Thursday, September 30, 2010

A terrorist in our midst

Well, not exactly, but I am sure Babs, Sepia, and the rabbits think so. This is worse than the velociraptor, I think! Bella came to visit.

She quickly dispensed with all of the rabbits in the yard, but their scent is everywhere. So she went searching, which eventually led to her finding a way of getting under the deck. After I quit panicking because I couldn't find her, I tried to close up the holes. After three attempts with the easy holes, she finally quit shoving aside the railroad ties to get under. And she went in search of a new entry point.

I honestly thought she couldn't get under the deck anywhere else, but this dog is anything but a slow thinker! First she tried under the stairs, so I blocked that. Took me three tries to get it so she couldn't go around, through, or over my barriers.

Then she found an even smaller way in. First I put the green pot there, thinking she couldn't move it. Joke on me.
Then I wedged the green pot in, thinking she couldn't move it. Second joke on me.
Then I put a brick down next to the pot. Now she is looking for a new way to get under the deck. Sort of like a terrorist, no? Always looking for the next way to foil the authorities. Or maybe she is just a teenager!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


How does one commemorate a hole-in-one, or, better yet, two holes-in-one? After my sister, Katie, got one hole-in-one Diana found a wooden #1 with a hole for the "special" ball, but I didn't buy it. But when Katie got her second one 28 days later, I had to get it. I engraved it with the two dates and sent it off. I think it is a rather cool trophy, so I wanted to share it with you.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Independence Day?

And that was what we saw coming towards us at the start of the Kansas State - University of Central Florida game. What an amazing storm cloud! Many have likened it to the movie Independence Day. The lightning was coming straight down, the clouds were moving straight at us . . . we got to the RV just in time for the rain to come down in torrents - for about 30 minutes . . . and then it was over. We went back into the stadium, the sun came out, the game started . . . and that was that! Too bad the game wasn't as awesome as the beginning - but we won, so we left happy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fort Riley Day

Saturday morning was Ft. Riley Day at the football game. Honoring our military with cannons and a march of soldiers 800 strong made for a very touching beginning of the game. In honor of the day, Babs and Sepia went to the groomers, and Sepster came home sporting his camo.

The celebration for our soldiers was particularly good this year - though I always get choked up at patriotic celebrations. During the pregame, the soldiers shot not only several rounds of ammo from machine guns, they also shot the Howitzers a number of times. Poor dogs . . . I had given Babs her anxiety medicine, so she weathered the first round all right. Unfortunately because of a weather delay (more about that tomorrow), the game didn't end until after her medicine had worn off. They shot the cannons after the game . . . and they shot them and shot them . . . I could have sworn there were at least 50 shots. Babs was not happy, Sepia was scared, and Bella didn't know what to think. Good news was the shooting finally stopped, and we got there not long after . . .

Saturday, September 25, 2010

TV Preview Week

This week is the time for all of the new television series to premiere - as well as the continuation of last spring's cliffhangers (we all need to thank the show, Dallas, for the cliffhanger). Anyway, I was looking forward to finding out what happened on NCIS and the Mentalist, and they did not disappoint. I also liked Hawaii 5-0, but that's the only new show I watched.

Thursday night was the continuation of Big Bang Theory, and I must admit, I am now hooked! Tonight's show was hilarious, but I won't reveal any plot lines since one of my European-based children will not be able to see it for a year. Sheldon was funny tonight, but Howard stole the show. Sorry, Di. You missed a good one!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rose Hips

Two years ago we went to the Pecos to attend a wedding. The trees hadn't started turning colors, but my goodness, the rose hips had. At first, I thought they were some sort of new berries about which I hadn't known before. Upon further examination, however, I realized they were rose hips on the Woods' Roses. Pictures of them are in my wildflower guide, but I have attached them here so you can enjoy their gorgeous color!

Views for Dumper Don

Lucky Don. He always gets the opportunity to dump the gray and black-water tanks for the Willie. Last week when we stopped, however, at least he had a beautiful sunset to watch! Our sunrises and sunsets this week have frequently been just like this. Although they don't make up for the lousy weather, they come close! And they surely help make Dumper Don's dumper duty more pleasant!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Phaugnicks - 2nd part

The English language is particularly difficult, in that we have so many spellings for the same sound. When I began teaching from the Open Court reading series, I learned that the sound of "n" could be spelled n, kn, or gn. I learned that the long O sound could be spelled o, ow, oe, oa, o-e, and probably a lot more. Most sounds in our language have more than one spelling - though the sounds made for an "m" can only be spelled "m". It amazed me that first graders could learn all of the spellings . . . and then use them!

Sometimes I think texters have it right. r u redy? Makes sense to me. Wht r u thnkng? I get it. We seem to waste a lot of effort on vowels. But I don't think text speak will make things better. The golfer couldn't distinguish between four and FORE!, the dieter might confuse waist and waste . . . all sorts of problems could come up.

So until we find a better way, I will stick with phonics . . . and spelling.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


One of the big mysteries of education is how to teach children to read. We have made great progress since I began teaching, but we have a long ways to go. There are a few things, however, I know for sure:

1. Reading to children gives them a boost. They learn to love stories, their vocabulary increases, and they are introduced to a variety of information and situations through books.
2. Children must learn phonics.

Phonics? Why phonics?

I have always believed in phonics, and it became abundantly clear how necessary they are with my own friends. Those of us who learned to read with phonics could decipher words and spell well; those who learned to read by sight learned to read, but it was harder and they frequently struggled with spelling.

The handicap we place on children if they don't have phonics was accentuated to me when I was a Girl Scout Leader. We had a little troop of darling girls, all in the first grade. Two of the little ones were in a program that did not teach phonics - the others were in schools with strong phonics programs. One day, in turn, each girl would read a sentence from a story. One of the girls who did not have phonics came to the word "hope." She had never seen the word, so we asked her to sound it out. Blank stare. So Coni, the other leader, said, "What sound does 'H' make?" Blank stare. The darling little one had no concept of how to attack the word. We, of course, told her, but the point is, she had no strategies, other than memorization, for deciphering words.

By learning phonics, at least students can make an educated guess of what a word is. Without them, it is just a guess. And sometimes the spellings still aren't accurate - such as fawnix - but you knew what I meant, didn't you?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Where's Fall?

I know, I know . . . Fall doesn't arrive until Wednesday. And although we didn't reach the record high of 99, set in 1980 - which was the hottest summer I have ever known - it was still 94, which is plenty warm. And the fact that it wasn't a record doesn't make it any easier to weather days like last Saturday and today. I have never been a fan of hot weather, and this year is no exception. Along with the heat and the humidity, today we had 30+ mph winds. AAGH! I hate the wind, and a hot wind is just that much worse.

A number of years ago, a friend of ours said that Kansas weather comes in extremes - it is extremely hot, extremely cold, extremely windy, extremely rainy, extremely snowy, extremely icy . . . you get the picture. And unfortunately, he is right. Last week we even had extreme hail. See what it did to one of the greens in west Wichita? My brother, Bart, is now using this picture as an example to the golf courses he insures as to the reason they carry hail insurance for their greens! Divots, anyone?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Reflections on Arrowhead

We have just returned from the Kansas State-Iowa State football game that was played at Arrowhead in Kansas City. We had not been to a KSU game in Arrowhead, though there have been several, so since Don had to be in KC for a seminar, we decided to go.

Since it was an early morning game, we left for the stadium at 6:00 a.m. and arrived just before the gates opened at 7:00. Uh-oh. We were in the Iowa State lot. Between the parking lot attendances who didn't know what they were doing, and a GPS who didn't know what she was doing, we ended up with a bunch of Cyclones. Luckily, I had my handy-dandy parking instructions and with a little help we ended up in the right place. Soon a group of Don's friends and their RV showed up, too, and we had ourselves a little party.

Going into Arrowhead, we all got searched. The female line took so long that Don thought he had missed me and I had gone on without him. Of course, when I got through the line, I spent five minutes looking for him . . . and when he got to the seats and saw I wasn't there . . . second uh-oh of the day. (or maybe the third, since a driver threw him that special digit when we were in road construction and Don was driving a little over the center line.)

Before the game started, we saw a little fight below us. Three people had to go to timeout for the first quarter . . . now you think this would be young people, but no - it was two men our age and one spunky, obnoxious young girl. Did not bode well for the game, though luckily, we had no more incidents.

The one thing I will remember was how hot it was. Now I know it wasn't as bad as the Iowa game several years ago, and it wasn't as bad as some of the games we went to when Michael Bishop was our quarterback . . . but it was hot. And when the Arrowhead concessionaires ran out of water, well that wasn't good. By the time we returned to the rv, all I wanted to do was stay in the air conditioning. By the time we got home, both Don and I felt better, but we had forgotten how hot it can get!!!

The good news is that, although it was ugly, we did win the game! A win is a win is a win!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Velociraptor

Remember the Velociraptor from Jurassic Park? How it walked around, breathing heavily and stalking anything that moved? Its breath on the window of the cooler as it looked for its prey?

Well, we have a Velociraptor living at our house. Her name is Babs. Every time she goes outside, she heads toward the area where the baby bunnies are nesting. We have put a fence around the area so that she can't get to them, but that doesn't keep her from walking around the fence, breathing deeply and sniffing, hoping to find a helpless bunny.

Imagine the mama rabbit sitting on her nest. A black four-legged animal, three times her size, walks up to the see-through fence, breathing heavily, snuffling in the grass, trying to get a scent. The mama's heart must be racing, she is totally alert ready to flee . . . the fear she must have as the Velociraptor walks around the fence, trying to find a way in. Suddenly she hears the Dog Lady say something and clap her hands . . . and the Velociraptor disappears. She can relax for awhile, until the Velociraptor reappears!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wuthering Heights

Better late than never, I guess, but I finally finished Wuthering Heights. I had read it in eighth grade, but I don't recall much about it. Now I know why.

I don't understand how this is a great love story. Diana's take is that it is a story of self-loathing. That may be, but I would classify it as a story of an abusive personality. For many, the passionate love he had for Catherine apparently excuses his brutality - but not with me. I don't define love in terms of power, control, and abuse. It was nearly all I could do to read about Heathcliff and the damage he did to the people around him.

Perhaps I cannot call Wuthering Heights a love story because even now we continue to see violence in the form of stalking, kidnapping, and murder, all committed due to "love gone bad." Today the people who do these things end up in jail . . . but Heathcliff was allowed to terrorize his family until he died. That's not love.

Certainly the writing is beautiful - oh that I could write that well. The plot is intriguing - I did enjoy the way Emily Bronte intertwined the story between Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights, using dual narrators, and naming her characters similarly. There is a lot to love about the book - just not "the love".

Monday, September 13, 2010

Natural Nature

Those of you who know me know that I love nature. One reason I developed my flower guide is because I wanted to educate others about the beautiful wildflowers in northern New Mexico. I love to watch the water in the stream, the wind in the trees, the animals in the forest. Listening to the birds, observing the hummingbirds, delighting in the shapes of the clouds - all make me happy.

I love nature except when she gets ugly. And to me, the ugly part of nature is the part where animals die - either naturally or because other animals have caused it. Now don't get me wrong - I come from a family of hunters, and I definitely understand hunting, but I could never do it myself. When a squirrel runs in front of my car, I screech my brakes to avoid it. The one time I hit a squirrel - it ran right under my car as I was driving at 35 mph on Woodlawn - still upsets me. When I find a dead animal - even a mouse - I get "oogy".

So when my own dogs cause a problem, it is even more upsetting. My dogs love to chase the rabbits. One time Sepia caught one and triumphantly brought it back to me, throwing it at my feet as I was getting ready to go to work. Sepia didn't quite understand the blood-curdling scream, but Don did . . . and very quickly said rabbit disappeared from the family room, never to be seen again! Babs used to catch birds to much the same reaction. But the last few years, the dogs have slowed down, and we haven't had much of a problem. Until yesterday.

I had noticed that Babs kept getting into the thick bushes underneath the magnolia tree, but she never seemed to find anything. Yesterday, Don was working in the backyard when he heard the unmistakable sound of screeching baby bunnies. He went over to the tree, and there was Babs, scrunched down on the ground. He pulled her out and sure enough, in her mouth was a baby bunny. Babs was not about to let it go, but after a few minutes, Don extracted the now lifeless bunny. Gratefully, I was not around to witness this. But Babs has been relegated to a leash until the rest of the baby bunnies can get out of the nest.

Now don't get me wrong. The bunnies are a pain in the neck . . . they eat my garden and torment my dogs. But I don't want to be associated with their demise - if an owl gets them, that's nature. If a cat gets them, that's nature. But Babs and Sepia - well, they can't get them. So they will be walking with me on a leash in the backyard until the baby bunnies can become bigger bunnies, and I won't have to deal with murder on my watch!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Keys and more keys!

Car keys can be elusive, especially when they hide at the bottom of my big, purple purse! But not as elusive as two sets of friends have found theirs to be.

Last weekend, one set of friends met their grown children for the weekend. Coming home from breakfast, the son drove the parents' car while the parents drove the car that had the car seats and grandchildren. Later that day, when our friend went to get his car, he asked his wife where the keys were. That's when they realized that their keys were in their son's pocket - halfway back to Colorado. Luckily, they had a second set that we managed to get to them by meeting them half-way home (they borrowed a car to get that far!) They had to turn around and go back to pick up their car, but at least they didn't have to pay a locksmith or try to find a way to maneuver cars during the work week!

Yesterday another unnamed friend was in the mountains. He and his wife got out of their car to view the panorama. He had pulled his key partially out of the ignition so that it wouldn't beep at him, but he didn't lock the door. Unbeknownst to him, his car has an auto-lock: if the key is not in the ignition and the car is left unlocked, after a certain amount of time, the car automatically locks itself. Unfortunately, his car did this . . . and they were miles from anywhere. Onstar didn't work in the area, so he and his wife walked 3 or 4 miles to a resort where luckily, there were people. They hitched a ride back to their hotel, and today they are waiting for the locksmith, to the tune of over $250.00. When I asked if anyone could meet them part way, they said that their second key is also locked in the car. So they are waiting. At least they are in a beautiful area . . .

Now I find myself hoping these things don't happen in threes, because we could be next! The moral of the story: keep your keys on you at all times!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Special Birthdays!

One of the fun parts of last weekend's tailgate party was that it was also CJ's birthday. So I had to try to find some ways to make the weekend particularly special. First, we had the requisite card and gift certificate for a present. Second, we had the Dillon's cake, complete with purple powercat and decorator icing. Third, we had to do something during the game to add a little fun and "specialness."

To end the day, we went to Leonardville to eat at Nelson's Landing, the restaurant owned by Jordy Nelson's family. I highly recommend the food - we all loved it! As CJ was leaving the RV, he was serenaded with my most awesome version of Happy Birthday! Hope you enjoyed the day, CJ.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Norton Way to Eat Ribs

The first year we served ribs at the tailgate, they were yummy, delicious - but oh so messy. Don's dad was with us, and he commented that it would have been nice to have had gloves on so that his hands wouldn't be sticky the whole game. Make a suggestion to an engineer son, and voila! A new way to eat ribs.

Now when people come to rib day, they have to suit up for the event. We have food quality vinyl gloves ready for the using so that after the ribs are gone, the tailgater just takes off the gloves, uses a baby wipe to clean the face, and goes on with the remainder of the meal. Hassle free ribs! UM, good. Just ask Jon!

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Sure Sign of Fall

I have been ready for last Saturday since December. The first football game of the year. The first tailgate of the year. Harley Day. UCLA. What's there not to be excited about?

I was especially delighted because my brother, Bart, his wife Jerri, and their 18-year-old-on- Sunday son, CJ, were there as well as Trevor, Shelly and their two yung'uns. They even brought their own Harley in the form of a purple and pink Princess bike with training wheels! (You can just see the back wheel of the "Harley" in this picture.) Adorable! Bella made her first foray into tailgating and did amazingly well. By the time Dereck and Jon (Kenneth's DU friends), several other college kids, and the host of regulars finished eating, we were down to three ribs left. Perfect!

On a cloudless day that began cool, warmed to just a little toasty, and then cooled back down, we got to see a fabulous football game that thankfully ended with the good guys winning! It was a good game - closely played, sometimes in doubt, some spectacular plays. Watching Daniel Thomas, a possible Heisman contender, was especially gratifying since he showed up on the national stage in a big way! It is going to be a great Wildcat year!!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Goodbye, Julie

Death is never easy. Although I can rationalize, theorize, and hypothesize about it, my brain might be able to understand it, but my heart can't. Especially when it is someone who dies way too young!

Yesterday another of my friends was taken away at the too-young age of 52. Julie Keeling was Diana's dance teacher, but she was more than that to our family. We met her when she was in high school because her sister was my close friend, and we watched her become the very successful entrepreneur that she was.

The first year she started her dance business was the same year we started the school. We needed to add a better physical education component to our program that could be done within the limited confines of our former nursing home. Aerobics and dance was the perfect answer, and since I knew Julie, I called her. Luckily, she was willing to help. The students always looked forward to her class, as Julie had the ability to make it appealing even to the young men in the school. And for at least two or three days a week, our students had a good workout.

By the time Kenneth and Diana were born, Julie was well on her way to becoming one of the most popular dance teachers in town. Naturally, when Diana was in kindergarten, I enrolled her in dance. She loved it because Julie made it fun and interesting. I don't know that the girls noticed the painstaking efforts Julie made to make sure every student was on the front line at some time during every dance of a recital. I don't know that they noticed how she labored over the costumes, making sure she had the perfect one for every dance. I don't know that they noticed her creativity with her dances. But the parents did.

Our city will miss Julie Keeling. She was a bright spot in the dancing world, and she gave many children an opportunity to experience dance in a positive fashion. The way she valued each and every student will not be forgotten, and her legacy as one of the best dance teachers in Wichita will live on.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Smell of Fall

Chiles roasting over an open fire,
Smells like Nuevo Mexico . . .

One of my favorite aromas is that of green chile roasting. I remember coming home from school in September while my mom would be roasting chile for any number of New Mexican dishes. Once I left New Mexico, I didn't know I missed the smell until I began to grow my own chiles. Then when Johnson's Garden Center started offering Hatch green chile, and they would roast them for the buyer, I began to buy them there. Some days I would just go over and stand near the roaster to get my "chile high."

This year my brother brought me a whole gunny sack full of chile. So I have been madly roasting them on our outdoor grill. And it smells so fine!!

Wild Things

Whenever I go to the cabin, I never know what kind of wild things I am going to see. Haven't seen a bear, mountain lion, or bobcat, though I have heard of them all in the canyon this year . . . BUT . . . I did see some interesting animals that I haven't seen around our cabin before.

The first animals I saw were three grouse . . . we have seen grouse at other cabins but never at our cabin. They walked by the back door, and Babs was pretty intent on watching them. By the time I got the camera, they were way up the hill, but thanks to Don's new camera, I was able to zoom to get a decent shot of them. They are well-disguised, so look carefully!
Then, on Sunday, Don was behind the barn looking at the firewood. Suddenly out of one of the empty 5 gallon cans jumped a gray feral cat. I had seen her about a mile from the cabin beginning in early May, but I didn't know she had made it to our place. After Don figured out what happened, he looked in the can and saw the following:

No, I didn't bring them home with me . . . Babs and Sepster would not have been happy! They seem to have been born late in the season, so I don't know if they will make it, but I am hoping - they will certainly keep down the mice population around our house!