Physical Therapy

Yesterday Ani started at least a month of physical therapy 2-3 days a week. Her therapist is experienced with people with Ehlers-Danlos (really important to prevent further injury). Her neck issues appear to all be totally related to the EDS.

Physical Therapy

When she moves her neck, her vertebrae don’t work together, but instead twist in opposite directions. This equals pain. Her front neck muscles are much weaker than her back neck muscles. This equals pain. She has craniocervical instability. This equals pain. So much pain. Doctors laughed at her for saying her neck felt too weak to hold up her head. Well, the physical therapist isn’t laughing. Ani was right about that all along!

Physical Therapy

The goal of the physical therapy and (so many) exercises she has to do in between visits is to strengthen her neck and retrain the muscles to keep her vertebrae in alignment and moving properly together. The ultimate goal is to get her back on the mat training at taekwondo. For now, though, after her first two visits, her neck is really hurting. We are hopeful that in a few weeks it’ll be much better (me more than Ani to be honest – she’s pretty much resigned to being in horrible pain for the rest of her life).

Back At It, Also We Had a Good Spring Break

Fritz, upon discovering today is the first day of spring, wondered just why we had spring break last week before spring started. Good question. Of course, living in south Texas the temperature has been quite spring-like since, well, January.

Last week was fun. Cameron went on Trek. This is a thing Mormon kids do to simulated being pioneers. They wore pioneer clothes (plus tennis shoes because we’re not that crazy). Slept outside. Cooked some of their meals on a fire. Were put in groups called families with a Ma and Pa. Pulled handcarts (and in the case of Cameron’s family, also pulled the chariot of their “sister” in a wheelchair). Got sunburned. Walked 26.6 miles over three days. Sang 99 Cartons of Milk on the Wall. Twice. And then sang 499 Cartons of Milk on the Wall. He absolutely loved it.

Back At It, Also We Had a Good Spring Break

Wednesday Ani saw her rheumatologist and got some diagnoses and a treatment plan that is already helping a little bit.

Friday I took the kids to see Beauty and the Beast. We loved it. It was absolutely perfect. We’ll definitely be buying it when it is released on DVD (or, rather, digitally from Amazon because that’s what we do).

Back At It, Also We Had a Good Spring Break

It’s been a year since we started redecorating Ani’s room. We’ve still got a few touch-ups left to do, but now we’re ready to move on to Cameron’s and the boys’ rooms. Saturday we went and got paint chips from Home Depot in pink (Cameron), blue (Cameron and Fritz), and yellow (Adrian) to choose from. Cameron and Fritz separately picked the exact same shade of blue.

Spring Break also included lots of reading (I’ve read 13 books so far in March), youtube videos, video game playing, and Cameron working at spring break camp at taekwondo after he returned from Trek.

Today we went back to school and everything went great. Everyone focused and worked hard and we even got all of our all together work done (rarely does that all get done in one day). Ten more weeks of school and then we’re off for the summer!

My Cleaning Plan

The other day I was talking to my best friend on the phone and mentioned that the room I was in was echoing because I had taken all the furniture out of it. She asked why and I explained that I do that every month so I can sweep and mop under everything. She said I have it way more together than she does. This is not true, however. She’s a single working mom and still somehow manages to feed her kids and get them to school on time and everything. I, however, am slightly neurotic and inherited a love of marking things off lists from my mother and so I have, over time, developed a cleaning plan that works really well for me.

I took the ideas I use from FlyLady, Side-Tracked Home Executives, and some other random cleaning gurus. For a long time I wrote my to do’s out on paper (and even tried the SHE index card system – which did not work for me at all). Now I use some apps on my phone. I use the calendar that came with my iPhone for scheduling, Wunderlist for my to do list, and MealBoard for menu planning, grocery list, and pantry inventory.

I have things I do every day, every week, and recurring on some other schedule. They are all entered into Wunderlist so they show up each day for me automatically. Some things are somewhat silly to be listed as a to do, but, as I said, I really like checking things off my list so I leave them. As things come up (like if a kid is doing a multi-day thing for Scouts), I’ll add it to my to do list temporarily. If I come up with something extra to do (for example, reviewing a book I have finished), I add it as needed. Below are my regularly scheduled chores.

*Pray (I’m great with bedtime prayers, not so much with morning so this reminds me)
*Upstairs Toilet (either wipe it down with a Clorox wipe or use the brush inside the bowl)
*Downstairs Toilet
*Vitamins (I put them out on a shelf so people can pick theirs up and take them any time)
*Read Scriptures (currently reading the Doctrine and Covenants and using a verse by verse book to help with studying)
*Add to Letter (I write to my aunt every Wednesday, but if I write it all at once I forget a lot of things so I add things daily)
*Spot Clean Cage (guinea pigs – pick up their poop)
*Family Scriptures
*Picture of the Day (I’ve taken a picture each day since 2011, plus in 2009)
*P365 Page (add the picture of the day to a digital scrapbook page)
*Finances (yes, I update our finances every day – I actually enjoy it)
*Indexing (I do one batch a day)
*PokeWalk (with Fritz)
*Wash Critter Kitchen (sugar gliders are horribly messy when they eat so we have a plastic container with their food dish in their cage)
*Critter Food 1/2/3 (we always have three mixes of food cubes for the gliders in the freezer and each morning I take one out, put it in a dish, and stick it in the refrigerator so it’s thawed by evening when they get fed)
*Brush Lola (she is such a shedder!)
*Notebook (I check the next day’s meals and schedule and add them to the to do list, noting if I will need to take any meat out to thaw or make bread or whatever in the morning)
*Pinterest (I’m always looking for gluten and dairy free recipes)

*Cut chicken (I have chicken issues so I get all the gross stuff cut off at one time and freeze single breasts in ziploc baggies so they are ready to be used as needed; I cut the chicken on Sundays because I grocery shop Friday and Monday is trash day and if the nasty bits sit in the garage in the Texas heat longer than a day it is really gross)
*Sacrament (because of the Celiac we have to bring crackers for taking the Sacrament at church)
*Write to Steven (he’s a friend of Ani’s serving a mission right now)
*FHE (because of the big kids’ work schedule and Jamie taking taekwondo on Monday evenings, we do Family Home Evening on Sundays)
*Skype Jamie’s Mum

*Sweep Living Room
*Trash (Cam) (taking out the trash is Cameron’s assigned job)
*Cans (once they pick the trash up, we have to bring the cans back in)

*Sweep Kitchen
*Taekwondo (I only add taekwondo to the list when I’ll be going there – otherwise it would be on there almost daily)

*Bathe Lola (Cam) (another of his assigned jobs)
*Refrigerator (clean out the leftovers we didn’t eat)
*Sweep Stairs
*Print Letter to Aunt Betty
*Take Cameron to Work (he works Wednesdays, but Ani doesn’t)

*Catalog Food (I go through our cabinets and make sure my food inventory in MealBoard is correct)
*Menus (I plan a week at a time and grocery shop on Friday morning)
*Trash (Cam)
*Mail Aunt Betty Letter
*Sweep Dining Room

*Guinea Pig Cage (I put the girls in their pen on the floor and wash their bedding and clean the coroplast)
*Plan FHE
*Prepare for Sunday School
*Sweep Craft Room

*Prepare for Relief Society (if Sunday will be from the Gordon B. Hinckley manual or Teachings for Our Times)
*Pills (refill the pill containers to make it easy to put them out each morning)

Every 4 Weeks
*Mop in addition to sweep (when I do that I remove all furniture possible from the room; when I do the counters that week I remove everything as well; when I do the dining room I also wash the table)
*Wash Sheets, Dry Sheets, Make Beds

Every 24 Weeks
*Wash and Dry Mattress Pads (when I do the sheets)

First of the Month
*Cabinets (wash their doors and also the center island)
*Change Welcome Sign (my sister gave me a felt sign years ago and each month has a different little picture to go on it)
*Lego Calendar (I have a perpetual Lego calendar that I happily rearrange every month)
*Clean Dishwasher
*Clean Disposal
*Clean Washing Machine (I get little tablets for cleaning those three things each month)
*Lola’s Heartworm Medicine

If I don’t get around to something that is not a daily recurring chore, I just let it go to the next day. For example, I really hate washing the cabinets every month. It’s probably my least favorite chore (well, other than sweeping and mopping the stairs – I HATE that one). I finally got that one done on the 4th even though it was originally assigned on the 1st. Wunderlist puts overdue tasks at the top of my daily list in red so it annoys me until I do it. I never let things go way too long, mainly because I absolutely love ending a day with the entire “Today” list empty. That’s another thing my best friend recently noted about me. I feel the most productive when I’ve got a clean house and have marked things off my to do list. (But I’ll be honest… some days I don’t do much other than school, walk, and read because sometimes you just need a day off.)

Currently, I have an added recurring daily chore of plan school. As long as I do a little each day I get the next year’s plan done before the end of the current school year.

I check our laundry basket daily to see if laundry needs to be done. Usually that happens twice a week (and I add Wash Clothes, Dry Clothes, Fold Clothes, and Put Away Clothes to the list those days because marking off four things is way more awesome than just one). Towels get washed as needed, usually every week and a half or so. Ani and Cameron do their own laundry.

Dishes get washed a minimum of once a day, generally at night (so they get put away, generally by Fritz and Adrian, in the morning). Often the dishwasher needs to be run twice or even three times during the day and that gets done as needed.

I walk 10,000 steps at a minimum each day. Regular movement around the house is about 3500 steps. The PokeWalk adds a couple thousand. Taekwondo days also add a couple thousand. I have a path I walk around the main floor of our house. It’s an open floor plan so I make a convoluted circle of just over 100 steps over and over. It would be boring to just walk around and around like that so I read while I walk. It is one reason why I read so much. I read while I exercise. I also do a little picking up as I walk. Each time around I grab something in a place that doesn’t belong and as I make the circle I put it where it goes (or on the stairs if it belongs upstairs). That kills two (really three) birds with one stone.

I don’t put school on the to do list, but of course that gets done every morning. We try our best not to run into the afternoon, but on taekwondo days sometimes that is unavoidable.

My kids are big enough that on occasion I assign a random chore to one of them. Fritz is getting really good at sweeping the craft room (it’s the easiest to sweep since it’s small and pretty much empty). I am more likely to assign stuff to them when I’ve been busy doing other stuff and running out of time in the day.

Deeper cleaning projects I do as the urge strikes. Like right now I really want to clean the shelves in the craft room (again), but I haven’t quite gotten around to it. A while back I decided to use a toothbrush to clean the dirt-catching crevices in the cabinet doors. I did one door per day. When I get the urge to do a deep cleaning project, I add it to my daily to do list temporarily. I almost never do any major cleaning on the weekends (unless I feel like it). Weekends are for relaxation and church for me.

It really doesn’t take long to complete all the things I’ve assigned myself. Some of them literally take seconds, but need to be done every day to keep our house running smoothly. I am much more calm and am a much better wife and mother when my house is straight. I hate clutter. Because of that, it is imperative for me to have a “company-ready” house and my cleaning plan helps make that happen.

I’ve found that getting as much done as possible early is best for me. I am a morning person naturally. I have also found that if I do not get on the computer before a good number of my daily to do’s are done things also go better. It’s Newton’s Law about objects in motion staying in motion. As soon as I end up at rest (on the computer) I’m somehow stuck and have trouble getting moving again (the 250 step per hour reminder on my FitBit helps with that, though). Really, if things aren’t done by about 4, they probably aren’t getting done since I’m really tired by then.

The most important thing I have learned through tweaking and adjusting my plan is it will only work if it is customized to me. It’s why I had to take ideas from others, but still make it mine because me and my house are unique. So that is my advice to others who want to make a cleaning plan: Don’t just copy someone else. Make it your own. And, most importantly, make it something that you will do, is realistic for you, and meets your goals or you will not succeed.

A Black Belt is a White Belt Who Never Quit

Saturday Jamie and I retested for our black belts. It’s amazing what a difference not being sick makes.

A Black Belt is a White Belt Who Never Quit

We both broke our boards on the second try again. I was slightly off center for my palm heel the first time. I think Jamie didn’t break the first try on the round kick.

A Black Belt is a White Belt Who Never Quit

After we did our forms I was going over in my head all the mistakes I made. I guess I did better than I thought since I had several people (including our instructor) telling me I did really well.

A Black Belt is a White Belt Who Never Quit

Tomorrow I start learning my new form, Shim Jun. It’s going to be so weird being told to go to the back with the other black belts.

A Black Belt is a White Belt Who Never Quit

It’s still a bit surreal after more than three years of hard work to have made it this far and tied on that belt. It is also totally and incredibly awesome.

A Black Belt is a White Belt Who Never Quit

Welcome to 2017!

We’ve made it to yet another year. This year Ani will turn 17(!) in February, Cameron 16 in October, Fritz 11 in July, and Adrian will be 9 in June. I will be 39 in April, Jamie will turn 42 in November, and we will celebrate 19 years of marriage in June.

In the fall, Cameron will start 10th grade, Fritz will begin 6th (middle school!), and Adrian will be in 4th grade. Ani will graduate in June. Hopefully, she’ll be healthy enough by the fall to take at least some on-line college classes.

Cameron will test for his second degree black belt in June and with any luck (and some better health) Ani will test for hers in December.

Ani will be seeing an endocrinologist the end of this month. We’re really hoping for some good, solid answers, a diagnosis, and a plan for treating whatever the heck is wrong with her.

Jamie and I are planning a trip to visit his mom in Ireland at some point this year. It’s been almost four years since we’ve seen her in person. If all goes well, my parents will finally sell their house and move in with us… in 6 months to a year (it’s always 6 months to a year).

During Family Home Evening last night, we all set some goals for the new year.
Jamie: Grow food we regularly eat rather than what he things sounds cool
Me: Tell the kids what chores I want them to do rather than expect them to notice things that need to get done and get annoyed when they don’t notice or do it
Ani: Get diagnosed with what is wrong with her
Cameron: Do more stop motion animation
Fritz: Play with the sugar gliders more often
Adrian: Start a YouTube channel
Maddie, an almost 17-year-old who collects mothers because hers passed away and spends a lot of time at our house: Get a job
Whole Family (Maddie came up with this one): Go on a family date every other month

Between the things we know are going to happen and the goals we’ve set, it’s going to be a great year!

Black Belts

Six months ago Fritz had planned on testing for his first degree black belt, but then he got croup the week of testing and wasn’t quite ready so he decided to wait 6 months and test with Jamie and me. And then we all got sick last week, but this time it was just head colds so we were still able to test. I woke up Saturday dizzy which made testing a bit more interesting.

Fritz has always had a bit of a rough time with taekwondo. It doesn’t come easily to him at all. The Chief of Instruction here even suggested he wait yet another six months to test. Instead, he practiced a lot, went to extra classes, and took a few private lessons. All that hard work paid off in a big way. He was so incredibly excited when he got his new, personalized belt.

Jamie and I both have to retest in February before we can wear our belts to class (about half of everyone who tested Saturday need to retest). The only thing that really annoys me about that is it means I have to go to 6 more weeks of classes when I really would rather have a break!

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Week 1

This year during December we are doing daily Random Acts of Kindness leading up to Christmas. We got the idea from Coffee Cups and Crayons. We switched around and changed some of the ideas to fit our schedule a bit better. The first week (and a half) we did some fun stuff.

On the 1st (Thursday), we dropped pennies heads up on the sidewalk in front of taekwondo, church, and the elementary school where the boys went (I noticed the pennies in front of taekwondo were gone by Saturday and the pennies at church were gone by Sunday afternoon).

On the 2nd (Friday), we picked up trash on a small stretch of sidewalk next to our neighborhood. We picked up dozens of cigarette butts, cups, straws, and even a bath mat! We did not do a very long stretch of road and yet we had quite a lot of trash in our 13 gallon trash bag. Fritz said he hopes we would inspire 100 other people to pick up trash around where they live. It wouldn’t take much time and would make our world a much nicer place.

On the 3rd (Saturday), we handed out stickers to children out shopping with their parents. We had 24 sheets of stickers in 4 different designs. The looks of amazement turning to joy on the children’s faces as we gave them out was so awesome. One thing is for sure. Kids love stickers!

On the 4th (Sunday), we each did a secret act of kindness. I can’t say what those little random acts of kindness were (because they are secret, of course!), but it was fun finding something to do.

On the 5th (Monday), we left two bottles of bubbles in front of our next door neighbor’s door. We even managed to leave them there without them noticing.

On the 6th (Tuesday), we gave our taekwondo instructor a six-pack of his favorite soda, Mountain Dew. It really is fun to just randomly give people things.

On the 7th (Wednesday), we gave cookies to our other next door neighbor. We had intended to make them, but we were out of our flour blend and didn’t have enough white rice flour to make more. So Jamie picked up the best cookies ever (the only ones I miss) on his way home: Chips Ahoy Chew Chocolate Chip. Our neighbor was so surprised and excited when we rang their bell and gave them the cookies. Our neighborhood is mostly one of those where you just wave and nod at your neighbors. We don’t really know any of them so that somehow made it even nicer to do this.

On the 8th (Thursday), we made hug coupons. This was an extra hard one for Cameron. He does not like to be hugged. He really never has. Adrian made one for Ani and she turned it in for her hug right away, but then asked if she could keep the coupon since his 8-year-old boy handwriting is so adorable.

On the 9th (Friday), we left bags of microwave popcorn on the Red Box machines outside our local Walgreens. Hopefully someone’s movie night got just a little bit more fun.

On the 10th (Saturday), we went to Chick-Fil-A and paid for the meal of the car behind us. It was a family with a couple little ones. We told the guy running the drive-thru to wish them a Merry Christmas.