Monday, July 30, 2007
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Friday morning, right in the middle of our end-of-the-week meeting, we got the word from one of the camp counselors that one of our recycling bins was full of raccoons. This must have been a hard feat to pull off because the bins are inside a supposedly raccoon-proof wooden box, with bungee-corded lids. For the raccoons, it ended up being a lot of work for nothing because the bin they were in was devoid of any recycled materials. We pulled the bin out and, without alerting any of the campers who were all gathered mere feet away for breakfast (with the exception of Sophie and Willow, who were with me and got to see the action), walked it over to where the forest begins. It took some coaxing and tilting to get the frightened little baby raccoons to leave the shelter of their bin, but once they were out, they wasted no time in scrambling up a tree.
Later the same day, I also relocated a large Wolf spider from the Wild Things (that's what we call the program for campers under 7 years old) room. Counting the Rattlesnake from a couple of days ago, we spent a lot of time moving wild animals this week.
As if that wasn't enough, While I was driving up to camp with Sophie and Willow (the boys spent the night, going on the night hike and sleeping in the field with the other campers) we saw a coyote walking right down the middle of the road. As we got closer, we could see that it had a deer leg in its mouth. It bounded up the hill to our right, and I stopped the van to try and get a picture - an utter failure, I'm afraid, due to the poor light and moving target. It did pause long enough for the girls to get a good look, and they were quite excited - in fact, they spent the rest of the day telling people about it, but due to the fact that they're at an age where fact and fantasy are often seamlessly blended, I had to confirm the story many times.
By Friday afternoon, the kids were all tired and kind of cranky, especially Nate. They all had a great time though, meeting other kids, hiking, climbing (Alex and C on the high ropes course, Nate on the climbing wall), archery, and just plain hanging out around camp or at the pool. Alex got in some more reading time on the newest Harry Potter book too. Once home, we ordered pizza and unwound a bit. Nate and Sophie fell asleep relatively early. Willow hung in there for awhile before falling asleep in the big bed. Alex stayed up late to read more Harry Potter.
I think it was good for the kids to see what I do at work. I hung out with Nate the most, since he was in my group. It was good for me too - I don't really do stuff with the boys as often as I should. This was a good chance to just relax and have some fun (while getting paid too!).
Jen is still in Chicago. She's working hard and not sleeping enough. Hope she makes it over to the art museum (and manages to stay out of the neighborhoods I found myself in the last time I was there - the kind of neighborhoods where taxis won't stop for you).
Today, Sophie is at the zoo with friends. The rest of us are going to go see the Simpsons movie later.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I've been doing this activity at camp during which I take kids into the forest to gather ingredients for "Ohlone tea". We gather fallen Madrone bark, Douglas Fir needles, Bay Laurel leaves, and Yerba Buena. The secret to good tea is go heavy on the Yerba Buena and Douglas Fir, and really light on the Bay Laurel leaves (I put in too many the first time I tried this, and nearly melted my sinuses). Madrone bark is mostly for color, although I'm told that the Ohlone people used it to make compresses, as well as tea, so it must have some medicinal use. The other secret to getting kids to enjoy the tea is to let them sugar it to taste. Oh, and making it iced tea. It is summer, after all...
Yesterday, we had just started on our gathering hike (with Alex, whose camp name this week is Unpleasant Chicken, coming along) when I got a radio call from our facilities manager, Walrus, that there was a visitor at the new lodge who needed moving. "Does the visitor have a rattle?" I asked. I already knew the answer, and sure enough, I was told that there was a two-foot Rattlesnake near the front of the lodge. I asked the Ohlone tea gathering group if they wouldn't mind becoming a Rattlesnake relocation group. Of course, I got an enthusiastic and unanimous "YES!". On the way back up to the lodge, I grabbed a stick and an old recycling barrel. Then it was just a matter of encouraging the Rattlesnake, who had been hiding behind a stack of cardboard leaning against the wall of the nearly completed new camp entry walkway, into the container. This accomplished, we showed our captive to other nearby kids, and hiked it up the hill away from camp.
It was a beautiful snake too, lookng like it had recently shed.
I also, for the first time, found a cicada nymph. Usually we just find the molted exoskeletons or adults.
The kids are all having a great time at camp this week too. I'll admit, it's hard getting everybody out of bed before 8 and out the door before 8:30, but I managed somehow. The boys are going to sleep over at camp tonight, but I'm taking the girls home. We'll see how the boys fare.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Later in the evening, I went back and joined the crazy circus of people, many in costume, who waited for midnight to signal the great unboxing. I ran into a few people I knew through work, shopped around, and found myself in line for coffee when my wristband color was called. I had a moment of indecision then - should I forget the coffee and get in line for the book, or should I obtain caffeine. Coffee won out. This meant, of course, that by the time I got in line most of the other bearers of the silver wristband had already lined up. I found myself all the way across the shopping center, out by the road. I couldn't even read in line because they were going to be handing the books to customers at the registers, and since the line was outside the store, I couldn't bring out the other books I'd selected.
About an hour later I had two copies of the book and a free poster. The wait was interesting from a sociological perspective - the parents, some harried, some grouchy, and some joking with their kids, were fun to watch. The kids, some amped up on anticipation and sugar, some dazed and sleepy, some (like the small girl passed out in her grandma's lap, head resting on one arm of a chair, feet on the other) sleeping, were quite cute. The people who came out of the store with the first copies held them high and offered to sell them to the highest bidder. I don't think I've waited in a line like this since the original Star Wars movies came out. My tastes don't usually make it necessary for me to stand in lines.
When I got home, despite the fact that it was 1 AM, I figured I'd better get reading. We'd gotten two copies so we wouldn't all have to take turns. Anyway, if Alex finished first, it is very likely the ending would no longer be a mystery to anybody nearby. This weekend, he's got a copy at his dad's, and I've finished reading the other copy.
And I'm not telling you what happens.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
The last time it rained around here on July 18th, they weren't even keeping records yet, and they started keeping track of such things 150 years ago. Today it rained enough to shut down the camp's climbing wall for the afternoon. Too slippery. The moss was soaking up the much needed moisture, and beads of water shimmered on leaves and spider webs. The ground drank it up. The kids, for the most part, ignored it and did the usual summer camp things like swimming and eating ice cream. That said, when we went down to the pond today, I was the only one who actually went in all the way. One boy stepped in up to his thighs before thinking better of it, but that doesn't really count. One must become one with the pond. One must get duckweed in places that duckweed is not meant to go.
I caught a huge Bullfrog too. I think the cool weather slowed it down just enough to make this possible.
Oh, I'm also playing bingo all week this week - wildlife bingo. I made up little bingo grids with the names of local animals written on them. Kids have to see the animals in the wild to cross them off. Five in a row wins. So far, several kids in my group have gotten bingos. Kids are naturally enthusiastic about seeing wild animals, but this makes them even more eager to find them. It gives us one more thing to focus on during hikes too.
Now, the clouds have mostly disappeared. Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer. It's too bad, really. I enjoyed the fog and rain.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Friday after work I made my way rather quickly up to Oakland to participate in the inn.aff.(orchext.) big band show at 21 Grand, for a which a dozen or so musicians/sound artists/whathaveyou from all over the bay area converged (and in some cases, met each other for the first time) and improvised a mass of textured sound. Most of the usual suspects were involved, including all founding members of the O.A.C. and all members of the first live incarnation of irr.app.(ext.) (actually, come to think of it, all members of the most recent live incarnation too), as well as the good folks behind Maleficia, NF Orchest, French Radio, Petit Mal, and many others.
Before the proceedings got underway, I learned the hard way that it's not a good idea to park my car on a dimly-lit sidestreet in Oakland on Friday the 13th. Before it even got fully dark, some crackhead decided to vaporize my front passenger side window and rummage through the meager offerings within my car. The offerings proved to be so meager that nothing was actually stolen. Stuff sure was strewn about though. I'm glad he (it's almost always a "he", isn't it?) didn't take any of my cds. This is one of the many times I've been glad that I don't have musical taste similar to that of crackheads.
Anyway, after some thought, I decided to use the broken glass during the performance. Contact mics are wonderful things because they make broken glass sound so interesting. Before that, though, there were four opening acts. I'll have to admit that I spent a good amount of time outside the club chatting with people and keeping an eye on my car so that nobody would take advantage of the missing window to do some furtive shopping, but I did see some of Tarantism, who were delightfully bizarre, and Rubber O Cement, who played with us (irr.app.(ext.) in Seattle a couple of years ago. After the Rubber O set, an older gentleman was heard to comment (and I paraphrase here), "I don't know much about music or art, but I do know a rampage through the audience when I see it." It is indeed a wonder nobody got knocked out by the bizarrely costumed character wielding an instrument that resembles an electronic two-by-four stumbled amongst the seated audience.
When we finally go on, things start out with a projected video of Nora, the piano playing cat. With this many people playing at once, and from my monitor-less vantage point from behind the P.A., I can't really comment on how it all sounded. People clapped at the end though. Special thanks go out to Jim Haynes and the guitarist whose name I've temporarily forgotten for giving me their share of the proceeds to help me buy a new car window.
On Saturday, I went and got a window. $140. Cheaper than I remembered. This marks the 4th time my car has been broken into over the last 20 years. That's about 1 every five years. Not too bad, I guess.
Took the girls to the Children's museum too, which is always free for me. The girls liked the new Clifford the Big Red Dog exhibit.
Today we got things done around the house. I finished applying for financial aid for the teaching credential program I'm planning on doing. Finished applying for the program too. I feel a sense of accomplishment because It's sometimes hard for me to take the first step.
Tomorrow marks the start of the fifth week of summer camp. Hard to believe it's halfway through July already.
Monday, July 09, 2007
I had clipped an article about Butano State Park out of the paper several months ago, and Saturday I finally managed to drive out to the coast to check it out, bringing Willow and Matt with me. It proved to be lush and full of banana slugs, and pleasantly cool. So cool, in fact, that I ended up dressing Willow in some of my clothes to keep her warm. She thought it was quite funny. We went on a two mile hike, of which Willow probably walked 3/4 of a mile. Pretty good for her. We spent a lot of time investigating fungi and things under logs, as well as the great number of plants.
Afterwards, we went to nearby Waddell beach and watched the para-surfers (or whatever the heck you call people who allow themselves to be dragged around by inflatable kite/parachute contraptions while surfing) splashing through the waves. Willow, of course, got wet. I joined her. The water from a nearby river mouth was actually quite warm. There is still a lot of sand in my car. I don't care though. One day I might have a car I care about getting dirty, but for now I'll enjoy not caring about the state of my car.
We also managed to watch two movies this weekend, as well as go out to eat twice, the first time with Matt, and the second time With Jeremy and Jennifer. Will wonders never cease?
I'm into week four of the summer camp season, and my group this week consists of ten and eleven year olds. I found the hat I lost last week (it was under a board, dropped while I was attempting to catch a rattlesnake) and temporarily lost my walkie-talkie. The latter I found by going back to camp and getting another one so I could call my lost radio while I retraced my steps. It turns out I had dropped it while catching a Ringneck snake. I tend to get a little too focused sometimes, I guess...
Monday, July 02, 2007
Our camp has a bus that picks up kids at a school near the downtown area. Parents are advised to circle the block so they don't have to make an illegal left turn into the school parking lot. One day last week, I drove our camp van down to the school to oversee the bus boarding process. My job was to make sure the kids were safe and that their parents were obeying the traffic rules. I put cones out in the road to block any left turns the "specially entitled" parents might attempt to make. Jutting out of the top of one of the cones was a sign that read something like, "for the safety of your children, no left turn." Of course, at least one parent attempted to make a left turn AROUND THE FUCKING CONES! I effectively blocked his way, forcing him to make an awkward correction in the middle of the road.
This kind of thing really pushes my buttons. In fact, any time a person acts like safety rules and common courtesy only apply to lesser beings, I want to make them eat a traffic cone. Backwards.
On a more relaxing note, the other night, when the full moon was about to rise, Jen decided that it would be a good idea to go out and watch it, since it was supposed to appear extra large (yeah, I know it's just an illusion, but the effect is beautiful nonetheless). After failing to see it from our vantage point at the end of the block, all six of us hopped in the van and drove down the street.
Still no moon.
We drove here and there, eventually ending up back near home. Finally we saw it, rising beyond the houses, trees, and hills. We followed it, ending up at a park with a grassy hill, where we hung out for awhile while Jen took pictures. The moon was beautiful, but better yet, the kids mostly behaved.
It's nice not having a big TV in the front room. It makes it much easier to convince the kids to leave the house and do crazy things like driving around looking for the moon. Lunacy, indeed.