Sunday, October 16, 2016

Road Trip to Virginia: Days 2 & 3

Evening of Day Three. I think; we're now officially two hours ahead of California time, and my body is oh-so confused about what time it actually is (although I would still much rather handle the time changes gradually like this, rather than have jet lag from moving straight there).

We're approximately halfway there. Three days down, three more to go.

The last two days have been rather slow. To be honest, I had forgotten how boring and, well, desolate some of these long stretches of I-80 can be. Much of Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming are unaccountably dull, especially at this time of year. Everything is dry, the grass is all dead, and there's not really much to see. Maybe we're just driving through the boring parts? I don't know. There were some cool parts. The salt flats are interesting, for a little while. I enjoyed some of the rock formations in Utah. But it seemed like most of what we were passing was endless grassy plains, with occasional softly undulating hills.

It's not like we're interested in doing many tourist-y things anyway, or even stopping any more often than is strictly necessary for bathroom breaks and eating. We do have the cat with us, after all, and while I think he's getting to be a better traveler every time he's forced to make a long trip--he is quiet for long stretches now, and really only meows when we're stopping somewhere--we obviously can't leave him in the car by himself for more than a few minutes at a time. And we can only even do that when it's cool enough outside that we don't have to worry about the car rapidly heating up. (Hint: That was not today.) So the last two days have just been driving, driving, driving.

Here's the seating arrangement: D is driving, because he likes driving, while I'm in the back entertaining Bug, who is in his car seat, while the cat is in his travel carrier on the other backseat. We did our best to travel light this time around; with every move, I get better at figuring out what's actually essential for the drive and the first few days in a new place (since it'll likely be a few days before our pod with all our other belongings can be delivered to our new home, once we have a new home). So the trunk is full, but not so full that we're dependent on the mirrors to see what's going on around the car. There are blankets shoved under the cat carrier, and my leg room is severely impeded by my purse and the bag of books/coloring books/activities that I am using to entertain Gregory.

Not surprisingly, the front seat is also being used to hold stuff, mainly food-type stuff. Our current car is a 2014, and it's got all sorts of newfangled safety features, including some kind of weight sensor in the passenger seat that tells the car whether or not to turn on the passenger airbag while also causing the car to beep incessantly if the passenger seat belt is not buckled. We discovered yesterday that we are just shy of that weight limit. Every now and then, if we go over a bump wrong, the car starts beeping at us, and D has to rearrange the things on the seat to convince the car that there is not, in fact, an unbuckled passenger in that seat. And when I say we're almost at the weight limit, I'm not kidding; if D so much as puts his phone on the seat, it starts beeping. It's ridiculous. I'm sure there's some way to turn it off (or maybe we should just buckle the darn seat belt), but we don't have the time or energy to figure it out by the time we reach our hotel every night.

By the way, Bug seems to (hopefullycrossyourfingerspleaseplease) be over his stomach issues. His appetite still isn't 100%, but his energy is high, his mood is cheerful, and there's been no sign of vomit for the past two days. (In case you're wondering, though, we did buy a puke-catcher-bin after the last incident, just in case). All is progressing normally.

Food. We've been eating breakfasts at our hotels, although I've got to say that continental breakfasts are a little boring for me as a vegan... thank goodness plain oatmeal is usually an option! We've been eating PB&J in our hotel rooms in the evenings, to save a little money, so we're really only eating out for lunch. Today was fairly decent Mexican food at a little restaurant in Sidney, Nebraska (I had veggie enchiladas, packed with veggies and beans and sans cheese, of course), while D and Bug had burritos. Yesterday, though... yesterday, we stopped at a hole-in-the-wall sandwich joint in Salt Lake City called Buds, which we found through Happy Cow (in case you've never heard of it, it's a website--and app--that helps you locate vegetarian/vegan/veg-friendly restaurants wherever you are). And oh my goodness. I had a vegan "cheesesteak" sandwich, with some kind of sliced/seasoned faux meat (which, if you know me, isn't normally my thing, but I do make exceptions on occasion) and an amazing cheesy sauce on thick, crusty bread. SO GOOD.

And now we're in Nebraska. For some reason, one my last road trip to this area, I remember Nebraska as being the most boring state ever, but this time around it's actually refreshingly pretty compared to the last few states. There are trees--trees!--and bodies of water and interesting landscapes. And now we're halfway through! Today was an easier, shorter day, but tomorrow we'll be putting our noses back to the grindstone.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Road Trip to Virginia: Day 1

Day 1. ~490 miles.

For those of you not in the know, the family and I embarked today on a cross-country drive; D has new orders, and we're moving to Virginia.

So today was the first real day of our road trip. We left amidst a light drizzle, the first real rain I've seen so far this autumn. The morning was uneventful; a fair amount of real rain, not much traffic, a straightforward drive. Bug, who has been recovering from an inconvenient and unpleasant stomach ailment, started getting sleepy as the morning progressed. We got Starbucks, we stopped for gas. I played games and colored with Bug, I let him watch a few cartoons on D's phone (thank goodness for data), and he eventually drifted off into a nap.

When we stopped for lunch at Chipotle, Bug woke up. Since we have our poor fraidy cat with us, the plan was that D would go in and quickly eat first, then Bug and I would go in while D waited in the car with the cat; But and I both eat a lot slower, and that'd give D a nice, quiet break while we ate. Of course, D made it barely five steps from the car before Bug let out an alarming burp, and then proceeded to vomit into my hands (I have ninja reflexes, so I caught the bulk of it). Many paper towels and some clean clothes later (honestly, more ended up on me than on Bug, and thankfully only a little ended up on the car seat), we were finally able to eat. Fortunately, I don't think this was any kind of major setback in Bug's stomach thing, as he bounced back immediately: sparkly eyes, goofy sense of humor, and appetite were all restored pretty much instantaneously upon emptying his stomach.

After that, we bought a vomit-catching-bin (just in case), and D opted to drive the rest of the way so that I could stay back with Bug. But that one incident was pretty much the most exciting (not in a good way) part of our day. More rain, off and on. The discovery that we had left Bug's stuffed animal at Grandma & Grandpa's house, where we had slept the night before. Occasional unhappy moans from the cat. Bathroom breaks. Boring, dreary Nevada landscapes. More coloring, a little reading.

We saw a rainbow!

Ultimately, we made it to Elko, Nevada, for the night. Upon entering our hotel room, the cat promptly hid under the blankets of the closest bed while I made peanut butter sandwiches for dinner. It had been a long day, so it wasn't long after that that Bug had his bath (not optional tonight), listened to a few chapters of his current book (The Dragon Prophecy by Geronimo Stilton), and crawled into bed, where he fell asleep quickly.

Smart idea. Tomorrow is another long day...

Monday, March 28, 2016

Decisions and Character

Today, Bug and I went to the park, like we do on many days. We drove out to a park near one of the Sacramento libraries, because he absolutely loved this particular park the last time we were there (after Family Blanket Fort Story Time, so that's how he refers to the park) and has been asking to go back. He loves the tire swing, he loves the roller slide, and he loves the big, grassy areas to run around in.

So we were at the park. There were other kids and parents there off and on, and for awhile there was a small herd of ill-behaved teenagers (admittedly, it hasn't been so long since I was an ill-behaved teenager; it's amazing how having a child changes one's perspective). There was also a gathering of homeless people in the picnic area.

I try my hardest to not be outwardly uncomfortable around homeless people. I do, I really do. I really don't want Bug to be developing any prejudices here because of me, and I know that there are plenty of people who are on the streets for innocuous reasons. So while we kept our distance, I didn't say anything outright about them, and I doubt Bug even noticed their presence.

Toward the end of our time there, Bug was playing tag with a slightly older kid. I was keeping watch, occasionally talking a little with the other boy's grandmother. And so it was that until the grandmother pointed it out, I didn't even notice that the homeless people were building a fire. But once I looked, it was clear that was exactly what they were doing, primarily out of sticks and cardboard, although I saw the guy building it looking through the trash, too, so there's no telling what else was used.

The other woman looked at it disapprovingly, but didn't seem particularly inclined to do anything about it. "Do you think we should call the police?" I asked.

"I'm not sure who else we could call," she replied, but she still did nothing.

"I wish I had the non-emergency number for the police here," I commented. And there the conversation pretty much ended. The woman collected her grandson to head home, and Bug and I followed suit about ten minutes later.

But the fire thing still bothered me. I don't know what the intention of the homeless people was--Cooking? Warmth?--but I was worried about it getting out of control and/or spreading. After all, this was a very windy day, there was an awful lot of smoke, and the flames had, by this time, gotten high enough for me to see them from a decent distance away.

And so, after a lot of thought and waffling back and forth, I decided to call the police. Bug and I got in the car and I drove close enough to the library to connect to their wifi (I don't have a data plan on my phone). I looked up the non-emergency number and called the police, who connected me to the fire department. The fire dispatcher asked me a few questions (mostly about what they appeared to be burning; it hadn't occurred to me before, but I imagine those picnic BBQs aren't really meant to burn anything other than charcoal), got my contact information, and ultimately decided to send someone over to check the situation out.

And so, feeling much better about the whole thing, Bug and I headed home. I wondered off and on while I drove if I was blowing the incident out of proportion, but I also knew my conscience would have niggled at me if I hadn't called.

So what's the whole point of this story? Well, there are a couple of things that the incident has left me thinking about, especially in relation to my son.

First, it reminded me how amazing it is to watch a young child trying to wrap their mind around an idea. I told Bug what I was going to do as I was looking up the number, and he did a good job being quiet during my phone call. But after I hung up, he had a million questions. Were the police going to come? Why were the firefighters coming instead, when I had called the police? (How did they connect me to the fire department? Are they right next door to each other?) Was it possible that the fire might get out of the BBQ and cover the entire world? Could it burn down the library? Would the firefighters put it out? How long would it take them to get there? How would the firefighters stay safe? Do they wear gloves to keep their hands safe? Do they wear socks inside of their boots? And on and on. He'd ask some questions, then get quiet for awhile, and then ten minutes later he'd ask a few more. He asked about how other fires start around town, and whether cigarettes could start fires. When I said that they could, he asked how. He asked if I had ever seen that happen, and I told him about the time when I saw a small roadside grass fire, which could very possibly have been started by someone's discarded cigarette. He asked about what I did that time, and listened, riveted, to my story.

The questions continued for the rest of the afternoon. That night, as Bug was lying in bed trying to fall asleep, we talked for a bit, like we usually do. And while mommy-calling-the-firefighters wasn't the only thing he was thinking about bythat point (he also spent awhile talking about how we need to get a farm [it would have parrots, turkeys, and hens... he later added pigs and cows], becoming a mermaid, and how he could enter the book Flat Stanley and become flat himself so that he could go through the cracks under doors), it was still very much on his mind.

Kids, especially preschool-age kids, are a bundle of questions. And I love that! I love seeing the paths his mind takes as it tries to comprehend new ideas. I love trying to answer his questions in a way he can understand, and in a way that invites even more questions.

The other point here is the point of proactivity. I don't want to be the kind of person who sits back and waits for someone to act when I can do something myself. And I definitely don't want my son to be that way. So we also spent some time talking about why I made my phone call in the first place, how the fire they were building made me uncomfortable and how I was concerned that they might lose control of it, so I called the proper authorities to come check in and "keep everyone safe."

And then we talked about how if he sees something that is wrong or bad, it's up to him to do something; he should never assume that someone else will take care of it, so he needs to be the one who talks to an adult about what he sees. He didn't really have much to say to that, but he was quiet for awhile, and it seemed clear that he was thinking about it.

Kids really do learn so much from us by example. I like to hope that an incident like this will cement my words in his mind on some level."Do the right thing" is more than just a phrase, more than just words; it's something I try to live every day.

Parenting is a long, endless process. Here's hoping I can continue to instill good character in my son while inspiring his curiosity.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Review: Trim Healthy Mama Plan

Many of us have been there. Most of us, in all likelihood. Overweight and out of shape, desperate for a change, so many people keep trying out new diets and meal plans.
Sisters Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison were there once. They went through every diet craze, listened to the buzzwords, tried to incorporate the latest "it" foods. Eventually, they came to the understanding that no diet is going to make you healthy for life. What they, and most of the rest of us, need is a lifestyle change. And thus, after years of dietary tweaking and one successful but over-long self-published book, Pearl and Serene have made that change.

With their new book, Trim Healthy Mama Plan, Pearl and Serene offer readers a streamlined introduction to their lifestyle.

Their last book, despite its wordiness and typos, became a bestseller. There are tons of Trim Healthy Mamas (and husbands and families!) all over the place, and online blogs are full of meal plans and recipes that are "on" the THM plan. This book, along with its companion Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook, are sure to be well-received by readers already familiar with the plan, and to become favorites for new readers.

But what is this plan? Without giving away too many details, here is the gist. All meals have some form of protein as their centerpiece (and by protein, I mean meat; the program is doable for vegetarians who eat eggs and dairy, but nearly impossible for vegans). Some meals are "satisfying" and have lots of fat in them, others are "energizing" and contain more veggies, beans, and grains. Some meals are both at once, although the main premise is that switching back and forth between fuel sources (fat and carbohydrates) is what will get the body to start burning its own fat. The only foods that aren't on the plan are truly unhealthy ones. Snacks and desserts are definitely okay. No calorie counting, no set menus, no designated portions. Food freedom!

Personally, I have a hard time wrapping my head around this style of eating, although I can understand why it appeals to so many. And I must admit that I nearly closed the book when I read that Pearl and Serene based a lot of their ideas on the Bible.
Instead of looking to the next guru, we looked to the Bible. Who could know better than our Creator? Thankfully the Bible holds sound advice, simple advice. So simple it is profound.
While I am certainly not a religious person, I also certainly hold nothing against those who are followers of any particular spiritual path. But I suppose I also don't really think of the Bible as having the answers for what we should be eating. It's not exactly a focus of the various books of the Bible, although certainly food is mentioned off and on. And after all, there are a lot of things that were advocated for in the Bible that we simply don't do these days.

Religious overtones aside (and yes, there are little bits of religion scattered throughout the book; some readers will find them inspirational, although I just found them distracting), Trim Healthy Mama Plan is a pretty well put-together book. There is a fair amount of research on various components of food. The basics of the different meals are described in detail. There are a slew of chapters that focus on various types of people (such as people who work away from home, people who are trying to move past a junk food lifestyle, pregnant or nursing mamas, vegetarians), and those chapters do feature a few specific meal ideas, which is what many readers will want at the beginning. Other chapters discuss various "superfoods" (and they're not the super foods you're thinking of; gelatin and oolong tea and spices are just a few of the foods these ladies heartily recommend), how to eat out on the plan, and the concept of "cheat" meals.

One other thing that does bother me a lot about this book is the authors' attitudes toward vegetables. Yes, they advocate eating them. They recognize that vegetables are full of nutrients and fiber and complex carbohydrates. But every so often they also talk about them in an annoyingly negative manner:
Hold on, are you envisioning having to stuff dry salad and brittle broccoli into your mouth? Think again! Broccoli is a whole different animal when it is tossed with S fuels of melted butter, a little grated cheese, and a sprinkle of high-mineral salt and black pepper. You won't feel forced to eat your salad greens when they're drizzled with generous, anti-inflammatory olive oil or creamy dressing and topped with lots of other yummy fixings like bacon bits or nuts. No Spartan rabbit food for us Trim Healthy Mamas!
Can we please just get past this misconception that vegetables don't taste good unless they're covered with oil and cheese? Because it's not true. Vegetables are delicious when they're prepared properly. The people who don't like vegetables are the people who don't know how to cook them right. Enough said.

Anyway. While I have no interest in adopting the Trim Healthy Mama plan, I can see why a lot of people think it sounds amazing. Does it work? Pearl and Serene say it does, as do hundreds of people who have reviewed the book or who feature it in their blog posts. If it works for you, then I'm certainly not going to bash it. We're all different, and different eating habits work for different people. If the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle appeals to you, then go for it!

Even though I'm not interested in the plan, I did very much enjoy reading the book. Pearl and Serene write in such a friendly manner and are so encouraging that I found myself smiling and nodding along. So we'll just end this review with a bit of that famous encouragement: "You got this!"


I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own!

This post was shared at the Happy, Healthy, Green & Natural Party Blog Hop on 2/29/2016.