This Little Piggy Went to [the Real Estate] Market

This Little Piggy Went to [the Real Estate] Market

Disclaimer: What’s that Smell?

Oh, it’s that this post reeks of privilege. We happen to live in a city with a housing market that is accessible to young professionals. We work full time in our fields, have health and dental benefits, and have been able to save money. This is not the case in every city or for every family, and we try not to take our good fortune for granted. If this doesn’t annoy you too much, I invite you to read on.


It turns out that houses are expensive. You heard it here first. Having recently purchased a house (pause for shock that a licensed financial institution lent me a large sum of money), I am now a seasoned expert on house hunting. So pull up a chair next to my soapbox as I yell some unsolicited advice at you.

Find a Realtor you Trust (and like)

I know adventurous folks who’ve purchased houses without a realtor. But this was never going to be us. I generally believe that if you are embarking on a large, costly, and important purchase, receiving guidance from someone who has made this product their life’s work is probably to your benefit. And since we were buying our first home and not selling anything, it cost us a whopping zero dollars to have a professional on our side. But though they would be free, we didn’t want just anyone. We wanted to find someone who could put up with our shit was a good fit. We interviewed two who came recommended, and then really wanted to see a house that hit the market the day we were to interview the third. She agreed to a trial by fire, and showed us this house as her interview.

It’s not so much that Daria parked her car, got out, and shook our hands. It’s more that angels carried her from heaven and set her gently down in front of us and a semi-detached house… which she then tore to shreds using her extensive knowledge of foundation integrity, electrical wiring, and landscape sloping.

She told us she used to be an accountant, and that she tends to take an analytical approach, which is not a good fit for everyone. This nod to not being willing to compromise her style made me want her even more. Plus, the style itself seemed like a great fit for us. We thanked her for showing us that tire fire of a house and I told her we would decide on our realtor soon and would let her know either way.

That night, in a scene not dissimilar to every season finale of The Bachelor(ette), I emailed the other realtors, saying we enjoyed meeting them but have decided to work with someone else. Then I stood on a windswept cliff at sunset [in my imagination] and proposed to Daria by writing, “I feel like the Bachelorette – I broke up with the other two. Will you be our realtor?” She said yes, and showed up for our next meeting like this.

Daria Kark reviewed this post for glaring factual inaccuracies, but has not endorsed or sponsored it. As per ush, all views expressed are purely my own rantings.

Search High and Low

We looked at many houses. This is a major luxury of being a first time home buyer – the length and depth and timing of your hunt is not constrained by selling your current house.

No one will be surprised to learn that we didn’t quite know what we wanted. We expanded our search area, and then shrunk it back up again. For us and with us, Daria braved one house that was literally on the verge of collapse (the sellers didn’t even bother locking the door because there was nothing of value, including the house itself). And another that was 100% haunted.

Closet in the attic of the haunted house

Dress for the House you Want – Not the Scumbag you are

If you have seen me outside of my office at any point over the past 18 months, chances are high that I was wearing a certain pair of pants. Okay fine, “pants” is a stretch. And speaking of stretch, I’m talking about off-brand active wear leggings that I bought during my maternity leave for mom & baby fitness class. I put them on for an exercise class in mid-2015 and on they have stayed.

But when we started house hunting, and took the step of actually going to a house to look inside of it, I thought that the sellers might be there, and that they would relinquish their prized home only to the poshest of the posh, so I’d better look not like that guy from the Big Lebowski (which is what my hair looks like if I do nothing to it). I got fancy. Straightened hair! Eyeshadow! Blazer! Oh my! And then we got to the house and no one was there, and I was like, “Ugh, this waistband sucks.” I went home and put the pants on and never looked back.

My house-hunting “style” remained stagnant at that – leggings and an oversized t-shirt. Once, coming directly from the splashpad with the baby to view a house, I wore a wet bathing suit under a sundress which I had purchased from a dollar store. I’ll admit that that was questionable even to my extreme level of casual dressing, and certainly objectionable to both my husband and our realtor.

Me, to them: “Oh, I’m sorry! Is this Buckingham Palace? Is the Queen in residence? I didn’t think so. Relax, I’m not gonna sit on any couches.” [I totally did.]

Moral of this story: No one cares what you look like while you are house hunting. You probably won’t meet the sellers, and if you do, they only care about your money.

Don’t Get Distracted by Shiny Things

Show me the person who doesn’t get excited over the sight of a sparkly new kitchen faucet with a pull down swivel spout and stainless steel protector coil and I will show you a liar. New shit is ~nice~. 

Well, Daria had no time for my dreams of being the proud new owner of a full rain shower system with adjustable body jets.

Often, she was a big old Debbie Downer when I got excited about shiny new shit. She was quick and ruthless as she crushed my dreams in house after house with her declarations of the sparkly features being “lipstick on a pig.” Meaning, the house was a crumbling pile of garbage with some nice-looking stuff on top.

But… the shininess!  Who needs modern wiring when you have a backsplash that DREAMS ARE MADE OF?

The things that made Daria’s heart beat more quickly were boring as f*ck. She swooned over  maxi vents, new electrical panels, and properly insulated cold storage rooms. Snore.

Of course, she was right. And I now know that the shiny shit can be added later, and usually pretty affordably. Just like every 1990’s teenage make-over movie taught me: better to buy a sturdy uggo and add your own sparkle than to chase something shiny and learn later that it is actually crap on the inside.

Try Not to Lose Your Mind

At times while house hunting, it was tempting to get caught up in the dreamland of “what could be.” Maybe house-hunting is like tripping on hard drugs (from what I’ve heard): you need someone there to keep you from making a huge mistake. Daria was that person for us. During our house-hunting career, we went to Crazy Town a few times and considered, even briefly, the following HUGE RED FLAGS, to be something we could manage.

The Fixer-Upper

A “cozy” house in “original” condition – it would have needed a massive addition, and until we could save up several hundred thousand dollars, we would live there with only half a kitchen, no dishwasher and no shower.

The Silence of the Lambs Basement House

I don’t have much to say because I’ve repressed my memories of this experience.

Leo & Kate beckoned us down the crumbling stairs
Nothing like a 6′ ceiling covered in news clippings
The knife was a nice touch
The Walk on the Wild Side House

There was a house that had a racoon living in the attic. I know this because I saw it.

When It’s Right, Say Yes To the Dress [house]

When we first saw the house that became our home, there was no harp music playing in our minds, no rainbow crowning over the roof like I thought there would be. It was exactly what we wanted, but lacked some of the “wow” that we had dreamed of. We had just come from a house across the street that had a wicked open layout, a massive walk-in closet, and an ensuite bathroom (never thought we’d have one of those) that would have been the wet dream of interior designers in the 1980’s… but not much else going for it. I loved it. My husband and Daria told me I was looking at it through beer goggles.

When we crossed the street into what is now our house, I was still lusting after the 1980’s ensuite and wasn’t giving this house much attention. Daria was eerily quiet during our tour. I asked her when she was going to drop the hammer on this pile of bricks, and she said, “Guys, there is no hammer. It’s in fantastic condition.” Then she got all squealy when she saw the properly insulated cold room. I snapped out of my funk, we looked at the whole thing again, got excited ourselves, and we decided to put in an offer. It was like we were on Say Yes To the Dress and Randy showed up and jacked-it-up with a veil and a bouquet and everyone fell in love with it.

Make Them an Offer They Can’t Refuse

Me, putting in an offer

Daria came over that night, and I opened a bottle of wine. She was a total narc and said we can’t be inebriated when we sign the offer. But then she let me pick a font for my electronic signature, which was super fun, so I forgave her.  We submitted our offer, drank the wine, and we went to bed all buzzed and dreaming of our new house.

The sellers had 24 hours to respond, but during that time, they received another offer.  We were then transported to the bizarro land of multiple offers. In case you’ve never had to visit this strange planet, I’ll tell you about my brief stay there.

When a house receives multiple offers,  the sellers may elect to “receive offers in person” at a specific date and time. Buyers’ agents go into a room and give an oral presentation to the sellers and the selling agent. I’m not kidding. This is real life.

But it’s a total prisoners’ dilemma for the potential buyers (yeah, I took Econ 101), because you don’t know what the other people offered, and or if they revised their original offer. And they don’t know sh*t about your offer(s). Maybe your first offer is good enough. Maybe it’s a lot lower than the other people’s, maybe it’s much higher. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

We banged our heads against the wall for a few hours and begged Daria to be the adult and tell us what to do. She talked us through various potential outcomes, but insisted that we make the decision ourselves. She advised us to think of a price at which if the evil “other guys” got the house, we wouldn’t be crushed, because it would have been too high, and then offer a bit below that, while still in a range we could afford.

When in Doubt, Flirt

Daria suggested we also write a note to the sellers, introducing ourselves, to humanize our offer. This I can do, I thought.

You want me to schmooze ’em, D? Here, hold my beer.

I wrote a letter so sappy that nearby maple trees became jealous. I described specific things I loved about the house. I complimented how well certain features were maintained (that damned cold room got its time in the spotlight, that is for sure), and I waxed poetic about watching our kids grow up in the large, bright bedrooms (currently only had one kid, not yet pregnant with the second). I did not dot the i’s with hearts, but I might as well have.

Was it all true? Yes. Was it all a bit much? Also yes.

Daria took our revised offer and my love letter over to the dog and pony show (my words, not hers), and we waited anxiously for her return. It was then that my body decided to produce my first migraine headache in 5 years. #blessed

Daria returned and excitedly told us that our offer had been accepted and that the sellers loved my note. Uh, duh.

Take Time to Process, then Celebrate

We popped a bottle of champagne (this time Daria let us drink because the paper work was signed). We toasted to our house-hunting journey together and to the new house. Everyone took a big swig. And then I burst into tears.

Guys, I’m really fun at parties.

In retrospect, I was probably coming down from the adrenaline, and that plus the migraine led to tears on tears on tears. Daria said she understood, and that it had been a big day for everyone. Which is something you say when a child melts down at the county fair as their sugar high becomes a sugar crash. Daria was very kind, but left soon after and no one blamed her. I didn’t even want to hang out with me.

 But do celebrate!

Getting our keys was both fun and anticlimactic. I went to the lawyer’s office, the receptionist handed me an envelope with a key in it, and that was it. We bought a house.

More precisely, a bank bought a house and we owned a fairly small percentage of it.

That night, we ditched the toddler with a friend and headed over to ~our~ house with a pizza and a bottle of wine. We cuddled up on a blanket in the dining room and chatted about the different places we had called home since we first shacked up together 8 years ago.

We snuggled and did some horrifying mental addition of how much money we would have saved on rent if we had stayed in our first sh*thole apartment for 8 years.  Never do that math.

Enjoy The Spoils of your Search

When we signed on the dotted line, Daria said to us, “Now, stop looking for houses. There will always be others, you’ve found yours, you’re done looking for now.” So f*cking wise. Again, similarly to wedding dress shopping, I wasn’t sure if I would want to stop looking. The FOMO in me is strong, and I thought perhaps I would be pulled back into online searches or neighbourhood drive-bys for “what could have been.” Turns out, this was not the case.

We put our life savings into this place, and five months later, we have no furniture, there is nothing hung on the walls, and the kitchen remains 1990’s-tastic despite our plans to revamp it. Furthermore, on our third night in the house, my husband slipped on the basement stairs and spilled an entire bottle of red wine on the cream coloured carpet.

But it still feels pretty damned perfect, and we are thrilled that it is ours.

At least until we eventually trash the place and have to move.

Then we’ll call Daria and she’ll tell us what to do.


Everything I know about parenting, I learned from my dog

Everything I know about parenting, I learned from my dog

Technically, he is my parents’ dog. I do have a dog, but she’s fairly useless and has taught me nothing. Love her! But she’s no rocket scientist.


Back to the smart one.


Frankie came to be owned by my parents after he was found trying to board a commuter bus. He was picked up by a rescue organization, and ended up being adopted by my parents. He is named after Frank Sinatra because of his one blue eye, and general cool dude persona.

Frankie is the the Danny Zuko of the animal kingdom – a tough exterior with a heart of gold. He does not seek (or appear to enjoy) human affection, yet he is always within spitting distance, constantly underfoot.


In a crowded room, he settles next to the weakest link. He prefers to park himself at the feet of grandparents, great-grandparents, huge pregnant ladies (hollerrrrrrr), or babies.

My parents travel for long periods of time during the winter, and Frankie stays with us. It’s a shared custody arrangement, because when my parents are back from global gallivanting, they take both dogs. But please excuse me while I sharpen the short end of this stick because winter where I live is f*cking brutal, and these dogs need a lot of exercise, so our outdoor time triples while we are operating the K9 hotel.


All of this is to say: we have the dogs right now, as we have every winter for the past 4 years, and I am learning a lot. After a week of ice pellets falling from the sky on my head at 6am, I am learning how to pull my wet, icy hair into an Elsa-style side braid [is what I tell myself] and be ready to leave for work at 8am.

I am also learning about parenting. From a dog. Because, as you may have gathered, I’ll take whatever help I can get. Here is what I’ve learned.

1) Assess Threats as They Emerge, and Calm the F*ck Down

Parenting a toddler is like being assigned to handle a Tasmanian Devil while it trips on bath salts.

Toddlers are magnetically drawn to do things that can maim or kill them. As their handler parent,  you have to out-move and out-think these critters as they scurry from one potential disaster to another. And while not all of the stops on their treasure hunt of doom are life-threatening, all are inconvenient and messy at best.

Here is a window into their madness:

Rational human being: Oh look, a bin of blocks.

Toddler Tasmanian Devil: MUST DUMP ON HEAD.


Rational human being: I would like to read this book.



Rational human being: It would be nice to look out that window. 


These are all things my toddler did. Today. Within the span of 10 minutes. Before 7:45am.  At the time, I felt annoyed, and thought, “Why can’t you just be cool and let me drink my coffee?”

Then I looked at Frankie.


He was unfazed.  He was watching, but was 0% perturbed by the pile of books that had been placed where he was sleeping. And he didn’t flinch when 100 wooden blocks rained down next to him, or when his rest was again interrupted by having sticky hands thrust a necklace over his head.


He conserves his energy like one of those fancy washing machines I can’t afford. A few loud noises and some extra clutter in the living room weren’t worth the energy expenditure of getting annoyed. I believe that this dog had the wisdom to know that it was in his own self-interest to stay calm and save his energy until/unless an actual threat emerged. Which in his mind probably involves a stray racoon wandering into the house. I don’t know, I’m not Dr. Dolittle.

From Frankie’s lack of reaction, I am learning to let the blocks rain down and let the books be strewn about, because now is the time for play and later we can sing the “tidy up time” song and get the shit sorted back where it belongs. In gauging threats, I’ll try to wait until there is 30 pounds of toddler in actual physical danger before I put my coffee down or let my blood pressure raise a single millimeter of mercury.

Threat of bodily harm: low. Back to my coffee.


2) There is no Bad Weather

Before you punch me in the face, hear me out. It is late January and the view from my window right now shows a frozen hellscape. There are 4-foot high snow banks bordering my street, the street itself is sheer ice, and ice pellets continue their relentless descent from the grey sky. But we can’t stay indoors.

We used to! Before the little guy arrived, we would hunker down for winter weekends and hibernate for hours, then pop out for groceries and resume our cozy postures in front of the fireplace.

We do not do this anymore. You will recall that a Tasmanian Devil now lives in our home.  In a fun joke that God plays on us, the little guy gets extra squirrely without frequent doses of fresh air. And so, out we go.


And it’s cold. And it’s windy. But you know who doesn’t care? Frankie. He maintains an armour-like shield that prevents bad weather from permeating his skin and bothering him on an emotional or spiritual level. In fact, he seems to lack that doggie instinct to shake off snow. It just piles up on him and we have to wipe it off with our arms like he is a car windshield.

He just does. not. care.

In learning from Frankie, I have decided that if we do not embrace winter, it will destroy us. Every Saturday and Sunday morning, we sing the “socks and shoes” song I made up (hoping for a Grammy nod this year) that sends the little guy racing to the door to be suited up in his socks, snow pants, coat, boots, scarf, hat, and gloves. We put on the same gear, schlep to an off-leash dog park and roam the wilderness while trying to trick our minds into liking winter.



Are we cold? Yes! But usually only at first. With our warm clothes and following in Frankie’s footsteps (often literally), I’m becoming one of those annoyingly chipper people who says, “There is no bad weather, just bad winter clothing choices!”

FML. Is it spring yet?


Just not the yellow stuff, k, bud?

3) Eating is a Social Activity

If you have never fed a toddler, then your face is probably missing a few wrinkles that have recently appeared on mine. You can’t make a tiny terrorist eat, and they know that. So, they often like to use meal times to exert their newfound free will.

“I will eat this bite and then nothing else! Muahahaha!”

Also, timing can be a b*tch. From the time we get home from work and daycare pick-up, we have 15 minutes to get our coats off, put food on the table, get the toddler to the table, and get food moving in the general direction of his mouth before he starts to get sleepy. It is a feat worthy of reality tv competition: Top Toddler Chef. Except no one would watch because it would be incredibly tedious.

My husband and I aren’t always in the mood to eat the early bird special, so often times we sit with the little goober while he eats and we make conversation with him and with one another. This is fine, unless it isn’t. Sometimes, toddlers are a**holes. They just don’t want to eat.

Medically, this is fine. No toddler has ever chosen to starve itself. But, unfortunately for me, I am not a rational being and instead my mental health is directly correlated to the quantity of healthy food that my toddler eats. It ebbs and flows like the tides. When he is fussy or doesn’t eat much, it drains me. When he eats well, my spirits soar.

At Christmas, he ate an entire turkey breast and I was so happy, someone asked me if I’d been doing shots.

However, I do know, and Frankie reminds me, that eating is a social activity and we all eat best when we eat with others. Frankie eats only while lying down. And only while someone is sitting next to him.

Is this weird? F*ck yes. Is it kind of genius? Also yes.

Having to lower myself onto the kitchen floor early in the morning and late at night to promote the consumption of food by a large dog who isn’t mine is a solid reminder that eating should not be rushed, and instead should be treated as sacred family time.

So now we eat a little snack while our toddler has his supper. And he eats better and I’m less of a hangry monster come normal adult supper time.


My toddler can’t pronounce Frankie’s name, and it comes out souding like “Pretty.” It is not inaccurate. Frankie is a very pretty dog. It’s also pretty neat having him around to teach us how to take a chill pill, how to not let winter crush our souls, and how to take the time to eat peacefully together. Everyone wins. Except me sitting on the floor twice a day.

I guess it’s the least I can do to repay my latest parenting role model –  a stray dog  who appears to care about nothing, and yet has taught me so much about caring for my young.


My Baby Has His Own Ensuite (and other ridiculous things I’ve said in the name of sleep)

My Baby Has His Own Ensuite (and other ridiculous things I’ve said in the name of sleep)

[Disclaimer: In parenthood circles, there are few spicier topics of conversation than sleep. It’s great to have a baby who sleeps well. And telling people about it is a great way to make enemies. I am not here to advocate for a specific method of sleep training (or the use of methods at all). We did a thing and it worked well. Other people do different things, or nothing, and that works. You do you.]

My name is Madeline and I’m a baby sleepaholic.

I’ve been addicted to all things related to baby sleep for about 10 months.

It started innocently enough. We brought the baby home, he slept through the night (because he was exhausted from entering the world).

24 hours young

The second night was like a horror movie. He would not sleep. My husband ended up walking him around the neighbourhood on what may have been the hottest and most humid night ever experienced on Planet Earth. I sat in the glider while they were gone, riding the see-saw of new motherhood that involves intermittently crying and dozing off.

When they returned, I put the baby on my chest, lay down, and we all slept for a few hours. The next morning, I told my midwife that I’d fallen asleep with the baby on my chest and now he was probably going to die of post-bed-sharing complications. She talked me off the cliff and said that in some places in North America, they send new mothers home with a pamphlet on safe bed-sharing, because they know it happens… because it works… and it’s how about 85% of new babies around the world sleep.

We discussed risk factors, and I felt elated with this new found sense of (relative) comfort in knowing how to (more) safely bed-share. And so we did, on and off, for the next few months. And if you have anything bad to say about that, then you can eat a bag of d’s.

See? I told you it’s a spicy topic.

In those first months, our evenings involved nursing, cuddling, and the baby falling asleep on me on the couch while we binge-watched Scandal (as a family! Awwwww!). I would place him in his bassinet, and later we would lug it into our room.

In the background: “It’s handled!”


If he woke up in the night, I rocked or nursed him, sometimes in bed, sometimes in a chair. Then I would put him back down to sleep or bring him into bed with us. This seemed normal.

Around 4 months, he night-weaned himself (woooosh! <–The sound of me dodging a bullet), and the half-nursing, half-rocking back to sleep became all rocking. Again, it was fine.

Then a friend told me about a book she was reading to help her baby learn to fall asleep on his own. On his own? What sorcery is this? She recounted her experience that began with months of intermittent bed sharing, shoulder pain, and two nights on a train that she claims to have significantly shortened her lifespan.

All of this led her to decide to attempt some kind of sleep training – a journey that began with her crying on the floor of a bookstore, holding baby sleep books in her hands, trying to absorb the tips through osmosis.

She settled on one book and had a positive experience with teaching her little one how to fall asleep on his own, and subsequently to stay asleep longer. I felt like my kid should be able to do this. So, I did the same. Meaning: I visited a bookstore, became overwhelmed, and cried in the aisle. They should put a chair in that aisle or at least a box of tissues.

I bought the same book, obv. It advocated a gentle method of sleep training, which I now know belongs in the “sit and support” camp of strategies.

I read the first few pages, and learned that sleeping through the night actually means knowing how to fall asleep again… because human babies (and human adults) wake up often during normal sleep cycles, and babies who sleep “through the night” are really just waking up and then falling back asleep by their own damn selves.

I immediately cried because this meant we’d be doing everything so very wrong with rocking or nursing him to sleep, and thus he would never sleep alone and we might as well build a top bunk over our bed where he would sleep for the rest of his life.

Based on the 3 pages of ~expertise~ I had gained by cracking the spine of the book, I decided this method would never work for us. I then did the most logical thing: I stayed up really late, curled up in a ball, and dug myself into an internet black hole of despair by reading a bazillion “articles” about sleep training, and got totally overwhelmed by the contradictory approaches, and the overall smug and patronizing tone of most of the advice-givers.

Back to bed-sharing as desired for us.


I subscribe to the theory that nothing’s a problem until it’s a problem. Well, the old failsafe of bed-sharing at whim became a problem. Over time, I developed wrenching pain in my shoulder from lying on one side with my arm circled around the baby.

I began to take on two personas: Morning Me and Nighttime Me. Morning Me vowed that some kind of sleep training was a priority for our family. Nighttime Me was less concerned, and was paralysed with fear of the crying that might be involved. Nighttime Me was all about bed-sharing. Crippling arm pain? Psssshhhaw…that’s Morning Me’s problem – whatever works right now is the best thing to do!

Morning Me vs. Nighttime Me

I reluctantly picked up the sleep training book and looked at it anew. The book begins with chapters for advice on early habits for newborns, followed by “you might want to start” for 3-6 month olds, and then walking into the dark forest of, “by now you should have…”

I felt personally attacked by those statements. I also had no time for the book’s anecdotes. Who cares if little Cayden never slept more than half an hour, and after 5 nights of this technique he slept perfectly for the rest of his life until he died peacefully in his sleep at age 125. I’m not his mom, I don’t give a crap.

I wanted someone to tell me I’m perfect, and then gently offer ideas on how to be slightly more perfect. Is that too much to ask of a sleep training book?

Just give me a sleep training book that sees me the way this snapchat filter sees me.

So then I entered the awful, lonely land of Sleep Training Limbo. I was intellectually aware of methods to try to help my baby sleep better and longer, but at the same time, I was too afraid of any crying to actually employ those methods. Instead, I randomly gathered more/different advice. It was like conducting research towards a thesis called, “These are the ways in which you are failing.”

Limbo: how [emotionally] low can you go?
At rock bottom, I found myself in the arms of a cashier at the liquor store when I made a joke about needing wine because we were considering doing some sleep training. She said, “Oh honey, just enjoy the snuggles while you can.” She saw my anxious face turn into a little side smile and brought me in for a hug.

Coincidentally, that night, a friend who lives across the country told me she had hired a sleep consultant and they were going to try their first night of sit-and-support sleep training. Knowing I needed a push to get the f*ck out of Sleep Training Limbo, and ever the joiner, I texted her, “Me, too?”

We did it together: me, my friend, our husbands, and our babies. By the grace of God, this wasn’t 2004 when you had to pay for each text message. Because I think I texted her more words than I cumulatively spoke allowed that week. Before bedtime, during bedtime, middle of the night, crack of dawn, nap time. Text, text, text, text, text.

Was there crying? Yes. Was it mostly me? Yes. Was it mostly confined to the hour before we started on the first night? Yes.

It was one of the most anti-climactic experiences of my life. It. Was. Fine.

I wish I had a more exciting tale to tell, but we just… did what the book told us to. And he learned to fall asleep. He cried a little, and it took him longer to fall asleep than if we had been rocking him. We were occassionally haunted by self doubt, and there were tough moments when we knew our little one was sad, and that we could take away the sad if we just picked him up (which we did, the one or two times he actually seemed distressed). But we were right there next to him, and he was not distraught. And he did learn. And he did sleep (a lot).

And we slept. And my shoulder healed. And I got really, really good at Sudoku by sitting in his room while he babbled and settled and taught himself (with me a few feet away) to fall asleep. It wasn’t fun. But it was fine.

Even though the book was annoying, it had some great advice, like offering a lovey for comfort. Or, as my dad calls them, “expensive rags.”

Did we hit the jackpot with a “good sleeper”? Probably. But I like to take some credit (as I’m prone to do) for how TOTALLY OBSESSED I am with prioritizing baby sleep. Our days are structured around naps and bedtime. I never thought I’d be one of those parents (I was so judgy of parents before I became one), but here I am, a card-carrying member of the Sleep Above All Else Club. You know why? Because it f*cking works [for us].

Here is a window into my madness:

  • My baby has his own ensuite: When we were in Madrid, the Air BnB owner showed us the second of the two bedrooms in our rented apartment and said, “and here, off the living room with these sliding doors and all this natural light, is where the baby sleeps!” My husband and I side-glanced at each other, knowing full well that the baby would sleep in the other, pitch dark, back-of-the-apartment room and we would take this open, brightly lit space. And that is how my baby came to have his own ensuite for 3 weeks.
  • Room with a view: In a beach town we visited, we gave the baby the only ocean-view room in the three bedroom apartment. Why? Because it was far away from the kitchen and living room, and had blackout blinds that I now have titillating dreams about installing in my own home. You want an ocean view? Go outside. And don’t slam the door; the baby is sleeping!
  • Put him in the dungeon: Recently, while staying overnight with other guests at my parents’ house, we set up a pack n’ play in the laundry room – quiet, dark, warm, and out of reach of anything lethal. And the baby had all naps and slept 12-hour nights, comforted by the sight of my dad’s gym shorts hanging nearby. Again, he’s good at this, but we help him by making complete asshats out of ourselves to provide him with dark and quiet sleep environments.

Sometimes I see parents out with little ones late at night and I briefly wish we were more adventurous. And then I remember that for the past 10 months my babe has napped reliably and slept 12-13 hours at night. And as a result, my husband and I have cooked, hosted parties, gotten busy, watched tv (let’s be honest, it’s mostly tv), and basically done whatever we wanted from 6pm to 7am.

Yes, we have a video monitor. To the surprise of no one.

I admit it: I’m batshit crazy about baby sleep. And if I could apply this level to discipline to literally any other area of my life, I could rule the world.

If you’re sleep deprived and you’re reading this, please know that while we are catching some solid z’s at night, we aren’t doing it from atop a high horse. I try to stay humble because chances are our next kid will have colic and I’ll be back to my old tricks – seeking comfort and affection from randos at the liquor store.


I Work(ed) Out

I Work(ed) Out

As I write this, I’m eating lasagna. So if you’re hoping for fitness inspiration or – dear God – advice,  it’s best that you leave now.

If you’re instead hungry for whining and ramblings about failed weight loss attempts, you’ve come to the right place and I welcome you with my soft, doughy arms.

It’s not that I gained a ton of weight during my pregnancy. I mean, I did! But ever the keener, I actually started gaining weight before I got pregnant. I had a weird couple of months, including breaking my elbow when a suicidal groundhog ran infront of my bike. And then we went to Europe and drank heavily ate beige food with reckless abandon.

In Prague, my husband and I made our own pub crawl… which is just a turn of phrase to make our day-into-night drinking sound like it was organized.

I tend not to get hung up on my weight. Sure, I ate only saucy carbs while pregnant, but my weight gain was within my midwife’s recommended limit, and I had a baby for f*ck’s sake… I’m okay to be jiggly after achieving the most incredible thing my body has ever had to do. Baby weight seemed normal and expected. And leggings are super comfortable, so really, what was the problem? Buuuuuut, then I started to realize that the “baby” had become a toddler.

And I began to wonder: when is “baby weight” more appropriately categorized as “bad decision weight?”

I had burned a few calories here and there since becoming pregnant and since having the baby. I went to Strollercize once a week during most of my mat leave. And always cut the last half-km of the 5 km stroller walk to instead inhale some pancakes at the diner with my friend. What am I, training for the Chinese Olympics team?

Swinging burns calories, right? And selfies are like a bicep workout.

While in Spain for 6 weeks near the end of my mat leave, I did exactly 4 exercise band workouts <<pause for applause>>, and totally slayed the ropes course we found in a park in Madrid. WAIT! HOLD EVERYTHING. It turns out that the past-tense of “to slay” is slew. I totally slew the ropes course.

I’m generally more of a team sport person. I excel at drinking wine and watching reality tv in small groups. But I’ve had a few gym memberships over the years.

These experiences usually involved me going to a spin class or a bootcamp-style session every now and then. During those classes, I spent most of the time figuring out how to cheat without being noticed. It was a workout for my mind and body! I became adept at fake stretching and slowly turning down the RPM’s on the bike.

The last time I worked out.

Recently, my husband and I went temporarily insane and took advantage of a corporate membership rate and a discount package of personal training sessions at a nearby gym. I knew then that my days of faking it through workouts were probably over. Or at least on hold.

I began my relationship with my personal trainer by aggressively screening his calls. Because I’m an adult. One time, I even tossed the ringing phone across the room and onto the couch and hid my head behind a pillow. To which my husband responded, “You know he can’t see you, right?”

When I finally answered, it was worse than I feared. He was peppy. Lines like “Let’s get cracking!” came out of his mouth as I felt bile rising up into mine.

He continued with, “When you come in for your first session tomorrow, we’ll talk about your goals.”

I responded, “My goal is to be less of a fat ass.” He sort of coughed/laughed and I decided we would never be chummy.

He then said, “We’ll also see how you move.” And I said, “Slowly, and poorly.”

The next day, I walked into the gym and felt like a vampire crossing the threshold of a church.

I had the baby with me, and dropped him in the child minding area. Oh yes, this is a ~fancy~ gym. It has a massive daycare space, and for $5 they will take care of your spawn. But you have to stay in the building. Trust me, I checked.

I found myself sitting with my trainer in a little office. I realized this would be even more difficult because, ugh, he was hot. He was approximately 7 feet tall, and his shoulders were approximately 4 feet broad. His posture was as straight as the side part in his hair and the sharp lines of his beard on his olive cheeks. I later learned (through aggressively asking him personal questions) that he spent 7 years as a professional model in his native India. FML.

I am sorely tempted to put a link to the modelling shots of him I found online, but I don’t have his permission and I try to get ppl’s permission before associating them with the ramblings of my blog. So I’m taking the high road and leaving him anonymous. It’s my first time on the high road and I’m not sure how I like it.

Midway through this initial consultation, my PT gently inquired about my postpartum exercise experience. I told him I’d signed up for a mini-triathlon. His perfect eyebrows arched and he smiled and said, “Right on!” And then I had the sad duty of telling him I went to Spain and missed the event, and that knowing I would miss it, I also decided to skip the training. To be efficient. He looked sad and I mentally took a snapshot of the first of many times I would disappoint him.

I decided not to tell him that I had done a weekly swim class for people training for triathlons, starting when I was 6 weeks postpartum. I omitted this detail because the class involved me huffing and splashing my way through countless lengths, while trying not to pee in the pool with every mild exertion. And I was mostly there for the long, uninterrupted shower anyway.

I also didn’t tell him that I had a Fitbit. It was really good at making me feel superior to my 5 Fitbit friends while we were in Spain and were walking 18,000 steps per day. It motivated me to take the dogs for longer walks, but hadn’t been the weight loss silver bullet that I had hoped for. What’s that you say? There is no silver bullet? Well, I plan to allocate my energy away from proven weight loss methods like eating less, and channel it directly into finding a silver bullet, thankyouverymuch.

Our interview over, my trainer then had me step onto a machine and asked if I would like to see my body fat percentage.

Okay, guys. If you find yourself in a position in which someone poses this question to you, I highly, highly recommend saying, “No thank you, kind sir.” Because it is a number you cannot unsee.

Feeling light-headed from this jarring experience, I followed my PT to a fenced in area of the gym reserved for trainers and their clients. I made a joke about heading into solitary confinement, instead of kicking it in gen pop. He didn’t laugh. I thought maybe he hadn’t heard hear me, so I said it louder. But no, he heard me, he just didn’t think it was funny. AS IF THIS COULD GET WORSE. I guess this guy puts the PT in uptight.

He asked me to do some basic movements (his words, not mine) so he could see (and document!) all the ways in which I was a blubbery disaster. After a few squats, a plank, some kind of pulling motion, my hilarious attempt at a push-up, and some other bullshit, I was dripping with sweat and officially done my first session. He gave me a robust high-five and, in the understatement of the year, declared that there was “room for improvement.” I think the volume and length of my ensuing laugh scared him more than a little bit.

He told me that like many moms, I overcompensate with my arms and am not using my big muscles effectively. I told him I probably just don’t have big muscles and again, he didn’t laugh. Was he a robot? A sexy fitness robot?

He said my homework was to track my food and to show it to him next time.

I said, “Or I could just shoot myself in the f*cking face.”

I told him that while the baby always eats according to nutritional guidelines, my husband and I either eat grilled fish, broccoli and quinoa… or greasy shawarma and there is no in-between.

He gently suggested that I consider putting as much effort into my own health as I do the baby’s. Buuuuuuuurn. Apparently, he also puts the PT in perceptive. But I put the PT in sceptical, and responded by leering at him.

I headed towards the daycare area, but spotted my baby across the gym. A gym employee was carrying him around as he smiled his hillbilly half-toothed grin, waving at people on the cardio machines. The worker said it was the only thing that kept him happy. Go figure that my kid goes to the gym and cries unless he is chatting and cracking jokes with strangers.

During the next PT session, I asked my trainer how many times he works out in a week. He said, “Six, and if I miss a workout… oh man…” His face contorted like someone watching for the first time the scene where Bambi’s mother dies. I said, “That is how I feel at the prospect of missing a meal.”

He later mentioned that he doesn’t have a TV and that when he goes home, he reads books from the library… about fitness. He and I are very different people — another massive understatement. But he loves his job, and I respect how dedicated he is to helping his clients.

A couple of weeks later, many squats, and a few lost pounds, I completed my last PT session. This involved sitting through a high-pressure sales pitch about continuing with personal training. Putting the PT in bankrupt, am I right?

I’ve kept going to the gym, against all odds and expectations. My time with the sexy fitness robot got my sorry ass to the gym, got me doing basic exercises safely, and got me tracking my food and thinking about what I shovel down my throat. These are the building blocks for becoming healthier, and my trainer helped me put those in place. It wouldn’t have killed him to laugh at my jokes, but he’s hot so I forgive him.

Will I ever do a chin-up? Unlikely.

Will I ever run a 10 km? Not unless I’m being chased by a bear. But that would last maybe 10 feet so I revise my answer to no, never.

Will I ever do more PT sessions? Maybe, but not immediately.

I know enough(ish) to workout safely for now. I’m motivated by getting closer to being able to do badass sh*t like push ups, or whipping those big ropes up and down without hyperventilating. The extra weight is budging, and I continue to be pretty “meh” about it either way. It’ll come off. Or it won’t. But I’ll get healthier bit by bit. And until then, I’ll put the PT in voluptuous.

The best part about going to the gym, including the health benefits, the endorphins, and the long shower, is the free massage chair. 

Yesterday at the gym, I waved to my trainer as I passed by the solitary confinement area. He was in there with a client and I noticed that she was in a wheelchair. He was guiding her through a movement with resistance bands and she was smiling. And I realized how far his job goes beyond gently telling me I shouldn’t eat pulled pork 4 meals in a row, and not laughing at my stupid jokes because it would distract me from keeping safe form during a kettle bell swing.

He did a good job of launching me into a somewhat healthier phase of life. And if I have to lift some heavy junk in order to get rid of some of my heavy junk, I’m okay with that. Just don’t ask me to miss a meal.

It’s my Birthing Day, and I’ll Cry if I Want to

It’s my Birthing Day, and I’ll Cry if I Want to

And just like that, my baby is one year old.

We had a little gathering on the weekend. Family came into town, some friends came over, furniture was moved, decorations were hung, a kiddie pool was bought, inflated and filled, champagne was popped, gifts were  opened, cake was smashed.

We picked a “twinkle, twinkle little star” theme because no one liked my “mom gets drunk” theme and because my husband sings that song to the baby every night. Making the decorations helped keep my mind off my upcoming return to work, and instead focus on how shitty I am at making decorations.
We accidentally bought an olympic sized kiddie pool. In other news, my dad is a really good sport.
Do not challenge my mother-in-law to a themed dessert bake-off because you will lose. So much love went into this and every star-shaped detail.

Later that evening, we sat around, relieved a few balloons of their helium and rehashed some of Donald Trump’s best (worst) lines in chipmunk voices. The whole day was a riot and it felt like we marked the occasion well with our little group of guests, our crazy decorations, our inappropriately (and dangerously) over-sized kiddie pool and our multiple desserts.

But today, three days later, the floor has been swept (by someone else, clearly) and the remaining balloons bob awkwardly at shoulder height. And I’m at work, shoving kale salad into my mouth while hunched over my iphone, jotting this down in the Notes app, wondering if I will have time later to copy and paste and post it or if I will be too sleepy from trying not to feel like I’m missing out by not being with my kid on his first birthday.

Here’s me today at work; the poster child for FOMO.

And let me tell you, I’m feeling lots of feels. So either close your browser now or humour me by continuing to read, cause this right here… this is gonna be a sappy one.

Here are some of the feelings I’m a-feeling:

I’m feeling reflective about the experience of my son’s birth.

Childbirth is a wild ride, no matter how it unfolds. His was not exactly as hoped for in that we didn’t get to go to the hippie birthing centre. I was induced at a hospital but it felt safe, it was not a prolonged process, and we felt well cared for.

The experience of meeting my baby was beyond what my mind had been capable of imagining.

Our meet cute. Except more like meet sweaty/bloody.

And the experience of leaving the hospital 3 hours after giving birth, driving home on the slowest possible streets in the middle of the night, and spending the remaining hours before sunrise staring at him are memories I hold tightly in my heart.

Another highlight of that day was later eating an entire pizza by myself. It was a great day for many reasons.

I’m feeling some relief that the first year is over.

For me, the conclusion of Year One is not like that feeling after a vacation where you cast your mind back and think, “I wish today were the first day and it was all ahead of me.” I don’t feel that way. Probably the only thing I’m not feeling today.

The first year was a bit of a mindf*ck. Everything is so foreign. Doing anything for the first time is exponentially more difficult than doing anything for the second/third/etc time. Swaddles and SIDS risk and soothers, oh my! Stumbling blindly through “gentle” sleep training, fretting about weigh-ins (our guy is on the slim side… against all odds), worrying about choking on solid foods, and on and on.

Slept through his first bath, so that was a freebie.

We chose to cart our tiny human to far-flung ports of call. His first plane ride at 3 months and going cross-country at 5 months were pretty chill. Begging my mom to drive 45 minutes in rush-hour to spend a million dollars on zinc-based baby sunscreen the night before we flew to South America was less chill. Six weeks in Spain was glorious but at times required a level of planning and mental effort that I’m pretty sure pre-qualifies me for a job at NASA.

Obviously, there will be a great many firsts ahead of us as parents. And some are probably going to be a lot harder. But will any given year include so many damn firsts? I doubt it. Firsts are exciting. They can also feel exhausting. I’m glad we’ve got the first year under our belts.

A few days ago, a family friend asked to borrow my copy of the Baby-Led Weaning book and asked for some tips on getting her 6-month old started with solid foods. And you know what? Giving her that advice made me feel like f*cking Gandalf. Cause I’ve lived through that first year of parenting and I know some shit and that feels good.

I’m feeling loved and supported by my mom-fia.

I don’t like to be exclusionary, and I am eager to note that I have felt supported by people from all walks of life over the past year. But… other moms have given me a special brand of support that requires no request or explanation. These other moms are my mom-fia. My theory goes that each mother is the Don Corleone of her own mom-fia.

This is Claire. Our sons were born 10 days apart and neither of us has a threshold for TMI. She lives 1400 km away and our daily texts number in the dozens. She is the “consigliere” of my mom-fia.

Dads get it… 95%. But it’s that last 5% that is the kicker. It’s the last 5% of understanding that makes you feel less alone when you are crying in a glider at 4am, trying to cast a sleep spell on your teething little one because you’ve just realized he’s too old to be soothed by nursing. Dads will understand that this is the loss of a convenient trick. But moms will understand in their bones that this also marks a change in your bond as mother and child. And that maybe you need to mourn that loss a little.

I’m feeling lucky to get to be the mother of my son.

My guy is a wild one, and I cherish that about him. Every morning, after lying in bed with me to nurse, he crawls to the end of the bed, turns around so his feet are over the edge and he’s on his tummy facing me. Then he repels down the side of the bed, making gleeful shrieks along the way. Upon landing, he often reaches up over his head and claps his hands, ever his own biggest fan. #hegetsitfromhismama

He also has a sense of humour. He pretends to chase us and then laughs so hard that he has to stop and be still while he catches his breath. He takes dance breaks (whether or not there is music playing) while he’s crawling around the house. I feel lucky to get to spend so much time with this funny, quirky, fearless little man.



So, to my boy: Happy birthday!

You are a spirited little maniac and I’m thrilled to be your “ma-ma-ma,” as you call me. You are loved immensely, deeply, and oh so fiercely.

But back to me.

I heard somewhere that being a mother is like wearing your heart on the outside of your body. I have felt that to be true during each one of the past 365 days. And living one year, moderately successfully, with your heart wandering around outside of your body like a f*cking medical miracle warrants some celebration. And maybe some tears for various reasons that I declare to be valid.

Gonna go eat an entire pizza. Cause it’s my effing birthing day.



Kenny Rogers was Right

Kenny Rogers was Right

Inexplicably, one of my favourite songs is Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler.”

I heard it for the first time when I was about 11 years old. I love knowing the lyrics to songs, and I memorized that sucker right away and have been singing it under my breath for the past 20 years.

1996 – When I first heard “The Gambler” and when the Phillies won the World Series [of the girls’ baseball league at my community centre]
Let me tell you, those lyrics have come in handy. The main chunk, “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em…” has become one of my mantras. Mostly the “fold ’em” part. There is probably a proper term for the main chunk of lyrics in a song but I spent grade 7 music class picking sour keys out of my braces and lusting after boys, so I don’t know what it is.

Anyway, my practice of stopping every now and then in life to make sure that I’m aware of “when to fold ’em” has saved me from many a mishap. For me, “folding” is not quite like the poker game sense of bowing out. Instead, it means admitting I need help, and asking for it. In fact, with Kenny Rogers as my spirit guide, I’ve become quite adept at asking for and accepting help. These days, if you come to dinner at my house and ask if there’s something you can do, you’ll probably end up chopping garlic or doing some other shitty task.

Never have I sought solace in the “know when to fold ’em” wisdom more than in the weeks following the birth of my kid. 51 weeks, to be precise… And counting!

When he was brand new, my hands were busy coaxing a tiny blob with no neck control and a yet-to-be-diagnosed tongue tie into breastfeeding. At the same time, internally, my hormones most resembled a digital weather map of Hurricane Katrina. Kenny Rogers’ deep and husky voice drifted into my head and I reminded myself to know when to fold ’em.

20-minutes postpartum, thinking, “How hard could breastfeeding be?” Oh, sweetie.

Asking for help saved my sanity on my son’s third day of life, when my milk hadn’t come in yet and he was acting hungry and I was feeling stressed to the point of nausea. I flushed my pride down the toilet and called a nursing mother friend and sobbed and blatantly asked her for some breastmilk from her freezer supply of pumped milk. I don’t remember coming up with this idea, I only remember phoning. I then called my midwife and asked if that was okay, as I didn’t yet want to give the baby formula.

My midwife told me that while “human milk donation” (grossest term ever?) is done all over the world, formally and informally, there were a few risks I should consider in an unvetted donor like my friend. Such as hepatitis. She said the baby was probably fine for now without milk, and that if my milk wasn’t in by that afternoon, she would pop by and we would see about trying some formula. What I heard was a green light and a way out of this interminable waiting period between birth and breastmilk. Because “this afternoon” might as well have been “two Januarys from now.”

Sorry, pal. It’s only day 2 here. No milk for you!

My friend arrived at my door minutes later, and I started to collapse in relief at the sight of her baggies of frozen milk. I had never felt so raw or so vulnerable, and here she was to save me from the worst case scenario fear mongering devils that live in my head. Tears sprang anew. She pulled me into her arms and said, “You just had a baby. You are both healthy and you are both going to be fine.”

I leaned into her, snot and tears flowing from my face onto her shirt, shoulders heaving, and said, “I’m supposed to ask if you have hepatitis.”

This was a very intimate moment between friends. But I don’t restrict my help-seeking to close friends. Oh no! I spread the love. No one is safe. NO ONE.

Another unglamorous example of me deciding to fold ’em is the time I asked my neighbour to come over and hold my baby because I had bronchitis and had just coughed so hard that I simultaneously threw up and peed my pants.

Mommy is gross, lolzzzz!

I have a friend who has a seriously balls-to-the-wall career. She cut her maternity leave short to set boardrooms on fire as a VP at a major company. Total bad-ass babe.

She recently told me that sometimes she feels guilty for having a nanny instead of staying home with her baby. She said she also feels guilty because she spends time on the weekends cleaning when she would rather be interacting with her little guy. I told her she is incredible for working so hard and being such a great mom and that maybe she could consider hiring a cleaning service. I then trailed off and ended with mumbling “you gotta know when to fold ’em.”

Welllllll, my friend grabbed onto that sucker like I grabbed onto the last rib at the fancy buffet in Las Vegas when the the manager came over and said he did not want to hear more complaints about there not being enough ribs because they were closing in 10 minutes and I had better sit down. As a hypothetical example, of course.

My friend said that thinking of her situation as a choice, wherein she could decide when she had reached her limit and seek help, took the guilt out of spending money to do things she could theoretically do herself (but would have made her miss out on better things).

In a rare moment of constructive friend advice, I suggested to her that maybe guilt is optional..? And then we had more wine and got really into this idea.

Guilt is f*cking optional, bitchesssssss!

Feeling guilty? How about don’t.

Did you make the right choice for you and your family? Yes? THE END.

But what about…? No! THE END, I said!

Obviously, hiring people to do things only goes so far for anyone’s budget, and is often a non-starter. But that doesn’t mean that the ghost of Kenny Rogers can’t help everyone. Is he still alive? I’m too lazy to google.

Knowing when to fold ’em might help in not taking on certain things. Don’t think you have time/money/patience/desire to plan a Pinterest-style birthday party? Just don’t! Here’s a secret: no one cares.

Baby hasn’t been outside all day but hell froze over and you can’t bear the idea of going for a walk? Stay home! Like I should have.

I don’t know why I find it fairly easy to ask for help or to not do things that are too hard not a priority. Maybe this whole spiel is a justification for my laziness. Especially considering that my kid’s first birthday is around the corner and my party theme idea of “mom gets drunk” was shot down.

At the risk of adding smelly incense to the raging self-congratulatory stink of this post, I’ll say that I’m proud that I remind myself to ask for help. And to keep an eye/ear out for friends who might need a hand.

The top baby isn’t mine; he’s a loaner from a friend who knew when to fold’em and asked us to watch him overnight so she could see her musical idol in concert 2 hours away and stay in a hotel with her husband. Obviously, her choice of babysitter indicates she’s suffered some kind of judgement-impairing stroke, but I applaud her for reaching out for help.  P.S. There is no “add make-up” filter in the basic iPhoto software. You can go ahead and take my word on that one.

51 weeks ago, I didn’t end up needing to thaw that frozen milk from my (hepatitis-free) human milk donor. My milk came in two hours after she left. But her act of showing up like my lactation fairy godmother was, and always will be, one of the most significant things any person has ever done for me.

And I give myself some credit (as I am prone to do) for recognizing that it was time to fold ’em and ask for help. Because Kenny Rogers told me to.

And because it takes a village to raise a mother.


I Could Never be Married to Me

I Could Never be Married to Me

I’m not a moron… But I’ve had some bad ideas in my day.

We’re talking real stinkers.

For example: I planned our honeymoon to include two nights in the jungle in Borneo, forgetting my crippling fear of nature, which extends all the way to very large flowers. And which definitely includes poisonous snakes. I spent 48 hours in near panic, frequently yelling through nervous sobs, “Who planned this shit?!” Perhaps a story for another post. It’s a fun one; there were aggressive monkeys and everything.

“The domain of wildlife” #nope

So, it was probably not hugely surprising to my husband when, last week in Seville, I exclaimed with glee, “Let’s rent a bicycle built for two!”

To freeze-frame that moment, Zach Morris style, I was standing in the bike rental shop, fists clenched and eyebrows raised with anticipation. My husband responded with the mother of all eye rolls and told the guy we would be back tomorrow.

Maybe to some spouses, the mother of all eye rolls would indicate absolute rejection from their partner. But not to me, fair sir/madam. Not to me.

I hold out hope until there is nary a morsel left to which to cling. In my mind, my husband had just left me in suspense that maybe he would be willing to make my dream of riding off into the sunset on a bicycle built for two a reality. The suspense made it more thrilling. How romantic!

A smidge of background: I always thought I hated biking until I impulse-purchased a red hybrid bike with a basket a few years ago, invented 9 helmet-compatible hairstyles so I could ride to work and still look fly AF (maybe also a story for another post), and ended up riding that sucker everywhere. I became a ~cyclist~.  BIKE  LANES! FLOURESCENT TAPE! One of those assholes. Except hills. I don’t do hills. Dope my blood and then we’ll talk.

Come for the view, stay for the flattering lighting

But I had never been on a bicycle built for two. And had always wanted to. And here, in beautiful, bike-friendly, flat Seville, we had our chance. Somehow, my husband agreed. Maybe he had sunstroke. Maybe we were inadvertently playing a game of marital chicken. Maybe it was an intervention by THE DEVIL HIMSELF. Because, spoiler alert, that two-seated contraption was sent from hell to destroy relationships.

My dad came with us to the bike shop in case his Spanish skills could prevent us from pantomiming “tandem bike”. My fear was that this would have looked like we wanted to rent a place in which to have sex.

Looking back, that would have been a better idea.

When the guy saw my dad taking a photo of us mounting the bike, he said, “One last photo of them alive?”

Anytime I am feeling low, I can look at this picture and be reminded that someone loves me enough to do this

The last photo of us alive? Ah ha ha. We laughed him off. What a jokester!

NO! Not funny. Because a part of me died on that thing.

We asked the guy which one of us should sit in the back. “Whoever wants the bad view!” he said. His English was clearly fine. And he was a bit of a dick. He laughed at us again when I insisted on helmets.

We launched ourselves off in front of the bike rental place. I thought this would be a moment of bliss. Our two bodies working together to propel ourselves forward on one machine, gliding off together into the wonders of Seville.

It was approximately 0% like that.

The bike rental shop was on a narrow cobblestone one-way street with a delivery truck barrelling toward us. Also, <<this just in>> tandem bikes are hella difficult to steer. My husband was up front, looking like he was wrestling a bear. I was behind him, which left all my faculties free to concentrate on screaming at the top of my lungs as we headed straight for the curb with all four feet dragging on the ground until we stopped unceremoniously. Right in front of my dad, who took several more photos. Thankssssss, Dad.

Sidebar: the photos of us actually riding the thing will never see the light of day because it is impossible not to look like a hippo sitting on a tennis ball while one is riding a tandem bike. Any picture you see that counters this assertion is heavily photoshopped… Is what I will tell myself forevermore.

For the sake of my husband’s eardrums, and our lives, we dismounted and walked the bike to the riverside bike path. Things got even more romantic when my husband said, “The only thing dorkier than riding a tandem bike is walking a tandem bike. On the sidewalk. While wearing a helmet.” Legit.

We launched in a slightly more forward direction on the bike path. My screaming continued. My husband got the hang of the steering, and I taught myself to close my damn eyes whenever I felt in imminent danger of death. Apparently, my preemptive leaning made steering more difficult. And the leaning made me forget to pedal, which made us teeter more and prompted me to lean harder. It was a classic positive feedback loop. Of negativity.

I began to realize that €20 to rent the bike was a bargain compared to the cost of the extensive relationship counselling we would now be needing.

I stopped pedaling while taking this selfie and we almost hit a pedestrian. But it’s not my fault that I can only do one thing at a time. What am I, some kind of wizard?

A little while later, some guilt crept in. I began to feel that I had hijacked our precious baby-free time to fulfil a dream of mine that had turned into somewhat of a nightmare. We were hot as balls, our butts were bruised, my hands were cramping from my fearful death grip, we couldn’t really talk because he was ahead of me, and we were going soooooo slowly.

I called ahead to him, “Are you hating this? Did I ruin our day? Or… Are you up there making happy memories?”

He tilted his head to the side, smiled a bit and said, “I’m making happy memories of something we’ll never do again.” Also legit.

Then we rode into the Plaza de España and could see couples smooching in row boats through the little waterway surrounding the plaza. I got all giddy and inhaled, ready to propose a tag-on to our current adventure, but he saw me coming a mile away and said, “Oh look! Another stupid thing for us to rent! Nope!”

Instead, we found a restaurant and inhaled an entire squid ink paella.

Romantic in a garlicky and makes-your-tongue-turn-black kind of way.

It’s easy to say, “Oh yes, I love my spouse eternally and I trust them with my life.” But unless you have bloody scratches from pedals hitting your calves as you brake with your feet, Fred Flintstone style, to prove you’ve trusted them to steer you through weaving cars on a highway (oh yes, we accidentally went on a highway!), then you can sit down now.

But I suppose my point is that it’s not whether you die on the tandem bike or not. We happened not to die, but that’s neither here nor there.

My point is that I’m glad to be spending my days with someone who will rent the damn tandem bike. Someone who will make the damn memories. I like to think I’m a little bit of an adventurer. Who hates nature… But an adventurer in my own (mild) way. And I love being with someone who is generally willing to do stupid shit for fun.

Among my horrendous ideas, there have been some diamonds in the rough. Like taking scuba lessons… In Ottawa… In the winter. And doing our advanced diver training in a lake that was 4-degrees Celsius. We had to warm up between dives by building a fire on the shore of the lake and by pouring hot water on our bodies between dives. Did I mention this was at 11pm on a Wednesday? I could never be married to me.

Conquering our fear of night diving 100 feet in near-freezing water together… like Jake and Vienna, whose mutual fear of bungee jumping blossomed a love that lasted weeks.

Maybe that sounds redic (the dudes at the scuba shop certainly thought it was). But it allowed us to experience the wonders of being unda da sea in Borneo, and to dive very deeply, and at night. It was f*cking crazy. And insanely romantic.

He loves me even when I bear a passing resemblance to Kid Rock.

In my experience, if something seems a little thrilling and romantic, it probably is. Tandem bikes are an exception. But hindsight is 20/20. Unlike the view from the back seat of a tandem bike. Which is terrible.

I’m writing this from Cadiz, a beach town in southwestern Spain. We are here with my in-laws and they are enjoying spending time with the baby. My husband and I are enjoying spending time away from the baby. Today, we were heading to the beach and it looked like it might rain. I really, really wanted to read my book on the beach; it is one of my most favourite things to do.

My husband said he was going to stay home. Which is a normal human reaction to rain at the beach. I told him I was going anyway and that I’d like him to come because I’d feel a bit isolated, hiding under the remains of the old beach spa, and what if someone attacked me? He said, “No one is going to attack you. You look like the unibomber.”

More like uni-da bomb-er, right?

But he came, because his mom told him to.

And rain it did!

We hunkered down with some homeless men and I read that book. And it got wet and so did we.



He sat beside me with my pashmina wrapped around his shoulders to help keep off the salty wind and near-horizontal rain. We were for sure the only people there by choice.


When the rain stopped and the sun pushed out, I said, “Aren’t you glad to be out here, making memories with me?”

“Yes,” he said. “This is way better than your bike idea. Still not great, though.”