Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Got Twins?

In their own little world!

They often end in the same position without trying.

When twins work together on something, there is no stopping them!

Sometimes twins isolate the others around them.

I look for natural "twins" to photograph.

This coming weekend will be Twins Day in Twinsburg, Ohio. We hope one day to take our Twin daughters there to celebrate who they are. But for now I thought I would write a little about twins to share with you. Mine are 4 4/12 years old although in the pictures above they were 3 3/12 years old. At this point they do not really understand that they are twins. Although when they are called by the wrong name they will say "I am NOT J, I am A!" I remember the first time I held A up to a mirror and she poitned and said "J!" :o) It was so cute. We are just beginning to explain it to them.
Big brother D understands a little bit better. He has been living in the shadow of twinship since their birth. The girls always got adoration in the store and he would try to talk and was excited that someone was talking to us and often they would rudely ignore him! So we would get in the habit of saying "And this is the girls' big brother D!" Many people consider having twins special. I consider it special that he is my first born and a big brother! All three are miracles from God!

When the girls were babies we would get a lot of annoying questions, so I've included that link in case you want to know about some better approaches to twins. When the girls were in their first year, I could not get through Home Depot to get to the back of the store to use the bathroom because I would be stopped by all the little old men! LOL People are fascinated with babies and when they see double, they grin! I think the most annoying question I would get was wondering if J was the boy and A the girl because J was a little bit bigger. Now, granted they had virtually no hair until they were two years old, but I got asked when J was wearing purple flowers and lace too! If she was a boy, I don't know what they thought I was doing to her with that!

Twins get a lot of publicity these days. Fertility medications and an increasing mother's birth age have increased the twin rate by 75% since 1980. The more children you have delivered, your chance for twins goes up as well. (Apparently, practice makes perfect! LOL) Although we did use the help of fertility medications to conceive our son secondary to my PCOS, we did not for the girls. As a matter of fact while the rate for fraternal twins (two eggs fertilized) changes with ethnicity, age, fertility treatments and "runs in families", the rate for identical twins (single egg which divides in two) remains constant across the board, generally about 1 in 250 pregnancies without any proven hereditary factor.

Identical twins have the same DNA, but are not "exactly" the same. They have different personalities (another annoying twin question...when people ask me who the "evil twin" is, it makes me seethe!), different souls, different fingerprints and in spite of what the general public thinks, they do look very different. Identical twins may also appear very different because they can be affected differently by their environment. In God's Eyes they are "fearfully and wonderfully made" unique individuals and that is the way we, as their parents, have chosen to view them. At times they seem completely different. They fight like cats and dogs (or worse!), they don't like the same foods, clothes, activities. But beware! Never step between a twin and their twin! Things can change in a heartbeat and they tend to be fiercely loyal.

When they aren't behaving in the above ways, they are inseparable, dislike being apart, choose to do things like each other and delve into their own little world. One of the things that they do in unison (with no prior discussion, decision making or warning) is breaking into a sing-song, chanty voice or song in words that do not make sense to the rest of us. They appear to be in a trance, mesmerized with each other and in total bliss! It is during these times that we know that we are definitely on the outside looking in!

You will notice that in these pictures they are dressed alike. Sometimes we do, but mostly we don't. We decided from the beginning that if we had two girls who were not twins, we might dress them alike, so occasionally was all right. However, we try to treat them as individuals, NOT a unit! We talk to twins and twin parents whenever we get a chance and some twins tell us they hated dressing alike. Some loved it! There seems to be no inbetween. We tend to dress them alike on trips because it is easier to see where they are and keep track! :o)

Twins are a lot of work. We did not have a lot of physical help since our family lives far away. I have to chuckle when I hear people say "It was hard! I don't know what I would do without my nanny!" LOL NANNY?! More power to you, if you can afford one, but we had no choice but to do it the hard way. And looking back through the exhaustion, tears, lack of sleep and the physical exhaustion while nursing two babies and taking care of an 18 month old big brother....I'm not signing up to do it again real soon, but I wouldn't take it back either. Our little family is bonded together in His love, protection and strength and we feel blessed.

Do I think twins are special? Sure I do! But I believe all children are special. I have worked many years with children, as a babysitter, volunteering in the peds ward, an educational aid, a respite care giver, an Auntie, a pediatric medical assistant, a Sunday School teacher and now as a Mom. Through all those experiences I have learned how unique and special we all are. I've said it before, I know the Peace Corps claims this slogan, but I think it should be for parents...Parenting is the toughest job you will ever love! :o) And I have many friends who long to be parents but cannot or who never had children for various other reasons. Do not think that you are not important. God uses you in the lives of children. Children need positive, encouraging and godly adult role models in their community as well as their immediate family.

I would love to hear from any twins or twin parents out there! I know a few of my readers are twin parents. It is encouraging when we share together. I am looking forward to the overwhelming day when I will attend the Twins Day festival in person! It looks like a lot of fun!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Blog Hopping and Nutrition

In the last couple months I have been reading Lindsey's blog called Enjoy The Journey. Her family and ours are on a parallel adventure with food and health. She has had some interesting blog posts recently. She also blogs about her family and homeschooling from a balanced perspective.

Today Lindsey's blogpost is about High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and she includes several links with information about it. HFCS is bad for us on many levels. However, one of the most dangerous is the effect it has on the way our body processes sugar and the insulin reaction. HFCS can induce Type II Diabetes. Check your labels...it's in almost everything because it tastes good, has nice texture, preserves foods and makes you want to eat more! It is the first food additive that we eliminated from our diet. Be aware it's in a LOT of snack foods and in some surprising places like Ketchup, many canned/bottled spaghetti sauces and jams and jellies.

Lindsey also links to a new to me blog called The Cleaner Plate Club which I plan on checking out more closely. She has recipes and ideas for eating better simply, quickly and without having to be a gourmet cook!

Don't worry every post will not be about the horrors of the food industry. But this is my blog and as such it is my journal and my journey in life and this is where we are on the path right now. No new pics of MS3, although in the next few days I should have some interesting knitting, spinning and sewing or crafting things to share.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Home With Him

Please pray for Kathy's family. This morning she went home to be with the Lord after a long struggle with Ovarian cancer. Please especially pray for her husband. This is the second wife he has lost to cancer. Pray that he will feel the Father's presence, comfort and peace as he grieves and that his faith will grow stronger, not weaker. At my Mom's church, they had this song for special music today...I find it poignant and fitting:

Chris Rice - Untitled Hymn (Come To Jesus)

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!

Now your burden's lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!

And like a newborn baby
Don't be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we fall...so
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can't contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pictures For Grammy

This is A giving her baby a drink of "Kefir". D says, "Oh A! Your baby is going to like that!" :o) She picked her outfit out herself. She has always been the "fashionista"! LOL

We found the boy doll that we got D when I was pg with the girls. He took the boy clothes off because they were pajamas and it is the daytime. I know some people don't like boys playing with dolls, but I know D has always seen his Daddy taking care of us. When you have twins and when you have chronic illness/pain you sometimes divide tasks differently. Hubby is an awesome spouse and parent. And I don't think it hurts at all that D has picked up some of these things. If we were able to have more children I know D would be awesome with a little baby.

J had fun playing too. It was hard to get a picture of all three of them together.


As part of our cleaning and organizing this weekend, we made the decision to bring in some of my childhood toys. My Grandpa and Grandma Johnson had the little white (or formerly white!) cabinet made for me and it was given to me for Christmas 1969. Somewhere I have the picture of it...me in my little miniskirt and sweater! LOL (I never dressed like that again!) Hey, it was groovy at the time. The doll's high chair was a gift from Grandma Hopkins when I was in Kindergarten, about 1971. In the corner is a little plastic sink on got on sale a few years ago at Big Lots! and we just haven't gotten it out yet. Later I'll have to post pics of the dollbeds that were from my Grandma Hopkins' kindergarten room and one that my Grandpa Hopkins made for my Mom in the late 1940s. I'll have to get busy and make dolly blankies and clothes now! In my free time of course!

Abbie says that Lucy over at Wendy's gets more exposure than she does and it's about time I change that! LOL So here's Abbie taking a bath and watching over my shoulder as I blog.

Answers From Food Post and MSG

Thanks to all of you who commented or emailed me with encouragement and questions on my food post. I am not a nutritionist or food expert but I have done a lot of reading and my Grandma Hopkins taught me a lot. I am just now starting to apply those things and it really helps to have the encouragement along the way as I pursue total health for myself and for my family.

We live in a time where the variety of food choices are virtually unlimited. But never before has there ever been so little actual food in our food. Big corporations are making money by perfecting chemicals which can take the place of real food at a lesser cost or preserve food unnaturally. All these cost saving, time saving chemicals, preservatives and products take a costly toll on our health. Personally I think that we have become like that age old description of the frog boiling in water. It happens so gradually, it doesn't realize what happened to it. If you look back to your childhood and what you ate and compare it to what is on the supermarket shelves now, I think you will agree.

So, how do you know what is right? You can't always know. There is so much information out there...some is good and some is "hogwash." A lot of it is conflicting. You have to sift through it and discern. I pray that God will help me discern with wisdom. And it's always good advice to use "common sense".

Interestingly, my husband just walked in the room a minute ago with a supporting statement. Now, you need to know that he grew up on Marshmallow creme sandwiches, sugar cereals, processed meats, TV dinners, fast food burgers etc. His vegetables were ketchup, potatoes and occasionally corn! LOL We have been married 8.5 years and that has gradually changed. So, what did he say? He told me that now that I have been making fresh and homemade foods for him, whenever we eat something that is packaged or eat at a restaurant he can taste all the chemicals! It's true! I notice it as well and those foods are not so satisfying. It reminds me of my Grandpa Johnson. He was a heavy smoker for more years than I can remember. He heavily peppered all of his food. Thinking back, I wonder how much pepper Grandma bought through the years. We would all be sneezing when he peppered his dinner plate. After he quit smoking and could actually taste his food again, he would complain that we put too much pepper on it! LOL

My friend Lynette (who is an awesome CE director at our church), asked about the other sneaky names of MSG. So today I wanted to write about that because I think it is really important. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is the salt of the amino acid Glutamate. It occurs naturally which compounds the confusion in labeling of foods because it can simply be listed as "natural flavoring". It is important to know that there are many things which are "natural" that are not good for you.

The Japanese first started using MSG developed from a seaweed and discovered that it is a "flavor enhancer". It tricks the taste buds on the tongue. But it is a nasty deceiver that wreaks havoc. It makes you feel hungry. It does this by alarming the pancreas, causing it to produce more insulin. The body does this and ends up with more insulin than it needs for the food you just ate. So, you feel your blood sugar dropping and you need to eat more. Anyone who has ever experienced this with eating Chinese food, knows what I mean. It is infamous for this effect. Today it is easier to get Chinese food without *added MSG*, but it is virtually impossible to find it without any.

Okay, so you might be thinking that it is a harmless side effect that makes you eat too much, however one of the worst problems with MSG is that it is an excitotoxin. An excitotoxin is a substance that hyper stimulates nerve cells, which in the end causes damage. I watched an interview on The 700 Club awhile back with the author of Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills. I have not read the book, but I want to try and get it at my library. He said some things that really "clicked" for me with my own experiences both in pediatrics and in my own health. I am highly sensitive to food preservatives, especially sulfides, sulfates and nitrates, most likely secondary to my Sulfa allergy. And MSG wreaks havoc with my migraines. Excitotoxins like MSG overstimulate nerve endings, even damaging them. The effect is more dangerous on children whose brains are still developing. MSG is believed to be or suspected to be the blame for the following: Allergies, seizures, headaches, Vitamin B deficiencies, nerve damage, compromised liver, endocrine disorders, obesity possibly ADHD and Autism. Of course it is not the only cause of allergies, seizures, headaches etc, but it does not help them. Sometimes it takes a particular group of circumstances to cause an illness or condition to develop and sometimes the body can only take so much and then there is the straw that broke the camels back.

Personally, I believe that MSG is somewhere in between harmless and "the greatest evil there ever was"! I do believe that if you can, you should eliminate it from your diet. Truth In Labeling has a page that lists some of the names that MSG may use on your label. This Squidoo page on MSG has some great information too. I also have found suggestions at Tammy's Recipes for alternatives to high MSG foods like taco seasoning and Cream of Chicken soup.

Whether or not you agree on the MSG issue, I think common sense boils it down to: eating food closest to its original format is the best!

I must say a disclaimer...I am not a doctor and no longer working as a health care professional. I am not trying to dispense medical advice. I am just sharing what is working for my family. In future posts I hope to share with you simpler and easier ways we have found to make good home-made foods for our family. All the TV commercials would have you think that you just cannot do it because it is too exhausting. Well, who said the right way is always the easiest? But it doesn't have to be the hardest either. There are so many technological advances in kitchen wares these days. I think it is just being a "smart cookie" as Grandma H. would say, to take advantage of the ones that help you do what is best for your family. If you have resources you find helpful, I would love to hear about them too!

Friday, July 27, 2007

What The World Eats

While thinking about some of our dietary changes which I wrote about a couple posts ago, I got to thinking about the photo-essay Kathy, a Christian Artisans friend shared with us awhile back. It really is eye opening:

What The World Eats

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Friday the 13th

Aren't these roses gorgeous? On Friday, July 13, 2007, hubby didn't have to work (no summer school on Fridays) and Shelley and I had a "day about town"! First we went to see the state capitol, then we went out to lunch, stopped at the Berean's Christian Store and topped off the day by a visit to Borders.

The rose gardens at the capitol are large and gorgeous. There were hundreds of bushes in every color.

And the whole place was "abuzz" with bees!

It's hard to tell in the photo but this rose is purple. My favorite roses are purple, white or white with other colors. Then again, it's hard to choose!

Another bee in a rose that reminded me of cherry Jello salad! LOL

This overlooks just a small portion of the rose gardens. I would say it was about a 1/4 acre.

Here's Shelley peeking out of the rosebushes. We both had fun photographing the blooms.

I really loved the light coming through these Morning Glories. I have to chuckle though. I always grew up pulling the Morning Glories out of Grandma Hopkins' yard, near her pond. They can be a noxious weed!

More purple lovelies! There were so many blooms everywhere it was difficult to know how to compose pictures.

There are trees of call kinds on the capitol grounds and it really is a lovely capitol. There are even bamboo and banana trees in the distance here and the gnarled snag is an ancient European Olive tree.

I haven't completely figured out how to show you pictures so that you can see detail without taking up a lot of file size. The metal embossings are different agricultural motifs and this is the side of the capitol building.

A view of the capitol rotunda, peeking through the trees.

This building had lovely art nouvea styled facings. I do not know if they are original or replications.

Close up of the rotunda statues and architecture.

Another view of the capitol rotunda and statues.

And this is coming around the side, showing the Ionic columns.

The side view of the capitol showing some palm trees and more columns.

I really enjoy archticture overall and there is so much to photograph at the capitol, it was difficult to pick out just an overview for you to see.

There were lots of these friendly guys all over the capitol lawns.

Hey! What are you looking at? The show is over! Theresa is finally caught up with her vacation pictures! Phew!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Making Healthy Changes

I am sure that if you have seen any of the pictures of me on my blog, you know that I am morbidly obese. A lot of people think that if you are that overweight you must be sitting down stuffing your face 24/7. That's not really true. Yes, I have obviously eaten too much at times, otherwise I wouldn't be so big. My weight has ballooned since living in California because I am not as active outdoors secondary to increased asthma from the smog and allergens. And my body has changed shape drastically after having twins. It really is embarrassing. I have managed to take off 22# over the last year or so, but it does not even show. That is discouraging.

My weight problem began as a child and so did my dieting. Through the years the dieting has only made me larger and caused me more emotional distress than I care to explain here. But, as always, God is bigger than any problem I face and He has healed my heart of many sorrows and pain. Still, now I am left with this distorted body and a need to improve my health in all ways.

Instead of dieting, I began by eating only when I was hungry...seems obvious, I know. But years of over eating leads to unhealthy choices and sometimes I have been guilty of eating because it tastes so good and sometimes because the food makes me feel good. I do not want to pass bad habits on to my children. It's better to prevent problems than to have to fix them afterwards.

The second step in this journey was to start eliminating processed foods. The first we eliminated was high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup. Next MSG. MSG is in almost everything and it comes under sneaky names.

The third step has been to begin replacing normal foods with organic alternatives. We are buying organic/hormone free milk and meat whenever possible. And we have begun buying organic fruits and vegetables. Some things taste the same but others taste remarkably better!

Recently I have come across two different articles on buying organic produce, one was in the June 2007 Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Both articles had a list of the same 12 items which are considered "worth" buying organic. The BHG article shared something that was shocking - you can wash non-organic strawberries 10-11 times and still find traces of chemical pesticides on them! Having worked in the health care profession between 1988-2000 I saw a lot of changes, particularly in children. And I am convinced that much of this is caused by all the chemicals that we eat in our so-called food. A lot of people "poo-poo" this idea. But I challenge to pick up some cans and boxes and seasoning mixes that you regularly eating and see if you can even identify or pronounce the ingredients therein!

At this point in time we are unable to have a garden. We don't even really have a yard, just concrete, rocks and some container gardens. Food can be container gardened but not well in the extreme heat we get here, coupled with the increased heat of being surrounded by asphalt, concrete and metal in a trailer park. I gardened as a girl with Grandma Hopkins and some as a young adult and I miss it. For now I am working on being content where God has placed me. It is our dream though to move and have a real garden.

You might think it is too expensive to buy organic foods. Yes, some things are expensive. But we are re-learning how we use meat, poultry and dairy products. And when you eliminate a lot of processed foods, you will have more money in your budget. Processed foods are not always cheap. I encourage you to look into it. Recently my friend and I were shopping at Safeway and the price for organic strawberries and tomatoes was the same as for the regular. And the organic strawberries tasted so good, like they came right out of your own garden. So there may be options. But here is the list of 12 foods that are important to eat organic because of how the pesticides are retained. It was also recommended that if you eat a lot of skin or leaves of fruits and vegetables, you should buy organic as well. The list of foods are:

1. Peaches
2. Apples
3. Sweet Peppers
4. Celery
5. Nectarines
6. Strawberries
7. Cherries
8. Pears
9. Imported Grapes
10. Spinach
11. Lettuce
12. Potatoes

All of those foods are pretty much staples in our household. So we will be making some more adjustments. We are very fortunate to have a lot of options here - Trader Joe's (often times their prices on organics are much less than other places), a food co-op, Whole Foods Market and several local grocery stores which carry health and nutrition items. Costco now carries organic, grass-fed, no hormone ground beef, which helps us too. The changes have not come overnight.

During this phase of change I have been experimenting with cooking more. One surprise is that by using organic spices and herbs in my cooking, I have been able to eliminate a LOT of salt! My husband, is what I consider a "salt-a-holic". I asked him tonight if he had noticed that I'm not using salt anymore in my cooking and he was surprised! Since we don't use seasonings packets I have been experimenting on flavors. For instance, we eat a lot of Mexican style foods. I use garlic, onions, peppers and Cumin for flavoring. I was noticing something missing but wasn't sure, so I looked at some true Mexican food recipes (as opposed to Tex-Mex or American restaurant Mexican food). I was surprised to discover that many of them used Oregano! I have begun adding Oregano and that has really seemed to make the taste complete.

This post is already growing long. One of these days, maybe I will do a post on some of the the foods I make now from scratch and my time-saving hints that are helpful for busy cooks.

I did want to end by saying that I am ready to get to the next step in becoming healthier. My husband and I are considering doing a cleansing fast in August. Naturally I hope to lose weight, but that is really not the purpose. He underwent radiation treatment last fall and I have "tummy troubles". We have heard some great anectdotal accounts from friends over the last several months. When it comes at you from several directions, you begin to think that someone is trying to tell you something! :o) After the fasting we hope to start back smaller and healthier in the food department and add exercise of some kind. We are older than most parents of young children and we hope that God allows us the privilege to see them grow up. However, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of what God has given us and thus we are making these changes.

Well, I don't imagine many people read this whole post and that is okay. Mostly I want to document for myself this new phase in our journey of health and wholeness.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Yosemite Day 1

This picture was actually the end of Day One so is out of order, but here it is. J and A slept in a hide-a-bed. They started out in this position and ended up crosswise, but still in the "right order" by morning! LOL D slept in a sleeping bag in a space underneath the stairs and enjoyed it.

This picture was actually from the beginning of Day 3, but I couldn't leave it out. This is D at the top of the stairs leading to Shelley's loft bedroom. D and Larry Boy are practically inseparable. All his Larry Boy toys are pretty beat up. This one is missing one of his "super suction ears." D has quite the imagination, for which I am glad. He plays out some of the scenes from the Larry Boy and Veggie Tales cartoons, but he also makes up stories and scenes to act out with his sisters. We have to chuckle when the kids are in "room time" (because they don't nap anymore...not that they ever did!). Every once in awhile a high pitched soprano voice will say "Save me Larry Boy!" or "I need help Larry Boy!" :o)

As we drove into the park we twisted around the Merced River which is really beautiful. Last time we were here in June 2005 it was at a 25 year high, as were all the waterfalls in the park, but it was a low snow pack year this winter and so the river was down fairly low.

The forecasted high for Yosemite Valley on Friday, July 6th was 108*! Yikes! We always hope when we leave home to find a little bit cooler weather, especially at that elevation. However, cooler weather was not found until Day Two when we went up the Tioga Pass which is further up the mountains. I don't know what the official temp was for the day but our van has a thermometer which has always been quite accurate. While on the asphalt the temps were 110-119*! When we stopped by this water it was 102* and this was in total shade with a canopy of trees over the top of us and the road! Phew! That was hot!

The little place was called Fern Spring. We had never seen it before because it is always packed with people. It was very strange; almost eery to drive into the park with so few people. We had purposely planned on going to the Valley floor on Friday because Saturday is packed. Last time we came on a Friday and it was jammed with tour busses and people from all around the world. This time there was a lot of people but not comparatively so. We practically had our choice of parking spaces, so it was nice to find this new little spot to eat our lunch. In the picture above you can see D, J and A.

I couldn't get any sharp focused pics here because there was not enough light for hand held photography but a little stream of sunshine flickered in and I got this shot which is a little blurry, but still pretty. It was so peaceful there.

Can you see how still the little pool is. It is created by the spring.

This is Bridalveil Falls, which had more water than Yosemite Falls, but was puny compared to previous visits.

And here is El Capitan in all his glory. The beautiful blue sky and fluffy clouds belies the high temps.

See what I mean? Can you find Yosemite Falls trickling down? It is slightly left of the middle of the picture.

Here is some of the meadow on the Valley floor surrounded by granite walls.
We have never walked out into the meadows before because it is usually packed with people. Also, sometimes it is marshy/muddy. So, this was another new surprise and adventure. One of my many favorite things to photography is pathways.

The clouds were really pretty against the blue sky. Living in the Sacramento Valley, we don't see many clouds during the summer and I miss them. When you grow up on the water, you get used to seeing the clouds and the sky change almost constantly. Half Dome is just trying to peek out on the right hand side.

This is the Merced River and Yosemite Falls is in the distance. Just beyond this log jam was a nice, still, pooled area where Shelley and I waded in to cool down. Poor Shelley had not experienced this type of extreme heat before! We almost killed her off on her first day with the heat! And now that I have been here for 8.5 years, I am shocked to find that I am actually getting used to it...I still don't like it, but I am getting used to it.

Milkweed plants were growing in the meadow. It reminded me of my friend Dale on the Christian Artisans list who passed away post bone marrow transplant. She lived in Florida and had a butterfly garden with lots of Monarchs. The Monarchs and some Swallowtails like the Milkweed.

Looking back along the path. Again the cool colors in the picture do not tell the tale of the heat of the mid-day sun!

Here is a glimpse from the river bank of Half Dome. You see it in many different places in the park. I would not say it is really beautiful like my "home mountain", Mt. Baker or even Mt. Rainier which is also a National Park and whose peak my great grandfather conquered when he was 57 years old. But, it is very unique and it commands your attention wherever you see it. I must not be the only person who thinks so because the California State Quarter, released in 2005, bears its image as well.

Another glimpse of Half Dome and the changing clouds in the sky.

This photo is not really in focus but it does show the large Swallowtails butterflies we saw. They are about 4 inches across. There are two types of Swallowtails living in the park and I need to see which kind this was. It has some pretty worn and tattered wings.

This is another dark and a little fuzzy photo, but it does show the one Monarch butterfly we saw on the Milkweed.

These cow parsnips were growing right in the middle of the meadow. The cloud over Half Dome looks like a little hat!

Another picture of the Cow Parsnip purposely in focus with Half Dome purposely not in focus behind it.

Who knew that cow parsnips could be so pretty? These are the little seed pods.
The next few photos are not the sharpest as I took them in the shade and cropped them out of larger pictures, but I'm sharing them because I thought they were interesting. Does anyone know what this flower is? The middle looked like a little pill box hat. They were round thick disks.

I thought it looked neat to catch this bee in flight.
This last picture is taken through the van window. Can you see on the right side, that brown area of the hill? That is the beginnings of where the mud/landslide came down last year. It covers about a quarter mile stretch of Hwy 140 along the Merced River. So, in order for people to still come through, they put a one lane bridge and a light system. The bridge looks like it was made from an erector set! I drove very cautiously. We then had to drive a half mile along the other side of the river. There was one lane. That was it. River on one side and hillside on the other. At the end is another "erector set bridge" which is again, one way, to cross back over to the highway. As you drive along the other side you can see the slide area and it is pretty amazing. I don't see how they will ever be able to dig out the slide area. It would be like digging a hole in dry sand and the sand just keeps spilling into your hole. It would take some monumental engineering and a stack of money to accomplish anything. And even then, it would probably occur again! This method was a little scary but at least we still were able to enter the park!

Phew! You made it to the end of all these pictures. If you are brave, keep reading and you will see days two and three. I hope you enjoyed. I took at least 2000 pictures. So, even though it seems like a lot here, it isn't so bad!