April 17, 2014

Porter's Birthday

My little Porter man turned 7 this month.It was kind of a crazy week.  We had a trip coming up the week after to SLC, so we told him he could have his birthday present on the day, and then we would celebrate with cake at Grandma and Grandpa's Sampson's house because he wanted to get a store-bought cake there and go bowling.
Porter in the morning of his birthday with his new duds and toys. 
The next weekend after conference and our weekend of yard work, we had a baby shower in Saturday in SLC and then a baby shower in Tooele so we went down and stayed over.  Porter and Gabe and Adam went fishing with Grandpa Sampson while Charlotte and I stayed for the shower.  They didn't catch anything, but Porter still declared it the best birthday ever. :)  On their way back they stopped to pick out their cake.  Porter picked it our all on his own.  I was a little surprised when I saw it, but I shouldn't have been. Porter goes for what he wants.  He really liked the black bow on it.  I asked him later if he picked pink because he was sharing the birthday with me and he said yes.  He is such a great kid.  I love my little man.

Porter wanted the whole bow for his piece.  He was disappointed when we told him the bow wasn't really edible.  We broke some off and let him try it. He said it tasted like cardboard. 

Random phone pictures

I always forget to post pictures here from my phone. They are so easy to post to Facebook with just a click and I neglect to download them so I can post them to the blog. So here you go.

There are a lot of Charlotte since she is the only one home most of the time.  Even when the boys are with me, they are usually off playing somewhere and not easily available for a picture.

Charlotte loves baths.  So much so that if she ever finds the bathroom door open, this is what happens.
She had gotten all the toys down to play with.  When I told her it was time to get out, she gathered up all the toys and put them back on the shelf before reaching to me to lift her out.  Too cute!

She figured out how to get the rocking elephant to rock.  She was pretty pleased with herself.

She is never interested in tv, but this day she must have sensed that I needed the time.  I wasn't feeling well and I needed to get some homework finished as well.  She went and got her blanket and her snuggle frog and settled right in for some Word World.  She watched for a good 20 minutes.  Long enough for me to finish up what I was doing.  She still doesn't sit for shows, but she loves the Backyardigans theme song, so she will bring my the Wii controller to turn on Amazon and bring up the show.  She will get all excited and go dance about 2 inches from the tv when the song plays.  Once it is over, she will run off to play somewhere else.
My sister Bridget made this amazingly cute dress for Charlotte for Easter.  She just looks adorable in it. I love it!  Thanks again Bridget!
Another spring dress.  Its a good things she likes dresses because now that it is warmer she will be in them a lot!
She has started to climb and is a little contortionist.
My birthday treat.  It made about twice that many, so we took some to the neighbors.  So delicious!
More contortionism, this time with a cohort. :)

Someone posted the recipe for the cheesy bread that we had with our school lunches in high school.  I was so excited!  I loved that cheesy bread.  It was a great trip down memory lane.  Too bad the rest of my family didn't think so.  No one else liked it nearly as much as I did.

Playing dress up at Grandma and Grandpa Sampson's house.

Just relaxing.  She loves these bean bag chairs that we got from Grandma and Grandpa Gibson.  She drags one everywhere so she can sit in it.  It makes the perfect chair height for her.

My birthday Present

Adam had been asking me for a while what I wanted for my birthday and I couldn't really think of anything.  In the end I just asked him to write me a letter or poem.  But a couple days before my birthday I got another bee in my bonnet.  When we bought the house we had talked about putting garden boxes.  But we looked at the prices of kits and they were exorbitant.  Not only that, but the kits were only about 6 inches high.  The main point of a garden box or raised bed is having it high enough that you don't have to kneel on the ground to weed it and take care of it.  So we sat on the idea for a long time.  I have over the last few years considered where I would put one, but our back yard is too small to take away from the kid's play space for a garden.  It just never came together.

The week of my birthday though, I got thinking.  There was no reason we couldn't put on in the front.  I had thought of putting it in as an extension of our flower beds, but that wouldn't work because the neighbor's tree would give it too much shade.  And then it occurred to me - there was no reason we couldn't put it on the other side of the house in front of the pine tree.  It would get plenty of sun and there wasn't a lot of grass growing there anyway.  It was already fairly level and wouldn't be too hard to get ready for a box.

I called Adam and told him I knew what I wanted.  I half expected him to hesitate.  I figured we would talk about it and decide it was too much to do, too expensive, or just not practical when we would probably be moving soon.  But he didn't.  Again, don't I have a great husband?  He immediately said okay and we started putting together a supply list. 

The biggest item on the list was concrete blocks.  We wanted a box about 4X10, so we estimated 40 blocks.  As they were loading them into the van and we saw the tires sink lower we thought we may need to make a second trip.  But we made it home driving very slowly, with the kids worrying the whole way about the car.  I don't know how much they weighed altogether, but when I went later to get the pavers, they weighed them and said they were 1400 pounds.  The pavers didn't sink the tires as much as these blocks, so they had to weigh more than that.  We certainly gave our suspension and workout in those two trips.  We got them home and started laying out a row so we could see just where we wanted it.  Can you tell how hard he was working?  Each of those blocks weighs about 30 pounds, so he was quite worn out by the end of the day.
I wish I had gotten more progress pictures.  It doesn't show just how hard Adam worked to get this done.  It took the whole first day to get everything dug out and level.  Then we had to lay weedstop, get the blocks to lay level, which was hard even though the ground was level.  Stubborn blocks just have to be enough different to require leveling at each step.  Once the first level was on the second one went on a lot easier.  Then came plastic sheeting so the concrete wouldn't absorb water.  And lastly the pavers on the top for seating.  Some construction adhesive to hold everything together and it was ready to go.  Even describing it doesn't do justice to the amount of work Adam put in.  It was a massive project labor wise. I don't think Adam really understood how hard it would be when he so easily agreed to do it for me.  But I am so grateful he did. He is amazing!

 We needed a truck to get a load of compost from the landfill.  A friend from high school who I hadn't seen in more than ten years replied to my request on facebook and came over the very next day with her truck.  She even helped unload it with Adam. What an amazing person! We combined it with garden soil and some peat moss.  Every website we looked at seemed to have a different combination that they swore was the perfect mix for raised bed gardening, so we took a shot with what we chose and we will see how it works out this year. 

 For the variety of peas we chose, we needed a trellis.  From what I read it needed to be about 5-6 feet tall.  I didn't want to do something ordinary so I started looking around online for ideas and then went shopping at DI for a project.  I found this wall hanging.  It had little stands for candles that needed to be adjusted or taken off and it needed some support to stand taller.  Other than that I thought it would work perfectly.  Pretty and functional.
I found a curtain rod that I thought would work for the stand, but in the end it just wasn't strong enough.  I did use the finials from it at the top though, so it wasn't a wasted $2.
 It was quite the process to find what I needed at the store to make what I wanted.  I knew what I needed and had a vision of it, but had no idea what it was called to ask someone where to find it.  In the end a very nice man at Home Depot looked at the picture of what I had on the phone and listened to my explanation of what I wanted to accomplish and directed me to an even better solution.  I ended up with some S hooks and pipe that would do the trick.  They were silver, so I needed some paint and found this little gem. It worked great, only when I put the pipe up against my mirror piece, they didn't match.  Back to the store I went for a darker color. 

I was able to use the finials to stabilize the hooks in the top of the pipe and tie it all together with twine.  I then used twine on the bottom to create some latticework for the peas to climb. I think it turned out really nice.  What is funny is that I went to all the trouble of making this really tall lattice and then we switched varieties or peas to one that only needs 2 feet of lattice to climb.  So it really is now just a nice visual feature. lol  I enjoyed making it and it didn't cost much, so I think it was still worth it.

While I was at the store for the second can of paint, I decided to get some hanging baskets.  Be careful of home improvement stores!  You always walk out with more than you went in for.  We had originally though about doing cucumbers as one of our veggies, but I didn't want to worry about another lattice and Adam decided he wanted to try strawberries instead.  When I saw the baskets, I figured the strawberries would work in them.   I laughed when I first put them up because the baskets practically touched the concrete sides.  It looked a little silly.  I finally figured out how to shorten the chains and make it look a little better.
 Last night we planted.  Charlotte really wanted to get in on the action and we constantly had to take the shovel out of her hands or empty a fistful of dirt back into the box.  She REALLY likes dirt.   The boys had a blast getting everything in and as you can see they are pretty satisfied with their work.  I somehow erased the picture with Adam and Charlotte in it as well, so I just have the one with the boys showing off their work.  I love my birthday present and even if we aren't here at the end of the summer to harvest everything, I love that we all got to work on it together and the boys will get tons of enjoyment out of it for as long as we are here.  If we are still here next year, maybe I will get a bee in my bonnet about getting the deck refloored. :)

Cabin Fever, Spring Cleaning, Nesting - Something like that

     Last year at this time we put our house on the market.  We planned to move for a better job, so we cleaned everything out and waited.  Our life went on hold because we didn't know when the house would sell and we didn't know when we would be moving or how far away.  And then..........nothing happened.  No job offer came and no house offer came.  I don't regret at all the time we spent with family in anticipation of not seeing them as often, but I really regret putting everything else on hold while we waited. 

     So this year when we found out Adam's job was ending with the office closing here, I made the decision that my life was not going to go on hold again.  I wasn't going to put off doing things I wanted to do because we were waiting to see what happened.  I don't know if it was being cooped up for the winter and finally getting some good weather, or if it was the spring cleaning bug that hits about this time of year, or just a whole lot of nesting hormones going on now that I am past the morning sickness stage of this pregnancy. Probably a combination of all three.  But I decided we needed to do some things in the yard. 

     We have always hated our front walkway.  No one likes to walk on it.  The kids (Charlotte especially) are constantly throwing rocks into the lawn that Adam then has to watch out for when he mows. It is full of weeds.  And its a haven for spiders.  As Charlotte loves to play in the rocks, this was a concern for us this year with her playing outside more. 
      We hadn't done anything about it because of the expense and work involved.  This year I got a bee in my bonnet and decided to really look into what it would take to make it better.  I dug under the rocks to see just what was there to discover if it was just dirt or something else.  Turns out whoever did the walkway did a lot of the work for us.  There was already gravel and sand under the rock.  As gravel alone was going to be the most expensive part of the job, this was fantastic.  I found pavers on sale for $.25.  Yup a quarter a piece.  With gravel and edging already there, the only cost was going to be the pavers and some sand.  And in the end, the rental for a compactor.

     We got to work digging it out.  Everyone got in on the action.  I was surprised at how much Porter enjoyed working on the projects with everyone.  He went back and forth between Adam (who was working on my birthday present - the garden box in the next post) and myself, doing whatever job we asked.  He worked really hard that day.
     Gabe wanted to help, but after a few tries with tools that were too big for him, he decided he would rather play on the bikes.  He was very happy for the gloves we got them though.  Little do they know how much use I intend to get out of the boys' new gloves this summer.
      Gabe wandered back and forth between us and the piles of dirt and rocks, happy as a clam to throw things around and make a big mess.  This picture doesn't show even a small portion of how dirty she was by the end of the day.  She was in heaven!
      We worked really hard to get the gravel dug up so that we could re level everything and then the clouds opened up.  It hailed and rained for about 10 minutes.  Just long enough to get a nice cold drink and a break before I went back out to it.  Unfortunately, even with only 10 minutes of rain, it turned my job into mud.  I kept having to scrape off my shoes because it just caked on.
      We got everything dug up, then put back the gravel to the right depth. Tamped it and then put on the sand. 
      Then we got to lay the pavers.  The easiest portion of the job, and it went quickly.  Until we got to the end and ran out of sand for the last couple feet.  It was conference weekend and Adam needed to get to the Priesthood session, so we left it and he got some sand on the way home.  I knew we wouldn't get back to it until the next Monday, so even though it was after dark, Adam humored me and we went out and finished it by the light of the porch and a flashlight. Isn't he a great husband?
 All in and ready for sanding.  I was able to shift the edging to fit better with minimal fuss and it was nearly complete.  We discovered that even with hand tamping, it wasn't enough to get everything to settle and lock the sand between the pavers.  So we decided to rent a compactor.   They said that we might need something under it like extra sand or cardboard to protect the pavers from scratching and we quickly found out they were right. Sand didn't do it, so we used a few cardboard boxes.  Adam did the compacting and vibrated his way to a headache and even aching teeth.  Although it took many more passes over it than we had anticipated and a lot more sand than we had thought, now that it is done, I am so pleased with how it turned out.  Everyone who comes to our house regularly comments on how much nicer it is to get to our front door now and I agree.  I can walk out to get something from the car in my bare feet now.  Its lovely.