Amy (old posts, page 18)

A Year in Proven... uh, Davisville Village

Today marks exactly one year since we moved into our little house. A year ago this evening we were sitting amid piles and piles of boxes, still fretting from our run-in with surly movers and our inability to locate toothbrushes or pyjamas for the children. Last Christmas was a cluttered mess with no decorations except for a tiny pre-decorated tree. The months ahead would be full of frozen convenience food because our stove was unusable (although very funky!), dim lighting, long walks to daycare, and the crustiest old linoleum I had ever seen. When I look back at it now I wonder how we possibly got through it, but at the time it seemed all right. Kind of.

So after slogging through a long and unChristmassy December in the new house, we interviewed a few contractors. Mostly they didn't seem to want to have anything to do with us, probably because I got a list of recommendations from a friend of contractors from the suburbs, and I bet they don't care to bother with little houses with no driveway and tiny doors and muddy access lanes when they can find a million suburban clients with huge houses and lots of land to park their dumpsters on. But we finally found a guy who was really nice and seemed helpful and smart, and seemed to understand what we wanted, and who cost a billion dollars. We were very sad. We looked at our reno plan and started making cuts, and got into big fights; Blake wanted to take down the walls and make do with the kitchen, I thought I couldn't possibly make do with the kitchen and the walls were aesthetic and could wait. We cried. Well, I cried. It sucked.

Then finally Andy made us meet with Stephanie and her company, and they agreed to do the whole job for about half the price the other dude was asking. Half the price. We had to make sure they hadn't made a mistake about what we wanted, their price was so low. Well, the fact was they were doing a huge favour for Andy because he's such a swell guy; they made us promise never to tell anyone else what they charged us because they would go out of business if they did any other jobs at that rate. (It's good to have a really charming father-in-law!) So we didn't have to compromise. We got it all: we took down the walls on the main floor, we got a whole new kitchen, we tiled the front hall, we redid the electrical in the whole house and painted. It all took only a couple of months, and to Stephanie and her team's credit, they did everything to the exact same high standard that they set for their richer clients, because they take personal pride in doing their jobs properly.

In fact, just last week I discovered that the trained monkeys who installed our Ikea kitchen had neglected to install the forced air vent. They didn't just forget, they actually saw that it should be done, didn't do it, and willfully assembled the cabinetry so that the venting was very hard to install, because that was the easy thing for them to do. Cory had left a piece of venting there to show them where they would need to work around, and they took it out and tossed it aside, and then installed a cabinet with the legs directly in front of the vent hole in the wall. So last week when I realized there was no heat in the kitchen, I emailed Stephanie. She sent Cory in, Cory arrived with his tools, assessed the situation, figured out a solution, implemented the solution, tidied up and was out of there in a couple of hours. No bill, no invoice, nothing; it was considered part of the original reno, which is already paid for.

Stephanie has also sent members of her team back to repair and paint cracks in the walls where the new drywall settled, to fix a sticky latch on a gate, and to clean up some foam caulking stuff which someone had spilled on the floor. Stephanie believes in leaving a perfect site, no matter how long it takes.

The reno wasn't a lot of fun to live through. We set up a makeshift kitchen (microwave, toaster oven and fridge) next to the laundry sink in the basement and spent our days there, in the tiny corner of the living room which was cordoned off with a plastic sheet, and at Baba and Zaida's house. Oh, that sucked and it was a very long eight weeks but it passed as inexorably as any other eight weeks, and one day it was over; appliances installed, plaster dust vacuumed up, paint dried. Suddenly we were normal people with a normal (mostly) house. What bliss! What joy!

Now we have a house with lots of space on the main floor (well... relatively speaking), a bright, sunny, organized kitchen which gets a lot of use, tons of electrical outlets and lights, and a huge back deck. I'm really starting to like this house. I did suffer a pang of jealousy sitting in my friend's south-facing living room. We don't have any south-facing windows, and the west windows are in the kitchen and Delphine's room, and they're really pretty small. So we don't get that ocean of warm sunshine we used to get in the condo, and I miss that on sunny winter days. I hope that a couple of skylights will make the house brighter. One day.

A year ago today, cold, frustrated, tired, missing the condo and wondering what the hell we had done, I consoled myself with the thought that in a year everything would be normal and happy again, and I was right. Yesterday we spent the whole day putting up our (really rather huge, in this place) Christmas tree, spangling the mantelpiece with tinsel and lights and tiny china Santas (and a menorah, poor thing), and stringing J'Anne's beautiful handmade stockings all up the staircase. The house is warm and cozy and full of love and giggling little girls, and I could hardly be any happier.

First Hallowe'en in the New House!

Our neighbourhood loves Hallowe'en. At least half of the houses, it seems, are decorated, and the sidewalks were so thick with trick or treaters last night that most people weren't even bothering to close their doors between visitors. On our block most of our neighbours were sitting on the front porch steps chatting; some with wine, some without.

We decorated our house with three pumpkins (remember when one jack o' lantern was enough?) and three bats made from our leftover NDP campaign sign, painstakingly cut out and coloured with black magic marker. We also used the uprights upon which said sign was mounted to string a spiderweb to which I glued a spider, also made from the sign. (I decided I wasn't going to buy anything last month so we had to make our own decorations from whatever we had at hand. Thank goodness there had been an election!) It all looked pretty awesome, and all the more satisfying since we didn't just buy it at the dollar store. I guess today I should take it all down.

Last night Cordelia was dressed as a bumblebee, with yellow and black tights and a pair of sparkly wings. (The headband with antennae came off pretty early and Morgan and I ended up wearing it.) She loved trick or treating, and she wouldn't let anyone else hold her bag of candy even when it was almost too heavy for her to carry. She learned to say "t'ick a t'eat!" and "t'anks!" right away. Well, with prompting.

Delphine was a bunny, with fluffy ears, a beige hoodie (bunnyhug!) and a cottontail sewed to her white skirt. She was into trick or treating until she hit the Brick Wall of Sleepiness at around 7:15 and refused to get off the kiddy board until we got home. Cordelia trick or treated at a couple of different houses after that and when Delphine was asked if she wanted some candy she said "No thanks." When that kid is tired, she is tired.

After we got home and sorted through Delphine's candy, and ate some, we put the girls to bed (an hour late!) Then Blake and I picked through their respective booty and set aside the thirty most succulent (and safe, and appropriate) pieces (one for each day in November) for each girl, and kept the rest for ourselves! Well, Blake will take them to work and fatten up his colleagues. Then we sat and watched Band Candy and ate chocolate until we were done eating chocolate. Which, for reference, means we ate a lot of chocolate. Mmmm...

We're Back!

Cordelia and I are back from Saskatchewan so Blake's adventure in single parenthood is over. He was obligingly overwhelmed by it — “I hardly had any time to read at all!”, and that's with only one kid, and the easy one at that. Yeah, keeping house and raising babies is, in fact, a lot of work. Who knew? I am only kind of being sarcastic here; I used to think I would feel guilty about staying home until I realized how much damn work it is.

But anyway, Saskatchewan. We went to visit my parents, and the timing was good because my dad just went into a nursing home so my mom needed help with getting him settled in and getting the house sorted out so she can manage on her own. We cleaned and sorted and went out for lunch and shopped (as much as you can shop in Big River); it was a regular ladies' week. Cordelia was a huge hit with my mum; they read the Sears catalog and watched TV and looked at all the stuff my mum has.

Cordelia and I visited my dad at the home every day, and Cordelia was a huge hit with the grannies and grandpas, with her big grin and very loud observations. “Dinosaur there!” “See fishies!” She also pulled out all the grandbaby stops on the last day and gave my dad lots of nice hugs and kisses.

So there is a huge blog entry just waiting to be written, about this summer and how Delphine and Cordelia are doing, about my thirty-second birthday; all that narcissistic blather you have come to expect from this blog. Whether I will ever get around to writing that entry is yet to be seen, but I have high hopes for this next month, what with school and all.

New Pictures!

Damn, I didn't realize I hadn't posted pictures since April! I guess it serves me right that it took over three hours to get them posted this evening.

My only excuse for this and all my other website slacking (and general life slacking) lately is that I have had both Delphine and Cordelia home full-time since mid-May. This Friday Delphine starts kindergarten in the afternoons, and next Tuesday Cordelia starts morning nursery school two days a week, so perhaps I will have more time to do things. That's if I don't wear myself out schlepping them around. We'll see!

Deck Party!

And now the details:
When: September 8th, 3:00 until 8:00 (or later)...
Where: redacted
What: Beer, pizza, some kind of munchie thing, and some sort of fancy blended drink (originally scheduled to be Margaritas, although I don't know if I'm up for tequila (shudder), so maybe Piña Coladas, or some sort of Daiquiri).

RSVP, so that I know how much beer/munchies to buy. Or just show up and take your chances.

Oh, and one thing I forgot to mention in the email, since Amy and I have two kids, feel free to bring whatever little ones you have along, and they can all look at each other distrustfully, or run around screaming, or whatever it is children do when they get together in large groups.

See you there,
Blake.

The Cottage

The girls and I just got back from a week at the cottage — Blake was there for the first few days but he had to come back for work mid-week. We stayed a full week and had a great time.

We stayed on the same beach as last year, but in a different cottage; this one was further up the beach on a rockier bit, which meant we had to trek down the road a ways to get to the sandy swimming beach. The beach we were on, though — the backyard of the cottage— had a sandy part for sitting and reading or digging in, and also lots of rocks for climbing and collecting and sliding on, so it was by no means a disaster.

The cottage had two bedrooms on the main floor and another double bed and single bed up in the loft, a little room amateurishly cobbled together in the rafters, accessible by a ladder-like staircase. Blake and I and Delphine slept there for the first weekend; after Morgan and Erik and Blake left the girls and I moved into one of the main floor bedrooms and I got to experience the quiet but deep satisfaction of falling asleep to the sound of my children's breath.

The place was pretty cottagy; I don't understand this love of wood panelling. Nostalgia, I suppose. Zaida went to scope out a different cottage for next year. It had been freshly gutted and decorated with, you guessed it, wood panelling. Nice, new wood panelling. I would slap gallons of white paint around if I had one of these places. This cottage did have some of the midcentury furnishings I favour; two beautiful pairs of wood armchairs in a fine, elegant Danish style. I couldn't get Blake to see past the orange vinyl on one pair and green tweed on the other to appreciate their airiness and elegantly tapered legs, though.

We spent a lot of time on the beach. I stupidly got sunburned twice but the girls weren't at all; they are just a little tan. Delphine was a superstar in the water; by the end of the week she was getting bowled over by waves and just picking herself up and facing the next one. Perhaps this is more interesting if you know what a fraidy cat she normally is! It's satisfying to see her face her fears and enjoy herself.

Cordelia wasn't so hot on the water; I think she doesn't like to be cold. I have lots of pictures of her looking variously forlorn, miserable, cranky and disgruntled on the beach. (I will post pictures soon.) Cordelia did have some fun playing with Zaida in the waves, but Zaida is extremely good at finding the fun for little people.

We ate well; barbecued ribs, burgers, chicken, and hot dogs; freshly picked corn on the cob, watermelon, ice cream, new potatoes, field tomatoes. Beer. Every day we tried to eat up the leftovers and every night the fridge was fuller than ever.

Baba and Zaida had some friends over on the last night we were there, two couples. Delphine was very apprehensive about meeting them, but when I exhorted her to be brave she pulled herself together and both girls were very nicely behaved and charming. Another fear conquered! Delphine took it upon herself to take care of Cordelia; when Cordelia said she was done eating Delphine wiped her up with a napkin, very officiously. Delphine was also very happy to show the guests down to the lake. As a special bonus I got to talk to adults about brainy things like computers and books. Hooray! I need to make some new friends, or perhaps just reaquaint myself with the friends I already have.

So another successful trip to the cottage, and Zaida already has next year's cottage picked out. We refine our requirements every year; by 2015 we will have identified the perfect cottage.

I Read Some More Books!

Compared to the first half of this year, in the last couple of months I've been reading like a demon!

Dangerous Planet: Natural Disasters That Changed History by Bryn Barnard. This is another book by the Outbreak dude, and I didn't like it as much but probably just because I have more of an affinity for disgusting pustulent diseases than I do for scary natural (and other) disasters. This book has the same basic format; each chapter is dedicated to a different disaster, describing how the disaster happened and how it changed the course of history. Among other things, Barnard discusses the Great Fire of London and its effect on how buildings and cities are constructed; the two (not one but two!) typhoons which devastated the army of Kublai Khan and protected Japan from invasion in the 1200s, leading to a certain sense of invincibility in the Japanese; and of course the classic asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs.

This book is beautifully designed and well-illustrated, clearly written and informative.

Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful by Louise Bates Ames. I had to read this to see what it had to say about four-year-olds, which my mom friends and I have already observed are bossy and braggy as hell. Ames agrees, although she gives it a more positive spin; she says if you can view your four-year-old's noisy, pushy arrogance with as much amused detachment as you can muster the year will go much more smoothly.

As usual the observations in this book are spot on, and very helpful in distinguishing your child's personality from the phases she's going through. It gets a little dated sometimes but that's part of the fun of it.

Thankfully, the next book in the series is subtitled "Sunny and Serene". Hooray!

The Mac is Not A Typewriter by Robin Williams. I only read this because Blake had it out, and a lot of it was stuff my brother taught me back in Grade 11 ("The Amiga is not a typewriter!"); don't use underlines, don't use spaces when you should use tab stops. Williams also gets into fancy stuff like Kerning, and she is very keen — perhaps obsessively so — on curly quotes and em-dashes. She uses some very strong words to describe straight quotes, words which make me think I am dealing with an ill person and should perhaps disregard her advice. Really, they're quotation marks.

I am also leery— born perhaps of having been introduced to computers through Unix in the early nineties — of using non-ASCII characters, really ever, but especially in email and on the web. Williams even suggests using curly quotes in filenames! I'm sorry, I don't even use spaces in filenames. That's craziness. Excuse me, I am going to go and grow a long beard now, and perhaps refrain from bathing for a few weeks. I must dust my green-screen ASCII terminal.

At the cottage last week I read Home Leave by Libby Purves which was fantastic and I loved it; it's about four siblings, the children of a diplomat, who were hauled all around the world when they were young. It's about what home means, and of course I related to the situation of having your sibling as your only constant for your whole childhood. There is a lot of talk of children and babies in the book and Purves writes so realistically and richly about children; they don't disappear or only feature as plot or characterization devices, or worse just as noisy perplexing ciphers, as they so often do in novels. Purves knows how to write about how children change you and affect you for better and for worse. I loved the characters and the stories and the ideas. And the ending; the ending was immensely satisfying.

I also read Pug Hill by Alison Pace which was pretty disappointing after the Purves. This is a book about a thirty-one year old in Manhatten looking for love and sorting herself out. The protagonist annoyed the crap out of me with her whining and self-absorption and judgementalness and immaturity, and she didn't get all that much better through the book, although I think she was supposed to. It was like Bridget Jones in Manhattan, except blessedly free of talk about dieting.

Get Me Out Of Here

I am having some kind of stupid birthday crisis. As I was loading the dishwasher this evening I was ruminating on how aggravating it sometimes is to have to share every single little bit of your life with someone else. I had just answered the door to a charming young lady wanting me to sponsor a child, and I said no because I know Blake doesn't want to donate money to charities until we're out of debt. If it was just up to me I would probably give a little bit every month regardless of debt; it's not like malaria is going to take a break while we pay off our reno. After bidding the charity girl good luck I went back to loading the dishwasher, which I have to do Blake's way because Blake unloads. Fair enough, and all this is perfectly reasonable —I am by no means faulting Blake here, I couldn't ask for a better husband. It just gets a little tired constantly having to consider someone else, or in my case three someone-elses.

After I finished the dishwasher I followed a link from my brother's blog to this dude's blog to TV Tropes where I spent an enjoyable hour or more reading about Buffy and Firefly and Battlestar Galactica (though perhaps I should not have read those spoilers), and I really miss good TV. I miss watching thoughtful, well-written shows, and I miss going to work the next day and discussing them with smart people, either live or online (yes, I spent far too much time discussing TV at work, and I guess I will have to remove that admission from this space before I look for another job). I miss having the time and the spare emotional and intellectual resources to dedicate to TV shows.

And somehow (there may be some hormones involved) that particular nostalgia has snowballed irrationally into missing the days when I had lots of time to play on the Internet, when my life was spent in a shiny air-conditioned condo on a busy street and I took a train to work and played on computers all day. Now suddenly my life seems to be spent playing in the dirt with two messy, demanding, noisy, emotional (why, oh why must they be two and four at the same time!) little people who seem to have no interest in discussing Marti Noxon's Season Six intellectual breakdown, or whether there is any point in improving Internet security technology as long as it is still possible to adhere a Post-It note with your password written on it to the side of your monitor.

Oh, I miss grown-ups. I miss them so much. I miss air conditioning. I miss meetings. I miss lists of things to do that don't involve zucchini. I miss computers and filesystems and data and logical problems and whiteboards and deadlines and lunch rooms and that idiotic conversation about where we should go for lunch this week. I miss being something other than Mom ("mudder", she calls me) and homemaker.

Being Mom is something that will never change, but one day it will involve less dirt and hopefully more conversations about Marti Noxon. (Or actually hopefully not, now that I think about it.) And one day I will go back to work and they will probably have outlawed air conditioning by then, but there will be computers and meetings and deadlines and I will soon refresh my hatred for all three things. Life is all about balance — you have to hate lots of different things to be truly happy.

Daily Deck Update 11

Okay, I think the deck is officially done, and so it’s party time! If you’re actually going to have a chance of making it here (sorry, Dave), please leave a comment or email me with the dates that work well for you, and I’ll see what works out the best for the most people.

The tricky part, I expect, will be restraining myself from writing a program to figure out the optimal solution.