We All Have Our Gifts

One of the things I love about my big old farm house is the large attic.

Since we don’t have many closets, we use the attic for storage of off-season clothes, Christmas decorations, toys, sleeping bags and other very important things that the children cannot yet part with.

To access this space we have a pull down ladder.

I do not like this ladder. I do not like any ladders. I do not like heights.

But I had come to peace with it’s existence and could actually use it without a complete  panic.

But then it broke.

Just like that.

At least it broke in the up position.

Jan removed it – leaving a hole in the ceiling in the hallway – and brought in a step ladder to provide access to the more nimble among us. Since using the step ladder involved climbing to the top and using your upper body strength to hoist yourself through the hole in the ceiling into the attic – it is valid to conclude that I have not seen the contents of the attic for some time.

Well – except for the one time that Jan brought in a real ladder and held it for me while patiently coaching up me up and then back down. All that just so that I could find the two missing blue flannel pillowcases.

He’s wonderful like that.

Otherwise I managed by bribing one of the children to go up the step ladder and then shouted directions from below.

“The blue pillow cases are there somewhere – keep looking!”

But that all ended last night.

The needed parts had arrived, the pull down ladder was fixed, and it was ready to be installed.

The installation itself proved to be a problem – since both of our big boys have left home to seek their fame and fortune in the big wide world.

And Dagmar was on call at the hospital.

Jan was left with Angel Girl, Buddy and I to assist him – and one of us was deathly afraid of heights.

And claustrophobic.

But my amazing husband figured out an simple solution involving a step ladder, four braces,  2 cordless drills, Buddy, Angel Girl and himself.

Did you notice that I was left out of this installation?

I decided my job would be to call 911 in case of emergency (which would prove interesting since Dagmar would be the one to come rescue us) and got my cell phone to be prepared.

And because the phone was in my hands – I started texting Dagmar a play by play of the action so she wouldn’t be surprised when the 911 call came through.

“So Dad, Buddy and Angel Girl are attempting to put in the attic stairs. Hopefully we won’t need to visit you.” 

Jan and Angel Girl climbed into the attic on the step ladder and pulled up the repaired pull down ladder.

Then they carefully lowered the pull down ladder until it rested on the braces and used the first cordless drill to attach the ladder.

Buddy’s job was to climb the step ladder on the other side, use the second cordless drill to carefully remove the four braces, and pull down the ladder to let Jan and Angel Girl out.

Great plan right?

All went well till Buddy climbed up the ladder to unscrew the braces. As he struggled to balance himself on the step ladder while holding a heavy cordless drill over his head I heard Jan say, “Be careful you don’t strip the screws or we’ll be stuck up here.”


Stuck in the attic?

I send Dagmar a text:

“Your dad and sister are currently stuck in the attic but don’t worry buddy and I have everything under control.”

 Finally a job that I can handle – create drama.

We all have our gifts. 😉


Keeping Up With the Parents

Hey! I’m back! Did you miss me?! So what was I doing all last week that kept me from blogging?

Would you believe I was trying to keep up with my parents?

I’m not kidding.

Mom and Dad spent several days with us last week and I don’t think those two ever stop!

The big project of this trip was the stairwell.  When we replaced the plaster and lathe with drywall, it left an unsightly 1/2 inch gap between the existing stair trim and the wall.

stairwell before

The solution? Wainscoting.

I carefully stained and varnished every piece and Dad painstakingly fit them together just like a puzzle.

stair well afterI still need to stain and varnish the top rail – but it looks amazing!

When he finished the upstairs, he had enough to start the basement stairs.

Meanwhile Mom was on the sewing machine whipping up 2 skirts for me and teaching the girls how to make bow ties.

We still had time for a quick trip to town (which included a stop at the lumber yard!), several games of Bananagrams, revising my to-do list for Dagmar’s graduation party next month, and lots of party food sampling.


There’s nothing as wonderful as a finished project – especially when it involved spending time with those you love!

Thanks Mom and Dad!

No ‘Nard’s!

MenardsWe went to the big city on Saturday – and like every trip to the big city – we had to stop at my husband’s favorite store – Menard’s.

Now for those of you who have never experienced this Midwestern phenomenon – Menard’s is a regional home improvement store.

You could almost call it a red-neck Home Depot.

My husband loves it. My dad loves it. My father-in-law loves it. My brothers-in-law love it. My brother loves it.

Our kids – not so much.

When my niece was much younger she would recognize the store as they pulled in and scream from her car seat, “No ‘Nard’s Daddy! No Nard’s!” (She is now a normal well-adjusted college student with no lasting ill-effects from so much time spent in Menard’s during her developmental years – although she has an amazing knowledge of home improvement terms!)

My own children have spent so much in Menard’s that they have learned to make it fun. On this trip the girls systemically picked out a new dream kitchen – complete with cabinets, counter top and appliances. Meanwhile the boys were walking around the store planning their defense – MacGyver style – in case of Zombie attack – things like how they could use duck tape to modify nail guns.

Okay – maybe I should have limited their Mountain Dew intake at Arby’s during lunch!

At one point I heard them discuss how they could make a bomb using garden fertilizer for nitrogen, cellulose and battery acid.

Oh dear – I wonder what people thought!

But then you see all kinds of people at Menard’s – like the older couple wearing matching striped bib overalls or the dashing stranger with the black cape coat and long sideburns. He looked like he should have a dagger hidden in his belt and rescue the fair princess from the evil dragon.

Hmm…maybe I should have limited my caffeine intake at Arby’s! 😉

Personally I have come to appreciate Menard’s. Where else can you pick out a scented candle that will cost you 75 cents after rebate while listening to a video across the aisle telling you that you will save thousands of gallons of water over the lifetime of the toilet.

No – I’ve come to realize that Menard’s is much more than just scented candles, toilet seats, garden seeds, a new rake, water softener salt, electrical conduit, dry wall, PVC pipe and cabinet knobs.

I now see every trip to Menard’s as a promise that a project will soon be finished.

That’s why this wife says, “Yes, ‘Nard’s!”

The Energizer Bunnies

My parents are here for a few days – and I’m always amazed at the energy they bring when they come!

Take my dad – after hugs and kisses for all and a short tour of the garden and orchards, he changed into his work clothes and asked for some projects!

Um…yeah..I think I could find one or two of those! 🙂

We actually had several he could choice from!

He chose trim! (Oh how very happy that makes me!)

He started sorting through all the piles of old trim that we removed from the house when we gutted it and fitting them back in like a jigsaw puzzle.

They still need to be stripped and varnished – but after going without trim for almost 2 years, I was so excited to see it on that I just couldn’t bear to have him take it back down again!

I think we will leave them rough nailed in place for now. Then we can take them down a room at a time and refinish them before permanently attaching them.

God bless dad!

Then there’s my mom – she helped with lunch, washed dishes, played 4 games of Bananagrams, single-handledly figured out how much material I needed to recover the  cushions on my window seat and the futon mattress (God bless Mom!), went shopping with me, helped with supper (chili, oyster soup, fresh yeast rolls, and apple caramel crisp), and folded laundry.

The funny thing is – I don’t think we ever stopped talking the entire time! 🙂

And that was just the first day!

Yep – things are really hopping here!

Home Improvement Stores

We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel in regards to our massive home renovation. After 8 years and countless hours, we are actually planning the finishing touches.

Which lead us to spend an afternoon at several home improvement stores.

Since we live so far from anything, we don’t just “run” to the local Lowe’s to pick up what we need. We usually wait until we have a lengthy list before we drive the 2 hours.

It requires a great deal of thought and planning. It also means added stress.

We had quite a list as we pulled into Menard’s. The list was so big that I needed a clipboard to keep it all straight. (Which must have made me look official since I was mistaken for a store employee! Me? An expert about paints?! Now that’s funny!)

We started out strong with a game plan, but that was quickly tossed aside as we struggled in the lighting section, unable to find the first things on the list.

The afternoon deteriorated from there.

I almost hyper-ventilated in the paint aisle trying to figure out basement floor sealer and what to use on the stairs. Enamel or latex? Semi-gloss or satin? Silicone additive? Arghh!!!!

I almost cried at the dismal collection of vanities to purchase for the bathroom. Cheap particle board junk with hefty price tags.

My husband bravely set out to conquer the plumbing section to find the last few pipes and valves and whatchamacallits to finish up hooking everything up. He came out an hour later with his eyes glazed over.

Then there was the caulking. Fifty different color choices. Ten different kinds: windows, doors, sinks, and more. Who knew you had to caulk so many different things! Help!

We move on to Home Depot.

More dismal vanities. Longer and higher rows of plumbing gadgets. The caulking choices stretch to the ceiling. We look in vain for a salesperson to ask.

Frustration is mounting. Exhaustion sets in.

Then, finally, we scored two lights for the bathroom! Three hours into this adventure, I thankfully cross the first item of our massive list.

On to Wal-Mart where we pick up speed and quickly find everything on the list and mark them off with big bold marks.

Encouraged by our success we head back to Menard’s determined to overcome.

It was then that the miracle occurred.

Sales people actually found us.

They helped us.

They answered questions.

They were even friendly.

In a blaze of glory we finished the most important things on the list, deciding the rest could just wait.

After a mad dash through the store to find a bag of Sun Chips to munch on the way home, we headed for the car, exhausted but triumphant.

We had conquered.