Sunday, November 29, 2009

Making Backyards Fun!

Well, today marks the beginning of Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year in the Catholic Church and what better way to start both than to prepare our minds and hearts on the coming of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh?

In other news {that ties into my original thought}, last week Neil finally pulled the trigger on constructing a new playscape for the kids. After much deliberation on buying vs. building and using a plan vs. free form construction, Christmas gifts for the kids or the playscape *as* their gift, we finally put things in motion. Initially, I had thought that I would wait until our project was complete to blog on it, but after today's readings I realized how valuable patience is, and because the reality is the finishing touches may not be added until a few weeks from now, I thought it would be best to journal on what *has* gotten done.

I can't overlook the courage it takes to commit to a non-conformist approach to construction - namely, Neil's pursuit in building the playscape on a wing and a prayer, a vision and a brain that has yet to fail, lol. He placed the order for the lumber last Tuesday and it was delivered early Wednesday morning. I left to visit with a friend and help her out and in the short time I was there and to the grocery store for last minute Thanksgiving items {total time, two hours and *some* change}, Neil had already taken down ::destroyed:: the old playscape and had part of the frame up and was temp nailing the posts for the fort.**

{day one}

Not bad, huh?

He finished out the base frame and the frame for the fort decking. Thursday morning we went to church, came home to start cooking our feast and Neil got an hour {tops} to work on his project and got all the decking down {that's code for the floor to the fort}. Friday, he started out on his own but after an hour or so, asked me to help. I think I helped him move faster because I was there to grab the right tools and hardware and offer my advice on angled cuts and whatnot, not that I was actually doing any of the work. A lot was accomplished on Friday, and Saturday was spent scratching our heads trying to figure out how best to work with uneven ground and the swing beams and which hardware to use and finish up the trim pieces for the balusters and part of the rock wall was finished before we ran out of material {the downside to the conformist visionary plan is that you might not have everything you need!}. We worked ourselves tirelessly and thank goodness God gave us some rain today because we would likely be out there working on it!

{day 2.5 - not counting the less than one hour time put in on turkey day!}

I can't recall the last time I had so much fun - not a single argument between us over creative differences and trust me, the work we would have done today would have been sheer fun!

So, yesterday we finished up part of the swing beam by putting holes in it and prepping it for the monkey bars that Neil will manually cut and paint himself. We will need to order a second swing beam, but the project, minus the little embellishments we are looking forward to putting on will come in the following weeks, such as a dinner bell, a pirate wheel, a telephone, a mailbox, grips for the rock wall, handles, a chalkboard and dry erase wall in the little house that will be built below the deck. We are only limited by our imagination at this point - well, and the wallet - it's starting to scream for mercy. ;)

{an intimate look at the swing beam and the holes}

**I do want to qualify that Neil *does* have 12 years in the construction industry...and while it's in sales, he is familiar with what it takes to construct decks and fences and used that knowledge to come up with a rough draft for the playscape. Should you need him for your fencing needs, contact him via Austex Fence and Deck. :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Drew!

{He's TWO!}

For those of you who have been following our family blog for almost two years, you may be familiar with the story of how this blog first came into existence. For those of you who have joined more recently, there is an interesting story of how Drew became part of our family and an even *more* interesting story of his grand entrance into this world. If you love to read, lol, and are interested in either story, I invite you to click here and here to find out how truly special this little guy is to our family, and how one of our family members apparently has a direct line to God and put in a request for a little brother.

Our tiny guy turned two today and though we didn't do anything too spectacular to celebrate, we made sure that the things we did were done Texas big. :) So, I'll take you through the pictures - grab some popcorn - this is a picture heavy post, ladies and gentlemen.
{first thing in the morning, it's important to sort out all of sister's doodads and whozits - no dinglehoppers in this setup}


A birthday starts with a typical "photo shoot" from good old retired photo momma.

{you know...he never *did* go down the slide - I wonder what he was thinking, though...}
{woah buddy...don't fall into the camera!}
{our birthday tradition - you know, b/c Drew only has one year under his belt so far! - is to pick up some balloons to coordinate with the theme - this year was Spiderman!}
{the birthday boy with Dad and Momma}
{Paige *WILL* have her picture taken with Drew, whether he likes it or not is utterly beside the point, lol}
{ok, Cowboy fans - check out the arm - some might say 'that's how it's done!'}

{opening gifts - this one happens to be a mini-Ugly Doll called Big Toe: note how Drew is completely un-phased by Dad using the camera, while Ashley and I both record video}
{Neil tries out his camera skeelz}
{the cake - I am a Jack of all trades, don'tcha know? In this case I am not a master of this particular skill - I won't go into any great detail about how I bought tips to properly dispense the frosting only to find out NONE of them work. Nope, I won't talk about that...}
{look at that angelic smile! couldn't you just eat those cheeks??}
{this is a unique card we found that actually sang Happy Birthday Andrew - he played it over and over and over and...well, you get the idea!}

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

In a very interesting discussion on FB today {that I started, btw - which I am prone to doing lately}, we talked about what it means to be "green". I was pleased with a lot of my friends' responses because being "green" seems to be a very heavily pushed concept right now. It's not uncommon to hear people use the newest buzz word "carbon footprint" either. And while we all agreed that as Catholics we are called to be good stewards for the gifts that God gives us, which includes our beautiful earth, we are not necessarily bad for not buying into the current trend that only certain criteria makes one "green". The biggest topic at hand? The size of ones' family and the mindset that goes along with super spenders vs. frugal families. True, larger families may be exhaling more CO2, lol, but those families are typically the ones stretching a dollar, using, reusing and consuming only what they need, etc. What it boils down to imo {in my opinion}, is that being "green" is not a concept based on family size. Families with one child or 10+ children all have the same obligation to take care of what God has given us.

And so, I give you a couple of photos I took today of a seedling project that Paige brought home from preschool a few weeks ago. These are not the typical lima bean seeds, but pumpkin seeds - and I thought they tied in nicely with the point I wanted to share about reusing. At this point, I'm not sure what to do with our fast-growing pumpkin plant. I'm welcome to your suggestions, though. :)



Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween and UT football - what a great weekend!

What fun would a holiday weekend be if there wasn't a mile-long post to show for it?? Instead of a lengthy paragraph followed by pics, I'll just post the pics and include all the fun details in the captions. :)

{Dad wraps up the mummy - this project was a lot of fun and a lot of headache, all wrapped into one!}
{how to make: tear strips of muslin fabric, longwise, soak in strong tea for aged effect, throw into dryer to get the scrappy torn edges look, and safety pin to a sweat suit...and voila!}
{Kat and I decided to go as nurses - rather, I think the costume and
the lack of time contributed to it picking us instead. ;)}
{Cynthia and Anthony just before we left for trick-or-treating}
{Erica, who always has the perfect smile and pose for me!}
{the family; the dark fairy, the angel, the kangaroo and the mummy - with Dad, the P90X spokesperson}
{my turn!!}
{gettin' ready to go trick or treatin'}
{Chris as a hippie type dude along with Paige and Sophie}
{Paige, the beautiful angel}
{Kat and her family}
{I didn't say it was a perfect family ;)}
{Me and Mr. Alien aka Jesse givin' props to our alma mater, UT}
{the Doyle clan}
{The college crew minus a few and plus two}
{Ashley and Madeleine}
{the chaos begins!}
{Mr. Alien tries to scare Paige and Jonathan - think he succeeded? Me either. ;)}
{This house was almost Drew's new home - he grabbed some
candy and headed inside the house where he made himself at home!}
{Daddy and our little kanga}
{Miss Ella and Alice}
{You can't even begin to appreciate how many people were on this street! There were seriously like 50-70 people just within a few houses. One house pulled their love seat out and had the UT game on while they gave out candy. My kind of house!!}
{Erica's cupcake}
{Jesse, the AWOL from all our other college get togethers and without the mask! It's like a Big Foot sighting!!}
{the donut eating contest begins. Uncle Chris explains the rules - NO USING YOUR HANDS!}
{the donuts were suspiciously hung too close together which made it fun and messy to eat a donut}
{Jonathan takes to it like an old pro!}
{Erica cheers Paige on - YOU CAN DO IT! she says - or maybe she's saying BRING IT?!}
{I'm still finding donut everywhere, lol}
{the little ones want to participate but following rules is not part of their game. ;)}
{Mia strategizes while Grace just dives for it!}
{she makes her move!}
{still perfecting her strategy...}
{um, yeah...this donut never stood a chance with this one...rules? RULES? we don't need no stinkin' rules!!}
{now for the adults!}
{this is where I broke my would appear}
{Chris was the winner of the donut eating contest}
{Cynthia goes for second place...I think}
{uh...yeah, still going for second place here...}
{Mia and Paige, lil cousins}
{oh...he *says* he doesn't like his girl cousins...}
{...but I *never* have any problems getting him to pose with Sophie - or be nice to Sophie, or play with Sophie, or hug and kiss Sophie all through Mass...just sayin'...he loves his cousins, especially Sophie, lol.}
{Paige and Sophie give me their scariest faces...I don't know...what do *you* think?}