Monday, December 31, 2012

Year 2012 in Review: Trying Veganism, Or How I Lost 15 Pounds Without Trying

Once upon a time, in a land far away called “college,” Krystal gave up her meat-eating ways and became a vegetarian.  I know that some people go vegetarian for animal-rights reasons or environmental reasons or health reasons or a combination thereof; I went vegetarian because I really don’t like the taste of meat.  I had not consumed red meat in years, never ate pork, and only occasionally ate chicken or turkey.  Going vegetarian did not seem that hard.  And it really was not hard when I had a dining service cooking for me at all times and I didn’t care how healthy my meals were.  I ate lots of bagels, lots of fruit salad / granola / yogurt combinations from Holmes Lounge, lots of rice and beans, and lots of pasta. 

Then I became a married adult who was responsible for making meals all the time, and life became more complicated.  I could not cook “real food” when I was 22.  Eric and I ate out at least 7 meals a week – we hit every restaurant within a 5 miles radius of us, it seemed – and I ate a fair amount of chicken meals then.  (Eating out as a vegetarian is hard.)  Eventually we pieced together a few meals we would make at home, then a few more, and a few more, and now, in 2012, we eat out only once every 1-2 weeks or so. 

Handling raw meat is disgusting.  There is no way around that essential fact and I mostly refused to do it.  In addition, I derive no joy in creating a meal that I myself will not eat, and I love to cook now, so I’m supplying the majority of the meals.  As a result, the majority of home-cooked Whompton meals have been vegetarian by default.   

Back in late June, an old friend came to visit and shared her path to veganism.  She read Disease Proof Your Child by Joel Fuhrman and The China Study and wholeheartedly embraced the underpinnings of the two books:  the food one eats dictates one’s health and that whole food, plant-based diets have shown the ability to stave off cancer.  Jessie decided to minimize the animal products she consumed and she felt incredibly healthier as a result. 

So, in late July, I read Fuhrman’s book.  And then Food Matters.  And then The End of Overeating.  And then Becoming Vegan.  Each book advocates minimizing animal-based foods as a way to be healthy and the evidence presented in the books was rather convincing.  I decided to go pseudo-vegan in August.  I ate no meat, no eggs, no butter, no cheese or yogurt, and the only milk I consumed was on my morning cereal.  I did not shop in the expensive vegan areas in the grocery store or anything; I just ate fruit, veggies, beans, rice, cereals, and breads like normal.  I also continued exercising at my standard level.

In the space of one month, I unintentionally dropped 15 pounds.  For some people, this would be a reason for huge celebration but, oh goodness, it was terrifying for me.  Clearly my egg and dairy consumption provided the calories to maintain my weight; eliminating those calories without replacing them with something else caused me to lose weight dramatically.  This was not a sustainable path.

I’ve made some necessary changes to my food consumption.  I increased it.  A lot.  I eat seconds and thirds at lunch and dinner and continuously graze in the afternoon.  I eat cheese occasionally and I frequently have nuts for dessert.  I’m more mindful of calories in and out, which was not something I paid attention to previously, and I certainly attend to my protein intake.  My body complains if I don’t consume enough beans, for instance.  I have gained some weight back, which is fantastic, and I’m diligent about weighing myself every day to prevent another weight loss. 

Overall, I feel better in my whole foods, mostly-plant-based diet, and I hope that my family is healthier as a result. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Year 2012 in Review: Samantha Becomes a Whompton (Again)

Krystal and Samantha are sisters; we’re four years apart in age, which mattered a whole lot when I was in middle school and she was in elementary school, but didn’t matter at all by the time I was in high school.  Over time, we became very good friends because we had so much in common, and she frequently hung out with my friends and me.  We grew up in Owensboro, KY, which is a fine place, but one that we both were eager to leave after high school graduation.  I won’t speak for Samantha, but I never felt like I fit in Owensboro and I was overjoyed to move on.  I departed for Saint Louis and Washington University; four years later, Samantha left for Centre College in Danville, KY.  We got our degrees, married straight out of college, and then stayed in our respective college towns. 

Time passed …. and then Samantha and her husband split up.  Eric and I convinced her to join us in Saint Louis; she moved in and we never looked back.  At first glance, most people assumed the worst about our situation – that all adults were miserably coexisting in some terrible black comedy.  That’s not true at all.  She was neither a charity case nor forced servitude; instead, she was an integral member of the family and we loved having her here.  She, Raina, and Lola fostered an incredibly close relationship; I gained a best friend in the house; Samantha grew into an empowered, beautiful adult.  The situation was rather wonderful all around.

Eventually, Samantha decided to move out and live on her own, which was bittersweet for all of us.  We designated Sunday “Samantha day,” and we’d go to the Zoo or she’d come to dinner or she’d read books to the kids …  It never felt like enough time together, but we made do.  Then Samantha decided she wanted to move back closer to us so she could see us more often.  She took a second job and started working roughly 70-80 hour weeks to save up money so she could buy a house in our neighborhood.  We went from seeing each other every Sunday to rarely seeing each other at all.  In a word, it was terrible. 

After many conversations, we all agreed that it would be better to have Samantha back here at the Whompton abode then any alternative we could brainstorm.  She and Roxanne moved back in October and it’s been fantastic.  The transition was so smooth, the girls love having her back, Lola especially loves having a dog in the house and Roxanne seems puppy-like in her enthusiasm as well.  Eric, Samantha, and I plan to be together for the long haul – until retirement and beyond! – and I’m looking forward to our many years together. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Year 2012 in Review: Ethical Society of Saint Louis

The Whomptons joined a religious community.  For starters, you need to know our religious position.  I am an atheist and Eric is, at best, a deist; neither of us believes there is/are god/gods/goddesses actively at hand in our world.  Any good that happens is because humans made it, and any bad in the world is because humans made it.  At core, that conflicts with most faith traditions and we’ve never felt at home in various churches as a result.

Enter the Ethical Society of Saint Louis.  My first experience at the Ethical Society was back in college, when I attended a Roe v. Wade celebration there, and I remember wondering “Wow!  I never imagined a church supporting abortion rights.”  About seven years later, Eric and I started hunting for a Saint Louis church community and I remembered the Ethical Society. 

The Ethical Society places "deed before creed" and encourages its members to think deeply, be intentional, and do what is good and right.  The Sunday School core values sum it nicely:  "I am free to question.  I am free to choose what I believe.  I accept responsibility for my choices and actions.   I strive to live my values."  We went to a fair number of platform addresses – I remember hearing one on gun control and another on atheism that knocked my socks off – and we fell in love with Kate Lovelady, the leader of the Ethical Society.  She has a way of approaching a topic from angles I never anticipated and I always come away struck that I really learned something new when she talks.  We became convinced this place was our best match. 

We didn’t join in 2007 because we weren’t convinced the community was the right match.  The folks who attended platform were substantially older than us, and I was absolutely creeped out by how uniformly white the population was.  What we didn’t realize then is that all the younger folks are helping out with the Sunday School program and/or are selective about which platform addresses they attend because carting around little ones is hard.    

In 2012, we know a wider array of people our age, with kids our daughters’ ages, and with like-minded interests.  We have a community of folks who legitimately and thoughtfully question everything that is put to them, they weigh the information, use critical thinking, and then come to a decision.  Our conversations with Ethical Society members are very intelligent; you cannot get away with standard platitudes in any conversation there.  The members challenge your statements and you need to defend and explain your position using careful reasoning.  I think the population holds the full spectrum of activist white liberals in Saint Louis, who sincerely want to learn from each other and make the world better.  Also, everyone we’ve encountered has been so genuinely nice and gentle, and I don’t worry about someone there making my child feel bad because she doesn’t celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah. 

In addition to getting to know the adult community, we’re meeting the youth community too.  Eric and I have taught four Sunday School lessons each.  Eric’s experience was overwhelming – corralling 16 1st and 2nd graders was substantially more challenging than originally anticipated – but, by the end of the month, Eric had a much better handle on the group.  I took the 5th and 6th grade class on purpose (I understand that age group!) and had a smoother transition and more positive experience.  We also joined Ethical Outdoors, a scouting group that allows members of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religious affiliations to participate.  Our whole family goes to the meetings and we’ve met more people there as well. 

We finally have a place where we fit, and it’s so wonderful.  Our weekends are substantially busier now that we’re active members – attending Sunday morning services takes up a LOT of weekend time – but the time is well invested. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Beach Babies

Three year old Raina was reticient to branch out in her beach experience.  Seven year old Raina and three year old Lola had no such reservations.  Upon our Litchfield arrival, we immediately paid homage to the ocean.

Lola giggled as her toes hit sand and the two girls were instantly drawn to the water. 

The rest of the Compton crew arrived Saturday evening, big hugs were shared, and then we all went to bed.  The Whompton girls shared a bedroom.  They don't share a room (or much of anything!) at home, so we practiced sleeping in the same room while in Saint Louis.  It was a full fledged disaster.  We crossed our fingers that everything would be just fine in Litchfield and, surprisingly enough, it was.  The girls essentially put themselves to bed each night without fuss or complaint. 

We spent our beach week playing in the sand and surf, building castles and moats and channels and dams, taking long walks and runs, riding waves, reading books, playing with trains, and enjoying each other's company.  Our camera did not emerge much during beach week, which is a shame, but Raina captured some scattered moments for us.

Here are the monstrously large television and the train table.

Emily, Eric, and Krystal played The Lord of the Rings Card Game.  A lot.  Way more than was fair, probably.  But it was loads of fun and Eric and Emily did a lot of deck building, which they both enjoyed. 

Atticus loved the cars and trains.  Many moments saw him moving his trains around the track.

Guest photographer's self portait.

Not pictured:  Raina had a 102 degree fever and scored a trip to Urgent Care.  Lola later caught the same virus and had the same high fever.  Both kids slept long and hard and had trance sleep-walking, which was confusing for all adults involved. 

And then it was the last beach day.  We finally brought the camera back to the beach Friday morning and captured some great moments. 

Lola and Atticus splashed and played in the surf.  Over the week they became more and more adventurous; Friday saw waves knocking Atticus down over and over again and he kept coming up laughing and diving in for more. 

Raina spent her last beach day wandering around.  I love the bright yellow of her dress in this series of pictures.

Lola is up for every opportunity but, when she gets tired or sad, this is the face you see.  Head down in a hangdog manner and refusing to budge.  We saw this a lot when it was time to leave the beach each day.

Aunt Stephanie missed this year's beach trip but she sent rocking camp shirts for the kids.  They are proudly showing their new finery.

We cuddled up for a last round of book reading and beach week 2012 came to a close.

You always forget something when you take a trip.  Usually it's nothing of major consequence and you power through.  Unfortunately, Krystal forgot the Beach to STL directions, which included our return-trip restaurant picks.  As a result, the return trip meals were disappointing, to say the least.  The food was subpar and we ate at chain restaurants.  (Finding the off-the-beaten-path restaurants was challenging with the GPS and no smartphone.)  We stopped at a Moe's, which is third tier in terms of fast-food burrito companies.  After that meal, we really appreciated Chipotle.

The "worst meal of the trip" honor goes to the Chattanooga Wendy's.  There are no words for the disappointment of the meal, but I believe my facial expression captures the moment well. 

The two-day return trip was an excrutiating affair.  The highlights:  Raina picked up some more books from our Nashville stop and we arrived at our STL home.  105 degree temperatures never felt so good!

South Carolina Bound!

The Comptons and Whomptons gather in the summertime to rejoice in the pleasures of each other's company.  Litchfield beach, South Carolina, is the traditional Compton gathering spot; the last time we went to Litchfield was when Raina was 3 years old and we traveled this summer now that Lola is three.  These images capture our 18 hours of driving to the South Carolina coast. 

Lola spent a fair amount as a grump-a-dump.  We saw this face a lot.

Raina read continuously.  (NO car sickness, woohoo!)  Raina rarely showed a grumpy face.

Food tends to be the only exciting variation in a long car trip.  The Whomptons planned out all their meals in advance, so that each stop would be interesting and tasty and local.  Stop #1 was a bakery in Clarksville, TN.  All the workers behind the counter spoke German!  Raina had a pizza, Eric and Lola had the Rosemary Chicken Dumpling soup, and Krystal had the Lentil soup.  Nice wholesome and light fare, and very appropriate for just 5 hours in the trip. 

Lola's soup came in a Lola sized bread bowl.  It was adorable. 

Everyone's spirits were up as we left Clarksville and traversed Tennessee, because we started a They Might Be Giants album.  Lola laughs hysterically at "Birdhouse in Your Soul" and the "Seven Song."  (Later on in the return trip, these were the only things to make Lola happy in the car.  TMBG featured prominently in our drive!)

Raina, still, was happy to read.  Notice she's on a different book!

And finally Lola went down for a nap!  We Whomptons are wary of Lola's napping -- Lola's sleep schedule is a highly regulated enterprise and naps generally lead to difficult bedtimes -- but we gave thanks that she fell asleep here.

Yes, Lola's grump face returned as soon as she awoke.

But, woohoo, we woke her up because we were in Atlanta!  Atlanta was the designated nighttime stop-over on our two-days driving venture.  We celebrated our arrival at Papi's Cuban Grill and we gorged ourselves silly on jerk chicken, pork, beans and rice, plantains, and happiness.  All the workers spoke a different language too, but it wasn't exactly Spanish.  The meal was luscious and plentiful and Eric struggled to finish the plates of all four Whomptons.

A terrifying deluge of rain greeted us outside of the restaurant and stayed with us the 10 minutes drive to our hotel.  The rain stopped as soon as we arrived, and we eagerly anticipated tossing the small ones into the pool to get their willies out.

We geared up for the pool and headed outside.  Unfortunately, the rain came back in bits and spurts and thunder sporadically sounded overhead.  No pool time.  Instead, we took an exploratory tour of the hotel.  We saw two broken ice machines, multiple vending machines, the laundry room, a stairwell, an elevator, a treadmill, and a bunch of people looking at us funny.  We covered every available square inch of the three story hotel as we tried to avoid the feeling of being trapped.

Eventually we saw all parts of the hotel and there was nothing to do but go back to our room, jump on beds, take baths, and watch television.  The girls were incredibly excited about this option, because we rarely watch tv at home, and they were incredibly distressed when the television had no access to cable.  We watched a black screen for a while and, after the tv was repaired, we closed out the final half-hour of School of Rock

Bedtime was a struggle and we'll leave it at that.  Lola stayed up well past everyone else, so she was quite groggy when we roused her Saturday morning. 

Saturday's breakfast was standard hotel buffet:  unappetizing choices in a variety of flavors.  The best item was the toast. 

But food is food, and we love food, AND we were excited to get on our way again.  Saturday's drive was the short day:  Atlanta to the coast!

We made it to South Carolina and rejoiced.  We stopped at, quite possibly, the nicest rest area in the nation, and chatted with the nicest rest area workers I've ever met. 

Random guest photographer took the only Whompton family photo of the entire trip.

Saturday's drive took us through Orangeburg, SC, home of the state's best barbeque.  We chose Duke's BBQ and it was quite an experience.  First, you walk into Duke's and it's a long hall with multiple picnic tables, equipped with pitchers of sweet tea. No restrooms. At the end of the hall is the BBQ buffet. Yes, dear goodness, a buffet. Options were limited to pulled pork, cole slaw, hash and rice, white bread, and pickles. (Hash seemed very similar to burgoo.) 

Eric ate a lot of meat at Duke's, and then we moseyed on to another establishment to use their restroom.  Restrooms along the state roads are questionable at best, and the one we selected definitely fell in the GUH! territory. 

The interior-to-the-coast drive was filled with fluffy clouds, periodic crazy storms, and kudzu. 

And then we were in Litchfield!  We located das Strandhaus, our beach house for the week, and celebrated our good fortune.  We were in South Carolina!  We were at the beach!  We were OUT OF THE CAR!  Life was good.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Wedding Attire

Weddings dominated my social calendar all throughout my 20's.  Our friends and family celebrated partnerships made permanent and I somewhat slowly figured out the wedding scene.  I discerned appropriate attire for Baptist weddings and Hindu weddings, for morning weddings and afternoon weddings and evening weddings.  It should come to no surprise that, in my inexperience, I often dressed down at these functions because I often dress down, but once I finally realized the standards I firmly upheld them.  I have no desire to cause offense in this regard; a Saturday evening wedding is a formal affair and it calls for a formal dress, heels, jewelry, and for something nice done to my hair. 

I haven't been to a wedding in a while -- baby showers have dominated my 30's social calendar -- and I was overjoyed to be invited to a friend's wedding this past week.  I was thoroughly confused by the invitation, though.  Saturday, 7 p.m., Jewish temple -- all standard things.  But it specified "cocktail attire" on the invitation.  Cocktail attire?!  That's less formal than a 7 p.m. Saturday wedding should mean! 

I spent multiple days shopping for a dress that matched the cocktail attire specification.  I found a dress that I loved, but I was certain it was too casual.  I purchased it anyway and showed it off to Samantha.  She agreed "too casual," and then she delivered a damning blow.  It was the wrong color for my skin tone.  She tried it on and it looked fantastic on her.  She kept the dress and I tried on every dress Samantha owns.  Nothing was right, but I brought home one that seemed okay.  It matched cocktail attire but was predominantly black, therefore, it seemed more formal to me. 

Clearly, I agonized over this requirement.  It wasn't until Saturday that I realized why the attire was specified.  This was a younger crowd, in their early 20's, and they probably had not figured out the implied dress requirement suggested by the day and time.  The brides weren't encouraging their guests to dress down; they were afraid that their guests would arrive in jeans!  Once I determined this, I pulled out my standard Saturday evening wedding outfit and felt great about my choice. 

Krystal in her early 20's never would have wondered about the dress requirement; Krystal in her 30's spent way too much time wondering about it.  Oh well.

Here's Samantha in dress #1 for the night.  She, as always, looks lovely.  (I introduced her to the Chevre salad at the Wildflower Cafe.  Pure decadence!)

And here we are at the wedding, Samantha in dress #2.  We look fantastic and had a glorious time.  Weddings are wonderful experiences!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Trust your instincts!

Krystal embarked on a Boston adventure and left Eric in charge of the Whompton household and its inhabitants for a week.  To give him an afternoon off, we said "yes" to a birthday party invitation, even though we were conflicted about the party itself.  But, really, how bad could it be?

Oh, gracious, we had no idea.  Raina returned home like this:

Horrifying.  Poor Eric, he had no idea what to do.  To be honest, I don't know what I would have done either besides rant.  Luckily, Samantha came over that night and helped in the process of removing the hideous (and widespread) blue eye shadow, the foundation, the body glitter, the temp tattoo, and the lip gloss.  They left the nail polish and hoped that it would wear off soon.

This was Eric's first evening in the single parenting week, and it portended more unfortunate days and nights to come.  Lola terrorized everyone, refused to sleep, and wreaked havoc.  Eric endured and then celebrated my return a week later. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

2012 in review

Experimenting with braids.  Lola is adorable in side braid pigtails!

The Amateurs reunited to honor 20 years of good a cappella fun.  Andrew joined us and endured a continuous barrage of "Will you read me this book?" from the kids. 

Look, the kids are happy and cuddling!  Take a picture, take a picture!

In winter, Whomptons eat beans every day.  Vegetarian chili featured here.

We also hit the Zoo all winter long.  The cold animals are out and playing and we essentially have the place to ourselves.  Glorious.

Everyone sports ponytails! Can you find Eric's?

Oh, Saint Louis weather.  You never disappoint.  This particular hail storm was fascinating and horrifying in equal measure.