The tile gods have thwarted me

Damn you, tile gods!

So Monday was awesome right up until it turned shit. The kitchen guys came about 8am and had the whole kitchen pulled out and stashed on our deck awaiting pickup by about one. Did I mention I’m excited? Because it’s exciting!

After they left we went to get the tiles. It took me a long time to find what I wanted. We’re going fairly simple with white cupboards and dark benches, so I wanted something nice for the backsplash. My tastes aren’t fancy; Pinterest is full of things I like – subway tiles, herringbone mosaics, that sort of thing. But I had the same problem with tiles as for every other bloody thing, namely stuff that can be bought for reasonable money in the US is either not available here or costs $$$$$$$.

(Also, do you know how hard it is to see anything on tile shop websites? Dear lord!)

After many hours I found one place which had a decent website showing interesting tiles, imported from Italy, and we found this:

normal_FSN03500_Blend_mix_cream_30x60 [Source]

  We took one home and abused it to see how it would cope as a backsplash.  Every time I walked past the kitchen and saw it propped up my heart beat faster. Cleanup was a breeze despite the textured surface. And only $44/sqm! I was so excited. And then Monday afternoon we went to pick them up—and they couldn’t find them in the warehouse. We went back inside and the guy who’d just processed our payment looked up and sort of gave us an apologetic shrug then said all he could do was refund us.

I tell you, I was NOT happy. I even started to cry in the car, I felt so frustrated. I’d found exactly what I wanted, I was so excited about them and now I had to find something else, and I had two days to do it in. I could see I was going to have to just pick something to settle with. But the thing that really frustrated me was the lack of customer service. This place had great tiles but their staff didn’t seem to give a crap about serving customers; I’d been there three times looking at different things and each time three or four of them had lounged around chatting even when I went to the counter. And this day? Things like this happen, I get that, but you know, I wasn’t buying them for fun! I had a project I needed them for, and what that guy should have done was get his arse out from behind the counter and say, “how about I help you find something else?” They had other stuff I liked, we could have made it work, but I was anxious and couldn’t do that on my own right then. But he didn’t give a shit, and that’s what made me cry.

(Well, that and my hormones, but that’s another story.)

So anyway. Things are looking better now. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours going around different tile shops looking for something – anything – I could have instead. I discovered I am completely invisible in just about all tile shops, which was really fucking frustrating.  Beaumont Tiles had a sales guy who could actually see me and a reasonable range (but nothing like what I’d wanted originally, alas) but he helped me out. I thought I’d settle for a white subway tile and interesting grout but ended up choosing something slightly bigger and grey that should work well. (I think. They keep changing in my mind and now I’m second guessing the benchtop too.) Meanwhile we’re on day 2 of the kitchen install and things are coming along – cupboards nearly all in, the electrician and the plumber are doing their stuff. If I’m lucky tomorrow will be the end of it and I can start putting everything back again!

But I still want my old tiles.

New kitchen!

It’s a curse – if things are quiet I’ve got nothing to write about, but when it’s busy I have no time to write… and it’s been busy!

I spent today emptying everything out of the kitchen cupboards because tomorrow we’re getting a new one! I’m so excited and also a bit annoyed, because if I’d really thought about it this could have been a great thing to blog along with. You know, something actually happening instead of all this navel gazing?

The fact is it’s been pretty quick and uneventful. But imagine some harp music and let everything go wavy as I take you back in time to the end of September and the start of it all….

We’d been thinking about doing the kitchen for ages, it was on a list of “like to do’s” when we moved in five years ago. It’s a 1990 treat of peach coloured melamine and brown appliances and was tired even before my parrot Sheldon chewed it to bits. Procrastination and indecision stopped us. How do we do it? Who do we choose? Do we put in an Ikea kitchen? Mmm, maybe not. I’ve always loved the usefulness of an Ikea kitchen (all those compartments! Things in drawers!) but my house is already full of Ikea stuff; I don’t want to look like a complete nutjob. Plus this is a nice house, or it could be; it deserves something nice.

(Don’t get huffy if you have an Ikea kitchen; like I said, I love them and I would have happily put one in our last place, but they don’t suit all houses and ours is one of those. It needs something towards the middle/upper end of the range.)

Anyway, a friend who’s done a few kitchens in his time recommended a place, so we went to look. There were so many options! I got confused by it all, and maybe a little freaked out by how much it might cost, and they were busy… we left.

That was about 18 months ago.

Fast forward to just after our holiday, and Dave’s decided we’re going to get on with it. Our renovator friend now had a new, better, recommendation and while we were waiting for that guy to return our call Dave said, let’s go look at Direct Kitchens. I don’t know how he chose them over the hundreds of other options — we have to drive past at least five others just to get there. We went in and this time I was a bit more prepared so when the saleslady asked if we’d like any help I said, “we want to put in a new kitchen and we like the look of that one.” She said, “Great! The first step is a consultation with a kitchen designer, how about tomorrow night?” And we said, “great!” And that was that. Who knew?

The designer was an older cockney guy who reminded me of Tom Baker. I loved him on sight. We chatted for ages, he asked us questions about how we used the kitchen and what bugged us about the current one, talked us out of some of the fancier inside-cupboard options, and showed us pictures of door styles and finishes. I showed him some stuff from Pinterest. Two days later he came back with a finished design; we changed maybe two things, and that was it.

The way Direct Kitchens do it is they make bespoke cabinets in their factory with benchtops from elsewhere, and then they project manage the entire install from pulling out the old kitchen to plumbing electrics and tiling at the end. You can use your own tradies if you want, and they’ll coordinate them, but they can do it all. The only thing not included in the quote is the appliances which we bought separately. We got the quote, talked about it, and pulled the trigger.

(In the meantime, our friend’s guy got back to us. His quote for the cabinetry was a bit cheaper, but it didn’t include the tradesmen which we’d have to hire and coordinate separately. In the end we went for the simplicity of the project-managed one. Dave’s away with work too much at the moment, we haven’t got the capacity to organise it ourselves.)

[back to present day]

After that, it was a pretty simple thing. We chose cupboard colours and door styles from a set, a benchtop (we’re going with laminate), and handles from the standard range. We bought appliances. The only thing that took a bit of time was choosing the backsplash tile, but we got there and will pick it up tomorrow. Oh and I started decluttering the cupboards which was a massive help because you never realise how much crap you have in the kitchen until you try to stash it elsewhere in your house…

kitchen2

I’m so excited!

 

Better together

My man is back! My man is back! Woo to the hoo, he’s back!

We went out to dinner tonight, I may have had a little bit of wine (two thirds of a bottle to be precish), and we had such a good night. Giggling like schoolkids, doubling one another’s entendre, laughing so hard… it’s the closes we’ve been to the old us in a long time. Whether it was the lovely Margaret River sangiovese, or we’re child free until tomorrow, or that we’re both just so glad he’s back — I don’t care. I don’t want to dissect it. It just felt good.

(And the wine was awesome, and the food divine.)

You know what? From when B was a little baby, I thought about leaving. Running away, leaving them, sumetimes even hurting myself in the baddest of times. Motherhood did not cone naturally to me; I felt trapped and I wanted out. Then I got diagnosed and some antidepressants and it was better, but I still harboured resentment: of what I’d given up, of what we’d lost, whatever… my default reaction, whenever we had an argument was to think about leaving, to think about the out. The intimacy’s gone, we’re gone. We never snuggle on the couch together of an evening, or even talk anymore unless it’s about B or whose day was harder. I’m just a nanny and a housekeeper, I come somewhere down the bottom of the list after the bike and the bird and the friends and the kid. Why are we still together?

But somewhere in the last year, it’s changed. I’ve realised we’re better together. We still have fun. We might not be on the same couch at night but we’re still heckling TV. And we only talk about the birds and Bianca so much because they’re so damn funny. There’s been extra pressure these past few years but it’s coming to an end. B’s no longer a baby, she’s a girl. She’s going to school next year! And nights like tonight prove that we’re still here, we just maybe need to work on it a bit. It’s more than just settling with one another because the alternative is too hard. He’s my man, I’m his girl. We’re a couple, a unit. A family. It’s where we’re meant to be.

And now, a new chapter of life is about to start. We’ve got some really big fun adventures coming up. Everything’s going to change, and I’m glad we’re doing it together.

Chatterbox

This is one of my favorite quotes ever, from Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency:

“The man just liked to talk,” he would later tell the police. “Man, I could have walked away to the toilet for ten minutes and he would’ve told it to the till… Yeah, I’m sure that’s him,” he would add when shown a picture of Gordon Way. “I only wasn’t sure at first because in the picture he’s got his mouth closed.”

And boy, can I identify with it…

Dave’s away again for two weeks and as ever I’ve started off with grand ideas of getting so many projects done, but after just a few days everything’s devolved into chaos. I swear if I was a single parent I’d end up on Hoarders. I mean, without Dave around I can’t even be bothered closing cupboard doors. Everything is overwhelming, everything is too hard.

I don’t understand it. I love Dave, he’s an awesome husband and father, but let’s face it, I do most of the housework and daily chores around here, so his absence should not be generating that much more work. How can it get so bad when he’s gone? How can I be so bad at this?

Well, I might have worked it out.

On Sunday morning, I woke up filled with optimism and determination, and actually managed to tidy up a bit and put a load of washing on. (I am usually right on top of the washing, one thing Flylady has managed to instill in me, but right now the washing is right on top of me.) As a reward, I decided to spend some time on a princess dress I’m sewing for Bianca, while she sat next to me alternately making a mess with beads and cutting a scrap of fabric into atoms. It should have been a really relaxing time right? Pinning and tacking and making something with my hands. A treat; I always feel better afterwards. But it wasn’t relaxing and I didn’t feel better, and I think I know why everything goes pearshaped when Dave isn’t around.

It’s B. She never shuts up. “I’m cutting this up. Do you see mum? Does it look good? Look at me! Look at me with your eyes. I want to help you with that. Can I cut it? Now look! I’m doing this!” jabberjabberjabberjabberjabberjabberjabber!!!!!

Look, she’s four. She’s supposed to talk all the time! I don’t expect her to stop; I love that she’s telling me stuff. But, I am an introvert who needs quiet time in my own head with my own thoughts, and when Dave’s here sometimes she’s talking to him and I can just… tune it out. But I can’t do that now. I always have to have an ear out, just in case. And I am fucking exhausted because of it!

I’m actually giggling at myself right now. This is quite the insight for me; everything makes SO MUCH MORE SENSE now. Of course I’m not coping! Now I need to use this information to look after myself. No more mindless evenings watching tv and playing on my phone once B’s in bed. Maybe that’s when I should try to do the sewing. And maybe also do the dishes and close all the cupboard doors. I’ve got four days to sort out this house and finish my projects before Dave comes home.

Reboot

For July and most of August, we were on holiday. We had a couple of days in Singapore (not “the real Singapore” as Bianca calls where we were last time, just Sentosa Island), then almost two weeks in the north of England for the start of the Tour de France and to visit family. Next to Holland, where I have relatives and where mum was conveniently also visiting, then we left Bianca with them for a week while we joined an amazing cycling/gourmet tour following the last week of the Tour de France. (The cycling was for Dave, his 40th birthday wish to ride up crazy mountains, but the gourmet was for both of us.) Then mum and B met us in Paris and we had a couple of days at Disneyland Paris before another week at a friend’s place in Switzerland, then finally in London for the last ten days.

Whew!

The holiday was everything we hoped it would be, and a revelation. I spent lots of time thinking about how I want my life to be. Like cooking, I want to cook delicious, healthy, foody meals. And retain a sense of adventure. When we were staying places with beautiful gardens, I wanted to learn to make one too. And in Holland I revelled in my family there (they are, seriously, awesome people) and wanted to stay there always.

Now “normality” is back, arms outspread, trying to engulf me in a bear hug of habits. I have to work to retain that feeling of anything is possible. Try to remember what it was like to drive through Yorkshire or stand on a mountain or wander through a little village in Bordeaux and think, I could live here for a year, easily…

One of the big changes I want to make is this blog. It needs to be. I have been blogging in one form or another since 2001; hard to believe isn’t it? My life grew, changed, and this was one of the things lost when I became a mother. This is not anyone’s fault but my own. None of it is. I made the new rules and left all the fun stuff behind. It is time to change that!

I made a mistake trying to give the blog a theme. Blogs need themes now, right? You’re either décor, DIY, diet, fashion, finances, self improvement. Well I’m sorry but I am all of those things. I can’t narrow it down. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself. I want to write about me, my life. Isn’t that the bet theme to have? So there it is. You won’t find a more authoritative source on the interwebs anyway.

I did think about a new name, a new start. Not My Mother was for when I was supposed to be concentrating on self improvement. But really it seems as god as anything else. Maybe it’s really “not my mother” — as in, my identity is not as someone’s mum. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch. But I’m not going to do the online equivalent of my teenage self, abandoning my old neglected diary and starting a whole fresh new one for a new start.

In summary: spring is here, Europe is awesome, and I am back.

Everything is awesome

The last six weeks or so have been pretty rubbish. From about a week after we got home from Singapore — which was lovely and which I have a lot to talk about — it was one thing after another.

Our pet rabbit got sick, really sick. I spent the last week of my holidays trying to force feed him this critical care mush because he was refusing to eat and bunnies can’t do that. It was pretty worrying. At the same time our second car the station bomb got written off – Dave’s sister had run it (allegedly gently) into the back of someone before I went to Singapore and it didn’t LOOK too bad but it was, and the insurance company wrote it off. So we had to buy a replacement and ended up $1700 out of pocket. The actual insurance company/purchasing bit went really smoothly, it was Cath’s flakiness and lack of care factor that pissed us off.

More family drama on Dave’s side; so much so that I was all for upping stakes and moving to Singapore RIGHT NOW so we’d be away from it. Then just when I’d managed to stop letting it wind me up, one of our budgies [parakeets] got sick. We didn’t think she’d last the first day but we’ve got a great bird vet who kept her in for a week and tried all sorts of things, and Phantom fought on for almost three weeks. Who’d expect that when it comes to budgies? Our little yellow girl was so beautiful, and so brave. Our flock feels too small now.

Then to top it all off, one of my uncles died too.

But, it hasn’t been all bad, and  It was Bianca’s birthday last Friday (the same day Phantom died). She turned four. FOUR! She is a big kid now, she will tell you, and it is all about princesses with her, so we bought her all the princesses. We also took her to see the Lego Movie and yesterday we had a party for her with 10 little monsters friends running amok in our house. I tried (and failed) to keep it low key but it really wasn’t too bad and you know the best bit about having a birthday party at home? It’s the birthday party now being OVER.

Except for the party decorations. I can’t reach the streamers to pull them down so they’ll probably be around till Christmas. Let’s pretend I’m leaving them on purpose, okay?

I’ve missed you. Let’s not leave it this long again.

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So far so good

So we’re in Singapore! The flight over was fine. From a grownup perspective they fed us, watered us, and let us watch movies. From a Bianca’s perspective we had to sit still and watch TV for 7 hours. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as she thought it would be; we’d only been in the air about an hour and she started asking if we’d landed yet.

We landed at 9pm Singapore time, which was midnight in Melbourne. Bianca managed to hold out until an hour before that then crashed and would not wake up. I had to lug our two cabin bags with her as a sack of spuds over my shoulder until we were almost at immigration. Then of course seeing Daddy and getting to the apartment was way too exciting and it was after midnight before she fell back asleep – only to wake up bright and early at 4:30am. It’s now the afternoon and she’s crashed in a major way. I can’t even wake her for Little Mermaid on TV. I’m trying not to think what this might mean for tonight’s sleep…

Today is a lazy day. This morning Dave took us down for breakfast and then after he left for work I took B to the playground and kiddy pool. It’s humid, but not too hot. The place we’re staying is more like serviced apartments than a hotel and full of expats from all over the world either over for a few weeks on business or in the process of moving here. There are quite a few families. I’ve already chatted with one woman who’s moving from London; she has a little girl a few months younger than B and they loved playing together. I hope to see her again, she was lovely and it would be nice to know someone if we do move here.

Tomorrow we are going to the zoo. I expect to sweat a lot. Nice.

Parkinson’s law in action

This week has devolved into a bit of a stressfest. Packing and organising really shouldn’t have taken too long, but of course I’m doing my best procrastination to make it stretch out and fill the whole week. My hindbrain thinks it should be stressful so I’ll make it so, dammit!

There’s been a kerfuffle about B’s passport. I put the application in at the start of my holidays in what should have been plenty of time, but the photos (which we did take ourselves) weren’t right so I whisked B in to get proper ones done and dropped them off at the post office as instructed last Monday. Then the woman there must have sent them übersnailmail because they weren’t even delivered to the passport office until Thursday (wtf?) – too late for the normal process so I had to pay an extra $108 to get express service. And then late Friday, a guy called me from the Passport Office and said, “You know those photos you sent in? Well we lost them. Can you send us some more?”

Argh!!!!!

It was too late then to do anything, so first thing Monday morning I went into the city to drop off another set of photos. Tuesday I drove the birds out to the boarding place in Kinglake and then back into the city to get the (thankfully completed) passport – I was gone most of the day. Then today B and I took the bunny to his holiday place. In between I should still have been able to finish everything with ease but I’ve been watching TV and mucking around with unnecessary projects and eating everything in sight all to avoid the stress…. Which, if I’d just get on and do stuff, wouldn’t even be there, would it?

Oh well, at least I won’t have any trouble meeting our mileage needs this year. The lesson from all this is don’t wait until you need a passport to apply for one; even if you don’t think you’ve left it till the last minute there are plenty of ways it can still go wrong!

Now, where is my passport?

All the single parents, put your wine glasses up…

So, I’ve been single parenting for 10 days now and I have to say, it’s gone pretty well so far. So far, I have not had too many issues at all. I am so lucky that Dave’s trip coincided with my time off; it would be a completely different story if I was working and having to wrangle us both out the door at the right time.

Bedtimes have gone to shit though. I pretty much have lost the will to argue by then. I could really do with a Good Cop to run interference at bedtime. Before Dave left, he sat down with B and told her that while he was away she had to look after Mummy for him. “Okay Daddy,” Bianca said. Then we came back from the airport and I wouldn’t let her do — some ridiculous thing, I can’t even remember what it was that time — which of course, cue shouting and stamping. “Hey,” I said mildly. “Didn’t you tell Daddy you’d look after Mummy for him?”

Bianca looked at me and said matter-of-factly, “Daddy isn’t here.” Ooh.  So I do what I can and every night once she’s finally in bed I get back to my favourite decluttering project, the wine racks.

*

On the organisational front, I was disappointed at first with how I was doing. On Thursday, my first Bianca-free Day of Doing!(tm)  my friend Becky came over for morning tea, didn’t leave until 1pm, and after that the day was shot. Friday I barely moved, it was too hot and humid to get anything done. I was feeling pretty annoyed at myself. But! This week, I have been awesome! I have had Monday, Tuesday and Thursday to myself, and I have done all of these things:

  • decluttered and organised a couple of kitchen cupboards
  • cleared out the laundry (again) and got rid of things that shouldn’t be in there.
  • cleaned my oven
  • cleared the study again and actually found homes for things (like stationery) that have been sitting in boxes under my desk, on my desk, or in the middle of the room, for four years.
  • finished setting up my filing system. WITH LABELS. Oh the beauty, it hurts.
  • labelled the crap out of everything else in the study too
  • organised our wardrobes

The oven was a major project that’s been hanging over me for ages. When we first moved in I baked a cake with berries which leaked all over the bottom of it, and for the last four years that has been getting cremated several times a week. I can’t use oven cleaners because we have birds with little lungs, and getting the steamer thingy out always seemed like such a faff. But on Tuesday it was reasonably cool so I dragged it out and you know what? Setting it up is NOT a faff. It is easy and although it took a fair amount of elbow grease, after an hour the oven looks pretty damn amazing. It’s not perfect, there are still little black specks in places and the oven ceiling is a bit chunky but it is CLEAN and grease-free, and the wire shelves are silver again! I can even see through the little window now. And it doesn’t smell when I use it anymore. I am really proud of myself for this and I keep opening the oven and peeking in at its beauty.

Likewise the wardrobe has been bugging me for ages but I’ve never got around to it. Everything was squashed in and on mismatched hangers and generally a mess. So I pulled the sliding doors off, grouped like with like, rehung everything on the matching hangers I bought ages ago, worked out the best most sensible way to put everything back, sorted the old hangers into sets tied with cable ties, and put them in the car to be donated. Again, it sounds little but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages and OMG I cannot stop opening the doors to admire inside. So pretty! (Shame about the rest of the room.)

And then today, I had lunch with a girlfriend and then shopped for things for our holiday. So really I’ve had only three full Days of Doing!(tm) and I’ve got a LOT of the big things I wanted to do out of the way already. Go me!

*

So we’re doing pretty well, but that’s not to say I don’t miss Dave. I feel a bit aimless at the end of the day and I text him about ridiculous things just to read his words. By this time next week, we’ll be in Singapore with him, assuming B’s passport comes through, but that’s another story…

Six! And a half! Weeks! Off!

I am so excited, because as of last Friday I have six (and a half) weeks off from work. I’m done, baby, until Labour Day in March. Woo!

Have you ever thought how good it would be to just concentrate a wodge of time to getting a bunch of stuff done? Like, just put life on hold and take care of a bunch of projects and decluttering and enything else haning over your head? Wouldn’t that be great? Me too. I mean, I’m sure if I could just make a concerted effort on evenings and weekends instead of flopping in front of the TV, I could get EVERYTHING done. But either I don’t do it for long enough, or (more likely) I obsess about whatever project I’m doing so much that everything else falls apart. Hello, tax returns and paper clutter, I’m looking at you.

Balance, that’s what I’m lacking. I don’t have balance. Okay, I’m unbalanced, thank you Dave for the over-the-shoulder assistance, that really helps.

Of course, in my mind I’ve spent the time five or six times over, with everything I’m planning to do. Decluttering everything! Organising my whole house! Painting! DIY! Paperwork! Craft! Garden projects! not to mention all the yoga classes, lunches, and other stuff just for me. So exciting, so much to do! But there is absolutely no way to do it all and I will NOT set myself up for disappointment, so I am reining myself in with all my strength and trying to remember what is important, which is the bit about getting some balance and setting up habits and routines and become organised in that way. Get into the day to day swing of routines and yes, declutter and do projects because there will be wedges of time where I can, but most I want to work out how to get my home flowing smoothly so it doesn’t keep getting derailed by obsessions projects all the time.

Course, I’m not actually getting six full weeks to work on this. This weekend we’ve been on holidays in Bright so Dave could ride in a cycling event, then tomorrow he’s off to Singapore (!) for a month for work, and in a couple of weeks Bianca and I will be joining him too, so  it’s really more like 4 weeks. But I can’t complain about missing housework time to go on holidays, can I? Can I? No, it turns out, I cannot.

What would you do with a chunk of free time like this?

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