3.29.2008

Boundaries of home

I'm at the library again... this time alone, without any kids in tow.

Well, just one. But this one doesn't get into too much trouble yet. =)

But with or without the wuggy-crowd, I like going to the library for my internet stuff.

The internet is an amazing thing. All you have to do is wonder about something, and google is just a click away, and wikipedia, and link after link after link.

But having the internet only at specific times, I find myself keeping a running list of stuff I need off the internet.

And then, once I'm at the library, it's just as easy to find all that wonderful information... except I'm more focused. I come to the internet knowing exactly what I want out of it, and knowing exactly how precious my time is. I'm more focused, less likely to follow trails of links into abscure topics I don't really need to know about.

And, since I don't have the information flood on tap in the house, I actually have to trek to the library. And going to the library frequently is a very good thing for all of us. Truth of the matter is, I love reading lots of unfamiliar childrens books to the kids. I don't love reading Gertie the Green Cab for the 47th time. Course what the kids really want is another iteration of Gertie, but they're generally satisfied with something completely new to us. The more often we go to the library, the better a mommy I am.

Going to the library is a good thing, and since I can just check out a laptop and sit right there in the children's section while supervising the wuggies, it's the perfect time to do internet stuff.

Living without a pipeline to the internet in our home is a good thing so far, and I think we're going to keep it that way.

Strangely enough, living without a landline telephone has been a good thing too. Up until the move, we've relied mostly on our landline, using our prepaid cell phones very sparingly. But through the move, we've been relying on our cell phones, and you know what? That's been a very good thing.

Lots of times I'll be on the phone, and chaos breaks out. "Should I call back at a better time?" But usually, sadly, the answer is no, there really won't ever be a better time. Either there's chaos, or it's a lovely moment of tranquility in which to catch my breath and play the flute for a few minutes. Talking is good, but there's no good time to do it.

On a landline, that is.

But while the kids are playing on the playground? That's a great time to talk.

So I think we're going to ditch the landline, ditch the internet, and just get a good cell phone plan.
And I find the idea strangely beautiful. Home is home, and outside is outside. Of course the membranes are quite permeable--it is a lovely thing to invite books and friends inside. But there need be no pipes flooding the outside into our home, when we can simply open our door, breathe in the scent of the wildflowers, and go explore the wide world.

3.25.2008

Greetings from the library

Apologies for the sporadic posting. Be warned, it's likely to continue, while we slowly decide what we want to do about phone and internet services. Through the moving process, we've been relying on our cell phones... and that's just a very nice thing. So we're thinking about getting a better cell plan and ditching the land line. But of course we can't pick an internet plan until we decide for sure.

So I might be restricted to library internet use for a while longer.

Meanwhile, we're settling in to our new place, and liking it very much.

The Bayou is so very beautiful. Before we moved in, I thought of it as just a big muddy ditch that might flood our beautiful house someday. But I get so much pleasure every day out of passing over the lazy river glistening in the sun, watching the leaves float by... and oh, the wildflowers on the banks!

I dyed Easter eggs for the wuggies, but I think I did the wrong carton. Or maybe I turned the burner off too soon. I have no idea how it happened, because I was meticulously careful... but they definitely weren't hard boiled.

Fortunately we discovered this without too much trauma to the carpet.

September was enthralled with the discovery that her beautiful purple egg was actually such a volatile object.

She grinned impishly at me. "I like to throw it."

"But I won't."

"Because I want to give you kisses."

3.14.2008

Well, we did it.

We bought the townhouse, airplanes and flood planes and all.

Fooling around with the parameters of the policy, we were able to get flood protection for a much more reasonable premium. And with the lower premium, the flood insurance costs less than the extra property taxes alone on the more expensive, but less wonderful, houses that we might have considered instead. Not to mention that we're paying less for the house itself, and actually getting what we really want. =)

It feels good to have finally come to a decision. No more second-guessing, no more frantic information gathering, just the blissful knowledge that we have our very own home.

It feels good to have made a decision, and I feel good about the decision that we made. When you buy a house, it's about so much more than just a house, it's about the sort of life you want to live as a family. We've done a lot of thinking over the past six months about how to structure our life, I really think that this is the right house to help us live well.

Of course, we could live well in a smaller house, but we would have to work harder at it.

And we could live well in a bigger house... but we'd have to work harder at that, too.

This house is just right. Not just "good enough for now," but really-o, truly-o just right.

At least, for now it is. God willing, it looks as though we'll be running out of bedroom space in a few years. =) But it has a high-pitched roof, and good solid attic ready to be finished into a few more bedrooms. When we outgrow the house, the house can just grow right along with us--but we don't have to worry about that until the time comes.

It's a good feeling.

And in the mean time, baby is turning somersaults, and that's a good feeling, too. =)

Ours.

3.11.2008

I really didn't think this would be so hard.

Emily has tagged me with a most delightfully intriguing meme.

THE RULES:

Look up from the computer, look around the room where you're sitting and pick up the closest book. Open the book, turn to page 123, count down to the fifth sentence on that page, and then post the next three sentences.

And Emily made it quite clear that there was to be no cheating whatsoever-- it had to be the very nearest book.

Well, the nearest book is Richard Scarry's Chipmunk's ABC. It doesn't even have page numbers, but being an alphabet book devoting one page per letter, the page count can't be much above 26. The next closest book is Beethoven's Klavierstucke, but while the fifth measure on page 123 is quite lovely, I'm afraid I'm not entirely sure how to blog it.

The next book my eyes fell upon was the Rand McNally Houston Street Guide. Since the first page is map number 2236, I didn't think I'd find a page 123, but it turns out that there is really a page 123 in the index.

So here we go:
Snail Hollow Dr.
8300 HarC 7064 3542 AS

Snake Cr.
6000 FBnC 77479 4495 E7
6000 FBnC 77479 4496 A7

Snake Canyon Dr.
2900 HarC 77449 3815 E7


My. Now wasn't that enlightening.

Now, usually with something like this, I'm extremely contrary, and I try to find a way to twist and mangle the rules completely beyond their intention. But in this case, the rules and their original intent are so intriguing that I really want to play along. I need to find a book with an actual sentence on page 123.

Ah. The Estelle Liebling Vocal Course.

60 pgs.

I fear that I'm going to have to admit defeat and just walk over to the book shelf. But then, finally, I spot the Book of Common Prayer laying on the couch.

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

O God, the life of all who live, the light of the faithful, the strength of those who labor, and the repose of the dead: We thank you for the blessings of the day that is past, and humbly ask for your protection through the coming night. Bring us in safety to the morning hours; through him who died and rose again for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Ah. Much better. Real, live, sentences... and good ones, too. Even if it really is only 8:44 in the morning.

And now I'm tagging Sarah, and Ashley, and Christa, and Gwen, and Sharon.

I'm sure you'll all have much better luck.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go mope in desolation at the thought that all my books with more than 122 pages are tucked away on the shelf gathering dust.

3.09.2008

Crash Landing

When we first fell in love with the neighborhood, with its gracefully arching trees and smiling children, we wondered if the planes might cause some problems. Its close proximity to the airport would be wonderfully convenient for travel, and the wuggies love seeing planes, but would it be too noisy inside?

But that turned out to be more a perk than a problem, since the airport had recently soundproofed all the houses in the immediate vicinity of their newest runway. The high quality windows and doors leave the townhouses undisturbed by noise of planes, traffic, or neighbors, and energy-efficient too. A block or two further away, and the noise of the planes might have driven us mad, but here it was no problem.

Everything was just perfect. The neighborhood was simultaneously tranquil and full of life, and it was in just the right spot, halfway between Andy's job and the cultural and educational opportunities of downtown Houston.

And the unit itself was spacious, and full of wonderful nooks and crannies. It was just the right size for us right now, and with a large, well-supported attic, it offered the potential to expand with our growing family.

Everything was looking wonderful.

But then the insurance agent called us back with those numbers.

To hear Isaiah explain it, a broken-down plane crashed on top of the townhouse, which is very dangerous, not least because it brings up the possibility that other planes might land on our car as we drive down the freeway.

Actually, it was a flood plane, not an airplane, and the house is on the plane, not the other way around. But I guess you really could say that the flood plane made a crash landing onto that house.

Up until this summer, there was no problem getting flood insurance in the neighborhood. But ever since Katrina demonstrated the inadequacies of our flood risk assessments, FEMA has been slowly making its way through the nation, updating the flood maps.

And according to the new maps, our dream house is now located in a flood plane, and the insurance is astronomically expensive.

Insurance, taxes, HOA fees, and basic maintanance--the carrying costs that you never, ever stop carrying--would come up just $100 shy of typical rent in the area.

We love the place so much... but the numbers just don't add up to good stewardship.

It might still work if we can protect ourselves financially while insuring it for its appraised value only, rather than for the full cost of rebuilding. (Rebuilding a destroyed townhouse is much, much more expensive than walking away and buying a new home.) We're meeting with a real estate attorney tomorrow to discuss the extend our HOA obligations in the event of a catastrophic flood--but mostly because we want to understand the dynamics of townhouse ownership better as we look for other properties, not because we have any real hope that this particular home will turn out to be a sensible investment.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, we looked at a pretty much identical townhouse in a different area for comparison purposes, to see how much the flood zones impacted how far your money would go. Same floor plan, same general price range, good condition, comparable community amenities, and in a quite respectable part of town.

But we both came away with the impression that we would absolutely hate living in that neighborhood. Oh, there was nothing objectionable about it. Everything was clean and well-maintained... and utterly soul-less. It's hard to put your finger on it, but there it is, and it matters. Every time we drove into that wonderful little neighborhood in the flood zone, I couldn't help but smile. It's a happy place.

This other neighborhood isn't. Not in particular, anyway. It's not that it's a sad place, or an angry place, or even an apathetic place, more that it isn't any place at all.

So we'll keep looking.