Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Orb-weaver spins prey

This is the orb-weaver on my back porch. Its nest is connected to one of the porch lights, so it gets more insects than it can handle.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Barnabas is back!!

I have no idea what happened: all I know is that one (and only one) giant toad hung around our house every day for a couple months and then suddenly we found a giant toad dead in the driveway. We were crushed, thinking we had killed Barnabas. We looked for him hopefully every day afterward but no toad could be found. I prayed God would either bring him back (I believe in miracles, even those that seem insignificant in the scheme of things) or replace him. But there was no sign of a large toad after we had found that one dead, whom I assumed was Barnabas. Things felt very empty.

Then tonight my husband, who had been working outside, popped his head in and said "Guess who's out here?" I hardly believed it, thinking it was the smaller toad that we had see occasionally and he wasn't remembering Barnabas's size correctly. But in faith I went outside to have a look, and there sat a giant toad in our drive. Immediately I went for the camera and took several pics. I have compared them to my original pics of Barnabas and it is definitely the same toad. (The pics I am speaking of are pics of the markings on his back, which I don't show here because his face is much cuter!)

In the middle of my photo shoot, I squatted down in front of Barnabas and had a little talk with him about staying out of the driveway. After I had talked a bit, he suddenly turned his head and looked at me, then took a hop toward me. I jumped back; I guess I'm not used to aggressive toads. Then a bug came along and he ate it.

Anyway, Barnabas is back and whether or not he was never dead or he has been resurrected is irrelevant to me. I prayed he'd come back and he has. I'm just so glad he is alive!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Goodbye Barnabas

I am so sad tonight. Probably very few people would understand, but my husband I have grown very attached to a large toad that has hung around our house for a few months now. He has probably lived here longer than that, but in the past few weeks he grew more and more familiar with us and could be found on the back porch every morning and night. (The first time I spotted him I thought he was stuck inside a sprinkler head valve hole and I forced him -gently - out. He then ended up "stuck" in a smaller place, and after I got him out of that place, I realized he had never been stuck to begin with and I had only succeeded in inconveniencing him when he was trying to find a cool place to rest for the day!)

Most recently, Richie and I got used to looking out for Barnabas (of course I named him) to keep the dogs from lunging at him when we took them out. The other night Salem scared him onto my screened in porch and I left the door open all night so he could find his way back out easily. I can't even remember Barnabas not being around; he has become part of the family, an outdoor pet. In fact, last week I had just introduced him to the CFZ blog.

All this time, I have been worried that Barnabas might end up getting hit by one of our vehicles since he does hang out around the driveway, and I have tried to keep an eye out for him when I get in the truck. Well, this evening on my way to the gym, as I was pulling out the driveway, I saw that is exactly what had happened: Barnabas lay dead in the driveway. Even though I'd worried about this very thing, I just really wasn't prepared to see it. I guess it sounds ridiculous that I've been upset all evening. I still can't believe Barnabas isn't sitting in his cute warty fatness out on the porch, his throat pumping, acting cool while we pass by with the lunging dogs. After all this time, he knew he was safe around here. And then we kill him with our stupid vehicles.

I never thought about the possibility of growing attached to a wild toad, but I did and now I feel a big emptiness. Three times I've gone outside to look for Barnabas on the porch tonight. I keep hoping that some other giant toad happened by, not Barnabas who owned the porch and felt safe here.

Goodbye, big, sweet, Barnabas. We miss you terribly.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kids Say the Darndest Things

This is a far cry from the innocence of Bill Cosby's show, but it keeps us entertained at the high school level. These are just a couple stories from the past week:

First of all, one of my friends teaches a class with some pretty thuggish sophomores. At the beginning of this class, a student from her previous class burst in saying that she had left her purse in the room. The purse was soon located, but was missing its wallet. Knowing one of students in the present class had taken it, my friend told the class that someone had better cough up the money or they would sit there till the cows came home, ignoring even the lunch bell. Everyone put on the pressure until one boy finally produced the wallet -- along with its $200.00. Awhile after the incident, some of the other less-than-ethical students asked this boy why he had given up the wallet. Wide-eyed, he replied, "Because I didn't know what she meant by the cows coming home!" I don't know if he's afraid of cows or what, but it worked.

Second story: Today after lunch one student in my 3rd hour came barreling down the hall and plowed into another student standing in the doorway. Appalled, I said, "You need to say excuse me!" He turned immediately to the other student and said enthusiastically, "Good job!" Confused, I asked, "Why did you say 'good job'?" "Because he didn't cry this time!" he replied happily.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Post-it Note Pilferage

My high school students on the whole place value on things that matter little to me: tennis shoes, video games, skateboards, etc. But there is one thing that for the past three years we end up nearly fighting over: sticky notes.

I occasionally give an assignment in which the students work in groups to place answers on sticky notes and put them on the board. (If they are finding the three types of irony in a story, I will have the board divided by the three types of irony and they will post the sticky note in the appropriate column.) I always buy very colorful sticky notes to make the exercise appealing. The first year that I did the exercise, I noticed that I wasn't getting back as many unused sticky notes as I thought I should. It turned out that the students were stashing away the unused sticky notes and I had to demand their return.

Well, I didn't really do the sticky note thing much last year, and by this year I guess I had forgotten about the hoarding issue. Last week I did my first sticky note exercise of the year, then moved on to something else. Later in class, one boy went to sign out for the bathroom. As he raised his arm to write, some bright pink sticky notes hit the floor.

"Where did those come from?" I asked.

"I dropped them," he said. I am guessing they had been stuffed in his pants waist or something.

"I need them back," I said. "Those are mine." Realizing this might be a class wide problem, I said to the whole class, "I need the unused sticky notes back. They are mine -- I bought them with my money."

There was a pause…then one student shuffled to my desk and laid down a stack of sticky notes. Another student followed suit, then another. The procession grew as stacks of sticky notes were dropped into my desk, creating a colorful assembly. It was like the accusers of the adulteress who dropped the stones and walked away -- all were guilty.

Normally, I am infuriated by low ethics, or assumptions of entitlement. But these were kids and the items, in their minds, were just little slips of paper -- irresistible ones apparently. (And at least they were being honest now.) I looked up at my aid and we both started laughing. I think I am going to try to find a way to invest in some sticky notes in bulk for the kids at Christmas.