Monday, September 27, 2010

All Creatures, Part II

Part II: Hogle Zoo
Sub-titled: The Un-Scared Toddler
Sub-sub-titled: I Hope You Like Pictures

Bri & I made our first ever expedition to Hogle Zoo this month, traveling with Aunt Heidi and her girls Ellie & Sienna. Heidi captured these super cute shots while I was off buying tickets.

The photos are placed in the same order they were taken, so take a walk with us on our journey around the zoo.

The famous carousel, beloved by children everywhere.

Ellie had ridden the carousel before with Uncle Paul & Aunt Brenda who brought her along with them earlier in the summer for a company party. As a result, she was under the impression she could ride it as long as she wanted. She was VERY disappointed when we had to get off after only one ticket's worth.

I don't blame her. The girls loved it.

Bridgette has ridden horses weekly since April, so riding a carousel was easy-peasy. I didn't worry about walking off to take photos; I knew she wouldn't fall. Even while the carousel was moving, she sometimes let go with both hands...

The tiger enclosure was incredible. I have never seen such active tigers... or any other animal at a zoo for that matter, except for maybe the otters in Portland.

Besides the water-tiger featured here, two other tigers were romping and rolling and wrestling on the embankment above the pool.

The first five tiger photos give you perspective on the nearness of this encounter. And if the carousel wasn't enough, they also rather prove my un-scared toddler.

Bridgette says, "Mom! Look! A kitty! Can I eat another snack, please?"

Tiger says, "Why yes, that's right, I'm merely a kitten. Oh look! A snack! May I eat your child, please?"

Sorry I didn't take the time to edit this video. It sure was fun watching the kiddies/kitties.

The giraffe exhibit was truly exciting because one of the giraffes pooped right in front of us. Since poop is such a big part of our lives, Bri is fascinated by it. In case you're curious, giraffe poop looks like deer niblets. Bridgette couldn't stop talking about it. She still mentions it whenever she sees a picture of a giraffe.


Jeff and Jeremy are 6' 4", and after looking at the scale by the doors, Heidi and I were giggling about how short they are. However, the picture of the tongue is just about right... an excellent comparison to our husbands who have giant mouths (photo to come in a future "All Creatures" post).

As long as we're talking "all" creatures... here's another one. She's my favorite and is walking better every day. She can now stoop and stand up in one fluid motion. She still requires help on stairs, but she's almost running. She has a really nice "fast walk" that will turn into a run any day now.

Just orangutanging around.

Ellie was reticent around this giant gorilla statue. Bridgette? Not so much. "Hey there, Mister. Watcha' doin'?"

We finally got Ellie to come near once I was sitting in the gorilla's lap and Bridgette was on one knee. I love how this photo turned out.

Just for fun... we rode the train. Bridgette was in heaven.

Until we went through a tunnel. Sorry for searing everyone's eyes with a flash in the dark, but I wanted to check what Bridgette thought of the experience. The photo is self-explanatory.

Hmm... how un-scared could one toddler possibly be?

No really... I'm sure she's scared of something.

Her favorite part of the playground was this egg. Vocal reverberation... plenty of surfaces to drum... a noise like timpani.

Our adventure ended while feeding swans. Ellie reached out (further, further) and hadn't quite dropped her bird feed before the swan reached up and... well... you know. Owie.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

All Creatures, Part I

As is our wont, we have spent a lot of time with animals lately. I'll do a series documenting our adventures.

Part I: Soldier Hollow Classic International Sheepdog Championship

In my opinion, this is one of the best events ever. It lasts three days, with the final championship trials occuring on Labor Day.

Ok, so I'm biased by my absolute love of dogs and the fact that I own a Border Collie, far-and-away the best sheepherding dogs on Earth. By the way, my Border Collie equally owns me.

Our young family has few traditions, but attending the Soldier Hollow Classic is one of them. I'm sorry to say this is the first year in three we've been able to attend (for obvious reasons), but it was also the first year Bridgette could join us. With her in tow we couldn't stay as long as usual, but we tried to pack a lot into a few hours.

That wasn't hard because the festival grows each year.

This year, besides lots of food vendors and artisans and bagpipes, they had duck herding demonstrations, dog agility contests, police & military K9 unit demos, Bow Wow flying dog show performances, splash dog competitions, and a special appearance by Mally Lewis, all in addition to the actual championship.

Below: Some of the herding action occurs in the field behind us, namely, the splitting of sheep in the shedding ring. We took this photo between trials because sheepherding is a little like golf. The spectators are expected to stay fairly quiet until there is something to gasp or clap about.

We would never consider sitting this close to the fence during an actual trial and accidentally distracting the dogs or the sheep. Well, not the dogs -- they can focus like wolves. But sheep are stupid. You could easily distract or scare the sheep.

This is Bridgette intently watching the shedding.

So, here is how it works:

1) Eight free-range "wild" sheep are placed high on the mountainside.

2) The dog has to run up the mountain, find them, and drive them down through a set of white gates where s/he deposits them at the base of the mountain.

3) While this occurs, eight more sheep are placed on the mountainside. These eight sheep have been fitted with red collars.

4) Again the dog has to run up, find them, and drive them down through the gates.

5) Then the dog has to join the second herd to the first herd (which has, by that time, often wandered off to find greener pastures), drive all 16 around a series of bends, through some more gates, around a pole where they are "presented" to the judges, and finally into the shedding ring. This is hard work. By now the dog is very, very hot & tired.

6) In the shedding ring (a wide circle denoted by small cones), the handler works in tandem with the dog to separate the herd. They must keep only 5 sheep, all with red collars, and drive the rest from the ring, a tricky proposition as (have I mentioned this before?) sheep are stupid. They mindlessly stick together. When they are being separated from each other, they can get feisty. (One year we saw one panic and charge the crowd.)

Note: Once they are parted, the sheep immediately go back to eating grass, forgetting about everything else around them.

7) The dog and the handler must then drive the 5 red-collared sheep into the holding pen. But because they are free-range sheep, they have never been penned. The sheep must decide which fate is worse... being stalked by a predator or being trapped in a small fence.

Note: Neither the dog nor the handler nor the handler's props nor the gate can touch the sheep at any time or the run is disqualified. It takes a great deal of patience.

(How much patience, you ask? Watch the video below.)

However, they can't be too patient because if the trial runs over 30 minutes, they are disqualified... and this happens regularly, even in the finals. The skill to do it right and in the allotted time is laudable.

The first place team was from Canada, the second from South Africa, and the third from Idaho.

This team, Haley Howard & Ross, were sitting in second at the time we had to leave for home. In the end, they tied for 3rd place out of 15 teams but the other team was awarded the medal due to prior scores on prior days. Of those final 15 teams, 4 went over the required time and 2 were disqualified.

Here Bridgette and Jeff are watching the discarded sheep pen. New sets of sheep are placed on the mountain for every trial, and by the end, there are are... let's see... 15 x 16 = 240 discarded sheep. That's a lot of sheep.

Duck herding is amusing.

Here is some video that Jeff took.

And here are the guards.

Then we were off to see the splash dog competitions. Bridgette got to ride around on my shoulders a lot that day. She tried to walk up the steep hills, which was cute, but she usually only made it a few steps before she was exhausted.

Splash dogs at a distance. We stood for a while at the far end of the splash pool (right side). Bridgette would hold onto the edge, dipping her hands in the water, and yell, "Whoa!" as the dog ran the approach and then leaped toward her. Then she would laugh when she got, well, splashed.

This dog was an amateur. Really. This was the amateur trainer competition.

Last in the day's activities, allow me to introduce you to Mally Lewis, Shari Lewis's daughter. You remember Shari Lewis the ventriloquist? And her puppet Lamb Chop? She had an Emmy-award winning kids' show on PBS called Lamb Chop's Play-Along?

Well, Mally, her only child I believe, has taken up the show after her mother's unexpected and somewhat early death. And she was at the festival! In fact, Hush Puppy made his first ever appearance since Shari died, and we were there to see it.

We may have all been there for Hush Puppy's big debut, but Bridgette was more "there" than anyone else in the audience. She stood right at the edge of the stage, watching the action. And then Mally turned and pulled her up ONTO the stage!

Bridgette stood on her feet, but when Mally squatted down to get on Bridgette's level, Bridgette got down too, copy-cat fashion.

When it was time to put her off the stage, I said, "Wait! Can I get a picture?" And this was the result. Classic! Got to be one of my favorite photos of all time.

Hello, Mally, veteran performer. Meet my candid, confused, and slightly annoyed kid.

And to end, I leave you with the view out our car window on the drive home and a dog joke which is funny because it is true.

How many dogs does it take to change a light bulb?

Border Collie: Just one. Then I'll replace any wiring that's not up to code.

Golden Retriever: The sun is shining, the day is young, we've got our whole lives ahead of us, and you're inside worrying about a stupid burned-out bulb?

Rottweiler: Make me.

Lab: Oh, me, me! Pleeease let me change the light bulb! Can I? Huh? Huh?

Dachshund: You know I can't reach that stupid lamp!

Malamute: Let the Border Collie do it. You can feed me while he's busy.

Jack Russell Terrier: I'll just pop it in while I'm bouncing off the walls.

Greyhound: It isn't moving. Who cares?

Cocker Spaniel: Why change it? I can pee on the carpet in the dark.

Doberman: While it's out, I'll just take a nap on the couch.

Boxer: Who needs light? I can still play with my squeaky toys.

Pointer: I see it, there it is, there it is, right there!

Australian Shepherd: First, I'll put all the light bulbs in a little circle...

Old English Sheep dog: Light bulb? Where?

Basset Hound: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Poodle: I'll ask the Border Collie to do it. By the time he finishes rewiring the house, my nails will be dry.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Festival of Trees 2010

Primary Children's Medical Center hosts an annual fundraiser called "Festival of Trees." I had such a good experience designing an entry last year (click HERE to see it) that I decided to create another entry this year.

Within a day of filling out the 2010 registration forms, I was contacted by the communications specialist at PCMC asking if they could use our tree in their press release. The release went out Tuesday (thank you Mom for noticing), although I assume the local news agencies will not pick it up until November.

Here is the release, including Bridgette's story (paragraphs 6 & 7):


Salt Lake City, UT – The Festival of Trees celebrates its 40th birthday this year – but there’s nothing “over-the-hill” about Utah’s favorite Holiday tradition. Today, as one of the world’s largest indoor displays of decorated Christmas Trees, the Festival embraces its Ruby Anniversary through the passion embodied by thousands of volunteers who organize and orchestrate the Festival in order to raise funds for children at Primary Children’s Medical Center.

The Festival of Trees ushers in the Holiday Season Wednesday, December 1 through Saturday, December 4, at the South Towne Expo Center. Every penny raised benefits Primary Children’s Medical Center.

Since 1971, over $24 million has been raised for children at Primary Children’s through the Festival of Trees. The event’s success is propelled by the passion and support of community and volunteers. From its humble beginnings of 60 trees displayed in a gymnasium, the Festival has grown to span 220,000 square feet of display space at the South Towne Expo Center.

More than 90,000 people visit the Festival each year as they come to see over 1,000 displays of imaginatively decorated Christmas trees, wreaths, centerpieces, gingerbread creations, backyard playhouses, and quilts. In addition, there are activities for children and entertainment for the entire family.

This year the Festival will feature more than 800 trees, each with its own unique style: ornate, trendy, whimsical, creative, humorous, and sentimental. Every tree is decorated and donated by individuals, families, businesses, church groups, and community organizations.

(Paragraph 6) In addition to exhibiting a distinct personality, each tree also has a unique story behind its creation. This year, a tree will honor the hope and healing Primary Children’s Medical Center has provided for 2-year-old Bridgette Johnson and her parents Kelly and Jeff of Lindon, Utah. Only a few days after her birth, Bridgette was close to death. Her digestive organs were in distress. Bridgette was transported to Primary Children’s by ambulance and was diagnosed with Hirschsprung Disease, a rare medical abnormality affecting the intestines. Bridgette’s nerve cells did not function properly. She could not process food, and she was dangerously dehydrated. Her body began to turn septic. Bridgette spent two weeks at Primary Children’s and underwent open-abdominal surgery. A year later, she had additional surgery to remove her entire large intestine and part of her small intestine.

(Paragraph 7) Today, Bridgette’s condition requires a special diet and care. However, her parents are certain she will lead a fairly normal life, thanks to the treatment she received at Primary Children’s Medical Center. Kelly Johnson said, “We wanted to donate a tree to the Festival in Bridgette’s honor to celebrate the fact that Primary Children’s saved our daughter’s life.” Mrs. Johnson is naming her tree “Sugar and Spice” to recognize both the sweet and the sting that represents her first two years of parenthood.

This year, the Festival of Trees will offer a limited edition cookbook, “Celebrating 40 years of Festival – Recipes from the Heart.” The book features recipes submitted by Festival friends and volunteers. In addition, those who attend the event will enjoy favorite Festival features such as fudge, divinity, scones, and sweet rolls to satisfy any appetite. Holiday entertainment is found on two stages, and the Gift Boutique offers handmade items for the perfect gift.

The Festival offers something for the entire family, particularly children. Santa will be available at Santa Land to hear each child’s wish and pose for photos. Kids Korner has creative activities for the young at heart, such as arts and crafts, face painting, and the opportunity to experience being inside a giant bubble. The Small Fry Shop carries items priced for a child’s budget.

“The real excitement of the Festival’s 40th anniversary is celebrating our community,” said Robyn Austin, Festival of Trees Executive Board Chairwoman. “We are celebrating the ‘Gift of Love’ given to children at Primary Children’s Medical Center from all who have decorated, donated, and attended the Festival for the past 40 years.”

The Festival of Trees is organized by an 86-member volunteer board, which works throughout the year to orchestrate this four-day event. Assisting Mrs. Austin are Co-chairwomen: Shauna Kerr, Centerville; Marie Partridge, Kaysville; and Frances Morgan, Sandy.

Every penny raised by the Festival of Trees helps children at Primary Children’s Medical Center. Last year alone, Primary Children’s expended over $14.3 million to ensure that every child received medical care regardless of ability to pay.

Celebrate the Holiday Season and the love our community has for children by attending the Festival of Trees! The Festival runs Wednesday, December 1 through Saturday, December 4, at the South Towne Expo Center, 9575 South State Street in Sandy, Utah, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are: $5.00/adults; $4.00/seniors; and $3.00/children age 11 and under. Children younger than 2 years of age are free of charge. Discount tickets are available at Zions Bank locations for: $4.00/adults; $2.50/children. Wednesday, December 1, is “Family Day,” allowing six immediate family members to attend for $15.00.

This year, our tree will be located at J-8. "J" as in Johnson. Easy.

Starting two months earlier than I did last year, I've already purchased the tree, many of the ornaments, and some of the display items. If you'd like to help contribute to this year's efforts, please check back in a few days for a sidebar link with more information on what help we still need.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Memory Lane

The time has come. The time is now.
It's time to organize; please figure out how.

So I finally bit the proverbial bullet and decided to organize Bridgette's room. To most of you normal people that's a nice way of saying I cleaned something.


As would be if I had actually bitten a bullet, it was jarring.


I dug through cabinets, boxes, baskets, drawers and shelves, and managed to procure this small pile of Bridgette's medical supplies.


And you wondered why her room seemed so cluttered.

This pile doesn't include "typical" stuff like diapers (which we buy in bulk), wipes (which we buy in bulk), diaper ointments/powders, current medications, hospital chucks (which we buy in bulk), blankets, burp cloths, toys, scads of clothes, baby scale, books, etc.

This is the "other" pile of supplies.

I had to decide what to donate, what to pitch, and what to keep and box up for long-term storage.

We kept most of it.

If we decide to have another child, the chances of him/her having Hirschsprung Disease are quite high: 1 in 4 for a boy & 1 in 5 for a girl. Seems silly to waste resources we already own.

It took me hours to sort through everything, making piles around the living room of scissors & clamps, steri-strips & gauze, gloves & masks, ostomy supplies, specialty creams & wound cleaners, hot presses & cold presses, 5 kinds of medical tape, instruction books, Ilex paste & wafer paste, thermometers & stethoscopes, catheters & syringes & medicine dispensers.

There was a special pile for IV tubing, infant needles, a gemstar pump, Heparin and saline flushes, and the PICC-line emergency bag I was supposed to use if Bridgette started bleeding out from her heart.

The particular memories this project dredged up were not all that pleasant, but it's ok. I've toughened up over the last two years. There were no tears, until...

...forget biting bullets. I got shot.

I found this wedged between a clear IV bandage and a cavilon barrier wipe.

It's one of the little bows the hospital kept gluing onto Bridgette's newborn head.

She's been through so much, so young.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Nana

Not everyone is lucky enough to know their grandparents, let alone their great-grandparents. I was privileged to know four of my great-grandparents and actually know them well.

I had enough living progenitors that we had to come up with unique names for each set, so as a child I could remember who was who. This entry is about my Nana.

Nana, the last of the four great-grandparents, died recently. She was 95. Back in January I wrote a post including a five generation photo of direct women: HERE IT IS. How cool is that? I'm glad Bridgette got to meet her. Even if she doesn't remember, she'll always have that picture.

I went out to North and South Carolina over Labor Day weekend to celebrate Nana's life with my family. Here are portions of her obituary, as published in the Rock Hill Herald:

"Do you remember an older lady who always wore a hat and a smile?

"That lady was Thelma Bagwell, 95, who died in Cleveland, Ohio on Aug. 30, 2010. She had lived in Rock Hill for 58 years. Thelma was preceded in death by Raynal, her husband of 68 years.

"Thelma was the bookkeeper at the Rhea Warner Men's Shop. They owned Bagwell Home Builders Inc., with Thelma being president. They owned their own plane and traveled extensively.

"Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. at St. John's Methodist Church in Rock Hill, and at 4 p.m., at Concord Presbyterian Church in Loray, N.C. Graveside services will follow in Loray.

"Thelma is survived by her daughter, Joan Summa (John); and her daughter-in-law, Flora (Jim). She is the grandmother of six; great-grandmother of 17; and great-great-grandmother of 10.

"Thelma never left her home without being smartly dressed and wearing a hat.

"We love you mom!"

She was a social butterfly and a beautiful woman, even in her old age... which is the only age she could have been by the time I was born! Here is a photo I took of her on a visit I made at Easter a few years ago.

Growing up, we took a trip to Myrtle Beach almost every summer (or so it seemed). I took the photo below the last time we were there, in 2003, I think. You can see that the obituary was right. She almost always wore a hat.

One of my favorite memories is of Nana letting me paint her face at the beach house. She set out all her makeup on the end table then lay quietly on the bed with her eyes closed, allowing me to gussy her up. I don't know how old I was, but I was too young to know anything about makeup.

I wish I had a picture.

I remember bright red lips, lots of rouge, and possibly dark blue eyeshadow and some strange dark streaks of black... maybe from mascara? The hazy image in the recesses of my brain definitely whispers "clown."

But what I really remember is that she went out that night with the whole family to a busy restaurant still wearing all that makeup. I was very proud.

What a good woman.

Do you need any more proof that Nana is awesome?
Because here it is.

This was taken by my Mom, 5 years ago. At this point, my great-grandmother was 90-years-young, spunky in body, playful at heart. Here she is showing off her flexibility, touching her toes to the ground over her head.

At the funeral, most of the women (and as you can see, even one of the men) wore hats in her honor. Several of them (front row: mine, Emma's, Julianne's; back row: Mom's - in the red) were actually Nana's before she died.

I brought several more hats (not funeral fair) home for Bridgette and me to share over the years. There's no doubt Nana was dapper. You may see them occasionally in future posts.

Mom and her brother, Uncle Craig