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.

Jul 5, 2016

Introducing...

... the newest occupant in the little yellow house:

Matthew
Born May 11, 2016
8 lbs 7oz, 20.5 inches



Nothing could have prepared us for the joy and chaos of having two kids. Oliver has adjusted beautifully to being a big brother and has nothing but love for the new baby. We've been incredibly lucky.


Will hopefully have a few new posts going up soon... But for now back to baby land. 


May 9, 2016

The Garden is Planted!


The garden is planted! Mike (and Oliver!) did most of the work. I was there in a more in a supervisor capacity and did a little bit of planting but no heavy lifting. At 38 weeks it felt like a huge accomplishment to bend over and plant a few pumpkin seeds with Oliver. We broke the process up into several days - one day to turn and mix the dirt in the beds, another day to pick up new hoses (we lost one soaker hose and our big hose last summer) and set them up, a trip to the nursery for basil and marigolds, a couple of days to plant the seeds and plants. We've had a lot of wet weather so we had to squeeze things in when we could - it took a while, but I'm glad it's done!

As I mentioned back in my Garden Planning post, this year we're doing a simplified version of the garden - just a few favorites to tide us over. Being hugely pregnant at planting time and then juggling a newborn all summer, we are giving ourselves a break.



Herbs and Carrots Bed
The oregano and thyme were transferred from last year's herb bed to this year's. I'm amazed that they are able to come back year after year despite some harsh winters! This year our winter was so mild - I don't think the thyme has ever been so big! We also planted basil in this bed and a couple rows of carrots for fun. Originally I had thought we might do lettuce and onions, but I ran out of energy after planting the onions. Next year we'll circle back to lettuce, beans, peas and chard as well.



Tomato Bed
The tomatoes we started from seed back in March were planted with marigolds (for protection). The plants have been hardening off for almost two weeks outside (slowly building up resistance to wind, sunshine and outdoor temperatures). This year we're only doing eight, and half of them are prolific and easy cherry and yellow pear tomatoes. The others are easy to grow early girl, beefsteak, bushsteak and roma plum. Next year we'll go back to 12 and include some of my favorite heirlooms again.




Vine Bed
We planted cucumbers to go up the trellis because cucumbers from the garden are my second most favorite thing after tomatoes and I couldn't go a summer without them. We're skipping melons, squash and zucchini this year because they tend to be more high maintenance and instead are experimenting with mini pumpkins just for fun. (We heard they are fairly easy to grow, even by accident with minimal interference, so we thought it would be worth a try and fun for a preschooler!)



Flower Bed
Mostly zinnias (using zinnia seed tape which makes planting a cinch!) and just a few dahlias went into the flower bed this year. Zinnias really do provide the best return on investment once they get going - you get gorgeous flowers all summer until frost and they are so easy to grow!

Mike also planted the rest of our dahlia bulbs in the garden beds of our backyard so I wouldn't have to bend or worry about the bulbs dying from skipping a planting season. Plus he knows how much I love dahlias and will enjoy looking at them all summer as they bloom.