Being Mrs. Pierce

Life as a wife, hiker, wanna-be chef, book-lover, traveler, and now, mom

Adventures in Flying with a Baby August 1, 2017

Filed under: Motherhood,Travel — skpierce12 @ 11:38 PM

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Part I: Flying to Calgary

Last month John, James, and I prepared to embark upon our first big vacation as a family of three.  Our destination: Banff National Park in Canada.  So not only would this be our first time flying with a baby, it also would be our first international trip with said wee one.  I would have been more nervous at the prospect were it not for the fact that I am a planner.  So, with John’s help, I began preparing several months ahead of time.  We applied for James’s passport in March, and after booking our flights online around that same time I called the airline to make sure we were set to go with having James as a lap infant for the trip.  Check and check.

We also planned our baggage very carefully.  Upon advice from friends and family who have flown with small children, we decided we wanted to take our own car seat instead of relying upon a possibly yucky car rental one.  I bought a car seat cover with backpack straps.  John volunteered to be the one to sport the backpack, but he didn’t promise not to accidentally take someone out with it as we moved through the airport.

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We also would take our Pack-n-Play, a diaper bag, and our Chicco lightweight umbrella stroller for James.  Despite having more baggage items due to the baby, we ended up packing more lightly than ever before for a vacation.  We fit clothes and toiletries for all three of us into one large rolling suitcase (although we would have to do laundry at least once during the trip).  I could not help but comment about how I used to completely fill the same suitcase plus a carry-on with just my clothes, shoes, and toiletries.  My, how times had changed.

James is typically an easygoing baby as long as he a) doesn’t get hungry and b) gets sleep.  So our plan for the travel day was to a) keep him regularly fed and b) pray he would take a nap on the plane.  As soon as we cleared security and made our way to the gate, James had his breakfast.  We were off to a good start.

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Once on board, James quickly began assessing his new surroundings.  We were glad to see him smiling cutely at the people sitting behind us.  If he could get the grandparent-types on his side early, we thought we might be able to avoid mean stares later on should James not take to flying.

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Soon it was time to buckle up for take-off.  James thought the seat belt buckle was the coolest thing ever.  (On the return flight, he would figure out how to unbuckle it himself.)

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He did great sitting in my lap or standing between my knees during the flight.  He loved the barf bag and safety brochure in the seat pocket.  We also had bought some new touch-and-feel board books (a current favorite activity of his) to bring out one by one as needed in the air.

An hour into the flight I nursed him, and he fell asleep for a good 45 minutes.  Now we were on a roll!

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Before long, it was time for lunch and then time to land.  The end was in sight!

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James did incredibly well on the flight to Calgary, which lasted about 3.5 hours from DFW.  I’m not sure if it was the planning, the rocket ship polo and pilot socks we’d dressed him in for the flight, or sheer dumb luck, but the travel day went so smoothly.  At the Calgary airport, he was calm and curious in his stroller while we fumbled our way through customs and getting the rental car.  Then he fell asleep for the entire drive from the airport to our first destination: Canmore, Alberta.  Whew!

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It had been a long day (even with things going well), but that evening we were all smiles.  We were thrilled to be in the mountains with a week-long vacation stretched out before us!

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Part 2: The Return Flight

We left Lake Louise a little after 9 AM on the day of our return home.  We had a 2-hour drive ahead of us back to the Calgary airport, but with our flight not leaving until 2:30 PM, we felt great about the extra time we were leaving ourselves.  Oh, if only that ended up being the case.

We did make it to Calgary in about two hours, but as we approached the airport we needed to a) let me nurse James (remember how he doesn’t like being hungry?) and b) find a gas station in order to fill up the tank before returning the rental car.  We thought we could do both of those things at once.  We also thought it wouldn’t be a problem finding a gas station as we approached the airport.  Surely there would be one or two visible from the highway, right?

Oh, if only.  Our GPS hadn’t worked the entire trip, and neither of us own smart phones, so when we didn’t just see a gas station outside the airport, we drove around in search of one.  Soon we came across a Tim Horton’s restaurant.  John went inside to use their wi-fi with his iPad while I fed a by-now very hangry baby James.  James, by the way, was atypically fussy to begin with on this day.  I started to get very, very worried.

John located a gas station nearby, but when we got there it was all-diesel except for one pump, and you had to be a member in order to activate the pump.  What?!  So then we had to drive away from the airport to get to the next closest station.  By now it was after 12:00.  We still had plenty of time, though, right?

We finally got gas and went back to the airport, turned in the rental car, and walked into the terminal.  It was now about 12:40, and I let out a big sigh of relief as we went up to the ticket counter to check in.  As it turned out, we would be there for the next hour.

Apparently James didn’t have a ticket, and while this would normally not be an issue for a lap infant, it is an issue when you are trying to clear customs to re-enter the US.  We would have to pay customs taxes for him, which amounted to around $16.  Not a big deal – I took out my wallet.  I was slightly annoyed, as I had called the airline way back in the spring in order to take care of such issues.  But no matter.  We would just pay the fee and continue on.

Oh, if only.  There’s apparently a glitch in the American Airlines software program that often doesn’t allow the agents to ticket infants at the ticket counter.  So the agents called the central American Airlines number.  And they were put on hold.  (I would have laughed at that had it not been a stressful situation).  Then they talked for a bit and I thought we were making progress…only to see them be put back on hold.  This went on for an hour.  Literally.  I am proud of myself for not losing my cool or mistreating the ticket agents who were trying to handle the situation as best they could, but I was frustrated.  We still needed to clear security and US customs as well as buy some food for ourselves, feed and change James, and hopefully give him some time to crawl and play before boarding the plane.

Finally, finally we got our tickets and boarding passes and were on our way to security.  I was frazzled, so I nearly left James’s food (which had been pulled for a special screening) behind at security.  I would have, too, if it wasn’t for the security agent who came after us as we were walking away.  Bless you, security lady.

By the time we cleared customs, we had just enough time to grab some food to take on the plane before our flight was called.  Even after getting our seats on the plane, we were still reeling from the events of the previous three hours.

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James, however, was ready to play.  He had been strapped in to either his car seat or his stroller for almost the entire day up to that point.  He wasn’t going to be content with sitting sweetly in my lap this time.

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He spent the first hour of the flight alternately reaching for anything and everything he could and trying to make friends with every single person sitting behind us.  At one point he was using the water bottle in his hand to raise and lower the divider screen between us and first class over and over again.  While I purposefully kept my eyes averted from all nearby passengers, James would stand up in our laps, turn around, and smile gleefully at everyone on the plane.  Sometimes he put his hands up behind his head just to amp up the cuteness factor.

Then he fell asleep, and all was calm.  He napped for over an hour, thank goodness.

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I finally was able to relax a bit myself, and before long we were on the ground at DFW.  It being DFW meant, of course, that we taxied for 10 minutes to the gate.  That was the only time in two days of flying and a week of travel that James came close to all out losing it.  Luckily his smiles from earlier in the flight had earned him some fans, and we avoided dirty looks once again.  Several women even came up to me in the airport bathroom after we all deplaned to tell me what a good baby I have.  I smiled and thanked them, but inside I disagreed.  James isn’t a good baby; he truly is the best baby.  He was a joy to go on vacation with, and even though we were more stressed at times traveling with a baby, we also had bigger smiles and laughs throughout the week because of him.

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Colorado Bend State Park: Gorman Falls June 13, 2017

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 9:35 PM

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Yesterday morning we ventured out for our second hike of the summer.  The day’s destination was Colorado Bend State Park.  Twice last year we visited the park, but it was this third trip in which we made the hike to the park’s most famous site: Gorman Falls.

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We headed out on the trail at 8:45 AM, as we wanted to beat the heat.  The weather was in the 70s and rather humid but also partly cloudy and breezy, which is about as good as it gets for a hike in Texas in June.

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The first part of the Gorman Falls trail was a combination of open grasslands and oak groves.

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A lovely vista presented itself as we hiked toward the falls.

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James was a little too sleepy to fully enjoy the view.

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The path was rocky, so we had to watch our step as we trekked down the trail.

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Once we passed the 1-mile mark, we could hear the falls in the distance.  Suddenly, we were upon them!

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The trail first led us to a view of the upper part of the falls.

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By then, James was wide awake and very intrigued by the falling water.  We couldn’t get a good picture of him in front of the falls because he kept squirming around in order to look at the water!

After taking in the upper part of the falls, we carefully descended the rocky hill to the base of the falls.  Holding on to the metal railing was necessary to prevent slipping down the rocks.  But what a reward awaited us!

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Taking in the beauty of the falls was especially memorable because we were the only ones there.  What a rare experience that is at a popular hiking spot!  We were able to be still, listen to the water and other nature sounds, and take our pictures without jostling or interruption.

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We also took a family selfie.  Clearly James needs further instructions on smiling for the camera.

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He was more interested in playing with his daddy’s hat strings.

The hike back to the trailhead was mostly uphill, but it was easier than we’d feared on the way in.  We hiked the 3-mile out-and-back trail in an hour and a half.

We then drove to the other side of the park for a picnic lunch in the day use area by the river.

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We spotted a turtle making his way across the picnic area in order to reach the river.

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After eating, we showed James the murky Colorado River up close.

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James was more interested in getting my hat.  James likes hats – unless they are his own.

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Our morning at Colorado Bend could not have gone better.  The falls are well worth the moderate hike it takes to see them!

 

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: Loop Trail revisited June 11, 2017

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 10:22 AM

For our first hike of the summer, John, James, and I made a return visit to Enchanted Rock to hike the Loop Trail.  John and I hiked the trail last year while I was 6 months pregnant, so it was fun to revisit the hike with baby James in tow.

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I carried James in our Ergobaby, which I have loved.  James likes being in the Ergo as long as I keep moving, which means we don’t linger at sights like we used to.

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After some quick pics at the pavilion, we embarked upon the Loop Trail.  Someday we’ll hike the Summit Trail together, but it’s going to be when James is able to hike up it himself.  He’s already weighs 20 pounds, after all.  That’s a lot of baby to carry around!

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We hiked counterclockwise around the loop this year, so we began by crisscrossing Sandy Creek.  Unlike last time, the creek area was deserted.  We would encounter few hikers on the entire trail; it seemed most of the park visitors set their sights on reaching the summit.  The park was the least crowded I had ever seen it in general.  I’m sure the summer temps had something to do with it, although we also were there on a Thursday morning.

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We set out on the trail around 8:30 AM.  The forecast had been partly cloudy, but the morning would be bright and sunny.  We were glad we made the early start, as most of the trail is unshaded.

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James fell asleep early in the hike, so he missed seeing the rear view of Enchanted Rock with the “slip and slide” rocks.

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We did not divert to Moss Lake or the scenic overlook this year, as the morning was warming up quickly and James was hungry after waking from his nap.

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We briefly paused to take in the rock outcroppings and hill country vistas near the end of the hike, but we all were tired and hot.

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Especially James.

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Overall we thoroughly enjoyed hiking the Loop Trail again, and I’m positive it’ll be one of our go-to hikes in the future.  We decided we prefer to hike the trail clockwise, as it’s a slightly easier hike than the counterclockwise version.  We also decided that we are out of shape and that we have a lot of training to do before hiking the Canadian Rockies next month!

 

The Forgotten Garden January 2, 2017

Filed under: Reading — skpierce12 @ 11:53 AM

For my 11th book of my 2016 reading challenge, I chose The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  It was my mom’s recommendation for my list, and she picked it for me after enjoying the audiobook version.

 

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I was supposed to have read this in November in order to stay on track for completion of the challenge by the end of 2016, but I was in the midst of Ron Chernow’s George Washington biography when November started.  The plan was to wrap up Washington: A Life by mid-November, but my reading pace is at a crawl these days with Mr. Baby being in the picture and me being back at work.  I ended up setting aside the biography and picking up The Forgotten Garden at Thanksgiving break.  It then took me until Christmas to read Morton’s novel, which is fairly lengthy at over 500 pages.  I’m tackling my final book of the challenge, The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier, here at the start of 2017.  After that, I’ll finally finish the Washington bio.

 

The Forgotten Garden is centered around a core question: Why was 4-year-old Nell put on a ship bound for Australia from England in 1913 by herself, with no paperwork identifying her or her parentage?  Many other mysterious questions revolve around this main one, and Morton, as the novel progresses, slowly reveals the answers.  For most of the book, I thought Morton’s revelations were well paced and her shifts in point of view and time well plotted.  The characters span 4 generations of women, and each in turn has her own secrets to reveal.  My one qualm with the novel was Morton’s execution of the big reveal.  She had given so many hints in the 100 pages ahead of the big revelation that it was no revelation at all.  Instead, her characters come across as either blind or incompetent to the truth that is so apparent to the reader.

 

This slight annoyance, however, was not enough to severely dim my enjoyment of the book.  I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to lose oneself in a solid fictional tale.

 

 

The Mystic Way of Evangelism October 30, 2016

Filed under: Reading — skpierce12 @ 7:25 AM

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My brother-in-law BJ selected The Mystic Way of Evangelism: A Contemplative Vision for Christian Outreach by Elaine Heath for me to read as part of my 2016 reading challenge, and I selected it to be my pick for October.  BJ completed his Doctor of Ministry degree last year, and he read The Mystic Way of Evangelism in one of his classes.

 

I’ll be honest.  I was intimidated to read this book.  Despite regular church attendance for much of my life, I have little background knowledge on theology.  Apart from one class on the Old Testament that I took as an undergrad, the depth of my theological understanding ends at the Sunday School level.  The introduction only confirmed my uneasiness.  Apophatic?  Kataphatic?  I was indeed out of my comfort zone.

 

Yet the further I read in Heath’s book, the more interested I became.  She spotlights several mystics from history, some of whom I knew (Julian of Norwich, for example) and many of whom I did not (Thomas R. Kelly and Father Arseny to name just two).  I was a history major, so I enjoyed learning about these historical religious figures.

 

The Mystic Way of Evangelism is primarily aimed at pastors and those training pastors, but I found plenty of material with which to connect.  Heath promotes a missional view of evangelism grounded in love.  Rather than preaching fire and brimstone, evangelism in the mystic way is about showing the love of Christ through caring, giving actions.  This is something all Christians, not just their pastors, should aim to do.

 

Heath criticizes the modern church in America, and the more I read, the more I agreed with her.  We’ve largely lost the missional aspect of our faith.  Many churches are more concerned with building massive complexes for themselves than with serving the neighborhoods around them.  Having lived in DFW for most of my life, I have observed this for myself over and over.  How much does it say about our country that missionaries from some of the poorest nations in the world are now coming HERE, the most prosperous nation on earth, to conduct their mission work?

 

In the final part of the book, Heath offers a number of strategies for pastors and churches to take to correct the path of Christianity in America.  They sound wonderful on paper (bivocational pastors, smaller churches, eco-evangelism, etc.), but even as I read I was doubtful about the reality of a nationwide change.   In this, I was struck by the similarity of my cynical reaction to education books I’ve read over the past 8 years.  Yes, churches and schools need overhauling, but how in the world do you get everyone on board?  The answer, of course, is that you don’t; you start small with yourself and your specific church or school.  It’s certainly better to try than to say nothing will ever change.  I pray that I will put some of what I read in Heath’s book into action myself.

 

So despite my initial uneasiness, I ended up giving The Mystic Way of Evangelism 4 stars on Goodreads.  It’s very much a worthy, thought-provoking, action-inducing read.

 

Fall Baking October 26, 2016

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 8:54 PM

We always have a long wait for fall weather to come and stay here in central Texas, but we’ve had enough cooler mornings of late to get me in the mood to turn on my oven and bake.  I’ve also wanted to take advantage of my last few weeks of maternity leave to restock our chest freezer before life really gets crazy.  Marriage, motherhood, work, personal time…I know millions of women out there do this juggling act daily, but I’ll be learning how to do so for the first time as a working mother come October 31.

 

I kicked off my fall-inspired baking spree earlier this month with these Pumpkin Crumb Cake Muffins from Sally’s Baking Addiction.  My friend DM introduced me to this blog a while back, and I finally got around to making one of the enticing recipes from it.  Despite the worry about how long it might take (I never really know when Mr. Baby will awaken and want to eat, after all), I made all three components–muffin, crumb topping, and icing.  I saved time by measuring out the muffin and crumb ingredients at the same time, as there is a lot of overlap on what’s needed.  To make these rich muffins slightly more healthy, I substituted whole wheat pastry flour for some of the all-purpose flour and used unsweetened applesauce in place of the oil.  My icing turned out much thicker than Sally’s, and it definitely ended up looking globular on top as opposed to her more artistic drizzles.  This may have been partly due to the fact that my crumbs spread apart quite a bit during baking, so there were gaps in which the icing pooled.  Appearance-wise, my muffins weren’t the prettiest I’ve ever seen.  Taste-wise, though, they were worth the effort.  These muffins were delicious, even with my substitutions, spreading crumbs, and gloppy icing.  They had just the right amount of pumpkin flavor, and I loved the contrast between the moist muffin and the crumbly bits on top.  I would highly recommend them as a special breakfast treat or afternoon snack.

 

For my next baking project, I stuck with muffins (which freeze well and are already individually portioned) and made the Skinnytaste Maple Pecan Banana Muffins.  I’ve had wonderful luck with Skinnytaste recipes, and I love Gina’s Skinnytaste Cookbook.  I was especially drawn to this recipe because of its lack of refined sugars.  My husband, John, doesn’t like his breakfasts super-sweet, and I’ve been trying to watch my sugar intake a bit more closely lately (easier said than done).  A maple syrup-sweetened muffin seemed perfect.  This time, I followed the recipe exactly.  And this time, my muffins looked exactly like the pictures on Gina’s blog.  I loved these muffins!  While they are not of the BEST MUFFINS EVER caliber, they aren’t trying to be.  They are a healthy-but-tasty, everyday kind of muffin, and I will make them again.

 

Next up were Pumpkin Waffles.  I’m a longtime Ellie Krieger fan and own all of her cookbooks.  I’ve been trying out a few new recipes from her most recent, You Have It Made, and the pumpkin waffles caught my eye.  I rarely make waffles, but every once in a while I get in the mood for them.  I liked the healthy aspects to these waffles, which included whole wheat flour, flaxseed meal, and no sugar.  I followed the recipe exactly, but I ended up finding them to be a disappointment.  There was something off-balance with the pumpkin flavor of these – it was somehow both too much and too little at the same time.  The recipe yielded 8 large waffles, so after John and I ate breakfast, I had 6 for the freezer.  I’ll eat them up so as not to be wasteful, but I’ll look for another recipe next time I get a hankering for a homemade waffle.

 

The waffles called for 1 cup of pumpkin puree, so I went looking for a way to use up the rest of the can.  I didn’t have to look far, as Ellie Krieger’s Pumpkin Spice Overnight Oats in Jars recipe, also from You Have It Made, sounded worth a try.  (I realize this is not a baked goods recipe, but it’s autumnal so I’m writing about it here anyway!)  I prepared the oats around lunchtime one day, and we tried them the next morning.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked them!  I’ve had hit-or-miss luck with overnight oatmeal recipes in the past, so I was wary when I first opened up my jar to take my first spoonful.  But it had just the right amount of sweetness to it, the pumpkin spice flavoring was spot-on, and the add-ins (walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries) added texture and flavor.  John wasn’t as big of a fan, as he didn’t like being able to taste the plain yogurt (he hates yogurt on its own unless it’s of the frozen variety).  I, however, would make these for myself again!  Plus, they are just pretty to look at:

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Finally, I made up a batch of The Pioneer Woman’s Maple Oat Nut Scones last week.  My mother-in-law first made these during the holidays one year, and since then they’ve been a favorite among the Pierces.  When I was needing a baked goods thank-you gift for some of John’s students who kindly cleaned up our yard after some other students toilet-papered it (oh the joys of being married to a high school teacher), I almost immediately thought of these scones.  They are decadent and unhealthy, but oh-my-goodness they are delicious.  The only change I ever make to this recipe is to divide the dough into 2 balls, which then yields 16 reasonable-sized scones rather than 8 massive ones.  They were amazing, as always, and the perfect end to my month of autumn baking.

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Happy Fall and Happy Baking to you!

 

Calling Me Home September 13, 2016

Filed under: Reading — skpierce12 @ 2:06 PM

Thanks to the arrival of Baby Pierce last month, I got an early start on my September reading challenge book, Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler.  Postpartum recovery and breastfeeding allowed me lots of sitting–aka reading–time.  I chose Calling Me Home to read next because a digital version of it was available for check-out from our local library.  I’m finding it easier to use my iPad to read books while holding and nursing our newborn son.

 

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My sister, Julie, recommended Calling Me Home to me.  As an elementary school teacher and mother of two young girls, Julie reads picture books aplenty but finds reading time for herself difficult to come by.   However, the librarian at her school gave her a copy of Kibler’s novel last year, and she chose it for me to read, also.  In Julie’s words, “It is significant to me because I am actually still reading it. :)”

 

Calling Me Home follows two unlikely friends–89-year-old Isabelle McAllister and her 30-something hair stylist, Dorrie Curtis–as they travel from Texas to Cincinnati for a funeral.  Isabelle is white; Dorrie is black.  On the road, Isabelle tells Dorrie her story, which is illustrated in the novel as a series of flashbacks to 1939.  At seventeen, Isabelle fell in love with Robert Prewitt, a young black man who worked for her family in a small Kentucky town which forbid African Americans from within its boundaries after dark.  Calling Me Home is essentially Isabelle and Robert’s story, although Isabelle’s reflections on the past have a profound influence on Dorrie, a single mother of two with her own romantic difficulties.

 

I was skeptical of the novel at first, as the writing was a bit too colloquial for my taste and the plot appeared to be predictable.  While my opinion of the writing remained unchanged to the end, my initial assessment of the plot did not.  Kibler surprised me, in a good way, with her story arc more than once.  She kept me reading, intrigued about what else she was going to reveal.

 

Calling Me Home also felt timely, despite its focus on the past.  Kibler weaves in some of the modern-day realities of being black in America rather than neatly saying that all is now resolved between blacks and whites.  Just one look at the headlines of today shows that racial divisions remain.  I appreciate that Kibler did not gloss over that fact.

 

In the end, I gave Calling Me Home a solid 3 stars on Goodreads.