Rolling Spectacles And Other Embarrassments That Make Up My Life

So I’m a circus. It’s probably due to the big curly clown hair, but it seems regardless of where I go, it’s a performance. Three months ago, we acquired one of these.

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Jealous? I know I was when I first saw a mom riding her two little kids in a cargo trike. Photo Credit : Nihola.com

Since that fabulous day three months ago, when a truck dropped our new bike on our doorstep,  we’ve put 800 kilometers on it. About 500 miles for my US friends. This bike is amazing, we take it grocery shopping, for short haul trips, transport Mini-Tex in it everywhere. He loves it, we love it, and based on the amount of people screaming out their car windows “Neat bike!”, our fellow townspeople love it too.

Children especially love our bike, because, and I say this from experience, at times it’s kind of like riding on a tiny trackless roller coaster. I’m not ashamed to say I beg my husband to bike me to our date night locations. It’s tremendous fun and I feel like the queen waving at my public as we ride by while everyone stares.

Knowing all of this, when we packed up to visit Aunty Betty, Carter, his mom and his little sister at the beach. I pleaded with Tex to load our trike into the van. And because Tex is a nice guy, he did, even though it’s totally a pain because while sturdy, useful and a perfect vehicle for us, our Nihola Family trike is neither light nor easy to maneuver into a van. It’s only through a combination of Tex’s farm boy know-how and his engineering smarts that it manages to fit.

Flash forward to us arriving at my Aunt’s cottage at the beach. The kids immediately high tailed it to meet us and shrieked with joy and excitement, seeing the bike. I should add a disclaimer here. While we easily transport our son and two weeks of groceries home in our Nihola trike, it’s only meant to carry 220 lbs or 100 kgs in the front. And while a person can absolutely put that amount of weight in the front, oh boy is the rider ever going to feel it the next day. Plan to take the elevator if you’re ferrying around the maximum weight because in addition to the cargo, the bike itself weighs 70 lbs. On top of the mass of the actual rider because I’m assuming the seat is too high for most woodland fairies and forest eleves. Also those magical, weightless creatures are notorious for clinging to union rules and taking extended coffee breaks so they don’t make good cyclists to begin with.

So we strap in Mini-Tex, then we strap in Carter’s sister CiCi, and finally eight year old Carter crouches in the front. A combined weight of 300 ish pounds all told. Did I mention that this is a road bike? Meaning it’s meant for paved flat surfaces. Being an engineer, Tex already tricked out the gearing system so it’s easier to pedal on grass but gravel and large hills still pose a challenge.

With this in mind, I steered the bike and the children down a hill first. This would have gone better if I’d understood the braking system but things like common sense and asking Tex for explanations aren’t my forte. As it was, I yelled for CiCi and Carter to “Lean right!” as we careened around a corner at top speed. While trikes are tremendously stable for road biking, if a person takes a corner at a high enough speed, it is possible to flip the Nihola trike. Which is why it’s helpful if the riders and passengers shift their weight while turning. I swung my weight over the side as the kids leaned right and the wheels miraculously stayed on the ground.

We went over rocks, Carter went bump, bump, bump in the hold of the trike. CiCi and Mini-Tex had the best seats in the house with a cushion under their tiny bums. I spotted a pot hole a second too late, the front wheels avoided it, but the back wheel hit it smack in the middle. I clung to the handlebars as my butt bounced a foot in the air. As my tailbone came crashing down on the seat, I silently thankedmy huasband for choosing the most padded of bikes seats.

We pedalled  over grass and rocks. We enraged a neighbour’s dog who had never seen anything like our bike. The local cottage owners stared slack jawed as we whizzed by while their children looked on enviously. I rode and rode, searching for a relatively flat route back to my Aunt’s cottage. It seemed like every road was a mountain. My thighs burned from the exertion of transporting three children.

After about my third lap of the entire community, I spotted it; the only gentle hill which led to my Aunt’s cottage. The only problem was, it wasn’t paved. “Lean forward” I called to my young passengers as I approached the incline, pedalling at top speed. Carter and CiCi obediently hunched forward. I pedalled hard. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. The bike slowed to a crawl. A snail and two caterpillars passed us. I kept pedalling. My breath was a wheeze. “We might go backwards” I warned just as the tire slipped on the gravel. “Ahhh!” I yelled in frustration. “EEEEEE” CiCi and Carter yelled in fear. Mini-Tex was still trying to figure out why he was having to share his ride, so he was unperturbed. A man came out to his porch to see the commotion.

Once again, I tried to pedal. “Lean forward!” I commanded the children. Carter and CiCi were all but hanging over the front end of the trike but the tries were still spinning out on the gravel. Exhausted from the effort, I stopped pedalling and the bike lurched backwards again. CiCi’s little hands white knuckled the side of the frame. The man who was watching started to sprint towards us, “I’ll give you a push” he cried.

Just then, I spotted it. Although it was gravel now, at one point, the road had been paved, and just to the left of my back wheel, I spotted a two inch strip of pavement. I let go of the pedals and the bike rolled backwards again, then I gathered every ounce of energy left in my exhausted quads and pedalled furiously. The tires caught purchase of the pavement and the bike moved forward. Slowly, we made our way up the hill again just as the friendly passerby arrived panting at our side. In the distance, I saw the snail heckling us to the two caterpillars.

The helpful man waved to us as we made our way past. A group at the top of the hill clapped. When I looked sideways, I realized the there were people standing in the windows of the nearby cottages staring. I’m not sure whether this is better or worse than eating fire. Definitely an improvement on lion taming though- I’m a dog person. I’ve  accepted my perpetual spectacle status.

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Black Markets, Being Amish And Sketchy Kijiji Meet Ups

I bought a television. It wasn’t by choice. This purchase was in response to the constant questioning from potential au pairs while we searched for the right person to watch our son. All of the young women we interviewed, regardless of whether they came from a mud hut in Africa or whatever the heck kind of cold house they have in Greenland, all the young women wanted to know one thing, “Why don’t you have a TV?” And then came the questions after that; “Is there a reason you don’t have a TV?” “Could I have a TV at your house?”, “Could I buy a TV?”, and finally, “Are you secretly Amish?”

After this exchange happened eight separate times, I decided it was time to buy a television. The only problem was that they’re damn expensive! If I was going to buy a technological chotchke I didn’t want, you better bet your bippy I wasn’t going to pay a lot of money for it. This was how I was nearly stabbed to death.

After much searching, I found a largish TV for a smallish amount of money on Kijiji. Tex had deemed it necessary to accompany me on said errand to prevent my corpse from turning up in the local river. However, in typical baby fashion, our son fell asleep right as we drove onto the street. Hence someone had to stay in the car with him because if faced with the choice of possible death and waking a baby, one always chooses the less painful option. So there I went to knock on the door by myself.

The only problem was; I was knocking on the wrong door. I had gotten the address mixed up. Realizing my error, I hopped across and down the street and knocked on the proper door. A large well groomed man answered “Is Jules there?” I asked. “You’re looking for the boys around back” the man answered before shutting the door in my face.

Walking down the narrow dark alley, I thought to myself “And she was never seen again”. Somewhat hesitantly, I knocked on the third door of the day. A lanky, scruffy youth answered. “Is Jules there?” I asked hopefully. “Yeah he’s downstairs” gestured a youth, pointing to a dark, narrow and steep staircase. I stepped inside the grubby entranceway and descended the staircase, all the while thinking “And she was never seen again”.

At the bottom of the staircase, I was greeted by a room that must have a special place in the “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” hall of fame for being the filthiest kitchen in the world. I was shocked there weren’t roaches skittering about. Despite the grime, the youth who had let me in recommenced making lunch. “He’s in there” the scruffy young man pointed to a doorway on the opposite side of the room. “and she was actually never seen again” I thought to myself as I approached the doorway.

Jules sat in his underpants on a single mattress covered by a sheet that had once been white but now was…not. The walls were adorned with a combination of machetes, marijuana paraphernalia and breasts. There was a large, beaten up looking fish tank in the corner resting on an even more beaten up chest of drawers. The nicest item in the room was the television which Jules was still watching. Suppressing my need to gulp nervously at the machetes, I introduced myself “Hi, I’m Unwashed, I’m here to pick up a television” all the while guessing how much time would have to pass before Tex would come to look for my lifeless body.

Jules jumped up and quickly explained that he was just watching the TV until I arrived so he could demonstrate that it worked. Eager to leave, I handed him the money as Jules unplugged the television. He gallantly offered to carry the TV to my car. Given the freezing temperatures, I didn’t want this man to lose his television and his testicles to frostbite in the same day so I declined his offer.

After making my way over several snow drifts, and popping the TV into the back of the van, all without waking my son, I turned to Tex and said “I just stole that man’s television. It was the nicest thing he had in his life, and I took it for a song. I hope he manages to get enough drugs with that money to forget how awful his life is.”

The whole way home I felt terrible. I mean I have everything; a loving husband, a beautiful baby, a nice house, clean sheets, breasts of my own so I don’t need to look at images of other people’s- everything. And now I had this man’s television. I felt just awful.

Months later, after relaying this story and my lingering guilt to my sister, she said “You know that it was stolen right?”

Ever the country bumpkin I replied “Huh?”

“How big was the TV, and how much did you pay for it?” my sister asked.

Gesturing with my hands, I said “One hundred dollars.”

“Definitely stolen” she replied.

A terrible pit formed in my stomach, similar to the one that I had on the drive home from the squalid basement apartment that day because I knew Diana was right. Now, to top it off, I was in possession of stolen goods. I’m not sure whether that makes my karma better or worse.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of people who have way more machetes than necessary and my contact information.

A Hot Buoyant Mess

I got invited to mom and baby aquafit. Before attending, I figured that it would be something along the lines of mom and baby yoga, wherein a whole bunch of moms stand on yoga mats while jiggling their babies for half an hour and talking about “Namaste”.

I was starting the aquafit class midway through the session, so I had grand plans of arriving early and asking the instructor nicely if I could only pay half of the fee. Mini-Tex of course had another idea in mind, specifically napping five minutes before the exact time that we had to leave. So I rushed around frantically packing what we needed, half-in-half-out of my one piece bathing suit, flashing my neighbours as I rushed past the windows, just in case they needed some more evidence that I’m disorganized and a little white-trash.

Ten minutes later, I woke Mini Tex up, sped towards where I thought the class was, parked, got him out of the car seat, popped him into the carrier and sprinted towards the doors into the church/school/nunnery/all purpose building downtown. Breathless, I bounded towards the security guard and asked where the change rooms were. “You want the Aquatic Center” she told me “it’s on the other end of the building, it’s a ways away. You have to go outside and walk over a block”. Because putting an infant into a car seat takes almost as long, if not longer, than walking any place in town, I ran out the doors and down the street. I entered the Aquatic Center panting and said “Swimming?” to the woman at the desk. “Boots” replied the woman looking pointedly at my snowy footwear. “I need to pay for the class” I added, while removing my rubber boots, which were an inappropriate choice for the weather but I can jump into them, so more often than not I appear at places looking like I’ve been splashing in mud puddles.

“I’m sorry, I meant to get here early to register but we visited the nuns” I explained. “You know the nuns?” the woman at the desk asked. It seemed like an inopportune time to share the story of my accidentally breaking into a nun’s bedroom the day before so I answered succinctly “We got lost”.

The visibly irritated instructor informed me that I was late so we would complete my registration after the class. I bounded into the change room as all of the other moms were exiting to the pool. I pulled out a swim diaper that I had purchased months ago. It was too small and wouldn’t stay on. “It’s fine” I reassured myself aloud, “I’ll just put his bathing onesie over it and it will fit” except that his bathing onesie, size 3-Toddler was too small despite my son being only 9 months old. So doing up the zipper was like closing an overstuffed suitcase, minus putting my knee on my son’s chest to zip it up the last little way. However he was dressed and the swim diaper was in the onesie, so that was all that mattered.

I had put on my suit at the house, so I threw off my clothes like a stripper about to be yanked off stage. Holding Mini Tex like a football, I charged like a running back towards the showers, it was only by virtue of good luck that he was away from the spray and not scalded by the boiling water coming out of the heads as I doused myself. We then sprinted to the pool where the surly instructor told me “Other side” as I attempted to climb down the ladder holding my son.

I had pictured something like mom and baby yoga where moms stand in the pool jiggling their babies talking about jumping jacks. Instead I was met with an unexpected sight of twenty babies in tiny baby boats. They were all bobbing around their moms, sitting in oversized flutter boards with holes cut in the middle to accommodate a fabric baby seat.

I waded over to the instructor, who dropped Mini-Tex into a boat and then started the class. The babies were each given two toys and moms were to hold on to the rope attached to the boat and tow their babies about while they played. Mini-Tex didn’t get the memo about this process, and preferred to chew on the rope, tossing his toys off the side so the instructor had to fish them out of the water while shooting me an annoyed look. So Mini-Tex gnawed on the rope, while riding the waves of the women’s movements and I did aquafit and intermittently chased after the boat when he drifted too far away.

It was awesome, and I loved it. I have grand plans of arriving early to talk with the other moms next week. We’ll see whether that happens or whether I take a wrong turn and pay a visit to the local bait and tackle shop for directions and end up being late, running around like my hot, buoyant mess self.

Two Years Today

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Photo Credit : Sula

Two years ago today, I climbed up the hill on Tex’s family farm to take my place next to him and promise that I would love him and be kind to him forever and ever. I’ve made a lot of decisions in my life, but the choice to be with Tex has to be one of my best. After the decision to hunt him down like a puma of course.

Often, when we’re lying in bed, on the verge of falling asleep, I’ll ask my husband whether the time we’ve been together feels long or short. “Both” he always answers, much to my pleasure, as I feel the same way. When you find someone who is your compliment, who understands you and supports you without question, time seems to stretch and bend in such a way that you can’t imagine your life without that person. But in that same way, the joyous ease of each interaction, each day and each hug makes the years slip past like water in a stream.  We’ve been married for two years and I’ve known Tex for three but it seems like both forever and merely a moment in time.

Two years on, I am still proud of the man I married; I still look at him and silently congratulate myself on bagging such a hottie. Meeting, marrying and procreating with someone, all within the space of twelve months means that life together is filled with surprises. Two spins around the sun later, the surprises still exist, but they’re fewer and farther between, yet I still delight each time I learn something new about my fantastic man. I love that his strong sense of character, that he inspires me to be a better more ethical person. His peccadilloes still make me smile; the way he throws himself entirely into whatever new idea, hobby or interest he’s infatuated with at the moment.

Michael J. Fox has been married forever. There’s a quote of his that he says to his wife which I often think of whenever I’m on the verge of being annoyed “Give me the benefit of the doubt; I would never intentionally hurt you.”  That sentiment is so true and so perfect for marriage. And also for Tex. My sister-in-law and I often comment that our men are never mean. But sometimes, if they truly despise a person, they won’t be intentionally nice. I love that I married a man whose baseline is intentionally nice. It makes forgiveness, and remembering Michael J. Fox’s quote world’s easier.

Happy Anniversary dear husband, thank you for two completely wonderful years. When we are only bones in the ground, I promise to still turn and whisper “I’m so glad I married you” at night.

 

Horrible Thigh Discoveries, Cut Backs and Pride

We’re two months into our family’s Paris Accord. In June, my husband and I pledged to reduce our family’s carbon footprint by putting more kilometers on our bikes, fewer on our car and changing our consumption habits. Those were some pretty big promises, so let’s see how we’re doing.

On the bike odometer front everything is fantastic. When we initially purchased our Nihola Family bike, given how late in the season it arrived, we thought that 500 kilometers was an ambitious number. Just before I sat down to pen this post, the odometer read 633, based on our current usage of our cargo trike, we estimate that we’ll hit 1500 kilometers before the snow flies. Mini-Tex has actually started referring to the Nihola as a “car” because he’s in it so often, whereas our actual car sits ignored on our driveway. Funny enough, Mini-Tex recognizes the other cars on the road as cars though too.

As a mode of transportation, I LOVE the Nihola. For me, being able to lean over the handlebars and check in with Mini-Tex while riding is worth the extra money we paid over getting a cheaper cargo attachment for the back of the bike. The front holds at least a week’s worth of groceries in addition to our son. My personal favourite moment was when Tex arrived home with the bike packed to the gills with food. “Don’t worry” he assured me “I belted in the milk”. Tex had used the extra seat and Y-belt attachment to secure the 4 litre jug so it wouldn’t bounce around, hitting our son during the ride home.

There is one drawback to all the biking we’ve been doing. I was settling myself in for a relaxing hot bath when I looked down and realized there was more of me. I wasn’t pregnant, I hadn’t gained weight, but my thighs were HUUUUUUGE. “Tex!” I called from the bathtub, my voice panicked. My husband burst into the bathroom, shoe in hand, poised to obliterate the offending spider that had caused my scream. Upon a negative inspection for any insects he looked at me questioningly. “Are my thighs bigger?” I asked hoping for a no or at least a lie. “Ummmm, you could use a lower gear” my husband kindly suggested. So if you hear a giant rip tearing through cyberspace, don’t worry, your computer is fine, it’s just the sound of my shorts giving way. Aside from that, I’m enjoying our new lifestyle.

Onto the next bike; Tex pledged to ride 400 kilometers. This is the part of our accord that makes my heart swell with pride. As an avid pedestrian and experienced cyclist myself, I knew eschewing the car for other modes of transportation would be a breeze, but for my “man-van” loving husband, the dramatic change in lifestyle could be viewed as an inconvenient hurdle added to both sides of his long work day. True to his nature, when Tex decides to commit to an idea, he jumps in with both feet. The last I checked, his odometer read 196 kilometers, well on the way to 400 before the end of October, and this is in addition to the 30 kilometers my husband put on my bike, riding back and forth to work while he was servicing his ride. At his job, he’s being called “The New Alex”, a former coworker who rode through rain, sleet and snow. Tex loves the recognition and the extra workout as he’s dropped ten pounds in a month. In summary, the biking aspect of our agreement is going swimmingly… er bikingly?

Cutting down our usage of the van was another section of the accord that I anticipated being a challenge for Tex. Often for our jobs, especially Tex’s, we are required to make the 700 kilometer round trip commute from our town in the middle of nowhere, to the nearest metropolis. With a goal of driving only 15,000 kilometers in a year, those types of trips add up fast. Tex quickly recognized this and started investigating opportunities to carpool. In addition to already carpooling to the metropolis twice, Tex took the bus when he was in the big city. His enthusiasm and willingness to search for alternatives means of transportation have impressed me immensely and made my heart swell with pride. It makes me feel hopeful for what our family will accomplish in the coming months and hopefully years.

In terms of our consumption of goods and foods, publishing the post “Trump is Not Your Tragedy: Make Your Own Paris Accord”, expressed my thoughts and feelings about the environment and my personal goals to my extended family. It’s opened up discussions and I feel like my choices are better understood and respected, whereas before my family might have brushed them off as “Unwashed’s silly hippie-isms”.

Personally, I’ve been searching for ways to use more local products and to cut down on packaged goods. Unfortunately most of our packaged food comes from Mini-Tex’s snacks. So I’ve been baking up a storm, and then watching as Mini-Tex crumbles the healthy mini muffins in his toddler fist, throws the crumbs on the floor and then asks earnestly for “fish, fish”. As I have no interest in watching my son starve to death or return to exclusively breastfeeding (an option he would love), so I cave and hand him some of Pepperidge Farm’s best.

We still have a number of changes on our radar. Tex discovered a local flour mill, so we’ll be biking there in the near future. I heard through the grape vine that a farmer around here has local eggs so I’ll be following that trail as well. Tex is also contemplating applying for an elk tag, which would provide us with lots of local red meat that has a significantly lower carbon footprint than cattle because the animals exist naturally in the wild.

So that’s where we are. Do any of those points inspire ideas in your family? Are you enjoying biking or walking in this beautiful summer weather? Do you have any green suggestions for us?