Summer Bucket List: The Zoo


I admit. I was a bit off from the moment I woke up this morning. I know myself well, and something wasn’t quite right. I wasn’t super friendly when my husband asked if I could go to the bank today to pick up all the cash we needed for the next two weeks. He left for work right after that and I gave him a half-hearted good bye. I intended to text him with an apology for the lackluster good bye, but got distracted by kid stuff. Sorry, babes.

The kids wanted to go to the zoo for our summer bucket list and I had no good reason to say no, so after morning trumpet lessons, we made our way to the animals.

It was the last day to get in on regular rate for the girls’ day camp at church, so we stopped in to pay as we passed. I wondered. Why does God always seem to have an important church errand for me to do when I’m feeling a little off, when I’m feeling a little vulnerable and worn? And why do I always run into pastors who want to know how I’m doing? Hmmm…imagine that. Pastors at a church. Asking how people are doing. Revolutionary. Perhaps our Heavenly Father is on to something there.

After a quick (or not so quick) lunch at Taco Bell (there was an extraordinarily long lunch line), we were finally on our way to the zoo.

I was still feeling off, emotionally and spiritually not quite right. Like I would be better off home by myself today or doing something quiet in isolation or going to a retreat center where nuns could tend my soul. But there was no way I was going to let my feelings get the best of our day. The kids were excited and well behaved and I was determined to join in the fun.

So I did.

My son put on loud music for us to listen to as we traveled the interstate. My daughter talked my ear off with stuff she was excited about. I answered questions and taught them some practical things they didn’t know before. We imagined ourselves living in St. Paul and the kids agreed they like to visit, but wouldn’t want to live there. All was good and after a while, we arrived at the zoo.

We got a pretty decent parking spot, emptied ourselves from the car, got the youngest in her stroller (in case of lack-of-nap meltdown), and made our way to the zoo entrance.


The new gardens were beautiful. I soaked in the various plantings, including some tropicals we don’t usually see outdoors in Minnesota. We admired the lily pads and breathtaking flowers in the water garden. The two oldest loved lilac. I loved the dark red one partially hidden behind a pad. I could have lingered longer, but the baby was running ahead and the kids were ready to go. Still. It was nice to move and get out with nature.

Step by step. Stop by stop. The four of us made our way through the zoo.

Ducks. Sea lions. Penguins. A polar bear. Bison and other horned and hoofed animals. Lions. Tigers. Kudus. Zebras. Gorillas. Orangutans. A rare wolf sighting. Pressed pennies. And even a little time in the fun park without spending a dime.







We took our time. We didn’t rush. We stopped to take photos when we felt like it. We enjoyed the animals and each other.

We moved right through that zoo. The pace was perfect. Nobody crabbed until the end. And my spirits weren’t perfect, but notably lifted by the exit.

On our way home, we picked up some ice cream cones with sprinkles and dip from Dairy Queen. I got a chocolate cone with chocolate dip. Good for the soul. Good for the taste buds, too.

The zoo.

Total Cost: $8-something for the cones

Mom Lesson: When we’re in a funk, it might be better to continue moving through the day rather than sitting and dwelling on whatever’s ailing us. 

Kid Lesson: As long as you’re a tiny bit creative, it doesn’t take much to satisfy kids’ curiosity.



This post is part of a summer-long series titled Summer Bucket List. This is my first summer home full-time with our three children. My hope for this series is that it will challenge me to adventure out of my mothering comfort zone, will provide opportunities to live and write simply, practically, beautifully and meaningfully, and will stimulate some some fun ideas for your summer as well! To check out the entire series, click here and you’ll be directed to the introductory post where all the posts are listed and linked for easy reading. Enjoy, friends! And have a blessed summer.


  1. Carol Femling says:

    Sounds like a day that I would LOVE!! We’ll have to do this together another time this summer. Como Zoo and Park always makes me feel good.

  2. Silvana Xhelilaj says:

    Enjoy your summer with the kids Amy! It is a precious time to be with them. I’m realizing this as the kids are getting older fast.

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