Christmas Letter 2012

Christmas 2012

To our dear friends and family (gush!):

Each year when I sit down to author this letter, I feel a little surprised that an entire year has already passed us by. I find myself anxiously weighing the achievements, events, trips, and day-to-day activities that have defined our year, hoping to best capture what makes us, well, us. And I’m supposed to fit it on one page, like some sort of resume to our friends and family, and how am I really supposed to tell you all about us in one short page?!?! I’ll do my best; margins will be pushed to the verge of printing limits, and it’s going to be size 9 font so put on your glasses, but no promises! I’m pretty sure this year was just too awesome to stuff onto one page…

We’ll start with the head honcho around here: Me! That was a joke. We’ll start with Allen. He’s still working at NIF (National Ignition Facility) at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory (if you’ve ever seen Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, then you’ll have actually seen the blue prints of the facility) as the lead vacuum-systems manager in charge of engineering and operations. Not as in Hoover type vacuum, but “create-space-like-conditions” vacuum. He’s done well there, and is an excellent engineer as far as I can tell. He’s currently serving as the 11-year old Scout leader at church with a good group of kids. It’s been a pretty decent excuse to do boy things since he’s not allowed much of that with all of us girls here at home. He’s taken Lexi out camping and hiking this year; they are peas in a pod (literally, ‘cause she has to sleep with him to stay warm at night) and have the “best-day-ever” every time they venture out. Allen is pretty much super dad volleying between the domestic desires of 3 girls with his baking cookies, creating crafts, playing princesses, and then seamlessly moving on to teaching the girls to lay sprinkler lines, plant the garden, run electrical wires, and use tools while he makes our backyard the dream-scape we’ve always wanted. He’s thoroughly enjoyed being near his family and has gone to quite a few ball games with his brothers, dad, and my dad, too. The Riddle boys also got together for what we wives lovingly call “the annual death march” and happily hiked in the snow and rain from mountain to beach in a couple of short days. Some say torture, others say vacation!

Alexis is in first grade, and loving every minute. She’s an eager student, and hasn’t found a thing about school she doesn’t completely love. Last May, she starred in the local theater’s production of “Annie” as one of the chorus children. She was the youngest actor involved, and took to it like a duck to water. She has zero stage fright, and handled hours of rehearsal like a pro at a young 6 years old. She participated in her school choir, and is taking private piano lessons, too. She played soccer again this year, and while she sticks with it without complaining, I think she mostly does it because I’m her coach. Our team did well, and she improved a lot as a player. She’s going to give gymnastics a try in January. Her favorite past time is hanging out with her Dad. She’s his shadow, willingly soaking up all that he teaches her from the scriptures, to drawing, to yard work and so on. She has finally mastered the art of riding a two-wheeled bike. She’s thrilled with the freedom that comes with her added mobility. Lexi is a fun girl who is usually happy, helpful, and pretty easy to be around. She is definitely a great example to her sisters, carefully guiding them at every turn, and we are grateful for that – even when they aren’t!

Oh, Addie. My dear Addie. Ms. Addie-tude. She’s all that a 4-year-old girl can be. She’s charming, comical, endearing, irrational, emotional, stubborn, independent, confident yet incredibly insecure, and pretty much a total train wreck. Ok, so that might be a slight exaggeration. But, seriously, she’s a complex little person. Addie has a considerable amount of intensity in her little body. She’s also very competitive. She’s been practicing soccer with our team a bit and can almost outplay girls twice her age by pure determination alone. She’s in preschool, and a great little student. She is a mostly-loving sister to both Lexi and Emily. She is affectionate, and tries to help if someone is hurt or upset. She’s very eager to be with babies and children younger than herself and sees her role as the little mother as very important. Her favorite place to be is outdoors riding her scooter, bike, or helping Allen with chores. Addie has the gift of being passionate, and has a lot of energy to spare so we’re tossing her into gymnastics, too. I’m pretty sure she’ll either take the place by storm or have a raging fit because she can’t compete with the 16 year olds. Either way, she’s bound to learn something.

Little Emily will be turning 3 in April. Emily is, for the most part, a pretty happy little girl. But, if she hits her wall, it’s like a head-on collision at 75 mph. Just after her 2nd birthday, Emily was diagnosed with a motor speech disorder called Speech Apraxia. In real people speak: she has a brain disorder that stops her brain from telling her mouth how to work the right way. She won’t ever outgrow it, but with consistent therapy, she’ll attend regular school and live a normal life. We’ve been in therapy for 6 months, 3 days a week, and she’s made significant improvement with her verbal expression. Her delay is limited to only her speech, and in every other regard, she’s off the charts and doing great! She’s an engaged, intelligent, feisty, dramatic, lovable 2 year old. She loves puzzles and anything else that requires concentration. She’s helpful with her Dad, but often prefers to stay with me in the house. If I’m in the kitchen, she’s right there next to me “elping”. She properly tortures her sisters, as any youngest sibling should do.

As for me, I’m enjoying the slow-paced lifestyle that comes with raising three kids under 7 while being blissfully pregnant with our fourth. BAH! Tell me you didn’t buy that for a second! I’m up to my ears in raising these kids, but what else would I be doing that’s of any worth anyhow? We are, indeed, pregnant with our fourth girl. No, Allen isn’t mourning, and clothed in sackcloth and ashes. The baby is due March 2nd, 2013. By some strange alignment of the stars and destiny, I’m back at giving riding lessons. I do love working with youth riders and am completely at home in the barn. In January of last year I went with Alexis to the “Annie” auditions, and ended up being cast as “Grace”, Daddy Warbuck’s secretary. I’d never done such a thing (as in never sung a day in MY LIFE), and was a little horrified at the thought, but I accepted the offer. There was dancing and singing and all manner of jazz hands involved, but what a great time we had! Shortly after that, I got myself knocked up. As trite as that sounds, having this fourth person come to our family is a real blessing. We are excited to see just who is going to joining us. I absolutely love living near my friends and our family and enjoy being kept busy by the good things in life.

As a family, we traveled to Disneyland with my dad, known affectionately as Grandpa Bob. Over the summer, a good portion of Allen’s extended family made their way West for their vacations (and a few with some family obligations…) so those of us who were familiar got to catch up, and those of us who’d never met got to meet and make new friends. We’ve spent a lot of time with family doing normal things like celebrating birthdays, seeing Grandma and Papa on Sunday nights, attending the baptisms and blessings of family and friends, working in the yard, going to the beach, taking lots of day trips to see the wonders of the area, and so forth. Our lives are full with the things that make us happy and leave us feeling fulfilled. All in all, we’re quite possibly the most average family around, but we find meaning in our time together and doing what makes us, well, us.

May each and every one of you find the same comfort and satisfaction in all that makes you who you are, ties you to your loved ones, and matters to you most. Have a wonderful Holiday season and banner year in 2013!

Allen and Traci Riddle



Addison's birthday. This was the first year she was really aware that something significant was taking place. And it was all. about. her!

She'd made a few requests about the party (Minnie Mouse) she wanted and some of her wishes for toys (more Minnie Mouse). 

The day before her birthday was a preschool day so we took Minnie Mouse cupcakes for everyone. 

On her actual birthday, she got to pick out her favorite lunch (McDonald's cheeseburger) and eat while watching a movie with Mom. 

That night was a school night, and also Lexi's Christmas performance at school so we kept it low key. We went out to dinner with the grandparents and opened a few presents when we got home. 

Oh the torture! She had to look at her presents all day just waiting for the right time to open them.

There was unabashed squealing at this point.  She said to us, "It's what I've always dreamed of!"

We had her formal party with her cousins and the grandparents that weekend. Of course, the theme was Minnie Mouse. 

Red, white and black everything!

The kids got to make their own totes for the favor.

She blew out the candle too soon. 
Thankfully, the problem was easily solved and she got to blow out the candle (again) at the end of the birthday song.

 Addison says she had a great birthday and felt really special this year.

Happy Birthday, Addie!


I Want To Remember This

Addison, 4, who had learned Jingle Bells for her preschool program, was singing the song proudly at the dinner table.

Alexis, 6, who has spent the last 3 weeks learning Jingle Bells on the piano, perked up and offered to play while Addie sang.

After dinner, we all gathered around the piano, flanked by our lit Christmas tree, while Alexis played and sang. Addie chimed in, her timing completely off, BUT to see my eldest daughter play a song while her little sister sang along was one of those moments when a mom's heart is filled with the sure knowledge that the work is well worth the effort.

I know twenty years from now, that memory could be lost. This was a first for our young family: to be sitting around the piano, sisters working together, family united, the fruits of their efforts bringing us together during this special time of year. Their little voices filled the room while Lexi played along.

I definitely want to remember this.


It's Christmas Time at the Riddles

In keeping with our tradition, we began putting up Christmas decorations the weekend following Thanksgiving.

The girls "helped" Allen put up the outside lights. Then, they "helped"me put out all of our nativity sets. Finally, they "helped" decorate the tree.

What would tree decorating be without a little wrestling?
And a full-blown tantrum?
You can hear the screaming, right?

Addie begged me to take a picture of her by the tree during lunch. Yeah, we eat Fruit Loops for lunch and we like it.
Allen helped the kids make their very own mini-trees.

The crown jewel.

I don't have a particular passion for Christmas. Sure, I love the excuse to give lots of presents and shop with semi-abadondon, but I'm not a Christmas freak.

What I do love is that my kids have started to recognize the season, and what it means for our family. We slow down a bit. We work together to change the entire inside of our home to reflect our beliefs about the Savior. We talk of his birth, choosing to give rather than receive, and take time to reflect upon our many blessings.

And while the world has distorted the true meaning of why we exchange gifts, I find hope in the windows of every home I see that has a tree lit this time of year. Somewhere, some time ago, wether the people inside attend church now or not, or claim to believe or not, their loved ones - perhaps generations ago - believed in Christ. They carry on the tradition of acknowledging just how significant his birth was to this world. I see a world that knows the Savior came to this Earth.

My heart is filled with gratitude this time of year and that feels good.

May your traditions do the same for you!

Merry Christmas.

About Me

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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.