Saturday, December 24, 2011

Richardson Family 2011

Here is the annual year-in-review photo book I made for all the grandparents for Christmas.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Need a little holiday cheering up?

Do the holidays have you stressed out? Shopping to do, projects to finish, quality time and memories to create for your children?

Here's a fond memory from my Christmas past that I thought might bring a smile to your stressed out face.

Click HERE.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Amusing Text Exchanges

Dan and I communicate via text messaging a lot because the nature of his job often requires him to leave our conversations for several minutes at a time. With texting we can "talk" in a time frame that allows him to get his work done. Plus with him working nights and sleeping days we often initiate conversations with a text because we're not sure if the other person is awake.

Tonight Dan was asking when the kids and I were leaving for my Mom's for Thanksgiving and what our plans were. He'll be working.

Me: I'm going to shop on Friday and go see Breaking Dawn with the womenfolk.
Dan: You're crazy!
Me: Don't worry, I'm not going early. Just going to see what I can find during the reasonable hours of the day!
Dan: Not much better.
Me: Maybe not, but I think you're just jealous. Especially about missing Breaking Dawn.
Dan: Exactly.

After installing the chimney liner there was some discussion with Keith, our landlord, about taking some of the cost off the rent. I was out of the loop so I wanted to make sure before I made out the rent check.

Me: Should I pay Keith full rent or did he want us to take some off for the liner?
Dan: No
Me: No don't pay full or no don't take any off?
Dan: Yes
Me: You think that's funny, don't you?
Dan: Yes

I never could get a straight answer out of him so I figured that was his way of telling me he would take care of it. We're real good at communicating like that.

Dan was running out to the Flying J with the kids to get a snack.

Me: Will you get me a sunkist?
Dan: No
Me: You're a very bad man.

Several minutes later he showed up with Sunkist in hand.

About a month ago I had an emotional breakdown on the phone while Dan was at work. I started crying and telling him about some concerns I had and he goes, "OK, now I'm uncomfortable...Bye" and hung up. I know this about him and knew he just needed some time to deal with my outburst. Later in the day I texted him.

Me: How's your discomfort level?
Dan: Unacceptably high
Me: Are you uncomfortable because of the crying or because of what I said?
Dan: Yes
Me: Glad we could have this little chat.
Dan: Anytime, but now I'm going to bed.
Me: Sweet dreams. Hopefully there are no crying women in them.
Dan: One can hope
Me: Thank goodness we have our senses of humor to survive this oil field life.

A sense of humor. It's what keeps us sane and it's something I dearly love about my husband.

A new nap strategy

The only way I can get Mack to take a nap these days is to take him for a drive, usually between 12:00 and 1:30pm.

It's not the most convenient way to get him to sleep, but it's way better than no nap followed by a 4:00-5:00pm meltdown.

Well, now I have a new strategy for getting him to fall asleep.

 Just take him for a haircut like I did today.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Trying to get my groove back...

This post will be my 7th in November. That's as many posts as I've done the rest of 2011 combined. I really fell out of the blogging world and I have missed it.

It was a deliberate shift. I think it boils down to the fact that life has been pretty challenging over the last year and a half and every time I sat down to write on my blog I just felt like a whiner. I'd write a few sentences and think, "nobody wants to listen to me bitch and moan." Or more often, I'd want to talk about personal struggles but because so much of our personal problems stem from relationships, I didn't feel it was appropriate to talk about publicly. After all these years I've finally developed a filter for my mouth. Imagine that.

Let me tell you the truth about the oil field. The only good thing about it is the money. Everything else completely sucks. It takes a toll on us as a family to be apart and we're constantly trying to readjust when Daddy is home, only to have him leave again. Dan dreads every time he leaves for a hitch, his job is very stressful and in my opinion it's affecting his health. He's been sick more in the last year than he has been any other time. He works long hours and doesn't get good sleep so his body is not prepared to fight off infection.

In May Dan changed positions and companies and is now a directional driller instead of a mud engineer. The change has the advantages of higher pay and more potential for upward mobility, but Dan has forfeited a regular 2 week on, 2 week off schedule (which honestly he only took a full 2 weeks off once or twice as a mud engineer) to basically being on call 24/7. One nice thing about the new job is that instead of going to different rigs all over Wyoming and western Colorado, Dan is working exclusively in Pinedale, WY which is only 2 1/2 hours away. So even if he's only going to be off for a day he can come home. He typically works about 5-7 days and is home for 2-3 days, but we never know what the schedule is going to be. When he first took the job we were thinking that since Pinedale is so close the kids and I could go up and see him regularly, maybe spend the weekend, but he is working nights and sleeping days so it doesn't really work out.

View of two the many natural gas rigs in Pinedale, July 2010.

Typical scenes on an oil rig

Inside Dan's trailer as a mud engineer, December 2010. He is in similar accommodations now, but he does his work up on the rig floor instead of in his trailer.

Every few months Dan and I talk about other job possibilities, but we just keep coming back to the fact that nothing else he could do would pay as much, and more importantly, we really don't want to raise our kids anywhere else so Dan is very limited in the work that's available. In Cokeville you can either work at the schools, ranch (which is really just an expensive hobby) or work in the oil field. There are a few city or county jobs but they are few and far between. I like the idea of Dan getting his teaching certificate online and teaching at the high school, but it would be a 50% reduction in salary and currently the science teacher position is filled anyway. I've talked to Dan about it at length but the bottom line is that it is his responsibility to provide for our family and I have to respect what he feels is the best way to do that. We are still working to get out of debt, should be done, student loans and all, in about a year. That weighs heavily on Dan's mind as well as getting money saved to buy a house and some land for our horses.

I'd be lying if I said I don't care about the money. It has been such a relief to be able to buy what we need without stressing about it. I can buy nice boots and coats for the kids. We can fix the things we need to fix with the house and the car. I don't have to spend hours clipping coupons and researching sales to meet the grocery budget. We can afford to take a little trip now and then. It is vastly different than where we were the first half of 2010 when Dan had very little patent work and we finally had to stop paying some bills because we simply didn't have the money. But we've traded one kind of stress for another. We don't worry about making it every month, but we worry about how much longer we can tolerate this lifestyle. Dan is frustrated about the direction his career has taken, especially after all the hard work he put into his PhD, but he doesn't see any viable alternative. It's hard seeing him so dissatisfied. We all miss him and long for the time when we can be a "normal" family again. But the reality is that we'll likely be doing this oil field thing for at least 5-10 years.

Adjusting to the oil field life has been a process and the challenges have changed over the last 17 months. At first it was just hard to be alone, to be the only parent present to handle all the stuff with the kids. Then it was hard adjusting when Dan started being home more. I felt self-conscious, like someone was looking over my shoulder and judging the way I handled the kids and the house. Then I started to resent Dan's dissatisfaction with his job and life in general and it was just easier when he was gone. I felt a lot of guilt for having gotten to that point and was depressed about how our relationship was languishing. I complained to Dan a lot about his attitude and was overly sensitive when he pointed out things I needed to adjust in my own attitude or my parenting. Because I was frustrated with the constant cloud he carried around his head, I made it nearly impossible for him to speak freely. I was nit-picking him and making him feel unwelcome in his own home. We had a big blow-up and it was a huge wake-up call for me that I needed to show Dan a much greater measure of love.

In terms of my personal psyche over the last year, I have struggled a lot. My big mouth has gotten me in trouble a few times and that has been a contributing factor to why I've largely withdrawn into myself. I just didn't want to piss anybody off. I've learned to keep my opinions to myself, but more importantly, I've learned not to judge as harshly as I have in the past. You just never know what struggles people are facing or the unique circumstances that contribute to their decision making process.

In some ways I'm proud of the growth I've experienced this year. I like this quote by Elder Orson F. Whitney:
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God." (quoted in Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 98).
I am learning more patience, learning to rely a lot on the Spirit in my personal relationships. But in a lot of ways I'm not real happy with the person I am right now. Despite my depression I have always felt fairly confident and seen myself as a well-adjusted, well-grounded person. I am usually the kind of person who offers encouragement and tries to uplift people. But in the last year I have been the person that has needed encouragement and uplifting and I just feel so needy. I don't like that. I prefer being on the giving side of service rather than the receiving side.

With the challenges of the last year, the Lord has blessed me with a wonderful friend in Cokeville, the kind of friend that I can just show up on her doorstep unshowered with my snotty kids in tow and just say, "We needed a change of scenery. Can we hang out?" Or if Dan's home for a limited time and he needs some personal attention, I can send the kids over to my friend's house so we can...y'know. Or if my kid needs stitches for the second time in 3 months, she can come watch the other kids while I go to the ER at 10:00 at night.

Mack in the Montpelier ER after busting his eyebrow on my bed frame, November 2010 

Karla Toomer was a direct answer to prayers after my friend Zoe died and there was a change in the dynamics of some of my other friendships in Cokeville. I was lonely and mourning and I prayed to find a friend that could fill the void. One night the kids were driving me bonkers, Dan was gone, and I thought, "I need a girls night out." I thought of different people I could invite and Karla's name kept coming to mind. It was somewhat of a surprise because I didn't know her well. She worked with Dan on the Volunteer Fire Department and I'd done a family picture for her the previous year, but that was about all the contact we'd had other than occasionally passing each other around town. I called her up, we went to Blondie's Diner, and we have been great friends ever since.

Karla and I at The Power of Moms retreat in Park City, UT, April 2011

Karla and my long-time best friend Lori, who lives in Minnesota, counseled me through many hard days this past year. I am so thankful for good friends. And I am working to rebuild some friendships that suffered this past year because of my selfish desire to retreat.

Lori and her girls Gracie and Audrey came to visit this summer and it was the highlight of my year. So, yes, despite all my whining there have been good times too.

I'm feeling better now that I'm blogging again. Because I've struggled with how to articulate my thoughts, I've avoided blogging and just written in my journal when hard things were going on. But if one of my descendants reads my journal in the future they will think I lived a miserable, frustrated life. Do you have that tendency also? To only write in your journal when things are difficult? I need to have a record of the happiness in my life and the blog is a wonderful place to do that. Looking at pictures and telling stories helps me remember my blessings and reminds me of the love I have for my family. And it's important for Dan to see all that's going on when he's at work. I appreciate all the sweet comments from my online friends who have wondered about my absence. I hope to get back to the woman I'm supposed to be.

P.S. Lily says, "i love cats."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Reunion Quilt

I finally finished piecing a lap quilt that I started last July (as in 2010). I registered for a quilting class through Western Wyoming Community College's adult education program. A gal from Cokeville taught the class in her basement and it was the perfect opportunity for me to finish the quilt that was originally intended to give away at our Cox family reunion.

Every year for about the last 10 years or so, we have been doing a quilt drawing at our Cox family reunion (my Mom's side). The idea was that whoever won the quilt had to make a quilt the next year to give away in a drawing. Sounds cool, right? Well, it was definitely cool to win the quilt but not so cool if you had to make one, especially if you're not a quilter. So about 4 years into the quilt exchange, people started giving store bought quilts. When it was finally my turn to make a quilt, I decided that I was going to try to make one even though I'd never quilted anything. I had tied a few quilts with my mom's help (and her doing all the sewing) in the past, but that was it.

So when I was visiting Dan on the oil rig in June 2010, I went to this great quilt shop in Pinedale, WY. Oh, before that I checked out a bunch of quilting books from the library, like Quilting for Dummies. Dan thought it was titled Quilting is for Dummies. It wasn't long before I was thinking that was true!

Our 2010 reunion was at Bear Lake on the Utah/Idaho border (and only 45 minutes from Cokeville, how awesome is that?) so I picked out a bunch of fabrics that reminded me of Bear Lake- the aqua blue water, the brown and green mountains. I borrowed quilting supplies from my sweet neighbors and set to work.

"Oh my gosh! Mama's sewing! Quick, get the camera."

I used the strip quilting method where you sew strips together then cut and piece them rather than cutting all the little squares and then sewing them. I was somewhat surprised to realize how much work it was to piece a quilt. So much measuring, so much ironing, so much keeping track.

But I found that I really enjoyed the process. I liked the symmetry, the way things lined up. That's the anal part of me. I really liked the fabrics, the colors I started with. I liked watching it all come together as something beautiful.

I did the majority of the quilting at my Mom's house where I could spread out. My sister Becky was there too and she and Mom helped me sew blocks and figure out how to lay out them all out.

I stayed up late and woke up early trying to finish it in time for the reunion. I rudely worked on it while friends came to visit me from as far as Virginia.

Samantha of the fabulous Compound Eye of a Dragonfly on the left, her mother the Queen Vee on the top right (who we've known since I was 13), and Jenny who I graduated the BYU photography program with (although you'd never know she's a former Zoobie with those dreadlocks!)

But I grossly underestimated how long it takes to make a quilt. I began to realize there was no way I was going to finish it in time. And along the way, something happened.

I fell in love with the quilt.

The selfish part of me came out and I decided, "There's no way I'm giving this thing away." I had spent well over $100 on the materials and I'd poured my heart and soul and a few drops of blood into this quilt. So I decided to keep it for myself and just give a store bought quilt at the reunion. Not one of my finer moments, but if I'm being honest, I don't regret it.

I put the quilt down the day before the reunion and I didn't pick it up again until 3 weeks ago when I started the quilt class.

Did you notice the title of the book I got the quilt pattern from? Nice.

I finally got the front of the quilt finished and I drove up to Afton to choose a nice fuzzy fabric for the back, since we live in cold Wyoming and all. Check out this lusciousness:

Oh baby, it's gonna be perfect for snuggling up in front of the fire!

Here's how the quilt looks right now:

I had originally planned to pay someone to quilt it (fancy stitching that joins the front, batting, and backing fabric) in a fun swirly pattern, but once I found this fluffy fabric with the paisley design, I decided not to do that. I'm going to tie it with a universal stitch which is like tying a quilt but without the little yarn tails sticking out. My quilt teacher said that would be ideal because not only would it eliminate the problem of having two clashing patterns on the back, it will allow the integrity of the design and the fabrics on the front to remain crisp and clean.

My Mom is going to help me tie the quilt next week when we go to her house for Thanksgiving. I'm super excited! I'll be sure to show you the final result when it's done.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Random Thoughts & Pictures

Have I ever mentioned that Cokeville only has a 4 day school week? They started that schedule a few years ago due to the large number of absences on Fridays. See, when you live in a place like Wyoming, Friday athletic events are often several hours away, sometimes requiring an overnight stay. A large percentage of the student body participates in sports, so the junior high/high school was looking like a ghost town on Fridays. The school district decided to eliminate Friday school and just go longer on the other 4 days of the week. Occasionally there is Friday school to make up for holidays, but for the most part the kids only go 4 days.

In many ways this schedule is awesome. We get a 3 day weekend nearly every week. It makes it easier to go places for the weekend when we get cabin fever. We get to sleep in twice a week (we have 9:30 church so no sleeping in on Sunday, at least for the mom.) But I'll tell you what. I am so ready for school come Sunday night! Having 3 kids home at the same time in an 800 sq foot house when it's freezing cold outside sometimes just about drives me to drink. (Winter starts in October around here.)

first snow of the season, October 6, 2011

and the next morning...

In fact, it's snowing right now.

Mack was in the ER last Thursday night with croup. He started on Wednesday with a pretty bad cough and by Thursday night he was struggling to breathe and was looking a little blue around the lips. Fortunately Dan was home so I didn't have to make the 30 minute drive over to Montpelier by myself. My friend Karla came and stayed with the girls. They gave Mack an albuterol breathing treatment in the ER and gave him dexamethasone, a steroid, that he took for 5 days. Oh, and he had an ear infection so there's 10 days of antibiotics as well. Mack was not impressed with the breathing treatment and we basically had to hog tie him so he would take the full dosage. When the nurse tried to give him his meds he hid under his woobie. I tried to get Dan to take some pictures but he thought it was totally undignified to take a picture of Mack in his moment of desperation. We were being discharged and Dan gave me the look like, "What are you waiting for? Let's blow this joint" and I just said, "I'm not leaving until you take a picture." That earned me a major eye roll. But I got the picture.

Aren't Macky's pj's cute? Grammie got them at Costco.

Speaking of Grammie, she came to visit us for 2 days last week. The kids had been missing her but I just had too much to do at home to make the trip down to Utah. So Grammie came and gave me some relief for a couple days.

I got to finish painting the living room,

a project I started at the end of June.

The kids got to play games with Grammie

and bake pressed cookies.

Mack dipped his hand in the vinegar/baking soda mixture and was totally unimpressed!

And with Mom's help we finally got the kitchen cleaned, including the mopping. I love Swiffers. Well, I love the idea of Swiffers. In theory I should mop the floor all the time because it's just so darn convenient. But I don't. I still let the kitchen floor digress to the point of nastiness before I clean it. But the Swiffer takes a lot less energy than filling a bucket of mop water, wringing the mop out constantly, and trying to keep Mack out of the dirty water.

Anyway, back to sick kids. Lily and I both got Mack's sickies over the weekend and Lily missed 3 days of school this week. After a long weekend with whiny sick kids and feeling lousy myself, I really needed some quiet time, but no luck. Lily was pretty miserable with a bad cough and fever. She and Mack basically brain rotted for three days straight. Luckily we have the portable DVD player we bought this summer so I didn't have to forfeit the computer to the kids. I really would have lost my mind then!

By the third day home Lily was feeling a little more spunky and she made her brother wear this sequined dress up shirt. He was not amused. After about 3 minutes he came crying to me, "I want this off!" Erin, I smiled and thought of Kole/Ariel. Big sisters are so mean sometimes!

One good thing that did come out of last weekend is we finally got the wood stove put in. And by we I mean Dan.

We always take the stove and hearth out in the summer to make more room and usually bring it back in at the beginning of October. But this year we were delayed for a couple of reasons. Our chimney cracked in March so we had to use propane for the rest of the season while we waited to have the money to buy a liner to put inside the chimney. It's made of steel (I think) and looks like a dryer hose.

It was quite tricky to install because the chimney is old and the hole that comes out of the wall in the living room is not perfectly round, so Dan had to really fight to get it in. The other problem we had is that the top fire bricks in our wood stove broke last season so we couldn't burn a fire until we had those replaced. Our wood stove is discontinued so it took awhile to find the bricks online. And let me tell you, you need a PhD to figure out  how to install those fire bricks. It took Dan and I together nearly an hour to figure out the right configuration.

Mack was helpful as always.

He is totally fascinated with the ash shovel. He thinks it makes a good sword. Much to my great pleasure.

Next, look for a post about another project that I've almost finished after a year and a half.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Tail (pun intended) of 4 Kitties, Part 1

We haven't had pets in several years. We had a dog when Lily was born, good ol' Jake.

Easter 2002

To be accurate, he was our first baby. We adored him, spent plenty of money on him (hello, $2900 hip replacement surgery), even let him sleep in our bed.

Lily's first Christmas, 2002

Jake was so great with Lily. He let her climb all over him. In fact, I'm pretty sure she thought he was a horse.

October 2003

Sadly, we lost Jake, literally, in December 2003. I let him out to go to the bathroom and forgot about him for 30 minutes or so. I'd done that before, but he was always just down the street snooping around the neighborhood. Not this time. We searched all over, posted flyers, and called the animal shelters every couple of days for about two months.

But Jake was gone. We were all pretty heart broken. About two months went by and I found myself with entirely too much time on my hands since I wasn't vacuuming dog hair all day long, so we started looking for another dog through a Labrador rescue program. We found Hank, only six months old but HUGE, and brought him home.

February 2004

Lily and Hank were great pals but it was such a pain to have a puppy again! Hank loved to chew and we still have several toddler toys that have Hank's teeth marks in them.

Hank's 1st Birthday, September 2004

Hank got his fair share of spoiling (what dog doesn't love wearing a birthday hat?) but when we discovered that he had not one, but three bad hips, we had to make a difficult decision. We were no longer in a financial position to pay for hip replacement surgeries. We knew that Hank could probably have a couple of decent years, but then he would be in so much pain that he wouldn't have a very good quality of life. But by then Lily would be so attached to him that it would break her heart to have to put Hank down. So we made the very hard decision to go ahead and send Hank to Heaven. He was only 15 months old. Lily still talks about the reunion in Heaven when she'll get to see all her dogs.

Now, a very strange thing happened after Hank was gone. Our house had been dog free for about six months and my friend Cami brought her dog Roxi over. After wrestling with Roxi for awhile, Lily started to sneeze. Shortly after that her eyes got red and itchy. What the...? This pattern repeated itself on a few different occasions until it dawned on us, Lily had developed pet allergies! It was confirmed when we had her allergy tested at age 4 that she is indeed allergic to dogs, cats, horses, hay, cashews and pistachios. What a rip-off!

So for several years we have been a petless family. We looked into dog breeds that shed very little and are ideal for people with allergies (our favorite was a Labradoodle) but our housing situation over the next few years did not allow for a big dog. We considered a couple different things, a sugar glider, a rabbit, but it just never seemed right. Lily has missed having a pet so much. She and Amelia have asked for a pet with increasing longing over the last few years.

Now, let me rewind a little. Or a lot. I grew up with cats.

Becky and Girl Kitty, Me and Boy Kitty, Germany 1986

We always had at least one kitty as long as I can remember.

 napping with Girl Kitty, Monterey, CA 1990

We never had dogs and I thought they were big and slobbery and annoying. It was a big switch for me when we got Jake. But I fell in love with him. And eventually I decided that cats were annoying. They pee'd  and pooped in your house. They were kind of snobby and only came when they felt like it. They made all the furniture hairy (TOTALLY unlike a dog) and it was irritating the way they always rubbed on your leg, leaving a trail of hair behind.

Dan doesn't care for cats either (did you see how much fun he had trying to shove them in a pumpkin?). Getting a cat was never on our list of pet possibilities. Lily's only interaction with cats was with old decrepit Girl Kitty at Grammie's house, and she mostly hid from little kids unless there was fresh food out.

2003, Lily and Girl Kitty 18 years old

So one evening in early October a stray kitty started hanging around our house. Lily had been having a hard time, feeling lonely because she doesn't feel like she has a best friend here in Cokeville. She was so excited about the cat, it perked her little spirit up so much that I told her she could feed him.

The next morning the kitty was back and all the kids came out to pet him.

He was such a good natured kitty and I'm such a sucker, so I told the kids that if he kept hanging around they could call him their outdoor cat. I mean, no big deal, right? We can feed him and the kids can play with him outside and he can fend for himself otherwise.

Later that afternoon Lily and Amelia came in and declared that if he stayed, they would call him Pumpkin.
Lily made a little bed for him on the porch. A couple days later it was raining, so she put her umbrella out so Pumpkin would have a dry place to eat. By this point we'd bought real kitty food instead of just feeding him hot dogs (I'm sure he was a little disappointed in the change.)

Next we made Pumpkin a place inside the kids' play house. A bed and a place to keep the food dry.

Then we did the responsible thing and posted a flyer around town to make sure Pumpkin didn't belong to someone else.

We left it up for a couple weeks and thankfully no one called because Pumpkin seemed happy with us and the kids were delighted to finally have a pet.

You know how if you feed one stray, the whole neighborhood shows up looking for a handout? Sure enough, we had a kitten show up just a few days after Pumpkin. I figured one more, no big deal. They can keep each other warm in the winter.

This kitty, who we called Jackie, for Jack-o-lantern to go with Pumpkin, would sit still on Amelia's lap

and let the kids cradle her like a baby, so they were in love.

Pumpkin, not so much. He didn't appreciate the competition and retreated to a sunny spot under the lilac tree.

And that's only half the story...