Living and Active Challenge

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Last year I participated in the Living and Active Challenge hosted by Clare at Peak313 and this year’s challenge starts next Monday! I’m really excited to start this, even though I know it’s going to be hard, because I really want/need to start exercising regularly. Plus this will help me beat Chris and Josh in our most-ripped-by-Christmas bet.

There are several components to this 5 week challenge. First is to exercise 4 times a week for a minimum of 25 minutes. Clare will provide workout options or you can do your own thing. Second is the spiritual element of memorizing a Bible verse every week. Clare got the idea of “living and active” from Hebrews 4:12. Her passion is for everyone to be living and active in their faith and in their health. Third is an accountability component. Every week you check in on her website. She encourages people to find someone to do the challenge with so they can keep each other accountable. While this would be helpful for me, last year I ran off internal motivation to concur. I see it as a competition against my laziness and I want to win! For those who complete each week and do the weekly check ins, there are prizes available to win at the end. While this is a nice perk, I know I won’t win, so that’s not a motivating factor for me, just a bonus if it were to happen. She also encourages you to take before and after pictures to document your progress. I like taking measurements and weighing myself too. I did all of that at the beginning of this month for our Christmas bet and since I haven’t done much since then, I’m going to use those pictures and measurements for this too. I while check them again at the end of the 5 weeks.

Fitness is something I really enjoy, but when I get out of the habit I dread it because I know how much work it requires to get back to where I want to be. I’m hoping this challenge will be the kick start I need to establish better workout habits. I know that when I workout consistently I feel better. Not only am I more confident in how I look, but I have so much more energy and I sleep better too.

So if you are looking for something to do, whether you workout consistently or not, this is a great challenge to try!

SnapShop and Up North

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts (here and here), I recently finished an online photography course by Ashley Ann Campbell. I started following her blog over a year ago and that is how I discovered the course. She offers courses for DSLRs and iPhones. I also think Ashley Ann is amazing! I love her blog and when I grow up I want to be like her. Haha, well I actually want to be myself, but there are so many qualities that she has that I hope rub off on me just by reading her blog, especially once I start having kids.

Chris and I got a DSLR about a year before we got married (meaning we both wanted one, but it was silly for both of us to get one assuming we would eventually get married, so he got it for Christmas and I used it). When we first got the camera I made an effort to learn how to use it and I researched the different elements of shooting in manual. While I learned a lot in my research (and practice), I didn’t really understand how everything worked together or the short-cuts of my camera. So I usually shot in aperture mode because I liked controlling the bokeh (background blur) or I just stopped taking pictures. There were times our camera would go months just sitting in its bag in the closet. And sometimes I think I avoided taking pictures because I also dreaded the process of putting them on my computer. I know it doesn’t take that long, especially because my photo editing software can edit multiple pictures at once, but from some reason it always sounded daunting.

I signed up for Ashley Ann’s class because I wanted to really learn the basics of my camera. I also hoped I would take more pictures if I knew how to use it better. Ashley’s course was split into three sections: rules/composition of taking a good picture, how to shoot in manual, and extra aspects of photography. While some of the information I knew, I learned so many more new things. Ashley Ann has this amazing way of explaining the hard things in simple terms. While I still have a lot of practicing to do, I feel like I can shoot in manual and not get terrible pictures. Plus, I like the control I have over how the picture turns out.

One down side of the class (or me) is that I didn’t have a lot of people to photograph and it’s hard to practice in our apartment because we don’t get a lot of natural light. But when we went to Michigan to visit my parents I got to practice a lot. So I thought I would share pictures from my trip along with what we did.

We went to my parents for a long Labor Day weekend. This is our third year visiting over Labor Day, so it seems to be a tradition now. We spend the first day and a half at their house where we caught up with friends, saw my grandma, went shopping, and got my hair cut. Then we headed up to our family cabin on Lake Huron. Our first day there we went into Mackinaw for our annual mini-golf tournament and did a little shopping (we got an ornament for our Christmas tree) and got fudge/ice cream/caramel apples at Kilwins. I only took iPhone pictures because it was rainy out.

CWL - Mackinaw

On our way home it started pouring! In 2-3 hours we got 3.8 inches of rain. I think that is more than Fresno has gotten all year. It was so intense that it flooded the creek behind our house and rose above the bridge. Here are some regular versus flooded picture… Crazy!

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When the rain stopped we went down to the beach where the creek drains into the lake. Chris was loving life digging out the creek to make it wider and flow better, Olivia was making creations and running all over the beach, and Greg was riding the tube down the creek.

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The next day we went to Ocqueoc Falls. Growing up we went here a lot. Over the years they have invested more money into it, making it more of a park, so a lot more people go now. I felt bad for Chris because he wanted to swim in the falls so bad, but we decided it was a bad idea incase he slipped and fell.

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The rest of the weekend was filled with hangout time on the beach, riding the Seadoo, watching The Office, awesome sunsets, shooting BB guns, and playing Settlers of Catan. We have been dying to buy this game since we became obsessed with it a month ago. My mom bought it for us at the mall right before we went up to the cabin and we got my family hooked on it! We even got my dad to stay up until midnight playing, which is a miracle. They liked it so much that my dad asked “so whose game is this?” and my mom asked if they could keep it and buy us a new one. Proud moment.

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This shot it me impressing Chris with my accurate shooting skills. There are three dents below the USA logo from three shots I took in a row. The first two didn’t break the can, but the third did.

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Overall it was an amazing weekend and an amazing online course. I look forward to practicing with my camera more. I know I need to be diligent about planning practice opportunities, which really means I need to get over myself and ask people if I can photograph their kids. That for me takes personal growth as well as photography growth. I’m also daydreaming about new camera equipment, but I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not there yet. But hopefully soon because I already have my eye on some expensive stuff.

Lessons from Brokenness

Well this is two weeks later than promised, but I still wanted to share what Chris and I learned from his elbow breaking experience.

Overall, this was a great experience for us. Obviously we wish this wouldn’t have happened, especially now that our medical bills are rolling in, but there are so many things we are thankful for. I think we are most appreciative of the extra time we got to spend together. There were several moments where we had nothing to do but wait together, so we filled those times with talking, laughing, studying, etc. When things are so busy, it can be nice to have a forced step back to focus on what is really important with the most important person. We had so many great conversations that we might not have had if we weren’t sitting in a waiting room for 5 hours or chilling at home after surgery.

Our best conversation happened the night before surgery. We decided to go out to each to celebrate Chris’s last night of having an extra bone. Plus, Chris had to stop eating and drinking by midnight, but his surgery wasn’t until 1:30pm, so we wanted his last meal to be a good one.

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During dinner we started talking about lessons that we had learned from our experience (which at that point was only three days). We learned several lessons about ourselves and about each other. I think the biggest lesson I took away was a taste of motherhood. I’ve always heard how selfless you have to be as a parent, and while I have not fully experienced that, I got glimpses of it. When we got home from the emergency room there were so many things to get done (dinner, prescriptions, etc). I was stressing out and very hungry… not a good combo for me. Sunday I was not only trying to figure out our doctor’s appointments, but realizing that I would be missing some work that week and I had a lot of work to get done, so I went in for a few hours while Chris’s family was visiting. I think Monday was the day I really felt it (right before dinner). We went to the doctor’s that morning, but realized Chris wouldn’t be having surgery until the next day. Seeing that is was still the morning, I decided to go into work for several hours. When I got home, exhausted, Chris asked me to help him with is homework. Did I really want to help? No. But I made that sacrifice to love and serve Chris. And that day I got a glimpse of being a mom. Having to work, run around doing a million things, helping with homework, and not have a lot of “me” time. I saw a glimpse of the sacrifice and while I know it will be very hard, I know I look forward to that some day.

In the same respects, I think Chris was affirmed that I will be a good mom (not that he thought I would be a bad mom). I can see why this experience encouraged him. Normally I am very task-oriented, I can get irritated easily, and I am an introvert/homebody, so I like my down time at home. While I can also be compassionate and nurturing, I’m not always in situations where I express those attributes, and honestly, when I have the opportunity to show those towards Chris, I don’t always do that. So I think he was pleasantly surprised to see my mothering nature come out and I’m glad he was encouraged by it.

At the beginning I was surprised how cautious Chris was being. I thought he would push himself more to get better faster, but he has been doing really good about listening to the doctor’s orders. Though now that he is feeling better he is starting to push it a bit. Like our conversation on Tuesday:

Chris: “I think I will be able to play soccer in three weeks after my appointment with Dr. Lamb.”

Me: “No, you’re not supposed to play sports for another month after that appointment.”

Chris: “Yeah, but those are contact sports or sports where I am pulling or pushing things, like football flags and shooting basketballs.”

Me: “And what if you fall on it or someone else hits you there?”

Chris: “Then I will fall the other way and protect my arm.”

The boy can’t help but want to play. I can’t blame him for having a hard time not being able to do what he loves, especially since it connects him with other people.

Speaking of what the doctor will say, he went in last week and here is his most recent x-ray.

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You can see there is still a part of the bone that has not reattached to the other, but that was only at 5 weeks and bones take 6-8 weeks, so he is still progressing well. After his doctor’s appointment his physical therapist started pushing him harder. Before she was mostly massaging his arm, measuring his extension and flexing angles, and doing stretches. Now she has him lifting some weights and he is feeling the pain. Because is arm is feeling better and he is wanting to push himself more, I think he is feeling discouraged that it hurts to do certain exercises and that his fluidity of motion is not as good in his right arm as it is in his left. But something we have to keep reminding ourselves is that this is a long process and especially now, patience is key. Another lesson we are continuing to learn.

Get ‘Er Done {August Review & September Goals}

I can’t believe it’s already September. While fall is my favorite season and September is my favorite month, I honestly have been dreading its arrival and I think it’s because August was the best month I’ve had in a long time. I felt satisfied, content, rested, and rich in friendship for the first time since we’ve moved (which was officially a year ago last Wednesday… crazy!). I loved working 4 days weeks, spending evenings with friends, becoming obsessed with Settlers of Catan, getting Chris hooked on a new tv show (Suits), feeling somewhat productive, visiting family, and enjoying my last month of summer. I think a lot of this had to do with the growth I started last month and as it continues it keeps getting better. But now fall is here and I need to change my mindset to a busier lifestyle that I don’t love, but will adjust to (hopefully quickly). Now I need to figure out how to transfer what I learned and how I’ve changed this summer over to my fall life. But first I want to reflect on my August goals:

1. Learn some photography skills. I just finished an online DSLR photography course from one of my favorite bloggers, Ashley Ann Campbell. You can learn more about her photography courses here. I’m sad it’s over because there is so much more I wanted to learn from her. While I did some research when we first got our camera on how it worked and I learned the basics about ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, I didn’t find much material on how to put the three together and Ashley made it seem so simple. A hard aspect of the class for me was I didn’t feel like I had much to photograph (no little chilens running around like several other classmates), but our trip to visit my parents was a perfect opportunity to practice. More pictures from that later :) We also had a Flickr group to post our pictures, so it was great to get feedback from Ashley and other students in the class.

2. House projects. Now that we have officially lived in our apartment for a year, my goal was to make it a bit more homey, but that didn’t happen. I hung one thing up. It’s a hanging rack from my scarves and belts. You can’t even tell I hung something up because it’s behind our bedroom door. And I did exactly what I didn’t want to do and the reason I haven’t hung things up for a year… I put extra holes in the wall. Lucky the rack covers it. Lesson learned: always pull out the drill instead of using the hand-held screwdriver (unless the drill is not an option). And while we didn’t get curtains, we did make progress by picking out the rods we wanted and deciding on a fabric color for the living room (we decided to hold off on the bedroom until more furniture decisions are made). So some small progress.

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Here are some other things that made my August feel productive and fun:

  • Finish magazine project from June/July.
  • Finally blogged about California, Mexico, and Chris breaking his elbow (though I still need to follow up with what we learned from that experience).
  • Uploaded, organized, and edited all of my pictures (our DSLR had pictures from 2.5 years ago).
  • Finished watching Bones, watched the first season of Fixer Upper, and Chris and I are on season 3 of Suits… yes I love television.
  • Finished reading Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist.
  • Lots of friend time hanging out, eating, playing Settlers of Catan, and going to a Phillies vs. Mariners game.
  • Family time at home in Michigan and with Chris’s family (they came to Princeton one day and then we celebrated Josh going to college).
  • I learned how to collage pictures in Lightroom (like the one above). Oh the little things that make my feel productive.

And now it’s September. With how busy my month naturally is as my second job has started again, I’m praying that some of these goals are even attempted!

1. Read Cold Tangerines. This is another Shauna Niequist book. I received three of her books last Christmas so I am trying to read through them. The last one took me two months to read. With only 75 pages left in August, I barely finished it by the end because I have been watching so much tv and not reading before bedtime… typical. But I liked the trend of reading before bed, so I want to start working on that again. I started this book on our flight home from Michigan and I am already enjoying it. I love Shauna’s writing because I am challenged as she honestly shares the good and hard stories of her life. Her writing is engaging and funny, so what’s not to like?

2. Start building something! I’ve had plans to build something for so long, but I haven’t done it! Starting a project can be so hard for me because I see how overwhelming it can be or I picture everything that could go wrong. So I’ve decided I just need to start. Hopefully next weekend because I will have some free time up at Chris’s parents where all my tools are.

3. Work on my wardrobe. Last month when I was looking for an August goals picture, I wanted to give the original site credit, and I stumbled across a blog of a Texas photographer named Caroline. I enjoyed reading her material (aka I read all her posts), but I was bummed to see that she wasn’t posting much. So I Instagram stalked her and found out that she started another blog about having a minimalist wardrobe. Another girl from college (Allie) posted about this on her blog, so I started looking into it. Both of them referenced the blog Into Mind, so I started doing my research. Here’s a summary: create a capsule wardrobe that lasts for a season that is made of of 20-36 (depending on the person or your choice) pieces of clothing that you can style to make your signature look/wardrobe. While I don’t know if I’ll dive into this wholeheartedly, I am desiring to purge my closet of what I don’t wear and only buy things that I am in love with. I’ll write more about this later, but my main goal this month is to purge my closet and start getting a better idea of items I would like to purchase (already got a few new cardigans when I went shopping with me madre over Labor Day weekend). :)

4. Workout 2-3 times a week. Chris wanted me to set this goal, but I didn’t want to because I knew I wouldn’t keep it. Meaning it’s already a week into September and I haven’t exercised (unless you include a long walk Up North), so I have already not completed it, yet I am still posting it. Just because I didn’t do it one week doesn’t mean I can’t do it the rest. Especially because I know an exercise challenge from one of the blogs I follow is probably coming up soon. Plus, before Chris’s brother left for college we all made a bet to see who could be the most ripped by Christmas. While we didn’t set a prize, I’m sure it’s bragging rights and nice abs. So with that being said, I need to exercise and Chris and I are trying to eat more similarly to the detox we did in May (except for when we are with others or the occasional going out to eat).

So there are my September goals… a week late but they are still there.

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Note: This is a long post, so read what you want. This is mostly a “what happened” post and I will do another post later this week on the lessons we’ve learned from this experience. I will be posting some pictures throughout, but the pictures that some people might get grossed out by I will put at the end. If that is you, be cautious as you reach the end of this post. Pictures will include x-rays and Chris’s scar/staples.

I’ve received this called before. “Hey babe. I hurt myself pretty bad. I’m on my way home.” This was the call I got from Chris a month ago today. He was playing basketball at the seminary gym. He jumped up to block a shot and in the process of him jumping up, the shooter was falling, accidentally taking Chris’s feet out from under him. He came down hard and landed on his right elbow. He knew it was a bad fall, but he didn’t think he was seriously hurt. He got up to take a break and as he starting walking with his right arm down, he felt shooting pains that only went away when he held his arm up, supporting it with his left hand. When he got home we headed over to the hospital. At the time, Chris thought he landed with his arms out behind him (we found out later from a bystander that he landed directly on it), so his bet was that he hyper-extended his elbow and would have a 6 week recovery.

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We got to the emergency room and waited briefly in the lobby before being taken into an examination room. The nurse took Chris’s blood pressure and asked about his pain level and what happened. He also told the nurse about his self-diagnosed guesses. That is one thing that I love about Chris. He takes situations that can be scary, stressful, or anxiety-filled and instead of freaking out he is calm and cracking jokes, which helps me calm down. We joked that because Chris’s body wasn’t functioning properly, his mind was making up for it with all his jokes. For example, our nurse was wearing a stethoscope with rolls of white tape around it. Chris asked her what they were, she said tape, and he said, “oh at first I thought they were marshmallows.” After she left the room he told me he thought she was wearing a marshmallow necklace, like the candy necklaces but made with marshmallows. I think I started crying because I was laughing so hard. Unfortunately next came Chris’s man, Emmanuel, to take his x-rays. Where Chris’s pain level was at a 6, it shot up to a 10 as Emmanuel made him move his arm around to get x-rays at different angles.

After x-rays we were moved to another waiting room. There our doctor came to tell Chris he had not only broken his elbow, but a piece chipped off and rotated upwards, meaning he would need to have surgery to fix it. One of the orthopedic surgeons was at the hospital and she wanted us to meet with him before leaving. Since Dr. Abrams was in a surgery, we had to wait several hours before meeting with him. While some people may find that frustrating, Chris and I really enjoyed our time together. It was a time that caused us to slow down and enjoy each other’s company. We spent our time talking, envisioning what the next several weeks would look like, calling people to keep them updated, and studying for Greek. This is also when we came up with his injury’s name. A month after we first got married Chris cut his left thumb open really bad and had to get stitches. As his scar healed, his thumb looked like a shark, so we started calling it Mr. Sharky. Since then we have decided to name all his injuries with their accompanied sound affects. So in the hospital we named his elbow injury Chippy since a piece of his bone chipped off.

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After 3 hours we met with Dr. Abrams. He told us that the break Chris had was very rare, only happening during 3% of elbow breaks. While we thought he might do surgery that day, they decided to wait so he could consult other doctors about the best way to fix his break. So the doctor splinted him, gave us some pain med prescriptions and sent us home. On Sunday Dr. Abrams was good about keeping us informed. He was having trouble getting in touch with other doctors because it was the weekend, but he finally got in touch with someone late Sunday night, so we got the call Monday morning to meet with Dr. Lamb. We originally thought the surgery would be that day (we asked if that was possible since Chris had the day off of school), but when we arrived at the doctor’s office we found out if it were that day it would be extremely late at night… not worth it. So Dr. Lamb evaluated Chris’s break and explained to us how he was going to fix it, the recovery time, and possible complications with the surgery (loss of flexibility, getting arthritis at a younger age in the elbow, etc.).

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Resting on Sunday

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Love me some swollen fingers!

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Capitulum – the piece of the humerus that chipped off

Tuesday morning, Chris went to school and I went to work. I picked him up at 11:30 so we could be to the hospital at noon. After checking in we waited briefly before they took Chris and prepped him for surgery while I waited in the waiting room for 3ish hours. The surgery took a little over an hour and was very successful. Beforehand we were told Chris would get two screws in his elbow, but if other issues arose during surgery that they could not see in the x-ray they might have to do any extra screw. Luckily they only needed two. Afterwards, Dr. Lamb came out to talk with me about how the procedure went, how Chris would be feeling the next few days/weeks, and to show me x-rays of Chris’s elbow with the screws. About 20 minutes later a nurse came to take me back to see Chris. When I walked in he was laying in his bed with sheets all the way up to his neck, listening to the nurse’s instructions. He was very alert and feeling good. During the surgery, not only was he under anesthetics, but he also received a nerve block in his arm. The nurse said this could last up to 24 hours, but that he should take his medication before going to bed in case in wore off while he was sleeping (which it did).

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Chris’s biggest concern during this time was falling behind in school. This summer he took 2 semesters of Greek in 8 weeks. Because it is an intensive course, there is a lot to learn everyday and even on normal days he often felt like he was falling behind. So the thought of missing school was hard. He was so worried that when he woke up from surgery, the nurse said he was talking about conjugating Greek verbs. Chris ended up missing class the day after surgery (though he was home studying most of the time) and was back in class on Thursday. Every Friday they have a test, but due to missing some class and having a really hard time focusing on his medication (he said he hated how they made him feel slow), his teacher allowed him to postpone a day and take his test on Saturday. We are extremely thankful for how understanding and willing to help his teachers have been. Not only were they flexible based on how he was feeling, but for a week and a half they helped write down his quizzes and tests as he dictated the answers to them.

Another aspect we are extremely thankful for are the amazing doctors and nurses we had throughout the process. Everyone was very caring and helped keep us informed to the best of their abilities. We were so shocked the day after surgery when we received phone calls from a nurse at the hospital and from the doctor who performed the surgery. It affirmed us that Chris was in good hands and it was encouraging to know that they cared about Chris’s recovery. Having several friends in the nursing and medical field, we also tried to be very verbal in sharing our appreciation for them. I’m sure there are several days when interactions with patients can be draining and frustrating, so to combat that we wanted to be encouraging, caring, and crack some jokes with them. So to anyone in the medical field reading this, thank you so much for what you do!

Overall the recovery process has gone extremely well. The first week was definitely the most painful. Not only was his arm healing, but his splint was extremely heavy, so he couldn’t support it without a sling or using his left hand to hold it up. A week after surgery we went to the doctor, where they took the splint off and put on a brace. This brace is set at specific degrees so he could start moving his arm, but the movement was also limited. This was when I started calling him the Bionic Man and Mr. Roboto. This appointment was also entertaining because Chris’s skin was so wrinkly from being in a splint for a week. It was also swollen, which the doctor told us was normal for 6-8 weeks after the surgery. Chris was so fascinated (and freaked out… “I can feel my shirt touching my arm!”) that he kept stroking his skin with his fingers. A week later we went back to get his staples out (Chris didn’t even realize she had started taking them out because he couldn’t feel it) and he made sure before the appointment that he could move his arm the full extent of the brace. Last week Chris had his first two physical therapy appointments, where they are working on his flexibility in his extension and flexing. The doctor said he would most likely lose 5% of his flexibility. The  physical therapist measured the angles in his arm and said he only has 5% to go to be at zero, however his elbows are normally 10% hyper-extended, so to get his full range back he would have 15% left (which he doesn’t need to do). I joke with him that he will now have one normal elbow and that we should break the other one so it’s no longer hyper-extended. Chris will go back in a week for his next check up, where he will most likely have his brace taken off, and from there I’m sure physical therapy will continue. While he can start doing a little more once the brace comes off, he cannot lift weights (or other heavy things) or play sports until 3 months post surgery… so basically he is counting down the days until November.

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Going to get his splint off

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And leaving with his bionic arm… I mean brace

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us, called to check in, or fed us! We really appreciate your love and support. Also, thanks to all of you who are reading this and are interested in how Chris is doing. If you have questions that I left out, please comment below and I will answer them. Now, if you get grossed out by medical stuff easily, I advise you not to look at the below pictures. I don’t think they are bad, but I just want to give you a word of caution if you get the heebie jeebies easily.

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First x-ray. You can see where his chipped bone is sticking up.

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After surgery with his two screws. You can also see the 12 staples.

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Right after his splint was taken off and I saw his scar for the first time (since he couldn’t bend his arm he only saw the scar in this picture)

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How Chris felt about his scar, staples, and wrinkly skin

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He was so fascinated with his arm that he kept stroking it

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Scar after the staples were taken out.

Young Mexico House Love

The first full week of July I went on a high school mission trip with our church to Mexico to build houses. I was involved with this trip many months beforehand as I helped make some of the arrangements, so it was exciting that it was finally here. I will admit that I was a bit overwhelmed by this trip. While I have been on one other mission trip with 100 people, I have never been one of the people leading. I will also admit that as the trip approached I didn’t really want to go, but that is the story of my life. I don’t want to do things that take me out of my homebody comfort zone, but I know that once I am there I will enjoy them, and I did enjoy this trip. The battle was in getting there, but once I was there I was fine.

However, it was difficult getting there. I was planning to leave a day earlier than the rest of the students to meet up with our leadership team in San Diego. My plane out of Philly got delayed 6 hours due to weather, causing me to miss my connecting flight and get stuck in Phoenix over night. This turned out to be a blessing because Chris’s aunt and uncle live in Phoenix, so I spent the night at their place, spent time catching up with them in the morning, and then they brought be back to the airport in the afternoon for my short flight over to San Diego. The only down side was that I could not get my checked luggage and I packed NOTHING in my carry on. Since I have not checked anything in years and figured I would be fine with a two hour layover, I quickly learned that you should always pack a toothbrush and a change of clothes, no matter what. So I ended up getting to San Diego an hour after everyone else arrived (including their plane delay). But that is why we planned a buffer day before driving into Mexico. That night was the 4th of July, so we watched fireworks over the bay, which was awesome.

The next day we spent the morning at the beach as on of our students got baptized in the ocean. Then we met with Amor Ministries, the missions agency that we’ve been going into Mexico with for years. After crossing the border it was about a 20-30 minute drive to base camp. We spent the rest of the evening setting up camp (so many tents and a massive kitchen build!) and then relaxing before our busy week began.

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While there were 100 of us on the trip (about 85 students and 20 leaders/cooks), we split up into 7 teams of 15 people to build 7 houses. Before the trip we met several times in our teams for trip preparation and for fundraising. However, my team, which I co-led with my friend Ted, did not get put together until about 1.5 months before the trip and we never got the chance to meet as a team. So with that being said I was a little worried as we met for the first time, many of us not knowing each other. I am thankful to say that I was pleasantly surprised by my team. They all got along well, worked really hard together, and bonded as the week went on. We named ourselves Team YG (Young Grande) and our team song was Break Free by Ariana Grande, which came out a few days before the trip. We listened to our song every time we were in the van, singing and dancing like crazy. We played pump up music every time we drove up the massive mogul sand hill that we thought we might tip our van and die on (really, we screamed in terror the first time we went up it). We had fun doing dinner clean up and learning interesting facts about each other. They were competitive about wanting to be the first team to finish their house (we were not) and rejoiced when we were one of the first two teams back each day. I am so thankful for the students on my team. They worked so hard and personally invested in our team and I couldn’t ask for more.

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All of the houses our teams built were on the same road, so it was fun to see each teams’ progress throughout the week. Not only did we have to deal with the massive hill to get to our homes, but the houses were set on a hill, making our builds more difficult. While most of the materials we down by the houses, all of the dirt and rocks we used were on the road, meaning we had to haul the materials down tire steps to get them to where we were building the house. Luckily our stairs were steadier than most. We also build several of our walls up on the road due to space, so we had to carry those down too.

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Our house build was divided into four days. The first day we focused on setting the foundation of the house using a mixture of cement, dirt, rocks, and water. Those who were not working on the slab started building some of the house frames.

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We also had that awesome view!

Day two we finished building all the frames and put all the walls up so it actually started looking like a house!

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Day three we put the roof frame and plywood up (that day one of the girls and I almost got beheaded when a piece of unnailed plywood slid off the roof and landed right behind us). We also started making the walls more secure on the house by putting up bailing wire and then prepping the house for stucco with tar paper and chicken wire.

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Day four the boys finished the roof and we stuccoed the house.

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Giving the new house keys to the family

Overall this was so much harder than I thought it would be. While I love building things, it was definitely more difficult to do everything by hand (hand saws, hammers, etc.) and to surrender my perfection to 14 different people of different skill levels working on one house. I was also not in the best shape before the trip, so doing manual labor 4 days in a row for 8 hours each day was exhausting. I think day 3 was the hardest. People were getting tired and we were all starting to be more careless, which caused one student to get seriously dehydrated and one of our leaders fell through the roof and broke his pelvic bone. Not good. But I think this caused all of the teams to become closer and we all learned from what was going on around us.

After building our houses, we headed back to San Diego the next day to relax and started preparing to go home. We walked around the beach that night and spent the next day exploring Sea World. Then we went to Chick-fil-A because it was dress like a cow and get a free meal day. Let’s just say we overwhelmed them when 100 of us walked in dressed like cows. I saw Ryan Ramirez there from So You Think You Can Dance and I was pumped! After eating I met up with my friend Kathy from college. It was so much fun catching up with her! I love connecting with old college friends because it’s a time to reminisce about college and to share what we have learned since leaving. Kathy is so sweet and her love for Christ is contagious. I can see her heart for wanting to serve her husband, friends, co-workers, and her community. It was such a blessing to spend time with her.

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Another unexpected blessing of the trip for me was meeting April. April works for Amor and her husband had attended Princeton Seminary and was involved at our church while he was a student (meaning him and Chris hung out in the summers when Chris was home from college). April has a passion for her relationship with Christ and she wanted to share that with others, whether that be with the students coming to work with Amor or the Mexican families Amor was building houses for. Throughout the trip I enjoyed getting to know her story, which encouraged me in ways that she doesn’t even know. I think if we lived in the same place we would be really good friends. And I think that’s what I learned the most from her. In Princeton I still felt like I had not made strong connects with people. We had a group of friends that we enjoyed hanging out with, but I didn’t really have one-on-one relationships with the other wives. April made me realize that I need to start being more intentional about making friends in Princeton. While it scares me to put that much effort into relationships, especially knowing that many of these friends are leaving in a year, I think it’s worth being intentional versus going through another year of not having close friends. April taught me to be a little more adventurous and to say yes more. I tend to say no because I am a homebody, but I’ve realized that I need a better balance in my life. So since being home I have been being more intentional about attending BBQ’s, having couples over for dinner, and saying yes to opportunities that arise. So I am thankful for the conversations I had with April that are leading me to change my life back at home.

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California Trip 2014

Well, it’s finally happening. Almost three months after returning from my trip to California I am finally documenting it. Better late than never, right? In May Chris and I went to Fresno to visit with friends and to support my close friend as she got married. This trip was such a blessing. It was so good to be with people who I felt comfortable around and who I felt knew me. While going back to any place you moved from reminds you of the things you didn’t like (for example, bad air quality, which not only makes it hard to breathe, but gave me the worst acne I’ve ever had… aka I landed and immediately got a pimple. True story), I was more reminded of what I loved. A family that feels like my own. Friends who I have fun with, can have good conversations with, and who force me to exercise. And a community that I enjoyed engaging in. That community has been heavy on my heart lately due to a great tragedy and I can’t help but want to be there with them. So in wishing I was there now, I’m going to write about when I actually was there.

I went to California for about 10 days (Chris was there the first 7 before jetting off to another wedding… yes we were both in different weddings on the same day). While the wedding was the very last day I was there, I knew it would be impossible to only go for a few days because there were so many people to spend time with. While Chris and I were both in town our schedule was pretty planned out to maximize our time. We even put together a sleeping schedule so the people we were staying with wouldn’t get confused.

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Another reason I wanted to go a week early was because Bekah’s bachelorette party was at the beach the weekend before the wedding and since I couldn’t help with much during the planning process, I wanted to be there for something! Plus, who can pass up the beach with their friends? So the first two days were filled with visiting with people and then it was off to the beach! It was awesome. We laid out, dressed up in ugly bridesmaid dresses to do a scavenger hunt around town (and got the best reactions from people), played games, made cookies, and enjoyed our time together. The only negative experience was during our scavenger hunt we saw a girl wearing a massive snake like it was her scarf… not cool for people like me and my other friends who are terrified of snakes. On a more cheerful note, beach weekend pictures!

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We returned from the beach on Memorial Day, so Chris and I spend the afternoon with the family I used to live with and all of their friends. For me it was a great opportunity to see so many people from our church since I was not around on Sunday to attend. After the cookout we headed over to hangout with the family Chris used to live with to join their weekly family night. It brought back so many great memories. Plus who can turn down watching family videos, especially when you are not in them? I can’t. “Do you like my little twigs, do you like my little twigs [aka hair], do you like my little belah” aka butt… priceless.

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Tuesday was filled with having lunch with my previous co-workers, hanging out with our friend Meagan, then seeing several of our former high school students at Yogurtland, and topping off the night at the Crantz’s for family night #2 (#1 was our first Friday there). The night was filled with dinner, good conversation, a spa treatment, snuggles with Meesa and Chris desperately wanting to take Dash home. Also, a bajillion selfies of Julia on my phone. I couldn’t ask for a better day than that.

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Me and Meagan

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Side note: before our CA trip, while in New Jersey I had only had frozen yogurt 3 times, and one of those times was in Michigan. That is a record for me (though I did consume plenty of Halo Farms ice cream). I think it was because we hadn’t found a place we liked. But in my 10 days in CA I managed to have froyo 4 times! That’s right, 4. Yogurtland is my best friend and I can’t help it.

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Getting my special spa treatment

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What happens when your little sister steals your phone

Unfortunately Chris had to leave Wednesday :( but I still had a great time with friends, my Fresno family, and doing wedding business. I almost had an epic fail when setting up for the wedding. Wednesday night we were meeting to set up. It was a Facebook invite and mine said to be there at 8:30pm. I thought that was kinda late, but I’m not going to argue. At 5:45pm I text my friend to see if she could give me a ride on her way over and she said she had already been there for an hour. In that moment I realized Facebook meant 8:30 EST, which is 5:30 PST… so I hurried my butt on over there. Close call haha.

One of the most shocking things of the trip: I read two books! I hadn’t read a book in over a year and I read two in 8 days. Divergent and Insurgent sucked me in. I found that the whole day Friday before the rehearsal I had no plans so I read all day until I finished! And then it was off to the rehearsal and dinner, which was so cutely themed around Robin Hood.

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The wedding was great. Not only was it a union in Christ to be celebrated, but the whole day reflected the bride and groom so well. I love being able to support my friends and it was such an honor to do so that day. It was also more quality time with friends and I got to see so many people I hadn’t seen yet. The best part of the reception (besides celebrating marriage and the people) was definitely the cake bar. Bekah asked over twenty different people to make a cake for the wedding and not only did they look awesome, but the pink champagne one I had was to die for. I still need to find that recipe to make it! After the reception I stayed to clean up. I wanted to soak up every last second with these people, even if it meant only getting 4 hours of sleep before I jetted off at 6am the next morning.

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Chris looking handsome at his wedding

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My walking buddies Morgan and Lucas

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Bekah and Tyler

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Me, Bekah, and Jessica at the reception

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Cutting the cake. I ate the pink flower cake on the right. So good!!!

So overall it was an amazing trip and writing this post reminds me of that. I love my friends and community in Fresno so much and I’m so thankful for the time we had with them.