what the fuck

Unless you’re a grown up you’re completely uninitiated, you know December is about the birth of Santa, the One of a Kind Show and President’s Choice Candy Cane ice cream. (click the link, read the reviews. This shit’s serious). It’s true there are a few non-believers; a smattering of folks who don’t think it’s anything to get worked up into a frenzy over (again, read the reviews). But mostly that’s the purview of children and men with no taste. I don’t want to point fingers though. Nope. No pointing. (To my vegan and lactose intolerant friends, I apologize in advance. (Or at least close to the beginning).

Given my (okay, everyone’s) unflagging commitment to honouring the spirit of x-mas with candy can ice cream, I can’t even tell you what happened to me when my friend Jess sent me this picture. 

imma get on this.

I can’t tell you what I did because it was more of a sound, followed by a stumble, followed by a text. The text part I can demonstrate.

a plea for help.

 It really is a thing.

I’m sure the eagle-eyed among you have noted, with curiosity, why Jess’ name isn’t, and instead is Ada Lovelace. It has to do with a moment of clarity (in truth it’s best described as a “moment”) I had while skating with these clowns.

stars on ice, 2011

Thanks Craig and Jess for the inspiration, or whatever it was that night that made me think this was *such* a good idea.  So what is this genius you ask? I decided to re-name my most frequent text/phone companions as famous people so when my phone is sitting on a table, in plain view, and Marc (etc.) texts me, Alec Baldwin’s (etc.) name pops up instead (no similarities between the two, just steadfast, urgent longing). I’ll take a moment while you each grab your phones and start doing the same thing. (Please, one of you. So I’m not alone in this). I can see now the error in building this up.

Ahem, a few more  re-names so you can really capture how much time I apparently have on my hands: Natalie Portman, Nicolas Sarkozy (there’s a good story here) and KITT. Like from Knightrider. That one came is as a special request from a pretty high level friend and really, I could not turn it down. I also couldn’t resist reacquainting myself with David Hasselhoff, and the awesome that is 1980’s television. YouTube, thank you.

Was there a time when this was considered good acting?


After reading this Marc looked at me and  said “Did you come up with this idea all on your own?” What a fucker.


I’ll always remember the sick feeling that morning I went to open our garage door and found it locked. To most, especially fellow Torontonians, the idea of not locking a garage door will seem nothing short of insanity, but I’d never even considered it.  At least not yet.

Our garage is detached and situated at the back our property like most downtowners. Our car and bikes access it through a regular garage door in a laneway, and our bodies access it through a regular door-door from our garden. For three years our garage was locked from the laneway only because, well, people will steal anything. The oddity of the locked door-door struck me instantly, and worse was the sight I encountered, through the small slit between the door and the jam, of our wagon in not-its-spot. I had to run around the block to get to the lane because I had no idea where the key was, because… you know. As the garage door opened and I saw what remained of the contents my heart sank. Two bikes, 2 pairs of roller blades, three squash rackets a tennis racket (and untold other, less obvious items we only discovered missing over the following months, always pausing in the midst of the fruitless search with the recognition that yes, that too had been stolen). Even a large paper Gap bag, full of clothes bound for Goodwill was seen, mistakenly I imagine, as bounty for the mighty thieves who hit the absolute mother lode of unlocked-garage-full-of-easily-sold stuff.

garden, door, lane, ignore winter, you get it.

Thankfully what remained was our shockingly expensive double stroller and bike trailer, either of which likely fetching more on craigslist than the whole of what was taken. It’s a small mercy that petty thieves have no idea a moutain buggy duo has enormous secondary market value.

A $500 deductible and resigned acceptance that much of what was stolen we didn’t really need to replace made a house insurance claim a waste, so off to Duke’s we went to replace the only things wehadtohaverightnow – our bikes. Used bikes would have been a more affordable option, but I was so angry and violated, and Igor Kenk had only been in police custody for like three minutes, and I really felt any used bike was probably a stolen bike, that I just…  I just couldn’t.

My new bike is prettier than my old bike. My new bike is has a nicer saddle than my old bike. My new bike has a deep step thru accommodating my hobbit-like inseam (both bikes are 14″ frames – yowsa) better than my old bike for on/off ease. I should have loved it, but it sucked. A lot. Some asshole came through my back garden, past our froggie sandbox, myriad bubble wands, dump trucks and sidewalk chalk, opened the door (no breaking needed) and cleaned. Us. Out. During the weeks that followed I woke up at every noise convinced someone was breaking into our house, our garage, our neighbour’s house, our neighbour’s garage. Marc regularly, sleepily, was forced to stumble downstairs to find the source of the noise, always reappearing with the assurance I’d simply heard the house, not the thief.

new bike. pretty bike. not-stolen bike trailer.

Eventually I stopped being upset, road my new, pretty, easy on/off bike, accepted that it could have been much, much worse (An unexpected, violent downpour meant Marc left his new bike at the office that fateful day in favour of the subway, otherwise making the bike loss total 3 instead of 2), and moved on. In autumn when we went hunting for the air conditioner cover, found it gone and deduced it had been used as a bag to help in the “carry-out”, I was only mildly irritated and  pronounced myself healed, turning the unpleasantness into an anecdote about life in the city. And the merits of locking your garage door.

Let us fast forward a number of years from July 2008 to March 2011, and now there are four bikes- two grown up ones, two little kid ones, a DOUBLE locked garage and a healthy respect for the throbbing, but not always trustworthy city we live in and love. It’s a balmy day at the end of March Break and Kate and Simon atop their new spring bikes are practicing riding (Kate on two wheels Simon on four) along College street in pursuit of Manic Coffee, Jessica and baby Ada. As I busied myself steadying an unsteady Kate on her newly minted, training wheel-less bike, I nearly sent her flying when I stopped without warning dead in my tracks. I stopped because I saw my bike. My old one. The one stolen three years before out of my unlocked garage past my little kid sandbox and perennials. The 14″ frame. The kickstand. THE BELL.

old bike, 2011

What the picture doesn’t show is the rusted chain, flat front tire, wonky rear tire, or the crate filled with trash. Clearly this bike, a bike I believed to be my bike, had sat outside for months unloved and unwanted while I rode around on a new bike when clearly my old bike was not in use. Insert expletive.

I thought about it a lot, half hoping sheer mental force of will would dissolve the U-lock cementing my bike to the post-and-ring, dreaming of the sweetness of a getting back what I should never have lost.  Marc found the 3-years-gone-but-found-down-the-street scenario compelling,  but didn’t completely understand why I cared so much: Even if we could prove the bike is mine did I really want it? Didn’t I have a new bike, a better bike? Wasn’t I over it anyway? Um, yes, yes to all of that. And yes I still want it back. Badly.

I asked police officers chatting in a cruiser, I asked bike cops standing lazily in a park, I phoned the non-emergency number and asked a cop paid to talk to people like me, peppering each with the same  burning question: “I found my stolen bike locked up on College street, what do I do?”  They all said the same thing: “take it.” I said “but I’ll have to destroy the lock.” They all said “it’s your property ma’am, you can take the bike.” Um, okay.

Fast forward a bit further, a couple of months this time to mid-June. With two friends (Tanya and Louise) I helped organize a children’s bike event offering, among other things, free tune ups for little bikes. The time and tools were graciously donated by the owner of a local bike shop (who I have yet to ask permission to blog about, and who might, as will become clear, have an opinion about that. Let’s call him Nice-guy since he’s so much more than just a bike-guy). At the end of our event I asked Nice-guy  about some random clicking on my front derailleur then quizzed him, with bikes on the brain and a possible expert on hand, if he knew how one might want to break into a new-ish U-lock to liberate their bike that was stolen maliciously out of their garage by terrible devil-people marching straight through their garden amidst children’s toys and other wholesome, victimless things. Without missing a beat Nice-guy looked me square in the eye and said “with my cordless grinder, I’ll get your bike for you.” I was taken aback completely. I stumbled, spluttered, was uncharacteristically lost for words, said “oh, um, but you wouldn’t want to do that.” His response was inflectionless and immediate: “yes I would.” Period. And there began the plan for bike liberation, ousting of the bee stuck in my bonnet, resolution of a 3-year-old wrong made right, promises of veggie poutine, beer and banter, all in exchange for a burnt out bike I don’t really need anyway and will have to invest money into to make right, and I didn’t even feel a little bit crazy.

In a final fast forward of just a week-and-a-half we’re all caught up with dates, and Nice-guy, Tanya (Louise was sailing) and I are standing together, looking at the bike. Then I’m lying on the sidewalk with Nice-guy trying to read the serial number, because it turns out nice guys who are also bike guys, really, really don’t want to be bike thieves. After Marc texted me the serial number (he’s a lawyer, fastidious, saves everything, including credit card statements from long-closed credit cards, transcripts from grade school and invoices from everything we’ve ever bought. Ever), we tried awkwardly to read upside down an unreadable number, looking terribly suspicious with a grinder on the ground, manhandling a dilapidated bike. The many passersby were curious but in true Canadian style said little, and were easily deflected. When the woman whose bike was locked opposite returned to fetch it, she looked alarmed and literally ran away from us. Her bike’s departure gave us all the room we needed to take a hard look and find out if it could really, actually be true. I mean, what are the chances? Three years. My neighbourhood. Lots of people have red bells and kickstands. I don’t know what the odds are, but that bike, the one parked sadly for ages and ages, the one abducted so long ago I don’t remember what it feels like to ride, the one that woke me up at night and made me feel violated and angry, the one that was sitting right there for longer than I know, had a dozen little numbers and letters matching right up to the ones on the bill of sale. Exhale. Nice-guy suggested locking new bike to old bike because wouldn’t it be “just the way” that while we ate, drank beer and chatted (we’re not animals, things need to be done in order) the “owner” of the bike came out and took it home. And that’s what I did. And that’s where it all still was when we emerged a few hours later. And here we are undoing what never should have been done.

grinder. sparks. liberation.

And then I found something, in new bike’s crate (probably because old bike’s was full of garbage). A love letter.  I think. Some nights are just perfect.

poetry bombed, 2011


 What did we do with the lock we broke?

we left it there.

4 – The number Simon turned at the end of  November.

animals that belong to other people are fun for kids at parties (yes, Simon is also taking pictures).


17 – The number of commitments we had, individual and family, between December 5-21st.  I’m not sure why I stopped counting on the 21st, before Christmas and before fulfilling all our commitments, but every time I counted, that was where I stopped. The holidays beat me.

48 – The number of times I swore silently to myself because Simon is short and got stuck in the back row during the Kindergarten songs at the school Winter Concert. The only snap I could get was this blurry one as they were filing out:

argyle simon, 2010

When all I really wanted was one like this. But singing:

songless simon, 2010

0- The number of presents/anything Christmas-related Marc organised before December 23rd. 

1 – The number of people Marc decided he was responsible for this Christmas.

1000 million – The number of reasons the holidays are so much cooler now that we have kiddies.

reindeer kate, 2010

5 – The number of things we got up to between Christmas and New Years. Apparently we don’t learn.

7 – The number Kate turned at the beginning of January.

last kate photo of 2010

1 – The number of Queens in the hive at the museum we went to on the last day of December.

last simon photo of 2010

7 – The number of (adult) revelers around my friend Judy’s table on New Year’s Eve (the children were in the basement. Destroying it).


innumerable – The number of ways I’m fucked because my friend Steph, a fine knitter who happens to TEACH speed knitting, just declared the sweater we are knitting together (separately, two sweaters, but at the same time, a knit-a-long) wasn’t a race. And I know Steph, and that totally means it fucking is. Steph has a furnace war every autumn, trying to out-freeze participating family in separate households to see who can go the longest before turning on their heat. There is no prize, only the glory of… winning? Of freezing voluntarily (a freeze-a-long?) for no particular reason? Knitting is way more comfortable than that, and the outcome so much sweeter. She has two sleeves and part of the body. I have this:

wool. not a sweater.

2 – The number of mittens I have to finish (Christmas gift- knitters I know you understand) before beginning the sweater.

almost mittens, 2011

1 – The number of lessons I learned about starting a knit-a-long with Steph.

Happy New Year folks!

Forget June 21st, summer, when you have kids, starts the day after the last day of school. The morning began just as I imagined, tea in bed with the paper, Kate and Simon puttering about, Marc snoring (that man is always snoring). A quick breakfast of cereal for the girl and oatmeal for the boy meant I could jump back into bed with minimal kitchen tidying, and enjoy 8am sluggishly. Summerly. 

Marc eventually stumbled to the shower, commenting that unlike me, he had to go to work. But after months of juggling opposing schedules, not eating until dinner, chasing laundry like some kind of runaway freight train, herding, cooking, make-believing, volunteering, listening, ignoring, sympathising, encouraging, counting, remembering, and of course, parenting, I was only too happy to lie there while he went to work, because today, I’m on vacation. 

Oh Marc’s comment was all-jealous-and-no-spite, and when he finally dashed off for a meeting with a very-important-person, I knew I’d send him pictures during the day of all the nothing we’d get up to so he could enjoy the first day of summer with us. But by proxy. 

For the second year, Kate will be going to overnight camp for a week this summer. A gentle introduction to regular camping, this mini-camp (5 days, instead of 7) is part of a bigger-kid camp. Twice a summer wee ones are invited to give camp a try, doing everything in a group, sampling all the camp activities, bunking together, and joining their larger counterparts only at meal times. With 1 counsellor for every 3 little guys, it’s pretty super-awesome. Like last year, we’ll chuck her on a coach bus in a mall parking lot, and with her friend-since-before-birth, will head a few hours out-of-town to run amok in the county. 

Being the ridiculous city-folks we are, we did not even consider appropriate luggage for our camper-in-training, and thought nothing of packing up her pink, world’s-lightest-carry-on. And since we tend to learn best by fucking it up first, we were suitably humiliated at last year’s drop-off when we discovered that other, normal people, sent their kids to camp with canvas, not hard cases. Our foolishness did not go unpunished, and Kate’s once pristine case, returned 5 days later looking very much like it too had been to camp. And dropped off a ledge. 

This year we are less dumb, and today, the first day of summer, I was going to bike the kids down to Mountain Equipment Co-op, and get canvas, of the duffle variety. Simon aloof, Kate ecstatic, having already selected the colour of bag from the online catalogue (red) and desperate to get a  Canadian flag patch, (since you know, she’d be travelling),  bounded up the stairs to change out of summer pyjamas and into fall clothes – it’s cccold in Toronto today. I was surprised to find a startled Kate back in my room just moments later, imploring me to come upstairs, and “look at one of the rats.” 

Life is a cycle, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. My experience with death is that when it comes at 83, after a long, good life, it is sad, but not tragic. Tragedy occurs when death is out of order, before it should be, like with a child, or a parent with young children. Or a middle-aged rat. 

At the ripe age of 6 1/2 Kate’s not so little anymore, so when she solemnly requested for me to assess the “situation upstairs” I understood she wasn’t asking me what was wrong, she knew, Kate was asking me to make it better. 

We marched upstairs together, although Kate followed a few paces behind, tentatively. It was clear before I got near the cage that the one, lying on top of their little wooden house, was no longer of this world. I confirmed Kate’s worry, and she waited as I approached the scene. I’m not sure if it was all the blood, or the fact that her insides appeared to have relocated outside, but I gave a little start when I got a close-up of the carnage that signified the end of Marzipan’s* life. Literally blood and guts everywhere, and poor Sheila*, her sister, staring wide-eyed and wondering. (Or not giving a shit I couldn’t really tell). 

Opening the cage, Sheila poked her head out, probably for air or something. I scooped her up and told Kate she was probably lonely and sad and needed some love. Carefully taking Sheila from my hands, Kate tip-toed to her bed, gently placed Sheila down and immediately began treating her like some sort of stuffed animal, which probably made Sheila wish she was back in the cage. With her dead sister. 

The task before me, while Kate roughed up the living rat, was to figure out what to do with the dead one. Armed with a bag and not nearly enough fortitude, it took at least three failed attempts before I worked up the nerve to slide the not-yet-stiff creature off the roof of their nest. Once I finally did this, Kate paused her over zealous playing for a moment and asked earnestly what I planned to do with Marzipan. I faltered. What do you do when a child’s pet spontaneously explodes one morning? The same thing you do with anyone who dies- you say good-bye, even if (or especially) it’s a rat. I crouched down and told Kate we would bury Marzipan when Daddy got home. Kate’s sense of relief was palpable, she needed to give her pet a send-off but didn’t know how or what to ask for.  

Standing up, the weight of the bag I was holding seemed suddenly heavier – what the hell am I supposed to do with it until after dinner? I phoned Marc, and he told me like he’d done this a thousand times, to stick her in the freezer. So that’s where I put her. Double-bagged. 

So good-bye Marzipan. I’m sorry your life was cut short by some sort of invisible, internal bomb, it is my sincere hope you didn’t suffer. We are looking after Sheila extra special now, and while it did cross my mind to just pick out all the bloodied bits of the bedding, I came to make senses quickly, recognising that when someone dies in their bed, you don’t just wash the top sheet. She should be comfortable now. 

It was always hard to tell you and your sister apart, but when Simon, was encouraged to bite your tail, and did, the little blunt end where the tip used to be became a useful way to distinguish the two of you apart. The herd of children who came downstairs to expose Simon and proclaim the “rat is bleeding” surprised all the delinquent parents, full of wine and good times. It took a few days for that tip to fall off completely – again, I hope you didn’t suffer. 

One frozen rat, one clean cage and three dressed people later, we were finally ready to grab our camping bounty. But it was late now, and we didn’t have time to bike down and make it back for a lunch time visitor, so we drove. It took a long time. Longer than usual and we probably should have biked. On the way back we were stuck behind a garbage truck, but it was in our neighbourhood and garbage day was yesterday. I’m still confused. 

Today was a funny day and not at all like the one I imagined, even though it began like the one I’d imagined. But I guess that’s summer, feeling all weird and unfamiliar until you get used it. If I remember correctly September will feel the same way, at the beginning. 

Hello summer, good-bye rat. 

Sheila, 2010 (Marzipan looked the same, but with less tail).

*Kate named Marzipan and Sheila in the cab on the way back from The Menagerie, a pet shop for not dogs/cats. She was very proud. So was I.

p.s. I only sent Marc one photo today. It’s okay, summer just started.

indoor camping at MEC

Sometimes posting three times in one hour in one evening is necessary.


Be horrified.

N.B. I was not looking up ways to rejuvinate my own Marylin, Betty, Ginger or Audry. It’s all facebook’s fault, I swear.