Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Biking, Running, Raking

Last night Andrew carefully cleaned the kitchen, then washed a few loads of laundry—including about every pair of underwear Phoebe-girl owns because she had a terrible potty day yesterday. He wanted to be sure to leave for his conference with things feeling under control...instead of feeling wildly out of control (because that's sort of how they were feeling yesterday).

Today I folded those loads of laundry and Phoebe had a great potty day. She even emptied her potty into the big toilet by herself. Twice.

Emptying her little potty is like the best thing in Phoebe's life right now. 

She's expressly forbidden from doing so, but if I leave her sitting on the potty for a minute, or if she decides to take herself without telling anybody first...she finishes her business as fast as she can, hops off the potty, grabs the little...chamber pot...and sprints down the hallway to the bathroom. 


The first time she managed to do this was yesterday (though she'd made several attempts before). Today she did it twice. I'm sure it's just going to be a thing she does now (thank goodness she's pretty good at it), so it might be time to teach her how to use the big potty so we can eliminate the current scenario of "freshly minted two-year-old sprints down hallway carrying container of pee."

Next up on her list of things to do is flushing the toilet. I know this because she tries every time she empties her potty by herself and every time she uses the big potty (at church, for example). So far she hasn't been able to physically manage it, but she certainly knows where the flusher is and wants to do it. I folded the laundry, homeschooled the kids, worked on grad school applications (because I'm a glutton for punishment), took the kids for a walk/bike ride...and then decided to remove Alexander's training wheels and teach him how to ride a two-wheeler.

It took him all of thirty seconds to figure out how to balance while pedaling. I was seriously impressed.

Zoë learned how to ride her bike in a similar fashion. She was just ready. Rachel and Miriam took days or weeks to learn how to ride their bikes. Maybe even months

Benjamin took literal years to learn how to ride his bike (it was seriously such a painful process). But you know what? When he learned to ride his bike I was incredibly impressed (and relieved...but mostly impressed).

It's really cool when something comes naturally...or seems to come naturally. Part of the reason I suggested we take off the training wheels was because Alexander did such a fine job riding around the block this afternoon—he handled all his hills well, without slamming on his brakes or crying out for help, and he was coasting without his training wheels sparking against the pavement (they don't really spark when they hit the pavement, but I wasn't quite sure how to describe the awful ringing/grinding noise that they do when he leans too far to one side or the other and the training wheels do their job). The point is that Alexander had put in a lot of time training on his bike before we took off the training wheels, so it seemed to come naturally, though in all fairness, he put in plenty of time practicing with his training wheels on.

I think it's equally cool, though, when you have to really fight for a victory. It might actually be even more exciting when you struggle and then succeed because—phew! Benjamin suffered a lot of setbacks (and injuries) while he was learning to ride a bike, but he got up every time he fell down. And that says a lot about his character—the boy's got grit!

You can't even tell now that he was a bit of a late bloomer (when it came to riding a bicycle)! He's an excellent rider, on par with every other kid in the neighbourhood!

That's the way it is with so many things in life. Skills tend to even out, whether it's reading or writing or talking or biking. For example, it's neat when a baby walks early but—generally speaking—by the time they're thirteen you can't even tell who the early walkers were and who the stragglers were (and no one—not even their own mothers—even care anymore).

Rachel walked early. Alexander walked late. But honestly, their walking skills are both pretty average these days (no offense, guys—average is good). 

So, Alexander learned how to ride a two-wheeler today in one minute—flat—which was really cool!

The best part was when he clapped his hands with glee and exclaimed, "This is so fun!"

Another fun thing that happened today was that Benjamin's medal arrived in the mail! 

Running is a relatively inexpensive sport. I mean, sure, you have to replace your running shoes every so often, but other than that it can be free. 

Unfortunately, motivation isn't always so cheap. 

To help motivate Benjamin to run with me, I signed him up for a virtual race—the "This is the Way 15K." When he finished logging his miles (or kilometers), the company shipped him the medal (featuring Grogu). It came all the way from the UK and Benjamin has been checking the mailbox every day since he finished...even though I told him it would take several days to get here.

Now he's working on a 50 mile challenge, while Miriam is working on her own 15K challenge.

Eventually we'll wean them off medals, but for's decent motivation for my kids who usually whine about running. Rachel so far refuses to be motivated. Zoë is highly motivated (but we worry about bringing her (and Alex, honestly) on longer runs) so she'll have to wait a bit.


As you can see, our cul-de-sac is rather full of leaves. I was worried about the kids riding their bikes (and slipping on the leaves) and then they decided they wanted to make chalk houses, so we spent some time cleaning up the cul-de-sac. 

Street sweepers are an unheard of luxury around here. If we want a clear street, we have to clear it ourselves.

So we used our (electric) leaf blower, along with our rake, to make some big piles (which we then moved to the back yard). I know that leaf blowers are controversial—I cringe every time I hear one of those gas-guzzling things rev up—but there's no denying that they're useful when clearing a large area of debris. Plus, electric models are quieter and don't produce the same emissions the gas-powered ones do. And since we have a lot of large areas to clear of debris in the fall...I'm not sure we could live without our leaf blower. 

Here's Phoebe standing in a big pile of leaves:

And here she is clinging to my leg while Benjamin teases her with the leaf blower (she thinks it's about as scary as the vacuum, which is to is very scary...but also a little funny now that she's getting bigger):

Benjamin was being very silly with the leaf blower, indeed. All her squeals and giggles were well-earned. Brava, Benjamin!

Lastly, because I was just thinking of what to call this post and the only thing I could think of was "Biking, Running, Raking..." I'll just say that Phoebe is really into present participles lately. When she gets hurt she comes to me and says, "Hurting." She narrates her movements throughout the day, almost seeming to challenge herself to move as many different ways as possible: "Walking. Running. Jumping. Crawling. Hopping. Rolling."

So, I suppose a title full of -ing verbs is fitting. 


  1. Congrats to Alex! I was more like Ben--biking was a big challenge, and when, after any mishaps, at age 12 I could do it, I was very proud of myself and rode every day. I loved it! I even rode to town one May when I was about 13 or 14, with my cousin Margaret -- 7.5 miles. And home again!!