Tuesday, August 30, 2011


There's nothing better than seeing your kids form that sibling bond that they will have forever. This happens when they are young (when the 2nd child is born) and watching it evolve and turn into pure love and adoration is one of the most amazing things a parent can experience with their children.

My boys have that bond. They've got this love for each other, that only these two Riffel brothers can have. And, just recently, they've really started showing this bond...expressing their fondness of each other.

Parker can't go two seconds without touching Andrew: Patting him on the back, rubbing his cheeks, holding his hand, snuggling...these boys love to be near each other all of the time.

Andrew is in love with Parker...always giving him kisses, crawling after him, laughing hysterically at everything Parker does, and making silly noises to show off for his brother.

And, just in the past few days, they've come up with a nickname for one another. "Bubba." It's pretty much all that Andrew can say and he says it all the time (looking at Parker, trying to get Parker's attention, and wanting his brother's undivided attention). Parker started saying it because Andrew said it...and now it is stuck. They call each other Bubba. Parker is "Big Bubba" and Andrew is "Little Bubba."

Now we're all calling the boys "Bubba" and it makes my heart melt to see them smile the biggest smile whenever they hear the other one say it.

I hope this bond that these boys have will last them a lifetime and that one day I'll be able to tell them about how their nicknames for each other originated.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Tricks

Just a little video of Andrew's newest tricks....pulling up, clapping, waving, and giving high-fives! My little man is learning too fast!!!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Juggling Act

Do you ever feel like you are juggling your way through life; trying to keep everything from crashing to the ground? Well, that is our life lately.

These are our craziest months. Don't get me wrong, everything we are juggling is fun: this is the most exciting time at work for both Brandon and I, football season is here, Parker starts school in just a few short days, Andrew is changing everyday and learning so much, Parker is playing soccer this fall, Brandon gets to go on a trip to Las Vegas for work (poor guy!), my schedule becomes busier (but also more flexible), we are planning two of the most special birthday parties this fall (Parker on September 20 and Andrew on November 20), Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner, all of the Boards and Civic Organizations that Brandon and I serve on are getting busy with fundraising activities and meetings, we've got numerous Saturday mornings scheduled with 5K runs (the only way Brandon and I can get ourselves in gear to workout), and, I won't even go into all of the "family time" activities we have planned!

This list is never ending. And, while I love the Autumn months - they are by far my favorite months - I find myself looking forward to winter, when things slow down just a little.

This post is just a warning....things will be slow on this blog for a while, so we can work on our juggling act. But, don't worry, the circus will be gone soon and I'll be able to share it all with you! Life is good!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

9 Months

It's amazing to me how much babies change in their first year of life. If you think about it, they go from these tiny, helpless creatures, to little toddlers that can walk (sometimes run), eat on their own, communicate (sometimes talking), and they have a personality all their own. This was amazing to me when Parker was a baby....and now it's starting with Andrew.

I think the most life-changing month of a baby's life is the ninth month. Well, at least with my two babies.

Andrew turned 9 months old yesterday. In the past month his life has changed so much.

Andrew has the sweetest personality. He is always smiling. And, if for some reason he's not smiling, you can make him smile simply by getting out the camera, playing peek-a-boo, putting a blanket over his head and saying, "Where's Andrew??", or just putting Parker anywhere near him. Andrew is a happy boy.

My baby is now mobile. He is crawling. And, Andrew is not just crawling a little bit, he is all over the place. Following me into the bathroom, chasing Bella and Parker across the living room, moving all about the kitchen and pulling things out of drawers and cabinets, getting into Parker's toys, dragging out puzzles from under the coffee table...this baby is an explorer and he's not afraid of anything in this house. This has been the cause of all of the baby gates....door locks....and every once in a while, the urge to just leave Andrew in his crib playing happily.

What happens next after crawling? Well, this baby boy (just in the past two days) has learned to pull himself up on tables, chairs, the dishwasher, my legs, and anything else stable enough to hold this 22.5 pound boy. Andrew is a fast learner and I am scared that he is going to be walking before long....

Andrew likes to "chow down", as Parker puts it. But, Andrew doesn't want to mess with that mushy baby food. He wants to eat what we're eating. Some of his recent favorites include: zucchini, bread (any kind of bread), pancakes, cheerios, graham crackers, cooked carrots, apples, bananas, grapes (this mushy inside of the grape), watermelon, and noodles. Andrew likes to eat anything that makes him feel like a big boy!!

Andrew finally has a tooth! It poked through about a week ago, and although it's barely there, we can see it and feel it! Yay for baby teeth!

Did I mention that Andrew loves his brother. In fact, today Parker and Brandon went to the Royals game and Andrew and I had a quiet afternoon at home. Well....all afternoon Andrew was a little off. He didn't want to play, but of course, he didn't want to take a nap...and wouldn't you know, as soon as Parker got home, Andrew started dancing. He jumped up and down on his knees and giggled so much we thought something was wrong with him! He loves his big brother and I do believe the feeling is mutual.

And, have I said how much both of my little guys love their dog? Well, the other day, I found both of them giggling in the living room. They had Bella's chew bone and Andrew was holding it for her while she chewed on the other end. This was making them laugh hysterically! I'm not sure if Bella's whiskers were tickling Andrew's leg or if the tug-of-war with the bone was just too much fun, but they love their Bella Girl. And, just yesterday, we taught Andrew how to make the "dog" noise. We ask him, "Andrew, what does Bella say?" He responds by making his mouth into an "O" shape and grunting like a bark. So much fun!

This ninth month is my favorite. Andrew does something new everyday- whether it's something as big as crawling or something as small as a new sound, it's so much fun to watch this baby of mine transform into a little boy who is full of sweetness.

It just so happens that this is Parker's 47th month of life! Crazy, I know...and, don't think I keep track of these months. I had to multiply 4 by 12 and then subtract one, because yes, Parker's 4th birthday is next month! You all know how amazing I think my Parker is...he is smart, has a wonderful sense of humor, is sweet, helpful with is brother, and just an all-around good little boy, but did you know how tall this kid is?! I didn't realize it until we were outside playing the other night with the neighbors. Well, a few of Parker's neighborhood buddies will be 5 in the next couple of months, and when Parker stood up next to them, he was actually taller!

Just look at how long he is!

And....look at how handsome he is! The girls at preschool need to watch out for this guy! (Parker starts preschool soon!)

I love, love, love watching these two little guys grow up! The best part of parenthood is seeing your babies transform into kids and knowing that you did that. You made these little people into what they are today...you gave them what they needed to become the amazing people they are. And, although everyday is an adventure, I love stopping on the 20th of every month just to take a look into my boy's lives. To see what they've accomplished, how they are changing, and (hopefully) how they haven't changed....with a little hope of them staying little just for a little while longer.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pray for This Family

I've never done this before. I've never sent out a prayer request or asked for others to pray for myself or my family. I usually keep these thoughts inside and silently ask for Him to help whoever is in need. But, this family has pulled at my heart, my emotions, and my inner thoughts for this family are so strong that I need your help...I need you to pray for this family, for their sweet baby boy, and most importantly, for this young family, the doctors, and this baby boy to find strength and peace in what He has planned for his life.

This family is young, like mine. They just had a baby....like we did 9 months ago. And, this baby is in the NICU. My bond toward this family is two-fold: This father in this family is the son of two of my volunteers at the University and two people that I have grown to consider friends in the Ottawa community. The other reason: My heart aches for what they are going through. Just 9 months ago, we were also in the NICU...the difference between our two families...I knew we would one day go home with our baby boy and that he would be healthy. I count my blessings.

I am asking you, as my friend, to read this family's blog (http://mandypelton.blogspot.com/). Please read their story. I will warn you: It isn't easy to read. It makes me cry, it makes me frustrated with Him for allowing this to happen to an innocent baby, it makes me yearn to hold my own children, it makes me want to reach out to this family...who doesn't even know I am here, it makes me want to call them...to let them know that they have prayers and good thoughts heading their way. But, all I can do is silently pray for them and share their story for others to do the same.

I pray for peace for this family. I pray for the knowledge of the doctors helping this baby boy. I pray for my friends whose new grandson, son, daughter-in-law, and older grandson, all need them to be strong and willing. I pray for health, for healing, and for this son to one day go home with his mom, dad, and brother. Please join me in praying for this family.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

On the Move!

Every baby learns to crawl. And, it seems like for every parent, this new mobile baby comes as a surprise and we aren't ready for it. Well, this happened in our house today....Andrew is now on the move!!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

When Daddy is Away...

Momma and the boys will play! So, what happens when your husband tells you that he has to fly out to Indiana to fix a server and that he'll be out there for 3 days? What happens when your life at work is super crazy...your tired and feel worn down to almost nothing? Well...I'll tell you what happens when these things happen to me: I pull it together, work through the things at work that are dragging me down, tell Brandon to have a good trip, and I find something super fun to do with my two little guys!!

There's nothing better than being outside when you start to feel super stressed. And, I think someone up above was watching out for me this week because He gave me a week full of beautiful sunshine, cooler weather, a breeze to rustle the trees, sweet little boys, and an idea to spend the ENTIRE evening (almost 3 hours) at the local City Park...just hanging out with the most important parts of my life!

After a long day of staff retreat (which makes my neck hurt, just to think about....not that it was bad or anything, but to think about all of our plans at work in the coming years...just gets me a goin'!), I ran home, changed clothes, packed up some picnic food, and picked up my guys.

There's nothing better than saying to my boys, "Guess what?!" And, hearing their response, "What?!" And then I tell them something that makes them light up with excitement....well, that's just what I did on Thursday evening. You see, Parker loves everything about the park and the fact that we were going to stay there all evening, and even have a picnic, well, in his world, that was like winning a trip to Hawaii would be for me!

Little did I know just how fun this trip to the park would be.

We played on the playground...

We ran over and over the little wooden bridge...

We at a picnic dinner of PB and J, goldfish, yogurt, and grapes...

Grandma came by for a visit...

Andrew had his first trip down the slide...

And, his first ride on the merry-go-round...

And, through all of this fun, fresh-air, and family time, I realized just how blessed I truly am. I realized that I am lucky to have the "craziness at work" because there are so many people out there who don't have a job or a career that they love. I realized that I would absolutely hate my life if everything were easy and if everything went as planned....because, I realized, that if things had gone as planned this week, I wouldn't have had this evening and this time at the park with my little boys.

I am blessed beyond measure.

And, do you know what one of the most special moments of the night was? As the sun started setting and I told Parker it was time to head home, he said: "Mom, this was a fun day. I can't wait until Dad gets home and we can show him our picnic spot and play at the park again."

Yep, he's right, and we will be doing this again real soon (in fact, we've already got plans to do it again this weekend).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pouty Lips

I think Andrew's got this pouting thing down! Just look at this face!

When he first started doing this, it made us roll laughing...which only makes him do it more!

What do your kiddos do when things aren't going their way?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The "Extreme" Reality

I love the show...really, I do...but, after having "Extreme Makeover" in our town for a week, I'm kinda glad it's over.

And...I don't want you to think that this show doesn't do extremely GREAT things for people who are highly deserving....that's not it at all...but this BIG production for our little town has become quite overwhelming for me. And, because this is my blog and because a few of you asked for "my story", I'm going to tell you, straight up, how this past week went with "Extreme Makeover" in Ottawa, KS.

Let me start out by saying...our little town (of around 13,500 people) really stepped up last week. How many of you knew that EVERYTHING for the homes are donated? From the concrete to the landscaping to the dog fountains in the back, every single nail, screw, and paint brush was donated. Not to mention the hours that various workers spent out at the house building, sheet rocking, framing, painting, doing stone work, landscaping, installing the pool, etc...all of that was donated as well. I guess that every time I watched the show, I never thought about how they actually got everything for the house.

Here's what they do. They announced that Extreme Makeover was coming to North East Kansas, but they couldn't say where. They asked for specialized workers and donations of all kinds (even Walmart gift cards) so that they could complete the home. When they finally reveal the family, they keep on asking....and, when the time comes for certain items that haven't been donated yet, they rush out to local businesses to try and fulfill their need by requesting a last-minute donation. Pretty crazy if you ask me....especially for our small community.

Our community rallied though and joined forces to with the construction company and other contractors, to get the house built. And, the only 'real' part of this show is that they DO build the houses in 7 days. Now, I was only out there working for about 7 hours....and in that 7 hours I had the opportunity to be in a scene with Paul. This is the only time I saw any of the 'celebrities' that you see on TV throughout that day. Here's how that went:

Myself and 5 other girls were in the volunteer tent, taking a break after just completing our last task. One of the producers came to the tent and said he needed 5 or 6 volunteers to be in a scene with Pauly....of course we said yes! So, we went to back yard where the concrete workers were making a patio. Here's what the producer said: "You are going to be in this area, pretending to do concrete work. Pauly is going to come out and drive this Gator up from back there. He will say something to you and then you'll help him unload these sprinklers from the back of the Gator. After that, you'll continue on like you're working on the concrete."

Seriously?! He told us to pretend like we were doing concrete work?? It was bizarre! The only fun thing about that 'scene' was that Pauly was, in reality, a very nice person. Very down to earth and friendly...but, do the 'celebrities' of the show actually do any of the work?

The same night that we volunteered, we decided to go to the BBQ fund raiser for this family's house maintenance fund. And, this is where I was most amazed. I saw people at that BBQ that you would never expect to be in support of any worthy cause, but I realized that they were probably there to see someone famous...maybe get on TV. It's sad. It makes me sad to think that this is the reason people would support something. One of my friends (who happens to be the chair of Habitat for Humanity) put it nicely by saying (not quoted): I believe this is wonderful for this Ottawa family and I am in full support of what Extreme Makeover is doing, but please remember that, through Habitat for Humanity, we build around 4 houses per year for Ottawa families.

Well said.

My hope is that the 3000 people who volunteered for EMHE remember the kindness they felt after volunteering and they decide to carry that on to help Habitat for Humanity...we will see.

The most fascinating part of this whole experience, to me, was to go out every evening and see the progress made on the home. And my favorite memory of this is from the night before the house was to be revealed when Paul and Glen Close came out to talk to the small crowd of spectators. They were both very genuine people and that is when Parker and his buddies got their photo op with Paul. They were so excited about that and the little boys truly loved watching the house being built.

Let's fast-forward to the night of the reveal to the family. So, it's one of the hottest days of the year, and it's time for the family to see the home for the first time. We weren't going to go, but my mom volunteered to watch Andrew so we could take Parker out to see the house. Parker was excited- he kept saying that he wanted to see the family. It was very sweet.

Rumor had it that the house would be revealed around 7 pm. We got out there around 6:00 pm. It was hot, it was miserable, and it felt like no one knew exactly what was going on. We were in the section of the spectators that was right in front of the bus and it was crazy. The people were crazy (all for the chance of having two seconds on TV), the heat was extreme, and it all felt a little fake to me.

The worst part was that they kept doing take, after take, after take of the crowd cheering....the crowd being silent for the disabled member of the family, the crowd waving, etc. So, when you see the crowd of people cheering on the family....ask yourself, "Is the family really there?" It was not real. They even filmed Ty running out of the house to greet the family, before the family even got there. They pulled stand ins out of the crowd to make it look like the family was in the limo, they had the producer walk in front of the crowd and told us all to pretend like he was the limo- and God forbid someone look at the camera! LOL!

Maybe it's because I'm not used to the whole acting scene or maybe it's because I was silly enough to believe that everything in reality TV is real, but the entirety of this show seemed like just that....a show. Putting on a show and not really caring about the outcome or the future of this community or the wonderful family with this new home.

But, it was fun....it was extreme...and it's something our community will never forget.

And, now that I've written way too much about this experience (and I wasn't even that involved with it), here are a couple articles from the Ottawa Herald that may make you feel better about everything this family will get from 'winning' this EM home.

The EMHE Reveal

What's Next for the Family

Friday, August 5, 2011

Flash Back Friday: Best Friends!

I've got the two BEST friends that a girl can have. And, today, I got to take a vacation day from work, from the boys, from housework, and from the craziness that we call life, and spend the day catching up with my two best friends.

Jamie: We've been best friends since high school...running together, going to parties together, going to the lake, just hanging out, and going from a couple of boy crazy, immature high school girls to what we are today: strong, independent, smart, and AWESOME women! You've taught me so much about life (especially in the past 2 years) and about just how amazing you are. You are a rock and someone that I know I can always call (even if it's been 3 months) to talk about anything. And, even though you've been in Florida for the past 6 years....it seems like just yesterday that we were walking the beaches of Cancun, talking about all of the things young girls talk about. It was so good to see you today and to pick up where we left off the last time we talked. You know I will do anything for you and that I wish you the very best in this next chapter of life (and I can't wait to come and visit you)! I know you've got an amazing adventure ahead of you and I am so proud of you and proud to call you my best friend!!

(After the 2006 Chicago Marathon that we ran together!)

Julie: I don't know where to start!! We were brought together because of Jamie and ever since the day we really "got to know each other" we've been the best of friends! It seems like we've been friends forever, but it's really only been 6 years or so. Maybe that's because we've been through the most life-changing experience together: becoming mommies. Or, maybe it's because every time we talk and every time we get together we have the most laughs, talks, and fun moments that two people (and couples) can have!! I love it that we both have two boys- that I have to say are the cutest little boys I've ever met! And, I love it that our husbands also consider each other "best friends", although, they would never use that term! Ha ha! You are someone that I turn to with all of my fun and exciting news (remember telling each other we were pregnant for the first time?!) and you are someone that I turn to with sad, scary, and bad news. You are always there and always ready to talk me through it. Thank you, for being here with me...I am excited about continuing this journey of life with you!!

(In 2007....look at how pregnant we are!)

This Flashback Friday represents the history of my friendships with these two girls...and why they are so important to me!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

An "Extreme" Day

I'm sure you've all heard by now (or taken part in it yourself) that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is in Ottawa, KS! Yes, that's right....Ottawa, KS...population under 13,000 people...the Extreme Makeover team is here helping a local, deserving family get their dream home!!

This event is incredible for our community. And, what's even more amazing, is the number of people who have stepped up to make this happen! While we aren't exactly "skilled" workers, Brandon, myself, and our neighbor friends, Jenise and Janine decided that we could volunteer in some way to make this dream home a reality for an Ottawa family.

Today was our day. We went out to the "site" around 7 am. We turned in our signed registration forms and then we waited. And waited. And, after what seemed like forever (really it was only like 8:15...and, technically, our shift didn't start until 8 am), they called out our names, gave us our hard hats, our t-shirts, and we headed down to the construction site ready to work!

It was amazing. There were so many "skilled" workers out there putting their skills to the test....the test against time. And there we were, in the craziness of it all, trying to help! We made sure everyone had water. We cleaned up after the workers (sheetrock, lumber, roofing materials). We trenched in and out of the house, doing whatever we were asked to do. It was warm. It was raining. It was exhausting. But, man oh man, was this an experience we won't soon forget!

We even had the chance to be in a scene shot with Paul DiMeo! (But, no photos allowed at the construction site.)

This house is going to be amazing and there are so many businesses and people who have given so much to make this happen. Did you know that pretty much everything....from the concrete to the pillows is donated? Our little community has really stepped it up this week and I am so proud and excited about this experience!

We did our small part today. We pitched it. We got dirty....and we had so much fun!

I'm not sure when this episode will air, but watch out for it this fall!

Thank you Extreme Home Makeover for an unforgettable experience!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer Camp

Little boys....at the farm....for 5 straight days....it's time for Summer Camp at Grandma and Grandpa's farm!

Mom and Mahlon, you are brave. You happily invited these three crazy cousins to your house for 4 nights and 5 days of some major summer time fun!

Cooper (6), Cameron (4), and Parker (3) had the time of their lives at summer camp...

And, on Saturday when it was time to pick them up, it's no wonder that they all pleaded, cried, and begged to stay "just one more night" at the farm!!

You see...at the farm...these boys get to some pretty cool things.

Like, tie- dye t-shirts,

Paint benches,

Build tents out of sheets,

Climb the climbing tree (over and over and over),

Go on hikes,

And, yes, they even get to pee outside. (Ha ha ha ha ha!)

They ate hotdogs cooked on a campfire, ate juice popsicles to stay hydrated, fed the goats, played with sticks, made up games, acted as goofy as three boys can act....and the best part about summer camp- they have memories and stories that will last them a lifetime.

Memories that they'll always have of their time with Grandma and Grandpa and their special cousin time at the farm. A time when they can just be boys.

Thanks Mom and Mahlon for giving these boys the time of their life at Summer Camp 2011!