Monthly Archives: May 2012

Our First Graduation

We had a momentous event this week.  On Wednesday night Annabelle and Batman had their first graduation program.  The kids just completed the 2011-2012 school year at their pre-school, Little Learners, and this week they and their ten little classmates received their first-ever diplomas. 

Annabelle will be attending kindergarten next year, and we were thrilled to find out this week that she got into the highly coveted new charter school located just a half mile from our front door. If I can behave myself enough to not get her kicked out, she will start her formal (bi-lingual, classical) education in late August.  Batman will actually return to Little Learner’s next year, but since he completed the graduation requirements like the other kids he got to go through the ceremony just the same.

The first battle was one of attire.  One might assume that it would be harder to dress a little girl, but Annabelle’s only requirement was that she wore a pink dress.  Since they had the perfect size right there at our nearby Costco we were set.

Batman, on the other hand, was a little tougher.  His requirement was that he wear a shirt with a picture on the front.  Of Batman.  He got a few new Batman t-shirts (actually pajamas) for his recent birthday, and brooked no discussion about any other clothing options.  I enlisted the help of Miss Torrie, his pre-school teacher, to help with the dilemma.  Miss Torrie didn’t really care what he wore, but she did indicate that most kids would likely be a little more dressed up than Batman pajamas. 

I finally solved the problem by suggesting that Batman wear cowboy clothes.  To him, that means anything purchased at D&B.  That seemed acceptable to my little diva-man, so we set off on a shopping excursion.  The first problem with the new plan arose when we walked into D&B and the first article of children’s clothing he saw was a little boy’s t-shirt with a large picture of a bull on the front.  You can guess what happened next.

Fortunately, they did not have the bull shirt in Batman’s size, and I finally talked him into a regular shirt to match his new belt.  Then I had to buy him new cowboy boots since his former boots were last worn in the swamp at Eagle Island, and they haven’t ever really recovered.  It wasn’t the cheapest pre-school graduation outfit in the history of man, but at least we got it handled.

When it was all said and done I thought they cleaned up pretty well.

Before the Ceremony

Miss Torrie had rented the ballroom at the local Best Western for the event, and she did herself proud with the decorations and refreshments.  She even had a custom cake made for the occasion.

Cake

And beautifully decorated tables.

Table

And even a stage.  There were no alcoholic beverages served at the party, but you can’t tell it from some of my pictures. Sheez!

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The kids were thrilled that two of their older sissies (and one boyfriend too) were able to come to the ceremony. 

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Their grandpa and grandma Becki and Elliott, adopted grandma and grandpa Kay and Vernon, and aunt and uncle Doug and Melody all came to watch as well.  Desperate Hubby opted to stay home because his foot was hurting and he didn’t think he’d be able to sit with it on the ground for that long.  He missed out.

The kids watched avidly as final preparations were made of the stage.

Setup 

Things got started with Miss Torrie giving everyone a warm welcome.  She is an amazing teacher and a wonderful person, and we consider ourselves so lucky to have her in our lives.

Miss T Welcome

The kids filed in and took their assigned seats.  First they all stood, one by one, and introduced themselves to the audience.  Annabelle stood and said her name loudly and clearly so everyone could hear.  Batman stood up and smiled.  And smiled. And fidgeted.  And smiled.  Miss Torrie prompted him “My name is…….”  He smiled.  Finally Miss Torrie said his name for him and he sat down with evident relief. 

The class performed a darling musical program where they all sang and danced and played a variety of musical instruments. It was super cute. 

Music Performance

The music portion of the program lasted about thirty minutes or so, and then Miss Torrie handed out the diplomas.  Each child walked to the stage in cap and gown to the music of “Pomp and Circumstance” and was handed their diploma.  It was all very grown up and official.

Didn’t I tell you Miss Torrie is awesome?

Zach's Diploma

Both kids stood proudly with their first diplomas.

A and Z Diploma

And then gave me some pretty goofy close-ups.

Silly Zach

Told you they were goofy.

Wild Hair

After the ceremony we all had cake and sparkling lemonade.  It was a fun and entertaining evening.

Did I say that Miss Torrie is my idol?

Categories: Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | 5 Comments

Grapes Make Whine

This past weekend the kids and I attended a “Planting Party” at our good friends Tom and Kari Points’ ranch in Middleton.  Tom and Kari had made a trip to the wine country of Washington a few days prior and picked up about 835 new Malbec plants to add to their small vineyard, for a total of 1000 vines on the picturesque south slope of their property.

I was pretty excited about going to the planting party.  You see, I had helped install the first allotment of around 170 plants last year, so I considered myself a seasoned veteran in the business of planting, and had a somewhat proprietary feeling about the grapes that we had already planted. It had been incredibly rewarding to finish our hard day’s labor and look down the neat rows of fledgling vines, dreaming of the cases of wine that would be the literal fruit of our labors.

I was even happier to help this year because the planting process had been expedited significantly by the convenience of trenches dug the length of each new row, eliminating the requirement of digging each individual hole like we did last year.

The kids and I got there a little after 10:00 am, and there were already several people there planting away.

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Tom had learned a lot from last year’s planting marathon, and he had pre-measured each row, putting a little orange tipped skewer at precisely each point where a plant should be interred.   The grapes were planted about five feet apart.

The plants had been shipped in a large wooden box buried in a rich wet black soil.

Box O Vines

The vines were bundled into batches of 25 each, and Tom dug my first bundle out to get me started.

Vines out of Dirt

He put the bundle into a bucket and we set out up the hill.

Vines into Bucket

I went to an empty row and got ready to go to work.

Whole Bucket of Vines

I watched Amy, Kari’s friend from the BLM and copied her technique.  First she loosened her target from the bundle.

Doing Squats 

Then she spread out the roots a little and put the plant at the proper height, placing it in the trench precisely where indicated by the little orange stick.

Amy Plants

She squatted up and down as she prepared the dirt and got everything situated.

Amy packs dirt

The finished product looked like this.

Finished Product

This would be a piece of cake.  No digging!  Just burying.  And no backfill.  All you had to do was get the roots of each plant covered with a little mound of dirt and you were set.  I couldn’t believe that I was getting a free lunch for this.

There were varying techniques exhibited by the different participants.

TheBend

Some did a teamwork approach.

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Batman came and helped me off and on as I toiled.  He spent more time squashing beetles and dissecting worms than planting, but he was still good company.

Batman Shovels

All the other kids played around the farm. The chickens were a big source of entertainment.  Until one accidentally died.

Kids in Chicken House

Actually it turned out to be only stunned, but I was proud of Annabelle.  She carried the (what she thought was dead) chicken all the way up to the house to see if it could be helped.  Kari put it in a dog crate and returned it to its friends, and the chicken was fine in a few hours. I’m not sure how it met its near demise.  I probably don’t want to know.

We finished planting at around 1:00.  Tom and Kari were so happy.  They put out a big lunch spread on their porch, and each person put their name on a cork to be put in a basket for a drawing.

Prizes on Porch

I didn’t win any official door prizes but that was OK with me.  Kari gave me a bottle of wine to take home when I left.  She knows what keeps me coming back.

The kids had lots of fun playing.  Batman played on the swing set with Kade for a long time.

Zach and Kade

Of course, Annabelle had to ride Mae, Kade and Kampbell’s pony, since she doesn’t get enough riding at home.

Horsecrazy and Mae

And she and Kampbell went on a retrieval mission to get buckets of garden tools from the bottom of the hill.

DSCN0644              A Brings Buckets

Zach had the most fun of the day sliding down the grassy slope on the side of the yard.  Of course, he kept his treat bag in hand so no one else would get it.

Sliding Down hill

I checked out the plants that I had helped plant last year.  They were thriving nicely.

last year plants

It takes four years before a vine is ready to harvest, and each plant will produce approximately two to three bottles of wine per harvest.  By my calculations, the 2 Points vineyard will produce about 2500 bottles of Malbec per year once it is up and running.  That is more than even I can drink.

It had been a beautiful day at the ranch.  The kids and I drove home tired but happy.  I marveled to Desperate Hubby how easy the day had gone, and talked of how all the other helpers just didn’t know how easy they had it, planting in pre-measured trenches.  I scoffed.  That wasn’t even real work.

Then I tried to get out of bed the next day.  As it turns out, planting grape starts, even in a pre-trenched vineyard, is an awful lot like doing squats.  As I had gone through four buckets of vines and about 100 plants, I figured that I had done approximately 400 to 600 squats during the afternoon of labor.  I winced with every step, and actually screamed out loud when Batman walked up behind me and gave me a hug on my legs.  Going up and down the one stair into our garage remains a special agony, and I dread standing up after being seated for any amount of time.  I am sure that in a foot race my crutch-ridden husband would not only beat me, but probably lap me.

Of course, my pain does not go unsung.  Just ask Desperate Hubby.

Turns out, grapes do make whine.

Categories: Life in the Country | Leave a comment

New Zealand Part II: Horse Wrangling

Traveling with a pack string through the wild lands of New Zealand was no small feat.  Although we had paid a significant amount of money for the privilege of riding these magnificent horses through some of the most beautiful country that God ever made, we were still required to help around camp.

Our riding counterpart Diane-From-Colorado was comfortable assisting with the kitchen-type duties, so she usually helped Jenny out in preparing and cleaning up after meals.

I was much more interested in the care of the eight horses that carried us and all of our stuff from camp to camp, so I naturally gravitated toward helping with the string.

If it wasn’t too cold when we got to camp, I washed the horses down with whatever water was available.  In this camp it was an icy cold stream.   

Notice how the men are helping me in this instance.

Washing Fern

And this one.  I think brother Rob was drinking a small cup of Jack Daniel’s.

Washing Buckskin

Once the horses were unloaded and rinsed off, we turned them out to graze for the evening.  Once or twice we stayed in stations where there was a fenced pasture, but most nights we put up a large portable electric fence to contain them.

Putting up Fence

I tend to be an early riser, so as soon as I got up in the morning I would catch all the horses and tie them up, then get them all brushed off.

Brushing Them off

After they were brushed, I would lay out the tack and saddle the riding horses. 

I saddle

The saddling of the packhorses was generally handled by Rob and Lawrie, who would amble out and get started as soon as I got all the horses cleaned up.  Managing the pack saddles was actually a pretty technical activity, as each pack had to be weighed and balanced carefully to make sure it fit the pack horses properly and wouldn’t shift or make them sore.

A few days into our trip we were staying at “Dead Bird Station,” which wasn’t its real name but that was what I called it after we stayed there.  You will be horrified when I tell you why.

Anyway, at Dead Bird Station we had a rest day.  During the rest day instead of laying around and, oh, resting, Lawrie decided that he would ride the three year old Matia for the first time.  I thought that sounded like grand fun.  After a few days of dragging the spirited, half-wild black colt along behind me on the trail I was ready to see him get a little discipline and hopefully a dose of humility.

We all settled in on the fence for what was sure to be a good show.

Lawrie started out by sacking Matia out with a soft rope, desensitizing him to the feel of stuff touching him in unfamiliar places.  Matia wasn’t too impressed.

Sacking Matia

Next our fearless leader saddled Matia with a heavy pack containing a couple of bags of grain.  Matia thought quite poorly of this idea, and in the end he had to have his hind foot tied up off the ground so that his resistance was limited.

Letting Matia Soak

We left Matia to think about things while we went to eat lunch, then I helped Lawrie get him saddled in a regular saddle.  With some difficulty he finally got on the colt, who was getting madder by the minute. That’s when things got real interesting.

Matia bucked.

He Bucks

He reared.

He Rears

In fact, right after this photo was taken, though none of us captured it on film, the colt reared again.  Higher this time.  And Lawrie, the Real Man From Snowy River, simply stepped off the colt and pulled him over backwards. Literally pulled him over backwards. He accomplished this without stepping completely out of the saddle, so when the colt got back up Lawrie was still riding him.  I don’t know how he did that, but it was very impressive.

Finally the colt got tired enough that he sort of gave up, and Lawrie rode him around the pasture a few times.

He's Broke

When they returned to fence where we were all sitting, we whooped and hollered, congratulating Lawrie on a good show.  I hopped down off the fence to go see if there was any wine left in box on the kitchen counter. 

But wait. 

Lawrie had other ideas.

Leading Me

I’m not sure what possessed him to think I should be riding this wild young gelding, but he was insistent.  When he led me around at first it didn’t seem like that bad of an idea.

Then he turned me loose.

Riding Junior

The colt bolted off, completely out of control.  My life flashed before my eyes.  Along with about a million other thoughts.  “There is no Life Flight here!” “Why is Rob laughing?” “Why am I doing this?” “Who will get my Porsche when I don’t return from this trip?” “What about my dog Bette?”  “Why is Lawrie laughing"?”

Eventually the colt and I settled down into a sort of understanding.  He slowed a little and let me guide him a bit around the big pasture.

A little calmer

Eventually I trotted and loped him around without any problems.  I was happy he was apparently tired of bucking by that time.

Now we're good

When we were finished I unsaddled the colt and turned him loose.  I was giddy with relief over having survived the ordeal.

Lawrie had apparently been testing me in some fashion (ya think?) because he set about trying to convince me in earnest to come work for him and Jenny in their business.  I still can’t believe I didn’t do that.

Next week I’ll give some more details about life on the trail, and tell you how brother Rob also had a near-death experience at Dead Bird Camp.

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A Cast Change

Today has been three weeks since Desperate Hubby’s foot surgery, and we went back yesterday morning for a cast change and x-rays to see how everything was coming along. 

DH is getting really tired of me taking pictures of him all the time, but as he is still on crutches and unable to catch me (barely) I was able to bring my camera along to document the occasion.

Heading In

DH and I were both anxious to hear what Dr. Hirosi would have to say.  He has been feeling very well, experiencing little pain or swelling, and we hoped that was a good sign for his recovery.

We checked in and were taken right back to the cast change room, where we were greeted by Dr. Hirosi’s young protégé, Joe.  He and DH shook hands like old friends.  They seemed really happy to see each other, and I thought they might have hugged if I hadn’t been there. Just kidding.  Sorta.

Hi Joe

After inquiring all about how DH had been getting along, with obvious and sincere interest, Joe went right to work cutting off the old cast.

He sawed down one side with what looked like a tiny electric pizza cutter (note:  awesome invention idea).

Sawing Once

Then he cut down the other side.

Sawing Twice

DH said he could feel the vibration of the saw but no pain. 

Next Joe cracked the cast open with something DH called a “rib cracker.”  He pulled apart the two pieces of the cast and dropped them on the floor, where they lay like the discarded husk of a cocoon.

Cracking Cast

Then he cut off all the cotton batting that had been cushioning DH’s foot and leg. When he started to take that off I steeled myself for the worst, relying on my journalistic professionalism (again, just kidding) to make me keep taking pictures.  DH had accidentally filled his cast with water two days ago in the shower, and I had visions of rotten green flesh falling off of the foot when it was unwrapped.

Cutting Cotton

DH confessed his faux pas to Joe as the foot was unwrapped.  He also explained his emergency treatment procedure, which had involved taking my blow dryer and blowing air down the cast until it felt dry.

I admit I had kind of scoffed at this plan as it unfolded, but Joe was impressed.  He said that was exactly what he would have recommended be done.  Sometimes I don’t give DH enough credit.

At last the great reveal.  There was no gangrene to be seen.

Bruised Foot

The foot looked awesome.  Joe went right to work taking out the stitches.

Taking Out Stitches

I offered to take the stitches out myself to let Joe have a little break, since I had done it lots of times on horses.  For some reason DH rejected this suggestion without even giving it any consideration whatsoever.  He probably didn’t want to hurt Joe’s feelings.

Joe was fast and gentle with the stitches, and DH said he couldn’t feel a thing.  That made Joe laugh.  He said you’d be surprised at how many grown men are brought almost to tears by the stitch removal process.  Big babies.

When he was all done the foot looked like this.  Pretty good for a double joint fusion involving a complex metal plate and a bunch of screws, huh?

Good Foot

DH said it felt great to have his cast off, and Joe encouraged him to wiggle his ankle and toes as much as he wanted.

Next it was time to address the hip. Joe took off the large bandage that had covered DH’s bone marrow removal site for the past weeks.  We were interested to see what was under there.

This is what it was. The stitches in this incision were under the skin, so Joe just had to take off the tape covering the top.  He said this looked great too.

Hip Incision

Next DH went down the hall to have his foot x-rayed.  We returned to the cast room and waited for the doctor to arrive.  He came in a minute or two later and we all looked at the x-rays on his phone.  Very impressive technology by the way.  Everything moved too quickly to take any pictures, but Dr. Hirosi pronounced the recovery to be right on track.  He was pleased with the healing so far, and genuinely happy that DH had managed the pain so well.

He prescribed lots of calcium, several minutes of sunshine each day, and limiting caffeine.  He said to come back in one month for another look.  If things looked good then there was a possibility that DH may get to have a boot instead of a cast, but he still would not be able to put any weight on the foot for a full month beyond that time.

DH was intrigued with the idea of the boot. He asked if he could take the boot off to sleep at night.  Dr. Hirosi said yes.  He asked if he could take the boot off to take a shower.  Dr. Hirosi said yes.  Then he asked if he could take the boot off and start doing rubber band exercises to speed up his rehab.  Dr. Hirosi said no. Absolutely not.

I am pretty sure there is no boot in DH’s future.

Dr. Hirosi said goodbye, and then it was time to put a cast back on.

First Joe put a big socky thing over the foot and leg.

Cast Sock

Then a few rolls of the cotton batting.  He said because there would no swelling to worry about this time he could make the cast a little smaller.

More Cotton

As he worked Joe told us that he would be leaving this fall to attend medical school at the University of Utah.  He was excited to have been granted admission there, and I could tell he was going to be a great doctor.  I told him so.

After more deliberation than you might expect DH chose the color of black for his cast.  Joe assured us that the kids could still write on it, using a sparkly silver or gold Sharpie. 

First Joe took a roll of fiberglass out of the package.  It looked exactly like the Vet Wrap I have used dozens of times bandaging my horses.  The roll of fiberglass was dipped in the water for a few seconds to soften it.

Wet Fiberglass

Then he rolled it smoothly around the cotton batting.

Finishing Heel

About midway through Joe realized that the cast was a little tight, so he gently removed DH’s smallest two toes to accommodate the tight space.

Trimming Toes

Ha!  Just seeing if you were paying attention.  I actually have no idea that he was doing with the scissors.  I crack myself up.

Loves His Job

In no time at all we were finished and headed back home.  DH was happy with the comparatively slim line of his new cast, and we were both glad that the healing was right on track.

More progress reports coming in a month!

Categories: Life in the Country, Random Musings | Leave a comment

The Best $49 We Ever Spent

Every summer since the kids were little we have gotten some sort of a swimming pool.  When they were really tiny it was one of those hard plastic ones, about 9 inches deep, and we sat it on the tiny slab of back porch at our old house.  The last couple of years we have gotten the blow-up variety, which Desperate Hubby would inflate, fill up with water, and dump and move around the yard as it was time to mow.

Last year’s pool was only inflated for about half an hour before Annabelle leaped into it and cut her knee quite badly on a piece of stick that was hidden under the plastic bottom panel and jabbed through the thin material when she landed on it.  She cried and bled all over, and although we taped the pool back up it never really held water after that.  The kids finally resorted to playing in the sprinklers or pulling out the slip n’slide for the rest of the summer.

Our recent Mother’s Day voyage to Eagle Island where the kids played in the swamp got them to thinking about our wonderful longstanding tradition of getting a pool for the warm weather.  I have come to discover that kids have pretty selective memories when it comes to family fun.  Once we exhausted my knowledge of snake trivia on the drive home, the subject turned to that of “When are we going to get our swimming pool?”  It was unseasonably warm on Mother’s Day this year, so the kids were absolutely convinced that they were missing out on the best part of summer because I refused to run out and buy them a pool that very afternoon.

Once I got the kids to bed that night I poured myself a glass of wine and pulled out the Sunday paper to flip through the ads.  The first ad I read was from Fred Meyer, and this was what was on the front:

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I was surprised by the reasonable price of only $49, and the pool did look really easy to set up.  This was especially important because of DH’s continued convalescence, which would require Desperate Mama to figure out how to set up the pool alone.  DH and I talked it over and decided to go for it.  I was going to go get the pool yesterday morning while the kids were at pre-school and surprise them with it. 

That plan lasted until the kids woke up and refused to get ready for school.   Zach absolutely would not get dressed unless I would let him wear his Batman shirt, shorts and cape, which incidentally are really pajamas.  I gave in to that pretty fast.  Annabelle, on the other hand, was not so easy to get going.  She was dragging her feet so much that I literally could not get her out the door.  I finally had to resort to my tried and true motherhood technique of “Bribery and Threats,” which I am not too proud to admit I resort to on a somewhat regular basis.  It went pretty much like this:

Me:  “Please get ready for school.  We are going to be late.”  Her:  “I don’t care. I don’t want to go to school today.  I am too tired.”  Repeat about ten times, with my voice becoming higher pitched and less polite as the conversation continued. Finally, Me:  “I am planning on getting you and Batman a surprise today, but if you don’t get ready for school quickly I won’t get my work done on time to go get you the surprise before school is over!” (bright, cheery voice).  Her:  “We are getting a pool!  Yay!  Batman we are getting a pool!” 

We don’t really call Zach ‘Batman’ at home but we might as well.

Anyway, that was the end of the surprise, but the kids did get ready in record time and we even made it to school a few minutes early, the children chattering happily about the pool all the way.

After a whirlwind morning of chores and pool shopping, I picked the kids up from school. They ran right in and put on their swimsuits and the new water shoes I had purchased with the pool. 

Batman Dresses

They had their new swimming noodles in hand, and were bubbling with excitement to start swimming.  I thought they might be a little overly optimistic, but I appreciated their enthusiasm.

Ready to Swim

I hauled the pool and the air compressor to the back porch and assembled my team.

Optimistic Kids

Then opened the box and put them to work.

Out of the Box

The slowly unfolded the heavy plastic and stretched the pool out.  They can be hard workers when they are motivated.

Slowly Unfolding

DH had come home for lunch, and I had convinced him to stick around and work from his recliner for the rest of the afternoon, so he could be here for consulting purposes.  Once the pool was out of the box he came out to take a look.

DH Examines

It turned out to be a very good thing he was there, because the nozzle I had purchased to put on the air compressor was not complete, and DH had disassemble another nozzle thingy to make it work.  I definitely would have never figured that out.

Fixing the Airhose

Once the air compressor was all fixed up I inflated the top ring of the pool and we put the hose in to start filling. I was surprised to see that that top ring was the only part that needed air; the rest apparently just rose up as the top floated with the rising water.

Starting the Water

Once there was about a quarter inch of water in the pool the kids started playing in it.

Starting to Play

They continued to play as the water levels rose, shrieking with delight at each small gradient of fill.

The Chanting Game

At about five I ordered a pizza, since we were all getting hungry and none of us wanted to go in and miss watching the pool take shape before our eyes.  The kids and I ate outside, the pool slowly rising beside us.

Dinner Poolside

After dinner they were right back in the pool.  I didn’t make them wait 30 minutes, because technically they weren’t really ‘swimming’ yet.

They were delighted that the pool was now full enough to practice what they learned in swimming lessons last summer. Dunking.

Annabelle went first.

A Dunks

After some coaxing Batman followed.  By now it was about 7 pm and starting to cool off.

Z Dunks

At about 7:30 I pronounced the pool finished.  It was just a few gallons of fill short of looking just like the picture, but it was pretty dang close.  The kids rode their noodles happily around and around.  Their teeth were chattering and their faces had taken on a slightly blue tinge that matched the color of the pool surprisingly well.

DSCN0442

I told them to stand for a final picture and then we had to go in.  Batman was not ready to quit.

Pool is Done

My newly minted four year old howled with displeasure.  He did not want to quit swimming, but mainly he did not want to leave the pool outside.  He had overheard DH and I discussing whether or not the maniac bird dog Winston would wreak some sort of puppy-havoc on our new toy overnight, and he thought we should take the pool down before we went to bed. 

I finally convinced Batman that if Winston ruined the pool in some way we could get the dog a cage to live in and go buy a new pool while they were still on sale.  His wails slowly subsided to sniffles and I finally got him in the house and into a nice warm bath.

The kids slept remarkably well, and ran to check on the pool as soon as they awoke this morning.  Aside from a slight deflation of the top ring from the cold night air, and a little subsequent water loss, it was in great shape.

I think that for about the same price as a good bottle of champagne, this may be the best $49 we ever spent!

Categories: Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Leave a comment

Batman’s First Trail Ride

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and Horsecrazy and I had planned a wonderful little trail ride together to celebrate.  Desperate Hubby had agreed to watch Batman while we girls went out for a few hours.

I made us all a filling breakfast of Eggs Benedict with a side of fried potatoes and onions, which actually turned out pretty well, although Batman pronounced it “gross” and had a frozen waffle instead.

After breakfast I tried to take a little nap.  It was Mother’s Day after all, and I was tired from getting up in the wee hours to write a Mother’s Day post for my blog.  I settled peacefully back into bed at around 10:30, and relaxed for 4.3 minutes until Batman slammed the bedroom door open and clamored into bed with me.

I tried to act like I was asleep, but soon I could feel my little four year old slowly crawl across the covers until he was laying right on top of me.  I was trying not to laugh, and I succeeded until I felt the soft breath of his breakfast waffle exhaling onto my face from a distance of about a quarter inch away.  I opened my eyes and he was staring intently at me from point blank range.  “What are you doing, Momma?!”

I could see that my ‘nap’ was over.  “Just getting up buddy.”  I yawned.

“Where are you going?” Batman demanded.  I told him that sissie and I were going for a ride, and he started to cry.  “Don’t leave me with Daddy!  It’s boring.  All he does is lay in his chair and watch TV!”  He did have a point there.  DH really wasn’t in a position to be left responsible for entertaining a four year old at this early point in his rehab.  I saw visions of my afternoon spent horseback fading.

Suddenly inspiration struck.  “Do you want to go with us and ride Reno, Buddy?”  “Yes!  Yes! Yes!” he shrieked. He jumped off of the bed and ran to tell his sister the good news.

I wasn’t sure if this was the best idea I’d ever had.  Batman has shown little interest in riding thus far in life, and when he has gotten on a horse he hasn’t lasted longer than about five or ten minutes.  I was happy he wanted to try, though, and I felt better about spending Mother’s Day with both kids rather than just one.  I decided to go to Eagle Island since it was close and accessible and flat.  Most importantly, we would only be about half an hour away from the car even at the farthest point along the trail.

Desperate Hubby sighed with happiness when I told him I was taking both kids.  He settled a little deeper into the recliner and wished me good luck.

When we arrived at the parking lot I was happy to see we were the only riders there.  Our horses are calm and well-trained, but I had my hands full with the kids and maniac dog as it was.  I didn’t need any further distractions.

Horsecrazy immediately set about telling Batman how to groom his pony.  She was actually kind of bossy about it.

I have no idea where she gets that.

Batman Learns to Brush

It didn’t take too long to get all saddled up and ready to go.  I planned to lead Reno behind me, and of course Horsecrazy could manage herself and Grumpy just fine.

Batman Trail Ride 1

We started out with a short jaunt down the north side of the river trail.  Batman was really having fun.  The river was extremely high and fast, and had flooded the trail a little several places.  Batman’s favorite part was walking through the water.

After we reached the end of that trail we turned around and walked back toward the south side of the island.  We were about 45 minutes into our ride by the time we passed back by the parking lot and I figured Batman would be done by then.

I was wrong.  He wanted to keep going.  I was elated.

I took this picture as we headed down the trail.  I would like to say that I was being creative and artsy by taking this picture in this format, but actually a button had accidentally gotten changed on my camera when I took it out of the case.  It turned out pretty good anyway.

Down the Trail

We rode to the Warden’s House so that Zach could see it.  I posed them for a picture together.  It was really sunny, and I hadn’t noticed the camera setting yet.

Warden's Houe

By that time Batman was ready to head back to the car, so we were finished.  He had ridden for almost an hour and a half when it was all said and done.  I was so proud of him.

Horsecrazy continued her horse lessons with directions on unsaddling the pony.

Teamwork Unsaddle

Winston the Maniac Hunting Dog Puppy ran around joyfully, checking out the marshy area around the parking lot that was flooded from the high river.  He was having a wonderful time.

Joyful Winston

The kids were both hot, so after the pony was unsaddled they wandered off to find some shade.   While I was busy unsaddling the big horses they decided to follow Winston’s lead.  Literally.

I turned around and there they were.

In They Go

It was kind of funny, but they were both wearing leather cowboy boots that weren’t really designed for water wear.  I tried to get them to come out of the reedy pool.  They just laughed and ran further.

I cajoled. I threatened. They just splashed and splashed and pushed each other down in the shallow pond.  Finally, I did what any reasonable mother would do under the circumstances.

I told them there were snakes in the water.

I’m not sure if they believed me or not, but they did come out.  I’m don’t know who was wetter, them or that damn dog.

Everybody's Wet

It didn’t really matter.  They all had to ride inside the car.

The kids’ boots were full of water.  They dumped them out, then walked across the gravel in their socks, leaving wet footprints all the way to the car.

Emptying Boots

I strapped them into their booster seats, their wet clothes immediately soaking everything they touched and their sandy little feet leaving smears and footprints on the vinyl seat backs in front of them.

All the way home I had to answer questions about snakes.  I don’t really know anything about snakes.  But I made stuff up.

It was the best Mother’s Day ever.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Leave a comment

Happy Mother’s Day

It has been almost fifteen years since I lost my beautiful, wonderful mom; my best friend and closest confidante. In some ways it seems like a long time ago. In many ways it seems like yesterday.

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As a mom now myself, I have gained some perspective on the loss of my own mother.  I know that she would want me to celebrate her life and not cry over her loss; to remember the many happy moments that we shared rather than grieve over the ones we were denied.  So I do try to do that.  But sometimes it is hard.

So much has happened in my life that I wish she had been here for.  Mom never got to meet my husband or hold my two babies when they were born.  She won’t be here for Annabelle’s pre-school graduation next week, or her or Zach’s graduation from college many years from now.

In a way, though, mom is still with me.  I see her in my daughter in so many ways.  Annabelle loves sticky bread and butter and tomatoes with sugar, just like her grandma did.  She has that same wry sense of humor and the wonderful quality of being able to really laugh at herself.  She has tenacity and drive, and never gives up.

My mom raised six kids with patience and humor, and held down a full-time job at same time.  As I fall into bed exhausted each night after taking care of two little ones, my only job that of taking care of a happy household, I marvel at how she did it.

My early childhood could best be described as idyllic.  We always had everything we needed and never lacked for much we wanted.  We rode horses and swam in the canal, raced our bikes around the neighbor’s horseshoe-shaped driveway and flew our kites in the big pasture out behind the house. 

My mom let us have every imaginable sort of animal.  Over the years we had everything from horses and 4H steers to rabbits, chickens and pet rats on our little one acre plot of land. I was famous for bringing home “stray” dogs that would usually sport a mysterious loop of twine around their necks, and I never got in trouble for it.  Every night my mom put a wholesome dinner on the table, and we all sat down together to eat.

When my parents divorced during my high school years, I know it put a terrible strain on my mom.  She had three kids still at home and was working a full-time job that didn’t really pay enough to support us, yet she still managed to always make us feel that everything was OK. 

Even though my dad left her in a horrible position, mom never said a bad word about him.  My little brothers weren’t old enough to understand what had happened, and they missed my dad.  Mom always told them that dad really did love them, and he had done the best he could.  As an adult looking back on the situation I am in awe of the character my mom showed in making that statement, and the self restraint it must have taken for her to never let us kids know just how bad things were.

My mom worked so hard to take care of us during those years, but she never complained or let on that it was a burden.  We didn’t have money to buy heating oil for the furnace under the house, so mom would get up early every morning and start a fire in the fireplace so that the house would be warm when us kids got up.  We didn’t always have wood to burn, and sometimes the fire would be made out of newspapers or cardboard boxes.  I would usually arise to find mom in the kitchen, a welcoming smile on her face, sipping coffee and warming herself in front of the open oven door.

As I got through high school and then college, my mom and I enjoyed a very close relationship.  She was always there for me, and we talked often. Mom and I didn’t have the sort of troubled relationship that graced many mother/teenager households.  She was my closest friend, and my biggest fan. 

I moved to California to work after college and I talked to my mom almost every single day.  She counseled me on job choices, boyfriend troubles, and just about everything else a young girl far away from home for the first time needed help with.

When I got a little older and more established I got my first cell phone.  I would call my mom every night on my commute home, first from a handset attached by a curly cord  to the bread-loaf sized base that sat next to me on the seat of my Bronco II, later from the hands free speaker phone wired into my shiny black BMW.

It didn’t matter when I called, mom always had time to talk to me.  I don’t remember a time when she ever asked me to call back, or even cut our conversation short.  She was my best friend, and to this day I still miss that connection terribly.

My mom was an elegant woman who looked dressed up even in jeans and a t-shirt.  She always had her nails polished, tasteful makeup on, and an air about her that said she was a lady.  In her last years of life, before she became sick, we had the opportunity to travel together.  Mom was so proud the day that she got her passport in the mail, and her biggest dream was to be able to get that passport stamped on the European vacation that we always planned to take together. 

Mom did get to use her passport a couple of times, on trips that we took to Mexico, but she was disappointed that she never got a stamp from a “real” foreign country on it.

In her later years, mom became pretty adventurous.  Although she had never been taught to swim, she gamely learned to snorkel with me in Hawaii, and she delighted in seeing all the beautiful fish.  I know on some primal level the water terrified her, but she was determined to join me on the adventures, and join me she did.  She ate sushi and artichokes; rode in a helicopter and a speed boat, a convertible and a white water raft.

On one of our Mexico vacations she posed with an iguana that was being carried down the beach by a local resident.  Mom hated reptiles of any type, but she smiled gamely for the camera, even though her toes literally curled with discomfort over the situation.

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Mom loved to visit me in San Francisco, and she delighted in all of the differences between the city and the quiet country life she led at home.  I lived in a studio apartment near the marina for many years, and I always took my clothes to a little laundry down the street owned by a sweet old Chinese man.  When I picked the clothes up they would be perfectly folded and wrapped in blue paper, with my name written on the paper in neat black marker.  In Chinese.

Once when I was home for a visit to Idaho, my mom did some of my laundry for me while I was out one day.  When I returned that evening the laundry was sitting on the kitchen table, neatly folded and wrapped in a brown paper sack, my mom’s version of Chinese lettering adorning the front of the package.  We laughed until we cried.

My mom was the most amazing person I will ever know. 

As I celebrate Mother’s Day today with my own kids, I will cherish every moment I have with them.

And I will think of my mom and smile.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone.

Categories: Random Musings | 5 Comments

Desperate Hubby Returns to Work

After spending the last ten days in pretty much this position, Desperate Hubby took it into his head on Sunday evening that he was going to return to the office yesterday.

In the Recliner

Ten days down sounds like kind of a long time, but after the major surgery that DH had that is about half of the time the doctor thought he would be out of commission. 

I was somewhat skeptical of DH’s return to work.  In the past ten days he has only gotten dressed twice, each time in slip on gym shorts and a t-shirt when company was coming over, and he has not been out of his chair for more than half an hour at a stretch.  The half hour stretch was a day this weekend when I took the kids grocery shopping and DH decided to get up and play his guitar for awhile.  It took several hours to recover from that exertion.

I’m not saying I was not ready for him to return to work. 

DH has been a model patient.  He is unfailingly polite in his requests, and has been for the most part extremely good natured about his confinement.  He has continued to have virtually no pain from his operation, which is almost unbelievable given statistics and history recited by his doctor and other friends in the medical field.

I do not mind caring for my husband, and truthfully I kind of enjoyed having him around full-time to pop out of my office at any moment I wished to go down the hall to tell him some fascinating piece of information I had seen on the internet, or plague him with titillating details about how I had changed my mind yet again about the manuscript I am trying to finish writing for a looming competition deadline.

But on Sunday evening DH committed a transgression.

I was tired.  It had been a long day, and on top of all my regular household duties I was trying to do a few things that DH normally takes care of.  In reality, the burden of completing household jobs is for the most part my realm of responsibility.  DH is more than willing to help, but he works so much that he just isn’t around to do a lot of day-to-day chores, and then of course there is the little fact that I don’t have a job.  I feel (don’t shoot me ladies) that since I have the luxury of spending the majority of my time either riding my horse or playing with my kids (usually both), the household duties belong to me. They are my job.  And I’m good with that.

What is not my normal job is cleaning the garage.  Or taking the garbage out to the dumpster.  It’s not that I can’t do these duties, and I often do, but in my mind they are extra-credit duties.  I know, I know, I am revealing some deep pathology here, but anyone who knows me very well knows that I am a closet credit-seeker.  I am willing to do whatever I can to help most anyone, most anytime.  I share my time and energy pretty happily when possible to make someone’s life easier.  All I want is a little credit.  Nothing formal or fancy; I don’t require a thank you card or even a kiss on the cheek, but a quick “good job” keeps me going.  DH has recognized this about me in our nearly thirteen years together, and is normally quick to provide the kudos that keep me rolling from one load of laundry to the next.

But not Sunday night.  I came in the house, eager to recount my accomplishments.  I told inspiring tales of organizing the garage (which had never fully recovered from Batman’s party), how I weeded the front flower beds (OK, it took me all of ten minutes, but still) and that I had hauled three bags of garbage and a full can out to the dumpster that we hog (I mean share) with our neighbors Kay and Vernon.

Did DH say “OH thank you so much!  That is awesome!  I was wondering how I would clean that garage out on crutches!!  And ALL the garbage.  What a star!!”?

No.  He said “Wow, you’re a goer,” then went back to reading his magazine.

I was hurt and mad (I told you there was pathology involved and I didn’t say I was proud of it). After I fed everyone dinner and made sure DH had a full jug of water beside his chair I went to bed.

Without saying goodnight.  HA!  That’ll show him. 

I got up early yesterday morning to work on my writing project, waiting for DH to get up and say “How come you didn’t say goodnight last night? Is everything OK?” 

But he didn’t.  He just said “Good morning.”  The nerve.

So that is why I was ready for him to go back to work.

To return to the original story, DH got up and took a mini-shower which he accomplishes by standing in the doorway of the shower stall in the master bath and sort of dunking his head under the stream of water. He got dressed and was ready for me to drive him to work.

Up and Dressed

I drove him the three minutes to our downtown office and he crutched it inside.  Aren’t I a gem for standing back and taking photos instead of helping with the door?

Going in the Door

He got settled in behind his desk, and I told him goodbye, snickering to his assistant as I left that I hoped he would let me get all the way home before he called me to come back and get him.

At His Desk

I went back home and went to work on my project.  The house was pretty quiet with no one to run down the hallway and talk to every five minutes.

At noon I stopped working to go get the kids, so I called DH to see if he wanted me to come get him too.  He said “Sure, I’ll come home for lunch”.  He had been at his desk for three hours. 

DH came in the house and ate lunch and sat with his foot elevated for half an hour.  Then to my utter surprise he then got up and drove himself back to the office.  Where he stayed until five o’clock.

When he got home at five he sat back down in his chair.  He said his foot felt fine, but his body was tired from the exertion of being up all day.  He fell asleep.

I was amazed and impressed.  I forgot all about being mad because he did not thank me for doing his jobs. 

That man is a goer.

Categories: Life in the Country, Random Musings | 2 Comments

Lions and Tigers and Pre-Schoolers, Oh My!

Horsecrazy and Batman’s Pre-school class had a field trip recently to the Boise Zoo.  I love to go to the zoo, so I eagerly signed up to go along as a mommy helper for the day. 

Actually, truth be told, I love to go on any field trip, so I sign up wherever they go.

We loaded up our 13 wildly excited and identically dressed kids for the 30 minute drive to the zoo.  All the way they chattered happily about what their favorite exhibits were and described in great detail what they wanted to see.

Once we got there Miss Torrie went over the rules of the day:  Stay with your partner; listen to the teacher; no running away on your own.

The first attraction was the giant giraffe slide.  We had a hard time getting the kids away from that to go see some actual exhibits.

Giraffe Slide

I didn’t fully appreciate the stroke of genius that Miss Torrie employs in the putting the kids in matching yellow t-shirts with the Pre-school logo on the front until I was in charge of trying to help keep track of all of them in an area bustling with other kids.

Our first group photo opportunity was outside the tiger exhibit.  It was pretty hard to get all the kids corralled for the shot.  This is my best out of five attempts.

Group Tiger Photo

From there we went along to several other exhibits.  Batman held my hand most of the time, but not Annabelle.  She only wanted to be with Miss Jamie.

Walking with Miss J

Batman’s favorite exhibit was the Komodo Dragon.  He probably stood and looked at that ugly thing for at least fifteen minutes, until I had to drag him away to move on.

Z and Dragon

She never really said, but I think that Annabelle liked the goats best.  She petted and played with them, and competed hard for the pellets that Miss Torrie bought from the goat-food-vending-machine to feed her friends.  In fact, I think it is possible that Miss Torrie bought the pellets to keep Annabelle from feeding her nametag to the goats.

Goats

Throughout most of the day Batman could be found pretty close to his best friend from school. The like to look at the same things and share the same goofy sense of humor.

Batman and A

The birds were a big draw for the kids to look at.  The girls screamed and ran when the vulture flapped his wings and towered over them.  I think they thought they might be lunch!

Vulture Lunch

There were several great places to get the kids to sit down for photos.  I loved this clam shell shot.

M&D

And riding the camel was cute too.

Riding the Camel

My what big ears you have!!!

C with ears

Of course Batman wanted to document his new love affair with the Dragon.

Riding the Dragon

One of the most exciting moments of our whole trip occurred after we viewed the penguins.  Unbeknownst to us, it was “Penguin Day” at the zoo, and a TV anchor from Channel 6 was on hand to interview some kids who visited the honored guests.

Who wants to be a star

Neither of my kids wanted anything to do with getting a microphone and talking on air.

Getting Mic'd Up

But in a funny twist if events, it ended up being Batman who was shown on the evening news, though he never made a peep.

And We're Live

We saw lions.

Lion

And big noisy birds.

crane

And one of the kids’ favorite animals, the hyena.

Hyenas

Going through the Africa exhibit reminded me of my travels in that great (and scary) country.  None of the kids were very impressed by the stories I wanted to tell, but I didn’t mind.  I knew.

Miss Jamie and Annabelle posed by the African well. Aren’t they so photogenic?

African Well

After all that walking around everyone was hot and sweaty.  They ran through the elephant sprayer for awhile.

Water Elephant

One of the little boys got tired of wearing his hat and gave it to Miss Torrie.  Doesn’t she look fabulous as Spiderman?

Miss T Spiderman

After a couple of hours everyone was really hungry and ready for lunch.  They trailed on back toward the park like a line of little yellow ducklings.

Trailing Ducklings

Then took off at a dead run for the picnic area.  Kids just never get tired.

Running to Lunch

Miss Torrie and Miss Jamie brought over the cooler with everyone’s lunch inside.

Bringing Lunch

And we all sat down for sandwiches and chips.  It tasted so good after walking around all morning.

Lunch Table

My favorite picture of the day was this one..  I think it is perfectly symbolic of the great care that Miss Jamie and Miss Torrie take of all of our little birds. 

Everyboy in the Nest

Thanks for being such great teachers, ladies!

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Big Hills for a Little Girl

Yesterday afternoon Horsecrazy Annabelle and I decided to sneak away for a few hours and head to the Eagle Foothills.  We love to ride up there, and I figured the recent rains would have promoted some green valleys and maybe even a little wildflower action.

I felt a little bad about leaving Desperate Hubby at home alone, but he assured me he could handle it. With a relatively sunny day outside in the midst of several rainy ones I didn’t need much encouragement.

I settled DH in his recliner with a fresh jug of water and his pain pills nearby, loaded up the horses, and drove over to pick up Horsecrazy from daycare.  We had to sneak away like thieves because I knew that Batman would be sorely disappointed that we had not taken him with us.  As I mentioned, the kids have been feeling a little out of sorts with the extra time away from (me and) home this week. 

We got to the foothills, and the first people we saw were some good friends who are also avid trail riders.  Actually, you may remember “She Who Must Be Obeyed,” from the story titled “Horses Can’t Read.”  She was riding with another friend, and they were ready to head off before we were, so I snapped this photo of them leaving. It gives a nice perspective on the size of the hills we were setting out on.

Riding Away

Horsecrazy and I got saddled up and headed out to the trails.  We were accompanied as usual by Winston, the maniac bird dog puppy.  At about seven months old, Winston is a teeming bundle of energy and exuberance, so these rides are tailor-maid for him to get some exercise.

Ready to Go

One of my favorite views in the world is my little girl. 

We saw some other cool stuff along the way too.  Like these pretty yellow flowers.

Lovely Yellow Flowers

And these buds on the sagebrush plants.

Sagebrush Buds

Horsecrazy spent about five minutes studying what looked like a nest of stink bugs in the dirt.

DSCF1713

We went up steep hills…..

Moving up the hill

and got to the top of the ridge, where everyone looked out over the view and took a breather.

Resting at the top

Winston sought out every watering hole in the area.

Yay Water

Sometimes Horsecrazy was in front of me.

DSCF1683

Sometimes she lagged far behind.

DSCF1710

Everyone got thirsty along the way.

Thirsty Girl

But it was nothing we couldn’t handle.

All Tongue

We rode for about two hours, and by the time we headed down the final steep hills Horsecrazy was tired.

Down Steep Hill

It is a big country for a little girl.

Little Girl in Big Country

I think both she and Grumpy were happy to see the walk-over gate back to the trailer.

Back Thru Gate

My little cowgirl always helps me get the horses unsaddled and the tack put away, no matter how tired she is.

Door of the Trailer

When we got back home she made sure to give the horses a nice little treat of grain in the pasture before she put them away.

I love these two pretty girls!

Feeding Grain

Batman didn’t even notice we were gone until we picked him up from daycare, and DH was sleeping soundly when we finally made it back in the house.  A good afternoon was had by all.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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