Browsing Tag: new house


    Backyard Church, Every Morning

    January 1, 2021

    I’ve been praying for you.

    Every morning for the past several months, come rain, shine, or snow, I spend a few moments standing out on our back patio, looking at the beautiful western views and having a little conversation with God.

    The back patio is my happy place. In the spring, summer, and fall, I try to sit out there every night after dinner. One of my least favorite days of the year is the day I realize it’s too cold to do that, and that it’s time to put the cushions away and cover up the patio furniture.

    But a few months ago — I don’t remember exactly when — I decided to go out first thing every morning and pray. It’s something I’d done occasionally over the years, but 2020 prompted me to do it purposefully.

    If I know you … heck, even if I don’t know you, I’ve been praying for you. I pray for

    • my wife
    • my kids
    • my sisters and their families
    • my biological parents and their families
    • my friends and acquaintances
    • my neighbors and co-workers
    • the country and our leaders

    I ask God to bless you and keep you safe, healthy, and happy. The words change a bit from day to day, but that’s the message.

    I’m not sharing this because I want to come off sounding holier-than-thou or as if I have my s**t together all the time. I’m not and I don’t. I decided to post this for two reasons:

    • Considering how difficult last year was and how difficult this year will continue to be (for at least a good while), I want you to know that someone’s out here praying for you.
    • I went through some really difficult days in 2020, and starting the day in prayer always helped. It helped me get over the hump more than a few times. Maybe give it a try next time you’re having a difficult day and see if it helps you as it helped me.

    I’m gonna keep doing this in 2021. And hopefully 2022 and beyond, for that matter.


    Kinda Proud of Myself for This Christmas Decoration Hack

    December 26, 2020

    This photo above is from Christmas 2018 and shows what the front patio area of our house looks like in a normal year when I do the exterior Christmas decorations. I’ve skipped a couple years recently for personal reasons — including last year. With all that we’ve gone through in 2020, though, I was really excited to put all this back up right after Thanksgiving.

    But there was a problem. As you can see in the photo, we have a really large white planter and several decorations “sit” in the planter. It’s been filled almost to the top with soil for years, so it’s been easy to place those items in the dirt or on top of the dirt and everything looks perfect.

    The problem this year is that I emptied the planter over the summer! No dirt. Totally empty. There was nothing in there to hold the wooden candy cane in place, to hold the silver & gold branches in place, or to sit the oversized ornaments on.

    But when I was building this a month ago, I came up with an idea and made it work. This is what it looked like even without any soil in the planter.

    Not bad, right? Everything’s in there, it’s all standing straight up, and not just leaning against the edges of the planter. The two oversized ornaments that usually sit on the soil have been placed elsewhere this year, but it still works and looks good IMO.

    My solution? Styrofoam!

    I’d saved a bunch over the summer after getting rid of the soil — had a feeling it might work to recreate this little part of the Christmas scene, and I was right.

    A few strategically-placed pieces of styrofoam, held in place by a heavy bag of river rock, and it turned out perfect. Here’s how it looks from above.

    By next winter, I expect the planter will once again be filled with soil and I won’t need to get creative again. But at least for this one year, I’m kinda proud of myself for this little decorating hack. Good job, McGee.

    And as long as I have you here … Merry Christmas!!!


    Scariest Night of My Life

    July 4, 2016

    You’ve probably thought through that hypothetical situation, What would you grab if you had to evacuate your house because of a fire?

    Tonight — well, technically last night, July 3, and this morning, July 4 — I found out the answer: my laptop, iPhone, iPad and similar electronic devices. The kids did pretty much the same. Cari grabbed her electronics, but also our wedding album and another photo album. All because what we assume is a fireworks-caused fire that began a few hundred yards west of our house, and pretty quickly headed in our direction across the dry, brush-filled fields behind us.

    Sean and I noticed the fire at about 11:40 pm, I’d guess. It was off in the distance and seemed to be pretty small. Then it got bigger. We called 911 at 11:45 and they were already aware of the fire. By about 12:15 or 12:20 am, there were 4-5 fire trucks surrounding the fire and it was well under control.

    Important note: Firefighters are bad-ass mofo heroes that deserve way more respect and appreciation than any of us give them.

    That was probably the scariest 30 minutes of my life. We turned on the sprinklers to wet the back lawn. Sean and I grabbed the hose and dragged it into the back yard in case more water was needed. I woke up my wife and daughter and told them to get dressed and be ready to leave the house. We all grabbed the valuables and put them in our cars. In between all that, I took some photos that I’ll include below, with time stamps.

    11:47 pm


    11:51 pm


    12:04 am


    12:06 am


    I think it got as close as 200-300 yards, but it’s hard to tell at night. The photos aren’t great, but that’s what you get in the pitch black with an iPhone.

    All I know is we’re safe, there’s ash in our backyard, and the house smells like we just hosted an international cigarette smokers’ convention. And I know what I said above: Firefighters are amazing. Thank God for them.


    Red October: My new favorite plant

    May 31, 2016


    I’m calling Red October my “new” favorite plant, but if I’m being honest, I don’t know that I have an “old” favorite plant. I do know that I love this one, which we planted in our front yard (the one you see above) and back yard (a half dozen of them in the landscaping along the back fence) late last summer, so we’re really now just getting our first look at it.

    I’m pretty sure we’re the first house in the Tri-Cities to have this plant on our property. As it grows in the spring, the leaves are a mix of deep green and burgundy — as you can see above. Later this year, when we have our first frost, the leaves are supposed to turn a bright, candy-apple red. I can’t wait to see that.

    Red October is a new breed developed in 2014 by a nursery in Illinois. I think I first stumbled on Red October on Pinterest. We were planning our landscaping and I wanted something colorful, but non-flowering (because I hate bees). I remember calling all of our local nurseries, but none of them had heard of Red October. I contacted the nursery in Illinois, but they only sell wholesale to other nurseries. I contacted a few nurseries around the country and found one in California that was ready to ship me a dozen plants, but they wanted to wait until last summer’s heat wave ended in order to give the plants a better shot at surviving the shipping up here. While we were in that holding pattern, our local nursery called and said they were finally able to order Red October and did we want to add it to our landscaping project? Yep, we did.

    So that’s a Red October at about two feet tall. I’m hoping to do another post this fall when the plant is maybe 4-6 feet tall and those leaves turn bright red. In the meantime, it’s cool to watch these things grow.


    The Horsetail Experiment is Over

    October 17, 2014


    You think I was kidding when I said I don’t have much of a green thumb? Get this: I can’t even grow weeds!

    It’s been almost three months since the horsetail reed experiment began on our front patio, and I’m pretty sure it’s time to throw the towel in.

    What happened?

    1.) Wrong planter. These things seem to survive best in really wet soil. That’s why you see them growing in the wild along the edges of rivers and streams. The Monrovia page makes several references to how these do well in water/pond situations.

    Well … the planter we have has four drainage holes in the bottom. I was able to reach under and plug two of them, but — as the photo above shows — water flowed freely out of the other two. I watered these things nearly every day, but the horsetail never really grew big and tall, and many of them flat-out died. (And now we have a water-stained front patio to clean, too.)

    2.) Too much wind. Wind? In the Tri-Cities? No way! (That’s sarcasm, you out-of-towners.) Since the horsetail wasn’t growing big and strong, they were really susceptible to wind damage. The planter is kinda tucked away, but there’s still enough wind around here to blow the reeds over.

    I took the photo above after the most recent day of 15-20 MPH winds. You can see a good chunk of them just laying down. And once these things bend, that’s it — they’re broken, and not gonna grow again. (Replacements grow pretty quickly, actually, but then those just get blown over by the next windstorm.)

    Next Year?

    I’m thinking we’ll just leave these in the planter over the winter, and I’ll water the survivors as needed. But come next year, it’ll be time to find something else to replace the horsetail reed. Hopefully something that can survive my lack of gardening skills….


    The Horsetail Reed Experiment

    July 25, 2014


    The experiment began at about 6:55 pm last night.

    That’s when I finished planting eight Horsetail Reed plants in a container on our front patio. It was a project that began a couple weeks ago when the fiberglass container arrived, and I started purchasing (and digging) rocks, soil and the plants. I worked on it a few hours here, a few hours there, and then it all finished last night when the plants, soil and top level of rock were put in.

    Horsetail is considered a weed in some circles. But I love it, especially when it’s fully grown and shooting straight up in the air.

    Why am I calling it an experiment?

    1. I’m terrible at growing anything, so this could go terribly wrong. I’ve read plenty of care instructions, but they really could be dead in a matter of days.
    2. Horsetail is very invasive so, if they do survive, I also have to make sure they don’t somehow start to magically grow in the front lawn, which is about 4-5 feet away.
    3. It often grows along the side of ponds/streams/canals and other bodies of water, but the experts say it can also grow in dryer soil. And that’s how I’m growing it: in regular organic potting soil on top of about 12-18 inches of rocks (which should allow for some air down in the bottom of the planter).

    So you know … fingers crossed, prayers said and all that. Let’s see how long these things stay alive, shall we?