Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hiking Little Si: Sticking Together.

I know that I need to catch our blog up, but since it is 2:15 a.m. right now, I don't have a lot of time and wanted to instead write about an experiences so they won't be forgotten.

Hiking Little Si

Last Saturday was such an emotional day for me.  Oh wow, where do I even start?   If you could cram all of my fears into one day, it would have been the day.

Earlier that morning I got up early and got Riley and myself ready and headed into downtown Seattle so that I could attend the Recording Academy's Engineer Tech Summit Conference at the EMP.  I've attended this event in the past and thought it would be fine to bring Riley with me since last time it was in a rather large hall with standing room in the back where I could hang out with Riley incognito.

However, I found that this year they held the event in one of the smaller theaters.  Here was me at the back of the first seminar...

And as you can also see, 90% of the people attending this event were men, in their 20-30s, total hipster nerdy engineers, not married or with children.  I figured bringing Riley with me would be perfectly all right though since he is typically a SUPER well-behaved baby and would just sleep through it.  And just because I have a child doesn't mean I should exclude myself from my career - I mean I know plenty of other female musicians who tote their little ones around. It's a package deal. I'm female and I'm an artist so deal with it.

However, I found the entire experience to be very much the opposite of what I hoped it would be.  Riley wasn't sleeping through it because the speaker's microphone was so loud, and so I spent a lot of time out in the hallway with him in the Baby Bjorn trying to walk/bounce him to sleep.  

Here we are hanging out in the women's bathroom...

As soon as I would get him to sleep, they would play audio samples at very loud volumes and so I would slip out into the hallway with him yet again only to find that they were pumping very loud rock music out there as well.  It was, afterall, the EMP building (Experience Music Project).

I ended up feeling very out of place, a little frustrated, and missing my family. I really wanted to just get out of there and spend the nice sunny day with Will and the boys.  I also was just feeling really self conscious even though I was trying to give myself pep talks like "Who cares if you are carrying extra baby weight and are not feeling your most confident? You are an established musician and deserve to be here. Screw anyone who gives you weird looks for bringing your baby, they will see how quiet and well behaved he is and not even remember he's there."

But I ended up leaving after the first talk.  

After a somewhat stressful morning filled with facing the reality that I'm probably not quite ready to face the world of my music career again quite yet, I decided to do some retail therapy at Target and then go home.

I got home and so enjoyed the nice sunny weather and NOT being stuck in a room with a bunch of studio musicians and engineers talking about bit rates and files and so forth.  I explained to Will that since I had cut out early, a friend at the event really wanted me to try to return later that evening for the after-party so that I could network.  I really did not want to go. All I wanted to do was spend time with my family.

And so instead, we decided to go for a family hike.

Will took us to Little Si, which is the little "hump" of a mountain on the lower portion of Mt. Si (the huge mountain you see from downtown our little town).  The boys were asking him how long the hike would take and he said "An hour up and an hour down."

We didn't start our hike until about 6:00 or 6:30 p.m.

I was really excited about the hike because it had been a couple of days since I had been able to get a workout in. I'd been playing hostess and tour guide to some music friends visiting from India...

The first part of the hike is quite steep as you climb, and at 11 weeks postpartum even though I've been working out at the gym for 5 weeks, I found the hike to already be hard.

I should also note that my feet were already hurting before we began our hike because I spent a lot of time standing at the EMP event earlier that day. And so I asked Will if I could try out a pair of his running shoes since my feet were hurting from my own shoes.  So he lent me a pair of his running Hoka's.

But halfway through our hike, my feet were hurting me so incredibly bad I had to keep stopping to rest them.  My arches were hurting the most, and also my heels. I had to keep repositioning my weight to my toes to get the weight off the rest of my feet.  Eventually Will offered to trade me shoes.  So we traded and I then was wearing a different pair of his running Hoka's.

(Shoes at beginning of hike, and shoes at the end of the hike)

During the hike, Will kept explaining to Taylor and Preston that it was training them for Disneyland (we're going in July) because we would be doing a lot of walking when we are there.  

They were such troopers!  Even with Preston taking a total nose dive on the trail and skinning up his chin, elbows and knees he was so happy to be hiking. He brought his school backpack and filled it with Nutrigrain bars for the hike.  And Taylor, bless his heart, was doing SO good as well. His little legs were keeping up with the rest of us.

As we continued on the hike, I was really feeling the pain in my feet as well as how incredibly out of shape my body was.  Cardiovascularly I was doing great, but because I have so much extra weight on me right now from my pregnancy, it's kind of like carrying the extra weight of a 5 year old on my body as I'm trying to climb up this mountain.  Not to mention my body is still recovering from having all of the Relaxin hormone in me for 9 months, my hips are still trying to go back to normal, and I still have a hard time fully lifting my legs up (like stair climbing) both from pregnancy but also the Csection.  Thus, any time I had to climb up high rocks or high steps it was really hard on my hips and knees.

Eventually, all the boys were way ahead of me on the trail as I was having a hard time keeping up with them.  And Will kept doing this annoying trick of telling me that the top was just "right up there", but then when I would get there, I would discover it was still WAY further to go. 

It got to a point where I was in a lot of pain and was tired, and honestly it was making me really sad.  I felt so incredibly disappointed in my body and in myself.  I compare myself too much to others and my brain was feeding myself a lot of negative self-talk on the trail ("you are so out of shape", "You are so overweight", "Other women have already lost all of their pregnancy weight by now", etc.), which was effecting how well I was accomplishing this hike and despite my efforts to think of ANYTHING positive to counteract this, I simply could not.

I found myself crying, and so I would have to stop or I would hyperventilate - which totally gave me flashbacks to 7th grade when I had to run the mile in P.E. and couldn't do it and started crying and hyperventilating because I couldn't breathe through my crying LOL.  Seriously, I felt so pathetic.

I wanted to give up, but I didn't know where the boys were so I forced myself to keep going.  

My feet were in so much pain.  I remembered an exboyfriend who told me he had to go home early from his mission because he had broken several small bones in his feet from excessive walking and didn't even realize he had done it.  I kept wondering if I had broken bones in my feet right then but didn't know it.  

As I was hiking up, I could hear finally hear my boys and Preston was shouting "Good job Mama!" and he and Taylor would clap for me.  They did this several times for me, but I couldn't look up as I was too embarrassed to let them see the tears on my face.

They once again got pretty far ahead of me on the trail and so I couldn't see them, but I knew I was nearing the top.  As I was doing so, I realized that the trail was starting to veer near a cliff (where rock climbers usually roped and climbed up).  I have a MAJOR fear of edges to the point of having panic attacks.  It's NOT the same thing as having a fear of heights. I do not fear heights.  But I fear falling off of edges and so anything that involves a drop-off ledge, bungee jumping off of bridges (for example), skiing on very steep black diamond runs, etc....these things are all examples of situations that scare me into panic.

The top of the trail you had to hike across a small section where I could obviously see that there was a rocky ledge on one side. And honestly my first reaction was to stop right there and either turn around or wait for the boys to come back down.  But I was so close to the top I didn't want to give up and quit then.  

As I kept, slowly, trying to reach the top I realized I could not hear the boys. As I realized this rocky ledge was going all the way to the top, in my mind I could only imagine my little boys playing around near the ledge and Will not being to have enough hands to manage them. My WORST fears started to set in and I could feel myself starting to get panicked.  Now it wasn't just a goal for me to make it to the top, but it was out of an extreme motherly instinct to save my children.

I know that sounds extreme and Will had things under control, but you have to understand from my perspective as a mother, these are real feelings and thoughts that go through my head. I have a MAJOR instinct to protect my children wherever we go because I cannot afford to take chances. My mind thinks the worst.  I imagine them getting hit by careless drivers while they are riding their bikes on the road, or a stranger taking their hand in a crowded place....or whatever.  And so I am always a bit overly cautious when it comes to them.

So at this point, all I can think about is getting to the top so I can hear their little voices and SEE them to verify they are all right.  Adrenaline is an amazing thing because where I was ready to give up a few moments before, I now had a burst of energy to make it to the top as fast as I could to find my children.

As I made it around the corner I could hear them and I again, started to cry. I could also hear Riley crying and any other moms to newborns, breastfeeding newborns that is, you know that feeling you get when you hear your baby crying out of hunger.  Anyway, this time I was just sobbing because I was just filled with so much emotion - from being disappointed in myself earlier, to then having fears about my children getting hurt....and then hearing my baby crying...

As I neared the top, again, Preston and Taylor were cheering me on saying "Good job Mama!".  I was heaving breaths in hyperventilating at the top because I could not hold back the crying as I was so relieved they were okay.  The first thing I did was ask them to please get down from the edge. Will told me it wasn't an edge and if I would just step up to the top of the rock I would see for myself that they were fine. 

I didn't care.

This was no time to convince me otherwise.  

I just needed them to get down and for us to turn around and head back down the trail RIGHT NOW.  I didn't even stop to rest at the top even though my body ached and hurt so badly (and I had been dreaming of at least a 15 min sit-down break at the top).  I didn't even care that Riley was screaming for me to feed him. I need my children OFF the top of the mountain.

Until we passed the ledges and drop-offs and got to a safer place I would not stop.  Finally down the trail I found a place with a rock where I could sit and feed Riley.  And Preston got out his Nutri-grain bars and the boys devoured them.

After a few minutes some hikers came up the trail and Will said "Oh hey!". They were runners from his Seattle Mountain Running Group.  I was totally embarrassed - both because I had my bare breast hanging out of my shirt breastfeeding Riley (thinking nobody else would be on the trail), and also because I was feeling so bad about my body. I couldn't even look up to say hello or be part of the conversation.  I felt like I didn't deserve such a fit athletic husband at that moment in time and I didn't want his friends to see that his wife was so overweight.  I looked away and pretended to be too busy nursing to talk to them.

I know you are thinking I am so hard on myself, but I am not nor have I ever been okay with my body being overweight. It is a huge struggle for me.  But with each pregnancy it has happened and it is what it is.  And I'm trying to get the weight back off but it is a super slow process for me (I don't lose weight nursing) and in the meantime I have to deal with my self esteem issues because of it.  I am constantly having to practice positive self talk and to remind myself to be kinder to myself, but it isn't always easy. And at that moment in time I just wasn't able to find anything positive about the situation and myself.

After Will's friends left, he mentioned that we needed to get going because the sun was setting.  He asked me how my battery was on my phone, and I asked why and he said because we would be hiking out in the dark and would need the flashlights on our phones.

Another fear of mine:  the dark.

Oh, and:  wild animals (bears, cougars, etc. which ARE present in these mountains and sighted every so often).

Of course, after hearing that, I started hiking down the trail pretty fast.  Preston was keeping up with me, but Taylor was having a harder time since his legs were so short.

Eventually, we got to a wooded part of the trail that was so protected from the sun we had to turn on our flashlights to see.  I asked Will how much further we had to get back to the car and he said we were about half way.

Half way?  Holy cow.  It was already pretty dark, and my phone battery was already down to half.  So I started to worry.

At this point, Taylor was getting tired and it was taking a lot of encouragement from both of us to keep him going.  Mind you he was doing EXCELLENT, especially for a 3 year old.  But he was slowing down and kept stopping whenever he had questions and we had to keep reminding him to keep walking.  And Preston was complaining that his feet were hurting.

I told Preston that my feet were hurting pretty badly as well, but let's hold hands and walk together and sing songs.

I will admit that it was probably me that needed him to hold my hand more than the other way around, because all the way down the trail Preston was SO positive.  He would say things like "Here is my favorite stream!" or "I love hiking, this is so much fun."  He was really such a delight.

We sang songs like "Row, row, row your boat", "Itsy Bitsy Spider", "You are my Sunshine", and "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree".  We would stop every so often to let Will and Taylor catch up with us.

I kept watching my phone give me pop up warnings "15% battery left, please connect to your charger". "10% battery left...". I told Will that I was getting "S-C-A-R-E-D" (spelled out so kids wouldn't know).  He said everything was okay.  We all sang songs together and kept talking so we would forewarn any animals that might be along the trail.

As we were continuing to hike down, I thought about what if we ran into a bear, or cougar, what would we do?  Did I remember the protocol? Do we stop and cover our heads, or do I make large gestures and try to be as tall as possible?  Which is it for which animal?

I thought about our family hiking together in the dark. It was no longer about how sore my muscles were, or how my feet ached, or how bad I felt about my body.  It wasn't important any longer.  All that I cared about was my family and getting us back to the car okay.  I kept praying in my mind to Heavenly Father to please protect us and help us to make it home safely.

We finally turned a bend in the trail where we would be descending down the last portion of the mountain back to our car. We knew this because we could finally hear the traffic from the town at the bottom.  My phone warned me that I only had 5% battery life left and so I told Will that Preston and I were going to not wait for them anymore but walk as fast as we could back down the trail before my phone died.  Will's phone still had battery life left and so I knew he would be okay with Riley and Taylor.

Preston and I held hands and hiked down as quickly as we could while trying to scale down tree roots and large boulders on the trail.  While we were singing songs and talking, I told Preston that it would be good if we said a prayer. And so while we hiked I said a prayer out loud asking Heavenly Father to please bless my phone that the battery would last long enough for us to make it to the bottom of the trail.

We hiked further and further and then all of a sudden - BLACKOUT.  My phone died.  I got scared for just a moment, but told Preston we just needed to let our eyes adjust so we could see in the dark.  And after 30 seconds, I could see the parking lot through the trees and realized we were only about 100 yards from the bottom.

I told Preston "Preston Heavenly Father answered our prayers! He helped our flashlight last long enough for us to make it to the parking lot!  See, did you know that ANY TIME you need help, or if you are scared, you can pray and Heavenly Father will hear you and answer your prayers?"  He listened and believed me.

We made it back to the parking lot and Preston instantly sat down to rest his feet.  Moments later Will, Riley, and Taylor came down the trail.  It was about 10:00 p.m. by that time. We all cheered for each other and when we made it back to our car, we gathered for a group hug. Our spirits were high and I felt so grateful that we all made it.

After we made it into our seats I explained to Will that the entire day basically threw every fear of mine my way and it was such an emotional experience but I was just so glad to be with my family and that we were safe. That was all that was important.

I can only think of that experience and say that there was a special feeling as we worked together to make it back to the parking lot; cheering each other on, singing songs, praying together, etc. It is a lot like our journey here on earth and helping each other make it back to our Heavenly Father.

I love my family. And when it comes down to it, that is really the most important thing in this world.

P.S. Funny thing on the trail - we passed two male hikers that were shirtless and looked like they had been working pretty hard.  After they passed us, both Preston and Taylor said out loud (quite loudly) "Ewe, peeee-you they are stinky!!  STINKY!!!"  The guys heard them and laughed.  And after that, every hiker that passed us they would out loud determine if they thought they were stinky or not. Most of the time it was "They not stinky." LOL