Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Letter Fail

Dear Friends and Family,

After waiting as long as possible to write this year’s Christmas letter, I decided to wait a little longer and actually drag out our extremely fragile nativity set instead. So yeah, this will most likely be a New Year’s letter. Better than last year, though when we skipped the letter entirely. You can thank me later.

But anyway, back to the nativity set.

Knowing full well that Mary, Joseph, and crew would look more like action figures than religious ones, I was sure setting up the display would hold the boys’ interest for at least five minutes. Plus, I might even be able to slip in a little bit of the Christmas story (the Cliff’s Notes version, of course) while I was at it.

I carefully unwrapped each piece and prepared to give a full rundown of the figurine’s significance when…

“Mom!” Tripp interrupted, swinging a camel by its neck. “Look at this camel. It’s ahhhh-some!”

“It’s not awesome, Tripp,” older brother Isaac shot back. “It’s breakable.”

Figuring a fight would soon follow, I already had my words ready. They’re both right. The story is awesome and the set is breakable. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to share my wisdom. Isaac and Tripp were too busy circling up the figurines for a game of Ring Around the Rosie.

I could try to paint a bit rosier picture of what life is like at our house, but why? Reality is so much better. Reality is noise 24/7, toothpaste smeared on the wall, forts fashioned out of bed sheets, and pleas for “one more kiss” before bed at night. That’s what life is really like for us, but just in case you really want the traditional Christmas letter, here goes:

Addison is in the fourth grade, which means she moved to the middle school and faced much anxiety about remembering her locker combination. She’s kept busy with softball, volleyball, and basketball, and piano lessons. Still, what we’re most proud of is her enormous love for animals. This summer she held numerous lemonade stands and spa days to raise money for the Lincoln Humane Society. While her marketing techniques were at times questionable (signs that read “lemonade 50 cents or free”) her dedication was admirable.

Isaac is 4 years old and started preschool this year. From boarding the bus to navigating the playground; making friends to successfully checking out a li-berry book, every day is a new adventure for Isaac. We were blown away at parent-teacher conferences this fall when his teacher said he just doesn’t talk very much at school. Say what? Even though he thoroughly enjoys preschool he also relishes what he has coined “stay-home days.”

And Tripp. How can I give you an accurate depiction of this 2 year old in four lines or less? He’s a ball of fire who sports pink cowboy boots, wields a foam sword, and requires a Tripp-to-English translation dictionary because he just gets so excited about whatever it is he has to say. Pottie training is a work in progress (more work than progress) and he’s making significant gains when it comes to counting (1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14).

Not much has changed with Scott and I (still married, still working). But we both took on a “second job” when we purchased our acreage. We love the space, but really didn’t have a clue as to how much work really needed to be done. The house was almost finished when we bought it. We’ve spent the past year and a half working on various projects. Trust me, we’ve made great strides (but we’re still not quite done).

We did find time for a family vacation to Phoenix last summer to see Brock and his fiancĂ© Virginia. This also included a side trip to the Grand Canyon. It was grand, but I wouldn’t suggest taking an active 2 year old or 4 year old – at least not without a tranquilizer (for mom). We look forward to making many more memories in 2012 and wish you all the best.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Of Course We Can Build a Sound, Solid Structure for Our Children

This project was cursed from the get-go.

We ordered the swing set from Sam’s Club the first week of May. Kinda forgot about it actually because we had this really big vacation coming up. Went on vacation and realized, “hey, we haven’t received that swing set yet.” Did some checking with Sam’s and found out the swing set was lost in transit.

I know what you’re thinking: “How in the world does one lose a wooden swing set?” I thought the same thing – until the swing set actually arrived. In two boxes and 2,000 pieces.

Over our heads?

No. Not us.

I must say I really took charge on this project, carefully laying out each and every part for my husband.

Then we dove right in with Step 1.

Step 1 was so much fun we decided to do it again (right this time).

Steps 2-6 went similarly. Eventually we had to move the swing set out of the front yard and into the back yard.

Three weeks and a few trips to the local hardware store later we were finished. 

And no, I’m not exaggerating. That’s what happens when you’ve only got a few precious evenings and weekends to work with.

All in all, it’s a project we can be proud of – especially since it’s still standing five months later.

Our Landscaping Labor of Love

To say that we started with a blank canvas would be a gross understatement. Barren is more like it. But, I could see the potential in this house and couldn’t wait to get started.

Unfortunately I had to wait a little bit.

My initial meeting with the landscape designer occurred in February. We stuck the first shovel in the ground in May.

So what did I do for three months? Waited for the snow to melt. Played with the plans a bit. Scaled back a lot.

Finally, it was time.

Step 1: Spray a truck-load of Round-up on the area to be ‘scaped. Then wait. It's really dying a slow death here.

Step 2: Break out the mother-in-law’s roto-tiller.

Step 3: Nearly break mother-in-law’s roto-tiller on the dirt clods in our “lawn” and call for a replacement tiller.

Step 4: Lay the landscape fabric and edging.

Step 5: Cut slits in the fabric, dig holes, and stick a few plants in the ground.

Step 6: Continue cutting, digging, planting. Eventually realize that even though you scaled back A TON, you’ve got a really big area to fill.

Step 7: Mulch, mulch, and more mulch. I stopped counting at 42 bags. Ri-di-cu-lous.

Step 8: Sit on the rockers, relax, and watch the flowers grow.

I can't remember what this one is called, but man did it grow and grow and grow.

Here's the Coreopsis. Hey, it sorta sounds like I know what I'm talking about.

And my pride and joy, the Knockout Roses.

P.S. The front porch is a great place to watch your children grow too.

Of course we couldn't stop with the landscaping. We also needed to rip out the "lawn" (there was only about 20 square feet of lawn; the rest was all weeds) and plant a whole new one. Here's a pic of the front lawn completely ripped out.

We seeded the lawn in September and enjoyed an 8-week drought (according to my husband). I'm not even going to question his accuracy because he was the one out there traipsing across the soil moving sprinklers all hours of the day and night. His hard work paid off. The lawn looks great. Here you can see the first sprouts coming up.

Let's just hope we can be just as diligent about its care next summer and hit the back yard with just as much gusto.

Seriously, we're going to need it. 

So...What Have We Been Doing the Last 18 Months?

If you took the time to read my profile, you’ll see that I promised to update this blog as often as my husband, three children, frogs, and dog allowed.

So here I am a year and half later (on Christmas break) with a free minute or two to bring everyone up to speed on what’s been happening around the acreage.

Significant fall projects included:

Finishing the basement. Thankfully, we didn’t have to do a thing but leave the house open for everyone else involved in finishing the basement for us. While there’s a certain sense of pride in doing the work yourself, there’s also satisfaction knowing that the job has been done right (or done at all). Anyway, the basement is beautiful, functional, and full of monsters (according to the boys). 

It’s still pretty bare and beige, but  we love the added space. 

We included a little office area and a spare bedroom.

Plus a bathroom.

But the best decision we made in terms of finishing the basement was including a playroom (with a door).

It's a great spot for the little guys.

And "grown up" enough for our oldest.

Getting both cars in the garage. Don’t laugh. That was a significant accomplishment. Where do you think we stored all of belongings during the basement project?

Ridding the house of all mice. Remember the mudroom project I was so proud of? Well, this project was also the source of the devastating mouse infestation of 2010. Prior to the mudroom transformation, this teeny-tiny space was supposed to be a laundry room. Yeah, with the amount of laundry going on in our house that was just not going to work. So, we ripped out the dryer vent and installed the cabinets and cubbies. Unfortunately, we forgot to plug up the hole. And a hole the size of a dryer vent is pretty much an open invitation to each and every field mouse within a five-mile radius of our house. I don’t want to give too many details, but I will tell you that the kids and I did move out for a couple of days. I’m happy to report we are mouse-free this year. Perhaps this is due to our two killer kitties, Callie and Sparky.

They look pretty vicious, don't they?