Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Owl Prowling

So why, you might ask, did I drive all the way across town to get in a swim at the Stoney Point Y today rather than just stopping in at the downtown Y, just 5 minutes away?

Well, first, I needed a swim to get rid of the pinch between my shoulders due to sitting at my desk, reading 48 (!) portfolios for the Scholastic National Arts and Writing scholarships over the last couple of days.

I decided to drive 20 minutes rather than 5 because I heard the water was warmer at the Stoney Point Y . . .

OK, OK, I also wanted to be out near where the Eastern Iowa Airport Snowy Owl has been seen.

Here he is; wouldn't YOU like to see him?
I sometimes think of him as "Karen's owl," too. She saw him once when she was driving back from Coe late at night, flying just ahead of her car!

Karen was lucky. I want to be lucky too, and see that owl. The way to get lucky--or at least luckier--is to put myself where that owl might be.

Probably by now, everyone's heard about the snowy owl irruption. Owls have been spotted all over Iowa, as you can see here. (The owl and cross shows where a dead one was found)

I found a cool video about snowy owl irruption on Cornell U's birding site. It takes a while to load, but the photography is amazing.

In hopes of seeing one, I went on the Iowa Birds listserv to find out where and when they've been spotted. There were a number of posts this weekend about the bird by the airport. Bruce drove so I could look for owls. We went out there each day of the weekend. The boys came a couple times, but they spent most of the time looking at their electronic devices.

In three trips out there, we have yet to see the owl. I'm disappointed. I REALLY want to see one, and it's so tricky. I mean, that owl could be anywhere out on those snow-covered cornfields!

But the owl-prowling has been surprisingly enjoyable, even without owls. The landscape is eerily beautiful--the snow drifting along the fence rows, the tan of the corn stumps poking through the drifts, the cozy farmhouses and beautiful barns. One day, we saw huge skeins of Canada Geese wheeling and unraveling above us--they must have been considering spending the night in a cornfield.

And there's something fun about the boondoggling aspect of these owl-less prowls. Bruce seems to enjoy himself--he was the one who offered to drive. He likes to explore. It reminds me of some of the trips and boondoggles we used to take before the boys were born--and gives a little glimpse of the future when we'll be boondoggling together again, just the two of us.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Celebration

No birthday cake for Robbie this year. His requests were Chex mix and chai ice cream.

We found a recipe for the ice cream on Recipe Source, and used his favorite Chai tea bags to flavor it.

He had some friends over on Sunday to celebrate. This is how a teen boy invites people over for his birthday: (Robbie on the phone) "Hey. Doing anything this afternoon? Wanna come over?" Mom: "Why don't you tell him it's your birthday?" Robbie: "I don't want to make a big deal about it."

They played Magic: the Gathering, Wizards (a new card game from Aunt Ellen), and TrackMania, a racing computer game.

Of course, they also made and ate ice cream.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy Newt Year

It's an exciting new year here in Iowa--with the caucuses just a couple of days away, the candidates are swarming!

Bruce has been busy seeing them since this summer when they first started arriving here. As of New Year's Eve, he'd seen all but 2--Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Mitt was scheduled to be in town January 2. But the closest Newt would be was Waterloo, 50 miles away. Bruce was considering a New Year's day road trip to see him.

Although I'm not the expert that Bruce is, I've been to see a few candidates. The first was Tom Harkin the year he decided to run for president. Then came Howard Dean, who I heard, but did not see--a hazard of being a small person in a big crowd. I went to a big rally for Clinton and Gore at Quaker Oats. Of course, I also saw Obama in 2008 when he did an MTV program on Coe's campus.

But I'd never been to see a Republican candidate. They just don't interest me. I guess that makes me a democrat. The candidates this year seem particularly unappealing--angry and mean and some a bit crazy. Newt certainly seems to have a mean streak, and he does have some crazy ideas like school custodian jobs for kids and Obama being born in Kenya. But the idea of a little boondoggle to Waterloo with Bruce sounded fun. And even if Newt's a bit of a nut, he's a farily smart nut--so possibly interesting to hear! So I decided to go and see the guy.

Here's the bar where he appeared.
It was packed.
We stood near a door where we couldn't see very well, but could catch all the action in the parking lot--news media folks, people with NEWT 2012 stickers on their lapels and earbuds in their ears, security and police.

I figured I'd make the most of being small and rather inconspicuous, so I made my way through the crowd to check things out. C-Span guys with mikes on huge poles were wandering around and a couple of reporters were jotting notes on pads. The waitresses did their best to take orders, but they looked frazzled.

I talked with a few people, too. One woman said Newt was the first candidate she'd seen this year. "We used to live in Des Moines, and there were a lot more candidates there," she said. People standing near us, a retired couple and their daughter who looked to be about our age, had seen some other candidates. "Who are you leaning toward?" I asked. "I know who I don't want," said the man. I expected him to say "Obama," but he said "Ron Paul."

Eventually, the Newtmobile arrived. I went out to take a picture.
Someone handed me some stickers and a sign. I gave most of the stickers away and stowed the sign on the bar.
Because I couldn't see the stage, I planned to get a photo of the Newtster as he walked in--I was near a door and could duck out to snap a shot. But I got spacy from standing so long and missed it! Mostly what I saw was a short-ish guy with a big head and white hair.

He didn't speak for long--just long enough to berate his opponents for "going negative" and to tell us that he is the most qualified candidate for the job, having Worked with Ronald Reagan to End the Cold War (Go Noot!)

Then it was time for questions. He answered a few about getting jobs back from overseas (lower taxes!), the federal reserve (secretive, needs a makeover), NASA (bureaucratic, but we still need a goal in space), and something having to do with guns (been an NRA member for years). His answers were articulate (Bruce's word). I thought he sounded slick. He seemed to think he was pretty smart. I bet he'd talk your ear off with pedantry if you'd let him.

It was interesting that although the audience seemed appreciative, most of the people weren't bursting into spontaneous applause. "Did they yell 'Noot, Noot, Noot'?" asked Eli. Sorry to disappoint, but they didn't. I gather the Iowa republicans there this evening haven't really decided yet about who they'll caucus for. That's also what the polls are saying about our state in general.

At the end, Newt offered to talk with anyone who wanted to come up and ask him questions, which was cool. I think the tween-age girl near us was going to take up her copy of Newt's book A Nation Like No Other, to get signed. She, at least, looked like a true Noot fan.