Thursday, December 28, 2006

Home of Tomorrow

The older I get, the more aware I am of the ebb and flow of trends. Some are a cause for concern, while some are not. But all are noteworthy, because they are societal tide-markers, revealing information about the collective whole that, if studied, give some indication of what is to come. There are people out there who are paid to do just that: take note, and extrapolate. Recently, I read one such application with regards to the housing market. And apparently, in twenty years, most of us will be living on top of one another.

By 2026, the average city dweller will buy into a condominium, and remain there throughout their entire life cycle. While this idea sounded truly distasteful to me, I found that I wasn't the least bit surprised. Top priorities of the average Canadian:
  • convenience and ease
  • speed and access
  • work and money
  • self at the center
Condominium living would certainly appeal to people with such priorities:
A small condominium [is] suitable for the dating, clubbing and the first job season of life. Many couples will [then] pick a larger three or four bedroom condominium . . . reluctant, when kids start arriving, to abandon the liveliness of downtown and the many conveniences of condo living. Developers will [also] be offering increasingly attractive perks [such as] improved security, larger rooms and storage facilities, more built-in appliances (including more sophisticated electronic access), and more in-house services ranging from daycare centers and medical offices to beauty salons and dining clubs. . .
-John Bentley Mays. House and Home (December '06)-
As for family life:
Bedrooms will look more like hotel suites, each with it's own bathroom ...web-based audio-visual center and better sound insulation...
Just think, you too, could eat, sleep, shop, workout, receive dental care, medical care and child care within the confines of one building. A bubble-- recycled air and all. And if you don't like your kids, don't worry, they will fade into obscurity, holed-up in their bedrooms.

Of all of the joys heralded by condo-happy developers, one benefit I cannot ignore: less driving. Building up keeps more people in the core, and more cars off the highways. But I can't help but wonder if it would all level out in the end. Will there be a tangled river of vehicles streaming from underground condo lots on Friday evenings, as people flee to the countryside, redefining the terms of our current rush hour, as they go? Or, alternately, and equally dour, will people mute their longings for nature, say goodbye to fresh country air, and become content in the confines of their concrete jungle?

All this talk about the city. What about us rebels? The ones who shake the dust from our sandals and turn our backs on the city to settle in the countryside? Apparently, we will become as good as foreigners. Members of "New Villages." Tiny, self-sufficient, nation states with our own network of home-based businesses, avoiding the pain and expense of driving into the city for our needs.

Twenty years has yet to come and go, and perhaps life will remain pretty much the same, but if any of this comes to pass, making a prophet out of some man, many of you will, apparently, be taking the elevator down to have a cavity filled, and I will be designing a personal state flag, and waving it every now and then to remind you I'm here, just beyond the borders of condoland.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Fourth Birthday

Four years. Four years of being taught how to parent by a precocious, independent-minded, dancing, prancing, talk-your-ear-off, joy of a daughter. We love her so much it hurts. And it is becoming clear that she has a life brimming with love ahead of her. We gathered together all the dearest people in her life to celebrate her day. Aunty Karin's sewing handiwork: A pink hat, mitt and scarf set.

A phone call from Aunty Kate , wishing her a happy birthday from on the road.

Bowling. Six kids: Six adults. And every adult was absolutely necessary to keep chaos at bay.

Elijah's tiger mask. "Grrrrrrr."

Beautiful baby Gaby

Things I have learned:
1. Six children have more than enough energy to make for a rousing party. I am not looking forward to future experiences of parties by the dozen.
2. Afternoon parties are great. The stress of creating a huge, well orchestrated meal is lifted from your shoulders. And, instead, a hodge-podge of finger foods can be thrown together without any complimentary-taste requirements. As for the little guests, they are much happier arriving on a lunch-filled stomach, and leaving before bedtime has expired.
3. The entire present opening ritual is incredibly uncomfortable. I have always thought so, even as a kid. And now I am learning all about the awkwardness of being a parent in these situations, as the child vocalizes their very honest assessments of the gifts they receive, and the parents do damage control as best they can.
4. Take great care with the guest list. It is so easy to miss someone, or, conversely, to over do it. A fine balance that must be re-negotiated every year as the circle of important people expands and shifts.
5. In the end, pray grace upon yourself by the bucketful. And, while you're at it, pray grace upon the attendees aswell. Both will require a large measure of it in order to enjoy the experience, and come away from it whole, and unharmed. On this particular occasion I somehow managed to be careless and hurtful to atleast a handful of people. And the reality is, I am certain to do it again. The wonderful thing, however, is that the very people I unintentionally injured are the very ones that love me enough to forgive me.

It was a good day. A hard day, but some of the best ones often are.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Creativity: Mache Plate

This one was the most involved yet.

1. I used one of our dinner plates to make a ten-layered papier-mache mold. (Rub it with vaseline before you start putting the wet paper on it or it will never come off again.) To reinforce the shape, I cut out circular cardboard inserts for the middle. Once dried, I pried the mold off the plate and trimmed the edges. This took weeks and weeks and weeks.
NOTE: Mache paste: 1 part white glue to 3 parts water.
This being my first mache project, I hadn't learned how to keep it bubble-free. The plate has a bumpy surface. But it adds to the character, right?

2.When it was all dry, I used sandpaper to try and smooth out some of the rough spots.

3. Put on white primer.

4. Painted and painted and painted. I had to use opaque acrylic or I would not have been able to paint vibrant flowers on top of a black surface. It also dries quickly. A very imprtant factor when sneaking paint time in between my boys' naps.

5. Two layers of varnish. Done!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Photo Journal: December

Winter in the country. We had just a taste of the pleasures in store for us and our children during the winter months. A pile of dirt was left behind from the fill work, and has since provided us with a nice sledding hill. At a good starting run, I managed to get the sled to the tree line at the far end of the yeard. Fun!

Where we are now:
Trusses are all up. Next up: insulation and wrapping, followed by windows and doors.
Basement floor is heated. Soooo nice. You walk down the stairs and the temperature goes up by 15 degrees. I can't wait until the main floors are done.
Waiting for mortgage to be sorted and fixed into place.
New benchmarks have been reached, but for me, the end is still nowhere in sight.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


I remember stepping off the curb. And I remember a hand catching the back of my coat. One strong, sharp yank backwards. And then I remember a muddy red and white blurr pass mere centimeters from my nose as an city bus swept past me on Rideau street. I could smell the bus. Taste salt on the wake of air it belched in my face. And I have never since been at ease when one speeds by me on the street in a lurshing rush of metal and smoke.
My father says the hand that grabbed me was that of a well dressed woman who, once having saved my life, then promptly melted into the Pre-Christmas bustling mob without a word. Who was she? I don't know. Would I have lived without her attentiveness and quick reflexes. Nope. Not likely.

Mercies. We have all heard about them, read about them, experienced them. And yesterday I lived through another. My daughter plummeted through a gap in the floor of our framed home, onto a concrete floor below, with only a bump on the head to show for it. She was making her way down the newly constructed stairs of our home-in-progress when she stumbled, pitched sideways onto some light foam that had been laid across the opening to the basement stairs, and disappeared below.
I was behind her. I saw it happen. I heard her shriek. I saw her curl in on herself. Saw the blue foam snap in two. And then saw nothing. And in my head: Please. Please. Please. Please. Then she cried. And I knew she was alive, and that it was ok to breathe again.
After her grandfather tore down the steps after her, and carried her back up to us, it didn't take long for us to discover a long raised bump on her scull where she, no doubt, smacked her head on a step before she hit the concrete. No bones broken. Memory intact:
"What did Oma and Opa give you for St. Nicks?"
" A faery--no, an angel dress."
And after a bit of well deserved sniffling, she was back to munching on raisin bread and arguing with her brother. I know that God giveth and taketh away. But he chose to keep her safely within our wordly grasp this day. And I have been thanking him all day long.

Monday, November 20, 2006


More lanterns. More faeries.
Hey, we all have fixations. Let me have mine!
This is a silhouette I painstakingly cut out with an exacto knife. I painted a sunset onto some tissue paper for the background with watercolour paints. And am now hunting for a glass container, or lamp shade the right size, upon which to mount it. I wish I had a nightlight like this when I was little.

I would if I could, but I can't, so I won't.

Please believe me when I say that you do not want to see any more pictures of the house, for the time being. Those of you who have been following along have seen all there is to see for now. Electrical wiring, additional trusses, insulation . . . these things don't make good pictures. Suffice it to say, I am as eager to see change as you. And change there will be. Eventually.
I have been awaiting the birth of the tudor facade. But that is going to have to wait until spring. The boys decided to leave the exterior until their fingers can work in warm weather again, and until the tudor panels can be installed in their expanded state.
Likely, posts over the winter will be on a micro-scale: concerning all things small, and seemingly insignificant. Like front doors, for example. I am very excited to introduce you to my garage sale beauty of a front door. Or dining room tables. We are stripping, and refinishing Aidan's late Oma's heavy wooden table. It might be the oldest thing we own.
I hope the slower pace doesn't stop you all from checking in every once and awhile. Piece by piece, a house will become a home. Patience.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Got our first hydro bill today for 3496 John Shaw Rd. . .
Other exciting news, our basement floor has finally been poured! We are almost ready for winter.
Aidan is out there at the moment finishing window boxes so we can install a beautiful set of windows on the main floor. Our sills will be soooo deep. I love it. I can envision a jungle of greenery in every window.
Next will come the upstairs windows, and two doors. And voila, ready to wrap up the house against snow and unwelcome critters. I am looking forward to a winter of progress on the inner guts of the house. The place where the living will happen. Soon.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


I just had to show off my latest handiwork. A lily lantern made of wire and tissue paper. I have been on a craft binge! It has always hit me in waves, but I am currently riding a tsunami. Creativity is oozing out of my pores. In one month I have successfully produced, a new card design series, a faery costume, two or three chapters of a book, a faery lantern, half a strand of small paper lanterns, and am moving on to papier mache . . .


First, something from the archives:

Two little
20 years apart.

Like mother, like daughter?

And now, I present to you Bumbleboy & Co.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Playing Dress-up

There will always be delicious memories attached to this time of year for me. Not candy-delicious, (although that was always a perk), but a more experiential-deliciousness. The day, in it's entirety has, to me, always been an ode to creativity, and to the beauty of a chilled, crisp night.

Anticipation. The build-up would begin in class a week or two early. Crafts would involve, orange and black, cats and pumpkins, glitter and glue. Stories would be told in hushed tones, making my skin tingle with the anticipation of cool evening air on my skin, and the smell of candle-roasted pumpkin in my nose. At home, the roundest, most beautiful pumpkin would be carved into a Jack O'Lantern, with Dad as creative director and supervisor. Without his guidance, our lanterns would never have been more than a few soggy, haphazard perforations. Time and time again, he managed to maintain something that ressembled a face, despite our best efforts.

Creativity. The yearly costume. . . My mom had a good friend who was wonderful with a sewing machine. Gypsy, Peter Pan, Black Cat, Clown, Magician. Not original ideas, but each costume was made by hand. And with such detail. The year I was Peter Pan, I carried a pouch of pixie dust on my belt. Unbeknownst to most, but not to me. I was very conscious of it's presence, should I have needed it. There is something so fantastic about that. The effort put forth by my parents was not lost on me. My Dad once spent four hours trying to concoct an elaborate suit of armour for my brother out of cardboard boxes. I'm not sure it held up for long, but it was beautiful while it lasted.

Laughter. Halloween is a celebration of self-directed laughter, or otherwise. The most ridiculous costume I have ever worn was the dreaded blue alien custume. If only I had a photo for you. . . It involved blue full-body spandex, and a foam protrusion on top of my head. It was meant to be a spiral, but, rather, had the effect of a lopsided stuffed cone. I am still amazed I had the guts to show up at school in that custume! Good for me. Where did that self-confidence go? Such a free flow of good humour. I can still hear the belly laughs that burst forth from the adult folk when we kids filed in, in full garb, for inspection. Occasionally, outright laughter was replaced by smothered grunts of suppressed mirth when it was clear we wanted to be taken seriously.

Night. What child is not excited by the prospect of embarking on a walk in the dark, safely flanked by friends and family, with a bag full of candy to show for it in the end? The young rarely trespass upon the dark hours of the evening. For one night, however, darkness is tread all over by tiny laughing children, colourful and full of their own light. This is the darkness I associate with this day. A candle-lit, sparkling darkness. The true darkness from which the day arose, and the darkness that some smear all over it still, in wickedness, has nothing to do with the activities that take place in our home. Words, written by my cousin on the subject resonate with our family's stance on the celebration.

This year, our house will be aflutter with winged creatures: faeries and bumblebees. I sent Caelah off too school with a box of butterfly "faery cookies" to share with her classmates. She turned the cookies into frogs this morning with a wave of her magic wand. But I'm sure they were restored by the time they got to school.

Fun night ahead! Bumblebee pictures forthcoming.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

School Photo

Oh dear. . . If any of you have met my husband, perhaps you see what I see when you look at this photo: him!

Aidan's hair is- unruly, at best. So too are Caelah's dark locks. Observe the bird's nest of a braid on the left. I'm guessing she had an itch in the vicinity of her right ear, and scratched it for all she was worth. I have never seen her maintain the integrity of a hairstyle longer than it takes to get out the door.

And the look on her face! I really ought to scan Aidan's old bus pass photo, and place it alongside this one. The same. Exactly. It looks like he was in a police line-up, waiting to have the finger pointed at him. But apparently, he feels at home with this look, and wears it often. This photo, by comparison, does not accurately reflect Caelah's personality. She's a giggle bug! As it turns out, she was scared of the camera guy. Or, perhaps, the camera. One of the two. Both of which surprise me, since she has never shown much of an aversion to either.

So, while we will not be ordering prints of this little gem, we will certainly be keeping the proof. At the moment, it makes me want to cry, and throw my arms around her. But it is a certainty that this same photo will have us in stitches later on down the road.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Belated thanksgiving for an unlikely friendship

I am a part of one of those families whose generations have overlapped, creating some interesting relationships. For example, my daughter's best friend is my seven year-old brother.

Time and circumstance, under Sovereign guidance, of course, landed my mother with a baby at the age of 42, followed, four years later, by her first grandchild. We laugh about it now, but at the time, the news was met with a few tears as well. Joy was intermingled with a distinct sense of weariness. A re-play buttom had suddenly been pressed on my mother's life at a time when she was just beginning to enter a new phase of life. And the changes heralded by the coming of Connor Timothy did, in no way, stop there.

For one, he jolted his big sister out of a very bad place. At the time, I had been rebelling horribly. Pure and simple selfishness to the point of blind insensitivity towards either of my parents. I reasoned that if I didn't listen, I wouldn't hear. And if I didn't hear, I could carry on with minimal guilt. But then, my carefully manufactured detachment began to crumble. My mom began to feel sick. She needed to visit the hospital more and more frequently. Her emotions were---unsteady, at best. In short, she needed me. No more thinking about only me.

For seven months, I became my mom's hospital companion. I became invested in her care, and deeply connected to the growing bump that was my brother. I continued on a crooked path when I was off duty, but I was no longer shutting out my mother's loving words. They began to take effect. Connor was born early; tiny and red-headed. I found him irresistable. He became an accessory in those early years, glued to my hip. He also changed the pace of life. Our family was rejuvinated by a fresh dose of excitement over things such as holidays and birthdays. We had long since lost the magic-laced intensity that comes along with youthful anticipation. However, we were now presented with an opportunity to re-live it vicariously through Connor, if only a little less intensely.

I was challenged in unforeseen ways by my youngest brother's arrival. When my first child was born, it occured to me that I had, rooted within me, preconceived ideas about the role of a grandmother. Naturally, these were based entirely on my own experiences, having been doted upon by my own two grandmothers. Spoiled with time and attention. These were resources my own mother didn't, and doesn't to this day, have in abundance. What time and energy she is able to muster, on any given day, is rightfully lavished upon her own child.

Certain uncomfortable situations played out as a result of the similar position my mom and I found ourselves in. A peer relationship began to develop, bringing with it some unpleasant tendencies. The last thing I had ever envisioned for myself was to be placed in a position of direct competiton with my own mother, comparing parenting skills and squabbling over the personality flaws of our children. I can only think of a handful of such occasions, but few though they were, they left me feeling disturbed and angry at time and circumstance for landing me in such a position. It felt like the natural order of things had been skewed.

Perhaps the saddest consequence of it all is that any natural brother/sister relationship that might have developed between Connor and I, had the timing been different, was transplanted by some hybrid variation. Even now, I have to stop and remind myself that he is not my nephew, nor one of my children's neighbourhood pals, but my own brother. My little brother. I remember weeping over a look Connor gave me once. He wouldn't meet my eyes, and it had struck me forcefully that he rarely did. He must have thought of me as he would a teacher, or a friend's parent he was not quite comfortable with. I was not his sister. "Do I scare you?" I had asked him, my voice shaking. I don't even remember his answer. I don't think any answer would have calmed me down.

It has been four years since I first became a mother and that new role took precedence over my role as 'sister'. Time has passed. And the same Divine timing I once felt had stolen a brother from me, has yielded up a most unlikely gift. This thanksgiving weekend re-affirmed a sense, growing steadily in me, that one of the greatest blessings Connor has given me is his friendship to my children. "Uncle Connor" is my daughter's dearest companion. He is a teacher and playmate. If I want shrieks of glee to erupt spontaneously from my kids' lips all I have to say is, "Guess where we're going today?" I don't even have to answer. They do it for me.

I await the day, with resigned sadness, when four years will make a big difference. And Connor will inevitable feel a bit foolish romping around with his little nieces and nephews. They will be hurt. He will wish he didn't feel the way he does, and there will be a distance between them for a time. But then they will all grow out of the confinements of age, and become friends once more. Friends who can really talk. And they will make memories, and talk about their dreams. Maybe they will be in one another's wedding parties, and have children who grow up as closely tied to one another as they themsleves were. God knows.

What I do know is that what Connor brings to my children now, just by being him, is beautiful and invaluable. And I love him dearly, no matter how time has shaped the way that my love is related to him. I am truly thankful that he was sent to us seven years ago. Not a moment too late; not a moment too soon.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Larsen Truss

This has been a long time coming: a tutorial on the ingenious energy saving feature of our home. The one that will allow us to laugh behind our hands at your heating bills.

The trusses are the wooden "ladders" running vertically along the exterior walls.
A larsen truss is a system of adding large amounts of insulation to a house by putting light weight trusses around the perimeter, separate from the structural parts of the building. Ladder like trusses are installed outside the structural wall. The system gives many of the advantages of a double-walled house, including:

1) Thick insullation (12+ inches) gives high R-Value (40+ total insullation).
2) Staggered truss/frame members means no continuous thermal transfer from outside to inside, (increases whole-wall R-Value).
3) Having the vapour barrier outside the structural wall means it can be continous from the sill plate to the top plate (foundation to trusses), creating a super-sealed house.So, with the combination of thick insullation, no continuous wood members from the outside to the inside, and a continous vapour barrier, measured R-values of Larsen walls come very close to the theoretical values of it's insullation. American government measures a standard larsen wall (around 12" of insullation - R40) having a tested whole-wall R-Value of about 38.2.

A canadian guy named John Larsen was cold enough to come up with all this. Thank you John.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Photo Journal: October 7th

Dormers. Finally. They are defining features of the house, and I
was so eager to see them up.

Porch going up.The garage has a door. It's not a real carriageway door, but as far as fakes go
--it's not that bad.

The clock is still ticking on the basement concrete. They are coming "sometime next week." They need two rain free, frost free days in a row. That seems like a lot to hope for in late October. We'll see.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pretty window

I think, by now, I have made my love of old things very apparent. This little window definetly fits the bill. It was removed from a heritage home somewhere in this city, and looks . . . much loved. It was actually the very last of thirty windows that were brought in. I got the runt of the litter. The frame is banged up, the fixtures are rusting, and one of the panes are cracked. It's perfect. You don't find many lead camed windows around anymore. They let in all the cold. And this is in such rough shape, it would probably let in wildlife too. But it's still pretty, so I'm hanging it inside. It will end it's days streaming light in from our mudroom to the hallway. Old, yes. But not too old to do what it was meant to: let in light, and do it beautifully.

Photo Journal

We had a bit of a scare yesterdayday. Aidan woke up with a jolt this morning. After playing back his previous day spent at the lot, he realized, with a jolt, that the men framing the roof had omitted a very important step. Without getting into the details, the mistake would have set us back BADLY. I sent him off early to try and resolve the situation, but got a welcome phone call shortly thereafter. It turns out that the head of the work team had made an executive decision regarding the method of construction that has both saved us time, and will likely prove to better insulate the house!

Phew. Aidan left this morning with visions of our house being on the next episode of Holmes on Homes, and instead, found that we are in very capable hands.

Monday, September 25, 2006

God in the middle

Psalm 71
17 Since my youth, O God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.

Me: "What a beautiful picture! What did you paint?"
Cae: "God."
Me: "Really? Where is He?"
Cae: "He's in the middle. Can't you see Him?"
Me: "Oh, there He is. Did you explain your painting to the teacher?"
Cae: "No, I didn't have to. She knows."

It was all so matter-of-fact. God has been ever-present in Caelah's life. She has been hearing His name, reading about the things He has done, and hearing about the love her family has for Him from her earliest days. To Caelah, God is at the middle of things. At the middle of her young existence, and in the middle of her painting.

Why was I so struck by her bold display? And so curious about it's reception? Because I was both proud of her youthful inhibitions, while at the same time uncomfortably aware of how unlikely it is that I would ever so boldly hang up my own God-art, so to speak, for the world to see. My God-art comes out when I am comfortable. It is put on display in a private studio that is open only to those who come along at the right time for me. I am not an exhibitionist. No twenty-foot canvases. No loud colours.

What kind of artist does that make me? A poor one. Relatively unknown. With few commissions.

If God is at the middle of my life, my love for Him should be displayed as vividly as a splash of purple paint on paper. Some will not find it to their taste. In fact, most will find it entirely unattractive. But the few who do look upon it and see beauty; who take it for their own, and who place in at the center of their homes-- they will see God in then middle, and be blessed because of it. And the artist? She will be payed richly, for having been a small part of the greatest Commission of all.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

"Mobility"--resistance is futile

Just signed our ears away to Telus, (or joined the Telus menagerie--see advertisements.) After years of passive resistance, followed, more recently, by months of more active resistance, our wills have been broken. How can a man spurn a technology that allows him to be accessed at all times when that is precisely what is expected, nay, required, of him by the countless contractors vying for his time and money? And how can the wife of a man spurn the all-too-convenient "family plan" that offers a blue his-phone and a red her-phone for a tidy sum?

In short, lack of spurning has landed us with two cell phones.

For furthur details, (ie. our mobile digits), please contact us at home, by phone, by post, by e-mail, or by fax . . . because apparently those options are insufficient.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

What's up with the house?

Our house has not been terribly photogenic lately.
Kitchen. (He's pretending to flip pancakes.)

Living room.

Eating Nook.
See what I mean? Not much to see.
Now, here's something to see:Yes, that was dirt all over his tongue. We actually watched him drop a piece of pizza face-down in the dirt, pick it up, and resume eating it without batting an eye. And the clothes---These clothes do not get clean in the washing machine. They need to be pre-washed before being washed.

Where is the house at? Don't know. Too tired to even speculate. Here's Aidan on the subject:
The house is going.
The garage is farther. We got the stairs in the Garage last week, and wiring is done, so we are setting our sights on a framing inspection this week. That means we can move on with plumbing, and insulation...
The house is a different story. I finally realized that I didn't have the time to finish it up all myself. I've hired a framing crew to help me out and get the 2nd floor and roof on quicker. The carpenter is expecting to be done by early next week (25th/26th). So, if an experienced crew that specializes in roofs (he'll have up to 6 people when the roof is going) is going to take a full week, guess how long it would have taken me to get that roof on and all the dormers framed in and tied back... But that means that we'll hopefully be closed in towards the end of next week. That leaves us in good shape for getting our basement floor poured (after the infloor radiant heating tubing is installed) before it's too cold, and gives us the ability to make sure we keep the gound our footings are in (which is almost at the water table) from freezing.

So there you go. That will have to do for now.