Sprucing up the Backyard

Today we made huge progress on the backyard!  Dwayne and I got started nice and early.  First we had to keep digging the trench for the rest of the pipe to run along the length of the path.  He also worked on clearing out these two overgrown areas along the wall of the house.  Here’s what it looked like yesterday…

Jan22-backyard (5)One giant dead bush and one terribly crooked gardenia bush filled this space.  Well yesterday Greg and Dwayne tried hooking a chain up to the truck and pulling the bushes out.  But the ground was still too wet, and Greg’s truck kept getting stuck.  So today Dwayne did some digging and took an axe to them, and eventually we got the space cleared out.

Jan22-backyard (9) Jan23-backyard path (2) Jan23-backyard path (5)Mom and Greg came out to help us a little later, and we got weed blocked laid out where the path would go, and edging put in place to define the path.  We made sure to do lots of leveling yesterday to make sure our pipe will funnel any water out of the yard and through the garden.  Let’s just hope it actually works!

Jan23-backyard path (3) Jan23-backyard path (7)The hardest part was that the ground and dirt still wasn’t 100% dry, so all the dirt we kept having to dig through and move around was pretty heavy.  It was exhausting!  We also trimmed up the pear tree some more.  There were a lot of branches either already broken or badly bent, and the whole tree was just too crowded.  We needed to get rid of a good portion of them so that it would produce fewer but bigger pears this summer.  Too many branches and it will just produce a bunch of smaller pears.  But anyways, back to the path.  The next step was to fill the path with mulch Greg picked up this morning.

Jan23-backyard path (8) Jan23-backyard path (9)Next we laid the stones in place!  It looks soooo good!!!!  And then we added mulch around the base of the pear tree (which I unfortunately didn’t get a picture of).  But check it out!  Our beautiful backyard!

Jan23-backyard path (11) Jan23-backyard path (12) Jan23-backyard path (14) I still need to get some bushes planted along the back wall of the house.  And over time the grass will need to grow back in some spots, but hopefully some good weed killer will help with that.  I also did some prepping for spring gardening. I got all my pots on the deck cleared out, pulled all the dead veggies plants up, and trimmed some branches from the tree that grows over the pond.  It was a successful day, and we would have never gotten it done without the help of mom and Dwayne!!  And now I’m laid out on the couch and can’t move.  Work may be rough tomorrow.


So our backyard has been needing some work lately.  Actually, it’s been needing some work since the first time I laid eyes on it, and we’ve come a long way from the wild and crazy jungle that once grew back there.  But our current project includes taking care of some poor drainage issues.  Any time it rains for more than a day or so, water starts to build up in the yard.  What makes it worse is Lily (one of our dogs) runs a particular path so much that the grass has thinned out.  Then when you have weeks like last week where it rained for over 5 days straight, the main portion of the backyard just turns into a MAJOR mud pit.  It was BAD!  We kept towels at the backdoor for days and constantly had to wipe all three dogs’ paws off when they came into the house.

So last Saturday when the weather was nice, Greg and I decided to start our project of turning the “path” Lily has created into a legit walkway with stepping stones and mulch (since grass won’t grow well there anyways).  It would lead from the back porch to the gate of the garden.  Well, the ground was still waaaay too wet for us to make much progress.  We were slipping and sinking into mud like it was quicksand.  Here’s what it all looked like as of last Saturday.Jan19-backyard path (1) Jan19-backyard path (2) Jan19-backyard path (3)The other area that needs attention is the area along the back wall of the house.  At one point several bushes or trees were planted there, but it’s mostly just stumps left in the ground.  There is one gardenia bush that I would love to keep, but for some reason it grows totally crooked.  I don’t know if something fell on it at some point, or if it just always tried growing towards the sun, but it leans TERRIBLY to the side, so I think we’re just gonna chunk it.  I would like this whole area to get replanted with some hydrangea bushes or maybe some azaleas.  Anything that will flower!  We have no flowering bushes at our house, and I need some pretty flowers!

Jan19-backyard path (5)Well today my mom and Dwayne came over and helped us with our project.  We had already decided we needed a pipe underground to help drain water out of the yard, through the garden walkway, and into the waterway that runs behind our house.  So Dwayne helped us dig a trench for the pipe, and we started making a dent clearing out the “land of stumps.”

Jan22-backyard (4)Jan22-backyard (3) Jan22-backyard (5) Jan22-backyard (6)And since mom and I weren’t much help with the trench digging part, we decided to start pruning the pear tree a little.  And I dug up all the dead tomato, cucumber, and bell pepper plants from the raised garden.  I can’t wait for warm weather and gardening to begin again! 🙂

Jan22-backyard (7)Tomorrow we’ll be back out there working some more.  There’s more pipe to bury and ground to level out.  Hard work will hopefully pay off when we have a pretty backyard to hang out in this summer!

Getting a Facelift

Since celebrating my 27th birthday, I’ve realized 30 will be here before I know it.  So I decided to take care of a few things, since I’m obviously not getting any younger.

Oh come on, you can’t possibly think I’m being serious!! NO THANK YOU!  I’m talking about our dear city of Birmingham.  For a while they’ve been talking about and doing construction to build a new stadium downtown for the Birmingham Barons baseball team.  And they are scheduled to move when their season begins April 10.  Well yesterday, there was an opening house at the site.  You could buy season passes, get their schedule, but the part we were excited about was the tour of the new stadium.  It is still very much a construction zone, and there will be another open house March 9th, but we were able to see the layout, view maps of what it will all look like in the end, and get some information about various functions the new stadium will be able to host.

The tour took us into the main banquet hall.  This is one of their main entertainment areas. They can host luncheons, wedding receptions, parties, etc in this room.  I’m pretty sure our guide said it could hold up to 1,000 people.  And below is the view from the banquet hall down towards the field.

Here’s the view from the other side of the banquet hall.  The stadium is right next to Railroad Park, which is another Birmingham development built about 2 years ago.

We’re excited about the new stadium.  Although I originally thought moving downtown was a bad idea (because I didn’t figure families would want to travel downtown), this new stadium has a lot to offer that the Hoover Met does not.  There are more interactive areas, like a kids playground area, batting cages, and a separate section intended for youth/college age kids….hello Thirsty Thursdays 😉  And this out.  Here’s what the main entrance will look like.  So cool!  And another perk is the stadium is only a few blocks from my work, so it would be no trouble to hop over to meet up with our friends if I had to work that day.  Good times all around!


Taking the plunge

I love my job.  I love the hands-on time I get with my little patients.  I honestly couldn’t ask for a better job.  One of the things I love most about my job is that because my unit is the step-down unit from the Neonatal ICU, the sickest of all our babies stay upstairs where patient acuity is higher.  As they become more stable, babies come down to our unit.  Sometimes it takes a few weeks for babies to make that transition, and sometimes only a few days.  But because we are a step-down unit, I have been blessed in that I’ve never actually seen one of my patients die.  I’ve had patients get sick and show signs of more serious conditions, and may or may not have died as a result, but they are sent back upstairs to the ICU before they reach that point.  So to say I have the perfect job might sound silly, but I truly think I do.  (Ok, minus the fact that I have to work some weekends and holidays…but come on, “perfect” really is relative, I suppose.)

So it probably seems crazy that I would ever consider any other job.  But I’ve always toyed with the idea of going back to school.  My fear is that eventually I will get tired of the same ‘ole same ‘ole. And once kids come around, there’s probably no chance I’ll get back to school.  And, the extra pay would certainly help.  We are already working extra hard to put away money into savings so that when we do decide to start “trying,” we will have some baby funds to pull from.  So call it my New Year’s resolution, or my “holy-crap-I-just-turned-27, where-has-the-time-gone” life goal.  I began my application online, got my undergrad transcript and my immunization records.  I’m officially in the process of applying to grad school. YIKES!

And because I do love my babies, and can’t imagine doing anything else, I am applying to the Nurse Practitioner Neonatal Care program.  The down-side is I will always be working in a hospital.  I could do something more broad, like Family Practice or Pediatric Primary Care and work in a wide variety of environments, but even “pediatrics” is considered anyone age 1-18 years old.  And well, I just want to work with babies 🙂  So, I’ll be sticking with neonatal.

The scariest part right now is since I’ve been working in the step-down unit these past 4 years, I actually don’t have ALL the experience I really could have benefited from to prepare me for becoming a NNP.  Ideally, I would have stepped it up and worked in the ICU so that I would have more experience with ventilators, infant’s on sedation, running codes, and attending actual premature deliveries.  But, thankfully the nursing professor/NNP I met with this week said that wouldn’t necessarily prevent me from being accepted.

So, I’m a little A LOT terrified but I’m just going with it.  If I get accepted, I will start this fall and it will take as little as 2 years, but probably a little longer (seeing as how I have to stay a full-time employee in order for UAB to help pay for it).  I’m hoping and praying it’s the right decision!

Lucky Birthday Girl

At first I was a little disappointed when I found out I’d be spending my birthday first of all, out of town away from my family, and then secondly, in the car driving home from Florida.  But it actually turned out to be a great day.  We got to do dinner with my family a few days ago, and then this morning the Boggs took us out for breakfast to celebrate.  I even got a candle in my English muffin to blow out 😉

We decided to bring Evey back with us, and give Jordan and Eric a little bit of a break.  And Evey was super excited about it.  We stopped at an antique shop right off the highway (somewhere just south of the Alabama line).  We didn’t walk away with anything, but it broke up the trip a bit.  And then somewhere along the way, we pulled out onto the highway behind these 2 hot rods!!  I had never seen anything like these.  It was like driving behind big toy cars!

Then this evening, Greg had planned a surprise dinner with several of our friends at New York Pizza.  It was so good to see my friends on my birthday.  After dinner, John and Leah walked next door with us to Edgewood Creamery for ice cream.  It was a great day!  Thanks to all the people who helped make my day special.

Weekend celebrations

Saturday night we celebrated Greg’s cousin’s wedding.  Leslie and Mason were married at Bentley’s On the Bay.  It was this precious little boat house type place right on the water.  The weather had been nice all morning long.  The sun was shining.  We went to lunch in Seaside.  Then around 3 o’clock it started pouring down rain.  Luckily the rain broke just in time for the ceremony at 4.  It was a little chilly, but not terrible.  Mr. and Mrs. Boggs, Greg, Evey and I attended the ceremony, then Eric, Jordan, Bennett and Cate joined us for the reception.  We have determined that Evey LOVES weddings.  She had a ball at ours, talked about it for months afterwards, and called it “Amy and Bubba’s dance party.”  Well at this wedding, she was obsessed with the bride.  I’m pretty sure she thought Leslie was a princess.  She would just stare at her and wanted to go meet her and talk to her like a real princess.  It was so cute!

(Kendall, I’m sorry, but I just had to snag another photo or two from you!  My camera card was left at the house all night, so all I had was my phone for taking pictures, which is not the best).

Winter weddings

This is a packed weekend!  First of all, today is my brother-in-law Chuck’s birthday!  So happy birthday brother 🙂  Secondly, we actually have two weddings we were invited to this weekend.  One of Katie’s best friends, Cameron, is getting married today in Birmingham, and Greg’s cousin, Leslie is getting married at Watercolor beach here in Florida.  Wish we could be in two places at once, but family comes first, so we’re beaching-it this weekend.  No offense to those of you who may have had a winter beach wedding, but what’s the point?  I understand not wanting to do a beach wedding in the heat of July, but it’s January.  Unless you’re getting married on the beaches of Jamaica, it’s not warm.  It’s 54 degrees here right now.  Like I said, no offense, but what’s the point?  Anyways.  Luckily what we expected to be a cold and rainy day today has so far been sunny and nice…but not warm 😉

Last night we attended the rehearsal dinner at Cafe’ 30A.  It was such a cute location.  Very elegant but beachy at the same time.  I wish I had gotten better pictures.  They had these big white beams all on the ceiling and giant white canvas beach umbrellas that hung upside-down overhead.  And dinner was DELICIOUS!!  And it was so nice to get to meet more of Greg’s family that I’ve been hearing about over the years.  I’m sure we met several of these people during our wedding festivities, but unfortunately, it’s so chaotic when you’re in the spotlight, that I didn’t necessarily remember everyone we met.

Ironically, I went to high school with the bride and her twin sister.  Leslie and Allison graduated 2 years before me.  What’s funny awkward, is that all this time (I’m talking almost 2 years now) I’ve been hearing about these cousins, and I’ve been picturing a totally different set of twin sisters that were older than me in high school.  So last night when I was talking to Leslie (mind you, I didn’t know that’s who it was), I introduced myself and then asked her her name.  Yes, I stood there talking to THE BRIDE at HER OWN rehearsal dinner that Greg and I had been invited to, and asked her who she was!  Someone please pull my foot out of my mouth.

Evey saw me taking pictures, and wanted to take some as well.  So I showed her which button to push, and she took pictures of each of us 😉

This little girl (on the left) is one of Greg’s cousin’s kids.  I always hear about “the premie” in their family, and how she was about 1lb. 4 oz when she was born.  Well, here she is 🙂  Having a ball coloring with Evey.

And I had to snag this picture from my MIL Kendall’s blog.  Little Miss Evey is connected to my hip this weekend.  She was so sweet this morning!  When we were in the kitchen making some peanut butter crackers, she looks up at me and says, “I just love spending time with you.”  Melt my heart 🙂

And check out this cutie!

Well, it’s almost wedding time.  Let’s hope the rain stays away!!

birthday bash

It’s 2013.  The new year has rolled on by, which means 2 more birthdays for the Graves clan!  My brother-in-law and I almost share a birthday.  On January 5th he will turn the big 2-5, and on January 6th I’ll be 27.  Man. 27?  That can’t be right.  30 keeps getting closer and closer :/  Well, we both had separate weddings to attend this weekend, so my family decided to celebrate our birthdays last night instead.  We ate dinner at Iguana Grill.  So yummy!  Their strawberry margaritas are delicious 🙂  And the “burrito gigante” aka: giant burrito, should probably be called “burrito enormo!” 😉

And I LOVE the gifts my sweet family gave me.  They all did really well 😉  Greg even went to Anthropologie and picked out a box full of goodies for me!  I got an awesome candle from Katie and Chuck, a Vera Bradley laptop case from my mom, and Greg picked out 2 new Anthro oven mitts (which we desperately need…the old ones are getting pretty gross!), another great candle and some cute little ceramic farmers’ baskets!  Can’t wait to fill them with lots of garden goodies this summer! And Chuck got more money for those bike tires he’s saving for, and a gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods!

Crazy Busy December- part 2

Christmas morning started bright and early, as most Christmas mornings do.  However, instead of sleepily walking into the den, I put on my candy cane scrubs and rushed off to work.  At least traffic wasn’t bad 😉  (You gotta look on the bright side!) Working on Christmas day was fine.  I had a good assignment, sweet families, and I even got to watch some of the Christmas day parade (as I rocked a sweet baby!).  But I was ready for my 12 hours to be over as the shift came to an end.  I met up with Greg’s family after work for a quick dinner and gifts.  It was pretty calm. The kids were already in bed, and it wasn’t too long before we headed home and crashed in bed too.

On December 26th, we did our final Christmas celebration with my family at my mom and Dwayne’s house.  We all cooked food and fried a turkey again.  There was a little impromptu photo session at one point…

We decided to do gifts first while some of the food finished cooking. Some of the highlights included lots of great gift cards (Katie loves shopping at World Market, and Emily lucked out with 2 Francesca’s gift cards). Greg and I got more of our nice dinnerware from Pottery Barn.  Dwayne got some guide posts for the boat trailer from all us kids (sounds boring, but he was thrilled!).  Mom got a sonic jewelry cleaner (which ironically, I got as well from the Boggs!). We are gonna have some sparkling jewels this year!  Chuck has been wanting some new tires for his triathlon bike, so he got lots and lots of cold hard cash 😉   To throw him off, we even put our cash inside this box.  And yes, the item inside is now a part of our kitchen decor…(thank you Boggs family Dirty Santa, haha)

But the best gift (in my totally unbiased opinion), was this little pie-safe type of cabinet Katie found on one of our flea market shopping trips several months ago!  Ok, background story…we were shopping and literally as we are heading to the counter to check out she passes this cabinet and brings it to checkout.  It was only $20!!  And I immediately begged her if I could buy it instead. It would be perfect for holding all my canning goods.  I even offered to pay her more than the $20 she was about to pay for it.  Well, over the past several months I’ve been eying her kitchen to see if she was using it yet (which she wasn’t).  I even posted an Instagram pic one day of a bunch of salsa I had just canned, and made a comment about how little storage space we have and how MUCH storage space her kitchen has, and asking if she was using this little cabinet yet 😉  We much to my surprise, she decided to give it to me for Christmas!!  I was SO excited when her and Chuck brought it into the room 🙂  And I promised her I would can lots of goodies for her next summer!

After all the fun and games and food, we all settled into the den and watched one of Emily’s new movies…Wall Street.  It was a long, great, wonderful Christmas!  Can’t wait to see what another year has in store for us!

Crazy busy December- part 1

Boy, did December fly by!  One minute you’re decorating the house, hanging the trim, celebrating TWO birthdays, and then before you know it Christmas day has come and gone.  We did Christmas a little different this year.  It’s always a challenge trying to coordinate 2 nurses’ schedules.  Katie had to work Christmas Eve and I had to work Christmas day.  But, to tell you the truth, I think it worked out better this way than how we did it last year.  Last year I was off on Christmas so we spent much of the day going back and forth between Boggs and Graves family celebrations.  It was exhausting.  But this year, since I had to bow out of Christmas day celebrations, we were able to spread Christmas out a bit, and who doesn’t love doing Christmas 3 times! 😉
We celebrated part of Christmas with the Boggs on Sunday night with dinner and Dirty Santa.  The Boggs have a tradition of making a pajama party of it all, and this year they picked out reindeer attire for us all to wear.

The kids were their usual adorable selves.  I asked Evey to take a picture with me in front of the tree, and she made sure we got one in front of the “grown-up” tree and “her” tree. (unfortunately, I’m terrible at taking good self pics with my phone 🙁 )
We went ahead and exchanged some gifts, because I wanted to see the kids open their gifts from us (they’d be in bed by the time I got off work Christmas day), and Houston would be in Dothan for Christmas.  I was so happy Evey LOVED her toboggan we bought her during our trip to Nashville.  It looks SO cute on her!!  And we got Bennett a t-ball set, and thankfully found out that same night he can slug a baseball! So I’m sure he’ll get lots of enjoyment from it this spring.

After Sunday’s fun, Greg and I decided to do our Christmas together on Christmas Eve morning.  And I really enjoyed it actually.  It was kinda nice being done with our Christmas and then getting to relax and enjoy Christmas with everyone else over the next few days.  His big gift was some new hunting boots, which he loves.  He’s yet to go hunting, but believe me, he’s worn them. 😉  And I got a food vacuum system so I can vacuum seal meats, but also will come in handy with garden veggies next summer. OH! and I might have gifted myself one of the bracelets I also gave Jordan and Callen. I just loved it so much!  (It’s from POSH!) We did Christmas casserole for breakfast (my family tradition) and realized we were out of OJ to drink.  Well, Greg thought he would just run to Publix real quick to get some…in his pajamas.  I tried telling him it wasn’t actually Christmas morning, but he was certain no one would be in Publix on Christmas Eve.  HA!  When he got home, he told me it was packed!! That night on Christmas Eve those of us who could make it to the candlelight service at church (mom, Dwayne, Emily, Mr. and Mrs. Boggs, Evey, Greg and I) did that together and then we met up with Jordan, Eric, the babies and some cousins for dinner at Ichiban. 

Then Greg and I split ways.  He went to Jordan’s to “help Santa” 😉 and I went to my mom’s to hang out for a bit before having to get home and get to bed.

So the first part of Christmas was great!  I love having all my family together in one city.  I can’t image trying to juggle families in different cities or even different states. I’m so thankful God has kept us all together at this point.  I’m sure in the years to come that will not always be the case. But for now, it’s so nice being able to see everyone for the holidays!