Monday, October 26, 2015

The Knee that Broke the Camel's Back

It was during busy season. And all of a sudden, something happened to my knee. I honestly can't pinpoint an exact injury or specific something that happened. I just know that my knee was fine, and then it wasn't. I had noticed, about a month before my knee stopped working appropriately, that if I squatted alllllll the way to the ground, I'd get a little shot of pain. But I didn't often squat all the way down, so I didn't really think about it. Well, when my knee started really hurting, I couldn't squat at all.

I soon discovered that side-to-side movements were what aggravated my knee most. Even standing solidly, then shifting or pivoting just a small amount to the side would send pain stabbing through my knee. And once my knee was inflamed and aggravated, I literally would have a hard time walking. Instead, I'd do a shuffle-y hobble to get to where I needed to be. Sometimes I'd be totally fine, walking through the grocery store, then all of a sudden I'd move a bit wrong and then wonder if I was going to make it to the register then out to the car.

My dad is a physical therapist, and he prescribed ice, ibuprofen, and rest until we could get the inflammation under control. I followed this regime the best I could--rest is hard to come by when you're a mom of three young children and your husband is at the peak of busy season, not home to share even the smallest of household tasks--and after a few weeks, the pain started to subside. Then I would push too hard and the pain would come back. I constantly felt like I'd take a step or two forward, then three or four steps back. But, after a few months, I realized that I was definitely moving forward overall in the healing process.

When Ryan and I planned our great Tour de Utah, we were both a little worried about how my knee would hold out. But, blessedly and with a lot of preventive ibuprofen, my knee was sore and a little tired, but not sending me pain signals and generally fine to deal with.

My recovery progressed slowly throughout the summer. My dad finally got a chance to examine my knee in person and diagnosed me with a stressed MCL, the inside ligament of my knee. He told me to wear a knee brace and gave me two stretches, one of which I still couldn't do at all at first because it was too painful. The second counselor in the bishopric of my ward, who is also a PT, noticed my knee brace and after finding out what was wrong, gave me more stretches. I sloooooowly built up endurance with my stretches until I was doing twice the amount of repetitions I started with and experiencing less discomfort as a result.

Now, during this entire time--from late February until late August--I wasn't able to exercise. I tried a few times to do a gentle yoga routine, but by the end, my knee would be so stiff and sore I couldn't walk much throughout the day. I also found a few arm workouts online--but even those aggravated my knee, as they required getting up and down for various exercises. Even just standing and exerting my upper body muscles seemed to put more stress on my knee. Eventually I gave up all together and decided to just give my knee some time with no exercise in hopes that more rest would expedite the healing process.

As it turns out, when you've regularly exercised for years, then don't exercise at all for months, your body gets soft. I gained weight. I felt tired and slow. My clothes started feeling snug. My face looked so round to me. My self-esteem took a dive because I felt so awful about the way I looked, especially because I couldn't change it. I could not exercise, which was the best path I saw to change. I tried changing my eating habits, but after just a few weeks was so discouraged by seeing no change (or very, very small change) that I gave up on that, too. I was so, so self-conscious about my body--maybe more so than I've ever been. When I saw the pictures from my sister's wedding, I cried because I was so depressed by the way I looked. I've always been very self-conscious about my weight and had major self-esteem issues with body image, and gaining weight wasn't helping that at all. I didn't even want Ryan to see me or touch me, especially in the belly area. I felt awful.

I couldn't play the way I wanted to with my kids. I found myself saying, far too, often, "Sorry, baby, that will hurt my knee" or "my knee is sore right now, I need to rest it."Getting up and down off the ground to play with them was a struggle. Kneeling at all was a joke.

A little more time passed. I was diligent in my stretches, but felt like the end to this knee issue would never come. I was able to stop taking ibuprofen, first cutting back to two doses, then one each day, then none at all unless something happened to stress my knee. My knee was better, but not all the way better, which was so extremely frustrating. 

Then my dad gave me the green light to exercise--lightly. I was excited. Exercising soon proved to put me in my place. After months off, I was puffing and my legs were burning when we went on family bike rides. I couldn't run, so I walked. I've always felt lame walking, as if people are thinking, "Why isn't she running?" But really, I'm sure people think nothing of it at all. I found a fitness website with arm workout videos that I could modify enough to not aggravate my knee. 

Around the same time, my friend Nicole posted on Facebook about starting a Feel Great in 8 challenge. I decided to try it and even roped my mom and Mandi into joining me. As part of the challenge, I could earn points daily for eating a combo of five fruits or vegetables, sleeping 7-9 hours, not eating after 8, drinking a specified amount of water, eating up to 10 foods on the positive list, exercising, completing daily challenges, and reading my scriptures and praying. At the end of the week, extra points were awarded for losing weight. And points could be lost by eating foods on the disallowed list.

At first, the challenge was hard. I was grumpy from going off sugar cold turkey. I didn't eat enough fruits in vegetables in the mornings, so I'd be needing three servings of vegetables at dinner. I didn't buy enough fruits and vegetables to last the two weeks until my next shopping trip. Physically, I couldn't exercise long enough to get the full exercise points--that is, unless I wanted to send my knee into a tailspin again.

Then I lost three pounds in the first week. And I was sure it was a fluke. But I kept losing, little by little. Two weeks I lost nothing at all, which was super frustrating, especially when my mom, who has hardly any weight to lose, did lose weight. But I kept doing it, earning as many points as I could, doing as much as I could. It didn't hurt that my team was in first place throughout the competition.

Gradually, I realized that I looked better. And I felt better, not only physically but mentally. I was growing to appreciate my body again, even though I still felt like my knee was holding me back--because, let's be honest, it was. I couldn't work out as hard as I wanted to. I was trying to lose weight while doing arm workouts and walking, when I'd usually be doing full body weights and running. I was a little frustrated to think I could be losing more, but happy to be losing at all.

And now the eight weeks is up. The competition is over. My clothes not only fit, but they're getting lose. I fit comfortably into a pair of jeans that haven't fit well since before I was pregnant with Reed (consequently, they've stayed in great condition). I lost 6.25 inches overall, with an inch of that coming from my waist and another inch from my hips, my two biggest problem areas. I lost 10 pounds! Not as much as I dreamed after that initial three pound weight loss, but enough to help me mentally. 

My knee is still not 100 %. It's actually a little weak now, because I've been exercising so much. Now that I'm not in the middle of my challenge, I'm honestly going to exercise a little less until my knee feels stronger again. I still have some body issues, and would like to be a little smaller--but those issues aren't holding me back like they were. I don't feel down and sad the way I did. I'm in such a better place mentally, and I attribute that to this challenge. I love that it helped me establish not only healthy eating and exercising habits, but uplifting spiritual habits--I haven't missed studying my scriptures or praying for a single day in 8 weeks. I love that the challenge focused on full body health. 

And now that the challenge is over? I'll probably eat a few treats again. But I want to keep a lot of the healthy eating habits I established. I'm going to work out a little less until my knee is a little better. But I'm going to pray and study scriptures more, because I know that those two things were what really fostered the positive change for me.

Hurting my knee has been more of a molding and shaping experience than I thought it could be. I haven't always endured it well. And honestly, I think the mental and emotional toll the experience took on me was far greater than any physical pain I've dealt with. I'm not at the end of the challenge. And I know this trial that has seemed like a mountain to me likely looks like a molehill to others who have faced and lost so much more. But I am grateful for what I learned, and hope I'm better prepared to endure other trials I'll face.

**After I wrote this post, but before I published it: Yesterday was the last day of the challenge. I woke up as usual to go walking early. I got texts from my mom and sister right before I left and during my walk, giving a group virtual high 5 and telling me their results. I was so happy they'd done so well, but honestly it was a blow to me to hear that they'd both lost more weight and inches than I had--especially my mom, who doesn't look as if she has any weight or inches to lose. Comparison was the thief of my joy this morning. Just yesterday I was feeling so proud of my accomplishment, and today I feel let down by myself--not because I didn't work hard or could have done more, but because I couldn't do more. This fact was highlighted on my walk, that started with a sore hip that only allowed me to walk at a slow pace and was punctuated by a knee that twinged on the slightest uphill. I was having a little pity party for myself, when I remembered my scripture of the week from last week: "For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." (Philippians 4:11). Their success doesn't diminish mine. I didn't participate in this challenge to lose more than them or to be better than them--I did this challenge to change me and to be a better me. And truly, I think I've met that goal. So it's time to stop pouting and to remember that I am happy and proud of the work I've put into this challenge and of the changes I have made--because I am. And just the fact that I was able to pull myself out of this depressive state before it had me in it's grasp is a testament to me of the mental change that has taken place. Because I know now that I can do hard things, and that my body is something to be valued.

**One last thing. After I wrote my first ** addendum, I did my final weigh-in. Week 7 had brought along a weight loss of 0. I'd lost 8.5 pounds total and my goal was to lose 10. I honestly wasn't sure I'd get my goal after losing nothing last week. But I lost 1.5 to land me at EXACTLY 10 pounds lost, not an ounce over or under. Meeting my goal was a tender mercy and reminded me that I am valued exactly as I am by a loving Father in Heaven.





And because Lila wanted to stand with me, here's a few more afters :)

Friday, October 23, 2015

October so far

As you could probably tell from my last post, I got a touch behind on beasts. My bad. I'm going to use this post as yet another catch-up, then hopefully I'll hop back onto the weekly beast train. Only time will tell.

October starts with Ryan's birthday! Woot to the woot. Ryan was super excited to open his presents (mainly because he was super intrigued by the shape of the package from my mom), so we did that first thing, before he even went to work! The boys gave him new fun work socks, Mike and Ikes, and new book. The mysteriously shaped package was a huge water gun that has already been put to use in soaking the boys. He also got Trivial Pursuit for families, which we've already played a few times. Ryan LOVES Trivial Pursuit, but the edition we had was from DI and the pop-culture/sports questions were all from the 80s and 90s so I was SO AWFUL at the game, but now I actually have a fighting chance! The game also has separate kids cards, so the boys can join in. Lila just likes to play with the extra pieces.

Ryan's birthday also means the annual creation and consumption of his "ice cream pie," which actually didn't get created and consumed until a few days after his birthday due to a series of extenuating circumstances. The cake was extra good this year, though, because our local grocery store now sells Thrifty ice cream! Ryan finally got to include his favorite ice cream of all time in his cake. 

For Ryan's birthday this year, we went out to dinner at Tacos el Gordo which might have the best tacos I've ever tasted. They do have tacos al pastor, which is Ryan's favorite, favorite type of meat. He hasn't been able to find a great pastor since being on his mission--until now! So it's probably a good thing we don't live even kind of close to Tacos el Gordo or we'd be there all the time. After dinner, we went to the drive-in movie to see Hotel Transylvannia 2. It was our first time at the drive-in and we had so much fun! The movie was really cute and the kids were so good. We will definitely be going again.

October also means General Conference time. I went to the General Women's Conference the last week of September, which just made me so excited for the rest of the conference sections--the women's conference was amazing. We were able to watch the majority of all four sessions of conference and the kids were good, for the most part. I was going to put my favorite talk here, but I truly don't know. The day before conference, I was asked to speak in sacrament the week after conference--not on one specific talk, but on the overall theme or message I took from conference. This was an amazing assignment because I spent conference listening for connections and thinking about how the talks all wove together. I ended up talking about being better askers and receivers. Conference was also fun because it was my "cheat day" on my challenge, so we ate well: cinnamon rolls, hot dip in a loaf, little smokies, oh my! During conference, one of the quiet activities I pulled out for the kids were our magnetic letters and cookie sheets. Reed came up with this gem:

Lila found an ideal conference viewing spot:

Between conference sessions on Sunday, we decided to take a drive. We spent some time on google maps and realized that if we headed toward Pahrump, we could take a turn off and drive into California! This seemed like a good idea. During the drive, the rain started absolutely pouring, so much so that we almost turned around because we were worried what the roads would look like on the road back. But we pushed through and the storm soon abated. We made it to California without incident, other than Lila asking when we were going to see Grandma Hammy. Sorry baby. The drive was really beautiful, especially with the rain. The boys had to go potty in the middle of nowhere, so we pulled over and while they peed in a huge puddle (which they found hilarious) I took these shots of the beautiful scenery!

I've been walking in the mornings before the kids are awake and, as the sun has started to rise later, I've started to get to watch the sunrise! It's amazing to me how it looks a little different each time, but is always beautiful.

So Ryan and I noticed that the boys were starting to use a tone and a few phrases that were not unfamiliar to us--because they were tones and phrases we used. But not in a good way. Their speaking unkindly to each other highlighted how unkindly we were speaking to each other. We decided to make a change. After Ryan and I spent a few nights discussing the problem and what we could do, we had a family home evening lesson on speaking kindly, then created a family work of art to help us remember to speak kindly. I must admit that I was not speaking 100 % kindly when I put all the stickers on the canvas, then realized that I needed to add another line and had to re-measure and do all the stickers again. The irony struck me even at the time, but I chose not to dwell on it :)

And, of course, what's a snapshot of our life without bike pictures? We ride bikes a lot. Our problem lately is that the boys are tiring of riding on our street, but Lila isn't even kind of fast enough to keep up with them on longer rides. We need to figure something out that will work for everyone.

Lila and Asher like to play in the rocks during Reed's soccer games. One day Asher had something extra cute to show me. Lila of course immediately kicked the rocks all over, so he recreated his message:

They've been playing in the backyard alllllll the time, which is glorious. On this particular day, chalk was their jam. Asher literally covered a good quarter of the concrete in solid chalk. And he looked like he had, too.

That's all she wrote! (Literally)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wake Me Up When September Ends

So I didn't really feel that way about September ^^, but when I was trying to think of a title for this summary of September, starting from when I fell off the weekly beast bandwagon, I immediately thought of that song and it's been in my head now for approximately 2 weeks (the amount of time I've taken to finish this post) and so the title just seems to fit. So there you go.

Soccer started in September! I know I already posted about opening day and the first game, but having a kid in a sport has been interesting. We only have one practice a week and one game a week, so it's not like we are totally swamped, but adding even that to a schedule that usually doesn't have any weeknight activities and definitely no Saturday scheduled activities has been an adjustment! Reed loves soccer and has made friends with the boys on his team. Soccer has been good for him. My one complaint is that our games are at 11:45 every week--so not only are the games super hot, but they are at an awkward time. We don't have time to really do an activity before, and after the game and lunch and a nap for Lila there's not too much time to do an activity at night, either! We only have three games left and while I have overall enjoyed the experience, it will be nice to have a little break.

I've started going to the grocery store during the day again--as opposed to by myself at night--because even though I have to drag everyone with me, at least I'm not spending a night alone in a grocery store. And, the kids have been surprising me and have seriously been fantastic during every big shopping trip, having very few meltdowns. They save the meltdowns for the quick shopping trips. Who knows why. Our big shopping trips can be quite the trips, too: I try to shop for two full weeks of groceries and go to at least two stores, sometimes three, every big trip. I make them each a list of items we are buying and they stay busy checking off each things I put into the cart. Lila "checks off" by scribbling all over a notebook :)

One day, when I was unloading our haul, Lila parked herself on the improvised door stop. Every time I passed by with empty hands, she asked for a kiss and a hug and a high five. I'm so lucky to have her.

"School" has been going well. The first subject we learned about was dinosaurs! Asher got really into dinosaurs while we studied. We built a model of an ankylosaurus and now the ankylosaurus is Asher's favorite dinosaur. He is quick to spot ankylosaurus in any book about dinosaurs. I asked him why ankylosaurus was his favorite and he explained, "Because they have plates AND spikes." As part of our school week, we made a "paper bag book." Each page has an extra sheet that slides out with Asher's favorite facts about the dinosaur spotlighted on the page. He is quite proud of the book, even a full six weeks later, and still looks at it often.

One weekend, my mom was flying out of Vegas to go to Idaho. She came a day early to go see Reed play soccer. After the game, we went out to a pioneer day event at Spring Mountain Ranch. We had such a good time! I think the crowd favorite was the black smith demonstration. After ten minutes or so, Reed tired of the black smith and moved on with my mom, but we had to drag Asher away another ten minutes after that! AND we stopped and watched again on our way out! The boys also loved making s'mores, trying to wash laundry with a washboard and tub, and panning for gold.

After Spring Mountain Ranch, we went to Calico Basin for a little picnic. My mom and I are doing an eight-week health and fitness challenge together, so we cheered each other on through our servings of veggies :) The kids were SUPER goofy at Calico, having a dance party on the platform and busting all kinds of moves. And, because our family is composed of rule followers, every time they saw someone off the boardwalk taking family photos, they asked loudly, "But why didn't they like read the signs? Don't they know they're not supposed to go in the meadow?!" There's not really a tactful way to answer that question, but really, I had the same questions, too. There are signs posted literally every five feet about staying out of the meadow. Come on, people.

On the way around the boardwalk, we stopped a few times to sit on the benches and revel in the glorious weather--Calico Basin was at least 15 degrees cooler than Vegas and shady. The kids and Grandma were going on various "dates" on their bench, driving to the movies or the ocean or McDonald's, while Ryan and I had a micro-date by having an uninterrupted conversation on our bench. Oh, and a note on Jae's pants: Grandma brought Lila's these new jeggings and Lila of course wanted to try them on immediately--then wear them all day. She kept saying, "Look at my new cute pants!"

After dinosaurs, we studied knights! Asher got even more excited about knights than he did about dinosaurs. One thing we learned about knights is that their shields usually had a symbol that helped identify the knight holding the shield (the page explaining this was literally Asher's favorite page in the book). We designed shields on paper--mine had an oak tree and Asher's had an owl--then we cute shields out of cardboard that Asher and Lila painted in a more abstract fashion. I had extra cardboard after cutting the shields, and the cardboard was already kind of shaped like a sword, so I created a few truly awkward swords, too.

We also made a graham cracker castle one day. I didn't want to buy new candy, because I'm on my challenge and didn't want anything tempting around the house, so we used all the random candy we'd gotten from the parade we went to earlier in the summer with grandma! We also didn't have quite as many graham crackers as I'd originally thought, so our castle was a little underwhelming. BUT, we did have a fantastic time making it, and the kids even ate a good portion of the castle over the next few days. Win.

Lila still likes to accompany me every time I prepare a meal. If I have a job for her, she's only too happy to help. One day I put her in charge of the grapes. She was supposed to put a pile of grapes on each plate. She opted for a "one for the plate, four for my mouth" method. After a few minutes, she told me, "I LIKE being in charge!"

We went on an early morning bike ride before school one day and were surprised to see an upside-down hot air balloon! We were a little concerned for the safety of the passengers, so we looked it up and found out that the balloon is a trick! It's designed to look upside down, but the basket is really on the bottom, by the big part of the balloon. The basket on top is a decoy. The pilot can't see, so the upside down balloon is always accompanied by it's right-side-up twin, whose pilot pilots (ha) both balloons. Also, there were SIX balloons out that morning!

Jae Jae likes to cuddle with a stuffed animal and book at bed time. This particular day, she wanted to read her Bitty Baby book to her Bitty Baby. SO CUTE.

So remember how I mentioned that soccer is at an awkward time? Sometimes we fill the morning with project-y kind of stuff we need to get done, and sometimes we leave as soon as everyone is up and do something we can finish before 11! One day we decided to hike the Fort Apache caves, since it had been quite a while since we'd hiked there last. We were early enough that it wasn't too hot yet, which was great. There was a lot more trash in the caves than I remembered, but the view of the city really is beautiful.

The last week of school before track break--which also happened to be the last week of September, which also happens to mean you've read almost all the way through this beast of a post--was a spirit week! The themes weren't quite as exciting as our last spirit week, and I only took photos on my two favorite days. First was picture day/crazy sock day, which was kind of my favorite, because we were business on the top...

...and party on the bottom! We are so dope. Reed wanted to match with me and I was only too happy to oblige. I'm going to show high school Reed this one day to prove he knew how cool I am at one point in his life. In case you're wondering, once the other two saw Reed wearing sweet socks they wanted to wear sweet socks, too. They all took several wardrobe changes before deciding on their final pairs. And I thought it might just be fun to join them. It totally was. And, in case you're wondering, Asher at one point had four pairs of socks layered on top of each other. I think he has two layered pairs on below:

The other fun day was hat day! The day started off in a less-than-fun fashion, when Ryan's car wasn't working like it should. We took him to work, then went straight to school. After walking allllllll the way from the car to Reed's class line (which is a surprisingly long distance), I realized that the reason all the kids were wearing hats was because it was hat day! And we'd forgotten! Happily, we had enough time to run home--Reed didn't even complain or ask about going home even though he'd been really excited and had his hat all chosen out, which made me want to take him home even more--where I quickly dashed inside, then drove safely but swiftly back to school. We didn't have enough time to park and all walk over, so Reed was dropped off at the gate for the first time in his life. He's been too nervous up until now to be dropped off. He was still nervous today, but wanted to be brave. He was a touch teary and I almost just parked and walked, but he decided to do it if I stayed and watched until he got across the playground. He looked back every five steps or so until I couldn't see him any more. The next day, he told me it was like not even a big deal and he wasn't even nervous (ha) and I could totally drop him off again if I needed to.

The last day before track break, Reed took his very first Accelerated Reader test on Beezus and Ramona and scored 10/10. Way to go, Buddy!

And I lied. I just found a third photo of spirit week. This photo was cute to me less because the day theme (blue and school spirit) and more because of these cute brothers, who matched as closely as they could!

And phew! We made it through September, and it's only three weeks into October. Go me.

Friday, October 16, 2015

"Are" New Backyard, part 2

We finished our backyard in May, and got to enjoy it for a while. Then mid-June struck and suddenly the thought of going outside seemed quite unbearable, so our backyard was largely unused. I was kind of worried we'd enjoyed a "honeymoon phase" and now were beyond that and, as such, had spent a lot of money with little purpose. But, in the past few weeks, I've remembered why we wanted to do something with our backyard in the first place, and why we enjoyed it so much right after the yard was completed. 

The mornings and nights have finally, blessedly, started cooling. And because of the way our house faces, our backyard has complete shade for a large part of the morning--basically until the sun is directly over head. That cool combined with that shade have made for ridiculously lovely mornings. We've been eating breakfast outside basically every day. After breakfast, the kids (often accompanied by me), dig in the "digging section" or our garden. And, because we recently pulled out everything that had died in our garden, the digging section is everything except our gargantuan basil plant, ha. 

Their first goal in digging was to reach the desert they knew they'd find somewhere at the bottom of the planter. Once the were successful, they created Wet n' Wild out of dirt, with their pit to the desert being the slides. Now they've been burying objects for each other--trying to be tricky in the burying so the other person can't find the hidden item. 

At night, Ryan and I have been going out onto the "veranda," and enjoying the cool while just talking to each other without being interrupted. Relaxing and talking at night is about all we've got going date-wise lately (curse you, micro-busy season), so these nights have been amazing.

Late afternoon, when I'm starting to get dinner ready, the kids will ask if they can play in the backyard. Um, YES. Every time, kids. Keep asking--or just go on out!

I love having a back yard. We needed a yard more than I realized. 

 Lately, she's been putting her hand up any time I take a picture, then saying, "Lou take picture of my HAND!"

Aaaaand, because I took these pictures and never blogged them, how bout I put them here? Our garden got a little neglected and a lot out of hand. Before the garden became almost all digging section, this is what we had going on:

BASIL. Basil everywhere. Who knew basil would thrive in the desert? We've since taken out two of the bushes and pruned the third. It's still huge.

The pumpkin vine that threatened to take over the world. It did take over the designated digging area, which was a thing. It grew much longer before we finally took it out--because though it was growing and flowering, it was producing zilch. Turns out the very center was dead.

Micro carrots! The tops grew so long but the carrots did not.

Garden beans. I cooked these and they were not great. They were wilting anyway, so we just pulled them on out.

Seriously, basil?

I enlisted them to help me harvest basil. Then I left it in the fridge, meaning to freeze or dry it, and never did. Then the basil got gross so I threw it out, too. I'm such a gardener.