Like many people, I enjoy spending some time at the beginning of the year drafting goals for the next 12 months. 2016 was a great year in some aspects (Ben potty trained and started school! We road tripped to Disney and Colorado!) but there were some hard bits as well, like Teddy spending time in the hospital with viral-induced asthma. There’s no doubt that there will be similar ups and downs in the coming year but perhaps having lived through 2016, we’ll be better prepared to deal with them. Looking back on my personal and our family life over the last year, I’ve come up with 3 goals to help focus my energy in 2017.
I’ve grown frustrated by how many resources I waste due to carelessness or laziness. I buy but don’t cook food because it didn’t feel convenient and it needs to get thrown out. I sit on my phone or computer instead of making use of the very little productive time I have and the house and family suffer for it. My goal is to waste less by planning more. If I plan our meals better, less food goes to waste. If I set daily goals, I don’t waste time trying to figure out what I should be doing with my free time instead of just doing it. This is a pretty far-reaching goal since the “less waste” mentality spreads into so many aspects of my life (waste less space in the house by purging things we don’t use, use up the craft supplies we have on hand instead of buying new, etc). I’m hoping there will be some positive financial side effects from this goal as well.
Grow My Business
I started working as a virtual assistant (VA) for Brian Krogsgard at Post Status in 2015. I’ve always had the capacity to work more hours but haven’t made an attempt to promote my VA skills and expand my client base. That stops this year. My goal is to increase my client load by 2 and max out my available work hours. As a subsection of this goal, I bought a domain and started creating a site by myself to promote my work. Marketing myself is a huge stretch; I didn’t know it would be so challenging! I foresee lots of learning in this area over the next year.
Complete One Large House Project
We bought and moved into my grandparent’s house in the summer of 2012, a few months before Teddy was born (I don’t recommend moving during the third trimester). We painted, cleaned, and did minor renovations very quickly so we could get settled with our then 22 month old before the new baby arrived. Since that summer, we have done very little to improve the house. It’s in great shape but, as expected since it was owned by people two generations older than we are, there are lots of aesthetic changes we’d like to make to make it fit our family better. I think this means we’ll finally be replacing the flooring in the kitchen, dining room, and bedroom hall to something more kid friendly (we currently have cream colored carpet in the dining room!).
Do you set goals or make big plans at the beginning of the year? What are your goals?
I’ll be the first to admit that my preferred state of activity is inactivity. I am, by nature, a lazy person. I figured if I was supposed to be active, the discipline to do so would be inherit.
I’ve come to realize after dwelling on the subject for some time that gaining discipline is like gaining patience. Not easy, usually trial-by-fire, and a lot of effort involved. I want to be a good example for my boys and to prove to myself that I can improve in this one area of my life.
So, I went for a run yesterday and didn’t die (although getting out of bed was a little difficult today).
The weather has been gorgeous here in West Michigan for the last few days. We’ve been hurrying through dinner so we can spend more time outside. In fact, the first thing out of Ben’s mouth this morning when I got him up was a request to go outside!
Last night the boys were happy playing with their toys so Brian and I got a little bit of bonus yard work done. Brian trimmed the back (western) hedge, I weeded half of the kitchen garden, Teddy played quietly in the bouncy seat, and Ben ran around but mostly played with the water table (best toddler toy of all time!).
I finished weeding all the maples out of this bed today during the nearly nonexistent naps that the boys gave us and was able to make some plans for all the empty space I had uncovered. I forgot to get a photo before the sun went down so you’ll have to put up with the partially finished one from last night. I have two small chives to plant yet this weekend and will pick up some lavender soon. I’m going to split and move the hosta that are between the tree and the house to the empty middle of the garden so we have a place to store his outside toys without crushing plants.
My mom and grandma stopped by yesterday and identified some of the mystery plants as different kinds of lilies, astilbe, and columbine. The beautiful (yet scraggly) flowering bush below the window is a flowering almond. From what I read today, they put up with a lot of pruning so I’ve started clipping it back to (hopefully) encourage it to fill in.
I finally got a chance to get back to work outside today. It’s been cold and rainy for most of the week and while I want to get the yard work caught up, I’m not that hardcore!
Today’s projects were to:
Trim the 4 spirea in front of our front entry
Deadhead all three areas of hydrangea since we’ve determined they’ll flower off old growth
Clean all off last year’s growth, leaves, and those dang maple saplings from the large 6′ by 20′ bed
Did I finish? Oh yes I did! I was able to sneak a little over two hours in while the boys napped. The spirea project was over quickly thanks to our electric hedge trimmer. I was able to pull out a lot of dead wood and cut them to a more uniform shape and size.
I quickly moved on to the hydrangeas. We have three areas of hydrangea, two flanking the mess where a spruce was cut down last spring and one really large plot along our back (western) fence. Cutting off dry flowers isn’t tough work so that was quickly finished.
I have been dreading working in the bed behind the garage since we moved in last summer. By the time we moved in, the bed was full of fast-growing weeds and unidentifiable plants. I pulled off last year’s flower stalks but the biggest issue, as with most of our yard, were these little suckers…
Little maple saplings! It seemed like thousands of them! Last year was a big year for errant maple growth because of the really heavy snow cover. With packing one house, cleaning and updating the other, growing a baby, and caring for a wild toddler, I didn’t have enough energy or time to pull them all by hand so they had a full season of growth in their roots.
Now to brag a little, the garden looks pretty awesome now!
Moving from the background to foreground we have lilies, a mix of irises and tulips, mystery plant (that will grow around 3 ft tall and flower purple? maroon? fuchsia?), three peonies, more irises, and mystery plant #2 along the back by the wall. I moved the cement stepping stone to this bed today too. At some point, my grandpa removed the gutters above this bed and the rain cascading out of open end of the gutter system was causing quite a bit of soil loss next to the path. We had a few extra pavers on the other side of the house that I could move over until I figure out a more permanent solution to last until we replace the leaky gutters.
What’s up next? This garden!
The window you can see through the branches of the tree is the window over my kitchen sink and this bed lays on the opposite side of the walkway from the bed I cleaned today. From left to right, we have stray maples, a rose bush, primroses, maples, the same mystery plant #2 as the other garden, a trillium, maples, tulips, maples, a few hosta, and some maples. The tree is a dogwood and the bush by the window is a…. mystery bush. It is about to flower what look to be small, pink blossoms so that’s exciting.
I want to add lavender and chives to this garden at some point and pave the area closest to the house with landscaping tiles to store the boys’ outdoor toys. I look at this garden a ton while washing dishes so I’m excited to get it looking as good as the other’s I’ve worked on.
I’ve been chipping away at the weeds and spring yard clean up during naps and after the boys go to bed off and on this week. I still have so much to do but the yard waste bin is full again!
I wrapped around the house to the northwest end behind Teddy’s bedroom (left window) and the full bathroom (right window). I need to pull out about a million tiny maple trees and other weeds. The majority of this bed is taken up by the biggest holly bush I’ve ever seen. There are a few hostas in the foreground of this photo and then there’s this mystery plant to the left of the holly…
So, any ideas? Is it something that should be growing in a garden or is it a freakishly large weed?
I am not a gardener by any stretch of the definition. My parents enjoy telling the story of how I grumpily told them as a teenager that I was going to live in an apartment high up in a skyscraper so I’d never have to pull weeds as an adult. I didn’t end up in that apartment, however, and my feelings toward yard work hasn’t changed. We are on our second suburban house with loads of planned and beautifully landscaped garden beds. In fact, it’s probably pretty safe to say that we have twice the square footage of garden space that needs to be maintained at this house than what we had at the old house. Cue the sad trumpet noise!
Because I haven’t spent much time in the yard since my forced labor as a kid, I can’t identify very many plants nor do I know much of how to take care of them. Join me this growing season as I explore the jungle that we bought! I’ll make some guess, use Google a ton, and ask people who know more than me and hopefully not kill off everything in the process. By recording my work here, I hope to have a long list of completed projects that I can be proud of by the time snow flies later this year.
I headed outside today to start attacking the mess that is the front landscaping. Our house was vacant for several months last spring and we didn’t move in until the heat of summer when I was already uncomfortably pregnant so much of the yard hasn’t been weeded for more than a year. My goals for this afternoon were to get as much cleaned up during Ben and Teddy’s afternoon naps as possible including:
Trim the last of the ornamental grass before the new growth takes over
Cut back the butterfly bush in the front yard
Trim whatever else comes back as new growth in the front bed
Pull out invasive grass and tiny maple trees still growing from last spring
How much did I get done, you ask?
This is what the corner of ornamental grass looked like when I started and…
…this is what it looked like when I was finished. I cut out last year’s growth, cleaned out the remaining dead leaves, and yanked out the surprise baby maples that were hiding under the leaves.
I don’t know what this plant is (do you?) but it grows from new growth every year so I needed to cut off all the dead stuff from last year.
This is how that area looks now that the plants are uncovered. I can’t wait to clean up the edges of the garden and put in mulch to keep the weeds from taking over!
This is our butterfly bush. It has gorgeous purple flowers when it blooms and caps off the western end of the garden bed. It is another plant that sends up new shoots every year so everything you see in the photo had to be cut back. This was intimidating to me because some of the branches were an inch thick!
Here she is in the lower left corner! I cut off all the sticks from last year, dug out a surprise maple tree hiding inside that had gotten to nearly 3′ tall (yikes!), and pulled out the chunks of wood that had started rotting and were soft.
I worked on the middle of the garden bed but didn’t make as much progress as I had hoped. The bed is supposed to be kidney bean shaped but the middle was choked with invading grass. Grass in the yard = good, grass in the garden = awful!
I got about half of the grass removed before I started running short on time and needed to move on. There wasn’t a whole lot to uncover under the dead grass except a few lily bulbs and what might be hostas. I’d love to widen the bed a tad through the middle and add a few more flowering plants that can handle full sun yet this year.
As a bonus, I dug out two more 2-3′ tall, self-seeded maple trees that were growing along the north side of the house and tested to see how much effort it would take to clean up the bed below our eastern bedroom windows. The answer, a lot of effort! Depending on how sore I am when I wake up tomorrow, I may have another post ready soon!
For our family, 2015 will be defined by not only the things we want to accomplish but also by things we aren’t doing. This is the first year in many that we do not expect to add to our family. This is the first time in 4 years that we are not saving for another house. It’s likely we won’t accomplish all of these but having them written down will give me the satisfaction of checking them off one by one!
Save to pay cash for a minivan
Save $3000 specifically for emergencies and repairs at the rental
Start a payment plan to repay my parents for their loan from when we bought this house
Strip wallpaper in kitchen, dining room, and hall and prep for painting
Remove chair rail in kitchen and dining room
Have kitchen, dining room, and hall painted in late February
We found out in mid January that I was pregnant with Teddy. After our experience with losing Baby Girl the previous fall, this was both exciting and terrifying. I was sick almost immediately after we found out and without the aid of meds, I probably wouldn’t have eaten anything for months. Thank God for modern medicine!
Brian and I went to the OB for the baby’s first ultrasound and saw the heartbeat!
We took off to Disney for Ben’s second trip, our 6th as a couple at the end of the month. It was a new experience for us to visit the parks with a toddler. One very notable event was Ben’s first haircut at the Main Street Barbershop in Magic Kingdom! They specialize in first haircuts and made it much less traumatizing for Ben (and for me) than I expected. It is definitely something we will plan on doing for all first haircuts to come!
We started the month by continuing our Florida trip by meeting up with His House in Fort Myers for spring break. Ben and I stayed with my Great Aunt and Uncle in nearby Cape Coral while Brian slept at the church as one of the adult leaders. I was still pretty sick every day so it was good to have a place to go home to instead of an air mattress on the floor.
Brian traveled for a work retreat to the Poconos with WebDev Studios while Ben and I held down the fort at home.
My grandma (Dad’s mom) decided to move into a retirement community and we decided to buy Grandma’s house for a rental. We had been talking for several years about buying investment property since we don’t have a traditional retirement plan. It was earlier than we had planned but, after a considerable amount of prayer and discussion, we started the purchasing process.
After several very busy work weeks, we hired Meg, a recently graduated His House student, to nanny for us once or twice a week. Ben fell in love with her and looked forward to her car pulling into the driveway every week.
We went to the big 20 week anatomy ultrasound and found out we were expecting a second boy!
Brian spent a long weekend in Miami for WordCamp Miami and we celebrated Brian’s 28th birthday and our 6th anniversary within a week. We were busy!
Over Memorial weekend we camped in Greenfield Village for their annual Civil War Remembrance Days reenactment. It was great to see our friends but definitely a challenge to camp with Ben! It was very cold at night and on the first night, he wouldn’t sleep unless he was in bed with us. After a few exhausting days, we decided that we wouldn’t be camping again for a while.
Instead of making the new house an investment property, we decided we would move our family into Grandma’s house and rent our Higgins house. I started praying we would close soon so I wouldn’t too huge to be helpful!
After several months of increased illness, we took our Oliver kitty to the vet only to find out that he had cancer and needed to be put down. He was my baby that I had gotten in 9th grade, Brian’s snuggle buddy, and Ben’s bestie. It was a hard transition for all of us.
That same week, we celebrated my 28th birthday.
We finally closed on the new house at the end of the month. Brian and I kicked off several weeks of painting and cleaning by spending the first night at the house and decided to paint the bedrooms, full bathroom, and family room prior to move in. It would be tight but we hired a woman from church to help.
Another HUGE transition was that Brian decided to leave his job at WebDev Studios that he had held for two years to spend more time on WPSessions and working for a friend. It was a scary choice to make but (looking back), it was definitely the right one.
Our family hosted the annual Vos family 4th of July brunch at our new yet empty house. The event was a little more relaxed than in previous years but everyone was fed and had a good time at the parade.
We spent two weeks painting (with Becky’s assistance) and cleaning the new house and accomplished most of our goals prior to our move in date on the 11th. It went as smoothly as moving could but I never want to move while pregnant again!
We spent another week cleaning the old house and our first round of renters moved in the 15th.
After such a busy and exhausting summer, we finally made our first trip to the beach on the 18th. Ben loved it!
Brian coordinated and planned WordCamp Grand Rapids for the 3rd year. It was a smaller event than years past but the speakers were great and everyone learned lots of new stuff. I’d call that a success!
Brian and I took one last trip to the Detroit area to visit friends and go to Ikea before Baby was to arrive. Our friends just had their first child the week before and I was eager to get my hands on a newborn! It seemed like so long until my due date!
We celebrated Ben’s 2nd birthday with a super low-key, Toy Story themed party with just the grandparents (and his aunts who live with my parents). Ben got the custom-built toy kitchen that he has played with daily since.
We waited and waited for Baby to arrive and hit the due date with still no sign of baby’s arrival. Every day was a struggle at that point!
Our tenants at Higgins informed us they bought a new house earlier than expected, which was good for them but too bad for us. We knew we could support the expenses of not having renters for a few months and made plans to hire a management company to find new tenants for us.
I, along with another WordPress developers wife, started an online chat group for developers’ wives so we can support each other through the specific kind of crazy that is living in a dev household. The support (and sometimes prayers) of these ladies has been highlight of the last few months.
My OB took pity on me and induced labor on the 2nd. Theodore John made his grand entrance into the world shortly after 1 AM on the 3rd.
Ben met Teddy and it was a wonderful thing to experience as a parent. Teddy was and has been very laid back since birth, which is such a blessing for a second baby.
Brian had two trips to San Francisco this fall, the first when Teddy was only 3 weeks old. I hadn’t taken the boys out on my own yet and was a little hesitant to try but we were just fine without Brian’s help. Brian had a blast volunteering at WordCamp San Francisco.
Brian was home just in time for Halloween. This was the first year Ben understood what was going on and after a few stops, figured out how truck or treating worked. He dressed up like Woody and Teddy, of course, had to be Buzz Lightyear.
November started with another trip to San Francisco for Brian for the inaugural Woo Commerce WooConf. Brian spoke on the last day of the conference and notes that it was incredibly well run for a first year event. Outside of conference hours, Brian was thrilled to stumble across the Musée Mecanique, a museum of mechanical wonders.
I scored a discount for Great Wolf Lodge and we took the family in mid-November for a two day trip. Ben was a little hesitant to swim on his own but loved to play in the toddler pool and float in a tube with Brian in the lazy river. Teddy was too little to swim at 6 weeks so we cuddled while I read a book. Ben figured out how to climb out of the pack n play the first night, signaling the end of an era of travel for us.
Brian was offered a part-time job by our friend Chris at Crowd Favorite doing what he loves (building cool websites and helping create new processes and workflows). It was a great opportunity for our family and Brian continues to enjoy the job after 6 weeks.
December has flown by and I’m not sure where it went!
Our beloved Meg and her Air Force husband moved to Hawaii at the beginning of the month so we’re back on our own again. We’ve settled into a good routine at home with the boys though. All four of us have fought colds this month but were healthy enough to enjoy Christmas together and with extended family. Teddy wasn’t too phased by presents but Ben has figured out ripping the paper and loves surprises. We heard “Oh man!” and “Wow!” many times on Christmas Day. Beyond the presents, we bought a children’s advent activity for Ben to teach him about baby Jesus’s birthday. He had a hard time following the rhymes in the book this year but understands who the major players in the nativity are. We are impressed with language and comprehension growth over the last few months and look forward to teaching him more new things (like shapes, colors, numbers, and letters) this coming year.
I hope to work on a post for our goals for the next year so expect that soon (but not very soon because I accidentally bathed my computer the week before Christmas and it’s now dead. RIP lappy.)
One of the things that has always bothered me most about our current house is the tiny galley kitchen. It is close to impossible for two people to comfortably work in there and as Ben has grown and wants to play wherever I am, it has become even more difficult to make dinner with a stethescope, two or three blocks, a ball, Mr. Potato Head’s hat, and a sippy cup underfoot. The kitchen at our new house is much bigger! There are at least twice as many cabinets and I am very excited to fill them. Here are a couple of panoramic photos to get you oriented.
Grandpa built all of the cabinets in the kitchen when they remodeled in the ’90s so compared to some areas of the house, this is quite modern! Everything is solid wood and in great shape so there are very few changes we have to make for the space to be safe and usable. Aesthetically though, the space is far from what my dream kitchen would be. I want to write up a list of the changes to each room as I post about them to help us keep our DIY aspirations in check with reality and for us to be able to look back upon some day and realize how far we’ve come. We’re considering two phases of renovation for the kitchen, one to update it to something closer to our ideal and then the dream kitchen several years down the road. We completely gutted the kitchen at our current house two and a half years ago and have been enjoying the upgrades we made ever since (built-in, double-layer silverware tray for the win!). My guess is that most of the phase 1 goals will be taken care of within the next 12 months and phase 2 won’t start for another 5-6 years. Over the next many years, we would like to:
Swap the stove and dishwasher for those at our current house
Welcome to our new house! Grandma decided to move out a few months ago and although Brian and I were planning on buying her house for an investment property, we were eventually won over to the idea of moving our family there and renting our current house instead.
The bank finally approved our loan on Wednesday afternoon and we closed yesterday (Friday) morning. The closing wasn’t without drama (the house title was held by a trust in my grandma’s and deceased grandpa’s names but apparently you can’t sell a dead trustee’s home, even with one surviving) and we weren’t entirely sure it was going to happen but it did. I’m so glad to be done!
It has a 2 stall garage attached the house via a breezeway, larger kitchen than our current house, small family room with gas log fireplace, built in bookshelves, and desk, one and a half bathrooms (the full bath has pink tile!), three bedrooms all bigger than our current house but with smaller closets, a slightly smaller living room at the front of the house, a rectangular (instead of square) dining area, a full basement with laundry, woodshop for Brian (he is thrilled to get to work), unfinished space that will eventually be Brians’s office, and ample storage space. The biggest draw was the HUGE mostly-fenced backyard that backs up to an elementary school’s playground and the lot’s location on a dead-end street.
We have loads of plans for the interior and exterior that will take years for us to DIY. We’ll be making mostly cosmetic changes within the next few weeks and doing lots of cleaning while saving for a big kitchen gut-and-rebuild and completely remodeling the full bathroom as well. I’m hoping to take some before photos soon so we can track our progress as time goes on.
Brian and I spent the night at the house last night, in the tradition of our family. We spent the evening collecting papers from drawers, emptying closets and cabinets, throwing away wire hangers, exploring the garage, pulling down and washing window obscuring curtains (YAY!), and counting lightbulbs. You may think the lightbulb thing is a little strange but there was at least half of all lightbulbs missing from every fixture in the house. The full bathroom was the worst with only one 40 watt bulb in a 4 60-100 watt fixture! Apparently my grandparents were so frugal that they didn’t want to spent any extra money being able to see at night. We’ve hired someone from church to help Brian paint the bedrooms, full bathroom, and family room (ladders aren’t so much my thing right now) so we can move in sooner. We’re also hiring one of our college students to help clean so that process can move along swiftly. My parents are moving the furniture they had stored in the house tomorrow and I’m hoping I can spend a nap time or two there this coming week cleaning and polishing the hardwood floors.
Ben came down with a fever yesterday and has been droopy and sad but doesn’t really show any other symptoms. We’re keeping him drugged so his fever doesn’t spike too high (it’s been 103 unmedicated) and you can hardly tell that he isn’t feeling normal other than his tendency to sit in laps and snuggle for longer than 10 seconds at a time. It looks like we won’t be going to church this weekend since we can’t expose other kids to whatever this is (teething? odd virus? cold?) so maybe we’ll get to go hiking or do another family activity (Like vacuuming the new house! That’s fun, right?!)