Monday, October 31, 2011

Clean Slate Sunday: 10.30.11 edition

I've started so many posts over the past several days, but my brain is so scattered I can't seem to hold a thought for more than a few minutes. If that.

This afternoon was rather perfect in terms of late-October days. Breezy and cool. Overcast, but bright. The kind of day that makes me want to bake some bread and snuggle up on the couch with a book. But I did not make bread and I did not do any reading. I did take a nap when I finally decided it was about the only thing I could focus on. It took me most of the rest of the afternoon to do a few loads of laundry and, a little at a time, clear some clutter and do some sweeping and straighten things up a bit.

The other day when I took the dog outside first thing in the morning I couldn't help but think of how the thick layer of frost on everything made the trees look exactly how I felt: heavy. Burdened. That day it was because Steve was leaving to head back to work in West Virginia and I just wasn't ready to let him go. Every day since then the heaviness has hung on, but for different reasons. Tonight is no different.

Sunday nights have always been my "chill" time. I finish up whatever tasks need doing before the new week begins and I prepare for the routine of rising early and packing the kids off to school. It can be exhausting or exhilarating, or a little bit of both, depending on the schedule for the week. No matter what, I try to take the time to count my blessings, take some deep breaths and some quiet time, and approach the week with an open mind and a grateful heart.

Tonight it's been difficult to calm myself. Life is in upheaval, and while it would seem chaos defines the Pipe Lifers' day-to-day, this period seems to be extra intense. Despite lots of unknowns, though, life goes on and we figure out how to roll with it. One day at a time.

For now, it's late (or mega early, rather) and I need to try to get some rest. I wish you a blessed week.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stopping the clock. For real.

I'm not sure I was even aware this clock I bought recently for the dining room had a glass face.

Stress the word had.

It fell off the wall last night as Steve brushed by. I think he barely bumped the wall.

That "CRASH!" and the sound of breaking glass? Yikes.

Fortunately no family members were injured; just the clock.


Wouldn't it be nice if we could really stop the hands of time and just hang out here for a while? Well, I'd really like to get over this ugly cold (or whatever it is) that I have, but other than that I'm really enjoying these few days with my sweetie here. He'll be gone again before we know it, back to the daily grind. It makes me sad to think about him leaving in a couple of days, even though I knew it was inevitable.

Yes. Life - and time - goes on.

Even the poor clock is back up on the wall, minus the glass, but working like a charm. 

And because in my world a broken clock can never be just a broken clock, there must be some great life analogy here, right? Like ... it's just what we do: when we get knocked down we pick ourselves (or each other) up, repair what we can, discard what we can't, and keep on moving.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, October 24, 2011


I've been sick. Bleh. Since Saturday afternoon when I came home from a workshop at church and crawled into bed intending to take a quick nap before heading to a wedding reception with the fam.

The clock kept ticking and Steve and the kids got ready and I couldn't drag myself out of bed. And then I got chills and just couldn't get warm enough. It went downhill from there.

I'm starting to come around this morning. I managed to finally get out of my pajamas and hit the shower, and my appetite is coming back.

I am really glad Steve has been here to help with the kids (though I'm pretty sure he's the one who shared his germs with me). It's been good to have him here, in general. We haven't been doing much of anything special - just running the kids around and eating dinners together at night and hanging out.

It feels good. Even if I don't.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I can hardly move.

Today was a great day.

I went with Rachel's class to the State Park where we walked ...

and walked ... and walked ... and walked.

 The kids had a nature-themed scavenger hunt.

 We hiked out to the lighthouse.
(That's a mile and a half each way.)

My group of girls had plenty of energy, though.

Hm. Not the most flattering photo of me ... but at least I was warm! 
And Rachel looks cute as always.

 Big Sable Point Lighthouse.

Then this evening we all went to the kids' school to participate in a fund-raiser. It was a fun run/walk.

I walked. And now, between all that exercise and all that fresh air, I am so tired and so sore I can hardly move. But it was an awesome day and I'm so glad I did it. Too soon our kids will be grown and gone and I will cherish these memories.

Wait. Did I say "too soon?" Not too soon, necessarily. Just ... sooner than we can imagine on days like today.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A paradox.

Steve has some time off between projects, so he's home.

He's home!! Maybe for a week, maybe a little more or a little less.

The paradox? He's not making a paycheck when he's home ... but the fact that he is home is a good thing.

Despite the financial hiccup his time off might cause, these few days of having him here are an answer to my prayers. I've been having a rough time keeping the kids on the straight and narrow and it will be heavenly having Steve here for backup.

Not to mention, Steve has been working hard, sometimes seven days a week, for months. He needs a break. He needs to recharge.

We need to recharge.

I'm happy he's here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Apparently, I'd like to hibernate.

'Cept I'm gonna' need some elastic-waist pants before I settle in for my slumber.

Whoa, doggies! It's a little too early for the holiday plump, isn't it? I stepped on the scale this morning (like I needed that first thing in the morning) and what was already pretty obvious to my bloated self came into sharp, digital focus.

I've put on a few pounds.

OK, literally, a few. Like, four. And listen. I'm a big girl anyway so one would think four pounds either way wouldn't make much of a difference. But I can tell you that four lousy pounds feels like 100 pounds in certain pairs of pants.

Oooooh, the comfort food. Since the weather turned very autumn-like in a hurry I've been drawn to the oven and the big ol' containers of flour and sugar sitting nearby. Yesterday, on a whim, I made several dozen pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Ya' know ... for the kids. *wink wink*

Curse you, white flour and sugar!

And get this. I ordered a subscription to a new home decor magazine a while back? I guess there weren't enough subscriptions because said magazine flopped. So instead of sending me a refund, the company is sending me ... wait for it ... Taste of Home magazine.

Taste of Home! It's all about FOOD, people!

And I swear this is my final excuse: My walking routine has been interrupted by rain. (And perhaps *cough* a little *cough* laziness. *cough*) Yesterday my buddy and I finally got out to walk again after missing a few days and my legs felt like Jell-O the rest of the day. Sad.

I guess it's time to seriously consider an indoor workout alternative for the winter months so I'll be prepared when the snow flies and I'm too much of a sissy to wanna' walk out there. Because baby, I cannot keep this up all winter or y'all will have to roll me out of the house to greet the Easter Bunny come spring.

Now somebody hide the cookies.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Life as a construction zone.

"God at Work."

This must be it. God must be doing amazing things in my life right now because He certainly has my attention. I have been praying hard for our family, specific prayers for my husband and our children and outward from there - my extended family of in-laws and cousins, dear friends, church family. By the time I've mentioned everyone by name I need a nap.

And things are happening. Good things. So there are more prayers - prayers of thanksgiving.

Yet I find myself going back time and again saying, "But what about this, God? I still don't have an answer here. What gives?"

That's the thing about allowing God to do His work in our lives - there are no orange cones marking out the path for us. We are driving along a newly-paved road where the lines haven't yet been painted. We know we are headed in the right direction, but we want details. We want signs pointing to our destination and telling us exactly how many more miles we have to drive to get there.

We do have the Bible as our road map. Scripture gives us instructions on how to conduct ourselves along the trip. But it is in the details - not just about leading a Christian life in general, but about my life - where I get lost. One decision, one phrase, one day can make a difference in which on-ramp or detour we take and I want to know we're taking the right ones. I find myself saying, "I'll follow wherever you lead me, God, if you'll just give me a hint at where we're headed."

But then, if I'm willing to go no matter what, why do I need to know?

God is definitely at work in my life. He is teaching me patience. He is reminding me what it feels like to love someone unconditionally. He is granting me grace. He is showing me that I don't need to have all the answers rightnow. He is providing strength.

I am reminded that construction often means progress. It can mean sanding off the rough edges and applying a fresh coat of paint. It can mean building something tall and strong and beautiful where there was nothing before. And it can mean paving a path between here and our final destination, without knowing how many hills we will climb or valleys we will walk through along the way.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The antidote to crabby.

Do you know the best way to remind yourself what fun it can be to have children?

Spend a little time with a little one.

I helped out some friends today by watching their little boy for a few hours. At 18 months old, he is still young enough to be fascinated by someone tossing him a ball, playing peek-a-boo, looking at pictures of puppies, and finding a box of fruity Cheerios in the kitchen cabinet.

Sure, he can be demanding like any other child. But all he wants is for you to chase him down the hallway or pull a favored toy out from under a chair. And he will smile and wrap his little arms around your neck when you do.

I have a few minutes of peace and quiet before my own children come home from school. I'm going to enjoy every second of it while I remember the days when we laughed at peek-a-boo and they were happy just to be in the same room with me.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Clean Slate Sunday: 10.16.11 edition

Today is one of those days when I am so thankful for the promise of a fresh start tomorrow.

I started my day with teeth clenched, upset at both the kids. On the drive to church I tried to take a few deep breaths and adjust my attitude, but it seemed like the more I tried, the more determined my offspring were to get under my skin.

I've been on the receiving end of more than my fair share of attitude lately and I'm sick of feeling like an emotional punching bag. Oh believe me, I don't just roll over and take it. But no amount of gentle correcting, sternness, ignoring it, yelling, privileges revoked or good behaviors rewarded makes any lasting impact. And let's face it - they outnumber me.

I waited years for my one boy and one girl to get to a point where they were more friends than rivals.

Well. Here we are.

How can I be unhappy that they are getting along more than not these days? I'll tell you how: they're common interest seems to be attacking me. There's so much attitude and drama in this house lately I feel like someone plunked me down in the middle of an episode of Toddlers & Tiaras.

It's exhausting.

I tried several times today to start from scratch - forgive them (even though they hadn't apologized), and let it go. Apparently they didn't get that memo. Probably because they don't listen to a dang thing I say. So their antics continued.

By the time we got home from church (where I coulda' chugged that whole chalice of wine during Communion) and our Bible study classes I could hardly keep my eyes open. It felt like my body was so tired of being on constant defensive alert it was just shutting down. I didn't fight it. I sunk into my bed for a nap and when I heard thumps and bumps and squealing coming from the other end of the house I blew my top.


I didn't care where they went or what they did, I just wanted them out of my house and out of earshot.

I knew they'd probably end up at Nana's house next door anyway. Which was fine. I really, really didn't care.

Oh, there were good moments today. But they were fleeting.

Even up to the point when I sent them to bed tonight, after they dragged their feet preparing for morning (even though they do this every school night and they know what to expect), Rachel was fussing at me because I didn't come to kiss her goodnight quickly enough. And you know what? I would bet a thousand dollars that if either of those kids is missing anything they need in the morning, they will blame me.

And then they will ask what I'm making for them for breakfast.

These are the days when I am so glad I can choose to start tomorrow with a clean slate. I can get a good night of rest and be ready to offer up some grace in the morning. I can pray for guidance, sleep off the bad vibes, and start over tomorrow.

If that doesn't work I think I'm going on strike.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Family Jokester.

Rachel joined her Girl Scout troop to ride in the school's homecoming parade last night. There was a Disney theme and the girls chose "101 Dalmatians" for their float. They were so cute - they all had white t-shirts that they painted with black spots. I met Rach at the end of the parade route.

Me: "Did you have fun?"

Rachel: "Mhmm."

Me: "Can I get a picture of you?"

Rachel: "SURE!!!!! Nyah! Neener!"

Me: "Come on. Can I just get one good picture of you?"

Rachel: "Yup!! Here!"

Me: *sigh*

"Let's go."

 Ya' know, if she had stood there and smiled nicely I would have taken the picture and probably e-mailed it to her dad and then made it the wallpaper on my phone or something. But no. These beauties go on the Interwebz for all the world to see.

When she graduates from high school I'm just going to print out my blog for her scrapbook.

Except she probably won't care, and then the joke will be on me.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Easy peasy DIY: Spray-painted sconces.

I am constantly on the lookout for frugal finds that can add character to our home.

As if, considering the personalities who live in this house, we need any more character. But I digress.

I've gotten into the habit of stopping by a local thrift store or three on a weekly basis. I do things a little differently than many thrifters; instead of having a list of items I watch for, I have a mental list of spaces I am trying to brighten up and I stay open to using anything that might work for any of those spaces. It could be a mirror, a piece of furniture, picture frames (with photos, printed quotes, or even empty), old wood or containers repurposed in some creative way.

One of my recent  finds was this pair of sconces.

I picked them up at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $2 each.

  Nice little detail.

A little wood ... a little metal.

 A little rust, even.

 Now, before I show you what I did with them I just want to point out a few reasons I choose second-hand items whenever I can.

1. It keeps stuff out of the landfills, and that's important to me. I need to remind myself of this when I am disappointed by a rather hefty price tag on a thrift store item. ($5 for an old Mason jar with a glass lid? REALLY?) Often the prices are similar to those for which I could find an item NEW on clearance at Walmart. Sometimes I'll pass. Sometimes I really like the second-hand item and I will go ahead and buy it. It just depends.

2. It's cheaper. Nevermind what you just read above. When you get down to it, if I outfitted my home via a Pottery Barn catalog ... or even the JCPenney catalog, it would cost a small fortune. Buying most of our decor from thrift stores and garage sales (and yes, the occasional clearance rack) lets me stretch the budget a little further. Plus, it often means we're supporting a good cause, too.

3. Quality. Many of the things I pick up second-hand have been taken out of old houses or donated to Goodwill because they appear to be past their prime. Old. Outdated. I love it when I pick something up and there's some heft to it. I love it even more when I flip it over and see an old, faded sticker that says "Made in the U.S.A." (I like to find "USA" on new stuff, too.) Craftsmanship and quality just aren't as popular these days as cheap (inexpensive) and readily-available.

OK, ready?

Spray paint is our friend.
I particularly like the Krylon Fusion because it sticks to just about anything.

I didn't even sand these - just wiped them clean with a damp cloth.

Nice, huh?

And since I have about a bazillion places I could use them and haven't decided on their permanent placement yet, I swapped one out where I had easy access to a wall hanger, just to see it up on the wall.

(Forgive the photo quality - it's rainy and dreary this morning, so not much natural light.)

Simple, shiny black.

 Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

 Yes! They're gonna' need some bling!

Maybe a simple teardrop crystal hanging from the bottom tip.

Hmm ... I'm going to keep my eyes open.

I'll try to remember to post a picture when I get them up on the wall for realz. Just remember, spray paint is a quick, inexpensive, easy way to make something new! When you're shopping around for items to spruce up your home, don't cast something off because it's ugly. Try to imagine it cleaned up and with a fresh coat of black or white or teal or red or your-favorite-color paint.

Good stuff.

And TGIF! Enjoy your day, y'all.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I am not a dog whisperer.

But Dear God in Heaven do I need one.

My dog - despite my love for her and the wonderful companionship she provides - makes me crazy sometimes. Just when I think I've got her figured out, or that she's finally mellowing out, she throws me for a loop.

Ladybug has always been a barker, but for two main things: people and raccoons. Bring over a pack of dogs of any size and breed and she will run and jump and sniff and play with all of them. Excitedly. Without barking.

People? She barks at. Always. (Well, except us.) A strange vehicle pulls in the driveway and Ladybug either runs to the end of her lead (if she's outdoors) and barks non-stop, or runs to a window to get a better look ... and barks non-stop.

Oh, and? She slobbers. So you can imagine what my windows look like.

She's persistent, too.

I know you iz out der.

I iz watchin' fer you.

Where you at?

The other day while the plumbers were here I was so embarrassed by my own dog's behavior that I decided I had two options: 1) give up on this doggy business and find her a new home, or 2) commit to some serious training. Or retraining. Whatever.

Since 90 percent of the time she is The Best Dog In The World, I went for option 2 and bought a book about rehabilitating your "reactive" dog. Because as it turns out, as I was reading about reactive dogs - dogs that become fixated on other dogs, or people, or go bonkers when put on a leash, or can't seem to settle down in the car - I realized I was reading about my dog.

I iz tyred. But pretty sure you still out there.

Some history: we adopted Ladybug from a no-kill shelter. I picked her out from hundreds of dogs I saw on-line. When we went to visit her she was so laid back and came right to us when the volunteer dropped her leash. We took her for a walk and she pulled a bit, but otherwise she was great.

We learned that she was about five years old, had been picked up as a stray and had been at the shelter for six months. Black dogs aren't adopted as often as lighter colored dogs, they told us. My heart melted.

At home it took her a while to settle in, which we expected. She seemed a little jumpy over loud noises and quick movements. Bug wasn't housebroken (I suspect as a hunting dog she was kept outside in a kennel) so it was like having a puppy; we house trained her, and I trained her to sleep in a crate. Neither of those tasks was a small feat and I spent several nights falling asleep with my mp3 player drowning out the noise of her whining in the crate.
Bug has a few bad manners, mostly involving food. We have learned to never leave her in the house alone with an open bag of trash. And never leave your snack unattended on the arm of the sofa.

She has learned a few things in the three years she has been with us. She sits at the door for you to put her leash on for a walk, and sits and waits for you to put her food in her dish. She has warmed up to the cats. She goes right to her crate when I tell her it's bedtime. 

But she flips right out when a strange vehicle pulls in the driveway, or when people she doesn't know come into the house. Or approach the house. Or look in the direction of the house from a mile away.

I have learned that if I put her on her leash and allow her to sniff out the strange peeps, she will eventually settle down. (Makes sense - she's a hound. Sniffing is her life.) But honestly, she is a very muscular dog of a breed historically trained to hunt bear. She can look pretty intimidating when she's tugging at the end of her tie-out, barking and slobbering. Who wants to then let that animal sniff their hand?

It's a survival mechanism. Her head tells her strange creatures might be there to hurt her, so she's going to take care of them first. Scare them off. If they seem intimidated her senses pick up on that and it feeds the beast. She gets stressed when her barking doesn't make them go away, so that feeds the beast. And so on and so on.

It's gotten so bad lately that she sometimes barks when the phone rings. Or in the morning when the house creaks and groans as the sun warms it up.

I wish I was kidding.

In other words, I have a 59-lb wuss on my hands. One that could be dangerous (as any dog could) if we don't turn this train around.

So I have begun a new regime. First, Bug is on vacation. She's doing nothing but sleeping, eating, going outside to do her business and take walks with me. She's chillin' to give those stress hormones a chance to fizzle out. And I'm giving her lots of love and attention, she's playing with the kids, and she's getting treats just about as often as I say her name. I've even been feeding her her kibble out of my hand. She's learning mama=good and safe and fun things and the sound of her name=good and safe and fun things. Very zen, right? Let's hope so.

It sounds crazy, but I can already see the difference in her. She's much calmer already. I can tell she's a little confused and maybe even a little suspicious of all the treats flying around, but that's ok.

I'm gonna' journal our progress and I'll update here.

Have I mentioned my lack of the patience gene? Yeah?

Send some good vibes our way, k? I am up to the task but some added positive thoughts sure can't hurt.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The thing about grace.

I love the analogy I read on another blog this morning: (paraphrased) Some days are smoother than others; yesterday was like sandpaper.


A series of events over the past few days - little things - have got me in a tizzy. Each thing no big deal on its own, but all together a burden so heavy my heart aches from the emotions of it all.

I stay up late to chat with Steve about it and then I'm overtired.

The kids feel ignored and I think all my work is unappreciated.

I try to squeeze one more purchase out of this paycheck and then I'm over budget.

The laundry piles up. The dog won't stop barking. This broke. Something smells funny. The cat prince howls to be let out. Then in. Then out. Then in. Then to be fed. Then out again. The house plants are dusty. "Mom! She won't stop coming into my room!" Favorite pens get lost. The sewing machine doesn't work. It's too cold in here. We all overslept. It's hot in here. Nobody likes to try anything new for dinner. I moved a shelf and something fell on my head (I have a mark on my forehead to prove it). "Mom? Can I have a party for my birthday?" I can't find the box of Kleenex I just opened. The library books are overdue.

But. BUT!

It turns out the public library extends some grace to those who overlook their due dates. "These are late and I'd like to just pay the fine," I said.

"There's a three-day grace period," she tells me. "You're good. No fine."


That's the thing about grace. The days when you think surely you don't deserve it, you still receive it. And it's a two-way street; the times you think you can't possibly muster the grace to offer someone else, somehow you do and you both feel better for it.

Do you know I just about skipped my way out of that library yesterday? All over not having to pay a 30-cent fine. Because after a crummy day just the smallest act of grace was a major bright spot. It made me happy. And it reminded me that I could show grace to others in very small ways that might mean the world to them.

Something to think about.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lots of leaves. No plumber.

So here I am with scaly skin waiting on the plumber who was supposed to be here to install our water softener yesterday. Way to feed the stereotype of Plumbers Who Never Show Up, eh?

Meh. It's fine. I'm just glad it was a simple human error (his, not mine) of writing the task on the wrong date instead of some really big problem. So he apologized and promised he'll be here this morning.

My crusty faucets and I are counting on it.

Meantime, some colorful pictures like *I* promised.

This is what I see outside my back door. Looks like a bowl of Fruit Loops.

My burning bush, relocated last year to somewhere it would get more sun.

Lots of variety here ... I believe some of the orange leaves are of a sassafras tree.

Bright red berries on a bush. These are everywhere.



 Pretty ...

 More yellow along the driveway. Lots of Popple trees.


 Pointy leaves of a Sumac. We have lots of these around here, too, and they provide SO much color through the fall.

I was trying to show the color of trees surrounding the house, but the blue sky kinda' takes center stage here.

 Still a few bright spots in the front yard.

Mums! Gotta get these in the ground so I can enjoy them next year.

And I couldn't resist a shot of Ladybug sacked out in the leaves. She was so content, I think if I hadn't walked over there to pet her she would've been covered in them before long.

Look - she already had a couple stuck to her chin. *snicker*

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday, Monday, Monday!

Happy Monday, folks!

Wow. I am just in awe over my surroundings lately. As I was walking into the house from the front yard yesterday I had to stop and take it all in. The fall colors are just amazing. The air has been nice and warm during the days and cool at night and I am lovin' it. Sounds like we have a few more days of this and then it's going to turn cooler again. I'm ok with that, too.

Yeah, I totally teased you with that comment about the fall colors and I have no pictures for you. I'll try to remedy that today because I plan to spend some time outdoors. (And as I type I'm looking out the window to see leaves floating down onto the ground. Gorgeous!) I keep saying I'm going to do some cleanup in the yard and then I go out there and get started and I get distracted by something else. Lame. I need to pull the rest of the plants out of the veggie beds, plant some perennials I bought on clearance, and do some general tidying up and tucking things away before the snow flies. Because ... ugh ... it will be here before we know it and if I don't get this stuff done I will be kicking myself.

And - excitement abounds! - I have someone coming to install a water softener today. Praise Jesus! This is something we have really needed since we moved in, but somehow it always got pushed to the bottom of the list. (It's pretty easy to push things to the bottom of the list when they require spending a chunk o' change. And they're not as fun as a big-screen TV. *ahem*) After today I won't have to scrub the showers so hard, the dishwasher will work better, my skin will be softer, the faucets won't be all crusty, and my coffee will even taste better. Hallelujah!

AND ... why not continue my randomness with a few pictures from the weekend? OK, I will then.

The kids and I visited one of our favorite local parks on Lake Michigan Saturday afternoon. There's a great playground and sculpture park and you can watch boats going in and out of the harbor all day long.

I let Sam and Rachel go off and play while I stretched out in the grass and soaked up some sun. Until Rachel came racing over and hollered, "Mom! Take a picture of me!"

I obliged.

What a joker. Believe me, she is never, ever this still or quiet at home.

Both the kids' favorite: the zip-line-type-thingamabob. 
(Ha! Notice how Sam's feet touch the ground?)

Hm. Yeah. He doesn't get quite as excited as Rachel does about having pictures taken.
Still cute, though.

Exhibit B, the self portraits:
Sometimes the outtakes are the best.