Categories
Climate change Parenting

Fight climate change, put your kid’s allowance at a credit union

I received this piece of mail from Chase and it reminded me to finish this blog post, which I started on Earth Day 2021:

Devious mail from the world’s dirtiest bank


It’s well-established that one of the best ways to fight climate change is by divesting from the big banks that fund fossil fuel projects. HEATED’s list of “How to Move Beyond Recycling” includes “Divest your personal assets from fossil fuels.” The more money you can move away from them, the better, though every account closure is important. Moving money can be tedious, though, since you need to redo all your bill payment information and do lots of paperwork like an adult.

What you can start and finish in a single afternoon is to get your child off to a good start by opening an account for them at a credit union or other institution that does not fund fossil fuel projects. (The HEATED link above has info about how to find one for you, a credit union near you is a good bet.) Then inertia will be on the side of good: the more banking they do at their first institution, the more likely it is that their future earnings will not be used to finance fossil fuel projects that will make their world more ghastly and unsafe. Big banks are wise to how powerful this move is; that’s why they sent me that mailer, hoping to get their hooks into my kids.

I got that mail because I used to bank at Chase and haven’t yet closed my account. JP Morgan Chase is “by far the worst banker of fossil fuels and fossil fuel expansion” (Forbes concurs). I’ve been moving my money away from Chase for years now. In my case, I’ve moved my checking and savings to Lake Trust Credit Union. I’ve also given up my Capital One rewards card for a Lake Trust credit card, and when I refinanced my mortgage I moved from a private bank to Mortgage Center, which is owned by credit unions including Lake Trust.

Lake Trust does not have investors, it does not make a profit, and it does not fund fossil fuel infrastructure (in response to my inquiry, they replied, “The Lake Trust investment portfolio does not hold any corporate bonds in fossil fuel companies.”)

Doing all of that paperwork and changing all of my billing information has been tedious and slow. I got the idea to change banks during Occupy Wall Street, which began ten years ago this month, and I still need to finish closing my mostly-unused Chase and Capital One accounts.

But opening accounts for my kids at my local credit union? Easy. The kids biked over there, poured a bunch of change into the coin counting machine, and were given stickers and hot chocolate. Now I manage their allowances and purchases through transfers in the Lake Trust app. This was much easier than moving my own money has been, and climate-wise should be a great return on my time.

Open an account for your kid at a credit union now, even if you haven’t moved your own money over yet. That will put inertia on the side of good, while also normalizing for them that they should belong to a credit union. And if you need to open an account for yourself to do so? Bonus! You’ve taken the first step on your own longer but important journey.

(Standard disclaimer that individual actions will not solve the climate crisis on their own, we need systemic change, etc. – of course. This is part of a mass divestment movement and this blog post, my action, and your action are all part of that.)

Categories
Parenting ruminations

Revisiting skateboarding

I’ve been doing a lot of “mental blogging”, no actual blogging, so here’s an attempt to break that and get something written.

Skateboarding is suddenly popular around here. As a family, we watched the 2021 Olympics skateboarding: all of the women’s final and the condensed version of the men’s final. My kids were surprisingly into it. It probably helped that the women’s winners were so young – the gold medalist was just 13 years old.

That got them interested in skating themselves. We purchased a kid’s board last year, during the height of COVID, but it soon got shelved. It was a nice board, too. The one I’d learned on as a teen had low-quality bearings and I could hardly coast on it, which made it a lot less fun. I compensated for that experience by buying my kids a good starter board. It’s out of the garage and rolling again.

Speaking of my experience, I’m interested in skating again, for the first time in twenty years. I dabbled during my teens, logging maybe a couple of dozen hours on skateboard and longboard before giving up. I remember walking to the park in the summer and practicing my ollie by myself. And just not getting it. Between a lack of progress and having no friends who skated, I soon called it quits.

I continued to enjoy the aesthetics of street skating, though. I got most of the way to completing every achievement in the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 – “considered one of the greatest video games of all time, as well as the highest-rated sports video game” – searing the soundtrack into my brain (“lights out, guerilla radio!”). And I watched skating videos, rarer in the pre-YouTube days. Rodney Mullen was my favorite.

Fast forward two decades and it’s easy to rediscover his highlights. Here’s a nice reel; I’m starting it at my favorite kind of trick, with elegant manuals and grinds on street objects:

Is it too obvious to compare him to a ballet dancer?

All of this has been enough to get me back on a board. I bought one off Craigslist this week along with some safety pads. I’m hopeful that I’ll learn more quickly this time around. I had terrible balance as a kid, but since then I’ve done a ton of cycling and fair amount of snowboarding and skiing, so I think I’ll be better. Plus many years of learning new things has made me wiser and more patient. I’d love to be able to ride well, manual, and (stretch goal) ollie over something small.

We’ll see how it goes. If nothing else I’ll have some fun outdoors with my kids.

Categories
Gardening Nature Parenting

Sharing and Starting Plants

Today is Earth Day. It may be co-opted by brands posting on social media, but I think it’s still worth celebrating in its original spirit (see Emily Atkin on what Earth Day is supposed to be). I was considering posting about divesting from for-profit banks as a not-obvious but critically-important way to help the planet. I hope to do that, still. But here we are and I haven’t written it, so instead I’ll briefly report and muse about swapping seeds.

Yesterday I hosted an informal seed and seedling swap. It was just three of us, standing around a table in the cold, but it was a blast. One person brought chard seedlings, plus all kinds of seed packets including white corn and tiny cantaloupes. Another shared tomato seeds and seedlings of a family heirloom cultivar that his father has saved and replanted over many years.

After the swap, with plant life on my mind, I dug around in a five-gallon bucket of dirt. It’s a special bucket of dirt: my two-year-old and I filled it in the fall, then gathered acorns and mixed them into the soil. Our experiment was to see if they’d sprout after overwintering outside. And at least one of them has!

It’s rupturing with life! I moved it to its own pot.

Sharing seeds and plants and stories and tips and excitement on a cold spring day left each of us energized about plants and the earth. It renewed my sense of possibility, about plants and how humans are made to help each other. I plan to keep casually swapping seeds this spring and summer and then maybe run this swap again next year, with more planning and advertising to make it bigger. I hope to start seeds indoors next winter to contribute seedlings of my own.

In the meantime, I have a ton of pawpaw seeds on hand that need new homes. I processed dozens of fruits in the fall, setting aside the seeds. They’ve been kept moist and in the fridge all winter to give them their requisite cold hours and now should be ready to sprout when the soil warms up.

Pawpaws are unusual fruit trees, native to Michigan (among other places). The New York Times wrote a couple of stories about them last year. Their seeds are slow to sprout and not the easiest to grow, but I’m taking it on as a challenge.

I also harvested a lot of Red Russian kale seed from my crop last year. I have maybe a thousand seeds left after planting and giving away lots already:

My half-full jar of remaining kale seeds. Think it’s thousand? More? Less?

If you want some pawpaw or kale seed, or want to trade other perennials like sunchoke tubers or prairie dock seeds, drop me a line.

Let’s swap seeds and stories next spring. Happy planting!

Categories
Books Parenting

Reading the Caldecott Medal Winners

My oldest child turns 10 this month. That means I’ve been reading children’s books for most days over the last decade. Not to her, anymore; now she reads herself Harry Potter. I still read picture books to my 6-year-old and 2-year-old.

I recently realized (a) that most of my children’s book reading is now behind me (b) I like reading these books (c) there must be many great ones I’ve never read. I spend most of my reading time now on children’s books, not grown-up ones. I ought to make the most of these next few years while that remains the case.

To that end I thought I’d start with the Caldecott Medal winners as an easy entry point. I was reading Where the Wild Things Are and A Sick Day for Amos McGee and explaining the gold sticker (Caldecott medal) on the front covers to my youngest and thought: these are great books. The other Caldecott winners are probably good too, right?

Categories
DIY How-to Making Parenting Repair

DIY non-slip soles for footed pajamas

I’ve handed down a few pairs of cozy footed pajamas between my kids. Along the way the soles lost whatever non-skid properties they had and became very slippery. We got them out this fall to keep my two-year-old cozy. He was cozy … and he slid all over on our slick floors, wiping out a few times. Neither slips nor cold bare feet would do. It was time for DIY non-slip soles.

I outfitted two pairs of Carter’s footie pajamas. Both attempts turned out great:

Try to slide in those!

Materials: I used a discarded bike inner tube that could no longer be patched. If you don’t have one, you might be able to score them from a bike shop or repair co-op. I also used heavy-duty Sashiko thread and needle, but I expect you could do this with any needle and thread.

Process:

Categories
Local reporting Parenting ruminations

Let’s plan now for COVID-resilient school next year

In July I predicted that there would be no in-person instruction for Ann Arbor Public Schools this entire school year. Unfortunately, that prediction is looking accurate. Let’s start planning for September 2021.

The discussion among the district, board, and parents seems focused on reopening this year. At what level of disease activity, and which safety precautions, would be enough for kids to begin going to school? At least, that seemed to be the discussion a month ago, when disease levels were lower and other districts in SE Michigan (including some in Washtenaw County, like Saline and Dexter) were sending kids to school.

Especially with the current COVID surge now shutting down those other districts, it seems likely that reopening this year is not in the cards for Ann Arbor Public Schools. Given that, I fear we’re wasting precious time and energy debating possibilities and metrics for reopening this year. It echoes what happened this summer, when time spent considering possibilities for in-person instruction would have been better used on improving systems for remote instruction.

Categories
Cooking Parenting

An Ode to Bean Soup

Fall in Michigan means it’s soup weather! I make a lot of bean soups (and related soups). I think I’ll write some of them up on this blog. It’ll be a reference for me, at least, when I can’t decide what to cook next. Maybe others will find it useful, perhaps even my kids someday.

Bean soup is the best genre of food. It’s not close. It checks every box:

  • Tasty. My reasons below are practical, but they would be for naught if the soups weren’t delicious.
  • Easy. They usually involve little or no chopping, few ingredients, and a single big pot. Add an easy carb like bread/rice/ pasta and a vegetable side and it’s a meal.
  • Kid-friendly. My kids like or love most of my bean soups and they make a great early food for babies.
  • Scales up. Because there’s little chopping, it’s as easy to make 2, 3, or 4x as much at once. That gives you 1, 2, or 3 bonus nights where dinner is already in the fridge, ready to go. And it…
  • Keeps well. It’s as good days later as fresh, and freezes perfectly. When I want to bring a meal on short notice to someone ill or grieving or celebrating, I grab a couple of quarts of frozen soup.
  • Healthy. They’re low in fat and carbs and high in fiber and protein, which is nice because they’re also..
  • Vegetarian or vegan. These are protein-heavy, savory, rich dishes that won’t leave omnivores feeling like the meat is missing.
  • Gluten-free. If you’re serving a crowd whose dietary preferences you don’t know, like at a potluck, it’s inclusive to make a dish that is vegan and gluten-free without compromising.
  • Made from nonperishable ingredients. Most soups are made from things that last indefinitely in the pantry. And when you don’t have something, they’re..
  • Forgiving. You can skip a vegetable, use powder instead of fresh onions, and change spices or even the legume. And the cooking techniques are hard to mess up – it’s hard to burn a soup, even if you’re not paying attention (though I’ll tell that story when I get to that soup).
  • Cheap. About as cheap as good healthy food gets.
  • Local. I can get Michigan-grown beans and lentils. And even if beans aren’t local to you, growing and transporting dried beans is very climate-friendly.

Bean soup may be the best class of food, but even it has a few limited downsides:

  • Not great in summer. People don’t want to eat hot soup when it’s sweltering out. Summer is the off-season for me, when I cook solid food. Fortunately, I live in Michigan, where it’s soup season from September until May.
  • People sometimes want solid food. I can eat soup every night when it’s cold, but I find that I can only cook soup so many consecutive days before someone in my family says they miss the sensation of using a fork and chewing their food. So I take care to throw some non-soups in the mix regularly.

Even in writing this I remembered more soups I’ve not cooked recently. Let’s see how many I can catalog as I cook my way through another busy soup season…

Categories
Biking How-to Parenting

Bike camping from Ann Arbor to Pinckney Rec Area

COVID-19 shattered my “fun aspirations for 2020” list, but one survivor is bike camping. I’m planning that trip (this weekend). It will be my first time camping via bike so I’m reading up and asking questions. In particular I’m focused on getting there and back, with two kids and our gear. Here are some notes on routes and logistics, to help me & others in the future and to see if anyone has other ideas.

Where to Bike Camp around Ann Arbor

The closest campsite to Ann Arbor that I’m aware of is Crooked Lake Rustic Campground, at Pinckney Rec Area. I’ve camped here via car several times so know what I’m getting. But I’m curious to know of other camping options within ~25 miles from Ann Arbor.

Getting There via Bike

For this post, let’s assume a starting point of Michigan Stadium. Google Maps suggests taking Dexter-Ann Arbor road to Dexter, then Island Lake Road to Dexter Townhall Road. Total 18.5 miles. This is the route I use to drive there.

Default path from Google Maps
Categories
Parenting ruminations

Prediction: Ann Arbor Public Schools will be completely virtual for the 2020-21 school year

It suddenly seems clear to me that plans for in-person instruction this year are wishful thinking at best and a distraction at worst.

A viable plan for in-person school would require (a) re-imagining how schools operate and (b) additional funding for implementation. The district probably can’t pull off the first on its own and the second is definitely outside its control. In a better world, leadership at the state and federal levels would contribute ideas and funding. In such a world, we might even contain COVID-19 to the point that kids and teachers can return to school without imaginative plans.

But based on the last few months and where things stand now, I bet kids won’t set foot in Ann Arbor Public Schools classrooms this entire school year.  Anyone want to wager I’m wrong?

Here’s hoping I can return to this post in coming months and laugh at how foolishly pessimistic I was.  But in the meantime, I’ll plan for the worst.

Categories
Biking Climate change Parenting

Motherload, a movie about people and cargo bikes

I saw the documentary “Motherload” in September and meant to write a review.  I wish I had done it fresh, but I keep thinking about it, so better late than never.

Motherload connected with me on an emotional level.  I teared up as it captured on film and described feelings and moments I’ve had biking with my kids that I’ve never heard anyone articulate.  People know I’m the crazy guy on the bike with his kids; this film told my story, our story.  In this post I’ll remark on a few parts that stuck with me.  Here’s the trailer: