Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year, fresh starts.

Holy smokes! It's been too long since I've posted. Certainly not because we've had nothing going on, though I can say we really did have a quiet, relaxing Christmas and New Year's Eve is shaping up the same way. Just how I like it.

Steve got home the afternoon of the 23rd and left again yesterday morning. He will be settled back in at his apartment in Colorado tonight. In the week he was home we packed in about as much good stuff as we could: visiting with friends, celebrating Christmas with family, relaxing at home - playing video games, target shooting, wrestling with the dogs, watching movies, cooking - and even attending a cousin's wedding reception.

If there is one thing this crazy life has taught me it is to embrace each day, especially during the times Steve and I and the kids are together as a family. Where once I had to force myself to live in the moment and not dwell on the fact that my sweetheart would be leaving again soon, it's not such a big deal to me anymore. I can enjoy myself for whatever time we have together, and while I might get a little down when he leaves it doesn't take long for me to fall back into the groove of everyday life. As we often say to each other ... it is what it is. This is our life and we live it the best way we know how.

Well, we try to. I guess there is always room for improvement. That's one of the exciting things about the start of a new year - the idea that we can say goodbye to the baggage we're still carrying from 2012 and improve on things that need improving in 2013.

I am not a fan of resolutions, though I do periodically set goals for myself. As I sit here on New Year's Eve, kids next door at Nana's and Papa's house, Steve back to work, and even the dogs doing their own thing, I might reflect a bit on the previous year but mostly I am looking ahead to 2013. I am hopeful. Confident. Happy. Thankful. The Pipe Lifers have been blessed with a good life, and I look forward to spending another year of it with the people I love.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's a hot cocoa and gift wrapping kind of day.

Baby, it's cold outside.

(Sorry. I couldn't resist.)

Worse, it's cold and wet. We have this yucky rain/snow mix going on right now, combined with high winds. So there's heavy, wet snow piling up on everything (like power lines and roads) and making a big, sloppy mess.

I was a little surprised the kids had school today considering the forecast is for this stuff to escalate and continue through the rest of today and tomorrow. Lemme tell ya', it was a harrowing ride to school this morning and I am not looking forward to going back out to get the little rascals this afternoon. But I'm confident we'll be fine, and maybe they will get to start their Christmas break early if school is called off tomorrow.

Good news! Sam's leg healed beautifully and he got his cast taken off Monday. Praise Jesus. There was no dancing a jig or anything like that, though. He's still using one crutch to help him get around because his leg is a bit weak from not being used. The doctor said he needs to be able to walk for 45 minutes without stopping and with no pain before he starts running and jumping (or snowboarding). I'm glad he can work on recovering during Christmas break.

Sucky news! While we were in The Big City for Sam's appointment my truck broke down. Fortunately it was after the appointment, but that just meant we sat in the parking lot at a Steak-N-Shake waiting for a wrecker. Long story short: it was the alternator (which just the day before I had talked to my father-in-law about replacing) and we were able to have it fixed at Pep Boys. We were home by 8:30-ish, so not too bad. Except that I was then a little lighter in the wallet. A week before Christmas. Boo.

But good news! My shopping was almost done anyway. And I finished it yesterday! So I'm doing a little wrapping today. I'm one of those people who actually likes this part.

I'm getting excited. Steve will leave Colorado on Saturday to be home Sunday night. Hopefully the storm calms down by then and he doesn't run into any trouble on his drive. I'm looking forward to having him here and just hanging out as a family. Often Steve is off work this time of year because jobs get shut down for winter. This is the first time I remember him being so far away so close to Christmas, and it'll be four weeks since I've seen him. So yeah, I'll be happy to have him home. We have nothing on our social calendar, and that's fine with me.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Clean Slate Sunday: 12.16.12 broken heart edition

I can hardly believe the weekend is over already. I'm pretty sure that, other than when I was sleeping, I spent more time in my truck or otherwise away from the house than I did at home.

After the news on Friday of so many children being killed at their school in Newtown, CT, I will not grumble about shuffling my kids from one activity to another. My children are alive. They are here. And while we are all brokenhearted and still in a bit of shock, we need to continue to live. We need for things to be as normal as possible.

Make no mistake. I am not downplaying the tragedy at all. While I go about my usual business with my children there is a voice inside my head screaming at me that I should be curled up in the fetal position sobbing for those children lost and their families who now have to learn how to go on without them.

I don't even know any of those families, but just imagining their anguish would suck the life out of me if I let it. It's part of my makeup, this uber-emotionalism, and so I have learned to manage it and to recognize my limits. I spent much of Friday night flipping between news channels, devouring any new information about the shooting. The rest of the weekend I have focused on my own family - Rachel had activities with her Girl Scout troop both Saturday and today, and participated in the church Christmas program with her Sunday School class this morning. Sam spent much of the weekend at home battling bad guys on his PS3. We talked a bit. Hung out on the couch and watched movies. The usual. He's elated to be seeing the doctor tomorrow to (God willing) have the cast taken off his leg.

Normal, everyday stuff.

"I guess the world ain't gonna stop for my broken heart."

Those words from an old Reba McEntire song have been playing over and over in my mind these last few days. And it's true. Even though it feels like the world should stop sometimes, particularly when the loss is so great, so traumatic, and felt by so many ... life goes on.

In one week the love of my life will be home for Christmas. The kids will have their break from school, and we will enjoy some quality time as a family. But between now and then I will be sure to live every day, to continue to tell my children often how much I love them, and to pray for the mamas and daddies who can no longer hold their babies in their arms.

I wish you all a restful night, and a fresh start in the morning.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Really feeling it today.

I started to update my Facebook status, but it got too long to really reflect how good I feel today. So I'm putting it here. I'm feeling just ... so blessed.

I have some phone calls to make to rearrange some appointments - the rigamarole I'm going through to have testing done to determine the cause of these breathing issues I've been having. I went to the ENT specialist last week, and had a breathing test (I can't remember what it's called) at the hospital this week. Now we move on to allergy testing. It's kind of a pain, but if I had a Twitter account this is something I would tag as #firstworldproblems. I know I am fortunate to have this opportunity so I will keep my griping to a minimum.

And this morning, after I dropped the kids off at school (three more days until Sammy's cast comes off!), I hit the grocery store and came out with a full cart to be met with gorgeous sunshine. People I came across at each stop I made were cheery and wished me a Merry Christmas.

On the drive home I felt uplifted. Full of joy. Is it the sunshine, maybe? The realization that Christmas - and a week-long visit from my sweetheart - is just over a week away? Is it that I'm looking forward to trying a fancy soup I splurged on for lunch? Or that I'm getting my hair done later today? That it's payday and I feel like I can exhale?

I don't know. And it doesn't matter. I'm just going to enjoy it.

I leave you with a picture. My little Gunnar, who has never really been little at all, is six months old today.

He loves playing in the snow.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I find myself looking at the calendar and checking the clock often lately. I'm counting the days until Steve comes home for Christmas and at the same time I feel like if I am not on my way somewhere for one commitment or another I am surely forgetting something. And sometimes that's true. But not today.

This week I have two empty white squares - today and tomorrow - in the middle of dates filled to the borders and beyond of activities and commitments and time suckers. Some days having so much to keep me busy is exhilarating, and even a welcome distraction. Other days it's exhausting.

This morning we woke up late. This after I went to bed last night with a runny nose and a hint of a sore throat, Ladybug woke me from a deep sleep to go outside at 3 a.m. Nothing like a brisk walk around the yard in the wee hours to get the blood flowing. Having these (very active) dogs is like having toddlers in the house again. They're fun. They bring us so much joy. But they make any task take twelve times longer because we have to make sure the dogs have gone out and are taken care of before we leave, or we're tripping over dogs while trying to clean the house, or it's time to feed the dogs, or whatever. And sometimes I have no clue what they want or need because they can't tell me and it seems like I've done all I can do and the answer ... is usually more attention. When I'm on the phone. Or trying to help a kid with homework. Or SLEEPING. Or (and) feeling like poo. And like toddlers sometimes do, they tear up the house, ruin our nice things, and embarrass me in front of my friends. But none of that matters in those moments when you watch them sleep, or they make you laugh at the sheer pleasure they get from playing with a ball or having a good run. And there's that whole unconditional love thing.

Speaking of unconditional love, I do love my children (the human variety) so very much, but gosh will I be glad when Sam is back on two good legs. I am soooo tired of carrying stuff for him. These last five weeks have been slightly reminiscent of the days when my kids were still tiny and they - and all their gear - had to be carried everywhere. (Is there a pattern here?) I take him to the doctor on Monday to have his cast taken off. And then I'm gonna' party like it's 1999.

Not really. But I might have a glass of wine or two to celebrate.

Oh, the things we take for granted sometimes. Like being able to walk on our own. And being able to sleep through the night.

Early bedtime tonight to try to ward off this cold. Four days until Sam's cast comes off. Ten days until daddy comes home. And I'm counting every one.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bring it.

Yesterday it was so warm outside I had windows open in the house.

On December 4. In Michigan.

This morning? Not so much.

We keep getting teased with a little snow here and there, but it melts within a day or two. Up until now I've enjoyed what we got but I was only marginally ready for a big snowfall. Rachel helped me do the last of the tidying-up outside last night though, so now I'm ready for the fluffy white stuff to start piling up and to stick around.

Except I'm not. Because Sam is still on crutches and I worry that he will slip and fall. He has just shy of two weeks before he goes back to the doctor to have his cast taken off. And then I'll be ready. Maybe. Because as soon as the snow starts to pile up and Sam has the OK from the doctor, he's going to start bugging me to hit the slopes. Hhhhh.

Praise God for healthy, active children, right?

I really am ready for some snow. I actually saw some dandelions in the yard yesterday while I was out playing with the dogs. For serious! All this grey and blah out there and then I see these BRIGHT YELLOW flowers poking their heads up. Tough little suckers. I hope they enjoy the snow, too. Ha!

But seriously. Christmas is 20 days away and I would really love a white Christmas. Every day I play my Pandora "White Christmas" station while I putter around the house, and I leave the lights glowing on our teensy little tree.

That tree, by the way, looked like a hot mess this morning. We have had some close calls with the dogs bumping into the table - or the domino effect of chair, then table, and the tree goes a wobblin' - but so far she's still standing. Gunnar can get his nose pretty high, though, so he can slide stuff right off tables, countertops ... basically any surface where you've put something to keep it away from him.

Exhibit A:
 Our makeshift tablecloth-turned-tree-skirt.
Gunnar grabbed one little corner with his mouth, apparently thinking the tree wanted to play a game of tug with him.
I caught it before the whole thing came tumbling down.

Exhibit B:
 Stockings will not be hung until Mr. Gunnar is safely crated in the bedroom on Christmas Eve.

Aww. Despite his daily shenanigans, there is the occasional Christmas card-worthy photo. How could anyone not love this face?

He's ready for snow, too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Procrastination is biting me in the butt.

We have more fresh snow this morning. It was a pleasant surprise, I can't lie. But it was just a fluffy inch or so ... not enough to hide all the stuff on the patio I haven't put away yet.

I do this every. stinkin. year.

I did at least get the lawn mowed one last time before the weather turned really cold, so our front yard doesn't look like the snow fell on a hay field. But I still have patio furniture and flower pots scattered hither and yon. At least most of them are empty - I did get around to doing that. But every time I walk in or out the front door I am reminded of these half-done projects and it grinds on my nerves. I don't know why I let it bother me so much; it's my own darn fault. I need to use that annoyance as motivation to get it done, though. It looks like temps will be a little warmer this weekend so maybe I'll ask Rachel to bundle up and help me.

One thing I have not been procrastinating on is my Christmas shopping. I'm feeling pretty good about having checked some items off my list, and even got a few of them wrapped today. I've got some Christmas tunes playing and I'm about to pull out some decorations. The more I think about it though, the more I am convinced we should keep the decor very simple this year with the puppy still "exploring" everything/everywhere with his mouth. Gunnar was just at the vet on Monday and he weighed in at 66 pounds. He's five months old and he's huge. His tail alone could take down an 8-foot Christmas tree. So we're going small, fake and on top of a table with the tree, and we'll make it as fabulous as we can. If I have a tree all lit up and my nativity scene set out I'll be happy. I'm really looking forward to doing some crafts and baking and watching Christmas movies with the kids leading up to their holiday break from school. And hopefully Steve will have a nice long break from work over the holidays, too.

My goal is to have a relaxing and enjoyable Christmas season ... starting now!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Clean Slate Sunday: 11.25.12 edition

Here we are at the cusp of a new week.

I'm in my jammies, ready to stretch out in my big bed, a little sad that I'll be alone.

Steve is safely back in Colorado.

The kids are tucked in.

It was a lovely long weekend, but Steve and I agreed we are both ready to get back to our everyday routines. It's a crazy life, but it's what we're used to. And I am ready to get some Christmas boxes out of the closet and start decorating. We got a little snow last night and it stuck around today, which really gets me into the holiday spirit.

That, and having walked around in Sam's Club today after I dropped Steve off at the airport. It's like Christmas in overdrive in that place. Which isn't so bad, if you can look beyond the consumerism and just enjoy the colors and sounds and smiles, which I did.

Thirty days until Christmas!

Here's to a wonderful week ahead.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Blessings galore.

The week of Thanksgiving has come and gone, more or less, and I am left with this feeling of contentedness that has me looking forward to pulling out the Christmas decorations and turning on some holiday music.

These past few days have been busy, but relaxing. Wednesday afternoon I picked Steve up at the airport when he flew in from Colorado for the weekend. We went out for dinner before heading home, something we don't get a chance to do very often, just the two of us. We visited friends for their daughter's birthday party Wednesday evening, we enjoyed a low-key dinner with Steve's family for Thanksgiving, and have pretty much chilled out, slept in, ate leftovers, watched football and movies, the guys have gone hunting, and we've enjoyed some great family time. And it snowed! It didn't stick around, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

I am not a hardcore Black Friday (or Thursday) shopper, but I did make two trips to town on Thanksgiving day - one in the morning and a spur-of-the-moment one at night - to snag a couple of items I've been wanting that were on great sales. The morning at Meijer was a piece of cake. The trip to Wal-mart in the evening was insanity, but my shopping buddy (my future-sister-in-law) and I had a blast chatting people up and joking around while we stood in line. And I have to say, maybe it's because we live in a relatively small town and people here are generally pretty tolerant, but for the most part everyone we encountered was in good spirits and very helpful. Customers and employees alike were kind and courteous, and the few grumblers were the exception. Sue and I agreed it was worth the trip and the wait to have gotten the TV's we went for, and I was happy to have also been able to knock a few other gifts off my list.

Gift shopping aside, we have so much for which to be thankful, this year and always. I can't help but reflect a little on years past and the ups and downs we've been through and feel overwhelming gratitude for where we are now.

Steve heads back to work in Colorado tomorrow afternoon. The kids head back to school Monday for a few full weeks leading up to Christmas, which is probably when we'll see Steve again. In between I plan to decorate the house, finish the Christmas shopping, enjoy the quiet time during the days, and do my best to relax. I love this time of year. I look forward to our little family of four being together again ... that'll be the best gift ever.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A quick and random update.

Sam got the cast on his leg yesterday. Praise Jesus, it did not have to go all the way up to his thigh as the ER doctor had said it would. It ends just below his knee, and is much less cumbersome than the splint, according to Sam. What a relief. Also a relief: they took more x-rays and said the bones are healing nicely. We go back to that doctor in five weeks ... so Sam will (hopefully) get his cast off for Christmas!

The weather here has been weird, which has become the norm I guess. It was pushing 70 degrees over the weekend and this morning I have snow on my deck. Brr. I don't mind, though. I love those first few days of snow ... it really gets me in the holiday spirit. I do need a new winter coat, though, so I guess I better move that up the priority list.

This week the kids have a short week of school because they get the deer hunting opener (firearm season) off on Thursday, and then a teacher in-service Friday. Then next week is Thanksgiving, of course, and - HAPPY HAPPY! - Steve is flying home from Colorado for the weekend. I feel like I've been living in my truck lately and there's no end to it in sight.

And the dogs. Gunnar has bypassed Ladybug in height, and probably at least caught up to her in weight. His head is twice the size of hers. I do love this cute stage where he's half-puppy/half-big dog and really fun to play with, but I also look forward to the time when he will lay on my feet and not give a darn when the cats walk by. I'm really trying to take a few minutes here and there to play with the dogs and let them stretch their legs since they've been cooped up with Sam hobbling around here on crutches. Now that I've given them some time to run around this morning, I'm off to have lunch with Rachel at school. They have their annual Thanksgiving celebration in which each child can invite a guest. It's the one time during the year I get to experience school lunch again, Turkey Day style. And this is the last year I will do this, at least with my own kids ... as Rachel will be moving up to Middle School next year.

Awww. My babies are growin' up.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Clean Slate Sunday: 11.11.12 edition


It's late (for me, anyway) and the house is finally quiet. Just a couple of hours ago I was ready to call it a day and head to bed early, but I so look forward to my Sunday nights that I stuck it out to be sure I'd be the last one up. Even just a few minutes of quiet time is worth the wait.

So the television is off. I just finished a chocolatey peppermint latte from my favorite mug, and I'm not even concerned that it might keep me awake. I have a fall-smelling candle burning, my new little electric fireplace is flickering away, and I can hear rain on the roof. Perfect.

It has been a long week. Sam is getting around quite well with crutches, but is still having some pain. He's now beginning to feel the frustration of needing help to do so many things, not being able to just jump up and walk to the kitchen to get a glass of water ... and the boredom - or cabin fever, maybe - that comes with limited mobility. Having been there myself, I feel for him. I wonder how much he'll have to relearn after tomorrow when he will have a cast put on the full length of his leg.

Aside from the drive, I am looking forward to Sam's appointment tomorrow with the orthopedist. Mostly because I am eager to hear a report on how he's doing, and I'll be glad once he has a more stable barrier between his broken bones and the rest of the world. Sam finally felt he could handle school on Friday last week and I was a mess all day thinking he might stumble and fall or get jostled too much in the hallways. I'm beginning to think my friends' suggestion of bubble wrap for this kid isn't such a bad idea. Fortunately we have two short weeks ahead with Thursday and Friday off school both this week and next. Which will be great for my kiddo to relax and heal ... not so great for me, who could use some kid-free time to catch up around here.

Does it seem like I am always trying to catch up? Geesh.

Lots more to talk about, but I am getting sleepy and if there is one thing I know for sure, it is that sleep is almost always a good choice.

Have a blessed week.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When a good afternoon goes bad.

Poor Sam.

This kid has been riding a bicycle since he could walk, practically. He chucked those training wheels as soon as he could work a wrench to take 'em off. And he has made my heart skip a beat on countless occasions with his tricks and tumbles.

I wouldn't call him a daredevil, really. More like ... determined. He knows what he wants to do and he will try and try until he gets it right.

But Sunday afternoon he was just a teenage boy riding his bicycle around in the driveway when he popped a wheelie, the back tire hit a hole, and when he bailed off his body went one way while his bike - with his right foot caught between the pedal and the rear peg - went the other.

He told us he heard the snap.

I know. *shudder*

So Sam and I spent the evening and most of the night in hospitals and ambulances - first a ride to a local hospital, then a transfer to a children's hospital a miserable, bumpy, 1.5-hour drive away.

At any point in the night I would have gladly traded places with him so my kiddo didn't have to experience that kind of pain. But that second ambulance ride? Oh man. Talk about feeling helpless. It was definitely one of those moments when it would have been nice to have Steve here - a strong shoulder for me to lean on and the voice of comfort Sam really wanted. Because mom will do in a pinch, but he truly is daddy's boy. And I know that was hard for Steve, too. Hard to hear me tell him what happened, and then Sam's scared voice on the phone. But as parents we suck it up for our kids, don't we? We stay strong for them when it feels like we're dying inside. We offer them comfort when we feel like we don't really have any more to give.  

Sam is now experiencing the pain of a broken bone. Two, in fact. Right above his ankle. At the children's hospital he was sedated and his leg was set back into place and splintered. Sometime within the next week we will go back to see an orthopedist who will put a cast on. The ortho doctor in the ER told us the cast will be up to Sam's thigh because the break involved the growth plate in his ankle so the entire leg needs to be immobilized to heal properly. He will likely have to have it on for at least 3-4 weeks.

Dude. That sucks.

He's been getting around on crutches pretty good, mostly between the couch and the bathroom. The last couple nights he has slept in my king size bed with me - it's just easier for him to get to the bathroom if he needs to, and I'm right there if he wakes up in pain or needs to adjust his position. And frankly, his room is a disaster so he'd probably break the other leg trying to maneuver around in there. I'm going to remedy that any day now. Right after I get a shower. And maybe wash some dishes.

The house may be a wreck, but my boy is fed and appropriately drugged. And as I write he is actually doing homework. Mom Of The Year? Come on, throw me a bone.

Speaking of bones ... this caring for a kid with a broken leg thing is 100 times harder with two dogs in the house. I would pay a million dollars for a fenced-in yard right now. Gunnar is totally freaked out by those crutches, and I'm sure Sam smells a little funky. Yeah. When we get around to getting him in the shower ... that should be interesting. I know how difficult it was for me when I had a broken ankle a few years ago, and I didn't have a cast/splint to keep dry.

And we're not even going to talk about the younger child who already feels like she gets the short end of the deal. *sigh* I am only one person.

If you are the praying sort, we sure could use some.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Good news.

Steve made it safely to Colorado.

And it's payday Friday.

That is all.


Enjoy your weekend, and don't forget to turn your clocks back an hour Saturday night or you'll be way too early for church on Sunday morning.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day by day.

Happy Halloween! Do you dress up? Have (or still have) kids in your house who do? This afternoon I will attend my last school Halloween party; next year when Rachel hits Middle School the parties will be a thing of the past. I'm ok with that. I've had my fun. I do love seeing all the kids dressed up, though. And we always have a hoot trick-or-treating ... though tonight I think it's going to be pretty cold and maybe raining, so I won't be sorry to see that over for the year, either.

Geesh, I'm just the life of the party, huh?

I'll actually be glad to have a little something to distract me this afternoon because at the moment I'm just sitting around, bummed out that Steve is already back on the road. He finished up his testing, got packed up and has already taken off for Colorado where his next job awaits. I'm sad. I get more sad every time we part. Steve is the love of my life and my best friend and I just love having him around. But I'm also so proud of him and the work that he does, and I try to do everything I can to support him from the homefront. We're hoping he will make it home for Thanksgiving, which is only three weeks away - very doable, we've certainly gone that long without seeing each other before - but for some reason it feels different this time ... I think because Steve is going to a place we aren't familiar with, and it's so much farther away than he has worked in recent years.

Anyway, that's the news for now. We take things day by day and look forward to being together as a family again. In the meantime the kids and I have much to do to keep us busy - basketball, bowling, Girl Scouts, school work, life in general - and of course, Halloween activities this afternoon and evening.

Boo! Be safe out there!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Clean Slate Sunday: 10.28.12 Confirmation Edition

We've had a busy weekend, one of those times I am happy to see coming to a close so we can return to our usual routine. But it's been good. Steve has been home since Thursday after finishing the project he was working on in Detroit and hauling the travel trailer home for the winter. Before he got home he already had another gig lined up - this time in Colorado. It will be a longer trek than what he's (we've) done in the past, but a shorter time period, too. Like six weeks or so, which would have them wrapping up around Christmas time. The kids are already trying to figure out how we can get out there to visit. I'm thinking Christmas in Colorado would be awesome, but it all remains to be seen as Steve has some training to do on-line and will likely head out there at the end of this week. We'll know more once he's settled in. For now we're just enjoying having him here at home.

Yesterday Rachel's basketball team had their first game. They lost, but they played tough and Rachel scored twice. I was so proud of all the girls.

Today was a big day for Sam, and another proud mama moment. After two years of classes, retreats, camp, community and church service, Sam was confirmed as an adult member of our church. I'm so glad he has a personal relationship with Christ, and my prayer is that he finds plenty of guidance in our church family as he reaches adulthood.

 Sam with Pastor Bill during the service at our church - Victory Trinity Lutheran.

 Sam and his confirmation classmate Ian help with communion at our sister church, Bethany Lutheran, where Sam attended classes. Sam was the only person of confirmation age at our small country church, so he joined two others at Bethany and we attended both services today.

So technically I guess he was confirmed twice.
Which I'm sure you know he was incredibly excited about.
I hope it takes. Heh.

This view just cracked me up. Typical boys ... whispering during church.

And it's official. Doesn't he look happy?
(He was not down with the robe business at all.) 
(Also, there was cake and punch waiting downstairs.)

God's blessings on you, son.

So. Tomorrow is Monday. This week the calendar is decidedly much lighter than it was last week, though we do have Halloween coming up and I'm sure things will fill in as we go along. And if the Tigers can pull off a win in Game 3 of the World Series tonight, it's going to be a long week of late nights watching more baseball. Here's hoping!

Monday, October 22, 2012

We had so much fun!

I took the dogs to a nearby dog park today.

And by "nearby" I mean a 30-minute drive to the next county. Totally worth the drive, though. Even with a hound dog breathing down my neck.

Ladybug and Gunnar ran and ran and ran and played and ran with, at one point, four other dogs - all of them of the designer "doodle" breed, like Labradoodle and Goldendoodle. Gorgeous dogs. Big dogs. I kinda' felt like I had the misfits of the bunch, but Ladybug was so well-behaved and Gunnar charmed the other dogs' people with his handsomeness.

Enough dogs and people came and went that my dogs stayed busy and happy for a good hour and a half. When I got them back in the truck their typical roles were reversed as Gunnar was pooped out and ready for a nap, but Ladybug was uber excited and still bouncing all over the place.

"Mom. Make her stop."

 Here I think Gunnar has actually fallen asleep on Bug's backside.
Look at that smile!

"Are we home yet? Huh? Huh? Huh?"
And poor Gunnar finally gave up and sacked out.

We're all gonna' sleep good tonight!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Clean Slate Sunday: 10.21.12 edition

Can you hear that happy sigh? That's me. I'm tired ... glad bedtime is near. And feeling blessed to have some wonderful memories to think of as I drift off tonight.

Steve was home for the weekend - something I hadn't been expecting. I'm always happy just to have him around, even if we don't have anything special planned. But it was a busy weekend for us: Steve took Sam to his bowling league on Saturday, we had dinner with my folks Saturday night (our annual get-together prior to mom and dad going to Florida for the winter), then today we spent a big chunk of time at church followed by a luncheon/celebration for our pastor's 25th year of ordination. I was so happy to be a part of his special day, and it was obvious Pastor Bill was touched by having so many people there to celebrate in his honor. We would have rushed off to get Rachel to a Girl Scout meeting, but that was canceled because so many girls and their families are ill ... good call by her leaders, if you ask me.

I was happy to have the afternoon free so I could take a nap; I didn't get much sleep last night because I was up and down with a sick puppy. I was awfully worried about him when he didn't eat this morning, but he seems to have recovered just fine, thank God.

So the kids are tucked into bed, the dogs have been taken out for one last stroll around the yard, and I am ready for the clean slate of a fresh week, starting Monday morning. The most exciting news for this week is that the project Steve has been working on in Detroit all summer is complete, so after Tuesday he is done on that job and he will be home - and pulling the travel trailer with him - on Wednesday. We're not sure where he will go next or when, but for the first time in ... ok, ever ... I am not worried about where this road will take us. He has lots of job leads out there, and standing job offers with folks he has worked with before, so we will be fine. I am looking forward to having a few days or even a couple of weeks to enjoy having him here with me and the kids.

Yep. That's a happy sigh.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Biggest. Baby. Ever.

He was all "I'ma kick your ass" when he saw that giant (and not so friendly to other dogs, so says the owner) Mastiff get out of the truck down the way.

And then mama held him while he hollered at the vet tech for clipping his nails.

But then he got a treat and it was all good.

Gunnar: my not-so-much-a-baby-anymore baby. He's four months old and 45 pounds. My guess is he will at least double that weight. At least.

All I can say is he better start jumping in and out of the truck by himself.

Who wants a treat?!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dude. That was awesome.

I got a massage today. For one whole hour I left my phone in the truck, I left my cares behind, and I let Ms. Julia and her amazing hands do their magic.

OK, that sounds kinda' weird. And honestly, even though I had a massage one other time - five or six years ago when Steve got me a gift certificate for Christmas - I was a little intimidated by the whole idea and only sought out a masseuse again because the pain in my neck and lower back were so intense some nights I could hardly sleep. And girlfriend does not do well without her sleep. Also, repeated trips to the chiropractor (whom I adore) were not providing any lasting relief and the last time I saw him he told me - again - that massage would do me a world of good.

So, like any procrastinating busy mama would do, I thought about it for a couple days. And then I hit the Yellow Pages, checked some web sites and made a couple phone calls. I settled on the lady who has been doing this for 20 years. I figured she has seen it all, so she wouldn't bat an eye at anything I was gonna' lay out on that table, no matter how self-conscious I was.

Because really. Two pregnancies, several handfuls of extra pounds hanging on, and a bit of stress-induced wrinkling and flaking does not a bikini body make. And here I would be revealing it to someone I didn't even know.

I wish I could say that my self-consciousness melted away when I walked in that door. I wish I didn't have so many issues with feeling like I somehow don't deserve the luxury of having someone else take care of me - even if I am paying them to do it! But those issues have been a part of me for a long time and they weren't going to go away over a one-hour massage. I will say, though, that Julia made me feel as comfortable as I could about the whole thing. And I really, really did enjoy that massage.

What I was not prepared for was feeling so lousy by the time I got home. It was like someone had opened the floodgates and any junk - emotional, physical, psychological - I had been holding onto for God knows how long came rushing out my pores. My neck and shoulders felt so much better, and my lower back felt like I had had a good workout - sore, but in a good way. But when I got home I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was sleep. So I did.

When I woke from a long nap I felt refreshed. My body was (is) still a little tender, but I feel like I have hit the reset button. I feel ... good. Glad I did something for myself.

Ready to do a little more of it in the future.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Still raining.

Or very wet, at least.

There was sun in the forecast today.

There is no sunshine outside my window. Boo.

But! It's ok. Because I have laundry to do. And this in my lap ...

So I'm warm and happy ... and optimistic it could still clear up before I head out this afternoon.

Ahh, Monday. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Clean Slate Sunday: 10.14.12 edition

I have just a few minutes before the clothes washer will ding-dong its little song at me, then I'll swap the clothes into the dryer and crawl under the covers ... maybe watch some TV, maybe just enjoy the quiet of the house and drift off to sleep.

We had a busy (and fun) weekend and now Steve is safely back at his home away from home. He will be headed back to work tomorrow morning as I'm getting the kids rolling for another week of school and whatever activities they have going on. It's what we do.

This afternoon before Steve left I wasn't feeling so great about going it alone for one more stinking week. And once he was gone, the kids and I had a rough start to our evening - everybody was a little edgy - but by God's grace I had a burst of energy that helped me take back control of the house and complete a few tasks (and delegate others) to help us get ready for the week ahead. Everybody went to bed with full bellies, everybody will have clean clothes when they leave the house in the morning, and we have a plan for a smooth start to our day tomorrow. Here's hoping.

Have I mentioned how much I love Sunday nights? Maybe a time or two, eh? Tonight is a perfect example of why: I'm sitting here on my big, comfy bed with one dog and one kitty curled up next to me. I'm listening to the rain outside the window which I've left open just enough to let the cool breeze come in. My children are in bed (read: quiet). I have prepared the kitchen for morning, and I finally have some time to digest some of the lesson from church this morning. I feel loved. Safe. Content in this moment. I have done everything I can or want to do for the day, so it's time to rest.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Because J said so.

I need to blog. Because my buddy J says so.

I think every writer needs that one person in their lives who isn't afraid to say, "Hey, get off your ass and write something." I know I sure do. Even if it's a rather meaningless blog post, I need to go through the motions of writing something on a regular basis, or before I know it it's been so long that I start to believe I have nothing to say, and anybody who knows me knows that's not true.

So here you go, J. Thanks for the nudge. Dork.

Truth be told, I have been needing to get off my arse in general. I've been feeling like crap lately. And I'm talking a big ol' steaming Jurassic Park-style pile of poo. And when I feel like poo, and on top of it the universe hands me a few rainy, dreary days in a row, it doesn't take very long for me to spiral downward toward the Pit of Despair. Fortunately I have an awesome husband who will drag me out of that spiral kicking and screaming (or wailing and whining that it's just easier to do nothing than to pull myself up by the bootstraps), and a few friends who seem to know - whether they realize it or not - just when to intervene.

We have begun the process of figuring out what's causing my respiratory issues (that I wrote about in my last post). I've been to my family doctor; she didn't see anything freakish. She did see lots of allergy-related irritation in my nose, and something in the back of my throat that needs a closer look. I've had a chest x-ray which came back normal. I now have an appointment with an ENT to check ... er ... deeper into my ears, nose and throat. My doc suggested I might have damaged vocal cords. I googled the symptoms of damaged vocal cords and I think it's definitely a possibility. We shall see.

Meantime, I've also been dealing with some back and neck trouble. Because it isn't enough that I feel like I can't breathe half the time, I also have to walk around feeling like there's an ice pick or two stuck between my shoulder blades. I know ... I'm a wreck. Next week I'm getting a massage in the hope that it will give me some relief. Like a lot of moms, it's not easy for me to schedule that time to focus on myself, but I really need it. If it helps, this will be the first of many visits to the masseuse.

Who feels like she's 80 years old? Is it Pipe Lifer Jen? Dear God. If only I had the wisdom to go along with it.

And that's all there is to say about that for now.

Steve is home this weekend, which is nice. He's down to the last couple of weeks on his current project and then ... who knows? I would love to have him home for a week or two when this job is done before he heads off to the next adventure, but we continue to take things one day at a time.

The kids are busy as ever. Rachel just started basketball practice this week and will have games on Saturdays. Sam has one more football game next week (hoping the team will stay undefeated), and he started Saturday bowling league today. I'm still not sure how I'm going to get everyone where they need to be at the right time on the right days, but that's another task we take one day at a time.

Other than that? Not much going on. Just lots and lots of everyday stuff, really. We've had some work done on the house - new doors put on the front and back (happy!), and a broken rafter (eek!) repaired.

So ... we're here. We're livin'. At the speed of light sometimes, but that's how it goes.

Tonight it feels good to just sit with my hubby and watch the Tigers in the post season. We're headed to church in the morning, and will hopefully have a relaxing afternoon before Steve heads south again.

I leave you with a couple of pet pictures - because they're the only ones I've been taking lately. Gunnar is growing like a weed and has hit the sassy teenager stage. Patch The Kitty ... well, he's just fun to mess around with.

Until next time ...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Clean Slate Sunday: 9.30.12 edition

Sunday evening again. Time to reset for the week ahead.

I can hardly remember this past week. Partly because it was incredibly busy. But mostly, I think, because I haven't been sleeping well due to this chronic cough/stuffiness/wheezing thing I have going on. No worries - I'm not on my deathbed. I just sound like a 400-pound, three-pack-a-day smoker trying to run a marathon. And that's at 10 o'clock at night when I'm trying to go to sleep.

I wish I were kidding.

So it's time to call the doctor. Even though I have a sneaky suspicion that whenever I can get into the office this respiratory thing will magically disappear. Because that's what happens: I'm fine one minute, then I'm coughing up a lung the next. I kinda' already have it in my head that I have asthma or something similar (like ... I dunno, what's similar to asthma without actually being asthma?) and since it's been getting worse over the past few years, I'm pretty sure it is a result of breathing in the dust that exploded in my face when my car's airbag deployed in a crash in 2008. Or maybe not. Regardless, I need to do something about it, because this is a pretty crappy way to live.

I'll revisit the topic when I know more.

Incidentally, last night I had the best night of sleep I've had in a long time. So I elected to skip church this morning and stick close to home. I ended up making a long list and going to the grocery store. Not so close to home, but it was a necessary task and I feel good having it done for the week.

Miraculously there is nothing on my calendar for this week, except to help serve Sam's football team dinner on Tuesday evening, and then go to his game on Wednesday - and fortunately it's a home game. Hopefully my days don't fill in too much so I have plenty of time to work around the house ... because I have a never-ending list of projects to complete, along with the regular household tasks.

And puppy training. We mustn't forget the puppy training.

And holy smokes, it'll be October tomorrow! Wow.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Quick update.

I'm here! I feel like I have really neglected my blog lately - which mostly means family and friends who don't see my occasional posts on Facebook might not be as up-to-date on the goings-on of the Pipe Lifers as when I am blogging regularly. For shame.

Well. The business of life continues. Big highlight: Sam shot a beautiful 9-pt. buck during the youth hunt weekend here in Michigan. I will pick it up from the meat processor next week, and will take the head/hide to a taxidermist. We decided to have it mounted for him - Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas for like, the next three years, kid! OK, not really. But close.

And here's the "Pipe Life" part of the story ... Steve made arrangements to come home and take Sam out hunting over the weekend, but they didn't have any luck. Steve had to head back to Detroit Sunday afternoon, but Sam still had the opportunity to hunt that evening. His Uncle Tom took him out, and that's when Sam shot this deer. I was (and still am) so happy for our boy, but gosh I sure wish Steve had been here to be a part of it, and to see this beautiful deer. Especially since the same thing happened last year, except I was the one with Sam when he took his 4-point. Ah well. Thank God for e-mail and texts and the good ol' telephone.

In other news, Gunnar the puppy is growing like a weed. He is in that puppy "teenager" stage where his legs are long and lanky and he hasn't quite grown into those big ears. His fur is getting shiny - losing that puppy fuzziness - and he is so handsome. Smart, too. Almost too smart for his own good. Some days it's a darn good thing he's that cute. *ahem* And he and Ladybug are getting along splendidly.

A rare "still" moment.

Rachel has started another busy year of Girl Scouts (her Troop will be walking in the Homecoming parade tonight) and is looking forward to signing up for a rec basketball league soon. Sam is halfway through football season (he would want me to mention his team is 3-0) and while he's not getting as much play time as he would like, he is learning a lot about the game, about working together as a team, and his overall health is improving with all that activity.

There's so much more to mention but I said quick update, so I'll stop there. It's Friday and I have errands to run and stuff to do. Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Clean Slate Sunday: 9.16.12 edition

Here we are two weeks into the school year and I'm finally getting a handle on the whole routine again. Last week I had something going on every day in addition to having to pick Sam up from football practice every evening and attending his game on Wednesday, and by Friday night my brain and my nerves were fried. Fortunately we had an easy weekend and I was able to spend most of it at home catching up on a few things I had neglected during the week. Shoot, I didn't even get out of my pajamas on Saturday.

Now it's Sunday night and I am rejoicing in the calm and quiet. When the kids went to bed I turned off the lights and headed to my room, too. I have one dog snoring at the foot of the bed, a cat snuggled up next to her, the puppy asleep in his crate in the corner, and me with clean sheets and PJ's and my laptop. And peace.

It's been a while since I've done a Clean Slate Sunday post, but I would like to get back into the habit. Sunday nights have historically been one of my favorite times of each week - a time when we settle in early, prepare for the week ahead and look forward to new beginnings. My CSS posts began as a way for me to review what I had accomplished over the past few days and make a plan for the coming week. I need at least that much structure in my life. Planning is good. Lack of planning, not so good.

So I'm looking forward to the week ahead. It will be busy, but the calendar isn't quite so crowded as it was last week. I'm happy I will have a little more time to be at home taking care of business, doing some cleaning, and lots of puppy training. We're working on the basics right now: sit, stay, come, down, that kind of stuff. And continuing housebreaking, of course. It's been interesting doing all this with the puppy while still trying to accomplish some of those basics with a stubborn old hound dog who still has terrible manners. (Not for lack of us trying, either.) But for the most part it's great having two dogs in the house. They have become fast friends and they play and play and play until they wear each other out or we put them in separate corners, which is what usually happens. Only because we get sick of the barking. Because apparently chasing each other around the furniture, playing tug-o-war with toys or terrorizing the cats isn't enough. We must also make noise! Aye yi yi. We're working on teaching them to use their inside voices. But there again, we've been trying to get Ladybug to stop barking when told to for four years now. So far? FAIL. That whole hunting/barking thing is pretty deeply engrained in that one.

Anywho, I've been trying to get a picture of these dogs roughhousing over the past couple of days because they look so stinkin' funny. Gunnar pulls his lips back and shows those vicious puppy teeth, and Ladybug basically pins him to the floor by the neck. He pulls a sneak attack and nibbles at her hind legs, so she whips around and chases him until he squeezes into the space between the back of the couch and the wall (which will be impossible - or at least much tougher - for him in a couple months). I got a dozen pictures with two black-and-tan blurs, a couple videos with lots of barking going on, and this:

The panting puppy with crazy alien eyes, poised to defend himself against the howling hound.

It's a pretty accurate picture of our days lately. It's like the canine UFC around here. Last pup standing gets the peanut butter-filled Kong. Or something like that. Fun times.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A prayer for my children.

 Rachel, all color-coordinated and ready for the first day of school!
Big brother would not allow a First Day picture. So uncool, mom.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the gifts of Sam and Rachel. Please watch over my children and keep them safe as I send them out into the world today. I pray they will be beacons of light to others. Guide them with Your hand and help them to make wise choices, have a positive outlook, and be respectful. Keep their minds open to learning, both from their books and through relationships.

Bless all the people who care for our children throughout the day: the school bus driver, their teachers and administration, the lunch ladies, playground aides and coaches. May they each have a heart for teaching, and lots and lots of grace.

Lord, thank you for the opportunity to be a homemaker. I look to You to help me make the most of my time so that at the end of the day I am focused on simply loving my children and giving them a comfortable place to call "home."

And thank you for the rain. May it be a sign of new beginnings and fresh starts. Amen.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Puppy training and back-to-school time.

Our new puppy sure is creating a lot of smiles around here.

Look at this. How can he not?

Gunnar is a quick study. He's learning his name, he knows to head for the door when we say "let's go potty," and he has even figured out how to weasel his way into Ladybug's heart. Or is it under that poor old dog's skin? A little bit of both, I think.

He has spent the last two nights sleeping in the dog crate with very little protest. We've gotten up 2-3 times every night (and by "we" I mean me and Gunnar) to go outside which is vaguely reminiscent of middle-of-the-night wakeups when we had babies. No wonder I'm so tired.

While we're getting used to having another four-legged friend in the house we're also getting used to a new routine. Sam is now into daily practices for football and it seems like we have something else going on in addition to that every day. Last night Sam and I went to his back-to-school night. Sam had a doctor's appointment first thing this morning and tonight Rachel and I are going to her BTS night while Sam is at practice. It's busy, but it's good. Well. It's good at the moment. It wasn't so good last night when everyone was tired and the kids were bickering and I had my fill of it and went a little ballistic on them. Everyone's a little calmer and kinder today, though. Amazing how that works.

The weather's been pretty warm lately, but the mornings are quite cool. I'm starting to pull plants from the garden and toss flowers that have run their course. Time to simplify outdoors and start to think about doing some organizing and decluttering in the house. I'm looking forward to having some time during the day to focus on that kind of stuff without having kids going behind me and undoing it all.

Six days to go before they start school. Six. Days.


Friday, August 24, 2012


Oh yes I did.


We did.

We brought home a puppy.
(With daddy's blessing, of course.)

The new pup's name is Gunnar.

I took this picture when I visited yesterday.

I'm not even sure how I walked away without putting him in the truck right then. But when it comes to big decisions Steve always suggests we "sleep on it." So I tried. Do you think I got any sleep last night? Yeah ... no.

Rachel and I went and picked him up this morning. We were able to surprise Sam, as he had stayed the night at a friend's house and knew nothing about the possibility of getting a puppy.

 Gunnar is settling in.

Ladybug sniffed him out and slobbered all over him, and has pretty much ignored him the rest of the day.

I am in love. My heart goes pitter-pat every time he looks at me with those floppy ears.

Oh, we've already had to clean up a couple potty accidents in the house. And he and I had a little discussion about the inappropriateness of using my laptop cord as a chew toy. But I adore him, the kids are so happy to have a German Shepherd again (as am I), and I can see Steve falling in love with him when he finally gets to meet him.

The cats? They are not so happy. But they'll get over it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Summer camera roll.

I have been without a dedicated camera since someone (hint: not I) dropped ye ole digital point-n-shoot on the concrete - not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES - while in Washington, D.C. in June. The poor thing finally gave up the ghost on our last day there. I haven't bought a new one because I'm saving up for something a little nicer. I do have the camera on my cell phone, though, and that's what I have used all summer.

So, with two weeks left of summer break, here's what I find on my camera roll. Certainly not all-inclusive (either of what we did this summer, or of what is on my phone), and in no particular order ...

At our annual summer gathering with family at my uncle's lake house in Elk Rapids:

Playing at a playground near the RV park Steve has stayed in all summer:

A rare girls-only afternoon. Dessert, anyone?

My shiny baby. Paid off (early) on July 13.

 New sunglasses ...
 And goofin' with Grandma while we ate lunch at the mall in Ann Arbor.
 (We developed a love for Olga's Kitchen that day. YUM.)

On my way out the door for an overnighter with Steve for my birthday.

Deciding which sunglasses to wear ...

The view from a comfy chair in the RV park.

Sam's quadra-decker grilled sandwich. He cooks!

We did lots of this ...

And a little of this.

On one of Steve's few Sundays off, the four of us visited the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum and the Michigan Firehouse Museum. (I'll blog about these with more pictures later.)

Visited the county fair in July.
 Spent a fun evening with friends, and Rachel climbed the rock wall.

 The patio and garden: my happy place.

 One day's harvest. And there's a lot more to come.

Spent a lot of time here and looking forward to more ... until the snow flies.

 Rachel, my mom and I spent an evening at Waterfront Park recently while Sam was at football practice. First time all year we've watched the carferry come in.

This past weekend Rach and I spent two nights camping with her Girl Scout troop at Silver Lake. It was so much fun. Great memories for all of us.

Now if I hear "we haven't done anything all summer!" one more time I'm gonna' slap someone. It's been a great summer, we survived some crazy heat, and I am ready for some down time. Or at least a shift to a different kind of busy-ness. Hello, fall!