Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wedding Bells

Last Sunday, Chad and I had the pleasure of attending the beautiful wedding of our friends Pat and Kristin. We first met Pat a few years ago while playing on a dodgeball team with our friends Vikkie and Brett and Matt and Erika and James. I can't remember if Pat actually played with us full time or just on occasion, but he got hooked up with the team because he and Matt were best friends from college. A year or so later, Pat joined our Journey Group from church (even though he doesn't actually go to our church) with his then girlfriend Kristin. We have been so thankful that they joined up with us--our group certainly wouldn't have been the same without them! It has been wonderful getting to know them over the last couple of years and watching them evolve from boyfriend/girlfriend to fiance/fiancee to husband and wife!

Their wedding on Sunday was absolutely gorgeous. Kristin was gorgeous, the dresses were gorgeous, the flowers were gorgeous, and the decorations were gorgeous. Pat was beaming and the families all looked so happy. The music was wonderful, and the vocalists were especially amazing. Both Pat's sister Alicia and Kristin's friend Megan had incredible voices. I was completely blown away!

I didn't actually take any pictures at the wedding, because I never really would have thought of whipping out my digital camera during the ceremony. I was actually quite astounded that so many people did! When Pat and Kristin walked back down the aisle at the end of the ceremony, I think at least 15 people took their picture! I don't think anyone would have thought of doing that back in the day when we got married (of course digital cameras weren't exactly invented back then)!

Of course, I did take lots of pictures after the ceremony! Their reception was at this picturesque little venue just south of Lawrence on the way to Baldwin called Stony Point Hall. This place was just adorable! The backdrop of rolling hills and lots of green trees made it seem like the Ozarks instead of Douglas County (although Douglas County is extremely hilly for Kansas). The inside of the hall was lovely as well. The food was terrific (catered by Evan Williams), the Maid of Honor Ashley's toast made me cry, and Kristin's uncle played some great dinner music. Chad was thoroughly impressed at the after dinner music selections as well--lots of classic rock! :)

We had a blast hanging out with our friends Jake and Amber, Cara and Dillon, and former JG members Matt and Erika, who came all the way from San Diego for the event (Matt couldn't exactly miss it since he was the best man!). We missed our friends and former members James and Beth though--they couldn't get here from Guatemala!

The whole affair was just so nice. I was so glad that we were there to share in the happiness and joy of Pat and Kristin's big day! Our JG friends (current and former) have become such an important part of our lives. We're going to miss Pat and Kristin for the next few weeks, since they'll be honeymooning in Italy for like a month! Hope you guys are having fun!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In Memory of Mr. Rabbit

I just wanted to observe a quick moment of silence in memory of the poor little rabbit who lost his life in our backyard this evening. :( Thankfully, rabbits don't venture into our yard too terribly often, because when they do an extremely noisy pack of hounds begins its pursuit, which only ends when the terrified little bunny makes out the tiny spot in the fence where he came in. Tonight, unfortunately, said bunny didn't make it to his exit hole before getting snatched up by our fastest and youngest hound. I really don't think that Fresco actually intended to kill him, but the second he grabbed the little guy it was all over. Thankfully, he dropped the rabbit when he was yelled at, but it was already too late. I'm glad the little bunny didn't suffer for too long, but it was still so sad. I keep telling myself that Fresco's actions were just instinctual and he meant no malice--he just has a very strong prey drive!! Such is the life of a hound owner.

Needless to say, after his adventure tonight he was obsessed with sniffing every inch of the yard, hoping to find another rabbit to chase, much like his sister Hope did a couple of years ago when she caught a rabbit. Thankfully, whether on purpose or on accident, she let her catch go. Maybe in the future Fresco will realize that the chase ends with the capture and won't try so hard to track the bunny down! I can only hope!!

My First Photo Session

Today I came home for lunch and went straight for the new camera bag. I put in the battery, I inserted and formatted the SD (memory) card, and then I learned how to put a lens on the body. I set the time and date and then started taking pictures! I took pictures of the dogs, stuff outside, and anything semi-interesting in our house. It was so much fun! I initially put all the settings on auto, including the focus, but then soon after I switched to manual focus so that I could start getting the picture that I wanted instead of the picture that the camera thought I wanted! It was terrific!

I was having so much fun taking pictures that I lost track of time. I suddenly looked at the clock and noticed it was 1:00 and I hadn't eaten lunch yet! I packed the camera away and proceeded to snarf down a few pieces of deli meat and then grab some carrots and string cheese snacks to eat on on the way back to work!

So while the pictures aren't terribly exciting, here is my first photo session.

If you want the captions, you can always check out the photos on our Picasa page. Then you can also check out these new pictures next to all of those I've taken with my previous camera. Hopefully you'll be able to tell the difference!

I Can't Wait!

Despite the fact that it's so late that it's already tomorrow, I just have to share that I got my new camera tonight! Based on helpful advice from several of my friends (thanks Kelly, Gina, Jen, and Robyn) and my brother (thanks Eric) and another professional photographer (besides Kelly) that I recently met (thanks Kassia), I decided to go ahead and purchase the Nikon D40 in a special promotional package that included the camera, two lenses (a 18-55 mm and a 55-200 mm), a camera bag, an SD card and some educational DVDs. The price was just so good I couldn't pass it up. Many reviews I read actually suggested the D40 over the 10 megapixel D40x and D60, because the price is so much better and the increase in megapixels doesn't really affect the image quality. I won't be able to print quality 11 X 14s, but I think I can live with that!

Tonight when I went to Target on the way to Chad's softball game (which went so late I didn't get home until almost midnight!) and picked up my new baby, I was so excited I walked all the way to the checkout lane with this humongous smile on my face. I was like a little kid getting a new toy! I practically bounced out of the store. I almost didn't go to Chad's game so that I could come home and play with it, but I figured since the battery wasn't charged I couldn't do much with it tonight anyway. When I got home, even though it was ridiculously late, I opened all the boxes, plugged in the charger, and put on the camera strap, which took me like 10 minutes even with the directions. I think I have a lot to learn! :)

So here is a picture of my new baby:

I must say, it's even more beautiful in person! :)

Monday, May 26, 2008

I Love Pictures

It's probably pretty obvious that I love to take pictures. I probably (okay, definitely) take way too many pictures on most occasions. I'm addicted. While I might be an alright photographer by regular, non-professional person standards (although I probably should be way better considering I've taken dog pictures at the humane society for the last 9 years), I dream of taking beautiful, amazing photographs. I feel like I have a decent eye for the composition of a picture, but I know absolutely nothing about real photography. Terms like ISO, aperture, aspect ratio, focal length--these all mean virtually nothing to me. I'm ready to move into the world of grown-up cameras so that I can learn how to take better pictures!

So Chad and I are currently researching digital SLR cameras (I just learned that SLR stands for single lens reflex) with the intent of buying my first real camera so that I can graduate into the world of real photography. Right now we're leaning towards the Nikon D40, which has gotten really good reviews for an entry level digital SLR. The only thing that's holding me back is the megapixels-- it's only 6.1. We've read that unless you're needing to make huge prints, 6 megapixels should really be adequate, but I'm having a hard time resisting the urge to go with a lot more megapixels! I just want to make sure I have enough megapixels to take those beautiful pictures I'm dreaming about!

I've learned quite a lot during this research for my dream camera. I didn't realize until today that with most SLRs, you can't use the LCD screen as a viewfinder, which I'm totally used to with my current point and shoot camera! Using the eyepiece will definitely take some practice. It also would appear from my research that most SLRs don't allow you to shoot video. That's kind of a bummer too. Video is just so darn handy sometimes. Maybe I don't really want an SLR so that I can retain these fun features. My brother has a camera that looks like an SLR which has a bunch manual settings, but apparently it isn't actually an SLR. A camera like this would allow me to use the manual focus to be a lot more artistic, but would still allow me the freedom of video! Maybe this is what I should be looking for--I don't know! I need help in deciding what would be the best option for my first "grown up" camera!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Shout Out to My Peeps

Things have been a little busy the last few days. Thursday night we had an evening with friends (hooray for our Journey Group), last night we had houseguests (hooray for Dad), today we're traveling to Salina with our nephews (hooray for Miles and Quinn) and Sunday we have a wedding to attend (hooray for Pat and Kristin). I think blog posts are going to be few and far between for the next few days. Before we leave today, I just have to give one last congratulatory shout out to my friends Jake and Amber, who are now BOTH officially PhDs! I mentioned last month when the title of Dr. Amber became official, and Dr. Jake has since successfully defended his dissertation as well. I love this picture of them after the hooding ceremony last weekend, which Jake unfortunately didn't get to participate in because his defense wasn't scheduled until after the deadline. Regardless of the lack of a ceremony, Jake is still a doctor, so I'm kind glad he didn't make the deadline--it will give them a good reason to have to come back and visit us next year from their home in DC! :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The FURminator

As promised a couple of weeks ago, tonight I want to give you a quick glimpse of a dog-related gadget we purchased earlier this month. If you're a pet owner who has spent any time at all in pet stores, you've probably seen FURminator products for quite some time. We've been seeing this special brush and the demo videos touting it for several years, and while it has always looked fascinating, it also just seemed too good to be true. The design just seemed way too simple--not too unlike a dog comb we already had at home. Paying $50 for a dog brush seemed so freakin' ridiculous, but since Celtic is a year-round shedder of massive proportions, we finally bit the bullet this month and invested in this deshedding tool. Without a doubt, the investment was totally worth it! I love this thing!

Since we brought this new toy home, I've taken our little hairy man outside a couple of times a week to give him a good brushing, and not only is it completely astounding and amazing how much hair comes flying off his little body, but I really think it has decreased his inside shedding by a significant amount! This thing really is as advertised! Check out my own little demo from earlier this evening:

One of the best things about this handy little tool is that Celtic really seems to enjoy getting "Furminated." Our previous brushing sessions never lasted very long because Celtic would get up and wander off as soon as he got bored. As you can see, he's enjoying the FURminator as much as I am!

Clearly I'm a big fan, and I would totally recommend this fun little gadget to any family with shedding pets. It's a fun little tool to use, and it's also kind of fun just to go around saying "the Furminator" like you're Schwarzenegger or something. :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On the Subject of Concerts

While I'm on the subject of concerts (okay, maybe it was last week when I was on that subject, but whatever), I mentioned a few weeks ago that my Old 97's were kicking off a new tour, which actually started in the wee hours of the morning on March 13, the day that their new album Blame It On Gravity was released. I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't actually purchased the new album yet, but I have listened to several new tracks on their MySpace page, and so far, I like what I've heard. Even if I hated every song, I would still be thrilled to see them live in their current tour, based on their many previous albums that I love and their spectacular live shows.

So based on my obvious fanaticism, you can probably imagine how elated and excited I was when I found out that they were actually coming here to Lawrence on their tour. I seriously just about flipped my lid. They haven't been in Lawrence for years, and until last summer's concert in KC, we'd been driving to places like St. Louis and Dallas to see them. Even though the Lawrence venue is the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival, which isn't exactly our cup of tea (think Woodstock), I was still prepared to wade through the masses of unshowered campers (aka "stinky hippies" per my husband) to see my favorite band of all time.

What I failed to consider in making my concert-going plans was that my husband was busy making surprise vacation plans. When I got home one night and Chad had the tickets for our flight all picked out, the first thing I said was that we can't go that weekend because my Old 97's will be here! My dear hubby talked me into the trip and out of the concert, by stressing the importance of us having a romantic getaway on our anniversary instead sometime after our anniversary. Oh yeah--he also promised to take me to any other location in the country that they happen to be playing on their tour. :)

The bummer is, most of the dates that they'll be playing in the Midwest, we'll be on the west coast! We might still be able to make the concert in Tulsa (what's a four hour drive on a Sunday afternoon, anyway?), but since we'll be just days away from leaving for California, I'm guessing we'll be just slightly busy packing for our trip! Even though it wouldn't be the most convenient of concerts to attend, I have no doubt that it would still be worth it!

Check out the 97's tour dates and be sure to see them when they visit a town near you!

Friday, May 16, 2008


On Wednesday night, my husband took me to my first ever Wilco show. In general, I'm not really a Wilco fan at all. Chad's been listening to them for years, and although I liked their first couple of albums like Mermaid Avenue (with Billy Bragg) and A.M., their more recent CDs just don't interest me much. I'm not saying they're not a good band--their latest release was nominated for best rock album this last year (Rock album? Really?)--I'm just saying that it's not my cup of tea. For the most part, I find Wilco way to mellow. Generally speaking, Wilco makes me want to fall asleep. My rule of thumb with music is that if it doesn't make me want to sing along or dance along, then I probably don't want to listen to it.

With all that said, since Wilco actually played right smack in the middle of downtown Lawrence on Wednesday, I felt like I should at least give them a try. There are lots of bands that are more interesting live than in the studio, so I thought maybe after seeing them in person I would grow to appreciate them more. Chad loved their concert in KC a couple of months ago, so he encouraged me to come along. I wasn't really disappointed with the show I guess, but I can't really say that I grew to love them either.

Given my preference for rockin' out at a concert, I obviously thought the set had way to many slow songs. Not only that, but the band also tends to lean towards long guitar solos and random inserts of "experimental" sounds, like weird guitar distortions and blasts of percussion in the middle of singing. They're bordering on being a jam band at times, which I absolutely can't stand. There was also way too much piano in most of their songs (for my taste) since on several numbers they actually had two guys playing keyboards! What self-respecting "rock" band even has a piano, anyway?

At first I thought maybe I just wasn't into the show because I didn't know very many of the songs. Then I thought back to my first Old 97's concert, when I went having heard only a couple of their songs once or twice, and came away as one of the biggest fans ever. The bottom line is that Wilco just doesn't float my boat.

Despite the fact that I didn't immensely enjoy most of the concert, I did really enjoy the encore. Their last several songs were ones I really liked from their first couple of albums, involving a lot more guitar and a lot more up-tempo beats. They even closed the show with my very favorite (rather obscure and very silly) Wilco song, Hoodoo Voodoo. I think that last song made the entire evening worthwhile!

Actually, the other thing that made the evening worthwhile was hanging out with our friend Jason (from high school) and almost his entire family. I hadn't spent time with his parents for years, and it was so nice to see them and most of Jason's siblings (although we missed Domi!).

I'm sure it's a huge shock, but I actually failed to bring my camera to the concert. If you're interested, you can check out more pictures and the article about the show in the Lawrence Journal-World!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dancing Dog

Tonight I have a crappy stomach bug and don't feel like blogging, so instead I'm going to post this video that someone sent me today. Even though I feel like garbage, this still made me smile. :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sweetlove Farm

This is something I've been meaning to share for a few weeks now and I'm just now finding the time to do it justice. Our friends Phil and Sally just recently sent out the annual newsletter and order form for their home business--which happens to be a farm! Several years ago they settled on this beautiful landscape near Oskaloosa, which is just about 40 minutes or so north of Lawrence. They built their own home and began raising chickens and other livestock, teaching themselves everything they needed to know about farming along the way. Their homestead became known as Sweetlove Farm and has grown into a thriving business. I think it's a pretty amazing endeavor for two city kids who weren't from farming families!

So last year Chad and I purchased some very fresh, pasture-raised chickens from Sweetlove Farm, and they were definitely very tasty! In fact, we just roasted one of last year's chickens last week and it was really amazing. We normally just purchase chicken breasts from the store and not the whole bird (because once when we first got married I attempted to cut up a whole raw chicken like I'd always seen my mom do and about threw up doing it), but we've found some great recipes that involve cooking the whole chicken as well. We would totally recommend ordering some chickens from them if you're a fan of poultry! They raise/sell turkey and lamb as well.

Even if you decide not to buy any fresh meat from them, you should definitely check out their cool website. There are lots of great pictures of their home, their family, and their animals. You can check out their spring newsletter, which is super well written and informative, read all about how to build a house of straw bales, or even order meats or eggs from them online! Sweetlove is a high-tech kind of farm!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fresco's Adoption

I almost added the story of Fresco's adoption to my post about Mutt 'n' Strut yesterday, since technically both of these things happened on Saturday. We've actually known about Fresco's adoption for quite some time, but it didn't become official until this weekend.

I guess the story of our foster dog Fresco actually started over a year ago, when I took him to an adoption event in Kansas City after getting to know him at the shelter during the previous four months. I completely fell in love with him, so I was very pleased when he got adopted about a week later, and devastated when he was returned to the shelter about 3 months after that. We brought him home as our foster dog last August in order to save him from being put down, and then found a home for him in early October. In December, Fresco was returned to the shelter again, after having problems with the other dog in his new home. After another month at the shelter (in which he was supposed to be working on his behavioral issues with the trainer), we once again brought Fresco home with us to keep him from being euthanized.

During his last stint in doggy jail, the trainer who was supposed to be working with Fresco insisted that he was in need of years of professional help (clearly she was not a fan of Fresco), so we didn't immediately start marketing our foster dog like we'd done during his previous visit. We decided we would instead try to honor her wishes and get Fresco into a training class with some other dogs to work on his social skills. Our plan was to start the marketing campaign after he graduated, which we never actually got around to doing, because his future family became interested in him a couple of months prior to that.

While his adoption didn't become official until a couple of days ago, last weekend the process actually got started. Here's a picture from last Sunday:

Notice anything different about him? Here's a close up in case you missed it.

If you can't read it, that's Fresco's new tag, with his new last name. We bought it last weekend and then signed the adoption contract yesterday. We are officially Fresco's forever family. :)

To most of our friends who've seen Fresco at our home, this is not a huge surprise. It was obvious to everyone that we had bonded tightly to our little foster boy. The staff at the shelter joked about us keeping him long before we actually planned to, even suggesting that he purposely got kicked out of his previous homes in order to come back and live with us. I actually realized very soon after his arrival in January that we were going to have a hard time parting with him, but I had every intention of us doing so until the day in mid March when Chad took this picture:

How could we separate these cute little peas in a pod? This closeness of the dogs was really the major difference between Fresco's first stay and his second. During the first foster-go-round, Celtic was very unhappy. We loved Fresco then and often said we would keep him if it weren't for our "firstborn" Celtic. Hope and Fresco bonded through hours of wrestling, but Celtic was usually left out. He lost attention from us and attention from his sister because of the new puppy, and he was clearly depressed about it. This time was different, and strangely enough, I think it had a lot to do with the weather. Since Hope hates the cold, while she was snuggled up in bed the entire winter, Fresco and Celtic were outside sniffing around together and really bonding. They became such good buddies, and Fresco always let his older, smaller brother be in charge and be the leader. I began to worry as much about Celtic missing Fresco as I did about us missing Fresco!

Chad took a little bit longer to come around to the idea of keeping our lanky boy. It wasn't until Fresco was about half way through his training class that Chad asked me one day, "So when Fresco's done with his class are we going to start looking for a home for him?" When I replied that this was, in fact, the plan, Chad said "I don't know if we can do that." For a while after that we just ignored the subject, but by the middle of April we'd come out and admitted that Fresco was where he was meant to be. It just didn't seem fair to ship him off to another home when he'd already been in so many in his short 18 month life!

So we are once again a three dog family. While we're very happy about our new addition, it's also a little disappointing that we failed to find homes for our last two foster dogs! :)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mutt 'n' Strut 2008

Yesterday morning, Chad and I and the dogs participated in the 13th annual Mutt 'n' Strut benefit walk for the Lawrence Humane Society. This is has become a tradition with our family ever since I started volunteering at LHS, which will be ten years ago this summer! I started volunteering in 1998, so I guess our first walk would have been 1999, when Steeler and Celtic were not quite two years old. There's actually a Polaroid on our fridge that I think is from our first M'n'S--at least based on what I'm wearing in the picture it looks like the late 90s!

Anyway, early yesterday we loaded the three mutts into the car and headed out to the event. Unlike last year, which was so hot that Hope just about passed out, yesterday it was extremely cool--in the mid 50s. In fact, once we started walking into the wind it was quite chilly! You never really know what you're going to get with May weather in Kansas, I guess!

Chad and I were a little bit nervous about how Fresco would react to the hundreds of other dogs at the event, because he tends to get overly excited each time he sees strange dogs walk by our house or out while we're walking. We were very proud that he handled all of the excitement like a champ! He jumped up on a couple of LHS volunteers that he was clearly excited to see, but other than that he was very well behaved. We visited with his Petco trainer Colleen, and she was very impressed at how calm and well mannered he was. He never barked once the entire day, and the only time he even got the least bit excited was when there was a herd of dogs about a block in front of us that he really wanted to catch up to!

As far as Fresco's doggie social skills go, he was really better behaved than our weird girl Hope. She is just downright terrible with tiny dogs. I really think she must see them as some kind of little toy, so she immediately tries to grab them with her mouth or give them a good poke with her nose. It's totally bizarre too, because there's no rhyme or reason to which little dog she tries to eat! She was standing right next to my friend JoAnna's new Shih Tzu Chipper like a completely normal dog until Chip decided that he wanted to play. As soon as he started to bounce around a little, Hope grabbed him by the little little tuft of hair on top of his head and wouldn't let go! She practically picked him up by his hair--it was terrible! Thankfully Chip is a tough little guy and didn't really seem to be bothered by it!

Overall it was just a really enjoyable event and the dogs seemed to have a great time. We saw lots of people we knew and lots of former shelter dogs too, which always makes me so happy. I almost cried when I saw Tony, who for months was the dog at the shelter who had been there the longest, with his wonderful new family. He gave me big hugs and sloppy kisses yesterday as if to say "thanks for being my friend for all those months until I could find my awesome family!"

I uploaded more pictures from the event, but you can also check out this picture from the Journal-World--Hope and Celtic are famous! :)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Onion

I don't have time for a real story tonight so I just have to share something that I found online today that made me laugh so hard. I recently started subscribing to a few "just for fun" blogs through Google Reader, and one of the sites on my subscription list is The Onion. If you've never read this newspaper parody you're missing out, because it's usually hysterical (and often horribly offensive). Ironically, our friends Cara and Dillon were over tonight and we sat here for about an hour cracking up at all the headlines in a couple of Onion compilation books we have. They are so ridiculously funny.

Anyway, on The Onion website there are far too many articles every day to actually read them all, but once in a while I'll scan the headlines to see if anything catches my eye. These days they actually have audio stories as well as their regular articles in print, which are pretty funny because the reporter who does them is so serious sounding. This is the one that caught my eye today:

Four-Year Descent Into Complete Self-Obsession Live-Blogged

This completely cracked me up. It kind of felt like a commentary on my blog!! :)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

San Francisco, Here We Come

I can't believe I haven't found the time to blog about this until now, because I am really so excited about it! A month or so ago I came home from work to find my husband with a mischievous smile on his face. For several days he had been researching flights, lodging, rental cars and attractions in the San Francisco area and had loosely mapped out a 7 day itinerary for our next vacation. We had talked about our next trip being to San Fran, but we hadn't discussed any of the details or dates, so it was quite a surprise to come home and find that Chad had done much of the legwork and planning!

We had decided on San Francisco as our next vacation destination after our friend Dante went on a trip there and loved it so much he went back again six months later. Our friends Jake and Amber went on a San Fran vacation soon after, and they loved it so much they are already talking about going back too! Since neither Chad nor I have ever been, we thought it was the perfect place for our next big journey--we just hadn't really talked about when we were going to go. Chad decided that it would be the perfect anniversary present to each other, so he scheduled our vacation right around our upcoming 14th.

Because my husband knows me well, and knows that I'm a planner who loves details, he didn't actually book any of places he'd picked out. He knew I'd enjoy that part of the process, so we spent the next couple of nights pouring over some of the different hotels and bed & breakfasts Chad had researched on the Internet until we found exactly what we wanted, where we wanted. We booked our flights, all of our lodging and our rental car, and got a general idea of what sites we wanted to see while we were there. Our plan might sound kind of crazy, but here's what we'll be doing: first, we're flying into LA (yes, LA). The flight was not only super cheap, but we thought it would fun to spend a day with my brother and also to make the scenic drive up the coast. We'll stay there the first night, then get up early and take our rental car up the coast to Carmel, which is about 6 1/2 hours away according to Google Maps (although most people have told us it will take quite a bit longer with all the stops). Night two, which will be our anniversary, we'll stay at this Bed & Breakfast in Carmel.

The next day we'll travel the final 2 hours or so into San Francisco, where we'll stay for two nights at this hotel on the south side of the bay. We'll keep the rental car for those days and see all the bay area sites that are outside of downtown. After those two days we'll head into the heart of San Francisco, where we'll stay three more nights at this hotel.

We'll drop off the rental car at this point and stick with trolleys and our own four feet, since we kept hearing about how difficult and expensive parking is and we don't mind walking at all. There's so much to see and do all within 6 miles of our hotel: Fisherman's Wharf, Golden Gate Park, all sorts of shopping, the ferry to Alcatraz, and tons of other things. We prefer to be busy on our vacations, so we're excited to see as many sites as possible while we're there!

Since we haven't really nailed down exactly what we'll do and see each day, we're still totally open for suggestions. If there's one thing you think we just can't miss in the San Francisco area, let us know--we'll add it to the itinerary!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mom's Goodbye

A couple of my posts last week were related to goodbyes, and this is one more goodbye blog that actually should have been posted many days ago. However, this one wasn't such a sad goodbye. Last Tuesday, I went to a surprise party for my mom Sherry, thrown by her colleagues at Emporia State University. Mom has been teaching at ESU in the Counselor Education Department for the last several years, and although she really loves teaching and loves a lot of the people she works with, she decided that this year would be her last at Emporia. Mom was making the extremely boring one hour commute from Topeka to Emporia several times a week, and then one night a week she was also going to a satellite campus in Kansas City to teach a class. As you can imagine, it was exhausting--especially since Mom is just a couple of years out from her surgery and chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. I kept telling her that I would have been exhausted with that schedule too--and I'm 26 years younger than she is!

So thankfully, Mom decided to move on to something else next year (although she doesn't know what yet), and her very sweet friends at Emporia decided to surprise her (and another colleague who was leaving) with a going away party. The department administrative assistant called Chad and I a couple of weeks ago and asked if we could come, which I thought was so thoughtful! Chad had a staff meeting that he couldn't miss, but I went to Topeka and picked up Mom's significant other Cliff, and we made the (extremely boring) drive to the ESU campus. We arrived a little early, so I ducked into the bathroom to make a pit stop before finding out where the party was going to be. Cliff's ducking abilities weren't quite up to par, because just seconds later he got snagged by my mom just down the hallway from her office! She was slightly concerned and very surprised to see him there, but he covered well and said that he was just in the neighborhood on his Harley and decided to come take her to lunch. I could hear her voice outside the bathroom, so I hid in the stall for a few more minutes before sneaking back out into the hall where her coworkers directed me into the decorated conference room.

After about 15 minutes, Mom came in for the "staff meeting," only to be surprised by a bunch of random guests. It was kind of funny, because she actually scanned the room a couple of times and looked right past me before it dawned on her that her daughter was there! She was super surprised--I only wish I could have gotten a picture of her face when she walked in! As we all went around the room and introduced ourselves, people were saying "I'm John, and I'm a professor of blah blah blah," and when it was Mom's turn she just said "I'm Sherry, and I'm shocked." It was so cute.

So I got to spend the afternoon eating snacks and meeting all of Mom's wonderful friends in the department--people who I'd been hearing her talk about for years. It was a little strange, because I felt like I knew them all already since I'd heard so much about them! I made a point of getting lots of pictures (big shocker) with Mom and all of her friends during the party and while I was getting the grand tour of the building. It was really a wonderful afternoon and I was so thankful to have been invited!

As nice as the people were and as great as the department was, I'm really glad my mom won't be working there again next year. Just having to make that commute one day was exhausting for me. Did I mention that it was extremely boring?

Monday, May 05, 2008

So Much to Blog About, So Little Time

I am so ridiculously behind on talking about stuff that's going on in our lives it's not even funny. Last night I had every intention of posting something right before bed, but as I laid down with my laptop after a long day of fence building, I could barely keep my eyes open. I knew nothing coherent would come out of my brain, so I didn't even make an attempt.

Tonight isn't looking much better. There are loads and loads of laundry to do, shelter dog pictures to upload, groceries to buy and dogs to walk. I'm guessing I won't get much blogging done this evening either. However, I will leave you with a preview of the upcoming topics that I'm hoping to talk about soon! In no particular order, they are:

1. Mom's Party
2. Fresco's Adoption
3. The Furminator
4. The Dog Park
5. Our Vacation
6. Sweet Love Farm
7. Mutt 'n' Strut

Hopefully nothing else eventful happens this week so that I can get caught up on all this other junk!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Storm Season

Yesterday it was pretty warm outside, so when Chad and I went to bed last night we left the windows open to let in the cooler night air. Just after 1:00 a.m., we woke to the sound of a VERY loud storm outside. It was pouring rain so Chad jumped up to shut the windows. The wind was blowing so hard we began to hear debris slamming against the house. We flipped on the T.V. to see if there was a tornado to be concerned about, and there was only a tornado watch, but the wind gusts were up to 70 mph! We contemplated just going back to sleep, but the wind was so loud it started to sound like a freight train. Even Celtic, who is never concerned about storms, sat up and took notice. Hope, who is always afraid of storms, was running all over the room in panicked little circles. Since the roof sounded like it was going to blow right off the house, we decided it would behoove us to head down to the basement.

Pretty soon after we got settled onto our respective couches with the dogs on their respective blankies we could see from the radar that the storm was almost passed. I tried falling asleep on the couch for a while longer before finally giving up and going back up to bed. There were still lots of rumbles of thunder (which I happen to love while I'm sleeping), but the crazy scary wind had died down, so I eventually fell asleep.

When I woke up at six I fed the dogs and sent them outside. I didn't have my contacts in yet, and I'd left my glasses in the basement, so I was visually impaired, to say the least. I could see that one picket had blown out on the far end of our fence and that Fresco was trying to stick his head through the hole, so I ran downstairs to grab my glasses so that I'd have a clearer view of what the dogs were doing. When I got back upstairs I was watching Hope mosey along the back fenceline when suddenly she disappeared completely! I bolted out the back door and started sprinting barefooted across the drenched grass, toward the gap in the fence where Hope had gone through. One of the posts had broken completely, and an entire section of fencing was leaning into our yard creating a v-shaped gap where the dogs could easily jump across to the neighbor's property. I got to the opening and peered through, and then instantly started to panic when I saw that the neighbor's fence had been blown down towards the front of their house as well, creating an opening where our three hound dogs could escape to the outside world. I just knew the outside world was where they were headed.

I flew back across the yard as fast as I could and ran inside to yell for Chad's help. He yelled for me to go grab the car to look for them while he ran out the back fence on foot, but just as I was grabbing my keys I heard him yell from the neighbor's yard. I went running back outside, and found him walking all three dogs back through the gap in the fence. Apparently they had never even left the neighbor's yard but were just sniffing around behind their gazebo! The huge adrenaline rush was for nothing!

As I watched the news in the morning I realized how lucky we were to only have our fence broken. By the time this storm system reached Kansas City, it spawned a couple of tornadoes with winds up to 160 miles per hour. Many homes and businesses were completely destroyed. In Lawrence, all we had were a lot of downed trees. I took a few pictures down our block on the way to work.

Mother Nature sure is impressive, isn't she?