#39: Move (Again)

It hasn’t even been two years, you say? Yeah, we know. And yet here we are, moving into a new house. Again. We don’t enjoy this, we promise, and this move was less enjoyable than most.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

While we were buying this house, the sellers’ behavior was… odd. It seemed like they just weren’t interested in selling. We made them a deal that was easy to accept, and they waited until the 11th hour to accept it. They didn’t move their stuff around in the garage, so our inspector couldn’t get to the electrical panel. Even though they hadn’t lived here in months, it seemed like every time we stopped by there was more of their stuff.

We finally reached an agreement to buy the place, signed closing papers, and had our crew all set to help us move things over. We were set to get the keys at 9pm on a Friday, so we stopped by on Thursday afternoon to do a final walkthrough, and there they were. They asked for a few extra days, because the dad had been knocked out with the flu. Also, they asked if they could take the shed.

You know those awkward situations in parenting, when you have to seem like a jerk? When your kid asks you for something small, and it would be totally reasonable to help them out if it were just that thing? But you have to say “no, you can use the stool to reach that thing on the top shelf,” because they’ve been asking for little things all day long? This was one of those moments. We had our crew lined up, didn’t have a ton of time to be out of our other house, and they had just been pushing on us too much. And outbuildings are always sold with the property.

So 9pm on closing day came and went, and they were still loading their truck. We came by at 9am the next day, technically having owned the house and everything in it for 12 hours, and they were just arriving to take out their last load. I felt for them, but (a) they had accepted our offer 10 weeks ago, so their time management was their own problem, and (b) there were like eight people working, so one person getting the flu shouldn’t have stopped them. We ended up schlepping our stuff into the house at the same time they were hurking their stuff out of the garage.

But then it was finally ours! We began the long process of fixing the things that needed fixed, building IKEA furniture, laying rugs down over the 11-year-old gross carpet, calling in the drainage company to fix the standing water under the house, deftly maneuvering appliances into place, and finding the things we need right now in the sea of cardboard boxes in the garage.

We’ve started the long process of making it ours. Our nickname for this house while we were looking at houses was “Beige Manor,” because it’s light tan inside and out (even the ceilings!). Becky has a great sense of color, and chose her favorite shade of gray for the walls. Her dad offered to help us out with painting, and the progress he’s made in the few days he’s had to work on it has had a huge impact.

We’ve got a long road ahead, and we’re nowhere near comfortable yet, but we’re getting there.

#51: Community/Alternative Theater

We like to expand our cultural bounds every now and then. Get a bit off the beaten path. Find something truly different.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

This year while attending a dance performance, we spotted a flyer for Belfast Girls, a play about several women emigrating from Ireland to Australia during the potato famine. We had a fair bit of context for this, having just toured EPIC in Dublin, so to get a more “first-person” account of what it was like was fascinating.

The production was put on well, and the costumes and props were just perfect for the mood. The venue (Shaking the Tree Theatre) is a nondescript warehouse in southeast Portland, with all the spareness and raw charm that entails. The audience felt their hopes swell and be dashed, just as the emigrants’ were. It was heart-wrenching and lovely, and we heartily enjoyed it.

Things We Love: FamZoo & Common Sense Media

We just wanted to take a quick pause from the normal order of things, and call some attention to some things that really help us with parenting. These aren’t silver bullets, and they aren’t super specific, so we hope that no matter how you’re raising your children, they’ll be useful (or at least interesting) to you.


Managing allowance is kind of a tar pit. When we first started with our kids, we wanted to make sure they had a tangible sense of how much money they were getting and spending. They were pretty young at the time (3 and 5), so feeding coins into a jar worked really well. As they’ve grown, they’ve become more able to conceive of money in the abstract (just a number, rather than how full your jar is), and the amounts have become unwieldy – if you’re just getting $2 a week, counting out quarters is fine, but more than $5 is a different ballgame.

We saw FamZoo mentioned in a parenting book we read a few years back, and we immediately went and signed up. It’s kind of like being your kids’ employer and bank all in one – you can set allowances (including popular patterns like “age + N dollars per week”), have them split automatically (half to spending, half to savings), and the kids can even log in themselves to check their balances. Later on, they can graduate to having real debit cards, which draw from their spending accounts, and setting aside money to give to charity.

We simply cannot recommend FamZoo enough. The branding makes it look like it’s only for younger kids, but it’s grown with us all the way to 9 and 11, and we couldn’t see giving it up now. It costs $40 per year, but relieves all the tedium from giving out allowance, so it’s well worth it

Common Sense Media

It’s really hard to figure out what kind of media is appropriate for your kids. The movie rating system doesn’t help much here, because it’s way too granular – some PG movies I’d show to a 6-year-old, others I wouldn’t let my 11-year-old watch just yet. On top of this, there’s lots of media that looks fine at first glance, but is actually really creepy and disturbing. Even TV shows are sometimes tricky, since they might have some messaging that you don’t want being hammered into your kids’ heads.

screen-shot-2017-12-09-at-8-29-01-pm.pngCommon Sense Media is a lifesaver. The first thing you’ll notice when you look up a movie review there is that there’s an age rating right at the top. Need to know if the latest Star Wars film is okay for your 5-year-old? Look no further. There’s even community feedback, so in addition to the experts, you can hear what kids think is a good age to see a movie.

Screen Shot 2017-12-09 at 8.29.14 PM.pngWe don’t follow their age ratings exactly, but there’s so much other information that lets us make decisions for our specific children, like how much educational value there is, or violence, or language. If your kid is really sensitive to characters in peril (like Lucy is), this will help you decide if this is a good film for now, or maybe for a little later.

The biggest thing we’ve realized since using this tool is that we don’t have to take our kids to all the newest movies. There are plenty of good shows and films for them to see that are totally within their ability to enjoy, and we don’t have to rush them into content they’re not ready for. This is why, and it pains me to admit it, my kids haven’t seen all the Star Wars or Harry Potter films yet.

Common Sense Media is completely free, but we donate to them anyways. It’s a really valuable resource for thoughtful media consumption, and has helped us avoid some long nights with kids who can’t stop the nightmares.

#98: Becky – Hand Stitched Stocking

At the end of last year, Becky declared victory on the first of four stockings when she finished the front panel of Lucy’s stocking. This year her goal was to finish Will’s, and it turns out she got even a bit farther than that.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

She did finish Will’s front panel, and she wanted to be able to hang these up, but the kits only come with the flimsy front and back panels, there needed to be some reinforcement. After some brainstorming and rummaging through her mom’s stash of materials (Dorothy was a prolific maker of things out of fabric), she found some sturdy old curtains and pretty fabric. She and her sister designed a pattern and Sarah sewed up some liners. Becky then attached the back panels for the two finished stockings, so the liners will just slip inside! Now the felt and all the stitches are protected from actually using the stockings.

She’s already started on the fancy part of mine, but in the meantime we all have something that hangs up, and an inside which can hide festive holiday surprises.

The hardest part of Will’s stocking was the decorative cording that’s all through the reindeer’s antlers and reins. This is one of the many benefits of having Becky’s sister live so close: she was able to help Becky power through the hangups. In this case, she made Becky sit down in front of Youtube and learn how to make cording.

Her goal for next year is a bit more ambitious. Now that she knows what she’s in for, she wants to finish the final two, so next year we’ll all have fancy gift pockets hanging up over the fireplace!

#75: “Rent” Thrifted Holiday Decor

We don’t generally go overboard decorating for holidays, because we don’t like to have an attic full of things that only get used for a week out of every year (and Becky is a self-proclaimed Minimalist Scrooge). This year, though, she hit on an idea that’s the best of all possible worlds: “rent” holiday decorations from thrift stores!

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

Here’s how it works: at the beginning of every season, we head to our local Goodwill and buy a few decorative items. We don’t spend much, maybe $25-$50. We use them to decorate one corner of our house, and when the season is over, they all go back to Goodwill! No storage, and we get to be creative all over again every year. Brilliant!

In January, we chose a Valentine’s-Day theme. Lucy actually ended up buying the bear for herself with her own money.

When spring came around, we decorated again, this time with baby animals and pastels.

We took some time out of our moving efforts to designate a holiday corner in the new house. Will was home, and really enjoyed helping out with our Winter theme.

We loooove this idea. We’re not even bound to the usual holiday schedule, we can re-do it whenever we want! Lucy gets to enjoy decorations that are way outside of our general style, and we get the satisfaction of knowing they will only be around a month or so!

#9: Read a Parenting Book

Becky and I realized early on in this child-rearing adventure of ours that parenting is a skill. That means you can get better at it, and since it’s so important, we’ve been making it a priority to keep improving at it.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

We’ve done this in three previous editions of the 100 Things list. This year we wanted to focus less on early childhood, and more on what we’re looking at in the coming years. Our choice is How to Raise an Adult, and it was fantastic.

It’s written by a former advisor at a prestigious college, and her entry point into the world of common-sense child rearing was seeing how all the kids with helicopter parents dealt with living at a university, where they don’t have anyone there cracking the whip all the time. She dove into the research and spoke to dozens of experts, and found out how important it is for kids to do things themselves.

From there, she digs into how families end up in situations like this, from the not-so-gentle peer pressure of wanting to be the “perfect parent” in early childhood, all the way through writing college-application essays for your teenager. It’s an easy trap to fall into, since sometimes you have to act kind of like the villain, and say “no, I won’t grab the thing off the high shelf for you, grab the stool.”

It was a great read. The author is really good at telling these stories conversationally, and even though there’s tons of research backing her up, it never feels dry or boring. Furthermore, it backs up what Becky and I have believed for a while – that we’re not parenting kids, we’re training them to be grownups. Highly recommended.

October Misc Round Up

Will was wowed by a New Mexico rainbow! After Halloween, he organized the other kids at Sandhill, and came up with a couple gallons of candy to donate to overseas troops!

Becky and Lucy spent a day at English Estate Winery, Becky helping with the harvest, and Lucy letting Maddie practice spooky makeup techniques on her.

I attended a team dinner at the inimitable Ava Gene’s. I also visited Zendesk HQ in San Francisco during the Napa wildfires, and had flaming drinks at a tiki bar. Oh, and I was invited to a monthly board-game night with other Gardner dads!

Becky attended the traditional Becky-Debbie-Becky trip, and spent a beautiful and relaxing weekend at the beach.

While Becky was away for BDBW, Lucy and I had some fun with face swapping, spent some time with cousins, and went to a birthday party at a pumpkin patch!

Here’s the result: her poop-emoji pumpkin. Lucy wore five costumes to five separate events for Halloween season this year: the Reign of Fire, the Monkey, the Mad Hatter, the Color Sparklypink, and the Prima Ballerina (not pictured, we completely forgot to take photos at that party).

Cute Puppy Time

#46: Guy Fawkes Party


Remember, remember! The fifth of November, the Gunpowder treason and plot; I know of no reason why the Gunpowder treason should ever be forgot!

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

November 5th is a very British holiday. The reason it’s a holiday is to commemorate not a noble act, but a dastardly one; for all those celebrating to remember the awful price of treason. Guy Fawkes was executed in 1606, but giant fires are still lit in his memory every year on the 5th of November.

One of the parents at Lucy’s school is British, and throws a Guy Fawkes party every year, so this year we were fortunate enough to be invited. We were exhausted, having spent the entire day moving, but we were definitely glad we went. Several of our friends were there, and we got to talking with Lucy’s teacher about traveling.

It was a great time, and a great fire, and we look forward to attending more of these.

#87: Ben — Penmanship

In January, I picked up a Leuchterm1917 notebook, and started doing a Bullet Journal. I’ve done this before, and I’ve found it helps me keep organized. One thing I noticed most when I started this up again is that my handwriting is pretty atrocious. I set out to get better.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

I spent the year consciously trying to get better at handwriting. One thing that helped was Becky’s gift of this penmanship course, which was apparently written for Victorian schoolchildren, but has guided practice towards a rather formal, fancy cursive style. I started noticing things like consistency of angles and spacing.


I also picked up a low-cost fountain pen, to see if I liked it (I do!). Here’s the end result. On the left: a page from January, close to when I started this program. On the right is two weeks ago, the week of thanksgiving.

Maybe the difference doesn’t seem so big to you, but I can see it. I intend to continue down this path, and keep working on my writing.

ETW: Andina (Peru)

At some point, we found ourselves wandering around the Pearl District around lunchtime, and happened upon Andina. No regrets.

This is part of our Eat The World challenge. Check out the whole thing.

The ceviche was excellent, the potatoes were amazing (especially with the three dipping sauces), and the lucuma ice cream was a great way to finish out.