Friday, January 31, 2014

Fun Ways to Turn Your Backyard Into a Kid Zone

This post is sponsored by RST.

Children are wild animals, and they need a space where they can be free to behave as such. Enter the backyard. If you’re little beasts are in need of energy channeling, look no further than the backyard for a solution. Just think of them, running free for hours on end. But how can you lure them out there?

By setting up your backyard as a kid zone, you can set your children free, and give them countless afternoons they'll never forget.

Release Their Inner Artist

If you turn your children’s creative sensibilities to the outdoors, you’ll be less likely to find evidence of them on your walls. The simplest activity my kids love is to take a bucket of water and paint brushes out onto the patio. They “paint” with the water on the cement, and then do it all over again as it dries.

A little table and chairs set up outside and some basic art supplies allow them to enjoy the great outdoors, and keeps the mess out of your kitchen. One great idea I saw was a family who had hung a huge piece of blackboard material along the fence in their backyard, which the kids continually decorated with every color of chalk.

Kids Dig Dirt

You might wish they'd stay clean, but the fact is that little kids love to get dirty. If you give them some allowed options for getting dirty in the back yard, you’ll be their favorite parent. The classic sandbox is a surefire success with any kid, and they seem to never get sick of it. Creating a mud pie station out of a plastic table, some kitchen utensils, and some pie tins will also keep them busy and happy.

For kids who like to have a job to do, set aside a corner of your backyard garden that is just for them. Help them to plant low-maintenance plants there, and work together with them to care for the garden. If you have a smaller backyard, set them up with a little container garden, and watch their confidence grow with their plants.

Baby Fishes

In the wintertime, when my little girls get antsy, I fill up the bathtub and plop them in. They’ll play in there for hours sometimes (as long as I add warm water) and emerge relaxed and happy. Kids are drawn to water, so if you turn the sprinkler on, they will come. To keep things interesting, consider setting up a variety of different kinds of sprinklers in a row, creating a “carwash” that the kids can ride their bike through. You can also hold their attention with a slip n’ slide obstacle course, complete with beach balls and water balloons.

Thank you RST for these great ideas! Even though summer seems like a long way off, spring will be here soon which is a perfect time to start any backyard projects you have planned. Make sure to check out RST for all your outdoor needs!

This post was written by Tiecen, who graduated from California Sate University in 2008 and started picking up work as a corporate web content writer. She enjoys learning new things every day and enjoys writing content for RST Outdoor.

This is a sponsored post, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Pin It

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

let's overhaul the backyard

If you want an awesome friendly family yard, don't move to Arizona.

Seriously. Rock, dirt, weeds and cacti don't qualify as anything awesome to play in/around.

When we were house hunting, we cared more about the size of our backyard than we did if it was already finished our not. A lot of newer neighborhoods in AZ have really small lots, so the larger size of ours was a huge selling point for us. Plus we knew finishing it would add equity to our home so we were OK with the idea of doing some grunt work ourselves. 

This is how our yard looks currently. Don't judge. Just pity. Good thing the HOA can't see our backyard. 

Although I don't feel even the tiniest bit excited about all the sweat we're going to be watering the dirt with, I am SO excited about our vision for the final product. 

Check it. Our fancy-shmancy plan. 

Jake went out a practiced his surveyor skills, so this it pretty much to scale. 

Here's a break down of the overhaul.

1. The trampoline (which we scored a awesome deal on Craigslist for) will be in-ground. That means renting a bobcat and digging a 15 ft in circumference, 4 1/2 ft deep hole, building a retaining wall inside the hole and putting the trampoline in. I LOVE trampolines and both of our boys have a propensity to jump all. the. time. so a trampoline seemed like a great idea. We want to put it in-ground for safety reasons and so that it's not such an eye sore. 

2. Level the ground, instal a sprinkler system and lay some beautiful green sod. We really love our 9X9 sq feet of grass that we got for free from some friends, and not to sound greedy, but we'd like just a little bit more green goodness. 

4. We have a covered patio right now and we'd like to extend it with some pavers. Ideally we'd love flag stone, but the moolah for that isn't really in our budget so we'll probably go the paver route. I'd love to lay to pavers in a herringbone pattern so we might try that. 

5. We plan on adding a raised stone wall bed along the right wall. We really want to bring some color to the backyard so we'll add a lot of flowers in the bed. 

6. Despite the fact that we live in the blazing hot desert, a raised fire pit really would be awesome in the winter months when it does get cold at night. I mean who doesn't want access to s'more making 24/7?

7. We'll invest in some seating for around the fire pit for good memory making moments. 

8. We'd like to install some flood lights so that we can use the backyard when the sun goes down.

9. Along the same lines as number 8, we'd like to update the brassy gold porch lights we have.

10. Lastly we'll add some trees and a few bushes under our kitchen windows for a little extra greenery. The trees might not happen this year. We would like to invest in slightly more mature trees, but those don't come cheap so we have to price them out. 

We know that we have a limited number of months left before the temperature spikes to high for us to really want to do major heaving and hauling of dirt and rock, so we're planning on starting all of this as soon as I get done with my life sucking antibiotics. 3 weeks left. Ugh. 

Here's a checklist version of what we need to get done. I'll keep it updated as we check things off. (One of my favorite things to do. :))

Backyard Over Haul Checklist 

1. Dig trampoline hole.
2. Build trampoline retaining wall. 
3. Level ground.
4. Install sprinkler system.
5. Dig fire pit.
5. Build fire pit. 
6. Lay pavers. (Possibly in herringbone pattern??)
7. Build raised bed.
8. Plant trees.
9. Plant bushes.
10. Install floodlights. 
11. Fill raised bed.
12. Buying outdoor seating.
13. Update porch lighting. 

This list doesn't look too overwhelming, but I have a feeling we're going to discover a lot of muscles we didn't know we had. 

Jake thinks I'm crazy for even talking about this right now, but honestly I'm going a little stir crazy not having the energy to do anything, so I plan. You should wait for my post on thoughts about the Bachelor and the future house I want to build. You can bet your lettuce that they're something special. Those who can't do, plan right?

Pin It

Monday, January 27, 2014

so much to say, so little time part 7

Conversations with a 3 year old are fantastic.

Rhett stomping into the bathroom right as I emerged from the shower.
Rhett: "Mom. Why haven't you taught me to fly?"
Rhett: "Gosh Mom." (Stomps out.)

In the car listing to kid friendly Ke$ha.
Rhett: "Dad, it's to loud. Can you turn it down please? My ears are too expensive."

Running into the bathroom. 
"I gotta go poop before my friends come over and smell my bum!"

Looking in the mirror.
"Hmmm. I never realized my elbows were so huge."

In the bathroom staring at the toilet with Rad.
Rhett: "Rad. This is THE potty."
Rhett: "It eats your pee pee."
Rad: Blows raspberry.
Rhett: "It's very serious Rad."

On Christmas day.
Rhett: "Who's birthday is it today?"
Julia: "We're celebrating Jesus's birthday."
Rhett: "I'm pretty sure Jesus is OK if it's my happy birthday today."
Rhett: "Do you think Jesus sent me a birthday card? Go check the mail mom."

In his bed time prayer.
"I'm grateful for Rhett because I really love me."

Emerging from my closet 
Rhett: "Mom, I want to take this to preschool for show n' tell," (He's holding my turquoise bra.)
Rhett: "I think it'll be super fun to show the guys."

At the dinner table during a lull in an enlightened discussion about Rad's lack of teeth.
Rhett: "I'm scared of sharks, pointy pencils, crayons and stinky socks."
Julia: "Why are you scared of pointy pencils?"
Rhett: "Mom don't say those words! I'll get hi-starical!"

Recycled picture from my parents house at Christmas 

Pin It

Friday, January 24, 2014


a portrait of my children, every week, in 2014

Rhett: Learned to wink this past week. Now everyone he meets gets a lopsided "wink."

Rad: Rhett calls him Raddie. Jake and I call him little turkey. 

Pin It

Thursday, January 23, 2014

the silver lining in the struggle

Guys. I've been overwhelmed with the kindness that has been showed to not only me, but also our family over the past 3 weeks. I'm more and more convinced that we know the nicest people in the world. We have been beyond blessed and I am on my second box of thank you cards and I'm afraid there aren't enough such cards to express our gratitude. (However I have no idea when I will deliver all said cards. You might get yours in 3 to 6 months.) And I'm convinced that Netflix was made for parents who just can't do anything more than lay on the floor while their children eat lots of cereal. #godblessnetflix #godblesscaptaincrunch

As an update on how I'm doing, I'm a lot better than I was a week and a half ago. A spike in my temperature and a trip to the ER determined I was not dying (I really felt like death was a knocking on my door) but rather that the flu was knocking. We had been warned that my immune system would be pretty much useless because of my meds and that any "normal" symptoms would be heightened because the meds also just make me feel like poo.

Rad gave me a head cold so I'm recovering from that, but I don't feel nearly as bad as I did with the flu. Pretty much I have the same schedule as a cat or newborn because I can be up for around 3 hours before I get super shaky/nauseous/throbbing joints, and then I'm in bed napping and gaining energy for the next 3 hours. Our bed and I have become great buds. And don't ask about the night sweats. (I'll tell you anyway.) OMG I am a freaking sweat-o-holic. Poor Jake. Who wants a sweaty wife?

But really, I wanted to list some of the silver linings that we've seen over the past month, if for no other reason than for our memory.

1. Despite Jake needing to be home more than normal, he's being really blessed with the opportunity to earn income for next month. His job is 100% commission so you can imagine how taking time off isn't good for us.

2. The boys have been welcomed into loving homes and treated so well by those who have watched them. And our families have gone above and beyond.

3. Rhett has been so great about being a helper. He reminds me to take my medicine, lay down in bed and comes in for snuggles.

4. The boys and I have spent a lot of time reading books together. It's been really sweet to get out a lot of books we haven't read in awhile. Often I feel too busy to enjoy reading to them.

5. Because my nausea coming and going I eat whatever appeals, when it appeals. I don't know if I'll feel up to eating later, so I eat when I'm hungry. I know that might sound silly, but for years I've counted calories every single day. I'm too tired to now, so it's been nice to just eat when I'm hungry before the nausea sets in.

6. We're going to bed earlier. We're kind of night owls but now we're getting way more sleep.

7. Our family time is better. Simpler. Instead of feeling like we need to do everything, we stay home and watch the boys play, eat dinner on the floor and we do a lot of movie watching with blankets and pillows. It's really nice to slow down.

8. This kind of goes with number 5, but instead of being on our phones at night, or me feeling like I need to squeeze another item on my to-do list into the day, we talk more.

9. I'm realizing the the world continues without me. I don't mean this in a morbid way. At the risk of sounding really self righteous, I often feel like if I don't stay caught up on everything then our family life will fall apart. But since I'm not doing much at all I'm seeing that maybe I could relax my super strict self imposed standards.

10. I'm learning a lot about grace. I've always known and believed that God will always help with the big stuff, nut I'll admit that for the small stuff I often put too much faith in myself. But now, when things like taking the laundry upstairs makes me want to cry, I realize how much I need His help for small things and how He is very mindful of us.

Beautiful flowers left anonymously by someone who wanted to brighten my day. They did. :)

Pin It

Friday, January 17, 2014


a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014

Rhett: this kid. he likes to kick the ball around in the backyard in his underpants and started soccer last week. future David Beckham...? (this was the best pose I got. I call it zen with the soccer ball.)

Rad: no one wakes up as happy as Rad. we love his morning babbles.

Pin It

Monday, January 13, 2014


If I ever learn to cross stitch, I'm making a pillow that says "Being a Human is Freaking Hard."

It'll go right next to the pillow that says "We consider cupcakes a breakfast food."

The medications I'm on for my bone infection give me symptoms similar to those of chemo.

My bones and joints ache to the point that I haven't been to get out of bed. Or even role over without help. And if I do get out of bed poor husband needs to help me hobble around.

I'm exhausted after 20 minutes of any activity.

My neck glands are so swollen that swallowing is really difficult.

Nausea and throwing up. Check. Everyday.

Dry mouth, chills, night sweats, difficulty breathing, constant low grade fever. Check, check, check, check.

The antibiotics kill my kidneys so I'll let you figure out what that means.

I've honestly never been in as much physical pain as I have been for the past 2 weeks and I really don't know how I can do 4 more of this.

I've been trying to tell myself that I shouldn't feel bad for myself. That there are people who have it much worse than I do. Which is true.

But then I thought about what I would say to someone who was in my place if roles were flipped. I wouldn't say "Suck it up. Deal with it. Don't complain, there are people who have it worse." I would say "It's going to be OK. Take it easy. I know this is really hard, and I'm so sorry you have to go through this."

But it's ridiculously hard to say that to myself.

So truthfully I am really struggling right now. This is hard and it bites and I can't help but cry sometimes because this is exactly how I didn't want our year to start. We spent so much of 2013 at various doctors and we finally got our massive medical bills from that taken care of, only to start 2014 with almost daily doctor visits and I'm more than sure I've hit my deductible for 2014. Already.  And remember how I said my goal for 2014 was confidence? Well I know it will sound shallow, but I do get a lot of my confidence from being able to take care of my family. From being on top of things. From finishing projects and playing with my boys. I cringe with guilt every time we need to get a sitter. And now I have a hard time making it down stairs more than once a day. I was so looking forward to the plans we made for our family in 2014 and now everything is on hold. I know this will get better, but sometimes the darkest hour is just before dawn.

I know I need to give myself a break if for no other reason other than I don't have the energy to fight it.


This is kicking my butt hard. I'm hoping the good that comes out of admitting that is something along the lines of humility because I have a feeling that's something I really could learn from this.

And I cannot thank those of you enough who have served our family. By watching our boys. By sending us dinner. By sending us texts and emails and phone calls. For the prayers and good thoughts.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

You guys rock.

Pin It

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014 and me

2014 is a big year for me.

I just turned 29.

The big two-nine. Twenty nine.
I’ve spent the past year dreading this year.
One year closer to leaving my twenties for the rest of my life.
As if ushering in the final year of my twenties somehow meant saying goodbye to my youth.

Just the other day, I was watching reruns of Friends, when it hit me—I am officially older the characters of my beloved childhood show. As a teenager growing up watching the show, I never imagined this day would actually arrive.

And yet, here I am.

In so many ways, I’m becoming irrelevant in segments of life I once thought were so important.

Which has me thinking…
It’s funny how quickly things change.
How one day, you just wake up and you’re…older.
Not old. Just older.

On my 29th birthday, I had the realization that I’ve spent the last year in a power struggle of sorts. A struggle between growing into a more mature, self-aware and wholehearted version of myself, while also hanging on to my youth with every ounce of strength I have.

What am I holding on to so tightly?
What am I afraid of losing by embracing this new chapter of my life?
Sure, those 18-year-old abs were fabulous. But so what?
Those abs are long gone now, and I have two blue eyed boys to show for it.
So what is it?

I didn’t have an answer. But as I lay there in bed I came up with my resolution for 2014.

A resolution to not let this year be wasted mourning my ridiculous notion of youth. And, a resolution to (ESPECIALLY) not allow another year to go by hanging on to a former version of myself that I don’t even recognize anymore.

So my word for 2014 is CONFIDENCE.

Confidence in myself as a mother.

Confidence as an adult and confidence in my opinions and thoughts.

Confidence in myself and not feeling like I need to change depending on who I'm with or where I am.

Confidence in my own personal beauty.

I want to spend this year getting ready to enter next year as the best version of myself. The version that I've spent 29 years building and am still trying to figure out. :)

Since I'm working on confidence, here's a pic rocking the bed head and no make up. 

Here's to growth and confidence. :)

And tomorrow I'll be sharing our family's goals and a sneak peak of our plans for our backyard overhaul.

And if you're interested in my last years goal click HERE. I'll give an update on how it went next week.

Pin It

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014 - 01/52

a long term photo series has been on my list of to-do's for some time now, but i couldn't bring myself to commit to a daily project (like this one) for fear of failure. i decided to challenge myself this year, but i am starting small. a picture of each of my boys, on their own, once a week for the year. this is so much more realistic for me, and it serves a purpose that we will always treasure.

even though i take a lot of pictures of my kiddos, i don't always get around to capturing a photo of each of them, on their own, on a regular basis. i think this will be a great way to document change and growth and will be so fun to look back on when the year is done. a photo a week, times two. of all my goals and ideas for this year, with this one i am confident that i can stick to it every single week. (but...we all know how new years goals go, so I'm not promising a double picture week at some point. :))

week 01/52

Rhett: if you ask him is full name he says "Archer Miller Rhett" but it really sounds like "Aunt Jemima Rhett." 

Rad: we always know when Rad is coming because he giggles the whole way to us. 

Pin It

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pop goes 2014 (and another coming out of anesthesia video)

Oh 2013 you are so done and I am so happy to say adios to you. 

You were not my favorite year. You kind of sucked my spirit out over and over like a pasty white vampire (and we all know vampires are so 2010) and if it wasn't for Rad being born I would deem you my least favorite year ever. 

Personally I think a New Year should be brought in with milkshakes, board games and dancing at midnight but this year we rang in the new year in the hospital. 

So remember back in September when I had surgery to fix bone spur and compacted joint?

If you follow me on Instagram you saw that I got a semi nasty (OK it was pretty nasty) infection from that which we thought was completely treated from oral antibiotics.

But my foot kept hurting, and hurting more, and swelling and even little things like wearing closed toe shoes or heels KILLED. But our first doctor kept telling us that the pain was normal for a post op but that really didn't sit right with us. So we went to another doctor to get a second opinion and that resulted in getting an MRI. 

Bone infection found. 

So I have osteomyelitis in my foot along my big toe joint. It's an infection in the bone. I had surgery on the 30th to do an antibiotic rinse, replace the hardware and remove the infected bone. Thankfully they didn't have to remove a lot of bone. What bone they did remove, they used to grow cultures of the bacteria so they knew what best antibiotics to use. The bacteria grown was kind of your run of the mill bacteria and nothing super strong or resistant to antibiotics. (Sigh of relief.) The TAC line is a central line that will give me antibiotics for 6 weeks.

Our anniversary and new years and my birthday were all while I was in the hospital so we have some serious celebrating to make up for, but we'll probably wait for the central line to be removed because my antibiotics make me something awful nauseous.

Some of the better parts of the hospital stay. 

What 3 year old and 10 month old don't love a bed with lots of buttons?

"This says Mom and Dad got married and got married a lot." -Rhett

All the toast a person could ever want. Or not want. 

I almost posted this on Instagram on New Years Eve, but then I thought "Do I really want my last selfie of 2013 to be with a (unused! very important detail) bedpan?" So I saved it for the blog. You're so welcome. 

So it looks like the beginning of 2014 will be making friends with some more doctors, but I'm hopeful these feet will do some cool stuff this year. Besides just being a pain in the butt. :)

And if you're interested, another video of me coming off of anesthesia. (Click here for the first one.)

This one is good. Apparently I was having a hard time with the letter R. And was feeling a little personal. Sorry for talking about my underwear. Or lack there of. 

Pin It