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.