Monday, January 30, 2012

Swapping out a light fixture.

I did it! I hung a light fixture. All by myself. And it works!

This is a big thing for me. I have this fear of anything having to do with electricity. I like being able to hit the switch and have the lights come on, but I don't really want to have anything to do with what happens within the walls to make it work.

Alas, my go-to guy (Steve) isn't around and the last thing I want to ask him to do when he finally gets some time at home is to hang a light fixture. (Although I did find out it's pretty uncomplicated, it just helps to have another set of hands to assist. Which I didn't.)

I've been on the lookout for lighting fixtures for ... ever. Our house is full of builder-grade brassy, cheap-looking fixtures and I'm tired of looking at them. But rather than spending hundreds of dollars for a bunch of new fixtures, I have kept my eyes open for fun, funky, used (or clearance priced) fixtures with character.

A few months back I bought this one at the Habitat ReStore:
I wasn't sure where it would end up, but I knew it would look better than any of the lights we had in the house. I purchased it with the idea that I would spray paint it, and once I decided where it would go I chose Rust-Oleum's Metallic Oil Rubbed Bronze.

$15! Not bad. Maybe not as great as a garage sale price, but certainly better than new. 
And yes, the glass really was that dirty.

Here is what I was replacing:
Looks safe, no?

And classy.

I don't even remember how long that "temporary" fixture has been hanging there. It's one of those things that we got used to, and it started blending into the background.

Well, NO MORE!

I luuuuurve this new light.

And though I can't say I am totally over my fear of working near electricity, I can at least tell you I will attempt a similar project again, with a little less trepidation.

Neat detail, huh? It has almost a Moroccan feel. I likey.

The glass cleaned up fine (but even if it hadn't I wouldn't care - I'd put the light up without it), the paint looks good (though I do have a couple touchups to do), and best of all the light actually worked when I turned it on.

I do have a couple of adjustments to make. The screws that came with the crossbar that attaches to the box in the ceiling weren't long enough, so I had to dig through my toolbox to find some replacements. They'll work for now, but if you look closely - in person, maybe not on the pics - you can see the canopy isn't quite flush with the ceiling. Definitely gotta' fix that. But overall, I think I did pretty good!

So now I can add something to my list of possible projects I can do myself. Win!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Moving right along ...

Nothing too exciting to report from the homestead these days. Steve is settling in with his new job in PA, and the kids and I are holding down the fort here and making plans to go see him as soon as they have a long weekend from school.

The weather has been bizarre. Snow one day, rain the next, then snow and wind, then a 40-degree day. We're closing in on February and the kids have had three snow (or ice) days from school, all within the past week. My animals (the four-legged ones, not the children) are wanting to spend more and more time outside as if they can feel spring in the air. And I feel it too. After such a mild winter if we end up getting hit really hard with snow now I won't know what to do with myself.

I've been working on knocking out a few DIY projects and I'm excited to share them in future posts. I'm particularly happy with a second-hand light fixture I polished up and will hopefully hang in our front room this weekend. I just have to pick up a piece of hardware at the Depot, and get over my fear of any jobs having to do with electricity.

Sam is really enjoying downhill skiing. Every week when I go to pick him up from ski club he talks my ear off all the way home. I'm excited for him. It's a great wintertime physical activity and he has been working hard at improving his grades so he can continue skiing.

Today Rachel learned in art class how to draw a self portrait. She used those skills to draw a portrait of me tonight. She was so proud of herself, and I was proud of her. I love these days.

So we're movin' right along. Livin' life. Day by day. Tomorrow's Friday - yeah for the weekend! And I'm looking forward to having some time to just chill out with the kids.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Snow and rain and ice, oh my!

OK, that sounds kinda' dumb, but that's about what's going on today. The kids are home from school because it rained all night, hence there is a layer of ice on top of all the snow. Where there is not ice there is heavy slush. Bleh.

So we all got to sleep in, which was great. Because remember my dog Ladybug? Who freaks the heck out when the weather changes? Yeah. She was pawing at her crate and yelping at me at 2:20 this morning. So I got up and took her out in the rain so she could do her business ... and then stare at the rain. You would think a dog would want to curl up in her little den and pretend the world outside can't get her. But no, she wants to be out in it so she can see what's coming. I guess. It's like having a newborn with that middle-of-the-night business. And remember how sleep is one of my favorite pastimes? Yeah. Homegirl does not appreciate the 2 a.m. wake up call.

Alas, I still planned to get all kinds of stuff done around the house today. And then school was called off and I thought, "Great! I'll have extra hands to help me!"

Right. Let me describe the scene to you now.

Everyone is still in their pajamas. Elder child is on the couch munching on granola and watching Top Gear on BBC America. Younger child just stuck a giant star tattoo on the top of one foot and is now "dusting" a kitchen chair with a damp washcloth. Every few minutes she says, "Who else could I sell cookies to?" (She's a Girl Scout and taking orders for cookies, if any local readers are interested.) I keep telling the boy to turn the television down and thanking God I don't have to get out of my sweatpants today.

It's a rousing time here with the Pipe Lifers. Time to shake things up and get to work!

Have a great day.

Friday, January 20, 2012

'I got a bee in my bonnet.'

Ever hear that expression? Ever get that feeling? Like you've been pondering an idea and now you need to do something about it?

I got a bee in my bonnet last night - not sure why, but hey, when the mood strikes I figure I better use it to my advantage.

So what did I do? Not dishes. Not laundry. Not vacuuming. No shaking rugs or changing bed linens. No taking out the trash. All of which needed to be done.

No. The most pressing thing on my list was putting the Christmas decorations away. Which meant taking them down. Yes. It was January 19th and I still had bulbs and beaded garland and all sorts of Christmasy stuff hangin' around. Including a tree. NOT the "real" tree - the one we all insist we want, even though nobody wants to remember to water it; that was taken down weeks ago - but the smaller, artificial tree that was decorated with all the kids' ornaments from over the years. The one that stood in the living room.

It just didn't bother me all that much to still have it up. I seriously considered leaving it for a while longer. But then I remembered how dusty this house gets, and how much I hate dusting.

So I forced myself to get it all packed up and tucked away under the bed and in a closet. Even though I'm never quite ready to see the last of it go.

Clearing out those spaces gets me excited to do a little more decluttering around the house (it's an ongoing effort) and to tackle a couple DIY projects I've been meaning to get to. So here I go ... I'm going to write it here to keep myself accountable. First up: I need to figure out some sort of "system" for the kids' area near the front door. We put up sets of hooks for each of them a couple years ago and they quickly got into the habit of dropping/hanging their things where they need to go when they come in the door, but - and I'll show you with pictures - that area always seems to look unkept. Or rather, be unkept. I have some ideas for it, but we'll see how (or if) they pan out.

Wish me luck.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The story of Samuel.

Both of our children have Biblical names.

That's not why we chose their names. I wish I could tell them we pored over scripture and picked names of people who were humble, brave disciples. Nope. Just happy coincidence.

But as our kids have grown I have taken an interest in the stories of the people their names represent in the Bible. Particularly Sam, because a certain section of verse makes me chuckle ... and ponder a little bit ... when I read it.

This section was one of our lessons in church on Sunday: 1 Samuel 3:1-20

I'll give you the gist of it here in my own words. Basically, God called to Samuel three times, and three times Samuel did not recognize the voice of the Lord (because he didn't yet know Him). Eli finally told Samuel that when he heard the Lord calling again he should say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." The Lord told Samuel of his plans to lay the smackdown on Eli and his family, and then at Eli's insistence Samuel repeated the information to him.
"The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD." (v. 19-20)

I chuckle because I can almost feel the confusion of poor Samuel who heard a voice and responded to Eli who then told him he hadn't called and Samuel should go back and lie down. Three times! I imagine my Sammy rolling his eyes and turning on the ball of his foot and thinking how ridiculous this all is. I see it as our son makes his way through Confirmation classes at church, picking through scripture, asking questions, telling me what he has learned (only when I prod him), and learning to recognize God's voice in his own teenage, whirlwind, I'd-rather-go-skiing-with-my-friends kind of world.

Is my son hearing God's call? Is he responding? Will he affirm his faith when Confirmation Day comes? I hope so. I do want for Sam to have a personal relationship with Christ. I pray that through his own actions this world will recognize him as a believer. Even if instead of singing hymns after he takes communion he proceeds to whisper to me that the wafer and wine aren't very tasty and he'd really like to go out for breakfast.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Clean Slate Sunday: 1.15.12 edition

Whew. I am in dire need of that clean slate this week. I feel like I am going in a hundred different directions and getting nowhere fast.

Or not moving at all. And getting nowhere fast.


I'm tired. I started typing out all the things I attribute my exhaustion to, but then I felt like a wuss. Or a whiner. And nobody likes a whiner.

Truth is we just have a lot going on. The kids are active, Steve is settling into a new job, and I'm getting used to having a regular chunk of time committed to a job, too. Although I wouldn't really call it a "job" ... I'm babysitting three days a week for some friends. I am happy to help them out and their toddler is an absolute joy ... but a toddler, nonetheless. I had forgotten how busy little ones can be at that age. I mean, I remember, but I'm older than I was when I was chasing my own kids around. That sure makes a difference. And after almost four years of being a stay-at-home mom, I'm accustomed to having my weekdays to myself during the school year.

So, yeah, it's just life. Perhaps I got way too into the relaxation of Christmas break and having Steve here and I'm still trying to pull myself out of it. My body wants to sleep in every morning, nap and eat and nap during the day, and do lots of nothing in between. My brain, on the other hand, has other plans and works overtime making lists of what needs to be done. Like laundry. Dinner. Taking the dog out. Grocery shopping. Dentist appointments. All that good stuff.

No lists tonight, though. I'm going to bed early and I'm taking a book with me. I plan to distract myself with whatever the story is until I fall asleep.

Tomorrow is a new day. A chance to start fresh. Bring it, Monday!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Wildlife encounters.

I'm beginning to wonder what kind of wild critter I will encounter tomorrow. And under what circumstances.

Today I was picking up a few things in Walmart and as I turned my buggy down one aisle I saw a bird fly from one side of that aisle to the other - from the TP to the paper towels. I looked at Rachel: "Did you see that?!" She hadn't. So I went about my business and about the time I reached for some tissues, Rachel said "there it is!" and sure enough, there was the bird watching me from atop a box of Kleenex.

Nice. And a little creepy.

Yesterday - or rather, last night about the time we were all getting ready to go to bed - our encounter was with a mouse.

Yes. In the house.

I know. Finding how it got in is on my list of things to do. Straightaway.

So ... can I just say? One of our cats is worthless in the mousing department. He thinks mice are great toys and he will catch them and play with them until they outsmart him ... which honestly, doesn't take much. It's funny to watch when you see him do it outside, but in the house? Not so much. I'm relatively certain the mouse got in somewhere under the kitchen sink, and I'm pretty sure Patch The Kitty batted that mouse around until it found someplace to hide IN MY BEDROOM. (Which would explain why I woke up to the sound of that crazy cat racing around the perimeter of my bedroom a couple nights ago.)

In the interest of keeping the story short, I will tell you that our encounter with the mouse involved me squealing at least twice, me and Rachel hopping on top of my bed, Sam with a flashlight, broom, and knee-high boots, and two cats who didn't know which way was up for all the screaming, laughing and scrambling.

That mouse ran across my bedroom floor and hid under the bed, then through the front room and hid under the cat scratcher, then into the kitchen and under the oven. All of this took probably a half hour with us tearing things apart - carefully, none of us wanting it to jump out at us - in each room. You can just imagine the chaos.

And all of that excitement came after my up-close-and-personal encounter with a 'possum Friday night.

Short version: hound dog slipped her collar after dark, ran out into the swamp and cornered a 'possum, barked (and barked and barked and barked and barked and barked) until I got concerned she might be in trouble, I trekked through the swamp with a flashlight and a leash to see what was the matter, saw angry (and VERY LARGE) rodent hissing at dog, grabbed a big stick and tried to distract dog, rodent tried to make a run for it, dog grabbed rodent by the neck and shook until it curled into a ball either dead or playing dead, I held the stick over the 'possum with one hand and grabbed the dog by the scruff of the neck with the other.

Y'all, that was the biggest opossum I have ever seen. I have known 18-lb house cats, and this animal was bigger. And my 45-lb dog showed no fear. I know she was a hunter in her former life, but knowing she can do it and seeing her in action are two different things. I couldn't believe she came out of there without a scratch on her.

Nevermind that I wanted to beat the crap out of her for making me go out there ...

And nevermind that she's supposed to hunt raccoons. (As far as I know.)

Whatever. I hope that's all the excitement I have around here for a while. Whew.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Just ... stuff.

Well hallelujah, Sam returned home from his first evening skiing with not a bump or bruise or broken anything. (!!!) As it should be. And on the 20-minute ride home from school - in which I was a wee bit tired because it was after 10 p.m. - he talked 100 miles an hour about who he hung out with, how he has to take lessons before he can ride the ski lift, what size his boots were, what he had for dinner, and on and on. And he cannot wait for next Wednesday to roll around. I love it.

He also talked about how cool it is that the kids are trusted to go off and ski, get a bite to eat whenever they are ready, and then meet back at the bus at a designated time. Ya' know what that's called? FREEDOM! I think he's pretty excited about that.

~ ~ ~

Today is Steve's birthday. Happy birthday, baby! I'm a little out-of-sorts because he doesn't get a signal on his cell phone where he's staying, so we aren't able to chat in the evenings like we usually do. But he called this morning and it was so good to hear his voice ... and I was able to tell him "happy birthday" when I finally remembered today is the 6th. Once the kids were both up and alert enough to talk, they called him and wished him a happy day, too.

This is the second year I haven't been able to be with Steve on his big day, and that kinda' bums me out. Birthdays are a big deal to me. But I can't complain because he's working and that's a good thing!

~ ~ ~

Poor Rachel has a dentist appointment this afternoon because she chipped a tooth. Or rather, a tooth chipped and she has no idea how it happened. So we're going to have that checked out and have her teeth cleaned and the usual X-rays and all that while she's there.

Do you think it would be too much to expect that once her sore tooth is taken care of her attitude would improve? Sheesh. Here's hoping.

~ ~ ~

Me? I've been on a housecleaning kick. Time to move some furniture around, catch all the dust bunnies and make everything look fresh. The Christmas trees come down tonight. We typically wait until Jan. 6 because a) we usually have a big bonfire for Steve's and his brother's birthday (yes, they share a birthday - his brother is exactly five years older), and b) it signifies Epiphany on the church calendar. We don't have plans for a bonfire this year, but it will be a good opportunity to remind the kids that the Christmas season doesn't necessarily end on December 25th.

Have a great day, y'all. TGIF!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A prayer for today.

Heavenly Father, every day (OK, almost every day) when I put my children on the school bus I pray you will watch over them and keep them safe in Your loving embrace. I pray Sam and Rachel will be guided to make good decisions and glorify Your name with their actions, and that they would love You and seek to please You.

Today I pray extra fervently (is that even a word? How about "I pray really really hard?") for Your protection over my elder child, as he will be hitting the slopes this afternoon with the ski club. This is his second time skiing, but the first time he'll do it surrounded by a bunch of goony teenage guys. And Lord, we know how teenage boys can be. I pray he wears his helmet like he promised he would, that he doesn't get too cocky about his abilities, that he keeps his body intact and unbroken, and most of all that he have fun ... for himself, with his friends, away from my ever-watchful eyes. Lord, if it is Your Will, may Sam develop a love for this sport that will encourage him to do all the right things so he is allowed to continue to participate.

Please give me the strength, dear God, to let go just a little bit, let the boy seek his passion, prove himself to be responsible and trustworthy, and begin to find his place in this world. Help me to turn angst over possible future hurts to celebration over new discoveries and endless possibilities.

And did I mention I'd like You to bring him back to me in one piece?

Father, I also pray today that Steve has a good first day on the new job. I'm sure it will be filled with paperwork and instruction and drug testing and all that preliminary stuff, but as the ball begins to roll I ask You to stoke that fire within my husband that keeps him excited about what he does. I thank You for the gift of Steven, Lord. I thank You for placing him in my life. I thank You for getting him through yesterday's travels safely, and I ask You to continue to watch over him.

Thank You for the crunchy snow outside that sparkles in the light of the front porch.

Thank You for the one-on-one time I will have with Rachel this evening.

Thank You for a warm home, pancakes for breakfast, a truck that started right up this morning, four-legged creatures to keep me company today, and a body with working arms and legs and heart and brain that is capable of so much.

And thank You for coffee.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The start of something grand.

Is it? I don't know, it could be. Why not?

Let's just expect this new venture to be a wonderful thing, shall we? I'm going to pray for a great year for the Pipe Lifers ... speak it into being, even. I believe positive (often) begets positive, so that's the route I'm taking.

It is back to ... well, "whatever" today. School, work ... our old familiar roles. I've sent the kids off to school and Steve off to a new job. The house is so quiet the dog and I don't know what to do with ourselves. I'm not sure if I'm ecstatic or lonely. A little bit of both, probably.

Despite the concern over lack of a regular paycheck for a while, it's been so great having Steve here by my side these past few weeks. We really needed that time to recharge. Today he's headed to Pennsylvania for his new job and I'm not sure when I will see him again. Hopefully we'll know much more about what the job entails and what his schedule will be after he meets with a supervisor tomorrow. (And for those keeping track, my brother is going to work for the same company, so they're traveling together today. Fired together, hired together. I'm tellin' ya', they're a force to be reckoned with.)

I'm excited. I have a feeling there are great things in store for us this year, and this is just the beginning.

Now, if I could just fight off this cold that seems to be settling in my head I'd be all set. I've got too much to accomplish to start the year off by getting sick. Germs be gone!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hello 2012! We're glad to see ya'.

On our way out to meet our friends for New Year's Eve dinner and whatever festivities awaited.
(Uhhh, maybe I should work on losing that double chin this year? Yeesh.)

 Our pals Jason and Amy, me and Steve.
And in a nod to small towns everywhere: our buddy the police chief took this picture for us.

The Countdown Clock.

 My sweet hubby.

 The Ball. 
It hung from a crane over the main intersection, all lit up and changing colors all night - pretty cool, until they started lowering it and then the lights went out ... which was a bit anti-climactic. Malfunction, I'm guessing.

The good news, though, is the fireworks display following the Ball Drop was fantastic. I got a little cramp in my neck from looking up so long because they were right above us over the street, but it was so worth it.

Me and Amy, all bundled up!

We had such a great time last night - and honestly, though the Light Up The Lake celebration and the sense of community were awesome, my favorite part of the night was talking and laughing over dinner with great friends, and then chillin' at their house for a while before we headed home. It was probably one of the more memorable NYE celebrations we've had in a long time.

Despite some struggles, the past year has been fairly good to us. I can't say I'm sorry to see 2011 go ... I'm just looking forward to a great year ahead. Steve is headed back to work this week to a new job with a new company (new to us, anyway). The kids are scheduled to go back to school this week, and Sam will be hitting the slopes with the school ski club for the first time. I'm excited about getting back into our routines and making some changes for the better around here. No New Year's resolutions, mind you; I don't do those anymore. But I do try to keep steering my life in a positive direction - spiritually, physically, financially - yes, all those areas where others do make resolutions. Better habits over time is what I'm working toward. God willing, we'll look back on 2012 as a great year, too.

Happy New Year!