Québec City: A Photo Journal

We slipped away to Quebec City to celebrate our anniversary. I think of Canada and Canadians as cousins and neighbors, so I was surprised with how completely French Quebec is. Everything felt very foreign and we, very lost. But what’s the fun of travel and adventures if you don’t feel a little lost and foreign every now and then?

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We’re learning that however long a road trip should take, it will most certainly take longer with a toddler. Sometimes you have to pull the car over and let wild things be wild. After a good long run through the grass and a proper sward fight with sticks, our wild one was ready to complete his first trip in another country.

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We arrived in the evening and spent an hour getting the room set up for Roman to sleep in a new place without burning anything down ;] I sat in the living room watching Darren on the baby monitor lying on the floor on a mattress with Roman tucked into him falling asleep. It had been a long day driving 10 hours from home. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, having spent our anniversary with a rowdy toddler in the backseat screaming off and on the entire trip.

And then I watched my husband being the amazing father that he is; watched him snuggle our son close in his arms until he felt safe enough to fall asleep in a new place. And I realized that this is what marriage and parenting are all about—about road trips made longer and louder by little ones but more magical and memorable because of them too. About learning to love each other and find ways to celebrate and seek adventure even when it might be easier to just stay home. I lucked out on the boys in my life, no doubt about it.

I’m usually well prepared for our trips but Quebec surprised me at every turn.  It was cold, much colder than I ever imagined a place could be in July. I wore my one long-sleeved shirt every day and drank hot coffee as much for the comfort of drinking it as having the hot cup to warm my hands.

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Our first day in the city, we pushed Roman in his stroller, not realizing that Quebec is basically all uphill and every shop entrance has steps up into it…we got a good workout and Roman got a sweet ride :] The next day we smartened up and hauled Roman around in a backpack carrier instead—still a workout but a little more manageable on hilly cobblestone streets :]

The giant toy moose, or “foof”, travels with us everywhere :]

I love walking cities and feeling the culture of the people living and playing out before me in the sound of foreign language and the smell of food and coffee and cigarette smoke a little different from our own. Quebec was full of inspiration in the architecture and the way small, simple spaces were made even more beautiful by plants, flower boxes, and bright pops of color.

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We walked around eating crepes and getting lost on streets that seemed to wind endlessly one into the other.

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donutAnd of course no trip to Canada is complete without about 37 trips to Tim Hortons :] We ended each day back at the apartment with a pastry and a hot cup of coffee—which is quite hard to order when you don’t speak French; we were surprised every day with what kind of coffee we ended up with but it was always good :] It was a fun trip and a sweet little getaway with my two favorite boys ❤

Look Up

We just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary, Darren and I. We sat trying to decide how to celebrate. All either of us wanted was to get away for a few days—away from work, and house remodeling, and life’s routine. We talked about Quebec City or Acadia or Niagara Falls. And we talked about fresh air, and crisp river water, and camp fires beneath the stars. And that’s when we decided camping would be the very best celebration this year. So we packed, and goodness, I’m amazed how much stuff it takes for us Americans to sleep on the ground properly. This was Roman’s first time camping in a tent and it takes as much stuff for one baby as it does for 8 adults I think. You should have seen our car, loaded down with tent, and pack n play, and bike rack, and a million other things to help nature out with our high maintenance ways. And then we were off, up to Vermont, to the woods and river and biking trails—up away from work and routine and all that wears us down these days. The sky was playing games and just starting to spit rain when we arrived. We moved fast, taunting nature back, and got our tent up just before the heavy rain came. We stay huddled together in our tent that evening watching Roman run from one end of the small space to the other. We made sandwiches for dinner and went to bed as soon as it was dark, listening to the sound of the rain beating against our little shelter all night long like a song. setup DSC_0468 We woke to a cool, foggy morning. We and everything else felt damp but how good it was to wake up with the sun and our baby boy snuggled between us on the floor. A crackling campfire was built and soon red potatoes and kale were cooking for breakfast. DSC_0330 I like the pace of nature and our pace in nature when we work with instead of against the morning light, and dew, and cool air wrapping around us before the heat of the day comes and pushes us back inside. So we took our time that morning, tasting our breakfast not just eating it. We took sauntering walks and breezy bike rides and looked at each other, not past to the next item of business. DSC_0763bikecarrierDSC_0815 DSC_0817 We filled our hearts, and lungs, and minds with all the good thing of nature and quiet time together. We held hands and held our son and snuggled close together around campfires at night. DSC_0436 One night, our last night, I walked back to our tent alone in the dark. I thought about the sweet days we had enjoyed and was sad to see them ending. I tried to soak up everything around me one last time–the smell of the woods, sound of the river, feel of the night air wrapping around me—and the stars, I thought—don’t forget to look up at the stars one last time for they look nothing like this back home with all the other lights hiding them. So I looked up at the night sky and all the millions and billions of tiny light freckles poking through from heaven to earth. How enchanting the night sky is and how mysterious. When I got back to the tent, Darren traded watching Roman with me and started to walk the dark path himself. I told him, “Don’t forget to look up” —and off he went with eyes to the sky. I watched him walk away and heard those words echo back to me in my head— “Don’t forget to look up.” momandrome DSC_0417 Don’t forget to look up. I have thought about that phrase many times over the last two weeks since camping. I’ve thought about it when the waves of life have washed our feet out from under us and brought us humbly to our knees. I’ve thought about those words when I’ve grown overwhelmed or discouraged and can’t find my way. Don’t forget to look up—not just to the stars, but to the God who made the stars. Look up to the God whose light shines through to us, not just in a million freckled bits of light but in our hearts and lives every day. Look up to the God who is present and in control and loves us even when we think perhaps he has forgotten. Don’t forget to look up—first, always, to the God who is there in every bit of light in the world, for he and he alone is The Light of the world. Look up.

Motherhood is Good

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There are two things you hear a lot when people find out you’re pregnant: “Kids are so much fun!” and “Your life is about to change” (dunn, dunn, dunnnnn). Both are true but the second probably doesn’t need to be said. I haven’t met anyone yet expecting a child who doesn’t already know–deeply, profoundly–that their life is about to change.

I remember standing in the bathroom early that Saturday morning waiting for the words “Pregnant” or “Not Pregnant” to look back at me from that life altering little stick. I bought the fancy pants test just to be sure and it estimated how many weeks I had been pregnant too…3+ it said…so not only was I pregnant, I had been pregnant for nearly a month without realizing it at all. No one needed to knock on the bathroom door at that early weekend hour and tell me life was about to change, maybe remind me how to breathe, tell me it’s going to be ok, but the rest I already knew.

I snuck back in our bedroom all cool and casual-like, no big deal just a baby on board. Darren was still asleep so I sat the test on my nightstand and slipped back under the covers. When Darren got up I moved the test to his pillow and waited for him to come back. His face, his words, I’ll never forget. We were both happy. We wanted this. We spent the rest of the morning talking fast and excited about this amazing thing happening right before us.

Even with our joy and desire for this baby, there was still an almost suffocating sense of, “are we really doing this?” The feeling of no going back and the absolute permanence of change in our lives was undeniable. Even if we lost the baby, just having been pregnant and falling in love with a baby we wanted would leave us changed. There was simply no way to go back to who we were before that moment. And thankfully, no such loss happened. On a hot, sticky, middle of the summer day our long-anticipated baby boy was born. And certainly, after meeting him and holding him in our arms, a new level of change occurred and we knew again that no matter what happened from there, we would never be the people we were before that moment.

I used to be scared of this change; sometimes I still am. I am finding with each step into motherhood that the ominous warnings remain. Just wait, they say…

Until he teeths

Crawls

Walks

And a million other stepping-stones along the way.

And though I’m sure they don’t really mean it this way, I sometimes hear in each warning…

It gets harder

It gets worse

You’ll never be good enough

But though I am only a little over six months into this parenting journey and certainly realize how very much I have yet to learn, I want to say something:

Motherhood is good.

Yes, it’s hard.

Yes, it’s exhausting.

Yes, sometimes I lose my temper, get frustrated, overwhelmed, sometimes I cry, feel lonely.

But there are so many other times when my heart is full to overflowing. Truly, I have never been so happy or at peace in my whole life. I love being a mom. And I love being a mom even when it’s hard. A week ago I was up all night with a crying baby. I held him, paced his nursery floor, cried, prayed…nothing changed. I took him to the doctor the next morning and found out he had an ear infection. That was a hard night followed by a hard day but somehow it was also incredibly fulfilling. Do I like staying up all night with a crying baby? No. But I do love being a mother who can hold and comfort her child when he’s hurting.

I didn’t realize before I become a mother that somehow all those hard times would actually be some of the most beautiful opportunities to enter in to loving another person and growing as a person myself. I didn’t know how satisfying it would be. I was afraid of the warnings and the change because I didn’t have the knowledge of just how oddly good those hard times can be. I’m learning not to be afraid of the “just wait” and the “it gets harder.” I’m learning that even though motherhood is hard, the hard parts are also some of the best parts and there’s nothing to dread. I wouldn’t exchange that night of pacing his nursery floor for anything; not because I’m a martyr but because I got hold to him and love him and be his mother.

Sometimes I think people (probably unintentionally) make motherhood sound too hard, almost daunting. Yes, of course it’s hard, but I wish we heard more about how wonderful it is. I mean, truly wonderful. Satisfying. Fulfilling. Beautiful. Joyful. Magical. Heart so full of love its going to explode.

You might be surprised by just how easy motherhood is in so many ways :]

The Wild Blue Sea

Baby Boy, you saw the ocean for the first time this week, heard the music of the tide pulling on and off the shore. You felt the briny air on your soft baby skin and watched the evening sun melt into the waves. I hope Darling, that your heart and soul and mind are as deep and wide and wild as the deep blue sea.

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“All good things are wild and free.” –Henry David Thoreau

Summer Baby

 

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“To love another person is to see the face of God.” -Victor Hugo

My boys. My world.

us together

I don’t want to let go of summer. Nature is working against me though and already fall is willfully inching in around us. It’s a perfectly crisp 70 degrees out right now and I’m sitting here sipping my first pumpkin latte of the season. The Pats are playing tonight and there is very little that makes me as happy as the beginning of football season. Today when I went walking around the block, I noticed the first leaves beginning to change and glide to the ground. Normally I’m excited about all these fallish things—it’s my favorite time of year and I’m usually ready by now for riding boots and cider donuts.

But not this year. This year I want to hold on forever to the green, sunshiny season when my baby was born and I was reborn as a mother. Already six weeks have passed since he came into our lives and I’m afraid he’ll be all grown up by the time the last leaves fly and this summer—this most transformational of summers—will be done, gone, and forgotten in a blink.

So I’m holding on. Holding on to my summer baby and the sunshiny season when he was born.

This week I started taking him for walks around the block in his stroller. I’ve mostly been holed up in the house since he was born because it still feels like a bit of an ordeal trying to leave the house with a newborn. But you can only stay inside drinking espresso and watching Netflix for so long before you start to go a little cray cray. So we walk and explore and breathe in all that wonderful fresh air…and we don’t go crazy…it’s a win win.

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We stop all along the way and snap pictures of whatever pretty summer things we can find.

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Wild flowers

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And herbs going to seed

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And colorful bushes and leaves

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It rained last night and today the air was filled with the fresh, clean smell of wet pine needles. Big billowy whipped cream clouds went floating along and the sky was that perfect cobalt blue that follows after the rain. These are the days I want to remember. These summer days when my baby is tiny and happiest curled up tight in my arms. These days when I’m a brand new mommy and me and this baby are seeing the world together for the first time—he truly has never seen it before and I somehow see it all so differently now that he’s here.

These are the days, the perfect summer days that I want to remember forever.

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 A fresh little bud in my garden, With petals close folded from view,

Brightly nods me a cheery “Good morning” Through the drops of a fresh bath of dew.

I must patiently wait its unfolding, Tho’ I long its full beauty to see;

Leave soft breeze and warm, tender sunshine To perform the sweet office for me.

I may shield my fair baby blossom; With trellis its weakness uphold;

With nourishment wisely sustain it, And cherish its pure heart of gold.

Then in good time, which is God’s time, Developed by sunshine and shower,

Some morning I’ll find in the garden Where my bud was, a beautiful flower.

–The poem, Mother’s Garden  

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The Perfect Date

Here we are, about to make the leap from two to three—from you and me to mom and dad. We’re soaking up the time we have left together before life is forever changed. Last night I asked you what your idea of a perfect date would be—you talked about the ocean and the water, about the beach and boats—and if you could really truly do anything…a few days away in the Caribbean. You asked me the same—what the perfect date would be. I talked about camping under the stars, sitting by the fire at night, biking, hiking, and tubing—that would be the perfect date for me.

We can’t go far from home right now—not with this baby ready to come whenever he pleases. So there will be no Caribbean vacations or nights in a tent under the stars—not right now at least.

But today we found a way to spend time together—outside, on the water…combining what bits and pieces we could of our ideal date ideas. We rented a canoe and took off together down the river—soaking up the sun and the breeze and the stillness of the water—and more than anything, the time together away from everything else.

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Water Panorama

Baby Belly Crop

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Ice cream and lemonade from the corner store. Burgers and fries from our favorite burger stand. And homemade strawberry limeades when we were sunburnt and ready to call it a day—I would call it a perfect day, a perfect date, and a perfect day with you.

Kiss Monkey B&WIn a few days we celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary—just two days before our baby is due. Thank you darling, for the best six years of my life. It won’t always be just me and you but you—you will always be my favorite.

Us Monkey B&W

 

You Can Grow Here

grow instaYou can grow from the rock, you can grow anywhere.

We own a duplex and live in one half while we rent out the other half. It’s small and cozy and the place we’ve called home for the last four years. I always wanted to move before having a baby because it seemed pretty ambitious to fit even one more thing in such a small space—especially a baby and all the crazy equipment babies come with these days.

I thought my plan was going to work out beautifully. We bought our fixer-upper over a year ago and even when I found out I was pregnant last fall, I still thought for sure we would be all moved and settled before the baby arrived. I was wrong. First we said it would be ready in the spring. Then we said it would be ready by the end of the summer. Now I’m just crossing my fingers and hoping we make it in by the end of the year.

And so sometime in the next few weeks we will bring our little baby home to the house I always said was too small for such things. It’s amazing how you can adapt and change as life and circumstances require you to do so. Somehow we have managed to make room for our little guy—a bassinette tucked in the corner by our bed, a small dresser for all his things against the last bare wall in our room, the living room rearranged to accommodate a rocker, swing, and bouncer all three, the stroller folded up against the door we don’t use, and cabinets emptied and rearranged for bottles and bibs and all his tiny foreign things. It’s tighter and more crowded than ever before and yet somehow, a little to my own amazement still, we have found a way to make it all work. As this little guy takes up more and more room in our hearts, so we have found a way to make room for him in our little home too.

It’s funny how this lesson has had to repeat itself so many times over in my life. Perhaps I’m a slow learner. I always think things have to be just so or they simply can’t be at all. But I have seen again and again that life is fluid and we must be flexible if we’re to survive the ebb and flow of things beyond our control. If you had told me nine months ago that we would be bringing our baby home to this crowded little house, I would have been frustrated and certain it couldn’t work. And yet here we are—hospital bags packed, tiny clothes washed and tucked away, ready to bring this baby back to the only place we can really call home right now.

And you know what? It will be fine. We’ll be fine. The baby will be fine. Nothing will be ruined even if things have worked out so differently from how I had planned. It’s just another step in this journey that will continue to unfold with or without our permission.

I’m sure being a new mother and learning how to care for a child will be much the same way—not at all how I think it will be or should be and yet we will grow and change and learn along the way how to do what’s before us—however imperfect it may sometimes seem.

Learning to Fly

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A momma bird decided to build her nest and raise her flock of five fuzzy birds in the rafters of our new house. We check in on them each time we’re at the house and have watched them progress from eggs, to little fuzz balls curled up asleep, to little fuzz balls peaking curiously over the nest and showing off their big yellow beaks. I about die from the cuteness and hope our own baby bird has a fuzzy head of hair like theirs.

Darren is holding off siding that part of the house until the baby birds have left the nest because he doesn’t want to hurt them. His heart is as deep and wide as the sea and I love the glimpses I get of the father he will be in the thoughtfulness he has for all living things.

darrenWhen Darren isn’t melting my heart caring for baby birds, he is terrifying me doing guy stuff like this—wiring the house by standing on a chair…on two planks…over the stairway…after he ripped two fingers open doing other such nonsense. He is excellent training for a man child.

card{Darren’s first Father’s Day card—it perfectly describes everything I love about him}

Speaking of baby birds, ours is almost here–we’re three weeks out from game day, or so we hope.

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This is my belly; it’s gigantic. I don’t know how many weeks along I was in this picture and I don’t think it really matters anymore. The other day an old man in the grocery store commented on my belly and wanted to know when I’m due. I told him next month and he said, “Oh, you’re not big enough to have a baby next month.” Well done old man, well done; there’s a reason you’ve lived so long ;]

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This is baby’s spot in our room until we move and have a nursery. I have a little canopied area set up by our bed with his bassinette—I call it his “baby throne” because that’s what it looks like to me with the canopy and lights and fanfare :]

What a bunch of rambling this post is; sorry. I leave you with some favorite lines from Victor Hugo:

“Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.”

As I think about having this baby in the next few weeks, I often recount these lines and think I know how the birds feel when they must leap from the nest and find their wings. I hope I can fly.

Don’t Tell My Mom

Hey guys, this is the baby. Mom is distracted so I decided to sneak a few words in on her blog—nobody tell okay? Okay. So guess what? I’m a boy! Mom thought for sure she would get a girl. She grew up with five brothers so she thought she was done with boys for a while but here I am. It’s okay though; she tells me every day that she loves me…even if I’m another crazy boy :]

I’m getting really big now—I’m 6 months old! And mom can’t hide her baby bump anymore either. The other day she saw some people she hadn’t seen in a while and they were like, “Whoa! What’s that!?” So I must be pretty obvious.

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When I’m not practicing my ninja Olympic skills, I spend most of my time trying to grow hair. I don’t want to be born bald because then I guess I would have to wear a hat, you know? Besides, I keep hearing about this cat that lives in my house and he wears a very fancy orange stripe fur suit….and I don’t want to be bald next to him!

Mom has been trying to wean herself off caffeine because she’s worried I’ll be born loving the stuff and she doesn’t want me to start out as some kind of back alley caffeine junkie. Let me tell you, it’s been pretty rough! I like coffee and I don’t like it when mommy says we can’t have it anymore. Mom does let me eat some of my favorite foods though. Right now I mostly love bread covered in peanut butter and Nutella…oh, and lots of fresh fruit too! Yummy.

 

Last week mommy convinced daddy to let her help him with a bondfire at the house they’re building. Daddy didn’t think it was a good idea but mommy is pretty persuasive. Well it was very muddy and icy and rainy and really terrible gross. Mommy had to buy rainboots just to walk in the yard and haul the brush to the fire. She was having a grand time and I was getting bounced around wondering what on earth her problem is with just staying inside. Well anyway, there was this big puddle of water near the bond fire and mommy decided to stand in it for a minute but you won’t believe it—she got stuck! She looked so funny there with her rain boots and her big baby belly just stuck in the mud. She kept calling for daddy but he was on the roof and couldn’t hear her. I love mommy but I laughed because it was her crazy idea to haul me around in the mud so she sort of deserved it :] And she did eventually get out so it’s okay. Also, she promised not to do anything like that again.

Mommy and daddy can’t seem to decide on my name. Which is silly because I already chose my name; they’ll see. Mommy really wanted to name me Henry David after Thoreau but daddy said no. Mommy keeps trying to convince daddy that he’s just like Thoreau so really I would be named after him…in a way…but daddy still said no. They are silly those two. Last night mommy told daddy they absolutely must decide on my name so she got out the big book of baby names and said they would go through it together–and then she fell asleep two seconds later while daddy looked. Mommy hates baby name books; she thinks they’re boring.

At night I kick mom a lot, just because I’m bored and stuff…sometimes mommy wakes up and she’s like, what on earth are you doing in there? But I just get real still and quiet and act like I don’t know what she means that way she thinks she dreamt it up.

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Mommy and daddy have been busy getting everything ready for me and their house is getting really crowded with all kinds of baby stuff. But I don’t care about all that fancy baby stuff. I just want to go outside and roll around town in my stroller and see everything. This summer after I get here, me and mommy are going to go to Walden Pond and the ocean together. Mommy said sometimes we’ll go to the farmer’s market and sometimes we’ll go for a walk in the woods if I’m being good. And sometimes we’ll go see daddy at work and bring him coffee and everybody will be so excited to see me because they’ve been watching me grow all along and can’t wait to meet me–I get stage fright just thinking about it!

Uh oh, I think mommy is on to me…I better get off here before I get caught! I’ll write more soon!

Love, the baby.

P.S. Don’t tell mom. You never saw me. Okay? Okay.

 

House Remodel Update {#2}

In just about three weeks we’ll have owned our shabby little 1860 farmhouse for a year. It’s hard to believe a whole year has come and gone and here we are still working away on this project. We still have a long way to go but it’s nice looking back and reminding ourselves of how far we’ve come over the last year.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

Henry David Thoreau

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DSC_0129{Where we started}

3-23-14-edit{Where we are}

It took us most of last summer just to get all the permits and approvals we needed to move forward with our plans. Then it took a month or so to empty the place of trash and get it ready for construction. We also had to take down the garage/addition area because it was sitting directly on the ground without a foundation and was caving in.

plans{Darren sketching out plans over the summer}

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cleaning out

wheel barrow cleaningYou know you have some serious work to do when your house needs to be cleaned with a wheelbarrow and shovel.

By last September we were finally ready to really start building and my brother and his family drove all the way from Louisiana to help us raise the roof. We wanted a full second story and more windows so that’s why we decided to do something crazy like raise the roof :]

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After that we had a foundation dug and poured for the addition and the remaining fall and early winter months were spent framing up the interior of the house and adding the garage and new construction.

men pouring forms

bobcat foundation

front framing

kel framing

after framing

Progress was slow over the winter because we had an especially cold, snowy season. But now that the temperatures are starting to improve and the snow is almost gone, we’ve been able to get rolling again. Over the last few weeks the guys have put in most of the windows, added the front porch, and roofed the porch and addition so the outside is “all buttoned up” as Darren says :]

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Next up is plumbing—happening this week hopefully. Then we have the siding, electrical, insulation, sheet rock, flooring, installation of the bathrooms and kitchen, and lots of lots of painting. Oh and the garage floor needs to be poured, and we’ll need trim and doors, and the back porch needs to be added, and there’s work needing to be done in the basement, and the chimney needs to be built, and…and…and…and there’s still a lot of work to do :] But at least it feels good to be moving again and seeing the place taking shape.

Right now I’m most excited about getting the siding on because it will look so much nicer and more complete when it has some clothes on :] Some grass wouldn’t hurt either but I think we’re going to have to deal with the muddy mess until next year when all the work is done and we’re able to reseed the yard. Patience, patience.

I’m still hoping against hope that we’re able to move in by August or September but we’ll just have to wait and see how things come along. Also, what the heck were we thinking building a house and a baby at the same time? That takes a special kind of crazy. I’m not looking forward to packing and moving with a newborn but c’est la vie…besides, these pictures I took around the yard last year always remind me why it will all be worth it in the end 8D

DSC_0820Some guy with a backhoe tried very hard to take this bush down on me. He kept saying the yard could be landscaped so much better without it but I crossed my arms and stood in the yard while he wheeled around tearing down every other green thing he could find and made sure he didn’t touch this bush. It’s not wise to mess with a pregnant lady even if you’re the one driving the backhoe ;]

DSC_0740I’m not tackling a garden this summer with everything else going on but I can’t wait until next spring when we are living here and I’m able to walk through my own yard and garden growing flowers and vegetables.

DSC_1053Relaxing under my favorite tree

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DSC_0131Welcome home. This will be our view.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson