Tuesday, May 29, 2012

UPDATED: And somehow, when I wasn't looking, I became a grown-up?

I'm a little nervous, I have to admit.  This being a grown-up stuff is nerve-wracking.

Last week I called my brother-in-laws 'mortgage guy' because the time is drawing near where I may not have this little dollhouse any longer.  It was something I've known was coming for some time, a couple of years even, but even so has managed to sneak up on me.

For the last few years I have been paying down chunks of debt and socking away money in hopes to better my financial situation.  I was feeling pretty confident.  I had paid down my line of credit, my credit cards and had, through coincidence or divine intervention, managed to divest myself of a $300+ a month car payment and have my insurance payments lowered in the process.  All I had left in the way of debt was my student loan payments.

I don't have a full down payment saved but nonetheless I was reasonably sure that I had a good shot at something modest, in the 150K range.

So I called the mortgage guy and after going through my stuff he informed me that although I'm currently on interest relief for my student loans, he'd have to report what I'd be expected to pay once that relief runs out.  Which is in the ballpark of what I'd be paying monthly for a mortgage.  Hence the continuing applications for interest relief.

What did this mean for me?  Basically that if he could even get me approved, it wouldn't be for anything substantial and I'd probably not be able to afford anything that didn't include the word 'Mobile' in the description.

Needless to say, I was pretty devastated.  There was a possibility that I could have my loan payments changed so that they were less but that would involve going off interest relief and having thus having to pay every month.  So theoretically I'd be more able to afford a house, but realistically I'd be less able to afford it, because my imaginary $600 + payments would change into very real $250 payments that I would have to make, instead of paying what I can, when I can as I am doing now.  The other downside of this would be that I would probably be paying my loan for the rest of my natural life.

The other option was getting a co-signer, which is not only hard to come by, but at least if the mortgage is in my name only then I'm the only one that gets fucked if I default.

That day I cried a lot at work and in the evening Guy For Whom I Have Not Come Up With A Blog Alias™ helped cheer me up by engaging me in some black humour as we scoured MLS for houses 'in my price range' across Canada.  Or more specifically, in the $25,000 and under price range.

It's amusing reading the descriptions and lack thereof of some of the more run-down properties that people are trying to unload.  At this point, you know the agents have just given up trying and in some cases, such as this beauty in Thunder Bay (which could be yours for just under $10K), you get the idea that the agents aren't so much trying to entice potential buyers as warn them.  Descriptions ranged from your typical "Handyman's Special! Needs TLC!" to "Value is in the land, not the building!" and my personal favorite This-Realtor-Has-Just-Given-Up line -- "It Is What It Is!"

We also discussed the possibility of moving this gorgeous little church from Alberta to Ontario.. I could potentially buy it outright with my down payment money.   I'd just need to transport it and find some land to plop it down on.  Sounds easy enough, right?

Anyone got a truck, a couple of police convoys and a shit-load of bungee cords?

With a clearer head I decided I would speak directly to my bank, having been a loyal customer for the last 15+ years, while never asking for so much as an overdraft.  I came out of the meeting feeling more optimistic, mainly because being a bank and not a broker, they CAN take my interest relief into consideration, so my application will be based on what I am paying now, not what I may theoretically be paying in six months.  This is a good thing, potentially.  It will be a few days before I hear back from the bank though.

So now, now I play the waiting game.

"Waiting game sucks.  Let's play Hungry Hungry Hippos." - Source
UPDATE:  A) I got the pre-approval! Whoo-Hoo!  I can start house-hunting!
B) The link to the Thunder Bay house is dead.  This could possibly mean that it *gasp* actually sold, in which case, I want a cut.  But I think it's more likely that the place got washed away in the midst of all the flooding.  Thoughts are going out to anyone, including my former in-laws, that are in the area.  Hope you all are safe.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Conversations with my sister's kid: defining masculity

My sister has a giant Newfoundland dog.  Giant puppy, actually.  So all the playful exuberance of a puppy in a package roughly the size of a mastodon.  The kids, I'm sure, love her, but it's pretty safe to say the novelty has worn off.

R: I think when I get my own place I'm going to get a cat, just so I won't be lonely.

R: That's not too gay is it?

*facepalm* (He's a teenager, so I try to have patience, but really?)

Me: No, I'm pretty sure having sex with men makes a guy gay, not owning a cat.  Besides, who cares?  Are you worried your masculinity is going to be called into question if you live with a cat?

R: Yes, kind of.

Me:  Just make sure to give it a really hyper-masculine name.. like Machine Gun Larry.  Even if it's a girl.

R (in suavest manner a 16-yr-old can muster): "Hi.. this is my cat, Machine Gun Larry." 

In other news, I'm totally making plans for the imaginary cat that my nephew doesn't even own yet.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Birthdays and Blog Awards

My oldest turns 11 tomorrow.  She also leaves for an over-nighter with her school tomorrow, so it's a little odd that on her actual, honest-to-Gord birthday I'm only going to see her for an hour or so, most of which will likely be spent kicking both her and her sister's butts into gear, as the little one also has a school trip tomorrow.  Not a day one wants to be late for the bell.

A few months ago T approached me about a show on YTV called The Next Star which, to the best of my knowledge is in the Idolesque vein of reality shows, except for the 15-and-under crowd.  That's pretty much all I know about it, except that I think the gay kid from Degrassi hosts it.  Toronto auditions happened to be the same weekend that we'd be doing her birthday stuff.  She begged me to take her to audition so I told her that in lieu of a birthday party this year, she could pick a friend and I would take them and Reegs down to the city for the day so she could try out, and then we'd go out for dinner.  That would be her birthday celebration.

I ran into a roadblock when I couldn't get photo ID for T, which was required.  Unless you get a passport, there's not a lot of photo ID options for an 11-year-old around here.  Ontario Health Cards only have a picture above a certain age, because kids change so damn fast that by the next doctor's appointment they probably look nothing like the picture on the card.

So we just pretend they all look like pretty flowers instead.  (Instead of their picture, you get a picture of a white trillium instead.  I Google-image-searched the hell out of variations of 'Kids OHIP card' and 'Children's Ontario Health Card' but all I could find were adult versions so if you're outside of Ontario, you're just going to have to take my word for it, as I'm not about to post my OWN kid's OHIP card on here.  Don't be silly.)

Also, no elementary schools around here have actual Student Cards.  That's just for high school kids.

So I told her this but assured her that we were going to go and that I would try to argue my way out of the photo ID thing.  I considered lying and telling the registration people that I had ordered a passport but that it had yet to arrive in the mail.

It was all kind of moot because I didn't foresee that we would actually miss the registration deadline, seeing as I had searched their site for a registration deadline and didn't see one so I had figured they were on all day.  We had left later than anticipated (the goal was to leave the house by 8, we got out around 9:30) and by the time we got to Yorkdale mall and caught the subway down to Front Street, it was almost noon, and the people at the Convention Center told us that registration closed at 9:30 that morning.  T was a little upset so we found a quiet area so she could have a moment, and so I could figure out for a contingency plan, which came in the form of a bus tour around the city.

Truth be told, the family rate for the bus tour was kind of pricey and at first I had said no, but got to thinking about it and went back and haggled with the guy, explaining that A) the Family rate included two adults and I was only one and that I had travelled with these kids only to have my daughter gravely disappointed ON HER BIRTHDAY NO LESS (not ENTIRELY untrue.. it was her birthday celebration day) and got about 20-25% off the price of the Family pass.  The bus tour included a boat tour of the Toronto Harbour, so once we got to the Harbourfront, we wandered around looking for drinks as my kids were ill-dressed for a day in the sun that was supposed to be spent waiting around the air-conditioned Metro Convention Center.  I got ripped off by a pop machine that stiffed me roughly four bucks from a $10 bill.  Once we had killed enough time we got on the boat for our tour, which turned out to be a relaxing half-hour journey around the Toronto Islands.

The Toronto Skyline from my side of the boat.
After returning to shore, the two older girls wanted to go on a paddle boat ride.  Reegs and I went and checked out a free museum nearby, The Power Plant, while they waiting in line but sadly the museum didn't offer much.  Call me a Philistine if you will, but sometimes I think 'Contemporary Art' is a fancy-shmancy term for "Weird, and kind of sparse."  It took about 15 minutes to go through the whole thing.  We took longer in the bathroom. At least I didn't pay to get in, so that's something.

After the paddle boats we headed back to the subway as it was getting too late to hop back on the bus (kind of rendering the bus thing not worth the money... although the kid we saw that kept declaring with tiny fist pumped "I. LOVE. THE BIG RED BUS!" over and over again to his parent's chagrin kind of made it worth it).  This was all three girls first time riding the subway and was an interesting and slightly nerve-wracking experience.  I guess having walls zoom by a mere inch from your window combined with the sound of steel on steel can be scary for any first timer.

We had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, which seemed like a good idea for a kids birthday.. kind of somewhere in between fast-food kid-mecca and grown-up sit-down dinner.  We ordered one ginormous dessert and between the four of us we still couldn't get through the gobs of brownies and ice cream and whipped cream.

Driving home from the city in the summer on a Sunday is definitely a great thing about living in Cottage Country.. you're almost always guaranteed to be facing the heaviest traffic on your way home, breezing along the Northbound lanes of the 400 while the city folks sit in bumper to bumper traffic on the Southbound.

All in all it was a great day and the thing that was especially nice was that all three girls were very well behaved and appreciative.  T and I have been butting heads quite a bit lately as she has entered into a typically self-centered pre-adolescent stage.. it's like pre-teens kind of regress to that toddler-stage where they don't actually realize that other people are people and may have needs and wants that don't revolve around and instantly gratify their own.  But even with the disappointment upon our arrival to the City, there was no whining, no fighting with her sister, no complaining and no pushing for more, more, more.  It was refreshing and I made sure to let her know that.. I enjoy doing things for them, but I like it even more when I know they appreciate it.

So tomorrow my baby girl turns 11.  Time doesn't ever go backwards, does it?  Not even for a minute.

So in other news, I've now been awarded three times for the Liebster Award so I'm thinking I better get off my ass and thank the folks who've passed it on to me:

So thanks bunches to:

Crystal at Ideally Speaking, a socially active mom and closet comic geek which is how we initially got talking at work way back in the day.

Vanessa at Five Things About Nothing Important whose blog I really need to check out more 

Heidi Millerick at Eight Days A Week, who I've also been lax in checking out.

I may get around to passing this on, but I think for now, I'll just say that if it's in my blog roll over there ---> then it's probably worth taking a peek at.  I know others worth reading but I just don't link as they keep a lower profile.

Yeah, it's a total cop-out, I know.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Are there no Burger Kings? Are there no No Wal-Marts?"*

Oh, Mr. Flaherty, you've really lost touch with the common Canadian, haven't you?

I can only assume this is the reasoning behind the statements you made today regarding those receiving unemployment benefits and the seeming unwillingness to accept employment that is 'beneath them' or 'too far away'.  
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Monday new rule changes to define "suitable employment" and "reasonable" efforts at finding work have yet to come down, but as far as he's concerned people should be prepared to take pretty well any available job.
"I was brought up in a certain way. There is no bad job, the only bad job is not having a job," he told reporters. "I drove a taxi, I refereed hockey. You do what you have to do to make a living."
I'm sure on a six-digit government salary it is easy to adopt a boot-strap attitude, seeing as how you, Mr. Flaherty, will likely never be faced with the prospect working two or more minimum wage, part time jobs to put food on the table.  The truth is that no, it is not always a case that any job is better than no job.  

A family faced with deciding between paying daycare and paying rent because even a full-time minimum wage position doesn't always cover both, especially in cases where there is only one parent, or more than one child.  This may not have been an issue if the National Daycare Program had ever come to fruition, but I guess that $100.00 a month bribe to make us forget about it made it ALL WORTH IT.

As far as working out of town, I like how you assume that this is an option for most people.  Consider those without cars... That's right.  Some people do not own their own vehicle, or may have medical conditions that prevent them from obtaining a drivers licence.  Shocking I know.  Also, shitty and/or non-existent mass transit systems are also a thing.  Let's assume that a vehicle is readily available.  Consider the current price of gas, sitting at between 1.27 and 1.35 per Litre in Central Ontario... once again, one falls into the trap of spending a good portion of their wages on fuel, which is aggravating enough when one lives relatively close (my own commute is a decent 10-minute drive) but becomes teeth-clenchingly frustrating when one is earning minimum wage and paying (in fuel) for the privilege to do so.  Not to mention, coming back to families, commuting adds time to the workday that ends up covering the cost of.. you guessed it! DAYCARE.

I've known people who have, repeatedly, found themselves in the position of having to decide if a job is even worth taking once expenses such as fuel and daycare are considered.  Often, it's not.

As far as the lack of laborers in Alberta and Saskatchewan, well it'd be pretty awesome if everyone on EI benefits had the resources (money, transportation) or the lack of ties to their current geographical area (oh, like schools, family, support systems) combined with the skills for the jobs available out there to relocate for the sake of work.  Ideally, anyone should be able to do this if they wish.  Here's the thing.. packing up and moving across the country the size of Canada is kind of a BFD, if you read my acronym.

Jim, you make it sound like the unemployed are all simply turning their noses up at jobs deemed 'unworthy' but mostly the need to turn down employment is a simple case of logistics, as illustrated above.  Does pride play into it as well?  I'll be honest.. as someone who worked their ass off through three years of school earning a Bachelor's degree which was supposed to help me escape a life of convenience store servitude, if today I were to find myself unemployed (she says, knocking on wood), I'd be more than a little fucking hesitant to get behind a counter for 10 bucks an hour while trying to pay off the crippling amount of student debt that BA earned me.

And do you know what, Jimmy?  Canadians pay into their EI benefits.. EI is not a government handout.  It is a fund that we as workers pay into, and should be able to use to our full advantage.  If I pay for auto insurance on a brand new 2012 Lexus and someone rears ends me, the insurance company shouldn't be able to hand me an '84 Chevette and say "Well, any car is better than no car!"

Should people on EI benefits be making a concerted effort to seek employment?  Yeah, for sure.. and I am willing to bet that most of them do.  But to say that people who have found themselves without work through no fault of their own should be satisfied with any given job offered them is condescending at best, downright insulting at worst.

Some would rather die.*

*is invoking Dickens melodramatic?  Maybe a touch.  I offer no apologies.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Just Hope That She Doesn't Have a Run-In with Magneto

My kid swallowed a marble last night.

Now, since I know you're probably going to ask, no I do NOT have a toddler running around that I've conveniently forgotten to mention.

This was my youngest child who is going to be all of nine years old in a few short months. My supposedly borderline-gifted almost nine-year-old swallowed a silver ball bearing from one of those Magnetix sets because she missed the memo that putting random shit in your mouth for no good reason is the kind of crap you're supposed to stop doing usually around the time you are toilet-trained.

There we were, almost ready for bed and as she was walking into the kitchen, she looked up at the ceiling and then suddenly started screaming, and coughing a bit.  But mostly screaming, while clutching her throat.

At least she's not choking, if she can scream like that is my first thought as I run over to see just what the hell happened to make her start wailing like a banshee.  In mere seconds she stops, calms down.

“What the hell happened?"

Perfectly calm, she answers “Apparently, I just swallowed a marble."

Awesome right?

I had no idea what to do.

Logically it seemed like the thing to do would be to wait it out, until nature took its course and the marble made it's way out via a route that would possible end up shattering my toilet bowl.  On my mom's advice I called Telehealth and after hearing that Reeg's was having some stomach pain, I was advised by the nurses to take her to the ER.  Which I did even though I had a feeling it was probably a wasted trip but good old Maternal Guilt™, that fucker, kept telling me that if I DIDN'T take her then I'd regret the hell out of it when said child, now affectionately and somewhat mockingly referred to as Marble Girl, died of a perforated bowel in the middle of the night.

Maternal Guilt™ is a bitch that way.  I think he feeds off the souls of the perpetually anxious and insecure.

So sending her sister off to Grammy's, I packed her up and headed to the hospital, making sure to bring a book because fuck wait times.  Two and a half hours and one x-ray later, we left Emerg with the sage advice that she would probably pass it and bring her back if she experienced ‘Severe pain'.
I feel like I should have cropped out my kids pelvis. That's weird, isn't it?
Thing is, ‘Severe Pain' is pretty fucking subjective.  Especially in a child who doesn't really know how to express gradations of pain other than by using extremities.  Which is why we ended up back in the ER again today to basically end up with the same set of sage advice, but from a different set of doctors. Even though the marble had NOT.  BUDGED.  AN.  INCH.

Last Night's Pain.

Today's pain, which led to another ER trip.  Yeah, that's right.  KANYE-SIZED PAIN.
This time before leaving, I made the doctor specify exactly what kind of pain I should be on the lookout for, none of this vague-descriptors-like-severe bullshit.  Vomiting, doubled-over, clutching stomach type pain.  

So we play the waiting game, and tomorrow I once again get to take her back to Emerg for another X-Ray because in all likelihood, it would take three weeks to get an appointment with my doctor.  

The girls stepmother remarked to me on the phone "I bet she never does this again."

I do too.  If the tedious amounts of time we've had to spend in hospitals with SWEET FUCK ALL to do doesn't deter her, the amount of ribbing she has received certainly will.  I have thoughts for a Marble Girl comic and possibly a halloween costume and a series of licensed merchandise and action figures.

Conversations with my kids: a history lesson

We're in the parking lot of the arena. The road is being blocked off and there are a bunch of Sea Cadets standing around.

Me: They must be having a parade. Maybe it's for V-E Day.
T: What's V-E Day?
Me: Well, World War Two ended on two different days. V-E means "Victory in Europe", when the war ended in Europe, sometime in May.
T: Probably May 9th, if they're having a parade today.
Me: yeah, probably. The war in Japan, on the other hand, ended on August 14th - my birthday - so that is referred to as V-J Day.

*giggles from back seat*
Me: what?
T: ...nothing. It just sounds... funny.. Veee Jaaay.
Me: what?
R (from backseat): IT SOUNDS LIKE VAJAYJAY!!!

*peals of laughter from both sides*

Me: Oh my God, you guys.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I'm not here but I am there.

Hey, y'all.

Been crazy busy. Probably only going to get busier. Hopefully will have time to fill you in soon.

Meanwhile, I'm featured today over at So... What Else? where I'll be getting all meta on you and talking about blogging.

I also have another post at Different Paths, Same Destination talking about the various activity I've been up to this week, including my first experience at boot camp.

Tootles for now!