Saturday, August 31, 2013

More curbing

It's almost done!  I'm excited and thrilled with the result.  But before I can show you the pictures, I must remind you that the landscaping is not done, nor even close to done.  It's going to look like a bunch of dead grass... and that's how it is supposed to look.  Just pay attention to the curbing itself, ok?  The rest will happen in due time. 

In front of the backyard herb bed

Backyard, around the corner of the herb bed

Back yard by the gate and headed toward the strawberries.  I'm hoping to fill this spot with grape vines.

Front yard, connecting our lot with our neighbor's between our two gates

Front yard, West gate.  I love the little grass pathway to the back yard!

Front yard flower bed by the porch
There is still a fairly large section to do along the backyard back fence, but that is it.  It has been so fun to watch them work and see how this is done!  Here, I'll show/tell you.  You, of course, already saw where they cut out the sod and leveled the soil beneath, which was done very quickly with their nifty sod cutting machine (and would have taken hours and hours of back breaking work with a shovel).  Once it is clear and compacted, they lay a bit of fine gravel first for drainage, and then bring in a couple more machines--a cement mixer which stays on the road in a trailer, and then the curbing form machine.  You shovel in the cement and it places it in the right spot, as designated by the operator who uses little cranks to keep the machine level and also to turn the wheels so that it can do curves and corners and bends and stuff.  Well, here's a little video Cody took of the process in action.  They've been working around sunset because it isn't so hot (and because all of them have day jobs) so the movie starts in the shade, and then Cody moves.  I apologize for the moving all over the place, but you can see how the process works (this is mostly for my dad):
After the concrete has been placed, they come back with a trowel and smooth it carefully.  They also use a concrete knife and divet maker to add the joints in the concrete, to allow for expansion and contraction and to prevent cracks from forming.  We've found that this part is easier to do in the daylight, but after dark, a big flashlight and the headlights from a car work pretty well. 

Cody has had a lot of fun helping our neighbor with this project.  Even though we are paying them to do the work, we are getting a great deal and are happy to contribute in this small way.  Besides, I know I've already mentioned how Cody's face lights up when he gets to learn a new skill and help with projects; and after sitting in the basement all day listening to calls, who can blame him for wanting to go outside and get really dirty? :)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Baby #4 in just 9 weeks (or thereabouts)

This is a journal.  Just FYI.  I'm now 31 weeks along!  It's going amazingly fast. 

My congestion comes and goes, and fortunately the past few days haven't been as bad.  I bought a Neti pot after many people recommended it and I was so miserable and desperate that I thought I might as well try it--if for no other reason than I could honestly say I had tried everything.  Decongestants have had no effect whatsoever, and since they're hard on my already overtaxed liver, I stopped taking them altogether.  Essential oils, both diffused and used topically, have helped, but not much.  The worst points are when the congestion culminates in an absolutely crippling sinus headache that lasts for hours and hours.  So, I tried the neti pot.  It hasn't done anything for stopping the congestion except for temporary relief, which isn't surprising considering the source of the congestion; however, it amazingly has stopped the headaches in their tracks.  I have one start and I'm about to go to bed and stick my head under a pillow for hours because I can't think or move or breathe, and then I do the neti pot and feel better almost instantly.  I guess that makes me a believer! 

I went to the doctor on Wednesday and everything is going very well.  Dr. Clark was pleased with my 7 pound weight gain since the start of the pregnancy.  Considering I have plenty of storage for my baby, this minimal gain is great.  All my girls thus far have hated the doppler and hearing the heartbeat and they roll away from it as fast as they can.  It is funny.  Dr. Clark has learned to put the doppler on one spot, move it to another, then go back to the first spot and that's where we always find the strongest heartbeat.  He also looked at my labor history and told me that I would have to start 1 week appointments (and consequently those uncomfortable internal exams) until 37 weeks, yay!  My blood pressure is good, no swelling or water retention, all around a very healthy pregnancy! 

Healthy, yes; comfortable? not really.  I know Elsie is just going to get bigger and this is just going to get harder, but I am definitely feeling achey and tired.  My only pair of capris, and one of 2 decent pairs of maternity pants I own, ripped right down the back.  I really don't want to buy new pants when I have 2 months left to go and am not even sure if we will have another baby--let alone when; so I'm hoping this last pair of pants holds out!  I'm keeping busy with lots of projects and lots of naps.  Katie is finally figuring out that my belly is going to, eventually, become a new baby.  It helps that Annalisa likes to stick dollies up her shirt and pretend to be pregnant like mommy, then they take the baby out and play with their babies.  Perhaps a bit graphic, but it really has helped Katie figure out that I have a baby inside me and that soon her life will change forever.  Lee and Annalisa, of course, know exactly what is happening and are very excited.  Lee is such a helper and Annalisa loves getting things ready for Baby Elsie.  I think she's set up the crib about ten times with a blanket and a stuffed animal so that it will be ready when Elsie comes home.  So silly and cute!  If only Cody and I were as prepared; our to-do list is still very long.  In the next nine weeks, we're hoping to finish the concrete curbing (which should be done tonight or tomorrow), frame the basement, bottle a lot more produce including peaches and applesauce, harvest a fall crop of lettuce and spinach, finish up the rest of the garden, winterize the house, deep-clean inside including shampooing the carpet and wiping down the cabinets (normal yearly cleaning), make freezer meals, finish all the Christmas shopping and projects, and somehow manage to keep up with jobs and callings and getting the kids to school.  Pretty ambitious, so if we can't finish it all, oh well.  A lot of these jobs are nearly done, and many more of them have scheduled dates of accomplishment (like framing the basement).  We'll see how it goes.  Staying busy helps me feel productive.  It took me until this pregnancy to recognize this feeling as "nesting."  I always thought nesting was restricted to activities such as scrubbing the driveway.  I didn't realize that things like home improvement projects, potty training, and storing meals in the freezer counted as nesting because I just thought that was me being smart about getting ready for the baby's arrival.  Yeah, I can be slow sometimes.  Nesting IS getting ready for baby's arrival.  :)

Well, speaking of projects, I need to go make zucchini bread.  It's going to be about a sixtuple batch and I'm going to freeze most of it.  Look how clever I am!  Produce from garden preserved--check. Freezer meals (breakfasts)--check.  Any job that crosses of two or more things on my to-do list is a winner in my book!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Time for another project!

Cody and I just can't stay away from the home improvement projects for long. We're totally addicted.  We are planning on starting the basement this fall, and the garden is just starting to wane, but we decided to tackle another big item on our to-do list: Concrete landscape curbing.

This has always been a goal/dream of ours.  A few of our neighbors have had it done and it looks gorgeous every time.  We hate weed eating too, so we knew this was going to be the way to go for edging along our flower beds.  Because we knew we wanted it, we haven't done any other type of edging--not even temporary rocks or something.  We just decided to wait until we had the money and the gumption.  We found the axis of both recently: our neighbor across the street procured some curbing machinery in a sweet business deal and decided to open a side business with it.  Because we're one of his first houses (not THE first... we let him practice a couple times, hee hee), and because we're doing it the same time as a couple other neighbors, he's giving us an amazingly good deal... like, jaw on the floor good deal.  So, off we go! 

They're doing most of the work, but there is a few things we have to do ourselves, like moving sprinkler heads and of course the landscaping when it is done.  Granted, this would have been much easier to do if we didn't have established sod and flower beds, but that wasn't an option for us.  I'm very grateful our neighbor has a spiffy sod cutting machine to get perfectly smooth lines and we don't have to cut out all the sod by hand!  I will put up more pictures as they go.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

1st day of 1st grade

Summer's over already?  Wow.  I mean, I'm ready for it to be over... just not for the tomatoes to be done... Just ready for it to cool off and get some rain, I suppose.  But still, it has gone by very quickly.  Today is the first day of school for Lee! 

He is really excited for first grade.  In his own words, "I'm most excited for the two recesses, oh boy!  And I'm excited about math, vocabulary, and going home all by myself.  I'm also excited to have friends in my class and to make friends that I don't know yet.  I'll get new friends!"  He's also a bit nervous.  "I'm nervous for writing, because writing is real work for my arms, uuuuugh!  Nothing else.  Not riding my bike to school, that's easy.  Um, but I am nervous about cars because that's the only thing I'm nervous about.  And slushy roads! But that won't happen until winter.  So I'll look both ways and check for slushy in the winter."

He wanted me to walk him to school today, but after we parked his bike and got to the front door, he said "Ok mom, I can go the rest of the way by myself."  :')  What a grown up little man! 

One last cool thing: I mentioned before how Lee brought home a small pumpkin sprout at the end of Kindergarten and we put it in the ground, with no intention of it living.  But, it grew and thrived and is growing our most massive pumpkin of all.  Well, this week that pumpkin turned orange.  We showed it to Lee and... honestly, he didn't care too much... but I, the emotional mom, just see it as the sign of the end of the summer, and of him growing up and taking this next step in life.  The pumpkin is ready.  So is Lee.  It's been a big summer of growth for both.  Perhaps one of these years I won't be horrifically emotional on the first day of school.  Perhaps I'll eventually outgrow this strange feeling in my chest, like a knot of worms--concern, excitement, pride, hope, worry, mostly just love--all jumbled together.  Perhaps.  But I doubt it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Lord's mysterious ways

This is going to be a very personal, special post.  It is also going to be highly religious and spiritual.  I want to put it here so that I can keep a good record of it, and my blog is the best place for keeping things.  We are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons.  I'll be using a lot of jargon specific to the Church.

As I write this, it is Friday, August 9.  I have lots of feelings and emotions that I want to write about.  I'll probably add some more on Sunday before publishing this early next week, but I was always taught to write it out while the memories are still fresh and the feelings are strong, because the mind is weak and will forget.  Yesterday, as Cody and I were processing kids through the tub and cleaning up from dinner, the secretary from the stake presidency stopped by the house.  He had tried to call twice during dinner, but because of our phone setup, we hadn't received his message yet so he decided just to stop by the house.  I would feel much worse if I didn't know he lived just a few blocks away.  :)  But anyway, he stopped by and asked Cody and I if we would meet with the Stake Presidency for an interview at 7:30; about 45 minutes out.  Cody said we could, and they asked us to bring our temple recommends.  The funny part of that was that we were in the process of getting our recommends renewed and had already gone through the bishopric interview, but still needed to meet with the Stake Presidency and were planning on doing that on this upcoming Sunday, but when this interview popped up Cody asked if we could to the temple recommend interview at the same time; to which we were told that would be perfectly fine.

So we scrambled to get the kids in PJ's and a babysitter and put on our suit/dress, and were ready to head out a few minutes before 7:30.  We got to the stake center and the stake presidency was ready for us, so I had a temple recommend interview with one of the counselors while Cody went to meet with the Stake President.  After I was done, I joined Cody and the rest of the stake presidency.  I can't really say the wonderful things we talked about during the interview, but I have rarely felt the spirit so strongly.  During the course of the meeting, the Stake Presidency asked Cody to accept a call as the second counselor in our ward Bishopric, which means he would also be advanced in the priesthood to the office of High Priest.  Cody accepted this call with a surprised smile.  We were both very surprised.  Sometimes the Holy Ghost warns you when these things comes up, but this was a total shock; albeit a good one.  After he accepted the calling, the Stake President asked me if I sustained him in this calling.  It was hard to hold back tears as I said, "Yes, I do, with all my heart."  I wanted to gush out about how wonderful Cody is and how proud I am of him, and how I know he is worthy and will pour his heart into this work.  I wanted to tell them how I know the Lord has been preparing us and guiding us all along and this is just another step on that journey.  I wanted to tell them I was a little scared to be caring for 3, soon to be 4 young children and will be getting them ready for church and sitting through sacrament by myself, but I knew that the ward members would be wonderful and helpful.  I wanted to tell them how much I love our bishop and how I couldn't be more thankful for that man who will be Cody's mentor and guide, even though it will be Cody's calling to support and assist him.  I had so much flowing through my mind and heart, but all I could manage was, "Yes, I sustain him, with all my heart." 

Cody's biggest concern was that as a High Priest he'll be an old guy.  :)  He's very excited to be involved with the youth of the ward and is naturally a little overwhelmed at this big change.  After returning home from the interview and calling our parents, Cody just wanted to go walk around the garden and neighborhood for a while.  He came home with a strong conviction that this call is from God.  I know he will enter this calling with the same zeal and enthusiasm as he always takes with him, on any adventure of life.  It will mean some big changes for our family, of course.  Cody will be much busier, especially on Sundays.  We had a lot of questions to ask the Stake Presidency, and will have many more questions I'm sure, but right now we're feeling excited, nervous, and most of all the peaceful confirmation of the Holy Spirit as we enter this new phase of life. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

I am grateful for coupons

Back to school shopping!  My list yesterday consisted of:
Socks, underwear, pants, and shirts for Lee and Annalisa
New white dress shirts for Cody
New shoes for Annalisa and Lee
A few outfits for Katie
Glue sticks
and a whole bunch of other stuff.  I arranged to have Cody watch the kids while I went shopping by myself.  After lunch, I armed myself with a water bottle, a box of tissues (this pregnancy congestion means I pack tissues everywhere), and the focus of several hours of scouring the internet and mail flyers and newspaper inserts: my shopping list and a huge stack of coupons. 

It took me 4 hours and 2 stores (I still have one more to go, but it will be minimal) and I spent around $250.  I SAVED over $400.  Every family member is now outfitted, and I even found a few things on clearance for Elsie for Christmas.  I reloaded our school supplies and art supplies and grabbed a bit extra for Anna's birthday presents.  I feel pretty darn proud of myself.  The only thing I messed up on was buying too big of pants for Anna.  I recently purchased her pants that were too small, and I guess I was subconsciously over correcting.  I decided, though, while scouring the clearance racks at Kohl's, that I was grateful I had gone alone.  Even if I have to return to a store to make returns and get different sizes, it is SO much easier to shop without the kids!  Besides, then  I don't have to hear how some hideous Frankenbarbie T-shirt is "SO CUTE!" or worry about nap times and hungry tummies or just everything else that comes with being a parent, and they have no choice but to wear what I buy for them.  Mwahahaha! 

Seriously, when all is said and done, school supplies for 2 kids and clothes for basically the whole family... Under $300 feels very good.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A magical garden

I am THRILLED with the success of our garden!  Beyond thrilled!  Ecstatic! Rejoiced! Amazed!  In awe!  The lettuce and spinach was delicious, and I put away 3 pounds of frozen spinach (as in, pounds after it had been blanched and drained and was ready for the freezer) before it went to seed and started getting bitter.  Then it was worm food.  The peas were next, amazing us with 3 enormous bowls full, that took hours to hull and were worth every ounce of effort.  Not bad for just wanting a "taste!"  But those are all done as well now.  We pulled them up and our raised bed that was planted first now only has a small row of carrots in it.  I plan on filling it again in a few more weeks with more lettuce and spinach for a fall crop. 

The raspberries, which we didn't expect much from this year, have delighted us with a few handfuls of the most delicious, sweet berries imaginable.  We really love them... but you have to be fast on your toes if you're going to beat Katie or Annalisa to them. The 10 tiny strawberry starts that came up and survived the transplant(s) have also been bearing fruit; never enough to slice on your cereal, but enough to pop in your mouth and smile.  It gives us lots of hope for upcoming years and delicious eating that will just keep getting better.

We put a few pumpkin plants in the far back corner just for the kids to enjoy.  As an afterthought, I picked up a 50 cent package of sunflower seeds and planted a few of those too. Now, it's one of our favorite spots in the whole yard as the sunflowers are nearly 12 feet tall and the pumpkins are huge.  On Lee's last day of Kindergarten, he brought home a cup with a sunflower and pumpkin sprout in it.  All us parents know these cups... a science experiment or perhaps a church experiment on faith... at any rate, it's one of those things that you stick in a windowsill and eventually forget and then it withers up and dies and you slip it into the trash before the child notices...  Well, I knew the thing would probably die, but since I had literally been planting pumpkins and sunflowers just a few days prior, I decided to put the sprouts in the ground.  That's our biggest pumpkin plant now, and has got a jack-o-lantern in the making at least 30 pounds big!  It's HUGE!  This picture really doesn't do it justice.  Lee is pretty proud of his pumpkin that lived.

As for the rest of the garden, everything is loving the amazing topsoil and worm compost.  The onions are the size of baseballs, the pepper plants have given us a few sweet peppers, the tomatoes are loaded with green tomatoes and the cherry tomatoes are finally starting to ripen, and I've made zucchini casserole, zucchini bread, and zucchini pizza bites all this week... but the big producer of the week is the green beans.  I have gone so many years without a garden that I really wanted to grow enough to can.  On Monday I had a friend help me put up 3 pickings (I had picked twice; once before our trip and once after, and she had come once during the trip to pick and we combined all three pickings to bottle) and we got 20 pints and 7 quarts of beans!  Today, as I type this, I have another 10 pints in the pressure cooker--and in fact it just barely came up to pressure.  I'd better go start the timer for 15 min.  Hang on, be right back...

Who knew that the secret to a successful garden was starting with good soil, adding some good compost, watering regularly, planting at the right time, adding really great seeds and plants in carefully plotted land so as to enhance pollination and reduce bugs, weeding often, and singing to the plants while you work?  It's like magic! :)