Creepy Crawlies

Monday, October 31, 2011

In honor of Halloween, I'd like to introduce you to some of our local fauna. They're much scarier than goblins and ghouls, and we even have our very own monsters.

1. The tarantula
This one is pretty obvious. However, I was surprised to find out that they are not actually poisonous. Apparently their venom just hurts really bad (no big deal, right?) Interestingly, their venom activates the same pain sensors as hot chili peppers, so it literally feels just like putting ground up red pepper in an open wound. According to the scientists, the sensations would be indistinguishable. I'm not sure who signed up to test that hypothesis, but I'm not volunteering.

These are my students from last year holding Rosie, our guest.

Fortunately I have yet to find one in the house. Despite their non-poisonous-to-humans status, I still fully intend to shoot any that make their way indoors with the shotgun, security deposit be damned.

This is Terry the Tarantula hanging out in our driveway.

2. The tarantula hawk
The tarantula hawk is not actually a bird but a wasp. A really, really big wasp. Tarantula wasps' bodies can grow up to four-inches long. And did I mention that they sting? In fact, they are considered to have the most painful sting of any insect in the world. Which is fun because there is a whole tree full of them in our yard. (I'm assuming the same scientist who figured out the tarantula venom thing worked on this one, too.)

Here's the really gross part: they prey on tarantulas. First the momma wasp finds a tarantula and stings it. The venom the wasp injects paralyzes the tarantula, allowing the wasp to lay her eggs inside of its body. The wasp then drags the paralyzed, egg-laden tarantula (still alive) to a hole and buries it. When the eggs hatch, they will spend about a month eating the tarantula from the inside out. I'm sure if I were an 10-year old boy I would think that was pretty awesome, but I'm not, so I just think it is gross.
Ever try taking a picture of a bee in flight? It's not easy -- unless the bee is the size of a small airliner.
3. Gila Monster
The gila monster doesn't look scary at first glance, but you still have to watch out for these guys. Fortunately, they are quite slow, so as long as you're careful they are easy to avoid. If you are unlucky enough to get bitten, though, you are in trouble. Their saliva is poisonous to humans, but released slowly. In order to speed up the process, the gila monster will chew on its victim, but without ever fully releasing its grip. They are known to hang on for very long periods of time, and the only two known methods of getting them to let go are to fully submerge them in water (which is a bit of a challenge in the desert) and cutting off their heads. As a bonus, this last one will get you slapped with a hefty fine when you go to the ER since Gila Monsters are a protected species. 

Gila (hee-la) Monsters are one of only two poisonous lizards in the world. The other, the Mexican Beaded Lizard, is a bigger (up to 24 inches) and yellower relative. Gila's are exclusive to Arizona, while the Beadeds also extend south into Mexico and Guatemala. They also appear to prefer our yard.

I'm not 100% sure if this is a Gila or Beaded. I didn't want to take a much closer look, though.I think it's a Gila??  It was definitely yellower than the others we've seen, but only about 12-14 inches long.
 Definitely a Gila. He liked the shade in our front yard.
 We named him Gill. He visits a lot.

So what's a girl to do with all of these scary critters around? Why, call the Ninja Turtles!

Grandma and Grandpa

Friday, October 28, 2011

My grandparents were in town recently!
It was the first time any family has visited me since I've moved and it was so much fun. It made me a little bit homesick, though. I had to work, but we still fit in some shopping, a few meals, and a trip to Tubac.

Tubac is a little artist gallery with lots of handmade trinkets, like these watches.
 They also import a lot of things from Mexico, which is about ten minutes away.
 The sculptures in the background were going for $15,000
 This guy was free.
 We spent much too much time at Crate and Barrel (Just kidding, there is no such thing). Ended up with these pasta bowls and matching place mats. I love them and have used them every day since.

Overheard in the hallway

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Teaching middle schoolers is both the best and worst thing that has happened to me this year, which makes for a lot of good stories. I anticipate writing about them a lot, so I figure I ought to introduce you. I'll let them do the explaining.

Here are some snippets of conversations I have overheard:

“Do you think they had desks back in the 60s?”
“Doubt it. What would they have even used them for?”

“Did you hear Steve Jobs died?”
“What?? Is that going to delay the release of the new iPhone??”
"I hope not, I've had my old iPhone for almost a year now."

“Everything that happens in this world only happens because God wants it to happen that way.”
“But then why do we make choices?”
“We don't. The Theory of Christianity says so.”
"But Mrs.___ always says I'm making bad choices."

“How old do you think Mrs. Fry is?”
“Oh I don’t know, probably like in her fifties. Pretty old at least.”

“You idiot, that’s not Oprah it’s the first lady!”

And the day I highlighted my hair: "You look brighter today."

Pumpkin Patch

Monday, October 24, 2011

We have been growing weary of summertime here. Despite lighting autumn-scented candles, making apple pies, and obstinately wearing scarves, the reality of this 95 degree October weather is getting to us. So we were intrigued when we heard there was a pumpkin patch about 40 minutes north of us. Surely it must be cooler, and somehow more autumnal, at a pumpkin patch, right?


There were palm trees and cotton fields surrounding the pumpkins, and it was actually warmer, at a cozy 98 degrees. BUT: there were pumpkins. And farm animals, hay stacks, corn mazes and train rides. Being the only pumpkin patch in the area, they charged you separately for each activity but, all in all, it was a fun afternoon with friends at the farm. Take a look:

We are amused that this picture looks like a maternity photo shot. 

This little guy is awfully cute.

We did get a little lost, but had fun exploring the cotton fields.
Janice and Phil got creative with the cotton balls (before noticing the caterpillars).
Any idea what crop that is behind us? We have no idea.

It certainly wasn't the kind of (rainy, muddy, gray, and cold) pumpkin patch experience of my pacific northwest childhood, but it was fun nonetheless. On the upside, I think the inside of the pumpkin is already cooked so making the pie should be simple!

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