The One

When we started dating, I asked Allen if he believed in "the one". When he flatly said, "no", the wind went out of my sails.
What did that mean? Why was he choosing me then? If he didn't even think there was someone truly made just for him, was I just "better than being alone"?
After 12 years of highs and lows, mundane moments, bringing four people to this earth, many a move, changing of jobs, loss, heartbreak, triumph and also defeat, what I've learned is this:
“To say that one waits a lifetime for his soulmate to come around is a paradox. People eventually get sick of waiting, take a chance on someone, and by the art of commitment become soulmates, which takes a lifetime to perfect.”
I have to say, there is beauty and romance in this art of commitment. And rather than saying "she's the one", Allen has spent the last 12 years becoming THE ONE.
To witness a man do all that he can to try and fulfill every need, every want, to try and anticipate every demand and hope, truly testifies that I, am, without doubt "the one". He's done it for one one else and keeps trying day after day to be "my one".
Happy Anniversary, Allen Riddle.


Spring Pictures 2014

All of these pictures were taken by Jamaica Wexelman of Inspiring Images.
You can visit her website at www.capturemylove.com.


How I Do Maintenance

From time to time, I get folks asking me how I manage my weight now that I'm in maintenance. My total time on the TSFL (Take Shape for Life) plan was 11 months. I learned a lot about my body, my needs, what drives me, where I am weak, where I am strong, and what I truly value.

I have adopted some hard and fast rules that I follow to ensure I'm where I want to be health wise.

1. I drink 100 oz. of water a day.
- Yes. I pee. A lot.
- It stops my cravings.
- It helps my skin.
- It's the right thing to do for my body.
- I have a 20 oz. plastic cup with a straw that never leaves my side. Ask my friends. It's with me all. the. time.

3. I eat breakfast, and I eat every 3 hours throughout the day.
- I always eat a high protein breakfast. I like the 80 calorie Dannon fat-free greek yogurts. If I want to bulk that up, I put in a 5-6 raspberries or scramble a few egg whites. Or I drink a Medfiast smoothie. I love them and they are packed with all sorts of good things.
- I eat about 100 calories every 3 hours. More for lunch and dinner, obviously, but I try to keep my system working.
- I try to choose protein for those fuelings.
- Doing this keeps my blood sugars more level so when I do eat, my body burns the foods in a way that is beneficial.
- I never let myself get to starving. Starving people make desperate choices.

3. I know what matters to me.
-I don't care about hamburger buns. I hardly ever eat them. I get just as much satisfaction eating a lettuce wrapped burger so I almost always opt to have mine "protein style".
-  I love soft French bread or sourdough bread. (Sourdough actually breaks down differently causing less of an insulin spike so I try to frequently choose this bread when I buy bread that I'll be eating.) I never serve bread at our table, other than spaghetti night. I know that on these nights, I'm gonna want to eat bread. I would choose bread over noodles every time. So, I don't eat the noodles. I eat a salad with low fat dressing. Then, I take 1/4 cup of the red sauce and put it on a dessert size plate. I like to dip my bread in the sauce.
- I also always slice the loaf in 1/2 and freeze it immediately. We don't need to eat an entire loaf of bread as a family, and I don't want to deal with having to make the choice about nibbling on it later. I just remove it from the "temptation" list by putting it away for another time.
- Take Mexican food. I love mexican food. But holy fat, batman. I like tacos. I love chips and salsa. I could really give a crap about rice and beans. So, I don't order rice and beans. I almost never get a combo meal. I order 1 tacos, a la carte. Then, I can eat my chips, salsa, and taco and live with myself.
- I never waste calories on bites, licks, and tastes. I never lick the spoon. I don't lick my fingers clean. I don't take a bite of the left over crust from the kids sandwiches. It all adds up. Those 15 calories, 10 times a day = 150 calories. Do that 7 days a week and you're at 1050 extra calories per week. After 3 weeks, you're up a pound. Do that over a year - you see where I'm going. I don't care about crusts. I'm not going to waste my calories on empty, unfulfilling extras.
- I do this with a thousand different things to make it work for me. It's all checks and balances.

4. I plan.
- I take healthy snacks in the car. I'm never stuck at lunch time feeling so hungry I'd eat anything.
- I have a basic idea of the menu for the week. If I know that on Wednesday, I'm going to be eating out or having a calorie dense meal, I make sure my choices prior to and after that are on the lean side.
- I cook large amounts of lean protein at once. If I grill chicken breasts, I grill 8-10. Dinner uses up at least 3-4. Then, I have a few left over. I can make a quick salad, a wrap, or whatever. Heck, I'll eat it right out of the fridge while I'm helping a kid with homework.
- I look at my calories kind of like sick leave. You only get so many days of sick leave. If you use it all screwing around, when you need it, you're in trouble. Same with calories. I can only eat so many before I start to gain weight. I choose carefully about those calories. Then, when I do really want something, I don't have to stress out about it.

5. I follow the 85/15 rule.
- I eat very mindfully 85% of the time.
- I'm less careful about 15% of the time.
-This might vary. Some weeks, it's 95/5. Some weeks, it's 80/20.

6. I have a number threshold.
- I stay under my goal weight. It gives me wiggle room for bloat, cheat days, unexpected meals out, etc.
- If my weight goes up by more than 3 lbs., I get really mindful again. And fast. I mean, it's only 3 lbs., right? But another 3 (a date night, some popcorn, a couple of sodas, for example) over one weekend and suddenly it's 6. Then, 9. Then you're feeling overwhelmed again.

7. I don't compare.
- "Comparison is the killer of all joy."
- This body thing is so much of a mental game. I don't waste time comparing myself to others. Some people lost 100 lbs and end up a size 2. Some people lose 100 lbs and end up a size 12. (Fo the record, I'm a size 8.) Allen can eat a snickers bar a day and not gain any weight. If I ate a snickers bar a day, I'd easily gain a few pounds in no time. I don't dare care what someone else is doing. It's not my problem. I have no business going down that road.
- Comparing kills positivity. Nothing good is borne from negativity. If you're too busy looking to what someone else is doing, you can drift right out of your own lane, and that never ends well.
- I never use someone else's actions as justification. For example, just because someone else is eating dessert doesn't mean I need dessert, too. If my family orders cheese sticks, I don't need to eat them just because they are at the table. Someone else's caloric intake has no bearing on mine. They are in charge of themselves, and I'm in charge of myself.

8. I accept my circumstances, and who I am.
- I have lots of young kids.
- I very rarely get any time for myself.
- Most of the time, I have 3 kids with me whenever I do anything. I never have less than 2.
- I hate exercising.
- I really hate exercising when my kids are interrupting me or whining or fighting. I hate it when they are in the house and I'm trying to squeeze in a 20 minute session. I hate it when they squabble and bitch in the jogging stroller. I'm not going to work out under those circumstances. I just don't love it enough.
- I'm also not going to get up at 5 a.m. to run. I'm. just. not. And, I'm not going to have time at any other point in my day. (I will say, one of the Habits of Health is movement on a daily basis. And, I have started running/walking a few days a week, but I'm new in the game and I can't honestly say it's a habit so I don't count on it as a way to ensure caloric burn in my life at this point.)
- Thus, I control what I can. I'm never guaranteed a work out anyways. Kids get sick, I get sick. I could get hurt. But, I can always always, always control what goes into my mouth.
-So, I eat the right stuff and I accept it. I don't lament what I want. I don't feel sorry about it. It is what it is.
- I do try to add in movement, however, in practical ways. I run the stairs in my house when I don't have a kid in my arms. I'm the primary lawn mower in our family. It's a pretty decent work out. I park far from the entrance at the store. You know, that kind of stuff.

9. I stay connected.
- I respond well to public accountability. So, I try to talk about my weight loss and maintenance on a semi-regular basis. Sure, it might be annoying to people. Yes, I've had some rude comments thrown at me. For the most part, though, I've received loads of support. People I don't even know have been so supportive. And I have my own "p/r crew" that constantly cheer me on and lift me up. The whole village thing is true for me. People do watch, and it helps me.
- I health coach. They've found that coaches are 500% more likely to keep the weight off. So, I coach. I don't do a whole lot of marketing. I like helping people do something that makes them feel better. It's a great way to stay social. And, it keeps me honest.

As far as I'm concerned, I'm like an alcoholic. Having an addiction to food, the eating process, the endorphin rush from a sugar binge - it's like any other addiction. I can't let down my guard. I have to be vigilant. I have to make choices that always increase my success. I'm too vulnerable when it comes to food. I never start feeling like, "I've got this. That craving won't get to me. I'll never gain it back." I can't get cocky about the whole thing.

This might sound easy. Let me assure you - it is not. I'm not always successful. I feel frustrated at times. I get hungry. I get tired of always being mindful. I get tired, period. I eat pizza. I get wrapped up in the whole thing and am distracted sometimes.

When those moments happen, I go back to what got me through the weight loss process. I get busy. I try to serve someone else - whether it's a family member I live with or a complete stranger. I do a chore. I don't sit in those feelings. I found, for me, that doesn't ever end well.

This has been my formula for success. So far.


I Wasn't Even Supposed To Be at Preschool Today

I don't take Addie to preschool most days of the week. She goes three times; I take and pick up once. We've got this awesome carpool situation worked out amongst three of us who live in the same neighborhood, and all go to the same preschool. It's awesome.

But, today, us girls (Emmy, Sofia, and myself) decided that a trip to pick up Addison would be fun. Emmy had speech, I had an errand to run, and we ended up with some time to kill so we figured we'd surprise Addie at school.

A decision that changed our whole day.

Every morning, after I've strapped everyone into their car seats, we say a quick family prayer. I've found it's the easiest way to make sure it happens. We're all in the same place, it's a small space so everyone can hear, and they'll all strapped down so they have to be have an easier time being reverent.

We rotate around, each of us saying prayer on our respective day. Today, I said the prayer. Most days I say the prayer, I ask for the chance to serve a person in need. I pray that we will be willing and able to help if someone needs service.

As we were coming back from preschool, we saw a woman walking alongside the road. She was clearly homeless. She was deeply tanned from a living a life out of doors. She was disheveled. Her clothes were from a different era. She was collecting trash, and smoking a cigarette. Cars whizzed by as she walked in the thistle weeds that dotted the road.

We slowed to make our turn, and a thought entered my mind, "This is your answer. She needs help."

We were on our way home to make lunch, I had groceries in the car, I'd offered to make dinner for a friend and could certainly get started on that, and I wasn't quite sure about picking up a stranger with my small kids in the car.

I glanced in the rear view mirror, hoping I would see her getting help from someone else, and the thought came to me again, "She needs help. This is your answer".

I turned the car around, explaining to the kids we were stopping to help a stranger, and to stay in their seats. I pulled up next to her as she peered wearily into my car.

"Do you need help?"

"No. I'm all right." Her voice started to crack.

"Are you sure? Can I give you a ride somewhere?"

"Food.", she stifled a sob, "I could use some food. I'm so hungry."

"Well, where do you want to get lunch? Get in; we will go anywhere you want."

She put out her cigarette, saving the last bit, and humbly climbed into the car. My car with my iPhone 5 plugged into my dash, with the leather, heated seats, and a full gas tank. My car that wasn't where I slept and found refuge.

The girls started in, "Hi! I'm Emily, I'm Addison, that's Sofia. I'm 5, she's 4, and she's one. We have another sister, but she's at school. What's your name?!?"

"You have babies in here. They are beautiful," she wept.

We were near to my home. My home that has so much food, we have to store the extra in the garage.  Where we shower daily. Where we have the luxury of paintings on the wall and furniture that isn't necessary. My home where we are safe.

I ran in, grabbed her water and food for later in the day, and we went on to lunch.

We went to McDonalds; nothing fancy, but more than she could afford. I paid the bill easily. She excused herself to wash in the bathroom while I ordered.

While I grabbed napkins and ketchup, I heard her talking with the girls. She was showing them her jewelry. She gave them her mood rings to try.

I brought the food, setting up the kid's meals as usual. While I was opening ketchup packets, and poking straws into juice boxes, she started eating. The girls watched, mouthes agape. They'd never seen someone hungry eat a meal before.

She had both hands around her hamburger. She was hunched over consumed with the act of eating. She didn't pause between bites. Sauce was oozing out between her fingers. Her palms were covered. Rather than waste a single morsel by using a napkin, she licked the food from her hands. She unknowingly mumbled, "so good". When she looked up, she realized that the girls were observing. She apologized, and started to wipe her hands.

She told me about her mental illness, through tears she mentioned how her dad passed away four months ago, how she grew up in Morgan Hill riding Arabian horses with her mom, that she had a daughter who she hasn't spoken with in two years, how she'd been raped at gun point in October.

We talked about addiction. She's a recovering addict, not using anymore. How chemical imbalance can be a curse and how some people aren't bad, they use to mask the pain.

"Because being in their own skin just hurts too much sometimes," I said.

Her voice broke, "yes".

We visited a little more about horses, church, and her family until Sofia reminded us of the time.

On the ride to her van, where she lived, she apologized for over sharing, and thanked me for the lunch and kindness. She's found it hard to trust others, and was glad someone nice had been the one to stop this time.

Holding back tears, I looked her in the eye and told her, "You were an answer to my prayers today. Thank you for being brave enough to get into my car."

We said our goodbyes. I'm sure the experience changed the course of her day slightly. But for me, my day was changed profoundly. I was reminded of the many blessings I have been granted. I have a safe place to lay my head, I am clothed in my right mind, I am surrounded by children who love me, I have a husband who faithfully goes to work to provide us with all that we need and all that we want.

As we prepared dinner for our friends, the girls and I talked about our prayer this morning. Of course, they'd forgotten. I reminded them of my specific request to be of service. Addie put two and two together, shouting, "And we helped Jenelle today!"

My faith was, once again, solidified. Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. He knows our needs, both great and small. If we but listen, he will give us guidance and direction every minute of every day.

If you remember, I wasn't even supposed to be at preschool today.


Addie is 5!!!

Addison May Riddle
8 lbs. 12 oz.
December 12, 2008. 
Here we are a short 5 years later:

The customary treats at preschool 
Addie chose to have her party at Chuck E. Cheese this year.

A BIG present from Grandpa Bob and Grandpa Tweet.
This was the only thing she asked for - for her birthday and Christmas. I kept asking her if she was really sure about this whole thing and she never wavered. Thank goodness she's got grandparents who are willing to spoil her! 
About to enter the "ticket tornado".
Happy Birthday, Addie!

Addie loves chocolate, shoes, jewelry and sports. She watches baseball, basketball and football on a regular basis. If she's in the backyard, she's kicking around the soccer ball or hitting the baseball. She loves school.

Addison is a complex person. She is sassy, and can come across as moody and sullen. But Addie is a well of feelings. When there is stress in our household, Addison carries the burden. She likes to be included; leaving Addie out crushes her spirit. She seeks approval from her peers and elders. Addison HATES change. If Addison is reprimanded for being unkind, she is usually apologetic and has sincere remorse. Sometimes, she's a little vindictive, though, and has to be reminded how to deal with strong negative feelings. She is driven. She figures out how to do most things on her own and she doesn't want help. She loves babies. She adores Sofia. She is my biggest helper.

We love every part of Addison - the stubbornness that drives her to the soft heard she hides beneath a quick wit.

Happy Birthday to our feisty girl!


Noxious Weeds and Life Lessons

I'm sure I've mentioned how in our family we add chores as consequences when behavior is undesirable. This week has been rather challenging for one particular 5 year old in our household. As part of her consequence, she had to pull weeds in the yard.

Now, we've conveniently ignored the weed situation in our yard, and it's getting embarrassing. This job was going to take some effort, and we wanted it that way.

Now, with her being just a wee tyke, I knew she wouldn't be able to do the task alone. As I was pulling these weeds up from the dry dirt, many a deep thought took place in my fragmented mind.

Years ago I met a woman who is now one of my best friends. She has influenced so much good in my life, I can scarcely begin to describe it all.

She lived down the street from my childhood home. She was eyeball deep in raising four small kids. She was beginning her journey with horses, and she liked to walk for exercise. She struck up a friendship with my mom. And I am ever so grateful.

She embraced my obnoxious seventeen year old self, and welcomed me into her family. She spent countless hours feeding me, nurturing me, healing me, and teaching me. We laughed together. We cried together. She shared her experiences with me. She taught me how to nurture others. She taught me the gospel.

One day many years ago, I was sitting at her counter, eating yet another wonderful home cooked treat, and she began to tell me about what she'd been up to with the kids. Spring had sprung, and it was time to plant the annuals. She'd made a trip to the local nursery - buying loads of those dainty and quite finicky little pansies and petunias. She then gathered her young kids around, and they started to plant.

As they worked, she seized the opportunity to teach her kids. She told them about the fall of Adam. How he chose life, but in the same breath, chose death. How the earth had been a perfect paradise until that point, but was cursed by the fall. Rather than putting forth only beautiful and productive plants, there would also spring forth noxious weeds and other nuisance plants. She explained how we are stewards over the earth, and have the responsibility to rid the earth of the noxious plants and weeds. We should be careful and respectful with our power and responsibility. We should beautify the earth. She taught them about agency and the love our Father in Heaven has for us. That he would be willing to let us risk death because he wanted us to be able to choose. He gave his only begotten, even our brother, to create a way for us to be with him again. She bore her testimony to those babies as they planted those finicky plants.

Now, her kids are almost all grown up. Half of them are married and moved out. They are strong, spiritual, beautiful, hard working, intelligent, and lovely people. And yet, they are very human people who fight the human battle. Life tests them. Life tests their parents. As I see her family, I see my future. And I wonder.

I wonder, do they remember that moment? The thousands of moments that were maximized? That every moment was a teaching moment? That their parents tried to squeeze out every chance - in every-single-possible-teensy-weensy moment to enrich their lives? To teach them all they would need to know to survive the hard world? That all of the teaching, and preaching, and lecturing, and even the yelling, was love. Love brought to life. That every waking moment as a parent is truly spent wanting to create a place and life and an experience that will really matter for your kids.

As I knelt next to my baby, I thought about her future. Will she remember this minute? Will she look back and understand I chose to be her compadre rather than drill sergeant in this moment? Will she think back and know I cared more about her than the mistake she made?

I was shoulder to shoulder to her and wanted to make the most of it. She was out there with me because there had been a confrontation. This could play out in a couple of ways. We could walk away enemies. We could also walk away friends.

She talked. I talked. We talked. I tried to teach. I also tried to learn. Maybe she learned a little, too. Either way, we finished as friends.

My take away from that experience was a feeling of deep and sincere appreciation. I was grateful I'd remembered my friend telling me about the time she planted those finicky flowers. I was grateful she had taken the time to share her story. What if she'd talked herself out of telling me? After all, it was just planting some flowers.

I was grateful for the work ethic I earned from my parents. How they were direct with me, and had really high expectations sometimes. I try for that with my kids. They usually meet that expectation and even exceed it. Dream big kids!

I was grateful to be able to work in the dirt with my girl. I see so much of myself in her. She is presumptuous and wise beyond her years. Sometimes, her desire to share that wisdom gets her in trouble. She is capable. She is driven. She is intense. She is also sensitive. And she hates to disappoint.

Being out of doors, working in the dirt brought me some clarity. Often we get caught up in the "thick of thin things". While I chatted with my girl, I was able to let go of the "things" and focus on truth. I was grateful for those noxious weeds and how they truly are so much more. That everything on this Earth was created for us. That even those prickly, ugly, no-good weeds could be a life lesson for both of us.


Still Alive Over Here

Eeegads. It's been a LOOOONG time since I posted. Some of you probably think I've given up on this poor blog. You might have even stopped checking because every time you do all you see is that picture of me in that giraffe, and you've just had enough of that business.

We are alive. And well. Actually doing really well. Life is just SO busy. I find that with all the kiddos, chores, showering, and generally just being alive, I'm taking up all the hours of my day actually LIVING, and don't have much time to write about living. I mean, a few years ago, I had time to call my mom 2-3 days a week and we talked and it was really nice. Now, I feel like I never talk to her. It's been weeks. It's not for lack of desire; I just don't feel like I ever have a good time to talk. 

Same with blogging. Sure, I could sit down at 10 at night after I've put everyone to bed, done the dishes, played with the dog, folded the laundry, done the grocery shopping, showered, etc, but I just don't want to. I want to lay down. 

And let's face it, I Facebook. A lot. I can put my one-liners out there, and hear back from my peeps and it's like having a social life or something. I like it. 

Plus, I kind of have a few friends I hang out with, and I like that too. So, I choose human interaction over blogging. 

But, this is our family journal and while I'm a great parent-paparazzi, those pictures do no one any good locked up in my phone. 

I have a feeling this blog may morph into more of a photo journal rather than the deep-thoughts-of-Traci journal for a time. 

Emmy likes to sleep with a lot of crap.

Uno. He looks possessed here, but he's actually a pretty decent little dog. 

She has curly hair.

Addie had to have her eyes checked. She got her very own pair of senior citizen type glasses.

Sofia likes to read about animals.
I chopped my hair off. 

Baby piggies.

We had the house cleaners come. I'd never had anyone (besides my poor family - thank you Mom and Marti) clean my house. I was SO embarrassed. We are animals.

Emmy was unhappy about something here. I can't remember what, but she's protesting whatever it is life was doing to her that day.
And then blogger went on the fritz so I couldn't upload anymore pictures.

The end.


Halloween Festivities

Addison asked a few months ago to be a baby giraffe for Halloween. The then declared that I would be the mommy giraffe. I kept trying to manipulate gently steer her in a different direction, but she was committed the idea. So, here we are. Sofia wore a little dog thing because it was warm. She also donned a cheerleader costume and butterfly costume at different times. Emmy was a witch - she was happy about it - even though that isn't evident in this picture.

We made a trip to the local pumpkin patch/carnival-like place/mining area/everything you could ever try to put in one place to make a little money place. 

I did consider leaving them there.
Here's Alexis "riding a horse". I shudder at this, but the kids think it's the greatest thing to do. Lexi is showing me her correct equitation by keeping her chin up.
Emily could give a crap about being correct. She just wants to pet the horse.
Addie bravely held back her natural reaction of compete and total hysteria.
After she overcame her desire to have a freak out, she feigned happiness for the duration of the ride.
Grandma came with us for the trip. 

I don't think you need my voice in your head to figure out what is happening here. And no, it's not poop.

The sister missionaries came over to help us carve up our fruit.

The far left is spider. 

Emmy's speech class had a big party. We made goody bags for everyone.
And Lexi asked for roast pumpkin seeds. They really are so good.
As you can see, Lexi was completely committed to playing the role of a cat. Meow.
Addie wore this outfit for, like, 4 hours straight on Halloween. She went to Emmy's party and helped and then went to her preschool party and played. She was so patient about the whole thing. She finally looked at me and said, "Mom? Can I please take this head off? It's really hurting me."
Emmy with Mrs. Mom. 
At Addie's preschool party.
Back at the pumpkin patch.

These two took over handing out candy duties.

We had a good year this year. The giraffe duo was actually a lot of fun. The other kids remembered the events from last year and were really looking forward to doing it again. 

Here's to another year of celebrating this pagan holiday with panache!

About Me

My photo
What started as a way to communicate with far away friends and family has become a place for this horse trainer/HR manager turned stay at home mom of 3 girls to hold on to a bit of her own identity. It's my take on the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the thoughts and feelings, the mistakes and triumphs of this family as we bumble our way to eternity.