24 July 2012

J's Room: The Odyssey of Clean

I promised you a look at The Boy's room today, and look you shall. Behold the disaster "Before"


Dear gawd, right?

To clarify one point: I do make my children clean their rooms and fairly regularly too. Not recently, clearly, but it does happen. What I discovered while I ripping their rooms apart though is that they a) don't really know HOW to clean and b) make more effort to HIDE garbage than they do to GET RID of it. Apparently, out of sight really does mean out of mind, and when it's shoved under the bed or in the closet (with the door closed), or in drawers you don't use or in the bottom of your toy box, well it's not really there, is it?

But it is. And I found it. And I GOT RID OF IT.


Clean ... comfortable ... smells nice. You can't beat that. And the fact that it's open-house ready? Makes me happy all the way down to my toes.

PS - These awesome photo mosaics? Courtesy of Mosaic Maker over at Big Huge Labs, and they rock my socks...

23 July 2012

I'm Cleaning ALL The Things!

OR: There's A Very Good Reason Why I've Been Missing For More Than A Week, And It Smells Like Lemon Pledge.

Thank you so much to everyone who shared your thoughts on the issue of multi-generational housing last week; your thoughtful and supportive comments are very much appreciated and as always, I marvel at how awsmazing the blogging community really is!

Now on to other business! What the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks have I been doing this past week that I haven't been online, like, AT ALL? Because it's true: I was ignoring everything: the Money Pit (at least online), Hard Lemonade, Facebook, TWITTER. Seriously, it happened. So what exactly happened here that didn't involve the star ship Enterprise, a certain swashbuckling Captain in a tight red suit, and the appearance of an unfortunately-timed wormhole?


Clean is what happened here. And it. is. glorious.

I've taken rooms that look like this:


And beat them into submission rehabbed them into rooms that look like this:


Awwww, yeah.

And that's not the only room I've tackled: most of my MAIN FLOOR looks like this. Countless bags of garbage and even MORE bags to GoodWill, and we're all really starting to feel a little lighter around here.

Tomorrow? J's room.


11 July 2012

An Essay In Two Parts: Multi-Generational Housing {Part II}

Way back in January 2011, The Globe and Mail published an article discussing the emergence in popularity of the multi-generational home. I read it with great interest as at the time, this idea between Daryn, my mum and I to join forces under a single roof was just newly hatched and I was curious about others who had made a similar decision to merge households. The article cited a number of possible reasons for the uptick, the recent economic downturn being one, and the second being the recent evolution of societal norms, thanks in part to the example set by new immigrants for whom multi-generational living is often more common. The amalgamation of familial households has been gaining momentum in North America across all cultural backgrounds and, for me at least, it's easy to see why. A few of my own thoughts on the matter:

  • As professional demands creep every deeper (and more permanently) into our personal lives, time spent with family - especially raising children - is deeply impacted. Hours away from home result in kids spending an increasing amount of time in institutionalized care and time, of course, equals money. Fees to maintain just one child in full-time or before- and after-school care are steep, let alone multiple offspring, and while many programs offer discounts for the second, third and subsequent children, the cost of care is often still prohibitive for many. And at the end of the day, child/ren are still being cared for by relative strangers who are being paid to perform a service, not to love them and care for them as family would. So where are children receiving the sort of loving attention they need from parents, when parents are required to be at the office for longer and longer periods of time? It's my opinion that they're not (who has the time?) and it's beginning to show in the way we relate to each other and to the world.
  • It is damn expensive to live in this country: to own and maintain a home, to raise children, to drive cars (which are frequently a necessity, especially if you live beyond the borders of a major urban center), to entertain ourselves, to keep healthy, to eat, to age and eventually, to die. Everything in life has a price - everything - and increasingly that price is outstripping the income we can earn to pay for it. Blending multiple generations into one home makes good economic sense by alleviating financial strain for all parties, and allowing each generation to accumulate and maintain wealth in a faster and more reliable manner than they could have done individually.
  • The return to a larger, broader family dynamic serves to strengthen the support system available to all. As family size continues to contract over time and advancements in transportation and urban planning have made all the corners of the world open to us (assuming we can afford to buy a ticket), nuclear families are experiencing an increasing sense of isolation both physically and emotionally. For some this is ideal but for some families, this sense of loss of a solid support network - either real or perceived - is profound, and many are discovering that a manufactured network - of friends or colleagues, for example - is much less committed and secure than one created and nurtured by family.

The driving force behind this decision, for us, is to allow my mum to change her job circumstances. She is still quite young - only 55 - but she has high blood pressure and some other health issues that cause me to worry all of the time. She works tremendously long hours in the logistics business; she's a notorious control freak and is therefore excellent at her job, but her dedication to getting every. last. thing. done. means her day is often 12 or 14 hours long. She pushes too hard, and she travels too far. According to Mapquest she works only 24 minutes from home but in highway traffic each day, her commute looks more like an hour or an hour and half. This, on top of a 14-hour workday? No. I worry she'll stroke out one day sitting in gridlock on the 401 and my concern is not unfounded. My grandparents both had heart attacks very young (my grandmother was only 45!) and heart and stroke issues run in our genes. My mum is the only parent I have; I'm not willing to lose her to job and commuting stress. Combining households will dramatically reduce her financial needs and allow her to look for opportunities locally (within town) either full-time or part-time, or to retire entirely if that's her choice.

Daryn and I will also benefit, both financially and emotionally: a larger down payment on a property (courtesy of the proceeds of mum's home) means a smaller mortgage for us, and not paying for childcare when I go back to work full-time has many, many merits. That someone will always be home for our kids (especially the little one; J can pretty much look after himself now) represents a very real dollar value to us, not to mention the emotional value in knowing that when we're not at home, someone is helping to raise our children with the love and devotion equal to ours. She's
invested. She cares about the outcome because she'll have to live with it too, and that's the very best kind of caring.

Furthermore, looking down the road at elder care (Mum is young, but that won't last forever), it makes sense  for us to amalgamate households in order to ensure Mum receives the care she needs in her declining years. It isn't in me to commit my parent to a senior's care facility when she enters her dotage (not that I condemn anyone who chooses to do so; it's just not the right decision for me), and in any case she'd refuse to go: it's one of her biggest fears, to end her life in a nursing home. It's important to all of us that as she ages, Mum will receive any and all care she requires from family and that she'll eventually, unless she needs to be hospitalized for medical reasons, live out the end of her days in her own home. Amalgamating households is part of that plan.

I admit I struggled at first with the decision. We committed, and then we backed away. We considered building an addition onto our existing house, but Mum didn't want to "come home" and eventually the enthusiasm for that idea fizzled out. I understand her reticence, but it's difficult. I love this house. I love what this house represents, and that it keeps me connected to people I love with all my heart, and who I lost, and who I'm still - even all this time later - grieving for. I miss them every single day and being here, in their space that's now mine, keeps me tethered to them in a way I'm afraid to let go of. But what good is a house if I lose my mum to a stress-induced heart attack while she's on her way to work one day? My home is where my family is; it's why I moved back to Milton, after all. It's where Daryn puts down roots, and where my kids live and where my mum and brother are in a tight-knit little web that makes my home; the four walls can be any four walls, as long as my loved ones are inside it. (apparently, this is called
perspective, and now I have it)

And like that (imagine me snapping my fingers), the decision was made.

We have some concerns, of course, about the logistics of this move. Privacy is chief among them (for everything: parenting, fighting, entertaining and yes, I'm talking about sex here. Daryn and I will have to be much more mindful ~ and get a whole lot more creative ~ about the how, the when and the where of any bow-chicka-bow-wow that goes on). The grossness of my mum's Basset Hound is a close second. 
Our collective crap is a also concern: where we're going to fit it all, or conversely, what we'll be forced to part with. And our collective personalities will need constant managing - there are lots of us, and we're all strong-minded and sort of bossy. But to our minds, the benefits will outweigh the negatives, and as with any living arrangement with any number of people in any variation of relationships, these challenges can (and hopefully will!) be successfully negotiated with clear communication and established (and rigorously respected) boundaries. (Though it probably will be the end of movie make-out night ... just sayin.)

We're still working out the details, but it would appear we're all on board and onside to redirect this little adventure to a new address. We've been out to see a few houses in the past week or so, but none have ticked as many boxes as we'd like. I expect it will be a long search - our requirements are unique (especially for our price point!):

  • 4 bedrooms (at least), preferably on two levels
  • 3 common areas (living room/family room/den)
  • 1 office space/additional bedroom
  • AT LEAST 2+ full bathrooms
  • Low maintenance yard
  • Large kitchen (but preferably not eat-in)
  • Separate dining room
  • Parking for 3
  • Local to specific elementary, middle and high schools
  • Central heating and air
  • Fenced backyard (dogs)

As I said, it's a laundry list that will be difficult to find, but we think we're up for the challenge! We're open to renovating it to make it perfect (we all understand the benefit of customization, and since only one of us objected to tearing a new house apart as soon as we buy it, he was quickly and easily overruled by the new majority) but it will have to check most of our boxes in order to make the leap. As it stands, however, this is really happening. And I'm actually rather happy about it.

What about you? Have you ever considered combining households? It's rather a controversial subject, I found out, and I'm curious to hear your thoughts about it. Would you ever consider it? Why or why not? Are we flat-out, batshit crazy? Discuss!


10 July 2012

An Essay In Two Parts: Multi-Generational Housing {Part I}

In 1995 when I left home to start my new adult life in university, it was never my intention to return home. At least not in any sort of permanent fashion. Family was, and is, very important to me and there was never any doubt in my mind that I would visit them often and for long periods of time, but in my own mind I had transitioned from child to adult and would never - and should never - return to my family home as a resident. I don't exactly know where I thought I would live during the summer, when school residences unceremoniously kick you out into the street with your books in cardboard boxes and your (dirty) laundry in baskets, but I suppose that's the nature of the 19-year-old brain. Not really renowned for it's "planning ahead" abilities, after all.

As it turned out, I spent most of my summer that first year at my boyfriend's house in Toronto, where he lived in the off-school season with his mother and younger sister. So I was in someone's home, just not my own, and it reinforced my idea that I was ~ by choice ~ a free-spirited, rootless adult; a nomad; someone without a place to call home.

And then life does funny things, like kick you in 'nads when you're not looking. Choices are made, or not made, and repercussions unfold. Consequences are dealt. In my second year of university, two things happened which altered the landscape of my life irrevocably: for the first time, I was overwhelmed by depression and subsequently failed out of school, and I got pregnant. BAM. Everything changed. And I came home.

It was never my intention to return home ever, let alone as a failure. And I did perceive it as failure. I was just newly 20 with a baby on the way, had flunked out of school, with a relationship in shambles, facing some pretty substantial school debt and with no job prospects other than frying up hush puppies at a local fish & chip shop (where I only lasted two days, if I'm being honest, because my morning sickness was brutal and guess what? The smell of fish makes you throw up in every garbage bin and bucket and once, out the back door onto the loading dock, which restaurants, it turns out, don't especially appreciate. But I digress.)

My mum took me in again, and helped me find a job and generally to get my shit together. The relationship gradually repaired itself and yes, that "boyfriend" eventually became the "husband" (hi, babe!) I didn't live at home for long, but it was long enough that I was filled with both gratitude and resentment: grateful to have been rescued and for being supported, and resentful at feeling (and sometimes being treated ... because I was acting) like a child once again. It was a dynamic that chafed for all of us and our relationships suffered that year; they didn't begin to mend until I moved out of the house permanently just after J. was born, and launched my adult life for real.

Fast forward 14 years, and Daryn and I are happily married and raising two amazing kids in the house I grew up in. We each are progressing in our careers ~ maybe not as quickly or as directly as we might like, but progressing all the same ~ and growing strong as people, as a couple and as a family. We love our home, and our neighborhood, and our community in general. My heart bursts for this town, for reasons I can't quite explain. And yes, we do struggle with lots of things, but we struggle together and overall ~ big picture here ~ our life is pretty fucking idyllic. Which is why we're seriously considering pulling up sticks and moving.

Not to a new town or city. No, not at all. In fact, we're not even contemplating moving out of the kids' school catchment zones. Our search parameters are annoyingly limited, which our real estate agent can easily (and probably eagerly) attest to. We'd like everything for the kids (and for us, maybe) to remain relatively the same (schools, friends, access to activities, after-school care, and private/public space at home) with one major difference: my mum, her two dogs and, in the off-school season, my brother, would all live with us. We are embracing the notion of multi-generational housing and are thinking - seriously - about amalgamating our households.
Don't these people just look the happiest?

And it's thisclose to being a done deal.

In tomorrow's post: the how, the when and the WTF? why.


06 July 2012

What I Did This Weekend, Part III: We're On A ROLL!

As you'll soon figure out, this post has been sitting in the can for quite a few months. It's really a testament to the kind of glacial pace we work on around these parts, but at least it's done!

Not only did we kick the storage area's arse a couple of {weeks} months back which I
bragged blogged about here, but we also that same weekend got around to "installing" new lights in the main floor hallway, which have been collecting dust in the dining room hutch for about a year (I've told you things happen more slowly around here; sand could turn to glass in the time it takes us to complete simple projects!).  Well it's all happening now, folks, and I've got the photographic evidence to prove it.

Construction chic?  Not so much.  These are the two beauties we started with ~ you can see why they needed replacing!
Man at work.  I'm in the background providing direction and moral support
Ta-DA!  Fancy new light, all installed and working and everything

The second light was, per usual, a bit more challenging.  For whatever reason, the previous inhabitants (my grandfather is the culprit) chipped away around the junction box in an uneven and, let's be honest, completely ridiculous way.  I'm sure he had his reasons, but still.  We mounted the light anyway and while it was perfect on the left side, the big gaping hole on the right side was just unacceptable.  So down it came again, and a few extra steps were inserted into the process:

  1. Deep sighs and some mild cursing
  2. Dig out the spackle from the furnace room
  3. Discover it's dried out: need to go shopping!
  4. Utter a few more choice words
  5. Off to the Depot!  Pick up two halogen bulbs (opt for 35w instead of 50w for reasons unclear) + Poly Fila.  Selecting the spackle takes upwards of 15 minutes.  Too many choices = 9 minutes of debate and one mild argument
  6. Back home in the car; realize we only picked up two bulbs when we need four.  I make a mad face and a long "grrrrrrrr" noise for two blocks
  7. Arrive!  Spackle needs something to grip onto, so doweling rods are splintered and stuffed into the hole
  8. Daryn fills the hole while I put bulbs in the already-installed light.  Determine that 35w is too dim.  Double-grrrrr

  9. Wait 24 hours 8 months
Shoving the dowels in there all nice and cozy-like
Placing them just so
Admiring the view, pre-sanding: a clearly superior poly fil job

Fast forward to now (because we work like greased lightning over here) plus one fully painted hallway and ceiling (and much teeth-gnashing, many tubes of Poly Fila and the occasional four letter word) and finally, THE REVEAL:

It's not perfect. Not even close, actually. No matter how much Poly Fila we pushed into the hole, there's still a little gap. Closer look:


It's OK, though. I think we're going to end up installing some little medallions instead; I'm not loving the unfinished feeling of the fixtures as they stand so a little embellishment will be just the ticket, I think, and will totally hide that farking hole. For now, though, they're UP! And not dangling down from the ceiling threatening us with third-degree light bulb burns or possible electrocution every minute of every day. So that's pretty awesome.

And that's pretty much the long weekend in a nutshell. Anyone else finally get around to completing a project that's been languishing on your to-do list for days/weeks/months? Let's hear about it!

05 July 2012

What I Did This Weekend, Part II: Let There Be {Hardly Any} Light

The to-do list is coming along nicely; still slowly, but still surely. We've managed to scratch off a few more bullet points and best of all, the clover lawn has taken root and is sprouting all over the place. It's actually starting to read as 'green' when viewed from afar, rather than 'brown', so that's super exciting. I'll snap a photo later this week to share with you on Monday so you, too, can be very excited that it's growing (it's really, seriously growing!)

  • Front yard
    • Collect the wooden ties (currently creating a loose "border") from around the lawn and store in rock garden
    • "Round Up" (read: kill off) the entire front lawn
    • Rake up dead lawn
    • Till
    • Dig out border trenches and lay wooden ties
    • Create patio-stone pad at street level for garbage cans (so we don't kill the new clover on garbage days by piling our bins on top) [we've opted against this idea, but will revisit in future if it turns out the clover is indeed being killed off by our cans]
    • Seed with clover seed
    • Water 'til the cows come home ... or the family does
    • Plant some new plants in the planters (you know, curb appeal at what not)
  • Backyard
    • Clear out any garbage and debris
    • Power wash the patio
    • Tarp the pool
    • Remount shed door (it fell off. I don't know why)
    • Mow the weeds back to an acceptable level; clear out the debris
  • Transition
    • Replace the screens in both front and back screen doors
    • Tidy up the upper driveway/transition to the backyard, just to make it a little more presentable and a little less trailer park-y

  • Paint the outstanding window and door trim in kitchen and living room
  • Apply final coat of paint to the hallway ceiling
  • Paint hallway ceiling trim and install
  • Touch-ups as required
  • Install hallway lights
  • Hang artwork
  • Paint master bedroom
  • Install master bedroom chandelier
  • Cleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleancleanclean

On the holiday Monday, instead of tending to the screen doors (which still desperately need doing; we'll get to those this weekend) or installing the trim in the hallway, we yielded to the little one's begging and finally got around to putting up her new window shade and curtains. They've been sitting around in closets for a while, and with the summer here and the sun making it's showy appearance earlier and earlier every morning, A. was getting mighty sick and tired of waking up at the cracking. Her room faces east and with only some very sheer linen curtains ~ which were next to useless ~ the minute the sun poked it's head over the horizon she was awake. She's been asking for months to have her new window treatments installed, and Monday turned out to be her lucky day! What started like this:

s'cuse the mess ...

now looks like this:

The rolling blind is just barely noticeable at the very top of the window, and the wall brackets are hidden by the curtains themselves. Ages ago I saw a genius blog posting about the best way to mount curtains (I wish I could remember who wrote it! If it was you, let me know), and how to hide the rod bracket by looping a curtain tab over the bracket between it and the finial. We tried it out, and it worked perfectly: there's a smooth finish to the curtain panel at the end of the rod, and the bracket itself is hidden. Like so:

Even though the brackets themselves are pretty, we didn't want anything interfering with the good looks of the finials ~ aren't those butterflies gorgeous?!

So pretty. The curtain panels themselves are pretty plain so when A. grows out of her butterfly phase we can update the rod with new finials more suited to a teenage girl.

The shade and curtains combined have succeeded in making A's room darker than darker. In fact, the first night after installation she wound up pulling up the shade and turning on a nightlight in the middle of the night; it made her nervous to wake up in the absolute dark. Having slept with them for a few nights now, however, she's grown accustomed to the difference and this morning, slept until nearly 9am! SUCCESS! Definitely time and money well spent.

Tomorrow? A glimpse at the hallway. Until then, what have y'all been up to? Has anyone else made any small changes ~ that maybe you've been waiting forever and a day to do ~ that dramatically changed the way you live in your home?

PS - apologies for the crappy photos. I really do need a new camera (first thing on my list when I go back to work!)


03 July 2012

What I Did This Weekend, Part I: HAPPY CANADA DAY!

Confession: I sort of dislike long weekends. Not the idea of an extra day off (when I was working) or of hanging with the hubby (now that he's the only one working): three days of home-time is always way better than two. But long weekends are a catch-22 in my book: while on one hand I appreciate the extra time and the shortened work week afterward, on the other hand I'm resentful of statutory holidays that close down all my favourite and/or essential haunts, forces me to stay home and not accomplish any of the fifty thousand things I'd like to use the extra day off to do. Especially frustrating when I get into the middle of something and realize I'm missing a critical tool or piece of equipment, and all the stores at which I might obtain said tool or piece of equipment are CLOSED FOR THE HOLIDAY. So my project is abandoned midway and incomplete, where it joins all the other projects that I've abandoned on all the other holidays. And my resentment of statutory holidays grows and grows.

Another confession: I sort of loved this long weekend. I was still ticked off yesterday when I ran low on some grocery items and realized I would just have to make do with what I had in the fridge (none of which pleased me), but the dinner challenge was a small blip on the radar of an otherwise totally awesome weekend and I have to admit, I really dig a long weekend when everything is open on the actual holiday, and closed on just a regular day. I wouldn't have thought it would make a difference but it turns out? It's really lovely to visit markets and shop for essentials and just generally be out and about in the community while everyone is feeling super cheerful and celebratory.

Such was the case on Canada Day, when my mum, my little one and I hit the Aberfoyle Market and a few other shops in search of a new quilt for A's room. While we ultimately weren't successful (or, more accurately, A. found one she loved but was quickly shot down by both my mum and I. Sage green and salmon? No. I can't work with that. Moving on!), we did manage to scratch up some sweet finds that I WISH we had brought home with us. Maybe next time.

The Princess and her throne. Too bad it was already sold.

Because everyone needs a life-sized fiberglass shark. Obviously.

My mum was seriously tempted by this beauty ...

And I was seriously tempted by these.

Headdress? Uniform? Jaunty umbrella? Vintage specs? SOLD!

Remarkably and uncomfortably difficult to explain to a 9-year-old. But still pretty freaking hilarious.

After a day of shopping we played, we worked on some household projects, we grocery shopped and had dinner, and then we headed out to the town fairgrounds to watch the fireworks. The teenager was all, Yeah, I guess I'll go but the little one was keen, and watching her face during the show was almost more fun than the show itself. Nine years old is turning out to be sort of a sweet spot for A. ~ she's over the wild mood swings and tantrums that plagued her younger years, but is still young enough to be filled with wonder and amazement at something as simple as hanging with your mom and watching a firework display. I wish I had thought to bring my camera but I didn't (like usual), so you'll just have to take my word for it that it was spectacular.

And that was pretty much my weekend: awesome. How was yours? What shenanigans did y'all get up to celebrating Canada's 145th?