Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A surprise trip...

We took a last minute trip to CA last weekend thanks to one of Ben's former students and the free tickets to Disneyland that she gave us.  We didn't tell Nolan what we were doing until the morning we left, and even then we just said we were going to California.

That night, on the walk to dinner from our hotel, Nolan started figuring it out...

Peter met us in California Adventure and then had dinner with us.  
It was so much fun to see him again!

And on top of all of that... Downtown Disney had a Lego store!

Little did he know that the next day held a trip to Legoland!  
And with his cousins to boot!  
More surprises!

 After Legoland we had a marvelous dinner at a delicious burger place near Tiff & Kurt's house, followed by frozen yogurt and a run through the water...

And the next day, a trip to the beach in Del Mar.
Nathan & Jenny were able to join us again, so it was a great day of playing with so many cousins!


We had such a fabulous time in San Diego.  
We are so lucky to have such great family down there to stay with when we're there.
The Wickhams are some of the best hosts ever. Our kids LOVED their kids and Holland was OBSESSED with their dog, Lucky.

Trees and Pavers

When we bought this house we knew that a large portion of our summer was going to be spent making the yard look the way we wanted it to.  We came up with a grand master plan of where everything would be and what the finished product would look like.  We then looked at what we could reasonably spend on the project THIS YEAR and came up with a plan for what we needed to do now and what could wait until later.  The first things on our list were trees and a patio.  The trees, according to the nursery we used, could, and should, go in before the sprinklers so we could plan around them.  The patio, as we had planned it, was going to be large, so it definitely needed to be the first big project.

So here are the results so far...

We got 3 flowering pear trees from Costco and added those to the mow strip out front.  They are struggling a bit...  but they were cheap, so we're hoping they won't die.
This is a Shademaster Honeylocust.  It's in the southwest corner of the yard.  These things are supposed to grow 4-5' a year, and they get up to 40' wide.  We're hoping that it will be a great shade tree pretty quickly for us.
And finally, this Autumn Blaze Maple, the largest of the trees, is on the north side of the house.  It grows less quickly, only about 2' a year, so we got one that was already fairly large.  Thankfully, the nursery that planted the last two warranties them for 5 years, so we have high hopes that they will thrive.  In the foreground you can see the piles of gravel that were the beginnings of the patio materials...
On to the patio!  First, we had to dig out the area...  we had to go down about 5 inches from where the dirt started, so there was a lot of tilling and raking/shoveling the dirt out.  It was a large area because we really wanted to add outdoor living space, and there is still PLENTY of room for grass.
The black pipe that we buried in the middle is a conduit for sprinkler pipes for later.  We wanted to be sure we didn't have to go around the patio when the time came to put the sprinklers in.

Once the dirt was removed, the next step was to add gravel.  It had to go in 1" at a time, be sprayed with water, and then tamped down to solidify the base.  That tool standing in the middle is a heavy metal plate on a stick.  Lifting and dropping the plate onto the rock compacted the rock into itself.  The rock base has to be at least 4" deep, so this is a long and tedious process.
The next step was to plan the pattern for how we wanted to lay the pavers.  I hate to even tell you the number of hours we spent calculating this.  The hope was to arrange the pavers in such a way that there were no straight lines through any section and also that we didn't have to cut any pavers.  We didn't want to spend the $ to rent the wet saw to make the cuts...  Obviously, the first planning session was done with Legos...

And when we didn't have enough Legos...  Ben mapped the whole thing out in Excel. (nerdy, yes, but it saved us SO much time) At which point we printed the whole thing out and hung it on the inside of the patio door so that we could follow along as we went.
On our first day laying the pavers we did the smallest section...
Nolan wanted to help chisel the corners off to fit under the patio door.
Each section needs an inch or more of sand laid on top of the rock for the pavers to rest on. The lines you see in the sand are from the pipe you lay to level across the top of. 
And then it's just a question of adding the pavers, one at a time...
Once all of the pavers have been laid, you have to put a plastic border around the edges and sweep a second type of sand over the top of the pavers.  This sand settles in to all of the cracks and acts as a kind of mortar.  after each pass with the sand you have to take the tamper and go over the whole thing to help the sand settle into the cracks.  We did three passes with the tamper last night...  but I'm sure there will be more in our future as things settle.
And this is the finished patio! In general, we decided that erring on the side of too big is probably better than too small.  We'll have room for a grill, a table and chairs & a fire pit without being cramped.  The way our house faces means great evening shade, so we're hoping to use this space a LOT.
And a better detail shot...  There's still some sweeping to be done, but we are THRILLED with how it came out.

One project down, 83 more to go! 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Playing Catch Up

We've moved!  We painted all of the bedrooms before we moved in, and we are so happy with the results.  It's taking us a while to get settled, so I haven't taken photos yet, but I will soon.  

 Now we just have to spend the summer putting in a yard.  Joy!
We have been spending a lot of time in Home Depot, to say the least.

Holland turned 1!  I can't even believe that she has become such a big girl.  

A few items of note about Holland:
She, unlike her notoriously picky brother, will eat ANYTHING.  She loves food.  All kinds of food.  

She has been cruising for months, but doesn't seem to have any desire to walk independently.  

She is a total mama's girl.  I love it and am frustrated by it simultaneously.  Mostly I love it.

She is a chatty little thing.  She says mama & dada and a vague version of "all done" and "I love you".  But mostly, she loves to growl.  She has an impressive one.

She has been teething in a very painful way for weeks (or months).  She has basically gotten 6 teeth all at once.  The last of those 6 is just about to break through.  We're all hoping that she gets to live with the 8 teeth she has before she has to start getting more.

She does not yet sleep through the night.  She is a bit of a pill on that point.  We're working on it, though.  I have high hopes...

Nolan is getting bigger and stronger and smarter every day.  He is sounding out words and reading really well now.  He is obsessed with several things on alternating days.  Pokemon, Star Wars, and Legos.  He was not thrilled about leaving his old room to move into the new one (which I refused to paint exactly like his old one) but the play room has won him over and he's happy in the new place. 

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Zoo Day

The first day of Thanksgiving holiday started with an impromptu trip to the zoo.  We had a nice day, though a touch chilly, to wander and see the animals.  
 The kids posed with the giant elephant that squirts water in the summer time.  Nolan thought it would be the most fun to climb on the trunk.
 Nolan pretty much worships Tanner.
Can you tell?

 I'm guessing the rhino horn was a little less comfortable than the elephant trunk.  Aubrey got the prime spot for this one.

 All of the kids on the lions.  Nolan was giving his best smile, obviously.

 Tiny posing for daddy's camera.

 In front of the giraffes.  She got so excited when she saw them.  We attribute that to her chew toy, Sophie.We were suckers and got her a stuffed one on the way out of the park.
Nolan from above.  He was banished to the stroller for a lot of the day...  
we'll leave it at that.