Thursday, January 31, 2008


We bought our house in November of 2000 (though we moved in the next January) with a 30 year mortgage through a first-time buyer's program (lower rates) and with scraping every penny we could. Just over a year later, interest rates dropped and we refinanced (for 30 years). We were pretty comfortable that we had among the lowest rates we could get (5.875%), and our house had increased so greatly in value (in just one year!) that we were able to drop the PMI.

Last year we paid off our mini-van and realized that we could afford to put an addition on our house. We shopped around, and found the best rate on a Home Equity loan (6.79% for 15 years).

This weekend there was an article in the paper about how loan rates had dropped and that it was a great time to re-finance for all the people who had bought houses during the housing boom of the last few years. For the heck of it, I checked rates at our Credit Union and found that they were lower than our current mortgage and WAY lower than our Home Equity (5.75% for 30 and 5.625% for 20 years). We called to see if we could refinance--maybe even dropping to 20 years--and roll the two together.

After making the appointment and getting the stats (we'd be saving a couple hundred dollars a month even with the 20 year loan), I happened to look at the website for our credit union again and saw that 15 year loan rates were even lower (5.125%). G. went to the appointment and had our loan officer crunch the numbers.

And we decided to go with the 15 year!

It is kind of scary, as our payments will go up about $100 from what we were paying for both loans, but it's unbelievably exciting, too. We will be saving THOUSANDS of dollars in interest and we should be completely debt free in fifteen years! (right now the mortgage and home equity loan are our only debts other than month-to-month credit cards that we always pay off)

I'm so very proud of us!

I'm all caught up!

First the explanation...

The holidays are chaotic for EVERYone, so I barely got time to post in December.

After that, G. was home and I was subbing or volunteering, or socializing ;)

And then I got SICK!

I'm still not really WELL, but I am feeling better. I just spent the morning catching up on blog posts. I have a few December ones to add pictures or details to, but the ones I updated today (should you want to go back and read the pathetic details) are:

G's Birthday

Curried Winter Vegetable Soup

Lazy Vacation Days

My Baby is Five Years Old

M's Birthday Party

Schwa eats a worm

Knitting and Un-knitting

The subbing report

Happy Birthday To Me!

Wow! Not bad! No wonder I'm so tired...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A day I thought I'd never see...

T. just said to me, "Mom, I just finished Summer of the Swans. It was a really good book!"

This from the boy whose only experience with fictional works was, for years, Captain Underpants. This from the boy who COULD read when he was three, but who never chose to read for fun. This from the boy who still does prefer Calvin and Hobbes, Paper Airplane books, and an occasional Star Wars novel...

His elementary school does "Battle of the Books" (and C. participated in fourth and fifth grade--her team took second place in fifth grade) and he chose to do this on his own. He's been reading a lot of things that I don't think he'd normally have chosen. This year's reading list is:



Banks, Lynne Ried

Indian in the Cupboard

Blume, Judy


Bond, Michael

A Bear Called Paddington

Boyd, Candy Dawson

Circle of Gold

Byars, Betsy

The Summer of the Swans

Cleary, Beverly

Henry and the Paper Route

Coerr, Eleanor

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

Conford, Ellen

Felicia the Critic

Dahl, Roald

James and the Giant Peach

Dalgliesh, Alice

The Courage of Sarah Noble

Fitzgerald, John

The Great Brain

Henry, Marguerite

King of the Wind

Holling, Clancy

Paddle to the Sea

Howe, James


Lawson, Robert

Ben and Me

Lowry, Lois

Anastasia Krupnik

Morey, Walt

Gentle Ben

Sharp, Margery

The Rescuers

Uchida, Yoshiro

Jar of Dreams

Wagner, Jane

J. T.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls

Farmer Boy

They form teams of three, so he doesn't have to read ALL of the books, but I'm hoping he continues to enjoy them enough that he WANTS to read them all.

Color me a proud mama...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

It's not terrible, but 38 FEELS a lot older than 37! I guess because I'm officially in my "late 30's" now! Actually, it could be the nasty cold that I've had for three days. Blechhh!

I got some great presents from my family (cooking things and clothing) and we went out for Chinese food. Instead of cake, I wanted a GIANT Rice Krispie Treat (which G. made).

And the biggest surprise of the day--my dear friend N. bought me flowers!
As much as I insist that I'm not a flower fan and that they're a waste of money, it is really, really nice to receive flowers... :) And especially roses...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The subbing report

I've now subbed three days--in three different schools and at three different levels.

My first experience was at the middle school--teaching 7th grade Lit/Lang. I didn't hate it, but I really didn't enjoy it. And when I considered that I made the same amount subbing for a half day with kids who were constantly trying to get away with something that I would have for tutoring a student who wanted help for an hour, it was a little depressing. I was also reminded of when I was teaching fulltime and never knew what sub I would be assigned for an absence. I left videos or worksheets. Now that I'm on the other side, I can tell you how boring it is to teach that stuff!

My second experience was at the local elementary school, teaching a full day of fourth grade. I had a FANTASTIC time! The kids were great--wanting to be helpful and to show off a little. The teacher left me REAL lesson plans. I also knew many of the staff (since my kids go to school there), so lunch was even fun in the teacher's lounge. Unfortunately, I was also informed that the principal has a policy of not allowing parents to substitute in their child's GRADE (not just class) and since T. is in fourth grade, I won't be doing that again.

My third experience was at the high school where I used to teach. I taught Geometry and Pre-Algebra. Though this was a bit more challenging (behavior-wise) than the elementary school, and the teacher didn't leave much that I could actually teach, I enjoyed this as well. The best part is that I was asked to do a long-term sub position (which, unfortunately, I really can't do this year). Still, it was flattering to be asked!

I'm pretty sure that I don't want subbing to be my main occupation--it's tough to not know what you're doing day-to-day and the pay isn't that great--but I do think it's something that I can fill in with on days/weeks that I have space. And I've learned that I'll pick elementary and high school positions before I go back to the middle school! Middle school teachers are a special breed and I admire them, but I don't wanna be one!

Finally, perhaps the worst thing that I took away from this experience is a cold that seems particularly nasty. Since none of the rest of my family has had this, I have to think that I picked it up on my own--probably at the elementary school.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Knitting--and un-knitting

First, the unknitting...

Linda's socks, which are now completely frogged (I tried them on her at knitting club, and the ankles were too baggy):
When I can stand the thought of re-trying, I'm going to do a simple, plain sock. Linda says she's cool with that ;)

Also, an IRL friend said that when her 4 YO daughter when sledding, her forearms froze--that area between the mitten and the coat sleeve was bare!

So I knit up some simple wrist-warmers with a slot for the thumb.
I was pretty proud of myself until I brought them to knitting club and someone said, "Oh, yeah, when my son was that age, I took an old pair of socks and cut off the toe!

(well, I did enjoy knitting them, anyway!)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Schwa eats a worm!

Actually, she ate TWO...

I think I posted before about Schwa's refusal to eat earthworms and how we had to buy fish for her. Well, all that we read said that fish is not an adequate food source on its own and that alternating fish and worms is the best thing you can do for a garter snake (short of feeding it mice--which we're NOT doing!).

We'd been trying to put worms into Schwa's terrarium, but she ignored them. I decided that maybe she would respond to a hand-held worm, so we tried again.You can see that the experiment was a great success! :)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Subbing, here I come...

It's official. I have my first two subbing jobs! Tomorrow I'll be at the Middle School (Lit/Lang) for a half day, and Friday I'll be at one of the elementary schools (fourth grade) for a full day. I'm hoping to get a High School position one of the two days next week that I can sub, so I'll have experienced all three levels and can decide if it's something I want to do!

Cross fingers for me? :)

Monday, January 07, 2008

M's Birthday Party

M. wanted a dinosaur party for her fifth birthday. I was thrilled to see that most of her friends who'd already had birthdays had simpler, at-home parties, so we decided to do the same.

She invited seven friends who came for lunch after morning kindergarten. They had mac & cheese, dinosaur chicken nuggets, petrified leaves (sun chips) and baby dino eggs (grape tomatoes).
They made dinosaur hats with googly eyes:
And played dino-themed games like "Pin the tooth on the Tyrannosaurus" and "Stinky Dino Egg":
After dino cupcakes and ice cream and then presents, everyone was exhausted (G. actually took a nap!).

M. got some great gifts, including THREE more Webkinz! Overall, I think it was a success. :)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

My "baby" is five years old!

This is what a five year old looks like:

Present time!

She got some more Littlest Pet Shop things; an iDog amp'd; purple Crocs; bling for her iDog and mp3 player; Sims Pets; a bunch of My Weird School books, and some clothes.

She chose California Pizza Kitchen for her birthday meal, and then we came home for "Better than the Playground" cake (you know the one--with chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, hot fudge, whipped cream and Heath pieces):

and of course we had to measure her to see how much she'd grown...
She's 41 inches tall (the height T. was when he was 3 1/2) and 37 lbs.

So far I'm really enjoying having a five year old again!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

C's New 'Do

C. has the thickest, most wild hair I've ever seen. She has repeatedly tried to grow it out, but it just gets bushier and bushier! So we talked about it, and she decided to go with a short, funky new hairdo. Her hair got long enough to donate to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, so she got it cut today. Here's the before pics:

And the after pictures:

She looks SO much older!

Here's the hair T. had cut off last year (top) and C's ponytail from this haircut:
Now all I have to do is get to the post office....

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Lazy Vacation Days

Most years, winter break seems to be over with very quickly--too quickly. But this year the kids had two FULL weeks off of school and G. had over a MONTH off of school. In addition, Grandma K. came and stayed with us for over two weeks.

It was so nice to not be rushed to get things done in a few days. We had lots of time to just relax and play with our new gifts.

Here's G. and M. I think he was holding her because he wasn't sure he'd be able to pick her up after she turned five..Here's T, probably watching "Myth Busters" on TV--giving his hands a rest from playing Guitar Hero III:

And here's Grandma K., begging me NOT to take a picture of her (I always was a lousy listener...):

Catching up...

I'm way behind on posts, but hope to get some caught up this week/weekend. I'll post them with the original dates (that is, Dec. of 07 dates) so they'll be listed out of order--just FYI if anyone cares :)

The Remodel: Passing Final Inspection

I don't remember how much of the electrical saga I've shared, but on our final inspection (back in June), the inspector found two "small" things that needed to be fixed with the electrical system. One was that an outlet was set in too far and the other was that a wire needed to be secured on the box downstairs. I didn't fully understand what needed to be done, so I asked the inspector to call the electrician. Snipping a lot of details, it took almost six months for the inspector to reach the electrician (including numerous reminder calls from me). The electrician came on December 27th, and the building inspector came today and we're DONE! We'll officially have our project "off the books".

One of the annoying things about having the final inspection *not* completed is that we wanted to add a light over the mirror. The only lights in the bathroom are one over the shower stall, and one in the middle of the bathroom, in the same fixture as the fan. Needless to say, things like putting on makeup were impossible! We had purchased (almost 6 months ago) a $42 light to mount over the medicine cabinet, but since we were going to put it in, and not the electrician, we had to wait for the inspection to be done. When the electrician was here last week, I mentioned something about how awful the light from the fan fixture was and he said, "and you can't put a light over your sink because of code". Here's a picture of the c
eiling, with the slanty wall/ceiling, due to the roof:
Unfortunately, the 90 days had passed for returning the $42 light fixture to Home Depot with our receipt. We tried bringing it back without a receipt and it had been marked down to $34 (bummer, but not as bad as I'd feared). Then we went to look for a lamp that could sit on the floor but aim light at the mirror.

We'd almost given up when we were walking past the track lighting in Home Depot and saw a floor lamp that matched some track lighting. It was a $60 lamp, clearanced for $17! We grabbed it, and some insanely expensive light bulbs for it, and went to check out. The lamp rang up at $0.01!!! I was no longer so annoyed with not getting the full $42 back on the light fixture.

It's not perfect, but it looks okay in the bathroom, and it works GREAT!