missives from mid-america

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Pulling Up Tent Stakes


This time last year, we were facing the end of an era with our beloved pup. One of the common refrains was “we have to get out of Sugar Grove”. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Sugar Grove, or our house, but Nina’s demise was a pretty clear demarcation point for us.

The next part of our life should happen somewhere else. We had gotten ten good years out of the area and the house, and it’s time to move on. Some things we wanted to consider were proximity to life-long friends, schools for Eli, and a place that didn’t require a car ride to everything. We want to be a walking or biking family.

Fast-forward to this past weekend – we put an offer on a house that fits most of our needs, but also happens to be less than a block from one of Jennie’s best friends. We’re very excited about moving in, and while I was a little concerned about how Eli would handle it, he seems more eager than anyone.

Mostly, he’s excited about a rock climbing wall that’s extended above the staircase with a belay rope anchored to the ceiling. He referred to it as “the house with the rock climbing wall” and probably expects it to stay. If it does stay, we’ll probably take it down and install it in his room.

The enormity of the fact that we won’t live by the Jewel or the library where he became aware of libraries might take a while to settle in, but we’ll be a similar distance from the Sycamore library in our new house, so maybe there will be enough stuff to replace what we had in Sugar Grove that he won’t miss it.

We made a similar move when I was around his age, and I really didn’t miss the old house. My bigger hope is that there are more kids in our new neighborhood who Eli can bond with and maybe even go to school with in the Fall. Probably the main point of this move is to get him set up for kindergarten and his ongoing schooling.


Needless to say, much has changed since this was written. The rock climbing wall was removed with the kind help of Mark and Emilio. After trying three or four different painters, we finally settled with a guy recommended by my old boss from 20 years ago. This guy came in and knocked it out of the park.

After discussing it with a few people, I decided to take on the mold issue in our new Sycamore attic by myself. It looks to be mostly inert – just discolored over the years. We got a quote of $1800 to do the same. That seems excessive compared to the risk (almost none) and work (very little) involved.

Then, we got the inspection report back from the buyers of our current house. This is when the wonderful deal we thought we were giving started to unravel. They want new windows, a home warranty, and a few things that we can’t really argue with. The windows seems excessive, but the other stuff would need to get done whether they were buying or someone else was.

So, now we’re under the gun to get our stuff moved, get the basement and attic air cleared of mold spores (there’s really only one spot in the attic that has visible mold, and it’s small), fix some broken shingles, and hopefully we’re done. I cannot wait for the 22nd. I mean, there’s a ton to do before then, but after that, we’re free and clear and we’ll know where we stand.

Cleanup on Aisle Seven

Quick bit of meta: this is the free Hemingway theme for WordPress. This site is hosted by 1&, which has been wonderful to work with for many years. I rent space (includes SQL, web mail, etc.) from them and use them as my domain registrar for this site.

Also, this should be my last post as “admin”, unless something else about the site needs attention.

Back in the Saddle Again

Eli and I saw the train running during the week, so we were both pretty excited to get to Blackberry Farm on Saturday and ride it. It was GLORIOUS! Well, it was the same, really, but we’d been away for a while, so the anticipation heightened the experience.

I believe we took advantage of every aspect of the park except for the carousel. He’s not as keen on it as he was last year; he prefers to ride the benches over the horses when he bothers to ride at all.

A more succinct rundown, with pictures:

(Let me know if that link doesn’t work.)

There was some new excitement in the train depot building, too. Where only the north-most part had been open in the past, now the middle section was open (including the conductor’s desk, a ticket window, train table, and other toys) and the south section was also open with a model train in a circular diorama. The only thing more exciting than a model train in a diorama is a model train that you can control, and these are controlled by two buttons. Doesn’t get much better than that when you’re about to turn three.

Just My Madgernation

Jennie was able to get a little more information on the Madger’s friend Sturpey. According to Eli, Sturpey has a car and a house (which is broken, but Sturpey fixes it). He has no dog but does have a cat named Pom. He takes his friends to the Rainforest Cafe because he’s not afraid of the gorillas, but he prefers to sit by the other people (instead of the gorillas).

More to come as we uncover it…

Oh, and some bike riding/entomology:

Surveillance State

I’m not talking about Obama or Prism – I’m talking about Soundcloud. Eli says some hilarious stuff, but it’s tough to remember all of it or the way he said it. I’ve been using an app on my smartphone called Soundcloud to capture some of this gold.

When I try to take a video, he sees the phone aiming at him and that becomes the focus. With the Soundcloud app (widget, actually – it’s a giant orange button labelled “Rec”), I can hold the phone inconspicuously and record unnoticed.

soundcloud button

We can match photos from the same relative time at a later date. It’s not perfect, especially since you can’t really capture the entire context along with the audio (or video for that matter), but I suspect I’ll enjoy listening to this stuff years from now. And if they get lost in the internet cloud somewhere, I can always ask the government for a transcript.

Eli and the Madger

It’s hard to fathom that we’re coming up on Eli’s third birthday already. It’s not as hard to imagine when you talk to the boy. He’s still working on language, but he’s jumped from putting together sentences to making up stories and jokes. He used to reference “the Madger” but wouldn’t elaborate on what or who that is. More recently, he talks about his friend Sturpey, who apparently can drive. He frequently drives Eli’s friends to the Pole Trees (Chipotle) for “quesadisas”. Sometimes they pick one up for Mama, too.

In real life, it’s hard to glean who his best friend might be, but at school he likes Frankie, Piper, and Will the most (this week). I think the fact that they change classes at six month intervals based on their birthdays makes it a little difficult to be consistent with besties.

Christmas Card!

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The Barber’s Closet

I’m posting this here for posterity. I downloaded it a while back and keep moving the file from computer to computer. I suppose this isn’t exactly permanent, either, but it’s better than nothing.

The menu only tells part of the story. My first visit to this place was perfectly executed, with my friends not telling me where we were going, taking me into what looked like a barber shop, pulling on the wall, and then leading me into a candle-lit room that was absolutely timeless.

There were sofas and drapes blocking off areas where people could have interesting discussions over a giant fishbowl of a drink. Sure, there were pages of the menu that were limited to a maximum of two per customer, but the entirety of the experience was the magic. And it was magic.

Home Improvement

So, Jennie went back to school and I went through a bit of an employment renaissance over the past few years which put us in a bit of a financial bind. Not insurmountable, but definitely tough. With the economy scraping bottom in the past year or more, it’s been especially nerve-wracking.

Luckily, school went well and Jennie is now fully employed (and making more than me!) so we’re on the road to recovery. We have a long list of projects we want to do in the house as soon as possible. It’s crazy how much joy can be derived from just the idea that we will be able to do this stuff. We’re not looking to do a complete remodel or anything, just upgrading stuff that’s needed it since we moved in a few years ago.

Here’s a list:

  • Electrical stuff: new outlets downstairs, new outlet in kitchen, fix switches upstairs
  • New microwave mounted above stove
  • Mulch for all around the house and all of the trees, new plants for the bare spots, new garden box.
  • New kitchen counters, sink, faucet
  • New floors on kitchen/dining room half of downstairs
  • New bathroom vanity tops, faucets, floors, shelves
  • Fix drywall and paint again (everything – stronger colors this time)

I can do all but the first item, and the electrician (a friend) is coming out tomorrow. The rest would be a little expensive to do all at once, but spread out we have the ability to continue to pay down other debts while we make improvements.

Biking Couple

We finally got a chance to get off the trainers and onto the pavement this weekend. We did ten miles on Saturday just to see how that would feel, and it was no problem. The bike path from North Aurora to Geneva is pretty scenic with the river on one side and lots of houses and woods on the other.

Sunday, we went for twenty miles to see how that would work. As an experiment, we rode from home to J’s hospital just to see how long it would take. Turns out it’s possible, but there’s really no easy way to do it. Splitting the ride into a to/from situation with 12 hours of nursing in between would be more realistic, but the ride home would be exhausting after work. Probably not realistic.

Anyhow, I think I’ll be investing in some compression pants and a waterproof jacket if we continue to ride this summer. Other couples golf – I’d be into visiting other cities and riding bikes. That could be our thing.

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