Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Excitement

As I was putting away the groceries from my mid-afternoon Costco run (and Kelly was putting away the shoes she'd managed to score. SCORE! at Payless in their BOGO sale), Ken called me back out to the driveway.

"Oh, Kem.... muh...." he called, in a little sing-song voice. "You want to come out here Right Now."

Uh oh. Did I forget to do something?

But no. He wanted to make sure I didn't miss this:

Egads! And I was wearing my faux-birks! Hello, baby toes, tasty little niblets for the rattler to sink his fangs into.

And for something that's barely 15 inches long, it sure invoked the fear reflex in me. I took dozens of photos, but most of them are not in focus, because I was so FREAKED OUT.

Alas, baby rattlesnakes cannot take up residence in our residence. Our kids flap around in flip-flops, and do cartwheels without looking where they put their hands. Fang Junior picked a bad place to come knocking on the neighbour's door.

Ken dispatched it swiftly with a big stick and a shovel.


And then, even with the head gone, the rest of the snake kept slithering around, coiling and uncoiling.


Much as the kids would LOVE to have a reptile pet, this is NOT a sanctioned choice.

Too bad this fence lizard seems to have died of fright after seeing the rattlesnake slither past.

He would've been a very fine pet for the kids. Maybe I'll go out and get some crickets to feed the local lizard population as a special treat tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Frog Killa

Well, Nate's buddy returned from vacation, and the family came over yesterday afternoon to retrieve all the pets that we've been babysitting.

Or rather, they collected all the pets... minus one. And that would be the frog that drowned on his first night in our house.

I was feeling a little bit guilty, but hey. What can you do? He was in his cage. I didn't touch him, or poke at him, or sic the dogs on him, or anything. He just got into his water, and drowned, from the looks of things.

And then the boy (older brother of Nate's buddy) says "Oh, that's why I got two of them. I kind of thought they were so little that they might not both make it." And then I felt WAY better. I am not a Frog Killa after all.

I'm surprised that the frogs lasted as long as they did, actually. Because as soon as the guy saw his frog, he rinsed his hands (you've gotta make sure you don't have any body oils on your skin, or any soaps or other chemicals), and then picked the frog up and played with the wee little guy.

I always think that the little guy is going to break out into a rousing verse of "Hello my Baby!" in this shot. Like the cartoon frog in the old Bugs Bunny shorts.

And then, if I had any doubts that the frogs were living life on the edge, this happened...

It was fun having the frogs, but I'm glad that they've gone back to their rightful home.

Kelly is not so happy, though.

She was really starting to get used to having the anoles.

And Nate? Well, he's just had too much exposure to these creatures that defy gravity and climb up the walls of their cages.

Froggy climbs the glass:

Nate gets ideas...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Concert Weekend

It's time to put away the tuxedo and black formal attire for another season.

Ken and I just returned from singing our final concert of the year. This time, we were singing a joint concert with a choir that is about 3 times as large as ours. And we were packed in like sardines.

Or maybe I should say "they" were packed in like sardines.

You see, I *cough cough* am recovering from *cough cough* what may-or-may-not-be Pneumonia. So I sat out the bits where everyone was crammed together and could hardly breathe. And I may have picked up my camera once or twice.

That really was a magnificent organ.

The one piece that was so much fun to watch (but I didn't sing it, because I had missed a number of rehearsals), was a piece by Eric Whitacre called "Cloudburst". Hmm. I think it might be on Youtube... lemme check...

I wish I'd recorded ours. It gave me goosebumps during both concerts. But here is a recording of the composer conducting it.

I was too much of a chicken to take out my camera during the show.

But now we can take a break. No more rehearsals, no more concerts. At least until the fall. And I promised that I would photograph our conductor at the next concert, as the other choir had their own concert photographer with a big f/1.4 lens, getting in the way, and shooting photos left and right. Any excuse to rent another lens, right?

Did I mention that Kelly returned from Outdoor Ed?

And that she'd been turned into a pirate while she was there?

Ahr! When can I go back?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Math Jean Yus

I really wasn't sure what we were walking into when we showed up at the theater last night for the Math Awards.

But people were looking pretty dressed up. Uh oh.

Ken and I were really working the Nerd-Geek Family angle. Ken was sporting his HItchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy T-shirt. I had my Blogger t-shirt on, and Skip was kind of sad that he couldn't lay his hands on his Official Star Trek Captain Kirk jersey. Yeah. We're all Overdressed like that.

I was kicking myself for returning the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. I really needed it.

The 50mm just wasn't working for me. And I am kind of sad.

But I have the memories in my brain.

When we got to the theater, we were immediately greeted by a woman in a red dress.

"Oh! I'm SO GLAD that Skip told you about tonight. I was worried that I was going to have to phone you myself to make sure that you came."

Say what? I'm glad that she's so diligent, making sure that all her students have their parents at this event. I guess we were the last hold-outs, or something. She told us to all sit in the audience, and when Skip's class was called, he could just go up with the crowd.

So we got comfortable in the audience. I fuss a bit. We should have dressed a little nicer. Maybe I should have rented the big lens again.

"It's not a big deal, mom. We go up, they shake our hand, we sit down. Do we have to be here?"

There are a LOT of kids in the Honor Society. 41 in Skip's Algebra II/Trig class, alone.

And here those 41 get called up to the stage. Hooray Skip! Now go and stand RIGHT in the middle of the stage, like I told you. Honor your mother, dude. I'm taking pictures for Poppa.

Oh, look at that! He listened! And he's right smack in the middle of the stage.


Oh grr. That's the best focus I could get? I am kicking myself for returning that big lens.

Listen to my mantra: It's not the camera, it's the photographer. It's not the camera, it's the photographer. It's not the camera, it's the photographer.

And besides, I could be shooting with a blurry little instamatic, and I wouldn't care. That's MY BOY ON STAGE!

One of the teachers was retiring, after 41 years at the school, so the A+ students from the graduating class performed a little song for him. There were THIRTY SIX kids that got an A+ in the class. Those are some high achievers. Egads.

And to go along with their presentation, they made him wear a crown and a king's robe.

It kind of made me sad that Skip wasn't going to get to be taught by him. He was obviously a great motivator and a favourite of many of the students.

He took over, at this point, and wanted to present the awards for top students in the school. First, he invited everyone that had been involved in writing any of the Math Competitions over the year to come on stage.

So Skip went back up on stage.

That's Skip on the left. Looking awkward and out of place among all the Juniors and Seniors.

The Retiring Professor announced that this year, a Freshman had really risen to the top, and had beaten out all other Freshmen and Sophomores at the AMC 10 competition.

Congratulations, Skip Parker!

Then he said "We'd also like to recognize that we have a student here on stage that is in the Top 1% in the Nation.... So come on back here, Skip. You're not done yet."

WHAT? I looked at Ken. "Did you know about this?" HE was just smirking. Yeah. That apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Ken had been in the top 1% when he was in Senior High. Can you say "Proud Papa?"


Then it was time to honor the Sophomores. And one of them had won the AMC12 competition (which is against ALL high school students in the nation) THe professor said "Congratulations, Ben. Don't get too comfortable. Remember, Skip Parker beat you in the other exam." (the AMC10)

Yeah. Shout Out to my boy!

That's Skip doing his "AWKWARD" look.

And then it was time to honor the Seniors. "OK, you can go sit down now... oh, not you Skip. Sit up here on stage. It'll save you some time later..."


"Don't worry, son. You're not in trouble."

He just didn't want you to have to walk so far when it's time to honor the Outsanding Freshmen, 5 minutes later...

(ooh! See the little blondie on the left? That's the girl that crushed on him so badly when he was in 1st and 2nd grade. How CUTE!)

So the Prof is going on about the "fresh blood" and how these students are The New Legacy, and then he says "But we want to honor the TOP in each grade. And that's hard, because the freshman class gave birth to TWINS. SO let's honor our TWINS, Skip and Louis.

And everyone laughed.

Because there's not much else that could be different about these 'twins'.

(and I laughed the loudest, because I knew that Skip had thought he was Chinese until he was in 2nd grade, so they really were more alike than people knew)

Congratulations, Skip.

You can use that trophy to build your muscles.

Put it on the shelf. Take it off the shelf.

Put it on the shelf. Take it off the shelf.

Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off.

And at the end of the night, we made sure to offer our most sincere thanks to Skip's teacher, who really went above and beyond to make sure that we got to see this wonderful event. She was so modest, how it was all him, but I know that a bad teacher can kill your will to live, let alone your interest in Math, and I told her as much. This trophy speaks nearly as much to her inspiration, as it does to Skip's natural talent, and I don't want her to think anything less.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Kelly and her classmates left on Monday morning for a fun week in the mountains, also known as "Outdoor Ed".

(I'm thinking, though, that because it's sort of a fog-forest that they go to, that a lot of the time is spent as "Indoor Ed", but I could be wrong)

She's been counting the days. It couldn't come soon enough. And I think that they are the last group to do it, what with it being nearly the END OF SCHOOL! (Eek, how did that happen?)

Of course, with all the preparations and execution of the big musical variety show last weekend, there wasn't time for packing until the Very Last Minute. And I didn't look very closely at the packing list, so there are a few things where she's just 'making do' with what we had around the house. I sure hope we didn't forget anything. When we got to school, all the other parents and kids were all "Good grief, Kelly! Is that ALL that you're taking? You sure travel light. You've done this before?"

Um, yeah, I may have pared down the list a wee bit. And culled any of the non-essentials, including the "heavy jacket' (it's MAY, people!), and the "Bathrobe" (It's WILDERNESS living! You don't go all posh with your robe and slippers in Banana Slug Land!), and "pillow' (When I was a kid, we had to make our own pillows out of branches and leaves!)

But in the end, the kids will all share around, and any missing pieces will be filled in, or ignored and forgotten.

At least, that's my plan.

And Kelly will be thanking me when she has to truck (by hand) all her own gear the quarter mile into the forest to the camp, and all her friends are struggling with the giant garbage bag that's holding the Antarctic-Grade adult-sized sleeping bag with extra body pillow, and the rolling suitcase that wasn't designed for forest trails, and the two extra bags for all the 'I might need this" stuff that 11 year old girls are wont to pack when not ruled by a stern-handed Draconian and Overbearing mother.

Yes. She will thank me.

She's looking grateful, already.


Ah, the excitement is starting to build...

Here come the buses!

Ah, NOW she's looking excited.

These kids are the most photographed generation in history.

See you in a week, mom! Don't rent out my room to gypsies.

Math surprise

I'm late picking Skip up after school today, and he's got that nervous look about him. And he gets in the car and says "I need to show you something. Before I forget. Because I was supposed to show you a while ago. And the teacher made me write it on my hand."

And all my alarm bells go off.

Detention slip?

Being held back in English?

What's up?


And he reaches into his backpack, and reaches under the SOGGY PILE OF WET GYM STRIP (hello, swimming-for-PE, I'm really getting tired of the destruction you're wreaking on the contents of my son's backpack) and pulls out a nearly-disintegrated binder, and opens it up, and starts flipping through papers that are really rather soggy around the edges.

And his hands are shaking.

This is not a good sign.

Is it?

He pulls out this damp paper, and says "You need to read this. And you kind of need to read this now..."


April 29, 2010 [ok, this is a little bit late coming home, wouldn't you think?]



Dear Parent,




It is my pleasure to inform you that Skip Parker is to be complimented for his achievement in Mathematics. To receive an A+ Honors Grade in Mathematics at [highschool], a student must earn 95 percent of the points possible in class, and complete at least one of the following additional requirements:

  1. An extra project or report involving math

  2. Active Math Club participation

  3. Doing at least 1-0 hours of after school tutoring

  4. Working as a teacher's assistant

  5. Being on the Math Awards Night Committee

The Mathematics Department congratulates you on your student's successful completion of these requirements.

All Honors students and their parents are being invited to attend the Thirty-Sixth Annual Math Awards Night being planned in their honor. The event will take place on TUESDAY, May 18th, from 7:00 to 9:00pm.





Now *THAT* is a piece of good news.

But, if you'll excuse me, I've gotta find a place for Nate to go. The award ceremony is just for the parents.

Dancie, dancie, dance!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Opening Night

A smashing success.

Words will come tomorrow.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Zoo. Two.

I only had an hour in the zoo, so I had to run around like a maniac. And I was cradling this massive lens, which was giving me a serious bicep work-out, even though I did have my Hot To Trot monopod attached to it. But I ran, and I think I had some great experiences before I had to race home.

The mandrills weren't being very cooperative, so I just got a pretty clear photo of the male's butt. I will spare you the vision of that.

The Patas Monkeys were sneaking around in the bushes, and didn't think I could see them.

Well, I wouldn't have been able to if I hadn't had the 500mm zoom.

But the penguins were the star of the morning. Their 'ocean' had been drained (someone had thrown something metal into the water the day before, so the keepers were in there, cleaning it out before the penguins could be harmed). And the penguins were being very lively, and fun, and it was also time for their feeding. I loved it!

(that's a baby, trying to beg by poking around in her shirt.)

Nom, nom, nom...

This poor keeper couldn't hardly move, what with the Three Stooges crowding around him, and poking in his pockets looking for fish.

After I pulled myself away from the Penguin Circus, it was off to the Big Cats.

Hello, Snow Leopard.

Hello, sleepy lion...

And then there were rhinos!

Hey! Peahen! You're in my shot! Shoo! Shoo!

This guy was hilarious. He rubs his horn down to a nub, so it looks like it's been clipped. I took some photos of him eating, and when I get around to it, I am going to make One Sweet Gif. Yeah. Don't hold your breath, though.

More Zebra action:

And then the gorillas. They were all out, and it was snack time.

But the thing that struck me the most was the patriarch. He was sitting at the edge of the family group, and just looked so pensive and sad.

He was probably just frustrated with All Those Loud Children! Good grief, it was like every chaperone in the WHOLE zoo was on vacation, and the kids were running around shrieking like howler monkeys. I was standing beside this GIANT sign that said "SILENCE!" and the kids were laughing like loons, and jumping up and down shrieking "Monkeys! Look at me! Look at me!"

I'd probably look sad if that's what I had to look forward to during my day, too.

Leaping lemurs!

Just before taking this photo, I nearly had to grab a (completely out of control) child who was on the verge of jumping over the fence, and falling the 20 feet down into the lemur enclosure. Sheesh. WHERE ARE YOUR PARENTS????

And then it was time for the flamingos:

And then I couldn't stand the Child Chaos any longer, and I escaped from the zoo, getting back to school in plenty of time to pick Nate up for lunch. (Wednesdays are Early Dismissal Days).

Since then, I've taken about a thousand photos.

I'm out of control. My computer is out of memory.

And I'm loving every minute of it. Even if I did get quite badly spanked last night because I looked like a professional photographer that was 'scooping the locals, and stealing fundraising money from the school' when I showed up to photograph Kelly's dress rehearsal.

But that is a story for another day.