Every year, when things start to pop up from the ground and leaves begin to adorn our bushes, I get a little too excited that I didn’t kill it all yet. We inherited an amazing garden at this house, and my green-thumbed mama and handy-with-a-clippers dad have been kind enough to teach me how to keep it going. Also thanks to the Internet, which answers my endless gardening questions with ease.
This year, mama bear was kind enough to visit in May to help mulch. Lilly June provided imaginary snacks on fancy plates that I had intended to make into bird feeders but never had the follow through to actually spend the 5 minutes it takes to glue them together. “Here you go, mama! Cheese! Tea!” Together, we managed to do much of the mulching in a few days, and Jason helped me finish up the rest – he did the heavy lifting/wheelbarrowing, and I did the weeding (hands and knees feels soooo good on this preggos back).
There are times when the amount of outside work that needs to be done here seems completely unmanageable. We’ve got a front yard in need of more mulching/landscaping, separate veggie and herb gardens that need to be beautified, a back patio with 98 million weeds growing in it (and Lilly and the dogs make us hesitant to use chemicals to destroy them), a totally non-functional fountain that operates more like a mosquito haven each summer, patches of bare dirt where grass should be, etc, etc.
One look at Lilly parading around the yard, though, and we’re pretty sure that it’s worth it. There is so much here to explore and have fun with, and she could and has easily wandered the yard for hours. There are stone and dirt piles to dig in, flowers to pick and learn about, birds nests (and eggs!) to discover, a tiny playhouse for her to prepare imaginary snacks in and a nearby branch that seems to have taken on the role of “sink” for she frequently washes her hands under it. There’s sidewalk chalk and endless requests for “draw house! draw door! draw window! draw Lilly June in house! draw dada in house! draw mama in house! draw Barleyleyley! draw Jezbel!” (and this means there are horribly horrible artistic renditions of our family on the driveway also — chalk is not my best artistic medium).
We wonder what it might be like if we had stayed in Minneapolis, with a tiny backyard – would she have as much fun out there as she does here? Would she be able to identify owls’ hoots, turkey yodels, and frogs songs? Would she be able to identify robins, and order them to go sit on their nest? Would she spend as much time wandering the yard naked as she does now? (I think this was on my “my kids will never” list before I had kids… but sometimes shirts get wet in the pool, shorts get wet from potty training, and mama is just too lazy/tired/sore to run upstairs for new ones!)
And Lilly’s not the only one who enjoys the yard. Both dogs spend 99% of their time outside in the summer, but our littlest dog probably has the most fun digging holes, sniffing for snakes, and chasing chipmunks.
Lilly has begun to walk up to the retaining walls and sniff them, proclaiming “sniff snake!”
And she’s pretty happy to get in on Jezzie’s hole digging, too! Dirt! Worms! Yay!
Hope you all are having as much fun in your yards this summer as we are in ours!
We went to the John Ball zoo in Grand Rapids a few weeks ago. It’s a cute little zoo, a good size for little ones. It’s not quite as awesome as the Milwaukee County Zoo, which is the zoo that I grew up going to, and it’s got a great selection of the big awesome animals.
The John Ball zoo does have a troupe of chimpanzees, and Lilly enjoyed crouching and saying, “Hi!” in a tiny voice while looking down into the chimpanzee enclosure.
The bear was another favorite from the zoo, but probably the biggest hit were the chickens. And the soft pretzel that we stopped to snack on.
She was interested in the sheep, but totally not gonna touch them. The chickens, though, oh my. Several of them walked over to where we were and Lilly is all, “Come here chickens!” and mama and dada were like, “Shoo! Go away gross weird birds!” only we sent our message non-verbally with foot stomps and the like. Birds make me nervous, especially large sort-of broken-looking roosters with spurs.
She was into the brown bears, and their new enclosure puts you RIGHT THERE with them. But her biggest thrill came from checking out the fish in the aquarium.
The zoo wasn’t open very late when we went (it closed at 4 pm!), so we took our early dismissal as a sign that we should grab pizza from a nearby brewpub. The silliest moment of the meal was when the waitress took Lilly’s plate and she began to cry her hurt feelings cry, then she got off the chair to chase after the waitress. It was so sad and sweet. We get an award for A+ parenting: we got her to settle down by promising ice cream on the way home. She now demands chocolate shakes 4 out of 5 car rides… regardless of where we’re going.
A second fun and recent adventure was the local public library’s party in the park. We went downtown (and actually, our town is reasonably small, so I feel like I should put that in quotes — “downtown”) and got to hear a series of children’s stories by several different adults dressed up as characters from the books. We saw many that we recognized — the Cat in the Hat, Madeline, Harry the dog (wearing his rose-covered sweater), and others that I can’t remember now.
Lilly was really excited to see Curious George there with his friend, the man in the yellow hat. After we had listened to about 30 min of stories, she wanted to chase down George, so we did. Since she is usually shy at first, I expected her to just stare at him until it was time to leave. And she stared at him for a long time while other kids hugged him and had their picture taken.
But then! She gave him a super-awkward and very sweet little hug, and that was that.
Of course, probably the most fun of the day was running and splashing in the empty fountains. It had rained just prior to the event, so there were many puddles to play in, and lots of friends to play with.
We followed our story time in the park with an impromptu lunch with daddy since we were just a few blocks from his office. Such a fun afternoon with my little person!
Not much is changing here… good news, I think. I can feel my body starting to slow down. My back is stiffer than usual, and I’m frequently getting a sharp, stabbing pain just above my hip bone just right of my spine. I’m guessing that my body is protesting the fact that I expect it to haul around this baby in my belly AND his/her big sister. One at a time, please, my lower back suggests.
I’ve begun to think seriously about the mental and physical preparations that need to be made for childbirth. Weekly yoga is no longer optional — not only does it make my body sing! but it’s good preparation for the focus, relaxation, and breathing needed in labor. I’m hoping for another complication-free, unmedicated birth — that’s what I know and feel comfortable with at this point — but I truly believe that the unmedicated part takes preparation and practice in advance. I felt really prepared to give birth before Lilly was born… this time, not quite as much. Good thing I’ve got a few weeks to get ready! We’ll take a childbirth refresher course later in the summer, if possible, and I need to begin to consistently exercise my pelvic floor. Does that sound ridiculous? I am pretty convinced that strengthening those muscles helped my body expel Lilly and also prevented me from wetting myself every time I laughed/sneezed after Lilly was born. They’re pretty crucial muscles.
Baby is moving a ton — mostly noticeable in the morning and at night. I’m getting a lot of small movements directed towards my bladder, and bigger/stronger movements on the upper right side of my belly. I *think* this means that baby is curled up with his/her back on the left side of my tummy and that the big bump that I occasionally see near my belly button may be baby’s butt. We’ll find out for sure at our ultrasound later this afternoon, where I’m hoping to also find out that the placenta has moved northwards so that I can have that uncomplicated birth mentioned above… *fingers crossed*
Up first: our fairly-ambitious May goals:
- GUEST/BABY’S ROOM:
repair hole in ceiling from old light, paint ceiling & medallion, mount ceiling medallion & fan, get rid of extra furniture, choose wall color & paint walls and closets, put only baby-related things back in the closet once the closet paint is dry (find other homes for the miscellany that’s currently in the closet), replace light switch & electrical outlets
fill raised garden beds with dirt and plant garden, mulch flower gardens in back/side yard, clean out hoarding garage, get rid of random pieces of rusty metal left over from our super-giant satellite dish
The crazy messy they-might-be-hoarders garage before picture.
The crazy-shirtless-toddler-running-in-circles after. No, it’s not the cleanest garage you’ve ever seen, but we’ll need some shelves lining the back of the garage for extra wood and kids toy storage. I’m crossing it off the list because we got rid of all of the big crap (buh bye pink toilet!) and spent like a million years opening the 236 old paint cans left for us by the previous owners. Some cans were so old that the paint was dry inside of them… others needed to be dried, a process that involved me pouring paint into cardboard boxes, waiting for it to dry for a day or two, then pouring another layer. It’s taken almost all month to dry out all of the paint — in fact, you can still see boxes & a giant styrofoam tray in the back right of the picture. Once everything is dry, I can dump it in the trash and be done for good.
- LIVING ROOM:
revisit couch & chair shopping
My mom came to visit and J and I went out on date… couch and appliance shopping. We got an amazing deal on this couch, which is great because I wasn’t super-excited about spending a ton of cash on something that was going to get covered in poop, vom, markers, food, and whatever else kids can assault furniture with. The old couch was actually a futon that we bought 6 years ago, and it was pretty much the most uncomfortable thing you’ve ever sat on. So it’s awesome to have a comfy option, especially as my body gets increasingly more uncomfortable. Our challenge now is to find a comfy chair & ottoman that will go with this… the Ikea chair that we have in the living room currently isn’t big or comfortable enough for my pregnant standards. I’d love suggestions of colors/fabrics that might work with this camel-colored corduroy couch!! I’m currently thinking something in the blue family would be nice – either light blue or navy?
- LILLY’S ROOM: buy closet organizers or a new dresser, get rid of the dresser in her room, (I’m still waiting to find the perfect, inexpensive dresser/organizer)
get started building a play kitchen,frame and hang awesome new animal print from my cousin (found a frame & ordered a mat – just waiting for it to arrive so I can hang it!)
put away winter clothes/coats/decor, clean out/purge/organize cedar closet in master bedroom
- KITCHEN: finalize kitchen plans,
order fridge,empty cabinets of anything we don’t use frequently, get started with kitchen demo (we’ve decided to try to hire out more of the kitchen work than we originally thought we would… so this has taken our project in a slightly new direction with a different timeline…)
- SUPERAWESOMEFUNPROJECTS: sew denim picnic quilt (the top has been pieced together, just need to add backing & lightly quilt), finish our wedding photo album
Barley is super-helpful. Really good quilting, dog.
Our June plans may be a little less ambitious, but we’re hoping to log some quality time with family. I think we’re both pretty exhausted from doing so much in May, but feeling a bit of pressure to continue some of this progress before baby #2 arrives and all progress halts for the subsequent year and a half!
- GUEST/BABY’S ROOM: find awesome fabrics for the room, start creating baby’s quilt, sew curtains, find/create artwork, paint/stain bed frame, look for furniture: dresser, rocking chair, and side table
- LIVING ROOM: continue search for *perfect* chair and ottoman
- OUTSIDE: weed & mulch the front yard, divide irises after they bloom & replant in the front yard, divide & replant daffodils, weed hosta garden near driveway split, clean up front entrance to driveway, clean up herb garden & mulch, organize & clean out garden shed, draw up plans to repair beam in garage & begin construction
Here Lilly is sampling all of the herbs in the herb isle of Lowe’s. Her fave is mint – and she knows EXACTLY where in the garden the mint is. How much mint is too much for one toddler to eat? I’m fairly certain her mint consumption may approach toxic amounts.
- LILLY’S ROOM: buy closet organizers, get rid of the dresser in her room, finish building Lil’s birthday present — a play kitchen!, sew an sink apron, potholders & apron for Lil, and decorative hand towels for new play kitchen, frame & hang cousin’s animal print
I am SO excited about this play kitchen. It’s undoubtedly the coolest thing Jason has built. I can’t wait to finish it and give it to Lil for her birthday!
- KITCHEN: finalize plans, empty cabinets of less frequently used items, purchase cabinets/countertops/sink/new windows/floors
- SUPERAWESOMEFUNPROJECTS: finish sewing denim picnic quilt, finish our wedding photo album
AAANNNNDDD, that’s where we’re at for the month. Hope your May was as productive and awesome as ours was… here’s to an amazing June!
Lilly is really into digging, shoveling, and scooping lately. These sorts of activities can keep her busy and in deep concentration for at least 30 minutes, sometimes 45.
These are good activities in a backyard that is full of dirt and stones, and especially when that backyard is in need of some work. Perhaps one of the best things about this house not being “finished” or close to it is that I don’t feel much pressure to keep things in the order that they’re in right now. Do I want her to behave respectfully and cleanly when possible? Absolutely. But letting her dig in a pile of loose stones or in an unplanted garden box full of dirt is always okay in a backyard as deserving of work as ours is!
Also, we like to joke that the digging effort shown above is one reason we had kiddos in the first place. Big yard = lots of yardwork. Many hands make light work and all of that.
On a chilly, overcast day, we pulled the dried-peas-filled sensory bin out. It’s another good place to dig and play, but only gets airtime when mama thinks she can handle 4,593,243 dried peas all over the carpet.
The sensory bin is all over pinterest, so you’ve undoubtedly seen it before. We’ve been playing with it sporadically since Lilly was 8-9 months old. It’s cool to see how her play has changed in the past year — more purposeful movements, longer attention span, deliberate shoveling of peas into containers, language accompanies her activities (“Lilly June scoop up peas!”).
What I’m finding out about toddlers is that sometimes the most simple activities are the best. Also learning that: things that might be a little dangerous are always the most attractive, messy is the new clean, and any materials that I put out for play/activities are open for reinterpretation.
Take, for example, the swimming pool. Earlier this week, Jason filled it up fully expecting her to hop in it and splash. Lilly had a different idea — she grabbed the dogs’ outdoor water bowl, scooped up some water, and poured it all over the stone patio.
Then, she discovered that it was really fun to splash in the dirt.
Of course she was scooping and splashing and digging in the wet dirt. It made perfect sense once she started with these activities, since they seem to be some of her favorite activities. How silly that Jason and I weren’t able to predict that this is what she’d do with a baby pool full of water!
We’re in the midst of the second trimester lull. Not too much seems to change physically week-to-week and thankfully things are quiet around here. The pregnancy is going way too fast — much of our lives seem to be moving at warp speed since having Lilly June, and this pregnancy is no exception! I want time to slow down a bit, but I have a feeling that time is about to start moving even more quickly once this baby shows up!
Jason paints the ceiling in the baby’s room
We’ve been preparing the baby’s room (which will double as a guest room – especially in the first few months when baby will be sleeping in our room). Jason picked out a really nice teal/blue color on a whim after I had spent months indecisively staring at paint cards. He painted the ceiling (white) last Friday, and then we spent Saturday and Sunday painting the walls. Jason installed the ceiling medallion and part of the fan, too. The new light is SO much brighter than the old square recessed versions, and since we hate turning on AC, I’m sure we’ll get a lot of use out of the fan. Up next: finishing the fan installation, replacing light switches and sockets, and organizing/painting the closets. Then the fun stuff – the decorating! – can begin.
Jason picked the tealy blue wall color. The ceiling medallion was a must-have because our old recessed light left a 16″x 16″ hole in the textured ceiling that I couldn’t patch. The fan is crucial for our hesitant-to-use-AC household.
We had another doctor’s visit and my uterus is measuring where it should be, a relief since I’ve been feeling BIG lately. Baby’s heart rate is 160 bpm, and though this information was a relief to hear, baby’s constant movement in my tummy is almost constant reassurance that he/she is okay in there. The movements have gotten noticeably stronger in the past two weeks – I can now feel moves in two places at once and have occasionally felt a small hand or foot draw a line across the inside of my belly. There is really nothing like feeling a foot drag across the inside of your abdomen – it’s eery and comforting all at the same time.
Here’s where I realize that perhaps this non-maternity top is NOT flattering on my baby belly. Oops.
I finally ordered a few more maternity pieces and the elasticity of them makes me incredibly happy (the ones above were $10 thanks to a GAP.com clearance). I’m considering wearing elastic-banded pants forever. So. comfy.
One of my April goals was to put some finishing touches on the office. Since I last shared pictures of the space (two years ago), we’ve moved a few pieces of furniture around, added curtains/cornices, and mounted some new shelves. When we moved into the house, it was a dedicated office space with room for the dogs’ kennels, but now that we’re filling up bedrooms with little people, the “office” must also do double duty as my sewing/crafting space.
My half-finished sewing projects are housed in the giant basket underneath the card catalog (which is AMAZING for housing tiny office supplies and sewing notions). The chalkboard frame turned place-to-clip-photos (because my chalkboard handwriting is horrible – just ask my students) came from our Minneapolis home. The framed pictures on top of the card catalog contain a picture from each of the major vacations we’ve taken since getting married — Ireland, Costa Rica, and Italy (the frame that each one is in was actually purchased on each vacation… a tradition that I’m hoping to continue as our family travels the globe).
The chair that I recovered is still happily sitting in the office, but with a new pillow.
We moved the desk and the banker’s chair that I refinished to the other side of the room. We added shelves and curtains to either side of the desk to hide the large dog kennels that are hiding beneath them. It’s so much nicer to walk into the room and see curtains rather than cages!
I also asked Jason to hang shelves above the desk to house frequently-used books, family photo albums, and other important family mementos. You can spy my sewing machine cover, and two!? photo printers, which I know is just ridiculous, but we’ll probably phase out one of them sooner or later.
I am pretty crazy about our cornice/curtain combo. Jason made the cornices out of wood & L-brackets, and then I wrapped them in batting and fabric. They’re hung using more L-brackets mounted to the wall. The white sheers are from Ikea (and are fairly easily removed for washing… we have to be kid-friendly now!). These are our first attempt at cornices, so I’m pretty thankful that they turned out as well as they did (thanks to Erin for the inspiration/directions/information about cornices!).
And looking back towards the doorway, we’ve got a small console table with office supplies, books, dog treats, a lamp, and a really sweet photo family tree that was sent to us after Lilly was born from our friend Janmary whose blog I have read for years and whom we had the pleasure of meeting when we were in Ireland. (I think the family tree was intended to go in the baby’s room, but I get to see it much more frequently here, and it makes me smile!).
I’m pretty pleased with the way the room has come together. It feels useful, uncluttered, and easy to pick up. It suits our family’s needs for now — a place to use the computer, to sew, to store dog kennels, and to look out the window for daddy’s arrival home at the end of the work day. That’s probably most important, that this space is useful for us now. But I’m also loving the yellow, gray, and navy color combo, and that it feels “grown up” to me without being too stuffy or unwashable (must think kid-friendly!). It’s sort of fun to see how my style has changed/grown with our family, and I think that this room is one of a few rooms in our house that is really “us” (perhaps the other rooms would be our bedroom, Lilly’s bedroom, and the upstairs bathroom?).