Friday, September 30, 2016

This is What Turning 30 Looks Like, Torrie Edition

This is not going to be a post about all the things I've done in my life that I'm the most proud of (that post was last year, on my Golden Birthday).

This is not going to be a post bemoaning the fact that my twenties are now a thing of the past, an age never to be reclaimed again (at least, I'm hoping that's not what it will be a post about).

This is also not going to be a post about how 30 is the new 20, or a post on how to endlessly try and come to terms with the fact that I'm mortal, and thus, susceptible to aging.

This is a post about choices.

When I was a teenager, I was asked the typical questions in church and in school of "where I saw myself in 1, 5, and 10 years."

And I thought about it. Brainstormed. Responded in kind.

But no one really ever asked me about BEYOND that--

Maybe because they figured that as long as I didn't make too much of a mess of my 20's--that decade of self-discovery and massive personal growth--I would probably turn out okay.

I actually think there's some great truth in that.

That's not to say that now, as a fresh, new 30-year-old, I have it all figured out

Cuz no. Just no.

But I think I have the general DIRECTION figured out, the right order of priorities.

I've talked about it before, but when I was younger, especially in my early twenties, I THOUGHT I had my priorities all figured out. While I would have claimed that the people in my life and my faith were most important, I didn't treat them as such---in fact, my real order of priority seemed to be school, work, church/faith, people.

In other words, all of my outer responsibilities basically always took priority, and only after I fit in everything that I felt I "had" to do was there time left over for people and spiritual growth and fun and memories.

I'm not sorry for that time in my life. I do think that there are certain seasons where we HAVE to devote more time and energy to things that are not where we really want to be devoting so much time and energy (ask any student or medical resident). But I'm also thankful that I was given trials that forced me to see quickly that my real order of priorities was NOT currently the best order, nor the one that would bring me the most happiness.

I'm glad that I'm in a season now where my life choices have made it possible for me to be in the best place I can be in order to actually carry out my real priorities. Those life choices have included a very conscious effort to simplify where possible, to cut out the unnecessary, to pursue the highest goals (only), and to make time to enjoy the now.

I've often read people's answers to the question, "What would you tell your 20-year-old self?" I actually toyed with the idea of doing just such a post for this Turning-30 edition.

But the truth was, I needed to make all the mistakes I did and have all the experiences I had and meet all the people I met in order to be right where I'm at today.

And I'm not sorry for any of it.

Hindsight is 20/20, as the saying goes, so it's all too easy to spout out the wisdom of your age to those who are younger and less experienced than you are.

But as a 20-year-old, I heard all sorts of advice and wisdom and "start this now"s, but I didn't always really listen (except for when it came to taking advantage of saving for retirement as early as possible, which I am SO GLAD I did).

So here I am now, at 30, and feeling pretty good about the direction my life is going. I'm truly happy exactly where I am, and I credit that happiness to these things:

1 - My parents. They taught me moral principles, demonstrated the value of hard work and sacrifice, and always showed me love and support. I could never thank them enough for their examples and teaching!

2 - My faith. I have stayed active in my faith (in the LDS church) throughout my life, and it has saved me from a lot of needless suffering and pain since it is built on the teachings of Jesus Christ. I made a vow to myself a long time ago that I would always keep the commandments and stay active in the church, and it has proved to be probably the most important decision for my happiness that I could ever make.

3 - My marriage to Matt. I heard countless times growing up that the person you choose to marry is one of the most important choices you'll ever make, and I can definitely see the absolute truth in that wisdom. So much of my day-to-day life now hinged on that one crucial decision to make Matt mine forever, and I have never had cause to regret it. He is my whole world, and he makes every day a gift.

4 - My decision to make the leap into parenthood. This was a hard one for me, but I knew the value of motherhood and knew it would further help me to become the best version of myself. Since having Raven, my heart has seemingly quadrupled in its ability to feel love and joy (as well as absolute anxiety, if we're being honest!), and I know that THIS is the way to become the version of myself I've always wanted to be.

I don't know what the next 10 years will bring. I tried, in fact, to sit down yesterday and draw up some goals I had for myself over the next decade, but there were very few that came up.

The fact is, I know that as long as I'm staying firm to those four things mentioned above--my family, faith, marriage, and child(ren)--I'm going to be living a life that I can be proud of, forever.

Here's to my thirties!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ideal Mom Goal: Let Her Do It

A couple weeks ago, I talked about one of my "ideal mom goals" (which was to try and take Raven outside every single day).

I'm here today to share another one:

My philosophy of letting her do something if she's capable of doing it.

At first, as a brand-new mom, I was obsessed with reading the book What to Expect the First Year. I'd dutifully read almost the entire book of What to Expect While You're Expecting, and I was thrilled when I discovered that the publishers had a similar guide to what to expect for your child's first year of life. Every month, I would eagerly read up on the milestones my child might be experiencing, and I would discover certain things she "should" be doing by a certain age (like clapping or waving) that we hadn't even really tried to teach her yet.

Eventually, though, I got a bit frustrated by the whole thing. I was ecstatic that Raven seemed to be hitting many of the big milestones early (Hooray! She's the smartest kid ever!), but when she wasn't as quick on a few of the milestones, I would be anxious and worried. What were we doing wrong?! HOW COME SHE WASN'T CLAPPING?! (Of course, anyone who's around her now will laugh at that since she basically claps for herself after everything she does and expects you to do the same.)

So around the 10- or 11-month mark, I stopped reading. I stopped checking for milestones.

Instead, I just started getting more curious--

What if I tried to let her [fill in the blank]? What would happen?

I started with small things--teaching her how to bang toys against hard objects like the chair leg to make noise or turning the pages herself when we read books together. Gradually, I started becoming more adept at noticing when she was trying to "copy" something I was doing and take a minute to guide her hands and explain the process. Now, I often will just let her try and do something, even if it seems like it would be way beyond her grasp.

And you know what?

She is constantly surprising me.

And I realized that I didn't really want her to be confined to the limits spelled out in the milestone section of the books, anyway---why not just let her do it, dangit, and see if she could?

I remember reading a blog post a few months ago about a family who believed strongly in the value of hard work, so they gave their children chores starting at the age of three. I remember thinking at the time, "What kind of chores could a 3-year-old even do?"

That was before I started implementing this philosophy of "Let her do it," and now, I can definitely see that a three-year-old would TOTALLY be able to help on a ton of things (with supervision) because my almost-18-month-old "helps" me on just about anything I'll let her do.

Sure, there are few things that she can do absolutely by herself, but she is a quick learner, and "helping Mom" is her absolute favorite thing in the world.

So, for reference, here is a list of things she helps me to do:

- close doors and drawers that are open for even a second (we basically have to run in the house after her, or she'll shut the door on us)
- take the mail out of the mailbox
- "mix" things together, like the muffins we're making in these pictures, or whisking eggs for scrambling (obviously I still need to do some of the mixing to get it to the right consistency, but she's getting the hang of it more and more every day)
- push the buttons on the microwave to heat up her food (I show her where to push)
- peel carrots and other bigger vegetables (I hold the vegetable and lightly put my hand on hers and tell her to "push" forward to peel it)
- turn the water in the sink on and off
- twist the knob on the washer (with guidance) and pull it out to start (ditto for the dryer)
- take out all the silverware from the dishwasher and hand it to me to be put away (I've even finally trained her to give me multiple pieces at once instead of just one at a time)
- hand me the dirty laundry to put in the top of the washer
- take out the clean laundry from the dryer and put it in the laundry basket (she basically does this solo)
- hand me her bowl and spoon and any dropped food on her high chair tray when she is done eating
- wipe off her tray and hands when she's finished eating (I have to definitely go over both of those afterwards, but she's getting better)
- comb her hair (ish)
- pour measured ingredients into a bowl (with guidance)
- put her toys and books back in their bins
- dust things

I'm sure there's more, but my point is, I now don't automatically assume she's too little to do something---lately, unless the action has a potential danger, I just let her try it out and see what happens.

Like I said before, she is constantly amazing me by what she is capable of doing.

Sure, the tasks take longer when she's helping. But I remind myself that this is what motherhood is really all about---taking the time to teach her those things that she needs to know.

And now I know that it's never too early to start.

(Oh, and a picture of the final product---I know you were just dying to see how they turned out.)


Monday, September 26, 2016

This is What Turning 30 Looks Like, Matt Edition

There are a lot of fun things about having a birthday within a week of your spouse's--

The party seems to last for about a week and a half straight, you get to hit all the same milestones close together (but still say that he's five days older), and it makes it REALLY easy for him to always remember when your birthday is.

This time around, it's kind of felt like I'm "trying on" what it feels like to be in our thirties before actually being in my thirties myself.

Matt turned the big 3-0 last Saturday, and coincidentally, we'd just met with a life insurance agent the day before to lock in at the lowest rate possible for the next 20 or 30 years. While we were enjoying an overnight getaway and watching Zombie House Flipping on the flat screen t.v. in our hotel (after having gone to see the circus the night before), the insurance underwriter called to ask us some questions about ourselves and our medical history, and it was the first time Matt got to say that he was now 30 years old.

It felt surreal to hear him say it out loud.

A big number like 30 gets you thinking---

What have I accomplished so far?
Am I headed in the right direction?
Is this what this age is "supposed" to feel like?

Because I'm such a math person, I tend to think a lot in numbers, so that's what I started doing in my  head as I reflected on what I know about Matt's life.

He's been a husband for five years, is the father of one, and has held eight jobs (I think).

He spent two years in Canada serving a mission, speaks two languages (English and French) now as a result, and can understand a fairly impressive amount of Spanish.

He's graduated from college and has run a marathon.

He competitively wrestled for years in junior high and high school, winning multiple championships and getting his body fat down to probably around 4%.

He's gone on a cruise to Alaska and volunteered for several months with a local animal shelter.

He reads anywhere from 20-30 books a year and has probably read almost as many books as I have in his lifetime (which is saying something).

He can pop out around 100 push-ups without trying too hard and who knows how many crunches. He can beat me in tennis most any day (and in racquetball always).

He has served in a bishopric, in a young men's presidency, as a Primary teacher, and currently as a counselor in the high priest group leadership.

He comes up with a new business scheme about every two months and is always working on some personal project or other, like his novel (in which he's written almost 200 pages), or his woodworking skills.

He can make a mean open-faced taco and a way better plate of nachos than I can, and he has watched through the 6-hour BBC Pride and Prejudice with me probably more than 30 times.

He has gone rock climbing, zip lining, snowmobiling, jet skiing, and rappelling, and has gone snow skiing once (which is one more time than I have).

But looking over all those things, they are all inadequate to describe what this man has accomplished by 30. They are inadequate to convey his depth of feeling, his level of sensitivity and service to meet the needs of others, his big heart and his ready smile.

Because the fact is, you can't truly measure a life by numbers---not by numbers of years lived or amount of money earned per year or number of degrees awarded. You can't measure a life by pounds lost or gained or by number of books read or not read or the cumulative numbers of exotic places that someone has lived or seen.

All of these things are part of our story, yes, but they are not all that measures a life.

When we were first married, I gave Matt something special for our first Christmas together as a married couple---I bought a beautiful little red leather journal with a heart on the front, and I wrote a letter to him every day leading up to Christmas (starting sometime in October). I wrote about what we were up to and how much I loved him, and I pasted in pictures and ticket stubs of things we'd done or seen as I went.

When Christmas came that year, the journal wasn't completely filled up, which ended up being perhaps the luckiest stroke of brilliance ever, for it has allowed me a special place to write a letter when momentous occasions come up (or whenever the mood strikes) ever since.

And so I wrote in Matt's little red book on Saturday, detailing 30 reasons why I loved him and summarizing what our life looked like now, at 30 and almost-30.

And while writing all that, I realized something pretty momentous in all of my reflection---

As I reflected on where I myself was on the cusp of turning 30, I realized that I had achieved pretty much all my "big picture" goals that I'd wanted to by this point---but then I also realized that many of my dreams had come at a cost, which was often paid by Matt.


I'd always wanted to get married around 25. Matt wanted to marry me when we were 21. Since I wasn't ready at 21, he waited--and waited and waited and waited--for me to finally wise up to the fact that we had the most special kind of love and friendship there was, and that I wouldn't find it anywhere else.

We got married four months shy of being 25.

There are many examples of this, but I'll stop at the one. My point is, Matt has sacrificed many of his own dreams and goals in order to help me meet mine, or has waited patiently until I was ready to want the same things he did.

I could never convey the depth of my own love and gratitude for this man, not now, not if I spent every day trying in the next 30 years to come. That love, like Matt himself, is immeasurable by any numerical means I can think of.

Matt, you are my world, and I am so proud of the man that you are.

Thank you for being my everything.

 Happy 30th birthday to the best man I know!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Why I'm (Mostly) Okay with Having a Small(er) Income

Lately, Matt and I have enjoyed having a series of "What If" conversations, the most frequent of which has been, "What if we got gifted 20 million dollars? What would we do?"

While it's proved to be an interesting character study into the values of both of us (and provided many an enjoyable conversation while on long car rides), it always eventually circles back to me saying something to the effect of:

"You know what? Although it would be nice in a lot of ways to not have to budget every penny, I'm really happy exactly where we're at. The great thing about living like we are now is that we're able to appreciate the value of everything so much more."

Now, that's not to say that people who are well off can't appreciate the value of things, especially the small and simple things---

All I'm saying is that when you have to be pretty careful with every dollar, you really appreciate the treats you're able to give yourself when they do come up.

A few months ago, I hit upon an interesting weight loss strategy---I discovered that when I bought the huge bags of Hershey Kisses from Sam's Club, I actually ate much less sugar and fewer calories overall than when I didn't. (My reasoning? I know I'm a chocaholic, and I know that when I hit a certain point, I'll want to reach for sugar. So rather than try and deny myself of it entirely--which usually leads to me binging a bunch of other snacky stuff to try and satisfy the craving in another way--or looking for whatever sugar we have around--which leads to me inevitably baking something--I could just have a Hershey kiss or two and be done with it. This strategy wouldn't work for everyone, as some people might be tempted to inhale an insane amount of kisses in one sitting, but I find that I'm often perfectly satisfied after one or two and then can move on with my day.)

Anywho, when we were still getting two incomes, I would simply go pick up one of these nearly $15 bags whenever we were close to running out without even thinking about it. But the thing is, when we went down to one income and had to really rein in the spending (especially on groceries and eating out), it was one of the first things to be cut. (And--side bar--sure enough, I started doing exactly the two things I mentioned above to try and satisfy the urge.)

With our birthdays coming up, we've been getting some birthday money from our folks. I spent some of mine on some things I'd wanted for awhile, and I had about $15 left. Even though it seemed kind of weird, I chose to spend it on my bag of kisses.

And you know what?

I felt so HAPPY about it--it was such a small, silly thing, but it's made me happy all week just having that bag of kisses cozily sitting on the shelf where it did for all those months before, and already, my eating has gone way down, and my appreciation for the little pleasures in life has been renewed.

The point is, sometimes I can get hung up on all the things I have to sacrifice by me not getting a paycheck anymore---bags of Hershey kisses, pizza runs when I don't feel like making dinner, fun day adventures to places that have a high admissions cost, the peace of mind that comes from being able to put several hundred dollars every month into savings...

And, if I let it, the feeling of longing and sense of sacrifice only grows, as I think about how nice it would be to have a house of our own so that Raven would have a yard to play in, or how great it would be to be able to take that trip to the hot air balloon festival in New Mexico we'd wanted to go to this year.

But when we really start having these discussions about what we would do with so much money (if we ever got it), I think about our life now, and how sweet it is---

Because we don't have a yard of our own, I take Raven to multiple different parks every week, giving us a built-in excuse to explore the city and get out and see new things (not to mention get some exercise by walking to all those parks).

Because we hardly eat out anymore, I have learned to be even more creative and efficient in my cooking, and because our grocery budget is limited, I have learned to not waste nearly as much food as before.

Because things like ice cream and Hershey kisses and new clothes are not usually in the budget, it truly does feel like a treat when we get them.

Because we don't have the budget for too many crazy family excursions, we plan simple, cheap (or free) outings more frequently, which have been just as gratifying as one big trip, if not more so because they're more frequent.

The truth is (and always has been) that although more money would be nice in many ways, it wouldn't likely do too much to increase our happiness---that is and always will be largely determined by us, and our appreciation for the way our life is going exactly at this moment.

And right now, I'd say we're pretty content to be just where we are...especially with that unexpected bag of Hershey kisses.

 All pics from our latest family park outing last weekend

Thursday, September 22, 2016

True Story: I've Lost the Motivation to Run

Uh oh...

It's happening:

The dreaded post-race running slump.

If you took a peek into my running log today, you would see (perhaps with your eyebrow arched a little in surprise) that I've only been on 3 runs since my half marathon a month ago.

Logging only one run the week after the half was acceptable--I was beyond sore from having pushed my body so hard, and I was desperately scared of getting an injury if I pushed myself while in such a state.

So I only ran once that week post-race.

Then after that?




It's kind of hard to explain.

First, a post-race slump is not totally unexpected---after spending so many months preparing for and training for a long race (which uses up a decent chunk of your free time), you kind of feel like you've earned a break. Plus you're kind of sick of all the running and counting miles and worrying about pace and fueling and all that kind of stuff.

So I (understandably) am kind of burned out.

Second, I was SO convinced that in my later weeks of training, especially, I would finally start to see the last of the weight slide off. You might remember if you've been a longtime reader that I was only five pounds away from my goal weight at the end of April (which was about a month and a half before I started training in earnest for my half). I was sure that once my mileage got up to those higher numbers, the last pounds would finally come off, just like they had when I trained for the marathon (when I lost six or seven pounds without even eating very well at all) and when I trained for my first half marathon (when I dropped six pounds in the month leading up to it by watching my sugar intake while upping my mileage).

I thought that surely--SURELY!--they would come off that last month of training, especially as I was diligently tracking my calories and had been eating healthier as a whole than I have since, well, maybe ever. Definitely since moving away from home at 18. (Perhaps with the one exception of the three weeks I was on my elimination diet, but I'm not going to count those extreme weeks since they aren't a sustainable lifestyle for me.)

Anyway, I didn't lose the weight. Spoiler: I gained a solid two pounds. (Sure, I'm fairly sure it was muscle because all of my measurements stayed the same or went down an inch or two, but still.)

So, near the end of my training, I had admitted defeat on one count---

Running was not going to help me lose the weight this time around, and it was time for me to look elsewhere for something that would help me reach my goals (because, for some crazy reason, I kept hearing a voice in my head say over and over and over again-- "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results..."). Curse you inspirational memes that actually stick with me.

So it was decided that after the half, I was going to shake things up---I would still keep running (of course), but  I was also going to add a whole lot of strength training into my routine, too. The goal was to keep my cardio fitness stable (by running the usual three times a week and attending my hip hop aerobics class on Tuesdays), but just add in three different strength sessions, too.

I was so prepared to see stunning results that I even took a "before" picture that I planned to post with an "after" a month later. 

Well, you might still see that before and after, but definitely not on that original timeline.

The problem was, I was counting on my usual motivation to run to power me through my usual cardio routines. What I hadn't counted on was how sore my body got from doing the strength training (that it was unused to doing regularly), which directly interfered with my motivation to wake up early and get out and run. Because, you know, it's kind of hard to run when you're half-worried that your legs might snap off like a Barbie's if you try and when your trunk is so sore that it kind of hurts to breathe...

So, no "after" pictures yet. And currently, not much running going on.

The good news is that I've at least seen *some* progress as far as my waist size goes from the new strength training routine---absolutely zero difference on the scale whatsoever, but I've lost almost an inch and a half from my waist. 

So that's something.

Anyway, this is just to say that I need to figure out something more sustainable than what I'd originally planned for this "post-race" period. This is just to say that as much as I love running, I don't actually always love running. 

So, world (and future me reading this), JUST A LITTLE REMINDER THAT I'M HUMAN (and that maybe expecting myself to do four hour-long cardio sessions a week plus three 20-minute strength training sessions too is a little bit much to ask of myself at the moment).

But at least, by the end of this year, if I still haven't reached that ever-illusive goal weight (which I'd set as an honest-to-goodness TOTALLY REASONABLE goal weight, I'll remind you), at least I will know that I sure gave it my darnedest. 

Most of the time, anyway.  

In the meantime, anyone got any inspirational memes to kick my butt back into gear? Because heaven knows that I didn't just spend almost a year and a half to get myself into good running shape only to lose it now... 

Monday, September 19, 2016

This is How I'll Measure You

This is how I'll measure, you I think---

In trips to the orchard, in the fall.

This accidental tradition--started when you were still inside me, when I still had yet to announce to the world the news of your presence, when I still had yet to feel your tiny kicks and your baby hiccups--

This is how I'll measure you.

This year, we set you down on the gravelly path leading to the trees, and you swung your arms and stomped along the path, immediately sure of yourself.

After all, you'd done this before.

You'd done this in utero, your tiny self perhaps napping as we strolled in the sunlight, and you'd done this as a baby just last year, apple juice dribbling down your chin as you tasted this fruit for the first time (since we'd waited until we knew we had the best in front of you).

This time, we handed you a tiny bucket, perfect for small, still-growing hands.

You marched straight into the trees and started filling your bucket with the red and green orbs littering the ground, without needing to be prompted or without watching us do it first.

Your bucket quickly got heavy, but you didn't want us to help you---

After all, you'd been here before and knew how it worked.

We thought you might get frustrated when Daddy started taking some of the precious apples you'd collected and "donated" them to the white bins under the trees. We thought you might be possessive of all these fruits that you'd just carefully put into your bucket, one by one by one.

But you simply ran to the next apple on the ground, picked it up, and then "donated" it to the same place that Daddy just had.

Because you learn fast, and often just after one time of watching.

Yes, this is how I would like to measure you, in trips to the orchard.

I will measure you by the times you cried whenever we tried to herd you into the small shop to pay for our treasure, or whenever you thought it might be time to go, or whenever we tried to pick you up (when all you wanted was to try out your own legs, running them back and forth across the sunlit grass and apple-strewn dirt).

I will measure you by how you laughed as you tried to run away every time you saw our arms stretching out to pick you up, eager to buy yourself just another minute of doing-this-right-now.

Fiercely independent and outside in your element, it is hard for you to understand why on earth we could ever choose be anywhere else.

I can measure you by how easily Daddy can still swing you up in his arms and reach you up high, high, and higher in order to feel the satisfaction that only comes from getting something that you thought was out of your reach.

You often struggled against him--intent on trying to do it by yourself--but eventually, when you realized what he was trying to do, you would stop fighting and instead laugh as you were able to reach up and grab that marbled green Macintosh that was way above your head, plucking it free from the tree with a triumphant squeal.

I can measure your fearlessness as you bite into the unknown, surprised at first by the crackling of the apple flesh breaking across your teeth and the sudden shock of tart juices running down to your collar.

You could hold the apple yourself, but you still let me hold it for you.

I can measure you by your undisguised impatience for adult things (like getting pictures taken), coupled with your intense desire to do everything that we do, like picking up Daddy's bucket which is just *barely* too heavy.

You only stopped trying when we diverted you by putting apples into your own.

I can measure your desire to help and to share by the apples you placed one at a time into my waiting palm, delighted when I called you my favorite little helper.

You tend to share without asking, to give without expectation. It's something I hope I can still measure in you for infinite orchard trips to come.

I can measure you by all these things, Raven, but I can never truly show in measurements the depth of YOU---

Your sweetness, your exuberance, your joy for living.

But when we're lucky enough to be graced with crisp autumn days that are nostalgic yet so breathtakingly NOW, I know that I can measure my bucket only in the fact that I know it's overflowing.

All pictures taken at Paradise Valley Orchard, in Paradise, Utah

For our past two trips to the orchard, check out this post and this post.

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