Sunday, December 24, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Shopping 2006: Done

I don’t want to be self-promoting or anything (and if you believe that, I’ve got a 1996 Sunfire in mint condition to sell you) but today is my birthday and I’m having a great day. I’ve had four birthday phone calls, three presents dropped off, a few cards in the mail and people at school who wished me happy birthday. No matter how old you get, it’s still so nice to be thought of. Spencer told me yesterday his gift to me is that he’ll give me a hug every time I ask for one (for today only). That’s the mommy’s boy I always wanted. I can’t imagine a better present.

We survived the kids Christmas concert last night. I start dreading it in mid-November. Here’s my list of Grinchy complaints:

  • If you want to get a decent seat, you have to pick up your kids after school and go straight to the auditorium to find a seat. Or just spread jackets all along the four best benches and come back 5 minutes before the show starts. Who are all these people bringing to the concert??? Is their newspaper boy coming? Their gas station attendant? Their gynecologist? Who?? Let me take a minute here to admit that I am part of the problem. We arrived at 6:10 (concert starts at 7:00) and the best seat we could find was four rows from the back, on the side. Three grandparents were with us, plus we saved seats for my sister & brother-in-law and nieces. But if every family was allowed four tickets and all my relatives couldn’t come, I am pretty sure they would not be heartbroken. I’m sure they could think of something better to do on December 21st, like make snowflakes or watch It’s a Wonderful Life.
  • That brings me to another point – why have the concert this late? Why not like December 14th, or better yet, December 2nd? I know there is the Living Christmas Tree set to deal with, but the kids could just work around that. It would be way more interesting. Especially if the set had nothing to do with their play.
  • Another thing that would make it more interesting would be if they didn’t practice so much. I think Spencer started singing Feliz Navidad in early October (not exaggerating). The best part of the concert last night was when the policeman flubbed his lines. That should happen way more often. That’s what makes a concert memorable and fun. But it’s rehearsed too thoroughly.
  • The offering. Is this a fundraiser? If so let’s make it count. I would suggest a bake sale, but that means I’d have to bring yet another batch of “dainties.” Maybe there could be sponsorships available. If you pay enough, the concert could be called the (your name here) Christmas Concert. Or maybe parents could bid on speaking parts for the children. The more you pay, the more lines or solos your kid has.

I’m sorry this is a very un-Christmas-y, Scrooge-like rant. It really was a nice concert. It’s so exciting for the kids (even Spencer, who was very displeased about having to wear a “hateful vest.” He wanted to wear a shirt with a monster truck on it and I was tempted to let him but the memo said “Sunday best” and I’m way too much of a conformist). And it’s always fun seeing their fuzzy little faces far away on stage (it took me 10 minutes til I was sure which one was Chloe). Anyway it’s all over, at least until the $#*@% spring concert.

I officially finished my Christmas shopping this morning (well maybe one more stocking stuffer left. ha ha). I dragged Neve & Spencer with me and we made five separate stops. They were unusually cooperative and I only had to buy Spencer one stuffed penguin. I didn’t tell him it says La Senza Girl on it. I’m sure Chloe will tease him about it and he’ll get all embarrassed and give the penguin to Neve. But for now, he loves “Cozy” and is cuddled up napping with it.

Well I should take advantage of nap time and finish wrapping gifts. And I still have to clean up the suitcases.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

"Dainties" and Suitcases

We had hardly any plans this weekend and I thought I’d get so much accomplished and organized. Now it’s Sunday night and I’m still stepping over suitcases in our bedroom that haven’t been unpacked from our Vegas trip. That’s going to be the top of my list this week. Along with finishing my Christmas shopping, decorating and baking. This week, I have to volunteer for Spencer’s hot lunch and bring a veggie/fruit platter for Chloe’s potluck lunch the same day, bring a dozen “dainties” (not my favorite word) for Chloe’s classes visit to the seniors’ home on Wednesday, and bring 2 doz. “dainties” (I can’t even write it without putting quotation marks around it) for a Christmas tea on Friday. Spencer has a class Christmas party on Thursday and Chloe has one on Friday, which parents could sign up to bring things for, but I didn’t. And the school Christmas concert is Thursday night. So my week rotates around school, while trying to accomplish the aforementioned goals. Those suitcases better be out of this room by Christmas, which according to the kids’ Playmobil advent calendar, is only seven days away. Our days rotate around this calendar. Every day there’s a box to open, which contains a little Playmobil toy that is part of a Christmas scene. We had it last year, and the kids remember most of the items, but apparently that doesn’t make it any less exciting. Spencer is so into this that he wakes up early on odd numbered days (they take turns – Chloe gets to open the boxes on even days). His sleep patterns are actually affected by the Advents calendar. Chloe isn’t as excited (or pretends not to be) and often waits to open her box until she can’t stand Spencer’s begging anymore. Then she takes her box and hides when she opens it so that she is the first one to see what it is. Then they fight about where to place the objects on the Christmas scene. How joyful it is. Someone should invent these calendars for January and February. I guess we could use the same one, but they always end on the 24th. That’s just not practical.

Thursday night we had a Christmas party at Chris & Julianne’s, which was lots of fun. Darla, who hosts the annual bake exchange that I wish I had participated in this year since I wouldn’t have to worry about “dainties”, was there (how’s that for a mention?). So was Leanne, who gave me two boxes of purple Christmas ornaments to use for my tree. Now Shannon will feel left out if I don’t mention her (I’m not mad at you), and Cassandra and Julianne won’t care because they’re not loyal blog readers like the others (or are you?? This is a test).

On Friday I went Christmas shopping all day, which was no fun at all. Polo Park was Saturday-busy. I almost got in a fight in the New York Fries line up and I could feel no Christmas cheer whatsoever, so I got out of the mall as quickly as I could (after eating my fries). I still have a few gifts left to buy, and a few to return, which is always a treat. The sales clerks are always sour about having to do a return, and I feel like they’re looking at me suspiciously, like “what did you do to this merchandise and how dare you return it?”

On Saturday, we went to two Christmas parties. One was in the neighbourhood and one was at Jim & Sabrina’s. Ate lots of food and laughed and drank and ate some more. Clay was at Jim & Sabrina’s party. We hadn’t seen him since October and although there have been times when I never wanted to see him again in my life, I was actually happy to see him. He says he’s very busy and even has a few more guys working for him now.

And today, we spent most of the day at home and then we went to IMAX to see Santa vs. the Snowman in 3D. Chloe saw it last Saturday with a birthday party, and really wanted to see it again with Spencer. I wasn’t too excited about going, but it was really cute and well worth it. The kids loved it. Spencer kept reaching out to touch things that were coming at him (okay maybe I did too). After the kids were in bed, Dale & I watched the movie “The Break Up.” It was so realistic that I was mad at Dale while watching it. I recommend it.

Hope you have a relaxing, return-free week before Christmas...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Here's Dale working with our tree for the 5th night in a row. It looks like he fell asleep holding it up.

The annual Santa photo (with Spencer holding his catalogue page)

Watching "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." (We can't find the remote for our DVD player). Our tree looks better in the dark. The darker the better.

Neve being her usual mischeivous self.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Fifteen More Days

I don’t know how it happened, but this year it seems Christmas just suddenly appeared on the calendar. I have never been on the top ten list of organized people, but I’m usually not on the bottom of the list either. This year I’m second from the bottom. Lorie E. is last. So thanks for not making me dead last. And hopefully you can start your shopping this week.

We have our tree up and decorated, which took a whole week. Our artificial tree in the basement started looking tempting. But we persevered and I have to say it was Worth It. At first it kept falling over. We tried securing it to the wall. Dale nailed big nails into the wall and thought I wouldn’t notice the big chips of plaster/paint that came out. Now we’ll have to leave our tree up all year to hide the hole in the wall. The tree was still unstable and I didn’t want any more holes in the wall, so we bought a new base. That seemed to be the ticket and the tree has stayed up for a whole week. I’ve even stopped putting poly down on the rug every night for it to fall on. Once it was up, I realized I hate all of our decorations and lights. Every year for the past 3 years I’ve wanted to decorate the tree in purple. I have one purple ornament. My wishes don’t always coincide with reality. I wanted to find purple lights, but I couldn’t find any. I know there are purple lights on some multi-coloured strands, so why can’t they make strings of just purple? And the only purple ornaments I could find were purple and blue, so I decided to do a purple & blue & silver tree. But you can’t tell. There are so many odds-and-ends kids decorations on it that any colour theme is impossible. Apparently I’m supposed to “enjoy this while I can” and it will be “soon enough” that the kids are all grown up and I can decorate the tree all in exquisite turquoise flowers and white pearls and then I will be standing there all alone and look back in regret that there’s not a baby balancing on the arm of the couch trying to reach an ornament at the top of the tree and one kid nagging endlessly for hot chocolate and another making paper “ornaments” to hang on the tree and I will feel empty inside. Hmmm. I guess I’ll find out in about 20 more years. I’m thinking I will embrace solitude and elegant trees by then.

With the tree finally done, now it’s time to think about shopping. I’ve picked up a few things, but have lots more to buy. I try not to go near the malls on the weekend, but a couple of people told me both Polo Park and St. Vital malls really weren’t that bad yesterday. And I was in Portage Place a bit yesterday, and if you want a quiet place to do your shopping, go there. There are actually lots of good shops there, and of course the Bay. If I don’t get much shopping done this week, I’m going to go there next Saturday and shop til I’m done. Apparently it’s in style (according to Teresa, my trend source) to finish Christmas shopping extra early, so maybe everyone’s sitting at home drinking eggnog and playing board games instead of shopping. Why can’t it be in style to do your shopping late? If I can’t be cool even when I try, maybe I could be cool without trying. So you heard it hear first: next year the hottest thing is to not start your Christmas shopping until December 23rd. No one should be in the mall before then unless you’re buying birthday gifts for me or getting your pants hemmed at Stitch It. And you can go to the food court. Other than that though, don’t be caught in the mall. It’s not cool.

I took the kids to see Santa. Spencer wanted to bring along the Sears Wish Book to show Santa what he wanted, just so there was no chance of miscommunication and getting the wrong thing. I convinced him just to bring the page it was on, so I think Santa’s got that under control. Chloe asked for a Tamagotchi instead of superpowers, so Santa was pleased about that. Neve however, was not pleased about sitting with Santa and couldn’t get away from him fast enough. She cheered up a little once she got a candy cane. I wish she had gotten it before the photo.

We had such a good lazy day today. I got some laundry done, school forms filled out, had a nap, and the house is relatively clean (at least the areas that visitors see). I’ve even made a list of gifts I need to buy and am going Christmas shopping tomorrow morning. It’s going to be a good week. Hope yours is too.

By the way, I added some links on the side for those who are all done their Christmas shopping and are looking for something else to do besides play yet another round of Monopoly. (for the Santa one, you have to click once to get him going, then click and hold down til you want to release the slingshot).

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Surprise

Last Friday we had plans to go to the Keg for dinner with Jim & Sabrina and Bob & Janet for Dale’s birthday. Jim & Sabrina picked us up at 6:30 and on the way to the Keg at Portage & Moray (near the airport), Jim asks if we can stop at the airport to pick up a suitcase. He said a friend came to visit their exchange students and his luggage didn’t arrive. So we get to the airport terminal and I make Dale get out and we’re all standing on the sidewalk. I told Dale that Jim & Sabrina and Bob & Janet had a birthday gift for him, and Jim pulls out a suitcase from the trunk. Dale is totally confused about what’s going on by this time. He admires the luggage and we’re still standing there, and I don’t even know what to say. Finally I say “I don’t want to go to the Keg for dinner, so let’s have something in Las Vegas instead.” Poor Dale is trying to figure it all out: “We’re going to Vegas NOW?”

It took a couple of hours for it to sink in and I was scared his dazed look would become permanent, but it was so much fun surprising him. I booked the flights 2 months ago and I was pretty sure he’d find out somehow but I wanted to keep it a secret as long as I could. I was pretty stressed out the few days before we left – getting everything ready to go and making arrangements for the kids and packing, etc. On Friday I had a knot in my stomach all day. I think I was as happy as he was when the surprise was finally unveiled. I needed a holiday just to recover from the lies and stress. But it was … WORTH IT!!!

Vegas is the most surreal place I’ve ever been. Everything is big and bright and loud and crazy. When we arrived around midnight, we had a hellish shuttle ride to our hotel with Satan driving. He hit something – not sure if it was a car, a pole, or a person – and kept going before finding out what it was. Other vehicles were honking at Satan and his Deathmobile like you wouldn’t believe. It stopped at 6 other hotels to let people off, and yes, we were the very last. So the first lesson we learned in Vegas: don’t take a shuttle bus. As a bitter irony, the cab we took on the way back to the airport cost the same amount as the shuttle. So by the time we got to our hotel (Mirage), we were shaking. Then went we went to check in, they didn’t have the room we requested so I was mad about that. Then we had to cart our luggage (Dale’s nice new luggage) all the way through the crazy casino and past the restaurants and shops to the room elevators. By the time we got to our room, I had sensory overload and a headache. I wanted to go home. But after a good sleep, I felt calmer.

We spent the next 3 days walking and gambling and eating and napping. We went on a roller coaster, saw David Copperfield’s show, went to a Titanic exhibit, toured the other hotels and casinos, went shopping, etc. One thing about Vegas that I didn’t expect was that it was actually quite pretty. Our pool area was beautiful – lots of palm trees and tropical greenery. It wasn’t warm enough to swim, but we sat in the sun by the pool and went in the hot tub. We also walked through the shops, which were amazing. Most of them were so upscale that I couldn’t get myself to go into them with my grubby jeans and clunky shoes and stretched out black hoodie. The best store was FAO Schwartz, the toy store. It was so cool. When I told the kids that we were going to Las Vegas (the day we left), they said they wanted to come too and I told them, oh no, there’s nothing for kids there. When they saw our pictures of the giant piano keyboard and the doll nursery at the toy store, the roller coaster, the M&M store, the big motorcycle sticking out of the Harley Davidson store, the tiger in our hotel and on and on, they were a little choked. There actually is a lot for kids, but I can’t imagine taking them there ever. “Mommy, why are there pictures of naked girls everywhere?” There are actually quite a few kids around, even out on the Strip at 2:00 a.m. Maybe their father (or mother) is a professional gambler and he wants his family near him as he works. Whatever. It’s another thing to put in the category of “I’m not the worst parent in the world.” Maybe those parents are looking at me and thinking “I can’t believe people would leave their kids for days to come here and gamble. What kind of parents would do THAT?” That being said, the kids had a great time at Mom & Dad’s, and then Grammy (Dale’s mom) spent the night at our house with the kids on Monday night. We were supposed to leave Las Vegas at 11:20 Monday night, but the flight was delayed two hours. I wasn’t able to sleep in the airport or on the plane. There was a bad man sitting behind me. Even though he and every other passenger on the plane reclined their seat, he was unhappy that I reclined mine. He kicked and bumped my seat for the first 15 minutes, then I swear he took both hands and shook my whole seat. I got up and turned around and asked him if he was having a problem. I ended up putting my seat back up and sitting straight and tall the whole way. He didn’t touch my seat again. And when we got off and were waiting for our baggage, he stood as far away from me as he possibly could. He was with his girlfriend and he had hickeys on his neck. Nothing says you’re cool like dark red hickeys when you’re 35 years old. I hate him.

By the time we got through customs and made it home, it was 7:00 a.m. Tuesday morning. So I made the kids lunches and took them to school and that was the end of our vacation.

Our hotel

Me (with my grubby jeans and stretched out black hoodie) on the big piano at FAO Schwartz

New York New York Hotel with the Rollercoaster That Only Insane People Ride

Christmas decorations in the shops at Caesars Palace. Everything is BIG!

Dale at the airport, dreaming of being 39 again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Today Neve napped for 2 and a half hours. I love her so much more when she does that. I get lots of work done when she’s asleep, so when she wakes up I can read to her and give her my full attention. Well, let’s be honest here. I don’t think I have ever given my FULL attention to anything since I had Spencer. That has nothing to do with the boy himself, but life seemed so easy with one. I shouldn’t say that – that’s probably as annoying for you people with one child as it is when a parent with teenagers tells me how easy my life is compared to theirs. I guess I should take that as a compliment that I make it look easy taking care of three children. That can’t be it. Now that I think of it, maybe no one’s ever said that to me. I probably overheard a conversation like that and day-dreamed that they were talking to me. Anyway, the full attention thing (See??!). Neve brings me a book and throws it at my head. She refuses to talk, so she just makes annoying sounds until I say “do you want me to read this to you?” Then she stops making those noises and sits down where ever she is, usually in the middle of the kitchen floor and waits for me to do the same and read it to her. And I do. Unless Chloe is home. Then I say, “go find Chloe. She’ll read this to you.” Fortunately Chloe is remarkably cooperative when Neve is involved. She used to be that way with Spencer. Now all I hear is “Spencer. Spencer. SPENCER. SPENCER!!!! I SAID we’re playing school. Don’t you want me to give you a treat??? Don’t you??? SPENCER!!!” (The “treat” is usually a picture of a truck that she drew for him. He’s caught on that it’s probably not going to be candy or a new hot wheels car, so he ignores her.). Then Chloe’s voice gets quieter, so I can’t hear what she’s saying.

Then loud crying – but not the kind that’s hurt or sad, just the I’m-making-the-loudest-most abrasive-sound-that-passes-as-crying kind: “MOM!! Chloe says you’re going to give me away if I don’t play school! WAAAA WAAAAAAA!”

Then Chloe says, “I didn’t say that.” In a whisper: “Spencer! Come here. I’ll let you have one of my Halloween candies? You like Rockets, right?”

And then other times they are so sweet to each other. Just today we were at the cheap chocolate place and the lady offered Spencer and Neve suckers (I guess to distract her from grabbing and squishing the little Lindt santas). Spencer asked the lady “Could I have another one for mine big sister? She’s at school.” Yes and she also has about 30 suckers in her Halloween bag. Now she has 31.

We had the best ever meal last night. Jim & Sabrina had us over for a seafood night. Crab legs, shrimp, paella, crab cakes, salmon and cream cheese on breadsticks, etc. etc. Some of it was contributed by others (not us) but Sabrina cooked up a storm, making things I didn’t know were possible for a regular person to make. I ate so much that I didn’t eat until 3:00 this afternoon. It was amazing. We’re never having you guys over again because we can’t compete. Or I won’t even try to compete and we’ll just have meatloaf.

I feel like I have to say something about the house, out of habit if nothing else. With the advice of Decorator Shannon, I painted a big rectangle on the wall in Chloe’s room as a background for all her art pictures. We rearranged her room and put up some pictures, now we need to put up some shelves and curtains and Chloe wants me to paint flowers around her room. I’d like to finish it up this week and move on to the next room. Dale put up the shelves and rods in Neve’s closet today. She has a big closet; Dale put up the shelves at the end of the closet a while ago. But now there are more. I have closet envy – she has big double doors, a light, and more shelves than I know what to do with. Dale and my closet has a single door, it’s as dark as an underwater cave, and tiny. But if it means having to ever see another speck of drywall dust, I like my closet just the way it is.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

IT'S ...

… FINISHED!!! (did you think I was going to say “worth it”? oh no. not yet.)

We had some neighbours over Sunday for a little open house. We worked like crazy last week to finish up stuff and we got a lot done. It was good to have a deadline. We put away all the tools and paint and cleaned everything and served apple cider and chocolate cookies, chocolate fudge, and more chocolate cookies. The open house was very nice; we had a steady stream of neighbours. Everyone seemed to like the house, although what are they going to say? “Hmm, that’s interesting. Did you do that on purpose?” or “Did you go through the proper planning procedures? Can I see your permit? And don’t you have any food that’s not chocolate?” It was a nice opportunity to visit with the neighbours, and I’m glad we did it.

SO … from now on, when people ask me if our renovation is done, I am going to say YES! Even though the work guys have been out of the house for a few weeks, I was always hesitant to say we were done because we still had so many little things to finish up and my mind was still preoccupied with that. But after this weekend, even though there’s still a couple of things to do, we are officially DONE!! Every homeowner alive (at least every one I’ve met) has a list of house projects they want to do, so I’m transferring over to that category. Yesterday was almost a surreal day. I didn’t paint anything, I didn’t go to Home Depot, and I didn’t have a to-do list. I dropped Spencer off at a friend’s after I took Chloe to school, so I just had Neve and hardly knew what to do. Luckily I remembered the mall, so we went there. I actually did buy something for the house – some storage containers for the playroom shelves. But I also bought a Christmas present so I feel like I accomplished something besides renovation stuff. Neve & Spencer both slept all afternoon, so I got lots of Chamber work done. It was such a nice day and I feel so settled and peaceful. I hope this is the new normal.* It’s amazing. I have a feeling I better enjoy it while I can – Dale’s 40th birthday is coming up in a few weeks, and Christmas isn’t far behind. But at least I’ve started my shopping…

* I started writing this yesterday. Today Neve was very high maintenance and wanted attention (those one-year-olds!) and I had lots of work to do. She did eventually nap, but not without a fuss. So the new normal has some room for improvement.

Well, the guy across the street has made great strides with his renovation project. All the walls are up and Tyvek-ed, and he even has siding up on the front side of the house. His gang friends must have come through for him, although I still see bare rafters inside (when I stalk his house at night with my binoculars). I know I should be happy for him, but I’m not really. I want everyone’s projects to take crazy long and cost more than the house is worth. That’s just nasty. Why do I feel that way? Am I the only one? Please tell me this is normal. Actually I don’t care. I’m so beyond normal, I try not to compare myself to people who are. I’ve been thinking of the permit process for renovations. I have a few suggestions. I think people should have to get tested to see how they can handle stress. You would have to go to Home Depot, with a long list of things from every department, but not a detailed one so you don’t know exactly which electrical breaker to buy and you have to find someone knowledgeable to help you (ha ha) and you have fussy children wearing no shoes and your contractor is calling you on the cell phone to find out if your home insurance policy covers a pipe bursting. When you finally get to the checkout after 3 hours of frustration and misery, your debit card and all your credit cards are refused. And you can still smell Subway. No one would pass that test. And if they do, that proves they are already insane (I don’t know why, but it just does) and should be institutionalized anyway.

At any rate, we survived. Definitely a little scarred and battered, but we made it.

Here are some photos of Halloween and some upstairs “after” pictures. I should dig out some “before” ones to compare. Next time.
This is the first picture I've been in since 2003.
Very bundled-up princess and pirate

Caterpillar (not a very co-operative one)

Window seat in the playroom upstairs

The railing my dad made

Neve loves this spot

Monday, October 30, 2006

Fabric Store

Look at this. My second posting in two days. And some people were worried I wouldn’t have anything to write once the renovation was done.* I just have more time now. So I can just ramble about anything I want. (are you worried now??)

* for the record, the renovation is not officially done. It could be done if I was spending my time more wisely.

Neve’s Window

Neve’s crisp white window is not so white anymore. Yellow streaks are showing through. Does anyone know why this might have happened? I primed it before painting, but I’m wondering if I should have used a different type of primer. Or different paint? Maybe I should have used oil based paint? All questions and no answers.

The Sunfire

Dale’s car was ready to pick up this morning and it was just the alternator. $350 total, so that’s a big relief. Three digits are better than four.

Window Seat

I bought the fabric and sponge for the windowseat today. The sponge cost almost as much as an alternator. Fabric stores are probably my least favorite retail outlet in the world. The staff are always old grim miserable women. I think they get employee incentives if they never smile. I remember being stuck in them for hours with my mom when I was younger. So I carried on the tradition and dragged Neve & Spencer there against their will. I couldn’t find a fabric I really wanted and the kids were starting to go crazy, so eventually I just grabbed something. Turns out it’s almost identical to the couch fabric in the living room, which I’ve been tired of for a few years already. And it doesn’t match anything upstairs. I guess I can always change the fabric (yeah right) if I find something better. Next time I’ll go when Chloe’s out of school so she gets a chance to create fond memories of the fabric store too.

Funny Things Spencer Said Today

We were deciding how to carve the jack-o-lantern and I suggested “Happy Halloween” (we had some templates). He said, “Nah. Too cheerful.”

He went bowling with a friend this afternoon and when he was telling me about it, he asked “Who’s the good guys – the bowling pins or the ball?” I said probably the pins because the ball comes barreling along and knocks them all down for no reason. (What intelligent discussions we have.) Anyway he says, “Yeah! The pins are just standing there minding their own business, praying to Jesus.” I asked why they were praying and he looked at me like I was a bit slow and said “because the ball is coming.”

On the way home from school, Chloe was talking about how some kids at her school don’t believe in Halloween because they think it’s Satan’s birthday and he’s evil. Spencer asked, “Who’s Satan? Is he in your class?”

I guess they haven’t gotten to the devil section in the Kindergarten curriculum yet.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Always Get a Cart

Yet another weekend of working on the house. Mom & Dad took Spencer & Neve from Friday to Saturday, so we got lots done on Saturday. Dale put up shelves in the playroom and Neve’s room and I mostly painted. I painted the bay window in Neve’s room white. It was a medium dark wood (oak? I’m not so good with my woods. I know pine.) and now it’s bright white. It makes a huge difference. It looks so clean and crisp. As I was painting over the wet moldy wood near the glass, I was thinking that maybe we should have bought a new window instead of re-using that one (it was in the upstairs front window in its previous life). It fogs up and there’s moisture on the window and sometimes there’s black mold near the edges of the glass. Other than that, I love the bay window, and we wouldn’t have spent the money to buy a new one like it. I do like the idea of reusing the things we could just to keep a little of the old in with the new. I just wish it wasn’t moldy.

Another fun thing I did on Saturday was a trip to Home Depot. I hadn’t been for a while, and I just had to get a furnace filter and paint rollers. My first mistake: not getting a cart. When I saw the lighting section, I thought I’d just pick up a light fixture for the main floor hallway. We hadn’t bought one yet because we were hoping to find something a little nicer than just the basic bedroom type discs, but not a big entrance chandelier. By this point though, I didn’t care and just wanted to check it off the list. So I find a basic bedroom light fixture (no one will notice, I say. so don’t look at the light fixture when you see our house) and then while I’m there, I may as well get a light fixture for outside our north side door. So I’m carrying two light fixtures, then the furnace filter and the paint rollers. Then I decide to buy trim to put around our bathroom mirror. There is a long and frustrating story about this mirror trim which I won’t go into, but let’s just say I have spent way too much time and effort on getting this trim. So I put my stuff down in the trim/baseboard aisle and find one I like. I cut it into two pieces with the saw in the aisle, because it’s 14 feet long and won’t fit in my van otherwise. As soon as I cut it, I realized I cut one piece a foot too short. There are people waiting to use the saw, so I’m thinking I’ll make it work with this shorter piece of trim and gather up all my stuff plus my two long pieces of trim. Then Dale calls on the cell and I ask him if I have the right furnace filter size. He says no. So I have to go back to the furnace filter aisle. As I’m walking, I decide it’s time to get a cart. Can’t find one. My arms are very tired from carrying everything so awkwardly, so I just dump my stuff on the floor near the checkout. I hear glass breaking. Then I get a cart from a woman at the checkout who’s done with it, I load up all my stuff including the broken light fixture and go back to the other end of the store to get a different light, a different furnace filter, and since I seem destined to be there forever anyway, I went back and cut another piece of trim the right size. This is a long story, but I assure you this process took way longer than it sounds. Whenever I get to the point where I think this reno wasn’t that bad, I will go to Home Depot and it will all come rushing back. Preferably in spring or summer, when it’s garden tractor season and I have to wait while Spencer takes a turn on each and every tractor while I am standing there as impatiently as humanly possible and Neve is standing up in the cart .5 seconds after I put her in it. And I have a long list that will require staff help in 4 different departments. And I smell that sickening Subway smell at 9:30 in the morning. Yeah. I think the healing process will be longer than I think. There are things coming to the surface that I wasn’t even consciously aware of. I am going to become an anti-renovation spokesperson. I could be sponsored by real estate agents and moving companies and Welcome Wagon.

We've decided to have a little open house for some of the neighbours next Sunday afternoon. They've put up with a lot of noise and mess and convicted felons, so we'll serve them some nanaimo bars, let them take a look around, and hope they forget and forgive everything. I can't imagine we'll be done all our little jobs by then, but it'll be extra motivation to do what we can. It's a busy week too, with Halloween and lots of other stuff going on. I have to get the kids costumes together yet. Spencer wanted to be an evil, bloody monster but I was trying to convince him to be a cat since we have a cat costume. We compromised and now he's an evil cat. Just kidding, he's going to be a pirate. He's happy because he gets to carry a sword (which I still have to buy) and I'm happy because we already have everything (except the sword). Chloe's going to be a princess for the 3rd year in a row. Before that she was a cat. Neve's going to be a caterpillar or a fairy, if the costume fits over her puffy jacket.

Dale's car died while driving to his Winnipeg office on Thursday. He's been expecting that for a while (but why take it in until you have to?). Fortunately it happened half a mile from our car repair place and not an hour north of Pine Falls. Turns out it was the alternator (we were relieved it wasn't the transmission) and it was supposed to be ready on Friday, but as we were leaving to pick up the car, they told us it wasn't working after all and they'd have to do more testing on Monday. We're not so relieved anymore. I'm not going to answer the phone tomorrow. I'll tell them to let it ring 3 times if it's good news, and just once if it's bad news.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Now that we’re almost done our project, I’ve been thinking of the guy across the street who took off his roof at the end of September around the time it rained a lot. He does it himself in the evenings. I was thinking of offering to write a blog for him.

Monday: Called up some buddies to help work on the house tonight. No one answered. My grandpa came though, so we got some work done.

Tuesday: The roof is off, but I have a really good tarp. I feel no rush to get any work done. Besides, it’s only October and the weather will be nice for ages yet.

Wednesday: It snowed last night. I don’t feel like working outside when it’s freezing cold. Besides it’s a bit slippery. I wish I was finished like the house across the street. They’re so lucky. They must be so happy.

Thursday: The roof really needs to be put on, but I was tired when I got home from work so I just watched Ugly Betty and fell asleep on the couch.

Friday: My friends still aren’t answering, so I called up my buddy Chad from high school. He didn’t remember me, but I asked if he’d come help anyway. He said no.

Saturday: I joined the Bandidos today to make new friends. They look strong, I bet they could carry two rafters at once.

This is actually more like our situation than I care to admit (except for the gang part). We just can’t seem to get the last bit of work done. I can’t do anything when Neve’s awake, and when she’s sleeping I do Chamber work. That leaves the evening, and by the time dinner’s cleaned up and the kids are in bed, I usually have to work a little more so there’s no time for starting a project. Dale works Saturdays and I can’t do anything with all 3 kids, so I’m not sure when it will ever get finished. Clay and his worker were here a couple of days this week. They finished out the storage space inside the windowseat, built shelves in my medicine cabinet and sanded and mudded the bathroom ceiling again. They still have to put the little door on my medicine cabinet and sand and mud the ceiling one more time. It doesn’t sound like much, but I suspect that will take another week or so. It’s not that I mind them, it’s just that I want this to be OVER. I want to put this behind me and never speak of it again. A few people have asked me the “worth it” question and I just can’t go there yet. I have to assess the costs first – the stress probably cost me several years of my life, the drinking has likely caused liver damage, I’m sure I’ve scarred my children from the lack of patience and attention during this time, our financial situation makes me want to throw up, and through it all I’ve become hardened and bitter and cynical. On the plus side, I now have a nice linen closet.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Neve in Boots

Neve in Clay's boots

A tiny picture of our house. Still need to paint or stain those window boxes.

It’s been such a treat this week not to have anyone working in our house. My stress level has plummeted. For the most part. I’m not going to say I don’t I have any stress; what fun would that be. There’s still work and kids and school and life in general. But everyone has that. I’m no different from anyone else now and I can’t use the renovation as an excuse for being insane anymore. I’m not sure I like that. I’ll have to find a new reason.

Luckily I think I can squeeze a couple more weeks out of the renovation excuse. Don’t worry Dave, that to-do list is nowhere near completion. In fact it’s growing by the minute. I started painting the baseboards in the main floor hallway, but I discovered I have to mud some spots first. So I stopped painting the baseboards. And since I have a bunch of other spots that need mudding too, I didn’t feel like starting that. Now I still have “paint baseboards” on the list and I’ve added “mud baseboards.” And so on and so on. Since Friday when the guys moved out, I’ve done basically nothing to the house. I’m scared that all the little things will be left until the week before our house is put up for sale. (of course we are never moving again, but when the children sell the house after we have both died). But my dear sister called and offered to help me this afternoon, so I’ve taken her up on it. That will force me to do something. Of course I could be starting now before she gets here since the kids are both napping, but I really have to update the blog. And then I have to practice the parking game on the computer. Then I need to look at the Sears Wish Book for a while (I love that thing) and decide what I want for Christmas (what page is “motivation” on?). After that if she still isn’t here, I’m going to make up a new to-do list.

One new development this week: the junk removal guy came yesterday and took away ALL our garbage! This excites me greatly. I have been looking out the back windows every chance I get. Here’s a photo of the guys removing the garbage. I didn’t want them to see me taking a picture, so I took it through the window. I guess I won't be using it for our Christmas cards or anything. And what a shame because nothing says merry christmas better than two grubby guys cleaning up plywood scraps.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Cleaning Up the House

Friday was a happy day in our household. The big saw that was blocking the top of our stairs for the last month was removed, along with all the guys’ tools and other stuff. There are still a few more odds and ends they have to come back and finish up, but it feels so good to have them moved out. I dusted and vacuumed the playroom area upstairs and the kids played there. It’s just an open space right now, so they ran in circles around the room. When they got tired of that, they set up the little tent and played in that. Chloe’s been asking for that tent to be set up for months, but we just didn’t have a place to put it. Now we do.

We still have lots of little projects to do like painting and putting up shelves and organizing stuff, but I don’t feel the same overwhelming pressure anymore. I feel like I can finally exhale. On Saturday I spent a few hours cleaning our bedroom. It was such a mess, with a thick layer of dust covering it all. There were kids toys and books and clothes and things from the old bathroom and papers and more papers and Neve’s diapers and baby blankets and slippers. It feels so clean and peaceful now. I’m sure it won’t last, but it’s nice for now. When Neve was at my parents’ last week, I cleaned the kitchen, dining room and living room, so we’re finally getting back to normal. In fact, a new and improved normal. I’m really noticing the extra space – rather than having the kids all concentrated in the living room bouncing off the walls, they’re spread out over the whole house. In fact sometimes I don’t even know where they are. And I love it. Although it makes me nervous when Neve’s too quiet. It takes a while to find her sometimes.

Some guys came to put up our eavestroughs on Saturday, so that’s another thing to check off the list. The stucco guys still have to come back to fix the white streaks of stucco on the south side of the house. I called them this week and now they’re giving me a hard time. They’re saying it’s my fault because the eavestroughs weren’t up and they think I should pay for at least part of it. I’m thinking not. I’m ready for a fight.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Things I’m thankful for:

  • That we got 75% of our to-do list done on Saturday
  • Jim & Sabrina for helping us all day Saturday
  • Bob & Janet for taking Neve to the cabin so we could work all day Saturday
  • Mom & Dad for taking Neve tonight for a few days so I can get the other 25% of the list done.
  • My contacts aren’t bothering me any more so I don’t have to wear my glasses anymore.
  • I can wear makeup and do my hair now that I have mirrors in the bathrooms.
  • Soon I won’t have to go to Home Depot or Rona ever again.
  • I haven’t sawed off anyone’s hand yet
  • That I got my speeding ticket reduced by $60
  • For all my friends who have supported us through this renovation with your comments and phone calls and kind words

The big push is on to get the last bit DONE!! Clay is working today on the trim and the shelves beside the window seat and other odds and ends. I’m very cautiously optimistic that pretty much everything will be done by the end of the week. I don’t even like to say that out loud, but I’m going to anyway. It will encourage me to do everything I can to make it happen. I know of a few things that won’t be done by then, but I’ll say 98% done. Well maybe 95%. Things are already so much better. I’ve put towels in the bathroom linen closet and sheets and blankets in the hall linen closet. The two older kids have closet shelves and rods. The doors have knobs and almost all the leftover bits of painting are done and the track lights and mirrors are up.

So happy thanksgiving everyone, may this blog be over soon!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It must be the red hair

I’ve calmed down somewhat since Saturday. My heart rate still skyrockets when I look up at the bathroom ceiling, but mostly I’ve swung the other way and am lethargic and apathetic. My goal is to just get through one day at a time until one day when I wake up and the scraps of dirty rug will be off my hardwoods, the dust will be gone, the table saw which blocks off the top of the stairs will be gone, and no one will be in my house except for the people in our family picture. And Neve. We need to update that photo. She’s been around for a while already. Feels like forever. I’m straying from the renovation for a minute, but here is a list of naughty things she did today (this is for you, Lisa):

  • Threw Tupperware in the garbage. She loves throwing things in the garbage. You never know what you’ll find in there (or what we didn’t)
  • While grocery shopping, she got a hold of a tub of yogurt from the cart and dropped it. The container split open and yogurt splatted all over the floor.
  • Tried to eat 4 beads
  • Messed up Chloe’s desk and tore a page out of a book
  • Threw about ten of Spencer’s Hot Wheels cars into the kitchen sink
  • Hit Chloe on the head with a hammer
  • Escaped outside when I ran out to put stuff in the recycling bin, luckily I saw her on my way back in, walking around the backyard with no pants or shoes on.

And this doesn’t count any of her usual messing up or regular mischief, so it’s just the tip of the iceberg. She only napped for about an hour and a half all day so it was a long long day for me. Taking that into consideration, I actually got a lot done. I need to lower my expectations drastically.

The guys are still plugging away at the trim. I know there is a lot of measuring to do, but I can hardly stand how long it’s taking. They’re almost done the window & door casings and they might start the baseboards tomorrow. I need to have a discussion with them about how I’m borderline psychopathic and how good it would be for everyone if they would work as fast as they possibly can (while still doing quality craftsmanship). I think what’s really getting to me is not knowing when this will be over. Although if they do give me a finish date and they don’t finish on or before that date, well, I don’t even want to think about it. I think no end date is better than a missed one.

There’s really nothing else to say. I got a bunch of doors painted Saturday night. Dale put shelves in some of the closets. We finally moved the kids’ beds up. They’re getting quite settled, especially Chloe. She has every inch of her room filled with her doll daycare and her papers and books. Spencer spends lots of time in his room drawing and putting stickers on papers. He hasn’t brought any of his toys up there yet, only books and papers and markers. He is surprising me. At school, he says his favourite part is the schoolwork. Seems he is more like Chloe than I thought. That leaves Neve to be the wild one. She’s got a good start.

Saturday, September 30, 2006


I started writing an entry the other day, but didn’t get around to posting it. Later I thought it sounded too negative. Now I don’t think it sounds negative enough. So first of all, here’s what I wrote the other day:

I may have mentioned this before, but I am SO tired of this renovation. I want closets with shelves. I want casings and baseboards and a door on the bathroom and window coverings. I want my house to myself. I want my yard cleaned up. I want to have friends over for dinner. I am losing it. I am so tense and stressed. I can pretend to be kind of normal, but I am on the very edge of my sanity. How do I convince the medical establishment that I really am insane and they could put me in a quiet restful facility for a few weeks? (talk about the ultimate While You Were Out (At the Mental Hospital). Until now, I’ve tried to put it into perspective – we’re all healthy and well, we have jobs and food and beds and the kids are relatively happy. But now it doesn’t work anymore. I’m done trying to put a positive spin on it, and if one more person says it will all be worth it (yes, people still tell me that) I will cut off their hand with the mitre saw (at a 45 degree angle). That should fast-track my admittance to the psychiatric hospital. And now I’ve got a cold and if there weren’t workers in my house constantly, I would curl up in bed and stay there for as long as I could.

SO. Now it’s Saturday and we’ve had a day. The plumber came by this morning to tighten up a pipe under the upstairs sink and finish up a few details. He was about to leave when I asked if he’d tighten the toilet tanks a bit more. So he grudgingly went back into the main floor bathroom and was working on that when suddenly water started leaking through a big bulge in the bathroom ceiling. Water was raining down and the ceiling and wall were soaked. He started freaking out, so I freaked out even more. I ran to turn off the water and eventually it became a slow drip. He had no clue what was going on. So first he cut out some drywall in Neve’s closet (the upstairs bathroom pipes are behind that wall). Everything was dry there, so he started cutting away the main floor bathroom ceiling. He kept cutting and cutting until he found the leak. What appears to have happened is that the electrician drilled into the pipe while making a hole in the joist for the ceiling fan wiring. The hole was on the side of the pipe, so when the kids just washed their hands or brushed their teeth upstairs, there wasn’t a huge amount of water running down the drain. There is also insulation in the ceiling that would have soaked up small amounts of water. But when the plumber was tightening up the upstairs sink’s small leak, he filled the sink with water and let it all drain out to test the pipes. That amount of water filled the pipe and the water went through the hole and through my ceiling. I was so upset. I know it can all be fixed, but it means more work, more time, and more mess. And more money probably, although I’ve been assured it “will all be taken care of.” I had such high hopes for today; I was feeling a bit better and I planned to paint all the doors and door frames and closet doors upstairs, organize the kids rooms, etc. So far I’ve painted Chloe’s door and the bathroom doorway. It’s going to be a long night. Dale was a bit more successful – he built shelves in the hall closet. He also made a few trips to Home Depot, during one of which he left a new track light in the parking lot. He remembered when he got home, but by the time he went back, it was gone and no one had turned it in. I hate people. Who would steal track lighting?

Neve goes to bed in half an hour so I can get back to work then. I’ve got lots of doors to paint.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Toilets and Sinks

I keep meaning to take photos of the outside of the house now that the stucco’s done but I forget during the day and it gets dark so early. It’s crazy. I called the stucco guys about the white blotches on the south side of the house and they tell me it’s because of the rain splashing down the side of the house. We were purposely waiting to put the eavestroughs on until the stucco was done so the drain pipes wouldn’t be in their way. Now the stucco guys are all mad that we didn’t put the eavestroughs on first, but they never once mentioned it before. So they said they’d come back after the eavestroughs are on and re-mist it. Whatever that means. They assured me it can be fixed and said they’d take care of it. I’m assuming that means they won’t charge me more, but I know I should never assume anything. That small issue aside, I am still happy with the look of the house. I’ve had a few people tell me that if it wasn’t for the two bottom front windows, it would look like a brand new house. That’s kind of a mixed compliment: I wasn’t really trying to go for the new house look and secondly, they really mean that the front windows stick out like a sore thumb. I am planning to paint the trim around the windows, and I still have to paint the window boxes too. We’re also planning to put shutters up on the top front windows. I’m not sure when this will all happen, I’m not making any promises. I feel so busy and unorganized and overwhelmed pretty much all the time. And I just can’t see it getting better any time soon. Last night I was near an open window and I heard some people walking past our house and one said “Wow, I can’t believe how quick that went.” I wanted to scream out the window “IF YOU ONLY KNEW!!!!” There’s a house across the street that is just starting a renovation like ours – their roof was removed today. I feel sorry for them, but at the same time I was sort of smirking inside. We’re not the only crazy people. And if we can compare levels of crazyness, I think they’re more crazy because they’re only starting and it’s almost October. All the best with that, I say.

I went away for part of the weekend and when I came back, I had functioning toilets and sinks in both new bathrooms. It was like a mini While You Were Out. Actually the plumber was working on it when I left so I wasn’t even surprised. So really it was nothing like While You Were Out, except I was out. If it was the real thing, the whole house down to the baseboards and the touch up painting would have been done. Then I could resume a normal life and spend my days doing something besides going to Home Depot, dealing with tradespeople and trying to find items lost somewhere in this chaotic rubble and in the evenings I could watch TV sometimes instead of painting baseboards. Hmmm, this paragraph started out all positive and it somehow went the other way. My toilets and sinks are wonderful!!! I find myself still heading down to the basement and then I remember I don’t have to. I gave Neve her first bath in the tub upstairs and it was amazing! I have dreamed of the day I could bath my baby in a new clean non-horrifyingly disgusting tub and that day was today. For the past few months, I have bathed her by taking her into the shower with me or bathing her in the kitchen sink. The first option is quicker and less messy (she likes to splash in the sink). I always had to hold her in the shower because the floor of the shower is quite disgusting and she tries to lie down and drink the water collecting by the drain. Shaving your underarms while holding a big wet slippery baby is not the funnest thing ever. Oh man this is getting negative again. I better call it a day.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

This Week

New Developments this week:

  • Stucco is finished – looks great. Except some white patches are inexplicably appearing so I have to call the guys tomorrow and find out what’s up with that.
  • Tile in the entrance is done – also looks good but not so much with the colour I painted the walls. I was planning to paint the main floor hallway with the same paint – the same creamy linen colour that I painted upstairs, but am having second thoughts. Realistically though, I will probably leave it because I am very tired of painting. I love the tile guy. He is one of my top 5 tradespeople. He gives us a price and not only sticks to it, but ends up charging less than his quote. And he does good work.
  • Mural is done. Spencer is pleased.
  • Vinyl in upstairs bathroom floor is done. Dale put in some sweat equity and did that himself. We just need the hole for the sink cut into the countertop and then we’re ready for the fixtures to be hooked up. Except I decided I’m unhappy with the mint green paint and am now painting it bright white like I wanted to do in the first place. I need to do one more coat tomorrow.
  • Main floor bathroom is painted, light fixture is up and we are ready for the toilet and sink plumbing. The thermostat for the heated tile is connected. We still need the shower doors installed.
  • Ceiling patching is done in the living room, kitchen and dining room and is ready to paint.
  • The baseboards and trim are onsite and we’ve painted some of them.

There seems to still be a million things to do. I keep telling myself that at least the kids are all in their own rooms and starting to settle in. And I’m very happy to be done with the sanding dust and now I can clean the house. However there will be more dust from cutting the baseboards and trim, so I have an excuse to put off the cleaning a little longer. It will be wonderful once the bathrooms are done. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be able to just shuffle across the hall to go to the bathroom in the night. Sometimes I wake up in the night and really have to go, but the thought of going all the way to the basement with a million obstacles to step over and around is overwhelming. Of course this makes me have to go even more, so eventually I do. The scary part is that Dale’s a freaky sleeper and sometimes bolts upright in his sleep. If he notices I’m not there, he sneaks around the house until he finds me. There have been times when I’m coming up the stairs (in the pitch black darkness because I can’t turn on the lights because the kids were sleeping right there) and suddenly Dale will appear in front of me and say “WHO ARE YOU??” in the spookiest voice ever. The other night he was walking around the house with an aluminum baseball bat. It’s quite terrifying and I’ll be happy not to have to worry about that anymore. The other thing I’m excited about is the heated tile in our bathroom. Right now when I get out of the basement shower, I’m stepping on Astroturf. Who decided that that was an acceptable type of flooring?? Especially for inside. It’s actually not that nice for outside either. Anyway the heated tile is nice and you can program it so it’s warm when you get up in the morning.

My goal for tomorrow is to get the hallway cleaned up. Right now there are pails of mud and paint and paint trays and lots of other junk. I am going to clean it all up and get rid of the carpet scraps and plastic covering the floors. One step closer to living like normal people!!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Drywall Dust

I was thinking today that I want to be a drywall taper. It’s kind of fun smooshing the mud around and repairing holes and cracks. But then I had to sand them and changed my mind. I only did a little bit tonight and the air is cloudy and it doesn’t feel so good to breathe (a little flashback to the asbestos removal days). Poor Mudder. Speaking of which, we have seen the last of him. He has been coming to tape and mud and sand every day (or every two or three days) for at least three weeks. He grew fond of Dale and the two of them became little chatting friends. After dragging it out as long as he could, he finally finished yesterday morning. I would like to say we are finished with drywall dust, but another guy is in the process of patching some cracks and holes in the ceilings. Hopefully he’ll be done in the next day or two. I actually look forward to thoroughly cleaning my house once that’s all done.

Tyler the tile guy is coming tomorrow to tile the front entrance, so we quickly had to prime and paint it today. Janet came to help, we also primed the main floor bathroom. I had hoped to prime the hallway and paint the bathroom this weekend, but it’s 11:30 on Sunday night and time has run out.

Mom & Dad came over today and brought the new railing for around the stairwell. My dad made it out of metal and my brother and/or nephew painted it. It turned out very well and I’m so pleased with it. Now Neve can wander around up there as she pleases. She went home with my mom & dad tonight, so we haven’t yet experienced the lower rate our hearts will beat at when she goes upstairs.

Mural Guy was here a couple of times last week. He is coming tomorrow to finish Spencer’s mural. We ended up with two Superheroes rather than three, due to time/money constraints. Spencer chose Batman & Spiderman. He is thrilled with it so far. Neve is a little nervous about Spiderman. She stands in the doorway of Spencer’s room and points at him. Mural Guy also painted clouds and a sun on Chloe’s ceiling, so she’s happy with that. The kids have been having so much fun playing in their new rooms. They're really enjoying having their own space and making their rooms cozy. Neve slept in her crib for the first time last night. She was looking around curiously as I put her down, but she slept well. She loves standing in her crib and looking out her window. Alas, we will be squashing her joy by putting up blinds.

And our stucco guys. They have so come through for us. They have finished two and a half sides of our house so far. I think it is taking them longer than they thought, but then again they also quit early most days (2:00 on Friday). But they have done a great job of matching up the top and bottom halves of the house. You really can’t tell where the new walls begin. The colour is not what I thought it would be – it is definitely more of a sandy brown than green – but I quite like it. It’s a neutral, inoffensive colour. Maybe not the most exciting colour in the world, but it’s not white and it’s definitely not mint green.

We are approaching the 4 month anniversary of this renovation in a week or two. That saddens and disappoints me. I’ll definitely be drinking that day, but not the happy fun way like in beer commercials. More like the lonely homeless person in the back lane. I’m (mostly) kidding. The progress this week was actually quite good. We are getting close to being done, but there are still so many smaller things left to do. We still need vinyl flooring in the bathroom, doors hung, trim and baseboards put on, closet shelves and rods, shower doors installed, toilets and sinks hooked up, eavestroughs, etc. etc. Just imagine what I’m going to be like if this makes it to a 6-month anniversary. It’s not going to be pretty.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


The playroom (facing east - front of the house). There's a window seat and bookshelves will be built in on either side of the seat.

The carpet is completely done and we're so happy with it. I think it looks good with the paint colours, it's soft and it won't show dirt. What more could you ask for in a carpet? I vaccuumed and washed the windows upstairs and it feels so good. The kids have had so much fun running around there tonight. There's no railing yet, so I've probably lost 3 years off my life in one evening, worrying that someone will fall down the stairwell. Dale put Neve's crib up and she was so pleased. It was pretty funny. I think she remembers it. We put her to bed downstairs in her playpen though, since we wanted to clean upstairs. Chloe & Spencer are sleeping on the floor in Chloe's room.

I was hoping to move their dressers upstairs, but Mudder came tonight and was working in the hallway. I was hoping we'd be able to move the big stuff upstairs before he finished the mudding process so that he could fix up any new nicks and bumps. We've got another guy coming to do touch ups on the ceilings, so I'm sure he could fix that too. Anyway Mudder thinks he'll only have to come once more, maybe twice.

The stucco guys finished the scratch coat today and will start putting on the stucco tomorrow. I'm so nervous about the colour we chose. It's green, kind of a beige-y dirty green. At least that's what the half centimetre square on the colour brochure looked like. I'm hoping with all my heart that it will look better than it sounds. It was such a tough decision whether to go with the "safe" brown/mocha or take a risk with the green. I had my heart set on green, but I wish there had been more samples to choose from. It was either this green or mint green. That would have matched my bathroom. JC says they'll be done in two days, so I guess we'll see how it turns out. Cross your fingers.

Neve has discovered she can open our front door and come and go as she pleases. We were quite surprised the first time we found her outside.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Painting photos

I was finally able to upload some photos. By the way, the carpet IS in, although the carpet installers are back again tomorrow to finish up....! It looks great.

In case you can't tell, Spencer was thrilled to paint part of his room.

Lori does the hard part.

Dale thinks we could have provided healthier snacks like prunes and organic celery.

Sabrina does the hallway.

Jim & Patricia in Chloe's room.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


The painting has gone very well. Jim came back on Thursday and helped us paint all the ceilings. On Saturday, Jim & Sabrina, Patricia, Lori, Dale & I finished painting all the walls. So it was very successful and I’m so happy. A giant thank you to everyone that helped, it was a fun day. We had pizza and fresh cinnamon buns for lunch, then we ended the day at Bob & Janet’s (who painted the exterior of their house yesterday) for Chinese food. Dale’s mom had the kids all day, which was a huge help. And she made the cinnamon buns. I tried to post photos again, but they are not uploading and I am doing the same thing I used to do. I was thinking of getting a myspace account and putting in a link to my photos there.

There were a few spots that Mudder touched up that we had to paint today. Dale put up all the lights in the bedrooms and closets and all the light switch and outlet covers today. It makes it look so much more finished. We were also going to put up the light that the electrician dragged over here on the bus. It's been lying around the house for about two months in a garbage bag. When we took it out of the bag, we discovered the glass cover was broken. It turns out it would have been way too big for the hallway light anyway, and I'm not sorry for giving the guy $40, BUT... it is yet another thing that has been broken with no one confessing to it. Our vanity for the upstairs bathroom has been sitting in the middle of the second floor for a couple of months as well, and a couple of weeks ago we noticed the board that would support the back of the countertop was cracked. No one mentioned anything. Then last week, it broke completely. It's something that can be fixed, but it bugs me that no one tells us anything and we will be responsible (either time or money) for fixing it. I know things break and I'm not holding that against anyone, but don't try to pretend no one did it. It's like my kids, except worse because the workers did not come out of my belly and I don't really love any of them.

The carpet comes tomorrow (well officially today since it's after midnight). The carpet better come tomorrow. I am fully expecting it to be installed tomorrow and I will be very sad if it isn't. I have my hopes and my children's hopes completely pinned on it. Isn't it nice to see that I have not lost my naive innocence and trust in the trades? You'd think I'd be cynical and doubting, but I'm not. I will have carpet upstairs tomorrow (today).

We’re having a mural painted in Spencer’s room, so the mural guy is coming on Tuesday to take a look at the wall and to get an idea of what we want. Spencer wants Batman, Spiderman and Superman all together with a night cityscape in the background. Depending how that turns out, I’m tempted to get him to paint stuff in the girls’ rooms too. Chloe wants a flower theme, and I’d like to do a fairy theme for Neve. I don’t actually have any fairy stuff or even know what I can find, but I like the idea. Any suggestions are welcome. Her room is purple, like a dusty lavender (?). I don’t know how to describe it. Chloe’s room is bright green, Spencer’s is a smoky blue, and the playroom and hall is a creamy white with a feature wall the same colour as Neve’s room. I’m happy with the colours, except I’m not sure about the bathroom. I wanted a very clean white room, but at the last minute I chose a very light cool green. But it looks a little too minty. Hopefully it will look better when the vinyl floor and vanity are in. And who am I kidding - unless it’s hideous, it will stay that way until Neve is a teenager.

The stucco guys came Thursday and Friday and put up the stucco wire. After a cash deal in the bank parking lot, they said they’d be back Monday to do the scratch coat. I haven’t been home much since they’ve been here, but they seem to be good workers. My only beef is that they left the scaffolding set up right beside our side door for the weekend. It’s the door we use the most often, and now we can’t get in or out of it. It would be a good excuse to use the new front door, but unfortunately we can’t find the keys for the new lock. Neve probably hid them somewhere.
In other news, on Friday afternoon I went to school with Spencer. He is so excited about school and just soaked it up. I was worried because he kept insisting he wanted to go back to the school he went to for nursery, but I can see he’s going to be just fine. He definitely is not going to be the shy one.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

All Good

So… we have begun the painting process!! Mudder finished sanding yesterday, so I went to the paint store today and bought lots of paint. Tonight Jim & Sabrina and Mom & Dad showed up and we primed the entire second floor. I am SO happy. I see a light. I am moving towards it. Tomorrow we are planning to start painting the ceiling. Even though it’s lots of work, it feels so good to be in control of the progress for once. The carpet is scheduled to be installed on Monday, so we’ve got a deadline and I’m determined to make it. We will be painting all weekend (hint hint). It’s actually quite fun and think of how happy you will make me. I will mention you in my blog. The only rule is no singing Fergie’s “London Bridge. Just kidding, I don’t care what you sing as long as you are holding a paintbrush.

So besides Jim & Sabrina and my parents, there is another unsung hero I have to recognize: our dear friend Dino. Remember our plumbing dilemma I mentioned last time? We called the plumber and he was defensive and said he didn’t move the drain because he couldn’t. Dale (who knows nothing about plumbing) challenged him on that, so he admitted it could be done, but kept insisting it would be “excessive work” which he obviously has an aversion to. He eventually and grudgingly agreed to come, but at this point we don’t have much faith left in him. Enter Dino. He comes to our rescue and fixes it in 15 minutes. Seriously. He’s amazing. We are very fortunate and appreciate all the help and support we have had from friends. We love you all. But especially Dino.

Mudder started taping the main floor today. I am starting to like Mudder. He spoke to me today (first time) and it turns out he’s quite friendly. He was talking about how busy he was and I said something about him not having time for a life outside of work and asked if he had kids. He said (and he wasn’t joking) “That reminds me. I have a son.” It honestly sounded like he had completely forgotten. That guy is so stressed. Maybe I should bake brownies for him.

John Candy called today. They’re going to start our stucco tomorrow. They came by and dropped off a wheelbarrow and scaffolding and stuff. I love them. They are jolly and polite. They are my favorite trade so far. I am definitely going to bake brownies for them.

In other news, Chloe’s first day seemed to go well. She was happy with her teachers and was happy to see her friends; I think it’s going to be a good year for her. Spencer doesn’t start officially til next Thursday and he thinks it’s quite unfair that he couldn’t start today. It’s not like him, he doesn’t normally love school. We’re going to meet the teacher tomorrow and he’s supposed to bring something he loves to show Mrs. J. He keeps insisting that he’s bringing God & Jesus. I guess we’re sending him to the right school.

Ending on yet another positive note, I finally got my eye drop prescription.

Things are looking up all around!!

Monday, September 04, 2006


I didn’t realize it’s been a week since the last update. It’s amazing how time flies even when NOTHING is happening. I’ll do the good/bad list again to summarize this last week.

We’ll start with the negative to get that out of the way.

  • We are so not going to be anywhere near finished before school starts.
  • The drywall tapers are painfully slow.
  • The drywall tapers don’t show up when they’re supposed to.
  • The drywall tapers are anti-social and grunt when we speak to them.
  • I am so frustrated with the mudding & taping process.
  • Everyone else’s renovations, with the exception of the Ground Zero project in New York, are moving ten times quicker than ours is. I don’t know if the Freedom Tower is a fair comparison but if that’s done before our house, I am going to freak.
  • We are over budget.
  • Neve doesn’t nap properly in the basement. She is getting more and more noise sensitive and wakes up crying her eyes out if we sneeze too loud.
  • My eyes are itchy and dry all the time and I can’t wear my contacts and the doctor is dragging his feet about prescribing the eye drops I need.
  • The plumber put the drain for the monster sink in the wrong place. He already came back once to move the plumbing when we first realized how large the sink was. The lines for the tap are fine, but he didn’t move the drain and the pipe is very visible when you walk into the bathroom. We’ve called him to come back, but he’s got to hurry because they’re almost ready to start taping on the main floor.

Now for the positive.

  • Nothing.

Well that’s being downright pessimistic. This project is starting to affect my whole outlook on life. I better come up with a few good things.

  • We like Tyler. He finished tiling the shower and floor in the main floor bathroom. He seemed to be a good careful worker and wants to do the tiling in both the new entrance and our north side entrance as well. We’ll call him when the taping’s done on the main floor.
  • The blow-in insulation company was true to their word and showed up on Wednesday. The guy(s) climbs up onto the roof, removes a roof vent, and climbs into our attic like a rat. When he’s done, he replaces the roof vent with a new one, re-shingles anything they’ve disturbed, and climbs down. They pride themselves on not entering the house at all. Personally I wouldn’t really care if they had come through the house, but whatever.
  • Although if all the trades could enter via the attic, there’d be nothing wrong with that. One more good thing about this insulation company. They got us a $380 Hydro rebate, all on their own initiative. They’re awesome.
  • Clay finished both window boxes and installed them temporarily. We’ll have to remove them for the stuccoing. We have to paint them yet, but they look good.
  • I saved the best news for last. Mudder & friend showed up this afternoon, and they are going to be done sanding tomorrow night, so I can start painting on Wednesday!!! Because I’ve got Neve, I probably will only do bits and pieces until the weekend, and then I’ll go crazy. So if anyone feels like coming to help, I won’t say no. Bring a favorite brush or roller handle if you have one, and I’ll have extras on hand too. If you can’t make it this time around, don’t worry. There will be another chance in a week or so when the main floor bathroom, entrance and hallway ceiling are ready to paint.

Hope everyone has a good week, getting kids back to school and adjusting to the end of summer …

Monday, August 28, 2006

Mudder and Tyler

The drywaller showed up today, sort of. His “maybe not first thing in the morning” meant 5:00 p.m. Better than Wednesday, I say. He basically came to tell us he has scheduling difficulties and a guy that works for him is going to do our mudding, etc. I don’t care if Curious George does it as long as he know what he’s doing (and isn’t too curious). So the guy showed up tonight yet and did some drywall in the bathroom. This guy (we’ll call him Mudder. I’ve been thinking I maybe shouldn’t use real names just in case someone reading this is related to someone I’m complaining about) works somewhere else all day, so this is all taking place in the evenings. There’s going to be 3 guys working together, so hopefully they’ll be done quickly. Mudder said they’ll be done Saturday night, so we’d be able to paint on Sunday. Let’s see if Mudder’s right. I like calling him that.

And the tile guy (we’ll call him Tyler) showed up as well. He took a look and gave me an estimate. So he’s starting tomorrow morning. Dale was planning to tile the front entrance himself (well he was sort of planning that Jim would do it), but Tyler was very willing to do that too, so go Tyler go. It’s so much easier that way.

I had a blow-in insulation company lined up to do our attic insulation. They were supposed to do it last week, but they never showed up or returned my calls. So I found another company today and the guy was awesome. He’s trying to get me a Hydro rebate and everything. Now we’ll see if he actually shows up this week.

I’m going to my mom & dad’s tomorrow for a couple of days with the kids. Hopefully there will be lots of action here this week, so it will be good for everyone if we’re somewhere else. And it will be fun coming back and seeing the progress.

Now for a little rant. Throughout this project, I can’t tell you how many times a tradesperson has come in and criticized another trade’s work. “Why did they do it like THAT? Have they ever done this before? Why are these wires HERE? That’s wrong! Who did this??” I heard it again today and it makes me crazy. I feel like I’m being insulted for being ignorant enough to put up with such shoddy work. I would probably drop dead in shock if a tradesperson came in, perused the other trades’ work, and said “Wow! What great work has been done here!! The electrician/plumber/framer (fill in the blank) is so talented and conscientious! You are brilliant for hiring such skilled labour!” (I would also be surprised to hear any of the trades speak with exclamation marks after their statements. In general, they’re a pretty shall we say low-key bunch). Running down the other trades does get them a bit excited though. As Dale himself said after listening to one tradesperson criticize another, “People say women are gossipy, but these guys are worse.” Are they all that insecure that they have to run others down? (okay so I complain about the workers too, but that’s different because I’m paying for it.) Unless the work is dangerously wrong, I don’t want to hear about it. Why can’t they all just get along?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Can't Think of a Heading

We went to Grand Beach today and it couldn’t have been a more perfect beach day. We hadn’t been to Grand Beach for two years, so it was a treat. I’d never seen the new South Beach casino on Hwy 59 before, so Dale & I were talking about it and he made the mistake of saying “that’s the one you can smoke in.” For some reason, the children were so inexplicably fascinated by this that it caused hours of discussion. Years from now, that’s what they will remember about today.

I’m watching a nightmare reno on Property Ladder as I write this. It looks hopeless. Everything turns into a way bigger job than anticipated, the guy is stressed and completely broke, his marriage is falling apart and nothing’s working out. It’s a little too much like reality, but it’s way worse than our project so it cheers me up. (Our marriage is hanging on so far. We couldn’t afford to split up anyway. And who would get the house??)

Here is a new photo of our house, for those of you who have been asking. The big fir trees make it difficult to get a clear picture, but you get the idea.

The drywall is completely installed except for one wall in the main floor bathroom where we had to move the plumbing and electrical to accommodate the monster sink. The electrician was here yesterday morning and installed all the lights upstairs (not the fixtures, just bare bulbs in each room for now). He didn’t get to the wiring in the bathroom for the coil mat for the heated tile, but Clay’s going to do that Monday so they can finish the drywall. Henry the drywall guy is supposed to be here Monday to start the mudding, taping and sanding. I called him yesterday just to confirm that and he said he’d be here. Although “maybe not first thing in the morning,” he says. That means Wednesday. My completion goals and dreams are in Henry’s hands. That sucks. I’m going to try to pin down his finishing time (the power of positive thinking) so I can reschedule the painting dates.

The tile guy said he might come Monday to tile the shower, since there’s a special shower drywall in there that doesn’t need to be taped and sanded. I’d be kind of surprised if he comes Monday, but anything can happen. Our shower doors arrived last week, so they are ready to install once the tile (and probably the drywall) is finished. I yearn for the day I won’t have to use the grungy basement bathroom ever again. I've thought of posting a picture of the basement bathroom, but I'm too embarrassed. I will tell you some of the things that are in that bathroom: a microwave stand, 4 big Rubbermaid totes, Spencer's Thomas the train table, an easel, and a bicycle. And that's not counting the stuff in the back part.

So we have hired BB and JC to do our stucco. I went to see some houses and garages they’ve done recently and spoke to one of the homeowners. She was pleased with their work, so that’s good enough for me. To this day, not one of the other ten companies I called have returned my messages so this is really my only option if I want it done this year. It still scares me a little that every time I call, Billy Bob comes right over. Well I’ve only called twice, but still. He never seems very busy. Anyway they’re going to do it in – you guessed it, Dave – two weeks!

Clay was working on a bunch of things this week. He finished the front steps/porch, built some window boxes, a built-in medicine cabinet in the bathroom, and he’s currently building the window seat and shelves in the playroom. I especially love the front porch. Yesterday we bought a cute little table and 2 chairs to put on it. Dale & I sat out there this morning with our Sudokus and coffee and it’s everything I dreamed it would be. It would have been even nicer if our neighbour hadn’t had to mow his front lawn exactly then, but I can hardly complain about 10 minutes of lawnmower noise when they’ve put up with our renovation for three months without a single complaint.

Dale & I went to Rona and Home Depot yesterday with two children in tow. To add a little drama, we went when the kids were hungry and tired. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, they say. Dale forgot to bring Neve’s shoes along. His lame little defense was “well so did you.” He put her in the van while I was still inside and for some reason I assumed she would be dressed. Dale said she would sit in the cart while we were shopping, so she wouldn’t need shoes anyway. She sat nicely in the cart for 30 seconds then cried to get out the remaining two hours. They should provide child care at those stores. I suspect the employees would have equal or greater knowledge about taking care of children as they do about ductwork. Despite the fussy baby, we were actually quite successful. We bought the tiles for our bathroom and entrance, some light fixtures, the aforementioned table and chairs, and some other odds and ends.

The renovation show was getting too grim so we are now watching So I Married an Axe Murderer, which is one of my favourite movies of all time and puts me in a much better mood. Speaking of movies, I have to put in a plug for one Teresa & I saw Friday night – Little Miss Sunshine. It’s the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time. If you don’t laugh out loud during this movie, we can’t be friends anymore. Unless you come help paint.

Monday, August 21, 2006

John Candy is Alive and Does Stucco (or so he claims)

Looks like Jim volunteered to do the taping, mudding and sanding. Awesome. Did you ever know that you’re my hero? You are the wind beneath my wings. What time will you be here tomorrow? And Dan – you better make that an open-ended ticket. Bob, we have some special beer for you from when we built the deck. I’m sure it’s still fine.

Some stucco guys appeared today to give us an estimate. I was already a little concerned since they returned my call so quickly. Then they pulled up to the curb in their old red Dodge Caravan with no company name anywhere to be seen. Out jumped John Candy and his brother Billy Bob Thornton. I wish I’d taken a picture of Billy Bob measuring the height of the house. With a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, he was trying to extend his tape measure up to the roof in the most half-assed way. It kept falling over and both guys were killing themselves laughing. That was when I went inside and just hoped they would disappear. Then Billy Bob came to the door with his estimate scribbled on a yellow post-it note. I asked some questions and much to my surprise, he answered as though he’d actually done this before. The more he talked, the better I felt. He said he’d give me some references and addresses of houses he’s done before. I will definitely check those out, but I’m actually feeling okay about this (and I’m desperate). He said they’re very busy, but he’d make this job a top priority and they could do it in two weeks. I am filled with skepticism and fear, but my desperation overrides that. He was supposed to phone me back with references and addresses, but he hasn’t yet…. we’ll see what happens.

We finally got our sink for our main floor bathroom. It is enormous. It is meant for a bathroom 6 times the size of ours. After my initial horror at the size of it, we decided to keep it and squish it in somehow. Basically our whole bathroom has to be reconfigured to fit the sink in. The plumbing has to be moved, as does the wall of our shower and the electrical for the lights above the sink, and we have to custom build a medicine cabinet into the studs because it won’t fit anywhere else (Clay didn’t smile much today). It is impractical, expensive and did I mention HUGE, but it’s easier to keep it than to re-package it, return it to Home Depot (minus the 15% special order fee), and shop for a new one. I am at the point where I want this project finished in the quickest easiest way. Corners are being cut and standards are plummeting. I wish someone would make all the rest of the decisions for me. I don’t care if my toilet is harvest gold (or is that only for kitchen appliances?), as long as I didn’t have to choose it.

The drywaller is finished upstairs and has moved down to the main floor. He’s almost done the entrance, and has the hallway ceiling and the bathroom left to do. Of course, he can’t do the bathroom until the plumber comes to move the plumbing. Stupid sink. It’s now messier, noisier and more invasive than ever. Spencer napped in our bedroom today and slept for 3 hours despite the noise. Tonight Neve was sleeping and Spencer wanted to go downstairs to get a truck from the cupboard right beside her playpen. I told him no, apparently he misunderstood. Hmm. Anyway, he comes upstairs with his flashlight and says “When the light shines in Neve’s eyes, she doesn’t even wake up. Her eyes just close more tighter.” I don’t think I’ll ever take it for granted once the kids have their own rooms.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

You can cross out the painting party on your calendar for next weekend. The drywaller has another job he has to do next week, so he won’t be able to do the taping and sanding until the week after. He obviously doesn’t understand how important MY project is. I’m going to have to share my goal of having everything* done by September 5th (the day before school starts). I will have to passionately explain my situation I can probably squeeze out a few tears if necessary. It really wouldn’t be that hard. All I need to do is think of the stress I’ve been going through and the money I’ve been going through and my eyes are kind of starting to water right now.

Anyway, if the drywaller comes through that following week, that would bring the painting party to the September long weekend. So for anyone who has plans that weekend, there’s plenty of time to change them. And I don’t mean if you have no plans that you have time to make some so you’ll have an excuse. Since it’s a long weekend, there’s a whole extra day of quality painting time.

I tried to post a picture of the new front entrance so far, but was having technical problems. We’ve been using that door every chance we get. I love it. I can’t wait to have people over so they can use the new entrance. To make it more visible, we chopped down a huge lilac bush that used to block the entrance. We actually meant to trim it, but it got a little out of hand. My parents came over with their trimming tools yesterday. My mother likes nothing better in the world than to trim trees. The bush got smaller and smaller until there was suddenly just a stump left. I really don’t mind. Now I’ll be able to sit on my new front porch and see something besides an overgrown shrub.

* I use the term “everything” loosely. Even if by some miracle the painting and carpets are done, there’s still all the finishing work like doors, trim, light fixtures, etc. But at least the kids could sleep and pee up there.