So Many Things

Sleep has eluded me the last few weeks. My brain seems to express anxiety this way — perhaps everyone’s does, I don’t know. But when we built the fireplace, I literally went through a period of almost total insomnia, which at least taught me some strategies for dealing with sleeplessness. These weeks, the anxiety has come out more as waking up obscenely early, or sleeping for only short periods of time between long wake-ups. But I’ve gotten enough sleep to get by, and I’m not stressing about it because I know it’ll pass when everything settles back down.

To be fair, that might be quite a while. I think this transition will rank among our biggest, on par with welcoming Benji into our family. Some of the things we’re adapting:

Benji care

By far our biggest adaptation, and one I’m still not settled on. At this time, we’ve selected an at-home daycare recommended by ORCS. It has two adults and up to nine kids, with Benji as the oldest. A couple others are three, and the remainder are under the age of 2.5 years old. I don’t love that; it means they don’t go out on field trips and the adults are stretched pretty far.

I also don’t love that when we walked in to visit, the TV was on, tuned to the Disney Channel (which is an issue in and of itself — all the research indicates that those kind of shows, with many rapid cuts, actually harm kids’ brains, besides being incomprehensible to them). Ian and I have worked hard to make very careful, deliberate decisions about Benji’s screen time, setting firm boundaries and carefully vetting everything he watches. At the same time, we always watch with him and make sure to discuss what we watched so he understands what was going on. We absolutely, positively never have the TV on for “background noise” (as the daycare provider described it); that means he doesn’t–can’t–ignore a TV.

I talked with the daycare provider about this, and she immediately agreed to have the TV off when Benji was there. I’m not sure that will happen, though, because there’s another kid there who seemed glued to the screen both times I visited. If it’s a choice between that kid having a tantrum and respecting our preference for no TV on, who’s likely to win?

So although we have a place for Benji, I’m not real satisfied with it. I’d prefer to find an in-home daycare with fewer kids and closer to Benji’s age; or, better, have Benji go to a friend’s house (with compensation, of course), or even a nanny (although I find that prospect both daunting and alarmingly expensive). I really wish we could hire a friend with kids to take Benji as an extra kid, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be possible. Otherwise I’d like to find a nanny-share of some sort, but again, I have no idea how to go about finding that. And we must have something in place by January 23, when my job starts.

Biking

I started riding as a slow and steady bike commuter, but after I stopped working, I switched to recreational riding. I’ve really enjoyed riding long distances fast, and I’ve made some good friends along the way. Saturdays have become my day to spend riding with Dad and those biking buddies, my “escape from home” mental health day.

With this new job, I’m going back to that slow, steady commuting. I expect I won’t be seeing 20 mph very often anymore, and those ultra-distance rides are going to be a distant memory. That’s a tough thing to let go of, because I do love those century Saturdays. Then, too, I have to adjust to spending weekends at home again — that’ll be the only time I have to spend with my family. And, with all that, I won’t see those biking buddies as much, if at all. I’m sad that I may not see those friends much, if at all, in the future. But, alas, commuting is usually a solo activity.

I think it’s worth it, and the 20-mile one-way commute from my new work will certainly help me stay in healthy (if not speedy) biking shape. When the 520 bridge bike path opens, I’m going to have a super commute. Until then, it’s slogging through downtown up to the Burke-Gilman, a commute I did ages ago at the Bike Alliance and that I didn’t love. (In fact, it’s salutatory to review that blog post, which reminds me that 5-day-a-week commuting may not be my wisest choice.)

Over time, I trust we’ll find some kind of balance that allows me to have the satisfaction of the occasional long ride, regular commuting, and still spending time with my family. It does feel daunting, though.

Ian

It looks like he’s going to have to take on a lot more Benji care in addition to his regular work, as I’m likely to be gone from about 7:00 am to about 5:30 or 6:00 pm. That means he readies Benji for the day, drops off and picks up from daycare, spends the afternoon with him, and maybe feeds him dinner and puts him to bed, if I get home late. Right now, we split most of those things. I don’t feel comfortable with all that additional burden falling on him, but, again, we’ll just have to see how everything shakes out.

Our finances

On the bright side, my salary means that Ian no longer carries the burden of sole breadwinner, which frees him up to look for other jobs he might like better. Also, the risk of his losing his job or other major financial crisis does go down substantially. We have talked about this financial easing, which I hope will help remove the burdensome sense of duty and responsibility.

Plus, while money’s not been tight, per se, we certainly haven’t had much wiggle room in finances lately. Depending on how much childcare ends up costing, my additional income will allow us to save for financial goals much more effectively. Of course, we’ll also adjust our giving appropriately, too.

Those are just a few of the areas dramatically changing. Some of them do keep me up at night more than others. It doesn’t help that most of my peers and both my family and my in-laws chose to have Mom stay at home with the kids. While our families support this decision, I can tell it seems kind of incomprehensible to them. I don’t have any role-models or support from moms who’ve done it for how to do this full-time working and being a mom thing, and that makes it tough, too.

Whew! I guess this is my honesty post about things worrying me. As Benji would say, though, “Don’t worry!” –I do have lots of excitement and enthusiasm about this new job. It’s going to be amazing and worth all this upheaval. Just… lots of both anxiety and excitement.

Lemonade

I had a six-hour-long meeting at work and didn’t leave until 3:30 pm. I was (rightly) concerned that I’d get caught commuting home in the dark, having brought only a small blinking front and rear light since I expected to leave the office about 2:00 pm. On the bright side, I got to see first a very pretty rainbow, and barely got sprinkled on.

Commute Rainbow

A little bit later, riding along the Sammamish slough, I got a nice view of the sunset happening as I rode along. That’s one good thing about these early sunset nights — we actually are awake to see them (when the sun isn’t entirely obscured by clouds). In the summer, when the sun sets at 10:00 pm, sometimes I go to bed before the sun does.

Anyway, as I rode along admiring the sunset, I thought, “Why don’t I stop and take pictures? I never stop, but why am I in such a hurry? Two minutes won’t make any difference.” So I found a few good spots to snap a couple pictures. It’s not like my phone is an amazing camera, but it’s nice to have something along because I am a total sucker for sunsets.

Commute Sunset 1

Commute Sunset 4

Everything looked so beautiful over the course of my ride (at least until the sun set at 4:25; that’s likely the last time we’ll see the sun for the next week or so, according to our forecast), thanks to the gorgeous light… and to my favorite bike glasses lenses, which are — you probably guessed it — rose-colored. Really. I keep going on rides and saying, “Wow, that tree’s colors are spectacular!” or “Those clouds are fabulous!” and everyone else in the group says, “Huh?” and that’s when I remember that my lenses are pink.

And you know what? I like it. I don’t think there’s any harm in seeing the world tinted a little more beautiful sometimes. There’s plenty of ugliness and darkness, and I know it’s there. I’ll still look at things and know there’s beauty there, too. All you need is a change of perspective.

Biking Benefits

Today Benji and I got to do two fun things because we ride a bike for the commute to/from preschool. I’m going to throw in a third related vignette for good measure, but these stories are practically infinite.

1. On the way there, a large work van went by and we saw it had a picture of a forklift on the side. We speculated about whether that meant there were, in fact, forklifts inside the truck/van/thing (Benji was all for this theory).

A little way down the road, there was the van, pulled over on our side of the road. I asked Benji if he wanted to stop and ask if there were forklifts inside, and he really did. So we pulled over next to the truck, the driver rolled down his window, and I asked (Benji was too shy and incomprehensible).

The driver told us that no, there were no forklifts in the back (sad!), but wait! Turns out that he was a forklift repair man going to the siding company across the road to fix one of their forklifts. We looked over there and, gratifyingly, a forklift just in our view picked up a load of pipes* at that moment. We thanked the driver and rode away, highly pleased.

*Autosuggest offered “puppies” instead of “pipes,” a wonderful and rather hilarious mental image.

2. In a very similar vein, on our way home from school, we went by a couple of City of Bothell work vans and trucks parked just off the Sammamish River Trail by a bridge over the slough. They were parked near a large blue tent. We decided to investigate, and the City workers were pleased to tell us what they were doing.

Apparently, wherever a sewer pipe crosses a bridge, even a small one like the one over the slough, there’s a pump to hurry the slurry (so to speak). There’s also a backup generator, in case power goes out. Definitely don’t want that backing up!

Anyway, if I understood correctly, after 35 years, one of the pistons in the backup generator got a hole in it. They ordered a new piston (they’re readily available, apparently, even after three and a half decades) and had just finished replacing it when we came along. The worker showed up pictures of the piston with the hole and the replacement piston.

Benji was very interested. He definitely understood the idea of helpers fixing the broken thing, even if he didn’t understand exactly what the thing was or why it was broken.

3. Finally, last week we were riding home on the road rather than the trail, when a fire engine from Bothell Fire Station 42 went by. Naturally, we waved. But even better for us, the fire station was actually in our route home, and we arrived there in time to see the truck backing into its spot in the garage.

Even more happily, one of the firefighters offered to give us a tour of the trucks, an offer we promptly accepted. We learned that the ladder truck’s ladder can go 100′ up (!) and that they use it for different uses than a tiller truck. The ladder has a bucket on the end that makes it useful for lifting equipment and people quickly, or for rescuing people from very high places. But, the firefighter said, they had to be careful not to bonk into things with the ladder when they turn the 51-foot-long truck, since the ladder extends a long way beyond the rear wheels.

We also learned that the truck had once gone out and rescued a cat from a tree, although they used a shorter ladder for that (they put the cat in a sack to carry out down).

Again, we left highly gratified and with lots of scope for play and stories.

We certainly couldn’t have had any of those exchanges in a car, zooming by too fast to stop. Biking allowed us to enjoy the journey a bit more, rather than just rushing from Point A to Point B. The fact is, although I like technology and efficiency as much as the next person, I have increasingly come to value slow time, one-on-one relationship time that only happens at a rate of one minute per minute. Benji and I have many interesting and, for him, educational conversations on our bike rides that otherwise wouldn’t happen. We certainly do use the car for getting places quickly, but I value and enjoy our biking time especially.

Meanwhile, back at Benji school (part 2)

Remember back in March when we started biking consistently to Benji school, and we got a nasty sign put up telling us not to park in the building? At the time, the wonderful folks at Kindering asked the building manager to put up a bike rack. I appreciated the gesture but figured we wouldn’t be around to benefit whenever the each went up.

How wrong I was! Today when we arrived at Benji school (in the car, due to thunderstorms periodically drenching our area) we saw a new bike rack! And it was just in the perfect spot, covered and near the front door.

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At left, the new, permanent no bikes sign; at right, the new outside bike rack.

I’m not sure how we’ll park our trailer there right blocking the door, but we’ll figure something out.

I’m just really grateful for a positive resolution. Definitely the best outcome I would have hoped for.

Even Superman must get wet sometimes.

Leaving work to bike commute home the other day, I felt a little bit awesome going from this…

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To this…

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…in a few short minutes.

I didn’t feel quite so awesome when I arrived home drenched and filthy with road gunk after riding the entire 10 miles in windy rain.

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I appreciated the fireplace extra, though, because everything dried out way faster than in times past. Also, I got to feel warm and cozy, a lovely and unusual experience immediately following a wet ride. And within an hour of getting home, the rain changed from steady to torrential, so I actually felt pretty good about my commute.

Meanwhile, at Benji School…

We’ve started consistently riding our bike to Benji school. On Tuesday, I drop Benji off, unhook the trailer, go ride hill repeats for an hour, then hook the trainer back up and ride us home again. It’s a nice system and I get a hard workout in before evening, when my motivation wanes. On Thursdays, we ride, but I bring my laptop and do work while waiting. All this unseasonably dry, warm weather has certainly facilitated this plan.

Thus far, I’ve parked our rig in the entryway, where it’s dry and a little more secure. I tend to leave things like helmets and extra clothes in there.

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Parked inside at Benji school.

Today when I pulled up, this sign greeted me.

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"Friendly" sign in our parking spot.
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Hmm, passive-aggressive much?

In case it’s hard to read, it says, BICYCLES ARE NOT PERMITTED INSIDE THE BUILDING. Very friendly and collaborative, and particularly amusing for a building that doesn’t provide any bike parking whatsoever, not even a rack stuck outside in the rain.

Here’s what I decided to do:

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My note says, “I would love to use a bike rack, if you would provide one. I would love to discuss it more – covered would be helpful.” And I signed my name and phone number. Not my most eloquent missive, I grant, but hopefully not inflammatory, either. I really would use a rack, especially a covered one, but there are none.

In fact, there aren’t even any sign posts or other handy stationary objects to lock up to. I can lock my bike to itself and put the brake on the trailer, but that really won’t stop someone from stealing the bike or trailer. I like parking inside because it’s much more secure, just by virtue of having fewer people go through there. In any case, I don’t think requesting a bike rack is unreasonable.

I mentioned this nasty-gram note to the gal at the front desk of Kindering when I borrowed her sticky note and pen. When I returned an hour later, she said that Kindering would request a bike rack. She pointed out that there are lots of paths around (indeed, our route is probably 75% trails), so it’s not unreasonable to provide parking for bikes. I was touched that they would go out of their way like that for us, and I thanked her profusely.

For now, when we ride, I may park just outside the front doors and lock my bike to itself. Hopefully that will suffice. It is a tad frustrating to get kicked out of a building when we weren’t even in anyone’s way or making a mess or, in fact, doing anything but using some otherwise empty space. Oh, and we did make lots of kids happy just by the presence of a bike. We’ll see what happens.

In happier, less whiny bike parking news, my work moved offices and the new place has secure bike parking and lockers. The parking is in the garage, but in a chain-link enclosure that opens with a key card. It has several racks to lock up, and lockers that you claim by putting your own lock on them. I’m going to snag one next week and leave my shoes and helmet and stood in there. Now I’m doing a bus/bike commute for that and it’s working out well. Bus in (to stay clean and presentable), bike home. Good enough!