Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Goode Family

We just saw the pilot episode for The Goode Family tonight. We're big King of the Hill fans (it's been very helpful as a Texas cultural primer), so I'd like to see the producers work out the kinks in the new show and have a long run. I'd seen mixed reviews of the pilot episode and I agree with the viewers who said that the second half was better than the first: in the second half, there's real suspense and engagement with the characters. Some viewers thought that it will be hard to have a continuing show where the producers are so out of sympathy with the main characters, but I thought they did a very good job helping us get into the mom's head and sympathize with her anxieties (for instance her desire to be closer to her prickly teenage daughter), even though the mom is not the most sympathetic of the four family members. I thought the producers also did a good job conveying the campus atmosphere. It's going to take a long time to introduce a large cast of characters like we had on King of the Hill, as well as to sketch out the larger community. Arlen, the setting for King of the Hill, is as real to me as any place that I've lived, and it will be an achievement to repeat that effect.

Star Trek

My husband and C (especially C) have really gotten into watching old Star Trek episodes (with Kirk, Spock, etc.) on Hulu.

C's test results

Earlier this week, I got C's results for the testing she did for a summer gifted program (she got in and she's going to do two week-long sessions). C scored in the 82nd percentile on reasoning and in the 99th percentile on math and science (it was a single test). My husband does a lot of science enrichment type stuff with C at home (microscope, telescope, Capsela, electronics kit) and she reads a lot of kids' science books from the library. At school, they do "nature study" with regular field trips. C can identify a number of local plants and trees that are completely unfamiliar to me. On the math side, C has Singapore Math at her school. I was doing addition practice with chalk on the patio with her last night at her request, and I noticed an interesting fact. Presented with a problem like 29 + 4, C automatically translates it to 9 +4 + 20. I think that's very good.

Three pumpkins

Yesterday I discovered that one of my pumpkin hills has three pumpkin seedlings coming up.

Potty training update XXXI

D has been in cotton underpants for much of today with no vinyl pants.

UPDATE: We had two accidents this evening, one after the other, but I think D is sick.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bored II

During the school year, C was earning points for cooperation at school that she was then able to trade for various goods and services at home. Now that school is over, C wants to earn points during the summer. We didn't know exactly what to base our point system on, but today was very clarifying.

This evening my husband and I met with C to make up a list of activities for her to turn to when she is bored at home. Some are solo, some will require a parent. She is entitled to 30 minutes of parent time in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon. C said she was bored by the meeting, too, but we have a list of a couple dozen activities now. At the bottom I have several other activities circled in red. If C finds herself bored in spite of two dozen fun activities, an hour a day of guaranteed parent time, and a little brother to play with, we go to the doomsday option of doing housework and workbooks until we aren't bored anymore. I haven't really tried that before.

I've also written up a sheet, showing that C can earn 2 points before lunch and 2 points after lunch. Here's what it says under "How to earn points."
  • Don't say "I'm bored!" Say, "Mommy, can you help me find something to do?"
  • No repeated requests or offers.
  • No means no.
  • Do a good job finding activities.

Bored

As of today, C has endured 2.5 days of summer break and she is bored, bored, bored.

Noah's Ark

C has created a board game where animals try to get to Noah's Ark. She and D are playing right now with the spinner from her Dora Chutes and Ladders and an elephant sticker and a zebra sticker as the game pieces.

Liquids

C: What is a liquid?

D: Everything that's wet is a liquid.

C: A wet towel is wet, but it's not a liquid.

I'm having a lot of trouble getting around that one.

Friday, May 29, 2009

May budget

I have $18 left in the budget to cover the last two days of May, which is about right. Unfortunately, I have to confess to a small federal-style fudge. We got a $50 rewards check from our Amazon credit card account and I decided that rather than stick it in our Christmas and travel fund (as we usually do with found money), that we'd take $30 of it to cover haircuts. We are still going to manage to save just over $1,000 toward our house this month. We've been able to save very consistently ever since we paid off all our debts at the beginning of the fall (initially toward our emergency fund). Less happily, next month (June) is when we start getting the big electricity bills for AC as well as when we start paying for both C and D's tuition (D will be going three days a week).

Maybe I should have kept the possum.

Potty training update XXX

I am pleased to announce that D has been dry for the past three days, including nights. This means that he has earned a trip to IKEA's Smaland. This is very exciting for all of us.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The cognitive science of dinner

We had another stir fry for dinner tonight and this time my husband followed Sarah's advice (thank you, Sarah!) and grated frozen ginger into the pan. The kids liked dinner. The ingredients were chicken, grated ginger, General Tso sauce from a bottle, frozen stir fry veggies, and brown rice. My husband did most of the cooking, but I started the rice and hovered around like one of Tom Sawyer's pals watching him whitewash the fence. We have four more dinners to make at home before the end of the month and the beginning of the summer cafeteria season. I think we can make it.

On the internet, one often runs into expressions of puzzlement on the decline of home cooking and the ubiquity of restaurants that serve mediocre versions of things that you could make cheaper and just as fast at home. I baked enthusiastically starting in 6th grade and have cooked lots of different things over the years, but sadly, I too am a victim of this phenomenon and I stopped cooking regularly in spring 2003, around the time my oldest started crawling. What happened?

Thanks to Daniel T. Willingham's Why Don't Students Like School, I think I know why. I think the problem was that even when I was at my peak as a cook, it was an enjoyable, engrossing leisure activity, rather than being automatic. As Willingham would phrase it, I was using all of my working memory for cooking. If there were any other demands on my attention, things broke down. There's also the issue of background knowledge. Willingham says:

Do you have a friend who can walk into someone else's kitchen and rapidly produce a nice dinner from whatever food is around, usually to the astonishment of whoever's kitchen it is? When your friend looks in a cupboard, she doesn't see ingredients, she sees recipes. She draws on extensive background knowledge about food and cooking...
What I and other dinner-challenged people are lacking is practice and background knowledge so that making dinner doesn't require any intellectual effort. We need to get past the point where every dinner requires thought (and then you order pizza) to the point where we have a small, well-rehearsed repertoire that we can put together in the dark.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that this need to automate cooking is another example of why "you can just look it up!" fails in real world application. "Looking it up" is slow and inefficient, especially when dealing with external distractions. To be an effective home cook, you need to know basically what you are going to be doing before you open the cookbook.


Chronicles of Narnia

C just finished a reading of The Chronicles of Narnia and is starting to read Inkheart (thank you, J!). She's been home sick the past couple days and tomorrow she has one last final half day of school.

Potty training update XXIX

I believe D was dry all day today, basically on his own initiative. I'm giving both M & Ms and points and he appreciates both. He's also interested again in keeping his room tidy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The AC goes on

Today was our first partial day of air conditioning.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Opossum

Late this afternoon, C noticed a strange animal hanging on the outside of our trash can. It had a long, rat-like tail, black and white fur, and a pointy muzzle. An internet search confirmed my suspicion--it was an opossum, the only marsupial native to North America, and it had gotten a paw wedged in a crack in our plastic trash container. It being Memorial Day, the Humane Society wasn't open. Calling the city yielded the following relayed advice from Animal Control: "Pull it out by the tail and throw it." So I called our landlord's facilities office and talked to the guy on call. His story of dealing with city Animal Control was being told to put a tarp over two skunks and wait two days until Animal Control was able to come over and deal with them.

Eventually, facilities put in a call to Eco-Safe, but we weren't sure how soon they'd be able to check in with us. Sometime after the kids went to bed (9:15ish), my husband and I ventured out to the dark backyard with a flashlight, a couple of brooms, and a rake. After a bunch of fiddling with the crack in the trash can from a safe distance (and spraying the opossum with the hose), the opossum was freed and it immediately disappeared. I called facilities and updated them. Some time later, the Eco-Safe guy appeared to inquire about the well-being of the opossum.

Tomorrow I'll need to talk to the city waste disposal people about getting a new crack-free trash container.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gears

There's a whimsical new summer exhibit of (mostly wooden) machinery at our local museum, so the four of us went this afternoon. We got to see an Archimedes' screw, an olive press meant to be powered by livestock, a wooden crane, a wooden machine for raising pillars into position, as well as a couple of catapults that could be used to fire ping pong balls at a picture of a castle. It was all hands-on, so you could try out just about everything.

Jules Verne

C last audiobook was Jules Verne's In Search of the Castaways and she's just starting Around the World in Eighty Days. I missed out on Jules Verne as a kid, so I've been enjoying the chance to listen in on the odd chapter here and there.

The virtue of leftovers

While enjoying a lunch today of black beans (from two days ago) and brown rice (from yesterday), it occurred to me that leftovers are a built-in benefit of home cooking. If I make beans for dinner a couple times a week and rice every couple days, there will always be something immediately edible in the fridge, not just ingredients. The rice and beans both require forethought (since the cooking time is long), but have very fast prep time (especially the rice). And, as I mentioned earlier, the kids like both rice and beans.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mint

Out of curiosity, I googled "thuggish mint bush." I am the only website that google lists under that search. Yay!

Pumpkins

D and I were weeding our flower bed this evening. He and I made small hills of dirt, planted pumpkin seeds in the hills, and watered the hills and our other plants. I also made some space for the dill plant that is being encroached on by my thuggish mint bush. I don't know how well the pumpkins will take the hot weather, but I like the idea of having big vining plants to sprawl out over the less prime side of the flower bed.

Sweet and sour

Tonight's dinner is supposed to be sweet and sour chicken. I've already had a chance to sample the brown rice, which is just about perfect (last night's was a bit dry), just like the rice from Mr. Chen's Organic in DC which was where I first encountered brown rice with Chinese food. I did the rice but my husband is working on the chicken. He made the sweet and sour sauce up himself from an internet recipe: lime juice, pineapple juice (from canned pineapple), white vinegar, corn starch and sugar. The internet recipe calls for red food coloring, but he skipped it.

UPDATE: I didn't rinse the brown rice before cooking (to maximize stickiness) and I was careful about making sure to put in enough water. The results were nutty and moist and I was gratified. I have avoided cooking rice for years (white rice is nutritionally dubious and brown rice takes forever), so I am very pleased that the rice cooker really is that easy to work with. (Where have you been all my life? Aside from the year or so spent neglected on the kitchen counter, that is?) Tasted from the pan, the sweet and sour sauce had a pleasant lime taste and a zing from the vinegar. It tasted OK on the chicken (which was not battered), just a little bland and muted. My husband thinks it probably needed some more time to thicken. Since he says it took half an hour to prepare this sweet and sour sauce from scratch, doing so is probably a culinary dead end. Tonight's dinner probably came in at a bit under $13 total. I love stir fry dinners at home, but they are our most expensive home cooking, given that right off we are spending around $6 for chicken. I like panang tofu as much as the next person, but I don't think the kids would be clamoring for seconds. (We have one very good Thai restaurant locally (which has proselytizing Buddhist literature in the waiting area), one pan-Asian chain called Pei Wei, and a multitude of iffy to so-so Chinese buffets.)

Dessert was a berry pie that my husband worked on with D: two HEB crusts, frozen cherries, frozen raspberries, some frozen blueberries, corn starch and sugar. I didn't figure up how much the ingredients cost, but presumably we could have bought a frozen pie at HEB for roughly the same price, but with more mystery ingredients.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Black beans and rice

I was specially virtuous this morning and got C ready for school, fed D breakfast, and got some black beans into the Crockpot by 8:35 AM. (We didn't have any onions, diced tomatoes or bell peppers at home, so I left those items out. Chili powder, cumin powder, garlic and bay leaves will have to do.) I took a quick bath after that and by 9 my local cousin picked D and me up and we went for a morning walk on the dam that holds back the reservoir. D and I just got back from our morning ramble. After C gets home from school, I'm going to put some rice into my rice cooker. I got the rice cooker as my Christmas present a couple years ago after insisting that I couldn't live without it. Needless to say, I have never used it (although my husband has once). I have, however, read The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook from cover to cover. (Faithful readers may be beginning to detect a pattern.)

One cafeteria (probably the worst one) reopens at the beginning of June, so we won't be completely on our own if we can just get through the month of May. However, we probably aren't going to want to face the cafeteria five nights a week. I was working up a list of realistic menus last night and here is my initial draft:
  • beans and rice
  • stir fry
  • ham and sweet potatoes
  • spaghetti
  • pancakes
  • quesadillas
  • salmon baked in aluminum foil (with rosemary or whatever)
  • chicken baked in aluminum foil (with mole or rosemary or whatever)

I'm not excited about this list, but I suppose a lot depends on what you do with it. The spaghetti would probably be a lot more interesting with some of our fresh basil, and for our rice and beans tonight I'm planning on mixing brown and white rice and cutting up lemon and lime wedges and setting out ranchera salsa (which I have become very fond of).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New arrival

I have a new nephew who was born just this past weekend, hours after his father (my much younger brother) graduated from college. Congratulations to the new parents!

Marriage

I overheard the following at preschool drop-off this morning.

Little Boy: I'm not going to marry [unintelligible]. I'm going to marry my sister!

Bullies

C's school had an assembly on bullying today. Later, at recess, C joined some girls on the playground who were building a wood chip wall (to keep out bullies) and a leaf-covered pit trap (to catch bullies).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mattress

D's mattress and crib have lately been much abused, largely at C's instigation. Earlier this afternoon, the kids propped the mattress up to form a slope and were planning to toboggan down in my laundry basket when I intervened. A bit later, there was a howl from D. I investigated and found that the kids had set up the mattress on the crib to form a diving board and that D had just hit the wall. Whoops! I am tempted to confiscate the crib and leave D just the mattress on the floor.

Byron!

D got his fifteenth point and I gave him Byron the Bulldozer.

Potty training update XXVIII

D is now 4 years and 2 months old and only somewhat potty-trained and pre-kindergarten starts in about three months. I've finally bought some M & Ms and have been awarding both M & Ms and points for potty success. There has been some success. D has 12 points right now, three short of being able to buy a Byron the Bulldozer (a Thomas the Tank Engine pal) from my store. He is motivated. Unfortunately, D has a long history now of pottying consistently on road trips or when there is a prize he is specially interested in, and then relapsing.

UPDATE: He's got fourteen points and is one point away from Byron the Bulldozer! Hopefully, we will be able to interest him in more Thomas friends. We've had success in the past with motivating him with sets of prizes (dragons and elephants), so hopefully we will be able to persuade him that Byron is lonely.

End of the year

This is the end of the school year, a very festive time. Yesterday, D's preschool class had a pizza party and tomorrow will be D's last day of preschool this term (he'll do one day a week during the summer term). I'm told that his class went through five boxes of pizza.

C had her birthday celebration in class today. I brought cupcakes (C insisted on store-bought), napkins, paper plates and D. C wore a sparkly crown which her teacher keeps for this purpose, she got ceremonial birthday hugs from her teacher, and the class waited in agony until she had her first bite before they got to start eating. That piece of etiquette is scrupulously observed in these parts. C has about five days of class left.

In other news, our lows are around 60 degrees and it's now 75 outside. I couldn't wish for better.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Credit madness

D just got his first credit card offer in the mail. (I'm not pushing the identity fraud panic button since it was a frequent flyer card, probably triggered by the purchase of a plane ticket in his name.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

We deal with the cafeteria shut-down

Last night was our first night of dealing with the cafeteria shut-down. We mostly had frozen dinners. Tonight, we were more ambitious. My husband took the lead. He did a stir fry with the following ingredients: rice, chicken, packaged Thai peanut sauce mix, coconut milk, fresh ginger and frozen "stir fry" vegetables. We've used the Thai peanut sauce mix a number of times, but adding the ginger toned the peanut down a bit and gave it an added dimension. We had lemon and lime slices at the table, which was also great. This was a very successful instance of just throwing good things together and hoping for the best. Oh, and the kids ate it and the total cost for dinner was around $14 (a smidgen more than we usually pay at the cafeteria for the four of us). This was the first time we have ever used fresh ginger. I'd also liked to see if we can use it to perk up bottled Asian sauces. There's also the issue of the Thai basil plants that we are growing. The Thai basil may or may not go well with ginger.

My husband just put in some popsicles with the guanabana nectar I got at the store. The guanabana is a spiky green fruit with a mild but interestingly floral flavor.

UPDATE: You may have noticed the ubiquity of a dish of lemons or limes or both in kitchens in home magazines lately. After the dozenth sighting, I decided to give it a try and put out some in a glass dish. Other than the fact that the kids see it and want me to squeeze them some lemonade or limeade by hand (rather than using the juice in the fridge), it's a very useful and decorative practice. 1. Lemons and limes should be at room temperature before juicing. 2. It's nice to be constantly reminded that we have them, since it leads to using them, rather than leaving them in Siberia at the bottom of the fridge. 3. They smell good. 4. So far, the fruit flies don't seem interested.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Coconut

I was grocery shopping this afternoon and brought home some ginger root, a coconut, and some guanabana nectar (for use in popsicles), as well as a large assortment of frozen foods to get us through the cafeteria closure. Those three foods are all firsts for me. My husband (an old hand at coconuts), took the coconut to the garage, drilled the eyes, drained out the watery liquid, double-bagged the coconut in ziplocs, then proceded to throw it on our driveway until it cracked. The kids were thrilled. As my husband predicted, the liquid from inside the coconut (which is not exactly coconut milk) isn't all that great. My husband brought the cracked coconut inside and then the two of us used table knives to separate the coconut meat from the shell. It comes off very nicely. The kids were displeased by the taste of the raw coconut meat and demanded that it be sugared. We didn't. My husband then shredded some of the coconut and then I mixed up a box of brownies with the kids and we sprinkled the shredded coconut on top.

I've been looking longingly at the ginger root at the grocery store for some time. I know how wonderful everything tastes with ginger in it, and I have laid in ample supplies for cooking stir fry.

Madagascar 2

The kids got Madagascar 2 from Netflix and it's surprisingly tolerable. My memory is fuzzy, but I think it may be better than the first Madagascar. The initial sequence of the scheming penguins flying the plane from Madagascar to Africa is first-rate and there's a special feature that allows you to help the penguins pilot the plane to safety.

Rain

We're having one of our monsoon days right now and the outside temperature is a blessed 65 degrees (78 degrees inside). This is good.

In other news, C has 8.5 days until the end of the school year.

Friday, May 15, 2009

We sweat it out

Our outdoor highs have lately mainly been in the mid-80s and low-90s, with morning lows in the mid-70s. That yields indoor temperatures that range mainly from 80 to 84 degrees, with occasional highs at 85. Last year I wimped out at 83 degrees indoors and turned on the AC around the fourth week of May, so my heat tolerance is somewhat improved this year.

I'd like to hold out for another week or two, since last year, the summer electricity bill ran as high as $260. Our first summer (before we switched a bunch of bulbs to fluorescent), we had three bills over $400. Even the fluorescents seem to generate a lot of heat. Our current protocol is to keep as many lights as possible off, open windows and run ceiling fans. This produces tolerable results. We have nice deep eaves (a common design feature in Texas homes), which helps a lot. Unfortunately, the ceiling fans are only in the three bedrooms and the dining room is a dark, windowless hole without the lights on. Once we go over to AC, we'll shut the house down tight and try to keep lights off.

UPDATE: I just remembered that the switch-over is a bit more complicated. Initially, we'll have windows open in the morning and at night and shut down and use AC only during the hottest times of day. Eventually there's not going to be significant cooling at night, so at that point, we shut down tight for the summer and use AC all the time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Summer planning

I've finally got C signed up for all the summer activities she's going to do this year: two weeks of swimming (about 7 hours of instruction) with the Red Cross, one week of jewelry making (about 10 hours), and a gifted summer camp (most of the day for five days). We didn't do any classes or camps last year, so this is a big jump for us.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

C does catch-up work

C has been mildly feverish off and on for several days, so we kept her home from school yesterday and today. She has a cup of horchata with ice at her elbow and is doing one page of math and then going off for a quick My Little Pony break at hasbro.com. She can decorate one virtual cake at the My Little Pony site in about three minutes, which is just right.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

My future garden

Last year I got several garden books, including McGee and Stuckey's The Bountiful Container and Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening. I love the look of container gardens and I like the idea of having a little sun room with a Meyer lemon tree or two and a year-round herb plantation, but I'd also like to try square foot gardening outside for our future home since the odds are that we will have a decent-sized yard (this is the land of the ride-on mower). I like the idea of being able to just reach over and weed the small raised beds rather than having to get into the dirt, compact the soil by walking on it, and wind up with dirty feet.

Gladiolus

One gladiolus is starting to bud.

Sweet basil, Thai basil and oregano

This evening, I cultivated the flower bed and cleared enough weeds that I was able to plant out my sweet basil plants, Thai basil, and oregano. There were six sweet basil plants and three Thai basil plants, so each of them cost about a dollar. I'm slowly growing into using fresh herbs. My husband used our basil in his sandwiches last year and likes to bake salmon with fresh rosemary in aluminum foil. I'm thinking that all you probably have to do with the Thai basil is toss it in with coconut milk in a stir fry and you'll get something wonderful. I've also got some pumpkin seeds that didn't get planted last year. I expect to plant those later, but it will be mainly for entertainment value for the kids. Canned pumpkin (cover your eyes Sarah and Heather) seems to me to be more useful than fresh pumpkin, except for jack-o-lantern and other decorative purposes.

The cafeterias close in a week and then will be shut down for two weeks. Furthermore, during the summer, only our least favorite cafeteria will be open and it's going to be packed with various summer camp groups. So we are looking at a minimum of two weeks of fending for ourselves in the wild, followed by 2.5 months of roast beef, macaroni and cheese, or institutional-grade pizza. It's almost enough to make us turn to cooking. I'm currently studying Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet which may be the answer to our summer cooking issues (the heat generated by the microwave is supposed to be far less of a problem than that generated by conventional cooking, a big deal when it's 105 outside and 82 inside). I warn you though, dear readers, that I am notorious for preferring to read about domestic achievements rather than to actually perform them.

Saturday morning

I went and talked to my pastor this morning about the possibility of offering Dave Ramsey's 13-week Financial Peace University DVD course. If he approves the idea, there will still be some practical issues to resolve: time, getting a big enough group together, child care, etc. That said, I've felt for a long time that I should try to facilitate an FPU class. There are a lot of young families in our parish and it could do a lot of good.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Herbs from Walmart

C took a bouquet of carnations to the May crowning at her last session of CCD last night. The three remaining members of the family spent that hour at Walmart. My husband graded at the Walmart McDonald's while D and I shopped. I've missed the cooler spring gardening months already (so we'd best wait until the fall to put in carrots and radishes), but I figure I ought to be able to put in some herbs, so I got some in pots at Walmart: two pots of sweet basil, one pot of Thai basil, and one pot of oregano. I haven't planted them yet, but they are waiting outside for me.

Last year's experience was:
  1. Seeds and bulbs don't necessarily come up, no matter what you paid for them, especially if you don't water them regularly.
  2. Cilantro smells better than it tastes (which is remarkably like parsley).
  3. Nothing can kill a mint bush. Unfortunately, there's not a lot you can do with a bushel of mint leaves. (We have a mint bush that was here when we moved in, as well about five rosemary bushes and a number of pecans. The pecans had a very good crop in 2007, but were practically barren in 2008.)
  4. Rosemary bushes are fantastic in this climate, and are just as indestructible as mint, but rosemary tastes great with everything.
  5. Our basil last year took a long time to get going (I grew it from seed), but it withstood severe neglect during the summer, bouncing back after lengthy waterless periods. It flourished deep into the fall, finally dying in late November or early December.

As I mentioned, I didn't aggressively garden this spring, although I've been attacking the weeds with a shovel this week. That said, I am enjoying dividends both from the efforts of previous residents (the pecans, mint, and rosemary) and my own work last spring. I have a row of gladioli that came up very nicely after their winter dormancy (I wasn't going to dig them up, store them over the winter, plant them in the spring, blah, blah, blah). They are mostly two feet tall now, despite no watering this spring. There's a dill plant that just came up in the area where I had dill last year and it's probably taller than any of the dill plants I had last year.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention my garlic chive plant. I put it in last year, neglected it for most of a year, and it's still going strong. These herbs are very resilient.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

C gets 4s

C is on a behavior plan with her teacher. She can earn up to 4 points every day for doing what the teacher says. She's been on the plan for about six weeks. Lately, she has been earning nearly all 4s. We are all very happy with her progress. I asked her to what she attributes her success, and she says "It's easy now." C spent 30 points right after school today to get a Klutz Foam Glider kit. (We would like to avoid making the points work as cash equivalents, so we've decided to fuzz up the issue of the exchange rate by saying that C can get anything in my store for 30 points.)

Monday, May 4, 2009

General Lee

C is doing her catch-up work from her illness last week. The kids in her class are studying the Civil War and one of her assignments is to write a sentence and draw a picture showing General Lee's surrender to General Grant at Appomattox. I image googled "General Grant" and got photos of the historical figure. However, when I image googled "General Lee," I got dozens of images of the red stock car from Dukes of Hazzard.

Red blood cells

My husband was showing the kids some of his blood under the microscope last night. The red blood cells were pleasingly donut-shaped, but disappointingly colorless. (Telescope modification project, in case you were wondering where the blood came from. He spent Saturday driving to Oklahoma for a used telescope, and there has been feverish activity in the garage ever since--it needed to be lightened, modified so that it could fit in our car trunk, and it eventually needs wheels. The thing looks like a cannon.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

C catches up on math

C missed school Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, so we are working on her math. She is getting toward the end of her Singapore Math book. They have just introduced vertical addition of two-digit numbers (but without carrying). C is doing a page of that, then watching 5 minutes of The Last Unicorn, wash, rinse, repeat. C has been resistant to the idea that you need to add the ones before adding the tens.

UPDATE: I think C liked The Last Unicorn (she watched it with her own stuffed unicorn), but I probably should mention that the story, characters, and visuals were very weak.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Price drop

A house on the outskirts of the historic neighborhood I watch has just dropped from $150k to $140k. It's a tudor (1920s?), about 2000 square feet, 3BR/1BA. That's about $70 per square foot. A block or two away, there's a much bigger house for sale for $170k ($50 per square foot). That's across town from where we live now, probably a 15 or 20-minute drive.

I'm starting to think that a zero-commute location near where we currently rent would work better for us. The problem is 1) there are only a couple dozen houses available in that other faculty neighborhood that is not going to be demolished 2) none of them are for sale now and 3) the last time one was for sale, it was $280k (around $100 per square feet). We're supposed to have 1.5 to 2 years before we have to leave our rental. It will be interesting to see where prices go from here.

UPDATE: I somehow failed to mention that the house is advertised as a "tutor" rather than a "tudor."