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!
The other title I was considering for this post was “Teddy noms on a banana and then throws up” but it was a bit too long for my taste.
We gave Teddy his first solid food tonight: half of a banana. Yes, we gave it to him in one piece. Our favorite way to teach a baby how to eat solid food is called Baby Led Weaning where you skip spoon-feeding your infant pureed food by providing age and skill appropriate whole foods. This teaches the baby how to hold, “chew,” pinch, swallow, and experience food at their own pace with the goal (at least in our house) of creating a healthy relationship with food from the get-go.
It was about this point that Teddy gagged when he realized he had something that wasn’t completely liquid in his mouth and spat up his banana and some of the milk he had drank just before dinner. We’re not worried about that; it would be more worrisome if his body didn’t instinctively try to move the food away from his airway. Gagging didn’t stop Teddy from enjoying the taste of banana for the rest of dinner, though!
Teddy is getting big! He’s just as round and jolly as he ever has been and is aware enough to interact with the rest of the family, including the newly discovered kitties!
In spite of all the tummy time he’s had this month, Teddy STILL refuses to roll over. By the way he twists around when he’s on his back, it looks like he might roll back-to-front before front-to-back. We’re still working on it and tummy time is a highlight of Ben’s day, even if Teddy isn’t too thrilled. Teddy’s hand-eye coordination has improved tremendously and he can usually get whatever it is that he is holding into his mouth without missing. Just last week he started trying to snatch food away from me so he’ll be starting solids super soon. We’re going to try modified baby led weaning with him like we did with Ben and adjust as necessary for his skills and interests. First foods will be banana and avocado!
Teddy’s 6 month appointment isn’t until nearly the end of the month but I’m fairly certain his growth has slowed down quite a bit. He still wears a lot of 3 month pants since his legs are so short and has plenty of room in 3/6 month and 6 month onesies. Size 2 diapers are getting tight because his little chunk legs so we’ll be moving on up to 3s very soon. In addition to not growing as fast, Teddy has slowly started to sleep longer and better at night (mommy is thankful).
The last month has flown by for all of us. We wrapped up our Florida trip with a (cold) beach day in Bradenton and drove home over Saturday and Sunday. Teddy did much better on the way home than he did on the way to Florida. We got in a good rhythm during the road trip of drive time with a movie, lunch for everyone at a restaurant with a play area, diaper changes, “quiet time” in the van with only music playing (both boys always slept well without a movie), afternoon break for Teddy’s sake, and perhaps another movie before dinner. Ben thoroughly enjoyed his long-promised pj day on our first full day home.
We got home to our freshly painted dining room and kitchen and seeing how clean it looked was worth every second of extra preparation before leaving! We installed new light fixtures, light switches, vent covers, and outlets and framed and hung new art. Little by little, we’re starting to feel more at home.
Last week, Brian and I flew to San Diego with Teddy to attend WordCamp San Diego. Teddy did marginally well on the flight there. We were in the air when he thought he should be going to bed, which didn’t go over too well with him. He cried for almost an hour on the plane and fussed in the car almost all the way to our friends’ house but that was far from the worst case scenario.
The WordCamp itself was really well run and the speakers I got a chance to hear were knowledgable and interesting to listen to. Teddy behaved angelically for both days of the event. Many attendees remarked that they didn’t hear him make any noise at all! He happily played in my lap and slept in the sling when he was tired. Teddy surprised us by adjusting to the three hour time difference pretty quickly and not waking up at 4 AM a single time all week!
We had a chance to see Disneyland for a few hours one day and now we know that we’ll be headed back to southern California as a family. The best description of Disneyland as a frequent Disney World guest is that it’s like visiting somewhere in a dream that you’ve been in real life; it has a lot of the same parts but nothing is where you expect it to be. One thing that California Adventure has that Disney World does not is Cars Land, which is probably the most immersive and detailed area of a Disney property that I’ve ever seen. Radiator Springs Racers, the star attraction in Cars Land, was incredibly well made. I could have ridden it all day!
We don’t have any more family travel plans on the calendar until June (except a short trip for Brian to Vegas in early May) so we’re going to soak in all the at-home fun we can! The weather is warming up and flowers are starting to poke out of the gray landscaping so we’ll be taking long walks and playing hide and seek in the backyard before we know it.
We’ve been traveling for almost two weeks now and I’ve been asked almost every day if Teddy is as happy as he seems. Yes, he really is. He smiles and loves to cuddle, is super ticklish, and can’t get enough of his people, especially Ben. The only things that really set him off and make him mad are being left alone, waking up from a nap while still in his car seat, and not being properly tucked into bed promptly at 7 pm (driving in the car at bed time is all sorts of nope for this kid). He hasn’t made road tripping easy but if we don’t start now, he’ll never learn anything else.
He’s been slowing changing his sleep habits again to sleeping most of the night until 4 or 5 for a one-sided feeding and the other side around 7. I’m so thankful for longer stretches of sleep again! I’ve been going to bed crazy early this week since both boys are struggling with sharing a room with the whole family and am just barely getting enough sleep. Teddy has just started noticing that we eat by bringing food to our mouths but isn’t too interested in what it is we eat yet.
Teddy is very even tempered. Brian and I decided this weekend that if he had a spirit animal, it would be a manatee: Slow, round, just hanging out and in no hurry to get anywhere. He still hasn’t rolled over so we’re going to be focusing on that a lot more in the next few weeks. I’m sure he could but he has no motivation. He does love to play though. Mr T has gotten so much better at grabbing things in the past month that he now has favorite toys for play time. He likes the Taggies triangle most of all but a close second is a small bumble bee with crinkly wings.
He tolerates car rides but Teddy really enjoys the stroller and being worn in the Ergo. He spent a lot of nap time snoozing in the Ergo at Disney last week. He’s so much snugglier than Ben was (and is) that being worn is enjoyable for him instead of torture.
T Dawg is wearing size 2 diapers and some 3 month separates but I’ll be pulling out all the 3/6 and 6 month clothes after our road trip. Some of his 6 month sleepers are starting to get small already! His hair has really started to grow quickly too and has filled in the bald spots on the sides of his head and the back spot is shrinking a little. It’s super soft and a pale red color. We aren’t sure what kind of red it will be yet (mine was very orange as a kid but darkened with age) but the color is definitely there. I’m so glad we have at least one red head!
One of our favorite ways to travel for the last few years has been “workcationing” in vacation rental houses. We love the space that a full house or apartment offers, especially if it means that our now two year old can have his own room and we have reliable internet for Brian’s evening work hours. While a rental house can mean lots of good things for our family for the time we’re there, we’ve learned that there are some essential things we can bring from home that make our stay even more comfortable!
Dish soap and sponges: There is no guarantee that a rental house will provide anything to wash the dishes you dirty so I like to travel prepared with a small bottle of dish soap and a pack of sponges (both from the dollar store). I don’t feel bad throwing them away when the trip is over if I haven’t spent much money on them and not having to wash or transport a dirty wash cloth is great!
Paper towel: I don’t use much paper towel at home but we use it constantly when we’re traveling. Cleaning up kid messes, cooking messes, covering reheated food in the microwave.. the uses are many!
Tin foil: Similar to my love of paper towel, tin foil can be used to cover food in the fridge, reheat in the oven, cover gross pans while cooking, entertain a toddler, and more!
Inexpensive kids dishes: I don’t know about your kids but my 2 year old has not mastered the use of an open cup and regularly drops dishes on the floor, certain to break if they don’t belong to us (of course!). To make sure we had the basics along, I bought a Take N Toss multipack from Amazon prior to our Florida road trip. The cups aren’t as leak-proof as the sippy cups we use at home but they’re recyclable if we can’t (or don’t want to) wash them and Ben is much more comfortable with something to call his own.
Roll of toilet paper: Have you ever been on a trip and discovered that the toilet paper at your temporary residence is so thin that it’s nearly transparent? Or, in some cases, toilet paper isn’t even in the house?! I prevent those issues by bringing a roll of the good stuff from home to give us time to run to the store if necessary.
Pop-up hampers: This was a new idea for our current trip and I already L-O-V-E having hampers with us. I bought two small pop up hampers from Dollar Tree and keep one in the master bedroom and one where we get the boys ready for bed at night. Having dirty clothes flung here and there drives me crazy and having something to tote the clothes around in makes doing laundry so much easier.
Powdered laundry detergent: We use powdered detergent at home too but it’s especially nice for travel because you don’t need to think about it exploding in your luggage, it can travel through airport security if you fly, and my favorite variety, Charlie’s Soap, takes only 1 tablespoon per load and I can fit 10 loads worth in a pint size jar!
Basic childproofing gear: Ben is, shall we say, so mischievous and curious that he often endangers his own safety while exploring. Also, he can open doors and will get himself up in the morning without telling us. To make sure we could all sleep soundly, we brought a few spare doorknob covers from home, his bed rail, and a locking baby gate. I can’t say that bringing a gate or railing would work well on an airplane but for road trips, it’s easy to pack them flat under the other luggage in the car.
How about you? Do you take advantage of vacation rentals when you travel? What is the first thing in your bag when packing for your stay?
Teddy is a chunky, happy boy who smiles at everyone. We’re feeling pretty established and content as a family of four and I only feel overwhelmed half the time that I have both of the boys by myself. Ben and Teddy are great but no two days are alike, which makes for a lot of guessing on my part. Thankfully, Ben’s molars are all in (YAAAAAY) so I don’t have that to contend with anymore.
We’ve completely failed at continuing to attempt bottles with Teddy so we may have missed our window of opportunity. It’s just too darn convenient for me to feed him directly from the source instead of having to pump/store/thaw/heat/feed/wash. This mama doesn’t have no time for that and honestly, the only reason we’d want to give him a bottle is for our upcoming trip to Florida. I’m not going to let the only occasion to use a bottle stress me out.
Teddy doesn’t see the pediatrician until the middle of the month but I’m already praying the shots go better this time around than at his 2 month appointment. Seeing him so upset and feel so crappy is hard when there’s so little I can do for him. As far as his current weight goes, I’m certain that he’ll far surpass Ben’s weight at 4 months (14 lb 3 oz) since when I weighed him a few weeks ago he was already at 14 lb.
Teddy is DEFINITELY heavier than Ben! He weight 15 lb 1 oz at his 4 month checkup. What surprised me, though, was that he is about an inch shorter than Ben (24.5″ instead of 25.5″). The result is a rolly polly, chunk of a baby! He has so many folds, rolls, and dimples and we love it! His head was 17″ (84th %) which is really close to Ben. I guess Teddy will be wearing toddler size hats on our trip to Florida!
We’re following the 90 Minute Baby Sleep Program for Teddy, just as we did for Ben, and it seems to be working just as well the second time around! Mr. T takes 3 naps every day, the first 90 minutes after he gets up in the morning (around 9:30-10ish), the second after lunch at the same time Ben naps (hooray for concurrent napping!), and the third around 4-4:30. Both boys go down for bed between 7 and 7:30 and Mommy can then collapse into a puddle on the couch. Teddy hit the 4 month sleep regression pretty hard in the last week and there are some nights where he starts waking me up hourly starting at 2 AM. Those are some long nights! I swaddled him and then put his small, swaddled self into a sleep sack last night and that was the best sleep I’ve gotten in ages. Maybe because he was warmer? Maybe because he couldn’t break out of the swaddle (which he totally needs, I’ve tried to go without)? Either way, I like being able to sleep from 11-5!
Teddy hasn’t rolled over or really shown much interest yet. I try to give him as much time on his tummy as possible but so far there really hasn’t been much sideways movement. He loves to play with toys in his bouncy seat more than the play gym on the floor. He especially loves being tickled, talk to, read to (another reader in the house!), playing pat-a-cake with his feet, being worn in one of the various carriers, and being involved in whatever new game Ben has dreamed up. He recently has started tracking us with his eyes as we walk around the house and looks around wildly if he can hear one of us but not see us.
Brian was gone for 6 days at Pressnomics at the end of January so I had both boys by myself and, as a bonus, a stomach bug! We were able to work it out that my parents picked up Ben for the day and the sister who we’ve hired to nanny for us weekly came over and hung out with Teddy at the house. Neither of the boys caught whatever I had though, which is wonderful. We have our annual Florida trip coming up in a few weeks so I need to get into high gear and pull out warm weather clothes, shoes, swim suits, toys, sunblock, etc for all of us. We’re also stripping the wallpaper out of our kitchen, dining room, and hall so the painter can come in while we’re gone and get the walls done without a 2 year old’s “help.” We’re going to be busy!