Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Landscaping slow and steady

 It's Fall!  This Summer really was very different for us, living in our own house!  But we've been working slowly to get our yard looking beautiful.  Here's some of the results of our projects. 

The still-living maple and new shrubs: May 4
Right before our open house in May, we were given a landscape budget to buy some shrubs and trees for our front yard.  Since our house faces North and has a garage that sticks out quite far, our front flower beds don't see much sunlight, so it was kind of a trick finding plants that would go there and thrive.  Not to mention the alkaline soil, clay, and oooooh the rocks!  But anyway, we decided on a couple of spiraea and a pair of hydrangea, and then a dwarf lilac for the corner.  We also purchased two lovely big tooth maples for the yard.  After planting, though, came the hard part: keeping them alive.  The hydrangea looked pretty sick for a while, with black lined leaves and one very weak blossom that quickly shriveled and died.  Our maple trees both thrived for about a month and a half, but then the one in the front yard rapidly lost all its leaves and looked completely dead.  I was heartbroken. :(  I called the greenhouse where we'd purchased the trees and they said they had a 90 day guarantee on their trees, so they would replace the dead one.  We brought home a new maple, just like the first, but upon inspection of the soil and realizing it was mostly clay in that spot that was having a hard time draining, I thought it would be unwise to plant the same type of tree in the same spot.  We turned down the water, but it was too late.  We put the new maple in the back/side yard where it will (someday) shade the West side of the house and it is gorgeous.  I've been cautious to water it just the right amount. 
Laying sod back in June

Meanwhile, we planted a little corner grove of quaking aspens (complete with a barrier to keep them from filling the yard with suckers), and two nice red oaks to frame our back patio (and block our naked neighbors from view LOL).  We do want to give a little shout out to our wonderful grandparents who helped fund the backyard landscaping! 

Now, it is Fall and I have given you all the back story, so I'm ready to reveal the results of our hard work:

 The Hydrangea took a few doses of miracle grow, but it is growing now!  We had one blue flower, and now these two lovely purple ones.  Did you know that Hydrangea is like a living litmus strip? The flowers bloom different colors based on the pH of the soil.  Blue=alkaline, purple=neutral, and pink=acidic.  Cool.  They can even put on different colors on one plant, if you treat half the soil around it. 
These little mini daisies are a perennial ground cover I found at a greenhouse dutch auction for 60% off.  They're just starting to open their little faces.  I knew they were supposed to be late bloomers, but I'm not sure if it was supposed to be THIS late... maybe it's because they're in more shade than they'd really like... who knows.

The oak trees in the back yard; and you can also see that our grass set beautifully and is just wonderful.  All along the back fence, hiding in the morning shade, are plants that we've been collecting from anyone willing to give them away.  Thanks to my mom, grandmother, and uncle, we have rhubarb, oregano, chives, hosta, a golden spiraea, daisies, black eyed Susans, columbine, coral bells, aster, dogwood, ice plant, and a couple more I can't remember the name of.  We had to cut back a lot of it during the transplanting process, so I hope it will survive; but it is very exciting and I'm already antsy for Spring to see it come to life!

The only edible harvest we've had this year: basil.  I made 11 pints of basil pesto that is now happily filling my freezer, but as you can see--I really need to cut it back again, especially before it freezes.  There's also some parsley down under there, and the dead patch was cilantro that we enjoyed in the early Summer.  I think I'll dry this batch and make jars of Italian seasoning to give to friends.  Or maybe I'll make more pesto... ?  No matter how you cut it, it's yummy!

See the poor dead maple?  It's looked that bare since June.  :( :(  but....

Yes.  It is leafing out.  In September.  ...What the?
Apparently that's not incredibly uncommon for a tree to go into shock, but still be alive.  I only hope this little leafing stunt doesn't completely do it in for next Spring.  I'm really glad we didn't rip it out when it started dropping its leaves.  Our neighbor bet us 20 bucks it would survive, and if it makes it next season, looks like we'll have 3 nice maples for the price of 2, minus the 20 bucks we bet on it. :)  And incidentally, isn't the sky stunning in the background?  I totally didn't notice that until I downloaded the picture and realized how pretty it looked.  I love this place.

Maybe some day I'll be as good of a gardener as my mom is... or maybe not (she's incredible).  But until then, it's fun to try new things in my yard, where it is finally an investment in our property, not just a chore that we have to do. And here's hoping everything survives!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

An Anna cute-ism

After just sharing a couple of cute Katie and Lee stories, I have a great Anna story today, and since it's too long to be a "Quote of the Day" on my Facebook account, you get it here on my blog!

Today was the Brigham City Temple dedication and we'd arranged for my cousin to babysit while Cody and I went.  This morning, I went and snuggled with Anna in her bed as she was waking up and I told her about the day's events; what we'd have for breakfast, and how we'd go play with cousin Noah while just mom and dad went to the church for the special dedication.  I helped her remember going to the open house and what the temple looked like, and I also reminded her of when daddy had dedicated our house after we moved in, and tried to explain to her that after the dedication it will be more than just a pretty building--it will be the House of God.  She was pretty enthralled by all that, but then she started putting things together and asked me, "Mommy, is OUR house the house of God?"  I carefully replied, "Yes, when we do good things, it allows God and His Spirit to reside in our home."  She thought about it for a second, and said with a lot of concern, "Well, sometimes we're just REALLY noisy in our house!  And that's very bad." 

She's so clever.  I laughed with her for a minute, and said it was okay to play music and laugh and play in our house, but that we should still treat our home with respect and love, just like the temple.  I just love her sweet spirit and the things she thinks up. What a funny girl!

(And at this very moment, Lee is trying to convince us to go on a date, just Cody and I, to California, because he knows how to brush his teeth and eat cereal and pick up his clothes from his bedroom, so obviously he knows how to do everything and take care of his sisters for a few days...)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Daddy! and other cute words

Katie is our little entertainer.  She just loves getting a laugh out of people!  This morning Cody is working some overtime (which makes it his eighth day in a row of working) and Katie woke up an yelled from her bed, "Daddy!  Daddy!  Waah, eet, GO! [ready, set, go!]"  As I type this, she's climbing and standing on me so she can reach the blinds cords behind me and open the window.  She's learning a few words a week now, but babbles the rest of the time.  But her best words of all are for sure "Daddy," and then Go, bye bye, 'Men [Amen], and No. 

Meanwhile, our other two kids are growing up fast as well.  Lee started riding his bike to school by himself this week.  It was almost as tough on me as the first week of school.  I had to kind of yell at him, though, because he kept insisting that his helmet was a stop sign and would stop any cars coming when he got to the crosswalks.  When he thinks something, he'll get completely set on it and refuses to listen to anything else, yelling "wait! wait!" at me until he gets to say his piece.  This time, when his safety is at risk, I finally got down to his level and had to pull out the old "NO! I'm older, so listen to ME" card.  Like I said, he's growing up way too fast.  He's becoming so independent and already thinks he knows everything.  In our piano lesson yesterday, he told me that he already knew how to play the piano, thankyouverymuch.  But he's still a total sweetheart, and he loves listening to stories and telling them back, and has become such a huge helper for me.  Just the other day he told me he needed a new baby brother.  *forehead smack* When I told him that if we were to have another child, we wouldn't get to pick the gender; we'd just have to take what Heavenly Father sends.  The solution was clear: he would just have to pray about it.  So he did right then and there: "Heavenly Father, thank you for this day, thank you for a new baby, but make sure it's a boy, a real boy, because babies look all the same and they all wear diapers, so make sure it's a real boy.  I'm serious.  In the name of Jesus Christ Amen."

And Annalisa? Oh, she makes us laugh every day as well!  She works so hard to choose the exact right words when she speaks, and is a fabulous little artist.  She's learned how to ride her new bike very well, although she prefers to go slow.  Grandma and Grandpa got a little basket for the front of her bike and she always carries around her pompoms and her Rapunzel Barbie in it as she pedals up and down the street.  Cody keeps teasing me because the day after Anna's birthday I made homemade bread.  While it was kneading in the Bosch, Anna asked me what I was making, but I was in kind of an off mood and said, "what do you think?" instead of just saying bread.  I could tell she replied, but I couldn't quite hear what it was over the noise of the mixer... I thought she was asking if I was making dinner or something, so I replied, "Yep!" and she was very excited.  Apparently, she'd asked, "Are you making cupcakes for my birthday again?"  ... ... oops. :)

So anyway, we're doing well; growing, working, loving life.  And now, I'd better go make breakfast before another kid tries to pour themselves a bowl of cereal and dumps it all over the floor.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kind of a Plechy weekend

This weekend was kind of a rough one for me.  I was just feeling kind of depressed and lonely.  We'd had some fun plans that I was really excited about that fell through, and our backup plan for the weekend (having Cody work lots of overtime and getting a hefty bonus check) also fell through because we'd waited too long trying to get the first plans to work out... and so come Sunday morning it was a struggle to get up and get going for Stake Conference that started at 10 AM.  Church normally starts at 9, so I didn't think we'd have a problem, but the time just kept ticking by and soon it was 9:45 and we weren't all ready.  I raced and got everything ready and rushed out the door at five to ten, knowing we were so late there wasn't a hope we'd get a soft seat, and wondering if it was even worth it to wrestle my kids.  We piled in the van and I turned the key to only hear a clicking sound... the battery was dead.  We'd been planting flowers (Thanks again, Grandma H!) in the afternoon on Saturday and I guess we left the doors open too long and the kids had played in there and turned on the lights.  I just wanted to cry.  I most certainly was not in the mood to go force my kids to be quiet for two hours and get nasty looks from people around us as we struggle to feel the spirit. 

Cody is a good man, I've always know that; but sometimes I'm reminded just how powerful an optimistic and hopeful heart can be.  He touched my arm and said, "No we're still going." Then he jumped out and in about two minutes, jump started the van, put the cables away, and we were on our way.  We made it to Stake Conference at the end of the opening prayer and got a spot to sit in the very back row of the gymnasium, on hard seats, but at least we were there.

I tried to listen, I really did.  The kids weren't bad at all; they played with their toys and colored pictures.  But they're still kids.  They talked to themselves and each other, wanted to be held, asked for snacks, dropped their shoes on the floor, and moved the chairs around.  I was already distracted and grouchy and I was thinking up snarky comments I could make to Cody about "Tell me ONE thing you learned today?  Oh, you can't? Me neither!" And I was just generally not being very Christian.  Terrible, I know... I hope you don't judge me too harshly.  I feel so bad about it now.  I've had such a negative attitude this whole weekend, and it really culminated right then, just as the last speaker was getting up to speak.

And then he started speaking and he expressed deep, heartfelt gratitude that we'd all come, especially those of us with small kids, and he talked about how important it is to come, even if you're late or if it's hard to focus; but how Jesus asked the children to come to Him and how bringing them to church is the exact same thing.  He shared his own experiences of coming late to a Stake Conference with his very pregnant wife and small children, and he felt like the eyes of the whole congregation were boring into him, when he made eye contact with the Stake President on the stand, who was indeed staring at him--but with a smile an a look that said, "Good, you made it."  I couldn't believe what he was saying and how it was aimed straight at me, and I suddenly found myself in tears; weeping my apologies to my Heavenly Father for my horrible attitude and the things I'd been thinking.  It came to me then that God was indeed proud of us for just coming, and I was reminded how wonderful I really have it.  My life is happy, full and rich.  I don't have everything, but I have everything I need.  I'm so very blessed and I have no reason to be ungrateful.  I may struggle feeling the Spirit all the time at church when I'm so distracted; but my children are worth it to just go so that they can be close to Christ. 

So, here's to trying a little harder to stay positive and remember our great worth--and our children's.  Even though that little bit of a talk was about all I heard, it was what I needed desperately to hear and made it all worth it.  I may have many more years of hearing two or three sentences of church, but it will still be worth it.  Doing the right thing always is.

Friday, September 14, 2012

What do you do when the power's out?

The other day the power went out for several hours.  What do you do when the power goes out?

 Anna took a nap on Lee's floor...
 I had dough in the Bosch, so I finished making my homemade bread by hand--thank goodness the power came back on before I needed to bake it! 
 And we played with the only electronic device in the house that works exclusively off a battery: the camera! 
We also played outside and watered the flowers.  All in all, it's not a bad thing to lose the power in the middle of a warm, sunny day. :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Anna is 4!

Can you believe it? Annalisa is 4 years old today!  She has been so sweet today and was SO excited for her birthday.

Last night Lee insisted on staying up after Anna went to bed and decorating the house.  Since Cody and I had done that for him, he was very eager to do it for his sister.  He found some curly yellow ribbon and hung it from the wall with a piece of tape and called it "Rapunzel Hair," and draped some purple ribbon around the walls too.  But he especially made this big sign all by himself.  The flash washed it out, but it reads "Happy birthday Anna!"  Well, to be precise, it reads, "HAPPY BIRThbAY aNMA" but to me, it is awesome.  We're proud of Lee learning how to write and being so excited to celebrate his sister's birthday.  Neither of the other kids had any issues with sharing or jealousy or understanding that today was Anna's special day. 

 When given the choice of anything for breakfast, Anna picked Rice Krispies.  Over waffles? Ebleskivers?  French toast, biscuits and gravy, even cinnamon toast?  Nope, she was insistent, Rice Krispies.  So that's what we had.  When I started peeling a boiled egg she asked for piece, and shared a few bites of Katie's banana, but that's it.  I was surprised.  But she enjoyed her Rice Krispies!

She enjoyed some awesome gifts, like a beautiful porcelain doll, a new bike, and a Cinderella Barbie.  After a fun day playing and a dinner of pizza, we had cupcakes in the backyard and invited over a few neighbors with kids Anna's age.  Some of them very generously brought gifts, and then Cody helped them all fly the kite while the adults chatted and got bitten by mosquitos. ;)  It was a great evening.
Happy birthday, Anna girl!  You are so much fun and have been so sweet and kind to everyone today. I'm proud of you.  Love, Mommy

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New Dishes!

Since moving, we've noticed our plates and bowls diminishing rapidly.  I'm not sure if we misplaced (or haven't unpacked *gasp*) a box, or if they've just been breaking one by one as dishes tend to do, but at any rate, the past two months we've been down to nine plates.  For a family of five, that doesn't own any serving bowls, that barely makes it through one meal, and certainly not two.  Being forced to run the dishwasher half full between meals or hand wash plates was getting old, fast.  Cody and I started pricing out dishes and trying to decide what to do... do we just try to find some at the thrift store, and not care about what they look like, waiting until some future date to invest in quality dishes?  Do we attempt to make that investment now?  How much will it cost and can we afford it?  The styes I was falling in love with were $6+ a plate, or $50+ for service for 4.  Considering I wanted a full set, enough for us plus company, it was just beyond our price range.  Finally, after looking everywhere and weighing all our options and reading countless consumer reviews, I finally found some coupon codes and sales on the Corelle website and we whittled down the price to roughly $3 a plate, and we could buy them individually instead of in sets, so we don't have to get a cupboard full of white teacups.  At last, they arrived yesterday!

 18 large rounded-square plates, 10 medium plates, and 12 bowls.  Yipee!  So pretty, so simple, so us.  Chip and break resistant.  Easy to clean.  Lightweight.  I am in love.

Of course, the only person more excited about the arrival of a large box of fragile plates than me, is Annalisa... not for the dishes, but for...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Katie V, 18 months

Oh happy day!  Nursery!!! and better yet, it was wildly successful.  (In case you stumbled across this blog or don't know what I'm talking about, our church had a children's class for babies aged 18 months and older.  It's quite the rite of passage, mostly for us parents who get to go baby-free to Sunday School.) 

Katie enjoyed her first day of nursery today and so did Cody and I.  I asked her teachers how it went, and they seemed nonplussed, asking why I would think she would have a problem.  I'm not sure they even realized it was her first time.  Apparently the only problem they had was when Katie locked herself in the toy cupboard, silly girl.  But I don't think even that phased her very much.  She's been dying to go to nursery for the past three months, and she thinks it's high time she got to run around and play and eat snacks all through church.  :)