Just friends

I’m so frustrated, ya’ll. Josh and I were both out late last night and when Josh got home Mae Mae wasn’t in the coop.

We haven’t seen hide nor feather of her. No trace. Damn hawks or eagles. 

They might be the hardest predators to thwart. I hate to not let the chickens free range, but I’m thinking the only way to keep them safe is to keep them locked in their fenced area unless we’re home and outside or the dogs are outside. Harder to do on the weekends when we’re in and out, but I think it’s the only way we’re going to stop losing hens. We may even have to string some poultry netting across that fenced area.

#prayersForMaeMae

On a side note, I took tomorrow off work and it’s going to be a beautiful 70 degree day. We’re (#fingerscrossed) going to pick up some free wood chips and then I’ll be well on my way to having the garden ready for planting. I’m hoping by the end of the weekend to have it fenced and ready to go.

I can’t wait to get my carrot seeds planted. I swear carrots might be the most satisfying plant to harvest. The ones I planted in the doomed fall garden have sprung to life as the days have lengthened and temps warmed. I picked a few today. A couple of them were really good size!


In just a few months we’ll be getting yellow, orange and purple ones.

Mae Mae and Friends

So, how are the chickens doing?

Well, our flock currently consists of these three Buff Orpingtons.  None of which have names except the one in back that we call “hurt chicken.” She’s fine now, but got a bit messed up by Monty (our dog).  He knows better now, but thought he was playing with her and ripped some feathers (and skin) out.  After she molts in the fall we won’t be able to tell the different between these three.    None of these are from our original chicks.  We drove out to Windsor and got these after we were down to two or three.

Fancy, the one with the large comb in front, is the only original chicken left.  The two Rhode Island Reds are very new and young.  The one in front is Mae Mae and the one in back is Lil’ Red.  The White Leghorn is named Chick-O-Letta (everyone with small children will understand the reference)

We’re not getting many eggs right now.  I locked them in the fenced in area for a few days to remind them where to lay eggs because I’m sure they’re laying them somewhere, I just can’t figure out where. These ladies need to earn their keep (the three young ones aren’t of laying age, yet).

In garden news…

Here’s the update on the seeds in the house.  Appears to be only zucchini and swiss chard.  I don’t think any of the peppers or tomatoes germinated.  I’m probably going to have to find a warmer place for them.  This room used to be a garage and has a great window for sun, but doesn’t stay warm.  It’s not connected to the central heat.

Look at that beautiful zucchini seedling.  I can’t wait to chow on zucchini boats this summer.

These seeds are outside.  This container I have them in isn’t the best.  They’re angled which gives them a lot of sun, but the moisture and nutrients are draining down.

The broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach and such are sprouting.  Again, the tomatoes, peppers aren’t doing anything. And neither is the lettuce, which I’m learning is apparently better as a direct sow.

A little research has shown that I can plant most of my cooler weather crops now.  Kale, spinach, lettuce, onions, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, chard…all of that can go in now.  My main hesitation is that the almanac indicates that we’ll get a snow in mid-March.  I can, of course, cover the beds then, but I had hoped not to have to purchase low-tunnel materials until late summer, early fall.

I received my Lasagna Gardening book on Friday and zoomed through a lot of it before starting my beds on Saturday.

The wind and regular weekend happenings limited how much I was able to get done.  Also, my supply of newspaper.  I really wanted to use newspaper but I don’t have a regular supply of it, so I’ll have to use cardboard to finish up.

My layers are newspaper/cardboard, leaves, compost, hay, compost, top soil (not quite done with that.  Once I’m ready to plant I’ll mulch with either hay or wood chips.  I want to lay everything in the garden around the beds with wood chips, too, but I need a free supply to do that.  I’m also working on a supply of grass cutting from one of the landscapers that works in the neighborhood.

I plan to extend these rows longer, add one on the right and two or more in the back.  I really think this is going to be a perfect spot. Full sun, level, well drained soil…

 

“Farm” Update (Long)

Nolan’s teachers and classmates like to talk about our “farm” since for most of them it’s almost the same thing.

Last time I posted we were winding up the summer garden and I had created a very nice looking fall/winter garden.

Man, I worked hard on that thing and it looked so good! Unfortunately, pretty soon (6 days) after I planted that garden, a hurricane came through and all the seeds washed out.

I still had a few things that sprung up, but the fall/winter here means very limited sun. Since it was already not the sunniest place, nothing did well.  I do still have a few carrots that are starting to grow again now that the days are getting longer.

So…on to plan C.  I’m going to plant a garden in the front yard.  Yep, the front yard.  It’s the only place in our entire yard that gets the right sun.

That tree you see there casts shade over that whole area of the yard that has nothing in it, otherwise I’d plant against the fence.  I do think I’m going to plant some blackberry bushes against the fence.  We already have two blueberry bushes in front of the house.  So…this weekend I’m going to start building the beds in my lasagna garden.  No, I don’t mean I’m growing things to put in lasagna (though I suppose I am).

There are a hundred different ways to do it, but it’s really about using what you have to create your own soil.  Our soil is very dry and sandy, especially in the front yard where that large tree has really stolen a lot of nutrients and moisture.

I plan to go with 1) newspaper, 2) chicken compost, 3) dried leaves, 4) not sure…maybe more chicken compost, purchase some mushroom compost or ask the neighbor or lawn company for grass clippings 5) topsoil (necessary because we’re starting in Spring instead of fall which would have given it months to break down) 6) newspaper, 7) hay as mulch.  Everything gets wet down between layers.

I don’t have kitchen scraps to put on/in it because well, 1) no time for it to break down and 2) I bought this countertop compost bin for our kitchen scraps and we give them to the chickens.  I actually just bought a second one for things that can be composted but aren’t food for the chickens, like paper towels, coffee filters, coffee grounds, etc.

The plan is to get the front garden built this weekend (thankfully it’s supposed to be in the 60’s and 70’s) and let it do it’s thing until after the last frost (March 15th around here).

In the meantime I’ve started my seeds.  I went a little overboard and bought a LOT of seeds.  I bought most of them from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

I also bought some other organic ones from Seeds of Change.  I kept remembering other things I wanted to plant so I also bought some bunching onions and cucumbers off Amazon and then some Heirloom green pole beans at Home Depot.I haven’t started most of the larger things like corn, watermelon, cucumbers or any of the things that can’t be transplanted such as carrots or the bunching onions.  They’ll have to wait until mid-March.

So far I’ve started peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, basil, kale.  I plan to put the basil and cilantro on the deck in some planters (away from dogs and chickens), strawberries, too. The corn, watermelon, cucumbers, oh, and sunflowers I plan to try in a garden down on the hill where I have more room. That will be more of an experiment, but I plan to use the same method.

I started the seeds outside in cold frames as a different experiment.  The ones in plastic went out first and after 9 days they hadn’t germinated so last night I moved them inside only to realize after two warms days they HAD started to germinate, so I left the ones in the 3 tiered container (in soil blocks) outside and put a second cover over them.  Some of the seeds on the bottom had started to germinate and those I just planted on Sunday so I’m stoked.  I’m sure I’ll provide pictures in the next week or so.

 

Obviously I was a little into gardening already, but what has really gotten me going is stumbling onto this Vlog.  I would go so far as to say I’m slightly obsessed. lol

They’re actually only days away from leaving the farm for 10 months and touring North America on a school bus they had converted to an RV.  I do miss the garden videos, but they’re touring farms (it’s called the Great American Farm tour) so I’m sure there’ll be plenty to see and learn from.

That vlog is where I learned about soil blocking, which is planting seeds in little blocks of soil with no containers.  They’re not cheap, so I bought a small one to start and so far so good.  The idea is the roots get more airflow and also you’re not spending money on plastic containers or throwing those in the landfill when they break.  I did just like Justin Rhodes did and didn’t cover the seeds.  Just laid them in the little indentations created by the soil blocks.

Clicking around on different related vlogs led me to the Baker Creek Seeds and lasagna gardening.  I’ve got this Lasagna Gardening book on the way and I am just so stoked for spring.  Having all this prep work to do has really made winter go by faster.

Okay, so that’s my really, really long garden update and hopefully there will be more to come soon on the chickens and other life updates.

 

 

Progress

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged since May! I’m not going to even try to catch up. Needless to say it was an awesome summer filled with Busch Gardens, Water Country, boat rides, a visit from family and lots of ice cream.

Now we’re getting in gear for fall. Today is the day I visit the attic and pull out the Halloween decorations. I’ve already made chili and cornbread once and I’m starting to transition from iced coffe to hot.

Nolan moved rooms at daycare twice since we last spoke. Due to his late birthday he had to be on the fast track to the pre-k class. He’s doing well and I’ve seen a lot of positive changes with his behavior and attitude.  

He seems to have suddenly turned into a more rough and tumble boy lately.  It’s been quite a month with him between a concussion, croup, bruised rubs, and hitting himself in the face with a shovel. 0_o 

I for one can’t wait for Kindergarten. His school is on the corner of our neighborhood and after school care is in the school. I hope everything works out the way we hope and our commute will be cut by a good hour/day. I plan to walk him to school with the dogs and if possible go home on the afternoons, get the dogs and then get him. The afternoon is more iffy but the mornings should be fine and walking is easier than driving because that drop-off line gets crazy.

My summer garden did pretty well. Better than last year. Got a lot of beefsteak tomatoes, cucumbers, a little lettuce, some kale, one carrot. 



There isn’t any great area in our yard with a lot of sun so stuff came in late and some didn’t grow at all. I think part of it was the seed pods I used.

To get ready for fall I pulled out the pepper plants that weren’t producing and put them in containers and they’re doing much better, though I don’t know if they’ll actually bear any fruit.


We have been getting jalapeños now and I made some salsa with the last of my tomatoes and it’s amazing! I don’t even like salsa. 

I really enjoy gardening so for fall I’ve expanded.



I built that fence and gate by myself when Josh and Nolan were out of town. Go me.

Nolan helped me make the mounds and plant the seeds yesterday.  He also wrote most of the labels. Can you believe it!? I mean he had help with some letters, but still.


I had already planted seeds in the boxes and they’re doing okay but I needed to replant the lettuce and some kale because we had crazy rains two weeks ago that ruined it. We got 10 inches of rain in 3 days and schools were even closed.

This year we’ve used a bit of our own compost and a little we bought (needed some to plant grass seed). By next year we shouldn’t need to buy anymore. The chickens provide plenty of compost with their poop, pine bedding and then whatever scraps we throw out there.

Speaking of the chickens they’re doing pretty well. We only have 2 of the original 6 left. Predators (fox – 2, Hawk -1, Monty -1) got four of them. We ended up driving out to Windsor to buy 4 more Buff Orringtons the same age.

Right now we’re averaging about 2 eggs/ day. Some are definitely being slackers. Our favorite chicken (we call her Chicken Parrot) is the only one producing daily.

The black chicken (we call her Fancy) we know isn’t producing because she’s the only one who should be laying white eggs rather than brown (you can tell by the color of their ears).

The difference we’ve noticed with our eggs are harder shells and brighter yolks.

Okay, well, I think that might bring us up to speed for how and I’ll try to update more regularly.

Life on the Farm 

Okay so that may be a bit of an exaggeration. But sometimes between the dogs and the “garden” and the chickens I can slightly feel like we’ve got a little hobby farm.


I thought I’d check in and give you a quick chicken update. Josh got the coop built and they’ve been outside for a few weeks.

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We haven’t put the roosting boxes in, yet, because they’re still months from laying eggs.

Here’s a video of them (and the very eager dogs).

The two gold ones are named Skye and Rubble (from Paw Patrol).  One of the black ones, the one with more orange on her beak is named Phoenix.  She got her name by surviving an attack from Goliath.

We were building the fence and before we could cover the gaps on the ends goliath squeezed through in 5 seconds flat and gave that chicken quite a scare.  She had a gash on one thigh (you know you’re picturing fried chicken thighs) and some feathers missing from her tail.  We didn’t know if she’d survive the stress, but she did so we decided she would be Phoenix.

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We put an old bench out there and it’s very relaxing just to sit and watch the chickens.

I believe it will be September or October before we start seeing eggs.  I can’t wait!

Choices and Blessings

I was driving home yesterday from Busch Gardens and contemplating some things.  It was this amazingly perfect day where my friends were all able to join us at the last minute and there was no drama and no hiccups and we left right before no-nap meltdown time. Beautiful weather, beautiful friends…just an all around amazing day.

As Nolan finally took his nap on the ride home I was contemplating how blessed we are. In so many ways.  I was thinking about how I sometimes wonder when the other shoe will drop. Is it actually possible to be this lucky? Surely something bad is going to happen.

But then, I was thinking…there have been lots of times when I/we could have not felt so blessed.

My parents got divorced and we moved away from my dad.  My grandfather got AIDS during a surgery (in the mid 80’s).  I was overweight for most of high school, nerdy and not one of the “cool kids”.  I had to have back surgery at the age of 14.  I’ve lost a lot of family in the last 10 years, including both my parents and I’m only 35. Josh lost his job at one point, a few months before he started with the police department.  I had post-partum depression after Nolan was born. Josh now works a stressful job with unfortunate hours.  My marriage is not perfect, my child is not perfect (whose is?). I am not perfect and neither is my life.

This made me think that perhaps the blessings in our life, or the feeling of having been blessed, may have more to do with the decisions we’ve made.  The choices we’ve made when faced with the bad or the hard.

I know that things are not always as simple as this makes it seem.  We don’t always know what the good choices are. But maybe it’s more a matter of making choices for the right reasons.  Perhaps then, even if it wasn’t the best choice, it can eventually lead you down the right road.

Spring Fever

I can’t believe it’s been 3 months since I blogged.  Crazy how quickly time can get away from us.

We’ve had some really great times this winter, partially due to the crazy back and forth weather patterns.

One day we’re at the zoo in January…

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The next, it’s sleeting and snowing…

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Snow…

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…then warm enough to go wander around Colonial Williamsburg.

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We’ve even had days like this:

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Well, Josh and Nolan did. I was at work. 🙁

Right now I’m completely over the back and forth, though. We have passes to Busch Gardens and Water Country, we’ve got camping equipment, we’ve got a little johnboat…I’m READY FOR SUMMER!!!

I’ve been working hard to get my garden going.  Trying to do it right this year, by planting seeds and getting things ready early.  I’ve got garlic, onions, green beans, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, watermelon, and lots of peppers.  As usual I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m going to keep trying.  I just wish the weather would cooperate so I could get stuff out of the ground and into the beds.

Zone 8 Virginia Garden Schedule

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We also got chickens!!! Can you believe we finally did it!?

We got 6 hens, the max we can have in our city (no roosters).  Two of them are Buff Orringtons, two are Barred Plymouth Rock and the other two…I honestly can’t remember.  They’re living in the guest room under a heat lamp.  They have to stay there until they get their feathers (about a month) and Josh is working on the chicken coop for when they’re ready to go outside.

Oooooh! And we got a chocolate lab puppy, named Monty.

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He was about 10 weeks in the picture above and the one below is from Easter weekend. He’s a little over 4 months now and it’s about time for him to go to puppy school.

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I even got all crafty and made him (them) a dog bed.

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Sure, it may have cost as much as buying one, but…at least I have a sense of satisfaction. 😉

The only other development is my obsession with Lularoe (and apparently selfies).

If you’re in the Hampton Roads area, I’m having a pop-up on April 28th.  Use the Contact Me form to shoot me an email and I’ll let you know where.

Hopefully this post will get me back in the blogging groove.  It’s gonna be a great summer and I can’t wait to share it with you!

Hello and Goodbye

So, we got a dog. And then we took him back to the shelter a month later.  Before you judge, hear me out.

We’ve been looking to get a new dog for a few years now.  We had to put our Rottweiler/Lab mix down a few months after Nolan was born.  He was an awesome dog.  Loved to fetch. Not a big cuddler, but he was 90 lbs, so that’s fine. 🙂

We’ve been going to shelters off and on for that entire time.  Our little dog, Goliath, was a mess between our attention shifting to Nolan and losing Rusty.  He started peeing in the house (only on the carpet downstairs of course) and crating him didn’t help because it was spiteful.  He’d come in from outside and go pee downstairs (never caught the little f*!&er in the act, though).  We knew he needed company, but it had to be the “right” dog.

Finally…finally, we were in the SPCA one day and came across Kano, a pit bull (mix, supposedly).   His eyes just drew me in.  They were a beautiful gold color.

We thought about it for a week and took Nolan and Goliath for the required meet and greets.  Kano was super chill and mostly ignored both of them.  We went to the pet store to get everything we needed and then went and picked him up the next day.

FB_IMG_1451401068544We were definitely a little nervous about getting a pit bull so we followed all the instructions about keeping a leash on him for a few days and not letting the dogs eat together, etc., etc.  Kano LOVED snuggles and cuddling on the couch.  He was calm and hardly ever barked.

20151115_12034620151115_145546  20151116_20265020151117_20253920151117_202514After a couple of weeks we loosened the reins a bit. Another week or so after that Kano snapped at Goliath because Goliath was eating out of his bowl.  We tried to keep them separated during meal times again after that, but there were certainly times I was distracted and it didn’t happen.  All was well for another two or three weeks and then it happened again. Kano stopped without my interference (I wasn’t about to get in the middle) and Goliath acted like nothing had happened.  They were still playing together.

A day or two later I felt a scab on Goliath and found a puncture wound, quite deep on his shoulder and a couple of other scratches.  Of course, we had to assume it either happened when that incident occurred or when we were gone.  Oddly, Goliath never acted afraid of Kano or seemed hurt in any way unless you touched the wounds.

We had tried crating Kano, but he busted out within a minute so that wasn’t an option.  Our doors have those long, horizontal handles and he’d learned to open them so no keeping him in a room.

We felt like we really didn’t have a choice except to take him back to the shelter.  It was really a painful decision and brings tears to my eyes just to think about it.  In a home without other animals he was literally a perfect pet.  Didn’t shed much, super cuddly, loved car rides, didn’t bark much, etc.  His favorite place to sleep was Nolan’s bed, which is what we’d dreamed of in a new dog.  But, we just weren’t comfortable having him in the house any more.

It really hurts my heart because we’d all become attached to him.  Nolan is at an age where he’s not going to forget Kano quickly.  And Kano wasn’t/isn’t a bad dog.

I keep feeling guilty that I didn’t do more.  Maybe we should have tried a little longer.  I certainly shouldn’t have gotten lax about isolating them when eating.  But, while I truly don’t think Kano would have ever hurt Nolan, Nolan is at an age where he does the exact opposite of what we ask him to do and I can totally see him messing with Kano while he’s eating just because I said not to and I can’t guarantee I won’t get distracted and if something happened…I just couldn’t handle it.

The whole thing just sucks.  The SPCA does food aggression tests and Kano passed.  That was the frustrating part.  He didn’t get upset every time.  Maybe it was when he was extra hungry, maybe he was in a bad mood…who knows?  We don’t even know it happened then, either, because Goliath certainly didn’t act like a dog that got bit.

Shit, we don’t even know 100% that Kano did it.  We’ve had a bald eagle (yes, a bald eagle)  in the back yard, lately, and Goliath is only 9 lbs. so he’s basically a squirrel to an eagle.  Of course, Josh came up with a wild theory after the fact that the eagle tried to take Goliath and Kano saved him.  It’s more than a little out there and we definitely had to operate off the most likely scenario, but it did put a little doubt in our heads.

We aren’t those people who think pets are disposable.  I promise you, Goliath’s non-stop barking, peeing on the carpet, jerkface little butt would be gone.  I actually joked that we should take Goliath to the shelter and keep Kano, but of course we’d never do that.  That’s not how pet ownership works.

If anyone out there has a home without pets and small kids or knows someone who is and is looking for a wonderful, calm pet, then please contact me and I’d love to give you more information.

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20151128_173341He really is a wonderful dog and hurts my heart to know he’s back in the shelter.

Life, Lately

Wow! It’s been so long since I posted, I’m surprised I remembered my password.

The short story is that I started a new position where I simply don’t have time to blog.  While to many it may seem a strange departure to go from a professional job as an instructional designer, a job that requires a Masters degree, to an admin job, I saw it a little differently.

To be clear, it’s in the same company and in the same department.  I felt I needed to get more exposure to the department and the company as a whole. This position, while administrative, is assistant to the Vice President of the department and as I transition in, I take over other duties left by unfilled positions, like the department’s budget and our company’s award program (open to all 30,000 people in the company).

Basically in my old job I knew nothing about anything except my little niche area.  Now I need to know everything about everything.  It’s been a steep learning curve, but so far I’m doing pretty well, I think.  ::knocks on wood::

So there’s the answer to my absence.  But Christmas is almost here and I’m looking forward to some time off.

This morning I was thinking of all the cute things Nolan is saying and doing lately and wanting to capture them on the blog.  Of course, I’ve already forgotten half of them, but here are a few.


 

“When I was in college….”

“When I was a younger man…”

“I was over at the kid’s hospital and my girlfriend fell down and I helped her up and took her to the doctor.”

“I think Dad is going to give me his credit card.”

We went to see the ice show at Christmastown a few weeks ago.  While everyone else is singing along to Christmas carols, Nolan is singing, “We will rock you!” and when it’s over and people cheer, he yells, “Booooo!”

I ask him why his shins are covered in bruises and he dramatically re-enacts how he fell down, thus probably giving himself more bruises.

 

Halloween 2015

I know everyone is already moving on to Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I’m just not there, yet.

This year, for Halloween, we did it up! I love Halloween and really wanted to have a Halloween party.  Since Josh was working on Halloween, we did it the weekend before and I *may* have gone a little Pinterest crazy.

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Found these candy knives at the grocery store and couldn’t resist.

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Hay bales around the fire pit with s’mores.

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Nolan took one look at the “body” and used it as a race track for his Hot Wheels. LOL

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This guy was “cute” according to Nolan.

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And I was “pretty.” I’m a little worried about him. 😉

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Pretzels with marshmallows, covered in white chocolate. Not as easy to make as one might think.

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Spider eggs.

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Someone couldn’t keep their dinner down.

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Our little “graveyard.”

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Toilet paper/Paper towel rolls with LED tealights in them for creeeepy eyes outside.

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What a blast! Now I have to top it next year. ha.


On the Friday before Halloween we carved our pumpkin.  I can’t remember the last time I bothered to make a real effort.  This was so easy!  I’m glad I went for something a little more fun this year.

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That night after Josh went to work, Nolan insisted on wearing his costume around the house while we watched Hocus Pocus.  I got lucky this year because the only thing I needed to buy was tape.  We already had the rain coat, rain boots, black pants, firefighter shirt, and firefighter hat.  Josh and I made the hose and backpack out of soda bottles and a car heater hose.

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Halloween day was pretty much  the best ever. I suppose it was the combination of it being on a Saturday and Nolan’s age. I propose a national movement to make Halloween always on a Saturday.

We went to Town Center for a trick or treat event. It was PACKED!  There were long lines for everything.  I think he maybe got 6 pieces of candy.  After we stood in line for a caricature (free), I was pretty much done.

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After nap time we went over to Ken’s house so Josh could trick or treat with us before he went to work.  We brought Ken a pumpkin so his wife, Julie, could have her first Jack O’ Lantern (she moved here from Switzerland, and the Philippines before that back in the Spring).

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We trick or treated for about and hour and a half.  I am REALLY glad we brought the wagon.  Nolan pretended it was a fire truck and would make siren noises as I walked.  He also insisted I address him as “Firefighter.”  “Say, ‘Please come here, FIREMAN!.'”

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From there we went to an “after party” at a friend’s house and headed home close to 10pm.  I transferred Nolan to his bed and then hit the hay myself.  Another successful Halloween in the books.