August 2010

When we found the house in Manotick, we hadn’t been seriously looking for a place, and we had entertained only the briefest thoughts about selling our place. Mostly, the thoughts were along the lines of, “Man, if we were ever to have to sell this place, we’d have a crapload of work to do.”

To exacerbate the situation, I had the highest hopes this year of actually checking off a few items on the household to-do list this summer. We’d do one small thing every two days during our mutual vacation, and have at least a dozen things finally done by the end of the summer. Uh huh. And the actual number of items we ticked off the to-do list? Um, none. Add to that the fact that we are a family that seems unable to rise above the tide of clutter in the house and has simply surrendered to it and lived happily amid the overflowing piles and untidy stacks of ungodly amounts of stuff. Holy mother of Jesus, when did we get so much stuff?

So when the dust settled and we realized that yes, we did in fact just buy a house in Manotick and it was not, as a matter of fact, conditional on the sale of our current home, we had an enormous amount of work to do.

E. Nor. Mous.

We started cleaning right away. On the day we made the offer on the house, we spent about six hours doing the sort of cleaning you only do when your in-laws come to visit. Except my in-laws are so easy going that we stopped sanitizing the place for them years ago. Which might be more than part of the problem.

We rented a storage space that looks like a garage in a place near my work, and each night we’d load up the Mazda with as much crap as we could cram into it and each day I’d drop it all off on the way to work. Then I started having to make more than one run each day. The extra chair in the living room, about a dozen ride-on toys, a bookshelf, endless rubbermaid bins of off-season or between-boy clothing sizes, small kitchen appliances that hadn’t been used in a year but that might still come in useful some day, half a dozen cartons of books, another half a dozen cartons of various bits of paper too important to throw away but too insignificant to keep on hand… oy, the sheer amount of STUFF! And we threw away about that same volume of stuff, bless our poor garbage collector’s little heart.

Right about the time the place started looking all neat and tidy, we tore it all apart again to paint half the main floor and one of the bedrooms upstairs, and then had to spend another two days after that cleaning the place up again. Yeesh!

In all, we put in 12 solid 10 hour days of hard labour, hauling and scrubbing and hardening our hearts to sentimentality so we could get rid of even more stuff. The problem, of course, is once you really start looking, you realize how much has to go, and how dirty everything really is. When I found myself hand-washing and drying the light bulbs from the bathroom fixture, I was pretty sure I’d officially lost my perspective, if not my mind. (Truth be told, for a long moment I actually wondered if I could run them through the dishwasher. I mean, washing them in the high efficiency washing machine was definitely out of the question. They’d never survive the spin cycle.)

We did all those annoying little household jobs that really should have been done months (often, erm, years!) ago. We hung the closet doors we’d bought for the front hall last summer. We replaced all the cupboard and drawer handles in the kitchen, since one has been broken and another missing since, um, well, a while. We patched the holes that the baby gate pulled out of the paint and filled in the dents and chips and nail pops in all the rooms we didn’t paint. We tightened loose screws and oiled squeaky hinges. And we scrubbed the place within an inch of its life, until it gleamed in a way very much unlike it has ever seen a messy family of five living in it.

On Wednesday night, the night before the photographer was to arrive to take the pictures for the real estate listing, we looked around us in astonishment. Whose house was this? Honest to god, I really didn’t think we were going to make it, but we did. The house? Looked amazing. For one blissful night, we relaxed in a clutter-free and totally spotless house.

Due to a fluke in vacation planning, the stager couldn’t make it until after the photographer had come and gone, and she arrived on Friday. To crush my soaring expectations. From the “dated” brass light fixtures permeating the house to the front door and garage in need of paint to the bathrooms in need of an update, she showed us everything that was wrong with our house. Our home. It was hard not to take it personally.

She showed us a hundred places where we could bust even more clutter, and I could only laugh and say, “I really wish you’d seen it before!” She told us brass light fixtures are very 1995, and that I should consider taking them down and spray painting them black, and suddenly I felt like I was in an episode of Trading Spaces and started looking around for the cameras. She said that our style is has a very rustic vibe to it, but to sell we need a neutralized contemporary sort of feel. We’re all about the knotty pine and vivid colours, but what appeals to the mass market is that dark espresso wood and leather feel. She said we absolutely needed a dining room table in our dining room that has served, tableless, as a sort of a central play room for the past seven years, and she showed me a dozen spots where I should add decorative pieces.

And that’s when I started to get balky. Okay, so our style is not exactly contemporary, I get it. Okay, so we still need to streamline things a bit more, fine. I need to take down the family pictures and take the boys’ names in letters from their bedroom doors. Gulp, okayfinethen. But seriously, I just spent two solid weeks decluttering and storing and throwing things away like the house was on fire, and now you want me to ADD knick-knacks? But not just any knick-knacks, bien sรปr. They have to be DECOR knick-knacks like big vases with fake grass and trios of fancy candles on otherwise empty tables. And when she told me I should leave a book and a coffee cup on a little side table beside the easy chair in my bedroom, I think I actually rolled my eyes.

Remember I said I was pretty sure I’d lost my perspective, if not my mind, when I found myself hand washing and drying the light bulbs from the bathroom mirror fixture? I take it back. After unloading 60 cubic tonnes of crap from my house, the point at which I officially lost my mind was when I was standing in the middle of the grocery store asking the clerk where I could find those little raffia balls that go in bowl (that I’d rescued from the trash) for the dining room table we’d rented for a month.

So even though we truly thought we were done on Wednesday, between Friday and Sunday we’d also repainted the en-suite bathroom and bought a new comforter for the spare bed and replaced our rustic wooden mail box with a nondescript white one and fixed the front interlock and moved another dresser into a closet and sent another three or four carloads of stuff to storage and replaced all the family pictures with framed art courtesy of my 365 project (thank god for overnight printing at Costco!) and replaced 21 brass plug and light-switch face plates with flat white ones. And our long weekend plans now include repainting the front and garage doors, sigh.

I flat out refuse to spray paint the brass bits of the goddam light fixtures black, though. You don’t like the brass fixtures? Paint ’em yourself.

A girl’s gotta draw a line somewhere. Go ahead, try and find some dust in my house to draw it in — I dare you!


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It’s official!! Conditions have been waived and agreements have been signed — come hell or high water, we’re moving to Manotick a little more than 60 days from today!!

Wanna see the new house? It’s beee-yooo-ti-ful! It’s a three-plus-two bedroom bungalow that was built in 1968, and it sits on about a half-acre of land on the northern part of Long Island. I don’t have any interior pics to share yet, but here’s the outside:

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Lookit that veranda! It stretches almost the entire length of the house. Have I ever told you that I have a porch fetish? As I was paging through the MLS and FSBO listings looking for a place, the three things I’d check were: is it a four bedroom? What does the kitchen look like? And, does it have a porch? I love love love me some porches.

Here, tell me this is not a porch to die for:

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And? And!! You can’t quite see it, but at the end of that long and lovely veranda, there’s a Separate! Private! Porch! off the master bedroom. I kid you not. When I saw that porch on the online listing, I just about fell over myself in my hurry to make an appointment for a closer look.

And if you think the porch made *my* head explode, imagine the reaction of the boys when they got a look at this back yard:

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Yeah baby, that’s a play structure AND a tree house AND a tire swing. As my mother quite rightly observed, Tristan has been asking for a tree house since he was old enough to talk. During the first showing, where we brought along not only both my parents but also all three kids, the boys ran around the house saying, “This is our dream home, this is our dream home!”

Oh yeah, and it’s nice on the inside, too! Like I said, three bedrooms upstairs, plus your usual living room (with fireplace) and dining room and kitchen (which has a patio walk-out to the back yard), all in lovely blond hardwood, and plenty of bright windows. In the basement, there’s a family room and a bedroom, and another room that can’t officially be called a fifth bedroom because it has no windows so they call it a second family room, but it will actually be used as a huge bedroom for one of the boys.

At first, the idea of putting the boys in a basement bedroom really worried me — but then I realized that since it’s a bungalow, they’re actually just one floor below me instead of two, and that made it seem much more reasonable. Plus, the basement bedrooms are HUGE! We’ve already decided that the northern half of the basement will simply be decreed “boy land” and they will have plenty of room to grow — and we have room for an upstairs office/guest room as well as a room for Lucas.

Speaking of the boys, I’m going to go ahead and register them in their new school (which has some spectacular results based on the latest EQAO testing) for the first day of school. It will be a bit of a pain during the transition phase, but less traumatic by far than having them change in mid-year — especially since Simon entering Grade One will have enough transition on his plate as it is!

We take possession at the end of October, so wish us many, many happy house-selling vibes. We list it tomorrow and the sign is already on the lawn – eek! I have a whole ‘nother post to write about the absolutely insane 10 days we just put in to get everything ready.

But for now, do you love that porch — erm, I mean, house! — or what? ๐Ÿ™‚


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Phew, it’s been a crazy week. How crazy? I haven’t taken a picture in more than a week. Can you imagine? Truth be told, I’m not actually sure where my Nikon is right now. I think I saw it last on top of an empty bookshelf that belongs in the dining room but is propped up in the corner of my bedroom.

My house? Is a disaster. We are on a zealous mission of decluttering, updating, painting, packing and reorganizing. You know how they say it’s always darkest before the dawn? Yeah. It’s very dark at my place right now. There is a glimmer of hope that once the freshly painted walls dry (damn humidity) and we push all the furniture back against the walls, and put things back on the shelves, and get the stuff all back in the proper rooms, it will probably look pretty damn good. Although when I sat on the filthy floor last night – the same floor that I had polished to a shine about five days before – and looked at the chaos around me and nearly wept for the immensity of the job of putting it all back together? Yeah. Dark.

And also? Painting half the main floor and 1/3 of the upper floor of a house while also trying to declutter while also wrangling three little boys? In a word: challenging. In six words: what the hell were we thinking?

Before we tore the house apart to make it paint-ready, the place was actually starting to look pretty spiffy. We got the windows washed, and took down the ugly blinds in the kitchen that we should have replaced seven years ago. We put new drawer pulls on all the drawers and cupboards in the kitchen, and removed six metric tonnes of useless bits of paper that had been accumulating on counters, shelves and corners throughout the house. I threw out five vases I haven’t used since we moved in and six travel mugs that smell like pee but that have been living in a colony on a high shelf. I filled two garbage bags with old bath toys, bottles with an inch of coagulating shampoo, expired skin creams and other pleasantries from beneath the collective bathroom sinks of the house. And I filled a big box with (shhhhhh, don’t tell the boys!) a ridiculous amount of kids’ meal toys, loot bag crap, dollar store diversions and orphaned bits of toys and games.

One of the hardest thing to part with was my collection of old magazines. I didn’t mind so much parting with the five-year-old copies of Today’s Parent and Chatelaine, but the ten year old copies of Astronomy and Sky and Telescope were tough to part with. And the circa 1997 collection of Sympatico Net Life magazines were entertaining as hell to read — the Internet has come a long way in 14 years, baby! Why was I keeping them in the first place? Well, because I had been keeping them at one point, and once I’d started, I just kept on keeping them on principal. And I wonder why I have clutter issues.

I tell ya, even if the deal with the new house falls through, now that we’ve cleaned up and gotten rid of most of the crap we’ve realized we’ve got room for another family of four in here — and the place will show like a model home!

Here’s my gift to you: an idea that is so elegant in its decluttering simplicity, I am kicking myself for not doing it five years ago. We picked up one of these storage cases that stores 320 DVDs or CDs. We filled it up — and then we (gasp!) threw away the boxes! No more rows upon rows of CD jewel cases or movie boxes, just one little black case about the size of a case of pop.

We’re still working on the final details of the house we’re buying, so I can’t tell you too much more about that just now — but it’s looking positive enough that we’re going ahead and listing our house this week if all goes according to plan. Know anyone in the market for a lovely three bedroom, three bathroom end unit in Barrhaven, walking distance to schools and across the street from a playground and park? Freshly painted and soon to be clean as a whistle. Send ’em my way, wouldja?


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It went something like this:

Ring, ring.

Hello?

Hello DaniGirl.

Oh, hello Universe. Nice to hear from you. What’s new?

Oh, you know, the usual. Had an impressive supernova blow out last millennium near Rigel Four, made for a pretty good show. It should get to your galaxy in about a half a billion years, but don’t sweat it just yet. In fact, that’s not why I’m calling.

Oh yeah, thanks for those amazing Northern Lights this week, they were fantastic. So anyway, what’s up?

Well, I heard you were a little stressed about the whole moving thing, and about balancing the financial responsibility of the new house. You were beginning to fret, and to wonder if maybe you should give up your part-time arrangement and go back to work full time.

Sigh, yeah. I’ve been thinking about that. In my heart, I don’t want to — but I don’t want to be house-poor either. We’ve had an unexpected extra expense, and suddenly the load will be a bit tough to bear if I’m only working four days a week.

Yeah, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about, so I ran this article in the Ottawa Citizen today, about how a recent study countered previous findings about families with working mothers, and found that “overall impact of a mother’s participation in the paid workforce on her child’s mental and social development was measured, the effect was neutral. The positives — higher family income, better child care, the mother’s improved mental health — outweighed the negatives, such as less time for mother and baby to interact.”

Thanks Universe, I appreciate you thinking of me. But whether or not I work is not really a question. I have to work, much as I’d rather be home full time. Me not working is just not an option.

But listen to this: the article goes on to say, “the best of all worlds was not when mothers of young children stayed at home full-time, but rather when they work part-time.”

You know, I’ve really been feeling that way since I started working part time last year. What else does it say?

So you work 30 hours a week, right? The article also says, “children whose mothers worked fewer than 30 hours a week benefited from the higher household income, better quality daycare, a happier home-life, plus interaction with their mother.”

No shit? The best of all worlds, you say? So in other words, I lay awake half of last night wondering and worrying about whether I should go back to work full time, and you heard me and published this article in this morning’s paper, just to help me decide?

Yep. Cuz that’s just how I roll.

Thanks Universe. It’s always nice to hear from you.

Anytime, DaniGirl. Anytime.


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In today’s episode of The Great House Adventure, our heroine is drunk on sleep deprivation from lying awake nights listening to rampaging thunderstorms and wondering if she’s not leading the family off a cliff with her home-buying impulses.

Despite the sleep deprivation, I’m determined to stay relatively zen about this whole experience. It *will* all work out in the end. If it’s meant to be it will happen. Breathe. Those of you who know me well are either rolling your eyes or rolling on the floor laughing, I know, I know, but dammit, I don’t have to be crazy obsessive woman about everything, do I?

Yesterday was a long day, and today promises to be longer. So far, I’ve got inspections set up for the well ($450), the septic system ($400) and the building inspection ($450) on Thursday. I made an appointment with the bank for today. I gave the offer information to our real estate agent — another $1800. I called the guy who washes our windows every couple of years and was delighted to only have to fork out $130 to him. Sheesh, that’s chump change! Beloved spent the day cleaning and in the evening I pruned the front yard and, erm, took down the Christmas lights.

I called and e-mailed quite a few real estate agents, and made an appointment with the one who impressed me the most. He’s coming today to check out our place and give us some advice on what will get us our best ROI on selling the place. I think we’ll paint the boys’ bedrooms, and our dining room, and the hallway up the stairs. Note to self — gotta call painter today. And we’ll meet with the bank and hope they don’t fall off their chairs laughing when we ask for their money, and I need a strong education in bridge financing.

Also on today’s list: rent a mini-storage place and start decluttering the place. I spent two hours decluttering the kitchen on Sunday afternoon, and if I’d remembered what it looked like before the infestation of 300 cubic tonnes of daily drawings, artwork, receipts, scrawled notes, toys, bits of hardware and the zillion other things that congregate in the kitchen because they have no real home elsewhere and I have a pathological inability to throw things out in case we might need them some day — we might not have thought to move in the first place!

I swear, I will NOT move those boxes in the basement that are still carefully packed from our move in 2003. The packrat in me keens that there might be something wonderful in there, but really? If we haven’t needed it in seven years, it’s probably good to go.

Speaking of packrat, it does occasionally come in handy. I went poking through my files and found the full folder of paperwork associated with the purchase of this house, including the offers and the sale papers, and even the original Grapevine.ca listing. When I looked at the pictures, I swear to god I couldn’t recognize the place. The towering lilac, now nearly 10 feet tall, tops out at eye level. The shrubs that have climbed the fence are knee-height. And the tree that towers over the front yard is but a sapling. Apparently things grow a lot in seven years!!

And with a simple phrase, my throat is suddenly locked up. Because things *do* grow a lot in seven years. Two of my babies came home to this house from the hospital, and Tristan was all of 16 months old when we moved in.

The going is always exciting, but the leaving? That’s still tough…


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One hell of a weekend

by DaniGirl on August 15, 2010 · 19 comments

in It IS all about me

Friday morning when I woke up, I was expecting an ordinary day leading into an ordinary weekend with absolutely nothing on the go — a nice break from looping around the country to just take it easy for a change.

Despite the best laid (non) plans, after a short-notice appointment to see a house on Friday after work, I spent an absolutely breathless and insane weekend taking a crash course in well and septic systems, bridge financing, real estate commissions and daycare in Manotick.

!!!

Yep, it looks like we found ourselves a house. *barely repressed squee* So now we’re going in 17 different directions at once: there’s decluttering and painting and repairing to be done, financing to be secured, inspections to be arranged, and the whole hell that is selling and packing and moving.

Did I mention “!!!!!”?

It’s all very exciting. Never in my wildest imaginings did I picture us living in Manotick. Then again, I also said I’d never work for DND, so I really ought to learn to stop starting sentences with the words “I will never…” Or, perhaps I should walk around chanting “I will never win a million dollars.” Or at least, “I will never have Jessica Beil’s body.”

There are a LOT of details to work out before I’m comfortable sharing any of them. The offer hasn’t even been tabled yet, but that’s pending, and so is a lot of the first-stage stuff like inspections and financing and then (whimper) on to the listing and selling our place.

I’d be very, very grateful for your insight on the two things that are currently keeping me awake nights: well and septic systems, and real estate agents. I’m getting comfortable with the idea of the former, pending a full inspection of the 40-year-old system. The five per cent commission to the latter makes me actually nauseous to think about, but the thought of negotiating the sale myself is far worse. If you know of an agent you trust with your life, I’m taking recommendations.

What I *should* be taking is a valium… can’t we just fast-forward through this part and start unpacking the boxes in my new house tomorrow???

(Oh, how I’m dying to tell you about this house!!!)


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On househunting (part one of many)

13 August 2010 Happy @ home

Those of you who follow me on twitter have already been privy to the angst, but I think I’ve exceeded the satisfaction that 140 characters worth of hand-wringing can afford me. So, we’ve officially started looking for a new home. Okay, I’ve officially started looking for a new home. Beloved watches the endeavour in the […]

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Measuring summer by the cup

10 August 2010 Away we go

I know summer isn’t really over yet, but I’m back at work now and my holidays are over. Even though it’s a little less than a month until the boys go back to school, Beloved’s holidays are also more or less over after next week. So, even though there is plenty left of the summer […]

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Postcards to go – now optimized for your mobile device!

9 August 2010 Editorial asides

Just a quick editorial note to let you know that I’ve finally made the blog mobile-friendly. You shouldn’t see any difference from a PC, but thanks to the WPTouch plug-in it looks a whole lot better on the most common mobile devices. If you’ve got one, let me know how it looks! I still want […]

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Ottawa’s Hidden Treasures: Andrew Haydon Park

6 August 2010 Ottawa Family Fun

I‘ve spent so much time this summer blogging about other places that I’ve completely forgotten one of my favourite bloggy activities: telling you about the fantastic family hangouts we’ve discovered here in Ottawa for summertime fun. If you are looking for a fabulous free activity on a hot summer day in Ottawa, you should definitely […]

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