I’ve felt pretty strongly about something for a long time, and Kelly’s recent post about Whole Grain Newtons inspired me to finally get if off my chest. Here’s the thing: Turkey bacon is not bacon. They’re not the same thing. They’re just not.
Now, look. It’s fine if you like turkey bacon. You’re allowed. I don’t mind the stuff, I just don’t usually find myself wanting to eat it. It’s a perfectly okay food, if that’s what you’re in the mood for. But if you’re in the mood for bacon — real, delicious bacon — and someone offers you turkey bacon? No. That’s not going to cut it. It’s not an acceptable substitute. The texture’s wrong. The flavor’s wrong. It’s about as far from actual bacon as a protein can get.
Several years ago, when Tim’s parents lived in Atlanta, we went down to visit them over spring break. The night we arrived, we all watched a Jim Gaffigan stand-up special, in which he talked at great length about his love for bacon, as he does. Tim and I both commented about how, yeah, bacon is pretty amazing, at which point Tim’s mom piped up with a story about her and my father-in-law’s trip to the grocery store that morning. “We were about to check out,” she said, “when I realized we hadn’t bought any bacon. I knew you guys would want bacon in the morning, so I made your father go back to the back of the store to get bacon.”
This was great news. Tim’s mom is a wonderful cook, and one of the many perks of going to visit his parents is that we get to wake up to the smell of whatever delicious breakfast she’s prepared each day. So we already knew we had a good breakfast to look forward to in the morning, and Jim Gaffigan had us craving bacon, and now — miracle of miracles! — our delicious breakfast was going to include bacon! This vacation was off to the best start ever!
We got up the next morning, super excited for breakfast, and…you know where this is going, right? It was turkey bacon. There was no bacon anywhere in the house. Now, breakfast was still good, of course. And the turkey bacon was fine. Like I said, it’s a perfectly okay food. But when you’re expecting bacon and you’re presented with turkey bacon…well. There’s just a certain level of disappointment that comes with the realization that the bacon you were so looking forward to is nowhere to be found.
(I should add that Tim’s mom really is a wonderful hostess and always takes great care of us when we come to visit. I think Tim found a polite way to work into conversation later that week the fact that turkey bacon’s not really our favorite thing, and ever since then, whenever we’ve gone to visit, there has always been real bacon available. She doesn’t have to buy us real bacon — I would eat turkey bacon every day of our visits to them without complaint; really, I would — but she does anyway because she’s very nice. The Morning of the Turkey Bacon has become something we all laugh about together, which is why I can write about it here without worrying that she’s going to see it and think that we’re ungrateful house guests, because that’s about as far from the truth as turkey bacon is from real bacon.)
So there you have it. Turkey bacon, as its own, separate-from-bacon thing, is fine. What’s not fine is trying to pretend that it’s in any way a substitute for real bacon. Turkey bacon and bacon might as well be in separate food groups, they’re so different from each other. My brother once wrote a review of the movie Anaconda in his high school paper in which he commented that the only thing the computer-animated snake had in common with the real snake from another scene (I didn’t see the movie, but I gather that there was only one snake character, and the filmmakers used both a real snake and a CGI snake to play the role of the single snake character) was the number of legs. Likewise, the only thing turkey bacon has in common with actual bacon is the presence of the word “bacon” in the name. Other than that, they are completely separate food items. End of discussion.
Turkey sausage, on the other hand? Delicious. Love the stuff. Would gladly eat it in place of pork sausage any day of the week.
Last night was the most fun we’ve had on Halloween in recent memory. Watching Alexander experience all the joys of jack-o-lanterns, costumes, and trick-or-treating was so much, probably because this is the first year he’s really starting to understand it all. We spent most of October getting him used to the idea of wearing a costume and supporting his new-found love of pumpkins, and it all came together last night to make for a ridiculously fun evening.
- We bought Alexander a dragon costume on super-clearance over the summer, and when we got it out for him at the beginning of October, he was not impressed. The first thing he said when he woke up the next morning was “Not like dragon.” We kept the dragon in the playroom for the next couple of weeks, encouraging Alexander to play with his fun dragon friend, and he slowly accepted the dragon into his life. He begrudgingly agreed to wear the costume twice, but he only lasted a few minutes before declaring that he wanted to take it off. He loved playing with the dragon, but anytime we asked him if he was going to wear the costume on Halloween, he insisted “Not wear dragon.” Last night, though, he had a change of heart (possibly because Tim and I were also wearing costumes, and he wanted to dress up and be silly like us), and he willingly wore the dragon for a solid hour and a half with no complaints. Success!
- He did pretty well trick-or-treating, though he insisted on being carried 90% of the time and was too bashful to actually say “Trick or Treat” when presented with strangers offering bowls of candy. He did manage a whispered “thank you” when we left each house, at least.
- Lukewarm as he was about trick-or-treating, he loved handing out candy after we got home. We sat out on the front porch for awhile so he could see all the kids’ costumes, but we eventually had to go inside and try to get him to eat something besides fruit snacks and M&M’s for dinner. Every time the doorbell rang, he raced down the hall, impatiently waited for one of us to catch up to him and open the door, and very politely placed a piece of candy in each kid’s bag. Anytime the doorbell wasn’t ringing, he looked at the front door and commanded “Hey, kids! Come in the door!” When he was hesitant to eat his dinner, I suggested that maybe if he took a bite, more kids would come to the door. Luckily we had enough trick-or-treaters that the doorbell rang almost every time he took a bite of food, so my plan worked. He was so convinced he was getting kids to come to our door with the simple act of eating meatballs that when he finished eating, he held up his empty plate and said, “I need more meatballs. I need more kids come in the door.”
This kid, you guys. He made an awfully cute dragon, but he really pushed the cuteness over-the-top as a candy distributor.
I take back everything I said a few months ago about audiobooks not really being for me. I was wrong. So very, very wrong. Turns out, I love audiobooks — as long as they’re good. (Crazy, right?)
I gave the genre another try when I started running regularly at the beginning of the year. I needed something to distract me from the horribleness that is running (music doesn’t really work for me), and I’d been wanting to re-read the Hunger Games books, so I decided to try listening to the audio versions of the books while I trudged through my thrice-weekly 30-minutes on the treadmill. And, what do you know, I was hooked. I tore through the trilogy, listening not only when I ran but also in my car during my commute, and immediately started seeking out more. I’ve had some hits and misses, but overall, audiobooks have won me over. They’re pretty much the only thing I listen to in my car anymore (I can’t stand the radio), and I look forward to taking up running again after this kid’s born, if only for the opportunity to listen to more books.
What it comes down to, I’ve learned, is this: The reader can (and will) totally make or break an audiobook. It can be the best writing in the world, but if the reader sucks? Sorry, not going to listen. A good reader, on the other hand, will completely transform a book for me. I’ve listened to a couple of books recently — The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak — whose readers were so good, I could have listened to them forever. Sure, the stories were well written, captivating, enjoyable, etc. But those readers, man. I would listen to them read to me all day, every day, no matter the material. (I can’t tell you how excited I am for my audio copy of The Dream Thieves, sequel to The Raven Boys, to come available at the library. I didn’t even consider reading that one in print, knowing how good the audio will be.)
On the flip side, I’ve also encountered to a couple of books with, well…sub-par readers (that’s putting it nicely). One book, which I don’t even remember the title of because it was so bad I abandoned it after about 20 minutes, sounded like it was being read by a computer. Like someone fed the text into some voice software, and the computer spit an audio version back out. Terrible. Just terrible.
The toughest ones, though, are the ones whose readers are just okay. I got most of the way through a YA trilogy with mediocre, angsty readers before my library copy expired and I decided it wasn’t worth renewing. It wasn’t so bad that I gave up before my copy expired, but it also wasn’t worth going to the trouble of re-checking it out just to finish the story. I recently started Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, and I just couldn’t get into it, which surprised me since so many people whose literary opinions I tend to agree with have been raving about it. I’ll probably give that one another try in print to see if it was the story or the audio that wasn’t working for me. I’m considering doing the same with Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy. I listened to the first one on audio, and it was fine, but I didn’t love it the way I’d loved the other books of hers I’d listened to. (The Scorpio Races was another EXCELLENT audiobook. So good.) Maybe I’ll continue the series in print and see if that helps.
Anyway, what I’m trying to get to, in a totally roundabout way, is this: I love audiobooks, but I’ve found that they bring with them a couple of unexpected side effects.
Side Effect Number 1: You know how sometimes you’re reading, and you see a word, and in your head that word sounds a certain way, but then you hear someone say it and realize you’ve been pronouncing it wrong in your head? Turns out a similar — but opposite — phenomenon can happen with audiobooks. On more than one occasion I’ve gone online to look up something about a book I’ve listened to, see a word (usually a character’s name), and think “Hey, they spelled that wrong.” Then I catch myself and realize, nope, that’s actually how it’s spelled. The author did not, in fact, spell her own character’s name wrong. It’s a strange thing, realizing you have to adjust your mental picture of how a person’s name should look in print. It caught me completely by surprise the first time it happened.
Side Effect Number 2: I’m surprisingly hesitant to recommend books I’ve loved on audio to people who aren’t likely to listen to audiobooks. It comes back to the discussion above about how strong an effect the reader has on my enjoyment of the book. I’ll start to recommend a book, but then I second-guess myself: What if the excellent reader was main reason I loved it? What if it’s not as good in print? After all, if a bad reader can kill an otherwise good book, isn’t it possible — probable, even — that the opposite could happen, too? Obviously some books are so bad that not even the best reader could save them, but what about all the other books out there? If I had read The Raven Boys in print, would I be as quick to rave about how much I loved it? Or did I mostly just love listening to Will Patton read it to me?
I recently took a deep breath and swallowed my self-doubt when I gave my sister-in-law paperback copies of both The Raven Boys and The Scorpio Races for her birthday. She and I tend to enjoy the same books (she’s the one who first introduced me to The Hunger Games), so I’m cautiously optimistic that she’ll enjoy these. Fingers crossed that she enjoys the print versions as much as I enjoyed listening to them on audio.
How about you: Do you love audiobooks? Have you encountered any unexpected side effects from listening to books on audio vs. reading them in print? And, because I’m always on the hunt for another great audiobook: What’s the best book you’ve listened to lately?
This post was originally written September 18. This is the last of the unpublished posts I drafted, so expect my normal, infrequent posting schedule to resume from here on out.
We got to see the baby a couple weeks ago at my first ultrasound. Such a cute little blob! Everything looks healthy and great so far.
We’ve started telling people, slowly, as we see them and the opportunity presents itself. We spent Labor Day Weekend at my parents’ house and knew we’d get to break the news within minutes of our arrival. No way was I going to get away with turning down a glass of wine after a 2-hour drive without raising suspicions. They were surprised and thrilled and so excited for us.
I love this part — the telling people part. It’s so much fun to find ways to tell people, see their reactions, and share our joy.
A week later, I mentioned to my boss that I had a doctor’s appointment, and she totally guessed what was up and called me out on it. I know that’s technically a big no-no from an HR perspective, but my boss and I are good friends, so it wasn’t a big deal at all. She said “I have a Suspicion [I could hear the capital S in her voice] about you…” and I just busted out laughing. Then I called her back on my cell phone so I could speak freely away from eaves-dropping desk neighbors. And here’s the real kicker: she’s pregnant too, and due just 2 weeks after me. So much for her leaving me in charge while she’s on maternity leave like she did with her first baby! It’s really fun to have someone to talk to about all the first-trimester indignities, even if we do have to be discreet at work because our coworkers aren’t all in on the secret(s) yet.
We get to tell Tim’s parents tomorrow night. We would have told them sooner, but they’re coming to town tomorrow, and, since they don’t live near any of their kids, they haven’t been told about any of their 3 grandchildren in person. The opportunity to tell them about this one in person was worth waiting for. We’ve set up a Skype date with Tim’s sister this weekend to break the news, and my best friend is coming to town next week, so I’ll get to tell her then. (Even though I’m 90% sure she’s already onto me. She knows we’ve been trying, she’s been trying too, we text about it frequently, and she all but asked me straight out a few weeks ago. I deflected as best I could, but it seems I’m just as bad a liar over text messages as I am in person.)
We’re planning to tell my brother and his family when they’re in town for Alexander’s birthday at the beginning of October, and after that, I think we’ll finally be in the clear to talk about it on Twitter/Facebook/The Blog. I was tempted to tell my brother when we were at his house for his and my niece’s birthday this past Saturday, but I held my tongue.
Speaking of Saturday night, we had a bit of a scare after getting home from the birthday parties. (SPOILER ALERT: Everything’s fine.) I ate something that didn’t agree with me, was woken up with a crampy, upset stomach, and saw the last thing any pregnant woman wants to see: red. “No, no, no,” I cried in the bathroom before waking Tim up and calling the on-call nurse. Much to my relief, the nurse was pretty unconcerned and did a great job of calming me down, assuring me that it’s not uncommon for gastroenteritis to aggravate the uterus and cause a bit of bleeding, and instructing me to rest, stay well hydrated, monitor the situation, and try to get some sleep.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much that night. I downed a bottle of Sierra Mist and a giant glass of water, per the nurse’s instructions, and between my frayed nerves and constantly-full bladder, I was in and out of bed all night. Luckily, the situation improved steadily as the night wore on, and by morning I was feeling a lot less Doom and Gloom about the whole thing.
I spent all day Sunday debating whether to go to Urgent Care, but since things were continually improving, I opted to just wait until Monday when I could call and talk to my doctor. When I talked to the nurse’s assistant Monday morning, she too was unconcerned, which was very reassuring, but she ordered an ultrasound just to be safe. Part of me was annoyed that I couldn’t get an ultrasound appointment until 10:30 the next morning, but mostly I was relieved that nobody at the doctor’s office was in a big hurry to see me. If they didn’t need to see me right away, the situation couldn’t be that bad, right?
By the time my appointment rolled around Tuesday morning, though, I was a nervous wreck. True, the spotting had all but stopped, and I was pretty sure everything was fine, but, oh man, I was still terrified. I was kicking myself for making the appointment at a time that Tim couldn’t be there. I’d wanted to get in as soon as possible, but as I sat in the waiting room, all I could think was how stupid I was for not having Tim with me. What if it was bad news? How was I going to (1) face it alone, and (2) deal with telling Tim?
In the end, of course, everything was fine. We had to take a break mid-ultrasound due to technical difficulties, and when I initially asked the ultrasound tech if everything looked okay, she gave me an evasive “As far as I can tell, but it’s difficult to see much,” which only made my anxiety spike higher. Once the technical issues were resolved, I ended up getting to watch my little gummy bear of a fetus dance around on the ultrasound monitor for several minutes. He/she* has a good, strong heartbeat, is measuring right on schedule, and has lots of energy to wiggle and squirm. I laid there on the exam table crying tears of joy and relief while I watched the little guy dance, and again kicked myself for not scheduling my appointment at a time that Tim could come. He would have loved to see the baby in action like that.
I can’t tell you how relieved I am that everything’s okay, and how excited I am to get to keep telling people our happy news in the coming weeks. Now, if the rest of this pregnancy could just proceed in a less roller-coaster-like manner, that’d be great.
*My boss, who’s notoriously accurate at predicting such things, is convinced I’m having a girl. “Girls,” she says, referring to the roller-coaster nature of this pregnancy, “are more high maintenance.” I’m pretty sure it’s a boy, but I’m notoriously bad at predicting these things, so who knows?
Epilogue, October 22: The rest of my first trimester continued to be a roller coaster. I had another spotting incident a few weeks after the one detailed here (caused by something other than gastroenteritis this time), but this one conveniently started the night before my regularly scheduled 12-week appointment, so I didn’t have to make an extra trip to the OB’s office (or to the ER, as the on-call nurse, who was much less reassuring this time, suggested). Once again, I didn’t have Tim at the appointment with me, but my parents, who were coming to town that day anyway, came a couple hours earlier than planned so my mom could go with me to the doctor. (Nothing will get a mother on the highway faster than a tear-filled phone call from her daughter.) Luckily, everything was/is fine, and as an added bonus, my mom got to see the baby on the quick ultrasound my doctor did when she had trouble finding the heartbeat with the doppler. (That was a tense moment.) The baby’s continuing to grow right on schedule, and the doctor exclaimed about how healthy the kiddo looks, which was especially good to hear that day.
Things finally settled down again about a week ago, and I’m going back to dance class tonight after several weeks of not exercising, per doctor’s orders. (Newsflash: At the end of the first trimester, just when you’re finally starting to get your energy back, is not an ideal time to be told to stop exercising.) I’m not going to push myself too hard, but I’m really looking forward to getting up off the couch and sweating a bit. Hopefully things will continue to go smoothly from here on out. I felt my first tiny baby flutter yesterday (after some particularly delicious enchiladas — baby likes Mexican food!) which is not only exciting but also hugely reassuring. I’m so glad to be getting to the point where I’ll have daily physical reassurance that everything’s okay, instead of having to wait and wonder for four weeks between doctor’s appointments.
This post was originally written August 22, when I was just shy of 7 weeks pregnant.
Man, this first trimester fatigue is no joke. I spend all day fighting to stay awake and despairing about my office’s lack of a scheduled nap time. Last night I could easily have gone to bed at 7:30 if I didn’t feel this ridiculous mental block against doing so. I managed to stay up until 9, but was irritable and grumpy the whole time.
Also, I’m hungry all the time. Until I start eating, of course, at which point every bite is a gamble. Will I enjoy it? How many bites before the inevitable bite in which I get half-way through chewing and then suddenly the food in my mouth transforms to something so mushy and disgusting that it will take every ounce of my willpower to finish chewing and swallow, fighting my gag reflex the entire time? And with that fateful bite, my meal is over. I’m really looking forward to getting to the point where all food is amazing and I can eat whatever I damn well please because it’s delicious and I’m pregnant so there.
At my first official prenatal appointment on Tuesday, the nurse was going over medical history, past pregnancy stuff, etc., and we got to the question about how long I was in labor when Alexander was born. When I told her my labor was only five-and-a-half hours, she was stunned, to say the least. Then she emphatically told me that, at the end of this pregnancy, if I feel like I might be in labor, “Don’t call, don’t wait, just get to the hospital before that baby falls out!” One of many reasons I’m glad I switched doctors: this one delivers at the hospital just down the road from my house, rather than way across town. (Also, I assume that by expecting another quick labor, I’m pretty much guaranteeing I’ll be in labor for a minimum of 30 hours this time around.)