Archive for September, 2008


Sunday, September 28th, 2008

This week we finally finally got around to starting our renovation of the basement. We’ve been meaning to get around to this for ages – we would occasionally (about once a year) get a little water in the basement floor when there was a lot of melting snow and rain in spring – not enough to do any harm but enough to stop us from putting any nice furnishings there. Also it was just very ugly – done in wood panelling probably in the 30s or something, and it really needed to be cleaned up.

So after a number of wildly varied quotes, some refinancing, lots of cleaning and junk removal and a bit of fretting about how good the contractor would be we had the whole thing start this Monday. There’s been tons done already – Monday and Tuesday was the demolition of the wood paneling and the drop ceiling; Wednesday there was a lot of cleanup of plumbing, including some drains, then Thursday we had Standard Water come in to do the water protection work – installing drain tile and a sump pump, which involved a trench being dug around the perimeter, then filled with stones, piping and finally cemented over. Friday there was more plumbing and the first of the electrical clean-up. Quite a productive week to say the least, and next week we’re all set for the new walls to be built, and the start of the plumbing updates.

It’s been a bit of a hassle – not too bad because obviously most of the work has been downstairs, but we have had some strange happenings with our electrical system, and the plumbing work has affected the water pressure in the bathroom and kitchen (much better in the bathroom, and terrible in the kitchen which means that the dishwasher isn’t working, so lots of dishwashing all week). The cats have been quite accommodating – we had to move their litter trays and they haven’t been allowed downstairs, which is usually their hideout.

Anyway, it’s all very exciting. Here are the photos from week one – enjoy. I’m already shuddering at how bad it used to look – even if we stop now it looks 100 time better.

almost american

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Last Friday I had a rather strange but fun experience – the US Citizenship test. Emma and I had been thinking about doing this for some time – now we’ve had our green cards for about 6 years we’re eligible but it’s not something to be taken lightly. We have found that it’s OK to have dual citizenship with our British passports, and I know that if we have to give that up it would be a different story, but gaining dual citizenship feels like a good thing to do.

There are a number of reasons why I’ve been thinking of doing this: firstly this is home in many ways, and being able to be a full member of the society, especially being able to vote, feels like the right thing (especially as I’ve been paying tax since I got here). Also it gives us much more flexibility – if we left the US for over two years we’d lose our green cards. Furthermore I have heard that it makes a difference with inheritance taxes I might have to pay to the kids when the inevitable happens. A little strange to say that you would serve in the army if called upon, but as we said if they’re going to call up mothers of two in their thirties (like Emma) then the world is pretty much falling apart and it’s not going to make much difference what countries you might belong to.

Anyway, there was a fair amount of paperwork to do, but on the whole it seems to be a much easier process than the whole work visa and green card process. The interview was close to the final stage – now my application has been approved and I just need to wait to hear when the ceremony is, which is the final step. I was quite nervous – apart from the momentousness about it, I was worried that despite my studying I might flunk the US Citizenship test questions. As it turned out the interview was very relaxed. I was asked some pretty simple questions, and seemed to do pretty well in the tests of written and spoken English. It was all over in about 15 minutes or so. I guess I missed the opportunity to change my name (keep meaning to add an extra F to Mogendorff) but all in all it was a good thing to do. Now I just have to wait for the ceremony!

Also last night my friend Michael came over with a patriotic apple pie for us. I was too grateful to point out that although the phrase is “As American as apple pie” there are plenty other countries where people make apple pie. However, not many where someone would carve USA into the crust (the other thing carved in at the top of the crust is apparently an eagle):

USA Apple Pie

USA Apple Pie

dara’s birthday

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Dara is the grand old age of one today! She’s doing great – we had her checkup at the doctor’s yesterday and all is well. She’s 70th percentile for height, and 30th for weight, so a lot like her dad. Walking well, and she knows and uses 6 or 7 words so far – again a lot like her dad. Too much of a rush to get going this morning to do presents, but thanks to everyone who has sent things – we’ll be getting to them this evening.

Also, happy Talk Like A Pirate Day! Avast! In Dara’s class they’ve been having pirate events all week, and Dara’s wearing a pirate t-shirt today.


Monday, September 15th, 2008

There are a number of subtle differences between American and British supermarkets, one of them being the kinds of meat you can encounter in each. Despite the new/old food “movement” in the U.K., I’m sure that in most supermarkets here there is more offal available – chicken gizzards, pig trotters etc, than I ever saw in Britain.

On James Lileks’ Bleat today he had a picture of something he saw at one of our local markets:

Chicken feet

Chicken feet

Urgh. As he says, “I’m sure they’re quality chicken feet, but the thing about modern supermarkets is this: generally, not a lot of feet.” Well, you do get pig trotters, as I noted, but there’s quite a difference between trotters and actual feet. With scales. And claws. Holding onto each other.

And per the wording on the price label, I’m not sure what the store thinks my life is like, but a handful of feet is not something that would be living up to any life I would like, thanks.

PS if anyone has any chicken feet recipes, leave a note in the comments, if you must.

walking video

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

Took this little video at the zoo over the weekend – they have a little kids’ playroom, where the children can play dress-up and look at cool x-rays of some of the zoo animals. Anyway, the sound quality of this isn’t great because it’s done with a regular digital still camera, but the picture’s pretty good I think. Oh, and she’s usually steadier with walking than this, but she’d had a couple of martinis right beforehand. Enjoy:

walking girl

Monday, September 8th, 2008

A lot of Dara’s time over the last few days has been taken up with practicing walking, and it’s going pretty well I think. When you stand her up she takes a moment to clarify her balance, with some optional additional time for a big grin and maybe a bit of clapping, then a totter forwards. She’s now reliably doing three or four steps, and can go fairly far if everything works well. She still defaults to speed-crawling, but hey, she’s only a baby.


Saturday, September 6th, 2008

If it’s good enough for an unknown from Alaska, it’s good enough for me. Here is the news.

the best day of all in the world

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Ready for kindergarten

Ready for kindergarten

It was Toby’s first day at kindergarten today and he was very excited to be going at last. Last night after he fell asleep and we checked on him, we saw that he had taken his brand new backpack into his bed, so it was clearly something foremost in his mind, even though outwardly he was seeming very calm.

Walking to kindergarten

Walking to kindergarten

Because his classes don’t start till just after 9:30am, Emma and I took him to the bagel place round the corner for a bit of breakfast, then strolled over in plenty time to get him to his classroom (stopping on the way at the lunchroom so that he could get a banana and we could be sure that he could remember the code number he needed to complete the checkout process). He went in just fine, no worries at all, apart from a big hug he gave us before we left.

Installed in class

Installed in class

When we met him at the end of the day, there were the only tears of the day, because he wanted to stay longer. He’d had a great day, doing lots of writing, some stories, meeting new friends, playing outside (apparently learning to do jump rope was a highlight), and getting his own lunch in the lunchroom, not to mention Spanish class in the afternoon. We’re just really impressed at how well he handled himself. As I was putting him to bed this evening, I asked him if he was looking forward to going again tomorrow, and if he had a good time. He said, “Yes, it was the best day of all in the world.”