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A Simple Six: 8/21/11 - 8/28/11

Friday, August 26, 2011

Spinning my hypocratic-web

Can you have a car-free month and still drive your car once, how about twice, three times? I know we got off to a rough start, but we have been going great since the 2nd of August. Oh, then there was that one time Brent drove to get Grandma from the Greyhound station. Does that count? I mean, if we really didn't have cars, we would have had to rent one in that particular situation, so driving was relatively unavoidable. Having two cars sitting out front and driving one to the station was sort of like renting a car right? One of the purposes to this entire car-free month was to set out to discover what was possible, for our family of six, without driving a car in Huntington, WV.

If part of our self-inflicted contract was to reduce our carbon foot print, this blog would read more like No Impact Man. While what we are doing has great benefits to the environment, it's not one of our primary purposes, just another great by-product of our efforts.

With two blemishes on our record since August first, I am knowingly committing to another. After spending four days with my grandma she was picked up by her friends from Milton last Saturday, and has spent the past week with them. Before she left our house she was wanting to get her return ticket from the Greyhound station to leave tomorrow, August 27. Grandma is 76. She was obviously slowing down considerably since the last time she visited and I feel that going home on the Greyhound isn't right. I am driving her home tomorrow. She's paying for the gas, at her insistence, and no objections from me. It was a compromise. She doesn't like to have folks go out of their way for her and she really just wanted to take the bus. I told her I had been wanting to get up to Ohio anyway and she would be doing me a favor by providing the excuse. I think we are both happy.

I couldn't let an opportunity to go to central Ohio pass by. I am making plans for an afternoon in Columbus.

While I feel like a cheat and hypocrite, I do feel justified with the next breath. We are still saving enormous amounts of money. We have been able to live without our cars here in Huntington and I am replacing a potential rental with my own van. Yet, obviously I feel guilty enough to lay myself out here to try to assuage my own mind and keep my path honest.

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We Needed a Doctor, Now

Miles Walked: 12.5 Biked: 50.9 Bused: 2.1 Drove: 0 This week
36.3 106.9 12.6 3.6 Since August 14, 2011

For those that know us, Brent's urge to take our children to the doctor is a matter of fact. There is no question about whether a runny nose or sore throat needs a visit to the physician, it does. There were two incidences this week where we needed a doctor for sick visits and we needed them now. Our regular pediatrician is on Route 60 at the HIMG building. We could get there if we walked many blocks and took the bus that goes straight to his door. It would require an appointment most of the time and walk in hours in the evening, thus complicating the bus issue, as we would need a specific bus and the time between pick ups is usually an hour. It's near 90 outside and the child is sick, would you walk them to the bus stop and take them? No, we wouldn't either, unless we absolutely had to, which we don't.

We have the very good house placement of being a five minute walk from our door to the Cabell Huntington Hospital (CHH) door, if you go the way the birds fly and if you don't, add an extra five. The family practice at Marshall University Medical Center (MUMC), adjacent CHH, has walk-in hours from 8-11AM and 1-4PM. We used them twice this week. First for London's sore throat. It turned out to be allergies. Second for  Oliver's raspy breathing, a bit more serious. He has some respiratory stress and was told to get back on his nebulizer with albuterol and take an oral steroid twice a day. He has a history of these sorts of spells.
Oliver with his nebulizer mask

For London's ailments, she and Brent walked the longer route there, waited, were seen and walked back in under an hour. Today, for Oliver, Brent turned down my idea of taking the stroller and carried Oliver the more direct way (between homes and down a rocky run off). His total trip was 45minutes. Then Brent biked to the pharmacy (approx. 1.5miles round trip) for the steroids and a bag of Twizzlers and came home before biking back out for work. He really does make family his priority. Having a career with flexibility also makes this possible.

Not driving our car didn't compromise the care for our children. I have been meaning to call the MUMC to establish care with their pediatricians, but the family practice walk-in has served us well for now. The other issue with our family, being the size that it is, we are always going to the doctor. I hope these visits are not a sign of another endlessly ill winter, as it's only August. Last year we got started in October and didn't emerge till June. That's right, we have had just over two and half months with mostly well family members.

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Our Vehicle History: Brent

Part 1, my car history is back here. Part 3, our history together will be out soon. And this, Part 2, is probably a poor account of what Brent told me, but he won't write it himself. Something to do with that full time job he has and all those extra accounts he works on. I just don't understand what he means when he says "I don't have the time."

Mean while I am spending all his money. I paid for the bike he bought (with the credit card) several weeks ago , bought two plane tickets to Phoenix to my sister's wedding and still have money put back for school tuition that is coming due. The tuition and the bike were from the extra income he has been earning, but the trip is all because of the savings from not driving our cars this month. No gas, no car payment (because we paid it off with other extra income Brent earned this summer), and reduced car insurance=$600 for two plane tickets, one for me, one for my other sister (who's celebrating her golden birthday today). I can't wait to surprise both of my siblings with the news that we will all be together for a wedding.

Back to Brent
During his early teen years Brent biked around his hometown of Ravenswood, WV. He likes to tell a story of working at tomato farm in Ohio, just over the river. He would get up early and bike over the bridge in all conditions to earn his piddly wages. Once he fell asleep while riding. I still can't imagine how this is possible, but he and his mother swear it's true. To make the story more dramatic, he was riding over the bridge when it happened.

At the age of seventeen he got his first set of wheels, a Chevette. He recalls driving it everywhere, ditching the bike, as it was no longer cool and going through a series of vehicles till he moved to Parkersburg, WV. He lived without a car for about a year and half, walking and carpooling with his girlfriend, co workers, neighbors, etc. He then moved to Columbus, OH, again without a vehicle. He choose an apartment blocks from work and a nieghborhood with a high walk score* (should he have checked back in the '90s).

He had a client at work in Columbus who owned a used car lot and  Brent was persuaded to buy an Eagle Talon. He was driving this car when I met him in 2001 and it was this car that was hit on May 23 of that year and deemed a total loss by the insurance company. Thus beginning our car story together.

*For comparison, the Huntingon, WV zip code, 25701 has a walk score of ZERO. Our actual home address here in town has a score of 54/100. What is your walk score?


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fairfield Community Garden at the Barnett Center

Does this require a caption? Brent rode with us then went to work.

Our family has been out to help at the Fairfield Community Garden on Hal Greer a couple of times in the past.  One of those times was in July this year when I biked with the four children to enjoy dinner and some weed pulling while Brent was away in Elkins. I have always enjoyed my time there and wanted to do even more, so today Oliver and I did. We biked the brick paved 15th Street (partially a one way) to Charleston Avenue and then cut the wrong way up 14th. There were no cars going this route, which was more quiet, shadier and safer than taking Hal Greer. It was also only about two blocks out of our way. I should clarify that "out of our way" really doesn't apply, as we appreciate the shade, quiet and safety even more when we are on our bikes, making the two blocks a complete pleasure to endure.

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The patch after I unburied it. Note: I must remember to do those "before" pictures.
Eve, the master garden, guided us to a completely over grown strawberry patch and kept us company while we worked as she watered and weeded alongside. I was surprised by all the insects and produce and Eve was a great resources of information on the flowers versus weeds conundrum I found myself in several times. She was a huge resource for everything, but I especially needed help with weeds.

I learned that the last Friday of each month the Barnett Center has a healthy food pantry and they welcome your donations of produce or time. This is important information. I am over whelmed with green beans from our CSA and while I preserve and eat what I can, I will be dropping off a bag for others to enjoy. Maybe you have extra garden produce that you could spare and share? Stop by tomorrow morning before 11:30AM.

Ever bearing strawberries. I never imagined eating a ripe strawberry off the vine in late August.

ArtWorks mosaic mural from 2009. More information on ArtWorks can be found at the Huntington Museum of Art.

I also learned that egg plant grows on a large upright plant. I thought it grew on a vine like zucchini.

A SPIRAL herb garden. Serene and practical.

The garden is completely fenced in, making it great to bring our children. Oliver piddled about picking up rocks, throwing balls and plucking flowers. He played a bit in the water and helped us move weeds. Oliver and I only worked for about 90 minutes, but we ate a few strawberries, picked a pumpkin, took a few pictures and filled a wheel barrel heaping full of weeds.

Miles Walked: 9.2 Biked: 42.4 Bused: 0 Drove: 0 This week
33 98.4 10.5 3.6 Since August 14, 2011

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

April Dawn Splash Ground--Milton, WV

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Oliver and Etta at April Dawn Park, Milton, WV

Waking up to 61 degrees and cloudy isn't usually the time to think about a trip to the splash grounds. It's a good thing my friend Ashley emailed me a couple days ago and asked Oliver and I to accompany them to Milton for an end of the summer season park visit. We were extremely glad we accepted her invitation as the temperatures soared to the low 90s mid afternoon. She lives in the neighborhood and picked us and our gear up a bit after noon. I packed enough for a lunch at the park and after school snacks for us all, as well as the stroller to get home, hats and diaper bag.
Ashley, Oliver and Etta at the splash grounds.

My shadow on the analemmatic sundial.

Oliver and Ashley testing the sundial. We think it didn't account for day light savings time.

We enjoyed a couple hours at April Dawn, splashing about, swinging and picnicking. Those little tots were wore out by 2:15 and we headed back to Huntington. Ashley dropped me and my loot off at Our Lady of Fatima so I could retrieve the children and head home by foot. We met Brent at home at 4:30 for an early dinner before he had to return to work for another round of classes.

Yesterday's heavy mileage combined with about four hours of midday sun has me worn out. I promised the children we would bus home tomorrow to give ourselves a needed day of rest.

Miles Walked: 9.2 Biked: 40.4 Bused: 0 Drove: 0 This week
33 96.4 10.5 3.6 Since August 14, 2011

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An 18 Mile Day

In July we were trying to put all our errands into one day. On that single day of the week we would drive the van in a well planned circle. Our experience in the link above was about a twelve mile circle on a Tuesday, our designated car day.

Yesterday, Tuesday, I set about to do all that needed to get done without the van and without sharing the load with Brent so he could stay in work-mode. I accomplished going to the park to play with friends (8miles biking), picking up the children from school (2 miles biking, 2 miles walking), taking a bag of veggies to our CSA partner, biking with London to Girl Scouts, and getting groceries (6 miles biking for all three stops). That's how I had an 18 mile day.
Walking home from school. Loaded trailer and racks. A rare picture of me, taken by London.

We came home by way of Spring Drive, a new road for us, and we found this gorgeous home and garden. I wanted to jump the fence, lay in the grass and watch the clouds.

Kroger bike parking accommodations.

All of this was possible because of our really great network of friends. One friend took the three children to school, as she had two going to school and we are on her way there. Another friend picked up our CSA from the church and brought them to our house, as she was going to pick up her's and our house was on her way home too. Proximity and planning were the other factors to my success. Our CSA partner was on the way to Girl Scouts and Girl Scouts was on the way to the grocery.  The scout meeting was scheduled to be 90 minutes and London's old enough to drop her off. The continued great weather doesn't hinder things either.

St. Paul Lutheran church on 12th Avenue hosts the Girl Scout meetings. I like laying the bike in grass versus leaning it against a pole to scratch up the frame.
The scouts baked cupcakes then had an eat off. London very easily finished hers first.

With planning in mind, there were a great deal of things that had to be coordinated to meet our basic needs yesterday. With all those things I did, we still had to work in Oliver's nap, prepare and eat our four meals,  homework, chores, and all the rest. We put off things like baths and dishes for today. Napping took place twice in the bike trailer and once in his bed after the park. I made a loaf of banana bread on Monday night for breakfast, Oliver and I packed a lunch for the park, the children packed extra items in their lunches for after school snacks and thanks to our amazing meal co-op, dinner was done in 15 minutes by merely warming it up and dolling it out. My children have a daily routine that we have been using since London started first grade. That was the year I had two children in school for the first time and I needed some more structure to my day. Homework and chores are a part of the routine.

We don't have days like this often, by choice, but when we do, I am thankful that I have options for transportation and a model for a system of organization that can get us through it. Having a husband that puts in the time Brent does with his work and with his family is unforgettable and most appreciative.

Regardless of how you get there, what makes your day doable? What's your system for "getting it all done?"

Miles Walked: 7.2 Biked: 29.8 Bused: 0 Drove: 0 This week
31 85.8 10.5 3.6 Since August 14, 2011

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mother's Club of Huntington, WV-Harveytown Park Play Date

A Mother's Club playgroup at Harveytown Park

For five years now I have been a part of a diverse and encouraging group of women with children here in Huntington. When we moved here, I sought out people who would be able to connect me to the resources and information I needed. These ladies were able to do more than what I was looking for. Over the years they have been the foundation of support for each new babies I have birthed, for when one of our children fell extremely ill (Guillain-Barre syndrome, GBS), for the times when I wasn't sure what dentist to choose or what the advantages to preschool would be for us. The Mother's Club of Huntington has given us opportunities to explore our neighborhoods, create friendships for our children and for us as parents. The group has been a network to the community at large and provided respite on weary days. These girls have kept my calendar full, given me much to laugh about and ceaselessly cared for my family.

Sending three children out the door yesterday provided Oliver and I with plenty of chore time. With all that out of the way, today we bike to Harveytown Park to meet up with the Mother's Club. Again, we took the PATH as far as it would go and were very pleased to find a flat and partially side walked Harvey Road directly to the park at the end of the PATH. My memory recalled a couple of steep hills, very fast curves and treachery all around. I am thankful my memory is faulty at times like this.

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I haven't been very active in the club for quite a long time. When our son was going through GBS in January 2010, Oliver was only four weeks old. After he got better (he did achieve a full recovery) I was not in the right state of mind, body and soul to be as outreaching. It might sound a bit quirky, but all this transportation as exercises or vice-verse has appeared to pull me back together again. The blogging has given me accountability and additional purpose to my days. The plight of reducing our vehicular dependency may have started with a financial need, yet it seems to have worked a magic in many other areas of my life as well. I won't count chickens quite yet, but I was really looking forward to seeing everyone today and meeting all the new moms.

A view from our ride today:
Brent walked to work and left me his bike to make it easier for me today.

For sale on North Blvd. Very tempting...if it could seat six, or at least three.

End of PATH on North Blvd. Safety Town in the distance.

Turning onto Harvey Road. Sidewalks! Park straight ahead. I even saw the #4 bus about three times during my ride.

New parking lot with a wide walkway to the playground, we rolled right in.

Shady bike slumping for a sleeping Oliver.

Lunch break.

Leaving the park I opted for the sidewalk to document the safety for my husband.

It was fine till this moment, then I skipped onto the streets again.

Just to show that there was a sidewalk most of the way.

The sidewalk disappeared but there was a thin worn gravel path on the left here that looked to be they way most bikers and walkers wandered. If I didn't have the trailer behind me I could have used this strip.

It's very hard to see here, but the gravel continued to the end of the road.

It's always a comfort to see other people enjoying the PATH.

Little League 3 fields, also right on the PATH.

Gaggle of children enjoying the ducks at Ritter Park.

We appreciate crosswalks that stop all directions of traffic and give us a visual and auditory signal like the one at Hal Greer and Washington Blvd.

Also very thankful for our garage door opener after biking uphill to get home and being all hot and sweaty. I keep it in the trailer or my pocket.

Miles Walked: 3,6 Biked: 22.3 Bused: 0 Drove: 0 This week
27.4 78.3 10.5 3.6 Since August 14, 2011

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Uneventful School Commuting

Miles Walked: 2 Biked: 14.5 Bused: 0 Drove: 0 This week
25.8 70.5 10.5 3.6 Since August 14, 2011
Avery's first day of preK.

Brent biked up to the children's school this morning by himself in order to meet the children with their ride. Our friend drove her three and our three up to school and I am assuming the whole thing was uneventful. It was Avery's (age 4.5 years) first day of prekindergarten, his very first day of school ever. He went to a VBS with a friend for two mornings this summer and other than that, he has never had any structured environmental preschool, away from parent time (that I can recall). Brent felt Avery needed a parent representative for this monumental occasion. I thought the same thing, but I had a lot of mixed feelings and opted to stay home with Oliver.
Cleaned them up, Olive dumped them out, and so it goes.

Oliver desired backpack time.

Knowing how absolutely appalling my living conditions have been for nearly two and half years, this was photo worthy.

They all left at 7:40AM and I didn't see any of them again until 4:30PM when Brent returned from work and school with three tired children. Oliver and I managed to stay busy enough but the efforts of cleaning the home became rather boring and he opted for a long nap and I chose to do paperwork. I like the uneventful school commutes and we think we will stick with this scenario for the remainder of August.
Oliver ran to greet them all.

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Our Vehicle History: Stacy

Due to the nature of marriage, this will be a three part post. First my history, then a recap of Brent's, and finally what we have accomplished together. Due to our extensive moving history, lack of care for keepsakes, technological upgrades, and disorganization, there will be a shortage of photos.

Way Back When
My family lived down a 4/10th of a mile long gravel drive way in between two towns in mid-western Ohio. We had public school busing that picked us up at the end of the drive and took us directly to school. Sometime in junior high my friend Jill and I were granted permission to ride our bikes to school. We didn't have any concept of miles, but we knew it took about twenty minutes. We had been riding the country side all summer and even went into to town to the mall and movies. Biking was our freedom.

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A general map of home to junior high above and home to high school below.

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We even biked some in high school. Then there was my first car in about 1995, a 1978 (dad, is this correct?) silver Volkswagen Dasher, and with that machine my bike rarely saw the outside world again. The Dasher had been the family car till about 1986 when my parents bought their first van with the arrival of my youngest sister, their fourth child.

The car got me where I needed to go, but eventually it was parked and I was permitted to drive the 1990 Plymouth Laser. The Laser went with me to college in Asheville, NC in 1998. My campus life was spent mostly walking. I drove down off of campus and then walked most of the city. The Laser then took me to Denver that same year and I was able to salvage some time with it until the timing belt broke, I fixed it, then decided to drive it home to my dad and live without a car. In Denver, I walked, carpooled, borrowed my aunt's and friend's cars, bussed, and biked. Again, I didn't have much sense for distance, but I knew how much time I needed and I went. I worked, I went to school, I had fun, and I didn't need a car.

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A general map of home to work in Denver, above.

Sometime in early 2000 I moved to Atlanta and drove my boyfriend's car or his brother's car or just stayed home. I didn't fancy Atlanta very much, for many reasons, mostly climatic, so I leased a Saturn and moved to Columbus, OH. I ended up in Hilliard, on the outside edge of the city (it was really the burbs) and drove the Saturn everywhere. I was in a cookie cutter apartment with a young 20s lifestyle. I worked, I went to school, I played. While I was at Ohio State University (OSU) I had an expensive parking pass and still had to walk from the lot to class, which I am guessing was near a mile.

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The distance from Hillard to OSU, above.

I wound up giving the Saturn to my boyfriend when I ended the relationship. At some point while I was in Columbus I ended up with the Laser again, but I don't recall why. I gave that car away to a family in Maryland whom needed one.

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A map from Grandview to OSU, above.

I moved to Grandview in 2001, closer to downtown Columbus, and took up a carpooling, walking lifestyle again. I got rides to school and work and walked around Grandview and to the grocery. My dad loaned me a Cavalier for a short bit when Brent and I had gotten together and his car was hit by a driver and totaled out by the insurance. This marked the beginning our car life together.

Typical American Girl

So all in all it seems pretty classic to me. I drove when I had the means to drive. I biked and walked when I couldn't. The car was pretty important to my sense of independence. It was needed less when I lived closer to town.

I will work on getting Brent's story for you next time.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kids Sale Consignment

There was more in the hall way and up stairs. The Kids Sale is a great resource.

This morning we still had the shoe dilemma to deal with. Brent didn't have time to stop by any stores yesterday while he was at work. I didn't even know if the sporting goods stores were open today and Brent was working from home. I was able to procure a couple of Kids Sale consignment pre-sale passes and one of those offers came with a ride to the sale. Now we were in business. I eagerly accepted the pass and the transportation and London and I went along for some thrifty shopping. Thank you so very much Cara!
Shoe options. We bought the ones she was trying on here.
Yellow lined jacket for Avery and Green light weight slicker for Oliver. $4, total.

We were able to find nearly new all white Puma shoes for $10 and two rain jackets for $4. I splurged on a large 1000+ piece K'nex set for the family to work on this fall and winter, $12. London bought herself a Davey Jones costume for Halloween, $10. I feel very satistfied that I was able to find London her shoes and the two rain jackets. $28 for my troubles and some of our clothing needs were met.
I didn't want to pass this up, but we didn't need it. I just really liked it.

The sale runs all week at the Veteran's Memorial on 5th Avenue.  Anyone in the area looking for a deal? Maybe you will snatch up this all metal and wooden Radio Flyer fire engine for $15? If only it were last year, this would have made the best first birthday present for Oliver.

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