Monday, March 19, 2012

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Through the eyes of a child

As part of our Spring Break stay-cation, we packed up a kiddie picnic and set out for a day trip to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

The weather was just perfect for it - sunny and breezy - and although not yet in full bloom, Texas wildflowers are just starting to blossom, making for some pretty and colourful surroundings.

As we dawdled - at a 2 year old's pace - through the stone columned entranceway, beautifully housing the first of many rainwater collection tanks located throughout the sustainable Wildflower center, we passed by a wetlands, home to real life turtles, or 'der-duls' as our babbling 2 year old likes to call them.

He picked up his pace on approaching the 'bubble bath' (his name for any body of water), and a fellow toddler, sitting by his Mom on the side of the pond, looked disheartened to have to share his magical secluded spot - and who could blame him? Right there within his little arms reach, was a mommy 'der-dul' bumping noses with her baby.

Our kids watched in wonder for a long spell, until the eldest was ready for a new activity, and leading the way, he marched us into the courtyard, suddenly stopping dead in his tracks, 'wowed' by the sight of a blue blue spring, straight ahead.

Holding his hand, we carefully neared the clear rippling water, and crouched down, up close, to see if we could glimpse the bottom. Lots of metallic circles (wish keepers) shimmered beneath the ripples, scattering sun rays, and reflecting them back up to us. And so I dug deep in my pockets, pulling out four pennies - a wish for each of us! The blue mesmerizing water feature would keep drawing my 2 year old back again and again....

After we'd each made a wish, we spied a child size door, labelled 'The Little House', in the far corner of the courtyard. How delightful that the 'Alice in Wonderland' door was real! We ventured through (Daddy and I having to stoop just a little) and found ourselves in a secluded children''s Wonderland of wildlife activities.

We freed our 13 month old from his stroller, safely contained in this fun environment, and together with his big brother, our two toddlers darted from activity to activity, coloring trees and butterflys, reading nature books, and best of all playing with handcrafted wooden puzzles and animal puppets. We managed to while away the best part of an hour in The Little House, and by the time we left, the nursery-like room was bursting with lots of happy children.

We exited through a grown-up sized door, which I hadn't even realized was there, into a side garden where three big boys were playing with three big pots. My boys were captivated by the band of brothers digging for plastic bugs, and - after getting to grips with the game in hand - they ventured forward hoping to get their turn with a trowel and a pot.

Eventually, the tools were relinquished, and time vanished into thin air, as Daddy and I helped our babies discover beetles and spiders, and all sorts of other nameless insects. We couldn't drag them away, but lunch was upon us, and off to the side, I spied a perfectly placed picnic bench tucked away in an enclosed garden.

So waving little PB and J triangles, and juicy strawberries under their noses, I enticed my ravished brood away from the bug pots and over to get some much needed nourishment into their empty tummies. They could barely stand still long enough to wolf down their lunches, before toddling straight back over to the enticing bug pots.

But soon their turn at the pots was over, as more kids arrived on the scene, and so we steered them away through a large wooden door back into the courtyard. Luckily their attention was just starting to shift elsewhere, our youngest becoming enthralled by the small pebble path surrounding the pots, and our eldest, happy to leave the game on the promise of a tower to climb.

So Daddy and our 2 year old, set out for the tower, while Mommy gently encouraged baby to stop scattering pebbles into the courtyard. Helped along by Daddy and big kid, who were yelling and waving down to us from a landing situated half way up the tower, we eventually followed them up the 11.. and 17 steps to the landing, then 2... 16... and 17 more steps up to the very top - counting, out loud, each one as we went.

Without a care in the world our two babies danced a jig over the - death defying - grid manhole at the very top, making an anxious Mommy's heart skip a beat, with each jump. Our 2 year old climbed up all 63 steps, and back down - twice - still finding the energy to run through the tunnel at the bottom yelling 'boom boom' - his own special expression for 'tunnel'.

After all that excitement, we didn't save any time or energy for flowers or butterflies. That would have to wait for next time...

Fortunately, with our 'gifted' annual passes, we were able to say farewell to the Wildflower Center, and carry our exhausted babies back to our minivan, safe in the knowledge there would be another time to 'do it all'. We waved 'bye-bye' to the wishing well, and the turtles as we went.

See you real soon Lady Bird Johnson!  


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