Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Another fun-filled day!

Yesterday morning I had to go to Renton (almost to Seattle) to have my fingerprints taken for my teaching certificate. Joshua and I both thought traffic would be a nightmare, so he came with me to make use of the carpool lane. We left extra early and surprise surprise - no traffic at all! So we spent our hour at Starbucks enjoying the coffee, listening to the sentence-long descriptions of other people's coffee, and our library books. Aside from having to go to one office to fill out an application, another to pay, and then back down to the first for the actual printing, all went well at Education Department. It's so much nicer these days having it computerized - no black fingertips! When I go off work, I went to pick up Joshua (yes, his car is STILL in the shop) and we drove around looking at houses for sale before heading home. Then, our usual walk through the park followed dinner. Mount Rainier was quite a site! We tried taking a picture, but our camera just isn't fancy enough to capture the contrast of the mountain and the sky. For our evening entertainment, Joshua made some iced tea which we sipped out on the balcony while listening to records (do you remember what those are?) and playing Cribbage. Just as the sun was about to set (around 9:15 in these parts) we were invited to join the Mason family for some ice cream since they were in our neighborhood. We shared a dark chocolate ice cream with brownie and peanut butter mixed in ... delish! You've got to love the long days of summer. :)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dinner fit for a ... 5 year old!

Tonight for dinner, Joshua and I had a feast of Fluffernutters (his crunchy and mine creamy), grapes, and to round it off a glass of milk. I had planned to make lasagna, but after a long day and two hungry tummies upon walking through the door, we found something a little faster.
Our fun day started with a new church, Journeys in North Tacoma. Joshua knew two couples already! Then we headed out to Federal Way for a very special treat ... Del Taco!!! We both had our favorite chicken tacos but they just weren't the same as those in our memories. We actually made the trip all the way out there to go to the Super Mall in Auburn. It reminds me of a fancy Ontario Mills (for the California readers) only with much better stores. I got some new duds for the school year and we enjoyed the window shopping too. Joshua had an inkling to go spend the afternoon in Seattle. Lots of other people apparently had the same idea, so free parking was impossible to find. Instead, we enjoyed the city from the car! We drove past the troll under the bridge, the Space Needle, Experience Music Project, and the beautiful waterfront with a handful of cruise ships ready for new adventures. If anyone comes to visit and wants to explore Seattle, we promise we'll park the car and show you all around! Summer is just getting started, so think about it, will ya?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day (still in the negative)

Well, another Father's day passed that I have to celebrate somebody else. Still in the negative, maybe next year will be father's day #1 for me or at least -1. But for now it seems like negative infinity. All my side of the family is in town because our oldest neice graduated from High School on the holiday. We started off by making breakfast at my dad's house for half the family. On the menu was homemade hashbrowns, thick butcher-cut bacon, scrambled eggs and french toast stuffed with cream cheese and marmalade (from famous Mimi's Pain Purdue). After breakfast there was another extreme low tide so Erin and I went trekking down the beach with our nephew William to share with him the excitement of the deep. But he must have some of the past Erin's timidity because he wasn't too sure about seeing all the creatures.
It's fun being able to see my family again. It was eight years ago when I moved away from this region, and mostly out of their lives. It is funny to run into all the old familiar faces so often now. My sister Mary, 13 years my senior, used to be always at my side as I was little. She has a son, Mavric, who is about 10, that exibits a lot of the same behaviors as myself. I jokingly said that it is because we were raised by the same woman. Mary's older daughter, Marisa, has spent some time lately with Erin and has discovered that she too exhibits behaviors of Mary. So all this time I thought I had made a mistake and not married my mom, I was just comparing to the wrong woman!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Low Tide Fun!

Washington has been having extreme low tides recently, so we decided to venture out and see some wild life first hand. We went right out in Joshua's parents' backyard and oh the things we got to see!
Here is a giant pink sea star. He was missing one arm, but we wanted it to look nice for the picture. Don't worry, sea stars can regenerate their arms.
Next, we came across a field of sand dollars. I have never seen so many in my life! There must have been over a hundred in a 2 foot section of sand. This one had his spines moving like crazy (you can kind of see them glistening in the picture.) Joshua found this salad-loving oyster too. These are not native to this area - they were brought here from Japan. If you find a shell on the beach, don't keep it! The young oysters attach to the empty shells.
This collection of pieces tell a bit about a moon snail. They have shells like the one pictured and eat bivalves by drilling a hole in the shell. Check out the clam shell in the picture! The most interesting thing about a moon snail is the way it protects its eggs. It buries them in the sand and then secretes a glue-like substance in the sand around the eggs creating a protective collar. You can pick it up and hold it and it won't fall apart! Weird!

We saw more crabs on the beach than we could count, but this was the biggest out of the water. This is a red rock crab and they, like other crabs, molt when they outgrow their exoskeleton. Even the eyes and gills are left behind! Many people mistake the molts for dead crabs, but not any uahardwick.com readers!

And here we have a cool eel-like fish called a gunnel. I don't know much about these guys other than that they live in very shallow water and look like a cross between an eel and a worm.

As we got closer to the bridge, the sea life exploded! Here you can see about a half dozen ochre stars. This was the best shot we could get since most of the stars we saw were in a couple feet of water. There were tons of purple and orange ochre stars, and even a few blue mottled stars (those are the ones with the long arms that stay almost uniform in width.)

Here's an ochre star up close. Do you know how these guys eat? They use their tube feet to pry open shells like mussels and clams, then spit out their stomach and digest the creature in its own shell! Once it's all soupy, the star slurps everything back in. Even more strange, when sea stars die, they don't realize it. Their stomach comes out though and they figure out the bad news when they can no longer eat. Bizarre!

Don't these anemones look like slimy bell peppers? They hold water inside their bodies to keep from drying out during a low tide. That's why they squirt if you poke them. But don't do that! Then they will dry out and die. Don't be a sea creature killer. You can see some of the open anemones under the water as well as more stars. Funny they're so close - those purple stars like to eat anemones!

This is one of the posts of the Purdy bridge. It is just covered with these green anemones! They can actually clone themselves by splitting in half, which is why they all look so similar. If they were open you would see their beautiful pink tips. They feel sticky to the touch, which is actually a sting, but our skin is too tough for the sting to penetrate.

Last, but certainly not least, here is why the beach along this section is called the Spit - geoducks! Pronounced "gooey-duck", these clam-like creatures spit up to 3 feet of water! They can't fit this long neck (pictured) into their shell, so their best defense is to bury themselves in the sand. This neck of theirs can stretch up to 39" to the surface! Also very interesting. geoducks can live up to 160 years! Strange!

We had such a fun day exploring the outdoors, it was one of my favorite days ever! If you know me (at all) you know that I am an indoor girl and under normal circumstances, avoid wildlife at all costs. But you forget dear readers that I am now a zoo employee and spend many days monitoring the touch tanks which contain almost all of the above mentioned creatures. Knowledge of these strange critters had erased the fear and made me a fan of low tide days!

Friday, June 01, 2007

I've got a new job!

Working in Washington has been very strange for me. I started out grading writing tests for eight hours a day - the pay was ok and it was full time, but WOW was it ever boring. Then I started teaching at Sylvan which I love! I am subbing for another teacher two days a week and teach my own groups two days a week. The kids are fun and the staff is awesome. Unfortunately, it is very part time and the hours are awkward. Finally, I have been having a blast working at the zoo. I get to work weekdays and a few Saturdays here and there and I love it! Three jobs, however, are just not enough for me ... so... I accepted a first grade teaching position at Lighthouse Christian School! I start the last week of August, so I get to continue with Sylvan and the zoo until then. I didn't expect to go back into the classroom, but this job seems to be the perfect fit. I am going in next Friday to observe the teachers in action and hang out with the little ones on Field Day. I think this will be my last "new job" post for quite a while!!