Friday, December 15, 2006

Pictures from this year



In front of Quincy's Bayview Bridge.


Turtle park near the zoo in St. Louis.


One of the "baby" whale sharks at Georgia Aquarium.
The smallest of the 2 is 15 feet long and still a juvenile.

Hunter and I in front of the Indianapolis
Children's Museum dinosaurs.

Gotta make time for cuddles!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Merry Christmas to all

Due to an busy schedule and an amazing lack of motivation I am writing our annual Christmas letter on the blog. Last year I was so swamped I didn't even get cards out! Sorry it isn't very personal but I'll be logging almost 1000 miles for work this week so this is as good as it gets for now.

2006 has been an amazing year for us. Hunter has lost a few teeth and grown an unbelievable amount. It seems like every time I turn around he is just a little bigger than he was 5 minutes ago! Hunter has enjoyed a busy year with swimming lessons in the summer, soccer in the fall, and a recent round of basketball. Swimming is coming along nicely...having a bouyant bottom does wonders in that department! Soccer would have been great had the team coach actually been committed to showing up and holding practice. Basketball was much better so we'll keep at that for a while.

Jay continues to teach part-time at the local community college and works as a substitute teacher for our school district on an infrequent basis. His latest project has been putting together a community website which we hope to turn into a full-time job for him. www.quincyareaevents.com has been fun for him to build and tracks all of the local happenings. Please feel free to check out the site and shoot some feedback in this direction if you have a minute. Check out the next entry on the blog to see his huge summer project.

My work schedule has taken me all over again this year. Only 8 states left to go and I've seen them all! I spent the last week of February cruising down the east coast and seeing as much as I could. The trip started with the Manhattan skyline and concluded in Atlanta. I walked the entire mall in Washington D.C. in one day (don't try this at home, folks...it's farther than it looks), saw many of the sights in Philadelphia, and concluded the trip by watching the whale sharks at the new Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta (http://www.georgiaaquarium.org/) which is well worth the trip, by the way. Detroit was just as nasty this year as it was last year so I won't be going back there unless someone abducts me and duct-tapes me to something really solid for transport. California was just as wonderful this year as it was last year and I hope to go back many times. Along the way I've caught up with some old friends and hopefully made some new ones and took my son on quite a few adventures.

Hunter wanted to spend Spring Break in Chicago at the Aquarium and Field Museum so we started our travels off there. We saw a special exhibit on dinosaur bones and had quite a day waiting for Hunter to sketch everything he saw in his notebook.

In July we ventured over to Cincinnati so I could do an inspection there. We stayed across the river from the baseball stadium in Newport, Kentucky so we could go to their aquarium(www.newportaquarium.com) . Hunter was absolutely thrilled to bits by all of the exhibits but fell in love with a bizare creature called a shark ray which the aquarium has dubbed "Sweet Pea". We had to research and learn everything we could about this creature AND bring home a stuffed replica. This stuffed "Sweet Pea" goes with us just about everywhere and has become Hunter's favorite toy.

On the way home from Cincinnati we stopped at the Childrens' Museum in Indianapolis. Again, well worth the trip if you're over that way. We didn't spend an entire day at the museum but it made a really nice break in the 8 hour trip from Cincinnati to Quincy. You know you've found the museum when you see the life-sized replicas of a mother and baby dinosaur bursting from the corner of the building.

Later on in the year Jay and Hunter joined me in California for a mini-vacation. We spent two exhausting days at Disneyland and had a great time. Hunter was brave and rode all of the rides in spite of the fact that some were a little frightening. He never complained about being tired either day but managed to fall asleep in the restaurant booth after leaving the park both days. We also managed to visit one of the best kept secrets in the Los Angeles/Orange County area...the Long Beach Aquarium. Yes, we did a great deal of aquarium stuff this year.

Lately I've been considering myself to be quite lucky in the work department. At the tail end of last year my friend John (God BLESS him!) hooked me up with a new company. These guys handle much smaller jobs than the company I have been dedicated to for the past 2 years and they also keep me much closer to home. I must say it has been nice to have the time at home although most days I'm not sure precisely where all of my time went! That must be what it's like to have a normal life(what??? there's no maid service here????)! I still work for the other company but have to take advantage of the work so close to home because it won't last forever!

This year we're also blessed with good health. A biopsy scare last month came close to jinxing that but all came out in the end. Thank God for the marvels of modern medicine! My friend Alisan is working in Namibia and has sent me photos of homemade billboards touting the abilities of the local "doctors". Most of these folks are more "witch doctor" than medical doctors and claim they can cure anything from bunyons to bad luck! It just makes me more and more thankful for living in an advanced nation in spite of all the political stuff that ruffles our feathers. The cure for ruffled feathers may be to hang a chicken's foot around one's neck for a week in some other parts of the world so I guess I can live with it here.

I suppose that's about it for now. More adventures will be following in the next year as I'm determined to get to those states I haven't seen (which include Alaska and Hawaii). It's doubtful that I'll manage all of them in the coming year but it will be fun trying. Please keep in touch...you never know when I'll be in your neck of the woods!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Our summer project

Sometimes I want to kill Jay for things he has done or neglected to do. Other times I just can't believe how much he loves me and how much he is willing to do to make me happy. This is the latest installment in making Deb happy...a new fish pond in our back yard. It's about 90% complete but I had to share it (by the way...it holds about 1500 gallons of water and is bigger than it looks here).

Digging commenced in June and continued on through heat, rain, and miserably solid clay soil until Labor Day weekend. On that fateful weekend the hole in the ground metamorphasized into a hole in the ground filled with water. From there it has become an almost completely landscaped mini-ecosystem in and of its own. Within 24 hours of adding water we had our first leopard frog in residence. At last count there were 5 or 6 (leopard frogs are had to count when they are hopping about) and a dozen tiny goldfish we added. All of the plants patiently waiting in Hunter's kiddie pool have been added and I have a new source of stress relief.

Now, each time you approach the pond a few things are certain: 1.) Jay loves me A LOT!, 2.) you will frighten many birds who are either bathing or drinking at pond's edge, 3.) you will see at least 2 frogs leap from the edges to the safety of the water, and 4.) you'll see a huge smile on my face. (Oh...special thanks to Jay's daughter Haleigh who helped to dig the hole. If she had devoted as much time to digging as she did to complaining about digging...the pond would cover half of our yard! There aren't many teenagers who would help at all...so I have to give credit where credit is due! Love ya, Haleigh)!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Night adventure

We took a little road trip down to Southern Illinois where Jay and I went to college and wanted to show Hunter some of the things we remember from our time there. There was much reminiscing about the campus and places we had lived. We ate at a few of our favorite restaurants which were still in business and made a few side trips to other places. The best one by far was our night trip to Bald Knob Cross in Alto Pass, Illinois. http://users.stlcc.edu/jangert/baldknob/bald.html. The cross is one of the places I remember visiting many times. It is the largest cross in America and sits on private land that is open to the public. The story behind it's construction is fun to read and adds a little local flavor since it involves a lady and her pig.

The cross is situated on the highest point around for miles. During the day at the cross site you can see for miles across the Shawnee National Forest. A small road (no line down the middle) takes you winding through the forest for about 5 miles before you reach the site but every once in a while the road winds through a clearing and you get a view of the cross up ahead. We visited at night because I wanted Hunter (the bug maniac) to see what kind of visitors the cross had at night. Since the cross is privately managed there have been times when it is lit at night and times when it is not. I suppose it all depends upon how much money has been donated to the coffers for the electric bill. At the time we decided to go we had no idea if the cross would be lit and just hoped it would.

Luck was on our side as we rounded the final turn toward the cross and found it to be lit! This was a great discovery because we wanted to see the amazing creatures the lights attract. MOTHS! I know, if you thought I was nuts before, that just confirmed it! Actually, the cross attracts the most amazing moths in North America. There are quite a few factors which come together to create the perfect night time environment to attract moths and all are in place at the cross. Hunter was excited when we arrived because there were loads of insects for him to see, touch, and (considering how big some of them were) refuse to touch. Of course, if you don't like things flying around you then you're in the wrong place! There are literally hundreds and hundreds of flying insects buzzing all over the place.

Some of the wonderful things we were able to see included Sphinx moths, sweetheart moths, tiger moths, a yellow and pink "strawberry/banana" coloured moth, and a giant silk moth. It was difficult to see the exact colouring of these creatures because it was so dark but we held them in the light of our headlights and it worked rather well. There were also a variety of large tiger beetles skulking around. They were obviously there for the buggy buffet the lights created but none of the moths we were looking for were in any danger from the beetles. We saw very large Katydids and grasshoppers hanging out on the higher elevations of the cross and were happy to leave them alone. The giant silk moth was really what we had come to see.

The silk moth is about 6 inches across when it unfolds its wings and is a bit intimidating. There are glassine windows in its wings you can see through! Apparently, this moth only lives for about a week as an adult and doesn't even eat...its only purpose is to find a mate and make more moths! All in all it was a very "educational" evening and well worth the trip just to see the look on Hunter's face when he could hold a moth which was bigger than his own hand.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Family pic 2006



The children are all growing up faster than we can believe. Columbia (left) is now 16 and is learning to drive. I took her on her first couple of excursions and she did quite well. Haleigh (right) is now 13 and will not leave the house unless she looks perfect (I remember those days). Then there's the little monster in the middle. Hunter is now 6 1/2 years old and 51 inches tall. Tall enough to ride almost all of the rollercoasters at most amusement parks. His most recent discovery is that he likes to make people laugh. Now we are enduring endless "practice" jokes until he occasionally comes up with a gem. If we don't laugh as something he comes up with he will say "Oh, come on...can't I at least have a pity laugh?" Lord only knows where he gets it!