Archives for February 2016

Family Dinner

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am with this new house, especially when it comes to having company!  Most weekends John and I invite our kids all over for a meal, sometimes in the evening, or sometimes for brunch.  Often John’s mom and my parents are able to come, and the kids are welcome to invite friends.  So almost always we have 20+ people here.

In the old house we put the dining table diagonal sending it out into the living room so that we could seat that many bodies at the table.  Then our 6 little grandkids would get out toys, and pretty soon it was difficult to even get around in the room, let alone find a good place to sit.  Here at the new house, I’ve chosen to leave one end of the living room empty except for the piano.  That allows us to add two 8 foot folding tables onto the end of the regular dining table, making it truly huge.  And still the living room is spacious, even after the kids have strung toys around the room.  We are so much enjoying all the space.  Here are a couple of shots of the table all ready for company this past weekend.  I meant to also get a photo of the table full of loved ones, but as usual, I was too much enjoying the time to stop and take a photo.


Longtable2This week we handed over keys to our old house which was a little sad  (such a good house it’s been for us) but mostly a relief.  We have put so many hours of work in there, even after moving– driving back and forth between the houses over and over and over — that it is lovely to just have the one place to focus on for now.

Today John is organizing the garage, and planning out the shop that he will be building in the back yard.  At the moment there are piles of tarped-off wood at the side of the house near the garage, as well as other random things that just will not fit into the garage.  It’s not terrible, but I am looking forward to having a bit more indoor storage for these things, as it will really make the area at the side of the house look more organized.

I have been doing lots of thinking about what we will be putting in our back yard to help with outdoor entertaining.  John got a new barbecue grill the other day– a key piece!  🙂  We are also hoping to cover the patio with something that looks trellis-lattice-work-ish.  (Then I can string lights!  🙂 )

Speaking of lights, (with a little help from Julianna, age 11) I installed those $29 Costco bargain lights on the exterior of the house, and we couldn’t be happier with them.

Here’s a picture of the new light side by side with the light that was beside the back door.


Here’s a picture of the house with the original lights.  Certainly the lights are fine, but definitely builder-grade and nothing memorable.


And here’s the front of the house with the new lights installed. At the distance that I took the photos, it doesn’t look all that different, maybe.  But in real life it is a fun upgrade.HouseNewLights

They are LED’s — very bright at night, and thanks to the wavy glass, they throw an interesting pattern of light out there.  It turns out they also come with a light sensor, which means they turn on automatically at night, and then off again during the day. Since I didn’t bother to read the packaging when I picked up the lights at Costco, that was a totally unexpected bonus.  So much fun.

Also in this pix is Em, having fun with her ripstick.  The two youngest girls are enjoying something they’ve never had in their lives– sidewalks for scootering and skateboarding.  What a concept!  They do, however, also miss the chickens, a fact that rather surprised me, since when we were living out in the country, feeding the chickens was NOT the highlight of their day, especially in the cold, cold winter.  I guess there are tradeoffs everywhere!

What’s new with you?  Are you looking forward to spring as much as I am?


Being a nurse, part 2

(If you missed it, here’s Part One)

Now for the rest of the story of night shift nursing:

2AM to 5AM on night shift:

When it’s quiet or even moderately busy, here’s where the night starts feeling long, the yawning starts getting serious, and the ‘since I can’t sleep yet’ eating starts happening.  I try not to have caffeine after 4 AM or so, because I want to sleep well when I get home, and also if I overdo the caffeine at this time of night, my stomach gets uneasy. But usually I feel in desperate need of a pick-me-up.  Lately I’ve been drinking just a little black tea around that time.  I will also often run an item personally to the nurses on the ‘other side’ of the OB department rather than using the ‘tube’ system, because a brisk walk is a nice pick-me-up at that time of night.

When taking care of moms in labor:

When the night is busy, even this part of the night can roar by.  I especially like having a birth around 4-5 AM, because the busyness surrounding the birth carries you through the tiredest hours of night shift while still giving you time to wrap up loose ends of charting before the tail end of the shift. And usually if you have a mom who delivers between 4-5 AM, you (probably, usually, unless it is a hectic night) won’t get assigned another labor after she delivers.

I tend to use a lot of energy coaching moms near delivery.  After that ‘whew, we did it!’ euphoria of a good birth, it can be hard to hand off that patient to her postpartum nurse and run back over to the labor side to do it all over again.  Especially hard is to be equally energetic with the next momma, especially if you get her at 5 AM and know you probably won’t even get to be in on her birth.  On busy nights it’s just a fact of life that we go from patient to patient.  But when it happens near the end of my shift, I really have to pull the energy up out of my toes to give that next momma my best.

When taking care of moms on postpartum:

Often the postpartum side has a time of quiet between 2 and 5 AM, even when most of the rooms are full.  The visitors are usually finally gone.  (Side note: I am BLOWN AWAY at how many people will visit new moms at midnight or later, often trundling little children along with them.  What can they be thinking??) By the wee hours of the morning, the moms are getting tired and they’ve gotten their pain meds and some of them even turn off their TV’s and actually get a little sleep, if their babies and visitors (grr) allow it.  Nurses have a dab of time to eat lunch and get caught up on charting, and maybe even sometimes sit and chat for a few minutes before the pace picks up again and we need to do our 5AM lab draws and other end-of-shift things.

Since we don’t have a well-baby nursery per se, often there’s a baby or two behind the desk keeping us company while a momma or two tries to get a little rest.  My daughters think I’m crazy, but I find almost all newborns to be completely adorable, so it is fun when I have time to give one a snuggle, or if the aides are busy, sometimes even a bath.beautiful babies

5-7 AM on night shift:  Here’s where the night shift feels most brutal, and almost everyone wonders why they signed up for this gig.  You’re so close to bed and yet so far away still.  When it’s quiet, you’re exhausted, and when it’s busy you’re even more exhausted.  Time does go quicker when you’re busy though.

One of the craziest times (I think) to have a delivery is between 6 and 7 AM.  Some nurses are good at staying caught up with charting, but I tend to get behind on charting at the tail end of labor, because patient care feels all-consuming.  So a 6-7 AM birth almost always leaves me still charting at 7:30-8 AM, and straggling home late.  I almost always clock out late when there’s a ‘shift change’ baby.

On the postpartum side, you tend to have a teeny bit more control.  I spend this time trying to be as organized as possible, finishing every scrap of charting, making sure my moms’ needs are fully met so I’m not scrambling trying to do things at 7.  Also looking at the clock.  And looking at the clock.  And wondering why on earth I ever thought night shift was a good idea.

Around 6:50 AM the clickety-BEEP of the time clock gives our sleepy brains a reason to rejoice– the day shift staff is starting to clock in!  It’s almost time to go to bed.

At shift change, as long as you aren’t in the middle of delivering a shift change baby,  being on the labor side is nice.  All you have to do is give report on one patient to one nurse and then you’re off, home to bed, sometimes even a few minutes early.

On the postpartum side, you usually have 3 or so mother-baby ‘couplets’, and very often your assignment of patients has been divided in a different way on day shift than on nights, meaning it’s common to give report to two or three different nurses.  So there’s lots of waiting around to give report to various nurses during that final snails-pace half hour. Almost always giving report, and then introducing patients to the new staff, takes til 7:30, or sometimes longer.

Then finally, off I go, yawning my way toward home and the blissful thought of sleep. Driving home, I try to shut off the worries about what I might have forgotten to do– usually it’s charting-related, not patient care.  But it is incredible how much charting there is. Once home, I usually don’t manage more than 20-30 minutes of awake time with my family before I trundle off to bed.  Sleep.  Bliss.


I’m fortunate that (thanks to a fan, room-darkening shades and a quiet family)  I sleep pretty well during the day, usually til around 3 PM. By then the boys are just getting home from school and the girls have been done with homeschool for several hours.  (Maybe I’ll share in another post what we’ve been doing to make homeschool doable on my work days.)

In the afternoon when I get up, I’m completely groggy.  I make my way to the coffee pot and sit in my comfy chair in my sweats for an hour or so, and gradually wake up.  By the time I’m actually awake, it’s already time to rassle up some dinner and get ready for work.  Often I’ll order pizza, or do something super simple like fish sticks and tater tots.  I don’t tend to have much energy to cook in between two work nights. Lemme tell you, night shift nurses EARN that hefty hourly shift differential.

But the good thing at this point in the week is that I only have one more shift to do before I make it to my next stretch of days off.  AND (unlike before my first night shift of the week when I can never sleep) I spent this whole day sleeping. So once my coffee kicks in and I’ve come up with some type of food for everyone, I’m usually awake enough and energized enough to hit that second and final 12 hour shift with energy and enthusiasm.

There’s another bonus of two nights in a row:  sometimes I get the  patient I had the previous night.  I usually enjoy caring for someone who I already know, and who already knows me. In fact, even if I don’t get assigned the previous night’s patient, I will often zip over to her room and say hi to her sometime during the shift. And sometimes, of course, instead of getting the happy grateful type of patient, you can be assigned a challenging/needy, or very ill patient two nights in a row.  But even then, I try to give it my all, and use what I already know about her likes and preferences to make it as good an experience as possible for her.

The last hour of my second 12 hour shift often really drags, because by then I am really ready to head home and be done with work for awhile,  but finally report is done and I’m out the door, heading home to bed.

Often on my second day of sleep, since I know I’ll be able to sleep that night, I’ll only sleep til 1 or 2 before getting up for the day.  That way I can sleep better that night.  Always, no matter how short or long I sleep, I’m foggy and sometimes short-tempered (tho I try not to be) for the rest of the day.  Dinner again tends to be something super easy.

What’s changed about life since I started working

I definitely do more convenience food or fast food on my work days. And even on my days off I think I cook a bit less than I used to. But it feels like a reasonable compromise given the added demands on my life.

Another thing that’s probably less positive overall is that I find I’m simply quicker to spend money.  We have a bit more than we’ve had for a couple decades, and already I can feel that it’s changed the way I feel about a $30 purchase, or even one that is $130.

Just today I bought 4 outdoor lights that will be a nice upgrade to the exterior look of our house. They were only $29 each at Costco, which isn’t bad at all for nice lighting.  But it was a total impulse buy and not necessary.  I need to watch out that ‘little’ splurges like this don’t diminish the financial benefit that work is bringing our family.

I also am trying very hard not to use work as an excuse to not do activities with the kids, or to not be focused on them when I am home– which of course is part of the reason blogging frequency has been decreased lately.

I have to say that I’m very glad I had 17 years where I wasn’t working outside the home.  It allowed me to really focus on the kids when our house was full of little ones.  It was a financial sacrifice, but there’s zero doubt in my mind it was the right thing to do for that time in our family’s growth.

And this new schedule seems to be working for our family where it is now.  Of course anytime one of my kids is struggling with anything to any degree, my mind goes to the fact that I’m working, and feels guilty.  Would they be struggling if I was here all the time?  Am I doing the right thing?  But when doubt starts riding me, usually John reminds me I’m only gone two nights, and he’s home almost all the time I’m gone. (He works 3 12-hour day shifts a week.)  So most of the time there’s still a parent here.  I think we’re doing ok. Overall I think it’s fitting and working and is a success.

Well, that’s more than enough from me for now, but I’d love to hear from any of you who are thinking of transitioning back to work, or want to stay home and are figuring out logistics. Or maybe you’ve recently made a similar life change. It is an important decision for a family to make, and I’d love to hear how it’s working for you.

Being a nurse: what it’s like

This transition from being an at-home mom for 17 years to working two days a week has been mostly good, I think.  But it is interesting how back and forth my emotions can be about my job, depending on where I am in my work week.   Just for fun, I decided to document my thoughts throughout a normal work week.  (This post ended up SO long that I think I’ll break it up into 2 or 3.  Feel free to skip them all if you’re not interested in life as a nurse.  🙂 )

My ‘week’ varies wildly in length.  Often I work two days in a row and then have 4-5 days off before my next ‘week’ begins.  But since I work every third weekend, sometimes I’ll only have a day or two off between sets of days, and other times I may go 12 days without working.

At the start of a long stretch of days off 

Me:  “I love my job.  Who’d have thought that I could work and make good money and still have so much time at home?  This is awesome.”   Kids and hubby:  “When do you work next?  Not for a week? Awesome!”

3 days before a chunk of work days (which are actually nights)

I start getting obsessive about getting to bed on time.  “Gotta sleep.  I only have three (two…one)  more night(s) to sleep before I work.”  Also:  “Gotta get stocked up on groceries so my people have food while I am working/sleeping.” Also:  “Gotta get things done because after this I’ll be in zombie mode sleeping all day for two days.”

When I’m scheduled to work that night

Me: “I better be chill today, save my energy, just in case it is crazy at work tonight.”  The kids and hubby: “You work tonight? That stinks…”  (Mournful puppy eyes, which of course assails me with ALL the guilt.  Should I really be doing this?)

Getting ready to go to work

Me:  Telling myself positive things

My family: looking glum but resigned.


On the way to work

I start remembering all the things I love about work:  the babies, the mommas who need help, the super awesome coworkers on night shift. I start thinking about where I will be assigned this evening, and can’t decide if I’d rather work on the labor side  (the excitement!  the drama! the one on one care)  or on the postpartum side (the steady scurrying, the teaching, the task-juggling, the fussing over the mommas.)  Ah well, it’s up to the charge nurse anyway.  I’ll happily take whichever assignment I get.

Almost always on my way in, I crank up the music and usually there’s some inspirational song along the lines of being salt and light, making a difference in the world.  And maybe it’s utterly corny but my heart swells, because, wow, I want to make a difference for the moms I serve.  I want to be a blessing. By the time I get to work, I’m ready to go.  I hit the elevator with a smile, and am happy to greet all the truly awesome people who are my coworkers.

Night shift, 7-10PM

When it’s slow:  “Ohmygoodness, it’s only 9 PM?  How can that be?”  But as a nurse you (superstitiously) never wanna wish for it to be busier, because pretty soon then you’re faced with two moms trying to race each other to deliver first, another who’s threatening to need a c-section, and another whose family has the labor room so packed that you can barely walk through without tripping over 3 or 4 people–  the kind of night where you can’t keep up no matter how fast you scurry and you find yourself charting til 8:30 the next morning.  So no.  When it is (sh) quiet, you don’t wish for more.

When it’s comfortably busy, I scurry around contentedly doing my thing.  It is a nice feeling of contented usefulness. I love my job: interacting with the moms, helping with breastfeeding, encouraging them in their learning to be moms, admiring their babies, helping the dads find their place in supporting the moms…I just really enjoy it all.  Whether I’m helping a well-educated mom who already knows a lot about mothering, or encouraging a 17 year old taking her very first steps into motherhood, I try to meet the mom where she’s at, affirm her ability and her good instincts, and just help her a little way down the path.

When it’s crazy, I still try to fit in as much nurturing as I can, but it is harder and I don’t have time to think about whether I like my job or not.  I just work as fast as I can, while trying not to look rushed as I care for each mom.

Night shift, 10PM-2AM

When it’s slow: I’m taking advantage of the pace, fussing over my patients, charting well, looking for ways to do a little extra, maybe even getting some assigned e-learning done on the computer.  Staying busy at this stage of the game feels productive and isn’t too hard yet, because the night is still young.

When it’s busy: Ohmygoodness, hustle, hustle, and grab a yogurt when I have a minute because it’s not looking like lunch is happening tonight.  And please, please don’t let anything really hard happen because, eek, if it’s something I’ve never faced before, I won’t know what to do.

Honestly, that fear of the unknown is always in the back of my mind.  In my previous life as a nurse, I worked in a birthing center where most of the patients were very healthy.  That’s not always the case here.  After working 10 months, I’ve gotten to the point where probably 4 out of 5 shifts I feel capable and prepared to take care of my patients well.  But that 5th shift, when my patient’s blood pressure is too high or her baby is looking distressed, or somebody needs a blood transfusion, I am incredibly glad to have super-knowledgeable coworkers to walk alongside me, allowing me to continue to provide good safe care using the wise ones around me as backup.

The night shift nurses at my hospital are THE best at being that extra set of hands and sharing their expertise and wisdom in supportive and encouraging ways.  And that true, gracious, kind teamwork turns even a hugely stressful shift into something where there’s lots to be thankful for.

Being a nurse


My coworkers are true friends to each other– trading shifts to help each other out, sharing hand-me-downs and making handmade gifts for each others’ babies, even hanging out together after work hours.  I so much enjoy the group of talented, wise and kind women who are my coworkers.

More on the 36 hour sell

So. The house passed inspection and we’re on target to close by the beginning of March.  Crazy how fast this process is going. I’m holding my breath, aware that delays could still come.  But, wow it is looking good.  What a huge blessing.

After the inspect, we do have a second round of workers plowing through the house fixing things, but it’s minor stuff like broken window handles, and a wrong-sized breaker, and a singing toilet.  Hooray!  We feel really blessed.

Today we went to the house and grabbed a few of our last things out, including Em’s new bed that we’d used for staging– she was so excited to finally bring it home!  Next week our awesome staging company Graceful Designs is picking up the furnishings they added, and then it will be all up to the new owners.

I’m completely convinced that redoing the kitchen and then staging the house were a huge key to getting TWO full price offers within 36 hours of listing.  It just made it all that much more obvious that this house is a good place to live, a place to really be welcomed and comfortable.

We’re thankful also to our real estate agent brother in law Scott Dykstra, who helped us price it right– AND talked us into shelling out a couple thousand bucks to upgrade the sliding glass door and repair the foggy old windows in the house the day before listing.  We dragged our heels for a while– because $2200– yikes!!  But I’m sure that the sun shining in those lovely windows just sealed the deal for the folks whose (full price!) offer we accepted.

Speaking of the new owners, I hear that they are planning to raise goats and chickens, which makes me really happy. The place needed some new energy. We want it to be used and enjoyed and loved, and we’re thrilled to hear that they’re excited to get going with their life there.

As for this new house of ours, I could not be more in love.  It took mere days for it to feel comfortably ours.  It fits our furniture and it fits our people, and it’s just good. Right down to our dining room table– the one I was hot to replace while prepping to move.  Turns out it matches the new kitchen’s cabinets perfectly, and it was just perfectly made for the space.  I think we’ll be keeping it around for awhile yet.  I sigh in contentment each time I walk down the stairs in the morning.  It all just feels right.

There’s a bit of chaos going on in the garage right now, with John still working on getting his shop set up.  But glory hallelujah– it all fit in!!  And even the current mess feels completely doable.  John is planning on building a small additional storage shed in the back yard to handle the garage overflow, which I think will really help to make this last bit of moving in go smoothly.

And my kitchen.  I didn’t really realize how few cabinets I had at the old house.  This new kitchen has probably twice as many, along with having at least double the pantry space.  It is really nice to not have half my small appliances out in the garage– especially with John still working to get his tools stashed away neatly there.

So much to be thankful for.

I’ve been thinking about this past year, with getting adjusted to working again, and I am planning to write in a few days more about the ups and the downs involved in going back to work after 17 years at home.  But I think I’ll leave it at this for now– happy that another family is going to get a homestead adventure like we’ve enjoyed during the past couple decades, and grateful that we have exactly three tiny flowerbeds to weed this spring.

Life is good.

I’ll leave you with a photo of tulips from the old place, and a promise to keep you up to date on the adventures we have planned in this new place.  John has been teasing me because I already have a hummingbird feeder set up and ready to go at this new place, in hopes of luring the hummingbirds back unseasonably early.  But I, like the groundhog, am convinced we are in for an early end to winter this year.

Happy spring!


Getting back to normal

Our house went on the market on Wednesday.  (Here’s the link to the virtual tour, if you want to see it.)  Twenty-four hours later we’d already had 5 showings and one offer — an OFFER.  Our agent is coming at noon today to present us that offer.  Crazy to think that (maybe, maybe) it could be sold this fast.  Crossing fingers that all goes well.

After months of painting and packing and cleaning and fluffing, I’m looking forward to our spare time not being taken up by the house and for life to start feeling normal again.

And already, with the bulk of the work done at the old house, I’m feeling more relaxed. Monday I made a big batch of bone broth, which I hadn’t done in awhile. Next on my list is a triple batch of enchiladas for the freezer. Tuesday I printed out the girls’ spring school schedule– those daily check boxes help a lot with accountability.  Wednesday I made biscuits to go with chicken soup.the start of a good pot of soup

I’ve decorated the piano with some Valentine’s Day finery, and have a craft or two up my sleeve to do with anyone so inclined.  I think sometime this weekend I’ll probably make some bacon lentil soup. And hey– I’m even blowing the dust off my blog.  Feels good.

I just heard about a website that I love the idea of– it’s called BuyMeOnce.Com and features items that should last you a lifetime.  So many things these days are made so cheaply that I love the idea of durable quality.  Just about the only things I’ve bought that I’m certain would last that long are my cast iron skillets, which I bought very affordably at a farm supply store in the camping section.  I’m thinking BuyMeOnce.Com is spendier, but there are some items that might justify that additional cost.

Speaking of shopping, if you live near a Costco but don’t yet have a membership, you might be interested in this screaming-good deal on Living Social:  $55 for a year of membership that also includes a $20 Costco gift card, free batteries, passes to the food court, and all sorts of other goodies.  Kinda makes me sad that I’m already a member and can’t get this deal.  Disclosure:  if you click on the link and get the deal, my daughter earns credit on Living Social.  Super good deal if you’re needing a Costco membership!  🙂