We’re Moving…and consequently learning a lot about home staging

It’s decided. We are packing up and moving later this year. After I landed a job in another city my husband and I decided it was no longer sensible to stay where we are. We only live here because it is where I always worked. My husband works in another town and now I am too. Both of us commuting is difficult. And with our son in daycare, it is nerve wracking to know that if there was an emergency we wouldn’t be able to get to him quickly.

We started looking late last year in the town where my husband works. I work in Mississauga now and the housing prices there are much higher than where we are now (Kitchener). With my husband working in Guelph we decided to look there. We ended up going with a new build and it will close in July 2016. That gives us plenty of time to sell this house right?

Well it turns out, if you want people to pay top dollar for your house you have to put some work into it. So for the last few months it seems weekends have been spent getting the house ready to move. Our realtor went through our house Room by Room and told us everything he suggested  to do to get it ready to sell.

This list is long.

At one point, I wanted to argue with the realtor. I said “Why do we have to stage? A lot of the houses we looked at weren’t staged?”

His response was something along the lines of “You didn’t want to buy those houses though remember?”

Oh yah, there is something unappealing about seeing a person’s dirty dishes in the sink when you are looking to buy their house….

Some of the jobs are not too hard and won’t be done until we’re listing. Like packing up most of Calvin’s toys and decluttering the house. But then there were bigger jobs, like installing a closet door in the front hall…yah, for some reason that was taken down before we moved in. I always hated it and we finally installed a new door and I can’t believe the difference. Previously, the first thing people would see when they walked in was a closet with no door. When you are selling a house and those people are buyers, it means the very first thing the buyer sees is a project. We also installed new counter tops in our kitchen. I guess the previous owners thought that cutting boards and trivets were optional items and decided to burn and cut through the existing laminate. The cabinets were a bit dated but we really didn’t want to tackle that job. So instead I bought new modern hardware and I can’t tell you the difference it made!

(If you hate your kitchen cabinets, try replacing the hardware. It made me stop hating them!).

These are items we noticed and didn’t like when we bought the house. But we also realized we could use them to our advantage and get the price down and we would fix them ourselves…as it turns out, we ended up living with a lot of the problems and are now only rushing to finish them as we are ready to sell ourselves. (Sigh. Lesson learned, next house, try to do some of the projects I want done so I can enjoy them too!)

A few weeks ago we took apart Calvin’s change table and rearranged his bedroom to make it appear bigger. And it really does make the room feel bigger. Of course, after 10 days of changing him on the floor constantly I was sick of that and now Calvin get’s changed on a bed. Which is actually rather inconvenient since the bed is not in the same room as all his stuff. I am not going to lie though. His face when we were rearranging his room was one of panic and stress. His facial expressions varied from confusion to stress to excitement about the finding of a random puzzle piece previously thought to be lost but reclaimed from the dreaded land of “under the crib”.

This week we have been working on touching up paint throughout the house which included repainting the bathroom ceiling completely. Cleaning out the trash left by the previous owner from the crawl space and taking a trip to the dump and recaulking the bathtub. (And yes, recaulking the bathtub was my job).

We are now a few weeks out from when we were planning to list the house and it doesn’t seem like the list has gotten smaller. In fact, it actually grew. We found water damage in the unfinished crawl space below the main level of the house and so we have a professional company coming in next week to fix that.

What I have learned so far from the tasks we have completed is that when you are selling your house staging is important.  Husband and I have both exclaimed how much better things looked after doing the changes suggested by our realtor. I know it is hard to take down personal mementos and remove furniture and keep nothing on your counter tops. Living in a house that is trying to sell is a pain in the ass. For that reason I hope our house doesn’t last long on the market) but when you are selling a house you have to think of it as “not your house anymore.” You want it to appeal to other people, and shockingly enough, your tastes are not the same as other people’s tastes.

So for the time being, we will suck it up. Spend our evenings and weekends doing projects and living in house that no longer feels like a home. But hopefully at the end of all this, we will get the a good price for the house.

 

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Who’s the worst blogger ever?

That title may solidly go to me. Apparently I can’t even maintain a blog!

Let’s recap what happened in the last 6 months. About a week before my son would be 1 year old I got laid off. My husband was home with Calvin for the last 4 months of his first year and so I had been back at work for about 16 weeks at that point. I was told on a Thursday. I wasn’t escorted out of the building so that was nice (I guess in terms of how lay-offs go). I was allowed to say good bye and give a heads up to people. Get personal files off my computer and clean out my desk over the next couple of days.

My husband literally didn’t believe me when I walked in the door that day. But alas it happened. He looked at me and I told him “Well you were wrong, Executives sometimes do lay off their assistants.”

I then had to adjust to the thought of not having a job for the foreseeable future. We had vacation booked the next week and we still went on that and it was enjoyable to relax but there was a nagging feeling the whole time because I didn’t know what was going to happen with my future.

I started applying for jobs. Got contacted by a few for more information and told I was too qualified. Got interviews for a few and made it through multiple interviews rounds which felt great.

When a job I thought was perfect for and I made it to the final round of interviews (and had a great rapport with the director) told me I missed the mark just so closely (“We hired 8 people and you were our number 9 candidate.”) I was a wreck. I started to doubt myself thinking there will always be someone better than me for a job.

I went back and forth between optimism and self-pity. I would see a posting and thing “I got this” and then not hear anything and think “Well I am worthless.”

We kept Calvin in day care part time as we hoped I would find work quickly and we didn’t want to scramble to find care for him if something came up. Plus we found that he was doing really well in day care and socializing. But every week that went by and I hadn’t found a job I really started to doubt myself. Did we make the right decision? We are basically throwing money away when technically I could be watching him. But anyone who has been unemployed knows, looking for work can take a lot of your time so we felt it was good that I was free to work on the job hunt while he was in daycare.

I ended up getting a job offer with 2 months lead time for it to start. It is in another city but is exactly the career I want. I have been doing it for 5 weeks now and it is going really well. My husband and I even decided to move and before Christmas bought a new house (it’s being built right now) and got to experience the joys of picking out interiors (and the not so joys of realizing that it’s considered an additional cost to have drawers in your kitchen…but that’s a blog post for another day).

So there you have it. 6 months in a nut shell.

  1. Job lost
  2. 4 month of alternating between feeling positive and wallowing in depression that I would never find a new job
  3. Get offered new job to start in two months
  4. Two months of freedom and house hunting
  5. Bought a new house
  6. Started new job
  7. Getting ready to stage the house –

 

Bad Gifts aren’t just for Mother’s Day! 

Yes, That’s right, I am working on a follow up to my popular review of terrible mother’s day gifts by compiling terrible Father’s Day gift ideas! If you have seen any that are particularly heinous please send them to me at laidbackmommy@hotmail.com

Already there have been a few gems that have made it on to my list but let me start with a teaser that I found posted on a classifieds site.

wishing well for father's day
“For Sale: Wooden Wishing Well. 1 Left! Will be making more. Great for Fathers Day gift. Useful for hiding steel well casing for private well owners; also great for flower bed/Garden decoration. 3 ft Tall x 2 ft wide. Delivery can be arranged. $140. OBO”
My initial reaction is that  this was not a great Father’s Day gift. But being a Mom I figured I would check with my Father’s Day Authority – My husband.

Between the two of us we have agreed that this does constitute an unfortunate Father’s Day gift.

Nothing says we love you dad like spending $140.00 on a decorative miniature well for the garden. In my husband’s case, this just acts as another obstacle to mowing and weed whacking and likely would end up destroyed by the weed whacker.

 I appreciate that this person only has “1 more left!” so I guess it is popular with people who like lawn decor, I think that it is a bit of a stretch to say it’s a great father’s day gift. There are a lot of father’s (my husband included) who categorically agree that anything that acts as an obstacle to mowing the lawn is not a great gift.

Nothing says Happy Father’s Day to the man who raised you like actively making his yard work harder!

PS – Is it really necessary to say “1 Left!” to only follow up with “Will be making more”? Is there such a huge demand for these or is the poster just trying to create a sense of demand for what is likely a fairly niche product?

Mother’s Day Review OR “Why yes, I did ship my child to his grandparent’s on my first Mother’s Day!”

As promised after last week’s review of some, frankly, terrible mother’s day gifts, I am back with a quick update on how my first Mother’s Day went.

First some background, in my immediate family (i.e. Husband, C and myself) none of us have our “own” birthday. We all share our birthday with another special occasion. Regular followers will be aware that C was born on Canada Day, I am born right near Thanksgiving and my Dad’s birthday is 2 days before mine and my husband is born 3 days before his dad’s birthday which also falls around mother’s day. In fact, Husband was actually born on a Mother’s Day Sunday which means my Mother in Law became a Mom on Mother’s Day.

But I digress.

The point I am trying to make here, is that while I went into Mother’s Day expecting that Husband would do something for me (despite his jokes leading up to the day “But you’re not my mother…”) I realized that the weekend was also shared with Husband’s birthday and Father in Law’s birthday so I didn’t go in expecting it to be all about me because I am an adult and realize that other people have things happening in their lives too, and a special day for you doesn’t mean it’s only about you (unlike Rodney from this season of Survivor who believes that the world revolves around you and should stop on your day).

That said, the day before mother’s day we had Shed-Building Day. The in-laws and some friends helped us put up a new shed in the backyard. That night, I had dinner reservations and tickets to a concert for Husband and I to celebrate his birthday and the plan was for my in laws to leave sister in law to watch C while we went out and the next day we would all head to the in-laws for Mother’s Day.

Well, in the end we decided why have the babysitters in our house when we could send C to grandparent’s house on Saturday night for a sleepover! We were able to go out enjoy ourselves, come home to a house without a baby and relax and my husband’s family got a lot’s time with C.

So here I was on Mother’s Day morning waking up without a child in the house! I slept in until 9:30am!! I know. Can you believe it? It was glorious. So basically if that was the end of my mother’s day I would have been happy. But it wasn’t, Husband proceeded to give me a lovely card which made me laugh with how it started…

“Remember when we first fell in love and everything was so simple…” 

Oh yes, the simple days of being in love and not also being in charge of the well-being of a tiny person.

From there the two of us went to the mall where we picked up a birthday present for his dad and some plants for his mother and grandmother who we would be seeing later that day, we also brought dessert. Gluten Free Key Lime pie (which I love and I haven’t had key lime pie in years but recently found a GF bakery to do one for me).

The minute C saw me and heard my voice saying his name when we arrived, he got so excited and tried to get to me. Unfortunately, having been put in the exersaucer while his babysitters were eating lunch he ended up flailing around a the whaky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man.

Why yes, this is my first gif in a blog post! I know so tach-savy of me
Why yes, this is my first gif in a blog post! I know so tech-savy of me

From there, my very generous sister in law took us (as in me and Mother in Law, not husband or baby) for Pedicures. Which I had not had done since before C was born so my super gnarly toes very much appreciated it.

The rest of the day was relaxing. I got cards from my in laws and C got me a new charm for my Pandora Bracelet that says “Mom”. Apparently, C was a big hit with the ladies in the Pandora store when he was shopping with Husband. I guess there was no one else in the store so he decided to charm everyone…(groan and yes, pun – Totally intended).

We had a great dinner of steak and shrimp and the family was impressed by how much C loved to eat shrimp (because you’re never too young for surf and turf I guess) and then the 3 of us headed home.

In the end, I may have had to “share” Mother’s Day with some birthdays, I may have brought the dessert for everyone, and I may have helped make dinner and changed diapers (though somehow husband didn’t change any) but Mother’s Day wasn’t about me not having to do anything or being spoiled. It was just about enjoying some quality time with my son, husband and family. Even if I did pawn my son off on his grandparents for the night.

Why are you apologizing to me?

First off, let me start this by stating that I know for many of you living outside of Canada the idea that I got paid about 50% of my regular salary for 8 months to be home with my newborn with the knowledge that my job was protected is enviable. Next make sure you have swallowed any liquids so you don’t spit them at the screen in disbelief with what you are about to read, because seriously, I can only imagine what mothers in countries without good maternity policies are thinking when they hear that someone said to me:

“I’m sorry you had to come back to work early from your maternity leave.”

I technically could have stayed off until my son turned 1, so yes, I did come back to work “early” if you think 8 months is early. However, in Canada, we are lucky enough to be able to split our leave with our partner so my husband is enjoying 4 months off with baby C.

So to recap, someone actually apologized, offered me empathy, and lamented that I only got to have 8 months at home with my son.

To be honest, when she started the sentence I thought maybe it was going to go something along the lines of, “I’m sorry your Grandfather died last year, I didn’t realize it at the time” Or “I’m sorry to bother you but can you order more supplies.”

Since I have no qualms or guilt about our decision to split parental leave, I pointedly looked at her and said,

“Why are you apologizing to me? I wanted to come back to work.”

Well after split second look of confusion on her face it apparently dawned on her the completely off-base assumptions she had made about my feelings towards work. She backtracked; laughed it off because she had 14 months off and felt it wasn’t enough…and of course, doesn’t every mother feel this way?

Where am I going with this? Well, this seemingly innocuous discussion got me thinking about the nature of staying home vs working. Despite all the advancements in women’s rights and the normalization of mother’s working and having jobs beyond pumping out babies and taking care of the house, there is still this underlying assumption many people make that women who return to work are giving up something and really would rather be home as much as they can. The thought that if I didn’t have bills to pay then I wouldn’t work is especially common.

As much as I love my son, I love solving problems beyond, “How do I get this stain out of this shirt?” I need to work.

I think that it’s about time that we shift the narrative. Instead of apologizing to me for “giving up” leave to my husband, how about we recognize we actually do have a very generous maternity/parental leave policy in Canada and that sharing parenting with the father of my son seems to me to be perfectly natural.

Women tell me they wouldn’t trust their husbands at home all day taking care of an 8 month old. Personally, if I didn’t trust my husband to be able to raise a child, I would not have made a child with him.

My husband is lauded for being progressive for staying home. Things he does are praised like he just discovered a new element.

“Wow, it’s so great that you are staying home.”
“It’s so wonderful that you can clean a toilet”
“Oh would you look at that, he can get baby to sleep.”

Whereas I am pitied and judged because I had to come back to work.
“I can’t believe she gave up 4 months that she could have been with her son.”
“Doesn’t she miss him all day? How can her brain possibly think about anything other than a baby?”
“How could she possibly find her work to be more fulfilling than a diaper full of poop?”

At the end of the day, I wish people would realize we are not trying to make any particular statement on gender equality or the traditional gender roles within a household.

We are really just  two people raising our son together.

A new identity OR “Is that my life in the corner of the crawl space?”

It seems that I have reached the point where my pregnancy is all consuming. Maybe I bring it on myself because it has been big part of my life for the last 8 months and as the pregnancy progresses it becomes more noticeable. Maybe it is due to the fact that this has been a particularly difficult pregnancy with issues and complications which disrupted my ability to continue my normal day to day routine early in the pregnancy. How was I supposed to keep up with weight lifting when at 9 weeks you are told not to do any heavy lifting for risk of a hemorrhage rupturing?

Last year at this time, I was actively training for 8-10 hours minimum a week to compete at a national level sporting event on the other side of the country. This year, I am actively spending what seems like 8-10 hours a week walking to bathrooms so I don’t pee myself.

Exhaustion from being so big and carrying so much more weight means that I no longer enjoy heading to a farmer’s market to get inspired in the kitchen with my husband. I would rather just eat something quick and easy that takes no time.

We used to watch the food network, get inspired and make our own versions. (It’s how I perfected my bacon-blue cheese guacamole dip). Now we watch the food network while we stare at whatever quick meal is in front of us. Likely picked because of it’s low probability of giving me heart burn or coming back up later.

I used to have discussions about what is happening in the world and kept myself informed. Now I have to put a reminder in my calendar that I have to vote in the Provincial Election this week. (It’s shameful to write this because I have a degree in Political Science but I have barely followed this election in Ontario).

I used to share interesting and thought provoking articles with my husband and talk to him intelligently about many topics — now I send him articles about how to time contractions, or what a baby’s poop looks like as he ages and his diet changes.

I understand that parenthood changes life. But I didn’t expect it so soon.

When I think of not waking up every day and going to work I get panic attacks. I have worked since I was 14 years old. I worked all through high school, held summer jobs, worked close to full time while in University and had a job lined up before I even finished my final exams.

For 14 years I have always worked.

The idea of staying home terrifies me. I know this little person inside of me will need me and I will be able to fill my days but I am terrified about going from a job that challenges my intellect and allows me to constantly learn and develop my skills to worrying about how much the baby has eaten and pooped and whether he is sleeping enough.

It doesn’t help that our society makes it seem like we need to do so much for the new arrival. That more and more of my house is becoming baby-fied. We got rid of an air hockey table to make room for a play pen, we converted our office into a nursery, which meant that the guest room became the guest room/office which meant that my arts and hobbies area of the guest room was disassembled and relegated to bins in our crawl space. My sporting equipment sits forlornly in another corner down there.

I look in my crawl space and see my golf clubs, my weights, my paint brushes and paint, canvases with unfinished paintings, my dragon boat paddle and to me I am not seeing my stuff, I am seeing myself and wonder when I’ll be back enjoying these hobbies?

Everyone says I should be happy and excited about this new chapter of my life, and please don’t get me wrong, I am, but is it so wrong that when I look into that crawl space part of me thinks that is my life in the corner of the crawl space and I wonder when we’ll be able to take it out again?

***** the below was added to the post after a night of reflection****

Perhaps the above was written in a particularly hormonal moment of my pregnancy and I assure you that I am more excited than depressed about this baby coming.

I heard from my Mom that she felt similar feelings when she was having a child. I think perhaps a lot of women go through a fear of losing their identity when a child is on the way and perhaps we don’t talk about it enough.  I hope that others who feel the same way read this and know they are not alone.

My husband assures me that I am not losing my identity to my child but instead adding a new aspect to my already rich and diversified identity.

And that is a good thing.

 

 

Don’t worry, it’ll get better OR “Really, I don’t believe it will get better:

I am now into the second trimester.

The fabled Golden Age of pregnancy where morning sickness disappears, your energy returns, you feel the baby move and according to seemingly every mother I talk to it’s the best time to be alive.

Except for me.

I am in my second trimester and morning sickness still hits me with alarming regularity. I still feel exhausted and most days have to nap after work. I haven’t felt the baby move so I can’t even take joy in that yet.

I can’t tell you how many people in the last few weeks have told me, “Oh you’ll feel better once you get beyond xx weeks” (xx representing 12, 13, or 14 weeks, whatever it is, it’s always in the past) and I respond with “Well thanks, but I am at xx weeks now, so passed that….and still feeling like crap”

To which they usually respond…”Well you know it will be worth it when you hold your baby…”

As much as I know that I will enjoy holding my baby, I can’t help but think wistfully about the women who are rewarded with their baby without going through a wretched number of weeks with vomiting, exhaustion, nose bleeds, head aches, crippling round ligament pain, and not to mention the roommate to my fetus, the hemorrhage currently residing in my uterus that is always in the back of my mind.

When those women hold their baby do they enjoy it less than those of us for which pregnancy has been one trial after another?

I don’t think they do. 

My husband & sister have taken to calling me the “Pregnancy Cliche”. My Mom laughs sorrowfully when I explain a new unfortunate symptom and says she wishes she could relate (apparently her pregnancies were walks in the park). My mother in law relates very well (apparently my husband was not a good pregnancy for her) and has been very supportive and caring. 

I didn’t have any grand fantasies about pregnancy. I am not one of those women who thought it would be the most magical time in my life. However, I work with a lot of women who have been pregnant over the years and I have never heard them vomiting at their desk, or running passed all the cubicles to rush to the bathroom. I have done both of these too many multiple times. 

It would appear that I was not made for pregnancy. Countless friends have told me how they can’t believe how horrible my pregnancy has been and yet, those same people tell me that I’ll forget all about it and I’ll want to do it again soon. I don’t know if that is true. Maybe we will have more kids. Maybe we won’t. But I don’t think I will ever forget how miserable I was for the this pregnancy. 

I joke with my husband that if he wants another child he better find someone else to carry it, apparently others find this joke to be distasteful. Imagine how great I felt last night when another woman agreed with me that sometimes a pregnancy is just so terrible that the thought of doing it again is completely and utterly unfathomable.