Monday, August 30, 2010

Our Beloved Koi

Such a great deal of energy and time was spent this spring remodeling the koi pond. We changed the shape and finally leveled the edges. While we were at it, we made the drop offs steep instead of sloping like they used to be. One reason for this was so that the pond wouldn't be friendly to unfriendly creatures such as raccoons. I've heard many horror stories of them cleaning out a koi pond, biting off the heads and then leaving the corpses scattered around the yard.

We also changed the pond liner. The theory was that we'd use a much cheaper liner and just replace it in the spring and fall, negating the necessity of scrubbing algae. Unfortunately that theory didn't really hold water because the cheap liners don't hold water very well. We have to re-fill every few days to keep the water within an inch or so of the top.

A couple of weeks ago, we bought a giant UV light designed to keep the algae at bay. So far so good although, we still have stray algae floating around in the water. We also bought a new pump to fit inside the skimmer that we finally installed.

Every day I clean the skimmer and the filter pads. Three or four times a day I go out and feed the big guys in the big ponds and last year's babies in the little 'holding' pond.

And all this begs the question, why are we doing this? Years ago, I would get home from work and Mr. Right and I would sit out by the pond in our tall patio chairs and feed the fish. It was fun and relaxing. We would feed them rather slowly, breaking the larger pieces in half so that the younger guys would get their share and we would feed until we had observed that everybody had gotten something to eat. I'm not sure the fish appreciated this torturous way of feeding them but they grew and thrived until the two great ponds disasters described in this post.
After that we enjoyed our ponds but we didn't get too attached to the inhabitants.

And it's still that way. When I examine my feelings about the koi, I find that I like them, we're pretty proud of them and how they're growing, they amuse us, and they're unbelievably interesting. But I'm not down there trying to hand feed them and I don't love them like I loved the ones we lost.

I do love to walk out the back door and see all the koi drop what they're doing and come swimming to my side of their pond.

But sometimes one of them will be so distracted, horsing around with some algae he found or a bug or something that he won't even notice I've come out.

The other guys will swim over to tell him, circling about and swimming over him, before they can get his attention:

I enjoy throwing out hands full of food and watching them jockey around trying to get the best spot and then slapping their tails in the water and splashing about for some koi reason.

And somebody will get obsessed with the fold in the liner where there might be a piece of food lodged. And everybody else will hurry over to see what they're missing.

And I love when they swim along looking for food in the wide open - half their heads in the water and half out - like they think they might be amphibians.

And I love that after I clean the skimmer and the filters, they all gather under the waterfall where the fresh new water will come out. Isn't that bizarre?

One day I stood on the bench next to the pond to try to get an overhead shot. They didn't know what to make of my behavior so they kind of milled around in the middle waiting to see what I'd do next.

Before I go in the house, I turn around at the door for one last look and I appreciate that they really are beautiful......and friendly.

And I know that we don't keep the koi just because the grandkids love to feed them. We also keep them because that would be one huge hole to fill in if we got rid of them.

Just tricking! We keep them because we like them, we're pretty proud of them and how they're growing, they amuse us, and they're unbelievably interesting. And yes, I guess we really do love them as much as the ones that went before them.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Giant Coincidence

In 2006, I was blessed beyond measure - even more than usual. On August 7th of that year, we were in Louisville, Kentucky where my youngest daughter, Sarah, gave birth to a little girl and named her Mary Addison. Sarah made it very clear that the Mary part of her newborn's name had been planned for a long time and she was named after me. That is an honor of overwhelming proportions.

Two week's later we were in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas where my son, Dan, became the proud father of a brand new baby girl. And he and his wife named her Tessa Mary. And they made it clear that the Mary part of her name was after me. I know pride goeth before a fall but I was SO proud.

I wanted to send press releases to all the local newspapers. It was amazing to have two new granddaughters only two weeks apart but then for them to have these unusual names each with Mary being the usual part. Well that was beyond belief. Here we are in 2007 at Christmas time - Tessa Mary, Me, and Mary Addison:

I come from a big, sprawling family. I have first cousins whose names I get mixed up because I just don't know them well. The only times we might all get together are for some weddings, some funerals, and maybe family reunions. I went to the family reunion last year but I might have missed the year before that. It seems like everybody misses sometime but if you go often enough, you'll be able to re-connect with everybody over the course of a few years.

This year my cousin, Cecil, called me to RSVP the reunion. While we chatted, he casually mentioned that he had two new granddaughters........born in April, two days apart. Wow! I told him that I'd always been so proud to have new granddaughters born two WEEKS apart. Wouldn't you know, he'd have to show me up.

I told him my granddaughters' names and he didn't seem real impressed - evidently he only paid attention to the Mary part of their names. He said, "I'll bet MY granddaughters have names you haven't heard of much. I asked what they were and he said..........Tessa........and Addison.

Are you kidding me? Tessa and Addison? When mine were Tessa Mary and Mary Addison?

Is that a giant coincidence or WHAT?!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

You Capture - Get Outside

Wow! Could there be a better subject for me? Everyone knows I spend half my summer taking pictures at Striebel Pond. But first, there was a birthday party for my sister and much of it took place outside.

Take a beautiful outdoor setting, some playful kids, and you're bound to get some interesting pictures.

Now back to Striebel Pond. I walk there everyday. Except this week when I walked there once. Last night. At dusk. Looking for that perfect shot. But I never found it. I found these though.

The golden sunset shots.

The pinks and roses and mauves.

And the silvers which are my favorite. Trouble is I just can't capture the play of light that makes so many different shades of shimmering silver. But I tried.

And these berries in very low light with my new 35mm lens.

To get outside with everybody else, go to Beth's Ishouldbefoldinglaundry and maybe even join in.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Down & Dirty In 30 - Weekly Check In

Today's check in is much easier to write about than last week's. I'm posting a loss of 1.8 pounds and I feel like I'm on my way again.

Somewhere inside me I think there are weights where we tend to get stuck. And maybe those weights are where we spent a lot of time on our way up the scale. For some reason our bodies got used to being here and they fight to stay here. Either that or psychologically we begin to believe subconsciously that that's where we belong. Some people just call them plateaus and that's what they are but I'm going a step further in looking for a real reason for the plateau.

Whatever it is plateau or falling off the weight loss wagon; reason or no reason, I think I've just worked my way through a level where I was stuck and now that I've broken through, I'll see some consistent losses - at least for three or four more pounds when I'll reach the next weight that I stayed at for a long, long time. We'll see.

Also, I must comment on a couple of my weight loss tools. The first one is Jillian Michaels' Shred. Because of various excuses, good and bad, like the reunion or the 2nd great grandson's out-of-town birth, I haven't been consistent with it. But I've done it 5 times in a row, then about 3 times in a row, and now 3 times in a row again. And, guess what! I got all the way through today! How awesome is that! I won't say I jumped rope with big jumps and I certainly won't say that my push ups would pass Army muster, but I will say that I did the whole workout without taking a breather. Yeah!!!!

Last night I tried the Tworkout for the first time and I am sad to say that the exercises that were assigned were well beyond my capabilities. Maybe there should be a beginner Tworkout and a seasoned exercise buff Tworkout. Also, although I thought I signed in correctly, none of my tweets made the Tworkout grid so I felt pretty disconnected throughout.

So, back to the future. A good week ahead. Another try at the Tworkout. And maybe doing the Shred Beginner level all the way through for seven days before moving on to Level 2.

And most importantly, right now I weigh almost two pounds less than I did last week at this time which feels really good. Thanks, Sisterhood!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tessa Mary

I first got acquainted with beautiful Tessa Mary in June of 2004, two months before her anticipated arrival. At that time her family was moving from Slidell, Louisiana near New Orleans to Ft. Leavenworth, KS. It was a move that her Daddy, Major Dan was effecting himself with just a little help from Mr. Right and I. Once their giant U-Haul was packed, our caravan began the 900 mile trek to their new home. My job was to drive Tessa, safely ensconced in her mommy's womb. (Mr. Right's job was to drive the cats - I won that round - lol)

Throughout the drive, no baby's movements were as closely monitored as hers; and, Teresa and I cheered over and over again as her little movements corresponded to the cues of her mother. When taking a break from driving and walking around failed to generate the kicks and movements we were looking for, there was always the carbonated beverage that worked every time. We were so proud of her!

Fast forward two and a half months and Mr. Right and I were back at Ft. Leavenworth for Tessa's much anticipated birth.

Her labor was seamless - at least from my point of view. Teresa's past experiences had epidurals slowing labor significantly so she was absolutely determined not to have one until she was CERTAIN that delivery was close enough not to be slowed by any epidural. She labored beautifully and her focal point? Dan's eyes. She seemed to have to sink deep into them with every contraction and the intensity of her stare corresponded to the strength of the contractions. By the time she had the epidural, it was pretty much over. A few minutes later this beautiful, perfect little creature was in her daddy's and her mommy's arms and the hearts of everybody who knew her forever.

Teresa always looks like a movie star after giving birth and she didn't disappoint this time either.

And Tessa was the baby doll for both her big brothers and her parents. It didn't take her any time at all to have everybody wrapped around her tiny fingers. Everything requiring assistance had a ready and willing assistant nearby.

For climbing stairs, there was Grant:

For playing, Evan:

See? She knows! And she's very pleased with herself.

For swimming, she turned to Daddy:

And once again:

When we came to visit, there was no warm-up required. She was ours from the moment of our arrival. One time we visited and as soon as we got there, she put her little arms up to me and I carried her around as we saw the changes they'd made in their Colorado Springs house. Finally, Teresa said, "oh, you don't have to carry her around". And I remember thinking, "are you kidding. I can't believe she's letting me!" That's the power of this sweet little angel!

Here she happily poses with us on the steps when we ask her:

And she just never seems to get tired of giving us the attention we require!

I've heard stories that when she gets in trouble from her mom, the three men in her life (Dan, Grant & Evan) have to leave the room because they just can't bear it. I think it's true too because who can resist this look?

which only appears when things start to go awry in her little world.

She's sweet:




And brave! We were there once when she had a terrible cold with a nonstop runny nose. She soldiered through and the only time she gave it any mind was when she'd announce in a sad little voice, "nosey running". And she'd run for a tissue.

Finally, here are a few miscellaneous pictures that I just couldn't put back after I'd imported them!

So happy 4th birthday, to a captivating beautiful little girl. We love you!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Amazing Dane's Arrival

I went to Garden City, Michigan last Wednesday where Amber, my oldest granddaughter who, with her mother, lived with us for many years, was about to give birth to her second son.

She was admitted to the hospital at 8 p.m. for an overnight induction. This seemed like a good idea to me because I pictured a few hours of labor and then an epidural which would afford some good sleep to mom, dad, grandma & great grandma while she painlessly labored to the magic centimeter number that would signal an imminent birth.

Since then, I'm re-thinking overnight inductions because they can, and did for us, mean no sleep all night. This is particularly difficult for mom who will spend the following day going on total sleep deprivation with no opportunity for anything more than a ten minute catnap - if she's lucky enough to grab that. That, coupled with the exhaustion of labor and delivery, makes for a very difficult start in a brand new life experience.

She was slightly dilated when we arrived and 50% effaced. Hours later, despite a couple of different techniques designed to speed along the dilation, she was just short of 3 cm. The overall protocol seemed to be to check her as seldom as possible and, I thought, report as conservatively as possible. Just the fact that they started the epidural when she was supposedly less than 3 cm made me suspicious. In the morning when her attending nurse finally decided to check her again, she reported 4 cm. I found this hard to believe given the fact that the epidural, if it was working at all, wasn't working well and that contractions that were mountainous and prolonged on the graph, were coming at about 2 minute intervals. And even if we politely suggested that they might check her again, her nurse demurred saying I just checked her. She said this 20 minutes after she checked, 45 minutes later, and over an hour later. "I just checked her." Then an anesthesiologist came in and noted that the epidural wasn't working well at all and decided she should have a boost in pain medication but first she HAD to be checked. About two hours after her nurse announced that she was 4 cm, this doctor caused this reaction:

Finally! Then, this angel of mercy, suggested that Amber stay upright for a little while to facilitate the movement of the baby from station 0 to +2. This took maybe 10 to 15 minutes. Little Dane was on his way.

The only annoying thing about this birth involved the hospital staff. I know I sound negative and I am probably a little hyper critical where my nearest and dearest are concerned, but through all the commotion of getting everything ready for the birth, there was a loud, overriding narration going on delivered by the substitute Obstetrician overseeing the birth. He was loudly explaining to a trainee all the procedures involved in birthing the baby as it came through the birth canal. Every detail was announced to everyone in the room as he self-importantly shared his vast knowledge and wisdom. Nobody was talking to Amber. Nobody was coaching her on pushing. And nobody was re-assuring her that everything was going as it should. In fact, the impression was that there was a huge complication, and the doctor was preparing for every eventuality once the expected complication became more imminent. And this wasn't lost on Amber who was sure that something was very wrong and that the baby was stuck.

As I tried to coach her and encourage her as much as I could I was increasingly distracted by this self-involved, pleased-with-himself, Obstetrician. Finally, I interrupted his narcissistic lecture and asked if he could pay attention to his patient and I broke the news to him that Amber thought something was terribly wrong. (Why else would a physician completely ignore his patient while lecturing everybody in the room?)

He immediately thanked me for letting him know. Are you kidding me? And assured Amber that everything was going perfectly, and within a push or two of this reassurance, Dane was born.

This was the same obstetrician who an hour before the birth, told Amy and I to go home and get about six hours of sleep and they'd call us when anything changed. (In his defense, he was basing his advice on the information given him by the attending nurse. "I just checked her and she's 4 cm.) Oy

All this trauma and drama was pushed into the background when we saw this healthy beautiful baby with this sweet face. His Apgar ratings were 9 and 9 and the nurse said those were the highest ratings given at that hospital. (Of course, now I believed the nurse implicitly.)

Here's Daddy Chris holding him for the first time as he delivered him to Amber:

And here's Grandma Amy holding him for the first time:

Then there's this picture that the Obstetrician insisted on taking with my camera. He was quite intrigued with the idea of four generations at the birth.

So you see, he was nice enough. Just caught up in his own priorities and his own world.

And here are a couple of pictures of this bright, beautiful baby.

Once again, I've been blessed beyond measure. I got to be there to help welcome this wonderful little man into the world. And it just doesn't get any better than that.