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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Extreme Thrifting

I'm enough of a thrift shop enthusiast to know that exploring the second-hand stores is always an adventure. But today was Extreme Thrifting at its most intense -- including bloodshed! Not what I'd bargained for when I strolled into the Salvation Army store.

(Or, as my mom-in-law C calls it, the Sally Shop. Let me tell you, I had no such kind nicknames for the place when I left, sporting four bandages and a large quantity of antibiotic ointment.)

It started out innocently enough. I've been on the hunt for some bookshelves and storage solutions for our living/dining area -- now that the computer has found a most satisfactory home in the craigslist computer armoire, the other pieces of furniture next to it look somewhat out of place. I check this particular location in Campbell pretty frequently, since it's the one in the area that seems to focus most on second-hand furniture. (Case in point: we donated our used desk a few weeks back -- the one that the computer armoire replaced -- and we dropped it off at the location closest to our apartment. A few days later, when I was browsing at the Campbell location, I saw our desk. Kind of surreal, and it apparently found a good home since it wasn't there when I was at the store today! May it work well for the new owners.) I had to be in the area anyway, since I had a dentist's appointment nearby, so I stopped in quickly on my way home.

Sure enough, they had several new items, one of which was somewhat promising, but I ended up deciding it wasn't quite right. As I was leaving, a pair of glass door bookcases caught my eye, and even though we'd decided that bookcases with doors just won't work for our current setup, I went over to check them out. I opened the door (a natural impulse when checking out second hand furniture) and I'm still not quite sure what happened but all of a sudden there was a report like a gunshot and the door shattered. Tempered glass, which went EVERYWHERE. Two women shoppers who were nearby in the store rushed over to see if I was OK. I hardly knew. My shoes were covered with broken glass bits, and I looked at my shaking hands -- the one that had been holding the door handle had been cut in three places and the other hand had been cut as well from flying glass. Thank God it didn't cut my eyes or anywhere else (if I'd had on sandals instead of sturdy sneakers, I would have been in bad shape).

Both the women shoppers helped me brush the glass bits from my clothes, and we shared an incredulous thirty seconds (or so, it seemed like much longer) while we waited for one of the employees to come see what happened.

"I just opened the door," I kept repeating. "I only opened it, and BAM!!! I just opened the door!" The women agreed that I hadn't done anything that should have caused such an accident. Finally, I yelled out, "HELLO??!! A little HELP HERE PLEASE???" A distant voice replied, "Someone's coming!"

And the manager who came was very apologetic, ushering me into the break room and pulling out their first aid kit. When I washed off the cuts, it turned out I had several scratches in addition to the cuts, but none were all that bad, and all were on the back of my hands and forearms, so easily bandaged. After I'd gotten all patched up, I said that I was OK and declined the need to file an official report.

I reassured the kind women who had helped me that I was fine and went and sat in the car for a few moments to calm down enough to drive home. My hands shook for a bit longer, and I kept getting shudderific visions of how awful it could have been if the glass had gone near my face. Mostly I felt stunned and grateful that it wasn't worse.

(Update, a few days later, it now looks like I've merely been on the losing end of a battle with an energetic kitten, save for the two largest cuts. Even they are healing up nicely and I'm sure everything will be just fine. Whew.)

Me being me, of course I've continued to wonder exactly why the glass broke when all I'd done was to (gently, slowly) open the door. One good thing: they didn't doubt me a bit that I wasn't at fault for the breakage. On our way out of the store, the manager and I walked by the employee sweeping up the glass and noted that the doors on the bookshelf (by design, apparently) didn't have any wood framing on the bottom. The manager said he guessed that when I opened the door the glass must have slipped down and hit the concrete floor and shattered, though it all happened so quickly I can't say for sure. I did a little research on "spontaneous breakage of tempered glass" and apparently this isn't as unusual as one might guess. Common enough for a Wikipedia entry, at any rate -- I had no idea! They say:

Spontaneous glass breakage is a phenomenon by which toughened glass (or tempered) may spontaneously break without any apparent reason. The most common causes are:

  • Minor damage during installation such as nicked or chipped edges which later develop into larger breaks
  • Binding of the glass in the frame causing stresses to develop as the glass expands and contracts due to thermal changes or deflects due to wind
  • Internal defects within the glass such as nickel sulfide inclusion.
  • Thermal stresses in the glass
  • Inadequate glass thickness to resist wind load
Given that this was a secondhand piece, I'm now betting there was some minor damage (either at the time of installation or during use) or an inclusion or problem with the framing. Reading this, I now doubt that the glass slipped and hit the floor. It happened too quickly and I didn't notice any sort of movement. (Though admittedly, it can be hard to be sure.) Clearly, whatever happened, I had the ill-luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the break happened. Now that I know how fragile tempered glass can be, this is certainly something to keep in mind during my future thrift store adventures -- I've definitely had enough of Extreme Thrifting for one lifetime!!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Good Times

BB seems to have (finally!) decided that preschool can be a Good Time. She is more relaxed about going, talks more about the fun that she has while she's there, and (I think most importantly) has recognized that she has made many friends with her classmates. This Is Huge.

Today, BB and I met up at a local park with M and his younger brother C and mom V, and the kids played together just beautifully. (I enjoyed chatting with V as well, which is certainly a welcome bonus!) We were at the park for two and a half hours with hardly a moment's fuss. The kids dug in the sand, climbed on the structures, and ran around having fun. Both M and C go to BB's preschool -- M is in her class and she's known him for more than a year now, and C is in the class behind them. It was such a good time, such a good thing to see BB so comfortable with the boys.

Fingers crossed that the good times continue for her. It would really ease my heart to see her get past her anxieties about preschool. It's all well and good to have her so securely attached, and of course I wouldn't have that any other way, but it is a wonderful thing (if a bit bittersweet) to see her gaining a little independence.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One of The Good Guys

BB has been very concerned lately with the "good guy -- bad guy" dichotomy.

(I blame Star Wars, which is extremely popular at our house right now. The kids have only seen the original (episode 4) Star Wars, but for the past few weeks at bedtime S has been telling them the story of the rest of the movies, so they are very familiar with it by now.)

Tonight at bedtime, she wanted to know, "Mommy, are all bad guys made up?"
Well, no, I explained. There are real bad guys in real life.
"Why?" she wanted to know.
(Ah, here we are, the problem of evil at age 4 and a half. And of course my husband the philosopher was working late this evening and not around for bedtime, so I couldn't fob off the question to the resident expert.)

Keeping in mind all that parenting advice I've read, I turned the question back to her. "What do you know about that?"
There are good guys and bad guys, she told me.
"And you know what, Mom?" she said.
"Even if you weren't my mom you'd still be one of the good guys."

Which, for this particular evening at least, seemed enough of a resolution to the problem of evil for this particular little girl.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pee-wee Palentology

Recently, BJ (and BB) pulled out the dino-dig kit he'd received as a gift. (Christmas or birthday, I can't recall -- he's actually got quite a stash of science-themed kits that we've been working our way through.)

Complete with safety goggles, his brick-o-plaster with encased T-Rex "bones" was quite a hit!

We've now done a few of these sorts of things. This time we were working with the Smithsonian Dinosaur Dig kit, and it has been by far the best one we've done. The plaster brick was much more easily broken up than other kits we've done, and the wooden hammer and chisel were also much less flimsy.

I was pleased that BJ was willing to share the experience with BB (including finding her a spare set of safety goggles from his DIY Volcano kit).

Once he'd pulverized the plaster to powder (definitely messy, definitely something to do outside) he had very little trouble putting together the skeleton. The tail wouldn't stay on, so we needed some glue to help with that, but all told he was very happy with the result!

And maybe it's the safety goggles (or the fact that he needs a haircut) but my goodness he looks SO much older to me in these pictures! Not so much of a pee-wee, anymore!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Halloween Sneak Peek

More than a month to go, and the kids have settled on their Halloween costumes. BJ's going to be an astronaut (getting good mileage out of the space suit and accessories that he asked for last Christmas) -- and I have plenty of time to fix the Made in China error of the COMMANDER badge that was sewn on upside-down. (Nevermind the fact that I've had since December to fix it...)

He's pretty thrilled with the costume, as you might imagine!

BB is right on trend in wanting to be Rapunzel. I was very happy that when given the choice, she decided not to get the Disney (poorly made) licensced Tangled dress. Instead, she chose a pretty lavender "Renaissance Princess" gown. Add in the hair she got at Disneyland and a purple pair of shoes, and she's all set! One of these days, my garment making chops will be up to the challenge of making such a costume -- hopefully sooner rather than later (want to do it for my own kids, not for grandkids someday!) but this year I was just fine with purchasing what needed to be bought to make it happen, doing a little repair for BJ and running up a hem for BB (her dress is a wee bit too long). Good Enough is the motto for this year.

BB is also lobbying heavily for me to dress up as Princess Leia... Star Wars is VERY popular at our house right now, so this isn't surprising I suppose. We'll see!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

BJ's Whale Adoption Fundraiser

This past weekend, BJ did the classic kid fundraiser -- a lemonade stand!
He was raising money for his whale adoption fund and decided to do it during move-in weekend. Talk about perfect timing! On Saturday, he set up his stand in the building that houses S's community. On Sunday, he set up in our building. Each day for a few hours he ran the stand (with S's help and support from the rest of us). I think it was a really good experience for him.

He was talking about the lemonade stand all week leading up to it, very excited by the prospect. We figured he should decide which whale to adopt before having the fundraiser, so he settled on Shackleton.

Here's what the aquarium says about Shackleton: "Named after the intrepid Antarctic explorer, Shackleton the whale caused quite a commotion when he ventured up the Delaware River to Camden, NJ. During this adventure he was struck by a tug boat, but he survived his ordeal and is now seen regularly on the Bay of Fundy feeding grounds."

(Picture from the New England Aquarium whale sponsorship website.)

Setting the prices for the stand was an interesting conversation. He'd decided he wanted to sell cups of lemonade, cookies, and pictures. Lemonade for $5 a cup? Maybe not. He settled on 50 cents for lemonade, 25 cents for a cookie, and 10 cents for a picture. Once he settled on the prices, he made a poster to advertise his entrepreneurial project. Of course it included "Whale Fun Facts" all written by him (S helped with the typing).

He drew 10 ocean-themed pictures -- and sold them all! Here he is selling a picture to his first customer, a very kind young man who is on S's student staff.

I made 100 cookies, sold maybe half of that. (Good thing they were yummy.) A jug of lemonade for each day was more than sufficient. So he didn't really sell so much as he had very generous customers!

He learned a lot, including some good practice with math skills (I'm still impressed by how accurately he was counting up what people owed him and figuring out how much change -- though admittedly, most folks didn't ask for any change). He also got good practice talking with people -- look them in the eye, get your fingers out of your mouth, say please and thank you. That sort of thing. And he got good practice with what not to do.... alas, he's at the typical 6-year-old let's-learn-how-to-burp-on-command stage. Which led to his least polite moment, when he was asked about his stand and what he was selling. His reply, totally unself-conscious: "Lemo-buuuurrp-nade!"

So he's still got some PR to work on, that's clear. And towards the end of his second day at the lemonade stand, he was getting pretty squirrelley. But all told, he did quite well.

After both days, of course he totaled up the bills and coins to see what he'd made.

He raised a total of $33.45, not too shabby for a 6 year old! Add that to the money he's earned for allowance and saved towards his goal and he's currently at $61.99. It will be very interesting to see if he decides to opt for the $45 adoption level (the lowest one), the next one up at $75, or if he hangs in there for something still more expensive. He's saying he wants to collect $250 for the top level sponsorship for his chosen whale. We'll see!

The Best Kind of Busy

We've had a very full week in the Mama's Magic household, full of the best kind of busy. My parents were here for a visit (they left early this morning) the campus was coming back to life, with the students moving in last weekend, and S was getting ready to return to the classroom after his year's sabbatical. Whew!

Some highlights from the week:

BJ's second annual walk-a-thon at school. Mom and I hung around for the first lap.

Then he started running laps when it was time for us to go!

By the end, he'd done 50 laps! I've been told that each lap was 2/10ths of a mile. Is it possible he really walked 10 miles??? Wow!

BB's gym class

The farmer's market!

Drawing with Giki (who was patient enough to make a pencil sketch of every dinosaur in BJ's "I can Draw Dinosaurs" book, so that he could color them in. Such a good Giki!)

Projects and Playing with Pop-Pop (BJ and Pop-Pop had great fun with a polymer chemistry kit and a soda can robot kit!)

Projects and Playing with Giki (They pulled out the fabric doll set that Giki made for BB a while back and had fun with that -- and BB still loves her sewing, especially loves working on it with Giki! Of course she also still loves to spend as much time in as few clothes as possible, so most of the pics of them together aren't appropriate to post! That's my girl.)

And of course ice cream at our favorite local place!

It was a really nice visit -- never long enough, of course, but we're always grateful for the time we get. Thanks for coming to see us, Mom and Dad! We miss you already!

Monday, September 12, 2011


Goodness but things have been busy around here. My folks come into town tomorrow for a week's visit, so I've been occupied with the usual prep for that (mainly getting the play room into some state of order so that it can pull its double duty as guest quarters without too much embarassment). I've also been playing catch-up and fix-up with lots of stuff, which has meant little to no blogging going on in the evenings:

  • bringing some order to The Paper Piles (still had stuff from kindergarten in there!)

  • organizing the pantry (pantry storage, or lack thereof, is one of the main drawbacks in the apartment)

  • replacing the computer desk that was falling apart (after many an hour scouring the local thrift stores and craigslist, I scored a serviceable computer cabinet for $55 from a craigslist posting. woo-hoo!)

  • scheming for ways to improve our living arrangement here at the campus apartment, especially in the living room. It's hard to believe we've now been here for more than a year and a half -- and still haven't hung curtains!

  • sorting through thousands and thousands of family pictures -- I love my digital camera but am still enough of a 20th century gal to want Actual Photographs In Albums for at least a fraction of the ones we've snapped. The last ones I'd uploaded and printed out were from March 2009. Snapfish had a 500 prints for $5 deal going on, which was the kick in the pants I needed to tackle taht backlog. Now I've caught us up through August 2011.

My mom keeps warning me that once the kids started school, time would "get up and gallop." I'm really seeing what she means by that. Whoosh! There goes another day!

Tonight I still have a fair amount of stuff left to do, but I wanted to take at least a few moments to catch things up at the blog a bit. I have several posts mulling over in my mind, so hopefully I'll be back to more regular posting very soon!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

One for the File

Today on the walk home from school, BJ was giving me the usual complicated narrative involving his vision for "our" virtual aquariums. (Ever since playing My Aquarium Sim on the computer, he has taken great joy in designing and imagining various aquarium setups. All of them quite involved.) I was trying to talk to BB at the same time, so I lost track of what he was saying at one point. "That sounds like you have a lot of plans," I said. "How do you keep track of them all?"

"That's easy!" he replied. "I put them in my brain file!"

I laughed. "You have a brain file?"

"Yeah!" he told me. "Actually, it's called a brain memory file. And you know what?"

"What?" I asked.

"It's even alphabetized!"

"Really?" I asked, quite curious.

"Yeah! And when there's more than one, like for A1, A2, A3, it goes according to how many sentences!"

I'm not quite sure what this last bit means, but I tell ya, he must have some sort of excellent memory storage system, given his astonishing memory. (I've been tempted to call it photographic at times.) Perhaps it truly is alphabetized. (If only I had one of these myself!)

Thursday, September 1, 2011


It hardly seems possible, but there it is -- September first.

And BJ finishes up week three of school tomorrow!

Whatever happened to back-to-school being a fall sort of experience? Call me old fashioned, but back-to-school in mid-August high summer weather just doesn't feel right. I like so many other things about BJ's school, but not that.

My dear friend A said that she's declaring the start of fall as of next week. I think she might be on to something!

I'm definitely looking forward to crisp leaves, crisp apples, breezy autumn days. Hard to believe the school year will be already well over a month old by the time that comes around.

But really, that's a small thing to complain about. All told, first grade is off to a really good start. I worked for the first time in the classroom this week, and I really enjoyed it. Things went smoothly, the kids were (mostly) a lot of fun to work with. May that continue -- through September and beyond!