Saturday, February 28, 2009

Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.

M&M World is on the Strip in LasVegas. M&Ms are sort of a big hit around these parts, you know. So, we had to go and see what the commotion is all about. Well, it is a great big four floor shopping extravaganza of all things M&M. Yep, that is it. Spend your money here! We have anything you could ever think of with an our logo on it! WooHoo. Really happy we took the time to go. Well, wait, is that fair? No, not really. They did have an interesting area to walk through to learn the process of making an M&M. It really was interesting. Then there was a 3-D movie to sit and watch. Uh, so, 3-D glasses are so COOL!

What in the world is Pops looking at with that grin?

AHhhhh, just his little big girl.  Yea, she is looking pretty cute in her little yellow specs.

What, now? What does he see now? Probably the biggest waste of our adult lives. The 3-D movie was a ridiculous waste of our time. Sorry, just had to put it out there... Go in, buy M&Ms, leave. Skip the movie. But, I can say that this face is appropriate for the next picture, too...

After a little bit of coaxing, Branch stood in the picture with the giant M&M!

Great Expectations

You know, I've been thinking a lot about this lately. I really think that we "get" what we "expect" more often then not. 

After our family visited Shark Reef, it was time for lunch. We wanted to do something different that we couldn't do just anywhere else. So, Pops and I decided that we should take the fam to Top of the World. This is a fancy schmancey restaurant at the top of the Stratosphere, located at the north end of the strip. 

So, we piled into the van and said we were going to the Top of the World for lunch and it would be lots of fun! Blossom wasn't so sure that anything was going to be fun if she didn't have lunch RIGHT NOW. So, we knew that our window of feeding HER was closing in on us and we were about to get ourselves a rip-roarin' melt down in a short amount of time. 

We got to the restaurant and discovered that this very fancy restaurant was in the vein of fancy = no children's menus. Uh, doesn't that mean that they don't really WANT kids in their restaurant? Oh, well. There was NOT TIME to pick another restaurant, get there and feed these hungry kids. So, we followed our hostess to our table with a view from the top of the world
Pops and I wondered how well our squirrelly children were going to do sitting at a table with chargers, a multitude of silverware, multiple glasses, bread plate, etc. While it is true that there was the occasional piece of silverware slipping off the table (thank goodness for the "multitude" so we need not ask for more!) for the most part, our overly-hungry children sat nicely and talked quietly. They used relatively good manners (I'll overlook the ranch dressing surrounding their mouths after their salad... those pieces of lettuce were just a bit big for my mouth let alone theirs!) throughout our meal. We told them it was fancy and that they were expected to act as fancy as it was. They met the expectations and then some. 

The strange thing is that when we went the next night to a more "chain" like restaurant, where it was full of noise, bustling people and such, they couldn't seem to get it together. They couldn't seem to keep their bums firmly planted on the seat and their clothes out of their plates and the milk off the table or their shirts. Oh,well. They performed up to the expectations of the place, eh?
After our lunch at the Top of the World, we went up to the observation deck. Uh, cool. Nice seeing that again. Let's go, now! I liked it better with the slow pace of sitting at a table and the room slowly spinning offering diners (Are you still called a "diner" when you eat at lunch?  Or are we "lunchers"?) a 360 degree view of Las Vegas and beyond. On the observation deck, there were many bustling people and we were all ready to go try something else.

So, we went on over to the MGM Grand to see if we couldn't see a few lions! We went inside and found the exhibit (wow, that is impressive!) and were startled to find the only moving things inside were on two legs. Hmmm. Must be "clean up" time if you catch my (or the lion's) drift! So, we decided to wait it out.
Speaking of getting what you expect... 

I expected to see the lions come out of the door that we were standing by. I expected them to come out quickly. I was poised. I had my camera ready. The door opened and out walked a PERSON with a LION at his SIDE! YIKES.

 We watched this man giving the lion little chunks of raw meat. Holy Cow. Trust involved in that relationship, eh? Uh, not enough horsemeat from Nebraska (honest, that is what they said that they are fed in the presentation) and that big old lion just might remove your arm for his snack. Don't mess with Bubba! (Was it Seifried or Roy... come on, it was in Vegas - a few doors down. OH, that was a tiger. Tigers are mean. Lions are nice. I get it now. The King of the Jungle isn't as violent in his demands as a tiger is. Ok. Mmmm hmmm. Right. I don't buy it, either. I watch the Discovery channel, too.) 

Anyway, I did NOT expect six legs to walk out of the door. I did NOT expect the man to throw a hunk of meat at us that stuck to the glass. I did NOT expect the lion to walk TOWARD us and lick the glass to get every last bit off the window. And that, my dear friends, is why this picture is such a mess.
I am sorry.  I really am. I could have had lion tongue for you to see. But I was so shocked about all the above mentioned things that I was frozen. Eyes bugged out. Jaw hanging wide open. 

Pops looked over at me and said, "Snap the pictures!" He rarely says that. I am usually taking so many pictures that I am asked if I ever saw anything "live" with both eyes! 

So, I hurried, got my camera up and was still so slow that the camera wouldn't focus on that behemoth of a beast. So, all I got of "The King of the Jungle" licking the glass is a great big smudge, or the other option that I didn't share that was a huge smudge with Pop's shirt reflecting on the glass. Great job. Nice. 

Most times, we get what we expect. I did NOT get what I expect so, therefore you will unfortunately not get what you expected.  Here is a not quite as fuzzy one that PROVES there was something to be shocked about.
I mean, seriously, who in their right mind (ok, so we were in Vegas and who in their right mind chooses to live there, right - but come on!) would stick their fingers in the mouth of a lion. I put my fingers in my dog's mouth (sorry Dad, shake off those squirmy shivers - I wash my hands. It IS gross..) to give her her necessary pills, now and then, at the back of her throat. Yes, she could bite me, but I have her jaw pinned open when I do it AND she is a 45 pound domesticated DOG who loves me and thinks she is a lapdog. OK, breathe. 

The man is a fool. Good luck to ya. Get out of there before Mr. LionKing discovers that you don't have a whole leg of beast and only a few morsels.
Here's  nice clear shot of the lion on top of the waterfall. After Mr. CrazyHuman was out of the exhibit and Mr. Mufasa finished noshing on Mr. Ed, I was able to line up a regular looking lion picture. The lion was behaving the way I expected. So, you can, now, have what you expected - a decent photo.

You can also expect another entry this weekend. I am trying to work through all the Vegas excitement and get on to our regularly scheduled uneventful life at home - just how you'd expect it!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Shark Bait. Ooh Ha Ha

Tuesday morning in Vegas, Pops had a little bit of time to spend with us - after his 6:00 and 8:00 talks. (Insane veterinarians going to talks at 6 am in LAS VEGAS?!?!  Although maybe the other folks were just making their way in from their overnight gambling experience. Who am I to judge?) With our time to explore, we went to Shark Reef, the only predator based aquarium in North America! If you have any interest in underwater life, make sure to click on their name above (a link to their website) and look around. They have some AMAZING pictures of parts of their aquarium that I could not get due to lighting issues. For example, there is a "reef tunnel" where you walk through an exhibit with the sharks and fish swimming all around you - truly amazing. But, with all the other people in the tunnel with us and the dark lighting conditions means that you would have seen more people than fish and more flash than beauty. So, I will excuse myself from that and encourage you to go check out THEIR pictures. They are ALL better than mine - except that I have these cute little kids in mine that they did not get. Unfortunate for them... imagine their marketing opportunities with these three kids, eh?

Sort of like a telephone to hold, we could listen to information about the fish in each tank. Blossom would hand hers to me and say, "It quit talking. They hung up." So, I would punch in the numbers of the next informational segment and she would smile and listen some more. I wonder what she understood and retained!! I think she certainly retained Pops saying over and over "Ah, shark bait. Ooh Ha ha." Thanks Disney for that Finding Nemo movie. We did find Nemo's friends in the aquarium, but we never found Nemo.

Bud wanted to find the barb on the stingray, but I don't think he ever did. The stingray was interesting to watch move through the water. It moved like a wave... strange.

We eventually found the touch pool where we could touch the top of a stingray. Have any of you ever done that? I am usually pretty timid at this sort of thing. I don't like gross, yuck, slime or any of the like. But, this time, I didn't let my undercurrent of thoughts get anything out before I pulled up my sleeve and reached right in. I reached my hand into the very cool water and felt the wing (?? are they wings? I really should have asked about its anatomy!) of the big guy and was startled by its texture! I kid you not when I say it felt like a mix between velvet and satin. If you haven't felt one and you ever have the opportunity in one of these touch pools - I HIGHLY recommend that you quiet your subconscious, pull our sleeve up and shove your fisted hand with one finger pointing out into the water and wait to feel... it is so worth it. I left my hand in and felt a few stingrays. Then realized that I needed to step away and get some pictures! So, like the good VanWinkle that I was raised as, I went to the hand washing station and took care of business before positioning myself across the pool from my family. 
I told them it was cool and that they all should try it. I waited. And waited. Finally, Bud pulled his sleeve up and got ready... but, he couldn't get up the courage to plunge his hand in and touch the stingray. This photo was as close as he got for my camera. So, I put my camera away and went over to the kids and encouraged and plunged my own hand again and AGAIN! Then we saw a small guy right under us hidden in the sand. (You can see the small guy if you are really searching for it in the picture above... under Bud's hand near the edge of the pool by the blue tiles. It is kind of in a shadow and looks a bit like a blob!) So, Pops pushed some of the sand off of it so that Bud could take a tiny touch. t wasn't GROOOOOOSssssssss, so he got more adventuresome and did eventually touch one that was swimming around. Truly - a very cool experience.

This is a lionfish and while it is pretty (in an ugly kind of way) it's spines are venomous, so watch out!! Be careful, just like any good mother told you. Would you believe that their stripes are as unique to each individual lionfish as a fingerprint is to each human?! So, if you do get stung by one of those creatures, take note of their stripes so that you can identify them in the police line up. How's that for science learning today? Glad to help in your quest for lifelong learning. Let's move on. He is a weird kind of pretty/ugly and to top that... sort of sad looking. Just look at those jowls. My goodness, Mr. Tropical Fish, smile for Pete's sake! I can't find Nemo either. But, I know Marlin finds his kid, Nemo, in the end. Geesh, it's Disney and quite predictable, come on lion(king)fish!

We are all quite drawn to stars of any kind in our family. So, this starfish caught all of our attention and had to have its picture taken. So, it is placed here on our family blog and some day I'll have a nice collection of star photos that I can compile and share our fascination! For now, this post is long enough!!

Fun for kids!

I realized that there is a lot lacking on this blog telling about our most recent trip. So, I'll start with Monday in Las Vegas.  Pops had plenty of learning to go do and Continuing Ed seminars (or whatever those professional people call their classes) to attend.  A fairly full schedule that was non-inclusive of us - even dinnertime we were on our own!  So... what is a YOUNG mother to do with her three children in the city of sin? She finds herself a child friendly place to set up camp for a while.
That is where Lied Discovery Children's Museum comes in!  We went over to the museum and discovered that our membership (photos here and here) to ScienceWorks in Ahland, OR is honored in many other children's museums, including the Lied in Las Vegas!  Woo Hoo! (Thanks Grandpa Tractor and Grandma Diane for the membership again!) They did "get us" though. We were visiting the museum on President's Day, so they had face painting and balloon twisting available - if you purchased a $3/child ticket. Well, big savings on the admission and I couldn't honestly say, "I have face paint in the hotel." So, I ponied up and bought the tickets.

Clifford the Big Red Dog is the current featured exhibit, so we were able to see Clifford and Birdwell Island. It was a great exhibit and the kids all found things that they enjoyed.

Branch enjoyed being Birdwell Island's Mail Carrier and she did a great job of getting all of the right letters into the right mailboxes. She is really beginning to enjoy reading!

Bud was "feeding Clifford" here. There was a ramp that had a conveyor belt on it where the LARGE dog bones could be placed and carried up the ramp and then they fell into the "dog bowl." I took this picture sitting in the dog bowl. Bud wanted to see if he could bury me in the foam dog bones. It didn't work. Clifford consumed them too quickly, I suppose!

Blossom found this flower garden at the Howard's home.  You know, Emily Elizabeth? Yea, she is a Howard. Her dad and mom are Mr. and Mrs. Howard. Blossom spent quite a bit of time tending to these flowers. She picked a few that "smelled nice" and shared them with me. So, there is a sweet bone in her body after all!

Clifford arrived and Blossom took off running for her big hug. I was a bit concerned how it would all turn out for Branch. She does NOT like these costumed creatures. If the person that she knows is inside the costume (we have told her all about costuming and she has had several opportunities to explore an adult costume) is not showing their face (like a princess or pirate for example) then she does not want anything to do with the character and usually runs and hides and cries until they are out of sight. It is very stressful for her and she gets all nervous before going places that she knows has these characters... Chuck E. Cheese's, Disney, etc. She gives herself a pep talk and all but will still be very fearful. All that to say, I was sure that she was going to turn tail and hide in the other room while we did our Clifford picture. Then, I was totally taken by surprise. She timidly walked over to Clifford, touched his hand...

and then she stepped into his embrace and accepted his hug and gave one back. Bud was a few seconds behind and was running, and got in on the same hug.  You will notice that Blossom is looking back at the camera... Two-Fold here. She wants the reassurance that I am still there. AND she wants to make sure that she hugs Clifford long enough that it is in a picture so that she can see how brave she was!!

I asked Blossom later about her hug. She told me, "I like dogs. I really like Clifford. And, I could feel the real person's hand through the mitten and then their body in the costume." What a funny girl.

This is an activity that is also in Ashland, but Blossom loves it. You pull the rope, it lifts a bowling ball. When you let go of the rope, the bowling ball drops and pushes air through a tube and forces a tennis ball up way into the air. Then the tennis ball drops into a net and down back into the tube. Over and over and over again... Pull the rope!

This is a new experience for the kids... the green screen.  There was a television in front of them with a sport activity going and they were on the screen playing the sport. So, they had to jump and run and kick and all sorts of things to perform the particular sport they were in. Volleyball, soccer, basketball, hockey were the sporting options.

Here Bud and Branch are ready to block and dig in sand volleyball. I think that they are standing too close to the camera and that is why they appear to be half buried in the sand! Oh, well. They all had fun and it was a nice way to spend the morning and part of the afternoon before I said I was too hungry to stay any longer!! The kids were ignoring their hunger and were complete bears when we got to the van. Lucky them that I had a bag of traveling snacks still loaded!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pay it Forward


:: The Rules ::

I will send a handmade gift to the first three people who leave a comment to this post on my blog requesting to join this Pay it Forward Exchange.

All the gifts will be made and mailed out "sometime within the next year". How exciting to not know when your surprise package will arrive!

What you need to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.

This Exchange is only open to those with active websites or blogs.

UPDATE: After reading Jessica's addition to her PIF, I will add her excitement and fun to my Pay it Forward Exchange, too! So, this isn't a part that anyone who would want to participate in the Pay it Forward Exchange would have to add, it is just a little something "extra". Thanks for the idea, Jessica!

:: Added Bonus ::

After I have three people who want to play along, I am also going to select a fourth person to send something to, so you don't have to worry if you aren't the first, second or third to comment (or if you don't have a blog) - there is still a chance! Since this person will be randomly selected, they will not be obligated to participate in the Pay it Forward exchange {perhaps they could opt to commit a random act of kindness for someone in their day-to-day life instead}. I will make item #4 last... so, any added commenters up until the time #4 project is ready to send, can possibly be the #4 gift receiver on my Pay it Forward Exchange. So, comment all you like!! OH - and if you don't know how to "comment" on my blog... you click on "jumping in the leaves with us".

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wind in our Canyon

We had an interesting night last night...  Lots of noise that made our little barker perk her ears up out of a deep old doggie sleep..

We do not get wind here in our town.  We have gotten used to the windlessness of living here and when we go places that are windy, we forget to hold onto our napkins, empty chip bags, paper cups and we are a sight running around chasing everything down to get into a trash can! So, our evening with wind was a BIG deal here!!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Good Sportsmanship Lives On!

WOW!  Go check out ABC's Person of the Week. Sorry that there are a few short advertisements, but this is a great story worth waiting the 30 seconds for!!

For what its worth, David Rohlman, coach of the Dekalb, Illinois "Barbs" is the husband of my cousin!! The teams will also be featured on ESPN SportsCenter on Sunday, Feb. 22.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Check, Check, Missing Piece

I planned to get laundry going after being away 10 days and we have 4 smallish suitcases full of dirty laundry. I am happy to say things are sorted and "going." There are piles of laundry in the queue. The canister is full of Arm & Hammer laundry detergent powder in Cool Breeze scent. There are two bottles of Ultra Downy Clean Breeze scent fabric softener on the shelf. Loading, spinning, rinsing, spinning and tumbling will press on all day.

I planned to get suitcases and baggage put away in the closets and other storage locations before my mom arrives next month. I am further than half way to my goal! Two suitcases are put away in the closet. The remaining suitcases have random things that will be dealt with when the novelty of playing in the yard and on the driveway at 61 degrees wears off... Hmmm, that might get done after supper!  The snack totes are in the kitchen. Toiletry items are in the bathrooms.

There is a piece missing in the puzzle of what my next project is. You see, I need help. LOTS and LOTS of help!!! I love taking my camera with me - everywhere! I do not like the camera bag that I have. I have a standard black camera bag that you could find at nearly any retail location that sells run of the mill camera accessories. This problem is multi-faceted, though. First, I don't want to spend big bucks on some fancy schmancey bag. Second, I want it to be big enough to carry my camera body, both my lenses (and room for a potential wide angle lens I might start lobbying for... shhhh!!!), lens cleaner, and a few extra things like a small wallet, keys, mints, etc - making room for purse essentials! Third, I want it to be able to close securely, but I want my camera to be easily accessible to grab before the moment is gone. Fourth, I want it to be perfect - sort of. 

So, here's the deal. I have all these pieces of what I want and don't want. I am willing to even sew my own and I have the fabric, stabilizer, padding and the ability to find the other assorted notions needed to do it. What I don't have is a plan. 

I need help creating a plan. What do you love or hate about the camera bag that you carry? If you could design a better camera bag, what would you change, add, remove, etc? Tell me what you think would make a great bag! I want to get working on one but I wonder what you all think. HELP!!

Now, I KNOW that there are quite a few of you out there who come on over and take a peek and see what our family is up to lately. You like to "stay in touch." I'm all for that! That is why I write this darn thing - so that when you see the kids the next time they won't seem like giants!! (Well, they'll still seem like giants, but at least you could pick them out of a line-up!) So, all of you out there who think that you have nothing to add... please tell me ANYTHING that could help! Just click on the "jumping in the leaves with us" at the bottom of this post and help me create my awesome camera bag! There'll be a little something in it for all of you... MORE PICTURES of the kids and where we go! Since I will keep my camera with and ready all the time! See... I aim to please! Well, off I go to start drawing out some preliminary plans... Don't leave me hangin' too long!

3:10 to Slumber

Have you ever returned home in the middle of the night? We just did. I was only able to stay awake in the car until 12:30 or 12:45 before I continually nodded off. Pops is good like that - driving in the night.

The point, though... have YOU ever arrived home when the house is dark, the temperature is uncomfortable and you are feeling crabby about the crook in your neck. Well, I am sitting here by the glow of my computer, shivering and waiting for the tylenol to kick in.

All Aboard the Slumber Train... Next Stop: Laundry, followed by Swing of Things and Routine

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Burned Out

The lights of Las Vegas - they are all burned out.

Because all of the flashing bulbs need replacing, we will take this opportunity to LEAVE. 

We have had more than enough fun and before OUR bulbs are fully burned out we're going to bust a move and try to get home before any storms hit the Pacific Northwest.

I'll get the rest of my pictures off my camera and share them with you soon... Be Patient!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Blossom, early morning,
Four Season's Hotel, Las Vegas, NV
imagine her hoarse whisper:
Wake up, 'Branch.'

I see a little piece of morning!

There is a little piece of morning peeking in the curtain.

Do you see it?
{Noise of rustling head on a pillow.}

Open your eyes and see our new morning!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Grand Canyon

There are no words to describe it fairly. There are not any pictures that I have ever seen (not even the enormous panoramic style or other photos for sale in the gift shop) that convey a true sense of this natural wonder. Because of this, I will just leave you a few of my pictures and tell you that The Grand Canyon is definitely something everyone should go visit. Enjoy... (we did!!)












Monday, February 16, 2009

On the train

Everybody wants a window seat... So, Bud shared his window with Blossom by letting her sit on his lap.
There have been some very sweet and endearing moments on this trip!
Thank goodness that after all this "together time" we are all still liking each other a whole lot!!!
Watch for some Grand Canyon photos tomorrow!!! The lights of Vegas are mesmerizing out the window... must go stare!!!

Wild West Shoot-Out

We stayed overnight in Williams and rode the Grand Canyon Railway to the National Park.
Fifteen minutes before boarding, we were treated to a Wild West Shoot Out skit. This here is Buck an old train robber (among other bad guy roles of bank robbing and cheating). 
Turns out, cheating in poker amongst other bandits, isn't such a great idea...
The sheriff showed up and asked some questions and tried to solve the case. Since the skit was put on by only 4 guys, the sheriff told Buck to stand up and play some other bandit. Poor old Buck had been laying on that freezing cold sidewalk and had to drag himself up and play another "bad guy"!! The sheriff wanted to know who was responsible for a recent train robbery and when the other bandits said his name, the sheriff shot him down.
BUT, this is the third time he got shot down, because all of our attention was elsewhere when the sheriff shot him. So, the sheriff told him to get up and redo the last few lines so that some lady in the audience (was that me or the other gal sitting there?!?!) could get the shot as she wasn't paying attention. So, they redid part of the scene and I got the shot of the shot!
It was fun. We enjoyed our comedic entertainment and the girls' fear of the train robbers started to go away.  But, they still wanted to know if they were real robbers or not!!