Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Johnny's Birthday Trip

Well, it wasn't really a birthday trip. Johnny went north to work on barn repairs in Olalla, where Kevin and Jessica own a piece of property. Having finished his work on Saturday, he drove to Traumhof. On Sunday they all went to Snoqualmie Falls which has been spectacular with the recent heavy rains. That was a good birthday gift for Johnny because he wanted to see the waterfall at its peak. It is quite close to Traumhof.

Johnny did not get a birthday celebration here on his 72nd birthday last week because I had returned home from my California trip the night before and was very tired. But it looks like, from these photos that Jessica took, he made up for it this weekend at Traumhof, with Kevin, Jessica and Ian.

I love this photo of "the three Fink men" as Jessica put it. My how Ian has grown since we measured him in July 2014. He was barely one inch taller than Johnny then. Look at him now!

Kevin, Ian Johnny

Johnny's birthday dinner was King Crab! With Jessica's fabulous chocolate cake for dessert.

 Johnny took a few photos of family at Snoqualmie Falls, too. But all you can tell is they have lovely hair.

Jessica, Kevin, Ian

Apparently, this is what they were looking at.

Pretty impressive!

Johnny's trip home the following day, Monday, was a little different from normal. For one thing, he struck up a conversation (naturally, being Johnny) with a truck driver at a gas stop. From him, he learned about an exit at Winlock where you could see (on a clear day, which it was) all the Cascade peaks in western Washington. So Johnny stopped there and did.  Here's how he told about it in an email to Kevin and Jessica:

"It's at milepost 63, the Winston exit. There's a Shell station right there with a big parking lot, picnic tables, and an information kiosk. Could see Mt St Helens, Mt Ranier, Mt Adams, and at least 3 snowy peaks of the Goat Rocks area. Well worth a look-see on the way past on a clear sunny day!"

Also, he asked that truck driver why Mt. St. Helens had seemed gray to his wife (me) in her (my) flight home from California the week before when all the other peaks were white. He said I was seeing the ground through the snow, that Mt. St. Helens is enough lower from the others that it's not getting much snow and what it does get periodically melts. I had told Johnny that I was shocked at the lack of snow in the Cascades except for the highest peaks. It was a clear day when I flew home and I spent the entire flight gazing out the window at the scenery below. (I love window seats.) I was also shocked at how low the lakes and reservoirs were. (I could see brown banks where water should have covered.) I wish I'd taken my camera!

The next part of Johnny's trip was a little more exciting. Here's more of his email to the Washington kids:

"After leaving one of the rest areas in Washington the road pavement seemed pretty rough. When it didn't get much better after a bit, I stopped at the next area and checked my front tires. The one felt a bit bumpy. Too bumpy. Then felt some of the wires from the plies sticking out. Put my spare tire on. It's a wonder I didn't have a blow-out. Pretty bad shape. So I stopped at Les Schwab in McMinnville and had them all checked and ended buying 3 new ones. Should be good for a long time now. Safely. I knew one was getting used up, but thought I'd be ok for another several months at least."

That was Johnny's understated way of telling the story. In fact, that tire had holes and wires sticking out and he was minutes from a blowout on a tire on the driver's side that would have sent him careening across the crowded freeway. Whew.

I'm very glad Johnny's "birthday trip" was fun... and had a happy ending.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cedrus is Six!

My how fast grandkids grow up, much faster than our own kids did. The earth must be spinning around the sun faster. Cedrus is our youngest grandson. His brother, Kestrel, will soon be eight years old. I flew to California on Jan. 16 to celebrate Cedrus' 6th birthday on Jan. 17th. I did not take my camera so all the photos on this post are from Munazza's phone. I asked her to take this photo of the incredible Brugmansia in the corner of their front yard.

Since I had an apparent reaction to one of the eye drops I take for glaucoma (or took: I quit when my pulse rate sky-rocketed), my energy level was quite low and I spent most of my time doing things that took little energy, like reading books to Cedrus.

Here Cedrus massages my head with a cool gizmo with plastic "fingers". It felt wonderful.

Cedrus had strung popcorn and cranberries on their Christmas tree and waited until I arrived to "help" put it out for the birds. Kestrel did most of the hanging.

One of the things I like best is hearing these boys play their musical instruments. Here is Cedrus at the keyboard with his Dad supervising... or something.

Kestrel plays guitar and is writing his own songs now. Amazing.

We drove/rode/skated to the nearby school with a huge asphalt area for riding bikes and skating. Here Cedrus on "Berg" gives his dad, on in-line skates, a lift. They are about to go down a fairly steep grade. I'm happy to report that everyone survived.

 Next Kestrel was ready to head down the same grade, with the training wheels off his inline skates for the first time! He did super.

I borrowed Cedrus's Berg while he demonstrated his hula hooping skills. He is good!

Finally, it was birthday time. Steve took photos of various places in house and yard, then printed them off in one inch squares and hid them around the house. Here Cedrus is looking for a clue. The picture on it will be where the next clue is hidden. One of his beloved Beanie Kitties is in each picture, staring at the clue photo.

Sometimes, a gift is with the clue photo.

Some clues were outdoors: this one in a fountain!

Another in the orange tree!

One was hiding in one of their huge and beautiful artichoke plants.

One of the clues held a present from Kestrel to Cedrus... another one of those adored Beanie Kitties. Kestrel ordered it with his mom's help and paid for it with his own money.

Cedrus was thrilled. He threw his arms around his brother and hugged him.

Of course, we had birthday snacks: ice cream bars! Cedrus reacts to Kestrel's chocolatey face.

Time for another present...

This one was a big hit: a quadcopter that was very difficult to fly. Only Steve managed to learn the skill  necessary to keep it from crashing constantly. (It was, after all, for kids 16 and up and none of the rest of us are that old.) Cedrus and Kestrel loved watching him fly it.

 Then we played with another gift: a board game.

 Although their Auntie Fudge couldn't be there, she had birthday balloons delivered. Lots of them!

The next day, Sunday, we went to a kite-flying area with a lovely kite that Cedrus received for his birthday the previous year. They had only flown it once, without much success. We finally realized it needs a strong wind and there was only a little breeze here... now and then.

Steve got lots of exercise running to try to get the kite off the ground. The rest of us had fun laughing.

Sometimes a gust would take it up. But Steve had to keep running...

 They had brought other kites with them and the kids were able to fly some of the smaller ones. Here Cedrus finds he can fly Winnie the Pooh by just standing still.

Or sitting on a rock...

That big flat area also had a lot of Canada Geese on it so we went to Steve's office nearby, Mozilla, to wash off the goose poop. Steve works from home so he seldom goes there. The kids found the billiard table

And snacks and a little rest.

Back home, we played another game called Labyrinth. It was fun! Although Kestrel had to help me figure out how to move.

On Monday, Martin Luther King Day (and so no school), we went to a beach near Half Moon Bay. The scrub land on the longish walk to the beach looked like a perfect place to fly the big butterfly kite. And there was plenty of wind! The kite took off immediately in the strong breeze so Steve held on tight. It flew beautifully and served as a beacon for the friends that were joining us: Cedrus' friend Megan and her dad. They could see it from way off at the parking area. Everyone got to fly the kite... while I lay on my back enjoying the view of kite, blue sky, and ocean beyond.

Isn't it beautiful?

There was a steep cliff down to the beach but Steve found a trail that we could slide/scramble down. The tide had just started going down from its highest point when we hit the beach. A big shallow pool of water was a great place for the kids to sail boats and splash around in... and provide the water for making sand castles. But by the time we left, the tide had gone out and taken all the pond water with it. It was a great way for the kids to learn about tides.

Of course, Steve made a giant maze as is the Fink family tradition.

 After snacks, it was time to head back up the cliff.

Megan and her dad knew of climbing trees a bit farther along so we took a detour to find them. Here's a  photo of kids and Steve in the reclining trees. Apparently, earlier rains had loosened the soil and the trees blew over in the strong winds that followed.

Back home the kids wanted to fly the quadcopter outdoors, with its camera running. It's like a drone with a camera attached to the bottom. They loved watching the videos afterwards... of the copter crashing into the slide and careening down it, nearly hitting the big cedar tree, bouncing off the roof... and chasing them around the yard.

I enjoyed slouching in a lawn chair and watching while Steve tried to control the copter.

Most nights I went to bed before the kids, but when I did stay up long enough to tell them goodnight, I got wonderful hugs. And in the morning, they came in when they woke. On my last day, they woke after I was dressed and we cuddled on my bed...

And then called Grandpa, as I did each morning. Kestrel is telling Grandpa all about our beach adventure of the day before. (He is talking into my primitive cell phone.)

Munazza wanted a family photo in the same place with us all in the same positions as last year. I don't know how much longer Kestrel, Cedrus and I will fit in the same chair! This is the only photo of Munazza since she was holding the camera. Next time, I'll bring mine.

It was a great time with a great family. On the last morning before my plane left, I went to the kids' school and saw each of their rooms briefly. Then Steve, Munazza and I hiked up to the park at the end of their road and climbed the trail. I was feeling a bit more energetic by my last day there. But it sure was nice to be pampered while Johnny stayed home and did all my farm chores.

Cedrus is having a birthday party with kids a week after his actual birthday. Munazza said he wanted the party with his friends a week later so he could spend more time with Grandma. I'd say that is a very smart kid to figure out how to get two birthday weekends!

Here is that smart (and cute) birthday boy on Berg with the amazing Brugmansia behind him.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Johnny's Kitty

Our dogs don't like cats. They chase every one off that has the nerve to try to hunt on our farm. But one apparently feral cat learned how to hunt our fields in spite of the dogs. It was very dog smart and very wild. This fall, three kittens appeared, meowing constantly. They looked very much like the feral cat. At first the kittens appeared chasing after the adult, apparent mother. She soon eluded them, although stayed not far off. We didn't know if all of them had been dumped and managed to make their way here. Usually the dumped cats end up at neighbors' who live closer to the road and don't have cat-hating dogs. But these kittens stuck around here for several days. Johnny took these photos on November 7.

I took this one of the alleged mother, taking a nap in the bushes. She was unafraid of me... at a distance... and simply ignored me... and the kittens, two of which soon disappeared.

One kitten hung out in the machine shed and seemed to want to be friendly. It later moved to Johnny's shop and meowed but would not allow anyone to pick it up. Johnny started feeding it scraps. Our house guests for Thanksgiving were worried it would starve if we did not feed it or take it to an animal shelter. They need not have worried. Johnny adopted the kitten and it quickly became super friendly... and amazingly adept at hiding from our dogs. 

These photos I took of the field-hunting cat on December 12. It looks very much like Johnny's Kitty.

And here is Johnny's Kitty with Johnny in his shop on January 7. She lives in the shop but comes out to rub against us and purr.. and get under our feet when we climb the shop stairs.

Today Johnny's Kitty kept me company while I cut down blackberry vines. She is a very sweet kitty who has never offered to scratch or bite. She has tiny tufts on the end of her ears that seem to be disappearing as she grows and a rather short tail. Isn't she adorable?

Our dogs hate her. But the big white dog is only out at night, when Johnny's Kitty is safely in the shop. And the black dog is not fast enough or determined enough to bother her much. She is very aware of where they are at all times and where her hiding places are: in the shop, garden shed, and under the house. I think Johnny's Kitty is here to stay.