Monday, November 28, 2011


'Don't Do It Yourself' has become our household mantra.  I mean, seriously, why would anyone want to do a renovation yourself when you could have these guys working in your house all day?

Three of my favourite guys....Marcel, Dave and Derek.

Joe has become so comfortable with his house full of tradesmen that he now walks around in his underwear!

Oh for Pete's sake, Joe!  Put on some pants!

We are still washing the dishes in the bathroom sink.

I'll just wash a few of these dishes while I'm waiting for Joe to get ready.

We went to 'The Lighting Warehouse' in Richmond this past weekend to buy a couple of light fixtures.  Have you ever been?  There is so much to look at I had instant Attention Deficit Disorder the minute I walked in their door!  

Ever the discerning shoppers, we were able to separate the wheat from the chaff and picked out two beautiful fixtures; one for the dining room and the other for our entrance way.

Light fixtures abound at the Lighting Warehouse.

With the living room furniture pushed together and covered with drop sheets, we are now fully encamped in the basement.  The kitchen table, the coffee grinder, the espresso maker, the kettle, the toaster, paper plates, paper towel, plastic cutlery, two hot plates and us reside downstairs.  (The microwave oven sits on the dryer in the laundry room.)  We eat here, we have happy hour here, we watch TV here, we drink our morning coffee and read the newspaper here.  It's actually quite cozy with the wood stove blazing away.

Our home away from home.

The dry wallers are arriving today.  Stay tuned....more pictures to follow.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

D is for Demolition

We have lived hard in this 30 year old house.  Very hard.  Two parents, three children, a dog, and four cats were brought up here.  For 18 long years we took what this house was willing to give us.  And we never gave back.  Until now.

Our kitchen has been literally falling apart in our hands for the past 5 years.  IN OUR HANDS!  But the lure of Europe was too strong for us to ignore and we chose to travel every summer instead of fixing up our kitchen.  Until now.

And what started out as a kitchen renovation has quickly morphed into an upper house reno.  Because we all know when you make one area look nice, everywhere else looks the sh*ts by comparison.

So just to keep you all up to date, here's what's been happening.  Some 'before' and 'after' photos for your viewing pleasure.







The smartest thing we did was have the wall between the kitchen and dining room removed.  It looks so big now!  

One room!

We also had the kitchen door removed and its space filled in.  The postage stamp sized kitchen window will be replaced with a 12' wide window.

The kitchen door is gone.  And look how big the new window will be!  

The ceiling is gone, the pot lights are dangling, the insulation is stacked.

It is so convenient to go to the bathroom, have a shower AND wash your dishes all at the same time!

Stay tuned.  More to come.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

School Story #5

It was September.  It was the day of the Terry Fox Run.  It was the event one of my students did not want to participate in.  At all.

I cajoled.  I wheedled.  I whined.  I told him he didn't have to run.  He could walk. 

I reminded him that his Mom was coming to accompany him.  He didn't care.

I said his favourite teaching assistant would be walking with them.  No reaction.

Everything I said failed to impress him.

Reginald von Hoobie Doobie (not his real name, but close) was a very reluctant Terry Fox walker that day.

It was a glorious afternoon.  The entire school was out in full force enjoying the last rays of summer sunshine.

After the run, my Grade 3 class reconvened in our classroom all sweaty and hot.  I had them pull out their journals to write about the Terry Fox Run.  'Strike While The Iron's Hot' is my motto when having young people write.  The sooner the better, I always figure. 

My students filled their half-and-half notebooks with crayon pictures and rows of primary printing.

I had the children pile their journals on my desk.  I would look through them when school let out for the day.

I was not prepared for Reginald's entry.

"What is this?"  I thought. 

Reginald had drawn himself holding hands with his mom and teaching assistant.  A big speech bubble filled the air between them.
"Is that an 'n' or an 'h'?  Is this a 't' or an 'f'?" I asked myself.  Some letters of the last two words were very ambiguous.  Either way it was not an appropriate thing to say to one's mother.

My rendering of Reginald's 'Terry Fox Run' journal entry.

I took Reginald's notebook to a neighbouring teacher.  

"What do you think this says?" I asked her.  "'You're a butt shitter'?  Or 'You're a butt sniffer'?"

"Hmmmmm,"  she giggled.  "It's hard to say."

We KILLED ourselves laughing.

I asked Reginald about it the next day.  He matter-of-factly told me it said, "I love you, Mom.  You're a butt sniffer!"  And gave me a look that said, "What did you think it said?"

The term 'butt shitter' quickly became part of my family's lexicon.  We use it to this very day to describe someone who is being a pain in the neck.

Thank you for that, Reginald von Hoobie Doobie!  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

School Story #4

Miss McQueen.  1984.

I began my teaching career in 1980 at the ripe old age of 22.  I was a young, idealistic, fresh-faced kindergarten teacher.  With a few years of experience under my belt, I went to teach at a Metro Vancouver inner-city school in 1984.  That was one of the toughest assignments I've ever had.

Teachers in the district had voted it 'Worst School' amongst themselves.

Back in those days, all kindergarten teachers did home visits to ease the students' transition to school.  Home visits were forbidden.

You'll see why in a minute.

I taught 22 students in the morning and 22 in the afternoon.  Those kids knocked the stuffing outta me.  Halfway through the school year I felt I had made a huge mistake in choosing teaching as a career.  "I am not good at this," I often said to myself.  "Not good at all.  Maybe I should look for another job."

I had one student in particular I will never forget.  I look for his name on 'Crime Stoppers' every now and again.

For the sake of anonymity, I shall refer to him as 'Billy'.

The dirt on Billy's neck was ingrained.  I don't think you could have scrubbed it off if you tried.  His hair looked like it had been clipped with pruning shears, his clothes were often inside out and backwards, he smelled of stale urine.  It breaks my heart just typing these words.  The poor little poppet.

Five year old Billy was fond of telling me (in great detail) how he was going to chop my body into pieces, put them into black plastic bags and leave them at the side of the road for the garbage man to pick up.  He loved to recount this scenario every chance he got.

His other favourite past-time was to jump at me (what is it with kids leaping at me?) and put his hands around my neck with his thumbs pressed onto my windpipe.  As a bonus feature he would often lift his feet from the floor and become dead weight.  It was all I could do to pry his scrawny fingers from their vice-grip on my neck.

Not only did I have to deal with Billy on a daily basis, I also had to contend with his dad.  Billy's father was an extremely large man.  EXTREMELY LARGE.  And he dressed in camouflage.  Head-to-foot camo.  All day, every day.

I think his Dad had a bit of a crush on me.  We would call it stalking today.  He hung around the school for hours.  More times than I care to remember, I would look up and see his huge face filling the window of my classroom door.  How long he'd been standing there watching I'll never know.  What I do know is that HE GAVE ME THE CREEPS!!!!!!

The children in my class came from poor families, many headed by young single mothers.  I swear, the moms of my students were younger than me.  And I was only 26 at the time!

Since the parents had little money, we took no extra-curricular field trips.  Days on end were spent in the classroom.  There weren't even any neighbourhood parks for us to walk to.

'Ocean Life' was our theme in June.  I was shocked to discover that none of my students had ever been to the ocean!  And here we lived on the beautiful coast of British Columbia.

With idealism and naïveté as my trusty companions, I set out to rectify that wrong.  I organized a year end field trip to White Rock Beach.

Since there was no money to book a school bus, I decided we would take the city transit bus to the beach.  I figured everyone could afford a buck for the bus.  On a sunny day in June we left the school for the very first time and waited on the sidewalk for the bus.  All 60 of us.  60!!!  Me, 44 children and 15 mothers.

I can't remember much about the bus ride to the beach, but I do remember the noise and how excited the kids were.  Never mind the ocean, many of them had never been on a bus before!

White Rock Beach.  Photo courtesy of Google Earth.

White Rock Beach.  Photo courtesy of Dave Cowper.

White Rock Beach.  Photo from the 'Freckles Collection'.

It was one of those days when the tide was incredibly low.  The water seemed miles away.  I'm sure you could have walked to Bellingham via the sand.

We happily piled off the bus.  We safely crossed the train tracks and before I even said a word, all 44 of my kindergarten students started running straight for the ocean!  They spread out like marbles on a wooden floor.

I yelled, "Come back!"  I shouted, "Stop!"  I screamed, "Wait for me!"  All to no avail.

I turned to ask the moms for help in rounding up their children before someone drowned.  And there they all were.  Lined up like birds on a wire.  All 15 of them sitting side by side on a log.  SMOKING!  They would be no help.

No one drowned that day.  We played on the sand.  We splashed in warm tidal pools.  Everyone made it back to school in one piece.

I only taught at that school for one year.  As a going away gift, the staff presented me with a camouflage hat and T-shirt to remember them by.  Such funny colleagues!

Now that I am nearing the end of my career, I am proud I chose to be a teacher.  I make a difference in young lives, as do my many colleagues.  Teachers are some of the most dedicated, hard-working, and caring professionals in the world.

I'm so glad I didn't quit in 1984.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Molly and Tony

A table full of Vietnamese food at Pho Thai Hoa.

Last Saturday, Joe and I took Molly out for her 24th birthday.  It is hard to believe my firstborn is 24!  I still feel 24!  How is it that my daughter and I are the same age?

We ate at 'Pho Thai Hoa' for.....what else?  Pho, silly!  And curry and salad rolls and spring rolls and tea and bread and peanut sauce (which I could just shovel into my mouth with a spoon and now that I think of it I did). 

The sexy and funny Mr. Anthony Bourdain.

After dinner we went to listen to Anthony Bourdain speak about travel, food and his television show 'No Reservations'.  Joe and Molly are huge Bourdain fans.  He spoke for 2 hours, regaling his audience with hilarious anecdotes from his wild and varied life, both past and present.

 Best photo of the night.

Man, it is fun to have grown children who share the same interests as the parents.  Lots and lots of fun.