Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Marine Life Encounters and Other Moments

*WARNING: Some images and descriptions may be disturbing for some readers. Please hone your skimming and program exiting skills accordingly. Also, reading this post and eating is not recommended.*

Whew! Where have the past two weeks gone? Let's see, it's all coming back to me now. Other than the usual grind of everyday life during the week (Dave to work, kids to school, homework, dinner, activities, chores, repeat), we've had some pretty amazing happenings in our family!

I accompanied Lilly and her Girl Scout troop on an overnight at the local aquarium. It's an indoor campout essentially. We packed sleeping bags and pillows and slept near the jellyfish tanks. Jellyfish are absolutely beautiful to watch. They leave the light on all night since some of the jellyfish species require light to function. It's like watching a giant lava lamp. The concrete floor left quite a bit to be desired, but I think I was one of the few adults that actually got a few hours of sleep! Some of the girls from the older Scout troop that was there were "pulling an all-nighter"...and they're not even in college yet!

When we arrived and got settled early in the evening, the girls had a presentation on tide pools. They were also allowed to explore them with their hands should they wish to. A staff member also described different environments that marine life can live in.
horseshoe crab

Next, we moved onto dissections of squids. I thought we'd just be watching (from afar) an expert doing this on a giant squid. Well, no. We broke the girls up into groups of three and each group had their own specimen! There was a member of the staff who was "conducting" the dissection. By the way, the squids had died naturally at the end of their life cycle. They were going to be fed to the seals at the aquarium and were not killed for the purpose of grossing out the Girl Scouts and their chaperones. Lilly makes a cut!

I am not a squeamish person by any means, but when the first task was to locate the eye of the squid, squeeze it and pop out the lens, I thought I was going to die. However, chin up, Ms. Role Model. Don't show weakness! Not one of the three girls in Lilly's group would touch the squid, nevermind perform the eye-popping procedure.

I am proud of myself though. I stepped up to the plate. I was also encouraged by the promise of the staff member that she had a secret of descenting our hands of "squid" after the fact. Well, all right then. Let's have at it.

One girl was beginning to turn green so I didn't push her. Lilly was on the fence, but the third girl was slowly approaching the creature with her index finger!! Encouragement, cheering (and some praying on my part that I wouldn't have to touch it) went out to this brave girl. She did great, but I had to touch it anyway. I'll spare you the rest of the gory instructions of the dissection, but suffice it to say, I thought the eye thing was the worst. Oh and the secret? Rub your hands on an orange peel to remove the chumlike odor on your hands. I would say it was about 70% effective. That was good enough for me under the circumstances.

The next morning, we had a delicious continental breakfast at what was pretty much the crack of dawn. One of the best parts of the whole trip was being able to explore the aquarium prior to its opening to the public for the day, especially on the bitterly cold Saturday that it was. It would have been packed in no time! The staff concluded with a discussion and Q&A on the animals in the giant saltwater tank. A lot of people then left for home, but Lilly, another Scout and myself stuck around to watch an IMAX movie with our free passes for attending. As soon as it was over, I couldn't wait to go again!

So, yes. That was one of the highlights of the last two weeks. I also chaperoned another one of Lilly's field trips three days later at a local natural history museum. After that, I was burned out of the job for awhile. Lilly also had her first concert with her school's orchestra. It was a tough night. Weeknight events always are. All of the kids were tired, hungry, fidgety and arguing. We got through it though.

Lilly plays the violin. Her school is very large. They also have a band and a chorus. I was very impressed with how well the kids did after starting to learn their instruments only four months earlier! I am a former music major too so I know how hard that is to accomplish. The music program is clearly as excellent as everyone says it is.

Last weekend was Andy's 8th birthday. He had chosen a massive Lego Star Wars building set in lieu of a big party. I made two cakes (Andy wanted chocolate and Lilly can't eat chocolate so I also made a vanilla confetti cake as well) and we celebrated his birthday on Friday, even though his actual birthday was Saturday. My sister, my mom and myself drove two hours to attend our cousin's 90th birthday party on Saturday. I was so glad that I got to go and celebrate with her. She is someone I have always admired a great deal for her strength and how active she is at her age! We had a wonderful dinner and the absolute BEST cake. It was an Italian rum cake with chocolate and vanilla custard. I certainly got my cake on last weekend!

Last but not least, Dave left for Russia yesterday. He will be back in several days so it's relatively short considering how far away he went! He had one mishap after another getting out (paperwork issues for his required entry visa, travel delays, lost luggage, you name it).

So, it's been two weeks but a full two weeks as you can see. More to come very soon (before another two weeks goes by!).