Monday, November 3, 2008

I do!! Now, where are the turtles?

This past weekend Jeni and I celebrated six years of blissful wedded awesomeness! What more can I say about a woman who proudly and enthusiastically embraces the title “Mrs. Stinky Feet”? That’s the way it’s been since the first minute of our lawfully wedded life. Our pastor turned to the congregation at the end of our wedding ceremony and said, “I now present to you Mr. and Mrs. Stinky Feet.”

Jeni has been my rock and my conduit to the earth. She’s got a mountain of faith even when she claims to not know much about it (personally I think the secret to faith and wisdom is in the “not knowing.”) And she seems to get an adrenaline rush of that simple wisdom in times of stress. She couldn’t be a more perfect partner, booking agent, life manager, and caring mom.

So, we celebrated this weekend. We had a quasi-date together out on the town. And we had an actual, relatively-normal family outing on Saturday that didn’t involve playing a show. We do so many cool things together as a family – we travel, attend festivals, go to zoos, go to parks, go to amusement parks, go to carnivals – and it always seems to be in conjunction with “work” – that is if you can call what I do “work.”

We were headed to the Kansas City Zoo the other day when we got pleasantly sidetracked at a fabulous kid-friendly attraction nearby. You folks from the Kansas City area take note of this! The Lakeside Nature Center ( in Swope Park, near the south entrance of the zoo, is so amazingly cool! If you haven’t been, please do your family a favor and check it out.

We love the zoo, but some days it’s nice to do something more mellow and less crowded. This is the place – and it's gorgeous.

First off, it’s free (donations recommended and enthusiastically accepted)! And every Saturday morning they have a story time hosted by “mother nature” and a related craft. This week it was a bat story and the construction of a way-cool “bat hat.”

There is a rabbit hutch where kids can pet the soft, cuddly “Gretel.” They’ve got a volunteer-maintained animal rehabilitation facility where injured animals are nursed back to health and released back into nature. You’ll find hawks, owls, two bald eagles, and loads of aquariums with snakes, frogs, tarantulas, and fish. Nothing beats the up-close view of a bald eagle, but one of the center's coolest creatures is the Alligator Snapping Turtle. I’ve never seen anything like it, although they’re the largest freshwater turtle in North America and among the largest in the world. This gnarly, spiny rock-looking guy is about the size of a man-hole cover and floats in a 600-gallon aquarium waiting to lure in fish for his lunch. At first we thought he was too huge to be real, but then his mouth slowly dropped open and his worm-like tongue inched out – that’s what he uses to lure his prey.

It’s simple entertainment, and the kids loved it – especially the hands-on table where you can inspect bones, feathers, turtle shells, horns, and freshly shed snake skin.

The center is surrounded by easy walking trails that feature limestone and shale out-croppings that look out over the railroad tracks and the Blue River valley. We brought a picnic lunch and spent a very easy and fuss-free two-and-a-half hours.

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