Saturday, June 27, 2009

New family member!

This is the newest member of our family. We just got him today. He is a Blue Fronted Amazon. He is 5 years old, and has been called "Rudy". I am not in love with the name, and want to figure out a different one. I would love to hear name suggestions.

So far, he's been a real sweetheart. I think the drive home stressed him out a little bit. He's also never been around kids, but he's been quite patient so far.

I'll try to get more pictures once he has acclimated a bit better.

Bountiful Baskets June 27

Today I got two heads of romaine lettuce, celery, cauliflower, green beans, a bunch or so of bananas, 8 tomatoes, 7 apples, 12 or so pluots, 2 zucchini, a big container of grapes, and a pound of strawberries. I chose to get the huge box of granny smith apples as well. All this for about $28 or so. Yay!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Humiliating Japanese Driving Experience #2

In Tsukuba (and maybe other places in Japan as well), they had a unique way of separating the sidwalk from the street. Instead of having the sidewalk raised up a bit from the road, it was all on the same level in places. Then, they used tall stones to make a "curb" of sorts to slow down cars that get too close to the edge. Unfortunately, I never thought to take a picture of this. To make an entry to a parking lot, they simply don't put those stones there. These "entrances" are significantly smaller than anything you see in the US, mainly because most of the cars there are much smaller.

So, on the day in question, I am driving the J Odyssey. It has less than 1000 km on it. We had some American friends who needed a ride to do some shopping (yay!!! Witness to my humiliation! I LOVE that). I realize that we overshot our turn, and turn into a small parking lot so I can turn around. The road is so narrow (more so than my driveway now) that a U-turn is unthinkable. I go to turn back out onto the road, and cut it a little too tight (I was afraid of going too far into the oncoming lane of traffic). Alas, I cut it way too tight, and I'd gunned the car because the road was quite busy.

oh oh. The car isn't going, and the back end is up a little higher. I get out to look, and discover one of those stones is right before the back tire. The back tire isn't even touching the ground. We are well and truly stuck. To make matters even better, I am blocking BOTH lanes of traffic to one of the 5 busiest roads in the Tsukuba area. I look in the back of the car, and there's no jack.

I ran into the nearest store. The poor guy working there doesn't speak a lick of English, and he has this wild eyed, crying, visibly pregnant woman talking excitedly to him. I finally get him to look out the window, and he immediately sees the problem. He happens to have a car jack (and this was a copy store of some sort, so the fact he had a car jack was a minor miracle).

He helps me jack the car up and move the stone. We get the stone out of the road. By this time, there are over 100 cars waiting patiently.

Thank goodness the car was fine and I was able to go on my way. The lady I was giving a ride to was terribly sympathetic- she refused to drive at all for the time they lived there. But, I have to admit I was somewhat relieved that she was leaving the country, never to be seen by us again a couple days later.

Update on Jack Sparrow

I discovered on Thursday, June 18, that the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah has gone independent, has finished their move, and were again accepting baby birds. Even though we had done a fabulous job of taking care of Jack, we didn't know the first thing about teaching him to be a wild bird. Opening doors and windows so he could hear other birds wasn't going to cut it. In addition, we were leaving Thursday afternoon to go to Goblin Valley for the weekend. We knew a couple of the hikes we had planned would take us away from the trailer for 6-7 hours at a time. A baby bird can't go that long without eating. Although I am eccentric and devoted, I was NOT going to carry a 30 lb child on my back, and a baby bird in a box on a hike.

It was a tough decision, and M was in tears over it. The two of us took Jack in and gave them a small donation to help them rehab Jack.

We had a wonderful weekend in Goblin Valley (more on that later), and it was nice to not feed a bird every 30 minutes.

I called WRC on Monday afternoon to see how Jack had adjusted. If he had imprinted on us, he was doomed to a life of captivity. The volunteer on the phone told me they'd had 9 other baby sparrows dropped off since we'd dropped off Jack. She did remember Jack specifically though. None of the birds had been taken care of by people for anywhere near as long as Jack. She admitted that she was surprised at how healthy Jack was. She also said she'd been just positive he would've imprinted because he'd been in our care for so long. However, within a couple hours of getting into his "nest group", he started acting just like any other wild bird. She said his prognosis for surviving in the wild was excellent.

We are very proud of our hard work.

I now have promised M a domesticated bird. I am a little torn on what to do. Part of me wants to go as cheap as possible and just do the parakeet and cage off KSL. But, I've always wanted a bird that could talk (yes, I know that eventually a parakeet can talk, but let's be honest- that's very rare), so I kind of want to buy something a little pricier that would be talking.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Bird Picture

I think this little guy is going to start flying soon. I put an ad on KSL a few days ago, hoping to get a free/super cheap cage, but no responses yet.

I think I'll break down and buy one. I also think the bird is going to come camping with us- I don't feel like I can ask someone to feed a bird every 45 minutes or so.

His name is Jack Sparrow.

Friday, June 12, 2009

When to let go?

It's really hard to know when to give up on something, and when to keep trying.

My grandma "Dora" is really upset about her cancer diagnosis. She is leaning towards not treating it at all. In a horrible coincidence, her kidneys have also suddenly failed. She's been considering not doing dialysis because a doctor told her dying of kidney failure is a lot more peaceful and dignified than lung cancer.

When we went to visit her Saturday, she and my grandfather got in a small argument because he wanted her to fight everything, and that she "couldn't die til she was old enough to die". His desperation and grief were palpable.

It's hard to know what the right decision is- I've never been one to argue for prolonging life if the quality of life will be poor. I told her that doing dialysis ONCE was not committing her to fighting anything. But that she may find that she feels good enough after that to consider fighting a little bit. I'm glad she didn't ask me whether or not she should fight the cancer or the kidney failure. I honestly don't know what the right answer is.

I think in some ways, I don't fight enough. The latest case in point that's made me think that maybe fighting can be good is this baby bird.

When we found it Tuesday, I thought for sure it would be dead within a couple hours. It's nestmate was already dead, and the surviving bird was covered in ants. My kids wanted me to try and save it, so we did try. I was genuinely surprised when I woke up Wednesday morning, and it was alive and begging for food. I was a little surprised when I woke up to a starving bird Thursday. I kind of expected the little guy to be there this morning, and you know what? He is. He's sitting a couple feet away from me, making happy, chirpy bird noises, and looking absolutely adorable in a very scrawny, ugly way.

God's will be done, but maybe I should fight for life a little more than I do.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Baby Sparrow

Last night, we hosted pack meeting in our back yard. Part of the activity was to roast marshmallows. While I was helping with the boys, J was building a fire. He was gathering some sticks that had fallen in the last little while to burn when he found two baby sparrows on the ground. We'd guess they were about 4 days old. The one was already dead, and the other was still alive, but had ants biting it. J rescued it, and K carried it around the yard to keep it warm. We tried to put it back in the nest, but the nest had been destroyed in the wind storm.

So, last night we put it in a croc that we'd put some soft grasses in, and wrapped it in a heating pad. He wouldn't eat last night, so I was fairly sure he'd be dead when we got up this morning.

However, when J got up to go to work, he found the bird awake and starving. He fed him an entire worm and went off to work.

This morning, we upgraded his nest (we are using the abandoned mourning dove nest from last year), and M has been feeding him every 20 minutes or so.

I still don't think this will have a happy ending, but I admire M's persistence in trying to keep the bird alive. Hopefully there will be a positive life lesson here.
We found THIS website that outlines how to care for baby birds, so we are now following their instructions. These people found a bird that was only a day old, and raised it to adulthood, so maybe it's not as hopeless as I think it is.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Air Force Open House

This past weekend, Hill Air Force Base had an open house (sort of) and air show.

We decided to take the kids yesterday, even though it was raining. If you don't like the weather in Utah, wait 5 minutes. We were banking on that adage, and set out. But because we're optimistic and not stupid, we brought umbrellas and slickers.

The kids got to climb around in a couple planes, which they loved. The weather cleared up a little bit, and we put the umbrellas away.

We then watched the air show. They had to put it on hold for a while because the rain started again. But, to keep to personality, within 15 minutes, it was sunny again.

It really was a lot of fun. They had some recruiters there. I'm guessing they have a lot of people enlist at the show. Heck, by the time we left, *I* wanted to join the air force. Of course, by then, the younger two were whiny and tired, and a few weeks of peaceful basic training with no crying, fighting, whining kids was starting to sound kind of nice.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Job Change

Background: Jim felt like he wanted a change in career about a year ago. He was recruited to work as a contractor at Hill Air Force Base. He was told he'd be designing and improving HVAC systems for the buildings there. It's turned out to be something quite different. Being a contractor, he was to be out of a job in May, 2009. As March passed with no sign of the paperwork coming back from the higher ups to offer him a permanent job, he started to get really nervous. He interviewed at a prosthetics company in Salt Lake, and while he wasn't hired, he was impressed with the company. Soon after, he was offered a permanent position on base, and at a raise.

He absolutely loves his co-workers, but the work and the general inefficiency of the federal government really frustrated him.

Last week, he got an email from the prosthetics company. They were creating a test engineer position, and wanted to know if he wanted to be considered. He said he was, and the immediately called him to schedule an interview for the next day. The interview was very exciting (for an engineer). The field is fairly new, and wide open. No international testing standards exist, and everyone is trying to come together to create testing standards. It sounded like a dream job for him. He clicked with the other employees, and while the company is fairly large, and based in Germany, the Salt Lake office is small. Before he had even arrived home from the interview, they had called to offer him the job. Great, yes?

Well, we get looking at the formal offer, and it's less money. A lot less money. The health benefits are better, and cost 1/3 as much as we've been paying. He would have to commute to Salt Lake every day, and no more every other Friday off. A couple less vacation days. Moneywise, we'd be taking a step back of about two years. And they were BIG two years. He told them he'd think about it over the weekend.

It was a really tough decision. Lots of money, great hours, lots of time with family, no travel, tiny commute, great air force fringe benefits, great coworkers or long commute, less money, lots of travel, exciting job, potentially great coworkers, and a fulfilling job. In the end, he decided to take the prosthetics job. On the outside, I'm sure it looks insane to turn down the money he was making. But, we can still get by on the income they are offering. Plus, I have to admit I am hoping that as the company grows and he proves himself, he'll get raises.

Yesterday his coworkers had a farewell lunch for him. I was invited, and got to meet all of the people he has been talking about for months. I really, really liked the group of people. They were very sweet, sincere, funny, intelligent people. They even gave him a Dilbert book and a Bananagram game. I was a little sad that we didn't get to foster more of a relationship.

I really hope that he will find more happiness and fulfillment in this new job. He has struggled a bit the last couple years to find meaning in his work, and hopefully this will be the ticket.

My Grandma "Dora"

I am lucky enough to have three sets of grandparents. My mom's parents divorced when she was very small, and each soon remarried. My grandfather married Doris, and she has always treated us a blood grandchild. S calls her "Grandma Dora" because of Dora the Explorer.

Back in December, Grandma's daughter, Lou Jean, died. It was a devastating blow to my grandma, and there were also some additional grandchild drama going on, so it's been a really tough time for my grandma. She hasn't felt quite well in months, and she and her doctors chalked it up to grief and stress. A couple days ago, she really didn't feel well and went to the doctor. She's been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and kidney failure. It seems incredibly unfair for her to have lung cancer when she was never a smoker, and she wasn't exposed to second hand smoke on a regular basis.

Things are very grim, from what I've heard. They want to do more tests and then decide whether or not to start chemo and dialysis. I want to come visit her, but so far, my schedule has been crazy with end of the year stuff, girl and boy scout stuff and a health assessment I'd had scheduled for myself.

I'm hoping to see her tomorrow.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Funeral for Chesley Christensen

My great uncle Chesley died a week ago, and the funeral was today.

I have always had fond memories of Chesley. He married my grandmother's big sister, Sharen. He was always a kind man, who loved to tease, and was an absolute hoot. After Sharen died, he ended up meeting his high school sweetheart at a class reunion, and married her. Sadly, Alice died just a couple years after they got married, which I always thought was very sad.

Chesley tried to join the military as a teenager, he wanted to go to war. He was caught as being underage, so refused. He joined as soon as he legally could, and served in one way or another his entire life. He retired from active duty, but then tried to re-enlist when the first Desert Storm war started. He was denied because by then, he was too old!

He was mayor of Mt. Pleasant, UT for 20 years, and I think he made a real difference for the town.

I saw him last weekend when we had our big family reunion. Even though he's techinically not a relative (remember, he married in), he always came and cracked jokes and visited. I had a nice conversation with him as I baked cookies.

On Memorial Day, he was invited to do several memorial day programs. He gave a speech at each town, and moved on to the next. Afterwards, he was visiting with the other veterens, and they asked him to stick around for a soda. He said he didn't feel like it and went home. He was found a few hours later, in his favorite chair, still in his uniform, with a smile on his face. I really think that is such a nice way to go- he was really healthy, and was able to die with dignity, with his uniform on. I don't think you could ask for much more.

Because he was such an important figure with the local military people, there were a lot of soldiers, past and present, at his funeral. At the end, they did a musical number that was all of the branches of the military songs in a medley. As their song was sung, the soldiers from each branch stood up. They even had a drum (A drum in an LDS chapel?! It was AWESOME!!) accompanying them. It was really moving.

The chapel had more flower arrangements than I have ever seen at a funeral. They were all absolutely beautiful, and the sheer number just took my breath away.

Then, we went out to the cemetary. He had a lot of veterens do a three shot gun salute. It was incredibly moving to watch these veterens get teary eyed as they thought of their comrade. I had never considered myself to be a huge patriot, but this very patriotic funeral was very, very touching. As an odd aside, during the cemetary service, I saw an older woman, all in white, quite a ways away from the area where the service was taking place. She was too far away to hear anything, but she was still watching very intently. When the ceremony was almost over, she got in her car and left.

I felt especially mournful for Chesley's youngest son, CL, and his wife, Sharlotte. He has a daughter who is nearly four who is having some really significant medical problems, and is currently in the hospital. Then, sometime between Chesley's death and today, he and his wife gave birth to an absolutely gorgeous son, whom they decided to name after Chesley. That is so much to go through all at once. My prayers are with them.

All in all, it was a beautiful celebration of life for one of the most incredible people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.