Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – working in the garden

For the first time in my desert gardening adventure, I’m going to be attempting a crop over the summer. Our scorching days not being particularly friendly to most plants, I’ve avoided the summer so far – but this year, we’re going to be planting sweet potatoes! I’ll have to take another picture of the slips I started soon, because they’re really starting to take off, especially the purple potatoes, which have the most beautiful red-veined leaves.

Anyway, to grow sweet potatoes we needed to seriously amend our soil, because the native soil where we live is the kind of clay you can build with – dense, compacted, hard, and thick: pretty much the opposite of what root vegetables need! So we spent Saturday mixing in two huge sacks full of compost from a local farm into our raised bed, and the boys, particularly Rondel, had a wonderful time exploring the dirt and helping with the work.



He was so focused and engaged with the task at hand! He first helped me water the mint and oregano, which we had to transplant to the trench garden from the raised bed to make room for the sweet potatoes, and the continued to water the dirt in the raised bed as we mixed in the compost. We had the kiddie pool filled up in case anyone needed to cool off, since Saturday was pretty warm, and it provided Rondel with a way to fill up the watering can on his own.


In addition to wanting to help with the tasks of preparing the garden, Rondel couldn’t resist sticking his hands in the dirt and discovering what it felt like at various stages of wetness, from completely dry all the way to soggy mud.

The garden has always been his happy place, where he pushes his sensory boundaries and lets his imagination run wild, and I absolutely love seeing him get dirty and sweaty and so incredibly captivated by natural things. This is our little piece of nature in the midst of the city, and something about it speaks to his heart.


Limerick also wanted to use the watering can, once Rondel put it down, and after a while he kind of got the hang of it – but at first he just turned it upside down like a bucket:



Aside from the watering can diversion, however, Limerick was not thrilled about our family time in the garden. He was tired and hungry and generally grumpy, and constantly demanded bubbles.

have you tried taking pictures of bubbles as you’re blowing them? it’s more luck than anything that one of these bubbles managed to be in focus…

And it’s so hard to say no to him because I always wonder if I’m just saying no because of my own selfishness and laziness instead of for a legitimate reason, and because he sometimes gets very fixated on things and has a lot of trouble moving on to something else when I say no. It’s hard not to pull out the bubbles when your baby is crying for them and it’s not a difficult activity to share with him – but on the other hand, I don’t want him to think that he can get whatever he wants by crying for it. Right now I’m trying to be firm with boundaries that I care more about and just caving on the bubbles… I do love bubbles myself anyways…

Head on over to the linkup at Like Mother, Like Daughter today to share some more everyday joy and contentment!

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – roller coaster parenting

Parenting is quite the sequence of ups and downs. One night the boys help me clean up all their toys, snuggle up for stories after their bath, and fall asleep peacefully and quickly; the next night the space between dinner and bed is punctuated by a meltdown every five minutes, bedtime itself turns into a two-hour battle, and the house still looks like a tornado hit it by the time I manage to fall asleep.

Last night being one of the good nights (in fact, one of the best, as I re-convinced my 2.5 year old that books are amazing by selecting some slightly more advanced classics and reading them with character voices), it’s tempting to feel like I’ve got this parenting thing down! Of course, however, that would be a delusion remarkably blind to even just the past week of family life…


But let’s start with the positives from the past week, because they did exist even on the hardest days.


On Friday I remembered to pick up some sweet potatoes during our grocery run and started rooting some slips for our summer garden! The two on the left are normal orange sweet potatoes (Red Garnets or whatever standard variety the grocery store carries) and the two on the right are purple sweet potatoes. They’re a bit starchier and less sweet than the orange, and Rondel loves them – but as they tend to be expensive we hardly ever buy them. Hopefully this foray into potato gardening is a success! I have a feeling we will have our whole tiny yard covered in vines and leaves and nothing to show for it under the soil…

But for now, we are excitedly watching the potatoes begin to shoot thin white roots out into the water in their jars! The purple potatoes are proving more prolific in the rooting department, but there’s already activity (less than a week after setting these up) in all four jars. The site I found made it sound like there would be both roots and leaves within a few weeks, and at that time I plan to plant the slips as even the cold nights will be a faint memory by that point.



Despite Rondel having a rather exhausting cold (his sensitivities increase exponentially when he’s sick, and he can’t stand the feel of his nose running even the slightest bit, so our days were a continual refrain of high-pitched moans of “wipe nose!”), I took the boys out to the park Saturday morning just to get them out of the house. Limerick had serious cabin fever, and even Rondel was feeling just better enough that some time running around significantly helped his mood. Sometimes I think some sort of physical activity must be a basic human need for the proper functioning of the mind and emotions… it’s true for most of the people I know, at any rate, and even more true for those of us prone to depression and anxiety.

Anyway, Rondel spent most of the time literally running up and down the sidewalks pushing his dump truck, while Limerick tested his balancing abilities by walking on all the curbs. Then Rondel discovered that his truck would roll all the way down the hill if he gave it a bit of a push at the top, and the two of them ran gleefully after it all the way down, until it crashed into a bush at the bottom. This was then repeated many times, to the great happiness of all involved 🙂


Did you notice the sweatshirts on the boys in the pictures above? Just a few hours later, they were attired much differently:

Arizona spring weather is just as inconsistent and changing as those feelings of parenting success or failure… one minute we’re all bundled up and the next we’re playing in the water wearing shoes because the concrete is too hot to stand on!

Also funny (to me anyway): Limerick is currently quite obsessed with pouring water on himself, and with oranges. I have no clue why oranges are so incredibly fascinating…


This is Limerick, thoroughly enjoying himself with his cousins at the zoo:


And where was Rondel?

Curled up in the stroller, disconsolate, asking if we could please go home so he could take a nap – because it was the first morning he was sick and I didn’t realize it before we had packed up to go out with the cousins as planned. So in addition to putting him through a miserable morning (it was cold, overcast, and windy – great for running around, not so great for sitting in a stroller feeling sick), I spread the cold to my niece and nephew. I suppose it’s always good to have bad parenting days to keep us from getting arrogant about the good ones… so much depends on getting a few spur-of-the-moment decisions right. But that doesn’t make it feel any better when it happens!

Head on over to the link-up today at Like Mother Like Daughter to be encouraged and share everyday contentment with everyone else!

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – easter 2016

Christmas is a relatively easy holiday to explain to small children, because it involves the birth of a baby, and little kids immediately relate to that and get excited about that. Easter, with its requisite understanding of death, is a bit harder. I didn’t try to heavy-handedly force the story down my kids’ throats this year; I just introduced the people and the events, and began to populate Holy Week with church and family traditions that will hopefully give them a sense of the importance of the holiday even when they can’t really understand it yet.

So on Good Friday we made our hot cross buns, read together, and went to the service that evening. On Saturday we made Easter cookies (much easier to handle with two little boys than Easter egg coloring, and tastier in the end since none of us really care for hard boiled eggs) and had a low-key meal with my parents; I don’t know if it carried over for the kids, but for me the day was filled with a sense of hushed anticipation that I really hadn’t felt on this Saturday in the past. And on Easter I tried to fill every part of the day with a specialness, an excitement, a celebration! We went to church in the morning of course, after letting the boys enjoy some Easter treats at home, and then drove up to my in laws’ house to celebrate with the extended family.

{pretty} and {happy}


My FIL set up an Easter egg hunt for all the little cousins in their backyard, and it was quite a success 🙂 Honestly, I think my boys would have been excited to find just one egg and discover it to be full of chocolate or goldfish crackers – finding 4 or 5 each was extraordinary happiness. They didn’t quite have the knack for spotting and collecting the eggs that their cousins did, but they took such delight in each egg that they didn’t even notice, much less care, that they’d found fewer eggs overall. It made me wonder how many times I’ve lost my enjoyment in something completely gratuitous and fun, like these eggs, just because someone else did “better” than me… I hope that in future I can have the same innocent joy in the experience that my boys showed me here.


This has to be one of the best simple “grandma’s house” kind of toys out there:

Both boys climbed on it over and over again. Rondel figured out how to go up one side and down the other; Limerick managed to get up to the top but then would come back down the same way he went up. He ended up finding out he could slide down in between two of the rungs, which was apparently fun, but then he would be stuck and cry for someone to pull him back up and out of the ladder. And then he would climb back and do it all again…



This is Limerick’s suspicious look (with a mouth full of crackers) as he eyes my in-laws’ dog, who had been sneaking goldfish whenever Limerick looked away. I don’t think he really grasped what was happening, but he knew something was up… we eventually persuaded him to move his eggs off the ground so the dog wouldn’t be able to steal it so easily.


I didn’t really get a picture of this, but the reality of the day was that the boys didn’t get good naps, and were worn out by the excitement and lack of routine. Something I’ve learned in the past couple years, with Rondel, is that all the best plans and fun activities are pointless if I don’t factor in enough time to let my kids acclimate to the changes of the holiday and process all the different stimuli coming at them. With this in mind, we had planned to arrive at my in-laws house early so that the boys could nap there before the rest of the family arrived, and be comfortable in the environment before it was filled with people – but when we got there, we discovered that they had changed the locks and forgotten to give us a copy of the new key. Not the best thing to find with two tired boys who were very much looking forward to going inside their grandparents’ house…

I think it was by God’s grace that I was able to stay calm and help the boys (Rondel especially) adjust and relax, and it wasn’t too long before they were able to enjoy the time and the family despite their tiredness and the challenges of the day. Knowing my own propensity towards anxiety and worst-case-scenario thinking, I really am thankful that we were able to have a great time celebrating the Resurrection together as a family and overcome the logistical issues along the way.

Head on over to the link-up at Like Mother, Like Daughter and share your Easter as well!

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – spring in bloom

This is really one of the loveliest times of year here in Arizona. It seems like everything that can bloom is blooming, and flowers of all different shapes and hues and scents are everywhere.


so many yellow daisies!
daisies against a field of purple lantana
bold and brilliant pomegranate reaching out to the orange tree


smiling at grandma being silly

This little guy is one of the happiest people I know. If he isn’t exhausted or hungry, he’s typically smiling, laughing, and generally being silly. His good spirits bring such joy to our house, especially since Rondel and I are less even-keeled… And it’s hard not to smile back at Limerick when he gets that twinkle in his eyes and that little dimple on his cheek, even when it’s been a rough day!

{funny} and {real}

Rondel was sick over the weekend (hence the rather disheveled look – this was one of his brief interludes away from his sick nest on the couch), which I suppose is {real} and not {funny}, but I found this new activity he’s devised really quite amusing. We have three wooden puzzles that spell out our names – one for me that I’ve had since childhood, and one for each of the boys. So Rondel took the letters out of the puzzle and lined them up on the lid of the piano, and was very pleased with himself for the accomplishment! By the end of the day he’d managed to balance them all up along the piano and was then fiercely guarding it against his fascinated little brother…

There’s no linkup today, which I maybe should have foreseen since it’s Holy Thursday, but since I wrote the post preemptively, I’m still sharing it here 🙂 Like Mother Like Daughter has a different (but very fascinating) type of post up today, about the Triduum and the curious fact that tomorrow is the celebration of both the Annunciation and Good Friday, including thoughts on this rare event from the 17th century poet John Donne – so go read it, especially if you need a seed idea to help you pray and meditate on Christ over these next few days.

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – in which some oddities of my family are revealed

Let me preface this week’s edition of {p,h,f,r} by telling you that all these pictures come from the same day, and that this day is not really that extraordinary of a day for us – I just happened to have my camera on hand for most of it. I feel like my goal is calm, ordered, semi-normal routines, but the reality of our family life is spontaneous, diverse, and weird. Or maybe it is just the things that fill in the routines that are strange… we still do have normal activities each day like naps and meals and baths 😛


On this particular day we visited the zoo for my nephew’s birthday. I am not a huge fan of large groups of people with small children trying to do the zoo together, but it worked out alright and we were able to go at the kids’ pace. We saw the flamingos and the monkeys and got to go inside the aviary, which are all highlights for my boys. One thing I love about the zoo is getting to see the incredible beauty and diversity of the animal kingdom!

Their eyes are a bit unnerving, but I love the graceful curve of their necks and the soft overlay of their feathers.


Another nice aspect of our local zoo is that it has a small splash pad just right for smaller kids – it is a great way to unwind and cool off before heading home, especially when the weather is warmer. Limerick was already past his nap time but the water (and birthday cake) gave us an extra 30-45 minutes with the extended family.

Rondel hung back at first but about 10 minutes later he was down to his diaper, running and dancing and laughing in the water.
Limerick ran right at the camera with his signature goofy grin 🙂


After nap we had a pretty relaxed afternoon, reading books, playing at home, etc., and while I was making dinner I left the kids to their own devices.

IMG_4040Maybe that wasn’t the wisest idea.


But it was certainly amusing! And we don’t use the dishwasher, so I didn’t really mind the boys playing with the rack. Later that evening I found a pile of random objects behind the office door and Rondel informed me that they had been recycled by his stuffed monkeys, who carried them there in their dump truck (the dishwasher rack).


Could there be a more random assortment of items?


This was part of dinner cooking in its early stages – baby gold potatoes cooked in chicken broth. Everything was going well and then I got distracted by the kids’ creativity and hilarity and came running back to the kitchen to discover all the broth evaporated (which was supposed to happen) and the potatoes all sticking to the skillet (which was not supposed to happen). Sigh. They still tasted good though! In my dream house, the kitchen wouldn’t be a little closet of a room disconnected from everything else…


There would also be better lighting for indoor picture-taking, I think. You know, if we’re dreaming here 🙂 One of the drawbacks of a town home is that there aren’t many available walls for windows!

Head on over to the link up at Like Mother, Like Daughter and check out some of the other blogs! It’s always fun to see the craziness that goes on in other people’s families, to know we’re not the only ones 🙂

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – random pieces of life

The ladies at Like Mother, Like Daughter were encouraging this week’s {phfr} to be about desk space, since an organized and clean desk is such a great jump start for productivity and clear thinking. Unfortunately, my desk is in a very dimly lit room and I didn’t have opportunity during the daylight hours to try to take a picture of it! So in the spirit of the link-up I cleaned and organized the horrible mess that was my desk and then enjoyed getting some HOA work done on the newly-emptied surface. It really does make a difference, having it clean!




We are in the height of citrus season here in the low desert, and my parents have quite a few trees, so on Monday afternoon we took some time to make orange marmalade, candied orange peels, and candied grapefruit peels. The jars in the picture above are of the orange syrup left over from boiling the peels – the flavor is quite strong and sweet and makes a good addition to different types of drinks. I think it would be good with just some sparkling water but my mom has an old-fashioned in mind 🙂 She’s not as much of a lightweight when it comes to alcohol as I am!



Our garden has really become a play space. On Tuesday I watched my nephew and niece for a couple hours and they had a great time exploring the dirt and plants in the garden; I’m not sure who slipped this little construction crate under the cilantro, though! It looks like a little elfin summerhouse to me – I can just imagine the little people frolicking in the dappled green light under the leaves, and resting for the night in their hideaway.


Because the weather has been so unseasonably warm, our little orange tree has begun budding already. Its branches are beginning to encroach rather significantly into the yard, but it had been trimmed ruthlessly and ignorantly before we bought the house and suffered a lot of sunburn as a result, so we’re giving it a few years to heal before we try to trim it again. So, some of the branches are at just the right height for Limerick to explore, and he’s been quite intrigued by the new flower buds. In fact, he’ll stand at the tree, oblivious to the world, picking all the flower buds off, saying “flower bud!” each time and then dropping them on the ground or into a cup. Some of the fruits (flowers?) of his labor he then put on the edge of the raised bed garden, for no reason known outside of his own small head…


If I had gotten a “before” picture of my desk, that would have been my {real} picture for the week! I had pre-Christmas decorations, old mail, HOA papers, the remnants of a Christmas craft, some chocolate and essential oils, and some items destined for Goodwill, all piled up on a table no more than 30″ square. Even the “after” picture could be {real}, though, tucked away as the desk is by my husband’s school desk, his weights and bench, the vacuum, and a couple large bookshelves… all of our random things seem to have ended up in the same place, which is also the only way to get into the backyard, so there’s always a bit of chaos going on. But it is cleaner than it was, and that makes me happy 🙂

Go check out the rest of the link-up!

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – a warm spell

After an exceptionally cold January, we seem to be having a record-breakingly warm February – which means the weather has been absolutely perfect for enjoying our cool and shady little backyard and patio again! The main disadvantage of the backyard is that there isn’t enough space for the boys to actually run; the two main advantages are that it is completely child-safe so my baby can play without feeling the need to constantly test the limits, and that I can slip into the house to do dishes or dinner prep if necessary (the kitchen window opens right onto the patio).



Look at those eyes. Oh my goodness. He’s so beautiful… and at the same time so mischievous! He takes delight in crossing boundaries in a way my firstborn never did – but he is also far more bold and adventurous. He’s at least six months younger than Rondel was when he finally became comfortable on a slide, for example, and he’ll go up and down time and time again, even on the tall slides at the playground.

The white stuff all over him is cloud dough; the back patio is the perfect place for messy play like that, and I let the boys migrate to the yard to play more before bringing them in for a bath.


One of Rondel’s most-loved Christmas presents (which we actually opened nearer to Epiphany) was this set of construction trucks from my parents, supplemented with another construction set my in-laws had found for him over a year ago. These trucks live in a special spot in the garden, where I had a summer crop planted but then left empty for the sake of these trucks. Rondel spends so much time here digging with the trucks and telling me what they are building and doing, and I love watching him!



He asked me to take a picture of him eating a leaf and this is the best I got because he wouldn’t look at me! In Arizona, early spring is one of the most fruitful times of year because all the winter crops are flourishing as the few night freezes fade and are forgotten. Right now we have four types of lettuce, arugula, kale, cilantro, oregano, and mint in our main garden, and English peas growing around the trellised garden by the walls (Yes! They can grow out here in the low desert! They just need the right microenvironment, which our tiny yard happens to provide.) Rondel, in his typical information-accumulating way, can identify all the different plants that we have, and enjoys snacking on them while playing outside. The arugula is apparently a bit too “spicy” for his taste, though 🙂



Limerick wants to do everything his big brother does, but Rondel isn’t always happy about having a small interfering shadow. I’m discovering that if I try to persuade Rondel to accept Limerick’s presence, he usually refuses outright, but if I redirect Limerick or let them drift together slowly, Rondel will make space for his brother to join him, and include him in his games. This was a rare moment where they were playing happily next to each other without Limerick destroying Rondel’s creations in his attempt to be like and play with the brother he adores.

Don’t forget to join the link-up today at Like Mother, Like Daughter!