Sunday, April 20, 2014

Earley Park

Aunt Andrea's parents are currently serving a mission at Earley Park near Fielding, UT.  Andrea has gone up with her family a few times and suggested that we all go up together as a Riches family for a weekend.  Of course, at the time we all think it is a great idea and agree and forget about it.

Andrea followed through and reserved a time for the Riches family to go this last weekend.  You could sense that very few of us involved still wanted to follow through.  We had allowed our "busy lives" get in the way and the excuses started coming to me that we could give as to why we couldn't go.  None of them were legitimate, though, and I knew that the right thing to do was to get away, especially after all of the work Andrea had put into getting it scheduled and purchasing all of the food.

This last week, I have developed a very tight muscle in my shoulder and it has left me uncomfortable and not being able to sleep that well.  Todd has also been suffering with a terrible tooth ache.  So we really weren't in the best of moods when we left the house.  Not to mention, our sleeping bags were down on the farm and we were going to have to sleep on the hard floor without any padding using only blankets from our home.

The moment we got out of the city and into the country past Brigham City, we started taking notice of the beautiful surroundings and the pain in my neck started to subside.  We had spent the drive down reading through Todd's lesson and discussing Moses and the Ten Commandments and the events that took place during that time and it put us in a better frame of mind to enjoy this trip.

Camp Earley is tucked back in the mountains and was so green with a small stream running through it and plenty of space for the kids to safely explore.  Andrea had prepared a delicious Dutch Oven Chicken and Potatoes dinner (she is an amazing cook) and we spent some time around the fire roasting marshmallows and enjoying one another's company.  After the sun set, we took a mile long journey through the mountains and read plaques that had scriptures on them that correlated with each of the planets in our solar system, reminding us once again the incredible power that God has and that he has done all of this for us to be happy here on this earth.

Dakota and Carly started climbing this hill as soon as they got out of the van.

 Dallin and Kota racing towards me with their sticks.

I give a major kudos to Alicia and Tam who came sans spouses!  The cousins had an amazing time together and it wouldn't have been the same without them.

The kids were up at 7am on the dot and the morning was cool and a little drizzly.  But that didn't stop the kids from playing hard outside.  Andrea had arranged for us to do a few service projects up there.  One of them was gathering sticks that had fallen from the large trees and placing them in a large bramble pile to be burned.  It was made all the more fun by using handcarts to carry the sticks around.  Each of the kids got an opportunity to ride along.
 Carly and Jack practicing their pioneer skills.

We would have made a silly pair as ma and pa on the pioneer trek.  Not to mention the super silly kid in the back would have talked our ear off the entire trek.

Our reward was an awesome game of kickball, where no scores were kept (thankfully) and foul balls only applied to dad :)  The littlest boys wanted nothing to do with the sport, and instead, found a safe area where they could play in dirt and with rocks to their hearts content without having a parent to scold them.
 Here comes Carly after rounding third on her way to home base!

 Grandpa's Kick Ball team was pretty good.

 There's Abi at second base.

 Waiting their turns to kick the ball. 

 When I asked Dakota what his favorite part about this trip was, he said,
"Playing in the dirt with my three boys."


With it being Easter Weekend, we HAD to do an Easter Egg Hunt.  This scenery provided for the most perfect hiding places.
 The kids getting their instructions on how the whole hunt was supposed to go down.

 Dakota counting his loot.

 Connor ventured down the hill after a successful hunt.



For lunch we had hot dogs and chips and celebrated Dad's 64th Birthday and gave him a Farm Jar, where we can donate for every single holiday whatever amount we want to help fund the many projects that dad has planned for his retirement location.
 The cake decorator mistook "64" for "104"


The last thing we did was paint the kitchen and hallway as our final service project.  I was dreading it and expecting it to take many hours, but with all of the hands that were available, it was finished in an hour and, of course, we all felt better afterwards knowing that we had done something to help beautify a place that has been dedicated to help with the Lord's work.

The drive home was nice and quiet (the kids crashed) and we were able to pick up on our gospel discussion and reflect on the feelings we had while we were separated from "the world" for a few hours.  This earth is an amazing gift as well as time.  I need place more emphasis on the time that I spend with my family.  Surely the "busy" things that take up my time here in the world are not as pressing as the moments that I can have with my own children and family.  We only take with us the memories we create and the knowledge we gain from experiences, not the yard that we have to maintain, the laundry that needs to be folded or the house that needs to be cleaned.

Monday, February 17, 2014

2013 in Review

It's been a year, so let's review:
Connor got Baptized!  Whoop-dee-doo!!!

 He flew to Colorado so surprise his cousin Tyson,

 While the rest of us here saw Shave-Ice and just had to buy some!

 Carly graduated preschool and was treated like a rock star.

 Todd and I celebrated 15 years, he got to eat some lobster.

Abi also graduated from Kindergarten.

Dakota makes our hearts melt, even when he's rotten 

 We babysat a bearded dragon, we were sad when the relationship was severed.
The older kids took a week long break with cousins out in Denver 

I took a trip to New Mexico, when grandma Smith passed away. 

 Carly took some scissors to her hair, now bangs are here to stay!

 Another pet we got to tend was little tiny Rocky

 The school year started up again, here's Connor looking cocky.

 Abi begged to take an apple to her First Grade teacher.

 Carly couldn't wait for new friends to get to meet her!

 For Halloween Abi begged to be Frankenstein's Bride

 While Connor wanted to let out the sorcerer inside.

 Carly simply had to be a princess oh so dainty,

 Dakota wanted for months and months, to be a tiger with orange painty

Our darling ballerinas had their very first dance recital. 

 Dakota moved up from nursery to something much more vital (sunbeams).

 Grandpa Smith sold his home and moved on up to Murray.

 Dakota never wants to nap, but falls asleep in places that have me worried.

 The boys want to be ninjas,

 The girls would like to cheer.

All in all, I'd like to say, it's been a pretty great year!

Cute rhymes aside, I can't sleep because I have been battling a stupid flu bug.  I took a couple of Tylenol PMs a few hours ago, but they seem to be having the opposite effect on me.

We took so very many trips to the farm in 2013, and every time we went, we had a fabulous time.  What a gift to have a place to escape to like that.  Multiple times we went down with extended family and a few other times we took different ward members.

Here is a quote from a funny "Abism" I took from Facebook:

I have to write this down before I forget a funny moment from this afternoon!

Abi came down into the laundry/craft area as I was making cards. She asked me what I was doing, so I turned to her, and using air quotes said, "I'm doing laundry." To which she quickly replied, also using air quotes, "No. You're not." Then she asked, "Why do people even do that anyway?" Referring to air quotes. 

She's only 6.

I quit working at Sylvan in August.  The hours that they needed me to work no longer meshed with the hours that I needed to be a mom, so I made the decision that seemed best for our family.  Thankfully Chris was willing to take me on at Leatherby's.  That didn't last long though, as I wasn't prepared for the late nights and long hours on my feet doing such fast paced work.  It takes a very special person to be able to keep up with all of that.  But then the opportunity arose for me to go to Real Estate school and get my license, it felt like the right thing to do for our family, so I jumped on that wagon and crammed as hard as I could and 6 weeks later finished school and had my license.

So for now, I am simply helping Todd with Design Work for UL Studios when the need arises, teaching Zumba for 3M twice a week and 3 times a week at the church, and have yet to show anyone my Real Estate skills.  I have appreciated that time I have had at home, more though.  I love being able to keep the kids on a routine and being the one to help them with their homework, even if their Spanish is beyond my level (Connor and Abi are AMAZING with it).

Grandma Smith passing was a bitter-sweet trip.  I was grateful for her to be past her physical pain and it was nice to take a road trip and escape the daily chores from home for a while.  We missed Grandma's graveside service because we had to stop and get mom and dad some soda's...but we all laughed about it in the end.

I was so excited when Angie lined up an opportunity for me to fly out to Denver and stay with them while doing a design job for herself and a gal in their ward.  I loved being able to put my creative skills to work and see some project come to completion.

Came across this Connorism that he said sometime in September shortly after school started up again:
While asking the kids to get their pajamas on for bed, and reminding them that tomorrow is school, Abi said, "Why do we have to go to school?" To which Connor replied, "Because we are on a train called Life heading to a station called Another Day" Wise words from an 8 year old.

And one from Carly:
This afternoon, Carly had a bag of CornNuts. I asked her if she could share a few with me. She happily put a few in my hand and I popped them into my mouth. She then said, "Here, mom, have some more. Those ones were dirty." "Dirty?" I asked. "Yeah, I licked them."

This happened:
Modern Day Communication in the Riches' Household
Me (texting from the basement to Connor who is on Todd's iPad):
Dear Connor,
Please come downstairs and start a load of your laundry.
Love Mom

No Response

Me: Where is Connor? (too lazy to go upstairs and talk to him face to face)

Connor: I'm on the ipad.I didn't want to so I ignored you

Me: Thank you for your honestyx

Connor: Why the x?

He came downstairs to do a load of laundry, then he said to me, "You know, you could have come upstairs and talked to me in person. And you never answered me when I asked, why the x."

Me: Typo.

Another Connorism:
"Imagination is the best thing to happen to this world."

Todd's business is doing well.  We've been at this for almost three years!!!  I am so proud of Todd.  This has not been an easy journey for him.  There have been months where we weren't sure if we would be able to pay all of our bills, but I know that if it weren't for our tithing and our obedience to this commandment we would not be where we are today.  We have been blessed with no major health issues, no major problems with our house or our cars and have been able to keep our children fed and clothed.  We get through most of the rough times with laughter, which is the main thing that attracted me to Todd when we first met.  He could always make me laugh and he still does.

I am being stretched and pulled and trying to become the better person that I know I should be.  Some days are easier than others.  Some days I just want to pack everything up and move to the farm and become a recluse, and only worry about myself and my children, for fear of what other people might think of me and the way I am raising our family.

Not because I worry too much about these kids, because they are AMAZING.  They make great choices (most of the time) and surprise me often with the depth and kindness that is within them.  I want to keep these kids to myself and always have them around me.  I love listening to them play with one another, laughing and talking about their days and making up stories and games.  It is selfish of me, I know, to want to keep them all to myself.  But they are mine and I love everything about them.  No one will ever love them like I do.

2014 is in full swing and I don't look too far into the future anymore.  I never know what the Lord has in store for us.  I just live each day as it comes and wake up with a smile on my face, ready for the promptings to tell me which direction to go in the morning.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

What Could Go Right

Yesterday was one of those days that, considering all that happened, I could have very easily played the "poor me, my life sucks, nothing is going the way I planned" card.  But I didn't and I won't.  Not yesterday and I hope I never do.  I found ways to still laugh, smile and be grateful for what I have.

About a week ago, Dakota was teasing his sisters by chasing them through the house and spitting water at them.  I let it happen.  They were happy and water can easily be wiped up.

At one moment, the girls decided to make their escape downstairs, and Dakota slipped on his own spit-out water and cracked his head on the edge of a stair.  At the time that I ran to comfort him, I felt a drip of warmth hit my arm, and knew it was blood.  So I rushed him over to the kitchen sink where I wet a paper towel and cleaned off the wound.  It was about a 3/4 inch split on the back of his little teasing noggin.

Dakota, post parental examination...this was just to keep that little gauze pad on his head)

After a joke with Todd that this little guy truly is his mini-me (Todd has a split on the back of his head from an incident as a child)  and a laugh about the way he looked with the turban on his head, we agreed that I should take him to get it checked out.  It would probably need stitches.

An hour later, I was supposed to be at work, but I was still waiting to get into an examination room.  I called Todd to come and trade me places and I took the two girls with me to work.  An hour later, Todd picked up the girls and Dakota had three staples in his head.  OUCH!

Back to the events of yesterday.  Connor and Abi had been up all night with fevers around 103 and chills and Dakota seemed to be developing the same flu that they had contracted.  Todd had just been experiencing the same symptoms, so I let him sleep through the night while I took turns comforting the kids.  With little sleep under my belt, I got myself dressed and ready for the day.

My plan was to take Dakota with me to work for an hour so I could prep for Saturday's meetings, then the two of us would go and get his staples removed from his head.  I must have been very excited to get to work, because I got caught going 53 mph on Redwood Road where the speed limit is 45.  The officer kindly wrote me up for going 5 over "because I was honest with him when he asked if I knew why I was being pulled over" and I drove on my way to work.

While at work, I tried to prep best I could, but the network was down, so I didn't have access to the programs on the computer I needed, and when I printed out a few of my reports for the clients, Dakota helpfully grabbed them with his chocolatey covered fingers and handed them to me.  Meh!  He's two and was trying to help.

Then it came time for the staple removal.  We got to the Dr.'s office and right away they noticed he had a temperature and that his eyes were blood shot.  So the sweet nurse apologized for what she needed to do, and then stuffed a swab up my baby's nose to determine that he had the flu, and then the Dr. diagnosed him with Pink Eye.  The first nurse couldn't get the staples out, the Dr. couldn't get the staples out.  Dakota had already had it (20 minutes of tugging), so a third nurse was called in, I lay down on the examination table with Dakota on my chest.  One Dr. held his legs down, the other Dr. helped me hold his head in place, while simultaneously I wrapped my arms around his body to keep that wriggling part as still as possible, all the while the 2nd nurse has the "pliers" about 3 inches from my face tugging as best she can.  Those staples were in there tight.

My heart broke when Dakota would cry out, "Hey guys, stop it" over and over again.  And then my emotions broke the surface when all of it was over, he looked at the folks in the room and said, "thank you."  The Dr. gave him a token and eye drops, promised me that all of my family was contagious and someone else would probably contract pink eye and we should not be around people until we can go 24 hours without a fever and sent me home with notes excusing them from school.

I almost left the office without redeeming Dakota's token, but he reminded me that he wanted to spend his coin on a ball.  I love that kid!

The sad Instagram pic proving how sick the boy was

After posting a pic on Instagram and Facebook, the response from other mommies that go through this and remember the misery it brings with it, overwhelmed me and I had the strength to smile (especially when driving through an intersection I saw two teenage boys dancing like robots in their car).  The night before, when I was working, my mom took it upon herself to feed my kids cuz Todd was out sick.  Then that day that the staples were removed and we were quarantined, my visiting teachers came over with goodies, and then a neighbor brought over the world's greatest cabbage salsa.

But the very best part of it all has been letting the kids sleep in the living room.  Connor and Abi talk and talk and talk about everything from school to church to making up games until they fall asleep.  Those two have always had an amazing friendship, I pray it will continue throughout their life.

I've been cuddling non-stop with Dakota and even got to take a nap with Carly today.  These feverish kids are like my own personal heating blankets, and in this cold weather, it's awesome.

I know that all of that isn't enough to warrant a "poor me feeling."  There are fleeting moments that I will recall that Todd is trying to run his own business out of our home, I had to get a job, we have had to ask for assistance from family members, things are breaking and need replacing and medical bills are piling up and the list can always go on.  That could get a good pitty party rolling!

But sometimes, if we only focus on all of the bad things that are going on, they snowball and it gets harder and harder to melt them away to remember what the good things are.  Do you want me to show you what I see when I recall the "bad things" that have happened to us?

Todd got laid off:  FINALLY!  The push he needed to actually put his Doctoral Dissertation into effect and see if it's methods work.  It's been a winding journey, and I am often reminded that we are only in the infancy stages of this business.  We need to give it time and can't give up on it yet.

Todd will be working from home ALL THE TIME:  This one has it's ups and downs and could very easily be the thing he and I both struggle with the most.  It is so hard for him to focus when there are so many little ones that want to be with him...or scream at that precise moment when an important client calls.  I feel guilty following the same routine I used to have when he worked 8-5 out of the home.  I used to take a nap every day.  I never cleaned the house til 4:30.  But now, I feel like the house has to be straightened in case a client shows up, all the time and if I lay down for a nap, I feel guilty cuz he's in the office working.

I could no longer afford my membership at the gym:  Ah, so now I have to get creative and find alternative methods to get in my workout.  I started a Zumba class at my church that meets three mornings a week.  And since I am one of the instructors, I have to be there, no lame excuses to miss it.

The high maintenance blonde needed to be rethought:  An awesome neighbor helped me go back to my roots, who knew that I was a brunette...and I haven't colored my hair since October of 2011.  That has saved me a pretty penny.

We have to ask family and others for help:  Sometimes, the Lord wants you to be able to help others.  The best way to want to help others is to be able to recall the time others helped you...and then when you can, do it too.  I try so hard to take treats to people, offer meals and other little things right now as a small way of paying it forward.

I had to get a job:  The job I have has given me validation in a different way and is in an environment that still allows me to be soft and nurturing.  I don't come home feeling hardened or resentful.  I look forward to going to work and then again, coming home at night to my awesome family.

The greatest lesson learned in the last year and a half for me is that Heavenly Father is so mindful of me.  He is mindful of my family.  He knows what Todd and I want...but is just giving us what we need right now.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes that I keep sharing with Todd to help us get through this rough patch:

"Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and focus on what could go right."

"Those who move forward with a happy spirit will find that things always work out."
 ~ Gordon B. Hinckley

"Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction.  Break the habit.  Talk about your joys."
 ~Rito Schiano

Just a little glimpse into what goes right around here

In no way am I stating that my life is bad, because, as you can so obviously see, I have chosen to know it as awesome.  Our challenges and trials could be so much worse.  I am in awe of those around me who have such optimistic attitudes despite their personal challenges that supersede mine.  If you can't find the joy, please write one of these quotes on a sticky and put it on your mirror.  See it every day and believe it.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Here are mine:

-Fit easily into my Big Star Jeans by September (I have a plan)
-Read a story to the kids each night before bed (maybe not Friday and Saturday's)
-Wash, Dry, Fold and Put away one load of laundry each week day
-Study the Sunday School and Relief Society Lessons the Sunday before they are taught
-Pay off our overdraft

I figure one financial, one spiritual, one physical, one for the kids and one for the house is adequate.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

To Ellen We Will Go

Labor Day weekend, my good friend Nicole offered me a ticket to see a taping of the Ellen Show.  I was thrilled at the chance and Todd nodded in agreement that it would be okay to escape for a while.  Our taping was scheduled for Thursday, October 18th at 6pm.  I was more excited at the idea of escaping for three day, despite the 12 hour car ride...wait...that 12 hour car ride was going to be HEAVEN!  As much as I love "The Wheels on the Bus" and "Where is Thumbkin"playing on constant rotation with kids in the car, I couldn't wait to hear what new soundtrack would accompany us on this trip.

The last time I had been on a road trip with Nicole was when I was just 16 years old and we drove together to Montana.  The music we played then has stuck with me more than a picture would.  Every time I hear Celine Dion or Sarah McLaughlin, I recall that little get away and the fun times Nicole and I have together.

The soundtrack for this trip, however, will always be anything by Taylor Swift..because of the concert that almost was.  More on that to come later.

Wednesday morning, I kissed my family good-bye in Nicole's driveway.  None of them seemed heartbroken that I was going to be away for three days.  The drive there was full of the music that we love and passing stories back and forth as to what has been going in our lives.  I'm somewhat of a paranoid/cautious driver, so Nicole let me take the wheel for about an hour.  Then she took back over, she's better able to handle the crazy California traffic.  Proof that I don't get out much.

We arrived at Nicole's friends' house around 9pm, and each of us pulled out what we thought we were going to wear the next day, to get a stamp of approval (once we were there the variety of wardrobe was from ultra classy to somewhat trashy...I don't think there was much in the way of "wardrobe rules" .  Then we got a great nights sleep...with the exception of the spider I swallowed while sleeping.  I know I swallowed a spider because I woke up coughing with something strange in my throat...what else could it have been?

Thursday morning was the day of our great adventure.  I was somewhat excited, not super duper thrilled, but excited.  We drove down the Malibu Coast, trying to find Oprah's house listening to Nicole, Gina and Bobby share stories about their time together.  We stopped in Santa Monica, took a walk down to the beach, soaked my toesies in the Pacific Ocean...feeling closer to Hawaii than I have in almost 4 years and ventured down the famous Santa Monica Pier.




What trip to L.A. is complete without a proper exploration of Hollywood Boulevard and Grauman's Theater?  We attempted to get close to the Hollywood Sign, and then drove up a windy road to the Griffith Observatory where we changed into our more "glamorous" clothes to prep for our 15 seconds of fame!  The butterflies in my stomach started to flutter at this point.


Finally, we arrived in Burbank for our assigned taping of the Ellen Show.  We had reserved seating, so we felt super special.  Pulling in to the parking garage and getting a spot was quite the feat, it took nearly thirty minutes just to do that!  I was expecting a waiting area inside an air conditioned building, but we waited in a line in the parking garage and got our hands stamped to prove we were ready to go!


Waiting outside, the music was playing, more and more people started coming and we learned that just across the street, the 3pm taping had begun.  It was Taylor Swift!!!  A special concert!!!  I think you could feel the sadness of everyone around that we weren't there watching this great singer/songwriter...especially the girl with the Taylor Swift T-shirt on (no, that wasn't me).

Eventually they informed us that it was time to get our numbers and begin the whole cattle call process again.  The energy wasn't super buzzed, but the people sure were anxious to just get through the line.  I got number 136.  I had no idea what that was supposed to mean.  We'd heard that others that had been to a taping before us had filled out questionnaires, but we didn't.

The butterflies were really flying at the point!  My adrenaline was pumping and I couldn't wait to get across the street and into the studio.  We crossed the street in numerical order, went through metal detectors and then went into the little shop and wound our way through some comfy benches to wait and dance...I swear I was the only one dancing or feeling any amount of excitement at this point.  I honestly feel sorry for Ellen cuz this crowd was a bunch of duds.

We walked up the stairs into the studio, it was a little smaller than I had thought, but it was AWESOME!!!  I thought with as spastic as I was that we were certain to get a good spot, but we got plopped on the second to last row.  Nicole got a great end seat and the energy started flowing...and we were encouraged to shake our groove thangs...which I gladly did!  I did it so much that I got to go down in the front of the crowd and show 'em what moves I got!  It was  BLAST!!!  That was my very favorite part of this whole experience.  The people were smiling and dancing and happy....it's so contagious.  I wish the whole world could feel like that every day.  Eventually I was stopped, thrown (and thankfully caught) a T-shirt for my participation and went back to my seat, but you couldn't stop my dancing feet.

The guests for the episode were LL Cool J, Victoria Jackson and her Daughter, Jerry O'Connel and Portia De Rossi.  The guests were good, but the commercial breaks were better, especially when I shoved Nicole out into the aisle and she had to put on her dancing shoes, she did awesome!  I love watching people dance!!!

We walked out of the taping with some calories burned, I got a bruised and scraped finger from wearing a huge ring (lots and lots of clapping), and a book by Victoria Jackson and her daughter.

The thrill died quickly and the realization that it wasn't as amazing as I had hoped hit me.   Maybe it was knowing what the episode was like before us, or seeing that other people have gotten more than a book before.  But mostly, I danced and sweat way to hard to have not truly gotten my 15 seconds of fame (lame, I know).  That was confirmed after watching the taping and the only glimpse of our crew was a millisecond when you could see Gina's hands up in the air clapping after a commercial break (I had thought that FOR SURE Bobby sitting up straight at the mention of Rebecca Romij coming out would have made it on TV).

The drive home was beautiful past orange orchards and vineyards.  Nicole said it reminded her of her time in Italy.  Maybe that will be our next trip!