Wednesday, February 28, 2018


MattyB featuring the Haschak Sisters

The Ballroom at Warehouse Live
Houston, TX

February 11, 2018

Laurel has been a huge fan of MattyB for at least 3 years. She loves watching his videos online and can spend hours dancing and singing along to all his songs. Laurel has been asking to see him in concert for a long time and I promised that if he ever came to Jacksonville (when we lived there) or Sacramento, that we would go. Unfortunately for her, he doesn't embark on long tours, probably because he's still high school age.

Then early last year, she read his announcement online that he was playing a concert in Jacksonville. Laurel was devastated and I heard, "I wish we never moved".

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Winter Ball

Oakmont High School
Roseville, CA

February 4, 2018

Kellisa attended the Winter Ball at her school on a beautiful Saturday evening. Kellisa is always excited to attend dances and this night was no different. She is treated like a queen once we arrive at the school. Kellisa is escorted not to the front of the line, but through a side door so she can skip the ticket line all together and get right out on the dance floor. Kellisa is known as "KK" at school and I'm always amazed by all the adults and students that get excited when they she her and call out, "It's KK!"

As soon as we entered the gym, KK took off wheeling as fast as she could toward the dance floor as she made her way through the sea of jumping kids to setup as close to the speakers as possible. It doesn't take long for me to lose sight of KK.

Every time I could see her, she was dancing with able bodied students. She was usually surrounded by 6-10 kids. At one time, I counted at least 7 boys dancing with her. KK had a huge smile plastered to her face the entire night. I love that she is so included with all the other kids. It made me so proud to watch KK out on her own and accepted. Many kids even bent over to talk to her at her level. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Eternal Rains Will Come

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

February 2018

As I was approaching the refuge, I reached to turn off the radio because I didn't want to scare away any of the wildlife I was hoping to observe and photograph. The excellent song, Eternal Rains Will Come by the progressive giants Opeth was playing. Even though the song has nothing to do with rain, I couldn't help but think it was ironic that this song was playing since the Sacramento Valley is in another drought. Last year at this time, Northern California was in between multiple atmospheric rivers and most of the valley was flooded and the region was nervously watching a dam in Oroville that was expected to fail.  

Since the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge is only 90 minutes from our house, I thought it was worth the time and effort to drive up in the hopes of catching some of California's natural beauty. Even though most of the wetlands were dry, several were still covered in water providing excellent opportunities to do a little birdwatching. In addition to seeing several types of birds, I enjoyed a couple of turtles on a log and many rabbits running around the dry scrub areas. The background was picturesque as always with Lassen Peak looming on the northern horizon and sweeping mountain views to the east and west beyond the refuge. I was not disappointed in my decision to visit despite the drought.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Titus Canyon Road

Death Valley National Park

January 2018

I had the opportunity to take one of my all time favorite drives back in January. I drove the rugged 27 miles that is better known as the Titus Canyon Road that starts in Nevada and ends in Death Valley National Park.

This was my second time driving the road, the first was back in November 2010 with the family. The mostly one-way road has everything from desert driving to going up and through colorful mountains, an abandoned mine, petroglyphs, wildlife, and the last three miles takes the driver through a narrow canyon barely wide enough for a vehicle. It's like driving a wide hiking trail. 

Due to the rough condition and many hazards on the road, the national park recommends 2-3 hours for the drive. Make sure you have an extra tire because a tow truck will cost close to $2,000 to help you in the middle of nowhere. Even in winter, have some food and water in case you get stuck for awhile. High clearance vehicles are recommended and 4X4s are needed when the road is wet or washed out. The canyon is prone to flash flood, so do not attempt on a rainy day! 

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Space Needle

July 2017

No visit to Seattle is complete without a visit to the top of The Space Needle. We made our pilgrimage on a Sunday, which meant driving around endlessly waiting for a parking spot to open up. I gave up on finding a disabled spot long before we were lucky enough to get a spot in a lot near the attraction. 

It was hot, record breaking heat on the day of our visit. It was actually hotter in Seattle than back home in California. The Space Needle was very crowded (and expensive), but more important to us, it was not very friendly for someone in a wheelchair. It had everything we needed, I think it was the crowds that made our visit so difficult and employees acting like they've never seen a wheelchair before. It was hard to figure our where we needed to be and the employees were just as confused as us.

Once at the top, we couldn't go to the outside viewing area until we found someone with the key to a little lift to get Kellisa down a few stairs. We waiting almost 20 minutes for this key. It was like we were the first people who needed the key in years. After enjoying our time 605 feet above Seattle, we had to wait another 20+ minutes to find the worker who had the elusive wheelchair lift key. The views were outstanding and maybe we would have had a better time if we didn't visit on a weekend day. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Bremerton to Seattle Ferry

July - August 2017

We spent a week in the Seattle area for our 2017 summer vacation. We decided to stay on the western side of Puget Sound in Bremerton. Our hotel was a block from the water which has a nice walkway that lead to a park with water features and the ferry terminal. Both girls love riding ferries and no one likes sitting in Seattle's legendary traffic jams, so it made sense to commute back and forth by ferry. A couple of days drove our SUV onto to the ferry and on other days we just walked to ride as pedestrians.

Everyone enjoyed the beautiful views (Mount Rainier was even visible one day), fresh air, just sitting back and relaxing in the lounge, and eating a snack or full meals while going back and forth. We would highly recommend using the ferry for pleasure and a means to commute to and from Seattle.

Laurel enjoyed exploring on the ferry. She had a little confidence to venture a little farther away from us than usual and we let her since we knew she couldn't go very far. She was always in sight and it was cute to watch her look back, both for approval and the assurance that we were keeping our eyes on her.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Bremerton Bug Museum

August 2017

Kellisa has always loved her bugs, spiders, bats, snakes, and alligators, so there was no way we could pass up visiting the Bremerton Bug Museum in Bremerton, WA. While Kellisa was observing the exhibits, Laurel was fascinated with the gift shop where you could buy many types of bug themed candies. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Friday, February 9, 2018

Great American Eclipse- Metal Wall Art

We decided to take our best photograph from the Great America Eclipse and have it turned into a metal piece of artwork that we could hang in our house to always remind us of our special weekend spent together witnessing totality in Weiser, ID. Of course, this picture doesn't do the rare event justice, but we will always cherish this moment we were fortunate enough to capture in a picture.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

"Student with a Weapon"

Oakmont High School
Roseville, CA

February 6, 2017

Yesterday, I was 1,800 miles away from home in San Antonio, TX for work. We enjoy some major perks because I travel for my job, but there is always a little worry in the back of my mind that I'm so far away if something happens back at home. Thankfully, this rarely happens, but yesterday it happened.

At noon local time, I started getting texts, emails, and automated phone calls from Kellisa's school about a student with a weapon. They weren't releasing much information and the lockdown continued for just over two hours. I was relieved the school wasn't using the phrases, "Active Shooter" or "Shelter in Place", but the texts were very scary none the less. It didn't help to consider that Kellisa can't recognize danger, can't get on the floor by herself, can't crawl, can't remain quiet (I picture her giggling at all the excitement), can't jump out a window...she is 100% dependent on others for her safety and that's a chilling thought, especially when I'm not with her to be her protector. Lastly, Kellisa can't communicate like most other high school students. Therefore, we didn't get texts or calls from her telling us that she was safe.

Parents were asked not to come to the school, but if you wanted to get close, school officials and the police had a meeting place set up at a nearby park. The entire incident lasted just over two hours with little information and no confirmation that Kellisa was safe. It was hard to concentrate on work and even harder not knowing what I should do, if anything.

Eventually, an aide in Kellisa's class called to let me know that she was safe and the lockdown had ended. Another hour went by before I got a text from Lisa, "Both kids are home safe".  It was a huge relief, but I'm sure it took a few hours to get my blood pressure and heart rate down to normal levels.

The early reports indicate that one student stole a gun from a relative and brought it to school to sell to another student. The loaded gun was found in a backpack in the gym. Both students have been arrested and police officials believe there was never a plot to shoot anyone at the school. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

All 50 States Photo Wall: Exhibit A

    Indiana            Kansas         Louisiana
Pennsylvania   Rhode Island   Mississippi
                              Virginia      Washington
     Minnesota                             South Dakota

The girls completed our project of visiting and hiking a trail in all 50 states back in November 2016. Their travels are well documented on this blog and I wanted to display their accomplishment in our home as art. Partly to share our story with visitors, but mostly so we can look back at all the fun we had completing our goal.

I've wanted to copy our kindred spirits at Explore All 50 ever since I read their post about having a photo wall with a picture from each of the United States.  

I've struggled for a couple of years (I started planning our photo wall before we finished) on the format, layout, design, shape, and size of the photos to use. I even struggle picking which is the best picture from each state. Some are obvious, some are impossible to choose, while a few states lack really good pictures.

After a few failed attempts to get this project off the ground (and on our walls), I finally found our layout. We will have five 20X30 canvas art collages with 10 pictures each.  This is our first collage and we love the way it turned out after many, many hours of picking the pictures and then reshaping and arranging the pictures. As excited as I am to have a clear direction, I also know this project will probably take several months to complete. We will order additional collages one at a time as we finish them and share them on the blog. Once we have all five hung on our "All 50 States Photo Wall", we will share a picture of our completed collection.

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