Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Raven: 12 Months

Here we are, almost a month late, but better late than never, right?

Actually, this will be the last of the monthly updates, mostly just because I (obviously) have a hard time keeping up on them. The photo shoots have gotten pretty crazy (both in execution and in editing), and I think any updates from here on out will be done every 3 months or just whenever she hits a major milestone. (Unless, you know, some insane new blogging idea seizes hold of me and I decide to take on another crazy project.)

Quick Stats:

Height: around 29.5"
Weight: around 19.5 lbs. (ish)
Clothing Size: 12 month size (although I'm thinking we might have to start phasing up soon)
Diaper Size: 4

Milestones Reached
  • Started to walk (!) on her own and had taken 5 or 6 steps in a row by herself by the time she officially hit the year mark
  • Says "moo" whenever we talk about cows, has *maybe* started saying "yeah" for yes, sometimes says "ah duh" ("all done") instead of just "duh"
  • Can drink from her little cup independently
  • Has started trying to "brush" her own teeth with her toothbrush
  • Can stand up without holding on to anything (and go from standing to crouching and then back to standing)
  • Gestures at where she wants to go and at what she wants you to get for her
Physical Appearance

We have had many people comment that she looks like Boo from Monsters Inc. whenever her dark(ish) hair is in pigtails. I can totally see it. (The same people also try and convince us that we should start teaching her to say "Kitty" immediately. Understandable.)

What I Love About This Stage

We have finally reached the stage where she can start communicating her needs and wants, so that takes a lot of guesswork out of the picture. I always second-guessed myself on things like how hungry she might be or if she wanted me to get her something or take her somewhere, but now she's pretty insistent, which makes the whole thing a lot easier on us.

Her personality has slowly been coming on stronger and stronger for months, but nowadays, we can see how naturally independent she is. She's always hated having her limbs manipulated in any way (like if you try to show her how to do something and try to mold her hands to do it, she'll freak out), and her fierce independence has only gotten more pronounced over the past several weeks. She likes to try everything entirely on her own (rather than allowing us to physically show her how to hold her hands), which, while challenging, is also (surprisingly) reassuring---I've ALWAYS wanted to have strong, independent children who were capable of doing things for themselves, so this is a good sign.

And this is weird to say, but I'm actually really glad that she's old enough now to start on simple discipline. She used to pull out all our movies with reckless abandon and try to do the same with all our canned goods on our pantry shelf, but now that we've instigated firm (mini) time-outs for behaviors like that, she's learned quickly not to do them. It's pretty amazing, actually---if we put her in a time-out three or four times in a row for something, she usually doesn't repeat the behavior (or at least not for a long time).

And can we just say, playing games with her just gets more and more fun? Oh man, I can only imagine how hilarious they're going to be once she's really talking a lot...

Oh, and one more thing---she's let us cuddle her a lot for the past several weeks, which has been wonderful. She's often squirmy and wanting to go explore stuff by herself, but lately (ever since I went back to work after spring break, actually), she's been much more cuddly. I love the extra snuggles! (We just won't talk about the mom guilt I feel for why she's probably giving me more of them...)


She had the worst diaper rash yet--complete with bleeding sores and redness almost all over--for almost two weeks, which was excruciating. We're hoping to figure out soon what causes it so that we can prevent it from happening ever again.

With her growing sense of independence, she has also started to assert her will on things that weren't an issue before. She used to pretty much eat everything she was given (and like it), but now she'll push away foods we know perfectly well that she likes (and even when we know perfectly well that she must be hungry). We're finding ways around it so far, but we're hoping this particular stage of increased pickiness is just that--a stage.

Things I Don't Want to Forget
  • The way she burrows her face into her blankie and/or her "Wubby" (stuffed pink elephant) whenever she comes across them. (And then when we say, "Awwwwww....," she just keeps doing it, ha ha.)
  • The insistent way she'll yell out "NANA!" (banana/food) whenever she wants us to give her another bite of something (and we're not moving fast enough)
  • How she'll let out a laugh every time Matt or I come home after being at work and often race as fast as she can toward us
  • How she "dances" now almost every time she hears music (by bobbing up and down)
  • The way she smacks her lips and sighs "Ahhh..." when she's just given herself a long, cold drink of milk from her cup
  • How she loves holding the mail for me when we're on our way in to the apartment after I get off work, and how she usually uses the envelopes/magazines to shade her eyes from the sun
  • The "cuddle cry" she'll sometimes make right before we head to bed or right after I wake up in the morning---we know she still wants to sleep, but she just wants a little cuddle first. Both Matt and I race to try and be the one to go pick her up because she's basically almost still asleep but just melts right into you when you pick her up. It's just the sweetest.
  • How she'll occasionally still pull something mischievous, like stuffing something she shouldn't into her mouth and trying to crawl away as fast as she can, or inching towards the movies or food storage and smiling at us slyly (knowing that those are off-limits), then moving away as fast as she can and laughing her head off. 

 Happy 12 months (again), my sweet baby Raven! It's been such a joyful year.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Blessings and Burdens of Getting Older

I had a different post planned for tonight, but the thing about tragedy striking is that it's always unexpected, which is what makes it so difficult to process.

About an hour ago, I checked my phone and got the message that a fellow teacher at my school had died during a rock climbing accident while out with a group of youth. As expected, the news has been shocking and devastating, and our school will be a very solemn place on Monday, indeed.

Earlier today, I was at an extended family reunion with my mom's side of the family, where I got to see my 95-year-old great-aunt surrounded by many members of her family, both immediate and extended. During the reunion, we also spoke extensively of my great-grandfather (after whom I was named, actually), who lived to be 102 years old. To live until a ripe old age, surrounded by family and friends and wonderful memories, is, I think, the way that most of us would wish to go.

Of course, age has its burdens, too. Besides the physical burdens of an aging body, there is also the inescapable truth that the longer you live, the more tragedy, heartbreak, loss, and suffering that you both have to witness and suffer through yourself. Trials are an inescapable part of mortality.

But during such difficult moments, when it seems like your heart might split into a million pieces because the burdens just seem too heavy and the world seems too unjust, you also realize that in life, everything has its opposite--the joy opposite the sorrow, the pleasure opposite the pain, the tranquility opposite the suffering. One of my favorite scriptures has always been 2 Nephi 2:11, which says:

"For it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one."

In other words, the only way we learn to truly treasure the beautiful is to experience the awful. And I've always found it especially meaningful that the moments of greatest tragedy are often the catalysts that spur on the greatest moments of nobility, compassion, grace, and all-encompassing love.

I am still grieving the loss of my coworker, and I know that next week will be hard on everyone at my school. But I also have the utmost faith that there is a Father in Heaven who loves us, and that one day, all tears will be wiped from all faces and all injustices shall be made up for, a hundred times over, because of the all-encompassing sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of ALL mankind.

My deepest sympathies go out to all those affected by this tragedy today, and I hope that we all can be inspired by this man's zest and enthusiasm for life, his readiness to always lend a hand and a cheerful word, and the absolute compassion and love and overall sense of goodness that he shed on all those around him. The world needs more men like him to spur us all on to greater things ourselves.

Friday, April 29, 2016


We've got a busy weekend planned, which is why you'll find me tonight with my butt planted firmly on the couch, soaking in as much "nothingness" as possible (especially after my insane week of end-of-level testing and end-of-month loose ends to all get accomplished).

While busy weekends are what eventually make for the best memories, I still crave those weekends where literally nothing is on the calendar--when I can just do laundry, clean the house, browse blogs, read for hours...

I used to worry about the fact that I'd basically become the "boring adult" I'd always sworn (as a kid) that I'd never be. Now, I know that my life actually has a pretty harmonious blend of the new and the comfortable, and it's a balance I'm perfectly content with (even if my 16-year-old self would argue otherwise).

So I'm signing off on this (short) blog post by wishing you all a lovely weekend, whether it be a busy one or a comfortable one. Happy Friday to all!

My current read? Kate Morton's The Lake House, which is surprisingly every bit as good as
pretty much all the reviews I've ever heard on it. Good thing too, because I've only had about a week total 
to read all 500 pages of it due to its library due date coming up any day now... 

Funny note: I'll run into the exact same problem right after finishing this because the other book I'd had on hold forever also finally came in at the same time as Morton's, so after this one, I'll be devouring A Man Called Ove in about three days...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Guess Who Hit Her Pre-Pregnancy Weight?

 Although happy about my achievement, the deliriousness of this picture is caused more by the wind and the attempt at a "jumping picture"
 rather than just the joy of the milestone. Just clarifying. Sadly, this is about the best picture we got, ha ha.
Well, it's happened---it might be about six or seven months later than originally planned, but it happened--

I'm down to my pre-pregnancy weight!

As a matter of fact, I'm actually over a pound lower than it, which means I'm only 5 pounds away from my goal weight. Can I get a woot woot?!

It's totally true what they say about the last ten pounds being the hardest (and technically, I still have my five pounds to go on top of that!). The first 4 months postpartum, the weight loss was predictable and steady, which was encouraging. But then my autoimmune disease diagnosis and subsequent prescriptions threw my weight loss all out of whack, and it was all I could do to just maintain the weight loss I'd already worked so hard for.

Once going off the medication that was affecting my ability to lose weight, I thought that my problems with losing the rest would all disappear, but it wasn't so. In fact, as my doctor bluntly put it, the steroid that I'd had to go on had probably, in effect, literally "aged" my metabolism so that I basically was like a menopausal woman.

Not cool.

BUT, not one to give up easily, I started religiously tracking calories (my time-and-again proven weight loss secret), upped my running, and actually started sticking to a strength training plan. Surprisingly, the running had the least effect on my weight loss (probably because my body's just so used to it and has all the muscle memory from the long races I'd completed before), and the combination of the calorie tracking and strength training were the definite keys to finally nudging the scale back down again.

Here are my current stats, at just 5 pounds away from goal weight:

Weight: 140 (technically 139.8, but I'll round, ha ha)
Bust: 36"
Waist: 30.25"
Hips: 35.5"
Thighs: 22"
Arms: 11"

My currently daily calorie count is 1600-1700 calories (although if I work out, I will sometimes "eat back" some of those calories burned), and here's what I'm doing for exercise:

Monday: strength workout, walk with Raven (if possible)
Tuesday: hip hop aerobics class
Wednesday: strength workout, walk with Raven (if possible)
Thursday: shorter run (2 - 3 miles)
Friday: strength workout, walk with Raven (if possible)
Saturday: longer run (5+ miles)
Sunday: rest day

When I'm done with teaching, I plan to add an additional run (probably on Monday) of 2-3 miles and up the mileage on my Thursday run to 3-4 miles. As I get closer to the half marathon I'm doing in August, my mileage on all runs will likely gradually increase.

Even though it's been tough having to be so careful with eating and exercise over the past 13 months, I feel much more like this is a "lifestyle" I can actually sustain. Because I didn't drastically cut down my calories to 1200 or something like that, I don't feel deprived, so I'm far less likely to cheat. And because I'm not eating gluten, more of my foods naturally have more bang for their buck as far as calories and nutrition content are concerned.

My other secret? Eating Hershey's kisses every day. No, but really--after many years of trying my best to clean up my diet, I've figured out that I'm really not one of those people that can just cut something out of my diet for a period of time and then not binge when said "fast" is over. There have been so many times I've gone on "sugar fasts," but they never really helped long-term with my cravings for chocolate or baked goods. The gluten ordeal took care of the baked goods problem for the most part (since I haven't ventured *too* far into gluten-free baking yet), and every day, depending on how many calories I've eaten for other meals, I allow myself between one and two servings of Hershey's kisses a day.

Seriously, for me, it works. I know it wouldn't work for everybody, but it keeps me from feeling deprived, which means that I'm willing to basically eat like this forever.

It's been so exciting this past month to finally see some progress again, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that if I can continue to keep up the rate of weight loss I've been having, I'll be at my goal weight just after summer starts.


Other "Body After Baby" Posts:
One Month Postpartum
Two Months Postpartum
Three Months Postpartum 
Forty Pounds Down (Out of 50 Gained)
Four Months Postpartum
Nine Months Postpartum

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Walk in the Park

I wish I could tell you that these photos were from today---that after a super long day at the school (made even longer by the beyond-depressing end-of-test results that started coming in for my students), we struck out into the sunshine for some quality family time that involved a picnic of gourmet cheese and fruit and maybe even a yoga pose thrown in for good measure (because that's what trips to the park look like in real life, right?).


But, picnics and yoga poses aside, these pics were taken on a particularly fine day a few weeks back when spring was still gracing us with ample sunshine and we were thoroughly enjoying the newly-green outdoors (even despite the fact that we did not, in fact, pack a picnic) and I was blissfully counting down the days until school got out. (Note: I am still obsessively counting down the days, all right, but there's not much bliss going around this particular school week, let me tell you...)

I've been thinking a bit lately about what I'm going to do during the summer when my daily schedule is vastly less rigid than it is now. There are some things I'd LIKE to do, of course, like really hunker down in the writing of my novel and more actively work on developing my photography skills and devote more concerted efforts to my 100 Hours in the Kitchen project. Yes, I hope to do all of those things.

But I also plan to spend lots of time enjoying Raven and the stage she's at now, and one of the ways I plan to fully take advantage of her love of all things outdoors (and her naturally curious nature) is to try and explore as many local parks as I possibly can (with Matt coming along too, whenever he's able).

I've heard too many moms say "You're going to miss this stage" to take it lightly, and because I have no idea how my health will affect our future family plans, I am striving to live out each stage of life (both mine and Raven's) with as few regrets as possible.

 So I guess in a really roundabout way, I suppose I'm saying that these may be just the beginning of many, many park pictures to come.

Only 27 more school days until we're there. (But who's counting?)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Why Today DOES Matter

So. It's Monday.


I have loads of stuff I SHOULD be doing today (especially since, because my students are end-of-level testing this week, I have some extra time), but I'm finding it difficult to make myself work (aka, grade my students' book projects and start prepping for my departure from the teaching profession by getting my classroom in order).

This is not a new sensation. In fact, after every major grading surge, where I'm forced to spend hours upon hours upon hours in the 10 days or so leading up to a mid- or final-term report card, I always seem to be in somewhat of a grading hangover for the week or two following. (In fact, after one particularly nasty stretch of grading time at the end of second trimester this year, I literally couldn't bring myself to grade anything for almost a month.) Since this last weekend was just about the first time I'd had ANY quality "me" time in many, many days (like, almost two weeks if we're being real), I'm not surprised that my body is giving in to its typical you-can't-make-me-grade phase because, after all, I've given into it so many times before.

And because days so often look the same, it's easy to rationalize that it really doesn't matter if I waste my time on this particular Monday because I'll have other Mondays (or just other work days, period) to get things done.

And there's some truth to that, I suppose.

But I've been thinking about that particular mind trap a lot lately (and not just because I'm trying to put off thinking about all those looming tasks I keep procrastinating). I've been finally seeing some progress again in my weight loss and in my physical fitness, and it's largely because I'm trying my darndest not to allow myself to fall prey to the idea that this particular day isn't necessarily super important, so it's okay if I just put it (strength training, a more nutritious meal, a good run) off until another day when I am feeling more inclined.

The mindset shift with my exercise routine happened when I decided to try out a new workout I'd read about in one of the magazines lounging around in my bathroom (which is where all my magazines lounge around, coincidentally). Having been a magazine junkie for almost two decades, I am no stranger to the quick and easy workout plans promising results found in most any women's interest magazine, and I also am no stranger to glancing at the moves for all of two seconds before moving onto something more palatable.

So what was different this time?

Well, for starters, on day one, this workout was literally 30 seconds long. And on day two? Still under a minute. Because I like to kid myself occasionally with the thought that I just "don't have time" to fit in a strength workout (perfect hogwash, I knew, but a girl's got to get her excuses from somewhere), here was a workout plan that absolutely left me no excuse. Plus, it also shot down my other two favorite excuses--that I either lacked the equipment to do the workout or that it had too many crazy-looking/complicated moves in it--so I was left thinking that maybe I should actually just hunker down and try out this workout already.

So I did. And my first workout, as promised, took all of 30 seconds, since it was only comprised of 8 squats and maybe one other simple move. On day two, I once again had no excuse to complete the workout, so I did it. And so it's gone on, with me going through and completing my workout on most days (although the grading did, admittedly, throw me off track for about a week), with each day just very gradually adding on more moves/reps/time to the previous day's workout.

You know what I discovered?

Apparently, if you do certain moves every single day--even for relatively short amounts of time--you actually start to notice results. Not only am I considerably stronger than when I first started doing the workout, but I also have started to notice some honest-to-goodness muscle definition, even if it's just slight right now.

And all from just being consistent and doing the moves every day (my workout doesn't even last a full 10 minutes yet!).

So, I guess my take-home message for myself is---

Today matters. Which means that I need to get on that grading already.


How would you benefit from acting on the knowledge that today DOES matter?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

How to Know If You're Ready to Train for a Half Marathon

One of my new year's "challenges" was to sign up for another half marathon, a distance I haven't run for two years (almost to the day). After successfully running 4 - 5 mile distances (without stopping to walk) for several weeks now, I figured it was time to bite the bullet and just sign up for one already, since I know from experience that I'll only *really* start taking training seriously if I actually have a date set in stone.

So, it looks like on August 27th, I'll be running the Top of Utah half. Woo hoo!

Since training for and running a full marathon back in 2012 and a half in 2014, I've had a LOT of conversations with people about running. One thing that often comes up is that many people hear of a longer distance like those and immediately discount it as something that they "could just never do."


Believe me, you can trust me on this one--I signed up for a full marathon four years ago never having run more than 3 or 4 miles at a time in my life, and I was kind of scared to death of what I'd just done (and the fact that between Matt and me, we'd dropped over $200 on it and were therefore going to do it or die trying). So, if you're wondering whether you're ready to take the leap into training for a half marathon (or it's something that's always been on your bucket list but you've just been too scared to go for it yet), check out the following prerequisites for being able to run a half:

1. You can run 3 miles without stopping to walk.

I once read in Runner's World magazine that in order for your body to be able to comfortably tolerate a 12- or 16-week training program for a long race, you need to be able to have a baseline fitness level of being able to run 3 miles without stopping. They don't have to be fast miles by any stretch of the imagination, but you really shouldn't try and go into an intense training schedule without this basic level of fitness built up.

(Still want to go for a half but aren't quite there yet? Just set your sights on building up your endurance and cardio fitness gradually up to this level through a consistent run/walk program, then sign up for a race 12-16 weeks out once you've reached that milestone.)

2. You have the time in your schedule to devote to running or cross training 3 - 4 times a week, with some sessions near the end lasting a couple hours.

Many people think that to train for a long race (like a half or full marathon), you have to run almost every day. Not true! Many recent studies show that running about 3 times a week (and maybe cross training for another day or two, if you can) is actually the best way to go because it will significantly reduce your risk of injury. While I was in training for my previous races, I pretty much stuck to a 3X/week schedule, and I was able to run both races without stopping (and shatter some of my own time expectations, to boot).

In addition to just carving out time three times a week for running, you also need to realize that near the end of your training, some of those practice runs are going to last up to 2 or even 2.5 hours (depending on your speed and the length of your longest run before the half marathon). My schedule usually consisted of doing a short to mid-length (2 - 6 mile) run on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with my longest run being on Saturdays (anywhere from 5 - 12 miles, depending on which week of training you're on).

Even though the amount of time might initially scare some people, realize that if something is important to you, you can and will make the time to do it, even if it means getting up earlier in the morning or readjusting your schedule after work or other home responsibilities.

3. You are mentally prepared to challenge yourself and any preconceptions you might have about running or about yourself as a runner.

Many people hyper-focus on just the physical element of training for a longer-distance race, but as any distance runner will tell you, running is almost as much mental as it is physical, so you need to make sure you're in the right headspace for the training.

If this is your first longer race, it can be tempting to just knock yourself out of the arena mentally before you've even taken your first step. But think of it this way--even the most elite runners had to decide one day to do it once for the first time, and once you are able to mentally visualize yourself training for and completing a challenging race, you will find that the actual physical training will come.

4. You have excuse-proofed your training schedule.

The fact is, life will get in the way of your training sometimes -- you (or your child) will get sick, you have a looming deadline that requires extra hours to be put in, you go on vacation, you're just tired and exhausted and want to watch Netflix and eat get the idea. As much as possible, you need to prepare for such moments and make sure that you don't let your training get sidelined for too long.

In my marathon training, there were a couple weeks over the 4-month training span that I was only able to run once or twice in one week (and as long as you're fitting in all your long runs each week, you can often afford a slip-up every now and then.) However, make sure you're not letting excuses get in the way of actually doing the necessary work in order to be successful -- recruit a running buddy, force yourself to be accountable through social media, sign up for the same race a friend is doing, lay out your workout clothes the night before, schedule time to run during vacation, go to a local rec center to use the treadmill when the weather's bad, create an awesome running playlist -- basically, do whatever it takes to make sure that when push comes to shove and you really, REALLY don't want to run (or try to convince yourself that you "can't"), you can basically ensure that you do it anyway.

5. You have something or someone to keep you accountable.

I mentioned this in #4, but it bears repeating--pretty much the majority of the human race is more likely to succeed when held accountable by something external, so look for ways to hold yourself accountable. For my full marathon, I blogged about my training every week. For my half, I logged all my miles in a running diary and weekly reported what my plan was to my husband. The fact is, if you just let the half hover you as something you'd like to do "someday," but you're never held accountable to it, you probably won't ever just take the leap and try.

6. You have the $50-100 to drop on the race entry fee.

Often, just dropping the money alone might be enough of a motivator to keep you accountable and keep you motivated to complete your training (it works for me, anyway). If money's really tight but you really want to try a race, look for creative means of getting the cash--ask people to sponsor you (perhaps for a cause you believe in), sell some old stuff through eBay or through a local classified list, eat only beans and rice for two weeks and use the cash you saved from not buying any other get the idea.

Here's a free tip, though---the sooner you sign up for a race, the cheaper it usually is. So rather than wait until the "last minute" to sign up (for whatever reason), just do yourself a favor and sign up for it early so that you save the cash and actually stick with your goal because you've already dropped the money.

7. You are ready to wholeheartedly embrace Yoda's mantra of "Do or do not--there is no try." 

After having gone through an unmedicated childbirth, I find myself often comparing the experience of labor and delivery to running, and they have a surprising number of things in common. One thing my sister told me when I was trying to decide to go the natural route or not was that if I didn't firmly set it in my mind that I was pretty much going to go natural no matter what (unless a life-threatening complication came up), I wouldn't do it.

There is so much wisdom in that.

If we leave an escape route for ourselves when things get hard (because they WILL get hard), we will almost always take the escape route. So when you decide you're ready to take the plunge and sign up for your race, know that you're in it no matter what. Making that commitment to something so challenging but then actually following through on it is SO empowering, and it's one of the best ways I know of to really see what you're made of.

Met most of these factors? So, what are you waiting for? Sign up already! Let THIS be the year you take on the half. 
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