Monthly Archives: June 2010

Dancing With the Dogs

No music was necessary for these two dogs.

Sometimes when I’m out and about with my digital SLR, the strangest photo ops will present themselves. Like the other day when I seemed to have stumbled upon a new reality show, “Dancing With the Dogs.”

What's that next dance move?

These two awkwardly paired pooches seemed eager to trip the light fantastic despite the lack of music. Or much of an audience. Or a snazzily dressed host and/or hostess. Or even other competitors!

Perhaps more practice would help?

Maybe the two pals need to rehearse a bit more before they’re ready to be in the limelight at the Fur Ball!

Fishing Leftovers

Lures rest in the Mister's tackle box.

Should I lure you in with yet another fishing post? Gotta love that fishy humor!

The Mister expertly puts a lure on a fishing line.

I had a few leftover photos from yesterday’s blog post that I didn’t want to throw back in. So here we are in my blog’s version of the World Cup’s stoppage time.

My #2 son is ready to reel in a fish.

Wondering where our #1 son was during this fishing excursion? Home composing songs in GarageBand on the iMac. #1 does fish with dear, old dad on rare occasions—but it’s awfully hard to hold a book in one hand and a fishing pole in the other while trying to text and listen to music on one’s iPod Touch!

Like father, like son . . . and like grandfather, too.

My #2 son loves going fishing with the Mister. I can see that the tight bond that connects them also is linked to the Mister’s dad, my sons’ beloved Papaw who died a decade ago. The Mister said that he also fished with his dad when he was a lad.

The circle remains unbroken.

Fishing for Blog Ideas

My #2 son loves to go fishing with the Mister.

Just when I think I might run out of blog material, my sons and the Mister always come to my rescue.

Will the frog lure fool the fish into biting?

Recently I was pondering what might be on my upcoming blogging menu and lamenting the slow, sleepy, steamy summer days that produce so little photo action. As I considered my dwindling options during that late afternoon, my #2 son said, “Dad and I are going fishing. Want to come?”

Does your mom love chocolate? You betcha! I grabbed my Nikon D700 and Nikon 105mm lens and accompanied them to one of our community’s nearby lakes. The policy there is catch and release, which is fine with us—none of us wants to actually clean a fish. Ugh!

Normally I consider fishing to be . . . how can I put this nicely? . . . so darned boring! I’ve never embraced the concept of sitting or standing for hours in the heat, surrounded by bugs, and possibly stepping on a fire ant mound (which, of course, I did . . . ouch!) with the high odds that all you’ll catch are mosquito bites. No, thank you!

A fish is temporarily on the Mister’s line.

But then the Mister actually hooked a fish! I was able to snap a photo before it set itself free and swam away. Now I was hooked!

#2 tries to reel in a fish!

Soon it was #2’s turn to hit paydirt!

It’s #2 vs. the fish.

Normally, #2 would’ve been thrilled to have caught a fish. But not this one.

#2 wins the battle! Looks like the frog lure worked!!

That’s because #2 snared a catfish, which are hard to get off the hook so they can be thrown back in. Plus they have spines on their bodies that can cut flesh. Neither of my guys was anxious to deal with this whiskered foe.

The catfish is anxious to get back into the lake.

Once the fish was on land, someone had to get the hook out of the catfish’s mouth. I’ve never been happier that I was the one documenting the action instead of being a part of it!

The Mister tries to free the hook.

Fortunately, the Mister saved the day for the catfish. Note the Michael Jackson glove, which comes in handy (pun intended!) if those spines get in the way.

After that escapade, the fish stopped biting at this spot. Perhaps the catfish, like a watery Paul Revere, sent out the alarm (one if by land).

The Mister displays his tiny fish.

So we drove to another local lake, where the guys tried their luck. The best they could do, though, was snag this little sunfish.

They might have been disappointed with their paltry results, but I, of course, was thrilled. It was great that my #2 son and the Mister proved to be my bait for a trophy-sized blog post!

The Birdarazzo Strikes Again!

Four Roseate spoonbills eat breakfast.

Earlier this week as I was enjoying my morning walk on our community’s bike path, I kept looking into the bayou near by. More like a long creek, the bayou often is abuzz with activity from its inhabitants, which mostly are turtles, snakes (ugh!), and birds. Usually those water-type birds are egrets, and I did see a couple of those long-legged beauties.

I love the spoonbills’ reflections!

Then I looked up ahead and suddenly spotted a wing in the air. A pink wing! I quickened my stride until I came upon four pinkish birds enjoying their early-morning meal contained within the murky waters. At first glance, they looked like flamingos. But then I saw their rounded bills. These were Roseate spoonbills!

Where does one spoonbill start and one end?

Spoonbills inhabit the Gulf coast region, but we don’t see them very often in our bayou. The times I had seen them, of course I didn’t have a camera with me. This time I was fairly close to my house, so I ran home to get my Nikon D700 and Nikon 70-200mm lens with the Nikon 1.4x teleconverter for extra reach. And I also grabbed my monopod to help keep everything steady.

When I returned, the spoonbills hadn’t moved very much, so I set up on the bike path and started shooting. I especially liked the great reflections from the pinkish birds.

Oh, oh! I’m busted!

I was having a great time snapping away, when suddenly one of the birds looked back at me.

Then a couple more spoonbills stared me down.

Okay, okay! I get the message. The birdarazzo isn’t welcome here. It was time to walk away from the spoonbills.

A reflective white egret

Strolling along the path back to my house, I saw an egret quietly enjoying the bayou water. I once again set up my equipment and started snapping away, enjoying the reflections.

Oh, oh! Busted yet again!!

Until the bird turned and stared straight at me. Oh, if looks could kill!

I quickly realized that the bayou fauna prefers to eat in peace.

I think I’ll go back to shooting flowers . . . at least they don’t complain!

Adventures in iPhoning

My ever-grumpy #1 son shows off his new iPhone 4.

Guess what my #1 son and I did this morning? We joined several hundred other Applephiles at our local Apple store. The quest? Score the new iPhone 4.

#1 is protected from the rain.

We left the house at 6:36 a.m. With the Apple store set to open at 7 a.m., I hoped the mall powers-that-be would be nice enough to let us wait inside, especially since it was raining lightly. No such luck. At first, #1 sat on a small chair reading a book while I held a large umbrella. But eventually someone was smart enough to walk to the mall doors and see that there was a separate line for those of us who had been lucky enough to reserve the coveted phone. We were able to move under the overhang.

The reserved line definitely was the one to be in—a guy next to us in the have-nots queue said he had been there since 3 a.m.! In fact, the first person in the non-reserved line had camped out since 2 p.m. yesterday!! Totally crazy!

The Chick-Fil-A guy is popular!

While we were waiting patiently, Apple store employees gave us bottles of water. And then Chick-Fil-A workers came by with tea, coffee, and food.

This CFA guy is a Harlan Coben lookalike!

Everyone loved these guys! Both lines felt uplifted.

#1 enjoys being inside the mall and sitting on a bench while Mom waits in line.

Finally, after we’d been waiting for about three hours, it was our turn to walk inside my favorite store. Were those strings and harps I heard playing? Before long, we had two 16GB iPhone 4 boxes in our hands. My #1 son actually smiled!

#1’s iPhone was a timely graduation present—his regular Samsung phone was dying a slow death and only could text. He was due an upgrade, and I’m sure a smartphone will come in very handy at college.

But what about me? My iPhone 3Gs was still rockin’ after a year of constant use. Did I really need the new iPhone?

I must admit that I wanted the iPhone 4 because of FaceTime: Two iPhone 4s both in hot spots (wifi) can video call one another. I would be able to see my #1 son when he’s at college via our phones! Sure, we can iChat on our Macs, but this will be so much handier.

I know that he might never want to video chat with his dear, old mom. But just in case . . . I’ll be ready!

Bad “Carma”

My strong #2 son!

I’ve had just the worse “carma” lately.

It started last Friday. I had dropped my #1 son off at a local junior college to take the CLEP test to try to get credit for freshman composition (I drove, because I had to pay for the test with a credit card). We were told it would take at least two hours to finish, so I returned home and parked my 2009 Honda Pilot in the driveway in a shady spot. A short time later, I got back in the Pilot with my #2 son so I could drive him to meet our friend Glen to play disc golf. I tried to start the car. It made a noise, but the engine wouldn’t turn over. Oh, oh!

As I was pondering my next move, #1 texts me to say he was done with the test (which included an essay) . . . after 35 minutes! Oh, oh! Fortunately, we have another car, the Mercury Villager #1 drives. Unfortunately, it was behind the Pilot in the driveway

What to do?

I looked at my #2 son sitting quietly beside me in the Pilot and said, “Someone’s going to have to push this heavy car into the street.” I knew if the Pilot could just clear the driveway, I could maneuver the Villager around it. Competitive lad that he is, he jumped out of the car and ran behind it. And, as you can see from the crudely drawn graphic above, darned if he didn’t shove the Pilot just enough into the street that 1) no oncoming car would hit it, and 2) I could drive around it.

I called AAA Texas to come and try to figure out what the problem was with the Pilot, drove #2 to meet Glen, and then picked up #1 (fortunately, he always has a book to read just in case he’s ever stranded by his mom for more than an hour).

Sam tries to start my unstartable car.

AAA Texas sent out Sam, who also couldn’t start the Pilot. But he did notice that the key icon was flashing on the dashboard and determined that the problem had to do with the car’s security key. AAA towed it to the Honda dealer. John the service advisor finally decided that the Pilot’s immobilizer needed fixing. Really? How much more immobilized could my car be?!?

Of course, there were no Pilot immobilizers to be had in all of Houston . . . nay, all of the great state of Texas. One was overnighted from the plant in Ohio . . . where it apparently sat at FedEx in Houston, not to be delivered to the dealer until Monday. Meaning I didn’t have my car all weekend. Extremely annoying!

So that meant I was sharing the 1999 Villager with my #1 son. I used the red minivan Monday to run errands. After shopping at Kroger, I put the bags into the back of the car, got in the front seat, and proceeded to turn the key.

The Villager’s dashboard: Nothing to see here.

All I heard was click, click, click. Oh, oh! Please check my back—I think someone slapped a “car kick me” sign on it.

Yes, yet another call to AAA Texas and the chance to sit in a hot car for 20 minutes waiting for service. Oh, and while I was waiting, John from Honda called with an update on the Pilot. Even after putting in the new immobilizer as well as a new battery, the car wouldn’t start. So for the second time in a year, the Pilot needs a new starter. Why was I suddenly thirsty for lemonade?!?

As you’d expect, none of the Honda dealers in Houston stocked a Pilot starter; it had to be overnighted from Dallas. Joy of joys!

Henry tests the Villager’s battery.

Meanwhile, AAA’s Henry came to my rescue. The good news was the alternator was fine; all the nickel-and-dime machine needed was a new battery. Soon I was on my way home.

When Honda John called again yesterday, I literally held my breath. Would I ever get my Pilot back? Yes! The maroon mobile finally was ready to roll. The repairs were under warranty, so all the aggravation cost was my time. I’m just glad we have an extra car.

When I slid into the seat of my Pilot after that long four-day absence, I immediately sought out the one thing I truly had missed while driving the old Villager: XM radio! Oh, how I yearned to once again listen to the ’60s on 6, ’70s on 7, and my other favorite stations. I had forgotten how many commercials inhabit FM radio; it’s so irritating.

I’m hoping that my “carma” is on the upswing now. But just in case, I’m trying not to drive the Mister’s Honda Odyssey!

My Quotable Sons

The Mister reads his handmade Father's Day card, while our #2 son watches TV.

In our family, handmade cards reign supreme. It has nothing to do with expense, although have you checked out the cost of greeting cards lately? Yowser! We just prefer that personal touch that comes with hauling out the crayons and colored pencils and cranking out sentiments that truly come from the heart.

Usually my sons create their own cards for Father’s Day, but this time they collaborated on one (where “collaborated” means my #1 son probably was too lazy to come up with his own card).

The front of my sons’ Father’s Day card.

#1 penned the front of the card, which said “Today is a Very Special Day . . .”

The inside of the card is spartan yet poignant.

My #2 son took over for the “Happy Father’s Day!!!” part inside the card. What impressed me the most about this particular project were quotes that my sons chose to include in the card. #2 went with the ever-popular “Thanks for being a great Dad,” attributing it to himself and then signing Michael Scott’s name, because Michael is a quote stealer. Methinks he’s been watching too many episodes of the “Office” lately.

But #1 went in a totally different direction. A lover of nonfiction baseball books, my older son has read more tomes involving the small, white, seamed ball than possibly anyone in the world. Why? Why not! The Mister shares that love of baseball, so it was no surprise that #1 picked a quote from a baseball player, Harmon Killebrew, for his sentiment:

Harmon Killebrew

“My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, ‘You’re tearing up the grass.’

‘We’re not raising grass,’ Dad would reply. ‘We’re raising boys.'”

So are we. And it sounds like we’re doing something right for a change!

A Weepy Father’s Day

Our #1 and #2 sons surround their dad and the gift card they gave him.

I was a weepy mess on Father’s Day yesterday. Part of it was because I’m a sappy, sentimental person—just part of my basic nature. Seeing our sons show their love for their dad just brings me to my knees. Cue the tears.

But several other events of the day also caused me to reach for the Kleenex. First, I found out that someone I know is fighting the battle of her life. This gal, Sue Van Natta, is a wonderful runner. I met her years ago when she helped me overcome foot problems via reflexology, which is her passion. Sue has raised thousands of dollars for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through running, biking, and triathloning. Truly, you couldn’t find a more giving person.

In mid-March, Sue had a terrible headache. She went to the doctor, and a couple days later she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Just like that! The cancer has spread, and she’s had a rough road since then. My thoughts have been with her, her husband, and her twin daughters, and I hope she beats this dastardly foe.

The toys return for the last time.

In the afternoon, our family went to see “Toy Story 3.” It was great! We loved it!! Andy, the little boy who owns the toys, has grown up and is about to leave for college. He has dark hair and blue eyes . . . just like another boy who loved Buzz Lightyear and Woody and will be flying out of our nest in late August.

I definitely was not prepared for an ending that moms of recent high school graduates should see with lots of Kleenex. I won’t spoil it, but it was very moving for me. My #2 son, who was sitting next to me, was laughing at me as I cried, which made me do that awful crying laugh that’s just hideous to see. Sorry for anyone who had to witness that!

Golfer Graeme McDowell hugs his father Ken. (Associated Press photo)

The final tearjerker moment for me was in the evening after Northern Ireland golfer Graeme McDowell won the U.S. Open. His dad came out of the crowd, and the hug they shared set my waterworks off once again. It’s nice to see that at any age, guys are glad to have their dads near them.

Here’s hoping that my two guys always appreciate their dad, and that I continue to take photos of the three of them together through tear-filled eyes.

Birdarazzo: A Cardinal Sin

A cardinal adds a bright splash of color to our mulch.

We had an unusual visitor in our yard yesterday.

“Come look at the red bird,” said my #1 son as he looked out the front door’s windows. I jogged over, looked, felt my jaw fall, and then I ran to my nearby office to grab my Nikon D700 . . . after I switched the 50mm lens for the 105mm.

It’s not often that we see cardinals in our yard in the Houston area. We have loads of annoying blue jays and other garden variety birds. So seeing that rare splash of red piqued our interest.

The cardinal seems interested in the agapanthus.

As the cardinal hopped up our driveway, #1 and I moved to the dining room’s window. I shot through the blinds, not wanting to startle the bird. I figured he wouldn’t notice me, as he checked out the agapanthus.

Oh, oh . . . busted!

Then the cardinal looked right at me.

You know how much my #2 son balks at having his momarazzo snap pix of him? I guess the same can be said for my feathered friend—he looks like he wants this birdarazzo to take a flying leap!

The Sock Castle

The sock pile is neatly stacked Tuesday on the couch.

Tuesday I worked for about 10 minutes sorting all the unmatched socks that previously resided on top of the dryer into neat stacks according to type (e.g., dress, athletic, Mom’s) on one of our couches. There probably were at least 50 socks requiring attention, most belonging to a certain #2 son.

I’ve dubbed the pile the “sock castle.” Just because it’s towering.

I was about to try to pair them as I mindlessly watched TV when I suddenly got tired. Which prompted me to try an experiment: Why not wait for the sock fairy? You know, the one who waltzes into houses magically and mysteriously when everyone’s asleep to match up mounds of loose socks.

So I left them where they rested, admonishing the Mister and my #1 son not to sit on them (males!). I went to sleep with visions of paired socks dancing in my head. Maybe we’d get the kind of sock fairy who would even lovingly deliver the garments to their respective recipients’ dresser drawers. Wouldn’t that be grand?

Day two. Sigh!

Wednesday morning I sprang out of bed, ran to the family room, and looked at the couch.

Sadly, the socks were just as I had left them the previous day. No sock fairy had deigned to visit and help out. And need I show you the exact same photo today?!? Same result as yesterday.

Looks like I need to turn to my cheap slave labor (aka my sons) while I supervise from my favorite chair, iPad in hand and feet up on the ottoman. No, I’m not their wicked stepmother, but for some reason I feel like emitting an evil cackle.

Hey, Cinderfellas! It’s time to storm the sock castle!!