Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How did you get a sunburn - you're from India!

That is my favorite recent quote "How did you get a sunburn - you're from India!"  My friend, N.D. was telling us about her nephew's new wife who is apparently quite high maintenance and was complaining about how she didn't like it here and how she had a sunburn.  To which N.D. declared said quote.  I think it was funniest because N.D. is also from India and has lived here for about fifteen years so she knows first hand how much more of a challenge it is to get a sunburn here.  Especially the last couple days.  My daughter was even suggesting we turn on the gas fireplace.  Blah.

Speaking of blah no one seems to have any energy today.   My daughter is flopped out on the couch wrapped in an afghan and I was dragging when I was out this morning taking care of Toad and riding Misty.  Even Toad was dragging this morning.  I wonder if it's possible for a horse to temporarily deplete her supply of adrenaline?  She got her blanket strap caught on her feed bucket yesterday and had an enormous panic attack.  I didn't see it but apparently she realized that she couldn't get lose and started jumping around like crazy until she ripped her blanket and got loose, but was still so terrified that she was climbing the walls to escape from her stall.  Trainer K. said Toad was still shaken up an hour later, but then by the time she came out to work and do her training she was very mellow (probably exhausted!). 

Today she didn't have any energy either and when I took her out to free lunge she rolled and then just stood around until I tried chasing her, to which she just trotted away a little and then would stop and look back at me like, "Stop it - that's annoying!"  After just a few minutes she went over to the mounting block and nudged her halter/lead rope with her nose which is her way of saying, "I'm done. Can't we go in now?" So, I took her back and groomed her and got her ready to work on the lunge line figuring I'd just work her hard enough to get the wiggles out.  But she was lazy on the lunge line.  She seemed to be moving fine, just didn't have a lot of get-up-and-go.  But then neither did I today.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Nothing must ever happen to Bunny!

My husband is pathologically attached to my daughter's toy bunny that she sleeps with.  Granted, Bunny has been her favorite toy since she was four years old and she used to carry him everywhere and would not go to sleep without him.  Well, actually it was Bunny and Raggy she wouldn't go to sleep without (Raggy being an infant washcloth which held great significance).  Raggy's have been around since she was an infant when she got very attached to a specific spit rag.  But she has gone to sleep without Raggy as long as she had Bunny.  Now if we misplace Bunny she will use a stand-in like Pal (a stuffed dog whose tail got chewed off by the pitbull) or Goldie (a stuffed Golden Retriever given to my daughter from my adopted teenager).  What I find odd is that my husband gets so upset if Bunny is lost; possibly even more upset than my daughter.  People are interesting.  I will leave it at that.

I bring this up because we narrowly averted a tragedy of enormous proportions this morning.  My mom, my daughter and I went to Emerald Downs first thing in the morning and I did not think to shut the door to the guest room at my parent's house.  Bad mistake because my parent's puppy went in there, found Bunny and ripped his tail off, chewed open his butt and pulled all his stuffings out.  Thankfully, my mom was well prepared with her past as an ER nurse and managed to find the dismembered tail and provide cotton balls to restuff Bunny and sewed him back together and he looked "better, faster, stronger" when she done.

Emerald Downs was fun.  I bought the "experience item" from an auction to benefit Save a Forgotten Equine and we met one of the owners for breakfast and a tour of the back at the barns.  The barns themselves were nice - the stalls were very roomy and very clean, the wash racks were very nice with hot/cold water and soft mats.  The hay looked high quality and they feed a mix of alfalfa/timothy with more alfalfa.  From what I gleaned from my many, many questions was that the racing industry had good owners and not-so-good owners whose motivation for money caused suffering for their horses.  I'm trying to remember the good guy/bad guy analogy the owner we were with used but it was pre-coffee so I don't remember it.  I could tell it was not a good lifestyle for Toad though.  It's very much a "job" type environment without a lot of touchy-feeling time with the horses.  Toad's too sensitive and needy and really craves that one-on-one frequent attention she gets as a pet.  I think it was probably hard on her to live a lifestyle that didn't involve a "mama" snuggling her, feeding her treats and working on teaching her proper manners.

One interesting thing I did not know though, was that the majority of the horses that race at Emerald Down are up for sale all the time.  You just have to file a claim on a horse and that horse is yours.  I had been under the impression that the teenager who owned Toad before me had bought Toad from a family friend who didn't want her anymore because she lost three races.  But what appears to be the real story is that the teenager went to the track with her dad looking for a barrel racing horse and they claimed Toad right off the track.  So, her career was not actually over, it was just stopped suddenly by someone ignorant enough to think she was going to take a Thoroughbred off the track and make her a cow horse.  Having owned a retired champion cow horse and owning Toad I once again must reiterate - WTF???  What I learned today is losing three out of four races is not that big of a deal and any ole loser can claim a horse.  I bet Toad's breeder would've been disappointed to hear that she ended up wasting away 18 months of her life in a stall instead of continuing to do anything - if not racing at least being someone's pet like she is now. Anyway, it worked out well in the end I guess because now Toad is mine and she continues to progress well.

I was sad to find out in my investigation this evening that Toad's breeder/race owner died last month.  I was hoping to look him up and follow some of his other horses.  He was a prominent veterinarian in Seattle apparently and he was fairly old so hopefully he had lived a good life.  But still it was disappointing to find out.

Speaking of Toad, she was a little kookoo-for-cocoa-puffs today.  I put her in the cross-ties and was going to groom her for a bit in hopes that Trainer K. would come back soon because the bridle I'm using was in her locker.  But Her Royal Toadness was in quite a snit and kept trying to nip at me.  Heather stopped by to talk and hear about my trip to Emerald Downs (she used to work at the race track in Texas) and I had to stop mid-sentence every couple sentences to give Toad the stink-eye for pinning her ears and nipping at me.  She finally stopped nipping but continued to pin her ears.  When I took her out to the arena to free lunge she was bucking and squealing all over the place.  After much running and kicking and bucking though she felt much better and we went for a walk outside and she did extremely well (for her).  At no point did she spin or rear so that is good!  At first we had to do a lot of stopping and having her back up again so she wasn't in front of me, but by the end on our way back in to the stable she actually got it together and walked very politely with me.  Yay!  It was the first time she'd really walked a little behind me with a nice relaxed walk when we were outside.  She's gotten that down in the arena but hadn't until today accomplished it outside.

The other cool thing I learned about today is the archive of race videos from Emerald Downs and look what I found!!! The race Tuff Toad won!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The American marketing scams

I've been toying with writing an article and submitting it to a parenting magazine about the scam of "emergent schools" after seeing what a joke it is at the super expensive private school the boy I nanny for went to.  His mom and I were talking about it the other day and I mentioned wanting to write that article then said I didn't want to come out to them that I was her nanny and she said she didn't care.   It might be that all "emergent" schools are not like this one though.  There is a "homeschool school" by us that has students who graduate and go to excellent colleges and end up well functioning and happy.  But they seem to have a different format because they actually give homework and set goals for their students to meet from what I can tell (from talking to the kids on occasion when they pass by our house and reading their website). 

The school the boy I nanny for went to on the other hand does not believe in schedules, curriculum or setting goals for the kids.   They believe kids needs the freedom to create their own goals and learn what interests them.  So, from what I can tell, the goals that "my charge" decided on were to get to the highest level in a video game called Poplandia and to make the ultimate paper airplane.  The classrooms don't have desks but they do have a table for the kids to use if need be, but most of the kids lie on the floor to play or sit at the computers and play video games.  Except at recess when they do whatever they want unattended, including setting things on fire.  You too can have all this for your child for almost $20k a year.  Plus the extra cost of hiring tutors because the school hasn't taught them anything (which from what I can tell is the biggest complaint from parents who had kids attend there including my boss).  So, it's off to public school for "my charge".  My daughter loves her school and has been very encouraging saying this summer she's going to tell him all the wonderful things about public school and how much he'll love it.  I'll be interested to see how well he does.  He is extremely bright so I imagine once he adjusts he will just take off and really start to love all the opportunities to learn so much. 

Of course, we're lucky both our families live in really good school districts.  It's a lot harder down in the Highline SD where I grew up and some of my friends still live.  Most of them send their kids to private school - but once again, I'd homeschool before I sent my kid to an "emergent school" and wasted my money on what is basically super-expensive babysitting where the babysitters do less than most daycares do.  I think homeschooling would be incredibly fun except for a few things in our case:  1) After gradeschool I don't feel qualified to teach all the subjects that they have experts for at schools 2) I have to work part-time and 3) My daughter doesn't want to learn anything from me and most of all 4) she is so social that without daily interaction with her peers she would go nuts (and drive me nuts).  I think that's why people who go to the school near us go there - it's 3 days a week and they can still homeschool, but their kids get time with experts and lots of peer interaction on top of it.

The other marketing scam in our country that's been on my mind is "organic" and "free range".  Many months ago my dad told me about an investigative article he read that found that companies can sell their chicken as "free range" as long as they have a certain amount of outside square footage to leave the coop into.  I don't remember the exact measurements but it was something tiny - like a foot per chicken.  And it didn't have to be a pleasant area, it could be a tiny patch of concrete, gravel, or broken up chunks of cement and construction waste.  But as long as the chickens could leave the coop they are "free range".

The other worrisome thing is the lable "organic". My sister-in-law horrified me last Thanksgiving when she said, "I don't need to wash these grapes because they're organic".   Well, if they're in your yard and they're organic that's one thing.  But "organic" is a label that companies can buy and they have to only use certain pesticides and herbicides and only certain amounts allowed by the FDA.  Products such as Entrust spinosad, Javelin Bacillus thuringiensis and Cueva Fungicide copper octanoate are sprayed from helicopters onto for instance and organic spinach field. (source: "The American Way of Eating" by Tracie McMillan).  Before you think these are harmless natural products - workers are required to stay out of the fields for a minimum of four hours after spraying because of the danger of the fumes.

We don't have a huge hard but I'm filling it up with as much garden as I can.  Obviously, we don't have enough room to grow all our own produce, but it'll be nice to have more of it since I know it is organic in a real sense - not in a "marketing term bought for my company" sense.  And it's good practice for someday when we might live on more land where we can grow a lot more of our own produce.  But for now I have pots, and raised beds all over the place. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

The show must go on.

I volunteered as a scribe at a horse show yesterday.  I was a little worried because at first my shift was five hours and I was pretty sure that my hand would not hold up writing for five hours straight.  Thankfully, after telling that to the volunteer coordinator my shift got cut down to roughly 3.5-4 hours.  Which I pulled off although near the end my hand was in a state of enormous cramp and my brain was starting to blank out on how to write the letter "6" and spell simple words like "activity".  I can't even imagine how the judge's brain must have felt after eight hours of having to comment on an average of fifteen moves per rider (of which there were over sixty riders!)

It was a lot of fun though and I really liked the judge.  I hadn't scribed since last summer though and I forgot to review the common abbreviations (despite telling myself I would numerous times!) so that made it a little more challenging.  Because I knew a little more what I was doing I was able to watch some of the riders myself at little moments between having to write stuff down. 

I'm not sure exactly what the protocol is for judge's - but I've noticed they seem to be expected to make more comments on the horse's performance than the riders.  They do get to say some stuff about the rider but I'm not sure if that's only in schooling shows and they can only talk about the horses when you get into the FEI Levels.  I'll have to look into that.  But I have noticed the judge's need to focus more on whether the horse is stretching properly, bending properly, etc. 

Meanwhile, where my brain is at since I'm working so hard on my posture and form these days and trying to communicate with Toadie, the few moments when I wasn't writing that I could look up and watch the rides I was completely focused on the riders.  I have to say the only two horses I remember were a very spunky, hot little Saddlebred near the end who was riding in the Second Level test and who was just adorable.  And this amazing, beautiful Freisan who was riding in the First Level tests and who was so energetic and graceful that I never noticed what his rider was doing because he was such a beautiful horse.

But it was interesting to watch the riders at Training Level (which is much more the level I'm at with my riding - I'm definitely quite a ways away from First and Second level!).  And little Toad is not even ready for her Intro tests (which are the very beginning tests).  One woman even road an Eventing Test which I'd never seen before.  It wasn't that much different but the configuration was different enough I'm sticking to the Dressage Intro tests when I start doing schooling shows with Toad because I've memorized those and the Eventing test was all sorts of configured differently.  Plus, I have no desire to do Eventing.  Ever.  No Cross Country for me, Toad or my daughter! Too dangerous!

It was really interesting to watch the riders more at my level.  Some seemed to do very well despite being nervous.  Some had horses who were really wound up and freaked out and I could tell a big difference between the riders who stayed calm with their freaked out horses and the riders whose freaking out seemed to escalate with their horse.  One rider really reminded me of myself because she had this big black Thoroughbred who was very scared and kept scooting and bolting and every time he did she would say "Ssssssh ... relaaaax ..." and never got upset.  In fact he freaked out so badly she finally stopped him in front of the judge's booth and said with a relaxed laugh, "We're going to excuse ourselves, ok?"  That was inspiring to see such a good natured ride who obviously loved and understood her horse.  I hope I can have that much composure the first time Toad and do a schooling show if she freaks out like that.

Speaking of freaking out,  Trainer K. rode Gemini for his first and second level tests.  That was sure a treat to get to sit with the judge and listen to the scores she was giving my trainer!  Gemini did really well which I thought was amazing considering how nervous he can be.  They brought Favio with him to be a spectator and get used to the show environment and he did really well too.  Well, I guess he didn't do as well when they first go there but I got there after they'd already lunged him.  Gemini's first ride went really well and his second ride went well but he was all wound up because while Trainer K. was warming him up he got spooked by some horses that were on a trail ride who passed the arena.  He did some circling and a couple little panicked levades.  But I heard Trainer K. laughing and telling him all would be well and that seemed to help him calm down.  I was watching them from the judge's booth and Trainer K. looked over just as she'd gotten him to stop spooking and I gave her the thumb's up then immediately regretted it because 1) the judge must never know anything about the horse's competing including whether or not I know them and 2) I imagine it is considered very bad form for the scribe to give a thumb's up to a total stranger in the middle of a show.  Oh well!  Thank goodness it was a schooling show!

I was surprised by some of the riders doing things I had been taught never to do like being way too harsh with their horses or doing what I've been told is the worst thing to do which is driving with your butt to get the horse to move faster.  That basically means pushing down with your butt then pushing forward in the saddle.  Just watching it makes it look like it would hurt the horses back.  So of course for me, it would've been far more interesting if every single rider came with a bio of who their trainers are and who their riding instructors are and what their backgrounds are.  I fear I have become my own worst nightmare because even though I am still a "green rider" I find myself watching other rider's and thinking "No, no no! Don't do that!"  Sigh.  Maybe I'm not *that* green if I know what not to do.   I really don't know what level I would be.  My head right now seems to be trying to get way forward of what my body is capable of.  Right now the struggle for me is to gain more flexibility and strength and then I can actually ride the way I know I'm aspiring too.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Oh just how sappy am I ...

If there is any doubt that I am horse crazy I have a confession to make.  This song makes me think of me and Tuff Toad.  You know, seeing as she was "the crazy horse no one wanted" and now she's still a young, immature Thoroughbred but she is such a sweet girl.  One of the women who recently moved her horse to our barn had to have her horse put down two days ago and it was really unexpected.  So, the shock of that has made me appreciate Toad even more because I can't imagine how I'll feel when she eventually has to go.  We've already been through so much together in just the last ten months.  Today when I was grooming her I just felt the overwhelming need to snuggle with her and give her huge hugs.  Anyway, this is our song:

Just so you don't start feeling sorry for my husband, I have songs for him too.  See, I have two songs for him.  This is the first one (although the video doesn't remind me of him because I can't quite imagine him in Brazil and bless his heart, he is very white ...):

Unfortunately, I can't find a good video for the other song which is "Sideways" by Citizen Cope. 

There also isn't a video for the song by Radio Nationals "Fall Down" which is my song for my daughter.  I used to sing it to her as lullaby and she will still ask me occasionally to sing it to her.  But this is also her song.  I listened to this cd during my labor and now that's what I think of whenever I think of it and I get all sappy and happy.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ah ... my failing reputation

Today is one of those days where I need to stop and rethink if I'm a nice person or kind of a bitch.   Not a "full on bitch" by any means, I'm pretty confident I'm not one of those.  But I do need to evaluate if I'm "kind of a bitch".   Honestly, I think I am - at least to a certain degree.  Much like Dexter though, I am only bitchy to bad people. 

Anyway, walking home from the park with the dog this morning I passed one of my neighbors who I recently "un-friended" from Facebook.  She just irritates me in general because she's one of those white trash, can't take care of her kids, blames everyone else,  plays computer games all day types and I figured I would be polite to her in passing but I didn't want a relationship with her.  I honestly didn't even think she'd notice, since I have never noticed if someone unfriends me on Facebook.  Apparently, she did notice and this did not go over well with her because I passed her outside her house this morning and said "Good morning" and she put her nose up in the air and made sure not to look at me as she walked into her house.  Sigh.  Yes, us forty-somethings are apparently still in sixth grade.

Yesterday I looked out the window and saw a teenager standing in our driveway over BuddyCat (our ancient tabby I've had for over 17 years who is in failing health and I'm very stressed that he is not long for this world).  There was another teenager with her trying to pull her away and I thought things didn't look good so I went out and picked up BuddyCat to bring him in.  The teen snarled, "Is that your cat?" and I said, "Yes," and walked into the house.  I looked out the window and she was still standing in our driveway giving me the stink eye and (oops) I regressed a little to being a teenager in my head myself and opened the door and asked, "Is there a problem?"  and the little brat said, "Yeah, that cat is way too skinny!" in a nasty, accusatory tone.  So I snapped back (in a "get out of my business Little Missy!" tone) "That cat is almost 18 years old and is on antibiotics, probiotics, and thyroid medicine. He is very sick."  To which the teen snapped, "Well, I didn't know that! He was out here without a collar so I was going to call someone and take him somewhere!"  Which made me so angry that I just turned around and went inside.  Because if I hadn't been home and she'd taken BuddyCat away, the shelter (or whoever) wouldn't know what medicine he was on or anything and it would've probably killed him.  I was so mad I felt like putting a tag on him that says "Do not steal me ignorant self-righteous teens because I need my medicine!"

I got a call today from my friend, Tara saying that the mom of the kid the teens were visiting was at work with her when her son called and said "The neighbor just went crazy and started screaming at my friends! I saw it all! She was just crazy and screaming!  We didn't do anything! Don't get us in trouble!"   Sigh.  I checked with Tara to make sure the mom wasn't mad at me for "going crazy" on her kid's friends and Tara assured me she wasn't.  So, I'm not even going to say anything about it.  I'm just going to let those teens think I'm crazy (which they probably don't - they probably just didn't want to get in trouble and were afraid I'd go talk to the boy's mom).  But if they do - let them think I'm crazy.  Maybe they'll stay out of my driveway and away from my cat.

Other than that, life is good.  I kind of miss the old days of not being close to my neighbors in the city or really knowing any of them very well, because then there wasn't any drama and I would never have heard the teens little story to get out of getting into trouble.  But I guess the reality is I do enjoy having close friends in the neighborhood and knowing just about everyone.  Having good friends right by us that I know I can count on far outweighs the small amount of drama that comes from having teenagers around (who are just going to be teenagers) and the occasional white trash neighbor and the occasional crazy neighbor.

And P.S. - my husband somehow fixed our coffee maker.  No clue what he did but it is a relief.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My first world problems.

I'm having a "first world dilemna".  By the way, I find that expression amusing only because I've heard it used incorrectly so many times by people who have never actually been to a "third world country".  I'd say I'm having a "1% problem" but although I feel like we're really rich (when thinking of much of the rest of the world) in reality we are not even remotely rich if you're thinking in terms of the people who are called "the 1%".  Actually, most of the Occupiers at least here in Seattle are extremely wealthy when you compare them to a large portion of the world.  Anyway.  My first world problem is coffee.  Our coffee maker broke yesterday morning as I was rushing out the door with my daughter to take her to an early morning doctor appointment.  Then I got stuck in traffic with no coffee and I was sad.

My boss has one of those single-serve coffee makers where you put the little pod in the top and hit "brew" and it makes an incredibly good cup of coffee.  Ever since she gave me the go ahead I always make myself a cup of coffee at her house because it is so good!  But, upon reading the reviews it sounds like those things have a longevity of on average 18 months.  And I can't bring myself to buy something for $100+ that I know is just going to break in about a year.  Especially seeing as our crappy (but supposedly really nice) coffee maker I bought right before we moved 17 months ago just died on me.  This planned obsolesence crap really irritates me.  Maybe I should just stick with my French press?

Last weekend we did a lot of gardening and I even managed to get my daughter out to help me weed in the Secret Garden by telling her I'd pay her (she's saving up for American Girl outfits for her AG doll).  She thinks I'm being too harsh on her because I'm making her work to earn the money to buy stuff for her doll and she's "only eight years old! Geez!"  And she thinks I'm being harsh because she only gets $2 a week allowance and doesn't get it when she doesn't do her chores.  And it gets knocked in half if it's a fight to do her chores.  I'm not going to doubt myself because she thinks I'm being harsh, but the other day I heard her friends talking and one was saying he gets $3 a week without doing anything.  And I've heard other kids too get an allowance every week without any expectations.  Which does kind of chip away at my brain and make me wonder if I am being too harsh.  I do buy her books and art stuff throughout the year.  And even the occasional Wii game.  And come to think of it a toy here or there.  But not very often (excepts books and art stuff - I would buy her that every day because it's educational and lasts).  But sometimes I do wonder if I am too much of a drill sergeant.  But deep inside me I feel such a pull to teach her to have a work ethic and not to feel entitled that I just can't bring myself to just give her an allowance "just because" without any chore expectations.   So, I don't know.  I'm doubting myself but I'm not to the point where I feel good about changing my stance.

In gardening news, my husband got a beautiful frame set up for bunny fencing around the strawberries in the community garden.  Now he just needs to put up the wire this weekend (hopefully, the strawberries won't be ripe before then because that's when the bunnies descend en masse to consume them all during the night).  My bean starts look like I may have to finally give up on them.  And the bok choi starts never made it.  I put my tomato, peppers and cantalope starts out five days ago and so far they haven't died so fingers crossed!  And my daughter planted some pumpkin seeds and I planted some carrot seeds so we'll see how they do.

Toad is doing well.  She was a crazed maniac for reasons unbeknownst to me two days ago but seemed to be doing better yesterday.  On Monday when I was bringing her in from the pasture Trainer K. had suggested I use a chain because she was so wound up (I have only used a chain when leading her maybe once or twice).  I thought Trainer K. was being overly cautious until we walked out of the pasture into the path leading to the driveway and Toad tried to yank her head down twice to eat grass - not in her usual "I think I'll just ooze my head over this long piece of grass and grab a nip ..."  but more of a "Fuck you! I"m eating this grass!"  She got so mad when I corrected her that as we turned into the driveway which goes to the barn she decided to bolt.  Luckily, I was expecting it so between being prepared early on and the chain I corrected her enough to stop her before she got going, which pissed her off so much she tried to rear, but with the chain she only could comfortably go up just a little then had to come back down at which point she planted her feet firmly on the ground and looked at me as if to say "You totally suck!!!"  Then she danced and tried to turn circles all the way to her stall.  Sigh.

Yesterday she was doing a lot better.  Although when I took her out of the grooming room to lead her to the arena for some lunge work, she tried to turn and bolt out the front door of the barn.  That lasted about thirty seconds before I convinced her she needed to turn around and come do her work and she let out a huge sigh and politely followed me into the arena and did a good job in her work.   I think it's just her Thoroughbred brain and she's going to have days like that and I may never know why.  I'm just not going to ride her on those days and continue to remind her that no matter how she feels inside, outside she needs to stick to her manners.

The last couple days we've been doing our free lunging as we usually do, but I've been trying to keep my whip off to the side or behind my back dragging on the ground as much as I can and practicing using my body language instead.  We have a communication system going where I used the whip as an extension of my arm to show where to go and stuff like that and rarely/if ever crack it or use it as intimidation.  But I am trying to use my body more like Trainer K. and M. told me about from the Liberty workshop.  Yesterday I was doing a lot better communicating with her that way.  I mostly had the whip dragging behind me and didn't have to use it for showing direction and all that as much, or for motivating her.  It's going to take a lot of work and it will help of there is another clinic this summer I can go to myself.  But I think we'll eventually get it.