Monday, July 28, 2014

How Does the Garden Grow

Our house was a foreclosure and sat vacant for about a year before we moved in. The yard was mowed but little else was done during that time. As soon as spring sprung, so did the weeds. Lots and lots of weeds.
Spring! My little helper carries plants for our window boxes and planters for the front porch.

Lovely flowers for the window boxes, aka "deer food".
We have over 4000 sq. ft. of landscaped beds. By May it looked as if our house was still in foreclosure. It was a mess.
Everything in spring was sprouting, except for this dead tree in our front yard. The only thing that was growing was the massive amount of thistle underneath it. We will have to have the tree removed and replant a new one this fall.

We solicited some bids from landscapers to weed and mulch. The proposals were shocking. Several thousands of dollars shocking, and that was only for the beds in the front of the house. They didn't even take the side bed or the three beds in the backyard into consideration.

So WE got to work. I ordered mulch---45 cubic yards which required four deliveries. We pulled weeds and laid paper landscape paper that biodegrades and laid mulch. I do not like the landscape fabric. I think it causes a bigger headache two to three seasons down the road and part of the reason the estimates to weed the beds were so high was because the previous homeowner laid down landscape fabric and the mulch biodegraded and the weeds grew into that and the fabric = MESS.

We did this whenever we had free time, which during race season is infrequent. Considering we also have three kids, we also had many interruptions.

The first delivery of mulch.

Cleared of weeds, ready for some plantings and then mulch.

Did I mention there were lots of weeds?

Second bed cleared of weeds, but not rocks, and ready for some new plants.


We tried to till the soil but these little suckers kept interrupting the process. Weeds and rocks, that's what we're growing.

Finished this part of the side landscape bed and found this deer lounging in the new mulch and pooping out more weeds.

A before. You can see the landscape paper and some mulch already done on the far right and the weeds on the far left. Our neighbor (whose house you can see in the background) would come out while I was weeding and say, "Wouldn't it just be easier to take the entire landscape bed out?".  

Matt and I managed to clear the front beds, the side bed by the garage and start on one of the beds in the backyard. But, with two remaining beds left, we called in help. We got a race friend from the track who landscapes to come and finish the job. What a relief.
Matt and I finished the landscape bed on the right which goes around the side of the house in the backyard, but I could see the weedy bed along the fence row. Ugh! Never ending.

This is the last two beds and we called in reinforcements.

Now, besides the regular weeding maintenance necessary, I get to turn my focus on the other battle---deer. We seem to be raising a herd of deer and they are laughing at those plants I bought that had "deer resistant" on the tag. I was told by a landscaper that since it was such a tough winter, the deer and other varmints are eating anything like mad, even the plants they typically wouldn't.

The other night, I woke up with Flash barking like mad. I thought there was an intruder and went downstairs to see what was upsetting him. He was looking out the window, barking and growling. It was a deer on our porch eating my geraniums in my window boxes. Caught red-handed (or red-mouthed). Like right at the window, "Hello!", making a late-night snack of my plants.

I didn't fight back the weeds to lose out to deer. WAR, I tell you.
Before our visit from the deer.

After the deer made a late night snack of my window box. Gone are the geraniums and petunias. 

Echinacea, supposedly deer don't like it. They liked this one. Oh, and that 'May Night' salvia everyone at the nursery tells you deer don't touch. Yea, our deer ate all four of those plants down to the ground. Gone.

They really liked my white Echinacea plant. They also really, really love caladiums. I have those in a pot by the barn. Let me rephrase, I HAD them in a pot by the barn. The deer mow them down, let them make a recovery and mow them down again.







Saturday, July 26, 2014

Just a Matter of Time

Yes, you are awesome.
We have two kids karting. I had thought the third would stay away. Looks like she's car/kart crazy too. Matt says we will have a full podium of kids.

No prompting, no staging necessary. This girl knows where to stand and what to do.


She wanted to hold big sister's trophy and go on the podium with her.

Big sister is sharing the limelight.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

First Concert

Chloe has a theme song when she races karts. In tough races or when something has gone amiss and she is down on the starting grid, we will play Katy Perry's "Roar" to pump her up. As Chloe's driving progresses and she finds herself atop the podium more, Chloe is also becoming more aware that in her male-dominated sport many boys take offense to getting beaten by a girl and many others see her as a push-over because she is a girl as well.

"Roar" really fits as Chloe's theme song for karting.
Of course we had to purchase the "Roar" concert shirt.

So, when Matt found out that Katy Perry was coming to our area he recommended we take Chloe to her first big-time concert.

Chloe was excited and really enjoyed the concert. She has never been the tween to get up and start dancing or scream when Katy Perry came out. She's subdued. She sat, watching, taking it all in. And Perry opened the show with "Roar". Chloe just smiled.


Everyone was given glasses to view the concert--it made everything light up like a prism.

Matt and Chloe before the concert at dinner.

Matt and I on the other hand had an apparent blast. Capital Cities opened for Perry and we really liked them. Katy Perry also put on a fantastic show. Very entertaining, very empowering for girls.

K.P. floated up on balloons at the end of the show.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

1 Year Gotcha Anniversary

The first time we met. Emma Claire is being held by her nanny who was reluctant to let her go.
It was a year ago today that a little 11-month old baby girl was brought into the Heilongjiang Provincial International Adoption Center and I got to hold Emma Claire in my arms for the first time. I couldn't wait to Sk*ype and introduce Emma Claire ShiWen to her big sister and brother and of course, Daddy.

I guess it's only fitting that this week Emma Claire started saying her first three-word sentence, "Hold Emma Momma!".
Emma Claire on her one-year Gotcha Day. I dressed her in blue, because she was wearing a blue, baby boy onesie overalls when we met.

I keep repeating that this past year has been a whirlwind. She's turned our world upside down but we wouldn't have it any other way.

The Heilongjiang Provincial office doesn't complete a lot of international adoptions, in fact, our large agency hadn't had a referral from that province in 10 years when we got our referral! So, when Heilongjiang does have an adoption, they are very welcoming and make it a celebration with a photographer on hand. When we were leaving the province to go to Guangzhou, we were given a photo album by the province official. I am sharing photos of Gotcha Day that were taken by the province photographer.
Emma Claire's Chinese passport photo. Not sure why she was dressed in an adult shirt for the photo.

Emma Claire (after being changed out of her blue overalls by her nanny) and I with my sister, Deanna.


The first time I got to hold her.


Emma Claire being held by her nanny after a clothing change.

Emma Claire's nanny changing her clothes. She's also telling me how to make a bottle and Sophie, our translator in the gingham shirt on the right, is translating and also telling the nanny that Emma Claire isn't my first child. The nanny meant well and you could tell she loved and cared for Emma Claire. Of the three adoptions we've completed this was the least stressful and most relaxed one because the province officials were so welcoming. Having the process calm and not rushed was nice. The nanny offered lots of advice and insight into Emma Claire and was truthful in the condition of the orphanage and areas that she knew Emma Claire would need some extra attention to be brought to age-level.


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

+1



People who adopt often celebrate the "Gotcha Day" anniversary. And, we are coming up on that one year anniversary in a couple of weeks. But, I always keep track of the "+1 Anniversary"--the day that our child has been with us longer than in any orphanage, etc.

Today marks the day that Emma Claire has been with us longer than she has been with anyone. For Emma Claire it is important to note that it has only been this last month that she has really come into her own. She is her own little person and her confidence and surety is growing daily.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Saltwater Aquarium

I've been talking for years now about getting a saltwater aquarium. Chloe and Oliver both have freshwater fish and since we've been married Matt and I have usually had a freshwater fish tank.

So for my birthday, Matt surprised me with a trip to a saltwater aquarium store to meet with the owner and discuss what is involved in keeping a saltwater aquarium and our options on sizes and tank shapes.

Our original thought/plan was to get a small tank (around 50-60 gallons). True to form, we left the aquarium store with an order for a special made cabinet and aquarium system for  120 gallon saltwater reef tank.

So, it was happy birthday, happy mother's day, happy anniversary and any other gift-giving holidays to follow.

The cabinet was specially made to our height and stain specifications and took six weeks to be made and shipped.

The tank was brought to our house and installed on June 20 (our 16th anniversary). The guys set up the cabinet, filtration system underneath, base rock and live rock which will act as the anchor for the corals and polyps we get for our tank and serve as hiding spot for the fish and other creatures. They then filled it with saltwater and began the cycling of the tank (which takes 4-6 weeks).
The Before: The space in the living room for the tank.

The lower cabinet, which houses all the filtration and heating, and the tank brought in.

The sand, base rock and live rock installed inside the tank.
 
A look at the install.

After the saltwater was added. Super-cloudy.

The next morning after the set-up. The water was still a little bit hazy but it all cleared up by mid-afternoon.

In total, it will take about 6-12 months before we have a fully functional reef aquarium. Right now, it's rock and little else. The weekend following the install, we had several people over at different times and all of them would walk in the door, see the tank look at it and say, "Hey, do you know you have no fish in the tank?"

Really.

But, now that the cycle is under way, we have three different types of damsel fish in the tank. In about another month we can add some soft corals and start stocking the tank. Its been a learning process for me and Chloe has been a big help. She feeds the fish each day and helps do water tests weekly. Hopefully the novelty won't wear off because I feel a great amount of pressure to get this right so we will have a beautiful tank and not a big waste of money.


Sunday, July 06, 2014

True Toddler - 23 Months Old!


Emma Claire is 23 months old today and she is truly a toddler. Gone is the baby.

The biggest change this month is Emma Claire's noticeable change in behavior and attitude. She's always been a little bit sassy but she's also been clingy and sometimes timid.

Not anymore.

The kid can hold her own with her brother and sister and asserts her wants with them. Chloe and Oliver have left babying her and now I hear, "MOM! Tell Emma Claire to stop trying to take {insert iPad, pillow, remote or name of toy here}!". Gone are the "She's so cute" kissy-face comments from big brother and big sister and we've moved into "she's so annoying"!

She wants to be a big kid and do big kid things. We've also taken a slight interest in the potty (we like to flush it) and will actually acknowledge we need a diaper change.

She was released from Physical Therapy this month. She's almost to an age-appropriate level and she was released because she has become non-compliant. Emma Claire made no bones about it. She did not like PT and she made that abundantly clear with her temper tantrums and refusal to do anything during the sessions. The most frustrating thing was, when the clipboard came out for her physical therapist to write the session notes (which meant the session was over) Emma Claire would start giggling and high-fiving. She totally knew what she was doing.

Emma Claire remains in OT, which she loves, though I don't know if she will remain in much longer.

Emma Claire also now has three stuffed animals that she takes all over the house with her. She has a cat, which interacts, and two puppies. She really has bonded with the one puppy which she will call "Puppy" and sometimes "Hush" (which is what she tells Flash when he barks or makes his Flash-isms).

Now that the older kids are out of school, I've gotten her on a more schedule naptime instead of her cat naps she would take during the school year when we were running kids here and there.

Next month she will be two and her age can catch up to her attitude!
 
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