Friday, August 12, 2016

It's hot


I've been doing my best not to complain too loudly, but it is definitely time to admit that I am reaching the end of what I can tolerate. But that's the funny thing about heat, right? And weather in general.

It doesn't care what you can tolerate. 

Our new house has no A/C. In the first couple weeks that we moved in, this didn't bother me so much. It's an old house, built in such a way it was meant to withstand harsh Canadian weather. The brick insulates well, holding cool air in. Over the day, it eventually heats up, but cools off nicely at night, once again holding the cool air in for comfortable living conditions. It does, however, require those cool nights. 

22 degrees Celcius is not sufficiently cool.

22 degree Celcius every night for a week is pure hell. 

Add on to the problem that someone sprung the extra cost to get casement windows for our beautiful Victorian semi. Sure, they might be classier. They might be more expensive. They might allow the window to open more completely. But, casement windows won't allow for a cost-effective window A/C unit. I am drowning in sweat and humidity. 

I broke yesterday. It was a Facebook post that caused it. Someone on one of the many mommy groups I've found myself a member of put out a shout-out to all the pregnant moms in the group, struggle through with their little furnaces in this heat. The thread filled up with pregnant woman complaining about the lack of air conditioning in the subway cars on their morning and afternoon commutes, or their inconsiderate husbands who jack their air conditioning up to *gasp* 24 degrees. 

I wanted to punch every single one of those mothers in the face.*

So, I admitted that I couldn't really do it anymore. I complained. A lot. I get no break from the heat, unless I managed to get Isabel and I to a drop-in or the library - which, here in our new city, has proven disappointing time and time again. I'm 30 weeks pregnant. And Isabel is a ball of energy, who only seems bothered by the heat when it's time too sleep. I'm grumpy. So grumpy. I. Can't. Do. It. Anymore. So, Mark texted his brother to see if he had a spare window A/C unit, and while he went off to go pick it up, I rearranged the nursery, which has been a disaster since we moved in. It's one of the only rooms in our house with a sliding window.

And so, here we are. It's nap time. We went to a free drop-in this morning, which was blessedly cool, almost cold, and now she's asleep, and I'm taking refuge in this room too, homemade popsicle in hand, the hum of our borrowed air conditioner a comfort. One little room in our house, an oasis. 




*Not really. They're an amazing group of women and I have appreciated being able to be a part of their community. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Rainy Day in the Play Room

Isabel was eating her grilled cheese sandwich and watermelon lunch when it started to pour. Gone were our plans for the afternoon - a day spent in the wading pool and sandbox in the backyard, perhaps while I made some progress on ripping out the overgrown flowerbeds that surround her grassy backyard play space. I can't complain that our afternoon plans were displaced by rain; we need it, and badly, and I was instantaneously grateful for the rain and the noticeable temperature drop it brought with it. 

We settled in the play room instead. 




This room used to be dark red, and with one tiny window in the corner and a second half moon window in the door, it was incredibly dark and unpleasant to spend much time in. But this room was one of the reasons we bought this house. When we started house hunting, I added a separate play room space to our list of like-to-haves for a new home. In Toronto, we had little space for Isabel's toys. Now in a different housing market, we were looking at much larger houses; a play room just for her was suddenly not out of reach. 

But it was dark. So we painted it.  My parents came to visit for a three day painting extravaganza and, at the end of it, we had a much different room, one Isabel and I certainly don't mind spending time in. We need some art on the walls, maybe, and a bit of a better storage situation for her growing collection of toys, but we will grow well into this room.

And, maybe one day, she'll even learn about the delights of independent play in this room.

(I'm not holding my breath.)


Friday, July 29, 2016

When Motherhood Is Struggle


I have been a full-time stay-at-home mom for two and a half months. Probably, I should wax poetic about how rewarding, how blissful it is to spend days running through fields of wild flowers with my joyful, carefree, clean, and perfectly well-behaved daughter. But, waxing poetic about motherhood would, for me, be one big fat lie.

I actually don't find it difficult at all to openly say that I am not enjoying stay-at-home motherhood. It has its moments, sure, but for the most part, I'm fairly certain that I would feel a lot better about my role in Isabel's life if I were deeply involved in something else. She and I would both be happier if I loaded her up in the car in the morning and dropped her off at someone else's house, or maybe a proper preschool, while I went off to spend my day not thinking about her at all.

I don't feel particularly guilty about how I feel about my life as a stay-at-home mom. I know society tells me I should. But, I strongly believe there are people meant spend their life caring for children, and there are people who won't find such a vocation fulfilling in any way at all. This is no different than the differences between someone who thrives in an environment of hard manual labour, versus someone who finds the greatest amount of happiness and sense of accomplishment behind a computer screen. So, I refuse to bow to society's strong suggestion that I should be guilty for the way I feel about spending my days with my daughter.

Despite my conviction that a job outside our home would be a really good idea for me, and really, our whole family, I know that I'm not exactly in a place to go out and get one. At 28 weeks along, I can't hide the new life I'm harbouring. Employers aren't supposed to discriminate, but what hiring manager in their right mind would hire a woman who's going to need a good chunk of time off in a mere three months?

So, here I am, trying to make the best of something that doesn't come easily to me, with a toddler who has decided that two is a great age to practice a strong willed independence, especially when it comes to sleep, in a town I'm unfamiliar with, far from my support system of mom friends, in a house that does not yet feel like home. I don't want to seem like I'm complaining, but I also want to be honest about where I'm at. I don't want anyone to feel like my life is suddenly filled with Victorian glamour, brimming with nothing but the excitement of the possibilities of a new start in a new city. Things don't feel nearly that bright.

I know I must regularly remind myself to stay positive and optimistic about all this. I know that the months ahead will teach me much - about Isabel, about my new city, about myself - and I plan to do my best to embrace that. I know this is an opportunity to spend time working on myself, developing new habits, fostering skills, embracing the work of motherhood as important and valuable in our family and in society. I am certain that, while it may not come naturally to me, I can find some sort of fulfillment here in this season, even while I look forward to the next.

Together, Isabel and I, and eventually Baby Two will get through this time in our life and come out the other side, all of us a little more grown up, and the better for it.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Little House Tour

We've been in our new house for a week an a half now. Our life is mostly out of its boxes, but nothing is really quite settled in its proper place. I'm not sure if I'll feel like things are settled here for a few weeks yet. It will take scrubbing out a few more rooms, and rearranging the furniture a few more times, I'm sure.

I'm not ready to share my own photos of this house yet, but the photos from the listing aren't half bad and, since the house was more or less empty, they show off some of the details really well. So, this is a bit of a tour to share the inside view of this big Victorian semi.


The house is red brick with green trim, a colour scheme that seems popular in the area. I've speculated that it holds some historical significance, but I have yet to find time to do much research into the characteristics of the area. 


The front entryway, tiled in black and white, with two rooms on each side of its hallway. The room on the left is Isabel's new playroom. The room on the right is the living room. At the end of the hall, it opens to the dining room, and the doorway to the kitchen is on the left.


The formal living room, with an arching view into the dining room.


The dining room, with the first of three beautiful marble fireplaces. All three would have, originally, been coal fireplaces. The one in the play room has been converted to gas, but the other two - this one and the one in the master bedroom - have been decommissioned.


The play room. This is not a large room in comparison to the rest, but it opens into the kitchen, so it's seems like the perfect place for Isabel to play. The previous occupants had the room painted dark red, and the ceiling brown, which felt like an odd choice to me considering the window you see in the upper left corner is the only window in the whole room.

This room is the only room we're changing immediately. I couldn't imagine spending long hours with my daughter in such a dark room, so today we started the job of painting the walls and ceiling, with the help of my mom, who is the best person I know at getting a job done. After a coat of primer and a coat of Benjamin Moore paint (leftover from that time I painted the whole house in Toronto), it looks remarkably different.


We have one more coat of paint on the walls and ceiling to go. Now that it's all looking a little more fresh though, the trim and even the white of the marble fireplace looks a little more dingy than I expected. There is certainly more to do in this room, but painting those walls is certainly a start.


Fridge, dishwasher, sink, stove. Obviously the kitchen. This was the most disappointing room of the whole house. It's cheap. It's old. It's functional, but it's not pretty. But, it is a step up in terms of size from the Toronto house, and it will do for the next few years until we can save the funds we need for a big renovation. There are a few things, like the dishwasher, that may need replacing sooner rather than later, but for now, it's good enough.

On this floor, there is also a (slightly dingy) powder room that will be my next painting project, a cramped laundry area, and a mudroom that leads out to the back yard. When we do our big kitchen renovation, we would also plan to rip out these rooms and rework the layout of this part of the house.

Believe it or not, we're only halfway through this house.


The master bedroom, with the third and last fireplace. I plan to fill it with candles like a proper home design blogger. 

A little explanation about the house is needed from this point on. In March of 2015, there was a minor fire in one of the upstairs rooms. During the sale process, we requested the documentation about that fire. The source of the fire is unclear in the report, but was likely related to a faulty extension cord with too many things plugged into it. The upstairs went through a $100,000 restoration, with many - but not all - of the original details of the house still intact. The fireplace and trim were saved, but the floors hidden beneath new carpet. 


Isabel's room. It's the exact same size as the master, just without the fireplace. Her adjustment to this room has been a bit of a struggle, but that's a different story for a different day.


The baby's room. A little smaller than the other two rooms, but far from small and still full of light. All three of these rooms have nice large closets, which seems luxurious to me, considering many old Toronto homes don't have any built in closets at all. 

There's a fourth room as well, smaller yet than the baby's room. It currently contains a long set of stairs that leads to the attic, which is not finished - despite what they claimed in the listing - but does have a floor. The stairs are rough, likely there for the remediation purposes, and I find it very odd that they chose to leave them there and not include that fourth room in the bedroom count, listing the house instead as a three bedroom home. We plan to remove the stairs fairly soon and outfit the room as a guest bedroom. Perhaps it's not quite fair that our guests get the smallest bedroom, but guests don't live here, right? 

There's also a beautiful walk-in closet right beside the master bedroom.

And then, there's this room.


These days, it's generally unbearably warm, and we don't have any furniture for it, so I'm not sure yet when we'll get a chance to to set it up and actually use it. I'm not even sure what we'll use it for. But, it's a beautiful room, full of light, and I hope we'll put it to some good use eventually.


And, of course, a full four piece bathroom. On the surface, this room looks beautiful. The shower, toilet and floors are new, the claw foot tub is huge and there's a series of shelves beside the shower (just visible in the mirror) that provide a nice amount of storage.

But. The tiles are cheap. The shower head is installed too low. There's plenty of room for a nice vanity, maybe even double sinks, but for some reason, there's only a pedestal sink. There's that weird step up and drop ceiling over the shower. This was a renovation that was done as cheaply as possible, meant to attract a buyer, but does not have much longevity.

And there. That's it! Approximately 2700 square feet of Victorian spaciousness. All of the furniture except for the couch pictured in the entryway was left in the house, so along with some beautiful chandeliers, swooping bannisters, and elegant trim, we got a dining room set, a piano, a dresser, a wardrobe, and a random assortment of lamps and curtains.

I'm not sure the new-to-us furniture helps much in making this place feel like home, but we'll get there, eventually.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Emotional Cost of Starting Over

Today, at their final play date, one of Isabel's best friends squeezed her so tight in a bear hug as we were packing up to leave that she made Isabel cry. At 2, Isabel doesn't understand the ferocity behind her 7-year-old friend's hug. She doesn't understand that they won't be right across the street anymore. She doesn't realize that there won't be any more late afternoon backyard play dates. She doesn't get that she won't get to spend a few hours or a day at their house while her mama runs errands or goes to doctors appointments. Meanwhile, her friend understands perfectly.



**

Last week, I gathered with the moms on our street in a backyard over sangria and hippy juice* and snacks and an ice cream cake that read "Don't Go".



**

Three weeks ago, with some of our church community gathered in our pastor's living room, we witnessed the looks of shock, surprise, maybe even some disappointment as we broke the news. Later, we wrote a simple email to the people on the various committees we served on in that community, spreading the news as needed. We had a chance to speak personally with a few people.

Every announcement, every conversation. It doesn't get easier.

**

On Saturday, we start a new chapter of our life as a family. It's exciting in the way change often is. I'm looking forward to all the good that will come of this.

But.

I am all too aware that, on Saturday, while something new and potentially wonderful is beginning, something just as wonderful and so important to me is ending. Right now, it's hard to see past the ending to the new beginning.


* Virgin for me, of course.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

We're moving!

A short announcement, because life is busy but I keep thinking I might want to become serious about this blog again one day and I don't want to be catching you all up on everything forever.

This Dusty House is moving! And I don't just mean domain names. I mean, I'm sitting in a disaster of a house surrounded by boxes and mess that we can't figure out how to pack yet. We are moving! 

It's no small move, either. Come Saturday, Mark and I will officially no longer be Torontonians. We're moving about 2 hours out of the city to a much smaller city, where Mark will join his brother in building an engineering firm of their own. And me? Well. I'll be stay-at-home-momming for a little while longer.

(Job searching is hard when you're pregnant.)

We've bought a truly gorgeous house in our new town. Surprisingly, it's a semi-detached with a back yard that's only about a third of the size of our backyard in Toronto, but it's a huge, 2700 square foot Victorian that will give us a little space to breathe after the slightly cramped quarters we've occupied for the last five years. 


This move is a really surreal thing for me, and even three days away from moving day, I find myself in a slightly overwhelmed state of denial that it's even happening. This is a brand new chapter for us and I'm doing my best to embrace it with open arms, despite the ache of sadness for all we will be leaving behind. 


Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Long Two Years: Graduation!

Today, I graduated. Today, I can officially call myself a librarian. It's been a long two years, full of ups and plenty of downs. I'm proud of what I've accomplished.


But at the same time, walking up onto that stage today felt a little bit unsettling. Dressed in black regalia, a bright pink and blue hood, I looked every inch the part, my baby bump hidden beneath the folds of the gown. As I shook the president of the university's hand, however, it felt like the facade crumbled.

"So, what's next for you?" he asked.

What's next. What's next.

Playgrounds. Kraft dinner crusting over on plastic plates. Long afternoons of picture books and cartoons. Baby kicks. Goldfish crackers crushed into the couch cushions. Job applications sent off into a void of silence. Yet another dirty diaper. Splash pads and wading pools. Play dates. Midwives appointments. Another job application. Temper tantrums. Another month to long for an interview, while worrying that if it comes, my growing belly will immediately have me dismissed. Another playground. More Kraft dinner. Not enough adult interaction. Eventually, labour. Eventually, another small person to be responsible for.


Don't get me wrong. My life is beautiful. My daughter is a little slice of sunshine, so inquisitive, so smart. I find great joy in watching her learn new things every day, pulling new words out of her growing vocabulary, and climbing to new heights - literally. I am happy to have this time with her.

But, at the same time, I want more. I'm sure that's no surprise to anyone; I started my degree for a reason, after all. I have high hopes for what I can do for the world as a librarian. I believe libraries are crucial elements of strong communities, and I want to be a part of their growth and development as libraries adjust and lead the way in a world of rapidly changing technology.

I want to get started already.

And yet, I know it might not be time yet. I know I must be patient. I know I must find a new rhythm and a new level of happiness despite a personally perceived lack of fulfillment. I know I must not give up, confident that I will find the job I'm meant for when I'm meant to find it.

And so. Here's to becoming comfortable with my answer to the president of the university.

"So, what's next for you?" he asked.

"Well, I'll be a stay at home mom for a while. And I'm looking for a job."

"Oh, very good. All the best to you."

All the best to me, and to all of my classmates. If you're feeling as unsettled as I am about this milestone that doesn't really feel like a milestone, know you're not alone.

I'm right there with you.