State Fair of Texas Pictures

These are not amazing photos, but they are fun for grandparents to look at anyway. We visited the fair last week; sadly it began to pour only a couple hours into our day, but we had fun all the same.  Here’s most of us posing with the official animal of the state fair (or something like that):

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Harry Potter-isms

Spoken quite adamantly by the six year old today because he was feeling exasperated at his three year old brother who had said one thing, and then turned around and did the complete opposite…

“Josiah!! You’re nothing but a hippogriff!!”

Separated at birth?

Tricia posted a sweet entry about home schooling Jonathan recently. Here’s the picture she used of Jonathan.

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Is it just me, or is there a striking resemblance to a slightly better known character from Christmas past?

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My Precocious Pupil

So….we are loving our Singapore math curriculum. To better prepare for our year, I spent the summer months working with the two older children on a review of third and first grade, respectively. If you have not used Singapore math from the beginning, jumping in midway, especially if you are wanting to begin “on level”, present challenges. It is an excellent math program, but it requires mental conception and thought that other curriculums, even highly rated ones, do not.  Our school had suggested the summer work, and I am glad we did it; it has made the transition into this year much easier.

Mostly easy, I should say. When one is working with a little boy whose brain likes to skip ahead, there are some challenges, as I saw today.  This morning, Jonathan and I began a unit on “Subtraction With Renaming”, that is, borrowing ten ones from the tens place to stick in the ones place, borrowing ten tens from the hundreds place to stick in the tens place, and so on. We looked at our first problem:

92 – 68 = ?

And before I could even say anything, my child did the subtraction in his head. Brilliant, but you still have to learn this renaming “thing”, Jonathan.

So, I began explaining the concept that since we cannot take 8 from 2, we must “borrow” ten ones from the 3 in the next place over. And Jonathan stops me once again, this time with an almost incredulous-sounding, “But Mom, you don’t need to rename the 2 at all!! Don’t you know: 2 minus 8 is negative 6?!?”

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House Tour Begun

We have lived in the house with the red door for two years now – having moved in partially on Josiah’s first birthday, in 2006.  Before buying this house, we watched the neighborhood for a couple of years (someone, and I’m not saying who, has a little realtor bug in her!), so we had a sense of what houses were worth. Spring Creek offered reasonably sized 3 and 4 bedroom ranch-style homes (22-2800 square feet in general) on flat, generous lots, beautiful trees and an active, involved neighborhood with more of a small-town feel than one usually finds in Dallas city limits.

However, as is usually the case with good value, lots more folks than just ourselves recognized the appeal, and we soon learned that houses available for purchase in this area were a rare commodity, and in some cases, even passed from parent to child (many folks living here now grew up in the neighborhood back in the 70’s and 80’s). Prices were also increasing well above our budget ceiling, so we waited patiently for a “deal” that was the right situation. And, while the acquisition of this house was more of a saga than we’d have wanted, we are very thankful to be living here. The process of fixing this place up has been fun (mostly) and very educational.  Our neighbors are truly the nicest we’ve ever had – we feel so blessed to be in such a friendly place. I have even taken the plunge and signed up to be a block captain this year, and am happy to be involved just a little bit in the runnings around here.

Buuuuuuuut. I digress, for my true intention in this post is to begin what I have wanted to do for sometime: post some before and after shots of our home remodel in progress. I have waited to do this for so long mostly because as you well know, no project ever seems to get completely finished.  There is always something still left to do and I hate to post a picture without the truly finished product.

Now, before we get into “after photos”, please understand this is not a drastic home remodel such as you would get if you hired a contractor to gut a room or two in order to achieve what is virtually a brand new space. Nor are we the types who are brave enough to tear out kitchen cabinets, floors, counters ourselves and build a new room out from the studs.  It might be nice to fantasize about, but it’s not happening.

Personally, I think Jay could TOTALLY do this type of thing and I would be a happy and willing assistant, but in actuality his schedule is so packed with work these days that what little time is left would never suffice for such major projects. Despite being a busy guy on top of daddy to four busy kids, he has made time for being pretty handy around here, has learned to rewire electrical sockets, change toilets, replace plumbing (both pipes and fixtures), install and repair major appliances.  But, so far we have not been brave enough (or stupid enough, depending on your point of view) to undertake a project which is truly massive in scope.

That said, we will begin our tour of House of Horne at the beginning, as in, we are going to show a few of the scenes we saw on that first evening we ever toured it ourselves (accompanied by some family, who were admittedly not so crazy about the place, right Jamison!!?!!). Next time we come back I plan to have photos of the front and we’ll proceed through the house in a somewhat logical manner.  Ok, here goes…

This is what we saw as we drove up. Good bones, simple ranch style, pretty trees (in back) but obvious signs of neglect: rotted wood shutters hanging askew, or in some cases completely fallen off and never put back up, rusted out light fixtures, landscaping gone absolutely wild, including vines all over the front of the house, grass beginning to die due to lack of watering.

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Here you can see the butchering done on the two front elm trees. So sad, little stumps for branches.

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Entering the house, you can see the lovely shade of brown that greeted us.

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Stepping into the main living room. For whatever reason this area really bothered me: it was ALL beige: ceiling, trim, walls, built-ins, fireplace, and carpet. And while the pictures don’t convey it well, it was all very dingy and sad, not your calm soothing sort of beige. I kept thinking to myself: what could we do to possibly help this room?

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Turning to the other side of the room:

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From the living room were two sets of french doors leading to the deck, which could sound romantic if it hadn’t looked like this:

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And this. Three layers of paint were peeling off the deck, a tree was dying in the back corner of the yard, and the brick around the deck area was filthy, courtesy of the previous owners’ dogs who lived out here:

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But in my mind I could see the possibilities of this indoor to outdoor living space, if only….

Back inside for now, and heading down the hall on one side of the house to the secondary bedrooms, here is the first, in a bilious shade of yellow:

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Other secondary bedroom on this side of the house, with um, artistically decorated wall?

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The bathroom between the two rooms, its wall and ceiling paint adding to the slate of how shall we say it, vibrant colors?

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I love this shot: it shows the full color palette in all its awfulness:

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Traveling across the hall to the master we were greeted by walls and ceilings the color of silly putty (hat tip to Katie) and blue carpet that was very old and stained.

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Stepping into the master bath we saw what was probably the most updated space in the entire house, complete with flashing strobe lights in the soaking tub – YEAH! Yet even here the blazing red walls, dark brown ceiling and absence of lighting needed attention.

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Back to the kitchen, which was a pretty good space and layout for a house of this size and build era. But there was no oven/stovetop. It appears that a previous owner converted the space which had housed a double wall oven, to a large cabinet, and stuck a freestanding range in a slot they literally sawed out of the cabinets and countertop. And then took that range with them when they moved. How ’bout that?

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You may recognize the shade of brown again.

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And again here, in the third little bathroom off of the laundry area and 4th split bedroom (they must have really LOVED this color):

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Inside the shower stall, more evidence of basic work needing to be done before things could run properly, let alone be cosmetically pretty:

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Much of what I have shown you may look like a decent enough home which someone just painted with less than pleasing paint colors. But there was work to be done besides paint: all the carpet was in very bad shape: dirty, stained, matted, and worn – it would eventually have to go. The gas lines beneath the house were made of copper, not up to code, and needed to be replaced. There was no insulation whatsoever in the attic.  There was no electrical grounding anywhere and the circuit box was so old and deemed a fire hazard by inspectors, so it could no longer be used. The grass around the house, after three months of no watering, was largely dead, especially in the back yard. The picket fence in back, while charming-looking, was rotting like the shutters on the front of the house.  One of the toilets was completely unusable, another went out just after we closed on the house. There was no vanity lighting of any kind in any bathroom, and two had hardly any light to speak of. There were bad cracks in the walls of every room, not unusual for Texas but nonetheless unsightly. Miraculously, both inspections showed no foundation concerns.

After re-reading the above laundry list of issues, I am feeling daunted even though most of those problems listed have been resolved by now. I hope to return soon with evidence for you of the improvements in the form of photos, and then little by little continue to show you some of what we have done and are still doing to make this house our home. Hope you enjoy the tour!

Whoooooo’s There??

On Tuesday morning I gave the kids to go ahead to get themselves into the car as I grabbed my cup of coffee in preparation for a morning at co-op. Shortly after they all trooped into the garage I heard screams and yelling and then Abigail burst back into the house with the news that there was an owl out there! He must have sneaked in early in the evening because i know I shut the door no later than about 6:30 the night before. In retrospect, since Jay was out of town, I am so glad our unknown visitor didn’t make creepy sounds in the night which I realize now I would have had to investigate on my own – I don’t think I’d have enjoyed the surprise at all.  Just imagine being wakened from a sound sleep by strange calls from the garage, creeping out there half asleep still, clad in only your jammies to be startled and frightened by a large owl. AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!! Now I’m scaring myself, so I must stop. But it all does sounds rather Halloween-ey, doesn’t it??

Though it made us a couple minutes late for our first classes, I am glad we grabbed the camera and took a few shots of this guy who sat perched comfortably (I assume) on a package of Christmas pillows I store on a very high shelf. He looked down at me in a most condescending manner but was nice enough to face the camera so I could get a pretty good view.

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As Providence would have it, two days later we enjoyed a wonderful presentation on raptors at the Heard Museum’s outdoor amphitheater, complete with live birds, including owls. Abigail relayed our tale to one of the presenters after the show who confirmed that we had most likely given shelter to a screech owl, a conclusion that pictures and information I have dug up seems to confirm. (Cousin Scott, do you concur?)

While digging, I came across this page which advertises an “Owl Shack” (baby) – evidently for the mere price of $50 one can “keep” an owl in their backyard. Maybe we should give serious thought to this idea given our other “friends” who visited this past winter??

The Old Woman…

Jay has been on a business trip this week. He doesn’t do many of these, but when he goes, we have a routine of sorts that we follow, and generally we all do pretty well. All of us except Lucy.

Have I mentioned Lucy is a high energy dog? No? Well then I’ll say it: Lucy is high energy. Yes. And that might be the understatement of the year. She is young, and she is a lab. ‘Nuff said. She is sweet, but she needs her exercise, which consists of running endless trips across the backyard to leap in the air and catch a frisbee. Jay is the frisbee-thrower in the household. Try as I might, I cannot begin to tire Lucy out with my frisbee-throwing (it’s pretty poor, folks). So, when the daddy is gone, Lucy’s exercise is the shoe this mommy lets fall. Mostly because I am just lazy like that.

But also because today I have been running kids to co-op (after stopping to photograph the local wildlife which we found in our garage this morning), getting in a couple hours of readin’, ritin’ and ‘rithmetic before dropping the eldest two at piano lessons so I could take the younger two along on the weekly grocery run as well as the final Party City errand before the big Pirate Birthday tomorrow for the 3 year old.

Arriving home, we slammed down some Boston Market, ran Abigail to her volleyball practice and after getting back home again, I calculated that we had a big enough window of time before needing to pick her up to take a stroll around the neighborhood and hopefully help poor Lucy who has been absolutely stir-crazy the last couple of days without Jay home, to run off some excess energy.

The boys grabbed scooters, I got Josiah buckled into his stroller, and off we went. The walk started out promisingly enough.  Jonathan listened carefully to my instructions about holding Lucy on her leash, and the two of them led our small parade. I’d have had him push the stroller, but we felt his inability to see over the top of it could present a hazard for both him and the baby. (Oh, if only I’d known.)  Nicolas chugged along on his little scooter, I brought up the rear of the party, pushing Josey in his new set of wheels.

All went well in front of me; I recall watching my big boy of seven with great pride as he carefully walked this dog who weighs more than he does and is far stronger to say the least. She, for her part, walked politely next to him, behaving almost like the lady that she is not. It was a beautiful picture….and one that could not last.

We had traveled only two house-lengths when Jonathan and Lucy stepped around opposite sides of a road sign in the middle of the sidewalk, and tried to keep on walking despite the leash remaining behind them, tangled around the sign. The dog panicked and began jumping around trying to free herself. Jonathan reacted likewise and began swatting at Lucy with what remained in his hand of the dog leash. The stronger of the two finally disentangled her part of the leash from the sign and began bounding up the lawn of the house we were stopped in front of. Poor Jonathan held faithfully onto the leash, and for his troubles was dragged across the grass for some ways before Lucy stopped again and commenced jumping around as though she’d gone crazy, no doubt additionally riled by the sounds of our neighbors’ dogs inside the house barking excitedly.

And then the Poster Mommy of the year made a really stupid move. I stopped pushing the stroller since Jonathan needed my help. What I failed to do was to put the brake on, so as I ran to rescue Jonathan, poor Josiah rolled off the curb, tipping over as he went down, smashing onto the pavement.  (Yes, don’t you all want to come and leave your children in my care now?) Since I had to make a decision between the screaming baby, and my seven year old continuing to yell for help, I ran to the baby, righted him and the stroller, kissed his finger which, he told me quite tearfully, had a big “cratch”, assured myself he had not hit his head, and ran to assist the seven year old who was still laying on the ground while the dog jumped around him like a spooked horse.

About this time (baby still screaming, dog gone mad, older son frantically trying to hold onto crazed canine) whom should walk up but the kind neighbor from two doors down, who does not have any children of her own, but has somehow managed to live with a lab for 10 years now. She had a concerned look on her face (wonder why?) but was really sweet and asked if I could use any help.  With her assistance – during which she assured me Lucy was very normal for a young lab, we got things to a calmer state (though the dog would no longer submit to Jonathan leading her leash) and finally set out again. The rest of the walk went without incident, and actually turned into more of a run; I spent a good part of it jogging along next to my dog at a nice clip. Lucy was obviously happy, began panting somewhat heavily as she ran, and seemed as though she was really getting a good workout, the liar.

As soon as we walked through the front door of our house, she ran and grabbed the frisbee off the floor, bringing it to me as if to say, “That was fun, but this is what I really want to do!” and proceeded to pester me for the remainder of the evening. Which really wasn’t gracious of her after all we went through, now was it, dear readers?

While I was out and about with my progeny a few weeks ago some total stranger walked up to me, looked at my four children and asked “What – do you live in a shoe or something?”. Funny, funny guy….not. I might have called him an idiot (or worse) in my head while outwardly ignoring him.  But well, he was right, sort of.

I am not old. I do not live in shoe. I do not have more children than I know what to do with. But Lucy, the dog…she is certainly giving me a run for my money.

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All the Pretty Little Fishies

Dear Readers,

It would appear that I have become a great-grandmother at the tender age of 36. A fish great-grandmother. My daughter’s silver molly has just surprised us all by giving birth to four small fry (though the children all assure me there are certainly many more babies, we just cannot see them because they must be hiding in the recesses of the fish castle). Which means we can now honestly say that have more fish than we know what to do with.  Or that will properly fit in our tank, lovely though it is.

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Now, I would like to point out that Jay is the party responsible for bringing this pregnant fish home.  Just as he is the catalyst behind the entire fish tank project (which is what I referred to in this post), the gerbil gifts last year, and espouser of the general outlook that “pets are good for children. They teach them about God’s world, and about caring for His many creatures.” Uh-huh.  What he leaves out of his persuasive rhetoric is how much the Mommy of the household also gets to learn about God’s creatures. Sometimes more than she’d hoped to.  Heheheh.

However, in all honesty, I am a big fan of my pet-loving husband, as well as the newest pets at House of Horne. The tank he put together is really pretty, makes a soothing gurgling noise, and sometimes during the day I sneak into the boys’ room and stand in front of it to watch the fascinating little fish swim all around, so calm and peaceful in their 10 gallon water world. Of course with the addition of the newest fishies, something will have to be done since we are over the recommended capacity of our little tank.  But surely, given what faithful customers we are at our local Petsmart, they will be delighted to pay us for our pretty fish babies, right??

Comments

Turns out the email notifications for many of our comments of the past two months were lost somewhere on the intertubes. I just freed up a big ole’ logjam of comment goodness. So sorry if it appeared we didn’t want to approve your comment. Lots of new comments are now sprinkled throughout the past couple months of posts.