Thursday, June 28, 2012


I first saw this the week of Mother's Day and absolutely LOVED it. It is so telling of the humble, tiresome, yet fulfilling job motherhood is.  Makes me extra grateful for my mom (and dad), for the support they were during my growing up years, and for the sacrifices they made so that I could do the things I loved.

We are so excited for the Olympics!  Only 29 days to go...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gardening adventures in novel form

Since Neil and I got married, I've wanted a garden.  But, with life's many twists and turns, other projects, job changes, moves, etc., etc., it kept getting put off.  A couple times, including last Spring, we came close, but in the end the timing was never quite right.  Finally, this March, Neil ran sprinkler lines on the far end of our yard, built me two beautiful 6' x 12' beds, and filled 'em with good, stinky gardening soil!  That's right.  This was my year!

Dirt, dirt, dirt!  4 1/2 yards, to be exact!  {23 March 2012} Thankfully, Jared came and helped Neil shovel/transfer the mammoth pile from the base of our driveway to the empty beds of our backyard.  And in return, Neil spent the latter half of the day helping Jared paint his living room and hallway.  Two hard working boys, I tell ya! I have a feeling they both slept well that night!
So once the beds were filled and the dirt was packed down (see above on the right - Neil and Jared enlisted the help of Chloe to stomp around), we let things settle for a couple weeks, then did a small test round to ensure the dirt was indeed garden-ready. This particular test involved magic jelly beans.

In the spirit of Easter weekend, the kids and I, on the evening of April 6th, "planted" jelly beans in the garden soil, just to see what would happen.
Then we took some pictures.  Shocking, yes...
The following morning, when we came outside to see if anything had sprouted, we were delightfully surprised to see lollipops, in place of the jelly beans. 

Chloe was amused but skeptical, and really didn't buy it. Said she, "Those didn't grow from the jelly beans! Someone broke into our yard and stuck them in the ground in the middle of the night! And why do they have wrappers on them? If they had grown in the ground there's no way they'd have wrappers!"  She could not be convinced.  But she also could not turn down the blow pop I then offered her.  :)
Needless to say, the dirt was proven to be effective.  If it could yield blow pops overnight, it could certainly produce thriving fruits and vegetables to last a summer.  And so, that same weekend, we purchased some plants, and on the 9th, transferred them to the beds!

The kids were SO eager to help!  I love Ryan's little hands in the bottom right picture.  :)

Here are some of the goodies we planted.  Not pictured: raspberry, grapevines, rosemary, chives and onions, not to mention bibb lettuce seeds and carrot seeds.

And here's a further away view.  Everything was so tiny just starting out, and I found myself wondering how it would ever fill all the space.  But man, did it grow fast!
And here are my helpers, taking a breather after all that hard work.

So here's a look at a different but related project, which Neil was working on while the kids and I planted.
This is not the first time I've watched my husband jack hammer concrete and it probably won't be the last! So, that pipe you see to the right of Neil there - that used to pipe into our air conditioning unit, which sat in that corner. Well, it was quite an eye sore, and since we have talked about eventually putting a hot tub in that very spot, we decided to have the a/c unit moved to the side of the house where the pool pump was. Why the builders didn't just place the two right next to each other and out of the way to begin with, we don't know. So what you see here is the beginning stage of this process. In order to complete the job, Neil had to bury the coolant line from the house to the new spot for the a/c (around the corner). There was another big slab of concrete that he did not want to have to mess with, so he ultimately used a 10 foot piece of pipe and tunneled under that slab of concrete. The coolant line then ran through that pipe. It was a dirty, sweaty, exhausting job, but Neil, being the stud he is, persisted 'til the end.

Well, our garden took off!  It amazed me, even after only a single week the changes that had taken place.  The zucchini definitely grew the fastest of anything.  By the time it had fully matured, the size of the leaves were comparable to a basketball. 

Here's our zucchini just 17 days in, already ten times the size it started out as.  That is no exaggeration.  Anyone who grows zucchini knows it doesn't take much time at all! I loved going outside with the kids each day after school.  The anticipation of seeing what had grown and changed overnight truly brought joy and excitement to us all. With or without kids this is something I would love, but sharing in the joy with Chloe and Ryan made it that much more special.  I have a feeling many more years of gardening await us.  :)

Chloe discovered our first zucchini on Mother's Day, and I finally picked it on Chloe's last day of school, which was the 24th of May.
I was so proud that I didn't even want to eat it. But I quickly got over that, and did eat it, and several more! It wasn't long before we had more zucchini than we knew what to do with! Ryan especially loved the breaded zucchini. He ate it like candy.

Our bibb lettuce also produced quickly, and we enjoyed a fair share of it.

By the end of May, everything had shown significant signs of growth and maturity, and we were feeling triumphant.

Here is our first bell pepper and tomatoes.

Our grapevine and a pretty overall view of the garden beds. That big mound of a plant in the second bed? Zucchini! Like I said, huge! Another view from the other side of the garden. Again, the zucchini towers over everything else.

Miss Chloebug, fresh out of the bath and ready to strike a pose!

Here's a nice view from further back, where you can really get an idea of how things looked and where things were placed. This, and the few pictures above were taken on the 26th of May.

Unfortunately it was about this time that we started noticing mounds of dirt in our far right bed. They started around the lettuce, and slowly, heads of lettuce started disappearing in their entirety. Next, two of our onions disappeared.  Then, the watermelon, which was really depressing because the vine looked beautiful and actually had tiny, nickel-sized watermelons growing on it. I was so mad when the watermelon disappeared, and that's when we really knew we had a problem. Neil and I hemmed and hawed over what could be done. It quickly got to the point where each day we went outside, new mounds had formed. A gopher, we suspect (or two, or seven) had found a new home and/or food source in our garden beds, and was/were enjoying the fruits of our labors. It was very discouraging considering the work we'd put in, not to mention the fact that everything was beginning to mature and produce!  Next went the tomatillos. It was funny because some things disappeared altogether, while others, like the tomatillos, were left in the beds, lifeless, with their roots nibbled off. At about this same time, we had been calling around to get quotes for concrete walkways to go alongside the beds and around the back of the house. Neil also wanted a concrete platform laid for the shed he eventually planned to build (right next to one of the beds).  So we selected our guy and he came and did the job.  Well, based on the timing of everything, we suspect this opened a can of worms with our little gopher friend because literally the days leading up to and the days following when he was here, are the days we took the biggest losses.  Our cucumbers and part of our tomato was destroyed, I believe the very day the concrete was poured, in fact.

These pictures were actually taken within hours of our these poor guys getting demolished. There were dozens of tiny 3-inch cucumbers growing on the vines, and even this 6-inch one, which wasn't far from making its way to our kitchen. We also noticed that same day, a mound at the base of our zucchini. We really are convinced that the fresh concrete covered some of the gopher's access, and caused him to go on a rampage. Who knows. Either way, we quickly realized that if we didn't do something IMMEDIATELY, the little bastard was going to finish things off completely!

Here's our guy doing measurements and prepping the area for walkways.  You can also see the a/c unit, which looks a lot better there than it did right outside our patio door.  The 4x4s will eventually support a fence, which Neil plans to build to hide the unit and pool pump.  Then next to that, where you see that large pile of dirt, will eventually be bushes of some kind.  Lantanas, perhaps? Here's how it all looked the day they laid concrete {30 May 2012}.  He also replaced the concrete Neil had jack-hammered to make way for the coolant line (not pictured), and also another square over on the other side of the yard to extend the pool deck (bottom right).

Going back to the gopher issue.  It was a tough call to make, because we knew there was a chance we'd lose everything if we pulled what was left out, but it was either that or let the little scoundrel get to it. So we pulled ALL the dirt out of BOTH beds, transplanted what was left of our garden into temporary pots, and laid wire mesh at the bottom of the beds to ensure ZERO access from underground. Our poor carrots, that didn't have nearly enough time to mature (below).  Chloe let out quite a sigh when she saw them. 
  Oh, and the hole you see there to the left? Neil dug that after discovering that the gopher had gotten to the cucumber. Apparently that was his final straw. There was really no purpose to digging the hole. He just needed to blow off some steam. He joked later that he should have saved his energy for digging out the beds. :) Love that man. Always joking, even when things aren't so funny. And as if shoveling dirt wasn't enjoyable enough, we got to do it in 100 degree heat. Luckily, with a pool within feet of us, we had the option of jumping in and out to quickly cool off before getting back to work. That definitely helped.
At this point the two grapevines and the zucchini were the only things left in the beds. We tried to keep the grapes in place for as long as possible, but in the end, we lost the larger of the two. It was literally dug up for only a matter of minutes before Neil got the mesh stapled down and stuck it right back where it was, but it quickly started to wilt and was dead within a few days.  I still can't get over the size of that zucchini plant!  Those leaves were gigantic!  Such a shame that it had to go, but there was no chance of successfully transplanting it.

Our poor, traumatized peppers and herbs, all lined up.

The kids got out and helped Neil shovel as well. Chloe actually did great, for the all of ten minutes she lasted. Ryan, on the other hand? Well, he did try. :) You can tell he's realllly trying.  This is his "George of the Jungle" getup, by the way.  He frequently roams the house in this attire, and generally prefers it over any other wardrobe choice. Here are some of the other ways "George" entertained himself while we worked.

So the process of removing the plants and dirt, laying the mesh and filling the beds back in took about a week. Finally, on June 8th, we got our peppers, onions and herbs back into the ground, and planted additional tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, watermelon and even a pumpkin (why not?), as well as more carrot seed. Initially everything looked understandably droopy, but perked back up within a week.  And I am proud to say that everything survived. Even my huge basil, which I was convinced wouldn't make it, is thriving and looking beautiful once again. So the above photos were taken on the 8th of June. You can see how the walkways turned out and where the shed will go one day. It's now been two weeks, and the far left beds containing zucchini, watermelon, pumpkin, cucumber and carrot (seeds) look entirely different! Everything has grown and is thriving. We've since laid some ground cover between the concrete and beds, which we hope will fill in quickly.  I'm still not entirely finished with that, but the nursery ran out, so I'm waiting on more to come in.  It really does look so nice, despite that ugly fence behind the beds, and I am grateful, as hard and inconvenient as it was, that we took the time to pull the dirt out and make it right while we still had some time left to give the garden another chance. We have since enjoyed some peppers and herbs. Just today, in fact, Chloe and I snipped 4 jalapenos and brought them inside. It won't be long before we're enjoying our first anaheim chili, and much, much more!

I should also mention that we've installed 2 sonic spikes, which apparently let out some type of signal in the ground that keeps gophers and other rodents away.  This was after other failed attempts to keep them out, which included traps, which in the end only attracted ants, as well as the old stick the hose down the fresh hole and turn it on trick.  We tried this twice and had the water on a solid 10 minutes, just waiting at the other end with a shovel in hand for the little gopher to poke his head out so we could whack him.  Since we installed the sonic spikes, gosh, weeks ago now, we haven't seen a single mound anywhere.  Hopefully between those and the mesh, we will be gopher-free from here on out! 

Lastly, here are just a few final comparisons so you can really get a feel for the progress of our garden, and just how quickly it changed.

So here's a comparison of ROUND 1:

Here's a comparison of ROUND 2:


AND ONE FINAL VIEW - Look what a short 2 weeks have done to my tomatoes!

I love gardening, and look forward to plenty more years of it!

Monday, June 25, 2012

What if love were our only motive?

This past weekend was our Stake Conference.  I'll be honest.  We haven't been the best Stake Conference goers for the past few years.  Who likes having to keep 2 active children quiet and content for two straight hours while trying to gain a spiritual experience simultaneously?  Sacrament Meeting can be challenging enough some weeks!  Well!  We broke the habit and went to the adult session Saturday night and even braved Sunday's session with the kids.  I'm glad we did.   

With each passing week, I feel greater confidence in my church.  It's a combination of things that increase this confidence, but among them, I think these are the greatest contributors:

The leaders, the inspiration behind those who are called where, and Priesthood power in general.  I know with surety that our Prophet and his Apostles are God's representatives, that they converse with Him, share with us His counsel, and love us as He does.  I know that our Bishop and our Stake President and their counselors were hand picked by God Himself to fulfill their roles at this place and time, and that they too hold great power and inspiration to know the needs of those over whom they preside.  And I know that there is infinite power in the Priesthood.  I have heard way too many miracle stories and seen in my own life too many examples of the priesthood being exercised and blessing me and my family to deny its truthfulness.   

The order and exactness of things.  It's amazing how such a process as calling a new Stake President (which we learned about from our own Stake President Saturday night) can be so intricate and exhausting; and how the rights, responsibilities and order of the Priesthood can be so precise, with a maximum number of members for some of its quorums, not to mention all the accompanying regulations, which just give me a headache to think about or try to assimilate.  Yet amidst the order of things in the church, all of which I truly believe is inspired and correct, the gospel itself and our purpose here is simple and straightforward.

The undeniable feelings I get that tell me it is true. I don't know everything there is to know about the gospel, and there have been times when I've been asked questions I didn't have answers to.  But I understand the concept of obedience, its power, and the power of acting in faith.  I also recognize that our view as humans is limited, and that in this lifetime, we will only be able to see to a certain point.  That is when faith comes into play, and when we must not question the counsel of our leaders but simply follow it.  Sometimes I don't logically understand something, but I know in my heart that it's right, so I go with it.  Can't really explain it, but can't really deny it either.  When it's right, it's right.  Period.  I remember someone questioning me when Neil and I got engaged after only knowing each other 3 months.  What this person didn't know is that we actually knew only 2 days after our first date what was to come.  How did we know though?  It didn't make sense, and went against both Neil's and my logic.  There was no explanation.  We just felt in our hearts that it was right.  And thankfully, those feelings were legitimate because here we are, 10 years later, still happily married with a family.  Had we relied on logic and allowed the doubts of others to persuade us, we wouldn't be where we are today.  Feelings are a powerful thing, and sometimes more powerful than any knowledge we can go by.  No doubt the Holy Ghost plays a great role in such feelings.  How grateful I am for that gift in my life.

President Crockett shared an experience he had shortly after he was called to be Stake President 8 1/2 years ago.  He said he was sitting in his office one night feeling quite overwhelmed and lonely at all of his new responsibilities, when suddenly, he felt a warm sense of love and comfort come over him.  In that same moment, he had a vision of a small child kneeling with his mother in prayer and asking Heavenly Father to bless President Crockett.  As President Crockett sat there at his desk, he realized that just as he was receiving the warm comfort he needed, this sweet child's prayer was being answered.  What a precious thought.  He closed the story with the reminder that God hears our children's prayers, and that He hears our prayers, and that He answers them.  I love the gentle message there.  I am often touched by Chloe's and Ryan's prayers, and as they've grown, they've become more thoughtful.  I love knowing that Heavenly Father listens to their prayers, and to mine.

President Crockett's final thought of the night, among other inspiring things he and his counselors shared, was in the form of this question:

"What if love were our only motive?" 

Naturally, he used the example of our Savior, who did everything out of love.  While it wasn't always easy, even for this perfect Being, He remained constant in making love His motive.  Like Christ, President Crockett pleaded with us to try to do the same.  As I sat there listening and watching this man of God preach such truthful words, it just hit me!  What kind of world would we live in if everyone took this simple concept to heart?  What great changes would we witness?  We would probably be more patient and tender with our spouses and children.  We would probably be slower to anger.  Our hearts would probably be softer and more open to our Father's will.  We would probably feel happier and more at peace.  I loved this challenge and am actively trying to apply it to my life.  Easier said than done - especially with young children - HA! - but I am trying.

Here's how Chloe occupied herself during Stake Conference...
How lucky I am to have a daughter who loves her Father in Heaven and Savior, and who recognizes her worth.  Her level of faith and desire to choose the right inspires and strengthens me daily.  I'm sure Jesus and God both appreciated this drawing.

I'm grateful Neil and I went to the trouble of finding a sitter and go to the adult session, and to get up yesterday morning and take the kids to Sunday's session.  Had we not gone, we would have missed out on some inspired counsel, and the many reasons I love and appreciate this church may not have come to light or been as easily conveyed to me today.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Today is Father's Day, so naturally I've been reflecting on the many incredible men in my life.  I'll go into that more later, as well as festivities of the day, but for now, while I'm feeling this feeling, I've just gotta jot it down.

It's a quiet Sunday afternoon.  Neil's enjoying a Father's day nap, My favorite Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD is playing softly, I'm working on pictures from my Utah trip last May, and the kids are doing art projects at the table.  When "Love is Spoken Here" played a few minutes ago, Chloe sang along, remarking afterwards how much she loooved that song.  All the while, Ryan was kneeling on a chair across the table, painting his right hand (since he's left-handed) with green and blue paint, then placing his palm down on a piece of paper.  He had a smudge of blue paint on his chin and just looked absolutely darling.  Not a minute later I heard the slicing of scissors and not a minute after that, footsteps headed my way.  Then, there stood my sweet boy, proudly presenting me with a remnant of the hand print masterpiece, which was still wet with paint.  "Here, Mom!  It's a ticket to go on a train!" 


Simple moments like these are frequent in this house, but sometimes, for a variety of reasons, not relished to the degree they ought to be.  Distractions occur and frustrations arise.  And as a result, patience levels decrease and those sweet and joyful moments are fogged, and sometimes overlooked all together. Today, I am setting the stresses of life behind and relishing.  So grateful I am not only to be a mother, but to have been blessed with the two amazing kids who call me mother.  It truly is the simple things in life like a singing six-year-old, blue paint smudges and tickets to go on a train that hold the greatest value.

May I never forget to relish.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Blueberry picking

On Thursday, I took the kids blueberry picking at Jessop Farms.  My friends Janea and Jody (and their boys) were there, and together we picked berries, then let the kids run around and play.  This place is great because they have a huge sandbox area (with blue sand), a miniature golf course (as in 4 holes), a playground, and a bounce house!  By the time we left, the kids were rosy-cheeked and exhausted.  It was a good day.

Next week they will have strawberries ready for picking, so you'd better believe we'll be headed back!