Tuesday Trip Report: USS Yorktown at Patriot’s Point

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For some reason I have felt like these few hours back in December onboard the USS Yorktown (the retired Aircraft Carrier moored at Patriot’s Point in Mt. Pleasant) has been hanging over my head – the “trip report” I keep meaning to post so that I can get back to my plan of filling in all these weeks when we’re actually¬†home with trip reports from our year in England. ¬†Then I go on jaunts here and there and still don’t get back to the Yorktown. ¬†So here you go – a few fun pictures from the “Homeschooling” Day I spent with Patience and Gabriel onboard the USS Yorktown on December 7, 2012 (Pearl Harbor Day, in case someone reading this didn’t catch the import of the “day that will live in infamy.”)

We arrived bright and early (for us) at 10am on the cold, windy pier for a brief lesson on brackish water and the coming together of the mouths of many rivers which forms the tidal basin here in Charleston. ¬†We learned about erosion and talked about certain wildlife found in these waters due to its “brackishness.”

Then it was on to the USS Yorktown, CV-10, for a salinity lesson and some time spent with sea creatures. ¬†She was one of the 24 Essex-class Carriers built during WWII in response to the bombing at Pearl Harbor. ¬†Originally, she was to be christened Bon Homme Richard, but was renamed in the shipyard after CV-5, the USS Yorktown, which was lost at the Battle of Midway in June 1942. ¬†This USS Yorktown arrived in July, 1943, to Pearl Harbor, from whence she departed a month later to commence two years of campaigns in the Pacific Theater. ¬†Decommissioned shortly after WWII, she was later brought back into service for Vietnam and even participated in recovery during the Apollo 8 mission. ¬†She also appeared in a few movies –¬†Tora! Tora! Tora!¬†and¬†The Philadelphia Experiment.

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salinity

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Next we moved outside and across to an old Destroyer (USS Laffey, DD-724) moored at the same pier.  We had a tour of it along with a great history lesson concerning WWII.

the Destroyer, seen from afar

the Destroyer, seen from afar

up by the gun mounts on the Destroyer

up by the gun mounts on the Destroyer

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on our way over to the ship tour

on our way over to the ship tour

Here’s a quick history of the USS Laffey. ¬†Interestingly enough, the USS Yorktown is home to a “Medal of Honor” Recipient Museum (I highly recommend touring it when you have time to read everything!), and the USS Laffey was named after a Civil War Medal of Honor Recipient. ¬†This is the second USS Laffey, and you will read about the first and second ships in this brief write-up from the Patriot’s Point website:

“Both ships were named in honor of Seaman Bartlett Laffey, a Civil War Medal of Honor recipient.

The second LAFFEY was built as an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer by Bath Iron Works (Maine). Commissioned February 8, 1944, LAFFEY supported the D-Day landings at Normandy on June 6, 1944. Late that summer, LAFFEY transferred to the Pacific Theater to join the US offensive against Japan. While operating off Okinawa on April 16, 1945, LAFFEY was attacked by 22 Japanese bombers and kamikaze (suicide) aircraft. Five kamikazes and three bombs struck her, and two bombs scored near misses to kill 31 and wound 71 of the 336-man crew. LAFFEY shot down 11 of the attacking aircraft and saved the damaged ship. LAFFEY’s heroic crew earned her the nickname: “The Ship That Would Not Die.” LAFFEY was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and earned five battle stars for service during World War II.

LAFFEY was repaired and was present (as a support ship) for the atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll in 1946 (Operation Crossroads). On June 30, 1947, LAFFEY was decommissioned and placed in the reserve fleet. Re-commissioned in 1951, Laffey earned two battle stars during the Korean War. LAFFEY underwent FRAM II (Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization) conversion in 1962 and served in the Atlantic fleet until decommissioned in 1975. LAFFEY, the only surviving Sumner-class destroyer in North America, was added to the Patriots Point fleet in 1981, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. ”

There was an AWESOME reenactment of the attack on April 16, put together by the History Channel and shown in its entirety onboard the ship. ¬†It’s from their show called “Dogfights.” ¬†Here’s a brief clip from the episode:

http://www.history.com/shows/dogfights/videos/uss-laffey-vs-kamikaze-at-okinawa#uss-laffey-vs-kamikaze-at-okinawa

Here’s another History Channel clip from one of their “Hero Ships” episodes:

http://www.history.com/videos/uss-laffey-under-attack#uss-laffey-under-attack

Flag at Half-staff for Pearl Harbor Day

Flag at Half-staff for Pearl Harbor Day

Looking up at the USS Yorktown

Looking up at the USS Yorktown (Patience and Gabriel on the bench)

IMG_3690So that’s about it. ¬†We didn’t really “tour” the aircraft carrier in its entirety because we are saving that for a future visit. ¬†If you’ve never been to Patriot’s Point and live out here in SC, I highly recommend it for a living history lesson on, particularly, Medal of Honor Recipients and WWII. ¬†Having lived¬†in Pearl Harbor for three years, literally viewing Battleship Row from my backyard, I can accurately compare this to all the learning opportunities found there (the Pacific Aviation Museum, the USS Arizona, the USS Missouri) and want to persuade you to make good use of these national treasures right here on the Mainland. ¬†My dad was substitute teaching on December 7 this past year (the day of this visit to the Yorktown), and he said the percentage of his students who knew the significance of December 7 was¬†abysmal. ¬†I just read that a poll was taken in 1991 that found fewer than half of the high school students asked could tell you about the importance of that date. ¬†Twenty years later – and it was about 1 in 30 in my dad’s classrooms. ¬†Pathetic. ¬†I could go on and on about the gaps I had in my knowledge when I graduated from high school – for one thing, I knew next to nothing about human life from conception to birth, and the things I knew about world history were sketchy at best – but I can at least say I knew about December 7, 1941. ¬†Make sure your kids know, too. ¬†WWII wasn’t just some footnote in American history — the world¬†changed forever¬†because of the way the war was fought and “won” and the atrocities that occurred all over Europe and in the Pacific. ¬†Remember.

Monday’s Musical Musings: HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!!

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A quick rundown from the weekend that has me still chillin’ out on the couch. ¬†And I didn’t even do the Sunday band gigs like some of the other pipers did (I don’t know how they’re still standing….) ¬†— I think it would be movie marathon and cheetos for sure if I had piped all day Sunday!! ¬†Thankfully here in the Bible belt of the US, there are enough church-goers on Sundays that they held all the festivities in Charleston on Saturday so I was able to participate from 7am all the way til about midnight!! ¬†The fun actually started Friday night with the aforementioned “jam” with some friends from the pipe band complete with smallpipes, fiddles, and whistles. ¬†I didn’t get to bed til around 2am Friday and was up at 6:15am to get to a hotel in downtown Charleston by 7:30am (I was actually about 15 minutes late…sorry Karen!!) ¬†We were just playing a few tunes for a national colorectal cancer group since it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend. ¬†They fed us a delicious breakfast, and then we were off to find parking for the 9am show time for our first parade. ¬†Here are a few pre-parade piping prep pictures (heehee) wearing the fake tattoo arm sleeves Karen had: ¬†[She is musch sillier than me and even had a big green sequined bowtie and fuzzy green mustache for later (I may have to steal some facebook pictures to show you…)]

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photo-537 photo-538After meeting up, tuning up, and forming up, we stepped off just after 11am for the first parade.

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That was a bit of a long parade, nothing too strenuous, with lots of people all the way up King Street through downtown.

I don’t have video from Saturday, but I managed to find a 30 second snippet of our band marching in Hilton Head, SC, on March 17 (Sunday) without me:

We finished up by high-tailing it over to a soiree several blocks and a fifteen minute walk away (I had no idea where we were half the time) to play a few sets before forming up outside of the Hibernian Club for the second parade. ¬†A few of the early arrivals availed themselves of mimosas, but, alas, I didn’t even get a sip of water. ¬†I was very thankful for the tiny water bottle Karen had slipped me before the parade to keep in my pipe bag cover. ūüôā ¬†Here are a few videos shot by Angus’s mom (one of the younger pipers) while we played between parades:

After those tunes we formed up outside for the second parade – the Hibernian Society Parade. ¬†This one was shorter and ended with free refreshments. ūüôā

the crowd getting ready to watch the second parade

the crowd getting ready to watch the second parade

John Weed and myself getting ready for the step-off

John Weed and myself getting ready for the step-off

The day gets a bit blurry from here on out because we walked a lot, I went back and forth to my car to pump a few times, moving it each time, going parking lot to parking lot, eating snacks, drinking some iced coffee when I could sneak it in ūüôā ¬†I will try my best to give a faithful rendition, but I can’t guarantee anything. ¬†After the parades we hob-nobbed behind the Hibernian Club with Mimosas (I had a yummy Coke – haven’t had just a plain Coke in forever but it was so tasty right then!!), taking time to readjust our attitudes:

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Karen and a few other ladies sewed lace onto their biker shorts :)

Karen and a few other ladies sewed lace onto their biker shorts, and a bunch of guys donned facial hair ūüôā

We headed on over to The Blind Tiger, a great downtown pub and restaurant with a gorgeous brick patio area.  The patrons loved us there, and Guinness was freely distributed.  A few pictures from The Blind Tiger:

Cooling off at The Blind Tiger

Cooling off at The Blind Tiger

Angus and his mom

Angus and his mom

I high-tailed it from there back to the car where I took care of some things and¬†changed into a cuter kilt then met the group over at O’Malley’s for a free lunch (corned beef, cabbage, and soda bread.) ¬†As I fast-walked my way across town, things were just too lovely to keep my phone in its case, and pictures were taken:

Hibernian Hall (passed this place multiple times, congregated here after the parades for drinks, even snuck in to look for a bathroom which was not available - since women aren't allowed inside, so of course there are no ladies' restrooms)

Hibernian Hall (passed this place multiple times, congregated here after the parades for drinks, even snuck in to look for a bathroom which was not available – since women aren’t allowed inside, so of course there are no ladies’ restrooms)

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This tree had three different colors of pink flowers on the same tree!

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A few candids from our lunch break:

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We of course played for a few minutes upon arrival and departure, and then part of the band had to leave for a gig out on another island. ¬†My half planned to meander slowly back through town to the next commitment. ¬†Leaving O’Malley’s, ¬†I moved the car again and then met up with the band on King Street where we paraded through various places while people taped us on their iphones and ipads (a pizza place, some guy’s apartment, the Apple store…) ¬†This was all on our way to Molly Darcy’s, another Irish pub, this time on East Bay Street down by the water. ¬†Once we marched into, and through, and around Molly Darcy’s, we deposited ourselves there for more refreshing beverages (They had great sweet tea, and, or course, more Guinness!) and about a 90 minute break. ¬†We did a little more playing – this time with some tag-team solos (I attempted a jig, then the three of us played one together, next on to Cathy’s jigs, another few jigs together, and finally some by J.D. ¬†That was the plan….but once people were up dancing to the tunes, J.D. and Cathy went back and forth a few times and kept it going for a while. Biff even joined us for a bit on the drum.) ¬†We had the right people around to play “Steamtrain to Mallaig” which has several different parts that harmonize, so that was fun. ūüôā ¬†(We also got to play it at Hibernian Hall earlier.) ¬†A few pictures and videos:

Karen took this picture while I massacred my jig :)

Karen took this picture while I massacred my jig ūüôā

One of the "Chris" drummers (there are two Chris's who play the drums) chilling out at Molly Darcy's

One of the “Chris” drummers (there are two Chris’s who play the drums) chilling out at Molly Darcy’s

Cathy, giving us a few jigs

Cathy, giving us a few jigs

The video spots when we all three played together made it pretty evident that we needed to have tuned together, so I left those out. ūüôā

Let’s see….then it was time to move along, this time to Hibernian Hall again because we had thought the gig there was for whoever was on site.

The Hibernians getting ready for some big fancy dinner

The Hibernians getting ready for some big fancy dinner

They actually only needed a few pipes and drums, though, so after congregating for a few minutes, the rest of us scooted over to the Southend Brewery for a quick run through the place with a few marches.

Waiting outside the Brewery for our time to play inside

Waiting outside the Brewery for our time to play inside – I guess we were looking pretty tired out by this point!!

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I went back to the car¬†again, but this time it was so far away, and I basically needed to come back to the same general area (and had NO DESIRE to spend about an hour walking.) ¬†Instead, ¬†I decided to walk towards my car while looking for one of those guys who pedals you around in a carriage. ¬†Just my luck – some strangers wanted me to play for them and paid me $20 to hear a few tunes. ¬†Then a group of college guys stopped me for maybe 5 minutes of playing, and finally, the crowd around the “rickshaw” thing wouldn’t let him pedal away until I played from the bench seat in the carriage. ¬†My car was parked in a garage right next to a Starbucks, so as I waited in line for my iced coffee, the guy in front of me struck up a conversation – apparently he works next door to O’Malley’s and heard us piping before lunch! ¬†Small world! (O’Malley’s was a good 10 minute drive away from the Starbucks.) ¬†We were headed back to The Blind Tiger, but by the time I got there they had already played. ¬†The best part hadn’t happened yet, though – free dinner!! I had a decent shepherd’s pie (possibly the worst I’ve ever had, but ground beef, mashed potatoes, and a few veggies are good no matter what you do to them when you’ve been on your feet playing the pipes all day – so it was quite decent to me :)) ¬†Our Pipe Major Josh met back up with us after spending half the evening away playing for a wedding, as did the group which had piped over at Hibernian Hall, so we were our own audience for a pipe-off between Josh and J.D. which was quite fun (appreciated by the other diners as well) but did not make it onto my camera.

The FINAL gig of the night was at The Smokey Oak, a BBQ place over on James Island, where I played with two other pipers and three drummers. ¬†Surprisingly, “Dawning of the Day” sounded great, and we ended the night on a High Note (pun intended!) ūüôā ¬†I also walked away with a full rack of ribs for the family which was tonight’s dinner while I was off at band practice.

On the way back home, I popped into Madra Rua, the Irish pub about ten minutes from our house to play them a few tunes and was rewarded with many cheers and happy faces. ¬†When I got home I threw the Corned Beef into a crockpot, and the next day 3 great guys from church came over for lunch, so we had another full, yet relaxing, day. ¬†I have¬†no idea how the others marched again on Sunday in Hilton Head because all day MONDAY my legs have still been sore from Saturday’s marching, walking, and standing. ¬†I’m going to put my sore legs back into bed now so they can recover a bit more before running in the morning. ūüôā

Pipe Major Josh on Sunday afternoon with the rest of the band at dinner in Hilton Head - had to include this picture because it was such a great shot. :)

Pipe Major Josh on Sunday afternoon with the rest of the band at dinner in Hilton Head – had to include this picture even though I wasn’t there because it was such a great shot. ūüôā

Monday’s Musical Musings: The Charleston Police Pipes and Drums in Concert

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It’s pretty late already tonight – too late for my next kitchen post since I still need to grind some wheat to have flour soaking for naan tomorrow – so I am just catching up on a musical happening I neglected to really describe last week. ūüôā ¬†I don’t have much to show you from the concert – just a picture of our band and then one video my dad took – but I thought for posterity’s sake, I should at least touch on last weekend’s Piping activities. ūüôā

In the morning I had my first “solo competition” on the bagpipes – something a lot of pipers start doing when they’re 13 or 14 years old but that many don’t do until they’re old like me. ūüôā ¬†Why would I want to “compete” with other people on the bagpipes, you may ask? ¬†Always sounded a bit silly to me when I first started playing the bagpipes 6 years ago, because I only play for my own enjoyment and the enjoyment of others. ¬†But, and this is a BIG “but,” poor piping is not fun for anyone within range – either the piper or the audience! ¬†Improving over time in order to play more challenging and appealing tunes was always a goal of mine, as well as becoming a good enough piper to play confidently with any band I might find in my area (ie I don’t want to be kept from playing with a local band because I ¬†am not able to keep up), so things that help me improve are always welcome. ¬†Taking part in the solo competitions is one of those “tools” aiding me in becoming a better piper, and I truly am thankful to be in an area where competing is a relatively simple endeavor (many Highland Games within driving distance.)

 

The other reason to compete is so you can be given an overall “rating.” ¬†This would be helpful to me so that each time I move to a new area and the dude in charge of the band asks, “What level piper are you?” I can reply with “I am a Grade IV Piper” or the like. ¬†Grade IV is the bottom level where I am starting out, and then by the end of the season if I accumulate enough points from contests, I can be promoted to Grade III. ¬†I have no hopes of making it past that really and am just currently aspiring to being promoted up to Grade III at the end of the season in October. ¬†If I never make it to another grade as long as I live, that will be fine with me, but being able to call myself a “Grade III” piper will communicate to others in the piping community that I am not a beginner, can play a tune and keep a beat, and that I pretty much know what I’m doing. ¬†It will mean I am competent, which translates to no longer feeling like I need to “prove” myself to each new band.

Last weekend we competed in the “Charleston Indoor Games” at The Citadel, and I played poorly. ¬†I was extremely nervous, which is humbling at the ripe old age of 36 when you kind of feel like nothing intimidates you. ¬†Graduating from the Naval Academy, driving a Destroyer, running the Nuclear Power plant on an aircraft carrier, then having six babies, finally figuring out how to bake a decent loaf of whole wheat bread, running a marathon, playing with a rock band, and moving the family all over the world (usually without the help of a husband – but he was around for the move back from the UK which was AWESOME!) — you know, these things tend to puff me up a bit, make me feel invincible. ¬†But there’s something about that judge staring at you, intently scribbling indecipherable notes on the grading sheet, that really rattles the soul. ¬†Bring on the screaming baby while the wheat grinder whirs and I handle sibling squabbles. ¬†Tell me I need to get medical and dental checks, have the house packed out, ship the dogs, and get passports for 5 kids or move across the world with 6. ¬†Put me on a plane alone with 5 children ages 7 down to 6 months for 8 hours – twice. ¬†Fly that same group halfway to Guam to surprise the unsuspecting Papa and then turn the plane around 3 hours into the flight with a mechanical problem somewhere over the Pacific Ocean (okay – that one did cause me to have a short mid-air breakdown.) ¬†No big deal!! Have me play a 2/4 March while walking back and forth doing little turns as someone stares me down tapping his foot at a random speed (sure to be different than the pace I’m currently playing) and I melt into a pool of inadequate piper-jibberish, the calm, cool, and collected ice-woman no more. Hahaha – it wasn’t really THAT bad, but it was uncomfortable, disconcerting, and unnerving, and that was just while I was tuning up my pipes to play!! ¬†So without further ado, here’s a short clip of my competition tunes….just kidding. ¬†That will forever remain a secret, since there’s no reason for me to go around exhibiting my inadequacies to the world (Hey – I already showed you pictures of my train-wreck of a kitchen – I must dole out the humble pie to myself in¬†small servings!) ¬†That was first thing Saturday morning, early enough that my dad and I were able to meet the family at the rock climbing wall where my little man Daniel quickly cheered me up and set my perspective back to rights. ¬†Piping contest what? Huh? Change my diaper and then feed me, Mama. ¬†I can handle that one!

After my piping competition on Saturday, walking in the pebbles with Daniel (yes, I already posted this picture once - but it's my blog, and I like it :))

After my piping competition on Saturday, walking in the pebbles with Daniel (yes, I already posted this picture once – but it’s my blog, and I like it :))

 

After the rock climbing we all returned home for sandwiches and naps and then BAM! It was time for my dad and me to head out for the concert being held that night at The Citadel – put on by our band as a fundraiser for the pipe band from The Citadel to go to some Military Tattoo in Canada.

Long story short – the concert was a success and enjoyable to all in attendance. ¬†My dad took a bit of video on my iphone from our first number, but I really would love to link you to our version of “Steam Train” which is not yet up on the internet. ¬†I guess I will stick it in a separate post on some future date, but for now “Dawning of the Day” – arranged by our pipe major:

Afterwards, we finally took a band photo, which is comprised of our Grade IV and Grade V bands (we played both separately and together at the concert.)

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I will go to my next solo competition in April, armed with a 6/8 March dusted off from my band in the UK and a better attitude. ¬†I’m here to have fun, right? No more high expectations and nerves (we’ll see about that…) since this is something I enjoy doing. ¬†And perhaps I will even post a video as proof of my new-found ability to confidently play a tune in front of a judge. ¬†We shall see!

The Vampire Bite – part 2 of 2 on Plantar Fasciitis Recovery

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I have seen Plantar Fasciitis (PF from here on out) referred to as “the vampire bite of running injuries” in more than one place – probably because ______ (feel free to fill in the blank for that in the comments!) – I have no idea! ūüôā Either way, I should say again, as I mentioned in Part 1 of this post¬†I am not a medical expert, and these are just my thoughts and opinions. ¬†Today I am continuing the post about how my recovery has progressed. ¬†I just read an article from the website Strength Running on PF which I wish I had come across much sooner, because the author is basically describing what I have been figuring out the hard way through trial and error. ¬†Click here to read what he had to say.

Back to my sort of “running journal” from January and February in which I documented my progress along the road to recovery – anything in italics will be things I’m adding tonight as I edit.

WEEK 1: JANUARY 13-20

Read all this crazy stuff online Monday night, January 14.  Stopped wearing the foot brace at night.

Walked on gravel Tuesday afternoon.  Biked, Ran 5 minutes barefoot.
Thursday I walked on gravel again, biked, and ran 5 minutes on the treadmill, even though my calf hurt.  My feet were starting to feel better already by Thursday.
Friday I walked on gravel again, biked, and ran for 5 minutes. ¬†By this point my feet almost didn’t hurt at all.
Saturday (today, writing this on January 20) I walked in small pebbles while at the Rock Climbing Wall with the kids.  Today I had NO PAIN in my feet when I got out of bed in the morning.  All day I have had no pain in my calves either.  Coincidence?????
I plan to wait another two weeks before publishing my “success” with these methods. ¬†I will update the post with all my runs, etc, along the way, but CAN YOU BELIEVE THE HEALING I’VE HAD IN JUST ONE WEEK — AND THAT’S WITH RUNNING? AND WALKING AROUND BAREFOOT???? Me neither. ¬†Here’s the rest of the story:
WEEK 2: JANUARY 21-27
Writing again on Saturday (January 27) so I can summarize “week 2” of my attempt at using a wacky method for healing my PF. ¬†This week has been a bit up and down – but since my reading online that started me down this “rocky trail,” I don’t feel like a little bit of pain in my foot is going to continue to keep me away from running. ¬†Monday went well with another long bike ride at 20mph for 10-20 miles (I am a bit sketchy on which days I did 15 and which days I did 20, but my pace has consistently been 20mph, and I biked M, W, Th, and F.) ¬†Unfortunately, I let my 5 minutes running on the treadmill in socks turn into 8 1/2 minutes due to excessive happiness at the prospect of being able to run again. ¬†I started having the pain in my foot which first caused me to stop running back in December, so I stopped. ¬†I walked on the gravel after that which made my pain go away a bit, but the next morning I woke up with a painful PF-laden foot again (a very particular pain in the heel, different from the one along the outer edge where it hurt while I was running). ¬†I ended up taking Tuesday off just to let my foot calm down a bit more, and I researched the transition to barefoot running online even further. ¬†I learned that I probably need to take longer to make the transition and that I should be working on foot-strengthening exercises in the meantime. ¬†Roger that. ¬†I also had it impressed upon me by The Soc Doc (through reading tons of his website) ¬†that my gait – which is what I’m trying to correct through barefoot running in order to solve my PF problems – can depend on so many things from nutrition to a sore shoulder to injuries from twenty years ago. ¬†This means that my long, challenging workouts on the bike are giving me tired muscles and may be slowing down my return to running. ¬†It made me resolve to back off on the biking a bit – but my music keeps egging me on, so there I go, still biking long and hard. This changed my decision (“I’m SO changeable!” ¬†Quick – that quote is from…?) to just do my running first before I’m tired, and then move on to the bike.
On Wednesday I walked in gravel per usual (but this time I was completely barefoot – no socks – and this is how I’ve done it since) then biked for an hour. ¬†Then, on Thursday after co-op I did my gravel walk and then ran on the treadmill for five minutes in socks again. ¬†My foot has still been a bit sore, but the PF is dying down again. ¬†On Friday I FINALLY bit the bullet and did what was recommended on the “barefoot” websites – I ran barefoot – without socks or any “transitional” or “minimalist” shoes – on the ground outside. ¬†They recommended only doing 200 yards the first day. ¬†The next day, if your legs do well, they say – do it again. ¬†Not sure what’s after that, because the reading I’ve done has taken so much time that I have yet to read past this point. ¬†(Probably by the time I get to next week’s recap, I will have more to say on that – so read on!) ¬†After that 200 yards on the road outside my house, I drove over to the tracks by the gym and did my gravel walking barefoot again. ¬†Man, this time – it was TOUGH. ¬†I keep thinking: ¬†I’m willing to work really hard to heal my foot, and I’m out there walking through this pain that I’m inflicting on myself in the gravel — but there are other people with PF who go to the doctor and get SHOTS IN THEIR FEET!! Ahh!! Needles stuck in my feet!! Give me walking on gravel ANY DAY. ¬†I really still cannot get over that, even though I mentioned it once in this post already. ¬†(sorry if you’ve had to do that – I am just NOT a needle person.) ¬†But I digress. ¬†After the gravel, I ran barefoot (no socks this time) on the treadmill for 3 1/2 minutes twice (walked about a minute in between.) ¬†I’m nowhere near tired from the running — just working my darnedest to hold back!! ¬†I know that even if it feels good at the time, a few minutes later I may have overdone it. ¬†Of course, if I had my way I’d be running shod (in my Newtons) for 1-2 hours at a time. ¬†Instead, I’m working on going mostly barefoot because I believe, truly, that it will be the only thing to take away, and keep away, the PF. ¬†So I’m going to work up to it as slowly as is recommended to be on the safe side. ¬†After the running I biked for 45 minutes and called it a day.
To round out the week with a tiny bit more barefoot running, I wore my running clothes when we took Patience out for her rock climbing in the morning. ¬†It takes place in a county park with nice trails, so I ran my 200 yards barefoot on the street right near the climbing wall, inside the park. ¬†The trail itself was paved but still a bit rocky, and the road was a wee bit smoother. ¬†Next, I put on my Newton “Distance” and ran for another 15 minutes. ¬†I took them back off for another 200 yards, this time on packed grass/dirt alongside the trail. ¬†All good, perhaps, but in reality my right foot – the one with the worst symptoms of PF – is not feeling that great as I type this. ¬†I walked on tiny gravel Saturday after my runs, and today is now Sunday (January 27). ¬†This is definitely a bit of a setback, so the coming week will have on the 200 yards running barefoot along with barefoot gravel walking, but no other running. ¬†Hopefully by the end of this coming week I will have a much better progress report (Obviously if I am publishing this blog post, I must have positive results, right? :))
WEEK 3: JANUARY 28 – FEBRUARY 3
Okay people. ¬†Week three completed. ¬†For the first time in about 18 months, I spent more time this past week playing the bagpipes (5 times on the pipes this week!) than I did working out (only Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.) ¬†I felt pretty sore after each day of running/biking, and a trip to the chiropractor combined with new stretches have really shaken things up a bit! ¬†After having achey feet from last week’s runs, I started out light on Monday with about 2 minutes of running in my Newtons and then just 2 minutes of barefoot running, with a tough gravel walk for ten minutes and an hour (20 miles) on the bike. ¬†The guy on the bike next to me told me that they do free gait analyses over at the Air Force Base gym, so I made an appointment for February 12. ¬†(Needless to say, I am ecstatic about this, as I will finally get to see, and correct if need be, my running form.) ¬†Tuesday was the chiropractor (She adjusted my foot!), and then Wednesday another short running stint. ¬†This time I wore shoes for 4 minutes, went barefoot for two minutes, then walked on the gravel. ¬†After another 15 miles on the bike (45 minutes) I ran on the treadmill – with shoes for 3 minutes and then barefoot for a minute and a half. ¬†I still have pretty consistent PF pain after sleeping and when I’ve been sitting for long periods. ¬†The prolonged pain that used to have me limping off and on through the day is gone, and there was no pain while running this week. ¬†Saturday was another day running at James Island County Park while Patience was rock climbing – 2.95 miles at an easy 10 minute pace in my Newtons. ¬†I walked barefoot in the tiny rocks where the kids play, and as I write this all sorts of muscles I never knew I had are calling my name. ¬†I just put my feet up after working in the kitchen for about 90 minutes, and I worked several hours in there yesterday, so I know that is contributing to the feeling that my legs and feet have been overdoing it. ¬†The barefoot running is definitely helping even when I wear my Newtons, though, because I can now feel my shoes and the way my toes “grip” them as I run (I am wearing them without socks) and can remind myself to “feel the road” and run as I would if I wasn’t wearing shoes. ¬†It’s definitely a new feeling! ¬†I am writing this Saturday night and am looking forward to a few days of rest for my feet and ankles – one more week of progress before I post this!
WEEK 4: FEBRUARY 4-10
monday – gravel walk, 2 minute barefoot run, 1 hour 20 mile bike in exactly 60 minutes
tuesday – 4 minute barefoot run, 30 minutes bike (10.25 miles), gravel walk
thursday – 2 minute barefoot run, 20 minute run in shoes, 20 minutes bike, gravel walk
friday – 4 minute barefoot run, 14 minutes run in shoes, 40 minutes bike, gravel walk
saturday – stony walk, 40 minute run in shoes
As you can see, I did not post the synopsis of my recovery after just four weeks. ¬†I felt like, since I was still having some pain, I should continue on in order to find out whether or not I was really able to run again. ¬†If you are my facebook friend, you may have seen my outdoor runs automatically posting to facebook, so you would know that I’ve been running 3-6 miles pretty consistently now for about the last month. ¬†I have made it to a full mile barefoot – but just on the treadmill and on the beach in Florida. ¬†For some reason, my feet are still pretty annoyed by tiny pebbles and uneven surfaces. ¬†Outside, I’m only doing about 400-800 yards barefoot. ¬†I have a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, but I can’t find one of them since our move (I guess I still have quite a bit of unpacking in my future!) ¬†I fully intend to use them to try to get a bit farther “barefoot,” but at some point I’d like to really be doing more road-running with absolutely nothing on my feet.
I have been able to run 3-4 days a week for the past three weeks, and this week (March 3-9) I am only biking again because I felt my feet, especially my right foot, were asking me to slow down again.  I had slacked off on any gravel walking, only doing it once in the past three weeks, so I blame myself.  If I can convince myself to get into the gym again Friday and Saturday instead of just throwing on my shoes and heading out for a run, I will wait to run until next week.  Probably, I will give in to my craving and will just run instead.  We shall see.
After my piping competition on Saturday, walking in the pebbles with Daniel

After my piping competition on Saturday, walking in the pebbles with Daniel

So that’s all folks! Nothing too exciting really when I look back, but AS I WAS DOCUMENTING THINGS in January and February, I remember being both astonished and thrilled with the results. ¬†I still am very excited to be running again, and I can honestly say I say a prayer of thanksgiving and joy every time I step out the door for a run. ¬†It makes me SO HAPPY to be running again – no matter how rocky this road has been and will certainly continue to be…

 

The Rocky Road to Running – Coming Back from Plantar Fasciitis

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Ever walk barefoot on the gravel beside a train track???

Ever walk barefoot on the gravel beside a train track???

I have been writing this post for some time now – about three months – working on it here and there and mulling it over in my mind as to what points I want to make and where I’d like this road to lead. ¬†Let me just start by saying that all opinions in this post are my own and are not based on medical advice, etc, etc, etc. ¬†In other words, read it with a grain of salt. ūüôā ¬†It’s going to be about how I’m recovering from the infamous plantar fasciitis (what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, ways to avoid it, etc) as well as why injuries form running are so annoying in general….which calls for a second disclaimer: I am not complaining about my life nor my injury, become I am still super happy that I can sort of still run, that I have a body with all its limbs functions, that I live where it doesn’t get too cold or too rainy, and that I am not pregnant right now and working on running through a pregnancy. ¬†All things for which I am very grateful. ūüôā

I will be completely candid here and say, though, that one of the reasons having my running curtailed bothers me is that, although I truly enjoy running in and of itself (the feeling of my feet flying over the pavement, the lightness and freedom, the peaceful time to myself with music, the endorphins produced which make me more cheerful for hours), I honestly love what it has done for the way I look as well. ¬†I’ve never set out to “lose weight” any time in the past 15 years, but since starting to run 3 1/2 years ago I have consistently felt more at ease in my own skin, and in my own jeans. ¬†There isn’t any “Biggest Loser” -type dramatic before-and-after, but I came across a few pictures last month taken in 2001 and was really struck by the changes I can see, so I thought I would post those old pictures here to remind me some day to keep moving.

These were taken 3 years after I graduated from college, and a year or so after we were married, and a year before I was pregnant with our first child:

Playing tennis in South Carolina (that's a ball in my hip pocket), Summer 2001

Playing tennis in South Carolina (that’s a ball in my hip pocket), Summer 2001

Hiking in upstate New York, Fall 2001

Hiking in upstate New York, Fall 2001

So then I went on a facebook odyssey looking for the post-running equivalent pictures, to the best of my ability.  Here are a few taken when baby number 5 was about 9-12 months old, back in 2011, when I had been running for nearly two years, having taken off 6 months during that pregnancy:

A few days after John returned from deployment, July 2011

A few days after John returned from deployment, July 2011

Heading out to play the pipes at the pub - Spring, 2011Heading out to play the pipes at the pub – Spring, 2011

Unlike some of my other friends (you know who you are!) I don’t lose all my pregnancy weight in the first few weeks postpartum. ¬†Daniel is now almost 8 months old, and I still weigh about 5-7 pounds more than I did the day I walked in for my first prenatal visit with him (I even trained for and ran a marathon – 26.2 miles – when Daniel was 3 months old – meaning: I am not someone who easily and quickly ‘drops weight’); however, even now I’m about 8 pounds less than I was the day I graduated from University many moons ago in 1998, and about 3-5 pounds under what I was in these 2011 pictures. ¬†So do I miss running when I’m injured? ABSOLUTELY! And do I miss what it does for me in so many ways? YOU BET. ¬†I like feeling and looking my best because I think it translates into so many other areas of my life. ¬†But – I digress. Before-and-after, there you have it. Back to the injury…

I’ll start out by just inserting and editing the part I’ve been writing in the past – and then I’ll interject with some things in italics.

It’s been a long, rocky (quite literally) road to recovering from Plantar Fasciitis (hereafter referred to as “PF”), and as the guy who writes the blog “Chi Running” noted – I would not wish PF on my worst enemy. ¬†That is exaggerating it a bit, yes, but I think this injury is something particularly lame (pun intended) because its cure is so elusive. ¬†A break – have it set, wait a prescribed amount of time, and it should heal. ¬†A sprain – stay off it, do this and that, wrap it, it should heal. ¬†A friend of mine had a torn calf muscle which has never really healed over a VERY long period of time, so I really shouldn’t complain. ¬†Either way, the fact remains, PF is quite painful (oh, that’s good – PF=Painful Foot) and is hard to fix; often people have recurrences of it the rest of their lives because it is next to impossible for them to remove the causes of it. ¬†One solution could be to stop running – if running is what caused it – and then once you’ve healed, you shouldn’t get it again, right? ¬†Not so much. ¬†All sorts of things can contribute to it, so even if you can take away what seems to EXACERBATE it, you often are left with the underlying causes. ¬†I am not going to detail PF here, since anyone interested in it can google it all day and find enough information to fill several tomes, but I will quickly say it is a pain felt right where the arch of the foot connects to the heel. ¬†Often, since there are several tendons and muscles in the foot, the pain can radiate from this spot up through other areas of the foot. ¬†It sometimes throbs constantly, and at other times it only hurts when one walks (or runs or stands) on it, and then again it sometimes just hurts when pressed, like a bruise. ¬†I have experienced all three of these which I will describe here before I go into how I am working on curing myself of Plantar Fasciitis. ¬†That is quite a bold statement, but I’ve waited out this post until I could conclusively make it; that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it. ¬†I am still experiencing some pain off and on, but I’m running again, so I call that a victory. ūüôā ¬†I am really only posting about it so that if some poor soul finds herself in my same predicament, perhaps she will locate my blog through a search and will be able to find the help contained therein and will rejoice evermore! ūüôā ¬†I found information for this post (and then tried what the people suggested) on several other blogs, and I’m going to reference them as I tell you my PF story. ¬†Stop reading now if you have no interest in running or recovery from PF or avoiding PF. ūüôā

I’ll start with the “run”down of what occurred. ¬†In September, about one month post-partum with baby number 6 (I had run up until three days AFTER my due date, so when I started running again mid-August, it was not “from scratch.”) ¬†I was finishing up a ten mile run (my longest run since the baby, my long run for that week) with a downhill portion at quite a good clip, and I stepped on something with my right foot. ¬†It seemed sort of like a walnut – large, round, not pointy like a rock. ¬†It caused me to sort of limp into the finish, but I didn’t feel “injured.” ¬†About two weeks later, after another long run or two, on a routine 6 miles, my right calf muscle started to cramp up. ¬†I immediately related it to the pain from stepping on that thing a few weeks earlier. ¬†I took a week off from running, but with the Marine Corps Marathon scheduled for October 28, I needed to keep increasing my mileage, or I was never going to make it. ¬†At this point I had booked a hotel room and bought a plane ticket for Christine to come down for the marathon, John had put in for leave, and we were hoping I could still run in the marathon. ¬†After a week of the stationary bike and lots of massaging of my calves, I was able to return to running, seemingly no worse for the wear. ¬†On October 12, we moved into our new house on the Naval Base, and for the next few days I was on my feet until the wee hours unpacking boxes. ¬†Each night we went to sleep with my comments of “my goodness, my legs are so sore!!!” ringing in my ears. ¬†I was tapering for the marathon by this point after my last long run – only 16 miles that weekend because that took me three hours – so there were just some shorter runs once I was in the house. ¬†The floors are hardwood on a cement slab, and I was walking around in my high-end flip-flops (ie well-supported arches similar to Birkenstocks) for about twelve hours a day, sitting only long enough to nurse the baby and such. ¬†It was a busy time, and I thought since I wasn’t running as much it was a good time to put my extra energy into unpacking the 17,000 pounds that had just been delivered. ¬†A few days before the marathon my feet (both of them) started to hurt. ¬†Around this time I had also been running with a different form, favoring my calf muscles by trying to stay off my toes a bit more because of the previous soreness. ¬†It was enabling me to keep up the marathon training despite the previous leg injury, but I think overall, combined with my long hours on such hard floors, it was starting to cause another injury – plantar fasciitis.
During the week leading up to the marathon I switched to only wearing extremely supportive shoes around the house every time I got out of bed. ¬†I also took them off to ice my feet a few times a day. ¬† I continued to run because nothing hurt while I was running – not my calves, and not my feet. ¬†There were the tell-tale PF signs — extremely painful feet first thing in the morning when I got out of bed or any time I’d been sitting more than 30-45 minutes. ¬†Also, whenever I pushed on the spot where the swelling was the worst, there was intense pain. ¬†I was fairly certain by this time that it was PF (self-diagnosis,) but I was hopeful for the marathon since we would spend the few days beforehand in hotels and off my feet (doing lots of driving) and I felt that my floors were the main culprit. ¬†I ran the marathon, albeit, in a lot of pain (none of it in my foot or calves, I might add) and then took a week off from running. ¬†My feet both continued to hurt every morning and off and on throughout the day. ¬†I was still icing them and reading about it online, and I thought staying off my feet for the week might solve the problem. ¬†After the marathon I went on three easy runs and felt fine. ¬†On my fourth run – my first time to run speed intervals since having the baby – my right foot suddenly had quite a bit of pain on the last half mile, and I ended up limping home. ¬†This was the final indication that I had a serious case of PF, and I took to the web in earnest, trying to figure out how bad this really was. ¬†All over the internet people were talking about it – how persistent PF can be, that you shouldn’t got back to running until it’s completely healed, how easy it is to keep reinjuring it, etc, etc. ¬†Nothing too promising. ¬†So, it was back to the bike for a few weeks. ¬†Then a tentative half-mile run (not bad) and a three mile run (oops) which convinced me I was far from healed. ¬†Finally I went to the doctor the first week of November (a month after the marathon) and had the PF confirmed in order to receive a referral to a podiatrist through our military insurance. ¬†I couldn’t wait for the appointment, though, to start working on my recovery, so I ordered the night foot brace and started wearing it. ¬†Here is the basic brace:
 
I also ordered the pamphlet (not cheap) called The 5 Minute Plantar Fasciitis Solution. ¬†One reviewer went so far as to say, “For over 1 year I did everything else… 3 cortisone shots…2 different podiatrists, 2 different pairs of custom made orthotics, every device money could buy, 1 chiropractor, hot laser treatments, one M.D., daily Chinese foot massages, and acupuncture (which actually did give ‘some’ relief)….and lots and lots of money…I finally bought this little book…which seems expensive by the page…read it…and did the exercise shown, and I was cured in 2 weeks. No podiatrist, or M.D. ever told me about this simple treatment… Every podiatrist should read this book. Really, try this first before you waste a bunch of money on everything else.”.
I stayed off my feet as far as running went, from December 8 until mid-January (January 15 was my first half mile run again – but we’re not to that part of the story yet. :)) ¬†That meant a lot more time on the stationary bike, usually 4-5 days a week and 20 miles at a time (60-65 minutes.) ¬†It was a good workout, but it was just that: a workout. ¬†And that is NOT what running is to me. ¬†I LOVE how I feel when I run, before, during, and after. ¬†I do it because it is enjoyable to me. ¬†(When I was pregnant this last time, I actually felt light and buoyant when I ran, and occasionally fast, like I was my old self again.) ¬†Biking has not really been that way, but I have come to look forward to it a bit, especially since I get to watch tv the whole time (heehee). This was great for me during the Christmas season because it led to several neat gifts for my husband which I saw on daytime talk shows (We don’t have cable or anything here, so the only tv I normally watch are the series which I choose on Hulu – Biggest Loser, The Office, Once Upon a Time, and Glee, and the ads are always the same.) ¬†After around three weeks of the night brace and the stretching prescribed in the 5 Minute book, I was feeling pretty hopeless still and no closer to being able to run, since the pain was still there all the time. ¬†I then ordered a “Strassburg Sock” which looks like this:
My experience with the sock was not that great because I suppose I had it too tight one night (this was discussed in the reviews as well), and my big toe tendon has been a bit tender and painful (hurts easily when I do this or that) across the top of my foot, enough so that I stopped wearing the sock at night after a week and can’t bring myself to go back to it. ¬†By January 8 – a month off of running – I felt not a smidge better in reality. ¬†I am not sure how I would have felt if I had tried running at this point, because I was waiting until I was all “healed up” before trying to run again. ¬†FINALLY, FINALLY, I went back to the internet on the night of January 13. ¬†I spent an hour and a half surfing the web, going from one link to another as I kept finding new ideas. ¬†What could I do for my feet???
Here is what conventional medicine says and is the reason why I still have not made that appointment with the podiatrist:  Wear a brace at night in order to keep your toe from pointing.  Stretch the arch of the foot multiple times a day.  Keep your foot not only flexed at night, but stretch the toes up all night (the Strassburg sock.)  Reduce the swelling where your heel bone is attached to the fascia through the use of either topical anti-inflammatories, anti-inflammatories taken by mouth, or cortisone shots.  Stop running.  Wear shoes with exceptionally supportive arches.  Wear custom orthotics in your shoes in order to fully support your arches all day.  Use alternating heat and ice in order to reduce swelling.
So far, I had done several of these things on my own, and I was unwilling to use drugs or shots to reduce the inflammation. ¬†So what point was there in going to a foot doctor? ¬†Why is it that people would rather stick needles in their feet than find another way? ¬†Probably it is because they don’t know that there IS another way. ¬†I know it must sound pretty smug to claim that I am getting over this pretty bad case of PF without shots and such and using methods which fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but that is exactly what I’m doing. ¬†If you’ve tried everything else and still suffer, then keep reading.
I am SO THANKFUL that it is finally gone, and that I am running again.  How did it happen?? What did I read January 13??  Would you like to read it, too??  I found this article on the Chi Running blog that said:
“This debilitating (not to mention annoyingly persistent) injury can happen to runners and walkers alike. And, it’s harder to get rid of than a condo in a recession. I’ve had my bouts with it and I’d like to offer anything I can to those of you who either wish to recover from PF or avoid it altogether….”So, yesterday, when I felt that all-too-familiar tinge of discomfort on the front of my heel I spent no time getting to the fix. I ran directly to a neighbor‚Äôs driveway which has a deep layer of crushed granite gravel covering a space about 6‚Ä≤ wide by 20‚Ä≤ long. As soon as I got there I took off my shoes (left my socks on) and began walking back and forth over the gravel. It‚Äôs a gnarly driveway and, as you can imagine, uncomfortable (a huge understatement) to walk on without shoes. After about 10 minutes of this self-inflicted torture I put my shoes back on and continued my run.

“As predicted, it worked like a charm. All sense of any soreness on the bottoms of my feet was totally gone and, I might add, has never returned. In fact, my feet felt so alive and energized by my ‚Äútorture walk‚ÄĚ that I had one of the best runs I‚Äôve had in weeks. My legs were much more relaxed and my feet we‚Äôre happy as little clams.

“So, if you‚Äôre ever feeling even the slightest nuance of a case of PF coming on, I highly suggest you bite the bullet and find yourself a nice, lovely stretch of gnarly granite to walk across. If are already dealing with a full-blown case of PF it‚Äôs even more pertinent that you take matters into your own hands and short circuit the time you spend having to deal with one of the most persistent running injuries there is. This is one of those rare instances in my¬†Chi Running¬†practice when I would agree with the old adage, ‚ÄúNo pain‚Ķno gain.‚ÄĚ”

Ow. ¬†That sounds pretty painful – walking on gravel. ¬†Really?? ¬†But how about comparing that to having cortisone shot into my feet with needles? ¬†Let’s try a little self-inflicted pain first, with proper pain management techniques (Labor and delivery came in handy here as I walked on gravel using breathing techniques to relax and listening to powerful music to get me through 7-10 minutes of intermittent pain.) before resorting to modern medicine’s “fix,” eh? ¬†I also stumbled upon a blog entry from Christopher McDougal, the author of Born to Run, a book on running using the correct form and for great distances. (This book inspired me around this time last year to begin Half-Marathon training at 4 months pregnant and to run my first 13.1 miler at 6 months along – followed by a 10K at 7 months.) ¬†I didn’t go looking for him, but I probably should have, since I already knew I share a lot of his philosophies when it comes to running. ¬†I don’t know why someone like me – all into chiropractic, alternative medicine, and using nutrition as “drugs” – went straight to the “mainstream” recommendations for PF. ¬†What was I thinking!?! ¬†I know. ¬†Post-marathon brain-haze brought me to this. ¬†Haha. ¬†Anyway, modern medicine isn’t all bad, I know, but I should have done more research from the start. ¬†Here’s what I read on Mr. McDougal’s blog:
“PF Cure:
lose the shoes.”
Now, I had tried to go “barefoot” about 2 1/2 years ago when I was starting fresh back to running after the birth of Greer. ¬†At that point, a few months into using Nike Free’s and experimenting with Vibram Five Fingers, I had some pain across the top of my feet that scared me off truly minimalist shoes. ¬†I glimpsed my first pair of Newtons right around that time, and I was sold on them from then on — they encouraged my forefoot strike yet cushioned it a bit and took the pain away in my feet. ¬†I was sold, and I never returned to the thought of going barefoot. ¬†What I realized from these two blog posts, though, was that the PF wasn’t just caused by my new floors, but the way I WALKED on my new floors. ¬†It wasn’t caused from not wearing supportive enough shoes or from having too little cushioning on the floors, but from the fact that I continually walked with a hard heel-strike – regardless of the hard floors or the flip-flops. ¬†I realized I needed to walk AND run as if I were barefoot – by being barefoot as often as possible – in order to strengthen my feet and correct my form.
I decided that night upon reading these things that I would start walking on gravel the very next day. ¬†I would try running the day after that. ¬†I would take off my shoes and walk barefoot at home as much as possible in order to STRENGTHEN my feet in a safe way. ¬†I just know that WHEN I’M BAREFOOT IN MY HOUSE, OUTSIDE ON THE SIDEWALKS, ETC, I walk in a completely different way than I do when there is any shoe on my foot. ¬† Walking on the gravel hurts – I’m not gonna lie. ¬†I’ve been going over to some railroad tracks across from the gym and have walked 7-10 minutes to the same music on my workout playlists (because I NEED it.) ¬†I BREAK A SWEAT doing it, even though I’m walking slowly, because the pain is sometimes THAT intense. ¬†(Update: two months later and I walked on gravel for ten minutes yesterday with barely any flinching – it’s definitely easier now!) ¬†

My original post is waaaaay too long, so I will continue with the recovery story tomorrow. ¬†Suffice it to say, I eventually progressed to barefoot walking on the gravel, quite a bit of completely barefoot running,¬†along with intermittent biking still whenever the pain has resurfaced and I’ve needed to take a short running “break.” ¬†Check back in for more details tomorrow if I haven’t bored you to death already! ūüôā

"Stop kissing me Mama!!"

“Stop kissing me Mama!!”

Monday’s Musical Musings – Northeast Florida Highland Games

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Mostly just pictures because it’s almost midnight, and band practice wiped me out tonight. ūüôā If you’re my friend on Facebook, then you’ve seen a few of these, but I’m going to repost in case you haven’t ūüôā ¬†First things first: the morning of the games Daniel wore his special shirt to cheer me on (even though he was spending the day with my mom in Ponte Vedra at her friend’s house where we all crashed for the weekend.)

Oh - did you want to see my shirt?

Oh – did you want to see my shirt?

"Born to Bagpipe"

“Born to Bagpipe”

My dad and I drove down Friday night with Daniel, and we were up nice and early for an on-time departure around 8:45am. ¬†We pulled into the hotel where the band members stayed and picked up our parking pass and admission wristbands, barely squeaking through the gate for “Pipe Band Parking” at 9:57am. (The gates closed at 10am.) ¬†After my dad performed his packhorse duties, we were happily set up for the whole day in a nice covered pavilion where all the bands gathered. ¬†We brought healthy snacks, along with Guinness cupcakes frosted with Bailey’s frosting. ¬†Yum. ¬†Others in the band also brought treats (Grand Marnier rice krispie treats anyone? More Guinness cupcakes – this time with Irish whiskey ganache? Sure!), and a drummer in our Grade V band cooked up enough delicious meatball stroganoff to feed every piper at the games (maybe…300 people?) ¬†Really, though – it was for us as well as for all the pipers from The Citadel, so there wasn’t all¬†that much leftover.

My dad took a few pictures throughout the day that really show things much better than I can describe them, so I’m going to just caption and post them:

close up - I love my iphone. It is the bomb.

close up – I love my iphone. It is the bomb.

The skin our drummer in England wore was much cooler than this one from The Citadel - looked like he was wearing a pillow pet or maybe one of those hats with a scarf that hangs down? Apparently they aren't allowed to wear real animal skin. Or the guy just can't leave home without his security blanket...?

The skin our drummer in England wore was much cooler than this one from The Citadel – looked like he was wearing a pillow pet or maybe one of those hats with a scarf that hangs down? Apparently they aren’t allowed to wear real animal skin. Or the guy just can’t leave home without his security blanket…?

The Citadel P&D marching off after its performance

The Citadel P&D marching off after its performance

Great shot of some guy tuning up one of his pipers.

Great shot of some guy tuning up one of his pipers.

The morning before the Opening Ceremonies was spent on the Individual Piping (and a few of our band members were off doing the Scottish fiddle competition as well) competition - seen here with a random competitor playing for his judge.

The morning before the Opening Ceremonies was spent on the Individual Piping (and a few of our band members were off doing the Scottish fiddle competition as well) competition – seen here with a random competitor playing for his judge.

 

Random people, good picture.

Random people, good picture.

John Weed and Pipe Major Joshua Collins - he's on his practice chanter which is how we spent the day - piping, practicing, sitting (sleeping) and eating.

John Weed and Pipe Major Joshua Collins – he’s on his practice chanter which is how we spent the day – piping, practicing, sitting (sleeping) and eating.

A view from above - these are all people from my band chatting in our area

A view from above – these are all people from my band chatting in our area

Tuning up my drones while trying to light my hair on fire with his cigarette as he simultaneously attempts to hit Biff in the head with his pipes

Tuning up my drones while trying to light my hair on fire with his cigarette as he simultaneously attempts to hit Biff in the head with his pipes

Pipe Major Josh, taking a smoke break while tuning up pipes.

Pipe Major Josh, taking a smoke break while tuning up pipes.

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Jacksonville Fire Department Pipes and Drums

Jacksonville Fire Department Pipes and Drums

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Citadel drummer and piper (the girl is the piper)

Citadel drummer and piper (the girl is the piper)

Some other band's drum.

Some other band’s drum.

Trying to focus so I don't hose it up for everybody else (I made a little squeak at the beginning when we struck in our pipes which was noted down by at least two of the judges on their scoresheets that I saw.  Possibly on the others' too, but their chicken scratch was indecipherable :))

Trying to focus so I don’t hose it up for everybody else (I made a little squeak at the beginning when we struck in our pipes which was noted down by at least two of the judges on their scoresheets that I saw. Possibly on the others’ too, but their chicken scratch was indecipherable :))

During the piping

During the piping

Our head drum guy in the background (Drum Sergeant Biff) and the chef - drummer Dennis - talking to a Drum Major (I think?) from The Citdel

Our head drum guy in the background (Drum Sergeant Biff) and the chef – drummer Dennis – talking to a Drum Major (I think?) from The Citdel

On that note - a cool drumming pic of the tenor drummers from another band doing cool flourishes.

Speaking of drummers Рa cool drumming pic of the tenor drummers from another band doing  flourishes.

Our band marching off after we played our March-Strathspey-Reel

Our band marching off after we played our March-Strathspey-Reel

My dad also shot a few videos of the “Massed Bands” which was all of the pipe bands together at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies playing and marching together. ¬†It was such poor piping and was so disorganized that I am not going to post any of them. ¬†During the Closing Ceremonies, drummer Biff stole my hat off my head as I countermarched past him, and my dad’s video shows me in a sea of people with hats on¬†without my hat. ¬†The music is atrocious, though, so really, no evidence will be displayed here. ¬†Without further ado, though, here is MY BAND by itself, playing the first part of our March-Strathspey-Reel set. ¬†It is just our Grade IV Band (we also have a Grade V Band which is made up of the people who are a bit newer to piping.) ¬†You can sort of see me facing the camera in the circle, on the far side from the camera.

In between piping things my dad and I wandered a bit and captured other common – and not so common – occurrences at Highland Games.

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I think this is the only picture I have of my dad from the day!

I think this is the only picture I have of my dad from the day!

Editing to say: ¬†We took 2nd place in the Grade IV competition (the one I played in) and 4th in the Grade V. ¬†Time for bed now. ¬†The beauty of an electronic practice chanter is that even though everyone in the house has been in bed for hours, I can still practice my tunes for this Saturday’s concert and solo competition EVERY TIME I GET THE SPINNY WHEEL OF DEATH on my MacBook instead of just sitting here frustrated like I usually do. ¬†Ironically, it froze up just now for a few seconds when I put on the capslock to comment on said PINWHEEL OF DOOM. ¬†I think it knew what was coming and took offense. ¬†It wants to go to sleep and is trying to kick me off of here. ¬†Point taken — goodnight!

Baking Day Bonanza

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Just checking in for a few minutes in order to motivate myself to get back up to wrap all the breads up and throw them in the freezer. ¬†Tomorrow perhaps I will post the pretzel recipe I used (I altered one I found online in order to soak the freshly ground flour) because I am thrilled to say that the pretzels are delicious. ¬†After eating one tomorrow I can report back on what they taste like when they are¬†not¬†straight out of the oven. ¬†I plan on freezing a few of them so I can check out the taste and texture after a few weeks. ¬†As you’ll see in this one picture when you attempt to spot the pretzels, they are too fluffy to really look much like pretzels. ¬†That’s a problem I will need to work on the next time I make them, but for now, I’m just the fluffy pretzels since they’re yummy enough. ūüôā

Shown here: 6 loaves of focaccia, 16 mini loaves and 3 large loaves of sandwich bread, and a bunch of cinnamon-sugar coated pretzels (brown from the sucanat used instead of regular sugar); not shown: 2 big loaves and 8 mini loaves baked this morning at a new friend's house, the loaf of cinnamon-sugar bread we ate with dinner, 4-5 pretzels we already squirreled away in our bellies :)

Shown here: 6 loaves of focaccia, 16 mini loaves and 3 large loaves of sandwich bread, and a bunch of cinnamon-sugar coated pretzels (brown from the sucanat used instead of regular sugar); not shown: 2 big loaves and 8 mini loaves baked this morning at a new friend’s house, the loaf of cinnamon-sugar bread we ate with dinner, 4-5 pretzels we already squirreled away in our bellies ūüôā ¬†Everything but the kitchen sink — oh no WAIT! There it is in the background, full of dishes which I probably won’t wash til Friday! Hahahahaha…….

We had ¬†a bit of a rough time last night when Greer randomly decided to come downstairs at midnight while I was working on my blog and then stay awake until 3:15am insisting that I “snuggle” with her, which I did in order to keep her crying at bay so she wouldn’t wake the whole house. ¬†I think the only time she has ever done that was in her first few weeks of life, so it was very unexpected and not so pleasant. ¬†I hoped she would therefore sleep in later, so I set my alarm for 10:15am to make sure I’d be up in time to be at our neighbor’s house for some playtime and baking by 11am. ¬†And yet, who did I hear creeping into my room at 8:15am? ¬†Why yes, it was Greer! ¬†Oh well. ¬†It’s not like I can’t survive occasionally on five hours of sleep. ūüôā Greer apparently functions quite well on so little sleep, as evidenced by her ability to play (mostly without fussing) until we made it home at 4pm for her nap (Usually she naps around 2pm.) ¬†Getting to know more neighbors who homeschool was a treat, and I helped the mom out with a bit of bread-baking skills since she has been grinding wheat for a while and unable to make a loaf of bread which held its rise well enough. ¬†She took this picture of me rolling out the loaves so I can add it to my blog entry on Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. ¬†(This was accomplished with TWELVE children in the house since we each have 6!!)

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Once home, I took my soaked flour for each of the two sandwich bread recipes and added the remaining ingredients.  Finally, there was time for a short break.  Then it was on to the preparation of the dough for the pretzels and the focaccia breads as well as grilling up some sausages to eat with this bread for our dinner:

I laid down a layer of honey, sucanat, and cinnamon before rolling up the dough into a loaf.

I laid down a layer of honey, sucanat, and cinnamon before rolling up the dough.

The underneath side of the dough once I dump it on the counter after its rise in a bowl - I think this was sandwich bread, but I can't be sure :)

The underneath side of the dough once I dumped it on the counter after its rise in a bowl – I think this was sandwich bread, but I can’t be sure ūüôā

I love the size of our ovens in the US!  Lots of focaccia bread rising on the counter which I was able to cook all at once!

I love the size of our ovens in the US! Lots of focaccia bread rising on the counter which I was able to cook all at once!

All for now because I need to get back to work in the kitchen, but first, here’s Greer. ¬†She put one of those sleeping masks on her head, and I thought it made her look like a bellboy from an old hotel. ¬†What do you think? ūüôā

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Infant Potty Training PROGRESS REPORT!

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Look at my new shirt!

Look at my new shirt!

First off, our new (cheap) Gymboree clothes (which I bought using our Gymbucks – $50 for four matching outfits like this!? Yippee!) came in the mail yesterday, and Greer needed to try them on right away. ūüôā ¬†They are all size 3 (for her) because they didn’t have these in size 2, but now she can grow into them. ¬†Needless to say, she was pretty excited!

Recently I discovered that “infant potty training” was the search term most often leading people to my blog. ¬†I thought perhaps an update might be appreciated as to how Daniel has been doing on the potty. ¬†Several friends lately have been diving into potty training with their two- and three-year-olds as well, so I decided to tell you about how it’s gone with Greer, too. ¬†But first, an aside:

Not much has gone on here since my last post (must keep everyone “updated” so I don’t get “behind” in my own mind :)) except church on Sunday and then band practice on Monday night. ¬†Mondays are probably my favorite days each week for a few reasons (I know my friend Joell posted yesterday about how Mondays can be a bit of a bummer because it means the weekend is over, but I think you’ll understand why I like Mondays soon…) ¬†I spend Mondays thinking about band practice in the evening – when each feeding for Daniel needs to happen so I can leave on time and only have to pump while I’m out, whether I’m fixing a quick dinner beforehand or if I need to figure out something John will make everyone, what I’m feeding myself and possibly bringing to snack on afterwards (because I’m usually famished by the time practice is over), if I’m going to the pub with everyone after practice, if I have all my things together, whether or not there will be time to shower after my workout that day – and all these thoughts make the day go by quickly. ūüôā ¬†Usually weekends feel a bit¬†more strenuous than weekdays because I do more to prepare meals (I try to do double-cooking on Saturday for Sunday’s meals, or we make things the night before on Saturday to eat in the car on the way to church Sunday morning; John is also home so that’s another person to factor into meal preparations) and we are usually out for a bit on Saturdays and then of course are out on Sundays at church. ¬†Going “out” isn’t just “hey kids, go get in the car,” but is, instead, “pack a bunch of snacks and drinks and extra clothes and nappies into the van, properly attire everyone, have everyone go potty, and try to look decent while getting everyone out the door on time (and nursing Daniel.)” ¬†Mondays we¬†don’t do school, but we do our weekly cleaning (if it’s going to happen – including laundry) together instead, so things are a bit cleaner by the end of the day usually than they were all weekend. ¬†And after a long, busy weekend, a “break” at pipe band practice is always a bright spot for me. ūüôā ¬†This week at practice we only played our chanters, and I was able to sit next to the pipe major, proving to him that I really do know my tunes well enough for our competition in a few weeks. ¬†(Last week we were on pipes, and I was next to him, and I was messing things up left and right. ¬†Needless to say, I practiced¬†a lot¬†this week.) ¬†The other great thing that happened is that I was able to compare pipes with another lady in the band, and she helped me figure out a few issues I’ve been having with mine which we were able to solve together, and now I won’t feel like I’m wrestling with my pipes each time I play. ¬†After practice I swung through Krispy Kreme and THOROUGHLY ENJOYED two “hot now” donuts. ¬†We haven’t had them in weeks, and they were well worth the wait. ¬† To complete the summary of the last few days, I feel compelled to inform you that I fell off the chocolate wagon today with a DELICIOUS chocolate croissant from Atlanta Bread Company today after my appointment with the chiropractor. ¬†I told John about it, and now all of you, so hopefully everyone will keep me accountable to getting back on board. ūüôā

I am finally back to this post after practicing the bagpipes, eating some dinner, and grinding/soaking wheat. ¬†The kids and I are heading over to a new friend’s house tomorrow to play, visit, and bake bread since I had been planning on baking a bunch tomorrow anyway. ¬†Here it all is: 3 bowls for the 9 loaves of sandwich bread, a bowl for several pans of focaccia bread, and another for experimental soft pretzels (please, please, please work!!)

Looks like we've got our work cut out for us tomorrow!

Looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us tomorrow!

It took about two hours to grind it all up, measure out the liquids, and mix the dough together. ¬†Possibly, Greer’s “help” made it take a bit longer as well. ūüôā

NOW! BACK TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAM!

What are we doing with Daniel right now? ¬†Currently, I only put him on the potty after I feed him when he has just woken from a nap. ¬†I occasionally feed him right¬†before a nap as well in order to add an extra feeding (to keep my supply up), but I generally do not potty him after that feeding because by then he’s been awake a while and is getting fussy meaning he needs to go straight to bed. ¬†I keep him on the potty as long as he will stay there, and for as long as I am willing to sit still. ūüôā ¬†Usually he will sit on the potty 10-15 minutes. ¬†If he has done a #2 for me, I wait til I hear the noises for that several times in a row (since babies are known for going poop again right after you change a poopie diaper) before taking him off the potty. ¬†There is very rarely an empty potty after 15 minutes. ¬†I even potty him at midnight or 1am when I get him up to feed him again before I go to sleep, and, almost without fail, he goes #1 and #2 for me! ¬†After his “potty time” I replace his diaper and let him crawl around for about an hour. ¬†If I hear any “tooting” noises, I’ll check right away for poop and will try him on the potty again. ¬†Usually, though, I don’t potty him again between feedings. ¬†If he is happy enough before he goes down for a nap (which sometimes happens if he’s had the additional feeding, otherwise he’s falling apart) I¬†may put him on the potty again, but generally speaking, there just isn’t time for me to hold him on the potty. ¬†He is soooo close to being able to sit by himself on the potty, and when he is I hope to potty him more frequently since I will no longer need to spend all that time sitting with him. ¬†(With my first baby, we kept her diaperless between feedings while she crawled around, usually with a pad down on the floor – the hardwood floors were nice for this since accidents were easy to clean. ¬†This helped us to repeatedly put her on the potty. ¬†Needing to remove and replace a diaper every time to potty Daniel definitely inhibits my desire to continue to potty him during his “wake” time. ¬†He’s pretty mobile now but still is just dragging himself along rather than crawling. ¬†Once he’s crawling, since we have hardwood floors again, I may have him go diaperless for a while. ¬†I’ll let you know if that happens! ¬†The real issue is just having the time and inclination to keep my eyes on him often enough to have him naked. ¬†Sure, I have more kids now, which is why it’s harder to do than when I had just one child, but perhaps this means I can now have one of the older kids help with the baby tracking, reporting to me if he makes any messes. :))

Daniel going potty yesterday

Daniel going potty yesterday

As far as dirty diapers go, we clean up a “poopie” diaper about twice a week, maybe? ¬†(If my husband is reading this, the “?” is for him – is that about right?) ¬†Twice a week. ¬†That’s what I said. ¬† Some weeks it may only be once, and others, perhaps a few more times. ¬†If you want this to be the way you potty train your baby, and you have questions – PLEASE ASK. ¬†I would love to help you do it! ¬†We started our 1st, 5th, and 6th babies from birth and our 4th from six months old. ¬†Starting any later – I don’t have experience with that. ¬†Babies 2 and 3 we trained the traditional way (close to age 3) after attempting infant potty training and having it fail around 10 months (baby #2) and 3 months (baby #3) because I couldn’t juggle it all. ¬†How does it really work, then? ¬†Why is it we train animals to go in certain places and expect them not to urinate all over the house some time between 6 and 12 months old but don’t expect it of our young humans who are so much more intelligent? ¬†Most babies are trained¬†by us to use their diapers to go potty. ¬†Attempting to break that training – YEARS later – is difficult and trying! ¬†If you are a first-time mom, or even if you have several kids and think they are under control enough for you to maybe spend a little extra time with the baby on this – I think you should give it a try. ¬†Just go for it. ¬†What do you have to lose other than a few years of changing absolutely disgusting diapers?? ¬†Training a baby to use the potty works the same way we train animals to use litter boxes or the backyard. ¬†Babies learn to control their muscles (and gain the ability to control them) as they age at a pretty fast rate, so take advantage of that steep learning curve!

At first, babies just go potty whenever and wherever. ¬†They take their cues from their surroundings just like we do — things like temperature, nakedness, being wet, being in a breeze, sitting on something made of cold plastic are all variables that will make a baby (and sometimes an adult!) ¬†need to go potty. ¬†Ever wonder why a baby seems to pee and poop all over you at the doctor’s office when you take off the diaper? ¬†It’s probably the cool air and “free”ness experienced when you remove the diaper that stimulate baby’s senses and muscles. ¬†Eating and drinking also can make people need to go potty (which is why I center my potty times around feedings.) ¬†Some books recommend using a sound or a phrase each time the baby goes potty so that he will begin to associate the sound with the sensation of using his muscles to go potty. ¬†This is what we are training — using muscles to go potty rather than using muscles to¬†prevent going potty. ¬†They are two completely different things, and baby’s muscles for¬†going potty develop much sooner than the muscles needed for the opposite. ¬†It’s the same for your dog – right after meal time, an owner will take the dog to the spot for going potty and will praise the dog and use the word “potty” or something similar when the dog goes potty. ¬†Dog owners do the same right after letting a dog out of its kennel. ¬†Obviously the dog needs to go potty, but using the word and taking it to its spot reinforce the habit, and before you know it, the dog will always go to that spot when he needs to pee. ¬†We do this with animals RIGHT AWAY, as soon as they are able to walk. ¬†Are they smarter than our babies?? ¬†No way! ¬†Any baby can learn to go potty¬†on a potty with about as much effort as it might take to train a dog. ¬†Perhaps the dog is trained completely in 6 months, having only the occasional accident. ¬†How long does it take us to get a baby to this point? ¬†Would you like to know?

Here’s Greer yesterday, and this picture has a purpose:

I made sure she's not being too revealing!!

I made sure she’s not being too revealing!!

It is to say that from the time the baby walks (just around age 1), we keep the baby naked on the bottom (more modest using a long shirt or dress) to prevent any hinderances to going potty. ¬†At the age our children (babies 1, 4, and 5 so far) have been walking, they have been walking to the potty on their own. ¬†That’s 12-13 months old. ¬†So if you knew it would only take you 6 MONTHS LONGER to train your baby than it does to train your dog, and that through your efforts you would avoid changing poopie diapers (pretty much ever – Greer hasn’t had poopie diapers on a regular basis at any point except the few weeks when she needed to go after her naps and couldn’t get out of her crib – age 20 months or thereabouts. ¬†The same thing happened with all the kids, but more on that some other time), then wouldn’t you want to at least give it a shot? ¬†Another difficult transition happens around age two when we need to start having the baby wear pants on a regular basis. ¬†It took a while to get Greer to realize she needed to pull down her panties when she needed to go potty, but she would still go consistently in the potty if she was naked. ¬†Greer, of course, still has occasional accidents, but she’s only 2 1/2. ¬†I can tell you from the experience we had with Liesl, our third baby, that changing toddler poopie diapers is just plain gross. ¬†Doing it until the baby is three and later stinks, quite literally. ¬†You don’t have to do it! ¬†There is another way!

I remember veteran mothers saying somewhat discouraging things to me when I was potty training Patience as an infant about how hard it would be to keep it up with further babies. ¬†AND THEY WERE RIGHT. ¬†When you have baby after baby after baby, juggling everything and spending time pottying a baby can be difficult. ¬†Once I had babies 4, 5, and 6, though,¬†I have had a bit of help here and there (older kids – not that old, but old enough to stay in one place to play and get the phone if it rings, etc, mother’s helpers, my husband and parents who are used to the potty thing now) which has made it possible once again, to my great pleasure, to potty train mybabies. I am SO HAPPY to have been able to return to infant potty training. ¬†It makes such a difference in our lives. ¬†And the TIME it takes for me to sit with little baby while he goes potty — I NEED IT!! I¬†need to sit still longer than I do, more frequently than I would otherwise, and being required to hold the baby on the potty makes me do that.

So here are my pointers generally speaking: Just do it! ¬†Do it as often as you are able for as long as you are able. ¬†Enlist others to help. Keep the baby naked whenever possible. ¬†Keep potties¬†everywhere¬†(we have two little potties upstairs and two downstairs, and I still feel like I want another one for the van) so you’re more likely to do it. ¬†Celebrate every success! ¬†(I guarantee anyone who helps you out and gets a baby to poop on the potty will forever remember it!)

Don’t forget: ¬†I’m just like you. ¬†I’m not a back-to-nature, living off the land and off the grid, supermom. ¬†I live in a normal house. ¬†I have six normal, active, crazy, fun kids. ¬†I buy disposable diapers. ¬†I even use diapers on the infant I’m potty training. ¬†I put a diaper on the toddler most days when I leave the house. ¬†We are NORMAL people who LOVE what infant potty training has done for our family. ¬†If we can do it, so can you! ¬†Let me know if you try it out and how it goes for you!!