Archive for the ‘City Life’ Category

We’ve been living in our urban neighborhood for about two-and-a-half years.   We love our neighborhood but it isn’t perfect.  One of the great benefits of urban living is that there are people everywhere so the probability of finding friends is statistically much higher than if you live in a less-dense area.  Our neighborhood has some diversity but it is overwhelmingly Portuguese and Brazilian.  The language on the street here is Portuguese and, while many of the residents here speak English . . . many don’t.  We’re mostly okay with this situation but we wouldn’t mind if there were a few more native English speakers in the neighborhood.  We don’t want to “gentrify” the neighborhood but the population of 50,000 in our neighborhood can absorb a sub-community of English speakers without fundamentally altering the character of the neighborhood.  To that end we’ve been enthusiastically recruiting people to our neighborhood since pretty much the day we moved here.

We have fairly high ideals for what a neighborhood community–especially one founded on shared faith–can look like.  Friends of ours used to live in an old, close-in, relatively dense suburb near the city we lived in and their neighborhood was a model of Catholic community life.  One family living there wanted a bigger community so they vigilantly recruited people to move to the neighborhood.   It worked and now the neighborhood is a thriving community of Catholics (of various stripes) living near each other, raising families, educating their children, and praying together.   Since the suburban town and, more importantly, the immediate neighborhood were somewhat small, the guy doing much of the recruiting would often pounce on houses that were about to go on the market.  On at least one occasion he offered to buy a house personally if he couldn’t find the owner a buyer in 48 hours (it worked–good friends of ours bought the house).  Unfortunately, the size of the neighborhood also means that some people who would like to move to be part of this community cannot find housing that works for them.

In our neighborhood, this just isn’t a problem.  Or, at least, it’s much, much less likely to be a problem.  According to zillow.com there are currently about 19 homes for sale in the suburban town I’m thinking of that could be considered a reasonable walking distance from the parish church.  In my zipcode, which is just over one square mile (which is to say, entirely walkable) there are currently 197 homes listed for sale.  And that doesn’t even include listings with the main real estate company in our neighborhood.

Density offers many, many advantages.  One of them, is that there is usually something for everyone.



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I’m taking awhile to get through my next official “Book List” book because I’ve taken some time this month to read Mel Bartholomew’s All New Square Foot Gardening and also Mary Apelhof’s Worms Eat my Garbage.  You can read a bit more about our adventures in urban vermicomposting over on the kids blog but the short version is that we keep a big bin of worms in our house and feed them all our compostable kitchen scraps.  We did this more or less successfully a couple of years ago but we never had a garden that could benefit from the castings.  This year:  we have big plans.

Last spring my husband was the big garden enthusiast in in the family.  I think I was still in the post-partum fog which was severely compounded by buying a house and moving.  I was still in survival mode while Eric sang rapturous odes to home-grown lettuce.  I was okay with the home grown lettuce idea, in theory.  One of the happiest periods of our courtship was the summer Eric house sat at a place with a huge garden and we went and picked a big salad for ourselves each evening.  But I didn’t want to be the one actually growing the lettuce.  Eric gamely threw together a planter box, scattered seed much too late, scratched his head when shoots would come up and then disappear, found the slugs that were munching our crop, and then hand picked the slugs from our lettuce each night and killed them.  After the Slug Danger Window had passed we enjoyed delicious lettuce for the rest of the summer though we all wished there had been more.  A lot more.  We managed to successfully grow basil, parsley and mint as well although there was not nearly enough basil for our purposes.

So with that amazing early gardening experience under our belt, we ordered the All New Square Foot Gardening on the advice of several friends.  When it came in the mail I surprised myself by having an inordinate amount of enthusiasm for the project.  I can’t recommend the book or the method until the fall (I hope) but after I had sketched our plans for a 47-square foot garden I called our tenants (and friends) who live upstairs from us and asked that we consult out on the back patio to divvy up the garden space.  My neighbor really just wants to get a few tomato and green bean plants in pots so it was a simple matter to show her where she could put those.  But she chatted with me for awhile as I outlined my ambitions and wondered aloud why we don’t move out to the country since so many of our interests in sustainable living and quality food seem, to her, incompatible with city living.

There are, I think, many, many reasons why living in the city is better for the planet but let’s just talk about food for now.  It stands to reason that city dwellers would have just as much desire for good, responsibly raised food as people who live elsewhere and, from what I’ve seen, getting that food is actually a little easier in the city.

For one thing, while it is true that urbanites don’t usually have big yards, we are often less attached to the yards we do have.  When we were house hunting we assumed we would have no yard.  You don’t choose a dense urban neighborhood for the wide green lawns.  The two are completely incompatible.  So, any outdoor space we have is a complete bonus as far as we’re concerned.  We ended up with a 100% concrete patio that is about 400 sq. feet.  Almost 25% of that space is now consumed by a wheelchair ramp.  It’s not like the space is huge “run around outside” area for my kids.  It’s more like an outdoor room.  Putting vegetables and plants out there will only make it a nicer outdoor room.  Though, that said, my 47-square foot garden isn’t going to take up a lot of that space in part because . . .

City dwellers can garden on their roofs.  The bigger your building, the more likely it is that you’ll have a flat roof.  Only a section of our 2.5-story house is flat and we aren’t gardening up there–at least not this year.  But we are gardening on the flat roof of the storage shed that sits in one corner of our tiny patio.  And the rest of the garden is going to get tucked into spots that aren’t all that useful for other purposes.  City dwellers who have small living spaces inside are accustomed to making the most of every square inch on the outside as well.

But, what if you really, really don’t have any outdoor space?  The density in a city allows for co-ops to flourish.  You do need a critical mass of people who want the same kind of food and, frankly, we don’t have that where we live now.  But when we lived in Washington, D.C. we helped start three different neighborhood co-ops and eventually were purchasing about 90% of our food on that model.  It just made sense for a small farmer to partner with us and send a truckload of stuff where there was a high concentration of customers all within walking distance of each other.

My one disappointment with our current situation is that we can’t have chickens.  It’s actually allowed, at least unofficially, where we live now and we had neighbors who did it when we first moved to this neighborhood.  But that 100% concrete yard isn’t going to get me good eggs.  I can buy eggs at the grocery store from chickens raised on concrete and not have the hassle of getting a chicken sitter when we go on vacation.

But, livestock aside, urban living has not meant sacrifices for us when it comes to obtaining quality food.

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Eyes on the street

A cousin of mine recently moved to Washington, DC where we used to live.  She was nervous about safety, never having lived in an urban neighborhood before.  We gave her lots of advice and tips but the most important, in our opinion, is that streets are generally safe when there are a lot of people around.  Even in broad daylight a deserted street may not be safe. I’ve written about this before and just witnessed a brief little episode that reminded me of it again.

I’m working on making dinner in my kitchen.  It’s about 4:00–definitely not dark yet.  My kitchen windows open out onto a small parking lot behind the apartments next door.  The comings and goings in the small lot are pretty predictable and things are generally quiet this time of the afternoon so I took a second look when my eye caught movement out the window.  I watched as first one and then about five young boys (maybe 12 years old?) came dashing from the street into the lot.  They made for a corner and came running back one of them wielding a can of spray paint which he used to decorate the AC units and support beams  under the balcony of the apartment building.  I threw up the window and shouted, “Hey!  Get out of here.”  Not exactly threatening and, really, what was I going to do?  I have my baby strapped to my back and the other two kids at home.  But they looked chagrined, “We’re going,” one said.  “We’re going right now,” another added.

I went into my kids room which has windows on the street just in time to see a man in work clothes and knee pads collar the ring leader.  I opened the window and leaned out.  I didn’t know the man and he didn’t acknowledge me but he knew I was there.  I noticed that the parents of the young girl who lives across the street were out on their patio hanging on their gate watching the scene.  The boys were surrounded and all of us adults knew we had the support we needed to stop them.  The boys had, from the sounds of it, stolen the paint from the man down on the sidewalk although he seemd to already know the first name of the ring leader and where he lived.  He kept his hand on his shirt collar as he walked him down the street saying he was going to “take him home,” and he got the names and addresses of all the other kids while he was at it.

The boys were making mischief.  Looking out my window, there is very little damage to the building next door.  But I’m glad to know that simple mischief doesn’t go unchecked here.

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Several weeks ago I came across an article written by a distant acquaintance on the topic of dumpster diving.  The idea really sparked my interest and I went so far as to ask my husband what he thought about actually trying it.  He was not thrilled about doing the family grocery shopping after his bedtime and he was highly dubious that I’d actually eat the goods once he got them home.  He might be right about that.  The couple in the above story dumpster dive as a form of social protest.  As I understand their position, they are trying to fight the consumerist American culture in a small way.  I do not exactly share their passion for protesting that particular issue in that particular way.  I was, honestly, more interested in saving hundreds of dollars each month.  But I have been rolling around this question in my mind ever since:  Why is there so much food in the grocery store that ends up in the dumpster?  Why don’t these businesses plan better?  I have a few thoughts based solely on my own observation in three areas.

I am fairly confident that the main dumpster raided by my acquaintances is at a Trader Joe’s.  I have been an avid Trader Joe’s fan for some years and it remains one of my favorite stores.  I was in one only yesterday doing my monthly grocery run.   After years of shopping at several different Trader Joe’s in several states I have come to expect a small, clean, easy-to-navigate store.  The shelves are stocked with the food I love, the employees bend over backwards trying to help me, and I leave with several bags of delicious food at a pretty good value.  They always ask me, at the checkout stand, if I found everything I was looking for.  My answer is always, “Yes,” because their stores are so consistent in their offerings that I never even put something on my list that can’t be found there.

Last month I was thrilled when a new Trader Joe’s opened up close to my husband’s workplace–about half the distance from home as the one I’d been going to.  I rolled my family through the door early on a Monday morning just days after the grand opening to do my shopping.  The employees were still putting the finishing touches on everything and there were far more of them than customers that day.  I was pretty annoyed to find that they weren’t stocking any heavy cream.  And in the fruit and nut aisle the prices weren’t even up yet!  I had my new price book all ready to go so I could double-check the prices against the nearby Costco!  At the checkout the service was fine but the woman didn’t even ask me if I’d found everything I wanted and she didn’t give me a chance to gush about how excited I was about their holiday offerings.   It is only now occurring to me that the Trader Joe’s employee was probably totally fried from getting a new store ready to meet the exacting standards of loyal shoppers such as myself.  In fact, we saw her again yesterday and after saying hello she showed that she not only remembered seeing us last time but also remembered where we live and where my husband works.

So why can’t this top-notch store better plan its inventory so as to not fill a dumpster with broccoli at the end of the day?  Because they don’t know how often I’m going to shop there, or what I’m going to buy each time.  Sometimes I buy broccoli at Trader Joe’s; sometimes I don’t.  But they do know that someone like me has a more pleasant shopping experience when the broccoli spot is filled to overflowing when I stroll past.  And they had better keep everything else stocked to the brim as well lest I get annoyed at having to shop elsewhere for my heavy cream.

This should have been obvious to me from the start based on my own experience of dabbling in small business.  I have a small, home-based, inventory-dependent business.  It might seem obvious that I could make the most money in the shortest amount of time by stocking only the exact products my customers want.  But my customers just aren’t that consistent.  And when they call they want their stuff.  Only last night a customer called wanting something she’d never tried before.  I had it on hand.  She was glad.  That’s good customer service.  But the result is that I have much, much more product on hand than I sell in a given month.  Fortunately, my products have a very long shelf life.

Then there’s a local bakery where we shop two or three times each week.  Our baker, Georgie, works in a shop his grandfather founded 102 years ago.  It’s been in the same location almost the entire time it’s been open.  His shop is just around the corner from us–close enough that I’ve often been tempted to grab the baby monitor and run over there during naptime to get bread for dinner.  It took us a long time to figure out Georgie when we first moved here.  He’s open “8 to 8” except in the summer–which apparently extends into September.  And he’s not open while he’s out doing deliveries which is, I guess, mid-morning.  Ish.  And if you want to stop by mid-afternoon for a snack his door might be open but if he’s busy back in the kitchen you might as well forget about it, “Come back later!” he’ll shout.

He sells baguettes, round loaves, sub rolls, dinner rolls, and other seasonal items.  He also brings in some dessert-type products from other local bakers and every Saturday and Sunday he runs over to a Jewish baker and brings back a couple big bags of the best bagels we’ve ever had.  The baguettes are hot at 6:00 . . .  or so.  The round loaves can be sliced for you but only in the morning once they’re cooled.  If you need your bread at six and it’s not done yet he’ll substitute some sub rolls for you.  If you’re too late on Saturday and all the bagels are gone, oh well.  Come back tomorrow.  If you’re a regular customer he’ll make you wait at the back of the line while he takes care of the more high-maintenance folks who might have come in after you.  If he’s really busy he’ll toss you a brown bag and have you hop out to the kitchen to fetch your own darn bread.   You might call his store a “cafe” except that the word connotes something picturesque and his place has dingy brown walls, a green plastic patio table (which he hauls outside when the weather is nice) and a self-serve coffee urn.  I’m not sure if the coffee is complimentary or not.  His stuff doesn’t keep.  The baguettes and bagels aren’t very good even the very next day.  And he only takes cash.

So why do we shop with Georgie so much?  The biggest reason is that his bread is really, really good.  We wouldn’t go there if that were not the case.  It tastes wonderful and it doesn’t keep because there aren’t any preservatives in it–not even sugar.  It is also very inexpensive.  Even buying my yeast in bulk I can’t beat his prices by making my own bread.  But all the little things that would be totally unacceptable to me if I were at Trader Joe’s aren’t a problem at Georgie’s.  If I go at 6:00 looking for a baguette and he’s not quite ready I can just run back home and finish setting the table before hopping back.  It takes less than a minute to get there.  I’d send my three-year-old alone if she didn’t have to cross our street on the way.

When we stop in on a whim and come up short on cash he says, “No, problem, pay me tomorrow,” and hands us our bread anyway.  The kids drag us in there every chance they can because they know Georgie will give them, at the very least, a free cookie from under his counter.  They usually score a day-old dinner roll or some fresh dough to bake at home as well.  Once he gave my son an old basketball and my daughter a fluffy purse that only she could love.  If business is slow he’s usually sitting at his plastic table with some neighborhood old-timer and we hang out for awhile slaking our thirst for local (very local–as in, our block) history.  I’m pretty sure Georgie throws away very little–if any–of his wares at the end of the day.  His dumpster would not be a profitable dive.

I don’t know the answer here.  I will, for the time being, continue to shop at both Trader Joe’s–where everything is clean, orderly, well-stocked, and predictable–and Georgie’s–where, though we are firmly part of the “in-crowd” I am still figuring out how to do business.  But I never buy my bread at Trader Joe’s anymore.

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Not quite there

My friend Robyn who reluctantly moved to Brooklyn eight years ago and has come to like it (right, Robyn?) suggested to me that I’m not a true urbanite if I still shop for groceries in the suburbs.  That’ s sort of an ironic thing for her to say to me because the whole time she’s been reluctantly living in Brooklyn, Eric and I have been loving urban life more and more and always trying to convince Robyn to love it as much as we did.  But it is true that we have always lived in easier places in some ways.  Food acquisition has always been my biggest city-living conundrum.  I’m just so used to Trader Joe’s and I love Costco.   Even here in North Jersey where I’d pretty much rather eat tacks than try to drive to the next town I found out pretty quick how to get to those two stores.  Last night Eric found our “local” Whole Foods and I dragged all the kids there first thing this morning and then hit up the Target next door.  Target!  I hadn’t been to one in about four months.

It was interesting, actually, to visit Target after a long break.  I found it pretty bland and uninteresting.  I didn’t want to browse anything.  I efficiently made it through my shopping list:  shirt for Joseph, socks for William, diapers all around, and got out of there.  Whole Foods was another story.  I began to feel as if there are many parallel food worlds.  There is one where an entire aisle is dedicated to Coke and Doritos and the baking aisle contains only chocolate made by Hershey’s.  Then there is our neighborhood where it’s like the international foods aisle greatly expanded, plus the Hershey’s chocolate but way overpriced.  Then there is the world where there is no chocolate on offer containing less than 60% cocoa and the sodas are made from hibiscus and evaporated cane juice.  Snobby as it sounds I have mainly inhabited that third world and it was really good to be back there today.  And this Whole Foods was huge.  Amazing.  I probably would have spent hours there–and a lot more money–if I hadn’t had all the kids with me.  But I didn’t even realize the best part about going there until I got home.  I’d picked up a free copy of Edible New Jersey at the checkout and just now paged through it.  The articles didn’t really grab me but the ads!  Farmer’s Markets!  Food Co-ops!  CSAs!

See, food acquisition shouldn’t be a big problem for urbanites.  In fact, at the height of our time in DC we were acquiring almost all of our food from co-ops and a local produce delivery service.  But it took a long time to find all those things–or for the right combination of people to meet each other and start it up.  But when you live within walking distance of 50,00 people (or more–or even a little less) it is not hard to find enough people who want local farm food to make it worth some farmer’s while to deliver to you.  And once you’ve got that it doesn’t take long for it to explode into a co-op large enough to entirely sustain a single farmer.  We saw this happen first hand in DC where we got fifteen families together and got an Amish farmer to truck stuff in for us each week.  Within one year he was so busy that he helped two of his neighbor famers begin off-shoot co-ops.

It’s a beautiful model, isn’t it?  Feels so anti-capitalist and all.  But what to do if you’re new to the area?  Or if you’re a farm just getting into the co-op model?  Where are you going to find like-minded people who want good food?  Whole Foods.  I’ve never really shopped regularly at Whole Foods (which Eric calls Whole Paycheck) because I’ve always had similar, cheaper options.  But this morning I wanted two things:  bulk foods, and something comforting and familiar.  I got both and also a whole slew of co-op ads.  Off to do some research . . .

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walking freely

Eric has been in the habit of late-night walks for years.  He won’t go to bed without saying a full rosary and if ten o’clock rolls around and he’s feeling sleepy he often chooses to pray while walking.  When he first started to resort to this tactic on a regular basis  (which is to say, sometime after our first child was born) we lived in the heart of Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  It’s a lovely, wealthy, safe neighborhood that makes it onto those “Top Ten Places to Live” lists.   Living in that neighborhood–and, indeed, Eric’s solitary late-night walks–fueled a great deal of our urban interest.  I never worried about Eric’s solo outings.  Our street was well-lit and he wandered freely.  But we both agreed that only he could do this safely.  We were living in a dorm, working as residence directors at that time and every semester we gave safety talks.  We always told the students that if they were coming home after dark to stick to well-lit, well-traveled streets.  We always had to admit, regretfully, that women needing to walk at night had best ask a male classmate to act as escort.  We had few problems given the circumstances but, even so, two women were attacked during our three-year term (both were fine).  I almost never walked alone after dark even in our “safe” neighborhood.

After that apartment we moved to the very edge of the same neighborhood.  There were murders not too far away, there were drug dealers six feet from my bay window.  There were regular muggings at intersections I frequented.  Though I did walk in this neighborhood during the day (alone and with the kids) I was never at ease.  At night I was nervous going from my car to our front door.  Eric did sometimes go for nighttime walks and I was always nervous for him and asked for a precise return time.

All last year we lived in St. Paul, MN.  We chose perhaps the most mixed-use walkable neighborhood we could find apart from downtown itself.  The crime rate in St. Paul is nothing compared to DC but in this neighborhood I also felt a bit on edge walking alone during the day.  I felt nervous if Eric went out at night and I was uneasy, again, going from my street parking to my front door.

Now we live in Newark, NJ and I think nothing of running errands by myself, on foot, after dark.  I let my children play outside unsupervised.  Eric goes for walks alone late at night and I don’t worry at all–sometimes I even leave our front door wide open until he returns.

As I was making my way to the grocery store the other night I was reflecting on all this.  How is it that I feel perfectly safe in Newark, of all places, but felt uneasy in St. Paul Minnesota?  It occurred to me that darkness is not the issue.  Use is the issue.

Our first neighborhood was sort of mixed.  You could go five to six blocks and hit a busy commercial area that was busy well into the evening.  Immediately around our apartment the non-residential units were only in use during the day.  By day the neighborhood was bustling.  If I were walking home from a restaurant at night I felt less safe the closer I got to home.

Our second neighborhood was cut off from the “nice” area of The Hill by a wide, blighted commercial corridor (in the process of a fantastic revival).  Our street was such a busy vehicle route that drug dealers ran a drive-thru right outside our window.  The number of vacant properties made it just statistically much less likely that a neighbor would be out with you–at any time of day.

St. Paul, on the surface, looked like the “safest” neighborhood.  Cute houses, neat yards, nice people, etc.  But all those yards meant that it took much longer to walk up to the commercial boulevard and the time in-between was eerily quiet.  Since we weren’t living cheek-by-jowl with our neighbors I didn’t know them.  Which meant I didn’t know them.   My brother-in-law who went to high school 1.5 blocks from us (and whose students gave us the 30 minutes of daily foot traffic we saw on our sidewalks) suggested once that there was just as much drug traffic in our new ‘hood as our old but we just couldn’t tell.  The police reports were short but regularly told of muggings, shootings, robberies, etc. within a couple blocks of us, often in broad daylight.  I would bet that the per-capita crime rate of that neighborhood was similar to that of parts of DC.

Then there is Newark.  Now, to be fair, we live in the Ironbound which is completely different from the rest of the city.  I’m not going to write about any other neighborhoods because I don’t know them.  Our current neighborhood probably looks to outsiders like it should be the least safe–very dense, very hodge-podge, lots of litter (why is that?) but it is the safest place we’ve lived yet.  I can walk alone at night because there are people out–lots of people–at all hours of the day.  Our street connects two very busy thoroughfares and dumps into a park at one end.  Even though our block is long pedestrians use it to connect the two streets or to visit the bar halfway down the block.  As I walk up to our main drag I pass people running errands or going out.  There is essentially no zoning in this neighborhood so almost every block–and certainly every corner–has commercial use.

I can leave my door open in the evenings when Eric isn’t here because our neighbors across the street sit on their patio talking until late.  I can let my kids play outside while I work in the kitchen because I know the neighbor kid’s mom is watching from her porch, too.  And the lady across the street is hanging her laundry.  And the guy two doors down will be coming by in a minute and will stop to chat as always.

Running errands at night is safe because all the streets on my route are in heavy use.  The darkness doesn’t affect it.  By way of counter-example, I would not cut through the park after dark because no one uses it after dark.

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Our good friend Brett joins us for breakfast every Tuesday morning. He was originally a college friend of mine who became a friend of my husband after we all moved to DC. Eric was his sponsor two Easters ago when Brett was received into the Church and our kids consider him a member of the family. I suppose I better not gush too much because I finally cracked and gave Brett the address of this blog. He lives a few blocks away and stops here for breakfast at 7:30 on his way to work for a member of Congress. I love hosting breakfast for friends and this morning we enjoyed overnight baked French toast and fresh fruit. I love that our friend can make it here on a weekday and still get to work at a responsible hour because he can commute on his bike.

After breakfast our family set off for a religious house in our neighborhood. There are at least two communities of consecrated women in our neighborhood and one of them hosts a regular “Mom’s morning” for mothers of small children to come and relax with other adult women while the kids play. The women help out entertaining the kids and, in theory, we moms can slip off to the chapel for some quiet prayer. Margaret is finally getting independent enough for me to avail myself of that opportunity more often but I love just being with these holy women and it’s always a relaxing time. Eric walked with us this morning and we both tried to answer Joseph’s endless questions about the different trees, birds, and flowers he was seeing on our walk. I have always loved the gardens in our row house neighborhood. They average twenty-five square feet, I would guess and it’s all the “yard” most people have. It’s kind of silly to tend a plot of grass in that small a space so most everyone turns the whole space into a garden and since all these gardens are right up on the street we can examine them carefully without invading anyone’s private property. It’s all cultivated, so it’s not quite like a nature walk but it’s a darn good way to get all of us interested in species identification. We all felt triumphant the other day when, after noting a pretty bird on a walk, we found it in Audubon’s and discovered that it was a Mockingbird.

Eric dropped us off at our destination and continued on to do a bit of work at the library and then attend noon Mass before picking us up again. We eat lunch together as part of our “Mom’s morning” and normally the kids are so worn out that we head straight home for a nap. But today was Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s. We are ice cream snobs and try to avoid brands that use things like carrageenan and we’d rather eat our candy bars and ice cream separately. And I have a friend who was treated very rudely by Ben of Ben & Jerry’s at a political rally. I promised her I’d join in her small boycott of the brand. But I’m not one to turn down free ice cream so we go every year to get a free cone. There are two Ben & Jerry’s shops in our neighborhood but we walked to the one more on the way home where we were very embarrassed to be ushered to the head of the line on account of Joseph’s wheelchair.

It is nine blocks from that ice cream shop to our apartment and for the second time in three days Margaret decided that she wanted to walk every step of the way herself. We’ve got her pretty well trained to hang on to the stroller or someone’s hand when we’re out and about. It’s a bit excruciating to traverse nine blocks at toddler speed–especially when your three-year old is wanting to wheel at breakneck speed over bumpy sidewalks–but I’d rather my kids walk than get chauffered everywhere in their strollers so we indulge Margaret when we’re not in a hurry. We took a shortcut through an alley and explored an upset nest of very hungry caterpillars, one of which met a sad end underneath Margaret’s shoe.

By the time we got home I had just enough time to get Margaret to sleep before going to my monthly co-op delivery. A bunch of moms in my neighborhood have worked together for a few years to get regular deliveries of bulk foods. It’s sort of like Whole Foods meets Costco but it comes via semi-truck to someone’s yard and we get good volume discounts if our group orders enough. It’s mostly stay-at-home moms who are involved because the schedule requires flexible daytime availability. Today was my last delivery serving as a bookkeeper and it was fun visiting with my friends while Eric stayed home with the napping kids. The co-op site is walking distance but I always drive so that I’m able to bring home my sacks of oatmeal and flour.

I got home as the kids were waking and took care of odds and ends for a few minutes. Eric left to walk to his weekly Holy Hour at our parish and I made a pizza for dinner. I wanted to walk with the kids to meet Eric at the church but I haven’t figured out how to push a wheelchair while carrying Margaret and a pizza so we decided to drive. There is a park next to our church and we all sat on a bench there and people watched while we ate our pizza. Lots of dog walkers were out and one dog owner and fellow wheelchair driver let Joseph feed treats to her cute dogs. We got back home a bit later than we normally start bedtime and the kids fell asleep quickly so I’m here, typing away, while Eric is out walking and praying a Rosary.

I’ve had friends say they don’t feel like they can accomplish much in one day while living in the city. I’ve always found the opposite to be true and I thought today was illustrative. We got lots of exercise, spent lots of time outdoors, saw lots of friends, accomplished errands, spent good time with the kids, and kept on top of house work and prayer. It was a great day.

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