Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Down Under

We have been threatening to go to Australia with Hubby for several years now.
This summer it finally worked out.
We left August 3rd, flew to Sydney, then over to Auckland, drove to Wellington, then flew back and up to Cairns Australia, then back to Sydney.
I just finished making a book about it on Shutterfly, they were having a sale so I rapidly wrapped up the book I had started several weeks ago.  Of course after I finished I realized there were other pictures I should have included from my phone, or from Red, who is a pretty good photographer, but I didn't.  And now it's ordered.  I guess nothing is perfect.
But it is finished.

Instead of taking the tram back up, our family opted to climb up the stairs, which was something like 920 steps.  We were glad we did, as the views were amazing.
What you might not be able to see is the little white specs in the back ground are cockatoos flying across the gorge.  It was amazing!

This is all from just the first tour we went on, around Sydney.  I can see I am going to have to be even more selective

We flew to New Zealand, and saw Hobbiton, which was one of the highlights of the trip!

We went to Rotorua, and walked along the suspended pathways of a redwood forest

 We saw the hotspots - a lot like Yellowstone

 Near the hot pots there were some soaking pools that we relaxed in

Hmmmm... I need to be even more selective...  That was only a couple of days into the trip.

Have to add more later.

Friday, September 16, 2016


Both of my girls go to the Middle School.  It's a public school about 15 minutes away from our house, for 8th and 9th graders.

On Sunday, Blondie told me there was a lot of noise on social media about a boy she knows kind of distantly, she's had a few classes with him.  She said it looked like he had died.  I said it's probably a rumor, 13 year old boys don't just die.  She was upset and said the last interaction she'd had with him had been her telling him his joke was inappropriate, but he'd taken her comment well and he and everyone else he'd told the joke to had laughed and kind of agreed that it was a bad joke.  I said he didn't sound like someone sad and depressed and committing suicide.

On Monday I got a text from the secretary of the Parent Teacher Student Organization, a friend of mine who has a son in 9th grade, she got me going to the monthly PTSO meetings.  She said the meeting that morning was postponed until next week.   I wondered but just thanked her.

Then an hour later I got another text from her saying she found out why it was postponed, did I know this family (with the same last name as the boy in Blondie's class)?  She confirmed he had been found dead.  I told her what I knew from the day before from Blondie.

When the girls came home that evening, they said the teachers in their first class had read something announcing that the boy had been found dead in his bed by his parents on Sunday morning.  The boy had "dated" one of Blondie's good friends over the summer, but she had broken up with him before school started because he had grown "distant." 

On Tuesday as I was walking the dog I got an automated voicemail and texts saying there was "an additional 13 year old student" found dead.  I was walking past a neighbor's house who has a daughter in 9th grade - Red's age.  She was standing in her doorway listening to her voicemail when I walked by.  Or course she called out and asked if I knew what was going on.  Her daughter hadn't told her about the boy found on Sunday, since there was no official announcement, she had no idea and I didn't know anything about an "additional death" all I knew was the the boy they  had found on Sunday.  We wondered if it was the one from Sunday was the "additional" death?  Was there one previous we hadn't known about?  

I went home and found a police report had been released saying that there is a new heroin drug out on the market and how dangerous it is.  They weren't saying the boy had consumed the drug. Then I got a phone call from my friend in the PTSO asking if I knew anything else, since I had a child in that grade.  I didn't know any more than she did, but promised to keep her informed.  She and I both wondered what this additional thing was about, there hadn't been an official notice about it.  She said her son had said when they read the thing in the first period class they had asked the kids not to talk about it, to not spread rumors.  So it would seem a lot of the kids hadn't even told their parents, making it even more confusing for them to receive the notifications we were getting.

About half an hour later there was another message from the district saying that the 2nd child in two days had been found dead.  It was an "additional" child.  My PTSO friend texted me back the name of the 2nd child, another 13 year old boy.

An hour after that I got a phone call from Blondie, she was sobbing and asked if I could come pick her up.  It was about 11:30.  I asked if she was okay and she said yes.  I hopped in the car.  It was chaos at the school, kids crying, they were just releasing for lunch, parents and students milling about in front of the office.  An adult asked me if I was there to pick up my child and did I know where she was, no, she took me to the library.  Everywhere I went there were informal "checkpoints' where people asked me who I was.  Blondie was in the library and she was crying.  I checked her out with the library monitor, signed her out at the school attendance desk, then explained who I was to the monitor standing at the school door who also warned me to make sure Blondie would be monitored.

Blondie said it was a mess at the school.  They had told the kids who had started congregating at the counselor's office to go to the library because it was getting crowded in the counselor's office.  Then they confirmed that someone else had been found dead but didn't say who because the families had requested some privacy.  It doesn't take a pack of 8th graders very long, by a process of elimination, to figure out who is missing.  The 2nd boy was the 1st boy's best friend.  Blondie had freaked out when her friend who had dated the 1st boy wasn't around, but she had shown up at the library,  I assume she'd been in the bathroom or the counselor's office.  They had taken the kids in groups to tell them who the 2nd kid was, and Blondie said you could hear kids screaming - I heard that from another mother too - and crying when they found out.   They were all spreading all kinds of rumors, that the 2nd boy had died at school, that it was suicide, that it was an accidental overdose with the drug everyone was talking about.  I had thought it would be good to make Blondie stay in school and tough it out, but after being there and hearing her talk about how everyone was whipping each other into a frenzy, I figured maybe it was good to bring her home.  When Red got home that afternoon, she confirmed that classes had been very quiet, all the teachers gave modified lessons or nothing at all, just reading or doing something else.

On Wednesday we did not receive any messages from the district - which I should clarify I was getting all of these messages in English and in Spanish, once for each child in school.  My friend with  three kids in the school system got six messages every time the district made one of their announcements.  Then she and I got a text from another mother in the neighborhood, she'd heard on the news that a 9th grade girl from the middle school had made an unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide that day.  No more has been said about that one.

No one died or tried to on Thursday.  So far no one has died today.  
I realize I am talking about this in an abstract way, sort of impersonal.  It was pretty hard to hear all this and while I don't know the boys or their families, it tore me up when I was hearing about it.  I drove the carpool on Tuesday night to pick up Red and another girl from an art class, and while I was sitting in the parking lot waiting for them, there was a pretty good storm raging on, lightning and thunder like we don't usually get around here.  I got a text from my neighbor, the one who had been on the phone listening to the message when I walked by, saying that she was pretty sure the rain and storm was for these boys, but they're together now...  I busted up crying, which was frustrating because I was picking these girls up in a few moments and didn't want to be caught crying, and it was also frustrating because I couldn't find any kleenex in the car, and because it is embarrassing that I reacted that way even though I don't really believe that heaven cries when someone dies.  But it was a sweet sentiment and it kind of hit me.

My friend who I walk dogs with has a daughter in Blondie's class who likes to know what is going on, who was also very good friends with the girlfriend of the 1st boy, and knows other kids in that group better than Blondie does.  She said that another boy who has also been known to partake of illegal substances has had his room searched a couple times.  He told the police the name of the 10th grade dealer that they suspect the boys would have gotten the drugs from.  He suspected they had some of the drug in question, though none was found anywhere.  The police told him that it was currently suspected as suicides.  

I am so glad that my kids are NOT involved in at risk behaviors.  That they talk to me.  That they seem to be happy and stable.  I cannot even imagine what it must be like for these families who are dealing with this.  The whole community is holding its breath hoping that it ends here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


I have resisted getting a cat for years.  Hubby had cats growing up,  and has brought up getting one occasionally but I did not because my mother is allergic to them. My Grandma had cats and we would often sneak one home in an old ice cream container after a visit to Grandma's, but since my mother was allergic the cat would live outside until we forgot to feed it and then it would disappear.

On the excuse that my mother visited every couple of weeks during the summer, and that I just don't want to deal with another species, I have not wanted a cat. 

There are times I have started to think about another dog.  But since Kelso is so non-dominant, I am afraid another dog, especially a small one, would be likely to try and dominate him and then he would become unhappy.  A large dog is, well, a whole other large dog.  And as I'd love another collie and think a matched set would be great, there is no guarantee it would be cuddly and particularly playful, which is what the girls want in a dog.  Kelso is the perfect dog for me, but he isn't cuddly, doesn't particularly want to be petted aside from wanting his butt scratched, and the girls would love a cuddly dog.

The real break down of my non-cat defenses came when Red started asking for a cat.  She has a friend with cats and has visited her house and listens to her friend talk about them.  So Red started on me.

I told her the big obstacle would be getting one that would tolerate the dog.  Kelso goes to the barn and is used to cats, but I don't want to have to deal with a battle so we would need a cat that would put up with him.  I figured a kitten would be more likely to do that.

Long story short we took Kelso to the rescue shelter and through a long process of watching kitten after kitten freak out when they saw him, we finally found two that didn't have a literal hissy fit when they were brought into the room with him.  A black male and a cream colored female.  While we were at the shelter the cream one sat calmly in Blondie's lap and the black one played on the floor under Kelso's legs with Red.  It seemed obvious to me that if I'm getting a cat for the girls, I need to get both of these two.  And I also let the shelter people convince me that two kittens is better than one.

It has worked out great.  Neither cat cares about the dog - they have started playing with his nose when he comes over to sniff at them.  The cats play a lot with each other.  I find them hilarious, unless it's in the middle of the night.  Hubby and Red and I have taken to shutting our doors at night.  It disrupts the airflow through the hot house, but it does mean we won't get woken up in the middle of the night by a curious kitten.  Blondie is more interested in having cats on her bed than in getting a good night's sleep, so she leaves her door open.

We named the creamy one Pangur Ban - after the cat in the 9th century Irish poem.  I had first heard about it in the movie The Secret of Kells, where they have a fabulous song about Pangur Ban, who is the abbot's white cat.   Blondie was somewhat resistant to name the cat this, because I guess when we saw the movie a couple of years back I had said something about that being a fabulous name for a cat, and she wanted to have more input into the cat's name than me predestining it back then.  But we all started calling her Pangur, even Blondie, and it kind of stuck.

The black cat the girls named  Neko because that is "Cat" in Japanese and the girls watch so much anime it seemed natural.

Neither name is very common, Pangur especially takes some explanation and repetition.  Blondie said she told someone we didn't want to just name the cats something completely ordinary.  There is a family nearby with two dogs named by the kids - Snuggles and Fluffy or something like that, and we have always wanted to make sure our pets are not named something so pedestrian.  I can't remember who it was, Hubby or Blondie, but one of them said something along the lines of "We're not just going to name the cat Friggin Mittens!"  
Mittens, no.  But Friggin Mittens, YES!!!   If we hadn't already settled on Pangur, her name would have been Friggin Mittens.

I have gotten so used to their littleness that I am not sure I'll know what to do with them when they're big.  I guess we'll find out.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Dog Proof Cat Feeder

We just added two kittens to our family.  I have resisted cats for a while, as I am a dog person really, but I have to admit it has been a fairly easy and amusing adjustment.  
Except for one thing.
The dog loves the kitty food.  
He is a good dog, but training him to stay out of the cat food seemed like a pretty hard thing when buying a dog proof cat feeder seemed like an easy thing.
Except they cannot be bought.  
I found one I liked on the internet, but alas and alack it isn't available anywhere I looked.
Here is the one I wanted.
I found it listed multiple times on pinterest, and the blog where this picture came from described it as prohibitively expensive, so they made their own.
I am not particularly handy and was kind of stuck.
Until I found this at IKEA

I bought two.  I figured it's a little small and I'd need a double wide.

Here's how I assembled it:

I attached two back pieces together using some 2 inch brackets from Home Depot.  The brackets fit just fine in the holes provided for regular assembly.  For steadiness I drilled some holes and added some dowels in between the two pieces, but you can't see that.

Then I assembled it according to the instructions, leaving out the middle piece and just making a rectangle instead of a square.

 There is a floor piece that just rests on the bottom - I cut off part of it with a hand saw so the kitties could climb up in the bottom.

I cut some IKEA placemats to cover the bottom, so the kitties wouldn't have to jump across the gap, and drips and spills wouldn't fall through.  I cut them with scissors, and went back and forth trimming just a little bit here and there, so it would be a pretty tight fit.  It ended up stabilizing the floor pieces, which just rest in there on a lip against the side.  I thought I'd have to nail or glue the floor down, but the placemats are holding it in place just fine.

The kitties can come up through the bottom and the dog can't get in.  I am so proud of myself I could bust!

I don't know what the fancy one on Orvis would have cost since it is now unavailable, but this cost me $80 for the two IKEA storage stools, $3.00 for the IKEA placemats, and about $5.00 for the brackets and dowels at Home Depot.  Roughly $88.00 total.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Almost a Year gone by

My sister asked me if I'd stopped blogging.

Not intentionally.

A couple years ago I told a friend to check out my blog to see what we're up to, and he said he didn't have time to read blogs, he kept up with people on Facebook.  I still think Facebook is ... not for me, but I have resigned myself to getting an account.  And now I post entries on Facebook more often than I blog.  Which is sad.  Facebook is this quick stupid dump, (for which I prefer Instagram, having joined both) and blogging is thoughtful and informative and ... and time consuming.

But here we are.

It's been a wonderful year.  The girls get out of school in just over a week.  This has been a hard year. Red was just telling me her grade in English has plummeted.  A couple of late assignments, a couple of assignments she didn't realize were supposed to be turned in, and BAM she has a nasty grade.  She is worried they'll hold her back.  She read me her previous grades - the first three quarters her grade is in the 95% or above.  Honey, you just get through the year.

She has had some struggles personally, she lost a good girlfriend, and it was unresolved, and she just wanted some closure.  It never really came.  School-wise, except for this one English grade, she's been bringing in her regular high performance.

Her art has been wonderful.  She's done a couple of pieces that just tickle me pink.  Bianca arranged for her to meet with an artist friend of hers, and we drove to her studio and Red got to talk to her for almost two hours... it was wonderful!!!  This friend of Bianca's is a fabulous artist, but more than that she's a lovely person and an excellent teacher.  She is said some very inspiring and supportive things to Red, who came away just floating.  There have been a couple of experiences at the Young Artist Academy that lifted her up in similar ways.

Blondie has had a really good winter with the horse.  They won the Beginner Novice Junior Champion of the year for the local region, which is a pretty big deal.  They are doing great and having a grand time together.  She is competing at the Chicken this weekend, she had to miss a registered horse trial at the beginning of the month because Bones had an injury, but they're back and should do well.  

She has also had some friend struggles, her best friend from last year seemed to out grow her, and decided to befriend the popular group.  This absolutely broke Blondie's heart, but she came out of it with some other friends, who seem a little more stable.  Both girls are a little wounded and gun shy, though.

We had a wonderful spring break, took a cruise to the Carribbean, and had a ball.

That's about it.  Everything good.  I should really blog about little day to day experiences, because the girls are growing up so fast and I want to record it all.  But...  I barely have time to get on Facebook.

A few highlights:  October we took a trip to Chicago.  The Art Institute was, of course, one of my favorites.  We also were able to meet up with a friend of Red's who moved from Park City a year ago, and her mother.

Halloween costumes.   Red was an Apocalypse survivor.  Blondie was Link from Legend of Zelda.  Kelso was Lassie.  We went to Downtown Park City for the first Halloween ever.  Hubby was a western Dude, and I was... a pirate or something.  And of course the dog was the big hit of the day.


Blondie and Bones have been doing great

Hubby got eye surgery to correct his misdirected eye.  It has since wandered back a little, but is a vast improvement over what it was.

We had a marvelous Christmas, as per usual

After years of saying we would and not, we finally painted Blondie's room

Oh Oh!  It looks like that's all the pictures I had on the computer.  Time to get the girls to bed. I'll have to fiddle with this another day.  That only got us through January or so.  Sigh.