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