Amy (old posts, page 30)

Summer's End

It's only August 30 but it was cold today—it didn't even break 20 degrees. Between that and the impendingness of back-to-school, I'm feeling that Fall urge to do something new and interesting. Where is my new backpack, my textbooks and paper, my list of classes with unfamiliar room numbers, my anticipation of learning something and meeting new people? Oh, that's right, overwhelmed by my children's lives. Which is fine, for a while. Cordelia, at least, has a new backpack. Delphine doesn't have any new school supplies because the school, curse them, provides everything she needs. Don't they know how much I love to buy school supplies? Although I did buy myself two pairs of pants and three pairs of shoes on sale at Lands' End!

I applied to take a Toronto Civics course offered by the City of Toronto, but I wasn't accepted. They were trying to achieve a high level of diversity in the participants, and I guess someone had already filled the straight white female spot. Boo. Sometime, not this term, I would like to take a writing course somewhere (if they turn out to be worthwhile), but this fall my only New and Exciting things will be Momming a Grade One-er and a Kindergartener, and midwifing my writing career. Which, come to think of it, is fairly huge, although entirely self-directed and so less fun than taking a class.

The girls and I had plenty of fun last week. On Wednesday we went to Centreville, an amusement park on Toronto's Centre Island. Delphine was petrified by the Bee Ride, and chose a stationary horse (not an up-and-down one) on the carousel. Cordelia loved everything and went on the (baby, but still scary!) roller coaster with me. Delphine's favourite thing was the pony ride, although she lined up for it for about twenty-five minutes and I swear the ride was only a minute and a half long. Lucky for me, I didn't line up with her—the heroic Kat did, while fending off a gaggle of badly raised little hooligans who were trying to cut ahead. Kat also took the girls on the Annoying Swan Ride, so I owe her big time.

Thursday we stayed in the neighbourhood; we went into the school to meet Cordelia's new teacher. I love her already—I'm so pleased she opened her classroom to us a few days before the start of school, because Cordelia has gone from being scared of going to school to being thrilled by the idea. It took Cordelia about thirty seconds to feel at home in her new classroom, and to make friends with her new teacher.

On Friday I took the girls, plus Ursa, to see the IMAX movie Under The Sea at the Science Centre. We were only going to stay for a while but we ended up spending the entire day there (and freaking out Ursa's parents). We visited a special exhibit on reptiles, and a special exhibit on spies (Delphine's favourite), and spent some time in the little kids' area. We capped it all off with the obligatory visit to the rainforest, and were home by five.

It was a genuine pleasure to spend the day at the Science Centre with the girls. Now that they're older, for one thing, and I've decided not to worry about them so much for another, I really enjoy being with them, and watching them enjoy themselves. Delphine and Ursa seemed to get a lot more value out of the Science Centre together than they do when they're alone—being able to talk over the exhibits and play off each other while they experimented really added meaning and depth to their experience. It was a real-life demonstration of the power of collaborative learning.

Next week we have more fun in store: tomorrow a friend is coming over with her brood to enjoy a belated birthday KFC feast; Tuesday I am looking after Ursa and her little brother Otis all day while their folks move—we will probably go to the library; Wednesday we have a playdate with Delphine's BFF. Delphine's BFF has a little sister for Cordelia to play with, and a mother for me to chat with, so it's a whole family playdate. Those are the best. Thursday Blake is taking the afternoon off and we are going to take High Tea at the Royal York, just because. And Friday the girls have their back-to-school haircuts at the Fiorio Academy.

Oh, and we're having a no-TV week. The girls have been watching way too much TV, so we cut them off for the week. Out of some misguided notion of fairness, Blake and I aren't watching TV all week either. I expect to do plenty of blogging, reading, and sleeping. Hm, that doesn't sound so bad.

And Now The Legacy Begins

Here's how I feel: I'm nervous. I'm embarrassed. I'm insecure. I'm excited.

Here's why: I'm going to be a writer.

I feel so stupid typing that. I was tempted to say, "I'm going to start a writing career", or "I'm going to try writing for money", but those are just mealy-mouthed ways of saying, "I'm going to be a writer." Why not go for the gusto?

I'm nervous because what if it doesn't work out? What if it turns out no-one wants to pay me to write? (Answer: I'll just keep trying. Sooner or later somebody will pay me to write something.)

I'm embarrassed because it seems so presumptuous to be all, "I'm going to be a writer!" because what makes me so special? Then mad at myself for not thinking I'm special enough to be a writer. (As if being a writer is some kind of impossibly cool and unlikely job, like being a rock star. I have this idea that if a job is cool enough for me to want to do it, automatically I am not cool enough to do said job. Before now I've only ever seriously considered jobs that I secretly think are kind of lame. Or at least very safe.)

Insecure, obviously. Very. The little voices in my head which tell me I can't do stuff are having a field day with this one.

And excited, too, when I manage to squeeze it in amongst all that other nonsense.

I'm not sure when I'm going to fit Being A Writer in amongst all the other stuff, but the plus side is I can do it without having to add much: I have a computer, an Internet connection, a phone and a roof. I also have two hours every day. At some point I would like to add a computer of my very own (rather than the shared family computer) and maybe a writing course or two, but Blake looks askance at spending any money on this endeavour before I've "proven" that I can earn money at it. (Which I take, of course, to be a vote of non-confidence, even though it's actually perfectly sensible.)

I'm going to kick it all off by working on three projects (yes, three): a non-fiction children's book or article, an article (subject TBD) in a parenting magazine (which one TBD), and an article on science and society in, again, some unspecified publication. I know, this all seems insanely vague, but this whole "let's be a writer!" thing is still insanely vague. I just decided to pick three things I would like to write, so I would have something concrete to work towards. My first tasks for all three pieces are basically: "research publishers" and "research topics". Once I have been working on those for a few weeks I will also start sending out feelers for business writing gigs, which I expect will be my bread and butter. I'm not so choosy about what I write, I just love the idea of getting paid for it.

So there. I said it. Out loud. My writing alter-ego is @arbrownwriter at Twitter and arbrownwriter at gmail. Drop me a line if you need me to write something for you!

Catching Up At the End of Summer

It's been ages since I've posted, and I have so much to talk about I don't know where to start. I want to talk about what we've done, what we're planning, and how everyone is doing right now. Perhaps chronologically is the way to go.

When I last wrote it was mid-June. The girls were supposed to have swimming lessons for the first two weeks of summer vacation, and then Delphine was supposed to go to day camp at Riverdale Farm for a week, but both things were cancelled on account of the Toronto city workers' strike. We couldn't spend long, lazy days at the park because the bathrooms were closed (city workers' strike) and we couldn't take the ferry to the Island and go to Centreville (city workers' strike) so we tried to find fun other ways. The library remained open through the strike, and we could go to the park for a couple of hours at a time. We went to the ROM and the Science Centre, and Cordelia and Delphine played with friends and neighbours. Honestly, the three of us are pretty good at just kicking around together. Blake joined us for some fun—one of the perks of freelance work is that you can spend odd weekdays with your family and make up for it by working on the weekend.

One Friday in June, Delphine hosted a t-shirt party. She had received a "sticker club" chain letter, which I didn't let her participate in for various pedantic reasons. She was disappointed, but after a conversation with Blake she decided she would host a party where each guest brings a t-shirt (or two). At the end of the party, each guest gets to take home a different t-shirt. Some of the guests were perplexed, some were really into it, and one girl took home the same t-shirts she brought, but everyone had fun and they all went home happy.

The girls and I went on big Expedition to the lake one sunny Tuesday. We took the bus, then the subway, and then a very long streetcar ride all the way to Woodbine and beyond, to the beach at Kew Gardens. The girls spent a merry morning playing with pebbles and water, and befriended a little girl while I chatted with her dad. We were all getting along famously so we headed over to the playground together, then took a walk to an ice cream shop before heading home, grimy and exhausted, at about four in the afternoon. We ended up getting together with that same little girl and her dad the next week, but then they went back home to Calgary.

Just as the Toronto city workers' strike ended the girls and I headed out to visit my mum in Saskatchewan. We were there for two weeks, and had a grand time. The children love being at Granny's house, where there are lots of things to look at, and unlimited television and cookies. (Although even my mother was getting sick of kids' TV by the end of it.) Thanks to the indomitable Shirley, my Big River fixer, we went to a beach at Nesslin Lake, visited a cattle farm, and went fishing. Cordelia caught a fish and Delphine learned how to hold a fish up to have your picture taken with it. (You have to stick your thumb and finger into its eyeballs, which she did with aplomb. She is not squeamish and she's quite pragmatic about the fact that things have to die if you want to eat them.) I caught a few fish, too. I rather enjoy fishing. One day I'll have to try and fish around here.

I think my favourite thing in Big River, apart from the fishing, was walking in the woods at Nesslin. We went for a walk in a beautiful moist forest, rich with fungus and moss and berries. The forest floor was dense with life, and made me realize how sterile a traditional garden is, with its empty brown strips of soil between plants. I would like a garden with the ground alive with fungus and tiny vines and mosses.

We also got to visit a real straw bale house at Ness Creek, which seems to be some kind of hippie retreat (with wireless internet!)

As soon as we landed in Toronto, Andy met us at the airport to take Delphine and Cordelia to the cottage for a few days. (Blake and I weren't invited.) A fine time was had by all—the girls played on the beach for three days (getting nut-brown in the process) and ate corn on the cob for supper, while Blake and I played at being childless. We went for coffee, we went for lunch (it was supposed to be brunch but apparently no-one in our hard-working neighbourhood serves brunch during the week), we saw a movie, and Morgan treated me to a pedicure. I spent quite a lot of money on used books, as you've seen. I also bought a tube of lip gloss and some hair dye, which was more fun than perhaps it should have been. It's unspeakable luxury to be able to go to a store, be it a book store or a drug store, and spend as much time as you want browsing, considering, reading labels and jackets, without having to hurry up and pick someone up, or rush because the children are getting restless. Twenty minutes considering lip gloss! Can you imagine?

We had the girls back last Friday morning, and spent the weekend not doing much, to everyone's relief. This Monday brought more excitement with the start of day camp. It's not a fancy, themed camp, just a week at the child care centre where Cordelia went to nursery school. It's all day, though, which is the longest Cordelia has ever been in the care of someone outside the family. Delphine has been having a fantastic time—one of her best friends is also enrolled in the camp—but Cordelia continues to be very sticky. She's been a mummy's girl for at least six months now and this week has been especially pathetic. She cries at breakfast: "I wannoo stay wif you! I don' wannoo go to camp!" Then when I drop her off she won't let go of me. Once I extricate myself and leave the room she collects herself within a matter of seconds, apparently, so I'm not concerned for her long-term mental health. And I have to agree with her that six or seven hours is a long time to be away from your Mummy, especially later in the day when you start to get tired and grumpy and the organized activities peter out. Kindergarten will be much easier since it's only two and a half hours. That's barely enough time to miss me.

Tomorrow is the last day of day camp, and then we have two weeks of not-very-much before school starts. I'm not expected to buy school supplies for either girl, and they both have plenty of clothes, so we don't need to go shopping. We are scheduled for trips to the optometrist and the hair salon, and I want to go to Centreville, and see an IMAX movie at the Science Centre, before the end of summer. Between that and catching up with friends we haven't seen for ages, the next couple of weeks will be agreeably busy but not frantic.

Books I Bought With My Birthday Money

Herewith find a list of all the books I bought with my birthday money. (I shopped at second-hand stores for the most part.)

  • Death's Daughter by Amber Benson
  • A Handful of Time by Kit Pearson
  • The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser
  • 12 Books That Changed the World by Melvyn Bragg
  • The Evolution of Useful Things by Henry Petroski
  • Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart
  • Heat by George Monbiot
  • Dead Men Do Tell Tales by William Maples and Michael Browning
  • The Drunkard's Walk by Leonard Mlodinow
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

...and two for Delphine:

  • That Scatterbrain Booky by Beatrice Thurman
  • Jacob Two-two Meets the Hooded Fang by Mordecai Richler

If you wait long enough I'll review them all, except for the last two.

Discussion Questions for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Some shovelware for you—we are reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay in my book club this month. It was my pick, and so far two people have emailed me to say they couldn't finish it, so we'll see how it goes. Anyway, since it was my pick I was responsible for finding or getting discussion questions. Here are the questions I devised on my own. Discuss amongst yourselves:

  1. On page 286, George Deasey says that the boys' comics are "powerless" and "useless", but Joe Kavalier thinks to himself that he believes "in the power of [his] art". Do you believe in the power of popular culture to steer the course of public opinion or political events? Can you think of any current or recent art which affects politics?

  2. Several characters in Kavalier and Clay change their names as a means of reinventing themselves. Does it work? How does knowing the person's original name affect the way others relate to them? Have you ever changed your name? Did your identity also change?

  3. Do you read comics? Did you ever? (Did you ever try to write one?) Do you appreciate them more having read Kavalier and Clay?

  4. Several characters in Kavalier and Clay identify as both Jewish and as atheists. Discuss how their Judaism is manifested in the absence of belief in God. Do you practice the rituals of your ancestors and if so to what extent do you share their beliefs? Is it possible to be Christian without believing in God?

  5. When I was reading Kavalier and Clay I came across a few words I didn't know. Do you enjoy it when a writer uses unfamiliar words, or do you find it annoying, or pretentious? When you come across a new word do you look it up and try and learn it, or just carry on?

  6. The theme of escape recurs throughout the book: escape through changing one's name, escape through disguise, literal escape from bondage or from danger, and escape through literature. On page 575, Chabon writes: "...the usual charge leveled against comic books, that they offered merely an easy escape from reality, seemed to Joe actually to be a powerful argument on their behalf." Why is escapist entertainment frowned on by some? Do you agree? Do you use books or TV as an escape or reprieve from reality?

Books in June and July

Dude, I don't even know why I'm doing this blog entry. I'm so tired! The girls and I had an epic day today: we took the streetcar out to Kew Garden and the girls played on the beach for hours. After that, they played in the wonderful playground, and after that, we walked for blocks and blocks to have an ice cream with a friend the girls met on the beach. Then another long (long, long) streetcar ride (punctuated by an emergency stop at Starbucks for a bathroom visit) and finally home at five. I made supper, put the girls to bed, cleaned the kitchen, and then rearranged all the furniture which had been disarrayed so I could paint the wall. Then I reloaded the bookcase, which I had emptied so I could paint it. I must have put on more coats of paint than I realized because I couldn't fit in all the books I was sure I had taken out of it, but I finally got all that sorted out and now I am sitting. Hurray!

On to the books.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill was our book club book, and it's also the Canada Reads book for this year, which means that just about everyone I meet has read it, or at least heard of it. Now that's cool.

The Book of Negroes is the story of Aminata Diallo, an African woman who was kidnapped into slavery as a child. The book follows her life through slavery and freedom, and all around the world. Some of the people in my book club didn't know about the slave ships and stuff, and I didn't know about the loyalists in Nova Scotia, the actual Book of Negroes, and the ships to Liberia. It was an informative read, and a good yarn, but I didn't get as emotionally engaged as I did when I read, for example, A Thousand Spendid Suns (which just about killed me). I found Hill kept a distance between the reader and Diallo, and didn't let me get right into her emotions.

The book is sold as Someone Knows My Name in the US, because apparently "Negro" is just too loaded a word down there. I think from a marketing standpoint, The Book of Negroes is a better name, but Someone Knows My Name is truer to the themes in the book. Names are important in this book. But it's a bit forgettable, marketing-wise.

I don't often buy books. I used to buy books a lot, before Delphine was born and we had a 1-to-1 people-to-jobs ratio. But a couple of weeks ago Blake and I found ourselves in a bookstore and I decided I was going to buy myself a book, dammit. Lucky for me it was coming up on Father's Day so I checked out the display of Man Books, which I love. (Why are there no science books in the Mother's Day display?) In amongst all the spy books and stuff I saw the bright yellow cover of A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif. The cover promised a witty, clever thriller. It started off a little confusing; it's not one of those books that spoon-feeds you every detail, so you just have to forge ahead and figure out things as you go along. It's worth it, as the book unfolds into a touching and intriguing story of love and revenge. With a great ending.

A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson. Bill Bryson decided to walk to Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Well, not the whole thing. But enough to get an idea of what the trail's about, and write a book. As usual, it was great Bill Bryson writing, funny and easy to read. Reading the book inspired me to do (well, think about doing) a long hike sometime. (I'm trying to figure out how to go for a long hike without pitching my own tent. I expect that will involve paying someone a lot of money.) Reading this book was the next best thing to actually walking the AT.

Healthy Lunchboxes For Kids by Amanda Grant. Picked this one up off the display at the library. Delphine's starting all-day school and while I'm not expecting her to stay for lunch often, I thought I could use some ideas. Thinking of something for dinner every day pretty much saps my food creativity, so I need all the help I can get. This is a great book, with lots of sandwich and salad ideas, recipes for scones and cakes and cookies, as well as nutrition information and advice on how to reduce waste in your kid's lunch. Very useful book and one I'd consider owning. Although you could tell it's an English book; apparently English kids love chutney, will consider eating dip made with smoked fish, and enjoy sausage sandwiches. No sign of Marmite, but plenty of nuts.

50 High Impact, Low-Care Garden Plants by Tracy DiSabato-Aust. I ordered this from the library but it's really not my kind of thing. I like low-care garden plants, but I also like them to be local to my area, and this book featured lots of foreign plants chosen because they have spectacular foliage or great flowers. This is a useful book but not for me.

A Perfect, Gentle Knight by Kit Pearson is a young adult book about a large family coping with the death of their mother. Sebastian, Rosalind, Corrie, Orly and Juliet live in a big old house with their father, a distracted English professor. The older kids take care of the younger kids while they all try and stay out of the way of the latest housekeeper. They cope with the loss of their mother by escaping into a game of Round Table, playing the roles of knights, squires and pages. The children struggle with growing out of the game, or not being able to, and the pressures of having to take care of themselves without an involved parent. It's a lovely book with beautifully drawn characters and a satisfying resolution.

Jeff and Colleen

Back in March of 1999, I started working at a small software company downtown. I got there about a week before their network administrator quit, to be replaced by a quiet guy named Jeff. Jeff was an agreeable fellow who would listen patiently when I wandered into his office to talk his ear off about last night's TV or the latest movie I'd seen. It soon became apparent that Jeff had a formidable memory for facts and details; he could identify obscure actors, recall chemical names and properties from his grad school days, and could reel off all kinds of sports minutiae which still don't mean anything to me. You could talk to Jeff about just about anything—food, science, sports, celebrity gossip—and he would be able to hold up his side of the conversation.

Jeff soon became my number one work buddy, my go-to guy whenever I needed a break from my computer and wanted a chat, my faithful lunchtime companion, my reference for all things operating system-y, my fellow sufferer of workplace bullshit. Once we skipped out of work for the afternoon to see The Perfect Storm.

A year or so after I met Jeff, I started taking singing lessons. The girl whose lesson came after mine was named Kathryn; our music teacher introduced us once, but I didn't pay much attention because I'm a lazy cuss with limited social skills. My laziness came back to haunt me when a few weeks later a pretty, animated girl walked up to me in choir practice. "Hi, Amy!"

Blank stare.

"It's Kathryn! From singing lessons?"

Oh, yeah. I'm a dork.

Fortunately Kathryn forgave me and we became fast friends. One day I invited some friends from work, and Kathryn, over to play Trivial Pursuit, eat pizza and drink beer. Jeff, as usual, kicked our asses in Trivial Pursuit because he never forgets anything he's ever learned. Kat was struck by the breadth of his knowledge and also his unassuming, agreeable manner. She decided he would be a perfect match for her little sister Colleen, herself a games nut and formidable repository of trivia.

But first we had to wait for Colleen to break up with her boyfriend at the time. Then we had to try and get the two of them together in the same room. That took a couple of years. Finally in September of 2007, they were both invited to our deck party, Colleen with specific, illustrated instructions to seek out and interact with Jeff. Sure enough the pair of them hit it off and chatted all night. Kat and I nudged them together over the next couple of days, and...

Yesterday they were married.

The ceremony was at U of T's Miller Lash house in Scarborough. It was short, sweet and sunshiney (most of the female guests seem to have gone home with the sunburn booby prize, myself included). There followed a long break for lunch, during which Blake and I came back into the city to drop the girls off with Baba and Zaida, and (in my case at least) take a nap. Refreshed, I trowelled on some spackle (I mean makeup), wired my underwear and outerwear together, glued my hair in place, wrestled with some strappy sandals, and thanked God I don't have to look like a girl every day. Finally Blake and I caught the #54 bus and rode it all the way to the end of the line, for the reception at the East Rouge Community Centre. "Community Centre" conjures up images of sweaty basketball courts and ice rinks, but this is actually a very classy venue, an elegantly casual, good-sized hall with a balcony and a fireplace.

This might sound a little bit lame, but I was really excited to go to this wedding reception. Between being a stay-at-home mum and economising, we never go out for a fancy dinner, and I haven't gone dancing since Delphine was born. The idea of a nice dinner with tablecloths and wine and interesting company, followed by dancing, was pretty thrilling. Fortunately (considering the commute) the night more than lived up to my expectations.

Dinner was served buffet-style, with chicken stuffed with goat cheese and peppers, and grilled sirloin with caramelized onions and a selection of sauces, grilled polenta, orzo salad, caesar salad, and little potatoes. For dessert there were butter tarts, lemon tarts, meringues with lemon custard, brownies, homemade Italian cookies, and berries and whipped cream. Oh, and wedding cake after that! Gastronomic bliss, and my wine glass was never empty.

After a few short but heartfelt speeches, there was great music for dancing. Blake doesn't dance, and at first I was too self-conscious to dance "by myself", but soon enough I was dancing with a bunch of girls and having an awesome time.

But enough about what a great time I had last night—it's wonderful to see Jeff get married, and it's gravy (for me—what? It's my weblog!) that he married someone I'm connected to in another way. Because Kat and I are so close, and I'm so fond of Jeff, I feel like this marriage has created a circle of connections which somehow vaguely includes me. I hope Colleen and Jeff are happy together forever, and I hope they (and Kat) stay a part of my life for just as long.

The New Cordelia

I have a confession to make. For the last few months, I have seriously worried that I might like one of my children more than the other. On the one hand I had Delphine, irritable, emotional, and bossy; on the other, I had Cordelia, amiable, charming and fun. (Also little and cute.) Obviously I love them both, but Cordelia was a lot easier to be around than Delphine.

And then Cordelia changed. She's still funny and cute (and little), but she's gone all intense. She's at that age now, where if you cut her toast wrong, or put the applesauce on top of the yoghurt, or put the left shoe on before the right, she freaks out, sobbing until whatever it is is put right or you manage to make her laugh. The other night she didn't want to go to bed, and she had a stereotypical toddler tantrum, screaming and kicking and yelling, for a good ten minutes. We had honestly never had one of those, with either Cordelia or Delphine.

I'm not sure if this change in behaviour is a developmental stage, or if it's simple that we gave up naps a week or so ago and she's still adjusting. Before this she'd always been a happy, easy-going baby, but I remember Delphine going from Straightforward to Complicated sometime in the preschool years. Parenting a baby and toddler is a physical endeavour, carrying and feeding and wiping. Parenting a child is emotional and mental and completely different. I think I now have two children.

Thank goodness—I don't think I could have pretended they were both equally easy and fun for much longer.

Oakville ride

A couple of years ago, as you might remember, Blake biked from Toronto to Balm Beach on Georgian Bay, a 135K ride preceded by several long training rides. He got all fit that summer, and seemed to have fun (mostly), so I proposed that we do something similar this summer: plan a nice long ride, do some longish training rides, spend some time together and get fit.

As it turns out, Blake, Kat and I did one 44K training ride, and then we biked to Oakville. (It's way too hard to schedule rides for three people and a babysitter.) We picked Oakville because it is the right distance—a 100 K round trip—and because it's nice. Kat's been there a few times so she knows the lay of the land.

The day started early—our babysitter arrived, Tim's in hand, at 7:50 am, and Blake and I got on our bikes and headed down Mount Pleasant to meet Yonge Street somewhere south of St. Clair. We tried to leave Yonge a couple of times, but with Bay Street on one side and the Pride parade on the other, we didn't have a lot of options. It was fun blowing through downtown first thing on a Sunday, and before we knew it we were at our rendezvous point at King. Kat joined us and we made for the waterfront.

Our route took us west on Queen's Quay to the Waterfront Trail, past harbours and beaches and coves and rocky bits and all kinds of watery goodness. We stopped at the beautiful Humber Pedestrian Bridge for a photo op and some energy bars, then blew past the Butterfly Garden in Mimico, making a note to stop there on the way home.

Soon after that the rain started. It wasn't a drizzle, making us moist and warm. It wasn't a driving rain, lashing into our faces. It was merely large raindrops, plenty of them, falling straight down. Not ill-mannered rain, but very insistent, very wet, very rainy rain. We were soon soaked.

We carried on, through Etobicoke and into Mississauga. We were still on the Waterfront Trail, which at that point alternated between on-road routes (with some great real estate and gardens to ogle, especially on the water side) and a wide paved trail travelling beside the water through parks and woods. For a while we leapfrogged with a pair of athletic dads (I could tell they were athletic because they were wearing technical biking gear) pulling their kids in trailers, but they left us near the edge of Mississauga, saying, "It's all sidewalks from here on".

They were right about that. The Mississauga/Oakville border bit of the Waterfront Trail is mainly oversized sidewalks beside busy streets, with a rather surreal detour through an industrial area ("Trucks crossing") and directly beside a complicated, strangely beautiful Petro-Canada plant.

Eventually the actual trail—well, the overgrown sidewalks—ran out and we had to bike through the curvy, monotonous streets of suburbia. The houses got farther apart, the streets lacked sidewalks, the... oh, don't make me go all Kunstler on you. Finally Mississauga ended and Oakville began, to much rejoicing by Kat. (I don't know that anyone has ever been that happy to get to Oakville. I was just wet. Did I mention it was still raining?)

Oakville's contribution to the Waterfront Trail does not appear to go anywhere near the waterfront. It consists of narrow sidewalks, signposted alternately with forbidding notices informing you that Oakville frowns on bike riding on sidewalks, and friendly green signs with bike icons on them, running beside giant houses on vast acreages. You can't ogle the houses, though, because they're walled in. I did get a look at a couple of greenhouses. Occasionally the sidewalk ends, to be replaced by a grit path, intersected by driveways used by people who don't look out for you because no-one has ever been mad enough to bike this way before. As we biked I nursed my hatred for rich people.

If you persevere on this path beyond all sense and reason, eventually you will get to "downtown" Oakville, which is a lot like Bayview and Davisville. That's a hell of a long way to travel for someplace just like home, but there's modern life for you.

We locked up our bikes and searched for a restaurant sufficiently casual that the entrance of three grubby, soaked cyclists wouldn't put everyone off their lunch. We ended up at a sandwich cafe where we ate good sandwiches, mediocre soup, and disappointing desserts, while debating our next move.

We were wet but not disheartened, but Blake and I were bored with biking through suburbia and Oakville's shitty "bike path". Kat, whose thirst for challenge apparently knows no bounds, wanted to bike the whole damn way back. Blake was having no fun, and wanted to take the GO train all the way back. I was tempted to agree with Blake but I could also sympathise with Kat's desire for a more epic ride, to push ourselves a little more. I suggested we use the GO train to skip the boring suburbs and land us back in civili–, I mean, Toronto to bike home along the bits of the Waterfront Trail that are actually within sight of water.

We raced to the Oakville GO station and made the 2:30 train, wrestling our bikes onto inconveniently non-bike-accomodating cars for the twenty-five minute ride to Mimico, where we rejoined the trail along the water. It had stopped raining while we were on the train, but obligingly started again once we were back on our bikes. The ride back into town was uneventful—we did slow down through the butterfly garden but lacked the inclination to linger. By the time we got to Bay Street our bums were all sore and we were exhausted. Blake and I took the TTC back up to Davisville and then enjoyed the short ride home, although not as much as we enjoyed long, hot showers and some quality couch time.

All in all it came to 67.5 K for Blake and I (7 K less for Kat because she didn't have to ride downtown), which is pretty good but not quite epic. I'd like to try another couple of long rides this summer, if we can find indulgent babysitters, although I think I would rather take transit out to somewhere interesting and bike from there, than have to bike through the suburbs again.

(Incidentally, I looked at the maps after we got home and Port Credit is really where the Waterfront Trail stops being nice—we were being conservative when we came all the way back to Mimico.)