What I'm Grateful for Today: Alexis

Each day Lexi blesses our family in so many ways:

- She is the first to get up in the morning. She turns on kids shows for herself and Addie.
- She wakes up happy.
- She reminds us if we forget to bless the food.
- If she gets out the paper and color crayons, she gets enough for everyone so no one feels left out.
- Same with snacks. If you are going to get yourself something, best get it for the rest of the crew. And she does.
- She spontaneously performs acts of service. One day, she went through the whole house and emptied all of the trash cans. Then, she took it all outside and put it in the toter.
- She draws us pictures. Sometimes we get landscapes. Sometimes lots of different hearts. Sometimes family portraits. But, she never, ever draws for herself. It's always for a member of the family to make them feel loved.
- She picks up any mess without hesitation or question. Simply ask and she does.
- She clears her plate from the table and takes it to the sink. I very rarely have to remind her and she never complains about doing it.
- Almost daily, she creates something crafty for someone in our family or one of our family friends. She then asks to snail mail or scan and email them to family members or family friends. She does this to keep in touch with them and tell them she loves them.
- She helps with Emmy if she sees the need. If I'm in the middle of a chore and Emmy needs to be cuddled, Lexi will step in to try and comfort her.
- Lexi is quick to laugh. Our house is filled with her loud laugh for a good part of the day.
- If I'm standing still for more than a second, Lexi runs up to me and gives me a big hug. Many times throughout the day, she'll come up and try to get my attention. When I ask her what she wants, more often than not, "a hug" is the simple answer.
- Lexi also likes to sing. She sings pop songs, hymns, and made up songs.
- She regularly tells Addie, Emily and myself that we look nice. Almost every day, one, or all of us gets a compliment on our clothing, hair, or an accessory.
- If she notices something she likes about a classmate's outfit, backpack, hair tie, etc., she never hesitates to tell them either. In fact, she will walk up to anyone she sees sporting a look she likes and she will tell them without hesitation. For example, the director of our play cut her hair. Lexi hadn't seen her for a few days and didn't know she'd cut her hair. The minute we walked in the room, she says to herself, "Ooooh! I like her hair!" Before I could say anything, she walked right up to her and tapped her on the arm to get her attention and let her know, "I like your hair!"
- The girls aren't supposed to get out of bed before 7 a.m. But, if Addie is up too early and "lonely", Lexi gets books and takes them in to Addie's room. She reads to her and keeps her company.


What I'm Grateful for Today: Allen

So, I've been a tad bit grumpy these past few weeks. A little extra snark in my responses. A little less patient. More sighing, less smiling.

I definitely haven't said thank you to anyone in my family. They do a lot around here. Sometimes, they seem to converge against me, but for the most part, they are all contributors.

So, to help me keep the nasty in check, I'm going to make a daily homage to each member of the family and all the good they do around here on a daily basis.

Let's start with Allen.

- Every morning, before he takes off for work, he fills the kids juice cups. Just to take something off of my list.
- Every evening, he does the dishes. Every. evening.
- He does the night time routine because I'm at rehearsals. All.by.himself. Baths, teeth brushings, pajamas, hair combing, songs, prayers. The whole kit and caboodle.
- He comes home with plans for FHE. He contemplates while he's at work and carries out that plan when he gets home. We're hit and miss with FHE, but he takes the time to notice where we're a little short spiritually and makes that the focus of our FHE. He thinks about us and the acts on those thoughts.
- He reminds the kids to thank me for dinner. Every night. Even if it's take out.
- He never, ever complains about the food I make. Now, I do like to cook, but I drop the ball sometimes. And other times, the recipe is experimental and it doesn't come out great. And sometimes, it's cold cereal for dinner. He NEVER makes a face, offers a deep sigh, or complains about the food I prepare and serve.
- He rough houses with the kids. Yeah, I usually yell at him because someone always ends up upset and crying (Addie), but it's actually developmentally necessary for them and he makes sure they get that time.
- He rubs my feet. No, seriously. Almost every night. I think he counts to 500; he was told to do it by our first labor coach and he's done it ever since. Even when we're fighting.
- He deals with all the financial burdens. All the crappy phone calls. All the organization. All of the check writing and juggling and maximizing of funds.
- He goes to work without fail. I never worry about his job or how he's performing at work. He works hard and never "takes it easy". Wether he feels like going or not, is sick or not, sad or mad, he gets up every day and goes. He's extremely reliable. Because I never worry about his job and our security, I can focus on my role here at home and my own personal growth.
- He teaches the kids the value of work. Our yard isn't more than dirt and goat heads (those really nasty stickers with pokies sticking out on every side), but he made sure to plant some carrots and broccoli with the kids. He had them help from putting the dirt in the boxes, to making rows, and dumping the seeds in. Each day or two, they all head out and check on the plants and then they water them. Sure they aren't perfect and there's a big clump of carrots coming up at one end, but he cares more about the time spent and lessons taught than perfection out there.
- Every single day he does something to improve the house. It may be small. It may be big. But every day, after the kids go to bed, he works on the house. He doesn't computer. He doesn't watch ESPN. He listens to my gripes and tries to fix whatever is bugging me that day. I don't ask. He just does.
- He comes home happy. He's not an overly bubbly kind of guy, but he tries really hard to be genuinely happy when he walks through the door. He eagerly greets the kids. He asks me how my day has been.
- Every day, he tells me I'm beautiful. No matter if I'm sporting "homeless man look" or dressed up nice. At my heaviest, I was not too confident about my appearance.  Sure, he noticed the weight gain. He noticed my confidence plummet. But, he never said anything negative. Rather, he kissed my cheek and told me I looked nice,  or reminded me that I was beautiful, or something like unto it. The shred of dignity I had left was because of Allen.


Forecast for the Financial District

Calling for downpour.

Allen's commute car, bless her for making it to 170,000 miles, is going the way of all the Earth.

There really wouldn't have been a "good time" but right now feels like the worst time!


In Other Exciting News...

- I'm the cookie manager for Lexi's troop. We've sold something like 800 boxes of cookies. I picked up 116 cases of cookies and put them in my front room. Then, we sorted them all by individual girl so the people could come and get them. We did it perfectly the first time. It did not take us 3 hours. It was awesome.

And, every day, I get a number of texts and emails like this, "Can I have 1 box of Thin Mints, 3 boxes Shortbreads, 2 boxes of Peanut Butter Patties, and 14 Lemonades? When can I get them? If I say jump, will you ask how high?"

And, every day, I pull cookies out of cases and separate them so that the people can come by and get their cookies - ONE box at a time.

(They say thank you. They aren't total jerks, really. And people are weird about Girl Scout cookies so we try to get them their orders fast.)

- Speaking of Marti, she came for a visit. I did not take any pictures. Sorry.

But it was a great visit. We played soccer and sorted cookies and had a birthday party and went hiking at Del Valle (I did take pictures of that though). We also had a dance party. Allen did the worm so it was totally awesome. (I did not take pictures of that either.)

The kids call her Aunt Mart-EYE. She loves it and they don't know any different so it's pretty cute. Lexi goes in to her room at o'dark thirty to sleep with her. She plays airplane with them, and acts silly with them, and colors at the little table with them instead of doing chores, and doesn't yell at them. They adore her and love her.

For as different as we were as kids, it's like we share a brain now. We literally say the same things and the same time. It's fun to be together. I keep hoping they will move here. My dad's birthday wish to her was that she would "feel like she can live wherever she wants when she wants". That really meant, "you can move here right now thankyouverymuch. We all feel the same way, but get that they have a good thing going where they are right now.

Anyways, good times were had by all.

- Rehearsals for Annie are going well. They are extremely time consuming. It's been 3 hours a night, 4 nights a week. Lexi was getting really tired and her behavior was changing here at home. This week has been a bit better. Since she's been off the hook in the last week, she's been her normal self.

I think my bone marrow is being sucked out and replaced with the Annie script.

I sing in 4 songs. All of them have dancing. Thank goodness I mostly have animated gesturing while the other people on stage dance around me and Annie.

I'm still in shock that I'm doing this. And most nights I really wonder if the directors regret their decision.

I do have fun at rehearsals. The cast is a fun group of people and they are all working hard.

- Emmy has developed a fear of the bath tub. She will not get in. Not with or without water. Not in clothes or out of them. She cries hysterically and scratches and claws to try and get out.

We can't figure out exactly what triggered her paranoia. She didn't fall. The water wasn't too hot. Water wasn't poured over her head.

We tried the big, fun, mommy tub. We tried new toys. We tried showering.

Nothing helps. She screams and hiccups and wails and grips us like she's being drowned in acid.

Her screaming is now part of our night time calm down routine. It's been real.

- We're going back to New Mexico to collect the rest of our goodies. I'm excited to visit.

I'm not so excited to drive home in a Uhaul. The last time Allen and I drove a Uhaul, two grandmother age ladies flipped us off for going to slow.

No, the house hasn't sold. Yes, we fixed it all up with new flooring, new paint, new baseboard, and a new pantry. Yes, we've dropped the price again. No, we're not going to again. What are we going to do? Get screwed, that's what.



Preserving Childhood

Last night, I was watching America's Supernanny. She had been called in to help a family with 10 children. TEN! And, mom was pregnant with twins. To say those parents felt overwhelmed is a complete understatement.

During the observation, among the other behaviors and patterns she noticed was one that really bothered her. The oldest son, 14, was practically raising the baby in the family. He was also trying to herd the other kids, get good grades in school, participate in extracurricular activities, prepare food for the family, do his chores, not to mention figure out who the heck he wants to be in this life.

I found as I watched the events unfold, that I had some pretty strong feelings about the situation.

Now, I'm all for helping out the family. I think chores are mandatory; without allowance as motivation. I think that the older kids should be willing to assist the younger children. If an older child sees a young child struggling, he or she should be eager to help. If mom needs some extra hands for a minute, kids should be happy to lend those hands. I think that teaching children how to care for others is perhaps one of the most important lessons they will learn. And the skills will be absolutely necessary when they are adults and parents themselves.

But, I think it's very easy to take it too far.

The parents made the decision to bring the baby into the world. Sure, they are busy and tired. They feel wrung out. But, the baby is THEIR responsibility. Not the oldest child, or next oldest, or who ever is available to take over.

The parents lived their childhood. I think it's a crime to rob that from an oldest sibling because the parent feels inadequate. The oldest child is in the midst of becoming a PERSON. They are saddled with enough responsibility without having to raise a child they didn't even choose to bear.

I think it creates expectations that no child can ever truly meet. Inevitably, the caregiver will end up feeling like they have let their parents down. No youth is fully equipped mentally and emotionally to properly meet all of the baby or toddler's needs. They physically can't do the things that are necessary to give comprehensive care to a baby. They don't have the coping skills yet, either. And, if by accident, something does go wrong, the older sibling will forever feel guilty. It won't be a matter of consequence because of her poor choice, it will be a consequence because of the parent's poor choice.

Eventually, this type of relationship always seems to breed resentment in the older child. I've never heard someone say, "I helped all. the. time. with my siblings. I took care of them most of the time. I'm really grateful I put aside my own opportunities and time to raise the baby." I have heard, however, a lot of adults who were shouldering more than they should have as kids say, "I never got to be a kid. I raised my brothers and sisters. I never got my time." Siblings should be allowed to be siblings. Just as man and wife shouldn't operate in a parent/child relationship, neither should an older sibling be forced to have a parent/child relationship with a younger sibling.

Childhood is fleeting. And while learning to work as a family unit, serve selflessly, give help willingly,  and sacrifice for the good of the group are so important, I think almost nothing is as important as preserving childhood for our kids. They are being asked younger and younger to show adult behavior. They are expected to speak foreign languages, play sports, read music, give service, sit still, listen perfectly, keep their rooms clean, and all manner of other things at age 5 these days.

Those kids don't need to come home and know they are gonna start the second shift. If it's so hard for mom and dad to do the work, imagine how it is for the kid! To help the parents understand the burden their teenage son was feeling, the father donned a backpack and for each responsibility the son had, a 10 pound weight was added to the bag. By the time all of the things the son was trying to accomplish had been added, the father literally fell to the ground. He couldn't carry the weight.

As with all things in life, balance is key. Each family is individual. Each child is individual. Withholding opportunities for children to serve is just as damaging as over burdening a child. Some times, a kid will have to help out more than others. But, I think there is danger is consistently asking a child to do the work that a parent should be doing. The parent shoulders the responsibility of being the primary caregiver. The parent shoulders the responsibility for making the changes necessary to fit it all in and to make it all work. The parent shoulders the responsibility of preserving childhood.


Emily Allergy Update

Last time we checked in, Emily had tested positive for allergies to dogs and egg whites. She was still displaying possible symptoms of dairy, soy, and gluten allergies also. Her adenoids were constantly inflamed and she was on antibiotics monthly, sometimes twice a month because every time they would get upset, she would get a raging infection. She had also stopped thriving. She had gained ZERO pounds in a year's time.

At the doctor's insistence, in September, we re-homed our two dogs. Davis, who we raised from a puppy, went to live with my Grandpa in Concord. Enzo, who we had just adopted in June, went back to his previous owner/dog trainer. Thankfully, our dogs had safe, loving places to go. Our family was very, very sad about this change, though. There was crying and weeping. And I couldn't sleep. I've had a dog in my bed since I was a kid and it was plain weird not to have one.

Since the eviction of the doggies, Emily has been almost perfectly healthy. She has only had one bout of antibiotics and that was for a sinus infection after a nasty head cold. She used to have a perpetually runny nose. Now, she is dry and clean. And, for the first time in a year, she gained weight. In fact, she gained 3 pounds in 3 months.

And, we started feeding her glutenized foods. We gave her ice cream. We let her eat cake. She had no reaction.

To help confirm her allergy status, we had food patch testing done in December for soy, dairy and gluten. She had no reaction.

So, Ms. Emmy is food allergy free!

Unfortunately for our family, we will likely have to a pet free family for a long time. Her doctor confirmed another fear of mine: she would be even more allergic to horses. That means, if I go ride, I have to change clothes and shower before I can get too close to her. It means that owning a horse would never have worked for our family since Emily wouldn't be able to spend time in the barn and we would never want to divide our family that way. It means, in all likelihood, we would have sold our property in New Mexico and moved to a traditional suburban neighborhood. There's no point in maintaining and sinking money into land and space you don't have any use for. It's meant a big change for me in my personal ideas of recreation and fulfillment since having pets, rescuing animals, and riding and training horses are a big no-no for the next few years at least.

There is a slim chance she'll grow out of her pet allergies, but that is not certain. Plus, I figure, if her allergies were bad enough to weaken her system to the point that she actually ceased thriving, pets are probably not a good idea anyhow.

Emily can and does eat all kinds of foods. We no longer buy two types of pasta, granola bars, cookies, cereal, or bread. We don't live in fear of her stealing a morsel from someone else and getting sick. It's heavenly after the start we had with her and then the extended threat of food allergies we've been living with for the last year.

Yay for Emmy!


Sending Love to the Kindergartners

Children look forward to the Holidays. Every child loves the idea of treats and candy. And more candy.

Teachers look forward to the extra parental help during the parties.

Most parents love the chance to show how much they love their children by creating the most elaborate display in the class. It's like a contest of cuteness and the winner is the best. parent. ever. (gush).

Parents, like myself, do not look forward to any part of it.

I especially dislike store bought valentine's. They are commercial and fake. Beyond that, they are just plain impractical.

The envelopes don't fit anything more than a single conversation heart in them. I mean, really, who sends ONE measly, chalky heart with a legit Valentine? Do you want your child to be laughed out of the classroom?

Because I'm also cheap and don't want to spend my good money on crappy cardboard to send to kids who are just going to throw it all away, I find myself trying to create simple yet effective substitutes for these types of events.

Enter pink and red candy corns, snack size plastic baggies, striped paper sacks, and some left over ribbon from Christmas.

I used the serving size recommendation to help me know the total amount I would need. Then, I divided it up among the 20 bags and started filling. Each bag has EXACTLY the same amount because I didn't want to hear any "he got more than me" crap.

Corns in plastic. Corns in paper sack. 

Lop off the extra from the bags.
Fold over the top, punch two holes, tie ribbon.

Twenty cheap and fast bags filled with the only thing those kids care about: sugar.

February 14, 2012

Today was the first day that Lexi didn't ask for a hug and kiss before going to class. Instead, she scampered off to join her friends and live her life.


Christmas "Break"

As I was going through our pictures, I came across a trip we took during our "christmas break". Each year, Allen takes the entire week off between Christmas and New Year's. Each year, we have hopes and dreams of taking fun day trips with the kids, maybe knocking out a project or two here at the house, and just having a good time.

And each year, without fail, we all get sick, hurt or some miserable combination of the two. This year, Allen woke up Monday morning, took a shower, and nearly killed himself in the process. I'm not quite sure what happened in there, but at 6:something in the morning, I woke up to him hunched over like he'd just had a c-section telling me he was completely crippled. I will admit, at 6 in the morning I wouldn't have cared what the problem was; I was asleep. I openly mocked him and said, "Why are you whining to me about it? Just get back into bed and shut up about it." I am the picture of empathy.

He did get back into bed. For FOUR days.

To top it off, Emily was just getting over the barfing flu, and once she had successfully kicked that super special virus, the kids all ended up with colds that required doses of anti-snot medication several times throughout the day which, of course, morphed into full-blown infections of one sort or another that necessitated antibiotics which, of course, put an end to all sleeping through the night for every person in our household.

Fast forward to Friday, and we are all practically certifiable. Pain or not, snot rags in tow, we were going to go somewhere and do something that wasn't in this house. We loaded up the crew and drove a whole 15 minutes to the Christmas Village/petting zoo (yes, the same one that doubles as the corn maze and pumpkin patch in October).

Emmy was the first to run to the horses. Of course she was. 
And the goats.
She just loves those goats.
Lexi does too.
 Addie? Not so much. Still petrified.
Not our little Emmy.
Addie finally came to love the goats too.
Allen, though, he's the Goat Whisperer. 
Who can resist a pony ride?
Even Addie braved the broncs.
Emmy, Dad (looking so happy to be alive), and Lexi
She is not afraid of anything!
Everyone got their turn.
Silly girls.

 P.S. That Saturday night, I threw my back out. In the shower. 
P.P.S. I'm dead serious. It was humiliating. I couldn't stand up straight for 2 days. And, no, Allen wasn't the jerk to me I had been to him. 


Life Lessons

In the Riddle house, we try to be creative with our punishments, er persuasions. One way we try to encourage Lexi to head to bed on time is the threaten her with "mommy and daddy shows" if she chooses to stay up. This means no Dora, no Backyardagains, no kid shows. She gets the news, ESPN or some other extremely boring programming to help convince her that she's missing nothing by going to bed.

Last night, we happened to be watching a cake baking competition. During commercial breaks, the channel would air promos for it's upcoming, new shows. One of them highlights people who have weird obsessions and fetishes.

One guy is in an intimate relationship with his car. We get to see him washing, rubbing and even french kissing his car.

Another is a woman who drinks nail polish.

The other eats cat treats.

As this commercial is coming to a close, I look to Lexi and say in my most stern voice, "Don't you ever do that stuff. Ever."

She looks at me, horrified, "MOM! They are not using those things in the right way! Why are they doing that!!!?!!"

So I told her: "Lexi, they are crazy. You will see a lot more crazy people on TV than normal people."

The lesson is so true: There are a lot more crazy people featured in the media than sane people.

I hope Lexi can remember this as she is bombarded with images and sayings of the world. I hope she will remember that those chosen to represent the masses are many times the minority. Media is the absolutely WRONG place to turn for guidance about what is right in this world.

Flashy they may not be, but the gospel living, good people doing the right, and often seemingly boring, thing day after day are who we should turn to help guide us on our way.

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.