Scaling the Mountain

I live at the bottom of a mountain. I do not mean this metaphorically, I mean this literally. This is the nature of my city – mountain peaks soar over it. Houses climb up the sides of these mountains – the high rent district, where there are fabulous views and possibly treacherous commutes on snow days. Where you can sometimes escape above the clouds and rain blanketing the citizens who live at lesser altitudes.

My neighbourhood in particular is located right in the spot where things transition abruptly from “not-mountain” to “mountain”. A few blocks from my house it is suddenly all very much “hill”. And Hannah’s school sits at the top. It is not that far, really, the uphill stretch. Maybe a block – but a block at a pretty impressive grade. Let me tell you that when you’re pushing a 2-year-old in a stroller (that he’s always trying to escape from) and trying to prod a 5-year-old along it feels far. Far and steep.

Twice every weekday I make the trip up that hill – once to drop Hannah off at kindergarten and once to pick her up. I always have Jacob in the stroller. And we are always in a rush. Because somehow, we are always running late by the time we get to the bottom of the hill. And as I break into a sweat 1/3 of the way up, I start cursing this twist of geography.

“If there must be a hill, why could the school not be at the bottom of it? You’re never in a rush leaving the school, but you’re always in a rush coming. If I had to walk uphill to get home I could take my time. Maybe pause for water breaks. And when I really needed to run it would be downhill and gravity would be my friend instead of my fricking mortal enemy. That’s right, gravity, you’re my enemy right now. I’m on to you. Wait, was that the bell? Crap! I hate this hill!

Only it doesn’t really sound that way in my head. It sounds more gaspy.

“Puff puff puff wheeze cough! Gah! Puff puff. I. Puff puff. Hate. Puff puff. Really. Puff Gasp! Hate. Puff. Stupid! Puff. Hill! Puff puff. Why. Puff. Can’t school. Puff puff puff. Be bottom? Cough! Bell! Puff puff. Hate bell. WHEEEEZE!”

One day on the way to school I told Hannah that the hill haunted my dreams. Which is not untrue. I’m sure it’s good for me and I’ll get the much-sought-after buns of steel from climbing it, but that freaking hill mocks me and my stroller-pushing self every time I climb it. I’m all out of breath and sweaty by the time I get to the top. I have to take a moment to recover if I need to talk to Hannah’s teacher, or else my words are all unintelligible and she gets the concerned face and employs calming techniques. It’s not a good sign when someone starts employing calming techniques on you.

Still, I probably should not have shared this tidbit with Hannah. Because now every day she asks me if we can drive to school. Really, we could. I have a car. And since she arrives in the middle of the day, there isn’t a crush of parents in the car pool lane all vying for a spot. But I committed to walking. I committed to walking because it’s better for the planet and it’s better for us. I committed to walking because I took the bus to school and of course I always wanted to be able to walk. I committed to walking to get us all outdoors and taking part in our neighbourhood. And yet, as she proposes driving I question that commitment.

So far, I’ve kept with the walking plan. But it’s early days yet – I’ve only had to walk in the rain once. Come November, I wonder if I’ll be singing a different tune. Or maybe I’ll get better at scaling that mountain and I’ll run up it blithely in my galoshes, inclement weather be damned. Probably not, though. I do very few things blithely, especially in galoshes. Although I do love to say galoshes, I don’t really like to wear them.

So, tell me. Are there any hills that haunt your dreams? Any peaks that you have had to scale that tortured you and caused you to curse your very existence? And did you ever get the much-sought-after buns of steel? Tell me, I need to know.

September’s Crafting my Life series is about relationships. On the last Thursday of the month, which just happens to be 2 days from now, I will include a link up. To participate, write a post on creativity anytime in September, or track down a post you’ve written on the subject sometime in the past, and add yourself to the list. Then read everyone else’s ideas and thoughts and be inspired! Check out the link-ups from January, February and March to get a feel for how it works.

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  1. Sounds like a great workout Amber. Go for the buns o steel. Don’t let it beat you, conquor that hill!

    I remember years ago wanting to be in bikini shape (pre-kids). My personal trainer gave me some extensive ab exercises that I couldn’t do more than 5 of each but he wanted me to do three sets of 15! They were very painful and challenging but got easier with every workout. After 1 month of doing them twice to three times per week, they were a breeze. You can do it!
    Tanya’s last post … An incredible journeyMy Profile

  2. Ahhh, the wonderful hill. Yes, I can relate. Assuming we are still living where we are I expect I will be tackling my own hill frequently…actually, possibly not since I won’t be the school drop off or pick up person most days.

    My hill would be a dream for you. You WOULD be going up hill on the way home and could take water breaks. And you would. Trust me, I know. I’ve walked it pushing Victoria, I’ve walked it pushing Victoria and carrying Amelia in a Snugli, I’ve walked it just pushing Amelia. Each and every time I curse that hill.
    Carrie’s last post … Disney Vacation- Day 2 – Everyone is happier with foodMy Profile

  3. I trained for three NYC Marathons in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, which is all hills. Running up the steepest, longest slope (which I might do two or three times during a long training run), I would tell myself, this is making me stronger, this is making me stronger, this is making me stronger…. Running up that hill never felt any better, but I did learn to feel gratitude for it. Really. I love the feeling of my heart working that hard.

    Right now, the hill that I’m cursing is metaphorical: all the deadlines I have to meet this week. Ugh. Going up this hill does not involve my heart in the way that feels good….
    Rachael’s last post … Too Many Good ThingsMy Profile

  4. Yoohoo from the mountain peak!
    We have the opposite on school runs – it’s downhill all the way, and we’re still late and hear the bell ringing. In snow and ice and rain it’s dicey. The hill back up is steep but at least there’s no one but the cat to converse with when all sweaty, pink and gasping.

    No, the hills of my ‘dreams’ are all in Edinburgh where I went to university. I cycled a lot, and no matter my destination or abode, the route back home was always uphill.In those days I had a bike with only 3 gears too so it was painful progress! and no, i didn’t get the buns!
    pomomama’s last post … tempo rubatoMy Profile

  5. Oh my son’s school is on the other side of a ravine so not only do i have to walk down the super steep stairs but also up the hill on the other side. And if I take the stairs, which is a considerable short cut I can’t bring the stroller but have to lug the almost two-year-old. Buns of steel, I tell my self.

  6. I like to say galoshes too:)! I live on a steep hilltop 10 kms away from anywhere, and I drive. When I lived in a city, I didn’t even own a car.
    Francesca’s last post … Some things are better smallMy Profile

  7. Creepy stuff Amber!
    I have hill nightmares all the time!!!!
    AND my kids’ school is at the top of the valley (and I live in the bottom) there is one heck of a grade that last 1/4 km, and I am alway huffing by the top (even without the stroller!).

    I recommend one of those tricycles with the parent handle. It revolutionized our walks up to the school because the little boy actually WANTS to be on the trike, he may be able to help a bit by pedalling and it is somehow easier to handle. NOT the kind with the hard plastic wheels though or the road noise may drive you mental. Splurge on the rubber wheel kind if you are getting one…. and if you don’t think his pedalling will happen, get the kind with foot rests.

    KUDOs to you for sticking with the walking. It’s okay to be late for Kindergarten, if she is embarassed by it she’ll move a little faster in the morning…. and buns of steel are the great side effect maybe even more motivating than environmental impact.

    My youngest is in Grade 4 now so he gets himself to school (all alone!) I drove him once so far because it was raining hard and he had the sniffles. It’s strange and liberating just booting them out the door these days!
    *pol’s last post … Much better nowMy Profile

  8. What time does Hannah’s Kindergarten day start? Kindergartens here start around 8:30am. I would HATE to scale a mountain early in the morning. Well, let me re-phrase that. Scaling a hill or mountain at any time of the day would not be fun. The would drive me crazy. That hill would haunt me in my dreams. Legitimately.
    Old School/New School Mom’s last post … Crying in Front of Your KidsMy Profile

  9. I’ve always lived out in the country so I’ve never been able to walk to school. Something very romantic about that notion…though I’m sure as a parent it would be rushed so if you throw in a hill? Yeah, not romantic anymore. We do live walking distance to our elementary school (assuming my kids do wind up in school) and I hope to walk. But we’ll see.
    AmberDusick’s last post … Collaboration or- woodmouse jumped into a dressMy Profile

  10. I agree with other Amber. The walking thing sounds lovely — and now that I walk to get two kids who can walk home on their own (my husband usually drops them off in the morning because he’s awesome) it is rather lovely. When I had to get there with Eve to get Angus and it was less a brisk pleasant stroll than a sweaty panicky lurching half-run? Less lovely. If there had been a hill? Possible deal-breaker. You go, Iron woman.
    allison’s last post … SpoemMy Profile

  11. I live in the flat, flat delta. Not a hill for miles around where I live. However I am glad to hear that I am not the only mom who is always in a rush on the way to school. Over a year in and I still can’t get it together on school days.
    Marilyn (A Lot of Loves)’s last post … Broken Tree- Wednesday of Few WordsMy Profile

  12. Ahhh, no literal hill, but a number of figurative “hills” that taunt me daily.

    Glad to hear you are sticking with it thus far. Rain would have certainly been a deal breaker for me…

  13. We live close enough to walk to kindergarten (blissfully flat route), but I drive, since I’m always hustling to a meeting at work afterwards. The middle school and high school are even closer, which will be nice for the boys, since they’ll be able to get to and from school on their own, eventually.

    I’m so tired right now that I’m not actually getting nightmares . . . is that a good thing? Not sure.
    Lady M’s last post … In Search of a Grown-Up DressMy Profile

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  2. […] every day. My 2 1/2 year old Jacob rides along in a stroller. The school is located at the top of a steep hill, and invariably we are rushing because we left the house too late. I know that I am going to have […]

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  4. […] driven instead of walking, I’ve stuck with my commitment. Every morning and afternoon I make the walk up the hill to the neighbourhood school. I continue to do this for three […]

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