Thursday, February 14, 2019

Winter weirdness

Zita's Cheeky Beaky must be part ostrich...


He's doing math facts. Doesn't everyone do them this way?


Bosley is sleeping. Don't you sleep with your head between the wall and the couch, too?


Apparently everyone is taking lessons from the weather. Here's hoping things settle down!

Icy snippet


I took these with my phone yesterday on my way home from taking the Care Bear to work, hoping I could get them onto here quickly - or at least more quickly than it'll take to upload the multitudes I took on the real camera. Aunt Chris, especially, make sure you click on them to see them bigger. The busted icicles that had fallen from the trees looked like so much broken glass, and it was probably just as dazzling in the sunlight. I was very thankful for my sunglasses!



Those of you not in areas experiencing ice and power outages and ridiculous wind, good for you. Shush. ;)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A mom's morning musings


It really is 5:54 in the morning. I'm not crazy, nor have I taken to getting up this early to exercise or be mindful or any other of legitimate beginnings.

I'm up and blogging because desperate times call for desperate measures. In other words, school has been cancelled again.

We started the week yesterday with a two hour delay which morphed into a cancellation. Otherwise known as Calamity Day 6, yesterday pushed us firmly into the days of, as one of Carrie's high school friends quipped, "bags of blizzards". 

For those of you who are out of practice because your kids are grown and gone or for those of you who live in reasonable climes, we get five free Calamity Days before we have to start making up the work we're missing. Consider them days of grace: "We know we're in Ohio, we know there's gonna be snow/freezing rain/yuck from above, here's 5 days of grace to deal with whatever cometh from the skies and lands, whereupon making things slippery on country roads and therefore unsafe, thus, by the power invested in me, I sayeth unto you, 'eh heh, good luck, everyone needs a reminder why you didn't want to just home school in the first place. Appreciate your teachers when the kids return to school.' "

We're out of days of grace. We used three in a row, was it just last week? I can't even remember now. I know they started the week and got Monday and Tuesday in although there may have been a delay on one of those days. Then our poor superintendent called to say, "we will be closed Wednesday, Thursday, and we'll have a two hour delay on Friday." If you're a kid, you've just won the lottery. Well, conditions hadn't improved enough on Friday to send anybody anywhere and the wind chill was pretty ridiculous, so they closed that day as well. Some of you have horrified looks on your faces because it already dawned on you that, "she said Friday- that means then a weekend- those kids were home for five days when it was too awful to go anywhere or to boot them outside or ...yeeeeeesh!"

Which brings us to Blizzard Bags.

Suddenly the kids don't feel like they've won the lottery anymore. Now they have to log in and check each of their classes to see what assignments are posted. As computers don't always want to talk to printers or vice versa, there are often tantrums about getting the required end results to the correct teacher: what can be submitted online? What needs printed out? 

Tangent: there is at least one Great Horned Owl hooting outside this morning. I suppose he's getting ready for bed. I have no idea where he/she/it goes to stay dry where it's freezing raining, but it's nice to know life is going on as scheduled for others.

Anyway, the thing about Blizzard Bags is that they are assigned but not due for two full weeks. I'm envisioning the conflicting emotions across your faces. Some of you lit up with delight, thinking, "yay! Two weeks to get a day's worth of work done? That's great!" Others of you are inwardly groaning because you're realizing, "oh no- what they could have done in class and had over with in one day could potentially hang over their head for two whole weeks if they procrastinate and they'll never remember what they were even doing!" Ding ding ding, we have a winner!

Once we hit Blizzard Bags, it is a never ending flurry (ha ha) of papers playing hide and seek and "whose packet is this?" and "where is your packet?" and "egads, where IS my packet?!" in varying degrees of panic, tantrums, and meltdowns. 

So that answers part of the question as to why in the world I'm blogging before six in the morning. It's two-fold. One, I was in the middle of a dream when the phone rang to reveal a superintendent who sounded unusually chipper about having to cancel school. Historically he's sounded more resigned and apologetic. Perhaps today by cutting straight to the chase and eliminating the delay aspect he decided he could go back to bed, who knows? If so, he's earned it. He and our director of transportation start driving around the county at about 4:30 in the morning to see what kind of shape the roads are actually in. God bless them both. They deserve to go back to bed! 

My body, who knew what to do, hopped back into bed as soon as it got off the phone, but my brain realized, "wait, I was dreaming! What was I dreaming about? Was it this? Was it this? Was it this?" and began hopping down the bunny trail of everything it hadn't put away last night. Some part of my brain yammered, "no, no, hush, sleep, let it go!" Sadly, it was overruled by the white rabbit who then realized the second reason I had to get up and blog right now:

I won't be able to get a word in edgewise on the computer once the kids start today's Blizzard Bags! 

The big kids did most of theirs online yesterday and Dada kindly printed Damon's out while he was still at work. Since there was no school and therefore no buses to wait for, I took all the kids up to karate at once, dumped Carrie off so she could start working, and took the boys to the library with me where Liam could read and Damon could tackle his Blizzard Bag before the boys' class began. He made it through two subjects in half an hour, not bad considering one of them required writing which he despises. So we have half of his to do from yesterday and now we will have another whole packet to do today. This is on top of a research project he is doing about which I play a card from "The Gods Must be Crazy" and mutter, "I don't want to talk about it."

It's almost 6:30 and it's still really dark. We are supposed to have ridiculous wind of 30-50 mph as well as anything that comes from the sky, so it should be a great day for naps, snuggling down into the covers and listening to the wind whooshing around. The wind really does whoosh in Ohio, and thankfully we are not face to face with prairie; our home was built by thoughtful planners who preserved lots of the trees on the property and there are additional stands of woods on the properties around us. They help break some of the wind. Right now it's coming from the East (Mordor, ha ha) and it's at only about 15 mph. Now instead of the owl I hear sirens. I hope nobody ends up being blown like a tiddlywink off the icy roads and into the icy ditches. Not good. 

But before naps, Blizzard Bags. Besides, Carrie won't get up until at least ten, so that gives Liam first shot at getting his work done...

In other news, today will be Day 54 of Tamoxifen and so far, so good. This is the med I'll be on for about 10 years. The echo test I had for my heart last week because I have been taking Herceptin for nine months now yielded good results; everything looks fine with my heart, so thank you to those of you who had prayed over that aspect of treatment. Overall, I am doing really, really well, and I know much of it is because I have a big God and a fabulous Tribe. Thank you for being part of it. 

If you'd like something to pray about, you could pray against cabin fever. Tempers tend to get short when you're denied access to friends and regular routines and are stuck with people that you love but don't necessarily want to be with every minute of every day. Pray for our #FirstWorldProblems like our wifi behaving so the kids can get their responsibilities done in a timely (as in the day they are assigned and not the two weeks later version) manner. Pray that we don't lose power. Pray that we are kind to each other and have some fun together and remember that it's not all just work. Pray they don't fight over the computer. 

Pray for them to go back to school tomorrow!

There. A whole blog post in just under an hour and without coffee, even. Wonders never cease. Have an amazing day!

Saturday, February 02, 2019

One month later


These photos were taken a month to the day after my last radiation treatment but got lost in the holiday shuffle otherwise known as Christmas-New Year's-wedding anniversary-and my birthday that goes on around here. I'm still "tan" but have excellent range of motion, am all done peeling, am still using lotion/oil once or twice a day, and have had my follow up appointment with my radiation team. I got hugged and exclaimed over and they declared me doing "really, really well" and that they'll see me again in six months. 




You can see under my armpit the corner of where the bolus covered and between my spine and shoulder blade still has the patch of "tan" from being radiated from below. The armpit part still gets itchy every so often but overall everything has healed really well. I feel like it's fading more from the top down but I can't really tell if that's just how the light hits it or if it's a "true fact" as we say around here. 

My port fared really well. I'm to get that removed sometime in May. I'll be using it into April for the Herceptin and Perjeta IV rounds. I have another echo scheduled this week for my heart, because Herceptin can affect hearts in not good ways. My previous two echoes were both fine, however, and thank you, God. Once the IV rounds are done, the port can come out, and then I'll start a drug that is six pills a day taken at once, in addition to the Tamoxifen that I take every morning now. I'll be on that new med for one year, or at least that's how it stands now. Tamoxifen will be part of my routine for the next decade. Today was Day 44 and so far, so good. 

Hair is coming in, too, but until the darn Ohio wind decides to give it a rest I'm in all my hats and scarves and wraps anyway. I am excited about heading back into school to volunteer with first graders again! Here's hoping Mother Nature settles down just a bit so that everyone can go to school and to work and run errands and do their thing!

Fireplace 101


There's a meme circling around Facebook about "30 days has September, April, June, and November", yadda yadda yadda, "except January which has 937." Naturally January in Ohio is freezing at best. So, whaddaya do when one finds a two inch crack in the back wall of your fireplace? You call the fireplace experts and cross your fingers that it can be welded.



Then they politely snigger at you and inform you that no fireplace company worth their salt would weld that as it would be unsafe and that you need to replace the entire thing. 

Hello, 2019, here is our checkbook...



This is the official Before photo. Stone hearth, brick fireplace, framed photograph Dada took of me while on our honeymoon in Jamaica. Seafoam green walls. Striped curtains and curtain rods already removed because... you guessed it. #FarmhouseProject.

Yeah, all that needed to come down. 

For those of you wondering what #FarmhouseProject means, let me give you a for instance. Once Upon A Time, not quite two decades ago, a certain family had members moving back east from out west. Said movers would be living in the family farmhouse on the old homestead, essentially, and the family up the hill thought the farmhouse could use a screen door. What should have been a straightforward project turned into a humungous mess and way more work than originally thought as it was discovered that the threshold wasn't in the best of shape and, oh dear, the wood under that isn't either, and oh my, neither are the railroad ties under that, and...

"Um, what's with the six foot deep hole outside the back door?"
"We tried to put on a screen door..."

(We did eventually get the darn screen door affixed. And the hole filled. After the last of the coal from the old coal furnace was tossed out of the basement. And after discovering that not all cement blocks are the same size. True story. And a new furnace later. But anyway, back to the fireplace story.)

So the guys set up their tarp to minimize the dust flying everywhere from the fireplace demo. All the brick needed to be removed and the firebox itself had to come out. 











It works! The stone we selected to replace the brick isn't in yet, but the fireplace is functional and we're allowed to use it. Good thing too, as the Deep Freeze set in and the kids had no school for three days. Grandmama noted that the lowest temp we had with windchill was -37F. So glad we had the fireplace fixed and that it could help out the poor furnace! 


Dada saw a slab of stone he felt would be perfect as a mantel. The stone supplier initially balked as the slab was too thick to cut safely, but upon reconsidering and refiguring they managed to slice it just right. It is every bit as heavy as it looks, but unbelievably it cooperated and was placed completely level on the first try. Even the guys doing it couldn't believe it. After examining it from every angle and distance, they proclaimed their amazement and informed me, "if there's ever a tornado, just hold on to the mantel cuz it ain't going anywhere!"






 I'd decided to paint the room while it was torn apart and almost everything was out of it. Of COURSE there would be no school! Good thing Grandmama was here to keep the kids in line while I was on the stepladder...




The stone should be in sometime in the next few weeks. Then a mason and the other guys will come back and install it all. Choosing it was a harder decision than I thought it would be. The floor in the "library" is walnut, taken from the first few trees to be felled on the property originally. It's absolutely gorgeous and I didn't want anything to overshadow it. I felt a lighter stone would be more complimentary while Dada fell in love with dark stones with veins running through them. We settled on an 85/15 compromise and once that all starts up I'll be sure to document that process. I can't wait to see the whole room when it's all finished! Stay tuned.










By the numbers- a top 20 countdown


I'm not quite sure how it can be Groundhog Day of 2019 already. Wasn't it just New Year's? How can a month be gone so quickly? I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that we celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary. 

Yes, you read that correctly. Twenty years he's put up with me. 


Some of you were there when we got married at 3:33 pm on January 9, 1999. Some of you weren't even born yet. Some of you couldn't make it because of the horrendous weather and the turnpike being closed. Some of you are aware that even our wedding cake didn't make it. Some of you didn't notice because Grandma Barb whipped up a cake during our reception so we'd have something to cut and Aunt Lainie and Uncle Gary bought other cakes from Giant Eagle that didn't have writing all over them so there would be cake to eat. 

I was mulling over numbers and thought it'd be fun to play a numbers game:

20 for the years we've been married

19th of April, 1997 when we officially began dating

18th of October, 1997 was when he proposed (bear in mind         we met in 1994 and worked together every summer)

17 is for the number of IV rounds I'll have undergone to complete breast cancer treatment: six with the chemo drugs Taxotere and Carbo, all of them with Herceptin and Perjeta

16 for the foreign countries Dada has traveled to for his job

15 is the age of our eldest child. How did that happen?

14 is how many of us belong in the "communication skills of a large bowl of mashed potatoes" clan: Uncles Kelly, Rob, and Dada, Aunts Becky, Jana, and I, and the cousins: Carrie, Liam, Lizzie, Zach, Damon, Neva, Noah, and Rosalina. 

13 is the age of our middle child; we currently have two teenagers.

12 for the dozen peach roses I sent to him, not realizing they would be delivered on April Fool's Day of 1997. No mixed signals there...

11 as in "on a scale of one to ten, YOU are an eleven" from Disney's "Aladdin"; it's a compliment which still cracks us up.

10 year anniversary had us leaving the kids with the grandparents while we went camping in Hawaii. We used his bazillions of airfare miles he'd racked up to get there and back.

9 places we've lived together. We've moved a bit.

8 is the age of our youngest. Obviously he didn't get left with the grandparents when we were in Hawaii. Also how many hours it took to drive from Woodsy House to The Last Resort when moving from PA to IL with a tiny Miss Carrie. 

7 is the number of Dada's birthday buddies, which includes Muggin, our sister in law. It's also how many schools our kids have collectively attended.

6 "real" or paying jobs we've held together

5 islands we've visited: Jamaica, Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, and Put-in-Bay. Also the number of cars we've had. And roughly how many hours it takes to drive from Ohio State to Penn State.

4 years of Christian church camp together on staff as well as four people each who stood with us on both sides of the aisle during our wedding.

3 blissful weeks spent together camping in Hawaii. "Lost" is right; "we have to go back!"

2 vehicles to haul us back east across the country after he was laid off from his first job out of college; while bittersweet it was probably a blessing in disguise. Also the number of dogs we've owned.

1 tiny surprise pumpkin proposal that started it all! 

Anniversary dinner at home with Moscato D'Asti, woohoo: 


And our anniversary present to each other was new pots and pans. Never mind that the traditional gift for 20 years is china. We'd already been blessed with beautiful china from my grandparents who had worked at Shenango China back in the day. However, our nonstick pans have taken a terrible beating and are not nonstick anymore, so new pots and pans it is. We bought them before we knew about the fireplace needing replaced, so I guess happy anniversary to us all around: 


Pancakes were the perfect way to break them in. Come on over and we'll make you some, too!




Saturday, January 26, 2019

Spring cleaning...?!


Haha, not to worry, I realize it is only January. I haven't turned over that particular leaf as a New Year's resolution. However, when you have a room mostly torn up it makes sense to give it a good scrub while the furniture is moved/covered. There will be a detailed fireplace-turned-farmhouse-project post coming, but for the nonce let's just say that along with the scrubbing, we have decided to go ahead and paint the darn "library" while we're at it. 

I asked around and got advice for both sides of painting before the fireplace project is finished and after, so we're going to go ahead and do it midway. Since Ohio has decided to become part of the Arctic Circle and it's too miserable to be outside without blubber, might as well tackle inside projects of which there is never a shortage. 

Back to my hot bucket of Mr. Clean bubbles. Spiders, you better run for cover cuz I'm on a mission!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Life is messy


Around midnight last night I began musing about messes. I'm not sure why my brain decided to begin composing a blog post after I'd already been asleep, but I was now awake and that's what it thought would be a good idea.

I smiled in the dark, thinking about one of the kids' favorite episodes of Peppa Pig, the one about the Muddy Puddles. If you haven't had the pleasure of watching this gem of a show, you are missing out. Even though our oldest two were too old for it, technically, that didn't stop them or me from getting a huge kick out of the British accents, the ridiculousness of a family of pigs wearing clothes and interacting with other animals, and most of all, their dialogue. If you're curious, here is the link to the episode: click here . I had nothing to do with the art, production, etc. and claim no credit. 

The kids loved the reaction to the observation, "look what a mess you're making" being a simple, "oh." They use this line on me whenever I'm ready to blow my stack over whatever current catastrophe-in-the-making they are embarking on. I think their favorite part is that in order to play in the mud, the pigs must first put on boots. *blink blink* Yeah, I'll just leave that there for now.

It made me think about the adventures little kids begin: finger painting, texture tables, solid "finger foods", play doh, smash cakes, and yes, mud puddles.

Why is it that we encourage all of these activities for the under 5 crowd (and then briefly revisit them during college, perhaps; I have treasured, fond memories of playing in mud puddles with friends both at camp and at my university) but experience such a cerebral "ugh, are you kidding me" reaction when someone wants to drag out the play doh bin or the beads or the entire collection of Legos? Or, God forbid, glitter? But then why do we pay actual money to sign ourselves up for Warrior Dashes and Tough Mudders to justify playing in the mud? When did we get so afraid of Mess?

Why is so much advertising focused on the unending stream of products formulated to clean up our messes? We have some for laundry, separate from the ones for dishes, more for floors, specific window cleaners, furniture polishes, ones designed specially for our vehicles, and then we start on our bodies. Having no hair this summer streamlined my maintenance routine in more ways than one; I didn't have to participate in the shampoo, conditioner, serum, mousse, gel, texture, hairspray, product arena. I did still need the soaps and lotions and toothpaste and hand soap...

Did you know you can wash dishes with dirt?

Why this obsession with cleanliness perfection? Because clearly this goes way past clean. One doesn't take twenty pictures of their living room for social media when it is merely clean. One takes twenty to figure out from which angle it looks perfect. And here's my PSA for today: all of yours look better than mine, so breathe easy and step away from the vacuum. I'm okay with that. Dust is not my enemy. It's been around long enough to make it a family member. Perhaps one I wish would move on out but the reality is that's never gonna happen. Why are we afraid to have people over if the house isn't cleaned top to bottom? 

One of the very best pieces of advice an online friend gave me years ago was, "they are coming for dinner, not inspection." Thank you, Oli, wherever you are. That observation was pure genius and has freed me from so much stress over the years. Your friends, your family, your youth group, are all coming over because they love you and enjoy your company. Stop stressing over the fact that your family or your self are imperfect human beings who make messes. Get out the "good" china and enjoy it (maybe not with the youth group)- that's its function, to be used! Those plates want food on them! Use your imagination and envision the dishware from Beauty and the Beast and their desire to serve. If it stays in the cupboard/attic/garage, why even have it? 

One of the reasons our church heavily promotes being part of a small group is because over time those people become like family, ready to wade into whatever mess is currently taking up space in your life. Life is messy for all of us. For some it's relational: a marriage struggling, a fractured friendship, a prodigal child. For others it's a health crisis, a diagnosis you never saw coming (been there, done that), chronic something or other that never lets go, age, or some combination of them all. There's always the Fun and Games that life throws at you like being laid off, a car accident, a transfer to the unknown. You could name twenty others if you thought about it. The point is that you need those people to enter into your mess, and you into theirs. We are not intended to go it alone. 

So please decide in this still-new, still-fresh year to create time to spend drawing closer to someone else. If even the idea of having people over terrifies you or sets your anxiety level into the atmosphere, tweak it. Choose to meet up somewhere else, somewhere you're all comfortable. I realize for some people that means online, and while I get that, you really need to be careful too. I'm talking another person you can actually touch, because they are important in different ways. I don't want anyone ending up like Sandra Bullock's character in "The Net." Find a mentor, try out a new hobby, join a class (it doesn't have to be a gym, but if that kills multiple birds with one stone then go for it), start a book club, just find some way to connect with the people around you. You wouldn't want them to miss out on you, right!? And by this time next year or a few years down the road, you might have a Tribe that you wonder how you'd ever do life without. Thanks for being a part of mine. 




Not It


It's not that I don't love y'all or that there is nothing to write about, it's more where-in-the-world-do-I-fit-it-in lately. 

For instance, school is back in session, so yes, I'm clicking my heels and singing praises, but that also means I'm making lunches and checking backpacks and reminding and nagging and coaxing and dragging people about. Carrie has had a humungous biology project looming since the start of the school year that was due today and she isn't home yet to grill about how it all went down. She's been on my laptop about six times as often as I have been, and it even went to school with her yesterday like Mary's little lamb. 

This morning Liam reminded me that he has online math he needs to be checking into, ideally daily so that he doesn't get behind and have a ton to do at the end of the grading period, which means he needs the computer. 

Damon just wants to be on it and finds random games to play, haha!

Bosley is ever Underfoot and a general Stupid Beagle. Australian shepherd and lab mix, my never mind! He has yet to figure out that he's to use the brain which resides between his ears to think about sounds and what they mean instead of just letting us know he hears e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. and barking about it. Insert multiple eye rolls here. Grandmama calls him Cottonball Brain. He is all reaction and no thought.

Yes, I know that I have a tiny personal, portable keyboard which connects to my phone but I got a new phone and am not seeing the version of the blog that I'm used to using- ugh, technology! I'll try to do better.

In the meantime, in protest of Winter and precipitation, I've been busy making lemon sugar cookies and the accompanying mess. 

As a tidbit of what's to come, we will be having both our roof and our fireplace replaced (separate issues) in the immediate future. There will be no shortage of A) mess, B) process, C) people tromping through the house, D) money flying out the window, E) more mess... lucky for you, that translates into blog posts! Stay tuned.