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Monday, July 25, 2011

Home Sweet Home -- East Coast Memories

It's hard to believe that it's only been a week since we got back home from our trip back east. Between recovering from jet lag and saying goodbye to our sweet kitty, it's seemed like much longer. (But hey, at least the kids aren't getting up at 4 am anymore!) I wanted to take a moment to post the last highlights from our East Coast visit.

We got to meet the newest member of the family, my niece little C!
Both BJ and BB were quite taken with her -- she's full of 3-month-old charm and is a sweet, sweet baby.
I was so glad we got to spend time with my sister's family. While there were some challenges in getting all the cousins to get along (not surprising) I was really grateful for the time we had.
We had a great time together visiting the beach on the lake where they live!

Cousin B is only 9 months younger than BB, and it was very nice to see the girls playing together.
While we were in New Jersey, we visited the local zoo. Biggest hit: feeding the birds!
We also got to go fishing with Uncle R. Both kids caught a little sunny, though it took a while!

Note BJ's unique technique, holding the fishing pole atop his head:

While we were back east, we also went to Dutch Wonderland, which was a tiring trip but a good time.
I think the pony rides were the biggest hit for my kids!

Our afternoon at the Delaware Children's Museum was a very nice time.

Early in the trip, we went to the Delaware Natural History Museum. The cast of the T-rex skull fascinated the kids!

As did the model of the coral reef, which they could walk on top of and look down into.

Always popular: a visit to Milburn's orchards to feed the "crazy" goats!

Being so far away from my family is easily the hardest thing about living out here in California. (Other than that, I really love it out here!) It takes a lot of planning and effort to get us all together these days, and I'm so grateful for the time when it happens. It's only been a week since we left, but I miss them all already!

Thanks again, Mom and Dad and sister B and family -- thanks for a wonderful trip!

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Final Adventure of Butchie Blue

It's a sad day in our little corner of the world: my beloved kitty, Butchie Blue, died today.

She'd been my companion for more than 16 years, ever since I adopted her as a wee 6-week-old ball of fluff that could fit in my hand. She'd been part of my life for longer than I've been married (and aside from family and a very few friends, that's true of almost nobody these days). She was a sweet, dear kitty. I will miss her more than I can say.

She'd been in poor health for a while, and she really took poorly during my time away from home with what the vet thought was a "raging" UTI and/or kidney infection. Not eating, not drinking, lethargic and obviously not feeling well. Darling S did all he could to keep her with us until the kids and I returned -- multiple vet visits, fluids, blood tests, medications, etc. (For which I will always be grateful; he's an animal lover and very fond of Butchie but she is definitely My Cat.) But as soon as I saw her when we got back on Monday night, I knew it wasn't good: when I came to say hello to her, she didn't get up to greet me at all and hardly registered my presence until I sat down and started to pet her gently. That got some purring, but that's it.

I took her in for a follow up vet visit on Tuesday. No protest at all when going into the cat carrier. She was too weak and listless to care, it seemed. The vet said that the infection might be improving a bit, but she was pretty sure she was feeling tumors in the area of the kidneys. Especially given that we'd had a cancerous tumor removed before BJ was born, this really didn't bode well. After the surgery, she had a good long healthy stretch. This time, she wasn't going to get better.

It's so sad, but I'm very grateful that she hung around long enough for the kids and me to say our goodbyes.

When we got home earlier this week, the kids could tell that Butchie wasn't doing well.
BB was very sweet, wanting to visit her often and say how sorry she was.

Since Butchie didn't really want to move away from her heated mat in the bathroom, I spent a fair amount of time just sitting with her. She seemed to appreciate the company, though she didn't want to be touched much. It was especially sweet when I put my hand next to her paws and she reached out her paw to put it atop my hand. (Of course I called S and asked him to get a pic.) We sat like that for quite a while.

This morning when I woke up, the poor kitty wouldn't even raise her head off the floor. She barely twitched her ears when I called her name and sat down with her. Now, she isn't suffering anymore. There's comfort in that.

We've read Cat Heaven, cried, picked a bouquet for her, and said our goodbyes. Now, not surprisingly, the kids are asking when we can get a kitten. (Hey, at least BJ knows enough not to ask for a snake. Yet.)

Here's the sweetly ironic part to all this: while we were traveling, BJ decided to write a book about his space adventures. Not surprising, this. What was unexpected, though, was his choice of sidekick. Butchie.

BJ hadn't shown too much interest in the cat prior to this -- for his entire life, she's been old, she didn't play much, and especially for this past year she spent most of her time sleeping on her heat mat in her corner of the bathroom. But all of a sudden, while we were away, she was full of personality for him. And when he got home, he wanted to read his story to her.

BJ brushing and petting the cat after reading his "book" to her.

Here's his story, complete with the illustrations. It seems a fitting close to a dear cat's life. She was a traveler, after all, from Oklahoma, to Delaware, Arizona, and California, though admittedly she didn't do a whole lot of zooming while she was alive, aside from chasing after plastic milk tab tops. The slower, sleepy pace of life was much more her speed, especially while BJ was alive. But in her younger days (back when one dear friend nicknamed her Loki for all her mischief) I could have imagined her donning a space suit and joining a six year old for adventures.

BJ's Adventure Through Space

Last week or two, I said, "Hey!" to my cat Butchie. She can talk. I actually know that. "What about a little adventure into space?"
Then I said, "Come on, Butchie! Let's go to my lab." I went to my lab. Butchie ran along beside me. I ran into a fallen tree. I then went into a big square. I said to my little sister, "Hi! I'm going to make a rocket ship!"
I told my sister, "There, we've done it!" when we had finished the space ship. I then told Butchie, "Go get Mom and Dad to show them my new space ship." When they came, I asked them, "What should I name it?"
"I think Andromeda," said Mom. "Great name," I said. "Come on, let's blast off." We all went in and put on our space suits, even Butchie. Hers was cat-shaped.

(Note BJ's explanation that this picture is of Butchie floating up in the air with her cat-shaped space suit, tail hanging down.)

We blasted off! We went zooming at the speed of light. We went zooming out of the solar system. I pushed the button that zoomed in the camera. I said, "OK! Now I'll take a picture of the solar system."

We put the picture down in the cargo of the space ship. We went farther and farther into space, until we came to a nebula. I went zooming through the clouds of dust and gas, but a little too quick. We got pulled towards the center of the nebula!

We zoomed away from the nebula just in time. We saw it just turning into a new star. Then suddenly right in front of us we saw a medium sized star. It was cool looking. I said, "Butchie, take a picture of that new star and this middle-aged star."

We zoomed away from those two stars after the pictures were taken and put in the cargo. We zoomed faster and faster until we came to a red giant. It was an old star. And then I felt the space ship shake. I said, "Hey, the star is going to explode!"

The star exploded in a great super nova! It seemed like a gigantic fireworks show. To Butchie it seemed like the end of the universe. I told her, "Nothing to worry about, Butchie. It's only a super nova."

We zoomed away from the super nova. We zoomed out of the Milky Way! I said, "Wow Butchie, isn't that an incredible view? Let's go home." I said, "It was a great trip!"


Rest in peace, my furry little friend.
Thank you for all the fuzzy feline affection.
Thank you for your lively kitten presence during the most difficult years of my life.
Thank you for the past 16 years.
You will be missed.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tooth Fairy!

The day before we left my folks' to return home, BJ lost his first tooth! It was one of the lower front ones, and I didn't even know that it had been loose. He was sitting on the couch watching a video while I did some packing, and he suddenly announced, "I lost a tooth! I lost a tooth!"

He's been waiting for this for months, eagerly listening while his classmates lisped their accounts of visits from the tooth fairy. Luckily, my mom was on hand with appropriate fabric to help me whip up a quick pillow with a tooth pocket.

I'd asked BJ what he thought would happen when the tooth fairy visited. His first answer: "She'd leave more money for kids who are really good." Hmmm. Maybe not, I replied. His second: "She leaves more for kids who really know a lot."

Nice try, eh?

His third answer: "She leaves three dollars!"

And indeed when the tooth fairy visited, she left $3.50 in various coins (including a dollar coin, a Kennedy half dollar coin, and a Yosemite quarter) and some foreign coins (because the tooth fairy goes all over the world): a coin from Japan and one from the Bahamas.

BB wanted in on the action too, and she was very concerned about whether or not the tooth fairy would leave her anything. It turns out she got a lipstick kiss from the tooth fairy! It was left on the sleeve of her pajamas and she was thoroughly delighted. Gotta love the magic ;-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

First Fireworks

This year for the Fourth of July, the kids saw their first fireworks. We'd arrived in Delaware the day before, so the kids were already off-schedule for bedtimes -- what better time to keep them up late for a little whiz-boom-bang fun?

The display was taking place over at the UD Field House (where S and I graduated from college all those years ago). We wandered around the Liberty Days festival for a little while (ultimately disappointing, alas; a few random booths and a live band but nothing too exciting) and then hung out waiting for dark when the fireworks would begin.

While hanging out with two small kids for more than an hour, bubbles and small talk only goes so far. Impromptu singing and dancing (mostly by BB) helped pass the time for a while. I'm not quite sure what song she's singing here, but she was putting on quite a performance.

To pass the time, I was eventually reduced to letting them use my skull as a launching pad for the little yellow "rockets" they'd acquired as freebies from one of the festival booths. (They launched off pretty well, actually. And the kids were certainly entertained.) Thus adding yet another item to my "Things I Never Anticipated Doing As A Mother" list.

Finally -- FINALLY -- the show began. And it was worth the wait!

About halfway through, BJ exclaimed, "What a Spectacular Display!!!"

And about five seconds later, he reverently announced, "God Bless America!"

BB was a little unsure about it all, mostly due to the considerable noise, but in the end she decided it was beautiful. Afterwards, we were all pretty tired but glad we'd hung around.

Thanks to my dad for taking the pics!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Coast To Coast

Yesterday, the kids and I flew back home from the East Coast. That's right -- I flew coast to coast with a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old. And had a lot of fun!
Here they are on the flight back home, a little before we landed. Excited to see Dad after more than two weeks away!

Both the kids were great travelers. I admit I was more than a little nervous at the prospect of all that time in an airplane when the short folks would have me outnumbered two to one. But both legs of the trip went very smoothly. Here we are on the way out, with BB enjoying all the perks of air travel: icy water in a straw cup and tray tables down. (Note the pillow she made, which she'd had the foresight to pack in her carry-on). What can I say -- life is just better when a straw is involved.

And BJ was happy to have the window seat -- BB was content to let him have it for 3 of the 4 legs of the journey. Not until our flight from Phoenix to California did she finally feel courageous enough to sit by the window. Up until then, she wanted to sit by me (and BJ was having nothing to do with the aisle seat) so she could hold my hand at take-off. She informed me she was fine once in the air and had no problem with landing, but taking off made her nervous.

Yesterday's flights went especially smoothly: we arrived 45 minutes early for our arrival into Phoenix and landed at home a little early too. (I had to giggle at the flight attendant's comment: "We hope this doesn't inconvenience anybody too much, but we'll be arriving 45 minutes early. We know that you'd be sure to tell all your friends if we were 45 minutes late, so we hope you'll also tell them that we were 45 minutes ahead of schedule." Southwest airlines still has a sense of humor.) And maybe it was because we arrived so early or because the crew was so happy with us (the same stewardess informed us all over the PA that we were the best set of passengers they'd had in three days. "Y'all were just awesome!" Which my kids took very personally and were very pleased to hear) or maybe I just have the kind of kids that invite such attention, or maybe they do this all the time. But as we were leaving, the stewardess made a bit deal of asking if the kids wanted to see the cockpit.

Of course! So we were invited in, and as we tried not to crowd in too far, I excitedly pointed out that this would be the same sort of cockpit that Grandpa D would have been in all those years that he was a pilot. The stewardess and pilots clearly heard that and took it to heart and even offered to let the kids sit in the pilots seats (!!!) to which I said, somewhat astonished, no thank you. (Sorry Dad, I know it would have been the amazing photo op, but I would have been too nervous about what they might touch or grab or mess up to pay attention to taking a picture! Besides, the kids seemed a little nervous about the idea.) But we got in as far as we could, and both of them, especially BJ, were very interested as the pilots showed them the throttle and all the instruments. "All that is really complicated!" BJ announced.

I asked if it would be against the rules to snap a pic or two, and they kindly said to go right ahead. Here they are, agog at all the complicated stuff:

And then I asked if I could see their faces. "Wow!" was BJ's final assessment.

We'd spent two weeks in Delaware and New Jersey, visiting family, and I decided to spend more time with the visit and to give myself a break from the blog (which is why it's been silent over here). But we had lots of adventures and I will be playing catch-up in the next week, reporting on everything from zoo visits to meeting my 3 month old niece to BJ's first visit from the tooth fairy. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Feature -- Tamdoll's Silver Mountain Originals

This week's featured Etsy artist is the Etsyblogger of the month! Congrats to Tammy of Tamdoll's SILVER Mountain Originals! I love how unique her work is, with such rich textural detail -- these fabric heart charms are adorable!
Enjoy the interview!

1. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?

Right now, in my Etsy shop, you’ll find a few handbags, some fabric jewelry and sewing patterns for my original cloth art dolls (a mermaid & a dragon). I love to create with fibers and beads – usually making things that can be worn and that are one-of-a-kind. I love to recycle & reinvent items - some of my bags and jewelry are "upcycled" art, made with reclaimed materials.

How did I learn my craft?

I’ve been crafting since I was a little girl, mostly self-taught: hand-sewing doll clothes and knitting when I was young; then making gifts for others while I was trying to be thrifty in college; until finally taking a pattern workshop in 2001 where I unleashed my pattern making skills, creating my first completely original doll, a dragon. In recent years I’ve taught myself to crochet by watching online tutorials.

My creative process is never ending - I get an idea, jot it down in words or rough sketches, let it mull for a while… could be days, weeks or even years… until I find the time to turn my idea into 3D – whether by sewing, crochet, knitting or a combination of them all. I love taking the challenge of what’s in my mind and making it into something that I can touch and feel.

2. What Etsy teams do you belong to?

I belong to: EtsyBloggers, Team EcoEtsy, New Hampshire Team and EtsyChai where I’m the blog maven.

3. Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you.

Interesting? What will anyone want to read about?

I can often be found online (maybe obsessed a little?!), it is just so convenient (look for ‘tamdoll’): I love to read and keep my book lists online at; keep track of my knit and crochet work on; photos on Flickr; website favorites on; and of course there’s keeping track of everything else I make on my blog!

In college I earned a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science, wanting to be involved with computer graphics and gaming, but since then ended up doing more marketing than coding. I still love working on blogs and websites, helping out friends when their sites need some tweaking.

One of my passions is recycling – I don’t like the idea of wastefulness. To that end, I challenge myself to look at things in new ways, figure out how materials can be refashioned. Sometimes it’s one of my husband’s torn shirts used as a lining in a new pocketbook, other times it’s running the book sale for the local public library and finding a home for the unsold ones. In my community, I’ve joined the Solid Waste Commission, with my personal goal being to improve recycling in schools.

At home, I’m a mom of two beautiful high school age girls, who I’m very proud of – one knits, the other crochets, both sew, so I’m pretty happy! My oldest even has her own Etsy shop and sells yoyo necklaces locally.

4. What inspires your creations?

Everything inspires me. I never stop thinking of ideas! Song lyrics, puns, phrases, adages all become pictures or colors in my head - turning the words into images in my mind. Sometimes, this is the most fun for me, when I can see something in my mind and have the original idea. I wish I could write or draw them all down and then have someone else create them for me. Challenges definitely inspire me, creating combinations from unlikely objects or colors. I once made a pocketbook focused around a toy chicken:

Once, I was inspired to knit into a pile of gray wool roving that I didn’t know how to spin, and it took the shape of a cute round leg, turning into an elephant!

Sometimes a creation will continue to inspire me after it’s made and I’ll often think of a story to go along with an item.

5. What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?

Use Flickr to showcase your items. Their terms of service don’t allow selling, but I’ve had folks see my items there and through my profile or messaging they’ve been led back to my online shop.

It can’t be said enough – but if you’re a seller, your pictures need to be sharp and clear and close-up! If I’m shopping, I want to see details. If I’m blogging or creating a treasury, I want to use high quality, attractive pictures to feature. I’m always trying to improve my own pictures and I know there is lots of help on the internet, no sophisticated equipment is necessary.

6. What crafting skill(s) do you wish you had or hope to learn someday?

I wish I could draw better, even more skill at drawing cartoon-like people. I’d like to make little comics of the funny things I think of sometimes – stick figures and rough sketches are all I can manage.

7. What has been your biggest success and/or proudest moment since opening your Etsy shop?

An exciting moment –

Fairfield saw something I had made, a quilted, decorative birdhouse, using their products and have included me at their website. You can see it here with a link back to me as one of their ‘world contributors’.

8. Give us some insight on how you personally, or your shop, gives back to your community.

I volunteer quite a bit. My husband and I decided early on in our marriage that if we didn’t have money to donate, we at least had time to give to different causes we felt were worthwhile. I’ve volunteered for the public library, art groups in my town, in schools, and as a driver for the elderly .

9. Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations.

And locally, a different selection of my items are for sale at - these I usually announce on Facebook for folks to see what’s new.