Monday, April 28, 2008

Happy Birthday Jennifer

Yahoo! The girls are excited about celebrating their mom's bday.

Our beloved and dear wife and mother turned 30 over the weekend. We had a fun time of opening presents, hanging out with friends, and eating cake. I reflected on just how wonderful it is to have Jennifer in my life for another year. She is friend, counselor, teacher, gardener, and all around grace-filled, strength-giving, and a help whoever-whenever-wherever-woman.
Friday night Hector and I watched our collective kids together for a bit while the moms went out for an adult birthday evening. Saturday morning we made birthday breakfast. Saturday afternoon Shael W., Jennifer's friend from Greenville, came down and they spent some hours together. The girls and I scrambled to get a carrot cake made (it tasted better than it looked), and tried to install Jennifer's birthday hammock (It's surprising how hard it is to stabilize a pole in the ground attached to a hammock). On Sunday Grandmother Gail (my mom) and Aunt Anna (my sister) came down and took us out for a birthday lunch. Happy birthday Jennifer. We love you very much.

Here is evidence that the cake was edible...OK, so there is more to it than just mixing the batter. That got me taste. But presentation. That is a whole-nother story. Level cake tiers, consistent icing spreading, these are not attainable for the uninitiated.

The birthday hammock. Mixed a little concrete, dug a whole. Sat in the hammock (after the concrete was set) and the pole leaned about 30 degrees. Dug the pole back out, knocked the concrete off, set it another 1.5 feet deeper, poured new concrete, packed in old concrete around it, crossed fingers, and it may last us through the summer (I had to fight one of those neurotic urges-I wanted to tell the girls not to swing just to save my pole's integrity. I resisted. They are loving it. The pole is not). Should last a little while though.

Birthday girl blowing candles. What was her wish?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Swingset Surprises

Our neighbors and friends Nick and Sheri, who have a daughter that the girls love to play with are sadly moving. We congratulate them on selling their house in under a month (quite an accomplishment given the mood in housing these days). They knew the folks moving in had no use for their fort/swing/slide set and so very generously offered it to us as a parting gift! We were overwhelmed with thanks and later with the amount of wood we carried down the street to our house. So we spent Saturday taking the system apart in the largest modules we could carry and lugged them down the street and into the backyard. Then Sunday we reconstructed it piece by piece. I am skipping much huffing and puffing and straining, balancing, scratching of the head, asking Jennifer to perform super-human feats of support, and deathly close calls. But who wants to talk about that part. It's done and it's a blast. Thanks Nick and Sheri and Zoie for your extreme generosity.

While we were out we discovered a baby rabbit in the yard very near where we were working. This was one of those proud daddy moments. You ready? I have always tried to put bugs and other creatures in my hand and in the girl's hands to let them know there is nothing to fear; but I don't pick up a whole lot of little furry wild mammals and so was trapping this little rabbit with a net. I got it in there and before I could get my guts up to reach in Ellen ran over and stuck her hand right in and grabbed it. I mean she beat me to it hands down! Arianna was right behind her and they traded the little fella back and forth. So I of course had to buck up and hold it. So precious. The little guy would get real squirmy and screamy when s/he was passed off but would quickly settle in and after a few seconds appeared (I emphasize appeared) very secure and content. Way to go girls!

Monday, April 21, 2008

What we do when we are not gardening

It's that time of year again -- barbershop time. Daniel has been letting the beard grow for about a year. I guess with the summer heat approaching he figured it was time for a change. This time Daniel thought it would be fun to let the girls do most of it. I was freaking out a little bit as they held their little sharp scissors next to his face. But they thought that was so cool. Ellen and Arianna calmly trimmed with the scissors then moved on to the buzzer. If you think about it Arianna was so young one year ago and she said she could hardly remember what he looked like without the beard. She was so cute as she closely examined his face when they were done. I love it!

Here we are out in 5 Points for the local music night. They close off the streets, put out chalk for the kids, and sell drinks for the adults, all in the popular area near downtown that has cool shops, restaurants and bars. This event seems to attract a younger crowd, mostly college and young families. The girls and I met Daniel there after his class and we played and snacked on into the evening. We realized last week that the 2nd band was really good and stayed up dancing right in front until 9:30! The girls loved watching the band and jamming with us to the beat. So often when we are out at events like this we are talking to other adults and the kids are playing with their friends. It was really nice to just be with the girls, focused on them while playing and drawing, and then Daniel and I got to enjoy conversations as they played by themselves. Maybe we should call it "family date night."
I think Daniel wanted to post the name and a video of the band but he can do that later. We thought they were great. In the next post you'll see why we've been away from the computer and consumed with another backyard project. I didn't realize it had been so long since the last post.

Sharing deep thoughts:)

Me with my dance partner for most of the night.

Walking back to the car.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Garden Update and Photo Dump

We have planted almost the entire garden. We've turned the area into 10 large beds. We direct seeded carrots, chard, corn(50) potatoes (50), onions, bush beans, pole beans, squash, pumpkin, canteloup, lettuce, nasturtium, and sunflowers. We also transplanted the seedlings that we started indoors several weeks ago including basil, tomatoes, eggplant, few broccoli, and squash. As we planted each seed or plant we added some organic composted cow "moo-nure." The soil is so sandy we have added our compost, composted horse manure, and some wood chips as well--anything to add nutrients and help the plants absorb water. It was not nearly enough for the whole bed but it will help. I will be planting another round of corn and beans today and tomorrow. I also continue to start seeds indoors. I figure we'll have backups in the case of bugs or disease. If you remember last year we had a terrible battle with squash bugs that killed lots of our zucchini squash plants. (You can see that post from last year here) Having extra plants will allow us to fill in the spots that come open as we harvest the rest of the greens as well. I took tons of pictures...
A greens harvest last weekend

The bed after first planting

Baby squash transplant

Tomato transplant

Aphids. I sprayed soapy water and rubbed the leaves and most of them are gone now.

Basil transplant


Bush bean sprouts. I had to take a picture of this last week. I have been so amazed by the power of seeds lately. I am fascinated by the way we take dry seeds that have been in a pack for who knows how long, put them in some soil, add water and they change so dramatically. The beautiful, bright, first leaves come out of the the tiny seed. I love it. These sprouts are about 2 inches high now.

Eggplant that was started from seed

Greens ready to be harvested

Girls help fill seed trays with soil. Yesterday we started more basil, eggplant, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and parsley.

We had a little scare this week with the late frost. We knew we were taking a chance when we planted 2 weeks before the local frost date of April 15:) We were prepared though. We mulched around each plant and on top of some. We also put cups or tarp over the plants. Everything turned out fine. Even our fruit trees weren't effected since it was a light frost. You can see in this picture all the wheat straw and in the background the tarps that were over the beds.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ellen's Art Exhibit

Ellen has been taking art classes through the Young Artists Workshop on the USC campus. The classes were a birthday gift from her Mimi. She had class every Friday afternoon for 6 weeks. She didn't know anyone else in her class and she loved it. I am very proud of her. She loves drawing and creating pretty much anything. They learned about painting, drawing, print making, and clay. She was so proud to show off her works at the art show to Grandaddy William, Daniel, and a few friends who came out on Friday evening. Here are some of the pictures William shared.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spring Flowers

Columbia is so beautiful in the spring. The dogwoods, wisteria, and azaleas are blooming all over town. I wish I could capture the smell in these photos because it is amazing. We have a wisteria vine growing right by our back deck and it makes the whole area smell so sweet. These pictures were taken in our yard.

We've also got lots of wildflowers growing in our yard. Since we haven't been mowing or cutting much back the flowers are really taking over and we like it that way. They attract beneficial insects and are simply pretty to look at. This one is a spiderwort.
Wild blackberries that have come out this year since we are not mowing.
This is a flower that I've been dying to know the name of. If you know please pass on the name. I've seen it in blue and white.
These are the apple blossoms from one of the trees in our yard. (obviously not a wildflower but I just thought it was so pretty:)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Philosophy Teaching Award

Daniel received an award for teaching last Thursday during a ceremony on Graduate Student Day at USC. Here he is pictured with USC President Dr. Andrew Sorensen (in bow tie), Philosophy Dept. Graduate Director Dr. Chris Tollefson, and the Graduate School Dean Dr. James Buggy. I know how hard he works and how great of a teacher he is. It is really nice that he was able to be acknowledged by the department and the university. Congratulations Daniel, we are proud of you!

(Daniel speaking now)-There is an interesting little article on the rise in undergraduate enrollment in philosophy departments at Rutgers and NYU. This bodes well for future employment (not that I could work at either institution, but if their experience is representative the effects should trickle down).

You can find the article here.

I will let you be the judge of whether the article is on target regarding the reason for the rise in enrollment. I am just happy if it means a growing demand for philosophy professors. This, if the case, makes a Teaching award a bit more valuable on the resume ;-)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Asheville and Greenville

Daniel had a conference in Asheville this weekend. The girls and I spent the day in Greenville while he was gone. We had a great time together with our friends even though we had rainy days and sicknesses. Daniel met back up with us on Sunday for a walking tour of downtown Greenville. He seemed to really enjoy his time the conference. He got good feedback on his paper and got to spend some time there having dinner and socializing with his colleagues.

These first few pictures are of the girls building a dam in the creek that runs through the Weidenbachs back yard. They were really into getting it built and watching one side get wider and deeper. Since Shael and family have only lived in this house for less than a year, playing in the creek during a big rain was a new experience for all of us.

Shael was sick all day Saturday. It's terrible seeing the people you love when they are in pain. Then Arianna and Ellen both woke up vomitting during the night Saturday. That was the first time ever that they were both throwing up at the same time. Washing sheets and clothes, scrubbing floors and mattresses, and holding your breath for fear of losing your own dinner all in the middle of the night has got to be on my list of worst experiences as a parent. Thankfully it was all over with in the morning. It's a mystery...I'm so curious but I guess I'll never know what caused it. Anyway, here's me and Shael on Sunday. Although this is not the best picture of us :) you can see a little of the park, river and waterfall that runs through downtown.