Before and After

Allen got the gate up on the front fence today. As I was putting this post together, I thought it would be nice to be wholly reflective with all of the work we've done in the last 18 months. So, I've put up some of the pictures I took the week we moved in to compare to the current look of the front of the house.

Street view December 2007.

Front view December 2007.

Front view June 2009.

South side yard December 2007.

South side yard June 2009.
South side yard June 2009.


Yard Work

I love those chunka-monka thighs!
Allen found these tools at a local hardware store. They are real tools only in miniature. Lexi takes her work very seriously and loves to help in the yard so she was very happy when Allen came home with them.

Allen puts the seeds on the dirt and Lexi pushes them down.
Notice her feet. Allen taught her to keep her feet in the rows so she wouldn't hurt the plants.

Budding Picasso

Lexi asked me, "Mom, do you like yellow or purple?" "Purple." "OK!!" A few moments later, I received an original Lexi Riddle drawing. We're calling it The Face. Watch out world, we have a new artist in town.


Everybody Hurts

Sometimes events take place in our lives that leave a lasting impression upon our souls. Those events can be good or bad. Even the bad events have a lesson hidden within. Even if you learn the lesson, the pain can persist. I've found that many times, others expect us to walk away from those events and not look back. It's uncomfortable to watch people hurt. We often expect ourselves, and others, to "get over it". Who wants to see another always sad or mentioning how they really feel when it's not good news? Getting over it, however, is usually easier said than done. I call those types of events "emotional traumas". There's a scar. Now, eventually a person will heal, but there's always going to be a reminder of the event.

For me, my three miscarriages have been the most significant emotional traumas in my life. I've been functioning through the hurt of those losses for 6 years. However, I've recently come to acknowledge just how deeply those losses have impacted my spirituality, ability to love others, hope, and ability to have empathy for others. Rather than continue to sweep those horrible losses under the rug to avoid making others uncomfortable, I have decided that embracing the loss and accepting the emotional impact of those losses - all these years later - will be much more healing than continuing to put on the brave face. After all, those experiences have shaped me. For both good and bad. Not that I sit and mope around feeling sorry for myself. Or mention it to every person who will listen. It's more like pointing out the elephant in the room - to myself. Rather than ignore it and try to pretend it's not taking up this huge space, I say see it and validate that it's ok to have those feelings. It's ok to be hurt. I can allow myself to have those feelings and deal with them in a healthy and helpful way. Pretending I never lost 3 kids is not more healthy. It just isn't.

I know first hand that people don't want to hear over and over how hard life is. Listen, I don't want to hear about how difficult someone else has it all the time, either. But, acknowledging hurt feelings is different from wallowing in misery. People were more accepting of my hurt when we didn't have any kids. People at least seemed to understand what the long term impact could be for us. We didn't know if we could ever have kids. We still heard so often, "Well, at least you can get pregnant". Yeah, 'cause getting pregnant, being sick for 12 weeks and then going through the mess of a miscarriage is really fun. At one point, I was talking with a co-worker. His wife was very, very pregnant and very, very ready to be done being pregnant. She had just had a major meltdown. At one point, I remarked, "I'm sure she's sick of it. But, this is your second kid, you had to have some idea of how it would be." His response: "Well, you wouldn't know; you've never been pregnant." Really? I knew this person was an avid pro-life supporter. I wonder if I would have told him we'd aborted a baby if he would have said, "well, you weren't really pregnant anyway." My guess is he would have been infuriated and felt we were murderers. Funny how that works, huh? For convenience purposes, I had never been pregnant. The life that was snuffed out inside of my eager womb didn't count because I didn't carry the baby past the first trimester. For me, though, that was my child.

Our second miscarriage was not as physically devastating for me. But, emotionally, it was considerably harder. I happened to be pregnant at the same time as my sister-in-law. Their pregnancy went very smoothly. Ours, of course, ended very early. I was still struggling with my ability to be completely happy for others who were able to retain their pregnancies. Of course, I was glad for them. But, deep down, a part of me was very hurt. As a couple, we celebrated with them. In private, we mourned our loss. When her baby came, we went to the hospital and cradled the perfect person. We cried in the privacy of our bedroom when we got home. In the midst of the joy of a new life, no one remembered my loss. I didn't expect it, really, but it confirmed to me that no one wants to deal with that kind of issue. It was clear to me that I should be over it.

After that miscarriage, we didn't get pregnant. For a year and half it was just nothing. At least, however, we weren't getting pregnant and losing it anymore. We were told to stop trying. We were warned that getting pregnant would be unhealthy for me. And, of course, we got pregnant. Lexi was early but she was here. I hoped we had gotten over the whole miscarriage hurdle. I was wrong. Months later, we knew it was time to start trying again. We did and got pregnant. We were cautiously optimistic. At 12 weeks, we found out we had lost yet another child. This time, we knew exactly what that loss meant. We saw that child on the ultrasound screen, little arm and legs buds, laying too still. We looked at Lexi and felt such sorrow for everything we knew we were missing out on.

After we had Lexi, it was as if others thought that losing another baby shouldn't be such a big deal. We had one, after all. We should be grateful. The response I received so often was, "Well, you must be so grateful you have Lexi" or "Well, at least you know you can have kids" or "Gosh, it could be so much worse. At least you didn't go full term and lose the baby then". Of course, I'm grateful I have Lexi. Sure, I can have kids. I would never want to lose a term baby. But, those blessings do not negate my experience. Having Lexi doesn't stop the hurt of having lost another. Considering worst case scenario doesn't take the pain away.

Our marriage has been heavily impacted by our losses. We had our first miscarriage when our marriage was in its infancy. A short 6 months had passed and we were suddenly dealing with the death of a child. And yes, it was a child to us. It was the hope for watching my belly become round with life, the hope of high pitched giggling, the toddling of a baby learning to walk - all the things that come with parenthood. Sure, we didn't know that there was a lot more involved. Who does before they have kids? Anyone who has been pregnant knows that the minute you see those two lines, you start to day dream and plan about the future in a way you never did before. So, we were essentially two strangers who had hopes of an eternal family and were, for the first time, learning how to grieve, support each other, how to accept loss, and learn, in a very final and harsh way, that we had absolutely no control over this part of our lives. This was perhaps the most significant part of our lives and our hands were tied. It wasn't like we had spent too much on the credit card and would have to pay the price. We didn't do this to ourselves. We had suffered a terrible blow to our little family and had no way to fix it.

A year later, we were faced with the same loss. We were just coming up for air from the last miscarriage and we were shoved back down in the water. It undoubtedly affected our relationship. We each had hurts and processed them so differently. Allen wanted to hold me; I wanted to lock myself in a dark room. He wanted to talk; I wanted silence. Then, months would pass and the rage and hurt would come rushing to the surface. Nothing he could do would fix the hurt though. He had to helplessly stand by and let me go through the process of mourning our baby. Someone actually said to me, "You guys have really let this get in the way. You know, you could have learned something from this and grown closer rather than allow this distance to happen." Excuse me? What was that? Would you like to die quickly or slowly? I really think my head spun around like I was Linda Blair in The Exorcist. This person was neither married nor a parent. How could they even begin to give advice on how to handle losing a child? How can you tell another how to grieve? How can you put parameters around something so big? The truth is that you can't. Everyone processes grief and loss differently. To judge another because they don't handle the situation as you think they should is completely out of line.

Why not stop with one? Why go for more when you know what your chances are? "You know what you're probably going to get so don't be feeling sorry for yourself when you lose another" is what many probably think. Well, I'll tell you why we kept trying. Because how could we know we had children waiting for us and not heed that prompting? It has been made very clear to us that we are not the ones that choose when or where, but we must be willing. What we have to gain is so great, it would be incredibly short sighted to miss out on an eternity of experiences because of the potential for loss. Sure, it hurts to lose a pregnancy. It puts kinks in a lot of things. It doesn't go away with time. It puts strain on a marriage that many don't come back from. Having more kids doesn't stop the bleeding of the wound in your heart from losing another. But, I try to see the bigger picture. I try to see the whole play, not just this act. It may sound foolish. Or like we're trying to play the role of the martyr. However, the truth is that letting go and trusting in a plan that is bigger than ourselves is a huge leap of faith. Our effort has not been perfect. It has been ugly and touch and go for us at many points. But the refiner's fire is never a place of comfort. I would be a fool to come out of the heat having learned nothing.

What have I learned? First and foremost: Heavenly Father does not take life to prove a point. I believe that with complete certainty. Some have told us, "Well, I'm sure these experiences will help you to fully appreciate your children." Like you have to lose one to love one. I don't think so. I'm not buying that. I absolutely believe that we are subject to the frailties of the human body. We get sick. People die. Wombs don't work right 100% of the time. That is part of the plan. I have learned how I process the big things in my life. I have forgiven myself for not doing that perfectly. I have learned to be happy for others even though my life may not be going that well. I have learned to trust in my Heavenly Father. I have learned to turn over the big things to his wisdom and timing. I have learned how to grieve for my loss with my husband and see his loss too. We have learned, together, how to be available but not crowd one another. I have a secure testimony in the eternal bond among family members. Not because I think I'll get these kids back in the eternities. I don't have the information to know that answer. No, I have the knowledge that my two girls arrived exactly when they were supposed to. I have peace knowing that our family will have whoever it's supposed to whenever the time is right.

So, here I am. We're almost two years out from our last miscarriage. I have been working this out in my mind for a few months now and I find I feel stronger and more complete now that I can admit, without guilt or shame: My miscarriages have hurt me. My heart is still heavy and my eyes still well with tears when I try to articulate the full impact of these experiences. And why shouldn't I be allowed to feel those things? It's not over even though the baby is physically removed from the body. It's the physical toll, the emotional cost and the great length of time it takes to get life back on track that many don't consider when they hear about a miscarriage. But, the pain has dulled considerably. I am no longer seething. Acknowledging those feelings has done more for me than years of trying to "keep on keepin' on." Sure, you can't just sit down and quit because life throws a huge curve ball or the rug gets pulled out from under you. But, you can admit that you've felt the blow. You aren't all right. You do need time to process. No, you can't juggle it all right now. It's ok to have those feelings. I've finally given myself permission to acknowledge and, thereby, work through all that it has meant to me and my family to lose three of our children prematurely. And you know what? It's OK. Everybody hurts. Sometimes.


6 Months

or 180 days or 4320 hours or 259,200 minutes. However you keep track of the time, she's growing up so quickly. And, she's doing great! She weighs 18 lbs. 8 oz and is 27 inches long. After managing her medicine dosing correctly, she's finally starting to eat a little better. She puts up with her formula, but loves solids.

Addie army crawls wherever she needs to go. She's up on all fours, rocking back and forth. She also gets on all fours and can get her legs moving, but not her arms. This usually ends up with Addie's butt popping up and down but not taking her anywhere. She sits up independently, too. As she becomes more self sufficient, she also becomes more opinionated. She'll protest if you take away one of her favorite toys, but if you give her another she'll play quietly. Of course, she's putting everything in her mouth - toys, shoes, paper, your shoulder - whatever she can get a grip on goes right in the kisser. She doesn't' have any teeth yet, but they shouldn't be far away. Addie doesn't need much to be happy. She's content to play on the floor with her toys or jump in the bouncer. She'll hang out in her outside swing for hours just taking in all of the sights and sounds.

Of course, she still loves her sister more than anything. Lexi can get Addie laughing easier than any one of us. Lexi just says, "Hi, Addie" and she starts chuckling. When Allen walks in, she greets him with a smile that reaches her eyes, lots of leg kicking and wiggling, and a big gasp! to let him know how pleased she is that he's come home. But, if she isn't quite sure who you are, she'll stare you down with some serious intensity. She talks quite a bit. Her favorite phrase right now is, "Bwaa, bwaa, bwaa" often followed by "aaaaaaahhhhh!" when she wants to be heard.

Addie is a real joy to be around. She has added so much to our family in the few short months we've known her. She makes us feel happy just being around her. As always, we look forward to watching her come into her own as she grows up.

A Day for Dad

Father's Day was quiet. And by quiet, I mean free from tantrums, yelling, time outs, crying and all other unpleasant noises.

We all overslept in the morning and I made cinnamon rolls anyways. We were late to church, but the kids were excellent. Addie even took an hour long nap. Lexi played quietly while the talks were given. I asked, "Who is this child and how long can you stay?" A good friend played with Addie in class so we actually got to hear the lesson - we even made some comments.

Then, a real miracle happened. Everyone took naps. All of us slept for two long hours. The Riddle house was totally silent.

We had meat and potatoes for dinner. Every man's dream, right? Strawberry shortcake for dessert. In between, we played outside. Lexi produced Allen's fathers' day cards with fanfare as she held them up and waved while yelling, "Ta Da!" when taking them to him.

We quietly celebrated the man who's made our lifestyle possible. The kids rolled on the grass, the garden grew, the horse watched by the fence that Allen poured hours of work into. We ate at the table he provided for us. He read to the girls and tickled Addie's chin. He played golf with Lexi on the lawn that took months of thought, design, planning and execution. And then, so I could call my own dad, he did the dishes and managed the kids. Without complaint, or eye rolling, or huffing.

That's Allen. He works hard for this family to enjoy lots of nice things. He softens to soothe a boo-boo, imaginary or otherwise. He gathers us nightly to kneel in family prayer. I hear his voice coming down the hall as he sings hymns to Lexi while tucking her in to bed. He wakes in the night to usher her back to bed. He wakes early to make sure we can be comfortable while he's away at work during the day. I didn't realize it, but he'd been working in the yard before work to clean up a little so that I would enjoy our yard more during the day. He feeds my horse every morning so that I don't have to try and fit it in after the girls are up.

He goes to work everyday. And I mean, everyday. Allen doesn't take his work lightly. He's stayed at boring jobs that seemed like they would go no where because he knew it was his job to keep us secure. But, he leaves his work at the door when he comes home. At one point he was given this advice when he stated he needed time to de-compress after getting home from work: the woman asked him, "How long is your commute?" Allen told her "45 minutes." "Well, sir, I imagine that is all the time you need to de-compress. If it isn't, park around the corner and sit in your car until you're ready to come home. But, when you walk through that door, be ready to be a dad and husband again." Allen took that advice to heart and hasn't failed us yet. He walks in the door, scoops up Lexi, gets on the floor with Addie, and jumps in to start his second shift.

He has a lot of try and a sincere desire to be the best dad possible. He doesn't rely on the "Well, I'm a guy and that's how we are" excuse. He wants to help. He wants to be aware. He is sensitive to the girls' needs and doesn't make them feel silly for being girls. He validates their feelings whether he thinks their valid or not. He acknowledges them. He accepts their emotional tendencies. He lovingly teaches them to work through the feelings and find solutions.

Allen is a great dad. We're very grateful for the many roles in plays in our family. I'm grateful he is willing to do what needs to be done without confining himself to traditional roles. He'll go outside and dig trenches and work all day long, but he'll also fold laundry or dust or do dishes. He isn't choosy about where he'll lend a hand. If something needs done and he can do it, he'll do his best. He's teaching our girls to be helpers; they aren't above the jobs that need to be done.

And the most important thing Allen does for his girls is respect me. He shows affection, he laughs with me, and uses kind words when talking with me. He supports me as a mom and as a woman. There is no greater gift a man can bestow to his own children. Our girls will grow up valuing women and mothers because of their father's influence. They will seek out men who will do the same. They will feel honored and cherished because of their divine capacity as daughters of God. For that, I am extremely grateful. I want nothing more for my kids than to know their worth. Allen does all he can to make sure they always will.

And so, on this one day Dads finally get a little credit, we want to thank Allen for the endless efforts he makes. We all love and appreciate what he brings to this family. Happy Fathers' Day.

Lexi Makes a Call

Beep, bop, beep, beep, bop. Behind me, I hear someone dialing the phone.

"Lexi, are you calling someone?"

"Yes, Mom. I'm calling Nanna."

"Oh, ok."

"I wuv you, Nanna. I wuv you. Jabber, jabber (at this point I hear some high pitched mumbling). Ok! Talk to you later! Wuv you."

Beep, bop. She even remembered to hang up.


Water Babies

The family made a trip to the New Mexico Technical College's pool this weekend. Our stake boundaries are pretty big; one of the wards is in Socorro - about 45 minutes away - and they host a pool party each year.

1, 2, 3....JUMP!

There was a pretty good wind and it was cold after getting out of the pool.

Addie and I played on the lawn while the others swam.

Trying to stop those teeth from chattering!

Lexi's friend was there and they played a little soccer after dinner.

We had a great time!



There's a new woman at the Riddle house these days. Meet LeNeige (French, for snow). A friend of mine, who is a fellow trainer, was looking for a feed/lease option for her mare. We got to visiting after I Be Streakin' passed away and it seemed like it might work. However, I was still pretty overwhelmed with the two kids and Addie wasn't very stable. So, I asked for a few months for our family to grow up. Thankfully, she was patient.

A few weeks ago, she let me know some other friends of hers were interested in taking the mare. But, because we had talked first, she wanted to honor our plans. I had her bring the mare the next day. She is a really nice horse to be around. She's quiet and low maintenance. She's a breeze to ride and doesn't need constant work to be safe. Just what I need with 2 kids and a totally inconsistent riding schedule. Yes, I train for others but as you know "the plumber's plumbing is always broke". So, it's really important for me to have a horse that can sit around for a while and not act the fool when I try to ride again.

We all enjoy having a horse around the place again. She greets us at the gate and follows Lexi up and down the fence. Lexi loves to make her dinner by opening the grain bins and mixing all sorts of yummy stuff together. She also gives her a minimum for 4 or 5 horse cookies a day. They are fast friends.
That's a fly mask. As the name suggests, it keeps the flies out of horse's eyes. They can see right through it.


Bloody Knuckles

We're pretty good about finishing what we start. We are usually quick with work and use any spare minute to forge ahead with this massive, continual project that is our homestead. But, we were dreading this one project so much that it took 8 months to complete.

We had to run our sprinkler lines under an existing 8 foot wide cement walkway. That meant burrowing under the cement and trying to run 4 PVC pipes through a pretty small opening. We knew it would be awful work so we did everything but that job for quite some time. We finally got sick of the open trench and crunched it out. It took about 2 months of Saturday's, lots of bloody knuckles, a few swear words, and some creative engineering to get where we are now.

Allen used a tamp bar, steel pipes, a hose and sledge to try and create the tunnel space necessary for all 4 PVC pipes to fit.

During one part of the process, a steel pipe Allen had been using got wedged under the cement. And when I say wedged, I mean the steel pipe was 5 feet long so fit perfectly under the cement and just out of arm's reach on either side. Allen tried everything he could to get it out. He finally got it unstuck, but not without paying the price.


Then, he put a 4" PVC pipe through the hole to contain the 4 smaller pipes we needed to run through. Unfortunately, the big pipe got stuck too. Allen, again, tried everything. We'd been using water to soften the dirt so he was trying to pull this slippery pipe out of a sticky, muddy mess. Not a recipe for success. Finally, he drilled a hole thru the pipe and hooked up a winch system to pull it out.

That ended up working really well. We finally had the space we needed and a hole that went all the way under the cement and came out the other side. But...

the pipes didn't cooperate.

Poor Allen. Totally defeated by this job.

One side complete with plants even! You can see the open trench on the other side.

We planted Lantana and a pretty ground cover with purple flowers on this side.

The First of Many

Well, it's taken 18 months, but we did it. We planted our first tree. It's an Eastern Red Bud. It's only tree on the whole place, and we couldn't be more proud. We had to run quite a few sprinkler lines in order to get ready for plants and trees on this side of the yard. Thus, the long wait for greenery. Now that we have our 8 zones finally complete and timed, we'll be planting fools!
The newly planted red bud, Lexi, Allen and Addie. Kind of scrawny now but come spring it will look like this....

Ok. So it won't look exactly like this, but you get the idea.


Hey, Good Lookin!

What we got cookin'? Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Lexi loves, loves, loves to help in the kitchen. I enjoy teaching her how to cook and we visit while we work. Chocolate Chip cookies are a staple in any one's diet so I figured we'd make sure she learned good and early how to make 'em right.

All that work can sure build up an appetite. Lexi munched on some raw (gasp! and we didn't get salmonella) cookie dough to get her energy back.

I think she O.D.'d on cookie dough.

Enjoying the spoils!

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.