Birthday Surprise #1

About 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Nathan, Melanie, and the girls had gone home to finish packing their van, but Dad didn’t know they were doing that. He thought they were putting the girls down for their naps. Christopher and Anna Marie hung around, as they usually do on Sundays, to chat for awhile. We all sat in the living room, casually talking, and thinking about the surprise that was about to be unveiled. We had each packed overnight bags and stowed them in the back of the van, taking opportunities after we came home from church to sneak out and put our bags in the van. Dad still did not know.

Finally, after Nathan texted Mom that they were ready to go, she announced, “Everyone ready?! Let’s go!” An enthusiastic response was given, and Dad sat still, very comfortable and rather bewildered. He wondered where we were going. I think Mom told him it was a surprise, and we all rushed out to the van, with Dad following. His mind was racing, trying to figure out what we had planned! He noticed Nathan and Melanie’s van out in the street, and Abby waved to him. So, they were coming too! The girls were supposed to be taking their naps.

The first stop was to fill the van’s fuel tank. It was 1/2 full, and it didn’t make sense to Dad as 1/2 tank is plenty of fuel. Then we started driving and as we drove, a wild storm was brewing. Dad and Nathan fought strong wind and blowing dust for over an hour, but we were grateful to finally get ahead of the huge storm. Dad was still mystified, since we didn’t seem concerned about bad weather spoiling our plans.

We passed Kansas City, and Dad was definitely thinking. Occasionally, he would make a comment or a guess, and finally he guessed right: the wildlife safari! But, he didn’t know everything. He thought were going directly there (and returning home yet that day), but we weren’t. We had arranged to stay in a hotel, because it was a four hour drive. This was apart of our gift to him. We wanted to make his 60th very memorable, and it was!

We had snacks and then Bible time Sunday night down in the breakfast area.

So, Monday morning dawned, and after individual Bible time, breakfast, and packing out, we drove a half hour to the safari. We again surprised Dad with having a tram (aka — a commuter type of bus with no windows) for our family. The van is less than ideal to tour the park in because only the front two windows open. With the van only two people would be able to hand-feed the animals. But with the tram, everyone could feed the animals!

Mom had been praying for weeks about the weather, because we’ve had weeks of heat with heat indexes up over 100 most days. The Lord gave us a COOL morning: with temperatures in the lower 70’s. Praise HIM!

Joseph took almost all of the pictures we’re posting. He’s incredible.

Bethany was thrilled with the animals and kept an almost constant stream of "eh ehs" going as she reached for them.
It was a perfect tram to take--easy access to the animals, and the animals stayed mostly outside.

Thankfully Jesse's recovery has continued to progress, so he was okay for Monday.

At least Luther couldn't get his horn inside the tram.

Bethany was a happy girl.


Mr. Emu, and you had to be careful how you fed him. If you dared, you could allow him to get it off your hand.

See that little head?!

We’ll continue on with at least one more post with pictures later.


“And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so” (Genesis 1:24).

14 thoughts on “Birthday Surprise #1”

  1. How much fun is that!!!!!!!!!!! I am sure your Dad loved it, but who loved it more…him or the girls?? We have a place like that here, but we have not been in a long time as it is expensive, and time is a premium. May have to make that happen.

  2. I’m sure it was a very fun trip. Little Bethany looks so happy!
    God bless you all.

    Patricia S (Portugal)

  3. That looks like that was VERY fun! Happy Birthday, Mr. Maxwell! Bethany and Abby are growing so fast~ I still remember Bethany’s newborn pictures!

  4. What a wonderful surprise! Love the animal photos (and especially seeing Abby and Bethany enjoying the animals!). 🙂 Blessings, Patti M.

  5. How fun! I wish there was a wildlife park like this near my home. We do have an excellent zoo, though.

  6. What a fun birthday trip! I love seeing the pictures of your family together having the best of times together. It is special and not something I see a lot. The Wildlife Safari looks like such fun.

    Joseph, You did an amazing job with the photos. Delightful to see.

    blessings, Mrs. Mari

  7. What a wonderful surprise! It looks like you all had so much fun! Happy birthday Mr. Maxwell 🙂

  8. Thanks for sharing the birthday surprise. The wonderful pictures made us feel like we were right there with you! We enjoyed seeing the family having fun and spending time together.

  9. Good job pulling off the surprise! 🙂 I like all the pictures, but the one with leaning out the window, and the first one were really good. 🙂

  10. You are so right about those emus! Once at a zoo in Australia, one pulled the earring right out of Althea’s ear. She was unhurt, and we told the zookeeper what the emu had ingested. He wasn’t surprised, and mentioned that their droppings often contained non-food items.
    It looks like everyone had a great time. What a wonderful witness to have family Bible time in the breakfast area!
    Kim C.

  11. That Emu had a very serious expression. Abigail looks very cute with her little sun glasses. I am so happy everyone had a great time!

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