Make a paper bike, or: Finding community during social distancing times

The other day, I noticed a neighbor had put a lot of paper hearts in her porch window. Two days later I noticed that the neighbors across the street had painted hearts on their windows facing the house with the paper hearts. I came home and started sifting through my crafting supplies to find some colored paper to decorate my windows with paper hearts.

These past two weeks have been a little more screen heavy with my kiddos than I would like to admit. I have joined social distancing parenting groups on Facebook, trying to find the best practices for home educating kiddos during this weird time. I need my children to log onto their tablets, and chromebooks to occupy themselves so I can buy time to process this new world we live in, out of their view. My husband works from home, and aside from all his trips cancelling, nothing has changed much with his job. ( Thank god!) He gets up, makes the family breakfast, and excuses himself to work in our four years old’s bedroom. He was previously working from our living room- but in doing so, was confining the rest of the family and the dog to the basement or the bedrooms. Dad’s office had to move. I am not able or willing to quiet my rambunctious kiddos during this time that we are all confined to our home.

We have it a lot easier than most families right now. We have a huge yard, a playset, a basement filled with legos, and a (pandemic impulse purchase) 14 foot trampoline. I am trying to get my husband on board with building a backyard pump track, but no luck yet. He has been building wooden obstacles for riding mountain bikes on, but they admittedly are pretty sketch. The wood he is using has been out in the backyard for a few years, and wobbles too much for my taste. Pump tracks are stable! It’s compacted dirt! We have a big yard and wiggly children and are my husband and I are a couple that happens to have an enormous amount of energy! This is not a new push from me- it is not the result of pandemic panic, not from fear of never getting to ride bikes with friends in the woods again- I want a pump track in our yard because I want one. We are both mountain bikers, but the kids have little interest in hitting the (currently closed) trails. They have fun when they get there, but the struggle is real to get out to the trails without a tantrum. A pump track in the yard solves everything! The kids get to jump, or swing, or do whatever they want while we get to play bikes around them! No neglecting or ignoring necessary! We will see what they are doing as we look through our turns!

I am not sure I am going to get my pump track, so back to the paper hearts. Our one neighbor put up paper hearts, the neighbor across the street painted hearts, and it inspired me to put up paper hearts on our porch windows as well. As I was cutting away at the paper hearts, I started to think about other shapes that we could decorate the windows with. I always have bikes on the brain, so I started crafting a paper bicycle to join my paper hearts . Then, I made some paper trees for my bikes to adventure through. I feel connected to my neighbors though these hearts. It brightens my day, and gets the kiddos out on walks. These hearts are like little high fives, or hugs from my community. These neighbors putting hearts on their windows make me feel joy, hope, and I love that they spent the time to send this energy out to the world.

 

I have heard in (much) bigger cities, the bike paths are closed. It is a direct result of too many people on the path at the same time. I rode by the Cap City Trail the other day, and it was packed. People enjoying their bikes or runs without a care in the world. It looked normal. Too normal. I counted the number of times my nose ran on my bike ride. I remembered the last time I went on a group ride with pals ( on a frozen Lake Monona) and all the snot rockets that were blown. So. Much. Mucus. It is nearly impossible for me to ride a bike and not get mucusy. Snot rockets are always an issue if you are too close to other people. Now they are especially dangerous, not just gross. No more acting like Puck from the Real World: San Francisco. Keep your snot inside your homemade face mask that you crafted together with friends on Zoom.

 

Riding off the crowded bike paths is important right now. Meandering through the different neighborhoods in our city on the streets is much safer than the amazing paths that our fair city boasts. Get lost in your city. Find new routes. Look up and notice paper hearts or paper bikes along the way. Notice these intentional reminders that you are not alone right now. Make paper hearts and paper bikes to socially-distant embrace your community. Social distancing is important, so that one day we get to ride bikes together like we did last year.

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