Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Balloons for Grandma

Lie to your kids. It amuses me.

I was hiking in the Everglades two weeks ago and spotted a shiny object floating between two Cypress trees deep in the far reaches of the swamp. It was a Mylar balloon and the metallic exterior shimmered and reflected the rare sunbeam that broke through the dense forest canopy. It reminded me that no place is far enough away from the hand of humanity.

This is what happens to some of the balloons that get away from kids. My niece lost a balloon a few months ago and my sister told her not to cry - the balloon was floating away and grandma would get it. Presumably my sister thinks our mother lives in space since passing on 2 years ago. The situation repeated itself a few months later and Tara reminded Peyton once again that the balloon was headed up to Grandma. When Peyton lost another balloon recently Tara once again calmed the greasy-fingered kid and told her not to worry - and you know the rest. The apparently agitated three year old had had enough of this explanation and demanded to know what Grandma was doing with all of her balloons. I can only hope she's having a rockin' party.
I think parents feel the need to make up the balloon story for a few reasons. The first being that many balloons float back to earth where lucky little kids get to frolic with your kid's lost balloon. Explain that to a kid.
Another is that many balloons return to earth as litter - disrupting a wilderness slog through the swamp or falling into an ocean where a confused turtle will attempt to eat it - thinking it's a jellyfish. Telling your kid that Crush choked on their balloon is generally upsetting.
And finally - the idea that an 8-armed alien holding a bouquet of your kid's balloon on the moon is simply creepy and would freak them out.
So instead - lie to them - it works for so many other things. And hey Peyton - you keep making that face and you'll turn into a monkey.
Happy 66th Birthday Mom - wherever you are.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Don't Open the Box

Remember the mysterious box I carried on a plane? Do you remember what was in it? Do you remember the toads that kept me up at night. Night after night?

On my last Everglades tour I was handed a box and told not to open it. The box was about 12"x 12" and when I picked it up it shook. What's in it? A giant toad! How big could it be? I opened the box. The toad was huge.Cane Toads (Bufo marinus) were introduced into the Everglades in 1955 to help control grubs and other pests in the sugar cane fields. They range from the Rio Grande down into South America but are a nuisance not only here in the swamps and farms but throughout the world, most notably in Australia.

The problem with Cane Toads is that when threatened, they produce a nasty neurotoxin - a milky substance that they release from the paratoid gland at the back of their head. They may not give warts, but those bumps can secrete a liquid that will burn your eyes and cause a rash on your skin. Predators that eat them are poisoned which often kills them. This is an obvious problem for our native wildlife including other frogs and toads that unknowingly feed on smaller Cane Toads. Survival rate is not good. Cane Toads (AKA Giant Toad or arine Toad) also compete with our native amphibians for food. This one was huge. About the size of a cantelope. I didn't squeeze it for freshness. The largest recorded Cane Toad was 15 inches long and weighed nearly 6 pounds. This one was about 8 inches long. And I'm guessing 25 pounds. I didn't weigh it.

Eventually this one will end up as Boa Constrictor food. Boas are immune to the toxin.

Selfishly I take exception to their presence because they inhabit the pond outside the apartment and sing a deafening chorus during the breeding season. Imagine a WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA at the same decibel as an 18 wheeler and you get the idea.

I'm not sure how to end this. But all is quiet outside tonight.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sand Witches, Sand Pigs and a Naughty Sand Santa

I hate sand. It's a terrible ice cream topping. It sticks to everything. I've never liked it and it's nearly impossible to get me to the beach let alone in the water. But Fort Myers Beach held their 22nd annual National Sand Sclupting Championship this week and the beach loving, art enthusiast that is Ma-Le would never have forgiven me if I hadn't put up with a little sand in my shorts to see some of the most amazing sand sculptors on the planet. Check them out and vote for your favoriteIt starts with a wedding cake. Each sculptor of which I believe there were over 30, begins earlier in the week. Except for this guy. They all have their own water on hand in what looks like the worst kiddie pool ever.
Most start at the top and work their way down. Some have a small sand model to work from. Some have sketches. Some simply dig in (using very sand specific tools for carving, scooping, drilling and shaving).
The event draws thousands of people down the beach. For those without fantastic connections, parking is a nightmare. (Not for me! Thanks Kenny and Michelle!) They use a "wet glue" to make sure the whole thing doesn't fall apart on them. I assume the pray for no rain. Not sure if the glue would hold up in more than a drizzle. (Sand Buccaneer)Many are over eight feet tall and depending on the perspective - look like enormous life-sized castles. The scuptures. Not the sculuptors. (Eischer in the sand)Some are naughty (Sanda Clause in Naughty is Nice)Some are nice (Old McDonald Had a Band)Some are deeply personal (Taken) I believe this was in memory of the sculptors daughter who had passed away a month earlier.Some are reflections of the sea. (Neptune's Daughter)
Some reflections of the sky. (Soaring over Sand)
Ma-Le's favorite (Paris Vacation) which is surprising since she has said "I don't like nuthin' French". Turns out she was talking about bread.

My favorite (Above the Clouds and Over the Moon)

A close 2nd favorite. (Sun over Moon)
My third favorite - the traditional castle. It was here that I had to restrain Ma-Le who wanted to dive into this one. I guess I can't complain. 75 degrees, no humidity and just a bit of sand between my toes. I can deal with that.


I'm watching. The more I write, the more words Google has to search on the blog and that means more random searches bring people here. I use Statcounter and can see what people are searching for. I'm endlessly amused by the bizarre and often inexplicable things people are looking to find.

A few examples of Keywords, Search Words or Queries that people have entered to reach my site:
  • picture of monkeys in diapers
  • milking a rat
  • pooping at festivals
  • snakes on a roller coaster
  • slap the monkey on the butt
  • cupcakes guayaquil ecuador (ok this one makes sense)
  • monkeys throw poop zoologist
  • what was in the box in Indiana Jones 4 (i'm guessing a poop flinging monkey with a cupcake?)
  • red sox taco
  • kicking a rabbit
  • hovercraft tours of the everglades
  • Larry Kritcher (Larry....who's looking for you?)
  • Florida 2000 ballot boxes thrown away everglades
  • cucaracha island florida

Maybe I'm just bored now that the election is over. Maybe I'm just easily amused. Clearly I write too much about poop, monkeys, cupcakes and Larry Kritcher.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes We Can (Have Ice Cream)

My niece had the chance to vote today on which dessert the class would have and the winner was ice cream. There was doubt for a while if sugar cookies would win but in the end I think the right decision was made. I'm entirely proud and enormously excited about the ice cream and obviously very tired after watching all of the dessert poll numbers. I think I had a sugar rush at one point and saw a holographic hallucination of Wolf Blitzer sprinkling red and blue toppings on the ice cream.

I need sleep. Tell me what you think of Tuesday night.