Archive for ‘bikes planes and automobiles’

October 4, 2015

The Summer of K

by Decemberbaby

My, it has been a long time. Is it St. Swithin’s day already?

*crickets chirp*

Right, I forgot. I’m old now, and Simpsons references just date me. Younger people than I just gape incredulously when I explain that yes, The Simpsons used to be extremely funny. Point being, we’re all getting older.

This summer saw an amazing milestone for K: she made friends with a girl on our block (note: this is amazing because we don’t go to the local school.) I immediately let her know that she could walk to her friend’s house by herself as long as she let me know when she was leaving home. Thus began the Victoria Day long weekend (third weekend in May, for my non-Canadian readers.)

Since that weekend, I’ve become used to the shouts of “I’m going to K’s house!” (yes, K’s new best friend also has a name that starts with K, which is quite similar to our K’s name. Think along the lines of “Layla and Lyla” and you’re on the right track.) It has become normal to have K’s friend at our dinner table or in our backyard. Their bikes kept each other company on our driveway. Toys, crafts, and even clothes went back and forth.

It was a major parenting milestone for me, too: the first time one of my children could spend all day entertaining herself independently. K would leave the house and return with her friend, then yell, “Eema, we’re going biking in the cul de sac,” and leave again. An hour or so later I’d hear the door and shouts of, “we’re just getting a drink and a snack!” and the slam of the back door as they ran out to the treehouse. It was idyllic and nostalgic and simply wonderful.

Since the summer ended, many people have commented that K has matured so much since last school year. I see it too. What was the catalyst? Was it the close friendship with K? Or the knowledge that she is trusted to navigate a small part of the world by herself? Is it that she can, in a small way, manage her own social schedule without relying on adult availability? Or is it all a coincidence, a constellation of events made possible by her increasing maturity?

It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I seem to have, at times, gained a kid and yet at other times to have lost one; what matters is the joy of watching my first fledgeling spread her wings just a little bit; what matters is the bicycles on the driveway, and the closeness between the girls who ride them.


April 12, 2015

It’s good to have a goal.

by Decemberbaby

Instant gratification is nice. Working hard towards a goal feels good in its own way, but there’s something fun and exciting about being able to start and finish a project in the same hour.

After installing the baby seat in our Bakfiets today, I took a look around the garage and noticed that I still had a bucket of PVC pipes and parts left over from a different project. I had intended to use it to build a bike rack for the kids, but I didn’t have enough of the right connectors for that, so I built this instead:

DIY soccer or hockey net no instructions

N has been really into street hockey lately, and R likes kicking a ball around, so I’m hoping this net will inspire some pickup games.

Want to make one yourself? It’s very, very simple. You need:

  • PVC pipe – 2 of each of the following lengths: 40 inches, 32 inches, 15 inches
  • PVC connectors – 6 elbow joints, sized to fit the above pipe
  • Netting – I used plastic netting that is sold in the garden centre, but use whatever you like. You’ll need a piece that’s at least 48″ wide and 48″ long.
  • Zip ties – these are sometimes called cable ties. Anyhow, pick up a bag of light-duty ties (should be about 50 in a bag.)
  • A pipe cutter for PVC (not expensive at all, or you can have the pipe cut for you at the store.)
  • Scissors

That’s really all you need. I feel like it’s a simple enough project that you don’t need a step-by-step tutorial, but for those spatially challenged folks among us, here’s a diagram of where everything goes:

DIY soccer or hockey netHappy building! I’m going out to play.

May 29, 2013


by Decemberbaby

My hubby has a new bike.

Actually, it’s a new-to-him bike. The bike itself is very, very old, having been a bar mitzvah gift to my father-in-law (he’s now 68 years old – you do the math.) It’s been hiding in my in-laws’ garage for a long time – twenty years at the very least – but its potential was easy to spot even through decades’ worth of dust and grease. As soon as I saw it I knew it had to be Mr. December’s next bike.

Now, I’m not a bike mechanic. I didn’t know the second thing about bikes (I did know the first thing – that sometimes tires need to be pumped up and chains need to be oiled.) Fortunately for me, there’s a collective called Bike Pirates that offers a DIY bike repair space, tools and parts, and volunteers to help guide you – on a pay-what-you-can basis. Even better? Sundays are reserved for women and transfolk, with the aim of removing at least some of the barriers that exist for women and transfolk to learn to fix their bikes. In practical terms this means that when I arrived with a curious toddler, a volunteer was happy to entertain her with random bicycle parts while I worked on the bike. And worked. And worked.

I installed a new rear brake and new brake pads in front and in rear. I de-greased. I scrubbed the chain and oiled it anew. I removed the tires, checked the inner tubes, and installed new tires. I trued up the rear wheel. I replaced the gearshift cable and learned how to oil a Sturmey-Archer internal hub. I fixed the lopsidedness of the handlebars. I installed a (previously loved) kickstand.

Then I came home and installed a rear carrier rack… with zip ties, since I was missing some of the hardware. And finally, the piece de resistance… a milk crate.

Isn’t it a hipster’s dream?

Hipsterriffic bikeIMG_4210IMG_4206Now here’s the question: Initially we decided not to re-paint the rusty parts, and to put on a milk crate instead of a fancy cargo-carrier, on the theory that it would look less shiny-new and less worth stealing. Seeing as it’s extremely retro-cool, do you think the bike is more likely or less likely to get stolen than if we had given it a new paint job?


November 27, 2012


by Decemberbaby

Hi. I’m Sara, and I’m a cycle-a-holic.

I didn’t think it had come this far, but here I am. My knee hurts badly; I know that I shouldn’t bike tomorrow morning, and that makes me feel bereft. I don’t bike every single morning but I don’t take kindly to knowing that it’s off limits for now. The cravings are beginning. Driving the car is, at best, a necessary evil. There’s no joy in it; it just gets me from A to B and back. But cycling… aside from the obvious fitness benefits, it does wonders for my seasonal depression. Also my soul, my wallet, and my general sense of well-being.

Here’s why:

When I’m cycling, I’m close to the ground and there’s nothing between me and the world around me. I sing out “good morning” whenever we pass a pedestrian. We stop to examine the fire hydrants that haven’t been installed yet. We greet the same construction workers and crossing guards every time. Cycling gives me this sense of being part of the city instead of separated from it in a metal-and-glass bubble.

Nature is right beside me all along the road. I see the trees in various stages of autumnal undress, the places where there are more weeds than grass, the wetness of the road after a night of rain. The air feels clean in the morning, especially on the residential streets that make up most of my ride. I can see the sky – not a piece of it through a windshield, but the whole expanse – and I often marvel that even on cloudy days there is usually a clear patch of blue peeking through somewhere.

Throughout my ride, I have many opportunities to make it easier or harder for myself. I can relax and ride slowly if I feel like it, or I can push myself to the limit and set a new time record. I can lean into the turns more, challenging my skill and balance. I’m up against my own limits, and I often astonish myself.

I can chat with my children, point out landmarks, and ruffle their hair at stop signs. I get to watch them wiggle in time to the music from my iPod. When I greet pedestrians with a smile the children and I get to watch wizened old faces and jaded young faces break into a tentative smile or a grin and a surprised laugh. Even the grumpy-looking old man with the tiny dog (practically a fixture in our parking lot at drop-off and pick-up times) looks handsome when he smiles at us.

Even at my fastest, my speed probably tops out at 18 km/h. Fast enough to get where we’re going, and slow enough to not feel harried and rushed. Traffic means very little to me, gliding along residential streets and through pathways where cars can’t travel.

It’s possible to drive a car on autopilot. We’ve all done it, I’m sure, getting somewhere and realizing we have no particular memory about the journey. I’ve never been able to bike on autopilot. Cycling makes me feel connected – to nature, to the city, to the people, to myself and my limits. To God.

To paraphrase the milk commercials of my youth, cycling does a body good… but it does a soul great.


October 20, 2012

A little more quilty goodness…

by Decemberbaby

Yesterday we said goodbye to our beloved nanny… at least for a couple of months. She’s going back home to visit with her grandchildren.

I didn’t want to give her a too-big gift, because she’s supposed to be coming back (and I certainly hope that she does – she still has our house keys,) but I did want to give her a memento to take with her. She’s watched me make several quilts over the last 10 months, and I knew she loved the blue minky. What to make her? Can’t be too big, as I’m doing it at the last minute (as usual.) Nothing too intricate or fancy. Something that screams our names… got it!

It’s a mini-quilt. Or a potholder. Maybe a trivet. A quilted handkerchief. Something cuddly. It’s perfect.

I told our nanny that whenever she misses us, she can hold the children’s hands.

The hands are actual size – I outlined each child’s hand and then cut it out of a fabric that seemed appropriate: cupcakes for K, who’s always jonesing for sweets, frogs for N (his favourite hat is made with this fabric,) and bumblebees – busy flying around – for R. The bicycle background is an homage to our bakfiets.

I experimented with free motion quilting again, and fell in love with simple loop-de-loops. So easy!

And, of course, the back is made of her favourite blue minky.

She loved it. the first thing she did was put it up to her face and nuzzle it a bit, which sounds weird but is completely understandable to anyone who has touched minky. It just makes you want to cuddle up with it right away.

And it was so quick and easy, I’m left wondering if my grandmother would like one. What do you think?

August 16, 2012

One day my car will come…

by Decemberbaby

So we ordered our new minivan 16 days ago, with the stipulation that it was to be delivered by August 16 or the contract would be voided and our deposit refunded. It’s August 16. Did you get a new minivan?

Neither did I.

Amazingly, neither the salesman nor his manager has called us. I called them twice this week and was told that “we’re still working on it, but we’ll have some news for you in the next 24 hours.”

I’m frustrated, annoyed, and absolutely amazed that the deadline has come and gone without even a courtesy call to say, “sorry we haven’t found the model you need as yet. Can we interest you in a different trim level, or do you want us to keep looking?” Is it just me, or is this bad business?

August 8, 2012

We interrupt this lull to bring you… my life.

by Decemberbaby

People keep asking me how I’m enjoying my summer vacation. It surprises me every time. I’m a mom. I don’t get summer vacation. Summer is my busy season – no school, later bedtime for the kids, earlier wake-ups (I have a love-hate relationship with the long summer days,) the garden, day trips… I’m busy. I can’t wait for school to start, not because I don’t enjoy my children’s company, but because I’ll actually have time do get things done in increments greater than ten minutes. Oh, and I might get enough time to myself to do something decadent, like going back to Weight Watchers (yes, I’ve fallen off the wagon and am crawling back on, shamefaced, seven pounds heavier.)

And yet, I get a fair number of things done. Without further ado, here’s my list of


1. I fished N’s pyjama pants out of the kitchen wall vent. The vent has now been covered.

2. I managed a Lowe’s run in under 20 minutes. Also, everybody there greeted me by name and asked about my current projects.

3. The construction worker who stands at the end of our street to stop cars from entering told me that she always recognizes me (and therefore moves the pylons aside) because I always smile at her.

4. Our garage is now clean and empty of anything we’re not currently using.

5. I biked about 30 minutes today. So much better than driving.


I feel lonely out here in the big, cold internet. Leave me a comment:

What do you feel great about today?  And

If I have limited blogging time, what kinds of things would you rather I blogged about? Crafty stuff? My life? Deep thoughts?

July 17, 2012

Dear automakers and brochure copy writers…

by Decemberbaby

I love the exhaustive list of a vehicle’s features. Honestly, though, you could definitely edit the list so that customers don’t have to search for the stuff that matters. I’d suggest not bothering to mention such features as: “Door Ajar, low fuel, and driver and passenger seat belt indicators.” ‘Cause you know, every car has that. Ditto door map pockets and cup holders. And, you know, DOORS.

And another thing: why do I have to go up an entire trim level just to get a power liftgate? I want one, but there’s no way I’ll pay seven thousand dollars for it. I mean really, how stupid do you think we are?

(Answer: “apparently, very.”)

“Wheels? The brochure doesn’t list wheels for this model. You want wheels, you gotta move up to our BS model, that’ll get you some wheels.”

July 16, 2012

Deciding factors

by Decemberbaby

Forgive my absence – I’ve been immersed in all things automotive for the last week.

After our adjustor confirmed that our Yaris is a total loss, we started investigating minivans and minivan alternatives. We compared features, costs, financing, and purchase strategies (buy the minivan now, or buy something smaller and trade up if and when kid #4 comes along? We’re undecided.) Ever the engineer, Mr. December created a spreadsheet to model all of our options, taking into account things like convenience, fuel consumption, and (of course) cost. We have a list of further research we need to do. We may be overthinking our next car, but it’s not every day that we spend more than thirty thousand dollars in one fell swoop.

Taking a break from our obsessive analysis, we drive to Mississauga (in my dad’s Camry) for a birthday party. So there we are in the Camry, on the way back at 7 p.m. R is desperately tired and trying to sleep. K is tickling R and making squeaky noises that are probably intended to amuse R, but that mostly just irritate me. N is being a complete angel – if you overlook the fact that he keeps sticking his foot into R’s face (the perils of having a rear-facing infant next to a forward-facing toddler) and making her scream.  I reach back from the front passenger seat (Mr. D was driving, for a change) and grab N’s foot, announcing, “If you can’t use your foot responsibly, then I’m going to have to hold onto it for you.” He screams. R screams. K squeaks and chirps. R screams.

In that instant, I’m decided. I look over at Mr. December, he looks at me, and we say in unison, “It’s time for a minivan.”


July 10, 2012

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi…

by Decemberbaby

See what I did there? In the title? Sic transit! In a post about my car!

Bah, whatever. That’s about all the humour you’ll get in this post. Consider yourselves warned.


I got rear-ended on highway 401 on Friday morning. Suffice it to say that I had three options, two of which would have resulted in me rear-ending someone else, and so I took the third, which relied on another driver to be paying attention.

He wasn’t.


I can tell you that crumple zones really do crumple impressively. I can also tell you that people’s exhortations to put all loose items into a secured glove compartment or something similar are well-intentioned but poorly informed; all of the latched compartments in my car sprang open on impact, belching their contents all over my car. My poor, poor, car.

Brace yourselves, it ain’t pretty.

Yes, the impact was hard enough to break the rear windshield. It’s obvious what happened: the stroller saw a big grey pickup truck bearing down on it and, in a moment of sheer panic, punched through the windshield in an attempt to escape. Good thing, since we couldn’t open the tailgate at all. There was probably no point in pulling it out anyhow, since the seat is now studded with tiny shards of glass. I think we’ll be getting a new stroller.

Speaking of things that can’t be opened, get a load of my rear passenger side door. No amount of brute force could open this door. I’m doubly thankful that the kids weren’t in the car, because being unable to free my kids from the car is not on my bucket list. seriously.

Where were the kids, you ask? Ah, the kids: the reason I was on the 401 in the first place. I was on my way back from dropping K and N off at my in-laws’ home for the day. I had big plans for the day that included some blogging, some sewing, and some napping. Oh, the plans I had!

But you know what they say: Mensch tracht und Gott lacht. That’s (probably slightly incorrect) Yiddish for “Man plans, and God laughs.”

Back to the kids. They would have been physically fine. The carseats weren’t crushed or squished or anything. See?

Although on second inspection they do seem to be a little… crooked, or something. But anyhow, plenty of space for the kids inside the seats, and no protruding metal or projectiles. No squished-kid potential whatsoever. Thank God.

Anyhow, the first thing I did (after sighing, wiggling my toes, turning my head, and sitting completely still for two full minutes to collect myself) was call the OPP. Yeah, you know me. Oh, wait… I called the other OPP – Ontario Provincial Police. Even though I was well inside city limits, the 401 is a provincial road. Toronto police don’t have jurisdiction on the 401, apparently.

So the dispatcher told me that she could see the collision (yep, big brother is watching the traffic) and that we’d have to pull over if at all possible. Apparently they don’t like it when accidents block two lanes of a busy sixteen-lane freeway. So I turned on the engine and tried to accelerate. Nothing but noise. Eventually I was able to move the car by absolutely flooring the pedal, and I figured there was probably something wrong with the engine or the fuel delivery system or the dinglehopper or something. Then I got out of the car and saw exactly why it wouldn’t move:

That’s right, the rear wheel couldn’t turn, being blocked as it was by all that crumpled metal (or whatever cars are made of these days.) My car was rendered undriveable.

And yet I walked away with only a small bruise where the lower change compartment hit my shin as it popped open (the compartment popped open; my shin did not.) I am otherwise fine, an observation which seems to baffle a great many people. Even the guy at the auto-body shop, when I called to inquire as to the status of my car, said, “First I have to know – are you all right?” Apparently he had driven past my car on his way out of the lot on Friday and thought to himself, “Wow, somebody must have gotten hurt pretty badly.” Nope. Apparently automotive engineering is remarkably advanced. I tip my hat to the fine people at Toyota. And I thank God about fifty million times a day. Really.

There are other events upon which I could elaborate: my sympathy for the other driver, who was fine but who was driving his employer’s truck on company time and was about to miss a service call, it would seem; my good fortune in getting rear-ended so close to my parents’ home on a day when my dad was still home at 10:30 in the morning; my appreciation of my dad’s ability to drop everything and come get me so I wouldn’t have to go to the collision reporting centre by myself; the extremely unimportant serendipity of having my car rendered unusable with only $4 worth of gas in the tank (as if the $50 invested in a full tank would have mattered.) I can tell  you that my mother took care of R so that I could sleep in the afternoon.

(And for those of you wondering where Mr. December was during all this, he did offer to come right away, but he works downtown and has no car. I couldn’t see the point of him taking the subway up and then… what? Taking a cab to come get me? Picking up a zipcar and racing to a crash site from which I’d long since been towed? Nope. He came home at his usual time, my in-laws dropped off K and N, and we had a lovely Shabbat dinner at my parents’ house.)

I still don’t know whether the insurance company will decide to fix my car or whether they’ll just call it a write-off. I do know that they won’t let us use those car seats ever again (though I’d like to harvest them for parts so that I can add some more harnesses to the Bakfiets) but won’t pay the replacement cost – they calculate 10% depreciation for every year since you bought the seat. I also know that I’m not ready to move on to another car. Our Yaris is tiny, but it has served us very well. It has hauled IKEA furniture, three dozen balloons, my mountain bike, three carseats and a double stroller, renovation materials… at times I’m convinced that it’s a pickup truck masquerading as a tiny hatchback. And yet if we had to buy a new car right now, how could I justify not buying something bigger? I have three small children who won’t always be quite so small, and our next car really should reflect that. It’s just that I’d hoped our next car wouldn’t be making an appearance for another few years yet. I love our Yaris.

And that, as Forrest Gump would say, is all I have to say about that.