Friday, July 28, 2006

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

True beginnings

Today it really begins. There have been many "beginnings" so far, but they have felt unofficial. Why? I chalk it up to a lack of vertical tangibility. In other words, a house needs walls to give it shape. I mean this literally, of coarse. But I also believe that the concept of house gains solidity in one's mind once there is tangible evidence of it's shape and boundaries. Our poor children, up to this point, have not quite grasped this concept. Turning a mud flat into a home--it's a bit of a stretch for a kid. And our aforementioned beginnings have offered little by way of evidence for little eyes:

Beginning #1: Land ownership. Yield: A paper. Beginning #2: First tree cut. Yield: A house-shaped hole. Beginning #3: Permits. Yield: More Paper. Beginning #4: Walls. Yield: The first suggestion of a house.

It's like when you turn 16 around here. You blow out the candles and nothing feels different. But then you get your G1 and slide behind the wheel of a car. All of a sudden 16 means something. Now, walls--walls mean something. Especially to a man who has been desperate to drive a nail into some wood. "I hope I can sleep tonight, " he said last night. And I'm not positive he did. It's blood, sweat and tears time. Time for a boy to build a house.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Inspection #2

BUILDING:(Garage only)
  • Excavation...............PASS (But we were told we need to post our civic address)
  • Foundation..............PASS (We still need to post our address... the post, however is missing.)
  • Framing
  • Insulation
  • Final

Showers--of the baby kind

"Mess, mommy. Mess," my two-year old said to me from the top of the kitchen steps. I turned to find him dripping wet. His hair was matted down, and liquid was dripping from his elbows onto the floor. He bid me follow him towards his sister's room. And there I found . . . one happy, but naked, baby on the change table, (yes, I had left him unattended for a second), and a puddle beneath him. Gabriel had just given Elijah his first shower. This was one of those rare showers, however, that required a bath immediately following.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Garage Scrapbook


Friday, July 14, 2006

Fake is the new Real

My latest heartache: all that is fake and phony. I know my emotions are held captive by idealistic sentiments all too often. And I know that this will only cause me grief, as is the case so often when grand ideas eclipse more humble realities. History is not on my side in this. Whenever I have expressed emotionally driven opinions in the past, I have been convicted by my own hypocrisy shortly therafter. For example, the issue at hand: Real vs. Fake. It is time to make decisions about the building materials of our home, and my innermost being is crying out for the hardy, solid materials of the past: stone, wood, iron. It just seems right. If we are going to build, let's build something authentic and true. And yet, and yet--I am the girl who has dyed her hair, and worn makeup, for 10 years. Not exactly 'au naturel.' But, perversely, my soul still yearns for that which is.

I suspect that this particular yearning is common to all. The yearning for the past. For structures that seem to have sprung up from the earth itself. The Welsh countryside: Stone cottages with thatched roofs. Moss clinging to weather-beaten rock. Blackened, creaking wood. Solid and heavy; ancient and lasting. And the smell. . . of earthy things.But, of course, we are not in 16th century Europe. We are in Canada. Different time. Different place. And two things now dictate and define the creation of every space: time and money. I read an article that speaks to the first of these factors: Going with Faux.
In interviews with architects and home builders around the country, I learned that homeowners care a great deal about appearances but not necessarily about authenticity. For the most part, this lack of purist fervor is driven by maintenance concerns, not price. The faux materials can cost the same or more than the traditional materials they replace, but they require little or no attention. Some can be left unattended for at least the 20 or 30 years that the owners might live there. By contrast, natural materials weather as they are exposed to the elements. Depending on the climate and the material, most natural materials require some to a lot of care, but most people are so time-crunched, they are unwilling to spend even a single weekend a year working on their houses. They want the exterior to take care of itself. If that means faux materials, so be it. All the architects and builders I spoke with said they use synthetic materials with mixed feelings. Up close, most lack the subtleties and nuances of the real thing...
If a yearly stain and seal is what it would take to equip our home with wood doors, I would do it happily-- ok, maybe not happily. But I would still do it. However, time is but the first of two barriers. Money, money, money. . . Apparently wood, stone and iron are no longer accessible to the average builder. It's all a bit sad. The industry has reached a point where earth-produced materials are for the elite, and synthetic, factory produced look-alikes are for the rest of us.

So, follow along with me as I provide a naked illustration of necessary compromise. Instead of the traditional tudor style home, built with stucco and wood slats, we will be using LP Panel Siding. Instead of old carriageway doors of wood and wrought iron, we will put in a North Hatley door made of light-weight composite material, (a.k.a. plastic or steel). And instead of a stone facade, we will use Cultured Stone. There we have it. Officially exposed. Fakes. Fakes without the pocketbooks to be otherwise.

Sigh. I have once again found my way at the end of another ranty-ramble, feeling drained, and a bit guilty for indulging my ultimatly unimportant bouts of inner angst. But through it, I inevitably get smacked with Perspective. Thus, making the whole drawn-out exercise worthwhile. For I must always bring my ramblings home: to where God is. And the Holy perspective is this: Life is about more than stone and wood. It's about blood. There is a bigger story to tell. And we are to tell it in our homes to our children. Let it echo off the walls, be they made of stone or stucco. . . Or, perhaps, an engineered material attempting to simulate them.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Wanted: Pictures

I have sooooo many, and absolutely no easy way of posting them at the moment. We are not equiped with a digital camera, and so rely upon the ancient partnership of the point-and-shoot camera and scanner. Currently, our scanner is out of commission. It may be giving up the ghost. When(If) it is revived, or interred and replaced, I will play catch-up. Until then. . . just words.

Expanding the Lexicon


To prepare in preliminary or sketchy form

In the case of a home, the rough-in would be the exposed plumbing and electrical elements in the walls. Pre-drywalling. (Personal Illumination on the subject brought to me by Vanessa Sugar. An honourable mention to Jared for trying. Many thanks.)

And now, the word of the day: Sump Pump (This word goes out to my little sister who, when first hearing it, came away calling it a "Sun Tube."

Sump Pump:

A pump that removes liquid from a sump: Our basement flooded when the sump pump broke.


A low-lying place, such as a pit, that receives drainage.

We are not dealing with sumps OR pumps as of yet, but I thought Kate would appreciate a clarification. Kate, isn't it nice to have a big sister who knows everything? (sarcasm) I had NO IDEA what a sump pump was. "Sun tube" sounded pretty plausible at the time. Here's to clueless siblings sticking together. Cheers.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Inspection #1

We passed.

I feel a bit like a kid who got an unexpected 'A' on a report card. After Aidan was stood up last week, our inspector suggested we leave a plastic tub somewhere on the lot. He'll inspect. Leave the report in the tub. We come by to get the results when we can: Pass or Fail. There is an air of espionage about it all. Agents slipping off to a secluded drop-off point in the woods to receive a secret message. What a thrill.

Of course, the message isn't very secret. We intend to display each report to you all, so that you too can share in our victories and our failures. Oh, and there will be failures. Apparently, it is inevitable. Read on.

  • Excavation...............PASS (But we were told we need to post our civic address)
  • Foundation
  • Framing
  • Insulation
  • Final
  • Fire Alarm
  • Sprinkler
  • Standpipe
  • HVAC
  • Final
  • Underground
  • Rough-in
  • Final
What's a "rough-in" ? Anyone?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Ogres under the bridge

From the dawn of this project, I have been given the impression that building inspectors are the enemy. The bain of our existence; The means to our undoing; The ogre waiting under the bridge that will never let us pass. And, if nothing else, they are evokers of less-than-godly thoughts.

Yesterday morning, after having taken a half-day off work, Aidan pulled on his coveralls and excitedly headed out to meet our inspector. Hours passed--five or so. And then Aidan came home again. He looked deflated. Really deflated. The inspector had never showed.

I think the most grating aspect of inspector/homebuilder relations is the imbalance of power. It is ALL in the other court. We, like puppies on our backs, must play submission. Muzzle our initial responses and stiffle any sharp-edged objections. If not? What if Aidan called Mister Inspector and told him precisely what he thought of being stood up? Let's just say that an experienced and newly affronted inspector has the ability to sniff out any number of code infractions. He could take issue with just about anything. The list could get quite long. And quite expensive. And we might grow old and gray and bitter. And bitter is a bad thing to be . . .

Instead, I think that I will take the advice of a friend: "Just make sure you always have cookies baking on inspection day . . . "

I'm just a puppy on my back.