Impromptu Educational Field Trip

This morning we woke up to thunderstorms, and by the time we made it downstairs for noon-time brunch, the temperature was mild 72 degrees. We had nothing planned for the day, and since the weather was so nice, we decided to go to Petersburg National Battlefield. The battlefield backs right up to Fort Lee, so I see the land just about every day, but knew absolutely nothing about it.

Now, I grew up in the South, and I have been to a Civil War battlefield or two. In fact, I grew up pretty close to the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield. A few weeks ago we visited the Battle of Cold Harbor site, and it was a little rinky-dink square mile in between corn fields. But Petersburg Battlefield is far more impressive. It goes on and on for miles, with all kinds of earthworks, cannon, and markers.

E was all about the whole thing, calling it “an adventure.” I don’t think she really picked up a whole lot of history, but I can hope she at least appreciated the experience.

A quick run-down:
Grant tried to take Richmond from Cold Harbor (I mentioned it up there), and when he failed, he came south to Petersburg to cut off the supply lines up to Richmond. Turns out, Petersburg used to be a pretty big transportation and industrial hub once upon a time (it’s now a dump). The Union was pretty much blocked at Petersburg for almost 10 months and suffered some pretty horrendous casualties. One of the most significant battles at Petersburg is known as the Battle at the Crater. Essentially, the northern troops dug mine-like tunnels under the Confederate gunpowder supplies and blew it up. However, they failed to advance because all of the Union troops stoop gawking at the crater, and the Confederates were able to come in and beat them back.

 

20140727_152003 (1)

The tunnel

20140727_152753

The crater (or what is left of it)

20140727_152244 (1)

The tunnel up close

20140727_152237

For reference, E is about 42 inches tall.

20140727_135808 20140727_140259 20140727_140304 20140727_141151 20140727_141206 20140727_141333 20140727_145734 20140727_151644

 

Oh, and in case you were wondering…

Yes. The minute we stepped out of the car, the clouds disappeared, the sun came out, and the nice, temperate 72 degrees became 80 and the humidity made it feel like about 95.

Elimination Diet: Update

I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, but never posted it because I was afraid of jinxing myself. Since then, I haven’t seen much change at all, so I am guessing I jinxed myself just by writing it. Others reading it be damned–my luck is just that shitty.

Anyway, we started our elimination diet a little less than a month ago (I think. Frankly, I lost count). My parents were in town last week, and so there were a few days “off” the diet, but since starting back on Tuesday, I am only a pound off of where I was when the Fourth swept through. The first week, I lost 8 lbs and the rest melted away little-by-little. I’ve been diligently keeping track of everything we eat in My Fitness Pal so I have a record of what we’ve been eating, when, and what the results were.  I’ve lost a few inches, as well, which is really what I’m after more than the random number on my scale. I am well-within my initial goal–pre-pregnancy weight; something I didn’t see after E was born until I finished breastfeeding 15 months later. In total, I have lost about 15 pounds since arriving at Fort Lee, 12 of those after starting the “diet.”

Now you know why I am nervous about sharing. This is big for me. Huge. The Hashimoto’s makes it hard enough for me to lose–the breastfeeding even harder.

We had originally thought we would do just a week on the all veggie, fruit, and meat diet, but a few days in, both S and I decided to keep it going through to 10 days. When I started to add things back in, we started out really conservatively–bell peppers were first and then some onions. We had chicken for dinner last night, and I didn’t notice anything different, which is good since chicken accounts for a lot of our meat.

Probably the best thing about it (other than my lost pounds) is my rekindled love affair with fruit. Feeling a little hungry? Grab an apple. Or a mango. A bowl of watermelon. And as much as I would love an icy cold rootbeer float right now, I’ve been able to brush that yearning aside and have a fresh peach, instead.

After the first few days (and the headaches that came with the lack of processed sugars), I was pretty much well into a lifestyle change. I’m fairly disinterested in adding a bunch of dairy and grains back into my diet (and I know the grains affect me after I ventured into going gluten free at the beginning of the year). They will probably go back to being occasional treats rather than everyday foods.

I was hoping for more of a fat dump, but I guess I can be pretty happy with a 12 pound drop in a month. I’m not expecting to see any more, at least not until I find the motivation to go back to running (it’s been a week and a half–I’ve had a horrible cold, and my face hurts). That pretty much explains why I decided to publish this, now. No jinxing feared, anymore–I’m now just resigned to the fact that it’s going to be another uphill battle from here.

 

Can We Talk About Kids’ Clothes?

I have a really good friend back in Washington who helped cultivate my Gymboree habit. She is the mother of E’s two very best friends at Fort Lewis, and as you may have guessed, her kids are also decked out in Gymboree. However, where we originally deviated was the year stamped on our kids’ clothing–she is big into Gymbo resale (both buying and reselling), and introduced me to a few pages that deal with just that. While I have a few “vintage” Gymboree pieces that I picked up here or there, I haven’t really gotten into the selling of what we do have because I fully intend for F to wear all of it, first.

However, before we left Fort Lewis, I remember looking at her kids’ clothes and then at E’s clothes and thinking “how is it that their clothes look so much newer than E’s, yet they have been around for years–if not a decade!–longer?” It was particularly noticeable with one line, Glamour Ballerina, which featured a lot of black (it was pink, black, and white/silver). I just kept looking at the clothes I had bought new in the store and thinking “why are they so dingy looking?!”

She gave me her secret: do not put the clothes in the dryer.

And let me tell you, that was the best bit of advice I have ever gotten.

And before you scoff…

I started hanging the girls’ clothes up to dry after that, and the difference has been amazing, and not just for the Gymboree clothes. If it belongs to one of the girls’, it goes straight on a hanger and gets hung up to dry. In Washington, that meant I hung them on the shower rod in my guest bathroom. Here, by some sort of happy accident, there is actually a rod built into the laundry room for the express purpose of hanging clothes!

It’s fabulous.

And sure, it’s a little more work on the front end–I bring down all of the hangers and hang the clothes up as I pull them from the wash rather than later after they are dry–and it takes a little longer for their clothes to be ready to wear, but otherwise, the pros far outweigh that little inconvenience.

  1. Their clothes look like new even after they have been washed and worn multiple times.
  2. If they stain something, I never have to worry about it getting set in from the dryer. If I find the stain later, I just throw it back into the wash wish some magic stain-removing concoction.
  3. I now have fewer clothes that are deemed play clothes, will get donated, or thrown out. Which means if I decide I want to sell them later on or just pass them on to a friend, they don’t look like they have been worn while rolling around in a mud puddle (which they were. More than once).

To further sway you, I have visuals.

I’m not sure how well you can tell in these pictures, but the first is a Frozen night shirt we got in January (ish) at The Disney Store. It is one of E’s favorites because it has both Elsa and Anna. We bought it right before I stopped putting their clothes through the dryer, and so it has seen the “tumble dry low” setting a time or two. It is noticeably pilling, the fabric seems worn, and the color is slightly faded (some of her older Disney nightshirts look far, far worse, but I wanted to illustrate what just a few times in the dryer could do, not a floppity billion).

20140623_112334

We got this Rapunzel night shirt in March (I think). Also at the Disney Store. It was bought right after the great dryer boycott of 2014. It looks and feels exactly as it did the day I brought it home from the store.
20140623_112401

 

It’s like magic. Or, lack thereof.

 

 

Not Working Outside The Home: It’s Cultural?

I talked [a little verbosely] about S sponsoring an international officer for Captain’s Career Course the other day. One of the things that most fascinated and frustrated our new Slovenian friend is the fact that I–like many American mothers–do not currently work outside of the home. I think my situation most frustrated him because of my extensive forays into higher education.

It started out with a conversation I think he had with S earlier. S told him I stayed home with the girls during the day, and he wanted to know if that was something “American women,” did. I told him I thought it was probably about half-and-half (I’m probably either grossly over- or under-estimating one side), to which he was a little… flabbergasted. Why wouldn’t we work? Why wouldn’t we send our children to daycare and get out of the house? Why wouldn’t we want money and careers?

I told him that, personally, for us, it had to do with a few things:

  1. We wanted a parent to be home with the kids. It’s a personal preference and one we believe is in the best interest of our family and our children.
  2. Economics. It’s expensive to send your children to daycare in the states. Like. Really expensive. We figured that if I were to be working at the same salary level I had at the university I used to work for in GA and we were able to get our girls into one of the on-base Child Development Centers (CDC), we would be paying more than $1050/month in childcare. Adding all of that up means that after paying for childcare, and before any taxes were taken out, my take home would be just over $15,000/year. Take out the taxes, the cost of transportation, the time away from my family, and really, it isn’t even worth it. Sure, I could be making slightly more if I was working outside the home instead of the odd writing job here or there, but it really isn’t that much more money for a lot more work.
  3. I like it. I just really, really like being home with my children. That’s it.

Well, he was having a hard time with all three. The economics confused him the least, although he couldn’t quite wrap his head around how expensive childcare is here (and I was underestimating it. I thought it was only in the $800 range). I think his head might have exploded if I had mentioned the US’s substandard maternity leave policy (i.e. the lack of one), but he said they essentially pay a fifth of what Americans pay for childcare in his country.

But the liking being home–the wanting to be home–well, it was like I was speaking a foreign language (which, I admittedly was).

Why get a master’s degree if you’re not going to use it? Or a Bachelor’s? Or any degree or training, for that matter.

I could argue that I do. I’ve put a little bit of work in the last few years into ensuring that I have something to go on a CV for the time I wasn’t actively going into the workplace. Having those degrees meant I had those opportunities. If I hadn’t had them, there was no way. He was a little less offended by my life of leisure (hahahahaha) knowing I had brought in a little bit of money here and there, but I know he definitely regarded me–at least when it comes to my career-state–as if I had grown three extra heads.

It got me thinking about the way “we” look at parents who choose to stay home. Or work outside the home. I know I constantly feel as though I am being pulled in two directions: one is being doing what I feel is best for my family and the other is being an educated, “contributing” member of the workforce. And while I know I am not the only one in the position I am in, sometimes it feels like it. When people ask me what I do, I often find myself defensively explaining that I am a writer, even though there are plenty of days that I can’t even put down a full sentence and I go months without seeing any sort of paycheck (and right now, that well is pretty much dry). And when I do that, I can almost feel the sigh of relief people give me, as if saying “ah, good, she’s doing something with her life.” I could cite being a military spouse, that finding a job when there is a known end-date, but that seems like an even bigger cop-out than my less-than glamorous part-time gig as a self-employed writer who doesn’t currently have any work.

I know I get defensive because I feel like I am living in a time and a society that doesn’t value what I am doing every day when I am not actively seeing a paycheck. And because of that, I do, every now and then, feel a little guilty. I do have several degrees. I am well-educated. I can go forth into the world and bring back the dollars. But I choose not to.

And despite that guilt, I still think I made the right choice for me.

So, what do you think? Is not working outside the home cultural?

 

Willpower. I Have It.

S is “hosting” an international officer for CLC3. I can’t remember if I mentioned this, but it’s happening. He’s a member of the Slovenian Army (or whatever their official name is), and here for the whole course without his family. They will be coming to visit at some point for a month, but otherwise, it’s just him and a hotel room. There are 13 other officers from various other countries around the world, which I find to be totally cool, and each of them is paired up with an American officer for various reasons. As far as I can tell, whatever the international program is called takes them to see and do some things (like see Washington, DC, go to Williamsburg, etc), but they ask for volunteers to “host” so that they get a chance to see and do a little more, have some “off” time away from class and the hotel, get some help getting around base and town, etc. I met him the other night at a social mixer for the families, and then we had him over for dinner last night. He was really sweet and brought both of the girls a present, and we got to learn some more about Slovenia and soccer (haha). We, of course, told him he was welcome over any time (and to just give me a heads up so I can cook enough dinner), and reminded him that if he needs help with anything, to let us know.

Well, he asked if he could get a ride to the mall so he could get his watch strap adjusted. This, of course, is no big deal. S was just going to go, but because the weather was supposed to be on the poor side, today, I suggested we all just go and I would walk around with the girls to get a little exercise. About an hour before we were going to pick him up, he called to find out if there was room for one more (thanks, Sienna, for making that possible!).

So, we pick him and a female officer from Jamaica up. She needed to get her cell phone repaired or replaced or something (I’m still a little fuzzy on what was going on there), so she went one way, we went another, and eventually caught back up with her. Whatever was with the phone was going to take hours. Our Slovenian friend was on the hunt for some shorts and flip flops (after getting his watch fixed), and the mall had nothing for him.

In fact, the mall had nothing for anyone. I was amazed at how many stores this mall lacked. In other words, if you want to go to a mainstream store, you’re going to have to hightail it up to Richmond. The only children’s clothing store was The Children’s Place (blech), and the Macy’s was the size of a postage stamp.

S mentioned that he always buys his shorts at Costco and that we would be happy to make the trek. Slovenian friend was up for it, Jamaican one was not. She wanted to stay and shop, so we said we would swing back by in a couple of hours to pick her up.

Now, why is all of this relevant, you may ask?

Well, this morning when we were planning all of this, I assumed we would be seeing the inside of the mall for, oh, 1-2 hours, then come home where I would make some lunch. As we were leaving the house, I grabbed a peach, and that was all I ate this morning. 1-2 hours at the mall later, and we were extending our field trip to double the time away from home.

Do you know how hard it is to eat out on this diet?

Impossible.

So, we head to Costco. E is starting to complain about being hungry, so we tell her we will get her a hotdog at the food court. We get there, and E wants a piece of pizza. Which is my favorite. Our Slovenian friend gets a chicken bake and keeps trying to get us to try it. “No, thanks, I’m fine.” Meanwhile, my stomach is grumbling. S broke down and got a hotdog, but ate it without the bun. And I got nothing. (Okay, I admit, I had a tiny bit of the end of S’s hotdog, but only because I was going to pass out if I didn’t eat something). It took a tremendous amount of willpower to not just say “it’s only one meal,” or “I’ll just eat E’s crust,” or the like.

Especially since we didn’t even get home until 2 hours later. That’s right. We left the house a little before 11 and got back at 5.

I ran into the house and quickly started to make dinner: New York strips, sweet potatoes, and summer squash. I don’t think I have ever cooked a meal so quickly. And now, more than an hour after eating, I am still feeling full. And fat. But happy.

Oh, so happy.