Thursday, January 24, 2008

Milestone, unexpected

[Thanks for all your questions! I'm working on answers -- they'll go up in my next post.]

Last night, Munchkin passed another milestone I didn't see coming.

She's 19 months old now, and, like her cohort, is in full tantrum mode, a toddling bundle of wild desires and poorly enunciated words and clumsy gestures and imperfect balance, a developing will incompletely able to achieve its goals. It's not been pleasant around our house this week. Tuesday, we had a 75 minute screaming meltdown precipitated by a not-timely-enough sliding on of the tray to the highchair. Monday was a bathtime-to-bedtime scream-a-thon, too. Wednesday, we moved dinner dramatically forward, which helped, but she completely lost it just as, pyjama-clad, washed, and with soother clipped reassuringly to her zipper, she was handed into my arms for her goodnight bottle. Half an hour of screaming and flailing and punching and kicking and slapping later, her father managed to soothe her into bed.

We were not surprised to hear her wailing again at 9:45pm. I went up to her, earplugs stuffed into my head, bottle in hand. She was sitting dejectedly in the crib, her head tipped forward, hands clutching her doudou, sobbing quietly but insistently. I picked her up and she slapped me: half-asleep, she wanted to lie down but couldn't figure out why she was sitting up. She needed help but didn't want to be awake, period. I held her under her bum and let her decide when to ask for her doudou, for her suck-suck. Her eyes would shut and her mouth drop open, slack and snoring: yes, she kept falling asleep, sitting upright against my hip, jerking herself awake, confused. Finally, she dropped her head against my shoulder and rubbed my arm softly through her doudou. She asked for her bottle and we sat in the chair together. She fell soundly asleep almost immediately but woke up when milk dribbled onto her chin.

"All done," she muttered, arching away from the nipple and extending her arms back into a 'biiiiig stretch.'

I kissed her head, gave her a hug, and lifted her, like always, prone from the rocking chair to the crib. I laid her down on her back, her head on her little pillow, pulling the blankets up to her chin.

And then it happened: stretching and sighing with relief to be once more almost asleep, she rolled neatly onto her side, pulled up her knees, and tucked doudou under her chin as she drew her fists into her body.

I almost burst into tears. I've never seen her do anything but lie there when put to bed, cooing and wriggling maybe, but passively waiting for sleep. Her roll and tuck manoeuvre struck me as so ... grownup? Solitary? Personal? I'm not sure, but it felt significant to me. Heartbreaking and adorable, my poor little girl who's having such a hard time not being a baby, not being a big girl, sweaty golden curls wisping back from her face, a profile I've never seen before, by nightlight, calm at last.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

If it's not love, then it's the bomb the bomb the bomb

Okay.  Beck did it, and it looked like so much fun I'll do it too.

Got a question?  I'll answer it.  Go on, shoot.  Anything at all.  Don't leave me hanging, 'k?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The power of two?

Some of you might be wondering if Pynchon and I have flip-flopped on our one-child decision already. Nope! I have been considering the power of two, though, this week.

Two: case 1

The plumber has been here twice this month. To rescue the same toilet, if from two different problems essentially related to the crappiness (if you will) of said toilet. Actually, it was two plumbers, from the same company. The first plumber, a hearty and avuncular short and round fellow who whistled a lot, arrived just before Christmas, knocking at the side door. He entered the house, then, through the kitchen. He stopped short.

"Wow," he said, "you guys have done a lot of work here, eh? It's looking pretty open for such an old house."

"Thanks," I replied, morose. "We did, but it looks like we're selling it soon."

The second plumber, a tall and thin whippersnapper more than a decade younger than your humble narrator, rang the bell at the front of the house. He entered through the vestibule into the living room / office area. He stopped short.

"Wow," he said, "this place is really modern looking. You must've done a lot of work, eh, cause it's a really old house."

"Thanks," I replied, rolling my eyes, "we were aiming for modern. We just sold it."

Weird, eh? So on the one hand, the plumbers admire the architecture and the interior design. On the other hand, these plumbers were not, shall we say, invited over socially. At least the first guy gave us a ten dollar off coupon we were able to give to the second guy.


Two: case 2

My new MacBook Pro arrived yesterday! I was soooo excited, and so was Pynchon, because a new MacBook Pro for me means a PowerBook G4 falls into his sole and entire possession. I was very excited by the much-touted Setup utility that would just zip the contents of Machine A into Machine B.


Until I spent 40 minutes on the phone with Apple technical support, and then it finally worked just after the tech and I had given up, but then it took two hours of work and I stayed up wayyyy too late last night doing something I had imagined being a breezy and fun afternoon of file transfer.


But, after time-to-the-power-of-two longer than I expected it to take, it's done. And now everyone has their own computer. Woo!


Two: case 3
Old Navy is having a smoking good sale (apologies to those who are off the shopping cart until March) right now. I bought Munchkin a load of spring clothes. As she is fitting just perfectly into her size 2T clothes right now, I bought size 3T for the next lot.

We tried some pants on her when we got home.

Here's the thing: kids wearing size 3T? Are supposed to be toilet trained. So, the rise on the pants is really really low. How low? When I was pulling them up over her bum, so confident was I that there was more material to come that when I hitched up the waistband, her feet lifted off the floor and she pitched forward. Whoops. Munchkin will be very stylish in April, wearing hipster baby pants with a generous swath of Pampers hanging out the top.

What are you supposed to do when your 19 month old is straining out of her 2Ts?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Monday, January 14, 2008

Partial victory, and a triumph of the will

We sold our house, Friday.

It was awful and acrimonious and the would-be condo tycoons tried to ruin our Christmas, but we held fast, and sure enough, on January 4--yeah, right after the holiday--they offered to give us 'one more chance.' Pynchon reminded them that they, and not us, had walked away from negotiations, in no uncertain terms, and in terms, indeed, that seemed manipulative and cruel.

A representative from the city acted as mediator.

Pynchon went to the negotiation without me; I was far to angry and scared and righteous. We did a lot of homework and prepared reams of paper backing up our position and showing Those Jackasses to be manipulative liars. I will spare you the details of what, even with a third party observer, was a petty and argumentative process.

I will tell you, though, that the offer we accepted is quite likely to buy us a home on a par with our current one, on a more desirable (ie, quieter, more kid-friendly) street in our same neighbourhood. I will tell you that it is significantly higher than the offer they made in December, and that we got a higher settlement than our neighbours who chose to put themselves out of their misery before Christmas. I will also tell you Condo Jerks were so ill-willed about it that they removed the clause from the contract that set out to pay our moving expenses. Did we get more than the house would have fetched on the 'open market'? Yes, we did. Did we get a price that reflects the value of this property as part of the package for redevelopment? Probably not.

Too frazzled to work that afternoon, I sprung Munchkin early from daycare, and met Pynchon for a celebratory? consolatory? sugary treat at Starbucks, as, dazed, we tried to figure out whether we were happy or not. The process left a very bad taste in Pynchon's mouth, and he hated to do anything to make Those Bastards happy. I never wanted to move at all, and was trying to find a way to see the sale--at any price--as a victory.

We sat. Munchkin ate an entire oat bar, and helped Tiger, Boy, and Hippo 'sip' from Mommy's latte. Pynchon swirled the straw around his Iced Grande Passion Tea, listening with eyes downcast as I tried to rationalize it. Did we do the right thing? We did the right thing. We did. Didn't we?

As we sat there, it became clearer and clearer that what mattered was that, as a family, we were going to be okay: we can now afford another house, we won't have to worry about the high speed bus line, or the student rental across the street (although we might miss the new couple we've been trying to arrange a wine-drinking evening with, and we will miss Bill and Helen); we will stay in our neighbourhood, running into Munchkin's daycare classmates at the grocery store, all my colleagues at the liquor store, the regulars at Starbucks.

We're going to be okay. Maybe even better than just okay, maybe with a similar sized house on a larger lot with an actual backyard and no need to wear earplugs to block out the whizzing, constantly whizzing, traffic.

I took this picture when we moved in. I was in love. Writing this post, and pulling together the links, I was startled to see how much of this blog centres on my house and my neighbourhood, how much my place is my life. But now? Even still? I'm starting to think, tentatively, of moving on.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Munchkin Monday Monologue

So, Bubandpie was musing about her children's different language uses, in her usual eloquent and breathtakingly insightful way. Over here, it's more stream of consciousness nonsense.

My daughter is a talker. I have nooooo idea where she gets it from. Last night, in the fifteen minutes it took her to get her bedtime six ounces of whole milk from bottle to self, she treated me to a nonstop, free association monologue, with no more than three beats of the rocking chair between utterances. I reproduce highlights of it here, but you'll have to insert for yourselves random exasperated questions from me: "Munchkin? Are you done your bottle? [No!] Then please be still and drink-drink. [Ya!]" Also left to your own imagination are the associated flails and gestures that accompany the nonstop narration.


Remember: the whole time she's got a bottle in her mouth and is intermittently drinking.

"Hi hi hi ... hi hi hi ... ... ... sing, sing. Sing! SING! ... Frosty. Frosty sing. Frosty snowman sing it. ... Mommy. Mommy-daddy. Mommy-daddy-bottle. ... Sing! ... eight eh-em ... eight eh-em ... ... ... Silent Night ... arm ... arm ... kiss-o, kiss, kiss, hug, HUG! ... back ... hand ... tatoo-Megan-Brendan-tattoo-Daddy ... tattoo ... tattoo ... Daddy? .... Mommy? ... tattoo-Rebecca-Sarah? Face! ... Feet up! ... FEET UP! ... Feet down. feetupfeetdownfeetupfeetdown ... Naked! Naked! Clothes! Jammies off! off! Socks off! ... Face ... nose ... gentle ... hair ... soft ... Naked! Running! Doudou ... holding ... Coco ... Carmel ... Pink ... bed ... bottle ... hi hi hi. Hug! Kiss! Sing Rudolph! ... Cat dog meow woof birdie ... hairdo."

Lordy. I put her in bed and she talked to herself for another 45 minutes straight!

She woke up at 5:10, and the narration commenced anew: "Read! Bottle! Chair! Hihihi."

Oh dear. Jenifer, you're soooo right about the floodgates opening. And about no one knowing how to get them shut up again, at least for bedtime.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Perfect posts, perplexity, and a resolution

Well, colour me tickled pink: Dawn at Belle of the Blog nominated my Christmas Goodies post for a Perfect Post award. You can read the rest of the perfect posts here. Thanks, Dawn! Can I tell you I've always wanted to win a Perfect Post? And now I have! Happy New Year!

A Perfect Post – December 2007

Dawn is new to the 'breach. A lot of people are new to the breach actually -- as some of you noticed, out of the gazillions of blogs on Blogger, this one got a 'Blog of Note' designation in early November. It had an impact on my traffic:

[fancy photoshopped sitemeter graphic will go here once frickin-frackin Blogger lets me upload]

It's funny. One minute we were thirty or so people, more commenters than lurkers and the occasional confused Google searcher. The next minute, there were 3000 people, then about 1000 people, then ... then about 60-100 people a day, every day, even when I was only posting once a week. I'm on an awful lot of blogrolls, suddenly. I get a lot more Google search hits. I get a lot more email from people who want me to help them maximise their blogs, or launder their money. Some jackass ripped off my content to get some of my traffic onto his own crapass blog [obviously, I'm not giving him a link.].

I was a little freaked out.

Does that sound disingenuous? A lot of people work really hard to increase their traffic, either to build an audience or to make a little more money from their ads or both or whatever. Not me -- I was pretty comfortable with my posse of people, and because I pretty much knew everyone, I share stuff that I would among my intimates -- actually, more, because this space has been so supportive and honest and I had become part of such a strong community.

Anyhow, I've been thinking about what it means to have the Blogger spotlight shine on me. It was a kind of publicity I have never courted, didn't expect, and accepted ambivalently. In the days of the 3000 hits, I got some weird and irrelevant comments, and it felt like a busload of strangers was in the bathroom with me, handing me novelty toilet paper and commenting on my technique. I've had to (as we all do, sooner or later) rethink my own ideas about publishing photos of Munchkin, and how anonymous I wanted to make myself in terms of geographical hints, how much of my life I should share in this now much-more-public space. It's made me a little more self-conscious of how I write. I worried I might lose my regular readers in the vast fog of Blogger traffic.

Honestly, though? I've never been good with new people, mostly because I'm awkward and shy--remember how much BlogHer freaked me out? But most of my returning new readers are really nice people: Cloud, thank you for that link to Ask Moxie the other day. It was really useful. Raz, your compliment on my Christmas post made my whole week. New Girl? You're living my life, one year back, and I'm so glad if anything I write here helps you get through the screeching. Lurkers stepped into the light to support me in the Great and Continuing Condo Development Debacle of 2007-2008. And of course, the peeps who've been accumulating here, who I've been getting to know did not disappear, but continued to be awesome.

Things have calmed down now, mostly. My traffic is levelling off in the 50-100 hits range, low enough that I can track who's coming and from where, if I want to.

So my New Year's resolution, blog-wise, is this: start returning some of those visits that resulted in comments from fresh faces, new people, stumblers-upon-Mimi. It'll be nice to get to know you.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

1 - 2 - 3

So, Munchkin can count. We didn't realize until she would count her own feet in the car, or chant out, "One-tooo-feeeee!" and then "Fohhhh-FIFE!" Now we read about Olivia and her seven accessories, her two bows, her four aunts. Munchkin points at numerals and sagely proclaims them all, "numbah-EIGHT!"

We've been thinking a lot about numbers lately. Mortgage numbers and house prices and moving costs and property taxes. And multiples of recipes for many visitors, and hours in the oven per pound of turkey. But we've also been thinking smaller: one child? Or two? Now? Or not?

I had always imagined I wanted two children, close in age--as were my sister and I. They could keep each other busy! All the diaper years would clump together and finish sooner! They could share my obsessive love between them, suport each other. When we were gone they could still be a family. We would be better at it the second time, and well-provisioned. But it turns out that when I'm pregnant, I'm ravenous, moody, needy, wild. Munchkin's infancy was really really hard, on her and on me and Pynchon, and it tested our marriage. When we met, Pynchon wanted three or four children. After Munchkin was born, he changed his mind: one was enough. Once Munchkin turned one, the debate raged: one or two? one or two? We didn't know and it seemed a decision that had to me be made. It got so that we decided in September to just stop talking about it at all, until Christmas.


Pynchon is pretty clear in his reasoning and his desire. He makes sense. He doesn't waver. It's me--it's always me--who's angsty and convinced all at once. Here's the thing: in my heart, I know I just can't go through that first year again. I can't. The loss of sleep was really a very serious pain in my life, and in fact it still is. I worry that I will drive myself crazy trying to split my love and attention between two. We would be really poor. We don't need another major change, after four solid years of major changes. I'm not gracious around infants and I don't want Munchkin to witness the kinds of scenes her own infancy brought forth in our house. I don't want to go so seriously hormonal and crazy like I did with the first pregnancy--I don't want to gain fifty pounds and spray milk everywhere for months and months. I don't want to lose my sex drive entirely, to continue to parent in shifts and never get a chance to just be in my marriage.

We are settling well together now. Things are calming down and we are comfortable. I always wanted a daughter, and I have one: she's everything I could ever ask for. I feel like we won the lottery with her, kind and smart and funny and loving and cherubic and fantastic. We live well enough and with just one child we'll be able to travel together, to stay a one-car family, to treat ourselves. We can relax. There will be no squabbling, at least not at home, between children.


What kind of person can't handle two kids? What kind of mother chooses sleep over procreation? What kind of mother denies her daughter a sibling? Am I really never going to experience pregnancy again? Two professional, solidly-middle-class people can't AFFORD two kids? I'm choosing a man over my kids? Are we contributing to underpopulation of this northern hinterland?

Pynchon looked me in the eye and said he was happy to stop at one child. End of story. Me, I know that I really only want one, but I'm miserable about it. Why?

Maybe it's the magic of two, that perfect family from the Dick and Jane readers (or, in my French school, the RĂ©mi et Aline readers), that family I grew up in, the family that so many of you have. Maybe I feel like a shirker, lazy and selfish. Or materialist: trying to maintain my disposable income and my girlish figure. Or a bad mother: the experience was so awful the first time, I'm never going to do that again!

And so Munchkin will likely be an only child. One. Alone. There's a way, though, of rethinking this math that comforts me in the face of the power of two. She is one, yes, but we, together are three, enough to wrap the toddler in an all-encompassing family hug, enough so that everyone has company and solitude as they wish. Enough. One is the loneliest number, sure, but three? Three, if you consult your design magazines, is balance. Three is calming, three is right: anchored in the middle but broad enough to have scope.

We are three, who used to be two singles combined into a twosome that created a third. Our balance. Our family.