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September 25, 2013

The Ontario Building Code: A set of codes, laws and bylaws which, for many, represent an assurance that builders are required to follow the strictest standards when constructing homes, towers, decks, sheds and dog houses. It lays out the minimum standards that anyone looking to erect or renovate a space must follow. It’s continued existence is meant to keep us safe and to help prevent tragedies, like the one that befell the garment building that collapsed in Bangladesh.

It’s also a colossal annoyance.

For reasons that I now largely forget, Megan and I decided to pull the necessary permits before we finish our basement — that means doing everything to code. Whereas somewhere between 75 and 90 percent of basements are finished without permits, a friend who works in construction told me that he got permits for the two basements he’d done and argued that “too many people are afraid of permits and the ensuing inspections.”

Sounded good. Permits it shall be.

Plotting the rough layout of our finished basement was easy. You measure the space and then commit your well-intentioned plans to paper. Next, you note the ducts and the cold air return and the pipes and the gas lines and the electrical wires and the tv and phone wires….


Then, based on plans, you adjust the layout again. So far, so good. It’s around now that a novice (i.e., Wormald) begins consulting our wonderful Ontario Building Code to see what needs to be added or further altered to ensure everything is on the up and up.

This, of course, is where things begin to fall down.

Let’s start with the windows. My basement has three small-ish windows that are either at, or just below, grade. My assumption, at least initially, was that the builder-installed windows were more than sufficient for the living room we're going to build. Currently, the couch and TV are on the main floor, upstairs and, ideally, we’d like to move all of that downstairs. We would then transform the current living room into a sitting room — a place where we can sit and talk, or read, or contemplate why our son is a bully.

Sounds great, right (the renovation, not the bully thing)? No problems so far, right? Well, no, there is a problem. The Ontario Building Code requires that windows make up 10 percent of the total wall space in a living room. While I haven’t crunched the numbers, even the cat could tell you that my tiny windows don’t comprise that much of the walls.

So, does this mean the Wormald family needs to rip its existing windows out, knock out parts of the wall, and install bigger ones?

Ummm, no. (Seriously, it doesn't.)

After pouring through the code, I found an apparent loophole: a “Recreation Room” is not required to have ANY windows at all. None. So, rather than outfitting Megan with a sledge hammer and sending her off to bust some mortar and concrete, we'll erase the words “Living room” on our plans and insert “Recreation Room."

...And we’ll then be all good in the eyes of the province and city.


You see, a Living Room with a TV, couch, coffee table and a kick-ass surround system would need bigger windows, but a Recreation Room with a TV, couch, coffee table and a kick-ass surround system doesn’t need any windows at all.

Makes complete sense, right?

Also, as a fun aside…. A basement with a bedroom or office requires an egress window. Should the house burst into flames, you need a window big enough to crawl through in order to escape. Neither a living room nor a rec room require such a window. So, in the eyes of the province, it’s quite important that, while either napping or playing Solitaire at your desktop computer, you have a means of saving yourself if a toaster explodes; but, alternatively, you can burn for all they care if you’re instead sitting on the couch watching the Leaf game in a bedroom-less or office-less space.

Makes complete sense, right?

Insulation has been another tidbit of fun. Prior to 2012, the minimum r-Value (r-Value is the measure of thermal resistance; it marks how good your insulation is at retraining heat) in a basement was 12. The minimum r-Value required for the main floors in a house was 20. Because a basement is not considered a living space, however, and because the basement is largely below grade and surrounded by dirt, a lesser r-Value was required.

This changed in 2012 when the minimum was upped to r-20 — which is unfortunate since my house was built prior to 2012 and I have r-12 insulation down there. Page 10 of The Ontario Supplementary Standard SB-12: Energy Efficiency For Housing document (say that five times fast) spells it out clearly:

Basement Walls: Minimum RSI (r)-Value: r-20

Despite that these documents are written in nearly impenetrable language, even I could figure this one out. In addition, before the 2012 code changes, the insulation only had to extend two feet below grade; it now has to extend to the floor. I was resigned, therefore, to having to watch Megan rip out all the existing insulation while I sat in the corner drinking, and cursing the bureaucracy that was making my wife work so hard. While it’s not the worst thing in the world — getting the basement properly spray foamed would be better in the long run — I’m too lazy to listen to Megan moan about how tired all this work is making her.

Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, I guess.

Still, before I outfit Megan in a mask and gloves and point her towards the pink bat insulation downstairs, I decided to listen to the little birdie on my shoulder that had been telling me to get the city to confirm the need for all of this. So, I fired off a quick letter to my friend at The Vaughan and received this in reply:

The current Ontario Building Code requires newly built basement walls to have R20 insulation. However, for a basement renovation of an existing building having only R12 insulation on the basement walls, the Ontario Building Code (under Part 11) allows R12 to remain – no upgrade is required.

HURRAY! No ripping out insulation for Megan!

It’s probably a touch germane to the story that I also mention that I have since scoured the Ontario Building Code and that I cannot find ANY mention of existing r-12 basements being exempt from this change. None. While part of me is sure it’s there, somewhere, I've read through Part 11 and even did a word search and I can’t find it. It’s quite possible that I just missed it, I suppose. As I said earlier, it’s not written in the most user friendly language. But at the same time, what are the odds that a civil servant at The Vaughan gave me incorrect information? These are the same people, after all, that built an entire length of sidewalk in the incorrect spot. They’re also the people that oversaw the year-long construction of a wrought-iron fence.

City council recently renewed the debate surrounding whether The Vaughan should open its doors to a casino. I’d love to see the odds such a facility would set regarding whether I’ll frame around the existing insulation only to be told upon inspection that it isn’t to code and to rip it out.

I can appreciate why no one gets permits.

September 23, 2013

Since he was an itty bitty little Owen, the boy’s had an affinity for Sesame Street characters. Not surprisingly, I suppose, Elmo — the mind-numbingly annoying little red one — is his favourite; Cookie Monster, who Owen calls, “C,” is a close second. The boy has a shirt festooned with a giant picture of Cookie Monster’s blue mug across the chest. It’s garish and loud, but the boy loves it. Were he given the choice, Owen would wear his “C” shirt all day, every day. For Megan and I, fitting the boy in something, anything, other than “C” is typically our biggest accomplishment of the day.

Cookie-related tantrums can be epic. Kicking. Screaming. Tears… And that’s just me — the boy’s even worse.

It’s that backdrop which makes the following all the more remarkable. A couple days ago, my son ran up to me and proudly showed off his new t-shirt. It was emblazoned with a smart-looking open-wheel race car. That alone was enough to make his race-loving daddy proud, but Owen then smiled, pointed to his chest and said, “Daddy, car! ‘C’ in the wash.”

Holy cow!

My 23-month-old not only told me there was a car on his shirt, and he not only said that his Cookie Monster shirt was in the wash, but he equated that he was wearing the race-car shirt with the fact that his Cookie Monster shirt was dirty!


I remember when Owen couldn’t talk. He cried, obviously. He also grunted, chortled and murmured. He made a lot of noise, but he didn’t talk. Megan and I used to lament how much easier things would be when Owen could finally tell us that he was hungry, or that his tummy hurt, or that he wanted or didn’t want something. Life would be simpler, we thought, because we wouldn’t need to waste time wracking our brains trying to discern why he was crying: he’d just tell us that the cat had swatted him and that his nose hurt… again.

So, it was cool when he finally said, “Mama,” and “Dada.” It was amazing when he said, “cat,” and we were floored when he said, “clicker.” (of the boy’s earliest words, “clicker” is probably the one we’re least proud of; we don’t let him watch all that much TV, but that he could verbalize his want of the remote control before he could say dog, milk, or, even food, isn’t one of our better parenting moments.) And now, here he is, stringing together multiple thoughts into a single statement.

I know it’s cliché to say, but it’s true: I sometimes sit and stare in complete amazement at the boy’s development. He can say and do so much compared to even a few short months ago. In many ways, I can’t wait to see what he can do two, three, even six months from now. I’d best not get ahead of myself, however, so, firmly in the here and now, we’re content with finally having reached a point where the boy can tell us what he wants or how he feels.

No more guess work; no more headaches. (I almost typed that with a straight face… almost.)

The boy will turn two in little more than a month. As Grandma says, he’s not a baby anymore; he’s now a little boy. Owen and I spent a few hours at Grandma’s place a short while back. My mom thinks her grandson walks on water, and she glosses over the tell-tale signs that he might just listen to that devil on his shoulder a little more than he should. I’ll scold him for something only to hear Grandma say, “Oh, leave him alone. He’s a little boy. All little boys are like that.”

When I regale her with stories about the boy’s misdeeds — such as the letter we recently received from Daycare that vividly described the boy’s wanton habit of pushing the smaller children — Grandma dismisses it all as nonsense: “No, not my grandson.” He can do no wrong in her eyes.

Well, mostly.

It’s difficult to pin the precise moment Grandma first noticed the boy’s pitchfork and horns, but it might have been when he smeared potato into her couch. Or maybe it was when he tore a nice picture frame apart. In fact, the more I think about it, it might have been when he came painfully close to breaking a glass cabinet door. But then again, maybe it was when he flung his dinner, plate and all, onto the carpet. I suppose it might have been when he laughed after his dirty diaper leaked onto that same carpet.

Like i said, it's hard to say, really.

Regardless, her little angel finally had his wings clipped when, for the first time in his short life, my mom, Grandma, admonished the boy. And a stinging rebut it was: “Owen, please don’t do that.”

Ouch. That’ll leave a mark.

I grew up in a single-parent household — it was just Mom and me. I wasn’t too bad a kid, but I certainly got into my share of whimsical mischief… and I can guarantee that, when I did something wrong, Mom didn’t say “Jason, please don’t do that.” I grew up in a time when moderate corporal punishment was still in vogue. Getting spanked was part and parcel with being a kid. There was no such thing as “Time Out” when I was a boisterous bundle of energy. Instead, I was simply thankful I didn’t grow up a generation earlier when the switch or the belt was the hip way to impart punishment. So, watching Grandma politely ask him to “please” stop destroying her apartment was unexpected. In fact, I was so aghast that I nearly grabbed my son and fled before she went completely postal and offered him a cookie.

The boy, perhaps sensing that he’d actually taken one step too many over the line, stopped, reflected on his evil ways, turned, and softly said, “Sorry, Grandma.”

And with those two words, the damage was undone. Grandma’s heart melted and Owen’s wings were whole again. His halo spiffy clean, the unpleasantness was swept away. Grandma was again able to overlook his path of destruction because the boy had developed the capacity to say sorry.

His ability to talk has had unforeseen consequences.

I'm not sure how much easier things are going to be for Meg and I now that Owen thinks he can get away with everything with a simple sorry. Case in point, the boy clubbed his Mummy in the head with a toy the other day. Stifling the pain and the desire to cry, Megan chastised the boy for being a brute. He looked up into his Mummy’s now-watery eyes and confidently said, “Sorry, Mummy,” clearly expecting that to be the end of it.

Meg felt her forehead for blood, and Owen turned and walked over to me. “FUN, Daddy. FUN, ” he said.

I think I preferred it when he was mute; maybe I don’t really want to know what’s going on in his little head. Knowing, for example, that he finds it “fun” to assault a parent is apt to give me nightmares. Peanut, in particular, better stand guard. I hate to think what he might try and wash away with a, “Sorry, cat!”

September 17, 2013

I used to love sleep. It was such a trusted friend. Good days and bad, sleep was always there, like a trusty sidekick. I fondly remember the days, as a teenager, when I had no job, no responsibility, and nothing beyond the tip of my nose that I cared about, and I could sleep in to however late I wanted.

Those days were fun.

Those days are gone.

I miss those days.

In a fit of nostalgia, I actually slept in until 8:40 a.m. this past Saturday. Laugh if you will, but it was the latest I’ve slept since Owen was born, nearly two years ago. It felt weird, to be honest — almost like I had gotten away with something. Once I got up, I slinked downstairs and peeked sheepishly around the corner, half expecting to be scolded for missing out on something important. (Fortunately, neither Megan nor Owen scolded me; the cat look unimpressed, though, as she hadn't been fed.) I felt weird because waking early is now the norm, even on mornings where I don’t need to get up for anything in particular. Truthfully, it has become an unwanted habit.

Owen, obviously, is the key reason I no longer enjoy extended, or even uninterrupted, sleep any more. The boy is more of a “let’s get up at the crack of dawn” sort of sleeper. Hearing him yell, “MOMMY,” or “DADDY,” while it’s dark out is perhaps what I cherish most about parenthood. Still, he’s far better than he was. At least we don’t have to scoop him up and endlessly traipse the house to get him to fall back asleep — nothing says parenting like wandering through the dark, trying your best not to step on the cat, in a vain attempt to soothe a sleep-less baby. Actually, nothing says parenting like jolting awake, half asleep, because you realize suddenly that, in your stupor, you were about to drop your sleep-less baby.

Those are the Hallmark moments that stay with you forever.

The boy’s early sleeping habits were torturous for Megan (and me, but mostly Meg; I would bugger off to work and catch some sleep in my office — she, sadly, was sorta trapped with the little cranky-pants all the time). In the early days, Owen had the wonderful knack for waking every hour through the night and, as if to top the proverbial cake, he would be lucky to nap more than half an hour at a time through the day.

A sleepy Owen is a crusty Owen. An exhausted Owen is the Devil incarnate.

In order to preserve Megan’s sanity, we adopted the Ferber method of sleep training. Dr. Richard Ferber, or Saint Ferber as I now call him, devised a highly-regimented method of sleep training where you leave your child, alone in the crib, to cry for set durations of time. After each period ends, you enter your kid’s room to reassure them that they haven’t been abandoned. The durations you spend away from them lengthens until the child finally falls asleep. Over time, they “learn” not to cry and instead just fall asleep, quickly and quietly. The Ferber method of sleep training is controversial. Some people view leaving a baby to cry alone as cruel. Personally, we felt that a tired baby, who is unable to fall asleep on its own, and a Mummy, wandering aimlessly towards her frayed ends, was crueler. In the end, Owen learned to fall asleep within minutes and was sleeping through the night after only a couple days.

A rested Owen is a treat to be around. A well-rested Owen is an almost angelic Owen (almost).

Despite sleeping through the night, the boy still tended to wake early (between six and seven). At least it was consistent and a lot better than the four to five o’clock he used to awaken. Recently, however, the boy’s wake-up-calls started edging earlier again. Seven o’clock became 6:30; 6:30 became 6:00. Then, the occasional cry, or sleep scream as we call them, during the night turned into prolonged periods where he’d be fully awake in the early morning.

Even for someone as fond of sleep as I am, when you’re presented with the constant need to awaken both early and often, you quickly develop the ability to function, and function reasonably well, with less rest. Especially in the early days, when your infant is feeding through the night, you establish the ability to thrive with only a few hours of sleep. It’s a survival skill, honed over thousands of years of Human evolution — like how we developed thumbs to open bags of Doritos. It doesn’t take long, once you start getting even a hint of more sleep, for your body to remember that getting up at two in the morning sucks. You might still be able to function with less sleep, but...

So, that Owen was again suddenly waking earlier, and also waking through the night, was alarming. (It's alarming because a well-rested Wormald is a wittier, and all-round happier and more gooder blogger; a tired Wormald is a less-goodly writer, and is prone to bitching endlessly about The Vaughan. The city approved my nails, by the way; still no word on the curved sidewalk.)

Something had to be done, and fast! Daycare sent word that our tired little boy has been pushing and shoving the other children. The other day, Megan chastised Owen for trying to push some kids at the playground. Grandma even scolded the lad for being a brat at dinner. A tired Owen is a mean Owen. Remember that “Devil-incarnate” Owen I referred to? He’s baaaaack….

Megan had long speculated that he might be getting cold at night. He flops around the crib and almost immediately kicks the blanket off. That he might be cold and uncomfortable was a reasonable assumption. That he was cold kept him awake; being awake so much meant he didn't get enough sleep; tired, he was turing into a demon. The question then was how to keep him covered and warm.

When Owen was just an itty bitty little Owen, we used to dress him in sleep sacks at night — think of a sleep sack as a plush potato sack, with holes for both the arms and head. He liked them and they kept him warm at night during the cold winter months. This past spring, however, we opted to drape him in a blanket and ditched the sacks. It was warmer and he got on just fine without them… until it started getting cold again.

We plan on moving Owen to a toddler bed soon. We fully understand that, once he’s freed from the crib’s barred confines, he’ll be visiting us a lot through the night. Thus, we’ll have to ensure that he maintains a degree of mobility or he’ll off and kill himself — it’s tough to walk in a traditional sleep sack. Fortunately, Megan found that some toddler-sized sacks have little holes your child can stick their feet through. Such sacks would be perfect both today (to keep him warm and, hopefully shut him up at night and let him sleep longer into the morning) and also later (they would allow him to bother the Hell out of us when he’s eventually granted the freedom to casually stroll into our room at night).

So we bought him this new sleep sack.

He hated it. I dressed him in it the first night: “Off! Off, Daddy, off!” He pulled at the collar so long that he wasn't even able to concentrate on his favourite story book, Curious George. “Off, Daddy!” I laid him in the crib and watched as he continued to struggle, ceaselessly wiggling to get out of it. The next morning, Megan walked into his room and was greeted with “Off! Off, Mommy, off!” Poor little dude.

His protestations aside, he’s been sleeping better since we started dressing him in his new sack. It’ll be interesting to see if his behavior improves.

But, truthfully, it’ll be more interesting to see if he starts busting a few moves from the ‘90s, though. The more you look at the sack the more you realize the leg area is ridiculously long and baggy. With his feet poking through the holes, he looks like he’s wearing pair of MC Hammer-style pants.

He was so angry when Megan dressed him in the sack the other night that he shook free of his Mummy’s grasp and tried to make his way to freedom. I looked up in time to see him waddling through the darkened hall, slowed by the bright-blue sleep sack that was acting more like leg irons than a cozy blanket. As he shot past the door, he struggled to maintain his balance as the crotch of his blanket dragged along the floor behind him. Looking for somewhere to hide, as he ran from my view, I was left with was the sound of my son screaming, “Off! Off! Off!” He looked and sounded like a seal begging for a fish.

I was saddened a bit when Megan retrieved and then lifted him to bed. Were he a true showman, he have ended things with, “Stop! It’s Hammer time!”

I hope he gets back on track and starts to sleep properly again. Might help me reacquaint myself with my old friend.