House Renovation…the final photographs, finally

Whilst our house was being renovated, I was posting photos and comments on the progress. I only got halfway through the progress blog posts before we got to move back home and, well, I’ve been a bit busy since then!

I do hope to finish the more involved step-by-step posts, as I find them really interesting to look back on. It’s quite amazing the level of detail that my memory just does not retain. I enjoy being able to look back and be reminded of how a particular period of my life was, or, in regards to the renovation, all the thought and effort that went into our house. However, this post is just the finished product. I’m really embracing the motto “Better done than perfect”. It would be more perfect if I finished the detailed posts about each room, and then had the big reveal post – which is not so much of a big reveal as it is nearly two years since it was completed – however it will get done if I just do the final the post now. Better done than perfect!

The cost and time blew out on our renovation with discoveries that could not be predicted. These are the joys of renovating very old properties. We needed part of the house re-stumped, and that in itself was an unknown as the builder could not know exactly what the land underneath the house was like, and therefore how deep the stumps would have to go; as it turned out, we need five, very deep stumps in our room to stop the lean-to happening. So there were those sorts of unknowns which we knew to expect going into the project. Then there were the things like the bathroom framework being completed ruined from water damage, and the concrete lintel above our window which WAS NOT anchored into the wall. That particular discovery cost us extra money to fix and extra time as the safety requirements of the job then changed and amendments had to be made to the building permit – I think that was how it went at least…it has been a long time.

Anyway, everyone told us that it would take twice as long as quoted and cost twice as much. We laughed and secretly thought, “Not for us”. Well, it didn’t take twice as long as quoted but I did wish that I hadn’t packed all my winter clothes in storage! It did cost more, due to unexpected discoveries such as the above-mentioned (they were just the two things that sprang to mind), but also because we would go and pick beautiful lush carpet and underlay that was twice the allowance in the quote. As the original quote had come in under our budget, we felt okay with making these choices which ultimately led to a renovation without compromises which we would’ve regretted later. Also, it was hard not to get excited as we saw things coming together and then wanting to add just a little thing here or a little thing there!

The builder that we went with was Ange who runs Estate Building and Renovations. We chose him because we liked his manner, he seemed like a person who took great pride in his work and wouldn’t cut corners and he really listened to us and worked with us to achieve what we wanted. We worked a lot with Joel as well as Ange – most days one or the other was at our house looking after everything. Joel came up with the idea of installing a pool latch on our front gate when I was asking for help to make it child-proof. Both Ange and Joel were great at coming up with practical solutions for issues around the house and we definitely gave them some challenges. Double glazing for our windows was one of the biggest challenges; there was a lot of discussion as to the best way to do it considering that we have leadlight windows which have to stay (council heritage overlay) and do not react well to being double-glazed, and sash windows which leak a lot of air. Ange’s solution of installing a separate, double-glazed internal window was brilliant.

We have more things we want to do further down the track. As Ange said, when renovating, you just have to draw a line somewhere otherwise you can just keep on going. So we still have things to do, and I look forward to getting Ange and his team in again.

Patrica La Torre, of Outside Inside Building Elements designed our bathroom and laundry. Ange works with her regularly and directed us to her services. She was fantastic. When we said that storage was a priority, she delivered SO MUCH storage in the design and still managed to make the bathroom feel larger than it did before. She was excited when I picked the bright striped laminate for the laundry as it is the sort of bold colour that most people will steer away from. Shamefully I still haven’t had her around to see the finished house, because I want it to be all perfect and tidy and looking its best, which it does for a couple of hours every fortnight or so! The rest of the time it looks, well it looks like a family lives here; a family who have work, kinder, playdates, like to cook together and will follow their whims on weekends rather than their “shoulds”. I guess I need to apply that “Better done than perfect” motto here too.

The more time has passed, the happier I’ve been with the renovation and the job done by Estate Building. When we first moved back in, we felt like the house was too good for us! We have grown accustomed to our cosy, comfy, luxurious house now (oh the carpet, the bath, the insulation!!!) and I feel so incredibly lucky that we got to do it when we did, rather than having to wait for 20 years as we thought we would. It is beyond divine to have a proper laundry and no longer have all our piles of washing lining the hallway to greet friends. It is so wonderful to have a house that does not maintain the same temperature as outside, in all seasons. Insulation is a glorious thing, truly glorious.

I also love that instead of putting all the money into building up (which was our original idea), we put it into a reasonably small back extension and renovating the existing house (except the kitchen – that one is waiting a while). By choosing a smaller extension, we got to do things like renovate the bathroom completely, have built-in robes installed in our bedrooms, re-carpet and paint the whole house, get double-glazing put in. These are all things that have a far more positive impact on our daily life than a parent retreat and balcony upstairs would do. The way our house is, it is a lovely size now; it will expand to capacity with the planned Sibling, and then it will still be a very comfortable size once it is back to just us two again. I really like being in a house where I feel like I won’t need to upsize or downsize somewhere down the line.

The before photos are in this post. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at them and I had forgotten how bad some of the internal cracks were!

 

Two weeks on, two weeks loooong

Nearly every month for the past three years has consisted of two weeks which fly by, and two weeks that drag by with excruciating slowness. Each day I check my calendar, but no, we’re not yet at that magic day. A few days later I check again – surely it must be close now – but no, still 8 days away. It is painful, torturous and has felt unending. Each month I tell myself I will not get caught up in the waiting game, and each month I find myself waiting, waiting, waiting.

Our plans did not ever stop at one child, you see. We always envisioned two children, close in age. We have made so many choices based on the assumption that we would have two children. A pram with the capability to to switch to a double. A double bike trailer instead of a single one. A box set aside containing half of my childhood toys, the other half having been given to Monsieur. Ditto with childhood books and teddies. We built an extension, a whole extension, so we could have a room for the planned sibling. There is also a laundry there as well, and it has been lovely having a proper guest room, but still, it was the plans for Sibling that prompted us to renovate and extend when we did.

So many plans made to fit the possibility of a pregnancy. A bridesmaid dress based on a maternity dress, because I could be at any stage of pregnancy by the time the wedding day arrived. I wasn’t, (well, actually it turned out I was, but only for the briefest of moments really). The dress had to be taken in considerably and there’s many a more flattering dress I could have chosen! A trip overseas for the second wedding was regretfully refused, as was a cruise for my step-brother’s 40th. The thought of possibly having morning sickness on a cruise was just too horrible to contemplate! So many decisions made, plans made or put off purely on the basis of “I might be pregnant then”.

So, so many months waiting. Sometimes there’s been a month or two where one or the other of us has been too sick at the crucial time, and honestly those months it’s been a relief to not be hanging over my calendar, counting the days until my period tells us what our future holds. For that month anyway. In all this time of waiting, some days it has felt like every one I know has had their second child, some their third. That is not the case at all, but the vast majority of Monsieur’s friends do have younger siblings now.

Three years, two miscarriages and now we’re booking in for IVF. I’m coming to the end of my waiting. I only have so much waiting left in me. Only so many months I have the heart to keep getting back on this roller coaster. Besides, it almost feels selfish, this desire for a second child. We are so blessed to have such a gorgeous, healthy son. Our lives are full and happy. I have friends who dearly want children, who do not have any and are facing down the same scary prospect of IVF, daily injections, possible disappointments in a hormone-fueled, heightened emotional state, not to mention the financial drain. If I could guarantee a child for one of those friends, by ceasing our quest to extend our family, I would stop in a heartbeat.

Oh and did you know that in order to undergo IVF treatment, both partners need to have a police check done. Just to make sure that they’re okay to be parents. Or something like that. But don’t go bringing in your more thorough Working With Children Check; it has to be the lesser researched Police Check. This is the legislation which makes even the people working at Melbourne IVF look like they can’t decide whether to roll their eyes at the absurdity, or apologise greatly for requiring you to pass checks not required of anyone who can have children naturally.

Gertrude Street Projection Festival

Tonight we went to the Gertrude Street Projection Festival with friends. I haven’t gone through all my photos yet, so will do a proper post next week, but I was excited to post a couple of photos.

I love experiencing these things through Monsieur’s eyes. He notices things that I do not and takes such delight in new discoveries; sometimes the discoveries may be what we came to see, like the projections and sometimes the discoveries can be chink in the wall where he can see the red glow of a light! Going with friend of his just doubled the experience of seeing things through their eyes.

The images are not as clear as I might like, but I love my camera for managing these shots, at night, on the move, sans tripod.

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Everyone needs a goal

Monsieur spent a good portion of his day today doing things to earn money. He is saving up for something that he really wants. It all started last week, when a small toy caught his eye as we were walking past a bookshop. It was one of those hatch-it-yourself eggs – an egg that you put in water for 24-36 hours and the shell slowly dissolves to reveal the creature inside. He desperately wanted it, and really loves watching the eggs hatch, so I told him that he should go inside and ask the price. If it was $5 or less, he could have it. He went inside, politely asked the shop assistant  who informed him that it was $6. He was crestfallen and I was so tempted to say “Well, $6 is only a little bit over. Yes you can have it” But I really want him to grow up with an understanding of money, and saving for things, and not spending beyond your means. So I stuck to what I said, and told him that we needed to put the egg back because it was more than $5 and that was the limit that I had set. We spent the next ten minutes with him holding tightly to the egg saying that he would never put it back, and me just sitting with him (this was going to take a while, so I made myself more comfortable!) and reiterating that it was more expensive than the limit I set and I wouldn’t buy it for him.

At one point, I really thought we might stay there for half an hour – possibly the people at the next door cafe who were looking on with interest thought so too. Parenting always feels like the stakes are higher with an audience, although ultimately I know that what matters is my relationship with my son; not whether complete strangers applaud or condemn my parenting skills. However, he eventually put the egg back and we continued on our way. I was so proud of him. He had such strong emotions that he was battling, and he mastered them enough to move on.

We had a wait in the post office and he was so well behaved, remarkable considering the emotional turmoil he’d just been through. So I was thinking to myself that I might give him $1 change, that could go with the $5 I was willing to spend, so that he could get the egg. Although I was still debating the idea, as to whether it was a good thing to do (rewarding him for showing restraint) or whether it would set a bad precedent (so often a concern). Then he spotted a remote control Thomas train, and begged me to come and look at the “most awesome thing ever”. The train was $40, so a definite and easy “no”. He was much easier to lure away this time, to my relief, and I took him outside and gave him $1. I then showed him my $5 and together we worked out that equaled $6, the exact cost of the egg. Then I gave him a choice; he could go and buy the egg with his money and my money, or he could keep the $6, and start saving to buy the remote control Thomas. I was so sure that the immediate gratification of the egg would win out, but it did not. He thought about it and said he wanted to save up for the Thomas.

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On the walk back to the car, he asked how he would get more money. So far his money box has been fed with coins found around the house; occasionally pilfered straight out of my purse! This is not a method to encourage once collecting money becomes a goal. I told him that his Daddy and I would think of some things he can do to earn money, the same way Mummy and Daddy have things they do to earn money.

Every day after that he asked what he could do to earn money, so we had to come up with some ideas fast! Fortunately R and I have already had discussions about how we think pocket money should work and what stipulations we put on pocket money or money earned for completing extra tasks. The discussion about pocket money has not yet reached it’s full and final point, but we don’t intend to start pocket money for a few years yet. We always intended for there to be tasks that he could do to earn additional money however, so that is where we are starting.  It is important to us that any paid house chores are not chores that we expect him to do just as being part of the family. So things like clearing the table, loading dishwasher, cleaning room, vaccuuming etc, are things that we all pitch in and do. No one gets paid for them. However things like washing the windows and washing the car are things that he could do to earn extra money.

Of course, in our discussions we never expected that he would start so young! When thinking up things to do, we wanted them to be things that:

  • he could reasonably manage
  • would actually be helpful (so no make-busy tasks)
  • are not household tasks that come under the “being part of a family” umbrella

We also broke them down into small steps, so that nothing was too overwhelming, and he could earn some money for doing part of a task. We also put in bike riding, as he has been going through a phase of always choosing scooter over bike and we want to get him over the hurdle of thinking the bike is just too hard. The stipulation is that he needs to ride without any help – which he can do; he just falls back on our help too much. Our plan is to extend the distance he covers, as his confidence grows.

During the week, I wrote a list of all the things he could do to earn money and today he started.

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He started before he even got dressed for the day! Dusting the hallway bookshelves while his Daddy cooked breakfast.

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I was very impressed at his dedication, and determination to do a good job. He even dusted the fronts of the shelves – somewhere I’ve never thought to dust. Our bookshelves are looking much better than usual. I’m sure they could get used to getting dusted on a weekly basis!

Once he completed them, he worked out how much he had earned and we counted out the coins together. This is such a great way to bring in counting, addition and lessons in currency! He has a chart to track his progress and his adorable penguin money box to put all the money in.

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After breakfast, cleaning out the car was on the agenda. His attention was waning, so this took quite a long time. It definitely takes time and patience to teach him how to do a particular task and what we expect of him. I just kept telling myself that the first lesson is doing it properly and once he does things properly, then the next lesson is to do things quickly (and properly). It can be so hard watching a task take over an hour, when I could do it myself in 10 minutes, but this is about more than just the present time; this is about instilling skills, work ethic, focus and allowing him the time to learn, at his pace.

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Okay, I didn’t completely allow him to go at his own pace. I needed the car done by a particular time so I did give him a time deadline, after which I would finish the car, but he did have a generous amount of time to get it done in. He did get very distracted in the backseat, where there are many toys and books of his!

He was very proud of himself after he completed each task and was so chuffed to have earned money for his remote control Thomas.

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I have sourced the remote control Thomas at the local K-Mart, just in case the post office sells out before Monsieur has finished saving up for it. I could think of nothing worse than him going in to the post office, so proud and excited to be buying his first thing with money he earned, only to be told that there were none left. That is a brutal lesson that he can learn much later on – perhaps I’ll teach him about lay-by at that time too!

Four…and a bit

Monsieur is proudly telling people that he is four now. This has been a big milestone in his eyes and we have been hearing many tales of “When I was three, I couldn’t xyz; but now that I’m four, I can!” One day when a friend was visiting he came out and announced “We’re going to the railway playground”. By “we”, he meant himself, his friend (3 1/2 yrs old) and his friend’s brother (2 yrs old). When I pointed out that they needed a parent to go with them he declared “But I’m FOUR!!!” Apparently four is the age at which you can take yourself, and your friends, to the playground!

So where are things at with him now (since it’s been a year…)

Sleep: Continues brilliantly. I am still indebted to sleep school and the support structure they gave us. Even now, if he has a bad dream or is having trouble going to sleep, he will ask me to tap him. It amazes me how long-reaching and positive the effects have been, especially considering how scared I was of ruining our relationship and “breaking” our beautiful boy. He continues to be an early riser, but at the much more civilised time of 6am or thereabouts. Sometimes 7-7:30 on the weekends, and 5am when staying at someone else’s house! Many months ago we decided that the rule on weekends was “not before 7”. So even if we hear him awake and singing, we won’t go into him until after 7 am. Sometimes he’ll go back to sleep, sometimes he’ll chatter and sing until we go in, which can be up to an hour. But he won’t get out of bed. At all. It has been so bizarre. We switched him to a single bed last September, and I was ready for the prolonged bedtimes as he realised he had freedom to get in and out of bed. But no, nothing. He won’t get out of bed until we open the door in the morning. He just won’t. Until…this week. A couple of days ago for the first time he got out of bed and opened the door himself. Now we’re not allowed to open the door until he’s up. It still catches me by surprise how quickly these things can change and bam! you’re in a new phase.

Oh and naps are long gone. They tapered out last July, and now only happen if he’s really tired, but usually to the detriment of his bedtime, so it’s not something we encourage.

Food: Monsieur loves baking with me and tasting all the ingredients. Tonight we had tacos and he made his own for the first time; he made soft tacos with cheese, meat and sour cream, and loved it! He doesn’t like crunchy things, so salads are not popular with him, but he’ll eat all veggies cooked. I did have a moment yesterday of wondering how he was our son, when I suggested going to Koko Black to get a chocolate teddy pop and he responded “Oh, no. I don’t have time for that today”. No time for chocolate?! At the place where the manager invariably gives him extra chocolate??!! He later explained that he’d already had a treat that day when they had fairy bread and icy poles at kinder so he had had enough treats. Well, that blew my mind! May he always keep such awareness of his body and what it needs and doesn’t need. At 37, I still can’t do that enough. He did receive an insane amount of chocolate at Easter this year, but he paced himself. We left the chocolate in his room and the only rule was that he had to wait until after a meal to eat chocolate. His bowl of chocolate lasted over a month. I don’t think I ever showed such restraint as a child!

Banana and yoghurt are still a favourite meal; we always have to have bananas and yoghurt on hand, and cheese. He loves the mini babybel cheeses that you peel the wax off.

Language: He talks so much and tells such involved stories now. He still sings all the time, but now he has words to his songs. He’ll just make up little ditties about what he is doing at that moment. I love listening to them, but am almost never able to capture it on video.When I try to recall the songs later, they just slip away.

The constant “why” has well and truly hit home. Sometimes there seems to be a genuine question behind it, but sometimes it seems like he asks it automatically. We have started reminding him to ask a “full” question so that he will stop and think about what it is he is trying to ask. Sometimes the “why” questions can get frustrating, but usually when it feels like a cycle rather than a search of knowledge. I do feel my general knowledge is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of a curious child. Oh boy, is it inadequate. R is so much better at explaining the why of things, and at explaining the meaning of words.

I think that the last couple of regular mispronunciations have vanished – I haven’t heard a “pasghetti” or “washingshashamine” out of his mouth for some time. There are some new words that he has difficulty with at first, but he keeps practicing until he can pronounce them correctly. It is definitely hard to be objective though as his mum; sometimes he’ll say something and I notice another adult having a bit of trouble understanding him, but it was very clear to me. I think that sometimes he doesn’t finish his words clearly enough, but I know his speech patterns, so my brain fills in any missing pieces from his speech. However, he is good at repeating things more clearly when someone indicates that they haven’t understood him.

General Development: We seem to be in a period of sudden growth again in his abilities and confidence. All year we’ve been periodically trying to get him interested in getting himself dressed/undressed, and wiping his bottom. Suddenly, in the past week, he’s doing both, as well as getting himself up out of bed. It never rains but it pours; even in developmental growth! He can’t get his tops on or off, but pants, socks, shoes and jackets he has worked out. Kinder has been great for that; clearly the teachers have been teaching him some tricks to help.

And yes, he started kinder this year. Talk about a change. He has just blossomed. He is so happy there; even asking to stay in after kinder care just so he can be there longer! Given that he is there 8:30-2:45 five days a week already, this really impressed me. He has made some great friends there, and we’re seeing him gaining so much confidence and interest in trying more and more things. He can write his name now, and the other day he wrote “Papa” on a piece of paper, completely unprompted. He can also read or recognise the names of all his kinder classmates – there is a tray of stones at the door, each with a name on it. When the children arrive, they have to find their stone and place it in the bowl to show that they’ve arrived. Monsieur will check out the bowl and tell me who has arrived and who isn’t at kinder yet.  He always looks for his best friend’s name first, and is sad if she’s ever not there.

He also started swimming lessons in second term. During the summer he was making great progress with his confidence and ability in the water, and started asking when he would be going to swimming lessons. He kept asking periodically in February and March, so finally in April we started swimming lessons for him. He absolutely loves it, and even participated in their swimathon a couple of weeks ago. He was so proud, and happy to get extra time in the pool. He is also regularly asking us to take him to the local pool on weekends. His water baby tendencies have definitely emerged.

As well as being a complete water baby, like his mumma, he is also a complete cat boy. We have whole mornings where most of our conversation is in meows and purrs! He’ll follow me around, just like a cat, and smooch against my legs, and snuggle into my lap whenever possible. It is pretty adorable. He has declared that Shakti is his cat and Jai is Mummy and Daddy’s cat, “because Jai doesn’t like me”. True enough. Jai tolerates him, sometimes, but Shakti loves him. She always comes in for storytime, and loves to hang out with him and his friends. For a jumpy kitty, she really does like to be in amongst all the kids.

Monsieur is really coming into his own. He knows what he likes and wants, and knows what he doesn’t like. He has decided this year that he doesn’t want his hair cut; he says that the hair hurts when it is cut. He wants his hair long and he even combs it when I tell him that he has to comb and look after his hair properly if he wants it long. From the boy who hates having his hair washed or combed, that is a big thing. He has remained adamant that pink is his favourite colour, telling me earlier this year when I asked him his favourite colour,  “Pink! It’s still pink. It’s going to be pink forever!”  I have overheard him standing up for his love of pink a few times now, and it makes my heart so happy to hear him so firm in himself in the face of opposition. Yet, he is so quick to mimic actions, behaviours and words of other children. He only has to see or hear something once and he’ll be trying it for months. Or weeks at the least. It’s strange to see how he can be so sure of himself in some regards yet so susceptible to others’ influence in other ways. It’s painful to watch when he picks up a behaviour that is just not him, but he’s decided that it’s cool because that’s what so-and-so does. I can really see how much influence a peer group can have on a child, and sometimes it’s scary to think about. We are so lucky that his kinder class is such a lovely group.

Favourites: Trains remain a firm favourite. We recently stayed with friends who had an enviable train set in their house; he was very happy to sit there for ages playing with the trains! We went to the Sandringham Train Expo in March and spent all day there; even getting to know some of the exhibitors who commented that we were *still* there. He was entranced by all the model railways. Whilst in Brisbane last week, we took him to The Workshop Rails Museum in Ipswich; he told me he didn’t ever want to leave that sort of place.

An equal favourite would be the TV show, Blaze and the Monster Machines, which we found completely by accident one day when browsing YouTube videos. We are fans of it too; great characters and it teaches STEM concepts in a way that is easy to understand without dumbing things down, which Monsieur will then refer to in everyday life. It was really made an impression on him. I do hope they continue this show. So far it has only had one season. He received a special package in the mail today from a lovely friend in America who bought the die-cast models of the characters for him as they are not available here. All day he has been playing games with these monster trucks, and tonight his favourite, Blaze, went to bed with him.

His love of books continues, and we have introduced him to Dr Seuss in the last couple of months. He loves “The Sneetches”, but we have read “Red Fish, Blue Fish” a fair amount too. He also has discovered Grug books, and loves all books by Mo Willems. Lynley Dodd books are on rotation too, with Scarface Claw being his first hero! He loves listening to audio books in the car and a friend just told me about the library’s audio book borrowing service so I will be checking that out in the next month or so.

He still loves to play hide and seek, and is getting better at hiding now. Sometimes, he won’t even sing to let us know where he is!

How am I feeling? I am so delighted that the transition to kinder has gone so well. It’s been a bit of a stressful year at home, so it has been really wonderful for him to have such stability and continuity at kinder. I was relieved that he settled in so well and so quickly. I really wasn’t sure what to expect or how he would be, going from being with me all the time to being in kinder five days a week. So many people asked me how I would be and warned me that I would miss him terribly. But it was the right time for both of us. He has relished having so much time with children his own age, and getting to do things that I wouldn’t necessarily get around to at home. I have relished having head space to do some of the things that I’ve been wanting to do. The first day, after putting him to bed I sat down and suddenly felt like I’d barely seen him all day, but apart from that one night, I haven’t really missed him. Maybe it would be different if I weren’t working, but last year it was so hard juggling work whilst looking after him and feeling constantly torn between him and all the things that needed doing. I felt like I was doing everything badly. Now I can focus on work when I go to work, I can focus on the house or organisational projects when I’m home and I can focus on Monsieur after I pick him up each day. At least, that’s how I see the next term panning out – as I mentioned, this year had a stressful start so this wonderful sounding lifestyle hasn’t actually worked out for longer than two weeks at any time, if that!

 

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