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Thoughts on Life – 7/1/2012 – Moving into a new house

So, we have done it.  We finally moved into our new house a week ago.  We had worked on the house for about a month and a half.  During that time, we had new flooring put in, had new insulation put in, installed new doors and door locks, refinished the kitchen, repainted the rooms, had fans installed in the upstairs bedrooms, reworked the outside flower beds, had our trees trimmed, and generally cleaned up the place.  We got the house for a good price with the idea of putting a bunch of money in up front to get it into the shape we wanted.  I’d say that we came within 85-90% of what we wanted upon moving in, with mostly money limitations keeping us from going further.  Still, we did a whole lot over that time.  We also, of course, worked to pack up our own stuff, so that we could be ready to move in.

Last Sunday, we made the move.  We called up the movers and had them start us out at 9am on Sunday.  They left right around 7pm, making two loads from our apartment to the house.  It went very smoothly overall, although there’s still quite a bit of stuff left at the apartment.  Luckily we don’t have to be out of there until the end of July, so we have time to finish up there.

My wife and mother-in-law did a lot of the work on the house.  I was preparing for teaching and then teaching through a lot of the time getting the house ready, so I had a more limited role.  Still, we all worked on it well throughout the time, and I think we did a good job.

Since moving in, we have been unpacking and continuing to clean/organize the house.  Our space has been increased by about 1000 square feet, so we can really stretch everything out well.  We have had some hiccups along the way.  We are still getting the kinks out in our cable/internet, but we seem to be a good way along the right path there.  We have had a number of plumbing issues, but we really knew that going into the place, and it has just been a matter of getting them taken care of.  We have also discovered that we are going to have to get a second air conditioner in upstairs at some point, as the one in the house is just not able to handle a large house.  Our electrical input to the house is also pretty rough, and we are going to have to get that taken care of.  We are prioritizing what needs to get done and deciding when to pull the trigger on the various things that are needed.

As of now, however, we are quite pleased with the set up of the house and what we have here.  It is a very nice place in a nice neighborhood.  I hope everything continues to go as smoothly.

Thoughts on Teaching – 5/7/2012 – A short grading break

It is grading time again.  I have a set of projects due at the end of the semester, and I have essay exams as the final.  So, I am doing a lot of grading.  Luckily, I am a lot more on top of it at this point than I usually am at the end of the semester.  I am generally caught up now and will just be grading exams as they come in from this point forward.  This is all helped by the fact that I do not leave comments on any final projects/exams, so the grading does go faster.  My general philosophy on this is that comments are intended to help the students improve over the course of the semester, and so putting them on at the final project does not help them a whole lot.  Plus, as I well remember myself, few will ever go back to look at comments on things turned in at the end of the semester.  Also, as I apparently had some students who did not realize until the end that I had been leaving comments all along, perhaps the whole commenting thing is overrated anyway.  I always feel like I should leave a lot of comments to justify the grade, and I also use a grading rubric to justify the grade.  However, it does appear that most students are just happy getting a number grade that is not too far off from what they were expecting and going with that.  Makes you think (or not, in their cases).

This has also been my first semester at my community college to experiment with take-home tests.  I was generally pleased with what I got from the students, as I was not sure what I might get at the beginning.  Certainly the effort was mixed all the way around, but I certainly feel that I got a good level of effort overall from the students.  I also do feel that I got a pretty decent level of actual thought from the students as well, which is better than what I see on a lot of other essays.  I think the experiment went pretty well overall.

We also closed on our house last Friday, so we have that to look forward to once we get this semester done.  My wife is graduating with her BA at the end of this week, and then I’ll be done with the semester, and she’ll be done with the first part of her schooling.  We can then turn our attention to the new house and get going on working on it so that we can move in sometime in June.  We are pleased overall with the house and ready to get going.

And, I think that’s it for my short update here.

Thoughts on Life – 4/22/2012 – A quiet weekend

It has been a quiet weekend, the last quiet one until the semester is over.  I will have grading to do by this time next weekend, and that push won’t end until I have graded all of it.  My dad came up to visit, arriving on Friday and leaving early this morning.  We did not do a lot, as we had been so busy all the way up to that point that we could not really plan much of anything.  Things have been so busy down there that we hope the quiet weekend was not a disappointment to him.  We did get a hold of our realtor and got to go see the house with him.  My parents have been a lot of help to us in the whole house hunting process, that it was nice to get him in there.  Otherwise, we did a bit of shopping, went out to eat a couple of times, and cooked a couple of meals here.

I just finished up another set of online office hours tonight where no students showed up.  Luckily, as we are now in full moving mode, I worked on clearing out some papers and other things that I would not need to move.  As well, I did some organizing around my desk to have everything nicely filed and ready to go.  We have not done a lot of actual packing yet, but we have been doing some clearing out of things, going through clothes, books, and other things to try and start culling material that is just not worth moving.

My wife is also in full design mode, working through ideas of how we are going to decorate and paint the various rooms.  I’m trying to keep up with the practical side of things, getting insurance, utilities, and other necessities together.  We are also in full baby preparation mode.  We went shopping today and started pricing out the things we were going to need to have for the baby.  We also looked at appliances and got a better idea of what we are going to be looking for in that range.  So, it was a nice scouting trip all the way around.

Anyway, just wanted to post a short one today, so there you go.

Thoughts on Life – 4/16/2012 – End of another busy section of life

Well, I know it has been a while, but life just intervenes sometimes.  I just finished another 2-week grading session, as the two-thirds-of-the-way-through assignments came in.  The second set of assignments always goes faster than the first, simply because fewer students are left in class by that point.  It was a moderately successful section of the class overall.  I’m down about a 1/3 to a 1/2 in most of my classes, which is unfortunately normal.  I lost a lot fewer than that over the drop deadline, which was last week.  The reality is that a lot of the F’s that I give out are to students who simply do not do any work and yet do not drop.  I can’t say these exams and projects were any better or worse than usual, but it was a lot of essay grading, as I essentially had four 500+-word essays from each of my students.  It’s times like this that I truly know how much of a grading masochist I am.

Our house buying is proceeding along well.  We are looking to close in early May.  We are at the stage of working with a lender and getting the appraisal done.  It has been a lot of paperwork and a lot of decisions along the way, but we are happy with the way everything has turned out.  We have started planning what we are going to do and when as we move into the house.  We will paint, get new carpets, and put in the major appliances that are missing.  We also are going to do some tree trimming, have insulation blown into the attic, and install solar screens.  With our tax money next year, we are planning to replace all of the wooden siding on the house, as it is the original 1960s siding that was poorly taken care of in general.  We have also started thinking about packing and getting rid of stuff around here.  So, that moves along well.

And, the final piece has fallen into place.  We are having another kid.  My wife is 12 weeks pregnant at this point.  We had our second doctor visit and sonogram today.  It’s too early for the gender yet, but we have begun planning for some of the things we need (which includes the new house, of course).  We are currently working on some gender-neutral plans, but we’ll be able to finalize more once we know if it will be a boy or a girl.

So, that’s been my life over the last month or so.  I hope to get back into regular blogging again, at least until finals get here.

Thoughts on Life – 04/05/2012 – Busy, busy, busy

Sorry that I have not blogged in a bit.  We are in the final stages of buying a house at this point.  The negotiations were and still are rough.  We have a good chance of closing on a house as early as tomorrow, but there are still a few things left to deal with before we can be sure about that.

We have also had some personal issues going on, which I will blog about in more detail later.

And, it is, again, a grading period.  I have a lot of grading to do, so it will take over my life again here.

I will be back to regular blogging in the not-so-distant future, and I will check in as often as I can.

Thoughts on Life – 3/19/2012 – Wrapping up Spring Break

Spring Break is nice.  We took some serious time off and tried to rest up.  I did a fairly minimal amount of work, but after about 2 1/2 weeks of grading, I was happy to have a break.

We did some house searching and found one that we really like.  We are going to see it again soon so that we can fully evaluate it.  We have also been pre-approved for a loan, so we are right on target.  We don’t have to move out here until the end of July, but we are trying to be active here in looking for a house and coming up with the best opportunity for us.  We found a 2700 sq. ft. house in our price range that seems quite perfect for what we are looking at.  Plus, the kids would get to stay in their current charter school, which is perfect as well.  We are continuing to look, but that house that we’ve found so far is really going to have to have something else perfect to beat it.  It is exciting to look for a house, but it is also stressful.  I have not slept well for days as I keep running ideas through my head rather than sleeping.

We also had one of my friends visit for a couple of days.  The kids went off to stay with their grandparents for a good portion of the week, and we spent some time just hanging out as adults, something that is hard to do with three elementary-aged kids in the house.  We also did, as my friend called it, a culinary tour of the city.  We ate all over the place, avoiding chain restaurants and hitting various types of cuisine over the several days he was here.

Beyond that, I can’t say I got ahead on any work that I needed to do, but then, do any of us ever get as much done over Spring Break as possible?


Thoughts on Life – 3/13/2012 – Buying a house

We have made a big decision.  We are looking to buy a house.  My wife (ok, girlfriend when we started) and I have decided it is time to stop renting and time to get in a house.  There are a couple of reasons for this.

  1. First, we really do not like the place where we live right now.  This apartment complex is tolerable at best.  We are surrounded by loud neighbors, and this has been true of whatever neighbors live there, as the turnover is high.  The maintenance level at our complex is also really low, and has been for a long time.  This means that everything is old, most of it has been patched together multiple times, and many things break every year.  So, we have to put up with them coming in over and over and not fixing things over and over.
  2. Second, this apartment is just expensive on our budget.  Yes, I know a house will be expensive too, but it will feel less like flushing money down the toilet with no chance of improvement ever.  Right now, though, the money is hard to justify, especially considering the condition of the place.  Plus, everything is exactly the opposite of energy efficient here, and we could hopefully rectify this in a house.
  3. Third, we can actually afford a house big enough for us right now.  Yes, there aren’t a whole lot of 4+ bedroom, 2+ bathroom, 2250 sq. ft. + houses out there for under $150000, but there are some.  That was not true not that long ago, but the housing prices have dropped far enough for buying to be a realistic option for us.

So, I have now scheduled our first viewing of a house we are interested in.  Oh, and, yeah, we have no idea what we are doing at all . . .