Saturday, July 30, 2011

Slightly Selfish Saturday.

We could be joining our friends at the beach today.

And perhaps on a steamy summer Saturday, we should be. We are at the peak of summer and it won't be long before we hit the back-to-school routine and then the air turns cooler and the beach becomes something to look forward to next summer.

But today I'm choosing to putz around the house and take care of a few nagging things before I hit the road tomorrow to go see my hubs.

By myself.

That's right. Flying solo. A 10(ish)-hour road trip when I can listen to whatever I want, at whatever volume I want, on the radio. I can take as many or as few pit stops as I want to. No bickering. No nagging about how much longer it will take. No piling favorite pillows and blankets and stuffed animals and books and backpacks full of god knows what into the back seat of the truck because we just have to have access to everything while we're on the road.

Wednesday is my birthday and I can't imagine a better gift from my family than them taking care of Sam and Rachel and the house and the animals and my gardens so I can take a vacation. Oh, I love my children and my life but this mama needs a break from all of it. Not just a break for me, but a chance for me and Steve to focus some attention on each other.

I'm pretty amped up about the opportunity to do whatever I want to do for ... oh, I don't know ... a week at least. It doesn't take much to make me happy: uninterrupted reading, uninterrupted napping, good chocolate that I don't have to hide from the littles, window shopping for fun/creative ideas without hearing "Can we get that? Can we get that?" a hundred times. And, of course, alone time with Steve. Maybe even a special birthday dinner. Other than those things, I have few expectations for the week.

Looking ahead I know the last few weeks of summer will fly by when I get back. We have a contractor coming to pour some concrete for us the week I return, I'll want to take the kids back out to see Steve at least once more before school starts, and they both have activities we need to plan for toward the end of the month.

*Whoosh* There goes August.

So today I'm just chillin'. Folding a load of laundry here ... sorting a stack of papers there. Little things that will make it easier to not feel the urgency to hurry up and get things done before the next round of busy-ness begins.

I was feeling a little selfish this morning because we had the opportunity to do something fun and I chose to stay home and do something decidedly not so fun. The kids are SO BORED(!!!) they can hardly see straight. I'm pretty sure they'll live, though. And in the end everyone will be happy ... because mama will be happy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Feels like Fern Gully.

The owners of one of the properties adjoining ours have been doing some logging. Which is fine. They haven't been waking me up early or anything, and certainly haven't disturbed our property at all. But with it being so wooded behind our house we can't really see what they're doing, only hear it, so while I don't know how close they really are to the property line at times it sounds like they're about to drop a tree right on my back steps.

If I start seeing the tops of my trees rustling or find red X's on any of 'em we'll have to revisit things.

Amid the constant hum of saws and logging trucks, everything is growing like it's a rain forest - hot and humid - around here. My veggie gardens are going like gangbusters. Rachel has harvested a couple handfuls of green beans and I've got all kinds of tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers comin' on. This is the summer of my Raised Bed Experiment and I've already determined it a success. No tilling, minimal weeding (almost too little to even mention), and lots of enjoyment.

Plus, every raised bed I put in the front yard is that much less grass to mow. Win-win.

This morning has been overcast and cool - a welcome change! So I have the air conditioner turned off and the windows of the house open. I'm going to take advantage of the cooler day to get some work done without sweating like a ... well, more than any woman should.

Enjoy your day!

Monday, July 25, 2011

West Virginia wildlife.

Dude. It's been hot out there.

While we were away visiting daddy, I'm told the weather here in Michigan was about the same as what we were experiencing in West BY GOD Virginia.

I like to say "West BY GOD Virginia" because folks out there (or is it down there? A little bit of both, I guess.) are proud of their home state. As they should be. It is Almost Heaven, after all. (Thank you, John Denver.) But the state's official slogan is West Virginia, Wild & Wonderful, and it is indeed wild and wonderful.

If you ever have occasion to be in French Creek, WV, which is near Rock Cave in Upshur County (Google it), we highly recommend visiting the West Virginia State Wildlife Center. It's a pretty neat place where you can learn about and observe many native and introduced species of wildlife including a mountain lion, a wolf, red foxes, owls and other birds of prey including a bald eagle, white-tail deer, snakes, otters, black bear, elk, bison and more.

Now, a lot of these animals we see on a regular basis in Michigan so it might not sound like that much fun, but I assure you my 9- and 12-yr-old children really enjoyed themselves and so did I. Despite it being 110 degrees.

OK, maybe not 110, but at least 95 degrees. For reals.

And do you think the air was moving much in this forest?

I can tell you: no, it wasn't.

There is a 1.25-mile interpretive trail along which the animals are kept in large pens in a natural environment. Well, as natural as it is to have chain link fences around their homes, but you get the idea.

It was quite beautiful. As you can imagine, bigger animals with the potential to be ferocious - like the mountain lion and black bears - required bigger fences.

I think Sam was drooling over this buck.

Bull elk and his family taking a snooze in the shade.

  We were the only people in this area of the trail and when the bald eagle saw us it screeched a few times as if to alert the other animals we were approaching.

Or maybe he thought we were bringing him lunch. I dunno. But we were relatively close to him and at one point he stretched one of his wings waaaay out which was the coolest. thing. ever.

 This sign just cracked me up.

The bobcat, stretching after Sam tapped the fence to wake him up waking from what I'm sure was a wonderful dream about chasing a snowshoe hare.
(You can see him better if you click on the picture to enlarge it.)

No worries, he went right back to sleep.

 The obligatory "we were here" picture. Hee.

 The barred owl, one of my favorites of the animals on display.

Really, none of our pictures do this place justice, but they will serve as reminders of a fun afternoon together. And believe me, days when Sam and Rachel agree on anything and actually get excited about the same thing are few and far between, so when it happens like it did this day I soak it up.

The End.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Back from vacation and up with the sun.

I am not a morning person. Never have been, despite over the years really wanting to be and trying various ways of making myself become one. Over time, though, I find myself stumbling out of bed earlier and earlier as my brain wakes up and convinces my body the early hours of the day are a great time to get things done.

Still, particularly after this past week, I gotta' give my sweetheart some props for the crazy hours he keeps for his job, waking up to his alarm clock while most of the rest of the world (including me) is still snuggled comfortably in bed.

The kids and I just returned from eight days in West Virginia visiting Steve – a week-plus of some of the most relaxing days I've had in a long time. And that's saying something, because life is pretty much a breeze for me these days. I think it had a lot to do with how Sam and Rachel were getting along. They have a few things in common: they love to fish, they love to swim, and they love spending time with their dad, and they could do all of those things over the past several days at the campground where we were staying.

I did get up in the wee hours with Steve a few times. I'd pour myself a cup of coffee and don my hooded sweatshirt over my PJ's to join him outside and say good morning to the crew. Once they left I'd tiptoe back into our camper and crawl back into bed for … oh … another three or four hours ... or if the coffee had kicked in a little I would sit and chat with my dear friend, another pipeliner's wife. And then go back to bed for a while.

One morning after the guys left I strolled over to the edge of the fishing pond and just stood there alone in the pre-dawn glow, watching dragonflies break the surface of the water, feeling the hazy morning air on my skin, smelling the hot coffee in my mug, and listening …


A bullfrog. “Barrrrrrrrrup. Barrrrrrrrrup.”

Birds chirping their good mornings.

A fish jumping.

Daisy the camp duck squeaking quietly at me, nibbling at my toes.

But mostly, silence.

It was heavenly. Today is our first morning back at home and I'm already missing the peacefulness of where we were. Oh, it's peaceful here at home, too, but it's … different. It's just not the same as being removed from all the “busy-ness” of life and having nothing to do but relax and enjoy.

I can't wait to go back.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tic & Tac.

We have a couple new members of the family. Tic and Tac are Rachel's new goldfish. She purchased them and their various accessories - goldfish food, gravel and a castle for the fish bowl - all by herself to keep them in her bedroom.

I am allowing this as motivation for her to keep her bedroom clean. *fingers crossed*

So now, for the past 48 hours, I have been hearing about everything Tic and Tac are doing. Or not doing. Or Girl Child is wondering aloud what they should be doing. Is it time to feed them again?

She looked on-line to try to figure out whether they are male or female. I suggested she just assume she has one of each and go with that.

Tic & Tac were named such because, along with the fish, Rachel also bought ... wait for it ... orange Tic Tacs.

Yes. They are named after the 1 1/2 calorie breath mint.

Clever, she is.

And really, they're not much bigger than Tic Tacs at this point. I hope the fish (fishes?) last a lot longer than Tic Tacs usually do around here.

Our last goldfish? Was eaten by one of the cats while we were away on vacation. Rachel is taking appropriate measures to assure her fish ... or fishes ... do not meet the same fate.

Here's hoping.

Photo credit

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Garden love.

Hello! Happy Post-Holiday Hump Day!

Not a lot of news to report here from the Pipe Lifers. No major life events, no major changes. Which is kind of nice. We're rollin' along, just enjoying the summer. The weather's been beautiful here lately and we have no commitments. I'm totally diggin' it.

In fact, as I write I'm sitting outside on the deck listening to the birds, enjoying the late-afternoon shade and cool breeze, and sipping a Diet Dr. Pepper.

Life just doesn't get much better than this.

We had a wonderful holiday weekend with Steve home. Lots of time with family and friends, including a trip up north to my uncle's house on a gorgeous, crystal-clear lake where we chilled all day, ate massive amounts of food (well, some of us did), watched the kids young and old jump off the end of the dock, and caught up with the extended family we don't see often enough. And who can forget one of the big highlights of the day: homemade ice cream. One helping just isn't enough.

The remainder of the weekend we hung out at home, washing laundry and doing yard work like "normal" families do. Heh. Then we celebrated Independence Day with more food, more good times, and a few fireworks at our annual neighborhood 4th of July party. Steve made the drive back to WV on Tuesday and is back to work today.

It was a longer weekend than he usually gets to be here, but it's never long enough.

Me? I'm doing lots of gardening. If there's no weeding or watering to be done I'm plotting the next perennial garden, checking my vegetable plants for buds, or just sitting and taking it all in.

I walk around the yard probably once a day just to see how things have changed. Mostly it looks pretty good (if I do say so myself) but I do have a few plants that are looking pretty run-down; I'm not sure if they've had too much or too little water or there's something else wrong, but I'm going to give them just a little more time. I think one of the coolest things about gardening - next to having a beautiful one - is bringing something back from the brink of death.

Here's a look at some of what I've got going on ...

Two raised beds for veggies. The front one (where Rachel is showing off her cabbage plant) has been growing for a few weeks. The other one I just finished putting together over the weekend.

 Grape tomatoes! We also have Lemon Boy, Yellow Pear, Romas, and Better Boy varieties planted.

 Cucumber plants flowering. We're also growing green peppers, zucchini, jalapenos, Brussels sprouts, green beans and a few herbs.

 Bellflowers thriving in the mostly shaded area next to the storage shed. I love these!

My Fuschia plant is about to burst! The last few years I've been hanging a Fuschia on one side of a double shepherd's hook and my hummingbird feeder on the other side. The hummingbirds love it and they're very entertaining to watch.

Potted zinnias on the patio table ... my little oasis.

I'll post more pictures of my perennials another day. Right now they're getting a shower, so they're not looking their best.

I've got a lot going on in the yard and I'm really enjoying keeping up with it. The added bonus is it keeps me occupied while Steve is gone.

So the kids might be saying "I'm boooooored" a hundred times a day, but you won't hear it from me.