rivka: (Baltimore)
Look, here are some pictures of our new house!

(The same ones that were on Facebook, if you already saw those.) Read more... )
rivka: (forward momentum)
Ugh. I have the worst cold of all time.[1] Low-grade fever, sinus pressure, ear pain, congestion, scratchy sore throat, postnasal-drip-related heartburn and nausea, exhaustion, headache.

Let's look at the calendar, shall we? The movers will be here in LESS THAN FOUR DAYS.

I hesitate to say that we're "in good shape" with packing, because although on the one hand we seem to be making progress, I think the stuff must be multiplying when our backs are turned. We've done all the obvious packing - the books on the shelves, the contents of the china cabinet, puzzles and games, CDs and DVDs, linens, archived papers, the contents of our desks, small kitchen appliances, and, most magnificently, the full contents of the basement. I've even packed most of the food in the pantry and most of the utensils, pots, and pans. But there isn't a single room in the house, no matter how much packing we've done, that doesn't still have "extra" stuff that needs to be packed: current magazines, flyers for programs we're interested in, odd books that got overlooked in the packing, weird utensils, mail, nail clippers, flashlights, battery chargers, random extra game pieces or Cuisenaire rods that slipped behind the furniture... no matter how many boxes of that stuff get packed, there are still more to go. Endlessly.

We still have to pack most of the kids' toys and books, of course. You can't really pack those up while they're home and playing. Sneaking around after bedtime, I've packed up two big boxes of toys and one box of picture books, plus most of Alex's chapter books. (Although those, too, are turning up all over the house, in ones and twos.) I haven't been able to do more than that yet. So there are still plenty of kids' things, and the everyday dishes and glasses, and all the shoes, and some of our clothes, and... at some point, I guess, even the dirty laundry needs to be packed, and the half-full bag of frozen peas.

I remember that when we moved out of our old house (next door to this one) we just didn't worry about getting all of the small stuff packed up before the movers arrived. It didn't seem significant. We'd say "oh yeah, this is basically all packed, there are just a couple of things." Sorting through and moving the "couple of things" per room took forever afterward. So this time I want to get it all, all into boxes. Now.

So, exhausted and with a head full of cotton candy and ground glass, I just. have. to. keep. going.

The movers will be here in less than four days.



[1] Possibly an exaggeration, I admit. But only a slight one.
rivka: (I love the world)
We won't move until October 15, but we're buying some new things and moving them in now. I am particularly happy about this lovely midcentury sectional:

IMAG0913

I'm not a hundred percent sure how all our living room furniture is going to wind up looking when we have it in there together. The space is designed as one big living-dining room, and instead we're going to use it as a living room-study. Our current living room contains one very nice two-year-old dark chocolate-colored couch, and two awful ancient armchairs I bought secondhand when I moved to Iowa in 1995. We won't be moving those. Instead we bought this nice sectional and - this is the part I'm nervous about - a bright lipstick-red armchair. My hope is that the pillows on the sectional will help bring the colors in the room together.

The other thing, of course, is that having our study in our living room will mean that we have to keep the study neater. That's part of my master plan. This house has such a rational layout that I'm hoping we can set things up in the first place in a way that will foster better organization. (For example: all the homeschooling materials (1) together, (2) next to my desk, (3) with a table that is not also our dinner table, and (4) with plenty of space for Colin to play nearby. All the toys downstairs in a confined space. A place to keep the cookbooks in the kitchen. And so on.)

In other news, Colin is going to have a big boy bed in the new house. He asked for one.

IMAG0912

We decided to forego a toddler bed this time and go straight to a twin. I'm a bit concerned about height (it's waist-high on Colin), but we can put a mat on the floor until he learns not to fall out. He's going to have transportation-themed bedding and also a wall border and, well, you see the rug. It's much more theme-y than anything we've ever done before, but we promised Alex that she could have her room painted and it only seemed fair to give Colin special decor too.

Alex has chosen aqua walls, and a beautiful sea-colored duvet and sheet set to replace the bright, cheery toddler bedding which now offends her sense of dignity. I think this new set will age with her nicely. We also got her a filmy tulle bed canopy and a fun, silly floor lamp from Ikea, because dignity or not the child is still six.

Oh, and Michael bought a self-propelled cordless electric lawnmower! Because we have a lawn now, and boy does it need cutting.

So our house is still almost empty, but it does have porch furniture (left by the sellers - we ordered new cushions, though, and we need to give it a good scrubbing), high captain's chairs at the kitchen bar, a sectional sofa with jazzy pillows, a couple of lamps, a lawnmower, rakes, and a big boy bed.

You know: the basics.
rivka: (I love the world)
We closed on our new house yesterday afternoon! We are homeowners!

Up until the very last minute - even when we were driving to our real estate agent's office holding a comically large cashier's check - I kept expecting it to somehow fall through. They'd rerun the credit check and an unpaid parking ticket would surface, and then the bank would rescind our loan. (Or at least our lovely 4% interest rate.) Some crucial piece of paperwork would turn up missing. Something. But instead we sat at a table and signed a million pieces of paper, and then each of us got a bright, shiny key.

A key to our house.

We won't be moving for a few weeks, but we went out and spent the evening at the house with [livejournal.com profile] lynsaurus and [livejournal.com profile] acceberskoorb, who will be our neighbors now. The seller had left a box of cookies and a sweet little note on the counter. The family also left us some of the furniture (the seller's in assisted living now, and her children live out of town), so we have a wicker porch set and high bar chairs at the kitchen peninsula and a few other things like that.

I turned on all the lights and we spent a lot of time wandering through the big bright rooms that belong to us now. We watched a big brown rabbit hopping around the back yard. Then we sat out on the screened porch and ate sushi as night fell.

Here are ten small things I'm cherishing about our new house right now:

1. Central air conditioning.
2. Large, soaring kitchen with room for a crowd.
3. Won't have to carry Colin up two long flights of stairs at bedtime.
4. So many closets and cupboards.
5. Full-size freezer in the basement.
6. Warming lamps on the bathroom ceilings.
7. Gas-powered "wood stove" in the family room means that we'll have heat even when the power is out.
8. Flowering ground cover in the back yard.
9. Efficient to heat, so that we won't be paying astronomical power bills to shiver in drafts.
10. SCREENED-IN PORCH.
rivka: (trust beyond reason)
I can't quite believe I haven't posted to LJ in this long. I missed my ten-year LJversary on August 3rd. I didn't mean to stop posting... but it does seem like fewer and fewer people are on LJ anymore, which makes me less motivated to write here. I'm posting a lot on forums these days, instead. (Which is funny, because I originally moved to LJ from the "forums" of ten years ago, i.e., newsgroups.)

So. Where were we?

The big news is that we're buying a house. This house. (The listing has been taken down because the house is under contract, but fortunately, the seller's agent has a blog.) We close a week from Friday.

It's funny, because if you had asked me before we started looking about what style of house I wanted, I would never in a million years have come up with "mid-century rancher!" But I found myself completely drawn to them. Maybe it's just that we've spent the last eight years in century-plus houses, but I am so attracted to the clean lines, open spaces, and thoughtful, efficient use of space.

way too much detail about our prospective new house )

It is such a house, guys. It's not anything flashy or imposing, but it is such an immensely comfortable and inviting space. We love it.

After eight years, though, we are leaving downtown. The new house is still within the city limits, about five miles north of our current location, in an old streetcar suburb the city grew in around long ago. There's a village center with shops and restaurants, and we're about a mile and a half from the light rail which takes us both to work. People who live there tell me that they still feel like they live in the city. It sure is going to be a radical change for us, though, to live in a neighborhood of detached houses with green, green yards.

We're ready for a change, though. There will be things I miss about downtown, for sure, but other aspects of it have definitely begun to pall. And we realized as we began to shop that, the way houses are priced right now, we would have to pay a premium of $50,000 or so to stay downtown. That made it an easier choice. But it still is kind of sad to be setting aside that city-dweller identity.

So that's our big news. How about you? Are you still out there reading this?
rivka: (Rosie the riveter)
12:34 Second work block completed; stopping for a longer break.

The first part of the day went very quickly, and I was filled with hope that perhaps this wouldn't be as difficult as I thought. Now I've hit the slower part, where I need to organize things thoughtfully and make decisions.

Accomplished in the last 90-minute block:
  • Straightened and organized the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

  • Culled 100 books.

  • Separated out books better stored in Alex's room.

  • Sorted several pounds of coins, some of which were Michael's informal collection and some of which were real money, all of which had been mixed together by the kids.

  • Filled a laundry basket with things that belong in other rooms of the house.

  • Usefully organized half of the big floor-to-ceiling storage unit which holds art supplies, games, and homeschooling materials.

  • Listened to two more lectures about the history of the evolution controversy.

  • Accidentally picked up a dead shield bug augh augh augh.


I'm going to take advantage of the fact that Colin is napping to put away the things in the laundry basket, which belong various other places in the house. Then I'm going to get some lunch and take my self-reward, but still useful and work-oriented, trip to the thrift store.
rivka: (Rosie the riveter)
9:00 Begin working on study. Take embarrassing panoramic photos.
10:36 Fifteen minute break to drink water and make notes.

Accomplished so far:
  • Study table and all its drawers cleaned out.

  • Medium-sized collection of empty cups and glasses out of study and into sink or dishwasher.

  • Closet totally emptied & closet items put away in new homes.

  • One full bag of trash, one full bag of clothing to be donated.

  • Large load of clothes to dry cleaner's.

  • Three loads of clean laundry put away.

  • Friends list and online forums successfully ignored. They are off-limits, even during breaks, until after 5pm.
  • Listened to two Teaching Company lectures on the history of controversy regarding evolution.


I was just about to go downstairs for a basin of soapy water to wash down the closet shelves so that I can load them up again with their new intended contents, but the kids came home. I need to hide out from Colin, so washing the study shelves will have to wait for his nap.

Okay, my fifteen minutes are up. My plan is to do another 90-minute session and then reward myself with a trip to my favorite thrift store. Colin and I need long-sleeved shirts and Alex needs more Magic Tree House books.
rivka: (Rosie the riveter)
I am taking three days of leave this week. I call it "vacation," but technically they are furlough days. I have declared a homeschool vacation for Alex. I have full-time childcare for the three days of leave.

Because I am officially an old and boring person, I am planning to use this leave to put in serious work decluttering and organizing our house. My top priority is the study, which could be the heart of our home if it weren't such a messy, cluttered pit. My goal is to spend eight hours a day decluttering.

If you see me online before 5pm, please tell me to get back to work.
rivka: (Baltimore)
I had just finished reading Alex a bedtime story. I crossed over to the study and sat down to write an e-mail, when I heard Michael say sharply: "Rebecca, I need you down here."

His tone made me stop typing in mid-word. I ran down the steps. He met me at the bottom. "The police are here; someone has reported a burglary in progress at our address. Colin is on the changing table." Then he disappeared.

I found Colin (abandoned halfway through a dirty diaper change) and got him cleaned up and dressed. The seldom-used front door was standing wide open, and a police officer stood in our garden shining his flashlight carefully over every inch of the front of the house. I heard a helicopter overhead. I got the officer's permission to close and lock the door and the tall iron gate that protects it.

The side door - the one we actually use; here's a picture of the layout if you're confused - was standing open. I found Michael at the back of the house, by the open kitchen door. He was leaning out the door talking to the police officers searching our back yard. He asked me, firmly, to take Colin upstairs to the study. As we were on our way up, the cops pronounced the yard clear and left.

Michael's story: He heard a couple of odd noises that sounded like something might have been knocked over by the wind. He checked the back door (which he found we had accidentally left unlocked) and then, after another strange sound, went to look out the front window. There was a scruffy man who looked homeless standing outside our gate, which was ajar. When the guy saw Michael looking at him, he left. Michael and Colin sat back down to watch the baseball game, until (a) Colin needed to be changed, and (b) Michael noticed several officers with flashlights in the garden, and one of them came up to knock on the door.

It appears that the sound Michael heard was someone trying to get in through the solid metal gate that shuts off the back of the house. The garbage can normally stands in front of that gate, and it had been moved out into the passage. We think the guy tried the gate, found it locked, and decided not to try to get over it. Michael saw him on his way out.

He may or may not have tried the metal gate that covers the front door. It was slightly bowed out when the cops checked it - there's a little bit of play where the two halves come together, even when it's locked. The wind could have moved it, or.

Here's what bothers me most: the lights were on in the living room and study. Michael had the TV on, too. He was moving around on the first floor. And the guy still tried to come in. It frightens me that he wasn't deterred by the house being occupied. I'm afraid he may have had a home invasion in mind rather than a burglary.

Very grateful that we have bars or heavy metal mesh on all the downstairs windows.
rivka: (Rosie the riveter)
We live in an old, old house, and the doors and doorframes aren't necessarily trued up anymore, and also the doors and their mechanisms are pretty old themselves. Some of our doors swing into a closed position but the mechanism doesn't actually latch. Some can only be closed by wedging the door into the doorframe so they're sort of stuck closed. Some of them close with no problems. Every day is an adventure, especially as Colin gets more and more proficient at operating doors. (He can't turn a doorknob, of course, but you don't need to do that to open most of our doors.)

Early this morning I went into the study to check my e-mail. To keep Colin in the room, I closed the door firmly, engaging the latch. I don't know, this may have been the first time we ever did that - just pushing the door into a more or less closed position used to be good enough for any reasonable purpose.

Time passed. Colin needed a diaper change. I picked him up and turned the door handle. It spun freely in my hand.

I tried turning it in different directions. I tried just pulling. I tried wiggling the knob. I tried reaching up to the top of the door (there's a sizable gap at the top of the frame) and slipping my fingers in to try to pull it open that way. Nothing worked.

Fortunately, the tool box is currently stored in the study closet. I got a flat screwdriver and slid it between the door and the jamb. Unfortunately, I was on the "long" side of the vaguely triangular latching mechanism, and I couldn't depress it with the screwdriver.

I shouted for Alex a dozen or so times until she finally woke up. She came out and tried to open the door from her side, but couldn't even budge the knob. I asked her to go downstairs and get the phone (although I'm not sure what I envisioned happening next, because it's not like she could've passed it to me), and instead she began to weep. So I hunted around until I found an old corded phone we don't use anymore, unplugged the DSL modem, plugged the phone in, and called Michael. He suggested that I might be able to reach the latching mechanism from inside if I removed the doorknob.

So I unscrewed the doorknob and the metal plate around it, and was left with a tiny hole - maybe 3/8 inch. It was clear that I wasn't going to be able to reach the latching mechanism through that. I tried some more with the screwdriver. On her side of the door, Alex got increasingly upset because she didn't understand why I didn't just come out and help her with her morning routine. On my side of the door, Colin desperately needed a diaper change and was very unhappy every time I set him down to fiddle with the door. Also, he really wanted to get into the toolbox.

I called Michael again. He agreed to start walking home to rescue us.

Finally Alex removed the doorknob on her side, as well as the long pin that connects the two knobs. Once that was out, the whole metal frame that held the lock, latching mechanism, and doorknob assembly was more able to wiggle. I abandoned any attempt to keep from damaging the doorjamb and set to work again with the flat screwdriver. This time I was able to push the whole mechanism thingie deeper into the door, and it disengaged from the latch. Whew. The jamb has some flaked paint and a couple of gouges, but it could have been a lot worse.

I praised Alex for her efforts. Changed, by this point, not only Colin's diaper but his entire outfit from the skin out. And left the doorknob disassembled, just in case.

It was an exciting start to the day, all right.

Moral of the story: NEXT TIME JUST PUT UP A DAMN BABY GATE.
rivka: (WTF?!)
The National Weather Service in Sterling Virginia has issued a
Winter Storm Warning for... which is in effect from noon Tuesday
to 7 PM EST Wednesday. The Winter Storm Watch is no longer in
effect.

* Precipitation type... snow.

* Accumulations... 10 to 20 inches.

* Timing... mid-afternoon Tuesday through Wednesday.

* Temperatures... temperatures near freezing at the onset Tuesday
afternoon. Temperatures will drop into the upper 20s Tuesday
night and Wednesday.


This is no joke, guys.

The roads are bad enough that even though Michael dug the car out with the help of a passing entrepreneur-with-shovel, I'm not comfortable with the idea of taking the kids out tomorrow morning to forage for groceries. So when he got home from work today (he walked, with difficulty), I walked (with difficulty) to our little neighborhood grocery store to see what they might have still on the shelves, knowing that they wouldn't have gotten a delivery yet.

No milk, no eggs, not much fruit or fresh vegetables, no artisanal bread or whole wheat sandwich bread. I got the last loaf of decent-quality sandwich white; after that, all that was left was those long loaves of cheap squishy white. They did have some meat. I got chicken breasts, a small piece of beef, bacon, chicken apple sausages. I was able to restock our supply of pasta and buy supplies for baking cookies. (Fortunately, we already had eggs. And butter.)

The main roads have been plowed, at least in our immediate neighborhood. The secondary roads haven't. I have no idea when I'm going to be able to get back to work or when Alex is going to be able to get back to school. I have no idea when we'll be able to go to church or the library or, well, anywhere but the house and garden, with occasional forays to the drugstore or neighborhood grocery.

While I was waiting to check out at the grocery store, I heard the owner ask an older man who came up to the customer service window:

"You lived in Baltimore all your life?"

"Yeah."

"Is this the worst you've ever seen?"

"Yeah."

Ten to twenty more inches, guys. Ten to twenty more inches.
rivka: (christmas penguins)
My mothering skillz: Let me show U them.

snow_fort

The picture I took of the antechamber/courtyard didn't turn out as well. This is a hollowed-out but roofless section of snowdrift. Alex is reclining on a little snow bench.

snow_fort2

She has taken to shouting out from time to time, "It's the SNOWPOCALYPSE!" I'm glad we've raised her well.

Moved!

Jan. 30th, 2010 10:55 pm
rivka: (Default)
I mentioned a while ago that we were planning to reorganize our house. We've done some packing, planning, and cleaning over the past couple of weeks, and this afternoon three pleasant and diligent men from the Casa de Maryland Workers' Center (an advocacy and service center for day laborers) showed up to carry heavy things for us.

It's a very strange experience to partially move. Our house got turned upside down; only the living room, Alex's room, and the kitchen were completely unchanged. And yet the fundamentals of the house remained the same. We didn't have to put all our things in boxes, but there are baskets and bins of displaced objects everywhere.

I don't know how long it will take before I stop darting into the dining room intending to check my e-mail, or into the study - which used to be my bedroom - to grab a pair of socks or toss the kids' clothes in the no-longer-present laundry hamper.

Our bedroom is already in nice shape. It's no larger than it has to be to fit our bedroom furniture (queen bed, dresser, chest), but it doesn't feel cramped. The study is going to need a lot of work - we still have to assemble some of the Ikea furniture we bought for it, let alone distributing our things over the shelves - but our desks and computers are already set up and I can tell that it's going to be an extremely pleasant room when it's finished. The dining room looks like someone moved out of it. Once it's cleaned up and the piles of detritus are removed, I think it will feel peaceful and huge.

The overall effect of the move is to make our house feel much bigger. It's great.

Pictures to come when we have things a little more together.
rivka: (I love the world)
Colin's feeling much better today. Thank God for ibuprofen, because unlike the Tylenol it actually reduces his fever. He was clingy today but not burning hot or miserable.

Now that my grant is in, we're moving ahead with an exciting plan we've been talking about for a while: redesigning how our house is laid out. Right now, Michael and I have our desks crammed into the dining room. The dining room table tends to attract piles and piles of paperwork. Alex's art supplies are in the playroom, but she doesn't really have a good place to spread them out without Colin being able to reach what she's doing. And we don't have anywhere to spread out any adult projects, like church work or whatever.

Meanwhile, one of the largest and most beautiful rooms in the house is our bedroom, which we really just use for sleeping and dressing. Most of the time it's a massive staging area for laundry. And we have a third-floor guest room which gets used a couple of weeks a year.

So we're planning to move our bedroom upstairs to the guest room on the third floor. There's a tiny room across the hall that will become Colin's bedroom when we decide that he's done co-sleeping. The guest room is small and ugly (70's-era paneling and a dropped ceiling), but it has room for our bed and our dressers and we probably won't spend a lot of time examining the decor. And it has an en suite bathroom, which is nice.

Our current bedroom, large and beautiful with a bay window and three floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases, will be turned into a study.

Master Bedroom

I think Michael and I will probably put our desks on either side of the radiator. We can set up the little desk we got for Alex alongside, with Michael's old computer.

We went to Ikea today to get some other furnishings for the room. The main purchase was a big Expedit bookcase - a simple grid of 25 cubes, plus doors for a few of them and file boxes and things to go in a few others. We're planning to use it to hold books, art supplies, papers, and homeschooling stuff like math manipulatives. Since we're going to be dismantling our guest room, we also got for the study a very simple low couch that folds down into a bed. And an impulse purchase (which, I feel compelled to say, cost much less than it says on the webpage): a really cool gateleg table with drawers in the middle. We can load the drawers up with pencils and markers and scissors and tape, and use the table surface for art or puzzles or games or work that involves reference materials or Legos or any kind of project we want to be able to spread out without baby/toddler interference.

So soon our dining room can be just a dining room, and we won't be as likely to wind up with an even layer of crayons and markers scattered all over the entire house, and the large amounts of time that we spend at our computers will be in a more comfortable and well-laid-out room, and we'll have more spaces where Colin can be near Alex without messing up her things, and when we start homeschooling this summer we'll have a great space to do projects and keep all our stuff. And maybe - although this might be asking too much - the top of my desk will stop being a complete disaster area, because I'll have other places to store my papers and things. (Hey, stop laughing! It could happen that way.)

I think we'll make the move in two weeks. Between now and then we have some packing and clearing-out to do. We're going to need to hire a couple of hours of help to do the actual furniture-moving. And I want to see if I can find a few straight chairs at thrift stores, to go with the table. (If we pull our desk chairs over we'll tear up the floor finish.)

I am really excited about how much better we'll be using the space of our house.
rivka: (her majesty)
Last night at 11:20 the power went out. I had just finished pumping milk - thank heavens - I still had the bottle of milk in my hand. I quickly stowed it away, grabbed a flashlight, and went to call the power company.

The automated emergency line took my report. Usually it has something to say about how long the outage is estimated to last, but not this time. Looking out the window, I could see Maryland General Hospital all lit up a block away, but on our street there was nothing. No streetlights, no house lights.

The phone rang. It was a real human calling me back from BGE. She said that they didn't have any information about an outage in my area and why didn't I go down and try throwing my breaker. She would wait if I wanted her to.

"It's not just us," I told her. "The whole street is dark."

"Well, you're the only one who called in. I can go ahead and send someone out, but if it turns out to be a problem with your equipment there will be an $80 charge for the service call."

"Send someone out to our house? It's not just us!"

"Well, you're our only starting point."

I told her not to send anyone unless we called back. I didn't really want to wait up past midnight for a service call.

After I hung up, we heard sirens and saw flashes of colored lights outside. We jammed on our shoes and went outside. A BGE pickup truck sped by, orange lights flashing. and rounded the corner on to Read Street. I followed it. Read Street was jammed full of equipment - at least four line trucks. Guys in hard hats stood around in clumps.

Michael approached one of them and came back to report: "It's a planned outage. They're doing some work."

"Okay, let's go to bed." As I undressed, the phone rang. It was the lady from BGE. She had just figured out that it was a planned outage. We should have gotten a letter, she told Michael. The power would be off for eight hours.

That was nearly ten hours ago. We still don't have any electricity. I'm starting to fret about the food. Also, I'm hungry. Michael lit the stove with our grill lighter to make me some tea, but we don't want to open the fridge to get out anything to eat.

I'm writing this on my laptop, but we don't have any wireless to post it.

Later: I called BGE at 9:30. The power should be back on in about an hour, they said. I scrounged some bread and cookies from the pantry. Unbelievably, Alex is still asleep - when she wakes up, I'll take the kids out for breakfast.

The thing about living in a row house is that it can be dark inside even in the daytime. Our living room is a center room, and it doesn't get a whole lot of natural light.

11:00 Still no power. Coming back from breakfast we saw four or five line trucks arrayed along the alley behind our house, basket arms extended and full of linemen. Called BGE again and was assured that we'd have power by 11:30. Uh huh. I asked if there would be any compensation to customers and she reacted with total incomprehension. I wasn't being charged for the power I wasn't receiving, so why did I think I had any claim on BGE beyond that?

If it was storm damage or some other disaster, I would totally understand. But this is scheduled work.

I wonder how long the power would have to be out before I would stop automatically flipping the switch when I walked into a dark room.

Final update: When I left to take the kids to a birthday party at 12:15, the power was still out. According to Michael, it finally came on at 1:50, went off again at 2:15, and finally came on for good at 2:30.

Unfortunately, in the interim Alex overheard me discussing with a neighbor what action I planned to take against BGE if my freezer stash of breastmilk thawed. Now she is asking inconvenient questions like "Mommy, what's firebombing?"
rivka: (talk about me)
Here's the "If I could..." edition. You guys ask good questions.

[livejournal.com profile] kazoogrrl: If you worked at Colonial Williamsburg, you would be what kind of historical reenactor, and why?

If we are fantasizing that I would have any skills I might need to obtain such a position, I'd like to be in the dressmakers'/milliners' shop, preferably focusing on fine embroidery. When we were there in November, there was a woman sitting in a sunny window embroidering the most stunning piece of white-on-white lace. I really enjoy fine needlework, but I don't have much time (okay, any time) to work on it. It would be pleasant to have a lot of time to develop those skills and share them with others, in a mellow and conversational setting.

If we're thinking about positions I might legitimately be qualified for, I'd probably wind up doing historical dance performance. Which is funny, because I'm about the least athletic or graceful person ever, under ordinary circumstances. But I've done quite a bit of English Country Dancing, and I love it, and I'm good at it.

[livejournal.com profile] pameladean: What are three things you'd do to your house if you could?

0. Buy it. I would love to own this house instead of renting it. But I know that's not what you meant, so I'm making it #0.

1. Put decking on the porch outside our bedroom, so that it can be walked on without damaging the roof surface. I understand why our landlord never did that - that short short railing would create a massive liability risk, and you couldn't put a real, safe-height railing in because the historical preservation people would throw a fit.

2. Insulate the kitchen and the pantry. They're just kind of hanging off the back of the house, with nothing underneath them and nothing around them, and they get so cold in the winter that for a while the olive oil congealed.

3. Rip out the 70's-era paneling and dropped ceiling in the third floor guest room. Then, eventually, we could convert it to our bedroom and turn our gorgeous current bedroom, with its floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves, into a study for the whole family. Right now our desks are crammed into the dining room instead.

[livejournal.com profile] moobabe: If you could do anything (job/hobby/etc) that you can't or don't do right now, what would it be?

Homeschool. This is in the works for a year and a half from now, when Alex is scheduled to start kindergarten. Michael and I hope to both work part-time and both share in the homeschooling. I'd kind of like to get started sooner, although I recognize that the older Colin is when we start the easier things will be. (Oops, here I am bringing in kids/parenting again, and violating the purpose of the meme.)

[livejournal.com profile] duanekc: If you had unlimited time and budget, would you travel? Where, and why? With or without family? Are there places you would like to see just by yourself, or is traveling without family unthinkable?

Oh, gosh. I haven't traveled that much, and I have a long list of places I'd like to go. I would love to go on safari in Africa. I'd like to see Egypt and Petra. I would like to do a rain forest/beach/snorkeling trip in central America. I would like to go on a cruise. I would like to cross the US and Canada by transcontinental rail. I would like to visit Vietnam. I would like to take the kids to Disneyworld.

I don't like to leave my kids for longer than a few days - at least, I can't imagine doing that until they're much older. So although I see definite advantages to familyless travel that'd be pretty far in my future. I think it will start being feasible for us to do significant travel when Colin is about the age that Alex is now. I have this family adventure travel site bookmarked, and it is a frequent stop for fantasizing.

[livejournal.com profile] castiron: What craft skill (where craft could be anything from sewing to blacksmithing to origami to small engine repair) would you most like to learn?

Quilting.

[livejournal.com profile] johnpalmer: Is there any one thing that you wish you had blogged about, but even if you were blogging, it's been *way* too long, so you can't blog about it now... but oh, it was *important*, and you really wanted to say something about it!

What was it? What did you want to say?


I wish I had finished my series on physician-assisted suicide, because it's a topic that I think many, many smart and ethical and well-meaning people are misguided about. I may be getting back to doing some writing on that in the near future.
rivka: (motherhood)
It's the end of the day, and they're both still alive. I have done my job.

I had planned to go in to work for an hour or two today, with Colin, to coordinate a new venture with my research assistants. But last night, we noticed that Alex was pale and overemotional, and her temperature read 99.6 degrees - just high enough to keep her out of school today. So I had them both home, and we stayed in the house all day.

She was pitiful when she woke up, then fine through the morning. In midafternoon her fever started to rise. She begged to watch the Charlotte's Web DVD she got for Christmas, which she'd never seen before, but about fifteen minutes in she started to sob when Fern is forced to sell Wilbur to the farm down the road. "Wilbur! Wilbur!" Alex cried, crumpling in a heap. I looked at her: genuine tears, pallid skin, red circles flushed into her cheeks. I reached for the thermometer, but I didn't really need technological evidence for her fever.

She remained miserable for the rest of the afternoon - "I'm huddled in a heap," she informed us disconsolately at the dinner table - and then got a bouncy second wind just when Michael and I were most exhausted.

Colin got rather shorted for attention, needless to say. He was pretty much continuously latched on, unless I was changing one of a series of truly astonishing diapers, but he didn't get much in the way of stimulating interaction or tender gazes. I figure that keeping his sister's germy hands off him was the best I could offer him. He chose to repay me by not napping for more than 15 minutes at a time all afternoon and into the evening.

Tomorrow should be a lot like today, except that we'll be having a new boiler installed at 9am sharp, plus the electric company will be reattaching the line to the house (don't ask) at 8am. To what extent will power and heat be disrupted? No one has told us to expect disruptions. I suppose that if necessary we can flee to the church for sanctuary... because our usual fallbacks, like the library or the science center, won't be open that early and, when they do open, will be full of kids who don't deserve Alex's virus.

I am exhausted. But it's the end of the day and they're both alive, so I have rocked my job.
rivka: (Rivka & kids)
1. We went to the pediatrician yesterday for a two-week checkup. Colin now weighs 8 pounds, 4 ounces, so he's more than regained his birth weight and is continuing to gain almost an ounce a day. Everything else looks good as well. Words cannot begin to express how relieved I am by all this good weight gain. Hilariously, it prompted my dad to divulge his former theory, not previously shared with me, that I was anatomically unable to breastfeed, perhaps because I was so - how did he put it? - "overly ample."

2. After the pediatrician's office we went to the bra shop. I am more relieved than I can say to report that I haven't actually gotten any larger - my bra was just worn out and needed to be replaced. Poor Alex kept taking little pink lacy things off the racks and bringing them to me, not understanding that those don't come in Mama's gargantuan size. Or in nursing styles.

3. Alex has hit the full flower of the asking-questions stage, OMG. On the one hand, it's good to have her preferred mode of interaction be something I can do with my hands full of baby. On the other hand, these constant questions are killing me. They range from the interesting but difficult to answer - "Mommy, why did people in England think they could tell people in America what to do?" (in reference to the American Revolution) - to the maddening extended-hypothetical - "What if me and Zoe and Leo climbed a tree and got stuck and couldn't get down, and you and Miss Emily and Miss Suzanne were on the other side of a high wall?" "We would get a ladder and climb over the wall and come get you." "Well, what if the branches were too light and you couldn't climb up, and what if we were up there for ten hours?" - to the utterly confounding - "Mommy, what does 'of' mean?" And there are dozens of them per hour. It would kind of be nice if she had a little less intellectual curiosity.

4. Our new couch is ready! I just called and arranged for the old couch to be picked up by the Salvation Army on Tuesday. (Yes, I know, ordinarily I wouldn't do business with the Salvation Army either. But in this case I consider that I'm accepting a service from them, not giving them anything.) Now I just have to call the furniture store and arrange for the new couch to be delivered on Wednesday. I am so excited! And grateful that Colin doesn't really spit up.

5. Have some Michael-and-Colin goodness to make up for the Mamacentric photo in the last post.

michael&colin
rivka: (Baltimore)
In our big research study (not mine, but my boss's), there's a part of the study where we deliberately make the participants angry. It's a role play, and the instructions go something like this: "Pretend that I'm your landlord, and there's something around your place that needs to be repaired. You've left me messages and nothing has been done. Now you're going to run into me in person and discuss the problem. If this has happened to you in real life, you can use a real example - otherwise, I want you to make something up. But the important thing is to make it sound as real as possible."

Every participant has had this problem in real life. The housing problems they report are detailed and realistic. When we play our instigating role in the dialogue - and we are the most obnoxious landlords ever encountered; favorite lines include "It will get done when it gets done," "You need to watch your attitude - don't take that tone with me," and "Well, I don't know what you expect for the kind of rent you're paying" - they are well prepared to respond. More than half threaten to put their rent in escrow until the problem is fixed. They have been down this route, again and again.

Those role plays are on my mind today because we are having a heating problem. The front of the house has been heating just fine, but not the back; the final straw came yesterday when I went into the kitchen and the bottle of olive oil on the counter was congealed solid. To add insult to injury, the freezing cold in parts of the house comes alongside an outrageous $600 electric and gas bill for December. Michael went down to investigate the boiler and came back reporting that the pressure seemed oddly low.

Michael called the landlord this morning. And fifteen minutes later the landlord's handyman rang our doorbell. He adjusted our radiators and explained to me, at length, how the steam radiators we have now differ from the hot water radiators we had in the old house, and what the theory is behind their operation. (It turns out that steam radiators have a steam regulator as well as the little thingy that opens or closes the coils; we didn't know.) Then he went down to the basement and spent twenty minutes or so tinkering with the boiler, drawing off several buckets of muddy water which he said were preventing it from operating properly (and thereby raising our heating bill). He finished by promising that he would come back in the spring and do a full cleaning and servicing of the boiler.

When he left, I called Michael to report. And as soon as I got off the phone with Michael, our landlord called him to assure him that if the house isn't heating to our satisfaction by tomorrow morning he'll send in a full team.

The olive oil is still congealed, but we're going to wait and see what happens when the house cools off at night and then the heat cycles on in the morning.

Our landlord would totally fail as a role-play landlord. Damn, we're lucky. And privileged.
rivka: (baby otter)
We went couch shopping at a discount furniture store on Tuesday, and didn't find anything that really grabbed us. Today we went to a full-service store that was having a 40-50% Off New Year's sale, and I fell in love.

This is what we bought. It's incredibly comfortable and seems to be very well made. I love the shape, and the nailhead trim on the arms.

We chose a solid color instead of the striped fabric pictured on the webpage. It's a rich warm chocolate brown, in a sturdy blended fabric. Throw pillows were included - that surprised me - so we picked a pattern that's red, brown, tan, and gold, in a sort of an Oriental-rug pattern.

Our current couch cost me $100 in, let's see, 1997. It's certainly served us well, and we've gotten our money's worth from it several times over. But it is no longer either attractive or comfortable. This one is going to be a big step up.

Tragically, "allow 8-12 weeks for delivery," so it's not going to be here until sometime after the Niblet is. I'm not very good at delayed gratification.

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