Category: biking

Homegirl

horseandcartSomeone called me homegirl last week. Not that I’m not the “homegirl” type, but, well, it surprised me a bit. Turns out this guy sees me a lot, riding my bike with my kids. He was telling another cyclist how “homegirl here picks up her kids from school every day. Every single day!”

I may have blushed a little.

I do pick up my kids every single day. And I often do it on my bike. The bike that seats five people. An open-air minivan on two wheels. A clown car of sorts. It’s a novelty, a monstrosity, and a life line.

Physically, it is pretty draining. Not so much now as when I first started riding, and even less since I stopped counting the miles and anticipating the hard parts. Now I just go. I just do it and don’t think about how hard it is. Thinking about how hard it is makes it harder. A lot harder.

But the thing is, putting myself out there—in the arena—working for every meter up the bridge and on the roads, I get a lot of support. Mostly, “Whoa!” and “Supermom!” and “That’s amazing!” and “You’re my hero!” and “Strong mama!” and things like that. I get thumbs ups as well. And once, someone even pushed the back of the bike to give me an extra boost. I appreciated the thought even if it did take me by surprise. And then there are the photos. Lots of photos. Sometimes people ask. Sometimes they just take it. Sometimes they try to be covert about it. It makes me smile, even if I am dripping with sweat and looking like a mess.

It’s been a couple of years since I got any negativity. There was the guy who sped past me on the Manhattan Bridge, questioning my sanity for putting my kids in danger like that. He didn’t love it when I asked him where his helmet was. Touche. And then there was the guy who, as he was driving by, creeped into the bike lane, so he could get close enough to tell me that what I was doing was dangerous. Ugh. HE WAS THE DANGER!!!!

The comments, the give and take, the sharing of our lives on the open road: it’s one of the things I love about living in the city. We can’t hide. We don’t hide. We hardly even have our own space. We share all kinds of things with everyone around us.hudsonbikes

We share our thumping bumping and jumping with the neighbors downstairs.

We share our yelling and crying and music and laughing with the rest of the hallway.

We share our “backyard” with everyone else who hangs out in Prospect Park.

We share our travels with anyone who happens to be in the same train at the same time.

We share our quirks with all those people who think that 4 kids on a bike is just the nuttiest/greatest/weirdest/craziest thing they’ve ever seen.

And with that sharing comes connection. We see each other. We talk. We listen. We hear. We smile and nod and we are aware of each other.

It isn’t always easy to do. I still get nervous about what people are going to say to me. I wonder if I’ll get a comment that will fill my bucket or drain it. (And to be honest, sometimes, even the most well-meaning, supportive people are annoying on days when I just want to be left alone. Because, I’m actually working here. As much as it looks like a clown car, we are not messing around. We’ve got places to go and people to meet.)

Sometimes I think about what it would be like to hide. In a car. With tinted windows. To be the anonymous driver.

Sometimes I wonder about a backyard. To watch the kids play from the kitchen window. To not make a production about getting out the bikes and the balls and the jump ropes. To send the kids outside when I need some space and to know they’re still contained and protected.

More often these days I imagine our future home. I see peonies and rose bushes, a wraparound porch, fruit trees in the backyard, and a vegetable garden where vegetables can grow big and strong.

By the time we get there, our kids may have already grown big and strong. Big because that is what kids do, and strong (I hope) because of how much we have given and received as we have lived our lives out in the open of the big city.oliverbikes

We don’t really have a “home”—just a small apartment we rent—nor do we have a lot of family support close by. Instead we make ourselves at home here in this city and rely on our friends and neighbors and strangers for support. It’s a bit risky, but I feel dividends. A little support from my fellow New Yorkers is as good as cold hard cash any day of the week.

So I guess I am someone’s “homegirl.” Maybe a lot of people’s. And I appreciate that we can be at home here in this city together, riding bikes and looking out for each other. Every single day.

Home

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Japan.

Japan is where we went, Japan is what we saw. We didn’t go there with a plan, exactly. We didn’t have a list of things we needed to see. Just some cities to travel to and a loose schedule of when we wanted to come and go from each place. We each took one backpack with a few changes of clothes and not much else. We travelled light with the hope that it would make it easy to see and do as much as we could.

We were a little nervous about doing things that way. What if we were so indecisive that we didn’t do anything? What if we missed all the best stuff? What if we ended up so frustrated with each other that by the end of the trip we were hardly on speaking terms?

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Ha. Ha ha ha! HA!

It was awesome. It turned out pretty much as well as we could have hoped for. We saw so many great things, went to so many beautiful places. By 10:00 nearly every morning we would turn to each other and say: “Well, if we see nothing more today, it has already been worth it.”

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The first day there was the Christmas Hotel we ran across on our way to the temple in Narita. And while we later learned it was a “love hotel” — not as scandalous/trashy in Japan as it might be in the US — it totally put a spring in our steps as we walked the rest of the way to the temple.

Then there was the castle we stayed across the street from in Nagoya. Breathtaking by day and night. We ran around it a couple of times and marveled at it from every angle.

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Even more breathtaking were the thousands and thousands of orange gates and the hike we took — off the beaten path — to get to the top of the shrine that they led to.

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We ran to the Golden Temple in Kyoto and rubbed shoulders with all the uniformed school kids there. We bumped into some missionaries from our church on the ferry to Sado Island. (They were thrilled, and stunned, to run into a couple of English-speaking church members in such a remote place.) We went to church at the Tokyo English-speaking ward and made friends with a family there who invited us over for dinner that night and took us to an observation deck in downtown Tokyo the next day so we could really see the city.

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And we walked until our legs hurt. Our unofficial motto was “Climb Every Staircase.” It served us well as we biked around Sado and stopped at every trail that looked remotely interesting. One time we climbed 300 steps to the top of a hill, only to find a couple of burnt out buildings. Then we turned around and saw the most amazing view of rice fields and mountains. Three hundred steps well worth it.

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Every now and then we thought of our kids, back at home with their aunts. How were they holding up? Were they missing us? Would they be mad at us when we got home? But mostly, we savored the time spent together with no distractions and no interruptions. We fell back into our natural habit of walking and talking, talking and walking. And seeing things — all kinds of things — from a different place.

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The trip was technically my first international experience, but I have to say that even though we were in a foreign country, it felt very much like home. Nagoya — the first city we went to, with the castle — felt especially welcoming. Almost like it was auditioning for us. But Sado Island took me back to our days in Hawaii. And big bustling Tokyo was a clean, courteous, more organized version of New York.

In fact, while “home” — where our kids were, where we would be returning to — was many thousands of miles and half a day behind us, it was easy to forget that we weren’t there already, and that we wouldn’t be putting the kids to bed when we got to the bottom of the mountain we just hiked. It was easy, in fact, to imagine that someday we actually would be putting the kids to bed after a day of hiking mountains in Japan. Because that would be where we lived. Someday. Not any time soon, but not never.

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Until then, I’m happy to be back to our present home, where our little munchkins greeted us with surprising gusto. And I’m happy to be packing up our that present home so that we can move to another one (five blocks away) at the end of the week.

Home is always changing, isn’t it? I don’t see why someday it couldn’t be in Japan.

From the Backseat of a Bike

In case you were under the impression that because we don’t have a car, we don’t have backseat squabbles, let me disabuse you of that notion. We may not have a car, but, you know, life finds a way. And the backseat of a long tail bike is just as good as the back seat of any minivan.

Which means that our children, just like anyone else’s, are growing up saying things like, “But I wanted to sit in the front! You always get to sit in the front! Okay, fine, but I get to sit in the front next time!” or “Stop! You’re crowding into my space!” and playing games like the ABC game. Our version includes such rules as: a letter counts if you find a word that starts with that letter, you find a thing that starts with that letter, or you see the letter on a license plate. We’re really lucky that somebody is always wearing a zipper. Also, for an extra challenge, if we make it all the way through the alphabet before we reach our destination, not only do we start again, we have to find each letter twice before we move on to the next. Super tricky, I know.

And just as our children are prone to saying things like, “Are we there yet?” we are just as prone to say things like, “We get there when we get there!” or “No wrestling back there. No, I’m serious. Stop! Don’t make me pull over!”

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But, of course, they have made me pull over. We spent a lovely 10 minutes on the Manhattan bridge the other day, waiting for someone to get over the fact that we weren’t on the Williamsburg bridge. Life is hard sometimes, you know, when you don’t get to ride over the bridge you wanted. (And yet they both go to the same place. There’s a metaphor there, but I’m going to let you find it yourselves.)

When we got the bike we imagined life would be a montage of singing happy songs and waving at friendly/amused strangers as we rode joyfully, smoothly on our way. And while there is a fair amount of waving at amused strangers and even song-singing, there’s also a fair amount of dodging potholes, breaking up arguments, and restraining myself from yelling at motorists I feel are trying to get a little too close to me. Not quite so glamorous.

Still, it’s nice to know that just because we don’t have a car, doesn’t mean we’re missing out on all that family time fun. I’m just so glad that life really does find a way.

On the Streets

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Yesterday . . . I was feeling overwhelmed. The fridge was almost empty, library books were due, there was writing to be done and get-togethers to schedule, and in my rush to get the errands done before school pickup, well, I “didn’t have time” to tell myself to breathe.

As I biked over the bridge, I was totally zoned out, going over my list again and again and again, trying, I assume, to think about things so much that they wouldn’t need to be thought about anymore. Or, more likely, I was just running around in circles, chasing my own tail and completely incapable of making it stop.

But when we got back on the bike after pickup and started up the bridge and on our way home, things changed. It started, I think, when Dmitry of BikeNYC passed me: “You’ve got all three of them this time! I’ve seen you on the bridge three times now!” It was good to see him again, even if it was just for second. He was hardly out of my sight when another guy passed me and told me I was super mom. And he hadn’t gone too far when someone else offered their opinion about my superior strength.

At least a couple of more people cheered me on as we rode through Williamsburg, Bed-Stuy, and Crown Heights. And aside from making me feel like a million bucks, they got me out of my head so I could stop trying to catch that stupid tail already.

There’s something really powerful about being on the streets of where you live. Not enclosed in your own cage of glass and steel, but actually on the street, directly exposed to the sights and sounds of the city. There’s a vulnerability to it that connects you to people. True, sometimes they are the people telling you to get a car already or to watch where you’re running before you steer your stroller into the bike lane – and that’s when you say “Mother knows best,” and keep on going (and maybe also try to remember that there is an angry guy on a bike in Prospect Park on Tuesday mornings and it’s best not to cross him).

But as often as not they are the people who just want to say hi and good work and isn’t it a great day to run or ride or live?

It takes away some of the burden, relieves the pressure, slows things down to a manageable pace, and makes the path straight again.

Give A Little Respect

“Come on boys! Cheer me on!”

Silence.

“Tell me I can do it! Tell me I’ve got this hill!”

Silence.

“Really boys, don’t you think I’m doing a good job?”

Silence.

Finally, Squish speaks: “Well, I think Dad is the best and I like riding on the bike with him.”

Oh. Right. Thanks a lot.

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It’s a silly thing. I know it is. Wanting them to encourage me as I pedal them up the hills. I can get up them just fine. It’s hard, but not impossible. And I’ve done it – and am doing it – enough that it’s becoming easier and easier.

It’s more the principle of the thing. We’re a team here. Some of us are sitting on the bench, and some of us are giving it all we’ve got. And it irks me, just a bit, when the bench sitters are daydreaming while their teammates are laying it all out. (Not that I think they have to be fully invested all the time. But it would nice if they showed a little interest when I’m actually struggling. And asking for encouragement.)

But there’s a deeper level than that as well. I’m their mom. I birthed them. I bathe them and feed them and wash their clothes. I’m the first person they come to when they are hurt or in need. And I don’t ask a whole lot in return. To eat dinner with as little fuss as possible. To get dressed when asked. To not push each other off the couch. And to cheer me on when I’m pedaling up the hills.

Because we’re a team. We respect each other. We love each other. We work together. And we encourage each other on.

Or we will. Someday.

I hope.

Weekly Retrospective

All of our wildest dreams have (sort of) come true.

It was just a few months ago, it seems, that we were dreaming of a family bike. In our imagination, there was a seat on the front for Little Miss, a seat on the back for Squish, Manchild would sit on the cargo rack and I would stand on pegs while Micah pedaled us all around. Great idea, right?

But then we got serious and decided to do a little research. And then we did some test drives. We tried a box bike. We tried a tandem. We thought about tagalongs. And then we heard about longtails. 946796_461264330615427_1649875910_n

Longtails, my friends, are the future. At least we think they are. And just about everyone we’ve talked to who has one says they think everyone should have a longtail. Since we heard about them, my dreams have evolved to include biking – with all three kids – to the park. And the grocery store. To playdates. To Costco, even. I’ve dreamt of Micah and I riding around Brooklyn (and Manhattan) on our date nights, cruising through the streets at our own pace free of subway fares and subway stairs.

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Yesterday, our longtail arrived. It’s a Yuba Mundo*. And we wasted no time putting it to good use. Micah and I rode it home from our date night, down the West Side Highway, across the Brooklyn Bridge, through downtown Brooklyn to our apartment. Even in the rain, even up the hills, we had a good time. (Okay, so maybe Micah didn’t have such a good time going up the bridge, but it was totally manageable, even with me and cargo on back.)

So, the wild date-night dream has come true. And we’re looking forward to making those other dreams a reality as well: the grocery store, the park, playdates, church. Wherever.

And wherever we go, whatever we do, I’ll be sure to share our adventures with you. After all, the more people we can take along on this bike with us, the more fun it will be. Right?

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And my Babble posts this week:

This world-champion kayaker is 9 months pregnant – and still winning.

Hydration is important! Here are some drinks to help it be tasty, too.

The 4-minute workout may sound like a good idea, but it misses a major point of exercise.

Micah and I have been working out together for a long time. It’s been good – except when it’s not.

Setting goals can be tricky. You need just the right balance of strength and flexibility.

 

*For those who are curious, our Mundo has two Soft Spot seats on the cargo rack for the boys to sit on and an iBert seat in front for Little Miss. We got two cargo bags to carry whatever it is we happen to need. And next month, when they become available, we’ll add the Monkey Bars to keep our little circus a little more contained. Any more questions? What else would you like to know?

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