Monday, May 31, 2010

On to the outdoors!

It is the year of the outdoors. We have spent a year and a half working on the inside of this house while we essentially neglected the yard. Well, now is the time to start on the outside! What an undertaking. Just getting the weeds under control is going to be a full time proposition for a while. I spent several hours in the front yard the other day weeding and planting. It look absolutely glorious - hopefully the deer won't eat it all. I did see a few squirrels digging hungrily for my bulbs this morning, but no sign yet of the deer.

Yesterday, I started weeding the back corner by the composter and the pine tree line by the fence. Wow.
I uncovered enough glass and trash to fill a pretty big flower pot just in the back corner alone, and found an entire horseshoe set in the pine trees. The trash in this yard is amazing. Every day, I find something that does not belong back there - marbles, flip tops, glass, drywall anchors, a rubber frog... you name it, I bet it is out there somewhere. I know the previous owners had some major partying going on, so the bottles and cans are not surprising. Some of the trash ends up here because it gets blown in and caught in the hedge or by the fence. Lots of papers, wrappers, plastic bags. I'm determined to get everything cleaned up and get on top of the trash and weed situation this summer. I just need to take it a few feet at a time.

Today, we tackled the front hedge. I trimmed it up, and Honey and I both did clean up and bagging. We had almost 10 bags of branches and leaves. The boxwoods look like they can be saved - they are really overgrown, but I think we can trim them pretty low and let them come back as a shorter hedge. We just need to chat with the neighbors about cutting it down in the late summer. I did find a bunch that had rooted themselves, so I pulled them up and potted them up. We should have several nice little boxwoods to put elsewhere or pass along to someone. As we moved back from the hedge, we discovered a few dead trees, a ton of poison ivy, and a pecan tree that planted itself in amongst the pines. I had to stop myself from going to far - we could have easily worked for the entire day on this 30 foot long area, but it was hot and sticky and gross.
Peanut came outside with me for a while a ran through the sprinkler while I bagged up leaves. Gosh she was cute! She stood there in her clothes and ran up to the sprinkler with her "soap" and washed her hair. She did decide to go in and change into a bathing suit at some point. I wish I had thought to get the camera out!

Mother's Helpers

Back to reality.

Last week was really lovely - Honey's mom was here for the week and I was spoiled. I got lots accomplished inside and outside. I went out a few times to run an errand or two on my own - it is truly amazing to me how quickly I can get errands done when it is just me. I was able to walk away from the kids to do a task and not worry about Pumpkin climbing into the fireplace, or Peanut running him over with her grocery cart. I even had some time to myself. We enjoyed a "date" on Friday night, and the kids loved hanging with Nana. Honey took me out for Thai food and then I had him take me to Lowes to buy some plants for the front yard. Never had a date at Lowes? You are missing out my friend!

I was so calm last week, that I started to second guess myself about needing a Mother's Helper. I interviewed some lovely girls, and as I told them about the kids and their routines, it sounded so...easy. I began to reconsider - I was staying home for a reason. I chose to be with my kids. Why did I need help to do what I chose to do? Why not look for help with the things I really didn't want to do? I started doing some calculations and realized I could hire someone to clean the house every week for the same price, and began to weigh the options. And then Honey took Nana home on Sunday, and I was home with the kids all day by myself. Back to the world of unpredictable naps and babies needing to be held at the most inopportune times. And the calm disintegrated and I realized that in order to be a fabulous stay at home mom and really enjoy the time I spend with my children, I do absolutely need someone to keep an eye on them for a bit while I do something else. Just to take a breath and relax while pulling weeds, or clean the shower is a nice little break that makes me appreciate my babies. So on to the references...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Backyard Carnival

So sad to see that it is the end of May and I've only posted twice this month! Seriously? Ah well. Such is the life of a mom to toddlers and preschoolers. Here's where I would usually admonish myself for not getting to blogging, but I won't do that. It's on the list, but not at the top and that's OK. I'm getting back on the top of that list, thank you very much.

Nana is here this week, and we are catching up on projects around the house while she gets to enjoy the kiddos. Who would have thought I'd been excited about cleaning? We have been able to finally install our baby gate at the top of the stairs, which should make meal preparation a bit calmer. I can now leave Pumpkin to roam while I cook instead of locking him in his booster seat and hearing him complain and throw food to the dog. Ahhh, the little things. I've also been able to get a haircut and start interviewing for a new mother's helper. We've got some sweet girls coming this week to meet the kids, so hopefully we will find someone fun and trustworthy to play with Peanut and Pumpkin while I get a few hours to myself. We might even be able to go out on some dates! I just can't even really imagine that!

The seeds and plants are all in the garden at last. We have had a few run ins with a bunny who chewed into the fence to get the beets and cucumbers, but so far it looks like it will be a productive summer. We are really enjoying our lettuces and very spice arugula and radishes! Next is the herb garden, some flowers, mulching, and weeding. If Nana was here for the month we might get it all done. One thing at a time.

We did decide to go for the playground, in a huge way. Come the end of June, a carnival will ensue in our yard. Peanut can't wait even though I'm still not sure she understands that it will be here for good. She told me she wanted to have this one, then send it back and get another until she had all the ones in the book. It sounds like a playground library - now that would be fabulous!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Great Playground Debate

Once again, we are faced with a decision to make. My mom and grandmother want to get a playground set for the kids for their birthday. Great! Right? Well... I am having some angst over the whole thing. Don't get me wrong, Peanut loves playgrounds. She points out every single one we pass, whether it is in someones yard, a store parking lot, or a park. I'm just not sure we need one in our backyard. I mean, we have two playgrounds at the school a block away, and have used them on holidays and weekends. There is a neighborhood playground less than a mile from here. We go on outings to nature centers and places with play equipment on a regular basis. I like the idea of meeting other families in the neighborhood at these community lots, and I like the idea of having some variety to the play equipment we use.

Beyond having lots of play equipment resources and opportunities close by, I also am intrigued by the natural play that children do with natural materials. We recently had some trees cut down and I asked the workers to leave the stumps and logs. They sliced up the logs to make stepping stones and jumping platforms. One of the stumps is the perfect height for a table, and one has become a stage. Several logs are becoming stools, cook tops, drums, and desks. At playgroup the last few weeks, the kids have devised ways to make the stumps less sticky (pile sand on top), have creating follow me games with the steps, and have explored in and around the logs climbing over and onto them. Honestly, I am afraid of losing this innate curiosity and exploration if there is a swing set with a defined purpose. I know kids will pretend that the slide is a mountain, or the swings are an airplane, but I still worry that something will be lost.

And then, there is the cost. There is a tremendous variety of quality in play sets. We have been looking at wood, and it is like shopping for a small car. I'd love to explore recycled plastics, but these seem to be even more expensive in some instances. I know, I know. I'm not paying for it, so why worry? Well, it just seems like a lot of money, regardless of where it is coming from, for something that we are not fully on board with. I've been looking at used sets on Craigslist, and have found several. I think this might be a good option as long as we can have a professional move and install it in our yard. That's one of the main criteria if we do go down this road - we are not putting it together ourselves. Too many of the online reviews have said that the assembly was the worst part and took forever. Many discussions involved adding additional support to flimsy structures from Big Box stores, which is the reason we have been looking at the "fancy" wood structures.

So what are the advantages to having a play set in the yard? Well, we can use it anytime. We can arrange it however we like - only toddler swings, a huge slide, etc. The kids can play on it while I'm doing something else in the yard, and later when they need less supervision, I can be in the house and see them from the window. I have to admit that this is really not all that appealing to me. I like to play outside with them (at least now) and don't feel a need to go inside to tackle some project. I'm sure that will change as they grow, but for now it's not a draw. Something I do really like, is the idea of sensory regulation. If someone is having a rough day and needs to get into a swing and go fast or high or furiously slide down the slide 1000 times, it would be nice to have a set in the yard. I can also see using it as an enticement to get the kids outside if they are acting like lumps.

Oh well. The debate continues on.


The experiment is over. We've decided to stop our Arganica orders after the trial run. Theoretically, I like the idea of having everything local/organic as well as those few items we purchase that are not local or seasonal (bananas, avocados) coming directly to our door. The convenience, the online ordering, someone else doing all the running around gathering items for me, the available variety...but...I miss doing these things for ourselves. I really enjoy the act of shopping and selecting. I don't mind making a few trips each week to collect what we'd like to eat. I like to meet and talk with our farmers at the market. I like seeing and holding the produce, deciding which cut of meat would work best, and having my kids see this whole thing in action. I think if I were working outside of my home, didn't have a scheduled Polyface meat/egg drop at our home each month or so, and didn't have the luxury of going to a nearby farmers market (a wonderful Smart Market) each week, and didn't have the convenience of an excellent grocery store (Trader Joes's) close by I would be more inclined to continue. Most of all, I think that the act of going about and acquiring our food this way helps our family appreciate what we eat. It helps teach our children where food comes from, and how hard real people that they know work to get food to our table. I don't want to lose those opportunities for convenience sake.

I remember about 15 years ago, I was working with a family in their home. I had a toy milk jug with plastic cookies that fit into the top, and when you tipped the jug it mooed. The older sister (maybe 6 years old) of the child I was working with said, "why does that milk moo?". I started asking her some questions about why she thought it might do that. We were getting no where, and finally I said "well, where does milk come from?" and she said "the refrigerator." Well, yeah, that's why she was confused about the mooing. I want my kids to grow up understanding where food comes from and how to ask the right questions of the folks who grow and process our food in order to be sure it is the right choice for them to eat. Now if only we could have a goat and some chickens in our yard...