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okay…so now I want a pet tarantula

IMG_1043No joke.

We did the coolest thing after school yesterday! Our local library hosted a session with Travis Potts, local “Spider Man.” Not the kind that swings from building to building rescuing damsels in distress and battling villains, but a hero to the public, just the same. He’s a tarantula fanatic, and he brought his pets to share with us.

I have a morbid fascination with spiders. I think they are super creepy, but, yet, I can’t take my eyes off of them. Kind-of like a train-wreck. And there’s Charlotte. Who doesn’t love Charlotte? Spiders are completely enchanting. So when we heard that there were going to be spiders at the library, I was completely pumped. Porter, my six-year-old son, was excited, too. And Campbell, my four-year-old daughter, told me she didn’t want to go, but I made her, anyway, and when they opened the door to allow us to approach the spiders, she shriveled and cried, but, because I’m such an awesome mom, I drug her in. Yeah, I suck a little. SPOILER ALERT: She lived. And she loved it.

Travis brought four live tarantulas, and we got to view them and ask questions.

He shared all sorts of information about them that I didn’t quite absorb because I was keeping my eye on the creepy buggars, but as he talked about them and answered these crazy kid questions, the spiders became less creepy to me, and to Campbell. Porter dove right in. He asked tons of questions, and then when Campbell finally let her curiosity get the better of her, she asked more than tons of questions. I think she may have driven Travis insane. He got a small taste of what I deal with every day:

Excuse me. How much venom do they have? Excuse me. How many spiders do you have? Excuse me. Do they bite? Excuse me. What are their names? Excuse me. I think the baby one is really cute. What is her name? Spidey? Excuse me. What do they eat? Excuse me. How old is this spider? Excuse me. What is her name? Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me…

My daughter is a total chatterbox, but at least she’s semi-polite. With the excuse me bit. The first question of hers that Travis addressed was “how many knees does a spider have?” I chuckled a bit because spiders don’t have knees. So I made eye contact with Travis to let him know that Campbell was so naive to ask about spider knees. How cute.

Travis answered Campbell’s seemingly absurd question and explained in all seriousness that spiders have eight knees. And, better yet, if a leg gets caught in something, they can purposely separate at the knee to preserve themselves and then grow back the leg gradually with each molt. Huh? Yeah, that’s what I was totally thinking. I learned today that spiders have knees! Wow!

Porter asked some really valid and well-timed questions. So between the two of them, we learned a lot. And then I asked some questions, too, like how he got into this whole mess. He chuckled a little bit and explained that he took his son to a reptile show about four years ago and ended up with his first tarantula, Rosie. I loved hearing how he just stumbled upon being the local spider man. He taught us about their warning signs…how they “kick their hairs.” Porter was fascinated with that.

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Porter questions Travis while Campbell tries to edge in.

The spider with the knees that Campbell asked about was his first, named Rosie, because she’s a Mexican Red-Knee (the official name to officially slam it home to me once again that spiders have knees). She was really beautiful, once you got to know her. According to Travis, her breed is one of the ten most docile tarantulas, and a great one to start with, if you’re going to go arachnid. We even got to see her feeding.

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Rosie.

There were others. L.P. was an abbreviation for his scientific name–it escapes me–as well as being a “little Potts,” and he will someday be 12″. Wow! He ate a cockroach right in front of us and spun some silk to make himself more comfortable while he ate.

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L.P. eating a cockroach.

And, then, there was Max from Argentina who was named after Travis’ friend, Max, from Argentina. Max was huge. Impressive.

Max

Max from Argentina.

Campbell’s favorite was the “so cute” baby one who hasn’t been named, yet, because Travis wants to get to know her, first. Well, that’s awesome. Campbell took it upon herself to attempt a name, but I think Travis is looking for something more original than “Spidey.”

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Baby no-name.

I am beyond thankful that my children and I had this opportunity to experience tarantulas up close. What was once creepy is still creepy, but not quite so much. Travis talked about how he can hold Rosie, and it made me want to hold her. And for the first time in my life, in the presence of spiders, I didn’t have the urge squeal as if I was in a horror movie.

So I asked one last question, which, is of course, the ultimate FAQ: “Have you ever been bit?” His response: “Not yet. But I know it will happen.” And it’s worth it to him. And that is completely awesome.


animals who reduce, reuse, and recycle: Jeremy Jackrabbit takes over Phoenix

Now that kids know how to use a touch screen by three months of age, you might think puppet shows old fashioned. Retro, at best. The littles have been enjoying the Phoenix Public Library Summer Program, and yesterday’s event was a puppet show put on by the Great Arizona Puppet Theater. To be honest, I wasn’t too excited about it, so I planned to read during the performance. And…the littles debated about whether or not to go. A puppet show? Off we went, despite our reservations.

Po's book. And some dried play-doh I neglected to collect.

Po’s book. And some dried play-doh I neglected to collect.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the puppet show was “Jeremy Jackrabbit Recycles the Can,” based on the Jeremy Jackrabbit book that Porter brought home from school a couple of weeks before summer’s onset. He was super excited when he got to keep a copy of the book and rambled on and on about how the story was great and how the girl who illustrated it was just a kid, and she came to his class to read the book. I pretty much thought he had his story mixed up, but then I did a bit of research.

Jeremy Jackrabbit Recycles the Can was written by Sasha and Rodney Glassman of Phoenix and illustrated by student artists of Phoenix, all from local elementary schools. One of the illustrators was from Porter’s school, so she did, indeed, read the book to the class. Duh, mommy. The authors sound pretty amazing, as noted on the back of the book:

Sasha and Rodney have a passion for education, helping children, and making their community a stronger and more sustainable place to live, work, and raise a family. With these goals in mind, their vision of writing children’s books, illustrated by students, to educate future generations on issues of sustainability was born.

Jeremy Jackrabbit’s adventures center around a lesson in reducing, reusing, and recycling. He meets lots of animal friends along the way, and together, they preach a message of sustainability that is fun for kids. The story is simple, yet the message is clear, and children really enjoy the peer-created illustrations, which I believe support an “I can do it” spirit.

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Jeremy Jackrabbit looked right at me!

The Great Arizona Puppet Theater (Sasha Glassman serves on the board) has brought a current theme to the old fashioned puppet show, and the audience yesterday was delighted. Jeremy Jackrabbit and his friends interacted with the kids, and the crowd went wild. Heck, even I put down my book to take a quick, possibly unauthorized video of Mountain Lion Michael’s song.

Michael’s voice could be considered irritating by many, but the kids loved that shit. And I have to hand it to the puppeteer, who gave irritating voices to multiple characters simultaneously and singlehandedly. She was a true professional in her craft.

I must apologize for the odd angle of the video. As delightful as librarians can be, there is one who takes her job–puppet show security–quite seriously, as if expecting a mosh pit to erupt at any moment. I was able to capture this behind-the-scenes footage by hiding behind a pirate ship set so said librarian couldn’t see me. Outlaw at the puppet show–that’s me

In multiple formats, Jeremy Jackrabbit has hippity-hopped into our lives and is having a positive influence on the children in our community, preaching a valuable lesson in sustainability. He’s captured our attention, and I love it! Now I wonder if the puppets are made of recycled materials…


reptile adventures at the library

When you think “library,” do giant reptiles and squealing children come to mind? If not, then you have not been fortunate enough to witness Rich Ihle’s Reptile Adventures this summer. The Phoenix Public Library hosts a fantastic kids summer program, where nearly every weekday there is someone cool presenting something awesome at various libraries across the city–and it’s free to attend! We go to our local Ironwood branch every Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. to catch the fun. Yesterday’s presentation was our favorite!

Rich Ihle, the creator of Reptile Adventures brought his friends, small and large, for families to oooh and ahhh at. The kids were all pumped, and Rich delivered. His funny, friendly attitude, coupled with the confidence and sternness to keep the kids’ energy from getting out of control made for an incredible experience.

Rich began his presentation by telling everyone a bit about himself and how he came to be the “reptile guy.” It seems he had a deep love for these creatures from an early age and would spend all of his money on reptiles. He encouraged the kids to find their passion and open books to learn all they can about it, as he did, which I thought was a wonderful message. He also expressed the importance of caring for pets properly, and how much work they can be. The guy kept it real.

Like all good entertainers, Rich brought out the little guys first. We met Sunset the Bearded Dragon, Slim the Blue-tongued Skink, and Freckles, the Leopard Gecko, among other friends.

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I was totally impressed with them, but had no idea that the big guns were waiting in the wings.

Enter T-Bo the Rhinoceros Iguana.

He was incredible! And incredibly huge! Rich’s interactions with him were nothing short of a headliner at The Comedy Spot. The kids (and adults) were squealing and shaking with excitement. Rich took him for a ride on his cooler, a giant-iguana RV, of sorts.

T-Bo

Just when we thought we’d seen the grand finale, out came Sunshine, who we got to touch.

SnakeCollage

 

What an experience! You can still catch Rich and “The Ultimate Reptile Experience” at libraries around the valley during this week and next, the last week of the program. I would highly recommend it, even if you don’t have kids! Rich and his friends are also available for birthday parties, school presentations, and special events.


a day at the Phoenix Pet Expo

The aroma of churros and dog poop guided us to the family fun at  the Phoenix Pet Expo at the University of Phoenix Stadium. The littles were impressed with the scale of the building and number of well-behaved pets before we even entered the gates. Once we did, we were corralled down a long winding ramp, since no dogs were allowed on the escalators, naturally. My dog, N.A.S.H.A., is a bit of a nut case, so I borrowed a better-behaved client’s dog, instead.

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Our borrowed pooch was a bit of a snob about the other “lesser” pets, but she had fun and was very well behaved.

Parking and admission were free. Sweet! Once inside, we were overwhelmed by the scale of the event. There were over 200 vendors and rescue groups in attendance.

Over 200 vendors and rescue groups attended the Phoenix Pet Expo.

Our borrowed pooch was a bit of a snob about the drooly community water bowls and wading pools, but it was nice that these things were provided. They even had several designated potty areas, complete with real grass, waste bags, and trash cans.

This is where serious business went down.

We made some new friends.

Cam and I were too frightened to be in the picture.

Move over, Clifford.

The littles had the opportunity to meet some exotic pets, too, including a boa constrictor, which they weren’t shy at all about petting. When your mom is a pet sitter and you get to take care of all sorts of animals, you get pretty brave at a young age.

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“He feels so smooth, Mommy…he’s cute!”

The booths had a lot going on to attract us to their wares and causes. We learned about some new and amazing products that I’ll share with you soon. Po, my six-year-old son, brought one dollar from his piggy bank and agonized about what to spend it on. He finally decided that he and his sister would donate it for a chance to spin the Pet Club wheel of fortune to win some treats for the pooches in their lives.

Cam anxiously awaits her turn while Po puts some muscle into it.

Porter won some Nylabone NutriDent dental chews, and Cam won some Natural Balance Tillman’s Treats.

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The littles were proud to have donated to Pet Club charities and to win some prizes.

The littles’ favorite activity was the “For the Love of My Pet” booth, which had many free activities for them to participate in. The kids each created their own dog puppets with help from Owen Burgess, author of For the Love of My Pet.

Cam and Po showing off their new friends.

We all enjoyed watching demonstrations in agility, flyball, and dock diving.

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Agility demonstration.

There was just so much to do at the Phoenix Pet Expo! Though we resisted adopting a new family member, the event would have been a wonderful setting in which to do so, with so many animals in need of homes. If you are an animal lover or are looking for a free day of fun for your kids, I would highly recommend attending next year’s Phoenix Pet Expo.  Just watching the pets in attendance stroll by was a treat in itself!