House Shopping Continued…

House shopping is an activity best suited for the childless. Or at least the babyless.
Its very difficult to do with one little monster who wants to explore/break everything in each stranger’s house we visit, while the other monster wants to eat right now, and she doesn’t care if the real estate agent is in the middle of his spiel.
We get a two hour window between dinner and Ben’s bed time to look at houses. We can stay out later than 8pm if we have to, but we’ll pay for it when Mr. Crankypants wakes up in the morning, so its not really a good idea.
Houses in the town we’re looking in seem to be drastically over-priced. We’re prepared to spend up to $235,000, but there’s property taxes to consider as well. So shopping at the top end of our budget, we’ve been disappointed by everything we’ve seen. All the houses in our price range would require some sort of compromise: small kitchen with no room for a dishwasher, unfinished basement that would make for a very cold home office, sketchy neighbourhood with unpleasant looking neighbours, 40 year-old decor in every single room of the house that would costs thousands to replace…
Its been discouraging to say the least. Earlier this week we got pretty excited about a townhouse (that alone is a compromise) but when we saw it, it was a bit of a downer. Its not bad… its just not what we’re hoping for. Oh ya, and we had to fire our first agent, because she didn’t seem interested in showing us any houses…
The thing is, we’re not going to be happy settling for something that doesn’t quite fit our needs. This is a minimum 5-year commitment. Its not like an apartment, where if you decide you don’t like it, you can move out in a year. A house is ours, and we need something that our whole family can live in comfortably — that doesn’t cost $280,000!!
We realise our requirements are high, but we’re also realising that this particular town might not be right for us either. We could get twice the house for our money in a smaller town… So we’ve got one more chunk of houses to look at, on Saturday — this time with babysitters arranged — and if nothing fits the bill, we’re going to expand our search to some neighbouring towns.
There’s also vehicles, vehicle insurance, banking and health care tasks pending. Its not going to be a very relaxing summer…

I love this town!

I love how alive it is! There’s constantly something going on, but at the same time, it still doesn’t seem like a big city.
I love that there’s a Starbucks just a short walk from our place, and a hot dog vendor just outside its door.
I love that there’s a little family-run market the same distance in the other direction.
I love that we’re a stone’s throw from 3 major highways, but that there’s still grass and sidewalks on every little street.
I love the college students, full of hopes and dreams for the future. I love that they’re in debt up to their eyeballs, but still manage to find money for trendy clothes — worn in combination with bed head and droopy eye-lids from either last night’s party, or last night’s early-morning study session. I love that both obligations seem equally crucial to them right now, because they have so little else to worry about.
I love the college professor who jogs by our apartment every day, and how he says hello in his still-a-little-bit-British accent.
I love the feeling of academia, occasionally drowned-out by the 20 year old idiot driving by in his Civic with the bass pumped so loud it threatens to shake the $1500 rims off his $3000 car.
I love that everything we need is within a few blocks of our place, and that there are no shortage of people for Benjamin to say HI! to on our walks — and I love that we can walk! That I’ve parked my car for the summer, and probably won’t pull it out again until we move.
What a great town! Maybe I’m just in an abnormally good mood, because on my lunch hour today, I opened the door and had lunch with my family — instead of staring at my boring cubicle walls for an hour, or mall-walking alone in Albany. Maybe it’ll all look a lot different after a month here. But at the moment, I’m pretty happy with our temporary home.

And so completes Phase 2

As of Saturday afternoon, my whole family lives together under the same roof — for the first time in over a month!
Last week was a pretty tough one, as I worked in the otherwise empty apartment alone, with my family now only an hour away from me. Our friends Chad and Jen put me up for one of the nights in their beautiful new house, and I did the full commute on Friday. Saturday, with lots of help from Nicole’s family and my mom we loaded about a quarter of our belongings into a little trailer, a jeep, a van and my car, and met up in the tiny parking lot at our temporary apartment. My good friend John, who has helped us through as many moves as our own family, met us there and helped us move the big stuff in.
We’re intentionally living on the bare minimum, because we’re holding out hope that we’ll find a house of our own really soon. Ben had a bit of a hard time sleeping the first day, but by Sunday evening we had the place in pretty good shape, looking sort of like home, and he calmed down a lot. It didn’t really help us feel…safe, when he woke up on Saturday morning with one eye swollen shut and oozing. Fortunately it turned out to be just an allergic reaction, that didn’t affect him much at all. Its almost completely back to normal now.
So we’re here, we have a home, and we’re finally all together again. Things are going pretty much as planned! The next couple weeks will likely have us sticking pretty close to home base, but if you’re Ontario friends and family, and we haven’t seen you yet, we’d love it if you dropped by to visit!
Pictures of our temporary home are in the sidebar…

How was your monday?

6:30am – Get up, shower and pack or discard the remaining items I was living off of. The bedroom drapes, sheets and blankets, shower curtain, last set of dishes, my underwear… oh ya, and the TV and the XBox. I was living alone, and without Internet — I had to stay sane somehow.
10:30am – Movers arrive and begin loading up our possessions. As they finish each room, I go over it with a vacuum, then the steam cleaner.
1:00pm – Finish steam cleaning the last room, return apartment keys, get in line behind a little old lady at Price Chopper complaining about how she paid $3 more than she should have for her shrimp, finally return the steam cleaner, return the Fischer’s vacuum (thanks guys)
2:30pm – Hit the highway and drive furiously to catch up with the moving truck. As we were loading up, he invites me to cross the border with him and get my stuff cleared through customs all in the same day. This way we could get our stuff delivered this week, instead of some time in the next 1-3. I agree, and spend the next 4.5 hours chasing a transport truck through back roads and small towns across New York, on his “short cut” to an “easy border.”
7:00pm – Finally catch the truck at the “easy border” which is backed-up out my butt with Canadians returning from their long weekend trips… oh ya, forgot about the Canadian holiday. Got into customs to clear our stuff, where they told me I’d have to assign a dollar value to every single item we’d packed. This was a surprisingly depressing exercise, since as I went through the inventory, I realised the vast majority of our stuff was worth less than $25 (most of it less than $5)
8:30pm – On the 401 near Kingston, Ontario, suddenly realising why this was a short-cut for the truck driver. He lives in Whitby, which was barely 2 hours away. I, on the other hand, still had another 4 hours of driving, having crossed there. Not happy, but too exhausted to care much.
11:00pm – Changed into my pajamas at a Tim Horton’s rest stop. Got an Ice Cappacino. Drove the remaining hour and a half in my slippers.
1:00am – Climbed into bed in Ontario.
It was a long, long day, but our stuff, including our children, cat, furniture, and industrial class computers are across the border. Wednesday the driver will drop our stuff off in storage, and we’ll select a few items to go to our temporary apartment on Saturday. My home office is online, although barely. And we’re all alive, and no worse for wear.
This has to have been the smoothest International move… ever. Now if we can just get our kids some health care…

Suggested Tourism Mottos for places we've visited

New York City – A great place to live visit briefly!
Buffalo – Its not the prettiest town in New York
Albany – Proving that racial stereotypes are still alive and well in the North East
Clifton Park – Walking is prohibited
Clifton Park – All outdoor children’s play must be scheduled in advance with the town council
Malta – We like traffic circles!
Malta – AMD is going to build a factory here one day! Honest!
Saratoga Springs – We’d be a pretty nice town, even without the horse races
Boston – Quite possibly the coolest city in America
Washington D.C. – Most of the nations significant monuments and museums tucked neatly into 5 city blocks
New Jersey – The Garden* State
* where by “Garden” we mean “Factory”
Pennsylvania – Seriously, there’s nothing here…
Virginia is for Lovers Rich, White People

Life as a Ghost

So I finished everything on Sunday.
Life since then has been a concerted effort to find busy work to do, so that I don’t go crazy. The walls are painted, the cabinets are cleaned, and the boxes are almost all packed — If I pack anything else, I won’t have anywhere to sleep at night!
I have 3 boxes still open, for the last minute dishes, and I’m living out of suitcases. But the TV and the XBox are still out, so I’m holding on to my sanity. There’s still some paper work to do, and the ongoing difficulty of jumping through the hoops required by my employer to make this happen, but I’m basically ready to go.
Right. Now.
Yesterday Nicole camped out at our temporary apartment in Ontario, and waited for the Internet people to come and say that “yes, our line will work.” The modem and our VoIP kit were mailed to us there, so we’ve got the basics covered. Monday the moving truck comes, Tuesday I clean the floors and then start the 8-hour trek back to Ontario. Wednesday, I hope to be back at work from a mostly empty apartment in the morning.
This has been a pretty gray month, with a few occasional glimpses of sunshine that have made it survivable. On Tuesday, Nic stayed with our friend’s Mark and Elisabeth, who watched Ben on Wednesday while Nic was at the apartment. Here’s Ben hanging out with their little guy, Nathan.

Only 6 more days until I can be with my wife and kids…

The Story in my Head

When my siblings and I were little, my dad read us the Hobbit, then the Lord of the Rings series. I remember being captivated by the story of the little fuzzy-footed people who fought dragon’s and orcs, and by the spiritual under-tones of the prose. It was an adventure we shared with our dad, and it would be years before another story captured my imagination like Tolkein’s masterpieces.
Some years later, I discovered that someone had put out an animated movie of The Lord of the Rings, and I excitedly asked my dad if we could rent it… and was surprised and dismayed when he not only refused, but forbid me to ever watch it. I couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t be allowed to watch the movie of the book he’d read us years ago. Did he not like it any more?
Fast forward about 20 years. I’m in the movie store, pawning through the Sci-Fi flicks when I spot the animated Lord of the Rings movie. I flipped it over and took a look at the screen shots on the back of the box, and suddenly I understood.

It wasn’t that my dad had developed a dislike for the Hobbit, or the Lord of the Rings. Rather, he loved it so much that he couldn’t allow it to be disrespected in such a way.
He knew that the pictures painted by Tolkein’s wonderful words in the imagination of a little boy were thousands of times more vibrant and alive then the shoddy work done on the movie. The animation was horrifically crude, the story line was hacked and slashed to fit in just over an hour… In short, having seen this movie as a child would have destroyed the gift he’d given us in reading the story to us at bed time.
It wasn’t until recently that the technology existed for a movie to do justice to the original book. And when Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings came out, we all went and watched it together… and saw reflected in it, what our young imaginations had pictured all those years ago when, cuddled up in our beds, our dad first read us the story.
And if that makes sense to you, maybe you’ll understand the tragedy of what I saw this past weekend.
On Friday, I took myself out to see Speed Racer. Being a temporary bachelor drives you to such desperation, you see. I needed something to do on a Friday night, so I decided I’d give the makers of the Matrix another try. The movie wasn’t awful, but if I hadn’t had a free movie ticket, I still would have felt robbed by the experience.
But what was really and truly awful, was the trailer that played just before the movie started. It seems George Lucas is not content with the betrayal of my childhood that was the new trilogy (Episodes 1-3) of Star Wars, and is determined to further milk his original work of art, for every treacherously wrought cent he can ring from it.
He’s become a corrupt, evil, fat little man, capitalizing on the imagination and awe of a generation of little boys who once day-dreamed about being one of the rag tag team of rebels that over-threw an evil empire and saved the galaxy. And instead of honouring the fans of the original series, he thinks its his right to butcher the story he once shared with us. And in that vein, he vomits up this regurgitated mess:

Star Wars - The Clone Wars: George Lucas deficates on his original trilogy

As if episodes 1-3 weren’t bad enough, he wants to beleaguer that poorly crafted story-line with even more poorly thought-out stories, animated horrifically in some momentarily trendy style that, unlike the original trilogy which even 30 years later still looks impressive, will look like a trashy Saturday-morning cartoon in just a couple short years.
The premise of this travesty is that Jabba the Hutt’s son has been kidnapped and the Jedi Knights have to rescue him…
Excuse me?! Why would the Jedi Knights bother with the son of a small time crime lord who lives in the armpit end of the galaxy? Is Lucas even familiar with his own characters any more?
He’s gone from telling an epic story of good vs. evil, to telling the story of how the defender’s of the galaxy run errands for the local drug dealer!
One day I will sit down with my kids, and I will show them the original Star Wars trilogy. Not the special edition. Not the “director’s cut.” The original movies, the way they were originally made.
And when we’re done, they’ll run around the house, swinging imaginary light sabers, and dodging imaginary blaster bolts as they save us all from evil… And then they’ll want more. I know, because I did when I was a kid.
So I will grudgingly allow them to watch the newer trilogy — but only after an explanation of how the later movies are a blight on the Star Wars universe. But I’m sure the holes in the plot, acting and character development will by filled in by their young imaginations, and they will forgive Mr. Lucas for his folly (and for Jar Jar Binks.) And they’ll still want more.
But there will be no more, because I will absolutely forbid them to ever watch the Clone Wars Animated Movie.
Why? Because no one should be allowed to devastate the imagination of a child. Not even the lazy, fat man who once, 3 decades ago, worked long and lovingly to create the original story that irrevocably captured the imagination of every little boy who watched those movies…
I’d boycott anything George Lucas does from now on, except I’m dying to see the new Indiana Jones movie. Here’s hoping he doesn’t crap all over that franchise too.