Visit another country without leaving America

Growing up in America, it’s easy to become a little spoiled and take for granted some of the things we view as a necessity. We tend to overlook the huge blessings in our lives that people around the world would only dream of – like running water, air conditioning, electricity, and even toothbrushes.

I, myself, am guilty of failing to give much thought or appreciation for the incredible resources God has placed in my life. When I see my children throwing tantrums for not getting a certain toy, not getting their face painted or not being treated with ice cream, I know that they have no idea what it’s like to go without and most likely never will.

But to give them just a tiny glimpse into the life of another child on the other side of the world, our field trip this week was to the Compassion Experience, put on by Compassion International. This a free, family-friendly event that takes you on a journey inside the lives and stories of two children living in poverty in foreign countries.

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The entire immersive experience is actually housed within a truck and tours the nation, making stops in 150 or so cities. I had seen it come to our city quite a few times, but I never did get around to taking my kids and didn’t really know what age would be appropriate to expose them to some of the themes in the presentation. Of course, the baby had no idea what was going on and wanted to get down and play, but my older daughter was at a good age to understand, ask questions and learn.

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Upon entering the experience, you are given headphones attached to an iPod and a choice of either listening to a kid-friendly or adult version of the story. We, of course, chose the kid-friendly version and headed behind the curtains into the first of two different life stories.

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If you are concerned about the content that your children will be exposed to, they will e-mail you a link (if you registered in advance) to preview the story. The presentation we attended incorporated some sensitive topics of poverty, alcoholism, drugs, crime, infant mortality, child incarceration, and violence. I thought the content of the presentation was tastefully done and all child-appropriate.

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As you enter the different rooms on the audio-guided tour, you are transported to another world and feel like you are in their world as their story unfolds. You will see the food they eat, clothes they wear, where they live and schools they attend.

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Compassion

It is truly eye-opening and such a great way to safely expose your children to how other less-fortunate children may live, see how God can use people to help others, and hear about the difference Christ makes in those lives.

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We found it to be quite impactful and a great way to bring up certain discussion topics with your children. The Compassion Experience comes to our area at least once a year. Check out their website for their current touring schedule and find an event near you.

Bones and Beetles at the Museum of Osteology

Our first field trip season has begun! We will try to visit a local educational site of interest every week and write a blog post detailing what we experienced. Last week, we visited one of our favorite field trip locations that we frequent quite regularly – the Oklahoma City Zoo (which we absolutely love). This week, we wanted to take a closer look inside those same animals and explore their skeletons.

Of all the places in the world, did you know that Oklahoma City is home to the first and one of only two skeleton museums in America (the other is in Orlando)! I had heard of the Museum of Osteology several years ago, but I never did get around to checking it out.

I saw that Groupon and Living Social both were having deals for admission tickets, so I snagged tickets for $8 total for myself and my oldest child (children younger than 3 are free). Tickets are normally $8 for individuals 13 and older and $7 for children ages 3 to 12.

We decided to make our visit on a Friday around lunchtime, so when we pulled into the parking lot of a rather unimpressive-looking building, there were maybe 5-10 other cars. We pretty much had the place to ourselves, besides maybe 3-4 other groups of visitors.

As you enter the museum, you are greeted by a massive whale skull. Also, don’t miss the beetle exhibit in the front area of the museum on the opposite wall from where you pay. My daughter was instantly drawn over to the sight of thousands of tiny flesh-eating beetles cleaning off a skull of a fox. It’s rather creepy, while also intriguing.

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Once you go through the double doors into the main exhibit hall, be sure to grab a scavenger hunt sheet hanging on the wall to the left. These are grouped by various ages. It will help keep the kids engaged and might help make your visit more informative. I’ve also read that you can get a prize if you complete it, but I didn’t find out about this until after we left.

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What I also found out is that you are supposed to start by going counter clockwise through the exhibit hall. We didn’t do that and later found out that it would have made more sense. So head to the right after you grab your sheet.

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We were just so amazed and enthralled by the impressive whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling, the enormous elephant structure, and just the vast array and variety of animals on display throughout this space. From tiny little hummingbirds to gigantic whales and everything in between, it was truly amazing to see the inner skeletal structures of creatures of every kind. Even the baby was “ooing” and “ahhing” at what she saw!

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There is also an upstairs portion with even more skeletons on display. The kids were starting to get a little restless at this point, so we didn’t get to look as intently at the specimens on that level.

For the kids, there is a little exploration area on the second level with books to read, postcards to color, skulls to touch and explore, puppets, puzzles, and video clips. My kids really enjoyed getting to do something interactive and had fun playing for a little bit.

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Since it is rather small, it may only take a couple hours to see everything. We spent about an hour or so but could have easily stayed a little longer if the kids were older.

Overall, we were truly impressed with this museum and recommend it to all families looking for a unique and interesting experience.

Why I’m not sending my child to public school

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If you haven’t noticed from your newsfeed filled with photos of children standing on front porches holding signs, it’s back-to-school time. On the eve of this monumental event in our own family, with our oldest child entering the formal schooling years tomorrow, I am filled with excitement and apprehension.

Every parent knows that once your child becomes school-aged, you’ll have to make the weighty decision of how you’re going to educate your child. I used to think it was a no-brainer. Kids just always go to public school, right? Unless you’re extremely wealthy, own vacation homes, trust funds, etc. and can afford private school or want your kids to be socially-awkward, have no friends and not know how to function in “real life,” then you homeschool. That’s what I used to think.

I, myself, am a product of public schooling (at least until college), and I loved it (except for middle school…I mean, who really loves middle school). I feel like I received a good, solid school experience and learned what I needed in order to do well at college. I graduated near the top of my high school class, was involved in several extracurricular activities, received scholarships for college, and just generally did well in the public school system.

But, what I remember from school wasn’t so much the education part. I “learned” (crammed) enough to do well on tests, but I can’t for the life of me remember some information I should probably know in my adult life. Maybe it’s due to lack of sleep, mommy-brain, old age…or it could be because of how I was schooled.

Schooling and education these days are now really hot-button topics, kind of like trying to bring up religion or politics in a social setting. Whether it’s about budget cuts, common core, testing, school choice, etc., people all have an opinion.

I believe the educational landscape of today compared to my childhood is drastically different. The opportunities and methods of educating available to a child are so much more diverse now. With public, private, homeschool, virtual schools, charter schools, magnet schools, blended schools (part homeschool, part private school), Montessori schools, the options seem pretty overwhelming for a parent (or at least this parent).

I think it’s safe to say that we, as parents, all want the best for our kids.  Educational needs vary from one child to the next, so while I’m choosing not to send our older daughter to public school, we may very well send our younger one to public school.

We have a highly-rated and highly-acclaimed neighborhood elementary school within a stone’s throw from our house. I can actually hear their announcements on the intercom, so it is a somewhat difficult decision to have to drive across town when I could just easily walk her to school.

As our daughter begins her formal education journey, we are deciding not to send her to public school this year. For us and for this particular child, we want to uniquely tailor her education. We have enrolled her in a blended Classical Christian private school two days a week, are going to Classical Conversations one day, taking her to a Bible Study Fellowship class with me another day, and using our free weekday as a field trip day (which was the catalyst driving this blog), all while working on the next grade level curriculum through the Oklahoma Virtual Preparatory Academy.

Am I crazy? I don’t know, probably. I don’t know what I’m doing, so I’m doing it all!

Here is a list of the top 10 reasons why I’m choosing this education for her:

  1. I want my child to be educated within a Christian worldview.
  2. I want to have more time with my child, especially in her younger years.
  3. I want to have more flexibility of what to teach my child.
  4. I want my child to view her entire world around her as a classroom.
  5. I want to know what my child is learning at school and be actively involved in her education. 
  6. I want to reclaim my own education and learn alongside her.
  7. I want her to be taught using the Classical educational model.
  8. I’m still not ready for her to be in school all day every day.
  9. I want her to get more individualized attention in her schooling.
  10. I want to take her on more field trips!

Summer Book Reviews

One of the goals I had at the beginning of the year, when we all have grand plans of getting stuff done in the coming year, was to read more books. My goal was two books a month – easy, right?

I made a list of books to read, wrote them down, and then quickly became consumed with daily life and the busyness that comes with raising a constantly-moving baby turned toddler and an easily-bored preschooler. Needless to say, I only finished reading maybe one book on my list. Waa-waa.

Well, with this blog, I was accepted into a few blogger review programs of various publishers and will be forced to read and write reviews.

This summer, I picked three books to review and could not have chosen any better ones for this time in my life. All of these books are wonderful and are all Field Trip Family approved!

Wow!: The Good News in Four Words

This is a picture book geared toward preschoolers and presents the gospel message in a simple, rhyming style. It breaks up the gospel into four memorable words: Wow, Uh-Oh, Yes, and Ahh. I love the colorful and inviting illustrations and the musical flow of the wording. At the end of the book, there are Bible verse references in the “For Further Study” section, where you can spend some time in the Word with your children beyond this basic book. This is a wonderful presentation of the gospel to young children and an easy, fun and age-appropriate way for parents to introduce or reinforce God’s salvation plan.

8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids

Parenting is hard. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life so far. This is a terrific book packed with so many practical and helpful tips and tactics to deal with childhood behaviors and issues. I like how the book is broken up into several short chapters of only a few pages, which is ideal for busy parents. I tore through this book and finished it in one weekend. At the end of each chapter, the author highlights a useful tip that you can quickly revisit if you want to refer back to the book, which I expect to be doing in the future. He also includes specific illustrations and examples, which were especially useful. The concepts in this book are not particularly novel or revolutionary, however, if applied to your own parenting, could possibly revolutionize the future for your children. This is definitely a book I recommend for any parent.

The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively

As with probably most people, I was familiar with and had read The 5 Love Languages long ago before getting married and having kids. The actual love languages were not new to me, but I was very interested in how it applied to the parent-child relationship. As I read through this book, I realized just how timely and appropriate this book was and was so thankful for the encouraging, yet challenging, words and the practical help and ideas presented. The author also includes specific examples of ways to display each of the love languages to your children, which I found to be particularly beneficial. Every parent needs to reach the hearts of their children to really make a positive impact, and this book can help parents do just that. This is a must read for all parents.

 

(Disclosure: Field Trip Family received these complimentary books from the publishers in exchange for honest reviews. We have also included affiliate links if you wish to purchase these books based on our recommendation. Please click on the links to order your book so you can help support our blog. Thank you for your support!)

A Visit to the Pioneer Woman Mercantile and Lodge

For my thirty(mumble mumble)-something birthday this year, my hubby and baby joined me on a more local adventure. We drove past endless stretches of grass and plains as far as the eye can see, with the occasional cow or two, to visit the home and store of one of the first bloggers I followed…The Pioneer Woman.

Ever since I heard about her building a restaurant in Oklahoma, I knew that I would be planning a visit sometime, and a birthday day trip sounded like a great idea. We were able to send one of the kids to the grandparents’ house but decided to bring the baby along, since she is still nursing.

From the Oklahoma City area, the drive was right around two hours to the quaint little town of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. There was quite literally nothing around but cows and windmills up until you pull up on this small two-lane road into town.

Look for the line of people outside a building and you will have found the Mercantile. Pawhuska is not a town set up for bustling tourism, however I can see it being built up in the next few years to accommodate all the tourists wanting to catch a glimpse of Ree and her gang and try her famous comfort food.

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Yes, there was a line of at least 50-60 people out the door waiting to eat at her restaurant, so we easily decided to forgo lunch there and headed straight inside the retail side. We did go on a Saturday, so the inside was equally busy with people around every corner. With so many people in there, we just briefly perused the plentiful displays of colorful floral tableware and unique and entertaining gifts and headed upstairs to the bakery and sitting area.

The upstairs was a spacious open area, and I’m confused as to why that isn’t another restaurant portion of the Mercantile. Unless I missed it and didn’t see it all, it appeared that the main restaurant downstairs was a rather small area. However, I didn’t really get to thoroughly investigate because of the hoards of people on the restaurant side…so I could be wrong. Although, it is a nice big sitting area to eat your baked goods and hang out.

I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to eat at the deli on this visit, but we did purchase several bakery items – all of which were delicious, decadent and definitely had a boatload of butter. My favorite was probably the brownie with the caramel middle.

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After we ate entirely too much sugar, we went back downstairs to obtain a coveted ticket to the Lodge from the cashiers (the main reason I wanted to visit the Mercantile that day). The Lodge is where the Pioneer Woman films her Food Network cooking show and is located on the Drummond land. Check the Mercantile website for dates that they offer tours at the Lodge. (Tour is probably a misnomer, as it was more like an open house)

With our super secret ticket (directions) in hand, we drove the 20 or so minutes on bumpy and dusty gravel roads (you will need a car wash afterward) past the wild horses, down a steep hill to the Lodge.

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We took a few photos and videos of all the rooms, enjoyed the beautiful views outside and basically just snooped around the entire home/building. There were (I think) four nice guest rooms, a huge prep kitchen in the back, an enviable walk-in pantry and, of course, the “set” of her cooking show.

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Our field trip to the Pioneer Woman Mercantile and Lodge was pretty neat and helped bring the Internet/TV Pioneer Woman to real life for me. I definitely recommend visiting The Lodge. Try to get to the Mercantile early in the morning and visit on a weekday to hopefully avoid the long lines at the restaurant.

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We even spotted a couple of friendly (and incredibly lazy) ranch dogs roaming the property and inviting guests. One particular dog laid right in front of the entrance without even flinching when visitors had to step over him. I think the dogs were my baby’s favorite part of the trip.

Have you been to Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile or want to visit? If you’ve been, what do you recommend ordering? 

Exploring the Dallas Children’s Aquarium

So I’m finally getting around to writing about our field trip to the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park that we visited while we were in Dallas a while back. It is right next door to the Texas Discovery Gardens, so we just took a short trek across the street over to the Children’s Aquarium after we had our fill of plants and butterflies. Read about our Texas Discovery Gardens field trip here.  Or, you can watch our YouTube video and subscribe to our channel. 

Dallas has a much larger and much more expensive aquarium downtown (the Dallas World Aquarium), but this one is more suitable for younger children and requires much less walking. Perfect for my little ones (and me carrying the baby in the carrier).

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You enter the through the main door, pay the entrance fee of $8 for adults and $6 for children (ages 3-11) at the front desk, and then you’re free to explore the exhibits. Most of the tanks are about eye level for smaller children, so they can easily engage and get a better look at the different aquatic creatures and at information about them.

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Even though this is a fairly small aquarium, taking us only a couple hours to explore the entire facility, the exhibits were well-maintained and contained quite a few interesting animals. We found the albino alligator and sea turtles to be pretty fascinating.

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The highlight of the entire trip, though, was the stingray exhibit. Don’t miss them! You have to go outside to the back outdoor tanks to see them. But you don’t just get to see them, you can touch them and feed them! The aquarium offers food for you to purchase, but these guys are super friendly and conditioned to eat from strangers, so you don’t need to buy the food unless you really want to.

We spent a large part of our time out there interacting with these interesting creatures. They would swim right up to the side of the tank with their faces out of the water like they were wanting to be petted. It took quite some time for my daughter to muster enough courage to stick her hand near those slimy things, but once she did it, she loved it!

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You also don’t want to miss the touch tank just inside the aquarium entrance, where you can pet a chocolate chip sea star, a sea urchin and other little underwater critters. Remember to wash your hands before and after petting the sea creatures in the designated wash stations.

We all had a really fun and memorable time at the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park and recommend that you bring your little ones here to explore some underwater life. My daughter still talks about how she got to touch a stingray.

Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park 

Address > 1462 1st Ave, Dallas, TX 75210
Phone469.554.7340
Hours > 9 am – 4:30 pm seven days a week (except for Thanksgiving and Christmas)
Websitechildrensaquariumfairpark.com
Admission > Adult $8 | Youth (3-11) & Senior $6 

 

Have a missional-minded family vacation

Summer is in full swing and some of you may still have some family vacations to look forward to! What do you plan to do on your trip? Relax? Have fun? Catch some rays? While fun and relaxation may be at the forefront of your vacation planning, you might also want to prepare by incorporating a missional mindset to your trip.

My church printed and distributed a Family Vacation Prayer Guide that encourages families to make time for intentional prayer while on vacation, and I wanted to share it with you all here.

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Prayer guide

Here is a list of the different prayer topics, ideas and prompts listed in the guide:

  • People groups where you’re going. You can find out which people groups live in your vacation spot by visiting joshuaproject.net or peoplegroups.info ahead of time. Begin praying over those groups before you go!
  • Pray at night. Each evening, pray Romans 1 over people who are not walking in the light and are rejecting God’s truth. | For example: Dear God, Your invisible attributes have been clearly perceived. Would you reveal to people that want to reject you that they are without excuse? (Romans 1:20)
  • Kids’ Afternoon. Encourage your kids to plan an afternoon while on vacation and let the kids choose ways to pray for the people they see.
  • Postcards. Take your kids to pick out a postcard and have them write what God showed them on vacation. You can mail them home or just keep them as a way to remember how God worked!
  • Living Water. Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” John 7:37-38 | Pray this verse at a body of water and ask God to be the living water to the people residing nearby.
  • Bread of Life. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:51 | Pray for each person who prepares or serves a meal for your family. Ask your waiter or server to share a prayer request and pray for them right there. Provide a meal for someone in need.
  • The Church Body. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25 | Pray this verse for each church you pass. Take time to go into a church, attend a service, and encourage the members.
  • The Harvest. Read the Parable of the Sower found in Matthew 13. Pray these verses when you see flowers or farms. Pray for the “soil” to be soft. Pray for believers to be spreading the seeds of the gospel faithfully. Pray for God to produce a great harvest.
  • Pray for Schools. “In the same way, let your light shine before other, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 | Pray this verse when your family passes a school. Pray for Christian kids and faculty to not hide their light under a basket, but shine Christ’s light to other kids and teachers.
  • Jesus is Life. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” John 14:6 | Pray this verse when you pass a temple, mosque or synagogue. Pray the people worshipping would know Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.
  • Look Around. Walk around the city with your family before dinner. Spend time quietly observing the people. Then, go to dinner and talk about what you observed. Were there homeless people? Were there police officers? Were there families that looked different? Pray for the people your family noticed.
  • Pray for those in your midst. “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!” Psalm 97:1 | Pray over your hotel, house or condo where your family is staying. Pray the Lord will reign in the hearts of the people working and residing there. Seek to get to know the guest service people and pray with and for them.
  • The Lord Provides. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 | Pray this verse when you see rain. Provide an umbrella for somebody who does not have one. Share this verse with them to show the ultimate need we have in Christ.
  • Ask, Seek, Knock. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and the one who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7 | Pray this verse when you see a colorful or interesting door. Pray for the people inside and that God would move their hearts to seek Him.

Share this guide with your friends and encourage them to prayer walk on their family vacations.

Strolling through Texas Discovery Gardens

Last week while we were in Dallas, I decided to take the kids to Fair Park to see the Texas Discovery Gardens and the Children’s Aquarium (our helpful tips are bolded). I would recommend going to both in one trip and making a day (or morning/afternoon) of it. The gardens are literally steps away from the aquarium, and each one only took us about an hour or two with young children (you may be able to stay longer and do more with older children).

We started off that morning with a traffic-filled 30-minute drive into the South Dallas/Fair Park area. If you have never experienced Dallas driving, expect lots of cars and crazy highway interchanges at pretty much any time of the day. Of course, I am used to Oklahoma City traffic, so it may actually be an easy drive compared to where you live.

Our first stop was the Texas Discovery Gardens. I was especially interested in seeing the butterfly house and thought it would be a neat experience to explore a two-story, glass-encased butterfly habitat.

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We went on a Tuesday, which we found out was pay what you want Tuesday for admission. Regular admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children.

As you enter the main lobby and entrance, several small aquariums with critters (insects/snakes/fish) line the walls and open area. So we, of course, had to peer inside and examine the contents of each one before making our way to the gardens and butterfly house.

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I will say that the insects were pretty neat, so I would suggest that you make a stop to investigate that area. My older daughter enjoyed looking at the insects, as I tried to read all the signs to her and tell her about each one.

After that, we made our way through the hallway (again lined with more insects/frogs/etc) and out into the gardens.

I fully expected to stay much longer out there, but the weather was rather warm and muggy already that morning, which therefore resulted in a hot and sweaty (aka whiny) child (who is also very frightened of bees and other flying insects).

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We made a quick pass through the main lawn, pond, the outdoor butterfly gardens, and the large fountain and quickly returned to the safety of the indoors.

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We did actually get several bug bites while we were there, so I would recommend putting on bug spray before heading into the gardens and butterfly house. 

After returning inside, we headed up the stairs to the entrance of the butterfly house. You enter through some carefully-timed sliding glass doors into a beautiful, lush garden with butterflies flitting around freely. They keep it fairly warm and humid in there for the plants and butterflies, so be prepared and pack some water. 

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I found it to be a pretty surreal experience and loved watching these delicate insects flying all around me, finding the birds, and seeing inside an active beehive. My daughter, the one who is afraid of flying insects, thought it was cool for about two minutes and then wanted to bolt out of there as fast as she could.

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The baby, who was in the carrier, loved watching the butterflies and squealed in excitement (very loudly, might I add) as they would fly past us. I’m not sure if strollers are allowed in there, but I would advise against bringing one in there if at all possible. 

As you exit the butterfly house, there was an educational cart, where you could touch butterfly wings, see butterflies emerging from chrysalises, and other interesting things probably. We didn’t stay in there long enough to do those things because apparently, butterflies are dangerous and could probably kill small children (according to my daughter).

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I, unfortunately, didn’t get very many photos during the whole visit but did enjoy our brief tour of the Texas Discovery Gardens, especially the Butterfly House. We also learned a few interesting facts about butterflies and other insects.

I was going to write about the aquarium in this post but will save it for the next one since this one is getting so long.

Texas Discovery Gardens Fast Facts

Address > 3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. | Dallas, TX
Phone214.428.7476
Hours > Open daily from 10 am – 5 pm. Final admission is sold at 4:15 pm. Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Eve and Day.
Websitewww.txdg.org
Admission > $8 Adults | $6 Seniors (60+) | $4 Children (3-11) | FREE for children 2 and under

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