Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Oh, What Do you Do in the Summer Time?

With some warm, sunny weather finally showing up (a little more consistently), we have been able to play outside!  Chloe is very aware of the weather and will ask me every day, "Mom, is it going to be hot or cold?"  If it starts off as a cloudy day and the sun comes out later, she notices immediately and will yell, where ever we are, "Mom!! Look- there is our son!" Or, "Mom, look- the sun is coming out, yeah!!!"  She loves the sun and knows that it means we can be outside (she knows I don't love taking her to the park when it's cold, although she would go rain or shine).  She asked me one day a few weeks ago, with dismay, "Mom, why is it raining again?"

   She is definitely an outside girl and would rather be outside doing something than anything else inside.  We are so glad to be enjoying some sun recently and here are a few things we have been doing.

This day, she found her well loved bouncy ball and played with it out back for quite some time.

We love our new grass in our front yard and we are getting great use out of it.  We never spent much time out front before because we never had a place to sit.

This was Mitch's first time every sitting on and feeling grass.  I didn't think he'd like it.  He had to analyze it for a minute at first, naturally.....

And then gave us the approval smile! 

Chloe got a big girl bike for her 3rd birthday in December and rode it a few times here and there during our cold winter and spring, but now is getting a lot more practice in the warmer weather.
Mitch and I like to sit on the grass and cheer her on as she pedals.

Chloe's latest obsession is to take pictures!  She sees Ben and I constantly taking pictures of her and Mitchell and she, of course, wants to be just like us.  When she was not quite 2, she found an old 35mm point-and-shoot camera of Ben's that we no longer used and carried it around the house pretending to take pictures of random objects.  Now that she understands how digital cameras work, her camera has magically become digital and she is even more obsessed with taking pictures.  She now wants to take pictures of people and will tell everyone to line up, to say cheese and to smile (she even counts to 3 and makes a "click" noise when she pushes the button).  After the picture is taken, she will ask "Do you want to see the picture?"  She will then turn the camera over (there is no screen on the 35mm) and "show" us the picture she just took.

Above is a picture I snuck of her "taking" a picture of Nana and Papa when they were here last weekend.  We were in a hurry to get to church and really only had time to get real pictures taken with our camera, but Chloe kept insisting that "You and you stand here and I'M going to take YOUR picture."  Nana and Papa were such good sports (time and time again, picture after picture).  It was really cute and I felt bad that we were in such a hurry.

Another outdoor activity (outdoors in the garage) is Ben's pull up and dip machine.  Chloe has always loved playing on it.  We can do this activity without the sun, but everything is  more fun with sun.
I knew I couldn't do a pull up before I even tried, but everyone watching wanted proof.  (Good thing you can't see my face- I can't do it, but I sure was trying hard and it showed in my face....)

Ben can always do a pull up, effortlessly, every time.  (That's why I married him).

Mitchell gave it a shot too and did much better than his Mom.  (One-handed even.....)

We bought a little pool last week and Chloe couldn't wait to try it out.  She even filled it up.
Mitchell played with Daisy while he waited for the pool to fill.
Chloe would have probably enjoyed a much taller/deeper pool, but this one is small enough that Mitchell can be in it, too.
Chloe enjoying a "water" pop, as she calls it (Otter, water, they rhyme...)

No otter pop for Mitchell.... but his thumb tasted just as good.

Happy beginning of the Summer to all and here's to enjoying the sun and outdoors!

Sunday, June 22, 2008


This Spring has been a season of Graduations for our family!  Chloe loves to go places and asks me everyday, without fail, "Where are we going today??"  "Who is coming over?"  Sometimes, in the middle of an outing or activity she will ask, "Where are we going tomorrow?"  So when a friend from the ward asked if Chloe wanted to sign up for an ABC Parks and Rec's class with her daughter, I quickly and gladly said YES!  Chloe was very excited to go each week (every Thursday for 8 weeks) and she and her friend Natalie got to be good friends and had a great time.  Chloe knew her ABC's before, but this class really helped her learn what objects start with each letter.  It was a great class to do lots of fun, messy projects that we don't do often at home.

Here is Natalie and Chloe on their first day of ABC class back in April.  Aren't they cute?  They were so grownup and were never scared when we dropped them off to stay at class without their moms.

They got to paint each week and Chloe would come home with huge easel sized papers every time, dripping with wet paint.  She loved it and only once did she get paint on her clothes (lucky for me).

Here they are again, on their last day or class.  My camera was not on auto focus (Chloe had been playing with the camera earlier) so these pictures are blurry.  They officially graduated from ABC class and are now the Alphabet Queens of Auburn!  We miss going each week- Chloe had such a great time.

In her painting gear.  It was this last day of class, actually, that she got paint on her clothes for the first time, and it was pretty bad.  What a way to end the class!  (With lots of stain treater and 2 or 3 washes, all of the paint finally came out.  I am very anal about stains on my kids' clothes).

The first weekend in June, we went down to Pasco, WA for Ben's little brother Marcus' high school graduation.  He graduated with over 400 kids (compared to the 84 in my high school graduating class), but the graduation ceremony lasted only 1 hour and a few minutes.  It was amazing!  They had 4 people reading off names and handing out diplomas and they wasted no time.  That is my kind of graduation!

If you notice in the picture above, we have no kids with us.  Mitchell was asleep and Chloe refused to be in the picture with us (this is her new thing.  She throws a fit now about 50% of the time when we ask her to be in a picture).  Instead, we had Marcus crouch behind her.  She was thrilled.....

What did excite her that weekend was getting to play with her cousins!  She and Stella had a great time playing at the park in their swimsuits.

Mitchell missed out on another photo shoot due to another nap he was taking.  I wish he could have been in the picture with his cousins, but I can't complain about a baby who takes his naps without complaint, and takes them often!

It was a great weekend in Pasco and we were so glad to be there to celebrate with Marcus.  Congrats Marcus!  We love you and are so proud of you.  We know he'll do great at whatever he does in the future.

Our next graduation was just a few days later.  Chloe and I have been going to a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) class for the past year and a 1/2 and while I get to hang out with other moms and eat food, visit, and do crafts, Chloe gets to go to a class with other children her age and eat food, visit and do crafts.  She has the two most wonderful teachers in the world who she adores and who adore Chloe.  She graduated from this class and these teachers and will have new teachers next year.  We will miss Teacher Betty Lou and Teacher Ruth and we will miss not going to MOPS this summer, but can't wait to start up again next Fall. 

 I have been so proud of Chloe for going so willingly to these classes and being such a good girl.
She has never had a problem or been scared at these classes without me and is so kind and helpful at class each time.  She is my great girl!
Mitchell also graduated this Spring from solid pureed foods to solid chunky foods!  It is so cute to watch him delicately pick up a piece of food off his tray and shove it in his mouth.  Here he is holding half a banana (studying it intently first, of course).

Solid foods, say what?

Trying his hand at watermelon...

And boy can he pack his whole mouth completely full of watermelon, it is so funny.  Way to go Mitchell!  Now we hope to graduate to where Mitchell can feed himself an entire meal by himself. 

And last, but certainly not least- Ben's graduation!!  Ben FINALLY (emphasis on finally) graduated with his MBA in Financial Planning from City University last Saturday at Key Arena.  Here is his graduating class- well, some of them.  This University also offers its courses and degrees online, so some of the people that graduated were in other states and even other countries and weren't there. 

Here is Ben walking down the aisle after receiving his diploma.

It was a long ceremony (especially compared to Marcus' that we attended last week)- almost 3 hours long, but it was worth it to watch Ben walk and receive honors for all of his hard work.  

Here we are, one happy family that Ben is graduated..... wait- someone is missing.  Oh yes, that's right- Chloe refused to be in the picture again.  Mitchell may grow up, look back at the family photo album and think he was an only child......

Mitchell is sure proud of his Daddy......

Ben receiving his MBA holding his little MBA (Mitchell Benjamin Andros).  No more MBA's for us for awhile (degrees or babies.....)

Ben's parents came down for the weekend to watch him walk and we were so glad to have them for the weekend!  They supported/encouraged him through his associates, bachelors and first master's degree and we did not expect that they would travel all the way down for this one, but they did.  They are wonderful and we always love having them come down.  They were also a lifesaver that day, as they helped wrestle and entertain the kids throughout the entire ceremony.  (Thanks Nana and Papa- you're the best!)

We decided to force Chloe to get in a family picture with newly graduated Dad, just so we had proof that she was there for the memory book.  She was NOT happy, but the rest of us enjoyed it.  (Mitchell, calm and collected as ever, is staring at her wondering why 3 is such a hard age for his sister).

Marcus also came down to support Ben.  Ben and Marcus are great friends and there is no one that thinks more of his brother then Ben does of Marcus.

Silly boys.....

Chloe finally cooperated and got a picture with Dad without a tantrum....  Mitchell's expression conveys how we all felt- HOORAY and FINALLY, Chloe!

Here is Ben with his partner in crime, Daniel.  It was these two that decided 2 years ago that it would be "fun" to go back to school.  They had spent so much time already studying finances, money, investing and retirement material that they thought they might as well get a degree to show for all their time and knowledge.  Now, 2 years later, with hundreds of hours of homework, hundreds of hours of procrastination, doing homework during family vacations and on holidays, asking for extensions, late nights, hours of studying together, competing and comparing grades and two frazzled and crazy wives later, I think these two men are rethinking how much "fun" it was to go back to school.  But they had a great time going back together and I think I speak for Ben when I say that this degree wouldn't have been near as much fun for him, or maybe even achievable without Daniel. (They kept each other going when it got hard and were constantly on the phone with each other or at one another's houses when they needed help, advice, or when completing a final project).  Congrats to both of them! And I will never leave the two of them alone again, talking about finances or school.... that's what got us in this mess in the first place! :)

Not only did Ben graduate last weekend, it was also his mom's birthday and Father's Day for Ben and his Dad, so we got a Blizzard Ice Cream cake from Dairy Queen to celebrate all 3 big events.  We got to spend Father's Day and his mom's birthday with them last year as well and we were so glad to spend it with them again.  We love you both!

These smiles also tell how yummy the cake was..... it was Chocolate Xtreme and it was fabulous!

Here is Ben with the kids on Father's Day and miraculously, Chloe did not throw a fit about being in the pictures!  It was the best Father's Day present ever! 

Ben truly is the best father ever.  He has so much patience and love for our kids, especially when they need it the most.  He is always willing to chase Chloe around and take her to the park, even when he's had a long, hard day at work.  He understands her (and all her energy and personality) better than anyone does and brings out the best in her.  He can always make Mitchell smile (Mitch hangs on his every word) and was happy to pass on his thumb sucking habit to our little man.  (We just pray that Mitch doesn't suck his thumb as long as Ben did.....)

There has been many a day when Ben comes home from work and "saves" us!  Our bad days aren't quite so bad anymore when Daddy gets home from work.  He is so perceptive of when we've had a hard day and no matter how bad or hard his day has been, he jumps right in and takes the kids, cleans up and has even taken them both out of the house to give me a break.  We love him for the wonderful Dad that he is and all that he does for us!

The whole gang before church!

Our season of graduations has been fun, but unfortunately, it wasn't the end of school for Ben just yet.  His graduation and the end of class were not one in the same.  Classes ended this weekend and he has been working (the office) and doing homework/final projects nonstop all last week and this weekend.  He has just a few loose ends to tie up in the next few days and then, FINALLY he will be done (forever.  And yes, that is a threat).  One of us has been in school ever since we have been married, which is almost 5 years.  And for a year, we were BOTH in school (crazy, long year).  

We are so proud of you, Ben, and all your hard work.  We love you lots and will love even MORE when you are all done.  :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Yard Project

Ok- so a little background on this post.  When we first moved into our house 3 years ago in April of 2005, our front yard had just recently been professionally landscaped by the previous owner.  She had done the back yard as well and with all that she did in front and back, she had spent thousands and thousands of dollars.  It was all very beautiful, but we did think it was odd that our front yard had no grass.  We were the only family that we knew that had no grass in front- just bushes, flowers, big, decorative landscaping rocks, and beauty bark.  We didn't think a whole lot of it then because it was very pretty when we moved in.  All of the bushes and flowers were new, so they were tiny, the beauty bark was new and fresh and there was no weeds or moss.  We would have preferred grass, but, again, it was pretty and we were just excited to be in our new house.  That summer, our yard maintenance was minimal- we probably had to weed our yard maybe 3 or 4 times for a few minutes each time.  There just isn't very many weeds that pop up in new landscaping with fresh bark.  Our neighbors always commented how lucky we were not to have grass to mow and how good we had it with our "easy" yard.  That first summer, we agreed.  It was easy- we hardly had to do a thing.  Still, as pretty as it was, it would have been nice to be able to use our front yard- the only place we could sit out front was on a big rock, and we couldn't really walk on all the landscaping.  But easy is easy, right?

So here are some pictures of our newly landscaped yard the day we moved in in 2005.  These are bad pictures (I had to scan them) but you can see how small all the plants are and how nicely groomed everything is.  No weeds and lots of space in between each plant/flower.

The first summer of up keeping our "easy" yard passed quickly.  Fall came after that first summer, which brought trimming and pruning for the winter.  The small bushes had grown a bit and it was quite a bit of work getting everything trimmed back down to size and ready for the winter.  The next summer, everything was not as easy as the first summer.  The plants all grew at a rapid rate- tall, wide and growing together.  The beauty bark started to disintegrate and disappear, moss started growing in its place and weeds started popping up all over the place.  Pruning and trimming that next fall was even worse and the next summer was the same- bigger, out of control plants that were no longer pretty, less bark, more moss, and tons of weeds.  We got behind on weeding and up keeping and our yard got away from us.  

Fast forward 3 years to the present.  Easy and pretty quickly changed into...... 

THIS!  I refer to our yard in this state as the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve got kicked out. "... cursed is the ground for thy sake... Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee..." (Genesis 3:17-18).   It once was pretty, but soon became cursed.  This picture above and the two below were taken at the beginning of May of this year.

This overgrown mass of green ugliness used to small, pretty plants that had distinct shape and size.  Now we can't even see past it to see our neighbors!

The weeds were many and tall!  We had Chloe stand next to this weed to show how tall it was.  Chloe is 40 inches, so this weed is at least that tall!
Embarrassingly enough, our yard was so overgrown and out of control, we had no idea that a bird had built a fine little nest into the ground in between 2 over grown bushes.  We stumbled upon it when we were weeding at the beginning of May.
Chloe is holding one of two bird eggs we found, and she cared for those eggs for the rest of the day like a little mother bird.  We put the nest and eggs in the house and she would run in and check on them every few minutes.

So, the first Saturday in May we decided to take care of our disgusting front yard once and for all.  We spent the entire morning and afternoon ripping out all the bushes and weeds.  We left just the pretty flowering plants and the big, decorative rocks.

Here is the progress we made that first day.  It looks a lot better, but we still have a long way to go.
Notice all the green moss and weeds..... yuck.  We were undecided if we would just rip out all the big plants, weed really well and then just lay new beauty bark, or rip EVERYTHING out and put in sod.  We debated and debated, then just decided to go for it all and put in sod, which is what we have desperately wanted anyway for the past 3 years.  Putting in new bark would have been the easiest and the cheapest.....  we had a lot of work ahead of us.

Notice in the pictures above the huge, decorative rocks.  There were about 10 of those in our front yard that we needed to get rid of.  Sounds easy, but it's not.  First of all, each of them weighs probably 300- 500 pounds each (too heavy to just pick up and throw away).  Secondly, even if we could pick them up somehow, we have no truck or any way to haul them away.  Even if we figured that out, the local dump does not allow rocks that heavy to be dumped, so we physically had no means of getting rid of these rocks ourselves.  We were stuck between a rock and a hard place, literally.  

I spent 3 days calling contractors and landscapers, trying to get bids on how much it would cost for someone to haul away the rocks for us.  I quickly became discouraged when everyone said prices like "$500 minimum" or "$1000" or $200 per rock" (are you kidding me?) and more outrageous bids like that.  We were hoping that we could find a landscaper that would jump at the change to come and get perfectly good landscaping rocks that they could reuse in their landscaping business, as these rocks are very expensive to buy.  We hoped they would see that us giving them the rocks would be such a great deal that they would not charge us at all.  Unfortunately, free wasn't going to happen, but we finally got lucky and came across a guy who said he'd take care of the rocks for $200 total.  We jumped on that- it was the cheapest bid we'd gotten by a wide margin.  He also had the equipment to haul away not only the rocks, but carry off all of the extra dirt that had been used in the landscaping process and level out our front yard to make the dirt even with our driveway, for a small fee more.  (If you can notice in the pictures above, the ground is lumpy and dirt is piled up much higher than the driveway. )  We were grateful for his abilities, as we didn't have the means to haul away the extra dirt, and it is very expensive to dump dirt as well.

After we finally got the big rocks hauled away, we still had to deal with all of the small rocks that were put in when the former owner landscaped .  She had lined all the driveway edges with rocks (you can see those in the very first pictures when we moved in) .  Not a big deal until we need them all out!  When my dad was down, he and Ben spent an entire afternoon shoveling rocks out of the yard.  This picture shows just one of many wheel barrow load of rocks that they hauled away that day.  Chloe and I also did our part.  Ben and Dad just worked the outside perimeter of the yard, but Chloe and I went out one afternoon and spent a few hours picking up all the rocks that had gotten moved to the middle of the yard when the guy came out and leveled it all.  Surprisingly, Chloe was a huge help and we got done twice as fast as if I had to do it by myself.  3 year olds are great, cheap labor!

So here is what the yard looked like after EVERYTHING was taken out of it, plants, big rocks, small rocks and all.  It is all ready for sod to be laid

We had sod delivered last Saturday morning.
Here is my sod laying man, laying the first piece of sod.

As soon as Chloe saw Ben laying the sod, she ran into the garage and found Ben's tape measurer.

She came back telling us that she need to measure everything and would do just that, announcing "Yep, 2 inches!"

And here, after 3 years of hassle with our yard and one long month of hard work to prep it, is our finished yard with sod, FINALLY!  

Here is the side view where all of the HUGE bushes used to be (if you scroll back up you can see them).  It looks so much nicer now.

We are so excited to finally have sod and to have a yard that will be easily manageable.  No more weeds, and no more pruning.  It is so refreshing to be able to walk outside and see grass rather than weeds as big as plants and plants bigger than our cars.  It was an unsettling, stressful feeling.  We are no longer the eye sore of the neighborhood, thank goodness (we felt so bad for our neighbors having to live next to this mess for so long).  Hooray for grass!  Our dream for 3 years.