"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will."
George Bernard Shaw

Monday, July 14, 2014

Yard Transformation Summer 2014

I have to start this off by saying: If you don't have a thoughtful, giving, wonderful friend like Thomas in your life, you are seriously missing out. I think the main motivation behind finally starting the long process of getting our yard under control (besides the fact that it looked like the bank owned our home) was Thomas wanting to put a fire pit in our backyard. He called before Brian went to Oregon and we made plans to turn an old timpani into a fire pit as a surprise for Brian. Because it turns out we don't know all the burning properties and heat thresholds for fiberglass, it was much wiser (and probably safer) to make a raised stone area instead. 

So Thomas came over a few days after Brian left and we mapped out the safest area in the backyard (NOT under low-hanging tree branches like the old fire spot).

The official "before" pic. The old fire pit lid was a marker for some measurements.
We priced out all the materials online and I found a company that would deliver a ton of pea gravel (literally, 2,000 pounds) into my driveway! We were pretty excited about this delivery, but the pile wasn't very impressive. Should have ordered 2 tons!

We don't own a wheelbarrow so Thomas used Arch's wagon to haul all the gravel to the backyard. Wish I had thought to get a pic!
And, after two days of Thomas working in the heat and humidity and full beating sun in our backyard, we have an amazing finished fire pit area!!! Brian was FLOORED when he got home. He had an idea something fire-pit related might be going in the backyard, but he never dreamed it would be like this. We cannot wait to have our first s'mores out there. 

We still can't believe this is in our backyard!!
So while Thomas was tackling the backyard I was working in the front, which is where the foreclosure-esque landscaping was going on. The main problem with our yard is that I've been pregnant or had a newborn/small baby for most of the prime gardening times. OR, Brian has been out of town/in the middle of band/unable to help. Not very convenient! Plus, the former homeowners had all kinds of crazy stuff planted with no real rhyme or reason to it (that we can see). It's hard to take ownership of something and really push to maintain it when you're not crazy about it in the first place. It always felt like we were trying to maintain their vision for the front yard. Now, I'm excited to say, it's MY vision and I am so proud of it so far and how far it has come. It definitely wouldn't have happened without our parents' help--there's only so many usable hours in the day for a pregnant lady in the middle of summer. 
A before picture. The driveway is to the left. And no, that is not grass. It's crabgrass and weeds and random plants (some dead, some alive).
The view from above looking down on the same section. How terrible is all that?!
One of my best executive decisions was to rip everything out below the pretty red plant (which is my favorite thing in the front yard and always has hummingbirds at it) and turn it back to grass. The slope is so steep when you mulch it a good rain seems to wash it all away anyways! And, it's hard to see, but I actually successfully grew grass!!!

TA-DA!!!! This took me many hours in the earlier morning and later evening one day. So much work but worth it!
Here's a before of another part of the yard. I didn't get a good close-up of that right side of the house, but suffice it to say--scary. The main culprit is the giant hibiscus to the right of the steps. It is not supposed to do that or grow like that. Lucky us we got the mutant hibiscus that tries to swallow everyone that comes to our house. It is beautiful when it blooms, but it wasn't enough to keep it there. It's now been transplanted behind the swing at the fire pit area and we're hoping it can hang on. It turns out 90 degrees and 10000 percent humidity really isn't the best weather for transplanting stuff. 

After! Goodbye hibiscus!!
I split up one big plant into 3 sections and put one where the hibiscus used to be. And you can also see I got cocky with my grass growing skills and put another part of the yard back to grass. Plus, all the beds are being edged with bricks now. It's very nice (though labor-intensive!)
A panoramic pic of the yard that finally looks good. I still have some brick edging to complete, but overall this whole chunk of the yard = done!! Next year we'll reevaluate the plants and maybe add 1-2 things. 
The last part of the yard to tackle is a pretty big area. BUT, a lot of stuff is getting dug up, a big chunk of it has already been weeded, and my mom already trimmed all the bushes. So when we get a free couple hours we just need to get all the weeds out and mulch and then we're calling it done for this season. Plus we already spent way too much money on the yard so there's no room for buying any new plants this year. Next year the blue planters and window boxes will also get flowers and plants early in the season. 

One final "before" pic. Completion date TBD.

My final goal while Brian was gone was to turn the side patio into a relaxing place that we actually want to spend time. That has been my intention since we moved in but energy levels, finances, baby situations just hadn't made it possible. I am really happy with how it turned out! I'll probably tweak some things next spring but for a first effort I think it looks really good. Now if we could just get rid of all the mosquitos that make it virtually impossible for me to actually sit out there and enjoy all my hard work!!! I didn't take a "before" pic, but just imagine an empty patio. 

Three huge planters with clematis and petunias. The clematis are doing pretty well and the petunias and sweet potato vines have REALLY taken off!! They should start spilling over the edges soon. 
Arch got his own little chair!!
There are three pretty hanging baskets above the planters. And I hung lanterns and mason jars filled with sand and votives. We haven't gotten a chance to see what it looks like all lit up at night but my guess is lovely!
I've since added pretty cushions to these already comfy chairs! And, a baker's rack in the alcove on the porch that next season will hold fun little things besides just plating supplies. 
I'm exhausted just rehashing everything I did in a few short days. The last day I won't say or admit that I overdid it, but I'll say it was definitely close. I'm happy to have it all almost done and can't wait to maintain it in the fall and next spring!

Friday, July 11, 2014

18 Months (Arch)

Little Bubba,

You have been so horrible the past 2ish weeks it's been agonizing to finish this post. By the time you go to sleep (after much crying and screaming and us having to go back in your room multiple times) I'm so exhausted and have so much cleaning and side jobs to get done (and it's so much later) that I can't even think of looking at pictures of you and trying to be thoughtful. If you had started this phase earlier there might never have been a little sibling in your future. You are lucky on that account. I was not created with the patience and empathy to handle your tantrums. It is astonishing to me how many HOURS a day you choose to cry and scream. It will clearly get better at some point, but that's not helpful to know or hear when you're in the middle of it. And the sad thing, for all of us, is that it's going to get much, much worse before it gets better. At any rate, what I wrote earlier this week in a rare moment of feeling nostalgic and very fondly of you is below.

I've been calling you Bubba for WEEKS now. I have no idea why. Though upon reflecting after your daddy asked me where on earth that came from, I have to guess it's from starting with "bubby", which of course is the companion to sissy. You are Viv and Finn's bubby until Elsa gets here and then you get to be a "real" one. And she gets to be sissy! :) Here's an updated bear pic for you. You have suddenly started throwing yourself on it--pretty fun!!

Dada also lets you go upstairs without a diaper after your bath!
You have grown so much mentally (and perhaps physically--we think your gym-shoes might not fit very well all the sudden!) the past 3 weeks I feel like I need to document it. It's amazing. Your little brain is just exploding.

Which means you are also a little terror about 60-70% of the time. The rest of each day you are the sweetest little boy (or sleeping), but man oh man can you throw a tantrum. We understand that it's hard for you right now with not being able to communicate everything you want or need, and not understanding "rules" and how everything we say no to (and wow is it a lot of stuff) seems extremely arbitrary to you right now. What a difficult way to live!! But it'll get better soon, and hopefully before you legit crack your head open on something during a fit of throwing yourself onto the floor. And, then it'll probably get worse--you can't even talk yet!

I want to try to capture all the words you know now. We just went to your 18-month check-up and your doc said at this point she is thrilled if you were to know 10 words. So, go you!! You know: cat, dog, car, "vroom" (we're counting that--it's the sound cars make!), mama, dada, papa, cracker, bowl, thank you, more, go (usually "go go go!"), ball, woof, flower, outside, bath, night-night, bye-bye, uh-oh, Michelle (your babysitter), eat, ear, eye, nose, mouth.

You also know more animal sounds finally: most animals (like lions and alligators) get a roar (including really funny little ones like squirrels). But you meow now for house cats, you've been "woofing" forever, and recently you have started quacking for ducks.

Bravely petting a turtle with one little finger at the zoo.

This very small, soft, prickly thing got lots of growls from you!

You also use your signs all day long. There aren't too many right now but you are so consistent with them and really understand why and how you're using them: more, please, food/eat, and the newest one as of last night--thank you!! We have been wanting you to start signing and/or saying thank you forever. We want you to be a polite little guy. I was making your daddy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for his lunch the next day and considering you threw a fit all through dinner and didn't eat anything, I guess you were a little hungry. You signed please and pointed to the sandwich so I gave you the whole thing hoping you might take a bite or two. You signed and said "thank you!" right away and took a big bite!! We were SO PROUD OF YOU. It made me want to cry. And you cheerfully walked around the kitchen and sat on your stool and proceeded to eat almost half of daddy's sandwich!! (I also realized after a few minutes that between bites you were apparently resting the sandwich on the floor--whoops!!)

You are really starting to follow directions. You know we take our shoes off when we get inside and one day you suddenly picked up both shoes with one hand and on a whim I asked you to go put them on the bench by the front door with the rest of your shoes...and you did!! You even tried to line them up like the others. Another time we were out on the porch and I asked you to get your little chair and bring it close to mine (you picked it up and carried it over) and then I asked you to sit on it so I could give you a bite of ice cream--and you climbed right up! You understand so much more than we think and you're surprising us every day.

Very pleased with yourself in your little chair!
Along with following directions you have started to become very "helpful." You can pick up your blocks (though you often want to just dump them out again), you want to vacuum 24/7 (which has led to some major tantrums because we clearly don't want to vacuum all day), and you can help unload the dishwasher (it takes about 20 minutes with you handing me silverware one piece at a time).

You gave a big triumphant "TA-DA!!!!" after helping unload the dishwasher on this particular day.

At bedtime you say "night-night" and then "bye-bye" and wave to us when we're putting you in your crib. And until recently (where we've had some major setbacks!) you had been pointing to your crib and saying night-night when you were ready to stop rocking and go to sleep. And then would actually go to sleep without a peep! I know we'll return to that eventually. :)

You are so big now and my belly is getting so much bigger that you don't quite fit well on my lap anymore, which is breaking my heart big time. There have been many tears at bedtime lately (miraculously not just yours!) as we struggle to get comfortable and snuggle for what seems like forever. We're trying to work out a side thing where you're kind of wrapped around your sissy and that seems to be working decently for now. As soon as we get that big new comfy glider I'm about to order I think we'll be in better shape.

But despite the challenges we've been having, we definitely have to document what a sweet, funny little boy you are. You give kisses (and often when asked!) and hugs. Sometimes you just want to come sit in our laps and snuggle (especially when you work on your animal sound puzzle, which you suddenly know how to complete!) or give us a hug and kiss for no reason at all. You say "uh-oh" so seriously and with such enthusiasm at all the appropriate times it makes us laugh all the time--even when you say uh-oh for doing something intentionally that you're not supposed to. :) You also have this crazy little half-maniacal laugh that you bust out every once in awhile. A lot of times its when you get something you were asking for or we do something you wanted us to. And sometimes it makes us REALLY mad because we can tell you were apparently successfully manipulating us when you do that laugh after getting something.

I got so many random snuggles this day!
A somewhat rare moment of relaxing and watching TV with mama.
One day you could suddenly do this puzzle!! It's now your favorite. 
You are also pretty demanding--especially now that you are so good at pointing. You will carry a pillow next to your play kitchen and then point at me and point to the pillow. I sat on a pillow next to you a couple times to try and preserve my tailbone and I guess you think that's the only way I can play with you now! Or if we get up and you want us to sit back down you'll sign please and point adamantly at where we just got up from.

You LOVE to be outside and would run around on the side porch playing with your water table all day if we let you. You also still love music (especially classical) and conducting like your daddy. As soon as a good song comes on the classical station you smile big and get your little fingers pointing and wave your arms around (JUST like daddy does it I'm sure). You've also added dancing to the mix which mostly consists of spinning in circles and swaying back and forth. But lately we've really seen some moving and shaking and you've even started trying to jump with your feet leaving the ground a bit.

Mama wouldn't fill up the watering can so you took matters into your own hands and tried to fill it up with your water table.
First drink out of the hose.
Playing with your wagon outside on the porch, in just a diaper. Your ideal afternoon! :) 
Intently watching mama's favorite trumpeter (Alison Balsom) play a concert. You were very impressed.
Your checkup today definitely confirmed you are a giant baby. 91% for weight and 94% for height! No matter how mad you make us (me) and how terrible you behave day-to-day, we're still glad you're ours and we love you to pieces!!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mothers and Daughters Gone Wild: The Sequel

This is one of those recaps that has been a looooong time coming. Some background:

My Granny had three daughters, and they each had a daughter, and the 7 of us get along remarkably well for family. :) We genuinely enjoy being around each other and planning reasons to get together, along with the rest of the family.

So way back in 2007(ish) we got the brilliant idea to go on a Mother/Daughter trip, complete with custom shirts. To Amish country. And we had a ball, as probably only our family could in Amish country.

We had talked about doing another trip off and on over the years and when Brian and I went to Snug Hollow for an awesome weekend away I realized it was the perfect place for our next Mother/Daughter trip. It is quaint and country and out in the middle of nowhere and we all tend to like those sorts of things.

So our weekend started out meeting at Granny's house. She was in a perfectly coordinating outfit, as always.

THEN someone produced this picture of the seven of us circa 1991. AMAZING. I really need a copy of this framed in my house.

Did we ever determine where we were/what this was for? At Mentor Baptist? For a Mother's Day Luncheon?
 Then the sisters took this pic:

Which always reminds me of this pic: 

Then once we really got going and picked who was riding in which cars on the way there, we stopped at the cemetery to put flowers on my grandpa's grave. 

I happen to really like cemeteries so I thought it would be a nice time to tell the family, and Papa too, I was pregnant. Only about 8 weeks at the time but I wanted everyone to know on the trip that I was going to be joining their mom club (I was the only one on the Mom/Daughter trip who wasn't yet a mom!).
Granny and I at Papa's grave.

As I was going through the huge album of photos from the trip, I went through a whole section of all the games we played. You are welcome, family, for not posting any of those pics. And especially not any of the getups we were wearing!!

I'll skip to the cabin we stayed in, which was a little further away from the main house, but was really perfect for all of us. It's beautiful and had plenty of space to sleep 7, sit around and talk and play games, cook, etc.

Looking from the back towards the front door.

One of the beds.

The kitchen!

The view out the back of the cabin.

The porch swing and other side of the cabin.

We always eat in for one dinner and cook a meal together on our trips. We love to cook! This time it was a crockpot roast with carrots, onion and celery, and mashed potatoes and gravy etc. It was delicious!!

We had slow cookers going all day while we were in Berea. 

The table set for dinner!

They gave me this cute little menu flower holder (that I still use!!) as a thank-you for planning the trip.

The first night we ate Barbara's dinner at the main house. If you've gone back to read either of my other posts about Snug Hollow you know the food is amazing. I didn't get pictures of dinner the first night but you can bet it was delicious. Here was breakfast!

I'm suddenly starving.

After breakfast on our main day of exploring we took all our same combinations of mothers and daughters and grandma and granddaughters and sisters and cousins pictures that we did on the last trip. In our matching shirts of course!!

Mom and daughters

Grandma and Granddaughters



What a good lookin' family!!
This was a very relaxing weekend with some very wonderful women! Now, we just need to get the timing right for the next one so all the women who have married into our crazy family, and all the other women cousins, can FINALLY join us too.

And, I have an idea for a small excursion/activity we could do this spring/early summer. Not a trip, but just a fun afternoon or evening together. I'll keep you all posted. :)

P.S. Just thought I'd throw out there again that you are welcome to shower me with gifts for only picking flattering photos of all of us to post. :) 
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