Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 3:17

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

First Day of School!

First off, it's so hard to post something a bit trivial when so many are suffering in Texas right now. Praying for them, and I'm happy to see so many outreach opportunities, so we will be deciding how we can help as a family in the next day or so.

Well, today was the day.
Three in high school, one entering middle school, still elementary, but physically located in the middle that keeps her little for a while longer, right?...
And the baby? All mine! For a few years anyway.

You know what happens when your three teen boys head off to high school for the very first time together?
I'll tell you what doesn't happen: the beloved obligatory First Day group picture, that's what doesn't happen.

Caleb was a good sport and smiled for me without threat or bribery. Hence he shall be my favorite from this day forward. :) 
I hope he has the BEST year!

Jonah is a junior this year! 

And the official countdown to college for Ethan has begun.
Some days I'm totally fine with it, other days, I'm a hot mess.

This big girl is off to the FIFTH grade! How on earth!?!
She wanted to wear something I made for her, so she chose this top. It's so cute in person.

That hair! Love love love!

Straight out of a magazine ad! You can see the lace detail on the front, too. 
And she's wearing the necklace that Jonah made for her last year. :)

Everyone had a good day. That's always such a relief to a Mama's heart, no matter how old your kids get. I pray that each one of them continues to be bold and courageous in their faith, to choose kindness, and to work hard to achieve their goals. I love them so, so much.
While the big kids are away, the even bigger kids- plus a baby- will play. Last year, we didn't end up going anyplace fun because it was still Team No Sleep for us and we were beat. But this year... we had a blast! I'll post about tomorrow!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday Favorites: Wrapping up Summer!

This is the very last Friday of summer for us! 
I know lots of you have already been in school for a couple of weeks now, but I'm in that awkward spot of being torn between two places: enjoying our last days and also looking forward to all that school and fall brings.
Some days, I'm reeeeaaaaallllly looking forward to it. ;)

One of the things I love most about summer is spending time at the ocean and the lakes.
Beach days are my very FAVORITE days!
We've gone once or twice a week since school got out, so I think that's a pretty big win in my book.

However, a certain little someone was not a huge fan of sand. Or sitting by the water's edge. Though he did love the water itself when we hold him and walk out. But in the past two weeks, he has become a total beach bum and I couldn't be happier about it. Now he's completely fearless! Man oh man, if it's not one thing then it's the other, right? #momlife

 I thought he was going to be terrified of the waves rolling in, but he kept making a beeline for them!
He even put his face in the water...and loved it!
There are no pictures of this as evidence for obvious reasons, ha ha


 that duck ate right out of their hands!

Another FAVORITE thing was meeting up with dear friends!

This is Jen, and she and I have been friends since we were two. TWO!
We lost touch over the years, and then found each other again...and THEN were expecting our miracle babies at the very same time! How crazy good is that!

 We also tried a new water park.
I loved it and can't wait to go back.

This pair of overalls was the very first pair I ever made.
Over seventeen years ago, for Ethan.
They were originally long pants, but after Easter when he wore them, I redid them as shorts and just hung onto them all these years, never in my wildest dreams imagining that I would ever have another baby boy to dress them in! It still just humbles me and amazes me. What a gift from God!

So anyhoo, little boys in overalls is my FAVORITE. :)

It was also a FAVORITE having some fun together while waiting for the big event on Tuesday.
In my rush, and while juggling Levi's first ever ice cream cone, I didn't realize until too late that I had all the wrong settings on. Ugh.

Come to find out, it wasn't terribly exciting where we are, but this face kept us pretty entertained.

Lazy morning breakfasts are my FAVORITE things ever!
No rushes, no barking at people, no crazy kitchen clean up before heading out the door.
Just slow slow slow.
The new reality is gonna sting for a few days.

I love all the extra help, too :)

We don't eat out as a family much anymore because, well, it's grossly expensive, but when we've got only two or three, we like to live it up a little bit. ha ha
One of my FAVORITE things this summer were the impromptu nights out around the town.
Those nights were really fun!
 Bill is going to kill me if he ever sees this, but Ethan's smile looked so nice I can't help it.

proof i was there...why did i do that?!?

And lastly, Fall Nightgowns are my FAVORITES!!!

I just listed some flannel ones, too!
I've got some gorgeous new prints this year!
 You can visit my shop for girls - Rose & Ruffle

Oh look, I found one where you can actually see the baby!

Have a great weekend!

sharing in the fun with Erika, Andrea & Narci today!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

4 Money-Saving Landscaping Tips and Our Backyard Progress

With school starting next week, summer is nearly done. And you know what? I'm ready. ;)

We've been here for about a year and a half, and I love how things are looking outside. I've made my lion's share of mistakes at our other homes' so this time around, I feel like I know exactly what I want, and I don't have to factor in too many re-do's to make it happen.

There were two large (and horrible) trees in the fenced in area beside the pool when we moved in. I can't find a picture now, of course, but if I do, then I'll add it. They looked just awful. A real thorny, overgrown mess, and one was completely bare from the middle down. I'm thankful those were the only things we had to contend with, not like our last house. Ugh. ha ha

When those two were removed, we were starting with a clean slate. Sort of. The stumps and roots were huge and we were nervous about digging so close to all the pipes and wires for the pool, so I designed a plan to simply hide them. It's working great!

TIP #1:
Stagger your bigger plants and bushes along the back

Such a simple thing but it adds incredible depth to your garden beds. It also helps to disguise trouble spots, like hiding pool equipment.

The stumps are right behind the arborvitae, barely noticeable even when standing right in front of the garden. The photo below shows an angled view, but the arborvitae have skyrocketed this month and cover them so much more. This was taken in June, when the roses are in full bloom but the day lilies are just beginning to bud up.

I purchased those two ever-blooming rosebushes from Lowe's last year, and they are incredible! Like, truly incredible. They have a slow period in July but have since perked right back up. I LOVE them!

Then the lilies peak and add gorgeous color and fragrance. The butterfly bush on the right (in back) is just beginning to grow- I was getting worried about it, but now it's huge! Also, I can't seem to grow Veronica very well, and I just may have to find something else purple to take their place. Any tips for me?

Yeah, it looked great for about two weeks, and then it dies a long, slow, painful death. Now it's just a clump of brown mini stalks. They started off well...

Here's what it looked like last summer when we first planted. I'm really pleased with it all. :)
Last summer, the daylilies were too small to bloom, but this year, they exploded.

TIP #2: 
If you've got your sights set on perennials like day lilies, astilbe, daisies, coreopsis, and lots more, and you're looking for a way to save tons of money, stick with the smallest plant when you buy because they grow so quickly 

Here they are this year...

...and this is last year, teeny tiny, and half the price (or more!) of the bigger plants. You can hardly see them!

TIP #3:
Take the time to prepare the garden bed before you plant

No, it isn't fun. But then again, neither is having to do all that work after the fact, and having to pay attention to delicate root systems and such. Plus, it looks so much nicer!

I thought I'd be okay with simply planting right into the grass, and even though this bed is being done in stages, it would definitely benefit from some mulch to tie it all together. I knew this, but I had a new baby and was exhausted, so it simply didn't happen until this year. I sure wish I had made myself tackle it at the very beginning. I knew better.

We purchased these five arborvitae from a grocery store, and at one point, I did not think they were going to make it. I was so mad at myself! What was I thinking? Thankfully they've survived and are growing a ton right now.

That pitiful little corner in the picture above was home to all the empty plant pots for, um, a year maybe. So bad. When I see those dead, orange Christmas wreaths still hanging up in April, I get a little smug and make judgments. Well, here's my dead Christmas wreath, ha ha. Judge away! Earlier this summer, it got a quick and easy reno.

It doesn't look like much right now, but next year it will look much fuller. The hostas were planted somewhere else but I wasn't committed to it, so they were added for free. The petunias in the front were leftover from that big clearance sale purchase, and the hydrangea in the back, also on sale, was under eight bucks. Well worth it!

One evening I started digging up all the grass, and this thoughtful guy came right over to help. He did a GREAT job and we finished in record time. I was so, so thankful for his helpful attitude and hard work. In case you ever get down about your little babies growing up, remember this. It helps. A little. Sigh.

TIP # 3:
If you can stand to wait, save some money and purchase annuals after the first "batch" has gone on sale, usually in mid-June here in the Northeast

I picked up several flats of petunias for under ten dollars! Petunias (in larger swaths of the similar colors) and other compact annuals add the perfect touch of color to empty garden areas. This was pretty boring before! (You can see that there is still a patch in the back that needs to be cleared out and mulched. Two words: budget and time. Running low on both these days, ha)

 This is too cute not to share, from June when the daisies are in bloom. :)

This is our side yard, outside of the fenced area. There's a major slope but here, unlike at our last house, I'm happy to simply let it be for the most part. This area is a nice backdrop for portraits, like Isabelle's earlier this year.

TIP #4:
Plant a living fence in the fall, and include several different types of plants

The only reason I added the small island was to gain some privacy for the pool since our neighbor's house sits high on the hill overlooking us. Super nice neighbors, but still kind of weird when we're out there swimming. :) I purchased all the plants after they'd been marked down in the fall. If you're using your garden bed as a living fence, choose at least two or three taller plants or shrubs, and vary them up a little bit. We would have planted a small fruit tree, but didn't want additional leaves and such blowing into the pool, but that's a great option too.

The other plants here are coral's bells and a cousin of sand cherry, whose name I cannot remember...oops! Will have to look that up!

A close up look at how things are filling in. All except one willow on the left (hill)- I can return that to Lowe's and they'll replace it, so I'll need to do that soon. The island plants look small now, but hopefully they'll take off next year. Willows grow quickly, usually anyway, so I had expected them to be quite bigger by now. The main shrub that will grow quite tall is a giant arborvitae. I'll add things if it seems sparse next year.

This is the real reason why landscaping matters to me: it creates a welcoming and pretty space to hang out together. And it looks terrific as a background in photos, which adds a wonderful quality to them.

I cannot imagine how some of my favorite photos would look without any flowers or foliage in the background. And I just love watching how it changes from season to season, year to year.

I don't know why, but the quality of photos keeps getting worse when I add them to the post- they look fine in my album, so that's frustrating. Oh well, it looks even better in person. :)

Here are some other landscaping posts I've written:

Planting a Garden Bed on a Serious Slope

5 Tips for Easy Landscaping

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