Monday, January 31, 2011

Home Inspected, Can't Wait to Move In!

A cold winter evening is definitely a good "test" time to verify whether a house will be cozy and welcoming and the house we're planning to buy definitely passed the test with flying colors! The fact that we're going to have a new house got me thinking about decorating, wall colors (later I'll show you the bright burgundy color of the dining room) and things such as modern dining furniture. I'm also glad that I will soon have the chance to review a product, not yet chosen (but probably a much needed item of cookware), from the website I linked to above. I'll consider it a "housewarming" gift. :)

When we got back home after the inspection, K kept saying that this third visit to the house really made him sure that "this is the one" and I felt the same way. The boys also loved the house and got to choose their bedroom (well, I kind of convinced them to pick the room I thought was best, more on that some other time). Linton was very relieved to see the family room in the basement where he can have his toys (the most important requirement in a house for Linton is that it has room for his toys and to play, my dear boy!). The home inspector was nice and got the boys involved in the testing of the garage doors, which they obviously loved.

I can't wait for the closing in April!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Can You Whip Egg Whites with a Fork?

Oh, yes, I can, thank you very much!! And I can get it to be as stiff as I like.

I saw something on TV over 16 years ago in Brazil that made me feel glad I know how to do that. One Saturday night I was channel surfing and for some reason I got to this really silly show (Viva a Noite!) presented by Gugu Liberato and I had to watch for a few minutes when I saw what he was up to.

He had called two young women from the audience with their boyfriends or accompanying male friends. The first was blondish and looked very "upper middle class" whereas the other, who was darker skinned, looked like a "working class" young woman. The game was a challenge: he presented each of them with a bowl, an egg white and a fork and he said they needed to whip the egg until the plate could be turned upside down over the head of their boyfriends. Ha! I had to see this!

The "richer" girl tried to beat the egg whites with the fork as best as she could, but it was pretty obvious that she had never done that before in her life while the other girl was doing her job expertly. Several minutes went on and Gugu finally said that time was up. The embarrassed blond had no choice but to dump the still liquid egg whites on her boyfriend's head while the other young woman triumphantly turned the plate onto her boyfriend's head and the whites were so stiff they didn't fall at all. 

"Hey! I can do that too!" I exclaimed. And I felt just so relieved that I wouldn't have been embarrassed if I were in that situation. I mean, it was just a silly (and early) "reality TV" type game, but it made me feel that certain abilities (such knowing how to cook absolutely from scratch) can come in handy when you least expect it!

~   ~ ~ ~    ~    ~ ~ ~
I decided to write this totally random post today after reading these recipes in which the blogger mentioned her mother's wooden crank whip. I always  feel thankful that I grew up in a country in which most people still cook and bake most foods from scratch. This is slowly changing there, however, because today many people have a fast-paced life-style which doesn't leave time for cooking and processed food is becoming cheaper and more available in Brazil too.

I'm enjoying reading food blogs and I see that lots of people here in the U.S. (and all over the world) are enjoying cooking (Julie & Julia) is an example of the fascination with that subject. Last night I was reading the blog archives of a (much younger) friend I met last summer and I had to laugh when she described an experience she had back in 2005 in a youth hostel in Argentina -- she and her young American travel companions had never (!) popped corn in a pot before and they had help from an Australian traveler who gave them some hints about what to do. I, for one, won't eat microwave pop corn if I can avoid it. :)

Baking cakes from boxes, eating soup or beans from cans are very foreign things for me. Once in a while I'll do it (only garbanzo beans and brownies, though never, EVER! cakes, that's "anathema" to me! ;-)

Well, I think I could go on and on about this subject, but I have to get ready to go to my sons' "Talent Show" in school! Kelvin is playing the piano. oh, and I want to write another post to share some exciting "odontological" news. ;)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

They Weren't Joking When They Said "Conditions Will Quickly Deteriorate"

Forecasters had that warning in the National Weather Service alert page (in the Weather Channel website) and I still worked in my office for a few minutes before I saw heavy snow flakes falling and covering the sidewalks. The boys had no school, but the university was open and I had to go give my students a test. It was raining during the late morning, but by 1:30 pm it was snowing hard. I packed and left quickly, being covered by snow on the way to the parking garage.

It was a long ride home. The 25 usual minutes morphed into an hour, but hopefully there weren't that many cars on the road and I was listening to NPR, which is always sort of comforting. There was that very. slow. pickup. truck. in the last 6 mile stretch which delayed my arrival home a bit more, but it was OK. I even stopped at the grocery store first to get chocolate chips (Linton woke up with this idea of baking chocolate chip cookies).

I read a book to the boys, took a short nap, ate some chocolate and now, while K took the boys outside to shovel a little bit (more for the exercise and the fresh air than for the usefulness of it, since we'll probably have a few more inches before it's all said and done). When the boys come back in we'll drink hot chocolate and bake chocolate chip cookies. Sounds heavenly, no?

I'm thrilled for the first snow day of 2011!! (even though I did have to work) It's finally here!

Snow Is Coming

And I'm glad because the only "real" snow we had was back in December and I'm ready for some pretty snow to cover all the brown-ness around us.

The home inspection was scheduled for tomorrow and it will probably have to be re-scheduled, but that's OK.

I have to give a test tomorrow, but I don't think classes will be cancelled in the morning, so I had to type it up and go to bed late.

There are several other things I've been thinking/planning to blog about, but I end up forgetting. Hopefully I'll be able to remember and do it at some point. Oh, yeah... most of them are "fluff" posts, including one about chocolate! I'll be back!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Anxiously Waiting

Do you remember the first item in my "wish list" for 2011?

Well, several hours ago, my sister-in-law underwent an IUI. Please keep her and my brother in your thoughts and prayers for the next two weeks. My brother's worry is not even whether it works or not, but how his wife will take it if it doesn't. He's afraid she might be too disappointed -- how sweet of him!

I hope everything goes well and everyone's dreams and wishes come true in the shape of a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.

P.S.1 They were told that the "swimmers" were of good quality. :) I keep thinking of them and hoping they get their job done.

P.S.2 Since I've had the "birds and the bees" conversation with my oldest a year and a half ago, I tried to explain to him what was going on. It was a bit confusing, so I think we'll have to go over some things again. I'm still trying to find a nice video or animation that shows fecundation. Meanwhile, we watched this great one about ovulation (still relevant to today's event):
 (sorry, there's an advertisement before it)

Take a Look:

I love this breakfast nook in the kitchen. Since there's a bay window in the living room and this, I call it the house's "bay area" (since it's not really a window). And I think that the brick patio in the backyard (I! love! brick! patios!) is just so lovely! (not to mention all the mature trees).
Those who read the previous post know what these photos here mean. We're excited, but oh, so rational and grounded. That's what past experience does to you... it takes the sparkle out of life sometimes. I'm sure it will be fun when mid-April comes around & we have the keys to go in, though! And I can't wait to plant tons of flowers. :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

In Case You're Wondering...

... what's going on in the house-hunting front:

We wrote an offer for that house today. If it's accepted, I'll post a picture (or several), OK?

If they decide not to accept it, we'll keep looking. It's a buyer's market and there are many properties out there. This one is pretty nice, but it is on the small side so... if it falls through, then it's not meant to be. That's how we're looking at it.

We're offering 10K less than asking price and 3% seller's assist for our closing which will bring their price down considerably. I think they won't be happy, but our agent (extremely experienced -- 20+ years -- & a teacher of real estate ethics) thinks it's a reasonable offer.

In the end, the less attached we are to the property, the best the likelihood that we'll make a smart business decision.  We've done well in our three previous houses, so I see no reason why we'll go wrong this time.

I'll keep you posted.

P.S. I didn't write more this week because we spent a lot of energy in the house hunting and the teaching also took time. What took the most time, though, was "Tiger Mothering" my sons (ha ha ha!), seriously, I've been doing a good job getting them to practice their piano daily. Tough work (Amy Chua is totally right about how hard it is, but I don't go to the extremes she went, obviously)! It helps that they're super motivated to play the Wii game their aunt & uncle sent them for Xmas and they don't get to do that until they've done homework & practiced piano. So... yeah, I've been busy & tired, not sleeping that well and having weird dreams (if you're curious I can blog that). but I'll let you know how the house thing goes as soon as we hear back from them (it should be on Monday).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Maybe We Found "The One"

Location, location, location... isn't that what they say about real state?

Well... yesterday the first house we saw was in the very neighborhood that K said he wanted to buy a house on ever since we moved here. And we loved it! It's on the smaller size and in the high end of our price range (hence, expensive, particularly considering square footage).

But it's just so cozy, so inviting, with such a lovely backyard and views too! We're going back tomorrow and I'll tell you more then, OK? Maybe I'll share a photo -- though the front is pretty normal, not particularly remarkable or beautiful.

I'm really tired. It was good to have a chance to go house-hunting without the boys yesterday (they had school and we didn't!).  Well... more tomorrow!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

First Loose Tooth Watch 2011!

Remember item #2 in this list? Two weeks into the new year and we already have a loose bottom tooth to deal with!

Yesterday Linton hardly ate any breakfast because he complained that his loose tooth hurt when he chewed. He did eat some lunch at school ("slurping" the spaghetti, as he put it) and I think that when dinner time came he was too hungry not to eat two (vegetarian) hot dogs.

Daddy tried to pull out the tooth out with a piece of dental floss last night, but it didn't work, so we wait... Hopefully Linton will be able to keep on eating, in spite of the fact that it's harder to bite this way. I'll keep you posted!

~   ~~~   ~   ~~~
As for Kelvin, two years ago I planned to write a couple of posts on how I feared that it was going to be really hard for him to get his tooth out, but it was just so incredibly easy! (check out that post because it has cute photos of my firstborn).

This is a summary of what I planed to post: when we were in Brazil in June 2008 Kelvin had blood drawn to test for Lyme Disease (I don't think he had it, but he underwent a full round of antibiotics just in case at the recommendation of his pediatrician's office). He kept the band-aid on for almost 2 days and then, when it was time to remove it, it was a nightmare!!! I tried to get him to immerse his arm in water, tried to pull it off... to no avail. He just wouldn't let me touch it for anything! After over 45 minutes he finally did it himself.

That morning I just thought to myself that I had to be prepared to deal with the loose tooth that were coming. If the band-aid was any indication of things to come, I imagined that it would be really awful. Well, I was squarely wrong about that one!! He pulled his own tooth very easily (it was extremely loose at that point) when we were backing off in the driveway of his best friend's house after a visit (I rushed back inside to share the news with them!). The second tooth came off as he bit a piece of bread at a school function and it's been a breeze ever since.

Maybe I'll have my reprieve with his younger brother... sigh. I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Well, Hello There!!! Delurking Day 2011

Thanks to Jenna/FireMom for blogging about this today! I did it many years later, let's see... back in 2006 when all the "cool kids" in the interwebs were doing it (see? I'm not famous or anything, but I'm an "oldish" blogger!), and in 2007, twice. Jenna has also a post explaining more about National Delurking Day 2011(what a pompous name, no?) at BlogHer. (oh, and I see that my dear blogging friend Jamie posted about it too!)

I'd love it if you could tell me a bit about yourself, that would be nice! I'm just really curious to know how you found my blog. And since I'm not that inspired to ask questions today (not that I don't want to know more about you, no!!), I'll copy some that I saw in my friends' posts.

From Jamie: do you prefer Facebook or Twitter?
From Jenna: Is there anything you'd like to ask me?
Anything about Brazil, for example?

Or... you can just "raise your hand" and say "I'm here!" as some people did back in 2007. If you have a blog, I promise to go and check it out and... promise (cross my heart and hope to die -- hahahaha, I always thought that was too cute!) to comment back to each and every one that comments, OK?

My Guilty Pleasure -- Obliterated

OK, the situation is not so dire as the word obliterated makes it sound! It's just that I really enjoy using certain words, so please indulge me this time.

What is my most guilty pleasure,you may ask? Well... it should be a pretty simple thing, in practice, however, it can get rather tricky for various reasons I shall soon outline.

My most guilty pleasure is to waste vast quantities of water and electricity and take extra-long, extra-hot showers. I feel extra-guilty for the wastefulness, but oh, I enjoy it so, so much! I feel relaxed, finally truly warm (I'm always cold) and it's wonderful before going to bed or, alternately, on a beautiful sunny morning when I don't have to rush out the door to go somewhere.

Except that... I haven't enjoyed my showers at all ever since we moved to this house. In the summer it wasn't that bad, but now in the winter it's just awful (even when we turn the heat up high and try to trap it inside the bathroom).

The culprit is the shower handle or knob. We have the simplest kind, more or less like this:

This knob only turns the water on and off. Colder to the right, warmer to the left. It does not come forward or up or down for INTENSITY of water output.
Tangent: Oh, and those of you who have lived in the U.S. all your lives may not have thought about it, but here one can find so many different kinds of shower handles, it's maddening! I had never thought of it until many years ago in Brazil when I read my aunt's journals from her two trips to the U.S. back in the late 80s, early 90s. She described in detail how each hotel bathroom shower knob worked and I think that at least in one occasion they had to take a bath because they couldn't figure out how to get the shower to work!

In any case, if only our shower handle were like the one on the left, or even if there were three handles as there were in our old house (one for hot water, one for cold, one for shower/bathtub spout) and I could control the water intensity, then I could have less water and the water would remain warmer during the whole bath.

Obviously the real culprit is having a hot-water heater that has a tank and thus, a very limited amount of hot water. Another solution, since our kids are older and generally more careful, would be to increase the water temperature in the heater, but we were unable to find the panel to make that change (and plus, this is a rental house and we can't risk breaking anything, so definitely replacing the knob is not an option).
I have to confess that I was utterly spoiled by the on-demand water heater (that was powered by an oil furnace -- our house had hot water baseboard heating) we had in our old house, but I don't remember having this problem at our two previous houses either. :(

Needless to say, I'm looking very careful at every shower knob in all the houses we're considering buying. Ideally, it would be nice to be able to install an on-demand water heater in our future house someday. Meanwhile,  I will keep dreaming of hot long showers. At my parents house these showers are the best because their water is heated by solar panels (physically heated, they don't gather electricity, it's just a problem on cloudy days when a regular and expensive electric heated has to be turned on).

P.S. One problem I almost neglected to mention is that when I say hot showers I mean scalding hot because my body can withstand very hot water. For many years when I was going up my mom used hydrotherapic (water based) treatments to help me with my asthma and allergies, so I took countless hot baths in which the water was made hotter and hotter until I was sweaty and couldn't take it anymore, so I can stand (and really enjoy) truly hot water. :(

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


For anyone dying to know how we like the "pool house" ;) I'd like to say that it is all that jazz, but...

... it's a short sale. :(

Short sales are tough because the buyer is at the mercy of the bank who (or which?) is open to higher offers from other people or can foreclose on the property right up until the day of the closing. Not a comfortable position to be on, right?  I'll let you know what we'll decide to do.

We saw several more houses and two of them were nice -- very similar to our old house, down to the very same kind of hardwood floor, kitchen cabinets and even trees! So it's not like we don't have options, but the pool house is really perfect because it's so big and can be improved upon in countless ways. Of course a bigger house is more expensive to heat and stuff... but... we will continue to be budget conscious people and be able to pay our bills, I'm sure. So... we'll see what will happen.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I almost forgot, but I wanted to post this just because it's a cute date, and it's my friend and blogging role model Dawn's birthday. Happy Birthday Dawn! I'm glad Maddie helped you celebrate so well!

Oh, and it's my brother's birthday Eve. :-)

One last thing about Dawn's birthday being on such an interesting date today. I wrote to her that I had mine back on 7/7/77 when I turned six. My mom took tons of photos, with the date written on the brand new green "blackboard" that I got as a birthday gift and the other gifts (we had had a big party that year).

I don't really remember even thinking about 7/7/07, but I guess it's because the zero ruined it. No more of those birthdays for me... 2077 is pretty far in the future & I won't be around by then.

As for 2011's matching dates, I've blogged on 1/1 and I'll certainly do it again in November. :)

Mixed Up Buyers

We're getting to the point in our house-hunting process when looking at houses has become a chore... (sigh!). It obviously is the ultimate chore -- finding a suitable place for one's family to live. It's such a huge responsibility, isn't it? I'm sure we'll be fine in whatever house we decide to buy, but still, making that decision is difficult.

Yesterday I wasn't excited because I had to split my attention between the first day of classes and thinking about houses. My class went well and I was in good spirits when we set out. We got a late start and saw some pretty bad houses (some of them so old, with such uneven, sunken floors that one had the impression to be walking in a floating ship, seriously!). And then we saw this teeny, tiny place (not SO tiny, with a basement, deck and all) that is also hugely cheap and I felt pretty depressed about the prospects of living there. I didn't want to talk to K about houses too much last night.

Then... K spent hours again looking at everything out there. This time using our realtor's website (we had forgotten about it). Well, well, well... he found this amazing house and I'm holding my breath until we see it tomorrow (I hope the realtor was able to schedule it for tomorrow). The crazy thing is...


... this house has a lovely in-ground pool! Isn't that insane?

And it's really big, on lots of land, with nice trees, in a rural area, probably with lovely views. Great square footage, double car attached garage, huge unfinished basement. And affordable price. What's not to like? It is fine as it is (move-in condition), but will benefit from gradual renovations (particularly updating of kitchen, floors, etc).

Anyway. Yeah. That's the latest development. It's been less than 24h since K found the house (I think it was close to midnight when he showed it to me) and I've been feeling more cheerful since he did. I'll let you know how tomorrow's viewings go!

P.S. the builder took that nice house out of the market for a while. Smart guy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ethnicity and the "Mommy Wars," Introducing... the Chinese Mother!

Once in a while there's a lull in the "mommy wars," but I think there's going to be a little bit of a resurgence in "fighting" thanks to a book by Amy Chua* that is coming out tomorrow: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. The Wall Street Journal published an excerpt of it last Saturday titled: "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior." The article seems to have attracted lots of attention and outrage (it has over 1800 comments in the WSJ website). I actually got the link on facebook from an indignant Chinese colleague from graduate school (now a nicely published assistant professor) whose FB friends were ranting about the stereotyping, etc.

Stereotypes or not, I do know at least one of these mothers really well and she happens to be the daughter of Chinese immigrants (raised in Thailand) married to an Indonesian immigrant (who is a dentist). Their daughter who just turned 20 was accepted for medical school in the Fall and is an accomplished cello player.They have her perform for any guests who visit. Last summer they paid for my husband to tutor her in physics so she could do better on the MCAT. It looks like it worked!

Their son just turned eight and he plays both the violin and the piano and the mother had him perform to us when we visited over New Year's. The effect on our own sons (who are both learning piano) was great! We ended up having an impromptu recital after their New Year's party -- we had all our kids play the piano, violin and, in one case, the guitar. As a result, Kelvin learned the two songs his friend was playing in just a day and the boy's dad told us laughingly that he thought that this kind of competition between children of the same age was very good -- it motivated them to practice harder and become better -- and I had to agree!!

I think that Amy Chua's analysis of the differences between the stereotypical "Chinese mother" or parent (and she does make it clear that there are people from many other countries that parent in a similar way) and the "Western parent" (mostly American, I suppose) is very interesting! The parts about Western parents worrying about their children's self-esteem reminded me of a book I was supposed to have reviewed for Mother Talk here on the blog years ago: The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident and Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self-Importance. This book helped me understand, among other things, why so many people in this country go to graduate school and pursue Ph.D. programs (they are told, over and over again, how great they are, etc.) -- I must say she didn't say that in her book, it was just one my personal conclusions. In any case, like it or not, Americans should realize that this society has a huge "self-esteem" bubble, bigger than the housing bubble and this "trap" (in Polly Young-Eisendrath's words from the book's title) is a great disservice for this country's young people who are part of an unprecedented "me-generation."

Frankly, I don't want my sons to be part of this "me-generation," although I don't think children should be pushed to extremes or forced to only get As in school. Some of the things that "Chinese parents" do were part of our upbringing (K and mine) in Brazil and we already follow some of the practices listed in the Chua's article: our children don't ever go on sleepovers, they watch very little television (and we try to limit playing in the computer and playing the Wii as much as possible) and they will learn the piano and at least another instrument and we'll push them so they can be as good as they possibly can at it. We encourage them to read and to study and we drill them in math a lot because they just love it, but we don't push them to get only As or anything like that. We do have complete control over their extra-curricular activities, but they do gymnastics once a week at school and I think maybe we'll enroll Linton in soccer.

I'm sure that lots of the criticism that Chua received must be because of the comments "putting down" the child that she says is common in Chinese parents (such as calling children garbage) and I don't think we should abuse our children, but we shouldn't treat them like precious fragile flowers either! I think it's important to be aware that children are resilient and that they shouldn't be left to their own devices and allowed to do whatever they want. Achieving the balance is the hardest thing, though. And perhaps neither the "Chinese" nor the "Western" parents have a balanced approach and maybe we can learn from both sides. I think I have or hope to do it.

* From the WSJ: "Amy Chua is a professor at Yale Law School and author of Day of Empire and World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability."

Sunday, January 09, 2011

My Late Grandfather's Birthday

I know this is today's third post, but I don't mind, my motto this year is "blog with abandon."

I know I blogged about my maternal grandfather back in 2008 (I have to fix some of the photos in that post), but I wanted to do it again today because I thought of him all day.

He was born 108 years ago today and it's because of him that my mom and I have brown eyes and curly brown hair. He was a very fun grandpa (vovô) and I am thankful that I had him for 15 years. I hope my sons can enjoy my parents and in-laws longer than that. I love my family, even those who are no longer with us.

P.S. I have to ask my mom what's going on with his and my grandma's remains.

Can E-Books Be Borrowed?

I love to read, or, maybe, I used to love to read before I discovered the internets (hahahaha.... so true, though, I do spend hours reading blogs, checking stupid facebook & twitter, writing on my blog... yeah... it's sad. My husband calls me addicted and wants me to join a 12 step program [well, I made up the second part, but the first is true! :)]).

Anyway... I've been thinking that it will be easier to read more when I have an e-reader such as the Kindle or the iPad. There's just one small problem, apart from the fact that I love reading an actual book, owning it and putting it in my shelves. I have no money for books, so I hardly ever buy any. I've recently bought a few very cheap used or new books at Alibris, though and I LOVE to buy used books. I also enjoy borrowing books from friends.

So... this is my biggest hunch with the advent of e-books: you cannot borrow books from friends or lend them to friends, so I just have this very angry anti-capitalist feeling about them: they will just make people buy more and the books they buy will never benefit anyone else since they can't be shared. But maybe it's not true after all.

I just read a recent post by my dear friend Andi (one of my first blogger meet-ups) in which she writes: "The public libraries around here have huge ebook collections that are easily accessed and borrowed from with wifi on the go."  REALLY?? Is that really true? If so, that's AWESOME!

In any case, if you read e-books, Andi has some questions for you, you should go over there and answer them because I really don't have too much to share on this subject:
Anyone reading here that can give some examples of how you are using ebooks and blogging for student learning?            How have you incorporated digital technologies and resources to advance your own learning?         What are you seeing students do as strategies to advance their own understanding with the new tools available?
Maybe I will get hooked to ebooks someday after all!

On Going Back

First, of course, there's the problem of this awful, consummate procrastinator who put off writing the syllabi until the last day. In my defense, I actually I worked on them last Wednesday, but that was the only day I went to campus last week. :(

I have very mixed feelings about going back. I think the students like(d) me OK, but several didn't register for the classes this semester. I knew that some students were not going to take the classes. Some had scheduling conflicts and others just needed to take other classes. I just found out that at least one student took only one semester as an elective 4 credit class. In addition I will have to teach the class for two or three students as an "Independent Study" which is completely  uncompensated (two guys are seniors with scheduling conflicts).

So... yeah. What this means is that these classes are not a sure thing. I don't mind the uncertainty, but it does bother me a bit. I wonder if there is really a future out of this as K would like to think. And then, there's the issue that it's not very fulfilling, but it's work and I should  be thankful for work. Any work.

All of this to say that I'm not excited, but I'll try to do my best for and with the 6 (or 5) students that I do have in one class and 10 in the other. And now I have to go back and revise each syllabus.

P.S. We're seeing more houses tomorrow. I'm not excited about that either because I feel I should be working and not doing that. We need to make a decision soon, though. It's important, particularly because of the interest rates. Sigh. I'm sure I'll feel way better in the morning.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Never Say Never! :)

In case anyone out there is curious about our ongoing house hunting, I thought I'd give you an update.

I'm slightly amused to report that we're seriously considering putting an offer on yet another fixer-upper in spite of the fact that K has said emphatically that he never ever wanted to do any home renovations again!

We saw the house yesterday morning and it's not nearly as bad as our previous house was when we bought it. There's no need to redo roof or siding, only in the sheds, the house itself seems to be fine, but there are TONS of cosmetic stuff and other things to do such as replacing floors, adding more cabinetry, replacing appliances and such. Not to mention the cleaning. SIGH.

The house is currently a rental property, with at least 7-8 adults (one elderly) and two huge dogs, so I'll let you imagine the rest (for starters, we had to see the house with the people there). Oh, and it had a fire three years ago, when it was bought by current investor owner and thoroughly redone (the upstairs -- new roof, floors, siding, etc. He only spent 40K, though, so it was well done, but it's basic stuff). We're planning to have a home-inspection before even making the offer just to be on the safe side. It does look OK, though.

So, yeah... I'm laughing about that one. But it's truly exciting, I think, to be able to afford renovations because of the low price and to choose cabinetry (I'm dreaming of a pantry again) and floors and see an ugly house become beautiful again. If this is the house we buy, you'll know all about it. It'll be fun! (& really really tiring)

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Hard Decisions Just Keep A-Coming... :(

I do hope this is one of the last of the "big ones" in our lives, though, I truly do.

So, yeah... the whole house thing. It's hard. And, sure, I know, totally a ridiculously petty "first world" problem. But this is my insignificant blog about my insignificantly (white) privileged accidental-immigrant-person's life, so there you go.

The BIG question now is whether to "give away" between 14 to 20 thousand dollars to a "big bank" and live in a smaller, pretty plain and older, but cheaper, residence or "waste" 70 to 80K in interest over the next 15+ years and live more comfortably in a brand-new, energy-efficient place.  (in either case the plan is to pay in it off in between 8-15 years, depending on the initial cost).

We had pretty much decided for the newer, bigger option, but twice now, K balked at the idea (remember the old metaphor for our lives? Roller-coaster? Ups & downs?). The first time I totally flipped, you remember, right? The second time was Monday night and all I did was shrug and say, "Whatever, you decide, honey, I'll support you in whatever decision you make." (and then, of course, I "blah-blah-blahed" a bit under my breath about how the boys will be gone by the time we can afford to live in a decent, nice place with enough room for them to play and stuff, blah, blah).

We saw a couple of the smaller/cheaper places yesterday, after I got the boys late to school. :-) And we also saw another new place, BETTER (and more house for your buck) than the other one because it has a basement, BUT, with dark floors and cabinets (dark wood is just NOT my thing for some reason I haven't yet discovered). So we were all flustered and confused and though the thinking switched towards paying more to enjoy more in a house that we can actually retire in if we want to, we were all mixed up with our two main options at this point. Blah.

I know... first world problem. Silly "American-Dream" kind of problem. And yet, shelter remains one of the primary needs of human beings. I may come back to brainstorm a little more about this issue, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

The biggest problem for us is this: we were completely scarred by our experience with our previous house. We owned three houses and we were pretty successful in buying and selling all three, but the fixer-upper-from-hell (FUfH) basically "ruined" our lives! I never called it that before in the blog, but you bet it was, see the list of things we did to it here, behold the amazing transformation that we made happen with ALL the savings of nine years of our lives going down the drain in the process... K keeps telling me that we wasted those 9 years of our lives (because of the FUfH), so now we need to be very careful and plan things right so we can "do the right thing." And I know that in the end we will.

I have absolutely no regrets, though, and even those painful regrets are completely forgotten now.

Time to move on!! Yipee!! I'm excited, though, about moving to a bigger place. Moving is a big pain, but I enjoy it (in a crazy-twisted way, I suppose).

I do have some kind of "resolution" after all...

It's true, I generally refuse to have any "New Year's resolutions," but there is one thing that K and I need to work on this year. We desperately need to go to bed earlier.

You see... I've ALWAYS been a "night owl" and I love to be up late and to sleep in the next morning. It's the way my body works. I can't function well in the morning -- that's the only time of the day when my IBS acts up and can be very bad (particularly if I have to wake up before 7 am for a trip or something). That's understandable and all, but...

... we have to take the boys to school every morning and it's just not fair that K must do the get-up-and-ready-for-school routine all by himself just because I need to sleep a little longer because I was up until 2 am writing on the blog or something. It's just wrong, right?

Problem is that poor K has been up just as late because he's doing all the possible calculations so we can make the right decisions as far as buying a house is concerned. (This happens once in a while when we're planning something. E.g. when we backpacked in Europe back in 2000 he was up most nights before of the trip figuring out every single train we would be taking for 28 days). In addition, during the break we were talking to our friends up until 1-3 am most nights, so we kind of got used to that routine.

So... yesterday was the first day of school for the boys and, guess what? The parents overslept and the poor boys got a "tardy" on their very fist day of school! Oh well. :(

That's why this is a sorely needed "resolution."  I know that if we move we'll have to be up late many nights packing, unpacking, and stuff, but another thing that we probably need to start doing is getting the boys to bed earlier so we can have more time to ourselves in the evening. We're not very good with that & the boys aren't generally in bed until 9 to 9:30. (Awful late, I know, we're the worst parents in the planet, blah, blah, blah... the year of cyber-schooling didn't help 'cause they'd sleep at 10:30 pm and get up at 9:30 or later every morning).

OK, post's over. It's the most boring subject to write about, no? But I needed to write it down so I can have some accountability with you guys. Wish us luck!

Saturday, January 01, 2011


When I was younger I just LOVED these "palindromic" dates. I think the most remarkable one in my teen years was 8/8/88 (I was 17 then), I wrote so much that night! I used to feel like these dates were very "historic" and therefore worth celebrating. I didn't care for 9/9/99 too much because I was already older and less prone to these kind of musings. I didn't want to let 1/1/11 to pass without writing about it, though. Particularly after I noticed that the Lioness had written a post with this title (thanks!).

As usual, it's over an hour later, but I have a good excuse. We are visiting "old" (OK, recent, from 2007-now) friends in Pennsylvania and came to a New Year's party to see them. K is still downstairs talking with our host.

I already wrote three posts about the New Year, I had them all typed up since 12/15/10 -- I really was very organized this year! I thought I was going to post them yesterday on the 31st, but I didn't need to because I had enough posts to reach my goal. So, don't miss: what I want for 2011, my wishes for 2011, and what will happen in 2011.

Happy New Year, my friends near and far!!

2011 Will Be the Year...

... in which the most unanticipated event of my life so far happens (listen, I anticipate EVERYTHING in my life, folks, everything! This is who I am and have always been, so feeling this way is big, in a bad way): I turn 40 years old :( :( :(  :P

... in which my youngest son will lose his first teeth (he's turning 7) and his baby smile will begin to change forever. :(

... in which K's family will finally be reunited again (since January 1st 2007) -- parents, all four sons, four daughters-in-law and seven grandchildren (perhaps even the two grandmothers!). We're going to meet in Florida for Christmas & New Year's.

I wonder what else this new year will bring that I cannot even imagine. I hope only good things happen! And if there are bad things, that we can find the strength to bear them.

I Wish in 2011...

... that my brother can conceive the child he and his wife have been dreaming of for years now.

... I can spend more than 3 days with my brother and his wife.

... that everyone in the family is healthy.

... all my friends who are going through difficulties, especially with work, can find work and financial security for their families.

And I hope I can write at least 365 posts this year (not daily, since some days I will post more than once for sure). I wish to write more in 2011 (like several of my friends, particularly Anjali & Kateri) and since I have no plans to publish anything (maybe, just maybe, an academic paper or two), I want to write more on the blog.

2011 Has to Be the Year...

... in which I get to meet the most amazing blogger ever, Jo(e), from Writing as Jo(e)

... in which I meet many other bloggers, particularly Aliki.

... in which I get to plant raspberries and grapes in the backyard of my new house and also bury hundreds of lovely bulbs (gotta research whether deer can/will get to the new street -- I doubt it'll be as bad as in PA, where I lived only 3 miles from a State Park).

P.S. My only actual wish for this year, though, is simply to have a new house. I don't want to be disappointed, so I'm keeping it really small.