Saturday, December 20, 2008

state of the house, part V: "send in ty pennington"

We need that guy from the Extreme Home Makeover show because those guys know how to finish a home quickly and it's getting down to the wire for us. We are scheduled to move back home on 12/29, we have the movers reserved and we're ready to go home, but our home isn't ready for us. From the outside things are looking good.

Well, the house is looking good. The garage door wasn't repainted because it's getting replaced in about a week. And the landscaping, okay, lack of landscaping, is something we'll address in the coming months I suppose. We really haven't thought that part out, we just want to get moved in.

The problem is the interior. Does this look like a house that will be ready for a family in a week?

That's the living room. The new hardwood floors (not pre-finished) are partially installed, our existing hardwood floors have yet to be sanded to prepare them to be stained and refinished along with the new wood. As you can see, the walls haven't been painted yet. Painting is starting. I stopped by today and the painter was working on the ceilings. This is our master bedroom:

I love the ceilings now that all of the popcorn has been removed! The interior doors have arrived. The contractor installed them but they were only primed so the painters removed them to be painted. Ah well. The new added bathroom hasn't been tiled yet.

Of course, the new bathroom doesn't have to be done in order for us to move in. The painting must be done and the floors have to be installed, sanded, stained, finished, and thoroughly dried and hardened. Is this possible over the next few days, which includes this tiny little holiday this week? I'm not seeing it, John is still optimistic. Stay tuned, I guess.

Friday, December 19, 2008

political leanings

Me in the car on the way to school this morning: "Erin, be careful not to lose the gift card for your teacher when you pull your folders out of your backpack. That card is to buy things at a store so it's just like money."

Erin: "Yeah, because then someone, like Obama maybe, would STEAL it!"

Monday, December 15, 2008


Last week John's dear father, James, "Jim" to most of us and "Poppy" to the girls, passed away. Never a smoker, he was nevertheless diagnosed with lung cancer three years ago but I'm sure he'd want the details of his life rather than his death remembered.

Jim was a truly remarkable man, which is obvious to anyone who learns of his life story and his life's work. He grew up in the rural midwest in a small house where, according to him, if in the winter he set a glass of water beside his bed at night it would be frozen solid in the morning. He attended a one-room schoolhouse until he went to high school. Here is a great passage from his obituary (the full text may be read here):

"Jim has always been an individual contributor and independent inventor. He overcame a series of hurdles to achieve his accomplishments. The boy from rural Carroll County Missouri became a leading scientist in liquid crystal technology. The scientist became a world-class inventor. The inventor became an entrepreneur when he could find no corporations to pursue his dream. And the small businessman challenged world-class corporations to protect his rights. His story is certainly one of pursuing the American dream."

Of course I'm very much in awe of his professional accomplishments. Every wall in his office is covered with his various awards and prizes and medals and honors. Several of them were received during the past several years, after I joined the family, and my husband attended the awards ceremonies.

To me though, he was so remarkable because he was such a warm, kind person, a dedicated husband and father and grandfather. He and Dora had a wonderful 52-year marriage. They raised four terrific children whom he was very close to and immensely proud of. Three of their four children pursued careers in science of their own, and Jeff and John each have their own businesses based on liquid crystal technology. His influence on all four of them is obvious.

At our frequent family dinner gatherings Jim talked enthusiastically about science, technology, and politics, but when the conversation turned to funny old family stories he sat quietly while Dora energetically and colorfully retold the events. When I'd look over to him he was always smiling ear to ear and chuckling, though I know he must have heard each of these stories dozens of times before.

When Erin started walking and Dora and Jim visited or we visited them, Erin always walked straight to Poppy's waiting outstretched arms. "What's this business of always going to Poppy first?" Dora asked rhetorically, "What about Grandma?"
"Now, dear," Jim replied, "she's obviously a good judge of superior character!"

Of course Erin did and does love Grandma very much, but she and Poppy had an obvious special bond, especially when she was younger. She always sought him out and propped herself up on his lap and usually happily stayed there for quite some time.

"You're just Grandpa's girl!" he'd say to her frequently as they sat together. And not surprisingly sometimes her energy outlasted his:

Once and a while another grandchild managed to steal some lap time with Poppy, but it never made for quite as cute a picture:

And after the twins arrived, Poppy's time, and his arms, had to be shared,

but visits with Poppy were still a priority for Erin and Jim always loved it when the girls came to visit.

Earlier this year he bought an immoderate number of princess dresses and accessories for them (and his other young granddaughter, Lucy) to play dress-up whenever they came over. The girls always went for the princess stash soon after arriving and then literally paraded in front of us or set up small chairs in the family room and "held court" together. Jim always enjoyed the show. He sat in his favorite chair, smiling and giggling at the excessive, shimmery, bejeweled spectacle he enabled.

He was a very loving man, a truly doting grandfather.

My girls were certainly very fortunate to have him as prominent part of their lives for their first few years, but how I wish they all could have had more years together.

Today was your funeral Poppy, and representatives from the Army had your coffin draped in a flag and they played Taps for you. We sent the twins to preschool today but Erin bravely attended.

Your girls miss you, Poppy, and I miss you too.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

turkeys' day

Most people celebrate Thanksgiving with one turkey--we were fortunate enough to have three.

John's sister Sue and her family wrapped up a two-week visit in the area a few days before Thanksgiving and the girls and I headed to the park so they could play with their cousin Lucy one more time before she returned to Washington.

The following day John's older sister Terri arrived with one of her sons and the rest of her family trickled in throughout the week, and Jeff's daughter Syd came home from college in New York. It was an especially giant gathering of 19 at Dora and Jim's place so one of the first orders of business was getting a photo of all of the cousins together. With Sue and her two little girls now gone we had 8 of 10 grandchildren assembled plus Dora and Jim's grand-nephews Jacob and Brayden.

It was also necessary to get a photo in before the girls ditched their outfits for the princess costumes that they play dress up with every time they are at grandma's house.

So despite the princesses running around it was a pretty typical Thanksgiving, with too much good food before we even got to the dinner, and football on TV, and the little cousins ignoring the football in favor of their video games,

and the big cousins mostly ignoring the football in favor of wrestling on the couch with uncle Jeff.

Pretty much everyone pitched in with some part of the dinner, with Terri and her daughter Laura being head chef and head sous chef. But since Syd is a major potato connoisseur, she was assigned that job:

Then after dinner, Tim got out his laptop and nearly instantly found it and him the object of some interest by a little cousin:

And more cousins joined him, who directed him to a game website and were each yelling commands at him and over each other in order to play the games:

And then he got even more attention:

Erin announced to us the next day that she wanted a laptop too.

Thanksgiving night I contemplated getting up unworldly super early in order to do that infamous crazy black friday christmas shopping thing, which is something I have never attempted, or even considered attempting, before. Then I talked myself out of it and went to bed but I woke up the next morning at 3:45 and couldn't get back to sleep, so I headed out and was at the largest local mall while it was still pitch black at 5am. Hundreds of other people had beat me there, many of whom were already leaving the mall with huge bundles in their arms by 5, and rest were apparently on line at Starbucks . That line was at least 50 people long. Now, the one thing I know for certain about Starbucks is that the service is not fast. Oh, and the coffee is waaaaaaay over-rated and overpriced. I guess that's three things. Anyway, it takes at least 10 minutes to get an order with a line of only 4 or 5 people. That line I saw was easily 60-90 minutes long. Why would anyone bother getting up and coming here at 5 am just to stand in line for coffee for an hour? Bizarre. Even more bizarre were the people who already had their orders, but were casually sitting inside at tables chatting away, like this was a leisurely weekend outing.

So I headed to my chosen destination, Macys, and without a plan or a shopping list I started looking for presents and trying to find some new jeans on sale for me. Having found both, I went to the dressing room, which was empty and quiet except for the BLASTING LOUD ENOUGH TO WAKE THE DEAD rap music that some genius at Macys corporate must have decided that those of us who are interested in buying jeans would enjoy. Rap is annoying enough at a reasonable hour of the day-- I can now say for certain that at 5:14am it becomes exponentially more annoying.

And as I stood there yawning I thought about where I was, and what time it was, and what I was doing, and what I was being forced to listen to, and I kind of wondered at exactly which point in my life my normally reasonable judgment abandoned me and led me here.

The next morning John and I did a bit of furniture browsing and shopping together which led me back to the same mall, among other places. It was really, really empty on saturday morning, which made it the perfect time to take the girls to visit Santa. There are several windows in the roof and throught those windows you can see the reindeers' antlers if you look carefully:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

thoughts on adulthood

Today while riding in the car:
Kate, "Mama, I reeeeeeeeaaaaaallllllly wanna be a grown-up."
Me, "Right now? Today?"
Me, "But then you'd move out of our house, get your own house, get a job, pay the mortgage, pay all kinds of bills--are you ready for all of that?"
Kate, "Yeah. And I'll get to choose my own dog and take him home with me."

Monday, November 17, 2008

the state of the house, part IV

I've tried getting new pictures to post a couple of time but I always seem to think to visit when the worst possible lighting for photography is present.

Every time I go by the house for whatever reason Kate and Allison always exclaim, "Our house! It's all fixed!!!"
"No, girls, there is still a lot of work to do."
"Well, it will be all fixed tomorrow then."

A new porch and wider walkway were planned and we decided to just replace the whole driveway as well. It had several huge cracks and it looks nicer to have everything match. This was done last week--I think it looks cool. And just as cool is the fact that our weird shaped driveway, which was wider at the top and narrower near the sidewalk, which meant we couldn't park two cars there and/or one car effectively blocked the whole garage, has been widened to now accommodate two cars. Brilliant!

I don't think the color of the comes out well here. It's kinda brownish and greyish, made to look like stone though it's colored concrete.

The new roof is done (I think). These photos were taken on sunday so I think today the rest of the wood siding was finished. John and a friend spent all day sunday at the house, in the attic, under the house, re-wiring the whole place for phone, internet, and cable and bringing those to each bedroom. We don't intend to use these in each room but John thought it would be better for resale this way.

He also worked on the wiring for the sound system/TV he is planning for the living room. He was thinking about his theoretical new TV as far back as when we were first talking about plans with our architect. He wanted to make sure the long wall in the new living room was properly reinforced to accommodate a large flat screen. She designed a wall there so strong that he could hang as big and heavy a TV as he could possibly imagine, she told him. This was a challenge John didn't need.

The plans for this week include beginning exterior painting and finally some (visible) progress for the interior...drywalling. I don't have any interior pics to show you because there is really nothing new to see. It's still just frame and subfloor in there. And dust. Lots and lots of dust.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

eleven eleven

Seemed like a good day for a post and to play catch-up. Halloween for us began with the twins' dance class the tuesday before the 31st, which they were to attend in costume. Kate chose to be a dragon this year, and Allison wanted to be a white fluffy cat. We were the first ones to class that morning and as the other little girls (and their Stepford-wife-ish moms) showed up I began to sense a problem.

"Ooooooh," one mom said, with one eyebrow slightly raised, "such...interesting costumes. Cute." No one else said anything but I could see the universal slight to moderate disapproval, mostly at my ruining the group photos of their kids in class that day, I suppose. Seems it was obvious to every other mom that when the ballet teacher asks little girls to come to class in costume, that means a PRINCESS costume. Of course. Duh. I guess we kind of killed the theme.

So the dragon and the cat danced awkwardly with the court of elegant, royal little ladies. I swear I'm the most ill-suited person on earth to be raising three girls.

We visited a pumpkin patch and the girls made their choices and enjoyed a petting zoo there.

Then they got down to the business of designing and carving their pumpkins, which involves me doing about 90% of the project in past years. But this year I decided to hand the whole thing over to them, only assisting when they asked. It turned out they really didn't need much help. I carved the lids from each one and opened them up, but they did the scooping and drew the faces and did nearly all of the sawing as well.

Marvelous results, just when we have no front porch on which to display them. Ah well, they decorated the kitchen counter pretty nicely for a few days, and just imagine how skillful the girls will be next year.

On Halloween day all the girls brought their costumes to school for their respective costume parade festivities, and that evening we brought the girls back to our street to trick-or-treat since I don't see that going over as well or being as fun in an apartment complex.

The girls are all pros at trick-or-treating now. Well...they certainly have the general concept down, but their doorbell etiquette needs work. Kate always yelled "Trick or treat!!!" after receiving the candy. And at each house each of them rang the doorbell one after the other, and repeatedly, until it was answered. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say I don't think our neighbors miss us very much.

On november 4th, John drove Erin to school and she apparently reminded John that it was in fact election day and he needed to vote, and he should vote for John McCain. This surprised him because neither of us discussed any election-related anything with her at any time previously. When I picked her up that afternoon she asked me if I voted.
"Yes, of course." I answered.
"Who did you vote for? McCain or Obama?"
"Neither. I voted for someone else."
"Huh? No, I mean in the real election. Who did you vote for?"
"Ron Paul."
"What??? Is he a real person?"
Holding back laughter, and guessing she isn't the only person to have that question about him, "Yes, he's real."
"But you were supposed to vote for John McCain or Barack Obama."
"No, they're just the two candidates that raised the most money and are the most popular, but there are several other people running too and I like someone else better."
"Oh. Well, I voted for John McCain."
"You had an election too?"
"Yes, in our class we voted and John McCain won, but for my village Barack Obama won."
"So you learned about these candidates in class? Did they give you information about them so you could decide who you wanted to vote for?"
"Yes. McCain is from Arizona and Obama is from Illinois."
"I see. And why did you vote for McCain?"
"Because his name is John--like daddy's!"

And oddly enough her reasoning doesn't differ much from the nonsensical, nonspecific "hope and change" mantra that so many people have been parroting these last many months, which always makes my head feel like it's going to explode. At least Erin wasn't reaching toward the sky, crying, and gasping for air.

This week, John's sister Sue and her husband and two little daughters are visiting. Since I am home tuesdays and today was a school holiday we decided to take all the girls to a large local science museum which was just renovated and reopened. It occurred to me last night that it will probably be a popular destination today, but I didn't realize that it would be quite this popular. I guess I should be proud of the shared sense of importance of scientific discovery among my greater community, but I kinda wished everyone else kept their kids home today to watch Andy Griffith reruns instead. I mean, it's not like that would be a bad use of time.

This was the scene right at 9:30am, opening time.

Once inside there were some really cool things to see, but unfortunately most places and exhibits were so packed that there was no hope of getting close to them. The rainforest experience area, whatever that was, had a 2 hour wait to enter. We could get nowhere near the tide pools, or the penguin area to watch feeding time. It was crazy. It was hard to even walk around and keep track of the kids in the crowd. I'm used to my tuesday and thursday excursions being easy and uncrowded.

Every now and again we'd find ourselves with the red seas of people parted and I could get a few pictures, but not at most places. It was also so LOUD that I could barely hear the girls talking when they were walking right next to me. Sue and Derik, who live in smallish-town Washington and aren't used to crowds like this ever, got frustrated more quickly than I did and they left right after lunch. I thought perhaps the crowds would die down in the afternoon but by 2:00 the lines to get into the museum were still hundreds long, so we also bailed.

Clearly it's a very cool place and I want to go back and see all that we missed.

On the way home we passed by an area I've seen many times before and given that this is Veterans Day and I had no place to even fly a flag, I decided to make a quick detour to acknowledge the reason that made visiting a museum on this particular tuesday such a bad idea.

I thought we'd all get out and maybe take some pictures but the girls got a little too excited as we drove through the grounds.
"What ARE all of those things?"
"I wanna get out and jump over them!"
"I wanna pick them up!"
"I wanna knock them over!"

Now, it's not like the place was crawling with visitors but there were a few here and there and I could just see their reactions as my kids got out and started playing tag and leapfrog right there in the cemetery. So we stayed in the car and I took some photos from there.

I explained that this was Veterans Day, who veterans are, including the veterans in our family, and who these veterans were. We've talked about death briefly before, a few times, as the subject came up. They started asking questions, then asking stranger questions.
"Okay, so, dead people can't move, but can they move other dead people?"
Time to go.