Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Recommended Books

Check out the new Recommended Books page for titles I highly recommend!  I'm always looking for great books, so let me know if you've read one that should be on that list (for adults or kids)!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Library

I've always felt that one of the best ways to help a child develop is to read to them (and, eventually, teach them to read).  Thanks in great part to my mom, the retired English teacher, I feel I had a pretty superior upbringing in that area even before school started.  I credit her, and my outstanding first grade teacher, Mrs. Spector, who keyed into my competitive side with a year-long book-reading competition that prompted me to read over 600 books, with my academic success through college.  Therefore, I'm determined to read to my new munchkin every day in hopes that she'll develop the skills and love of reading that will make her more successful in life.

In fact, the first thing we bought her (days after finding out we were pregnant) is the first book I plan to read her: The Lorax, by Dr. Suess.  I don't think you can find a better, more obvious way to introduce your kids to environmentalism.  (If my kids were old enough to make the connection, I'd be comparing the glumped-up pond where the Humming-Fish hummed to some of the pictures coming out of the gulf from the BP oil spill.)

We used to live in Rochester, MN, whose Olmsted County United Way sponsored the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which sends kids one book a month for their first five years of life - for free!  To find out if an organization in your area sponsors this program, enter your zip code into the 'Find Your Affiliate' box here.

Our new community doesn't have a sponsor, but Nathan reminded me that I didn't grow up with free books at my doorstep either.  I grew up with something far more flexible, eco-friendly and amazing: a library!

I was discouraged the first time I set foot inside the Jordaan Memorial Library in Larned, KS.  My biggest pet peeve?  They don't trust you.  It's the only library I've ever joined that gave you a probationary period of six months where you could only check-out one book at a time!  This would never do if I was going to stock up on lots of reading materials for our little bean.

Luckily, most libraries are like the one 25 minutes from us in Great Bend, KS.  They have a large children's reading section, computers, a three-week checkout period with online renewals, ways to get books from other Kansas libraries, and you can have up to 25 books at a time.  I walked in yesterday to signs urging kids of all ages to join their various summer reading programs, plus community events like free movies, etc.  Now, this, is what I expect from my local library!

I'm sure we'll be frequenting it often.  The best part for me is that I can expose my kids to a variety of books and topics without breaking the bank and without causing extra trees to be chopped down!  Like cloth diapering, I feel this is another eco-parently no-brainer!  Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The 12-Hour Road Trip

I complained last week about a tiny five-hour drive knowing full-well that I would be on the road another 12-14 hours by myself this Thursday.  As an update to last week's post, I am happy to announce I've figured out how to drive long distances without killing myself!  Since driving in an eco-friendly vehicle when you must travel tends to be much better than flying (in an environmentally-friendly sense), here are my tips:
  1. Forget your normal travel strategies and do the opposite.  That is, instead of stopping in one place, getting as much done (gas, food, bathroom, etc) and then going as far as you can between stops, do just ONE thing at each place.  I found that two hours in between stops really hurt my back, but a stop each hour was perfect and cleared up the back pain.  My strategy was to get gas at one location, a snack at the next, and take a walk at the next place (taking bathroom breaks whenever needed)!  That way, I stopped frequently and felt productive about it. 
  2. Stretch.  I also tended to do a few stretches at each stop and that seemed to help also.
  3. Make sure your car has cruise control.  I know, it seems like such a basic feature, but my rental car did not have it this weekend and keeping one foot/leg still for long periods of time is not that easy when you're pregnant.
  4. Avoid that gross fatty-food feeling by figuring out where you can get a side salad or fruit with your lunch and go there on the road.  I like stopping at Subways where I can get a sandwich with tons of lettuce, apples, and milk.  Most places will substitute a side salad for the fries in a meal, but Arby's is not one of those places - they do not offer side salads.  Wendy's offers a choice of mandarin oranges or side salad with its combos.  Almost everywhere sells meal-sized salads, which are fine if you're not craving delicious trip food.  Better yet, if you have a cooler, bring your own lunch and save yourself a lot of money.
  5. Be smart about when you drink your caffeine.  Although everyone tells us pregnant ladies to limit caffeine, the prevailing knowledge still says we can have the equivalent of 1-2 cups of coffee a day (that's because there's no consensus yet on whether any amount of caffeine actually harms our babies).  If you tend to get tired in the morning and after lunch, make sure you have your caffeine then, when it's most affective.  (Or pull over and take a nap at a rest stop...that always sounds like a wonderful idea, but is not always practical.)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Third Trimester Traveling

I'm officially in my third trimester now and given the hectic nature of our double-move and Nathan starting a brand new job, we haven't been able to pull away for a real vacation and may not before the baby arrives.

Salamanders in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (2009)

Of course I'm a little sad about that.  Traveling is my absolute favorite thing to do in the world and I would love one last trip without the kid.  That is, until I kind of got one this weekend.


I had always heard that once you hit your third trimester, airlines won't let you fly anymore without special permission from your doctor.  Realizing that I had just entered the "no fly zone", I decided to check up on this myself.  The Delta Airlines website didn't mention anything about pregnancy, so I called them.  For Delta, there IS NO policy on flying when you're pregnant - they allow it!  They just recommend that after your 8th month you check with your doctor first.  I haven't checked with other airlines, but I would hope they would all have similar policies. Yippee!  So it turns out my options for travel aren't entirely closed yet.  Each airline has a different policy, but I found this excellent list of policies on Baby Center.


My friend Sara, who is also pregnant just a couple months behind me, happened to check on cruises.  Those do have hard and fast rules and the cut-off is early - 23 weeks.  I suppose if you're going to be on a boat for over a week, the chances of you going into labor in the middle of the ocean greatly increase.  So, the moral of the story is to get your cruise in quick, you'll probably enjoy it more in your second trimester anyway!

Road Trip

This weekend, I had the chance to ride along on Nathan's first business trip!  We drove five hours to Fort Scott, KS with an 1871 ambulance carriage in tow so that Nathan could talk about it as part of the town's Good Ol' Days celebration!

The trip has been fun so far, but it's made me realize that traveling while pregnant is NOT as fun as traveling without an extra watermelon shoved in your stomach.  For starters, a Chevy Silverado's seats were not created to ergonomically fit a pregnant woman's needs.  So, we stopped often and my back hurt like crazy at the end of the trip.  My doctor had mentioned that it's best to get out of the car every 1.5 hours to avoid blood clots.  The good news is, there's no problem remembering to do that when you have a full bladder and are generally uncomfortable.

This weekend, the temperatures soared into the 90's and the entire festival was outside during the heat of the day.  I can lug around a water bottle, but can't stay on my feet all day long anymore.  So, I've mapped out all the shady benches in the city and don't argue with people anymore if they want to give up their prime seating spots for the pregnant lady.  I've found I really need to take it easy and am enjoying comparing aches and pains with the old ladies I'm seated next to. Ha!  I also found making sure there's time for a two-hour nap every day helps a lot.

Finally, as much as I love deep fried spam curds, fair food is just NOT what I want to be eating right now.  Contrary to popular belief, dill pickles, fried green beans, and the canned corn masquerading as the "Vegetable of the Day" at our hotel restaurant are not vegetables.  I have to try really hard to find good food at this shindig and will admit that I miss my kitchen!


So, how is this post related to eco-living?  Well, I've never before endorsed the idea of a "staycation".  Seeing the world is the best way to see the beautiful places that are threatened by our current lifestyle choices.  It's also how you realize how far your own community has come (e.g. catalytic converters are amazing!).  However, just like the articles warned me, traveling during your third trimester is not a piece of cake, and a staycation might be just what the doctor ordered.  Besides, I'm excited to introduce the new baby to the world, so bring on the fun of traveling with kids!