Wednesday, April 29, 2015

four years

In front of our house in Ames right before we left on our new journey to Northwest Iowa.
It’s been four years since we moved from Ames to Sioux Center. Sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday but then when I look back at pictures or think back to when we moved it seems like so long ago. I feel like I’m at a place now that I can finally share and talk about it and not get sad. I can finally look at pictures of when we lived in Ames or when we moved and not start crying. It was a struggle for me in the beginning and probably for the first couple of years after we moved. I am not saying I don’t like Sioux Center. I am saying it took a good four years to let go of the past and embrace where I am now.

I grew up in the Des Moines area and during college and after graduation I lived in Ames. I Got married there. We bought our first house there. We had our first child there. We made a lot of memories there. I lived in the Des Moines and Ames area my whole life and I liked it. I really liked it.

So it was really hard to up and leave the only place I had ever known. I knew the area; I felt comfortable there; my family was nearby; we had great friends and great neighbors; we were involved in a great church and were blessed with an awesome church family; I had a good job and I loved my co-workers.

So when we moved, it wasn’t that I didn’t like Sioux Center. It was that I was struggling with the change. Sioux Center was very different than what I was used to. There are many things about Sioux Center that make it unique and different than most places, so on top of adjusting to this new town and new life, I was also missing everything I left behind; all the memories we created in Ames and the friendships we made.

When we first moved here, many people would ask how we were liking Sioux Center.  In all honesty, I hated that question.  I never felt like I could honestly answer that question the way people expected me to. I felt people just assumed I was happy here and if I said any different I would offend someone. I imaged they expected me to answer with a cheerful heart that I was really liking it and couldn't imagine myself anywhere else.  I never felt I could truly share my heart because I didn’t want to offend anyone. So when someone would ask me how we were liking Sioux Center, I would reply with "It's different.  A lot to get used to, but we're doing fine."  At least that was the truth.

Now, four years later, I don't get that question much anymore.  But if I did, I would say it’s good. Sioux Center is a good place to live and raise a family. I do like Sioux Center. That’s not to say I don’t still miss Ames or Des Moines.  I do sometimes. But as more time passes, the more comfortable I get here. I can see our roots are beginning to get deeper here. I still miss the friends there; the church; old co-workers; the culture; the life we had there.  But, the life we have here is good too.  I think what sums it up is if I had the option to move back to Ames, would I?  Would I give up everything we have here?  Would I want to leave Sioux Center?  That's a tough question that I’m glad I don’t have to answer.

Arriving at our new house.
And I just had to share this picture. It's a reminder of just some of the great people we knew and loved in Ames. Friends who encouraged us on our new journey and who helped us carry a lot of heavy stuff and pack it all into a moving truck.

Monday, April 20, 2015

back yard progress | forms and crushed concrete

So... apparently you can make a lot of people curious if you cover half your driveway with a pile of crushed concrete. We had several people wonder what we were up to so I'll just fill ya'll in. In preparation for our patio, we built forms for the concrete and then began filling the formed-in area with crushed concrete. From what Dan tells me, you need crushed concrete or sand or something like that under your poured concrete to keep water or moisture flowing away so water doesn't freeze under your concrete and make it crack, you know, since the ground expands and contracts in the varying temperatures here in Iowa. Of course Dan explains it better than that but that's the short explanation.

Here is the area after we dug the dirt out and before the forms where put in place:

We filled wheelbarrows with the crushed concrete and took them to the back of the house. It would have been easier to just fill the skid loader with the crushed concrete and take that to the back of the house but we didn't want to tear up the yard. So we made many trips back with many loads of crushed concrete.

even Kaiden helped with a mini wheelbarrow
Jada helped too
the kiddos helping... K leveling the crushed concrete
 And our accomplishment for the weekend: forms for the patio and leveled with crushed concrete. Next we'll do the same for the shed.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

back yard progress | dirt work

Now that the deck is gone we're ready to begin the dirt work to prepare for the concrete slabs (one for the patio and one for the utility shed). In order to begin the dirt work, we needed to remove the grass in those two places. Dan rented a sod-cutter to make it easier.

Dan did a lot of planning and measuring distances and elevations. He staked it out so we could get an idea of the size and placement of the patio and shed. He finally spray painted lines on the grass so we could get an even better feel for where the patio and shed would be. And though we were pretty certain that was the size and placement we wanted, it still was hard and maybe a bit scary to actually cut into the grass we spent the last four years trying to get looking better.

I think Dan cried a little inside as he started ripping up that grass...

Kaiden helped cut the sod too:

And he helped carry some too. Such a big helper.

loading the sod onto the trailer

Oh and just so you know, we aren't forcing Kaiden to do this work. He was so eager to help daddy. And I actually helped too, it just doesn't look like it because I am the photographer as well.

And here's a random picture of a little cutie:

The dirt work begins:

No turning back now.

Friday, April 10, 2015

the deck is no longer

We began work on the backyard last weekend. We started by removing the deck.

Dan prying the boards off

maybe the deck was held together a little better than we thought... or Dan's not very heavy... or both

big helper

Jada didn't like to be outside with all the work going on... instead, she and her "purple meow" had a front row seat to all the action while remaining inside

And, it's gone:

So, our plan, at this point, is to build the dirt up a bit more around the house to allow water to run away from the house more; put in a concrete patio with either just stairs coming off the house or a much smaller deck than the original one; include a fire pit area attached to the patio; build a shed; add some simple rock landscaping around the house and put up some sort of decorative fence to cover up the air conditioner and other uglies near the AC.

We have decided this project will be done in phases since, one, it's going to be a lot of work and two, we are trying to stay within a budget. So, we're not expecting it to be completed this summer.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

37 years is old... for a deck

In my last post I mentioned we were going to start working on the backyard this Spring. And I think I mentioned it's going to be an even bigger task than the front yard. Our back yard is in pretty bad shape. Well, I guess not so much the yard, but the deck and area around the deck. The deck was pretty much falling apart when we moved in and we have neglected it ever since. Priorities people.

Currently this is the view of the back of our house:

Maybe it doesn't look so bad from there... I mean maybe it doesn't look all cozy and homey and relaxing like all those beautiful Pinterest pictures I see of beautiful decks and meticulous landscapes but at least there's a deck right? Well, let's just take a little closer look.

Then you can see the rotting deck.

And old, rusty nails sticking up right next to the sandbox in which my children play.

Even the corner rails of the deck are coming apart and is that mold? I don't even know.

Here we had to prop up the steps and the corner of the deck with some pavers to make it somewhat level. Not to mention whatever the heck is going on under and around the deck.

Well folks. It is time. Time for another project.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

front yard landscaping

We've lived in our house for almost four years now. As I've mentioned before, it was a good, solid, well-maintained house when we purchased it but everything about it was very out-dated. Even the landscaping was out-dated. When we bought the house, the landscaping in front looked like this:

It included large, over-grown pine bushes; some sort of huge rose bush (so big and heavy the branches would nearly lay on the ground); a sweet, little bird bath; a stone path going through the center of the area and some sort of green plant that covered the ground. Which, besides the fact that it was pretty overgrown, it probably looked okay, it just wasn't our style.

And did you notice those tall, overgrown pine bush things covering the windows on the right side of the house? Yes, there are actually windows back there.

But you know what? We were okay with the way the outside looked (for a while). At that time we were more concerned with updating the inside.

We would mess with the landscaping in front a little here and there. We tried to make it look as nice as we could without spending too much time and money on it because we knew one day we would do something with it, it just might be a couple years.

Well, it eventually started looking like this:

And a couple years ago we finally decided it was time to do something with the landscaping.

We started by removing those big, nasty bushes that covered the right side of the house. See, told you there were windows there.

Oh, and notice the yellow door with triangles on the bottom. That got a face-lift too.

We searched and searched for ideas and brainstormed different designs but in the end we realized we really didn't know much about plants and trees and bushes and what worked best together in certain environments. So, we went to our local landscaping place for some help. They came out and looked at our area and drew up some designs. We used their design and in exchange purchased the plants, trees and bushes from them but did the work ourselves.

And it was a lot of work. But don't worry, I'll spare you the grueling details. I'll just show you a couple pictures...

Here we used a garden hose to outline where we wanted the rock to go and where we would trim it out with pavers and stones. Those bushes you see there were transplanted and didn't make it. They will be replaced with something else eventually.
And this was the end result:

The front door and the side-door to the garage were painted a dark charcoal-brown color and Dan took the triangles off the front door and covered up the triangle remains.

Hopefully the plants will start looking fuller and fuller each year.


We actually finished this two summers ago (I'm super late on blogging about it) but now we're thinking of tackling the back yard this spring and summer which is going to be an even bigger task.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

easter eggs and breakfast burritos

Last year was the first year Kaiden colored Easter eggs and he loved it! So, needless to say, Kaiden was super excited to do it again this year. This year, though, I was a little more prepared. Last year I learned that we went through the eggs pretty fast and I knew this year Jada would be coloring some too so I bought two dozen eggs. Yes, folks, that's a lot of eggs. Some people hard boil the eggs, but I feel that is such a waste of eggs (especially two dozen). So the plan was to blow the eggs out of the shell; scramble up two dozen eggs; add some sausage, cheese and peppers and make a bunch of breakfast burritos that could  be frozen.

So, like I said, I decided to blow out the eggs. I tried this last year and poked the ends with a pin and blew the eggs out that way. And while it really wasn't that difficult, it was a little time consuming and I ended up making the holes a little too big and ugly. So this year, I gave the task to Dan. I knew I could leave it to Dan to devise and perfect a way to get the smallest hole in the ends without breaking the egg and still get the yolk out.

and they would look good.

and he would be efficient at it too.

and he would make it look so easy.

you really don't have to be a carpenter or even own a drill to blow out eggs
He first used a nail in a drill to make a small hole on each end, then he used a different drill bit (not sure what the bit is called but one end starts out small and it flares out a little bit. You can kind of see it in the picture.) He used that bit on one end and then blew the egg out through the larger hole.

Kaiden had a go at it and though he appears to be working really hard  with his red face and veins popping out, it's really not that strenuous
So anyway, the fun part: the kids (Dan included) loved coloring the eggs. We used a store-bought egg-coloring kit that included colored tablets that you put in warm water with a little bit of vinegar. After they went through twenty-four eggs, they still wanted to do more. This is fun stuff people.

The next day, after they were dry, I did a little art work on a few of them with a black and gold sharpie marker and put them all in a bowl.