Lemurs, Adopt-A-Beach & Report Cards
The last couple of weeks have been pretty exciting – and thus explains my absence from blog-land (I hope). I keep meaning to come post, and I have drafts started, but when it comes down to actually posting them, I have fallen short of my goals. So, to make up for that, here’s an extra-long post!
Last week, our homeschool group toured the local emergency center (911 dispatch & emergency management offices), and talked with a local K-9 police officer about his job training, working with and handling his partner, beautiful Danish born German Shepherd, Hutch.
I’ve never really thought about the intricacies of emergency planning in a city – this was really an eye-opening experience. I know that our city took a lot of flack for how they handled the hurricanes (Rita & Ike) in the past, but I can imagine that any disaster is going to cause issues – it is good to know, and good to see and put a personal face on the emergency response team for the city.
The kids all got to field mock 911 calls, and listen to some real 911 emergency calls. They were nervous and embarrassed as kids are wont to be during things like this, but I think they were impressed with the level of stress that 911 dispatchers deal with. Some of those calls were scary!
After that, we headed back home with some of our friends, and while the moms were chit-chatting inside, the boys all went out to play with their 911 frisbees and to practice their archery skills. One of the kids came in and said, “Mom, there are lemurs in our yard.” quite matter-of-factly. I was skeptical, because honestly how often does one find exotic animals in their yard, right? But I went out and was shocked to find that yes, there were in fact lemurs in our yard!
We have an exotic petting zoo down the street from our house – well, it’s not the zoo, itself, it’s where the owners of the zoo live, and house the animals that are not currently on display. That means that on any given day, we hear the brays of donekys and zebras, the caw of peacocks and turkeys and the low grunts of camels cracking the silence of a peaceful evening.
Right off the bat, I figured that the lemurs were from the zoo; they were collared and healthy-looking; and they were not shy of people. They weren’t overly enthusiastic about being picked up, but they knew enough to know that people=food, so we were able to lure them into a cat carrier with bananas.
I tried calling the zoo, but got no answer, so I hit the next best thing – Facebook. Several of my friends are all about animal rescue, so I tagged them – social media at its finest, I tell ya! Within moments, I had a thread with helpful suggestions and offers of assistance in finding the owners. After a little while I decided to walk down and see if the zoo was missing some little friends. Apparently, the lemurs have just returned from a 6 hour road trip and the lady that runs things came in, dropped everyone off into their enclosures and hit the hay – understandable after such a long drive. The lemurs we found were babies, who normally get out, but usually stay close to the adults. Who knows why they chose that day to explore – I’m glad we found them and were able to keep them safe! Hopefully, they will take this example under advisement and make sure that the babies are kept secure and safe on their premises from now on.
I have to say that I had a bit of a moral dilemma in this situation. I kinda dislike zoos altogether. Though I understand that people are more concerned with donating time and money to wildlife causes when they can see. hear and smell the animals and so zoos raise a lot of money for conservation and wildlife protection, I see it as a double-edged sword. The animals that are subjected to small enclosures, unnatural climates and habitats and subjected to the constant scrutiny of humans – it’s not a fair life for them. I have less issue with larger facilities, but for every large-scale zoo, there are a dozen ‘mom & pop’ zoos that have enclosures that are too small, or too unnatural. Then, you have the petting zoo industry, which is less concerned with conservation and more about capitalism via the exploitation of exotic animals.
I admit that there was a part of me that desperately wanted to keep those babies. Nevermind that I was not prepared to house or feed them – I was willing to do the research to find out what would be needed to properly care for them (while at the same time recognizing that in captivity, there really isn’t a ‘proper’ way to do that). But, that would mean knowingly keeping something that didn’t belong to me – so theft… and I am, naturally, at moral odds with that as well. Basically, it was a no-win situation. I was forced to do the legal thing, even though I felt that it was the wrong thing, ethically, especially when I saw that we were returning them to a too-small, less that secure, and overcrowded enclosure. Considering that Texas does not regulate exotic animals that are not classed as ‘dangerous’, and that this location is outside the city-limits (therefore effectively removing any city ordinance issues and authority), there’s really nothing that is going on there that ‘technically’ breaks the law, leaving my hands tied. That was a hard lesson to teach my kids – that sometimes, doing the ‘right’ thing can be the ‘wrong’ thing, too.
In other news, the kids and I signed up a few weeks ago to participate in the Adopt-A-Beach cleanup program at one of our local beaches. I say local, but we’re about an hour from the coast in several directions. It’s one of the few perks about living where we do! This time, we went to Sea Rim State Park. I have to say that it was kind of sad to be out there. This is one of the state parks that they’d put a lot of effort into over the years – there was a massive multi-story observation deck with a museum, bathrooms and showers and the headquarters for the park. On one side was the beach, and on the other was camping and a wildlife trail through the marsh that was on raised piers through a mile or so of wetlands that was home to all kinds of fish, fowl and reptiles.
As a kid, I’d been down there many times with my mom. She ran our homeschool group when I was in school, and we had several trips to Sea Rim. This is the first time I’ve been out there since Hurricane Rita in 2005 – talk about shocking… all of that is GONE. The landscape is barely recognizable. Even the pavement that went down to the beach is disrupted and mostly grown over. There were several areas where we could see the piers from the walkway through the marsh – even the marsh that was protected by dunes and marsh grasses has been exposed by the shifting landscape.
On the upside, they’re working on it. There were a couple of blocked off areas with lots of heavy construction equipment out there and contractors. They’ve built back a walkway from the visitor’s section over the marsh down to the beach (but I don’t think it was open yet), and I hope that they’re planning on building an observation deck and facilities again. Hurricanes suck.
In any case, we did spend some quality time together, working as a team to pick up some trash off the beach. We collected bottle caps, plastic water bottles, plastic bags, motor oil containers, forgotten shoes and broken beach toys, fishing supplies…. all kinds of nasty stuff that’s been left behind. After that, the organizers sponsored lunch and a drawing – we all three left with fabulous prizes, donated by one of the companies that sponsored the clean up site. Afterwards, we played on the beach for a few hours. It was a fun day!
With the beach clean-up, that marks the end of the first grading period of our school year. For a while, I stopped using the computer and keeping ‘grades’. I liked that, but I feel like my own accountability was starting to slide, so we’re going back to grade-keeping this year. I am using the free version of Homeschool Tracker (Basic). With just the two kids, that’s all I need right now; when they get up into middle school (which is next year for LBB – yikes!!), I am probably going to upgrade to the paid version.
The boys both made the A/B honor roll – I think the lowest grade was 80. I waffle back and forth with grades sometimes. On the one hand, this is homeschool – we stick with something until we get it and then move on. Since we move at their pace, then there is no reason for bad grades, ever. But on the same token, I don’t want to ‘baby’ them through school. So far, I just do what is asked of me from the program – points possible, points accredited and time spent. I am going to have to figure out how to weight grades (so that tests carry more weight than daily work) for middle school – but thankfully, I still have a year to worry about that!
In any case, we’re done for the week! Hopefully, the next month will afford a few more blogging opportunities.