Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas!


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slice of life


Here in central Texas school started today! We delivered a very excited five year old to start Kindergarten at our local elementary school. It was unemotional on all accounts…he checked on the pet iguana (which best not be a weekend take home pet) and settled into his seat without so much as a wave. Well, see you later, son.

A year ago was preschool:









Today, kindergarten:









Shane’s thoughts on the whole thing:

“I don’t think going to school will be like staying at home all day.” (no, because your mother doesn’t schedule 8 hours of activities for you)

“It’s weird to be awake when it’s darker outside. Usually I can just stay in bed until I want to get up.” (welcome to life, child)

“I’m pretty sure I’ll go to the gym everyday because I need to train to be an olympic-er.” (they may put you in the gym permanently, once they learn your energy level)

“I will miss you and the boys a little bit. But please clean up their messes before I get home so I don’t have to help.” (ha)

Sprinkler Installation – Day 2

Installation was in full-force today.  They went from having one small hand-dug trench in the front yard to having the entire yard trenched up, and pipe/hoses laid in most of them.  The front yard is about 90% complete now with most of the trenches already filled back in with dirt.  The backyard has some of the pipe laid, and a few sprinkler heads connected.

They brought a ditch witch to dig most of the trenches.  If it were Minnesota, it would have been a piece of cake.  But, this is Texas, and the ground is different here.  I’m sure the guy is used to it by now, but holy smokes, it looked incredibly annoying to have to run that thing.  Rock after rock he was getting stuck on (and that thing is tough).

We are a little surprised at how torn up the yard looks, even after they completed most of the front. Either this is just totally normal, or these guys are perhaps a bit rough with the lawn…  Hopefully after it’s all done and a few waterings, it will look more back to normal.  Here are some pictures from today:

Sprinkler System Installation Has Begun

We knew the sprinkler system was going to be installed soon, but we didn’t know it was going to start today until we saw the landlord and the sprinkler company show up at our house today.  They said they should be done sometime on Friday this week, so a nice quick turnaround.

They are dividing the yard up into 6 or 7 zones, each one having the ability to be programmed to water for a specified amount of time.  They have to run water lines all around the entire yard, with control valves and sprinklers here and there.  They will even dig a tunnel underneath the sidewalk in 2 places to run water to underground drip lines just to water the small strips of grass between the sidewalk and the road.

Here’s the work they were able to get done today so far:

Why Would You Need A Rain Gauge In Austin?

After we arrived in Texas and started to meet a few people, we quickly began to learn that we had a lot in store for us in terms of keeping our lawn green this summer. Our yard, unlike most other’s yards, does not have a sprinkler system installed, so all watering is done manually.  Needless to say, it’s a lot of work to run the hose in the front, then the back, constantly adjusting the sprinkler, and manually watering the areas with a spray nozzle in the places where a sprinkler doesn’t make sense.

Fortunately, we were able to get the landlords to agree to install a sprinkler system!  I was able to be around when the first guy came to take a look at the yard and give an estimate.  I asked about a rain gauge that would know to turn off the system if we had received recent rainfall.  He said they were mandatory now, and the landlord looked at him surprised and said, “but, we NEVER get any rain here…”

Perhaps it’s a crazy fluke, but for the last week, it has rained all but one day, and a few of those days it has dumped, big time.  Even if the rain gauge was not mandatory, I feel like the extra $70 it costs to install it would be well worth it.  Water is expensive here! We definitely would have saved a good amount of change already if the system was installed.

So, here are some pictures of the recent rain we’ve received.  You will clearly be able to see how spraying extra water with a sprinkler system would NOT be worth it this week.

Disclaimer: We are definitely aware that the yard looks pretty bad.  There had been nobody to take care of the lawn (and no sprinkler system) for a few months before we moved in, so much of it died, and weeds took over in places.  It will be a long work-in-progress!

Huge Sale this Week


We are moving soon and need you to take our stuff to take to your home! We are having a huge moving sale. We would love to see you, if you’re able to make it!

Everything is well organized, priced to sell and from non-smoking households. All profits are going toward adoption costs for our daughter.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday (May 17th-19th) from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm each day

Address: 7960 Minar Avenue N, Stillwater Minnesota 55082

Some of what we have includes: (there is still so much more!)

for the fashionista: men’s, women’s and children of all sizes. Most of the clothes are hung by size for easy shopping. Shoes for everyone!

– for the man: table saw, oil changing items, garden fencing and posts, BBQ grill

– for the bum: couch, wicker couch/chair/table set, rocking chair and more

– for the minors: many books, puzzles, toy sets, tunnel, tricycles, basketball hoop, etc

– for the littlest: be completely outfitted for a baby with boppy and twin pillows, stroller, blankets, nursing gear, infant carriers, johnny jump ups and lots more

– for the home and place you cook: exhaust hood/fan, crock pot, cookware, picture frames, office organization, curtains, water filter, sheet sets, suitcases

– for the life enhancing: TomTom GPS, excellent road bike, digital cameras

– for the no-money-out-of-your-pocket: coffee, iced tea, treats, miscellaneous items you may need!



Josh and I don’t particularly like each other’s style of writing. I think he is too wordy and he thinks I am not funny. It’s a wash. And it’s also the reason we write two Christmas newsletters.

We decided recently to post Josh’s car on Craigslist to sell it before our upcoming move. Josh works from home now and having one car (the uncool family van) made sense. His car worked well but had many “character” flaws. Josh wrote the Craigslist post and then emailed it to me to put online with the pictures.

As soon as I read it I was convinced we would also have to list it for $50 because no one would buy it. And I clearly told him my opinion about it. Ha!

I posted exactly what he wrote:

1999 VW Jetta TDI – Silver

161,000 Miles

The Pros:
I have owned this car for 2.5 years. I originally bought it because I always wanted a Jetta TDI, and I had a 32 mile one-way commute to work. The gas mileage is awesome. I was able to get just over 700 miles on one tank the last time I checked it. 

It has been a very reliable car. Since I’ve owned it, it has only had two issues. After owning it about a year, it was starting to smoke a lot out of the exhaust. That issue turned out to be a large air tube that had a tear in it. I replaced it and it was back to normal. The other issue was this winter on that one extremely cold day. I didn’t add any cold weather gel preventative (which you normally don’t need, and the weather had been so mild), the fuel gelled up on the way to work and I had to get it towed to a place where it could thaw out. Other than that, it has treated me well.

The Negatives (Character):
Why is this list so huge!? I’m trying to sell a car, not keep people from buying it, right? Well, when it comes to vehicles, nothing is more frustrating than buying a used car, and finding out all sorts of flaws that the previous owner never told you. So instead of you buying my car and then getting frustrated, I’d rather tell you everything I know about it that could be viewed as negative. I want you to know what you are getting. It’s a great car in my book. It gets me from here to there with great gas mileage, and has had hardly any mechanical issues at all. But, there’s plenty of things that just aren’t up to par:

• The guy I bought the car from said the car had never been in any accidents. I’m not sure now whether I believe him or not, because upon closer inspection after I bought the car, it looks like the driver-side rear door and back panel have been replaced (the color is slightly off, and the door doesn’t shut as snug as it should).

• The body isn’t in that great of shape. The front bumper has slowly been working it’s way loose. I’ve zip-tied it in a couple places to hold it all on. It looks fairly normal, but it isn’t perfect. There’s a spot on the front bumper where the previous owner bumped into an empty trailer hitch on another vehicle (the square mark is there). The back bumper has plenty of bumps and bruises as well. There are random scratches, small dents, etc. all around it. There’s a bit of rust starting on the rear wheel wells. Most of this was all there when I got it.

• The previous owner put some silicone caulking on the top seal of the rear window. He said it leaked a little.

• The radio antennae is broken.

• The previous owner swapped out the stock stereo for a cd player. AM barely works. FM is fine. Haven’t played a cd in it. He also wired up a cord so that you can plug it into the headphone jack of something (I use my iPhone) and play music from there. In the process, he also tried to make a mount for his iPhone, and drilled a couple holes in the between the center air vents which didn’t work so he took it out.

• A couple of the air vent controls are broken (open/close, left/right).

• Dirty – the car was pretty dirty when I got it. I spent a little while cleaning it, but it’s got some stains. I recently detailed the interior again.

• Driver-side rear door lock often does not lock when using the key fab to lock the doors.

• The trunk often takes an attempt or two to open (either with the key fab or with the latch on the driver-side door). I’ve opened it up, and something isn’t quite right with the mechanics of the opener. It’s probably easily fixable. The previous owner clearly tried to use some tape to help it. It’s been that way and has worked the same since the day I got it.

• The key fab doesn’t have anything to attach it to a keychain, and I keep it taped together. It’s in rough shape, but again, it’s been that way since I got it.

• The engine is missing the normal engine cover that comes stock normally, and the protective plate on the bottom of the engine. I guess you could look on the bright side – as oil changes are a lot faster not having to remove them.

• The parking brake is shot. It will get stuck with the brakes on if used – so you can’t use it.

• The glove compartment door will come completely off if you aren’t careful. It stays in place when locked, but when you open it, it will come right off. Very typical issue with those Jettas.

• The wheels have been replaced with some after market wheels. Alloy rims. I haven’t had a problem with them. A couple of them don’t look very good though – the metal is doing weird things.

No joke, within an hour he had received over a dozen calls about it and had lined people up to come take a look. One man in particular was very persistent. I guess it was his dream car (who knew?!) that he had been shopping for for a couple of years. He drove straight over to deliver a check for the full amount, gave us a few days to make sure the check went through and then came and picked it up. The first time he drove it was out of our driveway.

At least three of the people Josh talked to complimented his post and said it made them want to buy the car more because of his honesty.

This is the public acknowledgment that I was wrong, in this case (and maybe this case only) about Josh’s writing style.

the presidentials


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I was “randomly” assigned my first two roommates in college. I chose Northwestern without having set foot on the campus and I knew no one, so my choice in roommates was left up to the lottery assignments of Residential Life. And it lived up to being random…at best.

One roommate eventually confessed to lying on her housing application about crucial details concerning neatness, waking and bedtimes and likes/dislikes, etc. Her reasoning: she didn’t want to live with someone like herself. And it worked, for her. The other roommate, I still have no idea.

The truth omitter turned out to be very into politics (one commonality between us) and single handedly started and ran the College Republicans on our campus. During our first year Newt Gingrich was visiting and speaking at St. Olaf College. I had a best friend from high school attending St. Olaf so we all made an evening of it. I only vaguely remember meeting him and have no recollection of what he spoke about but at least there is photographic evidence.

Fast forward to my third year in the graphic design department. The summer before our Senior year was when most students completed their internships. My great Aunt Becky (awesome, not old) lives in Washington D.C. and worked on Capitol Hill. Her office, the Senate Republican Conference, had a design internship position open for the summer. I was accepted and spent close to three months fascinated with life in the nation’s capital. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

At the time the SRC was overseen by Senator Rick Santorum. We met with and supported all the Republican senators but had the most access to Santorum. The most impressionable time was at a private breakfast with just him and the office interns. It was quite the experience sitting in the Senate dining room at a table with ambitious people personally learning from a leader of the country. I remember him as being gracious, funny and open…and probably patient with what were very likely elementary questions from college students.

And now they are both running for president. Wow. I’ve never met Mitt Romney…and I hope there is never a picture that contains both me and Ron Paul.

a full year

It’s been a year, boys. Happy sweet first birthday!

Bryan, you are a steady delight. I see much of my personality in yours (finally, someone in the family has it!). You are very independent and can play for a long time entertaining yourself. You warm up to people more slowly but once you do, you’re all in. You like to stay up late seemingly not wanting to miss anything. And you know what you want and try to get it…which is manifesting itself in regularly taking toys from your brother. Your current favorite defense is to hit your brother repeatedly on the head. Your favorite comfort is sucking your middle two fingers on your right hand and because of that, when we snuggle you’re always on my right side.

Erich, you are my sweet and spicy love. Ninety percent of the time you are sweet, so sweet. You love to cuddle, be close to anyone in the room, and smile often. You will play contentedly if others are nearby but you often check in with them for a few moments to lay your head on them and then go back to playing. But when something isn’t going your way, the world knows it. You have a high pitched scream and a back arch that makes people question their sanity (or maybe that’s just your mother, everyone else can send you home). Currently your best defense is biting your brother. In many ways you are a personality twin to your oldest brother, and I already fear your third and fourth years, or at least my parenting of them. Your favorite comfort is your thumb on your left hand and when we snuggle you’re always on my left side.

Together, the two of you make a delightful (and dangerous) pair. We regularly enjoy your smiles and giggles and watching you explore your world. And we are excited for you to learn all that is ahead of you in year two.