Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bunko Night!

On the VERY rainy night of Monday, we had our first ever Womens' Bunko Night, put on by our church. It's part of the efforts we are making to create "trans-generational" events - functions that can attract ladies 18-81. To that end, I believe I underestimated when we advertised as we did indeed have a gal there that was 91 and a baby 11 weeks old!

I was super pleased with how it all turned out. Betsey did a phenomenal job emceeing, and all of the work done behind the scenes by Stephanie H., Lisa, Christy, and Ann - as well as Rhonda and Marianne who work in Womens' Ministries through our church....well, I think it exceeded my expectations.

I do wish we'd been "better represented" by the women of my generation. I met plenty of strangers, but I was hoping to prove that "we" would come out of the woodwork if offered the right activities. A big thanks, though, to Amy and Lisa S. for both coming and bringing friends.

The pictures below were taken by the faithful photographer, Kaela. She caught a lot of images of the college students that attended - I was so thankful they all came as they brought a LOT of LIFE to the event!!!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


One of my new favorite shows on tv is "Undercover Boss". I know it is "reality tv", so therefore parts of it have undoubtedly been contrived, but the idea that a major CEO would be willing to leave his family, stay in a "B Grade" motel and humble himself to the point of being "fired" by trying entry level jobs is pretty cool.

It's what America needs right now. We need to see that those people making 6 and 7 figure incomes are "real people". They may be skilled at running a major corporation, but there's a good chance they can't make a good cup of coffee at 7-11, or load a truck full of packages worth a darn. And, in light of that, they are exposed to people who are not only capable in those positions, but are very skilled. To watch a millionaire be "put in their place" would seem to be more gratifying, and yet, because of their very act of willingness to try this endeavor, you find yourself cheering for everyone.

I find myself cheering for the employees who take pride in their jobs. The delivery man from Russia who believes he's living the American dream. The single mom who was homeless a year ago, who takes such pride in washing the aquarium glass - and learning all of the other different jobs she can. The woman at 7-11 who keeps the coffee brewing, but more so, it is her personality and friendliness that accounts for that store's successful coffee sales.

Accomplishment. It can be in the form of taking a business into profit quarter after quarter, or feeling like you are contributing to society by performing your job to the best of your abilities - whatever it is. I think we've all seen the effects of what happens (particularly in men) when a person loses their job. A day or two of "taking a break" can be helpful, but eventually a person loses their self-worth - their mental state takes a nosedive. All because they don't believe they are contributing or living up to their potential. It's a powerful thing. And, it's a deceptive thing, because many of us would really like to keep that "break" going - and getting the motivation to "put yourself out there again" can be quite daunting.

In my own way, I feel like I've fallen into that slump. While I don't have a 9-5 job, I have plenty of rolls that fill my day and hopefully keep me feeling like I'm "contributing". But, I've been on a "break" with this latest spring vacation and it's left me feeling empty. We are under a deluge of gray skies and rain here in Oregon, I have my first real "cold" of the season (I think my right lymph node is going to explode), and I find myself just getting by. I want to lay on the couch endlessly, but I know that's helping no one and will lead to no more satisfaction than what I'm currently feeling.

So, in honor of all of those folks on "Undercover Boss" who are faithfully "contributing" day in and day out - I will strive to do my part. And, hopefully, as this week unfolds, I'll find myself getting back into the rhythm - breaking out of my self-centeredness - and making little bits of differences into the lives of people I'm blessed to be a part of.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Well, At Least Someone Enjoyed the Rain Yesterday

In an effort to "kill two birds with one stone" (such a terrible expression, but as a multi-tasker, I find myself using it quite frequently) - Michele and I decided to kick the very rowdy, cabin-fevered boys out of the house with both of the dogs. We had them walk to the school and throw the ball for the dogs (i.e. - throw the ball for Koda.......) When they returned, they admitted that the dogs both decided to take a little "swim" in the ditch surrounding the backside of the school. Particularly Sydney, she really enjoyed it. (No surprise).

So, they were all wet when they got back - and we used it as an excuse to get one more "positive" from the experience by making the boys actually take a shower. Apparently, Sydney didn't want to be left out of that part of the fun either - because when I checked on her a few minutes later, this is what she looked like:

At least she is super-easy to clean. She loves to hop right into the bathtub and will stay in the water without complaining for a long stretch of time. I've even taught her to shake before I let her out of the sliding glass doors of the bathtub, to dry her off. Here's a pic of her feeling much more cozy once she was clean.
I had to hustle to get the job done this time though, because just as I was rinsing her off, John called to let me know that it was time to haul my "plum minivan" down to the Honda Odyssey had arrived!!!!!

Everyone was super excited to crawl around in it when I got her home - if you look carefully you'll see Brayden inside the car while I posed for this picture.

Here's to many, many happy memories in this vehicle........(isn't she purty?)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!

First of all, before we get to "Mom" - I wanted to point out what the kids have been choosing to do while at my house during the second half of spring break. What's that? Labeled "school desks"? Homework folders? Assignment sheets? Yup, apparently the kids couldn't wait to get to spring break so that they could start pretending to play school.........weirdies! (Actually, there is NO question where they get this - Michele and I may have have actually been even worse at their age!)

This picture was taken yesterday morning. We had Mom over for a birthday breakfast - we made her some kick-butt dutch babies - which everyone enjoyed. Before she left, she got a "Grandkids Uber-hug".

As for these pictures - they were taken this morning. Mom chose to spend her birthday "day" at a horse clinic. Fortunately, it was an indoor arena, as it was POURING down rain today. Mom gave us a hint about what time she was riding, so we surprised her by showing up with John's camera and watched her "do her thing".

Mom rides dressage - for those that aren't familiar with the term, it's kind of like an orchestrated ballet between horse and rider. The moves are very precise and beautiful - and Mom has really risen up the ranks with her talent.

The horse she is riding is named "Merlin". He is big and beautiful, and I so wish he was actually my mom's horse - as the two have quite a bit of chemistry together. However, he is owned by someone else, but thankfully that "someone else" happily lets Mom ride him weekly.

This first picture shows what I believe is called a "half pass". The horse is facing forward, as is the rider, but is moving diagonally by crossing his legs over each other. It's very impressive, and Mom and Merlin made it look beautiful. The other pictures are just ones that I enjoyed, particularly the ones with Mom beaming as she is so happy doing what she loves!

Mom - I've got about 150 more pictures to go with these, I'll get you a disk the next time I see you. So proud of you - HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How It Goes.....

I'm currently up in Dallas with Michele - traditionally the spring break "destination vacation" that I take for the first half of the week.

This is a sample of our daily routine:

8:30 Drop of girls at Sports Camp
8:45 Eat breakfast, check computer, devotional, dink around
10:00 Work out at Michele's "Anytime Fitness" - (new machines...I'm sore)
12:00 Pick up girls, return to house
12:15 Make lunch
1:00 Take shower or bath, sit in Michele's bed and watch DVR'd shows while reading books or magazines, inevitably take a nap, eat, solve occasional childrens' arguments or dilemmas, repeat........until bedtime

So, if you've been wondering why I haven't added a new post, it's because I've just been SO BUSY!! (Nah, I've just been so boring!)

Part of me feels guilty for being so generally lazy, but then again, if I was legitimately at a vacation location, that's what I would expect to be doing.

Tomorrow, we return home to my house - with Michele and the kiddos - and we basically repeat the schedule there (minus the Sports Camp). However, given it's my house, I imagine I'll feel the need to be much more productive with my time- as it's much harder to feel okay about being lazy in my own house.

I hope that you are having a great week - no matter where you are at!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Life at the Zoo

....and when I say "zoo", I mean our house - with five kids and two dogs. No, it's nothing like the Dugger family, but as we set to get the group of us ready to go for a bowling excursion, I can certainly see why very large families become ultra organized and regimented. How else could you do it?

These first pictures are taken at a bowling alley we visited today - that offers "cosmic bowling". I'm thankful we got there about 30 minutes before the lights went out. I don't think we'll be returning there again as the staff working there were SO GRUMPY! But, it was worth taking a couple of shots of it. (We were joined by Amy and her kiddos).

Part of our desire to get the Meyers to join us was to get a shot of these two. With both of their two front teeth out, they looked like two peas in a pod. Now, if we can just get Ellie to shine her "happy smile" when we have a camera around, not that would be something....(she's not so good at posing).

And, the rest of these pictures take place on the trampoline. I think the temperature might have reached 70 today....(if not super close) - so that merited turning the sprinkler on underneath and running around in swimsuits. This was followed up by warm baths and showers..... Overall, it's been a pretty easy run with these kiddos. Tomorrow, I return them back home (Michael and Michele return from the high school youth retreat) - and then hang in their neck of the woods for a few days...

Finally, in tribute to our precious Sydney, I caught her in this position tonight. Currently, she's on the couch next to John serving as his arm rest - all's to say, I think she's forgiven us.....

Friday, March 19, 2010

Shotgun Creek with Kaela

When we found out that Friday's weather was supposed to be sunny and high 60's - Kaela and I decided that our hang-out time ought to involve the outdoors.

Currently, we are dog-sitting sweet Koda. It's become a bit of a spring break tradition as the Whitty family really love to get down south to catch some sunshine. With Koda, comes a little more concentrated effort to get the dogs outside to exercise. Koda LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to retrieve tennis balls. I don't think saying she's a bit OCD about it would be stretching things. On days she doesn't get this energy expended, she tends to be a bit more hyper in the evenings - so I've been trying to do my part to take them to the nearby dog park and huck those tennis balls. The funny thing is, our own retriever could CARE LESS about retrieving anything.....she's all about the other dogs, playing, saying "Hi"- and most of all, swimming in the kiddy pools there. If there's water that she can somehow bathe in, she's all over it (or all in it). I'm glad she's getting a little bit of "perks" she'd otherwise not normally have this week because it's clear she's become a dog that does not enjoy sharing her family with another houseguest. She's quite put off at all of us lately - she crawls underneath the coffee table and looks away from us. For a dog that is really so social, it's funny how possessive she is of her family's love....

Anyway, that whole paragraph tangent was meant to just point out that the above-mentioned outdoor activity would be ideal if it could include taking the dogs. So, we ended up at Shotgun Creek. Unfortunately, the park itself is closed until the end of April, but the whole area is so beautiful, we decided to just park and walk along one of the logging/ATV roads. It ended up being perfect as I could continue to chuck the ball up the road for Koda, while the sides of the road had little streams that Syd could get wet in.

Back near where we parked, we went down to the creek and let the dogs wade in the water while we ate lunch.....Syd was definitely in her happy place. Koda, not so much, as she lost track of her ball and it ended up floating down the creek. =(

Right before we snatched this picture, we set our plates down and Koda snatched the rest of Kaela's sandwich. My smile was a little broader in laughing at that fact.....

Thanks Kaela for great time enjoying the sunshine and your friendship!

Second Grade Field Trip

Yesterday, I went with the second graders to the local "Science Factory" to check out exhibits about the human body and take part in a "germ lab". It was actually more enlightening than I anticipated (my enthusiasm level for this field trip wasn't very high).

Because there was a huge number of parent volunteers - I only had three in my group. That didn't stop me from losing track of one of the kiddos (the one on the left). I felt like a loser when one of the other parents alerted me he had sneaked into the other section of the building..... The one in the middle of this picture is Cade. We found out recently that he is in Mikayla's Sunday school class at church. This has prompted me to do a little teasing/"setting up" between him and Mikayla. Cade is a lot of fun - even Brayden thinks so, as he's taken to befriending the second grader and high-fiving him after school. Mikayla was faking the scowl....

There's that smile (complete with new "Easter" colors of rubber brands on her braces):

This is the kids' teacher, Mrs. Corbeau - really a great teacher!

Here Jake is demonstrating how long you are supposed to wash your hands with one of the experiments:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lousy Leprechaun!

Hey Everyone, Happy March 17th - aka St. Patrick's Day!

How many of you readers go over-the-top in celebrating this holiday? I know a few of you do, because those actions have actually been not-so-helpful for my own kids....

What am I referring to? It's that darn leprechaun. You see, that little mascot of St. Patrick's Day has made it a habit of visiting certain houses, but not ours.

The whole thing came to my awareness when we began carpooling with our neighbors. The day we rode with them on March 17th, they were full of descriptions of clever notes, trails of glitter or confetti, and, of course, treats that that special little leprechaun left for them. My kids felt ripped off, but I tried to pass over the issue.

Last year, Mikayla's first grade teacher made a HUGE deal about the leprechaun "defacing" the room, playing all sorts of pranks. Once again, Mikayla wondered, "Did he do anything at our house, any tricks, notes, or treats?" Nope......

I thought I was in the clear this year. New teacher, no longer carpooling with the neighbors (not for lack of friendship, it just became too much hassle trying to get our kids ready early for each other and having to deal with individual early classroom requirements...). But, oh no, the first thing Mikayla did when she got home was to look around the house to see what tricks that little man with the red beard did here. She found nada, nothing, zero......(her only little dangling hope was that maybe it was the one that stole her seasonal-allergy medication from today's pill dispenser slot.....-that would have been me, wondering if I'm also an allergy sufferer.....)

What I had failed to remember is that Mikayla's BFF, Kenady, is a big St. Patty's celebrator. And, oh, that little leprechaun had wreaked havoc at her house, much to Kenady's delight. They had had a playdate scheduled for today, so I got a chance to talk to Kenady's mom. We had fun lamenting over how to gloss over these scenarios - we decided I should go with the "the leprechaun knows how much we go over the top celebrating Christmas with the countdown calendar, so he visits other houses on this holiday of kids who don't celebrate quite as much as we do on other holidays." I tried it when she came home, it might have worked. I thought about going with the "our family just doesn't really acknowledge St. Patrick's Day as much as others given our heritage....", but oh wait, our last name is RILEY!!!!! Our kids have more Irish in them than any other lineage....(a close second would be Finnish from Grandma Liupakka....but given my predominate lineage is Irish too - (and of course, John's dad's was entirely Irish....)) - we should be livin' large on this holiday!

So, I blew it. By the time I figure it out to get my act together on this holiday, Mikayla will be beyond the realm of belief in leprechauns. Maybe this will be one of those that I can remedy my mistakes by igniting the idea of celebration for the next generation.=)

Monday, March 15, 2010

This Weekend.....

How's that time change working for you? As bad as it feels for me to wake up on a Monday morning an hour early, I have to think how cruel it is for our college students who are embarking upon finals week.....poof......there goes one less how to sleep, cram for a test, or complete a paper!

It was a good weekend - I hardly heard my kids argue at all, which blessed my heart immensely. I did a lot of reading on the couch (aka - I was super lazy)......but, then, on Sunday, I decided to start my 2009 blog book (through Good timing, as I can be semi-productive as desired when I head to Michele's for the first part of spring break on that.

John announced on Saturday morning that he was going to redo the flooring in Brayden's room. When we redid Mikayla's, we also purchased the product for Brayden's room too - it's just been a matter of having the time to get it done. John, with the help of Travis (poor guy, how does he get sucked into these things?), literally hammered out that floor all day - as well as got rid of all the "yuck" at the dump. So impressive. And, how it does my heart good to know that the only room that still has that "white" carpet -that is anything but- is our bedroom...which has enough rugs and is so seldom seen, I can handle it. Brayden also scored a new bed (new for him - yard sale queen mattress and frame) - that might just be the most comfortable bed in the house. He's kind of a "sprawler" when he sleeps (my apologies to his future wife) - so he is uber-excited to have a big bed to sleep in - that is oh-so-cozy with its Duck comforter.

The weekend was ended with a visit to CCF - Mikayla and I passed out lots of "Bunco Business Cards" - and prior to that, Andrew, Aaron, and Julie came by just as Michele and the kids were headed out the door. Their arrival served as a good motivator to re-group the house, which was a huge blessing for me this morning. While John took the guys to pick up some steaks- I got some much-needed vacuuming and mopping down - and then while the guys bbq'd, Julie and I just chilled at the bar with our computers. It was sunshine-y at that point of the day, and the perfect cap-off to a sweet weekend.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Strikes, Spares, and Smack Downs

We hit the weekend! PRAISE THE LORD! I'm seriously super happy to be looking at a day of relaxing with the sis and just chillin'.

Yesterday, the kiddos got out of school at 11:30, and I knew I had to find something to occupy their time before 3 - the time that Michele would be down with the kids. So we went bowling with Will and Julie......

My game stunk so bad. It's been on the decline for the last couple of months - not sure what is going on, but it was bad. I gutter'd a lot. By the end of the game, I slowed it down a bit and finally got a bit of my groove back (and by groove I mean extremely limited skill). Will and Julie could only stay for one game, but in an effort to keep the momentum going, I said "yes" to playing another game with Brayden (while Mikayla messed with my cell phone). I'm not necessarily proud of this score, but happy that there are a few more spares and strikes in the boxes.

(I took the picture to send to Julie and Will to prove I wasn't quite as bad of a loser as I'd been with them).

In regards to the "smack downs" in my title - that would be my kids. Omigosh.....those two! Pester, pester, whine, fight, pester, whine........ahhhhhhhhhh! They were literally fighting over who got to sit on Will's lap, it was ridiculous. I was super thankful for Will and Julie's presence to help me out, but likewise embarrassed by the stupidity of their conflicts.....

I think the whole thing was just a set-up to help me value Michele and the kids' company that much more. Seriously, at this point, 5 kids are easier for me to handle than 2, because the 5 keep Brayden and Mikayla generally separated. But, it also leads to chaos - currently, Traig and Brayden are chasing each other around the loop of our living room, kitchen, bonus room, throwing a football, wrestling - and Baxter and Sydney are chasing and barking incessantly. (Why does it have to be raining and cold today!?!) And, this.......this is what the girls did yesterday when given their own free time......
It's a giant Webkinz Mobile.....real nice, huh? And yes, they were forbidden from turning the fan on.

We get Michele's kids for three days next weekend while M and M are at a youth retreat. I think we need to start brainstorming now for more productive activities, just in case it is raining at that point - for fear our home will be destroyed......... =)

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Through much prayer, and many, many meetings - and God's hand prodding us through this - a group of us have got these programs on the docket at our church....and I AM SO EXCITED!

The desire is to bridge the gap among the generational age differences in our Womens' Ministry - most notably, to draw the younger generations in (my own age group included).

So, if you are a faithful reader of this blog, or a secret lurker - and happen to be female and in the vicinity of these locations, I IMPLORE you to please come join us!!!!!! (See you there!)

P.S. Graphic design compliments of my hubby....isn't he amazing?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


That's where I'm at lately. I feel like my outlook on everything is "Debbie Downer". I actually find myself thinking through, "What was I thinking about the other day that had me bothered, oh yeah, let's dwell on that again....."

So, there aren't a lot of new inspired blog posts - sorry about that.

I'm ready for spring break. I'm ready for a change. I'm ready to see Michele and the kids again - it's been way too long.

I think that's a part of it. She's been feeling the same way - and there is a certain little empathy that happens between us. We need to snap out of it because there's way too many great things that God is up to to be "glass half empty" these days.

I would also like the headaches to leave me alone, the scales to reflect the effort I've made lately in the gym (vs. the indulgences I've made lately in the kitchen), and the kids to act as though they really do love each other vs. the excessive arguing that's been in the air (I think we've all been in the same mood). Nothing like a laundry list of excuses to blame for my attitude.

What I am thankful for is the people surrounding me that fill me with hope, give me "things other than myself" to dwell on - and remind me that the world does not revolve around Stephanie. Hopefully, soon, I'll be in that place to be that person to the friends of mine that might need a little brightness in their lives from me.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Random Updates

It's a gorgeous day here, but still a bit cold. I sat out on the trampoline for a bit with my lunch, but being the wimp that I am, I'm back inside with a big ol' blankie. Here's some pictures I just added to this post of the way our street looks with the flowering plum trees in bloom.....for a couple of weeks each year it's magical around here with all of this pink. And, oh, the smell- for sure spring has come early.

John and Brayden are re-doing the "in-ground" containment system to keep Sydney and her friends off the yard and trampoline....AGAIN. Maybe this time it will last....they are certainly not cutting corners this time, so the system won't short itself out as it's done in the past. We found out we'd be having Koda during spring break (chocolate lab) - and if we want our yard to have a chance to turning into grass again - instead of the mud and moss splatches it is now, we need to give those doggies a different place to roam.

Yesterday, we honored Stephie. It was her birthday and Julie and I took a field trip out to where she worked to give her some flowers and a card that was best read without the rest of the family. =) (We all laughed.....) Last night, we headed to Applebees and then returned to a cozy night finishing the last of the DVR'd "Flashforwards" (ready for it to return on March 18th) - and then "Couples Retreat". I was happy that they laughed at as much as Lisa and I had when we had had our "Christmas date" to see at the theater. (Funny movie, but not for kids....) Stephie, I hope you had a good night - as you deserve it a million times over......we love you so much!

In case anyone's been wondering......I still don't have a new vehicle. At this point, it could be until the end of the month. I had really wanted a black Honda Odyssey, but when it looked like none were available in the northwest, we settled for charcoal. But, it seems, those have been hard to obtain as well. So, apparently, there is a vehicle being built right now (we are leasing a new vehicle....) - black - with my name on it. Because we are having to wait, the rate will actually end up being better, which is a huge blessing. But, we sure hope my little plum van hangs on until then......

Brayden's last basketball game is this afternoon. He's had a great season, very confidence-building for our little man. It's just added to the mix of the "banner year" he's having as a fifth grader. We snapped a shot of him going for the jump shot to begin the game last week. He is the second shortest player on the team, but Mike (the coach, and incidentally, "Koda", the dog's dad) - felt like mixing things up. Generally, our gentle giant, Tanner - who is almost always the tallest kid on the court takes it without even having to jump, but this was fun to watch......
I think that's about it - spring break is two weeks away - PRAISE GOD! No special outrageous plans, just a great break from the grind.....

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Reality Check

On Sunday night, I set to work to redo-ing our calendar white-boards. I do two at a time, and you can't imagine my delight to get out of January/February as those are my two LEAST-LIKED months of the year.

This time I cheated a bit so I could fit the first week of May into the picture.....and there you go, reality really is that close before we embark upon the vacation that has been planned for so long.

That also means that it's that much closer to the date when I wanted to see "a whole different set of numbers" on the scales (if this and the 20 year reunion we have in July aren't motivation, I don't know what is!) - and there is still many things I'd hoped to have done/organized before we go.

We are down to the two-month spread of waiting.........I'm so excited!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Have you ever followed a tv show, or recorded a sports event, only to have someone reveal the outcome before you watch it? That happened with the premiere of the second season of "Lost" for Lisa and I - we read just a little bit, then a little bit more - and pretty soon we'd read what was going to happen on the first episode and it felt A LOT like opening the presents early before Christmas. It stunk.

My irritation over this - and the tabloids and blogs reporting stuff prematurely has been kind of a reality check that maybe, just maybe, I care too much about entertainment. Not to mention how sucked in I get to the stories that they report. Perhaps I care a little too much about what people have to say about celebrities - and whether or not I believe it's true. And, maybe just maybe, I find myself so caught up in these stories (or personalities on reality tv) that it actually affects my mood.

This is another one of those blogs that I hesitate to hit that button PUBLISH POST because I can just imagine what it might make you all think of me. But, it's been on my mind a lot lately, and quite frankly, it's bugged me that it has.

The other thing that also became clear to me that there is no spoiler account, tabloid, or celebrity-stalker blog that knows the plans of God. Even the idea that "2012" is going to be the end of all mankind - the idea strikes me as if God is going to let the Mayan calendar be the spoiler report for the End Times! So, I think it's time to spend a lot more time listening with spiritual sensitivity to what God is doing - that will never be thwarted - than the latest news of what's happened among who the entertainment world idolizes.......*

* I need to put a little caveat in that I'm not boycotting television, the TV Guide, or sporting events. I don't really enjoy legalism, so I don't think that's the route to go. I do, however, want to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit when I feel like I'm getting a bit too caught up in something that ultimately is going to lead me to so much distraction that I'm attitude-affected by it.