Monthly Archives: February 2014

Batman Earns His Spurs

For the past three years or so Annabelle and I have enjoyed a wonderful but mainly solitary enjoyment of our mutual horse obsession.  We have spent days riding the trails of the Boise Foothills, practicing our reining maneuvers in one arena or another, or traveling to horse shows near and far together. 

The men in our family spent those same hours flying around the valley in small airplanes, playing guitar, or just hanging out at home.

That all changed yesterday.

For the past couple of weekends, actually, when Annabelle and I made the drive to Kuna to ride our horses, Batman has chosen to come along with us rather than stay home with daddy.  In a surprising turn of events he has chosen to ride Grumpy, all by himself, trotting and even attempting a lope now and then, cruising around the indoor arena in random patterns and weaving in and out of the unpredictable traffic that is typical in a busy reining barn.

Last week Batman complained that Grumpy was not trotting enough.  He was frustrated that he kicked and kicked and Grumpy walked and walked.  When we went to ride for the second day in a row last Sunday, my manly little boy was so desperate for speed control that he elected to use Annabelle’s spurs. 

Her PINK spurs. 

That was all well and good until we arrived at the barn to find a local trainer and two clients doing some work in the arena.  A male trainer and his two male clients, actually.  Batman sat down in the dirt outside the gate and demanded that I take his spurs off.

He WAS NOT riding in pink spurs in front of other boys.

By the by, a conversation was started with the other boys in the arena.  Batman admitted that he had been wearing spurs but had taken them off outside the arena because they were pink.  When his new friends didn’t seem taken aback by the color of his training aides, he wanted them back on.

And a whole new relationship was born.

Batman + Grumpy + (a little) Speed = Nirvana.

And then the lobbying stated.  Batman wanted his own (non-pink) spurs. Immediately. We didn’t have time to stop to get spurs that day, but later in the week I pulled into the local tack store on my way to the barn and picked out a nice pair of youth spurs and some tooled straps.

Batman was beside himself with excitement when he got home from school that afternoon, and he couldn’t wait to try them out.  Yesterday we finally got the chance. 

We loaded up the horses and headed to Eagle Island State Park for a nice long ride. It was to be Batman’s first-ever real trail ride where he was not being led on Reno by me on another horse, and I was hoping it would go smoothly.

We got saddled and mounted up with no problems.  I thought the new spurs looked very professional.


We rode to the small mountain of sand and gravel on the north side of the park, and the kids climbed their horses to the top to pose for photographs.

Annabelle and Reno Standing Tall

Batman stood patiently for his pictures, although I knew he’d really rather be using his new spurs to trot Grumpy down the trail.

Batman Standing Tall

We had a wonderful ride, looping around the entire park for a nearly two hour ride.  Annabelle kept exclaiming “Mom!  This is so much fun!!” 

Batman concurred, explaining excitedly that he found it so much more enjoyable to ride when he “was steering, instead of just being led.  It is much more fun to be in charge of your own horse!”

As for me, I just smiled and enjoyed the view from my position in the back of the pack.

View from the Back

Near the end of the ride we stopped in a big grassy meadow, and the kids trotted and loped around in circles, performing a semblance of the Short-Stirrup reining pattern that Annabelle has had memorized since she was four, only this time in a “pairs” formation.

Pairs Reining

We were all frozen, but grinning ear-to-ear when we got back to the trailer.

Something tells me that my riding program will never be quite the same again.

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The charter school that my kids are so fortunate to attend has a wonderful program based on getting the kids to learn and exemplify several Core Characteristics that are aimed at providing the foundation for achieving a great education and being a productive citizen.

I think these Core Characteristic are appropriate for everyone, not just grade schoolers and junior high students, and if everyone tried to portray them on a regular basis, well, the world would be a better place.  Right?

Below is a list of the core characteristics that our school embraces, discusses, and personifies, blatantly copied from their website:

Responsibility- doing your part for the group that makes us whole.

Diligence/Work doing what needs to be done with devotion, dedication and determination.

Compassion– feeling what others are feeling and trying to help with their troubles.

Friendship– caring for each other in all we do and say.

Courage– doing what is right in the face of fear.

Loyalty– being faithful and true to our duties, relationships and ideals.

Self-Discipline- giving the best of ourselves and saying no to our weakness.

Perseverance- pushing on despite difficulty and hardship.

Honesty- truthfulness; loving the truth, telling the truth, and living truthfully in word and deed.

All of the classes study one core value per month, and at the end of the month the student from each class who best exemplifies that Core Characteristic is honored at an assembly.

This month the Core Characteristic at school was the value of Loyalty.

“Loyalty is the pledge of truth to oneself and others.”

-Ada Valez Boardly

I was so proud when two nights ago I got the email that Annabelle had been chosen from her class to be honored this month for her demonstration of the Core Characteristic of Loyalty.

Annabelle can be so grown up in her speech and thought process that sometimes I forget she really is just a little girl, but I’m reminded by pictures like these.

Annabelle Loyalty

Congratulations Annabelle on your award.  I am so proud of you all the time, but my heart overflows at times like these (and my eyes a little, too).


On a funny, sort-of unrelated note, when we were driving to school yesterday morning Annabelle asked me if I had perhaps gotten a phone call to tell me that she was going to be Student of the Month this month.  I told her no, I had not received a call.

Which was not exactly a lie, since I had gotten an email.

The awards are supposed to be a surprise to the students, so while the parents are notified beforehand so that they can be there to witness the presentation while taking pictures and sniffling, we are asked not to tell our little ones in advance that they have been chosen.

Annabelle replied “Well, good.  It’s not that I really expected or even wanted to be chosen, but you know mom, I really do hate surprises.”

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, eh?

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Fourteen years ago I donned a formal white dress that I had picked out on a girl’s weekend trip to Seattle.  There were three attendants to help me dress, but I didn’t know any of them before that day.  Across the hallway, in the groom’s dressing room, my soon-to-be-husband was putting the finishing touches on the tuxedo he had bought for the occasion.  We were at the beautiful Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, then the height of luxury in a city that specializes in out doing itself over and over again.

When I was dressed, I walked down the aisle of the small chapel.  The ten or so pews on each side were empty, but my beloved stood at the front of the room, and he was the only person I needed to see.  The ceremony was short but beautiful, and we received a package of six video tapes (VHS, of course) with which to memorialize the event.  They came in a heavy case that held two beautiful champagne flutes and a little frame for our marriage certificate.

After the ceremony, we had a photography shoot outside, on the beautiful grounds of the hotel, and drank champagne while we laughed and posed.  It was a glorious day.

Wedding Pic




















Although we were in our thirties, I suppose in many ways we were as naïve as any couple setting out on the grand voyage that is a marriage.  Of course we had a few misconceptions about the trajectory of our trip, as I’m sure every newlywed couple does.

We experienced hardships that we could never have fathomed on that sunny day in 2000, and received help and encouragement we never could have imagined to get us through them.  I had the blessing and joy to get to participate in the raising of Greg’s three beautiful young daughters when we married, and then at the age when many couples are preparing to graduate their kids from high school, if not college, we welcomed the first of our own two beautiful children into the world.

We have laughed a lot, cried a little, and fought….well hardly ever.  It’s not that we have agreed on everything, but I think we had the benefit of experience to help us try to respect the other’s point of view. There has only been one epic fight that I can remember, though to this day I don’t recall exactly what it was about.

That’s not to say that it’s always been easy.  There have been hurt feelings, misunderstandings, even moments of silent fury over the years.  To quote one of my favorite people in the world, “Have you ever thought about divorce?” “Divorce no, murder……maybe.”  In the end though, we have always worked through things together.  We’ve learned that the only things we can’t handle are the things we don’t talk about.

Through it all, we have developed over time a well-honed partnership, driven by mutual respect as well as love.  We are committed to making a happy life not only for our children but for each other.  And although it sounds cliché, we truly are each other’s best friends.

So while it’s not been perfect these fourteen years, it has been perfect for us.  I truly would not change one footstep of this path we’ve travelled together.

Happy Valentine’s Day hon, on this fourteenth anniversary on the fourteenth day of February in 2014.  I am looking forward to fourteen more.

And fourteen after that.

Family Pic

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January 2014: Our Family Grows

No, I’m not pregnant!

I hope. Just kidding. I hope.

Nonetheless, our little family has grown over the past month. One would think that four horses, two dogs, four cats, two bunnies and a hamster (not to mention two children and two sometimes-childish adults) would be enough to fulfill us, but apparently that is not true.

It was actually the last day of 2013 when we were blessed with the best addition to our family since my own beloved children arrived, but forgive me because I have to backtrack a bit here.

Annabelle had been asking for puppy for Christmas since approximately last April. She wrote to Santa regularly, and we talked at length about her requirements for a dog. My daughter is a practical sort, and she wanted a dog that would not only be a good companion, but one that would also be fun to take to horse shows. That, in her (and my) mind, had its own set of requirements, which included:

  • Able to jump into the truck without help, but small enough to qualify for any hotel room.
  • Non-shedding.
  • Quiet.

I had casually looked for a dog for most of the last few months, especially after the kids had been so saddened by the loss of our old friend Toby in August. We had seen a couple of dogs that might work, but my slow (to Annabelle’s mind) reaction time had caused us to miss out, and in each case the dog had already been spoken for by the time we called about it.

It was the snowy morning of New Year’s Eve, and I was working in my home office. I casually clicked on to our local Craigslist Pet category, and saw a brand new (within 15 minutes or so) post. It was the cutest little dog, described as “Milo”, who was a schnauzer, poodle, yorkie type mix. He weighed nine pounds, according to the ad, was house trained and neutered, and came with his crate and supplies. He was free.

Just as I read the post, Annabelle popped into the room. She saw the picture. She requested that I read the ad out loud. Then she did the smartest thing ever – she demanded I call RIGHT THAT MINUTE. She reminded me that we had missed out on other dogs by waiting to call. So I did. Call. Right that minute.

And to my enduring wonder and joy, that afternoon we picked up our first new family member of 2014.

Milo The Coolest Dog In The World

Meet Milo the Monkey Dog. He isn’t really a monkey, obviously, but his round furry face punctuated with the most intelligent eyes I have ever seen on a dog do give him a particularly simian look.

I have been blessed with some pretty cool dogs in my life, but I have to say that Milo has to be in the top, well, two (it is hard to compete with Bette, the belgian malinois I owned when I moved back to Idaho some fifteen years ago).

Milo is a wonder.

He loves everyone.

He has boundless energy, and plays with Winston for hours of each day, barking and growling like a lion as he zooms around like a Ferrari playing tag with a cement truck. In fact, despite that fact that he tips the scales at less than 10% of Winston’s hefty 100 pounds, Milo runs the show.

The monkey dog is an amazing blend of rambunctious energy and lap dog, who will play with the kids until they quit in exhaustion, and steal Winston’s chew toy in the back yard and run around and around the big tree until Winston just gives up and lets him have it. Then he comes into the house and jumps on the first available lap and goes right to sleep. He spends his nights in one bed or another, he is not picky. He is equally happy to sleep with Batman in his camo-draped twin, share Annabelle’s queen-size bunk with her and old-lady-dog Maddie, or try to crowd me and Desperate Hubby out of our king-size mattress.
Milo travels with me everywhere in the truck. He waits patiently for me outside the barn while I ride my horse or when I’m in the grocery store, not sleeping or even relaxing on the seat while he waits, but maintaining a strict vigil with front feet on the dashboard and a focused squint in his bushy eyebrows. He is a gem in public, walking happily on his leash and greeting every passerby as a long-lost friend. He really shines at the Parent Pick-Up Line at the kids’ school, graciously accepting every hug and pat and squeeze from the throngs of kids wanting to meet him.
I really can’t imagine our lives without him. He was the perfect completion to our already pretty complete family.

Until he wasn’t.


You see, we weren’t long into the New Year when Batman started lobbying for a snake. Yep, you read that right. A snake. Of the slithering, mouse-eating, escape-from-the-cage-and-crawl-in-bed-with-mommy variety.

I have no idea where Batman got the hankering for a reptilian friend, but true to form, Desperate Hubby promised my boy a snake when they were canoodling after I went to bed one night.

I’m not sure how the conversation started, but I can tell you how it stopped, and that would be the instant that I found out that snakes don’t eat snake food. Well, I guess that’s wrong, they DO eat snake food. It’s just that snake food is mice. All snakes, apparently, eat mice. Either live (gross) or frozen (almost as gross). To my youngest child’s immense disappointment, I put my foot down.

No. Snakes. Period,

But the problem was that Batman really wanted to have a pet to live in his room like his sissy has Copper the Hamster. And daddy had promised, after all. I tried to float the idea of Batman getting his own hamster, but nothing doing. He didn’t want any pet that bit him. No negotiation.

We had a problem.

So I did what I normally do when faced with a difficult situation.

I called Grandpa Vernon.

Grandpa Vernon’s (real) grandkids have a pet gecko, and they love it. He told me all about the pet. It was tame. Easy to care for. Eats crickets and mealworms. Easy to handle and enjoys being carried around. That sounded perfect!

Off to the pet store we went.

Enter JoJo the Gecko

(See how that rhymes?)

JoJo is a charming little guy. He eats crickets. He is quiet and quite clean. He requires little care at all, really, compared to some of the other high maintenance members of our extended family.

Unfortunately, he also hides under his fake rock whenever you enter the room, and arches his back and hisses quite loudly when you try to pick him up.

Batman is terrified of him.

I do think our family is complete now,

Categories: Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | 1 Comment

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