Monday, August 31, 2009

What about Book Orders?

I love to read more than just about anything. I love the smell of new books. I adore book stores: the lay-out, the semi-quiet, the crisp new pages in thousands of books, the idea that people will be reading book son every subject, that the store wants me to stay in there forever and that I'd like to as well.

Which makes this is an uncomfortable topic for me. Is owning books needful? Will something else suffice?

I'm conflicted on this point. My personal middle ground is to patronize our public library on a regular basis, and to only buy the books that my monthly book club is reading. I host the book club, and choose my favorite books fairly regularly. Book I will read time and again, books which I find personal meaning in.

With the start of school, also came the start of the book order. Book orders don't give me quite the same flood of senses that a book store does. But...

I love paperback books. They're cheap. My kids love to read books. We read their books tens and hundreds of times. We're on our fifth hard cover copy of Where the Wild Things Are, because we've loved that book to death four times already. We take books on our road trips, and in the bike trailer on the way to school. We read cuddled on our bean bag chair, our couch, the floor, outside, on our beds.

A study I read about in Freakonomics found that the only factor in a child's education testing levels was the presence of books the household owned. Not checked out from the library, but owned. Not read, but owned.

Because I love to read, I inherently want that for my children. I get giddy when they request for me to read to them. I glow when I discover them reading (or "reading") to themselves. Seeing them read just makes me happy.

And them having a book order to circle the books they want is like me going into a book store. They can choose. So many beautiful options. Nothing's been loved or abused by somebody else yet. All the books are appropriate for them. And, since we're not in a store and there is no instant gratification, the final decision is up to me with no possibility of impulse buying or tantrums or arguing.

I went through our book basket earlier today and pulled out some books to send to a friend several months younger than my daughter. I think my compromise (at least for today) is to replace books, rather than accumulate them.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Early in August, we decided to forgo our car and use bikes and a bike trailer instead. The first week we still drove quite a bit. But for the last two weeks, we've been solely biking. Today was the first Sunday that we biked to church. Today was the first day I've ever biked in a skirt. A knee-length flowing skirt. Not that non-bikers would consider this afternoon windy, with it's nice and gentle breeze, but I certainly did.

Is biking needful?

Well, no. Biking is not needful. The point though, is that in our family, a car is not needful. We rarely drive anywhere over 3 miles away. We do visit the zoo on occasion. We did go on roadtrips this summer. But when we're at home, we pretty much stay at home. We have three grocery stores on our 3-mile school route, one across the corner from our apartment. My husband's work is 3 miles away, which he goes into once or twice a week. Our church is 2 miles away. Our library is 2 miles away. We have a beautiful city park 1/4 mile down the street. We have a bus system which we haven't needed to use in the past 14 days.

We bought a $3000 used car 12 months ago. Including repairs, gas, insurance, maintenance, and the car itself, an average month cost us $500 to have a car. Which we drove under 150 miles a month other than our two road trips this summer. Yes, the longer we would have used the car, the less the monthly cost would have been, as the car-cost per month would diminish. We spent $250 every month for our car, costs unrelated to the cost of the car.

In comparison, here are our start-up costs for two bicycles:
Bicycle FREE - $150
Helmet $40
Pump $20
Lock $20
Tools $20
TOTAL $250

Yes, those numbers worked out nicely, didn't they.

Our monthly biking expenses will stay well under $50, for new tubes and tires and oil.

Benefits of biking as our major form of transportation include daily exercise (without going to a gym), living closer to our environment, living a greener life, spending less money because we're planning our purchases more, and saving the money from car related costs for things we desire more.

The big drawback is that we sweat. My hair is usually in a ponytail these days and we tend to have sweat dripping off our faces when we bike in the afternoons. This is itself isn't the problem. I think the problem is that other people aren't drenched in sweat everywhere they go, so we're creating a slight social taboo.

But, is it more socially unacceptable to be sweaty, or that we ditched our car in a car-riddled society in the first place?

And, I'm finding that it really doesn't matter to me what other people think. I know that we're doing what is right for our family. And that's good enough.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What is Needful?

When we compare our family to what American society "expects," we can find a few major differences. I stay at home with three children and my husband is completing his doctorate. We live in a two bedroom apartment and recently decided to ditch our car, adn now we're biking everywhere we need to go.

Well, those are the only big differences at the moment. But looking at our society and our life, we want to find more differences.

We want to serve more in our community. We want to make wise purchasing decisions for those things that are needful. We want to rid ourselves of the debt we've accumulated. We want to live more closely to the earth. We want to make more informed choices in all areas of our life instead of believing the advertising we're bombarded with. We want to be happy with what we have rather than unhappy with what we don't.

We don't want to take the easiest roads. We don't want to follow the paths society has thoughtlessly carved for us to take.

And so, we journal our journey.