Cycling in Suburbia with Chris Wharton

 

In episode two I interview Chris Wharton. Chris and his family live in Gilbert, Arizona–a suburb in the sprawling Phoenix metropolitan area. A few years ago he sold their second car and began incorporating more utilitarian cycling into his everyday life. We touch on a variety of topics including:

  • How and why they became a one-car family
  • How he travels with his two kids by bike
  • How he has fostered a love of cycling in his children
  • The biggest challenges of being a one-car family in Phoenix
  • How he survives biking in extreme weather conditions
  • Recommendations for family’s considering incorporating more active transportation in their lives

Chris brings an interesting perspective as a professor at Arizona State University who studies behavior change, healthy defaults, and voluntary simplicity. If you want to read or hear more from him, you can follow his blog Practically Awesome or listen to the personal finance podcast Matrimoney he hosts with his wife, Kelsey.

Links to resources discussed in this episode:

I would love to hear your feedback on the show! You can leave a comment here, find me on Instagram @familypedals, or send me an email at familypedals@gmail.com. I would also appreciate if you could take the time to rate and review the show on iTunes; it really helps new shows like mine get in front of more listeners.

Thanks for listening!

Creativity in the cold

We are currently enjoying summer, where our life is lived outside as much as possible. But come winter we close off the back room of our house, reducing our living space by a third. We could keep it open, but the heating was poorly designed and it would cost a lot of money and use a lot of energy to make it livable. So it is in the coldest months when the kids have the most pent-up energy and the fewest outdoor options that we have the most limited square footage.

When we first closed off the back room last year we moved many of the toys they play with to the front of the house. I quickly became overwhelmed with all the tiny pieces and toys everywhere. I made the executive decision that the toys needed to go. Living in a family means balancing everyone’s needs and having a parent who is losing her mind is good for no one. We kept out books, two sets of blocks (one large, one small), and E’s “friends” (stuffed animals). Everything else went into a closet. On occasion I would bring something out, but the number of toys they had available greatly diminished.

Unsurprisingly, they found other ways to entertain themselves. Often they would use every blanket, pillow, and cushion in our house to build elaborate forts. For some reason, that didn’t make me want to pull my hair out the same way having too many toys in our living space did.

Having limits–limited space, limited toys, limited options–gave our kids the freedom to be creative. We spent more time reading together, more time playing make-believe, and more time creating art. It reaffirmed my belief that less is more when it comes to toys.

Come spring, I was happy to open up the back room and bring out some items we hadn’t seen in awhile. But to be honest, they mostly lie unused on the shelf (or the floor, after they get dumped out of course). The best part of spring and summer is not the return of the toys, but the freedom of being outside without layers up on layers of clothing.

Voluntary reducing our space for half the year forces us to be creative and reminds us that we already have everything we need.

This post was written for inclusion in the August collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!

Indie Mama Health– “Tiny Home Living .:. Being Creative and Organized in Small Spaces” : One of the aspects of tiny home living that I really enjoy is the requirement to be super creative with storage and organization. It’s a game and I LOVE it. I love to be organized and I love for each item to have it’s own home.

Little Bungalow– “Colourful Minimalism” : Sharing my totally made up design style and some images that are inspiring me creatively in my new small home.

A Life Shift– “Do You Need to Be Creative to Live Small?” : Thoughts on whether creativity is the key for this family of three’s harmonious life in a tiny Hong Kong apartment, or if there are other “secret ingredients” that make it a successful lifestyle we love.

Fourth and West– “Hobbies, A Baby and A Tiny House” : Finding space for creativity in a growing family.

The Streamlined Life– “When Creativity Spills Over into Something More” : Living small doesn’t make us creative, but living with purpose does.

Tiny Ass Camper– “Crafts and Creativity in a Tiny Space” : Finding the balance in making a mess and raising a creative free spirit.

Justice Pirate– “Creativity Bursts in Small Home Living” : When sometimes you have dreams of fabric, colors, and getting snuggly in a quilt you made yourself.

Family Pedals Podcast

I have exciting news to share: I am launching a new podcast today! I wanted to create a show that would share stories of families who are living car-free or car-lite so we can learn from and be inspired by each other.

It has been such a fun–and challenging!–learning experience to create and produce an interview-style podcast. I will be releasing new episodes every other Tuesday (on opposite Tuesdays as Friendlier, the show I co-host with Abby Olena).

In the first episode, I interview my husband Neil Kopper. I thought it would be a good place to start so listeners can get to know more about our family, how and why we ended up selling our car eight years ago, and how we get around with two young children all year round. Here’s the most recent picture I have us from earlier in the summer:

Resources and links related to this episode:

I would love to hear your feedback on the show! You can leave a comment here, find me on Instagram @familypedals, or send me an email at familypedals@gmail.com. I would also appreciate if you could take the time to rate and review the show on iTunes; it really helps new shows like mine get in front of more listeners.

Thanks for listening!

What I Read: July 2017

July was heavy on the young adult fiction for me, largely because I finished my re-read of the Harry Potter series in preparation for a Friendlier episode all about Harry Potter. I enjoy YA and like to regularly read it, but I am looking forward to a more balanced book list in August.

The quick round-up:

  • Favorite: Harry Potter, specifically the fifth one. What can I say? Nothing else compares.
  • Least favorite: Rich Dad, Poor Dad
  • Most likely to recommend: Book of Unknown Americans
  • Most thought-provoking: Rich Dad, Poor Dad I may not have loved it (see below), but it did make me think.

Books are listed in the order I read them.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling / I had not done a full reread in of the series in YEARS and I so enjoyed immersing myself in the wizarding world for days on end. I am a person who quickly forgets what I’ve read, so many parts of it were new to me again. On a future time through I want to read the seventh book first so I can appreciate how much it all connects with the ending fresh in my mind.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare / This was a Newbery award winner in the early 1960s and I read it for my online book club. It it is a coming of age story set in the time of Jesus that follows a young boy who wants vengence against the Romans for the deaths of his parents. It is a story of how freedom comes when you choose love over hate. It didn’t not like the book, but it took me awhile to get into it and once I did it was just okay.

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki / As I said last month, I love all things personal finance. I had heard about this book numerous times as it is a personal finance classic. Parts of it I appreciated, but the overall tone didn’t sit well with me. On the one hand, I think having a “can-do” attitude about money is powerful, but on the other hand, it felt like he was blaming people stuck in the cycle of poverty and that if only they tried hard then they too could be a millionaire. It felt very Trumpian in a problematic way. There were still some gems hidden inside, but I overall I found it frustrating.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez / I picked up this book after seeing Bethany’s post on Instagram. (Sidenote: Instagram and the bookstagram community have been such a fun way to find new reads!) It focuses on one family that moves from Mexico to Delaware so their daughter can go to a special education school after she suffered a major brain injury. Interspersed throughout are chapters giving the backstory of the other immigrants living in the apartment complex. I loved the look into immigration and what being an immigrant looks like from multiple perspectives. The only thing I did not love was the romance plot line as it didn’t seem believable. Even so, I would recommend it.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon / It is your typical YA romance–light, fun, and oh so enjoyable. The two title characters are children of Indian immigrants who meet each other in the summer between high school and college. Rishi knows that his parents have arranged the match between him and Dimple, but she does not. They are both so likeable as individuals. Throughout the book they wade through their feelings for each other all while trying to reconcile their parents’ expectations with their own desires. A perfect book if you need an escape

The Dry by Jane Harper / I say I don’t like crime fiction, yet I keep reading it. I had seen this one floating around on Instagram earlier this year and finally jumped on the bandwagon. It was perfectly fine, but confirmed my general feelings about the genre: it keeps me reading, I want to know what happens, but at the end I feel disappointed with the experience. I did love that it was set in Australia, which added an extra element of interest.

So far my August reading has been a bit slow, but I am hoping things will pick up once school starts (kindergarten!) next week and I have a bit more uninterrupted reading time.

Have you read anything good lately? Please share any recommendations you have in the comments–I am always looking to add to my library stack.

Happy reading!

Missing Movement

Our trip out to Oregon was spectacular. It reignited in me a love of a travel and an appreciation for the vast beauty of our country. But there were some downsides to the trip, namely being off my bike for nearly three weeks.

One of the things I love about being a car-free family is how exercise is naturally incorporated into my life. Biking for transportation provides regular, unavoidable bouts of movement. I like to take classes at the gym when it works with my schedule, but if I can’t fit it in, I don’t stress. I know that I am maintaining a base level of fitness just getting myself from point a to point b.

A few days into our cross-country travels I could tell that my body was missing that regular movement. I started to feel antsy after hours of sitting in the car and was eager to go for a hike or a walk when we stopped. A week or so into the trip I started sneaking in a morning workout if we stayed at a hotel with a fitness center.

When we came back to Bloomington I was once again regularly hauling 70+ pounds of kid on a cargo bike. It reminded me just how much exercise I get taking the kids and myself where we need to go. Hills on the first days back for even more challenging than usual. Even as I gasped for breath and felt in the burn in my legs, I was happy to be back in the saddle.

Next time we travel, I’d love to find a place that rents cargo bikes so we can explore new places on two wheels. It wouldn’t have worked out well this trip as we were in a new place almost every night, but it would be a great way to tool around a city if we stayed put for a few days.

I am missing the mountains and exploring new places, but now that we are back home I have a newfound appreciation for how easily exercise is incorporated into my day.