Your security alarm goes off in the middle of the night... do you have a plan?

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I want to tell you a true story that happened to my family a couple of years ago when my kids were 9 and 11 years old.  My husband was out of town.  I was getting sleepy on the living room sofa so I went through my normal nightly routine, going room to room, turning off lights, checking all the locks on doors and finally, arming my security system.  Near the kitchen, my dog was asleep in her crate and my kids were in bed upstairs. I fell into bed and was asleep within minutes.  A short time later, I was startled awake by first, my dog barking and then, the sound of my alarm system, WAILING loudly.  I had a plan for this!  My husband and I had discussed what to do in this very situation. I jumped up, dialed 9-1-1 on my cellphone, and ran to my bedroom door and locked it.  I then went to the bedroom closet and unlocked the gun safe, loaded the ammunition quickly and headed back out to my bedroom where I stood holding the gun aimed at my bedroom door.  I was talking on two phones.  First, on my cell phone, was the 9-1-1 dispatcher and second, on my landline, talking to the alarm company (which had called me and the police).  Before hanging up with the alarm company, they informed me (and the police) that the security breach was at my back kitchen door.  The dispatcher told me to continue to hold my gun on my locked bedroom door and stay on the line with her until the policeman arrived.  Suddenly the alarm stopped wailing.  Someone had shut it off.  I heard a little voice at my door, "Mommy?"  I opened the door to find both of my girls, looking confused and a little afraid (after all, Mommy had a gun in her hand.)  They had the dog in their arms and they informed me that something was wrong with the alarm so they had come downstairs and turned it off!  I immediately pulled them into my room, closed and relocked the door, said prayers of thanks that they were safe and continued to hold my gun on the door.  I asked them to lock themselves in my bathroom but they wouldn't leave me.  They huddled under the covers on my bed, now crying and shaking. The dispatcher informed me that the police officer had just arrived at my house and that he was standing in my kitchen.  He had come through the back door that the burglar had left open.  I was told to secure my gun in my gun safe and meet him in the kitchen.  That night, everyone in my home was safe and this story had a happy ending.  The police assumed that our alarm scared away the intruder. The police searched my entire house, looking under beds and in closets.  They even searched the attic, assuring me that no one was still in our house.  My kids slept in my bed the rest of that night.  I don't think I slept at all.  I sat listening for sounds and trying to calm my fear.  The thing that startled and terrified me more than anything was my kids coming downstairs. What if that person had still been in my house?  What if he had shot my kids?  We had a plan for our gun and for our alarm but we had completely missed filling the kids in on "the plan" and what their role was!  The following day, after my husband returned home, we sat down with the kids and we made a plan.  If the alarm ever went off again, they should get up, lock their bedroom door, go into their closet and stay there hiding with the door closed until they heard one of our voices outside of the door telling them it was safe to come out.  They sat with BIG EYES, nodding their little heads and my oldest said that was a good plan for anytime they heard anything suspicious in the house... they would just hide in their closets.  The following Monday, my husband was leaving for work at 7am.  He found me in the back yard, pulling some weeds and watering plants.  He gave me a goodbye kiss and headed out for work.  About 30 minutes later, I decided to head back inside only to realize that he had accidentally locked the door behind him.  Let me paint a picture for you - I was in my sleep t-shirt and sleep shorts, bed head, no bra and I started banging on my back door.  After all, my kids were upstairs in their bedrooms, surely they could come down and let me in!  No one answered.  I went around the house to all the doors and windows, I BANGED AND BANGED AND BANGED.  No answer.  I finally had to walk to a neighbors house... barefoot, braless in shorty night shorts and ask to use her phone.  Steve had to drive all the way back from his office to let me in (he worked 30 minutes away).  When we got in the house, we frantically ran up to check on the girls and found them hiding in their closets.  They thought a crazy, lunatic had been banging on the door and they were only following protocol!

So, why am I telling you this story?  

Did you know that June is National Safety Month?
I thought I'd write a little something about how you can make your home safer.  The lesson I learned from the very true story that you just read, was the importance of having a plan for all emergency situations! A plan will keep you safe and could save lives.  June is a good time to review safety information and rules.  We need to educate ourselves and our families about these important topics.

I have noticed that while there is a lot of online information about safety for children, babies and the elderly, there's really not much about safety for teens.  I have two teenage daughters now so my perspective on safety has changed.  I used to worry and fret over them sticking a metal object into an electrical outlet or falling out of their highchair.  Things are definitely different now.  I still worry just as much but I worry about different things.  With age, comes independence and it's important to teach our teens about safety in those new realms.  So, I decided to give you some helpful safety information and guidelines for teenagers.  I hope it keep you and your family safe from injury this summer and throughout the year.  

Here are some safety guidelines for teens...

Heat Stroke 
  • When it's really hot outside, wear loose fitting, lightweight clothing.
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Never leave anyone in a parked car (temperature in car can raise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes)
  • Take it easy during the hottest part of the day
  • Get acclimated to heat before participating in a strenuous activity
  • Be aware of certain medications that increase risk of heat stroke.

Fire Safety
  • Never leave a candle burning, unattended.
  • Cooking is fun but you should always turn handles away from edge of stove and have a fire extinguisher nearby.  Know how to put out a grease fire.
  • Have a fire escape plan.  Make your entire family participate in a practice fire drill.  If you really want to humiliate them, do it at night, after they are in their pjs.  Teens love standing in the front yard in their pjs!  haha
  • Have a collapsible fire ladder in every upstairs room.  Keep the ladder stored near a window.

Swim Rules
  • Never swim alone.
  • Never swim near drains or suction outlets.
  • Learn CPR

Bike Safety
  • Wear a helmet!
  • Always make eye contact with driver before crossing street in front of a car
  • Ride with direction of traffic, not against.
  • Know and use proper hand signals
  • Wear retro reflective materials at dawn, dusk or evening.

  • Never take someone else's prescription drug.
  • Be aware that "huffing" or inhaling certain household items can be fatal.  This is a form of drug abuse.

Here are some safety guidelines for parents of teens...

Gun Safety
  • Half of all unintentional shootings are committed by children and teenagers.
  • Keep kids from accessing firearms by storing ammunition and firearms separately, keeping guns unloaded and locked away, and ensuring that both are safely out of reach.
Phone Numbers
  • Visibly display a list of important phone numbers ... Fire, Police, Poison Control, Mom/Dad's Cell Phone Numbers and Neighbor's Phone Number
Hot Water Heaters
  • Set to 120 degrees

Carbon Monoxide
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms on every level of home.  They should be located near bedrooms.
  • Never leave car running with garage door closed.
  • Never use a gas grill or camping stove inside the home.
Smoke Detector Batteries
  • Change the batteries at least once a year.
Security Alarm Plan
  • Know what to do if your security system alarm sounds.
Although Asbestos isn't something you will include in your "teen safety talk", it is definitely worth taking a few moments to read about.  Make sure that you and your family are not being exposed. 

In collaboration with National Safety Month, I hope you will take a moment to read this inspiring, yet heart wrenching story about Heather Von St. James.  

Heather is a Mesothelioma survivor.  She was diagnosed in 2005, only 3 months after giving birth to her daughter, Lily.  Her cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos fibers on her dad's construction work clothes.  She underwent treatment that involved the removal of her left lung, which saved her life.  She now works to spread awareness of mesothelioma and asbestos.  Be sure that you and your family are protected.  Here are some important things to know about this deadly disease: 

    •        Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer caused only by asbestos exposure.
    •        Asbestos was widely used up through the 1970's in building materials.
    •        Asbestos is still not banned in the US and Canada.
    •        Mesothelioma affects the lining of the organs, most commonly, the lungs.

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Demolition and Remodel Update

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As promised, here are photos of the current remodel project.

This is the Hearth Room BEFORE

This is the Hearth Room after demolition.

This is the Hearth Room from the Kitchen BEFORE

This photo shows where the ISLAND was BEFORE

The photo below was taken before the island was removed.

After ISLAND was removed

This was the laundry room before wall frame was torn down.

 Wall is gone! That's my washer and dryer under the drop cloths.

This is the mudroom plan.

They moved my dryer into the new laundry area today so that I can wash and dry clothes!
I never thought I'd be so excited to do laundry.
The washer is still located in the old laundry room location 
because water lines are still connected there.  
Power has all been moved to the new laundry room so the dryer is in now that room.  
I just have to make a short walk (through a couple of rooms) from 
washer to dryer when a load is ready to transfer.  
It's all very exciting!!!!
More updates and details to come!

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Choosing Kitchen Countertops

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Over the past several weeks, I've learned quite a bit about this ever-expanding market.  In this post, I'm going to share what I've learned and reveal my decision on our new countertop material. Please remember, I'm not a professional.  I'm just giving you my thoughts and opinions on the these many products, along with what I hope will be some helpful information I've learned along the way.  We're going to discuss the most commonly installed materials - laminate, stainless steel, marble, concrete, quartz and granite. 

Did you know that 75% of the countertop market is currently plastic laminate?  It might seem like a dying trend but it was once the hottest, best thing, dating back to the 1950's.  Designers say that it will trend back into style, probably whenever the 1950's style cycle returns.  I'm not sure that I'm sold on that one but we'll see, won't we?

Pros:  It's cheap.
Cons:  It's laminate.

Disclaimer: I have had many homes with laminate.  In 1994, our first home was a tiny apartment with orange laminate countertops.  I covered them with country blue contact paper.  They were awesome.

Photo Source:  Laminate countertops by Decor Chick - these are amazing!

It's what you see in all the top restaurant kitchens and it's in a lot of upscale homes. Why don't more people install stainless steel, especially in today's modern kitchen trend?

Pros:  It's anti-microbial, heat proof and easy to clean.
Cons:  It's expensive, it shows fingerprints and water spots, and it scratches and dents easily.

Photo: Decor Pad - Palmerston Design

If you love light colored counters, then you love the look of marble.  There's really nothing prettier than Carrara Marble, in my opinion.  You find it in some kitchens but most often you see it in bathrooms and there is definitely a reason for that!  Marble is fragile.  Why do you think all those sculptors use marble to make their statues?  It's easily chipped and breakable.  If you NEVER cook or even use your kitchen, then this is probably a good choice for you.

Pros:  It's beautiful, clean and bright.
Cons:  It's expensive, it's fragile, porous and stains easily.

Disclaimer: We stayed at this hotel in Rome, Italy last summer and the ENTIRE bathroom was done in Carrara Marble.  I just wanted to live in that bathroom.  It was stunning.

Photo: Tolaris Homes. BHG Hooked on Houses


Concrete has certainly been trending in recent years.  I'm not really surprised by this trend.  Concrete has a very natural, matte look to it.  It fits right in with the burlap-decorated world we live in these days.  It's just cool but it's not necessarily ideal.

Pros:  Super cool looking, gorgeous matte finish and heat resistant.
Cons:  It's fairly expensive, easily stained or cracked, and requires maintenance.

I was not a fan of Quartz prior to this "study" of my kitchen.  After I look at all the many new Quartz products out there, I narrowed it down to one of my final choices.  Quartz can be made in any color so you can get that light, marble look and that's probably my favorite thing about it.  I started asking professionals about the different tops and I found that most preferred QUARTZ above any other.  They also said that Cambria Quartz was the "Cadillac" of Quartz. 

Pros:  It's pretty and available in bright, light colors.  It's strong and sealed with no maintenance.
Cons:  It's very expensive.  Some Quartz can cost more than Granite.  It's also not completely heat tolerant and can crack, from what I read.  
Photo: Torquay Cambria Quartz.  Apartment Therapy.  7th House on the Left.

It's been the rage for a several years now and it's still going strong. It's price point is dropping somewhat due to it's availability and new, less expensive methods of cutting the stone.  I think it's so pretty and the fact that it's a real slab of (unmanufactured) stone is pretty cool.

Pros:  It's beautiful and it's strong, for the most part.
Cons:  The lighter colors are hard to find and more expensive usually.  Granite in general is expensive.  It's also fragile and requires resealing every year.  It's hard to get a slab any larger than 9 feet.

Disclaimer:  As I read the pros and cons on this one, I'm almost talking myself out of it.  Notice, I said ALMOST.

So back to my kitchen and my decision - I chose GRANITE.  
It was a very tight race between Quartz and Granite though.

Remodel Update
The house is in demolition mode right now.  There are framed walls and torn up floors and lots of construction dust.  I will share pictures with more details on my next post.  I am busy picking out appliances, flooring, lighting, cabinet colors, finishes and much more!
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