Thursday, December 31, 2009
Yes, it may have made more sense to just throw the two bikes in the back of the car and drive the two miles to the bike shop. However, I find it just too strange not to cycle there so we bundled up. C was home waiting for a friend to arrive, but S decided to ride himself over, and F got drafted to come along so C could play with his friend one-on-one, something that never happens in this home.
The older guys have gotten really proficient on their bikes but the sad truth is that in order for them to cycle around the city safely, they need to ride on the sidewalks. We've been taking trips downtown where P and I will cycle on the streets (with F riding on the Radish Xtra or Bakfiets), parallel to C and S on the sidewalks. We have to be in constant communication, especially when it comes to crossing streets, and I am always a bit on edge on some of the busier streets where folks could easily take a right turn without seeing the boys. Usually P and I sort of stop right in the middle of the street crossing and just block the path of cars until the boys ride right up on the sidewalk on the other side.
I mapped out a route to the bike shop that I thought might work for S's sidewalk riding. We were all extraordinarily thankful for our Bern helmets with fuzzy ear coverings. It helped that the wind was at our backs for most of the ride there so we enjoyed zipping down a couple of slight hills without the need to pedal. S had an extra challenge since his hand-brake was busted (one of the reasons we needed to visit the bike shop) and he is unaccustomed to using his pedal brake. He was such a champ though, pedaling furiously, listening well, and never complaining about the cold. F, too, earned some gold stars, wrapped in a fleece blanket, sharing the cargo box with C's bike and some ice skating gear, and cheering on his brother's riding. S felt such a sense of accomplishment when we reached the Devil's Gear.
There, we dropped off C's and S's bikes to get fixed and cleaned up. We also had to visit the new Madsens, of course, and F and S took a few spins around the downstairs on some kids' bikes for sale. One thing I love about bike shops is that the folks that work there never get uptight about kids mucking around a bit.
I spotted a particularly cool-looking commuter bike, a Civia, with gorgeous, simply gorgeous bamboo fenders.
From the bike shop, both boys climbed in the Bakfiets and snuggled in close together. We decided to flip up the seat and have them sit lower, right on the bottom of the box, to hide against the wind, practically fully covered by the fleece blanket. It would have been helpful to have our rain cover, but we would not have been able to load the other bike in the cargo box on the way there. It was a bit tough pedaling into the frosty wind, but we made it to our city's public skating rink without frostbite. There, we enjoyed skating (F and S leaving the milk crates behind and skating on their own) and a snack break near the indoor fire. After more skating, we pedaled off and ate lunch at our local pizzeria (F with his helmet on), before heading home only to collapse and enjoy the feeling of all that we accomplished by our own pedal power.
Meanwhile, look what C was working on at home while we were out....a Zoobasaurus!
Monday, December 28, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
The Dunderheads tells the story of a motley crew of students, with varied and unique talents, who come together against a particularly nasty teacher. We are big fans of these kids: Hollywood, Nails, Junkyard, Spider, Clips etc. but of course, my favorite is Wheels. Here's his introduction:
And later in the story, Wheels moves his classmates' revenge plot forward... literally.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
One issue, however, was that ever since we moved out of NYC, we made it an annual tradition to cut down our own tree. In Maine, we actually lived right down the road from a Christmas tree farm so that was an uncomplicated venture and here in Connecticut, there are loads of places in the surrounding area to cut down a live tree. However, there are really no Christmas tree farms close enough to which we could cycle. So we were left with the dilemma: drive and cut down our our tree or cycle and pick out a pre-cut tree. I just couldn't get the image of the tree on a bike out of my head though so I pushed for the latter.
So today, we climbed in/on the Xtra Radish and Bakfiets and set off for a local park. I felt pretty good about buying from the folks here because they run a program for adults with developmental disabilities and the proceeds of the Christmas tree sales were going there. We had quite a family discussion about which tree would come home with us. Everyone got a vote and not everyone was particularly pleased with the results. However, a choice was made and the tree was bought. Now the question-- how to load it on a bike.
Before we left the house, we had thought we would lash it to the side of the Xtra. However, at the park we realized that they didn't have a tree 'wrap' thing, which, of course, is better environmentally not to have that extra plastic holding our tree bound, but somewhat of a conundrum when trying to figure out how to lash a particularly fat and tall tree (little boys votes, remember, I would be pretty happy with a Charlie Brown tree myself) on a bike. The guy running the tree sales offered to deliver the tree to our home, but I felt that would defeat the whole point of the mission. I wanted to get this tree home by bike.
In the end, we simply loaded the tree on top of the Bakfiets. P, who is particularly good at knots, lashed the tree to the cargo box. The box now was well filled and we needed to get everyone home. Two of the boys could climb on the snapdeck of the Radish, but we still needed a spot for one more passenger. S volunteered ride on the back rack of the Bakfiets and it worked out quite well. We, of course, got lots of attention cycling to our apartment. All hurt feelings about wanting a different tree were forgotten as we rode along and sang carols at the top of our lungs. Even though rain started to fall, our jolly moods were not dampened as we made our way home.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I am new at this scanner thing so I will copy the text exactly here just in case it is hard to read:
"I am thankful my books because without them I woud not be abel to read. I am thankful for my bike because without it I woud not be abel to ride a bike. I am thankful for hollidays because we get toger. I am thankful for Earth because we live here."
I am most thankful for a son who considers books, bikes, getting together at holidays, and the Earth all things for which to be thankful.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Then, on Friday, we woke up to rain. Discussing it with the boys, we decided to break out the bakfiets's stylin' red rain cover for the first time this school year. I set up the cover, got it all adjusted, and S and C climbed up and under. They were looking so darn cute, I had to go back in our apartment to get the camera to capture the moment (plus, gotta think ahead for that blog post, right?).
As I was lining the boys up, snapping away, a neighbor walked by, hesitated and said, "Uh, that is your car, right?" pointing to our desert sand-colored minivan (yes, that is the color Toyota named it). She proceeded to point out that one of the back windows streetside was all smashed up. UGH.
It seemed like a pure act of vandalism, or I guess the smashers weren't particularly interested in stealing three booster seats and a bunch of kids' books. I remained calm through it all. Even though I was bummed, we've been parking on the street for over two years and this was our first broken window/possible theft.
The boys, however, got very quiet and solemn and even a bit teary. It was as if they just couldn't believe anyone would ever do such a thing. "Oh well," I soothed, "These sorts of things can happen sometimes when you live in a city, but think of all the great things we get to experience here, too." Remember, these were the kids who spent four years in rural Maine and were outraged when we started locking our front door when we moved here.And then we took off, pedaling to school. By the time we arrived, their moods had lifted significantly. And yeah, windows can get smashed anywhere. Aren't we lucky we get to bike commute to school together?
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Last week I couldn't help but be delighted to come across this Yehuda Moon cartoon:
Yes, some days the commute has felt like a slog lately. No, we are not buying a new bike right now. However, we fully embrace the "add a new accessory to your rig" philosophy so check this out....
Mmmmmm, coffee. Can't say which I love more: my coffee or our bikes.
ROBOTS!!! I had so much fun choosing the design to change from the polka dots to these robots. We use these great wall decals that can be cleanly removed when we are ready to redecorate our cargo box. I did the change-over on Halloween Eve under the cover of darkness once the boys headed to bed so they got a cool Halloween morn surprise.
Yes, I do like my accessories....
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Two weeks ago, we spent an incredible day downtown. The older boys rode their own bikes (wow!) while we loaded F's balance bike in the Xtracycle. Originally, we thought we would head to the bike path so the guys could ride there for a bit. However, we were hungry so headed downtown first to get a bite to eat. It was such a beautiful day that once we arrived downtown, we found a quiet spot on campus close to food shops where the boys could ride loops and loops around these trees and we could get lunch and picnic outside. It was so great to watch each of the guys enjoying his own bike. F's getting really adept on his balance bike. I suspect he'll be the one to learn to ride without ever using training wheels. S got really into riding that day and looped round and round, counting 112 laps when it was all over... and he still rode home.
We had a week of particularly cold weather, and I am learning about dressing myself-- and my sons-- for our fall bike commuting. Each time I read about Miss Sarah up in Canada or Dottie in Chicago, I think that I really don't have any cause to kvetch too much about riding in this Northeast weather. After complaints last year of cold ears, I did buy each of the boys new Bern helmets with fuzzy ear coverings. Warm ears make for such a happier commute.
It was great to have a really beautiful, truly autumn (not winteresque) day this past weekend. I like to call this snap of P the"Tweed Ride of One," but really, there were five of us heading off to church. He was the only one wearing tweed though.
S & C's "Spooky Suzuki" violin & guitar Halloween concert forced us to finish the boys' costumes an entire week early this year. Here they are about to climb in/on our various cargo bikes on the way to our local music school. Their bike helmets don't give you the full effect of the Pirate Monkey, Charmander (a Pokemon, who knew? not me, until this request came) & Pikachu costumes but they looked so cute anyway. Oh, and also, all three costumes have great tails....
Thank goodness Pikachu could ride on the snapdeck of the Xtracycle. I don't think his tail would fit in the bakfiets....
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Inspired by They Might Be Giants' new album, Here Comes Science, I handmade three concert t-shirts for my fellas for our concert experience this afternoon down at NYU's Skirball Center. Fun, fun, fun. We all clapped our hands, stomped our feet, jumped in the air, & sang out. These guys are clever, funny, great musicians, and rockin' entertainers. P and I and all the other parents with kids our boys' ages are MOST grateful they started writing and recording kids' music.
Inspired by Meet the Elements: ""Elephants are mostly made of four elements/ And every living thing is mostly made of four elements/ Plants, bugs, birds, fish, bacteria, & man/Are mostly carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, & oxygen."
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
With apologies to the tunemakers of Sesame Street, I couldn't help but alter this line from "Who are the People in Your Neighborhood?" when thinking about my latest post. Anyone who spends time on a bike probably has a long list of why s/he rides. I know I do. I can talk about the fun, the easier parking, the savings on gas, lessening my carbon footprint, getting exercise, modeling a good habit to my kids, and on and on.
One advantage of bike commuting that I didn't anticipate, however, has been meeting a number of interesting individuals in the past eight months, people I don't think I would have met if I weren't riding a bike or paying close attention to the bikes they were riding. Yes, I have 'met' some of you out there virtually as we share a passion for city cycling or cargo bikes or family cycling and I do so love reading your blogs. But in my every day life, too, I have crossed paths with people whom I was probably crossing paths with while driving in my car but perhaps didn't notice or have the opportunity to speak with before I began pedaling. And so, I would like post from time-to-time about folks I have met thanks to bikes and my new-found bike love....
Kerri was riding along Ocean Avenue on her much-loved and well-used Xtracycle when I was loitering on the sidewalk near the beach while on a short vacation in Bradley Beach, NJ. I couldn't help but get excited by her bike and I called out, "Hey, Xtracycle!" when Kerri heard me and actually turned around to say hello. While I was holding a squirming F, she and I got to chat just for a short bit and I heard some of her story. Kerri told me that she was surprised to hear someone randomly call out "Xtracycle" since she's had hers for years but hasn't run into too many other Xtra owners in her corner of the Jersey Shore.
It turns out that Kerri is hard-core committed to bikes, promoting cycling, and recycling used bikes. To that end, she runs TWO amazing nonprofits called The Bike Church and Second Life Bikes that serve various-aged kids from Asbury Park. Kids learn to ride, get lessons about bike safety, practice basic bike repair, and earn their very own bikes by putting in 'work hours' through her programs. Read about her mission and kids here and here. Ever-cool Kerri also has a pedal-powered blender rigged on the back of her xtra so kids can pedal their way to healthy smoothies using their own power. Love this!
I wish I had gotten the chance to check out Kerri's programs first-hand and when I am back down the Jersey Shore I hope I can. Meeting Kerri has inspired me to find out if my city has a similiar earn-a-bike program targeted for kids from low-income backgrounds. In the meantime, I am so thankful that our paths crossed and I send a big shout-out to Kerri for allowing me to write about her and for turning her bike around to stop and talk with the crazy woman who yelled out "Hey, Xtracycle!" as she rode by.
Now I hope she doesn't mind that I am reposting some photos from her website. Photos courtesy of Kerri Martin , The Bike Church, and srsphotographer.com
UPDATE NOVEMBER 2013
Kerri is still doing amazing work at Second Life Bikes. She has an awesome website and they have recently launched a crowd-funding campaign with a big goal-- BUY the building where they currently are. I would so love to see Kerri be able to continue to do the great work she's been doing in the site where she's been doing it. A perfect holiday gift, perhaps, for someone who doesn't need more stuff but is all into kiddos and bikes?
Check out the campaign here!
Monday, September 21, 2009
The ultimate combination of entertainment and bikes coming together:
A big shout-out to Elly Blue from bikeportland.org. You may remember Elly from my wonderful encounter with her some time ago. These are here snaps and here is her story of the amazing Hopworksfiets.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
It's a toy cargo bike, hard at work carrying mail, brought to you by the folks at Playmobil. Gotta to admit that our older guys were never Playmobil fellas so I didn't know much about this toy company. However, I immediately suspected it was European: mail carriers, readying to distribute their mail by bike and by foot, and nary a helmet in site (although the gentleman's plastic cap on the right just may do the trick). Sure enough, Playmobil is a family-owned company from Germany, and while I was checking it out on the web, I found this interesting article.
As for the present buying, we ended up going for the pirate ship as F has become quite obsessed with these sea-faring vandals. Mostly I think he likes wearing hats and eye patches and yelling "Arrrr!" but perhaps I will head back to the store for a toy just for me.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
F helps load the Xtracycle with all his preschool-required gear. Packing for college just might be easier.
P and F on the Rudge Roadster. F's days in that seat are really limited.
F, with one of his teachers, happily lugs some of his stuff into school.
F gets busy making playdoh pizza with his classmates and another teacher. Doesn't worry too much about his parents heading out... or not at all.
Monday, August 31, 2009
So this morning marked a few firsts: The first day of first grade for two of my fellows (wow!) and our first day of first-day-of-school bike commuting. (We've been bike commuting to school since March). I was supremely nervous about our get-out time this morning. The boys don't sleep particularly late but we've been having relatively leisurely mornings, in terms of getting breakfast and getting dressed, this summer. Just thinking about getting up and out with full bellies, in clean clothes, and with lunches packed was daunting. I let myself ponder-- for a moment-- that if we were not biking to school, we would have more flexibility about when we could leave the apartment and still get to school on time.
The two school boys were up and rarin' to go. Would it be too much to hope that they feel like this every first day of a new school year? Unfortunately, the preschooler, who doesn't start school until later this week and was up at 3:30AM visiting our room, had an extraordinarily rough morning. I got a little crazed, begging him -- to no avail, of course-- to stop crying, and announcing testily numerous times to no one particular that we were past our 'safe' leave time.
In the end, we all got the new first graders to school on time. But with all my craziness and rushing, we didn't quite capture that moment on film. Here we are, however, at PICK-UP on the first day of school.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
And as I started to read my current, light, end-of-summer library book, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez's latest, The Husband Habit, I was delighted to learn that the protagonist is a bike commuter. Vanessa, a chef in Albuquerque, gave up her car some years before and gets around on her bike. While her sister, Larissa, heads off to do research overseas, Vanessa is charged with looking after her ill (and quite cantankerous) mother. Larissa has left her car with car-free Vanessa so that Vanessa can do her daughterly duty. Looking at the red Subaru in her yard elicits this feeling:
Friday, August 14, 2009
It will be interesting to see just how the City supports cyclists. I was riding the bakfiets today with two of my fellows inside the cargo box when we passed a construction site where it was obviously break-time as the road was lined with lunching hard-hatted folks. In the two years we've lived here, it's been clear that Yale is continuously undergoing renovations and the re-routing of traffic to accommodate building is constant. As I was stopped at a red light at a busy corner in the midst of yet-another university renovation, I could overhear some of the workers' discussion about our cargo bike and how "absolutely unsafe it is" that I ride with my children. I left the intersection fuming. I am a cautious rider, one to always obey traffic rules and be hyper-aware of cars. The only reason why biking with my kids would be unsafe, I thought to myself as I pedaled away from the negative talk, has everything to do with cars and drivers. To quote a certain well-known cyclist: It's not about the bike.
Anyhoo-- here are a few snaps of some local fun bike times we've recently had.A night out with my friend C-- another mama of twins (one-year-olds!) and a singleton (6 1/2). We decided to head downtown for a kids-free evening and when I suggested we go by bike, C was up for it. Her sweet husband headed down to the basement and lugged her much-loved Schwinn up the stairs. C said that she used to ride it all the time when she owned her shoe store but her lovely Schwinn had been hanging by itself downstairs for some years.
Going out by bike was tons of fun. It made for simple parking and allowed us to easily hit a few spots without worrying about spaces and quarters. Plus, riding home after some serious eating helps beat the total lethargy too many calories brings. C's been living in New Haven for a long time so after two years of residence here, I finally hit some of the well-known bars that this unhip mama knew nothing about. I was darn full, so looking forward to those Belgium frites another night....
Friday night's pizza night in our home. We've always made the weekly run in the box bike b/c the storage is easy. Clearly though, the Radish will work just fine on future Friday evenings.This summer, I have spotted two, yes, TWO work cycles! (I told you we aren't Portland.) I spied an old-school ice cream trike traveling up the road a couple of weeks ago but wasn't fast enough to get a photo. However, I was delighted to come across Blue State Coffee's coffee trike this week. Coffee + Bikes= two of my FAVORITE things in the world.
Five kids on two cargo bikes. This week, we enjoyed hanging with two friends for the day. When their parents asked what the kids should pack, we asked them to bring their bicycle helmets. We started the morning with a trip downtown for bagels. My fellows, S & C, traveled with me on the back of the xtracycle while P took F and our two friends in the bakfiets. No minivan needed. Cool.