Sleepless in Suburbia

Renovating a house is a lot like having a baby.  Beforehand it’s all so exciting.  You imagine what it’ll look like, daydream about how much fun you’ll have.  People coo over what a great adventure it’ll be (but really pitying you on the inside.) You think you know what you’re in for, smugly believing those horror stories you hear about are for people who don’t know what they’re doing, and your experience will be different. You splash out on the best of everything because, quite frankly, nothing less will do for your precious little baby.

And then, BAM. Reality hits.

Moments of sheer joy at what you’ve created are punctuated with sleepless nights, crap strewn all through your house, and the irrational need to blame your partner over every little thing that goes wrong. Meals and personal grooming fall by the wayside. You also get a lot of well-meaning people offering you unwanted advice which only multiplies the stress.

It does get better, after, maybe a year.  Many of us go back for more, because I guess those joyful moments make it all worthwhile.  Or maybe because sometimes it’s just so traumatic you repress the bad memories as a survival mechanism.

After two kids and two renovations I think that qualifies me to make that assessment.  We’ve now been living in our renovated 2 bedroom cottage for over two years which is more crowded than some of the London share-houses I’ve lived in.  But at least there if things got all too much you could just pop down to the pub for a pint.

2014 was going to be the year we started the build on our extension.  We weren’t counting on what a tough year it would be.  (Come on, any Mum would understand just how devastating it would be to have your Bugaboo pram STOLEN from the front porch. Naturally I irrationally blamed my husband.)

In a haze of sleep deprivation, we made it through. But the renovation was put on ice, because juggling two kids under three with work and a frequently travelling hubby, was enough. (Incidentally the complete and utter exhaustion diet is a fantastic way to bounce back post baby, you just have to subsist on cold coffee, left over baby food, and like, no sleep for ten months.  Hmmm. Don’t think that will catch on any time soon.)

Then I got a baby sleep expert in.  I could’ve furnished a whole room for what I paid, but it was worth it. Viola.  Within a few days the kids were sleeping like, erm, babies.  (Seriously who invented that phrase?)  Suddenly I was excited again to get things happening.

We are getting another quote from a builder today, and then, pending budget constraints, we can make a decision.  And for the first time in ages, I’m actually really looking forward to the challenge.  Because SLEEP.

Strong coffee and dark sunglasses.  How I got through 2014.

Strong coffee and dark sunglasses. How I got through 2014.

Reno Regrets

Ten weeks, five days and seven hours after bringing our new bub home to our half renovated house I finally cracked. She’s an exceptionally good baby, even so, some sort of meltdown was inevitable. The only surprise, that it took that long for it to happen.

On this particular day, I’d spent an exhausting morning thwarting my toddlers attempts to fling himself from the couch onto the baby bouncer (with the baby in it). I was now trying to prevent him driving a toy truck over the poor little dear when I tripped over a plastic car and stabbed my foot with a piece of Lego.  I took one look around the cramped playroom, and finally my sleep deprived brain snapped – I uttered the following words:

“I don’t think I can do a winter in this tiny house with two little kids. I think we should move.”

Now, the only people within earshot were both under three, and clearly didn’t grasp the magnitude of what I was saying.  But right then, I really meant it. You see, we’ve already salvaged all the space we can while we wait to do our extension – we’ve de-cluttered and de-catted. (This is not as callous as it sounds – the cat is now happily ensconced at the next door neighbours house in a mutually beneficial arrangement.) So at that point in time the only other option I could see was to move.

With those words came an irrational anger at anyone who ever encouraged us to buy a fixer-upper and renovate. How DARE they support us and actually, like, have faith in us. Do it, they said. It’ll be exciting, they said. Come to think of it, when I look back now, perhaps nobody actually said that. In fact, I think we may have even been warned how difficult it would be, but we stubbornly pressed ahead anyway.  However, I conveniently repressed those memories as I removed the offending Lego piece from my foot.

Poor old hubby copped the extended version when he got home. By then I’d really had time to build-up a sufficient hatred of my surroundings and form a good case for a move. That’s the thing about being a stay at home mum surrounded all day by little people with limited conversation skills, you think a lot. And yes, minor issues do sometimes get blown out of proportion.

Hubby looked somewhat afraid, like a man trying to placate a wild animal.

“But our plans are finished. We’ve got the okay from our neighbours. We love the location. We’d never get a block this size so close to the city.”

“I know. Don’t care.”

Then, in a cunning, but highly dangerous move, this: “Hmm, well maybe you’re right. Maybe we should move.”

Cue self-implosion. “Move? So you don’t think we can do it! I knew it!”

Did I mention I am seriously sleep-deprived? Honestly I’m usually not quite so irrational.

However nothing cheers you up more than hearing other peoples’ miserable renovation stories. My in-laws came over for dinner a few days later. As we crowded around our kitchen table they regaled us with stories of how they lived in a tiny house with an outdoor toilet, everyone sharing one bedroom. At least, my father in law pointed out, in our case each of the kids has their own room. Practically luxury, right?

So, in the spirit of appreciating what I have, I’ve compiled a list:

Perks to Living in Our Small, Half Renovated House

  • We can bathe the kids and watch the TV news at the same time.
  • I can watch my toddler wreaking havoc in the playroom from the babies change table.
  • Hungry?  Or perhaps needing a refreshing beverage?  No worries, the fridge is never more than a few steps away.
  • Each room is multi-functional.  For example, our laundry doubles as a bathroom, which doubles as a brewery. (Hubby brews his own, rather dubious beer)
  • Small house = big backyard
  • If the kids trash it, oh well.  It’s only temporary anyway.
  • The neighbours love us.  The house was so decrepit when we bought it, they’re grateful for any improvement.

Reason enough to stay, right?


The house when we bought it.  No wonder the neighbours love us.

The house when we bought it. No wonder the neighbours love us.



Chan-delirious and pregnant – The Sequel

Firstly, I must apologise for the unoriginal title.  But the conclusion to The Chandelier Saga is a story that needs to be told.  If nothing else, as a cautionary tale as to how an obsessive desire for a fuchsia light fitting could almost break your marriage.  (Surely women everywhere are enduring similar hardships.)

At last – the hot pink light fixture is now installed in baby girls nursery and the room is complete… with only days to spare before her arrival.

Because you can never have too much pink, right?

Because you can never have too much pink, right?

Admittedly, I did get slightly obsessed during the process (I blame pregnancy hormones) and the search for and installation of the chandelier did nearly result in divorce, but now that it’s done I think it was a worthwhile exercise.



The chandelier itself seems to provoke one of two reactions:  Squeals of delight from the ladies and eyeball rolling from the men, who inevitably ask me what will happen with the light if baby girl turns out to be a boy.

The one exception to the rule, my two-year old son, who pointed at the light fixture saying ‘New light!’ then exclaiming with what can only be described as unbridled delight: ‘I LOVE pink’.  Words every macho Aussie bloke would love to hear his son say, I’m sure.  Hubby actually winced when I relayed that conversation.

He squarely blames my fuchsia themed Christmas decorations last year…which may or may not have something to do with it.  Master 2 now associates hot pink with sweets and Christmas presents… whoops.

Christmas flashback

Christmas flashback

Thankfully my hubby has grudgingly come to terms with all the pink (lets face it, he had no other option) and all is well again.

Of course it is very easy to get caught up in this decorating caper and forget that it all came about because of the need to make way for another human being – who’ll be here in just a mere few days.

This actually required quite a lot of manouvering – our poor little house, pre-extension, is not cut out to fit a family of four.  But thanks to Operation Convert Storage Cupboard into Makeshift Little Boys room – we now have a three bedroom house.  OK, the kids rooms aren’t perfect.  But at least our sons room no longer looks like a scene from Hoarders.

From storage cupboard - to little boys room!

From storage cupboard – to little boys room!

As for the minor matter of the extension, we did hit a little speed bump over Christmas, when my desire for vaulted ceilings in the living area was renewed thanks to a spread in Home Beautiful.  But today we learned (from our very patient draftsperson) my longed for vaulted ceilings can not co-exist on the same planet as our Beautiful But Inconveniently Located Jacaranda Tree.  And after the hell I’ve put my husband through recently, I feel I have to let him win that one.  So the tree really IS staying.  And our plans really WILL be submitted this time.  Really.

Chan-delirious and pregnant. Don’t mess with me.

It’s official. The combination of pregnancy and living in a shoe-box sized house while planning a large scale renovation is making me crazy. C-R-A-Z-Y. My husband will be happy to back-up this outlandish claim, I’m sure.
My weird behaviour all began about a month ago when the enormity of our situation hit me: in a few short weeks I’ll have a newborn and there will be four of us living in what is essentially a one and a half bedroom house.
I think it was that terrifying reality, rather than the nesting instinct kicking in, which prompted me and hubby to embark on a feverish clean-out. The challenge was huge. Our ‘storage room’ looked remarkably like a before shot from Hoarders. Finally, after some creative storage solutions, small-scale furniture and a few splashes of colour, it became our sons bedroom, and actually quite a cute one. This success prompted my husband to suggest we don’t even need to bother with an extension at all. As much as I love the idea of not putting myself and my marriage through the hell of a large scale renovation, this simply will not do. Our finalised plans are being submitted for approval at last. But I digress.
In the midst of this frantic de-cluttering I’d been waiting impatiently for the ‘real’ nesting urge to kick in, for me to be gripped by a sudden desire to scrub the inside of the oven, wax the floorboards, or bake gluten-free organic muffins. You know, something practical. But it just didn’t happen. Clearly pregnancy won’t actually rewire my brain and transform me into a domestic goddess. Dammit. Instead, much to my husbands disappointment, the nesting instinct with me has been manifesting itself in other, less obvious, and yes, slightly crazy ways.
Like obsessive online shopping to locate the perfect hot-pink chandelier for baby number two’s nursery. Because, really, what little girl wouldn’t want a sparkly fuchsia light fitting in her bedroom? It wasn’t easy but eventually after countless hours surfing the net, and multiple ‘discussions’ with my husband over the necessity of such an item, I did find one. Thanks ebay.

Because...what little girl wouldn't want one in her room?

Because…what little girl wouldn’t want one in her room?

Hubby was not happy. Can’t say I blame him. Every day when he gets home from work there are more pictures to be hung, and heavy items of furniture to be moved around, and me spending his hard earned money on a chandelier for a babies room (and a pink one at that) just pushed him to breaking point.

Our conversation went something like this:

Him: “Bloody hell Tegan, that room’s going to be a walk in wardrobe eventually. What’s wrong with the light fitting we’ve got.”
Me: “It’s not pink. Don’t worry we can move it later.”
Him: (No words, just glowering at me and adopting a rather aggressive stance, arms folded.)
Me: “We’re having a girl. I’ve been waiting for this. Just let me have my fun.”
Him: (Shakes head and looks exasperated.) “Funny if it ends up being a boy.”

OK, his breaking point does seem rather mild. But for me, right then, with all my visions of pink, sparkly girliness, that really was the cruellest thing he could’ve said.

Fortunately my (ahem) delicate condition does allow me to get away with slightly more outrageous behaviour than usual, a loophole I have been happy to exploit in recent weeks. (Judge me all you like, but with childbirth and a year’s worth of sleepless nights on the horizon, I think I’m entitled.) So the chandelier is on order.

Another example of the uncharacteristic and weird decision-making I’ve exhibited lately was my bizarre idea to throw a second birthday party for my son.
Bizarre, because generally I hate organising any sort of large scale gathering. I find them immensely stressful. But we were in the process of moving for our little boys first birthday last year, so it was kind of overlooked. So I felt like I had to make up for it this year.
Of course, in these days of Instagram and Pinterest and people posting pics of hugely extravagant affairs for their children (many of whom wouldn’t even be aware what is going on) it is a hard act to follow. I confess I did get party fever and go – erm – slightly over the top. And over budget. Again, hubby not happy.





At least our son had a great time. But would I do it again? Hell, no.

Anyway, much to hubby’s relief he only has a few more weeks to put up with my increasingly irrational pregnancy behaviour. There still is a chance I’ll get the urge to bake muffins and scrub the oven before then. Then the sleepless nights kick in and a new sort of craziness begins. Awesome.

To Tree or Not to Tree

OK, I admit it. I don’t do nature. I hate dirt and bugs. The idea of willingly sleeping in a tent and cooking food on an open campfire seems slightly bonkers to me.
But – and here is the hypocrisy of it all – I do like trees. Big, old, beautiful trees that offer plenty of shade and are gorgeous to look at. Problem is I don’t want one smack bang in the middle of my dream kitchen.
As it just so happens, I have one of those big old beautiful trees in my backyard. It’s just that it’s located pretty much where our house extension will go.

This is already a difficult situation, but add one environmental scientist husband to the mix (read: closet tree-hugger disguised in corporate attire) and you’ve got quite a dilemma.
Our renovation project has stalled since I updated you last – which is, well, why I haven’t updated you. After a brief but intense period of renovations we happily settled into our cute cottage. We’ve now been living here a year… but… well the thing about cute cottages – they’re kinda small. And no amount of Hemnes storage solutions can hide that.
So, here we are finally at stage two. The extension. It’s just that it’s been derailed slightly by Tree Wars. For the last three months we’ve been deliberating over the design of our plans, and not really getting anywhere.
Hubby decided the solution was to call an arborist for advice. On the surface it seemed like a good idea. Get an indication on the health of the Beautiful but Inconveniently Located Tree, and find out how close we can build. Sensible, right?
It took me approximately 2 seconds to realise this arborist was no ‘tree doctor’ – he was a tree advocate and husband ally. Extremely pro-tree. It took me approximately 2.5 seconds to realise any vague hopes I had of him saying ‘oh this old Jacaranda is riddled with tree rot, it’ll have to go’ – were dashed.

Basically this is how our conversation went:
Me: So this is the tree.
Him: Wow! What a gorgeous old tree. You don’t see many like this around. Wow! What an asset.
Me: (Deflated sigh)

I am not exaggerating.
At this point I realised I would be racked with guilt if I chopped down a tree purely to make room for a slightly larger dining table. Suddenly I had heartwarming visions of our son playing on a swing under the Jacaranda blossoms. I was in the process of mentally rearranging our house plans to make way for that Beautiful but Inconveniently Located Tree when I heard him say this to my hubby:

Him: You know people pay a lot of money for these trees.
Me: (Snapping back to reality) Really? Like how much?
Him: About 50 grand. Hotels would pay that to put one in a beer garden.

Suddenly I was willing to sacrifice my child’s happiness. Never mind him frolicking under the Jacaranda tree. This was business. And maybe, just maybe – a Carrera marble island bench.

Me: Done.
Him: (Laughs) Oh no, you wouldn’t get the money. That’s what it would cost to uproot it and transport it.
Me: (Deflated sigh)

Which brings us to our current situation. Which is – designing around the tree. Even our draftsperson admitted most people wouldn’t compromise their house design for a tree, no matter how beautiful. But clearly, we’re not most people. Even though I did end up jumping on the tree bandwagon, I’m savvy enough to realise this concession does give me quite a bit of bargaining power, so I decided to harness it. Compromise: hubby gets the tree, I get a walk in wardrobe the size of a small country.

So at last our tree dilemma is resolved. Which means finally, we can move on with our plans, a relief because we’re on quite a schedule. You see, as if renovating while living in a shoe-box sized cottage with a very active toddler isn’t challenging enough, baby number two is on the way. What can I say. I live on the edge. I’m not deluded enough to think things will be even remotely close to being finished for our new arrival. But at least we’ll have a great tree.

ARF! – Acute Renovation Fatigue

Hello my loyal Housecapades readers! (That’s you, Mum.)  I’m just going to come clean with the reason for my tardiness  – I’ve been cheating on you with another blog – far, far away from the dreary exciting world of home renovations.  I didn’t mean to do it, it just happened.  (Anyone tempted to take a look can find the link at the bottom of this post.)

But enough cross promotion.  The new blog isn’t the only reason – I’m suffering from what I believe could be a genuine condition – Acute Renovation Fatigue. (Or ARF, appropriate, right?)  I’m displaying a raft of debilitating symptoms.  My eye starts to twitch whenever I look at house plans.  I break into a cold sweat when I see my bank balance.  I’m even hallucinating – right now I can see a big patch of empty land out the back of my house with a huge pile of dirt and an overgrown lemon tree.  Wait, that’s real.  No wonder I’ve got ARF.

Unfortunately, not a hallucination.

Unfortunately, not a hallucination.

As far as I know there isn’t any cure.  Apart from actually finishing the renovation.  So I’ve decided to brace myself and throw myself back into things.  Hubby was perplexed by a sudden flurry of activity when I started ringing round and organising professionals to come through the house for quotes, but fortunately he decided to roll with it.

The question was always going to be – should we try to project manage this extension ourselves or pay a premium for a company that does it all.  Given my affliction, and the very recent memory of the hell we endured just getting the house to this point, I was all for throwing money at the problem and getting someone else to do it.  That was until I realised exactly how much money we were talking.

Put it this way – with the amount we were quoted it would actually be cheaper to knock our house down and rebuild a very boring cookie cutter 4 x 2 with a double garage. Maybe even with a pool… but just as I started to convince myself I was quite ok with cookie cutter – I remembered.  We live in a heritage area which means the façade has to look a certain way.  Dammit.

Still unwilling to project manage my own renovation (as I’m sure any working mother with a toddler would understand) I decided the only way out of this situation was to win lotto and embarked on a lotto ticket buying frenzy. Hubby took a much more practical approach. He sat me down, then said gently but firmly the sentence I’d been dreading: “Honey, I think we have to do up a budget.”

Nooooooo. I saw my dream kitchen with a Carrera marble island bench drifting away.  Whenever the topic of finances comes up my hubby is always quick to say he could get a fly-in fly-out job on the mines and earn a  lot more.  I’ve always been a staunch opponent of FIFO – I think once I may have even blamed it for destroying the fabric of society.  But principles won’t get me my 4 x 2 renovation.  Then and there I decided I am totally fine with destroying the fabric of society if it means I can get my Carrera marble island bench.

But hubby didn’t say that this time.  I think he’s really enjoying his job (how selfish.)  Instead he went on to say that there are lots of things we could cut back on.  It all sounded rather difficult and very boring.  We still haven’t reached a decision, but it appears project managing our own extension may be the way to go after all.  As I write this sentence I can feel my eye start to twitch.  So much for my flurry of activity.  I think I’ve got ARF again.

Don’t forget my new blog:

The Lycra Incident – A Fashion Tragedy

So, the other day I did something pre-child, pre-renovation me vowed I would never do. I went shopping in Lycra exercise clothes. And – GASP – I had not been working out, nor was I planning to. The most strenuous activity I’d undertaken was to assemble the pram in record speed before my child threw a tantrum.

It was one of those days where it would’ve been preferable to stay in my pyjamas. But unfortunately the consensus seems to be that all-day-pyjama-wearing stops being socially acceptable after your child hits six months. So I went for the next best thing – Lycra. It was so comfortable. It felt so right. And then a little voice popped into my head ‘Why bother getting changed? You could just wear that to the shops.’ So I did.

It’s funny what having a child, followed by embarking on a massive renovation does to your fashion sense. It starts out gradually and before you know it – you’d rather peruse paint samples at Bunnings than shop for shoes. Now when I look back, I realise there have been several crucial points all leading up to what shall now be referred to as – The Lycra Incident.

It all began in pregnancy. All my clothes stretched beyond recognition. I didn’t want to buy good stuff after popping the baby out because the weight gain is only temporary, right? I don’t want to get too comfortable in fat clothes I told myself. Add to that the overriding need to have quick access for breastfeeding, ruling out 90 percent of the world’s fashionable clothing.

Then the fortunate combination of being extremely busy and a terrible cook lead to weight loss (and an iron deficiency – this diet is not recommended.) Again, only temporary I told myself. Plus, no point buying gorgeous skinny clothes when I barely go out and am covered in milk most of the time.

At this point, my baby was starting to grab things. After a rather painful earring incident – it was farewell to my chandelier earrings and funky necklaces. We’d had so many good times together, it was hard to say goodbye. I still look at my jewellery collection wistfully and wonder what we could have been. But it was for the best. We were moving in different directions.

By now I was hardly feeling like me anymore. My handbag collection had long been banished to a box at the top of my wardrobe. No colourful clutches for me. Instead – a cavernous baby bag filled with nappies, dummies, a crushed up teething rusk, a tape measure and tile samples. I’d also traded heels for Havaianas. On a rare night out where I did attempt to wear sky-high heels I had to replace them for my trusty favoured footwear halfway through the evening.

From here, I believe my shameful descent into fashion oblivion was inevitable. Cue moving into the parents house to commence renovations. Everything was chaos. Clothes in boxes at my parents house, at my husbands parents house, our new house. I think my husband was hoping I’d be visiting him at the worksite in tight singlets, denim cut-offs and steel-capped boots like the girls in those reality TV renovation shows. Er, no. Jeans and baggy T shirts, yes.

We have now moved into our house, which has improved the situation slightly. I’d be lying if I said I never shop for clothes. They’re just not, well, fun clothes anymore. The one time I splashed out on some expensive, skinny leopard print jeans I was mortified to realise I could have bought something far more important with that money. Like Gardenias and soil improver. Don’t judge me. It might seem boring to you, but I have to look at that patch of barren land every day. The aforementioned jeans however are now buried in the dark recesses of my wardrobe.

But there is one shining light. At least for work I am forced to look respectable. On those days I can wear a dress and heels without fear of being splattered with paint, milk, or worse. And then it’s back home, and back into my Lycra. It’s daggy but it’s comfortable – but next time I wear it in public I’ll make sure I do intend to do some exercise.