Wednesday, April 29, 2009


We've had some characters around here today.

It's a bird.....

it's a plane....


Captain Underpants!!!

Elly decided to put Max's underpants on over her pyjamas this morning.

Maxie the Kid with his first cap gun, which he called lasers.

Papa with the Cannonball Diver.

The WII baseball teams

Grammie Whale and her little fish

Popsicle Pete (Ellie)

And a couple of Johnny Rocket's Soda Jerks! And Grammie turtle and her tadpoles.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wasps, cont. Etc.

What are Quincey and Charlie watching so intently through the back window?

Could be any number of things here in Surprise, Arizona...geckos, doves, hummingbirds, or even bees.

Yes...bees. Our wasps turned out to be bees....much smaller and thinner than the ones we're used to back home...I think we can be forgiven for thinking they were wasps.

The exterminator came and really impressed the kid when he donned full protective gear...goggles, breathing apparatus, helmet, jacket and gloves. They watched from the safety of the window, in outside of which was the nest....a very large nest, according to our new friend Scott. Scott told us he got 90% of the large population of bees. The rest were still out pollinating and would be very confused and angry when they returned and found their nest sealed over and their Queen and most of her subjects missing.

He was right. There was a lot of angry buzzing and flying about in the hours after Scott left. I went out at one point to check the water temperature in the pool and when I turned to face the house, I saw a swarm of them clinging to another part of the eaves, as if they were trying to regroup. But we were tired of being held hostage in our house and banned from the pool so Lloyd went to WalMart and bought a spray can of something guaranteed to kill bees.

He dressed in long sleeves and pants and a hat, and fastened a bath towel round his neck and bravely climbed the step ladder until he could spray directly at the swarm...very scary stuff. He was prepared to jump in the pool if the bees attacked him! Luckily that didn't happen. It took three applications of the spray before the bee population was reduced to half a dozen who didn't seem to want to bother with us anymore.

On another topic, I've been waiting to see a sagauro cactus in bloom. They're just starting and next week should be nicely in bloom - but I won't be here next week. So I found some that are trying their best to accommodate my timetable.

Those new little knobbies will soon be beautiful delicate white/yellow flowers. I hope to see some fully in bloom before we leave on the weekend.

There's one open flower on this one but the cactus was so tall that even with 10x zoom I couldn't get a very good picture of it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wasp Invasion

We arrived in Surprise, AZ last night, the day after Sara and her family arrived. They played in the pool for awhile on Saturday but were driven inside by wasps.

We had noticed one or two stray ones floating in the pool with us on previous occasions and didn't think anything of it. But boy have they got us good - we don't dare go out into the back yard for fear of being swarmed or at least stung. So no pool fun for us today.

They appear to have used a knothole in the beam in the overhang of our back patio - right over where we barbeque and sit outside to eat, and not four yards from the pool.

I called the exterminator this morning. He was scheduled to make his bi-monthly visit tomorrow so I told them about the wasps so they'd be prepared to deal with them.

We're finding the insect life here different from what we're used to in Edmonton, but I guess wasps are everywhere. It'll be nice when they're gone tomorrow and we can use the pool again.

I'd really hate to see this little face covered in wasp bites.

We're only here until Saturday and then probably won't be back until the fall. I want to get my fill of pool time while we're here.

Dratted pesky wasps!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Jenny

A mere 13 months after our first son was born, we welcomed our first daughter to our family. Jennifer Lynn was the smallest of our babies, weighing only 7lb 4 oz and she has remained the smallest of our children, although she is a very strong presence in our family. We named her Jennifer Lynn because we liked the sound of it but as she grew up Jenny realized that there were a million Jennifer Lynn's her age. In her grade 4 class alone there were 5 of them. For that reason, she decided she didn't really like her name. She doesn't like the sound of the 'fer' at the end of it, so we all call her Jenn or Jenny. Whatever we call her, she's a very important, and vocal, part of the family.

She's just a couple of weeks old in this picture. I kept that little pink outfit and it's still around here someplace, although Jenn never had the opportunity to use it for her own children, all of whom are the blue-wearing type.

For her first Christmas we gave Jenn this lovely brown bear, which I told her was named Buddy Bear. She would have none of that though and as soon as she was able to talk (which was at a precociously young age) she insisted his name was Chocka. That bear was her companion until after she was married and I imagine it still hides someplace in her bedroom or nearby. Chocka was always involved in the games the siblings played and has been chained, tied, hung up in trees (by the aforementioned older brother) and who knows what else over the years. I have put many stitches in his worn out body over the years. He even had his own voice - everyone in the family was familiar with Chocka's voice. I haven't heard it in years though.

Jenn loved the babies that I kept bringing home for her and enjoyed the chance to play Mummy to them. She's pictured here with baby Sara, our #4 baby. She took her role of big sister seriously and guided (bossed) the younger ones as they grew. She claims to have raised the baby, Emily, for her first few years. She was 13 when Em was born. I dispute that claim of course, but Jenn sees it differently.

Jenn was always a very smart girl, excelling in school. She skipped classes a lot in high school (I found out later) and still finished as class valedictorian. We were so proud of her when she marched up on stage at graduation and gave her valedictory speech.
She always enjoyed writing and entered and won several regional writing contests, one of which earned her a scholarship for university. After high school she left home to attend the University of Alberta's Honors Sociology program, which she graduated from with honors 4 years later. During her time there, we all moved up to Edmonton so she was able to move home for part of her university time. Halfway through her program she married Anders Quist who was also attending the U of A and ultimately graduated from the U of A Law School.

Hers was the first wedding in our family. Anders is a welcome and valued addition to our family.

Almost two years later Jonah Quist, our first grandchild, was born. Her life changed dramatically with the birth of this active little boy. Over the years they added four more little boys to their family.

I wish I had an up-to-date picture of Jen's family, but this one will have to do, although Jenn is missing from it.

I'm putting this picture in because I love it. It was taken last June and features Sara, Me and Jenny.
Jenn has been able to use her writing talent to augment the family income over the years. She has been a journalist, has had her own weekly column in the local newspaper, has had articles and poems published in various national and other magazines, and currently has stories being published in two new "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books.
Her talents are many and varied. She learned how to wire the basement of her house and performed the job perfectly to the amazement of the building inspector. She gardens, builds walls and floors, and learns to do whatever renovations she deems necessary in and around her house. As the only woman in a 6-man family, she sets an example of strength, love, and the value of work for her husband and sons. She's been a CubScout leader and Sunday School teacher and supports her husband in his busy job in the legal system.
Jenn is an amazing woman. Her dad and I love her immensely and are very proud of her and her men, little and big.
Happy birthday Jenn. (April 24).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Here's just a few pictures that represent the highlights of the last few days of our trip into Las Vegas.

This beautiful creature is one of the sting rays in the aquarium at Mandalay Bay hotel. They were very graceful and impressive. I actually was able to rub this guy's back with my finger - very silky feeling.

This is Lloyd and me outside Caesar's Palace. We were on our way next door to the Mirage to see the Cirque du Soleil's Beatles Love show. It was incredibly amazing. We've seen two of the Cirque du Soleil shows so far and want to see them all.

One of the sharks in the shark reef at the Mandalay Bay Hotel aquarium.

This impressive creature is one of the few remaining Komono Dragons in existence...again part of the aquarium at Mandalay Bay.

A Las Vegas strip street scene - one of the hotels - Excalibur I think.

Lloyd and Mark at Caesar's Palace at night.

The bridge over the Hoover Dam under construction.

The Hoover Dam. We walked (and drove) across it while it's still possible to do that. It's an amazing structure.
It's nice to be home. Las Vegas is very tiring...and the drive back home (3 days almost), although beautiful, was tiring too. We'll fly next time.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Natural Beauties

I never would have thought the desert could be so beautiful and colorful. Every time we go down to Arizona I am amazed by the variety and color of the plant life there. It is incredible. Here are a few samples from our latest trip.

I believe this is prickly pear in bloom. Look how the tops of the paddles (I don't know what they're really called) are filled with a line of buds. The color is amazing. I didn't photoshop any of the colors on these pictures.

Here's some tiny little red buds on one of the cacti we saw.

This is the whole plant that the previous picture is from. I zoomed in on a leaf just left of center low on the plant.

This beauty was growing with lots of others along the side of the highway.

And here's a delicate yellow one. The needles on this cactus were longer than the other one I called prickly pear. I don't know if it's a variation of prickly pear, or something entirely different. I need to read a book on Arizona plant life.

And here's the whole plant.

A close up of the fuscia blossom of the prickly pear above.

And one of the cutest brother/sister pairs we know - Mark and Beth - Lloyd's niece and nephew, who kept us entertained on our trip.
Later today or tomorrow I'll post pictures from the Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, and the aquarium at the Mandalay Bay Hotel on the Strip.

Home Again

Got home half an hour ago. Will write more when I get my pictures downloaded. Had a lovely vacation but a looooong drive home.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fun in the Sun

We're sitting here watching Little Miss Sunshine after a busy day spent outdoors in the hot Arizona sun. It's been fun.

We have Lloyd's niece, Beth and nephew Mark, here with us now enjoying a week of R&R.

We spent the morning on the golf course - it was Beth's first time playing golf, but Mark is one of Lloyd's regular golfing buddies. I, of course, golf only when I'm coerced into it. We played best ball so it was fun and fast.

Lloyd gave Beth a few pointers in stance, stroke, and hitting the ball before we started our round. She's a quick learner.

Mark let her drive their golf cart sometimes, which added to her enjoyment of the game. Lloyd and I were in the other cart just ahead of them.

Beth and I left after nine holes and went to the Paradise Cafe for lunch while the men played another 18 holes, with a lot more competition and drive than when we girls were playing.

Beth and I wasted no time getting into the pool when we got home. It was soooo nice. It was a hot day and the water was warm and buoyant.

We were soon joined by Beth and Mark's mother and stepfather, Cath and Clyde. Then Lloyd and Mark came home and joined us.

This is Clyde - he's a lot of fun - crazy and loving and fun to be around.

Our nephew, Mark. He was the last one in the pool, and after he was in for awhile the wind came up and chilled the air considerably and he didn't want to get out because he knew he'd be cold. Tough up Mark!

Cath and Clyde had fun clowning around in the pool. It's so nice to have them over - they have a place in Sun City but the're not always in town when we come down here.

We ended our day by going to Macayo's Mexican Kitchen for dinner - so good. Tomorrow will be another fun day.

This one's for you Mickey - prickly pear in bloom.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

On The Road Again

Thursday afternoon Lloyd and I headed out on a road trip. He has a seminar he has to attend in Las Vegas next Thursday and Friday so we decided to drive to our place in Arizona for a few quiet days, and then head home via Las Vegas.

We're using Lloyd's Dodge Laramie for transportation. This is the first big trip for the truck so we'll see how well it performs. So far, so good. It's a very comfortable truck with lots of power.

The drive from Edmonton to Phoenix is very beautiful, once you get south of Great Falls, MO. We weren't expecting all the varied weather though.

We wanted to leave the last vestiges of winter behind us in Alberta, but unfortunately we kept running into it. This picture was taken in southern Utah. The clouds were low and seemed to cut the mountains in two.

These unusually colored yellow mountains were in the Panquitch, UT area. Here's an interesting link Lloyd found about this mountain, called Big Rock Candy Mountain. Interesting stuff.

The first place we ran into snow was in the mountains south of the Bryce Canyon, UT area. It seemed the farther south we went, the colder it got, but I think it was because we kept getting so high in the mountains. It wasn't so bad when we got to lower land.

These beautiful red cliffs were peppered with caves and holes. They were really beautiful but in most places there's no place to pull over and take some proper pictures

We were able to stop at the Glen Canyon Dam (Lake Powell) in Page, Arizona. It's a spectacular site. The gorge is just beyond the swirly rock formation.

You can see the cars driving across the Glen Canyon Dam.

The scenery for the next 25 or so miles south of the dam was incredible, scary and beautiful. I'm glad Lloyd was driving though - it's a rapid descent to the bottom of the plateau to the desert floor of the Navajo Nation Reservation.

We hit snow again in Flagstaff when we were at an elevation of 7000 but it disappeared as we got down off the mountains again - a very up and down day both in climate and elevation.

It's nice to be here in Surprise again. The air here is incredibly sweet - I love the smell of it. There's always something in bloom. I'll rest for the next couple of days and try to get rid of this cold.