Sunday, August 13, 2017

Fixer-Upper Progress

It's been long in coming but the house is coming together! We still have quite a bit of work to do, but here's some progress pictures:

New walls between dining, school room, and laundry rooms framed.

Old brick work and bench removed.
Wood-burning stove's jut-out removed.
Danner helping Tom remove baseboard in school room.
Removing old french door and side window.

New tile and new sliding glass door.
This is how we clean new tile floors.

Old fireplace being fitted for new wood-burning insert.
Wood-burning insert.
Tom installed a new toilet in the guest bath - the old one found a new home after being thunk upon.
One of two windows in the school room removed and framed in to allow for more wall space.

Computer desk being installed.

Well that's about it for now. Tom's wrapping up the school room for me so I can get ready to start school in another couple of weeks. Next is new windows, furnace and more painting.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Life is full of the unexpected. Some good. Some not so good. It's the not-so-good that really test us.

The bumps in the road. The plans that go awry. The dreams dashed. The personal cost seems more than bearable.

Bumps leave us feeling anxious. Fearful. Angry. Bitter.

Sometimes bumps are minor intrusions to our day. Sometimes they are major. All require us to refocus on what truly matters. Where our hope and trust truly are.

We've had a lot of bumps these past months. Most of them have been very minor in the scheme of things. It was just the number of coinciding bumps that has really tested my character. Truly tested where, with whom, I've put my faith.

When we first moved into our fixer-upper, things were going as expected. As I previously posted, moving is not easy, but we were here and things were going along just fine.

But then the bumps started. I'm not sure which came first, Tom's new job or the problem(s) with the dogs. We'll start with Tom's job.

At some point towards the end of the year, Tom switched from working at a nursing home to doing home health. Because he had worked years before doing home health, he thought the transition would be a piece of cake. He was excited about having more time at home for family and house work, freedom with his schedule, and even slightly better pay. Turns out, the adjustment period was a nightmare. He was so stressed. He was coming home later, sitting in our bedroom with the door shut (to keep out the noise of the kids) trying to schedule his next day, and then working until 10pm or later catching up on all his notes. Yuck!

While this was going on, Roman and Lucy, our sweet puppies that we were privileged to witness being born, figured out how to escape their pen. Their pen that Tom spent many hours installing when he was needed elsewhere. Not only did they figure out how to jump the fence, they discovered our neighbors had chickens. Roman and Lucy love chickens! They ate two of them costing us $50. Expensive chicken that we didn't even get to enjoy.

Once they figured out that not only could they jump the fence, go eat chicken, they decided to go visit other dogs in the neighborhood. One neighbor threaten to call the pound the next time he saw them loose. Ugh! They were escaping multiple times a week. During the school day. When I was trying to do school, not scour the neighborhood for our pooches.

Each time they got out, Tom would spend more money to reinforce the fence. Each time they figured out a way to bust through.

When they were inside the house, they would look for any open-door opportunity. Kids, of course, are not the best at always shutting the door behind them, and shutting it quickly. Kids were also easy to push over when the pooches were hungry for chicken.

So, we had to make a very hard, very sad decision. We had to find new homes for our Roman and Lucy. The kids were so heart-broken. We second-guessed our decision for weeks.

Then we had some bumps with our two rental properties. In the Peaks house, the master bedroom window was leaking and needed to not only be repaired, but replaced, along with some drywall. The water-heater in the townhouse decided to leak, and then the tenants in the townhouse were having marital issues revealing a flaw in our lease agreement.

Being in the middle of winter, the snow fell. Not only did it fall, it fell in record amounts. We do not have 4-wheel drive vehicles. We have a very long driveway. Thankfully we have four hard-working kids who were able to do quite a bit of shoveling, but I got stuck twice. Requiring, you guessed it, Tom to come help dig and push me out, just when he was needed and had planned on getting some work done on the house.

All these bumps compounded the feeling that we had make the worst mistake in our lives when we bought this house. Why had we bought this smaller house with its gross walls, smoker-smell, leaky windows, drafty doors, etc. We felt way in over our heads. Things with the house were not getting done in the 6-8 week time-frame we had originally dreamed of. Things with the house came to a stand-still as we just tried to manage the daily requirements of life.

We've finally turned the corner and there seems to be a straighter, smoother road up ahead. All of those bumps have done their job of revealing character flaws. Rough edges that needed and still need to be sharpened. Where there had been anxiety and fear, God revealed that my trust was not solely on Him. Where there had been anger, God revealed that I was trying to serve my sinful, selfish self. Where there had been bitterness, God revealed my need to accept His forgiveness and extend grace to others.

I pray that the bumps, at least the big ones, are fewer and farther between. But, I'm grateful for the work that they've started in my life.

There has been a lot of work done of the house in the recent month. It's super fun to see!! I'll try to post about that soon.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Years and years ago (seems like eons ago) when Tom and I first got married, we lived in a little two bedroom duplex. It was sweet. We used to wash dishes together. One would be the washer; the other would be the quality control/rinser/dryer.

One day after doing the dishes, we were looking for a little clear plastic cup that went in the lid of our blender. We both remembered that it had just been washed and we were scouring around everywhere on the drying rack and on the floor looking for it. I remembered exactly where I saw it last. I remember I placed my hand exactly on the spot where I knew it had been.

After giving up hopes of finding it and turning around to make whatever we were making at the time, I turned around and there it was! It was right where I had placed my hand not even ten minutes before. I laughed and told Tom, thinking that he had just put it back, that he had played a good joke on me. wasn't a joke. He didn't put it back. It just reappeared. True story!

The only plausible explanation that we could come up with was that we had just witnessed an angelic joke. We called him, the KA - Kitchen Angel. Every since then, the KA comes around once every couple years or so.

Which bring me to the missing piano bags. I had looked in boxes several times. I had moved items. I had searched. Everywhere. No bags. The boys went to two lessons without their piano books. I was at a loss as to where they could be.

Well. They've been found. You want to know where? Right out in the open! Right on top of one the kids' school desks. A school desk that I know I had moved. I could not have missed them! KA strikes again!

The camera has been found too. It was just in a small box on top of one of the laundry shelves that I hadn't looked in. No miracle there. The other missing item must have also been found, since I still can't remember what it is.

So. There you have it. Keep an eye out for KA's in your home. Not all things missing or misplaced can be blamed on an absent mind. It just might be there's an angel lurking around who has a sense of humor.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Displaced Persons

Like I said, moving is hard. Moving into an unfinished space is even harder. I liken it to camping. Long term. Last week felt a lot like camping. At least how I view camping - I'm not that fond of it.

You have everything you need. Somewhere. You open up box after box looking for the one thing you need (or bin if you're truly camping. Cutlip camping anyway). You see lots of interesting items but not the one item in question. Finally after a long frustrating search, you find it. Hurray! Two hours later you are in search again for an item. You know you saw it in your first search, but you can't remember in which box so the process of searching is repeated. Several times. Every couple of hours. We have not located the camera, the boys' piano bags, and...something else that I can't even think of at the moment. They're probably together in a box mark lawn ornaments that won't be opened until spring at best.

Thankfully, unlike camping, we had a working refrigerator to keep the food cold and not soaked with melting ice cubes. Like camping though, for the first couple of days we had no running water in the kitchen, no dishwasher, no stove and no microwave. All to say, we ate on paper plates and got subway a couple of times. Tom and my dad quickly got to work getting the kitchen in proper working order so that we could have some semblance of preparing meals.

Within the first couple of days we got the kids' bedrooms all set up and unpacked. Within the next couple of days, I finally got the master unpacked. The bedrooms are the only finished spaces in the house, so we could actually get everything set up. It has been so nice to get those spaces looking and feeling livable.

The kitchen is the next almost finished space. This past weekend and then again on Monday, our cabinet guy, Dave (friend from church, in case I didn't mention that already), was working on installing the last of the shelves, pulls, and little extras. There's still some more work that needs to be done, but some items are on back order and it's Thanksgiving week - time to rest and relax with friends and family (for others, not necessarily for us). But the kitchen is looking fantastic and I pretty much have everything unpacked. I even found my favorite spatula - it was MIA until today.

The rest of the house is a different story. We're living on bare concrete slab for awhile. We have a couple of walls to build and part of a brick fireplace hearth that needs to come out before we can have tile laid. At least I am on a mopping reprieve!

Another big thing to be thankful for is brand new washer and dryer  - a gift. Thanks, Dad! The kids, especially Jon, our button-pusher, loves them! He's actually taken over doing the laundry. Livvy helps with the sorting of the clean clothes. They will be stacked as soon as Tom has some time, that'll give us more space in the laundry room now and when the room is enclosed.
Jon watched it for a full cycle the first one or two loads.

She's just goofy!

Tom still has some electrical work to do as well. We currently have wires hanging from the ceiling in several places - outlets, switches, and thermostat need to be relocated.  We also still have some demo to do. Everything takes time.

Last week most of Tom's time was spent at the Peaks house finishing up things that needed to be fixed, and/or replaced before the renters moved in. I joined him for two very late nights, painting, cleaning out the garage, and mopping the floor one last time. I was planning on cleaning the house all last week during the day, but Jeanita and her teenage kids (friends from church and fellow homeschool mom) blessed me by thoroughly cleaning every room in the entire house - they wiped down walls, mini-blinds, toilets, etc. They vacuumed the floor so that it left a cool pattern and even folded the end of the toilet paper into a triangle!! Wow!! So blessed!!

Ever since Saturday, Tom's been working on a place for the dogs. We were originally thinking we would just get an invisible fence. It turns out, though, that we live in an elk thorough fare and we don't think the dogs would mind a little jolt if they could go sink their teeth into an elk or two. We don't have time in the present to fence the entire yard, so Tom is building them a little dog run in the back corner. Hopefully it will keep them contained until we can build a proper fence. I'm half thinking these dogs are a little more trouble than they are worth, but I can't convince the kids or Tom of that.

Saturday was also the day that the renters moved into the Peaks house. It's good that we don't have to keep going over there while living here. Emotionally it was getting taxing. I miss that house. Everywhere I looked there were memories. Every mark on the wall, stain on the floor. A memory. It was home for eight years. When we first bought that place and fixed it up, we knew we'd have to leave it in order to get our sweat equity out of it. I just never thought it would be this hard.

It doesn't help that this house is not finished. That it's significantly smaller. That it doesn't back forest. It's a stepping stone house. It's a place to build a temporary house for Tom's mom and dad. It doesn't feel like home. I'm not sure it ever truly will. One of the kids asked tonight if anybody would cry when we left this house. Most thought not. Except from missing a tree or two that they've claimed as theirs. God may have a different plan than we do. We certainly want to be open to that. But we're hoping and praying that God has something else planned for us as far as living arrangements in the next 18 months or so.

So for the time being, I/we feel like one(s) without a home. I have nice house to live in. To fix up. To do life in for awhile. To make work. But it's not home. Not yet. Maybe it will someday. We'll see.

Until the next project is done, Happy Thanksgiving to all! I hope you all enjoy your day with friends, family, and turkey. Tom's working and we are just not set up for a big feast yet, so we'll be eating out. Maybe Chinese. Maybe Freddy's. It's all about making memories. "Remember the year we ate out for Thanksgiving..."

Friday, November 18, 2016

Moving Day

Moving day has come and gone, but I did want to share some thoughts and memories that I have of the big day. It was quite the day. A roller coaster of emotions: excitement, anticipation, fear, annoyance, frustration, disappointment, laughter, joy, etc. Moving is never easy on anybody. There are so many logistics, and opinions on the logistics, that make it tough. But we're so grateful for all those who came and gave of their muscle, time, and heart!

The day started off with donuts. What moving day doesn't include donuts?

It was a busy Saturday for lots of people, and so we only had a couple of friends show up to help, and most of those were kids. But those who did show up, really worked hard and blessed our socks off! Our friend, Cody, came for an hour or two in the morning. The Ketters came early and left sometime after lunch. Some Finneys came mid-morning. The other Finneys came at lunch time and stayed til well after dinner.

Our neighbor and good friend, Theresa, watched the two littlest for the day - it would have been extra tough with those two under foot.

My parents were at the new house getting things ready and cleaned - another wonderful blessing!

We are still surrounded by boxes, but at least all of our stuff is here. Now it's time for the real work to be done!

Friday, November 11, 2016

T-minus One

Well, it's begun. No stopping it now.

Our friend, Danny, pulled the trigger for us by coming over this evening instead of tomorrow morning to help move some of the big stuff. Gone are the couches, coffee table, end table, and piano. They've all been moved to the garage of the new house - the garage and not the living room because things aren't quite ready for us over there yet. Yet. Sometime tomorrow as we move, the living room will be cleared of tools and pieces and parts of the kitchen. Hopefully:)

The garage is full of boxes and bins.

The kids are "sleeping out" in the game room one last time (actually just the boys, Livvy wanted to sleep in her own room).

The evening didn't go exactly as I had hoped (like anything ever does). I was thinking one last night of all of us squished onto the game room couch to say prayers and hug and kiss everybody good night. You know. So we could remember the last time we sat there all together in this house praying before bed (the new house doesn't have a game room; the prayer couch will be in the garage). But when bedtime rolled around the couch had been moved and Tom wasn't home. I'm a little sad that we didn't have that last, but it's okay. We had years of sitting there and praying. Good memories.

Instead, the kids and I sat on the floor in the empty game room. We prayed, talked, cried...I sang their song and talked some more. Good memory.

Tomorrow's the big day. Here's hoping for lots of muscle and strong backs.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

T-minus 3 Days

So it's down to 3 days until the big move. Things are getting done slowly but surely.

Yesterday started out like this:

 The wall dividing the dining room into the school room is all down. A new wall will be built three feet over eventually.

The walls separating the laundry from the pantry and the school room were knocked out by our good friend, Brian.

I painted closets and the exposed parts of the kitchen wall.

The kids played all day outside! Key to playing all day outside? Not having any toys, books, electronic gadgets whatsoever! They made leaf beds, just like the one Abraham Lincoln used to sleep on.

Then, the highlight of the day! The kitchen cabinets arrived. These guys helped unload.

Today did not start out so productive. I did a lot of waiting and driving back and forth between the Peaks house and the Lene house. The carpet guy was supposed to come between 8 and 10. I waited while the kids hung out at home doing chores, doing some independent school, building a gingerbread cookie white house and watching an election DVD put out by Learn Our History.

I was supposed to be back to the Peaks house by 10 to meet the chimney sweep. But, because I was waiting for the carpet guy who didn't end up showing up until 2pm, my very sweet neighbor Theresa came over to the house to be with the kids while the chimney sweep was doing his thing. Just as I had gotten word from the carpet guy that he would be late and was in the car going back home, Theresa said the chimney sweep was done there and was ready to come to the Lene house to clean it out. So I stayed and waited some more.

Once the chimney was cleaned, I headed home to collect the children from Theresa. Of course I stayed and chatted with her a little bit. Just as I was heading out the door to go home with the baby to feed the baby, I got the call that the carpet guy was on his way. Gave Zac back to Theresa and drove back to the Lene house to let the carpet guy in. Like I said, lots of waiting and driving.

The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful - kids played, Zac took a nap, I packed some boxes, and made dinner.

Around 7pm, after the kids and I had eaten dinner, I took dinner out to Tom and this is what I saw:

Wow! It's such a rich looking kitchen!

The carpet guy is not quite done yet, but it's looking good so far.

Tomorrow there's nothing major on the to-do list, thankfully. I have a friend coming over in the morning to help pack, and my mom and dad are bringing the littles back. It will be nice to have a nice quite day at home - ha!