"When a soul recognises the will of God and shows a readiness to submit to it entirely, then God gives Himself to such a soul and renders it most powerful succour under all circumstances." - Rev. Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Making do with what you have {backyard fun}

When we bought our house almost 7 years ago, we knew it was the perfect house for us. If there was one thing that we didn't like, it was our backyard - or lack thereof, I should say. We wanted a bunch of kids and wanted them to have plenty of space to run around. Unfortunately, expanding space is one thing you can't do to a house. Walls can be painted, bathrooms can be updated, floors can be replaced, etc. Getting a bigger yard? Not possible. (Although we did have hope we could one day buy the lot to the right of us and the lot behind us - neither one worked out.)
The backyard when we looked at the house for the first time...our lot ends at the end of our driveway (on both the back end and the right) and right before our neighbor's shed on the left. Not much to work with...
 From the opposite corner, when we first looked at the house!

Once we learned we were having our third boy and the surrounding lots started building new houses, we decided we could either a) complain about our lack of a backyard, b) move to a house with a bigger yard, or c) make do with what we have.

We chose the latter! And thankfully, God really helped us out by putting generous people in our lives. Many things were given to us for free, we found good deals on other things, and 2 of our neighbors put up fences first, which saved us a lot of money.

 First, we removed a bunch of brick, leaving only one square of it, and leveled the flood-prone areas with (free!) dirt. Like a whole truckload! (Back when I was pregnant with Aaron)
Then Logan made a play area for the swingset his parents gave the boys last year. The timbers were on sale and we got the weed barrier and mulch for free. Logan's 9 years of landscaping experience really paid off in more ways than one...

Then (over a year later) the fence went up! I found a sale for the fence boards, which saved us a good bit.

I wanted a fence put up before Aaron was born, but that didn't happen. Procrastination paid off though, because our neighbors behind us put up a fence, then our neighbors to the right put up a fence, and all we needed was to finish the fence on the left side. I told Logan in the spring that I wanted the fence done before the boys' birthday party in June! He listened. 😁

We owe our neighbor a heck of a lot, because he helped with everything. Honestly, I don't know how we would have done it without him. He even designed the gate for the fence as well as the long rolling gate over the driveway. (I highly recommend living by an older retired couple. They're the best kind of neighbor!) And in case you're curious, we decided to go with a shorter fence - even though our neighbors have tall fences - because it saved a lot of money. Plus we like our neighbors!

We weren't sure that grass could grow in the backyard because of all the shade from the trees, but we were given some sod (for free!!) and decided to see what would happen. It started off yellowish like this...

...but we watered a lot and all was fine! It's obvious where we didn't put sod, so we want to try and finish the yard eventually (hoping for some more free sod, ha). And of course whenever we're able to save up some extra money, we would love to add some more furniture and landscaping and stuff like that. Slowly but surely!

Other details that were done: gravel and edging in front of the side gate, little brick area by the back garage door (there wasn't a step or anything before), stepping stones from driveway to said brick area, sandbox in the play area.

Bricks were free from our neighbor! Stepping stones were cheap.

Gravel was free from our neighbor! Edging was cheap.

Sand was free from our neighbor!

Other details we still need to do: stepping stones or more gravel from the garage door to the side gate (on the other side of the brick area, basically), cutting off the corner of the play area so we can push a lawnmower or wheelbarrow through the side gate, put sod on the rest of the yard, drill the latch and bolt for the driveway gate.

Some progress pictures:



And now for a dramatic before and after....(sorry not sorry I made you wait til the end)
Before we bought the house
Today!
Over 2 years ago
Today!








If anybody has any ideas on what to put in those planters along the house - preferably things I cannot kill - pleeeease tell me. I've considered herbs but I'm pretty terrible about watering things...

It took years to realize we could make our backyard work for us, but I'm so glad it finally came together. What I thought was a tiny backyard ended up being the perfect space for our boys! It's shaded for much of the day, it's closed in now, and we can access it from our garage or our side door (along the driveway). Bonus is that now our dog gets to run around too (no more hooking her to a chain that might break!).

Okay, I don't know how to end this so I'm going to share the before and after again (BECAUSE I CAN):



Friday, July 14, 2017

The summer of travel

The summer of fun, the summer of craziness, and the summer of travel. I know, I'm getting super creative with my blog post titles.

(I know I kind of promised a backyard post. It's coming. I blame the traveling and the rain. And my nonprofessional blogging habits. I'm sure by the time I post about it, you will all be disappointed greatly...)

(And while we're on the subject of blogging, I know I haven't done much serious writing other than my Recent Reads posts, if those even count, but I'm hoping to change that soon. In the meantime, please indulge my photo dump.)

ANYWAYS. My mom's side of the family used to have a family reunion every summer since we're scattered across the country, and while it hasn't happened exactly every year recently, I haven't been able to go in awhile because I'm always super duper pregnant. #summerbabies

So even though it wasn't exactly convenient to go this year (13 hours away, the week before our beach vacation), I felt like I needed to go. I mean, most of my relatives haven't met Aaron yet and some of them haven't even met Chase.

Even though it was exhausting (Logan had to stay home to work so fortunately my parents, brother, and sister-in-law were so kind as to let me and the boys tag along between their two vehicles), I'm glad we went. I will spare all of the details about the actual traveling (not fun not fun not fun not fun etc) and just share some pictures. We went to my aunt's lake house near Kansas City and it was a lot of fun.

 They were so excited about riding in the boat!
 My one regret is that I did not ride the jet ski...
 The big boys on the boat!
 This mat thingy attached to the dock was pretty neat - the kids loved it. 


This is probably only about half of our family, but it was still nice seeing everybody who did go!

I should also mention (only because Logan just reminded me LOL) that my wonderful husband always likes to do some kind of house project when I'm gone. This time, he ripped off the very outdated wallpaper in our kitchen, sprayed some orange peel, and painted. Because he loves me. I told him that can be considered my birthday present.

And because I waste no time in uploading pictures (I have a problem, I really do), we literally just got back from Gulf Shores, Alabama, for our annual beach vacation. Unfortunately, we were not able to go with our normal big group of families, but fortunately, we were able to go with Lauren and her family! She has a boy a few months older than Aaron, so he fit in just perfectly with our boys. We've been wanting to go on a vacation with their family for awhile now, so we were so glad it finally worked out. (In case you forgot or missed it or are relatively new, Lauren and I were college roommates and despite not living near each other, we're still really good friends! And our husbands get along really well and it's just really cool.)
We left on Chase's birthday and it's our tradition to stop for pizza and ice cream on the way. Chase had a great birthday between donuts for breakfast, pizza and ice cream for lunch, first day at the beach, and cupcakes after dinner!
 The first time on the beach, this dude was shoveling sand in his mouth but thankfully it didn't take him long to realize sand is not food.

 Lauren says they barely took pictures but I got ya covered!
 I paid too much money for this bathing suit top (on Pick Your Plum) but it's so dang modest, I just love it!
 The fitted sheet trick...definitely recommend. Of course sand still gets in and babies crawl out but it was still nice to have a place that wasn't just sand.

 Logan made me (seriously). One of my BFFs and I took a similar picture two years ago. I got a little better.
 Logan always makes a big sand creation and the boys love it. So did a bunch of people who walked by!

Logan and I snuck away to play some foot golf one afternoon which was a lot of fun. It's basically golf but with a soccer ball! Totally my thing.
 I did win but Logan was totally expecting that...



 Self timer skills, yo. (This was the one time Lauren's family wasn't with us.)
 We had to take a couch picture to compare to last year's (well, shoot, I was gonna link to it but apparently I didn't put it in a blog post! But there is a picture of us in this post). Crazy how much difference a year can make!

The weather was perfect all week until this morning when we left, but that made it much easier to leave (Logan gets depressed after vacation but the rain helped this time! Ha.). The boys had so much fun, the adults even took turns taking lunch dates, and all in all, it was such a perfect week. We had no w-fi, which was a bummer at first, but that meant we were not attached to our phones and THAT ended up being really nice.

Next up on the itinerary is the Edel Gathering!!! We're less than a month away. Lauren is going, as well as two more of my local besties, so I cannot wait. Aaron is officially weaned (as of 6 days ago, perfect timing for our beach trip!), so I'm starting to get really excited. But I'm sure I'll have a whole post dedicated to that trip afterwards. Bloggers gonna blog and all....

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