Goin’ Local: Willowbrook Wildlife Center

We can’t take an Alaskan Cruise or a cross-country road trip every day. But that doesn’t mean we stop exploring. Today, we explored Willowbrook Wildlife Center, part of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, for the first time. (I don’t know what took us so long, we live right down the street.)

Mommy, what if we find a hurt duck?

Willowbrook Wildlife Center flashed onto my radar a couple of weeks ago when my daughter asked me what we would do if we found an injured duck. I remembered there was a wildlife rehabilitation center nearby and took a look on the internet. The website for the wildlife center is deceiving as it doesn’t begin to highlight all they have to offer.


First and foremost, Willowbrook is a wildlife rehabilitation center. But they also have a butterfly garden, both indoor and outdoor live animal exhibits (including a bald eagle), and a few winding nature trails for an easy outdoor walk.

The center is free to visit, but a donation (either cash or other) is appreciated.

Urgently needed as of July 2017

Indoor Exhibits

After dropping our donation in the box outside, we headed into the Visitor Center to see what there was to see. First was a case full of beautiful monarch butterfly chrysalises. The kids loved the golden details.

IMG_5429There were many other indoor exhibits as well, which housed small birds and other small animals and reptiles. The birds were fun to see because the kids could get up close and really get a good look. (Unfortunately, I haven’t yet mastered our fancy camera enough to know how to focus on the animal, not the cage. I’ll be doing some more research on that.)

It was also fun to take a peek into the animal care area to see what was going on behind the scenes.

Bird enclosure

Outdoor Exhibits

We headed on to check out the outdoor exhibits. First, the kids encountered a sand pit where they could make imprints of animals’ footprints and figure out which animal each footprint belonged to.


But there was much more to explore. My son and I tried to catch a glimpse of the cormorant. We couldn’t get a good picture, but I find this bird interesting because a flightless variety of the cormorant exists in the Galapagos Islands.

My daughter headed off to the butterfly garden.


We didn’t spy any butterflies in the butterfly garden, but we did enjoy the koi pond.



Meandering further through the exhibits, we saw a sleepy and itchy red fox. (We actually smelled it before we saw it. It looks much cuter than it smelled.) And some owls that had eye injuries and could not be returned to the wild.

Sleepy red fox


We took the nature trail to the sandhill crane exhibit and found one of them to be very friendly, walking with my daughter back and forth (the bird inside the enclosure while she was outside).

Sandhill crane (photo credit: my 7-year-old son)

Finishing up our walk on the nature trail, we encountered some lovely foliage and a very camera-shy deer.


Camera-shy deer taking a drink

Willowbrook Wildlife Center is a lovely, close-to-home (for us) place to visit.

Achieving Goals – A Journey of 1000 Miles

Spider web

The gorgeous, creepy creature that weaved the beautiful web in the picture had to start somewhere. But where? And how? How does a spider start weaving its web? I guess, as they say, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step… or something like that.

The beautiful waterfall, Waterfall Glen

One of the goals we have in mind for the future is to hike the Grand Canyon from bottom to top, with the kids. Granted, this will have to take place sometime in the future (and it may never take place at all). But, as stated above, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step. And sometimes that one step is just a thought, an idea, a future goal, something to work toward.

A journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step.

Enjoying the view

Well, our journey today took us on a 4-mile hike at Waterfall Glen in the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. And nowhere did the kids learn the lesson that a journey of 1,000 miles (or hiking one more mile back to the car after hiking 3 miles on little 6-year-old legs) begins with one step, then another step, and then another.
Until you reach your goal (which, in this case, was either the parking lot, or the ice cream I promised them to keep them hiking).

I see these little victories, these little tweaks in attitude, as major life lessons.

In any event, in order to keep her spirits up, my little girl started making up songs that went: “Every step you take gets you closer to your goal….” My son, after telling me he couldn’t take another step, took another and another. Then smiled proudly to himself after we reached the car when I reminded him how he thought he couldn’t do it, but in actuality he could.

Waterfall Glen
The last 1/2 mile of a 4-mile hike.

I see these little victories, these little tweaks in attitude, as major life lessons. Lessons that could be applied to completing algebra homework, perfecting pirouettes, or even writing a blog post! Each little increment gets you a little closer to where you need to be. Each difficult task requires effort. And in order to reach each big goal, you need only conquer one small and manageable goal, then another, then another.

One step at a time. One foot after another. That’s how to start. That’s how to succeed. That’s how to reach goals. Whether you have eight legs or only two.


Why Family Travel?

I recently saw a clip of a Rick Steves Lecture in which he explains how he first got the travel bug. He was in a foreign country as a teenager with his family when he felt how loved he was by his own parents. He then looked around and saw many other children that were as loved by their parents as he was by his. This lead to his realization that the world is full of children that are loved by their parents. That, although these other children were so different from him, they were also so similar.

All children, regardless of race, color, religion, or location on the planet, deserve the love that is felt by children lucky enough to have escaped the blights of the modern world.

Of course, one can argue that there are a great deal of children that are not as loved as they should be because their lives have been devastated by war, poverty, disease, and the like. But the point is that all children, regardless of race, color, religion, or location on the planet, deserve the love that is felt by children lucky enough to have escaped the blights of the modern world.


Furthermore, those lucky children, the ones that so strongly feel the love of their parents, need to see, need to experience, need to understand, need to respect how others live, whether it’s similar or different from their own lifestyle. I firmly believe that it is then, and only then, that we will have a future on this planet that is worth having.

For our family, travel is not a luxury. Our goal is not to take lavish vacations and tell you all about the fun we had relaxing on a beach somewhere, drinking martinis, and getting tattoos. Our goal is to learn. Our goal is to teach our children to be goodwill ambassadors to all the children they encounter in their lives. Our goal is to help our children understand the world around them, the history that got us where we are today, and possibilities for the future.