Friday, October 31, 2008

Champurrado on Cheerios

We've been out of milk for a couple of days now, so I was wondering what to put on my Cheerios this evening. Inspiration struck, and I mixed the champurrado powder with hot water and added it to Cheerios. The package describes it as an "authentic chocolate, masa & cinnamon flavored drink mix" (masa flour being some sort of white corn product). I had tried champurrado earlier, having mistaken it for Mexican hot chocolate at the store, but found it too starchy, bland and low in chocolate value to drink by itself (maybe with cinnamon toast?). However, it makes a very passable milk substitute.

Why am I out of milk? It was the end of the month, and a couple pairs of fleece pajamas for D and some Starbucks visits left me with no milk money. Fortunately, today is the last day of October, my husband and I have had our budget meeting for November, and a shiny new month is about to begin. This is the second month of saving for our house downpayment, our Christmas savings are respectable, and it looks like we'll be able to hire somebody to whack the shrubbery back.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Things you don't want to hear at pick-up II

I thought the bug was going to pass him by, but D did throw up in his bed last night at 2 AM. He's staying home from school today. He's very happy, just a little subdued.

Buttons IV

My husband and C worked on buttons last night. C worked on the dressing doll, some men's shirts and (most wonderfully) she was able to zip and button her uniform skort in 25 seconds. She tied the shoe on the dressing doll. She hasn't done the pants and belt yet, but she needs to, since it's getting cold.

This morning she insisted on dressing herself. I zipped up her jumper in the back and might have helped with a sock, but this is a huge first. (She dresses herself on the weekend, but those clothes are mostly stretchy pull-on items.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

C gets her grades

C had her first Spanish test a couple days ago. It was on the names of animals, and I think she got all of them. I'm very pleased that the kids are learning to write Spanish as well as speak it, since a lot of the challenge of learning a foreign language is hearing the words correctly. (Only this year when C started ballet did it finally occur to me that the ballet term is grand plie, not "bromplie" as my little kid ears heard it years ago.) I don't know any Spanish beyond the small vocabulary that one picks up automatically. Fortunately, Spanish pronunciation is blessedly consistent. I'm only a bit hesitant over the pronunciation of "c" in different words. What sound does the "c" in "dulce" make?

C's grades for the quarter came in. Based on her grades and what I've seen of her work, her spelling, arithmetic, and Spanish are very good. Her handwriting is good when she's fresh and rather bad when she's tired. There are a bunch of "need improvements" that I'm going to need to talk to the teacher about, but her performance in core subjects is very reassuring.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Things you don't want to hear at pick-up

I was collecting D from parents' day out this afternoon when I heard one of the teachers calling urgently to another teacher: "Alex is throwing up in the hall!" Alex is one of D's classmates.

We shall see if D makes it to school on Thursday. They are having an "Orange Party."

Grass head

I finally tossed out the grass head C brought home from school a few weeks ago. It consisted of panty hose stuffed with dirt with googly eyes and a yarn mouth to form a face, with grass growing wildly from the top to signify hair. The thing was mounted on a coke can, with a length of panty hose dangling down to wick water up to the head from inside the can. It's been living (if you call it that) on my kitchen window sill, which does not have adequate sunlight. A week or two later, after the grass had died, it looked like nothing so much as those really un-PC shrunken head exhibits from the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History. It was a pretty macabre item to have staring at me in the kitchen.

Hopefully, C will not notice the head's passing.

Monday, October 27, 2008


C angrily to D: I told you! I don't know everything!

D's car

D: I drew a car with hair!

Golden dragon II

D got his golden dragon prize yesterday, after 15 successful potty trips.


Whataburger goes a different route than McDonald's with the surprises in their kids' meals, probably because they're not big enough to land the big movie tie-ins. We stopped there Saturday night and scored two "Mad Lab Flasks," along with instructions for a magic card trick, crystal string, penny magic, and liquid layers. My husband did the penny cleaning experiment with the kids and the crystal string experiment is still underway.

Good job, Whataburger!

Sunday, October 26, 2008


We made a family trip to NASA outside Houston over the weekend. The kids spent much of their time in a multi-story enclosed play area, we saw moon rocks and soil, looked at exhibits of space craft, had some disappointing experiences with simulators, enjoyed a $39 fast food lunch for the four of us and hit the gift shop. We skipped the 90 minute tram tour of Rocket Park. C loved space stuff about three years ago (when she was D's age), but she's past it now, and this weekend she was in no mood to be edified.

We listened to Fellowship of the Ring in the car both ways, which kept everybody quiet and happy. We also watched the beginning of the movie this evening with the kids, which I'm not sure was a good call. I just can't quite figure out what would be an appropriate age to show the movie to kids.

Friday, October 24, 2008

How to get dressed

D: I can get dressed by myself because I know there's a tag!

He later brought me an inverted t-shirt, informing me that the tag should be on the inside, and the panda should be on the outside.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quote of the day

I love, which is a site featuring San Francisco real estate. The photography, the architecture and the commenters are fantastic. Here's a sample comment from today from an anonymous author, critiquing a practically windowless modern 0/1 home with a roof deck reached by ladder: "It's the perfect pad for the serial killer who reads Dwell." That's very clever, but I believe serial killers need more storage.

A note to realtors

Dear Realtors:

When you don't give any interior photos for homes, I assume the very worst. Thanks!

Foreclosure II

I was looking at one of my real estate sites just now, and realizing that I completely botched my guess on the identity of the foreclosure now listed for $150k. My previous guess was that it was the enormous mansion-turned-gallery. Looking at the two pins on the map just now, it finally dawned on me that the 5BR/3BA foreclosure has got to be the same as the $250k (first listed in the 300s) 5BR/3BA flip that has been on the market ever since I can remember. I hadn't seen the identical bedroom and bath numbers side by side before, so it didn't occur to me that they were the same listing. Oops. I walked by the house a month ago, and there was some litter on the lawn and an air of neglect. It's a pre-war English cottage, about 3000 square feet, it's got a spiffy new kitchen and it's an obvious flip (the photos don't have a stick of furniture). It was last sold in October 2006 and has been for sale for about a year, as far as I can remember. It's a decent remodel (judging from the photos), but it's only on the edge of the neighborhood I like, and heaven only knows what the summer AC bills are like for a house that big in this climate.


My husband asks me to report that D is engrossed by a text-to-speech program on an early 90s Mac that we have ceded to him. He types in a word (CAT, HAT) on Microsoft Word, sounds it out, then has the computer read him the word. My husband thinks D is teaching himself to read.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hard candy

Halloween is just around the corner, and I see that we still have some heart-shaped suckers from Valentine's Day and a bunch of Tootsie Rolls and Dum Dums from a pinata scramble at a summer birthday party. And this despite my best efforts to throw away candy while no one was watching.

Hopefully, President Obama will ban hard candy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

D reads

D read the following words today off a computer screen: STOP, SUN, ZOO, ZOOM, SOON, JUMP, HOP, CAT, HAND.

C's ballet plans

C says that she wants to do ballet until the end of the school year, and next year too. I'm glad, since I think it's very good for her. It makes her more conscious of her movements and gives her more control over her body.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

House Lust

I took a break from The White Man's Burden to breeze through Daniel McGinn's House Lust. It came out in early 2008, just in time. As his dentist in told McGinn in January 2006 when he mentioned that he was writing a book on the housing boom, "I hope you're writing really fast." It's a very enjoyable overview of US housing, and I only wish it were bigger. Here are a few things that drew my attention:
  • "From 2001 to 2006, the average U.S. home rose in value by 56 percent. In some of the hottest regions prices doubled over that period, while in a few white-hot markets values jumped 40 percent in a single year. And with the homeownership rate at record levels--it rose from 44 percent in 1940 to 69 percent in 2006--more people than ever had a rooting interest."
  • "In 2005, for the first time since the Great Depression, the nation's savings rate dipped below zero, meaning the average American was spending more than he earned. Families were doing this, some economists reckoned, because they figured the rising value of their home was providing all the savings they needed."
  • "As recently as 1950, one-third of American homes lacked complete indoor plumbing."
  • In Potomac, Maryland, McGinn visits an upscale development. "The average Potomac View buyer earns around $400,000 a year, puts down $1 million in cash, and ends up with a monthly mortgage payment of perhaps $12,000 to $14,000. Initially, the sales team figured most buyers would be doctors, lawyers, or entrepeneurs, but the reality illustrates how our House Lust has reconfigured socioeconomic status: Instead, the community is dominated by mortgage brokers who grew rich during wave after wave of refinancing."
  • "In Sweden, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, the average new house is less than 1,000 square feet."
  • "New York University sociologist Dalton Conley cites studies showing that people who live in homes where the number of rooms is less than the number of inhabitants suffer from increased irritability, withdrawal, weariness, and poor physical and mental health."
  • "No matter what the house size, Graesch says, people tended to spend most of their time near the kitchen--generally congregating around the nearest flat surface, whether it was a kitchen island or an adjacent dining room table."
  • "...regardless of a home's size or layout, people tend to spend a ton of time wherever there's a TV or a computer."
  • "As recently as 1870, one in eight American families had full-time domestic help."
  • "A house, David Owen wrote in his memoir of home repair, "is essentially a huge box filled with complicated things that want to break--a box that sits outside, day and night, in the rain and snow, surrounded by creatures that would like to eat it.""
  • "During the four years Fraser worked as a designer, as many as one-third of her clients ended up divorcing during the course of a job or soon afterward."
  • "In 2004, according to one Wall Street analyst's calculations, the percentage of homes bought by investors reached 14.5 percent of all residential real estate transactions, double the average from 1978 to 2002. By 2005 one real estate economist figured, 27.7 percent of the seven million houses that changed hands were bought by someone with no plans to live there or use them for vacation homes, but simply to try to make money off them."
  • "When Dick Clark rang in the new millenium in 2000, the National Association of Realtors had 761,181 members. Five years later its membership had swollen to 1,264,640. That's an increase of 66%--and it represents a half million people..."
  • "In 2000 the California Association of Realtors began a longitudinal study to find out how new agents fare during their first years in the business. The association picked 100 people who passed the state's licensing exam that year and began tracking them. Five years later, 57 of those 100 had dropped out of the field. Among the quitters the biggest complaints were lack of support from their brokerage bosses and their inability to make enough money."
  • "The average vacation-home owner spends just thirty-nine nights a year in his second property, according to research by the real estate industry."
  • "Yale economist Robert Shiller has analyzed home price movements going back to the 1890s, and he's convinced that over the long term, houses appreciate at a rate only slightly faster than inflation."

Buttons III

My husband and C are doing another training session this evening. C worked on buttoning her blue jeans on the clock and then moved on to buttoning and unbuttoning her uniform skort. Part of the time, she was working with her eyes closed. Her best time on the skort was 15 seconds, but her last time was 39 seconds. Right now, they are doing the dining room obstacle course. They are continuing to do Goal-Plan-Check.

One of her uniform items is a pair of pants that must be worn with a belt. I didn't know about the belt rule until this year and she hasn't worn pants since I found out. We finally got the belt in the mail a few days ago, but I was concerned that she wouldn't be able to manage it and the pants, especially under high stress conditions. However, given her success with buttoning her jeans and skort, it looks like she should be cleared to wear the pants and belt within the week. Cold weather is around the corner, so this is important.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Buttons II

This evening, we met C's chum for another bike date on campus. The girls rode their bikes for about half an hour, and C didn't have any falls. I've also noted that after a month or so of ballet, C is starting to use ballet-style moves outside class.

My husband gave C her first training session this evening. He set up an obstacle course for her with the dining room set, asking her to move around the table between the table and the chairs without bumping. She suggested skipping over boxes, so he had her do that, too. The main business of the evening was button work. They started with the training doll, and C practiced buttoning, snapping and velcroing (we skipped shoelace tying) with a stopwatch running. C was very successful working with a man's dress shirt, and managed to fasten even the tiny collar buttons. They worked up to the button on her jeans and the button on her uniform skort. She was a very good sport for the practice session, but the skort button was so frustrating that she demanded a point for it. We agreed, since that seemed like a fair exchange for so much hard work. Next time, she'll need more timed practice with snaps, the button on her jeans and the button on her skort. Shoelaces will have to wait.

The theoretical framework for all this is Polatajko's Goal-Plan-Do-Check. It may sound funny for an operation as simple as fastening a button, but it really is difficult if you don't know how.

We visit the missionary training farm

The local hippie Christian missionary training farm was having an open house today, so we loaded up the kids and headed out of town. It was the real deal, beginning with the toilet facilities. There was a chemical toilet, but C and I wound up visiting the composting toilet. I'd heard of that phenomenon, but never seen one. This one reminded me of the facilities one sees in National Parks, with one crucial difference. They had a big bin of sawdust, and the instructions said to toss in a scoop of sawdust after use. There was a sign urging users to shut the lid, but there actually wasn't much odor. The facility was also rather grandly decorated with bamboo along the walls and a mural on the door. The kids and I watched some other kids feed goats, saw the chickens, saw bunnies, saw the ducks in the duck tractor and picked out a sparkly embroidered fair-traded bag for C to buy from my store. There was a talk going on in a tent, and every so often, I'd catch something about their work figuring out the best possible diet for chickens and the importance of a healthy prayer life and strong community. The kids had a pony ride in a miniature wagon drawn by a small pony (think Great Dane-sized). C really wanted to do the interactive map activity (there was a map of the world painted on a wooden floor), but I assured her that the activity (which was about poverty and resource distribution) wasn't nearly as much fun as she thought it would be. The kids also wanted to go on a hay ride. My husband had spent most of the visit in the car working on his book manuscript, but given that he was wearing Dockers and I was wearing knit mom pants, I decided that it would be a good plan for him to do the hay ride with the kids. While they were having a hay ride (with tour narration provided by an African trainee), I hung out near the tent and listened to singers. A young woman came by and urged us to come over and listen to a talk and have a chance to win a worm bin (I passed). Eventually, my husband and kids returned, and we all headed home to normal American life.

It could have been a lot worse

D rushed in a minute ago to tell me that, "There's a kitty cat picture on the wall!" Uh oh. I followed him to the kid's bathroom, and discovered (to my infinite relief) that he was referring to the fact that C was using her Shrek projector to project a picture of Puss in Boots onto the wall of the darkened room.

Friday, October 17, 2008


My husband and I were able to talk to Researcher Relative last night about C's physical challenges (buttons, walking straight without tripping, running, not bumping into people and things, etc.), and RR says to modify C's school uniform so that she doesn't have to struggle with the button, since that sort of daily struggle with an everyday item is hard on self-esteem. RR doesn't think we can find a congenial physiotherapist or occupational therapist locally (the really good work on coordination seems to be done in Canada), and thinks we can collectively come up with some sort of program. I'd like to have some sort of trained professional helping us. RR thinks that it will be revealing to talk to therapists and ask them exactly how they deal with each of the problem areas. RR agrees with Polatajko that working on individual skills is the best way to go.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mission accomplished

C had a boy classmate over for a playdate and showed him her Asterix movie. This is the first time that we've hosted a playdate in our home in Texas and the first time ever that we've had a child come for a playdate without their mother (except when I had a babysitting gig back in DC when C was a toddler). It's new territory, but the kids are big now and it went off without a hitch. D and I picked up C and M from school, and on the way to the car, C and M talked about The Magic Treehouse and M told me he has started Harry Potter. We went home, the kids refused a snack, watched the video, played with C's Scratch and Sketch books, played with Do-A-Dots, played a bit of hide-and-seek, and then his mom picked him up. It was especially nice that this was the last day of the week and since we have a day off tomorrow.

I mainly just drive to and from school, but even that step forward has opened up new worlds. My plan is to try to average one playdate or birthday every week.

Bubble case study

In my target neighborhood, there are two midcentury homes two blocks away from each other with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. One is listed for sale at $175k and the other (which is listed as-is, with a contractor recommended for doing renovation) is listed at $280k. It will be interesting to see how this anomaly resolves itself.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ballet progress

C had ballet today and the teachers report that she did fine. Yay! C says: "When I'm a real ballerina, I will wear pink." All the girls came out with a page and a half of choreography for the Christmas program.

Most delightfully, C's allergies seem to have cleared up for the season.

Golden dragon

D has earned 2 points toward the 15 he needs for the golden stuffed dragon. In related news, we had a "teachable moment" this afternoon when I discovered that the children's toilet had had a mountain of paper thrown into it. There was no disastrous flooding, I am happy to report.

C's candle holder

C brought home from art a glass jar with multi-colored tissue paper glued on the outside, and asked that I blog it. It's a candle holder, and C was thrilled with the results when we lit it up and turned off the lights.

Tiara thank-you

The mail just came, and there was a thank-you from C's friend whose birthday party we attended Friday. "I loved your tiaras book," says the note, which has a pencil sketch showing C's friend in a tiara, and then a larger sketch of a tiara decorated with "jewels." Awwww.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


C's school uses a spelling and writing instructional program known as "The Spalding Method" or Romalda Bishop Spalding's The Writing Road to Reading. For homework, they do ten words on Monday night, a second set of ten words on Tuesday night and both sets on Wednesday night. On Thursday night, the pre-test comes home and the child reviews any they missed, and there's a final test on Friday. It's a well-oiled program, and I expect a lot of schools do more or less the same thing.

The Spalding Method has a lot of unique features. One of them is that they teach kids 70 different phonograms (th, ch, b, k, etc.) and they explicitly teach all of the sounds produced by a letter or set of letters. When teaching kids "a," the kids will learn that it makes three different sounds in English (a as in "cat," a as in "late," a as in the first and last syllables of "banana"). A bit of their childhood innocence will drop away when they learn that "ough" has six different pronunciations. As if that weren't enough, children are also supposed to underline the t and h in "th" to show that they are working together as a phonogram, to put two lines under a silent e, and to add numbers to words to signal the correct pronunciation. Beyond that, there are 29 different rules, which take up three pages of the book. I have the Spalding book (400 some pages) and I've been faking my way through C's homework, but I'm eventually going to get back to reading the book.

On the bright side, the Spalding Method teaches a lovely round well-designed manuscript hand that is designed as a good jumping-off point for cursive.

Sophies and Alexes

D tells me that his little friends at preschool are named Alex and Sophie. Is there any school anywhere in the country today that does not have an Alex and a Sophie?

D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths

C is rereading her pretty illustrated D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths (1962), which she had to read this summer for school. This time she's reading it out loud, which gives me a chance to work on her pronunciation of "Artemis," "Hephaestus," "Athena" and "Aphrodite."

October preschool

D went to preschool today for the first time this month, after several inconveniently timed colds. I'm glad he doesn't go to a hotsy-totsy $10k a year preschool.


I hear you, Texas motorists: I promise not to mess with Texas.

Scrubbed post

I've scrubbed the previous post (as I said I would), as well as the comment thread. My apologies if anybody was planning on anthologizing their contribution.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Attention, readers!

This post has self-destructed.

Tortilla machine

Over the weekend, I finally got a chance to see the cafeteria's tortilla machine in action. I noticed a pile of floury balls of dough in the work area, and was puzzled as to what they were, until I saw a cafeteria worker start feeding them into the machine. They emerged from the machine as thin discs and went straight to the cooking surface, where they quickly turned into soft, puffy tortillas and were used to make chicken quesadillas. After 30-some years of dry store-bought in-the-bag tortillas, fresh-cooked tortillas are a revelation. How did I live without you?

Elsewhere in the cafeteria, my husband tells me that there is a self-serve waffle iron that produces waffles with the college's initials on it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Walking the fence

Today C spent a lot of time walking the fence at the local Old West village under her father's supervision (I was home). Normally, I would discourage that kind of activity, but C has been physically inactive for the past year or so, and she needs all the balance practice she can get. The thing is that (as with the arabesque issue at ballet), when C gets frustrated, she is liable to despair and give up.

How many months of inventory?

I finally came across some real estate statistics for our area. This year, the number of months of inventory has been roughly 9 months. The stats I was looking at are incomplete, but the lowest inventory number was from 2004, when the average was roughly 5.5 months. The number of months of inventory has been creeping up steadily ever since 2004, which is earlier than I expected. It looks like peak prices were in 2007, and we have nearly twice as many listings now as in 2003. I was also comparing the number of homes sold from 2003-8 to figures from 10 years earlier (2003 compared to 1993, 2004 compared to 1994, etc.). The number of homes sold yearly from 2003 to 2008 was generally around 50% more than the number that sold yearly from 1993 to 1998. Meanwhile, the population was flat.

Today's sermon

Father was preaching against the theory of the social contract and the idea of autonomy as the ultimate human good.

Tea party

D (to C): Can we have a tea party with Smaug?

Moments later, D, C, Smaug (the red and gold dragon) and a panda from the National Zoo were all enjoying tea together.

Pop beads II

D earned his pop bead critter set at 7:46 this morning, with coaching from C, who is very excited about the pop beads.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Wagner is this month's composer at C's school.


Out on the patio this morning, C sketched out a hopscotch grid on her own initiative and did some hopping on one leg. I was very pleased.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Alexander Nevskii

Husband (while watching Eisenstein's Alexander Nevskii): This should be a musical.

C and I go to a birthday party

C and I went to her chum's birthday party today after school. Twenty-some 1st graders, their parents and siblings were there, as well as a hamster. The hamster was having a rough time of it until I stepped in. There was a magician who faced a barrage of pretzel bits from his audience as well as a little girl who pounced on his props at every opportunity. We had cake and the kids queued as the magician made balloon animals and swords for everybody. C's behavior was very good. The kids had a glorious time.

I am never, ever going to invite an entire first grade to a birthday party.


I was just on Amazon, and ordered a copy of the documentary Weather Underground as a gift for some relatives before the election, and a doll with snaps, zipper, and buttons as a training device for C.

Lazy gardener

I am currently improving the organic content of my small garden by letting the pecan leaves and shells that fall there lie. The pecans themselves need to be picked up, since they eventually turn into tenacious, hard-to-pull pecan seedlings. If we let them go, we'd have literally hundreds of baby pecan trees growing all over the yard.

Tale of Grandfather Mole

I take back my doubts about the dramatic possibilities of The Tale of Grandfather Mole. In the car tonight, we were listening to a truly harrowing scene in which Grandfather Mole is captured by the farm cat and barely escapes.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Against my better judgment II

I was just looking at Amazon's offerings for developmental coordination disorder, and a book popped out at me. This is quite possibly the best book title ever.

Tictionary: A Reference Guide to the World of Tourette Syndrome, Asperger Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for Parents and Professionals by Becky Ottinger (Paperback - Feb 3, 2003)

Norwegian fairy tales II

C finished reading her big book of Norwegian fairy tales tonight. I bought it for a quarter at a library surplus sale when I was a little older than her and it was one of the books I brought home from my parents' house this summer.

Twelve Tasks of Asterix

I was just writing a note to a mother I've never met, inviting her son to a playdate to watch The Twelve Tasks of Asterix with C. My husband loved the cartoon as a kid in Eastern Europe, and we eventually bought a copy in European DVD format and he made a copy in the North American format. It's an English language version of the French cartoon, and it's about Asterix and Obelix's heroic efforts to perform a series of twelve tasks in order to save their Gaullish village from Julius Caesar's Roman legions. Anyway, C has been talking for weeks about inviting a certain boy over to watch the cartoon. Here's hoping we can secure at least one playdate! Having seen C love and lose two different male chums (one in pre-k, one in kindergarten), I'm somewhat pessimistic about her chances of lasting friendship with a boy, but it's worth a try. I'm aiming for one playdate or birthday party for C every week.

Speaking of tasks, I've been reading a couple of occupational therapy articles and making a list of tasks for C to work on once we find a therapist. So far my list is: buttoning, walking with less tripping and bumping into things and people, running and standing on one foot. The latter is a big deal for ballet. The last two ballet classes, the teacher has told me that when asked to do an arabesque (stand on one leg, other leg lifted gracefully, arms stretched in the opposite direction), C has been saying that she can't do it and flopping dramatically onto her knees. This is problematic, since 1) she wants to stay in ballet 2) her teachers may lose patience if she isn't cooperative 3) her classmates may lose patience 4) it really is hard for her, and it shouldn't be and 5) arabesques are in the Christmas program. Think, think. I've suggested to the teachers that they not discuss it with her and just let her sit that part out, but that's not a permanent fix.

I'd like to sign her up for therapy immediately and get going. The problem is that based on the two occupational therapy articles we've been reading (the main author is a Helene Polatajko), some popular methods don't work in treating developmental coordination disorder (C is borderline--she's about 15th percentile). I don't have a good picture of how Polatajko's CO-OP method works in practice, but it's a cognitive approach. The child helps decide the list of skills to be mastered (I'm not excited about that aspect of the method) and the child works on the individual skills, rather than doing neurological stuff that is supposed to magically fix everything (the latter is the approach favored by the author of The Out-of-Sync Child, which does have very helpful descriptions of symptoms and behaviors). They also have a procedure called Goal-Plan-Do-Check that they teach the kids. I like the theory (and the results are supposed to be good), but I'd like to see how they teach how to button and unbutton or how to walk without falling down. The other question is whether we can find a therapist in our area who is effective. This is going to take a while, and I'd like to be doing something helpful right now.

Pop beads

D is up to 11 potty points, with 4 left to go. He's changed his mind, and now he wants to earn the bug pop bead set. Next time I lay in a supply of prizes, I think I'll get some cheap stuff from the children's museum and keep my prices the same.

Alice in Wonderland II

C has finished listening to Alice in Wonderland. She has been getting a lot of high quality literature on her commute. She's now on Arthur Scott Bailey's Tale of Grandfather Mole (the mole is a neighbor of Timothy Turtle, Peter Mink, and Tommy Fox). I haven't listened to it myself, but I'm not sure how much dramatic potential there is in the life of a mole.

A house for Tex?

Tex, maybe you should have a look?


Watching housing is a slow business, but every so often, something big happens. Today, a foreclosure suddenly appeared on the fringe of the historic neighborhood that I've been watching. It's a 5 bedroom 3 bath house, it's listed for $150k, it's on the main historic street, and it was supposed to be auctioned earlier this week. The foreclosure listings are always rather vague, but if it's the house I'm thinking of, it's a huge early 20th century mansion that was converted to use as an art gallery. This is the first foreclosure to appear in my target neighborhood. Who knows what it went for at auction, but it's beginning to look like I'm not crazy to think that we should be able to buy a modest home in that neighborhood for $100k in a couple years.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mother on Fire II

Loh eventually winds up sending her oldest to an LA magnet public school. Although she takes us to see her neighborhood public school (Guuavatorina) toward the end of her odyssey and finds it to be basically OK, Loh does not favor us with a visit to the magnet that her child is miraculously accepted to, or any information about the school itself. The focus is on Loh herself, and her transformation into public school crusader mom.

How does it go? What are the teachers like? What do they teach the kids? How? It's all a blur. That's the bad news. The good news is that as the previous chapters on LA private schools demonstrate, Loh is in fine form. In 2-4 years, I hope she'll have another book out, with a detailed description of her public school experience. She'll be older and wiser and will be able to make a real contribution to the public's understanding of the public school system.

Mother on Fire

I recently finished reading the delightful Sandra Tsing Loh's new book. Mother on Fire is her somewhat fictionalized account of her frenzied search for a school in LA for her older child. I can't really do the book justice by excerpting it, but here are some passages I like.

But then I look at parochial schools and new formulas emerge...
Annual tuition still starts at $10,000. But if the religion is:
CATHOLIC, subtract $1,000.
LUTHERAN, subtract $3,000.
BAPTIST, subtract $5,000.
QUAKER...For some reason, that's PLUS $5,000. If the school is in an old wooden Quaker meetinghouse, the price skyrockets, I don't know why. Add Shaker furniture---and the word Friends in the title? Unaffordable.
Then there's JEWISH, but there are two types of Jewish. High Temple Jewish and low JCC Jewish...But it's a moot point, as I can't seem to find any Jews in Van Nuys, anyway.
And then there's chapel. Chapel required? MINUS $1,500! Chapel OPTIONAL? Well, that relative religious freedom is going to cost you....$1,500!
But look at this! Classes "taught from a Biblical perspective"...MINUS two thousand dollars! THAT'S a really good deal!


Right now, I'm actually seriously considering a Baptist school in Panorama City. That's right--best friend to the poor? Baptists!
The school is a mere $3,000 a year, AND they offer not just discounts, but "classes taught from a Biblical perspective."
And I'm thinking:
How bad can Creationism really be? Or Intelligent Design?
Having our kids taught evolution is clearly an economic luxury. We have to be realistic. In this day and age, perhaps Darwinism is not a theory our family can actually afford...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Against my better judgment

As I was driving the kids home from school today, I spotted a woman with a matronly haircut driving a car with an unusual bumper sticker. The text was "Save the ta-tas" and there was a faint pink breast cancer awareness ribbon in the background.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Barnes and Noble

We hit Barnes and Noble hard last night. The kids were picking out items to go in my store and we got a golden stuffed dragon, a tiara-making kit, a set of small pop beads for making bugs, a couple sticker books and a Kumon Amazing Crafts book. Later, at the grocery store, C picked out colored construction paper and neon Post-Its. She has already bought the Post-Its, and has already carefully copied out two short books on Post-Its. D is saving for the golden dragon. It's $15, which I have converted into 15 points, and he'll get it once he uses the potty fifteen times. He has 11 more potty trips to make. That's pretty expensive, but so are diapers.

C's reading

C has been reading from a book of Norwegian fairy tales. We listened to Timothy Turtle in the car, and C listened to the first Oz book. She is currently listening to Alice in Wonderland. With both the first Oz book and Alice, she has been listening while reading along on a PDA.

County fair

We went to the sneak preview night at the county fair on Thursday. We saw goats, llamas, pot-bellied pigs and tractors. The kids did a moon bounce and a bunch of carnival rides (a dragon roller coaster, a firetruck and an obstacle course) for a buck each.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

C multiplies by 2

This morning, C was mentally multiplying by 2. She did 64 times 2, 128 times 2, 256 times 2, 512 times 2, and 1024 times 2. She needed some coaching in spots (what is 250 plus 250 plus 6 plus 6?) but she has a lot of facility and comfort with numbers. The Singapore Math stuff that she does at school is still in single digit addition, so I'm not exactly sure where this is coming from.

C makes a clock

This morning C made a clock for D from a paper plate. She marked the hours neatly and fastened two movable hands to the plate. She said she had made a similar one at school.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Housing market

There's a new home listing in the historic neighborhood that I watch. No pictures yet, but it's a large midcentury home for around $280k. Meanwhile, another large midcentury modern has dropped from $272k to $260k, and a stately early 20th century home that faces a parking lot has dropped (again) from $285k to $276k. The mid-200s in this neighborhood are becoming a very crowded field.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


D says: In our next house, I want carrots growing in the yard.

C approves of my idea decorating a future kitchen with blue and white Delft tiles depicting a ship with sails, and brings it up regularly. I'm also fond of the blue and yellow kitchen in Bear in the Big Blue House, which D and I were watching this morning. I wonder if it would weird out an architect or an interior decorator if I played the video for them?