Train Adventure ~ Day 1

day 1

Today is the day! We are finally headed to the train station to start our trip.

Feb 22nd – Depart from Houston – We arrived at the Amtrak station in Houston at around 6pm for the Sunset Limited. The train arrived a few minutes early, so we were able to board the train almost immediately! Corbin enjoyed exploring our roomettes, the sleeper car, and the rest of the train before the train ever even left the station! We finally heard the conductor yell, “All Aboard” and the train pulled out of the station on time at 6:55pm. (I love that the conductors actually do yell this. And they even wear the funny little conductor outfits.)

Just after we departed, we were immediately shuffled down to the dining car for dinner. To ensure efficient service, Amtrak requires reservations for dinner, and usually lunch. Since we are a party of four, we all get to sit together. If your group has an odd-number, someone will be sitting with other people. The dining car crew was amazing, and the food was really good.

When we went back to our roomettes for the evening, our sleeper car attendant came around to change our rooms from day-time mode to night-time mode. Corbin found this totally fascinating because he had a whole new set of levers and knobs with which to tinker. He immediately said he was tired, and needed to go to bed. It was only 8pm so he was soon back up and bouncing around again. My grandma and her sister’s roomette was just across the hall from ours, so he alternated between the two. On this first night, they taught him to play spades and some other card games.

On this first night we didn’t sleep much as we were still learning to regulate the temperature in our roomettes, and get used to the noises and movements of the train. One of the things I was most worried about was motion sickness. I get car sick easily, but the train is a whole other story. I didn’t get sick once on this whole trip! As a matter of fact, I found the motions and sounds of the train quite relaxing. It was very quiet and peaceful with the lights out in the roomette watching the night go by outside the train.


Corbin, Chase, Grandma, and Doris Marie saying goodbye before we boarded the train.


A view of Grandma & Doris Marie’s room across the hall from ours.

ImageHere’s a (kinda rough) panoramic view from my seat in the roomette.

Dining Car


Corbin demonstrating the belts that keep you from falling off the top bunks.


Corbin “sleeping”. I actually ended up sleeping on the top bunk for several hours because he finally passed out on the bottom bunk at some point during the night when he finished hanging out and playing cards with Grandma and Doris.

5 more wake-ups to go!

With just 5 days to go before we leave for our trip, I spent most of the day today in the doctor’s office! Fortunately it’s just a head-cold. It’s funny though, because Grandma has been going for check-ups and miscellaneous immunizations for the past month. Now I’m the one who get’s sick just before it’s time to go. Anyway, I’m very grateful that I got sick now instead of while we are on the trip! Below is an overview of our itinerary for the curious. Obviously, this is subject to change based on weather delays etc. I will be posting updates here as we go along. (One more thing – my grandma and her sister are coming along with me and Corbin. I think that changed between my last update, and this one.)

Feb 22ndDepart from Houston to Los Angeles – We have sleeper cars for this portion of the trip, so our dining car meals are included in the cost of our rooms. So pretty much we will be just sitting, eating, and getting used to the train for the first two days. We have downloaded Amtrak’s Trails & Rails podcasts that will give us some history of a lot of the little towns we will be passing through as we go along. I’ve read that at some points a historian may board the train and give live presentations in the observation car.

Feb 24thArrive Los Angeles – Our train is scheduled to arrive at 5am, but I’m told it could be earlier or later than that. We have planned to hop on a city bus and ride down to see the Hollywood sign. Depending on how much time we have left – we are planning to have breakfast at Nick’s Cafe. We will then catch the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to San Francisco at 10am. The rest of this day we will be on the Coast Starlight which travels along the California coast for a good bit of the way. At about 9:45pm we will arrive at San Francisco (Emeryville really) where we will spend the night.

Feb 25th – Depart San Francisco (Emeryville) We board the California Zephyr at 9am. We spend the rest of this day going through Sacramento, Reno, and Salt Lake City, before sleeping on the train that night.

Feb 26th – Arrive Grand Junction, Colorado We are due to arrive here at 10am. Some of our family lives in Grand Junction, and they have agreed to pick us up at the train station. That night we will be sleeping at their house. In addition to visiting our family, we are planning to go to the grocery store to stock up on snacks, wash our clothes etc. As of today, the weather forecast shows a 60% chance of snow that day. Corbin is super giddy about the potential to actually see real live snow!

Feb 27th – Depart Grand Junction, Colorado Our journey continues this morning at 10:23am. Apparently the Trails & Rail’s program has a really good on-board presentation from Grand Junction, Colorado to Denver, Colorado.

Feb 28th – Arrive Chicago – We will be on the California Zephyr until we arrive in Chicago at 2:50pm the next day, however I’m told that we should expect a lot of delays between Grand Junction and Chicago. I’ve been tracking it every night just to see how it’s looking, and I’m seeing delays of 5 or 6 hours every night! The plan is to spend a few hours seeing Chicago, and then get on another train tonight at 9pm. I guess we will just have to see how far behind our train arrives into Chicago to see how much time we will get to spend there.

March 1st – Arrive Boston – Depending on what happens in Chicago, we should arrive in Boston tonight at 9pm. I doubt we will have much time to do anything tonight except find our hotel.

March 2nd – Explore Boston – We have so much planned for this day, it would take a whole post just to type it all. I promise to give a full account of what shenanigans we manage to get into there!

March 3rd – Crazy Day! – Today we will leave Boston at 6am, arrive in New York City at 10am, walk from Penn Station to Central Park through Times Square, eat some New York pizza, walk back down through Broadway to Penn Station, and board another train at 5pm. At 6pm we arrive in Philadelphia where we will hop off the train to see the Liberty Bell and eat an authentic Philly cheesesteak for dinner, then depart again at 10:45pm. Finally we will arrive to Washington DC at 12:30am, find our hotel and crash. To review, in 1 day we will wake up in Boston, lunch in New York City, dinner in Philadelphia, and then go to bed in Washington DC. It makes me tired just explaining that!

March 4th – Explore Washington DC – Today, once we become conscious, we are going to see Washington DC. Well, as much of it as we humanly can. We may have worn Grandma and her sister out yesterday, so Corbin and I might be on our own on this day. I doubt it though. Even at 80 my grandma can run circles around us! Everyone says that you can’t see Washington DC in one day. We will really be here for two days, but I know we will still miss a lot. I don’t feel like we will be disappointed. I’m sure it’s going to be way more than we can even absorb anyway.

March 5th – Depart Washington DC – We will be boarding the train headed south today at 6:30pm. I’m sure we will be ready to sleep, and I’m sure we will have a nice restful evening on the train after the past few day’s activity.

March 6th – Arrive Atlanta – Our train makes it to Atlanta at 8:13am. Once we arrive we are going to spend the day touring downtown Atlanta. Our hotel is just across the street from The World of Coca-Cola and a lot of the other Atlanta attractions so we are planning to rest and tour intermittently throughout the day. Of course we will have to enjoy some Chicken and Waffles while we are there too.

March 7th – Arrive New Orleans – We depart Atlanta at 8am and arrive in New Orleans at 7pm, so this will be a good day to catch up on school, work, etc. as we travel. Along with naps. I expect there will be lots of naps… Some of our friends have recommended some good restaurants for once we arrive in New Orleans, so hopefully we are on time and able to have a good dinner once we arrive. This will be the weekend after Mardi Gras so hopefully everyone will be too tired to be partying too hard in the French Quarter. We may chicken out, hopefully we are feeling adventurous by then.

March 8th – HOME!!!! – Isn’t it funny that I’m so excited to even be typing this – and we haven’t even set foot on the train yet? I know we will be completely ready to be home though. We are scheduled to arrive at 7:30pm back to Houston.

There is still so much to be done! I hate packing. I’ll post later in the week about what we are packing etc. I also still have to plan and prepare all of David’s meals for while I’m gone! Oh AND I still have to finish up the last week of my master gardener training! Yikes!!!!!

Busy days…

It’s been pretty hectic around here the past few days. I’ve been doing Master Gardener training every Tuesday and Thursday. That means that I have to go to the office on Monday, which leaves only Wednesday and Friday to keep up with Corbin’s home school work. He’s been doing really well with keeping his routine, but without me there being actively engaged in the process, the quality of his work has really dropped off. He’s still moving forward, just not fast forward.

I think it’s all worth it though. I’m learning a ton in Master Gardener class that will ultimately benefit Corbin and the whole family. Each day we have at least 1 speaker who is generally an expert in their field. All of the speakers so far have really been great. They all seem so excited about the topics they are presenting… it’s infectious. I’ve met some really cool people in the program too. As valuable as the information I’m receiving in class has been, I know the true value will be in the service hours portion of my training. I’ll be working alongside some pretty amazing gardeners. I’m super excited about that part.

One more update on our mega train trip next month, Grandma and her sister are officially joining me and Corbin! She’s really excited to be coming. I’m a bit more excited to have them along too. Safety in numbers I guess. Every day there has been a new drama with getting all of the rail passes purchased, and the journey booked. I know it will all be worth it in the end!

Setting Goals

Why don’t I have stated goals? I know the beginning of the year is a time for goal setting, so why don’t I have any?

If I’m being honest with myself, the answer is easy. I don’t have stated goals because of past failures. WTH? Why do I accept this? If I let the past hold me back, I wouldn’t be where I am now. 

So where am I? Here are a few of the areas I think I’m most on the right track:

– Make my bed every day. (Like a boss.)

– Keeping up with laundry (For the most part)

– Educate my child (Providing resources)

– Follow-through with commitments

– Daily bible study

– Honor commitments

– Tithing

Here’s what I need to work on:

1. Let God be my biggest judge. Only allow God’s plan guide me.

2. Say no to things. Don’t over-commit.

3. Meal planning.

4. Do it now. Don’t procrastinate.

5. Pay myself.

6. Have an assessment and planning day every month on the day of the new moon. (Doing this on the new moon would be useful because I garden based on the moon phases.)

6. Daily exercise for me and Corbin too.



All week I have been battling various bureaucratic nightmares which are driving me crazy! This morning I’ve been up since 3am trying to get document approval for a shipment to Dubai. I have revised the documents at least 10 times now. Every day, they want one more thing changed. (As I’m typing this blog post I’ve sent 4 more revisions.)

In addition to this ongoing saga, I’m also trying to order insulin pump supplies for Kyle. I ordered them Monday, but that was just a practice run I guess. The next day I checked to see if they had shipped, and they said I had a balance due of $21 from a previous order that needed to be paid before they could send it. So I paid that. The next day I checked to see the status of the order and it said that they were just kidding about the $21, what I really needed to pay is $50 more dollars. So I paid that. Today I log in to check, and now they need me to upload a revised doctor authorization order.


When situations come up over and over again, I have to ask myself what lesson is God trying to teach me? I keep going through the same things again and again. It’s so irritating.

So this morning I open up my Jesus Calling daily devotional to find this message:

I am with you and for you. When you decide on a course of action that is in line with My will, nothing in heaven or on earth can stop you. You may encounter many obstacles as you move toward your goal, but don’t be discouraged–never give up! With My help, you can overcome any obstacle. Do not expect and easy path as you journey hand in hand with Me, but do remember that I, your very-present Helper, am omnipotent.

And then I open up my Daily Bible to find a lesson on Abraham’s obedience through the Isaac sacrifice, followed by an interesting inclusion about “Oriental bargaining” in the explanation of Genesis 23:1-2.

Of some curiosity, however, is the attention which the text gives to a transaction between Abraham and a man named Ephron who owns a cave which Abraham wishes to purchase as a burial site for Sarah’s remains. The transaction itself is an interesting introduction to Oriental bargaining, in which an apparent offer of a gift is nothing more than a subtle way of setting a price.

This reminded me that bureaucracy is not new. I am not the only, or the first, person dealing with these problems. I think the lesson here is to just chill. Everything will be okay because God is with me.

Also worthy of note are the two bible verses of the day from the bible apps I use. 1 was Matthew 6:19-21:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The other was Ephesians 6:12:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

So at this point, I’m thanking God for bureaucracy. That is so messed up. But I am so tremendously grateful for the reminder that I need to keep my eyes pointed towards Him and not be so bogged down by my first-world problems.

Master Gardener Training

I started my Master Gardener Training today! I’m so excited about this opportunity! I’m constantly amazed by the level of organization that these people have. Everything they do is so well planned and executed. They fed us all day long. I’m going to have to start walking to the classes just to burn the calories from all of the food they serve!

This afternoon we learned about composting. I learned how inept my current composting efforts have been. I came home with a list of things that I urgently need David to build for me. 🙂


Back to school for Cole.

I dropped Cole off at his dorm for RA training today. He’s excited for this challenge. This will be the first time he and Kyle aren’t living in the same room in their lives!

Before I dropped him off we went to HEB to pick up a few groceries. I think he earned a new respect for the whole grocery shopping process since he was spending his money on his food. I initially let him go in and pick up a few things, and then I went in to see how he was doing. It was pretty funny to see that he had no idea what the prices were of any of the items he had put in the cart. From there, I showed him how to compare prices etc. When we were at the register, I asked him how much he thought the total would be, and I told him my estimate. My estimate was about fifty cents over the total, and his was about ten dollars below the actual total.

I’ve taken the boys with me to the store countless times over the years, and I’ve droned on and on about the process of grocery shopping. And I’ve sent them in by themselves many times too. It’s funny how they never really learn until it’s actually practical to their lives.


Family Kitchen Fun

This weekend we finished harvesting our fall crop of various greens. About 10 pounds were blanched and frozen. We also dehydrated a few pounds of kale to make kale chips. In the past I have made various recipes, but this year I went super simple using only olive oil, lime juice from our lime tree, and a little salt. I think they turned out amazing. Kyle assisted in the production because he LOVES kale chips. Corbin assisted in the cleaning of the greens before blanching. Kyle also learned to make some apple fritters from scratch today. Yesterday they helped me pick all of the remaining limes, and greens. I love weekends like this with the kids all home helping and hanging around while I work on things.





Meaningfully Mean

Why do people say that their hearts are broken when they get sad? I think a more appropriate organ to take the damage would be the liver. We can still survive even if we lose 80% of our liver. Sometimes when people say mean things to me, I feel like part of me is dying. Maybe it’s a part of my liver. It grows back. No need to build a wall.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life. (Proverbs 15:4)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32)

I think God is saying that we shouldn’t say nasty things to people. And when people say nasty or unfair things to us, we should not respond. I believe that when people are truly trying to live in a way that honors Christ, they will not want to hurt each other—quite the opposite, they will want to encourage each other. Especially when both parties are trying really hard to become better people in general. 

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:1-11)


That’s my word for today. I think it describes the way I see the year ahead of me. I’m a bit irritated with myself because I don’t feel like I have a clear sense of direction for the new year. I’m not a resolution girl, but I do like to have a general idea about what I’m trying to do. I know that I’m supposed to be just fully trusting that God has a plan for me this year — so I guess I’m just being impatient.

I have really tried not to over-schedule my time this year because, in addition to this new homeschool challenge, I’m also participating in the Montgomery County Master Gardener Internship Program. (This makes me yippy-skippy happy!!!!) On Tuesdays and Thursdays for 7 weeks I will attend all-day training seminars taught by experts in various gardening-related fields ranging from water conservation to plant pathology. After the classroom section is over, I have the rest of the year to complete 60 hours of volunteer time in gardens maintained by Montgomery County. Of those 60 hours I have to spend: 8-hours in the floral garden, 8-hours in the vegetable gardens, 4-hours each in: Bog garden, herb garden, orchard/composting/adaptive, Aquaponics/Discovery Garden, Greenhouse, Shadehouse, Phone Room, Bee Keeping Area, and then there are 16 discretionary hours I can spend anywhere.

I know all of this sounds like a lot, but like I said, it’s broken up all across they year so it really isn’t too much. Corbin is going to be participating in the 4H Junior Master Gardener program so he will be with me most of the time too. So I don’t think I’m taking away from his homeschool time.

I’m just bummed about missing several weeks of a bible study at church with my bible study friends.

First world problems right?

I just don’t want to get off course from last year’s progress. God has brought me a long way, and I want to be sure that I’m still going in the right direction. Maybe God is trying to keep me from getting too comfortable in my routine?