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Fourteen…..Fourteen…..Fourteen

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.

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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.

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Batman And The 2013 YMCA Christmas Run: Are We Almost Finished?

The Treasure Valley YMCA Christmas run is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  It is held annually the last Saturday before Christmas, and it heralds the nearing end of the holiday madness.  Many of the participants dress up in costumes ranging from wild to outrageous, and equally well-appointed dogs rival the costumes of their human handlers for ingenuity and spirit.

I have run the race almost every year since the kids were born, save for an ear infection one year (kids) and bronchitis another (mine).  For the first time this year I had decided that we would participate in the race with no stroller back-up.  From the early days of pushing Annabelle alone in the jogger, to later years with both kids in the double stroller, and more recently taking the stroller along “just in case,” we had never gone to the run without a wheeled companion.  After Annabelle’s successful conquering of the hilly 3.2 mile Wine Run a few months ago, I was certain that both kids could easily handle a flat 2 mile stroll, especially considering all of the fun things to look at along the way.

Desperate Hubby is suffering from what I can only guess is the flu, and he has been in bed for the better part of six days.  We are generally a pretty healthy set of parental units, so DH’s illness has been rather concerning for the children.  Batman asks me on a daily basis if this is the day that daddy is going to heaven, a question he poses solemnly and with all sincerity.  The deaths of Uncle Lonnie and Papa Bill, not to mention his beloved lab Toby have affected my sensitive little son deeply.

Because of daddy’s incapacitation we have also been forced to cancel several holiday engagements we had been looking forward to, which has also been disappointing for the kids.

A little break from the house would clearly be a good thing.

The kids and I drove to Boise pick up our race packets Friday afternoon straight from school.  They snacked on Lunchables in the back seat as we made the forty minute drive downtown, and were reasonably patient as we stood in line for the thirty or more minutes it took us to retrieve our numbers, shirts, gloves and complimentary jingle bells.

As we began the drive home snow started to fall, lightly at first and more heavily as we neared our end of the valley.  It was beautiful, and the added Christmas atmosphere created by the white flakes only served to make me more excited about the exuberance of the festivities ahead of us.

Desperate Hubby had made dire predictions of the road conditions Saturday morning, voicing his doubt that we would be able to drive to the race.  In addition, Batman had developed a slight cough, and his daddy tried to talk him into staying home for the day to rest.  Batman was having none of that, and when we awoke yesterday morning to highway-cam shots of clear roads I knew our adventure was meant to be.

Getting out of the house in a timely manner with both kids properly dressed and ready to go was a challenge, and my nerves were frayed by the time we were finally in the truck and driving.  A stop by McDonald’s for a breakfast of champions (pancakes for Annabelle, Egg McMuffin (hold the egg) for Batman, and a big cup of coffee for me) and we were on our way.

Three or four inches of snow had fallen in the valley overnight, and though the freeway was mainly wet we did pass a couple of minor accidents on our way to Boise.  The surface streets of town had not been plowed, and a gray slush covered every driving surface.  The clock on my dashboard read a chilly 19 degrees when we parked.

The kids were both being good sports, though, and as we strolled the three blocks to the starting area Batman made the most of the new snowfall, kicking his way through every drift we passed.

We arrived just in time to watch the costume contest, which was very entertaining for  the children, and right after that Santa arrived for photos.

Oh what fun.

Christmas Y Santa

Despite my warnings about his lack of waterproof gloves (he insisted on wearing the race gloves over his own little pair of cotton gloves), and his lack of waterproof footwear (Nike running shoes not generally the most moisture resistant), Batman continued to attack the piles of snow energetically.

Playing in the Snow

Annabelle wandered around, petting every dog that got within reach and enjoying watching all the funny people.

Little Runner

This was going well!  I congratulated myself on putting forth the effort to keep our nice Christmas tradition going.

Things got even more fun when we discovered that there was a real live reindeer at the start line, available for pictures too.

A Real Reindeer

We even got a nice lady in the reindeer line to take a picture of the three of us.  I am proud to show you that even though the children refused to re-wear their hats from the parade last week, I recycled one of them for another go.

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Ah, this was the life.

Batman was getting a little antsy after waiting around all this while, so we wandered over toward the back of the starting line.  The race was about to start.

With the traditional “HO HO HO!  Merry Christmas!” we were off.

We were having fun now!

About halfway through the first block Batman started whining.  “Moooommmmmm! I am thirsty.  I need a drink!”  I hadn’t considered that in sub-freezing weather, walk-running through three-inch deep slush, that we would need water.  But then again, this was Batman.

“You’re just going to have to wait, Buddy.  We don’t have anything to drink right now.”

This I delivered in my cheerful “public” voice, as opposed to my “private” voice, which tends to be more strident and often considerably less patient (not to mention louder) than my public voice.  I’m sure all of you moms know what I mean by that.  It is not dissimilar to the difference between the “inside” and “outside” voice of a toddler.

The calmness of my public voice did not deter Batman from stepping it up a notch.  “I SAID I CAN’T WAIT!  I NEED A DRINK RIGHT NOW!”  We were still in heavy foot traffic at that point, surrounded by parents pushing strollers filled with snacks and thermos’s of hot cocoa, who were glaring at me as though they had just recognized me from the pictures on their local post office wall.

I stooped closely to Batman and spoke into his ear with just enough of my private voice to regain control.  “Be quiet. We don’t have anything to drink here and quit making that hideous moaning noise.  Please buddy.  We still have a long ways to go.”

“Oooohhhhhh, mom.  I am just so thirsty.  Are we almost done now?”

This actually brought a few snickers from a few of the families who hadn’t actually passed us when my son sat down abruptly in the middle of the road to make his point.  I walked over to a bush in the median, covered with three inches of pristine white snow and scooped a small amount up with my glove.  Then I walked back over to Batman and offered it to him to eat.  He sucked on the snow thirstily and resumed walking with a spring in his step.

It worked!

For about ten feet.  Then we went through the exact same conversation and motions as before.

For the next two miles.

About halfway through the race my right arm was aching with a tunnel carpel-like intensity and my hand was cramping from gripping the race-gloved appendage of my youngest child in an effort to keep him moving.  I had to switch sides and pull with my left hand instead.

Just before we finally made it to the finish line, when I was sure it couldn’t get any more excruciating, Batman actually found it within his tiny soul to step it up yet again.

His footsteps slowed to nearly a stop.  He started moaning hideously and loudly, making a noise I can only liken to the incessant turn-over sound of a car with a nearly dead battery.  This was interspersed by a constant diatribe of “I can’t go on any further.  I am thirsty.  I am tired,” over and over again for the last six blocks or so.  If it hadn’t been so slick on the street, or even if I had thought for a moment I could carry a more than fully clothed 55 pound screaming kindergartener for that distance I would have given it a try.  But he just had to walk.

With about two blocks left to go I leaned down to Batman and said “Look buddy.  We are about to get to the finish line.  You should be proud of yourself and happy that you made it!  Aren’t you happy?”  This prompted a vigorous shake of the head and a mumbled statement about hating races and never wanting to do another one.  Ever.

Right before we entered the finish line chute, we passed another family.  It looked like a dad with four kids, walking slowly along.  The eldest daughter of about fifteen was holding the hand of the youngest, who was probably four or five.  The little girl was crying loudly about being cold and not being able to walk any more.

I felt a little better knowing I was not alone.

Our pass through the chute was unremarkable.  We were all happy to discover that the Y was giving medals this year for completion, and the kids hung their symbols proudly around their neck.  Batman grabbed thirstily for the water bottle from the volunteer at the end, and drank almost the whole thing as I tried to take their finish-line photos.

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Apparently he really had been thirsty.

I do feel a sense of satisfaction about completing the race, and I am happy the kids made it through unscathed.

I am even happier that it doesn’t come around again for another year.

Merry Christmas!

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He Did It His Way

Wm. M. Smith, or Papa Bill as he was known to us, passed away peacefully yesterday afternoon at about 2:00, with me and my mother-in-law, his daughter Becki, at his side.

Bill passed from this world in exactly same way that he lived in it: under his own terms.  After he suffered a massive stroke and medical tests revealed that there would be no recovery, the doctors said it would likely be a very short time before Bill left his earthly body.  He was made comfortable on the sixth floor of St. Luke’s hospital, and family near and far started the grieving process.

It was apparent after just a couple of days that Bill was in no hurry.  Though he never opened his eyes, he did recognize that we were there with him, and responded to questions with a nod or a squeeze of the hand, even an occasional spoken yes or no.  The nurses were amazed.

Day after day, the decline of his body became more evident, until a few days ago when he no longer responded to questions or showed evidence that he was aware we were in the room with him. 

I know he knew, though.

The day before yesterday, on the eighth day of our vigil, a new young doctor was on duty for rounds.  He had the perfect blend of irreverence and unambiguous respect for the situation, and I think he recognized in me a similar plainspoken sense of humor.  The young doctor stayed quite a while in the room, and we talked about how strong Papa Bill was, and how surprised everyone around the hospital was that he was still hanging on. 

The doctor said that he believed people didn’t leave their bodies until they were good and ready; it was a personal moment in life in much the same way as childbirth was.  I liked his analogy and appreciated that he was so open and relaxed in speaking about the process that we were going through.

Right before he left, the doctor told me that he had recently had a conversation with several other doctor friends, and they had talked about the longest that they had personally had a patient hang on in a circumstance such as Papa Bill’s.  His longest patient had gone seven days, he said.  The longest of any doctor in the room had been nine.

I didn’t tell the doctor this, but I knew right then that Papa Bill would be with us for at least one more day.  He was an extremely competitive man, and I knew he’d at least want to tie the record.

I was right.  Papa Bill waited not only until the next day to leave us, he waited until the same doctor was making rounds, and drew his last breath just seconds before the young man stepped into the room. 

The young doctor was silent for moment, gazing respectfully at the three of us.  He said, “I’m going to give him a minute here.  He has fooled us all week long, and I don’t want to rush him now.”  Then he said “Besides that, I’ve had patients before that I thought were gone, and just as I bent down to give a listen to their chests they took another big breath and I about pooped my pants.   I could totally see Bill doing that to me!” 

Becki and I both laughed through our tears.  It was exactly the kind of statement that Papa Bill would have really appreciated.  When the doctor pronounced officially that Bill had moved on to the next world, I told him of my thoughts the day before about the nine-day challenge he had unwittingly issued. 

The doctor laughed, and said that from all he had heard about Papa Bill he thought that was probably accurate.  And he said “Well, this is a new record for one of my patients, that’s for sure.” 

I think Papa Bill would have liked that.

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Papa Bill at the age of four.  What a handsome young man!

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Papa Bill in 2011; the photo I took at his apartment to include with his life story books.

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A Little More About Papa Bill

It’s Sunday morning, early.  I drove in the dark in a light chilly rain to come to the hospital today, a little earlier than I have been arriving.   I promised to be home soon enough for the boys to do some duck hunting this afternoon.  Greg and the kids had been hanging out together over the long weekend a lot, and I think the little ones are missing me and getting a little restless. 

Papa Bill is pretty quiet this morning.  He is not as alert as he was yesterday during my visit, and for the first time during this process I am not absolutely certain he knows I am here. 

Yesterday (Saturday) was a pretty phenomenal day here at the hospital.  Phenomenal might seem to be a strange word, considering the circumstances, but I mean it in the purest and most respectful way.  When I arrived yesterday at about 9:00 a.m. Papa Bill had clearly been awake for a while, and he was agitated.  Though he doesn’t open his eyes, his face and breathing made it evident that he was alert, and his limbs moved restlessly on the bed.  He had kicked his covers completely off, and they were balled in a soft white tangle beside his knees.  I spoke to him and put the covers back on, then I sat down next to him and took his hand.  He quieted somewhat. 

Then he started talking.  This was a surprise, as he had not spoken to us since his stroke, and I think the doctor, as well as the family thought he would not be capable of speaking again.  His words were somewhat garbled, and I struggled to understand him. 

It sounded to me like he was speaking names. 

This was not unfamiliar to me, nor unexpected. When my grandfather passed, also in a hospital, he spoke to family members long gone, and reached his hand out toward them.  He appeared to answer questions, yes and no, when nobody in the earthly room was talking. 

Papa Bill’s behavior was so similar.  He was reaching out his hand toward the end of the bed, and though his eyes were closed it was evident he was reaching for something.  I asked him if there were people there and he said “uh huh.” 

My mother-in-law arrived not long after I had gotten Papa Bill settled, and we talked to him a little more.  He said several more words that we couldn’t understand, and said a clear “No” when asked if he had any pain. 

I believe that there were others in the room with us; people that we couldn’t see but that Papa Bill could sense.  I am convinced that near the end of life our family members come for us, they come to escort us home. It would not be a stretch to say that in fact I think they are often near us, but our everyday level of consciousness doesn’t allow us to perceive them.

Papa Bill is more deeply asleep today, and he is not talking or gesturing.  As I’ve sat with him over the past few days, I have thought a lot about him as a person, the man behind the stern façade that not everyone saw through.  I thought of the many stories I have heard about him from family members over the years.

I also remembered a few more things myself. 

When I was injured in a horseback riding accident in 2005, I ended up in the hospital for more than a week.  Papa Bill was one of the first to visit me when I got home.  He had made a trip to Costco with my mother-in-law, and brought all sorts of goodies. I remember they hauled bags of stuff into the house, but the two things I remember most were a giant glass jar of three-bean salad, which both Papa Bill and I loved.   Secondly, he had baked me a pie.  A cherry pie, frozen from the grocery section.  He was so proud of that pie, and insisted on getting me a piece of it right away.

Papa Bill came to our house two years ago for Thanksgiving when Winston was just a tiny puppy, barely six weeks old. We had only had the pup for a day, and Papa Bill sat and held that dog for his entire visit, with the exception for a few minutes out to eat.  It was an unlikely pairing, but they seemed to really connect.

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Papa Bill has a dog too.  She is a border collie mix named Sadie.  Sadie moved to live with my brother-in-law Mike when Papa Bill moved into his apartment.  Mike would bring Sadie over to the apartment to visit on occasion, and Bill always had dog treats in a bag on top of his small fridge for her.  In addition to that, he saved half of every sandwich he ordered for lunch in the cafeteria, placing it in a styrofoam container in his freezer. He called those containers “Barf Bags.”  The barf bags were saved for Sadie, and periodically Mike would pick them all up and take them home to thaw individually as a treat for the dog.  Papa Bill always said he suspected that Mike kept the best sandwiches for himself, and he might have been right.

When he still lived in his house, after his wife Sugarfoot died, Papa Bill would make a trip to Costco once a week.  There he would purchase a large beef roast, and on Sunday afternoon he would cook that roast in the crock pot.  He would season it with just a smidge of onion soup mix, and when it was done that roast would be not only Sunday dinner for Papa Bill and Sadie, but what they ate all week long until it was Sunday again and time to cook another.  He called it the “Dog Roast.”

If the phone rang at Papa Bill’s when you were there, and you were unprepared, it could be quite a shock.  I remember the first time I was there visiting, sitting in the comfortable, antique-filled living room and hearing the quiet jangle of the phone.  This, of course, was before the days of our pervasive cell service, when people communicated mostly by land line.  I barely had time to recognize the ringing as a phone when Papa Bill, who was sitting directly to my left, shouted out in an ear-splitting voice “TELEPHONE!!  TELEPHONE”!!!”  I nearly jumped out of my seat, it was so loud and unexpected.  This was not a new trick for the family, however, and they either rolled their eyes or walked away or looked kind of perturbed.  For some reason though, I found it kind of funny, and I laughed out loud.  I never heard a phone ring in the presence of Papa Bill that he didn’t announce it loudly to the world, and I laughed every time.

A child of the Great Depression, Papa Bill was frugal to a fault.  He wore his clothes until they were absolutely ready for the rag-bag, drove cars until they were more than fully depreciated, and never cared about he looked or how people perceived him. 

There was one thing Papa Bill would spend money on, though, gladly, and that was his family.  My mother-in-law, Becki, tells many a tale of Bill’s generosity when she was a young wife with little children and little money.  She told me of driving to Northern Idaho with her husband Phil, DH’s dad, and their young children,  for a visit with Bill and Sugarfoot.  For some reason they drove their old International pickup truck, and the tires on the truck were absolutely bald.  Papa Bill took one look at the state of the rubber on their wheels and told Phil to take that truck downtown and get some new tires.  Charge it to him.  He was not going to allow the young family to drive back home over Whitebird Pass with those old tires. 

Papa Bill placed a high value on education, and he believed that it changed people’s lives.  Becki decided to go back to school when her children were little to get her cosmetology license, giving her a career she could pursue at home while she looked after her young kids.  Papa Bill supported her through that endeavor, paying for her parking and uniforms, babysitters and whatever else it took to get her through the program.  A few years ago my sister-in-law was interested in going back to school to obtain her masters degree in teaching.  Becki describes a lunch she and Shelley had with Papa Bill where Shelley was talking about the research she had done on her graduate program, and though she was excited about the career benefits afforded by the advanced degree she was also trying to figure out how she would afford the cost.

Papa Bill asked how much the program tuition was, then took his wallet out and wrote a check to Shelley for the entire amount on the spot. 

That was Papa Bill.

Bill had a serious job, spending the last twenty years of his life as a Magistrate Judge in Idaho, but he still brought some humor to a pretty humorless profession.  Greg says he can remember going to visit Papa Bill and Sugarfoot in the summertime and sitting in the courtroom watching the proceedings.  His favorite phrase from Bill  to his clientele was “Well, son, I hope you brought your toothbrush with you today, because you are going to need it.”

Despite his stern demeanor, Papa Bill had a strong sense of play, and Becki told tales of expensive gifts for the children, things that were far beyond the budget of a young couple with three small kids, but toys that Papa Bill wanted to enjoy with the children.  Remote control cars and trucks, and grand battery-operated airplanes were the norm.  All of the gifts were given gladly, and enjoyed by the children alongside their grandfather, who would play with them for hours, teaching them how to operate the toys and then delighting in them as much as the youngsters did. 

When Sugarfoot was alive and the grandkids were small, she and Papa Bill would orchestrate elaborate Easter egg hunts every year.  Together, they created dozens of plastic eggs stuffed with tiny papers, each listing a different prize that was to be retrieved in the dining room after the hunt was over.  The eggs were carefully hidden around the large back yard of their south Boise home, and the kids would leave with a huge load of money and toys and candy.

Papa Bill wasn’t above a little horseplay either.  Becki tells of formal meals at the dining room table where each roll requested by children was delivered in an overhand throw by Papa Bill.  She said the adults would just cringe, but the children loved it.  Papa Bill’s mother said he got that habit from his time in the army. 

And speaking of food, Papa Bill lived for dessert.  It was his favorite part of any meal, and he wasn’t afraid to let you know it.  He loved pie, especially Marie Calendar’s Chocolate Satin Pie, and ice cream.  Really, he ate anything sweet.  He was often heard to say “Let’s get this food out of the way so we can have dessert!” before a meal even started.

Papa Bill loved nicknaming people.  After my last blog post I got a message from Bill’s niece Deb (another “by marriage” family member like me) who talked about the nicknames.  She said she never got a nickname (I didn’t either) and she never knew if that meant Bill didn’t like her enough or that he liked her too much!  He had some creative ones though, and one I am glad I never got was what he sometimes affectionately called his wife.  FOG.  For Fat Old Girl.  Yeah, Deb, maybe we didn’t miss out by not getting nicknames!

Although I have known him only a relatively short time, it is obvious how important Bill has been to this family over the years.  His generosity has opened doors in education and careers that might have never been possible without his help, and he has expanded the horizons of every youngster he came into contact with. 

What makes this even more notable is the fact that Bill, like me and Deb, is a transplant into this family.  He married Greg’s maternal grandmother when they were both forty years old and Greg’s mom and sister were teenagers.  From an outsider looking in I have to say that you would never guess that from his actions.  He has cared for this family the same as if they had been born to him, and I admire that.

As I finish this blog on Monday morning, Bill is still with us here on earth, but probably for only a short time now.  His stroke was one week ago today, and with his usual tenacity he is doing this his own way.  Godspeed, Papa Bill.

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A Tribute to Papa Bill

It’s Thanksgiving morning, and I am sitting at the hospital bedside of my grandfather, William Smith, or Papa Bill as we know him in the family.  Papa Bill is not my grandfather by blood, but by marriage, and almost more than that, by friendship.

I am not certain that Papa Bill knows I am here, but I think he does.  He is responsive to questions from the nurse and opened his mouth this morning when she asked, even nodding yes in response to a question.  When I speak to him he moans softly as though he is trying to answer.  He doesn’t open his eyes, though, and for the most part he is in a fitful sleep.  Papa Bill suffered a massive stroke three days ago, and this hospital room will be his final resting place.  This is by his own choice, his directives, written months ago when he was of sound mind, are very clear.

I have been through this process, the process of dying, three times now in my life.  Once with each of my grandparents, and once with my mother.  Practice does not make it any easier.  Still, I will stay, and think of the happy times, keeping Papa Bill company as he travels through his final earthly journey.

As I sat here yesterday, I wrote on the little hospital tablet that I found in the packet of materials with the room service menu and comment cards. I wrote about my friendship with Papa Bill.

This is what I wrote.

Papa Bill was my first real family ally when I married in my late thirties and tried desperately to fit into the new bunch of people who were now my relatives.  I remember early on in my marriage when I had my new husband’s entire family over for dinner.  I like to think I am now, and was then, a decent cook, but preparing food for Greg’s mom and stepdad, grandma and grandpa, was stressful to me, and I wasn’t my best.

I burned the rolls, and the (packaged) gravy was gelatinous and lumpy all at once.  I was mortified, but had no choice but to serve the meal anyway.  Most of the family judiciously avoided the problem foods, passing on the rolls and eating their mashed potatoes with butter instead of gravy.

But not Papa Bill.  He demanded a roll, smeared a little butter on it and took a big bite.  “Delicious!” he pronounced.  “This is just the way I like ‘em!”  He ate more than one, as I recall.

I didn’t see Papa Bill very often during those next few years, but I always remembered that dinner.

When Bill moved into a senior apartment/assisted living center a few years ago it was a difficult time.   His wife, my husband’s maternal grandmother, had died a few years previously, and it was simply impossible for him to continue living in the big house they had shared alone.  He sat and watched as piece by piece his home was packed up and transported away.  We took home his washer and dryer, along with his wife Sugarfoot’s china hutch, which graces our dining room to this day.  Her corner curio cabinet sits in our living room holding my collection of handmade red glassware.  I sent Papa Bill pictures of the new locations of his treasures after we moved them in, and I think he approved.

In early 2011, I started taking a memoir writing class at the local community college.  I found that I absolutely loved writing the genre, and since I had always been very interested in Bill’s tales I asked if he would allow me to record his life story.

That question kicked off a two-month writing adventure for me and a journey down memory lane for Papa Bill. I would travel to his apartment each week and we would sit, either in his little living room, or on one of the comfy couches in the community room and talk.  I wrote notes free-hand on a yellow legal pad that was completely full of information by the time I was finished with the interviews.

After we talked, Papa Bill and I would go have lunch in the dining room of the facility, and I loved to meet his friends and find out the stories of the people who were his neighbors.

Each week I would go home and carefully write up the notes from that session, working to incorporate each new installment with the last and aligning information so that chronology was preserved as accurately as I could.  When I was finished typing, I’d email the manuscript to Papa Bill, and he would print it out and make corrections in ink, giving it to me to update the next time I came to meet with him.

Papa Bill is an extremely intelligent man, and his recall of early life was impressive.  He remembered at each meeting exactly where he had left off previously, and started each session at the appropriate chronological juncture.

When the manuscript was finally finished, Papa Bill gave it one final read and pronounced it ready to publish.  I printed it off on nice paper and Greg and I went together to the office supply store to buy a binding machine.  I made Bill several copies and took them to him the following week.  He mailed some off to his daughters who lived away, and others to family members here.  When I had lunch with him the next time I learned he had also given the story to friends at his residence to read.  I was flattered.

I know Papa Bill worried that I would stop visiting when we were finished with our writing project, and he asked me to please keep coming.  Of course I did. I didn’t come every week though, and not as often as I should have, but I came as often as I could.

We had become friends.  Unlikely as it seems for two people separated by more than forty years of age, we “got” each other.  Papa Bill has an acerbic wit that many people don’t understand and sometimes take offense to.  His humor delighted me, though.   I found him to be wonderfully droll and never unkind in his comments.

Papa Bill had a small bulletin board in his apartment that was filled with pictures of family members, and large upon it was a color photo of Annabelle riding her little black pony Reno.  She wore a bright pink jacket and the photo stood out among the others for both its size and luminosity.  He asked every time I visited about the kids and how the horse shows were going.  He bragged to lunch companions about the amazing horsemanship of both my daughter and me, though he had never seen Annabelle on a horse and it had been years since the single time he watched me in a reining competition.

Each visit with Papa Bill at his residence ended exactly the same way.  After lunch I’d walk back to his apartment with him and he’d load me up with gifts to take home.  For a long time Bill had enlisted his dining companions to “save” the little packets of crackers from the dining room, and he would give me grocery bags full of crackers each time I visited.  There were more individual packets of saltines than I could possibly ever use, and although he never knew it I would take them and give them to our daycare provider, who used them at lunch time for the kids.   Eventually the kitchen staff caught on to the scam, and they began doling out the crackers individually.  He still saved them for me but the quantity was greatly diminished.  When Papa Bill couldn’t get crackers, and sometimes even when he could, he would try to send me home with a pie. He loved Marie Calendar’s Frozen Chocolate Satin Cream pies, and always kept a few in his small freezer.  The pies were delicious, but I tried to fend them off as best I could.

After lunch we would visit.  We talked of many topics, from recalling past stories to politics, even about Papa Bill’s dreams.  Not too long ago Bill had told me that he had dreamed of his mother and grandmother, when he was a little boy.  He felt there was some significance to the dream, and he talked about their deaths.  I felt like he knew he’d be joining them soon, and he seemed more curious than afraid at the prospect.

After we had visited a bit, and bagged up crackers, pie or candy, Papa Bill would stand with his walker to see me out.  Early on he would joke “I just want to make sure you really leave!” but on the last several visits he didn’t say that.

We would walk slowly out to the parking area and I would give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.  He would squeeze me back and then he always said the same thing.  “Thank you for coming dear girl.  Please come back soon.”  Although we didn’t have a lot of conversation during some of those visits, and toward the end practically none at all, I know they meant a great deal to him.

A couple of months ago Papa Bill’s health declined to the point where he was unable to care for himself in his apartment and he had to move to an assisted living center. I had not been to lunch with him since he moved, but I was at his birthday party there after his move and I could tell he was diminishing rapidly.

I feel badly that I didn’t spend much time with him in the past weeks, but I think he knows how much I care for him.  As I sit here, on what will surely be one of, if not the, final visit, I say Godspeed Papa Bill.

Papa Bill 006

William M.Smith was born October 17, 1922. He was integral in establishing the Ham Radio National Traffic System that serves the United States today.  He is a World War II Veteran and a retired attorney and Magistrate Judge as well as an accomplished musician.

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Kindergarten – Batman Style

Batman’s First Friend

School has been in force for a couple of weeks now, and I have had several people ask how Batman is adjusting to his first year of full-time education.  The answer to that is, like the subject himself, multi-faceted.

When the first day of school ended I picked Batman and his sister up at 3:00.  It was obvious that they had enjoyed their day.  Annabelle was happy to see all of her friends from last year and told tales of playground adventures all the way home.

Batman was also excited about school, but in a decidedly more reserved fashion. He was smiling and happy, but not boisterous.  I would describe his mood as a sort of ‘contemplative giddiness’.  This puzzled me at first, but as I coaxed information out of him the source of his introspection became clear.

Each question I asked him was answered with some sort of reference to a certain little girl in his class.

It was sort of like this:  “So, Zach, how did you like recess?”  “It was really fun mom.  I played with that ball on a rope thing.  Candy (not her real name – I don’t want her parents suing me), played with it too.”   “Oh, interesting.  How about lunch.”  “Lunch was really good.  I liked everything we had, but Candy didn’t eat all of her salad.”  “What did you learn in class?”  “I don’t really remember, but Candy is really smart.”

“Who is Candy?”  I finally had to ask.  “Oh, she’s just a girl in my class.”  “Really?  Well, she certainly sounds nice.”  This opened the floodgates.  “She IS really nice mom.  She is the nicest person I have ever met.”

As the first week continued on Candy was discussed more and more in our household.  Even Batman’s sister picked up on the evident fascination of her brother.  A couple of days later when I picked the kids up, Annabelle offered this.  “Mom, I met Candy today.  She is not as nice as Zach said she was.  I tried to play with her and all she said was “How do you know my name?”

A snarl of outrage was emitted from the opposing seat in the back of the truck.  “YES SHE IS NICE!! You just don’t know her like I do!  She is nice to ME!!!”

Wow.  How old are these kids again?

As the days went by, Annabelle finally got to spend more time with Candy, and she pronounced her super, super sweet, and started to play with her for part of every recess.  The first weekend of school was a four-day weekend for the Labor Day holiday, and Batman positively pined for his friend.  “How many days until I see Candy again?”  “NOW how many days?”

This past weekend it was evident that their relationship had gone to a new level.  As I sat in my office on Sunday afternoon doing some work for Desperate Hubby I could hear the kids talking in their room down the hall.  Annabelle said something about Candy and Batman answered.  I couldn’t hear what he said exactly, but a few more words were exchanged and then I heard this.  “Well, Candy and I talked about it.  We  are going to LIKE each other and be friends until we are fifteen, and then we are going to LOVE each other and be boyfriend and girlfriend.”

As with every other aspect of his life, Batman was planning ahead.

Batman’s First Homework Assignment

The kids’ school is a bi-lingual Spanish language immersion school, and each day they are taught half-a-day in English by one teacher and half-a-day in Spanish by another.  One of Annabelle’s first assignments by her Spanish teacher last year was the completion of a family portrait on a large green construction-paper leaf.  The kids could decorate the leaf any way they wanted as long as it included a picture of their family on it.  This was the first monthly family project of the school year, each designed as an opportunity for the entire family to work together on a craft, and for the student to describe to his or her classmates the project as well as the process they went through to complete it.

We went all-out for this assignment last year.  In what I am sure was an annoying amount of overkill, Annabelle cut out the leaf, then we pasted the whole thing on a larger piece of paper.  We decorated the entire item with stickers, plastic crystals and brightly colored flowers.  The coup de grace was my little girl’s name, both first and last, spelled out perfectly if not evenly on the bottom in puffy glitter adhesive letters.

It was magnificent.

When Batman came home on the third day of school I conducted a cursory examination of his backpack.  While it had been empty for the previous two days, this day it presented a treasure.  The leaf was back!  I took it out, my mind already racing with ideas of how we could complete the September Family Project.  I noted the due date, which wasn’t until after the holiday and sat the leaf aside.

On Monday afternoon, after a busy weekend with friends and family, I prepared for the next day of school.  I ironed khaki skorts (FYI:  in a uniform situation, cotton is NOT your friend), and washed the new lunch boxes that DH had purchased with the children so they could take cold lunches to school the next day (a short-lived phase, thankfully).

Then I came across the green construction paper.

I called Batman in and showed him the paper, explaining the project.  I told him we’d pick a picture off of the computer to paste on the leaf and then decorate it.  Then I went out to feed the horses.

When I came back in Batman had already cut the leaf-shaped background out perfectly.  He has pretty amazing fine-motor skills for a kindergartener.

I went to the computer and showed him the picture I was thinking of:  a scenic shot of us taken in front of the lake in McCall during our family vacation.  Batman concurred with my choice, so I printed the photo and told him to cut around the edges.

Now for the decorating part.  It was a woodsy picture, so how about something woodsy?   I spied the frothy evergreens moving gently in the wind outside the front door…..perfect!  “How about we cut some of these, buddy, and paste them around the picture?”  Batman was skeptical, I could tell, but he reluctantly went along with my suggestion. I brought the branches inside, and we trimmed them to size.  Batman helped a little with the glue at first, but soon lost interest, leaving me to paste the last few sticks on by myself.  We finished by putting a large heavy book about insects (from Batman’s “Bug Phase”) on top of the whole project to make sure it dried flat.

If left the project overnight to dry, then removed it the next morning.  I thought it was beautiful.  Just like I’d imagined.

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I showed the leaf to Batman.  “What do you think, son?”  He shrugged.  “It’s OK I guess.”

OK, whatever.  I knew it was quite an accomplishment.  If not exactly in the realm of last year’s glitter and jewels, nonetheless the project was creative and perfectly fitting for a boy kindergartener.

That afternoon when I picked the kids up from school I was anxious to hear how the project had gone.  “How did your leaf presentation go today, son?” I asked eagerly when the kids were settled in the car.

“What?”  Batman said, pretending not to hear me as he looked out the window (this is not an uncommon occurrence with Batman.  He says what? in a unique way that makes it clear he thinks you are out of your mind to be asking, so I was used to this response.)

“Your LEAF PROJECT?” I repeated, a little louder. This is another effect that Batman’s most common response to questions has on his immediate family members.  When he doesn’t want to answer a question, or thinks the question is a little beneath him, he will drawl out that “what?”, usually without meeting your eyes, in a somewhat bored and almost toneless voice.  We invariably just repeat the question louder, in much the same manner as people do when they are talking to someone who doesn’t speak their language.  On the other hand, my little progeny can hear a secret whispered in the kitchen to his father from down the hallway in his bedroom where he is actively concentrating on a DVD of Big Deer Hunters Gone Wild running at full volume in the background.

Batman shrugged. “I didn’t turn it in. We didn’t have time.”

I was somewhat disappointed, but I understood.  The first days of school are always busy.

The next day when I dropped Batman off I reminded him to give his project to the teacher. I had a pretty stellar record with those kindergarten teachers from last year, and I did not want it impinged upon.

I was leaving for a horse show in Utah the next day, so I went through the kids’ backpack first thing after school that afternoon to make sure we could get any last-minute homework done on time.  The first thing I discovered was, of course, Batman’s leaf, ensconced just as before in the Ziploc bag in the manila folder in the front pocket of the backpack.

‘”Zach!  Why didn’t you turn your leaf in?!  It is due this week remember?  This is important son.   You are in kindergarten now.  You have to be responsible to turn in your homework!” My voice was a tiny bit high but I was trying to be nice.

“I forgot.”

Well, that was it.  As it turned out, I was taking the kids to their classrooms the next morning before I left on my trip, as I had to deliver drinks for Annabelle’s monthly class birthday party and pretzels and granola bars for Batman’s class snacks.  I would take matters into my own hands.

Thursday morning as we walked down the hallway toward the kids’ side-by-side classrooms, I spied Ms. Leone, Batman’s afternoon teacher and the propagator of  the leaf project, out in the hallway supervising the children as they stowed their backpacks.  “Perfect!” I thought.

“Zach, there is Ms. Leone.  Go give her your leaf project right now before you go to Mrs. Martinez’ class!”  Batman ignored me and walked over to an empty hook to hang his backpack up.  I followed him and grabbed the little blue camo bag with his (real) name embroidered on it.  “ZACH! Get the leaf!”  I fumbled with the zipper.  I saw Batman’s eyes start to well up.

“I’ll do it later mom!  Afternoon kids turn their stuff in during the afternoon class, not morning!  She won’t take it now!”

I knew this not to be true, because I saw two of Batman’s little classmates turning in their leaves to the teacher that very second, but I could tell my boy was getting upset.  We were already on tenuous ground with me getting ready to leave for a few days, so I took a deep breath and let it go.  “OK son.  Just don’t forget, alright?”

I hugged and kissed both kids and told them I loved them, walking away quickly down the hallway so that neither they nor I would cause a scene with goodbye tears.

I enjoyed my three days in Utah at the horse show.  It was a girls’ weekend in every sense of the word:  two girl people; two girl dogs and two girl horses.  My friend Shane and I took second and third in the derby, respectively, so it was a worthwhile trip.  Still, I missed my kids terribly and it just didn’t feel right to be at a horse show without Annabelle, my little “woogie.”

Given that, I was all ready to jump back into motherhood upon my return to Idaho Saturday evening.  DH had a nice dinner of grilled peppered ahi ready (me, him and Annabelle) and Swai Rainbow Trout for Batman.  We had a quiet night of quality family time, and I spent Sunday tidying up the house and affairs to start Monday morning off on a good note.

I started by going through the backpacks to check for homework.

You guessed it.

The.  Leaf.  Was.  Still.  There.

I tried to remain calm as I approached Batman about the subject.  The project had been ready to turn in for four school-days previously, yet it had not made it out of the backpack.  How come?

“Well, I don’t really like it mom,” Batman said.  “I don’t like all those curly branches on it.”  I reminded him that he had been part of the planning team on the project (more or less) and that the assignment was now overdue.  This was unprecedented in our short school career and completely unacceptable.

Batman looked unhappy, but he reluctantly agreed that he would turn the project in first thing the next morning.  For sure this time.  I intended to drop an email to Ms. Leone to apologize for the tardiness and to make sure that she knew to look for the leaf, but I got busy and it was the end of the day before I thought about it.

It was the first question I asked Batman (after “how was your day?” (fine) and “what was for lunch?” (I don’t remember)).

“Did you turn in your leaf?”  He stared stone faced out the window and refused to answer.

When we got home I opened the backpack immediately.  I wasn’t surprised to see the leaf still in its place, wrapped in plastic and encased in manila cardboard.

It was time for a serious talk.  “Zach, what is the deal here? This thing is way overdue now and you have to turn it in.  What is the problem?”  I was exasperated and didn’t try to hide it this time.

“I don’t like it mom. I think it’s ugly.”  Against my better judgment I argued with my son.  “It’s not ugly.  It is perfect.  See, the tree fronds match the theme of the lake.  The outdoors.  See?”

I went on. “Why didn’t you tell me you didn’t like it before we did it?  We could have changed it!”  “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings because I knew YOU liked it “(slight accusatory voice from my son).  “Well, that was nice of you,” I said,  “but now you are stuck with it.  You have to turn it in the way it is, and next time be sure to tell me beforehand if you want to do something different.”

“I don’t want to turn it in.  I have to tell about it and I don’t like to talk in front of people.”  Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.  We talked about that for a bit; how he didn’t have to say much, and maybe I could get Ms. Leone to help him.  “No,” he said miserably.  “She can’t help me because she doesn’t know how we made it.”

I thought for a minute.  I know from experience that sometimes a little forward motion is all it takes to get re-started on something; and that the feeling of being in control can go a long way toward ownership of a project.

“Maybe we can change the picture somehow so you like it better, then you will be happier about presenting it.”  Batman’s eyes brightened.  “What can we do?  Can we take those tree things off of it?”  “Well, no,” I said.  “We probably can’t take the branches off.  But maybe we could paint them.”

Batman was less than impressed.  “I just don’t like those things mom.  I don’t care what color they are.  They look stupid.”

I thought for another minute.  “How about if I make a brand new leaf and we start all over again?  You can decorate it any way you want.”  My boy was skeptical.  “We don’t have another leaf.  We can’t do that.”

I walked down the hallway to the library/skinny pig/cat (and newly ‘bunny’, but that’s another story) room and searched through the craft items on the bottom of the big bookcase.  There I found a lone piece of green construction paper precisely the color of the original leaf.  I walked back to the kitchen table, flipped over the original leaf and, pushing the soft branches aside, traced an outline that, if not a perfect match, was a close approximation of the original.

I handed it to a delighted Batman.  “I’m going out to do the chores and feed.  Cut this out, and when I get back you can decorate it.”

When I came back in the house the leaf was cut out, not with the precision or enthusiasm of the original, but cut out nonetheless.  Batman stated that he wanted to paint the leaf.  I retrieved a ten-color sleeve of partially dehydrated kid’s washable acrylic craft paint, a newspaper and a couple of brushes.  Then I sat Batman down at the coffee table with the leaf.

He painted.  And painted.  And painted.  In a half-hour the leaf was a dripping mess of multi-colored swatches, any one color pretty much indiscernible from the next.  Batman pronounced it “camo.”

Now on to the family picture. I asked Batman if he wanted the same picture as we I had selected for the last (miserably rejected) leaf project.  That got an adamant “NO! I don’t like that picture.  I want a picture what (sic) has me with my shirt on!”

Back to the computer we went.  Batman chose two separate pictures this time, making it appear that we perhaps did not function as a cohesive family unit, but I told myself that didn’t really matter.  The pictures were each only a couple of weeks old, so they were a little more current than the original anyway.

We left the leaf to dry overnight, where it turned into a somewhat curled husk that I pressed down as best I could the next morning to get the glue to adhere the new photos.

It turned out like this.

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I repackaged the new leaf in a different Ziploc bag, and removed the original from the manila folder.  “Do you want to take the old leaf too, to show the class?” I asked brightly.  “No, you can just throw that one away,” was Batman’s reply.

Fine.

I hung the old leaf on the fridge, where it remains to this minute, though it has mysteriously been covered mostly up with an old piece of artwork from Batman’s days in pre-school that had previously hung on the other side of the appliance.

I asked Batman when I picked him up on Tuesday if he turned in his leaf.  “Yeah.  I did.”  “Well how did it go?” I queried.

“Ms. Leone really liked it.”  “Did you get to talk about it at all?”  I wondered aloud.  “Yeah.  I just said I painted it and who the people were. Can I hold my bunny when we get home?”

End of discussion.

I will probably never know if it was the fear of public speaking (doubtful), the perceived ugliness of the pasted-on tree branches (more likely) or the fear of being seen shirtless by his classmates (unknown) that made Batman reluctant to turn in his first homework assignment.

What I do know is that I will henceforth give Batman full control over structure, content and construction of his future family projects.

The boy knows what he wants.

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If a Tree Falls in the Forest……

….and no one is around to hear Desperate Hubby scream as he sprints out of its path, can you still get an upgraded cabin from the rental agency?

The answer, my friends, is happily yes.

A Bucolic Beginning

Our short “Last Days of Summer” vacation started out benignly enough.  We loaded up the truck with fishing poles, swim suits, food provisions and band gear and made the hour-long drive to the nearby mountain hamlet of Crouch on a Thursday afternoon.  DH had been invited by a Boise band to fill-in for their guitar player during a Saturday afternoon gig, and we decided to take the opportunity for a family getaway before school started the following Monday.

In anticipation of days spent fishing for his beloved rainbow trout, Batman had spent hours with DH learning to tie fishing flies, a task he had taken to with aplomb.  The products of his labor were carefully packed into their own tackle box, and Batman checked and double-checked that they were loaded before our mid-afternoon departure.

Batman Ties

Pretty impressive for a five-year old, no?

Batman's Flies

A Storm Brews…..

We arrived at the little cabin we had rented around 5 p.m.  There was a mountain thunderstorm beginning, and Annabelle grew anxious and jumpy as she sat with her dad and brother on the back deck watching the tall lodge pole pines sway in the wind.  She came running in the house where I was unpacking our food in the tiny kitchen area after the first few raindrops fell.  She wailed that she was afraid there would be lightning, and WHAT IF ONE OF THOSE BIG TREES FELL OVER?!

I assured her that those trees had been there forever, and they were not going to fall during a storm as mild as the one starting outside.  At that precise moment the power went out.  And stayed out.  I wandered out back to see what DH thought.  I knew the kids were getting hungry, and we had planned to grill burgers on the little barbecue on the front deck that evening.  With no electricity and no lights, maybe it would be better to head into town to try to find a restaurant with a generator.

DH agreed, but just as we walked down the steps to get in the truck, he stopped and said “I’d better move this band gear back away from the porch in case it starts to rain harder.”  I shrugged and went ahead to the pickup with the kids.  We got in and buckled up.  I picked up my phone to see if we had cell service, and as I looked down I caught a blur out of the corner of my eye.  It as DH, and he was bolting across the front deck of the house, moving with a speed unprecedented since I had known him.

I was puzzled for a second or two, as I saw my husband of thirteen years fly off the end of the deck and stand next to a small shed on the far edge of the property.  My puzzlement didn’t last long though.  I heard a huge pop that sounded very similar to gunfire, then a cracking noise and a crash, all in very short sequence.  The kids screamed, and I turned my head to see one of the huge trees from the front yard laying directly behind the pickup truck where we sat strapped in for safety.  The tree had exploded into many smaller pieces, and the green branches quivered from the wind and their impact with the hard ground.

I jumped from the truck to find my beloved husband practically shaking with adrenaline and shock.  He kept saying “I was just standing there…….”

“How did you know to move?” I asked him.  He looked ashen.  “I don’t know….I just looked at the tree and thought if that thing fell right now I would be so dead.  Then I ran.”

Wow.

I grabbed my camera and started to record the damage.

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It was impressive from any angle.

He Was Right There!

Batman got out of the truck and carefully surveyed the area.  Annabelle, on the other hand, was completely hysterical, screaming and carrying on, refusing to leave the relative safety of the cab.

Pieces of Cabin

The inside of the little cabin showed the extent of the structural damage.  Though the porch beams mostly supported the tree, which had broken into thirds in the fall, the weight of the branches had punctured the roofline and gone through the ceiling in the front corner.  There was shattered glass everywhere from light fixtures that had fallen from the impact.

We knew we couldn’t stay at the cabin, so we raced around quickly trying to get everything reloaded before it got dark, or (our bigger fear) the front of the cabin collapsed under the weight of the tree.

Besides getting all of our gear rounded up, we had a maneuvering challenge.  The tree had narrowly missed our truck, and the huge broken trunk now lay behind us, blocking the driveway and our way back to the road.

How we gonna get out

We also had to avoid the electrical line that the tree had brought almost to the ground, but which still remained attached to the power pole and stretched to its limit.  Luckily the power was still out or we could have had an even bigger problem on our hands.

Power Line

Now Where?

We eventually got everything re-loaded to go.  DH drove forward and back, turning in a tight little radius that finally took us out through a narrow gap in the trees to the road, and headed into town.  As we wound our way through the drizzle toward the bottom of the hill we were completely astounded to come around a corner and find a young bull elk standing right in the middle of the road, his velvety horns shaking from side to side as he contemplated something unseen in the bushes.  He stood there for several seconds, then slowly walked away.  We were awed.

With no cell phone service available to contact the cabin management, we stopped at the clubhouse of the little golf course at the bottom of the hill.  DH tried to call the rental agents to no avail, so we wearily continued on to the town to try to find accommodations for our family.  Annabelle had calmed somewhat, but she still sobbed intermittently, and kept saying “We need to find a place that has NO TREES AROUND IT!”  That was a tall order in this mountainous little town.

We drove to the management company (closed); to the tiny Crouch hotel (sold out) and by the other cabin rental agency we knew in town.  All were deserted and dark.  The power was still out.

Annabelle lobbied hard to just go home.  She was strongly opposed by Batman, who was intent on fishing with the flies he had tied for just this occasion, and by DH, who was going to have to be in the little mountain town two days later for his gig anyway.   We finally drove to the nearby town of Garden Valley, and approached the one little hotel it had.

Found a Place

My overwrought daughter was thrilled by the notable absence of trees around the building.  Batman was hungry and really wanted to get out of the truck.  I went into the office and was greeted by the clerk/cleaning person who told me they had one room left.  It was a their “suite,” offering two bedrooms and an in-room kitchenette (perfect!) but with one caveat:  they too had no power.

I said no problem.  Because of the power outage, the hotel office had no ability to run credit cards.  Hmmm.  Lucky for me, I had enough cash in my wallet to cover the cost of one night. We were in!

By this point the power had been out for well over an hour.  We were all past our dinnertime and ready for eat.  We unloaded our gear and hauled it upstairs to our new accommodations, where to my surprise (I don’t know why I was surprised, exactly) and delight, I discovered the room was spacious and clean, with a well-equipped little kitchen area that would have served us well had there been electricity to run any of the appliances.

As we walked down to get the last of our bags from the car, we passed a couple of young construction-workerish men carrying plates of food toward a large barbecue grill on the spacious wrap-around porch.  The men were friendly and offered to share the grill with our hungry group. I brought up our burgers from the cooler (beef for three of us; “pig meat” for picky Batman) and DH cooked us dinner.

Cooking Some Dinner

We ate sitting on the porch, overlooking the scenic valley.  DH was still shaken by his close call, but he recovered enough to enjoy the evening.  The power never did come back on before bedtime, and we heard later that a tree had fallen (!!) across a power line way down along the highway we had driven in on, taking out power for a fifty-mile or so range for over four hours.  Batman and I went to bed early, snuggled in the double-bed in the extra room reading by the soft glow of our flashlight.

Paradise Awaits

The next morning we awoke to find the power back on.  A call from the cabin management agency sent us on our way to a replacement cabin.  We stopped for breakfast at the same clubhouse we had visited the previous evening and then headed back up the mountainside to our new accommodations.

It was nirvana.

Our replacement cabin was at least triple the size of the original.  It had beautifully furnished double decks completely surrounding the glassed front of the home, which looked out over the second hole of the golf course.  There were lounge chairs for reading and laying about, as well as multiple outdoor dining sets to choose from. Around the corner there was a covered porch with yet another dining area and a barbecue grill.

Our New View

Inside, there was a full basement complete with bar, large TV, bed and bath, fireplace and well-equipped game table.  The main floor was equally well-appointed, with another bed and bath, beautifully designed and fully equipped kitchen, boasting enough room, cooking appurtenances and dishes for a small army, completed by a lovely sitting area and another fireplace.  Upstairs there was a loft area with a bed and a fold-out futon along with another full bath.  We had hit the jackpot.

Batman and Annabelle were beside themselves.  Batman’s idea of true luxury is stairs, and to have a whole three days with double sets of stairs to climb set him into a frenzy of delight.  Annabelle immediately chose the futon-bed as her own, and dived into the accompanying armoire to outfit her choice with sheets, pillows and blankets.  She was so happy that she only asked a couple of questions about the tall trees surrounding the cabin, then apparently decided to leave well-enough alone and didn’t mention it again.

Once we were settled and unpacked, DH loaded the kids up for their long-awaited fishing trip and I settled myself into a lounge chair on the deck with a book. After a few minutes of reading I realized that I was really, really tired, so I headed inside, chose the main floor bedroom and crawled under the covers for a two-hour nap.  It was heavenly.

Batman’s Mussels

Not long after I woke up, the crew returned home from their fishing trip.  There were no fish, Batman explained sadly, not even a bite.  BUT, they did manage to catch a whole bunch of clams.  Clams?  From the river?  Interesting.

The said clams were happily delivered to the kitchen, with Batman demanding they be immediately prepared for his snack.  Desperate Hubby rinsed the (as it turned out) mussels in the sink and set them up to steam in a double-broiler.  Each mussel opened beautifully, and they looked just like the ones I can remember oft ordering in San Francisco’s famous North Beach area.

They Look Normal

Batman was so excited about his catch that he declined to even discuss sharing any of the delicacy.  He sat at the table in anticipation, took a mussel out of the shell and popped it into his mouth.

He's Not Scared

He started chewing.  And chewing.  “These are really good!”  he proffered.  And he kept chewing.  I asked Desperate Hubby if he had tasted the mussels himself before serving his five-year old son.  DH looked sort of offended.  “No, I don’t know what they are supposed to taste like anyway.”

Well, this just didn’t seem right.  Batman still chewed, but with considerably less enthusiasm than he had previously exhibited.  I took the fork from his un-protesting hand and grabbed one of the rubbery little mollusks from the bowl, popping it right into my mouth.

Then I gagged.

It was horrible.  I mean really, really, really, horrible.  I ran to the garbage can and spit the offending gristle out, grabbing a bottle of water as I did to rinse the taste of river water and what tasted like old socks out of my mouth.

Batman watched me carefully.  I knew that he could not be enjoying the piece of mussel he was still chewing any more than I had.  Annabelle sat with her fork poised, hoping for a taste of what surely must be a delicious snack, watching my reaction and then her brother’s.

Fresh Water Mussels

With obvious difficulty, Batman swallowed his bite.  He sat his fork down carefully.  Being the resolute boy he is, he was not willing to admit that his prized shellfish was not edible.

Instead he just said “I guess I’m not that hungry after all.  You can have the rest if you want them, mom.”

I removed the meat from the shells, and the kids threw it over the edge of the deck, hoping to attract a bear (their plan, not mine).  Batman carefully packed the empty shells in a Ziploc bag to bring home.  I wouldn’t let him leave them in the house, so he put them outside the back door on the stairs that led to the garage.  Thank god he forgot them when we left.

The rest of the day was spent swimming in the club pool.  I had forgotten to bring my swimsuit, so I was planning on sitting out the event from the comfort of a lounge chair with my book.  DH had planned to swim, but was almost immediately called away for  work conference call that forced him to drive up the mountainside in order to have reliable cell service.

The children were so disappointed that they had to swim alone I finally gave in and “rented” (for $1) a swimsuit from the pool attendant.  The rental suits were all jumbled in a big plastic tote (where they no doubt had been placed after being abandoned by their former owners in the locker room), and Annabelle carefully considered each one before settling on a matronly blue and white one-piece for me.

I will say this for the suit – it definitely offered full coverage.  I tugged it on, leaving my clothes folded on the bench in the empty locker area.  When I walked out to the pool Annabelle appraised me carefully, then said “MOM!  That suit looks really, really pretty on you!”  Gotta love kids.

Band, Bees and a New Batman Cape

Saturday’s activities centered around the band gig.  We got up and had breakfast and the kids and I drove Desperate Hubby to the event location; a large campground just outside the little town of Crouch.  DH had been asked to fill in for the guitar player of a band that played a very similar genre of music as his long-time group, but he had had to learn a daunting amount of new music in the preceding three weeks to prepare for the gig.  Though he has played music in a band for over twenty years and is an excellent musician, he had never played with a band outside of his original core group of buddies.

DH had approached preparation for the event with the dedication that he devotes to anything he is interested in.  I had seen the same level of commitment from him while studying for his private pilot’s license or watching golf training videos.  He was proud that he had learned almost forty new songs in the past weeks, but I could tell he was nervous about playing with new people.  The event turned out to be a motorcycle rally called the Mountain Rendezvous.  The participants were just starting to either arrive or emerge from their tents while the band set up at 11 a.m..  The kids thought the set-up was pretty boring, so we headed downtown to find some lunch.

After lunch we wandered to a little store across the street to try to find an ATM.  The store, called The Crouch Mercantile, had formerly been the town’s main grocery outlet.  When it relocated to a new building a block or so up the street the building had been converted to a venue for locals to sell their goods, and a few dozen stalls had been set up selling a wide variety of handmade or unique items.

By the time we left the store we had supported the local economy in a generous fashion.  I had found a (correctly sized, fairly stylish) swimsuit on sale for half-price, Annabelle had chosen for herself a couple of strings of beaded bells that were made to be woven into a horse’s mane, as well as a small jar of local huckleberry jam.

As for Batman……well, just look below.

Batman Martial Arts

Zach had gravitated to a small booth in the corner that sold handmade cape sets.  They had a variety available, including Superman, Wonder Woman (too small for me, sadly) and Disney Princess models, to name a few.  And of course, Batman.

Our shopping completed, we returned to the musical venue and got out of the truck, carrying our camp chairs along with us.  We sat the chairs up right in front of the band.  The small crowd that was there was congregated in front of the portable bar which was set up a dozen yards away or lingered in their own chairs in front of a wide variety of tents.  No sooner than we had unfolded our chairs and gotten comfortable than we were approached by the band’s roadie (?).  Actually I’m not sure who she was, but she wore a t-shirt with STAFF emblazoned across the back in large yellow letters.  She apologetically informed us that children were not supposed to be at the rally at all, but they would make a brief exception for the band members’ kids.  Could we, however, move over under the trees to a less visible position?

The kids and I picked up our chairs and obliged, moving to an area near a picnic table and some large bushy tree things.  No sooner had we re-opened our chairs and settled in than Batman started screaming bloody murder.  He had been stung by a bee.  Poor Batman is one of those kids who seems targeted by bees and wasps.  Fortunately, though he seems to be a victim on a regular basis, he suffers no ill-effects from the poison other than an occasional brief period of laryngitis from all the screaming.  Nonetheless, his loud inconsolable shrieks brought quite a bit of attention to our small entourage, as well as considerably dampening the enthusiasm of our little team.

We managed to stay and watched a set of music, noting proudly that DH was doing a remarkable job on his guitar leads as well as vocals.  He really did sound good.

And looked good.

DH Sings

It was hot though, the kids were getting tired, and I was getting weary of wielding the can of Deep Woods Off that Annabelle insisted I spray on her legs every thirty seconds or so as an imagined protection from the bees, so I loaded the kids up and we headed back to the cabin for a while.

When we picked Desperate Hubby up after his three-hour gig was over, he was more than ready to be done.  We drove back to the cabin and changed into our swim attire.  I put on my new suit though I really didn’t plan to get in the water, and down the hill to the pool we went.

It was a nice way to end the day.

Jumping in Pool

When the kids had jumped off the side of the pool approximately seventy-three times and retrieved a set of colored plastic rings from the bottom an equal number, we headed back to the cabin for a low-key dinner, cooking the last of our beef and pig burgers along with the corn on the cob and baked beans we had left in the pantry.  The next morning we got up and headed back down the hill toward home.

Despite its dramatic beginning our short trip had been perfect; restful and relaxing and providing true family quality time before we all embarked on a new school year.

I’ve decided that this trip is to be a family tradition that will stick around for years to come.

Maybe without the falling timber next time.

Categories: Life in the Country, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

It’s a Big, Beautiful, Bountiful Life!

Whew!  The past few weeks have been a little crazy!

School Winds Down

The end-of-school year was busy, with activity after activity coming in a virtual whirlwind of motion.

Annabelle was in a talent show with her kindergarten class where she played the part of the farm dog.  I think she was a little warm under all that fur.

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During the talent show I joined some parents in selling concessions to the lines of people waiting to get into the gym (that sounds like an exaggeration, but it is not).  We were thrilled to be able to raise enough money to take all the kindergartners to the zoo for a field trip.

About half of the children in her class had never been to the zoo before, and though she had visited many times Annabelle was just as excited as they were to see all of the animals.

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After touring the zoo for a couple of hours we had lunch in the park, then headed across the grass to the Discovery Center for some time spent in the interactive exhibits.

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I chaperoned the field trip (along with several other parents) and I can tell you with certainty that I was more tired at the end of that day than at any other day in recent memory.  Or any memory, period.

Keeping track of 60 excited six-year olds is not for the faint of heart.   Does the term “herding cats” sound familiar?

We also had end-of-the-year projects to finish up at home.

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And Batman contributed a little something with his artwork created from gleaning leftover materials from Annabelle’s assignment and combining them with his new neon green birthday duct tape.

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Continuing Education Outside of the Classroom

Batman completed his six weeks of soccer training with fun and games in the park next to our house.

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Those soccer drills were thirsty work.

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A couple of weeks after soccer ended, Desperate Hubby and Batman started a weekly pilgrimage to the golf course for a series of youth lessons.  Batman took to golf like a duck to, well, you know, water.

Though he started a couple of weeks later than the rest of the kids and was the youngest in his class, on the last day Batman won the “Longest Drive” contest and got some golf balls, a Gatorade and a free mini-round of golf complete with cart as a reward.

I think he’s hooked!

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Annabelle and I also embarked on an additional course of education that had nothing to do with kindergarten.  We each participated in cow horse clinics with the goal of helping us improve our skills in advance of the busy 2013 show season.

Annabelle’s clinic was in April up at the picturesque 3K Ranch in Star, Idaho.

Youth Clinic 081

There were about fifteen participants between the ages of six and sixteen or so, and my little girl reveled in the novelty of being to ride with so many other kids.

Waiting for the Cow

She made several new friends and got to know some of them a little better over lunch.

YC Lunch

The other highlight of the day was getting to work a real live cow.  Grumpy was pretty excited about that too.

Hang on cowgirl!

YC Cow 4

My clinic was in mid-May, and we traveled to sunny Glenns Ferry, Idaho to the beautiful Why Worry Ranch (I love the name almost as much as the ranch.  Thanks Annie and Nate) for a two-day riding extravaganza.

Technically, I was the only one in our family allowed to ride at the clinic because it was for adults only.  This picture was taken in the first five minutes of the clinic, when I thought I was actually going to get to ride my horse the whole time.

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It probably comes as no surprise, however, that somehow Annabelle spent almost as much time on my mount as I did.

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She made some new friends there, too.

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The clinic was educational and fun, and I felt prepared to take on the cow horse world.  Of course that all changed at my next horse show, but more on that later.

A Trio of Graduations

As the school year wound down, we commenced (sorry) an action-packed graduation season.

We kicked it off with Batman’s Pre-School graduation, planned and executed impeccably as usual by Miss Torrie of Little Learners Preschool.

Of course before he could graduate my baby had to have his official pre-graduation little-boy haircut.

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As he reminded me though, he is not a baby anymore.  My little man looked so grown up!

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After the ceremony we had a delicious and oh-so-cute cake to share with the other parents in celebration.

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The amazing Miss Torrie made an individualized hard-cover photo book for each child commemorating his or her time at Little Learners. Since Batman has attended her wonderful program for almost three years there were lots of fun memories in that beautiful book. Thank you Miss Torrie! You are amazing.

Older sister Sami was next, graduating from Meridian’s Centennial High school with a 4.5 grade point average.  I still remember the first day I met Sami as a fiery four-year old who immediately took charge of every horse on the property.  She has channeled her drive and energy flawlessly since then to achieve many successes at such a young age.

Sami jetted off pretty much immediately after her ceremony to spend a month traveling in Europe with her mom, aunties and sissies.  When she gets back she’ll follow in her older twin-sisters’ footsteps and move into the honors dorm at BSU for her first year of college.

I am so proud of the sweet, beautiful and accomplished young women they have all become.

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Lastly, we celebrated Annabelle’s graduation from kindergarten.  She had a wonderful experience during her first year of formal education, and we are so happy that Batman was selected in the lottery to attend the same school next year.

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We brought flowers for each of the kindergarten teachers and their helpers, and Annabelle had so much fun delivering them along with the individual cards she had painstakingly hand-written thanking them for a wonderful year.

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The choice of celebration after kindergarten graduation was a nice big serving of ice cream at the local Dairy Queen.  What a happy afternoon!

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And we Rode

Of course in the midst of all this spring madness Annabelle and I increased our riding regimen and kicked off the local show year with a few early shows.  Annabelle had fun at the first Gem State Stock Horse show of the season, practically glowing with pride and pinkness.  I went to the Gem State show too, to practice my cutting skills in a real show setting.  Let’s just say practice (needing more) was the operative word of the day.

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We took our horses to the Snake River Reining Alliance show at Lucky Run Arena in Kuna too.

Annabelle spent quite a bit of time getting ready for this show.  She cleaned all her tack to her own exacting specifications.

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And Grumpy was clipped, bathed and brushed to within an inch of his life.  This is what his pre-show ensemble looks like.

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At this show Grumpy was even pinker than usual.

SRRA May

The old man was pretty good for Annabelle, but he did test her skills by refusing to cooperate in the middle of the arena and backing up several steps before starting his maneuvers.  The duo was first out in their class, and though they got through the pattern in the end, the judge had to mark them a zero, or no score, for Grumpy’s naughtiness.  It was the first time that Annabelle had actually been disqualified in the show pen and she was very mad at Grumpy.  I told her to keep a smile on her face……that would be far from the last time she got a zero in the show pen and probably even in life.

All was forgiven when, at the end of her class, she realized that each of the half-dozen kids in her division had bobbled their pattern in one way or another and EVERYONE had gotten a zero.  She didn’t lose, she told me.  She tied.

My horse was very good at the reining show and I was feeling confident going into my next competitive event, the first Idaho Reined Cow Horse Association derby of the year, held at the Idaho Center.  My day there started out there swimmingly, with a score of 72 in the reined work.  I was so happy with my mare, but tried not to be overconfident.  There were still two events to go.

Sure enough, I once again had big trouble in the herd work.  My horse wanted to be good, but I had trouble keeping my eye on the cow, and ultimately ended up losing one of the silly bovines I was trying to work.  I was disappointed and mad at myself; my confidence seriously shaken after two successive bad outings in the cutting pen.

The last event of the day, boxing an individual cow, went a little better, and when it was all said and done I ended up third for the day.  One of the people who came out ahead of me was my good friend Shane on her super-cute black mare Julianne. I didn’t mind so much losing to her, but I still wasn’t very happy with my performance.

I felt a little like Annabelle at her last show though, when I found out that even in third place I got a check that repaid about half of my entry fees. Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all!

Sheesh.

The next day after my rough derby outing, Annabelle was showing in the AQHA reining, also at the Idaho Center.  We got there early and she got all warmed up.  Grumpy was a ball of fire that morning, and Annabelle was having a hard time keeping him under control even in the warm-up pen.  The old war-horse was a bundle of nerves and bad attitude when Annabelle walked him into the show pen, and once again he started backing up before she could even get him to the center to start her pattern.  She kept after him though, through a difficult ride that I think many adults would have given up on.  The smile never left her face even as she kicked and kicked and struggled to get through the maneuvers.  I was so proud of her when she walked out of that arena after practically dragging her horse through the pattern.  Even with her second ‘zero’ score in two shows, she still had a grin for everyone she saw.

I was even prouder of my little girl, though, when she said she wanted to enter the second youth class that day and go out and school Grumpy.  After her initial dismay in getting her first disqualification, I didn’t know if she would grasp the significance of going into the show arena for the sole purpose of making her horse better for the next show and likely creating a definite “no-score”” situation.

Never underestimate a kid.

Annabelle went into that arena riding with her pink braided roping reins held in two hands, which even at six years of age she was well aware was an automatic disqualification for both the type of equipment used and the way she was holding it under AQHA rules.  She chose the reins because they were the easiest to hold on to and she could pull harder with them than she could her leather romel.  She kicked and pulled that Grumpy old horse around with determination and poise and achieved much better ride than the previous one had been.  She was positively beaming when she left the arena and I felt tears of pride for her.

It’s easy to be a good sport and have fun when you are doing well.  I have been reminded from close personal experience at the last two shows that it isn’t as easy when the day doesn’t go as planned.  I find it truly awesome that my six-year-old has grasped the important lesson that I have repeated over and over to her:  it is nice to win, but it is more important to go out and do your best and have fun while you do it.

Annabelle broke her no-score streak this morning at the second Gem State Stock Horse Association show in Ontario, Oregon.  She had a very pretty go and executed her pattern almost perfectly.  I was so proud of her, and she was thrilled that she got a score – a 69!

I couldn’t have been happier for her.

Fun at Home

When we haven’t been going to graduations or horse shows, or preparing to go to horse shows, or golfing, or (in Desperate Hubby’s case) flying airplanes, we have had a chance to relax a little and have some fun at home.

We’ve been working on everything from training the kittens to lead (by the way, cats don’t lead very well),

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to a little early spring swimming (shortly after this photo was taken Winston jumped in the pool and filled it with mud).

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We got Batman out on a rare trail ride to stretch Reno’s legs.  He wasn’t all that happy about it part of the time (Zach or Reno).

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We played with the guinea pigs, whose owner’s are coming home in August.  Annabelle is getting all her “skinny pig” time in now, since she knows with the acquisition of kittens Blackie and Pumpkin we won’t be getting any new house-animals any time soon.

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We have also been enjoying the warm spring weather and preparing for our next adventures.

COMING UP NEXT

Batman and DH enjoyed a nice golf game this morning, and they are making plans for Batman’s first flying expedition in the Cessna 172 tomorrow morning.  They also have in the works a goal of doing some float-tube fishing in the near future, and toward that end Batman was fitted with waders and DH’s old (really, really old) float tube this afternoon.

As for me and Annabelle, we are feverishly finishing our packing for our 4:00am departure tomorrow for Paso Robles, California, where I am determined to exorcise the herd work demons that have been taunting me for the last couple of horse shows.  If nothing else, we will have a lovely time in the sun with friends, and Annabelle will get to see the ocean, likely for the first time in her life that she will actually remember it.

I hope you all are having a nice start to summer too.

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

Medusa? Is that you?

Last Friday I decided to give Freckles a little break from arena work and headed out for some trail riding with friends Teresa and Jan.

We met up at the Wilson Creek Trailhead (the spot of misadventure where I most recently got Annabelle, Kristi and I lost for a couple of hours).  Usually at this time of year there a lots of wildflowers growing and water flowing down the creek beds, but our unusually dry spring has taken a toll on the desert flora, and there were only a few small (but still beautiful) bunches of flowers to be seen

Just a few flowers

Despite the lack of moisture there were some areas that were starting to green up, and it was refreshing and relaxing to just ride along, chatting as the horses’ feet crunched along the dry path.

A little Green

About an hour into the ride, I noticed some kite-shaped whiteish thingies on a couple of the sagebrush that we rode by.  They didn’t look like much from a distance, almost like large dense spider webs.

As we went along though, the trail led up past a few that were a bit closer.

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We sidled over for a closer look.

That’s when we saw dozens?…….hundreds?…….thousands?   Yes definitely thousands…… of caterpillars crawling out of a nest in a giant clump that looked a lot like the head of the famed Greek Gorgon, Medusa.  (No, I never saw her personally, but I did take something about Greek mythology in college…and I know how to type ‘Wikipedia’.)

Close Worm Nest

One bush family had three or four of the nests on it, with caterpillar clumps in varying amounts of activity twining around.

Medium Worm Nest

The pictures don’t do them justice…….these things were curling and swirling and winding around on top of each other in a never-ending circle of motion.  It was kind of creepy.

Quiet Worm Nest

None of us had ever seen such a sight before, and we sat in quiet contemplation for several minutes (yeah right, like we’re ever quiet!)  trying to make sense of the unusual nests in front of us.  Finally we rode off, with me promising to do some research and figure out just what the heck it was that we had seen.

The rest of the ride was nice and fairly uneventful.  We stopped along the way for a few pictures.

Scenic Overlook

And of course I snapped and snapped as we rode along.

Pictures. I snapped pictures.

Climbing

Miss Teresa on her trusty Remi climbed through the sagebrush with ease.

T and Remi

It was a lovely ride, and I know that Freckles enjoyed doing something out in the sunshine other than loping circles.

When I got home I got on the computer and looked up “caterpillar nest high desert Idaho” and came up with the answer.  The nests we had seen were made by hatching Western Tent Caterpillar Moths.

The mommy moth, my research found, lays 100-300 (OK – they LOOKED like thousands of) eggs sometime in the late spring or early summer.  The eggs soon begin to develop, but do not hatch until the following spring.  After hatching, the baby caterpillars all stay close together and function as a social unit as they feed and grow through the spring.  The group secretes silk to create the web-like structure that is called a tent.  They used this tent as a refuge from cold temperatures and predators.  The temperature inside the tent is more stable than that of the surrounding air, and can be several degrees warmer than the outside.

The little caterpillars journey out of the tent to find food, and if they find something particularly tasty, like a bunch of soft new leaves, they eat as much as they can, then secrete a chemical trail as they return to the tent so that their siblings can find the food too.  Very sharing of them.

After growing for about 8 weeks, the caterpillars form cocoons and about two weeks later turn into adult moths.

They look like this when they are grown up.

tent moth

As adults they reproduce and then die, starting the whole life cycle over again.

Ladies and gentleman, that was your science lesson for today.

Kind of interesting huh?

Categories: Horse Adventures, Life in the Country, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rain, Reining and Roses

Saturday was the first Snake River Reining Alliance Club show of the year.  Annabelle has been anxious to go show again after having to sit around without much riding for a whole week in Vegas, so she was looking forward to getting out in the pen herself.

The day dawned a little gray but pretty warm.  We loaded up early and headed over to Kuna to the Lucky Run Arena.  As we arrived, it was easy to see the show was a big success.  The large parking lot was filled with every description of trailer, and I thought to myself “it’s gonna be a long day.”

We had a several-hour wait until our class, which we spent by industriously eating donuts and talking to all our friends who were also hanging around.  A steady rain had picked up shortly after we got inside the arena, and we tried to wait it out before we got our horses out of the trailer and saddled.

Finally, after Annabelle asked me for the forty-seventh time when she could get on Grumpy, I acquiesced and we headed out into the drizzle to get saddled up.  It was immediately apparent that I had not packed warm enough clothes or coats for us.

It was windy and miserable, with the rain varying from a light drizzle to what my friend David Duckett describes so eloquently as “a cow peeing on a flat rock”.  Except he doesn’t say peeing.

It's Cold Out Here!

We tried to ride around outside with the other riders for a while, but eventually it was just too miserable, and we sat inside with everyone else waiting for our classes to come up.

We were muddy and cold, and our horses were definitely not the picture of show-ready that day.

We're Wet But Ready

Auntie Shane is such a funny girl!

Bunny Ears

Just before her class came up, Annabelle went back outside to lope.  You can actually the rain falling in this picture, but she was not to be deterred.

Raindrops are Falling

I was not as hardy or dedicated as my daughter in my rainy-day warm up routine, so when I entered the arena to school Freckles in the green rookie class she was…..let’s just say ‘not quite mentally prepared’. She spooked from the judge, swished her tail, and carried her head like a 14-hand giraffe for a bit, then settled down into her work.

Once she got going she was actually pretty good.  We were the first out in our class of 16 horses, and the judge must have seen something she really liked in my diminutive red filly, because she marked us a 70.  While I was thrilled with the score, I really did feel it was a bit generous, and I saw several horses follow us that I was sure would mark better.  Somehow, though, our number held up through the class and Freckles won her first reining money:  $49.70.  Yahoo!

Have I mentioned that I love this horse?

Here is a video of our run:

When it was Annabelle’s turn, she headed out all smiles.  She had been waiting all day to go show, and she was ready.

Despite the rain, she had succeeded in loping Grumpy until he was pretty tired, and he was definitely not in the mood to go out and be shown.  Annabelle had to work pretty hard at getting him through the pattern. The other kids had some problems with their patterns too, though, and in the end Annabelle and Grumpy did come away with the only score of the day, and an automatic first place.

I was really proud of her because she didn’t give up when she had some  problems getting her spins or her back-up at the end of her run.  That girl does have perseverance, no doubt about that!  I’ve had a problem getting her video to upload, but she did a great job of keeping her horse correct and honest through the pattern.

As soon as we were finished showing we loaded up and headed home, but not before Annabelle gave Grumpy his cookies as a reward for a job well done.

He Earned his Treats

DH had been home with Batman all day, and I knew they were ready for some female companionship in the house.  On the way home I called to see if we needed anything from the store.  “Nope”, he said. “I’ve got it handled”.

We walked in the door, still cold and very hungry, to find a large bowl of delicious home-made guacamole on the table.  There was already a glass of wine poured, and DH was in the middle of making fish and chips with fresh cod, paired with some special crunchy fries that he had just found the recipe for that day.

The food was awesome, but that wasn’t all.  The boys had picked me up a dozen red roses at the grocery store while they were there.

Just because.

The Roses

I love my life!

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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