Thursday, June 24, 2010

Schedule change

Kelly's been in Victoria for the last 10 days. She's been having a grand old time with Grandma. I don't think they've even stopped to catch their breath the whole time.

I got an email from Ken's mom last night, apologizing that Kelly didn't really have enough time to keep up her journal (something that she makes ALL the grandchildren write while they are visiting), but that she knew we'd understand, because they'd been SO BUSY doing fun stuff, and that she was sure that Kelly would tell us all about her time when she got home.

That's this afternoon.

At noon, I checked the airline web page. Kelly's flight was scheduled to leave at 1:35. Yup. All's going according to schedule.

At 1:30, I checked the web page, and it looked like there was a bit of a delay. Take-off was scheduled for 1:50, reason being something about "Schedule Change due to Air Traffic Control". Um, yeah, Some of you may recall that when I went up to Canada in March., I ran up against that little 'reason', and it involved the plane losing its transponder... you know, the thing that tells everybody in the area "I'm a passenger plane, going from Point A to Point B" so that any trigger happy military base it might be flying near doesn't scramble fighter jets to go out and shoot it down. So I thought "Ah, a little bit of a transponder issue. Oh well. I'll give it 20 minutes, and hit the road."

So I got to the airport a little later than I'd originally planned, but that was fine. I had my camera, and it's always fun to take photos in the airport.

I was just getting into the elevator from the parkade when my phone rang. It was a number I didn't recognize, with an area code that wasn't local. Probably the airline, just making sure I'm on my way, I thought to myself.


It was Ken's mom.

She was calling from THEIR airport. Kelly's plane hadn't even left yet. It had taxi'd out the runway (hence the web site saying it had taken off, but later than originally scheduled), but had then returned to the terminal because of some mechanical malfunction.

Oh, it's always something.

So Kelly and Grandma were currently "visiting" with a ticketing clerk, seeing if they could get Kelly on tomorrow's flight. If that was the case, then Kelly would get an extra day with Grandma. Hey! I said, that'll give her extra time to work on her journal. Heh.

Or maybe the plane will magically be healed, and will take off just quite a bit later than planned.

Either way, it's a lovely monkey wrench tossed into the workings of my plans.

Because it's all about me, right?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Goodnight, Sweetheart.

Kelly is not going to be happy when she comes home on Thursday from Canada.

Yesterday, when I went into her room to have a little play-time with the hamsters before starting my day, Oreo was laying in her enclosure, halfway between her nest and her food. Looks like she just laid down on her path and gave up the ghost. Maybe she had a stroke. I'd handled her in the evening, and she'd looked fine, climbing into my hand, and nosing around for treats. Of all the hamsters, her demise is the one that has caught me the most off guard.

She'd been so pleasant and nearly friendly the last few months. Instead of attacking anything that came into her cage, she actually would listen for your voice, and then come to the sound, climb up in your hand, and sniff around for any seed-treats you may have brought her. We hypothesized that she might have gone blind, and I wondered if she had diabetes because she went through water about twice as fast as any of the other hamsters.

She was a good pet for Kelly. By far the spunkiest, but still, even with her ornery streak, Kelly had found a way to love her.

And while she'll be missed, I'm actually kind of happy to have reclaimed the space.

You had a good life, Oreo.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monterey Bay Aquarium

On Friday, Nate and I went down to Monterey, to the Aquarium at Monterey Bay. It's an amazing place, and we usually get memberships when we go down there (they're pricey, but you save yourself an hour or more of standing-in-line, and then the second and third (and fourth?) time you go there in a year, it's free). It was going to be Skip and Nate going with me, but Skip had a chance to go to the midnight showing of Toy Story 3 with a group of guys from church, and jumped at the chance, getting home just before 3am, so a 7am departure was pretty much out of the question for him.

But Nate and I had a great time.

Except for when the cement truck cut in front of us, and threw a rock up off the road, and put a lovely starburst shatter-pattern in the center of the windshield.

And except for when we came to a screeching halt at the Monterey County line on Highway 1, and then crept along for ages at a top speed of about 5 miles per hour. And what was causing this traffic back up in the middle of nowhere? I thought it was road construction...

But actually, when we got to Monterey Bay, and got parked at the aquarium (and why was the parkade nearly completely full at 9 o'clock in the morning on a Friday?) it became clear where all the traffic was from. These cars were EVERYWHERE:

Oh right... it's the US Open golf tournament. I quickly realized, once I saw the acres and acres of parked Lexus and Infiniti vehicles, all disgorging their upper executives in 'sports casual' attire, with their khaki trousers and their navy windbreakers, and their sports-casual shoes, and their hundred dollar haircuts. Apparently, if you had a pass to the tournament, you got to park at the aquarium parkade for free, and then catch the shuttle bus down to Pebble Beach.

Ah. Makes perfect sense.

So it wasn't this crisis of "oh good grief! The parkade is full, so the aquarium is going to be shoulder-to-shoulder people!" The aquarium was actually rather empty. And there wasn't any line-up at all. And our member cards were expired, but easily re-instated, and Nate and I went into the aquarium, just in time for the Otter Feeding.

The otters get so excited when it's time to get fed. Nate and I didn't brave the crowd up in the viewing platform. We don't need to see the above-water bits, when the underwater bits were so entertaining.

I love the Moon Jellies:

But the coolest thing for me was the new Seahorse Exhibit.

Nate enjoyed the 'camouflage your seahorse' game that they'd set up. I was happy to see an exhibit that hadn't broken down, as many of the computerized things tend to do after only a short while.

He also was pretty happy just laying in the bottom of the Open Ocean exhibit, and watching the schools of herring swim over him.

Even though the Mola Mola was nowhere to be seen, it was still pretty fun.

I had fun in the shorebirds exhibit.

There is nothing between you and these rehabilitated shore birds. You're not supposed to touch them, even if they do taunt you with displays like this:

Or if they walk right up to you.

Or if they make these little "follow me! Follow me! I've got a broken wing, and I'm luring you away from my nest" motions.

Just think of the photos I could have taken if I'd still had that super zoom lens! Oh! The possibilities are endless.

"Hullo, Fred"... "Hullo, Sam"...

So much to see! So much to do. So many reasons to return a few more times this summer.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Zoo!

In order to squeeze a little bit more value out of the super zoom lens that I rented last week, on the day it was due, I grabbed Nate, and we headed up to the City to go to the Zoo. A membership is pretty reasonable, and it's a great place to test out lenses, and see stuff that's out of the ordinary.

We stopped at Starbucks (a treat for Nate, and a little bit of a 'neener, neener, see what you missed' to Skip, who chose to stay home and sleep) on the way, and got to the zoo shortly after it opened. We still managed to score a free parking space, just outside the zoo grounds.

As I was hunting around for ID, to renew my membership, Nate was holding onto the camera.

"Can I take your picture, mom?"

That's my boy! I'll make a photographer out of him yet.

And here you can see the big zoom lens, already mounted on the monopod, and ready to be put on the camera body.

Nate was ready to see what he could see.

First up: Leaping Lemurs!

Then, a trip by the Mandrill enclosure.

Nate was amused by the Mandrill's brightly coloured butt. But he wanted to see the penguins more.

He could have stayed (upwind) at the penguin pool all day. But it did get stinky, that's sure. The penguins seemed amused by Nate, as well.

The big cats were next.

You know, I never really had the idea of scale when watching lions on the TV. I kind of thought "ah, just a big cat. I probably could take him in a fair fight. Yeah..." And then we came across this guy.

You know what? They're really QUITE big. And I was thinking "Whew, good thing that there's a deep moat between him and us. And he can't get to us, that's for sure.

And then he looked over at me, and headed to the stairs.

Oh Aslan, you are not a tame lion, are you? And as you're heading down those stairs, I'm thinking, uneasily, "Wow, now that I think about it, that moat really isn't that deep at all. I bet if he really wanted to, he could jump up the side of that moat, and just come right over here, and eat me for breakfast."

And I got a little bit nervous, and started planning out my escape route, until the lion found a deeper piece of shade, and flopped down, out of the line of sight of all the pesky zoo visitors.

Whew. Crisis averted.

Someone get this rhino a tissue!

Dude. Wipe your nose!

But before I could jump the fence with my box of Kleenex, I was distracted by a bit of local fauna.

Nate was distracted by the penny flattening machines that were scattered around the zoo.

Hey, I like the idea of a 51 cent souvenir. In fact, this summer is going to be the Summer of Flattened Pennies. Just imagine the savings:

"Hey mom, can I have this expensive ice cream snack that's being advertised all over this touristy zone?"

"No, but here's a penny and two quarters. Go make yourself a souvenir from this tourist trap."

We walked around a little bit more, and found ourselves in Australia.

This red kangaroo should've been a little bit more diligent.

Right after I took this photo, this zoo vet...

...shot him in the butt with that red-tufted dart full of medicine. No mention was made of what the medicine was, but that was some sweet little dart gun he had.

I think the most fun, though, was the prairie dog and meerkat zone.

Nate liked pretending to be a prairie dog. He also spent time trying to count all the members in the colony.

The little prairie dogs didn't seem bothered by him at all.

But for me, it was all about the meerkats.

I see you!

And I love your eyelashes, little lady.

And how's this for some serious bokeh?

Bye bye, meerkats!

But we weren't done! It was time to visit the big birds! Hello turkey vulture. Love your pervious nostril.

Tell me this bird didn't want to peck my eyes out:

Nate is reading the Guardians of Ga'Hoole right now, and the main character (or one of them) is a barn owl. He was pretty interested in the barn owl that was hanging out in the shade.

And then one of the zoo staff pointed up above my head. He said "With that lens, it would be a shame for you to miss this..."

Once again, the local fauna captivates.

We were hoping to see some cool things in the Insect House, but there were no docents in the room, just a bunch of un-chaperoned children running around screaming, while their mothers talked about manicures and spa days. So Nate and I took a look at a few things and escaped.

But not before I took a shot of this black widow spider guarding her egg case.

I foresee a number of trips to the zoo this summer. It's really a quick trip, when all is said and done, and from now until next June, it's FREE!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Feeding a snake

This entry is about FEEDING A SNAKE.

I am giving you ample notice that I will be FEEDING A SNAKE. You may not want to scroll to the bottom of this entry because there WILL BE PICTURES.

But I will tell you a funny story at the beginning, which may lull you into a false sense of security and you might forget, even temporarily that I will be FEEDING A SNAKE, so don't worry. I will keep reminding you that this entry is about FEEDING A SNAKE.

Kelly has a friend who has a snake and two leopard geckos.

Here. I don't think you will be afraid of the photo of one of the leopard geckos...

There. That wasn't hard. You are very brave. No, the gecko is not attacking my daughter. She put it there.

Yes, I know. Creepy, if you ask me. Who puts a lizard on their neck on purpose?

Anyways, this friend was going on vacation, and the people who were going to take care of the snake and lizards backed out at the last minute because they didn't realize that they would have to be FEEDING A SNAKE (see how I reminded you that this entry will be about FEEDING A SNAKE?) and so suddenly, Kelly's friend (or rather, her friend's mom, because all the hard stuff eventually falls onto the mother's shoulders, doesn't it?) was stuck with not having anyone to FEED THE SNAKE while they were gone.

So of course, I said "We can take your snake" and that comment was followed very quickly by those ominous words coming out of my mouth... "Besides... how hard can it be?"

Oh, famous last words, how I curse my tongue for uttering them!

So, Sunday afternoon, Kelly's friend and her dad come over, and they've got two big tanks in the car. One has the geckos. The other one has the snake.

Ok, I know you're brave, so I'm going to show you a picture of a snake. And Kelly. So just think of it as a picture of Kelly. Maybe with something on her hand. It will be OK. I haven't gotten to the funny part of the story yet. Stay with me. I will not be FEEDING THE SNAKE for another day. It's still at the light-and-fluffy part of the story.

So here is Kelly, showing us all how wonderful Rhythm the Corn Snake is...

There. I shrunk the one picture so it wasn't all that bad, was it?

Kelly just looks so at ease with the snake, I think "Well, that's going to be an easy thing to deal with while she's gone" because I've just realized that Kelly has volunteered to take care of pets and she's not even going to be home.

Oh well.

Repeat after me: How hard can it be?

Kelly shows me the snake, but I have stuff on my hands, so I just watch. She says that he will just go very still when he is calm and happy, but that you can tell if he is upset because he starts moving really quickly and looks agitated.

I do not want to ever have a quick and agitated snake.

OK, so Monday rolls around, and Kelly flies off to Canada.

And after Nate and I get back from the wetland sunset hike, I realize that it is FEEDING THE SNAKE day.

Ok. How hard can it be?

I clean out the "feeding tub", which is this high-sided plastic bucket that they always feed the snake in. It's conditioning responses. He knows that when he goes into the yellow bucket, he will find food. Conversely, he should then also eventually realize that when a hand comes into his cage, it does NOT have food. I think those neural pathways in his brain have not yet formed.

Anyways, I clean out the tub, and I put the light in the tub to warm it. Then I go into the freezer and take out an individually wrapped pinkie mouse.

[image not available]

Just a reminder... I will be FEEDING A SNAKE soon. There's still a bit more fun story, but the pictures may be starting soon afterwards. Anything with a bright yellow hue is probably a "FEEDING THE SNAKE" photo, if you want to avoid it. I'm just saying...

So the pinkie mouse is defrosting in a bowl of warm water, and I say to myself "Well, it's probably time to move the snake to the feeding tub. I go over to the cage, and Ken moves along the sofa to the far end. He says encouraging things like "I'll just watch from over here." and "Do you want me to hold your camera for you?"

At no time does he say "Hey, you want some help getting that quick, agitated snake out of his cage?" I think he just wanted me to prove to myself that I had what it took to FEED A SNAKE.

He is a wonderful encourager, that way.

I looked into the tank, and I suddenly got very worried.


He was not in his cave. He was not lying out anywhere. He was not tangled up in his vines. He was not curled up in his hollow log.




Oh great. First I kill Nate's buddy's frog, and then I lose a snake. There will be a Scarlet K (Not a Special K) painted on my door, and I will have to wear the Scarlet Letter on my bodice. I am a pet KILLER!

And then I remember that sometimes Rhythm likes to hide UNDER stuff. So I lift up the water dish. Nope. I lift up his cave. Nope. I lift up his hollow log. Nope.

And then I start (look away!) running my fingers through the mossy bedding in the bottom of the cage. I could hear a symphony in my head of the bass line from Jaws underneath the shrieking violins from Psycho. Ken was very kind to NOT stand behind me and grab my shoulder at any time, because I probably would have had a stroke.

Rhythm, it turns out, was laying right against the edge of the cage at teh back, squashed down into the corner, lengthwise. He'd managed to squirm himself under the bedding AND under the newspaper base, but when my little searching fingernails came up against him, he shot out of there in a big snakey hurry, and went up a corner.

I may have shrieked.

Ken may have laughed like a loon and nearly dropped my camera.

My memory is a little hazy there.

But now that Rhythm was out in the open, it was just a matter of picking him up, right?

How hard can it be?

Well, plenty hard, if you happen to all of a sudden realize that you really and truly ARE afraid of snakes, and had just been putting on a brave show for your daughter by saying that you could take care of a snake while she was gone, and now you were going to have to just SUCK IT UP and FEED THE SNAKE because you promised, and it was too late to recall your child from Canada, so she could take over for you, and do something that she was SAD she wasn't going to be able to do. And it was up to you to step in and be the agent for your daughter, even if the very thought of touching that snake made your bowels want to unclench and release their contents onto the family room floor.

I will say that my attempts to catch the snake did give Ken a good laugh. I hear laughing is a good work-out. I think Ken may have pulled a muscle or two.

I think I need one of those Snake Rake Pincher thingies that all the Animal Planet dudes have when they go out into the desert to capture man-eating snakes with deathly poisonous fangs.

Eventually, though, I got Rhythm into his feeding bucket.

HERE COME THE PHOTOS OF FEEDING A SNAKE. Don't say you weren't warned.

Rhythm starts 'hunting' in the feeding bucket.

I checked on the pinkie mouse. As I suspected, it had had PLENTY of time to thaw out, and even warm up a little bit. It'll be like Rhythm's getting a warm-blooded snack after all. He should be THANKING ME!

I dangle the dead pinkie mouse over Rhythm's head, hanging the food by the tail on these long, LONG tweezers. In my mind, I'm thinking "I wonder if snakes can jump out of high-sided tubs and bite the hand that feeds them?" Apparently snake handling is not for me after all! Who knew?

Rhythm lunges for the prey, and I shriek like a girl and drop the pinkie mouse into the tub. Ken laughs like a loon and neglects to take a photo of the action until Rhythm is well underway.

The first strike was to the side of the head.

You can see that Rhythm is see-sawing down the body, unhinging his jaws, so the prey will be aligned to slide down head-first.


Pinkie Mouse waves "Bye bye"

And then Rhythm turned his head, lifting the mouse. I wonder if gravity helps things to go down or something.

Bottoms up!

You can really see how his throat stretches out to accommodate the prey.

And then it was just a bunch of s-curve slithering to work the mouse down his body. You could watch the bulge move down rather quickly.

With a few flicks of his tongue, it was done, and he went back into the corner of the pail where the lamp was, and curled up for a little heat-bath.

I was very, VERY happy, then to learn that one does not handle the snake for 48 hours after feeding, because the snake might REGURGITATE the food if it is handled.

So I have not been touching the snake. But tomorrow is another feeding day, and I should probably handle the snake tonight. Nate is DYING to play with it. And I should probably be a 'good mom' and let him help. Maybe tomorrow, HE can be the one that moves the snake into the feeding bucket.