Friday, January 19, 2007

Four blocks

The fact that there are only four short blocks between our house and the kids' school was the major selling point for this place when we were house hunting. Four blocks! Less than a 10 minute walk! "Now that's city living at its' best," we said. And we were right... sort of.

I love that four block walk first thing in the morning. Sure, getting the kids out of the house takes more energy than everything else I have to do all day long and oftentimes it's raining (or worse yet, not raining until we get halfway to school, at which point the heavens open up and I realize that I still haven't quite grasped the cardinal rule of umbrella toting). But the fresh air is invariably invigorating and it feels good to get my body moving and I'm generally in good spirits by the time we get to school. On the way back, Evan and I discuss our plans for the day, as I prod him to move a little faster before the coffee I invariably left half-finished on the kitchen table gets too cold to consume. Eight blocks down.

Less than four hours later, we're off on the same walk again, this time to take Evan, whose school day begins at 1. By this point, we've generally run an errand or seen a friend and I'm kind of over the fresh air and exercise thing, but it's only four blocks so I can't complain. I deposit Evan in his classroom, try to ignore the wails of my poor, not-yet-adjusted-to-the-idea-of-school, separation anxious child and slip out of the building. I walk home tense from the experience of trying to be upbeat about a situation my son is positively not upbeat about. Maybe today will be the day he turns it all around. At least I've got 16 blocks under my belt now.

Forty five minutes later, I'm off again. An hour of school is about all Evan can handle right now, so I've been picking him up at 2 p.m. We had a breakthrough of sorts yesterday and he was actually not in tears when I arrived, so I'm hoping that this little trip will not be necessary for much longer, but for now, an hour is more than enough time for him to be there without me. I walk fast this time, racing to make sure I arrive before Evan starts to look for me, and I steel myself for the possibility of more tears. Once he's safely in my arms again, we head home for a celebratory ice cream or some comforting cuddles, depending on how the day went. 24 blocks, not that I'm counting.

No sooner have I wiped all evidence of chocolate ice cream off of Evan (or wiped the last tear from his eye) than we're out the door again, off to get Julia, whose day ends at 3:10. I've generally got Evan in his stroller by now, exhausted and unhappy about the prospect of yet another journey to school. He's not the only one. We join the queue of waiting parents, make inane small talk while we wait for the classroom door to open up, greet Julia, maneuver our way through the crowded school corridors and start off toward home, both kids screaming to make themselves hear over the other as they compete to tell me about their days. Someone jumps in a muddy puddle and ends up drenched. Someone nearly runs off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic. Someone suddenly discovers a pressing need for a potty. Two someones want my undivided attention. I struggle to keep everything under control, grateful that the walk, at least, is something I can do on autopilot. And then at last, we are home for the day, the 32nd block of my "quick little school run" finally mercifully completed.

11 Comments:

Blogger denzylle said...

I see you're still thinking in terms of blocks!

When I worked in NYC, I was told that ten blocks more or less equalled a mile, and I enjoyed working out how far I'd walked each day. But London blocks are much less standardised, and one block can be anything from one or two houses to, well, more than a mile. So, now I just work it out by knowing my walking speed.

As you probably know, there is so much fuss in London about parents who drive their children to school (mainly because of the size of their vehicles, pollution, parking, congestion charge, lack of exercise for children, etc.), so it's good to hear that you and the children enjoy at least part of the many journeys to and fro.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

Yikes, that's a lot of walking! Um, at least you don't have to make any "get more exercise" resolutions this year.... :)

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Cami said...

I'm sure the gale force winds have made for a very pleasant walk this week! TGIF!

4:12 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Uh...at least the money you're spending on the school can also count as a "gym membership"? Four blocks sounds so sweet. Thirty-two blocks? Not so much!

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Kristy said...

Oh, wow. Four blocks is fine. Four more is fine, still. But when the numbers you're walking are approaching something that's easier expressed as a power of two (2^5, in your case)...well...at least you can say you're doing your part to save the earth ;-)

6:30 PM  
Blogger Gretchen C. said...

Wait, I must know this. "Thinking in terms of blocks" as opposed to what? What are they called in London?

You know, they always say walking is the best exercise and you can burn a lot of calories that walk. Doubtless, walks in the sudden rain when you've forgotten to bring an umbrella are brisk walks indeed. Imagine how fit you'll be after a year or two of this . . .

10:36 PM  
Blogger denzylle said...

Hi Gretchen -

Well, yes, in the UK, a block can be a stretch of houses between cross streets in a city, or in areas of high density housing - but the reason I said that was that, in the UK, we don't use 'blocks' as measures of distance. This is because a 'block' here can be absolutely any length.

The only place I have lived in the US is LIC when I worked in Manhattan and, there, 'blocks' work fine, even outside of the grid between 14th and 125th Sts. But do Americans speak of 'blocks' if they live in Benedict Canyon, for example, where there might be only one or two side streets in miles? Or in the smallest of towns?

11:05 PM  
Blogger Gina said...

You are going to be so hot looking when you get home from London! ;) I envy your legs and butt already.

1:02 AM  
Blogger Rosemary said...

I've always preferred my exercise in a nice controlled environment sans wind and rain. Of course, that's voluntary exercise and doesn't happen as often as it should. Your mandatory exercise regimen? Like Gina, I'm already envious of those fabulous legs and butt you're working on. :-)

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Rebecca,

I found your website while doing research on UK living. My husband and I will soon move to your side of the pond, and I am looking forward to live all those fun experiences. Let me say that I really enjoy your Literary style and humor... good job!

Perhaps you'd be interested in sharing your stories in a new blog space that just launched few days ago.... check it out: http://www.expatwomen.com/home.php

I had to sign anonymous because I don't have my own blog yet, but I will work on it soon.

cheers,
geo

8:23 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Denyzlle, yes, I do think of a block as the space between 2 cross streets, regardless of actual distance. NYC is the only city I know of where they're standard lengths, but the term is used pretty much everywhere in America, as far as I know. It's news to me that the word is not really used here... just another invisible cultural difference, I guess!

My walking speed's a pretty unreliable gauge of distance with a 3 year old and a 5 year old setting the pace, so I did measure the distance with Google Maps. Those 4 blocks work out to .2 miles, which I guess means I'm walking about 1 1/2 miles a day before I actually go anywhere or do anything. Much better than a gym membership indeed!

2:41 PM  

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