Sunday, May 29, 2011

Busy Sunday

Here's some of what we did today:
  • We went to mass at the campus Catholic student center.
  • After mass, we invited a family of six to lunch at Rosa's Tortilla Factory. The family is leaving soon for a sabbatical in the Midwest. Afterwards, we went to a playground with them. But the temperature was creeping up into the higher 90s, so we didn't stay as long as we could have.
  • I took a nap.
  • I made sandwiches for dinner.
  • I took a walk and chatted with another faculty wife from the other faculty neighborhood. I finally learned her name. I talked a bit of real estate with another neighbor, who was studiously prepping for book club on her patio.
  • After my return home, we took the kids on a promised trip to Dairy Queen. (May I recommend the German Chocolate Brownie Blizzard with toasted coconut and pecans?) D seemed to like the idea that in cooler weather, we could walk to Dairy Queen.
  • At home, I watered my gladiolus (the first pink blossoms are starting to open up) and picked some trash out of the lawn. C had her stilts out and was finding her new tennis shoes hard to walk in. About that time, the mother from the other neighborhood was coming around the corner with her husband and three kids (from age 6 down to baby). We had a short impromptu playdate with stilts, tire swing and various wheeled stuff.
It's been a good day.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

100.6

Here's some of what's been happening
  • I unpacked the kids backpacks from the last day of school and discovered that C won a character award for encouragement.
  • This morning, I took C to Lowe's for their free project. Today's project was a toy biplane.
  • My husband and D (who are recovering from their fevers) waited outside for us in the car and D did some math sheets. He did problems with squares, cubes, parentheses and the multiplication table up to 5s.
  • Our backyard thermometer hit 100.6 this afternoon.
  • Despite that, we did some family yard work in the early afternoon. C was having a lawn-mowing lesson (wearing goggles and ear protection), my husband was giving her pointers, D was picking up sticks and I alternated picking up sticks and going inside for ice water for everybody. Our lawnmower is electric, so it's important to avoid running over the cord with the mower and to figure out a strategy for dealing with the cord and the trees. With some coaching and encouragement, C did the small front section of our lawn and earned her promised $6 ($1 for her training session, $5 for the front section of the lawn). We have been telling her for some time that we will pay $15 for the whole lawn and C has been looking forward to her new earning power. As it turned out, she needed quite a bit of coaxing to finish her patch, but it was 98 degrees.
  • C purchased some Japanese-made erasers in the shape of cake slices (!!!) and I think she's currently saving up for a scooter. It's going to take her a while, but it will be very nice to have to scoot around the central island in a couple of months.
  • Tonight's dinner was the kids' favorite, the Thai meatballs from Nancie McDermott's Quick & Easy Thai. As usual, we skipped the salt (it's plenty salty already). My husband also increased the amount of brown sugar to counteract the salt in the curry paste and the fish sauce. I served it with the fancy Thai white rice, microwaved frozen broccoli and extra peanuts.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Petty theft

My neighbor informs me that some parties unknown stole our lawn chairs from our front lawn this evening. Her husband was just walking over to ask what they were doing when the perps sped off in their truck with our chairs.

Demolition over...for now

Here's some of what's happening:
  • All nine houses are down now. Currently, the empty lots are being prepared for turf. They've also ripped out a bunch of sidewalks. I'm hoping they put in new ones.
  • Yesterday was the last day of school. D's kindergarten class had an undersea themed party.
  • D has boxing gloves now!
  • My husband and D have been feverish. C has a slight temperature, but is mainly bored. It's hard to adjust to having so much free time. She is anti-library book. I brought home a pile of books from the college library and C wasn't very interested, although she read a book about the Lipizzaner stallions. I've ordered her a boxed set of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books--C prefers owning books.
  • C and I have gone in 50/50 on a loom from Harrisville. We each paid $15.
  • Tonight before bed, I asked C to make a list of activities for tomorrow. Here is an initial draft: 1. Do nothing 2. breakfast 3. lunch 4. dinner. Here's another attempt: Eat breakfast, do something, Eat lunch, do something, Eat dinner. Her final draft has at least three activities: reading, doodling and doing workbook. C has been told that she needs to do all three before she can have TV or a computer game tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Even more demolition

Eight out of the nine houses that the demolition guys fenced off are down. There's one more to pull down this round. The lot next to us has had the house and foundation removed, all vegetation except large trees removed, dirt brought in and leveled and they are currently installing squares of turf. From start to finish, it's taking them about a week and a half to process a house and lot, so there's still lots of work. There are also four more houses still inhabited in the central island, but once they're vacated (by the end of June?), the demolition guys will come back and the process will continue. Eventually, we'll have a huge, lovely central green space on the central island and we'll have better visibility for the kids to bike around there. Unfortunately, we're already getting temperatures in the mid-90s right now, so we probably won't get much use out of the new space for several months.

Monday, May 23, 2011

More demolition

Here's some of what's happening:
  • Demolition started at around 7:30 AM this morning. They're tearing down another house across the street. They also tore out a sidewalk on our side of the street and are pouring cement for a new sidewalk.
  • I tend to let my school emails pile up, which is not always advisable. I had a thread of about 10 of them relating to an end-of-school kindergarten party to read through this morning. When I finally got round to them, it turned out that in the first one, a class mom was talking about giving all of the kindergarteners live goldfish as their end-of-year memento. I am very, very opposed to pets (especially small, fragile pets that die for no particular reason), so I read the email replies with my pulse pounding. As it turns out, I was not the only person opposed, so I escaped this time. That goldfish would have died just like nearly all of my house plants, and then I would have needed to have many sad and regretful conversations with D who would have wondered if there was anything different he could have done to save it...That was such a close call.

Tandoori chicken

Here's some of what's happening:
  • Our outgoing pastor preached on our duties to the incoming pastor, as well as reminding us that there is a finance council and that there should be a yearly parish financial report. From the short history of the parish in the new directory, and from what the outgoing pastor says, it sounds like the parish's biggest problem after its founding in the 1950s was substantial debt from various construction projects, as well as the fact that parishioners grew fewer and poorer after an Air Force Base closing. By the mid-1980s, there were only 200 active families and a weekly collection of $800. There was a period of frequent turnover of pastors (but with various improvements) before our outgoing pastor's 19-year tenure. As of today, the parish has 550 families and no debt, despite various substantial repairs (including asbestos removal). Our outgoing pastor says that the parish currently has $400k in the bank, half from the recent sale of some land, but that much of that will be needed for roof replacements and squirrel removal. The outgoing pastor said that thanks to the faithfulness of parishioners in giving, the parish has not needed to do raffles or bingo or to ask parishioners to go around selling stuff to each other.
  • The kids have 3.5 more days of school.
  • After church and lunch on Sunday, my husband took the kids to a state park, where they saw a roadrunner.
  • C has been playing her recorder a lot.
  • Dinner last night was chicken marinated in tandoori sauce and yogurt and then baked in an aluminum foil nest, Thai Royal Umbrella jasmine rice, baby spinach, sliced cucumbers and some Greek yogurt.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

House Beautiful

House Beautiful rooms (especially the living rooms) are often too busy for me, but I love the interviews with the designers where they explain their thought process. I've just finished rereading the June 2011 issue. There's an interview there with a designer named Lindsay Reid, who is talking about her cottage in Pasadena. The interviewer asks, "Will you confess a design sin you're guilty of?" Reid replies, "I'm a trend-bucker, but I have Lucite furniture, coral, and suzanis--probably the three most played out trends in decor." No! Not Lucite, at least not before I've had a chance to buy some clear plastic chairs myself. (Here's a springy Ikea version that I like--they also have smoky ones.) My own candidates for played out trends are: ikat, wall antlers, stone showers, chandeliers in inappropriate rooms and the promiscuous overuse of zebra print. I reserve the right to get a sparkly chandelier for our future dining room, but a chandelier does not belong in your bathroom.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

End of the year

We are drawing close to the end of the school year. Here's some of what's been happening:
  • My husband made a lightning trip to Tennessee to see a former professor of his.
  • C performed with her 3rd grade class in the school's spring concert this week. A major highlight was the fourth and fifth grade classes' performance of The Complete History of Western Music--very fun.
  • C has been reading a James Herriot book.
  • C has also been playing her school recorder. Her dad has printed out some sheet music for her.
  • D performed in his kindergarten class's version of "The Gingerbread Man." After the plays were over, the kindergarten teachers handed out a character award to each child, while describing their particular gifts. D got the award for virtue for possessing prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude.
  • D has been using his pull-up bar and has also been practicing hand stands.
  • Our weather has only been around 80 degrees, but it's overcast and very humid.
  • Five houses have been demolished, which leaves four to go for this round. They'll be back in a month to demolish the last four on the inner loop. The house next to us, which was the first demolished, is totally gone now. They've removed every trace of it, hauled in lots of dirt, and I assume will be putting down sod soon.
  • Early this morning, C was making arrangements for D to buy 10 or so CDs from her collection. She settled on 25 cents each, which seemed fair. I gave D my big boom box to keep in his room.
  • D was talking to his dad about the book collection in his dad's office. D intimated that it's too bad that we spent so much money for books we don't read much.
  • Dinner tonight was chicken and kidney beans cooked in Patak's Rogan Josh sauce. I served it with leftover rice from yesterday, warm naan, baby carrots and baby spinach. And I used my beautiful new Spode plates.
  • Before going grocery shopping this afternoon, I cleaned the microwave, fridge and freezer. It's much nicer to put groceries in a clean fridge.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Watermelon

D says: Watermelons are faster than seastars because they roll.

D produced an immense centipede type thing with Zoob today.

Horse show and Mexican dance

I somehow forgot to blog a couple of important end of spring events. Over the weekend, C and the horse she rides participated in a horse show out at the ranch. It was competitive, but the groups were so small that everybody got a colored ribbon of some sort. C rode in the independent (off-the-rope) class and got a 2nd place and 3rd place ribbon (there were three kids total). The horses all seemed pretty balky, but the kids eventually got them to do what they were supposed to. There were two events: an obstacle course (technically a "trail ride") and an event where the rider is supposed to demonstrate gaits. I overheard one funny conversation between the judges. A female judge was telling her colleague, "My trainer says that dressage is the OCD of the horse world."

Yesterday, C participated in the big end-of-year Mexican dance program that the Spanish teachers put on with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders. C was a beat or two behind, but she was trying hard to keep up. The dances performed were: El Mosco Serano, La Negra, Las Alanzanas, Chopenecas and Los Machetes. There was a lot of skirt-swishing and twirling. As usual, the boys dancing in Los Machetes stole the show.

Demolition

This is Day 2 of demolition in our neighborhood. Yesterday, two houses were demolished. Three more are scheduled to be demolished today. The total for this round is going to be 9 or 10 houses out of about two dozen, with another four in about a month (those four are currently occupied). In a month, half of our neighborhood will be gone. I'm hoping that the worst of it is almost over for us, because the first one to be demolished and removed was the empty house next door. Our rental houses has been shaking and vibrating for the past couple days and I've been wondering how much our compact fluorescent bulbs can take. It has been very orderly and professional. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping they don't accidentally hit a gas line or water line. One more year, and our house will be gone, too.

In other neighborhood news, our neighbors on the other side are moving into their freshly-renovated house in the other faculty neighborhood tomorrow. The house is almost unrecognizable from when I saw it last November. It's really cute. Meanwhile, the new family across the street is starting some renovations of their own.


Blue Willow

I just realized what I need to do for my china collection. While I like the idea of getting varied sets of blue and white plates (like Spode's Blue Room Traditions and Blue Room Zoological) new, serving dishes and specialized items are much more expensive than plates (especially when you consider the relative utility of the items). However, now that I know the names of the patterns I'm interested in, Dallas's Craigslist is a lot more interesting than it used to be. I was just doing a search for "Blue Willow" in their household section and discovered two different sellers with large collections. One wanted $100 and the other wanted $200. On a per item basis, that's very cheap, well worth the road trip. I wouldn't want to move with that sort of huge collection, but I'm hoping that this sort of bonanza will also be available at some point in the future. I'd find a single blue-and-white pattern rather oppressive (not to mention boring), but I think I could pull together a more interesting mixed blue and white set. I like Spode's Blue Italian, too, but Blue Willow (or Willow Blue) seems much easier to find on Craigslist. I will try to stick to pieces that I will actually use.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Jackhammer time

The long-awaited demolition crew has arrived in our neighborhood. So far, they've fenced in four houses (the precursor to demolition), three in a row on the inner loop and the empty house to our right on the outer loop. There was enthusiastic jackhammering from the neighboring property earlier today. It's going to look and sound like the end of the world around here for a long time, but eventually the inner loop will be turned into a big temporary green space, which we will be able to enjoy until it's our house's turn. The new configuration will also offer a safer biking environment for the kids.

One set of neighbors has almost finished up the renovation of the house they are buying. A second set of neighbors is closing on a house and expecting a six-week remodel. We, meanwhile, are sticking it out to the bitter end, waiting for angels from heaven to descend, carrying our new house. Or, to be more fair, we are enjoying the bittersweet end of our neighborhood, knowing that there is nowhere else that we'd get such convenience, reasonable rent and excellent maintenance.

Good day

Me (to D): Have a good day at school!
D: I almost always have a good day!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pastor is leaving

Here's some of what's happening:
  • Our pastor announced that after 20 years at our parish in Texas, the new bishop has assigned him to a smaller town 40 miles away, effective in July. Our parish has 500 families. His new assignment will encompass one church with 90 families, a church in a neighboring town with 70 families, and (most crucially) six or seven state prisons, which are currently underserved. This is a blow, but not unexpected. Our pastor spoke in detail about the reassignment and urged us not to write nastygrams to the bishop. He said that he has always preferred a smaller town (our current parish is on the periphery of our city) and it could have been a lot worse--it could have been Austin. Unless our pastor's replacement is amazing, it is very likely that we will go more often to the college Catholic chaplaincy, which is more convenient, and which is where we usually go when there's some sort of schedule disruption (illness, holidays, etc.). For some time, I've been thinking about us getting more involved with the college chaplaincy. We know three families with school-aged children there (one family of homeschoolers, two families from C's school). I have been thinking of facilitating Dave Ramsey's 13-week Financial Peace University there, because I think it would be particularly helpful for people just starting out in life. For CCD, D's first communion, and the kids' confirmations, we will continue to need an actual parish affiliation.
  • For dinner at home tonight, we had Thai meatballs, which is a favorite with the kids.
  • C has finished her draft of her book report on Pippi Longstocking. Unfortunately, she has been feverish today, and her three-day weekend is going to become a four-day weekend after she misses school tomorrow.
  • On my evening walk, I saw a very old discarded Christmas tree (an undergraduate move-out item, presumably) and a young man on rollerblades walking a dog down the street.
  • D was typing "D is not a cat" on a computer screen.
  • D says, "I love the paddle bit!" My husband had him using the drill press this weekend.
  • D says, "I like documentaries!" D likes a lot of stuff.
  • We're going to Seaworld San Antonio next month!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dinner again

Here's some of what's happening:
  • There's a beautiful 2900 sq. ft. 1920s house for sale for $280k in the older neighborhood I watch.
  • By reading her sheet music, C has taught herself how to play Ode to Joy on her school recorder. C gets a different colored yarn tassel for her recorder case each time she masters a song. So far she has 5 out of 9. C has gotten so much farther than my class ever did with the recorder when we had it in 6th grade music. I don't think I ever learned a song (I managed to leave the recorder home a lot), and my classmates mainly just mastered Three Blind Mice.
  • D has been enjoying the new pull up bar in the doorway.
  • The cafeterias are closing today and last night I cooked my first real dinner in months. I cooked chicken and leftover garbanzos in Patak's tikka masala sauce and basmati rice in the rice cooker and served it with lightly microwaved grocery store naan, baby spinach and baby carrots. I used my new Spode plates. Everybody was enthusiastic.
  • After dinner, we all went to buy new tennis shoes for the kids. It was very overdue.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Binary trees

My husband told me this morning, "The kids were drawing binary trees."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Water mystery solved

We had two huge water bills back to back of $180 each, nearly twice what we usually pay this time of year. We were using 1200 gallons of water a day at half a cent a gallon, which is ridiculous. Campus facilities checked the house and couldn't find any obvious leaks. My husband started investigating and experimenting with the water meter today. He found that hand washing takes a gallon of water, flushing a toilet is about 4 gallons, running the dishwasher takes surprisingly little water (5 gallons for the wash cycle), etc. We were having a lot of trouble getting our water usage to add up to 1200 gallons a day, right up until my husband discovered that the persistently running toilet in the kids' bath draws 5 gallons a minute or 300 gallons an hour. That toilet has been fixed before, but the handle sticks, so the kids often don't manage to get it to stop running. We had a big discussion with the kids and my husband executed a kludgy repair consisting mainly of wrapping lots of duct tape around the mechanism to weigh it down more and make it stop running after a flush. If that doesn't work, it's definitely an expensive enough situation that facilities ought to help us out.

In other news, we've done the forms for the zoo camp and Red Cross swim lessons. I've also signed C up for a 2-day sewing camp where she'll be sewing a zippered patchwork purse from a pattern (!!!). There are a number of other camp things to deal with, but we've done as much as we can today.

Mother's Day weekend

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • Yesterday the kids and I sorted through their books to decide which items to keep in their rooms, which to send to a sibling, which to send to general family storage, which to toss (shredded baby and toddler books), and which to send to the school book drive. C took a very heavy bag to school this morning.
  • Thanks to the sorting process, C has remembered her Ology books and has been rereading them with great enjoyment, especially the Spyology book. C gave many of her science books to D and last night I read a few pages of an Usborne book on the senses to both kids. A big cleaning is always very helpful in jogging the kids memories about the hundreds of toys and books they are surrounded with.
  • Yesterday after church and lunch, my husband took the kids to a spray park. Then the kids and I stayed home and my husband went out in a canoe.
  • C can now take 10 steps in stilts, but it's very hard work.
  • The nice big foreclosure in the older neighborhood I watch has just slipped from $205k to $195k.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

D in the garage

I was wondering how much help D would be with the garage cleaning, but my husband says that D was quite inspiring. "I don't think you'll use this," D said helpfully on more than one occasion. Good job D!

Stilts and chin-up bar

Here's some of what's happening:
  • I took C to her last riding lesson of the spring term this morning. Next week will be the big show.
  • Meanwhile, my husband and D were tidying up the garage.
  • Over the past couple days, my husband has finished two projects for the kids. The first one is a set of stilts made out of bamboo poles (we happened to have them on hand), scrap wood, duct tape and jute twine. The kids (especially C) love the stilts. The second project is a chin-up bar in D's doorway that was installed yesterday. It's made of a poplar wood dowel and some wood scraps. D is under 45 pounds still, so he doesn't need a really strong bar yet.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Easter Bunny

D says, "I don't know what the Easter Bunny has to do with Easter."

Psalm 23

C brought home all her stuff from CCD (her religious education class) a couple nights ago. One of the items is a worksheet with a pre-printed sheep outline and the text "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psalm 23:1." C darkened the text, colored in the sheep a bit, added a speech bubble that said "Baa" and wrote in the things that she needs: water, food, horses, heart, soul, color, plants, shelter, art, mind, body, family, nature.

Spode

Here's some of what's happening:
  • C was showing some friends at lunch at school how to make aluminum foil cobras.
  • In the early 20th century neighborhood that I watch, a house has dropped from $200k to $180k. That is now a very crowded market--there are 4 houses in that neighborhood now with that exact same price.
  • Elsewhere in a slightly less good location in that neighborhood, a house has just dropped from $172k to $150k.
  • Earlier this morning, I got a heavy box from UPS, which turned out to be my Spode china, my first big girl dishes. This is very exciting for me. Each 10-inch plate is marked with the name of the pattern and the first year of production, with dates ranging from 1790 to 1830. It's an English company, but these were made in Malaysia. They are supposed to be dishwasher and microwave safe, but I don't plan to use them in the microwave. I'm going to hold onto my white newylwed IKEA dishes for breakfast, lunch and the microwave. I am going to discard our non-matching plates. I plan to use our new fancy plates for sit-down dinners for all four of us. As I mentioned earlier, my next purchase is going to be some blue-and-white Japanese rice bowls (also in a variety of patterns). That will cover our basic needs, but I will probably buy a few more sets of the 10-inch Spode plates in different patterns, most likely the Blue Room Zoological and the Blue Room Traditions set. We'll see how things go from there. I think there is probably a plate-rail in my future. It's been such an epiphany to realize that for $40-$80 at a time, I can make a big difference in our decor.
  • Marni Jameson in the excellent and very funny book The House Always Wins says to start with the large items before getting down to small stuff. I'm not to the point of being able to buy the big stuff, but I find that the little stuff (like my new blue-and-white Spode china or my blue-and-white dish towels or my blue-and-white Delft tiles) is very helpful in figuring out which way I want to go with the big stuff. My current thinking is to do a dining room with light walls, dark furniture (for instance IKEA's Hemnes line--it's solid pine and fairly traditional), my blue and white china, and a cobalt blue tablecloth. The kitchen is unlikely to be exactly what I want, but I'll put that on the back burner for now. For the living room, I'm thinking neutrals, dark furniture, blue accents, and a pinkish red here and there to warm things up. The challenge is going to be to limit the amount of blue to avoid a cold, oppressive, dated 1980s effect. I think the kitchen, dining room and living room should coordinate, but I plan to be much more laissez faire about bedrooms and bathrooms.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

China

Here's some of what's happening:
  • My husband and I just finished watching Office Tigers, which is the story of an American-run Indian outsourcing company. It's extremely engaging and subtle, although at the beginning, there's some danger of it turning into a 90-minute ad for Office Tiger.
  • C went to the Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie with her 3rd grade class yesterday. She is desperate to go back and shop.
  • Yesterday I sent an email to the neighborhood 1) making inquiries about a lost ball that blew into our yard 2) advertising our large play tent 3) mentioning the fact that a large house is available for rent. The big play tent has been taking up too much real estate in the living room, and the kids haven't been playing with it. I got a knock on the door later yesterday from a neighbor interested in the play tent. I collected $10 for the tent and split it between the kids. The whole deal went down so fast that I was concerned that the kids weren't going to be ready to part with the tent, but $5 each was adequate consolation. They still have a smaller pop-up tent.
  • Today has been ceramics day. Somehow (I'm not exactly sure how), I found myself ordering this set of six blue and white Spode plates in a variety of patterns. If it's as good as I expect, I may buy a second set. I've also put this set of six blue and white Japanese rice bowls in my Amazon cart for later. One thing I've discovered (or rediscovered) is that Spode has a remarkable Judaica section.
  • What I'm going for with my blue and white china collection is to match the colors, but not the patterns. I'm hoping that varying the pattern but keeping the color constant will contribute to a harmonious but interesting effect.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask II

I've already blogged the first half of this book, which is a sort of real estate time capsule from 2005. Quotes will be in bold or in quotation marks.
  • Not so long ago, if you wanted to buy a house, you had to come up with 20 percent in cash for the down payment. So if you were buying a $100,000 home, you needed $20,000 in cash. Study after study has shown that coming up with the down payment has been one of the toughest obstacles for first-time home buyers to overcome.
  • Things began to change when the FHA started permitting home buyers to purchase homes with 10 percent down, and then 5 percent down. Studies showed that defaults did increase as home buyers put less and less down on their homes, but the actual number was tiny. Apparently, there was a profitable market to tap. Conventional mortgages followed suit and began offering 95 percent loan-to-value ratio mortgages. Soon, the FHA dropped its down payment requirement to just 3 percent. Conventional lenders followed, introducing 97 percent loan-t0-value ratio loans.
  • While the down payments were decreasing, lenders (led again by the FHA) were increasing their debt-to-income ratios. Instead of allowing borrowers to spend only 28 percent of their gross monthly income on the mortgage and up to 36 percent on their total debt, home buyers were permitted to spend up to 41 percent (or more, in some cases). Industry experts saw that these marginal home buyers (made up of significant numbers of minority and immigrant families) were already spending as much as 50 percent of their gross monthly income on rent--and were making it work.
  • [Holy cow! So the FHA did drive the mortgage meltdown by feeding a sort of credit spiral where lenders made progressively riskier loans.]
  • The FHA decided home buyers only needed to put down 2 percent on a house. The rest of the down payment could be a gift from a family member, or a grant. In response, conventional lenders went a step further. The Veterans Administration had always offered qualified veterans a true zero-down loan, but the loan was expensive. In the late 1990s [!!!!], conventional lenders began offering true zero-down loans to ordinary home buyers.
  • Interest-only loans were fairly commonplace during the Roaring Twenties. When the interest-only period expired, homeowners typically refinanced the loans to new interest-only loans. This worked out fabulously, unless the borrower's house lost value or he or she became unemployed and couldn't make the payments. Such a scenario happened en masse when the stock market crashed in 1929 and the Great Depression began. At that time, American banks stopped making interest-only mortgages (and most mortgages in general). Mortgage companies and banks began making new interest-only loans at the start of the millennium, some 70 years later.

Sick day

Here's some of what's happening:
  • We have started the last month of school, and from now on we'll have class plays, a Renaissance fair, other field trips, and parties.
  • D was home sick yesterday, a very rare event. At different times in the day, he was thinking of what his class would be doing at that time. Our D is very exact about time.
  • I got to visit my neighbor's renovation project this morning. They're doing fresh yellow and fresh green walls, engineered dark wood floor, light and dark grey granite, stainless steel and white tile backsplashes in the kitchen.
  • Still no house for us. There are now three houses at $180k in the early 20th century neighborhood I watch, which is excellent. There are no signs up in the neighborhood near campus. The couple that was selling their house (for $285k) has pulled their sign and is now looking for a renter/housesitter for one year. I expect to see 2-3 houses go up for sale in the neighborhood near campus by spring 2012. I'll probably flyer in August, and then again in January 2012. We'd probably go up to $200k for a house near campus, but I wouldn't enjoy it.
  • Last night was budget night at our house. So far, we have a basic emergency fund, a moving fund and a basic downpayment. What we don't have is a move-in fund to pay for initial repairs, painting, some new furniture etc, but it's not bad.
  • C brought a set of hand-made Joan of Arc paper dolls home from school yesterday.
  • C says she associates each one-digit number with a different color.