Friday, March 28, 2008

I'm sorry, I'm sorry, little bit afraid

Driving Munchkin home from daycare yesterday afternoon, I wove carefully around the potholes while trying to decipher the stories she was desperate to tell me. One was about a dog--that much I could figure out, having been helped by the notes in her daily log that explained one of the staff had brought in a dog for show-and-tell. Munchkin was explaining, from the back seat: "Mom! A Willow in a-circle time! Little bit afraid, little bit afraid. Crying! Willow woof-woof, gentle gentle, be gentle, little bit afraid."

Willow is the name of a dog owned by one of Munchkin's cousins. The daycare dog, by contrast, was named Bailey. Close enough. There was a dog, Munchkin was a little nervous, and then some stock phrases about being gentle to animals, and what does the dog say? Okay. I think I understand.

Then her next tale. It goes like this: "Mom! I'm sorry .... I'm sorry ... I'm sorry. Evie! I'm sorry Evie! Crying. Fall down a-outside. Gentle gentle, no pushing! [Munchkin] fall down, [Munchkin] a-owie. Crying. I'm sorry ... I'm sorry ... [Munchkin!] No pushing in a-snow."

I couldn't, ultimately, figure out who pushed whom. All that was clear was that the incident of the pushing and the apology and the hurt had made really struck Munchkin, had impressed on her that actions have consequences, and that these can be painful. Apologies can soothe, but the pain is real, the offense hurtful and the regret lingering. She continued apologizing and admonishing, whimpering and forgiving, over and over.

I tried to reassure her, but her impression was, after all, true: sorry is good, but sorry doesn't erase what happened, and sometimes, you feel lousy even after your head-bump doesn't hurt any more.

My eyes were misting up, though, not necessarily because my daughter is learning this hard lesson of, well, being human, but mostly because something terrible has happened: one of the babies in the infant room has lost her father this weekend. Baby I-- is a couple of months younger than Munchkin, and they were in the infant room together all fall. I--'s mom is very young, a student. I know what that's like, and I always make a point of saying hello and admiring I-- (who really is adorable, and adored) but she consistently looks right through me. If she's like me and my sister at that age, she probably figures she has so little in common with bourgeois old old married and settled me that I'm an alien to her. Fair enough.

I--'s mom and dad were no longer a couple, and while I am not privy to the details of their lives, the newspaper reports that he spent weekends with his daughter, and ran a photo of them together. He was young, too. A student. Out with friends this weekend at a local bar, he made a dumb mistake on the way home, misjudging the drop from a retaining wall on an impromptu shortcut. His body was found the next day in the local river, where he had fallen to his death.

I'm struck by the tragedy of it, all round. What a dumb way to die, a silly accident, preventable but with a consequence way out of proportion to the miscalculation. The kind of thing that might happen, really, to anyone, but maybe especially to someone young, someone so full of life as to attempt a midnight river-crossing to shave some time off a long cold walk home from a night of fun. What a tragedy to his daughter, whom he loved, and to his daughter's mother, who kept the family functioning, was working out the dynamic of the present to create a future.

There is a collection at daycare, pooled funds for a contribution to a trust fund for Baby I-- that has been set up by her father's grieving friends. I can't imagine how they must be feeling.

In the car, listening to Munchkin work through her fears and her regrets, trying to make sense of her experience to ease her own hurts and anxieties, I realize this is a process that never ends, that we all struggle with all our lives. Once home, I held her close to me, sniffed the strawberry scent of her hair and rubbed her round round belly, as if I could keep everyone near me safe.

I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Little bit afraid. Crying.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Six words

Because you must by now be sick of the fantastically lengthy pictorials on offer recently, here I am, summarized in six words, and you are all in a position to note how truly truly they are in fact me:

I remember, worry a little, hope.

There you go, Mad.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter goodies

Oh, Way the Hell Up North ... we're so relaxed when we go there, but the 400km of skidoo-tourist-clogged roads and holiday traffic, frankly, are a real bitch. Doesn't help that on the way home Sunday, Pynchon got pulled over after a mere 30km on the road: speeding ticket. However, I had the good sense to become violently ill at exactly this moment, and the spectacle of me barfing into a snowbank probably made the cop feel bad, because he reduced our ticket. Next, we hit massive rubbernecker traffic jam at the 401/407 interchange: we did 5km in one hour, lurching and stopping, lurching and stopping, lurching and stopping when we should have been on the home stretch. And me in the front seat trying valiantly lo the past four hours trying to not barf. Again. Pynchon had to pull over to pee. As traffic crawled by slow enough to, um, make out the brand of his jeans, many people honked and jeered. Pynchon swore and gesticulated madly in return, threatening sure death on anyone who woke the baby or made his wife barf. Good times!

But. This:

New Easter dress from Sears: I couldn't resist. Could you?

Looks good, yeah, but she don't smell so great: failing the Gramma sniff test.

Learning how to hunt for large plastic eggs lying out in plain view on the carpet.

Gramma demonstrates how edible material can be extracted from harvested plastic egg.

"Hey ... wait a minute ... this doesn't taste like egg! What's going on here, Easter Bunny?"

*I'm not pregnant. I'm just barfing. Seriously.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The awful truthiness

Why don't I just start with my setup shot: this one is so bad, no matter how the rest of it goes, it's gotta be better than ...

Which is the first shot I took at 4:30 this morning when I got up to read blogs because I had insomnia. So definitely no coffee, no shower, no grooming. Also, it's freezing so I'm hunching in on myself to stay warm.

Slightly better (really? is it really?) is my second attempt:

Overexposed and washed out ... not just Mimi, but Mimi's image as well! Woo!

You know what's worse though? Here's what I looked like at 7:15 pm, after I put Munchkin to bed and straggled back down to the disaster that was my kitchen:

In my defense, I am sick AGAIN and was in a total rush and a frazzle all day today, missing work in the morning to bring the Giant Toddler for her well-baby checkup (she's in the 75th percentile! For kids 15 months older than her!) and then wiping out on the ice on the walk in to work, and having left my makeup in the car where it froze and not being able to run the hair dryer because it freaks Munchkin out ...

Still. You sorta wonder how my kid turned out so adorable:

"Is this the bunny with the chocolate? I'd better put on my cute face just to be sure."

No, Munchkin, the chocolate bunnies are all Way the Hell Up North, and so there we will head tomorrow, to spend the weekend with your grandparents. Say bye-bye to the nice bloggers!

(See you when we get back. Unless I scared you all away with the photos.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Yup. I'm feeling much better! I'm sleeping very well at night, thank you: the terrors of planning a move are much more my kind of thing than are the high-stakes and uncertainty of buying and selling homes. Organizing tradespeople, ordering boxes online, booking the residential energy efficiency expert, ordering retrofit rebate guides and IKEA catalogues and putting out feelers for who's-a-good-furnace-guy and who-does-your-lawn and do-you-know-a-tree-guy? This I can do.


Ulp. Is this you? Guilty as charged. Yesterday Munchkin and I did our nice-weather pilgrimage to the public library, where we mingled with the reading-is-important demographic, and when we were done there? Off to Starbucks! Where we encountered an informal mommy group, whose daughters were just a little younger than Munchkin. Much chit-chat amongst everyone, and jokes (mostly by me: I'm a real laugh riot in these sorts of encounters, a function of my nervousness ...) about how Starbucks is our local playgroup--better caffeinated than the government-sponsored drop-in centre, and, bonus! accessible by stroller into the generous bins of which we deposit our finds of cheap organic strawberries from the market.

Our local haunt, that is, is populated by dorks like me, fancy laptops, good lookin' babies, disposable income for daily lattes, expensive highlights and edgy footwear. Yes, this is who I am, or part of who I am, for this part of my life, at least.


We are getting excited to move. Munchkin is picking up on it. After Pynchon broke the news to her very briefly and informally the other day ("Remember the 'new house' we all went to look the other day? With the rocking chair? That's going to be our new house in the spring when there is no more snow.") she mentions it in passing, a propos of nothing, several times a day: "New house!" she says. And, recently, "New room a-Munchkin. Kitty coming."

Here's my strategy: when she brings it up, I mention casually a little something that will be the same. The cat is coming with us! Daddy is coming with us! What about elephant? I ask her: "YEAH! Come-a with us!" I'm trying to keep her positively excited about it, while stealthily reassuring in advance of any concern that while it is a big change, everything important is going to stay the same.

Do you have any advice about helping a toddler understand and adjust to a big move? (Bear in mind that we're moving 500 feet away, so it's still the same neighbourhood ...)


Wheeling and dealing: whenever Munchkin picks up a cordless phone or a remote control, she enthusiastically shouts, "Hi Gramma-grampa! I'm fine! Thank you!" We thought it was endearing and funny. Yesterday, she picked up my cell phone, lifeline to our real estate agent, a device that has resided, always charged and always on since we this whole business started, in the pocket of my cardigan, my pants, my jacket.

She picked it up, flipped it open, held it to her ear: "Hi Tony!"

Guess what my agent's name is?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Munchkin Report

In addition to traveling the continent and wheeling and dealing for real estate, I have a toddler; this used to be a mommy blog. Dammit, I want to start writing about my kid again. Herewith, the Munchkin Report.


Did you know that Munchkin can sing "Twinkle, Twinkle" all by herself? More or less in tune, with all the correct lyrics in the proper order? And that there are precise actions to accompany each line she can perform while singing? Huh.

Less successful in terms of correctness but possibly even cuter is her take on "Old MacDonald," a perennial favorite here at Casa Breach in times of celebration, naptimes, car-ride distraction, and hurt assuagement. Basicially, it's been our go-to song for about a year. Munchkin's solo version goes a little something like this (tune optional):

Old Mac-Don-o had ... a ... FARM!
E-I ... Oh!
On-a farm a PIG!
E-I .. Oh!
(snort snort snort)
Old Mac-Don-o FARM! Pig!


Retrieving Munchkin from daycare with Pynchon the other day, I was mobbed by small toddlers. Pynchon picked up Munchkin for a hug, and I lifted up E., a little girl at least 6 months older than Munchkin. Overcompensating for her weight, I nearly threw her over my shoulder: she weighs 24 pounds. She seemed so wee to me.

At just 21 months old this weekend, my bruiser of a toddler weighs 33 pounds, and measures somewhere upward of 35 inches. When I am wearing my down-filled jacket and mitts and she is bundled in her snowsuit, I can hardly get enough of a grip on her to heft her up.


Because Munchkin is so ... substantial, sometimes we forget that she's still just a wee toddler, younger than she looks, younger than her speech might suggest. Munchkin knows, though: lately, she has really been insisting on "Pick-a up! Pick-a up! Carry you!" She is, oddly, getting easier to carry around. Longer and leaner, she cleaves tight to me, a slight outward extension of my own centre of gravity, and together we still weigh less than I did right before she was born.

Perched on my hip, she happily watches me stir the noodles, wipe the counter, open the blinds, water the plants, all the while absentmindedly rubbing my shoulder, and sometimes leaning her head into the crook of my neck.

Lately, she has begun to turn to face me directly, eyes darting between both of mine, then over my face, then back to my eyes. "Glasses off!" she demands, and when I comply, she grins, looks more closely at me, and delightedly raises both her hands, fingers outstretched, to cup my face. The gesture is tender and full of wonder all at once. Sometimes--oh, what times!--she darts her face close in to mine, and kisses me on the lips, a sweet wet smack that seems pure uncontrollable impulse.

I think she loves me; I think she feels happy and safe in my arms. What a gift it is, to be able to provide such comfort and joy to someone.


Munchkin uses language to invent, and to organize her experience.

Driving home from the grocery store after a mommy-daughter outing, I tried to distract her from her calls of "Latte! Latte! Grande latte!" by pointing out a bus pulled over to pick up passengers.

"Look, Munchkin," I said, "There's a bus stopping!"

She turned. Examined. "Pick up a-people," she noted.

I agreed. "Where are the people going, Munchkin?" I asked her.

"Mario house," she replied, without skipping a beat. 'Mario house' is the mall, where there is a small set of coin-operated toddler rides, among which can be found Super Mario riding a 'dragon'. Because the mall is where Mario is found, it is called 'Mario house'. Similarly, Munchkin gets her hair cut at 'Emily house,' the salon where Pynchon's stylist works.

I don't know what impresses me the most: Munchkin able to imagine a destination for a set of people waiting to board a bus, a destination different from her own? Or that she is organizing her world into categories, where people and objects are associated with the 'houses' in which she regularly encounters them?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Wheeee! Gulp.


We just bought a house. Yes, it's the one from the last post. Want to see the front hall? I have frosted-glass French doors to my living room. Here it is:

I am very happy. Here are some of the deets:

1) The location is fantastic: The house is about 200 feet away from where we live now, on a street filled with young families, a quiet street with toddlers and young couples in old houses with compact fuel-efficient foreign cars parked in the driveway. We met a mom with a young toddler out for a stroll and she named babies and parents all up and down the street, university people and computer-industry people. They have mommy clubs. Urban pretenders, just like us, I guess. But I won't be afraid for Munchkin to veer off the sidewalk on the trike we're thinking of maybe getting her for her 2nd birthday. I will put out decorations for Halloween in anticipation of a load of kids at the door. I will sit on my covered front porch with a beer on summer evenings, listening to wind rustle in my trees rather than traffic whooshing past at 70km/h. Imagine this, but with less snow:

2) And it's like we won the lottery: When I first saw the house three weeks ago, it was listed for $359,900. We bought it today for $335,000. This leaves us, after our settlement with the Condo Jerks, signing up for a mortgage of $255,000, with $30,000 in hand for all the moving / closing costs, and the immediate needs of updated (ie, insurable) wiring, probable new furnace, and air-conditioner. Whatever is left we save for next year's kitchen reno. No matter what, we're in a better position financially than we were before, and have an $80,000 chunk of real equity in the home the minute we move in, as well as actual cash money for the inevitable surprise expenses. When I get sticker shock, I try to think of it as a $255K house, rather than a $335K house, because it's the lower number we're actually on the hook for.

3) We've got breathing room for the move: We close on the new house house one month before we have to be out of our current house: easy move, time for electrical work to be done, no need for 24 hours of sheer panic of in and out. Compare to my contingency plan of moving us out of our current house and into rental accomodations if we couldn't find a house in the next month, and you will find extra cause for relief.

4) Convenience: I think I'm about 200 feet closer to Starbucks in the new house; and 200 feet closer to work, also.

And yet? I can't sleep. Because I'm freaking out.

Here's the actual point of my post: how do you stop yourself from worrying about everything? I am finding, to my great dismay, that the older I get, the more anxious I become. Yesterday I worried our offer wouldn't be accepted: today, I worry that the 1950s-era kitchen cabinets of my new home won't be deep enough to accomodate our dishes. Or that our mortgage won't be extended. I run the gamut from the most detailed of minutiae to the largest or setbacks. Can't stop that hamster wheel of anxiety from revving up my heart rate, robbing me of sleep, even though, god help us, I have the FLU and have been barely able to carry myself upright since Friday morning. So now I'm worried additionally about what tomorrow morning is going to look like, if I'm setting this whole family up for a lousy Monday and ensuring that once more I accomplish nothing at the office. How very helpful of me.

Seriously. How do you stop worrying?

I've got to put a stop to this. This should be a post about my family doing the happy dance. And I am doing the happy dance, I am. But I am, simultaneously, worried about ... um, everything.

I want to know if you have any tricks, preferably not involving alcohol (that, I already know about, thank-you-very-much). I really want to enjoy this moment of triumph and success for the Family Breach. We are truly fortunate and this outcome is the best of all possible cases (barring the home inspector discovering cracks in the foundation this week ... fingers crossed ...)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Real estate, she moves quick

UPDATE: Okay, it's 10pm: there were two offers and the seller (and her agent) decided to pursue ours. We made an offer $9,000 below list. They wanted us to come up $5,000. We said our first offer stands. They said it's not good enough. The offer expires in an hour. Now, they might pursue the offer from the other buyer from earlier in the evening.

Or they might let both offers lapse, and we start fresh later ... after all, the listing agent has already called my agent twice in the last week to gauge our interest.

This might work out, but if it doesn't? It might be for the best. I mean, at this point, the $5,000 difference is: can we afford to put in an air-conditioner, or can't we? And air conditioning is important, as is wiring that's up to code, and a kitchen that has an oven in it. I'm not ready, I think, to buy a house with potential that I can't exploit because I have maxed out on the mortgage and have nothing for renos. So. That's where it is, folks.


Can I just say how awesome you guys are, dear readers? Coughing up your own house numbers and supporting my decisions. And offering hugs: Den, you can't tell someone they need a hug without actually offering one. That would be cruel.

Pynchon and I are going to have a second look at this house this afternoon:

I went to see it last week, when it cost $15,000 more than it does today. It was overpriced then, and 'ambitiously' priced now. The listing agent is once more making noises (as she did last week) about 'another interested buyer about to make an offer', but I think we'll be putting one in too. I'd like to get it for below list, but if I pay list price--and bid successfully--I think that would be good too.

Wish me luck. When I know how it turns out, I'll let you all know the deets. (Don't all go looking on MLS for it, okay? I don't know if they can track hits and such, and I don't want the agent to imagine more value in it than she does now ....)

Oh. This house is around the corner from our current house.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Big Yellow Taxi

You know how they paved paradise? And put up a parking lot? Yes, the deal on my house has gone through, and we will officially be homeless on May 31 unless we find a house in the interim. The plan is that our current house is to be demolished to provide a surface parking lot for the infamous condo development.

My house is getting knocked flat, the hole filled in, the lot paved over. So that 12 cars can park.

It strikes me as surreal. I'll be brushing my teeth, and suddenly think that eight months from now, this bathroom will no longer exist, or that the rocking chair in which I rocked then-Miss-Baby through her first day of nursing will be an undefined point in space hovering 12 feet above a Lexus parked in the partial shade of some chi-chi shrubbery. Weird.


Is it tacky to talk about money? I think so. Why? Is it a class thing? It's okay for us to tell each other we pooped nonstop on the delivery table, or that sometimes we get so angry with our children that we punch the walls after we put them in their cribs, or that we think maybe we drink to much to cope with the stress, but I can't really tell you how much money I make, or what we sold our house for?

Is it impolite? Do I worry that you will find me whiny and entitled and my problems not real enough? That you will think I'm gloating? I don't know. Probably, it's me: I'm embarrassed.

In June 2005, we agreed to purchase our current house for $183,500. It was more money that we felt we could afford, but we did it, barely scraping together a downpayment from a set-up-in-high-school RRSP of mine and an unexpected tax refund, and paying the closing fees with our credit cards.

Two weeks ago, we finalized the sale of this house for $300,000, which nets us a profit of $130,000. We have to use $20,000 to pay off our credit cards (see above comment about 'more than we felt we could afford'), but have $110,000 in cash to use as downpayment.

All the houses in our current neighbourhood, believe me, cost waaaaaay more than the $183K we paid. And so staying here, even with our profit, is going to stretch us. I've been looking at houses, in the $280K-$350K range and it's been depressing: they are smaller than our house, or in desperate need of new roof / new furnace / new wiring / major repairs, or have no yard. Or some combination of two or three of these things.

Now I'm coming to terms with imagining myself as someone who rolls her eyes while walking through houses listed for $360K, actually prefering my $183K 'dump' on the busy street. These pricey houses aren't good enough for me: the master bedroom is too small; there's no air conditioning; I don't like the corner lot; the kitchen is tiny and dark. What the hell happened? It looks like, instead of the cheap-old-house-first-time-owners, Pynchon and I are turning into people who are going to buy a really pricey house with a big chunk of down payment. Urrr, that's less boho and more bourgeois than I'm used to thinking of myself.

We could move 500 metres south, into the centre of the city we're essentially attached to, but it's not as nice as our neighbourhood: there are drug dealers, and gang fights, and no Starbucks, and empty storefronts with curling yellow newspaper taped along the windows. The area is probably going to revitalize, but, frankly? I feel like it would be a step down, and I don't know if I want my daughter in that neighbourhood. And I don't want to risk it.

!!!!!!!! ???????

I always thought we were underdogs, living an urban life eschewing suburban privilege. When I start looking at the mortgage numbers we're being offered, and start realizing how I've suddenly decided some city-centre neighbourhoods aren't good enough for me, though, I realize that we ARE gentrification, we ARE privilege. I'm still scared shitless at the prospect of being homeless soon, but I realize that, financially, we're a lot better off than most people, even though it really doesn't feel like it right now. And I'm a little worried that I'm becoming someone I don't really recognize, someone who, choosing between two equally urban neighbourhoods with red-brick century houses on generous treed lots, unhesitatingly picks the neighbourhood that doesn't have the bus depot, doesn't have the immigrant services storefronts, doesn't have the congregations of unemployed young adults smoking on streetcorners in front of head shops. Picks the one that does have the Starbucks, does have the gourmet dog treat store, does have the three or four designer clothing boutiques, the expensive shoe store, the dimly lit, well-decorated restaurants.

Maybe I'm less uncomfortable with the idea of moving, and more uncomfortable about what this new situation is revealing to me about my class entitlement, my values, my prejudices. I can't think so very highly of myself.

What do you think?