Collaborative art, a bucket bike ride, bounce house budgeting, another lakeside picnic, and fitness inspiration from an unlikely source…
Day 3, Sat, July 19
Money Spent: $8—Farmer’s Market, bounce house
Gas Used: 0 gallons
Quantity/Quality of Exercise: Very good for everyone: bike ride, bounce house, run
Temper: B… I was unnecessarily irritable and short tempered with Wyatt a few times in the morning (pre-coffee). Things got better once we set out on our bike ride and stayed even and enjoyable throughout. However, in the evening, Aaron and I both lost our patience with Wyatt and Duncan several times times (roughhousing, slamming doors, fighting, tattling, not following instructions, etc.). Depending on the portion of the day, I would grade my patience/temper in parenting the kids was a mostly A day with several clear C moments.
Toll on House/Yard: Neutral. Overall, it didn’t get much cleaner, but it at least was not any worse than it started out.
Screen Time: 35 minutes of TumbleBooks* in the morning. Wyatt and Duncan also got 15 minutes playing with their KidTech cameras in the afternoon. (The cameras are supposed to be for taking pictures/videos, but for some reason they also come loaded with games, so “camera time” usually devolves pretty quickly from taking and editing photos to playing games.)
* If you have young kids at home, I highly recommend TumbleBooks. It is an online database of more than 500 e-books for kids. We get free access through Wyatt’s school library—you can check your local public library to see if you can get access that way.
All three kids enjoy TumbleBooks. Milo (almost 3) and Duncan (5) can choose books by the pictures on their covers; Wyatt (8) knows how to scan for books he especially likes. Once a book is clicked on, it is read aloud and the illustrations from the book are shown on the screen. There is a little animation (e.g. the picture of a character might rock back and forth while that character is speaking) but to me, it still feels more enriching than watching TV. With television, all the work is done for the child—the action takes place on the screen and the watcher receives the story without much mental effort—with TumbleBooks, the text of the story is read aloud and more of the action of the story must be imagined by the child based on the words and the static pictures.
I have no research to back up my assumptions; I’m just going with my gut on this one… and, of course, also making myself feel better about the amount of time Milo spends in front of a screen in any given week.
Scheduled, over-, under-, or just right?: The day went fine but we found ourselves finished with dinner well ahead of schedule, something which doesn’t usually happen, and had no plan for the couple hours before bedtime. Aaron ended up giving the kids guitar and drumming lessons and we did some much needed cleaning/organizing work on the kids’ rooms before book time. I had a strong temptation to declare another movie night when we looked at the clock after dinner and found it was only 6PM, but I am glad I resisted.
Activities/Outings: Bike ride around Lake Merritt.
We started the day with a family breakfast of vegetarian sausage, scrambled eggs, toast, avocado, and fruit. Milo helped me crack the eggs.
After breakfast, Milo and I began making art together. Duncan soon joined us. I know that in kids’ art classes, it is typically frowned upon for the teacher to draw directly on a child’s page—the idea being that the child creates the artwork entirely on his/her own. However, I have found that for my kids, they are often engaged longer and more enthusiastically when we draw/paint together. Plus, it’s just fun. They enjoy me enjoying making stuff with them, and the way we go about it, there’s never any pressure or concern about the end result—we just enjoy the process of it. Often enough we end up liking our end results. Sometimes we work jointly on a drawing by adding onto each other’s creations: “Look, I made a tree!” “Okay, I’ll make a monkey in your tree.” “Here, I’m drawing a banana for him.” “Nope, that’s a dragon!” “Silly me, I see the wings now.” “Arghhhh! Here comes a giant red tornado!” “No more tree…”
Sometimes, especially with Milo, a kid will make a smear or a swirl of color, look at it for a while, and then tell me what it is, at which point I will make it come to life by adding a few details with a permanent marker—an eye here, an outline there, and voila, that smudge is now a bird.
These projects work best when they happen organically. Someone starts coloring, another joins in, and soon we are whipped into a frenzy, creating together with whatever supplies we have on hand. Sometimes the finished result goes up on the wall; sometimes it goes directly into the recycling; and sometimes it is saved to cut up and use for a collage later.
Here are today’s art supplies and results:
After our art session, Aaron headed out to play music with some guys he’s been getting together with off and on for the past few months. The kids and I left home on our bikes at about the same time, heading for Lake Merritt. Duncan and Wyatt rode their own bikes; I hauled Milo and Floyd in my cargo bike.
My cargo bike is a relatively recent acquisition. We have one family car, which I drive far more often than Aaron does, but for short errands and just getting around town, I am always more of a fan of biking and walking. Last fall, I posted on Facebook that I was looking for a cargo bike and soon after, a friend let me know that someone in her neighborhood was selling a Madsen Bucket Bike. I read up on the bike—it looks like a bicycle with a giant Rubbermaid container on the back with seats and seatbelts for up to 4 kids. The price was right (less than 1/3 of the cost of a new one) and the woman who was selling it sounded coherent, sane and likeable during our phone conversation, so I took a leap and bought the bike off her sight unseen. It was a very 21st century interaction:
- I posted to Facebook that I was looking for a cargo bike.
- The woman selling the bike posted to NextDoor about her bucket bike for sale.
- My friend saw my FB post and the NextDoor post about the bike and put us in touch with each other via email.
- We first emailed and then talked via cell phone about the bike.
- I paid her through PayPal.
- I knew from a Google search that the bike was too big to fit in my car, so I posted on TaskRabbit that I was looking for someone to transport the bike the 38 miles from the seller’s house to a bike shop near mine.
- I was contacted by text message by a TaskRabbit who would be passing near the bike seller’s neighborhood on her way to mine the following day. She offered to deliver the bike to the bike shop in her truck for $30. No money exchanged hands—the $30 was automatically debited from my card when the TaskRabbit completed her task.
- I picked the bike up from the bike shop the following afternoon.
Like just about anything, the bucket bike has its pros and cons. It is a big, heavy bike, difficult to maneuver while walking it, tippy at low speeds, not great on hills, and with a large but awkwardly shaped storage area. However, I can fit a couple kids and a week’s worth of groceries in it—the heaviest load I have carried was all three kids plus forty pounds of laundry—and it is a decent alternative to a second family car. For today’s journey, into the bucket went Milo, Milo’s little bike, Floyd, water bottles, food for a picnic lunch, sunscreen, a first aid kid and a picnic blanket.
First we biked to the Saturday Farmer’s Market; about a mile from our house. I was thinking we might stroll through and pick up some samples and possibly buy a little something to complement our lunch, but all the bike racks were full—there was no place to lock up the bucket bike with all the kids’ bikes—and I wasn’t sure if dogs were allowed in the market anyway. Back in Pennsylvania, I would’ve just left the bikes locked to themselves and the dog tied to the bikes, but around here, bikes get stolen at a high rate and I didn’t want to take a chance on leaving sweet and beautiful, six-month-old Floyd out of my sight. We stood on the edge of the farmer’s market on the sidewalk, cars whizzing past us on the busy street on one side, the deadening whirr of the back of the bounce house on our other side, people everywhere.
“Let’s get out of here,” I said.
“Can we at least go in the bouncy castle and ride the slides first?” Wyatt asked.
“Maybe. Go see how much it costs.”
He was back in a jiffy, announcing, “The man says it’s three tickets for two dollars!” He bit is lip and then asked, “Is that cheap enough for us?”
“Sure!” I said. “That’s great!” Heck, I thought, if all it costs is $2 for the kids to bounce, we might have to become regulars. I gave Wyatt a couple bucks and he ran off to buy the tickets. Duncan and Milo stayed with me until he was back, green tickets in hand, one for each of them.
“Help Milo into the bounce house before you go do the slide,” I called as they ran off.
“Okay!” Wyatt shouted over his shoulder. A few minutes, the three of them were back, crestfallen.
“The guy says it’s three tickets just for one kid to go,” Wyatt said. “So… um… which one of us gets to go?”
I left Wyatt with Floyd and the bikes and went to verify this with the ticket seller. Sure enough, the bounce house was three tickets for 15 minutes of bouncing and the slides cost three dollars for five rides. I coughed up three more dollars each for Wyatt and Duncan.
“Five whole rides?” Wyatt said jumping up and down. “We get five rides on the slide! Thank you, Mommy, thank you! Let’s go, Duncan!!”
“Yesssssss!” said Duncan and ran off after Wyatt, tickets in hand.
“Help Milo first,” I reminded them.
I stood by the side of the bounce house, watching Milo through the screen, waiting in line flanked by his brothers. As soon as he got to the front of the line and had scrambled into the bounce house, Wyatt and Duncan were off like a shot, running to the slide. Approximately 10 minutes later, Milo still jumping away, Wyatt and Duncan were back at my elbow, red-cheeked, smiling, eyes shining, exhilarated from the thrill of their rides down the slide.
“Can we go again? Can we go again?” they begged. “Please, please, please??”
“Nope,” I said.
“Remember the money drought?”
“Oh, yeah,” they said and that was the end of their begging. They are being very good sports about this whole thing. Knowing that there’s a real reason we can’t just say “yes” to every purchase– and knowing that the prize for making it through this drought is not having to move again– makes it a lot easier to swallow when we have to say “no” to them. (It also makes them a lot more appreciative when we say “yes”.)
I always wanted to have a big family… and I never thought three kids was a big family until we moved to California. When Milo outgrew his infancy, it was hard for me to say goodbye to our baby days forever. I loved every part of it—being pregnant, nursing, caring for our infants and watching them grow—but I know we made the choice to stop at three for sound reasons. I have helped myself get over my dreams of “just one more” by relishing all the other babies in my life—the children of my friends, cousins, and sister. I love seeing them getting use out of our hand-me-downs; it makes it a lot easier to give up family favorites, such as beloved outfits worn by all three kids. I also developed a habit of mentally pointing out to myself times when having more children would be highly inconvenient, such as buying airfare, eating at restaurants, or when I take an honest look at our trashed house and cash-less bank account and realize we are in no shape to take on any more dependents any time in the near future. I am sure that if we had stopped after Wyatt, he would have been able to bounce to his heart’s content at the Farmer’s Market; with more kids, every little such decision has to be multiplied by the number of children. It would be no biggie to spend $10 or so on a bounce house every week. $30, $40, or $50 is a different story entirely.
After the farmer’s market, we continued to Lake Merritt, riding the whole 3-mile loop around the lake, stopping halfway around for a picnic lunch. Milo and Floyd weren’t getting as much exercise as the rest of us since they were stuck in the bucket, but neither of them seemed to mind. After lunch, Milo rode his little run bike for part of the way and then asked to get back in the bucket. He ended up falling asleep on the way home.
I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was in 4th grade, so I still cannot get over the amazement of seeing Wyatt and Duncan riding so well at ages 8 and 5. I wished I had a video camera on my handlebars to record Duncan riding ahead of me on the path. Every so often, for no reason at all– not even calling out, “Watch this!” or looking around to see if he had an audience– Duncan would turn sideways on his bike seat, both legs on the same side, and balance, sidesaddle, until he started to lose momentum, and then at the last moment, he’d turn front, hitch his leg back over the center bar to the correct side and pedal on as if nothing had happened. I held my breath each time he swungs his leg over, sure he was going to twerk his handlebars and bail. (Sometimes he does crash; he wears a full-face helmet when he rides.) Even more impressive, lately he has been hopping his feet up onto his bike seat and balancing, standing on his seat with his hands on the handlebars. He makes it look easy, dropping back down and pedaling off without any difficulty. I do not have– and never have had– the nerve to attempt this myself.
The lake path is pretty flat and easy, even hauling the cargo bike wasn’t much of an effort, but the last mile home is a gradual uphill climb. By the time we got home, Duncan was pretty beat—five and a half miles of biking (and performing bike tricks) at age five is more than enough exercise for him for one day.
For me, however, although I was active and using my legs and core, I never really got my heart rate up; since I am usually limited to exercising with the kids along these days, this is something that keeps happening to me: I’ll get a decent amount of activity in a day, but miss out on that burn in my lungs and jellied feeling in my legs that I would get after a good run. It’s been a year since Milo stopped riding in the stroller, and, having no regular childcare for him, I have not been getting to go running with any regularity since last year. I plan to coach soccer and run cross-country in the fall, so I need to start working some runs into my week if I want to enjoy those things. I was thinking about this when we got home from our bike ride. Everyone was starting to get hungry, but I had decided that it was too early for dinner but too late for snacking without risking spoiling their appetites. I asked Aaron if he could hold everyone at bay for half an hour so I could squeeze in a quick run before we threw dinner together.
I wasn’t feeling very sprightly and I didn’t time for a long nice and easy run, so I jogged up to a park near our house with the intention of doing some sprints and two-footed jumps up and down the long staircase there. My legs were pretty dead and my heart wasn’t into it, so I found myself just jogging up and down the stairs, delaying pushing myself any harder. I just wasn’t feeling it. I had left Aaron at home with three hungry, tired kids who had already used up their screen time allotment for the day– I owed it to him to make good use of my workout. Come on, Lindsey, just do it, I told myself, delaying halfway up the staircase. My long-sleeved shirt was bugging me; I pulled at my collar, feeling overheated and sweaty. Nobody was around, it was late enough in the day that I wasn’t worried about sun exposure, and I was wearing a dark blue sports bra– nothing see-through and with more coverage than a bikini top. So, I took off my shirt and hung it on the railing. I often used to workout in just a sports bra, but in recent years I had given up this habit for two reasons: I am concerned about the damaging effects of cumulative sun exposure and also, I am a 36-year-old mother of three. I’ve got no use for a tan, no reason to invite ogling and/or criticism, and, to be completely truthful, since it’s been years since we have had a full length mirror around, I have no good sense of how I even look in terms of outward fitness/tone. I am happy and comfortable with my body, and I know Aaron likes me how I am, so that’s good enough for me.
With my shirt off, I felt more comfortable. I began jumping up the stairs, starting with taking two at a time and then switching to landing on each stair as I fatigued. When I came back from my first trip to the top of the flight, I saw an older woman watching me. She had a cane in one hand and her other hand was resting on the elbow of a man I took for her son or grandson. They were just standing there, blatantly staring at me. “I don’t know,” I heard the man say to her, a smile playing on his lips.
My first thought was that they were critical of my choice to work out without my shirt in a public place. I headed back up the stairs in my second set of jumps, deciding I’d call it a day after this and jog home for dinner. When I came to the bottom, the woman and the man approached me. I watched them warily. As they got closer, I saw that the woman looked like she could have been a relative of my Lebanese grandmother, my mom’s mom. She spoke to me in accented English.
“I am trying to see if I can do just one jump like you do.”
“Oh,” I said, smiling. I had misjudged her.
She handed her cane to her companion, placed one hand on the railing, and then jumped landing with two feet on the first stair. He knees wobbled for a moment, but she caught herself before her son had a chance to grab her elbow. Then she stepped down off the stair, took back her cane and said, “Next time, I do two. Thank you for inspiring me.”
I wish I had had the wherewithal to say something witty in the moment, but all I managed was, “No, no, thank you. You have inspired me.” Too sycophantic in retrospect, but nevertheless, sincere. I did another set before jogging home.
For dinner, we made a smorgasbord of leftovers from the two dinners prior, rounded out with some cooked carrots and a box of frozen turkey corndogs the kids had picked out at Trader Joe’s. Duncan, who says he is a “mostly vegetarian”, exclaimed, “I love these things: hotdogs on a stick!” Milo ate one bite of his hot dog and all of the cornbread exterior.
We usually don’t sit down to eat dinner until 6:30PM or so, but here we found ourselves finished with dinner just after 6PM. We have no contingency plan for this. We could take a walk or bike ride, but the kids already had had a lot of that and Aaron had already bathed Milo while I was running. We could play a game, but we don’t own a single game with all its pieces—a fault of moving several times, the kids not playing with game pieces appropriately 90% of the time, and me not having the discipline to make sure everything gets picked up and put away. The kids had already had screen time and art time and there was more than enough time for extended bedtime reading. So, we settled for music lessons and picking up the kids’ rooms. Aaron gave Wyatt a guitar lesson while Duncan showered and picked up his toys and then gave Duncan a drumming lesson while Wyatt showered and picked up his legos. Milo wanted a guitar lesson, too, so he sat on Aaron’s lap while Aaron made up songs about everyone in the family. I caught the end of Milo’s “lesson” when I came down to bring him up to brush his teeth.
Aaron was singing, “Milo is a good boy, a good boy, a very, very, very good boy…”
“Now sing song ‘bout Mommy!” Milo said.
“Okay,” said Aaron, strumming his guitar, and then he looked at me and sang, “Mommy… oh, Mommy, Mommy is the prettiest lady, the prettiest, prettiest lady, yes, Mommy is the prettiest lady around… and that’s why I want you to go to bed, oh, yes, I want you to go to bed. Right now. Pretty please. Gooooood night.”