Friday, June 29, 2012

End of week

Here's some of what's happening:

  • We're ordering some window treatments to go on the glass panels on and around our new front door.  I'm fulfilling an inexpensive whim and getting magnolia "stained glass" window film for the side panels.  My husband has ordered magnetically-mounted mini-blinds for the steel door.
  • D finished up garden camp today and C had her final robot battles.  She and a boy tied for 1st place.  Next week will be just swim classes in the morning.   
  • We got our internet situation fixed today.  We had a 13-hour window from the cable company--fortunately the cable guy was finished by a little after 5.
  • My husband is now working on setting up all the stuff that goes with the TV (he was waiting for the cable guy).  
  • I had some major cabin fever because I only left the house to drop D off at camp this morning.  I was trying to think of an after-dinner outing that would not make me balloon, and finally remembered Jamba Juice.  Not to sound like a product placement, but their fruit smoothies are a very good compromise for a pregnant lady like me, especially given our recent high temperatures.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

CF gripe

One of the last items to be moved out of our old place is a box labeled "HAZARDOUS MATERIALS." My husband has dealt with everything but the dead compact fluorescent bulbs now (there are at least half a dozen in the box--as a lot of people have said, they do not last as long as advertised).  We've been storing up the bulbs for a suitable time, and this is it.

Here is the problem.  The website for our local solid waste place says that they will only take this sort of item with a driver's license with current local address on it and a water bill with same.  Given our move situation, this is much harder than it sounds.  We are planning on going to IKEA on other business and will take the bulbs there instead (they have a free, no-questions-asked drop-off).  I just don't understand why the city garbage makes proper disposal so difficult.  Aren't they just tempting people to chuck CF bulbs in the normal trash?  Is it really so likely that out-of-town visitors are going to be making special trips into our city just to dispose of half a dozen compact fluorescent bulbs?  Really?    

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ordeal by vegetable

D is developing a pattern of looking forward to things and then being disappointed.  The latest was his garden camp.  In past years the kids have gotten samples of different foods, but this year D has been suffering ordeal by vegetable.  So far he has faced a vile raw (?) veggie "pizza," today there was a veggie smoothie, and tomorrow there will be a veggie stir fry.  The last one sounds the most palatable.  D is bummed.  He didn't like the building camp either, perhaps because he was in the government group.  He liked the beginner sewing camp a lot, though.  Poor D!

C says that her formerly trash-talking robotics classmate is actually quite nice.  She said he has been a reformed character ever since her robot started winning, and that he no longer goes on and on about how he's going to crush his competition.  I don't understand the technical details, but C seems to be doing very well on the programming side.

We've had several crickets in the duplex every day we've been here (it's a real plague this time of year, but they eventually go away).  We also had one sickly roach a few days ago and a huge, healthy specimen this evening.  The latter was racing along C's walls and ceiling and my husband just barely managed to vacuum it up.  I'm wondering whether we need a visit from the exterminator.  If we see another healthy one, I'll have to make inquiries with the landlord.  The last time I asked, the nurse line said that it was quite safe for us to have spraying done, but they didn't really want me doing it.  These big guys are not your classic indoor roaches, but outdoor roaches that wander inside during warmer weather.              

Good news!

After much anxiety and discussion, I called our landlord's this morning.  The good news is that 1) they are aware of the downstairs dog 2) the dog people are leaving by July 31 and 3) the landlord's office has every intention of scrubbing down everything and restoring it to normal.  Our current high temperatures have been above 100 degrees, and the stench outside has been indescribable.    

One month!  

Now, who knows what the next group will be like (the property manager says it's a nice group of guys), but at least it will be different.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Here are some updates:

  • We are expecting a baby in October!!!
  • The past couple months have been medically eventful.  I had bed rest for less than two weeks and am now on a regimen of reduced activity.  I'm being somewhat more conservative than my official medical advice, but am hoping to eventually be released from restrictions.  My husband and the kids have been working very hard.  C often pats my tummy and D has lots of questions.  I try to read them the weekly updates at the What to Expect Website. 
  • Thank you, in-laws for all the unpacking help!  We are starting to see floor.
  • The kids are having their busiest week of the summer.  C has a morning arts and crafts class and an afternoon robotics class and D has an all-day garden camp.  C's robotics class is marred by an unsportsmanslike classmate who has been trashtalking the rest of the class, in expectation of the big robot battle that he expects to win.  It's also a little rough being one of the few girls in the group.  Other than that, it sounds like C has been learning a lot about programming.  They are using the LEGO Mindstorms that C is familiar with from home.      
  • This week's main home project is going to be tying up some loose ends with the old house.  My husband was emptying our old fridge today and tomorrow the fridge needs to be cleaned and a friend will be taking our beloved tire swing.  Since the house is being demolished very soon, the property manager's main concern is that we get the utilities off by early next week.      
  • Good news:  our downstairs neighbors are quieter than expected.  Bad news:  a huge dog lives downstairs, and the owner 1) has tattoos on his face and 2) doesn't pick up after the dog.  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Shiver of horror

We were this close to renting an apartment 500 square feet smaller than our current duplex, and with a tiny outdoor storage area.  This place is newer construction, has a bigger kitchen, one more bedroom, two more baths, better light, and higher ceilings.  What the smaller rental had going for it is that it is a very short walking commute to school, plus there's a green space and a pool and a small gym, but we would never have been able to squeeze in there.  Oh, and the unit they walked us through had terrible pet odor.

Progress report

About half a dozen bookcases in the living room have been anchored already!  We're about half done with securing the bookcases.

First morning at the duplex

Yesterday was moving day and today is our first morning at the duplex:

  • The new place is brighter and has higher ceilings than the old place, but we are still struggling with fitting our stuf into a space that is 300 sq. ft. smaller and has no garage.  (We are able to use the large balcony, to some extent, but there are the questions of 1) aesthetics and 2) theft.)  We've been desperately jettisoning stuff.  Yesterday we gave away a dryer, lent out a tricycle, sent the washer to stay at the house we are buying, gave away a small trampoline, threw out a 10-year-old Pack N' Play that we were losing faith in and put a manual treadmill on the curb.  I regret the trampoline, but 1) C is outgrowing it and 2) it probably wouldn't fit in the duplex and 3) we are upstairs and our downstairs neighbors would not appreciate it.  And despite all that, I continue to wonder how we will fit everything in.  
  • My husband's office is choked with boxes of books and our bedroom was as claustrophobic as a pharaoh's tomb, seeing as how it has all our old stuff, but in about 2/3 the space we had before.  My husband managed to produce some walkways, but initially, I was having trouble reaching my clean laundry.  The living room is airy, if still obviously under construction.    
  • On the other hand, we're moving in another 11 months to the house we're buying.  We don't need to find the perfect place for everything.       
  • My husband managed to transfer much of our kitchen stuff to the duplex before the move, which is AMAZING.  It is so civilized to move into a house that already has cupboards full of stuff.  
  • The old rental had 3 bedrooms and 2 baths (and a second living area), all generously proportioned.  The new place has 4 smaller bedrooms and 4 small baths, being aimed at the student rental market.  We appreciate having an extra bedroom and a guest bath (the fourth bath is going to become a storage closet) and there are closets everywhere, but the bathrooms are really, really small.  The floorplan is, however, more workable.  At the old place, the master bath had a door onto the dining room (really!!!) and to get into the other bath, you had to walk through either of the kids' rooms.  
  • One of the peculiarities of living in a home intended for the student rental market is that there is no hall closet.  We will probably eventually make an IKEA run to buy a coat rack, coat hooks, and maybe a storage bench for shoes, but there's no rush at the moment because it's summer.  Come fall, we'll have much more need for convenient storage for wet coats and shoes.             
  • My in-laws are here to help with the move and the kids have been enjoying sleep-overs at the hotel, hotel breakfasts (Texas-shaped waffles!) and the hotel pool.  
  • Today's main business is to anchor bookcases to the wall (and maybe one or two other items).  There are a lot of bookcases, so this will take much of the day, but once they are anchored, we can get on to unpacking books and so forth.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Packing up

The packers are coming at 9 AM tomorrow.  I talked D through thinning the stuff in his room down some more and my husband has been ferrying fragile items and kitchen stuff to the new place.  

We handed over our microwave to some graduate newlyweds.  Some plastic yard toys have gone to stay with a toddler for the year.  Our dryer is going to a graduate student (I think).  Our beautifully engineered tire swing is going to some friends (I don't think we will have a suitable tree at the house we are buying).  We will also need to sell an old bicycle and lend out a tricycle.

There's a lot more to do tonight--mostly making sure that important items stay accessible.

We had chocolate cheesecake from Walmart as my birthday cake, with a homemade Chinese dragon candle on top.

Happy Birthday to me!

Today is my birthday, tomorrow the packers come and Friday the movers move us to our new home about 11 blocks away.

The kids greeted me with birthday cards in the morning.  D made a card with a red tulip and C made a full-color Terry Pratchett Discworld card with gold ribbon decoration.  The Discworld card shows Discworld perched on elephants that in turn stand on the giant turtle.  The text is very sweet:  "In an infinite universe, anything can exist, so eventually anything exists."--Terry Pratchett.  C adds "(except for a better mom than you!)"  Awww.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Crafts and Robotics/Garage!

C is just starting her summer gifted camp.  Now that she's such a big girl, instead of devoting an entire week to a single subject, she is eligible for two-week classes.  Her morning class is 90 minutes of arts and crafts.  There's a long lunch break and then 90 minutes of robotics.  The robotics class is based on LEGO Mindstorms.  We have a set at home and C is thrilled to have a head start.  She has big plans.

Meanwhile, back at the house, this is my husband's big garage/Craigslist day before our move.  We've sold our mower and my old Walmart bike.  We were out at lunch when the Craigslist contact came by for my bike (about 45 minutes later than I had told her to come).  In our absence, she collected the bike from our back patio and shoved $30 in our mail slot and then called me to tell what she had already done.  That was certainly very efficient.  There's also been a brisk traffic in free items on the curb.  It's impossible to remember everything, but the oddest things have been taken already:  three old tires, an opened box of sidewalk chalk, a box of glasses, a pile of mostly pecan firewood, you name it.        

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mower gone!/For Greater Glory

My husband posted our electric mower on Craigslist and we got $70 cash for it.  There may be a number of other garage items that we can sell in the next week.  Our move date is at the end of this coming week, but we have until the end of the month to vacate our apartment.  On the other hand, while my husband and I were out seeing For Greater Glory this afternoon, a construction guy came by and told our sitter that they want more of our yard.  It's OK if they want to nibble more of the backyard, but if they are going to encroach more on our driveway, I'm going to say no.  As it is, it's a very tricky business backing out of the garage and out the driveway, and we are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of our house and yard until the end of the month.    

How is For Greater Glory?  This is a very workmanlike action movie, covering a neglected chapter of history (the Cristero War) in a neglected part of the world (Mexico), and with reasonably well-worked out heroes:  the priest general (with all the uncomfortable ambiguity of that dual role), the atheist retired war hero turned manufacturer of pink soaps turned Cristero general, the undisciplined but brilliant leader of rancheros, and a couple more.  They all emerge as well-defined, well-motivated figures.  There isn't a strong, driving plot, but this is guerilla war--guerilla war doesn't have a plot.  I should also mention that this movie has the most Hispanic actors I have seen in a recent English-language movie.


My husband and the kids went over to the duplex.  The kids were delivering LEGO creations to their new bedrooms.  My husband was checking our list of needed repairs and taking room measurements.  I'm supposed to call the landlord's office to encourage them to do further repairs and we will hopefully use the measurements to draw up a floorplan and arrange furniture on the computer.  (We have a list of items of furniture and their dimensions from a previous move.)  If we are feeling ambitious, I also have two packages of colored sticky dots for us to color-code the rooms, our furniture and our boxes with.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

C buys bunnies

C has substantial funds in her charity box, and she just donated three bunnies (or the equivalent) to

C plans ahead

I just saw a bottle of a favorite juice in the fridge that C has marked with a sticky note:  "For playdate:  Do not drink!"

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Here's some of what's happening:

  • D is very happy with his three-day sewing camp.
  • The kids once more each packed 7 book boxes (they need help with the final taping).  The books in my husband's office are now half-packed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sewing camp for D

Here's some of what's happening:

  • D went to his first day of sewing camp today.  There was a slightly older girl in the group so, as we pointed out to him, his class was 50% male.  He made a pin cushion today and started a pillow. 
  • C has been enjoying her Wii snowboarding game.  She's played it for hours on end.  It's not a new release, so it was only $5.  C also just got a new LEGO set in the mail that you can do three different projects with.  She just made a cute blue LEGO race car.
  • C also did a second mother's helper session with a preschooler.  He gave her a big hug when she appeared and then didn't want to let her go when I came to pick her up.     

Monday, June 11, 2012

Don Quixote

Here's some of what's happening:

  • The power line situation is even more peculiar than I thought.  The line goes from our yard, up a tree, across the road, down another tree, and terminates at a power source somewhere in the green space.  The line is festooned with red warning tape.
  • We paid our last respects to a local children's boutique that is going out of business.  It's very unfortunate, because they used to host a lot of classes and they had a cute play area (a couple of mommy friends and I went there earlier this spring for an outing).  On the other hand, as my husband asked, why would you buy stuff there when you can get the same for less on Amazon?  And that is presumably why the boutique will soon no longer be with us--anybody can visit the store and then check on their smart phone if there's something they like.  I bought some horse wall decals there for C's new room in the duplex and a replacement for a small toy of D's that broke (it's a series of small blocks cleverly connected with elastic).         
  • My husband put Don Quixote on C's Kindle.  As other people have discovered, one of the great virtues of the Kindle is that it cleverly disguises the bulk of normally imposing works.  C is cruising through Don Quixote and enjoying it so far (she's gotten to the windmills).  She was thrilled to discover that thanks to her Latin, she knows what a knight errant is, and is planning to tell her Latin teacher.        


Our power went out yesterday evening.  I called, and the electric company said they would have it fixed by 10PM.  By around that time, the rest of the neighborhood had power, but we didn't.  It took until well past 1AM for us to get power again, which brought the blessed return of our air conditioning (loss of light was a relatively minor issue).  I finally got to sleep after 2.  Yesterday's high temperature was around 96 degrees.  Even very late at night, it was still warmer outside (about 84 to the 81.5 degrees indoors), so we didn't open windows.  It was getting pretty stifling indoors by the time the AC came back on.  In the morning, we discovered that the crew hadn't been able to do a real fix--our power is currently being supplied by what appears to be a huge extension cord suspended in the trees.  Oh, and the morning low was about 82 degrees.  That's real summer for you.        

We made an interesting discovery last night.  We wanted safe nighttime illumination for the kids' bathroom and happened to remember that we still have a couple of glow necklaces.  I was very happy with that solution, but we need to buy some more for emergencies.      

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lots of swimming

One of the best things that's been happening this spring and summer is that the kids have had many more opportunities than normal to go swimming.  We can almost see the college pool over our back fence, so it's unfortunate how little we've been there in previous years.  The key to this transformation is 1) the kids are now both pretty good swimmers and 2) we haven't been going into the water ourselves.  When the kids put on their suits and sandals, swim by themselves and you don't have to do the whole pool rigmarole yourself, it is suddenly a much more attractive proposition to go to the pool.      


I was just looking a Swedish design blog and I came upon this entry involving rabarbermarmelad, presumably rhubarb preserves.  (I really enjoy trying to figure out what the Scandinavian design blogs are talking about!)  Here is a recipe from a Swedish site.

I've never heard of rhubarb preserves before, but I applaud the idea.    

Friday, June 8, 2012

Kids on sports

Here's some of what's happening.

  • I queried the kids on what sports they like.  C says she likes only those sports where you're either in the water or riding another animal.  D says he likes soccer (kind of) and dodgeball.  
  • We've finished up our first week of camps.  Next week, D will have a three-day sewing camp.  
  • The kids are both doing well with their school reading Bingo.  C has also signed up for the public library program, which is a real gravy train (5 books read and you get a free circus ticket, plus lots of fast food and treat coupons).
  • My husband signed the kids up for two weeks of Red Cross swim classes this summer.  Meanwhile, I signed them up for a week of a morning art camp at a pottery-painting place that does fancy projects.
  • As our scheduling has worked out so far, there are two different two week blocks with no camps late in the summer.  I'm not sure what we'll do then, but the possibilities include travel.  We may also still be unpacking stuff, of course.  
  • I called our landlord's office and refreshed their memories about the broken items in our new apartment that need to be repaired.  I need to keep calling them to make sure that they are well on their way by the time we move in.        
  • C's all booked for her second mother's helper session.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

First week of camp

Here's some of what's happening at the kids' first camps:

  • C is enjoying her horse camp.  Yesterday the academic content was horse nutrition and the kids made pizzas for the horses.  Today was horse medicine day.  
  • D has warmed up to being in the government group at his building camp.  Tomorrow there's an election and D is running for city council.  There are 9 mayoral candidates.  

Why we won't DIY

I just got the July 2012 issue of This Old House Magazine.  The issue is devoted to true life stories of do-it-yourselfers.  Many of the stories are quite harrowing (one family renovated a hoarder house, "a 3,800-square-foot nightmare of tightly glued together filth").  Here are some quotes that illustrate why we will never seriously DIY or urban homesteading:

  • "I pinched a nerve in my neck tearing up layers of flooring and had to sleep sitting up in the living room for a while.  Well worth it in the end!"
  • "The hardest part was the inconvenience of sewer backups and having people try to come and buy drugs from what was a former crack house!"
  • "We originally wanted to build a house, had a blueprint drawn up and everything, but then we figured we had invested so much in the trailer that we couldn't see just giving it up.  So we fixed it up."
  • "Had the Department of Health gotten wind of what was inside, this place would have been condemned."  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Great-grandparents and camp

Here's what's been happening:

  • My grandparents (the kids' great-grandparents) arrived Saturday morning.  My husband drove them and C out to the ranch for a horse riding competition.  C took a 2nd and 3rd place (out of 3 riders) for her performance in pleasure class and trail riding (not sure which she got which ribbon for).  It sounds like the trail riding course has gotten more advanced--C had to open and close a gate from horseback.  A lot depends on horse assignment, and C's horse was a lazy brute that didn't want to trot, so their results suffered.  Any day riding is a good day, though. 
  • The kids got to swim twice at their great-grandparents' hotel, we had some very nice lunches and dinners together, my husband took everybody to the big city park and the kids played on the playground and the group saw some nice big stripy lizards, my grandparents accompanied the kids to the children's museum, and my husband showed my grandparents some photographs on our Wii photo channel on the TV.  My grandparents left yesterday morning.     
  • The kids' first camps started Monday.  D has a longer day (8:30-2) at an elementary gifted camp focusing on building.  He is in the government group, but was hoping to be in the environment group.  C is doing a shorter morning horse camp out at the ranch this week (dress code is jeans, tied-back hair and boots, ideally).  The first day was just an introduction, starting from the very basics (I believe C was helping with the other kids).  Today will be the first day C gets to ride this week.  From Tuesday to Friday, the kids will be split into two groups.  While the first group studies theory at the barn, the second group will be riding, and vice versa.  On different days, the kids will study horse nutrition and horse health.       
  • We have 2.5 weeks until our move.  My husband's parents will be coming to help us, and we'll have movers.  We're still not sure whether we need to schedule them to pack, too.  I'm also considering spending the night of the move at a nearby hotel, which sounds very civilized.  As I mentioned earlier, the first official act of our move was to send 14 boxes of books to my husband's office.  That's small, but it's a real beginning.   

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Too much marble

I'm a big fan of Socket Site, the San Francisco real estate gossip blog (SF is one of our national hot spots for lavish and creative design).  I enjoy both the enormous galleries of house photos and the comment box folk.  This house is overdecorated, but the bones are good--you just need to mentally subtract the furniture.  However, the bathroom was what really caught the attention of Socket Site and the commenters.  It has black marble with white veining on the walls, bath exterior and bathroom counter, gold tone fixtures (including a bath tap in the shape of a swan with spreading wings) and mini-chandeliers over the sinks.

The Milkshake of Despair says:  "The designer blew it and missed the opportunity to add a marble veneer to the ceiling.  Then you'd get the awesome feeling of bathing within a slab of nicely marbled Kobe beef."


Friday, June 1, 2012


Today is June 1, the first day of our lease on our new place.  Here's what we did:

  • C did her first day of mother's-helping for a friend of mine with a preschooler.  She earned a good report and $5 for an hour's work.
  • We all went to lunch at the faculty club.
  • We went to the realtors' office, paid our June rent and got the keys for the duplex where we'll be living 2012-2013.
  • We went to the duplex to inspect our rental.  It's a second floor unit, 1680 sq. ft., 4BR/4BA (one of those baths is going to be storage) with lots of closets.  It's built for the student market, hence the many bathrooms.  There's a very nice deck area that we need to figure out what to do with.  C has claimed a room with two closets and a private bath and wants to move in right now!  D has claimed a room with a walk-in-closet.  There's a playground 2 blocks away.   
  • My husband spent a long time on the initial condition report for our landlord.  It's pretty clean and newish, but there are a lot of things that need to be fixed, for instance the toilet that started flooding when flushed or the broken laundry doors.  Hopefully, we can get the landlord to fix the major stuff.  For $1450 a month, we want a working toilet.    
  • We have company coming, so the car was cleaned out and grocery shopping was done.  

Why You're Not Married

Tracy McMillan has a couple of mean Huffington Post pieces, "Why You're Not Married" (2011) and the follow-up from this year, "Why You're Still Not Married."  I'm not sure about the justice of the piece, but I thought reason #2 (You're Shallow) was funny:

When it comes to choosing a husband, only one thing really, truly matters: character. So it stands to reason that a man's character should be at the top of the list of things you are looking for, right? But if you're not married, I already know it isn't. Because if you were looking for a man of character,you would have found one by now. Men of character are, by definition, willing to commit. 
Instead, you are looking for someone tall. Or rich. Or someone who knows what an Eames chair is. Unfortunately, this is not the thinking of a wife. This is the thinking of a teenaged girl. And men of character do not want to marry teenaged girls. Because teenage girls are never happy. And they never feel like cooking, either.