Thursday, July 18, 2013

Things Eliza likes to do

Playing outside with the chickens...
Making music with her piano...

Riding in her wagon and playing with her phone...

 And of course reading lots and lots of books!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chickens and the neverending coop - part 1

As alluded to in our previous post, we have joined the world of chicken ownership! It's been quite a journey already!

We'd been bouncing around the idea at least since going on the Raleigh "Tour D'Coop" chicken coop tour back in May, if not before. Raleigh has a head start on chicken coops since it's been legal there for quite a few years, so there are some really impressive and well-established coops on that tour. In Durham, chickens have only been permitted for the last three and a half years, but permitted they are nonetheless. We checked our homeowners' association (HOA) bylaws and found that they also permit chickens, so we decided to go ahead with it!

Knowing that we'd have to get our HOA architectural review committee (ARC) to approve the coop design and construction, we planned to have a coop professionally built for us by a local builder specializing in coops (whose work we'd seen on the tour) rather than attempting to build it ourselves. That way we could be confident that we and the HOA ARC would be satisfied with the end result.

We made plans for the builder to deliver our coop in late October or early November. That plan in place, we couldn't wait any longer to become chicken owners (and the chick-hatching season was rapidly coming to a close) so in early October we acquired four newly hatched chicks - an Ameraucana (or "Easter Egger"), a Buff Orpington, and two Barred Plymouth Rocks. At just a day or two old, they were some very cute balls of fuzz!

With fall coming to a close, they'd need to live inside for about six weeks before they would be big enough and hardy enough to stay outside overnight. So we built an incubator from a couple of old moving boxes, a heat lamp, and a window screen (as a lid for the incubator, once they began learning to fly). We kept it in our bathroom, as that was one of the few rooms of the house that could reliably prevent unsupervised access by both Eliza and Pasha. We did introduce both kiddo and dog to the chicks under supervised conditions, both to get them used to the birds and get the birds used to them.

We submitted our proposal for the coop's design and location to the ARC. One of our neighbors had concerns about the location of the coop so we went to the committee meeting in person to explain our reasoning and address any concerns. It became clear that while the HOA bylaws permitted coops, the ARC had not yet approved any coops in our neighborhood - yikes! It was an intense session of questions and answers, and we left the meeting unsure as to its likely outcome, but a few days later we got a conditional approval from the ARC - hooray! They just wanted a few clarifications and details, which we provided.

Then the delay started. It was early November and we had no coop yet. The builder's delivery timeframe now changed from early November to after Thanksgiving, and we began to worry. What would we do with the chickens over the holiday? What if the delay continued and we found ourselves with full-grown chickens in the house but no coop?

Month-old chicks with Eliza - everyone growing fast!

My parents were in town visiting us for a long weekend when we got this news and shared our concern. We looked at the pictures the builder had sent us, and my father was confident that the four of us could build a very similar-looking coop in a matter of days for much less money than the builder was asking. Given the ongoing uncertainty, we decided to go with this new idea - we canceled our order with the builder, spent an evening sketching up some plans and materials lists, and the next morning, headed to Home Depot.

Several hours later, we returned home with a pickup-truck-load of supplies and got to work framing in the run and coop. Construction got off to a good start, but we soon hit our first snags and had to start making changes to accommodate unforeseen issues, such as changing the roof design to reduce the overall height and adding additional bracing to make the frame more sturdy. Still, it was coming together, but slowly.

A day and a half later, my parents had to leave to return home to Georgia, but sadly the chicken coop was nowhere near done yet. The 2x4 framing was mostly done, and the metal roof was halfway attached, but there was plenty more framing and roofing to finish, not to mention siding, paint, and chicken wire. Uh oh...

The coop wasn't quite this far done yet - this picture is from a week later

To be continued...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Catching up again

So, what's been happening for the last two months? More of the same, mostly, which is one of the reasons we haven't been posting much.

After another 2 rounds of antibiotics Eliza finally fought off her colds and ear infections for a while, getting a much-needed break from snotty noses, fitful sleeping, and general discomfort. Since she'd had such a rough time even so early in the fall cold and flu season, we decided to go ahead with getting ear tubes placed. It took a while to get an appointment for the surgery - she even came down with another new cold before then! - but she finally had the tubes placed two weeks ago. Seems to be healing fine so far and no more infections yet, so fingers crossed that the good health continues.

We took Eliza to the NC State Fair in mid October (just like last year) with mixed success. We went first thing in the morning to beat the crowds, but as a result it was still very chilly outside and Eliza was less than thrilled to be out and about in the cold and having to wear her warm coat. She liked seeing the animals inside the expo center, though, especially the goats and donkeys. We had the speedy tour of the fair since we were in and out after only 45 minutes, but we pretty much saw everything we wanted to see nonetheless!

Then and now!

The next weekend we took Eliza on the Bull City Coop Tour to visit different backyard chicken coops around Durham. Eliza liked the chickens a lot (which is a good thing since we're raising some birds of our own... but more on that in a separate post.) We even got interviewed and mentioned in a local newspaper article by name - Eliza's first taste of fame!

Also in October, Aunt Hannah and Uncle Bizzy brought Cousin Benjamin up to visit us and we all took Eliza and Benji to go "trunk-or-treating". Eliza was unsure at first, until she realized that the event was all about picking what she wanted out of a bucket, and then she quickly became a fan.

We also took her trick-or-treating on Halloween proper - though with Eliza's early bedtime, we had to go before the sun even set, so we were the first family out and about by a good margin!

Also of note: by the end of the month, Eliza's hair was getting long enough to pull up into a topknot or pigtails. Super cute!

Well, that's at least a start at getting caught back up on the blog. Future posts hopefully coming soon: the never-ending chicken coop and getting into the Christmas season.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sick Baby

Eliza's had a really rough couple of months. She's been sick on and off for the past 7 weeks. Runny nose, cough, and congestion. Of course the nights have been the worst with coughing fits and lots of retching and throwing up mucus. This week, after finishing up a round of antibiotics for a second ear infection within the last 2 months, I took her back in to the pediatrician since the snot was still pouring and the coughing was worse.

The good news is that the cough is just due to the post nasal drip, even though it sounds bad. The bad news? The ear infection has turned into a double ear infection and sinus infection! UGH! So she has a superbug that's pretty resistant to antibiotics. The pediatrician decided it was time to get out the big guns since this has been going on so long. Now we are on to injection antibiotics which means she has to get a shot in each leg 3 days in a row... then we start on a stronger oral antibiotics to make sure this bug dies for good. It's pretty scary thinking about how resistant it's been to the drugs so far and it starts setting off alarms in my head about total antibiotic resistance (!) but at the same time its just as serious to let this bug keep going.

By the way the new antibiotic is super thick which means extra big needle. UGH!!! Poor baby. She is so amazingly tough though. With as exhausted as she must be from poor sleep and being in pain you really wouldn't know it.. could just chalk it up to an extra clingy period. I wish I was as tough as her! :)

Here's hoping we are done with this very soon!

P.S Also good news: Doc says she isn't contagious.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Newest Milestone..

for Eliza is waving! She waves "Hi" and "Bye" and it is one of the cutest things I've seen her do! She's even waved a few times unprompted. Today at her first dentist appointment (yikes!) they have a giant saltwater fish tank with really large beautiful fish and Eliza started waving to the fish! I wish I'd thought to take a video of it!

Eliza really likes fish and its one of her newest signs. I think we might have to get a fish tank at some point. Eliza knows 5 signs now: please, book, music, more, and fish. I love the baby signing time videos!

Also tied for most heart-warming things ever: Eliza likes to get kisses back and forth from each parent a few times in a row and then she literally pushes us together for us to kiss, then repeats the whole process again. It's a ritual she's created all on her own. Oh my gosh it's just too sweet!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Two-year-old's silhouette

Continuing a tradition we started last year, I made a silhouette of Eliza at age two. I think it's the best one I've done yet. I'm really happy with how her hair and eyelashes turned out.

For comparison, here's her previous two silhouettes:

How much she's changed in the past year is clear even in her silhouette. She's definitely a kid now, no longer a baby!

For anyone who cares about the nerdy details...

All three of these silhouettes were done with the GNU Image Manipulation Program (a free, open-source Photoshop clone). I started in each case with a profile photograph of Eliza against a high-contrast background (this year I got smart and had her pose in front of a white sheet of posterboard), then used a combination of the polygonal lasso selection tool, the pen tool, and image threshold/levels filters to create the silhouette. Of these three, threshold and levels is the fastest technique (but the least realistic as a silhouette, as it tends to make blurry or overly rough edges), the polygonal lasso tool produces good results very quickly but is hard to fine-tune afterwards, and the pen tool is more time-consuming but infinitely adjustable. (The pen tool is how I did Heather's veil in our wedding silhouette - couldn't have done that any other way.) My approach for this latest silhouette was to use the polygonal lasso tool for her face and the outline of her head, then use the pen tool for her hair since that required the most fiddling to get right. I think it was a very successful approach!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Two years past

Thinking about our babies today. Wondering what Oliver and Charlotte would be like today and wishing Eliza had her siblings around her. Can't believe it's been 2 years today since getting to hold Oliver for the first and last time.

Sending up lots of love to both Oliver and Charlotte today. It would mean a lot to us if you could send up some love and hugs today as well. 

 Love you forever sweet babies!  xx