Saturday, 14 February 2015

The post that was supposed to be "This Old House"

Time is not on my side.  I don't know how it's February 13th, and I've yet to dive into so many things I wanted to write about..

I wanted to do a post about "this old house".  I wanted to tell the story of how we started looking for a house in June of 2011 when we found out we were expecting Alexander.  Daniel and I were living at my 1 bedroom condo.  We'd been itching to buy a house for a while, and a pregnant belly was just want we needed to kick things into full speed.

I wanted to write about the journey of finding this house.  I wanted to post a bunch of "before" pictures and write about all the work we did to prepare for this baby.  I wanted to bring it all home with a few "after" pictures to show how much time and sweat we put into this house.. all for Alexander. 

But god help me, I cant get anything done, and it doesn't look like that's going to happen.  I'm anxiously pounding away at the keys trying to get SOMETHING out while Theo naps.  But he's been doing 1h10min lately, and it's given me zero time to get stuff done around the house AND blog. 

I don't know how it's mid February and it feels like time is flying.  I have (last minute) house guests this long weekend, and I feel like the long, cold, lonely February is being pulled from under my feet.  Before I know it, it will be his birthday and then March will just scoop me up with it's repetitive day to day nature of trying to get winter over with.  Dammit, can everything just stop for a second?

This house was a fixer-upper.  The lady how lived here was elderly and had a few cats.  The aesthetics of this house in it's before state don't do any justice to the kind of work that needed to go into getting this place liveable for our family.  The owner was old, and the cats were old.  And the worn down pink carpet was the cat's litter box.  If you don't know what old cat urine smells like, you're lucky.  It is among the top worst smells on earth in my opinion.

The dining room

The foyer

Living room - right side

Living room - left side

bedroom 1

bedroom 2
(a bad picture of) bedroom 2.. and I think if you look closely, you can see me in the mirror.  This was in late July.  I was 8 or so weeks along.
basement "den" area

basement "guest" area that was behind a wall in the den - not a closed off bedroom

(what was being listed as) bedroom 3.  It was in the basement.
Don't let the sunlight and moderately in-shape furniture sway you.  This house was a mess with smells and cat hair.  I'm not posting pix of the kitchen because the before probably looks better unfortunately.  She had laminate flooring put down in the kitchen and foyer area which we pulled up to put hardwood throughout.  We didn't put the hardwood down in the kitchen and didn't get the kitchen done (didn't have the time before the baby, and I didn't want to be without a kitchen with a newborn).  So the beat up, loose baseboards and cracked original 1950's tile are currently huge eye-sores in our every day kitchen. 

But back to the house.  It fitted the criteria for space and it was SOLID.  Good bones and very well maintained regarding the plumbing/electrical/water usage/etc.  I was pretty determined to stay within the city, and this is what nearly half a million dollars buys you where we reside... so we bought it.  I still owned my condo at the time, and maybe if it was off my hands, we could have bumped up our budget a few hundred grand.  But we called it a win as our mortgage is pretty manageable (now with me not working). 

We did all the demo ourselves.  (read: Daniel and his dad did all the demo as I was 5 months pregnant with Alexander when we got possession on September 27, 2011).  Carpets were removed and the old hardwood had to come up too.  The cat smell wasn't going anywhere with any of the original flooring still intact.  We took out all the carpet and under padding in the basement.  Once the carpet was removed on the second story, we saw that the original hardwood was in pretty good shape and the upstairs had NO CAT SMELL once the carpet was gone  Our old lady was good about keeping the cats out of the bedrooms it seems.  We took down all the wallpaper and removed the mirror in the dining room.  The wallpaper in the foyer WAS A BITCH.  The entire house is plaster walls excluding the basement and living room.  The living room used to be 2 bedrooms on the main floor, but (in the 80's I'm assuming based on the carpet choice??) it had been renovated using drywall. In the basement, we took down a wall that was partitioning the den area to double as a guest suite. 

The house was chaos for about 3 months.  Daniel and I were still working full time.  I didn't put my condo for sale until December 2011 when the hardwood and walls/paint were all done.

living room - right side.  Old hardwood and plywood seen
living room - left side

living room - walking in looking straight.  Subfloor exposed

Dining room.  Carpet out
bedroom 1 - closets out

bedroom 1
bedroom 2

bedroom 2

den area.  basement.  taking the wall down.  And... Dan's parents

bedroom 3.  Basement.  Floors gone

dining room.  Mirror removed.  All flooring removed

foyer - taking the wallpaper down.  A lot of wall came with it

basement hallway.  Looking from den to bedroom

bedroom 3 (in the basement) wallpaper removed and paint done

den area in basement floors up and paint done

Man, did we ever work for this kid.  We are nothing special or unique in that sense.  But we did it.  I saw this house and I saw Alexander in it as all the finishes were coming together. Along the way, I was SO WORRIED though.  When Daniel and his dad took down the mirror in the dining room, it shattered.  They should have taped it or done some thinking ahead, but it was a mess.  The subfloor was covered in glass shards.  I remember it was over Thanksgiving weekend, we took my family (from out of town) for a tour though the demo'd house.  It was mid October 2011.  There was debris and dust everywhere.  I felt tight for time, but not really.  It's as if I had all the time in the world.  I was due in February and was very confident that this house would be up and livable by December.  But I worried about cleaning and getting all the ick out before the newborn came home with us.  I was in a constant flip-flop of "oh no" and "this is so great".

But we did it.  We moved in mid January 2012, a week or so before my condo closed.  That same week was my last week of work, and at the end of that week, we had a baby shower at this house (another post hopefully I can get going by the end of the month... that one might be a doozy for me).  It was such an exciting time.  The 4 months we spent waiting for this baby with this house under our thumb was filled with an electricity.  It's as if he made it all happen.  Alexander was the mastermind behind this movement.  Every step that was completed, I was so excited for US.  The house was gutted (aesthetically) and the smell was gone (after a lot of fucking work and product trials - not done by me, I might add), and I could finally picture my family here.  The paint went up... and I visited afterward - I had visions of a clean, fresh start.  The floors went down, and I entered the house with a feeling of awe and disbelief.  It's happening, and had images of baby furniture and toys scattered about. 

dining room.  paint up, floors gone, beautiful day, proud daddy

Alexander's room.  Paint done and floors refinished.   The baseboards still needed a coat

Bedroom 2, Alexander's room.  I came back the next morning to look again because I was so excited.
January 29, 2012
And here's a picture I took of one of our cats.  The baby shower had just finished and Daniel was cleaning up.  That cat had come out of hiding for the first time in a week. The house was very empty but very ready.  WE were very ready. 

Alexander's room - February 26, 2012
This picture.  Oh this picture.  I realized it has actually become the last "belly shot" I have of Alexander.  See that grey slice of t-shirt on the bottom left side of the photo?  That's my belly.  You can even see the little bit of belly skin - that I didn't know was exposed - peeking out.  It was February 26th, a Sunday, and Daniel and I were going to make a trip to home de.pot to finally pick out a rug for his room.  "The baby's room", we called it as my overdue child was still yet to be named.  We bought a rug for our bedroom, the living and dining room... and we didn't go cheap either.  Funny story, I actually - at 9+ months pregnant - put down the under pad and rug in our bedroom all by myself.  Moving the bed, lifting corner by corner of the frame, shifting and obsessing on how straight it was, all by myself.  I mean, Daniel was THERE, but I insisted I do it BECAUSE HE JUST WASN'T HELPING THE RIGHT WAY.  The things I did with this massive belly...I wish I had these quirky stories to tell after a tremendously healthy pregnancy with a perfectly perfect baby to show for it all at the end.  Fuck.
But back to this picture.  I left the baby room rug for last because I didn't want to blow my budget on something that felt like it might be a temporary design idea.  I had to think about it. 
Daniel took this picture because I always second guess my decisions while in the store.  "I don't know if it will go with the chair/floors/wood/walls/etc...I just cant remember what the room looks like right now!!"  and we leave empty handed and with a decision NOT made.  So Dan took this picture.  On my black.berry phone and we went on our way. 
We bought a rug that day.  This picture helped.  Little did I know it would hold so much more weight than just a silly room reference.
The rug was ready for pick up 2-3 weeks after we ordered.  So essentially 2-3 weeks after Alexander was stillborn.  We picked it up.  I cant remember if we left it rolled up, or if I opened it and laid it out right away to get it over with.  But I do remember it being a perfect fit for what my mind's eye saw that day on February 26th.
(I changed out the bedspread after Alexander died.  I didn't like it in the first place, and it was an impulse Ik.ea purchase.  I felt it was more of a spread for an older child)
But a lot went into this house.  And for no other reason than I don't know where to go exactly with this post, I'll throw some side by sides up to show the drastic differences.  All of the after pictures were taken recently.  Yes, my house is messy.  I'm an awful maid.  And we have a ton of storage shortages in this house.  But Voila.  The house we bought for Alexander.

Bedroom 1.  "master" bedroom, although is the same size as the room across the hall, but has a skylight.  And an overflowing laundry hamper in the "after" shot.

Bedroom 3.  Basement.  We use this as our guest space.  Still a huge work in progress - yet it hasn't changed in 2 years.

Den.  another room in the basement.  We took down the wall that was behind me in the before pic.  It's one long room now, with a treadmill and desktop computer work space where that little bedroom nook used to be.  Also seen: piles of our crap. Ha!

Dining room.  I didn't actually take any pictures of my own of the before state.  This one is from the selling site I copied back when we were looking.  Sure, her house didn't LOOK all that bad, but my god the smell would knock you over.  My house may LOOK all that bad, but it doesn't smell.  Unless Theo pooped, and the diaper somehow hangs around at the change table too long and stinks up the room.  Keepin it real ;)  But that's our dining room, screaming for some built-in's

Foyer.  Pink was this lady's colour

Basement during demo vs basement done.  This is looking towards the guestroom from the den.  The stairs are still unfinished in the "after" shot.  3 years, and I haven't painted them. 

Living room top pix before, bottom pix after.  left side pix are views of the right side of the room, and right side pix are views of the left side of the room.  You're welcome for making this confusing. 
I hated the house after he died.  I hated our street and I hated our yard and I hated our backyard even more so than I did went we took the plunge and bought it despite of that awkwardly shaped useless piece of outdoor space.  I hate hate HATED this house!  Because I used to love it so much.  I hated it for holding so much promise and for now living in it empty and so let down.  So broken.  This damn fucking house I wanted to burn to the ground.  I was so confused and ripped apart by the WHY.  WHY DO ALL THIS?!?! WHAT THE FUCK WAS ALL THIS FOR?!?!  All I could remember was Daniel coming home to the condo so excited and nervous.  Brimming with anxiety about the future of this house, but that anxiety was mixed in with so much anticipation, it was sort of all positive.  And we did it, and then he just DIED??  I wanted to become a giant and pick this house up and rattle it.  Shake it with frustration for not working.  Slam it to the ground and tell it to fuck off. 
And in that hate and frustration, I still wanted it nice and pretty and I really wanted to keep going with so many design ideas ..... but it never happened.  Sadly, I lost all motivation to give a fuck about this house and how goddamn nice it looked on the inside.  And it's a tough spot in casual conversation.  "yeah, we bought in 2011 and transformed the shit out of this place... and now.. well now... it's kind of stayed the same since my baby died and there are no pictures on the walls... at all".  (those words have never actually been said, and I don't talk about this house and it's history in my life in any kind of detail BECAUSE my baby died.  Yet another thing that cant be normal I guess).


I'm not entirely sure what I wanted to accomplish in writing this post.  I know I wanted to get a piece of Alexander's story on paper and out of my system.  There is rarely a thought about this house that doesn't bring me through this sweep of emotions - the beginning, the middle and the end of how this house came to be.  I'd like to be able to separate my core feelings about this house from all the feelings that are tied into Alexander DYING in this house.  I don't hate this house so much now.  I'm actually loving it a lot of days with all the memories we're making in it with Theo.  But it still wears on me.  There were so many things we settled for when buying this place that seemed like small potatoes because we were getting such a huge return on our plunge.  A baby.  But this house weighs me down with "if we would have known then what we know now....". 
It will be a sad day when we move.  I know that much.  There is so much emotion tied up in this place, it's going to gut me a bit. 
I'm not sure what anyone else will be able to take away from anything I wrote, but I definitely feel a purged feeling after getting this all out.  As if this has been on my "to-do" list (for some reason) for nearly the past 3 years, and it feels good to finally check this one off. 
House... In all you brought with you, and all you took away...You have been talked about.
If anyone is curious about the rug I bought for Alexander's room on my last pregnant day with him alive.. Here is a picture from last year of it with his little brother hanging out


  1. That Alexander sure is loved! All that demo, and chemical-testing, and decor-choosing… All that in anticipation of the beautiful boy who was to fill it with joy. I have so many of the same emotions tied-up in my Toronto house… All the renovations, the meticulous decorating of Jack's nursery at 28+ weeks pregnant… The spending of thousands of dollars (okay, so probably about $1500 on furniture/rugs/etc. lol) to make a perfect little habitat for a boy.

    I remember HATING my house when I came home empty handed because it was like a huge broken promise. I built a home for him, and he didn't come.

    <3 Love your house. It was perfect for him.

  2. You and I both.

    I hated this house for a long time, and secretly still resent it. We bought our house 9 months before Andrew was born. He was conceived two weeks after we closed on the house and 9 months later and lots of wallpaper peeling and DIY projects and nursery prepping and excitement of the memories we would make... all came to a crash boom when he died. The big ass house we bought for him was useless. There are four bedrooms, two bathrooms and an office upstairs. All rooms were closed except our room after he died. I used to have doors open and windows bringing in light, but they were closed when he died. The nursery, of course, but the rest of the rooms, too. It felt too big and I felt so vulnerable.

    This post is so real for me. So close to me.

    I love the memories we make with Benjamin and Claire here, but OH how many tears we shed here and how I felt like the 3900 square feet were suffocating me and walls closing in. So big, but I felt so small.

    So much love. It's February. I'm here reading.

  3. Ah Veronica - oh I am so sorry. Those photographs, with the pink carpet and the cat smell. I could also smell them from here!
    And all the hard work and the beautiful transformation that you made. It was always an amazing house, I can see why you and Daniel liked the 'bones' of the house and you have made it what it should be. A lovely, welcoming home. I'm so desperately sorry that Alexander never lived there with you.
    But . . like you. I hated my house, I hated my street. I never could really buy into decorating it. Never could bring myself to care. Can't truly bring myself to care about the new house. Even now. As you foresee, it did gut me a bit. To move from the house where I was pregnant with the twins. Because we weren't ever going to have two children (let alone three) but . . here I am.
    But there are the memories - the sweeter memories. Try and hold on to those. I am glad you feel better for writing this out and that final photograph, well it just makes me feel my heart will burst. So much love for Alexander and for Theo. You are an amazing mother to both your boys xoxo

  4. Oh, Veronica. I'm so glad you wrote this. I loved reading it. We did nothing to prepare for Anja. Nothing. And I've regretted it to no end. There's just no winning this. It's all shit. It's all terrible. I love that you and Daniel prepared so well for Alexander's arrival. I hate that he is not here, but I love that you spent all that time, made all those memories, for him. What a loved. loved baby boy. He is on my mind so often these days. Sending so much love your way.

  5. So much love for Alexander. I've been thinking about him so much these days.
    I also hated my house after Liam died. We bought it 4 years before Liam, when we started dreaming of a baby. One of the reasons we picked our house was because the former owners had two small kids and it just felt like a cozy homey home with kid stuff everywhere. I loved it. We're looking to move because we want Leif to have his own backyard (our townhouse has a communal backyard) and I know it will be hard to leave the good memories and even the bad memories if that makes any sense. I love the every day memories we're making with Leif but it never escapes me how much cozier and crazier things should be around here.
    I'm sending you so much love. You are one amazing mother to both your boys xx