Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Getting back outside

The whole country seems to be experiencing an early Spring this year.  It's hit here as well.  We've been able to get some pre-summer work finished outside.  Over the weekend, we brought the trampoline out of storage.  The girls were THRILLED.  It was a smart move on our part:

entertained and occupied children = parents who can till the garden in peace

No action shot of the girls jumping - sorry.  When I went out there with the camera I found #1 reading her literature book. This could be an advertisement for schooling at home!
We moved the trampoline to a far section of the property.  We can still see it from several windows, but it's not quite the eyesore it was when it was closer to the house.  The girls objected at first since it's a longer walk, but now that it's been a couple of days they are quite happy.

The garden: ready and waiting for baby plants.  We do have a few "crops" in here thanks to the previous owner: raspberries, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries and cherries.
I mentioned tilling the garden.  We did that too.  Our garden is huge (to us).  We are alternately excited and terrified by the potential it has for producing food - and the obvious fact that it will require lots of work.  We have the double challenge of living in zone 4, which means a short growing season - and - living in a very dry climate.  Once the last Spring snow falls, there will be virtually no precipitation until the first snow of the Fall.  In other words: no rain in the summer.  We have the good fortune of an irrigation ditch that runs along one side of the garden, so Mark has the watering situation worked out (at least in his head).  We plan to battle our short growing season by starting all our veggies in our sun room/greenhouse.  I can't show pictures just now because it's an ugly mess, but our house has a wonderful window-walled sun room that is south facing. The original owners built it specifically for plants.

We spent plenty of time poring over seed catalogs and choosing varieties that are "hardy" and "early producers".  We're growing a little bit of everything.  I think that right now, Mark and the kids are most excited about the possibility of our own sweet corn (they were all born in Illinois). I'm personally looking forward to a bumper crop of potatoes, as that's something we've never even tried to grow before.

To people in most of the country, this hardly looks like Spring, but we're getting there - and happy to be seeing ANY small amounts of green.

In addition to tilling the garden, we also tried to clean up the flower beds and around our pond area(s) that tend to get a little overgrown and swampy.  We're hoping to keep the vegetation down around the edges of the ponds so that the water doesn't get "smucky".

photo credit: M.E.R., daughter #1, age 12

And finally, we acted on a whim and cut down a couple of trees.  Well, not trees exactly.  More like shrubs that were allowed to go nuts.  You've seen this sort of thing before:  Someone plants lovely little evergreen shrubs up next to the house and they look wonderful for 5 or so years, but then the shrubs are forgotten and they start growing at an exponential rate and it takes new owners to say, "Those ugly shrubs are taller than the house, cover the windows, and threaten to pull down the gutters!"  The first day we moved in we agreed they'd have to go, but it always seemed like too big a job to tackle.  Well, the warm air must have made us a bit giddy and we just did it.  Mark is good with the chain saw, but I was nervous.  Shrubs that have grown for 30 years are actually quite large.  I'm just glad neither of us ended up under a large limb :)

After the "shrubs" were mostly cut down.
I'm not sure that I have a "before" photo, but I can tell you that the shrubs completely covered those 2 windows and were higher than the roof.  This is our garage - and it's on the back side of the house.  It's not like the general public was seeing the shrubs, but we're happier with them down.  Now, I just need to address those bare windows and the bare dirt....

Thursday, March 15, 2012

pretty, happy, funny, real

~ capturing the context of everyday life ~

We had some friends over for dinner recently.  In addition to a lovely bottle of wine, they brought this {pretty} plant.  I love it!  It also reminded me how wonderful it is to take small gifts to people when you can; I'm sure my friend thought this plant was no big deal, but I'm thrilled with it and it's been a great addition to my kitchen sink area.
Officially: oxalis.  In our house: shamrocks :)

Last week I talked about a trip to my hometown for my Dad's 75th birthday - and I lamented that I forgot to take any pictures.  Well, my wonderful sister-in-law came to the rescue and so I have some of her pictures to share.

daughter #3 with her uncle (my baby brother) who also happens to be her godfather

daughter #2 with Grandma (my Mom)
As part of the birthday celebration, one of my brothers gathered photos from throughout my Dad's life - in addition to video segments from all of the family - and put it all together into a wonderful video.  So, before the party started, we gathered to watch the video with my Dad.
My Dad and Mom have been married 48 years.  They have 5 children, 2 sons-in-law, 3 daughters-in-law, and 12 grandchildren (and counting! another will be born in a few weeks)  This shows part of the gang watching the video.
Cousins hanging out toward the end of the party.
With my Dad at his party - It was great fun.  All manner of relatives, neighbors and old friends came to celebrate with my Dad, who has always been "a favorite" with those who know him.


Cousins being silly.
That's daughter #2 in the middle, with my sister's son on the left and my brother's daughter on the right.

In many parts of the country, Spring has arrived.  I'm not sure we can say that yet... It is getting warmer, but we had a fairly big snow last week that melted into a muddy mess because of the warmer temperatures.  This will be our 3rd Spring here and we're learning that instead of "April showers bring May flowers" we get something more like "March and April snows bring mud."

Our driveway over the weekend.  It's much better now - the sun's been out all week!

Remember to visit LMLD for more {pretty, happy, funny, real}

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We're the parents of a 12 year old!

In January, we posted about our youngest daughter because she had a birthday.  In February, we posted about our middle daughter because she had a birthday.  Here we go again... This time, it's our oldest daughter.  Her birthday was March 1.  We're a bit late with this since we were out of town the week of her birthday.

March 1, 2012: Getting her ears pierced.
She's been asking for pierced ears for the majority of her life; we finally said yes.
She was a little nervous before the piercing, but all smiles after it was over.

She's 12 this year.  We're kind of in new territory.  We've gotten fairly used to kids in the preschool age range - we've done that 3 times over.  But this girl blazes new parenting trails for us just about every day.  Really, when you think about it, oldest children - from the very beginning - cause their parents' world to turn upside down.  Each and every oldest child turns his or her parents INTO PARENTS.  And that's one of the bigger changes in life, isn't it?

Age 3: a "flower fairy" for Halloween

In our case, the change (to being parents) was rather sudden and dramatic - but long awaited and much desired.  By the time "Mark and Colleen" became anyone's "Dad and Mom", we had been married nearly 7 years.  In those years, we went through a multitude of tests, a few doctors, several medications, one surgery, and a crazy roller-coaster ride of emotions, fears, and struggles. I suppose there are people who enter marriage with the knowledge that they are infertile - or perhaps suspect that there may be a fertility issue... Not us.  So when the "infertile" bomb hit our lives, it was quite something, to say the least.  Looking back, we realize that those difficult years weren't all bad. We learned and accepted and understood things (really important things) that we may not have otherwise.  The experience of infertility changed both of us for the better.  But enough about that - this is a post about our #1 girl, not the story of what came before her...

Age 8: out for dinner to celebrate her First Holy Communion

So, fast forward a bit to us realizing we were being called to adopt.  Then fast forward some more to us being chosen as parents by a teenage birth mother.  Imagine us in the maternity waiting room of a small county hospital.  Next, imagine a nurse (by the name of Mary Lou) coming through a set of swinging doors carrying the MOST GORGEOUS newborn baby girl we ever saw.  And imagine, if you can, the teenager who gave birth and then selflessly asked the doctor and nurses to let us be the first to hold the baby born to her, but ultimately given to us.  Imagine us sitting in the hospital nursery barely able to believe what was happening - holding, feeding, changing and unconditionally loving a chubby-cheeked, dark-haired, 8 pound bundle of precious life: the answer to our most fervent prayers.

The beginning of our parenthood journey - just minutes after her birth.
(It is hard to believe we're willingly posting this photo. Just bear in mind it was 12 years ago...)

There are more details to her birth and adoption story, of course, but the bottom line is that we're her parents, and as our first child, she keeps us on our toes :)

Age 11: with her sisters :)

We were sort of intense first time parents.  We had maybe 7 weeks to prepare for her arrival, but we read everything we could find in that time - and then continued reading once she was home with us.  We made sure she got the right amount of "tummy time", kept a journal of her feedings, and washed our hands 124 times/day.  I don't mean to tease ourselves too much; we just wanted to be the best parents in the world.  And as time went on we realized that being the best parents - for her - meant understanding the personality she was born with.

6 months

So, what is her personality?  In a word: STRONG.  There is nothing meek or mild about her.  She has strong feelings and strong opinions.  She's always been (or at least wanted to be) independent. Looking back, it's almost as if she resented being a baby and having things done for her - so she worked to learn to do things on her own.  Even as an infant she desperately wanted to hold her own bottle.  She hit all the major milestones (sit, crawl, walk, talk) early.  Despite all our preparation, she seemed to always be one step ahead of us!

Age 10:  Always up for an adventure!

Her strong independent nature is still evident at age 12, but over the years other things have become apparent.  For example, she loves to talk.  Anyone willing to converse can be her friend :) And speaking of friends - she can't have too many.  She loves her friends.  Really, she loves interacting with all people.  We live in a wonderful community where she has the opportunity to spend time with infants, preschoolers, kids her own age, college students, and adults of all ages. On a couple of recent plane rides, she ended up sitting "on her own" due to circumstances beyond our control - and loved every minute of it.  She made friends with whoever happened to be sitting next to her.  On one flight she taught a twenty-something woman to crochet and on another flight she helped an older woman finish her SuDoku puzzle.  It really caught me off guard to hear complete strangers calling goodbye to her (by name) as we left the plane.

Age 6: swim team

Speaking of crochet and SuDoku... she is also wildly creative.  She has been creating and crafting since she was a toddler.  I vividly remember a pair of shoes she made for herself out of scotch tape, a red marker and two pieces of white paper.  Her list of creations is endless, but right now her yarn and crochet hooks are getting the most use.  She can also turn on her sewing machine and whip out something for her American Girl doll, if the feeling strikes her.  Over the years she's been involved in a variety of extra-curricular activities - and enjoyed them all, but her current favorites are ballet and piano.  Oh, and one of her friends is starting a book club; she can't wait for that - reading AND talking!

18 months

We could go on and on about this girl.  She has so many interests and talents.  And we love her so much that it's hard to stop talking about her.  We have treasured every age and stage and we are so excited about the days and years to come.  Birthdays are great: a time to celebrate, but also a time to remember to never stop thanking God for the people in our lives.

Happy birthday to our #1 girl!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

pretty, happy, funny, real

It's Thursday again!  We're joining the link-up with Like Mother Like Daughter for {pretty, happy, funny, real}.

To be honest right from the start, this is not a complete {p,h,f,r} post.  We have a {funny} contribution, which is enough, don't you think?

We've been traveling again, which throws a kink in the works of our family.  The time period before, during, and after a trip seems to pass in some sort of haze of non-normalcy.  So, though there were certainly instances of prettiness, happiness, and realness in the last week or so, we don't have photos.  And a post with photos is WAY more fun than a post without.  On some trips the camera is constantly in my hands, but this time, the camera never made it out of its case. Oops.

This trip was a visit with my parents and siblings to celebrate my Dad's 75th birthday.  One morning at breakfast my Dad asked me how things are coming along at our house.  Before I could answer, our 7 year old daughter said,

"It's just one damn project after another."

I think my heart stopped and I know my parents were in shock.  My mind was quickly racing. Why on earth would she say that?  Where did she hear something like that?  Even in private, neither Mark or I had said anything remotely similar.  Then I saw it.  My Dad's coffee mug.

My parents have quite an assortment of mugs, collected from people, places, and events over the last 48 years.  My guess is that this one was a "gag gift" for my Dad from a co-worker. Well, our 7 year old is an enthusiastic reader and is known for reading everything she sees out loud.  On this particular morning, her timing was perfect.  Once I saw the mug sitting there, I quickly assured her grandparents that she had innocently read the mug and hadn't intended to answer my Dad's question.  Further, she really had no idea what she had said.  It really was funny once we realized what had happened.