The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

We’ve all had those days where nothing seems to go right and everything seems to go wrong. Last Thursday was one of those days for me.

After nearly two weeks with us, the puppy, Thorin, was very much a member of the  family. Thursday morning a neighbor showed up and wanted him back. Just like that–after two weeks of apparently not being concerned about him. His house is about an eighth of a mile away from ours, but his backyard and ours share about 200 feet of fence; yet he never checked to see if the puppy was here.

He didn’t ask how the puppy was doing–or any questions, really. I didn’t have much choice but to give him back. I would have felt better if I though he was going back to people who cared as much about him as we did.

This was an awful start to the day. And, although it was the worst thing that happened, the day didn’t improve much from that point forward.

Mark had an afternoon appointment for vision therapy, so we pulled ourselves together and got ready. Matthew and Maggie stayed home, as they often do. Micah came with us.

It is about a thirty-mile drive to the clinic where Mark has his vision therapy, most of which I spent thinking about how much I already missed Thorin. The therapy appointment went well and afterwards we spent about ten minutes waiting for them to finish making Mark’s glasses (which had been about two weeks in the making due an error with one of the lenses). Mark looked adorable with his new glasses, and we headed out to the van for the drive home.

About ten minutes down the road, Micah said, “Mark broke his glasses!” My first thought was that he had popped a lens out. Surely he hadn’t broken them before he’d had them on for fifteen minutes! I told Micah to put the glasses on the seat in front of him (they were in the back row); and since I had nothing else to do while driving, I stewed over whether he had actually broken the glasses and if so, how badly.

After about ten minutes of stewing, I decided to pull over on a side road to find out how bad it was. He had snapped the entire earpiece off, just above the hinge. There would be no way for me to fix them and still have the hinge usable–glue or tape would both be in the way.

I couldn’t do anything about the glasses until we got home. As I turned around to go back to the highway, I slid off the road onto the shoulder. This would not have been a problem if we had not gotten about ten straight days of rain. The van was stuck! I tried reverse, no luck. I tried first gear, again no luck. I turned the engine off and burst into tears. I should mention at this point that Mark and Micah were both already crying because of the broken glasses.

I called Todd. His phone went straight to voicemail. I called and texted a few more times with no response. So I called his office. Sure enough, he was right there in the cellular-service dead zone that is his office. He came and picked us up and took us home.

After Todd got off work one of our neighbors was kind enough to help him pull the van out so that we didn’t need to call a tow truck.

I’m thankful that days like these are usually rare. And that when I do have them, God’s grace is sufficient to get me through them.

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An unexpected puppy

My last post was all about our new porch. The porch wasn’t the only new thing we got last Saturday.

Todd and I were up well before the kids last Saturday, talking and having coffee. All of a sudden we heard a loud thump on the front porch followed by quiet whimpering.

We looked outside and found this little guy:

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We have no idea where he came from. He was so excited to see us that if he’d had a tail, he would have wagged it off.  It had been a chilly night and he was shivering. We gave him some water and food, and I rubbed him down to help him warm up.

The kids were really excited to see him when they got up. Amy, our German shepherd, was not as thrilled. She barked and growled at him for a while, but he didn’t seem to care. He came right on into the house and made himself at home. He found a pile of laundry in the boys’ room (shocking!), curled up, and went to sleep. He spent most of the weekend sleeping.

The kids, together with their friends who were visiting, named the puppy Thorin after the king of the dwarves from The Hobbit. We are definitely Tolkien fans!

We checked multiple places to see if anyone was missing a puppy, but no one seemed to be looking for him. By this time, we were already planning to keep him unless someone claimed him. He was getting along well with Amy (and she was mostly getting along with him).

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We tried to figure out what breed of dog Thorin was by looking online at various breeds; realizing, of course, that he was likely to be more than one. We thought he was probably a Catahoula because of his color or possibly a pit bull mix because of his broad face and stub/docked tail. On Thursday, Todd had a chance to take him to the veterinarian to see if he had a microchip. He didn’t. The vet said that it’s highly unlikely that Thorin’s a pit bull. Catahoula is a possibility, but his first thought was Great Dane.

Time will probably tell what breed he is, but for now we are enjoying him. And laughing about the fact that we may have named a Great Dane after a dwarf!

A new front porch

First, I want to say that we have amazing friends.

Some friends of ours (two families) asked if there were any big projects we still needed help with and the most of obvious project was the front porch. It was one of the last really big projects other than the irreparable shed.

Parts of the porch were  not very safe to walk on–two to three feet back from the front edge for almost the entire length of the porch. And some of the support underneath had rotted out. I had mostly put off working on the porch for the simple reason that I really didn’t know how I was going to fix it.

This was actually a good section of the porch.

This was actually a good section of the porch.

It was a little like an old-fashioned barn-raising. People started showing up and getting to work. We tore out the old bad boards and replaced them with new; braced support beams that needed it; rebuilt railings; and built new steps on one side, and added supports to the other set of steps. Most of the kids even helped–at one point I think there were thirteen of them there.

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The difference between old and new

We finished all the work by dinnertime. Then we all had a bonfire at our friends’ house and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.

It is very humbling to have friends who are willing to drop everything for a weekend to help you work on a project. When it is their idea, it is even more so.

An interesting Christmas

This Christmas was quite a bit different from last year. After spending last Christmas in Florida with both sets of grandparents, I expected it would be.

We have been sick since Thanksgiving, so I really didn’t want to plan too much for Christmas anyway. The kids have been passing around a virus for about a month, I was sick for three weeks straight, and even Todd was sick for about a week.

We typically do not have a “big” Christmas celebration. After many years of Todd working on Christmas Day, we have sort of settled into our own quiet traditions. We usually put up a Christmas tree with a variety of decorations that we have accrued over the years. I don’t do much else in terms of decorating. We make sugar cookies and decorate them, and make other treats–some to eat, some to give away. We usually have our main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve and just have snacks and leftovers on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, we read the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2 and then open our stockings. Yes, the kids often eat all of their candy before going to bed. Then on Christmas Day we open our presents.

Two years ago our Christmas tree had declined to the point that I decided we needed a new one. Last year we had no need of a tree, and I just didn’t feel like going out and getting one this year with everyone not feeling well. Since we had no tree, we strung lights across the piano. It was actually quite pretty! We did make and decorate some cookies. I mixed up the cookie dough and left the kids in charge of the decorating and baking, because I just felt awful.

We had our Christmas Eve dinner and read the Christmas story. Then the kids opened their stockings, ate their candy, and went to bed. (Surprisingly, we’ve never had trouble getting our kids to bed on Christmas Eve or with making them wait until after breakfast to open their presents.)  Then we went to bed looking forward to a quiet Christmas morning at home before we went to our friends’ house in the evening.

Christmas morning we had breakfast around seven (our normal time). Of course, Micah was too excited to eat much. Before we had finished eating there was a knock on the door. Our next-door neighbor was there. Normally I would not mind neighbors stopping by, even on Christmas morning. But this particular neighbor is crazy. After rambling on to Todd (who had gone outside when he answered the door) for a few minutes, he left. About ten or fifteen minutes later he came back and knocked on the door again. (I suppose I should mention that our dog starts barking like crazy every time she sees or hears him.) Todd went outside again and listened to him again and he left again. (This time he was talking about what the people who live in his attic were telling him to do–no, I’m not kidding.) The kids started opening their presents. And then there was another knock on the door. It was him again. At this point, although I’m annoyed with the interruptions, I’m starting to feel more and more apprehensive. (He has never come over repeatedly before this. He mostly yells things that don’t make sense. But he seemed to be getting more aggressive over the last few weeks.)

The kids finished opening their presents and were playing with their toys. Then he came back a fourth time and a fifth. After the sixth time, we called the police, just to let them know what was going on. (I’m not saying that he is dangerous, but I’m not convinced that he isn’t.)  They came and talked to him (and some of the other neighbors who have had problems with him) and he hasn’t been back over here since.

We had a wonderful evening with our dear friends, laughed a lot, and ate too much. It was an interesting, but a merry Christmas!

Two steps forward, one step back

We are slowly making progress on the house. We have water and electricity hooked up. The painting and patching continue.

I had some big holes to patch, but I had a good helper for part of the job. Micah really enjoyed helping and did a very good job with the joint compound.

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And it only took two coats of primer to cover the red paint. Let me just say that I was not an OU fan before I started on this project, and I am definitely not one after painting over all of that red. The boys’ room is now a very light shade of blue.

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The white wall next to the desk is a whiteboard that they can draw on. It was a very narrow wall with a very large hole and we had some leftover whiteboard paneling, so it made for an easy fix.

Todd, Matthew, and I spent a very rainy afternoon working on the house. They planned to move the working toilet from the master bathroom (where the floor needs to be repaired to the other bathroom where the toilet flushed more water onto the floor than into the tank. I planned to touch up the paint in the boys’ room, because I always seem to leave a few thin spots.

I had already started painting when they realized that the cutoff valve for the toilet would not turn the water all the way off. Their solution was to turn off the power and therefore the pump. Did I mention that this was a very rainy day? I found myself with the lights off and very little light making its way through the gloomy clouds trying to find the spots that I had missed. These were places I had missed while painting on a sunny day with the lights on, so I decided to find something else to work on that would not strain my eyesight.

Of course, I needed to clean my paintbrush before the paint dried on it, but no water to the toilet meant no water to the sink. Then it hit me–there’s plenty of running water outside, falling from the sky. I found a good spot where the water was running off the edge of the roof and cleaned out the paintbrush.

 

 

 

Invisible work

Maggie and I spent  over two hours one day last month working at the new house, but I doubt that you would notice what we accomplished in that time.

Maggie put a fresh coat of paint on the ceiling in her brothers’ room. I pulled all of the weeds growing on one side of the carport (I had parked the van on the other) and cut down several small saplings that had grown up next to the house and other structures. Even if you had seen the place before Maggie painted and I cleared out that small portion of brush, you probably would only see what still needs to be done: the holes in the walls, the knee-high grass in the backyard, the broken windows, and all the other things we haven’t gotten to. The ceiling in the boys’ room is still white, just a little bit brighter. The weeds will grow back, probably before I even get to the ones on the other side of the carport.

It hit me (again) that much of life is spent doing the invisible work. We wash the laundry, clean up messes, wash dishes, wipe noses (and other places), and kiss boo-boos–only to do it all again tomorrow. But this invisible work is the important work. It is in the daily monotony of caring for our families that we are living out God’s grace and truth.

What’s new on our homestead

It’s been a while since my last post, so I thought I’d get caught up on all the things that have been happening around here lately. It’s been a busy summer!

We are slowly making some progress on the new house. Mostly we are finding more and more things that will need to be done, but that is progress in itself. The front porch is going to need more work than we thought as one of the support joists is rotting. The lower portion of the living room walls was covered very badly with an extra layer of drywall. I took that off and was pleasantly surprised to find that the walls were in very good shape with nearly all of the damage coming from the extra layer of drywall. I’m using the drywall I removed to patch some of the larger holes in the boys’ room.

Matthew has his learner’s permit. He was able to take driver’s ed through our local high school even though he is homeschooled. He enjoyed the class and Todd and I enjoyed not teaching him to drive. (He’s still learning, but mostly just needs practice.)

We got a dog. We were planning to wait until we moved out to the new house before we did this, but a friend of ours was looking for a home for her German shepherd puppy. Amy is almost a year old now and mostly well-behaved. We are still trying to teach her not to chase the chickens. She is under the mistaken impression that they need rounding up.

Amy

I finished the henhouse. Well, most of it. I built most of it about three months ago and the chickens were able to start using it–and more importantly stop sleeping in the bathroom. Matthew and I finished putting the shingles on the roof about a month later and it still needs a coat of paint, but the chickens don’t care.

We lost another chicken. Snuggles was our broody hen. She sat on her nest from dawn ’til dusk every day, rain or shine, with eggs or not. Her broodiness was in all probability the direct cause of her demise. We think that a Cooper’s hawk swooped down and tried to carry her off. I say “tried to” because we found her hanging in the fence. Any other daytime predator would have raised an alarm with the other chickens. I doubt that the hawk realized how big and heavy she was, just that she was an easy target–a sitting duck, if you will.

We have come to the realization that three of the six chicks we got were not pullets, they are cockerels. I don’t mind having a rooster, but three is too many for our small flock. I’m not sure what we will do with the extras. In the meantime, we are enjoying laughing at their attempts at crowing.

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We are trying to settle into a new routine with church, school, therapy, and work while still finding time to work on the house. I’m thankful that we don’t have a deadline to have everything finished and moved in.