Sunday, March 24, 2013

Our Home, the Death Trap

There are things that you have to do to your home when you prepare for a homestudy.  I'm not talking about cleaning, sweeping, or vacuuming.  The social worker we spoke with used the exact words "I don't care about your dust bunnies, you can keep them."  So we've stopped cleaning; our home study is in three two months *crosses fingers*. We have it on good authority, after all.    

Never mind the homestudy then, what happens when we actually get kids?  We've been taking inventory of the items which will need to be far up, out of reach, out of sight, or just out of the house.  So without further ado, here are those things which we have identified thus far.  Feel free to chip in.


Lots of people have a cactus.  Cacti are resilient and take up space.  We are different from "lots of people" in the fact that Yuliya has been an avid and active collector of cacti for our entire relationship.  At current count, there are nearly forty cacti in our house.  Not all of them are the happy, lives-quiet-cactus-lives type of cacti.  There are cacti in our house which weigh as much as our cats, and have inch and a half long spines which you could use to hang pictures or sew leather clothing.

Like this, but eight pounds in weight and eleven inches tall.  More of a home defense weapon than potted plant, actually.

Then there are the cacti with minuscule, almost invisible needles which break off in your skin and give you rashes.  Lastly, and my favorite, the cacti with milky white juice that oozed from it when you speak too loudly, and can burn your skin or blind you.

Threat factor: Minimal - we're leaving the more harmless "ow it's pokey' varieties on window sills and elevating the "kill you in your sleep" varieties to well our of any human's reach, barring an unprecedented visit by Shaquille O'Neal.


Cats are not really much of a threat, especially ours, barring allergies.  We've got a pair of ragdolls, Mishka and Loco.  With the exception of Mishka's breath, neither would be a danger to a child.  We know this because they have undergone rigorous stress testing by other people's children.  Here are pictures of our cats.

Threat factor:  Just look at them!

Loco the fluffdozer

Mishka doing his best impression of Marlon Brando.

Power Tools

Being handy folks, we have a couple of tools.  Off the top of my head, we're going to need to keep the kids away from two power drills, miter saw, skilsaw, reciprocating saw, jigsaw, heatgun, orbital sander.  That's not mentioning the hammers, utility knives, and screwdrivers, caulking and whatever else is in the basement.  

Which brings us to...

The Basement

The power tools are in the basement, so there's that.  There's also plenty of homely detritus, left over from furnishing a house, several moves, and just having too much stuff (see Yuliya's packrattery).  Not to mention litter facilities for the cats, and an incomplete bathroom.  We also have a healthy spider population.  Most are smallish, no more than an inch across.  Getting towards the end of summer though, we can run into some monsters.  There was a time when I brought the laundry down and came face to mandible with an eight-legged death machine that was easily four inches across.  We stared at each other for a few seconds, and it turned and disappeared into whatever hellmouth spawned it.

Threat factor: We'll be locking the basement.

Camping Equipment

Bear Spray. Flare Gun. Fishing line/hooks/lures.  The bear spray can only be purchased after leaving your contact information at the store, getting a 15min lecture on correct use, and presenting ID which is photocopied.  As it turns out in Manitoba, bear spray is controlled at a level just below firearms.  Anyone can buy a machete, axe or baseball bat at the same store, go figure. Believe it or not, the flare gun was an anniversary present from Yuliya to myself.  A few years back she asked what she should get me for our anniversary - not at all being a smart ass, I said a flare gun.  It was the weirdest, most random thing that came to mind.  Next year, she got a flare gun for me, so it turns out that she is at least a little bit of a smart-ass herself.

Threat factor: Extremely high - These will be kept in the basement, on the very top shelf of the tallest shelving unit we have, and will be locked in a safety box. Again, we'll be locking the basement.

In addition to the above, we will definitely be taking care of the wobbly railing on our stairs, installing a few more smoke detectors - CO detectors are already in place, getting a fire extinguisher for the second floor, and putting up safety gates at the top and bottom of both our staircases.  The plus side to all this is that my sister has an inquisitive toddler of her very own, who probes our plans for weakness.  So far we have discovered that the cat's food looks more like a buffet to a two year old, and the water dish was a handy spot to soften up the food first.

 So for the next year or (gulp) two, we'll be padding the walls, beveling every edge, and installing airbags on the stairs.

 A Tangent

Here is a look at what an innocent soul my Yuliya is, and what a dirty-minded curmudgeon I am.  Yuliya made a great pot of barley/pea/farmer sausage soup.  She asked me to come to the kitchen to sample her soup.  In this capacity I am a willing guinea pig, because our cooking rarely goes catastrophically bad.  There was the one time her chicken was under-cooked, but on the other hand I made baked salmon once with cinnamon and cloves.  I tasted the soup, signaled my affirmation that it was a worthy effort, and then she asked the question.

"Can you taste the pea-y-ness?"

What she meant was, did I detect the flavour of peas?  That was not what came across.  I choked out a strangled reply.

"What was in this soup again?"  She reached for the bag of dried barley and peas which she had used.

"Here, let me show you the package I used."

It's a good soup, I swear.  It tastes of peas.  PEAS.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

This House is Freezing

Quite literally.  It's now 5:26am here, and we woke up feeling unusually chilly about an hour ago.  Took a look at the furnace and surprise surprise, it's not running.  It's 10c now, which is 50f, and it's -20c outside, so it's cooling off pretty quickly.  The thermostat's batteries died at some point in the night, so I replaced those first thing, and the furnace fan comes on but the burners aren't igniting.  Yuliya ran the restart procedure a couple of times while I whipped out the yellowpages.  As it turns out, One Hour Heating/AC is just a name, and what they mean by 24/7 service is that they have operators on 24/7, not repairmen, so I've called six places and the first callback was at 6:23am.  They'll have a serviceperson out between 8 and 9, flat rates, no hourly rates.  Which is good news all around.  Yes, this is a lot of unnecessary detail about furnace repairs for someone who lives 3000km from you, but from where I am sitting it is quite relevant.  So there.

Our gas line works just fine, and the auto-start on the furnace is trying to ignite, so at this point my guess is faulty valve, limit control, or control board.  I have no idea what that costs, but I'm sure it's less than a brand new furnace.

On the plus side, we have a gas fireplace downstairs.  When we bought the place we thought it was garish and have not used it in three years.  Tonight, it's a life saver; we cranked the thermostat up to 30c and flipped the switch.  It took about half an hour but the room temperature is starting to feel livable again, and Yuliya opened the oven door and turned it on as well.  We also got each other some fluffy fleece bathrobes for Xmas, and they're helping the situation.

I remember once as a kid, we had a furnace repairman come and do some work in the dead of winter that required it to be shut off all day.  We had to wear our winter jackets inside, and my mom didn't have any plants after that was over.  We haven't got quite to that point yet, thank goodness.  Fuzzy slippers and bathrobes doesn't seem quite so dire.

Our cats gave us the first warning that something was wrong.  They're both long haired, and usually sleep near the bed, but not on the bed.  It's just too hot for them usually, but tonight they were piled up on us, and rolling over was like trying to climb out from under some sandbags.  Once we got the fireplace going downstairs, they came down to sleep in front of the fire, and Yuliya began shuttling all her plants to the coffee table in front of the fire as well.  Now it's getting bright outside, and we're yawning and waiting for the furnace guy to show.


Furnace repair guy arrived at 9:04am, opened the panel and said the igniter was broken.  Ten minute repair, $400.  Furnace is back in operation.

My theory behind why it broke is as follows:

1) Batteries in thermostat go dead.
2) Furnace shuts off, early evening sometime
3) Basement cools quickly, and the igniter cracks as it cools
4) Batteries changed, no furnace worky

Sunday, March 3, 2013

New Directions

I added a few features - Sean & Yuliya 'till Now are brief bios of our past lives.  Timeline updated as well, and I'm going to migrate some of the facebook notes over into a new page as well.


So good news for us comes with good weather.  Things are starting to melt and we got a definitive timeline on our homestudy with Adoption Options.

The meeting with them was great, easy in part because we had done our homework, and in part because the lady we dealt with was just plain nice, and very knowledgeable.  We chatted about adoption books, and she asked for our reading list to see if their library was missing anything.  While we would prefer things to move along a bit quicker, they explained that someone was just coming back from mat leave, getting caught up, etc. Our information session will be half a day sometime in June, rather than two full days and then two evenings as well.  Another half day will be a conversation about what we've learned regarding attachment issues.  We don't anticipate problems with this.  Of course, we're kicking ourselves for not going with AO back in December, but lesson learned, moving on.

Also, they had a notary in the office and offered to notarize our LBB application for free!  In hindsight, the story may have been worth the trouble.


Our home is changing, slowly but surely.  When we moved in three years ago, everything we owned (including the our car) would have fit in the living room.  The house is 1400 sqft and over a hundred years old, but is young at heart.  The back fence however was showing it's age.  It swayed in the wind, and we had visions of it falling into someone, or onto someone's vehicle in the back lane.  Those visions included insurance settlements, so one day Yuliya wound up and gave the fence a mighty whack with a wrench, and down it went.  We built a new fence, new deck, replaced a shower surround, and are renovating a room for Yuliya's mother.

Did I neglect to mention that so far?  This April, we are flying Yuliya's mom in from Ukraine to come and live with us on a ten year visa.  We thought that two children who didn't speak a word of english, running around the house shouting in lingala, swahili, or french would not be that challenging, so we're adding an adult to the mix who also doesn't speak a word of english, and hasn't lived with another living soul since here dear cat departed this world, and before that since Yuliya left Ukraine.  She trained as a chemical engineer, working in her field at a research institute.  In 1991 Ukraine became glorious and free, and she made a career change to selling flipflops in the local market.

If you're ever in the same situation, it always helps to buy tickets with airlines who aren't going bankrupt.  We were not lucky.  So far, my mother in law has taken zero flights, and we have bought her three plane tickets.  Mark my words, if LOT airlines goes down between now and April 12th, I am going to post angrily and shell out for another flight.  Maybe even write an email.  That's about all the drama that I've got in me. 


On the topic of languages, it's going to be interesting.  I'm hoping our kids speak some french, because my high school french is serviceable with some brushing up, though it is a vastly different kind than what is spoken in the DRC, or France for that matter.  A French college friend described Canadian french as being "archaic and provincial".

Yuliya's mother speaks only Russian and Ukrainian, and Yuliya speaks the same and perfect, flawless english.  So...language barriers.  We'll figure it out, or die horribly in the attempt.


After reading a little of Millions of Miles, I decided that this was one of my new favorite blogs, rights beside The Lyons Den .


In personal news, I turned thirty in January.  I have mixed feelings about this.  To start off with, I am married to the absolute, bar-none, most patient and forgiving woman in the world.  See Sean 'till Now.  In terms of careers and education, I'm not where I'd like to be, or planned to be at three-zero.  That doesn't both me too much though, because there is simply too much to life for me to concern myself with how to go back in time and change the things I wish I had done differently, while keeping all the things I like.  This is the one I've got, full stop, period.

Yuliya was her usual amazing self, and threw me a surprise party.  My friends got me a great single-malt scotch, which gave me an excuse to finish the scotch which I already had at home.  I think it was all part of the plan for them.  A good time was had by all.  For me, a wild party is drinks and a debate of alternate history or fringe theology.  Philosophy and politics are acceptable drinking topics as well.