Thanksgiving Is More Than A Meal With Turkey: Start Practicing Gratitude NOW

Thanksgiving.

By far, one of my favorite days of the year.

I love all of it; the company, the football, and the food that leaves me in a so-full-I can’t-eat-another-bite food coma.

Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday season. It starts a month of time when people are more gracious, more loving, and more grateful.

Of course, Thanksgiving also marks the moment when consumerism is at its highest and people get nasty fighting over parking spots. And despite meals where we sit together and discuss what and who we are thankful for, many of us lose the holiday spirit before we even walk into the first Black Friday sale. People were so intent on SAVING money, they forget to be KIND getting in the door.

I mean, get out of my way, I have gifts to buy!

How silly is it to run over someone else so you can buy a GIFT for someone else?

Ridiculous.

The holidays can be a stressful time, as people have full schedules, year-end quotas and financials to meet at work, gift buying and budgets to keep. As women, some of us are guilty of taking on too much, and being stretched far too thin because we want to do it all. And some of us also slip into the consuming black hole of perfectionism; we want the perfect gift, the perfect party, the perfect Christmas photo card.

With the holidays looming, a meal where we mention what we’re grateful for isn’t going to prepare me for the long haul to make it with grace through January.

Thanksgiving isn’t a meal with turkey, it’s an attitude.

A lifestyle.

One that isn’t for the faint of heart, and isn’t easy to achieve.

It takes work to train your mind to be grateful. To stop worrying about your own rights and desires and be thankful for where you are now, what you have, and who you’re with. This year, our family will start focusing on gratitude NOW.

This way, when the holiday stress and busy-ness kicks in, we’ll be well-versed in the practice of gratitude.

All of us.

It is my desire and hope that our intentional focus on gratitude will become habitual; that we will continue to focus on gratitude more and more, right through the end of the year and on into 2015.

Forget the New Year’s Resolution…I’m suggesting making the change before the high stress time sets in.

There are 3 practical ways we will increase our awareness of gratitude:

 1. Replace Complaints with Prayers of Gratitude

thessalonians 516to18

Simple, yet powerful. I can take no credit for this idea; it was suggested today at Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) by our teaching leader, Cheri Cameron.

Pausing to be grateful in circumstances that produced complaining gives a complete change of perspective. It doesn’t mean our problems won’t be there when we’re done, but it does mean we rely on God more, and recognize His presence. We take some of our emotion out of the situation, close our mouths, and instead of perpetuating grumbling or hours on end, we say thank you to our creator; for walking through a trial with us, for giving us wisdom, comfort, peace, and people to come alongside.

What does this look like? Here’s a few examples.

  • Complaint: My daughter was up twice in the night last night, waking my son and I, and now we are all TIRED and CRANKY.
  • Gratitude prayer: Thank you Lord for this little girl, that I get to be her mom and help her go back to sleep when her teeth hurt. Thank you for the extra snuggles that I don’t usually get during the day and thank you for the hours of sleep that I DID get last night. I have done with far less sleep
  • Complaint: I have so much to do, I’m just overwhelmed. I feel like no one even notices the work I am doing.
  • Gratitude prayer: Thank you Lord for being here with me today. Thank you for SEEING my efforts and helping me to do the work you’ve given me. Help me to prioritize and to focus on you while I work. Nothing makes the work seem lighter than when I do it while praising the Lord.

When I am grumbling in earshot of my children (sigh, yes it happens), I will confess my poor attitude and pray out loud so they can learn by example. I want them (and me) to stop the pattern of complaining, and to replace it with gratitude.

When our children are complaining, we will help them pause, recognize what is happening, and pray their own prayers of gratitude. This is one skill I want them to learn now.

2. Actively Encourage and Express Gratitude To Others

Thess 511

This month our family will focus on thanking those people who make our life better by being in it. We will actively seek ways to encourage others in their walk of life. We will practice being SPECIFIC on what we are grateful for, not just a generic THANK YOU.

We will thank and lift each other up as a family. Intentionally.

I am too often guilty of the critical-tongue. Things escape my lips and I immediately regret the complaint. It is my goal to internally THINK before I speak and change my complaint into encouragement and thanks.

I am not saying it will be easy. I think it is going to be quite hard! But, I will give it my best effort and ask in faith the Lord to honor it and bless it.

3. Keep a Record

Psalm 665

I am not sure what type of record we will be keeping, but I’m hoping to make a gratitude tree (like this one from http://jonesdesigncompany.com/) or a Daily Gratitude Journal (like this one from http://www.stratejoy.com).

Whatever type we choose, there will a visual, written record. We will record what each member of our household is grateful for each day in November. I hope to do this all year, but we’ll see how this goes.

On Thanksgiving this year, our family will sit down and read these records together, and celebrate the what God is and has done for our family this November.

Since September, I’ve fallen off the wagon on my gratitude journal. It’ time to pick it back up. I miss it. I miss the perspective it gives me when I’m starting my day. I’ve committed to write each day in November, recording the ways God is showing me the blessings in my life and in scripture as I study His word.

Will you join us? 

 

Practice Gratitude: enJOY fall through the eyes of a 4 year old

psalm 11824

Isn’t it funny as you listen to people chat idly about the weather, or read their facebook posts – People either LOVE or HATE fall. 

There’s no middle ground.

Either you enjoy the change of seasons, crisp air, and gorgeous trees, OR you dread fall and its daily reminder that WINTER is looming.

I have spent many years loathing fall and the coming winter.

I won’t mince words here. Winter is not my favorite time of year, it’s my LEAST favorite. I don’t relish the coats, boots, mittens, hats, shovels, salt, sand, wind and traffic jams. After the rough (no let’s be honest – BRUTAL) weather last year, it requires very little searching to find others who are like-minded.

But this year, I was stopped in my tracks by the way my 4 year old son SEES fall.  He views the changing weather and tree leaves as new and exciting, and is filled with JOY.

Having trouble seeing fall as a JOYFUL experience? You may want to try looking at it through the eyes of a child.

This MN fall season has produced more beauty, and has lasted longer than any I recall. In past years, it seems like the trees changed color quickly, and then dropped their leaves overnight in freezing rain, or snow, as winter simply plopped into our laps and was here to stay.

For weeks, I’ve been hearing my son exclaim from the backseat of the car that ‘those trees are changing’. He tells me which color leaf is his favorite, over and over. I’d love to tell you which color IS his favorite, but it changes day by day, and sometimes minute by minute.

He has questions about WHY the leaves are changing, how the change, why the green is gone, why the leaves fall off. While I LOVE any chance to give a scientific explanation, it has been my pleasure to also explain that GOD MADE THE TREES THAT WAY – for HIS and OUR pleasure.

We’ve been driving different routes, to see what wonders lie on different streets, and parking in random neighborhoods to walk a new trail. A few times I’ve brought my camera. We stop and look at all kinds of things, and we take photos of things from my son’s eye-level.

Most of the time we’re looking straight UP.

I’ll tell you what – from his point of view, fall changes are mighty wonderful, awe-inspiring, and make ME want to join in his exclamations of the glory of it all.

It is my JOY to listen to his observations of wonder. I’ve found MYSELF noticing the intricate details, the variation in colors and types of trees, and the glory of the Lord God who created EACH one. AND how he made them and put them here for US to see, enjoy and marvel at.

It is refreshing to remind myself that these fall changes are not only eye-catching, but changes that allow the tree to survive the winter and be ready to sprout green leaves in the spring.

Could ALL of this in all its complexity be CHANCE?

I just don’t think so.

In fact, by faith, I know so. 

Are YOU marveling at the trees? Or are you concerned that with every falling leaf, the season is fleeting?

Why spend time worrying and perseverating on the coming winter when fall is here NOW to enjoy?

The Bible is clear that we can’t stop the seasons:

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” – Genesis 8:22

Today I drop down to eye-level with a 4 year old to look anew at things that haven’t been perceived with WONDER like this for a very LONG time.

Instead of dreading the winter months to come, I CHOOSE to be PRESENT, in THIS day, surrounded by God’s amazing creation, undergoing intentional change.

There is no denying it, the Lord has outdone Himself with fall this year. Winter can come when it will, but I will be grateful for what we have today; a sunny, 60 degree day, with crisp air, brilliantly blue sky and an array of colors, as far as my eyes can see.

This FALL, I am grateful for the season, and find myself getting caught up in the JOY and WONDER of it all.

“This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalms 118:24

Thank you, Lord.

Here’s a few of the photos my son and I took to give you a FRESH view of fall from a 4 year old’s eyes (along with his comments, verbatim).

Red berries where leaves have dropped, in a backdrop of yellow

“Mom, look at those red things that didn’t fall off! Where did the leaves go and why is that tree YELLOW? I think I like those red things the best. Are those cherries? I like cherries”

Not everything is ready to change color quite yet

” Ooh, flowers! Those flowers aren’t changing yet. They might change someday too, won’t they?”

Even the fading colors are pretty

“Leaves! No green left. They look brown. I think they’re dead”

My son was amazed that while some leaves were turning brown, new flowers were still blooming

“Look at those brown leaves and how some of them are brown. Why are some of them green and some of them brown and some yellow? How come those flowers are still green and not dying? “

Brilliant reds

“I LOVE those red leaves, they’re my favorite”

Some trees are bare, stark against the sky

“That tree is dead mom, like the one in our yard, but God will give it leave next year, wont HE? I think God loves it”

Fall Yellows

“Look, MOM! Those yellow leaves are pretty! THOSE are my favorite!” (yes, these too, are his favorite)

Sun streaming through the clouds yesterday

“Look at the sun hiding behind those black clouds. I think it might rain. The sun is peeking out, I think”

Even the weeds are changing!

“Even the weeds are changing!”

Hardly any change yet...the fall is lasting a LONG time

“How come the trees are green over here?”

Red-orange leaves in the sun

“Those leaves are BRIGHT! Maybe from the sun”

Multi-colored leaves

“Look, those leaves are red but have yellow on them! They have 2 colors!”

Happy Fall.

I am THAT Allergy Mama: Thank You For Answering My Food Allergy “20 Questions” Before We Get Together

How I miss the days when all I had to do was ask what I could bring to a get-together and not have to know what was being served…

Or when someone could bring anything they like best to our house.

Any dessert. Any bread. Any salad topping.

Sigh.

Now I’m constantly MEDDLING.

I’m calling ahead, asking friends to read food labels over the phone, and explaining that the phrase “processed on equipment with nuts” is just as bad for us as something containing an actual peanut.

I’m asking what dessert they are serving, where it came from, and usually planning to bring something similar and safe for my son to eat.

And YES, I often request foods containing nuts aren’t served while we’re there and that nuts are never brought into our home. This is my son’s SAFE zone (and ours). He should never have to question his safety here.

I DO realize it may feel like we ask or expect too much. 

Now I’m hanging out in the kitchen, asking questions about where food came from, and if I can read the food labels myself. If something was made from scratch, I’m asking to if the chocolate chips had a nut allergen warning, and if any pre-made mixes were used.

I KNOW I’m a control freak, and that some of these questions seem silly. I also know that there are plenty of foods that are SAFE and that most of the answers confirm the food IS safe.

BUT, once in a while…we catch something…so I HAVE to ask.

I am THAT allergy mama.

I know sometimes, I’m really annoying with all these questions. I appreciate your patience with me, and for answering me to the best of your ability.

I have REAL and POWERFUL fears (although sometimes they may be blown out of proportion):

  • I AM afraid if there are nuts on the premises, especially when other children are present. Children are messy eaters, they drop things on the floor, they get food on their clothes, hands, hair and face. A quick wipe down with a paper towel and water does NOT safely remove allergen, and my son could have a reaction from coming in contact with it.
  • I DO have sometimes overwhelming fear when the food is generally unknown before we arrive. I usually pack an extra meal for my son, in case he can’t eat what is there. I’m on hyper-alert and may not be able to relax until we sort it all out. I will be distracted until we do. I AM overwhelmed when we arrive to an unexpected baked goods surprise. Donuts sound friendly until you look around and see almonds falling off pastries and chocolate frosted donuts covered in chopped peanuts in the hands of children. Sometimes the fear can be so overwhelming that we just have to go outside; for his safety and my own sanity.
  • I AM afraid that when someone who ate something with nuts kisses my child goodbye that my son will get hives on his face. Or worse.
  • I pray EVERY day and trust that the Lord has what I CAN’T control under HIS all-knowing control. I need to trust Him, or I wouldn’t let us go anywhere.

It may sound selfish, but I DO think my son’s health is more important than your (or your child’s) desire to eat a peanut butter sandwich, pecan pie or peanut butter rice crispy treats. I’m sorry it makes things harder for you. But I think it is OK to ask that you eat them later, when we aren’t around. AND if your child has a food need, I welcome your requests and needs; We will joyfully accommodate them.

I DO trust your efforts are sincere and thorough. However, even with several years of label reading, my husband and I occasionally still catch something on a box that the other missed. Two sets of eyes is ALWAYS better than one. And I’m sorry, but If we don’t have the label or a clear understanding a food’s safety, we can’t eat it. Even if you took a lot of time making it.

I KNOW that nuts show up in the strangest of places and my questions may sound weird: Pretzels, animal crackers, bread, ice cream, ANY dessert, fried foods, italian and asian sauces, salad mixes, seeds, cream cheese, any bulk foods, cereals, crackers, frozen foods, salad dressings, flour, rice, and more have nut allergen warnings. Keeping your child safe from food is more of a LIFESTYLE than anything; it requires a constant AWARENESS.

I AM not sure what type of reaction my son will have from any of these scenarios, but I don’t think ANY reaction is acceptable. I recently heard someone in a grocery store venting about someone with a child with a nut allergy and their ‘over reaction’ to the potential of an allergic reaction. Her reason was, and I quote, “that’s what an Epi-Pen is for”.  This is NOT the first time I’ve heard this statement, nor will it be the last time. Guess what? An Epi-Pen is for when you’ve done EVERYTHING YOU CAN DO to be safe and a reaction happens anyway. I hope to NEVER use ours. I want them to expire, time after time.

The truth is, sometimes an Epi-Pen and quick responses by parents and medical personnel are NOT ENOUGH. Sometimes a child DIES. It is NOT usually because someone neglected to be careful. It was a terrible mistake, or due to an unknown allergy. A heartbreaking event that can’t be undone.

I will NEVER assume a reaction won’t be deadly or cause long-term damage. YES, I pray he won’t ever HAVE a reaction, and that if he does, it will be minor. YES, I believe in God’s protection. But that does NOT mean I have a license to be careless, or that my fears are not valid or real. This is a serious business. It is my child’s LIFE. Having his face swell up, hives all over his body, terrible upset stomach, or his throat close so tightly he cannot breathe are ALL unacceptable to me. Think about how that would FEEL if it happened to your body, or to your child’s body. In our position, I think you’d agree.

I appreciate your honesty and willingness to say when I need to SLOW down, or BACK down. I know that you CARE if my child gets hurt. I know that you are trying your best. If I’m hyped up and making unfair assumptions or requiring too much of you…SAY SO! It may sting, but I promise to listen and to find another way that works better for both of us.

Words can’t express how grateful we are for you who help keep our son safe: 

  • Many of you go out of your way to help us; you purchase nut-free candy, make a cake instead of buying one, or call ahead to ask what is best to have for snack when we come over.
  • I appreciate when you serve a ham sandwich to your child before you come and play at our house, or when you have your child wash their hands with soap and water before coming over if they’ve had nuts that day.
  • It brings tears to my eyes when I think of how many people who are family, friends, church family, neighbors, school staff, and even acquaintances who go the extra mile. EVERY TIME. 
  • It matters when people ask me to teach them to read a food label, or call me from the store if they aren’t sure about something.
  • It is a relief when a host intentionally saves the food labels for me to read and points them out before I even have to ask.
  • I am amazed by the people who make me DAILY feel like my questions are not a burden, and are gracious to me when I’m obviously operating from a place of fear (when I’m surely not at my best).
  • And to those who regularly pray for my son’s safety and that he will NEVER have a reaction; you make it so the fear doesn’t take over, so the label reading isn’t so hard, and so we can leave the house trusting in the Lord’s protection. We FEEL it.
  • All of you make us feel accepted, blessed beyond measure, and loved. We know you are in this with us, keeping our son safe. We appreciate your advice, kindness, questions and efforts.

 

Thank you for agreeing that this child is worth the effort, and thank you for answering my food allergy “20 questions”.

son

 

Update Furniture You Already Own: DIY Spray Painted Bar Stools

Our kitchen is full of neutrals and needed a pop of color to coordinate with our dining room.

As I’ve mentioned before, our budget is limited so wherever possible, we use what we already have, updating where necessary. We already own four wood bar stools at the perfect height for our kitchen island. However, they too were neutral in color and don’t go well with the decor of this house. Updating with paint is an inexpensive way to make them look new.

After an adventure stripping the finish from the bar stools (read here), they were ready to paint.

While I love the flat finish of chalk paint, especially when distressed, I didn’t feel like investing the time to clear coat or wax and buff these.

Four Reasons to Choose Spray Paint for Bar Stools:

  • its great for an inexpensive, factory-like, smooth finish, with very little effort
  • the gloss finish can be cleaned with a damp rag and doesn’t necessarily require a clear coat
  • without a clear coat, the stools can be easily painted to change the color down the road
  • if the paint begins to wear, it is easy to touch them up with leftover paint

We chose RustOleum Painter’s Touch 2x Ultra Cover Spray Paint, in Gloss Seaside. Who can argue with the ease of paint and primer in one can? The coverage was fantastic (in fact, WAY better than the Satin Granite (gray) paint used on our console table this summer. What they say is true; different colors can cover VERY differently).

Each bar stool required 2-3 coats, using a total of 4 cans of spray paint. There was quite a bit left in the fourth can to use for touch ups.

Used this paint

Used this paint

I won’t rehash the steps on how to spray paint furniture, but you can read this post if you’d like more detail. Here are the specifics that apply to painting these wood bar stools:

I spray paint in my garage with two large tarps to protect the floor and bottom edges of the walls. I open the garage door and always use a mask.

As with the console table, it was easiest to spray paint the legs first, with the stool upside down on the tarp.

Even though the stools will have felt pads on the bottom, I chose to cover the feet of the stools with painters tape. That way I could spray anywhere and not get paint on the feet that could someday scratch off on my wood floor.

All areas that were easy to spray at a downward angle were painted. While it was tempting to spray UPWARD to paint all the way around the spindles, I didn’t want to risk a dusting of spray paint on the garage ceilings and walls. Trust me, it travels further than you think! Plus, the un-coated areas of the stool are easily accessible from a downward angle when the stool is turned upright to paint the seat.

I allowed the paint to dry overnight before turning upright to prevent fingerprints in tacky paint. The seat was cleaned after turning upright, just in case.

Half way through the first coat. Great coverage with the paint.

Half way through the first coat. Great coverage with the paint.

Turned the stool upright and cleaned the top surface before painting

Turned the stool upright and cleaned the seat before painting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, surfaces were coated spraying at a downward angle, which effectively covered all areas missed before.

On the seat, two coats were sprayed and allowed to dry overnight. Then the seat was sanded with FINE sandpaper to remove any imperfections and ensure a smooth top. The final coat was sprayed and allowed to dry overnight.

Before using the stools, I checked that the paint no longer felt sticky or tacky. The paint should feel smooth and dry; if it doesn’t, wait longer or risk having impressions of someone’s rear-end on your seat that you’ll have to sand off and repaint.

Finished stool

Finished stool

When all four stools were finished, we put felt pads on each of the feet and moved them to our kitchen. We love the color they add to an otherwise neutral room and after 2 months of use, they’re holding up nicely.

Finished Stools add a pop of color to our kitchen

Finished Stools add a pop of color to our kitchen

Spending under $15 to update what we already have sure beats paying for new stools.

What do you already own that needs an inexpensive update?

A Favorite Fall Recipe: Easy Vegetable Soup

If you live in Minnesota, you know that last night we were reminded that winter is looming; it sleeted. Last night, we sat inside, furnace on, drinking hot cider, as ice pellets fell and the howling wind made sure we could hear the sleet pelting our windows.

Sigh.

At least it didn’t sleet in September… AND, at least none of it remained when the sun came up.

What the sleet left behind is the realization that FALL is here and it may not last long!

It’s time to enjoy those fall colors. Time to get outside and enjoy ANY and ALL days when the temperature is above freezing.

Enjoy Fall

Our family decided to make the most of the day; we went to the MN Zoo.

We saw all the indoor animals and when it finally reached about 40 degrees outside, we put on hats and coats and wrapped the kids in a blanket to do a quick round of the outdoor trails. We enjoyed the warmth of the sun (and walked briskly through the shade).

It was great to be outside, and we were home in time for lunch and naps.

The chill of the morning left me wanting something warm and comforting for dinner. What better than my favorite vegetable soup?

 

Easy Vegetable Soup

15-18 servings

Ingredients

Fresh Vegetables

  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion: chopped and separated
  • 8 medium baby red potatoes (if they seem small, use 10): cleaned, cubed, leaving skin ON
  • 4 large carrots: peeled, and sliced (cut large slices in half)
  • 2 medium zucchini: quarter lengthwise, and slice
  • 4 long stalks celery: washed and sliced (it is OK to throw the leaves in for extra flavor)
  • 1 green bell pepper (optional): chopped
  • 1/2 cup parsley: finely chopped – RESERVE UNTIL END

Pantry Ingredients

  • 2 TBS Olive Oil (I buy the Extra Virgin, light tasting)
  • 1 15 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas): drained, and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can kidney beans: drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can great northern beans: drained and rinsed
  • 3 cans diced tomato with Italian Herbs (or sub diced tomato in basil, oregano and garlic) – DO NOT DRAIN
  • 32 oz (4 cups) vegetable broth
  • 64 oz (8 cups) beef broth (or sub 6 more cups veggie broth, if desired)

Frozen

  • 10 oz chopped, frozen spinach (optional)

Seasonings

  • 1.5 Tsp dried basil
  • 1 Tsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 bay leaf, whole

 

Preparation:

  • Wash and prep all fresh vegetables.
  • Heat 1 TBS olive oil on med-high heat in a large skillet
  • Add half the garlic and cook until fragrant
  • Add half the vegetables (reserve parsley until the end) and saute until softened
Saute vegetables until softened

Saute vegetables until softened

  • Transfer softened vegetables to a large soup pot
  • Return skillet to med-high heat and heat the remaining 1 TBS olive oil and remaining garlic
  • Add the other half of the vegetables and saute until softened
  • Transfer softened vegetables to the soup pot
  • Add the drained kidney beans, great northern beans and garbanzo beans, un-drained diced tomatoes, vegetable broth and beef broth to the soup pot
  • Add the dried basil and oregano, salt and fresh ground pepper (to taste), and whole bay leaf to the soup pot and mix well
  • Bring contents of the soup pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer
  • Simmer, covered, for 30 – 60 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender
  • Add 10 oz chopped frozen spinach, if using, and stir until melted and distributed throughout the soup
  • Add chopped parsley and stir to mix
  • Return the soup to a simmer and cook 10 more minutes

 

Notes:

  • Top with grated cheese (Parmesan or cheddar), and warmed, crusty bread, or maybe with grilled cheese (yum!)
  • My kids don’t like soup broth, which is fine by me (messy!), so I use a slotted spoon and give them a pile of cooked veggies
  • We usually freeze half of this soup since the recipe is so large (or we use it to feed a large group). I recommend freezing in either single portions (for lunches), or with enough servings for your family to have a meal together. To freeze: Cool fully and transfer to labeled freezer zip-lock bags and freeze flat or transfer to plastic containers with lids
  • You can add cooked shredded rotisserie chicken to add protein and a little extra flavor to this soup. Just make sure it is finely shredded or chopped
  • You can throw everything in a (LARGE) crock pot and cook on HIGH 2-3 hours or LOW 5 hours (or until veggies are tender). Just wait to add Parsley and Spinach until 20 minutes before turning the crock pot off (I have a smaller crock pot and this recipe does not fit!).

 

What’s you favorite FALL recipe?

Lessons Learned The Hard Way: How NOT To Strip A Bar Stool

I wasn’t going to share this, but since in the real world, DIY projects do not always go as planned, I thought it necessary to share how I got a little over confident and made an incorrect assumption during one of my recent endeavors.

While it was a relatively minor mistake and the project was salvaged, I created unnecessary work for myself (and my husband).

After successfully stripping and spray painting our console table, I planned to use the same process to update some bar stools to use at our our kitchen island.

Since the first project went smoothly, I figured this one would too.

Logical, right?

WRONG.

The four stools had a shiny finish, which I assumed to be a thin clear coat or polyurethane finish.

Since I was planning to spray paint the stools, I knew I needed to remove the shiny finish to make sure the paint would stick.

I’d just had a great experience using the chemical stripper, so instead of testing a small inconspicuous area of ONE bar stool, I decided to go ahead and coat one, and try sanding one. Then, after stripping those two stools, I’d select the easiest method to strip the other two remaining stools.

Honestly, after what happened, I have no idea WHAT was on the stools. Perhaps it was a clear coat…but it was certainly not compatible with the chemicals used.

Half Sanded Bar Stool

Half Sanded Bar Stool

After easily sanding the larger, flat surfaces, I found sanding the spindles on the legs to be cumbersome and awkward work.

It wasn’t that the sanding was a terribly difficult task, it was more that the idea of painting on a chemical stripper seemed MUCH easier.

AND, for the record, painting on the stripper WAS easier than sanding the stool.

Bar Stool With Chemical Stripper Applied

Bar Stool With Chemical Stripper Applied

SO, being lazy that day, after painting one stool with stripper, I decided to paint the remainder of the stool that was half sanded.

Why not just go the easy route?

Or so I thought.

HOWEVER, after the stripper had been applied, the wood literally swallowed it up.

INTO the grain.

Chemical Stripper Soaked INTO the Wood Grain

Difficult to see, but here is Chemical Stripper (CitriStrip) Soaked INTO the actual Wood Grain, below the top surface

You don’t have to be an experienced DIY’er to know that this is a bad thing.

VERY.

BAD.

What little clear coat was there evaporated into thin air, leaving the porous wood free to absorb the chemicals from the stripper.

With the stripper IN the wood grain, there was absolutely NO way the paint would stick.

It HAD to be removed.

It could not be removed by scraping with a putty knife.

It could not be removed by wiping clean with mineral spirits.

(Mineral spirits simply removed the top layer of stripper from the surface, but all along the stool, there was chemical soaked into the wood grain itself)

So, after deciding I didn’t FEEL like sanding off the VERY THIN the clear coat, I now had to sand down even FURTHER to remove the chemicals from the wood.

AND, instead of just saw dust, I now had paint stripper tainted saw dust.

It. Was. Nasty.

And required me to remove my contacts and rinse my eyes with saline after suddenly they got VERY itchy. Yikes!

Sanding this deep, even with rough sand paper was HARD work.

Especially on the spindles.

Talk about a workout; with extremely poor ergonomics.

My arms and back were so sore half way through the first stool, that I finally swallowed my pride and asked for my husband to help me sand the other stool (which was thankfully only half-coated).

While he was a WILLING and gracious helper, I can say with confidence that he did not appreciate my lack of testing the stripper before applying it to not one, but TWO stools.

And, he was right. Seriously, I’m a biochemist!

I KNOW that not all chemicals react the same way on different surfaces.

In fact, I could have probably figured out a way to do a simple test to see WHAT type of coating it WAS.

BEFORE I started.

What was I thinking!?

I am grateful my husband helped (and did a great job).

Otherwise, that stool might still be sitting in my garage, and we’d just have 3 painted bar stools in our kitchen today.

After all that, I used 100 grit sandpaper to strip the remaining two stools, and found those to be less work than even ONE with the chemical stripper added to it.

I then went over all four stools with mineral spirits to remove any saw dust (or chemical dust) from the surface to prep for paint.

Not my brightest moment.

So.

What are the lessons learned here?

  • Always, always TEST before you apply ANY chemical to a whole piece
  • When sanding wood with a chemical residue, remove contacts, and wear eye protection
  • A chemical stripper is not always better (or easier) than elbow grease and sand paper
  • As is noted on the CitriStrip label and on most reputable DIY sites…all clear coats are NOT created equal (To figure out what kind of finish you’re dealing with and what chemical to can be used to remove it, read this)
  • If you do enough DIY projects, you’ll find a way to mess something up; thankfully, many of these errors can be fixed, but will likely require some extra work (and help)
  • Don’t forget the basics and to follow instructions, even if you’ve used a chemical before

 

I think it is safe to say, that most of those lessons are basic! Things I knew and took care to follow before my first project with chemical stripper.

In DIY projects, no project is ever the same, and I should have never assumed the finish on the stools would respond the same way as on my console table.

Over confidence is NEVER a good thing when playing with chemicals.

The good news is, after removing all the chemical stripper, and sanding the other two stools, the paint adhered well.

At least fixing the problem with all that work was worth it, even if it my lack of wisdom took me on an annoying, arm-tiring detour.

Next time I strip something I’ll remember to go back to the basics and not get overconfident that everything will be ‘just like last time’.

Duh.

I’ll post soon with photos of the finished, painted stools.

JOY Comes In The Morning; Even When You’ve Failed

ps 30 5

 

Yesterday was one of those days where I felt like I failed at my job as a mom.

After the kids went to bed, I sat with my husband, recounting the day, tears streaming down my face.

I told him how I was still feeling just as helpless, ill-equipped, emotionally raw, and disrespected as I had earlier in the day.

How I felt like I had FAILED.

And, worse, how I had no idea what I could have done differently.

I told my husband how my son had ended up in his room, completely out-of-control, caught in the throes of an EPIC temper tantrum.

And how that tantrum had left both him and ME in tears.

I recalled how the whole day leading up to that moment had been emotionally charged, and filled with out-of-character defiance from my son.

How at 9 am I was already searching mom-blogs for advice on how to discipline (I should note, I found one worthy of reading here). And the day went on from there.

To say I was frustrated is an understatement.

Knowing my husband was in a meeting, I had called my mom in desperation for advice. She must have heard the defeat in my voice, because my parents were at my doorstep in 10 minutes.

It is the first time I have ever called for backup.

At first, I felt sheepish. Like I should be able to handle it.

But as they arrived, the tension diffused.

Relief washed away any embarrassment.

Plus, I HAD no big ideas on how to proceed. I felt like if I went to speak with my son, who had since quieted down, he would again spiral out of control.

My dad went and had a grandpa-grandson talk.

A while later my son emerged. Calm. Apologetic. Tear-free.

My sweet parents stayed until my husband got home, and then my son and daddy had a talk.

I was grateful for all of the help and the rest of the evening was uneventful.

But I felt defeated.

Sure, my son’s behavior was unimpressive, but what became EVIDENT was my lack of skills to handle it.

Kids have temper tantrums; it’s a fact of life.

Especially kids who have gotten ear tubes, a nasty cold and a cough, and started fall activities and preschool, ALL in the last 2 weeks.

My son is rightly exhausted, and in the process of learning to cope with the increase in stimulation and activities.

I get it.

He. Just. Lost it.

My husband encouraged me and we set a plan in case something like that happened again.

I went to bed with an empty feeling. Disappointed in myself. 

When I woke this morning my daughter was yelling.

I went in and she was jumping up and down, cracking up, excited to see me.

My son was found reading quietly in his bed. He, too, was excited to see me, and to share what he was looking at.

No reservations.

He wasn’t thinking about yesterday, or how mommy couldn’t handle the situation. 

We came downstairs and I made them breakfast, and sat to spend some time with the Lord.

Still feeling raw, I decided to start in Psalms; in hopes of finding words to begin the day with WORSHIP.

I opened to Psalm 30. A familiar, highlighted verse jumped out at me.

For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.

 Psalm 30:5 (NIV)”

I find it even more beautiful in the King James Version:

For his anger endureth but a moment,
    in his favour is life;
weeping may endure for a night,
    but joy cometh in the morning.

Psalm 30:5 (KJV)”

I may have found failure yesterday, but my son and my God have not given up on me yet. 

How encouraging is that?

While I did pray for help yesterday in the thick of it, it was more of a plea of desperation.

Earlier in the day, when I was searching mom-blogs for parenting wisdom, I should have been consulting the Bible and praying to the One And Only. 

The ultimate parent and Father who has watched every temper tantrum in the history of the world (Ugh, aren’t you glad YOU haven’t had to do that?).

It isn’t that other parents (or my parents) can’t give wisdom. They can. I am grateful they do.

It’s just that I was relying on the their wisdom and my strength doesn’t hold up under pressure.

Only the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control given by a relationship with Jesus Christ can prepare us for the unknown.

Mom-blogs are great, but they are no match for Jesus.

Yesterday reminded me how important it is that I pray daily for His guidance and wisdom for parenting.

That I would rely on HIS strength.

Because as I so clearly demonstrated yesterday, I cannot do this on my own strength or wisdom. 

My children have been calm and pleasant today.

Little course correction has been needed, and has gone without objection.

Like yesterday never happened.

Today I give thanks that without fail, JOY comes with the morning, as does another chance.