Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Black Out

A pretty serious windstorm blew through our region last week.  Winds were from 60-100 miles per hour, in our area (stronger in other places!), which is hurricane strength.  There is a problem with hurricane strength winds when you live in a forest. 

NOT my house. This is an example of what we saw.  Photo by Garth Davis
You see, pine trees do snow, they don't do wind.  They pulled themselves straight up out of the ground. 

Photo by Doug Clark
And when pine trees and power lines share airspace, things can get dicey!

We lost power, of course, but were prepared.
We had about a day to get ready because all the news stations were warning us about the impending storm.  We pulled out the oil lamps and candles, just in case.
I made dinner ahead of time.
We made sure we had water in pitchers and pots, in addition to the water we have stored long-term.

It was this girl's 10th birthday!  The power went out on her birthday a couple of years ago and I didn't get her cake made in time.  This year, I learned from my mistake and had her cake made well before the wind started coming through.

This picture cracks me up because, though we got a little cold, Justin's outfit may have been a tad overkill.

"What?!  I'm warm!" ha-ha!
We were without power for two days.  In many ways, the storm was a blessing for us.  We are in our new house, instead of the single-wide trailer still on wheels, we had no trees fall (I credit that to the slight valley in which we are nestled), and the fact that it never got really cold.  Being in a new house, it was a good practice run for us, since every house is different.  We discovered that we need to begin storing flushing water because, though we had plenty of drinking water, we didn't want to use that precious commodity in the toilets.  We discovered that having the foresight to build a wood stove CHIMNEY into the house is insufficient without a WOOD STOVE.  The plan all along has been to have that second heat source, but since building the house cleaned out our bank account, we were saving up.

We have two ways to cook during a power outage: our propane grill and our camp stove. We've had our camp stove since our first summer together (18 years now) and use it regularly.  There are several of the little green canisters stored in our camping gear and I really thought it would be no problem.
What we couldn't have foreseen, and certainly didn't expect, was that our camp stove didn't perform when called upon.  Justin opened the whole thing up and discovered the lines were filled with gunk.  Servicing the camp stove is a first priority before another storm hits!

Is it strange to say it?  I was a touch sad when the power came back on.
Everyone was together for 42 something hours.
No one was diverted by a video game, movie, YouTube, Facebook or other electronic distraction.
We played games, ate food, and read books (put book light on my list because reading by lamp light is too dim and a flashlight is too bright!).  There was a sense of togetherness and adventure, even though the Walmart had backup generators and the McDonald's never lost power; we weren't that far from civilization.

In all, it was a good trial run and we are grateful for how much we were spared.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


One of my children asked tonight which of my pregnancies was the most stressful.  I explained that my last was because it was right after our Eowyn's death.  I had panic attacks and was anxious about every twinge and pain.  I was anxious about comfort.  I was worried and scared and stressed the entire pregnancy.  My oldest then asked if my pregnancy with him was stressful.  No.  It really wasn't.  That isn't to say I wasn't sick or uncomfortable, but there are some perks to first pregnancies.

You see, I didn't know what I was in for.  I didn't know how long the morning sickness would last.  My body was strong and young so a lot of discomfort was averted.  When I was tired, I took a nap because I only needed to take care of me--and my husband, but he is rather capable of looking after himself.  Meals could be quickly prepared.  Laundry was one or two loads per week.  I did have work, but I was so excited with the prospect of becoming a mother that I hardly gave heed to the difficulty of becoming a mother.

Fast forward seventeen years.  Now I know how long morning sickness lasts.  I vividly understand the aches and pains associated with pregnancy, labor, and delivery.  I'm running a massive galleon, filled with ACT prepping high schoolers down to a toddler learning colors and letters.  I'm trying to keep the house clean, I'm trying to fulfill my church and co-op responsibilities, I'm trying to blah, blah, blah.

And I'm sick.  I want to curl up in my bed and bawl half of the day.

There are bright spots, though!  My husband has been a champion to me.  He has been keeping the kitchen and dishes under control.  That is such a massive burden lifted from my load.  He even got me a little spa morning (my least sick time of the day).

In addition, my older children are older!  I do get to hound them over new things, but when I ask them to clean a bathroom or tend to a younger child in need, they do it!  Correctly!

My life is not all that tough, I've just become a wimp.  Cowboy up, Emily!  Soldier on, private!  You have work to do!

Just right after I take a teensy nap.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Not Chub

A few weeks ago, I had a startling realization.  My clothes were fitting funny around my middle and my hip hurts.  Of course, I immediately assumed I had cancer.  After I talked myself down, I decided I had some kind of cantaloupe sized cyst on my ovary.  I nearly searched my symptoms on the internet then decided to just make an appointment with an actual, living doctor.  A few days later, getting into the shower and looking at my odd belly and wondering what cursed parasite was feasting on my innards and growing immense in the process, in suddenly dawned on me:

I'm getting fat!

My mom warned me about this.  I'm 38 and I weaned my son about 8 months ago.  Time is no longer on my side and I couldn't rely on the parasitic properties of a nursing child.  Although I have a long and treasured tradition of gaining 50-60 pounds each time I gestate, I've always lost it relatively quickly and maintained my weight during the in-between times.  Here I stood, staring at my 10 pounds of extra belly and laughing at myself and my previous worrisome conclusions.

However, I'd already made the doctor's appointment and I hadn't been to a doctor since my 6-week postpartum checkup, so I thought I may as well keep the date.

I gave my urine sample, got the weight checked and the blood pressure measured.  Then sat on the papered table in my paper dress.

My doctor, the same one I've had since before I was married, was giggling outside the exam room door.  She walked in, still giggling.

It turns out, I do have a growth, of sorts.  I do have a parasite, of a kind.  I have put on a bit of weight, but it is fully explainable.

I'm going to have a baby!

It isn't like I don't know what being pregnant feels like, it's just that I've never gone so long without being pregnant.  And I'm old.  And, I don't know, I guess I thought I was done!

Apparently, Heavenly Father would like me to love and serve one more child, to mother one more citizen . . . mother or father . . . friend . . . creator . . . beautifier . . . disciple of Christ.  I don't claim to be amazing at doing that, but I am who our Father has chosen and I will certainly try to magnify my calling.

Pray for me, friends.  As much as I look forward to a baby, I grow weak at the thought of so many more weeks of being sick, my old bones hauling around a heavily pregnant frame, the difficulty of labor and the months and months of severe heartburn and being continually generally uncomfortable.  I will continue to pray for courage

and dwell on that single, fluttery heart introducing itself to mine.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

In the Middle of the Night

I used to think that once I weaned my last baby, I'd be sleeping soundly though the night.

Well, he's been weaned for several months now, and here I am, at three o'clock in the morning, typing a blog post.  About three or four nights a week I find myself wide awake, here in the middle of the night.

It happens this way:  If I go to bed last of everyone, I lock the doors, make sure everyone is covered up and snug in their beds, and turn off all of the lights.  I'm usually freezing by this time, so I wear my warmest flannel nightgown to bed and cuddle in with my husband and the two year old who still doesn't have a bedroom (you don't want to hear that story).  Sometime in the night, I wake up broiling and thirsty.  I get out of bed, strip off the flannel nightgown that has gone from cozy to steamy, go get a drink of cold water, go back to bed and lay there. Eyes open in the blackness.  Bored out of my mind.  Running through every reason that I need to sleep because the next day's activities require that I am rested.

If, however, I am first to bed, I awake hours later in a panic because one of my children is in danger.  I burst out of bed, race frantically around the house checking first on the children, then the doors.  Nearly every time, at least one child isn't in their own bed--they decided to have a sleepover with a sister, they've built a fort and are sleeping there, she fell asleep on the couch, etc.  Those middle-of-the-night searches are the worst because I can't always find them right away!  My imagination runs wild . . . and not in a good way.

In addition, since losing our baby four years ago, I can't be contented with just looking in on the children, no I have to put my hand under their noses to wait for their hot breath.  It is a little broken thing in me that will probably never go away.

Now that I've located the children and confirmed that they are all safe, my heart is pounding and my adrenaline is pumping.  If I have a good book I'm reading, I'll sometimes read for a while.  I'll sometimes blog or research an upcoming class I'm teaching.  I'll sometimes run a load of laundry.  If there are Lucky Charms or Golden Grahams in my kitchen, I'll have a bowl of cereal.  I'm going to be awake for a couple of hours, anyway.

My parent's tell me that their insomnia started after the children were mostly raised.  I'm really, really hoping that my body decides on the opposite.  I'd love to consistently sleep through the night.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Mudroom

You don't have to be a parent for very long to discover that people come with a lot of gear. From strollers and baby packs to school bags and sports equipment to wallets, important mail and keys, we have stuff.  That stuff comes and goes daily, hourly, even by the minute . . . if there's a snow storm and you're three and you WANT to play in the snow . . . but your hands get cold so you come in . . . but then the big kids are still out there and you can see them having so much fun . . . so you HAVE to go play . . . until your boot fills with snow . . . repeat until Mom is exhausted and she tricks you into taking a nap by filling you with warm cocoa and reading sleepy stories.

Wait.  Where was I?  Oh, yes.  Gear.  We all have it and we all need a place to put it.  We also live in an all-four-seasons-in-one-day climate which boasts dust, pine needles, snow, leaves, dirt, rain water, and, well, mud.  Therefore, a mudroom!

The driveway comes right to this back door, so it is the family entrance.  It is a quick shot through to the kitchen for easy grocery drop-off.  Right inside the door, you find, ta-da! a drinking fountain!  We have noticed a rapid decline of single-sip "dirty" cups in the kitchen sink.  When we are hot and thirsty, no tramping through the house in muddy/wet/snowy shoes.  Someday I plan to make prettier, wooden steps that encase the plumbing, but this works for now.

Behind the door is our large white board. Handy and useful.
Just inside is the laundry room.
Notice the laundry is convenient to, but not a part of the mudroom.
The laundry room has a door making it separate from the mudroom and entry.

Let's be truthful, laundry rooms come with stacks and piles and no one wants to come home to that!
On the other hand, if you are dirty, best clean up there before tromping all over.

On one side of the room, there are four "cubbies."  I probably should have come up with a more sophisticated name.  Alas, cubby is all I could come up with on the spot one day and that will be their name henceforth and forever.
Above the drinking fountain is a picture of President Thomas S. Monson 
and an excerpt from his most recent address.  

On the other side is three more cubbies.  
Nearly everyone gets their own, though I share with the young boy.  
We share lots of stuff.

On the end, across from the drinking fountain, is the Secretary.  
She is a most beautiful thing!
I know she seems cluttered, but I promise she isn't disorganized.
I tacked cork onto the wall like a back-splash, the calendar hangs on one side, and
bills to be paid, filed, or in some other way need my action are filed in their appropriate places.

The phone charger is always plugged in, so cell phones and tablets are charged here.
If anyone needs a permission slip, business card, phone number, birthday invite, coupon or other miscellaneous piece of paperwork, it can be found here.

There is even an actual phone,
with an actual cord,
that cannot get lost,
or run out of batteries,
or get cutoff during an emergency when cell signals are overloaded.
Also, I can hold it on my shoulder making it possible to talk and work.

Opposite the laundry room door and right through the mudroom, 
is a powder room.  
Easy access from the outside and from the main living areas of the house.

No guest will have to guess which door is the magic door.
I love my little brass signs.

The flooring is charcoal slate and I picked it up from Lowe's.  It is 12" x 24" which made it rather difficult to set, but means less grout.  This one side of the house is laundry, mudroom, powder room and master bathroom in a row. I set the tiles so the lines are continuous, without thresholds at the doors.
So far, it has been easy to keep up, even with all of our construction mess.

There you have it!
Once again, it isn't an overly large area, but it was carefully laid out and is highly functional.

Guess what.  There is not one single, solitary stack of papers anywhere in my kitchen.

Wall paint:  Sherwin-Williams Panda Bear
Back door paint: Sherwin-Williams Backdrop
Flooring:  Galvano Glazed Porcelain Charcoal Tile, staggered by a third
Cabinetry: Quarter-sawn white oak, custom stain
Trim and doors: Hemlock, custom stain
Drinking fountain: Kohler, purchased used off ebay
Hardware: Brainerd Champagne Bronze
Brass Men & Women Signs: Amazon

Monday, September 21, 2015

Dad Date

All summer long, my dad has been trying to get me to go camping with him.

Good morning, empty lake in the middle of paradise!
I love my dad.
I love camping.
It's just that, when you are the captain of an army, the boss of the land, 
the event coordinator for the group home, 
you can't pick up and leave very easily.
I had to keep telling him no.
Finally, this past weekend, when he invited me once again, I had no good reason to not go.
My family rallied and sent me on my way.
Our first stop was the grocery store, which was an hilarious experience in and of itself.
Dad doesn't buy generic things and I'm used to buying by the truckload.
Also, Dad hates the idea of getting out into the middle of nowhere 
and wishing he had a particular type of food.
The total came to $147 . . . for three meals . . . for two people.

He made me steak and I nearly cried.  
Do you know how often I get steak?
It is too expensive for me, but a daddy spoils his daughter when he can.

We watched a campy western while we ate our dinner
because that's the kind of movie I watch with my dad.

After dinner, we needed something sweet.
"How did we spend $147 and not get any cookies?!" Dad pouted.
Not a sweet treat in the house.

And it WAS a house!
My dad isn't one for sitting around on vacations, so as a child, any time we went camping, the only way we could get to our destination was if we had a pack on our backs.  Summer, Winter, Spring and Fall, we hiked or skied into the back woods to get away, literally, from it all.
Now, this old dude camps in a house!
It was the easiest tent setup ever.  No broken tent poles, no forgotten sleeping pads, no roots digging into our backs, not even a tiny, one-burner stove to take 9 years to heat up our dinner!
He's gettin' soft, I tell ya'.

After our feast (wherein Dad did eat a pile of vegetables, Mom), we walked down to the lake.
It was still and clean and open.
It is a small lake, so noisy watercraft are not allowed.
I could feel my soul rejuvenating.

I slept awfully comfortably in a bed and the next morning,
Dad made his specialty:
Eggs, sausage, mushrooms, green onion, and cheese all mixed up together
with raisin toast on the side.

Clean up was quick and easy in his sink! and we were off, back  to the water.

We paddled around the perimeter of the clear, deep lake.  
The temperature was that of a perfect September day.

We have so many lakes in our area that water property isn't always unreasonably priced.  That means many of our lakes are built up with fancy or enormous lake houses.  You don't see many of the lake cabins anymore, the A-frame, one-two room types, that is.  This particular lake had only those types.  I loved coasting along the shore, looking deep into the woods to spy the mossy roofs, the pine-needle covered decks and the secluded fire rings.

That is me, a ways ahead.  
For the record, paddling a kayak on a perfectly still lake is not difficult, whether you are 62 or 38.  
He could have kept up if he had wanted to!

In fact, he did eventually catch up and we moseyed our way back to the truck.
It was a restful, enjoyable 18 hours or so.

Thank you for your persistence, Dad. Thank you for finally getting me out there.
I loved it.
I love you.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The School Cabinet

There are new changes to our place every day.  
Today we'll feature a fun place I'm calling the School Cabinet.

As you know, we home school the children, so supplies such as pencils, crayons, notebooks, glue and so forth are needed on a regular basis.  I've always had a school cabinet and it was sufficient, but there were a few small changes that would make a big difference if integrated into the cabinet.  

Here it is:

Since the supplies would need to be accessed often, we put it in a highly trafficked hallway, across from the library.  Being in this very visible space meant everyone would see it, pretty much the moment they step into the house.  I decided on an armoire type built-in.  This is the view from the library and it shows how the arches of the library and front door are mimicked on the trim above the school cabinet.

The doors were supposed to be a beaded glass, but someone made a mistake.
At moments like this in the building process, I just close my eyes and chant,
"It's just a house, it's just house."
Because, you know what?  It is.
And it's fine.

Inside the cabinet doors are the school supplies.  Lots of tubs filled with markers, water colors, scissors, and etc.  It is about as tidy as the rest: tidy enough. ;)

Below the doors are three drawers, each divided in the middle.  
Each of the six children are assigned to a drawer.
Here they keep notebooks, text books, assignments, favorite pencils (and, oh, boy, do they have those!) and other sundries that belong to that specific child.
In addition to the drawers, but not specific to the cabinet, everyone has a color for the year.  It usually changes every year, though I think the youngest but one will always have pink.  
It is her favorite in the universe.  
The colors help me to keep track of whose is what.  
Green notebook or purple scissors or royal blue folder left out?  
I know the culprit. 

The school cabinet has made a big difference in keeping our school days organized and smooth.  
No one has to search for anything and there is a place for everything.