Showing posts with label projects. Show all posts
Showing posts with label projects. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 23

Library School and Projects

This is such a weird year. The Littles and I are enjoying Library School while Jacob is at dance. I don't know why we didn't think of this last year, but it's a sanity saver and a half for me this year. We hoof it to the library and enjoy from one and a half to three hours of leisurely study and discussion. (So, you know, they're getting an education, which is a massive win, there.) There's a break room where you're allowed to have drinks, so that's where we do our tea and poetry. It's not as aesthetically pleasing as other cozy spots in the library (and it is bizarre to watch the rotation of people who use the pay phone in the corner to conduct "business" as the day progresses), but it is decidedly water-resistant, which I guess was the point. Anyway, it's a fair compromise.

They have an online class that takes place while he's at ballet, and although I have railed against computers in libraries for ages (mostly after a dust up at one library where the monitors faced into the children's area and adults would often use them to look at porn, but the librarian went off on me about censorship when I suggested they change the layout to protect little eyes - that set me on edge over it, to be honest), I was ever so appreciative for them this week! As with most things, it's how you use it. And whether you consider those around you when you use it. *aherm*



Meanwhile, we're trying to revamp our menu plans because we've all hit the point where we're a little burned out on eating out of a hipster snack box all day. Plus, my bag has a lot of nut dust in it, and I'm terrified I'm going to inadvertently trigger an allergic reaction on some poor stranger. So, it's time to rein it in. Time to toss the bag in the wash, pack like we mean it, and put together legit lunches for our on-the-go days. I have no idea what that's going to look like.

After I refinished the single little nightstand a couple of weeks ago, I really wanted to do the whole suit. It felt overwhelming, though, so I kept putting it off. Well, after we decluttered our room, I realized I could just lay down a drop cloth and do it in place! No need to move the dresser! WOOHOO! On Sunday, I dismantled everything, cleaned the hardware, and painted the first coat on the dresser! The drawers got moved to the dining room.



So... we've been eating in the living room and sleeping on the couch for three nights, because I started the project and then BAM, we hit the week running. So there's been a bit of lag between coats and sanding and waxing. Whoops. Thankfully, the couch is both comfortable and big enough for everyone to eat around, and for two adults to sleep on comfortably!

However, that needs to end soon. My room, with the dresser contents strewn about, looks like it's been vandalized by angry fashionistas.

I hope your week has been filled with unexpected progress and delightful interruptions!

Be encouraged!
~ Dy


Tuesday, August 15

Brilliant Plans and... Other Ones

Yesterday was a rest day. Well, it was a school day and a rest day. OK, actually, it was a school day, a few small projects, a little more cleaning, and a rest day. But when Jase talked to Z about his day, he told him it was a rest day, "so we didn't do much but hang out, eat and read". Then he gave me credit for it! So it's officially going down as a rest day that I instituted. Because I don't often get credit for the occasional cool things I do. (This incident is not a prime example, since it wasn't actually a rest day, but I don't even mind at this point.)

We replaced the worn dry erase board in the linen closet door and cleaned and repainted the air return register. We washed some more walls. We made more lists. John had Favorite Child status for several hours because he dug around in the basement to find the panel that I knew was down there but which none of us had seen in ages. Many people thought it was a myth. I had even begun to think perhaps we'd thrown it out at some point. But no, he found it! And he cut a new panel and got it switched out.

Today, we all overslept. I awoke at 7:37, immediately registered that we were behind the 8-ball for an 8 o'clock hair appointment, and bolted out of bed to wake everyone else. AND we made it! We weren't coherent, or clean, or functional, but we were there. After that, and a hair cut, I needed a full-on shower. I was still a little sleepy, however, and didn't want to do the bag-wrap-tape routine on my finger (I sliced the tip off last week - rookie mistake that's more irritating and inconvenient than damaging, thankfully). So I grabbed a mechanic's glove. It worked great until I reached down to shave and the glove immediately filled up with water! Oops! Lesson learned - tape the wrist!

Jacob got his schedule recommendations today, so we're plugging things into grids to see what's going to work. I found a lot of schedule templates online that skip weekends, or end at 5. None were quite what I needed, but then I found one from Apache, an Open Office spreadsheet that was dead handy. If you use Open Office and need a planner template, this one's quite functional. I had to tweak the margins on my page set up a titch to get it to print on one page, but it's pretty good, otherwise.

We're all about to head into a completely new world with school. I feel like we're skydiving for the first time -- no clue what to expect and vaguely surprised to find us here even though this was the plan and we very intentionally got to this place. It's so strange. If you're kindly inclined, please keep all of the young men and women who are heading off to college, to internships, to work, in your prayers. They're in for some amazing adventures, but it doesn't hurt to have people actively pulling for you.

Be encouraged!

Dy

Monday, August 14

Be That Friend

Have I mentioned lately just what a blessing a good friend is?

Well, it is. So much so.

In this case, she is. And I am both humbled and appreciative in quantities I cannot express.

You see, I've been absolutely pummeled by Things lately. Not big things. Not bad things. Just things. What's the old saying, nibbled to death by ducks? It's migratory season and I am camped out at the watering hole, people. There are ducks everywhere.

And there are days that I suspect I'm the only one who can see them, which puts me pretty firmly in the Hunter S. Thompson category for a) crazy, and b) really unable to handle the situation.

So when I got paralyzed last week and decided that refinishing furniture was probably my number one priority, that was a big red flag for me. WHOA, Nellie! Why are we painting a nighstand in the basement? (Because it's something I can do. That helps. And has an end point. Unlike every flipping thing else going on in my life. Hand me the sandpaper and stop asking questions.)

And a dear friend asked, "Is there anything I can do to help?"

And my inner idiot said, in a very tiny voice, "No, I'm fine."

And a dear friend said, "Can I come over on a specific date to help with specific things?" (Which, really, is the better question to ask, because when people are stripping hardware in the basement instead of washing walls, they don't really know what kind of help they need. Or what they need, at all. True story.)

And I started to say, in what I intended to be a Big, Strong Brave Voice, "Nah, I've got it." But then I heard the punchline to my favorite joke...

I sent you two boats and a helicopter. What more help did you want?

And since the Holy Spirit seemed to realize that I need pedestrian humor to get me moving, I laughed. And then I said, in a Very Relieved Voice, "Yes, that would be lovely."

Then, she came. And I stood here, in my mess and clutter, with one sock on cockeyed, feeling very, very vulnerable while she did not freak out, grab the children and yell over her shoulder as she ran for the truck, "Who lives like this?!?!" (For which I am forever grateful.)

She made a check list. She pointed us in the right direction. Then (OH! THE GRATITUDE!) she worked with Em to box up all. her. art. All of it. Into bins. And Em didn't cry. She didn't feel stripped of her world. This friend did something that I could not have done with all the Moscow Mules in the world at my disposal: she made packing up fun for Em!

And she cracked the paralysis that had overcome me. I don't know which of the aspects I appreciate the most, but I'm going to do my part by saying, y'all, Be. That. Friend. Be willing to step up alongside your friends when they are stuck. Even if you don't know what they need, just go be present. Lob ideas. Laugh. Visit. Work if there's work to be done. Bring joy. Be encouraging. You have no idea what good it can do a soul! But they will, and it will matter.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, August 13

First Showing, School Books

We showed the house today! It was nerve-wracking and scary and hard, but we did it. I don't know if they liked it or hated it, but they were kind and made it painless. They stayed for two hours, their children played and ran amok all over the property, and we got that dreaded *first* out of the way. If this isn't the house they need, that's OK. It was a good experience, all the way around.

After they left, I took pictures, thinking to put them up online and get the word out. But that's not going to happen yet. All I see in the pictures are things I want to fix, tweak, clean, change. Nope. Not just yet. Or, maybe a few now... and then I can update the album as we go? I don't know. Although I DO know that taking a photo of a room is an excellent way to assess its condition even when you think you already know what it needs! Wow! There's something about a photograph that allows us to step back and look with a critical, unbiased eye, which is pretty cool. I'm not sure at what point we'll have done enough work that it'll warrant calling a realtor to come take over. Who knows? Always be learning, right? Sometimes, we learn the hard way. That's OK, too.

Meanwhile, Jacob and I are working through The Iliad right now. He asked if I'd read a bit aloud tonight. I jumped on it, as I've been wanting us to read together more. Yeah, that was a trap. It was the end of Book 2, where Homer lists all the ships, all the leaders, all the dalliances that brought about the leaders... it's a lot like reading I Chronicles, but with harder names to pronounce. No wonder he didn't get through it during the week. Good to read, but not gripping. Well, unless you're into genealogy. I'm sure it's fascinating to somebody, just not for us. We continued on through Book 3 to make up for it. Now, that was fun!

Now that we've got the first showing out of the way, a lot of the house de-cluttered and an idea what needs to be done next/first/whatever, I feel much less tense about the whole process. We'll just work our way through the photos, right? It's a start, at any rate.

Tomorrow, school! A little work in the foyer and hall. Then dance. Always dance...

Be encouraged, no matter how weird things get, there's good to be found!

Dy

Sunday, July 23

Headway!

I have a den full of boxes and three empty book cases! We gave away one book case, and I hope to give away more this weekend. We learned a few things:

* If you want to get kids to read books, have them take books off a shelf to put in boxes. We got SO much reading done today! Like they discovered a secret library I'd been holding out on. It was hilarious.

* When your 18yo and your 11yo curl up on the couch to look at Rembrandt pictures together, you really can't care that they aren't working. (I already knew this, but it was a beautiful reminder.)

* One book case can hold a LOT of books! Wow, we are richly blessed with books.

* Dust is insidious.

* I'm wondering if white book cases would mitigate some of the room-shrinking effect... but then I wonder how bad it would look when they get dirty... then I spin around in circles like Gayle Waters-Waters preparing for company. So. No actual decisions, and I'm a little dizzy, now.

* Also, I need a vertically-capable roomba. Do those exist? If not, why not? I can't be the only person who's thought of asking Santa to look into this.

* And finally, we really should have gotten a storage shed before we started boxing things up. But, you live and learn. It'll be fine.

The nice part is that nobody minds working inside when it's hot 'n sticky out there! Plus, the Popsicles don't melt so quickly if you're indoors! Win!

Tomorrow's task will be the kitchen. It's already pretty tight, so I'm thinking it will be an easy day. Also, it's only going to be in the high 80's tomorrow! So that's downright doable!

Be encouraged!

Dy

Monday, June 26

*POOF* Busy weekend!

I thought for sure I'd posted over the weekend, but no. Know what else I didn't do? Sleep. Clearly, I should have thought things through a bit better.

Although, to be honest, I don't know where to cut anything, or how to make it happen in a sane way. It feels like we're holding everything together with surface tension at the moment, and I'm afraid if we poke it, the mess is going to be enormous.

Friday, we ran errands, we cleaned the house, we had a little Come to Jesus about the condition of the house, and we worked on the Volvo some. Normal stuff. The Volvo wasn't yet up and running that evening, so Z stayed up to retrieve one of the boys from his shift at Hamacon.

Saturday was full of trek prep, home repairs, more errands, more Hamacon retrieval, Volvo work, and a show at the VBC (Jacob walked, so that was 4:00-9:30PM, there).

Sunday, we had worship, which was fantastic. And pot luck, which is always restful. I am thankful we can do that. Then I had to be at a casting (nothing glamorous, just helping with sign-in -- although I did get to dance and snuggle with a precious baby for most of it, freeing up her parents to be more productive than I could be - that was a win), and Z took the kids to a birthday celebration for a lovely young woman we know. I headed over after my shift at the casting and passed the keys to John. He left for work. James arrived at some point and...

We all sat. We sat and visited and just did. not. move. It was glorious. We stayed WAY too late, and I feel a little guilty about that; however, it really was glorious to just be among kind people, chatting about hopeful things, listening to kids laugh and talk. Balm for the soul, right there. Also, how can I cut *that* out in exchange for sleep? That was just as rejuvenating as anything else we could have done.

Again, thankful.

There is so much I am thankful for, amidst the exhaustion.

This morning, I tried the Fat Coffee I'd purchased for the trek. (Realized, after a discussion with someone else about how coconut oil just, erm, tears through them, that I ought to try some NOW for the first time, rather than on the trail.) It tastes like 1970's-era instant decaf. So, not exactly something I'll look forward to on the trail, but I'm working up some kind of nostalgic affection for it. We'll see how that goes.

This afternoon I head in for six-month labs at the cancer center. Praying for a clear report. Actually, if you want to be very specific about it, I'm praying for labs that are good enough that we can punt the next scan another six months further down the road. So, if you're up for it, that'd be magnificent! There's more to the day, but that's all I'm focused on at the moment.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, May 26

"This Week's Plan"

Did I really say that? (I did. On May 18th, those words were committed to the internet.) Oh, that is so cute. So optimistic. So filled with... amnesia and wonder.

Baseboard Log, Day 7:

We. are. nowhere. NEAR. done. What optimistic fit or palsy made me think that was a one-week job? The dining room is 90% done. The living room is about 30% done. We've done one leg in the kitchen.

The den? It's done where there aren't book cases, which essentially means one corner that doesn't have a wall long enough for book cases... so that probably doesn't count.

Oh! And the hallway! I've done the hallway! And cleared the foyer... enough to see the bits that aren't done (also not terribly helpful).

Today, we did two doors, as well. We were on a roll. They're so pretty. But I'm considering just doing the doors and maybe letting the kids string garland around the rest of the baseboards? Glitter? Great Stuff?

So, there is progress, but the next time I refer to something as "this week's plan," someone ask me if I remember the last time I said that, OK?

Be encouraged! Or just laugh along with the rest of us!

~ Dy

Dynamic Home Management and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Decluttering

Yes, it's time. Academics have been officially suspended (except for John's anatomy test, which he did, and then I think we decluttered it before he could turn it in - oops) and we are now in full-on Beast Mode on this house.

We have no duct tape. I don't know, exactly, how this happened, but it's true. (I suspect there are hand-crafted slippers or a wallet somewhere, lying beside an empty cardboard roll, but I can't prove it.)

We re-hung the dry erase board. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but it's been floating homelessly around the house ever since we bought the World's Best Couch two years ago. The World's Best Couch took up the space where both the previous couch and the desk/office area had been, and I took the board down because I didn't want people standing on the couch to draw on the board. Even with an extra wall, though (the one we built, which was triggered by the couch), we have little wall space (because I keep covering it with book shelves, I know, I'm sorry). But we found a spot, and yesterday, we made it official. I am so looking forward to not having to lift that thing up from wherever it's leaning so I can vacuum!

Em and Jase also finished getting the Big Blue 1 off of it yesterday. (I'd used it to hold a t-shirt for Jase's Animal Crossing cosplay so I could make sure the 1 was straight as I painted it on - but hadn't thought about the fact that spray paint would go straight through and stick to the board. D'oh! It's had a giant blue number 1 on it for a year as we have slowly, persistently, semi-diligently removed it.) So, for white boards, yesterday was pretty much a banner day.

We cleared out a few cabinets, too. We had four rolls of freezer paper, three of cling wrap, and a million brown paper bags. The freezer paper is Z. My mother never wanted to run out of Kleenex; Z never wants to run out of freezer paper. I get that. But I could not figure out what kind of crazy person would just tuck paper bags into random cabinets... WHY? Then I remembered, we used to use the paper bags to hold chips when we made them... Aaaandd, that I am the crazy person. I basically unearthed ten years of paper bag stuffing that I had done and forgotten about. Huh. Dementia is going to be a hoot with me. Anyway, there was massive headway in the cabinet department, but it's not terribly satisfying unless you look inside the cabinets. Which I may ask you to do if you come over.

Z and the boys finished the flood lights for the lower drive and installed a patio light beneath the balcony. People who arrive after dark no longer need arrive IN the dark. I'm so proud of us! All three of them are a bit stiff in the shoulders from working overhead for a few days, but the end results are worth it. Or at least Z thinks so. The boys haven't complained, either, and John did appreciate the light when he pulled in from work last night. Yay!

James is working on his piano piece for graduation. He won't practice without headphones, though, so I have no idea how it's coming along.

Jacob's getting stoked about Space Camp, Rocketry Camp, and Summer Intensive for ballet. That kid. He's a happy one.

I'm honestly just hoping and praying the graduation party is enjoyable for the guests and that we haven't trashed the house. That's my big goal. That, and I'm looking forward to taking the babies to the water park while they're here. And Big Springs Park, to feed the fish. And the Early Works Museum. And, and, and... I'm just very excited about having our nieces and nephews *here*! Woot!

Meanwhile, back to decluttering and painting...

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, May 24

More Progress, and Food

Four days until the family arrives! A week and a half until graduation! I feel dazed. We've kind of done it. We've raised a decent, fairly wonderful human!

Today, we buy food! I love grocery day! We stuck to our budget, which means I was filled with gratitude the other morning that Z hadn't seasoned the rice in the pot when he made fried rice for the kids. That freed the leftovers (that hadn't gotten fried) to make sweet rice for them one morning. Granted, I didn't think about checking before I made the sweet rice... It could have gone down as one of the stranger meals Mom has offered them. Serendipity!

Just to keep things interesting, though, I did throw some leftover acorn squash into the egg bake yesterday morning. That sounded brilliant and delectable in my head, but it didn't work. The flavor was lovely and the texture was that of soggy bread. Not a great choice, but it did use up the last bits of leftover veggies!

We Kon Mari'd the snot out of our clothing yesterday. I now have nothing anywhere that doesn't fit, or that I do not love, except my Scout shirt (which is both too big and not that attractive, but that's fine, it does its job). Same with the older boys. Woohoo! The Littles will likely outgrow anything they own, whether they love it or not, in the next month, anyway. So I'm not worrying about them.

I tried to move on to books, thinking I could surely clear out one book case of books. But, no. That is not going to happen. I have shunted books out of here regularly for years, and yesterday I got a little stabby at the thought of parting with any that we still have left. Next up, though? Magazines! I am not a keeper of magazines, but my hoarder children are. They have 12 years of Boys' Life, Birds and Blooms, American Rifleman, Game Informer, and Alabama Living (our elec. co-op magazine - really? We keep those?) OUT! Time to go! That may net us an additional 10 square feet of living space!

Not sure what's next after that. Z and I are in negotiations about the ceiling. I want to paint the panels first, then install them and touch them up. He wants to get them up, then paint them. We view painting an in-place ceiling very differently. He doesn't think it's that big a deal. I, having painted this one twice already, and being familiar with how it plays out for me, would rather remove an already in-place ceiling in order to paint it on sawhorses. So. It'll be fun to see what we do. (I say "fun", but honestly, it's fear. My fear is that he'll agree to paint it in place, since it's not that big a deal - to him - but THEN, once it's up, he'll realize that he has a bazillion things to do, which he does, and expect to pass it off to me so he can get to the other things. He will not think this should be a problem, and I'll get stuck saying nassy werds while painting an in-place ceiling. Hence, the negotiations. Very important going in when you know you have different ideas of what's "not that big a deal". It's a marital life saver!)

And that's about it. It's raining, raining, raining, here. Everything is damp and muddy. All the leaves are a brilliant, clean, sparkly green. Through the windows, from the climate-controlled inside, it's gorgeous out there! (But I'm glad we'll be working indoors today.)

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, May 22

Waiting Games and Schedules

We're in a holding pattern on the potential news, so I figured while we wait, we could at least hammer out the details on the coming months' schedules. I got about halfway through June. That was not impressive, at all, and there's not much I can do about it. But, hey, that's four weeks farther out than I had planned when I sat down, right?

We've got one week until the family starts arriving from out of town. We had two, but once they could sit down with their schedules, they realized they'd have to bump it up if they wanted to stay longer than just the weekend. We get that (boy, do we get it). If you're going to spend four days on the road, you want your actual visit to be equal to the drive time, if not longer. I'm glad they'll be able to stay long enough to get out and play around in North Alabama. It's a gorgeous area, and it's totally new to them, so that will be fun.

(I don't know if Z has filled them in yet on my plans to get them to help hang drywall and ceiling panels. Yes, that cuts into the "vacation" aspect, but tell me you wouldn't tap your 6'8" brother-in-law to help hoist ceiling panels if he were going to be around when you were working with them? Otherwise, we're stuck with my short self, with my poor depth perception and tiny dinosaur arms. This will be much better!)

Granny will get to see Jacob perform in the end-of-year performances for ballet, and they'll get to see the Space Academy graduation, as well as James' graduation ceremony. It hit me tonight, while thinking how special that will be for them to have her there, just how much we all miss out on in the family when we live so far apart. All of those special, but common, things kids do get lost in the white noise of having to do all your interacting on social media. We haven't seen our nieces and nephews play or perform or do service projects, at all. That's a little bittersweet. We're thankful for the social media that allows us to share photos and see videos, but how much better would it be to hug those sweet babies and kiss their little cheeks?

So the new plan, as given to the Littles during their bedtime liturgy, is that tomorrow is:

School
House prep

The plan for Tuesday is school and house prep.

The plan for the next fortnight is school and house prep.

Man, am I wishing we'd wrapped up school in April! Didn't see that coming.

If it gets too hairy (or harried) by Friday, we may drop school and instead study Dynamic Home Management and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Decluttering. That sounds like a fascinating one-week intensive course, yes?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, May 19

Little Things

There are so many Little Things that make up day-to-day life, things we take for granted and assume a general knowledge about. Parenthood has a way of highlighting some of the more humorous (the things you never thought you'd have to spell out), or the more mortifying (love that parroting stage...), and each stage of parenting covers new aspects of those Little Things.

Today, we were talking about how the Graduation Party is really the first time your student is an adult at a party - he's the host, the greeter, has responsibilities of making sure to do the rounds and thank each guest for attending.

The kids have always been great about party prep and being gracious -- offering tea and refills, clearing places at the table, pitching in on the pre-party cleaning and set up. I hadn't given any thought to the fact that this would be his first time being "on" at a party. Usually once the guests arrive, the kids splinter off to go play Werewolf or The Resistance, into the meadow for airsoft, or up to the fire ring for a campfire. They do their thing. The kids are good hosts to other kids, but how does it look different for a young person to be a good host to other adults?

In a lot of ways, it's no different - you greet everyone, offer drinks, show them the food. If they're new, show them the Good Bathroom and give them a heads up about snakes by the creek (because both are just generally appreciated). But in some ways, it's very different. I realized we hadn't necessarily articulated the difference, but I'd like to.

In keeping with our mantra to "set them up to succeed," it makes sense to give a fledgling a heads up about some of the new bits, or more nuanced aspects of being the host. (This is brainstorming at its finest, here, so please feel free to add any you can think of, too!)

* Be on hand to greet people as they arrive and take an active role in getting them introduced.

* Spend intentional time visiting with each of the guests, more than just your buddies or peers.

* Accept help - if you're still setting something up, or finishing something in the kitchen when guests arrive, and they ask how they can help, give them something to do. They'll enjoy being able to participate, you'll have company while you work, and everything will be done sooner so you can all enjoy kicking back and visiting.

* Keep an eye out for guests who may feel uncomfortable, or who may not know others at the party. Introduce them around, bring up things they have in common with other guests as a topic of discussion to help them find their groove.

* Keep an eye on the food and drink - keep it full. There's something about abundance that creates a willingness to partake. People are far less likely to take some salad, or a beverage, if there's only a bit in the bowl or cooler. Make it easy for people to enjoy themselves by maintaining a sense that there is plenty and they are welcome to it.

* As guests leave, you really need to get up and see them off, personally. A bit more than a wave good-bye from your game of cards that children can pull off.

These are all pretty universally applicable to any hosted event. For the Grad, there's the added element of graciously receiving gifts and then remembering to mark down who gave you what so that your thank you notes are personal and clear.

And, of course, the actual writing of thank you notes.

...the mailing of thank you notes.

I need to buy stamps.

So, what are some of your favorite tips for young men and women as they make the transition from "kid" to "host"?

Thursday, May 18

Prepping the House

Ohhhh, are we back in the thick of it!

This week's plan is spiffing up the trim. (Have I mentioned that when we build a house it will have gunite walls and no trim? Still stand by that claim. Monolith architecture needs to experience a serious rise in popularity! Down with trim!) That said, fresh, lovely trim is very satisfying.

Pre-rehab, put up but never finished.

We got the trim up on the new wall, but never got it finished (stupid cancer). The rest of the house trim is a terrible combination of Learning Curve and Decades Old. Some spots have both! Wee!

So I put together a bin this week: the baseboard rehabilitation bin. It contains everything you'd need to fix up your baseboards.

* Sponge
* Hammer, trim nails, and nail set
* Stud finder
* Wood putty
* Sanding block
* Painter's caulk
* Painter's tape
* Paint brushes
* Paint
* Paper towels

The idea is that if you have half an hour (or 20 minutes, or even five minutes, I don't care), grab the bin, pick a bit of baseboard, and give it some love. If you only get it washed, nails set, and wood putty on before you need to go do something else, that's great. That's a lot farther ahead than we were ten minutes ago! Good job! With everything already together, there's no time spent gathering, which is huge. So far, we've had good success.

Rehabbed and lovely!
We're also cleaning the stairwell to the basement, getting that prepped for drywall and stain this weekend. I'm crazy excited to show you that once it's done. (Right now, I don't even want my family to look - nothing is attractive part way through the de-griming process. One friend described it as satisfying in a vacuum-lines-in-carpet meets pimple popping sort of way. She nailed it. *gag* And yet, very exciting.)

Also this week, we've prepped the front porch for patching the chipped concrete. Once that's done, we'll let it cure and hopefully get it painted before the party.

So, plenty to keep us busy this week!

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Monday, May 1

Wedding Attire and Projects

We've got a wedding this month! I'm so excited for the young couple - they're a great team, and I think they're in for being an unbeatable duo.

That said, now I've got to find something to wear. I tried browsing online for wedding fashion 2017 and it seems this year everyone's wearing slips and hankies. I'm... um... well, now I feel old. Also, I'm starting to understand old ladies and pant suits. Although that's not gonna happen this year, it does at least make a little sense. Give me a few more years and I might be buying celery green shoes and earrings to match my linen slacks. But I'm not ready to go there, yet. So, back to browsing for ideas.

The SpaceAppsChallenge sounds like it was really interesting. The competition was stiff, and the boys enjoyed working in a focused, fast-paced environment. Although their team did not win anything in the high school category, they came away from the experience with some good insight tucked into their belts and some good stories. James kind of wants to keep working on their project and get it working. Might be a fun Summer project.

It's time to get serious about the party planning and Summertime plans! WOOHOO! I'm actually rather excited about that.

Next up, beadboard ceilings? Maybe? The oak caterpillar-like debris has finally abated and the green pollen dust is down, so this might just be the year we get that ceiling in! It sounds like there's competition from the back porch, which also would be lovely. If we could magically get both done by graduation... Ohhh, I won't know what to do with myself other than have more company! Oh, my goodness, what will it be like to live in a finished house? *swoon*

Also, I desperately need a better system for time management. It's been cat herding central here, lately, but they're all large jungle cats and harder to herd than mere bobcats or Siamese. I'm flailing terribly. We clearly need more work and more projects - this tail end of the crew has no idea what it's like to DO things like the older kids did at the same age, and honestly, I don't think it's been for the better. So we're going to fix that. That's one nice thing about Life - if what you're doing isn't working, do something different. Figuring out what to do differently can be a bit of a challenge, but you can try one thing and if that doesn't work, try something else. (It sounds significantly less exhausting in print than it is in real life, I realize that. Still, it's exciting to know we aren't without options.)

And, that's about all I've got this lovely Monday morning. But it's good.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, April 21

Just Like Snow White

Except I'm not cleaning. Or singing.

Jase picked these. No clue what they are, but he had fun putting them in.
But the doors are open, the birds are singing, and it is gorgeous! I could probably whip up some dancing. We're smack in one of my favorite parts of the year - where the days aren't terribly hot, the mornings are still cool and breezy, and the mosquitoes don't come out this early yet.

That cat, however, is not my favorite right now. Several of our screens bear the mark of his wrath (or perhaps general displeasure) and I'm pretty sure the bugs will find those very spots every time we try to open the windows this year.

The Littles (still thinking up a good moniker for them - they've requested something else) and I went to the market yesterday and picked out some plants for the earth boxes. We didn't go in with a plan other than Find Something That Makes You Smile. They did.

Hibiscus! Em was absolutely smitten with the blooms, so we got one that has a ton of buds. I'm guessing it won't be able to live in this box long-term, but it'll be lovely here in the meantime. (We're getting mulch. It's a work in progress.)

Zorak is home today, which means the time-honored plan of Not Doing School. Of course, it's also going to be a day that somewhat violates the spirit of that plan -- they're not going to spend the day "hanging out with Dad", but rather, "working outside with Dad". All time well spent, though, so there is that, right? Plus, they get to sleep in. Nobody really complains. Much.

May is coming! None of us is looking forward to the heat, but the kids are starting to get antsy - finals week at the college is the first week of May, the water park opens the end of May, anatomy class ends in May, kayak weather... more time for hiking... so many good things are coming. They're ready.

I just need to get through this weekend and present a hospitable venue for the cookout. Then I can relax and look forward to the good things, too. If I lose focus between now and Sunday, though, it's likely to turn into a, "Hey, can you help us lug this wood to the bonfire and get the clothes off the line?" party. That wouldn't be fun for anyone.

I hear rustling and ambling. I've camped out near the watering hole (coffee pot) so I'll be sure to catch people as they awake. Time to get my Snow White on and whip this place into inviting shape! (Although, yes, I realize the visual is more reminiscent of Marlon Perkins than Snow White. That's probably a more accurate visualization all the way around, but I don't want to think up a new intro.)

This needs something else, but we're waiting for inspiration. Native, volunteer ferns, though. They look almost intentional!
 Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Thursday, April 20

More Spring Cleaning, Outdoors

Y'all, take your garlic. It is tick season, and it is yard work and hiking season. (OK, it's always tick season, but that doesn't matter so much when it's too cold and you're inside. But NOW, it's nice out. You want to get out and enjoy it, but you don't want ticks. Nobody wants ticks. Take your garlic.)

Yesterday, it didn't rain so we mowed and weedwhacked and weeded and mulched. (And this morning I realized I haven't been taking my garlic. See? Learn from my mistakes, folks.) This place is really cute when it's tidy! Oh, my gosh!

We cleared off the balcony and cleaned out the earth boxes. Jase asked if we could keep the ferns that have sprouted in one of them... I tried not to be too discomfited by the idea that it took actual airborne spores floating up that way for them to grow there (I could be a real mess if I thought too much about what's in the air most of the time). The ferns are pretty, though, so why not? We're likely not gardening this year, so we'll at least go get some lovely plants for the earth boxes on the balcony and make it look like we decorate once in a while.

I think only two of my Pieris Mountain Snows died! That's so exciting! One died early on in the fall because people kept dropping shovels, buckets, and bicycles on it. Understandable that it didn't survive. But then the other five just up and DIED over the spring. I was crushed. Three cheers for procrastination, though! (Hip, hip, hurrah!) I never got around to pulling them up and taking them to Nick (my plant guy) to find out what happened, and this week four of them greened back up and revived like you wouldn't believe. It's so exciting! I'm going to put a big bushy plant where people drop things - maybe they'll stop, then. (If that doesn't work, I'll try a pokey, mean plant. And if that doesn't work, I'm going to have to put down sand and pavers and just consider it a landing pad - but it's right beside the front steps, so I'll be honest, I don't wanna.)

We really do need to make a new roof happen this year. Eek. That much became painfully obvious once we got the rest of the yard and structures tidied up. (I'm kidding. We knew it was bad, but now it actually looks as bad as it is.) I wonder if the boys will enjoy roofing? Honestly, I do. Not so much the edges, which are terrifying, but it's a very satisfying thing to have a clean, fresh roof, with good underlayment and straight lines.

Our book club finished The Screwtape Letters yesterday. Finally. It's an incredible book, but this was a rough few months for the club -- with illnesses, travel, work schedules, and the insanity of my unpaid long haul gig (how I'm thinking of Jacob's ballet schedule, now), we had very few weeks where everyone could make it. We've picked the next book - The Benedict Option, by Rod Dreher, Since we have such an ecumenical group, I am really excited about some of the discussions we'll have over this. Do you have people in your life you can disagree with and argue with over a cup of tea? I hope so! It's a beautiful thing!

Z's on a weird one-day jaunt for work. He left before the sun was up, and he'll be back tonight. I want to remember to have dinner ready when he gets home. Of course, that's ten hours from now... should probably set a reminder. What's your favorite Welcome Home meal? Do you have one?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Tuesday, April 18

*whine* It's SO HOT, but Good News!

Don't tell the kids I said that. When they complain that it's 80, I remind them that in August we'll be begging for an 80-degree day. And it's true. (Also, by October, I won't be able to force them outside if it's 70 because it'll be "too cold". So.) But still... once the humidity starts creeping in, it's just gross.

We've been culling the outgrown winter gear so there's less to stash over the summer. Wow, that's bittersweet. However, the foyer is looking fantastic! Also, now that we've stored all the hats, scarves, and random gloves, we've found a ton of flashlights and headlamps! The foyer also looks vaguely like a staging platform for night raids.

There's a cookout here at the house in the next week, and we want to have it tidied. Spring cleaning, if you will. Or, Spring Hey Let's Finish A Couple of Projects Because 12 Years Is A Bit Long To Be "Renovating" A House Cleaning. Things we did first are about due to be redone, you know? But life... it gets in the way of plans.

Speaking of life... James got notified today that he's been accepted into the Honors College at UAH. That was a huge boost. It's been a long, weird year, and things just kept crumbling at the last minute. He was pretty sure this was another one for the pile. (To be fair, they send the notification in a very nondescript envelope, and he didn't want to open it, thinking it was a "Thanks, but no thanks" letter.) I'm glad he opened it. Better yet, he's glad he opened it! Now we just need to find enough money to cover housing...

John brought his ACT composite up four points! That was huge! I am so proud of him. He's taking a break while he works on his Eagle project and gets his crew ready for Philmont.

Philmont plans are coming along. We need to hike more, and John and I both are looking forward to doing that as soon as we buy a little wiggle room on the house/property work. I'm trying to work more, to cover the various gaping wounds in the checking account. Not so much looking forward to that, but thankful for it, and appreciative of it. Sometimes, that's gotta be enough. Sometimes, it's more than enough.

Be encouraged!

~Dy


Saturday, April 15

Headway!

So, we got the doors in and all was well. Then the blinds just conked out in one of the doors. We followed the instructions on how to fix them if they break, but evidently something... else broke. It didn't work. Today, Z called Jeld-Wen to find out what our options are, and they'll be sending someone out to replace the dorked up bit, themselves. Mad love for Jeld-Wen right now, I've gotta say. (Because if they'd said, "Sure, just bring the whole unit back and we'll replace it," I might have cried, cussed, and curled up in a ball. Bless them for not doing that.)

Meanwhile, the boys and I painted the background for the basement wall.


Then, this afternoon, the kids decorated it up. I haven't been down this evening, but just before I headed up to get ready for church, it was looking pretty fun.


We're definitely going to have to raise the bar on the rest of the decor so the whole place doesn't look like a back alley in the midst of a gang war. (The Russian is a nice touch, though. Heh.) Aaannndd, do something about that couch. The wall isn't doing it any favors. So, projects lined up. That'll give us something to do this summer.

All in all, it's been a fun project. The kids all joined in with their own ideas and experiments. Z and I even put a few tidbits on there. They'll enjoy it for a while, and when they're done (or when we need to sell the house), a layer of Kilz and it's a fresh slate.

Tonight, we attended Good Friday service. The service focused on praying through the stations of the cross. I'm thankful for waterproof mascara, humbled by how little I know, and encouraged by how much there is to learn. Also? My youngest children have no concept of how to be still. Just still. Even the shushing brought noise in reply. What on earth? It was like worshiping between Heckle and Jeckle. So. We've gotta work on that. The congregation is great, and nobody shot us the hairy eyeball or anything, but it's just not good for your spirit if you can't hush up and just contemplate once in a while!

This is the last weekend to prep the house before the cookout for the models and photographers next week. I'm a little nervous, wondering what we were thinking - there's no way this place is going to be Lovely by then - but it is Better, and that's a good thing. Fortunately, the bulk of hospitality is creating a space where guests feel welcome and at ease. I think we don't stink at that, at least. So although, as I told a friend this morning, we aren't good at Martha Stewart style hospitality, we'll play to our strengths and feed them well.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, April 13

The Push

Well, "the push" turned out to be more driving. Blergh. But all the kids' teeth are now up to snuff, and John's had a consult with a new oral surgeon. I'm not entirely sure how it's Thursday again, but there you have it.

We did get the wall cleaned and rinsed. The kids have decided to paint the load panel, too, since it's proud of the wall and incredibly ugly. Seems sane.

We've peeled another large swath off the basement couch. Our first "real" -- as in, new, not off the classifieds, only ours, bought with cash and straight from the store -- sofa was an Ashley sleeper sofa that we loved and loved... for about two years, until the cushions gave up, the upholstery started cracking and peeling and we realized Ashley doesn't count that as a defect in materials or workmanship. Actually, they seem to think of it as a perk. I don't know. Weird business model, but whatever. We bought a replacement that we love off Craigslist and demoted the poorly made Ashley to the basement. But it was kind of gross, and we weren't sure what to do with a couch that wasn't appealing, and wasn't in particularly "good" shape, but wasn't legitimately trash, either. We are loathe to throw away things that still have utility (which explains so much, really)... In a fit of creative implosion, I decided that we would just peel the rest of the material off and paint it! (Thanks, Pinterest!) That was two years ago. Turns out, it takes a lot of focus and determination to peel bonded fabric completely off a 6' couch... The kids pick at it while they're playing video games. Every once in a while, I'd muster up the umpf to go down there and just work on the couch, but the basement heebed me out and I couldn't stay down there too long without succumbing to the overwhelming urge to toss everything out and set it on fire.

Anyway, it's almost to the point that we can paint it. Probably a summer project. If it doesn't work, then we'll buy a slipcover for it. But if it does work? We'll have a weatherproof party couch! How cool is that? So many of my ideas could be incredibly fun and delightful finished projects, or they could be four cinder blocks away from the neighbors telling their children not to go over onto that property. I never really know until we've tried. But I have to try.

Speaking of neighbors, we have new ones. They've been busy trimming trees and clearing the property of debris. The kids heard someone in the bushes, whistling to the birds. And one of them waved back as we both pulled out of our drives the other morning. So, I'm hopeful they'll be good neighbors and will think of us as good neighbors. We need to make something and go welcome them.

We're in a bit of a lull with the kids' things. Jacob is back to Just Ballet Class, no rehearsals, and we're all appreciative of getting three extra days back during the week. John's waiting on the ACT scores to be released, but we've tweaked the plan for the next test in the meantime (no more prep, lots more reading, more books, more words, and, uh, keep plugging away at the math). James is in a holding pattern on future plans and trying to figure out how to get enough sleep without just sleeping from midnight to noon. (It's tricky. I get it.) And the Littles - they are great. They're biking and making movies, crafting and making food, all with a nonstop background chatter in voice for characters they've made up. We don't get it, but we love it.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, April 10

Oh, my goodness! Memories

We worked in the basement a bit today. We have worked in that basement so many times over the years. We've never gotten it "done". It's a definite If You Give a Mouse a Cookie situation. "Well, if we're going to do this, we'll need to do these things. And if we're going to do these things, we really need to do that Big Thing." Next thing you know, we've cornered ourselves and can't get anything done down there, so we stack it up and go back upstairs. This time, however, we have doors!

Yeah, I know. Doors. Woohoo? Yes, Woo. hoo. Seriously huge progress, and I'm going to drive this donkey cart into the ground now that we have some momentum. Today, we got the industrial junk relegated to a corner that's not right smack as you walk in, and what do you know, it made a huge difference. (Yes, this should have been obvious. We suspected, but it wouldn't have mattered before, so we didn't try it out.) Then we flipped the hanging out area (gaming area? living area?) whatever, we moved the couch and the tv over by the Real Doors. So now, it has a vaguely Legitimate Living Space feel to it. As long as you don't look at the walls, or the rafters, or the floors. But if you keep your eyes firmly between 2' and 5' from the floor, it looks nice down there.

Actually, you can look at the rafters - we vacuumed them this afternoon, and they, too, look nice. That floor, though, is just going to be ugly until next year.

Then we realized the camping shelf, which, for the last ten years, has been THE tidy focal point of the basement, looked horribly shifty and ugly. I could have wept for joy! The pretty bit looks ugly, now! We're making tangible progress! So we moved it, too. Now the industrial bits are locked into a corner by makeshift walls of storage, and there is a clearly defined livable space emerging around it. I can live with that.

We picked up and cleared out so much that we found James' missing Mahabis sole! 😂 (It fell off while he was walking around down there about a month and a half ago. We have looked and looked for that thing and had both given up on ever finding it.) I think he is now certain that ALL the work was worth it, even if we never finished the basement. Happy kid. Maybe his lost tube of thermal paste will show up in the next round of shifting?

Back when we'd painted some of the walls and built the closets down there, we'd painted all the wall we could get to. As of today, there's double the amount of wall now visible, and it needs painting. When we moved a couple of shelves, we found a little spot on the wall where John's been testing spray paint for his projects over the years. It's actually kind of pretty. The more we walked around it, the more it grew on us. Finally, John asked if we could just do that, intentionally, to the wall behind the sofa. Yeah, why not? It won't preclude us from hanging drywall someday, but in the meantime, they'll have a space that's all theirs. That's on tomorrow's docket, and I'm stoked.

I am so close to being able to use the weight machine again! I think after tomorrow's push, it'll be safe to use without fear of knocking over paper piles or cracking someone in the head while they attempt to read in the chair.

We'll devote the remainder of this week to fixing that up as much as possible off this momentum. Then this coming weekend we'll see what we can do about the landscaping. Once things start to green up down here, it's on. You've got to stay ahead of it, and I just know all my local friends are going to shake their heads and point out that we're already behind.

But in the meantime, Be Encouraged!

~ Dy


Home Improvement as Marriage Therapy

There's just nothing quite like doing demolition on a home to bring a couple together. It's a giddy mix of power (we just took out a WALL, people) and creativity (and we're gonna put in our OWN wall) that makes you feel like a celebrity power couple.

Unfortunately, once that wall is out, you've got to keep it together long enough to close the gaping hole in your wall and remove any trace that you've done renovation. (When we were house hunting, I remember coming to a home that looked like it was scabbed together out of Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, and salvage brick, held together with Gorilla Glue. Z and I could not make eye contact as the realtor gushed about how the owner had done a lot of work on the house. You don't say? I'm thankful for those experiences, though, because they cemented in our minds the importance of renovations or additions looking both Intentional and Original.) And that's where the fun starts. But it's good fun, because although you're going to run into friction and frustration, if you can keep it together, you'll have built a monument to your teamwork - and that is fantastic.

So we ripped out the nasty basement doors this weekend. These things had worked for all they could. I honor their efforts. I'm not even convinced they were meant to be exterior doors, but they did what they could for four decades. The original threshold was compost, now - rich, dark soil beneath the aluminum, there. The doors themselves had rotted away around the bottom years before we bought the house. We closed the doors mostly out of habit, and in an attempt to keep some of the outside air outside. But snakes, spiders, mice, and a fairly determined toddler could all get through. The sidelights were homemade, and looked it. The years had not been kind to what was probably marginally attractive to begin with. All in all, the doors were the biggest stumbling block to making the basement livable space, and I've been looking forward to this for 12 years!

The rough opening is 112" wide. That doesn't sound terribly big until you're standing in it, four abreast, thinking, "Damn, we should have bought a garage door for this thing." But, no. No, I wanted French doors. I wanted light and an inviting entry. What was I thinking? I'm so lucky Z loves me.

Because working with cinder block and concrete is, evidently, hard, the rough opening was neither square nor plumb. So we had to frame that out to get it to some semblance of squareish and plumbish without having an entire 8x10 protruding from the outer bricks at one corner. Fortunately, we can frame together like pros. There's just no room to argue over whether something is 90 degrees or not. This is a good time for a marriage. You work together. You measure, secure, check. High five. Good, good stuff. If you're married to someone like me, you get to laugh at their attempts to actually hit the nail. If you're married to someone like Z, you get to sigh in awe at their ability to make something out of nothing. I hope at least one of you is like Z.

Then comes the harrowing task of trying to move a door that's big and heavy, without twisting it or scuffing it or dropping it. Without a crew. (We technically have a three-man crew, but one was at work, one was dancing, and one was watching the dance. So it was just the two of us, in the dark, reconsidering whether we think we're old yet.) This is where you think, "Glass? Really? Just had to have glass, didn't I?" But it's OK because your partner is thinking the exact same thing about you... So at least you're still on the same page.

And now, you really get to work on your marriage skills: installing the door. You'd think this would be pretty straightforward and simple, but it's not. There are different philosophies about how to get things done, who holds it up, or what steps are necessary and what steps are mostly just guidelines. You'll both think you're right. You'll both want to forge ahead and do it your way. But unless you're each putting in your own door, that's not going to work. For us, this is usually the longest part of a job - the part where we have to determine a path forward that takes in both our perspectives, both our visions, both our experiences. You're going to unearth a lot of unspoken frustrations, and a lot of deeply seated irritants. But hang in there. Hold your tongue. Take coffee breaks. Eat protein. Breathe deeply and pray. Kiss each other often, and laugh. (But not a maniacal laughter - that's usually not helpful.) For what it's worth, it took us one afternoon to frame in the rough opening. It took us two days to get the doors squared, secured, and sealed.

Still easier on a marriage than running electrical wire. So, there's that.

And now, we have beautiful French doors that allow you to look in on what is, clearly, an abandoned storage shed...

I guess now we have to work on making the basement fit the doors. But we'll do it together.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy