Tuesday, April 29, 2014

We put in a patio!

When we moved into our house, there was a teeny, tiny patio out back. It wasn't able to serve much purpose, so the last owner used it to hold her trash bins. You can kind of see it in the background of this picture of Oliver:

I wanted to expand it. First, I decided to set up the raised garden beds that my mother-in-law and father-in-law got for me for my birthday this past fall. I've been so excited to use them! We did this step near the end of March. On the left, you can see the old patio.

With the garden beds in place, we got busy digging out the patio! It needed to be at least 6" deep: At least 4 inches of gravel, an inch of sand above the gravel after it sinks in, and then the pavers on top of that. We also wanted it to slope away from the house. So, we dug down 6" near the house and 8" farthest from the house to get a good slope.

Before we were done digging, Home Depot had a big sale on patio pavers: 88 cents! We weren't ready for them, but I couldn't pass up that deal. We went and loaded up!

It took weeks to dig. Seriously, digging a giant pit doesn't sound as time consuming as it is. Well, at least, it didn't sound very time consuming to me! I would go out and dig on dry evenings after the kids went to bed, and, many days, I'd be out digging in the backyard while the kids played. It still took weeks! I'm so glad we had the raised garden beds to fill. That helped relocate a lot of the dirt.

Then came the gravel. Once again, I underestimated this step. It took so much gravel. I mean... we used more than a cubic yard of gravel! I stomped it down every inch to make sure it was well compacted. We were able to keep the slope going, too. This part was expensive. It cost us about $100 in gravel!

Then came the sand! We had it delivered for fairly cheap. We still have some leftover that I'm trying to put to good use.

Andrew used some garden trim that the previous owner left for us to trim out the patio. Then, we added a layer of sand. I had to make it kind of thick to get the pavers to the height I wanted them. I placed most of the pavers myself and painstakingly leveled each and every one. It took a lot of time. Everything about this patio took a lot of time!

There's our patio! We finally got all of the pavers in place.

We found a really nice picnic table on Craigslist for a fairly reasonable price, and I planted some pansies around the patio that my parents gave me when they visited last. Our lettuce and snap peas are starting to really grow, so Andrew used some chicken wire from our neighbor to protect our vegetables. The pansies weren't as lucky. The bunnies ate most of those flowers.

We're going to have to continue putting sand down into the cracks over the next few weeks as it compacts. We're really happy with the outcome of the patio, though. I love having a table and look forward to eating out there soon!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Iowa Arboretum on Arbor Day

I believe Arbor Day was yesterday, but they were celebrating it today at the Iowa Arboretum. Admission to the Iowa Arboretum is free (but they accept donations). They had crafts for kids and a tree to take home!

Oliver finger painted some trees on a door hanger for his room, and then he stamped leaves onto pieces of wood to make an ornament. Jo happily colored pictures while Oliver made crafts. 

Most of the trees and flowers weren't in bloom yet, but the arboretum was still beautiful. We had a great time walking (running) around and exploring everything.

There was a children's gardens with a big play house and numerous raised garden beds that are planted with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, horseradish, and currants. Everything was just starting to sprout. I think it will be a lot of fun to check out again in the summer!

On the way to the arboretum, we passed an extraordinary Hindu temple. So, on the way home, I stopped to get closer and take a few pictures. It was really out in the middle of nowhere!

There were two options for trees: a black cherry tree or a serviceberry tree. I'd never heard of a serviceberry tree before, but, apparently, they are a pretty good choice of tree to plant near a house. The berries are edible, but the birds love them and usually beat you to the fruit. They're supposed to have white flowers in the spring and beautiful red leaves in the fall. So, we chose that to take home and plant in the front yard. It's a funny angle, but  here's our new tree! 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

The Easter Bunny came! Jo was excited that the bunny left chocolate & bubbles for her. Oliver was thrilled with the hard-boiled eggs and squirt animals.

After breakfast, we went outside to find the eggs that the bunny must have left behind on the way to our house. Oliver had the time of his life! Seriously, he wore that grin the entire time. He doesn't like candy all that much (he usually only takes a couple bites), but he was so proud of his hard work that he ate basically all of the contents of those eggs (Jo helped, too).

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Waveland Park Egg Hunt

We went to the Waveland Park egg hunt at Perkins Elementary School with the kids. It was such a cute set up. They had three areas for kids: under 3, 3-5, and 6-10.

The little kid section was full of pinwheels for the little ones to "find." I think there were only about 20 kids who did that hunt, including a handful of babies.

Oliver was really excited for the egg hunt, but it didn't go very well for him. Their hunt was pretty much dominated by the older kids in the group. Although they had a rule of 10 eggs per kid, most of the bigger kids left with sacks full, and Oliver got two eggs. 

 There's the set up for the 3-5 year olds. It's a really nice neighborhood activity.

We were eagerly awaiting the fire truck sirens to run into the park! Oliver talked about the 10 eggs he was going to find. He wanted to go up the steps, get an egg, and then slide down the slide to get an egg on the slide...

Once the siren rang out, Oliver went into the playground. He went for one egg, but another kid got it first. He went to pick up another egg, and a girl took it out of his hand. All of that happened in about 5 seconds. He just laid down on the ground and covered his eyes to try not to cry. I convinced him to get up to get more eggs. We found two that had been trampled and were partially open, but we never found any more eggs. The other kids were too quick. It was so sad. Oliver started to cry and told me he was supposed to get 10 eggs.

We wandered around, hoping to find an egg someone had missed, but it was picked clean. I heard a husband & wife talking, and he said, "I thought our kids were only supposed to get 10 eggs," and she said, "I don't think it really matters." I probably should have just kept my mouth shut, but I didn't. I said, "I think it does matter because now there are kids with only two." She looked at Oliver who was sniffling, and she seemed genuinely apologetic. I felt like a jerk because I didn't mean to ruin her fun at the hunt. It's just a fun little activity for kids, not worth being upset about. It just sucked seeing Oliver get completely left behind in the hunt when we went there for him to have a good time. A few minutes later, she came up to us and handed Oliver a couple of eggs. I was really grateful for her kindness, especially after I wasn't all that kind to her.

Joanna had a completely different experience at the egg hunt. She got to take her time and pick up eggs and open them before moving on. She also got a pinwheel!

Inside the eggs were random prizes. Jo won a $5 gift card to a natural grocery store! I think it's awesome, but I also laughed at the idea of a 9 year old opening up a prize like that. Some of the prizes were big toys! It was a little discouraging seeing some children leaving with 3 or 4 toys in addition to sacks full of candy, but I just kept reminding myself to keep it in perspective. Besides, our kids aren't old enough to figure out that those prizes were something they could have won.

They also gave us coupons for free tacos, a free ice cream cone, and a free mini-pizza. Really, it was a nice event. You could tell the organizers put a lot of work in: contacting local vendors, printing out flyers with rules, setting up egg-recycle bins for next year. I just think it could have been more enjoyable for little kids if the age groups were broken up a little better. A lot of our friends with kids Oliver's age went to hunts that were set up for 0-4 year olds, and I think that would have been a lot more fun for the kids. Oh well. Next year, he'll be 5, and I bet he'll be able to get 10 eggs!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Prospect Park

My parents came into town for a quick trip this weekend. They arrived Friday evening and left already on Sunday morning. It was really nice to see them and, of course, show them the house!

My mom and I wanted to take the kids to an egg hunt at Union Park. Time got away from us, and by the time we got the kids dressed and ready, we were really cutting it close to get to the hunt on time. We drove by the park without seeing it, so we decided just to give up on the idea and take the kids to another park to play.

We went to Prospect Park, which is right off of the Des Moines River. It's nicely forested, and a busy trail runs through the park, on the opposite side of the river from the playground. I really want to go back when everything's green!

There was a crew team or something in the water. It was a beautiful day for it.

The park is lovely, and I could see taking the family there for picnics. The only downside was the trash. It was overflowing from the trash cans, and some people had set their bags of trash around the pavilions and stuff. I guess park clean-up hasn't started yet for the season, but it really needed it.