This past Christmas, Nina asked for a backyard zipline. J.C. and I talked it over, scoped out a location in the backyard and decided it would work. We knew we would need to take down a few small trees in the yard, but that shouldn't have been a problem. About a month before Christmas, a tree man knocked on our door saying that he was in the neighborhood taking down a tree for a neighbor and wondered if we had any trees that needed work. Without thinking much about it, J.C. told him no and sent him on his way. A few minutes later, it dawned on us, "the zipline!" We brought the tree guy over and asked him to cut down the one tree that J.C. was a little nervous about felling himself. It was leaning toward the house a little, so J.C. thought it was best to have a professional do it. Of course, the tree guy recommended a bit more work when he pointed out some trees that were brushing up against our roof. Five hundred dollars later, we were missing two trees and a bunch of limbs. Talk about an impulse buy. Anyway, Nina wanted the zipline, and we had been convinced the other work was necessary, so good-bye five hundred dollars. She better love that zipline.
Two days later, we received this email from our neighborhood HOA.
Good afternoon! The Architectural Committee of REDACTED wanted to reach out to you and get a little more information on a tree or trees you recently had removed.Could you please provide more information on the removal, such as how many, why they were removed, do you plan to remove any more, etc., and I will forward to the Committee.I have also attached the architectural guidelines. Tree removal is referenced on page 23.
While I appreciate that the architectural committee has a job to do to keep our neighborhood looking neat and tidy, I do not appreciate the "Big Brother is watching over you" email two days after we had some work done.My front yard is landscaped, and we keep the grass trimmed. My garbage cans are adequately hidden from view of the street. When the tree in our side yard was threatening to fall on our neighbor's driveway, we removed it and replaced it with a more suitable tree for that location. My backyard is woodsy and will continue to be so. I believe that my house and yard fit in with the rest of the homes in the neighborhood. The goal of the architectural committee is to maintain the overall aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood and to protect the value of our homes. The work done Monday did nothing to change that.I should not have to justify the removal of two trees on my own property. Anyone driving past my house would notice nothing different from the way it looked a week ago. If the neighbor who turned us in would like to come talk to us directly, I'm usually home in the evenings to talk with my neighbors and answer any questions they may have. I've always thought of REDACTED as a friendly neighborhood where neighbors would reach out and talk to each other when they have questions or concerns, but apparently I was wrong. The architectural committee's response to seeing a tree removal truck in front of my house is overblown and unnecessary.
After much aggravation and many emails back and forth with the architectural committee, we got approval to remove the last few trees we needed to take out to make safe passage for the zipline. It turns out any tree over 4 feet tall that you want to remove needs approval. Really? Isn't anything under 4 feet tall a shrub? I understand the HOA's policies of approving paint colors before you paint your house fluorescent pink, and I understand why they have a rule against broken down cars in your front yard. I will never understand the amount of red tape we had to go through to remove a few small trees. We had to get approval from every neighbor whose property touches ours. One poor guy had just moved in that week. "Welcome to the neighborhood! Will you sign this form saying I can cut down a couple small trees in my own backyard?"
Needless to say, had we known ahead of time the expense, aggravation, and time suck that this Christmas gift was going to be, we never would have gone for it. Now that it is here, THE KIDS BETTER ENJOY IT. Daily. With friends. Without friends. During all their free time. For years. When they are home from college over Christmas break.
Fortunately, they are loving it. If it had been one of those gifts that is played with Christmas morning and then tossed aside, we might have tossed Nina out with it. It is now almost April though, and it still sees play time every weekend and during the week too.
The entire neighborhood seems to be enjoying it, so I'm expecting to be cited with noise complaints any day now. Surely I am breaking some HOA rule by having this many kids in my backyard without pre-approval.
Want to come over and ride the zipline?
Yesterday was our first "snow day" of the year. In my using the term "snow day", do not make any hasty assumptions that there was actually any snow, or ice, or sleet, or hail, or anything that bore any resemblance to snow. No. School was closed due to the "threat of inclement weather." To be fair, the forecast was for snow to start about noon. It seems like that might warrant an early release, but instead, the school system shut down completely. We saw our first snow flake about 5:00, after all kids would have been home had they gone to school. "Snow day" number one was a bit of a letdown for those looking forward to a winter wonderland. Instead, I (thankfully) went to work while JC drove all over town to every Target, Sears, Home Depot, and Kohl's he could find in search of rock salt, snow boots, gloves, and hats for the girls. He was only marginally successful in that quest. I can only assume that most of the population of our county was doing the same.
Today though, for snow day number two, we actually got snow! Pretty snow! White snow! Cold snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! That whole "snow day" thing started to make sense.
We trekked over to the park where we found most of our neighborhood on the big sledding hill.
The girls had a ball.
J.C. did too.
One of my neighbors was getting in the action sledding with her kids.
J.C. walked over to me, took my camera, and said, "Go ride with Addie!" To my puzzled look, he responded, "You always say you should be in more pictures. Go sled. Blame your friend Allison! She's the one who says you should get in the picture. He had a point, so I hopped on the sled with my little.
We smiled, we laughed, we had fun... and then... we crashed into a tree. Oops. I think next time I'll stick to photography.
As we started to grow weary from hiking back up the hill over and over,
we took a break from sledding, ...
visited with our neighbor's cute shivering dog, ...
had a little snowball fight on the bridge, ...
and posed for a picture.
Then it was back home for popcorn, hot cocoa, and warming up in front of the fireplace. Now THAT is how a snow day should be. Although it hasn't been announced yet, I suspect we will have "snow day" number 3 tomorrow. I don't know how much snow will be left, but maybe just enough for a few more sledding runs.
Do schools everywhere have this "early release day" thing once a month? I don't ever remember having early release days as a kid. It is a pain if you work full-time, but I suppose the teachers find the time useful? Of course, the kids love it. They get out of school about 3 hours early, and since nobody has dance, soccer, jump rope, or piano scheduled that time of day, there are plenty of kids roaming around the neighborhood. I think unscheduled, unplanned, unstructured play time often brings out the best in kids.
I was inside, reading a magazine, minding my own business when Nina came bounding in the house asking me to help her get a ladder out of the garage. I couldn't envision any scenario where kids and ladders are a particularly good combination, so I asked her why she needed it. "For our zip line!", she replied. "Zip line? What zip line?", I asked. She showed me.
That's a card table and two double dutch jump ropes turned zip line. See the blue yoga mat with the white first aid box on top? I was told that's the "first aid station." So nice that they were thinking ahead toward the injuries that might result from their make-shift zip line. I keep looking at how high up the tree that rope is tied. Given that they didn't have a ladder, I shudder to think how they were able to tie it. I'm rather glad I wasn't there to witness it. My guess (although I haven't allowed myself to confirm my fears) is that they put this step stool on top of the card table.
Good thing there was a first aid station, huh?
Once they got everything set up, it was time to try it out.
They quickly learned a lot about... gravity... and friction... and probably all sorts of other physics concepts that I don't remember from my one year of high school physics that I hated.
Over the course of the afternoon, there were many modifications made to the zip line - ropes tied higher or lower, a rope vs. a piece of wood for the handles, someone holding the rope taut. I'm pretty sure they never had a successful glide across the rope, but they had a blast trying. They were busy and active and creative and problem solving and engineering and designing and thinking and cooperating and laughing. I can't think of any project I could have given them that would have provided all that.
I'm not sure my card table will ever be the same, but what a great afternoon those kids had.
Fortunately, when I was at the grocery store earlier in the day, I had the foresight to think, "I bet we'll end up with a crowd of kids at dinner tonight since today is an early release day."
With that in mind, I stocked up on fixings for "make your own pizza" and plenty of crusts for whoever happened to land at our table.
I'm glad I did. I think we ended up with six girls at the dinner table tonight.
After dinner, we had a little dancing "gangnam style" with the Wii.
There was talk of camping out in the backyard, but they eventually wised up and realized it was going to be pretty chilly out there. I only ended up with one extra girl sleeping over tonight, but I'm sure they are all sleeping well after their zip line adventure today.
We still haven't gotten any snow to speak of, but the girls decided the skating rink conditions of our driveway would make for perfect sledding.
Yes, we're the mean parents who forced our kids to wear helmets while sliding down a sheet of ice. Nina was none too pleased about it, but she complied. Addie had no complaints, and after she split her chin open, I think she appreciated the need for a helmet for the rest of her head.
Until the "chin meets ice" incident, Addie had a ball. Her cackle in this video cracked me up.
Eventually, the whole neighborhood discovered that our icy driveway made a pretty nice sledding hill.
It doesn't look like any of their parents are as mean as us. I'm OK with that though. We already have one kid with a broken leg. I'm all about injury prevention measures right now.
Today's sledding was definitely more successful than last week's sledding fail, but I'm really thinking we may need to take these poor children up to the mountains one weekend, so they can sled on some actual snow.
Tonight, we set out with a pink butterfly, a zebra, and Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games.
The pink butterfly burst into tears every time we encountered a house with a dog but managed to make it about a quarter of the way around the neighborhood before exhaustion set in. Then she headed home with J.C. The zebra made it about halfway around the neighborhood before I made her call it quits due to the cold. Katniss took off with friends and eventually showed up at home a while later.
They all seemed happy with their stash.
I especially enjoyed the house that was serving up fresh pumpkin fritters. They had a big turkey fryer outside and were dropping spoonfuls of pumpkin fritter batter into the oil. As the hushpuppy-looking fritters came out of the fryer, they were dusted with cinnamon sugar and served hot. Mmmm... my mouth is watering just writing this up. I could have stayed there all night - forget the Snickers and Skittles! They were also serving up some sort of bourbon and cinnamon schnapps concoction that I didn't find out about until after we left that house. My trick-or-treating cohorts said it was fabulous. I was sorry to have missed it. The house across the street from the pumpkin fritters had a haunted house. Nina wanted nothing to do with it. Her buddy E planned on going in until she saw the creepy clown with a chain saw. I can't say I blame her for bailing.
Shockingly enough, we actually managed to get rid of almost all of the 50 pounds of candy that J.C. purchased. We left the bowl on the porch, in hopes that every kid would take at least 3-4 handfuls. That must have worked. Thank goodness for greedy kids!
I hope your Halloween was full of fun, candy, pumpkin munchies, cinnamon beverages, and happy kids! Happy Halloween!
We buy a slip n' slide every summer... sometimes more than one, depending on how long it lasts.
Slip n' slides don't have a long lifespan. Eventually they all pop, leak, or tear. I'm OK with that though.
You read reviews on Amazon from people complaining about how their slip n' slide didn't last the whole summer. Think about it... it is a big strip of cheap plastic that you put on top of grass, rocks, and sticks, and then kids jump and slide on top of it. Do you really expect it to last all summer? Besides, after a while, it gets moldy and gross anyway. Also, if you leave it out in your driveway all crumpled up in the sun, apparently it gets a tie-dye look.... not that we would know that by experience or anything.
I think those people with the lousy reviews need to revise their expectations. How else can $30 entertain every kid in the neighborhood from oldest...
for hours in the afternoon while you sit inside in the air conditioning drinking Mike's and eating bon bons? Going to the movies would cost twice that much. Going to the pool is cheap, but you're dragged down by that whole keeping-them-from-drowning thing. Board games are fun until somebody loses. Seriously, you can't beat the slip n' slide for economical summer entertainment. If you have not yet bought your summer 2012 slip n' slide, run out and buy one now. It might just last you through the end of the summer, and even if it doesn't, I promise it will be money well spent.
Linking up with...
Gone are the days of of sweet smocked dresses, hairbows, and white fisherman sandals for the first day of school. <sniff, sniff>
That was Elise's first day of kindergarten. Their styling may have changed, but one thing hasn't... the pre-first-day-of-school head injury. Elise headed off to kindergarten that year with this lovely black eye.
In an attempt to top that, last night Nina fell back in our garage onto the pavement, giving herself a whopping blow to the melon. She looks like she has an egg or ping pong ball sticking out of the back of her head. I had to email her teacher to ask her to watch Nina for any signs of concussion (as if the the poor woman doesn't have enough to juggle on the first day!). I guess that's one way to make a first impression, huh?
Despite the slightly deformed head, Nina's fashion sense remained intact, and she left this morning in this all black and white ensemble - zebra backpack, zebra lunch box, and striped dress.
Nina... ever the fashionista.
Elise went for her usual graphic tee and rubber flip-flops attire with her standard "comfort trumps everything else" attitude.
Elise headed off to fifth grade and Nina to third this morning. They were each loaded down with fifty pounds of school supplies. I am forever baffled by the fact that parents have to supply basics like hand sanitizer, hand soap, Kleenex, and Clorox wipes. I guess that is the sad state of education funding these days. Despite the heavy load, the girls looked happy to start the new year.
We got to the bus stop just before the bus arrived, so I made the bus driver wait a few seconds while I snapped a picture of all the kids. I'd say that delay likely did not put me in good graces with the bus driver. She'll have to get over it though. How would my blog readers survive without a bus stop photo? (She doesn't have to know that you guys could care less, right?)
The girls should be home any minute now, and hopefully they still have smiles on their faces!
On July 3, I perused the list of local Fourth of July events - parades, festivals, fireworks, and street fairs. As I read each one, I thought, "I bet the girls would like that." Then I quickly came to my senses, realizing the temperature was going to be over 100 with humidity to match. My kids might like those events, but I was not going to go stand in a puddle of my own sweat to attend one. We could do our neighborhood bike parade and then spend the rest of the day in the pool or air conditioning.
When the day arrived, I found myself hoping the kids would forget about the parade. I really had no desire to leave the comfort of our air conditioning to go walk a few blocks on the hot asphalt watching kids on bikes careen into each other. Unfortunately, the girls remembered it. Sadly for them, they didn't remember it until 10:00 (for a 10:00 parade). We rushed out the door, threw Addie's bike in the car and drove over to the start of the parade. We missed it, and that was perfectly fine with me. There was none of that standing around in the hot sun with sweat rolling down your back waiting for the parade to start. We drove over to the end point at the pool. Addie was disappointed about not riding in the parade, so she rode from the car to the lady handing out popsicles... maybe 50 feet.
She got her ride in though, so she was good. Everybody got a popsicle and tried to slurp it down before it turned into sticky orange soup.
I took a quick picture to accurately document that we at least did something to celebrate the Fourth (excuse Addie's broken neck look. Apparently that is how you "pose" when you are four).
Then we hopped in the car and came back home. That was the extent of our Fourth of July celebration - 5 minutes of popsicles with neighbors. When we got home, I spent the rest of the day painting Nina's room. The girls spent the rest of the day... um... I have no idea. I don't think they did anything else patriotic though. Maybe next year will be a little cooler, and we can actually celebrate a proper Fourth.
Have you seen the Caine's Arcade video yet? If not, it is a must-see. (It is at the bottom of this post.) I love this kid, and more than that, I love his dad. Kids are so spoiled these days (mine included) with iPods, iPads, Wiis, and 24/7 cartoons that it just seems to suck the creativity out of them. Caine's childhood reminds me more of my own. One summer, all the kids in the neighborhood decided we were going to build a car. Imagine Fred Flintstone's car built with scrap lumber, a million nails, paint, and old roller skate or skateboard wheels, and you have a pretty good picture of it. We spent hours every day from sun up to sun down in the stifling Texas heat in my parents' carport building that thing. My mom's poor car tires suffered more than one puncture wound from the nails we left scattered hither and yon. She just patched the tires and let us keep going though. We were out of her hair, out of her house, and using every bit of creativity, teamwork, and determination that we had. After the car's short maiden voyage where we realized our engineering of the wheels really didn't work out so well, we turned the car into a lemonade stand. How's that for making lemonade out of a lemon?
I try to foster that environment for my girls. I kick them outside with the neighbors and tell them they have to play outside. When Addie and I are taking our weekend siestas, the girls know they aren't allowed in the house unless someone is bleeding. They always manage to entertain themselves - usually with bikes, scooters, jump ropes, sidewalk chalk, dancing, and friends. They have yet to build anything the scope of a car or arcade though. Perhaps I need to enforce more boredom? We had enough cardboard from broken down Girl Scout cookie boxes that they probably could have built Six Flags if they had been inspired.
Perhaps next time they claim they are bored or ask to watch TV, I'll hand them some packing tape, empty boxes, scrap wood, a box of nails, and a hammer, and tell them to go away. I'd love to see the results. I know somewhere under the layers of Lady Gaga lyrics, Temple Run high scores, and iCarly quotes, there are children with big dreams, endlessly creative minds, and boundless optimism that only children have.
Here is the Caine's Arcade video. It will make you smile, make you cry, and make you wish you hadn't bought your kid that handheld video game.