Monday, December 28, 2009

The Twinkie Tree

I totally forgot to explain the twinkie tree in my last post!!! Oops. :)
This past fall we were on vacation in Florida with Jon and Kelly and Sam's parents. One day we packed a picnic lunch and headed to the cute little town of Seaside to spend the afternoon. Individually wrapped twinkies were planned for dessert.
We went to the town square and found two tables we could push together to make enough room for all of us to sit...and then the kids decided it would be MUCH more fun to sit on the ground beside us. When the kids were just about done eating, Sam got out dessert and started passing it around. He took a twinkie and tossed it toward Jonah (who was sitting on the ground, remember). Jonah happened to be sitting under a tree, so when he looked up to see where the twinkie fell from it made sense that it would have come from the tree.
Sam encouraged the idea that it had fallen right out of the tree by telling Jonah that he was, in fact, sitting under a "twinkie tree." Never mind that the twinkies were wrapped in plastic. Jonah bought it hook, line and sinker. Sam had lots of fun telling Jonah all about twinkie trees and how they usually only bloom on Christmas Day.
Before we left the area, Jonah found a really smooth stone with some criss-cross marks on it. (I think it had been glued to something at one time and the markings were the glue residue.) When Sam saw it, he told Jonah that he had found an extremely rare seed from the twinkie tree.
We brought the seed home and planted it in our front yard near the flag pole, and we've been waiting ever since. When the fire required us to move out of the house we told Jonah that we'd be sure to move the twinkie seed over with us.

After the kids went to bed on Christmas Eve, Sam went out and found a big branch and planted it into a bucket...then brought it inside and hung twinkies from it. Jonah was thrilled to find it when he woke up Christmas morning!
Henry was quite suspicious when he noticed the twinkies were hanging from pieces of tape. He declared that he didn't believe in the twinkie tree. Funny how he didn't mind the fact that the twinkies were individually wrapped, he was just bothered by the tape. ;)
And that is the story of the twinkie tree!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Day

We got up early Christmas morning. I was so excited for the kids to get up that I couldn't sleep after six o'clock. They actually slept until almost seven, so I had to (im)patiently wait!Henry was the first one up and he came and sat with me on the couch to snuggle a few minutes, but the other two weren't far behind him. Jonah got up next (with Bridget right on his heels) and found his twinkie tree* right away. He couldn't have been more thrilled. :)
The kids got right to opening presents. We have them open one at a time, youngest to oldest. They really enjoy seeing what the other kids get! Henry's favorite gift was a pocket knife. He has been wanting one for quite some time, and we decided that he is responsible enough to have it now (with very strict guidelines on it's use). Bridget wanted to immediately try on everything she she has a new pink camoflauge hat and coin purse that were in her stocking.
Bridget's favorite gift was whichever one she was opening at the time. She just LOVED opening presents and kept saying "wow!" to every new thing she saw. She did get a brand new doll stroller and doll and they have gotten quite a bit of use already. :)
After a fun morning of opening a crazy amount of gifts, we took a break and ate homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast. By mid-morning the kids were pretty wiped out, so we gave them showers and put on their nice clothes for the afternoon.
Henry was really tired by this point and was upset that I wouldn't let him wear his new camo pants (which he had already worn for two days straight!), so he wasn't in the mood for a picture. But I just couldn't bring myself to take it without him, so this was the result...
Kinda sad, huh? I know. But he felt much better after a long nap. Jonah was very accomodating for pictures; I just couldn't get him to put his gun down and stop posing!
Bridget was also more than willing to have her picture taken. She just LOVED her new Christmas dress (so thankful to the dry-cleaning company and restoration company for finding it and cleaning it and overnight shipping it to us in time for Christmas!) and of course, said she looked like a princess. She's not really a fan of dresses these days, but every now and again she'll succumb and she always says that.
After naps and lunch, everyone came over. Sam's brothers and sister and all the cousins. It was a houseful! I think I heard the people count was 27. We all made appetizers and finger foods and served those for was a fun and casual way to feed a group of that size.
We held two white elephant gift exchanges, one for the young kids and one for the adults and older kids. Some of the little ones are too young to understand trading and stealing of presents, so we just hand-picked gifts for them. Bridget got an adorable little puppy that is JUST like her beloved Rufus, only pink and white instead of green and white. She wasn't quite sure what to make of it at first (I think she thought it was supposed to replace Rufus and she was certainly not interested in that!) but she has enjoyed carrying it around the last two days.
Henry really had a great time once the cousins arrived. He just LOVES his cousins! After a few 'steals,' Henry left the gift exchange with the coveted Ikea tool set. It was the most popular gift among the boys!
The funniest gift of the day came from my sister in law, Kelly. The background for this gift is that we each have a sweet, mild mannered two year old in our respective family. These best friend cousins are strangely transformed into wild, screaming hooligans when they get together and they always seem to find some sort of trouble together that either one alone would never get into by themselves. They often find their way to showers or sinks to see how much water they can fill up before someone finds them. I'm not exaggerating when I say they are TROUBLE together!
Around Halloween this year I suggested to Kelly that we dress them up as Thing 1 and Thing 2 (from The Cat in the Hat, of course!). Kelly had already planned out Halloween costumes, so I just let it go and forgot about it. Kelly, however, took the idea and for Christmas made matching shirts for the two of them.
Aren't they adorable? We had them both wear the shirts to church today, since they are in the same class.
Hope your Christmas was full of family and love and the joy of celebrating the birth of our saviour, Jesus Christ! :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December Ramblings

I know I haven't posted anything recently except for the fire, but I have been busy! We have lots going on that isn't fire is a little bit of it:
  • We have received MANY Christmas presents from family and friends (including the four foot high boxes from my mom and Jim!), so we decided this week to start opening gifts early. Each of the children get a day to open a few presents and then on Christmas eve they'll all open one, and hopefully it will cut down on all the chaos of Christmas morning. I just want them to be able to appreciate each gift and reflect on who is giving it to them.
  • We're currently staying at Dave and MaryBeth's house, which is about 40 minutes from our house. So we are learning some fun things about our new area...including the great small-town library and awesome local parks!
  • My wonderful sister-in-law Kelly knew that I really wanted to make new advent calendars for the kids this year but didn't have the opportunity because of the she made them for us! They are adorable and the kids LOVE them.
  • We put up our own little Christmas tree in the kids room and they use the soft white lights as a night light every night. It's so cozy in their room right now!
  • Dave and MaryBeth are babysitting for us tonight so that Sam and I can have a date night with friends...looking forward to a fun evening.
  • We finally have a date on the fire investigation (they still haven't looked into the cause of the fire, as they have been arranging for 10 different people to be there when they actually begin) and it looks like it will happen January 11. So hopefully that means January 12 we can start rebuilding! :)
  • Our Christmas stocking were being cleaned and stored by the restoration company, but they dug through everything and rush-shipped them to us so they would be here in time for Christmas. They arrived yesterday and still have a smokey smell to them...they'll always be memorable!
  • We are so excited for Christmas! All of Sam's side of the family will be here on Christmas day to celebrate together.

Merry Christmas! Hope your holiday season is blessed as you celebrate the birth of our saviour, Jesus Christ! :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fire pictures

View from the street (before all the rest of the firetrucks showed up)....Front view of the smokey roof and the ladder truck getting set up....

View from the back with flames at the top of the chimney and smoke out of other vents....

Fireman on roof and flames at bottom of chimney....

One of these days I'll remember to take my camera over there and get some 'after' pictures. It's a real mess now.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Fire

Saturday morning, December 5th started out like many other mornings around our house. Sam was in Montana working at an ATF event. The kids and I got up around 7 and read some books in the living room in front of the fire. I had stoked it up first thing and it was pleasantly warm.
We had a quick breakfast of oatmeal and then I wandered through the garage/attic/bedrooms to find all of the kid's winter gear. It was one of the first cold mornings we've had in a while and we were going to the Christmas parade, so I wanted everyone bundled up in their hats/gloves/scarves and winter coats (which took a while to gather together!).
Finally got everyone bundled up, made four travel mugs of hot apple cider and we headed off to the parade. We had a lot of fun at the parade and enjoyed being bundled up in the crisp, cool morning watching our small town parade.
After it was over, I debated heading into town to run errands, but decided against it so the kids could have a more relaxed day playing around the house. So we headed straight home.
Once home, I threw some fresh logs on the fire, read another story to the kids and we decided to get the house picked up before having some free time. I headed to the kitchen and sent the boys out to the garage to pick up the shoes/coats area. Henry came right back in to ask my help in finding a funny smell out in the garage, so I went out with him to see if I could figure it out.
In the garage there was indeed a funny smell. Henry thought it was Elmer (our dog, who likes to roll in stinky things!) or maybe one of the cats had gone potty on something. I could tell right away that it wasn't animal-related but really didn't recognize it. We spent a few minutes looking around and really didn't see anything that could be causing it. I even pulled the ping-pong table out to see if anything was amiss behind it.
I walked entirely around the house and didn't see anything odd, so I decided that perhaps the neighbors were burning something funny and I would go on about my day. Because I was already outside I went ahead and walked down to the chicken coop. I filled up their food and went in to collect eggs. When I was walking back up to the house with my handful of eggs I happened to look up at the roof. There was a great deal of smoke and a few small flames licking out of the chimney. It was a bit windy, so the flames kept getting blown out and re-lighting.
I yelled at the boys to go run to the front yard and then ran inside the house to call 911. They quickly verified my address and told me to get everyone out of the house. Bridget was nowhere in sight, so I screamed her name and ran up to check the playroom. She was happily playing up there and started asking, "What, mama, what?" as I grabbed her and ran down the stairs. I took the time to find her little stuffed dog Rufus in the living room, then went outside. I hollered at the boys to grab a pair of shoes and a coat, put all three kids in the car and drove it out to the end of the driveway. Then I finally called Sam. He answered right away, and I told him that we had a chimney fire and asked, "What should I do?" He said, "Go close the damper on the fireplace, then goto the side of the house and get the hose out and see if it'll reach the roof. I'll call the neighbors and send some help over to you."

I went and pulled the hose off the hanger and turned on the water, but nothing came out as the hose was completely frozen. I was able to knock out a long tube of ice and that was all. I walked to the back of the house where I could see the chimney area and by then there was a LOT of smoke coming out of the chimney and it had spread to the other vent fans on the roof. There were three lined up near the peak of the roof and smoke was pouring out of each one.
I ran back to the front of the house and could hear the sirens getting closer. At that point I realized that they may not know where to turn as we live on a spur and the house numbers are NOT in order (the house number that is one up from ours is over half a mile away and there are at least 20 houses in between us!). So I jumped in the car, dialed 911 again so I could explain the situation and raced to the end of the street. I had to verify my address and the emergency again (since I was now calling from my cell phone) and by then I was at the end of the street where my turn is and could see the fire trucks coming, so I hung up, hopped out into the middle of the street and flagged down the fire trucks, telling them where our house is.

Following the trucks down my road was a little surreal. They stopped at the gate and tried (unsuccessfully) to get through without bumping the posts on either side. Once inside our property they jumped out to assess this situation and got right to work.

My memory is a little blurry after all that. Everything seemed to be in slow motion as the firefighters unrolled hoses, asked me questions, got the ladder truck set up to my roof and began pulling out chainsaws and axes. Neighbors and family and friends poured into our yard, as well as MANY more fire trucks. I was told that at one point there were nine in all.
Early on, our older neighbor kids came over to see if they could do anything and I asked if they would take my kids for a little bit. They took Henry, Jonah and Bridget to their house, where their mom fed them lunch, let them watch part of a movie and prayed with them about what was going on next door. After a while they had to leave the house, so that neighbor arranged with another neighbor to watch the kids at her house. They remained there until everything was over and I picked them up to go eat dinner.
The smoke coming out of the chimney gradually changed to smoke coming out of every vent and crack in the house. It looked like smoke was pouring out of the gutters. I've never seen anything like it. That was the point I thought we may just lose the house, and the fire chief told me much later that he thought the same thing.
We have three attic accesses in our house (two walk-in and one drop-down from the ceiling). The fire was mostly contained to one of those access points, but the firefighters had trouble finding it. The door to get in is in a bathroom, and my understanding is that they thought it was a closet or something else. So for a while during the event, they thought they had the fire contained, but they hadn't even found the problem area yet! I'm told that when they did finally access that one, they opened the door and flames came roaring over their heads. I'm so incredibly thankful that no firefighters were hurt in taking care of this fire!!!
Once it was all over and they had put out any remaining hot spots, the fire chief walked me through the house. He tried to prepare me for what it was going to look like, but I was definitely surprised! He took me in the front door and the first thing I noticed was the water. It was up over my shoes and it was everywhere. We walked toward the stairway and I got a glimpse of the holes that they had cut in the roof. Sunshine was peeking right into my living room through the ceiling. What surprised me the most, though, was that the firefighters had taken the time to put tarps across our furniture! Most of the couches were covered and the tvs and beds all had tarps over them. I had no idea they would do something like that. One couch didn't get covered and a fireman pulled me aside to apologize for it. He said that they were working on tarping everything when the fire came through and they had to leave it. I was so impressed that they would do that and couldn't believe that he would actually apologize for getting something wet.
As far as fire damage goes, that one attic access and the bathroom sustained the majority of the damage. Water damage is another story, however. Because pipes melted and our house water wasn't immediately shut off, we had more water damage from our own water than from the fire fighter's hoses! Isn't that crazy? Anyway, the water ruined all the carpet in the house and lots and lots of drywall. The restoration company showed up that same night to start pulling wet carpet out and let the house dry. Our master bedroom is right below where the fire damage was and it sustained the worst of the water damage. Our entire ceiling fell in due to the weight of the water.
So now we are in the process of meeting with insurance adjustors and talks with the restoration company. The restoration company takes everything out of our house and has it cleaned and then they store it until the house is rebuilt. It's weird to watch them pack up the stuff that makes up our lives. We tried to take some things with us (mostly clothes/books/etc..) but everything smelled too smoky to keep, so it mostly all went back to the house to be professionally cleaned.
Our builder has said he could probably get the house fixed and restored in six to eight weeks, once he gets the go-ahead to start. The only thing holding that up will be the investigation. Because there may have been fault with the installation of our wood-burning insert, there are a number of interested parties. The investigation into cause/origin has to wait until all of the interested parties can be present at one time. So as of right now, we don't know the official cause of the fire and it could be a while until we find out. Please be praying that this process moves quickly so we can be back in our own home. :)
God is so good. We really could see his hand in guiding us to safety in so many ways....not the least of which is the weird smell in the garage that led to us finding the fire in a timely manner. We keep coats and shoes and a number of other things in the garage and not a single one of them has any trace of smoke smell on it. There really never should have been any odor in there in the first place.
Anyway, thankfully we are all safe and sound. God is GOOD! :)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

How Many Kings

This is a song by the band downhere. I'm loving it! My local station has been playing it quite a bit in their rotation as a Christmas song (and I can see why they would), but I like it as kind of an anytime song. GREAT LYRICS. :)

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe after all we’ve projected
A child in a manger
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mothers shawl
Just a child Is this who we’ve waited for?
Cause how many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Bringing our gifts for the newborn savior
All that we have whether costly or meek
Because we believe
Gold for his honor and frankincense for his pleasure
And myrrh for the cross he’ll suffer
Do you believe, is this who we’ve waited for?
(It’s who we’ve waited for)
How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me All for me All for you All for me All for you