Monday, July 25, 2011

Best Dad EVER

You may not recognize Mitch Allen, guitar player, rock climber, bike rider, ecophysiologist, science educator, and much much more in this photo. You may ask yourself, what, pray tell, is that man doing? What is he, some kind of girly man playing with dolls?

He is, in fact, combing the hair of Lucy's baby doll so that he can braid it for her. Only the best dad EVER get out an actual brush to brush his daughter's doll's hair so he can braid it for her so it doesn't get tangled.

A couple of months ago he actually took the time to make NEW hair for some cheap ass mermaid doll that Lucy got at the dollar store and then promptly ripped all her hair out while brushing it. I would have just thrown the damn thing away as her tears streamed down but Mitch got out some pale yarn and cut and GLUED new hair to this piece of junk doll. He didn't want Lucy to be part of the throwaway society and he wanted her to have her precious mermaid doll restored.

All I can say is this guy is honing some new skills with this whole parenting two girls thing. There are few lengths he won't go to as super dada.

Rock on super dad.

Rhode Island

Somehow in all the rhapsodizing about the cruise, I failed to mention the fabulous week we spent in Weekapaugh, Rhode Island. Yes, this is a real place. Seth's family had a summer house built here in the 1950's and he grew up going out to visit for a couple of weeks each summer. Although the house rents for a fortune, Seth used his Riley credentials to get us all a week for FREE! Well, Seth and Jake did some door sanding but the rest of us just sat on our butts and worked on the impossible jig saw puzzle pictured above.

It was beautiful and relaxing and reminded me of a combination of my grandma's house in Battleground, WA (yes, another real place with a ridiculous name), and the Bushell's place on Camano Island, WA. Both were wonderful places that I used to visit with my family in the summer and both had overgrown tangle of yards. The house on Camano Island was, similar to Weekapaugh, a short walk from the beach.

For our R.I. week, our family and Seth and Elise were in residence for a few days and then we were joined by Becca, Rob, Ava, Max, Tiffany, Jason, Jake, Katharine, and even David Riley for a glorious lobster dinner. It was really fun to convene everyone on the east coast and it was wonderful of Seth to share his family treasure with us. The girls loved it - all the shell collecting, the playground equipment in the yard, the bugs, the birds, etc. It was very relaxing for us because there was so much for the girls to do that required little supervision (like playing in the yard).

I had a great time shooting the breeze with everyone and working on this puzzle with mainly Tiffany and Elise. Somehow I managed to take almost no photographs the entire time although I did take some video footage that someday may appear at a Thanksgiving get together.

We had a great time. Big thanks to Seth and his family for sharing their summer idyll.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ruby the Best Dog EVER

Ruby helping JoJo open her presents on Lucy's birthday.
Ruby "creeping" in the living room. One of her many hilarious features.
Ruby says, "I am a good dog!"

I feel I have given Ruby a bad wrap with my post on her swath of destruction while we were gone on vacation. Two mea culpas here. First, the photos of her with all the stuffing are actually taken after she chewed up a completely approved, given to her for chewing, stuffed animal from the thrift store. They were just too illustrative to resist for the post. Seth, Elise, and Mary actually cleaned up the vast majority of the filling and paper left from her binge while we were on vacation.

Second, all of her destroying was done while we were gone for 18 days on vacation. She hasn't chewed up a single thing since we got back (except see dog bed comment bel0w). She does love to rip the stuffing out of things but never does that activity unsanctioned. I give her one or two thrift store stuffed animals a week to eat up (60 cents a piece). She will go into the girls room when it is littered with stuffed animals and retrieve her one toy buried in there to bring to the living room and chew up. I've tried lots of expensive dog chew toys and she destroys them in minutes.

Also, aside from the one time right after we got back, she has also not peed inside since we got home.

So she really is a good dog (as you can tell from her photos!). We had a second incident of a dog biting a child at our local park so I am more thankful than ever for my tolerant and licky mutt. I have been pinching her like crazy lately as I pick fleas off of her (she still has some fleas despite two different flea treatments) and all she does is look at me with concern as I poke, prod, pinch, and move her around trying to get any fleas I see. She is currently sleeping peacefully on her dog bed (which we did have to glue back together two weeks ago after a bout of chewing but really, she is a good dog! that was the only thing she has eaten since we got back and since we fixed it two weeks ago she hasn't done a thing!).

Here is a list of some of Ruby Pancake's wonderful attributes:

1. does not bark at, growl at, or bite people
2. licks the girls faces when she wants them to stop doing something (a very gentle way of saying, "hey, could you stop doing that?"
3. also licks girls faces when they are covered with peanut butter
4. loves, loves, loves people
5. submissive, rolls over immediately upon greeting people
6. gets along great with 99.9% of other dogs (she did boss Lisa's dog Shasta when Shasta came to visit)
7. does not chase the cat
8. does not eat food off table or counters
9. Anyone can take anything away from her - you can even take food out of her mouth if you don't want her to have it and she just looks at you as if to say, "hey, aren't you going to give that back?"
10. humorous body shape and personality - likes to lay on back and kick legs into the air, likes to creep across the floor.
11. not very big - fits well in our house and could be carried in medium suitcase or very large pocket (o.k., maybe not a pocket, but check out these hamsters that I am thinking of getting - they definitely fit in a pocket).

I don't really need a list - ask Lena, I love this dog. even if she did eat three pillows while we were out of town.

The Mermaid Store

Today the girls and I ran errands which included a visit to "The mermaid store". We call it the mermaid store but it is really called Sea Things. Lulu, Jojo and I love this place. We visit about once a month and I always let the girls pick out a shell or a small plastic fish to buy. It is never a quick stop as it takes Lucy 15 minutes MINIMUM to make her selection. Meanwhile Josie will be on her fourth version of what she wants.

Lucy loves all the shells and the various paintings, christmas ornaments, and statues of mermaids. Jojo loves the little plastic fish and starfish and more recently has gotten into the shells.

For me it is a total walk down memory lane as it really reminds me of little shops that I would visit with my family whenever we went to the Oregon coast or Olympic peninsula during the summer. Tiny shops packed with shells and turtles made out of shells and plastic dolphins and salt water taffy.

I worry about the shells and wonder if we are contributing to ocean decimation by buying our monthly snail shell. And then I hold out hope that people somewhere are eating these mollusks and that we are basically buying their trash. The truth is somewhere in between.

During today's visit, Lucy took so long to make her pick that I actually shopped. I decided to spend some of my combined Dad/Jim/Barbara birthday money to get a couple pieces of shell jewelry. I picked a super cool shell choker and then I selected a neat silver ring with a big piece of shell. I looked at the ring and read the price tag as $8. When I was checking out the super nice shop lady said, "oh I'm going to give you a deal on this ring. I think it was priced wrong and it has a little stain on it here. I'm going to charge you $28" And I thought "$$28?" And then I saw the full price tag on the counter and it said $48 (the $4 had been wrapped around the back). While there was no way I was going to pay $48, I decided it was worth $28 to me to support our funky local beach store and take home my funky beach ring. I'm not sure how to evaluate the deal though - as a super great bargain - $28 rather than $48 or as a crazy splurge at $28 instead of $8.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ah, the soccer

Mitch and I just watched the women's world cup soccer semi-final game between France and the U.S. It was a great game and France outplayed the U.S. for a large portion of the second half. France dominated the mid-field and showed a lot of skill in ball handling and maintaining possession. Somehow, through will, a much better goalkeeper, some key substitutions in the mid-field during the second half, better defense, better training and endurance, and the amazing head of Abbie Wambach, the U.S. managed to win the game 3-1.

It was a super fun game to watch. The players were very collegial to one another, the refereeing was decent and there was plenty of excitement (not always true in a soccer game).

Mitch, Lucy and I watched the quarter final game against Brazil on Sunday and that was quite a nail-biter. It wasn't as fun to watch as tonight's game because the teams got aggravated with one another and the refereeing wasn't that great and really interfered with the game. It was still an exciting game to watch and it was one that the U.S. seemed to deserve to win (better overall play, some bad calls against us), looked like we were going to lose, and eventually won in penalty kicks after 122 minutes of playing time (much of which we played with only 10 players since one of our fullbacks got red carded during the second half).

All this soccer watching plus Lucy taking soccer at the YMCA for the first time ever this summer takes me back to my own long personal history with the game. I do love soccer even if I spent much of my early years of playing standing in the back field picking flowers, much to my dad's dismay. I played from age 5 through fifth grade then stopped in middle school when all the good players left the city league to play on select teams. I started again in high school in the very first years of the girls soccer program at Pullman High. The program was kind of a shambles since very few girls had ever even played before but it sure was fun to have a focus for all my teen angst. We pretty much sucked as a team and I don't think we won very many games but it was a great outlet for my personal ferocity and I'm glad I played.

I didn't play in college although the Evergreen women's coach asked me if I wanted to. My skill level was nowhere near that of the team players but I probably could have practiced with the team and been a bench warmer. Sometimes I wish I had done that. At the time I thought, "Oh when I'm in my thirties I'll get back to soccer by finding a groovy group of adults to play pick-up games with." But here I am almost out of my 30's and still no soccer as an adult. Hmm hard to say what the future holds but I will say that it is harder to find a group of groovy adults to play with than you might expect.

Anyway watching the world cup games has been great fun and I'm looking forward to Sunday's final game between the U.S. and Japan. I hope Lucy keeps playing if she likes it and that it anchors her teen years as much as it did for me. Big thanks to my dad for introducing me to the game and encouraging me to keep at it even though I was never really a natural (not to say that I was a complete soccer moron either dudes, I can still pass, dribble, and pound one into the goal on occasion - I'm just not a master of the fancy footwork...).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Barn Owls and Shifting Baselines

I just heard a barn owl call twice while I was out with Ruby for her nightly pre-bed stroll (to hear a typical barn owl call on youtube click here). It made me realize that while I used to hear barn owls and horned owls calling all the time in my neighborhood growing up and regularly heard barn owls calling in Davis, I haven't EVER heard them calling in all my night dog walks in our current neighborhood in Ventura. It might be the lack of mature street trees for nesting and perching in our neighborhood (we only have scattered crappy palms as our street trees and some smaller deciduous trees scattered about). Or maybe its the lack of abandoned lots, grassy meadows, or other areas with abundant small rodents for them to eat.

I don't know why they aren't here but two things struck me tonight. First, until now, I never noticed their ABSENCE. It is so much more difficult to notice the absence of something than its presence. It reminded me of a slightly related concept in ecology called the shifting baseline. With a shifting baseline a change in the ecosystem happens so gradually (sometimes over several human generations) that people don't even notice that a shift has occurred. The classic case of shifting baselines is in ocean fisheries where if you look at historic photos from fishing contests the prize winning fish are all huge but in modern photos they are wimpy little things. Yet despite this major change, people didn't really notice because it occurred gradually over decades. So the baseline value of the biggest fish may have gone down by an order of magnitude in terms of length or weight but we don't even notice.

My failure to notice the lack of calling barn owls felt like an unnoticed shift in my personal night time ecology.

My second pondering re:barn owls calling is regarding my recent interest in soundscapes - their value to people (especially soundscapes in our park), how they may have changed over time, and questions about how to monitor and manage soundscapes as a resource of the park. Hearing the owl calling at night made me realize (duh!) that one of the possible reasons why people are so interested in being out in the park at night may be because of all the cool sounds you hear at night. Plus the added value that you hear sounds more clearly at night (at least I think you do but I'm not sure why. If this is actually true I'm sure Tom or Mitch could explain it to me but I would likely either a) immediately forget the explanation or b) not really understand it in the first place. so take this bit with a grain of salt).

Anyway regardless, night sounds are AMAZING and natural sounds in general are one of the resources of the park that both people and animals value (animals need to be able to hear each other calling, hear predators approaching, etc.). I am struggling with how to monitor and manage our soundscapes as development occurs around us. I also think soundscapes are another area where shifting baselines could sneak up on us and our resources could be degrading without us even noticing.

One last random thought before bed - thinking about animals needing to hear predators approach takes me back to when I had a job walking through the sagebrush in the dead of night with a tape player playing snow mobile engine noises so I could sneak up on sage grouse and they wouldn't hear me bashing through the underbrush. Urban noise can really throw off the creatures, that is for sure.

P.S. Did you know that barn owls are in their own family (Tytonidae) and that they are the only species in that family? Also their cool facial disk (the crazy feathers around their eyes and bill) is designed to focus sound to their ears so they can hear the quiet squeaking of mice and their tiny footsteps (or so the ornithologists think anyway). All the better to hear you with my dear (and then to eat you!).

P.P.S. Mitch asked me once whether there are any cases where the female is showy than the male in birds. Typically females are inconspicuous and if anyone is going to be colorful it is the male. Ecologists think the bright colors of males both make them visible to mates and are a measure of their fitness. For females, who typically have to sit on the nest, blending in is key. At the time Mitch asked me I said I didn't know of any cases where the female was showier and there might not be any for the reasons above (in many raptors the female is bigger than the male, but not typically more colorful). It turns out that barn owls are one of the rare cases where the females are "showier" than the males although it seems like a bit of a stretch to me (the females have more rusty coloring and more distinctive spots). Check out pictures on the cornell lab web page and judge for yourself.

Here birdy birdy

I like birds and cats and plants and bugs and beasts. I like watching birds and I like the convenience and the natural history charm of having a bird feeder in my yard. However, I used to have cats that ate the birds that came into my yard and hopped down on the ground to eat the seed that spilled out of the feeder. So no bird feeder for us for the past 15 years.

Now my addled senior cat is an indoor only cat and one upside to that situation is that now I can have bird feeders again (downside - cat pee smell in bathroom - see previous post). So about three weeks ago Lucy, Josie and I went to Lowes and bought two bird feeders to hang in the trees outside their bedroom window. Lucy also had a make your own bird feeder kit from a past birthday that she and Mitch put together. So we got our bird seed and our sunflower seeds and filled up our bird feeders and waited. And no birds came and no birds came and no birds came.

We went on vacation for two weeks and when we got back, all of the bird feeders were empty. I wondered whether a squirrel or opossum or other creature had come along while were gone and snarfed up all the bird seed. So last weekend I refilled all the feeders thinking we would see who came to visit.

And in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday I heard this, "Mom! Mom! Mom! Come quick, there's a bird at the bird feeder." By the time I got there it was gone. But Lucy was very excited. I missed another bird visit on Sunday. But after Sunday's visit I said, "Lucy, what did the bird look like?" And she goes, "it had red on its belly and some red on its head." And I asked, "What color was the rest?" And she goes, "Oh kind of a dull brown/black" Then I told her it was a house finch and I congratulated her on her fine powers of observation that she noticed enough about the bird that I could tell her what it was. Mitch asked her if she wanted to look at a picture in a bird book and she said, "No. Why would I want to look at a picture? I saw the real bird."

I am seriously digging her powers of observation and her keen interest in nature. Even if both of these attributes totally disappear later in life, I can still enjoy them now.

Speaking of Pee

You may know that we used to have two cats, Katafanga and Kathmandu. Kathmandu is the nice one and Katafanga was the one with lots of personality (who also bit people a lot). Both cats were fifteen years old. Katafanga died of cancer in his face about six months ago. About three months ago poor little Kathmandu had a major stroke that left her lying on the ground pedaling her feet in circles in Seth and Elise's yard. After approximately $1200 worth of vet tests and two months of intravenous fluids, we discovered that her stroke was apparently idiopathic (they don't know what caused it) and she has regained 98% of her mobility.

So that is all great - we have our sweet little old lady cat back. The bummer part is that she is still a little addled from her major brain episode. She used to be an indoor/outdoor cat and although she spent much of her time inside, she did all her pooping and peeing outside (and has for the past 14.5 years). When we tried to let her outside after her stroke, she wandered around looking confused and the one time she got out accidentally she was gone for two days and we only got her back by scouring the neighborhood and crawling under a nearby apartment building to retrieve her.

So now Kathmandu is an inside only cat. Which means that not only is she inside but her poop and pee are also inside. She has been great about using the litter box but we have a tiny house and there is no "out of the way" place to put the litter box. Thus it is in our bathroom. And even though I try to clean the box every day (I don't always succeed), there is always scattered about cat litter on the floor of the bathroom and it constantly reeks of cat pee in there. It doesn't help that Kathmandu is old and addled and basically walks into the box and immediately pees with her butt facing the door (she often misses and ends up getting pee all over the floor). It also doesn't help that with her balance being slightly off since the stroke, we took the door off the litter box and have just left the opening open.

If any of you more experienced indoor cat people have recommendations for how to reduce the litter scatter or the pee smell... let me know. I love Kathmandu dearly and I will continue to put up with a bathroom that smells like pee and a situation where I get cat litter on my feet after a shower or during my midnight visits to the loo. But my quality of life would significantly improve if someone had a genius solution to this problem.

Yours in pee,

Ruby the Destroyer

Three couch pillows, a dog bed, two shoes, a packing envelope, two books, an Xbox game, and much more went down under the wrath of Ruby.

We have only had our new dog, Ruby, for about eight months. She was a year old when adopted her from the animal shelter in Camarillo last October. She is a hilarious little dog and has many wonderful qualities (can you hear the but...coming?). Before we left to go on vacation for two weeks last month we had to decide what to do with Ruby. The past two times that we had left town and could not take her our friends Sarah and Rick dog sat her at their house. Both Sarah and Rick are big dog people and Ruby loves their dog Choco. Despite the fact that Ruby pooped on their rug one time (it was raining outside...) and ate one of their son Jonas' toys, overall her visits to Chez Rutherford went rather well (perhaps I stretch the definition of the term "well" but they did have her back after the pooping incident and on the second visit there were no other accidents).

However, this time when we were gone Sarah and Rick were also going to be gone to Nicaragua. With my two previous pound dogs, taking them to a kennel proved to be too stressful for both me and the dog - too reminscent of their stay in doggie prison. Also both of my prior dogs were so depressed to be left at home alone with a visiting dog sitter that they mainly slept on my bed and moped. So when left with the decision of what to do with Ruby for two weeks, we asked our friends Seth and Elise to come over and let her out twice a day for the first week and our friend Mary to come over with her dog Chelsea twice a day during the second week.

I would definitely say that we are still learning a thing or two about Ruby Pancake and she occasionally sends messages loud and clear. With respect to the whole plan to leave her alone at home with twice and even thrice daily visits, she was clearly not a fan of that plan. Her jack russell terrier components came out very clearly as she systematically ate/chewed/destroyed anything she could get her teeth on including DVDs, books, couch pillows, her dog bed, shoes and more. Thankfully she didn't eat any of the actual furniture nor did she ingest anything that resulted in a trip to the vet.

Clearly while we were gone she got bored, possibly pissed off, and found ways to entertain herself. Poor Seth, Elise and Mary were at their wits end trying to put up anything she might chew up and trying to come over with enough frequency to keep her busy. Mary made herculean efforts to come over three times a day and bring her dog Chelsea for half hour play dates. Still the Destroyer reigned. By the end of the two weeks, Ruby was peeing on the floor after just having been outside - sending a message perhaps?

Now we have been back three weeks and we've got the potty issue reigned in again (knock on wood). She also hasn't chewed up anything she wasn't supposed to in at least five days (she did eat round two of her dog bed but Mitch glued and sewed it back together). Mitch did a yeoman's job shampooing our carpets so I think we may not have to spring for new carpeting for another couple months or so. And I even replaced all the couch pillows. The only remaining task is to go to town with the Nature's Miracle to try and get rid of that last remaining lingering pee smell (not the fragrance I really want to be greeted with at home).

Suffice it to say that next time we go out town and can't take Ruby, she's either going to stay with friends or she'll be visiting the k.e.n.n.e.l.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weekend Update

Ruby next to the trash can full of her dog bed and three pillows that she destroyed while we were gone on vacation. She had a great time at the beach this weekend.
Lucy talking on the phone to Grandpa Tom. She is surrounded by the pillows I got to replace those Ruby destroyed. Yes, she is wearing her swimsuit. We were on our way out to the swimming pool at the Y.

The girls enjoyed their lunch under our new patio umbrella thanks to my birthday money. The odd lump to the right is Ruby's dog bed drying after its flea bath.
Yes, this is the infamous astroturf and the swinging bar. Believe it or not, it looked worse before the astroturf. Not to mention the huge clouds of dust the girls kicked up with all their swinging. Before all the yard needed was a car on blocks, now all it needs are two pink flamingos or a chihuahua.
Post-pedicure. I picked Blue Grosbeak/Lazuli Bunting blue.Yay! The hammock is back.

Weekend highlights:

Pedicure with Elise. Totally relaxing, great chitchat time. Only the second pedicure that I have ever had. Only removed approx. 20% of my intense foot calluses, thus leaving my hard working feet still protected from the evils of the world. I picked blue for blue grosbeaks and lazuli buntings.

Went to the beach with Rick, Jonas, Elliot and Leona. Lucy continues to rule the waves in the boogie boarding department. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon. We all had a good time, including Ruby Pancake.

Yard work. Picked up a years worth of leaves. Covered the insane dirt field with... astroturf since nothing else will withstand the girls foot dragging while they play on the swinging bar. Perhaps more on the yard woes in another post but for now, rock on astroturf.

Bought yard stuff. With birthday money got a new yellow umbrella for the patio table. Also put up fun flower lights and generally improved the backyard grooviness.

Played Dance Central on the XBox Kinect with Mitch. I don't crush him in this game like I did on wii on the cruise ship but it is still fun.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Three weeks ago we went on a seven day Caribbean cruise with the Allen family, Jim, Barbara, Kelly, Stuart, Aidan and Vincent. I've never been on a cruise before and it was super fun and relaxing. On the ship there were activities for the little people every day from 10 AM to 10 PM at camp carnival and the girls liked going there for a couple of days each day. There were swimming pools, hot tubs, a jogging track, mini golf, magic shows, dance clubs, etc. for the adults and the little people.

It was great to not cook or make my bed for seven days. And being greeted by a towel animal and mints at bedtime every night was pretty sweet too. Jogging with a view of the ocean was nice and standing in the pool with a mimosa in hand while the reggae band played "No woman No cry" was fun too. It was great to spend time with Little Jimmy, Barbara Jo, Stuart, Kelly, Aidan and Vincent. We had great snorkeling in Grand Cayman and Cozumel and the beach in Jamaica was beautiful.

Two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Stream Survey in Temescal Canyon

Can you believe this waterfall is only 30 minutes up a trail in Los Angeles (technically Pacific Palisades)?

The stream survey involves surveying 250 meters of stream for amphibians and other creatures. Many of our streams have been heavily impacted by urbanization and channelization but this one, in Temescal Canyon, is still incredibly beautiful and diverse.
Even though the camera is foggy, you can still see that I am very happy to be holding an adult California salamander (Taricha tarosa).

About ten years ago Seth, Lee Katz, Ray Sauvajot, crazy Robert Fisher, Rosi Dagit and a few other folks got together in the Santa Monica Mountains to figure out how to study possible impacts of urbanization on stream communities in our area. They started surveying streams for amphibians and stream invertebrates and they've been doing it ever since. They've published one paper on their findings (that a watershed with more than 11% urbanization has reduced native diversity and more invasive species such as crayfish, fish, and bullfrogs. Also that streams that no longer dry up in the summer have more invasive species. And of course, invasive species appear to have large negative impacts on native species such as frogs and salamanders. Crayfish are brutal predators.)

These guys are continuing their work and starting to look at other factors like long-term trends in population sizes and diversity, impacts of fires, and possible impacts of vineyard development within watersheds. Katy Delaney is running the NPS part of the program now with Seth and yesterday she took Lena and I out to do a stream survey in Temescal Canyon. Steve Bustamante was there as the actual field assistant while Lena took data and I helped look for creatures.

It was super neat and it was amazing how beautiful and wild this stream is considering how close it is to Los Angeles. We parked in the Temescal Canyon parking lot in Pacific Palisades and hiked in about 30 minutes on a dirt trail. Then we hopped into the stream and spent a couple of hours hiking up the stream. It was very quiet with only bird song and the sound of the stream. We heard lots of Pacific slope flycatchers, Spotted Towhees, Jays, Wrentits and Canyon wrens. It was sunny and warm and the water was cool. We saw adult California salamanders, larval salamanders, larval frogs, and lots of dragon fly larva and toe-biters.

I hope we can keep streams like this in good shape because they really are an amazing resource. We saw lots of people of all ages and ethnicities out enjoying the beauty of the area.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Some of Lucy's Gifts

Lucy had a great birthday party at Marina Park where she and her friends frolicked in the waves, played on the playground and ate many, many cupcakes. She also received many wonderful gifts from friends and family. All of the birthday party pics are on Mitch's camera and I can't be bothered to download them right now.

Here are some pics of Lucy enjoyed her gifts from friends and family far away that I wanted to post so those folks could see how much she loved her presents. The otter is from Grandma Jo and Grandpa Jim. The mermaid dolls in the case are from Grandpa Tom and Grandma Sue, the tree with stuffed animals is from Tiffany and Jason, and the bino picture was just too cute (the pink binos were from me).

Uncle Jerm's Visit

Uncle Jeremy came for a visit for his and Lucy's birthdays (his birthday is 6/5, Lucy's is 6/6). We had a great time during his visit although I think I am getting a reputation in my family for subjecting people to little kid birthday parties. When my dad visited a couple of months ago we went to two birthday parties including one that involved glow sticks, disco music and bouncy houses. This visit Jeremy "got" to attend not only Lucy's party but also her friend Ben's party. Uncle Jerm was, per usual, a great sport about the whole thing.

I also took Jeremy and JoJo on a short hike in beautiful Zuma Canyon. We saw a few birds and even some butterflies. During his visit, Uncle Jerm gave the girls a cake frosting lesson (see pictures above). It is always great fun when Jeremy visits and we hope we can arrange more visits soon. We love you Uncle Jerm.

Spring Birding is Over

Well it's official, as of this morning I declare that spring birding is over. I'm sure that summer birding has something to recommend it but I think to experience its charms you have to get up earlier than I am accustomed to. I've been birding some this spring, inspired by a training that I went to put on by the Western Foundation for Vertebrate Zoology (which totally kicks butt and deserves a visit if you are ever in our area on one of the days that they are open to the public).

This morning I went out to Rancho Sierra Vista with Lena and Seth at 7 AM and it was already getting hot, very few birds were singing, all the grass was dead, only sticky madia and mustard were blooming and there were tons of bugs. Woe is me. It was still beautiful out there and, best of all, we saw:


What a cool bird. I've never seen them before. They are very beautiful, very blue, and as Seth commented, their bills really are silvery. A lovely bird to end the spring birding season with.