A Night Out With Sting Rays

Last night, because we are Zoo Pass holders at the Milwaukee County Zoo, we were invited to preview the Sting Ray and Shark Bay exhibit. They boasted that you’d get to pet sting rays and little sharks and that was all Riley needed to hear. Though he was a little nervous that a shark would bite him. But off we went.

We got to the zoo and ate some unhealthy dinner from the zoo cafeteria. Yes, there was healthy stuff, but I had a salad for lunch, ok? Let me eat those cheese curds. Thank you very much.

We headed over to the building that housed the sting rays and Riley could hardly contain himself. Then we saw the line.

It was really long, but like Derek said, this is why we came. So we waited. And tried to entertain our squirmy almost 11-month old:

Squirmy Baby wants her mommy.

Squirmy Baby wants her mommy.

After a few minutes in line, we decided that one of us should hold the spot and the other should take Riley to see some animals. Lucky me, I got to walk the zoo with my boy. We headed to see the monkeys. We watched the bonobos, which he called “Bonoboats.” Then the gorillas. I had so much fun just holding his hand and walking through the zoo. I guess having your little boy getting a little older isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I never could’ve done this if he was 18 months old.

Itchy Penguin.

Itchy Penguin.

We were the only ones over by the cute little penguins and could watch them swimming and itching themselves to our heart’s content.

Finally, we headed back to Derek and Charlotte in line and waited some more. And some more. In total, we waited in line about 45 minutes. But once we got into the sting ray exhibit? So worth it.

First you wash your hands. Then your baby spits up on you. You have nothing to clean it up with because you had to leave your stroller outside. You duck under the divider in line to head into the bathroom to clean her and you up. Then you get into the giant room with the even bigger tank full of sting rays and teeny tiny sharks. Then your little boy says he has to go to the bathroom. Of course.

Upon returning from the bathroom, Derek lifted Riley up, who was a little nervous to touch the sting rays, but once he did, there was no stopping this future marine biologist.

He's petting it!

He’s petting it!

I know this face. This is the I’m-so-excited-I-can’t-stand-it face. I love, love, love this face:

photo (7)

He would’ve stayed there, dangling over the side of this tank all night if we let him. And I don’t blame him. It was pretty amazing. Sting rays are graceful, soft, friendly and not scary at all. Which says a lot coming from me – someone who admitedly has a “fish phobia.” Long story.

But after a while, we pried him away from the rays, gave him a squirt of hand sanitizer, and promised him ice cream. He chose SpongeBob.

His lips were then dyed red and black. Thanks, SpongeBob!

His lips were then dyed red and black. Thanks, SpongeBob! Baby Sis gives that ice cream the side-eye.

Overall, this was an awesome experience for a Monday night. Nice weather, happy kids, petting sting rays and ice cream. All the makings of a perfect family night out.

P.S. As a vegetarian and an animal lover, I’ve always had mixed emotions about zoos. Sometimes they make me sad because it’s not natural for any animal to be caged constantly. But I gotta say that our zoo is really, really nice. The animals generally look happy, clean and cared for. And I totally understand why zoos are important for education. I love to quiz Riley on things like “Why are those flamingos pink?”  and “Do you think that gorilla’s hands look like yours?” It helps teach kids that animals are valued, important and something to be appreciated. And really, when else in his life is he going to be able to pet a sting ray? Amazing.  

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