New Year’s Resolutions…

I stumbled upon two great quotes this year that have been rolling around in my head for months…

emerald isle june 2015 mary oliver quote

This first quote is from the American poet Mary Oliver. I love how her words – wild and precious – show the enormous value and immeasurable possibilities of this one life we each get to live. Her question is a challenge… Are we cherishing this life?

my purple coneflowers 2015 - jim elliot quote

I have come across this second quote over and over this year. It strikes a chord with me because I really struggle to be present in the moment – to live each day one at a time. When I saw the quote attributed to Jim Elliot, I thought, Hmmm, the only Jim Elliot I know of is the American missionary to Ecuador who was eaten by cannibals in the 1950s. (Yup, same guy. Yikes.)

Anyway, these two quotes sum up my New Year’s Resolutions for 2016: I want to be fully engaged in the moment – really living it and experiencing it rather than documenting it or analyzing it or planning it. We shouldn’t be wasteful with a life that is wild and precious, right? In 2016, I am giving up:

  • Facebook (that was easy; it’s an election year)
  • Twitter (even easier; just noise)
  • Blogging (painful because I do need a way to capture our life for the kids and I do love to write, but there are other ways I can capture our family history and I have other things I need to be writing… also, I’m irritated that WordPress randomly deleted a bunch of my photos and after two hours of perusing possible solutions on their message boards, I can’t fix it; time wasted)

Additionally, I am cutting back the time I spend on my favorite hobby – reading interior design blogs and wandering through Pinterestto one evening per week. <aaaarrrrgggghhhh> This may be an aspirational goal. I may need a 12 step program. I’m such a visual person and find this stuff so inspirational – and yet, I only convert about 1% of it into an action like actually trying the recipe or tackling the DIY project.

I am not giving up Instagram. I love it. It’s awesome.❤

On a high note, my goal for 2015 was to organize our house and I did make progress. It’s hard to tell at the moment as we are cleaning up from Christmas and two weeks of laziness, but I did have a few successes:

  • Sorted the family photos, kids’ keepsakes and all the games and craft stuff we store in our family desk/command center
  • Reorganized and labeled each cabinet in our kitchen
  • Got my family to join me in using Cozi, an iPhone app that allow us to share our calendars as well as to-do lists and our shopping list
  • Got our family to join us in using Find My Friends, an iPhone app that allows us to see where everyone is, which saves a lot of time and phone calls and occasionally helps us find a misplaced phone
  • Cleared out our master bedroom closets for new built-ins that work so much better for us
  • Hauled several carloads of things we don’t need/use to charity shop
  • Helped Leah reorganize her room with a new bookshelf and baskets

I hope to check in with you all this time next year to say I’m even more at peace and fully present than the Dalai Lama and have new, amazing ideas for an even better blog… Until then, I wish you all the best in 2016!

Our Christmas Letter: 2015

2015 CHRISTMAS CARD FINAL AU 5x7

Ho ho ho! We hope your holidays are off to a great start! Just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas and share the highlights of our year:

Leah is now 11 and in 5th grade. She’s had a busy year with drama club, guitar lessons, student council, basketball, volleyball, her pet sitting business, and being a news anchor for her school’s in-house TV station. This summer, she went to Space Camp again (the robotics camp) plus YMCA camp, church camp and a cooking camp. Leah wants to be a chef someday and loves American Girl dolls, swimming in her mermaid tail and reading Percy Jackson novels.

Michael is 8 and in 2nd grade. When he isn’t researching dinosaurs, he is developing elaborate schemes to build a dinosaur zoo on a hovercraft in space. He also started a ‘dangerous reptile removal’ business – no customers as yet. Michael stayed busy this year with basketball, swimming, Space Camp, church camp, running club and football (with Mommy coaching)! He wants to be a biologist someday and loves reading Harry Potter books.

Bryan and I stay busy between the kids, work, church, family and volunteering – but we’re lazy sometimes, too, and enjoyed several beach trips this year with my family and with friends. Bryan has his final round of Lemtrada in December and then we wait for the next medical breakthrough in treating MS. We lost Bryan’s mom this summer which has been so hard – we look forward to spending the holidays with his dad and the whole family.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

P.S That’s a 1930 Ford Model A. Not ours! Just a fun photo op.

First friends…

Leah’s very first friend was a little girl named Camille. Leah had just turned 3 years old when we left Florida, but moving away from Camille (and other special people like our nanny Jillian) was so hard! Thankfully a friend warned me that moving is hard on tiny people and we shouldn’t assume a 3 year old would be “oblivious”. Leah was so not oblivious. Camille’s mom and I agreed to keep in touch – and for eight years now, we have ensured the girls get together at least once a year. It helps that Camille’s mom, Tara, is one of my favorite people!

Funny enough, both Leah and Camille have been 99th percentile in height since birth!

They always pick up right where they left off. It’s just incredibly sweet!

We hadn’t seen Lillie in a couple of years because she has been so busy. She had grown up so much and is as sweet as always! I really got a kick out of talking to her about her friends and the music she’s into.

Tara has three kids now – big sisters Lillie and Camille got a baby brother, Alexander, two years ago!

Camille (11), Lillie (13), Leah (11), Alexander (2) and Michael (8)

We had a great visit!

Quick update… and a Thanksgiving recap

I can’t figure out why WordPress ate the images on some of my blog posts and not on others, so I am going to give it one more try before I give up. Here is a super quick recap on Thanksgiving to replace the posts I lost:

We spent Thanksgiving Day with my father-in-law’s extended family: 52 people met at cousins Zach and Alyse’s new home. Their rooster was so gorgeous that he looks fake in this photo, but he was the real deal.

Not everyone made it into the group picture!

The kids loved seeing their cousins!

On Friday, we met with Bryan’s immediate family at his dad’s house and cooked together which is always so much fun!

Then on Saturday, we had round 3…

I hosted Thanksgiving for my family and we watched the Iron Bowl on TV.

We had a great time!

O Canada

The other day – in a moment of exasperation – I let out a big sigh and said something about running away to Canada. Michael got out the globe to identify places where snow will mound up against our door all year round… and he found some. Ha!

I checked and it’s 65 degrees colder in Baker Lake today than here in The Cove – and I am wrapped up in a cozy faux fur blanket. Brrrrr! I may not be cut out for Canada.

This reminds me of a funny story my Gran Gran told me once. My Uncle Hoyt was about 9 years old and he was mad at Gran Gran about something so he said he was running away. She watched him walk all the way up the road, stop, turn around and walk home. As he came in the door, he said, “I decided to forgive you.” Ha!

Lessons learned from our summer garden…

 

I decided to capture my “lessons learned” from this summer so I can keep track of what is and isn’t working. Some things have been so easy to grow and others have been disasters!

LESSONS LEARNED

Here’s what I now know: Lantana is really easy to grow but it needs sunshine, rain and a lot of space to spread out. In the picture below, you’ll see the Lantana that I planted last Spring… So cute. So little. So unassuming.

May

May

In July, it was still a great little pop of color, but it kept on growing like Jack’s beanstalk!

Yikes.

Some of the Lantana branches grew from 2 inches long to 4 feet long! By August, it had completely covered the Hostas. Next Spring, I will plant Lantana in a sunny spot with plenty of room to grow!

Next up, I deduced that Hydrangeas need a lot of water. I’ve had three Hydrangeas under a Flowering Cherry tree for many years, but the tree is bigger and fuller now which blocks access to sun and rain.

They start out looking great in the Spring, but by mid-summer, they droop and need me to supplement with the hose.

Womp womp.

My failed attempt at a vegetable garden devolved into a real life Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! In the picture below, you’ll see our teeny tiny plants next to a big tomato cage…

By mid-summer, each plant was 5 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide. They grew together into this woven mess where tomatoes couldn’t get any sunlight and wouldn’t ripen. They all strangled each other in a dramatic, prolonged death scene and I finally had to haul the whole nest to the curb. I couldn’t even pull the cage loose from the vines!

Next year: one tomato cage per plant – and – in a new location with afternoon sun.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.jpg

Here’s what has been easy…

Sunflowers grow very fast and very tall.

They need a sunny spot and you cannot crowd them or they’ll create shade and kill themselves off. I had waaaaaaay too many crammed into this little spot.

Caladiums are happy in any shady spot. These were grown from bulbs I planted under a tree. I’ve always had success growing them in pots, too, as long as they’re shaded by a porch.

Everything in this picture above is easy – just plant it and walk away. I have never killed a Crepe Myrtle tree! And that is saying something, friends! Ditto for Red Bud trees. They are so resilient! All these shrubs are unkillable, too: the green one is called Cleyera and the purple ones are both varieties of Loropetalum. Down low is a ground cover called Purple Winter Creeper.

Monkey grass is [sadly] unkillable so I contend with it. #notphotoworthy

Here’s a close-up of another Loropetalum. I have several varieties and they all add such nice color!

Likewise, Nandina will grow everywhere I stick it in the yard and adds such nice color – evolving from green to orange or red. Some varieties are lime.

Hosta Lillies come back year after year whether in a pot or in the ground. They just want a shady spot. So easy and so pretty!

These are my favorites: Purple Coneflowers a.k.a. Echinacea. This variety is Kim’s Knee High (gotta love the name). They come back every year bigger and better than the year before! I may put a little cage around them next year for support and/or to keep kids and pets from tromping through them.

Gosh, I am in love with these flowers.

I have two spots in the yard that kill everything I plant there. Ever the optimist, I am going to try again next Spring and see what happens!

NEXT STEPS

My plans for the Spring = dig it all up and move it all around and hope that makes all the difference:

  • Move Huechera to the flowerbed that kills everything and wish it all the very best.
  • Move weary, sad Azaleas to the shady spot currently occupied by Heuchera. <insert despair + low expectations>
  • Backfill Azalea vacancy with Loropetalum.
  • Move Hydrangeas next to Bryan’s blueberries in the space shaded from afternoon sun by the Pear tree.
  • Plant a Crepe Myrtle in the spot that kills every tree ever. <success rate: 0 for 4>
  • Plant Sunflower seeds in the same spot as this year, just less of them.
  • Plant Lantana right behind the Firecracker Gladiolus and Asian Lillies to give that spot heft.
  • Consider adding a Crepe Myrtle by the tree fort and a Burning Bush next to the grill.

This month in the yard: November

What a strangely warm Fall this has been for planet Earth – the highest average temps ever recorded. Here in The Cove, it means we have had our first real freeze this past weekend. Most of the yard looks pretty blah now that the leaves have either dropped or turned brown, but I’ve enjoyed having green grass in November!

The Oak tree in the back yard is pretty even though it’s covered in crunchy brown leaves.

Bryan’s blueberry bushes have all turned red.

I have one lonely bloom on the Cana Lilly by the patio… It never did get covered up in blooms this summer.

I added red and orange Mums to the flowerbed out front for a little Autumn color.

Shhh… Don’t let my flowers hear that Summer ended two months ago.

Hosta Lillies in November! Most of my Hostas have shriveled as they would normally do this time of year – but this patch is just green and perky!

The Irises and Lantana still look great.

The Heuchera still look healthy, but I don’t think I like these plants. They were recommended by Southern Living but they’re just super boring.

I got a mix of Pansies and Violets for a big pot near my driveway. These should tolerate frost so we can have a teeny pop of color this winter. I haven’t tried winter flowers before so wish me luck…

Nandina is so pretty this time of year! I love the red leaves.

More orange Mums for the pots by the garage…

…and for the pot under the pergola!

I think the trick to enjoying your yard and flowerbeds in the Fall is to just look at the colorful bits and ignore the rest.🙂

Perking up the den with plants and a gold Sharpie…

I love houseplants all the time, but even more so in winter when everything is sooooo blah outside. A house doesn’t feel like a home until you add plants. By consistently neglecting ours, I’ve discovered which ones are robust. Ha!  The giant tropical in our den died a slow death this year, so I hauled it to the curb and decided to put my Peace Lillies in that nice big pot.

Remember the plant Michael and Freddie nearly killed 4 years ago? It has rallied back – slowly – and now shares this pot with another of its kind. #peacelilliesforthewin

Caring for Peace Lillies isn’t hard, but you can kill one if you lasso it with a jump rope (Michael), chew off all the leaves (Freddie), forget to water it (me) or all three.😦

I stuck my favorite desk lamp in here since the den is a cozy spot to read or surf – especially in the winter when the fireplace is on!

Did you know there is a gold Sharpie marker?!? Yeah. For real. I may or may not have wandered through the house adding gold stripes to several frames. Also, professional bloggers remove the glass from their frames before taking photos. I am not a professional blogger. Please excuse the glare.

These are Red Aglaonema and joined us by way of the Lowes clearance rack. (You can find amazing deals when they’re shuffling inventory!) These plants love low-light so they’re perfect next to the fireplace.

It may be a faux pas to have live plants and fake flowers in the same room… I don’t know. But I really like both in here; each brings a little color and vibrancy.

Dizzy came to see what I was doing in here…

That’s the tour, folks!

The merits of being alert and focused while driving…

I shared this on Facebook and wanted to share it here as well. My hope is that someone will read it and think about it and maybe be safer because of our experience.

————————-

The kids and I had a frightening experience tonight coming home from [the movie theater]. A car was speeding and lost control, bashing through a guard rail and flying up an embankment before going airborne into oncoming traffic. It was headed straight for us — like a rocket flying through the air. I slammed on the brakes and braced for impact. My little girl was screaming. By the grace of God, and an immeasurable margin, the car passed right in front of us, then hit the shoulder and flipped 3-4 times down a hillside.

In the difference of a split second, tonight would have had a different outcome. I got to tuck my babies in bed tonight — and the mama of a very lucky 23 year old girl gets to hold her daughter in the ER tonight. A seat belt saved her life. Being alert saved ours. I’m rattled and grateful.

Several months ago, I bought these “no phone zone” stickers for our cars, but hadn’t made a real commitment to actually sticking them on the car and making that pledge. I’m so grateful I was focused while driving tonight. My car is now officially a phone-free zone. Will you join me? Please think about it.

4.75in x 4.75in (121mm x 121mm) No Cell Phone Sign Vinyl Bumper Sticker Decal Window Stickers Decals Car

The stickers we got are $5.99 with free shipping from Amazon.

No Cell Phone Zone - Color Sticker - Decal - Die Cut

I found this one today. So cute — it looks like an iPhone!🙂
It’s just $3.99 with free shipping from Amazon.

Ralphie, our “pet” raccoon

There’s a raccoon living in a tree by our creek… just yards from our garage, and thus yards from the pet door, and therefore conveniently near a plentiful stash of Cat Chow. He’s been around for a few years now so we named him Ralphie, after the kid in A Christmas Story.

Late one night, I opened the garage door and literally called, “Here kitty, kitty,” before realizing this is not our cat Claire! Our pets are scared of Ralphie and stay far away from him. When I took this picture, our cat Dizzy was hiding up on a shelf. Ralphie tip toes past the cats but he runs from Freddie.

Freddie can always tell when Ralphie has come by because of the scent. I can always tell because I see something like this…

Funny enough, Ralphie prefers Cat Chow over Kibbles n’ Bits every time!!!

Raccoons can carry rabies, but as long as he is mellow and chilling peacefully in his little nest, he is welcome to drop by for a snack every once in a while.