Culture Shock

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of meeting a family from France at our hotel pool.

Now, I am a big fan of French culture. I love their food, their architecture, and their horizontally stripped shirts. So we sat, Madame, Monsieur, and Me, chatting about the differences between our cultures.

A fun fact is that Dora the Explorer in France speaks French and teaches kids a few words in English. Their 5 year old and I practiced counting in English and in French, and while I did take French in high school, her broken English was far superior to my broken French.

I told them we have been focusing on learning Spanish because Mr. B‘s mother was born in Spain. Plus, with being located in SoCal, speaking Spanish is a valuable thing to know.

Then, there was an incident.

Now, I’m sure a lot of you parents have read maybe one article on French parenting. French children learn patience from an early age. And while we are trying to teach patience to our toddler, it is a trait she has not yet managed.

She was playing with a ball that the little French girls brought to the pool, but alas, it was time for them to go, so Little Miss R would have to relinquish the ball. Well, this request was met with a “NO” and The Death Grip. Jaws of life would not of been able to take my toddlers grasp off of this ball. I talked to her nicely, and calmly explained that it is their ball, and they needed it back. Finally, she dropped the ball in anger, gave me a SEVERE look, then pretended to bite herself in the arm.

“You can tell ze is Spanish” said Monsieur.

And that made me giggle.

Yes, she is Spanish, and I wouldn’t trade her fiery personality for the world.

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Balancing Act

It’s no secret we moved out to California for Mr B‘s job. What was kept a bit secret was my exact involvement in the business also. We told who we needed to tell, but didn’t mention it to many. It was just easier to not be bombarded with questions right before a big move, you know because attaining my professional license and contracts was hard enough.

So now we are here…er….we’ve been here many moons. About four fortnights to be almost exact, and life is now a balancing act.

Not like a plates about to topple everywhere balancing act. More of a everything in perfect harmony. If we need to focus a little more of our attention on work one day, so be it, the next day we’ll focus a little more on school work. We need to travel from LA to Eureka, CA (a 680 mile journey), no problem, we’ll bring our computers and some light school work in the car so we don’t lose a whole day.

I think of it like many cups, and a moderate  amount of water. We need to decide which cups to fill each day. Some cups will be filled to the brim one day while the rest go without on one day. Another day, our water could be spread more evenly throughout the cups.

We’re I’m trying to take a zen approach to this new challenge. There are many hours in the day, and taking things one at a time has really helped my mental health.

This is me, trying to put a small amount of water back in my blog cup.

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I don’t blog everyday…

…but when I do, it’s at 4 in the morning PST.

Time changes are TOUGH! When we were traveling in Texas, I had a difficult time adjusting to just a one hour difference. We were in Vegas in 2012, and I had NO IDEA what time to call back home to check on the kids. Now we are 3 hours behind our old EST, and I feel like I’m late!

At 3pm here, I’m still working and homeschooling while most people I know back home are preparing for dinner! And come 6pm here, when I’m ready to call home, my parents are starting to turn in for the night! Compounding this predicament is that we have to stay abreast with the action back at Home Base, 3 hours ahead of us. It’s not an issue in the evening, but 4am here is 7am there!

Actually, it’s only an issue in my head, because everyone is very understanding. That doesn’t mean I can shake this feeling of being late or behind very easily though. So until I am used to being a Pacific Standard Timer, I’ll be up early, waiting for the coffee to brew.

rise

Cal-i-forn-i-a

We’ve made it!

The Travel Size Family has landed for an extended stay in SoCal!

welcome to CA

Five and a half days of travel spanning 2,389 miles and we have made it!

It was quite an amazing adventure. Watching the rolling green hills of Western PA melt away to the farm land of middle America, then drastically changing to the rocky deserts of the Southwest, and finally crossing the Mojave desert to descend upon the LA area was a beautiful journey. I strongly suggest everyone takes the trip at least once in their lifetime. My grandparents would routinely make the trip, and my Gram talks about those adventures fondly.

We broke the trip up into pieces to make it a bit more manageable. After leaving Wichita, we continued on with clear stops we wanted to make before our final stop in Albuquerque. Two of those stops were in Amarillo, TX: the Big Texan and Cadillac Ranch.

CR

We made it to Cadillac Ranch at sunset, one of my two favorite times to take pictures (the other being sunrise).

We then drove in to Albuquerque for a visit with Mr. B‘s Grandma, Aunt, and Cousin. They were waiting for us upon arrival, standing outside with nacho fixings waiting for us in the kitchen. We ate then went to bed.

ABQ from the foothills of Sandia Peak.

ABQ from the foothills of Sandia Peak.

The morning brought Mr. B‘s 30th birthday! We celebrated with a trip to Old Town Albuquerque, a drive up to the Sandia Peak, then the kids, Mr. B, and I had lunch at a trendy downtown historic Route 66 place called Blackbird Buvette. We later had cupcakes and ice cream before turning in to the night.

66

We were planning on leaving the next morning, but decided to stay another day since we rarely see this part of the family. We stayed until the end of Valentine’s Day, but were packing the car again for another middle of the night departure.

We were making our final press into CA, and the only stop left on our journey would be to the Grand Canyon. We left at midnight so we could arrive at The Canyon by dawn.

GC

It was beautiful. I don’t want to be one of those people who say ‘You have to go see it, at least once’, but it’s true. It was breathtaking.

We had breakfast, then continued down the road, only 6:30 left until our destination!

We drove through the Mojave Desert that seemed to stretch on forever. Each mountain we would summit only revealed many more miles of straight driving and no rest in sight. We stopped at the only place between Kingman, AZ and Barstow, CA which was the dingiest Dairy Queen situated in a gas station ever. Maybe it’s the only Dairy Queen situated in a gas station, I don’t know for sure, but they had cold ice cream and a place to stretch our legs.

Driving, driving, drivingdrivingdriving.

We drove on and on. The only thing keeping us sane was the car DVD players the kids received for Christmas from Mr. B‘s dad and step-mom. Those things were life savers.

Driving, driving, driving.

Up and down hills and mountains until finally! We were finally winding down the mountain, through the ominous cloud of smog the LA region is notorious for, 10 minutes away from our hotel. We were cheering and clapping in our semi-delirious road-worn state.

Here we are, resident tourists. We couldn’t even fully relax because the next few days were filled with meetings and preparations to make our next few months successful here, thus why this post is so late (we arrived on Saturday)!

We are ready though,  homeschooling our way through California, one day at a time.

family gc

Waking up in Wichita

Good morning, Wichita!

Good morning, Wichita!

After weeks of packing, planning, testing, and renovation, we said good-bye to some of our family and set out in a westward direction. We were outside the city limits of Home Base by midnight, and traded off driving duties every few hours.

The kids slept until we stopped for breakfast along the Indiana/Illinois border. We stopped to visit my aunt who lives outside of St. Louis for lunch, then we pressed on, further into the middle of America.

We have 3 important stops on this trip out west. One was visiting my aunt.

CHECK!

CHECK!

 

Another is going for lunch at The Big Texan in Amarillo, TX then going to see the buried cars at Cadillac Ranch. If you remember, we were in Plainview, TX around Thanksgiving which is 90 minutes south of Amarillo. I wanted to go back then, but the icy/snowy weather kept us away…until today!

Our last stop will be a visit with Mr. B‘s grandma, aunt, and cousin in Albuquerque, NM. We’ll be there for his birthday so we can celebrate in the beauty of the southwest.

For now, I’m trying to rally the troops to shower and eat so we can hit the road again. From St. Louis to Amarillo is a long 15 hour journey and we had to stop in the middle to rest in Wichita, KS and we need to press on!

"The road goes ever on and on."

“The road goes ever on and on.”

Starting Off Right

breakfast

They say it’s the most important meal of the day, but who are They? Breakfast bureaucrats? Cereal Czars? Muffin Monarchs?

Nope, They just know what they’re talking about.

Back when Little Mr. D was in traditional school, the mornings were tough. We’d have to be out the door by 7:40a to drop him off on time then travel to my respective place of business. This called for a 6:45a wake up call that usually didn’t go into effect until 7:10a. Upon his groggy descent from his room, he was usually greeted with cereal while I waited for my coffee to give me the kick in the pants I needed in the morning. I consider myself a morning person, but I still need a good caffeine jolt to get me going every now and then. Some mornings, he’d come downstairs to find his favorite hot breakfast laid out for him. The difference was immediate. He’d begin chatting away happily as he ate, then have a bounce in his step when walking up to the school’s front door. Most mornings though, we had to face the cereal reality, it was just easier.

Since beginning our homeschool journey, the kids rarely eat cereal. While on the road, we’ll either stay in a hotel with a kitchen and make our own, enjoy the hotel’s breakfast selections, or we’d treat ourselves to a breakfast out. Any of those selections will give us a hot breakfast and man, that can make all the difference in the world to the kids’ attention spans.

These past few weeks spent at Home Base have entitled us to our favorite of all breakfast selections, Italian toast with bread made from a local Italian bakery that we love. I swear, there is something in their water that makes the bread so delicious.

It may be that we no longer have to rush to leave the house in the mornings, but I am going to chock up our delightful morning routine that leads to a productive day to our first meal, the one They say is so important.

I guess I’m one of Them now.

The Ol’ Switcheroo

It’s no secret. Almost all 3 year old girls I know are in love. They’re complete smitten with a small cat hailing from Japan. They adore Hello Kitty. Little Miss R is no exception.

It was the year of The Cat this Christmas, with Little Miss R collecting an array of Cat goods. For the most part it was quality HK merchandise, but two small tubes set off the red flag in my head. They were part of a bath set that included a loofa, a tube of shampoo and one of body wash.

One look at the ingredients list would tell me if we are keeping these products, or if they will be placed on my toxic waste list and disposed of. I received my answer quickly, there was NO ingredient list. This told me one of two things, either the product contained things they didn’t want to advertise, or it was made in China. Neither of those things are high on my list of things I want to slather my child with in a bathtub.

I can only assume the products in question contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), but without an ingredient list, I had no idea of knowing. SLS is almost at the very top of our DO NOT USE list, second only to those nasty GMO’s. If you don’t know what affects SLS can have on your body, it’s worth a read. Everything from skin irritation to organ and reproductive toxicity, developmental problems, and possible mutations of cancer! YIKES!

Upon my rediscovery of the package (it traveled from my mom’s house after Christmas to my bedroom, and while cleaning it was unearthed), I tried to dispose of the contents but was caught! The toddler threw a toddler-sized fit over it. My next move was clear. In time, she’ll appreciate the fact that we have such great access to safe cosmetics and skin care items (so long as we pay attention to the labels), and she will love them, especially since her GG makes the most wonderful au natural soaps and cremes that we love. All she saw at the moment was Hello Kitty getting the axe. So, I preformed the oldest trick in the book

The Ol’ Switcheroo

the switcheroo

As I squeezed the toxic substance out of their original containers they did not smell like the cotton candy as was described on the bottle. It was more of a chemical mix that had an ammonia-like burn at the end. It slopped out of the container in goops of pink glop, making horrible flatulent noises after it. Then I rinsed the last of it out and once it was all clear, the switch was made. I called in our old standby. It contains NO SLS, parabens, fragrances, dyes, sulfates, phthalates, sodium chloride, formaldehyde, MEA, or 1,4-dioxane. We purchase the bottles of this in bulk and take them on the road, SLS is in about 95% the shampoo we come across on the road. I only filled her bottles up a wee little bit, I’m certain there is still trace amounts of the toxins in the plastic. But that was all that was needed.

Today, the battle was adverted, Little Miss R saw Hello Kitty’s pink bow on the package, and I know she won’t be contaminated with unnecessary chemicals. Since the bottles were only a little full, they ran out and I proclaimed “ALL DONE!”, then I tossed them in the trash and took it away.

And everyone was happy.

References:

Deadly and Dangerous Shampoos, Toothpastes, and Detergents: Could 16,000 Studies be Worng About SLS? By Dr. Mercola July 13, 2010