Impromptu Bedroom Overhaul

In an attempt to avoid the parts of life that aren’t going as planned, we’re redoing our bedroom. (See, You’ll Need To Escape, circa just last week). This is less the product of a grand design and more because #2 Cherub fell down the stairs last week. The stairs are covered in a gross, slippery carpet (carpet shouldn’t be slippery, right?) and this was the third or forth fall we’ve had. So Steve pulled up the shaggy gray/brown slip & slide to uncover the original oak treads underneath.

That’s when we discovered that not every home renovation gives you a Nicole Curtis “look at these beautiful floors!” moment.

***

Some background:

When we moved in to this house four years ago, we did a fair amount of renovation: The kitchen featured peeling, bright green formica countertops, broken 16″x16″ tile that I think was supposed to evoke thoughts of Tuscany, and a charred plastic sink that at one point may have been set on fire. We got a remodeling quote for $25,000 that didn’t include cabinets, flooring, or appliances, after which Steve (in one of my favorite moments of our marriage) decided we’d demo it ourselves. He was like, “Want to save $25,000 tonight?” and out came the crowbar. It was SO. MUCH. FUN.

Six weeks later, when we were living out of a dorm fridge in our dining room and every single surface was covered in a thick haze of drywall dust, I was over it. Even I can only eat so many baloney sandwiches. And, redoing a kitchen is an angsty process. For a brief period of time that I’m not proud of, I was deeply convinced that the drawer pulls I chose were supposed to say something about who I am as a person. It was ridiculous.

We took a breather after the kitchen was done, but soon other things beckoned.

The entire main floor was this brownish yellow color a friend’s son described as “what it must look like inside a hamster,” so we painted.  We redid a back porch/sunroom space Steve is now afraid to furnish because the Cherubs are fast approaching the dating years. (He doesn’t want any of that boys & girls sitting next to each other going on. We may set up some nice stools.)

The house needed a new roof, and then a coat of paint. A squirrel chewed her way into an eve and had babies, and she needed help moving. Over time, we developed a philosophy of home repair that more or less says, “If it doesn’t involve a three story ladder, we’ll try to do parts of it ourselves.”

We never did anything to the upstairs space because we weren’t sure what to do. It’s a bit wonky, with slanted ceilings and storage eves. The slippery shag carpet continues throughout, and was clearly peed upon by several large dogs prior to our arrival. As gross as THAT is, we haven’t had the budget or the motivation to rip it up and figure out new flooring.  We cleaned the carpet as best we could and just left it.

When the Cherubs came, we moved our bedroom stuff up to there and just kind of dumped it. There were so many other things to do to get our house ready for the kids, who cared about our room? Everything looked nice enough so long as you didn’t really look (or fall down the stairs). It was fine.

Except not really.

If not for the bed, this long triangle of a room could easily be mistaken for a yard sale: there are tables & bureaus in three different finishes, a random fan in the corner, a $5 mirror from Target propped up against one wall, and a odd modern leather chair my Dad gave us that he warned us wasn’t very comfortable. There’s a treadmill covered in dust & clothes in front of my closet.  Oh, and we have a humidifier, which I’ve yet to see “incorporated into the look” when I flip through Traditional Home or Architectural Digest. I live in New England and the air is dry all winter, so if I don’t want to look like a lizard, this is a key item in my decor.

Last weekend after #2 fell, Steve ripped the slippery carpet off the stairs to reveal the original hardwood.

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Rather than being a “Look at how beautiful!” moment a la HGTV, this was instead the moment where Chip & Joanna Gaines would call their client to say, “We’ve got a problem. Please get out your checkbook.” The treads are splintered, chipped, dented, and DRY. Did I mention that they squeak??? Our next door neighbors can hear us going up and down the stairs. It’s quite the thing.

We looked into redoing them, which is totally an option so long as only one of the Cherubs wants to go to college. Since that seemed like more than we could decide in a rock/paper/scissors shootout, we decided to paint the stairs. I went after the crazy orange stained sides & risers with some Kilz:

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Steve is buying black paint for the treads tonight after work, along with some sort of kit that promises to deaden the squeak. Then we’ll put a runner down the middle and call it a day.

Because now we have bigger problems:

Ripping up that one strip of rug has stirred up in us a fervent need to get every single fiber of that disgusting dog pee shag OUT OF OUR HOUSE. I can’t believe I’ve been sleeping over it, my kids have been wrestling with THAT DOG on it, that life has been going on as if we’re not living in the midst of a Superfund site.  It’s like we’ve just now realized that our bedroom floor is the carnivorous island from Life of Pi.

(What a blessing that I’ve been too busy for the past four years to be down there doing sit ups!)

We’re ordering a click floor, pulling paint samples, and I’m asking Stitchfix to send me a bedazzled hazmat suit for when we pull up all that shag.

In all of this, I’m trying to remember: changing this room will not change me. No matter how many pictures of traditional bedrooms in serene, neutral colors I pin to my Pinterest board, paint and flooring cannot make me more serene. They just don’t have that power. After the redo is done, this room will still look more or less like this picture I just took this morning:

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There will still be piles of things waiting to be put away, and cords to charge devices, and books that always sort of spill out over the shelves. But now it will all be set against a different color scheme, and without the pee from someone else’s dogs. That’s enough for me.

***

A couple of weeks ago, I read The Magnolia Story, loved it. One scene in particular stood out to me. It’s where Joanna describes how early in their marriage, Chip would  buy run down houses without telling her…and expect her to move into them on short notice, then renovate & flip them. He would literally come home and tell he they were moving. Chip admits this wasn’t his best strategy (he even says that if they ever write a marriage book, Chapter 1 will be called, “She Cried…“)

I’m a little in awe of how Joanna handled this. Yes, she cried. But she shares how she thought through this – how she realized that if she ever wanted to be successful as a designer, this was the only way she could grow, by taking on these new projects. And that she needed to find a way to manage disappointment and the pain of letting go. She talked about how Chip doesn’t get attached to anything that doesn’t have a heartbeat. He holds it all loosely, which gives him a tremendous amount of freedom. She decided to build her capacity to do the same – to enjoy the process of design and decor and how it allows her to grow, and not get attached to the outcome.

I’m not sure exactly how this applies to my life, but it does.

My real challenges aren’t about what my house looks like. That’s just a hobby and a distraction (and a EPA level cleanup project, but whatever…)  But sometimes I try things in other areas that do matter to me – not necessarily because I want to, but because circumstances play out so that it’s what needs to be done. I love her attitude about all of these frustrated tears leading to growth in things that matter, and increased capacity to do important work and make a difference in the world.

I’m off to the paint store to made hard decisions about colors with names like Linen, Air, and Moonbeam.

I’ll post pictures of the carpet pull-up. That will give you something to look forward to :)

Adoption Shopping

Yesterday I was going through old Amazon orders and came across a whole section I recognized as my “The Cherubs are coming!” shopping frenzy – items we bought hoping they would make the kids feel loved and welcomed, help us get to know each other, and meet practical needs (like how we had one twin bed and two incoming kids). It reminded me of the intensity of those early, mind-bending days, and how many directions we were looking to for help. Here’s a list of some of the items that delivered. Some of them might come in handy in your non-adoption life (or what I like to think of as your PRE adoption life!), too.

 First, The Thumb Ball.  This humble little ball started our conversation the first time we met The Cherubs. We came to their foster home in the afternoon after school. Their social worker, Janna, was waiting with them and introduced us. We all sat on couches in the living room, looking at each other but trying not to be weird about it. We knew conversation would be awkward (where do you even START?) so I brought this little ball I found online. The concept is simple: you toss it to someone, and wherever their thumb lands when they catch it, that’s the question they answer. “What’s a food  you don’t like?”  Janna didn’t like cinnamon, which gave us something to marvel at together. “What’s a good vacation place?” gave the kids a chance to tell us they’d been to Disney. Perhaps the best part of this, though, was that it was so tactile. When the game was over, #1 Cherub held onto the ball, squeezing it, tossing it in the air. It gave him something to do with all the nervous energy. I think we could have all used one.

On a similar note, Table Topics.  These cards were on our dining room table for months, rescuing  us from dinnertime misery night after night. Here’s why: Dinnertime was AWFUL that first season together. The kids didn’t like our food, we didn’t like their attitudes (and we were stressed about their health) We fought Every. Single. Night. But we had mandatory Table Topics conversations to approximate some semblance of the “value of family dinners” we were grasping for in those ten minute meals that felt like they lasted three hours. And you know what? It worked!  Sometimes you need a question about whether or not you’d travel to Mars if given the chance to get the party started!

A Note for writers: I once spent an entire summer using a box of these for daily writing prompts. Highly recommend.

Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care.  This book FREAKED ME OUT. I was prepared to learn a new world of hair care for my mixed-race daughter, but the author’s personal approach to her child’s hair is a bit extreme. For example, the book suggests that if we went to the beach, afterwards I should use AN AIR COMPRESSOR on my child’s head to remove sand from between the braids. I was like, “The same one that runs the nail gun???”  I cannot tell you how stupid I felt, asking one of my black friends, “Um…do I need an air compressor?”  Thankfully, her answer was No. That said, if you’re looking for a guide for how to care for natural hair, this is great. It has so much helpful information that helped me understand different types of hair, products, etc. and it also has detailed how-tos for different braids and styles. I’ll leave decisions re: the use of power tools up to you.

Patriot Bear.  I think Pillow Pets are brilliant, and wish they were the norm for adult pillows, too. Kids of all ages like soft things. When a child moves in with you, he or she might come with a favorite snuggle toy. But I think it helps with the transition to add something new from you that has meaning and solidifies their life at your house. (If you live outside of New England and aren’t a Pats fan, they have these bears for all the teams.) I covet this bear every night at tuck in time – he’s very cozy.

Black Nativity.  I love this adaptation of the Langston Hughes play. It’s gritty and complicated, and yet shot through with scenes that show God’s presence even in the midst of seemingly hopeless situations. It’s by far my favorite Christmas movie. We first got it from the library, and I was ordering a copy to own before the credits were done at the end.

Black or White.  We watched this one early in our new family relationship and it was HARD. But it was also good. The scene with Kevin Costner’s court testimony where he breaks down what really happened? I tear up just thinking about it. This movie does such a good job of showing how complicated these cases are. Not just because of race, but because of people. This brought up a lot of stuff for all of us (Steve and I had been through something similar with Princess Peach) but I’m so glad we saw it. It’s tempting to try to keep everything happy and easy when you’re just getting to know each other. But the Cherub’s foster mom gave us good advice: Bring it up, she said. It’s gonna come up anyway. She was right.

On a lighter note…a friend recommended this South Shore bedroom set as a frugal solution to our two kids/one bed dilemma. We ordered the bed, headboard shelf & nightstand for #2 Cherub, the price was incredibly reasonable, and they’ve been fantastic. Note: leave some time for assembly pre-Cherub arrival.

And finally, three of my favorites, because they’re so personal:

Out of My Mind. I bought this book before we even met the kids, because #2 Cherub listed it as her favorite book in the adoption flyer her social worker prepared to help recruit for them. This book is so good. I couldn’t wait to meet #2 and talk about it. It gave me hope that she & I might bond through books & writing, and indeed, we have. Our love of books and stories is one of the best things we share, and I’m so grateful to her social worker for including this gem in that flyer.

Kyrie Irving Fathead Graphic. We knew that #1 loved basketball. But we were unprepared for his favorite player being from Cleveland :) Kyrie stands tall over #1’s bed, ready to make a move on the basket. (But yes, we also got him a Celtics Fathead to make it a real game. And we might have put the guy in the green shirt on the wall closest to the net…)

cys-sign  reenas-sign

I found these signs at Marshall’s and got one for each Cherub’s bedroom. I want them to see this every single night, and wake up to it every morning. It’s the truth. You can find something similar here, here, and here. As I look at them now, I kind of want one in every room.

 

 

Humbled by the Holiday

That vacation Kicked. My. Butt.

We had a wonderful Christmas – 4 days filled with family get togethers and presents and laughter. It was all way more than I could have imagined or hoped for as we dove into the challenge of creating New Family holiday traditions. I’m so grateful.

But the vacation part? Exhausting. Eleven days of unstructured time. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. Asking “So what’s your plan for today?” and realizing that there is no plan, that it was my job to create a plan, that I’m now in charge of casting vision for four people’s 12-15 waking hours (and then synchronizing them) instead of just my own, and that I’m not great at this and thus started out each day WAY behind. Managing the 1500 times fear crashed into hope. Trying to direct everyone’s attention – particularly mine – back towards God, back towards this possibility of Good News, back towards the idea that Christmas break is about more than the schools saving a bit on the heating bill.

By Tuesday, I would have paid the heat bill for the entire District for my kids to have somewhere to go and something structured to do.

I’m praying that I’ll develop capacity for this. Capacity to plan, to enjoy. Capacity to deal with ALL THE WORDS, ALL DAY LONG. Seriously, I was fielding questions about everything from why green beans aren’t protein to why THIS DOG occasionally makes inappropriate gestures towards the furniture when she’s stressed. (But why is she stressed? they asked, to which it took every ounce of self-control I had not to say, “Because you’re bouncing and shouting and laughing and there’s a giant lit-up TREE in the living room and people have been in and out of the house all week and she’s HALF HOUND and hasn’t had a nap in six days!”)  The ups and downs of Cherubic questions and emotions and hopes and concerns came in 2 minute intervals.

Lesson learned: you cannot just Take things as they come on vacation with two kids. Because ALL THE THINGS COME, and they squeeze out the few good plans you had.

Please pray for Steve & me to become better planners. We are SO VERY Take things as they come. And we’re pretty happy not doing a lot of the things other people find exciting. This is not good with Cherubs.

We didn’t see Star Wars. We didn’t go to the paint-your-own-plate place to make a birthday present for Steve. We didn’t play any of the board games I got. Somehow, it just wasn’t possible. We had a GREAT Christmas filled with love. But the random days were just beyond us. Most of the time I was so far back on defense trying to respond to the happy/sad/glad/mad pop-ups, there was almost no time to get on offense, to direct the course of our day toward tangible things.

For example, I had a series of blog posts planned. I figured it would be easy to get some writing done because Steve was home all week, too.  But by 10am each morning, I’d used up all my words. I spent the greater part of each day in a word deficit, pulling sentences like, “Macaroni not lunch,” and “Table dirty sneakers yuck” out of the deep recesses of my soul. Even what I’m writing here are the leftover words from the things I couldn’t/shouldn’t/thank-God-didn’t say all week long.

Is this normal? Does anyone else feel this way?

Thank God we have close family and friends who ARE good at making plans. They rescued us this week. But still: I have two brothers I NEVER EVEN CALLED to say Merry Christmas. (Merry Christmas Chris & Eric! I love you!) I failed to acknowledge my parents’ wedding anniversary (Mom & Dad, you are astonishing. Congratulations!) It was all just beyond me.

Next year I’ll know. I’ll plan differently. (I’ll plan at all). It won’t be the first, so we’ll all have a bit more of a handle on how we do this week-off/holiday anticipation/Yeah it’s nice that it’s Jesus’ birthday and all but what I’m really thinking about is presents, thing.

Next year we will go on a trip somewhere. Because while the prospect of driving fourteen hours to swim in a random hotel pool somewhere near Toledo, spending the night, eating at Waffle House, and then driving fourteen hours home, sounds terrible in early October, on December 28th it sounds like a plan with a structure and A WAY TO FILL THREE DAYS.

Which is whys now, as I sip my first uninterrupted cup of coffee in eleven days, I’m staring down the barrel of February vacation (WHY? WHY?) and thinking, “Toledo, here we come!”

(“What did you do for your winter vacation, Kids?” “We saw seven states from the highway! Twice!”)

I know this isn’t unique to adoption. Some parents are adept at creating fun and structure from thin air. I am not. But in adoption, there’s an added layer of not quite knowing what fun looks like for your new family. Things you’re sure will be hits aren’t, while things that seem small to you are what the kids talk about over and over again. You can’t possibly anticipate how much of each day will be spent in basic emotional maintenance.

So if at this time next year YOU are a new parent to a child you’re adopting? Let me say HOORAY FOR YOU THAT IS AWESOME AND I’M SO PROUD OF YOU YOU ROCK!!! And then, “Cancel all your expectations for productivity during your first at-home vacation. Make a plan for every day and stick to it. And assume you’ll devote all your time and energy to helping your children navigate each two minute increment of time.”

It’s a costly investment. It’s totally worth it. I just wish I’d known in advance!

The kids are back in school today. Order has replaced chaos, Hallelujah! Life was good during this vacation – we are blessed. But as I mentioned last year, I like Ordinary Time, when it’s not a holiday or special occasion, the very best of all the seasons. That’s when I can see the extraordinary way God works. It feels good to be back to ordinary :)

Wing-It Wings: A Recipe

Not sure if I’ve mentioned this here before, but I am a culinary rock star.

What? I haven’t told you this? Well let me tell you now!

UnknownSunday after church I decided to make chicken wings. I thawed the chicken, pulled out the crock pot, then went online to look for a recipe. Which is when I discovered that our line was not on. We had no cable, no internet, and thus no recipes.

Steve called Verizon while I tried not to panic. I looked through the kitchen for anything that seemed vaguely wing-ish.

I remembered an old recipe that called for mixing grape jelly and ketchup, but we had no grape jelly and I wasn’t sure one could substitute Strawberry images-1Polaner All-Fruit and live to tell the tale. Undaunted, I squirted a half gallon of ketchup in the crock pot, put in the wings, then covered them with brown sugar and honey. That didn’t seem liquid-y enough, so more ketchup. I set it for 4 hours on high, said a prayer for God’s mercy over this sad little meal, and escaped into a book.

An hour later, Steve and the fine people at Verizon solved our connection crisis, and he turned on the Pats game. He said, “Wow, I thought I was going to have to head down to [the bar a few blocks away] and order up some wings to watch the game!”

“But I’m making wings!” I said, pouting (but of course still exuding my usual calm and gracious maturity.)

“Um…chicken and ketchup?” Steve asked skeptically. I had to admit, the kitchen smelled a little gross. “We need some pineapple or something,” he mused, “with soy sauce…”

“WE HAVE THOSE THINGS!” I exclaimed, then sprinted to the kitchen.  You see, Steve’s mom bought me some Unknown-2canned pineapple to use with our Easter ham…back in April… which I forgot all about…and shoved to the back of the pantry to hide my shame. Maybe it could save the day!

I tossed the yellow chunks into the bubbling cauldron of ketchup with unrestrained glee, then doused it all with a soaking of soy sauce. (The basis of my cooking philosophy is that salt makes everything better.  And soy sauce = healthy salt, right?) I let this new mixture churn for 3 more hours, then served my “wing-it wings” over rice.

Those. Wings. Were. DELICIOUS! It was like homemade sweet & sour sauce, without all the nasty additives. I will totally make these again, only I’ll bake them so the skin gets nice and crunchy.  Another strange recipe in our collection of favorites, another set of protein parts saved from the brink of disaster!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am (for this moment at least) a culinary rock star.

Bergie and her Brussels Sprout

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PLEASE can I have a Brussels Sprout??? PLEASE??? (Note persuasive tail wag)

(If you are a children’s book author looking for your next big idea, this post is my gift to you…)

After seven months of searching, we FINALLY discovered Bergie’s treat of choice.  Brussels Sprouts. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Back when Bergie first came home with us, our trainer told us to find some super-special treat to use to reward obedience and good behavior. Wandering through a fancy pet shop, I accidentally bought a $15 bag of desiccated liver bits (thus learning the lesson, “Never shop where they won’t tell you how much things cost”).  Bergie accepted these million-dollar morsels begrudgingly, like she was doing me a favor.  Seriously: I’d pull down the bag and call her and she’d pull herself up, stretch, shake, then sloooooowly meander over and take the treat, then swallow it whole like a kid trying to choke down a lima bean.

It was like watching her eat cash.

We tried less-fancy options: Milk-Bones, Pupperoni, and some chew thing designed to fight plaque and taste like chicken.  Same response.  She was slightly more enthusiastic over frozen hot dog pieces, but not much. (And given her struggle to regain her swimsuit figure, we weren’t sure hot dogs were a great long-term plan for the Berg.)  But she was pretty well behaved anyway, and we soon learned that her love language is affection and praise. So instead of giving her treats, we trained her with enthusiastic hugs and high-pitched squeals of delight when she finally sat down (after only 14 tail wags) when told.

Then the other night I was cutting up Brussels Sprouts to roast for dinner. Not saying that I’m clumsy or anything (and yet suggesting exactly that) but one landed on the floor.  Bergie came FLYING out of the bedroom like she’d been shot from a missile. She skidded across the wood floor, grabbed that half a sprout, then turned and sprinted back to the bedroom without even looking at me so she could devour her treasure in private. I followed her and she had her head stuffed under the bed, so special was this moment with her and her sprout.  When she finished, she licked her chops, then her paws, then the rug. After which she trotted back to the kitchen and stared at my feet in the hopes that another green globe of happiness might fall.

Waiting. Watching. Hoping.

Waiting. Watching. Hoping.

I was like, Really? Brussels Sprouts?  But we’ve tested this theory and confirmed it.

I’m contemplating a career switch to children’s books. BERGIE LOVES BRUSSELS SPROUTS! The Dog Who Loved Vegetables that Begin With B!  will be a bestseller with parents across the nation who are struggling to convince their kids that green gross things are JUST AS WONDERFUL as mac & cheese and cookies.

*Filing this under “Plans to Get THIS DOG To Pay The Mortgage”

Get YOUR piece of the Bergie experience!

I’m starting a new business.

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She doesn’t look like she’s shedding. But she is. Right at this very moment. She’ll get up and it will look like she had puppies.

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Sample chubby maltese. *Eyes, nose & paws not included.

THIS DOG sheds. Every other day I vacuum up the equivalent of a chubby maltese. Today as I hunted and gathered handful after handful of abandoned fur, I thought of all my friends who would just love to have a dog, but can’t. Then I had an Oprah-esque, a-hah! moment and (like Oprah) realized that I had the answer to the problems of the world!

Introducing my new business: Fur Friends With Benefits! All the ambiance of a pet without the pesky commitment!

Here’s how it works:

For a nominal fee, subscribers will be sent a weekly bag of freshly-shed fur (available in an array of sizes depending on what size dog you’d like to pretend to have). Each delightful pile of fuzz provides oddles of opportunities to partake in the dog-ownership experience WITHOUT having to deal with walks, poop, or trips to the vet!

Ideas for use include:

-Spread the white fur over your dark carpet then TRY to vacuum it all up!photo copy 2

-Let it waft across your kitchen and embed itself in casseroles, drinks and salads!

-Tell it to sit, stay, or even roll over…then enjoy the fun as it ignores you!

Friends, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience dog ownership without the actual dog.

PERFECT for commitment-phobes! You can name your Fur Friend, love it for just a few days (or even just a few hours) and then THROW IT AWAY without guilt or remorse! You can leave it home alone for DAYS at a time! It’s the ideal solution for dog lovers who fear permanency, intimacy, or responsibility!  Now is the chance to get that “Wow, you must have a dog!” smell throughout your house at a low introductory cost. Really, it’s an investment!

Lines are open now, so call right away!  The first 20 callers WILL ALSO RECEIVE a small dog toy, at NO EXTRA CHARGE! Know what it’s like to toss a squeaking piece of rubber across your home while squealing, “Go get it puppy! Go get your toy!” with no discernible reaction from your pet!

Operators are standing by!

:)

A Quieter Life

UnknownWe had a great weekend.

Saturday, my in-laws hosted a family BBQ in the back yard. It was relaxing and fun (except when my sister-in-law’s 7 pound chihuahua made a power move on THIS DOG, who currently weighs in at 89.3 pounds. That was a little tense. But funny afterwards, because the little dog did not end up as an hors d’oeuvre.) As the dogs were calmed and the afternoon wound down, we all pulled lawn chairs into a circle and everyone tossed funny stories back and forth like a beach ball. It’s been awhile since I laughed that hard. It was lovely.

Sunday it rained – fantastic nap weather. (I firmly believe that daytime sleep is a gift from God)  In the evening I worked on re-writing A Maze of Grace for the 2nd edition (more on that soon), and then was happily interrupted by a visit from Steve’s brother & his fiancé who came to hang out and enjoy beer and wine.  Good stuff.

I’m reading the journal Henri Nouwen kept during his stay with a group of monks in New York. A few weeks into his stay, his spiritual director said something like, “It will take awhile for you to integrate the gifts of this quieter life with the rest of your life.”  That felt familiar. It’s weird to live a quiet life after years of crazy schedules and fires to put out and things that threaten to fall apart if you don’t pay attention to them right this very second. That life was fueled by a shifting mix of adrenaline,fear, guilt and pride. Heady and addictive.  It’s hard to tell what the quieter life is fueled by because it doesn’t demand feeding in the same way. But I think some of it is laughter and naps and gratitude that a day that started off with two dogs in the family, ended with two dogs in the family, even if they had to be kept at opposite sides of the yard.

Our Try at DIY

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We refinished a bedroom dresser this weekend! It was quite the adventure.

I’ve longed to refinish this dresser for awhile now, along with the mismatched assortment of side tables we’ve gathered along the way (the overall look of which was less “charmingly eclectic” than “indoor yard sale”). The dresser dates all the way back to my father-in-law’s bachelor days, and he bought it secondhand even then. (He thinks it may have been part of a room with a “cowboy theme” before it was his (???) I didn’t ask what that meant. )  It’s solid maple, which is awesome. But it was stained (varnished? shellacked?) with some product that had turned orange over the years. As much as I love a nice orange handbag, orange as a wood color is not my thing.

Also, parts of the dresser were sticky, where the coating had just sort of bunched up in places, and there were coffee stains and ring marks (which I jokingly blame on my coffee-loving father-in-law, but I’m pretty sure date back only to me.) So this weekend, with clear skies and sun in the forecast, we dragged that heavy beast out into the driveway and prayed inspiration.

Here’s what I learned:

-Anyone who refinished anything before the invention of the electric sander is a hero.  Holy guacamole, what a process.

-Even an electric sander leaves your entire arm vibrating for a full fifteen minutes after you’re done.

-Spray painting outside on a windy day is a great way to get that natural “textured” look, as just as you finish painting, a nice fresh layer of bugs, dried leaves and dog fur will blow by to rough up all your smooth, newly-sanded surfaces.

-When it comes to human skin, spray paint goes on a whole lot easier than it comes off. -And finally, my ONE BIG TIP for refinishing furniture: Regardless of your decorating scheme, paint your first project BLACK.  That way, if you bang the front of the piece on the doorway while wrestling it back into the house, you can make it all better with a Sharpie :)

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