Wednesday, April 16, 2014


This has been a very busy month for us and it is only half-way through.  On April 3rd I looked at the calendar and was already surprised at how quickly the month had filled.  First up, Will has been working on his Advanced Reading Challenge.  All the third graders are challenged to finish 25 books and projects but they are only required to do 8.  If you do more you get a prize.  Will has finished all the books and some but still needs five more projects.  We've been working hard to get them done.  He was excited to make puppets for the book Bad Kitty.  He also worked on projects for a few books by Roald Dahl--his favorite author right now.  
 Mike set the alarm and woke up to get pictures of the lunar eclipse.  He was disappointed that his pictures didn't turn out better and overall, wasn't impressed that he woke up to take pictures and then couldn't go back to sleep for the next 1 1/2 hrs.  I slept through it all.
Grandma and Grandpa Richards came to Denver!  They were on a time crunch and we were so happy they wanted to see us before they had to keep on their journey.  They were driving a moving truck from Maryland to Utah for some friends.  We met them up for an early dinner.  
 The boys loved playing in the truck and Piper was super upset that we kept handing her off to someone besides myself or Mike.
 She did however smile for Grandpa when Mike was holding her.
My friend Michelle H. is having a baby.  She had gotten rid of a large portion of her baby clothes so I wanted to throw her a baby shower.  I was a bit worried and stressing out because I had contacted a nasty GI bug from Piper and Eli.  It was horrible and long-lasting and I was worried I wouldn't be able to pull off a baby shower.  Thankfully, my friend isn't really into the shower games and activities so I didn't have to worry about any of that.  My other friend Melanie came to my rescue and she brought some decorations and helped make food.  Mike gave me a blessing on Wed. night and I spent Thursday and Friday sanitizing the house, cleaning up from almost a week of being sick and not cleaning, and cooking.  I think it turned out really well and was pretty low-key.  Again, I'm so thankful she is not someone that cares for the games and such or I'd have been in trouble.

 Michelle is one of my best friends here.  I adore her and know we will be friends forever.  I'm so happy I was able to celebrate with her and let her know how much I love her!

These girls make me very happy

Finally, Eli had a birthday!  He has been waiting and counting down the days for months.  Literally (as Isaac would say).  He wanted brownies for his class so I cooked up two batches and took them in to his class.  He also wanted a cookie cake that he wanted to decorate.  I tried finding one but couldn't find one anywhere.  I could have made one but he decided instead on a chocolate cake.  He and Isaac decorated it to look like a dude that was killed by a snake with a cave, boulders, a snake, of course, and snake eggs.  

 He wanted a remote control snake, ice breakers, gum, and a little blanket (he lost his other baby blanket).
 He got to have friends over for a playdate. The noise in my house was deafening.  They had pizza and played and played for hours.

Besides all this, we have had piano, scouts, and have a temple trip planned, a photography class, a school concert, and another birthday party.  Lots to do and lots of fun to be had!

What I learn

I have written about this before I think but yesterday I was reminded of it again and thought I'd write it down here again just in case I haven't written it down.

When I drop the boys off at school I am always struck at how their personalities come out.  They each approach the same situation so differently.

Will gets out of the van with his backpack unzipped and half the time papers are spilling out.  If his hands aren't clasped around a book they are shoved in his pockets.  He has a smile on his face and he just looks around him, taking in the day, watching the other kids walk past.  If he sees a friend he falls into step with them and slowly and leisurely makes his way to class.  The fact that we might be running a few minutes late and that he might be tardy doesn't really have any effect on his rush to get in.  His shirt is untucked and his shoes untied.  

Isaac get out of the van and sometimes he will race Eli in but other times he just walks in.  His face is focused and determined.  He knows where he needs to be and he gets there without allowing people or things to distract him.  His backpack is zipped, his shoes are tied, his shirt tucked in.  He is also happy but his happiness comes from being ready and prepared to face the tasks of his day.

Eli doesn't just get out of the van.  Eli explodes from the van.  The door opens and he hits the pavement running.  His jacket flies behind him and his arms wave crazily above his head while he yells, "Awwwww."  I always imagine he is running into a flock of birds to chase them away.  His laughter echos through the school yard as he runs to class.

I can't help but smile as I watch them each going to class in their very own individual way.  I love and appreciate how each of them attacks life and tasks in a different way.  I love that Will enjoys the moment.  He doesn't get bogged down with what has to get done.  He takes his time, allowing himself to enjoy the little things.  I love how Isaac has a plan.  He knows what needs to be done and he happily does it.  He finds happiness in being dependable.  His focus and determination make me so happy.  I love how Eli attacks life with passion and feeling.  If you have an open field to run in, why wouldn't you take the chance to run in it?  And if you are running, why not run with your arms flailing about you and happily screaming as you go?  His feelings just come seeping out of him and it rubs off on all those around him.

I love these boys of mine.  I love the way their strengths combine to fill our home with goodness.  I love how I learn so much from watching the way they approach situations and life.  I learn about peace and about not letting myself be so anxious about the things I need to do from Will.  I learn from him to slow down and enjoy life.  I learn from Isaac that an organized, clear plan makes life happy.  I learn that as I prioritize and focus on a goal, I can accomplish great things.  From Eli I learn to feel.  I learn that I am here to live this life and I ought to embrace it with energy and feeling.

I am so lucky to have these children in my home.


Do you know what I'm grateful for?

That the reason I've had such a hard time with Piper (as mentioned in my last post) is because she loves me so much.  How can I possibly complain about that?!

That when Will has a chance to choose from the treasure box at school for his birthday, he chooses toys that he knows Eli will like and gives them to Eli for his birthday.

That Isaac says the word literally a few times a day.  Literally. (and uses the word correctly)

That I get to celebrate Eli's sixth birthday.

That Mike is home and not in Kuwait (or Afghanistan for that matter).  That he supports me in developing talents and always makes me feel capable--that he never complains about the things I lack.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The cute girl in our home

 Piper has been difficult for me lately.  It is funny to say that because I think that's what I've been saying since she was born.  She has not been an easy child for me, much like her brothers before her though.  She is a very high-maintenance girl who requires a lot from me and it is draining.  But I love her happy face and sweet cuddles.  Sometimes when I reflect on the difficulties my children have been as babies and toddlers for me I think about how far I've come as a mother and think that I must have had a lot of rough edges that needed smoothing that could only happen with being a mother to these children with such strong personalities.  They sure make my life full (and frustrating at times, yes).

She bit me on Sunday and then when I told her "No" she hit me.  Sigh.  I didn't think we had reached the biting stage yet.  I hope it was a one-time experience.  Probably not but she hasn't done it since.  She regularly hits her brothers.  More like pushes them away.  They try to do a song and dance for her every morning to make her happy and she will have none of it.  They frequently ask me why she doesn't like them.  It's not them.  It's me.  She likes me and wants only me most of the time.

Piperleigh is on a delayed schedule for shots.  She is supposed to have her 15 month shots (we are already a month and a half late for those) but every time I go to get them she gets sick and then when she gets better I just can't bring myself to go to the doctor and make her be uncomfortable again.  I just need to do it and get it over with!  She has done ok with shots so far so I really shouldn't dread it so much.  She pretty much hates it but gets over it quickly (as long as they give her a sucker!) and hasn't had any adverse reactions so far.
Piper is such a girly-girl.  She loves jewelry and pretty things.  She always bring me her shoes saying "shus".  I haven't gotten her to appreciate headbands quite yet.  She will tolerate them ok but they never last on her head long.
She walks around the house still looking for Diamond calling, "Dah-Dah" not to be confused with "Dad".  She loves animals of any kind and gets this super happy smile on her face.  She is also trying to say food which sounds like, "Foo" and she has been saying "Yeh" for yes and no.  When she wants something she will say "Yeh" in a happy tone and when she doesn't want it she says the same word but with a definite shake of her head.

She would have a book in her hand all day if she could.  She loves to just sit and look at the pictures.  Here she is giving her book a hug.  She also regularly drags her blanket around with her anywhere I let her have it.  Her other recent love is drawing.  She knows where we keep our crayons and markers and brings them to me throughout the day so I'll get her paper.  She just sits and scribbles.

Piper loves music.  Her current favorite song is Best Day of my Life by American Authors.  The second it comes on she starts singing, "Uh, Uh, Uh" and the boys giggle and giggle.  She also loves to be outside and makes a bee-line for the door anytime she thinks she can make an escape.
Piper pretty much loves blueberries and loves climbing.  I went to change my clothes after church and came downstairs to find her sitting on the table with a container of blueberries on her lap.

It is so fun to see her grow and learn.  I can't believe she will go to Nursery in a few months.  We love her so much.  

**Today is Eli's birthday!  I will do a post devoted to him and his birthday activities later.  

Monday, March 31, 2014


Mike used to tell me that he wanted a dog all the time.  I didn't grow up with pets.  We had a dog when I was a tiny girl but don't remember her and then when we lived on the farm we found some stray cats but they just roamed the place and didn't really act like pets.  I really did not want a pet and especially not a dog.  I had always had a fear of dogs and never particularly liked them.  We lived near the local pound and every few months (maybe more) we would pile the boys in the car and drive to the pound.  I figured that maybe Mike could get his dog fill from going to see them at the pound.  It was always smelly and loud and seeing them behind a cage was good enough for me.  

We had Eli in April of 2008.  In May Mike asked if we could take the boys to the pound.  I thought, "Why not?  We need to get out of the house."  Off to the pound we went.  The pound had just built these new "visiting rooms" where if you saw a dog or cat you were interested in the workers would bring them into the room and you could play with the animal and decide if it would be a good fit.  This particular day they had dogs already in the visiting rooms and people would just come in and out.  We walked through the pound and the boys and Mike had a good time looking at all the animals.  As we were about to leave we walked by one of the visiting rooms and saw four tiny black fur balls.  Mike wanted to go see them and let the boys hold a puppy so we went in the room and Mike fell in love.  

It was a little of puppies that were all brothers hoping to find owners.  Most of the dogs were typical puppies, busy and excited.  One dog in particular seemed much more calm, enjoying watching his brothers getting the attention.  That was the dog Mike was drawn to.  And I have to admit, I was too.  He was the cutest thing I had ever seen.  I honestly had no idea a dog could be so cute.  I heard myself saying, "If we are going to get a dog, that is the dog we need."  That was all Mike needed.  He was out the door calling for a worker to figure out what we needed to do to take this little fur ball home.  I couldn't believe what was happening.  We were not supposed to be taking a dog home.  I just had a baby six weeks prior.  I had no idea how to take car of a dog and I couldn't take care of a puppy and then three kids three and under.  And I didn't even like dogs.  What was going on?  But it was too late now.  I had opened the door and Mike was not going to shut it now.  

We didn't even have a leash.  The pound gave us a make-shift leash and we went to the van with our new dog and three boys.  He got stuck under the seats of the van on the way home.  Mike ran to the store and bought the basics, dog food, a dog house, and a leash.  

I told Mike that I would not be stuck with taking care of a dog when I didn't even know the first thing about being a dog owner.  This dog was his responsibility, not mine.  He was more than happy to agree with the conditions.  The two things I said I would not do was pick up his dog poop and bathe him.  Having a puppy was interesting but thankfully Mike really did do the majority of the care of him.  He pooped in our house once, in Will's room and peeped few times.  He did not like his kennel or his dog house.  He wanted to be an indoor dog and Mike wanted him to be an outdoor dog.  One night in particular was sad.  We put him outside to sleep and put him in his doghouse.  For some reason Mike had him chained up as well, even though our yard was fenced.  The chain reached a large distance however.  I got up to feed Eli in the middle of the night and thought I heard some noises from the backyard.  I was surprised to hear that it was raining and hoped that the dog was in his dog house.  I went and told Mike I thought he should check on the dog so he got up and went to find the dog in the middle of the yard, his chain all stuck.  He has gotten all tangled and was caught in the middle of a downpour.  Mike checked the dog house and discovered it had huge leaks.  Our poor puppy was drenched.  We moved him in the house and he spent the remainder of the night whining in the kennel.  

Will had asked us if could could name Eli Diamond.  We told him no.  When our black fur ball came to our home we decided that we would let Will give him a name and he immediately choose Diamond.  We knew it was a girl name but that was the name Will wanted and so our new dog became known as Diamond.  

Diamond loved sitting under here out of the sun
Mike used to come home from work and promptly go to the back yard to play with Diamond.  The backdoor was directly across the room from the garage door so he would walk in from the garage and keep going straight out to the backyard.  I teased him that he loved the dog more than me because the first thing he would do when he got home was not to greet me and give me a kiss, but walk to the yard and greet Diamond and pet him and love on him.

It took me a little more time to love Diamond.  Mostly, I just viewed him as Mike's dog and being somewhat afraid of dogs, I was always a little timid around him.  I was always uncomfortable with is need to chew on things, hands included, and his licking.  My love came as I watched the way he interacted with the boys.  I quickly realized that we had found a pretty amazing dog.  His ability to accept the playful beatings of the boys was astounding.  Twice Isaac cut Diamond (once on his lip and once on his nose).  Both times Diamond just laid there, not even yelping.  I secretly wished that Diamond would respond by nipping Isaac and defending himself.  But I was so thankful that we had a dog that I knew I never had to worry about hurting my children.  It just wasn't a part of his personality to be rough or angry.

Diamond loved us, that much I knew.  Our fence in Oklahoma kept him in pretty well but one time we went out of town and when we came home our neighbor informed us that Diamond had dug a hole and squirmed under the fence but instead of running away he was just sitting on the front porch waiting for us to return.  In Ohio we didn't have a fence and the boys would let him out without me seeing and Diamond would wander out of the yard to go exploring.  Most of the time I'd find him rambling down the sidewalk, walking back to our house after his exploring was done.  Many time however he would be brought back by a neighbor and I was always embarrassed to be the house on the road with the escaping dog.  Everyone on the block knew Diamond and where he belonged. I spent many days lecturing the boys about not letting him out without me knowing--he had to be on a chain if he was to be outside.  I'd drive around the neighborhood worrying about our dog, Will would be crying in the backseat, "He was the best dog.  He can't be lost.  We have to find him."  Oh he drove me nuts.

Diamond had a hard time with our yard in Ohio.  We were not allowed to put up a real fence but could put in a chain linked fence, which we would have to take down when we moved 18 months later.  It was too expensive and too much work to seriously consider so Diamond ended up being an indoor dog.  We could not keep him chained up in the backyard for 18 months.  He was thrilled with that new arrangement.

His favorite place was snuggled in Mike's arm

He loved when we had a new baby and they would share their food with him.  Gross
Diamond wanted to be everywhere we were.  As long as he could be near us, he would be happy.  When my visiting teachers in Ohio would come to visit I'd chain him up outside.  The chain was long enough that he could reach the sliding glass door and he would spend the entire time licking the glass like a crazy dog and tried to bite the door.  It was so gross and he would cover the door with slobber.  He just could not stand to see that we were all inside the house without him.
Diamond loved people and anyone willing to pet him was his best friend.  When you would stop petting him he'd raise his paw at you as if to say, "More please."

He loved laying against the wall

We quickly discovered that Diamond had anxiety.  As long as we were home he was fine but if we left him alone he had major anxiety attacks.  He was a regular Houdini, prying the bars open on his kennel and squeezing out through the hole he made, and breaking his chain so he could escape the yard.  The chain and kennel we owned were designed to keep large dogs secure but somehow they were not strong enough for him.  We decided once to try and let him stay in the house while we left, thinking maybe he would feel more calm or comfortable if he was in his normal environment.  It turned out to be a huge mistake.  We came home to find the door jams chewed up and the curtains by the front door destroyed and a large puddle of drool by the front door.  We ended up taking him to the vet and getting some anxiety medicine.

He loved to be where the action was.  As long as he could be near us, he was happy

Diamond loved soft things.  I often found him cuddling with one of the boy's soft toys

Diamond had a special relationship with Laila.  The day we brought him home he kept jumping up to see her.  We lowered her down to his level and he just sniffed her and tried to lick her.  I would put her in the swing or bouncy seat and leave the room for a few minutes.  When I'd come back I'd find Diamond laying right next to her.  It was as if he knew what a special spirit she was from the very beginning.
When she died I often found him laying on the floor in her room, which was odd because previously her room was not a place he regularly went.  He usually just stayed in the family room or in the boy's room where he slept.  It was as if he knew that this was her room and that he could still feel her spirit there and wanted to be near her.
After Laila died we were all depressed obviously but it seemed as though Diamond also joined us in our sadness.  He seemed less interested in life and playing.  After awhile he seemed to become more happy and normal again but I remember asking a friend, "Is it possible for dogs to be depressed?"  It was very sad.
When Piper joined the family he did not have the same interest in her as Laila but he was always very careful near her.  He would often come and sniff her and then go on his way.  Piper loved Diamond from the start, her eyes always following his movements.  

As she became more mobile and active he would often look at me with questioning eyes, "Should I be worried?  Is she going to hurt me?"  After some reassurance from me he would always relax and let her play around him, never moving away or flinching when she would try to poke his eyes.  I would often say, "We don't poke eyes" and she learned how to be soft with him, initially hitting him but eventually learning how to pet instead of hit.

Steven walked him for us after I had my knee surgery
Piper would look around the house for him and when she found him she would sit against his belly and read her book or give him hugs.  I often found her liking him, her way of kissing.  She never seemed bothered by a mouthful of hair.

Lately I had been telling Mike that we needed to really try and be better dog-owners.  I told him he needed to be bathed more and walked more.  Both are things that were difficult for me.  Diamond was afraid of baths and so big that getting him to stay put during his bath was much too difficult for me.  Also, he was too big for the boys to walk because he is so strong that they couldn't control him on the leash.  And I've almost always had a baby in a stroller since we owned Diamond and it was really hard to push the stroller and walk Diamond.  I was feeling that we needed to really make more of an effort to walk him.  The last few weeks Diamond was getting a walk almost every day and loving it.  He was so happy with his walks!  One of our last memories with him was taking him on a walk on the path by our house.  He actually did very well staying with the boys and not trying to run off with them being drug behind him.

We went to Kentucky for Spring Break and left Diamond at a kennel. When I dropped him off I had such a sad feeling come over me.  I called Mike on the drive home and said, "I know it's silly but I just felt so sad when I handed the leash over to the worker.  What if he dies?"  We were both like, "That's silly.  He's not going to die while we are gone."  He was healthy and we had no reason to believe that something would happen to him.  I put my sad feeling aside and we left to Kentucky, sure that Diamond was happy and safe at the kennel.

On Tuesday morning I got a message on my phone from the kennel owner.  He just said to call him because he had some things to discuss about Diamond.  I knew right away that he was dead.  I hoped I was just being over dramatic and called the owner who immediately told me that Diamond had passed away during the night.  I burst into tears.  I had to inform the boys who also burst into tears.

I have had some friends lose dogs and I remember thinking, "It's just a dog.  Why are they this upset?"  And here I was sobbing my eyes out over my sweet, calm, patient dog.  I understood why my friends were so sad.  He wasn't just a dog.  He was a part of our family.  He has been a part of our family for more than half of our marriage.  He has essentially been a part of our family as long as Eli has.

While I didn't love him immediately like Mike and the boys did, I really did love him.  I never really got used to the dog smell he would leave in the boys room or the hair I'd find in our dinners but I grew to appreciate and love him.  I am so thankful for the way he would sleep in the boys room and only come out when the last of the boys woke up and left the room.  I appreciate how patient he was with each of our rambunctious children.  He endured poking, cutting, tail-pulling, etc. and never responded with anything but love.

I recognize that I really had no idea how to be a great dog owner.  I feel regret about the amount of times I'd forget his water was left outside in the frozen weather and he was left with a chunk of ice in his bowl or how long it would go between his baths or how after Laila died we didn't pay as much attention to him for awhile.  But I hope he knows and recognizes that the weeks before he died we were trying to be better.  I have no doubts he is happy in heaven, with a perpetually clean coat of fur, getting as many walks as he wants.

We love him and miss him.