Sunday, February 18, 2007

House Proud

2 years ago - the same week I went back to work after my second maternity leave - Marc and I started to look at houses to buy.

We hadn't planned to buy a house in Luxembourg. We had no money put aside for it. I have heard horror stories of people looking for at least a full year, and usually longer, and then when you see something you like you have to move IMMEDIATELY - and don't mess around too much about the price because it'll be gone in about 5 minutes if it's decent.

We had just started looking. At a 3 appartment building that we thought we could renovate into a single family home - and it had two studios in the back for rental income. Sounds perfect... it was dismal. Then a 3 bedroom house - drove by, it looked cute - a little shabby but what's a bit of love right?

We didn't think we could afford to live in the area where we were renting. We were overcoming our dissapointment because we love the area.

Then, the morning of the evening when we were to see the 3 bedroom house, I was flipping through the little English weekly that comes out on Thursday and there was the add - a house in Merl (our neighbourhood) at a price we could swing (yes, more than we were looking at). Dropped everything, called the number, was told I was the 4th person to make an appointment that day and yes, we could come on Saturday. Got the address, drove by, called Marc excited, excited excited... He said make it TONIGHT, forget Saturday. I called and changed the appointment to that evening.

After visiting the three bedroom in a neighbourhood not quite as desirable, I was discouraged. It had a postage stamp garden (1/2 the lot had been sold to the neighbours) and had had NOTHING changed since it was built in the 50's, except for a dodgy kitchen that was not my taste. It needed a new heating system, to have the gaz (now illegal) water heaters replaced, windows changed, serious redecoration (like strip stucco off walls work). And the "possible 4th bedroom" was not mush more than a crawl space in the attic. Marc tried to put a good spin on it, but even if we bought the house, we didn't have the money (not to mention time or effort) to do all the work.

So we left, dropped our car at home (the house was only 500m from the house we were renting) and walked there in the crisp evening air. We could see the house from the corner - no garage, on a busy street... hmmm. Then we crossed the road and rang the bell. The door was opened and we were wisked into what seemed to be a perfect world. Tastefully decorated, nicely lit - with my much dreamed of family room off the kitchen (rare in European houses), a huge terrace off the bedroom (over the addition that was the family room).

That was two years ago yesterday.

We bought the house - made an offer of the full amount that night. They (the lovely couple who owned it) told us to sleep on it and promised not to sell it to anyone else. Thankfully they did as they were offered almost twice the asking price the next morning. That night we signed the "compromis" (basically an offer) and went about arranging the mortgage - all as if floating on air.

The reality of moving into the house 4 months later was not as... well not as floaty. The house - while in structurally good shape, needed more decorating work than we had first thought - we mad ethe classic error of buying based on their decor, which we couldn't (and wouldn't really want to) reproduce. There were surprises when the workers were trying to pull down wallpaper. We had a crooked contractor who tried to charge us 50% more in the final days before the move, and the work wasn't done. We ended up having to pick up the flooring ourselves and find someone at 5 pm on a Friday that could come on the Monday to install so we could move in on Tuesday (a miracle in itself, we knew that someone was looking out for us). And so on. And so forth.

One casualty of the budget/change in billing by the contractor, was the living room/dining room. The paper that was there had to stay. It's not bad paper - it's actually almost right, but not quite. And once empty we realized how much of the house was PEACH. Peach in the living room. Peach in the powder room. Peachy terracotta tiles on the floor (they're okay, but not so much with the peach on the walls) pale peach in the hallways, peach in our bedroom (luckily removed by the contractors), peach in our wardrobe/bathroom, peach in the guest room.

Fast forward to today. I am sad to say that most of the house is still... peach. I don't know if it is being home sick for the last 5 weeks that did me in, or what happened, but Marc came home the other day and I told him that I couldn't take it anymore, something had to give. The house - while fine, just doesn't feel like ours.

So yesterday - two years since we saw the house, we finally decided that we were going to forget about having the halls repapered so we could paint (here there is no drywall - you need to put up white paper and then paint. Ours has seen better days) and just PAINT something. So after months and months of perusing Farrow and Ball samples (none of which was just right, we're in a row house, not much light etc etc etc) we drove to a DIY store in Belgium and bought paint samples. And spent yesterday afternoon evening dabbing them here and there - it was so much fun!! We even got out of bed at 11:00 pm to see if one of the colours would cover the hideous peach paper in the powder room (we think it does!!!!)

And today, 2 years since we signed the compromis, Marc went and bought paint (a store open on Sundays - another miracle!).

This evening I am the proud owner of a beautifully red brown accent wall in my hallway called Havana... we both keep going to look at it. The kids even like it.

And there's another several litres of other colours to go... down with PEACH!

Maybe this can be home after all...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Why some species eat their young

I really do understand it at the moment.

Things are usually a little hairy towards the end of one of Marc's trips, but today has taken the proverbial cake (damn, I could use some cake!!) I am at the end of a rather long illness and while I think there is now a chance I won't die, I am feeling pretty weak and drained.

On this lovely day, I had to take the kids to Belgium to a doctor recommended by a colleague of Marc's. Seeing how sick the kids have been I am ready to try anything, including a 55km drive to a remote town in Belgium to see a doctor who does homeopathy (not allowed in Luxembourg, we're in a Catholic nation that still sees alternative medecine as black magic).

Good news is that we get there. How I am not sure, as I had Marc's GPS, but it kept telling me to go a different way every few feet. "Turn left in 800m". I drive 200m and it says "recalculating" as if I've missed the turn. Anyhow to wrap that up I went the way the signs said and found it. Phew.

Next the appointment. Stu suddenly doesn't speak any French. Hmmmm (she spoke no English) and had to have everything translated (take off your shirt. sit down, breathe - all things he has been doing for his pediatrician in french for 5 years). Then he proceeds to ricochet cars off her office walls and drive them into private parts of the office (remember, this is Belgium. it was just curtained off).

Things only got better when he announces in the middle of Julia's exam that he needs to go pee. NOW. NO, he can't wait. So I run with him to the bathroom. He is more interested in the decor than in emptying his bladder. Julia starts to scream because her mother has left her alone with some strange woman she doesn't know who is poking at her. Understandable.

Downhill from there. Julia won't give up the hollering. Reaches decibels I've never heard before. Doctor tells me they are crocodile tears and that's why she's not paying attention. I agree but say I want to hear what she's saying so I am trying to calm the child (who's performance was worthy of an Oscar). Get nowhere. Doctor raises her voice and tells Julia to stop or go in the corner (she was trying to shock her into silence). Result? Julia starts to scream "Me no like Doctor, me no like Doctor, me no like Doctor" at the absolute top of her lungs. I think I am now deaf in my right ear.

After being assured that she is sure that Luxembourgish pharmacies can order me what I need, I head to one of our local ones, more known to be sympathetic to alternative medecine. The woman was very friendly but it took us 1 HOUR to get out of there and EUR 150 and I still don't have everything I need.

At dinner my beautiful daughter picks up her glass of water and grins at me. "No Julia!" I say in a stern voice (wondering why I bother) as she nods uh-huh!! and pours the entire glass over the dining room table. I put her on the naughty step where she reaches new decibles yet again because - gasp - SHE'S WET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (and it seems to be MY fault??)

And apparently in all of this I have been neglectful of Stu because he has just gone and written with a pen on my bed sheets.

And now they are both up there refusing to go to bed. I am going to go growl at them. It won't work, but it will help me let off some steam!!!!!