Spring has sprung, and I’m in the mood for a refresh.

Case in Point #1: I’m redesigning the site, and I can’t wait for it to go live. People – I am so excited. I’ve got a new palette of colors and my contact page exists. Or, rather, it will when the new site goes up.

Sidebar. That contact page stumped the heck out of me for, oh, two years, and then once I actually set out to figure it out – it took me like two seconds. You’ll never believe how I figured it out either…. I went to Google. I typed in: “Free WordPress contact form plugin,” and I got recommendation after recommendation for a good free plugin. Ridiculous, really. Two minutes later, I had a Contact page. Bam.

Case in Point #2: I got a 30% off coupon for Gap and Banana Republic outlet stores. In-store only (rare these days) and two days only. It… was crazy. But I saved so much money. And Graham has half a 3T wardrobe for spring and summer now. He is gonna be one dapper man. (I cannot confirm or deny that he has more than two pairs of madras shorts now.) I am very excited for this warm weather.

Case in Point #3: I am itching to get outside and tackle the warm weather things on our running homestead to-do list.

On it:

  1. Pansies for the front door pot.
  2. Scrub the balconies.
  3. Wash down and restain/seal patio furniture.
  4. Wash the windows.
  5. Replant the garden.
  6. Mulch the beds.

This warm sunny weather is all kinds of inspiring, and I’m trying to remind myself to soak it in before hell comes ablazin’ by June. :)

Yardwork and Play

Thank goodness for weekends. A good 48 hours and a good two night’s-worth of sleep, and I can’t honestly remember what I was so stressed about at work last week. Andy and I got to stay local, get some work done around the house, and relax. Again, I say – thank goodness for weekends.

Friday night, we laid low.  Andy played around with a shoe flash he got for his birthday.  It’s taking some tinkering, but he’s figuring it out.

Again, this is at night.  So, while there’s still room for improvement and ease of use, I’d say – pretty darn good.

We were reading a book that evolved into a rousing rendition of The Itsy, Bitsy Spider.  Have I said before how much I adore raising a toddler?

Now… segue.  It might be a bit bold to proclaim victory yet, but I think we’re figuring out how to keep up our landscaping and be parents at the same time.  It starts and ends with a thing called ‘naptime’.  It is a beautiful thing.  The only catch is: when naptime hits, you’ve got to be ready to drop everything and spring into action.  This Saturday, since Graham woke up with the birds, naptime came at 8:30 am.


But, since we had a plan, Andy and I were outside digging up beds bright. and. early.  Andy went to the Home Depot and picked up several bags of mulch while I thinned holly bushes and rhododendrons.  Since we had a newborn this time last year, I was clearing out two years’ worth of dead leaves and brush under our bushes.  All the while, I had a spunky little sparring partner in a honeybee who did NOT want me to touch his hollies, thankyouverymuch, but was willing to let me clear out old mulch and prune the neighboring shrubs.  Touch a holly though, man, and that bee was all up in my business.

Graham awoke before we were done, of course, so we got him slathered in sun lotion, dressed in a romper, sun hat and sandals, and set up on a beach towel in the front yard. I am sorry to say we were too busy to drag the camera out for this.  Even the iPhone.

As with most things these days, the beach towel thing lasted for all of 30 seconds before he was off on more interesting, non-terrycloth pursuits.  This was the point in our weekend where Graham finally saw that walking might have some merit after all.  Bermuda grass and pavement are not all that knee-friendly, so he locomoted by ‘crawling’ around on his hands and feet.  He even stood for good long stints while recognizing his accomplishment.  (To date, he only stood if he was too preoccupied to realize what he was doing.)

Later that afternoon, I set out to run errands, of which one stop to stock up on 24-month/2T clothing.  One morning this week, Graham woke up and was suddenly busting open the snaps of his 18-month onesies. No kidding.  While I was out, Brian and Charlie stopped over to watch some basketball and play with Graham’s toys, respectively.

The kid’s so fashionable, he chose a toy that perfectly matched his outfit.

I was still out and about at this time, but apparently Charlie and Graham were totally amused by one another.  Just stood across the ottoman from each other and giggled at the other’s silliness.

This morning (Sunday), I sang at church and the boys met me for the 11:00 service.  Did I say 11:00?  I meant 11:25, which was when Graham and Andy rolled into the sanctuary after having gotten pulled over and issued a speeding ticket trying to make up for leaving the house so late.  Yikes.

After church, we stuck around for a lunch put on by our youth (a.k.a. Graham’s fan club).  The purpose of our cookout lunch was to hear about the youth group’s spring break mission trip to New Orleans.  Quite honestly?  I had no idea how far to go New Orleans still has.  It’s heartbreaking.  And our youth are awesome.  Period.  I know I never willingly sacrificed my vacation time to a week of manual labor for a complete stranger.

This afternoon, we all collapsed and took naps.  The weather went from sunny and 70s yesterday to cloudy, rainy and 50s today.  Nap weather.  Andy and I awoke to watch the last 10 minutes of the VCU/Kansas game (Woot VCU!) and the UK/UNC game – where Andy clinched our Braggin’ Rights bracket tournament.  Good afternoon.

What did Graham do this afternoon?

Graham played.

And played.

And played.

On a related note.  Please send toys.  Graham doesn’t have enough.  We’re desperate and are in dire need of more brightly colored plastic things that light up and make digital sound.

Great weekend.  I find myself ready to get back to work tomorrow and – in the spare moments – worry about Graham’s transition to the toddler room.  Hope you all have a good week too!

My Fingernails are Dirty; My Heart, Happy

We had a banner day today in the name of early Spring.  It started at 8:00 am and we just got in the door and washed up.

First order of business?  Andy mowed the yard, and I got my [extremely, horribly, emabarrassingly] overdue car in for an oil change.  Sidenote on that: I was like, almost twice the amount of miles overdue for my oil change.  When I got to the shop, the technician gave me a quote and then said, “Oh wait, sorry, I take it back, the manufacturer recommends synthetic for this make.”  Synthetic?  It’s about twice the cost of normal oil.  I followed manufacturer’s rec, though, then afterward, the tech told me that synthetic lasts twice as long as regular oil, so the good news is that – even though you pay twice as much – it’s essentially like paying for two oil changes at once.  Score.  I wasn’t overdue for an oil change afterall.  Merely right on time.  :)

The balance of the day was spent transplanting a way huge rosemary bush from the corner of our raised garden bed to a corner of the yard.  We dug out a corner of the backyard, laid the rubber tubing stuff that separates the lawn from the bed, dug up the rosemary bush, transplanted it, and then used the remainder of our waning energy to prep our raised garden bed for spring planting fun.

We made remarkable amount of progress, given the toddler we had in tow.  Some of the time he was out with us in the backyard.  He hung out in his pack n play on the porch, and for awhile I had some shallow tubs of water out on the lawn with some bath toys for him to play with.  He had such a blast splashing around that he wore himself out and is just finishing up a three-and-a-half hour nap.

All in all, it was a great day.  Sunny and in the 70s.  My hands and back are a little sore from the work, but I can’t really describe how good it felt to get outside and turn up dirt.  It’s really satisfy to dig into the earth like that.

I snapped some pictures of our work and posted them to the Photographs page if you want to see our afternoon.  :)

Thin Line Between Love and Hate

I never really believed that whole “love/hate relationship” thing. For heavens sake, pick a side. Right? Love and hate are about as polar opposite as emotionally possible. Indeed. However. I have begun to rethink this entire concept, as I can think of three distinct case studies that I’ve encountered the past couple of weeks.

Case #1: Our Bedroom

Anyone who I’ve had a chance to talk to for more than 10 minutes in this past year has heard me rant about our bedroom. Oh, Lordy. The master bedroom is located on the main floor of our house. When you’re sitting in the living room, you can see straight into it. Until a few weeks ago, it looked like a college kid’s first unfurnished apartment. The only two pieces of furniture we actually had, beside the $200 queen mattress/boxspring set I’d purchased from some furniture warehouse attic my senior year in college, were a bedside table that my parents donated to us from my old bedroom and my 17-year-old brother-in-law’s old baby dresser.

I could go on for ages about this, but it’s kind of old news, as you already know we bought bedroom furniture. A quick update on the bedroom. I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon at Ikea and Target recently, and I came home with lots of fun stuff (see below). The bed needed new bedding, and – well – then I was just inspired. Now all we need is a paint color and drapes and we are DONE. Hallelujah.

Okay, you’ve already seen the dresser and the photos, but how pretty is that vase??? :::squeal:::

So we fixed the bedroom. Great. Holding true to woman’s law: “If you redecorate one room, an adjoining room will begin to look hideous.” In this case, my eyes fell on the master closet. Given, Andy couldn’t stand it either. Shoe storage was non-existent, so we could barely walk in to our walk-in closet due to the scattered shoes on the floor. This space had also somehow become ad hoc storage for crap we didn’t want to throw away.

It had to be cleaned. We actually went to a couple of different places to see what designing a custom closet ‘solution’ (ooh ahh) would cost us. Too much for us cheapskates, as it turned out. And given that there are other things ahem for us to be saving for now, we went the economical route. We went to target and purchased white laminate particle board shoe storage and one big deep 6′ wire shelving unit. It’s not pretty, but we didn’t care. We spent half a day (hell, half a weekend) patting ourselves on the back for how much money we saved.

So, we ended up with this:

I’d like to point out a case of “reality versus perception.” Andy bought this white shoe storage for my shoes. As it turns out, I only have 28 pairs. Yes, ladies… CHALLENGE. If you can beat that (as in – come below that number), I’d like to hear it.

Case #2: Our Garden

Gardening has been a little more of a time and effort committment than I originally bargained four. Yes, with my little 4’x8′ raised garden. Good thing we didn’t follow through with our early spring motivation. The herbs are growing like gangbusters, but the veggies are really disappointing.

The tomatoes have been a lesson all on their own. First, we didn’t realize that Texas tomatoes grow taller than people. This never happened in Illinois. That said, the puny little wire tomato cages gave way in the first early summer storm. Andy now has a series of stakes and ropes holding these puppies up.

Once we got our infrastructure in place, the pests descended. Every freaking week, it’s something else. I swear. First it’s aphids, then little green worms that eat your tomatoes, then leaf-borers that cut beautiful twisty designs in your leaves. Something started chewing holes in leaves. Then… something started removing leaves altogether.

Andy came in from the backyard one evening and said, “Uh, I don’t know what it could be – a bird maybe – but something has literally eaten ALL the top leaves off your heirloom tomato. Okay, well there ain’t jack squat I can do about birds. If I leave Hugo out back to scare them off, he’d uproot and eat the tomato plants, definitely the greater of two evils.

This afternoon, I looked out our living room window at the tomato plant, and saw THIS.

This, ladies and gents, is a tomato worm. If scale of the picture is tricking you, it’s about three-and-a-half inches long. Upon seeing this dude, I flashed back to a few weeks ago when our friend Jeremy, who is having much better luck with his tomatoes by the way, told us a story about finding a tomato worm in his garden. He told it like a war veteran would retell an old battle story, clearly haunted by the experience. “Oh,” I said, nonchalantly, “I’ve read about those in my Texas Gardening book… it says the best way to get rid of them is to pick them off by hand.” This suggestion made his eyes go wide in horror. “I’m not going to TOUCH IT. This thing has eyes all down the side of its body… and …and HORNS.”

Such a vivid description could never be forgotten, and all of the sudden, I found myself outside in my bare feet, camera in hand, reaching over my head to get a better shot of this guy. Disgusting, no???

If you’re curious, we picked him off, still on the branch he was eating. Hey, we didn’t want to touch him either. He’s sitting in our garbage can, still on his leaf, bound for the curb collection tomorrow.

Case #3: My Body

Okay, so we’ll throw one point over to the “love” side and say, “Wow-how-miraculous-is-it-that-I-can-grow-another-human-being.” Followed by a mock swoon.

Let’s get on to the other side of that Maalox-chugging, dry-heaving, belly-distending, magical time known as the first trimester. I’ll start out by saying this: I’ve been blessed. This most dreaded, spat-upon time during pregnancy has been ridiculously easy on me. Given that Rose spent most of this time and well into the second trimester staring at the bottom her toilet bowl… yes, I feel blessed beyond words.

There actually hasn’t been so much action as dry heaving. More “Oh-my-god-if-I-smell-that-one-second-longer-I-can’t-be-held-responsible-for-what-comes-next.” I think queasy with a side of smell aversion is the word for it. Thankfully I can spring away from offending smells with the prowess of a jackrabbit, leaving Andy only one shaking finger pointing in the general direction of the thing he’s supposed to get rid of.

I recently saw that an old classmate of mine, still a skinny athletic girl, post a picture of her 12-week-along, flat-as-a-pancake pregnant “belly.” I sat here, in awe, marveling and cursing how differently bodies handle pregnancy. In fact, I believe my own mother told me she didn’t show until almost into her fifth month.

Cool, well, stomach issues and I go way back. Unfortunately a slew of these stomach ailments are common pregnancy symptoms as well. It’s been a veritable Choose-Your-Own-Adventure for me since the very beginning of this ride. I won’t go into detail. You’re welcome, by the way, but I will tell you this: the waistline that I see (and love) when I wake up and get dressed every morning is a vague and distant memory by the time I get home at night, tearing off my work clothes and groaning with relief when I put on my yoga pants.

In fact, as we were cleaning out the closet, I burst in to tears when Andy asked me to sort out which pants I wanted to donate to charity. Frankly, hardly any of them fit me well (at least by 5:00 pm) anymore. When I realized that it was only going to get worse, and when I further contemplated just how long it might be before I could actually wear them again… Niagara Falls. Yes, it was an overreaction, but explaining that to me at the time was an impossibility.

Just three more weeks, and I bid the first trimester ‘adieu.’ Then maybe we’ll throw a few more nods over to the “love” side.

Mr. McGregor Would Be Proud

Andy and I actually had a free weekend, with the exception of playing at church, so we took to the garden to see what we could effectively salvage.

If you haven’t been following along, in the past week I’ve:

  1. Planted veggies and herbs in our new garden bed.
  2. Watered the crap out of those new little plants.
  3. Watched the leaves yellow and curl from the ground up. [water]
  4. Watched leaves and entire plant stalks completely disappear from the ground up. [rabbits]
  5. Planted a sapling in the backyard.
  6. Watched Hugo snap the sapling in half.
  7. Grafted the tree back together.
  8. Banished Hugo to double-secret probation after he completely uprooted the poor sapling when no one was looking.

It’s been a full week for our backyard, as you can see.

Since Hugo, water, and rabbits seemed to be our main problems, and as Hugo is hopeless and because I can actually force myself to not water my plants, we decided to focus on our rabbit problem. Tell people you have rabbit problems, and you’ll quickly get 101 tried and true methods for controlling rabbits: cinnamon, human hair, dried blood, and I’ve actually heard two – somewhat disturbing – accounts of people peeing on their gardens as a means of rabbit repellent. Andy looked a little too interested in this method, so now I watch him closely when he goes out back with the dog. I kid, I kid. The Googleverse tells me, invariably, that the only 100% effective method of keeping rabbits out of your garden is to physically prevent them from getting in.

What did that mean for us? Well, our entire backyard is fenced, save for gaps underneath the fence in certain areas (especially around the gate), so Andy and I took a roll of 12″ chicken wire, sunk 4 inches into the ground, and stapled the rest onto the bottom of the fence. We truly considered just fencing in the vegetable garden, but we’re planning much more landscaping in our backyard, so why not solve this frustrating problem for once and for all?

Rabbits taken care of, we replanted some of the most-damaged plants, bought cages for our two tomatoes, and, because the Dallas wind is really strong these days, I secured my heirloom tomato and bell pepper plant with stakes. Now, everybody looks safe and happy. Yes, I know I need to get a life.

As for the problems Hugo inflicted, we replanted another sapling tree in the backyard, to replace the one Hugo ate, and installed chicken wire around that too – to keep out stupid dogs.

Oh, and we bought a dirt moisture meter from the hardware store and confirmed, with data, that I’m drowning my plants. The meter reads a scale of 1-4. My plants should consistently read a “2-3”, and they were all reading “3-4”. So there. I can now stop watering. Nevermind that rain is predicted all week this week. I suppose there’s only so much you can control.