Tuesday, April 30, 2013

So why would cyclists need a garage?

Sometimes having a garage seems to confound people when they hear we don't have a car.  "What do you do with a garage then?"   Well, we do like millions of other Americans do - we store our stuff out there.  When we had a car, it always sat in the driveway.  This past Saturday we tackled a long overdue job and hauled everything out to the driveway.  Many things were tossed and recycled.  Some things were taken into the house to be sorted out later.  People stopped and offered to buy our bikes and wagon (thinking it was a yard sale). Heck, we had more offers Saturday then the last time we really did have a garage sale.

We found the missing drill (which will be put to work in another home improvement project soon.) I found diaries from my early teen years. (Haven't gone back to read through those yet.)  My son found his sidewalk chalk which had gone lost late in the summer.  Using his newly refound chalk, he set to work helping us maintain the new organization.

 First up was a "no parking" zone in front of the small door.  Now we can get in and out much easier!

Then each bike was assigned it's own parking space.

A walkway was drawn down the center of the garage. Camping, sports equipment and yard tools all have designated spots now too.

So what do we keep in our garage?  Why our transportation of course!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Rainy days on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays.......

This is beginning to look like a common occurence on our local tv weather forecast:

The current proof is upstairs dripping in the bathtub - my husband's pants.    I called him at work a little before six oclock to see if he was coming home for dinner.  The rain looked like it was just west of town, so he decided to leave right then and try and beat the rain home.  He said it wasn't raining when he left work,but started within a block.  When he got home he was drenched all the way through.

Liz, the Education Director teaching in the barn, because, well, it was wet outside!

It was just the latest in a week full of rain-altered events.  On Tuesday Mike and Pete went out to Eagle Marsh to lead a hike.  They ended up staying in the barn the whole time because of the weather.  On Wednesday Pete and I went out to lead a hike of preschoolers.  Though the weather turned out well, the prediction was for storms, so the teacher cancelled.  This morning the prediction was again for storms and I was quite surprised to wake and find the sun shining.  So off to the marsh we trekked.  The wind was really gusty, but the temperature was in the 70s by the time we got there.

We took our two groups of preschoolers out looking for animals, their secondary signs and for shapes in nature.  Each child wore a necklace with shapes on it:  circle, square, rectangle,star, triangle, oval, diamond.   The tree branches were round on the end.  The animal burrow was an oval, the goose's beak was a triangle, the dried Queen Anne's lace was the shape of a star, square and diamond shaped rocks make circles when thrown in the water.  And we talked about the beaver that killed a giant cottonwood by eating off it's lower bark, but found all the things that still make a home in and on the tree and it's bark.  Red Wing Blackbirds were out in full force and the kids loved learning about a bird who had name that made sense.  And apparently its distinct call sounds like a cell phone.

Pete and I had lunch with us and planned to hike on the marsh after the program, eat lunch and make our way over to the library where his art class meets on Thursday afternoon.  But of course...the weather interupted our plans.  We found out a storm was moving in, so we took a shortened hike, accepted a ride over to the library and figured we'd wait out the storm there.  But that storm didn't come.  The ugly black clouds just moved overhead, so Pete and I ate our picnic outside the library in the wind, but the temperatures were warm and comfortable.  We finished up and headed inside, an hour early.  We found plenty to do, and Pete made his way to class.  While we were there another set of black clouds moved in and this one unleashed lots of rain.   We left to go catch our bus during a let up, and by the time we got home the rain was steady, but not torrential.  And there were plenty of puddles for a splash-happy nine-year old to find.

I made dinner and had the ill-fated conversation with my husband that leads off this blog entry.  He came home looking like the helmsman on Noah's ark - in a word- wet.  This is the kind of experience that makes a lot of people say they couldn't take public transportation or walk, they need a car - to stay dry in this kind of weather.   As I let my dog out earlier this evening, I looked across my back fence and saw that my neighbor had left the windows down on his car.  Just proving, that there is more than one way to get wet!

Friday, April 12, 2013

What we do for love of sports

This photo came from the video shot by Justin Cohn of the Journal Gazette.  The link is at the bottom of the page.

Pete and I have a tradition that we have kept for five years running now.  In 2009 Parkview Field opened in downtown Fort Wayne.  It is every bit as wonderful looking as the pictures suggest.  While professional baseball had been in town since 1993, the old stadium, was, well, to put it nicely, lacking.  Memorial Stadium was adequate, but just barely.  The ballgames were fun, but minimally memorable.  When a new stadium was announced for downtown we went to the presentation where the blueprints were unveiled.  It looked impressive.  As with all announcements of change in my adopted city, there were those who loved the idea, and plenty who wailed loudly about any impending change.  Well, change came and the results have been winning about any award that a ballpark can win.  So when the re-named team (went from the alliterative Fort Wayne Wizards to the historically linked TinCaps  (think Johnny Appleseed) put opening day tickets on sale, I claimed two of them.  My husband, the seriously sports minded member of the family had to work that night, so a mother-son event it became.
Some years the weather has been early April beautiful and other years it has been chilly or damp. Last night fell into both those latter categories at once.  For the first time Mike was able to get the evening off and so Pete and I planned to introduce him to the joys of TinCaps opening night traditions. On the official first day of spring we were at the ballpark to pick up our tickets.  Dreams of a warm spring night danced in our endless-winter-fatigued brains.  We got tickets for the third base side, so the sun wouldn't blind us during the game.  Let it be noted that Thursday April 11th was cold in Fort Wayne. And rainy.  All at once.

We took the bus to the game in the hopes of staying dryer longer.  Mike said his feet got wet almost as soon as he walked off the bus.  My son is allergic to umbrella use, so he claimed his hooded jacket was just fine to keep him dry.  We  arrived about 45 minutes before the game was scheduled to begin and joined the hundreds of other people who were staying under the roofed part of the concourse.  We filled out our tickets to win a game jersey or $5000.  (Didn't win either) We  looked through things in the team store (heated) and when it was finally time for the game to actually begin we headed down to our seats behind the visitors dugout. 

After two wet innings Pete and I went for the obligatory popcorn.  Just as we went back to our seats the rain began in earnest.  Before it had been a cold drizzle and tolerable.  Now it was just miserable.  I abdicated my seat and returned to the shelter of the concourse.  Eventually Mike join joined me, but Pete stubbornly held onto his seat.  Another inning or so on, the lack of company finally got to Pete.  I asked him if he was too wet.  "No, I was just lonely."  The game lasted through 5 1/2 innings before the umpires let the players out of their misery and suspended the game. Because it had gone over 5 innings, it counts as a complete game and the TinCaps came out the winners 4-0 over the Lake County Captains.

Here is how the Journal Gazette recorded the day.  If you watch the video we are the 3 fans sitting just above the 'x' in xfinity at the 1:57 timemark. 

We left when the game was called and headed home on foot.  Part way home the rain stopped and we walked without umbrellas.  I'm glad baseball season has resumed here in town.  I'll be even gladder when baseball weather is back too.
                        Taken on a day when the weather was really meant for baseball last season.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

When not being able to borrow a bike lock is a sign of progress!

"just for Karen--I walked to do my neighborhood errands today! (cause I didn't want to mess around looking for the bike lock)" 
This message popped up on facebook from a friend and it made me smile. (For any number of reasons.)   I responded to her that my own bike lock had gone AWOL quite a while ago too.  I've been using my son's lock for a year or so, since he had not been riding solo and had not needed it. 
Late last fall he finally mastered the art of self-propelling on his bike.  Then winter came and he was off the bike until about a week and a half ago.  Now all he wants to do is ride!  He announced he wanted to ride his bike to religious education tonight.  So Sunday we rode all the possible routes between home and church to figure out the best way up a decent sized hill.  Having worked that out (about 3 miles of riding later) he was content to head home. 
 We were going to stop for a treat of bubble tea at our neighborhood tea house, but alas they were closed.  So Monday night, after dinner my son and I got on our bike and rode to Firehouse Tea and Coffee to claim the celebratory bubble tea.  I got the bike lock out and put it on Pete's bike and when we arrived I had him lock his bike (and mine) to the bike rack so he would have a little practice doing it on his own.  We enjoyed our tea and then headed home in the evening dusk.  Tonight he'll ride to religious ed - this is a pretty big deal for him.  Church is about a mile and a half from home and he has clearly put a lot of planning into this trip.
I realized what it means is that I'm going to have find my own bike lock to use, because my son is grown enough now he will be needing to use his own.  Another step toward independence!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Cultural shifts are happening!

 A norm is something that is commonly accepted in a society.  Here is one definition:  Pattern of behavior in a particular group, community, or culture, accepted as normal and to which an individual is accepted to conform.  (http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/social-norm.html)

One of North America's  accepted cultural norms is that adults own cars and drive them.  Cars tell people who we are and what we are about.  Do you drive the soccer mom minivan or the outdoor adventurer Jeep Wrangler?  But what if someone changed the rules of the game and owning a car wasn't a mark of adulthood  that people bought into anymore?  What if using a car only as you needed it was the grownup thing to do?  It is any interesting concept and one that is gaining traction around the country,  especially among the under 40 generation.  NPR had this story today about this movement.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Homeschooling in Fort Wayne - car-free style!

Waiting for the bus after being at Eagle Marsh in March.

A thread in a homeschool group got me thinking about something I've meant to do for a while: post about what we do activity-wise as a homeschooling family.   This year my son has: played soccer, taken an 8 week personal safety class, gone to a weekly art classes and theater drama classes,  been part of an ongoing writing workshop, gone to regular homeschool science classes/labs, scouts,religious education, kids choir, volunteered at a local nature area, book clubs,  semi-monthly Field Trip Friday program at the library.  None of those activities has involved a car.   Living in a city that has a large,vibrant homeschool community certainly helps!  Living in proximity to the downtown, and a bus line doesn't hurt either! 

This summer he is signed up for the usual array of sports and day camps, and once again we will tackle them car-free, by bike and bus.   Like many homeschoolers we are frequently asked the question - when are you ever actually at home?!  For all the use we make of community resources, there is still plenty of learning going on at home. And that is one place you most certainly don't need a car to arrive at!

The trips often do take more time than driving in the car would, but there are some positive trade-offs we've found too.  Trips that are within a mile to mile and a half are generally made on foot, or bike.  We get lots more exercise (without having to pay the Y) and more time to do the kind of talking that walking often brings about. Observations about activity in the neighborhood have led to new topics to study.  Bus trips have been a great motivator for keeping to a schedule.  You want to go to art class? Well we have to leave in ten minutes or miss the bus, and that means missing art. That means you need to find your shoes, and put on your coat now!  When riding on the bus, I sit next to my son, not in the front seat like his chauffeur.  Makes talking to him, not at him much easier (and conversations a lot more fun.)

John Wesley once famously said "The world is my parish."  As homeschoolers we have always believed that the whole community is our classroom.  Walking and biking through it, and sharing the bus with a wide array of people from the community brings that home in many different ways that seeing our town through the rolled-up windows of our car never did.

There is a level of mindfulness that is required that I didn't have to practice when I drove everyday.  Sometimes I don't want to be mindful, I just want the convenience of motorized transportation in my driveway.  Those are the times my faith kicks in.  For our family becoming car-free was an act of faith as much as anything else.  We are practicing Christians. We believe this good earth was God's act of Creation, and that we humans are entrusted with its care.  For us, living lightly on the earth is something positive we can do.

Mainstream and car-free - in the same sentence

Yesterday an article at cnn.com crossed my facebook feed.  It was about people who live in large cities and choose to live without a car.   It is great to see things like this in a mainstream media outlet, it makes families like mine seem less exoctic, (or truthfully, just plain weird.) 

As we've started looking at the things we want to do over the summer,  the realization that we will either have to change some plans or, rent a car more often is settling in.  For about 3 months we had Megabus here in town and then it just as suddenly disappeared.  We are pretty much limited to Greyhound and Hoosieride. With little competition, neither one has an incentive to keep prices low. They also have pretty limited service.  That is the real downside to being car-free in Fort Wayne - going somewhere else gets pricey.  That would be one of my biggest reasons for ever considering a move to another city.

A question came up on a homeschool group about living with one car.  It will be interesting to see what discussion follows up on that thread.  I always love to hear other families stories.