I'm not sure why, but we're planting a garden. We don't eat many vegetables. Definitely more of a meat and potatoes type family. But the house we moved into a couple months ago has a 13×15 foot raised bed that is screaming to have some vegetables planted in it.
I've spent some time researching and talking to Julie's boyfriend, Reed. I think I've got a plan. It's going to be done in a style similar to square foot gardening. The premise is that you divide your area into square foot regions and plant x number of plants per square foot. Some plants grow wider and require multiple square feet (i.e., cantaloupe require 2 feet). Some plants don't take up much space at all and you can plant multiples in each square foot (i.e., 16 carrots to the square foot).I already know there's going to be a decent amount of work required to get the bed in good shape. I've dug down 18 inches or so and the dirt “seems” good. Well, as good as dirt can seem I guess. But I'll definitely have to do some tilling and will need to bring in some more soil as well.
Of course, in typical Simons style, we're going a little over the top with the number of different veggies/herbs we're planting in our FIRST garden. But you know what? Go big or go home.
Again, in typical Simons style, Trey wants it here NOW. We've bought the seeds and some little seedling starter planters. I've laid the grid out in Excel and have started putting together a document outlining when to plant each seed, when to transplant started seeds to the garden, etc. Maybe if we're lucky, we'll at least get one meal's worth of food out of this garden. Even if we don't, it is sure to be an adventure that the kids won't soon forget.
And for your browsing pleasure, I've included a draft layout of the garden below.
Well, it is that time of year again. Time to reflect back on the past 12 months, but more importantly, ahead to the 12 that are coming up.
What a great year we've had around the Simons' house. As usual, it is easy to forget just how much has gone on. I like to take this time each year to do a 'review' of what's occurred.
- Each of us had another birthday
- Laura killed her first deer (and went deer hunting with me for the first time!)
- Avery started 1 day a week Mother's Day out
- Trey went to 3 day a week pre-k
- Haley started Kindergarten. And rides the bus!
- We sold our house in Windward slopes. Twice (first contract fell through)
- We moved 3 streets over and now live on the lake!
- We turned the 30 year old pontoon boat that came with the house into a pirate ship
- I got a tractor
- Our company was bought out
- Laura started teaching high school girls again at church
- I taught young adults again at church
- My grandfather passed away
- Laura's grandmother passed away
- Read the 1 year chronological bible through for the 2nd time this year.
Goals for next year:
- Live a life that will guide my children to walk in the Truth (3 John 4)
- Love my wife more
- Be present with my kids more
- Continue to take time alone (normally when hunting) to relax, reflect, refocus and talk to God.
- Read the Bible through again
- Disciple a group of men to be leaders in their family, church, community and the world. But start with having the right leader in their own life.
- Focus on being anxious for nothing. I struggle with anxiety more than any other thing.
And the list wouldn't be fun to look at next year without documenting a couple things about everyone in our family:
- Loves learning
- Loves drawing and artwork and crafts of any sort
- Loves her teacher, Ms. Wooley
- Loves church. Loves children's choir.
- Has nearly learned the Lord's Prayer
- Loves living next door to Ashton/Sarah and down the street from Carrington
- Thinks that she's one of the smartest kids in her grade. And she's right.
- Is one of the most creative people I've ever met
- Is really beginning to enjoy sharing a room with Avery
- Is 100% boy
- Listens sometimes
- Would take a bullet for either one of his sisters. Especially Avery.
- Is very protective of his sisters
- Easily gets his “heart broken” (his words)
- Loves Jesus
- Loves his daddy
- Loves spending time with his family
- Likes to snuggle
- Is a lot smarter than he lets on. He “pretends” most of the time not to know the answers, but when you catch him off guard, he knows most of his letters and numbers.
- Loves to be held and played with
- Is extremely determined
- Is very self sufficient. She usually lets you know she doesn't need help. But when she does, she quickly lets you know that as well. Usually in the form of screaming.
- Has got the biggest, prettiest eyes
- Is starting to get longer hair
- Laughs like crazy
- Can take a beating, but keeps on going. She rarely cries because she's hurt.
- Can't sit still for 5 minutes
- Can't leave ANYTHING alone. No doubt where she's been. She leaves a trail behind her.
- Usually listens and is obedient. Sometimes listens, but pushes the envelope…testing us.
- Is fanatical about keeping the floor clean. Which is a really tough job in our house. She walks around the kitchen with a piece of toilet paper wiping the floor.
- Infatuated with toilet paper. About twice a week, we find a whole roll undone and laying on the floor in the bathroom. We count it as a blessing if she hasn't “cleaned up” by putting all the toilet paper in the potty.
- Grown spiritually by leaps and bounds again this year
- Does a fantastic job teaching her girls. She genuinely cares for them and is very passionate about them.
- Has been my support. My rock. There is no way I could make it without her emotional support as well as her support around the house. Cooking, cleaning, raising our children.
- Looks better than the day I met her
- Loves to put individual dove chocolates in the freezer and pluck them out a couple times a day
- Has embroidered very little
- Has turned our house into a home. Decorating, painting and mostly, making it a loving and relaxing environment.
About two years ago, Mom and Dad purchased about 100 acres in Millington, TN. It’s about 30 minutes door to door from our house. The land backs up to the Mirimichi Golf Course that is owned by Justin Timberlake. About 45 acres is farmland that is leased out to a farmer for soybeans. The other is timber – mostly cottonwoods. Big creek runs through the land as well. And I can tell you, Big Creek is a REALLY big creek. There’s really no way to get across it.
There was a small house on the land that is probably about 90 years old. It was in a terrible state of disrepair. No one had lived in it for about 9 years. Our original intent was to tear it down. But upon further thought, my parents decided to put some money into it and bring it back to life. Our family now spends the night out there at least once every other month. The kids LOVE being out there. It takes us back to a simpler time. Sitting around together – all on the same couch. Watching TV. Eating popcorn. Playing board games. Picking up sticks outside.
One thing that I did growing up was spend a lot of time hunting with dad. I got to understand wildlife, gun safety, how to plant food plots. You know – man stuff. Quite frankly, I want my kids to understand the outdoors too.
The amount of wildlife on our place at Millington is less than desirable. Most of this is due to the lack of habitat for the animals. Contrary to what most would think, a really mature forest is NOT good a good habitat for wildlife at all. With a little thought, it all makes sense. Sure, the trees are tall, and there are no briars or weeds growing up on the ground. But when you think about it, what kind of protection does this provide for wildlife like deer and turkeys? What kind of food is available? The short answer is – none.
We’ve worked hard to improve the land. One of the first things we did was to have the Ducks Unlimited guys come out and help us figure out how to get more ducks in. We had a levee pushed up around part of the open field that is cropland and installed a spillway that can be opened and closed. Now, after the soybeans are harvested, we dam up the spillway and allow about 5 acres to flood. Last year was a dismal season for duck hunting due to the weather, but this year we’re hopeful that colder weather will move in up north and the ducks will be migrating…while the season is open. The land is about 5 miles from the Mississippi River, so it seems promising. We’ve already built two duck blinds and I’ve been able to take Haley, Trey and Laura duck hunting already this year. We’ve only bagged a couple of ducks so far, but I can assure you, taking them hunting isn’t just about killing animals. Our primary focus is spending time together and enjoying God’s creation.
So, next up on the agenda is to cut a large portion of the timber and allow some undergrowth to come in. We’ll also be planting a couple of varieties of oak trees, which unlike cottonwoods, will continue to provide a food source for the wildlife on the ground even after the trees have matured.
One thing I’ve really enjoyed over the past year or so is that Laura has also taken up hunting. I know that she enjoys it to some degree, but I also know the main reason she does it is because she knows I enjoy it so much. Aside from allowing us to spend time together, the thing she enjoys most is learning about the animals. Learning the times when deer are most likely to move, what deer eat, what the rut is and how it makes taking a mature buck more likely. She likes to learn about how ducks make the 2,000 mile journey every year…and what drives them to do it. Learning about decoys and calls and tactics. How deer don’t see in color, but ducks do. How a turkey’s most valuable defense is it’s eyesight, but a deer’s is it’s sense of smell.
I took Haley duck hunting yesterday evening. She spent most of the time in the duck blind sitting on the floor and playing on my IPad. Did the noise coming from the IPad help my chances hunting? No. Did a group of 8 wood ducks come over and flare off at the last minute due to the bright light of the IPad? Yes. But I did get a chance to shoot two ducks. And Haley got really excited about it. And the truth is, her excitement had little to do with the ducks. It was more about my excitement. The fact that I picked HER to go hunting with me. To share in that experience. I chose her to share yesterday evening with in a duck blind. It’s this these types of memories that sticks with me from the hunts with my dad. And it is these types of memories I look forward to making more of.
Below are a couple pictures from hunts this year…followed by the morning of my first duck hunt and the first duck I killed with my dad.
This has been a week of new beginnings. Monday was Trey’s first day of school. It has been hard to keep the excitement of him re-entering Preschool balanced with the excitement of Haley entering Kindergarten. Luckily, both didn’t happen on the same day. Last week was Trey’s open house and he loved his classroom- mainly the toys that were in there. He was acting silly the whole time we were there, but he was excited to see some of his buddies from last year and to meet his new teachers. I don’t think he realized that a new class meant new teachers. He wasn’t willing to accept that his teacher was Ms. Angie, not Ms. Gina. The night before school we packed his lunch and got his backpack all ready. There was not a minute of hesitation walking into school and sitting right down to have a snack in his classroom. I was so proud of him and pleased that he was transitioning so easily. Plus, when he sat down across from one of his friends, his friend asked, “What does your name start with?” And Trey said, “T. TRE.” Missing one letter, but I didn’t realize he had finally learned how to spell his name!! He also recognized his name on his butterfly clip (for attendance) and spelled it all correctly later that day when I asked him. That is so typical of him- smarter than he lets me know! After school I got more details about his day than I ever have. He told me all about who he sat with at lunch, what toys he played with, and what they did on the playground. He really has changed so much in the past year…I’m a happy mom.
Haley and I had a really fun day playing games and making Trey a treat for our snack after school. I’m going to miss her so much!!
Tuesday was Haley’s first day of school. Monday night we had organized and labeled all the school supplies, set out the backpack and lunch money, and laid out her clothes. She was so excited I was worried she wouldn’t be able to sleep. At 6:30am, she came down stairs fully dressed and ready for her big day. I made her favorite muffins-lemon poppyseed- and finished getting ready. My Mom came over to keep Avery so Hayden and I could focus on Haley on her special day. We dropped Trey off at preschool and we had to get out fast because one of the moms asked me if I was doing okay and I almost let the tears flow! Haley was bounding with energy and excitement. We took the short ride to the school and Hayden got a great picture of her huge smile in the car on the way. After a few pictures in the parking lot, we marched inside to find Ms. Wooley’s classroom. Before going this morning Haley had memorized her room number, her bus number, and my phone number (just in case!). We met the teacher and got all the school supplies out and organized.
In light of Haley turning 5 and Avery hitting the the 8 month mark, we had to do a quick photo session. Trey was already in his PJ’s but we couldn’t leave him out. Scary how grown up trey is starting to look at 2. Time sure is flying.
This has been such an amazing week of celebrating Princess Haley’s birthday. Haley turns 5 on Tuesday, March 6. She has been counting the days and minutes for weeks! (Which has been great for working on the concept of time and months.) I told her a while ago what I had planned for her birthday and she has been talking about it A LOT! I started getting nervous it wouldn’t meet her anticipated expectations. Luckily, it was a perfect day and we all agreed we wouldn’t have changed a thing. The celebration started out on Friday evening. Hayden’s parents and Grandmother (Nana) was in town and we went out to Haley’s favorite restaurant- Cracker Barrel! Of course, she wanted to dress up and couldn’t decide which princess dress to wear, so she wore two. Ariel’s gown, with the Rapunzel gown over it…and the plastic dress-up high heels. When we got home she couldn’t WAIT to dive into the presents. Nana got her a new (and fancier) Rapunzel dress with matching shoes. Mammaw and Pappaw got her several princess shirts, a beautiful sparkly silver dress, and some other nice goodies. When we tried on the Rapunzel dress, it was a little too big so we rushed out to the Disney Store to get a different size. I knew she’d want to wear it to her party downtown. Mammaw, Haley, and I went- just the girls! Haley also had some Birthday Money and we let her pick something out. She grabbed the new Rapunzel Barbie immediately and could not be swayed to get any other item- even though she’s talked about getting a Flynn Ryder doll and Pasquale for a while. She was hopping all around that store feeling like the Queen of the World. They gave her a birthday crown and a button, too. Before leaving the mall, we all took a ride on the Carousel. It almost made me tear up because Hayden and I took Haley on the same Carousel four years ago on her first birthday…oh, how time flies.
Saturday could not have been more exciting. Haley’s friend Ainsley came over early and the girls had a chance to play and get ready together. Talk about a “flash forward” kind of moment…I could just see the girls giggling and doing hair together in 10 or 15 years. Oh, I am not wishing for those days to hurry. At 10am, Peyton arrived and the Princesses were excited to get their gift bags with bracelets, a necklace, a purse, princess gloves, and a crown inside. After adorning themselves with all their goodies, we were off! Prince Trey could not have looked more cute in his tuxedo…and neither could his daddy, also wearing a tux. Once arriving downtown at the Peabody Hotel, the girls were getting a lot of “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” from the guests in the lobby. A staff member escorted the girls to a prime spot on the red carpet to watch the ducks come off the elevator and into the fountain. After watching the ducks for a bit, it was time to head outside, for our carriage awaited our arrival. We hopped into the gold (Haley’s favorite color) horse-drawn carriage and were off on a tour of downtown. The girls had a ball waving and calling out to all the pedestrians. Some had seen the girls in the Peabody and were yelling back, “Happy Birthday, Princess!”
Hayden took the kids upstairs on the mezzanine level of the Peabody while I set up lunch. Pink table cloth, candles, chocolate covered pretzels, heart shaped sandwiches, and of course, birthday cupcakes. The girls drank Shirley Temples, with twisty straws, and had a great lunch together. Again, they were quite the talk of the hotel- many patrons were taking their pictures. Luckily, we took a full batch of cupcakes with us and were able to share with other “friends” in the lobby. Everyone clapped after we sang and it was a special day. We all needed a nap once we got home! I couldn’t have been more proud to parade our little party through downtown.
Hayden and I (especially me) LOVE the show Cupcake Wars on the Food Network. Although it makes me crave yummy cupcakes- it also inspires me to want to make fun deserts. One day we decided that over Christmas break, Hayden and I would have our own Cupcake War. We challenged each other to make two cupcakes, each having our own baking assistant, and to be judged by our neighbors. We borrowed another mixer and set to work. Two hours and a GIANT mess later, we were ready!
Hayden and Trey presented two delicious cupcakes:
1.A s’mores milk chocolate cupcake with a whipped vanilla icing, topped with graham cracker crumbles and two homemade marshmallow meringue cookies.
2.A dark chocolate toffee cupcake with a toffee buttercream icing, topped with a caramel toffee drizzle and toffee chips.
Haley and I presented two cupcakes:
1. A lemon cupcake with a lemon zest butter cream icing, topped with a white chocolate snowflake.
2.A dark chocolate cupcake with a chocolate raspberry ganache filling, topped with chocolate raspberry ganache, vanilla icing and dollop of raspberry jam.
The boys won and we had a great time. Our neighbor asked what we had wagered…nothing at that point except bragging rights. She suggested the loser have to clean the kitchen. We both looked at each other and agreed that was WAY too high of stakes. Next year we decided we are going to challenge the neighbors and expand the event! In the mean time, I’ll be heading to Muddy’s or GiGi’s for my extravagant cupcake cravings!
Merry Christmas, Everyone! I apologize for not sending out Christmas cards this year, but hopefully our faithful readers already know what we’ve been up to all year! We have had a wonderful Christmas holiday
and LOVED having Hayden take off work and spend some time at home. One word to describe our Christmas would be “relaxed”. How often can people say that about Christmas? A few years ago we decided not to travel anywhere for Christmas day and that Santa would be able to come down our chimney each year. Our decision to stay home is affirmed each year when we get to spend the entire Christmas day playing with all the new toys, staying in pajamas, and enjoying some family time. We have established a Christmas Eve tradition as well, Chuck E. Cheese. This year was more crowded than normal but the kids had a ball. (I laugh because every time we go to Chuck E. Cheese Hayden goes crazy wanting to play all the games himself too! Definitely a kid at heart.) After playing at Chuck E. Cheese we went home for dinner and cookie baking. Hayden helped the kids bake cookies that Santa would love- Gingerbread with TONS of icing and sprinkles.
Christmas morning was magical. I’m not sure if Hayden and I were more excited knowing what the kids were getting or if the kids were more excited anxiously awaiting Santa’s visit. I’m pretty sure it was us that were more excited. Trey came down at 3am. He came in our room and since it was WAY too early so I got him a blanket and pillow to lay down next to our bed and go back to sleep. Before going to sleep I followed him out to the Christmas tree and he just stood there staring in amazement. It was so sweet to see him just taking it all in. Two hours later, Haley came down at 5am. This time there was no going back to sleep- she was TOO excited. “Mom, HE CAME! And he brought me EXACTLY what I wanted!” Haley got a Barbie princess castle. I kicked Hayden and got him moving, Haley woke up Trey and practically dragged him to his feet so we could start opening presents. It’s amazing that we even got the other presents open after Haley started playing with the Castle. Once she started, she didn’t stop for DAYS! She really loves it and I couldn’t be happier that I was able to find it for her- thank you again, Craigslist! After opening the presents Hayden read the note Santa left commending the kids on being so great this year, especially in welcoming the Avery into the family. The note also directed Trey to go outside into the garage for his big gift- A FOUR WHEELER! This is the perfect gift for Trey because we can’t go into Bass Pro Shop without sitting on EVERY 4-wheeler in the store. He was a little nervous about it at first but after Haley showed him how to drive it, it was on! (Little did Haley know, we also bought her one- both used- but since we bought it in Jackson, MS, we couldn’t give it to her on Christmas morning. Hayden’s parents brought it up the next week.)
Avery missed the opening of gifts but the kids helped her open hers later on in the day. The kids shopped in their own toy baskets for gifts and wrapped them for her. They were so excited to give her the toys they picked out. Definitely learned the spirit of giving without having to buy anything!
I entered the age of technology with my new phone- I can take videos, send/check email, surf the web, and play Words With Friends now!! I’m so excited and have had fun playing with all the new features. Hayden did a great job picking the perfect gift for me. He took a professional step up with his gift too. He got a great leather brief case and has been looking very stylish carrying it back and forth every day.
Our prayer Christmas Eve night was one of thanksgiving- 1) for a God that loved us so much he allowed His son to humble himself to come to Earth- coming as a baby, to become the man that would bridge the gap so we could have eternal life. He is faithful to His word and promises and Jesus’ birth is just one more reminder of that. 2) for being able to buy gifts that our kids only dream about. We are not in this position because of anything we do, but because of the blessings we’ve received.
It comes every year with great anticipation…yes, I’m talking about COOKIE DAY! About 25 years ago, my Great-Grandma, Stella Bretzler, passed down the beloved Cruschiki recipe to me. This is one of the most memorable honors I’ve had. She was the only one who knew how to make these cookies that the ENTIRE family waited for each Christmas. No, there was no recipe. We just had her over to our house so she could make them in front of me while I wrote down everything she put into the bowl with my fifth-grade handwriting on lined paper from school. I still have this lined paper, grease and sugar stained now, many years later.
Each year since, my sisters, mom, and I have gotten to work- worker bees in the kitchen carrying on the beloved memory of Stella and the cookies that make Christmas complete. The St. Louis crew still anxiously await for the Platten’s to arrive with their share of the cookies. Today was even more special, now that my kids are able to appreciate and participate in the cookie making fun. Now that I have an embroidery machine and have gotten quite handy at the sewing machine…not to mention pinterest inspiration, I got to work making personalized aprons for the occasion. (a little more involved than I had originally planned but luckily, my handy and loving husband helped me out so I could meet my deadline!) They turned out "Fabulous" and made the day even more fun. Haley and Julie made my day as I listened to the two of them talk about Christmas, sing songs, and fold cookies. Haley was so happy to be so involved- I think she helped do almost every step…and I could not have been a more proud mama. (I say that a lot!) Trey was the master of powder sugar shaking and dragging chairs across the kitchen. We all ate our fair share of cookies. Haley got to thinking that Santa must have to throw up at the hospital each year after eating so many cookies.
Kathleen was missed but she’ll get her apron in St. Louis when they meet up with the family. She’ll just have to save it till next year when she can join us for Cookie Day 2012. We texted pictures several times to help her feel like she was a part of the family day.
I know we are a little late in getting our Halloween pictures up, but here they are! We had a great time celebrating fall this year- the kids got to pick a pumpkin from the farmer that came to their school, we attended a Harvest Party with our Sunday School Class, and then the Big Event- Trick Or Treating!
Haley was a Pirate Princess, Trey was Mickey Mouse, and Avery was a Pumpkin. The kids had a ball dressing up and participating in their school parade. Trey won the costume contest at our Harvest Party. Avery completed our set of pictures by being the third Simons to wear the Pumpkin costume on their first Halloween.
Trick-or-Treating was fun. My parents (the Platten’s) came to walk around with us. Grandpa Bill helped Trey a lot- avoiding falls on steps. The Lucky family joined us also, which made the night even more fun. My kids can’t get enough of Connor and Carson. Plus, Mr. Chad carried all the kids through the neighborhood at one point or another. We were all exhausted by the end of the night! Hayden and I weren’t sure who would fall asleep the fastest- us or the kids!
Candy rules at our house these days. Dessert is the best part of the day when we dump all the candy out of our bags and choose a piece to eat. Trey just jumps onto the floor and starts chowing down. He usually gets two or three down before I can get to the pile. I have to keep a tight reign on him…at least attempt too. Haley sits and analyzes which piece to choose for about 15 minutes to ensure she gets the best piece possible. I crack up because she’ll ask, "Mom, have I ever tried a _________? Did I like it?" She doesn’t want to make a bad choice if she only gets one. She generously gives Trey all the suckers, tootsie rolls, and skittles…she knows what she likes and what she doesn’t! Trey will eat about anything. As for Avery, we just let her roll around in it- as you can see.