Myotis lucifugus

It’s been so hot this past week that I’ve taken to walking at night for exercise.  Three-three-three:  three miles, at three miles per hour, at least three times a week.  These “midnight constitutionals” have been a time for me to get into better shape, enjoy the outdoors, and gain a little knowledge listening to books on my .mp3 player.

Last night, however, I returned home to more excitement than I bargained for.  As neared home, I thought it was odd that the entire backyard was glowing.  Every light in the house must have been on!  Angie greeted me at the door, which was strange because she had gone to bed before I left.  She was speaking so fast I had trouble understanding her.  I finally made out that she thought there was a bat in the house, and that she had trapped it in the bathroom.

I needed some water, lots of water, and a few minutes to dry off all the sweat from my walk.  As I proceeded to do both of these things, Angie continued on with her narrative.

She started hearing the bat right after I left, so it had probably flown in the door as I went outside.  She got up to see what the banging was, and the bat darted past her into the bedroom and ultimately into our master bath where she turned the lights on and slid the door closed.  Then she went to her computer to research about what to do about bats that enter homes.  She found out that they tend to get confused when they are in a lighted room, but will soon “roost” or find a high place to settle and rest.  She found that you could throw a towel over them to catch them and take them outside, or you could find a wide-mouthed container to catch it in.  She had gone through our recycling bin to find two such containers – a big plastic peanut container and an Oxyclean tub.  She even found a video on YouTube of someone catching a bat in such a container.

I had finished two glasses of water and soaked my workout towel drying off by the time Angie’s elaboration had slowed down to, “what are you going to do about it?”  I told her I thought I’d take a look.  “It might just be a really big moth,” Angie finally said.  I opened the door and immediately saw it roosting above our shower.  It was clearly not a moth, but a small, mouse-sized, furry brown bat.  It wasn’t moving much at all.

“Okay,” I said to Angie as she closed the bathroom door behind us.  “Did your research come up with any advice about how to do this?”  “Yes – stay calm,” she said, her voice clearly not calm.  I turned back to the bat, empty tub in my hand.  I slowly, slowly, closed on it and covered it with the tub.  I heard a little flutter, but not much else.  I slid the lid up between the opening and the wall where it had roosted until I had it enclosed.

“Yes!” Angie shrieked with excitement.  We both proceeded outside (far away from the front door) to release the mosquito-eater back into the wild.  I took it to the base of a tree, opened the lid, and let it gently roll out to the ground.  Almost immediately, it fluttered back to life and took off.

So I guess that’s the happy ending to our midnight adventure!

Myotis lucifugus = little brown bat

Mr. M. Balmer

It’s uncomfortable to think about one’s own mortality.  However, there are moments in our lives when the subject is unavoidable.  I had one of those moments last weekend at Silver Dollar City, in Branson, Missouri.

No, the “moment” didn’t happen on the death spiral of a roller-coaster, nor did it come by way of heat exhaustion from the blazing temperatures.  This life-shaking moment came as I stepped off a main pedestrian thoroughfare to consult a map of the theme park.  A terse voice surprised me, “What … are you looking for?”

I looked up to see a neatly dressed undertaker, complete with measuring rod and top hat.  He was eyeing me intently.

Slightly startled by this “character,” I tried to collect my thoughts.  I looked around for Angie, who I noticed was keeping a healthy distance from us.  I stammered a bit, but finally managed a, “I might have forgotten where I was going.”  Without missing a beat the perfectly serious undertaker quipped, “I wonder why?”

Another glance over at Angie, and she was clearly a couple of steps further away than last time.  I was going to have to handle this on my own.

Ah, yes!  The glassblower!  I remembered we were going to see the glassblower.  I proudly shook off my “flusteration,” and told the undertaker, “We are looking for the Glassblower.”

“Now listen carefully,” he said in a hushed tone after leaning in toward me.  “Go down this street.  Take the first major right.  Follow it.  At the end of that street, you will find the glassblower.”

Finally regaining my composure, I thanked the undertaker for his help.  He reached into his coat pocket and withdrew a small piece of paper.  “Here’s my card… in case you need my services… at a later date….”  After a quick nod at both myself and Angie, he turned and walked away.

He’s right – I will need his services at a later date, but today I simply enjoyed the moment.

Home-blogging

If you know me, you know that during the winter months, I dive in and invest the lion’s share of my time and energy in teaching.  My wife and I have discovered that you simply can’t achieve optimal student outcomes unless you approach their education with a sense of urgency.

That means time has been pinched for performing projects on our new home.  I haven’t done as much as I wanted to do in my first year here, but there are a few months left.  Here are a few odd tasks already checked off the list.

When we first moved into our new space, we prioritized a few areas of furniture needs.  As economically as possible, we chose a few quality pieces.  Economically may be translated as “assembly required.”  After many hours of slow, deliberate work, we have a couple of nice desks and a highboy.

One thing that I hate to do is put holes in the walls, and one thing that girls want is lots of stuff on the walls.  So, after finding out where she wanted things (actually that was not difficult, I just listened to her showing the house to visitors and telling them where everything will go), I surprised her by hanging some stuff, including her picture calendar, a kitchen towel holder, her ship’s wheel clock (one of the first presents I got for her when we were dating), and the lighthouse key holder.

What a winter to be initiated into the Society of Driveway Shovelers!  Three major snows are one thing, but when the sky dumps over 22 inches that I have to remove in strata like an archeological site, that’s what I call a “baptism by fire.”  I got everything off in plenty of time to go back to school after the snow days.

Flash forward to Spring, and I’m mounting a “Topsy Turvy” tomato growing contraption on my deck, along with a rain gauge.  Getting a working mower was a different problem, as I invested many days working on two candidates with no luck.  For my first mowing of the lawn, I had to borrow a mower from a friend.

Most psychologists agree that mowing your lawn is excellent therapy for the troubled mind.  Okay, I’m not sure if that’s a universally true statement, but it sure fits for me (my apologies to Linus VanPelt).  It’s hot now, 90 degree days, so I don’t mow the whole yard, front, back, and sides in one sitting, but I still find a certain catharsis in the activity.

Where the heart is

If you’ve read this little blog off and on, you could probably piece together that this summer was my fifth wedding anniversary. And if you did happen to notice that, you should have emailed to remind me, because I have a tendency to forget dates. I did not forget this one, however.

After some consultation, we decided to do something a little out of the ordinary this year. You see, the traditional gift for the fifth wedding anniversary is wood. I immediately nixed the idea of the big wooden fork and spoon to hang up in the kitchen of our duplex. We started thinking about houses. We have actually talked about them for a long time; we even designed a beauty of a home using some architectural software. Things just have never been right for us to take that plunge.

There was no putting it off this year, though. Conditions have never been better to purchase a wooden anniversary structure (with three bedrooms, an unfinished basement, and a nice lawn). So it happened that our present to each other was a home.

Ballpark

Growing up watching baseball games with my dad was fantastic fun. I knew all the players well then; I collected their cards. We groaned at all the mistakes they made on the field, cheered at all their successes, and chewed over ideas on what they needed to do to go all the way.

Those rare occasions when we actually got to go to the ballpark to watch a game together were among the absolute greatest memories I have as a child. Even in the inexpensive seats, there is an excitement that just doesn’t translate to TV. The cheers, the smell of the food, the fabulous fountains and scoreboard – very few experiences can compare. Transistor radio in my ear, I was an expert with inside knowledge of the game that I periodically shared with my dad. Of course, he would tell me something every bit as profound and relevant, without the radio in his ear.

Everything I’ve done with baseball, from my card collection as a child to my sim league team that I still manage today, is a direct result of this shared enjoyment of a father and son.

Now, of course, I’m married and I’m taking my wife to a Sunday afternoon game. As is often is the case, she’s being quite troublesome. First of all, she’s wearing the colors of our rival team. And she’s cheering them on. At least there are no boos. I hate boos – on both sides.

But after that jarring beginning, we settle into a kind of groove. We savor some nachos, and some chips, fried on the spot, with bleu cheese, bacon, and I’m not sure what else. Delicious! We watch the game. We talk about the plays. We are surprised by the number of foul balls that sail into the stands close to us. We smile at the new and improved scoreboard as it does amazing things. We appreciate nice weather and the cool afternoon breeze blowing in our face. We have a ball together!

We took some pictures, panoramas of the new stadium renovations, the new plaza areas in the outfield (that we explored until they kicked us out), and pictures of the statues of the players my dad and I used to watch play,

I can’t wait to show the pictures to Dad and tell him all about the game!

Why would I be mad?

I’ve made a startling discovery, but what I’ve learned might help some of you newer husbands or boyfriends out there.

Men’s Dictionary

why-would-I-be-mad : interrogative, 1. attempt to elicit a reason another party thinks you’re mad; 2. expression of surprise at a perceived dissatisfaction; declarative, 3. attempt of reassurance that you are not mad; 4. dismissal of the idea that you are mad; syn. don’t worry, we’re cool.

Women’s Dictionary

why-would-I-be-mad : declarative, 1. confirmation the woman is, in fact, mad; interrogative, 2. a pop quiz for the other party to identify what they did to make you mad, usually involving a penalty for supplying the wrong answer; 3. a signal to prepare an apology; syn you’ve really done it this time, the doghouse is that way.

Lights

LightsMost all of the Christmas lights are down now. More neighbors than usual put them up this year. I enjoyed the displays driving home from work every day.

The lights in my neighborhood were not the only lights we saw this season. We saw the lights at the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, with my sister. That was an adventure; the three of us romping around the Plaza like we owned the place. Then the drive through our local light park – this was the first year we tried to capture some of the magnificent displays with our phone cameras.

The holidays are almost always a happy time for me. I remember my mom, and I am thankful for the birth of the Messiah. There is magic in the air, and what I usually see is people treating others with a warmth and kindness that doesn’t always flow the rest of the year.

Something odd happened this year, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Christmas was drawn out due to weather and sickness. Travel plans were scrapped, and we still hadn’t seen everyone we had planned to see until the weekend before school started again.

Maybe because of the stress, illness and the stretched out season, tension was high and people stepped on each others’ nerves. Some darkness crept into the season this year. The world may seem dark like that sometimes, but if you let yourself really see the lights, you appreciate them even more as they punctuate the darkness and show the way to something better.

Internalizing

When faced with a child who misbehaves, I usually work with the homeroom teacher to try to determine what may be causing or reinforcing the behavior. Standard procedure, I know. But when developing a plan to help manage the child’s behavior, one thing I usually say first of all is, “We can’t ‘make’ a child behave in an appropriate way. What we have to do is take what we have learned about the child and create an environment that compels the child to make the right decisions with regard to his behavior.”

I’ve always thought that was a rather accurate and wise way to put it, if I don’t say so myself. I’ve been explaining it that way to general classroom teachers for over a decade. But I recently went to a conference on PBS, positive behavior supports, and was privileged to hear one of my old grad school professors, Dr. Tim Lewis deliver the keynote address. As he went through his speech which sounded so familiar, I had to chuckle when I heard him say this:

I’ve always been quick to internalize things that work, without attribution. Isn’t it amazing the impact a good teacher can have on students, even when the student is a teacher, too?

Zombie Fluxx

zombie“So, what are the rules to this game?”

“Each player draws one card and plays one card on their turn.”

That sounded simple enough. Of course, I neglected to ask how you win the game. Even had that occurred to me, there would have been no answer to that question. The game goals are defined by the cards played. That’s right, the conditions for winning are fluid. Some cards you play have you do one time actions like draw multiple cards or steal cards from another player. And even the core rules can change by the playing of rule cards.

It was a fun evening of games and visiting: a first “couples date,” so to speak with our new friends. Now, the question is, how do you follow up a game like Zombie Fluxx? Killer Bunnies, anyone?