Thursday, December 13, 2012


It has been an exciting, challenging, difficult few months.

I founded a magazine, a new literary magazine for parents. It is called Stealing Time, and it is wonderful. If you want to read about parenting without being told how to parent; if you want to share in someone else's experience without being told what to buy; if you want to consider the "and" rather than always the "either-or" of parenting life; if you just like really good stories-- go and subscribe. You'll love it.

But the reason I'm posting tonight is this: I've been riding less. Feeling slow and wheezy when I do. Gaining weight. Losing muscle.

We still don't have a car, and it's not like I'm driving more. Instead: we've been leaving the house less. Having fewer adventures.

The magazine is a huge amount of work, and I have a limited amount of childcare to manage it. The rest gets done at night. Kes isn't sleeping through the night, and Jasper has been having a bad night at least once a week as well. My lifelong insomnia has been acting up. In short: I've been getting catastrophically too little sleep. And one of the places that has been affected by that is my physical well-being, and my ability to be a super cool bike mama.

At the same time, the kids are hard right now, too. Kes is adamant about having exactly the right clothes on before we go out (at 17 months!) and will scream and cry if she doesn't have the *right* hat, the *right* shoes, and so on. And Jasper is an angry nudist; we fight every morning about changing his diaper, about putting on a shirt, about putting on pants, and so on-- not to mention, before going out, having the same fight about coats and hats and gloves and raingear. I've taken to letting him leave the house without, and shoving them into my bag for if he wants them later. So far, he's held his ground, and hasn't yet caught his death. But all of those things make leaving the house harder, and paired with my fatigue and short temper, are sometimes enough to keep us indoors altogether.

I'm not writing to whine, I swear. I know that it is hard right now and I know that it will get better. I have been thinking about enlisting some of my kickass fellow bike moms in getting my ass back in gear, but am afraid that I'm not up for even that, yet. I am so, so tired.

I know that, for folks just getting into this bikey world, it can seem very all-or-nothing. Some people simply "are" bike people, with boundless energy and strength and tolerance for the cold-and-wet; and some people aren't. I'm writing to say: It's fuzzier than that. Being bike-based doesn't mean I always want to ride. Or that I'm always in top form. Or that the bike is always easy.

But I know that a lot of these challenges would still be challenges if we got around differently, except: I'd be getting even less exercise. I'd probably be having even less fun. It would be harder to connect with my kids when we *are* out and about.

I love my bike, even when I'm too tired to ride it. And I hope to be back in form soon. Kes's sleep is better and better. The magazine is creeping back from the edge of a financial cliff (and will do even better if you subscribe!). And the bike will be there, waiting, when I feel more myself again. There is a path from here to there. But right now, it's just hard.

(now, to go get some sleep...)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

New Yuba Setup, April 2012

Today was a big day in our family bike world: we implemented two new kid-carrying configurations. The first is a new IT Chair for Dave's Brompton, which lets him carry Jasper, but I'll let him post on that little adventure.

And the second: the end of the boxes on the Yuba, at least for now. Kes is big enough to ride up front, so Jasper moved to a Yepp Maxi on the deck. I'm sad to lose such a distinctive part of their babydom, but glad to be 50 pounds lighter on the bike.

Since there are no babies in our immediate future, I think we'll be selling the boxes. Let me know if you're interested!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


49 a video by Civilized Conveyance on Flickr.

Jasper is an airplane.

Nota bene: it is never recommended that you leave your kid in a kid seat when you're not at the bike. This is not safe. Do as I say, not as I do, and all that.

P.S. Wheeeeee!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Biking in Labor

“Hey babe??”
“If everything goes ok, I think I’d like to ride to the birth center.”
“You sure?”
“I think so. If everything’s normal. Yeah.”

This conversation, held around my thirty-sixth week of pregnancy, might strike some as a bit… insane. While we have no car, neighbors and friends had made it quite clear that they were available day or night to drive us. A taxi had taken me to have my first baby on a sodden Thanksgiving morning just nineteen months before—no reason not to call them again. Nonetheless, at forty weeks and four days I lurched onto my bike at a few minutes past five and, best friend at my side, pedaled through the light chill of the midsummer morning to go have a baby. And I didn’t want it any other way.

My contractions were a little less than five minutes apart. At a mile and a quarter with moderate hills, the ride would take about 20 minutes. That’s four contractions to deal with on the road, I reasoned. Maybe five. Easy.

I got on the bike immediately following a contraction, but the next one came sooner than expected. There was no one else on the road, and as I felt the sensation crest I breathed deeply, thought about the rotation of the pedals, and spun effortlessly as I let it move through me. Barely a waver. One down. My husband trailed us on the cargo bike with the birth bag.

Two more contractions passed in the same way, and then I saw the hill ahead. There are bigger hills in the city, steeper and longer ones, but this one was plenty daunting under the circumstances. I stopped at a stop sign, and started a contraction as I started rolling again. I reached the base of the hill just as that one faded. Slowly, deliberately, I started to climb. I found my lowest gear. I controlled my breathing. I spun to the top. As the road leveled, a fifth contraction overwhelmed me. I wobbled toward a parked car, and my friend gasped as I regained my course. And then we were there.

Hey! I rode my bike to the birth center! Should I hurry inside before the next contraction comes, or pause for a victorious picture? Pride won out, but barely, and the picture that we snapped bears witness to that next contraction. Five hours later, Kestrel Gayle Proctor came into the world, born underwater, sweet and healthy and ravenous.

I’d ridden my bike throughout pregnancy. I’d toted my toddler around town most days. I’d raced the cyclocross season through my first trimester, battling nausea and fatigue for the chance to get muddy and sweaty in a field of beginner women laughing and cursing and hauling ass. I’d planned and led Kidical Mass rides, playing mother duck to fleets of slow-moving two- and three-wheeled ducklings as we explored the city and asserted the right of kids and families to a place on the roads. So with all that behind me, why not ride my bike in labor?

Barring bad luck, pregnancy is a time of health and vigor. A time that, in spite of incessant hunger or poor appetite or relentless heartburn or weeks of nausea, can be spent fully inhabiting one’s body. Forces tell us it is not: doctors and parents and partners stress our fragility and vulnerability, insisting that pregnancy should be defined by a long list of things to be avoided, sacrificed, and feared. They instruct healthy women to “take it easy” and engineer drugged labors or dangerous surgeries. They rob us of a chance to know and embrace our vital power as women. They are the voices of a society that, for all its progress, still sees women as weak. A society invested in keeping us from finding our strength.

Like natural childbirth, riding a bike for transportation is not best for all women. For those who need them, I’m grateful that there are hospitals and doctors and NICUs, just as I am glad that people who need cars and buses and taxis to get around can use them. But I’m also grateful not to have needed a hospital to give birth, and I am grateful each day that I don’t need an engine to get from here to there. Empowering women to take control of their bodies and their births improves their lives. So does empowering them to be their own engines.

The dominant transportation paradigm robs healthy women of a daily chance to know their full strength, just as the dominant birthing paradigm keeps them from discovering in themselves the unique power required to deliver a baby. In both cases, the state of “normal” is one that emphasizes weakness: an overdependence on technology to do what we are told we cannot. I reject those paradigms. Riding my bike every day is a choice that celebrates the fact that I can, that I am healthy and strong and fierce. In perhaps this respect only, Kestrel’s birth day was no different from any other.


"Our Bodies, Our Bikes" is an issue of Elly Blue's Taking the Lane zine.  This essay was first published there.  If you haven't seen them, I highly encourage you to check out the whole Taking the Lane set.  The newest issue just got funding on Kickstarter!

(Thank you to Kori Beyer for riding along, for attending the labor, for being wonderful... and for the photos above.)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Donut Pajama Birthday Ride!

The thing about house guests is that you want to be able to go places together.  As we'd prefer to go by bike, it is most fun if our house guests can bike too.  This is easy enough for average-sized adults: we have spare bikes, locks, and helmets that they can use.  But for the very tall or very small, things get a bit more tricky.

We had house guests with 8-month-old twins last week.  They were on a longer multi-modal trip, including Amtrak from their home in Mountain View to Seattle and then back down to Portland and a lot of public transport-- they didn't even bring car seats along, which I think was a pretty bold move. We borrowed a Winther Wallaroo from Splendid Cycles, and they came out for Kidical Mass one day, then for my birthday pajama-donut group ride the next. It was exciting to get to share bikey Portland life with them.

We also had to borrow a tall-seatpost Bike Friday for the other adult in the couple, as they are both WAY taller than we are.  Fortunately, our downstairs neighbor could help us out.

IMG_4353, originally uploaded by airship_flyer.

IMG_4292, originally uploaded by airship_flyer.

IMG_4281, originally uploaded by airship_flyer.

IMG_4277, originally uploaded by airship_flyer.


Thanks to the always-charming Kip Pettigrew for child-wrangling, pajama-rocking, and these lovely photos.