Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Familial Love

In October of last year, The Tweedles semi-regularly would come running in the house scared saying they had seen raccoons by our sheds.  This isn't inconceivable.

I mean, there are raccoons in the area, but we did think it was highly unlikely that not only would they be hanging out by our shed, but The Tweedles would be the only ones who would see them.  Turns out the sinister eyes they were seeing under our shed belonged to three of the most adorable little kittens you'd ever seen.

With a little food to tempt them, we managed to get a hold of two of the three kittens (we never did see the third one again, but mama, we knew, was a stray floating around the neighborhood).  Before we left to the farm for Christmas, we assumed they were both boys.  By the time we got back, we knew for SURE that they were brother and sister and about a week later, the girl started going into heat.  For 5-7 days.  Every 10 days.  Yeah, that was fun.

We had to keep them separated for a long time while we waited for our Humane Society appointment to get them both fixed, but it was worth it.  Not only do we now have two very adorable additions to our household.  They are two of the sweetest siblings you'd ever meet.

Just look at them holding each other while they sleep.  On my seat.  Where I work.  But they're so darn cute, how can I move them?  We have something known as kitty rule.  You cannot move a sleeping kitty, nor move if they're sleeping on you.  Kitty rule, rules!

The brown and white one is Rum (our adorable if sneaky little girl).  And the grey and white one is Malibu (who we call Mal for obvious reasons if you know us at all) our very laid back little boy.

MMM.. Nathan Fillion.  Yummy!  Wait, what was I talking about?

The kitten, right.  They're cute and adorable, just like Nathan.

Seriously.. Thought?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Grandparents by Choice

Saturday night, Bunny and her Daisy Troop bridged to Brownies.  We had a potluck dinner and then watched as each girl stepped forward, said what she wanted to do most as a Brownie this year, took her old  Daisy smock off and donned the brand new Brownie sash.  Besides being a super proud Mom and Dad moment where admittedly, I got a little teary eyed, our girl had these two special women rooting her on.

Let me start out by saying, Bunny has one set of blood grandparents.  My parents.  The Hubs parents have since passed and never got to know either of The Tweedles.  My parents, as most of you know, live in Texas, which is a bit far to be around for all the day to day accomplishments of any of the kids.  We make due with phone calls and the occasional Skype to keep them up to date on what's going on in everyone's lives.  And of course, there's the trips to The Farm and their trips to visit us, which usually amounts to a few times a year.  Not nearly enough in my estimation, but life is what it is and we all do what we can to keep our family close.

But these ladies are here.  They aren't related by blood, but related by choice.  The one on the left is Nanny. The one on the right is Mimi (LW and GG's grandmother).  A long time ago, before the Tweedles were even a twinkle in their daddy's eye - I love that expression! - LW and GG used to alternate weekends with these two ladies.  Nanny and Mimi are best friends and have been for years and years, and subsequently were with the older girls since they were born.

Fast forward, one pretty contentious divorce and remarriage later, and Bunny was born.  LW and GG were still spending time with Mimi and Nanny.  I never expected that Bunny would be included in their outings. These were "The Ex's" family after all, and Bunny wasn't really related.  We all of course, attended each of the girl's events from 8th grade promotion to choir concerts at church.  We all put aside whatever issues we had to support the older girls in whatever they were doing.  This included all sitting together in one location at each event, even when things were at their most uncomfortable. And even going out together as a group afterwords to celebrate.  We did it, because it was the right thing to do.  It was easier some days than others, but in our hearts, LW and GG deserved the best from us, so we gave it to them.

But, Bunny was different.  She wasn't related.  She didn't have that blood tie that would require them to come to my baby shower, her 1st birthday or spend time with her on random weekends.  But that's exactly what happened.  Admittedly Nanny, as the one completely un-blood-related one of all us, embraced Bunny from the start.  She even offered to babysit her on Tuesdays when I had to go into the office for work after she was born.  She started spending time with just her, without LW and GG.  And I Was.In.Awe.  The generosity of spirit to love this little girl like she had loved LW and GG.  Well, it was more than I have words for.  It wasn't long before Mimi was right there with her, bringing Bunny along when they all went places together.  Then Bug came along and he was also swept up into the mix.

We aren't always one big happily-ever-after family.  We don't always agree, but what family does?  And I guess that's the deal here.  We've grown to be one weird, awkward to explain, family.  Including "The Ex", her new husband and their little girl, Sister #3, who if you recall, had both of The Tweedles in tears when she went back home to her mom's in Tennessee.  At the end of the day, all 5 of the kids (LW, GG, Bug, Bunny and Sister #3) bind us in a way we will never escape from, and they deserve the best from us.  The little ones especially don't care about who was married to whom before, or what drama ended that relationship.  They don't care if we all agree or don't.  They don't care about who's fault it was, or who did what to whom back before they were born.  They just love each other, and all of us.  And want us all to get along.  And so we do, because what else can we do?

And those two women?  The ones who took my Tweedles into their hearts and have loved them, and cared for them like they were family?  We just tell people they're The Tweedles grandmothers.  Easier to explain, and ultimately the only truth Bug and Bunny know.  We are blessed to have grandparents by choice.  And after all, not only does it take a village, but Bug and Bunny deserve all the loving adults in their lives they can get.  Their hearts are big; there's room enough for everyone.

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Saturday Morning Hike at the Rose Bowl

Saturday mornings are for hiking.  About 4 months ago, we started going hiking again for the first time in ages.  We had done some of it when GG and LW were little but then life happened, like it does, and it fell to the wayside.  Then we had Bunny and Bug who were too young to hike and pushing a stroller down trails was challenging.  We did get one of those backpack carriers, but with two kids, and my bad back, that didn't exactly work out either.  But, it seems The Tweedles are now both old enough to hike between 4-8 miles without too much drama and whining so we try to go at least once a weekend.

We do this for a couple of reasons.  The first and foremost being, I really love to hike.  I like the quiet time with the family, getting to see places you don't normally get a chance to visit.  There's always a surprise on every hike whether it's seeing deer or an amazing view.  There's also giving the kids an opportunity to experience nature.  Camping is harder to schedule, but a hike is done in a few hours and gives the same flavor.

We also want to create exercise habits for The Tweedles.  If we can keep it up through their childhood, maybe by the time they're teens it will be so ingrained they'll just keep doing it.  And hiking, unlike team sports, martial arts, swimming etc. is relatively inexpensive.  All it takes is the gas money to get there, a water bottle and a good pair of sneakers.  Oh sure, you can run to REI and spend thousands on specialty shoes, hiking poles, backpacks, camelpaks and trail food.  But you don't need to.  The great thing about hiking as a sport is that you work on your endurance and build leg and stomach muscles.  All thing you need in case of an apocalypse... or if you're just still trying to lose the baby weight, 4 years later.

Yesterday, we hit the Tad Williams Trail near the Rose Bowl.

Not somewhere you would typically think of for hiking, but there are all sorts of fun trails in the woods surrounding the stadium.  We ended up hiking about 4 miles round trip and saw a fair amount of bird wildlife.  We came across this pretty big duck flock kickin' it in the stream along the trail.

And found this mama and her ducklings in the aqueduct itself.

We saw tons of hummingbirds and even managed to find this little guy sitting still for 1/2 a second...

.. before flying off.

I even found a pretty cool looking Bug playing king of the mountain.

Or maybe he was just taking a break.  Hard to say.

I do have to say, I am partial to the Daddy/Daughter animals that were roaming the trails.

But I think the Bug is ultimately my favorite.

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Late Night Antics of a 6 Year Old

Last night The Tweedles begged to be allowed to sleep on their bedroom floor in sleeping bags.  We agreed and this morning when I went into their room, this is what I found.

"I couldn't sleep last night Mommy, so I decided to lay out my clothes." - Bunny

Complete with accessories. Yes, she can do accessories.  It obviously skips a generation.  Man, I love that kid!

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Before & After - Seriously Damaged

I've been working the last few weeks on the image below for my amazing friend Cinda.  She's an architect and I do a fair amount of architectural photo compositing for her.  But this time she came with a more personal request for this old family photo.

As you can see there is a ton of damage on this photo.  The yellow actually appears to be some sort of fungus growing on the image itself.  And up close you can see all the dirt on the photo.  It's practically ingrained.  Here's the after.

Lots of different elements here.  Obviously the old standbys of the clone stamp tool, and I did a fair amount with the spot healing brush.  I did a lot with the hue and saturation to take some of the yellow splotches down to where I could work with them.  I had to rebuild the girl's hand because the damage there was so extensive with no big spaces to draw from.  I used dust & scratches tool.  And then levels and curves to really sharpen up the image and make the subjects pop.

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Before & After - Dad's Senior Photo

My dad is an avid genealogist.  In addition to helping me get all the information I needed to become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, I also got to learn all sorts of great family history.  Another amazing perk of his obsession is getting to see all these great old pictures and cleaning them up.

For your viewing pleasure, my dad's senior photo - before.

I absolutely LOVE these old style 50's photos with their crazy coloring!   I told my dad when I saw it that it looks like he's wearing rouge and orange lipstick.  But in a good way, honest!

The paper the photo is printed on is a thick heavy stock and has a definite texture to it. As you can see there's some scratch damage on the upper left hand side and what appears to be water damage maybe on the bottom right.  There's some additional smaller dirt and general age issues spread throughout. And the whole thing has a yellow cast that I suspect is due to age.

Clone Stamp, Spot Healing, Levels and some color tweaks later and we have the after.

That guy is pretty darn handsome if I do say so myself.

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Do You Know James?

I know many of you know who Bob Ross is even before my little video yesterday.  But do you know James Hance?

I'm sure, since Glee came out, you've heard of Mash-ups.  It's where you take two different songs and blend them into one.  Well, James does art mash-ups.  He's probably best known for his Wookie The Chew series of prints.

A blend of Winnie the Pooh and Star Wars.  With Han Solo, Chewbacca, and the gang.

He brings these mash-up characters to life in a way that tickles my memories of childhood and always makes me smile.

He borrows from masters like Norman Rockwell

and Andy Warhol but obviously has a style all his own.

And he's not just limited to Winnie the Pooh and Star Wars, but draws from lots of well loved childhood characters.

Old and new.

Even my beloved Grover has found his way into James' world.

He takes stories and characters we love, and puts his own spin on them. And this is by far, one of my favorites.

His latest artistic triumph is a children's book; a parody based on Dr. Who and Amy Pond, the girl who waited, Goodnight, Pond.

Go. Check him out.  And if you don't fall completely in love with his artwork, you aren't the person I thought you were.

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Happy Little Trees

Do you know Bob Ross?  And his happy little clouds?  And his happy little trees?

I loved Bob.  I used to watch him ALL.THE.TIME when I was in high school.  I even signed up for a painting class in my freshman year because of him.  I learned how to oil paint and loved it.  And even felt like I kinda knew what I was doing because of Bob.  I wish now I had kept some of those paintings so I could see now if I really was any good, or if it was all in the self-centered mind of my teenage self.  

A friend of mine posted this (Thanks Alex!) and it makes me want to pull out my oils and create new worlds of my own.  I MISS YOU BOB!!!

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Sequoia National Forest - Our Final Hours

Do you remember this photo?  We took this shot from the top of the ridge above Dorst Creek.  

See that pretty little water fall and the round pool of water?  Well, on our way back from the Lost Grove, The Hubs and Tamlin did a little cross country exploring to see if they could find that spot.  To see if it would be a good place for us to hang out for the afternoon.  To let the kids get wet, and we could all do a little relaxing before the long ride home.  Turns out, while not easily accessible, they found the spot just fine and there were several pools of water that were just perfect for us and for The Tweedles.  (WARNING: the water was moving very fast, so it was important that we found pools where the water wasn't really moving at all so the kids could play.  Water safety is very important, and so are my Tweedles, so we took no chances.  SAFETY FIRST PEOPLE!)

On our way back for lunch, we found a quicker trail back down to the water.  It was a lot prettier too. Narnia anyone? We made it down to the creek where we did our Dirty Dancing on the fallen tree and followed the edge of the water down stream until we found those pools above.  It was a little tricky as the rocks are all granite and once granite gets wet (or your feet do) it was super slippery. The sides were also pretty steep, so in a lot of places it was hard to find any traction at all.  Sometimes going right down the center was the easiest path.

And when we found our spot, the views were incredible.  This one is upstream from our spot.

And this is downstream.

Talk about your perfect location.  Not a soul in sight except for our little group.  It really was it's own little oasis.

Add some sunblock and we were ready to roll.

This little pool is the perfect Tweedle size. You can't tell from the photos, but it had a nice sandy bottom through most of it. And Bunny wasted no time getting in.  

The rest of us weren't far behind.

Did I mention the rocks were slippery.  A helping hand from Uncle Tamlin was always welcome.

And make no mistake, the water was COLD, but we managed to cajole LW into taking the plunge into the deeper lower pool.

Followed by the rest of us.

And Tamlin posing Sports Illustrated style under the falls.

But it wasn't so bad once you were in it.

Even 1/2 Point thought so.

I did mention about the rocks being slippery right?  Which caused some issues trying to get OUT of these wonderful little pools.  I believe the rally cry here was less about 1/2 Point and more about saving the beer!

And when we were done freezing our little toes off, we found a sunny spot to warm up on.

Or we just waded into the water enjoying the incredible views.

This day couldn't have been more perfect or been a more excellent ending to our trip.  We'll definitely be taking another trip up to do some more exploring!

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

We went over to GG and LW's Grandmother's house tonight for GG and Sister #3's farewell dinner.  They're headed back to their Mom's - GG for just a few weeks, and Sister #3 until the next time they're out to visit.  We had a reasonably good time until it was time to go, and then the tears wouldn't stop.

I recorded this when I got home, but this was repeated the whole entire ride home and is still happening in their room as I type this.  I can still hear the occasional hiccup sob.  Sleep is apparently being elusive when there's so much sadness in the world.  When your sister's sister, who is your newest, bestest friend, is on her way home.  In fact, Bug just this minute has come out sobbing telling me he's too sad to sleep.  I think we'll do some snuggling to ease his pain.  Parting is such sweet sorrow Sister #3.  Know you'll be missed.

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Christmas in July

Anyone who knows me, knows that Christmas is my favorite holiday.  I love everything about it from the gifts to the decorations, the smell of cinnamon and cookies, family and traditions, the lights, the Christmas tree, everything.  Well, maybe not everything.  In this tight economy, I don't like dropping $500-$1000 on Christmas gifts a few weeks before Christmas.  That last minute shopping stuff is for the birds, and quite frankly, my bank account doesn't handle it well.  I hate having to choose between gifts and bills.

Instead, I prefer to do my holiday shopping early.  Like, REALLY early.  Like, July early.

Every July 1st I start to pester GG and LW for Christmas lists.  I don't expect them to be complete, but I do expect some ideas to come forth to help make shopping a little easier.  I prefer to use these lists as guides to help give me ideas.  Some Christmases I have it all figured out.  I know exactly what I want to get them and other years, I need that time from July to Christmas to figure it out.  Regardless, it's easier to drop $100 bucks here and there over the course of 5 months than it is to drop all that cash all at once.

With the Tweedles, it gets a little more interesting.  Every July, very quietly, Target starts to mark down toys 30-75% off.  They're getting rid of stock to make room for the holidays. They don't make a big "sale" out of it, or advertise it, but if you start taking a look in the isles and on the end caps, you'll start to see their red discount signs. I have no idea if Wal-mart does something similar as our nearest Wal-mart isn't a convenient distance from us.  If they do, can someone post here and let the rest of us know?

Last Thursday, The Hubs and I left The Tweedles with GG and off we went Christmas shopping.  And man did we The Tweedles make out like bandits!

The "boys" section was first in our Target, so the very first thing I found was this Disney Smart Ship Learn & Go ($5.06) for Bug.  It plays learning games for letters, numbers etc.

Then we found this ThunderCats Thunder Tank. (Sweeeeeeet deal at $8.98).

Which went well with the ThunderCats Action Figure Set. ($8.68).  Did you know the ThunderCats were still cool?  Bug and Bunny watch the same cartoons I used to when I was a kid.  Crazy!

Then we found this Cars Action Agent Spy Jet Getaway Set ($11.48).  How cute is this?  Especially for a Cars loving Bug like ours.  I can pretty much quote Cars and Cars II by now.

Then we found this cute Chuck Handy Monster Tow Truck ($4.12) which will go great with the big Chuck truck he got last Christmas from Grandma and Grandpa.

Then we ran across these Fisher Price Little People super hero action figures ($3.74/each).  One is Green Lantern & Superman (for Bug) and the other is Bat Girl and Wonder Woman (for Bunny).

Moving into the "girls" section we found this Little Pet Shop Speedy Trails RC car with pet ($16.93).

Then the we found this Moxie Girls Glitterin' Style Doll set.  It has glitter that you can decorate stickers with that add pizzazz to her clothes!  What little girl wouldn't LOVE that?

Then we found this LIV Sophie Stylin' Head ($16.48) and knew this would be perfect.  Hair styling extravaganza anyone?

Like any girl her age, Bunny LOVES play dough.  We recently stumbled upon Moon Dough which is about 1000 times better.  It never dries out like play dough and is in general pretty awesome.  So when we ran across this set, we knew we had to get it ($5.64).

Knowing what a pain it is to jump rope by yourself we were excited when we found this absolutely cool Swizzler Hopper Flext Rope ($11.95).  Cool.  Shiney.  Pink.  Oh yeah, it has Bunny written all over it!

And this Bizu animal jewelry kit thingy ($3.74).  I'm not sure exactly how to describe it, but it's jewelry she can put together herself, that looks like animals.  She'll love it.

We found these great costumes for the Zhu Zhu pets we Santa got them last Christmas.  One is a fairy princess complete with tiara. And the other is a dragon!

And we found these great generic magnetic drawing boards ($2.08/each).

And finally, we came across this Paper Jamz guitar ($8.24).  I'm not entirely sure how these works. From what I can tell, they're paper (no strings) but through touch and awesome technology, you can play along with pre-made songs or you can free style music on your own.  Using real guitar chords (even though there's no strings).  We got this for Bug.  And for $8 I'm willing to figure out how this guitar can turn my boy into a rock star!

We got all of this stuff for $127.24 (before tax).   That's roughly $64 per kid for 8-9 gifts each.  Not too shabby! The sale is going on right now.  You should run, not walk, to your nearest Target and check it out.  

Well? What are you still reading this for?  Go on!   

Seriously.. Thoughts?