The one with the new floor

W are in the midst of getting laminate installed on the main floor of our house. This has caused considerable, in the words of Sir Topham Hat, Chaos and Disruption.

The decision to even have the horrendously ugly sky-blue-faded-to-murky-grey carpets replaced with laminate was itself fraught with peril. The current home reno tax credit helped push us along, as did the unmistakable smell of doggy feet that seems to emanate from the carpet when the house has been closed up for a while. After three boys with serious reflux issues, the carpet is could likely be classified as some sort of bio-hazzard, in fact. So really, tearing up the carpet is long overdue. But the idea of living for a week or two while transitioning from carpet to laminate — the transition period — was almost more than I could handle. Where would we put half a household worth of stuff? What would we do with the kids when we couldn’t live on the main floor? How would I coordinate it with work, and how could I ask the nanny to work within the inherent chaos? Like so many things in my life, though, the worrying was largely for naught and we’ve muddled through to the half-way point of the project without incident.

As much as I’d like to think we are the type of people who can easily tackle a project like installing laminate ourselves, there are two realities that shatter my idyllic illusion of Beloved and I working side by side, thumping Groove A into Slot B to create a beautiful new floor of our own doing. The first reality is the fact that much as I like to consider myself handy around the house, we have trouble installing picture frames and curtain rods without the anchors pulling out six-inch chunks of the wall. The second reality is the fact that on a given day it takes two and a half adults to wrangle the kids. Since we’re already half a man down, there are simply no spare arms to dedicate to this kind of task.

Besides, my mother has taught me well: there are those who do, and those who are smart enough to contract it out to those who will do it better.

When the first estimate came in for the purchase and installation of the laminate, though, we balked. The first quote we got, sitting in Home Depot one Saturday afternoon back in September, was in the neighbourhood of $2000. Not bad for two large rooms, but still a huge expense. But by the time they came in and measured and evaluated the space and padded where they could, the revised, final and actual estimate was closer to $3000, a 50 per cent increase that I just could not justify. So Beloved and I agreed to shave off about half of the increase by doing some of the work ourselves. We would move all the furniture (to where was a good question) and tear up the carpet and underpad. The best of both worlds, right? Professionals to do the fussy bits, and our own hard labour to do the messy bits.

Honestly, I had no idea how messy it would be. Tearing up 15 year old carpet that has been barfed on, pooped on, and spilled on more times than I can count? Gross. Really, it was so bad that now I want to tear up the carpet throughout the upstairs, too, just so I can get a fresh start. I can barely walk on it, thinking of the dust that we tore up with the underpad.

The actual removal of the carpet and underpad was easier than I expected, though, and only took us one extended afternoon nap on Lucas’s part instead of the two days we were anticipating. Moving all the furniture was more troublesome than I expected. We now have stacks of boxes and books in every room of the house, and the installers won’t even arrive until Wednesday. Because we simply must use the main floor of the house (how you people do six-month renos of your houses is beyond me!) we’ve torn up the underpad, pulled out all the staples and carpet tack, and relaid the carpet back down again so we’re not walking on bare plywood.

You can imagine how much fun this is with Mr Curious, the not-quite-two-year old.

With any luck, by Thursday we’ll have a shiny new laminate floor in, if I remember correctly, “apple wood” which steals heavily from the look of knotty pine. And of course, now that we’ve moved all the furniture and left the rooms bare, all I can see are the flaws in the paint that I now feel the need to touch up. And the TV stand is going to look a little shoddy next to that fancy new floor, we might need a new one of those soon. And because the boys spend the vast amount of their time on the living room floor instead of on the furniture, we’re going to have to invest in an area rug of some sort. And the computer table may not survive the trip back down the stairs. I didn’t realize how close to falling apart it is.

Funny, when we first started talking about getting laminate, I was worried about the boys and the dog slipping on the shiny surface. Turns out there was an entirely different slippery slope I should have been worrying about!

DaniGirl versus the Mouse, round 1

It may or may not be coincidence, but it was right around the time we had to put down our 17 year old cat this summer that the first mouse appeared. I would have liked to type “when the mouse first appeared” but I’ve come to believe he is Legion.

I actually managed to catch the first mouse by hand the very first time we saw him, trapping him in a little toy bucket and releasing him in the field across the street. That was some time this summer and I more or less forgot about mice in the interim.

Many happy mouseless weeks passed. While waiting for the bus one morning not too long after, I heard from a neighbour that she too had seen mice in the house this summer for the first time and she even upped the ante by telling me she’d seen a porcupine (!) in the backyard, and another neighbour stopped me in the driveway to ask if we’d had mice, so apparently they’re in the ‘hood.

Last week, Tristan came up from the basement family room where he’d been building Lego spaceports with a wildly worried look on his face. “There’s a noise like (*insert sound of tiny demon claws scrabbing against the gates of insanity here*) coming from behind the door to the laundry room.”

Now, can we just pause for a minute for a confession? There are times when I am completely unable to suppress my terrified inner 10-year-old who is direly afraid of two things: the dark and basements. Those times are when it’s dark, and when I’m in the basement. I have read entirely enough Stephen King books in my life to know that things that make noises behind closed doors in a dark basement should be LEFT ALONE.

And so I found myself with my hand on the laundry room door, listening to that undeniable sound of chewing, for the love of god, thinking of six hundred and sixty six good reasons NOT to open the door and unable to come up with even ONE good reason to open it. Except the ginormous ocean-blue eyes of Tristan, firmly fixed on me.

If the act of suppressing 40 years of conditioning and ten thousand years of genetically imbedded instinct to open that door in the name of appearing brave in front of my son isn’t a testament to a mother’s love, I don’t know what is.

And so I opened the door and turned on the light and it took about three hours for the light to come on and then another seven hours for me to work up the courage to peer behind the door because the noise was obviously coming from directly behind the door and every hair on my body was actively trying to stand up and walk off my body by the time I swung the door back around and found myself looking at a scritching, scrabbling, wiggling half bag of dog food.

Huh. Demons probably don’t eat dog food. Mice, on the other hand…

So I carefully unrolled the not-very-carefully rolled up top of the bag, and sure as shit the little grey mouse came tumbling out. He was way too quick for me, though, and disappeared somewhere behind the laundry machines.

By the time my heart started beating again, I was okay with the idea of cohabitating with the mouse. We’ve never had mice in the house before, and based on the amount of scat I found around the dog food bag (which also went into the trash) he’s been living down there for a while. Then my nice twitter friends said that mouse poop is toxic and that they will start to get into the real people food, so I thought that maybe I’d get a humane trap.

The idea of actually killing the mouse disturbed me, but the idea of merely maiming the mouse and having him suffering practically undid me. We dithered and debated for a week or so.

On Thursday, I pulled out the rubbermaid bin full of Halloween costumes to get ready for the boys’ school Halloween dance and had Simon and Lucas try on three of the four plush costumes that had been stored in the box. It was only when I went to pull out the fourth costume that I found out that the bottom of the bin was covered in … you guessed it, mouse poop.

By the time everyone had had a scalding hot bath and the halloween costumes went through two wash cycles, war had been declared. It’s ON, mouse. Bring it. If I thought I could flush him out, I would have went after that sucker with a baseball bat. And so help me, if I find he’s been into the Christmas decorations, I’m going to nuke him.

So the very next day I found myself in the mouse trap aisle of Canadian Tire. I seriously thought about getting one of those giant-size rat traps, just to make my point, so annoyed was I. Who knew there was such selection and variety in mouse traps? Glue traps, humane traps, multi-mouse traps… In the end, we got a fancy plastic version of the standard wood-and-wire mousetrap. The label offered a high capture rate and instant kill, which made my karma shrivel only a little bit.

Beloved set the traps on Sunday night, putting one behind the furnace and one near the freezer, both far from human traffic but near where scat postcards had been found. Last night, as I was doing the ubiquitous loads of laundry, I checked on the traps. The one near the freezer had been knocked slightly out of position but was still set. The one near the furnace was… gone. The entire trap had disappeared.

WTF? I can imagine how they’d get displaced, how they might get shifted, how they might even snap shut and bounce up to a foot away depending on how violently they closed. But that sucker is completely and utterly gone, and trust me, we searched everything within a five foot radius.

So the way I see it, either we’ve got a partially disabled but frighteningly strong mouse running around the basement with a discharged mousetrap attached to one of its appendages or… well, let’s just go with option one, shall we?

I’m not sure I can open that door a second time…

The really odd post-script to the missing bra story

So I did, in fact, find my bra. It was behind the little end table beside the wing chair, but it had only slid part way down in behind and gotten stuck, so it never actually hit the floor. Aha!

The really weird part? This morning, I was at work and went to use the washroom on the first floor of our building. I was washing my hands, and glanced up at the little shelf more or less at eye level where people tend to put their coffee cups or agendas or other small items while they’re in the washroom stalls, and there was a bra sitting on it. It was not — fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective — my red bra. It was a black bra, wrapped rather carefully in some of that thick paper towel that comes out of the dispenser.

I have no idea of the cosmic significance of this, but the random appearance of a black bra the very day week I lose, blog about and then find my favourite red bra? Seemed too odd to go unremarked-upon.

Home improvement

Beloved and I had a plan. Since he would be home all summer, and since I’d be off as usual every Wednesday, we were going to make Wednesdays into “project days.” Each Wednesday, one of us would wrangle the kids while the other one dedicated most of the day to ticking things off the rather frightening and horrifically long to-do list. Everything from painting to rehanging the closet doors in the front hallway to pulling out the out-of-control lilac shrub at the side of the house to reclaiming the gardens to cleaning out the eavestroughs to reorganizing the garage. There was no shortage of things to do, and with both of us kicking around the house, no excuse not to get at least a few of them out of the way.

By the end of last week, seven Wednesdays had passed — not to mention three full weeks of vacation for me — and we had accomplished: none of it. Life just gets in the way sometimes, yanno?

Annoyed Terrified at the idea of living with it all for another year, we went on a home fix-it binge in the dwindling days of my vacation. I went off to Home Depot and bought new closet doors, crammed them into the new Mazda (dang that thing has an impressive amount of space in it!) and hauled them home all by myself. Hauled them out of the car and noted that I still had about 90 minutes of nap time left. More importantly, I had lots of energy and enthusiasm for the project. And then I realized that the doors were too short by 12 inches. Sigh. Back in the car, back to Home Depot, and I had to custom order new doors. They should come in in the next month or so. Anybody want to bet they come in and go directly to the garage, where they’ll take up space for the foreseeable future until we get around to installing them?

So the next day, with a little less time left and a little more desperation, we went back to Home Depot and bought some paint. We’ve been meaning to paint the master bedroom since we moved in. Six years ago. Beloved even tore down *most* of the ugly flowered wallpaper border a couple of *coughfourcough* years ago, leaving ugly bits of sticky brown paper around the edges of the room. It was, to say the least, overdue for some attention.

I picked a lovely soft buttery yellow colour called Chesapeake Sunset. Doesn’t the name just make your heart slow and your breathing easier? And Beloved, a former College Pro painter, spent the better part of the next two days slapping on three coats of it, along with a gleaming coat of white on all the trim. For the record? In a room with four windows and three doors, there is a *lot* of trim.

I have to say, the colour is not quite the calm, soothing sunset hue I expected. In fact, it’s not yellow so much as YELLOW! It’s the most aggressive, in-your-face yellow I’ve ever seen. As I said to Beloved after waking up in it the first morning, it’s like the sun barfed in our bedroom.

Not quite this yellow, but close!
Not quite this yellow, but close!

We still have a rather intimidating number of items on our to-do list, and no real prospects for getting them done any time soon. (See previous post re: chaos and life with three kids.) I do like my fancy new yellow bedroom, though. I even decluttered the place, so for at least the next couple of weeks until it starts building up again I have a peaceful haven from the constant reminders in every corner of the things that haven’t yet been done.

And one of these days, my eyes might even adjust to the brightness.

More post-scripts to the home-improvement frenzy

Apparently, I need to add still more post script photos to my home improvement extravaganza post. As if it didn’t have enough pictures already!

Claudette talks in the comments to this post about the idea for home-made marble magnets inspired by this post of Andrea’s. (Convoluted enough for you?) Ahem, anyway, I made these over the holidays out of some old Christmas cards following Andrea’s example, and I never did get around to blogging about it.

So easy, and fun! I’ll be playing around with new ideas for this as soon as I get another block of free time. (Sometime in 2009, maybe?)

And because I had the camera out, the boys started mugging. If you’re low on your adorable quotient for the day, get a look at Simono the Magnificent, resplendent and shirtless in with his magic cape (the quilt from his crib), his magic wand, and his magic toque. All the Canadian magicians are wearning them these days.