Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We rode bikes! Maybe you want to, too?

Okay, I'm writing this post because the experience of renting bikes at the Morton Arboretum felt like a big family milestone for us, but also because I'm thinking some of you local Chicagoans might want to try it, too?   (Hear me out, because there are all sorts of different types of bikes available for varying degrees of ability.) 

Georgia's pretty adept on her bicycle, but she'd never ridden it off of our street before. (Though I often lament the lack of neighborhood feel here, when it comes to letting our kids play outside, we feel fortunate to live on a dead end block with almost no traffic. I think it has allowed Georgia more freedom to practice biking on her own than the average American six year old gets.) Even so, when we rented bikes in Florida on vacation this spring, Georgia still opted for the tag-along option attached to my bike (that turns it into something looking like a tandem), and June and Waylon were put into a trailer attached to Joe's.  It was "fun". No, really, it mostly was great fun, except that at their ages, putting June and Waylon in one trailer together is like transporting two cats in a box. There may have been some hissing and batting of limbs involved. 

So, this Sunday's ride at the Arboretum was Georgia's first chance to really bike on her own for more than half a block, and I was so excited for her to experience the feeling of not immediately stopping and turning around. She was pumped, too, but I never thought we'd make it as far as we did. We completed the entire 4.5 mile east loop! (This time, with June and Waylon each getting their own trailer, since June's still a little leery of the tag-along option.) It's a bit hilly, and my own legs were burning at points, so I'm kind of amazed that Georgia managed to power her 1970's era Schwinn through it all without massive whining. There were points when we had to get off and walk our bikes up the hill for her sake, but that's okay. This was not the Tour de France, after all. Although, I'm sure our snacks were much better than those Tour athletes get, anyway. With the trailer, I ought to have had a food truck license I'm sure, but by now I've learned that if you want to get through something even remotely physically taxing with these kids, (or for that matter, just "long" - not even taxing), you'd better take frequent breaks and keep them fed.

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(The view from our bench.)


So, here's what we learned so you can take advantage of it: 

--All of the pricing is stated clearly on the Arboretum's website, but I didn't pay enough attention to the details.  This outing was more expensive than I counted on, so we'll be doing it again but not exactly weekly.  (To be fair, the pricing is reasonable in my opinion, it just adds up when you need multiple bicycles plus trailers.) 

--Prices are lower for members than non-members.  If you know me (or my sis) well enough to text, though, then you're welcome to swing by and borrow my family membership card.  And if you've got your own bicycles to bring along for free, well then bully for you!  

--Speaking of membership benefits:  the Morton Arboretum and the Chicago Botanic Garden have reciprocity, but a lot of people don't know that.  

--Rentals are for 3 hours.  There's no ability to save money by using the bikes for less time.  However, you can take a break and leave your bikes with the bike rental people while you go off to eat a picnic lunch or explore the children's garden or whatever floats your boat.  Now that I know this, next time we will get our money's worth by going earlier, biking, breaking, and maybe biking a bit more if our crew can handle it.  Or maybe we'll stop and hike one of the trails along the way next time, now that we know for sure that Georgia has the stamina for it.  June and Waylon really wanted to, but we were nervous about pushing our luck and then ending up with a non-cycling cyclist and a heavy unused bike on our hands. 

--Bikes are restricted to the paved roadway; this is not off-road mountain biking.  Keep in mind that cars are also allowed on the roadway, so you'll have to keep an eye out for vehicles needing to pass.  Perhaps taking children biking on a road with cars sounds scary, but remember, this is not a public thoroughfare; everyone there has paid to enter the Arboretum and is ostensibly trying to take in the scenery.  It's all one-way, and I've never seen a vehicle traveling more than 5-10 mph.  The drivers should be looking out for cyclists and runners, so you should be fine.

--If you go this time of year, bring your bug spray.  Sure, the mosquitoes can't get you when you're zooming along, but when you stop for breaks, you'll be easy prey.  It is a forest, after all. 

--(This is Illinois, so take all descriptions of "hills" with a grain of salt, but): One of the longest gradual inclines if you take the east loop is near the beginning of the route.  Therefore, our first break occurred about 5 minutes into the ride, and I didn't think we'd make it much farther.  Forge ahead if you can!  Soon we began to hit some fun downhill stretches and caught our stride.  

--Oh, speaking of downhills.  This happy trip came inches away from ending in the ER.  Georgia is still mastering control of her bike and nearly flew into the woods on the sharpest downhill turn.  The water bottle in her basket bounced out, her front wheel left the pavement, and by some miracle, she stayed upright and steered back onto the road.  I could only hear the commotion (and cringe), but Joe, who was pulling up the rear and saw it, swears that if Georgia did this 100 times she'd land in a bleeding heap the next 99.  I have no idea how this information helps you.  I guess just be careful?    

I guess that's it, but before I go, do you have any blogs that you like but almost can't read because they're too beautiful?  No?  Well, Dig This Chick by Nici Holt Cline does that to me.  I check it only occasionally lest I let her gorgeous Montana views, exquisite photography, cherubic children, home-based small business, and farm-like life mixed with the camaraderie of a more urban setting get me down, if you know what I mean.  (To wit, she is to blame for my desire to have backyard chickens.  One day.  One day, I tell you.)  Anyway, to top it off, I like her writing.  In five sentences about a recent strawberry-picking outing with her two young girls, she perfectly captured how I feel about our little bicycling outing, and most other things in my life lately, for that matter.
"I remembered last year in this field.  I held Ruby much of the time.  Margot tired of the experience after about an hour.  This year we walked the field for more than two hours and never once was I asked to leave.  I took note, appreciating this increasingly autonomous season of parenting.  And just a little bit missing the last."  

I am:  Living in the moment.  Enjoying it.  And feeling wistful, too. 

I remembered last year in this field. I held Ruby much of the time. Margot tired of the experience after about an hour. This year we walked the field for more than two hours and never once was I asked to leave. I took note, appreciating this increasingly autonomous season of parenting. And just a little bit missing the last. - See more at: http://www.digthischick.net/#sthash.6WKE0kQq.dpuf
I remembered last year in this field. I held Ruby much of the time. Margot tired of the experience after about an hour. This year we walked the field for more than two hours and never once was I asked to leave. I took note, appreciating this increasingly autonomous season of parenting. And just a little bit missing the last. - See more at: http://www.digthischick.net/#sthash.6WKE0kQq.dpu

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What's for breakfast?

Waylon often wakes up from his afternoon nap confused and asks me, "What's for breakfast?" thinking that it is morning.  Today he would not be convinced otherwise, so I gave up and made him oatmeal with blueberries for his afternoon snack.  (Which he calls "sear-meal", an invented word that pronunciation-wise is a combination of cereal and oatmeal but just means oatmeal.)

He's also on a kick of telling me that he's not going to nap or getting all upset about the idea, and then proceeding to sleep for 2-3 hours in the middle of the day.  I am seriously jealous of his life sometimes.

Swim ==> wet hair ==> nap ==> awesome bedhead, aka, something resembling tousled, highlighted beach waves that people like me pay hundreds for!
(Post swim and nap bedhead. Who says polar bear fleece jammies aren't for July?)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

We Are Pro Princess Interracial Gay Marriage Around Here

Maya Angelou dies ==> Racism ==> Gay Marriage ==> Marriage ≠ Happiness ==>
Let's have Princess Tiana marry Princess Anna

Oh, parenthood, you crack me up.  Listen to this chain of events.  I bought this book because, well, Maya Angelou died and I am a sucker so suddenly I think my kids should know about her?  I don't know.  Anyway, we read it together.  Next thing you know I'm explaining how she read a poem at President Obama's inauguration.  (That happened, right?  I'm not losing my mind?)  Talking about how it was extra special since Barack Obama is our first black president and Maya Angelou is also African-American.  Georgia was shocked to learn that Obama is our country's first black president.  (Incidentally, I love that form of innocence. What a shame it is also kind of my job to ruin it.)  Being a fan of truthiness, I go on to explain racism at an age-appropriate level to Georgia and June.  It's a topic we've discussed before, but you know, it takes a few tries.  As it should.  I mean, at base it makes absolutely no sense why people are treated differently based on skin color, so how the hell do you answer a four year old questioning "But why wouldn't they serve them lunch?"  That's right, we were to the point of trotting out examples like lunch counters and bus boycotts, and "What does 'boycott' mean, mama?"  Next thing you know, we're talking about Martin Luther King and changing rules that don't make sense.  With follow-up questions like, "What is 'change'?"  Oh, Lord, here we go, further down the rabbit hole.  I don't know how, but suddenly we're on to talking about how they changed the rules in Illinois so that boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls, because our girls are aware of this recent change in the law and find it confounding that it was ever any other way.  They are 100% on board with "love is love".  So, now we've taken a left turn into a full-on marriage discussion, including my repeated admonition that marriage is not the secret to happiness, despite what the movies and story books say.  It may be a fool's errand, but I am bound and determined to hammer this into their little heads, to counteract an entire culture of messages to the contrary.  (Including their parents' happy marriage, I guess, but I don't consider that to be logically inconsistent with the point I'm trying to make.)  I give them examples of wonderful single friends of mine and talk about how happiness and meaning can be found through work, and family, and faith, and community, and not just partnership and romance.  But this all leads to further discussion of the fact that in their story books, it's always a princess marrying a prince, but I bet it won't be by the time they are reading to their children one day, you know, should they have any.  The girls immediately announced an arranged marriage of Princess Tiana and Princess Anna.  In lieu of gifts, please just send checks straight to me, c/o P.C. Capital of the World.  


High School Reunion

I remarked to Joe that one of the best parts of my high school reunion was that this was a group of people who did not know me as a mother.  That is a hard scene for me to find anymore.  We went out to the bars with people who could not care less about my kids, and I felt a sense of freedom and independence that I haven't in a while.  It's not that my former classmates don't know my children, or at least know of their existence, because I've proudly posted their pictures, words, and daily goings-on on the Internet.  It's just that beyond a cursory, "Do you have kids?" or, "How are the kids?" we all just had other things to talk about.  Or other things to drink or dance about, as the case may be.     

Don't get me wrong, I adore my children, I love being a mother, and I wholeheartedly embrace motherhood as a part of my identity.  In this season of life, I am a stay at home mom devoting my days to family life.  It's just that motherhood is not the only thing that makes me who I am.  I'm so immersed in domesticity at the moment that it was nice to take a break from that leading role for a couple nights.  When I was practicing law, going to the office meant putting on a different hat and being seen in a different light.  I think I miss that aspect of work.  Nowadays, many of my girlfriends (at least the small circle that I do occasional dinner dates with) are people I met through June's preschool, so while I cherish our friendship and time together, I also know that these are people who knew me first "as a mom."  Having children of similar ages binds us together, so not surprisingly, the conversation often turns to our own children, or how to handle the little things that we're all going through.  I do not mean to denigrate those experiences, because that is a support network that is invaluable to me.  I'm just saying, it was refreshing to momentarily feel like none of that stuff mattered much.

High school reunions are a little bit scary for most people, because they raise up our old demons, remind of us of stupid mistakes we made, and bring out insecurities that we suffered while navigating the complex (and seemingly highly important) social scene of our teen years.  I get that, so I get it why people often don't want to attend.  ("People" including my husband, for instance, although I'm sure his reasons included none of the above.)  Sometimes the reason is as simple as, "But I'm already in touch with the friends from high school that I care about."  That does make quite a bit of sense, and I could see myself falling into that category as I get even further away from my high school years.  But this time around, it was actually fun.  (Certainly more fun than the 10 year, which I had a hand in planning.  Two thumbs up for casual bar nights instead of stuffy banquets.)

Anyway, it was a breath of fresh air for this lady.  (Awkward, bizarre air that became less so as the weekend went on I guess.  Or maybe I am only remembering the good parts now that it's over.)  

Sunday, June 22, 2014

All packed for my 20th high school reunion

We're driving to Missouri for my reunion, so I asked the girls to pack some car entertainment for themselves and their brother for the 6-7 hour ride. 

Here's what June chose:
2 bracelets
1 purple hair scrunchy
1 three-page baby bathtub book 
1 button
2 seashells 
1 Chapstick
1 miniature pad of paper
All packed into a small personalized bag. 

Okay, so, I guess we're all set then.