Thursday, March 19, 2020

What a Long, Strange Year It's Been

It's been almost a year since I last posted.  Just 2 months shy of the anniversary of the tornado that hit our neighborhood.  The intervening months have been doozies! 

After the tornado, we really couldn't focus much on the damage because we were thinking about our Virginia house.  A week or two after the tornado we had an offer on that house, and so we had to focus on getting everything out of there (garage mainly) and finishing up the items the buyers wanted from the inspection.  We ended up closing on that house on July 17, 2019, which was our 26th wedding anniversary. That was fitting because on our 25th anniversary, the moving van came and picked up all our stuff to move to Ohio, so it literally took us a year to finish up with that house!  We were relieved to be done with it!

The summer was spent dealing with contractors but not getting anything fixed on our little house. We ended up having the tarps replaced because they were wearing out!  All the contractors were just so busy.  Bob spent many long hours on the phone and emailing with USAA as well as various companies. Very frustrating!

We started looking at bigger houses here, but nothing really jumped out. Eventually it was the end of August, and all our activities were starting to gear up again. Interest rates were low, so Bob said if we were going to move, we really should do it then.  The thought of another school year crammed into the tri-level pretty much sent me through the roof, so I went through all the houses for sale with 5 bedrooms or more again with a fine tooth comb. We found one that Jonathan and I had driven by, but that we had never looked at. It had 5 full baths and 1 half bath. Most of the houses we were seeing had 3 "kid" bedrooms upstairs, but only 1 bathroom for those rooms. We were planning on having 8 kids in those 3 rooms, and that's just not an ideal number for one bathroom, especially when 3 of them are teen/preteen girls. So this particular house had potential. We called our patient realtor and went through it. The house looked like it would work well!  So we went under contract with that house the beginning of September and closed the beginning of October, but we couldn't move in until November. The people we bought it from, a retired AF couple, travel all over the place all the time, and they were going on a cruise to Greece in October and needed the rest of the month to finish getting all their stuff out. 

So we moved in Nov. 9. We were so thankful that Nathan, his fiancee Elena, and Luke were all able to come home for the weekend to help out. Nathan's summer working for the moving company paid off in spades!  He loaded the 26 foot truck like a tetris game, wasting no space. It was amazing!  People from our Bible study also provided much muscle power and help. We could not have done it without everyone's help!

But it turns out that November is a TERRIBLE time to move!  We were deep in the throes of all our classes and extracurricular activities, including having 5 kids do winter swim.  Nothing stopped just because we moved!  And then it was time for the holidays.  We sort of got things into a reasonable state so kids could come home for Thanksgiving and Christmas . . . and that's where everything stayed because we couldn't do any more. 

We did have a lovely and refreshing week in VA over New Year's, and while we were there, a friend from way back texted.  Dawn and I had been in the same moms' walking group in Colorado when we were pregnant with our first babies!  They live in Ohio now, and they were looking for a house to rent while they sold their current house and had a one-story one built in a neighboring school district. Well, we definitely had a house that was empty (sort of). It still had all the junk that we didn't want to throw away but obviously wasn't crucial for living, as well as most of our garage stuff.  At least we had *finally* gotten a new roof (begun the day before we moved out!), new gutters, fascia, soffits, and 2 new windows. We still hadn't replaced the fence, shed, or deck rails, but our friends said they didn't care about that. So we hustled to clean out that house, as well as change ceiling fans that didn't work and some other little things, and they moved in the end of January. What a God thing!  We were thinking it would at least be March before we got the house ready to rent out, but more likely, since we were so busy driving around everywhere all the time, we would have just continued to put it off, lol. We definitely needed the motivation!

So here we are now in March, and we are undergoing a pandemic from the corona virus!  Everything has been shut down that we normally do during the week, except for our usual online classes, Anna's algebra class (small group of homeschool kids that meets at the teacher's house), and Anna's weekly PT appointments she's been going to since the end of November for hip problems she was having!  Our schedule has completely cleared!  Bob is still going to work, but the rest of us are here at the house 24/7. The one thing I have thought over and over again is "Thank God this didn't happen last year, when we were all crammed into the little tri-level!"  In the new house, there is a nice sun room that we use as a playroom so the Little People and Matchbox cars are not in the way all the time. There's a full basement with a separate room for the Legos and Lincoln logs--we can just close the door on the mess!  The kids can watch videos downstairs and we don't even hear them on the main level!  The desktop computer where the girls do on-line classes is in a study with a door we can close so they can concentrate and not have the teachers ask them to quiet the background noise!  This much bigger house is such a blessing during this time of "social distancing".

We also have room to store extra food!  I've been watching the whole coronavirus thing since someone started a thread on the Well Trained Mind forums about it back on Jan. 24.  I even got out a book called The Great Influenza, about the 1918 Spanish Influenza, so I could brush up on my virology as well as just get a historical sense for how epidemics spread.  It was very interesting!  When I finished the book mid-February I had a much greater sense of the devastation and loss of life in that pandemic.  Absolutely mind-boggling.  I was left wondering if we as a nation had learned anything from the public health decisions that were made back then and led directly to such high death tolls (continuing to move troops around, and not canceling huge parades as well as smaller gatherings like church and school). With that in mind, I started gradually stocking our pantry back up again. With 2 moves in a little over a year, I was letting things get way lower than I usually do. I was very thankful that I was ahead of the game and missed what seems like absolute mayhem in the grocery stores as apparently every other person in the world starts stocking up!  And I am glad that it seems like we *did* learn lessons, and that's why everything has been shut down. We are praying for a vaccine or effective treatment to come quickly though.

Now we're just enjoying the time at home.  Since I'm not driving people all over the place, we're able to spend more relaxed time doing school with the littles. Since I'm here, I can more easily direct them to all the fascinating things people are posting online, like Mo Willems' doodling lessons and the Cincinnati Zoo daily animal podcasts. We've played more games the past week than we have the past year!  We finished one 1000 piece puzzle, and we've started another one. I feel like I'm slowly relaxing.  It feels like when the older boys were young. Our big weekly outing was TNT on Tuesdays, but otherwise, we pretty much stayed home and played and did school.  I miss those days!  Things definitely change when you start having kids in junior high and high school. 

I will say though, that I am hopeful that things settle down now . . . we're waiting to see how the isolation phase is going to affect graduations, commissioning, Nathan and Elena's wedding, etc. It's crazy that we're even wondering about these things!  I am thankful now more than ever that we trust a sovereign God who holds all these things in his loving hands.


Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Tornado Aftermath

Tuesday was kind of a blur.  We were all tired, and with no air conditioning, we were also hot.  We waited around for the emergency tarping service to come cover our roof, and Bob and I walked around our neighborhood, surveying the damage.  Seeing houses with no roof or garage that would need to be condemned certainly put our situation in perspective!

I wondered what to do with the 2 loads of laundry that were not done.  The partially wet one in the dryer was getting all the skanky camping smell back again, and the one in the washer, stewing in the non-drained water, wasn't any better. I was so thankful that my friend Amy let me come over to her house to rewash them AND to take a hot shower! 

Bob and I went out to eat for dinner with some of the kids, and then we decided we would take our friend Allison up on her kind offer to have us stay with them.  We got home and loaded up sleeping bags, sleeping pads, air mattress, clothes, Luna's crate and food, Luna, etc. in the big van.  Then we discovered that the big van didn't actually start.  It seemed like it would, but then it just wouldn't turn over. Now we were down to one car, the Odyssey, and it didn't even fit all of us.  I think this was the lowest point for me. 

We made 2 trips over to Allison's house, and we got everyone all settled in there for a cool night of sleep.  When we got up on Wednesday, I drove Bob into work so at least we would have one car.  The kids had an absolute ball playing with Allison's 4 boys.  They would have been happy to stay there forever!  I started to take Luna for a walk, but it started thundering and sprinkling.  As I was turning around to go back, I saw a lady on a bike riding by.  She turned to look at me--and we recognized each other!  Sandy is the wife of a retired Air Force chaplain, and they are very good friends of my parents!  It turns out that they live just a few houses down from Allison, and that they were going out of town the next day for a few days.  She offered to have us stay in their house and for Bob to drive their second car.  What a huge blessing!  It was definitely a God thing that we even ran into each other!

Wednesday afternoon the kids and I went back over to the house.  We attempted to start cleaning up all the stray shingles and trash in the yard.  We knew there wasn't anything we could do about the huge trees without a chainsaw.  We worked for over 4 hours, and you couldn't even tell we had done a thing, which was very discouraging.  The kids did have a fun time playing on all the downed trees though.

After we ate dinner with Allison and her family, Bob and I test drove a used Sienna.  It needed a new transmission, unfortunately, so we weren't any closer to getting another used car, which was also discouraging. But on the way back home, our next-door neighbor texted us the wonderful news that our power was back on!  Yay!  Since it was already 9:00, we decided we would just sleep another night at Allison's house and move back over to our house Thursday afternoon.
 Thursday morning was the first day of swim team practice in the water (since it had been cancelled Tuesday and Wednesday).  Practice was actually at a pool in a neighboring town, so I had to make some back and forth trips to ferry people (and Luna) around.  I was SO thankful that Bob could drive himself to work in our friends' car--that was such a huge blessing! Drew and Verity are doing swim team for the first time this year, which just means that they will hopefully learn to swim by the end of the summer.  Since we didn't do swim team back in VA last summer, Drew missed out on learning, and everyone else felt like they would be behind.  But it turns out swimming is kind of like riding a bike, I guess, if you've done it for quite a few years, so the girls did just fine. 

Thursday afternoon we packed up (which took hours because it looked like we had permanently moved in there...), the kids had another play date at different friends' house, and we had Bible study after dinner.  Everyone was fried, but we were all so happy to be sleeping in our own beds that night.  Especially Bob and me, lol.  A week on an air mattress is much harder for us old folk than it used to be!

Friday morning we had swim practice back at our own pool.  Yay--no more driving all over!  The kids can walk there, which is super nice.
 During Drew and Verity's practice time, the big van was towed away.  I was glad they were able to get it on the truck.  That thing is a behemoth to try to push around.
 There was one bright spot.  A robin had nested on the window sill of our bathroom/laundry room/pantry, which had seemed like a foolish place indeed to next.  She got startled and flew away every time someone went in there, which was approximately all the time.  She laid 4 eggs, but only 2 ended up hatching.  Anyway, the nest miraculously survived the tornado, and we then thought the mama bird was not looking so dumb after all, given how the trees fared.  Our next door neighbors found 11 dead birds in their yard!

Friday afternoon, a young man knocked on our door and said he was from a local church.  He had a crew of 18 people with him, and they wanted to know if we needed help clearing away all our trees.  Boy, did we ever!  I gratefully accepted.  These people rushed around like busy ants, and they chopped up and cleared out all of our downed trees in about 40 minutes.  It was simply amazing to watch!  I about was crying when I explained to the younger kids that these were Christians being the hands and feet of Christ to people like us who needed help, and that this is exactly how the Body of Christ is supposed to serve others.  It was an amazing testimony. Groups from various churches, as well as some companies and other places, have been all over the affected neighborhoods, helping, and they have made a tremendous difference. 
 This is our cleaned-up front yard.
 Just one pile of branches and tree parts.
 The big pile on the other side of our driveway.
 Our newly cleaned up back yard, with the downed fence as a back drop.
 We lost the middle apple tree--isn't that weird??--but maybe having one less will help the other 2 grow better, and be easier to mow around.  It was pretty crowded in that corner.
This is all that is left of our beautiful linden tree in the front.  I wished I had the presence of mind to ask the chainsaw guys to cut off that part too.  The back is really jagged, and a flat stump would be a lot nicer.

Saturday we helped our neighbors with their multitude of giant trees that had fallen in their backyard.  Thankfully a church group came to help them in the afternoon, or I don't know if it ever would have gotten done.  So. Many. Trees.  Then I was able to go to a birthday party for a friend, which was a lovely break. While I was gone, and after everyone finished working next door, the church crew came over and took down the maple tree in our side yard,  Many of the branches had collapsed on our side fence and crushed it. Since the main trunk part had snapped off, the tree was going to die anyway, so it had to go down.  Here is a picture of our new backyard view:
 It's so open!  Also, we have an "ark" in our back yard because the guys from next door pulled it off our neighbor's shed, and the roof came off.  Who knows how long we will be looking at that eyesore.  Insurance will pay for the shed to be rebuilt, but it's a low-priority project, compared to all the other damage.
 This is the only picture I could find of our side yard before.  This is the maple tree that had to come down, and you can see 2 of our neighbor's trees that now are gone.
This is our park now.  The trees have been decimated, although the playground equipment looks fine.
Here is a closer view I took when we first moved here last summer, just for comparison. So much biomass lost!

Other than feeling depressed when I drive in the neighborhood or walk along no-longer-shaded streets, I'm fine, although I'm still kind of off-kilter.  I find myself saying stuff that doesn't exactly make sense.  Like I had a big conversation last Friday with our neighbor's dad, who had come to help out.  He mentioned our "big maple off the deck", and I firmly corrected him that it was an oak. The conversation moved on, but the next day, I was standing at the sink when I remembered the conversation, and I couldn't figure out what I was talking about!  That tree is most definitely a maple--there are tons of samaras all over the deck, which the kids play "helicopter" with, and I've spent so much time raking up leaves from the tree.  Leaves that are definitely maple leaves and not oak leaves.  Plus, trees are kind of my thing, and I love identifying them.  I certainly know the difference between an oak and a maple!  So things like that.  I'm just off a bit.  Hopefully a few more good nights of sleep, and things will be better, and I'll feel more myself.  It's just been a weird week all around.

Oh, and good news about our big van:  it has something called an "inertia switch", and in case of a rollover or something, it shuts off fuel to the engine.  The high winds evidently triggered that, so it just needed to be switched off again. I'm SO thankful nothing was really wrong! And we just picked up the Odyssey from getting its windshield replaced, so we are back to 2 vehicles. Now we are praying the Lord will lead us to the right one to replace the Sienna!

Monday, June 03, 2019


One week ago we were on the way home from our annual Memorial Day weekend camping trip with our wonderful VA homeschooling friends.  We had a great time, as usual, and it was even better because both Nathan and Luke were able to be there with us.  Those times where all 12 of us are together are getting rarer and rarer, so we really appreciate those times when they come!  There were some thunderstorms, so we had some wet, skanky laundry to deal with, and of course everyone was exhausted and filthy.  We were looking forward to showers and sleeping in our own beds!

At some point in the drive, I realized from facebook maybe that there was severe weather predicted, but it looked like it would all be "north of I-70".  We are south of I-70, so I didn't really pay any attention to the weather after that.

We arrived home around 7:00 PM, and we unloaded the big van and the "stow-away" carrying thing that goes into the hitch on the back.  Everyone took showers, and I worked on laundry.  By 11:00, I had finished 2 loads, and another one was partially dry in the dryer, and another load was starting the final spin cycle in the washer.  The little kids were sound asleep, and so was Bob.

Right around 11:00 I got the first alert on my phone from the National Weather Service.  It said a tornado had been spotted in our area, and we should seek immediate shelter.  I promptly ignored it and went back to my book.  About 5 minutes later I got the same alert again, and my mom called.  They live just a few streets away from us, and she said her neighbors, who have a one story house with no basement, were heading over to my parents' house with their 2 little kids, and that we really should be down in our basement.  So I reluctantly got up Bob and the 3 littles, putting them down again on the futon in the basement, and I went out to the garage to bring down our camping lanterns and flashlights, conveniently located where I had put them just a few hours before!

I texted my mom at 11:16 to ask if the NWS would let us know when the danger had passed because it seemed quiet, like the storm was moving off.  Right after I sent that text, the lights started flickering and then went out.  And then it became obvious the storm had most definitely NOT moved off!  Things started hitting the windows and pinging the fireplace.  There were loud noises from upstairs, and the pressure was really weird.  I shouted at everyone to get into the bathroom.  We put Luna in the shower stall, and the other 10 of us crammed into the super small bathroom.

 Verity was scared, but she settled right down.  The little boys asked what if we died, and we talked about how we knew we would be with Jesus because we trusted that He paid for our sins when He died on the cross in our place, so we didn't have anything to worry about.  I tried to post this picture on facebook, but my phone no longer really worked.  I couldn't text, call, or get online, which was frustrating.  We were probably in there for 15 minutes or so.  It seemed like forever, all squished and uncomfortable!
 When we came out, the first thing we noticed was that our upstairs hallway attic access panel had apparently come up and then down again, but it landed sideways, and a bunch of nasty old insulation had fallen into the hallway.  We cleaned that up as best we could with a flashlight and broom and then got kids back to bed.  Bob headed out to look at the house, and he came back in saying it was a pretty significant storm, with pretty significant damage.  He noticed a lot of trees down and damage to the house, but it would wait until morning for us to really see the extent of the damage.  Neither Bob nor I slept very well, and he was on the phone with USAA at 2:30 AM.
 When we got up Tuesday morning, we could see the damage.  For one thing, the windows were blown out of the minivan Caleb had been driving to school and work (which is my parents', but we hadn't gotten around to replacing the Sienna yet, after it was rear-ended and totaled back in the end of December).  All the cars, as well as the house and any other surface, were absolutely coated with insulation, cottonwood pollen, and various other mess.
 Trees were down everywhere.  Our neighborhood was built in the 70's, and so it was full of beautiful, huge mature trees.  Those are pretty much all gone now.  A few are left, but even those lost many branches and are much scragglier.  We lost our beautiful Littleleaf Linden tree in the front, as well as a maple tree, a pine tree, and an apple tree in the back.
 We had a ton of other debris all over the yard.  There were big 4x8 pieces of plywood with shingles on them, probably from our roof, as well as other random things like patio cushions, 5 gallon buckets, mailbox pieces, and other junk.  We had a king size top sheet dangling from a branch in our big maple tree off the deck.
 The back yard had branches and junk all over it.  All of our deck furniture blew off, as well as our grill.
 This is the smaller maple tree in our side yard.  One of our neighbor's tree fell on our fence and destroyed it, with branches from the maple tree also damaging it.  The fence has been on our list to replace because Luna had discovered she could jump over it, but I am SO glad we hadn't done it yet.  It would just have been destroyed!
Our shed was crushed by our pine tree, which landed on it.  Our neighbor had 7 huge pine trees and 2 large maples (all at least 40 feet), and every single one was lost.  Most blew over, but one just lost all it's branches.  It was like that everywhere, and it was so crushingly sad to see these majestic trees just uprooted or stripped bare.
 Back in our yard, here is the hole in our roof.  We also lost much of our gutters and a lot of siding, plus soffits and other random things.  Two windows cracked and broke, but only the outside layer.  None of them shattered.  We attributed that to our old inefficient windows that clearly allowed the house to weather all the pressure changes, lol. Also, none of them took any direct hits, fortunately.
 Our poor deck had a lot of the deck railing blown off.  Our grill blew right through it into the yard!  You can see the pine tree on the shed better in this picture too.
 This is looking at into the park.  You can't really tell in a picture, but there are so many trees down.  Just devastating.
 This is my parents' house.  Their entire front porch blew off.  One of the porch supports actually blew through their front storm door, knocking open their front door, and spraying glass and leaves all over their entryway and even into their family room and down their stairs.
 This is a guest bedroom in my parents' house.  The window shattered glass all over the room, and something slammed into the outer wall as well, because it made a hole and pushed the insulation through.  What a mess!  Fortunately the man that is staying here wasn't home--but he was actually driving in the storm.  He thought he was hit by a crazed semi-truck with no lights on because all of a sudden, he felt a huge impact which spun his minvan around several times, and the car was lifted up and carried a quarter mile down the road and set down in a ditch!  It was a miracle he was okay!
By Tuesday evening, our roof had been tarped, but the power was still out.  We were all still kind of reeling.  It was just so unexpected!

And now I can say I have survived an emergency plane landing AND an EF-3 tornado!  I am hoping not to add anymore to this survival "bucket list".

Monday, April 15, 2019

Another Unexpected Haircut

I haven't blogged for awhile, even though wonderful things have been happening, mainly because the huge thing overshadowing all other things is getting our house ready to go on the market in VA.  That is definitely the subject of another post, but suffice to say, it is not convenient to try to fix up a house from 8 hours away.  Some portion of us have been making the drive back almost every weekend since the beginning of March.

Bob and I decided kind of last minute to drive back Friday afternoon.  Although we would only have Saturday and some of Sunday to work, we are really so close to being done, and this past weekend was one where I could go back as well.  Bob went in to work at 5:30 and worked until 12;30, and then we left.

Before we left, I gave Micah and Drew haircuts because they had been looking a bit shaggy.  That was on my agenda for Friday evening, but with me not going to be there, I fit it into the morning.  Verity kept saying she wanted a haircut, but I told her no.  Her hair grows *extremely* slowly, like all our girls.  Other than trimming off scraggly ends, her hair has never been cut these 4 1/2 years of her life, and it still is only about chin length.

Everyone can see where this is going, right?  Saturday night, after a long, hard day of working on the house, both Anna and Caleb texted me to say Verity had taken matters into her own hands and given herself a haircut.  Bangs!  She gave herself bangs.  I was NOT pleased.  Again, these bangs will take years to grow out. Christine said it was a good thing we weren't coming back until Sunday night, to give me time to cool off, lol.

 Here is what Verity looked like.  She actually didn't do a terrible job with the bangs, except on the right side of her head.
 That must have been her first cut, and she went very close to the head!

We have had some experience with child-given haircuts.  Back in February, 2011, when I was heavily pregnant with Micah, Grace gave herself a hair cut.  She was almost 4. Hers was worse--she took a huge chunk off the back of her head, in a big vertical line. Anna reminded me that we always have said that Verity takes after Grace! For Grace, I decided to work on it myself, but with Verity, I took the coward's way out and took her to Great Clips.

 The older lady who cut her hair was very nice.  She kept telling Verity, "Only we can cut your hair--not you!"  Hopefully Verity will listen.
Verity looks cute now, so it could have been worse.  Whew.

The weekend's surprises weren't even over with the haircut!  Bob and I got back home Sunday night at 12:45 AM.  We fell into bed--and were awakened suddenly at 3:00 by a disoriented Micah, who stumbled into and around our room for a minute before vomiting all over the carpet.  Ack!  So today's adventures for me also included trying to get a big vomit stain out of pretty new, good quality carpet.  Sadly, it will never be the same again, I think.  One house is getting beautified, the other house is getting ruined.  Circle of life . . .

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Making Room in a Small House

When we bought this house, we knew we could fit the 10 of us who would be here full-time into rooms.  There are 3 bedrooms on the upstairs part--the master, which is pretty small for a master bedroom, a bedroom that's almost as big that the 3 girls are in, and a pretty small one for Micah, Drew, and Verity.  There's one small room in the basement that Caleb and Jonathan are in with no extra room.  

That just left Nathan and Luke.  They're not going to be here all the time, but they are here sometime, and we wanted them to have a place to stay that wasn't just out in the open, like on the futon in our lego/TV/treadmill room downstairs.  There was one last space--a tiny narrow sort of mudroom area where the basement door outside was, as well as the door into the utility room.  We measured, and it looked like we could (barely) fit a set of skinny bunkbeds in.  Fortunately my parents had an old metal set in their basement, and they were even more perfect because the ladder was on the end.  As I'm sure you can see, there would not have been room for a ladder on the side!  
I'm standing in the doorway to the basement hallway, and the wall to my right goes several feet until in turns in a few inches, and there is the door to the utility room.  The only outlet in the entire room is halfway up that wall, guaranteeing that anyone trying to slide by the bed will knock out anything plugged in there!  We put an extension cord there so at least the boys could charge their phones by their beds on that tiny bookcase.
We also realized we could (barely) fit in a dresser at the end of the bed.  We went out to the garage, where we had 3 extra dressers, and we uncovered and dragged out the smallest of the 3 (no small feat in and of itself!).  At least it gave them a place to put some of their stuff over Christmas break.  We hung an over-the-door closet bar on the door to the utility room (facing into the utility room) for their hanging clothes.  Fortunately there weren't many of them!  We also put an over-the-door towel hanger on the back of the door too the hallway for a towel.  

So the room worked, although it was pretty cheerless and crowded.  At least it has a door so the little kids didn't wake them up in the mornings!  I call it "the cell" because it looks vaguely prison-like, or at least what a monk might have in a monastery.  I'm sure the people from whom we bought the house had no idea that space could or would ever be used as any sort of a bedroom!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Today when I woke up, I could hear the wind whistling around outside, and I *really* did not want to get up and let Luna out.  She doesn't like physically going outside by herself, because she is a giant fluffy baby, so to get her to go potty, someone has to accompany her outside. and first thing in the morning, that's me.  Today was (hopefully) the coldest day of the year for us.  It was -7 not counting the wind chill.  Silly me, I thought having rambunctious kids stuck inside a small house all day would be the worst thing I had to deal with today!

After I dealt with Luna, I got something out of the fridge and remembered how the kids had been telling me that the milk never seemed all that cold.  We had kept turning down the temperature, but as I stood there with the fridge open, nothing really seemed all that cold--definitely not 33 degrees, which is what it was set on!  So I got out my oven thermometer, and lo and behold, the fridge was actually reading 52 degrees.  Ha!  No wonder left-overs have been spoiling more rapidly than I was expecting!  It is a testimony to how fast we go through a gallon of milk (one a day) that it never spoiled, lol.  Fortunately we have a spare fridge in our laundry room, and with how cold the weather is, our garage can serve as a walk-in fridge right now too.  But still--that was unsettling.  It seemed like a newer fridge, not that that means anything anymore.

After making muffins, playing with Luna outside some (brrrr, but no walk at least), helping people with math, etc., I headed up to take a shower about 10:30. I was shocked to discover no water at all.  The pipe had frozen?!?  Our shower in the master bathroom doesn't have the faucet on the outside wall, so I had not even given it a thought when deciding what faucets to leave dripping the night before.  I was much more concerned about our kitchen sink, and the sink in our laundry room bathroom.  Plus the bathroom stays really toasty warm at night when I close the door into it.  It's a small room with a heat vent.  Of course, these sorts of things happen when Bob is TDY, and in fact, he is in DC for the week, so we had to have many quick phone consults instead of him being able to come home and deal with the issue.

So I got out my hair dryer and started blowing hot air at where I thought the pipes would be.  When I needed to give the dryer a rest, I went down to the basement to check out the little room under our bathroom.  It's the room Nathan and Luke sleep in when they are home, and we call it "the cell" because it's really small and narrow.  There was a panel on the ceiling in that room already, conveniently located under our shower.  Hmmm.  We had assumed they had a leak or something, but perhaps the previous owners also had to deal with frozen shower pipes??  Anyway, I left the panel opened, dug up a space heater from the garage, and put it in there to try to really heat up that space.  Obviously not much school was happening from my perspective, but Grace and Anna did help the 3 little kids do their math and phonics, and the 3 girls did most of their stuff, so I guess the day was not a total loss.

My parents stopped by, and my dad pulled a ton of insulation from the hole in the ceiling.  It was really cold behind the insulation--but that's where the pipe disappeared to.  I had realized that the top level actually overhangs the bottom by about a foot or 18 inches, so that was where all our pipe issues were.  We used the hair dryer in that space some more (I fried my hair dryer at this point, and so that was the end of that.  It was about 10 years old, so it had a good run.)  I heated up a "rice bag" and wrapped it around the shower head, since that was the only place I could see to wrap it.  I kept running upstairs every 15 minutes or so to reheat the bag.

Finally in the middle of the afternoon, I ran upstairs and yay!  I heard the sound of running water!  My joy was quickly overcome with horror, as I saw that the shower seemed to be completely clogged, and water had filled the bottom of the shower and was pouring over the sides, flooding the room.  Ack!!  I turned off the water, yelled for kids to bring me towels, and started mopping up everything.  We have a tiny shower, so it did not take long for it to fill up and overflow everywhere.  What a mess!

I immediately thought that the shower must have been clogged with hair, although really that made no sense at all.  I had taken a shower just yesterday, with no water rising up on my feet, so it would have been quite unlikely that in the space of one day, the shower completely clogged with hair!  But I wasn't thinking too clearly at that point, and Jonathan and I started poking around in the drain with a knife and a coat hanger.  Unfortunately, nothing happened except we stirred up whatever gunk and hair was down there, but the water did not drain.  Not one tiny bit.  Clearly our drain pipe was also frozen.  Is that even a thing?!?  I had never even heard of that!  I hoped that the water would gradually thaw the blockage or something, but after a few hours (with me pouring out cupful after cupful of water into the sink, trying to make the water level go down), still nothing was draining.  And I was still accomplishing nothing, schoolwise, even though I was supposed to be doing AP biology with Caleb and Jonathan.  Sigh.

So my dad stopped by again, this time bringing his shop vac to suck out all that nasty water.  Then I heated pots of water on the stove, and he poured hot water down, a cup at a time, while trying to snake the drain.  At first he could only go a few inches, but eventually he could go 1 1/2 feet.  It took a few hours, but thankfully, he was able to get it draining again.  Hallelujah!

We also looked in on the basement bedroom.  The beds were wet, as was the carpet in some places, but we really couldn't get a good feel for where, exactly, the water was coming from.  There was a water line on the ceiling, but it looked more like where water had flooded the bathroom floor upstairs than anything else.  I moved the space heater to the floor so hopefully it would dry.

After dinner I ran to Walmart to buy another hair dryer, and then I finally took a shower.  After I dried my hair, I ran back down to the basement to check on the heater. I'm so glad I did, because we were not much time away from an electrical fire!  I had used an extension cord because the one plug is in a very inconvenient place, and that was clearly not the right thing to do.  The cord was soo hot to the touch, and it smelled terrible in there!  Ack!  I ran the cord outside to cool, and left the heater off.  Good grief!

While my dad was over the second time, Verity picked out a book for me to read to her.  It was a book by Richard Scarry called Mr Frumble's Coffee Shop Disaster, where Mr. Frumble pretty much broke everything he touched, and it was a huge mess.  I have never related more to that book, and I have never been more glad to have a day end!  I am praying tomorrow is a better day.  A less exciting one, for sure.

"Because of the Lord's great mercies, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  Lam. 3: 22-23

Monday, January 21, 2019

End of a Very Long, Very Good Break

Well, our Christmas break is officially over now--everyone has gone back to school, even the college kids! 

We left to drive to VA Dec. 27, and we were there for about a week.  A whirlwind week of social activities!  I went out to lunch Friday with my friend Lynnea, and then out to breakfast Saturday with my friend Rabia.
 Saturday night was an open house at the MC's, welcoming Isaac home and celebrating his birthday.  I got to catch up with a ton of friends I might not otherwise have been able to see, and it was so much fun.  I was hoarse the next day from all the talking!
 Isaac's party was the first time that Nathan's girlfriend Elena and Luke's girlfriend Elissa had been able to meet each other, as well as a lot of Nathan and Luke's friends. So fun!
 The younger friends had play dates too, like this one Monday morning.  Luna had a play date here too, wrestling around with Denver the whole time.
 Monday night was New Year's Eve, and we went over to the L's house for our usual New Year's Eve party!  We brought Telestrations and Code Names, both of which were well-received.  The Telestrations game was hilarious, as always.
 We counted down at 9:00, like we usually do.  Verity was not scared at all this year, and she participated fully in the noise, lol.
 It was so fun to have all these guys together again. 
 New Year's Day we headed down to Richmond, where we spent the afternoon with Nathan's girlfriend's family at their beautiful house in the woods!  We helped them eat leftovers from their own VT bowl game watching New Year's Eve party the previous day, and we really enjoying getting to know them.  Here Micah is showing off his newly-learned cornhole style.  Luna was also invited for this get-together, and she had an absolute ball running around the whole time with their dogs Ivy and Clementine.  This tired her out so she slept like a champ when we drove back to OH the next day!
 On our drive back to Ohio, we were able to stop by in PA to see Bob's dad for a little while.

Back at home, we did start school (in a somewhat desultory manner) again.  The whole reason we had to rush back on Jan. 2 was because Jonathan's beloved electronics class started again Jan. 3, but the rest of us started the next week.  We left Luke in VA to drive back to AL from there, but Nathan was still with us in Ohio, so it was hard to feel like we were entirely back to our normal routine.  For this break, Nathan worked as a Lyft driver.  He made a nice bit of money, and he was able to just work when he wanted to, which was great.

The weekend of Jan. 11-13, Bob and Nathan headed back to VA to work on the house.  I decided it would be fun to have Amanda and Elissa come out Saturday for dinner, since we would be so lonely here.  I started hearing rumors of snow, so I told them to bring stuff to spend the night.  They drove out Saturday afternoon in a bit of a lull in the already-falling snow, and we had a real snow slumber party!  Hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, sleeping late on Sunday--so fun!  We ended up getting about 9 inches, so it was a good storm!
 The kids had a ball playing in the snow.  Luna loved it too--as long as there were people out there with her!
 We had to do a lot of shoveling so that Amanda and Elissa could get their car out to go back to Cedarville Sunday afternoon.  Also, I had foolishly not even thought about the big van, and so it just stayed out on the street where we normally park it.  This meant the snow plow plowed around it, so it was really buried, and also we had to dig out our mailbox.  Grrr.  I won't make that mistake again!  We had the same experience several times in VA, so I can't believe I didn't think about it here!  I think I really didn't take the forecast very seriously, lol. 
 Jonathan racing around with Luna. 
 The kids built snow forts in the back yard with neighbor kids on both sides of us.
 Amanda and Elissa preparing to venture out back to Cedarville.  They made it back safely, praise the Lord!
 I even found our snowshoes in a box in the garage!  I bought these after the great snowstorm of January, 2016, but then we never got another huge snow like that to use them in.  Well . . . they were okay, but I don't know that they really helped me stay above the surface much, lol.  I still felt like I was wading through snow, except now I had these giant things on my feet as well!  But it was fun.
 Luna, snow-loving Newfie.
 While we were frolicking in the snow, Bob and Nathan were busily getting things done on the house, and on their way home, they stopped in PA to visit Bob's dad again in the new place where he is living!  Bob's sister Ann and her husband Wally were also visiting.
 Last Wednesday night we had one last big dinner, inviting Grandma and Grandpa, and Aunt Claire and Uncle Jim over to say goodbye to Nathan.  He left Friday morning to drive back to college.

But wait!  Things still weren't back to normal!  Luke doesn't have classes on Friday, and with Monday being a holiday, he also left Friday morning to drive up here for the long weekend!  He went to Cedarville and picked up Elissa Friday night, since word was another winter storm was on the way.
 We baked a ton of ginger snaps, at Luke's request.  We had also gone to the library Friday afternoon to pick up a bunch of movies, so we were set!  Lots of games of Mastermind were played, as well as some other games.
Drew and Verity have really been into our "I Spy" books, and they spent a lot of time with Luke and Elissa, pouring over the pages.  Those books are actually pretty darn tricky.  Good thing both Luke and Elissa have sharp eyes. 

Church was cancelled this week, so we missed a second week in a row.  It was very relaxing to sleep in, and I made a breakfast casserole (for "brunch", lol).  Sunday evening, we headed over to my parents' house for dinner.  I had made spaghetti sauce in the crockpot, so I brought that, plus bread and salad, and we cooked the noodles over there.  Even though we were disappointed by the outcomes of both games, it was a lot of fun, and we also made tons of progress on a puzzle, which is really fun and relaxing for me.  Such a nice weekend!

Luke took Elissa back to Cedarville last night, and he left this morning.  So now we really are ready to get back to our usual routine, even though no one wants to.  Sigh.  What a tremendous break!  Now--to hang on until summer . . .