Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wildlife Adventures!

I know, second post today, but I just have to show some of the pictures from my walk today.  It has been a day with alternate sun and rain, which makes the sunny part of the day even prettier.

Bailey and I walked down to the lake only to find a lot of the ducks huddled together.  Today, a lot of the females were gathered around a big white goose.  They even swam together as if the goose was their mother with the adult females following it.

But the best part was seeing a young mother duck with her TWELVE little tiny ducklings.  The mother was so young she didn't even have the normal marking of a female adult.  The ducklings followed her in a tight little group until one of them strayed in the wrong direction.  I sat watching for several minutes as the stray duckling swam farther and farther in the wrong direction, making peeping noises.  It was clearly distressed.  At first the mommy duck didn't notice as she was taking her brood to swim among some lily pads.  Then she noticed.  The animal world is amazing.  She started peeping too until the little stray one finally went in the right direction and they reunited.  Hooray for a mother's instinct!

Click on the photos to see them full-sized...

One of those lucky shots!
Looking up the hill, lined with hanging flower baskets
This little group was hilarious playing Follow the Leader.

There's the young family!  Can you tell which one is headed in the wrong direction?

Minutes later, reunited!  I'm sure he got a speech about not wandering off again.
All accounted for, making their way to the water's edge.
One last look before we cross the street and head home.

Documentary Review: Hitler's Children

It feels horrible to have the name "Hitler" and to have a picture with a swastika on my blog, but I recently saw a documentary that was incredibly powerful, and I wanted to write about it and encourage others to see it.

It is called Hitler's Children, available for streaming on Netflix, and the winner of multiple awards.  As we know, Hitler himself did not have any biological children. This film consists of interviews of descendants of those within his inner circle.  It is a ground-breaking film in that we see that, similarly to the descendants of Jewish families who were affected by the horrors of the Holocaust, the families of the Nazi war criminals live their own brand of hell, living with the surname of those responsible.

Amon Goeth, Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Hoess, Hans Frank, and Hermann Goering.  These are some of the most famous names associated with the atrocities of that period in history.  What would it be like to be related to these men?  How do you establish a separate identity apart from the bloody legacy they left behind?

Coming to terms with their infamous relatives has not been easy for any of the people who are interviewed.  The common denominator is guilt, because everyone wants to love and honor their parents.  In the case of Niklas Frank, the son of Hans Frank, Hitler's chief legal counsel, the answer is--you don't.  He has completely denounced both of his parents and his 4 older siblings--all now deceased--who denied their father's actions.

Others who participate in the documentary are the daughter of Amon Goeth (the sadistic officer portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List,) Heinrich Himmler's grand-niece Katrin Himmler, Rudolf Hoess's grandson Rainer, and Hermann Goering's niece Bettina.

The family lies that all of these people grew up hearing are chilling.  Many of them have done their own research to find out the truth. They have considered changing their names, and often try to disassociate themselves with their homeland.  They've written books, visited schools, and some have even opted for sterilization in order to end the family line.

Two parts of the film made the most impact on me:  when Monika Goeth described the way she felt seeing the portrayal of her father in Schindler's List; and when Rainer Hoess spoke to a group of teenagers at Auschwitz, many of whom had lost relatives at the hands of his grandfather.  (The incredible film The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is obviously loosely based on the Hoess family.)

Thankfully, none of the people in the film make any excuses for what their relatives did.  On the contrary.  They have tried their best to live good, decent lives and to prove that such evil is not hereditary.  As Katrin Himmler explains, to believe those traits can be passed down through the generations is to align yourself with Nazi ideology about race and genetics.

As time separates us more and more from what happened in Germany during World War II, it becomes easy to forget it as a crucial moment in history.  I personally believe that every school child should be taught about this time period as a way to ensure that it doesn't happen again.  (Although we know that it is happening today in some parts of the world, to some degree.) 

If you feel your child is old enough and mature enough to handle the subject, I recommend watching (together with your child) The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (PG-13) and then Hitler's Children (unrated, but probably a PG because of language.) Neither film shows graphic images although there is some violence in Pajamas.  Both are available for streaming on Netflix. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is fictional, based on the book of the same name, but powerful. The documentary is mostly in German with English subtitles.

Some helpful links:
Official Website for the documentary, Hitler's Children. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Our Beautiful Lake

I just have to pay a quick tribute to the beautiful lake in the middle of our town.  With the weather finally warming up and blue skies nearly here to stay for a while (after July 4th we're in the clear,) I can't help taking pictures of it.  Luckily, I have a patient doggie who is used to me stopping every few steps.

We live 4 houses up from this well-manicured park.  I'm so glad that the city takes such pride in it and keeps it watered and mowed all year round.  Here are some photos from this week.  All were taken with the iPhone 5 and edited on iPhoto.  They look much better in their full sizes.  Click on them to see a full sized slide show.  Isn't Nature beautiful?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Adventures in May--Vegas! Osmonds! Copperfield!

Wow, it has been a while since I've written on any of my blogs!  Best to get back to it before I lose my blogging mojo.

In May we had our "big trip for the year."  Back in February, while watching an Osmond Family reunion DVD we bought in Vegas in 2011, my husband and I go the idea to look on the family site and see their tour dates.  As it turned out, the brothers were going to be performing for 3 nights in May.  We looked at each other with that glint in our eyes and spent the rest of the day planning a trip.

By the time we were done, it consisted of a 5 day/4night stay, with tickets to see Donny & Marie one night, a matinee of David Copperfield the next day, and the Osmond Brothers (Merrill, Jay, Jimmy) on the final night.

Things started off bumpy!  I was wearing a skirt with several buttons and it set off all sorts of alarms at the Portland airport.  I've flown through that airport more times than I can count, but this time I was led to a private room and patted down.  Fun!

When we arrived at the Flamingo Hotel, our home for 3 nights, I discovered that my conditioner bottle had leaked in my suitcase.  Grr.  Fortunately, and miraculously, it didn't get on any clothes!

But the part that really got our trip off on a sore note was discovering that Donny & Marie had cancelled their performances up until the day after we were leaving.  We don't know why and we received no notification. We tried to roll with it and figure out what to do.  That evening we had an awesome sushi dinner at Bally's, then took a cab to this tiny casino called Ellis Island that we heard had great karaoke.  I was under an a/c vent the whole time, which just wiped out my voice (not to mention smokers everywhere.)  But Eric did great and had the whole place mesmerized with a BJ Thomas song and then an Elvis song.

We spent the next day walking around the Forum Shops, but as the day progressed we still didn't have plans for the evening.  I had the idea that we get tickets for the Osmond Brothers for that night.  So what if we saw them twice?  We knew their show would be good, clean, and 1/3 of the price of Donny & Marie.
Jay, Merrill, and Jimmy--3 nights of superb entertainment!

It turned out to be a SUPER idea!  The brothers' show was great!  They were playing at The Orleans, off the Strip, and we were so impressed.  No glitz, just the 3 brothers and 4 musicians.  Both Eric and I have a great respect for pure talent, and these guys have it.  Superb harmonies and a very personal show.  We were so glad we were going to see them again!

The next day we went to the Venetian and visited Madame Tussaud's wax museum (cool, but overpriced) and walked around the Canal Shops there.
The King at Madame Tussaud's
In the afternoon it was time to head over to the MGM Grand for our David Copperfield show.  I was pretty excited because I'd been watching his specials since I was a kid.  Eric had hardly heard of him, but I knew the show would be great.  We had a very enthusiastic cab driver who took us to the MGM, assuring us that "not in 2,000 years, since time of Jesus Christ, does a man do this kind of stuff!"

You must see his live show.  Incredible!
The show was AMAZING.  The cab driver was right!  Even sitting in one of the closest seats revealed nothing.  He made an audience member fly!  He turned an origami butterfly into a real one.  He walked through a giant fan.  He read minds.  He made a group of 10 people disappear, and many more incredible illusions.  If you ever get a chance to see Copperfield in person--do it.

But it was a matinee, so we were done around 5:30pm....what to do?  If you know my hubby you know he is a huge Osmond Fan, so yes, we went and saw the brothers again.  Amazingly, we had the best seats of all 3 nights when buying our tickets only an hour before the show. 4th row center.  And we think that night's show was the best of the three.
Enjoying the gardens at the Flamingo Hotel
Flamingos at the Flamingo!

The next day we moved from the Flamingo to the Orleans.  It was a very relaxing day.  I hung out at the pool and then got a massage at their spa. (I must've been really relaxed, because at one point I remember snoring myself awake!) Being off the Strip, there was less of a party atmosphere and more of a family atmosphere.  Both of us agreed we would definitely stay there again. The pool area was great--I spent hours there reading on my Kindle. And the breakfast buffet?  $5.95/person!

I will admit that by the 3rd Osmond concert, it felt like a little much.  But I'm still glad we did it.  Eric enjoyed every moment and seeing him so relaxed and happy brings me great joy.  He really earned that vacation.   And we had SO much fun!  I just love those kinds of experiences with my hubby.  I'm not really a Vegas person at all (he loves it,) but it is a lot of fun with him.
Our "Osmond Wall" got 2 new additions after this trip!

We came home on a high note, rested and thrilled with the way our trip all turned out!