May 25, 2017

Revised! 2017: The Year of The Full Garden

So I know my last post was all about how I was doing a half garden. I thought it would make life easier. However I got some great advice from more than one of you (thank you!) who explained that it's not good for the garden to just simply leave the beds. There would still be work involved to keep the earth worms happy and keep pests and weeds from moving in. And if we're doing all this work, we should plant something to help the soil repair itself. The easiest option turned out to be planting two beds of low maintenance flowers. (Low maintenance being key!)

So here's the revised garden plan - the empty beds will now be alyssum, impatiens, zinnias. We will keep the herbs in the same place with the cucumbers and radishes here (with more space). The final bed will still be tomatoes.



Over the weekend we finally planted the garden as well! Three weeks later than I would like, but the weather has been weird. Like too cold (with frost warnings at night), too hot (at 97) or too rainy. We went to the nursery and picked up basil, tomatoes and some flowers for pots. The cucumbers, radishes, zinnias and alyssum are all from seed.

One difference between my revised drawing and reality is the tomatoes. We were planning on buy 6 tomatoes. But then at the greenhouse we had two options -  slightly smaller plants in 4-packs for $2.50 a pack, or slightly larger tomatoes in a single pot for $5. And the size difference, due to the weird weather, was maybe an inch in height and thickness. So obviously we decided to do 12 tomato plants instead of 6, the only downside being we could only do 3 varieties - we went with red cherry tomatoes (sweet 100s), lemon boys and early girls.


There's still a lot of work to do back here, but at least things are started. The impatiens are coming this weekend. The pathways are completely covered in weeds. We need to put deer netting back up (not for deer, but for the chipmunks that seem to have an easy time climbing chicken wire but not netting) and fix the gate.


May 16, 2017

2017: The Year of the Half Garden

This year I didn’t start tomatoes from seed. We didn’t plant peas or lettuce or spinach in the early spring. We were still in the throes of the illness cycle of the endless winter when it was time to plant tomato seeds, we were still trying to find a nanny and get ourselves back together when it was time for spring vegetables. And then when it was time to plant the garden (early May), the weather turned unseasonably cold, temperatures were dipping down into the 30s at night...

We are still going to do a garden this year (because I love it), but I’m downsizing a full garden this year and we are just going to do a half garden in two beds. Hopefully this upcoming weekend now that things are warming back up.

Here’s my half garden plan:




One bed we will buy 6 tomato plants from the nursery, because we love tomatoes in our house. In the other bed I’m going to leave the oregano and thyme herbs where they already are from last year (usually I dig them up and move them as we rotate beds) and plant a basil in between. I also will add a couple rows of zinnias (from seed), cucumbers (from seed) on a trellis and experiment with radish seeds too. This way we get all of our favorites in, plus something fun to try. In this case, something is a lot better than nothing.

Hopefully next year will be different. Matthew will be a year older and able to play by himself or with his brother while I garden. Hopefully we’ll be healthy enough to start seedlings with a grow light. And hopefully I can get a couple more years out of the raised garden beds before we have to replace them (they are starting to rot).

May 6, 2017

Hello? Is this thing on?



Hello! Wow. I know it's been months. I'm so out of practice now this feels weird. We are okay, things have just been hard for us recently and this blog was one of the things I had to let go of for a while.

It's nothing major (and for that I am grateful), just lots of little things together over and over that have worn us down. I've wanted to talk about it. I wrote posts sharing everything in detail that turned into extensive novels. I wrote short posts with brief highlights that rang hollow. I couldn't pull the trigger to post any of them because I felt like we were still in the middle of the storm.

Are we on the other side now? I don't know. I would like to think so. It's spring! The air is sweet, the sun is bright, the skies are blue. It's a time of new beginnings.

I've decided to share the medium version, which is still lengthy because it's really just a long list of little things piled on top of the other, turning our life into an uphill climb.

It started over a year ago in March when Mike was moved to a new position in a different work location. At the time we thought it was short term and we wanted Oliver to have continuity with his preschool, so we decided to keep him in the daycare close to where Mike used to work. The commute has been brutal with this move - what used to be 40 minutes (an hour on a bad day) became 2+ hours each way for Mike. He's away for 12+ hours most days... gone are the glory days of early dinners with long evening walks or easy weeknight trips to the pool in the summer. He also has a supervisor who equates planned vacation time, illness and personal days as lost revenue and discourages taking time off. Even when your wife is having a baby. Like more than 2 days of paternity leave is letting clients down.

We dealt with it, got help from our wonderful family and just moved forward. We juggled two kids and a crazy schedule. I was overwhelmed sometimes - exhausted by two kids or lonely when it was just me and the baby at home for long hours on my maternity leave. Georgia became significantly more high maintenance in her old age with both her care routine and cleaning up after her. She's still with us, mostly healthy (some arthritis issues) and making us crazy, ruining our carpets and requiring the world's most expensive dog food and pill regime.

I went back to work, Matthew went to part time daycare and we had to then adjust to our new normal of two working parents with two kids. My family has been wonderfully supportive and helpful, but any time we felt we finally had a handle on things, something new would come up, another ball to juggle. Oliver had to have his tonsils out and had an unrelated health scare (which turned out to be fine). The crazy just kept getting crazier, but all we could do was keep going.

Starting in mid September, Matthew was sick all the time. At first it was bad colds one on top of the other. Then he had the RSV, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, double ear infection with burst ear drum and dehydration that landed him in the hospital for 4 days. And after that it didn't stop. This winter he was sick every week that he went to daycare. Matthew ended up in the hospital a second time. The kids brought home three tummy bugs, an enterovirus, croup, the human metapneumovirus that turned into double pneumonia, a double ear infection and also a sinus infection for both boys. We discovered Matthew can't tolerate oral antibiotics. Both boys had the flu this year (despite the flu shot) and when I caught it, it was so severe that I ended up in the hospital too (my fever was so high they had to check for things like meningitis). We were in the doctor's office almost every week, sometimes several times in a week. A good week was just when everyone was nursing a cold. It just didn't stop.

I'm lucky that my job allowed me to have a flexible schedule and work from home a lot, but at the same time it was also stressful to be burning the candle at both ends, juggling sick kids and a full time job, finishing up work late at night all the time. Always trying not to fall behind, always worrying. It felt never ending.

This winter I was also diagnosed with postpartum anxiety. Nobody ever wants to talk about this stuff because there's a stigma around mental health, but really there shouldn't be. It's brain chemistry, hormones, mixed signals and neurons misfiring. I have a hard time talking about it, but I don't want to. This week was the world maternal mental health day - in honor of that, I'm being brave and sharing here because no one should have to live with constant worry and stress, it's treatable and it happens to lots of women. I've been getting treatment and I'm slowly feeling better. A lot of anxiety has been tied to my kid's health and with the rough winter we've had, it's been a slow process - but I'm getting better.

On top of all this - we've hit a point in our house where things we've done are starting to break down after 7 years. The kitchen faucet broke. The attic fan broke. The dining room light wiring stopped working. The driveway gate is falling apart. The raised garden beds are rotting. The kids and dog have destroyed our couch. Georgia is ruining our carpets. Then the bathtub drain is completely messed up and we've been told our options are to replace our tub (so it will work with a modern replacement drain system), or they can literally break our tub as a temporary solution. Both are astronomically expensive in a year with double daycare and medical bills and car repairs and geriatric dog vet care so we've been living with it. And all this is on top of the improvements that we want to make or will need to make in the future. We've adapted to super fast showers, dining in the dark, washing dishes with low water pressure, the upstairs being hotter in the summer, fumbling with a broken gate, sitting on a broken and stained couch, steaming the carpets with a steamer. But at the end of a bad day sometimes I just want an hour to myself to take a long hot shower and relax with a glass of wine and a good book on the couch... and often if I get some free time I end up spending it cleaning up yet another dog accident off the carpet. Things piled onto each other to the point where I'd be in tears from frustration, stress and worry... it just felt unrelenting.

We've been making positive changes to make our lives easier. At the recommendation of our pediatrician we pulled Matthew out of daycare to give his system a break back in March. My dad retired part time recently and he and my stepmom are helping us watch Matthew during the week and we've also hired a part time nanny to cover the gaps. I get to go to the office again and be with adults and work during normal hours. Mike is taking active steps to find a job position closer to home and shorten his commute. Oliver goes to kindergarten this fall and only has 2 more months of preschool and then we can decide if we want him home with the nanny or do the summer program at the school. A lot of this winter has been trying to keep our heads above water and I'm hoping we're finally at a point where we can relax a little.

I wish I had shared this sooner, but it kept slipping away from me. I have unfinished posts from January. Unpublished posts from February. Revisions in March and April. All about this. But I just wasn't ready to jump back in here. Hard things are often hard to talk about right?

I think I've also been hesitant to share because my feelings are raw and complicated and I'm worried that sharing might be construed as complaining. Being in the hospital with Matthew gave me some serious perspective on how lucky we are, on how healthy my kids really are. I met families that would not get to go home with a happy ending. It has left me with so many mixed feelings - I feel incredibly grateful and even a little guilty, I feel embarrassed that I'm not stronger to handle these minor things so easily, I feel deep sadness and sorrow for the families who have really sick children, I am scared from the realization of how fragile life is. I am frustrated with my neural pathways for not being able to determine what's a real emergency and what's an inconvenience.



I'm hopeful things are finally settling down. We had a healthy month in April and it felt like a whole new world. Things are still busy and complicated, but it feels more manageable when I'm not worrying all the time. Even when things were at their hardest, there were many bright spots. We have two boys that are more wonderful than I could have ever imagined or hoped for. Our life is good, even when it's rough.

I'm hoping I can finally return to this space now. I don't know how regularly I'll be able to post, but we'll see how things go.

Dec 24, 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year!

From our family to yours - Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!


Dec 1, 2016

The Past Few Weeks



In November... I co-hosted a pink neighborhood baby shower at our house. It was lovely and wonderful and we're so lucky to live where we do. My co-hosts did most of the food and I did the cleaning and decorating with big pink tissue paper flowers and pink lanterns.


We took our Christmas card photos on a warm day. It was significantly harder with a four year old and a baby. My original idea didn't come out as well as I had hoped, but the backup idea worked better. The cards actually just arrived and I'm happy with how they turned out!



In mid-November Matthew got sick and ended up in the hospital. At first we thought it was a cold but then he got so much worse. He had RSV, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, an ear infection with a ruptured ear drum and was dehydrated from a lot of vomiting. He ended up being in the hospital for 4 days because he needed supplemental oxygen, but overall he was sick for 10 of the longest days of our lives. I now have a million gray hairs and I don't think I've ever been so scared in my life. The good news is that he's doing much better now - we were released before Thanksgiving and were able to spend the holiday with family.


Since then we've been recuperating, catching up on laundry and focusing on Oliver's top priority: Christmas. We've been decorating and getting into the holiday spirit! Hopefully we have a quiet month around here and everyone stays healthy so we can enjoy the season.

Nov 8, 2016

On Figs and Garden Failures

First - figs! We finally have figs! Delicious figs that taste amazing. This is very exciting, after all of these years.




Our first batch was a dozen ripe ones and then additional ones ripened one at a time. I'm not sure how many more we'll get now that we've had a hard freeze, but we are really happy to finally get a few!

They are all from our Chicago hardy fig tree, planted a few years ago. The brown turkey fig is struggling with our winters, even wrapped up. The beauty of the Chicago hardy fig tree is that it can freeze to the ground, regrow in the spring/summer and still bear ripe fruit in the fall. It seems that while the brown turkey fig is a more mature tree, dying back to the root ball each winter doesn't give it a long enough growing season and it sets its fruit too late. It's why we've barely had any figs so far from that side.


The Garden

This was probably our worst year for the garden ever. Baby or no baby, this would have been a disappointing year thanks to some bad weather and very high levels of mold, blight and mildew.

The fruits in our yard fared the best overall, though even this was mediocre (except the figs). The strawberry harvest was light. The raspberries were more plentiful last year. The blackberries were probably the only thing that had a good showing (we had LOTS of blackberries). It was our first year getting a few blueberries on 2 out of 3 of the bushes, I wrapped the fruit branches with mosquito netting to protect them from birds, but something else managed to chew through and get most of them. We ended up with 4 berries total. The citrus trees started off great until they attracted the interest of a the chipmunks and now there are 2 limes and 1 lemon left to ripen. Next year I'm putting hot sauce on my baby lemons and limes.

Next year I also need to rethink the strawberries - they are overshadowed now by peonies and the fence and even though I spent a ton of time weeding that bed, they struggled. I think it might be time to move them.


We now have a second bed of raspberries on the other side of the forsythia bush that are growing significantly better than the original ones I've been cultivating next to the blackberries.



The backyard garden was a disaster. I spent my maternity leave trying to take care of it, but it was a lost cause. The tomato bed fared the worst. First there were tornado-force winds that damaged several plants and sucked two whole plants (and their cages) out of the ground and dropped them on the lawn! (Though we were lucky it wasn't a tree picked up and dropped into our house like our neighbors.) Then the rest of the bed was then struck by terrible tomato blight, the worst I've ever seen. Everything turned yellow at once with black spots. By August pretty much everything was dying or dead. Pathetic.

The cucumbers did well at first with lots of fruit, then were destroyed by powdery mildew and blight. The pumpkins were doing great too until the blight set in. We did end up with two beautiful pumpkins in August that I realized were just starting to be being eaten by bugs - so we rescued them and decided to have "Halloween in August." We watched a Halloween movie, carved two jack-o-lanterns and put them on the porch to confuse the neighbors.






The flower bed was depressing. The dahlias all lived, but they didn't thrive even with a fertilizer boost - everything stayed small. I've never seen zinnias do badly before, but these stayed short, scrawny and didn't produce a lot of flowers. Oliver's sunflower did grow as tall as the garage though - our one success - so I'm glad it was his flower (he was quite proud of it).




In the last bed the herbs faired fine, so that's another silver lining. The carrots have done better other years but they weren't a complete disaster either.

So it wan't our year for the garden. We've had good years and bad years and this was definitely a tough one. If it had to happen it's probably better it happened on a year when I didn't have a lot of time for the garden anyways, so I didn't waste a lot of time on it. I do regret letting the weeds get so bad in the beds and paths - we'll pay for that next year.

Next year we'll try again. Hopefully the weather will be better!

Nov 2, 2016

Happy {Belated} Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Superman, Squirt the sea turtle and Bruce the shark (from Finding Nemo)! Matthew was destined to wear Oliver's baby sea turtle costume (when Oliver was a baby we had Hurricane Sandy instead of Halloween), so we "updated" it by making it part of Finding Nemo - he was Squirt the sea turtle, Georgia was Bruce the shark and Nemo was a clown fish bath toy. Oliver of course wanted to be Superman - his all time favorite superhero.




Taking pictures of all 3 of them at once was even more challenging than I imagined. I never got both boys smiling at once. Georgia was such a good sport this year, I swear in all the chaos she was just pleased to be included.


 Here's a better picture of Matthew's sea turtle costume:


And one very awesome Superman:



 It was especially fun this year because Oliver was just SO excited about Halloween and trick-or-treating. He never wanted the night to end and is already asking when the next one will be.

Oct 25, 2016

Ready for Halloween!

Our house is decorated for Halloween! Oliver is so excited about the holiday this year and his enthusiasm is contagious. Each year we try to add a few things into the mix, Oliver wants our house to be so scary that people run away.

This year our porch has a new giant spider web on it. I love it - it's the perfect size to cover the front of the porch and is made of this shimmery material that catches sunlight or the porch light at night. On the web we have a big black spider and a bunch of oversized flies and bugs. We also have bats hanging down and two new rats crawling on the rails.


We have our mini graveyard from last year that's haunted by a ghoul and a bat.


The front door says Happy Halloween but it's hard to see in the photo (it's easier to see in real life).


The skeleton we got a couple of years ago is now sitting on Oliver's porch chair, covered in bugs and holding a cauldron.


Also new this year is a creepy crow skeleton for our mailbox. We needed something for the mailbox garden area - last year we did that stretchy spiderweb stuff and I regretted it when it came time to take it down (such a mess!). I like the little crow so much better!


We have our usual pumpkin collection too -


At night our house is nice and spooky! (Hunter's moon in our backyard last week)


At night our porch is lit up by an orange bulb in our porch light, a new small strand of orange Halloween lights wrapped on the railing, and the set of flashing skeleton lights we've had for years.


The orange light is REALLY orange (the skeletons are flashing in the picture above), it casts an eerie light on our porch and front yard.


Our neighborhood is REALLY into Halloween, so our house is actually pretty low key compared to some of the others. Next year Oliver wants a 15 foot grim reaper inflatable.



Oct 21, 2016

It's October Already?!

I have spent the past 6 weeks thinking that I'm going to return to this blog any day now. Just a few more things to check off the to-do list and then I'll have time to sit down and write a post... and clearly a few becomes a few more and a few more until suddenly 6 weeks have gone by.

What have we been up to?

We went on our annual family vacation to Cape Cod. It was our last year being able to go in September, Oliver starts kindergarten next year. I swear it was more beautiful there than ever - we had warm weather, lots of beach time, sunshine and relaxation. It's one of my most favorite places in the whole world.







When we got back, Oliver had his tonsils out. It's been 3 years in the making and a difficult decision, but in the end it was medically necessary. He was home for 10 days, but it's amazing how fast they bounce back. He's doing great now, I really hope it makes a difference in his health this year and going forward.




We're still trying to get our sea legs as a family of four. Every time I think we have a handle on things, there's something new. The kids, the dog, the house, one of us. Colds, bronchitis, sleep regressions, chronic canine esophageal regurgitation to name a few. I'm starting to think that things might never actually calm down. Maybe this is why so many bloggers quit blogging when they have two kids - life is suddenly so much harder, crazier, complicated.




I'm not complaining, I'm just sharing why I've been so absent. It's crazy, but it's good. Honestly I'm trying to just enjoy the ride because I know this time is precious and fleeting. Life with two kids might be twice as hard, but it's also twice as fun and rewarding. While some days feel impossible and I honestly don't know how we can go on this way... at the same time we're the happiest we've ever been.

Our social life is ridiculously kid-centric (when everyone is healthy) - play dates, birthday parties, trips to the playground, family stuff... but it's still good. We've squeezed some of our favorite fall activities like pumpkin picking and apple picking. We decorated for Halloween. Oliver's enthusiasm for the holiday increases every year and it's contagious. I think this is going to be our best one yet.




So I have every intention of starting up again here and blogging, for real this time. My goal is once a week. Whatever we're up to. It won't be a lot of house content for a while, but it will be something

Aug 30, 2016

Hello From The Other Side (Sort Of)


Where did the Summer go? One minute I had a baby with 12 weeks of maternity leave ahead of me, the next minute I went back to work and it's the end of the Summer and I have NO idea where the time went.

 

We've done very few blog-worthy things; we're still adjusting to this new life. Our house is almost always messy. The lawn seems to always need mowing. I feel like we always need to go to the grocery store again. There are so many weeds in the yard I could spend an entire weekend pulling them. The lawn mower broke and had to be repaired. The kids have had a lot of doctor visits for various things. Oliver needed glasses. The living room couch has a permanent silly putty stain. The vacuum is dying. One of my favorite glasses broke. I have a stack of summer reading I've barely touched.

But! Things have been good! We have a baby that likes to sleep through the night and is full of smiles. Oliver LOVES being a big brother and has handle the transition better than I could have hoped. Oliver turned four, had a big birthday party with his friends and learned to ride a bike (with training wheels). I made a 6 layer rainbow cake. Oliver and I pick the garden together in the evenings. We've gone to the pool as much as our schedule allowed. Oliver took swim lessons. I made a bunch of homemade baby food (for the future) with seasonal produce - peaches, plums, blueberries, cherries, zucchini and squash. Oliver and I made blackberry ice cream with blackberries from the garden and homemade marinara with the tomatoes. There's been fresh salsa and gazpacho and refrigerator pickles. I've become a master at clothing organization for babies as they grow. I'm obsessed with the Prisma app. We've spent quality time with family and friends. I take weekly photos of Matthew and bi-monthly photos of Oliver to continue to document their growth and life.





Having two kids is complicated. Having an infant on top of a preschooler is even more complicated. We are happy, we are good, but we are also boring right now. I'm hoping to start sharing more soon as things calm down and we adjust to our new life.


Jul 13, 2016

Oliver's Room: An Illustrated Map

I finally found the perfect artwork for Oliver's big boy room - a illustrated map decal I found on Amazon. It's adorable, colorful, inexpensive and a great size. I love the illustrations! It's educational! It looks so cute on his wall!

Installation was easy overall and I was able to put it up by myself while the baby napped. Each piece peels off the wall easily and re-sticks well, so everything can be tweaked and repositioned until it looks right. If you order it off amazon, the key is like 1"x1" so you'll want to have a device handy where you can pull up the preview picture to see how it all goes together. The only tricky part is that the sticky side really sticks to itself (but it's totally removable from the wall), I found it tough to pull apart stuck together pieces. Eurasia was the hardest part because it's so large, it rolled and stuck to itself in several places and was a pain to get apart, so I would recommend a second person to help with that part. The decals are translucent, so this really only works on white or light walls. Also the clouds are white on white, so you really have to check the roll to make sure you pulled all the decals off before throwing it away.


Oliver loves it. He's also really into PBS Kid's Wild Kratts, so he's had a lot of fun seeing where different animals live on the map around the world. We compare the big flat map to the globe all the time for perspective too. It's fun and educational for the preschool set.