Monday, August 31, 2009

California fires ...

My thoughts & prayers are with all of my family and friends in California right now. I just turned on my computer and read about the loss of two firefighters and as always, my heart sank. I dreaded reading the article in fear of them being someone I know. We have a lot of friends who are firefighters in California. Fortunately, I don't know the two that died, but my heart still goes out to their families.

Having lived in Southern California all my life, brush fires are no stranger to me. I've watched the mountains burn many times and have packed up belongings in case of evacuations. It's not fun. The combination of the chaparral, the oaks, the steep terrain, and the lack of rain always make for scary situations when it comes to brush fires. I'll never forget the great 1985 fire in Ojai that burned for weeks. The smoke and ash are a health hazard, and then there's the eerie glow, like in the picture above. That picture was taken during a Santa Barbara fire in 2006 right before we moved away.

We've been very lucky this year in Montana. Our first summer here was awful and there were fires all around us. My ILs came up to visit August 2007 and they could hardly see the mountains or valleys because there was so much smoke. It was a familiar feeling to us, though the smell was different. In Montana, it's pine trees, so it smells like a giant campfire. Brush fires are scary, but forest fires are even more scary for me. Montana doesn't have the resources California has when it comes to fighting fire. In addition, it's really hard to fight the fires when they're in the middle of the forest. This summer we've been really fortunate and haven't had any.

To my California family and friends -- you're in my thoughts and prayers. Stay safe. You know the routine. Stay inside if you can and go if they tell you to go. I hope they get some containment soon.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Update on Nichelle ...

I want to thank everyone who's kept my daughter, Nichelle in their thoughts & prayers. Nichelle is involved in Youth With A Mission and has been in Maui since early June. She's been busy with lectures, discipleship training, and work. On August 24th, Nichelle and her team flew to Thailand, where they're spending ten days in Bangkok. Then on September 3rd, the team flies to the island of Borneo, landing in Kuching, Malaysia. After a few days, they'll be bussed to Pontianak, Indonesia for a week. On September 12th, they'll be backpacking into remote villages making home visits, holding open air teachings, encouraging the local churches, and getting to know the people. I have the schedule in front of me and it looks like they're going back & forth through various places on the island. It won't be until November 14th that they fly back to Maui. From there, I believe they stay another week or so before finally coming home.

Nichelle is doing great from what we can tell. We spoke to her on the phone many times while she was in Maui and we can tell she's grown just from talking to her. It's been an incredible experience for her so far. Her biggest adventures are yet to come and she's very excited about them. She joined Facebook, so I was able to keep up more with her there, as well as on my instant messenger. A few of her friends posted some pictures of their activities in Maui, so I was finally able to see pictures of everyone. Nichelle has her camera, but didn't have a laptop, so she couldn't upload them herself. I'm glad some of her friends could do that. I've added them onto my Facebook page, if you want to go looking for them. The picture above was taken by one of the people on the team. That's Nichelle on the beach of Maui. I have another great picture of Nichelle with her team from a flyer I just got in the mail. As soon as I can scan it, I'll try to post it as well.

I both excited and nervous about Nichelle going to Borneo, but I know she's in good hands and with a great group of people. I don't know much about Borneo, so I'm trying to learn what I can. I know it's the third largest island in the world and it's divided between Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. I've read that Borneo has many caves and according to Wikipedia, Deer Cave is thought to be the longest cave passage in the world and home to over 3 million bats, with guano over 330 feet high. I doubt the YWAM team will be going through any caves, but you never know. Other facts I've read are that the island is home to 15,000 varieties of flowering plants, 3,000 species of trees, 221 species of mammals, and 420 species of birds. What's left of the Borneo rainforest is the only natural habitat for the Bornean Orangatan. There are also Asian elephants, Sumatran rhinos, Bornean clouded leopards, and the Dayak fruit bat. Borneo is said to be one of the most biodiverse places in the world. She's going to see some amazing things!

Anyway, I wanted to let everyone know that Nichelle is doing well. Please continue to keep her and her team in your thoughts & prayers as they embark on this amazing journey into these jungles and villages. I probably won't have much contact with her as before, but I'm hoping she can get to a phone or computer sometime when she's in the YWAM bases. We miss her so much and can't wait for her to come home. Thanks again.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Got poo?

I just blogged about the dogs we used to have two days ago. A lot of dog lovers came out, which I thought was cool. Then last night my friend Lisa posted a video on Facebook. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to blog about it because it's just too darn silly ...

I looked for a website to find out if this was a real product or a joke, and it appears to be a real deal. Check out the POOTRAP website for yourself if you don't believe me. I had to laugh while watching the video when they said "Pootrap comes in 8 sizes and 3 colors." I guess, maybe for some, color is important?

Then I showed the video to Rick and we started laughing about careless dog owners who would let their dog walk around with the same bag all day until it was dragging on the ground. Maybe they could make extra large bags for people who work all day and don't want to come home to a poopy yard. You think? How about a string of bags that twist into a ball after each poop, kind of like that Diaper Genie thing? I can just see dogs wandering around with a big chain of poopy bags behind them.

Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm not making fun of this product. I love it! I think EVERY dog owner should buy it. I would totally recommend it for dog people. We don't have as much of a problem here as we did at our house in California. People were constantly walking their dogs and letting them poop right by my mailbox. I used to sit in the house and fume! Stuff like that makes me want to hide out in a tree with a gun. So yeah, I think everyone should buy the POOTRAP! Buy now! Hurry! While supplies last!

This is why I have cats. As soon as they come out with a non-pooping dog, I'll be first in line. ;)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Classroom Chaos!

Yesterday the chaos began -- I'm starting to organize my classroom for school. It was a complete mess down there. I haven't spent much time in there all summer. We homeschool and our office is used as a classroom. It's part of the basement. This picture was taken right after we moved in. The room looks nothing like that now. Picture the same room, but 100x more cluttered. Picture the tables piled high with junk. On top of it, this picture only shows a portion of the room. I tell you -- it's scary in there!

Normally, right before school starts, I gather all of the last year's papers and organize them into big 4" binders. Then I clean up the room and organize all the new books and materials we'll be using for the next year. It's usually a simple process and since I've been doing it for 11 years, it's no big deal. I haven't done much with the room since we moved in, so it's been the same for 3 years. Yesterday I began moving everything around. By everything, I mean -- everything! All the bookshelves, all the tables, all the plastic drawer containers, etc. I think I have things where I want them, so now it's just a matter of organizing everything. It's a good thing we're not starting school until the 8th. I've been in this situation with the room in chaos where I was starting school the next day, so thank goodness I still have time.

Every year I make a chart for the kids to keep track of all the books they've read over the school year. I try to make a fun picture and then the kids write the names of their books on specific shapes of paper. In the past we've done leaves on trees, ants at a picnic, fish in the sea, dog bones for the beagles, gumballs, etc. Last year I drew a giant jar on a piece of poster board and then cut out pickle shapes from construction paper. I glued a picture of Dilly next to it and the kids filled up the jar of pickles for him. I'm trying to come up with an idea for this year. Some of the ideas I have so far are ornaments on a Christmas tree, nuts for a squirrel, stars in the sky, and bubbles. I'm also playing around with the idea of drawing or printing up a haunted house and then having the boys write their books on little tombstones and ghosts. I still haven't decided what to do, obviously, but I'll figure something out. So anyway, hopefully I can get it organized before school starts. I didn't take any before pictures, so you'll have to take my word that it was a disaster. I'll try to post some after pictures as soon as it's presentable.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dog-gone it!

Yesterday was National Dog Day. I got so excited about the new cover for Dilly that I overlooked the dog's big day -- sorry about that. Are you a dog person? I grew up with lots of dogs. My sister always brought them home. "But Mom, they're going to kill it!" Sharon would say. She always had some good story and because of them -- we always had dogs.

Everyone in our neighborhood has dogs, except for us. We're probably the only ones without one. Whenever there is a bear wandering through the neighborhood, I can tell it's location by the sound of the dogs. I like dogs, but I have no desire to get one. Keeping up with the cat box is enough for me and I don't like dogs messing on the grass with my boys running around. It's bad enough when a neighbor's dog does that on our lawn.

There was a time when we had 2 beagles. Both were adopted from a beagle rescue center in California. Maggie (below) was a red, ticked color and Monty (above) was the traditional tricolor beagle. Maggie was a spaz. She was a typical beagle who was content doing her own thing. Monty was a neurotic mess. He had issues. I'm not sure if it was because of something that happened to him as a puppy or if he just had a mental disorder. He was afraid of his own shadow. When he got nervous, he would drool. It wasn't your average dog drool either -- this was sticky, gooey, almost-like-rubber drool. We used to call it his fangs because it would just hang there. In fact, if you look closely at Monty above, you can see his the start of his drooly fangs -- ick. They'd get so long that when he'd shake his head, they'd flip right over his nose -- ick, ick!

The beagies, as we called them, were fun dogs, but they both had issues. When we got them, the girls were probably the same age as the boys are now, maybe a little younger. Eventually, the boys came along and we just didn't have the time to devote to the dogs. We took them back to the rescue center, which wasn't easy to do. For Maggie, it was a piece of cake. It was almost like she expected to go back. She took off running and never looked back. Monty was a little more skittish and had to be drug away. That wasn't fun. However, both of them were quickly adopted back out to good homes, so I was thankful for that. We still joke that Maggie has made a career out of being adopted. Then when the owners return her to the center, she usually comes back with new leashes, toys, food, blankets and all sorts of goodies. I think she was a professional scam dog, taking owners for as much as she could, and then returning for her next victim. Look at her below -- she's evil!

So, how about you -- are you a dog person?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A New Friend for Dilly

I am so happy to be able to share the cover of Dilly's next book with you today. A New Friend for Dilly is being illustrated by Lisa Oakman, who also did the first book. Lisa has done an amazing job and, the more of her work I see, the more lovable Dilly gets. In this story, Dilly searches from A to Z to find the perfect friend. Just as the first book was all about jobs, the second one is all about animals. Thank you, Lisa -- the cover is adorable! Nathan (9) loves giraffes, by the way, and was all smiles when he saw it. Thank you also to Vivian Zabel and Aidana WillowRaven for allowing me to post the cover today. I can't wait to add it to my website.

A New Friend for Dilly is due out around February 2010 and published by 4RV Publishing, LLC. Will Dilly find the perfect friend? After all, a little rat can't live on pickles alone ...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I sense something ...

Have you thought about your sensory system lately? I know, that's a pretty heavy thought for a Tuesday morning. Think about it -- are there certain sounds, smells or tastes that remind you of something else or another place and time? I live on a mountain and lately they've been doing some construction on the other side of the hill. The tractors start at 7am sharp and sometimes work as late as 9-10pm. Yeah, it's getting old real fast. This morning when the squeaky tractor fired up, it made me think of sounds that remind me of other things. For example ...

Vacuums -- the sound of our vacuum reminds me of the panic my family went through trying to get our house ready for a showing when it was on the market. Sometimes we'd have less than 15 minutes to get the place picked up and get ourselves our of there. To this day, just the sound of the vacuum brings that rushed feeling back to me.

Mini-bikes -- the sound of a mini-bike going by reminds me of when I was pregnant with my first child. Our neighbor used to ride his bike back and forth along his property. He was an elderly man and I knew he was just having fun, but it drove me batty for awhile.

70s Elvis -- most of Elvis' songs from the 70s remind me of my mom. She was a nurse and worked literally all the time. When she did have a day off and stayed home, she usually had Elvis playing in the house. Just the sound of some of those old songs takes me back to a time where I'd be playing Barbies on the floor while my mom sipped her coffee, read, or knitted.

In addition to sounds, there are certain tastes that take me back ...

Bread & butter -- eating a piece of bread & butter is okay, but if I fold the bread and make it into a butter sandwich, I'm reminded of my grandma. She used to make those for me when I was hungry and it was close to dinnertime.

Milk -- every now and then when I drink some milk that's really cold, especially from one of those little cartons, I'm reminded of nursery school. I don't remember nursery school, but milk triggers something in my brain.

Jello & Cool Whip -- I love how these taste together, but I can't eat them and not think of opening day of Six Flags Magic Mountain. What's the connection? I ate a ton of Jello & Cool Whip the night before and I was sick as a dog on opening day. I was so sick that I got pushed around in a wheelchair. It was a big deal that the park was opening and I didn't want to miss being there. The combo of those 2 foods always reminds me of that.

And there are certain smells that take me to another place, such as ...

Tomato soup -- I love tomato soup and I don't have any problem eating it. However, every now and then when I smell it, I'm reminded of 2nd or 3rd grade when the boy sitting next to me got sick on the first day of school. He threw up and tomato soup went all over the floor. Fortunately, that's just a smell thing and never affected my ability to eat the soup later.

Orange blossoms -- I grew up in the east end of Ojai, California and the whole area was filled with huge orange groves. I loved walking home when the orange blossoms were blooming. When I was home recently, we drove around my old neighborhood and the smell of the orange trees took me back.

How about you -- have any weird sensory triggers?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunday on the lake ...

We went kayaking with the boys yesterday at Thompson Lakes. It's actually a series of lakes all connected and I think we went from one to another. It was a beautiful day, in the 80s, and hardly anyone was at the lake we were on. First of all, it was a no-wake lake, so there were no speed boats allowed. That's good for us being in kayaks. Second, the lake we were on had no beaches to get out on, so that's probably a determining factor of why no one was there. We found a really cool campsite, on the opposite side of the lake, that was completely isolated from any other sites. I'd love to camp there, but the road getting in was rough and we're not sure if our heavy trailer could make it because of the grooves in the road.

We kayaked around for a few hours and watched several osprey hunting over the water. We saw their nest, which was absolutely huge. We saw a deer and her fawn on the shore as well as a beaver's dam. Then we listened to a pair of common loons. I got a few of their calls on video, but you can't see them very well because they were in the middle of the lake. If you've ever heard a loon's call, you know how eerie it sounds. I believe they're protected here and if they're nesting, you are limited to how close you can go to them. There was a board set up at that campsite we found, that's probably used for fishing. The boys had fun jumping off that into the lake. I got a few pictures of Nathan doing cannonballs. After we were done kayaking, we went to another lake and BBQ'd dinner at a picnic site. The boys had fun fishing on the boat dock pier. The fish were too small to catch there, but they had a blast catching crawfish and then throwing them back. I took some pictures, so I'm going to enclose a few here. They are in no real order. I hope you had a great Sunday!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's just a game ...

Do you like games? If so, what kind -- board games, video games, PC games, hand-held games, online games, mind games? I guess there are a lot to choose from. I grew up in the 70s and board games were really popular. I used to spend hours playing games with my friends. Sometimes we'd stretch games out over several days, like Monopoly. Some of my favorites included Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Don't Break The Ice, Mousetrap, Monopoly, Clue, Headache, Ker-Plunk, etc. I also liked the basic stuff like checkers, chess, dominoes, pick-up sticks, marbles, and card games. As I got older I was more into Scrabble, Boggle, Trivial Pursuit, and Pictionary. I try to keep up with the new board games that come out, especially for the boys. I think board games might be a dying breed in this age of modern technology, but I hope they stick around for awhile longer.

We have a lot of board games. The boys play them quite a bit, but it's been awhile since I played any. I like them, but just never make the time for them. I think I need to do that more. The boys & I play some games during school, including some trivia games for Bible lessons. Those are always fun. And I make themed BINGO games for different seasons and holidays, which is fun too. I've never done that Family Game Night thing that became popular awhile back, but it sounds fun. I do keep some games in our travel trailer, including a big set of card games for the boys. One of my favorite games that we have is an electronic version of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. Unless you really know a lot about Star Wars, it can be pretty hard. We also have the M*A*S*H Trivia game, which is really fun as well.

As for video games -- those just aren't my thing. My kids love them. The boys have a PlayStation 2 that they like. They also have the little hand-held PSP unit, which is in use a lot too. I don't flip out over that because they don't play them all the time. The girls like games too, but play them mostly on their computers. Nichelle really likes SIMS and Nicole has a variety of games she plays from time to time. Rick's really into war games on the PC and sometimes plays them online with people all around the world. I never got into video games like my family. I do have a couple of hand-held games that I play. One is poker and the other is solitaire. I'm pretty addicted to that last one if it is within reach. I'll even play that one on my iPod.

I know there are a lot of games online and on Facebook. A lot of my friends are really into Mafia Wars, Bejeweled, and Farm Town. I haven't tried any of those yet. My favorite there is with the 101 Items. It started off as collecting eggs, but they've added butterflies, sea creatures, stamps, and even puzzle pieces. I'm really into this one and it eats up a huge amount of time. I don't know why I'm so fascinated with it. It's not like I get a prize or even a score. Must be the collector in me. At least it's one collection I don't have to dust!

So, how about you -- what type of games do you like?

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Do you like your lips? I know that's an odd question, but I thought of it the other day when I was looking at some celebrity pictures online. Click here to see what I mean. I don't follow celebrities around much. I barely watch TV and I rarely go to the movies, but every now and then I'll look online to see what people are up to. This deal with celebrities wanting bigger lips is just the weirdest thing to me. I don't think I've seen one that makes them look better or more sexy. Most of the time, they look stupid or like something went horribly wrong. Why would anyone want to do that to themselves? I can understand other forms of cosmetic surgery, but just not the lip thing. Last fall we went to Yellowstone and I took a picture of a raven inside the Grizzly Wolf Discovery Center. I'm not sure what he had picked up, but when he turned around, he looked like he had great big kissy lips. I nicknamed him the Angelina Joliet Raven ...

I have thin lips and Rick has full lips. I suppose between the two of us, we have the lip thing covered. I don't think I'd want fuller lips myself. Do you remember those wax candy lips? I remember when those first came out in the 70s. I bought so many of those, including the ones with fangs. Those were fun. If you want a laugh, type in "wax lips" in your search engine and look at some of the pictures that come up. Some are hilarious. Some, however, look more like what these celebrities are doing to themselves. I don't know -- this just isn't my thing. If it's yours, well, I hope I haven't insulted you. I was just noticing that some celebrities have done this with less than attractive results. And all this talk of lips, of course, makes me think of this ...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dilly's First Trailer!

I finally made a book trailer for A New Job for Dilly. After fiddling around with a few programs, I finally went to PhotoShop Elements and got this made. I had to upload it through YouTube and I'm not happy about their logo going over some of my text, so I might redo parts of it. It was my first attempt at a trailer, so I'll try not to be too critical and give myself some credit. It's only a minute long, but then again, it is for a picture book. I hope you enjoy seeing it and I'm looking forward to getting better at these things!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

May the Force be with you ...

I don't think I've ever posted this picture on my blog. I know I've put it up elsewhere, so I thought I'd post it today. This was taken a few years back (3 or 4 maybe) at Disneyland. Right after you get off the Star Tours ride, you're lead into a Star Wars giftshop. In that shop they have one of those places where you can get your picture taken. Since the boys are huge Star Wars fans, we did this one year and had a poster made. What's fun to us is that the boys have called each other Anakin and OB1 for years. So, this picture was the perfect choice for them. That's Nathan as Anakin, by the way, and Neil is OB1. It always makes me laugh to see Neil, who must have been only 4, wearing a beard. The boys have this poster framed in their bedroom.

Have you ever done any of these pictures? I haven't myself. Rick did one of those old-fashioned type photos once where he dressed up as Wild West Deputy. It's cool, so I'll have to scan it sometime and put it up. I saw a booth at Downtown Disney recently and Rick suggested we do a Pirates of the Caribbean one, but I said no. I don't know why, but maybe I'll do one eventually. I never did those Glamour Shots that were so popular in the 1980s either. How about you -- ever take any fun photographs?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

And the winner is ...

Last week I posted a Letter Challenge blog. The challenge was to find 10 items that began with the first letter of your name. The catch was they had to come from the same room. Between here and my Facebook page, I got around 16 entries -- very cool. I want to thank everyone who took the time to take the challenge. I know for some of you, coming up with 10 items was difficult. Some letters are harder than others. I decided to turn this into a contest and offer a prize for one random winner. I wrote all the names on little slips of paper and closed my eyes and pulled one out. That name was ...


Joanne posted her answers on my Facebook wall and lives in Australia. She wrote on my wall, "Ok, J is a little hard, but here goes from my bedroom ... Jumper, Jeans, Jade brooch, Jelly (stuck on my doona thanks to my 4-year-old, hahaha), Jewelry, Juice (on the bedside table), Jersey (my footy one), Junk under the bed, Jumprope, and Jelly beans." Congratulations, Joanne! Pictured below is the prize I picked out and I'll be putting that in the mail right away. I hope you enjoy a little taste of Montana huckleberries!

Thanks to everyone who took the time to take the Letter Challenge. I realize you had to do a little work on this one, so I appreciate everyone playing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chomping at summer's end ...

I missed blogging yesterday, but was out of the house most of the day. Oh well, it's not like the world came to an end. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to wish Rick a happy birthday. I had to go to the dentist yesterday to get a crown put back in that had fallen out on Saturday afternoon. My last dentist stopped accepting our insurance, so we had to make some calls Monday to find a new one. The new office is way up in Whitefish, about an hour away, but it seemed like a great place. They took me in on their lunch break to put the crown back in, which says a lot to me. The boys will be seeing them in September because one of the dentists there specializes in children. So, that actually turned out well.

It's hard to believe that the year is two-thirds of the way over and that summer is coming to an end soon. I guess a lot of people have kids already in school now. Rick & I did some shopping yesterday afternoon and the stores were crazy by the school supplies. I don't envy you moms who have to run around with lists of things to buy. All of the parents look really stressed out and the kids just have a look of disgust on their faces. Poor things. I do need to get myself in gear and get ready for school too. This will be our 12th year homeschooling. It will just be the boys this year, so it's kind of like how we started when it was just the girls. Nathan will be in 5th grade and Neil will be in 2nd grade. Those are fun grades and autumn is a really cool time for craft projects and field trips, like to the cornfield maze.

Nicole is leaving in a few weeks to start college in Florida, so we've been busy trying to get her ready. She's been homeschooled since she was in the 2nd grade, so college will be a big adjustment to her. However, the college she's attending caters to homeschoolers, so I know she'll be fine. My biggest worry is that she's going to Pensacola and it's always hit by the season storms. The college is 20 miles inland, so I'm sure she'll be fine. I wouldn't be a mom if I didn't worry. My oldest, Nichelle, is getting ready to leave Maui and fly to Thailand next Monday. She'll be there a week or so, and then will travel to Borneo for her Youth With A Mission outreach program. She's really looking forward to it. She'll be wandering through jungles and such, so it's going to be an experience of a lifetime for her.

So anyway -- I'm sitting here looking at the calendar and trying not to freak out. It's amazing how quickly summer is going by. I realize there are still a few weeks left for us. We homeschool so we have the luxury of starting school when we want. I'm planning on September 8th, the day after the holiday weekend. I don't want to start sooner because Nicole leaves for college on the 4th and I'd like the boys to be able to spend as much time with her as they can before she leaves. However, it does mean I need to get busy with my curriculum, lesson plans, organizing our classroom and all that fun stuff. After doing it for so many years, it's not that hard for me and is mostly just a time issue. It's hard to get into the school state of mind because I have a new idea for a picture book I've been thinking about. There are squirrels involved, which is why I put the pic of the squirrel eating the tortilla chip up top. I would also like to squeeze in another camping trip this summer, but I'm not sure if that will happen. I'm hoping we can go kayaking this weekend because we're supposed to have warm weather.

How about you -- got any last plans for summer?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Happy Birthday, Rick!

I want to use today's blog to wish my husband, Rick, a very happy birthday. It's amazing to think he almost didn't make it into this life. He was born 3 months premature and was fighting the Rh-factor with his mother's blood. Rick was given a complete blood transfusion at birth and they didn't expect him to survive. A priest was even called in to give last rights. Forty-six years later, you'd never guess this guy was once small enough to fit on the palm of his father's hand.

Happy Birthday, Rick -- I love you!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Baaaay-beeees ...

Today is National Homeless Animals Day. It's a day set aside to promote education about the important of spaying & neutering your pets to help with animal overpopulation. I'm a big supporter of that idea. Back in the 1970s when I was growing up, the spay/neuter thing wasn't talked about or enforced as much as it is today. I grew up with cats -- lots and lots of cats! I'm convinced that every cat in the Ojai Valley stemmed from my cat, Missy. I'm more aware of the problem now and I wouldn't dream of owning a dog or cat unless I had he or she fixed.

See these kittens above? They belong to my in-laws, but they're fully grown now. We found them near my ILs house one day. They had been born outside and were totally wild. We found the little black one first, and the gray one in the middle second. The day we found them, my ILs were leaving on a trip, so I took them home to take care of them while they were away. I named the black one Samson and the gray one Delilah. Their names were later shortened to Sammy & Deli. The other little gray one on the right I found a few days later. He was skin and bones, and totally covered with fleas. Not only that, but he was covered in dirt and cobwebs. I named him Dusty. He's the one I posted about recently -- the one I call Pretty Boy. My in-laws really didn't want to keep the cats, but we talked them into it. I am pretty sure the cat we have now, Kitty, came from the same parents. She was totally wild when the girls started feeding her. Fortunately, our neighbor got ahold of some of the cats and had them spayed and neutered, which seemed to help with the cats showing up on our property.

When the kittens were little and I would be watching them, I'd yell out, "Baaaay-beeees!" and they'd all come running. They knew that meant they were going to eat. One thing that struck me funny was that this was YEARS ago. Just recently, while I was visiting my ILs in California, I said, "Baaaay-beeees!" and both Sammy and Dusty jumped up. I had no idea they would remember that. Deli was still being boarded because she is bad about using her box, so she got stuck in the slammer while we were there. I wonder if she would have had the same reaction. But it was hilarious how they remembered like that. At one point, we were looking for Sammy and couldn't find him, so I yelled "Baaaay-beees!" again. Sure enough -- he popped out of his hiding place and came running. It was the craziest thing how they remembered ... they were the cutest little baaaay-beeees!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hey, Kool-Aid!

Today is National Kool-Aid Day. Well, I believe the celebration lasts all weekend. Did you drink this stuff as a kid? I remember buying packets at the grocery store and then coming home to mix it up with sugar and water. It was like 15 cents for a packet, so it was something my mom would let me buy. My friends had it at their house and most birthday parties I went to served it as well. My favorite flavors were cherry and grape. The original 6 flavors were cherry, grape, lemon-lime, orange, raspberry, and strawberry. Later, tons of bizarre flavors came out, such as Sharkleberry Fin, apple, Strawberry Split, even chocolate. Some flavors were in other countries and others were discontinued. I haven't even looked at a Kool-Aid display in a long time, so I really have no idea what's available today. The history of Kool-Aid is interesting. If you'd like to read it, click here. I haven't had a glass of Kool-Aid in years. I'm more of a juice, flavored water, diet soda drinker, to be honest. But I have to admit, it sure was a big part of being a kid! What was your favorite flavor as a kid? Do you still drink it now?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dilly Sells Out!

Thanks to everyone who has gotten copies of A New Job for Dilly. I am pleased to announce that I've sold all of the copies I ordered. I'm not sure when I'll be making another order, but the book is available through my publisher, 4RV Publishing. It can also be ordered at Amazon and B&N online, or ordered through any bookseller with the ISBN numbers listed on my website. Thanks so much to everyone who has gotten the book and shared it with your children, grandchildren, family, and friends. Please keep spreading the word about Dilly to people you feel might be interested in it. I've had quite a few teachers buy it for their classrooms. You might want to keep Dilly in mind when it comes to the end of the school year as a gift for your child's class. Not just my book, but any book, because teachers always need more books! I'm really excited about the next book, A New Friend for Dilly, also illustrated by Lisa Oakman. In this book, Dilly searches A to Z to find the perfect friend. After all, a little rat can't live on pickles alone!
  • D is for Determined to find a job.
  • I is for Independent little rat.
  • L is for Lovable personality.
  • L is for Likable character.
  • Y is for Yearning for pickles.
Thanks to everyone who has entered my contest (see post below), both here and on Facebook. I think I will run it a week to give people time to enter. So, next Wednesday I'll gather up the names of everyone who entered and put them into a hat to pick the winner. Some people have it easier than others, depending on what letter your name starts with. The contest is still open, so if you haven't entered yet, you have until next Wednesday. I've got a really cool prize, so you don't want to miss out! Good luck!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Letter Challenge!

I've been driving everyone nuts over on Facebook. There's an application called Pick Your Five where you list your favorite items. The lists vary, from favorite movies to the best cereals. I don't know why, but I have fun with this application. There's one circulating now called Random Things Starting with the First Letter of my Name. The first time I did it, I picked 5 different things starting with the letter R. However, lately I've been doing themes -- cars that start with the letter R, candy that starts with R, drinks that start with R, toys that start with R, cities that start with R, etc ...

I love themes. If I can theme it, I can do it. I make themes on my iPod for certain songs. I have playlists for songs that relate to themes like rain, California, cars, the word blue, cats, pirates, and so forth. I have themed playlists for certain eras like the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s. I even have a themed playlist of surf music and instrumental songs. I use themes in school too and we often have specific weeks, such as Leaf Week, Apple Week, Fairy Tale Week, and so forth. I also love alphabet themes. A New Job for Dilly is an alphabet book, as are the other 2 Dilly books to come. As you can see, the application on Facebook is right up my alley.

So -- are you up for my challenge?

I challenge you to find at least 10 items in one room of your house, starting with the first letter of your name. It doesn't matter what they are, but they all have to come from the same room. You can post your picture on your blog or on Facebook. Or, if you don't have either of those, you can list them here in my comments. As you can see from this picture, I found 10 items in my bedroom starting with the letter R. They are as follows --
  1. Raggedy Ann
  2. Radio
  3. Red gum
  4. Rock
  5. Reading glasses
  6. Ring
  7. Radica game
  8. Ribbon
  9. Red Fire Bar
  10. R-shaped tie tack

AND -- to make the challenge even more fun, I'm going to turn it into a CONTEST! For everyone who finds 10 things starting with the first letter of their name (remember, from the same room!), I'll put those names into a hat and choose a winner for a prize. So, what are you waiting for? Get searching! Oh, and just so you know, I really did have a rock in my room. Neil found that in the yard and brought it to me because it looked like a pickle for Dilly. We might paint it green for Dilly. Now get searching!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kangaraffes and Tigorillas?

The little bird said, "When the animals get together they talk about the days when everything was all mixed up. They were together. Like a kangaroo and giraffe -- a kangaraffe."

I'd like to let everyone know about a new book called Would A Kangaraffe Make You Laffe? It's written by Rich Aaron and illustrated by Stephen Macquignon. This rhyming picture book features wonderful, yet uniquely bizarre, illustrations of how animals might look if they were mixed up. My favorite picture is the Zebracat -- top part zebra and bottom part wildcat. Seeing a zebra licking his leg like a cat is enough to make anyone laugh. The book is available through 4RV Publishing, LLC. Stephen Macquignon is also the illustrator of my second picture book called The Marshmallow Man, coming in December. I hope you will want to share Would A Kangaraffe Make You Laffe? with your children. Maybe they'll even come up with their own funny animal combinations.

I also want to let everyone know that I am down to my last 3 copies of A New Job for Dilly. I'm not sure when I'll be able to order more, so if you'd like one personalized for you or your child, please order right away before they're gone. Of course, they're still available through 4RV Publishing, as well as Amazon and B&N online. You can order the book through any local bookstore with the ISBN number, which is located on my website. I've had a lot of people buy the book as gifts for friends and family members. Books make great gifts -- I always appreciate when my kids get books as gifts. If you want an autographed copy, order soon while I have some.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Inspiration ...

in·spi·ra·tion (nsp-rshn) NOUN:

Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.
The condition of being so stimulated.
An agency, such as a person or work of art, that moves the intellect or emotions or prompts action or invention.
Something, such as a sudden creative act or idea, that is inspired.
The quality of inspiring or exalting: a painting full of inspiration.
Divine guidance or influence exerted directly on the mind and soul of humankind.
The act of drawing in, especially the inhalation of air into the lungs.

If you're a writer or illustrator, where do you get your inspiration? If you don't do either, what inspires you to do what you love doing? As far as my writing goes, I've only written picture books, with the exception of one middle grade novel. My stories feature animals and are written for very young children. I'm surrounded by animals here, so obviously they are a big influence on me. Then there's my boys, who are my biggest source of inspiration. Not only do they help me with ideas, but they allow me to see things through their eyes. I hope I never lose the ability to see things as a child. It's a great, big serious world out there. We all need inspiration -- even if it's just to remember that there are puddles to jump in, mudpies to make, bugs to catch, flowers to smell, squirrels to photograph ...

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I finally got around to watching Coraline recently. I didn't get to see it when it came out in the theaters, but my MIL got it for me when I was in California. She bought the collector's edition with both the 2D and 3D versions. I finally sat down and watched it the other day by myself. I wasn't sure if the boys would like it, so I figured I'd check it out first. I love dark, animated movies like this. I'm a huge fan of Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Tim Burton, James & The Giant Peach, Igor, etc. With that in mind, Coraline was right up my alley. The animation was awesome and as always, I love the music. I'm not sure if the music is featured on the DVD set I have, but if it's not I'll probably get it from iTunes. As a parent who spends too much time on the computer, I can relate to Coraline's parents, which is scary in itself. I was really surprised to hear her last name was Jones, but even more so when they kept calling her Caroline Jones because that's my MIL's name.

Back in February I posted this blog entry that featured a picture of me with button eyes. If you click on the main website here, you can do your own picture with button eyes. It's kind of freaky, even the song that plays on the site is eery. I think that song is called "End Credits" and I love how it sounds. As for the boys, they came in & out as I was watching it the other day. The next morning Neil asked to watch it in 3D. Last night he & I watched it again. It's rated PG and recommended for ages 11 & up, so I'm really surprised Neil wanted to watch it. He's usually really timid about movies, but for some reason he loves this one. He likes how the cat can talk in the other world. It's a creepy movie, but not too bad. The mermaid/Venus scene is hilarious! I've never read any of Neil Gaiman's work, but I'd like to read this one and see how it differs from the film.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Here's a question -- do you love them or hate them? The reason I ask is because a few weeks ago I was reading an article that said the popularity of Crocs was dying down. One of the reasons given was because the shoes lasted so long and people didn't need to buy more. Then I looked at the Crocs website and saw they have a huge shoe line. I thought it was interesting that there were so many types. However, I'm not one for malls or going to shoe stores all that often, so it really shouldn't be a surprise.

When I first saw people wearing Crocs, I thought they were ugly. They reminded me of those other plastic shoes that came out in the 1980s called jellies. I had a pair of clear jellies, but I hated wearing them because they made squooshy sounds when I walked. They soon became known as farty shoes and I couldn't wear them. When Crocs came out, I figured they'd be the same way, so I had no interest in trying them. Besides that, I thought the colors were too bright and gawdy looking. But then ......

Last February Rick & I went on that trip to Las Vegas for our 21st wedding anniversary. I packed mostly my cowboy boots, since I don't get to wear my fancier ones all that much with the snow, rain, and mud. I thought Vegas would be a cool place to wear my suede green boots. What I didn't think about was not having a car. We flew in and didn't rent a car, so we did a lot more walking than I had anticipated. I was near tears when we finally went into the MGM and saw the Rainforest Cafe store. By that point, even Crocs were sounding good. I bought a pair of black ones and after rubbing my feet raw with my boots, the Crocs felt like I was walking on clouds!

I still wear them, surprisingly, but only with socks. I don't really like how they feel when I'm barefoot. I'm not sure if I'll buy another pair, though the boots on the website look cool. I might like those and maybe the blue ones to wear with jeans. I might consider getting some for the boys once they grow out of their current water shoes too. Up here, we spend a lot of time in the lakes and the bottom is really rocky in places, so you have to wear shoes. Flip flops don't work and the boys usually wear those pull-on water shoes. I've seen people wearing Crocs, including professional kayakers, so that might be an option for them. That is, if they stick around awhile longer!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fireplace story ...

Do you have a fireplace in your home? If so, do you use it often? We had a little corner fireplace in our home in California and I'm surprised we used it as much as we did. I loved it because I never grew up in homes with fireplaces. When we moved into our current house in Montana, there was a fireplace in the living room upstairs. This is what it looked like when we visited the house for the first time while the original owners still lived here ...

As you can see, they had rigged it up so their TV fit on the top and they had wires coming out all over the place. The lady tried to make it nice, but it was her husband who had the idea about the TV and he proceeded to brag about how great it was. I thought it was ... well, ugly. When we moved in, I tried to dress it up a little with a few plants and my leopard statue. It helped, but it was still ... well, ugly. This is how it looked ...

So, when we decided to install a wood-burning stove downstairs, we had them redo this fireplace as well. The wood burning stove pipes came right up through the same area, so the brick facing covered them up really well. This is how it looks now, minus some bear statues I've added ...

Rick's only regret is putting the fireplace insert back in and not making it a wood-burning fireplace. I guess that would have been nice, but it would have been a major expense. Not only that, but we'd have to lug wood in for 2 fireplaces. It's hard enough to do that for one when the snow gets really deep. So, we don't use the upstairs one all that much for heating the house. It's mostly for decoration or for when we're all sitting around it. It's hard to tell from this picture, but it's in a great room with the living/dining/kitchen all in the same area. Before, the burgundy dome thing was really distracting. Now the brick seems to be a focal part of the room. By the way, this is the oddest shaped house I've ever seen. I don't think there is one square-shaped room in it. Anyway, since I showed you some of the pictures of the house the other day, I thought I'd share the little fireplace story as well.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Humane Award

I want to say thank you to Donna J. Shepherd for giving me an award on her Topsy Tales blog. The Humane Award honors certain bloggers who are kindhearted individuals who regularly support blogs with their sweet comments. They have tastefully done blogs that are updated on a regular basis. In all honesty, I've been a slacker about replying to blogs these past 2 weeks while I was in California. It seems every time I sat down to read one or leave a comment, it would be time to go somewhere. I'm trying to catch up with what everyone has been up to. Thanks again to Donna for thinking of me. I would like to pass this award onto --

In addition, I'd like to thank a few regular readers who don't have blogs. They are always so kind to leave comments on mine, so I didn't want to leave them out. They include --


Thanks to you all. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read, follow, and comment on my blog. You make it more fun!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Home -- what an interesting word that is. In The Lion King movie Pumba says, "Home is where your rump rests." I don't know about that. My rump rested in several places in California recently, but home is still here in Montana. I guess for me it's more like, "Home is where my stuff is." It was interesting to go back to where I grew up. I wasn't sure if it would feel more like home going back. It didn't feel that way at all. I feel like I belong where I am right now, so that's good. It's nothing bad about California. I just had my share of living there 41+ years and I needed the change.

We had an okay trip back home. The lines at LAX were unbelievable. We had to wait in line to use the little machines to check in. Then we had to wait in another line to check our bags in. Then they sent us to another line to go through security and that one went all the way out the door! It started outside, way down the sidewalk, then along an entire wall, then through another line that switched back and forth, then up the stairs and then in another line to actually go through TSA. It was INSANE! Nathan added all the lines up and by the time we waited to get on & off all our planes, I think he said we had waited in 13 lines just at the airports.

The flight from LAX to SLC was bumpy. I hate that. I've come to the conclusion that I don't enjoy flying. If the turbulence wasn't bad enough, the pilot announced that we would be descending and I swear, the only thing missing was people screaming. It felt like we were crashing. We were going down so fast and hard and it was really noisy. Not to mention hitting all the bumps on the way down. I was pretty happy to land in Salt Lake City, even with it being 95 degrees. By then, my nerves were shot, but I didn't have time to chug a glass of wine or anything, since we had to get on another plane. Fortunately, the flight to Missoula was more smooth. The difference between LAX and Missoula airport are like night and day -- wow. I've never been more happy to be home. Next time I travel, I'm either going with the trailer or taking a Valium before I get on a plane. And, I think I'll try to avoid LAX all together -- what a madhouse.

So anyway -- it's good to be home. I have been wanting to make a slide show of some of the pictures I've taken of our house, so that's what is below. Some of my family read my blog every now and then, but they've never seen the house, so I thought I'd post it today. It seemed like the perfect day to do so. There's no place like home!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Time to fly ...

Thanks to everyone who's taken the time to read and follow my blog as I rambled about our vacation in Southern California. I was born and raised here and spent 41+ years in the same general area. I've had mixed feelings coming home again -- some good and bad. We're getting ready to leave Ojai and head down to LAX to catch our flight back home to Montana. I figured some bird pictures I took at the Aquarium would be appropriate. Well, maybe not for the Cara Cara in the last picture because she has a damaged wing, but you get the general idea. Thanks again!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Aquarium of the Pacific

First of all, sorry this is one long paragraph -- Blogger always tweeks up when I add pictures. Here are a few I took yesterday at the Aquarium of the Pacific. I think Rick might have taken the Clown fish one, now that I look at it. It was really crowded, but that was to be expected with it being Sunday and in the summer. My father-in-law went with us, so it was a nice chance for him to spend the day with the boys. Neil loved the Lionfish and ended up buying a little stuffed one before we left. Nathan loved the shark exhibits, especially the tank with the Tiger shark in it. He ended up buying 2 books on sharks and read them all the way home. I'm going to hear a lot about sharks over the next few weeks, if I know how Nathan is. It was a fun day -- a lot less stressful for some reason. Today is our last day in Southern California. Our flight leaves tomorrow at 1:10pm and we get into Montana around 6:30pm or so. Neil just came into my bedroom and is all sulky already. He hates having to leave places. It doesn't matter if it's his grandparent's house or his own home. Before we left, he was all boo-hooing about having to leave our cat, Belle. Now of course, it's the other way around and he doesn't want to leave his grandparents. I will have to remind him all day that Belle is looking forward to seeing him. I swear, it's always something dramatic with that kid. He'll be fine, eventually. As much as I'm looking forward to getting home, I still feel like I haven't had enough time. I have some friends down in the LA/Orange County area that I haven't gotten to see yet. Ironically, they were all in San Diego when I was in LA, and then when I was in SD, they were in the other place. The same thing happened with my sister, who I just missed by a few days. It's really hard to coordinate meetings like that. And, it's not like we've been sitting around at home either. It's been go-go-go-go for us. However, I am looking forward to getting home. I miss Nicole and I miss Belle sleeping on my legs at night. I've also gotten hurt twice on this trip, so it will be nice to go home and try to recover. I'm getting a little more use from my index finger that I smashed, so that's good. I think keeping it in a splint for a day did it a lot of good. I'm also looking forward to catching up on all of the blogs I love reading. It seems every time I've sat down to click on one, something yells that it's time to go somewhere. Hopefully, I can get all caught up this week at home. After all ... there's no place like home, there's no place like home -- click, click, click!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Got crabs?

Well, sand crabs anyway ... we went up to Carpenteria State Beach today, along with every other human being in Southern California. That's probably an exaggeration, but it felt like it to me. Rick says my space bubble has gotten bigger since moving to Montana. I think he's right. Despite the hoards of people, we had fun. This picture above is of Rick holding a sand crab. The boys loved catching them. It was overcast when we got there, but it burned off by 2:30pm and then it was nice and sunny. We saw some dolphins swimming along the coast, watched pelicans dive-bomb into the ocean, and even saw a seagull attack a little girl with a hamburger. You just can't get that kind of entertainment on TV! Also, if you click on the picture, it gets big and you can see the underside of the crab really well -- ick.

I just lounged around on the beach and didn't do any swimming or digging in the sand with the boys. We went to a party last night and I went out to the car to get a copy of A New Job for Dilly for a friend's kids. It was dark in the front yard and I had forgotten that we'd parked on a bunch of dirt humps. I ended up tripping and slammed my fingers into the car. What is it with me and accidents on this trip? I'm still bruised and sore from falling at Disneyland. Anyway, my right index finger is jacked up. I don't know if it's broken or just sprained, but it's swollen pretty bad. We leave on Tuesday, so now I'm just hoping I can get through the next few days without getting hurt again. It's in a bright blue splint now, so just call me -- Mrs. Crabs!