Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Flip This House (But Don't Sell It)

When we bought this house 4 years ago, it was with the agreement that we'd eventually renovate it. The house was in the perfect location: walking distance from my office, walking distance from the state park and the state forest, lots of trees. We also liked the house itself, but it was too small. The living room is cramped, it's only 3 bedrooms. For a couple with no kids, it was really just about right. But we figured we might have kids someday, and if that ever happened, then we'd need more space.

Fast-forward a few years, and I feel like I'm living out of underbed storage bins and tripping over too-closely-spaced furniture. It is time. So we got a couple of estimates, got approval for a loan, and it looks like we're going to renovate this year! Hooray!

Here's the plan (with apologies if you've never seen my house, since this might not be easy to visualize without a floorplan).
First and most importantly-- the rear wall of the living room is going to be pushed back 10 feet, adding another 130 sq ft or so of living space. Yes, we'll lose the fabulous upper deck, but we will add onto the lower deck to make up the space. We'll also have a door on the left (close to where the back door is now) AND a door on the right which will both empty onto the new-and-improved lower deck, which will wrap around the rear of the house.

Second, we are closing up the elevator shaft. If you've seen my bedroom, you know what I'm talking about. Why would anyone want 2-story ceilings in the bedroom unless you have a 2-story wall of windows overlooking something beautiful to match? Which, by the way, we don't. So there will be a new room above our bedroom.

Third, we are doubling the width of the catwalk. This is something I'd never have even thought about before having a baby, but the number of times e-baby face-planted into one of the pickets while learning and crawl and walk, it was heartbreaking. The reason was that the catwalk is about 3 feet wide, so if she fell, regardless of which direction she fell, she had great odds of smacking her mouth into a pointy picket. By making the catwalk twice as wide, we will have a better play area up there (and we play on that catwalk a lot anyway). We'll also have a space to eventually put a couple of chairs and a side table as a reading loft. Sweet!

Finally, and here's what we're least certain about, another bathroom upstairs. It isn't a huge deal, but I don't like that our guests have to share the bathroom with Elmo's bath fizzies and 200 plastic bathtub toys. The first thought was to put a bathroom over the breakfast area (if you've been to my house, I'm talking about Kitchen Stadium-- no more Iron Chef murals, aw shucks). This would turn E-baby's room into a guest suite, and she'd move to what is currently the guest room. I like it, but here's the problem-- are we ever going to have another kid? If so, then we have one kid in a wee-tiny bedroom and the other in a gigantic luxury palace. Hardly seems fair. SNG's dad gave us the idea for a brilliant alternative-- put the bathroom (and a closet) in the FROG, and turn the FROG into a guest suite/office. The FROG is acoustically isolated from the rest of the house so it would be a nice, peaceful place to have a guest room. The room is already enormous so there's plenty of space to add a bathroom, and we wouldn't have to build new floor joists and such, so it's cheaper than the Kitchen Stadium plan, too. I'm still not entirely sure which to do, or even whether we really need another bathroom at all. It would certainly add to resale value, and it would be very practical. What do you think? As a potential visitor to my house, tell me your thoughts.

Oh, and as an aside, I thought I'd put a link to a post from when we bought this house, but for some reason, Blogger doesn't go back that far in its archives. Who knew?

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I got home Thursday night, but late. There was a time when air travel was fun in itself, but now (and especially where the PHL airport is involved), it is just an exercise in careful hygeine and personal space management.
E-baby had her 2nd swim lesson which entailed a lot of dunking her underwater and floating on her back, both of which are really scary and upsetting to her. I think she still enjoyed swimming overall, but she was in no hurry to jump in her kiddie pool at home afterwards.
We went to a baby shower right after swimming, and as the only kid present, she was surprisingly well-behaved. I haven't seen her so laid back in a long time. As I might or might not have mentioned, girlfriend has an assertive personality and Strong Opinions. I might blame it on terrible two's, but this was all apparent really from birth, and moreso since she was about 13 months old. Her wrath is usually short-lived, since she is a reasonable kid as one-year-olds go, but boy-howdy she sure can get MAD.
Anyway, at the shower, she sat in my lap while I ate, she took a few polite sips of fruit punch (she's not a big fan, apparently) and then spotted the hostess' 200+ pound malamute. "Big doggie! Biiiiiig doggie! Big tail. Big back. Big teeth. Big eye." She pet the dog gently, the dog stood there quietly secure in the knowledge that he could eat anyone at the party if he really wanted to. As much as I love dogs, and this dog in particular, I was glad that the hostess kept her arm draped over the front end of the dog while e-baby pet him. I do the same even with small dogs.
After a nap, e-baby was ready to go shopping, so we hit the fabric store, BedBathAsSeenOnTV&Beyond, a sporting goods store, Old Navy, and Red Robin for dinner. All this fun in one day and the worst toddler acting out was when e-baby threw the mustard at daddy in a fit of rage over his inability to produce crayons out of thin air.
Oh, and I still don't have much of a voice. It's somewhere between a duck and a radio DJ. Thank goodness I'm not teaching next week.
Oh, I thought this was neat-- on Friday, e-baby counted four coins (one, two, three, four). Later she counted six goldfish. When she ran out of things to count, she looked at me and said "seven, eight, nine, ten!" The last I knew, she was stuck at counting to TWO! It's similar to the way she first started learning colors- she doesn't always hit the numbers in the right order, but sometimes she does and you can see she's struggling to remember the order that they go. Once she gets a few more numbers, we'll work on the Calculus.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A View of the Homecoming Suitcase

For your entertainment, here is a glimpse of one half of my suitcase, just before I come home from a trip.

Can you find:
2 gifts for kiddo
comfy shoes
coffee-- yeah, I buy coffee with my per diem. The stuff at hotels is dirt.
dirty clothes

By the time this post publishes, I should be on my way home.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Can you hear me NOW?

I am teaching a 3-day class in N Wales, PA this week, a.k.a. Boringsville. The students are terrific. Too bad I can't say the same for myself.

I flew in Monday, and had the beginning of a cold (thanks again, daycare- loveya!). What should have taken 3 hours from my house to the hotel in PA was really more like 12 hours. Thunderstorms in the NE meant everything was delayed. I got to the hotel after midnight and had to be at the site by 8am. Yes, it would have been faster to drive. I slept like a newborn-- as in, woke up every 45 minutes and wanted to cry a lot.

(Not much sleep) + (a cold) + (talking for 8 hours straight) = ... Well? Come on, you know this one. That's RIGHT! Laryngitis. By the end of the day I was sotto voce, and by this morning, I was completely mute. Thank goodness I've been studying sign language! Oh wait-- nobody ELSE knows sign language. Losers. The next person who asks if there's a reason we're whispering is gonna get the letter "S" right in the nose.

The only saving grace is that I do have the best colleagues IN the WORLD, and they scrambled to set up a live internet conference so that an instructor in NC could teach remotely on my behalf. I supplemented her lecture with some equations on the board, mostly so I'd have something to do. I drank a quart of green tea with honey and lemon every hour. What goes in must come out. It's been a rough day.

Still no voice tonight, and one more day of class to go. I am hoping that by morning, my voice will have magically returned. How long does laryngitis usually last?

If you don't feel sorry for me yet, here's one more: the only thing on HBO tonight was a Mr Bean movie. I've been known to slog through To Justin From Kelly in moments of lonely desperation while on the road, and I'm not proud. But even I won't sink as low as a Mr Bean movie.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Swimmin' Swimmin'

Happy father's day to SNG, to my dad, to SNG's dad, and to all the great dads who happen across this page.

The weekend started early on Friday, since I took a half-day to do some house-shopping for my cousin PIC. We went, we saw, and hopefully we conquered. I guess we'll know soon whether any of the places pass mustard, as they say back home.

Friday evening SNG's parents stayed the night on their way to Marquette, and e-baby had a marvelous time with her grandparents.

Saturday morning was e-baby's swim lesson.

Swim lesson: Kick!

And ever since, we've been unable to get her away from her kiddie pool except to get on the swing for a few minutes, and then it's back into the pool. We got her out last night with bribes of going to Peace and Fuzzy's house to see Doti the wonder dog, but first thing this morning it was back into the water. Good news- she finally understands that you DO NOT drink the pool water. Bad news- she has no qualms about pouring my glass of drinking water into the pool to make it cleaner. She has this cute little mantra of "Pool wawee for playing, no for drinking."

Lounging in the pool

Bailing out the pool with mommy's water glass

This frog is grateful for the new pool too.

This morning, though, we did get her to give up her pool ambitions long enough to mix two of her favorite things-- Bike & Shopping. SNG bought a cheap 2-kid bike trailer (that I'd never actually put my kid in) so that we could do our weekly grocery run en velo. It was great! I pull e-baby both ways. He totes the empty grocery trailer to the store, and totes home: grapes, apples, asparagus, bananas, blueberries, raspberries, 2 gal milk, 1 gal soymilk, 1/2 gal egg beaters, a 6-pack of soda, 2 kinds of lunchmeat, cheese, cookies, crackers, frozen waffles, and toothpaste. I might get the better overall workout, but he gets the POWER BLAST on those hills coming home. He said that it was enough weight that the downhill gravity bomb actually outweighed (heh) the wind drag. That's saying something.

And the trailer wasn't even full!! Now isn't that the best Father's Day ever?

I love you, SNG, and hope you had a great father's day weekend. E-baby says ILUBOO! DRIVE CAREFULLY! I WILL! HAPPY FATHER DAY DADDY!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Going to Work Now!

Backstory: Every time SNG leaves for work, I say, "Drive carefully!" and he always responds, "I will!" We've said it for 13 years now, so it's kind of a habit.

Last night e-baby and SNG were sitting at the kitchen counter eating dinner together and he offhandedly made a joke to her that she needed to get a job and go to work to earn some money. So, being e-baby, she climbed down from the barstool and said "I go work now! Bye-bye! Drive Carefully! I Will!" Then she wandered off to find her tiny suitcase, filled it up with stuffed animals, found her daddy's work badge, and by this time SNG was ready so he clipped it onto her shirt. She took her suitcase and stood by the front door saying, "Open? Open? Open, please! Open please! Open please! OOOPEEEN PLEEEEASE!!!"

I observed the whole thing from the kitchen and almost choked on my dinner from laughing so hard.

So SNG took her outside, where she demanded to get into the driver's seat of the RED car (NO BLUE CAR! RED CAR!) and pretended to drive to work. It was a tearful ordeal getting her out of the car and back into the house, 15 minutes later, from the 90+ degree heat.

I wish we'd caught the spontaneous bit on video, but that never happens, so we prodded her a little to tell the camera what she was up to after she'd been in the car awhile. Still, it's pretty funny to hear how she's changed her mind about going to work and decides she's "Shopping!" instead. I'm right there with you, babe.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


We had a GREAT time at the Joan of Arc day celebration. Pictures are here.

Over the last week we've been busy with several things...
We interviewed a builder about having some home renovations done. When we bought this house, it was because the neighborhood is perfect for us. The house is a bit small, though, and with a toddler rambling about, I'm feeling it. So it's time to have that extra bedroom added, add about 150 sq ft to the living room, and add another upstairs bathroom. Just having a guest bathroom that's not full of Elmo Bath Color Fizzies and a half-dozen plastic boats will be worth the money. The thought of moving into an apartment for 4-5 months doesn't appeal so much, but after it's finished this will be exactly the house we wanted when we first bought the place.

Thursday was a softball game. SNG did all my fielding, and I got to swing at the ball with the bat twice. I even hit it once, which was great, until someone caught it and I was out. Oh well, it was too hot for softball that day anyhow.

Friday night we went to dinner with Peace and Fuzzy, and Peace continues to be e-baby's number one favorite human. She is, however, second to Doti the wonder dog.

This morning, e-baby's second favorite human, the babysitter, came over so SNG and I could take a bike ride alone. Oh, and we got a new toy in the mail-- a second bike trailer for toting groceries! It isn't the finest trailer, but it was cheap and it's only gonna hold groceries, so ROCK!

And the BIGGEST news of all-- my cousin PIC might have sold her house!!! Which means they might be moving out here SOON! WOOOOOO! I won't say any more until she does, since I don't want to jinx anything.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Joan of Arc Party Today!

If you're in the neighborood, drop by for the big Joan of Arc bonfire this afternoon! If you're not in the neighborhood, then we'll think about you and wish you were here. We have hot dogs, veggie burgers, and s'mores fixings with CHOCOMALLOWS!

Last night Peace and Fuzzy came over for pre-bonfire effigy preparation, and now we have tiny paper effigies for the fire.

It is harder than you might expect to find a paper doll or 3-d model Joan of Arc that you can print for free from the web. Surprising, since you can find paper models of nearly everything and paper dolls of nearly everyone. The closest we could get to the French martyr was Paris Hilton and a cruise ship. I tried explaining that "Arc" doesn't refer to a boat, but SNG and Fuzzy were unconvinced.

I eventually found a simple B&W picture of Joan that we could turn into pillars. But we'll also burn Paris and her boat. We also have a long boat, a red convertible, and a wild boar (the one-page alternative to a 10-page paper model of a battle horse).

Edited to add:
I realized after posting this that not everyone shares or understands my & my friends' snarky and irreverent sense of humor, and it would be easy to mistakenly believe that we burn Joan of Arc effigies in celebration of her murder. In fact, quite the opposite is true. She is and has long been one of my heroes, and I am happy to have a way to remember her strong fighting spirit with friends and loved ones. And it's fun to burn stuff.

Paris Hilton, on the other hand, well, you can read into that whatever you feel like.