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.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Kindle Fire?

I'm thinking very seriously about the Kindle Fire. I've got a kinda-smart phone, a 10" netbook, and I sometimes borrow a PDA from my husband for audiobooks, and you might think that was enough, but there's a bit of a hole with regard to something I can take to the gym and watch movies, listen to music, etc. on. I was thinking of something ipodish (I've never owned one), but for somebody with my level of technical skill, it sounds like the Kindle Fire would be even easier to deal with (I've never learned how to transfer stuff from one electronic thingy to another electronic thingy). A device that transfers its own data via wifi direct from the mothership at Amazon is exactly what I need. I'd avoided the Kindle for a long time because it looked to me like a potential financial black hole, but I will try just to buy stuff that I'm actually going to read or watch right now. I really need a get-me-to-the gym piece of electronics.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

4th grade

4th grade is really hard.


Yesterday we made a special trip to a nicer HEB to buy flowers. I got a bunch (two dozen?) of bright pink miniature carnations for $4, which was fantastic. I've got them in a blue glass vase and (if the label is to be trusted), they are guaranteed for 14 days. About four buds were too short for my arrangement, so I gave them to C for her bud vase in the kids' bathroom. C is thrilled. The kids also have a large paper multicolored flower arrangement in the bathroom. So, between the flowers, the tiny fake aquarium and an assortment of brightly colored towels, I am rather happy with the kids' bath.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


We've been working on D's CCD (religious education) homework and I saw that D had drawn a picture of heaven that looked like a castle. There were two figures and I wanted to find out more, but D didn't want to talk about it.


Here's some of what's been happening:
  • C has been making good use of the Draw 50 Horses book that I got her for her birthday. She's been working on a picture for the therapeutic riding place she goes to.
  • Our daytime temperatures are still going into the 90s, but we're able to turn the AC off at night.
  • Our car audio book is E. Nesbit's The Wonderful Garden. I had never heard of it before, but it's very good so far.
  • D tells me that he got up at 4 AM this morning and collected his new quilt from the laundry basket in the hallway. I expected he'd do something like that.
  • The kids have been designing board games.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Homework free

Here are a couple notes, not on IKEA:
  • Little pitchers have big ears. I often listen to Dave Ramsey while hanging clean laundry in the kids' rooms. On Fridays, the show has a lot of callers doing debt free screams, where they yell "I'm debt freeeee." My husband says that D recently told him, "I'm homework free!" after D finished his.
  • Real estate is a slow-paced hobby. Everything looks the same for weeks or months, but there are changes if you watch closely. For instance, there are two houses I have talked about before, each on the same street, each formerly priced at $260k. Recently, the price of the less desirable home was trimmed to $252k. Very soon after, the price of the more desirable house was cut to $250k. That's very good. As always, I wonder what the spring will bring.


C is 9 and growing fast, so her days of enjoying IKEA's Smaland are limited. We went today, taking in lunch at the excellent Red Onion (an Indian buffet) in Killeen before hitting IKEA Round Rock. We checked the kids into Smaland and my husband read Leibniz's Monadology for class while I did a very fast tour of the store. I just bought kids' clothes hangers and picked up a copy of the 2012 catalog (absolutely gorgeous, of course--the cover has a very nice use of pale green walls with black furniture). Then we sprang the kids out of Smaland, hit the IKEA food store and bought salmon roe (for my husband who likes that sort of thing), gooseberry jam, blueberry and raspberry jam for later and cinnamon rolls and drinks to tide us over until we got home. Just as we were about to head out, D reminded me that he was supposed to have a look at comforters. I had looked at comforters but I was unsure that it was what D would like. So we headed back to the textile section so I could show D the blue, red and white patterned quilt I had been looking at. The trip back to textiles was unexpected, so I was balancing a coffee and milk and a mostly empty box with two cinnamon rolls while showing D the quilt. Anyway, there was a regrettable slosh of coffee as I was talking to D after somehow losing a grip on the stuff in my hands, so rather than buy the $50 size of the quilt, I wound up buying the $70 size of the quilt, seeing as that was the one that I had accidentally left my mark on. The good news is that D loves the quilt. The kids took turns carrying it (it's very heavy) through the store and then D insisted on having it next to him in the car on the drive home. On our return, I immediately put it in the washer and dryer, but it unfortunately wasn't dry for D's bedtime (the thing takes literally hours to dry). He asked me about it a couple times at home. He loves that quilt. I hope it will wash all right. We should be able to work up a very grown-up color scheme in D's next room starting with this quilt. I talked to C about her new room and she is leaning toward doing her next room in a horse theme (she currently has an undersea theme). I am not surprised.

In other IKEA news, I think I like the Hemnes solid pine desk with the add-on shelf unit. I had previously been eyeing the Hemnes secretary, but the plain desk with add-on unit is actually much sturdier and more substantial. The secretary is pretty, but feels rickety and cheap.

Friday, September 23, 2011

For Sale By Owner

A mom friend went with me for a walk in the early 20th century neighborhood near downtown that I watch. Because of the blast furnace temperatures we've endured for months now, I haven't walked there for a long time, but it was very comfortable 70s this morning. We didn't do the whole thing (you'd need at least 2 hours to walk all the winding little streets with romantic 1920s names), but I made several discoveries:
  • There's a pretty mid-century 3+BR/2BA for-sale-by-owner on the kind-of-busy main drag, but on the right side of the street (it backs to residential, not commercial). Previously, it had been listed with a realtor for $220k. Now, it's a FSBO and it's...$220k. That was a disappointment. However, it is nearly 2900 square feet (Texans looove their multiple living spaces). Also, the video tour on the internet is very nice.
  • We made one last walk onto a small street next to a very busy main drag and found quite a few for sale signs. I made the very happy discovery that the beautifully remodeled stately 2-story brick 1920s home that I had thought was right on the corner of the very busy main drag is actually in a much better location. It's 4/2.5 and also nearly 2900 square feet. They want $260k and it's been sitting at that price for a while.
  • Lastly, there's a remodeled 1920s cottage exactly across the street from the previous house I discussed. This one is 2000 square feet and 2BR/2BA (plus "additional bath in cabana!"). They want $310k. I don't think that's going to happen. It's also a FSBO.
As I may have mentioned, I'm getting a bit squishier on price. Either of the two first houses is rather promising, although I'd prefer a quieter, more interior location or something near campus and we have to consider boring (but very expensive) issues like taxes and energy usage. The houses themselves look fantastic on the internet and the locations are acceptable. I still haven't met House Charming, though, and I need to by March or April at the latest. It's going to be a long wait until January when the listings perk up again.

I think that with the $220k house, there's finally some convergence between what I like and am willing to pay and what the market has to offer, although that convergence has mainly come from me softening up on price.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Twin day

They're doing a theme week at school and the kids decided to do twin day together. I often buy identical t-shirts for the kids, so it was easy. The kids chose to wear their glow-in-the-dark animal track t-shirts (from grandma and grandpa's store) with blue jeans. They looked great.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A modern mother's nightmare

I woke up this morning from a nightmare in which I had suddenly realized that I had made promises to help with some school activities and that the day of reckoning had arrived. I needed to supply some salsa for a multi-day taco feed as well as the backing for a quilt. There was also the horrible (but very plausible) possibility that the other mothers intended for me to start sewing the quilt. I was so happy to wake up.

We had a good soaking rain the night before last and the temperature this morning is 69 degrees. We are finally headed into fall.

Monday, September 19, 2011

New math curriculum

The school has switched over from Singapore Math to some sort of Singapore Math adapted for America. It's kind of wordy and D doesn't yet read much, so I'm not that big a fan. I remember how C was able to do her 1st grade Singapore math unassisted and how conceptually transparent it was. Anyway, D was just worriedly puzzling over a set of problems asking that he count on using a set of illustrations. I know what counting on means, but I couldn't make out quite how the technique was supposed to work. The problems are really simple, so I told D, "Just write the right answer."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Potholder and school buses

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • D has been waiting for somebody to finish the edges of a potholder he has been working on. It is a dazzling combination of coral pink, midnight blue and purple. C crocheted the edges today and I sewed the loop. I asked D if he wanted to contribute it to my potholder drawer or keep it and he decided to add it to Blue Coconut's home furnishings (Blue Coconut is a tiny stuffed elephant).
  • The kids are enjoying a documentary about the manufacture of school buses. They are largely hand-crafted.
  • We're finally getting some rain and lightning.
  • D got a cut on his scalp today from running under an outdoor sculpture (!) near the art department. We went to ER in the afternoon. It was a small cut and they stapled (!) it. It was over quickly, as promised, but it hurt a lot. D would have been better off with some sort of numbing stuff. D's supposed to get the staple out in a week and we're allowed to wash his hair, although I'm in no hurry.
  • C has gotten to the point where she has a number of craft projects that she alternates between. Current favorites are her loom, her friendship bracelet set, her LEGO set with trailer and cars and her balloon animal kit (she's saving up for replacement balloons).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Off season real estate report

A bunch of house listings have already been pulled, but there have been a couple of developments

It's going to be a long four months until the spring listings come online, but there have been two developments in the well-preserved early 20th century neighborhood I watch. First of all, there's a new listing for $162k--it is very pretty, but in a poor location. Secondly, the house that was for sale initially for $272k and was listed for three years and finally fell into foreclosure has tumbled to a new listing price of $140k. Here are the houses in the neighborhood currently listed on

$96k (sad, poor location)
$135k (depressing, decent location, not sure if it would be possible to turn the house into silk purse)
$140k (the aforementioned foreclosure that's killing every similar listing on the street)
$160k (unremodeled, poor location)
$162k (the new listing, very pretty, poor location)
$170k (cute in parts, started at $238k long, long ago)
$170k (cute remodeled house (although too much flipper grey), poor location, unrealistic pricing)
$260k (beautiful, exquisitely remodeled brick 1920s mansion, right next to one of the busiest streets in town)
$429k (excellent location, elegantly remodeled sprawling Tudorish 1920s mansion--undoubtedly a beast to heat and cool)

There's a problem with every one of these, including the last one, which is just too BIG. As before, I can't argue with almost any of the prices, it's just that location, price and house quality are not lining up for me yet. As always, I await the spring and the new crop of listings.

First volleyball game

C had her first 4th grade volleyball game last night (team sports are mandatory as of this year). They played another smallish downtown private school. My husband and D went and D had a chance to chat with a bunch of chums in the stands. As expected, one of C's street shoes (her black uniform Mary Janes) was misplaced in the girls' room when her team was suiting up, but my husband managed to hunt it down this morning. Hopefully this will not happen every away game--black suede Mary Janes do not grow on trees and they are an essential feature of the school uniform. The 4th grade girls only have about 8 games this season and those, along with CCD and C's therapeutic horse riding, are C's only regular commitments this fall. We have not, as yet, signed D up for anything beside CCD and may get away with just waiting until 4th grade when school team sports become mandatory. On the other hand, I am much more ambitious about the kids' summer schedules (that being when the kids have more leisure time than they know what to do with). That's when I really pour on the coals, budget permitting. The college basketball program runs a basketball camp for wee little kids that a number of our small acquaintances have enjoyed, and we may well put D into that next summer. In our climate, I appreciate indoor, air-conditioned summer athletics.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Truth in advertising

I'm starting to think that there's a lot of value in certain annoying t-shirts, bumper stickers and wristbands. The PRINCESS t-shirt is as helpful as the rattle of the rattlesnake, the bright colors of the poison arrow frog or a multitude of other natural indicators that the possessor is venomous, poisonous or otherwise shouldn't be messed with. If you are a guy dating a young woman who wears a sparkly pink princess shirt or has a princess decal on her car, you deserve every single ounce of hell that is coming your way. I ran into a similar one this morning while making my usual visit to Starbucks. The Starbucks gals and I are on pretty good terms (they know my kids' names, my usual drink and I tip reasonably often), but this morning there was a new girl. She had a bracelet on that said (as far as I could read) B-I-T-C and presumably H. And what do you know--she was!

Anyway, say what you may of the coarsening of modern manners, it provides invaluable information.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Crib and mattresses

Up until today, D had been sleeping in a crib converted to a toddler bed. After some discussion and research, my husband discovered that the crib has a number of design issues, from the drop side (which has led to the recall of millions of cribs) to a sporadically collapsing bottom. In fact the manufacturer (now defunct) had so many fatalities associated with it that I begin to wonder if they weren't single-handedly responsible for the 10 million crib recall of drop-side cribs. Fortunately, D only started sleeping on it when he was two, so he was a pretty big kid by that time.

Anyway, the good news is that Walmart will probably take the crib back as part of the recall without a receipt. This is the crib that C horribly disfigured with graffiti a month or so ago, so it's a good deal. My husband took the crib apart and out of D's room and replaced it with XL twin mattresses that had been wrapped up in plastic in the garage for the past 4 years. I found a blue flannel sheet for the mattresses and D is sleeping with his blue doggy quilt (thank you Auntie K!). Curled up, he covers a very small fraction of the new mattress. For the winter, he'll probably need a new bedspread, so I'll need to start negotiations with him. I suspect that he'll want to do an underwater/tropical fish theme like C. D seems to be very satisfied with the new bed.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Police cars and submarine

The kids went to the dentist this week and got the usual goody bags. Both kids saved the plastic part of the toothbrush package and combined it with a straw to create a submarine. They've both had a chance to play with their submarines in the tub.

This morning, my husband took them to Lowes to do a project. This week's project was a police car, complete with a flashing blue light. It looks great.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Minnie Mouse

C loved the Minnie Mouse shirt we got her at Disneyland so much that she wore holes in the elbow of the long sleeve. It's a red shirt with a short sleeve and a long sleeve (red with white polka dots) coming out from under the short sleeve, if you know what I mean. Minnie Mouse is embroidered on the front and there's a big pink applique heart and a bunch of little pink applique hearts. I wasn't able to find a replacement on Amazon, but I kept the shirt around, knowing that C is crazy about it. After some reflection (and a consultation with C) I went to work with scissors this morning and cut and tore the undersleeves out of the shirt. It was four minutes' work and it looks great. I'm still going to keep my eyes open for the same shirt in the next size up.

As predicted, this was a chilly night. I had the AC off, but I had to get up in the night to turn off the fan and close the window and reclaim my side of the blanket. The low was around 63 degrees. The temperatures are supposed to be edging up over the next 10 days, but for now, this is extremely gratifying. I feel much more energetic.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Texas wildfire map

Here's a map of current Texas wildfires.

Fall begins?

It was 73 degrees and windy this morning and for the first time in months, I opened up the kitchen window. I think our high (at least at our house) was around 87, which is 10 degrees cooler than we have any right to expect. We had a playdate at home and took our guests to lunch at the cafeteria for a special BBQ day. The weather was very pleasant. Our forecast says we will have at least a couple days of lows in the 50s, which I find difficult to believe, given the total absence of rain in the forecast. The highs are going to be in the 90s for quite a while.

I'm waiting for the temperature to cool down a little and then I'll take the kids out scootering and biking on the newly revamped grassy mall near the center of campus.

There was substantial smoke yesterday from the fires north and south of us, but that's gone today. Our guests were evacuated earlier this summer because of a wildfire. With everything so bone dry and windy, fires don't really need any encouragement.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


D: I hate those cows! They're not awesome enough to go in my car.

Real estate collapse

Previously, there were starting to be some houses available for $150k-$170k on the main drag in the early 20th century neighborhood near downtown that I watch. A bunch of listings have now disappeared for the fall. I do have big news, though. As of this morning, there's a new listing for a 3BR/2BA (Zillow says 2400+ square feet) on a quieter, curvier interior street. The lot has lovely older live oaks. They want $135k, which is practically unheard of. That's the good news. The bad news is that they don't give any interior photos, there has probably been no renovation (it's an early 1950s house) and it backs to a large apartment complex (but there is a wall). If this doesn't sell immediately, look out below.

I don't think I want this particular house (I'm still holding out for a nearer-campus neighborhood), but this sort of thing gives me a lot of hope for the fall and spring.


C has quite a number of craft kits in use right now. A recent favorite was her new paper-twirling kit. She's made a twirled paper rooster that looks very nice. C also decided to teach D to sew, so yesterday she and D were working on a stuffed elephant from a sewing kit that C had had for a while and then bequeathed to D. We were working in the master bedroom, so the kids were able to take trampoline breaks and I was available to thread needles, etc. I did my best to enforce my rules on small, sharp things--if you're not working with a pin or needle, keep it in a pin cushion or on a cookie sheet. I really don't like it when needles get lost in carpet.

In other news, I see that C is selling off her baby doll's possessions one by one: a snorkel mask, some sunglasses, a striped ball, a set of baby keys, etc. Poor baby doll. I wonder what D is planning on doing with the stuff.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Our temperatures are finally beginning to edge down, but our highs are still around 100 degrees. For some time, has been promising thunderstorms, which is what we need to get the temperature down, but the thunderstorms have not yet materialized in any meaningful way. Well, I was just looking at again and we are supposed to have a thunderstorm on Sunday. Even more wonderfully, our low on Sunday is supposed to be in the high 60s. This is phenomenal, because 79 degrees has been our lowest low for some time now. This is really exciting.