"You'll never break into my castle, Witch!" my three year old screamed from her perch in the tree house.
"Well then," I cried back, "I'll just steal your baby!"
I leapt over to the swing set and pulled the one year old out of her seat. She squealed with delight as I ran into the far side of our yard.
"Oh no! Not my baby!" the three year old yelled as she slid down the bright yellow slide and ran at me full force.
What proceeded was ten full minutes of me running around the back yard holding a giggling baby as her sister tried to catch me and tickle me to death. I finally relented, setting the baby safely into her play yard and falling on the ground, where the three year old proceeded to jump on me and claim, "I won! I won!"
I looked up to see my husband standing on the back porch, all the stress of the day melting away as he watched his ladies enjoy the fresh air.
"Daddy! You're an evil dragon!" the three year old cried and climbed the metal ladder back into her tree house. "Try and get me!"
Before the Ups and Downs, our back yard was strictly ornamental. Sure, we would admire how pretty it was and occasionally sit in it for a few minutes, but most weekend days we didn't even open the shades. Now, I get up every morning and carry the baby around the house, opening blind after blind to look out onto our outdoor space. Even on the particularly hot days we've had this spring, one corner of the yard stays shady, and that has been dubbed "Hammock Corner."
We moved to Texas in 2017, and house hunting was beyond intense. I flew to Dallas for two days in hopes of securing a job and a house. Out of the ten showings I crammed into that time, six of those houses had offers put in before we could even decide. Most of the homes had a patch of gravel in the back, or they were so tightly packed with their neighbors that they needed no fence. The adjacent house served as the boundary. When I walked into our home and saw the huge windows looking out onto the back yard filled with trees and a jungle gym, I practically threw money at the realtor and moved right in.
We love our home, but it's been made all the more useful during shelter in place. Our yard is an extension of our living space, and we use it so much. We're dreaming of decks, shade gardens, new play equipment and more, but we've decided to pause any major improvements until all of this is over. For now, we'll use the space we have and be extremely thankful for it.