Monday, May 22, 2017

My Little Brother Got Married!

Being six years older than Taylor, the role of “big sister” came in many forms growing up.  Some of my earliest memories involve sticking my nose up to the window of the ICU, getting my first glimpse of this adorably plump, very hairy baby and calling him my little brother.  I remember how proud I felt announcing his arrival to my kindergarten class and running home from the bus every afternoon to hold him and eventually, see what he had tore into in my room!  As he grew, my role of big sister changed a little.  It meant having to come in from playing outside in the summertime so Taylor would go down for a nap, not in his crib, but on a Mickey Mouse blanket in the middle of the living room floor.  I swear we didn't see the carpet for the first three years of his life!  It also meant sometimes having to hold his hand and take him up the street to my friend, Brooke's house so he wouldn’t be left out!  For every aggravating experience that came along with this big sister role, I loved that Taylor was my constant – always there to read to, play with, and take part in my wonderful (always carefully planned) adventures.  I remember every Christmas season, I would collect all our Christmas books and put a stack under his bed.  Then every night, I’d climb into his bed with him, read him a book and instruct him to remove a red or green chain from the paper countdown I hung in his room.  Whether he liked it or not, he went along with it, and I loved him for it.   

As our carefree childhood faded away and life got a little more complicated, being Taylor’s big sister involved cheering him on at basketball and baseball games, offering advice, whether he wanted it or not, feeling happy when he was happy, and feeling my heart break when I saw him sad.  As a mom of my own now, I realize that looking back, my feelings toward Taylor can only be described as maternal.  I longed for him to be happy and taken care of, and also wanted to protect him from this sometimes hard and broken world.  And just like the hopes and dreams I have for Cruz and Mila's futures, I had the same dreams for Taylor's - that he would be happy, content, and full of God's love.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

God answered so many of my prayers for Taylor's life when He put Katie into it.  She is one of the sweetest people I have ever met and the two of them light each other up in the best way.  The pastor said it best at their ceremony Friday when he said that after he met them he was surprised they had been together for over five years because they still acted as if they were newly in loveWhat a beautiful testament!  Five years in, and they still laugh together, memorize lines from The Office together, and love just who God created each of them to be.  Their love is rare and such a beautiful testament of God's love for all of us.  And it was only fitting that we all got a chance to celebrate that love on a picture perfect day last Friday when they became husband and wife!

It was a special day for so many reasons.  The weather was near perfect.  Our entire family was honored to be a part of Taylor and Kate's wedding party.  The wedding was in Adel, so we all had an excuse to get away for a few days, let the kids take over a hotel with their cousins, and enjoy all the thrills of an indoor pool, continental breakfast, and adjoining rooms with Grandma and Papa.  The wedding ceremony and reception were held at Barne's Place in Adel, a gorgeous property just outside of Des Moines, with old church pews and a barnwood altar that overlooks a lake, a rustic barn for the reception and dance, and gorgeous details everywhere you look.  And while keeping five kids under the age of seven clean and happy during the long day leading up to the ceremony proved to be a little hairy at times, the day was filled with joy, laughter, and sweet stories to celebrate one very sweet couple.  

The start of a million pictures, with a few more memories to come. 



Thursday, May 18, 2017

Greening Our Thumbs

Although the calendar tells me spring starts in March, it really begins to bloom for me in May, when the flowering crab trees turn a vibrant pink just as finals week comes to an end.  Every year I smile as I turn in grades and walk with a spring in my step out to the parking lot, breathing in that fresh air, the smell of cut grass just in time for graduation, and the signature purple and gold pansies in pots outside Schindler Education Center.  Every year, God's pretty creation springs forth new life, and I always get the itch to freshen up our own creation and get some seeds in the ground.

This will be our third summer in our house and while our project list never does seem to end, there are few things more rewarding than sinking in the couch after a weekend of hard work.  And that's just what our May Day weekend looked like.  While I power washed, repaired, and stained our garden beds a pretty cedar color before getting our veggies in the ground, Beau made my cut flower garden dreams come true on the south side of our house.  Dreaming with Kate, and falling in love with Erin Benzakein's Floret Flower Farm book and website, turned what was supposed to be a small little place to grow a few zinnias and cosmos into a 40-foot bed of whatever my little planting heart desired.  This was an amazing, overwhelming endeavor that led to many trips to the nursery, late nights with long lists of flower varieties on my lap, and a family affair that left us with sore backs and sun-kissed cheeks after a full, satisfying weekend outside.

Thanks to a grumpy man I soon fell in love with at Meyer's Nursery in Waterloo, we planted a mix of flowering shrubs, perennials, annuals, and some fruit that will hopefully give me bouquets of cut flowers and summer flavors to make people smile all summer long.

While I won't begin to act like I know what I am doing, I do want to share a few tips I learned that may provide you some direction if you are looking to do something similar.  

1. Draw a visual of your space and do your research before planting!  The book I referenced above was so helpful in providing an overview of different flower types, when they bloom, and how tall they get.  Since my bed is up against my house and about five feet wide, I needed a mix of taller growing flowers with shorter ones to layer in front.  I have some that will grow to be nearly four-feet tall, others that range from 2-3 feet, and annuals who grow about a foot tall.  I made about three trips to the nursery, and arranged it all before digging any holes! 

2.  Ask the experts!  When I went to this local nursery, I told my new grumpy friend that I had a dream.  He rolled his eyes at me at first, but I'm pretty sure he loved me by the end because I was interested in learning and willing to try what he suggested.  He gave me an awesome reference guide they created at the nursery that had shrubs and perennials categorized by height, which was perfect for helping me design my bed.  I drank up what he had to offer, and even got a hug out of him by the end of it all. ;)

3. Anchor big beds with taller, flowering shrubs.  Since my bed spans the entire length of the house, we decided to plant some larger shrubs that would still give me some flowers come spring.  We planted some dwarf lilac bushes, and Beau edged out the beds to border them at full size, giving the bed a nice shape to it.  This created some dimension and they sure look pretty while the other, more smaller plants gain in size in the summers to come.

4. Plant a mix of perennials and annuals.  For you novice planters, perennials are the kind of plants that will come back year after year, and annuals are your summer flowers that die at the end of the season.  Again, because my bed is so big, I decided to plant several perennials throughout the garden, which will hopefully continue to get bigger and flower year after year, saving me money and work in the long run.  For perennials, I planted pink and yellow peonies, phlox, shasta daisies, black eyed susans, yarrow, poppies, and delphiniums.  For annuals, I planted marigolds, zinnias, and snapdragons.  I read the tags and layered these plants depending on height and spacing size.   

5.  Save some room for seeds.  Because this is my trial-and-error year and I'm not sure what perennials will thrive and do well, I saved a pretty good area of the garden for seeds.  I discovered these wonderful seed variety packets at Home Depot that come with layering instructions and kind of added other varieties based around that.  For seeds, I planted zinnias, cosmos, bells of ireland, and chinese forget-me-nots.  

6.  Add some fruit!  I planted rhubarb on one end of the garden and a little bed of strawberries where the garden bed meets up with our back patio.  I know we won't have much produce for a couple of years, but it will sure be fun to watch these grow and from what I've heard, take over in the years to come!

7.  Mulch.  We bought a dark brown mulch that blends in with the dirt.  This way, it will help keep up with weeds and still allow me to plant bulbs in the fall without having to remove all the mulch.

I'll continue to post updates as I go, but am pretty excited about this project!  I love walking barefoot in the grass as the sun sets checking in on its progress, pulling random weeds, and spotting tiny sprouts.  We also got our veggies planted and that seemed like a small feat compared to what was happening on the other side of the house!  Cruz helped me plant tomatoes and peppers, kale and carrots, lots of herbs, and lots of tiny green bean seeds that have already sprouted from the ground.  The tiniest seeds will soon produce food!  There is nothing like planting a garden to give you living proof to marvel at God's beautiful creation!

Now if only we could get Cruz to start eating it!  

Mila came with me to the greenhouse and helped me pick out the rest of our plants.  She has good taste, picking pansies and purple petunias and bright pink geraniums for our window box.  She now has the prettiest view from the window bench in her room.



Happy planting! 


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