Apr 23, 2017: Happy Earth Day!


Okay, I’m one day late for Earth Day, so happy Earth weekend instead!

Given that the rains seem to finally be over and that it was Earth Day on Saturday, it seemed fitting to spend the weekend doing yard work. And so we did!

When we bought this house two years ago (almost exactly!), the yard was a weed-choked mess. Based on the height of some “volunteer trees” (aka bushes that had grown to thirty feet tall and undoubtedly were not planted on purpose, based on their placement relative to the house and deck) and the thick layer of dead leaves that was completely covering the patio, we figured the yard hadn’t been touched in close to a decade. We lovingly referred to it as “the jungle” until we got it cleared out. Here’s a picture to remind you!

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The upshot is that weeds are a big problem in our yard. We cleared them all out when we redid the yard, but they come back at an insane rate—too fast for me to even keep up with. (Part of that, too, may be that the “rough” of the golf course extends up to our fence, including an untended patch of giant weeds that undoubtedly spread pollen over into our yard.) And over the winter, with it raining all…the…time, there was just no point in even trying to keep on top of it.

So yesterday, with lovely cool weather, we spent several hours out in the yard, clearing the weeds, mowing the lawn, and preparing the mulched parts of the yard for weed treatment, to avoid a repeat weed-overgrowth like this year’s.

Our weed treatment of choice is laying a special tarp material over the dirt before spreading mulch. Supposedly it allows water and air through (so the soil stays healthy) but does not allow weeds to push through and out the top. I’m told that’s the most effective form of weed protection around here, so we’ll see how it goes.

We’re also having our handyman extend our very small lawn into the area where our veggie garden was (and extend the sprinkler system to cover it). I know, I know…we live in California, where we’re nearly always in a drought (but not this year!), and we shouldn’t put lawn in. But the veggie garden turned out to be rather a failure. I’m not sure it gets enough sun to really work to grow veggies, and I was the only one who ever weeded it—and the weeds got to be too much for me to do on my own. A lawn is much easier to take care of—just mow it once a week in the summer, and you’re good! And the water from the veggie drip lines will just go toward the sprinklers anyway. I’m sure the sprinklers will use more, but one of Chris’s many hidden talents is irrigation—he worked for a landscape consultant, working on sprinkler scheduling, off and on for four years. He would test water levels in the soil and adjust irrigation accordingly, so that clients (mostly corporations) weren’t overwatering. So he’s pretty good at keeping a close eye on our water usage and making sure we don’t waste water where unneeded. And the patch we’ll be adding is very small. Here’s a pic I sent to our handyman of the area in question:

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So anyway, I don’t feel guilty. We’ll have a slightly bigger lawn to play on, and we’ve planted three tomato plants in another, sunnier part of the yard. Surely I can manage to keep three tomato plants alive and weeded. 😉

Anyway, today we will spread the tarp and mulch, and then we’ll sit back and wait and see whether it works!

Theo and Chris also spent Saturday morning participating in our town’s Earth Day cleanup, as part of the Cub Scouts. Sam and I sat that one out because at this stage I think Sam would likely pick up trash and put it in his mouth, which didn’t thrill me. Perhaps next year we’ll join them—Sam will be a Lion cub next year, so he’ll be a Scout, too! And then I can attend more scouting events. Right now I usually stay home with Sam while Chris goes, but I do feel bad about missing some of the fun.

This is what happens when you spend all morning picking up trash and then head out to lunch:

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Chris’s least favorite part of being Cubmaster is recruiting parents to volunteer for roles in the pack, and I said, “Well, next year I’ll be able to participate, so you can give me some job. Just give me an easy one.” He mused that perhaps I’d be treasurer. I can handle that. (And hey, POTUS is hiring his family members for high positions, so why can’t the Cubmaster hire his wife?! He he he…)

We also had a lovely respite night on Friday, thanks to Sam’s school hosting a Parents’ Night Out! Gosh, I’m going to miss those when Sam leaves the school. They do one a month, and they’re so nice! As usual, we went to the little Italian place we like in our town. I had this yummy salad, along with a tasty mushroom penne that I forgot to take a picture of:

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Afterward, we went to Staples and bought a U.S. map and stopped by the grocery store for orange juice. Because that’s what exciting couples do on Date Night: They go buy a map and some OJ!

Why the map, you ask? Because we started generally sketching out plans for the Epic Small Family Road Trip that will take place next summer, and I discovered something: Many of the locations we’re planning to stay for multiple days are already booking up, so we need to get a firm plan down and book our properties sooner rather than later!

Wow, I thought I’d have until fall to do that, but apparently not. Some aren’t surprising: Yellowstone National Park, for example, is already about three-quarters booked for next summer. No big surprise for a major tourist destination like that. But Buffalo, New York?? Also nearly booked for next summer. Buffalo! Not exactly a major tourist destination for many—but it is for us, since I have lots of family there. And there are some other smaller, less touristy destinations that I was surprised to find already 50 percent to 70 percent booked for next summer. YIKES!

I should say, we have somewhat specific needs, which narrows down our booking options. If we could just book a hotel room in whatever motel we found, it would probably be easier. But we’re likely bringing the dog, so that cuts down the list of potential places significantly. And if we’re staying for more than a day or two, we usually try to book a house/condo/apartment, rather than a hotel room, because then we can have some of our meals in and save money. Plus, more room to spread out—in other words, the boys can have their own bedroom, and we don’t have to go to bed at 8pm when they do because we’re all squished into one room!

But the planning is half the fun of travel, so I’m actually really excited to get to start planning for real! Thus the U.S. map, so we can sketch out our route. We can look at a map online, but it’s easier for hands-on planning to just throw the map onto the wall and start putting sticky flags on places we want to visit, and then sketching lines of travel between them.

Are you wondering where we’re going? No? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway! Because it’s fun to daydream about travel!

No firm plans yet, but on our want-to-visit list are:

  • Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP. (They’re right near each other, so we can hit both!)
  • Philadelphia with a day trip to NYC. (Chris hates NYC, but I’ve never been and would like to go, so perhaps we’ll take the train or a bus in from Philly one day. I’d like to take the boys to Ellis Island, and many have recommended we also visit West Point. We won’t do the Broadway show thing—the boys would be too squirrely, so I’ll save that for a girls’ trip someday or something.)
  • Chicago. (Because it’s supposed to be an awesome place to visit with kids.)
  • Boston. (We got engaged in Boston and loved our time there! Theo is such a history nut that Boston and Philly seem like no-brainers.)
  • Cape Cod. (I think we’ll spend several days here, doing a “beach break” part of our trip. I’ve been investigating, and it looks like a great place to vacation with kids. It’s surprisingly affordable compared to some other places, too.)
  • Nashville. (I was there 20 years ago and really liked it. I think Chris and the boys will, too, so we’ll probably stop there for a couple of days.)
  • Mount Rushmore. (I’ve heard this is a must-see monument, and we have to drive back roughly that way anyway.)
  • Theodore Roosevelt NP. (Because how else am I ever going to knock North Dakota off my list of states visited?! Plus, I hear it’s a great, underrated NP.)
  • Buffalo, New York. (Because family! And good food! And Niagara Falls!)
  • Mackinac Island, Michigan. (Because this has been on my must-see list for years, and because I need to knock Michigan off my states-visited list. Though we’re considering Holland, Michigan, instead, on the advice of several people. It’s further south and so easier to get to. But I really want to see the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so…)
  • Virginia. (Because family! And because we like Virginia. We’ll probably stay for several days here.)
  • Glacier NP. (This one is a maybe. Theo really wants to go because he did a report on it, but it’s pretty far north, so I’m not sure we’ll make it that far.)

Other possibilities depending on the route we take:

  • Salt Lake City, Utah. (Because it’s a good first-day stopping point from where we live, and it’s actually a neat, underrated place to visit.)
  • Denver, Colorado. (Because it’s a good stopping point after SLC, and it’s a fun place to visit. Rocky Mountain NP!)
  • Wichita, Kansas. (Because it’s a stopping point and I used to live there, so I want to see my old house.)
  • Saint Louis, Missouri. (Because the famous arch! Plus it’s a good stopping point before Nashville.)
  • Montreal, Canada. (Because it’s supposed to be a really neat city to visit, and Theo wants to go to Canada.)
  • Toronto, Canada. (If we don’t go to Montreal, perhaps Toronto. It’s not far from Buffalo, is supposed to be a great city, and I have a friend there who Theo would likely love. [Sam too, but Theo and my friend there share a neurodiverse connection!])
  • Vermont. (Because we loved Vermont when we visited. Ben and Jerry’s Factory! Lake Champlain!)

The possibilities are nearly endless. We’re debating whether to make this a trip to see Big Sights (like Yellowstone, etc.) or make it a Hidden Gems trip, hitting the less-traveled, less-crowded highlights. We shall see…

Anyway, that about sums up the week. Pictures, y’all!

Easter egg hunt last Sunday at Grandma and Papa’s house:

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Mashed potato and pinto bean tacos with pickled carrots and avocado crema:

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Some sort of penne that I’m forgetting. It was pretty tasty, though:

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Theo brought me his last $4 and insisted that we had to donate it to a rhinoceros preservation fund. He’s very concerned about endangered rhinos! So we donated to the International Rhino Fund. I love his heart!

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The only BAD meal-box dish we’ve had, in an entire year of meal boxes. It was a kimchi fried rice, and it was just icky. We threw it away and went with leftovers instead:

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Naughty kitty!

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Boys playing on the deck while we worked on the yard:

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Theo was giving Sam a lesson on snails:

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A video of the snail lesson—plus yoga!


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