Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hey, we're back!

Thanks to Amazon and the post office, my computer is functional again! Thank goodness - I was going crazy without it.

In other news, I signed up to be an Uber driver!


Yes, I'm going to drive people around for money.

No, I'm not worried about my safety. The users are trackable, and the transactions are cashless, paid through the app - I'm less likely to be robbed than a pizza delivery driver.

I think there will be two main challenges in driving for Uber.

1) Finding good times to go online and be available to pick up rides, and

2) Keeping the car clean enough in between fares. I've always been laissez-faire about car mess with the kids, now I have to be serious about keeping things clean and odor free.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Technical difficulties... please stand by

My laptop charger broke. The new one won't be here for a week.

This feels like having a leg cut off - I KNOW my computer and it's systems, I even modified my keyboard to be more efficient. All my passwords are saved in my browser. So, trying to use a different computer to do my posts and other work is making me bats.

I may not post much for a bit. Please don't hate me!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

4 reasons cargo bikes are worth it.

I love my bike.

You might have noticed that already.  :)

But sometimes I feel a little sheepish when people ask how much it costs, and where they can get one of their own, because technically I don't really need a full cargo bike. I could make do with a trailer to haul kids and groceries, and possibly attach it to a used tandem bike to make sure Daniel does his fair share of the work. That said, there are reasons that I keep telling people "here's where you can get one - do it right away!"

Here's why in my heart of hearts, I think spending the money on a dedicated cargo bike is worth it.

1. They're geared for the job.

If you pile a bunch of pannier bags and hitch a trailer to a basic 7 speed bike, you're going to find out very quickly what your legs can handle. The weight will make all but flat roads a major challenge. Now, I'm not saying that you won't feel the weight if you load down your cargo bike, but they're BUILT for moving weight. The gears are set up to maximize turning your effort into motion. I find it just as easy to pedal my Virtue Schoolbus as it is my 3-speed Wicked Witch bike.

If she had a cargo bike, would Toto still have escaped?

2. They can take it.

Weight? What weight? You can load a cargo bike with whatever you dare, and rest easy that the spokes (probably) won't pop. The frame won't fail. Your axle won't bend. You're good.

3. You can carry more...

people, food, plants, bricks, other bikes. You can't load a standard bike with as much as you can a cargo bike. You can load a standard bike a bunch with front and rear panniers, but if you have a bakfiets with cargo rack and panniers, you can transport more kids than a standard Camry.

4. You'll use it more.

When I had a trailer, it was a pain to set up. It handled funny. It required a lot of work, and I didn't like having my kids that far behind me. My cargo bike is easy - I roll it out of the shed, put the kids in, and away we go. Also, maybe this is just me, but if I spend a bunch of money on something, I feel more motivated to get my money's worth out of it.

Speaking of money's worth - the Kindle edition of my book, Hard Core Poor, will be marked down to $1.99 from June 13th to June 20th! That's 51% off - whatta deal!

But what? You want a paperback copy instead? If you buy the paperback through this link and use the code Q7QRAE5N, you can get a $2 discount on my $9.99 book. (That code is effective immediately)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Why I love bike riding (even though I'm slow)

By most measures, my bike riding is slow. If I use the Google maps "bike" feature to figure out a new route, I have to double my expected ride time. If another bike rider comes up beside me, it's a given that they will pass me.

A good part of this is the fact that I routinely ride a 125lb bike with an additional 300+ lbs of people and gear, including myself. But another part of why I'm slow goes way back to my philosophy of a bike as a labor reducing tool.

An eon ago, before I had kids and when I didn't have a working car, I decided to start riding my bike to work. I didn't know how to shift gears (or even if there were any gears - I think it may have been a 3 speed), there were hills that dumbfounded me, and my job was a physical one - I couldn't afford to wear myself out on my commute. So I pedaled slowly. Very slowly. And sometimes I would grumble "why do I even bother? I should just leave the stupid bike at home and walk!"

And then I would look down as I pedaled. And I noticed that the ground was going by at a jogging pace, even though I was putting out a slow strolls' worth of energy. And sometimes gravity would help me along, and I could go at a sprinting pace - or even faster - without tiring myself out. It was a way to move myself along with less effort. Granted, it was more effort than riding in a car, but car riding wasn't an available option unless I got a ride from a coworker. The only other option was to walk, and riding took less effort.

I think about that now when I see someone push a stroller. The box bike is something like a huge stroller, but I get to ride along too! It's so much easier to pedal than to walk and push. And considering the weight I'm moving, it's impressive how efficient the gears are at translating pedal motion into forward movement. I'm not in a rush, I'm not going to beat any speed records, but it's less work for me to move the load this way.

So the next time a Lance Armstrong wannabee buzzes past me on the bike path, I'll smile to myself, because speed isn't my focus.

It's laziness.  :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sleeping with the horses

That title looks like Don Corleone had something to do with it, but actually we were treated to a camping trip on Assateague Island! My mother-in-law heard about the campgrounds and wanted to break in her new/used pop-up camper, so she invited us to go camping with them.

Some of the more stand-off-ish horses.
These are some of the wild horses (and yes, they are horses, not ponies) that live and roam on Assateague Island. It's a different herd from the Chincoteague horses, but they're related. It's so bizarre - the campers are warned that the horses may bite, kick, or charge, but most of the horses are so calm about humans that they walk right up to you. One even cruised past us like a cat wanting to be petted!

We spent Friday night listening to the ocean waves crash on the beach, which was only 400 yards from our campsite. I've never had the opportunity to sleep so close to the ocean that I could hear it all night.

In the morning there was a heavy mist, but we still played on the beach and rode our bikes around. Unfortunately, I forgot that sunburn can happen through the fog, and even after the fog burned off I didn't think to put on sunscreen. The kids were fine - they stayed under cover during the high sun hours - but Jake and I got some rough burns. Even so, we got to enjoy a lot of what the Island had to offer! The beach is clean, uncrowded, and there are gorgeous birds and shells everywhere. Daniel especially loved hanging on the beach, while Catie was happier playing cards with her cousin, and Tristan just liked running, playing at the playground, and turning somersaults in the sand. We all enjoyed visiting the horses (at a respectful distance).

We had driven down there using a route that hit a lot of traffic slowdowns, so we decided to take a different route home - thank goodness Jake has no issues driving on strange roads, because this route took us over the Bay Bridge!

I have a thing about heights and narrow lanes - this bridge had both. I think I left a grip mark on the door handle, and I was just a passenger! Beautiful views, though - there were a lot of boats out that day, and the sky was clear and blue.

If you're interested in camping at Assateague, it's quite affordable - $20 - $40 per night, depending on if you need electric hookups and hot showers. If you're really adventurous, they also offer a back country camping pass for only $5 for the length of your stay, but you need to bring in your own water (no fresh water available) and pack out your trash. And since you can have up to 6 people per campsite, it's a great vacation for bigger families - hotels start insisting that you need more than one room if you have more than 4 people. Two side-by-side campsites are easier to supervise than two adjoining hotel rooms.  :)

If you like your beaches unspoiled and uncrowded, check it out - it was so beautiful!

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Flats Handwashing Challenge!

Wow, you guys - on Monday, the 5th Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge begins!

If you're not a cloth diapering parent, I get why that sentence would be confusing. Here's the deal. Back in 2011, a few news stories ran about impoverished parents not having enough money for disposable diapers, so they would rinse and reuse disposables.

Think about that for a minute. You might say to yourself "There's no way I would EVER do that to my baby. I'd just find a way to get more diapers". To which I can only say "Then you've never been truly poor". There are NO national or state provided programs to provide diapers, and while some charities will provide them, they run out fast. WIC doesn't provide diapers, and food stamps can't pay for toiletries - only food. (That means the poor are often without toilet paper, too - when you make your next food bank donation, maybe drop off a few packs of TP and maxi pads. They'll be thrilled.)

So Kim from Dirty Diaper Laundry thought about this. The people who were in need usually were living in apartments with no washers or dryers, and couldn't afford the high prices of the fancier cloth diapers anyway. BUT - then she thought of flats! Flats ( or flatfold diapers) are a single layer of cotton, usually 27" square, that can be folded to fit any baby of any size. They wash easily, since there are no thick layers or elastic, and they dry quickly on the line. And they're cheap! You can buy flour sack towels at Target for $4 a 4 pack (many people used to make their diapers out of flour sacks) or better yet - go to the thrift store on half price day, buy a bunch of XXL cotton t-shirts for $.50, and make 2 flats from the front and back!

(Not to brag, but I totally gave her this idea. She'll tell you so herself.  :) )

The challenge part of this upcoming week? Use only flats with your choice of covers, wash them BY HAND, and hang them or iron them dry.

I won't be participating - I did this for realsies in 2002 and 2003, and I feel like that buys me an out now that I have my own washer and dryer. Also, I have a lot of prefolds, AIOs, and training pants - if I add a batch of flats to the mix, I'll be out of room.

But I do support this challenge, because it shows that nearly anyone can afford to cloth diaper AND can do it without a washing machine. (I say nearly, because, yes, some people truly can't. No time, no strength, chronic pain, etc.) I HAD to do this when my daughter was a baby, because we would have had to choose between diapers and food, gas, or utilities. It saved us $75 a month when we really needed it, but more than anything, it saved me from worrying about it. No matter what else happened, I knew that I had the resources to keep my baby clean and dry. I may have had to scrub them out in the bathroom sink every night and hang them to dry all over the bathroom, and the best covers I could get were vinyl pull-on pants, but I still had this covered, so to speak. I might not even have enough money to do one load at the laundromat, but I could still wash the diapers and have them ready for my baby.

I've heard some people complain that it was degrading to ask poor people to use cloth diapers. I never felt like it was degrading - I felt like I was being self-reliant, which is a rare feeling when you're poor. When you're poor, you always have to ask for things - a ride, gas money, toilet paper - and after a while you start to feel like a bum. This was one thing I didn't have to ask for. Diapers? No thanks - we've got that covered.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Idle thoughts and an upcoming freebie

Tired today. Tired tired tired. Tiers of tired. Tired to tears.

I actually ended up taking an hour long nap with Tristan yesterday. I rationalized it by explaining that he would wake up if I moved, and his nap schedule was way off the day before, so I NEEDED to lay there with him. For the good of the family. Of course, that was all TRUE, but it also meant that I spent a bunch of toddler-free time unconscious, which meant a bunch of things I considered doing didn't get done.

There are a bunch of reasons I'm tired. One is that Friday and Saturday we helped my parents move. They downsized from a 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath house with 2 floors plus basement and a huge, jungle-y yard, to a nice, 3 bedroom 2 bath ranch with actual grass for a yard, main floor laundry, 2 car garage, and a full (clean) basement. It's perfect for them - it's easy to live in and maintain, they don't need to use stairs as they age, and they don't have all that extra space to fuss with - but it's big enough that they won't feel cramped.

We also did some yard sale shopping, curb side scavenging, and we're preparing to go on a camping trip that my mother in law is treating us to this weekend. So, yes. Tired.


This weekend I have a special treat coming up - the Kindle version of "Hard Core Poor" will be FREE on Saturday and Sunday! Yes, FREE. Costing zero, zilch, bupkis!

Spread the word - if a friend has said "Hm, that sounds like it might be good to read", this is their (or your) chance to get it free!

And I hope your weather has been as good as it is here!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Pot calling kettle... which I eat crow over my last post complaining about how OTHER people spend their money.

Because I just spent money on something that I'm sure some of you will find ridiculous.

another bike in almost identical condition. Mine is too deep in the shed to get a picture.

The PPV (People Powered Vehicle), which will probably take the family name of "the big bike" away from my Virtue Schoolbus, is now mine, for the low price of $250.

Why would I buy such a thing? It's big and bulky, heavy and slow. I don't need it in any real sense. And surely we could use the money elsewhere. So why buy it?

Several reasons come to mind. The main reason is that this baby is rare AND underpriced. They only made 5000 of these back in the '70's in reaction to the oil crisis, and comparable ones are listed for $600 on eBay. We can play with this, clean it up, ride it in a few parades, and still sell it at a profit after a few years.

It has a few minor mechanical issues, and one of the terrific Recycle Bicycle volunteers has offered to help me rebuild this mighty beast over the course of a few Sundays. The kids are DYING to take it for a ride. DYING, I tell you.

Also, check out the hood. It's just begging for a classy custom paint job, don't you think? I can't wait to get at it with some acrylic paint and do some gorgeous Celtic knot or something on there. I have to pick some design that will enhance the bike, so when we decide to sell it doesn't reduce its' value. Maybe a Celtic tree of life?