post-Christmas converstation

Scene:  Tucking Graham, age 8, into bed.

Graham:  So why doesn’t Santa put anything in you and Daddy’s stockings?

Cheris:  I don’t know… I guess because we’re grown-ups.


Graham:  Does Santa put anything in drunk people’s stockings?

Cheris:  Ummm… drunk kids?

Graham:  No!  Drunk grown-ups!

Cheris:  Well… I don’t think so… they’re still grown-ups.

Graham:  But, you told me that people get drunk so they can feel like kids.

Cheris:  Oh!  Right… Um…  I don’t think Santa works that way.


Cheris:  Should I get drunk next Christmas and find out?


3rd and 5th graders


If you’re wondering why this “1st day of school” picture looks a little different from those in the past



…check out my other blog.

And now I’m going to go get a little weepy into my cafe con leche.

To-do Tuesday (but on a Wednesday): front door

Replacing the 40 year old door makes a big difference, especially in our cave-like foyer.

DSC_4480.NEF DSC_5254.NEF  DSC_4472.NEFDSC_5253.NEF

I hovered over the installer to make sure he installed all the anti-theft devices.  But he did a good job.  Looks nice, right?DSC_5256.NEF



Top 4 reasons we’re (trying) to move abroad

 DSC_09214.  Coordinating our mid-life crises.   If I had my way, my mid-life crisis would probably be me packing up my family and living off the grid in the woods somewhere, gardening and not answering the phone.  If Rob had his way, he would quit his job and lock himself in a recording studio, leaving only  to see live music.

Those daydreams are becoming increasingly clear and tempting.  There is no doubt that, as we enter our 40s, things are starting to feel like a bit of a slog, a rut, like something needs to change.  I can think of many super fun, totally destructive ways in which we could express these feelings.  Instead, we’re leaving the country.

3.  Our jobs are making it possible.  Thanks to Rob’s career, it’s possible for him to work remotely.  So he (bravely, I think) asked his bosses and co-workers what they thought about the idea.  I mean, there is working from home, and then there is working from home 5 thousand miles and six times zones away.  But his company is an internet start-up.  There is a certain amount of risk inherent in that kind of job.  The benefit is that, as risk takers, they didn’t automatically nix our idea.  They are willing to give it a try for a year.  How could we possibly not take advantage of that opportunity?

As for my job, I’m working part time for a non-profit that will be sad to see me go, but will be happy to give me hours when I come back.  I also do editing work from home.  But remember, I used to be an ESL teacher in a former life.  I’ll be dusting off that hat pretty soon.

2.  Learning a second language.  Our kids have been in a dual language school since kindergarten.  It was a new program when they started, and so all the bugs have been worked out on them, for better or worse.   Now is our chance to solidify and celebrate what they’ve worked so hard to achieve.  They’ll come back closer to fluent and more confident in their language abilities.  At least, that’s what we hope.  Rest assured there will be much more on this topic later.

1. Timing.  Yes, it’s a mid-life thing.  Yes the housing rental market in Austin is good.  Yes the dollar is strong against the Euro.  But most importantly, the time is right for our kids.  One more year before middle school, and all the changes that will bring to the family.  Right now they are happy just being with us.  Right now they play together at home and take care of each other at school.  Right now they’re old enough to remember and young enough to go along with a plan this crazy.  There is no time like the present for an adventure, and no one else I’d rather experience it with.  We’re jumping into a giant unknown together, and whatever happens, I don’t think we could possibly regret it.

DSC_5602.NEFNow, can we get through the logistics?  And if we do, how will we handle the challenges?  I’ll post about it on my other blog.  !Sígame, por favor!

front garden bed border

Summer heat and travel plans thwarted any attempt at finishing my work on the front garden bed last year.  Still, at least it didn’t look like this any longer:


But after the weather finally cooled down to the high 80’s, low 90’s (that’s in late October, for you Yankees) I jumped in again.

When we last left off, the front walk was finished:


But the front garden bed was just kind of an undefined blob.  I decided to use the old flagstones I had dug out of the ground to separate the grass from the plants.  So, many days of digging and lining with landscape cloth…

DSC_3938.NEF-001  DSC_3940.NEF DSC_3942.NEF-001…and filling with crushed granite.  I decided to use granite instead pea gravel, since we don’t have the drainage problem in this area.DSC_3943.NEF-001  DSC_3946.NEF DSC_3947.NEFI highly recommend listening to podcasts while doing yard work.  This portion of home maintenance was brought to you by Serial.  DSC_4238.NEF-001    DSC_4242.NEF  DSC_4245.NEF-001 DSC_4246.NEF

DSC_4239.NEF-001Not too shabby for an amateur using leftover materials, eh?




To-Do Tuesday: front walk

My spring project this year was Curb Appeal.  I guess the “architects” of 70s houses assumed we would actually use our garages for our cars instead of a shop/detritus storage.  So they didn’t bother widening the driveway enough for two vehicles and a person.  Consequently, the strip of yard next to the driveway was always trodden into a dusty grassless path to the door.  About 6 years ago I dug down and laid out flagstone in an attempt to pretty up the eyesore.  Of course, I didn’t know what I didn’t know and did it wrong.  Without sand or granite underneath, the stones became uneven.  And instead of grass growing daintily in the cracks, (my Yankee past showing again) the giant Saint Augustine almost immediately covered the whole area.  (Don’t ask me why it grows over stone and not dirt.)

DSC_1078.NEFAdd to that the problem created by the “architects” who, in their infinite wisdom, made a dip in the driveway and then installed a downspout leading to that area.  So any time there is a gully washer (which is almost every time it actually rains in Texas) a giant pool forms blocking our path to the cars.

This never bothered Violet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd this section by the door was like someone had salted the earth.  Nothing ever grew.

DSC_1075.NEFSo out it all came.  I dug down a foot or more in a wonky triangle from the front door to the sidewalk.  I did it the correct way (this time) and put down landscape cloth at the bottom of the trench.


I suppose I could calculate the amount of earth I moved with my orange shovel and once-wimpy muscles, but it’s easier to show you.  Please note the pile of rocks unearthed from the last (failed) attempt to landscape.DSC_1094.NEFThe Bagster is a clever company that sells dumpster bags for $25 at home improvement stores and then picks them up when you fill them with rubbish for a fee about equal to what you would pay that creepy guy with a truck from Craiglist.  So I was pretty excited to fill up my Bagster with a ton of dirt… until I read the (very) small print which informed me the bag may only be 1/4 full of soil.  Because it’s heavy.


So I ended up hiring a less creepy guy with a truck at the rock supply store to dig the dirt out of the Bagster haul it away.DSC_1136.NEF

Said rock supply store delivered a pile of gravel and a palate of flagstone.   And then I literally toiled, breaking and shoveling rocks, for days and days.  I closed my eyes and saw flagstone puzzles floating on my eyelids.   The neighbors learned to ignore the crouching cursing lady muttering in the driveway, trying to fit edges together.

Some of you landscaping geeks will be wondering why I chose gravel instead of sand and crushed granite.  Well, it was my drainage experiment.  The granite compacts so much that the water doesn’t soak in quickly.  I thought gravel wouldn’t have that problem.  In fact, I dug down about 2 feet around the area near the downspout and backfilled with gravel and river rock, hoping for even more air pockets and space for water.

It seems to work quite well.  It takes a good hour of torrential rain before a little puddle even thinks about forming.  And even then it disappears quickly.  Plus it looks nice, right?  The neighbors like us again.  I still dream of flagstone, though.


Stay tuned to find out what I did with the old buried rocks.