Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dead Cricket Walking

 I would like to warn anybody who is reading this, and might have a thing about insects and arachnids.
This entry will have photos.

And a spider.

And maybe that spider will be HUGE on the page, and if you don't like spiders, you might be a little uncomfortable.  Like a little bit uncomfortable enough to jump onto your chair, scream like a girl, and maybe say a bad word.

(Not that *I* did anything like that today, in the middle of a second grade class, oh no.  And the word absolutely did NOT start with an S, and rhyme with spit.  And I most certainly did NOT say it three times in quick succession, at increasingly higher frequencies, so that the third one, while perhaps the loudest, could only be heard by dogs.  Just sayin')

As I have mentioned, I recently set up a Toad Tank in Mrs. Henderson's second grade classroom.  Mrs. Henderson was Nate's teacher two years ago, and we really ended up clicking as friends, and getting along famously.  This year, the toads are named Nate and Kelly, after two of my children. (Skip stated most firmly and emphatically that under NO circumstances, was a toad to be purchased in his honor OR named after him.)

There is perhaps a small amount of potential awkwardness, in that Nate the Toad seems to be quite, um, taken with Kelly The Toad, and they spend a great amount of time... cuddling.

Yup.  Facts of Life, Second Grade Edition.

Anyways.  This is not going to be an entry about toads.

"what?  No toads?  Say it isn't so! Oh!  The humanity!  The toad-manity! (or is that toad-manatee)"

So I  brought in some crickets for Rosie yesterday.  I figured she's had a chance to acclimate to her surroundings, and she might be getting a little bit peckish.  Mrs Henderson had sent me photos by txt the previous evening, showing Rosie boogying around her aquarium, climbing the walls, hanging from the roof, playing in the bush.  Just all-around making herself at home.

It was time to get to know her a little bit more closer-up.

I got there, to discover that Rosie had made herself at home in her little hollow log, even going as far as spinning a tangle of web as an insect 'welcome mat'.

I dropped a meal worm into the net, to see what Rosie's reaction might be.
She twitched.

But she wasn't fast enough, and Lucky Mr. Mealworm was able to extract himself from the web, and burrow down into the thick substrate.

I'm sure he'll resurface in a few weeks as a big juicy black beetle. (ick!)

Next to be dropped into the enclosure were a pair of hapless crickets.

I wasn't fast enough with my camera to catch the first predation, but I did get a pretty good shot of Cricket #2 walking blithely into the lair of doom.  That thing that looks like a grain of rice with a tail in front of Rosie is actually all that remains of Cricket #1 (a leg)

But alas (or fortunately, depending on whether you're a photographer looking for a great shot, or a cricket that just cheated death), Rosie was still busy sucking the lifeblood out of Cricket #1, and let Cricket #2 pass unmolested.

But I wanted a better shot.  So I decided it was time to get a better look at Rosie.  So I moved her house.

I think she's still sucking the last little bits of goodness out of her first meal, so she's a bit distracted as I shoot her.

She's so fuzzy!

And then I wondered what would happen if I tried to pet her.  Maybe she'd realize what a great gal I am, and walk onto my hand, become my friend, and ride around with me on my shoulder, and I'd rename her Charlotte, and she could send me messages in her webs, and we would become famous, and end up on Letterman.

Or maybe she'd freak the heck out, and assume a "Don't touch me again, or I will BITE YOUR THROAT!" stance.

Um, yeah.  I may have said a bad word there.

But fortunately, I got my composure back before I peed my pants, in time to see hapless Cricket #2 make another appearance.

And this time, there would be no mercy.

And then we held the toads some more, because they're WAY less scary than Rosie.  This is Nate the Toad.

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Nate and Kelly

 Meet the New Nate

And here's the New Kelly

Yes, I've set up a Toad Tank in Mrs. Henderson's class again.  This is the third year in a row, now.  I'm still pretty partial to Poison and Toxanne, the toads from the year that Nate was in Mrs. Henderson's class...

And I never really bonded with Toady and Superman, the toads from last year's class, even though they were more robust than Poison and Toxanne, and even were happy with being handled (occasionally)

(That's Superman, because the spots on his back over his right shoulder make an S)
But I have high hopes for this year's pair.  Kelly helped me pick them out, and was told that this year, the toads would be named after her and Nate.  So when she was picking out the toads, she decided that the big one that was MUCH prettier would be her namesake.
(apparently, the hourglass-lines that the spots make on Kelly-the-toad's back are VERY attractive.)

Also, Kelly-the-Toad is a bit of a climber.  We've had to put a weight on the screen lid of the toad tank, to ensure that Kelly doesn't escape and shrivel up and die on the arid desert that is the classroom carpet.
Nate-the-Toad, on the other hand, is smaller ("of course, because he's YOUNGER, mom!  Man!"), and Kelly thinks that Nate-the-Toad just doesn't have the inherent toad-like beauty that Kelly-the-toad has in spades.

I don't know.  Nate-the-toad looks pretty fetching in this bathing-beauty shot, if you ask me.
But what do I know?

Quick! To the sauna!

 We're kind of a Googly family, here at the Parker house.

Last year, Kelly set up her own Google Calendar, and synced it with mine, and with Ken's.  Recently, I updated my calendar, and its notifications, so I've been getting little reminders sent directly to my phone, and sometimes, a little window opens up on my laptop, when I'm online, reminding me of some thing or other.  "Take Nate to Kung Fu", or "Skip - Babysitting", or "English rough draft due date"

The other day, the little insistent notification window popped up in the middle of something I was working on.

"RUSH!  A sauna"

Um... say what?

I thought a moment.  No, it wasn't something from my calendar.  And no, it wasn't something that some weirdo had 'invited' me to join (for some reason, I'm being invited to two separate people's events. One, is someone who has a recurring dentist appointment, and had inadvertently used my email instead of their own for the dentist to send reminders to.  The second one, and I have NO IDEA how this happened, is some woman who invites me to HER PERIOD every month.


Just gah.

Yes, I know I need to REMOVE those invitations.  I just keep forgetting.

Anyways, back to this notification.

It turns out, it was something from Kelly's Google calendar.

And I was stymied.

Until I realized that it was something she'd added to her calendar last year.  And it recurred every year.

And it started at sundown.

Say it fast.
Say it fast a couple of times.

Rush a sauna.
Rush a sauna
Rosh a shauna

Get it?

I laughed, too, once I figured out that Kelly had this on her calendar to remind herself that her bff was going to be celebrating Rosh Hashanah.  Alas, she hadn't realized that the date moves around following the moon, so that it didn't ACTUALLY start on Friday this year.  This year, it doesn't happen until nearly the end of September.

I should probably have her fix that entry.  So she doesn't have to miss her rush to the sauna at the end of the month.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Quick Meeting

 This year (as in past years), I am the coordinator of all the library volunteers at Nate's school.  I've been volunteering in the library there since Skip was in 1st grade, so I do know my way around  a little bit.  Every year's just a tiny bit different, so what I've been doing lately is to sign up my army of volunteers on
Registration Night (the night before school starts, where parents show up to hand in all the paperwork, and sign up for all the fundraising, and parent-participation programs).  Then I email them all to invite them to a "Brief Orientation Meeting" on the day before the library officially opens.

That would be today.

So I've spent the last week or so setting up the calendar (Libraries here are open every other week.  In our district, pairs of schools share a librarian (cutbacks), so our school opens for business starting next Monday), and building the database of volunteers, their times they signed up for, and contact information, so once i get this thing rolling, they can just argue amongst themselves as to who is in charge of which duty within the various classes.

Last night was the Back To School night, where parents come in to meet the teachers (officially), and see what the kids have been up to for the first few weeks of school.  A number of parents came up to me to talk about today's meeting.  Either "I'll be there", or "I can't make it, can you email me what I need to know?" to "How much time should I block out for this meeting?  Half an hour?  An hour?  I really can't stay longer than an hour..."

Heh.  To that one, I said "I intend on having this meeting last no longer than 10 minutes.  I have written up any instructions you'll need to take away from the meeting, and any hands-on stuff requires one-on-one attention, so you'll be getting some training on your first appearance in your designated time, starting next week."

I guess folks didn't really believe me.

People started arriving only moments before I'd scheduled the meeting to start (which was five minutes AFTER all the kids had to be in class, so parents should have already dropped their kids off at least 5 minutes earlier, and one would hope, even before that).  I waited for 5 extra minutes, and then started in on my schpiel.

Hey, I had places to be, too!

I handed out the paperwork, gave everyone a list of "Who's in your class" and "What to do when you show up every other week", showed the group the new lay-out of the library (with which I am slowly coming to an accommodation), opened the floor for questions, and then thanked everyone for their time, and told them I'd see them next week.

People were a little surprised.  "What?"  "You're finishing on time?"  "What will we do with all the extra time we blocked out for this meeting?"

I had a few parents come up to chat with me individually, and soon it was just me, the librarian, and 4 women sitting at one of the library tables, left in the library.  I recognized one of the women as Nate's last-year's classroom mom, so I went over to say hello.

"Don't tell me you're volunteering in the library, what with all the other stuff you're doing this year?" I asked, as a conversation starter.

She looked up. "Oh!  I'm not here to volunteer.  I'm just chatting with these three until their meeting starts..."

"Uh oh.  I didn't know there was another meeting happening here in the library.  I'd better clear my stuff out before I get caught up in some other maelstrom of volunteerism." I laughed.

"What other meeting?  They're here for the Library Volunteer Orientation Meeting..."


"Um, that meeting ended 15 minutes ago.  I started on time, and it was just a 15 minute meeting."

They all looked like deer in the headlights.  They couldn't believe that they'd come in, and MISSED THE MEETING.  And they were uniformly horrified that they'd made this tardy gaffe.

I just laughed.  Honestly, it was funnier than it was annoying.  And considering that one of the women had been sitting at that very table during the meeting, and had a brain fart and had FORGOTTEN that she'd actually BEEN at the meeting?  Just made it funnier.

I gave them all the paperwork, told them that they were smarty pants, and didn't need their hands held, and I was sure they'd do JUST FINE next week when they came in for their first library session.

And then I laughed all the way to the gym.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Last Hurrah of Summer

 So, Kelly's cast tales are back thatta way...

I'm back (hopefully), and gonna try to get all routine about keeping updated.  I'd forgotten that I need this place as an external brain (heh.  I just typo-ed "ETERNAL" brain.  Talk about Freudian slip?), and last night, Kelly was saying "You remember when I lost my first tooth, what was that game the boys were playing with the pillows, and I got hit in the face?" and I said "oh!  I wrote that down!" (now, anyone listening in would think that I keep up on the baby books, but they'd be mistaken. )
Sure enough.  A little troll through the archives, pulls up a fabulous gem about her missing first tooth, and the boys' game of "Demolition".

Demolition.  Ah, how I love my external brain.

Anyways.  I realize that my external brain doesn't work if I don't actually, you know, put stuff INTO it.

And I'd meant to write about the Last Fling of Summer.

When last we'd left the intrepid campers, Kemma (that would be me) and her friend (let's call her Chris) were chaperoning a gaggle of almost-seventh-graders on a wind-swept foggy bluff, camping next door to a bunch of drunken yahoos who didn't stop whooping it up until their third bottle of Jim Beam was empty, and discarded in the bushes between their campsites.

Quiet hours started at 10pm, and ended at 8am.

You can be sure that I wasn't too particularly careful about being all tip-toe-ish when I got up at 7am, then.
Oh, I wasn't yodeling, or anything.  But it's not a crime to whistle while you work.  Or to come up with a little improv in the middle of little whistle-riffs. (I'm particularly fond of my vocal rendition of this gem...  (which I have had zero luck managing to figure out how to embed)

 Of course, I did the very passive-aggressive thing of loudly whispering at the girls to "be quiet in the tent - you can make noise once the Quiet Hours are finished at 8 o'clock!" while I was helping to get breakfast ready.

Shortly after 8am, the girls emerged from their tent into the damp foggy morning to have breakfast.

I had tried to make a fire, but it was a pretty abject failure compared to the one the night before.  But it smoked a lot, and made a bit of heat, which was what the girls were desperate for.  I couldn't believe how cold it got there.  Brrr!  Next time, I'm bringing more layers. (and not leaving ANYTHING outside over night.  everything we left out was completely soaked with fog/dew in the morning)

After a quick-ish breakfast of pancakes, strawberries and bacon (yum!), we broke camp, and took a vote on what to do with our morning.  Ken had taken Nate with him to work (hooray, he got to use the carpool lane!), so I didn't have too much pressure to get home asap.

The birthday girls' mom was thinking about taking the girls to the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, but that idea was getting a lukewarm response.  Then someone said "Maybe we could go to the boardwalk?" and cheers erupted.

(at this point, or nearabouts, a liquor-soaked voice wafted over the bushes "*F%R (*#$ Do you know what time it is?" and I happily called back "About nine thirty".  Ah, it was sweet.)

It was important to shake off all the wet from the tents.  They were COVERED in water, and shaking off the flies was like watching a dog coming out of a lake.

And then, as the final loads were being sherpa'ed to the vans, we did our good camping civic duty, and made sure our fire was out.

Next stop... Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk!

It was a great way to say goodbye to summer.

.....and then we came home, and Kelly broke her arm in the first practice of the basketball season.

Cast Story

 I'm so behind.  Gotta tell the story of Kelly's arm.

So, at last check, Kelly had managed to significantly break her right arm on the last weekend of summer vacation.


She broke it on a Friday night, and her discharge instructions at the ER (given to us after midnight.  zzzzzz) was to 'follow up at pediatric orthopedics ON Monday"

Alas, Pediatric Orthopedics isn't open on the weekend, so I was on the phone bright and early Monday morning, to see when they'd be able to see us THAT DAY.  Well, I was the first one on the phone, right at 0830, so I knew I wouldn't be waiting long... or would I?

"Ah, well, we can fit you in some time on Tuesday afternoon, or maybe Thursday"

WHAT?  My paperwork distinctly says "ON MONDAY", and the doctors were adamant that she need to get out of the *temporary* splint, and into a permanent cast before any incorrect healing happened.  Her break is the kind that can SLIP, and that would require re-breaking to fix.  *shudder*

After going back and forth for what seemed an endless time, I was told that someone would call me back (within an hour) to see about getting  an appointment "some time today".

So I did some work around the house,  And then I went up to Nate's school to see about getting the Library ready for opening.  The library was a disaster.  Egads, that's a whole entry in and of itself.  But I'll derail this story if I go off on that tangent, so here goes:  I was in the library, when I realized that I had not heard back from the clinic, and it was now TWO hours after they said they'd call.  Kelly is still mincing around in a splint and a sling, and needs a real cast.  So I call back.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Mrs. Parker.  Unless we know who you talked to originally, we can't clear this up.  Do you recall who it was that made the original appointment here?'    (first off?  I didn't have an *original* appointment.  And secondly, my brain isn't fast enough to register when someone says "good morning, I'm (insert name here), how can I help you today?" and then goes on to ask me a dozen questions about things that seem far more important than the name of my scheduling operator.)

I get put on hold more.  Grr.  And then they come back to say "Well, things have gotten busy here in the last little while.  We can fit your daughter in on Friday afternoon, if that time will work with you, otherwise, we're booking into NEXT WEEK"

I nearly had an aneurysm.  But I patted myself on the back for not sounding shrill or hysterical on the phone.  "My daughter's paperwork from the Stanford Emergency Room states that she MUST be seen by Pediatric Orthopedics ON Monday.  Seven days... or more... is much different than the 72 hours than her discharge papers state."

More muzak, as I'm put on hold again.

"Mrs. Parker?  Thanks for waiting.  Do you have a preference of which orthopedist your daughter sees?"
Yikes!  At this point, I'll see ANYONE.  Put the janitor in a white coat, and I'll be happy.  And besides, I have no clue who works in that clinic (which I suppose is a good thing), so I say "I will see ANY doctor,  I just think it is important that my daughter be seen as soon as possible, as dictated in her discharge papers."
"Well, we can fit you in tomorrow morning, if that will work for you."

And how is it that I now feel grateful and relieved to be getting a Tuesday appointment, even though it's outside the bounds of the discharge requirements?  It's like thinking you're getting something on sale when a store marks up the prices before discounting them.

So we head to Stanford on Tuesday morning, spending the last day of summer vacation (School starts on Wednesday) at the hospital instead of at the beach.  The orthopedic clinic is pretty busy, but we're ushered to a room only shortly after our appointment time.

The clinic manager noticed that we were wearing matching tank tops.  Heh.  I didn't even notice until she pointed it out.  Here you can see that Kelly is still in the sling from the ER.

The doctor was great.  He didn't look to be much older that Skip, but he sure knew his stuff, and was enthusiastic and really engaged Kelly.  He looked over her hand, and arm, and said that this kind of break was usually repaired with screws and a metal plate.  But then again, this type of break was also usually seen in adults.  Kelly's break ran through her growth plate, so he didn't want to mess with it if he could help it.  He fiddled around with her hand a bit, and then said that the original re-setting of the bones had been quite well done, but wasn't complete.  When he put on her new cast, he said, he would have to do just some small adjustments, and they might hurt a bit, but she was to scream if it hurt too much, and he'd stop.
Kelly is such a trooper.  He took off her splint, and cleaned up her arm, and then felt around the break. She winced a bit, and he said that he'd try to do some manipulations when he was putting on the cast, so that he might be able to avoid surgery.  He offered her a rainbow of color options for the cast, and Kelly chose the one that most closely matched her tank top and the new turquoise skinny jeans that she wanted to wear to school the next day.

As he wrapped the new cast material around her arm, and it started to set, he started to pull her fingers and wrist, pushing on the broken edge of the bone, to try to push it gently back into place.  Kelly winced, and then started whispering 'ow ow ow ow ouch'.  I held her other hand, and soon the two of us were both crying, while Kelly kept saying "ouch", but not screaming.  It's so hard to see your kid hurting.  But she was so freakin' brave, I was amazed at her fortitude.

Soon, her cast was done, and the doctor pointed out that he'd actually bent the cast backwards a little bit, to exaggerate the line of the bone that needed to reset.  This was actually now PUSHING on the break, to ensure that it didn't slip downwards again during the first few weeks when the healing would set the bone in the line it needed to be in.  He sent us for another set of X-rays, through the cast, so that he could check on whether his 'gentle' reset had done any good, or whether we should be bracing for surgery.

while we were waiting for the X-rays, Kelly got to meet a girl (and her mom) ahead of us in line.  The girl was deaf, and had cerebral palsy, and was waiting for X-rays to check for scoliosis.  We had a great conversation, so upbeat.  The mom taught Kelly some basic signs (and Kelly already knew a few, which surprised them),  It really puts your own minor hardships in perspective, when you can be encouraged by someone who is definitely struggling more than you are.

The X-rays came back fine.  And we were good to go.  "I want to see you in one week", Dr. Young said, as we left.  "And don't bump it, if you can help it.  I don't want to have to operate on that arm!"

We stopped in the lobby of the orthopedic clinic.  This is a very cool kinetic sculpture that we had to watch for an inordinately long period of time.  Kelly's also showing off her new turquoise cast.

Last week, we made another pilgrimage to Stanford, so young Dr. Young could look at Kelly's arm again, and decide if she needed surgery.

Gah.  Just typing that made me a little bit sick inside.

Anyways, it got her a half-day off school, and that seemed to perk her up a little bit.  I got Nate and Skip off on their ways, and then Kelly and I started our day.

First, Jewel had to have one last look at the old cast.

Yup.  It's perfect, and hard and scratchy.  Just right for filing down his toenails a bit.

We stopped at Starbucks on the way, and made a little lazy morning of things, not having to be at the clinic until 10.

Once again, we were ushered right in when we got there.  I will say that after the initial glitches with scheduling, and administration, this clinic really is the bees knees.  And I love Kelly's doctor, too.

Young Doctor Young. (Is it just me, or was that some Carol Burnett sketch, or maybe Hee Haw?  "Young Dr. Young, and old Dr. Young"?  There's a joke in there somewhere, maybe from the early 70s.)
Anyways, young Dr. Young, is really young.  Or at least he's very well preserved.  And he really put Kelly at ease, too.

Her new set of X-rays looked good, but her cast had become too loose to do any good, so she'd need a replacement.

Here we see the vacuum-saw cutting off the old cast.

And when the doctor learned that Kelly was doing her first science paper on her broken arm (Find the Science in Something You Did This Summer), he nearly talked her ear off about bones, and how they mend, and casts, and how the exothermic reaction happens in the colored webbing that the new casts are made out of.  I think he was nearly as excited about her paper as she is.

Ta da!  What a broken arm looks like without a cast.

(also, what a hand looks like after it's not been washed for a week.  He offered Kelly a baby-wipe to clean off her hand before the new cast went on)

He was very encouraging of me taking photos.  Alas, I only had my phone, but it's still a pretty darned good recording device.  And he gave a running commentary of what was happening.  First, there's a sock-like sleeve to protect your arm from the cotton padding and the hard cast.  Then there's layers of cotton padding, but not too much.  Just enough so you don't get sores from the hard cast rubbing on your skin for a month.

Then the cast material gets wet, which triggers an exothermic reaction that changes the webbing slowly from a fabric to something hard as cement. (this time, she chose purple)

And once the new cast was applied, he even cleaned out the gunk from the old cast, so she could use it for her paper, if she wanted to.

So now Kelly is sporting a new dark purple cast, covered with silver-sharpie signatures.  We'll go back to Dr. Young on the 27th, to have it removed, and then, if all goes well, we'll be hosting a Cast Away Party on October 1st.  There's a place that does glass blowing, and they do group lessons that are relatively reasonable, so I've told Kelly that she can pick a few friends, and they'll all go out together and learn how to work with molten glass as a celebration of her cast being gone.