Missing kitty returns!

Have you ever had a pet go missing for over 24 hours?

On Saturday night Tex didn’t come home. After calling for him and doing a walk around the block, we decided to call it a night–after all it’s summer and who doesn’t like staying out late in the summer?

Trenton and I both checked the doors periodically throughout the night, but Tex wasn’t there. We awoke in the morning and expected to see him waiting on the front stoop, but still nothing. The panic didn’t set in, however, until we got back from the pool around 2 p.m. and his little furry butt didn’t run down the front walk to greet us.

For anyone who hasn’t picked up on how much I love my cats, I love my cats. I don’t worry as much about Jet because she has street smarts and doesn’t warm up to just anyone. Tex, on the other hand, has bonfires with our new neighbours, climbs into the mailman’s car for a visit, and follows us on walks around the block. He’s too friendly for his own good (which is what we love about him)!

There has been a heat wave for the past week, so we started to think the worst. Was Tex lost in a new neighbourhood without food and water? Was he resting under a bush somewhere, too exhausted from the heat to drag himself home? Trapped in a neighbour’s garage?

While Trenton rode his bike around the neighbourhood calling Tex’s name, I Googled “cat missing for 24 hours”. The articles said cats who don’t return within 24 hours might be lost or trapped somewhere. If left without food and water, their chances aren’t good. The advice was to walk around the block and check under porches and in trees, knock on neighbours’ doors, and post missing cat flyers.

After Trenton searched, I searched, and then the family searched, walking the streets and calling Tex’s name. It broke my heart to hear Owen crying for his lost kitty.

To distract ourselves, we left food and water on our front step and then went for dinner in an air conditioned restaurant, but all I could think about was going home to check on Tex again. If he was there, I’d cuddle him all night and never let him outside again. From now on, he would be an indoor cat. I would appreciate and baby him like I used to before I had kids. All I wanted was to watch a movie with him in my lap, purring and looking up at me with his big cat grin.

On the drive home from dinner, I burst into tears.

But when we pulled up at the house, it happened: Tex came around the side of the house. I jumped out of the car and raced up the front walk, scooped him up in my arms. The next door neighbour opened his front door and cheered, “Huzzah, your cat came back! I was on the phone with my sister and when I saw him, I told her the cat is back and hung up.”

Tex was a bit shocked by my enthusiastic greeting, but he purred the moment I squeezed him to me. I gave him wet food and water, and then cuddled him all night like I’d dreamed about doing. In the end he was missing 27 hours and he was exhausted, but he was safe. We still don’t know where he went, but we suspect he fell asleep in the shade somewhere. I still plan to keep him inside going forward.

So for anyone who is missing a pet, I hope this gives you hope.

Here is exhausted Tex after he came home 🙂

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Goodbye to Our First House

Anyone who knows me well knows I’m not great with change. I’m very sentimental and have trouble letting go of places and things that remind me of wonderful experiences!

At the end of March, we moved out of our very first house. The house we bought together just before we got married. The house we lived in when we brought both kids home from the hospital. The house that is filled with memories of friends playing croquet and beersbie in the huge backyard, as well as family staying with us from different countries.

We called it our box house.

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We were at a Superbowl party in early February (I actually had to Google which sporting event it was, how pathetic), and received a text from a realtor that someone was going to put a bid on our house. At this point it had been up for sale for five months and we’d only received one lowball offer and a bunch of helpful feedback along the lines of, “Your windows are ancient” or “Your shingles are peeling like scabs.” Then all of a sudden this realtor’s text came in saying, “My clients are super interested but you need to get out in 30 days.”

Up until then we hadn’t been that interested in selling, which is why we’d listed the house on our own rather than use a realtor. We were just testing the waters. We didn’t even have a FOR SALE sign on the front yard. So Trenton and I read the text, had some more beer, and then went home and read it again. We thought about whether we actually wanted to move.

We’d lived in our house for seven years. We LOVED our house. The only reason we were even considering selling it was because the house was in dire need of renovations. We needed to make a decision: stay or go.

As DIYers, Trenton and I had already put a lot of work into the house ourselves. We bought it in a private deal from the developer who transformed old military housing into an inner city suburb called Garrison Woods in 2001, and before us the house had been filled with renters. The grass in the backyard was burned away from dog pee and the walls and baseboards were dinged all over. We did ALL the landscaping in the backyard, including planting trees, digging gardens, painting the fence, and lowering the deck.

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We also did the following interior renovations ourselves:

  • retiled the guest bathroom, installed a new bathtub and vanity
  • retiled the ensuite, installed a new shower and vanity
  • ripped out the carpet on both staircases
  • ripped out carpet in the basement and replaced with laminate
  • painted walls, window trim, and baseboards
  • installed new shelving in closets
  • installed a stackable washer/dryer upstairs (this one I did not help with – it was all T and his dad as I watched the kiddos)
  • added crown mouldings in front entrance and replaced stippled ceiling with drywall

The people who bought our house had it professionally renovated, and last night we had an opportunity to walk through the finished product. It looks amazing. It made me happy to see our house transformed the way we knew it could be. (It also felt pretty good to see that they kept our bathroom renovations intact. Go us!)

The negotiations on the sale of our home were crazy easy. They asked for a quick possession, and we asked for close to list price. Now we live in a house that doesn’t require renovations any time soon–which will be a marriage saver with young kids–and it’s only seven blocks from our old neighbourhood, so sentimental me didn’t have to let go of all my favourite things, including the parks and river paths.

While it’s emotional to say goodbye to a house that has been your home for so long, we’re already making memories in our new home. I was a bit worried that Owen would be upset after taking the tour last night, but as we drove away he talked about how much he likes his new bedroom with the big window.

So farewell to our box house! You were good to us and we’ll cherish our memories with you always.

The dreaded synopsis with multiple characters 

After struggling to write a synopsis for my current WIP with dual POV, I came across this article and I was finally able to write a decent breakdown of the most important events. Before I was basically writing two synopses–one for each character–and there was a lot of repetition. This article helped me realize I didn’t necessarily have to list each event in the correct order and that I could cut down on the number of characters mentioned by encompassing them in their collective role, ie. “the police”.

I recommend this article to anyone struggling to write a complicated story synopsis:

How to Write a Synopsis When You Have Lots of Characters in Your Story

Gratitude and Love

Happy New Year!!! Seeing as I have been a bit MIA, it seems only fitting for one of my “new years resolutions” to be devoting more time to the blog. In the fall I made a new Instagram account for my writing: @lexbakerwrites. I also watched this amazing documentary on being grateful, which led me to create an Instagram account dedicated to posting a daily gratitude picture. It’s a private account, made entirely for myself, and it has been beyond rewarding to “find” a picture to take every day. It opens my eyes to everything I have, how privileged I am, and I am so so thankful. Which leads to my first resolution…

Resolution #1: Gratitude
Having two kids under three has its challenges–many more than my husband and I anticipated when we had the “should we have kids three years or two years apart talk”–but it is worth every exhausted and stressful moment. At the beginning of last year I was in my third trimester and super stressed out due to two terrible events that occurred in 2014–one of which will never stop hurting, but the other might turn out okay. And if it doesn’t, Trenton and I will be okay. At least we will finally have an answer and can heal. We are so lucky that through all the bad we had our first child, who is super sweet and loving and makes us laugh. Our second child arrived just when we needed him and blesses us every day with his infectious smiles. It’s impossible not to be happy around him! It melts my heart how much my sons already love each other and I know they are going to have an amazing bond. I’m also so grateful for my extended family and their invaluable love and support; my friends who were excited and happy for me after I had Max and published my book; my two black kitties for their endless snuggles; and my house in an area of the city that I love (and is super kid friendly)! Which leads to my second resolution…

Resolution #2: Love
K, this sounds super corny, but I want to open my heart to love (maybe because I just watched Love Actually and that was a direct line from the movie). I agree that “love is all around us” and we just have to look. I’m a very social person, but recently I’ve felt exhausted so I started turning down invitations with friends (this is also a symptom of having two young children), and I quickly began to feel isolated. However, the moment I decided to start seeing people again, I realized how many great people I have in my life! Thank you to all the great people, including you, the person reading this. You rock.

Hello Me, It’s You

 

My toddler is napping (for the first time in days!) and my 6 month old is demanding cuddles (nothing new here), so it’s the perfect time to dig into this review copy of Hello Me, It’s You.

A university project that took off on social media, HMIY is a book of letters written by people aged 17-24 to their 16 year old selves about their experiences with mental health issues. The aim is to reassure those who are experiencing these issues as well as to reduce stigma around them.

What a brilliant concept for a novel! Young adulthood is such a turbulent time (which is part of the reason I love writing about it), and I think it’s hard for a lot of teens to recognize whether what they’re experiencing is similar to other people their age or a sign of something more serious. This book could be invaluable to so many people.

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Thank you for the opportunity to read this!

Trust

If you’re following the new Instagram account I made this week, you might have already seen my post on this, but I wanted to post the second photo…and of course ramble on about my life. That’s what blogs are for, right?

In one of my creative writing classes the prof had us do an exercise in free writing, which is where you write whatever comes to mind for a set period of time without worrying about spelling, grammar, etc. Free-writing loosens the writer up and produces raw material, sometimes revealing thoughts the writer never knew they had, which can be quite personal!

So I love the section on ‘Trust’ in Diana Trout’s book on journal spilling. She suggests that if you’re worried about writing something too personal, cover it in a layer of gesso afterward. That way you’ve gotten your thoughts out, no one else can read it but you still know what it says, and it creates some super funky artwork!
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It’s been a long time since I’ve written in a journal, but I’m contemplating starting again. I used to LOVE writing in a journal as a kid. I loved that I could add artwork, I loved that I could throw it in my bag, I loved that I could make something entirely ME.

To tell the truth, I’ve had some trouble getting into blogging. For the most part it’s because I’m an incredibly private person, which works against me as a writer when you need to sell yourself haha. But also, I grew up writing for myself, so the idea of writing for other people is new to me. Gotta admit, I’m liking it though! I’m amazed at the writing community I’ve managed to meet in one short week on Instagram. So many awesome people going through similar stuff. I don’t know many other writers where I live, so the online community kind of rocks.

Okay, that’s it for today.

Do you journal? Or do you prefer to blog?

Review – the hundred lies of Lizzie lovett

I’m somewhat conflicted about this novel. I found the title/subtitle a bit misleading because Lizzie isn’t really a liar, she simple changes her style as she ages like most women do. To me the title suggests Lizzie is a pathological liar who believes in her own version of the truth, and I expected a novel about her house of lies crashing down. Instead it was about an immature and self-absorbed teenager named Hawthorn and her relationship with the boyfriend of a missing girl named Lizzie, who wasn’t the happy-go-lucky girl Hawthorn thought her to be.

Hawthorn was a somewhat fresh take on a teenaged heroine. Though I found her to be annoying and selfish–especially when she betrayed her brother Rush’s secret during a minor argument–I still appreciate the uniqueness of her character, including her obsession with the life of the popular girl she felt she could never become (Lizzie). Chelsea Sedoti is a talented YA author who very accurately portrays the thought processes of a teenaged girl. I enjoyed Hawthorn’s witty lists of all the terrible things she wished would happen to someone who wronged her; “I wish someone would replace Mychelle’s fancy shampoo with the drugstore brand. I wish she would suddenly forget the name of her five favourite songs. I wish every time she microwaved a frozen burrito, the center would stay cold.”

I disliked Hawthorn’s (first Lizzie’s) romantic interest, Enzo, who was way too old for her at 25. And even though I knew she would end up with Connor, I wish more time had been spent on that positive relationship so the book would have felt like less of a downer. Sure it was an accurate portrayal of a lot of first loves, and even brought me back to my cringe-worthy boyfriends, but he was just such a loser and I found it painful to read sometimes. I think the moment I really didn’t like him was after he found out Hawthorn was a virgin and instead of panicking at the news in addition to committing a crime, he just lazily rolled a cigarette and said he felt like a bad guy. Ugh. I wanted her to kick him to the curb! Then he went ahead and got with Hawthorn’s nemesis Mychelle and told her the embarrassing news about Hawthorn staining his sheets. What a bag of dicks!!! AmIright?

I think my issue was that while I appreciated that the characters were realistically portrayed, I simply didn’t like them. This made the book a bit hard to read (for me), in addition to the book being a bit slow. An exception to this, and when I could not put the book down, was when Hawthorn and Enzo entered the abandoned house in the woods. I thought Chelsea Sedoti did a wonderful job unravelling the mystery of Lizzie’s disappearance and portraying Hawthorn’s feelings once the mystery was solved. I’m giving it 3.5 stars.

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Personally, I wish Ms. Sedoti would write a sequel and the first scene would begin with Hawthorn kicking Enzo in the nuts.

Review – Be Frank with Me

I picked this book up in Costco and bought it because the description on the back spoke to me. Not because it sounded interesting, which it did, but because I recently lost an investment, I’m a writer, and I have a son. Sure I’m not a hugely successful writer depending on my next book to fix a devastating financial mistake, but Be Frank with Me still felt like one of those reads you need at a certain time in your life.

The premise is that Mimi Banning, a reclusive writer who wrote a famous book twenty years prior, has lost all her money due to a Ponzi scheme. She must now write a second bestseller to support herself and her son Frank. To aid her in this task, her publisher sends his assistant Alice to type the manuscript onto computer (Mimi will only use a typewriter). However, Alice turns into more of a maid and babysitter to Mimi and her son Frank, who is an eccentric nine year old boy obsessed with 1930s film stars and has nothing in common with the kids at school.

Be Frank with Me is definitely a character-driven novel. The majority of the novel centers around Frank and his shenanigans and Alice’s quest to discover the true identity of Frank’s father. There were a lot of laugh-out-loud moments and I felt like I knew the characters on a personal level. Johnson did an excellent job of describing the house, which became a character in itself. When the house burns and all of Mimi’s work is lost—and after she locks herself away from Frank in order to meet her deadline, too—I felt for her in a way that only a writer who has experienced a computer crash can. Writers put so much of their lives on hold to create and without any certainty that the work will pay off. To waste all that time would be heartbreaking.

The good news is that in the end, Frank’s eccentricities are what end up saving Mimi’s book. The real question is whether or not the book becomes an instant success like her first and saves them from financial ruin. The outcome of Mimi’s book after publication is left unexplored, which I felt was a flaw considering it forms the premise of the novel. I know that the ending is one of the hardest parts of a novel to write, and it’s impossible to write an ending that every reader will enjoy, but I felt that too many questions were left unanswered. Is Mr. Vargas Frank’s father? Will Frank be okay? What happens to Xander?

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I felt the novel ended abruptly but everything else was done right, so I’m giving it 4 stars.

Refinishing an antique vanity

For the last week we’ve been having a lot of “fun” installing a stackable washer/dryer in the upstairs closet, and today we passed the plumbing inspection! Huzzah! Now I can finally get started on that large pile of laundry sitting in the hallway! But first I’ll post pictures of my last project: refinishing an antique vanity.

I actually finished this late May, but I’m posting it now because I’m feeling all crafty and handy, and to avoid that laundry mountain. The vanity is part of a bedroom collection that belonged to my Nana and was quite yellowed and chipped. First I cleaned it with TSP to degrease the wood, then I sanded it down and painted it white with sea green drawers. I love how it turned out! We live in an old house without a lot of closet space, so having this vanity has been awesome.

this is how it looked when I started sanding

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this is the cats helping me do the sanding

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these are the insides of the drawers, which happened to match the sea green paint (wish I could say this was intentional)

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and drum roll…finished product!

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Welcome Baby Max

Me and Max

Hey so I disappeared there for a bit because…you guessed it…I HAD A BABY! I’m back in the land of no sleep and constant diaper changes, only the diapers are even TINIER than expected because he arrived 3 weeks early and we had to get the premie ones. Max was born on April 16th at a healthy 6 pounds 7 ounces and is now close to 9 pounds because–like his older brother–the kid eats constantly. Constantly! I can’t walk into the room without him getting a whiff and crying for the milk bar. As I type this he’s in a carrier, his little head bobbing as he tries to extract milk from my collarbone. The cutest thing: he’s a twin of his older brother at the same age. In the hospital I kept experiencing crazy deja-vu and calling him Owen.

And speaking of our tantrumy two year old, I was kind of worried about how Owen would take to having a baby brother, but he loves Max with a fierceness bordering on aggression. We’ve had to peel him off Max on more than one occasion…

Owen and Max first kiss

Owen brings Max clean diapers, dresses him in clothes and shoes that are too big for him (see above), and refers to him as ‘Owen’s Baby’. It melts my heart!

If any of you are wondering how Tex is faring, I’m afraid it’s him who has regressed… He’s taken to sleeping in the bassinet, climbing onto the breastfeeding pillow, and asking to be cuddled in the carrier. Photo evidence of this last one actually exists.