Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Teaching kids to ride horses

Oooh ... two blog posts in one day. This is what happen when I spend the day in bed. On a happy note, I still feel sick and fatigued and my glands are still swollen but the horrible pain in my throat is starting to go away after just two doses of antibiotic. Could be the placebo affect, you say? Well, I'll take it whatever it is! I'm just glad my throat doesn't hurt as much as it did this morning.

About a year ago I decided I really wanted to eventually train horses or teach riding lessons and was wondering how I could score a job as an apprentice to a trainer somewhere. I saw an ad for an assistant to a trainer up in Monroe and she didn't even seem to care that I was an intermediate rider at best and was considering hiring me as a working student. The problem was, we just couldn't work out the logistics of me working five days a week up in Monroe (which is an hour drive away on a good day without traffic). So, I turned that down and was very bitter. My friend, Lisa suggested take some courses with the CHA, getting certified and then teaching children. So, that's become my current goal.

The next course for certification is coming up next Spring so I'm hoping I can afford to take it (both finance and time wise) but meanwhile I'm trying to find ways to learn as much as I can on what it would take to teach young children riding. My instructor likes to start with kids minimum of 8 years old and that is the norm at most stables in our area. So, I'm looking at teaching kids 5-8 years old and then I could send them on to my instructor when they're eight. Part of that is because I like kids that age and part of it is that it is a completely different approach that I feel fits me more than teaching tweens, teens and adults. With kids that age it is all about getting a good seat, getting comfortable with horses and learning safety rules. In fact, from everything I've read, kids that age probably won't be using the reins for the first year they're riding, which is ok. Emma-June was on lead line rides for a couple years before she took her first lesson using the reins when she five. And she still has taken lessons with Ilana on the lunge line where she doesn't use the reins, it's all about improving her balance.

I had a bit of a catastrophic experience trying to teach a seven year old about riding with her on a lunge line last week. She had fun but was all over the horse and couldn't keep her legs in the right position without gouging the horse in the ribs. I realize now in retrospect that I didn't go into it with a plan and I was more worried about making the child happy than giving her a solid first experience of "this is how to ride". I also think she was more interested in having fun too and not so interested in having to listen to instruction which if I were to actually to give lessons I would need to ascertain that and have a plan to go with that level of interest.

Of course all of this is a moot point until I someday find myself in a situation where I actually own a pony or two who are mellow and nice enough to be used as lesson ponies, and a good safe place to teach lessons. But that will come in time. I'm not ready for that part yet. I just started reading
Teaching Children to Ride and the next think I need to do is start watching more beginner lessons. I need to be able to see proper form and posture and know when to correct improper form and how to correct it. So, that is my homework for the next couple months is to watch as many lessons as I can and watch as many professional dressage shows on video as I can until I can really see all the details of the right posture. And of course keep taking lessons myself so that I don't stall out at intermediate but keep improving my own riding.

Why I love modern medicine ...

I apparently have strep throat. I haven't had it since I was a kid and it really does hurt. So much so that by this morning the pain was referring up into my ears. I had to drag my sorry ass to the doctor this morning (I really just wanted to be in bed) but they gave me antibiotics and the verbal "pats on the head" that always at least feel emotionally good when I'm sick.

Here in Seattle I hear a lot of negative stuff about modern medicine. I guess I'm really lucky because I've had a couple really bad experiences with Western doctors and a couple really bad experiences with Naturopaths. But on the whole I've had good experiences with doctors. Our family doctor (who is traditional Western medicine) is very sweet, caring and thorough and always takes into account not just our physical being but our emotional being and how we're all doing in the family. My rheumatologist stresses "quality of life" in my on-going treatment and will not insist I take a medication for rheumatoid arthritis that has bad side effects because what's the point of going from one bad symptom to another? And she stresses proper nutrition, checks my vitamin D, calcium and iron levels and stresses that I "get enough exercise if I don't want to be crippled". Even my pharmacist told me today to take propbiotics with my antibiotics to keep my system balanced.

I did see a doctor years and years ago before I had insurance at a sliding scale clinic, who not only was rude to me, but completely misdiagnosed me. But then last year I went to see a Naturopath who told me my ear infection was actually a food allergy to wheat and why don't I pay her hundreds of dollars for a very expensive food allergy blood test and go on a special diet where I had to come back and see her every week (totally wrong diagnosis and would've been a huge waste of money!).

So, I feel like there are good and bad doctors in both types of medicine. And I feel like antibiotics and vaccines really have an important place at least in my life and with my family. And that is not popular with everyone in my social circle. And that's fine for them, but I feel bad for their kids. No one should have to be sick when it's not necessary. And I was just reminded of that today while my throat hurt so badly. It's one thing to deny oneself medical treatment but it's a whole different story if it's your child. One mother actually said to me once that she'd read an article somewhere (Salon or Vanity Fair or something like that) about how the polio vaccine was not necessary for her child because the vaccine was far more dangerous than polio - which wasn't that bad of a disease like the government said and would just strengthen her child's immune system if she got it. I told that to my friend Bill, who is in his 60's so has known people in his life who had polio and I thought his eyes were going to pop out of my head. He exclaimed much louder than he meant to, "Whoooooa! You're kidding!?"

Ah, humans. We are a horrendously self-destruct bunch, aren't we?

There are so many things in this country that make no sense to me and I wonder why other people don't see them and I wonder if I'm the weird one. The propaganda against things that are actually good for you (in moderation) like vaccines, antibiotics, flouride in your tooth paste ... all because of what? Paranoia of "the man"? But then these same people trust "the man" to buy their fancy electronic gadgets and buy their trendy health drinks and herbal supplements that are just being sold by a big corporation who knows how to market to wanna-be-natural hippies. And on the flipside seeing what some neighborhood moms give their kids to eat - like these sodas that are literally just food coloring, water and high-fructose corn syrup, and seeing the crap that's on tv targeted toward kids. My friend, Darius once off-handedly said to me that once you start seeing the truth it makes you an out-cast ... but am I seeing the truth? Or is there really nothing wrong with being so far removed from nature? Maybe that's our destiny is to just become as fake as the food we eat and the plastic products we surround ourselves with and that's just the way it is. But I don't think so.

It just seems like so many decisions I see around me are not made because of coming up with one's own decision of what is good for a person or their family - instead it seems like so many decisions in the world are made by which advertiser the person decides to put their trust in. Which propaganda appeals to them more - the "traditional" or "the alternative" and then once that person chooses they stick with everything from that particular brand of propaganda. They buy everything from the "eco-friendly" companies (even if that is just their brand and not the reality of who the company is) or they stick with the old-school names, not realizing that V8's second ingredient is high-fructose corn syrup so it's not *really* healthy. It's like all thought has gone out of decision making and it's easier just to listen to the marketing agents who appeal to one's idea of their values.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

With some snot for insulation ...

Ok, that subject line will probably drive folks away from this particular entry, but you won't be missing much because I will just be babbling on about horses again as per usual. I was just not able to think of anything to use as a subject and that is something that slipped out of my mouth before I realized it this afternoon. I had asked my instructor's boyfriend to microwave my little diet sandwich for me (so I didn't have to walk in her house in my muddy boots) and he handed it to me on a plate and I said I was just going to eat it in the car and he said, "Careful it's hot," and I said, "I can wrap it in this napkin. And it has some snot on it for insulation to add to that." Then as soon as I said it I thought, "Oh my god - did I say that out loud?" Sigh.

I haven't had a riding lesson for two months now. It started with my daughter having her tonsils out and a long recovery from that, then I caught a cold, then I got very busy, then it snowed and the roads iced over. So, I made a point to go today for a morning group lesson even though I have another cold and I felt pretty crappy when I dragged my butt out of the house at 9am this morning.

I picked up IH since her parents were out skiing all day and she had no way to get out there. One day when I was heading out to the stable with IH and my daughter we stopped at an espresso stand to get coffee and milkshakes and it turned out to be what I call "titty espresso" with the barista wearing a see-through lace bra and a g-string. I had instinctually put my hand over IH's eyes and she swatted it away and said, "Oh, knock it off!" But their coffee and milkshakes were so good that we stopped on the way again today so IH could get some hot chocolate. The barista was acting casual and asking if we were going shopping and I said we were going out to ride our horses and there was a moment where the barista (who was probably only a few years older than IH) looked super uncomfortable like she wanted to explain that she doesn't normally wear g-strings and see-through bras and she wanted to just be in clothes like us just until we were gone and she could put on her sexy persona for the guy behind us, then she seemed to compose herself and relax again. How awkward for her. At least in strip joints normal mom-types with their adopted teenage babysitters don't come through and put a weird twist on everything. But their hot chocolate is so good we're just going to have to keep going there. And hopefully not tell IH's parents.

I was initially signed up to have a lesson with J. - who is another mom about my age and has a horse named Stryker and her teenage daughter has a horse named Cody. But I wasn't ready to ride until 11am (our lesson was 10:30) and then our instructor didn't show up until 11:30am (when three of the advanced riders were scheduled for their lesson). S. was scheduled to ride Sparky in the 11:30 lesson but had plans for the afternoon and asked to join our lesson. I was kind of excited to ride in a lesson with her because rumor has it she is really advanced, plus I am friends with her mother (who was the inspiration for my mom to start riding).

I was already a little tired for a half-hour warm-up and being a little out of shape from not riding more than once a week for the last couple months and having a cold, so I didn't have high hopes for the lesson. Plus, Girlfriend was all amped and uber-hot and fighting me about trotting. When it was my turn for our instructor to "pick on me" (as she calls it) I was messing up all over the place. She gave me a lot of correction then sent me to the other side of the arena to work on it and then things did start to improve. I actually just read an article by Stacy Westfall last night about how to calm a hot horse and it was all similar stuff our instructor was telling me. A lot of giving her more rein - which is really unintuitive when a horse is trying to run off with you. But to give her firm, but gentle half halts but then when I'm not doing that to give her back the rein and not pull on her mouth. It did end up starting to work after a lot of practice and quite a few times of her running off with me.

After we'd each worked on our rising trots twice on an individual level with our instructor, she announced, "Everyone come to the center and dismount. We're going to play musical horses," to which I exclaimed, "Are you kidding? Do I get to too?" and she said, "All of three of you. S. will ride Girlfriend, J. will ride Sparky and you're going to ride Stryker." The last time I was in a group class where they played musical horses everyone got to switch horses except for me because Girl is so hot. I've had to try to convince two of the advanced riders to try riding her, but S. actually hopped off Sparky and said, "Oh yay! I get to ride Girlfriend!" And she did really well. It was also validating to see that she could barely get Girlfriend to trot and struggled a few times just to get her to walk instead of cantering. Part of that is not that I'm better at riding a hot horse than she is, but just that Girl is a one-woman horse and she doesn't focus as well with someone she doesn't know and she knows me really well know and I'm family.

Stryker was sweet but a lot of work to ride. First though, it was luxurious to get on my because he just stood there. Girl at best starts walking as soon as my foot is in the stirrup and before my leg is even over her back and at worst starts trotting really fast. But you really have to push Stryker to even walk faster than a slow plod. And if I don't keep on him he will drift all over the arena. And he doesn't listen to leg aids well at all, and I've gotten used to how well Girlfriend and Atlas listen to leg so I rely on those aids more than anything else. When we were supposed to canter it was hard to get him to actually pick up his feet and canter and he kept breaking a trot, so I finally gave him a whack with the crop and he let out what felt like a huge buck. Last time I was riding a horse who bucked was Atlas and I didn't realize he had bucked - I just felt like I was flying in the wall then righted myself and M. had to tell me that Atlas had just bucked with both feet in the air. I don't know how much of a buck Stryker did, but I really felt the whole front go up then his butt go up which felt like a double big slam on my butt and spine. That kind of pissed me off and made my resolve to ride him well stronger. Our instructor said it was great timing because I forced him to listen to me and he showed me that I could ride out a buck well. I'm not sure knowing I can ride out a buck well is something I particularly wanted to know.

By the time it was my turn to ride Sparky I was exhausted and just wanted to sit and watch how J. did riding Girlfriend. S. was all excited and exclaimed what a great and fun horse Girlfriend is. J. was having a little trouble with her on the ground initially because Girl was a little anxious getting shuffled from one rider to another and J. suddenly asked (which sounded like me and it surprised me) "Is there anything I need to know? Is she going to throw me?" and our instructor said no, she just likes to run and I assured her that Girlfriend is the sweetest horse ever and wants to do whatever you tell her, she just has to hear you over the loud noise in her head telling her to run. But J. got on her and even though Girl started to trot away with her immediately, she did pretty well. Although within the first couple laps around the arena, Girl suddenly bolted at top speed for just a couple steps, then J. had her contained, but not before letting out a bit of a surprised shriek.

I used to be afraid of Sparky because he's a really big, high-strung Thoroughbred who spooks easily. But he did really well. And he has a beautiful canter and is actually really easy to ride compared to Styker, because he's such a well trained dressage horse and so much easier than Girl because I wasn't constantly trying to contain him. It was a lot easier to get him to canter, then when he canters it is so smooth and his gait is so long that it feels like that kind of canter that every little girl dreams of - like you're flying around the arena.

After the lesson was over and we all dismounted and were giving each other back our respective horses S. said, "You know, when J. rides Girlfriend she doesn't look like a particularly hot horse. She looks energetic but she looks calm. Then I got on her and I realized how incredibly hot she was. It was like I wasn't riding the same horse J. was riding. It was amazing." That made me feel really good because S. is such a good rider! Our instructor pointed out (which is true) "J. has done plenty her own time though. She didn't do anything but walk with her for months. It took a lot of work to get here." I was glowing all the rest of the day after that compliment. I do think a lot of it is Girl knows me and knows what I want her to do - which is be a dressage horse. I'm not sure I would be able to ride an equally hot horse that didn't know me as well as I can ride Girl.

Monday, November 22, 2010


As I've mentioned before in this blog, our family dog is an American Pitbull Terrier who we adopted from the local shelter when she was a puppy. I was born into a family with a mom who loves dogs so of course there was always a family dog or two in our house. When I was eight I got my first very own dog - a cockapoo - and my responsibility was to take her to obedience training classes. Dogs and horses were my things as a kid and I actually have a lot more experience training and raising dogs than I do caring for horses, although I'm pretty good with horses.

So, when my daughter was two years old and our five year old bichon, Sherman started snarling at her and even nipped at her I deemed him "aggressive toward children" and we found him a good home with my mom's childhood friend, "Grandma Sandy". I didn't want to adopt another dog who we'd have to re-home because of difficulty with children so I researched breeds, their temperaments and which dogs would have the best chance with young toddlers. Many breeds of dogs are high-strung enough their chances with young toddlers are not good, all the herding breeds (which I love) are a bad fit because they will need to be trained not to herd young children, and many other breeds (such as Beagles and Chows) have very strong natural prey drives (bad with our other pets - cats and chickens). With the right dog from any breed we could've made it work with proper training but I wanted to make sure our chances were really high that it would work. (side note: our older dog was a rescued border colllie/German shepherd who I'd rehabilitated after he'd been deemed ten years before "people agressive" - and he was a great family dog so anything was possible)

All my research showed that pitbulls were my best choice. It was a bit of a hard sell for my husband but when he looked at the statistics and temperaments of pitbulls he had to agree. So, we adopted Willow when she was five months old.

She's four years old now and a great family dog. My daughter can sit on her and climb all over her and all she does is submissively wag her tail. I walk her to school with us every day and tie her up outside while I take my daughter inside and she sits quietly until little kids run up to her and then she wags her tail and gently tries to lick them in the face. Kids will run by her and pat her on the head and say "Hi Willow" and parents will stop and say to me, "Is that your dog? We love that dog!"

So, when I read the comments on local news sites like KOMO where uneducated people say "Anyone who even considers owning a pitbull had mental problems" or on another site a while ago someone said that parents who own pitbulls should have their kids taken away by CPS - it is very hurtful! I have a neighbor across the street who won't let her kids play in my yard or at my house because as her daughter told my daughter, "Your dog is vicious and bites."

I know that in the grand scheme of things this is not such a big deal. If I compare it to how a black family in the deep South must've felt fifty years ago I can't even imagine how painful that must have been. Or I think about how my cousins in Saudi Arabia must feel when they come to visit us. That would obviously be much worse.

But even in it's own small way it is very hurtful. And trying to educate people on the reality of pitbulls and dogs in general is often useless. There are a lot of people who would rather listen to sensationalist propaganda used to sell newspapers and gain veiwers. The truth is dogs are animals and they need to be properly trained and cared for no matter what their breed, but especially if it is a large and strong dog. Negligence to do so is not the fault of the dog and especially an entire breed.

Pitbull are a mix of two types of bulldogs. They were historically bred as farm dogs because of their stamina, strength, courage and low pain tolerance. They were quickly swept up into the sport of dog fighting because of those attributes. Even dogs that come from a lineage of fighting are bred to be dog-aggressive, not people-aggressive. There is a big difference between dog-aggression and people-aggression. If another dog attacks Willow, she will probably fight that dog to the death if no one intervenes. That doesn't mean she is going to attack and kill your child. In reality she is less likely to attack your child than most other breeds, even the popular Golden Retriever. If someone trains a pitbull to attack people it does not mean that pitbull would natural do that. And do you even know that was an American Pitbull Terrier that attacked someone? Look at this page and tell me if you know which of all of these photos is the one of the American Pitbull Terrier?

And dogs do not "snap" any more than your average person "snaps". To say my dog is going to eventually snap and kill someone makes about as much sense as saying that someday I'm going to snap and kill someone.

It is just plain hurtful people. I'm not putting you and your family down so stop passing such offensive judgments on my family.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cold - both in the world and in my nose

I must add something to the previous post about parenting that I try really hard to do and I think was lacking in a big way from my childhood. I tell my child a lot how strong and brave she naturally is. I have been telling her that since she was born in hopes that she will believe me. Because my experience with courage has been that it is not something that certain people are born with, it is actually a belief in oneself that they are courageous that anyone could have. The message I received all through my childhood was that I was frail and sensitive and scared of everything (or at least should be scared of everything) so when I was an adult I believed that I couldn't handle things that other people could. But over the last few years I've been telling myself over and over again that I am emotionally very strong and that I can handle anything with the endless reserve of courage and strength I have deep within me. Thankfully, my mother has come around and says stuff like that too now which helps. It's never too late to get positive feedback from mom!

Anyway, I realized the other day when I was holding my friend's newborn and he started fussing for her, how much I do that. Without even thinking I started gently bouncing him and saying, "You're ok, you'll be fine. Mom's just got to finish some stuff first before she feeds you but you will be just fine and you can handle it." ("Mom" was attending to her toddler and her two older kids so "Mom" is always busy!)

I just finished listening to The Secret Garden on cd in the car. That was one of my favorite books as a kid and it was very calming and pleasant to listen to it while driving. The author talks a lot about the magic of positive thinking and although stuff that takes it too far like the book The Secret make me want to scream, it is important to remind myself that focusing on the positive leads better places than dwelling on the negative. A lesson I've been working on for years now.

And that is good to remember on days like today when I have a cold. And it is going to be super cold outside. Luckily this cold seems to respond well to lots of cold medicine which is a relief. And I am extremely thankful for my warm house when it's going to get down into the 20's tonight.

Speaking of warm houses, my husband seems to be in love with a house in Woodinville that I also like a lot. It's not my dream farm, but it is an awfully nice house and I know I can be happy there. And I was the one that loves our current house so it would be nice to move somewhere this time that he absolutely loves. And I do really like the area and the woods and salmon-spawning creek behind the house. I think we're going to decide if we're going to make an offer this week. Which means getting back into the process of trying to make our little craftsman look like we have not lived here for the last 10 years.

And one last thing. I took my friend H. out to see my horse the other day and it was really an eye-opening experience for me. She'd never even been around horses so it was all brand new to her. All this stuff I don't even think twice about was completely foreign to her. I also led her around the arena on Girlfriend and it was really neat to see someone think that was so neat the way I do! I said I could teach her how to ride and she honestly looked surprised that she *could* learn how to ride. I know to her it seemed like she was too old after spending the day with me who first got on a horse when I was 3 years old, but to me it was a no-brainer. Of course she could learn to ride. Anyone can learn to ride. And that got me thinking about things that I believe I am too old to start doing or that I'm too 'this or that" to do. Maybe people who can already do those things would look at me the same way and think, "Of course you could do it! Why not? It's only your belief you can't that is keeping you from trying and learning." So, that was a good reminder for me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The accidental attachment parent

There is a trend in the horse world called "Natural Horsemanship" that I was unaware of when I got my horse two years ago. The first person to tell me about it had a horse that did some neat tricks, but she was harsh and bullied and scared her horse to force him to do what she wanted and I didn't like that. It seemed cruel and it was dangerous. My instructor poo-pooed the trend and I liked how she worked with horses better so I decided to poo-poo the trend myself. She has spent her life observing horses and reading everything she can on how they think and although she has a few stand-bys that don't change - always be herd leader for instance - how she works with each horse seems to change a little depending on each horse. So, watching her is like watching someone who instinctually knows how to deal with every individual horse she encounters (but the reality is the "instincts" came from years of education and experience). So, it was a surprise to find out after doing some research that what my instructor does is "natural horsemanship" and what the other woman does is the opposite of "natural horsemanship".

Confusing, huh? Well, I've run into the same thing in the world of parenting. Here in Seattle "Attachment Parenting" is a big trend and I've actually had some people who are very involved in the "attachment parenting world" put me down in some very rude ways. I've been told I am cruel and neglectful for "forcing my baby to sleep in her crib", I've been told I didn't try hard enough and was incredibly selfish when I chose to take medication for rheumatoid arthritis so I had to quite breast feeding when my baby was 3 months old. I have been told that I am evil for disciplining my child with "threats and punishment". And of course, I should be parenting by instinct instead of consulting professionals and people with lots of experience on what is best for my child. Oh, and don't forget, I had my baby in a hospital, had an epidural and even had the god-forbid worst thing - a C-Section and I didn't get to hold or even see my baby for two whole hours after she was born. So, I started really disliking attachment parenting and not wanting anything to do with it.

How I parent is pretty simple. I think about what my child needs to be a happy, healthy, independent adult and then I read everything I can and ask professionals and people with experience how I can best help her to get there. The best resource I have is when I meet a really well-adjusted teen or adult, if I can talk to their parents, I straight out ask them how they raised their child because it obviously works. Luckily, there are some families at our church like that and our babysitter is such a great kid that when I can I try to pick her parents brain so that I can emulate how they've raised her.

So, here in a nutshell is how parenting has looked for me. I never slept in the same bed with my daughter because it's a tall bed over hard wood floors and is barely big enough for me and my husband sometimes. There is a big crack between the top of the mattress and the wall (perfect for a baby to get stuck in) and we sleep with the blankets up around our ears (perfect to accidentally suffocate a baby when pulling the blankets up on accident while exhausted and half asleep). We felt it was better for our baby to sleep in a bassinet next to the bed the first couple months then in her crib after that. She seemed very happy with that. We do "snuggle" with her in her own bed if she has a nightmare or is just feeling like she needs some extra parental time.

Our daughter loved to be swaddled as a newborn and loved to be worn around in a sling, so we did that a lot. We figured out what made her happy and that's what we did. Sometimes it was sleeping in her little vibrating chair while being swaddled. I had her in the hospital because it was so clean and comfortable as opposed to our messy house with pets everywhere and I did not want to clean up after the birth - I wanted someone else to do that. Also, one of the Hasidic rabbis at the temple next door to my work gave me a message from his wife (a midwife) "She asked me to beg you to have your first baby in the hospital. She says it is not safe otherwise." As it is, the labor went all wrong, I had an emergency C-Section and my daughter was immediately put on a respirator and whisked off to NICU for two hours because she couldn't breathe on her own. I truly believe if I'd tried to have that birth at home my daughter would've died without the quick intervention of the doctors and the medical equipment that was right there in NICU.

Discipline was a hard one for me because I knew nothing about it. My parents were old fashioned and did the typical spanking when you were bad, yell "Shame on you!" and "What is wrong with you?" and the typical Leave it to Beaver type discipline. I didn't want to do that, but I also did not want to go with this new trend of no discipline because we don't want to "inhibit the child" because that would raise a confused and spoiled child who didn't understand why in the real world they had to follow rules and there were consequences for rules. So, I did a lot of research on discipline. A LOT. Once again - best resource has been any parents I could find of happy, well-adjusted adults.

What my research showed and what works for me is from the get-go to teach my child that there is "right and wrong" and if you do the "wrong" there will be consequences. Our consequences are time outs and losing privileges. So, if my daughter screams nasty stuff at me she loses tv privileges for example. Because in the real world outside our family there will be consequences. Plus, time outs work really well for a child to be alone and come down off their huge surge of emotion (usually anger if they're in a time out). Then after the consequences we talk together about why what she did was wrong and ask her what she learned from the experience. So, yes, I am one of the few parents you will see in Seattle yelling, "You get your butt over here now, Missy, or you will be in big trouble!" I've even had a parent say to me in public, "How could you threaten your child like that? How awful!" Whatever. You're lucky I didn't threaten you too nosy-mom.

The bottom line is, I don't fit into the "Attachment Parenting crowd". And they don't want me either. So, what a shock to one day not too long ago read some Dr. Sears (the grand-daddy of attachment parenting) and talk to a child psychologist who preaches attachment parenting - that what I do IS attachment parenting. I look at who my daughter is as an individual and I taylor my parenting to who she is and what is best for her. I do the same with other children when I babysit them - I look at who they are and what I might do with my daughter wouldn't work for one of them if they have a very different personality than hers. I make my decisions on how to parent her on what is best for her - not what is trendy or what a clique of moms tells me I should do.

In short, there are a lot of parents out there who are very self-righteous about how they are the perfect "Attachment Parenting Mommies" but they have insecure, angry, unhappy kids. They are focusing on the externals - stuff they can brag about in their blogs and over coffee at the trendy kid-friendly cafes - but they aren't really focusing on their child and what that child needs as an individual in order to thrive as an adult. If the child needs discipline they won't do it because they don't want to look bad in their clique. If the child needs autonomy they don't want to do that because it doesn't follow the rules of their "scene".

Just like the woman who thought if her horse did Parelli tricks she was a Natural Horsewoman - when in reality she was doing the exact opposite. Attachment Parenting is not how you look or what external rules you follow - it's about not listening to any of that and listening to your child and making the hard decisions to do what your child needs - even if it doesn't make her happy at that moment or it doesn't look pretty. I could be completely full of shit, but that's what I've taken from Dr. Sears and all I know is I have a happy, healthy, independent child who is a joy to have around and is well-liked. So, I'll keep doing what I'm doing and slogging along hoping for the best and relying on the seasoned parents with happy kids to help me with advice - not some trendy, judgmental scenesters.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

lost in suburbia

I just got back from looking at another house for sale in Woodinville. This one is definitely "in the suburbs". But in back of the yard is a nature preserve with a creek and not far away is a big park with walking trails through the nature preserve. But you just can't deny it is in the suburbs. It looks like the other houses, there are houses really close to it on either side, but it's also next door to a bit of wilderness so it is nice. And I have to be honest, it's a really nice house. I think I could make it work to be happy there even if I can't go to sleep listening to elk. More like go to sleep listening to the freeway on the other side of the woods. It's hard to say. I could go either way so this one is up to my husband. It's pretty, it's by nature and it's close to our stable and it's in a great school district. If we can't live on a farm then I could compromise for those things.

Sunday I had an excellent day at the stable which put me back in a good mood after feeling very stressed out for the last couple weeks. I can't remember which thing I was stressed out about, I've just been kind of stressed and weirded out ever since the horror of my daughter getting her tonsils out and then quitting the PTA Board and shutting down my non-profit.

I went out with a couple other people who keep their horses there - M. with the wild Mustang, Atlas and I. with her school horse, Dalla she leases. We ended up playing musical horses and I got to ride my horse, Atlas, Dalla and Scandal who is very well trained dressage horse. I rode Dalla bareback which was good for me and we even trotted a little. I was feeling over confident and foolhardy enough to even want to try cantering bareback with her but then I decided not to push it because I am kind of old and don't need to be falling off any horses - especially not one taller than 15 hands going at a canter. I also rode Atlas without stirrups which was good for me. I did not try cantering without stirrups with him either because earlier I'd been trying to get him to canter and he was doing this strange gaited canter and I gave him a swat on the butt with the crop and to me it felt like he swerved toward the wall as though he was going to run straight into the wall, so I quickly opened the rein to my left and used my right leg (the one next to wall) forcifully and led him away from the wall, and I felt like during that moment that he must've lost his step or something because for a moment I felt like I was going to fly straight forward into the wall, then I caught myself and continued to move him out. It turns out that in that split second that I thought he'd lost his balance, he had actually let out a big buck - as M. said, "Both back legs came up off the ground!" But I handled it! I felt discombobulated and said, "I hope no one saw that!" but M. said that I rode it well. Yay!

Girlfriend had a tantrum with M. - more than I've ever seen her have a tantrum before. M. had just gotten on her in the middle of the arena and I was off to the side with Atlas, over at the mounting block adjusting his stirrups and checking his girth before I got on. Atlas is pretty big - both a bit tall and very bulky so I didn't really see what was going on in the rest of the arena. I heard M. ask in frustration, "How do you get her to stop!" and I said without looking up, "Loose reins, gentle half halts, say "Whoooa" in a quiet voice and totally relax your body and lean back." M. yelled, "I AM doing that!" and I turned away from Atlas and Girlfriend was turning in small circles bucking like a little rodeo horse. It was like a reining twirl except she was bucking at the same time. I asked M. if she needed me to come stop Girl and she said no, she just needed to know how she (M.) could stop Girl herself. I thought about it a second then said "See if you can back her up," which M. did. Then after they backed up, M. let her walk on and she did that just fine. In fact she did fine for M. the rest of their ride except when M. tried to trot with her and Girlfriend just took off - but then it took me months before I could get Girl to trot for me instead of cantering or galloping.

I've been thinking a lot about what prompted Girl's behavior - trying to figure it out because M. is a far more experienced rider than I am. I realize now that M. must have wanted Girl to actually stop, which is really hard to do when you first get on her, and unless I actually need to dismount I never stop her right when I get on her.

A little over a year ago I'd been told enough by some other riders with more time riding than me, that Girlfriend needed to be trained to stand still at the mounting block and to not walk or trot until I told her too. They said I was ruining her letting her get away with that. So, I tried one day to be very forceful with her and make her stop and stand still as soon as I got on her and she got really angry with me too. In fact she pinned her ears and bucked then too - although not as badly because she is a one-woman horse and tends to trust me and relax more with me than anyone else (except her previous owner).

Since my attempt to teach her to stand still at the mounting block was such a fiasco I had asked our instructor how to do it and she said that with my horse it wasn't worth it and would probably never work - she's too hot and she'll go crazy if you get on her and force her to stand still, so just get on her and get her to walk and let her keep walking until the loud buzzing of "RUN RUN RUN" slows down in her head. I should've told M. that - don't try to stop her when you first get on unless you really have to dismount. Because she will actually stop if you start to dismount. And she must've been turning circles because with a normal horse if you turn their head far to the side they will stop for you. I forgot to ask M. if she was trying to get her to stop by doing what I've heard called the emergency stop where you pull a horse's head off to the side and they'll stop running. Obviously, with Girl it doesn't work, it just puts her into a reining twirl (which she has been trained to do but I don't know how to do so we never do together).

Meanwhile, one of the newer guys at the stable who's been taking lessons is getting two new polo ponies this week! Weeee! I'm hoping he'll let me ride one of them eventually because polo ponies are also of the race horse mentality like Girlfriend and I bet they're really fun to ride! I've been looking up what polo is all about and it does look kind of fun. But not as fun as mounted shooting looks.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Having an adverse reaction to election results

I'm not very happy with the election results I'm seeing in the state of Washington (where I live) this morning. Although Patty Murray is not my favorite she is a far cry better than Rossi and at least she is ahead right now, although only barely. And privatizing liquor sales did not pass which is good. What amazes me is in the comments section on the local news how angry so many people are that those liquor initiatives did not pass. Did they not read about where the money from liquor sales goes? Did they not read about what the outcome of the lack of state revenue would be (cuts on social services including police services, fire department, emergency medical service)? There was all this hype (paid for by places like Costco and Sams Club) saying that the State would save a bunch of money on liquor sales advertising and that money could go to social services which hello! Is a lie. When was the last time you saw a tv ad, billboard or internet ad touting the sale of Jack Daniels at your local State owned liquor store - paid for by your liquore store and not the manufacturor? The reality is if you do a little research is that the revenue from those sales goes to support community services and to take away that revenue would be catastrophic and instead your hard-earned money would be going into the pockets of Coscto shareholders at the expense of police and fire servics.

Ok, so at least those two initiatives didn't pass. But the tax on candy, bottled water and soda was repealed which means far less revenue toward education. WTF people! You would rather save ten cents on your jumbo Three Muskateer and have more cuts to our already sub-par public education system? Give me a break! It's a tax on stuff you DON'T NEED. If you don't want to pay the extra few cents then don't buy that extra Jolt cola. And the income tax on the rich didn't pass. The income tax that would only affect individuals making $250k a year or families making $400k a year. Do you know WHY it didn't pass? Because the CEO of Microsoft and Jeff Bezos spent literally millions of dollars campaigning against it and telling people "You're next! First they tax us, but then they'll come for you! Don't be fooled!" which is total bullshit. What they were really saying is "We are selfish and don't want to pay any more taxes but we don't want to beg you to vote the tax out based on that so we're going to scare you with lies in order to get our way." Aaaaaagh! Our state is already woefully behind the ball in social services for the mentally ill and health and hospice care for the dying and education. It's just pathetic. We have so many millionaires/billionaires here and yet we have very sub-par education, especially in the Seattle School District. The only reason our elementary school does so well is we have a PTA that is rich enough to have a $100k + budget to fund things the school district won't - like our librarian, school nurse, counselors, art program just to name a few. If we were in a poor area where people couldn't donate so much money we wouldn't have a librarian, or a school nurse or a counselor for special ed. kids. Oh, your kid is autistic? Well, if you can't afford to hire private counselors and special ed. teachers yourself than screw you. It's not our fault you're not rich. If you had been smart enough to only give birth to typical children since you're poor and can't afford the expensive counseling needed then you wouldn't have this problem. Jesus fucking Christ.

I'm going to start researching other states and see if there are other states where people are less likely to fall prey to the propaganda machine and will actually think these things through and where the majority of people want community and teamwork in their community - not a bunch of "Fuck you - I've got mine and I'm hanging onto it. I don't care what happens to you. But when the fall-out of no social services hits I will complain loudly about it even though I'll refuse to do anything to fix the situation."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Should be working on NaNoWriMo

I said I'd do NaNoWriMo this year - that is National Novel Writing Month. It's a challenge to write a novel in a month of at least 50,000 words. It doesn't have to be good and the point is to get in the exercise of writing, as opposed to writing a little, going back and editing and obsessing on each little piece and then burning out and never finishing it. I hadn't been interested in doing it for years because I've already written three novels, but I'm going to try it this year because I've had such a huge lack of motivation to write down the stories that are hanging out in my head. And I have three good novels in me right now that I just need to find the motivation to get them written. So, I started yesterday and managed to write 855 words. To reach my goal I should've written twice that. And I haven't written anything today and am being a bum and writing in my blog instead.

But I have to write about my weird fight with my horse today. I took my friend, Jen's mom, Paula out to the stable with me just for a day out for her. She's in town from Columbia, MO to help with Jennifer's kids while she is in Sweden this week and I like her and enjoy her company so I invited her out to the stable with me. Being in the country is nothing new for her though because she's lived on a farm for years. But she seemed to like it. Anyway, I was telling her about Girl and what a great horse she is, but then when I got out to ride her she started acting up more than she has for awhile now. I think it's because I haven't had a lesson now for at least a month between my daughter's surgery and then having to catch up at work and me getting sick too.

I think I handled it ok though. I know that I'm not supposed to end things on a bad note so I kept that in mind and just stumbled through. Walking was fine and Girl and I worked on leg yields because I'm doing pretty well to the right but don't do as well to the left. At least I could tell when she wasn't straight and was moving off her front end more than her back end. So, we practiced those for awhile and she did well. Then we did some trotting and she did really well so I tried a canter, and she got a little excited and bucky, but our second attempt at cantering was much better.

My big mistake was trying to go into a canter from a walk. I don't think I should do that until I do it in a lesson because Girl is trained not to go into a canter from a walk, but a full on Western haul-ass gallop. And that's where things went downhill. She was irritated with me because I wanted her to canter and she had gotten all excited to finally get to do some racing. I did get one good circle of cantering in, then wanted to go back to trotting. But she did not want to go back to trotting and pinned her ears and bucked a little. I went through all the stuff I've been learning - loose on the reins with gentle half-halts, quiet hands, sit back and tall, contact with my heel but relaxed upper legs - and she was just get angrier because she wanted to run. Finally, after a couple serious little bucks and throwing her head really hard with her ears pinned I stopped, then asked her to back up. She reluctantly backed up and threw her head really hard, so we just stood at a halt (ok, I told her to stand at a halt and she did for 30 seconds then started dancing). Then we walked in a circle, then I asked to her halt, then had her back up again and this time she backed up really gracefully and nice so I praised her and gave her lots of pets. Then we walked around the arena a couple times and we tried trotting again and this time she did a lot better. She didn't do as well as I know she can do now but she stopped pinning her ears and didn't buck when I gave her half halts when she broke the canter.

I was really proud of myself for handling that. My instructor was home but she was running around doing stuff and didn't stop to talk to me so I figured she was too busy to be bothered today. Plus, someday I'm going to have to start practicing using the stuff I've learned and not go running off asking for help before I even try.