Thursday, April 29, 2010


C's fever peaked at 104.7 degrees today, but I kept it down fairly well with Children's Motrin and plied C with ice water. She'll be seeing the doctor tomorrow. She went to bed in the afternoon, wrapped herself up in her comforter and rested with her fifth Harry Potter under her head. She seemed better this evening, although her temperature was high again. D is starting to get sick, too.

I listened to more of Sense and Sensibility this evening while taking a walk. The Dashwoods have relocated and Marianne has fallen hard for Willoughby. There are some beautiful scents that waft from back yards this time of year, but I'm not sure what trees or bushes are responsible. I'd like a scratch-and-sniff garden catalogue for when we have a house.

My husband is working to build a telescope for a friend. He says his carpentry rule is "Measure four times, cut twice."

We don't have cable TV, just static, our own video collection, Netflix by mail, and Netflix movies via the internet and the Wii. That's quite bad enough, especially the Netflix via Wii. The kids have mainly encountered real TV in hotel rooms, and they remember it fondly. C was asking me today, "Could you set up the TV so that it has cartoons on Saturday morning like in the hotel?"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

C is home sick

C is home sick today. She earned the Zoob Cruiser with measurement/fraction work this morning and has been enjoying it by herself while D is at school (he's a 50% owner). She also did a modified version of a sewing project from her sewing kit (it's a notebook cover). She wants to go outside and play with the Zoob Cruiser right now, but I've told her that she needs to find 30 pieces of paper in her room for recycling. We'll be heading out soon, I'm sure.

D says, "if you know what one plus one is, you know what a million plus a million is."

My husband and I have been enjoying The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes on Netflix. They're engaging and fun puzzles and they're short, so they're perfect evening viewing. In other news, my wardrobe is malfunctioning. I've got exactly two pairs of spring/summer pants, and they're both starting to fall apart. I've mended them, but I see the handwriting on the wall. We're going to spend a lot of money on clothes next month.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

C does math

The kids are saving up for a Zoobmobile Cruiser, which is a motorized supplement to the snap-together Zoob construction set they already have. They'll need $31. C is particularly zealous. This evening, she spent her time before bed working on her Kumon Grade 3 Geometry & Measurement. She did 12 pages tonight, which works out to $3. She did some work with place value up to the ten millions, an intro to fractions, and then some more complicated problems (a length of 1 is divided into 7 equal parts, and 4 parts are kept; this fraction has a denominator of 6 and a numerator of 3). As I've said before, I like these Geometry & Measurement workbooks a lot. They are visually interesting, offer a nice variety of problems, and don't beat any particular type of problem to death. Also, C likes them. "It looks like there's going to be capacity in here!" she said almost excitedly while paging through the problems on liquid volume.

D was pushing his critters around in a pink doll stroller this morning. His dragons are favorite passengers. Now that I think of it, I can't remember either of the kids ever using the doll stroller for dolls.

I saw quite a few surveyors in our neighborhood today, and on a walk later, I noticed new spots of orange paint on trees and sidewalks. We (and some of our neighbors) are going to ask the college to reconsider their demolition plans, but we have very little chance of prevailing. I think the campus suffers a lot from the fact that the faculty are almost all commuters and have very little invested in the college neighborhood. This is a town that is dominated economically and physically by the college, without being a "college town". Instead of fostering the sort of vibrant commercial district near campus that a college town has, the college is in the process of nibbling away at the existing retail and restaurants (which is admittedly, nothing to write home about). A Quiznos and a pretty good Thai restaurant have disappeared (the Thai restaurant fortunately reappeared downtown) and my hairdresser tells me that the college now owns the IHOP building (although as far as I know, the IHOP is still operating). I really don't understand the decision-making process here and it's hard for me to believe that the same decisions would be made if more faculty and staff lived near campus.

I walked instead of going to the gym this evening and started listening to Sense and Sensibility. The fireflies have just started appearing. We have the green ones.

Monday, April 26, 2010


D wore a long-sleeved button-down shirt, a green vest, black pants and black mocs to school for today's free dress day. He's my little Alex P. Keaton. Unfortunately, I got a call from school around 11 AM this morning, saying that he was sitting in the office with pinkeye waiting to be picked up. We got him to the pediatrician this afternoon and got prescription eye drops for him. It's going to be a 5-day course of treatment and the doctor says he could go back to school as soon as he started the eye drops. The only remaining question in my mind is, who else is going to get pinkeye?

In other news, D has been enjoying watching The Electric Company. We got a thank you letter from for the kids' donations. Ordinarily, I very much dislike seeing small donations come back to me in the form of junk mail, but I think it's nice for the kids to get some feedback and reinforcement. I left the illustrated brochure from Heifer on C's bed for her to see after she got home from school. D says that next time, he wants to give ducks, and he wanted to know how they ship the ducks.

My exercise streak continues. I did 101 minutes and 5 miles on an incline on the gym treadmill this evening and finished listening to Pride and Prejudice. My weight has barely budged at all, but I'm sure all this exercise is good for me

Sunday, April 25, 2010

For Katie and MH

I was just looking at a personal finance post on the secrets of Italian-Americans. Have a look--I think you'll like it.

D seems a bit under the weather, so C and I walked to church this morning, meeting a family of neighbors headed in the same direction as we stepped out the door. C got to roast marshmallows by herself at the star party last night, and she wants to buy a fire pit. My husband, being a think-outside-the-box person, is thinking about alternate fire sources, for instance a jar filled with alcohol and a wick. I seem to remember doing pretty well roasting marshmallows over an electric stove element when I was a kid, but our stove top here in our rental house is glass and still bears the marks from the time my Thanksgiving ham glaze bubbled over, so I'm not about to suggest that option.

C and her dad went geocaching this afternoon at the big city park, but didn't turn up anything. They did, however, rescue a baby snapping turtle from a fence where it had gotten stuck because of its spikes. After dinner, I did some walking (mostly around the block) and am now in striking distance of the end of Pride and Prejudice.

Tomorrow is another free dress day at school. C would like to wear her new tie dye shirt, while D dislikes free dress days and is planning to wear his school uniform.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pride and Prejudice and star night

Today I did 83 minutes and 4 miles on the gym treadmill listening to Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth has just rushed home upon hearing of her youngest sister's elopement with the duplicitous Wickham. I am so stiff. This is my 7th straight day of substantial exercise, and the median number of minutes spent exercising was 82.

My husband and C have gone off to a school star night with two large telescopes and I expect them back soon. Our weather was perfectly clear this afternoon, but we have too much moon. They'll have to mainly stick to planets, but fortunately people really like planets. My husband printed up handouts and planned to set C up with one of the telescopes and have her explain to the public what they were viewing.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Midweek holiday

Yesterday, the kids had school off for a day of service which coincided with a day off at the college for day-long carnival/concert. There was a free lunch for campus folk, innumerable step dance groups (step is almost too athletic to work as a dance), a dog show with lots of dressed-up doggies, an inflatable where contestants hook up to a bungee cord and see how far they can toss a bean bag onto a velcro strip (I saw a couple little girls get snapped back by the bungee cord and then lose their balance), a booth where College Republicans invited contestants to "pop the ballooning deficit" (i.e. balloons), a gentle horse for petting and photographs, a water balloon booth where a young man obligingly allowed himself to be splatted by the kids (in fact, moved into the line of fire), a cancer awareness booth with hula hoops and a sorority tie-dye shirt fundraiser. C made a shirt at the tie-dye station (they said to let it sit for 24 hours) and we just unwrapped it and I've put it into the washing machine on cold. C deplores the white areas on the shirt and wishes there were more yellow, but didn't take me up on my offer to give the shirt to D.

Later in the afternoon, we all went to Percy Jackson & The Olympians (that's a very spoilerish trailer, so beware) at the $1.25 theater. I know some people (especially those who had read the book) didn't like it, but I did. The teen characters (the Harry Potterish white boy, the girl power sidekick, and the wise-cracking black kid--who are all three exactly as flat as this description suggests) aren't very engaging, and I thought the Olympians very bland. However, the film has many enjoyable mythological surprises on the kids' roadtrip/quest across the US.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday roundup

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • I went to the gym today and did 82 minutes on the treadmill listening to Pride and Prejudice. I'm about half-way through the book. Elizabeth is staying with Mr. and Mrs. Collins.
  • C has just finished Little House in the Big Woods and is starting another reading of Harry Potter.
  • D is a pretty confident cyclist and the kids biked to and from the cafeteria to dinner tonight (D says that his favorite thing to do is to bike without training wheels). In celebration of Earth Day, there was a rotating globe (possibly edible), a large two-layer Earth Day cake (decorated with the facade of the Parthenon and a recycling symbol), and coordinated cupcakes. I was impressed.
  • Yet another house is now on the market in the historic neighborhood I watch. It's at $240k. The mid-200s are getting to be a very crowded field in this neighborhood (there's one at $230k, three at $240k, and one at $250k), but this is a 1920s colonial, and I think it may be one of the strongest contenders in the pack. Marketwise, it would be better if we weren't probably buying next year since prices may continue moving down for some time, but we'll have to take what we can get. My husband hates moving and so do I. The sticky thing is that while a lot of even expensive homes have affordable mortgage payments with 30-year terms, if you stick to 15-year loans (which is orthodox Dave Ramseyism), the mortgage payments are a lot stiffer. Not twice as expensive as a 30-year fixed, but definitely out of reach. I love the idea of having a house paid off in 15-years, but we'll be able to do that a lot more comfortably if the right house comes on the market at the right time.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Monday and Tuesday

Here are some things that have been happening:
  • Yesterday, I did 80 minutes (4 miles) on the treadmill at an incline. Mr. Collins has proposed to Elizabeth Bennet and been rejected and the Bingleys have left for London.
  • D says, "I bet dad doesn't like grading."
  • This morning, I got two emails for babysitting gigs. Babysitting gig #1 is for a graduate family with a toddler and an infant and the family may or may not need me in the fall. It would be pro bono. Babysitting gig #2 is for a faculty family with a new baby. Things are still developing and it's not clear how many paid hours will be involved, but it looks like I may be able to offset the fact that we will be spending $1,000 a month on school tuition starting in July (we currently spend $792 a month with D only in 3 day pre-K). Taxes take a lot of the fun out of this, of course.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sunday and Monday

Here's what happened last night and this morning:
  • My husband made whole wheat apple muffins with cinnamon and sugar topping last night.
  • C finished reading Stuart Little last night and rejected Charlotte's Web this morning.
  • Last night, my husband and I finished watching Gigi (1958). It's engaging and technically sound, but I have to say that in context the Thank Heaven for Little Girls number is the creepiest thing I have seen in a musical.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What the kids want to be when they grow up

Here are a few notes from today:
  • C would like to be a marine biologist. D wants to be an astronomer and study comets.
  • My husband told D about the new treatment for color blindness and D is interested.
  • Today, D learned to ride his bike without training wheels and my husband took both kids to ride on the big campus loop today. D is still shaky on take-off, but this was only his third training session.
  • I did 4 miles and 82 minutes of Pride and Prejudice on the gym treadmill this afternoon. Mr. Collins has come to meet the Bennets. Mary Bennet and he would have been perfect together. Why did Charlotte Lucas have to get him?
  • C and I went to Mass today at the campus Catholic center because D was indisposed. C walked the 15 or 20 minutes there with barely any rest or complaint. After Mass, I saw some t-shirts for sale in the foyer as part of a fundraiser for some mission or parish or somesuch. The most eye-catching one had a large Corona beer logo with the word "Corona" replaced with "Catholic." Here is the t-shirt, or one very much like it (the site says that the shirt is extremely popular). There's quite a bit of truth in advertising in the parody t-shirt, but I have to wonder what our Baptist brethren make of it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mostly Saturday

Here's what's been happening:
  • Yesterday, my husband was out nearly all evening for a speaker dinner, so, running short of interesting activities, I pulled out my jewelry box for the kids. The kids particularly liked my amber stuff (a necklace, four pairs of earrings, and a broach), which was acquired in Russia and Poland. All my jewelry is a relic from my teens and early 20s and I haven't opened that jewelry box in two or three years. Today I was promising C that when she is 10 or 11, I will let her have some of my jewelry. D was in the high chair listening. "What about me?" he said. I told him that men don't wear much jewelry besides wedding bands, usually (although now that I think of it, gold chains are popular elsewhere in the country). In the interests of fairness, my husband has ordered D some large Baltic amber beads on ebay (10 for $5) for D to buy from us. My husband thinks that they will be just the thing for Stretchy the dragon, who now lives in a pink Little People house in D's room and has recently acquired a Playmobil Noah's Ark for his personal use. My husband also said that amber is nice to have for science experiments.
  • Today D and I finished sifting and organizing his room. We did two toy boxes and two closets and most of his remaining toddler toys have been sent to storage, our Craigslist/Salvation Army box or the trash. The resulting room is very spare and grownup looking, although truth be told, D still sleeps in a crib under a baby blanket. We'll get him a big boy bed next year, and he says that he'd like sea-themed bedding like C. D has been very eager to work on his room, which is nice for me, although weird for a 5-year-old boy.
  • You may be wondering how it is that C's been reading so much. Mostly, I've just been going to the library, keeping a stock of books on hand, and putting one next to her bed for her to read in the morning and evening. On school mornings, I usually hand her a book to read to help her wake up before breakfast. I don't know exactly what C gets out of her reading since she bristles at being quizzed. It's both difficult to get her started on a book, and difficult to get her to stop reading when it's time to do something else.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday roundup

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • C is feverish. No riding tomorrow.
  • C finished reading Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling.
  • I got a haircut this morning and my stylist was telling me about her family background. She's a little bit Czech (common in these parts) but mostly (as she put it) "Tex Mex." I'm very interested in how race and ethnicity work here, so I'm mentally filing that expression away.
  • I was looking at today, and discovered that there's a new listing in the historic neighborhood I watch. It's a 3/2 late 1920s cottage and they want $190k for it. It has adorable arched doorways, but there aren't any interior photos up yet. About three blocks away, there's a very similar brick cottage that has been for sale for as long as I can remember. That cottage is only 2 bedrooms and is priced at $230k, after some price reductions (I think it might have even started on the market at over $300k). As you may recall, there's yet another 1920s cottage on another street that recently went on the market for $165k. I thought at the time that that was a fluke, but it's starting to look like the market price of these small 1920s cottages is the high $100s. One year to go, dear readers! This is going to be a very suspenseful year (unless we get a reprieve on the demolition of our neighborhood, and then we stay here for at least another year). I don't know how long I can keep myself from picking up the phone and calling the realtors so that I can see what they look like inside. The prices still aren't exactly what I'd like, but in a year I expect all of these houses will be $20k cheaper, if they are still for sale at that point.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday roundup

Here's what's been happening:
  • D worked on his book talk for pre-K today. He will be presenting The Poky Little Puppy tomorrow. I filled out the book talk form for him. One of the questions asks what your favorite part of the story is. His favorite part is when the puppies finally get their dessert after filling in a hole under the fence.
  • C and D continue to play school. C is surprisingly engaging as a teacher and keeps her subjects short and D is likewise surprisingly happy as her student.
  • There was a fiesta this evening on campus. I was at the gym, doing 76 minutes uphill on the treadmill for 3.75 miles and listening to Pride and Prejudice, but my husband took the kids there. There was lots of Mexican folk dancing (C will be dancing in a similar school performance in about a month), a moon bounce (my kids as usual outstay all other kids) and an assortment of Mexican sweets. We don't care for the tamarind paste candies (much too tart), but the coconut candies dyed in the colors of the Mexican flag were very yummy.
  • I've been looking over the brochure for the new school building and I am very impressed. Currently, grades PK-10 rent space from a downtown church, but as the high school grows, things are getting tight, and there is more of a need for specialized space (for instance for the sciences). The current plan is to adapt a commercial building across the street from the church to create a school for grades 7-12. There will be 10 classrooms (including a science lab, an outdoor lab space, and an art room), a library, and a multi-purpose lunch/performance space. Basically, a real school. I knew that the school eventually planned to build, but I expected it to move to the outskirts of town, rather than building downtown. For a variety of reasons, there is plenty of land downtown. The new school will be very good for downtown, and I hope it will be good for the school community as well. There's a donor who is willing to match $500,000, so that's the fundraising goal. For such an ambitious building, that sounds cheap, but when you divide it by the small number of families (there are around 225 kids total), it sounds really expensive. For the time being, I think we should split our charitable giving evenly three ways between our parish, our local branch of Caritas, and the school building fund. I don't think of helping to pay for the school that our kids will go to as charity, strictly speaking, but hopefully we will be contributing to something that will be there long after the kids have moved on.
  • Lastly, I was reflecting earlier today on the fact that if we buy a house next year, I will be the same age that my mom was when my parents built their house, and C will be likewise almost exactly the same age that I was, while D will be a year older than my sister was. I didn't plan it this way, but there it is.

House report

In less than a year, we will probably be buying a house. I haven't yet called up a realtor, not wanting to get a new best friend for the next year, particularly since prices are still slowly dropping. At least the way things currently stand, the longer we wait, the better deal we'll get. We would still like to live near campus, but it's not looking good. As I mentioned, there's only one house that I know of for sale in the other faculty neighborhood, and it's in the low $400s. The next closest "nice" neighborhood is the historic one near downtown that I often talk about. The two main issues in the historic neighborhood are high price and a possible shortage of other families with children. Yet further out from campus (but in established middle class city neighborhoods where the streets tend to have "Lake" in their names), homes are quite reasonably priced. That would be my third choice. Both choices #2 and #3 would eventually involve the purchase, feeding, insuring, and maintenance of a second car, which we are not excited about.

This morning I was being a bit more analytical than usual and I wrote out a list of all of the homes for sale in category #2 (the historic neighborhood) on that are priced below $300k and that have are at least 3BR/2BA. There are 11 houses on my list: $120k, $123k, $140k, $150k, $165k, $200k, $238k, $240k, $240k, $249k, $265k. There's a definite location difference between the homes in the $100s and the homes in the $200s, except for that one 1920s cottage at $165k that just appeared on the market. Most of these houses have been for sale for a very long time and I first got to know them a year or two years ago when their prices were much higher than they are today.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wii and CCD

I am so beat. Here are a few notes, though:
  • I called up the place where C did physical therapy last year to tell them how successful she'd been working with Wii balance games at home and to offer to buy them a set. Anyway, I talked to the boss, and discovered my call was a bit too late. The boss had gone to a special training on the use of Wii for physical therapy and they'd already purchased two sets. I'm very pleased that the Wii has so quickly gained acceptance in the therapy community, because C made tremendous progress on her balance from doing the skateboard simulation for an hour or two at a time, day after day, week after week. I know from our reading that a number of therapy methods have disappointing results. However, as my husband said about the Wii, if the Wii balance exercises didn't improve balance, nothing else could work.
  • Speaking of balance, we went to a playground near the hospital after D had a doctor's appointment but before dinner. The playground is new and is a sort of Dr. Seuss/M.C. Escher hybrid, and has already started to break down in spots. Anyway, there was one item there that the kids really enjoyed once they figured it out. It's hard to explain (although here's a picture from the product catalogue), but it's a circle that's set up at a bit of an angle, so that it's almost a sort of treadmill: as the child walks up the circle, gravity and the child's weight makes the circle turn. It's an excellent balance exercise, but as with some of the other items on that playground, it looked like lawsuit material. You could also use it more safely as a merry-go-round.
  • C had missed one or two CCD classes, so last night, she had 8 pages of worksheets to do. We didn't have her CCD textbook and it was HARD. What is confirmation? Why is Mary the mother of the church? Why, indeed? Thanks, internet! I couldn't have done it without you.
  • I don't really like to type these words, but our mega-roaches (which I have been expecting, as Californians traditionally await the return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano) have not come back yet. I think they should have been here a month ago, and when I have to go to the bathroom at night, I keep expecting to see a large dark shape darting for cover.
  • It looks like we may get a new water heater from our landlord. The pilot light on our current gas water heater has been going out at least once a day.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

School and radishes

I harvested my first two radishes today. The rest look like they need at least another week, plus water.

C continues to play school with D. This afternoon, she spent her breaks from homework and CCD worksheets playing school with him. She covered morning meeting, history, math, reading and recess. Today's math worksheet was more age appropriate than yesterday's: 1 + 1, 2 + 2, 2 + 3, 3 + 2, 4 + 2, 5 +2. I wasn't around to see D's math lesson (and I assume that C filled out the worksheet for him), but I see that the worksheet is marked A+. (Earlier today, D did 20+ pages of Kumon's Numbers 1-30 for me. It's mostly dot-to-dots and number tracing so far. I'm a big fan of the preschool level Kumon workbooks.)

This evening we (mainly my husband and C) were doing some planning for our next board game meeting at school. The two of them were working on mancala (this internet version comes to you courtesy of the AFL-CIO), which we happen to already have several copies of as part of our multi-game sets. It is a fun game to play at home, but I have no desire to deal with keeping track of dozens of those little plastic pellets at school. We'll probably do checkers, or something like that.

Ducks and school

Last night, I counted up D's charity money. He had $20, enough for either chicks, ducks or geese from D decided to go for the ducks, which are unsurprisingly very popular in China, so that's what we ordered.

C has lately really enjoyed playing school with D, although I'm not sure that the feeling is mutual. C, of course, wants to teach D the stuff that she's learning right now in 2nd grade. Here are some problems from a worksheet she wrote out for D (I think he mostly provided the answers while she wrote them out):
  • 10 + 10 = 20
  • 3 x 3 = 9
  • 100 + 200 = 300
  • 1 + 99 = 100

She marked the page A+. Later, my husband asked D what 6 x 2 is. D thought about it, and said that since 9 + 3 is 12, that's what 6 x 2 is. I don't exactly follow that, but he is right.

In school, C is learning about Julius Caesar. C really likes history.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday sewing

The kids are both off at school and here's what's been happening:
  • Today is a free dress day at school. The kids don't have to wear their uniform, but can wear what they like. D isn't having any of it. "I don't want to do free dress," he said, and went to school in his uniform polo, black uniform pants and black moccasins.
  • C finished reading Little House on the Prairie.
  • I think I know how to start the pilot light of our gas water heater now. It requires working two dials and one button. I didn't grow up with gas stoves or water heaters, so I am suspicious of natural gas.
  • I finally got to my mending today. First off, I started putting an iron-on patch onto a pair of jeans, only to discover that I had sleepily ironed the patch onto the outside of the jeans. I put that pair in the giveaway box and did another three pairs of kids' pants correctly. I mended two polo shirts, decided that a pair of knit pants wasn't worth the time, and then sewed buttons on two pairs of Dockers. All in all, I successfully saved seven garments.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Books and chicks

This evening, C finished reading Sarah, Plain and Tall and she has just started reading Little House on the Prairie. She was initially hostile to the idea of Little House on the Prairie, but she saw a couple episodes from the TV show a few weeks ago and Sarah, Plain and Tall is also about a pioneer family. I don't know quite why, but she is actually reading the book. I'll probably try some other books from the series if she seems interested.

In other news, I thought it was about time for the kids to decide what to do with their charity money. C had slightly over $20 in her giving container, which meant that she could choose between giving chicks, ducks or geese from (I haven't gotten around to explaining to the kids that money is fungible, and the money may wind up going to something different). C chose chicks. We still need to count up D's charity money and have him decide what to do with it.

Sunday roundup

Here's what's been happening:
  • C has read Mary Poppins in the Park, Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane and Eloise: The Ultimate Edition (a collection of four Eloise stories).
  • C has been studying ancient Egypt in her 2nd grade history, and her class has gotten custody of the Playmobil pyramid set from the other 2nd grade class. C really, really wants one. It is absurdly expensive ($105) and not super educational, so we've just told C to save up her money and we will be looking for a used or cheaper one (if she's still interested at that point).
  • D has been saving the lids and the rings from Odwalla juice bottles, which come in an interesting assortment of colors. Both kids have just started a collection of pull tabs from aluminum cans.
  • My husband was working with D on his bike this afternoon, and D was able to keep his balance independently for about ten yards. I gave him a point for his efforts. D needs just a few more sessions to be able to ride his bike.
  • D was enjoying the Wii feature that allows you to spin the globe and check the weather around the world.
  • D announced today that he thinks he's too big to get points for having a dry night (currently, he is supposed to get two points a day for a dry night, and one point for dressing himself in the morning--he's probably been dry for months now). However, he quickly repented. We have proposed an alternate payment scheme: one point for a dry night, one point for dressing himself in the morning and one point for putting on his pajamas at night.
  • C dropped her digital camera at the zoo and broke it. Subsequently, my husband said something about how he's always wanted a broken camera, and he's been tinkering with it for a couple days. It contains many teensy, tiny screws. At some point today, I heard him calling the children. "Hey, kids! Do you want to see what C's camera looks like inside?" The operation was not successful (he got everything to work except the picture taking part of the camera), but he is thinking of buying another broken camera and continuing to try to fix it. As I sometimes say, when the Apocalypse comes, I'm glad he'll be on my team.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Friday/Saturday roundup

Here's what's been happening the past couple days:
  • Last night we showed The Class (Entre les murs) at home as our monthly movie. A graduate couple and a faculty couple came--all teachers past and present. This time around, I feel a little bit better about M. Marin. He really did seem to engage the kids (although perhaps too often in the manner of a bit of sand engaging an oyster), but it was generally agreed by our audience that Marin allowed himself to be detoured too frequently. We thought that he could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he'd learned to say, "Let's talk about this later," particularly when the matter in question was not of general concern. He needed a lot more situation awareness. Do I need to talk about this right now? Am I going to win this? What is my exit strategy? Interestingly, the central conflict in the film seems to be the struggle for respect, both Marin's struggle to preserve his authority in the classroom, and his adolescent students' own need for respect, both from Marin and each other. Given the punitive nature of the school system, this struggle leads to a lose-lose dynamic, where all parties demand but will not extend respect. This is an amazing movie, and I really suggest it to anybody who is a teacher or who has kids.
  • This morning, D and I went to his classmate's birthday party at the zoo while C and her dad went to her riding lesson. C has talked about being bored by the riding lessons because it's just clean the horse and ride the horse (!!!), but today the staff showed her the book with the riding program. She got to see how far she has come and what lies ahead. She also got to trot for the first time today and practiced shooting hoops from horseback.
  • I finished the chronicles at the end of the Lord of the Rings audiobook today while doing 4 miles on the gym treadmill. I'm not big on the "begats," but there was some good stuff in there, for instance the account of dwarvish history.
  • The kids may be getting sick again.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thursday roundup

I am all out of clever titles. Here's what's been happening:
  • D and I were home together today. We played Chinese checkers and I planted my basil plants and weeded. While I was preparing an egg for him, D said helpfully, "This time, do not throw out the egg shell." I had earlier told him that you can compost egg shells, but I didn't do it. Today, I took it out and buried it in my garden plot. On a related note, D also said today, "Oops! I recycled a paper towel." He sorted out unwanted stuffed animals today. This is a touchier issue than any of his previous downsizing projects, first because it's hard to give away stuffed animals, and secondly, because of posssible fallout if he changes his mind. Just today, he was starting to regret getting rid of a certain book. I was able to dig it out of storage pretty fast, but it was suspenseful.
  • Today C finished Mary Poppins Opens the Door and she spent 35 points to take us out to a Vietnamese restaurant near campus. We all sat on pillows on the floor, which is tough on us big people, but fun for the kids.
  • I did 4 miles and 81 minutes on the gym treadmill this evening while listening to the supplementary material at the end of Return of the King. Meanwhile, my husband has taken to watching 1970s episodes of Columbo on our manual treadmill.
  • I was beginning to think that we won't be able to find a good house in the right location at the right price, but there have been developments. The other campus neighborhood currently has only a single home in the $400s and the historic neighborhood near downtown that I watch has a number of appealing homes in the mid-$200s. It was beginning to look like we'd need to accept either a longer commute or a more expensive house. Then some things started to happen. First, a big post-war house with ugly maroon tile in the bathrooms appeared on sale in the historic neighborhood for $162k. The price was tempting, but I didn't want either to live with the tile or pay to take it out. Second, an unappealing 3BR/1BA post-war home appeared for sale on the main drag in the historic district for $80k. That was very interesting, but I didn't like the house, plus we need a second bathroom anyway. That brings us up to today, when I dutifully googled and discovered a new listing, on the same street as the $162k post-war house with ugly tile. The new listing is a late 1920s cottage, 3BR/2BA, single story, 1-car garage, formal dining, family room, breakfast room, wood floors. There are no interior photographs on the site, which is worrisome, but it's listed at $165k. This is finally in our price range. Normally, I've avoided realtors as if they were garlic and I were a vampire, but I filled in the contact information, and I'd like to go see the house. In all prudence, we should spend the next year here and only buy in 2011, but this is a very good sign that we will have some good options next year.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I love my landlord

I bet not many people say that, but we really do have the best landlord ever. We have a large, startlingly efficient college facilities crew at our beck and call. I have to be careful to be presentable before calling in a maintenance issue, because within the hour (sometimes within just a few minutes of sending an email), my doorbell will be ringing. We had two issues this morning: a garage door that wasn't working and our gas water heater that has been going out every day for the past several days. Everything was finished by around lunch, despite the fact that the garage door opener required a visit from an outside contractor to replace the 25-year-old mechanism. Oh, how I will miss college facilities when we are homeowners.

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • Today D read two Bob books (the last in the first boxed set) and one book from Scholastic's Cool Cats phonics boxed set. I remember really liking Cool Cats when I was teaching C to read three years ago, because it sounded like actual English. I have a large cardboard box full of at least a dozen boxed phonics sets, so I have a lot to choose from. I take it that D does not want to read Dora books, although I will ask. D has recently turned against library books, and really wanted to return all of his library books today. I think he doesn't like the responsibility of needing to think about taking them back. D also told his dad: "What's the fun of having someone read to you?" before asking to do Bob books this morning. We went to the library after lunch, returned about a dozen books, and got a pile for C. She just finished Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and has just started one of the Mary Poppins sequels. Our college library has pretty much all the Mary Poppins books.
  • Today D decided to sort through two boxes of papers and crafts from under his bed. When I consider how recently his bedroom was choked with cardboard boxes full of treasures, it's amazing what a little minimalist he's turned into. He told me that he figured that a lot of this stuff was from when he was 2 or 3, and he doesn't need it anymore. Before you pull out your hankie over the lost snows of yesteryear, I should explain that D was previously in the habit of keeping almost every sheet of paper he set pencil to, as well as dozens (if not hundreds) of printouts from Tux Paint. We still have some more work to do in his room, but we have turned a corner.
  • Tonight, I did 4 miles on the gym treadmill. The four hobbits have just returned to the Shire and are leading an insurrection against the occupation. I hope to finish the story tomorrow, and then I'll be left with about three hours of appendices. Then what? Maybe Jane Austen again.

Media roundup

I normally don't do much linking around here, but there have been a number of posts and articles lately that made me sit up and pay attention. Here we go:
  • From the April 2010 Money Magazine, a quote from Barry RitHoltz, "CEO of FustionIQ and author of Bailout Nation": "Always remember that price is the most important aspect of an investment. Today we keep hearing people talk about "toxic paper" on bank balance sheets. Well, it's toxic to the banks because they paid 100 [cents] on the dollar for it. To somebody who gets to buy it at 30 [cents] or 40 [cents] on the dollar, it's not toxic at all. So there is no such thing as a toxic asset. There's no such thing as a damaged property. There is only a bad price."
  • I was just yesterday calling Trent at boring, but I loved his post here. He talks about how when he was younger, he was always expecting that his future self would come along and clean up after his present self's financial mistakes (much like that Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin expects that his future self will have done his homework for him). " I just assumed that my mythical “future self” would take care of it, much in the same way I always assumed my parents would take care of it when I was a child. In other words, my “future self” became my protector, allowing me to continue living life essentially as a child."
  • Tigerhawk brings up a very good point: the post office is now essentially obsolete. As he argues, "Some things are just obvious, and one of them is this: The postal service is vestigial, or will be in some short span of years. Virtually everything it delivers is either easily available online (bills and catalogs), annoying (push advertising), or quaint (handwritten cards and letters, which are nice but hardly justify maintaining the institution)." I've been thinking something similar myself, that aside from bills (which I do prefer to get in paper form to avoid glitches), the U.S. postal service is mainly a conduit for junk mail. Recent technological progress has taken the teeth out of the old argument for the post office that "How else could you send a letter across the country for 44 cents"? As an example of exactly how irrelevant that claim is, I actually had to look up the current rate for US postage in order to type it, because I basically only send physical letters at Christmas time.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Monday

The kids had today off from school, and D was a little feverish anyway. My husband did some academic work and mowed the lawn for the first time this spring and he and the kids watched Sinbad. C alternated between working on Kumon math workbooks and playing computer games. Four pages of math earned her $1 and 15 minutes on my laptop to play games. C seemed happy with the deal. She finished Kumon's Simple Addition (it only goes up to + 2), did the last page of grade 2 Geometry & Measurement, and has just started grade 3 Geometry & Measurement. The latter is nicely varied, with touches of color here and there, and C is actually pretty excited about it. C has also just finished reading E. Nesbit's The Wouldbegoods, which is part of the same series as The Treasure Seekers and The New Treasure Seekers. She's just started reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. After lunch, the kids and I made a Roman road snack, which consists of layers of the following: crushed graham crackers, chocolate chips, pudding, and marshmallows. The kids crushed the graham crackers with our mortar and pestle and carefully arranged the marshmallows. It was very good (except for the fruit-flavored mini-marshmallows), and it's all gone now. After dinner, we drove to Walmart and I ran in and bought two pots of sweet basil and two lawn chairs, the latter not quite fitting into our trunk. My husband secured the chairs with bungee cords and we drove home down the Interstate without any adventures. So tired! Anyway, here are a few notes:
  • The lone survivor of D's Little People purge is the pink Little People house where Stretchy the dragon lives. It's my understanding that D was targeting what he called "dolls," both Little People, the animals from the Little People sets, the Little People farm, zoo, Noah's ark, navity set, pink car, school bus and all other animal and people figures, including a very nice collection of My Little Ponies which has returned to C's room. He also recently purged many of his boardbooks. Adieu, toddlerhood.
  • D asked, "Is time travel possible?" His dad says no.
  • D said, "I know that four plus five is nine." I asked why. "Because nine is one less than ten," D said.
  • Both kids have been enjoying my cheap treadmill, which is set up in our living room.
  • C said, "999,999 plus 1 equals 1 million. That's a lot of carrying."
  • Lastly, I see that a mansion-y house in the historic neighborhood I watch has had another price drop. It started at $540k, dropped to $520k, and as of today, it's now listed at $470k. This is not our price range, but I like a nice price drop.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, dear readers! We had a big, long-awaited outing to Dallas yesterday. We were meeting some old DC friends (including a friend of C's from babyhood) at the Dallas Zoo. We were there in the afternoon, spent a long time at the big playground (which has an artificial creek), the kids got to look at x-rays of various animals, we saw penguins, kangaroos and wallabies and a tiger. Our friends took us to a vegan cafe. I had very good portobello mushroom quesadillas. Our kids are not good candidates for "meatballs" and "sausage," but they took it reasonably well, and brightened up noticeably when it was time for their "chocolate deathstar" dessert. Although the kids eventually got worn out from all the walking at the zoo and waiting for dinner, they were very good in the car both ways. We are listening to E. Nesbit's The Story of the Amulet, which is less good and more New Agey than its two predecessors (Five Children and It and The Phoenix and the Carpet), but it's still a fun book.
  • The kids are sick, so my husband and I went to Easter Mass separately. I walked to Mass at the Catholic student center, and he drove to a Tridentine Mass at an inner city church where nearly all the women wore hats or mantillas. My husband had the very good thought of asking C to study the Mass readings at home and answer questions on them, and I awarded her a sticker for her effort (she has a separate sticker chart for church behavior).
  • While I was at church, my husband boiled eggs and organized an egg hunt for the kids. He filled plastic eggs with one Reese's cup and one slip of paper (entitling the bearer to a hug, 20 minutes of reading or a board game), hid them inside the house, and then conducted an extremely orderly Easter egg hunt to prevent grabbing, running and hurt feelings. D collected his hugs right away. C is stockpiling hers to use when we're mad at her. We had egg and sausage sandwiches for lunch (an Easter tradition at our house) and the kids dyed some eggs.
  • This afternoon, D was suddenly gripped by a desire to work on his room and "right-size" his toy collection. Various toddler toys and Little People sets were hardest hit. My husband and I worked hard sorting and bagging toys for donation, sale, giveaway and storage and my husband removed batteries from toys for storage. This is the biggest ever toy purge that D has ever done, but he has lately shown a lot more interest in getting rid of various papers and crafts. This is very welcome change.
  • D said, "Chinese checkers are completely different from Texas checkers," but immediately corrected "Texas checkers" to "normal checkers."
  • Today, C finished Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, Page and Egyptian Diary: The Journal of Nakht. They're both large format books from Candlewick Press with lots of lively illustrations. C was put off by the word "diary" but became interested after hearing us read Egyptian Diary to D. I see from googling that Candlewick Press also publishes the -ology books that C is so fond of, such as Oceanology.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

Here are some things that have happened today:
  • I was talking to C about it's being Good Friday. "I think we'll have fish sticks...with ketchup!" she said.
  • I walked to a Good Friday service on campus by myself. We were a bit suspicious that the kids might be getting sick, but they seem OK now. According to Google "When does Lent end" is their 76th most popular question today (the answer is Thursday--Good Friday is not part of Lent). It was a long day, but once it was sundown, I broke out the fruitcake.
  • My husband and the kids were looking up the dialect variants of the roly poly (AKA potato bug, AKA doodle bug). What set them looking was the revelation that that enormous 2.5 ft. long deep sea giant isopod had been found, and that the homely roly poly (being also an isopod) is a terrestrial relative of the deep sea monster.
  • My husband and the kids have started watching a BBC version of Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • My grandparents are the happy owners of healthy twin calves. They had some trouble persuading the mama cow that she had a second calf, but she is finally on board and things are going well.
  • C doesn't want to read Encyclopedia Brown because she objects to the fact that you have to flip to the back to read the solution.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easter Break

We have just started our four-day Easter weekend. The kids were both home again today and I am wiped out. Here's what's been happening:
  • D asked, "Is a trapezoid half a hexagon?"
  • Our temperatures have been in the 80s. My gladioluses are coming up nicely (both the old ones and the new ones), the radishes are taking off, the garlic chive colony has recovered from being accidentally buried while I was planting the new gladioluses, but most everything else is still AWOL. Also, it is becoming obvious that the plant which I bought last year in the belief that it was oregano is neither more nor less than a mint plant, and we don't need any more of your kind here, mister. I need to get a shovel and dig it out while there's still time.
  • C has finished all but one page of the Kumon 2nd grade Geometry & Measurement workbook. I've ordered the 3rd grade book. I like the variety of problems offered, and the attractive (but not busy) illustrations, but as I've mentioned earlier, I don't like the geometry in the 2nd grade workbook. C has been very motivated because she was saving up to buy a $16 fruit cake. C is also interested in buying a certain Wii game that is connected with her Dragonology book, but she was very reasonable when my husband explained the advantages of waiting until it's available used. She was less reasonable earlier today, but I like to reserve this space for recording our little victories, so I'll just say that she seemed better after having her mid-afternoon snack.
  • The gas water heater went out this morning, so I had to bathe in several inches of water warmed with a few teapotfuls of boiling water. One of these days, I'm going to have to learn how to do the pilot light myself.
  • The kids seem well.
  • C had a chance to watch a cement mixer and a crew starting to pour a new slab of roadbed. She was transfixed.
  • C's paper Mars Rover is finished.
  • Tonight, D and I finished reading From Seed to Plant. It went into detail on the reproductive life of flowers, so I was able to show him how our wilted tulips match the illustrations in the library book.
  • Tonight, it being the beginning of the month, we made a rare visit to our local Thai restaurant. C got yellow curry, which is a new favorite. C has been eating chicken satay since infancy, but she's been branching out. D and I split a small dish of red bean ice cream for dessert. I like coconut ice cream with sticky rice better, but I'm trying to work my way through their menu.
  • In other culinary news, I've finished skimming my new cookbook, Martha Rose Shulman's Mexican Light. I haven't actually cooked anything from it, but it all sounds fantastic, and I've had many happy evenings reading it just before bed. I've had trouble selling the kids on Mexican food, which, seeing as how half the restaurants in town are Mexican, is somewhat limiting. I'm hoping that the kids come around over the next few years.