The training wheels come off!

October 15, 2014 at 10:41 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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And go right back on again…

Last weekend I thought it would be fun to give two wheels a go. We’ve been talking about it all summer. We’d even picked out a long, gently sloping hill at High Park that we’d planned to try it out on. I told him we’d wait until the weather was cooler and he could wear jeans (to minimize damage to the knees, I quietly whispered to myself.) You should see this kid book it on his training wheels – they barely touch the pavement. He was ready.

Except…this is Liam we’re talking about.

He took his first go down the hill and he kind of panicked. Wait, what are we doing?! I’m going to fall down!! So we found a more level spot and tried again. He hollered, “Hold me up! Don’t let go!” And then he forgot to pedal. And running on a bumpy, grassy lot next to a teeny, tiny bike while holding the seat is kind of exhausting. So I let go. And he fell. Ungracefully. He announced that he was ready for his training wheels back now.

I reassured him all the way to the car as we went to fetch the wrench. Both James and I were quite old when we finally mastered the bike, and I told him we could try this again in the spring. I noticed I could raise the training wheels a bit, maybe giving him a chance to ease into this whole balancing thing. I even warned him that his wheels were higher, and he seemed okay with it. Until he took a curve too quickly and fell down again. Oh, the drama! Back to the car for the wrench!

Thankfully, the whole experience didn’t scar him, and he happily got back on his bike once I’d gotten everything back to the way it was. Though, in typical Liam fashion, he proclaimed that he’d have to “train all over again” now. Let’s hope we can get in a few more bike rides, and amusing selfies, before the cold weather sets in.

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Happy Birthday to Evie!

September 3, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Evie turns seven Friday, so we celebrated early at the Kansas Arboretum in Overland Park over Labor Day Weekend. We had ourselves a nice little BBQ picnic, complete with hotdogs, chips, and homemade woopie pies. Yum! Sorry no photos of the actual present opening…Liam was in a mood, ready to run around when the rest of us were ready to sit down, so I couldn’t man the camera. Besides, present pictures are so boring, don’t you think? Instead I followed these crazy kooks along the myriad foot paths all around the lush landscape. And here’s a rare sight – all four of the kids in one frame! Wow. For the most part Liam and Evie ran ahead, Camden and I  weren’t far behind, and Milo wanted to be carried, forcing the rest of our merry band to trail behind and take a lot of breaks.

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Evie stopped to pet the fishes…a lot.

By mid-afternoon we were all hot and tired and ready to go home. Well, all except Liam, who dragged me, grandpa and grandma over to see the trains. Can’t leave without seeing those!

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That evening we met up with James and his friends in Olathe for sushi. He and Travis had spent the afternoon playing golf in the hot summer sun. I had to bring a picnic lunch for Liam because, and I quote, “Sushi! Ewwww, grooooosss!”

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I had my favorites, salmon and a smoked eel dragon roll. The sushi was only so-so IMO, but the presentation was fantastic! Everyone’s meals came out with tiny LED lights underneath. Cool!

On Sunday Dad and I biked a very ambitious 30 miles on the Little Blue Trace trail, a concrete and chat trail that runs mostly through farmland from Independence up to Atherton. We passed this scenic barn, but all I had with me was my iPhone. Still, with the wonders of Photoshop, it turned out pretty decent. Eat your heart out, Instagram filters!

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The last 10 miles were brutal – the temperature was rising into the 90s, my butt was sore, and we ran out of water. Why do I always do this to myself? But the sweet reward of an air-conditioned truck and $1 sodas at Sonic soon had me forgetting all the pain and suffering. Mom wasn’t too pleased that our morning jaunt turned into an all-day affair, but she and Liam had a nice time playing games, and we did manage to get dinner fixed in time for another Shaver invasion. Mom’s famous BBQ sweet and sour pork, this time with dad as the chef. One of my favorites, and it was delish!

Dog Days of Summer

August 26, 2014 at 9:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I have a morning person on my hands here. Saturday he got me up at 5:45, ready for breakfast and a bike ride. I guess all those 6:15 wake up calls all week got him conditioned for early mornings. Yay. Actually, the bike ride was pretty awesome. It’s been 100+ degrees almost every day lately, and it was only 75 when we left the house. We’re still working on stamina – about three blocks from our house he pooped out and I had to call James to pick us up. But it was nice to get on the bike again.

It was so nice, in fact, that after I dropped Liam off at school on Monday, I went for a solo ride around High Park and surrounding neighborhoods. And you know what? After riding for an hour, that uphill on the way to our house had me huffing and puffing, too! Perhaps I should cut the boy some slack.

Monday afternoon I volunteered to help out with Liam’s art class. It’s been interesting to see how he is in a classroom setting. His art skills are definitely on the rudimentary side, though he did an admirable job making a little doggy face on his construction paper. This time he was far less clingy, though at one point he got very upset that he’d done the project wrong. I wondered if that was just for my benefit – I have a feeling he wouldn’t have erupted into tears if I hadn’t been there to give him a hug. I walked around and helped the kids with their gluing, and as each child finished, they were told they could play with their “busy bags” – little bags of blocks and tinker toys at each table to keep their hands busy. Each of the kids went right for the bags…except Liam. I asked him several times, but he seemed much more content just to watch the kids at his table play. When his teacher arrived at the end of art class, she instructed them to take their seats, put away their busy bags, and signal – a little hand signal they all do with one finger over their lips and two fingers in the air, a sign to be quiet and listen. Liam went right to his seat and signaled, eager to please the adult in the room.

This morning Liam was bright-eyed and bushy tailed, finally over the cold he had over the weekend. They’re serving hot dogs today at lunch, so he wanted to try buying lunch today. That left us with extra time this morning, and when I asked him, he jumped at the chance to walk to school. And what a difference from last Monday! He practically ran the whole way, and we made it there in record time. We even had time to stop and watch the marching band practicing on the football field at the high school. Liam says someday he wants to play a trombone…made of poop. Sigh.

I left him in line behind his friend Joshua, and I overheard him excitedly telling him how he’d walked to school. I’m hoping this bodes well for future walks. It really is a nice way to start the morning.

First Bike

May 17, 2014 at 6:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Liam’s never been much for his tricycle. We make it halfway down the sidewalk before he gives up, and I end up carrying it all the way back up to the house. He can barely reach the pedals on the big wheel, so he doesn’t fair much better with that. But I wondered if he might do better on a bike with training wheels – being above the pedals and pushing down might work better for him. At Walmart the Lightening McQueen bikes are upwards of $50 or more, which seemed steep for something he may not like and/or will outgrow in a couple of years. So imagine my delight when I discovered that this weekend was Derby’s official garage sale extravaganza. Friday morning Liam and I drove around for an hour looking for bikes at garage sales on just about every block. The search was mostly fruitless – everything was too big – when finally we came across this gem.

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Yes, I know it’s a girl’s bike. Liam was like, “It’s pretty girlie. But pink is close to red, I guess. Hmmm.” I told him we’d run over to Lowe’s for some red spray paint. He warmed up to the idea. I tried to get him to sit on the bike before we bought it, but he said, “You have to paint it first.” Well, la-dee-da. The bike was in great shape, no rust and not much wear and tear. I considered aloud whether we should keep looking for a boys bike, but apparently (sigh, *eye roll*) Liam had shopped long enough. So much like his daddy! Fifteen dollars, and the bike was ours. Sweet!

I told Liam it was probably better that we found a girl’s bike: Girls take better care of their things than boys. To which he replied, “But I’m a boy and I take good care of my things.” Yes, dear. You’re the exception.

Four dollars more for spray paint, and the project commenced.

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Liam couldn’t work the spray can, so he mostly watched. But he did a great job handing me tools and helping me with the tape. After the paint dried and the bike was reassembled, a storm system parked itself over our house. Not to be deterred, he tried it out in the garage a bit. He couldn’t wait for Saturday.

In the morning I added a few personal touches, and then it was ready to take for a spin.

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Bike with LiamNot too shabby for a $20 fixer upper. You’ll see it says, “Ka-chow!” on the handlebars. I threw in some lightening bolts, too. Thought maybe we could add some foil Cars stickers to the body later. And let me tell ya: he loves it! He’ll need a little practice on the pedals, and he’ll need to build up the strength in his legs to get back up the hill. On the downhill, though, he’s a champ. In the morning he needed me to push, but on his second go in the afternoon he had it down. I still had to push him up the hill. But he was definitely getting the gist. It’ll likely be awhile before he’s ready to shed those training wheels. But I’m okay with that. For now, I’ve got a happy, mobile boy.

Our First (And Probably Last) Bike Ride at the Mall

October 26, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Ambitious, I know. Taking Liam WITH the bike ON the train TO the Mall. But it’s something I’ve been wanting to do since we got the child seat, and it seemed doable. We were supposed to go on Sunday, but I came down with a cold. Feeling much better today, I figured I’d give it a try. I looked up the rules of taking a bike on the metro, and it looked like as long as I avoided rush hour and boarded the first or last car, I was good to go. So we arrived just in time for the 10:02 train headed to DC. Liam sat comfortably in his bike seat for the ride, and I wedged ourselves in the back of the car and stayed relatively clear of passengers. He got lots of smiles and waves, like always. We changed trains at Metro Center lickity split, even catching an earlier connection that I’d expected. We easily found the elevator at the Smithsonian stop. A lady in the elevator commented that I’d gone to a lot of trouble. But, really, it was nothing!

From the Smithsonian stop Liam and I headed toward the tidal basin. I enjoyed the view along the waterfront, and Liam enjoyed all of the cranes and bulldozers parked currently parked in front of the Jefferson Memorial. The trail wasn’t very crowded (probably because of the construction), so we had a nice, leisurely ride. I got us a little lost around the Lincoln Memorial, but a helpful construction worker set us on the right path. We biked in front of the memorial, which had a surprisingly sparse crowd. But Liam seemed to enjoy watching the planes taking off and landing from nearby National Airport. Whatever makes him happy!

Next stop, the carousel at the Mall, where we disembarked and had a snack. We sat on a bench and watched the horses spin. All the while Liam pointed and neighed. There was actually much neighing on this ride – first at the golden horses at Arlington Bridge, then at the carousel, and then at Grant’s Memorial.

For lunch we parked the bike at the Museum of the American Indian (they even had designated bike racks!), and dined on pulled bison sandwiches and fries. I got us a sweet potato tart, thinking Liam would devour it, but he didn’t want anything to do with it. Thankfully I brought enough cookies for him to chow on.

Back on the bike by 1:00, we headed toward the L’Enfant station. I wanted to try an alternate route home to see if it was faster. First obstacle, the sidewalk was closed and I had to negotiate some square curbs to get around it. The bike came dangerously close to tipping over as I walked us down a curb, but I caught it just in time. We found the elevator easily enough, but once in the station, a station manager confronted me, claiming I wasn’t supposed to leave Liam in the seat. He tried to convince me that Liam would be safer walking next to me on the platform with the oncoming trains. What?! Apparently it’s some unwritten rule that kids can’t ride in the bike seat in case there’s a fire on the train and I’ve got to get him out in a hurry. But, seriously, in any other situation he’s much safer in the seat! We had a bit of a heated argument, but I could see he wasn’t going to let it slide. So I unbuckled Liam, let him down, and coaxed him to the elevator. Once the doors opened on the platform, he saw the train and started jogging over there in front of me. Aaaaa! This lady grabbed him, thankfully. I didn’t care what sort of “rule” I was breaking, Liam was much safer in the seat. I figured I’d leave him unbuckled, which was in accordance with the spirit of the rule. Right?

Of course we hit another obstacle. Our train broke down at the Columbia Heights station, and we had to wait for them to clear it out and next train to come through. By the time we made our connection at Fort Totten, it was clear Liam was in need of a nap. Riding the elevator up to the Red Line, he did that pissed off arch his back thing and just about fell out of the seat! Wonderful.

Finally, we made it to Forest Glen, and then home by 2:30. Liam managed to keep his eyes open long enough to make it home, and he was down for the count before his head even hit the mattress.

This turned into a long and arduous adventure, but it was still mostly fun. Next time (if there ever IS a next time), I guess I’ll have to bring the Boba and wear Liam while on the train. Assuming I’ve got enough room in my backpack to stow it once we’re back on the bike, I think that could work. Though it still seems like an unnecessary pain in the ass.

James becomes “The Man” and Liam continues to amaze me

September 17, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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It’s nearly official – James got the job! He’s just waiting to hear what his start date will be. What a relief that we don’t have to move with this job! He’ll be working from a different office, but it shouldn’t add that much to his commute. He’ll be a supervisor, which is something he hasn’t done before, and will help round out is already pretty extensive resume. Well, extensive within the Immigration branch, anyway. He’ll also be wearing a suit everyday. Thank god I talked him out of buying those Lumburg-style shirts with the white collars. Can I get an “M, kay?”

I am loving this fall weather! Now that I’ve got the kiddo his own perch on the back of the bike, I’ve been going out in the mornings to ride the trail, and I usually go a mile or two and then head back. But Wednesday I felt adventuresome, so I rode about as far as I could comfortably go, all the way to New Hampshire Ave and Sligo Creek Parkway. Almost 5 miles. Liam was snug as a bug back there, not a peep. What I didn’t consider – and this always happens to me – is that the ride was almost entirely up hill on the way back. I was definitely feeling it around mile 2, so we stopped to play for awhile at a playground. I wisely brought snacks, so he was content on the exhausting ride all the way home. We were out for almost 3 hours, and he loved it. I remember when I first put that helmet on him at the bike shop and how much he protested. Now, when I have the bike all set up outside, he marches down the steps, stands next to the bike, and flings his arms up at the seat. Helmet goes on without protest. He sits back there and points to trucks on the road, barks at dogs on the trail, and talks to himself. How is it I got such a cool kid?

My friends with older kids tell me those days are numbered. That soon after he really starts talking, he’ll start having Opinions. Now I decide everything we’re going to do that day, and he pretty much does it. So, because Liam did so well on our 3-hour jaunt, I’m going to take Liam for a ride at the National Mall. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, even before Liam was born, but I figured now it would be too much of a hassle. But as much as he loves riding the train and riding the bike, I think we could do it. And now’s the time, before he starts deciding for himself!

A Very Hot Ride

July 6, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Last week Liam and I popped into the bike shop to inquire about baby bike seats. I know I talked about doing this months ago, but it’s taken awhile to get up the motivation to look into it. I was still trying to decide if I was going to spend big money on a new one, or try to find one used. Good thing I stopped in to the shop to talk to them first. Turns out you have to have a matching rack to go with the seat, something I’ve never seen in the consignment shops. And because my bike frame is so small (midget size, you might say), we weren’t even sure a baby seat would attach properly. They were out of stock, but ordered me one and expected it in at the end of the week. The weather was so cool last week, low 80s, perfect biking weather.

But, of course, the seat didn’t come in until the weekend. And with the holiday and my schedule, the soonest I could pick it up was today. Today, when Washington was expecting a record-setting high of 100 degrees. Undeterred, I strapped Liam onto my back, then walked my bike about a mile down a very hot and busy Georgia Avenue to the shop. We left at 10 AM when it was a mere 92 degrees. My face just poured sweat, and Liam remained dazedly silent. Thankfully the guys at the shop got the seat on there just fine, and we fitted Liam with a bike helmet (quite an ordeal, though still not as bad as the doctor’s office). We even got a bell, something I’ve been wanting so I can stop shouting, “On your left!” every time we pass someone on the trail. Liam looked so super cute in his helmet, even though he was screaming the whole time I made him wear it. His seat looks absolutely gargantuan on my bike, but with our dorky helmets, I’m not too concerned about how we look.

To help calm him down for our hot ride home, we stopped in the Tropical Ice Cream shop next door. This was my first time, and I have a feeling I’ll be coming back. We tried a scoop of Guanabana Soursop flavor, mostly because I’d never heard of it, and it had a mellow, creamy flavor. It dried up those tears fast enough, for sure. At least until we got back to the shop and strapped Liam into his seat with his helmet on. He wailed for about a block until we got up a little speed. Then he rather enjoyed it. It took me a bit to get used to the balance – I chose to walk the bike along the road until we got to the pedestrian bridge, then waited until we were facing downhill before mounting the bike. Then I discovered it’s actually much easier to balance while riding than while pushing and walking. Getting on and off the bike is the trickiest – I’m used to leaning the bike toward me and swinging my right foot around the back of the seat, but with Liam there, I have to hook my foot up over the bar. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it soon enough. We got home around noon, when the high was 99 degrees. Ugh. Needless to say we got right into the house, and have no plans for going outdoors again today.

They’re calling for more blistering heat tomorrow, but I’m hoping if Liam and I get going right after breakfast, we can take a short jaunt up and down the trail before it hits 90. Most of the path is shaded, but it’s all sun from my house to the trail. Thankfully it looks like the heat will abate by the weekend. I’m so happy to be back on my bike again. And I hope Liam grows to love riding with me…though I doubt he’ll ever love the helmet.

Bikeriding: A History

July 14, 2008 at 3:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 11 years old. Which is pretty old, I’ll admit. But I have a few excuses: 1) I was small for my age and my parents didn’t have much money, so when my mom found a reasonably-priced garage sale bike that was entirely too big for me, she went ahead and bought it. I was 8 at the time, and once the bike was affixed with training wheels, I practically had to mount it like a horse. My feet barely reached the pedals, much less the ground. 2) My teacher (mom) didn’t actually know how to ride a bike herself, so she consulted Parents magazine, which said if you start to fall to your right, steer right. And if you start to fall to your left, steer left. Which is exactly the right way you ride a bike, but to my eight-year-old logic, that sounded like suicide.

So picture me on what in retrospect was a pretty awesome bike (it was hot pink with a faded floral banana seat, long handlebars, and a white wicker basket affixed to the front, much like
this bike) wobbling left and right onto my training wheels, going about 2-inches per second, terrified I’m going to skin something on the concrete. And I did. A couple times. After about a week, I was done with bike riding. The bike went into the garage for 3 long years. And due to the increased popularity of scooters, I adeptly hid the fact that by age 11, I still couldn’t actually ride a bike.

Enter serendipity. Our neighbor gave us a bike the summer between fifth and sixth grade. It was a small, red dirt bike, one both my sister and I could fit easily. This time, remembering all my skinned knees on the sidewalk, I insisted we learn by riding down a grassy hill at my elementary school. My dad took us this time, and within an afternoon both my sister and I were ready to take our bikes on the road. This time I could actually touch the ground on my supercool banana seat bike, and I rode it with confidence from that day forth.

Eventually I upgraded to a 10-speed with the curly handlebars (oh-so-cool at the time) that got stolen right before I went to college. My junior year, all my housemates rode bikes, and one of them, who worked at Kmart, managed to hook me up with a huffy freestyle that was perfect for my size. It had pegs on the wheels and handlebars that could turn all the way around because the brake lines ran inside the frame. Really, it was a kids bike, but it was perfect. I rode that bike about a mile and a half to and from school for two years. Then one day, on my way home, I spied a little boy riding toward me down the street, and he was riding the same damn bike I was. He even yelled it out, “We gots the same bike!” Yes, little 10-year-old boy, we do. Needless to say, after graduation, I decided it was time for another upgrade.

I managed to snag an 18-speed women’s street bike at a garage sale for $15, and that’s the bike I started riding to work. It fared well on speed, but precarious in the mud that often collected under the overpasses. Upon hearing we were moving to NYC, I regretfully added that bike to our giveaway pile. But by some miracle, we had more money in NY than I had anticipated, so I was able to pimp my ride substantially, upgrading to a titanium, 21-speed Trek hybrid. I did lots of exploring in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Silver Spring, Georgetown, Kansas City, and Johnson County on that bike. It’s still serving me well.

So when it came time to buy my sister a birthday present this year, I decided what better gift than a bike! I hunted craigslist and garage sales to no avail — I think that $15 gem I found seven years ago was a fluke. Plus these days bikes are more popular. So I settled on a seven-speed Schwinn Cruiser I found at Target. I took it for a test drive, and what do you know, it brought back all of these memories about my first bike. I brought it over to Jill’s on Saturday, and she loved it. It felt like old times, Jill and I cruisin’ down the street on our bikes. And once Evie’s old enough, we’ll have her in tow, too. Doug brought home one of those kid trailers for Jill’s new bike, and we immediately tested Evie out in it. We got her all harnessed in, but when we towed her around briefly in the driveway, she started sliding, and sliding, and whoops! Yeah, she’s gonna have to grow into this one.

OMG, buying gas sucks!

June 9, 2008 at 9:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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$3.99. Gas is $3.99 here in KS. That’s a lot. And it’s threatening to rise. I swear it wasn’t long ago I could fill up for less than $10! Well, i was a poor college student, so I guess maybe it was awhile ago. But time flies when you’re paying out the ass to drive! It’s been raining pretty much non-stop the last couple of weeks, so I’ve been bad about the biking-to-work plan. I’m hoping to remedy that tomorrow — I’ve got to get in all the rides I can before it gets impossibly hot.

Enough Excuses!

May 9, 2008 at 5:11 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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First it was too cold. Then it was too wet. Then I got sick. But now, with record-breaking gas prices already upon us, I have got to start riding the ol’ bike to work. That first 20-mile round-trip trek is always the hardest, and since I haven’t biked that far since about last September, it’s liable to about kill me. But my wallet and my fat butt will both benefit from it.

In other news, my parents are off to OH this week to help my poor grandma seek out assisted living places, so I’m going to be baby-sitting Evie all day Tuesday. Here’s how I’m expecting the day to go…

NOON: Arrive to a smiling, happy baby. Jill goes over the basics.
1 PM: After lunch of strained peaches and carrots, and diaper change, we start the photo shoot.
1:30 PM: Wardrobe change!
2 PM: More photo shoot. Sensing the need for a nap, she promptly falls asleep.
4 PM: Refreshed from her nap, we resume the crawling, putting things in mouth, and other cute, photographable activities.
4:30 PM: Wardrobe change!
5 PM: Dinner time. Evie eats everything I give her with no fuss whatsoever.
6:30 PM: Dad’s home!

Yeah, I’m sure that’s rosier than reality, but one can hope.

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