh, alrighty then. Its time he learned. Its time he understands what it means to be (yup, I’m gonna use it, the cool, oh so “Al Gore” word of the moment is…) GREEN.

Now I am no uber-green mom. I hate myself for it but sometimes I do buy things out of convenience rather than their level of “greeness”. I live with guilt wondering what sort of carbon foot-print I am leaving when I buy the individual packages of goldfish for playgroup rather than the one big pack. And how many times do I forget the cloth bags for groceries and use the plastic instead? I’d say that has happened 75% of time recently. Not cool of me. I try though, I honestly do what I can. I’m just saying I’m no environmental rock star. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start teaching my son how to be more aware of what he is doing and how he might make a positive impact on his environment. Plus, if I show my kids how to be better with the environment, this could be my way of paying back the universe for years and years of sort’ve, kind’ve doing only the basics. 

To kick off getting my kids green, I thought I would put together a list of what I could realistically do with my sons. And selfishly, I think if I can succeed at teaching them to be more responsible with their environment, they can keep me on MY toes and maybe I will finally do a better job too.

But there are a couple things I want to do before I begin.

Firstly, I need to sit down and explain to my son what waste means. This is sort’ve a tough thing for them to get. What, there isn’t an endless source of everything like the endless source of crackers and water bottles in mommy’s purse, always there whenever I need it? Things actually RUN OUT!? I may need to sit down and physically spell this out to him. I might have to do some sort of demonstration or use a good website (I will get to those soon too) but it might break his heart to realize you can’t just keep going back for more of whatever you want. Honestly, its just a good old fashioned life lesson he needs to learn anyway.

Secondly, as I begin this process, one thing I absolutely DON’T want to do is make my children feel guilty or bad about the environment. There is plenty of time to feel bad about it as grown-ups (ugh, we’re screwed, seriously, my guilt is 100% “in check”, thank you very much…). Being a regularly green kid needs to be fun. It needs to turn into a habit. They can’t feel like the polar ice cap is melting JUST because they didn’t recycle that last water bottle. Lets make this a positive experience for them. If it makes them happy, they’ll actually do it right?

So here we go.

1) Turn the lights off when you leave a room. That’s not so hard to do! Maybe I could introduce a reward system? Or a glow in the dark sticker over the light switch that they can get excited to see? I think they can do this.

2) Be aware of water. Brush your teeth with the water off. Both kids should be in the bath at the same time and it doesn’t need to be “swimmable” full. Set a timer with the sprinkler or hose time. Have fun in it but, when you’re done, turn it off. Or even better, fill up the kiddie pool and play with water that way! Also, have them drink from a Brita or water filtering system and explain why.

3) Make a stack of recycle paper (usually left over from the printer) to color on. Make sure to use both sides before getting another piece!

4) Make the different recycle bins accessible and easy to identify. Make sure your child knows how to sort cans, plastic and paper (see cool websites again) and have them do this for you. Explain what it means to recycle and reuse. Point out everyday things that we can reuse (like the plastic grocery bags mommy always gets because she forgets her cloth bags – DARN IT). Even dropping off old clothes and toys at the salvation army is a way to recycle. Keep using these words in your vocabulary, they’ll get it.

5) When you go to the grocery store, have your child be the “bag helper”. Make it a big deal that he or she gets to bring the cloth bags into the store. A reward system for this would be good too. Because if they remember and are excited to bring those bags in – FINALLY – you won’t have to use those horrid plastic bags!

6) Walk and ride bikes! If there is a location (like a playground) that is bikeable distance, call this the “bike or walk park”. No cars allowed! It will force you to park the car and get your butt in gear too.

7) Have a NO MEAT night. Whether its a pasta night or bean and cheese quesadilla night, skip the chicken fingers once a week. Put it on the calendar and make it something fun to look forward to.

8 ) Have a monthly earth day. See how little electricity you can use in one day. Its like camping in your house! No TV, play outside, eat sandwiches for dinner, no lights at night, get out flashlights, tell stories, have fun!

9) Teach your kids to love the outdoors. This is a big one for me. Teach them that the trees and grass actually make the air we breathe – more trees, the better we can breathe! Teach them to appreciate bugs, and worms, and birds and all the parts of our eco-system that we actually depend on. I often do plant and animal scavenger hunts on walks: make a list of things they have to find such as a bug, 4 birds, 6 different kinds of leaves, 3 flowers, etc. If they grow up loving the environment and the animals in it, they will be much more likely to protect it.

10) Invest in a zoo or aquarium annual pass. Again, show them animals and have them talk to the zookeepers who are loaded with cool facts and ideas about how to protect and respect our wildlife.

So that’s a start. I do think these will work. Like I said, I am no expert here or HARDLY the green mommy of the year (cough, choke, hardly). But I am going to TRY putting these into affect. Wish me luck!

Finally, I found some really cool websites that might be fun to try with your kids. Check them out, make them favorites, sit with your kids and explain. There are some great games, interesting animations and cool learning tools. Have fun!

PBS Kids EEKOWORLD: Games, interactive fun, information

EPA Climate Change website for kids: Games, links, animations, explanations

EERE, Kids Saving Energy(US Department of Energy)

EPA Student Center (US Environmental Protection Agency)

Earth Matters: Games, information about Otis the Otter and the ocean

Ben’s Guide: U.S. Government websites for kids (Smithsonian, National Zoo, etc.)

I Buy Different: For Teen kids, sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund

Everyday is Earth Day: Starfall, a ‘learn to read’ website

Meet the Greens: Cool kids website about the Green Family, sponsored by Public Television.

Trees! Get into the coolness of trees at this website sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Write it! Feeling passionate about this subject too? Here is how you and your kids can contact your senator, representative or even the Prez!

Cross posted on BlogHer.

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Filed under Animal appreciation, Getting green, Parenting, Recycling, Teaching kids, Unnecessary stuff, Wildlife