Tag Archives | animals


We went on safari last week.

And now I have to pause for a minute because I still can’t believe that I am someone who can say “I went on safari last week.”

There among the wildebeests, the giraffes, and baboons, Caleb turned nine.


The baby is nine. His last year in single digits looms just as my last year of “forty-something” heads into its final stretch.

While we were traveling I posted something from the archives about Caleb turning six, which at the time, seemed ancient. Of course, my turning forty once seemed worthy of note, too.  Looking back, six ain’t got nothin’ on nine—and forty ain’t got nuthin’ on what’s looming ahead.

On safari, we saw a full complement of amazingness:

IMG_9389a cheetah “cub” whose mother can barely be seen hiding in the bush to the left

IMG_0401the scariest animal in the savannah (seriously): hippo

IMG_0491mama lion dragging what’s left of a zebra to her cubs

Caleb loved it all, snapped pictures endlessly, thumbed intently through our guidebook of Eastern African Mammals, asked our guide Daniel about eighty gazillion questions.

Ask Caleb the best part of the safari, though and he will say without hesitation: ants.

Safari ants.

On our last morning drive out into the Mara, as we jounced along a rutted trail near Oloololo Escarpment, Daniel, who must surely count an eagle or a hawk among his ancestors because his eyes are so sharp, pulled over suddenly and cut the engine on the jeep.  By now we know that an engine going silent often signals that Something Interesting is afoot, but this time, the interest really was afoot.

A thick line of ants marched across the road and in response to the inevitable question, apparently they were going across the road to get to a new anthill somewhere in the tall grass.IMG_7180

Caleb and Daniel climbed out of the truck so Daniel could show him the big-headed worker ants carrying ant eggs, the soldier ants guarding them and then—the coolest thing ever, according to Caleb—the tunnel that the worker ants make to hide themselves from predators.  The ants build a tunnel out of their own bodies, dried grass, and dirt:

IMG_7179the dark line is ants, the slightly lighter line is the tunnel

Caleb loved the safari ants even more than the termite mounds, which pock the landscape in every size from tiny ankle-high piles of dirt to towers that surround trees and reach even further underground than above-ground, like bug-built icebergs.


termite queens lay an egg every three seconds

Ants play a starring role in the epic that Caleb has been writing in fits and starts over the past year, although this epic is currently on hold in favor of the “Star Wars” based novel he’s begun, called “Hyper Space Hero.”  Here is the sound of Caleb at work:


Today Caleb announced that he planned to be a genetic engineer so he could create clones; last month he wanted to work for the CIA. He’s pretty sure that whatever his day job will be, he’s going to be an author.

Unlike his older brother, Caleb isn’t as sure of his many talents; he doesn’t notice that his report card is every bit as good as his brother’s. Caleb is sure that he’s not popular, and I worry that because of his imagination, his voracious reading habit, and his fascination with Star Wars arcana, other kids might think he’s childish, or, you know, weird, and that would be too bad, because then I’d have to kill them. I am hoping that this will be the year Caleb finds a soul mate.

I don’t know what my Caleb is going to be when he grows up but I confess to wishing that he’d grow up just a little more slowly…because at nine, the baby…


is now a boy: hattrying on hats at City Hat on Bleeker

Continue Reading · on August 29, 2013 in family, growing up, Kids, Parenting, Travel

Monday Listicle: Animals (real & otherwise)

Abu Dhabi in late August doesn’t have much in the way of wildlife. Everything that breathes, it seems, is hiding in the shade waiting for sundown, or, in the case of human animals, vacationing in cooler climes, like Bali. But Stasha has asked us to think about animals for the Monday Listicle (inspired in part by her giveaway to the Woodfield Zoo, so if you’re around her neck of the woods, click over to her site and enter her contest!)

Stasha also asked me to come up with the topic for next Monday’s list and I swear, the responsibility has been weighing on me all week. I considered any number of topics and then realized that, given the back-to-school season and my own family’s huge transitions this summer, that I should let David Bowie call the shots on this one. So the topic for next Monday’s list is Ch-ch-ch-changes…Changes. You could list back-to-school sales, or sharpened pencils, or those pesky roots that say “time for a touchup!” (Wait, sorry, maybe that’s just me). Or just a list of Bowie songs…or let his lyrics be your guide.  That’s the great thing about a listicle: anything goes!

And speaking of anything goes, here’s my list of animals. Given my circumstances–and the relative dearth of animals in my life, the exhibits here are quite rare, not often found in the zoo (or, for that matter, in the wild):

1.  Ursus stuffus souvenirus:

That’s Caleb, napping under his bears (and giraffe), all of which have been collected from one or another sporting events. He loves these bears way more than the fancy Steiff animals he was given. And much to the chagrin of his Mets-loving father, Caleb’s favorite is Bearsy Bonds, pre-steroid scandal, from a San Fran Giants game about eight years ago.

2. Rare Arabian Pachyderm:

3. Cattus Nolongerdomesticus Parkus:

We went to a big park at twilight last week and Liam and I thought all the grounds were covered with seagrape leaves and palm fronds. You can imagine our surprise when those leaves suddenly began to scamper around. The entire park was filled with cats. I don’t know if they’re all the products of abandoned animals–expats dumping their pets and leaving town–or what, but it was amazing (and a little sad).  This is as close as I could get to any of them.

4. Gazelleus mosaicus:

Many of the pedestrian underpasses that go under the busy waterfront road up to the Corniche  are decorated inside with mosaics showing scenes from Arab history and culture.

5. Falconus mosaicus:

Falconing has a long tradition in Arabic culture and in fact on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi is a Falcon Hospital, which we want to visit (when it’s not so hot). I bet you didn’t even know that falcons got sick, did you? See what you can learn from a list about animals?

6 & 7.  Abu Dhabi has also experienced sightings recently of mythic creatures, previously only seen in storybooks:

8.  Finally, no trip to the zoo would be complete without a trip to see the monkeys:


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Continue Reading · on September 5, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Monday Listicle, urban nature

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