Tag Archives: Kids

Gimme 5 – Great Places to Stay in Sedona

I travel to Sedona fairly regularly for work (I know there are places that are a lot worse that I could be sent to…say, Arkansas), so I have had the opportunity to stay in many different places there. While most of the hotels in Sedona are fairly small, a couple of the ones that I highlight today are big, and all of them are great for a family reunion or vacation. If you have a work retreat or event to plan, consider Sedona, you won’t be disappointed!

  1. The Enchantment Resort – this resort is a little out of the way, but it is very quiet and exclusive (rumor has it that we passed Madonna’s place on the way out to this resort). It was a great place to stay when my husband could travel with me. (We stayed there on election night which didn’t make the Bush – Gore election any more palatable). It is an amazing place. The spa was fantastic; the food was fantastic; the exercise classes were fantastic, but our favorite part was the location. You can literally walk out your door and go hiking on many different trails. It felt like we were on the edge of the earth. While they do have a conference facility on site, mine was not being held there, so we had to drive every morning for 20 minutes or so to get back into town and get to my conference. For work or vacation, this resort can’t be beat!
  2. The Hilton Sedona Resort and Spa – this place is great! I have spent the most time here and at the Amara, but this one is a mix of regular hotel, resort, and fun place to be. The hot rock massages at the hotel spa were wonderful and relaxing. I felt 5 inches taller walking out of there. The pool closes early and the hotel security didn’t appreciate a bunch of people climbing the fence to try out the hot tub after a late dinner! My favorite part was the golf course and being able to wake up and walk the course at sunrise. Rabbits and all kinds of wildlife were out there to say good morning!
  3. The Sedona Rouge – the Sedona a Rouge is a nice, peaceful hotel despite being on the main road, 89A,  in Sedona. The rooms were generously sized and appointed. The spa is quite relaxing and the tea served in there was a surprise. Sedona is a sleepy town with little night life. We had to pay the bartender to stay open later for our little raucous  group after coming back from dinner. The hotel is a little separate and disjointed but that’s what makes it quiet.
  4. L’Auberge de Sedona – the name should say something to you – like – “With my French name, I am going to be very expensive!” It is, but it is built into a hillside and backs up to Oak Creek and is very, very worth it. It is located at the North end of town on 89A and hidden down its own driveway – it looks like you are going to drive down an embankment into Oak Creek. The views from this side are stunning. The balconies of each hotel room back up onto the creek and make for a very peaceful evening.
  5. The Amara Creekside Hotel, Restaurant, and Spa in Sedona – this one is my personal favorite. The Amara is right next door to L’Auberge but is much, much less expensive. In fact, when I drove across country last summer and decided to stay a couple of nights in Sedona, I threw my idea of camping out the window and we stayed here. My kids loved the pool and being on the creek. I loved being able to sit out by the fire pit and have a glass of wine while the kids raced each other up and down the pool. The rooms are simple and elegant. The balconies are small, but the common area around the pool and creek  were much better for hanging out anyway. I had the best hot rock massage ever at this resort (the masseuse was named John) and they have since expanded their spa into a separate area, which is very tranquil.



All of these hotels are in the nice to very nice range – the prices and service range wildly from reasonable to very expensive. But, no matter where you choose to stay the views will be stunning, the spas will relax you, and you will have good food!

If you have a favorite place to stay in Sedona – leave more information in the comments.

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The Tale of Two Grandmas

My grandmothers are awesome – let’s just state that right up front to start this tale! I’m working on this project where I am writing some guides on how to share photos online and the end-user I have to keep in mind is someone who isn’t that comfortable with the internet but wants to share and print photos with their friends and family. At the same, I had just come home from a visit with one of my grandmothers and we had spent a ton of time looking through old photos and slides. Both of these things got me thinking about my two grandmothers and how polar opposite the are when it comes to computers and the internet.

My Grandma Edith is  going to be 89 in April. She was a nurse and worked for my grandfather’s geology company for years, color coding well core samples. She now does tai chi every day. She plays viola and cello beautifully. She makes incredible jewelry, does intricate silver work, and uses the rocks that my grandfather finds and polishes to turn them in to jewelry. Over the years I have learned many things from her. Using the computer isn’t one of them!

We have tried to set up a computer for her and my grandfather to use (he would actually send emails). But I never saw her use it. We even volunteered to go down to the library and set up a free gmail account, so that she could email us when she went to the library. The whole idea of email is foreign to her. She actually writes letters and makes phone calls. I think she is one of three people that I know who still hand-write letters. I don’t think we will ever get her to use a computer – for email or for any other reason.

My other grandmother, Grandma Frances, is 92 and is the polar opposite. She taught math, shorthand, and other subjects in high school until she retired in 1976. She uses the computer for all kinds of things – she uses Quicken to balance the farm books; she uses it to email all of us family members; she tracks all of our birthdays and addresses – from her children to all of the great grandkids! She hasn’t shared any photos with me online, but I am sure she can figure it out with the instruction sets I am writing! She is the one I credit with getting me interested in photography. She took the time to explain the camera, how it worked, and more importantly, she trusted me to use her Canon camera when I was 10. This trip, we had a blast looking through her old photos and slides. We even got the slide projector up and running to share silly pictures with my kids – like the ones of my dad from the 70’s with an afro, and the ones of our cows, and my teddy bear. She sent me home with a stack of slides and pictures to scan in!

Today’s blog is a tribute to these two lovely ladies who each have their own strengths. These are ladies 3 and 4 in my effort to highlight 30 women this year. Read more about the others: BFF, Michealene Cristini Risley

You Gotta See the Race to Nowhere Movie

After 4 previous attempts, I finally saw the movie Race to Nowhere last night and I later posted a comment on a Race to Nowhere share on Facebook:

Sonya L. Sigler I have been an advocate for no homework for so long – I wanted our school to volunteer to be a test bed for a “no homework policy.” I would prefer that my kids play sports or take music or do nothing or explore the park down the hill from us… and I was lucky enough to see the movie tonight in San Carlos, CA.

By this morning, I had been attacked for my opinion that supported a “no homework policy” that our elementary school district had merely discussed 4-5 years ago.

Susi Crowe OK Sonya, no homework for high school students, really!?? Explore the park down the hill with the girlfriend, a case of beer and country music playing…or let’s make sure kids have time to play, which nowadays means playing on the computer, the Iphone, the Xbox. Great productive plan that you have, let’s you off the hook from being involved w/ your kids homework and spending the time as a parent taking them to activities they are interested in, so YOU have more free time……

It was interesting to me to see that 1) all kinds of judgments had been made (I don’t do homework with my kids; I don’t take them to activities they are interested in; I hold this opinion about homework so I can have more free time; my kids listen to country music..I could go on) and 2) leaps to certain conclusions had been made without even asking for more information or an explanation of why I want my kids to do things other than homework or why I would think that volunteering our school to test the policy was a good idea. I had one comment of support:

Sarasota Homes ‎@Sonya – I LOVE your attitude and thoughts toward education. I was a high school teacher/coach for 16 years. I don’t want my kids “racing to nowhere” and that’s exactly where politicians (on both sides) demand they go…. Kids NEED to be kids. Great support here!

This “no homework policy” that I mentioned was merely a discussion that the school board had 4-5 years ago (three superintendents ago) and it hadn’t even been implemented.  As far as I know, not one of our district schools has tested a “no homework policy.” What I do know is that schools in our elementary school district (San Carlos) and high school district (Sequoia Union) have made strides to coordinate homework assignments and work loads. I posted a further explanation:

Sonya L. Sigler I have a little bit longer explanation about what no homework means in our family and with the school my kids go to AND what the “no homework policy” was that was discussed in our school district about 4-5 years ago. We, as a family, focus on music, sports, scouting, and visiting National Parks. So, it is different homework than busy work sheets and homework given because the teacher couldn’t get to the info in class. Then there are chores on top of that. My kids also go to a project based school so there isn’t a lot of busywork homework; most of the homework assigned is related to a project unit. The “no homework policy” that was discussed in our school district 4-5 years ago that I wanted to volunteer our school for would have looked at a few things: 1) coordinated homework among the teachers so that not every subject had an hours worth of homework every evening; 2) the homework time (targeted time to complete it) would vary by grade level; and 3) the homework was related to reinforcing concepts in the curriculum as opposed to busy work. Thankfully we do most of these at our school already. But I am sure there are improvements that we can make related to homework. My kids are in a K-8 school so we haven’t gotten to the heavy work loads in high school – however my philosophy remains the same for that and the high schools in our area are trying to coordinate the homework assigned among the classes.

I think there is enough work for our children to do in school and in class without giving them more than an hour or two of homework each night. One of the main points of the movie was that after a certain amount of time the point of doing the homework becomes ineffective — I think it was an hour for middle school and two hours for high school students. The high schools in our area ARE trying to coordinate the type and amount of homework given across the subjects. At SCCLC, we have targeted homework by grade level and I think that the time expected to be spent on homework is not excessive as it relates to each grade level at our school.

From a family perspective, it all comes down to managing priorities and choices. Everything is a choice. Spending 4 hours on homework instead of playing baseball is a choice. Spending time playing an instrument instead of doing busy worksheets is a choice. Spending time exploring National Parks is a choice. Spending time with Boy Scouts is a choice. It’s all a choice. We choose to have our kids play sports, play an instrument, participate in scouting, and explore national parks. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for homework, or as suggested in the snarky facebook comment, playing video games. BTW – We do limit screen time of all types – we don’t ban it, we just limit it to 2 hours on the weekends. And, even with a full time job, I do squire my kids around to activities that they are interested in…currently, for my three boys that list includes baseball, basketball, flag football, bowling, rifles, archery, 4H, Scouts, soccer, dance, and music lessons – I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of not being involved with my kids – some would say they are over scheduled and that I’m too involved. But, truth be told they are doing the activities that they choose to do.

Our family has chosen to concentrate our time on the activities that are important to us – sometimes that doesn’t include homework. The consequence of these choices will vary – sometimes my son has to wake up earlier to do homework or stay up later than usual to finish it. Sometimes he may have to spend lunch or recess time finishing up something. Sometimes he may not turn it in at all – this has led to an interesting discussion about doing extra credit work to cover times when he can’t finish his work or turn it in. But, at least we know what the choice is that we are making as opposed to blindly trying to do it all.

Re high school, my thoughts on homework are the same. Don’t kill yourself trying to do it all just because someone has assigned homework. Talk to the teachers, advocate for your child – or better yet, have your child advocate for themselves (or in a group of students)  when it comes to managing homework loads.

Part of what the movie was shedding light on is – take a step back and evaluate the situation. What is right for your child (and why)? The sky isn’t going to fall if your child doesn’t get into “a good” college. Taking AP classes just to get into “a good” college is a prime example of doing something for the wrong reason. Doing well in an AP course is a choice; does it mean that you have to read the entire textbook? No, it means you need to be able to understand concepts and understand the bigger picture – that is what is tested on AP tests. The point of an AP class is that it IS accelerated learning. It requires you to digest an enormous amount of information. If all of your child’s courses are AP courses – you are really saying that they should be in college – becuase those AP test scores translate into college credit. The point made in the movie is – look at what your child is doing and why they are doing it. If your child  is only taking an AP course because they think it will get them into the right college – rethink the situation and make a change, if necessary.

There is one scene in the movie that was particular poignant for me – it was the scene where a boy says that he wanted to quit school altogether because he didn’t get the grade he wanted and now probably won’t get into the college he wanted. In retrospect, I did a lot of things in high school because it would look good when I applied to college. I didn’t get into Harvard or Stanfurd, which were my top 2 choices, and those rejection letters were very hard to take. My mom didn’t even believe me when I called her at work to tell her I didn’t get in to Stanfurd. Ironically, I got into my back up school, UC Berkeley, on early admission, which was based upon my grades and test scores alone.  Granted this was in the 80’s and now admission to the schools in the UC system works slightly differently, but my point is that I survived and I went to a great college anyway even though it wasn’t my first choice. (As a side note – I really loved that there was a clip of the Cal Band in the movie – I spent a lot of time in the Cal Band when I was in college). Did I go to a school that matched what I needed (as the movie suggests)? No, I probably would have done much better at a school like Colorado College that does block learning on one subject per month, not 6 or 7 classes per 15 week semester. I think one of the most important points in the movie was to focus on finding what works for your child!

Many thanks to our San Carlos PTA Coordinating Council who sponsored the evening last night and worked hard to bring the Race to Nowhere movie to our District. I urge you to bring it to your school district! Have a panel discussion. Have schools explain what their homework policy is. Have kids explain how it is affecting them or how they are coping with the work loads. Proactively work at finding a solution for you and your child(ren). I urge you to see the movie if you have a chance.

If you have thoughts on this post or what can make the situation described in the Race to Nowhere better, please leave a comment.

Day 8 – PEI or Bust – Oklahoma City to Hot Springs, Arkansas

Day 8 57196 odo 8:14 am

As we are leaving Weatherford, OK, the home of astronaut Tom Stafford, it is VERY foggy and overcast. It always takes longer to roust everyone out of bed and into the car than I think it will. It worked so much better when my brother and I drove across country in 2001 and we would get up around 7 and take showers. I would breast-feed McKinley then we would get on the road and drive for an hour before eating breakfast at some greasy spoon. You always felt like you had accomplished a lot before 8 am.

Getting the kids dressed, fed and into the car by 8:14 am should feel better than it does. Now we are headed to Oklahoma City to see the bombing memorial set up there a few years ago. One of the first things we saw was a license plate that said JASPER on it – an old rust colored clunker, like a Dodge Series K car. We see many pick-up trucks and old American cars and a lot of semi-trucks. Not much else on the road once you get outside of the SF Bay Area. We saw our second Mercedes today of the entire drive so far. We saw our first one driving from Albuquerque, which was a candy apple red one headed towards Santa Fe.

Bryce took one of the best sunset pictures from our trip out the window of our car driving into Oklahoma last night. Driving along the highway, you can see lots of funny things (see News of the Weird, below) including a unique guard rail system with poles and steel cable rather than the metal guard rail. I suppose the steel cable system would work just as well if the cables are tensioned properly. But the poles looked like a Semi truck would just take them with the truck and have a new hood ornament in place. Not too reassuring.

Jasper spotted an elk yesterday and a doe and fawn this morning. We saw more mowers today. We saw  signs for the “Canadian Valley Technology Center” about 20 miles outside Oklahoma City – sounded like an oxymoron all the way around to me. We passed towns names Church of the Rock (or maybe that was just a church name – I wonder what they worshipped), Antlers, Atoka, Muddy Boggy Creek. We saw Broken Arrow (instead of Broken Bow, where my Aunt and Uncle live). We passed Daisy, which had a population of 118 and where the Freewill Baptist Church welcomes you. And that’s where everyone was Thursday night.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial was simple, but moving. There is a long pool of water between gates marking the time of the bombing. We were there right after July 4th and saw a woman taking down all of the red, white and blue decorations. She was unceremoniously dumping the wreaths in a box on a cart. There were an amazing amount of tributes to the bombing victims on a chain link fence running the length of the memorial. It was the same way when we visited the Flight 93 Memorial in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

There was a museum at the memorial too. Jasper and Bryce weren’t very interested in going to this one, but by the time we got out of the museum and walked around the copper and glass chairs dedicated to each victim, they were suitably interested. Bryce was very interested in the interaction between your skin, the water and the copper. One of the more moving things at the memorial was the ability to put your hand in the pool of water (about 4 inches deep) and place it on the memorial wall to leave your hand print. It was a nice reminder of how we are all interconnected.

Once we left Oklahoma City, it started raining those Texas-sized rain drops, even though we were in Oklahoma… It started raining so hard, people were hydroplaning about the freeway. I kinda felt like I was back in Hendricks County (Indiana) during one of those freak summer thunderstorms, with hail the size of golf balls. In the pouring rain, we passed the Middle O’ Nowhere Market in Reagan, OK. Somewhere in all that rain, (now I feel like I’m back at home in the midwest and have to talk about the weather), I succumbed to the drive thru at a KFC and A&W RootBeer place to get chicken strips, green beans, a biscuit, and a Dr Pepper that tasted suspiciously like diet coke –  blech – on all accounts! I only made it through the biscuit. Note to self – stick to Starbucks!

Now we are headed to South Eastern Oklahoma and the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Not so surprisingly, we ended up on the road that was the most expeditious, which was a toll road – the Indian Trail Turnpike; although it was our first turnpike of the trip, it certainly would not be our last. We have somewhere entered into the Chocktaw Indian Nation. After my foray into the Navajo Nation, I’m sticking to the roads that aren’t faint and dotted on the map. I’m stickin’ to those brighter lines!

We stopped at the Visitor Center at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area to get our Junior Ranger booklets and go on a hike to explore the hot springs. Who knew there were hot springs in that area. During the torrential downpour that followed us the whole day, we had this amazingly lovely green dragonfly follow us on the trail. Then when we turned back, we spied an armadillo. We watched him for a few minutes – I kept getting closer and closer  to take pictures of him because my “would have been very useful at this moment” telephoto lens was in the truck. The armadillo (which has very bad vision as a species) finally spotted us and turned and waddled off. The boys got a great kick out of seeing an armadillo up close! (It reminded me of my friend Alison’s hilarious story about armadillos, more specifically, as she puts it, “blowing on an armadillo’s bum.”)

Soaked, we still had to pick up a bag of trash each to finish the Jr. Ranger program. I like the Jr. Ranger Programs where the kids have to pick up trash… makes them more responsible! We found about 400 cigarette butts. What a nasty habit! Yuck!!! There were so many cigarette butts that we made up our own game –  if you walked over one and then someone else behind you spotted it, then they could ask you to come back and pick it up. The Visitor Center building had been built by the WPA in the 30’s and felt like the heating system worked like it was still in the 30’s. Once I was frozen from the rain and ancient heating system, the boys finally finished their booklets and earned the Jr. Ranger badge. Outside, we spotted one of the cutest things  of the day: two little girls who laid down their giant golf umbrellas and scooted under them to play while they were waiting.

A few days ago when we crossed the Continental Divide and accidentally hit a chipmunk, I made a joke about road kill and a smart ass remark about it making a good dinner in Arkansas. McKinley didn’t get the joke, so that meant I had to explain it to him. Not good when you have to explain your own prejudicial joke to your child. But it did give us a chance to chat about stereotypes and eating other types of animals that you hunt.

Speaking of animals you hunt, we saw lots of long horns today. We passed a town named Frogville, which made me wonder if they had frog jumping contests like the ones in Calaveras County, CA. Last night when we filled up, we pulled into an empty gas station next to an adult bookstore which had a full parking lot. I always wondered what men did in places like that looking for “books.” I’m still wondering… I was already kind of annoyed from seeing these sexist freeway safety ads – “My daddy works here and will daddy be home tonight? Be alert be safe…” Don’t they have any working moms along the freeway? Probably not – they have better things to be doing!

We discovered that Broken Bow, OK is right next to the North Pole near the corner of Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. Who knew… Once we made it into Arkansas, the bridge surface was lumpy and road quality dropped significantly. Thankfully – that didn’t last the entire time we were in Arkansas. We saw a ton more political and campaign ads in Arkansas – most of them were hand painted or spray painted. I was impressed that people cared enough to state their opinion and put it out in their yard. We passed Wagon Wheel Dance Land, which was a dance hall. Sounded like it might be a fun place to square dance! We passed Cane Creek, Mud Creek, and Rolling Fork River – which made me a little worried about what we might find in Arkansas. Can you tell it was my first time there and that I had a lot of preconceived notions about what Arkansas would be like???

We had called to home to make sure McKinley made it back safe and to cub scout camp and my husband, Greg, mentioned that we should go to the Diamond mine and see what we could find. We briefly toyed with the idea of going to the Crater of Diamonds State Park to look for my retirement package. But since it was so late and I didn’t know if they had a campground, I decided to keep going North and ended up going to Hot Springs instead.

We arrived at Hot Springs at about dinner time – with enough daylight to find a camping spot, see a little of the area, and then make dinner. There were mosquitos galore, rain drops kept falling on my head… it was incredibly humid (and made me very thankful I live in a no humidity area). Once we were done with our preliminary look at the Hot Springs main street, we hopped back into the truck to go find the campgrounds. We then found out that the campground was temporarily off-limits because of some multi-car accident, which was blocking all three entrances to the campground. Hmmm, they weren’t able to give us an estimate of when it would be cleared or even if there were open camp sites. Not a good omen.

Undeterred, I drove back out the way we came in and then to the south side of town to the entrance way on the other side, and waited. Actually, I didn’t wait very patiently,  I parked and got of of the truck to go talk to the Ranger holding up traffic.  I’ve never been one to accept the stock answer that it can’t be done… as I was walking over to the Ranger, what turned out to be the last tow truck, brought out a very mangled car. He yelled something at the Ranger who then opened up the roads — just like that, we were in. We decided to camp in an RV space because the only two tent spaces left looked dicey, as they were next to guys working on their motor bikes and they did not look like they were going to go to sleep too soon even if there were kids next to them.

We figured out their automatic camp site payment machine and then went to find a grocery store to get something for dinner. The boys decided they wanted to grill hot dogs. We learned that you don’t want to raise (or lower) the grill with the hots dogs going the same direction as the grill slats… you end up with hot dogs in the grill, not grilled hot  dogs. Nothing a little water wouldn’t fix… The camp site we picked turned out to be sheltered from most of the rain… I slept a little bit uneasily waiting for the mosquitos to quit buzzing around me – for some reason they really like me – and I was trying to discern if the rain was heavy enough to come through the trees and get us wet enough to hop back into the truck (because we didn’t have a tent). Well, about 7:30 am the next morning, we found out that the rain WAS heavy enough to come through the trees and get us wet. And we also found out that the boys can get dressed, packed up, and back in the truck in 5 minutes flat when it really did start raining on us!

News of the Weird (and fabulous facts):

  • Why is Diamond Bank’s logo a star?
  • A sign rusted so badly that we had no idea what it actually said
  • Gas was $2.49/gal. in Weatherford, OK
  • International Paper in Oklahoma
  • Gas is only $2.34/gal. near Hot Springs, AR
  • Awesome horse farm outside Dierks, AR
  • Amazing white column house and horse ranch outside Pearcy, AR
  • Weyerhauser in Arkansas means tons of logging trucks and mills,
  • McKinley Hardwood truck
  • First non credit card gas pumps I have seen in years
  • Ambush Adventures for River Rafting (not sure that is who I want planning a river rafting trip…)
  • Sign – Do not drive into smoke – what are you supposed to do? Stop and wait? Yup! Too many grass fires to know what you’d be driving into.
  • Sign – Drive Friendly – not sure what this meant? Don’t flip anyone off? Don’t tailgate? Wave to everyone? Find a driving buddy?
  • NM drivers in NM don’t move over, but they do move over in other states.
  • License Plates spotted today – SC MS

Day 8 – PEI or Bust – Oklahoma City to Hot Springs, Arkansas

Check out the full post here. It has taken awhile to post all of these blog entries from our trip and I wanted to leave them in order for my readers.

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You Twit Face

My middle son turned 10 last night (and I have no idea where the last decade went…) and at dinner, or maybe it was when he was opening presents, he told us a joke, which is unusual for Bryce. We were in the middle of coming up with trios of names for our three new kittens. We looked at Sega character names, car names, black cat names like Blackie, Shadow, or Licorice, and National Park Names that we didn’t use on our own kids. Bryce said Facebook, You Tube, and Twitter. My husband thought he was suggesting those as a trio of cat names. But after a few minutes Bryce clarified that he was actually trying to tell a joke. Once we all settled down and stopped laughing about those names, which would quickly become obsolete, as company names and as cat names, Bryce told his joke, which went something like this: you know You Tube, Facebook and Twitter are all going to merge, right? What is the newly merged company going to be called — wait for it…

You Twit Face.

I found it especially funny considering all three of my kids, even the 8 year old, are masters at programming the phones, the remotes, and finding apps (like the farting sound app and the gunshot app) for their new iPod touches (that they saved for and bought with their own allowances). The fact that all three of them knew about those companies was interesting in and of itself. None of them have their own accounts on any of these websites, but you can find me or Greg on each one of those websites. The kids do spend a fair amount of time perusing funny cat videos on You Tube and now that we have our own, they want to make their own cat videos. Yesterday, the first full day of having all three kittens, started with the sleek black kitten, temporarily known as Runner, playing the piano. Instead of internet company names, we ended up with a tentative consensus of using car names for the cats: Jaguar (see the  ladder picture above), Tesla (the one on the left on the ladder), and Maserati (see the picture on the far left; the names Mustang and Tiger haven’t been discarded for him yet), and now the cats have all been claimed by one of the kids as their own.