Friday, December 30, 2016

Our Life: Year in Review 2016

It's been a roller coaster year with some great memories and some really tough ones. This year I am not back to my "with-it-on-top-of-everything-all-the-time" self, yet, so I didn't order Christmas Cards... which is a real bummer since I had started my own brand new tradition last year (haha). Instead of a Christmas letter, I put in a Year in Review that I had made. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Our Life: Time Stops for No Man

Tonight is Turkey Eve. The night before the second major holiday in the holiday season. (The first one being Halloween.) And this year for me it is evidence that time stops for no man, that no matter how much we wish we could dig our heels in or bury our heads in the sand -- we alas cannot be ostriches.

This year our world was irrevocably altered on October 30th. My stepfather, Alan, died. It sounds kind of blunt, maybe harsh even, but it is the more true phrase. He didn't pass or journey on. It was sudden, unexpected, and there was not a single hint that he would disappear from our lives with such a finality on that day. He was so much more to my family than the word stepfather feels like it conveys, too. He was our Papoo. He was so many things to so many people. One second he was here with us, and the next gone. To relive the day is agony.

It's been a season of few words for me...   Those of you that know me well know that I am a woman of words. Jokes about how I never stop talking are frequent in our family, about how they would pay me to stop talking, about how my questions were endless as a child. And certainly words are what I would call the primary way that  I process the world.

So what does a woman like that do when there are no words? When there is  nothing to say?

My mom described the sensation like a cartoon with an empty thought bubble over your head. It is an appropriate illustration. There's this constant swirl of everything and nothing in the same instant. There's literally nothing that can prepare you to grieve. Anyone who has ever lost someone (expected or not, young or old, healthy or frail) can relate to this strange emotion.

My heart aches for my mom, for my children, my family, our friends, and I feel like I have nothing to say to make it any better. I wish so badly I could just undo the wheels of time and make it all go away. But I am reminded that Time, he stops for no man. We can't be ostriches... We can't live with our head in the sand, avoiding this reality, this sense of new normal. It's best instead to remember: remember the man that he was. Remember the man he always will be. 

Hardworker. Honest. Task oriented. Strong. Talented. Craftsman. Hero. Stubborn. Helper. Hungry. Tall. Casual. Laid back. Patient. Kind. 

Alan was so many things to so many people. He was anything he needed to be in the moment. There was nothing he couldn't do, and no one he wouldn't help. He could move walls, and he could see moving parts in 3D in a way that always amazed me. 

I remember coming home from school and sitting at the table with him. I would do my homework, and he would work on job plans. He tried to explain them to me sometimes, but I could never see the lines and squares on the graph paper as something real. He had incredible vision to see beyond what currently existed and see past it to what it could be. He made me a cedar chest when I was 14. He made me a corner shelf sometime after that. And he died before he could finish my bedroom furniture. I will forever cherish the two nightstands he did finish, and I will look fondly at them with a pang of sadness that will soften with time.

I remember what a hard worker he was. He worked harder than any man I know. He did the job of three and four men with an easy effort and blew it off like it was no big deal. He loved his job and the puzzle that it could be. He loved his last big job more than the others, but mostly I think that was the cows. The cows with the sweaters that he'd take pictures of and the waterbeds he would come home and laugh about. I can still hear him saying, "those cows have it better than me." I remember how shaken he was when there was a fire in the calf barn. I'd never seen him as emotional as that made him. He saved many baby cows, but the ones he didn't save haunted him for weeks.

I remember that he generally wasn't an overtly emotional man. He wouldn't tell you how beautiful you were or tell you how special you were. But I know that he loved us without a doubt and after he died so many friends with so many stories proved that he told everyone else just how strong he knew my mom to be and how precious my family was to him. He was the man who steadied me down the stairs at my wedding, and the one laced my dress for prom.

I remember how excited he was to be a Grandpa. When we picked Moose's name (his real name), Alan was so blown away. A man who would never have a son of his own would still have a boy to carry on his name. He smiled so much the day that baby was born, and he drove like a mad man in the middle of the night to try to beat Bo's speedy arrival.

This process has been a different struggle than I knew it would be. Some days I feel like the very core of who I am is missing a piece. Others life just sort of goes back to normal and the sadness is a little more quiet in the recesses of my mind. Mostly I just ache for my momma because despite my own grief, I know that hers is more tangible than mine. Hers is an all consuming feeling of ripping yourself in half, sort of, but not really. It's got to be unimaginable to have to realize you have to be a whole person in the world when half of you is gone.

I know that we aren't the first set of people to lose a husband, a father, a brother, a friend... and I know we will hardly be the last. The holidays will be hard for us as they have been for so many people missing a loved one before us. We will muddle and manage. We will do better than some others might and worse than others, knowing that there isn't actually a scale and knowing there no way to quantify or measure what success in grief even looks like.

We will still have a tree and lights. We will celebrate our saviors birth and eat pancakes in our pjs. And 2017 will be the beginning of a new year and a new life. It's not the one we wanted, but it's the hand that has been dealt to us.

This year my prayers for my family and for others like us struggling and coping with loss will be prayers for peace and comfort. Prayers for acceptance, and prayers for new joys. Prayers that our memories will always be rich and vibrant and not dull with the passage of time. That the ache of sadness in our souls will subside and be replaced by those happy thoughts that keep a small piece of him alive in our hearts and minds.

Many blessings to you and yours this year,
Lots of love

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Moose: 9 stitches on a Tuesday

When: September 6th, 2016 
Where: Mother's Day Out
How: A wooden toy kitchen and one very klutzy little boy 

First stitches for poor Mooser! He had 8 on the outside and 9 inside. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Bo: Two Years Old... Time Keeps on Slipping

Can you feel it? The cool breeze in your hair as the wind carries you into the future... That's right. I've got a tune in my head, and I want to "Fly like an eagle..." Seriously, I cannot believe time has passed me by like it has. It was 6 months ago already that Moose turned 3. Since that time we have ended a school year, had a crazy full summer and started back to school. Little things missed in the blink of an eye because time became elusive.

Bo Riley is a precious gift and also a hand full. Gone are the days of a quiet house and instead there is boisterous fun to be had all the time. We go, and we go. We play, and we play. I look down and a sea of animal shaped Legos are covering my toes. I see housework in literal piles of laundry, and I think I should blog about this before I forget. But we are having too much fun to stop and so I don't and now here I am six months worth of things to spew.

Let's keep our focus here: Bo Riley. This is supposed to be his birthday post, so down to business. 

Bo is two.
Bo is officially weighing in at 26 pounds and 33". He is not yet potty trained, though he does use it about half the time. I figure we will make a real go of it at Christmas break.

Bo loves food, except for when he doesn't. He's the kind of boy that will eat 6 apple sauce squeeze packets without so much as batting an eye (though quite a holler for more), or he will eat nothing a be just as content. He still loves his watermelon and guacamole, but not together (though I won't lie and say that hasn't happened before because it most definitely has). 

Bo loves the letter B, but doesn't have his numbers or colors down yet.

He is a sweet snuggler, but mostly after he's punched you. He gives that sweet grin and asks, " momma, are you ok?" And his little face is so pure. This kid- ham, like straight up ham.

Bo loves some truly crazy things. He adores trash cans and trash trucks. Some Saturday mornings (trash day) he makes his daddy put him in the truck to follow the garbage trucks down the street. He joyfully makes you put the trash cans back in their spots after the truck has gone, but he insists on helping tug the can along. He enjoys watching garbage trucks even on YouTube... It's a strange little quirk, but we embrace it and laugh remembering he will likely one day outgrow this, too.

Bo loves his big brother. Most days he wants to be just like bubba. He wants to pray for what Moose prays for. He wants to wrestle with him, read with him, color with him, and do all the things with him. It is one of my prayers that these boys would be very best friends all the days of their lives. Brothers have a special bond, and I sincerely hope that all the fighting and chaos of youth doesn't dull that for my two dudes.

Bo is quite the talker... Though you might require a translator occasionally. He is really beginning to blossom with his communication. He tells you when he needs a diaper (what he calls a biped) and when he's hungry. He can tell you what he wants for the most part. And if you don't know what he wants, chance.s are Moose does and he will tell you for Bo. Teamwork at its finest. 

Bo still takes naps, and he started Tuesday's at Mother's Day Out this fall. He won't take naps for them, though. And truth be told it is getting harder and harder to get him down. Most nights we start bedtime bathtime at around 7:30 so that they are down between 8-8:30.
I cannot believe how much this kid has grown!!! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Moose: Happy 3rd Birthday!!!

I cannot believe that my baby boy is already 3 years old. People said that time would fly, and I believed them, but it's really crazy to live it.

Moose's three year old favorites.
He is wearing 4T and 5T clothes and weighs around 36 pounds. I couldn't tell you how tall he is, but he's been growing like a little weed. He goes to the doctor for his 3 year visit later this week.
Moose has such a happy heart, though we have hit the three's with a running start. Mr. Irrational man occasionally strikes. There are days that no matter what you do, it's not the right thing according to him.
He's not the best eater in the world, but recently Ga added bread (what he calls a peanut butter sandwich with no peanut butter) to his diet. Progress is progress!! He loves spaghetti and french fries, but he's got his momma's sweet tooth and would prefer to have cupcakes or ice cream instead of food.
We cannot wait to spend the summer with both our big buggy boys!! Moose is already loving having a swimming pool (and yes, he and Daddy have already been in the pool). Three is going to be the best year yet.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Our Life: Hopping into April

What a fantastic year this is turning out to be! I feel like we have been busier than ever before, but in a way that is good and JOYFUL not too hectic. Yes, at times it can get a little overwhelming but more often than not we are really enjoying adding to our community of friends and branching out to do activities that are not confined to the interior of our living room.

Weekend before last was Easter weekend, and man oh man was it good. We went to a big family reunion in Olney, and Sam thought all the "One Armed Dove Hunt" signs around town were just the coolest! The kids ran like little wild banshees, so they were spent when we got home but they had a blast. Bo slept through the actual egg hunt and woke up for everyone going through their baskets. We had to sneak some candy from Moose's basket for him to "hunt" in the grass with - haha. Thank goodness they are are small dudes.

Easter Sunday at church was phenomenal; I was totally jazzed by my sermon notes (I brought tape and an accent color). And we spent the afternoon with family at my moms. Just an overall fabulous weekend.

Then, this past weekend we got to visit with the other Riley crew! It was awesome! Sam's brother and wife and kiddos came to up to see us. Watching the cousins play together was the highlight of the weekend for me. We ate great home-cooked food (by me, haha - it's fair to brag when it turned out so well) and everyone got their favorites from in town that they have missed. Sunday, Sam's brother was able to join us for church. Such a great thing for Sam! He's really made such huge strides in connecting with our church community that I think he was very excited to share that side of himself with his brother.

This week we have LC Life Groups and visits with new friends and what might even turn out to be a quiet, relaxing weekend... Haha, with two toddlers I am not counting on that, though!

God is such a great priority to have in life. I love the obsessions he keeps giving me with things. I have been pretty caught up with Galatians and the fruits of the spirit. I keep coming back to them and praying that I can manage to have these incredible things as a part of my everyday life. I didn't realize how transformative that one request could be. I have really been flexing my self-control (pun intended) with my workout regiment for myself because somedays that alarm rings early, but I have been trying to stretch into being more kind and gentle, too. Seriously, it's been a great year already and there are still 3/4's left to go. :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Bo & Moose: 18 months, 35 months, and where did the babies go?

This year has been such a cool one for me. I feel like I am becoming a stronger me in ways that I didn't know I needed to be. God gave me the word "JOY" this year, and I feel like I am constantly seeking joy in things that I didn't always find so joyful. It's been powerful - transformative really. In January, I ran each day of the month and got 87 miles total. That success propelled me to stick with my fitness routine, and my alarm is now permanently set for 5:10AM. I have a weekly workout schedule that has really helped me stay consistent.

In February, I decided to cut something instead of add, so I gave up all obvious sugar. No desserts, no soda, no pop tarts, no candy - none. Cold. Turkey. OH MY GOSH. It was seriously such a WAKE-UP CALL to me. I had no no no idea how much sugar I was consuming on a typical day was awful. I had cravings, headaches, mood-swings. Sugar is a drug, and I was beyond addicted to it. As Lent approached, I realized this was the perfect thing to keep up through Easter because it was a real genuine sacrifice in my life. It was something I had to be conscious of and constantly pray for self-control. As the challenge stretched on, the cravings lessened, and I began to pay significantly more attention to the food choices I was making. I have eaten more vegetables in the last month than I probably did all of last year. I am buying more natural foods and making overall better choices. I didn't even realize that this was something I needed, but now that I am there it is LIFE-ALTERING. Now, come Easter weekend you will see this girl eating DONUTS (because the craving for those guys has never left me) and dessert, but I can't see adding sugary-processed food back to my everyday diet.

Sam and I have become Leaders for our church Life Group, and it has been truly an incredible experience. We are getting to know some awesome people, and I feel like I am closer to God through this community we are building. There are times that I look at other people's friendships and find myself jealous of the apparent ease that they have with each other, but right now I know God is leading me somewhere. I just can't say where yet. Don't get me wrong I have good friends. I do. I really do, but watching the girls at church makes me feel like I wish my best friend could move next door and come to church with us! Friendship through Christ is such a different thing. Life Group has been fantastic in so many other ways, too. Sam is so good at leading. He just excels. He has a real gift and when he gets passionate, it is like a thing unto itself. It's just the coolest.

In April, the plan is to give up fast food and fried foods totally! I am loving these monthly goals and the way they are slowly chipping us into these stronger, better, warriors for God. Man, it's good! Okay now onto some updates on the darling baby boys who really aren't babies anymore. They are full on TODDLERS! I can't even really do either of their ages in months anymore. Ahhhh, time, time where do you go?

Bo How Big?: My baby boy is almost 30 pounds big! He isn't as big as Moose was at this age percentile wise, but he holds his own typically in the 70th percentile range.
Bo Clothing xSize?: We are rocking 3T Pjs for Bo-man, and 2T/3T shirts and pants. He is in a size 5 diaper for daytime and night-nights.
Bo What/When is he eating?: Of my two children Bo is the eater. He eats fruit, though his obsession with watermelon seems to have disappeared. He loves cheese and will try to eat just about anything. Right now, we are in a guacamole loving phase.
Bo Sleep?: Bo is a pretty decent sleeper. He "hem-haws" in the night sometimes, but he puts himself back to sleep most nights. He also still takes a two hour nap around noon at this point. We still require a bottle and a blankie for this.
Bo Milestones?:Bo got his very first haircut over spring break. He is running and almost jumping now!!!
Bo Movement?:This kid can crawl up things that you think there should be no way he can do. He is a wild child.

Moose: nearly 3
Moose How Big?: Moose keeps growing and growing and growing! He is over 36 pounds and sprouting up like a weed.
Moose Clothing Size?:All size 6 diapers (still haven't potty trained him) and 3T-4T clothes... with 5T or 6 Pjs.
Moose What/When is he eating?: Somedays I think Moose hates food. He is finicky about food so often that somedays he just doesn't want to eat. When I worry about it, the doctor just says he will eat when he's hungry. He still drinks milk. He does LOVE spaghetti!!! :)
Moose Milestones?:Moose is learning his letters and knows almost all of them by sight. He can tell you that Apple starts with A, and he can count to 20. He is so smart, and he loves books!

Family: March 2016 Hardest Moment(s) of the Month: Moose is in the "irrational man" phase of his life, and sometimes communicating with him is like talking to someone who speaks a foreign language. It is such a challenge when you can't settle either of the boys. In that moment it's like the whole world is a blur.
>Best Moment(s) of the Month: Spring Break was exactly what the Riley crew needed. We had fun and were able to be productive, too.
Looking Forward to:I am looking forward to this next season. Summer is approaching, and I can smell it. Moose will turn 3 at the end of April. We have a beach trip planned, and I have some bachelorette weekends coming up. This year is going strong, and I am loving every second of it!