Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve II

I'm trying to figure out (by ear) whether the popping sound I hear is celebratory New Year's Eve fireworks or gunfire.

New Year's Eve

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • Work continues on a copper pipe xylophone/glockenspiel type thing. I can hear C tapping out "Ode to Joy" and "Hot Cross Buns" in the other room.
  • There was a good deal at the roller skating rink today ($5 for admission and skate rental). We took the kids and my husband skated and I popped out to Barnes & Noble. The rink was handing out New Year's and party paraphernalia (plastic leis, noise makers, New Year's Eve crowns) and there was a raffle. We won a t-shirt and a free admission to the rink. The kids were hoping for cotton candy.
  • After the rink, I made a quick run to the grocery store for emergency food supplies (milk, eggs, instant oatmeal, etc.) for the weekend.
  • At home, I quickly put rice in the rice cooker, cooked veggies and reheated the massaman curry I made two days ago. When I first made it, the little red potatoes were kind of waxy in texture, but by today, they were just right. My husband and D asked for seconds.
  • C seems a little bit under the weather. We'll keep an eye on her.
  • Our neighbors who have to move early are looking hard at the $124k fixer house in the older neighborhood that I watch. They have three months to get out of their house. We have six.
  • There's lots of demolition and mysterious ripping up of road bed going on near our neighborhood.

Friday, December 30, 2011


We got some generous Christmas checks from my parents and grandparents and it was decided that we would spend some of it on an ice skating outing at the Galleria. On reflection, my husband thought we could add a visit to the Frisco IKEA to make the trip more worthwhile. Here's how the day went:
  • We left home in the morning and drove to the Frisco IKEA, arriving at lunch time. We had lunch at IKEA (kids' meals were free today) and checked the kids into Smalland. C is 1/4 inch away from no longer being eligible for Smalland, poor thing. My husband hung out nearby and amused himself. I took a brisk walk through IKEA and then had enough time to do a walk-through of about 4 or 5 nearby home furnishings stores. There was one home accessories store (in a very heavy, ornate style) that had for sale (I'm not making this up) a sort of throw with a fake mink underside (I had to touch it to see if it was real or fake).
  • I went back to IKEA and found that my husband had already picked the kids up from Smalland. We went by the IKEA food shop and got coffee for me (IKEA only has half and half as creamer, no milk--that's European living for you), two packs of star and heart gingerbread cookies, one jar of orange and elderflower marmalade and one chocolate hazelnut bar.
  • I'm partly Swedish, and our regular pilgrimages to IKEA are my main gesture of ethnic pride.
  • I heard a lot of funny remarks at IKEA from shoppers, but I can't do justice to all of them. There was a tween boy pointing out to his mom that for some reason, it takes an hour to buy a bench. His mom said something like, do you have some sort of urgent engagement that you're rushing off to? I also heard a guy telling another guy that he used to count pregnant women at IKEA just for fun. He'd get up to 25 without any problem. I didn't see that many pregnant ladies at IKEA today, perhaps because those women already had their babies. It was like bring-your-baby-to-IKEA day
  • Our next stop was the Galleria. We lined up, paid, got skates for my husband and the kids, and then spent what must have been half an hour trying to find skates that didn't hurt D's feet. After trying a size 13, another size 13 and then a size 1 with little success, I finally told D to just skate until his feet hurt too much to skate and then stop. As it happened, D skated and skated and was just fine.
  • My husband and the kids skated and I walked through nearly the whole mall, returning occasionally to the rink to provide gingerbread cookies and a water bottle refill. This is going to sound a little wimpy, but it was real exercise. It's a huge place.
  • I think C was staying on her feet pretty well from the beginning and D got there by the end of the skate session.
  • There are ice skating lessons at the Galleria, of course. It's kind of a bummer that we live hours from the Galleria, but I suppose it's not one of life's necessities. We have talked about doing an overnight trip to the area and working in two consecutive days of skating, and maybe doing a lesson. That would be nice.
  • We listened to Mark Twain stories in the car. The $30,000 Bequest isn't bad, but let me be the first (???) to say that Mark Twain was a bit of a hack.
  • We got home to find a Christmas package with three Trekkie-themed t-shirts with the following messages: When I grow up, I want to go to Starfleet, Resistance is futile and then an even nerdier shirt that says Resistance is not futile, it's voltage divided by current. I kind of imagine that at some point, my husband and the kids will all wear their t-shirts to watch Star Trek.
  • So tired!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Massaman beef

I just put this in the slow cooker--it's a Muslim-influenced peanuty Thai curry with beef and potatoes, essentially a beef stew. I thought better of using curry powder (especially after sniffing mine and finding it dusty and unfragrant), so I substituted some cinnamon-y garam masala. Then, after I'd gotten everything in the slow cooker and cleaned up, I remembered that I do in fact have a large unopened tub of Thai masman curry paste, which is more in the spirit of the recipe.

The prep time for the Massaman beef was very fast (especially since I was using dry minced onion and garlic). I am curious to see how it will turn out. We're going to have to wait a bit. When shopping yesterday, I didn't realize that both packs of meat I bought were due to expire today, so I'm going to be cooking two dinners today. The meat and potatoes in the Massaman curry will probably be better for the wait, although the coconut milk in the curry will probably separate in the fridge. It will be good, though.

The cafeterias reopen in a week. I think we can make it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Not anemic

All my hard work (pill popping and beef eating) has paid off--I saw my doctor this morning and my blood work is good. I'm not anemic and I can ditch my SlowFe iron pills!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Early move

I just talked to our long-time neighbor from two doors down. They were told just before Christmas that they and another set of neighbors will need to be out early, namely by the end of March. The other house is just one away from us, so we are lucky not to be moved out early ourselves. The issue is that the college needs to put down some utility lines to the new student housing development a block or two away from us, and the lines need to run through our neighborhood right through where are neighbors' houses are now.

We need a house.

Is the 30 year fixed mortgage safe?

I was just reading this article in Bloomberg, which questions the 30 year fixed mortgage and its role in the US economy. Here are some problems with the 30 year fixed mortgage:
  • It is federally subsidized.
  • It amortizes slowly, "exposing homeowners to years of unnecessary default risk."
  • The 30 year fixed mortgage has been involved in two federal bailouts in the last 20 years.
  • The 30 year mortgage has the potential to wreak yet more havoc in future. The author critiques the "closed system" in which the government subsidizes the issuing of these loans, while also taking on itself the burden of dealing with any of these loans that turn bad.
This article is a useful corrective, because people do tend to think of the 30 year mortgage as being as safe and as American as apple pie.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Here's some of what we've been doing:
  • My husband brought in our last-minute tree on Christmas Eve and the kids did much of the decorating.
  • We did the traditional Polish wishes with oplatek (oh-pwah-tek). D was especially detailed. I can't remembered what he wished his father (success with writing apps?), but he wished me that I would manage to catch up with my email. D is a very observant child.
  • For Christmas Eve, we had baked salmon (in foil packets with lime juice and rosemary sprigs) and bread pudding with dried cranberries and orange peel and ground cardamon (the cardamon was not as pronounced as last time--not sure what happened). We had a mishap with our two ovens and the bread pudding got turned off. I was so sincerely convinced that I hadn't turned it off that I volunteered to taste it to see how much it had cooked. The answer, unfortunately, was not at all. It finished cooking and the kids didn't like the bread pudding, so my husband and I had it all to ourselves.
  • We opened presents while waiting for the bread pudding to finish baking. D is very fond of (indeed inseparable from) his new digital watch, although he is now worrying about the fact that different clocks in our home give different times. Both kids have new calendars. In fact, C has two--one a freebie religious art calendar from church, one a $2.50 horse calendar from the grocery store. D has an Audobon calendar. I need to remember to write down important dates for D. C has a new Kindle. The kids also got a LEGO Mindstorm kit from their grandparents' Christmas checks. My husband has new roller blades that we are hoping to try out tomorrow at the skating rink and I got him a couple of Dirk Gently stories by Douglas Adams. I have a supply of rose soap and other rose-scented bath stuff and my new Kindle Fire. C is a bit miffed at the shortage of actual toys under the tree, but I see that she is enjoying the horse and pony encyclopedia we got her, as well as the Calvin and Hobbes treasury we got D. C is also enjoying the animal drawing book from us and the drawing book and sketching set from Auntie K.
  • It has been raining drearily for days now--just like home in Washington State.
  • This morning, the kids did the first project in the LEGO Mindstorm kit. LEGO Mindstorm is part LEGO, part robotics, part beginner programming. The first project is one where you make a robot that you then use a remote control on. There are endless variations. Currently, the kids (especially C) are working on a crocodile that snaps its jaws when anything comes within a certain range of it. Mindstorm is rated for kids 10 and up, but it seems about right for C, who is 9.5. (If you are interested in this sort of thing for your kids, sit down and brace yourself before checking the price--it's really expensive.)
  • The cafeterias are closed until the beginning of January, but thanks to the nice people at Patak curries, my kids believe I am an amazing cook. It was very lucky we had the foresight to mail order a supply of Patak curries before the cafeterias closed.
  • For Christmas dinner, we had tikka masala curry with chicken and kidney beans, rice and broccoli. For dessert, my husband had made a pumpkin pie with the kids (store crust).
  • My husband and I have started watching Anne of the Thousand Days. I read a couple of Tudor biographies back in high school, but I was reviewing the Wikipedia articles on the six wives of Henry VIII and on Anne Boleyn to freshen up. I particularly wanted to know if the adultery case against Anne was well-founded. Current scholarship says, no, it wasn't.

D on Monopods

D says: A standing-on-one-leg contest would probably be won by a Monopod!

Not very Christmas-y

This isn't very Christmas-y, but I still have to post it: School accused of putting autistic student in bag. Fortunately, the 9-year-old child's mother had been called to school to pick him up, so she was able to get him out.

In Kentucky, there are no laws on using restraint or seclusion in public schools, according to documents on the state Department of Education's website.
A July letter from the state agency to special education directors said the state had investigated two informal complaints this year.

In one, "a student (was) nearly asphyxiated while being restrained," and in the other, a student vomited from panic attacks after spending most of an academic year "confined to a closet, with no ventilation or outside source of light," according to the letter.
Needless to say, poorly used or ad hoc restraint methods can be very dangerous (indeed fatal), so there's a lot of legislative activity to get schools to stop using dangerous or cruel restraint and seclusion practices.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pleo's birthday

C (to robotic dinosaur): Happy birthday, Pleo!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas card

We got the cutest Christmas card from a 1st grade classmate of D's. It is written as if by the classmate, and it talks about how he had been praying for a brother or sister since he was 2, how many years he kept praying, almost giving up when he was 5, and how he finally got a baby sister when he was 6. (He figured that his initial prayers hadn't worked, because he had been praying for an older brother or sister, and as his parents eventually explained, that is not how it works.) Anyway, it's a three hanky Christmas letter, so sad and so happy all at the same time.

I had my blood draw for my blood count for my anemia yesterday (I've been counting down to this more eagerly than to Christmas). I've been working on my anemia for about five weeks now, and I see my doctor to talk about my results a couple days after Christmas. Is it very wrong to be more interested in this than Christmas?

Cookie houses

We were supposed to make cookie houses at our house with friends on Monday, but D's illness led to a cancellation and delays. Finally, this morning, we were able to host a cookie house-making party with a sister and brother who are classmates and friends of C and D. The cookie houses (with reminders from C) have become a Christmas tradition at our house. I should have bought fig bars (they're ideal for the roofs), but we did OK with vanilla wafers (perfect for building walls), vanilla frosting (good mortar), Christmas-themed Pepperidge Farm Chessmen (makes a good door), oreos for the roof, animal crackers and gum drops for the fence and chimney. Oh, and we had a couple different kinds of sprinkles. I sent our guests' house home with them and our cookie house is sitting gloriously on my dining room table. So cute! It will be very yummy with tea.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Arabian Nights

C is reading a version of the Arabian Nights on her Kindle.

Cowboy boots

I'm hoping this is the last day of D's convalescence. He occasionally complains of tummy, but he looks better, sounds better, and his energy level is very good. He had the same food as everybody else for dinner and nothing bad happened. Yay!

This afternoon, C and I drove to Cavender's Boot City (the Western store) and we did some shopping with the Christmas money C's Washington grandparents sent. We got C a pair of blunt-toed pink cowboy boots (size 3.5) and a bright pink sparkly cowgirl shirt (size small) from the women's section. This is the first time I've knowingly shopped for C from the women's section and both that and the new boots feel like a rite of passage. The boots are very cute. If we'd been able to find the right size, we would have just gotten brown boots and passed them down to D when the time came, but unfortunately, there weren't any cute brown boots in the correct size. It's not exactly a cheap store, but I really like a lot of the cowgirl shirts in the women's section, even the sparkly ones. C LOVES sparkly stuff. In fact, when we made a quick trip to Michael's (which is on the same plaza), she purchased some gold ribbon (on sale) and some rhinestones ($4.09 total, paid out of C's personal funds). By the time we got home, the rhinestones had been neatly installed on her purse.

At home, C passed her old brown cowboy boots down to D and the kids played cowboy for a while. They have a stick horse, cowboy hats and boots, so they are well-equipped.

C remains inseparable from her new Kindle.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


D seems to have fewer tummy bug symptoms, but was still complaining of pain much of the day. I am tentatively hoping to pick up the threads of my social life some time tomorrow. I also hope to do a couple of outings with C tomorrow.

When we woke up at 6:30 this morning, we discovered that our water was totally cut off. I wasn't able to raise anybody on the facilities emergency line or the property management office, but later in the morning, I learned that a water main had broken, leaving ourselves, most of our neighbors, and part of campus waterless. Fortunately, our laundry and dishes were caught up and the outage didn't catch us with the big pile of sick bed laundry that I spent much of yesterday working my way through. We also had 5 gallons of emergency water on hand, which wouldn't have been enough to get us through a real emergency, but was more than enough to get through a morning and part of an afternoon, especially since the incident being a very local one, we could readily buy water at the store without fear that the store would run out. When I took a walk this afternoon, I was surprised (but very happy) to see three fire hydrants, totally open, gushing water--the water was finally back.

It's been a dull three days for C with D being sick. This evening, I suggested to my husband that we should give C an early Christmas present--namely the Kindle Touch that C's grandma got her (thanks!). I was concerned that C wouldn't take to it, but my husband had it loaded with a number of free classics, plus two books we paid for (a Redwall book and Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents). I pried C away from the Kindle to take a bath just now, but she's been inseparable from it ever since my husband handed it to her. I meanwhile, am not quite as inseparable from my new Kindle Fire, but I have been enjoying the apparent magic of being able to buy a Kindle book on my netbook and have it appear almost instantly on my Kindle. I have read books on the PDA in the past and listened to audiobooks on a PDA or on my phone, but given my level of technical skill, I've been dependent on my husband to move stuff around for me (to get it off librivox and onto the PDA or phone), and the devices I use have been very crash-y. To be able to do this all myself, and with the touch of a few buttons, is a totally new sensation. (We bought the Kindle Fire primarily for me to use at the gym and the gym is closed now, so it really won't come into its own until the beginning of January.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

D is sick

We got D into the pediatrician's office first thing this morning and then spent the whole morning eliminating possibilities. The doctor's explanation was so involved that I asked her to write up the possibilities. She wrote up a quick flow chart that I found very helpful. (I think there are few more important skills than being able to tell a doctor that you don't understand what they are saying, rather than just nodding along as they go waa-waa-waa-waa) We spent the morning working our way through the flow chart. Various options (including appendicitis) were eliminated and finally we were left with the most humdrum of options, the tummy bug. It still might be something else (like salmonella), but if D's symptoms improve rather than intensifying, it's probably the tummy bug. I'm not saying "just the tummy bug," because the work involved in dealing with a stomach virus is quite substantial, from laundry to carpet cleaning.

I visited one of our hotsy totsy HEBs to collect convalescent diet items for D. The pediatrician had recommended bananas, ramen noodles, bread, rice, Gatorade and ginger ale and I got a lot of those items, as well as provisions for dinners at home. With the cafeterias closed, we are thrown on our own resources. Fortunately, those resources include couscous and Patak Indian sauces.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas break

The kids are out of school now. D has had some mysterious symptoms for over day with fever (up to 104, but mostly under control), sleepiness and tummy pain that comes and goes. I talked to the afterhours pediatric helpline this evening and was supposed to check back with them (they wanted to know what happens when D does jumping jacks), but they didn't return my page before D's bedtime. His tummy pain is gone right now, so that's less worrisome.

The cafeteria and gym and the campus Starbucks are closed, but the independent coffee place will be open until December 23. I think everything reopens around January 3. So I can't really properly appreciate my new Kindle Fire for another two weeks.

In other news, I may have a nanny gig for the fall.

C at work

C was working on cutting out and coloring the illustrations from our Advent chain. It's a paper chain where you tear off and read a Bible verse for each day of Advent.

C said (to her dad): I hate behind on my work. Don't you?

Monday, December 12, 2011


D made a combination crocodile/cobra from LEGO. I think he calls it the "crocobra."

Sunday, December 11, 2011


C got 4 bonus points on her spelling test for spelling "Nebuchadnezzar" correctly.

Pot holders

D suggests using pot holders as Christmas tree decorations.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tudor III

This morning, I got an owner-guided tour of the 2750 sq. ft. 1920s brick tudor home that is for-sale-by-owner at $255k. Here are some impressions:
  • Super interior location, little to no traffic noise.
  • Very nice curb appeal.
  • Outside there's a carport with guest room and half bath.
  • On the first floor, there's a living room, large dining room, kitchen (original cabinets, stainless steel counters, new slate floor), breakfast nook, half bath, and a very small sunroom type thing.
  • A family of 7 lived there until recently, so everything is serviceable, but it's not a showplace. Looking around, I think you'd probably want something like $40k for painting, refinishing floors, and dealing with miscellaneous issues. That sounds like a lot, but it's such a big house that I think it really would take that much to shine it up.
  • On the second floor, there are three large bedrooms, a nursery/study off the MBR, and two small shared baths.
  • On the attic level, there is an unfinished traditional attic space, a large seasonal storage closet, and a small finished room, suitable for office or bedroom. However, the steep attic stairs and the lack of a bath on that level make it difficult to figure out a good use for the office/bedroom.
  • There are lots of built-ins.
  • There's a basement (ideal for tornado shelter, I was told).
  • The construction is pier-and-beam.
  • The roof is slate, and was just replaced after this February's storm. The roof that was damaged was the house's original roof, and the replacement (which was fortunately covered by insurance) cost $41k. It will hopefully last 100 years.
  • All in all, it's an extremely spacious house, with a room for just about everything. Setting aside the fact that the master bedroom has no master bath, the floor plan is very good for a house of this era. It's a big house, and practically all of it is usable space, which is not at all the case with every home of this size.
  • I still want a house near campus, but if that isn't possible, this is an option (at a different price).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bread pudding

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • D mysteriously started getting red blotches all over his body yesterday. Our pediatrician's office has new extended evening hours (Hallelujah!), so all went in last night for a 6 PM appointment. D was dosed and the splotches duly began to disappear.
  • Tonight at bedtime, C said, "My hopes have been thrown into a shark pit." I think that had something to do with the big pile of letter stickers she needed to clean up.
  • We went to the Christmas graduate potluck tonight. Both C and I wound up accidentally locking ourselves in the vintage 1920s (?) bathroom, apparently a common occurrence. There were smoked turkey, candied jalapenos, handmade caramels and various holiday fare. We brought bread pudding, based on the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. My husband made whole wheat bread the night before to go in it and we did a variant of the recipe with 1/2 rum flavoring and 1/2 vanilla extract, orange zest, cranberries and ground cardamon (at least 50% more than the recipe said). My husband nearly put in coriander rather than ground cardamon, but was saved just in time. We didn't do the whiskey sauce. Anyway, the bread pudding was a very successful contribution--namely there weren't any leftovers to bring home. We have noted over the years that bread pudding is somehow a deeply collegiate food. The quality of a college's bread pudding says much about its academic excellence. We should probably try it again during Christmas break.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

St. Nicholas

Today is St. Nicholas's Day. We don't always remember to do something for St. Nicholas's, but this year, we did. With input from the kids, I ordered C a pair of pink rubber boots and D some blue gummy bear slippers (like these except not red). (These happen to be the footwear items each child needed.) Then, I discreetly collected them from the mail (an important skill this time of year), held on to them, and then last night before going to bed, my husband and I put each pair of footwear in front of the appropriate child's door, complete with a large bar of Hershey's Special Dark.

D was ecstatic this morning and very pleased. He has been wearing too-small bear slippers for some time. I would have liked to get him more traditional brown bear slippers, but it was surprisingly difficult to find even the blue gummy slippers in his size. C was less excited about her new pink boots, but the bar of chocolate may eventually wind up being used in a moldable chocolate recipe (if we don't just order readymade moldable chocolate).

Monday, December 5, 2011


Here's some of what's been happening:
  • My husband printed out an advent chain (from a friend's design) and each day, a child rips off a paper chain link, reads a Bible verse, colors the picture, and then we stow it away for later use as a Christmas tree decoration.
  • I Tilexed the bath grout this morning (to little effect), defuzzed the laundry area and started hand washing a wool sweater.
  • We've finished up all the P.D. James Adam Dalgleish series on Netflix. They tend to be 6 episodes long (with strategically timed murders), so you really get into them. And now there aren't any more.
  • The good news is that the new BBC Sherlock is very, very good--or at least the first episode we saw was. The idea is a Sherlock Holmes set in 21st century London, and it really does work. (For a more traditional version, see Granada Television's Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett.)
  • D has a fresh batch of rocks in the rock tumbler. That's a four week project.
  • The kids have two more weeks of school.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tudor II

I'm trying to book a showing of the 1920s 4/3 brick Tudor FSBO home that recently appeared for sale. Just today, it dropped from $275k to $255k. The location is super.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Roller skates

Today was a big errands day. Here's what we did:
  • bought gasoline
  • got me a flu shot and yet more iron pills (this should have happened earlier, but I kept getting sniffles)
  • unsuccessfully scoured the city for size 13 men's inline skates for my husband
  • bought a few basic clothing items at Walmart
  • made an unsuccessful visit to Lowes
  • had lunch at Pei Wei
  • kept looking for skates
  • got Chik-fil-a peppermint chocolate chip shakes at the mall (very good--totally recommend)
  • went home.
We did find a couple pairs of size 13 inline skates, but nothing that fit well. The rental skates at the skating rink don't fit him well either, which is why we are considering buying. My husband may order a well-reviewed pair from Amazon. By the way, sell your Sports Authority stock (if any)--it was practically deserted on a day when every other store we visited was mobbed with people.

The kids did homework and C finished a book report.

Monday, November 28, 2011


There's a 1920s Tudor for-sale-by-owner that just appeared on the market today. I question a few of the renovation choices (a somewhat too industrial kitchen with white cabinets, grey slate floor and lots of stainless steel as well as some iffy paint choices elsewhere), but that's mainly quibbles. It's 4BR/2.5BA (good), 2500 (or maybe 2700?) sq. ft. (good) and is currently priced at $275k (bad). The location is just about ideal. It doesn't look like anybody is living there. I've written the owner to get a showing. The floorplan will make a big difference (the last big house of this vintage I saw was impressive, but had a very choppy upstairs floorplan). The price is out of our range, but we can always make a low offer. The worst thing they can do is say no.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Lewis Carroll

D says: I bet there's a mirror store called Through the Looking Glass.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Here's some of what's been happening:
  • My husband and the kids made a pecan pie this morning (the crust was store-bought). Their recipe involves dark corn syrup and a lot of rum flavoring and produces a very rich pie.
  • After a couple days of feeling pretty good, I was feeling weak this morning, so I directed dinner preparations from my chair in the dining room. My husband cooked turkey (smoked turkey breast--a nice solution for Thanksgiving for four), sweet potatoes, Stovetop Stuffing and cranberry sauce (a whole berry recipe from the package). I served dinner (on my 10-inch blue-and-white Spode plates) and dessert (on my 8-inch Blue Willow salad/dessert/lunch plates) and supper (reheated Thanksgiving dinner). I also used my Delft tile trivets for dinner. We'll probably take a break Friday for fish sticks, but Saturday, we'll be back to Thanksgiving fare.
  • C has finished sewing and stuffing the big American Girl stuffed owl and is working on the small American Girl stuffed owl.
  • After some Star Trek: The Next Generation, my husband and the kids have been working on the kids' Electronic Playground.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Anemia update

I forgot to mention that after just over a week of rest and iron supplementation and so forth, I'm feeling pretty good. I haven't really pushed it (no more than 15 minutes of walking at a time), but I can go about my normal business without shortness of breath or heart symptoms. I'll check in with my doctor's office after I finish my 30-day supply of iron pills to see if I need to keep going.

Before Thanksgiving

The usual problem with Thanksgiving at home with the four of us is figuring out what to do with ourselves. Here's some of what's happening:
  • I got a Kumon handwriting workbook for D and a cursive workbook for C at Barnes and Noble this morning.
  • Also, D wanted to buy fabric, so we went to a quilt store and each child got a fat quarter from the $1.50 bin with their own money.
  • Later in the evening, we went to Michaels and I got a 20 oz. bag of stuffing. The kids are making and stuffing so many pillows that we ran out.
  • C's owl kit from American Girl arrived tonight and she is hard at work.
  • We did our pre-Thanksgiving grocery shopping tonight at a better HEB. After several years of wondering about it, I finally got several packs of Reynaldo's Mexican flan pudding. It's very interestingly egg-y. They also had pig heads for 89 cents per pound, but we passed on those.
  • This has been a very shop-y day, but we do need to be seriously prepared for four days more of holiday at home.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I asked D what he wants to do with his giving money (currently at around $6). D says he wants to buy a beehive. I checked, and bees (or the equivalent) costs $30 at Heifer.

Sewing circle

The kids have been spending much of the day on sewing projects. C is finishing a small stuffed dog (from this kit) while D is decorating and sewing a pillow. C has taught D everything he knows about sewing. C is determined to have D sign up for a sewing class with her this summer.

Real estate report

Usually, the fall is a slow, slow time. Normally, a lot of houses disappear from the online listings, only to reappear in the spring. This fall, however, it's been different. I'm seeing a number of new listings, and people are hanging onto their listings into the fall (although they may yank the listings just before Thanksgiving).

I was just looking at, and the stately two-story brick 2900 sq. ft. 4BR/2.5BA 1920s home that I saw with the kids a few weeks ago just fell from $250k to $230k. It's a beautiful home, but you can stand on the lawn and see a very busy street half a block away. Also, the upstairs floorplan is a bit muddled, and the presence of a window AC unit causes me some concern about the energy efficiency of the house. But, still--$230k!!! There's getting to be a band of houses in the low $200s ($230k, $220k (FSBO), $215k (FSBO), $204k and $200k), and then a smaller band in the high $100s ($178k, $170k and $170k).

I think it will be a very exciting spring.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Christmas tamales

It has come to my attention that you can pre-order Christmas tamales from Rosa's Cafe Tortilla Factory, $11.59 per dozen. Now, I don't know if they are any good, but how very convenient!


Here's some of what's happening:
  • The kids get the whole week off for Thanksgiving.
  • My husband has a big day at work today, but he'll be free for the holiday starting tomorrow. Campus will be shutting down soon.
  • We finally got the car to the dealership for its 90k mile service today and we'll get it back tomorrow. Thanksgiving week turned out to be a surprisingly good time to get the car serviced.
  • C finished sewing a pillow with tassels at the corners. It's supposed to be for the living room. She accidentally left the edges rough.
  • C is saving up to get another American Girl sewing kit. There is currently a bear one for $8 and an owl one for $10--they must be on sale or something. She sewed two raccoon stuffed animals as part of a party favor.
  • D has been doing Disney's Dance Dance Revolution on the Wii.
  • I walked and the kids biked to and from Starbucks this morning. I had no huffing and puffing and almost no heart symptoms this time, so I take it that all those iron pills are starting to take effect. I think my color is better, too, definitely better than on Tuesday when my husband said I was greenish. I am thinking that this week, of all weeks, we shouldn't feel bad about eating out a bunch.

Friday, November 18, 2011

No West Coast trip

On reflection, I have decided that it is unrealistic for me to think that two days from now, I can be hiking through airports with C and luggage and then spending a week of frenzied socializing in WA before trekking back. We canceled my and C's flights this morning and are going to get some cash credit.

Today was the kids' last day of school before their week-long Thanksgiving holiday. I went to D's class's Thanksgiving recitation (all the kids were dressed up either as Indians or Pilgrims), bringing a hot container of fish sticks as our contribution. I left just as the feast was beginning. I didn't make it to C's class party, but I did have a really good nap at home before picking up the kids from school.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I'm underway with my anemia-fighting program. I'm taking a bunch of iron, I'm endeavoring to take dairy far away from the iron and I'll try to drink orange juice. Calcium interferes with iron absorption and vitamin C helps it. In general, iron is very fussy, and everything you like interferes with absorbing iron, including caffeine. My research suggests that 3 to 6 weeks is enough to overcome anemia, although iron supplementation needs to continue for a while longer.

I feel a lot better than I did Tuesday morning. I'm actually perky, it's just that I need limit the amount of time I spend on my feet. About 15 minutes seems to be about right. My big exertions today were grocery shopping and walking to and from Starbucks, and that was probably too much. The main issue with the groceries is lifting stuff (my husband emptied the trunk, which helped). When I overdo it, my heart starts thumping more than normal and it feels like I'm walking up a steep hill, even though I'm just taking a short walk on a perfectly flat sidewalk. If I stay off my feet, I don't notice anything wrong.

My West Coast trip for Thanksgiving is still under review.

Tiger mom snoozes

Here's some of what's happening:
  • C got her first issue of National Wildlife today. It was a favorite of my childhood--my great-grandma had steamer trunks full of magazines, and National Wildlife and Smithsonian were my favorites.
  • I also got a preview of C's grades for the quarter. They range between 92 (for math) and 103 (for Latin). There's part of me that wants to go full Tiger Mom and ask, what happened with math?, particularly since C won a math competition at the state fair just over a month ago, but I am restraining myself.
  • We have been suffering temporary disappearances of uniform skirts and lunchboxes, and I am making inquiries into that. The last straw was when we got billed yesterday for C eating an office-provided lunch when I had packed a lunch, it disappeared at school (stuffed into the wrong cubby, I suspect), and then reappeared in time to go back home. I am contesting that bill, because I feel that I have carried out my side of the lunch compact.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Here's some of what's happening:
  • I had a bit of a scare this morning (early morning faintness--my husband said I looked greenish) and called the doctor's office at 5:30 AM (after calling 911 and then thinking better of it). I had an early morning appointment with my doctor, a blood test, and have been diagnosed as anemic. I have lots of pills to take but I'm not sure how quickly to expect results and I'm supposed to see my doctor in about 5 or 6 weeks. I feel short of breath like a too ambitiously corseted 19th century heroine and can only spend short stretches on my feet. I have travel plans for later this month, so I'm not sure how that is going to work (as my family's plans evolved, they came to involve me and C waiting at SeaTac for 4.75 hours for an auntie to fly in from Denver, and then to drive with her). This is all going to have to go under review. There are a number of options to consider, but I'm more than tempted to just bail on the whole thing.
  • In real estate news, the $220k mostly original 1900 sq. ft. 1930ish house that I saw recently has now been cut down to $200k. That is quite gratifying.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Four weeks of email

Here's some of what has been happening:
  • I just dug out from four weeks of email. I had replied to a lot of stuff, but anything school-oriented or with dates and times, I hadn't answered. I have no idea how that happened, although my chest cold certainly helped.
  • D has finished reading the last Clifford phonics book. He is getting very fluent. The new math program continues to be a problem, though.
  • Our high today was about 83 degrees Fahrenheit. I was walking around the neighborhood at 8 PM and it was still 75 degrees.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

D on books

Surveying the many bookcases in the family library, D asked his dad if he had read all of the books. My husband replied that that had been under discussion and that there's a plan to thin down our book collection. D said, "I think you will find that you don't need a lot of them."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

4th grade physics

Here's some other stuff that has been happening:
  • Both kids were invited to a birthday party at the local rollerskating rink. D's invitation came first and then C was invited to keep the birthday boy's sister company. We got the birthday boy a raccoon Webkinz and Beyblades set. (As a public service, I should mention my technique for dealing with children's birthday parties. On getting an invitation, I immediately ask the mom what to get the child as a gift and then scrupulously follow those instructions. If there is no reply, we go to the party gift-less, but with clear consciences. I'm not going to get some child something he won't appreciate or already has a million of.)
  • I cleaned and vacuumed our car.
  • C's 4th grade science is getting serious. C is generally very good on the vocabulary type stuff, but occasionally has trouble with the actual problems. Here's a test problem C missed: "The formula for calculating work is Force X Distance = Work. How much work was done to move if Mr. M [the science teacher's husband] used 50 N of force to move a washing machine 10 feet." C added the 50 and the 10, I regret to say, but she fixed it at home. C missed the following problem from a worksheet (there's a picture of a car with both a rocket helping it forward and a a parachute holding it back): "A rocket applies an additional force of 10 Newtons to the 10 Newtons that are applied by the wheels. Add force arrows to the picture assuming that the parachute continues to apply 7 N of force in the opposite direction. What is the new combined force (net force) and direction?" This is probably the place to confess that while I have seen this sort of problem, it was in 11th grade.
  • As I've said before, 4th grade is hard.

Another $220k house

I went to see a for sale by owner house this morning. Here we go:
  • It's one story, 2850 square feet, was built in the late 1940s, and has exactly 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths. To me, the floorplan feels more early 1950s than late 1940s, but I guess they were just ahead of their time. There's one bedroom with a huge closet, and the other two bedrooms have typical pre-1950s closets.
  • It's been listed for sale off and on for two years before going for-sale-by-owner. The price has gone from $240k to $220k.
  • The owner (a 60-something man) lives there by himself and wants to downsize.
  • The bedrooms are large, but otherwise nothing else in the house feels particularly large. I'm not sure how it adds up to 2850 square feet.
  • One bedroom has a big closet and a dressing area that could be converted into an office for my husband.
  • There are no "extra" rooms (no second living area), which is what I was expecting from such a big house.
  • The kitchen has a large pantry.
  • The house is 90% updated. The exception is one of the two bathrooms, which has regrettable green and brown tile and wallpaper. The rest of the house is fine as is.
  • The kitchen is quite nice (hand-carved corbels, white tile backsplash, island, etc.). There's a breakfast area off the kitchen with a washer and dryer hidden behind cabinets.
  • There's a formal dining room.
  • There's a medium-sized deck with jacuzzi, and outdoor speakers. Party!!! (Not sure that's exactly my style, but somebody will like it.)
  • There's no garage, but there's a car port and a small storage building. A previous owner used the small storage building as housing for their maid, although there isn't any plumbing (!!!). That's another possible office for my husband. There's still the question of workshop. I guess I should have asked to see the storage building to see what functions it would be most suitable for.
  • The landscaping isn't Versailles, but it's nice, and there are built-in planters attached to the front of the house. My grandparents' house in Washington has that, and I've always liked it.
  • The driveway desperately needs resurfacing. The way it is now, there's no way the kids could scooter safely on it.
  • This isn't a deal breaker, but this house has that now-extinct style of brick work where the mortar oozes out in big blobs.
  • The house is on an important (but not super busy) street. I'd ideally like something on a more interior street, but this one doesn't feel as busy as I thought it would. The only thing is, you wouldn't get much use out of the front yard.
  • There's enough square footage to work with that I think we could probably put in built-ins with a combination of cabinets and bookshelves.
What do I think? I would really prefer a 4th bedroom to having 3 bedrooms. It is a lot of house for the price, while not being the sort of all-too-common house where you can accidentally lose family members--it just doesn't have that rabbit hole feel to it. There's a 1920s cottage four blocks away for the same price that is 900 square feet smaller, but this is a lot more house for the money. We would not be offering $220k, though.

All in all, this house looks like a realistic option if nothing turns up near campus by the spring.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Apple muffins

My husband made some delicious apple muffins. D liked them, except for the apple part. Similarly, D likes my husband's blueberry muffins, except for the blueberry part.

I was hoping for some variety, but it looks like we're going to be back to pumpkin muffins.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Christmas photobooks II

We ordered the special big format photobook for my relative last night and picked up our nine freshly-printed photobooks this evening. So, that's a big chunk of Christmas done.

Today was more or less wasted. I've got a chest cold with a bit of nasal congestion and I decided to cancel my engagements for today and just take a sick day. Then I had a brief, unrelated TMI medical thing, got a last-minute doctor's appointment this afternoon (which required furious schedule juggling), and was ultimately pronounced quite well. On the one hand, I felt like the little boy who cried wolf, on the other hand, I didn't accidentally want to collect my Darwin Award. So, all is well that ends well. I may take another day off tomorrow. My email is very much in arrears.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Christmas photobooks

November is upon us, so my husband and I have been working on the yearly photobook that we give to the adults in our family for Christmas. I always wonder if we have enough photos (because I personally don't take any), but we started with nearly 1500 raw photographs. Now, a lot of those were from the kids' digital cameras, especially D's. D documents almost every serious Zoob or LEGO or block project that he creates, so we devoted a couple of pages to the kids' projects. My husband and I whittled the photographs down to around 150 photographs (or something like that) and he worked on red eye and cropping. Then (after some shopping around) he uploaded the photographs to Walgreens and we worked on it much of yesterday evening, placing the order for eight 22-page photobooks right around midnight. We will do a one-off version (hopefully tonight) for a relative with some vision loss. Her copy will have fewer photos, but there will only be one picture per page. According to Walgreens, the first run of photobooks should be waiting for us at our local pharmacy this afternoon. We normally do this project over Thanksgiving weekend, but I'm going to be unavailable, so we needed to start earlier.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Japanese rice bowls

As a follow-up to that last post on hoarding, I just got four new blue-and-white patterned Japanese rice bowls in the mail.

Secret Lives of Hoarders

I've finished reading Matt Paxton's book The Secret Lives of Hoarders (2011). Paxton is an organizing expert on A&E's show Hoarders, the show where a team of experts and relatives go in to do an intervention with a hoarder. Here are some notes. Direct quotes will be in bold or in quotation marks.
  • Paxton describes a Stage 1 hoarder's home. "Their house was cluttered--but not the stereotypical place that one associates with classic hoarders like Margaret. There were piles of clothes, toys, papers, and mail that looked like someone meant to get to them a few weeks ago but had gotten distracted. The telltale sign of hoarders-in-training: The piles were in every room." That's really insightful and chilling.
  • Hoarding isn't about how much stuff a person has. It's about how we process things. Most people can easily make decisions about what to keep and what to toss or donate, and then they follow through. A hoarder can't.
  • Everyone has a junk drawer that holds odds and ends of stuff. When that junk drawer becomes a junk room, it's a signal that you are moving up to another stage. Or if a major appliance like a dishwasher or air conditioner hasn't been working for several months because it's difficult to get to it for repair, it is most definitely a sign of a Stage 2 hoarder.
  • A Stage 2 hoarder begins to withdraw from friends and family. As a substitute, he or she begins to acquire more things to fill that void, and the cycle continues in earnest. As the hoarder brings home more items, managing those takes priority over personal relationships. At this point, the hoarder begins to shift from embarrassment to justification, explaining why he or she "needs" the possessions.
  • Stage 3 hoarders are losing track of their personal care--bathing and haircutting aren't a priority. Because kitchens at this stage are often borderline functional, Stage 3 hoarders tend to eat food that's been cooked/reheated in the microwave oven or fast-food takeout. This almost always causes weight gain. For Stage 3 hoarders, physical activities are often limited.
  • The Stage 4 hoarder begins to retreat to a small area of livable space in the house--a "cockpit" where the hoarder spends most of his or her time. The hoarder probably doesn't do laundry...A hoarder at this stage may bathe at the sink or not at all. Hoarders have pretty much stopped following societal rules at this stage.
  • Margaret is a Stage 5 hoarder, which is as bad as it gets. There is major structural damage to the house, with severe mold, strong odors, bugs, rodents, and cobwebs taking over. Entire floors of the house might be completely blocked off. There are walls of clothes or other items in every room. The hoarder spends the entire day struggling to complete simple tasks like eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom. Diet is generally limited to soft drinks and either fast food or now-expired generic brand food that was bought on sale.
  • Depression is often so severe for a Stage 5 hoarder that he or she struggles to get up each day. A hoarder at this stage is often confused, perhaps saving items for people who are no longer living. Hoarders at this stage don't leave the house, with the exception that some may move to their cars or a homeless shelter to sleep.
  • Like almost every hoarder with whom I've worked, Candace also showed signs of what I now know to be clinical depression...
  • Hoarders aren't slobs who don't care about being clean. They are people struggling with overwhelming emotional issues. A pile in a hoarder house isn't a pile of stuff; it can be many things: a pile of sadness, a pile of quitting, or sometimes even a pile of hope. It's never really about the stuff, hoarders are just confusing their possessions with their emotions.
  • Whatever the triggers that set off the hoarding may be, or whatever boundaries and limits with which the hoarders wrestle, almost every person I've worked with has been fixated either on the future or the past. It's so much easier than living in the present, because the present can be awfully depressing.
  • Researchers also know that hoarders often have other identifiable medical issues, including dementia, obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression. But they're still figuring out if the other diseases lead to hoarding or if hoarding triggers them.
  • Some experts argue that addicts never change their personalities; they just substitute healthy addictions for unhealthy ones.
  • Therapy is a critical part of staying clean for advanced hoarders...
  • Paxton urges hoarders to go off credit as part of their recovery.
  • I've always believed that a hoarder house is a house full of quitting. To make a change, the hoarder has to stop quitting and start trying.
  • Without professional follow-up therapy, up to 85 percent of serious hoarders will go right back into the behavior. Even with therapy, I see up to half of late-stage hoarders slip back into it.
  • The goal is to help the hoarder find a suitable replacement behavior, which might be a job, volunteer work, a pastime, or a hobby--preferably one that doesn't encourage further collecting.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Making Peace with the Things in Your Life

I was recently reading Cindy Glovinsky's Making Peace with the Things in Your Life: Why Your Papers, Books, Clothes, and Other Possessions Keep Overwhelming You--and What to Do About It (2002). She beats around the bush a bunch, but she's occasionally insightful. Her psychological approach to clutter, while wordy, can offer a unique view of the clutterer's mind. Here are some quotes I liked (direct quotes in bold).
  • Some brains are wired to think mainly on a concrete level. To their owners, the sooner coins and bills are exchanged for davenports and snowmobiles the better. Numbers in a bank book or stock certificates mean nothing, nor do intangible purchases such as college education. Such people tend to become spenders. [I read a lot of personal finance stuff, and I think this is a really brilliant insight into why so many people cannot seem to grasp the concept of saving.]
  • Spenders are often broke and almost always have too many Things to fit into their homes, no matter how palatial, including the latest, fanciest organizing equipment and books. You don't have to be rich to be a spender, at least not in modern Western culture; it isn't a matter of your income but of what proportion of it goes into purchasing physical objects. And anyway, spenders buy most of their Things on credit, which, in their minds, is the same as getting them for free, since credit is intangible, and therefore unreal. Needless to say, spenders may experience clutter problems on their way to bankruptcy. [I've personally wondered how well our human minds are equipped to deal with the concept of money. The virtue of such things as the traditional envelope system is that it takes the budget (a very abstract, arbitrary concept in our age of practically unlimited credit) and brings it down to the concrete level. When the money is getting low in the envelopes, you slow down spending, and when it's gone, you stop.]
  • Glovinsky contrasts these people with those she calls "philosophers." "The Things philosophers buy are few, though the Things they get rid of are also few, as they fail to notice that the Things are piling up around them, and are constantly forgetting where they left them. Thus, philosophers can have clutter problems just as severe as spenders can, but the difference is that their clutter tends to be dingier and covered with stains."
  • The fact is, almost any psychiatric DISORDER is likely to create disorder with Things.
  • The erroneous belief that any reasonably intelligent human brain is supposed to be able to deal with Things easily has wreaked havoc in people's lives throughout history.
  • Grief is a kind of emotional time lag in which your attachments fail to keep up with the speed of change. The train your body is on has moved out of the station while your soul is left standing on the platform. When you feel that part of you has been left behind, it's normal to want to hang on to Things that you associate with your past.
  • Throughout most of history, people have explained behavior purely in terms of angels and devils. Originally, these angels and devils were literal, but more recently they were replaced with human angels and devils, better known as moms and dads.
  • People with visual memory glitches often try to compensate by keeping as many Things as possible in full view. If you look in their closets, drawers, or filing cabinets, they'll be three-quarters empty. But keeping belongings visible by leaving them out works only if you have a great deal of space and very few Things. Usually this approach results in the vast majority of your possessions being buried under Thing mountains where they're just as invisible as they would be inside containers.
  • Research has revealed multiple biological causes of underactivity, involving neurotransmitters, hormones, immune cell count, and other bodily entities as affected by stress, burnout, and negative conditioning of the "learned helplessness" variety.
  • Brains, like bodies, get tired.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Here's some of what's happening:
  • D changed our Roomba battery under his dad's supervision.
  • D is reading! Fluently! He's just about to finish the level 6 Clifford phonics books.
  • C is reading the Warriors series of cat books. Her chum has been lending her copies.
  • This morning I made a brief appearance at D's field trip to a big city park, fortified myself with Starbucks, then walked my favorite early 20th century neighborhood, looking for for sale by owner homes that haven't made it onto the internet. I had a good stiff hike, but didn't find anything. I'll try again in the early spring.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

House visits

I saw two houses this morning with a realtor. Here's what I saw (while I still remember).
  • The first house is $220k. It's on a well-known street, it's 1900 sq. ft., and it was built at the very beginning of the 1930s. There are three bedrooms and two baths. The lot is narrow and deep, and the homeowners had room for a big trampoline and playset in the back. There's also an old-timey garage with a small separate work room that I think my husband would love. The house itself is cute, but/and basically originally--they've mainly just painted. The kitchen looks original. I think the flow of living room, dining and kitchen is very good. There is a small out-of-the-way corner with built-in bookshelves that would make an excellent office for my husband. I like the house and I think I can imagine us there, although I wonder where we'd put all our books, and I expect that the kids' Disney Dance Dance Revolution stuff would be out of place in the formal living room. I can imagine buying the house, but not for $220k.
  • The second house is $205k. It was also built at the very beginning of the 1930s and it is 2100 square feet with three bedrooms and two baths. It's on a quieter street than the previous house, but within sight of one of the busiest streets in town, and it's across the street from an Episcopalian church. It's on a smaller lot than the first house and there's barely any backyard and no garage. The interior of the house has been seriously worked over. There's a big remodeled kitchen (were those IKEA cabinets?) and a large master bedroom and bath addition at the back with vast closets. We'd be able to fit our book collection comfortably into the master bedroom, maybe even a treadmill. Aside from the master suite, the floor plan is very similar to the house I saw first today, with the same progression from the front door: living room, dining, kitchen. There's room for a biggish table in the kitchen. There's also a small family room/media nook area not far from the kitchen.
Between these two houses, it's a very tight race. On the other hand, visiting these just-big-enough houses does help clear up that great mystery, why do people buy McMansions? These two houses are very cute, but I found myself thinking, if only there was one more room! Just an office (with doors) for my husband or some place to put a treadmill or an extra bedroom--just one more room! Or two! Or three! And then the $220k rambling 2900 sq. ft. house that I'm going to see in a few days starts looking like a brilliant idea. Now, the truth is that in 10-15 years, my husband and I won't need anything like 2900 square feet, but meanwhile, it would be nice to be able to spread out a bit. And that, my friends, is how it happens.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November real estate report

Here are the houses under $300k that I know of that are currently for sale in the early 20th century neighborhood I watch. I put the ones I like in bold. Here we go:
  • $252k (I saw this one)
  • $250k (I saw this one)
  • $220k (I'll see it soon)
  • $220k (I'll see it soon)
  • $205k (I'll see it soon)
  • $178k (I saw this one)
  • $170k (marginal location)
  • $170k (cute renovated 1920s house plus dubious additions)
  • $124k (estate sale, nothing has been done to the house since probably the early 1970s)
  • $96k (very poor location)
There's increasing convergence between our price range and the houses I like. I'd still prefer a house near campus, though.


I've got another hot option. This one is a nicely done-up 3BR/2BA 2100 square foot 1930 brick cottage in the older neighborhood I watch. Although the house is across from an Episcopalian church, it's on a much less busy street than the two houses for $220k that I mentioned earlier. The church probably generates a lot of traffic at certain times, but whenever I've been there, it's been very quiet. It is, unfortunately, the end of the neighborhood. The street itself is solid, but within two blocks, the neighborhood peters out. Also, there are two homes for sale on that street that have been listed for some time and are priced substantially lower. There's one for $170k (2300 square feet, peak sale price around $240k) and one for $178k (2000 square feet, peak sale price around $190k). I'm going to go look at this one, too.

I had no idea that November was going to be so interesting for real estate.

Monday, October 31, 2011


I have two houses I'm interested in, both at $220k, on the same street in that older neighborhood near downtown and four blocks apart. It's one of the most famous and well-loved residential streets in our city, but I prefer streets that are less inviting for cross-town travelers. The city fathers have put in a couple of traffic-slowing roundabouts, which is nice. Here's a comparison:
  • House A is brick, nearly 2900 square feet and built in the late 1940s (but has more of an early 1950s traditionalish ranch personality). The facade is OK. It's a FSBO now, after a long stretch on the market with a realtor and many, many price cuts. According to the online photos, the kitchen is quite nice without being super trendy and it looks reasonably well-maintained. I have an appointment to see the house in the next couple of weeks.
  • House B is new on the market, so new that there aren't any online photos yet (why, oh why do realtors do that?). It's a 3BR/2BA early 1930s brick cottage (I think, based on Zillow) and the facade is absolutely adorable. The square footage is around 1900, which makes the asking price an exercise in optimism. I've sent a query to the realtor.
It's too early for us to buy in this older neighborhood, which is our fallback option, but there's currently nothing for sale near campus. We'll probably give it until about February or March and then panic. Good thing we're not selling a house.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


D has produced the following set of "rools" for his room:

No bracing any ting! Do Not come in whith owt my permission! No jumping on my bed!

D asked my help with spelling "permission." He is currently revising the text for spelling.


C has a calligraphy kit (with a book of sample scripts and some pens) and she and D made welcome home cards for their dad. C also made D a coat of arms (not sure if that's the correct term) with a shield with a unicorn rampant on either side, a dragon over the shield and D's name in Gothic (?) script. It's made up as a scroll that is rolled up on either side, but open to the coat of arms.

C's current projects are weaving, embroidery and calligraphy. I think she would also be making balloon animals, too, but she's out of balloons. A major priority for C's next room will be figuring out a suitable way to store all her craft materials.

Halloween decorations

Here's some of what's happening:
  • My husband will be returning very soon from a trip to the American Catholic Philosophical Association meeting in St. Louis.
  • It really is fall now. We've had a couple of mornings in the 40s and today's high will be lowish/middlish 70s. It's fantastic weather for playing outside, scootering and running. The kids are having a good time.
  • My driving has improved, I think, or at least it's gotten more flexible and varied. After over 3 years of having a license, rather than having to memorize routes precisely and practice them a couple of times, I'm now able to improvise a bit and drive places I've never been before (thank you, Mr. GPS). I think I could probably drive almost anywhere in the city and one of our main suburbs. I've had to do a lot of driving to new places to get C to her volleyball games as well as doctors' appointments and Goodwill and we've figured out some longer, non-interstate routes for me. My main limitation now is that I don't drive the interstate (which is home to hundreds of semi trucks hauling stuff all over North America). Not driving the interstate doesn't interfere greatly with my quality of life, but I would dearly enjoy going by myself to IKEA (say, during the school day) so that I can take my time and not rush through before the kids finish up their hour at Smalland. Once I'm comfortable getting on and off the interstate, that's one of the first things I'll do.
  • The kids have been making a lot of Halloween-themed crafts. They made 2D pumpkin faces to hang on doorknobs and a 3D pumpkin and a jack o'lantern made from strips of orange paper. I claimed the 3D pumpkins for my display shelves in the dining room.
  • D's reading is coming along. He read 2 pages of The Phantom Tollbooth yesterday, under C's supervision.
  • C continues to work on her embroidery.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

C's room

Having finished D's room, I continued sifting C's room today. I've left the toughest areas for last, but we may be halfway through the work on her room. Today I went through some small boxes, a big bin of stuffed animals and craft projects and I went through her CDs with her and brokered the sale of some CDs to D. D went for several freebie chant CDs and a Baby Bach CD, as well as one more item I can't remember. What's left for us to work on is a medium bookcase (mainly books), a tall bookcase (toys and crafts), some medium boxes full of stuff, one drawerful of toys and an overcrowded dresser top.

I'm starting to think that I'd really like a lot of closed storage for C's stuff in her next room and just a few open shelves. A shelf or two would go a long way.

This was a big embroidery/sewing day for both kids, but C did an excellent job of picking up her stuff.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Brag note

D sometimes files his school papers so quickly that I don't have a chance to see them. So today was the first time I laid eyes on the following "Brag Note!" from D's teacher. "D is great at math and very engaged in learning. He always includes and lifts up others!" Awww. I collected the brag note for D's scrapbook. D wanted to ensure that the note wouldn't be displayed so that anybody could see the note because he doesn't want to brag.

Home game

Here's some of what's happening:
  • C's 4th grade volleyball team had their last game at home yesterday. They won! It was the first time this season. After the game, there was a celebratory award dinner at Pizza Hut. C is pizzaphobic, so there was a lot of back and forth as we decided whether or not to go. Finally, we decided to go. C had some sort of boneless (!) chicken wing thing and received an award for good sportsmanship.
  • This morning was parent-teacher conferences. I got a sitter and went forth, making good enough time that I was able to attend two conferences and visit Starbucks. The sitter brought her 11-month-old baby and the sitter and I are negotiating a swap so that she can finish a work project.
  • We took advantage of a free kids' meal deal at IHOP today.
  • C finished her raccoon American Girl sewing project. She embroidered an orange pumpkin onto a t-shirt of D's (with my authorization) and also started improving a couple of her tops without checking in with me (the pumpkin she was sewing wound up on the back of the shirt). I spent a huge amount of time this evening cleaning up the mayhem resulting from the embroidery stuff being emptied onto C's bedroom floor. I've since put nearly each color of floss into its own tiny ziploc, as well as bagging up the tiny sequins, bits of ribbon and felt letters that came with the kit. I am hoping that they will stay that way and I have no intention of picking it up again. We also sorted through C's drawer where she keeps her important papers. I had C take a number of her stained glass coloring pages and tape them up on our French doors in the living room, which is where we usually display that sort of thing.
  • C hung up a papercraft UFO of D's. It looks great.
  • I finished sifting and repacking the last of three boxes of my old letters today. This last box was mainly from the second half of the 00s, at which point the art of snail mail letter writing was clearly in severe decline. It's nearly all thank you notes and greeting cards, which was not the case 10 years earlier.
  • Lastly, D and I finished up our biannual turn-out of his room. We do it one shelf and drawer at a time, so it's a very slow, involved process. He was very good about letting go of old papers. Now, to move on to doing the same with C's room (we've already done something like 1/4 or 1/5 of her room together). C has more ongoing craft projects, so it's more challenging to deal with her stuff, but I have a couple clear plastic shoeboxes standing by.

Make posters

In the car today, D was asking me what terrorists are. I explained to the kids that terrorists are people who use violence against innocent people to achieve political goals and to get a political message across. C asked, "Why don't they just make posters?"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Improved zebra

This evening, C made striped paper wings for her Playmobil zebra.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Catch up

We had a phone and internet outage, so I'm rather behind on news. Here's some of what's been happening:
  • My husband and I are starting to dip into Netflix's collection of P.D. James stories. I'm wondering if Commander Dalgliesh would get on with Inspector Morse or Inspector Lewis.
  • On Friday night, we had the big school star night. It was a success--no small children got run over or lost in the dark. My husband took so many telescopes that C and I had to secure a ride there with friends. My husband gave a short talk on the life cycle of stars and then it was out to the telescopes to see what we could see. D manned his telescope and C managed to get Jupiter in view. My husband clocked three hours of volunteer time, a very valuable commodity now. Our kids were fitted up with little red LEDs on their beltloops, as usual. According to amateur astronomy etiquette, white light is a no-no. My husband has, in fact, gone so far as to replace the overhead lights in our car with red LEDs.
  • We were all under the weather this past weekend, particularly C and my husband. Both have been feverish and C skipped school today and will do so again tomorrow. I have a pack of make-up work for her to do, although I fear that there's probably some more Latin work that we haven't been given yet.
  • In real estate news, the grimy 2400 square foot estate sale house in the older neighborhood I watch has had its price cut from $135k to $124k. That is interesting, but I think we're not the right buyer.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Worst car loan ever

I was just listening to an episode of the Dave Ramsey show from a few days ago, and he's got a woman on who has a car loan with 24% interest. That is the worst car loan terms I have ever heard of. I have heard of 14% and 19% before, but this really takes the cake.

French Country Kitchens

I am not really a French decor person (the living rooms tend to look like they should be roped off, with "Don't Sit Here!" on the chairs), but I really like the book I just got, Linda Dannenberg's French Country Kitchens (2008). Just the dustcover (a kitchen with white walls, a shelf of teapots, blue-and-white tile backsplash over the stove and some stainless steel) was worth the price of the book. Now, I warn you that you will look at this book and wonder, how do they keep these patina-ed, rough, antique-filled rooms clean? And then, on second thought, you'll think, those crevices are full of 200-year-old grime. But hang in there and enjoy the pictures, because it's an amazing book, even though I personally (living in a climate where the insect life is varied and robust) would prefer a version that is smoother, tidier and more scrubbable (une cuisine americaine). But there's definitely a part of me that wants to recreate the dustcover kitchen.

Interestingly, the book admits that many of the owners of these amazing living-museum kitchens have a second kitchen called the arriere-cuisine or back kitchen, which is where most of the modern appliances and some storage are located. I've heard similar stories about Asian homes having two kitchens (a showy Western kitchen open to the public and a smaller workmanlike Asian kitchen where all the hot, messy work happens) and one story (I can't remember from where) about an Italian-American family where there was an upstairs show kitchen and a downstairs work kitchen for heavy-canning and sauce cooking. Even in American kitchens with our historic trend toward uniting the kitchen with other living areas, there is also a countervailing need to be able to shove the less attractive byproducts of the cooking and eating process out of sight.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I just got back from flyering the other (and what will soon be the only) faculty/staff neighborhood. I flyered 18 houses in that neighborhood with our "Are you thinking of selling your house?" flyer. There are probably about 10 other houses in the neighborhood, but I skipped the ones that are way too big, the owner is out of town for the year, the owner is terminally ill, or the house has just been built or moved in to over the past two years.

Past flyering attempts have gotten me on average one response each time, I believe. One was over $400k (way too much), one was very affordable ($145k) but just a little too small for us (and some friends bought it), one was $219k (too much for us at the time, but we'd probably pay it now) and one was $285k. And then there was the lot there that we thought about seriously, and then somebody else bought it (or bought the lease on it) and built a spectacular 2800 square foot home on. The $219k house is the one I most regret (I regret almost all of them a little bit), but a lovely family lives there now, and we really didn't have the money at the time.

All I need is one good one...But hopefully it's not the undiluted 1970s house or the 1500 square foot house that barely fits on the lot or the pseudo-French chateau with no private yard space.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Stock market

We got a statement from my husband's retirement account today. This was the first time that a market drop managed to swamp contributions. We and the college put in about $2k and market loss was $9k, for a net loss of $7k this reporting period. Waaah.

Black and white

I'd like to make a quick plug here for black or white laminate countertops. I've seen white laminate in a couple of older white kitchens and it looks pretty good. I've also recently seen black laminate countertops in a white kitchen in a magazine (House Beautiful?) and it looks fine.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Here's some of what's happening:
  • On Saturday, the kids and I visited the lovely 2900 sq. ft. 4BR/2.5BA two story brick house built in 1925 that I have been admiring on the web. It's in the older neighborhood that I watch. The downstairs is just as pretty as on the web. The dining room is big and somewhat open to the living room (I suspect the renovator's hand removed a wall), there's a sort of tacked on small sun room, the white kitchen (circa 1950 something?) is a bit less spiffy than in the online photo (old white laminate counter and vinyl floor) but it's not bad, there's a nice big pantry and a built-in china cabinet/desk area (I like that). Upstairs, the floorplan is a bit of a mess (although everything is in tolerable condition). There's a bedroom and a bath with their separate doors opening onto the hallway and then there's a confusingly interconnected mess of sitting room/jack-and-jill-bath, small office and MBR. Part of the issue, I believe, is that the office was tacked on as part of an addition, along with the sun room downstairs, which helped to jumble the traffic flow. I can see us in this house, it's just that a lot of much smaller homes would have a more rational bedroom/bath layout (i.e., in a house with 2.5 baths, I want one of our very own, not shared with a kid). The heating and cooling costs for a house this size and this vintage also give me qualms. There is a very nice deck off the dining room. This is the house that is several houses away from the corner of a major street with continual traffic, but of more immediate concern are the 2 or 3 loud dogs that live in the neighboring yard. It's not very tempting yet (they want $250k), but by the spring, if it gets to $220k or something like that, we may need to think about it.
  • Later on Saturday, C went to a school friend's birthday party. It was initially a girls' only event, with tea, pastries and then sewing (an American Girls sewing kit for making two adorable blue raccoons). Around dinner time, a larger party (including several younger brothers) gathered for pizza and cake. A good time was had by all. C has been working on her big raccoon ever since. I must report that two of my needle threaders have already perished in the process.
  • My husband took the kids to the pool this afternoon (it's across the street, but getting there is somehow always an ordeal) and I visited the gym treadmill for the first time in quite a few months. I did 40 minutes and two miles and I got very sweaty. I was listening to Fellowship of the Ring. LOTR is excellent for listening to while walking.
  • We went to Panera's for dinner tonight after the gym. I had some excellent eavesdropping while enjoying a chopped Thai salad. The lady at the neighboring table had pulled her child out of kindergarten after discovering that the teacher was spending 1/3 of her time keeping the child in order. That was very public-spirited of the mom. The mom was pretty ticked off, though, at the fact that the school had sent a note home at the end of the day on a Friday saying that the kindergarten (!!!) child would be spending all of Monday in in-school detention with the school secretary. That strikes me as being a bad move on many different levels. First of all, punishment is being inflicted on a 5 or 6-year-old on Monday for sins committed on Friday. He or she probably doesn't even remember what happened on Friday. Secondly, the length of punishment is very weird and developmentally inappropriate. I know that I personally can get very good mileage out of 10 or 30 second penalties. A 30 second penalty with a cookie right in front of the child that they can't eat now or a 5-minute penalty for recess can bring the most hardened sinner to repentance. What do they teach in principal school?

Friday, October 14, 2011

D's room

We have a day off school today and my husband was out of town (he's coming back unexpectedly early) and the kids and I have been at loose ends, particularly since my husband has the car. We went to IHOP for lunch and then didn't really know what to do with ourselves. D and I eventually started working on his room. We sifted about 1/4 of the room and we are within striking distance of finishing the whole room. I think there's one more long session left--two boxes of papers and his easel (the easel's storage is loaded down with art supplies, finished projects and all sorts of debris). And then it will be time to work on C's room again. The kids' rooms need a major overhaul about every six months, and this past six months has seen an explosion of creativity (i.e. stuff) in D's room. The kids are now watching.

In other, somewhat related news, I talked to my sister today and I have her blessing to claim the adorable blue-and-white china mouse in kimono that I brought her back from Russia in the late 1990s. It has been sitting in my mother's china cabinets for some years, and my mom suggested that my sister might not want it. I wanted to get confirmation on this before prematurely pouncing on the mouse, but I spoke to my sister and have permission! The mouse is really cute.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Silly Bandz

I haven't seen or heard C doing anything with Silly Bandz lately (although she has some tied to her backpack), but it is a big deal in D's 1st grade class. The kids trade them back and forth and gift them enthusiastically.

Last night, my husband took the kids to the rodeo at the county fair. There was a rodeo participant on the ground as they came in, but he got up and walked. There was some bronco busting, some roping and also some mutton busting.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hello Kitty

In a previous post, I encountered a large, surly female Starbucks worker wearing a BITCH wristband.

An update is in order. As of a week or two ago, she is now wearing a pink I LOVE HELLO KITTY wristband and smiling. She has been assimilated.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

County fair

We're just back from an afternoon at the county fair. We had to go because the kids had an award ceremony today, they have week-long passes to the fair, and my husband discovered an offer for unlimited rides from 12-6. I drove the kids (it's the first time I've ever driven there myself), had an unplanned extra circuit of the fairgrounds due to lane change issues, negotiated the complicated fair parking (the free parking I had originally planned to use had new, unfriendly signs talking about towing non-customers), got myself a ticket and then took the kids to the awards ceremony location. We wandered around the exhibition hall, waiting for the ceremony to start, admiring photographs, quilts, afghans, homemade clothing, jams, pickles, salsa and things made out of macaroni. The kids eventually went up for their medals and a group photo and I got certificates entitling C to a $100 savings bond and D to a $50 savings bond. We'll be able to claim the savings bonds when we give the fair people the kids' Social Security numbers. I'm not sure what to do with the savings bonds, but it was a gratifying offset to the day's fair expenses. We left before the oral spelling bee began (there was a larger written spelling bee a week ago to thin the herd).

After the ceremony, I got $15 unlimited ride wristbands for the kids (they paid out of their travel fund savings--I put away 20% of all their earnings for such occasions) and we all sat down to corndogs for lunch. The kids rode everything they wanted to/were eligible for (occasionally twice) and it was so early that there were practically no lines. More than once, the kids went directly from the ride exit to the entrance. It was fantastic, and since the per-ride price is about $3, the kids quickly recouped their wristband investment. We got sweets (shaved ice for the kids, sweet tea and big chocolate chip cookie for me) on our way out and drove home without misadventure. I'm getting more able to improvise when driving unfamiliar routes and I think that I can probably drive just about anywhere in the city proper and certain suburban routes with enough time and planning. I-35, though, is on a totally different level.

In other news, C got a long-awaited shipment of balloons just before we left for the fair grounds. She paid for the balloons herself and had been asking about them very frequently. She made a large flower and then a balloon parrot that she attached to her shoulder. Very cute! D also made an elaborate black and yellow piece that he describes as "abstract." I pointed out to him that from one angle, it looks like a man in a wheel chair.

We also worked on D's bedroom this morning before we left. D did a big purge of toddler and preschool toys half a year ago, but since then, his room has filled up with various projects, papers, cheap toys and hand-me-down items from C. This morning, we went through several bins of toys, two shelves of books and several shelves of display items. We also removed non-train items from a train box. That's something like 1/4 of his room done. The process is very slow. I pick up practically every item and ask D if he wants it and then act accordingly. I need to do this with both kids' rooms in preparation for our eventual move.

Recorder concert

Last night, around dinner time, a small handmade ticket appeared on the kitchen counter that read "recorder concert 6:00." After dinner, the kids set up chairs in the living room and D put up a ticket booth just outside. He took my ticket and punched it and let me in to the living room. Both kids had put on their finest attire and C played three songs, ending with Ode to Joy.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

More volleyball

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we've had a couple really late homework nights this week. C had a volleyball game after school and I got to see again how important serving is in 4th grade girls' volleyball. Indeed, serving is just about everything in 4th grade volleyball, because the ball is almost never returned. When it is, there is frenzied clapping. A couple of stars have emerged on C's team, mainly taller girls.

As the kids and I were getting into the car in the parking lot, C told me (completely out of the blue) that she had a book report due tomorrow (we had another book project due earlier this week and I thought we had more breathing room before the next one). Last year, those book reports were a multi-day ordeal, so I was mentally preparing myself for a marathon homework session. I am happy to report that things were very different than I expected. C sat down and quickly knocked out a very respectable report (it was a sheet with questions and blanks). I had her amplify a few answers, but she did really well.

Earlier, I had been urging C to choose her book with an eye to the book report questions. Last year, we had had some very unsatisfactory results with one of her books, due largely to the fact that it really wasn't a good book, the descriptions were bland and the characters were poorly defined. For today's report, however, C chose Charlotte's Web, and the report practically wrote itself. I was so relieved by how easily we got off tonight that I let the kids have a good, solid dose of TV before bed.

In related news, a mommy blogger has written her true confession of how she is the one doing her daughter's homework.

$40 per square foot

From looking at's numbers for foreclosures in the nicer zip code I follow, the current sales price for foreclosures there hovers around $40 per square foot. The sales price for that zip code is normally about $50 per square foot, although sellers often price much higher. At least based on Trulia's numbers, over a quarter of homes for sale in that zip code are foreclosures. $50 per square foot we can pay, but the trick is persuading the seller that they want to sell for that.

From looking at a major local realtor's website, I discovered that one of those big, gorgeous 4,000 square foot 1920s Spanish revival homes has sold. They had been asking $420k. It's interesting to see what's selling. A lot of lower-end homes ($135k-$180k) in the neighborhood are just sitting. Price-wise, the $135k house is interesting, but I'm figuring at least $40k in renovation costs, which leaves me thinking that I'd really rather buy somebody else's remodeled home for $175k.

I'm scheduled to see a rather handsome 2900 sq. ft. 1920s red brick house (not sure how to describe it stylistically) in about a week. It's currently priced at $250k. As far as I know from a walk-by and frequent perusals of the house photos, its only major negative is that somewhere in the neighborhood, there's a huge, loud dog. It's the fourth house or so from a major thoroughfare. That's not great, but not as bad as a big, loud dog. For kitchen afficiandos among my readership, I'll note that the kitchen seems to have a lot of older cabinetry (midcentury?), just painted white (you know how during a certain era, all the houses had gingerbread wood trim over the kitchen window?). The painted kitchen looks great in the photos, gingerbread and all.

Mail order

We are still in that flush beginning-of-the-month time, and the mail orders have been coming in. Here's what I've gotten:
  • a volleyball for C to practice with at home. It's white with pink and zebra accents.
  • a bottle of Chipotle Tabasco sauce (I discovered this amazing product at Chipotle's).
  • a Jango Fett costume for D for Halloween and dress-up.
The nights have been chilly (especially since I discarded a couple of 10-year-old comforters this summer) and I drove myself to Bed, Bath and Beyond yesterday to hunt for either a new comforter or a warm blanket. I ultimately bought a big, stiff quilt made up of lots of strips of blue-and-white patterned fabric, in lots of different shades of blue and with stripes and plaids and what have you. It looks great.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Math bee

Saturday was very busy. Here's what we did:
  • Early in the morning, we went over to the fairgrounds and both kids participated in the county fair math bee. It's a 60-minute written test with 30 questions, but the kids finished in 20-25 minutes. The kids are so-so on checking their answers, but the benefit of finishing early is that in the case of a tie, the earlier finisher wins. D had to have some math questions read to him. We returned in the later afternoon to check the kids' results. C finished 1st in the 3rd/4th grade category and D finished 2nd among 1st graders. I'm not sure about the total number of participants, but we are very pleased.
  • After the math bee, I had a little shopping to do at Walmart, so my husband and the kids had celebratory cookie and cream milkshakes at Chik-fil-a while I shopped.
  • At home, we all picked up sticks in the yard and my husband greased the tire swing and then then he used the leaf blower on sidewalk, driveway and patio.
  • C worked on the pictures for a book project she's doing at school. She and I had creative differences over such issues as whether No 2 pencil is all you need to draw black-and-white photos and whether the photos should be drawn free-hand.
  • We picked up a carry-out dinner at Pei Wei and then drove out to a campground for a picnic dinner and bake sale. The kids enjoyed the playground, particularly this thing like a giant swinging purple egg, big enough for several medium-sized children to swing inside. Toward the end, the music teacher had the elementary kids singing You Are My Sunshine, Rock a My Soul In the Bosom of Abraham and He's Got the Whole World in His Hand.
  • It was a long, long but productive day.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Horse race

Here's some of what's happening:
  • C had her second volleyball game last night. D and two 1st grade classmates with 4th grade sisters ran up and down the stairs and around the raised track above the volleyball court. It's a brilliantly designed facility for occupying younger siblings.
  • C and D have created a horse race board game with stenciled horses as game pieces. They dressed very quickly and were playing it this morning when I came to get them for breakfast.
  • C's Latin and science are very challenging. I know what the dative and genitive and accusative case are from Russian, so that helps me fake my way through it. C's science covers stuff I have vague notions of from personal reading, but never studied thoroughly in school. What is it to conduct or insulate? What's the difference between refracting and reflecting? What kinds of different circuits are there? I'm learning a lot as I help C study for her tests. Her history and Bible tests are also challenging. (Who was Obadiah? Which came first, Elijah or Elisha?) Aside from the challenging daily work, she (I initially wrote "we") also have different book projects, one of which is going to occupy us this weekend.