You Say Toe-may-toe, I Say Toe-mah-toe

At first glance, it may seem that Allen and I had very different upbringings. But the truth is, we have a lot in common.

For example:

We both love a good musical.

That love stems from gathering around the television on Friday nights, singing along to your favorite parts and remembering the close bonds that developed during those treasured family moments.

 He grew up watching the classics, such as:

And I grew up watching cult classics such as:

See, we're not all that different after all.


I Scream, You Scream

We all scream for Ice Cream!

Hell Week 2: Conclusion?


I took popcorn as a snack for the kids. I don't have an air popper. So, I stood at the microwave and popped 24 bags of popcorn Saturday night. They take 2:30 each to achieve perfect doneness. I'll let you do the math.

Emily got her 6 month shots on Monday. 

Lexi has a chest infection.

Remember this? I got notice my insurance is denying the entire claim.

However, The Primary Program was a success.
I think that when you have a run of good days, weeks, months, whatever, life keeps score. Then, all of the things that could have gone wrong while you fooled yourself into thinking life might actually be worth living come crashing down all at once. 

You know, just to keep you on your toes.

The end.


Hell Week 2: Murphy's Revenge. Spread the Love...

Day 6: Saturday

I'm not sure I'd say it was love, but something was definitely spreading around the Riddle house. 

When I wrapped up my crazy Friday talking to Allen he said this: 

The girls did great. Addie had a major blowout, but other than that, we did awesome.

Addie never has blowouts. Never.

Dude, she totally has what you and your mom had. 

Oh, maybe. I don't know. I doubt it.

And we hung up for the night. 

Just for the record: having kids has ruined me. I was supposed to enjoy a quiet evening and sleeping late and a lazy morning. Yah. Right. I think those days are officially over. I went to bed at midnight and woke up promptly at 6:11 a.m. 


The phone rang around 8. How are you?

Well, could be better. 

Uh oh.

Addie woke up at 1 a.m. and threw up everywhere. And I mean, I cleaned the carpets within 2 feet of her crib, everywhere. And then we went in the family room and she rolled around and then threw up some more. And then she rolled around some more. Finally, just as she fell asleep at 3, Emily woke up crying. So, I fixed her and that woke Addie up. It went like that until 4 or so when we finally nodded off and I woke up to Lexi sitting in Emily's crib at 6:45 this morning. I've done no less than 5 loads of wash and am going to bathe Addie right now. 
Addie and her barf station.

Ouch. Are you going to be ok? 

Yes. Addie hasn't barfed since but she's really upset. She keeps crying and holding her tummy. She's trying to be happy and we're going to play outside. 

Ok, I'll call you when I get in. 

The rest of the day was pretty good. Except that I got "the" visit from my monthly friend. On the plane. Totally unprepared. At least I figured out why I'd been wanting to eat everything I laid my eyes on for the last 3 days.

Getting home proved to be a lot less eventful than my trip out. For this, I was grateful.

My family was waiting for me when I arrived. 


We started home and Addie started moaning and holding her tummy. 

We figured since she hadn't been sick again that she was finally a little hungry and a light dinner would fix her discomfort.

We gave her some dry cereal. And she asked for pudding. 

She ate the whole thing and seemed ok. 

For about 5 minutes.

She started acting really fussy and wanted down. Allen was eating his soup at the seat next to her and picked her up. 

And she barfed. All over the place. 

He ran and put her in the sink.

And she barfed again. And again. And again. 

She started crying and then would barf and then cry because she was scared and then it would come out again. 

Allen peeled her down to her diaper and took her off to a warm bath while I cleaned up the mess. 

When I walked down the hall to see how they were faring, this is what he said to me:

Did she puke in my soup?



Hell Week 2: Murphy's Revenge. If Something Can Go Wrong...

Day 6: Friday

My day to fly out to California. 

No one else had started barfing yet so I got the go ahead to leave.

My flight left at 11:50. 

I had a doctor's appointment in Los Lunas (where I live = no commute time) at 8:15. But it was only going to take 5 or 10 minutes. No sweat. I'd even have time to fill the prescription I needed.

I could easily help Allen retrieve the POCV from the shop.

I had to return the rental at the ABQ airport, too, so I planned on getting there 10 minutes earlier than usual.

I only had one small bag and wouldn't need check any luggage so that would make the trip even easier.

Once I landed in CA, I was going to head straight to Tracy to meet the property manager and see the house.

I figured that the normal door-to-door from the Oakland Airport to Tracy is around 50 minutes. Knowing the Bay Area, I planned on traffic and gave myself over 2 hours to get to Tracy. With that big of window, I could probably even get some lunch. 

I had it worked out so I would enjoy a stress free travel day. A kids free travel day. 

But this is how it really went:

The doctor's appointment? Took over 30 minutes to even get in the room. 

And for some reason, all of the folks who needed a consult with the pharmacist were in line ahead of me. 

It was 11:05 when I arrived at the rental return. I breathed a sigh of relief, jumped out and locked the doors of the rental. 

With the keys and my bag inside. 

You read that right. I locked the friggen' keys inside. With my luggage.

No problem they said, we'll have OnStar unlock it from their control station in the sky. 

Five minutes later: Um, it seems your car isn't registered with OnStar. We're going to have to send "the guy" up to unlock it. No, we don't know how long that might take.

While I'm begging the OnStar gods to somehow work a miracle, I realize something. Something that will make this situation even worse.

I did, indeed, have to check that bag (if I ever got it out of the rental car). I had dangerous contraband such as liquid foundation and mousse and mascara in there! There's no way I would make it through security and keep my record felony free.

Eeegads! It's now 11:15 and my flight leaves in just over 1/2 an hour. And I have to check the bag!

And "the guy" hadn't even shown up yet. 

Suddenly, the car unlocked. I grabbed my junk and started run-walking (or ralking as it shall be called from this point out) to the shuttle. 

Two stations were open at the airline check in (the sky caps were not faring much better). However, there were quite a few "self serve" kiosks available. 

It was also painfully obvious that most travelers are not mentally, physically, or emotionally prepared to operate such kiosks. Those "devil machines" were confusing everybody.

Finally, at 11:25 I was ralking my way to security. I raced through the security lines as fast as molasses in wintertime and saw 


flashing next to my flight number on the information monitors. 

Eeek! I have blisters on my feet from my apparently lethally "cute shoes", I'm sweating, and I'm talking out loud, to myself, in a public place like a paranoid schizophrenic.

As I see my gate, relief seeps into my mind. 

Until, for some reason, I wondered about my boarding pass.

I opened my purse to check for it. But it was not there. 

It was gone.

 I must have left it in the stupid grey bin they make you put all of your dangerous paraphernalia in for the xray machines. 

Do I go on without it? Go back? Go on? Go back? Which one! 

Go back. I'll just run through the back side of security and grab it quick.

Backtracking, I see that there IS NO back side of security. I would have to go all the way around and go through the lines and the xray machines and, if I was lucky, find that stupid pass.

Fighting the urge to sit down and cry, I ralked myself to the customer service desk at my gate. I held up my baggage claim sticker and my license and said, "I'm supposed to be on this plane, but this is all I have to show for it."

Before I could begin to explain, she handed me my pass. 

I walked up the line of passengers, asking what number they were. When I found my place, I looked up and saw the Southwest employee looking at me expectantly. I handed him my pass and walked on board. 

I'd made it. By the hair on my chinny chin chin.

I was pretty hungry as all I'd eaten all day was a banana. But, I should have plenty of time to grab lunch on my way to Tracy.

We landed. I got my rental. I had plenty of time to spare. 

Until I came up over the hill before Dublin and saw this:

It took me 2 hours and 10 minutes to go less than 60 miles. 

I did not get lunch. 

But, I did get to see our new house. And I really liked it. 

I had dinner with my Dad.

And I got to sleep in a nice, quiet hotel room.

Finally, things were looking up. 

And then Allen called.


Hell Week 2: Murphy's Revenge. Hope on the Horizon.

Day 5: Thursday

I think I forgot to mention one itty, bitty detail.

We're moving back to California for a little while. I know, I've not said too much about it and I certainly haven't given enough details about the whole thing. 

Well, we're leaving New Mexico on November 2nd. That's like, 10 days away. 

And we didn't have a house to live in. Allen had narrowed the search, but there was no way he was moving me into a house sight unseen. 

This weekend was to be my big excursion to California to see the potential home, pay the deposit and sign the lease. 

Let's put this into perpsecitve: 

The PCOV is dead and in the shop. The mechanic requested keeping it for an extra day to see if he could get it to pull it's crap again. The rental vehicle is to be returned on Friday, by me, when I am at the airport to catch my flight to CA to secure our housing. If the PCOV really does have an issue, this would leave Allen high and dry while I'm out of town. The pressure was on to get the PCOV repaired and back home in less than 24 hours.

Allen now has the barfing flu. 

 I've been a single parent for 5 days straight. With the added responsibilities of washing, disinfecting or burning everything and anything that may be infected with the barf germs. 

Single parent + sick husband = extremely tired and burnt out Traci.

The incubation period for this reign of terror is about 24 hours. That puts me barfing just as I'm supposed to be flying out Friday morning. This also puts my kids barfing while I'm gone to California. 

I can't very well get on a plane if I have the barfing flu. And I can't leave Allen to watch the kiddos all by himself if they all have the barfing flu too.

Plus, this weekend is the Primary Program. It's culmination of 10 months of work. It's the big finale for the kids under 12 at church. The parents and grandparents and uncles and cousins and friends of these kids all come out for the big day. I'm pretty heavily involved this year. I mean, what am I going to do, barf in a bucket behind the podium while I hold the mic for the kids?

Lexi has a solo in the program.

 And, I'm in charge of bringing snack for said 40 children on Sunday, too.

Kinda adds a little bit of pressure to the situation. Like, a lot of pressure. Like pressure cooker, screaming teapot pressure.

We all ate nothing but saltine crackers and room temperature water all day just in case we were next in line.

The day went by incident free.

We started to see a glimmer of hope. We though the rest of us might make it out of this unscathed.

But, you should never count your chickens before they hatch.


Hell Week 2: Murphy's Revenge. King of the Throne.

Day 4: Wednesday

Allen came home from work early.

Because he had the barfing flu.

I won't even bore you by going through the reasons as to why this is what hell must be like.


Hell Week 2: Murphy's Revenge. It just never ends!

Day 3: Tuesday

When you're in hell, the days kind of just run together. 

So, Monday's events spilled over into Tuesday. 

We had our POCV towed.

Lexi missed school.

But, Allen would be home late that evening! 

And, we was going to be coming home in a rental vehicle. 


The day was actually fairly uneventful. I mean, it was normal, by family standards.

There was crying and yelling and some hair pulling and some "If you do that again..." and then some time outs and quite a bit of spitting up.

But, not too bad considering. 

Allen graced us with his presence just about bed time. I know, convenient, huh? Gets home in time for hugs and bed. A little too convenient if you ask me.

As we're catching up, he mentions, "Yeah. Mom wasn't feeling that great when I saw her Monday night so she didn't eat much for dinner..."

Hell Week 2: Murphy's Revenge Continued

Day 2: Monday

Monday was going to be a pretty busy day for us girls.
The tractor guy was coming in the morning.

The moving surveyor was coming in the afternoon.

Plus, I was working on the details of the move in between the caring for and raising of our three small children.

I asked our tried and true babysitter to come over while the surveyor was here so I could actually pay attention to what was taking place.

He came and went and I still had the sitter here.

"Hmmm", I thought, "What can I do to most maximize my time? Pedicure. Um, probably not. Run to the grocery store? No, I can do that with the shortlings. Hay. We need one year's worth of hay. I'll go get that!"

I grabbed Emily, called the hay guy, and hooked up the trailer.

No sweat, right. We just needed 40 bales. I'd be back in less than 30 minutes. I could back it in by the barn and Allen and I would unload it when he got home. This would be awesome (and so very helpful).

The hay was great. The baby was happy. I was kind of feeling like wonderwoman having done so many good things in one day.

So, it's like 5 o'clock and I tell the group to hang out in the barn. We'll put the trailer away and feed the horse. Fun for all!

I drove the trailer into the arena, pulled it forward and ran out to open the panels so I could back it in by the barn.

I jumped back into the Mama Mobile (which shall be referred to as POCV or Piece of Crap Vehicle for the remainder of this post) and try to put it into reverse.

Notice I said TRY. Nope. Nada. Nuthin'. Wasn't going to shift out of park. I turned the engine off. Turned it back on. No go. Stepped really hard on the break. No way. Stood on the brake. Not gonna happen.

Now, I'm stuck. The vehicle is running, but we're clearly not going anywhere. It's around 5:30. Dinner is quickly approaching. I have 3 very hungry urchins to feed. I have no other vehicle as I'm a single parent this week while Allen is off gallivanting around making a living.. The sun is setting; I only have so many daylight minutes left to figure this all out.

Not to mention the location of the POCV and the trailer with 40 bales of hay sitting on it. Location, location, location. They say it's everything, right?

 That's where the POCV decided to crap out. Wanna closer look to see why this matters?

See that? The nose of the POCV is inside the opening of our gate. Wait? You can't see why that really matters? Here, look again.

It matters because I now can't close my gate. You know, the one that keeps my horse inside our yard so she doesn't go running around the neighborhood? Oh yes. It died. Right. There.

Told ya it was a Piece of Crap.

So, I enlisted the help of my neighbor. We unhooked the trailer. We rocked the truck. We hooked the trailer back up. We did a rain dance. Nothing made the POCV decide to do it's job and drive.

As dark set in, I asked my sitter to stay and help. She agreed. Without even rolling her eyes. She fed my kids and got them ready for bed while I started calling every body else's husband to see if they could help me out.

Thank goodness, a friend of ours who is well versed in POCV's came over and started taking her apart. Could be one of two things 1) a switch is bad (this would be good) or 2) the solenoid buried deep within the steering column is bad (this would be bad). After 2 hours of pulling fuses and trying to outsmart the POCV, guess what he deduced?

So, I locked the horse in to the stall which means I now have even more work cut out for me than doing the kid thing all alone since I have to drag the water trough into the stall and then fill the water trough, put bedding in the stall and then clean the stall the next day. We closed up the POCV and I planned on calling for a tow the next day.

Early the next morning, I called for a tow. TWO hours later, they arrived.

Here we are in our jammies hurriedly throwing our belongings out onto the hay because we had been told the driver was on his way.

Two hours later.

The drag marks made by the POCV because it still wouldn't come out of park.

While we were waiting for the tow truck, I had made several calls to the local car rental facility (if you can even call it that). We have no cars, they said. No, there aren't any in Albuquerque either. We'll call you when we get one in. Great. Just great. Whatever. A few days without a car isn't going to kill us. Fine.

You might think at this point, it was simply a matter of waiting for word from the mechanic. Not so! Remember the trailer with 40 bales of hay on it?

Still sitting there.

The gentleman who had helped us the night before generously offered to come back in the afternoon to back the trailer in so I could turn the horse out. So, he did. And, I did.

Did I ever hear back from the rental shack? Nope.

But, I did hear from the mechanic.

The POCV was running just fine.

Yes, you read right.

Went right into park and passed every friggin' test they could put it through.

Told you it's a Piece of Crap.


Hell Week 2: Murphy's Revenge

Day One: Sunday

Allen leaves for CA. 
For the second week in a row.
Need I say more?
Didn't think so.



"Brillo pad!"


"It looks like pubic hair on your head!"

I don't remember a day that went by without hearing those words - or something like unto it. I had bad hair. And nobody let me forget it.

Me. 6 or 7 years old.
I have naturally curly hair. Very, very thick naturally curly hair. I should have been born in Texas. Everything's bigger in Texas. I might have had a chance.

But, I was born in CA. The land of sunshine, beaches and blonds. Blonds with very straight, very obedient hair.

By the time I was on the precipice of puberty, things had gotten pretty dire.

Me. 12 years old.
I was taunted day in and day out. I knew it was coming. I knew every. single. day. someone would remind me of just how ridiculous I looked.

No amount of product or overworking would help. It was hopeless. I was doomed.

Finally, my junior year of high school I had it pretty much figured out. I wore it in a bun. That way, no one could make some backhanded remark about my locks. I knew I would never have good hair. By my peers standards, I was a hair joke.

Then, I had a breakthrough of sorts. I kind of learned how to work with my hair. By my senior year, I wasn't so scared of it all. I was even brave enough to wear it down for my senior pictures.

Me. 18 years old.
At that point, things got better. I embraced my hair a little bit more every year. And, the adult population seemed to have a very different perspective.

"Your hair is gorgeous."

"Is that natural?"

"You have beautiful hair!"

I couldn't go a day without a compliment. What a change that made in my life. Those childhood definitions are hard to forget, though.

Then, a miracle. I was introduced to a competent stylist. One that knew "ethnic" hair. With a flat iron. Not only could I wear my hair curly, I could wear it STRAIGHT! Oh. my. gosh. Total liberation. I was no longer doomed to look like a member of a bad 80's hair band. I had options. Trendy cuts, here I come.

Me. 2007.
It was like I'd been born again. Since then, I've had short, straight hair. Long, straight hair. Short, curly hair. Long, curly hair. And I could choose for myself the look I wanted to portray to the world. Finally, I had options.

In many ways, my hair defines me. Still, I yearn for acceptance. I rate the success of any given hair style by the number of compliments I receive daily. Vain? Perhaps. But, when you go your whole life being the laughing stock of a lot of cruel jokes, for something you didn't even ask for, it stays with you. Shapes you.

Two of my three girls have my hair. Curly. Thick. Consistent, beautiful curls. They don't look like everyone else.

Lexi. 2 years old.
The adults that see them can't stop raving about their hair. It's recognized for it's natural glory.

But, kids don't see through those eyes. I knew the day would come. A classmate or friend or passerby would say those horrible words to my girls. The same things I had heard.

Allen told me that when it happened I shouldn't even tell him. His eyebrows crawled above his hairline when he made it very clear that no one would make fun of them. I assured him that they would live with. Just as I had.

Sure enough Lexi had her first encounter with the "natural haters". She was telling me that she had told one of the boys at school he couldn't be her friend.

But, Lexi, that's not kind. We don't say that to people; it's hurtful. We are friends with everyone. We let people play with us. We show them kindness. 

But, mom, he was touching my hair.

What do you mean, Lexi?

He was trying to pat it down. He said it was too big. So I told him he couldn't be my friend.

Lexi. 4 years old.
How quickly my feelings came to surface. Like a diver who comes up too quickly for air. With hot tears at the corners of my eyes I told her what I had been rehearsing in my mind for years. 

Lexi, you are beautiful. You have beautiful hair. You are kind. You are caring. You are smart. You will hear a lot of people tell you different. Some of them will tell you your hair isn't pretty. YOU DON'T BELIEVE THEM! You are daughter of Heavenly Father. Lexi, you are a wonderful little girl and you are beautiful inside and out.

I wanted to brand those words into her heart and mind. I know this is just the beginning. I know there will be days when she comes home from school crying because someone said or did something mean to her. 

Each of us has had the one thing that makes us stand out from the crowd used against us. Whatever drives those people: jealousy, sadness, loneliness, hurt, or otherwise, we've all encountered them. 

I can't fight her battles. I can't disarm every threat in her life. 
But in our house, she will find safety. We embrace all of the characteristics that make her who she is. The crazy, curly hair. The big, doe eyes. How she is quick to comfort others. And is the first to offer help when someone is hurting. The one who does kind things spontaneously. The little girl who is empathetic, charming, quick to laugh. Who ponders and thinks and makes logical conclusions at the tender age of four.The little girl who isn't like everyone else. 

What I came to learn as my life progressed, is this: those things that define us as outcasts and jokes as children, are often our strongest features as adults. The skinny girl becomes the super model. The nerd becomes the millionaire computer programmer. 

I'll just keep repeating the same mantra over and over until she can believe it for herself: You are daughter of Heavenly Father. Lexi, you are a wonderful little girl and you are beautiful inside and out.

And, I'll just keep repeating the same mantra over and over until I can believe it for myself: You are daughter of Heavenly Father. You are a wonderful woman and you are beautiful inside and out.


In the Barn

The girls have been helping me to feed and muck every night. They really look forward to our time with Honey and the rituals they have started out there. It's been a lot of fun to teach them how to "be" in the barn and around the horses. They are eager to learn and, I think, naturally good around the animals. They clean up after themselves and already honor all of the barn rules. I love seeing their enthusiasm and desire to work hard.

Honey hardly needs the extra calories, but the girls just love giving her some rolled oats at night.
Lexi gets it out of the can and then gives Addie the scoop so she can help pour.

No trip to the barn is complete without a chance to hang on the gate while it's swinging open or closed.
Walking with Dad.


Something Good for Something Better

How do you define yourself? Wife? Husband? Friend? Boss? Daughter? For each of us, there are many titles that help explain who we are. And the way we see ourselves isn't always how others see us. Right?

If you asked Lexi who I was, she'd quickly say, "Momma!" When she sees me, she sees her mom, her comforter, the one who knows if she wants the crusts on or off and can tell her in a nanosecond the obscure place she left her baby so she can sleep soundly at night.

When I think of who I am, the first thought is Mother. But, I'm also a business woman, a daughter, a wife, a friend, an athlete and a horsewoman. Equine enthusiast. Competitor. Horse trainer. Lover of all things horse related.When I'm working in the barn or riding or giving a lesson, I'm in my element. I'm home. It's like putting on your most comfortable pair of sweats. It just feels right.

Me and Moonie
I really can't remember too many times in my life when my daily activities weren't centered around my horsey duties. I'd feed, groom, takes lessons at least once a week (usually way more often than that), haul out for conditioning rides with my mom, haul to shows and 25 mile endurance rides almost weekly, ride to my friends' houses, ride to school, ride after school, ride, ride, ride, and ride.

That's me on Astarti, second from the right.
I lived and breathed horses. What would you have found under the Christmas tree with my name on it? Not shoes or jeans or Cds. No way! I asked for halters and saddles and grooming tools or bell boots.

The love of my horsey life: Kariston. Here we are on a 25 miler.

Most of my friends were the girls who took lessons at the same facility. We fought like sisters but were nearly inseparable. Their parents all had a hand in raising me and carting me and my horse around to the local shows and to lessons.

While I was in college, I let horses take a backseat to my social life and education. That lasted about a year. During one of my summer breaks, I rode for a local trainer. When I got back to school, I was miserable. The next summer, I got a job wrangling and outfitting. Those were some of the best days of my life. The smell of the forest, horses, long days, lots of sweat and lots more laughter.

Here I am in the White River National Forest on Dally. I'm leading 6 mules. We were packing an elk and camp I helped to break that same day.

After my days outfitting, I worked full time for a cutting trainer. I worked 12 and 14 hour days, 6 days a week. I stunk like horse sweat and manure. I had no social life. I had no money. But, I was so happy. I was doing what I loved and getting paid! I worked for an incredible man with a great family. Working for John paved the way for me to start my own successful training business.

One of my client horses, Legend.
I started training other people's horses because I found that motherhood didn't give me a whole lot of time to ride. But, if I was getting paid to ride, I could afford a babysitter. I worked part time, from home. I found an awesome woman who watched Lexi at my house. I made a great friend in the process. Much to my surprise, not only would people pay me to ride, but I had a waiting list. I met most of my friends through my business. The best of both worlds if you ask me: Mom and horse trainer.

Me and Lexi on Holly
Then, we added to our family. Our spunky Addie. I found it harder and harder to straddle both worlds. When I was giving my clients all they needed, I was ignoring my family. When I gave my family all they needed, I was short changing my clients. I felt torn. When I was riding, I was thinking about my kids. As I would play dolls with my girls, I would stare wistfully out of my family room window at my horse.

I had to make a really tough choice. Do I put riding on the back burner and focus on my kids or do I try and make it all work? Can I make it all work? At what cost? While the answer wasn't necessarily the one I wanted, it was crystal clear what I needed to make my priority. I haven't ridden in two years. Man, do I miss it. Recently, I had the chance to be in the barn, just feeding and raking and I got a little sad. I miss the familiarity with which I move from one task to the next. How I can, almost without a conscious thought, halter, groom, saddle and bridle a horse in minutes. I miss the smell of shavings and the barn and even the horse crap. Yeah. Us horse people are so depraved, we like the smell of horse crap. (oh come on, horse people, you know it's true).

But, there's always another horse. There's no other Lexi or Addie or Emily on this planet. No amount of saddle time could make up for me missing out on watching them grow. Teaching someone to keep their heels down pales in comparison to importance of teaching my kids how to love, share, and serve. When they are grown and gone, I'll have all the time in the world to be in the barn. For now, I'm certain I have given up something good for something so much better.

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.