Thursday, March 30, 2006

Only in Charlottesville II

Last week, I was at a local natural foods store and my coupon confused the cashier. She had to call the manager. We had to wait. The cashier apologized to the woman standing behind me in line, who replied, “I don't mind. This gives me a chance to recite my poem. And she did, too.
It wasn't a poem about an existential crisis, or her intense longing for a lost lover. That would have been weird. It was a poem about vegetables. We were in a grocery store, after all.
This woman could have huffed away to a different register. She could have angrily tapped her toe while giving me the evil eye. She could have whipped out her cell phone and started a conversation in which she apologized because she was going to be late. There are a million different ways she could have passive-aggressively punished me for holding up the check-out line, but where others would see an annoying delay, she saw an opportunity for an impromptu poetry reading.
I'm charmed to live in a city where people do things like this.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

More renovation photos

Roofless House:

New, higher roof framing:

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Fun in the bath!

It's a tad inconvenient to shower in this:

So all six of us must bathe in this:
(Although not all at once.)

Good times.

Monday, March 20, 2006

In which I gain a new perspective

Gee, your house is so light and airy!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

In which I learn an important lesson.

I have Learned. The way to make pictures appear where you want them is to drag them. That will be my new blogging motto: Dragging is often the Answer.

Pictured here: the re
moval of our roof. It peeled off the house in the same way that the lid peels off a sardine can.

Hmmm...It isn't so easy to drag, when you are working with such a tiny space. I have a terrible feeling that publishing this post is going to result in something extremely silly looking.The second photo is my attempt to give our builder some credit for a great job.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Trollope and Technology

I've installed a hit counter—I'm curious about how many people actually read this. I wasn't sure how to do this at blogspot, but somehow blundered onto the instructions and managed to install it successfully. I noticed that I was on a page labeled “Advanced” settings. Generally, when working on sites like this, I stay away from anything labeled “advanced” for fear of accidentally performing a function I don't want to, like turning my entire site hot pink, or somehow sending an inane automated comment to every single person at blogspot: Patience Crabstick says hello!

Patience Crabstick, by the way, is not my real name. If you know your Anthony Trollope, you probably know this, and I suppose in a town as literary as C'ville, a lot of people do know their Trollope. If you don't know your Trollope, I command you to go out and get one of his novels right now. Anthony Trollope is my favorite Victorian writer. Perhaps he didn't possess the greatest genius of the writers of his time period, but he's funny and sexy, and I love him. I chose Patience Crabstick as my name because I like the sound of it, not because she's a character with whom I identify. Poor Patience! She meets with some misfortunes. From Trollope's The Eustace Diamonds:

On that evening he returned triumphant to Scotland Yard with Patience Crabstick under his wing; and that lady was housed there with every comfort she could desire, except that of personal liberty.

Will update soon with some more renovation photos. Our roof came off last week and the whole back of the house was open to the sky. It was quite dramatic.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Middle school violence

I suppose most people in Charlottesville read the front page Daily Progress article this week about violence at Buford Middle School. I don't subscribe to the Daily Progress, but my son brought the paper home from school with him with him. At first I skimmed the article because it seemed to be mostly ineffectual hand-wringing, but later that night, my son, who's in 8th grade at Buford, told me that he'd witnessed an attack on one of his teachers. According to my son, there was some sort of altercation between a student and the teacher, and the student slammed a door on the teacher's hand, hard enough to shatter her wedding ring. This is horrifying. Do you know how much it hurts to have your hand slammed in a door? Can you imagine how frightening it was for the other students in the class to witness this?
So I went back and read the article more carefully—it was still ineffectual hand-wringing, the point being that you can't really toss twelve and thirteen year old kids out of school when there is no alternative for them, but neither can you allow these children to terrorize students and teachers, so what do you do? The elementary schools have lifeskills programs in place to help children deal with anger and to behave appropriately when faced with conflict. In my opinion, such programs are of little use. Children, from their infancies, need consistent respectful, non-violent behavior modeled by their parents or guardians. If they don't get this, then lifeskills or other guidance programs are too little, too late. On the other hand, it's not right to say it's too late to help a violent child. I do think that a large, centralized middle school is a terrible environment for any child, particularly a troubled one. Two of my children go to Buford and both of them hate it there. My daughter told me, “I'm worried that I'll say the wrong thing to somebody and get beaten up.”
Maybe if children were taught in smaller groups, in a more nurturing environment, some violence might be avoided? Or do we need early intervention with new parents—the teaching of gentle discipline, tactics for dealing with the stress of having a baby, better options for victims of domestic violence? I don't have any answers, I'm just pissed off that two of my kids live with the threat of violence every school day.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Only in Charlottesville

This morning, at about 7:00, I was alarmed to see several police cars, lights flashing, swarming my small quiet street. About a year ago, my neighbor was the victim of a violent crime in her house, so naturally my thoughts turned to her. Furthermore, I had been out running earlier that morning, and I wondered if I had narrowly missed becoming a crime victim myself. I could see police officers, apparently looking for clues, in a nearby backyard, and they had deliberately blocked the street with their cars, which is never a good sign. It was also time for my children to go out to wait for the school bus, which worried me, since I didn't think they'd be safe, and they are at the age where they don't want to be seen with their mother in public. I had to trail them at a discreet distance and keep an eye on them from across our park.

Eventually, the police left, and I was left frustrated, wondering if I'd have to rely on the slender skills of the channel 29 news team to bring me the story. J, more assertive than I, went out to find the scoop.

What brought scores of cops to my neighborhood? Three cows had escaped from the stockyards in Belmont. They were seen wandering through Belmont Park--cows in Belmont Park!--when someone called the police, who herded them into the backyard, where I spotted them "looking for clues." Someone from the stockyards came to get them, and all is back to normal here in my little corner of C'ville.

I'm kicking myself for having just missed seeing those cows in the park myself. It must have been quite a surprising sight.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Endlessly boring you with pictures

J has done some of the demolition. These are before and after pictures of the interior back hall.

Our roof got ripped off yesterday, and I have loads of fun photos of that.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Progress is made

Workmen arrived last week, jackhammered part of our back stairs and dug a hole . The next day, we were told an inspector from the city was to arrive and inspect the hole so that they could pour the footing. I got a bit worried, because even after living in C'ville for eight years, I am still used to what passes for city government in Buffalo, NY, my hometown. I assumed that "the inspector is coming today" meant, "the inspector will show up at any time between now and 2012, preferably at a time that is a maximum inconvenience for all involved." But Charlottesville surprised me once again, with an inspector arriving promptly at 10:00am. She approved the hole, too.

Naturally, with four kids and two dogs, it is impossible to keep them away from the work area. The evening after the hole was dug, Drama Queen, for reasons best known to herself, opened the back door, allowing the dogs to rush headlong towards the abyss. She grabbed the collar of Luna, our older dog, whose weight threatened to pull them both into the hole. Meanwhile, our other dog, Sancho, rocketed out the door and half-fell off the sheer edge of what was left of the steps. It was life imitating art. If you've seen The Fellowship of the Ring, think back to the scene where they're fleeing Moria down the endless stairs that collapse at their feet, nearly sending all of them to the very pit of hell. Our ordeal at the edge of the steps was similar--with me in the role of Aragorn. I managed to haul everyone to safety, but just barely.

I'm used to a different blogging site that is more user friendly--at least as far as publishing photos is concerned. How in the heck to I get my pictures to go where I want them. I am accustomed to pics appearing wherever I have left my cursor, but this site wants to put them all up at the top of every entry. Perhaps some kind soul can tell me what I'm doing wrong--if anyone actually reads this. At *cough* Xanga *cough* I actually get comments. Oh God, having trouble once again getting this post to appear. When will I get the hang of this place. Cleared cache. Giving it another go.

Explanation of pictures from top to bottom:
1. The back porch, or "Tool room" after I'd cleared it out.
2. Oddly oriented picture of foundation hole.
3.The "tool room" before I'd cleared it out.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Continuing the Saga

Still fussing about flooring. Today I undid all the bundles of leftover heart pine that have been sitting in our back porch since 2001, under a leaky roof. I pieced it all together, and realized we've been letting mice crap all over $500 worth of prime antique heart pine floor boards.

So, yesterday, I went for a run and accidentally got tangled up in the beginning of the Martha Jefferson 8k. The race hadn't quite started yet, but there were runners everywhere, and I felt conspicuous because I lacked a number pinned to my chest. I think people assumed I was crashing their race. Is there a term for people who run races without bothering to register and pay the entrance fee? Race poachers?

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Above are some "before" pictures of the interior of the house. That messy closet will be torn out as well as the door at the end of the hall and the ceiling, which will be raised to 8'--it's currently less than 7'.

Slight set-back. We drove up to Mountain Lumber today. This is a business that sells remilled antique lumber for use as flooring, mantles, whatever. We bought flooring there on sale, six years ago, and wanted more for our addition. We brought a few leftover boards to show what we'd bought originally, and the salesman was able to pull up the record of our original sale in the computer.

Once he'd replaced his eyeballs, he said, "You really got a good deal on that wood." Back in 2000, we paid $1 per square foot for antique remilled heart pine. Today, the price for the same wood is $11, and we need to buy 100 square feet. I was prepared for a price increase, but not such a huge one. We decided to think it over, and stopped at the Hell that is Lowe's on a Saturday afternoon to look at their wood flooring. It's much cheaper, but it's also of execrable quality. We have Mountain Lumber's price list, and I think we'll end up buying a lesser grade of their antique heart pine.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Home Renovation Begins!

We bought our house over six years ago. It's a small, old house--a typical Charlottesville house, and at 1500 square feet, it is a tad too small for six people and two dogs. We bought it knowing it was too small because we loved it, and because it was the best house we'd seen in our price range, and because it felt like home. During those first marvelous months of owning our first home, it really seemed like this house had sat here for nearly 100 years, just waiting for us to move into it.

Over the years, we've done several DIY projects: installing antique heart pine flooring in a hideous 1960's-era addition to the house, ripping out the horrid plastic kitchen cabinets and replacing them with open shelves and a custom made plate rack, enlarging and replacing two tiny windows in the aforementioned hideous addition.

Our latest project involves fixing the 1960's portion of the house once and for all. We've hired a builder who will tearing the roof off the back of the house and raising it by a foot. Currently, the ceiling back there is barely seven feet high. We're also demolishing a small covered porch, and rebuilding and enlarging it to create a new room. Once the building is done, I will do some major rearranging of rooms--turning what is now the kids' playroom into the dining room. The old dining room will be a family room, and the new room will be a quiet study space off the family room.

The work began on Monday.

Geez. I need to learn a few things about putting photos into entries here. Those are not placed the way I want them, but they'll do for now.

Mulitple personalities

This is only my second entry, and I feel weird. I have another site, where I let my hair down, so to speak, where I have a group of regular subscribers, and where I feel I can be funny and bitch about work, friends, and family. I intended this site to be my Serious Site, but I feel a bit like I'm creating a dual personality for myself. I suppose I should introduce the regular cast of characters, although this entry will eventually be buried under countless others, so it seems pointless to do so. However, just for clarification: I have a husband I'll call J, until I can come up with a clever nickname for him. The kids are Mad Scientist, age 13, Drama Queen, age 12, Miss G, age 10, and Mr. McP, age 7.

Wow! That's a lot of kids for a white, middle class, eduated 37 year old woman! Indeed. By choosing a more traditional role for myself, I ended up bucking the tradition for women of my age and social class. Still, there's a lot to be said for being a young parent, and if I were to do it over, I wouldn't change a thing.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Opening Entry

It is so difficult to come up with the opening entry to one's blog. I plan to use this site to write about issues that interest me, books I've read, and bits and pieces of my personal life. I'll also be giving updates about the progress of the major renovation we've started on our old house in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Bit of an introduction: I'm a married woman in her thirties. I have four children, two of whom are homeschooled, and two of whom attend Charlottesville City public schools. My husband and I both work at the University of Virginia's hospital.