Saturday, July 30, 2005

Just Say Thank You

I am teaching my kids to always say "thank you" to someone who does some service for you, even if that thing was inadequate in some way. We say "thank you" to store clerks who ring us up at the register, librarians who tell us our books are overdue, and customers who look but don't buy. Saying "thank you" encourages people to keep on wanting to serve, which is very important, because if we ever want to be served correctly (in our opinion), we first have to be served at all. We all can remember as a child making some craft or other for our parents. How did we feel when our parents said "thank you?" How did we feel when our parents said "you call THIS a craft?" Feelings don't go away just because we grow up. We learn how to control them and not act on them, but let's face it, when we grown-ups hear a "thank you" we still feel more inclined to serve again than we do if we hear nothing but criticism.

So the next time you see a military member, a policeman, paramedic, or firefighter, just say "thank you." Whether you like how the military is doing in Iraq, whether you think the city government is full of corruption, whether you think these people are doing their jobs the way you would want them done or not, just say "thank you" to them for what they did do for you.

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Grueling Ordeal

The day you hand back the last midterm of the semester is always the most grueling day of office hours.

You sit in your office all semester, twiddling your thumbs and chatting with your officemates. Nobody comes in to talk to you. You start giving out a lot of D's and F's on quizzes, but nobody comes to see you. You tell your students that you expect that if they are not doing well, that they will come see you, but nobody comes to see you until there are only a few weeks left in the semester. And it's always the same thing:

"I'm obviously not doing well in your class. I've failed half the tests and quizzes. What can I do to pass the final exam?"

Well, given that the final exam is in A WEEK, probably not much.

I mean, let's face it. There are limits to how much math a person can learn in one sitting. If you didn't learn the stuff back when I was teaching it, your chances of learning it all in one lump sum and being able to catch up in time for the final are about the same as the chances that I will lose 30 pounds in that same amount of time. If people could learn unlimited math in one sitting, I could teach this class in a week and a half of comfortable eight-hour days.

The students get desperate. They come in and try to beg for points. I had one student who got 6 out of 10 on a problem. I spent half an hour explaining to him that I can only grade him on what he writes on his exam paper, not what he was thinking, and that if he doesn't write the number pi/4 on his paper, I have no way of knowing that he came up with this number, especially when everywhere he should have written pi/4 he wrote the square root of 2 instead. "But I was thinking of pi/4," he complained. "I just wrote square root of 2." Yeah, I bet he was thinking of pi/4, especially while I was going over the problem in class just an hour or so earlier. But he kept on explaining to me what each line he wrote really meant, how writing "sec 2 = pi/3" really meant he was plugging pi/3 into the original function (which was tan x - 2x), how he had really come up with the right value even though he wrote something different, but discarded it immediately because he knew it was not the answer. He proceeded to give his work a deconstruction worthy of a PhD in English Literature, finding meaning where only meaningless symbols had been written into statements that weren't even true.

If it wasn't so pathetic, it'd be funny.


"My robot. My GIRL robot."

Link via Protein Wisdom.

I Had A Dream

My dreams sometimes feature artistic works by me, but I rarely remember them in the morning. This one, though, I remember. It was an enormous needlepoint, like the size of a throw rug, but framed and intended for wall hanging. It was entitled "My Life, Unfinished" and depicted a mother fallen asleep at her sewing, with a baby at her side. Parts of the canvas were deliberately left unworked. On the left side of the canvas, where most of the unworked areas were, was a sewing box full of skeins of embroidery floss which were actual skeins of fibers tacked to the canvas. Some were more like embroidery floss and some were, inexplicably, eyelash yarn. The eyelash yarn worked well from an artistic standpoint, though, because it added texture. Near the mother's limp hand was an actual threaded needle attatched to some worked stitches and left tucked in the canvas, as if someone had been working on it and just forgot to finish it. On the right side of the canvas, on a whitish-bluish part of the background, portions of the word "December" floated by, almost under the canvas. The mother and baby were worked in a variety of needlepoint stitches in a style characterized by large blocks of color. The mother's hair, for example, was not shaded but was done in a basic needlepoint stitch in black eyelash yarn, and then only part of the mother's hair was finished, part being left deliberately unfinished with a piece of black paper set in behind the canvas to indicate the area where the hair should go. The hand, however, was shaded in flesh tones, and so was the baby. (The hand was the only visible part of the mother's skin, as her head was down.) The finished parts behind the mother were a crazy quilt of patches of wildly different colors and stitches, some of which were unfinished.

It was a brilliant piece of art. There aren't too many pieces of art I'd want to buy, but when one strikes me, it just possesses me, and this one did that. Too bad my life is so much like this piece of art that I'll never be able to actually make it.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Gotta Love That Curry

My brother-in-law Jay, who served a mission for our church in Japan, turned me on to Japanese curry. A friend of mine recommended the Vermont Curry, which despite its rather inexplicable non-connection with the state of Vermont is quite tasty and good. I personally like hot curries, but my kids think anything with a single fleck of ground pepper in it is "spicy," so I've only dared serve the "Mild" curry to my family.

It's hard to say what Vermont Curry tastes like. You can make out the honey and apple flavors that are advertised on the box, but as for the rest, it just doesn't taste like anything to me. Maybe that's because I make my own curry powder, and even though mine is mild, it has more spice flavor than Vermont Curry. And yet, this stuff is lip-smacking good. You want to go back and eat seconds and thirds. My kids will actually eat potatoes and carrots if they are smothered in Vermont Curry. The sauce is creamy and smooth and ohhhhh, soooooo goooooood.

Bagel gave this curry his Baby Gourmet Seal Of Approval.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Recycling: Bad For The Environment?

Dean Esmay comments on how recycling can be "bad for the environment". (Link via INDC Journal)

The only problem I can see with his comments is that it's hard to judge what's "good" and "bad" for the environment when there are trade-offs to be made between different environmental concerns, under different conditions in each locale. For example, here in Logan, the recycling program's main aim (as far as I know) is to extend the life of the landfill. If I remember correctly, it turned out to be cheaper in the long run to operate the recycling program at a loss than it is to build a new landfill that much sooner. Except for inversion time in the winter, the extra pollution put into the air by recycling trucks is not a problem here, and the town is small enough that workers driving to sort recyclables don't pollute much either. But I can see how in some areas, where air pollution is super-bad already and people have to drive an hour and a half to work, that might not be as great a trade-off as it is here.

Same goes for reading the newspaper online. To read the paper online takes electricity, and electricity has to be generated by either (a) nuclear power which generates a small amount of very very toxic waste, (b) burning something which produces byproducts in the air, or (c) damming a river, putting up a wind turbine, or installing a solar panel that can affect wildlife. If you want to avoid the pollution that comes from the physical paper, you're going to have to choose your environmental poison. Reading the paper online only seems cleaner because you don't hold the waste in your own hand.

Reactions to #4

CAUTION: Post ends with hormonal venting!

Most people are excited for us to have #4. However, I think we are pushing the limits of some people's tolerance for large families. There have been a couple of people, some friends and some relatives, who have told us things like "You know how babies are made, and you know there are technologies to avoid making them, right?" or "Isn't it time you guys got, you know, snipped?" This wouldn't be so bad if they were only joking. Trouble is, they're not, and some have chosen to say these things to us in the presence of others, and even more disturbingly, in the presence of children.

So, just for the record: Yes, we know how babies are made. Yes, we are aware of the existence of contraceptives. Yes, we know how to use them and in fact we have extensive experience at using them, having tried most of the available options at one time or another in our twelve years of marriage. Sometime in all those years, we figured out that the babies weren't coming from washing our underwear together.

Now here's what we know that evidently some people don't know: Contraceptives do have a failure rate. The failure rate is increased greatly by the inconvenience of a possible pregnancy, in accordance with Murphy's Law and/or the will of God. Pregnancy is the normal and expected long-term result of marital relations, even with contraceptives, and total non-pregnancy brought on by birth control use is not the usual long-term result of marital relations. No matter how trendy it might be to assume that we have perfect and total control over our fertility, we would all do well to remember that we don't. We all know someone who got pregnant despite taking all precautions, including the Pill, condoms, Pills with condoms, the IUD, and even (although more rarely) sterilizations.

Not only that, but it's rude to publicly express disappointment in a happily married normal couple for getting pregnant when that pregnancy does not affect you in any way. We are bringing forth a child in precisely the setting that God intended a child to be brought forth in. Whether you think our house size or income is adequate is your opinion, but it's a little late now for us to make those kinds of decisions, isn't it? How do you think the baby would feel if he or she knew you thought he or she ought not even exist because of a matter of money, let alone were willing to state that publicly? Can't we just welcome the little guy or gal into the family?

If you have to ask me non-jokingly if I know how babies are made, you obviously don't know me well enough to consider yourself my friend. If you ask a stupid question like that in public, how do you expect me to answer? Do you expect me to launch into a public discussion of my menstrual cycles and contraceptive choices? Do you expect me to have to justify my pregnancy to you? No? Then have a nice hot cup of STFU*. If you really don't think I'm capable of using a contraceptive, or if you think I'm so irresponsible as to try to get pregnant while moving, or if you're so dumb that you don't realize that people who have sex get pregnant, or so jealous of me because I have an active marital relationship with my husband, I don't want you around me.

* Mom, the S is for "Shut" and the U is for "Up," and the rest of it is just extra rudeness.

Need Decorating Ideas

Right now, Princess and Sonshine share a bedroom, and Bagel has the small bedroom to himself. In our new house, there is one large and one small bedroom available for kids, with a second small bedroom available after we make a few changes. Princess is getting old enough now that she ought not be sharing a room with her brother any more, so Princess will have the existing small bedroom until we finish the new small bedroom, which she will be able to decorate to her taste (the existing small bedroom is already decorated in a baby theme). This means Sonshine and Bagel will have to share the larger bedroom, and the new baby will get the existing small bedroom when Princess moves out.

Sharing a bedroom is good for Sonshine. He really enjoys having a "roomie" and doesn't like it when Princess goes off for sleepovers. However, Bagel is the kind of kid that enjoys having his own little private space that is his and his alone. Sonshine is not going to like this, and he's probably not going to respect it either without some spankings Manual Attitude Adjustments. So I'm trying to find a way to physically cordon off Bagel's personal space, to create a boundary that we can tell him "do not cross." There are lots of ways to do this that are Bagel-proof, but I'm having trouble thinking of one that is Sonshine-proof. If there is a way that a five-year-old ball of energy could destroy a barrier, rest assured Sonshine will try it within two weeks of putting the barrier in place.

A folding screen comes with a neon sign that says "Climb Me, Sonshine!" If the panels don't go all the way to the ground, he will also try to crawl under them, even if he doesn't fit. I thought of a ceiling-mounted curtain, but we've already had problems with Sonshine swinging like Tarzan from his window-mounted curtains. A mosquito-net-style curtain, mounted from a ceiling hook, would not sit far enough away from Bagel's crib to keep Bagel from pulling it down. Cubicle walls might work, but they would be ugly, expensive, and hard to find, and since they don't go up to the ceiling, Sonshine would amuse himself by throwing objects over the partition into Bagel's crib. ("But Mooooommm, I didn't go over there! Just like you said!")

If you have any ideas for a Sonshine-proof partition, please let me know in the comments.

Vegetable Rights Update

It's harvest time, folks. Yes, that time of year when poor, innocent vegetables are ripped from the ground and sold at market like slaves, only instead of being made to serve mankind (which would be bad enough), they are dismembered and eaten. There is still hope, though. In this newsletter you will read of efforts to save our vegetable brothers and sisters from the carnage.

Don't forget-- you're only a car accident away from being a vegetable yourself!

Evil Genius Test Results

I am 53% Evil Genius.
Deceitful & Crazy!
Evil courses through my blood. Lies and deceit motivate my evil deeds. Crushing the weaklings and idiots that do nothing but interfere in my doings.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Good News

This bodes well for us-- the housing market in the SLC area is exploding. We'd kinda noticed that some of the houses, especially the ones in Tooele, were going fast, but I thought it was just because they were on the cheaper end and priced to sell. I'm hoping that I'm correct in thinking that Tooele, where we just bought our house, is the up-and-coming suburb of SLC and that home prices there will rocket up as people realize how much better the schools are out there and how much more home they can get for their money.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Watch What You Say To The Lord

Trying to be positive about this move and all the stress I'm under, I looked for things to be grateful for, and expressed them in my prayers. A friend of mine whose husband works with my husband was having a difficult pregnancy on top of having to move too, so I said, "I'm grateful that at least, even with all that's going on, I'm not pregnant on top of everything else." Then I begged the Lord once again to help us know what to do to find a buyer for our house.

The Lord has heard and answered my prayer. Not surprisingly, he skipped right over the part where I begged him to help us sell our house, and got right to the part where I got pregnant on top of everything else.

So we're expecting #4 in March.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to have the chance to bring another of the World's Cutest Kids into the world. The world needs many, many more lovely golden-brown-skinned chocolate-almond-eyed Cutest Kids to bring up the average level of child cuteness. Kids bring me great joy. It's just that it really throws about a boxful of monkey wrenches into our plans, those same plans that just had a boxful of monkey wrenches thrown into them by the job relocation. Instead of spending the next year picking monkey wrenches out of the works, I'm now going to spend the next three to five years picking out monkey wrenches.

Well, the Lord did say "go forth and multiply," and since, as Kroneker asserted, God created the integers and the rest is the work of man, I have to assume God meant "multiply by a coefficient greater than 1." Since the next integer up is 2, four children will put the two of us right at a desired Godly integer multiplying factor. QED.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Self-Esteem And Grades

Kimberly Swygert posits that students may have fragile self-esteem because of all the efforts to protect their egoes, not the other way around. Interesting idea! I think it has merit.

Don't Name Your Kid This

My friend just had a baby and FH and I were joking this morning about names for new babies. He'd heard of someone naming their kid "Nautilus," so he suggested we name a future child "Buttmaster." I asked him if this was a boy's name or a girl's name, but started cracking up when I wondered which would be worse. Still, though, "Buttmaster" is an improvement over his other suggestion, which was "McKayzalee Aleeceaeiou[and sometimes]yah." Try pronouncing THAT on the first day of school as you read the roll sheet... (hint: the middle name is pronounced like "Alicia")

Thursday, July 21, 2005

He Said It First

I wanted to say this, but Ted Lapkin beat me to it.

It reminds me of somebody who used to be my next door neighbor. "Oh no, he didn't beat the living crap out of me because he's a sick S.O.B. who can't handle his own inadequacies. He beat the living crap out of me because I put too much salt in his Clams Casino. I know it's true because he said so. He didn't say he beat me because he's an abuser. He said he beat me because I put too much salt."

I Hate Playdates

Sonshine whined the other day, "I want a playdate!"

The kids haven't had playdates in quite some time. Part of this is because playdates are a reciprocal thing. You invite somebody over for a playdate, then later they invite you over, and you take turns. I pretty much called in all my playdate markers (what few I had) in the run-up to the Virtual Tour, and we hadn't had anyone over since, so there was no alternative to inviting somebody over. The other part of it is that every time we have a strange kid over to our house, they inevitably begin interrogating me about why I do things differently than their mother. I know it's just normal kid curiosity, but it's as grueling as a Congressional investigation. They all, of course, think their own mother's way is the proper and normal way, and you can hear the utter shock in their voices as they notice that everything from the dishcloth you use to the laundry basket you have is different from their mom's (obviously superior) sponge and laundry bag.

Sonshine called his friend K---- and asked if she would come and play. She said yes. The minute K---- walked in the door, she asked incredulously, "How come you didn't clean up your house??"

And now I remember why we don't have very many playdates.

Don't get me wrong, I know she doesn't mean anything by it. She's only 5 years old and she doesn't understand about moving and such. But I just get sick of hearing it, like I'm just supposed to work and run a business and manage the finances of a move when we have no credit cards and cook three hot meals a day and do all the usual cleaning and laundry that comes with running a household and pack all my belongings and all my family's belongings and do all this on a very tight schedule that leaves me no time to unwind. I hear it from my kids-- "How come you haven't washed my favorite skirt?" I hear it from my husband-- "When are you going to go buy that ice cream I've been wanting?" So the very last person I would like to hear this from is a 5-year-old who doesn't even live here.

I hate playdates.

Sacrament Meeting Talk

Sometimes I just get a hankering to speak in Sacrament Meeting, but in seven years in my ward I've only been asked to do it once, and I don't think it likely I'll be asked again for a very long time. Or if I am asked to speak when I move into my new ward, I'll already have this talk written! Either way, I'll just write my talk here.


My talk today is about how Satan makes sin look attractive, and what we can do about it. Before we can understand this, we need to understand a little bit about marketing. Take, for example, tooth whitening products.

There are tons of tooth whitening products out on the market nowadays, and people are buying them. Why do people feel they need tooth whitening products? It's true that most teeth are not naturally a vivid shade of white. But ten years ago nobody outside of Hollywood would have thought to have their teeth whitened. Why do we feel we need tooth whitening now? Are teeth suddenly darker than they used to be? No, dental hygiene isn't any different than it was ten years ago, and teeth are still the same natural color they have always been. No, the reason we feel we need tooth whitening is because we have gotten a message that our appearance is less than perfect if our teeth are not white.

Well, where did we get this message? Look around at the people near you. How many of them have shiny white teeth? Are their teeth any whiter than yours? Obviously we didn't get this impression from looking at people around us and noticing that their teeth were much whiter. No, we got this message from the advertisements. They showed people with shiny white teeth, and they told us that shiny white teeth make you more attractive, and we believed them. Gradually we started perceiving that beautiful people have shiny white teeth, and we accepted the converse, that shiny white teeth would make us more beautiful.

The tooth whitening ads took a truth-- that our teeth are not shiny and white-- and packaged it with a message-- that shiny white teeth will make us attractive. This is the nature of marketing; it always consists of a truth and a message. People don't buy products; people buy what they think the product will do for them. They buy a particular food because they think it will be more satisfying or tasty or nutritious or easier to use or a better value than the alternative choice. They buy certain clothes because they believe others will think about them a certain way if they wear them. If we only bought food and clothes for their practicality, we'd all be eating beans and rice and wearing non-matching old clothes from the D.I. Instead we get Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup and a matching skirt and blouse, because we've gotten the message that beans and rice is not convenient to cook and that keeping up with fashion will make us more appealing. Now, marketing is not evil. The message is usually completely benign, even sometimes beneficial (think of the ads for medicines and products that help people).

Satan is a master at marketing. He operates according to the basic principle of marketing, which is that you always package your message with the truth. In Satan's case, however, the message is neither benign nor beneficial. Satan doesn't want something as innocent as getting people to buy tooth whitening products. He wants all people to be as miserable as he is, sitting huddled in the dark and cold away from the warmth and light of Heavenly Father for eternity. So Satan's message is going to be a lie that will, if it works, persuade you not to buy a product, but to sin.

Satan's most productive marketing campaign to date has been the "You Can't Help It, It's In Your Nature" campaign. In this campaign, he takes a truth-- that your desire for something is in your nature-- and packages it with a lie-- that you can't help but satisfy that desire. He wants people to believe that they should do something they know is wrong, because they can't help themselves. He wants us to believe that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who are entitled to sin because their nature requires it, and those to whom the Lord's words apply.

Now let's take a closer look at Satan's argument. We know from our study of the scriptures that certain things are in our nature. All through the scriptures, Paul and others complain about the "natural man"-- the carnal side of ourselves that is inclined toward the satisfaction of its appetites. While we are in our bodies, we will be subject to these appetites, and rightly so. Each appetite has a purpose. Our appetite for food must be satisfied to some degree, or we will die of starvation. Our appetite for sleep must be satisfied. However, our carnal bodies cannot know where we cross the line from satisfaction to gluttony. This is a spiritual decision, and as Paul said to the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 2:14, "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him..." It would indeed seem foolish to our bodies to not eat seconds even though there's delicious food available, or to wake up early because we have to go to work in the morning. We make these decisions-- what to eat, how long to sleep-- as part of the program of spiritual mastery of our carnal selves that is spoken of all through the scriptures.

Satan knows the scriptures more thoroughly than I'd bet most of us do, and he's aware of this dual nature of man. He wants to persuade us to give up pursuing the goal of spiritual mastery, and the most efficient way to do this is to get us to let our carnal drives get out of control, or else to let us believe that our carnal drives are in control. This is where his most successful ad campaign comes in. His message that "You Can't Help It, It's In Your Nature" is to persuade us that whatever he is trying to get us to do is part of the normal satiation of our carnal drives, and it doesn't cross the line into over-indulgence. What he's asking us to do, though, usually has crossed the line, and will allow our carnal selves to become stronger than our spiritual selves.

Satan has used this message many times over the years, always to great effect. He has used it to persuade some men that violence is in their nature and that it's OK to beat your wife or children. He has used it to persuade some women that gossip is in their nature and that it's OK to spread rumors about others. He has used it to persuade some young people that wanting to be attractive is in their nature and that it's OK to be so obsessed with your appearance that you neglect the things of God. He has used it to persuade some married people that it's OK to commit adultery because their sexual urges are natural and need to be satisfied. In short, he uses it to tell us that it's OK to commit any sin because we cannot stop ourselves from committing every sin.

But the scriptures tell us point-blank that while our natures are in fact oriented toward sin, the message that we can't do anything about it is dead wrong. In 1 Cor. 10:13 we read, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." In other words, these temptations Satan throws our way are nothing that hasn't been thrown in the path of millions of our contemporaries or in the paths of saints thousands of years ago, and just like them, we will be capable of rising above these weaknesses and utterly failing to commit sin. Not "may be" or "might be" or "will probably be," "will be."

The degree to which we fail at this task of overcoming temptation is, according to this scripture, a function of our weakness to resist. And make no mistake, all of us are weak. You'd think, of all people, Nephi would be one of the strongest. And yet he complains, "O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me." (2 Ne. 4:17-18) And this was not as a young man either-- this was toward the end of his life, after having traveled across the sea to the Promised Land, after enduring the warfare that his brothers and their kin inflicted on his family. After all of that, you'd think Nephi would have developed a little resistance to sin. But no, he hadn't. He was still as vulnerable as ever. He was as "encompassed about" by temptation as any kid watching MTV is. He was as "easily beset" as any one of us. His iniquities, the choices made in weakness, were grievous enough to pain his very soul and make him feel wretched.

All of us are vulnerable to temptation. All of us at some point will not escape the temptation to sin. Satan is right about that point. But here's what the Lord has to say about weaknesses in Jacob 4:7: "Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things." The "grace" and the "great condescensions" of which Jacob speaks are the blessings of the Atonement. You see, God has the power to turn any bad thing into a great and glorious thing. And it is through the Atonement that God can turn our weakness, our giving in to temptation, into a glorious, faith-promoting display of His power and grace.

"So also," says Paul, "is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body." (1 Cor. 15:42-44) The seeds of our eternal glory are sown in the lowly dirt of our weakness and temptation. Through careful cultivation of a spiritual nature, we can encourage these seeds, divine gifts of grace, to grow into a most glorious tree of everlasting life. We know that this is true, for it is the pattern that the Lord has set from the very beginning: "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy" (2 Ne. 2:25) The paths that would lead billions toward a chance at eternal life were sown in the sin of Adam and Eve.

I will end this talk with Paul's account of an answer to his own prayer for protection from temptation. From 2 Cor. 12:6-10 :

For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Brothers and sisters, we need not be ashamed of our weaknesses. Like Paul, we can instead realize that these weaknesses can be a source of strength in the Lord, and we should cultivate that strength and treasure the blessings that will come showering down on our heads as a result. What a glorious work is this that the Lord has done! What a precious joy, what a treasure He has given us! What exquisite peace it gives us, to know that even in our moment of weakness, the Lord has a way prepared for us to come to a beautiful state of glory! What a light this glorious hope shines into the darkest corners of our hearts! My heart exclaims with joy to hear of it!

We should not use our weaknesses as an excuse to believe Satan's messages, packaged with truth as they are, but as an opportunity to take advantage of the loving grace of the Lord and to participate in His plan for eternal life. This is what the Lord wants for us. He gives us our weakness, and he gives us our free agency. What will we sow in our weakness? Will we sow more weakness and sin, or will we plant the seeds of our spiritual growth and allow ourselves to become a conduit for blessings?

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Nothing So Un-American

There is nothing so un-American as so-called "American cheese." Like most Americans, it comes in individualistically-wrapped slices, melts easily, and is reputed to contain some amount of milk. But if you look closely at the label, it's not really cheese! It's "pasteurized processed cheese food." It's so far removed from cheese that they can't even call it cheese, they have to call it "cheese food"-- that's what they feed to cheeses! It's not fit for human consumption! And as for its milk content, shouldn't cheese be entirely made out of milk?

This, folks, is not the American way. Americans are genuine people and demand genuine real people food! Americans believe in Fruit, Mustard, and the Dairy Queen Way! How, in all honesty, can we grind up a genuine Texas steer, grill it on a USA-made Camp Chef grill, put it in a bun from our local bakery, and have the gall to top this most American creation with this monstrosity masquerading as cheese?

Next time you are at the market and you are waffling over whether to get those evil, cheap Kraft Singles or the more expensive but wholesome Wisconsin Cheddar sitting next to it, just remember: only one of those is really cheese. And in America, when we have a choice between one real candidate and one that we know is trying to pass himself off as something he's not, we know what to do.

And I thought my house-buying was a hassle...

Check out what happened to this guy when he tried to buy a house...

Link via Basil's Blog.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Mouth, Open, Making Fool Of Self

Howard Dean.

Summary: It's immoral to divide Americans-- which is what those other guys over there, in that other group are doing. The Democrat party's ideas are sensible, just like those of most of the nation, but I have not balked at borrowing ideas from the other side [whose ideas, by implication, are neither sensible nor popular...] We're rich enough to have national health care, even though our citizens can't afford it. Why is the Bush administration ignoring us, when we've got as much as a non-majority of the vote, and we're borrowing their non-sensible, unpopular ideas?

Mark Twain, I believe, was the one who said "Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." Consider my doubt completely removed. The Democrats are going to have to do better than this if they ever want me to have a D next to my name again.

Interactive Sex Offender Map

Find out who are the sex offenders near your home with this interactive sex offender map. Link via State of the Beehive.

Cross-posted to Spillman Relocation blog.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Tales From The Assistant Department Head's Office

Reading these posts by Mobius Stripper reminded me of some of my most fun experiences with students. I promise I will limit myself to only three, although I could tell stories for ages...

I had a student who failed calculus. It came as no surprise to him; he passed at first, but his scores got worse and worse and by the middle of the course he wasn't passing anything. He knew he was failing, but he still kept coming to class, sitting in the front row, and trying to learn stuff, even if he couldn't actually do the problems. I admired his pluck and his attitude, but I still gave him the grade he had earned.

When, after the class was over, he e-mailed me that he wanted to talk about his grade, I knew exactly what that meant: he wanted me to change it. Nobody has ever wanted to contact me to reminisce fondly about their grade. I called him up anyway, though, and he asked if there was any way I could change his F, and I said no, there wasn't, he wasn't even close to the cutoff so I couldn't even drop the cutoff a few points just for him. He pointed out what a nice guy he was, and I told him that even nice guys can earn F's. He pointed out how he had come to class every day, and I told him that it was admirable but that his grade would be based on what I had written in the syllabus the grade would be based on, not on how winningly he smiled or how warm his chair was. Then he got to the "meat" of his argument: he told me he had a scholarship that would be taken away because of my grade, and that it was an Air Force ROTC scholarship. He knew my husband had been in the Air Force, and I've got a soft spot in my heart for other Zoomies. But I still told him that was too bad; I'd love to see him succeed, but instead I'd seen him fail.

I do this sort of thing routinely; after every semester, there's always somebody who thinks the syllogism "I have a scholarship which I need; I will lose my scholarship if you don't give me my desired grade; therefore you should give me the desired grade" is a valid argument. Usually you tell them "no" and they go away, very sad, with a puppy face in hopes that you will suddenly turn around and give in to the power of the sad puppy face as they walk away. However, this guy didn't know when to quit. He told me he was going to take it up with the higher-ups, and I told him that was his prerogative, but I didn't think it would help much. I gave him the name and number of the assistant department head, and told him he was the one to talk to. I also shot off an e-mail to the assistant department head, giving him the full information on the guy's test scores so that he would have the information he needed to patiently explain to the guy why I'd flunked him.

Unfortunately, this guy didn't stop at the assistant department head. He took it all the way up to the dean. Thankfully, the dean and the assistant department head both backed me up. But it wasn't always this way...

A few years earlier, I'd taught a summer course in remedial algebra. I had one student whose performance had been shaky, but hovered around the C- level all summer. When she took her final exam, she scored just below my usual C- cutoff and averaged a D in the class. I have the option of dropping the cutoff score, but I usually only do that if I have reviewed the test questions and the answers of those close to passing, and decided that they constitute passing work. I reviewed all this and decided that I just couldn't say with confidence that this girl's work constituted passing material. So I didn't drop the cutoff, and gave her the D. It was my professional opinion that I didn't have enough evidence that she could perform passing work; therefore I didn't pass her.

Naturally, she e-mailed me saying that she wanted to see me about her grade. I was on vacation at the time, and I gave her my number and the day I was to return from vacation, and told her to call me and make an appointment then. What I had in mind was to ask her to take the placement exam to get into the next course, and if she passed it I'd change her grade to a C-. But I never heard from her again.

When I got my grade sheets back and checked them with my records, I noticed that she had a C- instead of a D. I called my assistant department head and asked him if he'd changed her grade, since he was the only other person with the authority to do so, and he said yes. He had never yet done this without contacting me first to get the whole story, so I told him what had happened and why I'd given her the D and what I'd planned to do to get her the C-. And then he told me what had happened on his end.

Evidently, having to wait a whole week to discuss the grade with me was not fast enough for this girl... or her father. He came into the assistant department head's office demanding the grade be changed and threatening a lawsuit. The assistant head had caved in and just changed the grade, without asking for further testing, without contacting me first to see what had transpired, and without contacting me to tell me he'd changed the grade. To this day I do not know what possessed the assistant head to do this. He is (by law) not even supposed to discuss grades with parents (even parents with lawyers) without permission from the student, and he has never before or since changed a grade without even contacting me, either before or after the fact. I cannot begin to imagine what sort of lawsuit he could possibly have been threatened with that was so horrible to contemplate that he would change a grade rather than face it. I cannot believe that any judge would take seriously the argument that damages were due because of a non-passing grade in a math class which had been earned in strict accordance with the grading policy laid out in the syllabus-- or that the assistant head would think that any judge might take it seriously.

I've had my share of student athletes in my classes, but one in particular sticks out in my mind. He was a football player. He struck me as the sort of person who had gotten through his life on his own personal charisma, and he was indeed very charming. However, he was not very good at math, and being gone all the time from class for football duties didn't help that much. He missed every Friday for games, and it wasn't long before he was missing every Wednesday and every Monday as well.

Because we usually had quizzes on Fridays, we had a standing arrangement that he would come take the quizzes on Thursdays during office hours. The quizzes consisted entirely of problems lifted directly from the homework assignments, and the students all knew this. It was also my policy, stated in the syllabus, that if you knew you were going to miss a quiz, you had to take it early; you would only be allowed to take it after the fact if you'd had an emergency or were willing to take a percentage penalty. I enforced this policy regardless of the students' reasons for not being in class. If you planned a trip to the mountains or if you had a mandatory meeting at work, it didn't matter; what mattered was that you knew in advance that you weren't going to be there and were requesting the privilege of being allowed to take the quiz on a different day. In exchange for the privilege, you took the trade-off of not having an extra day to study.

Before every Thursday quiz, then, I asked this guy and his teammate (who was also in the class) if they had any questions about the homework, because I did the same in class on Fridays before giving the quiz. Inevitably he would say he had no questions about the homework. So I would give him the quiz, and he would take it. When he started not showing up for class, his grades (already dangerously low) slipped even further, and before long he was flunking.

One day, however, he decided he deserved more credit than he was getting. I had given him one point out of five on the final question on the quiz, and he decided he had a cogent argument why he deserved five points on that question and could be sufficiently charming to make me accept the logic of his argument. On that Friday, when I had asked the class if they had any questions on the homework, somebody had asked me about that very problem, and I had worked the problem on the board (erasing it, of course, before the quiz). He claimed this had influenced the scores of the other students, therefore he deserved full credit because he had been denied this advantage.

I pointed out to him that every Thursday when he came to office hours I had asked him if he had questions about the homework, and he'd said no. If he hadn't known how to work that problem, he could easily have said "Yes, Problem # whatever" and I would have worked the problem with him right then and there, before the quiz, just like I had for the rest of the class. I also pointed out to him that both he and I knew he could never have worked this problem to a five-point standard, even if he had been shown the solution beforehand and remembered the answer, because I grade work. Even if he had copied down the correct answer, he would not have gotten credit because there would be no corresponding work.

The logic of this evidently pissed him off, and he turned from sugar to vinegar in a matter of seconds. He got very confrontational and started going on about how I was trying to oppress him or something (he was a member of a minority racial group). Evidently he thought that would cow me, probably because he thought I was entirely Caucasian and would roll over at the very suggestion of racism, but he reckoned without the righteous outrage that fills me whenever I hear that sort of argument. We got into a bit of a yelling match, which I shouldn't have done, and he stormed out of the class and never came back (not that that made much of a change, since he had already been ditching three days a week in a four-day-a-week class).

I thought it was over, until I got a call from the assistant department head. It seems the student had gone to his coach and told him that I was discriminating against him and was not letting him take make-up quizzes because he was an athlete. The coach had passed this on to the athletic director, and the athletic director had called the assistant head to pressure him to make me change my make-up policy to be more accommodating to athletes. Thankfully, my assistant head had the cojones to defend my policies to the athletic director, although he did call me and suggest very strongly that I reconsider making my make-up policy more lenient for athletes. I explained to him, for the benefit of the athletic director and anyone else who wanted to press him on it, that I already had a very generous make-up policy, gave first priority to academics, was treating student athletes exactly the same as I would treat students who had a work-study job, and would not make special accommodations for athletes that I did not make for the student population at large.


I've spent the last few days mostly in bed.

I really don't know why, but I've just been tired all the time. All I want to do is sleep. I slept most of Thursday. I thought I was just tired after having to deal with taking my kids with me to work when my sitter didn't show up. But then it was Friday, and even though I went to work I was still tired, and I slept all afternoon. I stayed up for the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince release, read for about three hours, and then went to bed for another three hours, got up, and went to the Gardeners' Market. Three hours may not seem like much sleep, but it's only about an hour or two short of my usual amount of sleep, so you'd think a little nap on Saturday would have taken care of the deficit. I did in fact take a nap on Saturday-- all afternoon. I was awake for a few hours in the evening, but went straight back to bed and didn't wake again until Sunday morning. But even that rest failed to satiate my body's desire for sleep, because at church this morning I was too tired to look after the happily active Bagel. I took Bagel home, put him in his crib, and went straight to sleep. When FH came home with the older kids, he went right down for his long-postponed nap, so I had to cook them some lunch, and even after all that sleep I could barely stand up long enough to fry them some eggs.

At the Gardeners' Market on Saturday, I passed out. I was getting a chair massage, which I've done many times without ever fainting once. But this time she put a pillow under my chest, and this round-shouldered position exposed a really nasty knot that normally hides under my shoulder blade. I was doing just fine until she went to work on this knot. As soon as she put pressure on it, it was like something nasty was being squeezed out of it, and about thirty seconds later I started getting really nauseated and she had to stop and give me some air and water. Even with all that, though, I still passed out on the chair. The therapist got me down from the chair and laid me on the ground, and sent me back to my booth with orders to eat something, because I had not had any breakfast. My sister gave me some of her apricots, but I bought an omelet too because I thought it would be best if I had some protein.

I don't know what is wrong with me and why I am being such a lazy good-for-nothing. I was supposed to pack all my china earlier this week, to keep up with my goal for getting everything packed, but I put it off so long that now the boxes have earwigs in them. I brought the boxes in the house, but the earwigs scared the kids, who went around with FH's and my shoes on their hands and feet, stomping them all into oblivion. I had to take the boxes back outside to the porch to give the earwigs a chance to get out, so it'll be even longer before I get the china packed up and I'll be behind again.


An interesting piece from Normblog. Link via Dr. Sanity.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It's Vizzini!

To hear some people talk, you'd think Karl Rove was the smartest guy in the world, but under his guidance the Bush administration has made some of the worst blunders of any administration ever. How they can reconcile the two positions baffles me, unless you believe that Mr. Rove is so smart that he knows exactly how much buffoonery will allow him to get away with seeming stupid. It reminds me of the argument Vizzini makes in the immortal movie "The Princess Bride" when faced with a choice between two goblets, at least one of which is poisoned:

VIZZINI: Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I'm not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool; you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

MAN IN BLACK: You've made your decision then?

VIZZINI: Not remotely. Because iocane comes from Australia, as everyone knows. And Australia is entirely peopled with criminals. And criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me. So I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.

MAN IN BLACK: Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

VIZZINI: Wait till I get going! Where was I?

MAN IN BLACK: Australia.

VIZZINI: Yes -- Australia, and you must have suspected I would have known the powder's origin, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

MAN IN BLACK: You're just stalling now.

VIZZINI: You'd like to think that, wouldn't you? You've beaten my giant, which means you're exceptionally strong. So, you could have put the poison in your own goblet, trusting on your strength to save you. So I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But, you've also bested my Spaniard which means you must have studied. And in studying, you must have learned that man is mortal so you would have put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

MAN IN BLACK: You're trying to trick me into giving away something -- it won't work --

VIZZINI: (triumphant) It has worked -- you've given everything away -- I know where the poison is.

MAN IN BLACK: Then make your choice.

VIZZINI: I will. And I choose --

And then we all know what happened to Vizzini. He got so caught up in trying to follow this kind of torturous reasoning that he failed to realize that Occam's Razor would require both goblets to be poisoned-- and he even stated, at one point, the key insight that the Man In Black might have poisoned his own goblet counting on his strength to save him-- but then he made the mistake of presuming that the Man In Black shared his assumption that exactly one of the goblets was poisoned, and was as educated and as cowardly as he.

An Interesting Idea For A Toy

Last night I dreamed of a toy kitchen for kids that had real running water. It had a reservoir in the bottom (which also served as a weight to anchor the kitchen) and used an Archimedean screw to get the water up through the faucet. The water then drained back down into the reservoir (I'd assume through a filter, if the inventor knows kids at all). In the dream the screw was powered by a hand crank that had to be cranked by a second kid so that the first one could use the running water, but I'd imagine that someone more inventive than I could use "advanced spinning-wheel technology" to make it powered by a foot pedal instead.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Sonshine's Quote Of The Day

Sonshine was too hot in his flannel pajamas, so he wrapped himself in a lightweight blanket. Princess told him he looked like an ancient Greek, except that he was wearing underwear. So Sonshine asked me:

"Can I take off my underwear so I can be like a real Greek?"

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Downtown Sidewalk Sale

This weekend, instead of the Gardeners' Market, I went to the annual Sidewalk Sale in downtown Logan. A friend had offered me a space by his booth for free, and I decided to take it.

As it turned out, the space was perfect. I was out in front of the Coppermill Restaurant, so I had a building with a colonnade right behind me where the kids could sit. The Coppermill is centrally located in downtown, making it an ideal location. I was facing east, so while I bore the brunt of the sun for half the day, at least it was the first half when it wasn't so hot. At Summerfest my booth faced west, so I got the setting sun right in my eyes during prime business hours. Note to self: when possible, for outdoor shows with evening hours, select an east-facing booth over a west-facing booth.

I had bought a garment rack for this show, because I'd invested in some T-shirts to dye and I wanted to display them. However, the very first thing my garment rack did upon being set up was break. I used a little duct tape and good ol' American ingenuity, but it persisted in falling apart until finally, on Saturday afternoon, it just broke to the point where I didn't want to try to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I disassembled what was left and put it back in the original box, and I'll be taking it back to Wal-Mart for a refund on Monday. It actually turned out to be a good thing, though, because after the rack was gone, I had to lay the T-shirts out on top of the plastic bins of tote bags and scarves, and I sold more T-shirts after the rack broke than I had before. One lady even bought one for each of her many grandchildren.

I marked down the scarves to $5 for the silk and $10 for the velvet, but still sold hardly any of them even at that price. I guess my scarves just aren't as cool as I thought they would be. But I sold tons of onesies and bibs. The very first bib that sold was a bright yellow bib that I had dyed with a happy face design on it. But all the bibs were cool, and there are only a couple of them left now. In the onesies, the pink didn't sell as well as it did at Summerfest, where I could scarcely keep pinks in stock. I sold a decent number of pinks this time, but what sold fastest was the darker shade of cobalt blue. I did some onesies in that shade with a stripe of soybean rings across the chest. They are all gone. I got a lot of comments on the green ones I did by low-water immersion; in the technique I used, some of the cobalt blue separates out and makes regions of pale blue instead of white where the folds resist. Loads of people said they were cool, but for most they ended up being the second choice. The other color that sold well was the strong shade of golden yellow. I think I've got one T-shirt left in the golden yellow; everything else I made in that color has sold out. Note to self: more dark cobalt, more strong golden yellow. I think I'd also like to try a bluer green.

I very nearly sold out of dish scrubbers. They're easy to make in bulk so I may continue making them. However, after this year I don't think I'll be making the mitts any more, except possibly by special order. They take too much time, and I can't get contractors to make them. I'll make a few more as I have time, to make complete sets out of the odds and ends I've already got completed. Maybe I'll make a few for gifts for the inevitable rush of weddings that is Utah in the summer. But once they're sold out, they're gone.

On the back end, I need to start tracking my inventory of T-shirts and onesies by size. I didn't do that because I figured the onesies would be a one-time thing I'd make while my friends were having babies. However, they are selling so well that I want to make them one of my primary products. I'm discovering that the sizes don't sell in equal quantities. Small (3-6 months) and Medium (6-12 months) sell much better than Large (18-24 months).

All in all, it was a great show. I had set a goal to bring in $500 in revenue, which is more or less what I brought in at Summerfest. When I totaled it all up, the revenue came to $625. $500 was the remaining amount we needed to complete our down payment fund, after the gifts from relatives and my entire salary from this summer's calculus class. I was going to just take the $500 out of the business altogether and put it toward the down payment on our new house. It would have kneecapped my business quite a bit; I'd have had to do tiny boutiques and farmers' markets for the rest of the year until I got up enough money to do a large show again. But now once I take out the $500, I'll still have some money to put toward replacing at least some of the inventory I sold, especially the bibs and the onesies, and to spend on booth fees for my next shows, and we're still going to be able to make our down payment!

This same friend has invited me to share his booth (again for free!) at Raspberry Days in early August. It's a tempting offer-- the more I sell, the less I'll have to move to the new house and the more money I'll have for floor coverings that aren't bright emerald green-- but it's only a week before our moving date, and I just don't know if I'll be able to take it on, with everything that's going on at that time. I will just have to wait and see. If it's really really nutty around here, I might have to say no. On the other hand... laminate flooring... mmm...

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Our New House

As of yesterday afternoon, our offer has been accepted:

It's the one with the all-emerald-green carpet. Before we buy any furniture, the first thing we're going to do is rip out the carpet in the living room and put in some nice laminate. Still debating what to do with the stairs though. I thought maybe a more tasteful color of carpet would be best because it's not slippery and because I have no clue how to install anything else on stairs. Suggestions are welcome.

There are two stories above ground and one below. The top floor has all the bedrooms and two full bathrooms, plus the second family room that could be easily converted into a bedroom. The main floor has the kitchen, living room, and garage. The bottom floor has the utility room, the family room, and another half-bath.

I thought that after we move in, I'd take the kids to the store and let them each buy one decorative object for their new room. I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that at least one of them picks out a throw pillow, although I wouldn't speculate on whether it'd be Princess or Sonshine.

We are already making a mental list of the things we'll want to do as soon as we close. The very first thing is to run a gas line across the utility room from the water heater to the dryer, because about a year and a half ago we traded in our expensive-to-run electric dryer for this really efficient gas dryer. I've been told this is cheap (maybe $100, since the gas line exists already and there's no sheetrock on the walls in that room) and possibly even something we could do ourselves. Then we'll do living room flooring and then buy a bit of furniture, because we have only one couch. It'll go in the living room until we start installing the laminate, at which point it'll go down to the family room with the TV. Until then the kids will have to make do with beanbag chairs (like THAT'S going to be a hardship for them... they've been begging for beanbags...) In the spring (possibly late spring), we'll do the fence around the backyard so the kids can play in the yard. There is fence on two sides, but because the back fence belongs to the back neighbor and the side fence to the side neighbor, they don't meet in the corner, so we'll have to fix that somehow, possibly with one of these or some sort of landscaping feature. But it's a small lot so the fence won't cost too much. We want to get vinyl fence because it's low-maintenance.

Happy Birthday To Me

I'm thirty-mhmhm today!!

With my birthday money I'm going out to pre-order Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and look for a couple of other books. I have no books to read right now. I haven't gone to check any out of the library because I'm much too busy to keep track of returning them, and I've already packed up just about every book that isn't a math book, so I'm really bored.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Please Shoot Me Before I Have To Buy A House

We went house hunting yesterday in Tooele, a community about 30 minutes' drive west of Salt Lake City. We made the mistake of taking the kids with us. They were excited to see the houses and we wanted them to feel involved in the process, but mostly what they were involved in was whining about how it was hot in the car and we weren't there yet despite having been on the road for two whole minutes since the last time they'd asked if we were there yet. Bagel, as it turned out, had diarrhea yesterday, and we ran out of clean diapers. Note to self: only Princess is old enough to be involved in picking out a house. Except for the numerous moments when she and Sonshine were duking it out over who got to steal whose french fries, she was pretty good. Unlike Sonshine, she had enough tact not to blurt out "I don't like this house!" in front of its residents.

We looked at several houses, all at the very bottom price range of available houses, because that's all we can afford. I knew we'd have to look at some lemons because of the low price range, but I was just shocked by the condition of some of these houses. There was one I wanted to see that had seven bedrooms, three of which were in a basement apartment, but between last week when it went on the market and yesterday, it had already gotten a solid offer. It was a good thing, though. We discovered we really didn't want any house with a basement apartment, which I'd thought would be an asset since it would give me a second kitchen for my dyeing or a possible source of income if times got tough.

The basement apartments were inevitably squalid and smelly, with windows six inches high. These were the sort of apartments where sheetrock and working toilets were luxuries the tenants couldn't afford. You couldn't even put a fresh coat of paint on the walls, because you were lucky if the walls were actually finished on both sides and didn't have holes in them. If (God forbid) a fire were to break out in that place, which is likely given all the exposed wiring, your tenants would just burn to death because they wouldn't be able to escape through either the tiny high windows or the tortured maze of rooms and doors that formed the entrances to these places. We just don't have time to put in the amount of work it would take to make places like that fit for human beings to live in. I'd seen a lot of "rat-hole" basement apartments when we first moved to Logan, but these made those look like paradise.

We looked at one five-bedroom house, but the bedrooms were all about the size of my master bathroom. There was no way the master bedroom could fit our dressers along with our bed, and we only have a queen size bed. In bedrooms that size we'd have to have the kids do a lot of living in the family room, but in that house the family room was totally unfinished. Plus I was decidedly not impressed with the quality of the construction. We toured a lot of smelly houses that seemed like they had been owned by cats or dogs (or both) who kept people as pets. We found one that was owned by a former SeaBee (Navy construction) who was doing some really extensive repairs to it and would have it totally ship-shape by the time we moved in. It had a fabulous huge yard with a stump just perfect to support a low-flying tree house, and a magical faerieland side yard with shady trees. We really liked the owners. But FH didn't want the house because it was in a windy area where it might regularly sustain wind damage to the roof.

We did find a few really good houses, but most of them had only three bedrooms without the possibility of adding a fourth (say, by converting a second family room into a bedroom). There was one that looks really promising. It's a newer home with three bedrooms, but the upstairs family room could be converted into a bedroom by just adding the top half of the half-wall and hanging a bedroom door. The house only has four disadvantages: one, the bedrooms are all on the second floor while the laundry room is in the basement; two, Princess wants the larger bedroom entirely to herself, something we cannot support since the two boys will need the larger bedroom; three, the entire place is carpeted in bright emerald green; four, it's at the very highest high end of our price range. The carpet is easy enough to do something about. We'll just rip it out and put in laminate flooring or new carpet in a more tasteful color. Princess can probably, with a little bit of paint and a few throw pillows, be convinced to take the smaller room. The laundry room thing-- well, I needed to lose some weight anyway, and I can always throw the laundry bags down the stairs. But the price-- that's a bit difficult. Our mortgage payment on that house will be nearly twice what we're paying now, and we'd need to come up with more money for the down payment. I was hoping to raise the remainder of our down payment this weekend at the Downtown Sidewalk Sale. We'll see how it goes. On the other hand, we can't afford NOT to buy this house. We need a place to live, and the cheaper places are all so squalid that we'll end up putting the difference in price, if not more, into making them livable. If we blow off buying and just rent, it'll cost us even MORE per month. So it looks like this is it. We're just going to have to pay the money and get the higher mortgage payment.

In the meantime, we'll have to move fast if we want this house. As soon as the loan officer gets in, I'm going to have to be on the phone with her working out the deal so we can make an offer today. If it falls through, though, we do have a second choice house that already has four bedrooms, but needs a lot of minor repairs like spackling, painting, baseboards, and door trim-- things I can do by myself. If we got that house we'd eventually want to rip out the tile floors in the bedrooms (the owners, I guess, were quite enamored of tile) and replace them with something less chilly and slippery.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Gulf War Of The Worlds

You've gotta read this. And we've gotta figure out a way to get Iowahawk to post more often.