musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the category “mother nature”

spiders and bugs and shrooms, oh my

I’m not certain I’ll ever get used to south coastal Virginia seasons. We have long stretches of no rain, but threatening rain, but nope, still no rain, and just when we give up and water the garden after all, rain. For days and days and then muggy muggy muggy still in the 80s, and it’s fall.

I’m from New England: I just want a dreary rainy day, a bright day, a chill breeze, a sweater and trees full of yellow, orange, red and purple right about…..now.
So, in the past week or so, there has been a lot of drizzle then sun then drizzle drizzle when there was supposed to be major storm. The local news is giddy about all the mushrooms and no, people, please do not eat those mushrooms in your yard, even if they do look like gourmet chanterelles or oyster shrooms. 
It’s also a big spider season. Grandma says there are tons of tiny black spiders in her room. I am finding big orb weavers and other strange large spiders and – things on the deck, on the front of the house and in my gardens. A silverfish strode cockily across my desk this morning, too.
One day, a couple of weeks ago, we had a big yellow and black garden spider building a web on our deck. Toots misses her. I do, too. Then, a couple of days ago, I stumbled across a giant orb weaver a pace away from the other’s web, building a gorgeous enormous structure. After I yelled, “Holy Crap!” to my friend over the phone, I checked it out pretty well, then later, it disappeared before I could get a picture. 
We still have at least remnants of both webs on our deck.  I love spiders and their handiwork, so I haven’t removed them. They are big. Toots joined me on the deck briefly as she ran around the yard with her preschool class frog, Freddie, who is visiting this week. She looked up at the webs, and said very sadly, 
“Oohhh, where did our spiders go?”
She was quite forlorn. 
So was I.
But I wasn’t when I saw a giant Giger art looking bug on my garage the other day. After some unsuccessful googling, a friend sent me a link to Wheel Bugs. Bingo. 
And today, I went out to do some gardening maintenance to discover where that giant orb weaver took up residence: right between my bean poles that I wanted to remove. She was very active and pretty ticked off that I watching her work. She ran at me, and Mom didn’t raise a fool, I ran, too – away. 
So we’ve entered the season of creepy crawlies and mysterious mushrooms, and I may just grow to like it down here pretty soon because of this…but the leaves will never be like in Massachusetts. 
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safari part deux, belated

Now that I have half a chance to sit down and accomplish something while the boys are at school, I am heading back to vacation land of the first week of August. I am returning to the day I covered in this post, when we safari’ed in the morning, journeyed into the deepest caverns east of the Mississippi at midday then returned to the safari place in the afternoon. 
It was a very hot day. Before we entered the Natural Bridge Caverns, we sat and ate lunch outside. Toots said, “I will sit here, and you will sit there, and we can have a picnic!” to Mr. Cynic, who nicely obliged her.
I will eventually post some cavern pics, as soon as I have a good chance to go through them and single out a couple of not so dark highlights from Luray and this place. After a chill visit deep underground, we headed back to the Safari Village to walk around and feed some more animals. Thank goodness for all day leave and return tickets!

African Pygmy Goats and my somewhat pygmy teen

I can’t recall the name of this primate, but he was way too hot. Can you see his tongue hanging out?

African Pygmy Goat. They tickled.

Hot peacock. I love peacocks. This guy found a rare piece of shade.

Here is where he found the shade – in Kangaroo land. This Red Kangaroo looked like a playah. 

What?

Take your picture and get outta here.

Lorikeets! They are loud and sound cranky. 
A friend of mine in Sydney talks about the racket they make often in his yard.

Squawkity squawk squawk!

What are you looking at? Squawk! 
Rainbow birds
Captain Comic was fascinated by the warthogs.

Hot Tigers.

Hot Honey and Toots

These box type turtles – sorry can’t recall species – got very horny later and all three kids were like “ew!” and Captain Comic couldn’t stop giggling while he was repulsed.

Different kind of llamas. Thank you, Mr. Cynic for humoring your sister.
And okay, your mother, too.

I wish I could have gotten this shot in full context.
Captain Comic walked up and the lemur jumped right at him to say hello.

Spider monkeys!

This giraffe was very disingenuous. But he still ate from our hands after he huffed indignation.

De Brazza’s monkeys again, like at the other zoo earlier. 
They clearly did not want to be there or to have us look at them.
They do this cool thing where they turn from you and sit super still for hours at a time when they feel threatened. Hide in plain sight. 

You smell good to eat.

Tamarin monkeys are among my favorite. Creepy little humans.
After the overheated walk around, we got back in Bertha with Captain Comic in my old passenger seat from the morning. Why should I have all the fun just because the back windows don’t roll down? Honey was ecstatic to sit in the air conditioning and drive around again.
Captain Comic was a little fearful, but thrilled to feed the animals.

Especially the large “raptors”
Just look at his face in the side mirror.
I love that kid.
He loves Emu.

And Ostrich and Rhea, too. 
In fact, he didn’t want to feed anymore mammals after they pecked in his bucket, rather like dinosaurs.

Gorgeous Rocky Mountain Elk I fed in the morning.

Bison closer and in the shade after their morning plains walk.

I kind of forced him to feed the Elk. He was very intimidated, but I got him to pet the big guy.
Hello again.

Captain Comic ran off with my reference pamphlet since my last safari post. 
This was one of the Oryx. Jogged my memory hard for that one. 

Arabian Oryx

Wildebeast, I think.

Hotchatta-cha-cha Llama. 
And thus concludes our safari adventures in the mountains of western Virginia. Caverns coming soon.

1st day of school

Yesterday was the first day of Mr. Cynic’s Junior year and Captain Comic in seventh grade.

Mr. Cynic has been riding the bus to high school for the past couple of years, though we live .4 mile from the school. That’s closer than I lived to my high school, to which I walked – up hill both ways in the snow. Seriously, I did. It was hilly where I lived growing up in Connecticut. Not here though, and only the occasional appearance of snow.

But back to yesterday, Mr. Cynic and the first day of school. He had the same bus driver for his first two years of high school. She could probably drive her route with her eyes closed. She retired and there was a new bus driver, who drove rather like a lab mouse introduced to a new maze. She had no idea where she was going in the morning. And again in the afternoon. At every intersection she turned the wrong way, according to Mr. Cynic. When his bus was significantly late on the way home, I received a text message: going to be late. bus driver doesn’t know what she’s doing.


When he finally arrived home, he declared he was never taking the bus again. I smiled. The boy who eschews exercise will be getting some. Every day.

Captain Comic’s bus involved less drama but more nerves on my part. He has been riding the SPED bus since we moved here five years ago. He stands at the end of the driveway in full sight of his peers at the corner bus stop to get on a different bus. Last Halloween, I found out that they all knew him, but he didn’t really know them. As we walked around the neighborhood, the common cry was “I see him at the bus stop.” Last spring, his IEP team and I decided it was time he ride with his neurotypical peers. And when I had an IEP team meeting last week, they all told me, “Mom, you cannot walk him to the bus stop. You cannot ask his friends if it’s okay for him to sit with them. He needs to do this himself. He’s thirteen.”

And while my instincts know this is true for any other kid, I still want to protect him, manage his interactions. So I stood at the window with the camera and watched him. He did alright.

Which one is Captain Comic? Look at the socks.


I checked in via email with his case manager and he had a great first day, even with a homeroom teacher change. 
Mr. Cynic is excited to have friends in most of his classes, and is excited to be taking Music Theory with most of his band mates. Keep in mind, they have not rehearsed all together once as of yet, so band mates is still a relatively loose term.
In the meantime, Grandma took Toots with her to her morning pool exercises, and after three weeks without even cracking the manuscript with all the mayhem here, I had an excellent edit session at the local library. I dove into the creative river, doused myself and completely rewrote two chapters really well! The session exceeded my expectations, especially since I felt so lost as I opened the document.
Honey, post-surgery, went back to work yesterday, even though I felt it was too early, but I can’t keep him from work. It’s his thing. It’s hard to see that he loves it sometimes, but deep down, I think this is his creative drive, even when used for others’ purposes and under crushing deadlines. 
So we have returned to the usual mayhem, and having a routine for it that’s a little stiffer than summertime benefits us all, especially after this area has been hit by Mother Nature with smoke from the great Dismal Swamp fires for weeks now, and an earthquake and hurricane last week. The ten to fifteen inches of rain that came with Irene did not douse the swamp fires. Yesterday afternoon, we had a good bit of buckets full rain while Captain Comic was walking Lucy, and with them came Tornado Warnings. And still there is smoke in the air. But we go on, relatively unscathed, unlike many of my friends and family all over the East Coast and inland. Some are still waiting for power after the Hurricane while others in Texas droughts and fire fields, are now without well water. 
I feel very blessed that we are back to our normal. Almost – Toots starts preschool next week.

aftermath

Hurricane Irene came and went, and left a lot of damage in her wake. My family hunkered down, battened down the hatches, took naps, did puzzles, read by candlelight for just a little while. Overall, though the house sounded threateningly battered and buffeted, in the end we really had no damage. Just had to clean up a lot of little branches in the yard. some not so little, but still we could carry them.

I wish I could say the same for everyone. A mother lost her child in Newport News, near us. Old college friends’ family in upstate New York had to evacuate their house by rescue boat. Within twenty-four hours prior, they had an epic battle to remove a squirrel from their house. It has not been a good weekend for them. They are okay, but their driveway and basement are awash.

Many others had it much worse. A fabric artist’s studio in Shelburne Falls, MA, picked up from its foundation and took a ride down a raging river that had formerly been the street. There is impressive video of that pink brick building before and after its journey floating around the internet. My apologies for the wordplay.

Back in our vicinity, Southside, at Sandbridge Beach area of Virginia Beach, again, there is impressive video and photography of houses ripped apart there around the internet.. It’s my family’s favorite beach to day trip to. The little low lying town next to me was under mandatory evacuation, but a friends of mine stayed while the husband volunteered for Community Emergency Services.

In the meantime, here, I am amazed that Mother Nature can go from this:

The night before Hurricane Irene

To this on the day of:

Taken early on. Later those birches were bending in half like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat. I did not want to be that close to the windows when she was at full strength.
To this the following day:
Solid blue, grace of an egret.
My hopes and wishes are that you and yours are all well, and survived to pick up the pieces as we did. 
Blessings.

he’s a teen

It’s hard to believe sometimes that 12:31am thirteen years ago and today are part of the same lifetime.

But it is, and constitutes the whole life so far of one of the most interesting, funniest and challenging people I have ever known.

At 1, 2.5, and with his brother at 1.5 years old.
Mom: Smile.
Capt. Comic: I don’t want to smile. At least I’ve got a thumbsup.

Mom: Don’t you dare laugh.
Capt. Comic: Pbbpbpb!

Capt. Comic: C’mon, Mom, I don’t want to smile. I can do what I want now that I’m a teen.
Mom: Pikachu!

Seriously, Mom. Just take the picture.
Mom: Then give me an old movie star smile, like Clark Gable.

I love this kid.

I usually post a birthday blog in which I list a number of things about the kid whose birthday it is equal to their age. This time, it took three days to get Captain Comic to come up with a list himself, and in the end he drew it in about 10 minutes. Click to zoom, they’re fun drawings.

Just in case you can’t tell what he is representing:

1. Making movies.
2. Godzilla.
3. Drawing.
4. Making people laugh.
5. If you don’t know, you’re lucky. (oops, mom’s commentary) Pokemon.
6. Other people singing hurts my ears, “it’s like my Kryptonite.”
7. Videogames.
8. Star Wars
9. Need I say more? (mom again)
10. Pugs are my latest obsession.
11. The Hill (really a berm at the back of our neighborhood baseball field)
12. Jaws
13. I like fights in movies, like Jackie Chan.

Captain Comic is becoming a teen.

I wonder if that’s why Mother Nature is bringing this epic Hurricane Irene?

He’s a great kid. He’s big, he’s loud, he’s talented, he’s an original and the next handful of years of my life will be epic indeed. I love him.

Happy Birthday, Kiddo.

safari morning

I am trying to cull from the many things we did on our first true family vacation all together, all others involved shooting all over to visit people. I have made a few posts about this one already.

The day of our safari park adventures, we also visited the deepest caverns east of the Mississippi. As you can imagine, pictures were a bit tough, but I will post about both the Natural Bridge Caverns and Luray Caverns in another post. We had a very big day between the cool caves and more animals and ways to see them than you can imagine.

The Virginia Safari entrance was right with the KOA where we stayed and was only a couple of miles down the road from the zoo we visited the day before. I am a bit link happy today. Of course, for proximity alone, we had to go. We safaried in the morning, caved at midday then safaried in the afternoon.

This post is morning only. I really did choose judiciously from the over 500 photos I took that day. Promise. It was HAARD! Okay?

I am not overwhelming you with these like the llamas overwhelmed our vehicle when we tried to drive in….

There were many wondrous horned creatures from around the world.

Eland, from China

Zebras were on the no feed list, but this guy bullied away a fallow deer and stuck his head into the vehicle, past my lap and stole the bucket of feed from between my feet! Later, a guide chuckled when I told her, and said the only reason zebras are on the list is because they’ll bite, not because they are grass fed only like the Bison and Watusi. Well, I’m happy I didn’t feed him something bad. *slight eyeroll*

Rules forbid people from more than opening windows to feed. This was very clearly stated when we entered, and in the packet they gave us. These dummies had kids hanging out of the open doors. They were the same loud mouthed gaggle of tourists that made the Luray Caverns less pleasurable for the rest of us when we were there a couple of days earlier. They were a bit zealous and I will give them linguistically challenged, maybe they couldn’t read or hear the rules in English.

Rocky Mountain Elk really bonded with Honey and me. Or our feed buckets.
Honey quit shaving before we left for our camping adventure. When we got home, he swore off shaving until his coworkers and boss asked if he was going for the homeless look. Then his mother and I threw our two cents worth in and he even shaved off his precious goatee.
Hello Emu. 
I admit I was a bit creeped out when the Ostriches, Rheas and these guys pecked in the bucket in my hands. Later when Captain Comic sat in front in the afternoon…well, I’ll tell you in a later post.
Stunning. Impressive. Getaloada those antlers!

And then I fed him.

I will love him and feed him and call him George!
(please tell me you remember Warner Bros cartoons)

Bactrian Camel, not from the Middle East, like Dromedary (one hump) cousin, 
from Mongolia and China.

Bison roaming free! (inside a really big park)

Smooch! 
Actually, this was taken just prior to his ripping the feed bucket from my hands.
Later the guide said, “Nobody wins again Omar!” 
Really big bird. Ostrich. 

Scimitar Horned Oryx, North Africa (closer shot next post)
Correction: these are Arabian Oryx! or Oryxes, both are plural forms are correct
Oh wait, third try: Some of both – the whiter ones with straight horns are the Arabian kind

Do the Watusi! (I had to, okay?!) Those are some mighty big horns. 

Near the exit and (entrance) were Vietnamese potbellied pig mama and her babies, and a wholotta Llamas.
I found the Llamas particularly pushy and opportunistic, positioning themselves at the gates, and crowding every vehicle as they entered.

By the exit, they stuck to the shade, my guess is after stuffing their faces.

Wha…?

I could have played around with the shots in the computer and enhanced color and contrast, but choosing was challenging enough…all of my vacation posts’ photos are straight out of the camera and cell camera.

panther falls

Poor Big Bertha barely made it down the winding switchback steep downgrade dirt road to the falls, but she did. Her brakes got rather worn out, and I clung mightily to the passenger door, staring down into beautifully wooded pits of death for my entire family. Apparently, the concept of guardrails has not reached the lesser roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Excerpts from our day at Panther Falls:

I know, I know, a lot of photos and I promised I wouldn’t, but Panther Falls was my favorite adventure of the trip.

Just pretty country on a beautiful day.
 The path to the falls was as treacherous as the road.
This part was about as wide as Toots’s tootsies and very slippery dirt.
 Beware of hazards and falling trees.
 Then we reached the top of the falls.
 Captain Comic was in his element. I can’t keep Godzilla boy from water.

Jumpers, though they are forbidden. See my Captain below?
 Below these falls, what looks like two tidal pools is connected, a water-bored tunnel below the surface. Some kids were all over it, Captain Comic said , “No way! I’m not taking any chances!” The rope is a guide line to swim through the tunnel.

Meanwhile…Mr. Cynic just wanted to go home that day. We had swimsuits back up the mountain in Bertha, and he did not want to change. Thankfully this one has mastered suffering in silence.
 Slippery when wet
Oh no, he’s not taking any chances…Even if he was all over these rocks and water far from his parents.
Treacherous but beautiful. I admitted defeat.
I’m just too unstable on my bad ankle for any sudden slippery corrections.

But Captain Comic was all over the glacial anomalies.

I was happy to stick my toes in, and watch fishies swim between them.
Honey and Toots also did not have their suits, but they went in, too. 
Toots hung onto her daddy for dear life, and went in in her undies.
She loved it. I loved these legs and shadows.

Captain Comic may not have gone through the tunnel, but he assisted others with the rope lead.

Meanwhile….Nope, still not going in. 
 Bathing Beauty after her swim.
 Another jumper. 

This young man talking my Honey’s ear off has been coming to the falls since his daddy threw him in when he was two! He helped guide other jumpers to the deepest parts, where they wouldn’t slam into rocks and die. “The sign up at the road is false advertising, saying last death was in 1998. Four people died here last year. But don’t worry, it mostly happens when the water is higher and has a stronger undertow than it does today.” I was grateful for the info, but I was scared for his life as he did back flips from high up.

We stopped here to get some drinks and the people were very helpful,
even if they do make “HOMEMAOE BBQ EVERYOAY”

natural bridge, va

Sorry for delays. I am pooped and I have been having a busy week since our return, blogging fell down the priority list. 
Fun things to do at the modest KOA:
Pool, always a favorite for Captain Comic

 And Honey and Toots.

An old school playground

 This was a giant slide with the old metal steps made of the letters: AMERICAN, like the slide in my old neighborhood as a little kid. It took her about the whole week for Toots to actually descend the giant slide without my climbing up the ladder and walk her back down in my arms.

 Toots and Captain Comic playing together and having fun.

Meanwhile, back at camp, Mr. Cynic being so very very Mr. Cynic, plugged in and all. That’s my old van, Big Bertha behind him.

And the Natural Bridge itself, carved out of the mountains by glaciers.

That’s not dirt on the photo, it’s a hawk that swooped under the bridge.

I love him even if Mr. Cynic does not want his picture taken.

 Captain Comic takes a cue from Mr. Cynic.

 At the end of the trail, we found a nice cascades area that was quite calm and relaxing. We actually didn’t make it to the end where The Lost Springs are. We decided our end was here.

We were surrounded by butterflies, lots of kinds, but mostly various Swallowtails. This was a Red-spotted Purple Admiral, even though it was black with blue like a Black Swallowtail. I looked it up at the gift shop in a book of butterflies after our hike.

 Toots was so happy to have her big brothers back, and she wanted to keep up with them. But she fell on her way to this little cave tunnel in the mountain side that Mr. Cynic found.

Finally, the Natural Bridge on the way back…

More adventures next week, I’ll keep the shots to a minimum.  Panther Falls and Crabtree Falls were big ones that almost did in poor Bertha.

We are rearranging the boys’ room again this weekend, taking the giant shelf beds out and moving in some bunks. A lot of furniture disassembly and assembly to ensue, right after I take a landscaping class at our local garden center.

walkin the dog

It’s hot.
I walked the dog.

What’s that?

Get in for a closer look, but not too close. Sorry, only had the cell phone, again.

 Egret!

Yesterday, on my fence, a lizard skittered. By the time I got the yes, cell phone, out of my pocket, he was replaced by this dragonfly.
And then I found these Kentucky Wonder Beans under the tangle of vines covering my posts. I found quite a bit more than those. I think I’ll cook them tonight. If Toots hasn’t eaten them all in refrigerator drive-by snacking.
Today, I spent a few hours at the library, editing another chapter and a half. I hope to make more good headway tomorrow. I am making good, if slow, progress. 
Kinda like walking the dog in muggy Virginia mid-July.

harpers ferry wv, final round



Friday night’s excitement was mostly roasting marshmallows. 

Toots was very sticky.
We had more showers overnight then I took Lucy for a dawn walk to the dog park at the KOA. I wish these pictures showed the misty gold dawn better than they do.
Sunlit mist over a golden meadow, Civil War battlefield, through the trees that bordered the dog park.
 A couple of hours later, after KOA’s free pancake breakfast, we embarked on the day’s adventures, mostly in an attempt to find Thomas Jefferson Rock, an Appalachian Trail site I’ve been curious about seeing since I was a kid. 
But first we found Bolivar battlefield, Robert E. Lee’s first battle foray into Northern territory. It was the first of a many of the bloodiest battles of the whole Civil War. Antietam is in the vicinity, but our focus this trip was more on the natural beauty of the area than the Civil War. As terrible a history as this rolling hill has, it is beautiful. 
 
At Bolivar, we finally got a good set of directions to Jefferson Rock from a bus tour guide.
Remember the stone stair case in my prior post? This is a pretty accurate example of what all of the stairs look like. I swear I felt I was stepping in thousands of people’s footsteps over centuries. 

We were hot and feeling that stair case when we reached the church. And then we discovered that was only about a quarter or less of the trip up to Jefferson Rock.

Across the street and up the bend of the mountain side a bit was the ruins of the old Episcopal Church. I guess the Catholics lasted a bit better in Lower Town.

Another third or so the way up we caught sight of the famous rock. This smidge of the trail was paved rather than the old stone stairs.
We made it.

“This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic” – Thomas Jefferson
And you know what? Thomas Jefferson was right. The vistas were stunning, even if the rock itself looked like a toy version of what I had imagined from pictures I’d seen of it since I was a kid. It was definitely worth the hour plus climb up a winding steep stone staircase worn down from a couple of centuries’ worth of visitors.
Down was harder on my ankle, especially while holding the leash of a little dog who wanted to go with the momentum gravity tried to give her.
Episcopal Ruins

Here’s what to see along that lower road way above. What angles up in front of the ruins along the wall is more of a little foot path that has been paved for tourists.

People live among the historical tourist places from the Civil War Museum to the Black History Museum, Lewis & Clark Museum, John Brown, etc, etc. Historical figures from George Washington to W.E.B. Dubois have set foot and established major US historical events here. 

We had lunch and more ice cream then headed back to KOA for the afternoon. Toots wanted to bounce and a while later Honey took her to the pool while I stayed at camp with Lucy.

Toot and this kid giggled and giggled when Honey bounced them. 

Close to dinner, Toots was tired, it was a big day.

 Camping is serious business.

 “Aah, I can’t do this.” She wanted to help me build the campfire.

I am amazed at what kids find to do when there is apparently nothing to occupy their minds. Toots made a game of holding a specific rock between the bottoms of her feet.

A college friend I had not seen in twenty odd years lives near Harpers Ferry in Maryland, and she stopped by camp bearing fresh grown veggies and loads of fun conversation about things long ago and what’s going on now. Great to see her.

Later in the evening, Toots was positively melting into her little blue seat by the campfire. She had asked me before what my favorite part of camping was, and I reminded her of it as I answered her again, that this, sitting by the campfire under the stars is my favorite part of camping. I asked her what her favorite part was. “Camping.” She said with finality. I eeked out of her that that meant sleeping in the tent in sleeping bags with Mommy and Daddy and Lucy.

Toots also had tons of fun with kids around the campground. These two were our neighbors in a popup trailer. Toots loved running around, especially with the girl who is not quite a year younger than her, and taller.

 This rock was a major part of their play, situated between our camps. No, Toots is not dead below. She is “westing on da wock.”

We had many adventures and loads of fun. Some of it was ambitious, but mostly we relaxed and enjoyed being us together in nature and away from home and the TV and all other screens. Even though there was a promise of wifi access, it was spotty at best. We were better for the inconvenience regardless. It was the most refreshing thing to my spirit I have done in a long long time, though, three days later, I am still exhausted, but it’s the best kind of exhausted, similar to postpartum euphoria. I am elated, though I’ve been through a very hard physical task, in heat and storms, and little sleep on the ground. I loved it all.

We’re doing it again near the Natural Bridge area of Virginia next month with the boys. Life is good. Bring natural bug spray.

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