Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Occupational Whiplash

Once upon a time in a land far away, a land of cacti, scorpions, and summers of scorching heat, I was a high school drama and English teacher. I loved my job, and I loved the students, but mostly I enjoyed the hell out of my drama students. They were a whip-smart, funny, talented bunch of kids, and working with them felt a lot more like fun than a job. Sure there were evening rehearsals that resulted in 7:00 am - 9:00 pm workdays, and there were long Saturdays spent building sets. I dragged my brand-new husband along on the Saturdays, and he went happily to work hanging flats and building platforms alongside me.

It all went swimmingly until I got pregnant after my fourth year teaching. I didn't see that one coming, although two bottles of red wine on my first anniversary says that I probably should have.

In a whirlwind of pregnancy complications, bed rest, and the sudden, intense maternal drive to be a stay-at-home mom to this unborn baby, I left that teaching job. Left it and moved two hundred miles away - to a land of soaring mountains, pine trees, and snowy winters that had the added bonus of having this place willing to hire my husband and give us the paycheck needed to allow me to be a stay-at-home mom.

I never looked back, although there was a certain nostalgic pang every fall when the stores were festooned with "Back to School!" signs. I was a mommy, and this new life left no room for late-night rehearsals or Saturdays spent with power saws and paint brushes. Especially after our second baby girl was born three years later.

A year after that we moved two thousand more miles away, to a land of moose, brilliantly-colored autumns, and frigid winters that lasted till April. I cooked healthy meals, hosted playdates, baked cookies, volunteered at schools, and chauffered my kids around in a minivan. Immersed in the day-to-day (and occasionally minute-to-minute) tasks of mommyhood, I assumed that I would be doing this forever. It certainly felt that way when I was up at 2:30 a.m. with a vomiting toddler, anyway. I couldn't imagine my life any different and really didn't want to.

And then ... this is the weird part. Then fourteen years went by.

And one night, I found myself sitting at a Fine Arts Boosters' meeting at my elder daughter's school. I offered a fund-raising suggestion involving the program for the school play, and by way of explanation told the group that I used to teach drama.

There was a silence.

One woman spoke up, "You know, there's a coaching position open at the high school for the one-act play competition. They can't find anyone to do it. The kids are so disappointed." She fixed me with a hopeful gaze.

I hemmed and hawed. Stay-at-home mom. Busy, busy, busy. Starting to sub! Full plate, etc.

I went home and thought about it. Truth is, I'm not THAT busy. My kids are fifth grade and eighth grade. And then, what really niggled at me, was the thought of these drama kids at the high school wanting to do a play and not being able to find a coach. Drama kids are my people.

Long story short, the principal called me and asked if I'd come in to hear about the position. (And probably also wanted to clap eyeballs on me to make sure I wasn't a total freakshow).

And now I'm a drama coach again, y'all.

What just happened??

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's Like She's Trying To Tell Us Something...

1. Sign That Appeared on Bug's Door:

Bug's Room
(except in emergency)

Sign here to show you have read this:

Thank you.

2. Then in the car on the way to the Fryeburg Fair, she announced that she'd written a short story, and she wanted to read it to us.

Clearing her throat, she began, "I open my eyes and wonder where I am. Then I remember, and I'm not happy anymore. I live with my grandparents because when I was three, my mother ran away. Why? I don't know. Since my mother left, I've been wondering who my dad is. I know it's crazy, but my mom was always scared to tell me. Maybe he's the hobo down the street ... no, I doubt it.

I grab the elastic next to my bed and put my hair up, then I clomp downstairs in my fuzzy red slippers. It's hard living with grandparents. They just don't understand the privacy kids need. That's why there are so many "KNOCK FIRST" signs on my door. It doesn't help much, though. I think when I grow up, I'll let my children have locks on their doors, but that's not important right now."


Subtle, isn't she?

Tom, Bear, and I all duly signed her bedroom door proclamation. Tom and I always knock when the kids' doors are closed. I believe in privacy and that everyone should have a space that is purely their own. However, I'm also clear to the kids that I knock to announce myself out of courtesy, but I'm a-comin' in. We pay the mortgage, after all.

Bear, however, is notorious for barging into her sister's room without knocking but freaking if Bug comes into hers unannounced. We're seeking the delicate balance between anarchy and full-blown turf war.

That said, I'm wondering what a shrink would say about Bug writing a story wherein the mother runs away and her father is a hobo? Hmmm.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


In the course of applying to be a sub in my kids' school district, I had to get fingerprinted. It made me wonder: how many prospective school employees make it to that point in the application process, willingly give their prints, and get found out as being a wanted felon? These are the kinds of questions that bother me, that but I couldn't exactly ask without it seeming damn suspicious.

Speaking of which, there's something nerve-wracking about being fingerprinted by cops, even when I know it's for an innocuous reason. It certainly didn't help that the three cops running the Department of Education Fingerprinting Workshop looked like something directly out of a 1955 episode of Dragnet. All three were middle-aged, sported short-sleeved button down shirts, close-cropped hair, and professionally blank expressions. I felt like they knew something about me that I didn't know. Like, maybe I'd had a crime spree several years ago that I'd forgotten. I mean, sometimes (fine, usually) I forget where I've parked my minivan at the grocery store. Who's to say I haven't committed multiple burglaries over the years and had them just slip my mind, much like the eye appointment I keep meaning to make but continually forgetting until 5:30 pm on a Friday?

Cop #1 certainly scrutinized my application form carefully enough like he thought I could be a felon. I found this slightly offensive, since I'd put great thought into the outfit I wore that morning, selecting what I thought was the least felon-like ensemble in my wardrobe (trouser jeans, black heels, black tee, and purple cardigan with pink pearls). Or is that what he was expecting me to do? Should I have gone for the not-even-making-an-effort-because-I-have-nothing-to-hide look of yoga pants, sweatshirt, and baseball cap? Shit.

"Right over here, please," he said crisply, waving me toward the table set up with inkpads.

I held out my hand, trying not to let it tremble (don't want to look like I'm worried) but also not wanting to look like I've done this before. He separated my pointer finger from the others, rolled it on the ink pad, and then gently pressed it onto the print card.

He paused and frowned. OMG, my prints must exactly match those of a wanted serial killer. It would be totally my luck to be the first person on earth not to have unique prints. Shitshitshit.

"You should have moisturized," he said to me.

"Excuse me?" I asked, thinking I'd misheard.

"I can't get a clear print. Your hands are too dry," he told me.

"Heh, heh. I guess I missed my chance for a life of crime!" I joked without thinking. Nice. Jenn. You shouldn't crack jokes about crime while you're being fingerprinted. It's like saying "bomb" at an airport.

He frowned again and reached for a water bottle, "Let's wet your hand a little and see if that helps."

I let him spritz my hand, blot it off, and try taking prints again. "We'll have to see if that can be read or not," he said doubtfully.

"What happens if it can't?" I asked nervously.

"Well, then we'll have to amputate your finger," he said with a perfectly straight face.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Fair Day (pronounce "fayuh" for Maine authenticity)

I've wanted to go to the Fryeburg Fair ever since we moved to Maine nine years ago. It's the latest fair in Maine, falling on the second week of October, and it's one of the oldest. This year, the kids happened to have a teacher in-service day during the fair's run, so Tom took the day off work and we struck out for western Maine.

A word about Maine roads: while there is a lovely, modern, multi-lane north-south running highway (Yes, a . We have only one interstate here in Maine.), there is no east-west highway. Sure, there are roads that they call "highways" laced all over the place, but they are two-lane (and often with no shoulder to speak of), densely wooded, twisty little roads with houses sprinkled along them every few miles. It gives you a taste of what America was like before the interstate highway system.

We were heading mostly west, so it was twisty little backroads for two hours. The leaves are stunning right now, the lakes the deep rich blue of fall, and the sun was shining. On the other hand, I had two girls prone to carsickness (one of whom is also terrified of twisty little roads) in the backseat. I passed out the Dramamine and sneaked occasional surreptitious glances back at them as we drove, checking for imminent puking. It was a gorgeous, yet harrowing - and thankfully, uneventful ride.

The fair was everything a fair should be: gaudy, noisy, overpriced and lightly perfumed by onion rings, fries, and caramel. Plus, there were flush toilets, which pleased me immensely. One reaches a certain age in life where one feels one has reached one's quota of Port-o-John usage.

There were many darling farm animals to coo over, like these two goats cuddled up together.
This alpaca was practically Disneyesque in his adorableness.
The oxen fell less in the "cute" and more in the "formidable" category. I declined to walk through their building with Tom and the girls. Dudes, they were about eight feet tall and loosely tethered in open stalls. I wasn't about to walk two feet behind them. Instead, I loitered outside and watched a woman blow-drying a calf in preparation for judging. Then this gargantuan steer and I eyeballed each other. I was pretty glad when Tom and the girls emerged from the barn untrampled.
We watched oxen pulling because Tom wanted to. In terms of entertainment, I rank it somewhere between watching my breakfast cereal get soggy and attending a tax seminar.

We rambled through exhibition halls, while the kids asked repeatedly when we could go back to the midway.

We ate some surprisingly decent Filipino food and passed around one $3 water bottle.

We shuffled through the craft hall, while the kids asked repeatedly when we could go back to the midway.

We walked through barns full of livestock, while the kids began to make passionate cases for purchasing some ducks, or perhaps just one chicken. I offered to take them to the midway.
Speaking of fair animals, have any of you every seen an adult male boar? In person? I guess I hadn't because when we sat in the packed grandstand to watch a little livestock judging and they trotted out some boars, I about fell off my bench. First of all? HUGE. Like, six feet long with their heads close to waist-high on a man. Second of all? HUUUUUUGE. Their, um, scrotums.

They looked like two partially deflated basketballs. I mean, that big. Seriously. Bug perused the judging for a couple of minutes, then asked in a clear, ringing tone,

"WHAT is that THING hanging off the pig's butt?"

Bear shot me a panicked look of embarrassement, a clear please, please shut her up message in her eyes.

Tom, sitting next to Bug, murmured something about "discussing it later."

She sat quietly for a minute or so, then asked loudly over the murmur of the crowd, "No, seriously, I have to know. WHAT IS THAT THING HANGING OFF THE PIG'S BUTT??"

Tom leaned down hastily and spoke at length into her ear. I watched her expression slide quickly from curious to horrified. Bear tried to cover her face with her hair and slid microscopically further away from her sister.

We left soon after that and decided to break for a snack. We girls all have our particular fair food weaknesses.
No fair experience is complete without hitting the midway, although neither of my kids are fans of fast rides. As a mom who has watched several hidden-camera 20/20 shows about the (un) safety of fair rides, I was OK at giving the rides a pass.

The girls were gung-ho to try some of the midway games. I was very clear with them before we got to the fair that we would pay for them to play two games, but they'd have to cough up their squirreled-away allowances if they wanted to play any more. One glance at the luridly colored stuffed animals dangling enticingly from the booths, and they happily plunked down their dollars. (I only let them bring a specific amount, or I'm sure they'd have each burned through $50 in pursuit of prizes).

They were steely-eyed with concentration as they threw darts at a balloon, tossed rings around bottles, or threw baseballs at piles of cans. Tom rolled his eyes elaborately but wisely said nothing. Blowing a wad of cash at a fair midway is a childhood rite of passage.
They were divinely happy with their armloads of junky prizes. And broke.
It was a great family outing and a beautiful fall day. We often talk about going places for a day trip, but don't always make the effort to make it happen. It's all too easy to get caught up in mowing the grass, painting the garage, and the myriad of other things that need to get done. There are always things waiting to get done. Sometimes it just feels right to set aside time for fun. I'm so glad we did.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rumors of My Death Are Mostly Exaggerated

At some point during the last almost month of blog silence (Huh. Didn't feel that long.), I did have this monster of a migraine where I briefly wished I was dead, but only until I thought about how I really wanted to lost twenty pounds or so before anyone saw me in a casket. At the time, amidst the blinding pain, the flashing lights in my peripheral vision, and the extreme sensitivity to sound, this is what I came up for as a reason to live. I am nothing if not shockingly shallow.

Frankly, I don't know how this many days have gone by since my last post. Stuff has happened, photos have been taken, and several blog posts half-written in my head. Somewhere between the thought and the keyboard, life got in the way. Then, the longer I went without posting, the more whiz-bang amazing it seemed like the next post had to be. And that threw me into a prolonged state of writer's block, which I attempted to self-medicate by shoe shopping. (Didn't work, but I have the cutest new black heels. Sorry. Again with the shallow).

We've settled back into the routine of the school year and the after-school activities schedule. Tom and I sat down the first week of school to take a good hard look at our budget (not recommended as a mood enhancer unless you are Bill Gates). After listing all of our normal monthly expenditures, our exorbitantly expensive health insurance (the joys of self-employment), and the fees for the girls' extracurricular activities, we totaled the whole mess up and compared it to Tom's monthly net salary. We squinted at the numbers, re-totaled, and discussed.

Bottom line: after fourteen years of being out of the classroom, I'm heading back - this time as a substitute teacher. It's something I said I'd never do. Funny how that always comes back to bite you in the ass, isn't it?

"I'd never want to be a sub! What a terrible job!" I've been known to say airily. And it is terrible (the pay is laughable - transients probably make more money washing windshields at intersections for one hour than a sub does in a day). But it also dovetails with my kids' schooldays, it brings in more money than I'm currently earning (which would be $0 per year), I have the luxury of not subbing if my kids are sick, and it puts me back in the classroom with kids. Even though I came to the decision by necessity, I find that I'm really looking forward to it. Teenagers may be moody, hormonal, and prone to questioning authority, but I've missed the little buggers.

Also! I got to go clothes shopping. I assume that they don't want subs in yoga pants and hoodies, which has been my uniform since 1996. I also have a festive array of baseball caps and flip-flops, which I switch out for sneakers in the cold seasons. I picked up some dress pants, skirts, blouses, and cardigans. Tom, of course, grumps about how many subbing days I've already "spent" with my wardrobe enhancement, but he is a big fan of the pencil skirts and high heels.

Can you imagine the blog fodder this could generate? It's a win-win all around.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Elevating the Phrase "Sucky Day" to a Whole New Level

I had a crappy day yesterday. The day dawned gray and gloomy, I was stressed about bills, feeling guilty for not exercising, making bad food choices, and doing laundry - the morning was not what you'd call rewarding.

The afternoon picked up the theme of the day (sucktastic) and ran with it. I picked up two cranky kids from school and rushed them through homework and The World's Most Random All-Leftover Dinner, so I could get Bug to the sitter's, Bear to her dance class, and meet Tom at the junior high's open house. Then the whole thing in reverse: grabbing Bug from the sitter and Bear from dance. Everybody got to bed late, promising me an fun-filled time trying to get them up for school the next morning.

By the time I flopped into bed, I was mostly at peace with the fact that this had been an irredeemable day. Other than fifteen minutes spent with a perfectly delightful cup of pumpkin spice coffee, it had been a total loss. But at least it was over.

Or so I thought. (Ominous music)

I cracked the window above the bed to let in a trickle of deliciously cool night air and snuggled under my favorite quilt. My pillow was perfectly plump and cool under my cheek. Things were looking up.

I closed my eyes and savored the quiet house. Breathing deeply, I felt the weight of the day lifting off of me.

Except ... well, I actually couldn't breathe that deeply. I tried to relax my body and concentrate on breathing slowly and evenly. No, darn it, there was definite wheezing. Stupid asthma.

Without rolling over, I flopped one arm over to the nightstand and fumbled around for my inhaler. With a practiced gesture, I flipped the cap off and took a quick hit off of it. As I sucked in, I felt something hit my tongue.

Weird. It feels almost like ... lettuce ... or wet tissue. What on earth?

I spat the something into my hand and turned on the light. Without my glasses, all I could tell was that the thing on my hand was brown and felt limp. What the hell?

Curious now and with a definite sense of foreboding, I put the thing on a tissue and found my glasses.

Care to know what I saw? I mean, you could click away now and live a happy, fulfilling life. I wouldn't blame you because this is not something you're going to forget.

You've been warned.

Here's what was on the tissue. And what had previously been in my mouth.
(photo courtesy of Google Images ... I certainly did not
have the presence of mind to take a photograph)

I gaped at the nasty little thing for a solid minute, my brain not willing to accept what I was seeing.

"Tom?" I called to the closed bathroom door, "I'm going to need you to come out here."

"Uh, I'm kind of busy in here," he said.

"No. No. I really, really need you to come out and see this," I said, unable to tear my eyes away from the horror on the Kleenex. And unless I was mistaken ... yes, it was starting to wave its little legs around. It was alive. And had been in my mouth.

Tom was gratifyingly appalled when I told him what had happened and showed him the evidence. I ran into the bathroom to gargle extensively, scrape my tongue , brush my teeth, and start again with the gargling, trying to get rid of the sensation of bug in my mouth holy shit buginmymouth there was a BUG in my aaargg MOUTH arrrggg!

I heard the front door open and close while I was systematically gargling my way through a quart of Listerine. When Tom came back into the bedroom, I asked him wildly, "Did you just go outside and SET IT FREE?"

"No," he said grimly, "No, I burned it. It was that horrifying."

"Oh," I said and thought about that. "That actually makes me feel a little better. Thank you."

"You're welcome."

Whoever said chivalry is dead?

Sidenote: This has officially taken the top spot in My Personal Brushes with Grossness. Previously, that spot had been occupied by the time I was sitting eating a Healthy Choice vanilla pudding cup by the light of the TV. One minute, creamy deliciousness. Next minute? Something large and bulky and WRONG in my mouth. Something that turned out to be a random broccoli spear. It was revolting, but seems positively tame now compared to buginmymouth.

Monday, September 6, 2010

First Day(s) of School

The girls went back to school last week. The elementary school started on Tuesday, and the junior high on Wednesday, which I initially thought was just plain whack. I was surprised to find that I actually quite enjoyed it. When I picked them up, they were each able to tell me about their first day of school without the other one interrupting to tell about her first day of school. Plus, I only had one set of emergency contact/no, we're still not migrant workers/yes, we're still Maine residents/field trip permission slip packets to fill out each evening. So, definite pluses to the staggered first days.

And why has it taken me nearly a week to post the first day of school pictures, with nary a blogged word all week? Well, in a word, it's been HOT around here. We had temperatures in the high nineties all last week in Maine.

Are you people in Arizona/California/The South done chuckling patronizingly yet? I realize that to some of you that's not really that hot. But I want you to bear this in mind: Mainers don't have air conditioning. When it's 97 degrees outside, it's 97 degrees inside - give or take a piddly degree.

I'm proud to identify as a Mainer in most circumstances, but on the topic of climate control, I stand firmly amongst the air-conditioned. After spending our first summer in a sweltering rental apartment while we house-hunted (that's a whole blog post in itself), I determined never to spend another summer without air conditioning. And although it's impossible to buy a house in Maine with central air conditioning (I know. I tried.), we have a BIG window unit in our living room and smaller ones in all the bedrooms. It does the job.

Unfortunately for the girls, the school system stands on the other side of the air conditioning topic. They spent their first week in 90 degree classrooms. I packed water bottles, grapes, Gatorade, pudding, and anything cool and refreshing I could think to stuff in their lunch boxes. Wednesday, I picked them up at school with an ice-chest full of Popsicles. Thursday, we headed straight to a friend's pool after school.

Bug, first day of school:
Bear, first day of school:
Friday night, the remnants of Hurricane Earl passed through and behind him came some beautifully cool and crisp fall air. Yesterday felt so downright autumnal that I baked pumpkin bread and dragged out my knitting.

The beauty of Maine (for those of us with short attention spans) is that as soon as you get tired of one season, another one comes rolling along.

Monday, August 30, 2010

As Promised ... The Outtakes

Thank you, THANK YOU, all who voted! You made two end-of-the-summer, bored and cranky sisters happy and excited. Except for one small kerfluffle when Bug "accidentally" marked down one of Bear's votes instead of Bear doing it herself (the problem? Bear claims that Bug's tick marks are too thick to be aesthetically pleasing ... sigh), it has been a peaceful last weekend of summer.

So, here, in gratitude are the outtakes of that photo shoot. And, just to be crystal clear, 96% of the photos were outtakes, with a few good ones sprinkled throughout with the scarcity of chocolate chips in store-brand ice cream.

It is with no real regret that I come to terms with the fact that neither of my children have what it takes to be a supermodel. Although the $10,000/hour paycheck would come in darn handy when it comes time to pay college tuition, it's not a lifestyle I'd wish on a kid. I'm sure you'll agree once you see these photos, they just don't have what it takes.

Unless there's a niche market for modelling superhero costumes? Bear seems to have a certain panache that would lend itself to that:Although I'm guessing that most supermodels don't spontaneously adjust their orthodonture while the camera is clicking away:
Or quiz the photographer mercilessly about what's for lunch:
Lucky for me, what they lack in professionalism, they make up for in distractibility.

Bug (as I'm snapping away): Hey, when does this bush flower? Doesn't it get berries?Bear (mid-shot suddenly spins to open the playhouse window): Is our old kitchen play set still in here?
Most supermodels don't openly express disdain for the photographer's camera angles:
Or force the photographer to take a shot of their shoes because "they're really cute, and I can tell you're not getting them in the picture."
Or supply this gem of an expression when asked to "look pleasant":
Or choose a Billy Bob Thornton circa Slingblade expression when told to "smile naturally":

Or have to be told, "Stop looking at the frogs instead of the camera!" And especially not to have to be told that more than twice in a five minute span.
And this? I don't even know what this is, but I can guarantee you that supermodels don't do this in the middle of a shoot:
I'm also pretty sure that fashion photographers don't have to make lunch for their models after the shoot, only to be told that "These aren't the kind of chicken nuggets we like, and the grapes are starting to get soft."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Back-To-School Fashion Shoot 2010

It's Back to School for both Bear and Bug this week (and, not incidentally, Back to Routine and Sanity for yours truly). Our summertime disregard for regular bedtimes and waking times around here has led to certain personality malfunctions in my children. As the summer wears on, my tolerance for playing mediator for cranky short people is wearing thiiiiiiin. Like, if I won the lottery and was offered the choice between the cash prize or one day of silence, I'd have to think about it for awhile.

However, a bright spot in the last week has been our Annual Back-to-School Fashion Shoot. The girls have been anxiously reminding me that we're running out of time as the first day of school creeps nearer, and they've been assembling outfits and accessories all week in preparation. Today we finally got around to shooting the pictures.

Here's how it works: The girls have each chosen their six favorite new school outfits to show you. Please vote for your favorite outfit for each kid in the comments. I can guarantee you that they will be hounding me to check my comments every five minutes tomorrow, and tallying votes will be way more entertaining than fighting with each other over who is breathing too loudly. PLEASE VOTE. Do it for me and my ever-dwindling sanity.

Bear, Eighth Grader
#1. Bear: a plaid shirt open over layered camis, worn with accent necklace and jeans.
#2. Bear: a casual graphic tee paired with gray skinny jeans.
#3 Bear: posing with her favorite accessory, her cellphone (Lewis, because naturally she named it) and wearing an aqua tie-dyed babydoll shirt over a white tee with jeans.
#4 Bear: wearing her souvenir t-shirt from band camp, gray skinny jeans, and holding her new backpack.
#5 Bear: charcoal and pink babydoll top over a white tee with dark-rinse jeans.
#6 Bear: a tiered, ruffled orange and white top over a tank, paired with jeans.

Bug, Fifth Grader
#1 Bug: floral tee with sleeveless gray vest, paired with jeans and her spiffy new backpack.
#2 Bug: gray dancer t-shirt worn with flower necklace and jeans.
#3 Bug: hot pink babydoll shirt worn over a white tee with jeans and plaid flats.
#4 Bug: green and pink graphic tee worn with a pink ribbon necklace and jeans.
#5 Bug: gray striped sharkbite tank worn over a lime tee with jeans.
#6 Bug: gray and yellow striped cardigan worn with a coral cami and jeans.
Bonus Enticement for Voting! If the kids manage to accrue a respectable number of votes (i.e., enough to keep them from bickering), I plan to post the outtakes from this photo shoot early next week. And, trust me, these outtakes are not to be missed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No, You Can't Have a Live Koala as a Pet. Or a Manatee.

On the last day of our Ohio visit, my parents took us all to The Columbus Zoo. Jack Hanna (of Tonight Show fame) is the director of this zoo, and it is fantastic.

I learned something valuable that day, and I'd like to pass it on to you as life advice, which you should probably write in permanent ink on your hand. It's that important.

Here it is: If you go to the zoo on the hottest day of a Midwestern summer, just go ahead and skip the rhino enclosure. Particularly if you have a fairly hair-trigger gag reflex.

Holy STENCH. There are no words. I'll just say that no Port-a-Potty I've ever encountered could come within 1/1000 of the odor of that enclosure. They must outfit the trainers with gas masks or something. Not only did I not pause to admire the mighty rhino, I picked up my sedate pace to something approximating a quick trot until I was well upwind.

The brown bears just sat around looking big, dumb, and goofy, trying to convince us that they wouldn't mind at all if we climbed over the fence and cuddled them like big fluffy teddy bears. Unfortunately for them, I've read this book, and it was so completely terrifying that I will never, ever be tempted to walk up to a bear. The quote I remember from that book, which is a true account of people who have been attacked by bears, is one from a man who was dragged out of his tent by a grizzly. His friends reported hearing him scream, "Oh God, it's got my leg off!" as he was being mauled to death.

Nice try on the cute act, bears. I saw those teeth when you yawned, and I'm not falling for it.
The newest exhibit was the polar bears. They had a beautiful enclosure complete with a moat full of rainbow trout with a viewing deck both from above-ground and underwater. The polar bears are twin sisters, rescued as orphaned cubs near Alaska.

They are also rude and inconsiderate.

How, you ask, can polar bears be rude?
Well, keep in mind that it was HOT that day. Like, jungle hot. Not a cloud in the sky. High humidity. Scorching sun. Sweat dribbled constantly from my scalp down into my eyes, and even my purse felt cloyingly hot pressed against my side.

Meanwhile, the polar bears, rudely did THIS the entire time we were on the observation deck. Over and over again with palpable glee. Almost like they knew we were about to pass out from heat exhaustion as we stood, pressed against the glass watching.
Then this. As if they were filming a goddamn Mountain Dew commercial or something. Jerks.
At least this guy was gracious enough to look as hot and uncomfortable as the zoo guests. He laid on his shaded platform with his harem the entire time we stood watching, raised his head for precisely one second while I snapped his picture, then flopped back down to wait for the cool breezes of evening.

That's manners.
I was bizarrely taken with the flying foxes, which were bat-like enough in appearance to horrify my mother. She has an iron-clad "no bat" policy, which was severely tested last summer when one decided to take up residence in their patio table umbrella. He was, to put it mildly, dispatched.

I thought the flying foxes were fantastic, although I concede that they have extremely creepy feet. They reminded me of tiny, elderly British gentlemen, with their raincoats tucked securely around them. They just need little derby-style hats, and the image would be perfect. I
considered writing "Please supply the flying foxes with little hats" and submitting it in the suggestion box, but they'd probably have to staple them to their heads because of the whole hanging upside-down thing. And that would be wrong, so I let it go. Reluctantly, because it really would be fabulous.
Manatees eating lettuce. I'm putting this shot on my fridge as substantiation for my theory that eating salad can so make you fat, so really, why not just focus on cheesecake?Snoozing koala. Adorable. My girls want one as a pet. Me too, but I couldn't find any zoo personnel who could confirm if they could be litter box trained.
The girls were as excited as preschoolers to find a misting station on that hot afternoon. Even Papa joined them under the cooling mist.
It looked tempting, but I believe I've already established on this blog the effects of humidity on my hair? I was afraid that the misting system, combined with the day's heat, would lead to me poking out some hapless tourist's eye with an errant frizzy curl. (Also, I knew there was a decent chance that I'd wind up being in a photograph later that day, and then I'd have to explain the 'do to future generations looking through my photo albums. Much better to appear red-faced and sweaty than with The Frizzy Helmet of Shame).