Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Heading Back!

I have some excellent news that I've been sitting on for a while, waiting for everything to be "official."

I'm heading back to Elementary School!!!!!

While this year has been rewarding in many aspects and I've learned a lot, one of the biggest things I've learned is that my heart is in elementary school. I really missed all the subjects, the stronger relationships with my students and just the general culture of the lower grades.

Even better, I'll be returning to the school I taught at last year, which I really loved.

I'll be teaching 5th grade, and I'm excited to go to science camp, teach about the revolutionary war (5th grade was my favorite year of school), solar systems, the human body, more challenging math, and of course, language arts. I think I'm in a really good place to teach this grade, now that I really know what 6th graders need to know.

I'm hoping to really get into the curriculum this summer and I'm very excited to begin my 4th year of teaching!

Monday, May 30, 2011

The End of our Cherries

After much patience, our cherry tree had cherries that looked about ready to eat! 

Ed and I were very excited, and decided to give them just a few more days to ripen. 

However, "disaster" struck when I went out next. Where there used to be all the beautiful cherries you see above, I saw this:

Apparently we weren't the only ones eyeing the cherries - something had come and eaten all the good ones. 

All, except this one:

It probably wasn't perfectly ripe, but I wasn't taking any chances. I brought it in and later Ed and I shared it - half for each of us. It was tasty (though it didn't have a lot of flesh), and it was very fun to eat something that we grew. 

The next day, all the cherries had been eaten off the tree. 

So ends cherry season at the Lyon home. 

Shifting Thoughts

I've felt like it's been a bit hard to post after my last one; this leg issue seems to trump everything else sometimes. However, since I last posted, I've really been thinking hard about my leg pain and asking myself if I can live with the pain. Could I go back to running ultras with it? Could I live my life "normally" and just get used to it?

I'm not sure. The past week, my training for the San Francisco Half Marathon, that I'm doing with some co-workers, kicked off in full swing this past week. We ran 5 last Sunday, had a track workout (about 3 miles) Tuesday, Trail Running Thursday (about 3.5), and 7 this Sunday. I also ran 3 with Ed Wednesday and 3 on Saturday with some friends in Santa Cruz. All told, I ran just under 20 miles over the last 7 days and felt pretty great. I really enjoyed running with new people (reminded me of trail running days) and actually felt somewhat fit. I even ran an 8:26 at our timed mile for the track workout, and my last mile of the 7 miler was a 10:02. I just don't know if it's worth having a risky surgery that is not highly likely to do anything beneficial, and would certainly derail my current fitness, or even make things worse.

I am going to get an epidural after school lets out (timing just hasn't worked to do it sooner), which has a small chance at helping. If that doesn't work, I might just keep running and let it be for a while, and try to change how I'm thinking about it.

For now, I'm enjoying feeling strong(er), eating healthier, and just generally feeling good and ready for summer to begin.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Living in Limbo

As I'm sure you all know, I've been going to lots of different doctors about the chronic leg pain I've been having since September 2007 (coming up on 4 years for those counting). At this point, I've tried just about everything under the sun (physical therapy 3 different times, yoga, pilates, acupuncture, chiropracter, TENS (electric nerve stimulation), medications, injections, rest, exercise, etc).  I've just had an appointment today, and really felt like recording this whole journey (specifically the last year) as I gear up for the next step, so the first part of this is background, the second part is what happens next.

This past year, I decided to go after it a bit more aggressively. Over the years, I've usually seen a doctor until they gave up, and then stopped until I got a new doctor. This time, though, instead of giving up, I had my doctor refer me to another (and another), with the hope that someone, somewhere, would be able to give me some answers.

The first specialist I saw was a physiatrist (a doctor who specializes in rehabilitation and pain medicine). He had me try a few different medications (an anti-inflammatory, nerve medication, and vicodin, all to no effect). After some very normal looking MRIs the physiatrist made a somewhat more invasive suggestion.  So, I took a day off work and got an epidural between my L4 and L5 vertebrae. Unsurprisingly (given this injury's stubbornness), the epidural did nothing. With that, this doctor was done, and referred me to a neurologist (an doctor who is an expert on the nervous system - given the tingling in my foot/ankle, a nerve issue is likely).

My new doctor thought we might as well do another set of MRIs, which showed nothing. We tried yet more pills, and I went back to physical therapy for a few months. The pills did nothing, so, why not - another MRI. This time, he focused on my lower spine and used contrast solution.

Surprisingly enough, when the results came in, it appeared that there was actually something there - a fuzzy 6mm "enhancement" near/on my L4 nerve. He believed it to be a shwannoma (a benign tumor) and sent me to get a second opinion, which is what brought me to my appointment today.


Today, I met with a neurosurgeon, whose job was to give me a second opinion about my MRI and possibly talk about having back surgery. The doctor was very friendly, but basically said that the MRI was inconclusive and, even if it was a schwanomma, that they are notoriously difficult to operate on
(because the tumor basically is growing on the outside of the nerve, trying to remove it can badly damage the nerve itself). Besides the pain, they aren't dangerous, so in that sense, it's not a horrible thing to have, but resigning myself to this pain forever was a pretty upsetting thought.

This doctor, like the last, told me I had to really think about whether I felt the pain was bad enough to warrant the risk of a serious surgery that might not even help.

At this point, I got a bit teary (which I think communicated that, yes, this pain is bad and, no, I can't just forget about it if there's an option) so he gave me a couple of other options that I could try.

The first of these is to get another epidural. He said that there are a couple of different positions for these that can be helpful, and it's the least invasive option to try, so I have that scheduled for Monday. It's funny how last time I got it (in November) I was pretty nervous. Now that I've been thinking a lot about back surgery, this doesn't seem like that big of a deal (also, it hurt less than I thought it would).

If that doesn't work, there is also something called a spinal nerve block, which I don't totally understand, but basically it's injected (inserted?) into my spine and is a way to deal with general/undiagnosable nerve pain. This is a lot more invasive than simply an epidural, so he didn't want to start with that option.

The final option is exploratory spinal surgery (which also might happen if I get the nerve block, I'm not sure), where basically they would open up my back and look around, to try to see if they can figure out what's wrong. Obviously, this is a last option since there can always be complications with any kind of major surgery.

So, that's where things stand. It was sort of a wake up call, to realize I might need to simply accept that I will always have this pain and there might not be any solution. I'm a bit disheartened, but hopefully something from my new "list" will work.

Send some good thoughts my way that someday my leg will feel better.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Open House!

While I don't generally post a lot about my teaching job on here (or really any pictures), I thought it would be nice to share some pictures from my Open House night. Enjoy!

My desk is never this clean, but let's pretend that it always looks this good :). 

We've just started Esperanza Rising, so I put out a display of the migrant photos I used to introduce the historical context and the map we're using to understand the geographics of Esperanza's journey. 

I also put up the persuasive posters that the kids made to practice persuasive outlines and forming arguments.

These are food poems that the kids wrote to "relax" after testing. 

These are out pro/con posters. The kids chose from a list of topics and then partnered up to make posters to show both sides of an argument.

These are personal vignettes the kids did months ago, based on Sandra Cisneros' writings.

It was definitely a full room, but a good one. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mother's Day

For Mother's Day this year, we had the great fortune of having my Mother-in-Law, Sabine, coming to visit us! While I was sad not to be with my Mom, it seemed fitting to spend it with Ed's.

Sabine got into town midday Saturday, and we had time to have lunch together- delicious tamales from Costco and salad with homemade croutons (basically good bread cut into chunks and cooked on the stove with lots of olive oil, salt and pepper), avocado and cilantro lime dressing.

Then, I was off to our friend Jenny's bridal shower (she is getting married to Ed's best friend since he was a kid). Ed and his mom hiked, and when I got back we went off to dinner at Elements, a Euro-Asian restaurant in Almaden.

Both Ed and his mom had the duck, which came with a mix of taro root and sweet potato (which Sabine really enjoyed). 

I got scallops and shrimp, with risotto and sweet pea puree. I love scallops and have only once cooked them at home, so I really enjoy when I can have them when we go out. 

The next morning, the good food continued with breakfast. While we didn't have anything originally planned, Sabine had given me a beautiful turquoise baking dish. We had talked briefly about coffee cake, so I decided that that would be the perfect dish to cook. 

Ed, always needing protein, cooked up an omelette to accompany the cake, and we topped it all off with grapefruits brought by Sabine. 

We then spent the day shopping for dresses for the wedding(s) we're attending this summer. Sabine bought one dress, I bought one, and Ed bought one for me. It is a beautiful black dress with white polka dots and I can't wait to wear it all summer. 

Shopping was tiring but productive, and we were all happy to get home and rest. 

For dinner, Ed made his delicious carribean pork and plantain hash (without plantains - we couldn't find any - so we put in normal bananas). We had it with delicious corn and salad. 

After dinner, Sabine headed off to spend some time with her good friend. 

All in all, it was a great weekend!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Farmer's Market Sunday

Last Sunday, Ed and I braved the notoriously busy Campbell Farmer's Market to enjoy the beautiful spring day and all the delicious local food up for grabs.

We started the day with a delicious breeakfast, courtesy of Ed. We may not always make it to the table for dinner, but we're pretty good at eating our weekend breakfasts there. The grapefruit was also a nice treat!

We arrived at the market around 10:45, which was late enough for the market to be plenty full. 

Our game plan was to walk down the two sections of the market to scope it out (the first is more arts and crafts, the second, food), and then make our purchases on the way back. 

We ended up getting fava beans (which we still haven't eaten!), snap peas, and artichokes. Before we finished shopping we picked up a delicious snack.

Pork Tamale! We found an appealing place to sit in the shade behind the market tents where it was a bit less crowded. The tamale had healthy additions (like zucchini and something that made the tamale corn part green) and was a lovely amount to share. 

Before we left, we picked up some flowers. Aren't they pretty?

They don't look like much here, but they're actually poppies. Over the following week, the buds popped open and it was so fun to watch the beautiful colors unfold. Sabine, my Mother in Law, actually thought they were silk flowers when she saw them, they were so beautiful. 

They've since started showing their "age," but they were great fun while they lasted. 

Hopefully we can continue making it to the market throughout this wonderful season. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Five Love Languages

On recommendation of my friend, I picked up this book to get a different perspective about love. While Ed and I have had a great over 10 months of marriage (and not far from 4 years together), I am someone who loves to amass knowledge and advice for that unknown future date when it might come into use.

As far as relationship books go, this one was an easy read and very interesting. I liked that it went through each of the "languages" and gave an example of a couple that needed to work on it (to exemplify what exactly fulfilling that need looked like). I also appreciated that the end of each chapter had a list of tasks that could be done to show that kind of love.

If you want to discover your love language, take this quiz from the official website.

Here's how I ended up:

Words of Affirmation : 4 

Surprisingly, this was one of my lowest scores! I've always thought words of affirmation were important to me (because I'm very big about saying "I love you" and verbally affirming things I like/appreciate, both with Ed and with people in general) but I think, after reading this book, my affirmations are ways to show my appreciation for the other ways I'm shown love. I still like hearing these, but I guess other things are just more important.

Quality Time: 9 

No surprises, this came up as an important category for me. I really value the time Ed and I spend together (a little more than even Ed), and make sure that we spend time together as much as we can. One of our best ways of doing this is our runs/hikes together, though we've also started playing games together (as a way to escape the drain of just watching tv). I also really enjoy when we cook together (especially since it means that Ed is getting more confident in the kitchen). But, I think some of my favorite quality time is right when we're getting ready for bed. This seems to be when we have some of our best conversations. Sometimes it means we stay up too late, but it just feels like I get to have a slumber party with my best friend. I'm so glad I married someone whose comany I can enjoy so immensly.

Receiving Gifts: 0 

I knew that this wasn't that important to me, but I was a bit surprised to get a zero! Still, I guess that I don't read a lot into gifts. I talked to my parents and my mom said that she felt she and my dad were the same way. Ed and I do exchange gifts for the big things, but I would rather go on a special date together or have him do something nice to show me he loves me. That being said, my favorite gifts are the thoughtful ones. For our first anniversary, Ed put together a deep frame that had wine corks around the border from wines we drank together, inside was different momentos from our first year. My favorite was that he had kept the scrap of post-it with my phone number that I gave him when we first met. So, I guess I do like gifts, but mostly the ones that remind me of quality times or acts of service (on that note, I also really like the serving tray Ed got me for Christmas, because he uses it to bring me tea sometimes on the weekend).

Acts of Service: 7 

(Ed after making this delicious dinner for me)

This, I think, has become more important to me during the time Ed and I have been together. Why? This is Ed's most important category. Ed is really big on acts of service, so he does many many nice things to show me he loves me. I appreciate so much all that he does, and over time, I've come to see this guestures as acts of love. After a long day at work, Ed making dinner shows me he loves me. The fact that he almost always does laundry and cleans up the kitchen after I've cooked means so much to me. Ed is great at this "language" and I so appreciate. 

Physical Touch: 10

Now, before we go any futher, this category means that I find it very important to hug, hold hands, cuddle on the couch, and just, generally, be in physical contact. This is something that has always been so important to me. Even as a kid (and as I got older) I always loved holding hands with my parents, and I used to bug my older sister by hugging her on the playground in elementary school. When I hug Ed, I feel like I can actually feel love pouring from him to me. I don't know that other people get that from just these kinds of normal touches, but it makes me feel safe and secure. I do know as a kid I was very into tactile things, so I guess that carried over into why this is my most important "language."

Ed's Take on the Languages
Ed, not surprisingly, actually scored very similarly to me. Instead of a 0 on gifts and a low score on words, he got a 0 on words and a low score on gifts. We were high on all the same areas, which I think bodes well for our marriage. I also think we've rubbed off on each other, which is perhaps why we're so similar on this. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but it seemed unrealistic, to me, that each person would only fall into one category. The book did make a point that those with "a full love tank" might have trouble discerning a primary language, since they aren't feeling a lack of a specific language. 

Hopefully, I'll never need look at this to figure out how to get Ed and my relationship back on track, but just the same, I'm glad to be more aware of how Ed and I express love. 

If anything, it makes me feel more appreciative of our relationship :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Stocking up for Next Year

I finally made it to the Library Used Book Sale and look at what I got for $3! I can't wait to add them to my classroom library. 

Menu Planning Monday

This week, I had a new idea of how to use this posting. I actually wrote this Monday afternoon, when Ed and I planned our dinners for the week. By putting it on here first, I was able to link the post with the recipe that I'm using, so I don't forget where it is (sadly enough, many weeks find me somewhat frantically searching my browser history looking for that certain recipe that I had bought ingredients for). I'm hoping this will help with the ease of menu planning :).

Monday: Cabernet Pot Roast and Baked Potato
This was another idea from my sister, Ashley. This is a premarinaded pot roast from Trader Joes and cooks up in a crock pot  or in the oven. Ed suggested that we do it in the crock pot, and volunteered to take that on. After we got home in the afternoon, Ed made the second suggestion that we pick up some onion and carrots and add that into the crock pot for the last hour and a half. Since they wouldn't be in there for that long, I mostly cooked the onion and carrot first on the stove and then added it into the roast.

I have to say, though, that this was so delicious! It tasted great over the baked potato and the meat was incredibly tender. Now, I want to figure out how to make this dish without having to buy the more expensive TJ's meat.

We had planned on eating this for dinner another night, but it didn't last that long. I had two delicious lunches out of it (I had also made an extra potato that I split between the lunches), and Ed had one more meal.

Tuesday: Turkey Burgers, Sweet Potato Fries, Salad 
This is such a great/easy meal to do after a long day of work. I love these sweet potato fries (just frozen) and this burger is very filling. 

Wednesday: BBQ Chicken and Rice/ Leftovers
Another tired day. Ed made me the BBQ chicken while he had leftover Pot Roast. We also had some salad.

Thursday:  Szechuan Shrimp with Peppers

I decided to try this recipe after I saw it on Jean's Blog. I did end up adding flank steak that I had on hand ( I worried if the shrimp alone would be filling enough for Ed). I also added in two onions and broccoli to bulk it up. 

This had a perfect amount of kick thanks to the chili garlic sauce, but wasn't overpowering. While this dish took a bit of time to prepare, it was well worth it (and made for a great lunch the next day). 

Friday: Happy Hour at The Wine Cellar
Ed suggested that we check out a happy hour to celebrate the end of the week, and ended up taking us to this place, which is a bit out of our price range normally. We had to sit by the bar to get the discount, but it was nice inside and we got to enjoy $3 beers. We also got some appetizers, which were tasty, but a bit expensive, even with the discount. Still, they filled us up and served as dinner!

Saturday: Indian Take Out
After our wonderful run filled day, Indian food sounded perfect, so we went with this. We did try Lamb Korma for the first time, which was nice and more mild than the Chickn Tikka Masala, so it provided a good balance.

Sunday: Chicken and Waffles
Have to say, can't believe I haven't tried this combination before! Ed and I were feeling like waffles this morning, but didn't have syrup, so I suggested we do "breakfast for dinner," like I used to do occassionally as a kid. Then, when we were at Costco, I suggested we get a rotisserie chicken (forgetting about the waffles idea). Ed, however, remembered and suggested with have both.

It was delicious. The chicken is heartier than bacon, and not greasy, but still gives you that salty protein taste. I don't think this will be the last time I have this dish!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Wildflowers and Ocean

Out of all the beautiful places in California, one of the most under appreciated has to be Mount Tamalpais. Located just north of San Francisco, this beautiful mountain is a spectacular place to spend a few days, exploring the mountains, the oceans, the forests, and the grassy fields. Plus, with its proximity to San Francisco and Wine Country, it makes the perfect place to spend some time. This place has always been so special to me, and is where my husband and I ended up getting married in 2010, on one of those beautiful fields, with views of San Francisco, the ocean, and the whole Bay Area. 

Our last day of April was spent up on Mount Tam, taking advantage of the promise of spectacular weather. The day certainly didn't disappoint. Though it was windy, the vibrant colors more than made up for the wind chill. 

On account of the weather, I planned out a route that would give us some nice ocean views that are often somewhat obscured in the summer fog. 

We started at Rock Springs and headed up Old Mine trail towards Pan Toll. Of course, we had to stop and admire the views. Last year, we had a picnic lunch on this hilltop (there are benches to the west of here)

We were afforded with a spectacular view of our wedding spot. It really looks so different in spring, with everything green. It's hard to decide what I like more (but I think I might be partial to the golds of summer)

While on Old Mine, we saw something large dart out of the grass and across the trail. It took a few moments to realize it was a giant turkey! It hung out trailside for a bit while another hiker and I snapped some pictures of it. We ended up seeing another turkey a bit later.

I remembered this part of Old Mine from when I used to do circumnavigations of Mt Tam back in my ultra days - just a beautiful.

After about a mile of good downhill, we reached Pan Toll and headed out on Matt Davis/Coastal trail. It was more wooded than I remembered in the beginning, but soon we reached the singletrack and ocean views I was hoping for.

Unfortunately, along with those views, we ended up with a crazy amount of bugs! Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I'm a bit phobic about bugs. Luckily, I was able to convince myself that none of these bugs were dangerous (just flies) and just kept my head down. I only shrieked when they buzzed in my ears or flew close to my eyes. They made it a bit harder to focus on the scenery, but they were worth it for views like this.

Soon we reached the split for the Matt Davis (which heads down to Stinson). At this point, Ed hadn't gone further down Coastal before, so he was excited about some new trail. 

After a bit, we finally got a view of Stinson Beach. 

A bit past here, my feet started struggling with the narrowness of the trail. Now, singletrack I usually love, but this is maybe a foot wide (or so it seems), and my feet are out of trail practice. The slope is pretty steep going off this trail, so it's not something you want to misstep.

I did actually end up falling, but luckily fell into the "up" side of the trail, which gave me probably my cushiest fall ever, onto the grasses. Not a scratch on me, I was happy to have fallen the right direction.

Quite by accident, we stopped to take in a view and decided to check the map while we were at it. We discovered that we had already hit our next trail, so we went off on that, and said goodbye to the ocean.

(Look at our trail here. Doesn't that look narrow?)

As we headed up to a parking lot and then down out new trail, we kept hearing the tapping sound. We finally figured out that it must be a woodpecker - very cool to hear. 

As we got to the bottom of the Laural Dell trail, we came to a creek! Ed ever so nimbly hopped across on a tree branch and some rocks, but balance has never been my strong suit (said the girl who fell off a bike last summer). I made it across the first half using a tree, but knew that hopping along the rocks just were not in the cards for me. Falling would possibly hurt me or my camera, so I decided to just suck it up and go through the water. 

It was lovely! Plus I was entertained for the next 10 minutes hearing the squishing of my water logged shoes. My feet also felt refreshed (though I was glad I wore my ininji socks). 

When we reached Laural Dell, I realized that I had totally messed up planning our route. For some reason, my mind told me that reaching Cataract Falls trail equated with seeing the falls. Instead, we came to the trail about a quarter mile up frm the falls. Not wanting to miss out, I voted we just do a little extra and Ed happily agreed. 

It a short span of time, we reached the bottom of the first set of falls, a lovely place even if the water wasn't as strong as it is sometimes. 

We took a quick breather (and ate some margarita flavored shot bloks - delicious and salty!) and then headed up the trail. 

This section seemed harder than I remembered it in my mind (my recollection was that it was all flat fairly wide singletrack/fireroad). Instead, lots of short steep uphills, rocks and roots. At this point, we were well past the 6 miles we had planned on doing, and I hadn't done more than 5.25 in at least a year. My legs were hurting and I was ready to be done. 

But, I forced myself to run when I could and, eventually, we reached the car. All told, we did about 7 miles (some Garmin issues meant that we didn't have exact mileage). I was very happy to be done (and have some more water). 

Ed quickly changed out a few things and then headed out to do his "real" run - 12 miles at almost double our pace. 

I changed into clean clothes and headed to Trojan Point (where we got married last summer) to soak up the sun and views while I waited for Ed to finish. 

It was so spectacularly clear that I had perfect views of Diablo.

O'Rouke's Bench (where Ed proposed 2 years ago this Sunday) looks beautiful with the wildflowers in the foreground.

I set up my chair at the end of the point (just past the ceremony spot), where I could see the Bay Bridge, SF, Twin Peaks, and, of course, the Pacific. While I was reading, I had to periodically stop reading The Kite Runner and just stare at how perfect the world looked from here.

An hour or so later, I packed up, and snapped a few more pictures on my way back to the car. I could see a group of hikers was just returning from their own adventures. 

I drove over to Mountain Home Inn were Ed was going to meet me and a few minutes later, we headed down the mountain.

I'm so happy that we got a chance to enjoy the wildflowers and views of our favorite mountains.