It's Finally Ours!

Today, Mel and I finally signed the papers to make the house we are buying in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, ours! It was about time. The closing kept getting delayed again and again. Finally though, it is done!
It being Monday, Mel had to work today, so prior to the closing Emma and I went to the Mall of America where we had lunch and checked out a couple of stores, the Lego and Apple stores. As we were on our way through Nickelodeon Universe, the amusement park in the center of the mall. We passed by character meet and greet area where we saw SpongeBob SquarePants. So, I decided that Emma might like to meet him, so we got in line (it wasn’t very long) and Emma met SpongeBob. She seemed to enjoy standing next to the yellow, rectangular-shaped prism of a cartoon character. She yanked on his tie until I took her picture. We might have to go back some time to see other beloved characters from Nickelodeon programs.



Today was a busy Saturday for me. It all started at about a quarter to five this morning when Emma decided it was time to get out of bed. I was surprised that she was awake so early, especially considering that she didn't get to sleep until around 9:00 last night. I was able to put her down for a nap around 6:30 though. While she napped, I resumed my work on packing up the house for our move. She only slept for a couple hours.
After her nap, she and I went to a garage sale. There was an article in today's Cedar Rapids Gazette about a man who was selling his Star Wars collection at a garage sale. I wanted to see if I could find any Yodas to add to my Yoda collection, and I did. I also got Emma a plush Chewbacca toy that originally came from Burger King.
After returning home, Emma kept herself busy playing and watching me as I continued to pack up the house. After eating lunch, Emma took another nap, although this one was just for an hour and a half. By the time she woke up from her second nap, I had run out of bubble wrap packing dishes, so the two of us went out shopping. Besides picking up bubble wrap, I also picked up a couple of T-shirts from a Hy-Vee Drugstore that are being sold to raise funds for the Grant Wood chapter of the American Red Cross to help with flood relief.
After packing for much of the day, Emma and I met up with a friend of mine for dinner. We went to Red Lobster. It had been a while since I had been there. The food was good, unfortunately we were not able to stick around to fully enjoy the food. Emma had some fried clam strips from our appetizer, but she did not want any of the biscuits. She promptly threw a piece of the biscuit on the floor when I placed it in front of her. By the time our meals came, Emma had been getting a bit cranky. She calmed down when I sat her in my lap. That made eating difficult. Also, she wouldn't eat anything unless she could take it from my plate. So I ended up putting her food on my plate for her to eat. She ate some French fries, but would not eat any of her popcorn shrimp. She just threw that on the floor. I could tell that Emma was getting tired, so I got the rest of our meals boxed up, and we headed home. Besides, I was getting kind of full anyway.
Emma fell asleep in her cars eat on the way home. She did wake up though when I got her out of her seat. After her bath tonight, we read a couple of books and I put her to bed. I put her down at 7:30 and she is till not asleep at 8:05. Once she is sleeping, I am going to go back to packing.
Tomorrow, Emma and I are heading up to my sister's condo in Woodbury, Minnesota, so we can see Mel. Then on Monday, we finally get to close on our house purchase! I really wish it could have been on Thurday of Friday of this past week. That would have given us the weekend to begin cleaning, painting, and fixing things up. Oh well, I guess this will finally be done nevertheless.


Closing Time

The time and date are now set for the house closing in Minnesota, but it will not be until Monday afternoon. It sure as hell better happen then, or I am going to be pissed off beyond all belief!


Summer TV

This week I have watched some of the summer offerings on network TV. On Monday I watched Celebrity Family Feud on NBC, hosted by Al Roker. On the episode I saw this week, Ice-T and his family competed against Joan Rivers and her family. Then Raven-Symoné and her family competed against Wayne Newton and his family. It was entertaining, but I like John O'Hurley better as a host.

I then watched I Survived a Japanese Game Show on ABC. Now that show was fun! At first I thought it would just show Americans competing on a Japanese game show, but it turned out that a group of Americans were told they were going to be on a reality show, then were flown to Japan. As they thought they were on a tour of a television studio in Japan, they discovered that they were going to compete on a game show. The winning team got to take a tour of Japan, and the losing team had to take people for rickshaw rides. This is a show I would like to watch again next week.

Then yesterday I watched a show that I had recorded on Monday, Wipeout. This show was alright, but it's not what I would call "must see TV."

Tonight I watched another episode of Last Comic Standing. I had watched it last week when they auditioned overseas comics for the show, so I thought I would watch it again this week. It was pretty funny, and the comic who I really wanted to make it through to next week, Paul Foot, made it!

Normally I avoid reality TV, but I would like to see two of these shows, I Survived a Japanese Game Show and Last Comic Standing through to the end.


The process of buying a house in the Twin Cities has been filled with nothing but frustration for me. The first time we looked at houses, we realized that it was going to be difficult to find something within our budget. We considered expanding our search to townhouses, but our real estate agent talked us out of that. Instead, we increased the amount of money we were willing to spend by a little. After a couple more weeks, we found the house we wanted to buy. It was a foreclosed property in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. So on Memorial Day, we wrote up the offer.

Without much problem, we seemed to reach an agreement with the seller, although it did take them what seemed like an inordinate amount of time to get back to us. The inspection found some issues that needed to be addressed before we would buy the house. After a few days, the bank which owns the house agreed to make the repairs. We were supposed to close on the house on Thursday, June 19. On Wednesday, June 18, our real estate agent let us know that the closing would not take place as originally scheduled. Apparently the paperwork was not ready yet. So, the closing was set for Monday, June 23. As I wrote about earlier this week, that didn't happen. The closing was rescheduled for 4:00 this afternoon, but as of yesterday the title company had not supplied the required paperwork. It wasn't until 3:00 today that my real estate agent told me that the paperwork was ready. Of course, since I didn't want to make another unnecessary trip, and use even more vacation time from work, I was still in Cedar Rapids.

So today, a week after we were supposed to complete the paperwork to buy the house, we still do not have a house in Minnesota. The paperwork is ready. We are just waiting for the seller's agent to specify a time at which we can get this done. Mel and I would like it to be tomorrow, but our agent is afraid that it might not be until Monday. If that is the case, Emma and I will likely stay in Cedar Rapids until Sunday so I can get more packing done. Yesterday I scheduled the moving company to load up our belongings next Thursday, so we really need to finish this purchase. Once that is done, we need to concentrate on getting our Cedar Rapids house sold.


A Weekend of Ups and Downs

Thursday, June 19, was the day that we were supposed to close on out house purchase in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, but the day before that was to happen, I got a call from our Realtor. He told us that the seller had to delay the closing to Monday, June 23. So, I changed my plans. Instead of driving up to the Twin Cities on Thursday, I waited until Friday to drive up.

Since we were not going to be able to work on cleaning and painting the house during the weekend, as we had planned on doing, Mel, Emma, and I went to the Minnesota Zoo instead. We had a fun day at the zoo, and Emma seemed to enjoy herself for the most part. Well, toward the end of the day she was getting a bit tired of riding around in her stroller, but she was still pretty good. Here are a few photos from the zoo.

The first photo is of some Japanese macaque, or snow monkeys.

Here's a shot of Emma and Mel at the zoo.

This photo shows Emma enjoying a drink of water. Much of it ended up all over her. We had to change her clothes before driving back from the zoo.

And here's a photo of a caribou.

After returning to my sister's condo, we all, including my sister, went to dinner at Red Robin. We had a nice dinner. It had been quite some time since I had been to Red Robin.

On Sunday, Mel, Emma, and I did some shopping. We went to Home Depot to pick up some of the things we would need for the house, especially paint. We also went to a Sears appliance store where we bought a new stove. The one in the house we are buying is very filthy and has some non-functioning burners. It will be delivered to us in a few weeks.

It's a really good thing we didn't schedule the stove delivery to be much earlier, because on Monday, while Mel was at work and Emma and I were about to eat lunch at IKEA, I got a call from our Realtor. He told me that there was an issue with the title company and so we would not be able to close as we had planned. Now we are supposed to be closing this coming Thursday afternoon. So, instead of using just two vacation days for the closing, this past Friday and Monday, I will have to use more to get the house bought. At least it is almost ours!

Today, I had someone from a moving company come over to our house to write up an estimate for the cost to move our belongings to the new house. It looks like we may be able to move as early as the end of next week. I am so ready to be living up there. It's been really difficult this past month with Mel living hundreds of miles away. It will be very good to be together in the same house again!


Photos of What the Flood Left Behind

Yesterday after dinner, I took Emma near downtown in Cedar Rapids and we went for a walk, looking at the destruction that last week's flood left behind. We stayed toward the edge of downtown, not getting any further than Fourth Avenue, because beyond that it didn't look all that safe for Emma to be. However, here are some pictures of some of the things we saw in and around downtown. If you click on any of the pictures, you will see a larger version of the photo.

This first photo shows water being pumped out of the Iowa Building at 411 3rd Street S.E.

The next several photos show the railroad bridge that used to cross the Cedar River south of the 8th Avenue bridge to Penford Products.

The video below shows the Cedar River flowing by the railroad bridge and pans to show the entire remaining part of the bridge.

Finally, here is a photo of Bill's Brothers Furniture on 8th Avenue. By the time I took this picture, the roof of the part of the building in the right of the photo had been braced to keep it from falling. When I passed the building a few hours earlier, this was not the case.

Finally, here is a photo of a street sign at the corner of 3rd Street and 7th Avenue in southeast Cedar Rapids following the flood.


Resuming Weight Watchers

I quietly stopped blogging about my Weight Watchers diet several weeks ago even though I was still following the plan, for the most part. However, in the past couple of weeks I did not at all watch what I have been eating. Going on a business trip to Dallas where there was terrific food to eat didn't help. As a result, my weight is up 5.6 pounds from two Wednesdays ago. So today I have resumes carefully tracking the Weight Watchers points of what I eat.


Buying Music

One of the presents I got for Father's Day was an iTunes gift card. Last night I was trying to figure out what I should buy with it. I decided to buy the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End by Hans Zimmer. We already had the previous two Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks on CD, so I completed out collection. It was a really good soundtrack, although I like the soundtrack to the second Pirates movie better.

Tonight I was perusing the iTunes store and decided to check out some of their classical music selections but I could not find a link to the classical genre. So, I did a search for Ralph Vaughan Williams, who I think may be my favorite composer. Upon looking through the pages of music by Vaughan Williams, I realized that I did not have a recording of his Five Variants of "Dives and Lazarus." I considered buying it at iTunes, but it would have taken five dollars worth of my gift card to get the five individual tracks. There were some albums that had it as a single track, but I would have had to buy the entire album to get it. However, I ended up finding it at Amazon.com as a single track that I could get with my Pepsi Stuff points, so I got the piece for free there, and I still have credits to use at the iTunes store.

Getting on the Bike

I went for a bike ride this evening. It was the first time I have been cycling in just about two months. With just over a week away until the beginning of RAGBRAI, I figured I should get some riding in. Anyway, I wasn't able to go for a ride until this evening, so I took Emma with me in the Burley. She didn't seem to particularly enjoy the ride, although she didn't really complain either. My ride lasted just over twenty minutes and I rode about three and a quarter miles. At the end of the ride, I was worn out. In fact, my leg muscles are still a bit sore. I am attibuting this to the fact that I was towing an extra thirty pounds behind me than I would normally have. I definitely need to get more riding in before RAGBRAI though or else I will be miserable all week!


Cedar Rapids Flood Video and Photos

Here is a video that shows the flooding in Cedar Rapids. Mel shot it yesterday afternoon as we drove north on Interstate 380. It begins just after we passed the 5th Avenue/Diagonal Drive Exit and continues until just after we crossed the Cedar River.

We took the video after walking near downtown. We couldn't get too close because the area was blocked off, but with the zoom lens on the camera, we did get a few pictures of the flooding.

This first photo shows flooding around Quaker Oats and Cargill.

Next, here is Second Avenue on the east side of the Cedar River. I took this photo from the intersection of Second Avenue and Fifth Street.

And here is a photo of First Avenue to the west of I-380. Beyond the NAPA Auto Parts store is the church where we had been planning on going to a wedding yesterday. Due to the flooding, the wedding has been postponed until sometime this fall.

Open House

We are having another open house today to try to sell the house. My Realtor called my in Dallas last Wednesday to schedule it. She indicated that someone had requested an open house for this weekend, so that makes me fairly optimistic. And to top it off, someone actually showed up about twenty minutes ago asking if the house was open. Apparently she didn't notice the sign in the front yard stating that the open house was from 3:00 to 4:30. Hopefully she and her husband or boyfriend come back. She appeared to be pregnant, so maybe the Winnie the Pooh decor in Emma's room will help them to like the house. I am also thinking that the fact that a significant portion of Cedar Rapids is flooded may have the effect of reducing the number of houses for sale that are in a suitable condition, although many of the houses in the affected area are probably not at our price point. Anyway, there may be people looking to move, so maybe the flood will help us to sell the house. Besides, except for a little water in the garage, the house remained dry.

I was also pretty happy to be able to finally shower this afternoon for the first time since Friday morning when I was in Dallas. The water department is up to 50% capacity and so they are allowing people to use water for showering, laundry, and dishes once again, but on an alternating schedule with people in odd-numbered houses be able to use the water for such purposes on odd-numbered days and even-numbered houses on even-numbered days. Being in an odd-numbered house means we could shower today. I will be doing laundry tonight after Emma and I get back home following the open house.

Also this evening, but not until Emma goes to bed, I am going to post some photos that Mel and I took yesterday when we went for a walk near downtown to see the flooding. We also have a video of downtown that Mel shot while we drove north on Interstate 380. I plan on putting that online again tonight.


I Made It Home

My flight left Dallas yesterday just a few minutes late. I guess we were waiting for the flight attendant to arrive. Anyway, once I arrived in Cedar Rapids, I got to sit in traffic on Interstate 380 for about half an hour to get home. Fortunately, I did not have to go as far north on I-380 as I had earlier thought. I was able to get off at 7th Street NE and head home from there, so I did not have to drive much farther than usual, and it only took me an extra half hour to get home.

While approaching and driving through downtown Cedar Rapids, I was amazed at the amount of water that bordered the interstate on each side. Sure, I had seen photos online and on TV, but it was so different to actually see it!

Now that I am home, as well as Emma and, for the weekend, Mel, we have to conserve water since only one pumping station is operating. I got some paper plates and paper cups at Hy-Vee when I got home, as the city was suggesting, but they were completely out of plastic cutlery. In fact, the were pretty short on paper plates. About all they had were the Nickelodeon plates that I bought. Now I get to eat with Dora the Explorer staring back at me from below my food.


Change of Plans

It looks like the route I had so thoughtfully crafted to make my way home from the airport this afternoon will not work out after all. I had planned on driving east on Highway 30 from I-380, but I heard this morning that Highway 30 is closed east of I-380 all the way to Highway 1. So I guess I will have to drive through Cedar Rapids on I-380 until I reach the north end of the metro area so I can exit and then backtrack on other roads.

And, I just got a text message from my wife to let me know that the wedding that we were supposed to go to tomorrow has been postponed until some time this fall. That is really too bad for the couple getting married, but when one hundred blocks of the city are under water, including the church where the wedding was to take place, I guess there is not much you can do.


Last Night in Dallas

I am wrapping up my last night in the Dallas, Texas, area as I write this blog entry. Today was the birthday of one of the people whose company is sponsoring the test we are working on, so a group of about twenty of us--both employees of my company and committee members--got a shuttle ride from our hotel to a nearby restaurant, Saltwater Willy's in Grapevine, Texas. At Saltwater Willy's, their specialty appeared to be seafood, and it was fantastic! I had the jambalaya which was really good. We really had a good time.

Tomorrow I get to return to Cedar Rapids, my home until I get moved to Minnesota. It looks like I will not be able to shower or do any laundry once I get home as the city is requiring people to conserve water, using it primarily for drinking only. That is probably alright for me as I am planning on working from home on Monday at least to avoid having to drive to Iowa City. I also hope I can find a route to get from the Eastern Iowa Regional Airport to our house in southeast Cedar Rapids. I have a route worked out that I think will work for me.

Mel and I have a wedding for a friend of hers on Saturday. It is supposed to be at Saint Patrick's Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids, but from looking at their website, it looks like they may be flooded. I hope that the wedding is able to go forward, but I do not know where it will be. That is really too bad for the couple getting married, but I am sure things will work out.



Tonight a few of my coworkers and I went to dinner at the Big Buck Brewery and Steakhouse which is attached to both our hotel and the Bass Pro Shop next door. Because this was the third time this week that we had gone there for dinner, the gave us a couple of complementary appetizers, including venison sausage. I had a steak once again this week. On Sunday night I had a buffalo steak. Tonight it was regular "cow" steak. It was fantastic! Maybe we will end up there again tomorrow night for dinner.


Bass Pro Shop

Tonight was my second night in Dallas, well actually Grapevine, Texas. The hotel I am staying at, Embassy Suites Dallas - DFW Airport North Outdoor World, is connected to a Bass Pro Shop. When I told one of my coworkers that I would be there, she asked me to get an elongated penny for her son at the Bass Pro Shop. After dinner, a few of my coworkers and I went through the hall connecting the hotel to the shop. After wandering our way through the entire store, we did not see the penny machine, so I asked the person attending the entrance. He said they did not have one. I was not so sure about this, so I checked out a web site which lists locations of such penny machines. It specified where in the store the machine was located, so I was able to go back there and acquire an elongated penny for my coworker's son. We walked by its location earlier, but we just missed seeing it.



After spending the weekend with Mel, who drove back to Cedar Rapids from the Twin Cities, and Emma, I flew off from the Eastern Iowa Regional Airport to Dallas, Texas, where I will be the entire week for work. This is the first business trip I have been on since January, and the first in even longer that I do not have to leave the Central time zone. I really like that, because while I often get to sleep in an extra hour when I am travelling for work, for the past several trips I have been on, I have been in the Eastern time zone. So sleeping in an extra hour does not actually add up to any extra sleep.


Cute Emma Photo

I wanted to blog this evening, but I couldn't come up with a topic. I am continuing to stay at our house in Cedar Rapids with Emma while Mel is working in Saint Paul, Minnesota, while staying at my sister's condo in a suburb of Saint Paul. We still haven't been able to get the inspection done on the house we are buying because the seller, a bank, apparently can not complete paperwork in a timely manner. We don't have a buyer for our house yet, but there is another showing tomorrow night. So really, not much has changed for me lately. So I decided just to post a really cute photo of my daughter. This picture was taken toward the end of last month, when she was 13 months old.


Presents at Work

Yesterday afternoon was pretty exciting at work, at least for a math geek like me. A few months ago, a representative from a major manufacturer of calculators located in a very large southern state came to our office to discuss some calculators with representatives from our group and other groups at the company I work for. After the meeting, one of my coworkers spoke with the rep and was told that she could send us some free calculators for our use. Yesterday the calculators arrived! Each of the math specialists in our office now has four brand new calculators of different types to use. Now I just need to find time to learn about the features of each of them, unfortunately that probably will not be this week as I have a lot of work to get done.


Another Weekend Ends

Well, the weekend is drawing to a close once again. This weekend, instead of driving to the Twin Cities with Emma, Mel came to Cedar Rapids to see us. We had a good weekend. Saturday night we went to dinner at Carlos O'Kelly's with Penny, one of Mel's former coworkers. I had predicted that Mel would want to go there as she really loves Carlos O'Kelly's and they have none of them in the Twin Cities.

This past week, Emma has begun doing a couple of new things. Earlier this week, Emma began to climb up onto the sofa all by herself. I was shocked to return to the living room from the kitchen one afternoon to see her sitting on the couch. Also this weekend, Emma began to walk backwards! The first time I saw her do that, she backed into something which she must have found funny, as she began to laugh when she bumped into the object.