Oh, boys!!! Here we go again…

Our youngest son, Evan, is a fun and funny guy. Even as a little kid, he always, ALWAYS marched to the beat of his own drum. His even-keel older bro, Jon, is like a ship… steady as she goes! Two brothers, two different paths.
Well, Jon’s boys, Jackson, 11, and Bryson, 9, are Jon and Evan all over again. Jackson is calm, quiet and, for the most part, collected. Bryson on the other hand, is free-wheeling!
When our family got together with Jon, Sara and the boys, and before Bryson was old enough to walk, he was really afraid of Evan. He wouldn’t let Ev hold him… he’d squirm and squeal if Evan tried to take him from someone else’s arms. We could never understand it.
Then, one day it hit me. Evan is 16 years younger than Jon. He’s a big guy, but because he was, and still is, so full of energy… basically wired liquid… I wondered if it was plausible Bryson couldn’t figure Evan out. Evan looked like a grownup… yet he acted like a kid. And a HUGE kid like that was bound to scare little Brycie!!!
It took awhile for Bryson to feel comfortable with Evan. However, as Bryson has grown, guess what? He idolizes uncle Evan! When our family is together, Bryson sticks to Ev like Gorilla Glue!!!
The two of them even think alike. Once, when Ev was a kid, he was deer hunting with Bob, Bob’s Dad, uncle and cousins. They stopped for lunch. When the waitress asked Evan for his order, Evan responded with, “I’ll take a cheeseburger, without the cheese.”
The waitress asked, “Sooo, you mean you want a plain burger?”
“No, I want a cheeseburger without the cheese.”
They went back and forth a couple of times and, by now, the hunting crew was in stitches and the waitress was probably wondering what planet this kid was dropped off from. It’s a story Ev will NEVER, EVER live down!!!
Then, there’s Brycie!!! The other day, he told his parents, “I like onion rings, but without the onions.”
SAY WHAT???!!!
Sara and Jon couldn’t wait to tell us! It is SO Evan!!!
We thought there could only be one Evan. BUT, LOOK OUT WORLD, EVAN No. 2 IS ON THE LOOSE!!!!!

The magnificent monarch... and more

OK. I’ll admit it. The Outdoors Guy’s outdoors’ interests have gotten into my system… at least a little bit.
Still, I haven’t changed from my girly-girl interests as much as does a caterpillar when it metamorphoses into a butterfly.
Two weeks ago, I noticed a caterpillar creeping across the pot of one of our ferns on the patio. The next day, a green chrysalis hung precariously toward the bottom of the pot. I wondered how it could hold on in strong winds and rainy weather. I needn’t have been concerned. It has hung from that thin strand, attached by something stronger than Super Glue, through days of high winds, heavy rain, and even when I move the pot out of the way for our “Mow Joes.”  
That same evening, I discovered another caterpillar inching its way across our patio steps. The next morning, a second chrysalis hung from the top step by our patio door. I knew this one would require taking extra precaution so neither Bob nor I accidentally dislodged it.
Also, that evening, I saw yet another green chrysalis dangling from our landscape edging and still a fourth suspended under a hydrangea leaf.
I have noticed a number of chrysalis over the years, but never four in such close proximity and so easily visible.
I’ll admit it. I always thought butterflies hatch from cocoons. However, through my research for this blog, I learned, “butterflies hatch from chrysalis, a life stage made of a hardened protein.” In contrast, “A cocoon is spun from silk and surrounds the pupa of many moths.”
Not knowing how long it takes for caterpillars’ metamorphosis, I searched websites for info because even The Outdoors Guy wasn’t sure.
I learned from one website by Lynn Rosenblatt, Monarch Butterfly USA, there are five generations of monarchs in a single year. Then, the process begins again.
“The total time frame for one butterfly’s life cycle (one generation) is about 6-8 weeks… egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly. It grows inside the egg for about 4 days. It then munches milkweed and grows as a monarch caterpillar (larvae) for about 2 more weeks. The caterpillar’s life inside the chrysalis (pupa) lasts about 10 days and its life as an adult butterfly lasts from 2-6 weeks.”
According to the website Science Learning Hub, ”A monarch larva moults 5 times. The final moult reveals an adult butterfly. The enlarged abdomen is full of fluid. The butterfly pumps the fluid into its crumpled wings until they become full and stiff.”
Returning to Monarch Butterfly USA website, I learned “The 5th generation… does NOT mate or die in 2-6 weeks. In November/December, the monarch’s inner compass directs it to MIGRATE south and this generation will live 4-5 months in Mexico or Southern California. They begin awakening and mating in March of the NEXT SPRING, and then lay their eggs! Withered and tattered from their migration and hibernation… they finally die.”
I was excited when I went out to the patio on Sept. 17 and discovered the second chrysalis had its final moult. It was hanging on the edge of the step, fluttering its wings, with the chrysalis shell next to it. I checked on the monarch several times, always finding the it in the same spot. Finally, a couple hours later I witnessed this magnificent creature take its maiden flight! Awesome!
The first chrysalis is still dangling from the flower pot as is the one hanging from the landscape edging.
Sadly, the fourth chrysalis, the one suspended under a hydrangea leaf, will not have its final moult. When I first discovered it, the chrysalis was black. I thought that seemed strange, but wondered if it was a different kind of butterfly.   
However, according to the Missouri Botanical Gardens Butterfly School website, “Pupae” (when the caterpillar is in chrysalis its called a pupa) may die instead of completing the transformation into butterflies. A black or very dark chrysalis could indicate that the pupa died. If you gently bend the chrysalis at the abdomen and it remains bent, the pupa's probably dead.”
Tentatively, I did as instructed. Not only did the chrysalis remain bent, it felt empty...kind of like I felt at that moment. It was another lesson for me in nature’s ways. Some aren’t always easy to comprehend or accept.
Yet, there is a plan. “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven - a time to give birth and a time to die.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
It is not our job to understand. God only asks us to accept HIS divine will. By believing in His Son, Jesus Christ, who did His Father’s will and died and rose from the dead to pay for the sins of the world, we will be saved. Then, unlike the monarch’s incredibly short life cycle, or our unpredictable earthly life span, we will be forever with the Lord. Even the wonders of nature can’t compare!!!
 "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9.

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It's a dog's life

Growing up in a large family, it was out of the question to hope having a dog or other pet would happen.
Oh, we asked, but there were seven kids in our household. A pet would have translated into our parents having yet another mouth to feed. Besides, Dad believed dogs belonged in the country, and we were city dwellers.
In sharp contrast, The Outdoors Guy was an only child. For most of his life, his family had black labs for hunting. I’ll never forget the first time I met his last lab, Bing. Bob lived at home and we had stopped at his parents’ place. In a flash, Bing stood on his hind legs and plopped his monster-sized front paws onto my shoulders. We stood nose to nose, eye to eye. Since I wasn’t used to dogs, plus this too-close-for-comfort contact, I nearly passed out! Meanwhile, Bob was having a good laugh knowing Bing simply wanted to make a new friend.
After we were married, we tried adopting dogs a couple of times. But, it never was the right fit.
Both of our boys own dogs. Jon, daughter-in-law, Sara, and grandsons, 11-year-old Jackson and 8-year-old Bryson, have Guinness, (pictured) an adorable Yorkie who is 3+ years old.
Because Jackson has allergies to most dogs, a Yorkie, which is hypo-allergenic, was one of the breeds that was safe for him. Jon would have liked a larger dog, but was happy to bring a “foo foo” dog into their family for Jackson’s sake. The funny part of this is, Jon is Guinness’ favorite… and Jon kinda likes him, too… lol!!
Before Guinness, Neely, their elderly rescue beagle, was a treasured family member until sadly she disappeared into the woods behind their home in August 2011. They spent days searching for her. Then, reflecting on Neely’s age and condition, they eventually accepted it was her time for rest.
Evan’s adopted dog is Bibi (pictured on cover). She is also an older beagle. Bibi is lovable and gentle until she’s out for a walk. Then, true to her beagle lineage, her nose takes over and her good behavior goes AWOL!  
Like our family, my sister, Brenda, and brother-in-law, Stu, didn’t have pets when their girls were growing up, either. Now, their daughter and son-in-law, Kristin and Matt, who have 14-year-old twin sons, Tanner and Blake, and an 8-year-old daughter, Madison, have a yellow lab. Madison named her Mea Mae (pictured in photo gallery). She blended into their family from day one.
Since Brenda and I came from a no-pet family, and because our two families didn’t have dogs when our kids were growing up, we weren’t into them all that much. To that end, it seemed bizarre that on one of Brenda’s and my recent weekly marathon phone visits, we went on and on about the granddogs and how much we enjoy them… almost as much as the grandkids... LOL!!!
When we finally took a breath, I asked Brenda, “Do you realize we just spent 20 minutes talking about the granddogs?!!!!” We both burst out laughing!!!
After all these years, we remember how much we wanted a dog as kids. Now we have a front-row seat, not only observing, but being involved in the delightful way they add to our families’ well-being.
Brenda, however, still hasn’t taken one major leap… she can’t bring herself to smooch Mea Mae. Whereas for me, I’m like the lyrics in The Pointer Sisters’ hit song “Automatic:” “No way to control it, it’s totally automatic.”
The old saying, “It’s a dog’s life” means life is difficult and unpleasant. Yet, from first-hand experience, I can attest that both the lives of dogs and the families who dearly love them are not only the opposite, they are truly infinitely better!!!


The good, the bad and the ugly!!!

Recently, our family’s late summer plans included a Milwaukee Brewers’ Weekend, in part to celebrate grandson, Jackson’s, 11th birthday. (It seems like yesterday he was just a little squirt!!)
Of course, when families get together, unplanned events are a given. We all know the scenario, don’t we?
The Brewers’ were hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates. Friday night’s game turned into a hard-fought battle, going 15 innings before The Brew Crew finally pulled off the victory, 7-6. Our “crew” made it 12 innings before we packed it in and called it a night.
The most fun we had during the game was a surprise none of us expected. We had arrived somewhat early. Some family members were wandering around Miller Park while a few of us took in the view from our seats.
We were really surprised when two young ladies from The Brewers’ organization came up to us and asked if either Jackson or Bryson (almost 9) would be interested in announcing Brewer players in the 4th inning, a tradition at Miller Park. Jackson had the first opportunity, because of his age. However, he declined. Bryson? He was all about going for it!!
One of the ladies showed us where Bryson and a family member should report by the middle of the 3rd inning. Bryson was psyched! When the time came, he and his Dad, our son, Jon, left for the area. Grampa tagged along to record the event.
At the bottom of the 4th inning, Bryson appeared bigger than life on “The Big Screen” introducing Ryan Braun, Mike Moustakas (Bryson’s fav) and Erik Kratz.
What turned out to be even more fun was later, when we watched Grampa’s video of Bryson before his big moment in the spotlight. Be sure to check it out.
The next day, the guys went to Golf Galaxy in Brookfield, while we girls headed out to shop. We were on our way to The Corners of Brookfield, a newer shopping center, when KABANG!!! We were sideswiped!!! Sara was driving our Jeep. She did everything she could to avoid the lady who hit us, including blaring the horn and moving over as far as she could. However, we were up tight against a median with nowhere to go.
Our new Jeep took the brunt of it. We were grateful no one was injured and called the guys. When they got there, and after some debate, Evan said, “We need to call the police.”
We spent more than an hour with the officer, who took our statements while we filled out forms. The lady took full responsibility for the crash. The Jeep could be driven, but the front passenger door wouldn’t open.
That evening was the family’s second game where we saw The Brewers get hit hard, too, in a 9-1 loss. OUCH!!
The Jeep is in for repairs and will be good as new. But, it’s unlikely we’ll forget the events of this Brewer trip - The good: Jackson’s birthday and Bryson’s big-screen debut. The bad: The Brewer’s 9-1 loss. And, the downright ugly: The accident.

(Be sure to view the video of Bryson’s Brewer antics on our home page at boblamboutdoors.com)


Believe it… another home run!!!!

“He just keeps knocking it out of the park!!!!!!”

This was the text message I received from brother-in-law, Stu, yesterday. It was after I sent a text to family members with the results of The Outdoors Guy’s latest CT scan and labs as Dr. Paula Gill continues followup care since Bob’s pancreatic cancer battle began 38+ months ago.
Seriously, this is much more like a grand slam!!
1) A clean CT scan.
2) Tumor marker dropped from 7 to 6.
3) Labs within normal range.
4) All liver tests within normal range.
Of course, our family is ecstatic on all four counts!!!  
Dr. Gill’s plan going forward is to extend Bob’s time frame for the next CT scan to six months rather than the three-month cycle he has been following.
She suggested having a tumor marker test done in three months if Bob has concerns with waiting six months for the next scan. He agreed to Dr. Gill’s plan.
With his next tumor marker due in late October, the timing will be right for The Outdoors Guy to hit another one out of the park in his very own personal World Series challenge against cancer.
Son, Jon, sent a text in response to our news with one word: “WOOHOO!!!”
Yup. That about sums it up!!!
Our family continues to be blessed almost beyond belief!!! Yet…

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23