Just one more.... How many of you have said this in reference to a reptile, a bird, a fish tank, a cat, a dog or other animal? I am generally speaking of reptiles here, but obviously collecting of animals as a hobby is something many people do. 100 snakes is probably not as big of a problem as 100 dogs, cats or birds would be! I mean in terms of space requirements, vet bills, noise level and mess. Snakes and to some extent other reptiles, are more easily handled on a large scale, but still time consuming. Of course, the reaction I get when I tell people I live with 100 or so snakes is pretty hilarious as you can imagine!

Many reptile people I know have large collections representing many different species. Is it something about going to reptile shows and seeing all the pretty color morphs and cool cage setups that makes a person want more and more? Do you realize you have a problem when you have no more available electrical outlets or wall space? When your rodent bill is more than your grocery bill? When you have to budget payments for a snakes you have purchased on vendor credit? When house shopping, your must have is a snake room? You think, well “I have a male and now I need a female...” The list goes on and on. Looking at Reptile Magazine, going to herp shows and pet shops and surfing the Internet are all avenues for feeding “the habit”.

For some it is not a problem, but for others it becomes one. When I go to reptile shows, I know longer feel the overwhelming need to purchase a reptile. It has become way easier to resist the urge! I think I have gone beyond the need to collect more and more and can just say “no”, believe it or not! I long ago, started feeling like “Kept” rather than the “Keeper”.

In fact, the last ETHS show, we managed to find a new home for our big tegu lizard“Rio”, give away my 2 latest rescue bearded dragon acquisitions and arrange a release of a wild caught legless lizard back where he came from. That is 4 less lizard mouths to feed! And now our Uromastyx lizard gets a bigger cage as a result. The day after the show, delivered the rescued racing pigeon that had been housed in cages in the kitchen and playroom, to the wildlife shelter when we realized we were not a suitable long term home for him.

Are we collectors? Or are we hoarders? What is the difference? When we hear on the evening news about someone who was raided and the media makes a big deal about a “house full of snakes”, do we wonder if we (as in reptile keepers with large collections) might become a target? Probably there are cases where the animals are not being cared for properly, but there I am sure there have been cases of someone being turned in because our hobby is not understood and we are perceived as a threat.

My kids and I are down to 9 lizards, 3 birds, 4 sand boas, 1 mouse, 1 rat and a betta fish. (Can't say how many snakes Wayne has for sure...) This is a manageable number. And compared to dogs and cats, I can go out of town for short periods and don't have to race home to take care of them on a daily basis and I am good with that.

A few years ago I saw this cartoon in Bird Talk magazine. I certainly identified with it and I eventually had 6 birds! Back in the 90's, the ETHS (East Texas Herpetological Society) had a speaker at one of the meetings whose talk was entitled “Herpaholics Anonymous”, which I thought was hilarious as I was just starting out in reptiles and had to have one of everything. The first National Reptile Breeders Conference in Orlando that we attended was back in 1995. And as we walked into the show with over 400 vendors with dazzling displays and animals we had never seen before from breeders from all over the U.S. we were like kids in a candy shop! Our mouths dropped open and we scattered with vague instructions to meet up later. Those were heady times! These days I still enjoy snakes shows, but mainly for seeing our friends that we have known since the early days when we were younger and "before kids" and they are more of reunions than animal purchasing ventures for me. (Can't speak for Wayne as THAT is a whole other topic!)

 
 
It's that time of year again.... Back to school! Some parents feel relieved that the kids are back in school, with structure to their day and not underfoot. Some, like me, not so much. For me, the school year is intense both professionally and personally. By the time June rolls around, the kids and I desperately need a break.

And enjoy we do, a break from the tedious routine of bells, homework, waking up early and school uniforms. Summer is a time to let our bodies and brains relax, revisit family pastimes, go on road trips, do creative things and stay up late with no time pressures.

As a kid, even though I was sad to see summer go, I was excited to see and catch up with my friends in every August. I loved getting those brand new school supplies – sharp colorful crayons, new pens and pencils and who can forget those great Mead Trapper Keepers! Mom took us shopping for clothes and shoes. On that first day of school, in our spiffy new clothes carrying our brand new school supplies as we posed for pictures in front of the school or home. A sense of a fresh start with the new school year. 

Summer 2014 is over and we indeed had a great time! Now we enter the 2014-15 school year with new hopes, dreams and expectations. Both boys are in new schools this year – one in middle school and one in high school. I am trying to balance my mommy hat and my teacher hat, training them for independence by letting go and letting some natural consequences happen and giving them guidance and help.

First day impressions from the middle schooler - “Well, that was different.” Upon further questioning he seemed positive about his first experience in the middle school world. The high schooler jubilantly expressed “This is my dream school!” out loud while we walked down a high school hallway. He was referring that he finally is a student at Mommy's high school where she works.

Remembering back when I was in elementary school in the 1970's, we could pick fancy spirals, notebooks and supply boxes that suited our individual personalities. As a parent in this present day and age, I am glad we are past the elementary school supplies packets. The hefty required supplies expense for all the generic folders and other items purchased for the class as a whole doesn't seem as much fun! Now in middle and high school they have the choice to pick the fun supplies that works for them as an individual as well as the what each teacher requires. (Or what works for me, because they don't seem to care as much as I do about it!) When the middle schooler was presented with an impressive zip binder I had purchased for him that had built-in supplies pocket and accordion file, he asked if he should be “Impressed”. He flippantly said “Organization was for Girls.” I said it was for “Successful People!”

Did I mention that I hate school uniforms? Only 3 more years of uniforms and then we are done! Some parents like uniforms, but I don't. Mainly because if the washing didn't get done during the week and we were busy on the weekend, then we run out of the regulation pants or shirts, and we have to scramble. And yes, I have pulled items from the dirty clothes on occasion. Or stayed up until 3 a.m. on a work/school night washing those darn uniforms. (OK, this is one area where I am not so organized!) We do what we gotta do!

I am proud of my boys! It is my hope with the right guidance and support, they will develop into polite, happy and independent young men. These school years are hectic and stressful at times for parents and kids, but the payoff potential for the adults they will become is so great!


Kimberly's first day of 1st grade, Roosevelt-Wilson Elementary School in Texas City, TX.
First day of school 2014.  Weston in 6th grade at Spring Oaks Middle School and Caleb in 9th grade at Memorial High School in Houston, TX.
 
 
Family vacations are made for lifetime memories!  The Howell's just came off the first of two summer vacations for 2014.  A trip to visit cousins and see some sites on the East Coast.  We enjoyed the fantastic hospitality from our cousins and spent much time in lakes, rivers and bays, on boats and on docks, Civil War Battlefields and other tourist attractions.  Lot of truck stops for gas and bathroom breaks with the kids begging for "treats"!  (Ok, road trip food is rather tasty!)  You can't help but look at all the neato travel gadgets at the Pilot Travel Stores!  And think "Do I need that???  Because that's pretty cool.  My personal favorite was the the plug in snack refrigerator with the clear door.  I can just picture that mini bar in our van!  NO pun intended, it was really cool!"  

We stayed in a few motels along the way and got pretty good and decamping the vehicle and setting up for the night at each stop.  Wayne and the boys did haul the stuff in, but it was up to me to arrange the bags, gather dirty clothes and arrange the toiletries and food, and find all the many chargers and power strips for everyone's electronics and not have the room look like a Wal-Mart exploded.  (Motels really need more accessible plugs!)  And then in the morning, pack it all up and arrange back into the van.  We did leave a few things along the way, but thankfully it all got mailed back to us.

I think back at my own childhood and the many long summer road trip vacations we took all over Texas and the United States, first in our 1970 Sunset travel trailer and then in the 1980 Terry camper.   Back in those days, nobody wore seatbelts and sleeping in the back dashboard was a thrill!  One of cars that we pulled the 1970 Sunset, was a 1973 Chevrolet Impala.  70's Golden glory with stitched vinyl bench seats.  My brother and I would ride in the back seat, sometimes fighting with each other and crossing the "Line of Death" imaginary boundary between us and sometimes getting along famously and singing songs for miles that would irritate the heck out of our parents all the while leaning forward over the front seat.  Every now and then our mom would have enough and yell "Sit back" and ram an elbow in our direction!   By 1980, we had a Suburban and my brother and I each had our own bench seats which was a major peacekeeper!

We saw much of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama during those years.  Yellowstone, Big Bend, Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain and Smoky Mountain National Parks, and many state parks and KOA's.  Museums, historical places, nature, etc. were all things we saw.  But more importantly, was our times together as a family on those road trips.  Playing Skip-Bo on the table in the camper with Mom making Jiffy Pop popcorn on the stove, campfires with our fellow campground vacationers, Dad helping us build that impromptu log cabin in the Grand Tetons (that was truly great!) and going exploring in the campgrounds on our bikes.  In the mornings, my brother and I would grab a can of apple juice and go outside to play.  Better be out of the camper so Mom could put her makeup on because you didn't dare move around and shake the camper during her morning ministrations.

And the time the 1973 Impala backseat caught on fire because of a malfunctioning tailpipe and my brother and I had been banished from hanging over the front seat because our parents couldn't handle us anymore as we made the final push toward home.  I think I remember the AC wasn't working well and Dad had fashioned a cardboard conduit to funnel the air into the car and we were leaning over to get cool.  Dad pulled over when he saw me turning green and Mom ran to the camper grabbing pots and pans and filling them with water while Dad yanked the smoking backseat out.  There was all kinds of toys that were burned up that had fallen into the seat cracks.  Now those are MEMORIES!  

Fast forward to our family vacations.  Much different times, but still good family togetherness.  When the kids were little we had the portable DVD player.  Was against it at first, because I thought it took away from family time, but as the screaming and toys sailing through the air ensued, we decided it was the best invention ever. Now the boys spend hours playing their video games in the car and we have to remind them to come up for air and look out the window at the world passing by.  Time will pass and they will be adults who are no longer interested in going on these family trips.  So we create our own family's memories and savor our time together.  

Here are some pics from family vacations past present.  Summer is going fast and we have one more vacation planned with our friends from Sweden coming to visit.  The Plan is to see Utah and the country between Houston and there.  Stay tuned as more memories are made!


The Ft. Sumter souvenir photo!
Caleb and Weston with a Union soldier during a weapons firing demonstration at Petersburg National Battlefield
A State Line picture!
Eating dinner in Charleston after the Ft. Sumter tour.
1975 - Kerrville State Park.  And look what book we are reading!  Golden Nature Guide Reptiles and Amphibians!  
Circa 1979 - We were fascinated by the snow (in summer!) in the Rocky Mountains.  This was THE 1973 Golden Chevrolet Impala complete with a tiny snowman on the hood.
Another circa 1979 photo.  Gotta love the 70's hair and fashion!  
A classic state line photo!
 
 
I have long thought I would start a blog, but work and family commitments, plus the learning curve involved put me off.  Of course, Facebook fills a certain little niche that in a way is like blogging, but only with your friends.  The public nature of a website with the potential to reach out to others is appealing.  Since I work at a high school, I have the luxury of summers off.  (The school year is so beyond crazy and now my summers are ramping up too, but it is still SUMMER!)  Some summers I have been disciplined enough to have goals, other not so much.  This summer, I have a few things I want to accomplish.  One being to update the very long overdue overhaul of the Wayne's World of Snakes website complete with blogs for Wayne and myself.  So here I go launching myself into the BLOGOSPHERE!  Good or bad, if I feel the urge to put it out there, here is where I will do it!  My interests range from helping those with disabilities, helping care for animals, painting, arts and crafts, reading biographies and science fiction, listening to 80's pop and Celtic music, going to Renaissance Festival in costume and nature.  
 

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    Kimberly Howell is a devoted wife, mother and daughter.  She loves her boys and man!  And of course, her many critters. Her professional life involves working with students with disabilities and being a pet sitter.

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