Sunday, July 31, 2011

Toadie Toad Toad

I went out to the barn this afternoon to give Sinatra some time out in the pasture and work with Toad a little.  She starts her five-day-a-week formal training a week from Monday so my homework this week is to "get out every day if possible and work with her and bond".   We had a nice time today, she was very good as usual with grooming even though right on the other side of the wall another horse was galloping full speed around the arena being free lunged.  Toad was perking her ears up and getting tense in her body like "Hey - are we supposed to be running now? I don't want to miss out!" So I just talked to her and said we were doing our own thing and didn't need to pay attention to what the other horses were doing.  She did very well at calming down and eventually ignoring the ruckus on the other side of the wall.

Lunging started out really great and she was doing everything I asked with calm, graceful transitions between her gaits.  Then I switched to go the other direction and she started doing that thing where she'll walk around part of the circle then just turn in and walk up to me and stand there like she's the most exhausted horse in the world and can't possibly work any more.  I know it's BS because at that point we hadn't worked hard enough for her to even break one bead of sweat.  I just kept sending her out on the circle and it just kept happening.  Over and over.  Twice I had to stop and say "We're just going to stand here," because I was so frustrated.  No one has ever taught me what to do in that situation so the second time we were "just standing there" and I was staring out the arena door because I didn't want to look at her or give her any inclination I wasn't frustrated with her, I had an idea. 

I sent her out on a really short lunge line, so short that when I held the lunge whip up and straight out it was only a few inches from her shoulder, and I had her walk in a circle like that so that when she tried to turn in towards me her shoulder would bump into the lunge whip I was holding up and pointing toward her shoulder.  Sure enough she started walking in a circle just like a good girl, so I let the lunge rope out longer and longer until she was walking in her normal large circle around half the arena!  Then I quit with that because I thought it was a very good, happy note to end on.  I was very proud of both of us for working that out!

I told her she had earned her "treat" which was to be let off the lunge line to run and gallop like a crazy girl around the arena if she wanted.  But she didn't want to.  She just wanted to go nuzzle with Rolls, whose stall is next to one side of the arena, and roll a couple times and eat some hay that had fallen into the arena by Roll's stall.

Sinatra was also on very good behavior today (comparatively for Sinatra behavior) and enjoyed his time out in the pasture.  I have noticed he is definitely not biting as much.  I hope that holds over even after he transitions to live somewhere else.  When the farrier was doing his shoes yesterday I said I hoped I wasn't going to be yet another bad foster home that they regretted sending him too and she said she didn't think so and that even though I wasn't that experienced, the ground work I have been doing with him is paying off.  I hope so!  Since he's been with me he is really good at coming to me in the pasture, he leads really well and gives me personal space (the majority of the time as opposed to the minority of the time) and he is biting a lot less.  And he doesn't rush the stall door at all when I go into his stall now either.  He actually politely steps back when the door opens.  So, I hope our few months together did do him a little good even if I don't have the skills or experience to help him move on to the next level of gentlemanly behavior.

Here are a couple photos of Toadie from today.  The lighting was awful.  But she was being very cute with Rolls.  And yes, I'm getting her a new halter that says "Toadie" on it since the barrel racing halter is really not her style.  I'm going to give that back to her previous owner when her new one is delivered.

                            Rolls and Toadie love each other.  They are just about the same age.

                                                   Rolls does not like to be ignored.

She could be running around galloping and acting race horse like but after work she just likes to hang out by Rolls and today there were bits of scattered hay to snack on.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Back to my teenage years at Skate King

My daughter's friend C. had a birthday at Skate King this morning and on I figured since I was there I may as well skate too.  Back at my daughter's old school in Seattle she had the Best.PE.Teacher.Ever who had all sorts of fun things in class including a roller skating unit.  So, after she got used to them again she did really well and kept up with the other kids just fine.  In fact, she was the only kid in our group who had the courage to stay in the rink to play Red Light/Green Light.  She fell down a lot but only had one fall that hurt enough to make her cry.  But after some hugs and some encouragement to get back out there and get her confidence back she was just fine.

I may have had more fun than my daughter.  A few of the dads skated and two of my mom friends skated too although my friend Kit. didn't despite all my coaxing.  I did take Kit.'s four year old daughter out for a lap around the rink and she did really well, especially when they decided to do a game and her daughter had to let go of the wall and skate across the middle of the arena just holding my hand instead of the wall.  I was holding the wall and going really slow at first, but after about ten or fifteen minutes it all started to come back to me and I was able to maneuver really well. In fact, at one point I had to make a sharp turn and rush over to my daughter when she fell down and started crying and I realized the stuff I was doing with my feet to skate quickly in a curve were kind of complex and that I would not have been able to tell someone "use your feet like this to skate quickly in a sharp curve" - it was completely by body memory.

That fascinates - how one's body can remember how to do something even if I can't consciously remember how to do it.  That happens sometimes when I play piano, I can't remember what the notes are consciously, but if I can remember the first few stanzas, if I play it over and over a few times, my hands will automatically start playing more parts of the song without me being able to consciously say what's next. 

Unfortunately, now that my daughter is seven years old, I have gone from being "fun mom" to "embarrassing mom".  So, when they were playing some really fun songs like Mama Mia by ABBA and I was dancing around while skating that was just too much for her and she demanded I stop.  So, I had to skate off and hang out with my mom friends because they appreciate adults having fun.  Ok, I guess I was never "fun mom" with my daughter.  I remember at the very first KEXP Father's Day dance at a club in downtown Seattle called Chop Suey, I was dancing to some hip hop music with other parents and their kids and my daughter wasn't even quite three and she stomped her little pink high-top Converse foot, stuck her hand straight out at me and exclaimed, "Top Danthing! You embarrathing me!"  Sigh.

One bummer of the morning was that one of the kids there, Tommy, is friends with all the kids who were at the party came and tried skating even though he had never done it before and he was obviously very anxious.  I tried to give him a pep talk about empowering it would be to practice and be able to do and gave him some simple tips like "bend your knees" and "lean forward for balance".  I know him from volunteering once a week at my daughter's school and he seems like a nice kid and I can relate to him because I was such a super-anxious child. Then I lost track of him until a half hour later I saw him actually out in the middle with two of the other boys in the group and he was skating all by himself and doing really well!  Then a bit later I saw him lying on the his back crying really hard and I skated over and kneeled down next to him and by then a bunch of adults had circled around him.  He appeared to not be physically injured but he was hysterical and hyperventilating because it had scared him so much to fall down.  And it is scary - I fell down once (on purpose as a practice fall) and it felt pretty far down! And it did hurt my butt for a few minutes more than I remembered it did.  So, I'm sure it was an unpleasant shock to him.

But he was so terrified I knew he needed what I needed as a kid when I was in a panic like that - a steady, stable adult to emotionally latch onto and let them emotionally pull him back up out of his panic and help him learn how to calm himself down.   The same thing a spooky horse needs basically.  So, I put my arm on his shoulder and said, "I know that was so scary, Tommy, but you're ok.  It will stop hurting soon.  Breathe with me.  Just breathe."  The teenager working as DJ and overseeing the rink had skated over and I said, "He's ok, it just really scared him.  He just needs to have space to calm down."  Other parents were asking him where it hurt and he had choked out his butt so everyone was appeased that he was just scared.  So, it seemed like all he needed was to calm down and then have a lot of gentle reassurance to calm down and get his confidence back. Or at least just take his skates off and calm down then enjoy cake and other party stuff with his friends.

But next thing I know his mom has run out on the rink and is shooing us away and was literally ripping his skates off and throwing them away from him, and picking him up to run off the rink.  Then I missed what happened because another mother asked if I was the mom with my daughter because she'd fallen down pretty badly, so I went to the other side of the arena to check on her.  She was fine, she'd just taken a big tumble.  So, once I'd helped her up and skated with her back to the other side of the rink where the exit was, Tommy and his mom were long gone.  I guess she just grabbed him up and left in a hurry.  I was really frustrated by that and wanted to say something to someone and talk about it because it really upset me.  But I didn't want to be offensive or sound like I was bad-mouthing his mom.  But it was the totally wrong thing to do for a child who had been so scared. I just remember all too well what it felt like to be a hyper-sensitive, anxious kid and how it felt like a bottomless pit of fear when there was no adult to guide me through calming down.  My daughter is the same way, she is very fearful of challenging physical activities and very cautious to try anything new, so I work very hard at teaching her self-soothing techniques and constantly bolstering her confidence.  So, now she's out there roller-skating and keeping up with her friends, and she rock climbs and swings around on the belay rope, and rides little bratty ponies like Tiny and gets back on when she gets bucked off.  I don't like to publicly pat myself on the back much but I've worked hard to help her manage her natural inclination toward anxiety that she inherited from me, and I think I've done a really good job so far!

I was trying not to stew about all this when Kit.'s husband came over and asked where Tommy had gone and Kit. said they had rushed out after he fell down and Kit.'s husband got all frustrated and said that was a horrible thing to do, now Tommy will be really scared to ever try to roller skate again and the mom should have just helped him calm down and then encouraged him to try again.  Otherwise every time something goes wrong it will just build up his fear.  Then he talked about how when he was a boy he was kicked in the stomach by a horse and his uncle made him stand in back of the horse until he wasn't scared anymore.  Kit. and I looked at each other and both said at the same time, "Ok, that's just taking it way too far! That's just crazy!" then added, "But we see what you mean," to her husband.

I couldn't help but wonder about Tommy the rest of the party.  If it had been me I would've not only been horrified by how scared I'd been and sure that it was traumatic because my mom was freaking out too, but I would feel left out because I couldn't stay for the rest of the party and I would feel isolated and different from my friends on some level because why did they not hurt themselves roller skating and why when they fell down did they not have a panic attack and why were they able to hold it together to get to stay for the whole party?  I wanted to just sit with him and tell him, 'Because they have parents that have taught them how to calm and comfort themselves and when they can't do that their parents are there to grab their hand and emotionally guide them through how to calm down until they remember themselves.  And you can do it too - you're no different than them. You can do that too.  You are just as strong and brave as all your friends."

Or maybe I want to go back in time and tell that to *myself* as child.  Sigh.

Friday, July 29, 2011

I'm now officially Tuff Toad's mom!

This morning in what was a too quick of a transaction between me and Tuff Toad's now previous owners.  I was in a hurry to get to my daughter's performance on her last day of jump rope camp.  She was very excited and really wanted to me to be there on time.  So, we didn't get a chance to talk as much as I wanted to, but it is all official now. The papers are signed and she is now mine.  I'm a little freaked and quite excited.

I've been stressing about who was going to do her initial 90 days of under saddle training because the trainer in Sequim who had been recommended to me raised her price recently so it seemed like a better idea to have her nearby where I can be a part of her training.  But I don't know any trainers except Trainer K. and Trainer V. and they both said they are no longer starting horses under saddle.  I did my stint of begging Trainer V. to go back to starting horses and after Trainer K. initially declined I was considering going ahead and begging her.  But I was also looking into recommendations from friends and my vet.  Then yesterday Trainer V. said she's had a talk and she and Trainer K. had agreed they will both train Toadie and split the cost.  What a relief! I won't have to send her away for training and I can be there to watch exactly what they're doing to train her so that when I start riding her I will have first hand knowledge of how she's been trained.

I had a good riding lesson with Girlfriend.  I've been working on my canter.  Girl is really bouncy and it takes a super good seat to ride it smoothly, so we're working a lot on that.  But for me it's like patting my head and rubbing my tummy because I need to keep my hands low and relax at my shoulders, and I need to keep my knees relaxed and my toes up, but when I think about my toes going up, my shoulders would lock up, and when I'd relax my shoulders my toes would go down.  Bah.  I did start to get it though and did not bounce quite as much.  After our lesson while we were cooling off I rode her out of the arena and out to the back of the property.  There's a muddy trail that goes back into a vacant lot and I tried to ride her back there but she'd have none of it.  She's scared of going out into vacant lots by herself.  But she did really well walking around the property.  I wanted to try that out so that soon we can ride a couple blocks away to the nearby trail when we have someone to come with us. 

My daughter and I are watching a documentary about dogs which is really interesting.  They brought up a study in Russia about taming silver foxes through selective breeding and how after fifty years the tame foxes began to change in appearance.  That's just one of the interesting studies they brought up.  Although, one of the studies I thought did not have a control group and the results were too nebulous because there were too many external factors not taken into account, but that still didn't change that it is an interesting show.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sometimes the city is ok

I took the dog out for a walk while I was at work today and noticed a musician setting up in the cobblestone square in Pioneer Square.  I used to live a block from there and I don't even know what it is called ... it's just one of the cobblestone squares next to cafe's and art galleries.  My co-worker and I were planning to go out to lunch so I suggested we get some to-go food and eat in the square.  I got the "chicken bowl" from Teriyaki Ginger (which is my usual) and we ate lunch at a little metal table with an umbrella to keep the sun off of us, listening to classical guitar.  It was actually really lovely and reminded me why when I was younger I really liked living in the heart of the city.  I still don't want to do it again but I like working downtown so I can get the best of both worlds.  Which by the way, having a grade school daughter I can not say that phrase without thinking of Hannah Montana. Sigh.

It's still nice to come home to our little house next to the woods though.  And driving home from the barn this evening just as the sun was going down was beautiful, seeing the orange light hitting the huge evergreen trees.  Girlfriend is doing great AND I managed to give her her medication with no problem today.  While I was at work all day I made an Amazon Fresh order and included some cheap maple syrup and a mortar and pestal.  So, I crushed the pills into a powder, added water to make a paste, added the syrup and it worked just fine in the (stupid) syringe.  Now I know.

I have come to accept that there will be no tomatoes this year.  Or cauliflower.  Only peas.  And maybe some peppers although I doubt it.  And two carrots that for some reason the bunnies did not eat.  I'm not sure I want to eat the two carrots the bunnies would not eat, though.  But my mom and my co-worker said that they too have not gotten anything but tiny little green tomatoes that just aren't growing.  Chalk it up to our non-summer summer this year.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bits of meltdowny in my head

It was a fairly good day with lots getting done.  T. rode Girlfriend this morning and she seemed to be feeling like her old self.  I am having a heck of a time giving her her medicine though. Not because of her but because I am having trouble getting it to dissolve into liquid well enough that I can suck it up into a syringe and get it down her throat.  Tonight I attempted to put it in maple syrup so that she at least wouldn't let most of it drool out of her mouth but I still had trouble sucking it up into the big syringe I use to squirt it into her mouth.  Tomorrow I think I'm going to mash it up and put it in her soaked grain.  It really shouldn't be this hard to get pills into a goop form and put it in a syringe.  I thought the hard part was supposed to be actually giving it to the horse - not the getting into the device in order to give it the horse.

It is now official that I will be buying Tuff Toad on Saturday and I will have all the paperwork in hand and she will officially be my horse.  I took her out to lunge her today while T. was riding Girlfriend and she did pretty well.  She decided in one direction that she didn't want to trot but instead wanted to just turn in and walk toward me and stand.  So, we went through those motions for awhile until she finally gave in and trotted and cantered and walked like I asked. 

Then I handed the lunge line over to T. so she could work with her.  I went and sat in the bleachers and it was hard to watch how difficult Toad was being for her.  She was testing her all over the place and kept walking half way around the circle and then standing right next to T. like there was no way she could possibly walk another step.  T. finally got frustrated and said, "How did you do that???" and I said honestly I didn't know but I was pretty sure it was only because I've worked with her something like every other day for the last week or so and that seems to help.  Toad seems to really want to connect with people and it just takes time.  And after enough tries T. was able to work it out and get Toad to do what she asked.

I'm feeling kind of in a funk this evening though.  Part of it is my house is messy and yes, it's true, that does affect my mood.  But I just didn't have time to get the house picked up like I wanted what with being a mom to my daughter and my two current horses and my soon to be horse and all the other chores I did around the house and errands I had to run.  And taking my daughter all the way to the town next to ours for her piano lesson only to get there and remember her teacher is out of town this week.  D'oh!  At least we got to listen to more of our current audio book that we are both really enjoying.  It inspires me to write.  Of course, not enough that I actually have been.  But it opens up my imagination to all the things I used to fantasize as a kid and I know there are stories in my head trying to get out.  I just need to make time to focus and write them down.  I need to purge all the other stuff out of my head though like how it's horrible that we've been in this house almost six months and I haven't totally unpacked all the crap in the garage or set up my office yet.  I need to let go of the "I will write again when x-y-z is done" messages in my head and just make time to write fiction again.

Monday, July 25, 2011

When did I stop being so squeamish?

When I was a kid I was super squeamish.  So much so that even having one of those anatomy manequins in our fifth grade class was very upsetting for me.  I did live through cadaver anatomy in massage school but it was kind of hard, and it took some energy to not ick out on the whole thing. 

Today was a good day not to be squeamish.  But I'll get to that in a second.  I have not been able to reach Tuff Toad's current owner so I left her a message saying I want to buy Toadie and hopefully that is still the plan.  I rode Girl for a bit this morning because my daughter was at daycamp and T. is out of town and couldn't ride her in her lesson today.  Then I brought Toad out to groom her and lunge her.  I waited until we were in the arena to put on her cavesson over her halter which probably wasn't a good idea because she wanted to just run around like a crazy girl and buck and gallop instead.  But Trainer K. had a lesson going on so that was not an option.  

So, we had our first run-in of bad behavior where she decided she didn't want the cavesson on.  I got it over her nose and almost over one ear before she jerked her head away and threw it off.  I picked it up and put it back on and she tried it again but this time I steadied her head before she could throw it off. I figured my prime objective at that point was not to put it all the way on her but to keep her from succeeding in throwing it off again.  I managed to get it over one ear so she couldn't throw it off her head as easily, but as soon as I reached up to put it over the other ear she'd lift her head up high and I couldn't reach it anymore.  Since of course, I am 5'4" and her shoulders are 5'4" so the top of her head is over 6'4" when she raises it up - which I can't reach at all.   This went on for I don't know, five or ten minutes and I was thinking how pathetic it was that I had no idea how to deal with it.  So, I just tried various ways to gently coerce her into letting me get rest of it over her second ear while calmly saying, "You can put the cavesson on, or you can go back to your stall. Those are your only choices." Just to keep myself focused.  Finally, I figured out a way to unhook part of the top strap and sneak it over the top of her head before she realized what I was doing and it was already in the hook when she caught on and tried to jerk her head to throw it off. And she immediately submitted and looked at me like, "Damn! I thought for sure I was going to win this one!"  Then she did great with her lunging session.  Except when she got too excited at one point on the canter and slipped and almost fell, which spooked her and sent her into a big bucking fit half way around the circle.  Other than that she did very well.  I was once again impressed with how well she did.

After I put her back in her stall I heard Girlfriend coughing and it started to sound worse so I checked on her and she was starting to foam at the mouth which is a bad sign if a horse is choking.  I watched her for about five minutes and it seemed to get worse as opposed to resolving, but I had to go pick up my daughter from camp so I asked Trainer K. to keep an eye on her and ran off to pick up my daughter calling my vet on the way.  My vet got to the barn just after I got back.  By then Girl wasn't coughing anymore and looked like she was fine, except for still having lots of green slime oozing out of her nose and mouth.

Whatever was choking her was stuck in there hard enough that the muscles had seized up around it and she needed a sedative to loosening her up.  Then the vet had to put a hose up her nose and down her throat to force what was choking her down her throat.  She had to go through this a few years ago when she choked too, but this time it caused a nose bleed.  I remembered the vet telling me a few years ago that it could so I wasn't too shocked.  What I was shocked by was how much blood there was.  Like little kids who get nose bleeds, horses noses also bleed a lot, they just have a lot more blood which give the "noses bleed a lot" a whole new meaning.  Horse blood clots are also really, really big which I found morbidly fascinating.  It took a long time for her nose to stop bleeding and I had to get a broom to brush the clots down the drain because the force of the hose was not strong enough to wash them down adequately because they were so big. 

At one point I was marveling at just how much blood there was especially around the time that Girlfriend snorted and sprayed blood all over my vet which made her look like a character in a slasher movie.  I had a moment of wondering when it was I stopped being so squeamish.  I think it is all part of growing up.  That and while we were standing around waiting for the bleeding to stop I was talking to one of the vet's interns about how it is not as upsetting on an instinctual level when it's bright red like from a nose bleed because it's very shallow, surface blood and on a primal level we know it is not a serious injury.  Like if it's really dark red or god forbid somewhat blue that's really upsetting because it's really deep, unoxygenated blood.  Still,  I was exhausted after the whole thing and was relieved after I finally got all the blood washed down the drain and washed off the walls.  Luckily, we were in the wash room (that was a good call!) and I was wearing a rain coat because it was gray and rainy today.

On a more pleasant note, I finally started dipping my toe into researching what happened to the land that my great uncles homesteaded with my grandmother in Dupuyer, MT.  My mom went out there about ten years ago with some relatives that live up there in Great Falls, or somewhere kind of near Dupuyer, but she doesn't remember where the actual homestead is.  And the relatives who took her there have since died.  My mom's cousin/adopted sister who is the daughter of my great uncles just passed away and that really got me wondering if it was her land? If it was, I bet her grandson/my cousin would want it.  It just seems like if my great uncles went through so much effort to prove up on the land over one hundred years ago we should keep it in the family and hang on to it.  I know it's still completely vacant and what's left of the old house and barn are still there.  But it's not as easy as I thought to try and find those records - at least not online.  I tried some historic archives for land use for Montana and came up with nothing.  I think the best plan would be to just take a road trip out to Dupuyer to research it.  The trick now is trying to make time to do that.  And of course I'd want to go to Billings to visit my friends there.  And then we'd be close enough to go to Yellowstone.  Aaaah ... road trips.  How to find the time is definitely the challenge.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Yay for new experiences

I spent the afternoon volunteering as a scribe at a schooling dressage show.  It was very interesting and apparently I did a very good job.  Except for the small fact that scribes don't talk and my natural inclination is to talk a lot.  As soon as I learned that rule I tried very hard to keep quiet and it was hard at first but actually pretty nice after the first half hour or so.  It was hard though when the judge made a comment not to respond.  At one point she muttered something and I responded during a test and she said, "You don't get to mutter. Only I get to mutter," and I had to really force myself not to laugh.

I really am always kind of frantically moving around and doing something.  I've always been a little horrified of the idea of just sitting still, quietly.  So, it was nice to just sit and not do anything until the judge started making comments and I had to write them down.  Otherwise, I watched the riders while they were warming up, or I looked at the trees and at one point between riders I watched a couple eagles flying over the arena. 

It was educational too in that I think I'll probably dream about the Training Level 2 & 3 dressage tests. And the judge kept using the word "hollow" and I had no idea what she meant.  And was not in a position to ask.   So I had to look it up.  It basically means that the back "hollows" out and the impulsion is not coming from the hindquarters but on the fore-hand.  So much to learn. So much to learn.

I put out a donation can for Sinatra's diagnostics which brought in probably $5. Sigh.  But it was nice that people even put cash into the can to begin with, especially because I didn't get there until the afternoon and everyone seemed to be getting a little tired and had had enough of the sun by then.  Seeing as it was actually sunny and 80 degrees today and none of us around here are used to that anymore and we probably all felt like our eyes were burning with something brighter than overcast haze.

Well, I'm glad I'm good at being a scribe because it's always nice to try something new and be good at it. God knows I've tried enough things for the first time and been bad at them!  It was nice to have the judge ask me to please continue to volunteer to do it because I'm quite good at it and say, "You are now officially fully trained!"  Especially since I'm feeling a little low because I feel like I failed Sinatra by not being experienced enough to really help him with his behavior.  And just in general I've been feeling a little insecure. 

Oh who am I kidding - I've been feeling insecure ever since we moved.  All the change and stuff has been really cool but also very disorienting.  Although, I noticed the other day that most of my facebook comments are now from my Eastsider "country friends" which I jokingly told my husband was a true sign that we are now totally at home here  And I do mostly feel like this is home now. Especially with cute experiences like tonight when I had to drag my daughter in to go to bed because she didn't want to stop running around back by the woods catching baby frogs with her friends.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My new love affair with Tuff Toad

I said that I would handle Toadie one more time alone before I made my decision whether or not buy her so I went out today to groom her and lunge her again.  This time I had to do all of it almost all by myself because Trainer V.  was teaching pony camp so I didn't even have anyone hanging around "just in case".  But Toadie did really well.  She has this deal in the cross ties where she likes to back her butt into me from the side which is totally not ok with me.  If I say no, and tap her butt she's moves it right over.  I mentioned it to Trainer V. and she said that is a bad habit she has because her previous owner lets her do that - push her butt up against her in the grooming area and then just stay there.  But to me it seems like a pushy, dominance thing and I don't want her to do it. I might be wrong, it might be a cuddly thing but I don't like it.

Trainer V. free lunged her in the arena then we let her gallop around for a few minutes.  Then Trainer V. had to go back to the pony camp program.  I picked up the cavesson and headed over to her.  I wanted her to come to me but she was too busy playing kissy-face with Rolls, whose stall is right next to the arena.  She did comply as soon as I put the lunge line on her halter and led her away from Rolls to put on the cavesson, but I would've preferred if she would've come to me when I called.  She did great with lunging again!  She walked quietly, then trotted nicely, cantered when I asked and slowed to a trot when I asked.  She was very calm and willing.  She seems like she might be starting to get comfortable with me too.  She is pretty quiet with me, I'm guessing because I'm so used to being around the super hot, very sensitive Girlfriend.

So, I'm convinced!  I want to buy her! She is so sweet and so cute and such a good girl!  And she reminds me so much of Girlfriend.  Who was also very good today when I rode her.  Although she spooked, which is unlike her.  We were riding past one side of the arena where horses are in stalls on the other side of the wall, and for some reason a horse kicked the wall really hard just as we were walking past and Girl bent in a kind of u-shape where the sound was and did a very quick sidestep dance move off to the right.  Unlike Rolls - who just pours me right off his back when he spooks - I just got jerked around a little but stayed right on her back and went right with her.  I don't know why that is except I've ridden her so many thousand+ times that I just automatically move with her, whereas Rolls and i never really clicked.

Meanwhile, the kittens are starting to resemble Tribbles.  Being just two of them  they seem to have achieved being everywhere all at once and creating an enormous force of destruction (for a collective unit that is less than three pounds).  Today was the first day I had to actually break out the spray bottle.  I'm trying to think positive like, "Hey, those curtains weren't that expensive ... we can replace them when the kittens grow up," and "I've been looking for an excuse to get a new couch."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I miss the sun.

I think we're going to end up having a non-summer here in Western WA this year.  I remember in 1993 hearing about a similar summer up here when I was living in Sacramento.  In fact, this morning I got up to a note from my husband on the white board in the kitchen and he had accidentally written the date as "11/20" instead of "7/20" in a fit of sleepiness.  Yes, very appropo for the weather outside.

I've never (to my knowledge) suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which I have always attributed to having grown up in South Seattle so I'm used to and possibly because I'm mostly Swedish, English and Irish so I'm genetically not inclined to be around lots of sun all year round.  But I did notice when I lived in Sacramento my mood seemed better. Of course there were a lot of factors involved in that they may have been more than just the heat and sun.  Although, I do think I might be more relaxed when there is a lot of sun - at least part of the year.  This summer has been mostly clouds and gray.

I've finally started seeing the bunnies that people keep talking about!  Now I see them every time we go down a block to the path in the woods to the park.  The other day we saw a mom and her baby and the mom stood up like a meerkat when she saw us and tried to lead her baby off to run away but the baby was very curious about me, my daughter and the pitbull.  The pitbull of course wanted play with the baby and lick her and the baby bunny wanted nothing to do with *that*.  Watching us was one thing but getting licked by a predator was right out. 

My vegetable plants in the garden are growing really well with all the rain and getting really big.  My peas are vining over five feet tall.  But they are not producing many flowers and I had originally thought "Wow, everything is doing so well despite not a lot of sun" but now I'm seeing that they are not producing much food - just the vines and the stalks are getting huge.  There are very few flowers on my pea vines or my tomato plants.  And my broccoli looks like it's going to die before it becomes anything.  Ok, I'll be honest, my broccoli had a lot of flowers and now I can't see how in the world it is going to turn into broccoli.  My neighbors keep coming me to with their gardening questions and telling me I know so much about gardening but if I'm not even sure that actually is a broccoli plant afterall and maybe I planted different seeds in those start pots than I thought - I really don't know very much about gardening!  I guess I can chalk this year up to my getting the garden beds all built and set up and learning where I need to put up "bunny barriers" (they ate all my little carrot tops and all my little bean starts in the community garden) and next year will be more about gardening because we'll have our gardening space all established.

Meanwhile, the city government we live in has backpedaled on our community garden in the HOA space next to our storm pond and are now saying it has to go.  I'm going to have to throw a tizzy fit with them because if our community garden goes and we just let the city "maintain" (and I use that word loosely) that space - it ends up being overgrown with weeds except when they come through every two months and mowing the weeds down (and not even cleaning up the stuff that is mowed down).   Originally they said they just need ten feet along the fence of the storm pond for emergencies and the driveway clear, now they say it all has to go.  Worse case scenario is if they won't listen to reason I will send in a letter to the editor at our local newspaper about how the city forbids community garden on private property for no real reason.  That will get them to back down I bet - seeing as this town is small enough that it might matter.  Seattle was so big the city could care less what a few people out of hundreds of thousands say or think.  We'll see.  I'm definitely not going to just let them tell me that a vacant lot that our HOA owns in back of my house is relegated to only being overgrown with weeds because they have silly ordinances.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hard decisions and horses ... of courses

I finally came to the definite decision a couple days ago that I am not going to adopt Sinatra and not going to foster him anymore.  It was a hard decision for me for two reasons - I just adore the little guy!!! And I feel like if I don't help him, who will?  Everyone I know who's involved in the horse rescue that owns him is already so over-extended already.  But I finally had to realize that I am not experienced enough for him over the long run.  I've been bit, kicked and stomped on more times with him in the last three months than cumulatively my whole life.  When I have to do anything with him other than lead him on a walk or to or from the pasture I find myself thinking, "... and how will I get hurt today?"  I talked to Trainer V. (my trainer) a couple days ago and she confirmed that she also believes I'm out of my league with him.  Then yesterday I told Trainer K.  (who I don't know very well, is VERY blunt and doesn't mince words and has no reason to sugar coat anything or be nice to me) and she said, "I think that is very good of you to be able to admit you're out of your league.  A lot of people wouldn't say that and I think it's better in the long run for both you and the horse."  So, two opinions from professionals I respect appeased my conscious a little about this decision but I still feel guilty because I really did want to be the one who saves Sinatra and gives him a great life and helps him be the great horse he could be.

But honestly, it's not just me I'm thinking of, I find myself getting to the end of my rope half the time with him and feeling like I'm out of my league and don't know what to do anymore and I'm flailing.  And when I feel like that I know I'm not giving him what he needs.  He needs a real experienced *trainer* handling him everyday to help him get over his bad habits - like not respecting people's physical space (which is his scariest bad habit) and his biting.  Granted at least with me his biting has gotten soooo much better, he still needs a lot of work.  I have seen a lot of improvement in the last couple months, but I also know that I really can't take him as far as he needs to go.  Ergo: out of my league.

I've mentioned before the OTTB (off-the-track-thoroughbred) Tuff Toad at my barn.  She is "the super model of all horses" - so beautiful that it is breathtaking.  Or at least she is to me.  She's also very sweet and gentle (or as gentle as a 4 year old can be) and very powerful.  A month ago I found out she's for sale and was feeling that pang of "If only I could buy her!'  I wasn't surprised that TB, who leases Girlfriend said that she was wishing she could buy her too.   So, I talked a lot this weekend to Trainer V. about whether or not she thought I could handle Toad and we came to the conclusion that she's fine on the ground and with two or three months of professional dressage training under saddle she'd be ready for me to start working with under saddle.  I must have asked her about fifty times, "Are you sure I could handle her? You're not just saying that because you're being nice or because you want Toad to stay at the barn???"  She laughed at me and said that she really did think Toad is much easier to handle than Sinatra and I would be fine and she's not just saying that.

So, yesterday Toad's current owner came out to the barn with me so that I could lead her around a little, groom her and lunge her.  I was so nervous when I first took her out of the stall that she picked up on my nervousness and started heading quickly down the aisleway right past the grooming room.  I yanked on her lead rope and snapped at her just like I do with Sinatra (which is all that seems to work with him) and that freaked her out and luckily Trainer K. was right there and said, "Be quiet with her. If you're quiet she'll be quiet.  You can be quiet and commanding at the same time but with a horse like her you need to be quiet,"  Funny ... Trainer V. had *just* told me the same thing minutes before on the phone and I completely forgot it when I got so nervous.  So, I calmed down and Toadie calmed down and things went much better after that.   My lunging went well but I thought that might have been because Toadie got to gallop around the arena for fifteen minutes before lunging and her owner lunged her before me.

I went back this morning to try lunging her again so that TB would have a chance to work with her.   TB had a similar reaction this morning when she first walked up to her as I had yesterday which was "Wow. You are a lot bigger in person, aren't you" (Toadie is 16.1 hands).  Trainer K. was giving a lesson in the arena so we couldn't let Toad go and run and buck like a maniac so I was a little bit concerned about just going straight from the stall to the arena to lunge her.  Trainer K. said they were fine with us lunging during their lesson as long as we felt we could hold on to Toad.  That worried me but I said we would leave immediately if there were any problems and figured Trainer K. would save us if necessary (that sounds terrible, doesn't it!)

Amazingly,  Toadie walked right out to the arena like a good, energetic, prancy but polite (giant) girl.  Once in the arena she stood quietly until I was ready with the lunge line and the lunge whip.  Then she walked out in a circle and stayed very calm and just walked.  I asked her to trot and she didn't at first so I raised the whip a little too high and she took off at a fast canter.  I immediately realized that I'd confused her by signaling with the whip to run (and found it impressive that she was so aware of the signals with the whip) and brought the whip back down to the ground and quietly said "Waaaaalk" and gave gentle half halts on the lunge line.  Didn't take long for her to calm down and walk which was nice.  After that she did amazing!  Twice she tried to turn around and go the other direction, but I noticed if I kept an eye on her and anticipated before she was going to do that I could tell her not to in time and she wouldn't do it.  She never tried to run off on me like Sinatra did (thankfully!).

TB took her turn and did well although when Toad tried to turn around on her when they were first starting, she cracked the whip to correct her and Toad took that as "I'm supposed to gallop!" and took off running.  And because she was on a short line right when she took off and TB instinctually pulled back, Toadie slipped a little which scared her so she bucked.  Then TB got a little scared (as I would too!) so Toadie started running faster.   A trainer from a different program had come out to the arena and started giving some advice like "Use our voice commands, quietly and firmly.  Put your whip down because the higher it is the faster she thinks she should go."  I gave a few tips that I learned from lunging Girlfriend (also an ex-race horse, just an ex-Western race horse as opposed to track race horse).   The main one being "Don't crack the whip, just like you don't cluck or kiss when riding Girl." So TB got her calmed down and things went much better after that.  She seemed a little unsure about things after that but from my observation it was all a matter of just not speaking exactly the same language yet.

Also, I will be scribing at a show this weekend and the volunteer coordinator said I can bring a donation box for raising money for Sinatra's continued tests we'd like to run with the specialists at Pilchuck Vets.  And she's going to put in her newsletter that we're raising money for that.   It'd be awesome if we actually did raise enough money for that.  It'd also be awesome if we could find someone -preferably with training experience - to foster him long term.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The meglomaniacal gardener that is me

Now that I have made what could be a huge mistake of "being in charge" of the common areas in our HOA (which means answering to the city if they call again telling us something needs to be done) I went a little nuts making plans for the strip along the busy street behind our development. 

Yesterday ended up being kind of fun even though my back hurts this morning.  I took my daughter out to help me weed and my friend, K. came out with her kids some more kids in the neighborhood came out.  The kids did a terrible time weeding but they were entertaining and it was cute watching them try to work so hard.  Then R. showed up with her kids and although she had originally she had suggested weed killer, she was more than happy to turn over the project to me and get on board - so that was really cool! She showed up with a trunk full of drought tolerant plants she found for a great price at Lowes. 

I wonder sometimes if I should take the Master Gardener course at the UW because I like gardening so much.  I had a lot of fun going through the area and marking the plants we should save and planning out what we're going to plant.  My husband and next door neighbor's husband are willing to go out and pull out weeds tomorrow - I hope we can find more people to help them.  Then my next door neighbor wants to help me pick out the plants to fill in the space where all the weeds were.  It would also be good for me to take the gardening course so I could recognize plants better.  I accidentally pulled out a bean plant from K.'s yard that meets up with the common area thinking it was some funky weed like choke weed.  D'oh!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Learning to pick my battles

I was having an email discussion with a couple neighbors last night about a common area along a busy street at the back of our HOA.   It's looks really bad right now and I want to clear it out and fill it with drought tolerant plants and the two neighbors I was emailing with said it was too expensive and they wanted to just put down a swath of weed killer and be done with it.  I was against that because a few blocks away is the environmentally protected wetland.  So, I suggested I see if I can find a way to pay for all the plants (hopefully some neighbors not on the email will pitch in) but if not I'd back down.

What's weird is that I rolled with it.  If I'm out-voted I'm not going to throw a hissy fit and insist I get my way.  That is a very strange reaction from me to just let it go as I've been outvoted and it's no big deal.  With all my complaining about people who say "this is the way and the only way" about stuff, I'm hopefully finally realizing that I need to bend too when my beliefs aren't the beliefs of the majority.  Of course there is still a little part of me that is screaming, "But I'm right!!!"  But I am only right to me and people who believe the same thing as me, but not to the rest of the people in the world who think differently from me.

I'm learning some of this from where I currently work, which deals with a lot of different groups who are on such wildly differently political spectrums that I always worry a little once a year when they get together in one room - I always wonder if they're just going to implode upon meeting.  So far there haven't been any casualties when they get together.  And nothing gets done if people don't bend a little in their opinions (for a great example of nothing getting done because of hard-headedness just take a look at the U.S. Congress).

Of course, if the rest of the neighborhood agrees to my plan to put in drought tolerant plants in that space it's going to be a lot of work and my poor husband will probably end up doing more of our share of the work than me because my rheumatoid arthritis may not put up with a lot of heavy duty digging out of weeds.  Despite his environmental tendencies himself he may not be so happy with my solution! Still, I hope that my idea flies so I can go all crazy with my organic gardening plan.

Update:  Yay! I get to be in charge of the common area and hopefully I'll be able to get a work party together to help me pull out all the weeds so my poor husband doesn't have to be the only one doing it!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ah Sinatra ... sigh ...

I had a lesson today, which went pretty well.  We did trotting in serpentines and after I was able to get it through my head what direction to go Girlfriend and I did well.  I can ride the serpentines and did well with keeping Girl turning the right direction and straight at the right time, but I swear I'm dyslexic when it comes to visualizing shapes.  Trainer V. ran through the serpentine one direction and then I was able to do it.  Then she told me to go the other direction and I got all confused and couldn't do it and Trainer V. ended up yelling, "Where are you going?" and I explained I can't visualize shapes and needed her to run through the pattern for me the other direction too.  It's the strangest thing.  I try my hardest to visualize shapes but it's like that ability is just missing in my brain.  I can visualize a circle or square but anything more complicated I can't.  But as long as Trainer T. could run through it and I could say outloud "I go past the pylon on the right, then turn left ..." I could do it.  So other than my shape dyslexia we did well on the serpentines and Girl did really well on her collection and bending at the turns.  She's so easy to ride now though I don't feel like I can take much credit for it.  

After my lesson I brought Sinatra out in the arena because I had fifteen minutes before I had to go pick up my daughter from her friend, Diego's house.  I thought we could practice some walking on the lunge line and maybe even a little trotting if he's doing ok.  I figured he's not supposed to work, but that doesn't mean we can't do some easy ground work to keep him in good manners.  He started out doing really well despite that one of the kids was riding Gabriel on the other side of the arena.  She's the one selling the OTTB (Off-the-Track-ThoroughBred), Tuff Toad who I am madly in love with.  After Toad sells she's buying Gabriel who is a better fit for her.  If only I had enough money to buy Toad and the pay a trainer to work with him really hard for a few months to get him re-trained for dressage instead of racing.  Anyway ... fantasies aside ...

Sinatra started out walking really well on the lunge line and Trainer V. commented on how well he was doing.  Then he stopped and changed direction and when I tried to get him to turn around he started trotting, then tried to run off a little.   Trainer V. came over and said, "Let me show you how to do that," and got him to turn back around in the correct direction.  But then Trainer V.'s daughter came him with her pony and Sinatra got all excited about that and started running and doing his Lipazzaner leaps.  Trainer V. tried to calm him down back to a walk and he reared and bolted away from her and ran straight toward me  - I had gone to sit in the middle of the arena on the mounting block.  So, I got up and ran to the arena door and stood right outside it because it looked like Sinatra thought he as going to run right up to me and crawl into my lap. Trainer V. regained control, got him back on the circle at a walk for a moment, then he bolted again, this time trying to take off straight for the other two horses on the other side of the arena.  Trainer V. braced herself on the ground, holding the lunge rope and he literally started pulling her across the ground with her heels making tracks in the footing as she was pulled along.  She managed to regain traction with her feet and keep him from getting to the other horses just as he got to the three step mounting block, so he swerved and jumped it - actually with perfect form.  It was quite lovely there for a second.  Trainer V. managed to reel him in and said that was that and he was done because he wasn't supposed to be running and jumping like that right now.  Plus, it puts the other riders at risk when he acts up like that.  She handed him back to me and he got all mellow and followed me politely back to his stall as usual.  Well, he balked at the door leaving the arena and stood there for a second challenging me to let him stay and play, but when I told him no he sighed and followed me back to his stall just like his old self.  Still,  after his antics today I'm wondering if I'm totally out of my league with him.  And wondering if I'm totally nuts for thinking he could possibly be a good horse for my daughter in a couple years.

So, that was a fiasco.  I'm going back tomorrow afternoon and Trainer V. said we'd work on lunging him at a walk, trot again tomorrow with no horses in the arena.  But if he acts up like that again we have to not try any more for a couple more months because he's not supposed to be "working" - meaning he's not supposed to be actively running and especially not jumping like that.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Strange weather and kittens (not together)

I think this is going to be one of those years where Western WA doesn't get much of a summer.  We had on in '93 I remember because I was living in Sacramento and kept hearing from my friends up here that they were not getting to have a summer because most days were cloudy and rainy.   I guess I would take that over 115 degrees like in the Midwest.  I decided back when I lived in Sacramento that I would prefer not to live somewhere that you could die if your electricity went out.  Or if you stayed outside too long.  Still, it is a little disappointing not to have very may sunny days.

The kittens continue to adjust and show their personalities as they become more comfortable in our house.  They're in their second week here so they seem to think they own the place now.  They haven't decided that they like the pitbull, but they will at least play near her and not hiss at her anymore.  They have found their favorite place to sleep at night which is the drawer in the coffee table.  They jump onto the bottom shelf under the actual coffee table, then there's a hole for them to squeeze into to get into the drawer.  The other day Snow was sitting on the piano looking sleepy and she had her eye closed and was swaying back and forth like she might fall into a deep sleep and my husband said, "Ooooh, I'm soooo sleepy.  Somebody put me into a drawer!"  I'm glad the kittens have shown themselves to be as weird as the rest of our pets.

They also have very distinct personalities.  Abby Nermal is more laid back and curious and Snow seems to have the wait of the world on her shoulders.  Nermal is more likely to walk up to the pitbull or Buddycat and check them out. But Snow is the one who goes to the bathroom in the litterbox then goes around and re-buries everyone else's poop in a very anal retentive way.  Nermal purrs every time anybody, even my daughter picks her up.  And Snow purrs whenever I pick her up.  Nermal also lets my daughter carry her around like a rag doll, whereas Snow gets more tense about that.  The only thing cuter than my daughter carrying Nermal around like a rag doll, is my neighbor's three-year old daughter carrying her brother's big white rat around like a rag doll.  I really need to get a photo of that because that is the most patient, sweetest rat I have ever seen!

Here is a photo of Nermal sleeping in my daughter's lap:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Another rant ... this time to enviornmentlists (in name only)

I just read a guest blog on the Scientific American website about how to reach more people to convince them that living in apartments in the city is what environmentalists do ... along with some other, what I call "catch phrases" or non-thought-out "rules" that are not sustainable and actually make no sense.

For instance, I had always assumed that protecting the environment was something that one aspired to have *everyone* do, not just an elite enlightened few who could float above us on their superiority. What would be the point of the latter except to build up someone's insecure self-esteem? To change the way a culture works and how people treat the Earth on a whole seems a more sustainable goal if you are thinking of helping the Earth and not an individual's ego.

So, you want everyone to live in apartments in the city. Everyone? Or just the elite superior "environmentalists"? Everyone living in apartments in the city with no suburbs and only farms for producing food but no one else living outside the city. What is it about the word "sustainable" that these people don't understand? To me that idea is one of those non-thought-out highschool kid mentality ideas of a kid who is too young to really understand critical thinking. So when adults throw that stuff I find it annoying and frustrating. Have they considered that if EVERYONE lived in apartments in the city and the suburbs became an abandoned ghost town that the overpopulation itself would be overwhelming and horrible?

I'm not just saying this because I did hear that from psuedo-environmentalists when we moved to suburbs, but because throwing out cliches and not thinking through issues actually seems destructive to me. Like how PETA gives animal rights activists a bad name when they pull bizarre and often offensive stunts. I have a theory that there are plants from the beef industry in PETA and their whole agenda is to make PETA seem so crazy they discredit animal rights activists to such a degree that no one listens to the people who actually do want animals treated humanely.

Here's a weird thought for sustainable environmentalism ... maybe we should change our consumerist culture? Maybe we should start getting rid of the bulk of advertising and start pushing an agenda that if you buy something new you use it until it doesn't work anymore before you replace it? Why don't we teach people that they only need what they need and that a four person family doesn't need a 3500 square foot house and you don't need new cars every two years and fashion is bullshit - you just need clothes to keep you warm, or cool, or from getting a sunburn, or so your horse bites your shirt sleeve instead of your bare arm. How about teaching our society to find self-worth in who each person is not what they own and good god can we just completely annihilate jobs like "lifestyle experts"???

That to me is the first step in creating a sustainable environmentalist attitude. Then add in decent public transportation EVERYWHERE, not just in San Francisco and Chicago and New York. And out to the suburbs. I know more people who use public transportation out where we live than I do in the city because the county transportation is way better and reliable than the city public transportation.

Plus, the loudest of my neighbors who complained about how living in the suburbs was bad for the environment DROVE to work everyday. She lived in the city and worked in the city but she drove to work, drove to the grocery store and still had the nerve to tell me moving to the suburbs was bad for the environment. I even chastised her once for buying plastic menstrual pads and suggested she get some Glad Rags instead. But she said they were too gross. And she *had* to drive to work because of the timing of buses. Uh-huh. You can throw stones at everyone else but when it comes to doing something yourself you're full of excuses. That's how I see the folks that don't actively try to think of sustainable solutions for our society but instead just throw out these old tired cliches and then feel superior because of them. Disingenuous is the word of the day here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sinatra's first spook with me!

Sinatra has never spooked with me before - beyond the occasional jump or freeze which is very non-dramatic. He's never spooked like Rolls and reared and twirled around or tried to run away. But he had a huge spook today that sent him jumping, rearing and twirling to run away. What gigantic thing spooked him, you ask? An M-80 set off right behind his butt? Lightening striking a tree next to him? A forest fire or giant black bear? No - a little spray of water coming out of the connection between the faucet and hose where it was leaking a little.

Poor little guy was just a mess after that! We had been walking out to the back pastures to see if there was one for him to be turned out in. But all the other horses had gone back in so we were going to pass where the owner was digging a drainage ditch and I was going to put him in the front pasture next to Trainer V.'s horse. The owner saw me walk by and must've remembered that he said he'd turn Sinatra out but had forgotten because he was so involved with the drainage ditch project. He walked up and say, "Oh, let me take him for you," but right when he walked up to Sinatra, Sinatra saw the spray out of the corner of his eye as we were walking toward it and freaked out. The poor owner thought it was his fault and was feeling really bad. I guess I've gotten a lot more confident and feeling safe with Sinatra because *I* didn't freak out. I loosened my hold on the lead rope, and the owner instinctually grabbed on tight which made Sinatra pull back and look like he was going to rear and I calmly said, "Let go ... just let go ..." so the owner let go and Sinatra slowly calmed down. I was very relieved that it didn't scare me! I'm starting to understand Sinatra and know what helps him calm down or to start listening to me.

Then we walked through the other barn (we really do call it "the other barn") where the other trainers keep their horses and Sinatra decided he was scared of the wash bucket in the middle of the aisle and scared of the bucket of waste on the other side. He had quite a time coming down from his spook and getting back to his normal, steady self. But he was happy to get out in the pasture next to Gabriel who is the same age as him. Gabriel showed his happiness by galloping in circles and bucking while Sinatra just stood by and looked amused.

More amazement about parenting and Sinatra (of course) and kittens!

We've had two baby kittens running around our house for six days now. I think they are nine weeks old now, but maybe they're ten weeks. I should find out what day their actual birthday is. They are already starting to feel at home and are showing their individual personalities. Snow(flake, ball, cone, clone, angel) is much more serious and seems to have the weight of the world (and her sister) on her shoulders. She appears to feel responsible for the two of them. Abby Nermal is much more laid back, inquisitive, and purrs as soon as anyone touches her. They're both really fun to watch. The other day half the neighborhood kids showed up at our door to meet them.

I sent out an email for trying to raise money for Sinatra's diagnostics and that didn't seem to do much. So, I'm going to have to try harder to do something pro-active to raise $1200 so we can take him to Pilchuck and do an MRI to find out why he keeps failing his lameness test. I can't financially afford to adopt an unrideable horse and I fear that no one else will adopt him if he will never be rideable. But it's too early for me to start thinking of such morose scenarios.

I had another surprise by the reaction of three-year olds yesterday. My neighbor, K. has been babysitting three extra kids recently AND just found out they're moving out of state (very sad!) so she's been pretty stressed. My knee-jerk reaction when I am good friends with a family is to step in and help with the kids if the parent is either super busy or super exhausted. So, a few times in the last week I've stepped in with K.'s daughter and reprimanded her when need be because K. is either busy with the other kids or once just looked very overwhelmed and tired. I had to ask her if she cared because back in the city I got yelled at a couple times for that because the majority of my friends there don't discipline their kids and they think I'm mean when I do things like tell little kids they will "lose priveledges" or will have to go in "time out" if they don't behave properly. They think I'm threatening their children (which I am) and I am destroying their self-esteem (which I'm not). Anyway, I worked really hard to never step in because I respect other people's boundaries about parenting (even when I think they're wrong). So, I'd sit and watch kids run out into traffic in the street while their mom helplessly called their name, or punch their mom over and over while the mom helplessly said, "That's not very nice, Sweetie, do you really want to hurt Mommy?" which did nothing and the child kept hitting them until they got bored and gave up.

Oddly, it turns out that K. appreciates the help just like I would. If I've got my hands full and my child is rude and another parent is standing right next to her, I appreciate if they say that's not appropriate and the behavior needs to stop. My friend, D. is from Nigeria and she explained that where she is from everyone is on the same page about parenting so if a parent is near a child who is acting rudely then they are expected to say something. So, it's been a relief to be able to say something and a few times in the last week I've reprimanded K.'s 3 year old daughter when she acts rudely. She's so much like my daughter that I don't even think, I just treat her the same way I treated my daughter when she was 3 years old - which is keep my explanations short and simple such as, "That behavior is inappropriate. These are your choices for appropriate behavior. If you keep doing the inappropriate behavior you're going to time out." Then if the child is in time-out and cries and screams about how horrible it is and how Draconian I am I calmly say, "When you are calm we can talk. Take some deep breaths and calm your body." Then when their "You're killing me!" fit is over we talk about polite behavior and what's not unacceptable. Yes, I know. I'm mean.

Anyway, out of the blue yesterday K. told me that her 3 year old daughter said to her, "You should call J. I really like her. She picks me up when I cry and she's nice to me." So, she remembered the time that I was watching her and she fell down and cried and I picked her up to comfort her instead of the times I disciplined her! I've read a lot of articles about how children feel more comfortable when there have consistent limits and their caretakers set limits. I'm always amazed when I see real life examples of it in my own life. It makes me want to shout off the rooftops that not disciplining your kids is not the "loving" thing to do that many people think it is. Never punishing them and never saying no are not making them happy and giving them the wonderful childhood the parents didn't have (or felt they didn't have). It's actually making them insecure, unhappy and actually makes them NOT like the parents who never "threaten" them or "punish" them. Or at least that is what I've been witnessing over and over again.

Luckily for my sanity, K. and D. and many of the parents of my daughter's new friends understand this and their kids are pretty respectful and even thought they are normal kids who test boundaries most don't seem confused and angry like kids I've met whose parents have tried to be nothing but "loving and gentle". I am loving and gentle with children, I just also have rules. Part of my feeling ok with that is I watch animal moms with their babies and they all have rules too. We seem to be the only species that thinks not behaving and not having rules is a *good* thing to do.

Of course, even if here there are messed up kids. I don't think there is a place in the world you can find good parents everywhere. But the prevalence of parents who don't overthink everything and try to re-write history of what works with raising kids (simple things like "keep lines of communication open" "show and expect respect" "have consistent rules") is higher here than it was in the city. Or at least the neighborhood I was in. Now if I could just convince some of my friends from the city to move up here because they'd love it - despite their delusion that it MUST be worse otherwise why would they be paying such a higher cost of living for congested areas, bad traffic, and high crime - life would be perfect.

Monday, July 4, 2011

My first fourth on the county line

Usually the 4th of July is spent at home with a few sparklers and a movie and a fairly early night. That at least was our city 4th of July. Before we had a kid we would sometimes trek over to someone's house in Belltown or Capitol Hill to watch the fireworks over Elliott Bay but the traffic was always horrible. And I learned my lesson about watching city fireworks somewhere outside (other than a heavily policed city park) because inevitably those random public look-outs would be filled with bozos with cherry bombs. In fact about fifteen years ago I vowed to not try to drive anywhere on the 4th if I didn't have to after some little prick tried to throw a cherry bomb under our moving car down by Eastlake around midnight. Luckily, we had just driven over it before it exploded behind us.

So, I was a little worried about this year's experience seeing as we live a few hundred feet from unincorporated Snohomish County. The bombs started last night all around us (well, mostly on the Snohomish County side since fireworks are still illegal in the town we're in). I did buy the obligatory sparklers at a fire work stand down the street (obviously on the Snohomish County side of down the street). From a church. Yes, it was a church fireworks stand. They had a prayer request box next to the cash register so I put in a request for an old friend, Cheryl who is battling cancer and for Sinatra. I probably should've put in a prayer request for my nerves tonight.

First we had a potluck with just about the best BBQ'ed ribs ever from JK and SF and JK's brothers. And some crazy fattening Mac & Cheese with whole cream and fancy cheese. And my potato salad (which I'm happy to say was a hit!). And god knows what else heavy fatty thing. Needless to say I have a stomach ache. Anyway, I told all the dads I was scared of fireworks so just don't mind me when I freak out and run home with my child and huddle in our house. They had bought their arsenals but I figured how scary could it be? It'll probably only the small stuff like we had when I was a kid that the dads shot off at the beach.

Then JK's cousin and his family show up. SF (JK's wife says) "Oh, JK's cousin from the 'hood is here. He'll probably really scare you." He's got a truck full of explosive things and one of those giant rocker launcher things like on the barges during the city fireworks displays. He's also got a brood of little gangsta kids with attitude and a harem of hot women in mini-skirts and super high wedgies. I was really bummed.

I ended up hiding inside not from JK's cousin, but from some other grown-ups lighting off the little stuff that just spins and shoots on the ground - but so many of the little kids were running too close, or running up to them after they'd stopped spinning and shooting off sparks and I could just see so many accidents waiting to happen. I know those fireworks are supposed to be "safer" but there are still so many ways that little kids can get hurt running around them in bare feet. So, lest I make my neighbors all hate me by fretting them to death and showing my true neurotic side, I went inside to check on the kittens for awhile.

Kittens were doing fine so I wandered back out as the sun started going down and to my horror one of JK's cousin's kids was lighting off those little fountain fireworks for everyone. He couldn't have been more than twelve and I was horrified. Until I watched for a little bit and saw that he was actually keeping the other kids in line - even the teenagers that were older than him. SF came over and said it was just so weird to her that his dad let him do that and I pointed out that he was being very safe and trying to keep the other kids in line - probably with more success than if an adult was trying to keep them in line. I ended up wishing that all the kids were like that little boy - then I wouldn't have to be so nervous!

I talked to JK's cousin for a bit and said I was impressed with how mature his son was and safety conscious and he said he worked hard on that and his wife who was standing nearby agreed. I realized I really liked the "cousins from the 'hood" because even though they had the giant, scary fireworks, the dad obviously took the whole thing very seriously. I told him I had to go in with my daughter soon because I was tired and way too anxious, but I showed him where our house was and how our window had a straight shot view of the fireworks. He said, "Well, when you see the super high in the air ones that are really loud and non-stop, that's me, ok?" I thought he was just bragging.

But an hour later when the sun was totally down and me and my daughter were watching from our bedroom window, the fireworks started that seriously could've given the old Ivar's display a run for the money. It was really that good! And it was right outside my window! I have to admit, it was really cool. I'm still concerned it's not the safest place to do it because of all the houses and the forest nearby, but nothing caught on fire. So, maybe I'm not so scared of fireworks if I'm hanging around JK's cousin and the rest of JK's family. And the other dads were being really responsible too. Some of the teens not so much but the dads (and Jk's cousin's son) mostly kept them in line.

It just reminded me that like guns, I'm not scared of fireworks, I'm scared of bozos with fireworks. I realized years ago after taking my long weekend gun safety course in Onalaska that I'm not at all scared of guns - just bozos with guns. And sadly, everyone is a potential bozo in my eyes until proven otherwise if explosive are involved.

The other weird (totally hippie) thing, is that my daughter asked me why we shoot off fireworks on the 4th. I said it was to symbolize the war that we won to become an independent country, but then I had to explain to her that war is a really horrible thing. And the bombs going off back then were not pretty like the fireworks tonight. They were scary and dangerous. And that makes me feel very solemn and I start thinking about all the soldiers nowdays killed in wars. So, this whole celebrating by simulating war thing kind of makes me feel weird and sad.

New Kittens!

We drove all the way to a town called Grand Mound yesterday to pick up a couple new kittens.  Our daughter wanted a pure white kitten and none of the shelters anywhere near us had any, but we found a whole litter of them on craigslist.  We just had to drive almost two hours one way to get to them.  It was worth it though because Snowflake and Nermal are so cute!  And the drive wasn't so bad, I drove one way and my husband drove the other so the driving was equally shared. And lucky for us the Eastside/Tacoma/Olympia horrible traffic spots were totally open because everyone had already traveled for the holiday today. 

Plus. we've found that audiobooks are a great way to keep us entertained and our seven year old daughter when we go on long drives.  The trick is finding stories we all want to listen to.  For awhile that was Hamish McBeth mysteries, but I forgot to put any on hold and our library rarely just has them on the shelf.  The one we listened to on the way to the San Juans last week was Eglantine: A Paranormal Adventure. Ghost stories are a hit with all of us. Next, because some good family friends are Jewish we listened to The Truth About My Bat Mitzvah which was pretty good. And now we're on The Ghost of Fossil Glen. I'm glad that our daughter likes ghost stories because even kid ghost stories keep me entertained. Meanwhile, I got a Sandra Dallas audiobook for when I'm driving alone, but even though I love her books my husband and daughter would be bored to tears.

The kittens are about 9 weeks old I think. I'm really glad we got two of them so they have each other because BuddyCat is treating them with total disdain and the pitbull is so excited to have babies around that she is too exuberant and freaking them out. They are mostly hanging out in the laundry room where the litter box and their bed are. I couldn't figure out why they wouldn't use the litter box until this morning when I cleaned out the BuddyCat pee and then they both jumped in and used it. So, we're going to need two litter boxes for awhile it seems.

Here they are meeting Willow through the glass door.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sad day for Sinatra

The vet came out today to do a lameness test on Sinatra.  The good news is the thrush is clearing up well and so is the abscess.  And he looked completely sound on the walk/trot/canter on the lunge line. But he failed the flexion test horribly.  I had a feeling he would soon after it started.  The vet flexes his leg for a minute and then as soon as she puts it down I'm supposed to take off with him at a trot (leading him of course - not riding him!).  Unfortunately, with his left leg he started freaking out because the flexion hurt and he kept trying to fight her to get his leg away.  Then she counted down from five and as soon as she got to one said, "Ok, go!"  I led him out immediately at a trot. Only he stumbled horribly and almost fell and could barely trot even though he was trying.  He was basically trying to trot with three legs.  I let him walk it out around the arena a little after that then we went back and she flexed his right leg.  His left leg was still so sore that at one point it buckled underneath him and he almost fell over but he ended up on his knee then jumped up again.  He was able to trot a little better after that leg, but is still really far from being sound.

So, for now he has probably two more months of rest from work, but not stall rest - thank goodness for that! He can be turned out every day but no heavy working.  What is frustrating is that it's hard to say what the problem is.  The vet said she could tell more if we could take him to Pilchuck to get an ultrasound or an MRI.  But and MRI would cost $1200 which the rescue can not afford and we certainly can't afford to donate.  So, I said I would do a fundraiser to see if I can raise the money to pay for it.  The vet reminded me that he is a rescue horse and lots of people don't want to invest their money into "problem horses" like that (and she says that with all due respect because she founded and runs her own rescue that works with the rescue that owns Sinatra).  It is a reality though and in fact I've overheard some people in my barn saying to each other, "Rescue horses come with so many issues.  I just couldn't do it." But Sinatra is a pretty popular boy.  Everyone who meets him comments on how cute he is and what a great personality he has.

So, even though I'm frustrated because I have no idea what's wrong with him, at least there is something I can do in the next two months which is focus on raising money to pay for more diagnostics.  And it gives me two months to lose that last ten pounds so I'm thin enough to safely ride him and get him back in shape.

Who wouldn't want to help this little guy?